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It's Corruption, Stupid

· The Lede

Trump's Deal: Scorched Earth for $1B

We saw investigative journalism at its best when The Washington Post published an account this week of a dinner at Mar-a-Lago where Donald Trump revealed the absolute essence of his former presidency and a preview of a second: It's corruption, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville's single driver for electability. Forget about comparisons to Hitler. Trump is merely a casual racist. He's pure New York: It's all about the Benjamins. And the deeper a country slides into corruption, the more unstable it becomes. Après Donald, le deluge. Literally.

As Donald Trump sat with some of the country’s top oil executives at his Mar-a-Lago Club last month, one executive complained about how they continued to face burdensome environmental regulations despite spending $400 million to lobby the Biden administration in the last year.

Trump’s response stunned several of the executives in the room overlooking the ocean: You all are wealthy enough, he said, that you should raise $1 billion to return me to the White House. At the dinner, he vowed to immediately reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental rules and policies and stop new ones from being enacted, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.

Giving $1 billion would be a “deal,” Trump said, because of the taxation and regulation they would avoid thanks to him, according to the people.

The List of Attendees: Mike Sabel, CEO and founder of Venture Global, Jack Fusco, the CEO of Cheniere Energy, and executives from Chevron, Continental Resources, Exxon and Occidental Petroleum, according to an attendance list obtained by The Post.

Anne Appelbaum in The Atlantic

The New Propaganda War

Autocrats in China, Russia, and elsewhere are now making common cause with MAGA Republicans to discredit liberalism and freedom around the world.

On June 4, 1989, the Polish Communist Party held partially free elections, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately removed the Communists from power. Not long afterward, street protests calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy brought about the end of the Communist regimes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Within a few years, the Soviet Union itself would no longer exist.

Also on June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party ordered the military to remove thousands of students from Tiananmen Square. The students were calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy. Soldiers arrested and killed demonstrators in Beijing and around the country. Later, they systematically tracked down the leaders of the protest movement and forced them to confess and recant. Some spent years in jail. Others managed to elude their pursuers and flee the country forever.

In the aftermath of these events, the Chinese concluded that the physical elimination of dissenters was insufficient. To prevent the democratic wave then sweeping across Central Europe from reaching East Asia, the Chinese Communist Party eventually set out to eliminate not just the people but the ideas that had motivated the protests. In the years to come, this would require policing what the Chinese people could see online.

Nobody believed that this would work.

Read the rest: The New Propaganda War


How the Marcos Clan Rewrote History: A User's Guide

A powerful documentary by Lauren Greenfield, previously known for The Queen of Versailles, a look at the ultimate nouveau riche couple in California. Here, Greenfield took on a far more sweeping subject in the form of the Marcos family's attempt to climb back into power in the Philippines after being ousted when their corruption became intolerable. The film revealed the family's successful effort to use social media to literally create an alternate history that mirrored matriarch Imelda Marcos' narcissistic mendacity. The scary part? it worked. Bongbong Marcos is now president of the Philippines. A must watch.

Mother, You Had Me, But I Never Had You

If you're getting older yourself, you might understand why a mother would want to say "the hell with old age; it's just too unpleasant" and consider ending it before the whole thing gets messier. But you can't help wondering how she could leave you, or life itself. Of course, she might have left long ago, or never been there at all. We might have wanted to kill our mothers when we were angry teenagers. But as it turns out, we don't want them to die. A striking essay written under a pseudonym appeared on Mother's Day in New York Magazine and The Cut.

Do you know how many grams of Nembutal it takes to put an elephant to sleep?” asks the anesthesiologist from Pegasos, a voluntary-assisted-death organization in Switzerland, after an evaluative look at my mother.

We — my 74-year-old mother, my younger sister, and I — are sitting on a couch in the suite of a charming hotel near the center of Basel. Thin, contained, elegant, with a neat bob of white hair, Mom is at attention. The doctor seems at ease. As he tucks his hat under a red-and-gold Louis XV–style chair, he tells us that many people who avail themselves of Pegasos’s service, which costs more than $10,000, will sell their car or antique books to spend their last few nights at this hotel.

It is September 28, 2022, the day before my mother is scheduled to inject herself with 15 grams of Nembutal — enough to sedate three and a half elephants, the doctor says. She would not need to worry about waking up or being cremated alive. This was a relief to her, Mom says with a smile.

In June, my sister and I had learned, almost by accident, that she was seeking an assisted suicide. I was on the phone with Mom, listening to her complain about an annoying bureaucrat at the New York County Clerk’s Office, when she mentioned it. “I am putting in an application to Pegasos,” she said impassively, “so I was getting some documents for them.” I texted my sister while we were on the phone: “What the fuck? Why didn’t you tell me about Mom applying to die?” Three little dots. “Wait,” My sister wrote back. “What. What is she doing?”

Read more at The Cut: The Last Thing My Mother Wanted

Stormy is Everywoman:

Jessica Bennett in The New York Times

The real takeaway from Stormy Daniels' testimony in a New York courtroom wasn't her gift for a quick comeback, but her account of the actual deed. Legally, the question of whether she had sex with Donald Trump is not as important as whether he engaged in a subsequent coverup to improve his election chances. But her entirely believable account of what happened that day in a Lake Tahoe hotel was of a piece with the many other narratives of Trump's rapiness. Like E. Jean Carroll, Stormy hesitated to use the R word - she still hasn't - and the scene she describes will be familiar to just about any woman. Let's just say it: Any woman who votes for this man is out of her damn mind. A piece in The New York Times describes it perfectly. We're taking the liberty of reprinting it in full because it's very short - and it's that important. A subsequent piece in The Atlantic staked out the same territory. As an aside, this is why it's important for major magazines to give female writers a chance, something they haven't always been great about doing. And don't just give them chances to write about fashion and family life, thank you very much.

He promised her dinner … but they didn’t have dinner. He told her she reminded him of his daughter … then stripped down to his boxers and a T-shirt while she was in the bathroom. He said he could help her career with a spot on his TV show … then scolded her, “I thought you were serious,” when she tried to leave.

To be clear, Stormy Daniels has never accused Donald Trump of anything but a payoff. She has maintained that the sex she says they had in his Lake Tahoe hotel suite in 2006 was consensual, albeit unenjoyable. But as I sat in the packed overflow room in the criminal courthouse where Trump is being tried and listened to Daniels testify about the sexual encounter she has often joked about, the whole thing sounded a lot darker, and murkier, than it had before.

Daniels took the stand on Tuesday and spoke confidently. She gestured with her hands, at times joking, and at other times she spoke so quickly that the judge had to ask her to slow down. But despite an agreement by the prosecution to not present “salacious” details about the sexual encounter itself, things took a bleak turn when Daniels described what came immediately before and after it.

Trump was not threatening during the sexual encounter, she testified, though he was standing between her and the door. She did not say no to sex with him, but she also didn’t consent to him not using a condom. She kept in contact with him after, she said — even going to another hotel room with him another time — because she wanted to expand her career, and he was dangling an opportunity to appear on “The Apprentice.”

And yet at times, the words Daniels used to describe the encounter with Trump were reminiscent of so many of the other stories of women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault: She said she “blacked out,” then lay naked, staring up at the ceiling. She “felt like the room spun in slow motion,” and that the blood left her hands and feet. When it was over, she said, she fumbled with her shoes — gold strappy heels she had trouble fastening because her hands were shaking so hard.

Ultimately she blamed herself: “I just thought, ‘Oh my God, what did I misread to get here?’”

broken image

What Happened to Stormy Daniels Is Not Salacious

It was something sadder, uglier, and—for many people who have lived in some way in the shadow of sexual violence—more familiar.

Quinta Jurecic in The Atlantic

One evening in March 2018, I joined some friends at a bar in Washington, D.C., to watch a live broadcast of Anderson Cooper’s interview with the adult-film actor Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes. For months, we’d all been reading news stories about Daniels’s reported sexual encounter with then-President Donald Trump, along with Trump’s efforts to pay her off in order to cover it up before the 2016 election—and now, finally, we were going to hear from the woman herself. The story itself seemed funny, an absurd dispatch from a faraway, brightly colored world of celebrity gossip.

But once the broadcast started, the story that Daniels told was not funny at all. It sounded, in fact, a great deal like the accounts of many of the women who had been recently sharing their experiences of sexual coercion as part of the #MeToo movement, which had exploded just a few months before, following The New York Times’ reporting on the abuses of the film producer Harvey Weinstein. Daniels hadn’t wanted to sleep with Trump, she told Cooper, but felt that “I had it coming for making a bad decision, for going to someone’s room alone.” Still, she insisted that she was “not a victim.” The atmosphere in the bar remained cheerful, but my “Dark and Stormy Daniels” cocktail no longer seemed quite so amusing an order. I left feeling unsettled.

I remembered that evening this week while following Daniels’s testimony at Trump’s New York trial, where he faces charges over his alleged effort to cover up the hush-money payment made to Daniels in 2016. News coverage of the trial has featured plenty of jokes about the seedy schemes by Trump’s team to quash unflattering stories. And Daniels has seemed happy at times to play her part in the circus, leaning into the character of a brassy Trump-hater. What she described on the stand, though, wasn’t exactly “tawdry” or “salacious,” as some news coverage has suggested. It was something sadder, uglier, and—for many people who have lived in some way in the shadow of sexual violence—more familiar.