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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

Let’s Not Kid Ourselves

Let’s Not Kid Ourselves

On David Berman

Much of what David Berman wrote and performed throughout his life was country music: songs about the sadness and difficulty of trying to get by in the world, along with descriptions of that world. “When God was young, he made the wind and the sun,” Berman sang on the opening song of Bright Flight. “And since then, it’s been a slow education.” When country songs are successful, it is because their outward simplicity, their plain-spokenness, their colloquialisms emerge out of enormous and delicate efforts of emotional compression. You can tell when a country song is just simple—when the necessary effort hasn’t been made—and you can tell when a songwriter hasn’t pulled off the compression, because then the song sounds mannered. But when both elements are working, a country song can shimmer, throb, or glare at you with an uncomfortable intensity.

On The Mueller Report, Vol. 1

On The Mueller Report, Vol. 1

How they got away with it

What Trump knew and thought about what Cohen was negotiating; what Trump knew and thought of his son’s meeting; what Trump knew and thought of Manafort’s actions; what Trump knew of the Russia-stolen emails and discussed with Stone; what responsibility Trump had for Flynn’s promises to withdraw sanctions; what Trump, as President, has said to Putin in their unrecorded and unmonitored meetings together—this most key evidence is not obtainable, especially because Mueller would not do the one truly essential thing. He would not subpoena Trump for a wide-ranging interview, under oath, to ask the essential questions about all these things, because Trump is now President.

School Daze

School Daze

The principal looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was.

Once I began to see the schools, of course, I could not unsee them. I realized how much of life—and by life in this case I mean real estate—was organized around them. Wealthy homeowners had the resources and the motivation to put time and money into their neighborhood schools; good neighborhood schools in turn attracted other wealthy homeowners. In the 1990s, a Federal Reserve economist named Sandra Black did a study on how much extra parents in Massachusetts were willing to pay for homes in superior school districts. (She studied the home prices in neighborhoods that were directly adjacent to district lines, so otherwise basically the same.) Black found that a 5 percent increase in test scores added 2.5 percent to the price of a home. In New York, where adjacent school zones might have radically different test scores, those 2.5 percent increases could add up quickly.

Something Imaginary

Something Imaginary

I’m not yet assimilated

I’m falling asleep, dreaming, I can’t remember about what. When I wake, my nose is bleeding. No surprise, since I am a defective and sickly child. Alongside my asthma and vertigo, I have inherited weak blood vessels in my nose. My mother had hers cauterized, a red-hot rod prodded deep into her nostrils so the delicate, veiny frills would flatten and cease to bleed. I was a replicative mistake, the blood gushing out of my nostrils. I’m kicking and screaming.