On the menu today: Jim’s back, with a little bit of everything; an observation about how the New York Times not-so-secretly loathes a portion of its own readership; decrying the emerging form of “anti-journalism” in news institutions; the Guardian lies about Senator Tom Cotton, a new push for a deal on DACA; a late-summer book-recommendation list, and a huge trade by the New York Jets.
Pity the Wealthy, Enduring the Worst of Times from Their Hamptons Summer Homes
Whatever else you think of the New York Times newspaper, there’s a particular deliciousness to the newspaper’s insanely insular lifestyle coverage of the city’s wealthy, entitled, and self-absorbed. This weekend’s Real Estate section brought a fascinating and inadvertently hilarious in-depth portrait of the struggles of Manhattanites trying to ride out the pandemic from their second homes in the Hamptons, the luxurious communities on the eastern end of Long Island.
While living full-time in places that usually get much less wear and tear, these homeowners share many of the same difficulties as anyone dealing with the coronavirus lockdown — working in communal spaces where their children now are present 24/7, discovering items in their homes that need updating, and then renovating a home while they are living in it. In addition, these homeowners must adjust to living in relatively unfamiliar towns, often far from friends, family, or creature comforts such as a favorite bagel shop or longtime barber.
You may be sick, you may have buried a loved one, you may be laid off or have lost your business, you may have put off hip surgery, you may be facing eviction, your kids haven’t been to school since March and won’t be back anytime soon, and your governor may have killed your elderly relatives in nursing homes through reckless policies, but please, take a moment to think of the publicists and “boutique wealth-management company” executives who haven’t been to their favorite bagel joint in weeks! (The article features a cameo by the “director for cultural engagement at Everytown for Gun Safety.”)
Somewhere out there, the zombified corpse of Spy magazine is rising from the grave, sensing a cadre of ostentatiously wealthy and oblivious elites that desperately need mocking. I would bet quite a bit that just about everyone mentioned in the article can’t stand President Trump, because he’s so arrogant, so lacking in empathy, and so utterly out-of-touch with the problems of ordinary people, such as when your children have to attend school via Zoom “from the butler pantry.”
The people profiled in this piece are not necessarily bad people. (I can see you raising your hands regarding the gun-control activist.) By and large, life has been extremely good to them, and they’re entitled to enjoy their wealth however they like. But I find it pretty fascinating that the New York Times contemplated this as a story idea — how are the Manhattanites who fled the city when the pandemic started coping with life in their second homes? — and five wealthy Hamptons homeowners agreed to interviews and posed for photographs in their sumptuous secondary abodes.
Today, the New York Times is simultaneously the vanguard of the revolution against wealthy, powerful, white, mostly older, mostly heterosexual couples . . . and it is also one of the biggest and most influential cultural journals of wealthy, powerful, white, mostly older, mostly heterosexual couples. The New York Times editorial page fumes about inequality and conspicuous consumption . . . while running on advertising revenue from the top-of-the-line luxury brands. A few days earlier, the paper noted how manicures, movie theaters, exercise classes, and pools were reorganizing themselves to market themselves to the ultra-wealthy for private, invitation-only services. “Bergdorf Goodman is offering socially distanced in-store appointments, as well as same-day delivery to Manhattan and the Hamptons for online orders.” The Times subtly and overtly denounces a chunk of its own readership . . . and many of those readers probably conclude that the paper meant those other wealthy elites, who work for those big bad corporations instead of good old-fashioned “boutique wealth-management companies.”
The New York Times and the modern Democratic Party are intertwined like the helix of DNA, and this contradiction in the self-described paper of record can also be found in the party its editorial board endorses every November. Many Democrats are running on a narrative about the need to depose wealthy elites from the commanding heights of society, while being largely run, and economically fueled, by wealthy elites: “[Hillary] Clinton’s gains [in 2016] were concentrated among the wealthiest voters; she carried precincts where the median income was over $250,000 by a 27-point margin, and improved by 39 points over Mr. Obama’s performance.” These elites don’t like the way American society is run — but refuse to look very hard in the mirror at how they themselves have been running their corners of their society.
All the News That’s Fit to Support the Narrative
Over on the home page, a look at the emerging form of “anti-journalism” — the notion that certain viewpoints must not be expressed, certain factions and narratives must not be questioned, challenged, or opposed, and certain ideas and events are never to be examined, lest they run counter to a preferred narrative — and an appeal to help out National Review when we are needed the most.
In fact, a good example of this phenomenon this morning . . .
I Thought Newspapers Were Supposed to Be Good at Quoting People
Here’s what Senator Tom Cotton said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” he said.
Here’s how the British Guardian newspaper described his remarks: “The Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton has called the enslavement of millions of African people ‘the necessary evil upon which the union was built.’”
No. Cotton didn’t say that. Cotton said that Lincoln said that, and that Lincoln was describing the view of the Founding Fathers.
If you’re wondering about the specific quote, here is Abraham Lincoln, in the third Lincoln-Douglas debate, September 15, 1858 in Jonesboro, Illinois:
I say, in the way our fathers originally left the slavery question, the institution was in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. I say when this Government was first established, it was the policy of its founders to prohibit the spread of slavery into the new Territories of the United States, where it had not existed. But Judge Douglas and his friends have broken up that policy and placed it upon a new basis by which it is to become national and perpetual. All I have asked or desired anywhere is that it should be placed back again upon the basis that the fathers of our Government originally placed it upon. I have no doubt that it would become extinct, for all time to come, if we but readopted the policy of the fathers by restricting it to the limits it has already covered-restricting it from the new Territories.
How hard is it for any reporter writing about Tom Cotton and the teaching of American history and slavery to look up that quote? The Lincoln–Douglas debates were not exactly some obscure, hidden chapter of American history.
Hey, Remember When Trump said, ‘We’re Going to Have a Road to Citizenship’ This Month?
Earlier this month, President Trump, seemingly out of the blue, declared in an interview with Spanish-language TV network Telemundo that he would soon issue an executive order which would involve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation? Trump said, “I’m going to do a big executive order. . . . And I’m going to make DACA a part of it. We’re going to have a road to citizenship.”
Trump seemed to blindside his own staff, and a White House spokesman insisted this would not be anything like an amnesty.
But some groups that want to see a deal for Dreamers are hoping Trump meant what he said, and that the opportunity for a deal before the election is real. This morning, Americans for Prosperity released a new video featuring AFP President Tim Phillips laying out why Congress should stop kicking the can down the road on this issue.
“Candidly, I had never dug into this issue, so I didn’t understand why folks just didn’t fill out the necessary forms, and get right with the law years ago,” Phillips says in the video. “The truth is these individuals commonly known as ‘Dreamers,’ they cannot simply apply to be residents or citizens for most Dreamers, there’s no viable option in our system that they can use to apply. That’s why Congress needs to act.”
Belated Summer Reading List
My friend Flint Dille’s memoir of working in entertainment in the 1980s, The Gamesmaster, is a remarkable simulation of our evenings when he’s in the Washington area. Flint is a wild storyteller, a fascinating character, and an overflowing fountain of ideas expressed in his own unique, Hollywood-y, snarky, historically-literate idiom — enthralling, often hilarious, occasionally confusing, and never boring. In the span of a decade, Flint worked with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Frank Miller, Jack Kirby, and Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons — and yes, he’s the namesake of that “Flint” from G.I. Joe. If you watched cartoons in the 1980s, chances are Flint has some fascinating behind-the-scenes story — such as the time he bailed one of his voice actors out of jail.
A good thriller can teach you a lot while giving you plenty of excitement. I picked up one of Brad Taylor’s from a few years back: Ring of Fire, covering the Panama Papers and some of the redacted portions of the 9/11 Commission report. The more I read thrillers, the more I admire the writers who can set the tone, set up the plot, introduce the characters smoothly and easily, and get you started on the ride without it ever feeling forced. Taylor is really good at showing, not telling, and building momentum without ever showing the strings holding it all together.
The Bosch series on Amazon spurred me to pick up Michael Connelly’s more recent gritty novels of Los Angeles homicide detectives. Connelly is just unparalleled — I’d like to think it’s Connelly’s years as a journalist that honed his eye for detail, dialogue, and the true-to-life way the clues just naturally emerge, step by step. In The Night Fire, Harry Bosch is getting up in years, working off-the-books in partnership with a night-shift detective, Renee Ballard. The tough, easily-overlooked loner Ballard is the kind of character who could become insufferable or clichéd in another writer’s hands, but Connelly seems to specialize in breathing life into characters who are disliked by their peers but liked by the reader.
I picked up Dave Itzkoff’s biography of Robin Williams, Robin, and devoured it; it is a delightful stroll down memory lane for fans of the late comedian and actor and concludes with a probably the deepest and most complete explanation of why Williams’s life ended as suddenly and tragically as it did.
No summer reading list would be complete without Brad Thor; my copy of his latest, Near Dark, arrived at home while I was away. Brad’s previous Scot Harvath story, Back Lash, shook up his protagonist’s well-established world of global terrorist-hunting and thrust him into an almost Jack London–style tale of survival in extreme circumstances. It was arguably Brad’s best book yet, and a dramatic shakeup to the status quo of his character.
ADDENDUM: Thanks to Alexandra DeSanctis and Jimmy Quinn for filling in last week . . .
. . . Man, everything dramatic happens when I’m on vacation — even the New York Jets trading their best player, Jamal Adams, to the Seattle Seahawks for a king’s ransom. The team is indeed better situated for the next few years, with five picks in the top 100 next year (our first three, Seattle’s one and three), and at least four picks in the top 100 in 2022 (our first three and Seattle’s one). But those Seattle picks are probably late in the round, as they’re a good team and their defense just got Adams. The Jets get a safety I’m not familiar with who is allegedly a “good enough” replacement, get a deeply disgruntled player out of town, and don’t have to find the salary-cap room for a massive long-term contract for Adams.
But that’s all long-term. In the short term, the Jets are a weaker team without Adams. For the coming year, the Jets are now without their best defensive player, the guy who basically won the Giant game by himself last year. Gregg Williams is a hell of a defensive coordinator, and he’s got more (hopefully healthy) pieces to work with this year, but this is asking even more of him.
Some of the organization’s bad relationship is Adams’s fault, but I’d prefer if the Jets could avoid these kinds of lingering fights and the perception that they don’t take care of even their best players. (I don’t know how much head coach Adam Gase interacts with the defensive players, but clearly Adams walked away from their interactions unimpressed.) Some of this is a pure money issue, but you have to figure some of it related to how Adams felt undervalued by the organization. Adams, Quincy Enunwa, Kelechi Osemele . . . guys keep getting into public spats with the management. Stop telling me how good the culture is. Cultures of teams improve when they win.