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Links: July 2017

All the “wellness” products Americans love to buy are sold on both Infowars and Goop

Interesting look at how the same snake oil is marketed to very different audiences.

Trump and Putin’s Rashomon Summit

[T]he establishment of a cybersecurity working group with the two countries is somewhere between a head-scratcher and a punchline.

The Logic of Trump’s Sexist Attacks

The more a woman conforms to traditional gender norms, the more likely she is to experience benevolent sexism. The more she threatens them, the more likely she is to experience hostile sexism.

Viscerally, Trump likely understands what the research shows: that focusing people’s attention on a woman’s appearance makes them value her abilities less.

What Trump may not grasp is the different effects benevolent and hostile sexism have on the women who experience them. Jennifer Bosson, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, told me that, “benevolent sexism reminds women of male protection and of the benefits of being pretty. It can leave women immobilized.” Hostile sexism, by contrast, “pisses women off. They get motivated to fight back.” As Becker and Wright put it, “benevolent sexism undermines, whereas hostile sexism promotes social change.”

The meaning of life in a world without work

What is a religion if not a big virtual reality game played by millions of people together?

Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture

It demands safety from, not access to, the vast corporate system against which it defines itself. And more than anything, it presents the alternative as skeptical of, and in some ways incompatible with, power.

The new reactionary “alternative” movement is also keenly aware of power, but it craves it, worships it, is constantly devising plans to acquire it.

Their rhetoric and style want to evoke, in some ghoulish upside-down way, heroic rebellion, regardless of how well their aims align with the powers that be.

The Wire in HD

the construct that we felt we had used to good effect to make the story feel more stolen than shaped

At the last, I’m satisfied what while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version. There are scenes that clearly improve in HD and in the widescreen format. But there are things that are not improved. And even with our best resizing, touchups and maneuver, there are some things that are simply not as good. That’s the inevitability: This new version, after all, exists in an aspect ratio that simply wasn’t intended or serviced by the filmmakers when the camera was rolling and the shot was framed.

Still, being equally honest here, there can be no denying that an ever-greater portion of the television audience has HD widescreen televisions staring at them from across the living room, and that they feel notably oppressed if all of their entertainments do not advantage themselves of the new hardware. It vexes them in the same way that many with color television sets were long ago bothered by the anachronism of black-and-white films, even carefully conceived black-and-white films. For them, The Wire seems frustrating or inaccessible – even more so than we intended it. And, hey, we are always in it to tell people a story, first and foremost. If a new format brings a few more thirsty critters to the water’s edge, then so be it.

One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix

There is much to emulate at Apple — but not that almost 1:1 ratio of office to parking.

Why do we remain so wedded to the old suburban, car-dependent model for workplaces? If autonomous vehicles (or even flying ones) are truly imminent, why are we building millions of square feet of supposedly soon-to-be-obsolete parking spaces? With so many studies touting the benefits of walkable, bike-able and transit-accessible environments, why are we designing in such a way that makes long, painful commutes inevitable?

Is it really safe to start using CSS Grid Layout?

We’re using CSS to do CSS. No polyfills, or hacks. This is all as defined in the specifications.

The unceremonious demise of Heat Street

Fox News-style conservatives liked that it published bullshit stories with attention-grabbing headlines and less than 200 words of body text, but they (and News Corp.) didn’t like the occasional editorial friendliness toward anti-Semitic alt-righters. Trenchcoat-clad libertarian pedants liked that Heat Street went after feminists and game journalists who used logical fallacies, but the rampant hoaxes and clickbait headlines fell short of their intellectual standards. The alt-right liked Heat Street’s opposition to social justice and progressivism in all its forms, but they felt betrayed by its unwillingness to embrace open racism and anti-Semitism.

Lost Mothers

New work: Putting names, faces, and stories to the US’s outsize problem of pregnancy-related deaths. Heartbreaking reporting by Nina Martin.

A generational failure: As the U.S. fantasizes, the rest of the world builds a new transport system

Over the past thirty years, almost two dozen countries have built up networks of collectively thousands of miles for trains traveling at least 150 mph. Since 1976, for example, France, Italy, and Spain slowly but steadily built up large networks, under varying political and economic environments (see the bottom of the post for a similar graph including China). Americans upgraded a route between Boston and New York and created 34 miles of track capable of such speeds.

In this failure, high-speed rail encapsulates the American experience in general: A nation now fundamentally unprepared to change, whether in terms of transport, climate change, or healthcare.

How the GOP Became the Party of Putin

According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May, an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin – a career KGB officer who hates America – have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.

How did the party of Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump’s moral vacuity? Russia’s intelligence operatives are among the world’s best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the “evil empire.” What was left was an intellectually and morally desiccated carcass populated by con artists, opportunists, entertainers and grifters operating massively profitable book publishers, radio empires, websites, and a TV network whose stock-in-trade are not ideas but resentments.

American conservatism is no better encapsulated today than by the self-satisfied, smirking mug of Carlson, the living embodiment of what Lionel Trilling meant when he wrote that the “conservative impulse” is defined by “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

If Republicans put country before party, they would want to know what the Russians did, why they did it and how to prevent it from happening again. But that, of course, would raise questions implicating Donald Trump and all those who have enabled him, questions that most Republicans prefer to remain unanswered.

South Park raised a generation of trolls

But well beyond the “alt-right,” South Park’s influence echoes through every modern manifestation of the kind of hostile apathy—nurtured along by Xbox Live shit-talk and comment-board flame wars and Twitter—that’s mutated in our cultural petri dish to create a rhetorical world where whoever cares, loses.

Trump’s Revealing Mistake at the Boy Scout Jamboree

And there he was, looking out at a sea of Scouts, telling them that “Boy Scout values are American values,” apparently unaware that his own definition of loyalty—something that he himself is owed—is precisely the opposite of the definition those Scouts are taught to embrace—something that we owe to others.

[E]very time he goes before some nonpartisan group and speaks to its members as if they had come to attend a campaign rally, a little more of our shared civic culture gets chipped away.

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said

(Bannon declined to comment.)

A Conversation with Maggie Haberman, Trump’s Favorite Foe

To your point at the beginning of what you were saying, about Kushner’s sense of grievance over his father’s prosecution and being haunted by it and traumatized by it, it never really leaves him—that’s absolutely true. Kushner has what many people in Trump’s orbit have, which is a sense of huge misdirection. He doesn’t blame his father. And I can understand why that would be hard for a son to do, or any child to do. But he doesn’t—the people who are to blame are the people who went after his father. And you hear that kind of thing a lot from the Trump White House, grappling with other issues, like Russia.

D.R.: So, when Jared Kushner wakes up in the morning, and he knows he’s been charged with Middle East peace, China policy, remaking American government, and a much longer list than that, does he really tell himself, does he believe, “I am capable of doing all this. My experience as a very midlevel New York real-estate guy makes me uniquely capable of doing this”?

M.H.: Yes, he does. He believes that he is very smart. And that he is in a strong position to adjudicate.

The Annie Leibovitz of the Alt-Right

Duke sees photography as a kind of weapon in the culture wars, and in a way, it may be the perfect medium for a movement like the alt-right, which wants to refashion reality on its own terms. Pictures are, after all, factually malleable vessels that do not present reality as it is but suggest an alternative one as the photographer sees it.

Why Americans Get Conned Again and Again

The belief dear to so many Americans in the power of individuals to invent something world-changing makes room for innovators both earnest and deceitful. In other words, in order for a Steve Jobs to find colossal success, there must be enough credulity baked into the culture to make room for a Bernie Madoff.