American Politics

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Trump’s Tlön

Trump’s Tlön

To focus on fact-checking alone is to miss the point: what is at stake here is not truth, but power.

This list is an absurdity and an obscenity. It is absurd because it bears all the hallmarks of a social studies paper hastily compiled by some desperate, clueless high school freshman. It is obscene for nearly too many reasons to count.

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Storming the Winter White House

When a pickup truck came down from the other side of the bridge with a Confederate flag on its bumper and its windows down, the occupants engaged protestors, who shouted into the window. The driver, a grey-haired white man, leaned out and screamed back, but drove away when West Palm cops approached, flanking out in front of the street to keep it clear for cars trying to get to or from the Red Cross gala at Mar-a-Lago. It was the second time I thought about concealed carry.

Do Your Job

Do Your Job

The game’s sheer improbability made the whole thing impossible to take seriously until it was over.

It is a mistake to count on men like Belichick and Brady to understand the basic tenets of our shared world together. They know how to throw touchdowns and win football games, but not how to build or maintain a world in which it is possible to make millions doing so. For that, they rely on the rest of us, especially those long since priced out of their stadiums.

Black Church Burning

Black Church Burning

Arson and the long war on black progress

Thirty-six black churches in Mississippi burned during the Freedom Summer of 1964, a campaign to register black voters in Mississippi. That’s twelve churches every month, three every week, and one every three days. Any black person visiting a church for worship, voter registration, or other services knew they might die in a blaze.

One Week Under Trump

One Week Under Trump

Donald gets to work.

Most of the time, Donald speaks with a false intimacy, anchoring his claim to truth in the implicit, casual acknowledgement that all his past statements were maneuvering, necessary lies, prologue, so that now, finally, he can tell it to you straight. The words “win” and “war,” however, are Donald’s special words, spoken with some awareness of their meaning.

Enter the Pussyhat

Enter the Pussyhat

On the Women’s March, Disrupt J20, and #IWillGoOut

How much did I have in common with my fellow marchers? Maybe not much. The demands I did see were good—No DAPL, a $15 minimum wage, clean water for Flint, an end to private prisons and mass incarceration, affordable health care, reproductive rights, and so on—but there were too few of them, lost in the sea of vulvas. Still, never in my life have I seen so many women gathered under any political pretext. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t move me.

This Is Not the Apocalypse

This Is Not the Apocalypse

It’s been a while since a President has had to speak of fascism as something that has a lure.

Also distracting was the image, revealed a few hours earlier, of the next President urging Russian prostitutes to pee on each other in a Moscow hotel bed where Barack and Michelle Obama had once slept.

Housing Crisis

Housing Crisis

What will Ben Carson’s HUD look like?

Many commentators have noted the parallels between Donald Trump’s appointment of the avowedly unqualified Ben Carson to Reagan’s disastrous appointment of Samuel Pierce, Jr., who blew his eight years as HUD chief binge-watching soap operas and permitting his aides to dole out millions in illegal subsidies to real estate consultants.

The Politics Trump Makes

The Politics Trump Makes

Is Trump, like Carter, a disjunctive President?

Every President is aligned with or opposed to the regime. Every regime is weak or strong. These two vectors—the political affiliation of the President, the vitality of the regime—shape the politics Presidents make.

What I Had Lost Was a Country

What I Had Lost Was a Country

To re-encounter nature would be a way of getting another angle of vision on the same social facts, the same greedy and unequal humanity.

Nature and landscape are palimpsests of history and social violence more than they are alternatives to them. They show back to the observer the durability and definiteness of the world people have made so far, as well as its fragility.

The Last Last Summer

The Last Last Summer

Donald Trump and the fall of Atlantic City

All along the Boardwalk, the sun-bleached, tattered banners read do ac — the city’s latest marketing catchphrase. The Boardwalk was a scrum of such imperatives, with Trumps on every side issuing edicts and diktats, offering bargains. Trumps in toupees and with their guts hanging over their change belts, out on Steel Pier, out on Central Pier, trying to get me to try the ring toss, though the rubber rings always bounce off the rubber bottles, or to try the beanbag pitch, though the lily pads they’re supposed to land on are kept wet and slippery with a shammy. Try Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, which contains no saltwater. Step right up and I’ll guess your weight, or at least I’ll make your wallet lighter. What American literature taught me — what Melville taught me in The Confidence-Man, what Poe taught me in “Diddling,” that imagination or fantasy can be a form a greed, even a uniquely American form — the shills and carny barkers taught me first, at $2 a lesson: I would never win that stuffed elephant.

The Obama Speeches

The Obama Speeches

Drones need no Churchills and deserve no Lincolns.

In the narrative world of an Obama speech, the protagonist of every story is in some sense a generation, and the climax of every story is a moment. For Bush, time was always running out, like Jack Bauer’s clock in 24. The decision point was that instant when one billiard ball hits the next, and God willing, your aim was true. But in the greatest Obama speeches, because of their eloquence and ceremonial grandeur, time itself slows.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Trump’s Tlön

Trump’s Tlön

To focus on fact-checking alone is to miss the point: what is at stake here is not truth, but power.

This list is an absurdity and an obscenity. It is absurd because it bears all the hallmarks of a social studies paper hastily compiled by some desperate, clueless high school freshman. It is obscene for nearly too many reasons to count.

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Storming the Winter White House

When a pickup truck came down from the other side of the bridge with a Confederate flag on its bumper and its windows down, the occupants engaged protestors, who shouted into the window. The driver, a grey-haired white man, leaned out and screamed back, but drove away when West Palm cops approached, flanking out in front of the street to keep it clear for cars trying to get to or from the Red Cross gala at Mar-a-Lago. It was the second time I thought about concealed carry.

Do Your Job

Do Your Job

The game’s sheer improbability made the whole thing impossible to take seriously until it was over.

It is a mistake to count on men like Belichick and Brady to understand the basic tenets of our shared world together. They know how to throw touchdowns and win football games, but not how to build or maintain a world in which it is possible to make millions doing so. For that, they rely on the rest of us, especially those long since priced out of their stadiums.

Black Church Burning

Black Church Burning

Arson and the long war on black progress

Thirty-six black churches in Mississippi burned during the Freedom Summer of 1964, a campaign to register black voters in Mississippi. That’s twelve churches every month, three every week, and one every three days. Any black person visiting a church for worship, voter registration, or other services knew they might die in a blaze.

One Week Under Trump

One Week Under Trump

Donald gets to work.

Most of the time, Donald speaks with a false intimacy, anchoring his claim to truth in the implicit, casual acknowledgement that all his past statements were maneuvering, necessary lies, prologue, so that now, finally, he can tell it to you straight. The words “win” and “war,” however, are Donald’s special words, spoken with some awareness of their meaning.

Enter the Pussyhat

Enter the Pussyhat

On the Women’s March, Disrupt J20, and #IWillGoOut

How much did I have in common with my fellow marchers? Maybe not much. The demands I did see were good—No DAPL, a $15 minimum wage, clean water for Flint, an end to private prisons and mass incarceration, affordable health care, reproductive rights, and so on—but there were too few of them, lost in the sea of vulvas. Still, never in my life have I seen so many women gathered under any political pretext. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t move me.