The Books Briefing: And the Winner Is

Putnam / Graywolf / Anchor / The Atlantic

Awards of any kind are weighted with subjectivity and competition, two qualities that can make them seem unilluminating, corrupting, or just plain useless. Yet the public is still drawn to what critics and judges deem the best of the best: We closely watch the Oscars and the Emmys, and pore over Pulitzer Prize–winning works. This week, with the announcement of the 2020 Booker Prize longlist, avid and casual readers alike have a new group of novels to dive into, before the winner is named later this year.

In the past, the Booker Prize has come under scrutiny for a lack of diversity among its nominees. This year, though, the judges have chosen to elevate several authors of color, whose books encompass a breadth of experiences and perspectives; among them are Tsitsi Dangarembga, for This Mournable Body; Kiley Reid, for Such a Fun Age; and Brandon Taylor, for Real Life. Also longlisted is the two-time winner Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light, the last novel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

For those who may already be caught up on the recent selections, the Booker Prize announcement is a nudge to revisit winners of the past two years, all books featuring the voices of women. Last year’s prize was shared by Margaret Atwood, for The Testaments, her long-awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, and Bernardine Evaristo, for Girl, Woman, Other, a beautiful exploration of the intersecting lives of 12 characters, many of them Black women, over decades. And Anna Burns’s Milkman, the 2018 winner, is a stream-of-consciousness novel set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland that plays with the concept of an open secret.

Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.

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What We’re Reading

A colorful cutout of Thomas Cromwell

(AARON MARIN)

Hilary Mantel takes Thomas Cromwell down
“Mantel changes her prose style to accommodate her more haunted Cromwell. In the earlier novels, the sentences were blunt and propulsive; in this one, she slows them down, unlaces them. The language is more elegiac, almost mystical, though as precise as ever. It now has to trace the wavering edges of a once well-defined self.”

📚 The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel
📚 Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
📚 Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel


Kiley Reid

(DAVID GODDARD)

Such a Fun Age satirizes the white pursuit of wokeness
“Beneath her comedy of good intentions, [Kiley] Reid … stages a Millennial bildungsroman that is likely to resonate with 20-something postgraduates scrambling to get launched in just about any American city.”

📚 Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid


Margaret Atwood

(STAR TRIBUNE / GETTY)

Margaret Atwood bears witness
“The witnesses she portrays in her fiction aren’t saviors; they are (or hope to be) survivors, people constrained and compromised by circumstances, and especially worth listening to for that very reason. The Testaments highlights this fact by making a more loaded demand than its predecessor did—that readers place themselves in the seat of an oppressor, not one of the subjugated.”

📚 The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
📚 The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood


A woman's silhouette

(PAULA SIERRA / GETTY)

How to tell an open secret
“[Anna] Burns illustrates [the Troubles’] intense distrust, uncertainty, and paranoia, in part by omitting the names of most people and things … This unique approach to knowledge and privateness allows Burns to turn the concept of an open secret on its head.”

📚 Milkman, by Anna Burns
📚 Those Who Knew, by Idra Novey
📚 His Favorites, by Kate Walbert


An illustration of a book signing

(JOEL CASTILLO)

Eyes on the prize
“I think highlighting good fiction is more important now than it ever has been … Narrative, after all, is perhaps the most powerful antidote we have in the face of what at first may appear to be insurmountable odds.”

📚 The Best American Short Stories 2009, edited by Alice Sebold and Heidi Pitlor


About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Tori Latham. The book she’s ordering from her local bookstore is Big Friendship, by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow.

Comments, questions, typos? Reply to this email to reach the Books Briefing team.

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The Democrats Need a Plan to Fight Corruption—the Usual Kind as Well as the Trump Kind

U.S. President Donald Trump.
By embracing a strong anti-corruption program, Democrats can spotlight the Trump Administration’s record of quasi-bribery, quasi-extortion, and inside deals.Photograph by Carlos Barria / Reuters

It’s been a year of stunning developments. Here’s another one to contemplate: suppose the Democrats took a stand against the power of organized money. Picture Joe Biden and his party getting behind a set of serious clean-government reforms. Imagine a code of behavior tough enough not just to serve as a resounding statement of disgust with the corporate handouts and self-and-crony enrichment of the Trump Administration but to signal a revolt against the routinized, lower-level corruption that was the norm in Washington before Donald Trump and his crew arrived.

The Democrats may be inclined to take it easy. Thanks to a wave of disasters on the Republicans’ watch, they can be their usual selves and, to judge from the latest polls, be back in control of the White House and Congress in January. But then comes the job of dealing with the profound problems brought into focus by the events of this momentous year. At that point, their usual selves will no longer do.

The coronavirus pandemic and its toll of physical and economic suffering; the flimsiness of our health-care system; the over-policing and over-incarceration of people of color; America’s accumulated debt to the victims of slavery and race-based oppression; the unconscionable maldistribution of wealth; the rapid heating of the air and the seas—none of these troubles will disappear along with Donald Trump, or with the Republican majority in the Senate. One after another, they call for a boldness of thought and action that is hard to imagine from the Democratic Party that we have come to know in recent decades.

The stories of the two most recent Democratic Administrations should be a warning to the next. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama brought exceptional intelligence and political talent to the Presidency. Within the first two years of their eight-year tenures, however, the gulf between aspiration and achievement was wide, and cynicism was resurgent, fuelling electoral reversals and a pile-on of disappointment. Although both men left office with strong approval ratings, they were ultimately unable to translate their personal popularity into a surge of respect for either the Democratic Party or for the role of government as a tool for the common good. That failure, along with the peculiarities of the Electoral College, led to successor Administrations bent on trashing much of the good work that the Democrats had managed to do. A Biden Administration, facing a more daunting set of problems, could easily fall into the same trap.

Biden has not made light of the job that awaits. In statements from semi-lockdown, he has spoken of the need for “transformative” change and announced the creation of task forces to craft suitably ambitious proposals on the environment, health care, and criminal justice, among other broad topics. Biden’s words would carry more weight if he expressed a similar determination to challenge the system of big-money donors, revolving-door appointments, and back-channel influence that has shaped the Democratic Party’s decision-making in recent decades. Transformative policies are not likely to emerge from an untransformed process.

The Democrats’ first assignment, of course, is to win the election. That means doing all that they can to frame the 2020 contest as a referendum on Donald Trump’s unfitness for office—and, given the immediate circumstances, to call out his Administration’s miserable handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A strong anti-corruption message could help there, too. Biden and his fellow-Democrats have taken plenty of well-aimed shots at the callousness, deception, and pure incompetence of Trump’s response to the pandemic. They have not said nearly enough about the honest professionals (such as Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) whose warnings were ignored or squelched by corporate-friendly superiors (such as, in Bright’s case, Alex Azar, the former Big Pharma lobbyist running the Department of Health and Human Services). The Democrats have also been strangely inattentive to the many reported cases of banks, private-equity firms, hedge funds, and connected, cash-rich companies (including Wall Street-owned hospital and hotel chains) making off with large sums of pandemic-relief money.

That kind of corruption has a history of getting voters riled up. In the months leading up to the midterm elections of 2018, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen appeared in court, adding their names to a growing tally of Trump appointees and intimates caught in career-ending, money-grubbing scandals. Thirty Republican House members lost their seats that year, many of them to Democratic challengers who had campaigned as political outsiders rejecting corporate PAC money. Nancy Pelosi, restored to the post of Speaker of the House by that election, cited anti-corruption outrage as a major driver of the outcome. After the new House convened, in 2019, its first ceremonial act was to pass an unexpectedly substantial democracy-reform bill. Its provisions included nonpartisan redistricting, public financing of campaigns, and new lobbying rules. “It is fundamental to a democracy that people believe that actions taken here will be in their interest,” Pelosi said on that occasion. “That is what this legislation will help to restore.”

Then came the impeachment hearings. Like the Mueller inquiry, the drive for impeachment diverted the Democrats’ outrage into a plotline that turned out to be too complicated—and too distant from most Americans’ lives and concerns—to gain wide traction. The failure of impeachment left Democrats with both a bad case of investigation fatigue and a sense of futility about getting through to Trump-base voters or Trump-toadying Republican senators. In the frenzy of new issues and opportunities that have come at the Democrats since Trump’s acquittal, they have dropped the ball on corruption.

But there is time for them to pick it up. By embracing a strong anti-corruption program and making it a campaign theme, Biden and his party’s congressional candidates can place a spotlight back on the Trump Administration’s breathtaking record of quasi-bribery, quasi-extortion, and inside deals. They can call fresh media and public attention, for example, to the under-probed scandal of Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education. Filled with former executives of for-profit college companies, it has catered to the interests of some of the shadier operators of that world, while failing to follow through on a congressionally mandated program of student-loan forgiveness for people in public-service jobs. That’s the kind of betrayal of duty that voters can relate to, especially if they know or are one of the tens of thousands of police officers, nurses, firefighters, and other public servants who have been unable to discharge their student debts.

DeVos is just one Cabinet member whose deeds have sometimes flown under the Trump-fixated media’s radar. The Democrats could be reminding voters about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his role in negotiating a deal to export natural gas to China while he still held a stake in a company that owns the world’s largest fleet of natural-gas-carrying ships, and about the Commerce Department’s ethics officer who was promoted after approving that arrangement. Also ripe for further airing are the favors dispensed to friends and former associates by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew Wheeler, and the web of conflicts involving Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, her family’s shipping business, and the reëlection campaign of her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Biden has been working hard to heal his party’s moderate-progressive divide and appeal to the younger voters whose skepticism cost him in the early primaries. As a born-again anti-corruption crusader, he could tap into the energy of Party activists and inspire more trust across the spectrum of his rightful and potential supporters. By committing to an exacting set of rules for public officials in the post-Trump era, he could claim common ground with those holding out Medicare for All or a sweeping Green New Deal as a test of his credibility. These are problems we will not solve, he could say, without decisive action to loosen the grip of the entrenched industries and the wealthy individuals and entities that make it their business to keep things as they are and to persuade us that sensible remedies are unaffordable and unfit for debate.

Corruption-fighting is an area of policy, moreover, where Biden runs little risk of offending the rank-and-file voters who, in the words of his former boss Barack Obama, don’t want to “tear down the system.” The Democrats have the makings of a credible anti-corruption agenda in their House bill and also a piece of Senate legislation—introduced by Elizabeth Warren as a core statement of her Presidential campaign—that calls for strict anti-conflict rules and bans on stock ownership for federal officials, among other strictures. Polls show wide support for such measures: when it comes to the flow of corporate and Wall Street and billionaire money into politics and the favors and freebies dispensed in return, we are talking about a system that the great majority of Americans would be happy to tear down.

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Netflix’s ‘Most Popular’ List Is a Wasteland

Shutterstock / The Atlantic

Last summer, I made a grievous mistake while getting my hair braided. As I eased into the chair, mentally preparing myself (well, my glutes) for the hours-long process ahead, I looked up and asked my stylist an idle question: What have you been watching on Netflix lately? She launched into an explanation of her latest binge watch, and by the time the lower quadrant of my hair was sectioned off into plaits, I’d somehow become invested in the story of a protagonist whose description I can’t believe is real, even now.

The cynically named CW series In the Dark follows a blind 20-something woman named Murphy Mason, whose penchant for drinking and vacuous sexual encounters is rivaled only by her determination to solve the disappearance of her teenage friend Tyson, a drug dealer with a heart of gold who once saved her from a violent mugging. The series is a chaotic mélange of genre clichés with some earnest moments sprinkled in, which is to say it’s a natural Netflix hit. Sure enough, the first season of In the Dark found a larger audience after the streaming platform picked it up, and since last week, the newly released Season 2 has bounced around Netflix’s Top 10 most watched list.

A relatively new feature, the list offers a glimpse into what other users in the same country are gravitating toward on any given day. As the coronavirus pandemic has hamstrung the production and release of new entertainment, the Top 10 list has become an oddly influential tastemaker. Did I expect a preponderance of Netflix subscribers to be so eager to find out what happened to Murphy and Tyson? Not really—but I’m not surprised to see it. The list is regularly dominated by the kinds of shows and movies best described as “things to play in the background while you scroll on your phone.”

Even if intriguing projects do make it onto the Top 10, it can be hard to tell the names apart. According to Netflix, U.S. viewers are currently obsessed with In the Dark and Dark Desire, Last Chance U and The Last Dance, The Kissing Booth and The Kissing Booth 2. Sometimes, sensational titles spend weeks in the No. 1 spot, such as the erotic drama 365 Days, which titillated touch-starved viewers with its sexual hijinks. But the makeup of such rankings reflects a rather banal truth: People are really bored right now, and that leaves a lot of room for uninspired content to flourish.

If HBO’s Game of Thrones was the last great piece of TV monoculture, then the pandemic has popularized a series of forgettable productions that each offers a fleeting, miniature facsimile of communal attention. Absent the usual summer blockbusters, and with few prestige shows rolling out new episodes, the landscape of American entertainment is barren enough for C- shows and movies to rack up the viewership of B+ productions, if not the associated enthusiasm. The mechanism by which Netflix measures its subscribers’ consumption habits is itself a paragon of low expectations. The company, which has historically withheld actual audience numbers, recently revealed that it counts anything longer than two minutes spent on one movie or show’s screen as a “view.” Whether because of the content’s mediocrity, or the sheer exhaustion brought on by living through a historical event, few of these “most watched” works have generated a collective viewing experience that feels cohesive, much less exhilarating.

What is there to text a friend about the way that Murphy Mason trips over herself in every other In the Dark scene because the show is hell-bent on reminding viewers that she is, in fact, blind? Even while trapped in a braiding chair for upwards of eight hours, I had nothing to say about it. That Fatal Affair, the new Perfect Stranger–esque thriller starring Nia Long and Omar Epps, would go largely unremarked upon by Black Twitter—despite putting up a decent showing on the most-popular list—felt symptomatic of this broader apathy, too: How, I wondered while watching that movie, had Netflix found a way to make me yearn for the days when the worst thing a Long character did was date a slam poet with a hoop earring?

Still, no production better captures the unbearable adequacy of such offerings than Netflix’s Kissing Booth franchise. The second film in the series has been planted firmly at the top end of the most-popular list since its release last week, even dragging the original into the ranking with it. The Kissing Booth cinematic universe, which includes another forthcoming film, is a world of middling teenage romantic hijinks that make me—a noted and very forgiving fan of the genre—contemplate never kissing anyone again. “No boobs are worth a broken nose,” a line uttered by one of the characters in the first film, has haunted me since I first heard it.

That’s not to say everything that’s been popular on Netflix, or other streaming services, has been tiresome or unremarkable. Tiger King, the morally bankrupt cat-breeding documentary series, took over the platform at the end of March, but an adaptation of the beloved Baby-Sitters Club book series released in June was a genuine delight. Of course, the proliferation of second-rate content predates the pandemic: Who could forget Bird Box, the baffling Sandra Bullock thriller that raked in viewers largely because of its memeability? (I can, thankfully.) No matter how eye-roll-worthy the premise or execution of these productions, I understand their appeal. There’s something inordinately comforting about letting the algorithm decide for you, relinquishing the burden of choice to an external force. There’s a kind of utility in lists that do that and offer a window into what shows other, similarly stressed people are letting wash over them, if only for two minutes. Even outside of the stylist’s chair, I’m still a captive audience—and so are you.

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“Equipo Trump”: The President’s Brazen Attempt to Win Over Latino Voters

Someone at a Trump rally holds a sign saying Latinos For Trump.
Capitalizing on support from Mexico’s President, the Trump campaign is trying to court Hispanics in battleground states.Photograph from Alamy

On June 23rd, Donald Trump visited Arizona to celebrate the completion of two hundred miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That the number of coronavirus cases in the state had reached an all-time high did not stop Trump from focussing on the structure, hailing it as “great,” “powerful,” and “really foolproof.” His visit to Arizona, a key battleground state in the 2020 election, gave him an opportunity to showcase a formidable campaign promise that he has neither fulfilled nor got Mexico to pay for. Before surveying the thirty-foot-tall fence in San Luis, where a silver plaque awaited his signature, Trump spoke at a border-security roundtable. He boasted of his success in preventing immigrants, drugs, crimes, and even the coronavirus from reaching the U.S.’s southern border. For that, Trump had an unlikely ally to thank. “I want to thank the President of Mexico,” he said. “He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon.”

Two weeks later, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador boarded a commercial flight en route to the U.S. capital. His decision to visit Trump in the midst of a pandemic and a fraught American election spurred criticism on both sides of the border. Many argued that Trump could reap political benefits from the meeting at a time when he is hoping to pull Latino voters away from Joe Biden, especially in battleground states he must win in 2020, such as Arizona, Florida, and Texas. While Trump’s polling averages have plummeted among other groups, his support among Latinos has remained steady. He is still losing to these voters by a wide margin—more than thirty percentage points—but he also appears to be benefitting from Biden’s inability to generate enthusiasm for his candidacy in the community. Recent polls show that less than sixty per cent of the Latino electorate would vote for Biden—a far lower number than the seventy-one per cent who voted for Obama in 2012 and the sixty-six per cent who voted for Clinton in 2016.

During two tightly scripted public appearances, where no questions from the press were permitted, López Obrador flaunted his friendship with Trump, showering him with adulation and praising his treatment of Mexico. “I’m here to express to the people of the United States that their President has behaved toward us with kindness and respect. He has treated us as we are: a dignified country,” López Obrador, who is commonly known by his initials, AMLO, said. He left Washington politically unscathed at home because Trump, in a rare display of discipline, made no virulent remarks against Mexico. “Mexican-Americans uplift our communities,” Trump declared. “They strengthen our churches and enrich every feature of national life. They are hardworking, incredible people.”

In Trumpian fashion, the President took full political advantage of the visit. Hours after the two leaders spoke in the Rose Garden, Trump tweeted a campaign-style video of López Obrador hailing him and his record. Snippets from Trump’s remarks, mixed with triumphant music, narrated the footage. “Today we celebrate the historic victory we achieved together just days ago, when NAFTA was officially terminated and replaced with a brand-new, beautiful U.S.M.C.A.,” Trump says as a picture of the trade deal, featuring his signature in oversized letters, appears on the screen. Earlier in the day, when Biden reminded his followers on Twitter that “Trump launched his 2016 campaign by calling Mexicans rapists,” the proxy account @EquipoTrump responded that “Trump has actually delivered for our community. That’s why President López Obrador said today that @realDonaldTrump has treated Mexicans with ‘understanding’ and ‘respect.’ ” Days later, Axios reported that the Trump campaign planned to spend millions on Spanish-language ads featuring López Obrador’s remarks at the White House.

Equipo Trump is the official bilingual Twitter account of the President’s reëlection campaign. In recent days, the account tweeted a warning in Spanish that a possible Joe Biden Vice-Presidential pick, Karen Bass, would adopt policies of appeasement toward the Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro and Cuba’s leader, Raúl Castro. It also wished Peruvians a happy Independence Day. Unlike in 2016, the Trump campaign appears to be actively trying to expand Trump’s base of support among Latinos. The effort is being shepherded by Vice-President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, a corporate lawyer in his thirties who has said that he discovered the perils of socialism while studying abroad in Argentina and teaching English in Nicaragua. It has a Latino advisory board comprising twenty-two members, ranging from Hispanic business leaders to evangelical pastors. And, since the onset of the pandemic, the campaign has been holding frequent online events and sending out e-mails highlighting issues that appeal to conservative Hispanics, warning of “The Radical Left’s” desire to achieve “unlimited abortions through Biden” or its attempt to “cancel Goya Foods.”

Still, the campaign, in many respects, is closely following Trump’s aggressive 2016 playbook. Last fall, when Biden launched an initiative called Todos con Biden (All with Biden), Trump’s team rushed to buy the Web domain. To date, anyone visiting the site todosconbiden.com will find a photograph of the Vice-President looking downward, with his arms crossed, and an announcement, in both English and Spanish: “Oops, Joe forgot about Latinos.” A link at the bottom of the page, which reads “Vamos” (“Let’s Go”), redirects visitors to the Latinos for Trump Web page. “We’ve seen that the Trump campaign has no compunction when it comes to weaponizing any statements of support for their own political purposes,” Fernand Amandi, a Democratic strategist and pollster, told me. “If the campaign thinks it’s enough to propel them to be able to win the Hispanic vote on the basis of AMLO’s comments, they’re sorely mistaken. If their aim is to try to use these comments to increase support from Hispanic voters on the margins, it might very well have that effect.”

Trump, though, also faces enormous political challenges in increasing his support among Latinos. His stance on immigration, and particularly his Administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families, is widely unpopular in the community. As the pandemic continues, Trump’s claims of a thriving economy, which once resonated strongly among Latino men, are no longer credible—the unemployment rate for Hispanics currently stands at more than sixteen per cent. Furthermore, Latinos have caught and died from the coronavirus at an outsized rate—the research group Latino Decisions recently reported that, in a majority of states, Hispanics are more than twice as likely as other Americans to contract the virus. All the while, the President has continued his long-running practice of making false claims about undocumented immigrants and playing on racial fears, as a way to scare voters into supporting him. On June 28th, he tweeted, “Corrupt Joe Biden has confirmed that he ‘would give UNLIMITED Healthcare to Illegal Immigrants’. This would break our system and bring millions of people to the USA.”

To Trump’s opponents, this all begs the question of why López Obrador would lend himself to being so overtly used. After the Rose Garden address, Representative Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and the son of a Mexican immigrant, derided López Obrador as “nothing more than Trump’s collaborator.” In 2018, López Obrador ran for office on a pledge to counter Trump’s vitriol and restore the dignity of Mexico. Within months of Trump’s inauguration, he filed a complaint at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in Washington, D.C., denouncing the Administration’s border wall and its immigration policy. He also published a book, “Oye, Trump” (“Listen Up, Trump”), in which he declared that “Trump and his advisers speak of Mexicans the way Hitler and the Nazis referred to the Jews, just before undertaking the infamous persecution and the abominable extermination.”

“López Obrador at some point decided, or was convinced, that bending the knee was a better option than standing his ground with Trump,” Arturo Sarukhán, who served as Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S. from 2007 to 2013, told me. In Sarukhán’s view, the visit was “a slap in the face to migrants in the U.S.—eleven million of whom are Mexicans—and a boon to Trump’s dog-whistle xenophobia and chauvinism.” There’s a clear answer, though, as to why López Obrador made the trip. He is under enormous pressure to revive the Mexican economy, which was stagnant even before COVID-19 arrived—its prospects now are even bleaker. The Bank of Mexico recently announced that the country’s G.D.P. would fall between five and nine per cent this year, and as many as 1.4 million jobs could be lost. “The U.S. remains Mexico’s largest trading partner, so you cannot underplay the fact that there is an element of economic pragmatism,” Daniel Erikson, a former adviser on Latin America to Vice-President Biden, told me. “The question is, Will it be worth it? And at what cost?”

By focussing almost exclusively on trade and seeking to appease Trump on immigration, López Obrador has glossed over thorny issues such as the flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexico and the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Instead, López Obrador has reduced the bilateral agenda to the topics that best fit Trump’s agenda. He is among the few Latin American leaders, including the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, who have praised Trump’s Presidency. However humiliating López Obrador’s acquiescence to Trump may appear to be, it has had few negative repercussions for him at home so far. Most of López Obrador’s supporters in Mexico, where the President maintains the unwavering support of his base, view his handling of Trump favorably. “One would think that Trump would be more unpopular in Mexico than in other countries, because we’ve actually borne the brunt of many of his policies,” Denise Dresser, a political scientist at ITAM, a university in Mexico City, told me. “But López Obrador has reframed collaboration with Trump vis-à-vis his base as something to applaud, and confrontation as something to decry. So this may be a political win for López Obrador, at least in the short term.” In the long term, however, there are no guarantees that Trump will refrain from scapegoating Mexico or its people, particularly if he wins reëlection.

The day after López Obrador’s return to Mexico, Trump was back on the campaign trail. In Florida, he stopped by the U.S. Southern Command headquarters, for a briefing on the unit’s counter-narcotics operations. During the visit, he suggested that Mexico was a potentially dangerous source of the coronavirus. Epidemiologists have found that travellers from Europe were the primary sources of the virus in the U.S. “We’re up to two hundred and fifty miles,” Trump said, in reference to his wall. “And especially with COVID—that turned out to be very lucky for us that we had the wall, or we would have been inundated, because they do have some big problems.” Trump’s comments echoed the false, racially charged claims that he had made as a candidate in 2015: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” In a subsequent interview with Chris Wallace from Fox News, Trump claimed that the media was not paying enough attention to the coronavirus outbreaks in Mexico and other countries. “Why don’t they talk about Mexico? Which is not helping us,” Trump said, even though the country has recorded a quarter of the U.S.’s number of cases per capita. “All I can say is thank God I built most of the wall, because if I didn’t have the wall up we would have a much bigger problem with Mexico.”

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Where the System May Break

Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

On the same morning that the United States government reported the steepest economic collapse in U.S. history, President Donald Trump mused on Twitter about postponing the 2020 election. Trump is getting desperate, more desperate by the day. What might he do? What should Americans fear?

Earlier this summer, 67 former government officials and academic students of government gathered over four sessions of Georgetown Law School’s nonpartisan Transition Integrity Project to analyze those questions. They included Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee; John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff who chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign; former Republican members of Congress; and a host of former elected officials, government staffers, consultants, and even journalists. I joined two of the sessions.

The sessions began with scenarios of what might happen on Election Day—a big Biden win, a narrow Biden win, a Trump win in the Electoral College coupled with a loss in the popular vote—and then played war games to ponder what might follow. The goal was not to make predictions, but rather to test scenarios and identify potential weak points in the system. The approach is common in the national-security world, but has not often before been applied to domestic politics.

The organizers of the event will in time produce a formal report on the results. But in light of the president’s ominous tweet yesterday, it’s worth summarizing some of what we found, while respecting the rules under which the event was held—which allowed for the disclosure of the substance of the exercise, but not what individual participants said.

The good news is that Trump cannot postpone the election or the next presidential inauguration; he has no means to do either of those things. Those dates are set by law or in the text of the Constitution.

Nor can Trump somehow cling to power after Inauguration Day once the electoral vote is certified against him. If the Electoral College certifies Joe Biden the winner when it convenes in Washington, D.C., on January 6, then at noon on January 20, Donald Trump ceases to be president. His signature loses all legal effect, the officer carrying the nuclear football walks away, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does not take his call.

The bottom line: There do exist outer legal boundaries to the mischief that can be done by even the most corrupt president.

The bad news is that there is a lot of mischief that can be done within the legal boundaries by a determined president, especially with the compliance of the attorney general and enough political allies in the state capitals.

The worst news is that, faced with presidential lawlessness, few of the participants at Georgetown found effective responses. The courts offered only slow, weak, and unreliable remedies. Street protests were difficult to mobilize and often proved counterproductive. Republican elected officials cowered even in the face of the most outrageous Trump acts. Democratic elected officials lacked the tools and clout to make much difference. Many of the games turned on who made the first bold move. Time after time, that first mover was Trump.

And even in the scenarios in which Biden’s team eventually won—that is, secured possession of the White House at noon on Inauguration Day, 2021—Team Trump by then had thoroughly poisoned the political system.

It diverted public resources to Trump personally.

It preemptively pardoned Trump associates and family members, and tried to pardon Trump himself from criminal charges including money laundering and tax evasion.

It intentionally tried to cause long-term economic damage so as to prevent early economic recovery—and boost Republican chances in the 2022 elections.

It destroyed, hid, or privatized public records.

It tried to sabotage the census to favor Republican redistricting after 2020.

It refused to cooperate with the incoming administration during the transition period, in ways that aggravated both the pandemic response and economic recovery.

And it sowed pervasive mistrust in the integrity of U.S. elections in ways that would polarize and embitter U.S. politics long after 2020.

Despite the president’s personal unpopularity as measured by polls, Trump’s side possessed—and used—important tactical advantages.

Those advantages start with the institutional powers of the presidency, notably the power to federalize the National Guard and take military control of state voting sites. They include also the asymmetry of the U.S. party system, and especially the fiercer team-mindedness of Trump loyalists and pro-Trump media.

The most persistent and powerful advantage, however, was the overconfidence of the legally minded Biden team that the Trump team would respect some norms and limits on its behavior. That expectation was again and again refuted by experience.

All of this, again, was just a table-top exercise, specifically designed to test extreme scenarios—not a prediction of how things will play out. Perhaps everything will go smoothly. But as the president suggests postponing the election, it’s important to understand the hazards ahead, and the timelines and decision points that may prove crucial.

The voting period

The days of early voting, Election Day itself, and then the period of vote-counting that will follow offer fruitful possibilities for mischief.

In one of our scenarios, the attorney general sent federal marshals backed by the National Guard to seize vote-by-mail ballots, triggering a constitutional catastrophe that delayed the outcome of the count for weeks.

Local Republican officeholders have wide scope to burden voting by what they deem undesirable voters, especially ethnic minorities. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has more or less entirely abandoned the field of voting rights. In the Trump era, the division has shifted its effort toward litigating in support of claims of religious discrimination.

In the exercises, when the vote went against Trump, his team tried to convince his supporters that they had been robbed—and that they were therefore entitled to take extreme, even violent, actions. In our exercises, however, the game-winning strategy was to goad the other side into violence. This was particularly true for Team Trump, whose supporters already fear violence from anarchists and antifa.

The meeting of electors in the states

Under current law, all disputes over vote-counting are supposed to be resolved by December 8, 2020. The electors are supposed to convene on December 14 in their state capitals, where they will sign their electoral ballots. The days from December 8 to December 14 offer Team Trump the last clear chance to alter the outcome.

In some of our scenarios, local Republican officeholders sowed enough confusion to justify sending two slates of electors to Washington to be adjudicated. That was a high-risk tactic that did not usually pay off, but could tempt some pro-Trump state governments.

The meeting of electors in Washington, D.C.

This normally ceremonial event is scheduled for January 6, 2021. It will be presided over by the incumbent vice president, Mike Pence. We tested what might happen in a close result—one in which the Republicans hold on to the Senate and Trump falls short of an Electoral College majority by just a single state’s vote—if Pence somehow tried to insist that the pro-Trump slate of electors was valid.

This did not usually work. Pence was a weak link in the Trump team, too concerned about his own future and his own reputation to go all-out in the way the core Trump team wanted.

Generally, once we got past the December 8 date, the Trump team’s options for keeping power dwindled to zero. What was left then was scorched-earth self-enrichment, self-protection, and spite.

The transition of power

The Obama administration took office amid a national crisis in January 2009, after what is generally regarded by experts as the smoothest and most successful transition in presidential history. The outgoing Bush team kept the Obama team closely informed about decision making after the financial crisis struck in October 2008—and the incoming Obama team scrupulously followed the “one president at a time” rule of crisis management.

Nothing like that can be expected this winter. Instead, we are likely to see a recurrence of 1932–33, when the defeated Herbert Hoover tried to sabotage the incoming Roosevelt administration in hopes of preparing his own comeback in 1936. Trump will soon be fantasizing about running again in 2024. If his health does not permit it, his children may envision a dynasty of their own. These are not realistic plans. The Trump brand will be toxic in U.S. politics after the catastrophes of 2020. But the Trump inner circle will not believe that—and its members may hope that if they can cause Biden to stumble out of the gate, they will benefit.

The Bush administration helped the Obama administration to be ready on day one. The Trump administration may not return that courtesy. In one of our scenarios, Trump moved permanently to Mar-a-Lago the day after the election and never returned to the White House again. The whole government had to operate around a lame-duck president who simply refused to do any work at all.

But we also discussed whether Trump’s need to satisfy his ego and his desire for money might not cause him to foment a transition-season crisis—especially one that would gain him some credit with Russia or the oil states. Postpresidential Trump will face extreme legal and business troubles, including the ruin of the hospitality industry. The flow of payments to his businesses from U.S. taxpayers, from Republican campaigns, from favor-seeking corporations, and from foreign governments will all cease.

What would Trump do to maximize his cash flow before it stops? As lurid as our imaginations were over the four days of disaster planning, on this question, at least, we probably underestimated the dangerous possibilities.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

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مبارزه برای نجات شغل در صنعت هواپیمایی

Flight attendants stand at the end of rows of empty seats aboard a Delta flight.
سر از خدمه پرواز’ اتحادیه لابی کنگره برای گسترش حمایت از کارگران که مبتنی شده توسط coronavirus بیماری همه گیر.عکس توسط شانون استاپلتون / ایسنا

سه هفته پیش سارا نلسون رئیس جمهور از انجمن از خدمه پرواز-C. W. A., دریافت تماس از یک جانباز پرواز که در حال کار برای بیست و پنج سال است که به کار ادامه داد در طول coronavirus بیماری همه گیر. “او عاشق پرواز او را دوست دارد کار خود را” نلسون گفت: من به تازگی. در طول یک پرواز به لس آنجلس پرواز به او گفت که او می خواهم به یک حمله وحشت باعث شده این احتمال را که او ممکن است قرارداد این ویروس و تبدیل شدن به شدت بیمار است. در طول توقف او رفت و به اتاق هتل خود را و پناه در محل. او خیلی ترسیده بود به ترک اتاق خود را و نمی تواند بیرون رفتن برای به دست آوردن غذا. خدمات اتاق به نظر می رسید به طور بالقوه خطرناک و هیچ دسترسی به امواج مایکروویو در هتل, که بدان معنی است که او تا به حال هیچ جایی برای گرم کردن سوپ او در کیسه خود را. او به پایان رسید تا وحشت زده جدا شده و به تنهایی خوردن سوپ سرد مستقیما از می توانید.

“او شده است از طریق این همه قبل از” نلسون ادامه داد. او اشاره کرد که این پرواز تا به حال مانند بسیاری دیگر از دست رفته و حقوق بازنشستگی خود را گرفته و پرداخت کاهش پس از حملات تروریستی 11 سپتامبر 2001 فرستاده صنعت هواپیمایی به بحران است. “و در اینجا ما دوباره” نلسون گفت و اشاره کرد که کارگران در حال حاضر رو مشابه سختی. “این بوده است واقعی whiplash برای مردم است. آن سخت است. وجود دارد بسیاری از افرادی که به کار رفت و آنها احساس آنها انجام خدمت واقعی به این کشور شدند. وجود دارد و دیگر افرادی که در معرض خطر و نمی تواند به کار برود اما همچنین نمی دانم که چگونه آنها می رویم به پرداخت صورتحساب خود را.” او شروع به خفه کردن ،

در اوایل بیماری همه گیر که تقریبا در تمام مسافرت هوایی تا به حال به طور ناگهانی متوقف شد رئیس جمهور دونالد مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن و وزیر خزانه داری استیون Mnuchin صحبت در مورد صنعت هواپیمایی در یک کنفرانس مطبوعاتی. “این است که بدتر از 9/11. آنها تقریبا زمین به توقف” Mnuchin گفت. او افزود که با وجود این واقعیت است که وجود دارد تقریبا هیچ مسافری تقاضای این مهم است که شرکت های هواپیمایی هنوز هم ارائه خدمات به هر بخشی از کشور است. “اگر چه ما نمی خواهیم مردم را به سفر مگر اینکه این مهم ما می خواهیم برای حفظ, برای, مهم, مسافرت, حق مسافرت داخلی.” او فقط ملاقات با C. E. O. s از بزرگترین شرکت های هواپیمایی و اگر چه او نمی خواهد بحث به طور خاص در مورد پتانسیل برای نجات دولت از این صنعت گفت که شرکت های هواپیمایی شد مهم استراتژیک و شاغل بسیاری از کارگران و اضافه میکند: “ما در همکاری با کنگره در این است.” رئیس جمهور تهمت تکیه به میکروفون و گفت: “صنعت هواپیمایی را در شکل خوب است.”

در ماه مارس در کنگره تصویب مراقبت در عمل دو تریلیون دلار coronavirus نجات بسته است که خود را کنار بگذارند و پنجاه میلیارد دلار برای صنعت هواپیمایی: بیست و پنج میلیارد دلار از آن را برای دولت حمایت وام کشیده می شود زمانی که مورد نیاز و بقیه رفت سمت حقوق و دستمزد-برنامه پشتیبانی است که می تواند توزیع شده به عنوان کمک هزینه در نظر گرفته شده برای حفظ مسافر-هواپیمایی شغل. هر یک از شرکت هواپیمایی دریافت هفتاد و شش درصد از هزینه های حقوق و دستمزد خود را از وسط 2019. (بخشی از این کمک مالی قرار است به پرداخت بیش از یک دوره ده ساله و دولت را دریافت حکم یک شکل از مالکیت سهام در شرکت های هواپیمایی برای ده درصد از اعطای ارزش است.) “کسب و کار به سقوط کردن یک صخره” نلسون به من گفت. “به معنای واقعی کلمه سقوط کردن یک صخره. و اگر تا به حال نشده یک جلوگيري از سمت راست و سپس اکثریت قریب به اتفاق شرکت های هواپیمایی را برای ورشکستگی زمینه. و عمومی را از دست داده اند هر نوع کنترل چگونه صنعت هواپیمایی را در انتهای دیگر از این.”

در ازای کمک خطوط توافق برای شرایط سخت. آنها ممنوع است از درگیر شدن در سهام buybacks یا صدور سود سهام از طریق سپتامبر 2021. اجرایی غرامت در طول مدت زمانی که این شرکت در حال پذیرش کمک های محدود به جبران سطح از 2019. شرکت ها نیز از ممنوع تخمگذار کردن کارگران به مدت شش ماه ارائه خواهد شد که در پایان سپتامبر 30th. مانند سایر نقاط یونان بودند که در نظر گرفته شده برای نجات شغل از قبیل چک برنامه های حفاظت هواپیمایی کمک تا حد زیادی مشغول به کار در کوتاه مدت است. “ما فرستاده شده خود ما طرح امداد بود که متمرکز بر کارگران و این چیزی است که ما به دست آورد: کارگران-اولین بسته برای نخستین بار در این کشور فرمت برای رفتن به طور مستقیم به کارگران” نلسون گفت. اکثر خطوط هوایی کارگران از دست رفته در حدود بیست و پنج درصد از دستمزد اما برنامه “نگه داشته و مردم در کار متصل به مراقبت های بهداشتی ما, همه از آن است.” در حال حاضر پس از پذیرش میلیون ها نفر در پول کمک مالی چندین شرکت هواپیمایی از جمله ایران و خطوط هوایی آمریکا اعلام کرده اند که پس از انقضای مهلت در پاییز آنها قطع خواهد شد هزاران نفر از شغل. به عنوان کنگره بحث دیگری بسته نجات نلسون و دیگر رهبران اتحادیه به نمایندگی هواپیمایی کارگران در حال مبارزه برای گسترش برنامه های شش ماه دیگر از طریق ماه مارس سال 2021. صدها هزار شغل در حال حلق آویز در تعادل است.

نلسون دارای موهای بور و چشمان آبی و اغلب عکس در یک ترد پرواز-مسئولین’ ، او در اورگان دختر یک چوب کارگر و یک معلم موسیقی. پس از فارغ التحصیلی از کالج با چهل و پنج هزار دلار در بدهی او اعمال می شود در سال 1996 به عنوان مهماندار هواپیما در ایران. (شش هفته آموزش برنامه شامل دستورالعمل مناسب استفاده از آرایش.) او به سرعت برجسته خودش را به عنوان یک آواز حامی حقوق کارگران در سال 2010 او معاون رئیس جمهور از A. F. A. اتحادیه به نمایندگی از پنجاه هزار خدمه پرواز در بیست و شرکت های هواپیمایی مختلف. در سال 2014 او به اتحادیه با رئیس جمهور که قرار داده شده در مرکز از بدترین بحران صنعت هواپیمایی مواجه شده است و در دهه.

به عنوان همه گیر در زمان برگزاری در زمستان و اوایل بهار سفر هوایی کاهش یافته و حدود نود و هفت درصد آن رخنه کرد تا کمی به عنوان چیزهایی که به نظر می رسید به بهبود و اقامت در خانه سفارشات در سراسر کشور شدند و سست. اما کسب و کار تنها به یک قله در حدود بیست و پنج درصد از پیش همه گیر سطوح در پایان ماه ژوئن و پس از آن شروع به پهن کردن دوباره آن را به عنوان روشن شد که همه گیر شد به مراتب بیش از حداقل در ایالات متحده است. مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن دولت گرفته نمی شود قوی اقدام برای جلوگیری از گسترش این ویروس منجر به جاری شیوع بیماری در سراسر کشور است. این مبلغ به یک شکل اقتصادی خرابکاری: مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن دولت را فقدان رهبری تضعیف شده است از مزایای این هزینه اقتصادی کمک مالی که کنگره تصویب بیمه که حتی پول بیشتری را صرف در آینده است. اگر دولت موفق شده بود به گسترش ویروس تحت کنترل تابستان جاری باید به صورت تهاجمی دولت کمک مالی می شده اند کمتر شدید تر از آن در حال حاضر است.

نلسون و دیگر رهبران اتحادیه باید در گردش است در نامه ای به اعضای کنگره ترغیب آنها به تصویب پیشنهاد تمدید هواپیمایی – حقوق و دستمزد کارگر حمایت. “سفر هوایی باقی مانده است اندکی کسری از سطح سال گذشته و تقاضا باقی خواهد ماند افسرده نیز به سال آینده” در این نامه می خواند. “حمل و نقل هوایی کارگران حساب برای 5 ٪ از تولید ناخالص داخلی این کشور. باید 1 اکتبر می رسند بدون گسترش PSP اعطای شغل برنامه اخراج های دسته جمعی اجتناب ناپذیر به عنوان مدیران شرکت هواپیمایی باید اذعان کرد. صدها نفر از هزاران نفر از کارگران را از دست دادن شغل خود و بیمه سلامت— نه تنها در حمل و نقل هوایی اما در کل اقتصاد است.” اکثریت اعضای این خانه به نظر می رسد برای حمایت از این ایده است. اما در جولای 27th, حمله داعش منتشر شد پیش نویس لایحه که شامل هر گونه مقررات مربوط به گسترش پرداخت برای کارکنان خطوط هوایی.

به عنوان روند واین در, Nelson زمینه تماس های تقریبا روزانه از همکاران در مواجهه با سابقه کار شرایط و نگران کننده سوال در مورد آینده است. هنگامی که ما صحبت کرد او در تماس با خدمه رشته در سیدنی استرالیا پس از دستور به قرنطینه پس از یک پرواز; آنها گیر کرده در هتل اتاق بدون نور مستقیم خورشید به طور غیر منتظره ای جدا از خانواده خود را. “این همیشه دشوار است چرا که هنگامی که ما به کار ما نمی آیند برای چند روز بنابراین شما باید برای برنامه ریزی برای چگونه هر کس در خانه در حال رفتن به خوردن و مراقبت از زمانی که تو رفته ای” نلسون گفت. “در حال حاضر وجود دارد اضافه شده مشکل است که شما نمی دانید که چه چیزی ممکن است اتفاق می افتد. در برخی موارد ما تا به حال خدمه نشان می دهد و ناگهان همه از یک, زمانی که آنها به زمین سیاست تغییر کرده است.” نلسون افزود: “این است که با این واقعیت است که جهان نمی اعتماد ایالات متحده در حال حاضر.”

نلسون اخیرا صحبت کردن به یک تاریخ پرواز بود که مبتنی شده در طول همه گیر و تا به حال دیده نشده از داخل یک هواپیما در یک ماه. یک دوست از پرواز تا به حال دیده می شود سرفصل های مورد اخراج برنامه ریزی شده و از او پرسید که آیا او فکر کرد که او را از دست دادن شغل خود گفت: “چه می شود اگر شما در حال حاضر پرواز های گذشته خود را مبارزه با؟” زن غرق شد. “او گفت:” وای که واقعا به من رسید. من حتی ممکن است قادر به بازگشت به این کار. من خیلی junior من می توانم گذاشته,’ ” نلسون به من گفت: “که بسیار خشن است. مردم هنوز هم در رفتن به محل کار با این سنگینی.” او افزود: “ما در حال مبارزه بسیار سخت است.”


بیشتر در Coronavirus

  • برای محافظت از آمریکا زندگی می کند و احیای اقتصاد دونالد مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن و جارد کوشنر باید به گوش دادن Anthony Fauci به جای سطل زباله او را.
  • ما باید نگاه به دانش آموزان برای باردار شدن مناسب مدرسه-بازگشایی برنامه. آن است که خیلی دیر به درخواست آنچه که آنها واقعا می خواهید.
  • یک متخصص اطفال در آنچه کودکان باید در طول بحران.
  • مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن کمک غولهای که اهدا به reëlection مبارزات انتخاباتی بهره برداری از این بیماری همه گیر به حداکثر رساندن سود است.
  • پاسخگویی به بالا-امور مالی مغول در شارژ از ما بهبود اقتصادی.
  • Coronavirus است به احتمال زیاد به تغییر شکل معماری. چه نوع از فضا ما مایل به زندگی و کار در حال حاضر ؟

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What Happens to Small Companies Now?

Earlier this week I mentioned the surprisingly important role that craft brewing had played in downtown renewal across the country over the past decade. And I talked with one of the pioneers of that movement, Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company, about how this part of America’s startup economy was likely to fare.

Here are reports from two companies of a similar spirit but entirely different scale from Koch’s nationally distributed Samuel Adams brand. One is in northern Minnesota; the other, on the edge of the Mojave desert in Southern California. Each illustrates a path small, locally conscious firms are taking to survive the current economic and public health disaster.


Duluth, Minnesota: Over the past four years, I’ve visited and written about the small Bent Paddle Brewing Company of Duluth—and have retained interest because the saga of this startup has involved a lot more than its (very good) craft beer.

The two young couples who founded the company ten years ago—Karen and Bryon Tonnis, and Laura and Colin Mullen—wanted to see if their new little business could be part of a larger revival in the tattered, ex-industrial Lincoln Park district of Duluth. As Deb Fallows and I saw in repeat visits and reported here and here, they had begun succeeding in that neighborhood-revival role—plus others, like being part of a Duluth’s emergence as an outdoors and tourist destination, and helping protect the waters of deep, cold Lake Superior, on whose western tip Duluth sits.

Each time we’ve visited their part of town, we’ve seen a few more visitors, another restaurant or food truck, another little office or store. Meanwhile, Bent Paddle’s main business, as a taproom and brewery, continued to grow. Every time we talked, the four founders stressed that they’d grown mainly thanks to community support (including advice from local business people and loans from local banks), so they felt an obligation to be part of the community’s long-term development.

The Bent Paddle team, in 2016. From left, Bryon Tonnis, Karen Tonnis, Laura Mullen, and Colin Mullen. (James Fallows / The Atlantic)

But what now? This spring, Bent Paddle’s own taproom was of course closed, as were the restaurants and bars through which it sold most of its output. Could a little business like this survive, and could its surrounding neighborhood? This week I spoke with Laura Mullen in Duluth to ask how Bent Paddle had fared.

“During March and April our business was down about 50 percent,” she said. “No events at our site,” which had been an ever-busier civic gathering center. (We once saw a local-writer’s club holding a meeting in a side room.) “No sales to bars or restaurants,” which were about half of its total volume. “Draft beer was not happening anywhere.” Bent Paddle had to buy back some of the kegs it had shipped to bars and restaurants. Other kegs, already in warehouses, went past their shelf life and could no longer be sold.

Fortunately from the brewers’ point of view, Minnesota classified liquor stores as some of the “essential” businesses that could stay open despite a general lockdown. “That made us ‘essential workers,’” Mullen said, “because we were supplying products to liquor stores.”

Among the customers they could still reach in Duluth and elsewhere, Bent Paddle saw the same pattern that Jim Koch, of Sam Adams, recently described to me: People who would otherwise have gone out to a restaurant or bar were in many cases “trading up” to buy nicer food or drink to have at home, still for a lower overall cost. (A fascinating report in Nielsen.com shows exactly how much at-home drinking would have to increase to offset the near-elimination of bar and restaurant revenues. Medical experts are on the alert for evidence that increased home drinking is creating medical or behavioral risks—beyond those of the pandemic itself.)

Laura Mullen said that she expected this year’s sales, overall, to be about 20 percent lower than last year’s. Of the company’s 44 staff members before the shutdowns, it laid off 10. All but one has now returned. The company received a PPP loan to help cover the salaries. For the moment, Minnesota has allowed bars and restaurants to reopen for distanced outside service, and at 50 percent previous capacity indoor.

What were the lessons of this company’s survival, so far? Laura Mullen suggested these:

  • An immediate pivot: “When the taproom closed, we could still do to-go beer,” she said. “The minute [the state order] hit, after we shut the taproom we created all these signs and online videos,” promoting the idea that Bent Paddle was still open and explaining how to buy very safely canned beer to take home.  
Instructions on buying beer, in the time of COVID (Courtesy of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.)
  • Going all-in on masks and distancing: None of the signs and videos that Bent Paddle put up were about resisting or working around the shutdown or distancing order. All were about how to work with the rules. On March 20, they posted a three-minute Facebook video in which Laura Mullen walked potential customers all through the stages of picking up beer safely from their brewery. “We get a few Yelp comments complaining about our procedures,” she told me. “But we got many more complimenting us and saying that our safety protocols were top-notch, and they could feel comfortable coming here.”
Bent Paddle’s newly distanced outdoor seating (Courtesy of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.)
  • Reliance on the local: When I first met them, the four Bent Paddle founders told me how important local-bank support had been when they started the company. Laura Mullen said the same was true for surviving the current emergency. “A lot of people who had bigger-bank relationships had trouble getting their PPP loans,” she said. “We have a small local bank,” whose officers the company had worked with for years, “and we were able to get things arranged very quickly. We’ve heard that across the board, that people dealing with smaller banks are in better shape.”
  • Concern for the neighborhood: Bend Paddle’s success has been an important part of the Lincoln Park area’s revitalization. Now people are still coming to pick up beer, but not staying to shop in the little boutiques and smaller businesses. Their margins are thinner, and their products are less recession-proof than beer. Mullen said that she was even more concerned about longer-term effects on the neighborhood than on her own company.

Redlands, California: More than a dozen years ago, when I was living in China, I visited my original hometown of Redlands several times (for family-illness reasons) and noted the emergence of a craft-brew industry there. The pioneering local company was sited right at a small airport and was named, with an aviation theme, Hangar 24.

On recent visits to Redlands I’ve noted the emergence of a new company, called Escape Craft Brewery. It’s located in an unglamorous commercial complex not far from Interstate 10, but its vibe and style are of the tropical carefree getaway. “We designed the name Escape for that idea,” Melissa Fisher, who cofounded the brewery with her husband Josh six years ago, told me last week. “You can’t always get away. But you can always escape. You can sit outside, open a beer, and be someplace else for a few minutes.”

Courtesy of Escape Craft Brewery

Before opening the company, Josh Fisher was an avid home brewer, with a day job as a firefighter. Melissa worked as an aesthetician in a salon. They spent two years scouting the area for an appropriate site—with parking, brewing space and facilities, affordable rent, appropriate zoning, outdoor patio space for the usually warm Southern California weather, and so on.

They found it in a modest storefront close to the I-10 freeway, amid discount stores and carpet-cleaning shops. Based mainly on the quality of their products, Escape’s beers and ambience grew in popularity. It expanded into a next-door property and had 10,000 square feet of space, about half of it for a tasting-room and taproom, and half for a game room where, according to Melissa Fisher, they also had live music, private parties, “dog adoptions” and other civic events. This August they had been planning to open a second site in Redlands, with renovation of an an abandoned warehouse building much closer to downtown. They were also preparing for an expansion to the resort-coastal city of Laguna Niguel.

In March, most of their business went away, all at once. No taproom traffic, which had been almost 80 percent of their total revenue. No private events, no live music, no community gatherings—and on top of that, no sales to the bars and restaurants that had been carrying Escape’s beers. “A couple of places even asked if they could send their kegs back,” Melissa Fisher said. “Usually that’s illegal, but the rules were lifted this time”—and they were legally able to re-package some of the product as “beer to go.”

Melissa and Josh Fisher, inside the Escape tap room (Courtesy of Escape Craft Brewery)

How would they survive? “I think that if this had been in our first year or two, it would have been monumentally bad for us,” Melissa Fisher said. “We probably could not have made it.” But in Escape’s six years of operation, it had built a local following, and the Fishers had saved their profits to invest in their planned expansions (and instead are using them to cushion losses now).

Like Bent Paddle, Escape quickly shifted, mainly to take-out sales. Instead of draft beer poured into glasses in the tap rooms, they would sell beer in cans for customers to pick up. (Side note: a decade ago, I was surprised by the shift among craft brewers from glass bottles to aluminum cans. Now the shift is all but complete. I can barely remember the last time I bought beer that came in a bottle.) It quickly put up a web-site for online orders of to-go beer and saw many of its long-time customers make that change.

This kept the doors open, but with an unpleasant real-world surprise. In the previous post I mentioned the all-important role of something most beer customers are barely aware of: the beer-wholesalers business. In the case of Escape, the challenging practicality was how hard and expensive it could be for a small operation like theirs to try to switch to canned-beer sales.

Start with the cans themselves. “A big brewer might pay 8 or 10 cents per can,” Fisher said. Because they’re buying in small volume, “We’re paying somewhere between 34 and 74 cents per can, and that’s before we put the label on it”—or the beer into it. “Then you run into the shortages because there’s a rush on everything”—of cans, of labels, of glass growler bottles, of aluminum “crowler” cans. Before the pandemic, state regulators had to pre-approve the labels for canned beer. Now they have waived some of the rules, and Fisher and her team have been filling in part of the label information with Sharpies.

At the taproom, a pint of beer might have sold for six or seven dollars, so a round of four pints would bring in more than $25. Those same four pints, as a take-out order, go for $10 or $12, of which three dollars or more would be just for the labels and cans.

So the Fishers are selling beer but at a tiny margin, which barely covers their costs. Before, with full service, they would typically have six or seven employees on a Friday night. Now, to manage take-out, they have one or two. (Several of the employees have voluntarily reduced their hours, so others can have them.) Escape has expanded outdoor seating, in the parking areas and loading dock outside their tap room. “We’re lucky to have that space,” Melissa Fisher said. “But when it’s 98 to 102 degrees—even when we have cooling machines, even with a beer—not everyone can handle being outside.” Like many other brewers and distillers, they’ve also been selling a line of hand sanitizer.

“What we’re making now, is keeping the lights on,” she said. “And we’ve had a huge amount of support from people who’ve become our friends.” Because of their savings, and adaptability, they expect to keep going, and ultimately to expand. But what they’re doing now isn’t sustainable, she said. “Something has to change.”

Something does. Stories like these deserve notice, in my view, because little businesses like Bent Paddle and Escape have played such an outsized role in bringing vitality and local-connectedness to so many American towns.

Coming next, two other stories, with other implications, from northern Florida and the Bay Area of California. And after the jump, reactions from two brewers.

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مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن نشانه های اجرایی به منظور منع ماه نوامبر

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order.
عکس توسط کوپر Neill / بلومبرگ / گتی

واشنگتن (به Borowitz گزارش)—دونالد ترامپ هم زده جنجال روز جمعه با امضای یک دستور اجرایی که ممنوعیت ماه نوامبر.

در حالی که دانشمندان حقوقی اعتراض کردند که او نه حق دارند به منظور کاهش تعداد ماهها در یک سال از دوازده تا یازده مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن کرد که “قانون اساسی نمی گویند هر چیزی در مورد ماه چگونه بسیاری از شما باید.”

“همه کسانی که بچه ها هوشمند مانند جفرسون و مدیسون کسانی که زیبایی این چیزی است که آنها نمی فکر می کنم” او گفت:. “من آنها را بر روی ماه.”

مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن گفت که از بین بردن نوامبر از تقویم “دیر” با دعوت از آن “یک تقلب ماه است.”

“نوامبر جعل است,” او گفت:. “برخی از مردم می گویند آن را حتی ممکن است یک ماه.”

در پاسخ به سوال خبرنگار در مورد آینده شکرگزاری مغلوب ساختن پیشی جستن گفت که “هیچ کس نمی خواهد آن را از دست.”

“فقط بخواهید هر کسی در این کشور است.” “هیچ کس چیزی به بود خدا را شکر.”

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Beware of Facts Man

Adam Maida

Pull down your mask, liberate your consciousness: It’s time to meet Facts Man.

Or examine him, really. You have met Facts Man before if you have spent any time online in the past half decade or so. He’s inescapable. He podcasts. He makes YouTube videos. He traffics in Medium posts. He burns up Facebook. And he loves—loves!—Twitter.

What does he serve up there? Truth. Facts. The overlooked and the undercovered. The unvarnished and obvious conclusions that the media do not want you to believe. The conclusions that the social-justice warriors and sheeple professors will not let you reach. The conclusions that mere mortals, including lauded subject-matter experts and the people who have actual lived experience of the topic at hand, have not yet grasped.

He—and he is almost always a he—is a venture capitalist who has analyzed the hospitalizations data! He is a growth hacker with a piercing view of race and measures of intelligence! He is an industry analyst with insight into viral spread! He is a lawyer exploding nuances of gender and sex!

The Facts Man gives it to you straight. With his college degree, with his top-quality résumé, with his insider knowledge, with his background in euclidean something-or-other—sharpened by debating with the smartest people, who never went to school—here is what he has found. These are the data. These are more data. This. Is. It. Here’s the inevitable conclusion. It’s the only conclusion possible!

If Facts Man is Political Facts Man, he’d rather not discuss his actual politics. Do not believe that his politics are precisely what they look like; just believe that his conclusions are what he says they are. Perhaps Facts Man is part of the intellectual dark web or the alt-center. Perhaps Facts Man hates the intellectual dark web or the alt-center. Perhaps Facts Man is clearly on the alt-right but also a fierce critic of the alt-right. He is not to be placed on the policy spectrum!

Facts Man’s politics are, in fact, non-politics. Facts Man hates politics, though not exclamation points! Facts Man hates the party system. Facts Man hates politicians. Facts Man hates political thinkers. That’s not a political statement! Facts Man cares about truth and truth only.

If Facts Man is Science Facts Man, he is adjacent to science, so he understands science better than scientists. He has credentials that let him look at the data and see them, instead of looking at the data and just looking at them. Or looking at them and interpreting them however your field interprets them. Or looking at them and waiting for them to be interpreted in the press. Science Facts Man operates without the encumbrances of peer review or any sense of the complexities endemic to many scientific fields. That is what he brings to the debate!

Facts Man is about truth, and by “truth,” Facts Man means the discourse. He parachutes in to rectify the discourse. He invites conversations. He ends conversations. He is not about contrarianism, but correctness. He is obsessed with the media, which he is not part of, though perhaps he is a major media figure himself. There’s no contradiction there.

Facts Man is about truth, and by “truth,” Facts Man means conclusions. He is drawn inexorably to them, moth to flame, magnet to steel. Facts Man hates complexity and uncertainty. He hates the messy, hazy process of updating our understanding as data come in and things change. How is that science? How is that something the media are allowed to do? Facts Man is about clear-cutting his way to the truth. Facts Man is about disrupting his way to the truth. Facts Man is about arriving out of nowhere with the truth in hand.

Sometimes, Facts Man is less about truth than raising questions. Why can’t Facts Man talk about certain issues in exactly the way he wants to? Why can’t Facts Man bring up scientific facts relevant to other people’s humanity without getting called out for it? Why can’t Facts Man make obscenely offensive conjectures about life-or-death issues? Where’s the open debate? Why does Facts Man have to genuflect to other peoples’ identity politics? Facts Man himself has no identity politics! He is an individual, as unique as a snowflake, but certainly not as fragile as one.

Facts Man is about the medium, meaning social media. Facts Man reaches everyone. Facts Man goes viral. Facts Man blasts out to every clear thinker out there, meaning he creates a political tribe of clear thinkers who think just like him! Clear thinkers who don’t care about feelings. The only feeling he has is righteous indignation.

You get the sense that Facts Man was the captain of his debate team. You get the sense that Facts Man went to law school because it teaches you how to think. Facts Man recently lost 15 pounds on the keto diet. Facts Man hates Disney moms. Facts Man claps on the one and the three.

Facts Man is a Man, if not a man. (He thinks this story is sexist.) Facts Man is a mechanism of discourse. Facts Men, they are everywhere. Facts, man. They’re out there.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

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May I Introduce You to Facts Man?

Adam Maida

Pull down your mask, liberate your consciousness: It’s time to meet Facts Man.

Or examine him, really. You have met Facts Man before if you have spent any time online in the past half decade or so. He’s inescapable. He podcasts. He makes YouTube videos. He trafficks in Medium posts. He burns up Facebook. And he loves—loves!—Twitter.

What does he serve up there? Truth. Facts. The overlooked and the undercovered. The unvarnished and obvious conclusions that the media do not want you to believe. The conclusions that the social-justice warriors and sheeple professors will not let you reach. The conclusions that mere mortals, including lauded subject-matter experts and the people who have actual lived experience of the topic at hand, have not yet grasped.

He—and he is almost always a he—is a venture capitalist who has analyzed the hospitalizations data! He is a growth hacker with a piercing view of race and measures of intelligence! He is an industry analyst with insight into viral spread! He is a lawyer exploding nuances of gender and sex!

The Facts Man gives it to you straight. With his college degree, with his top-quality résumé, with his insider knowledge, with his background in euclidean something-or-other—sharpened by debating with the smartest people, who never went to school—here is what he has found. These are the data. These are more data. This. Is. It. Here’s the inevitable conclusion. It’s the only conclusion possible!

If Facts Man is Political Facts Man, he’d rather not discuss his actual politics. Do not believe that his politics are precisely what they look like; just believe that his conclusions are what he says they are. Perhaps Facts Man is part of the intellectual dark web or the alt-center. Perhaps Facts Man hates the intellectual dark web or the alt-center. Perhaps Facts Man is clearly on the alt-right but also a fierce critic of the alt-right. He is not to be placed on the policy spectrum!

Facts Man’s politics are, in fact, non-politics. Facts Man hates politics, though not exclamation points! Facts Man hates the party system. Facts Man hates politicians. Facts Man hates political thinkers. That’s not a political statement! Facts Man cares about truth and truth only.

If Facts Man is Science Facts Man, he is adjacent to science, so he understands science better than scientists. He has credentials that let him look at the data and see them, instead of looking at the data and just looking at them. Or looking at them and interpreting them however your field interprets them. Or looking at them and waiting for them to be interpreted in the press. Science Facts Man operates without the encumbrances of peer review or any sense of the complexities endemic to many scientific fields. That is what he brings to the debate!

Facts Man is about truth, and by “truth,” Facts Man means the discourse. He parachutes in to rectify the discourse. He invites conversations. He ends conversations. He is not about contrarianism, but correctness. He is obsessed with the media, which he is not part of, though perhaps he is a major media figure himself. There’s no contradiction there.

Facts Man is about truth, and by “truth,” Facts Man means conclusions. He is drawn inexorably to them, moth to flame, magnet to steel. Facts Man hates complexity and uncertainty. He hates the messy, hazy process of updating our understanding as data come in and things change. How is that science? How is that something the media are allowed to do? Facts Man is about clear-cutting his way to the truth. Facts Man is about disrupting his way to the truth. Facts Man is about arriving out of nowhere with the truth in hand.

Sometimes, Facts Man is less about truth than raising questions. Why can’t Facts Man talk about certain issues in exactly the way he wants to? Why can’t Facts Man bring up scientific facts relevant to other people’s humanity without getting called out for it? Why can’t Facts Man make obscenely offensive conjectures about life-or-death issues? Where’s the open debate? Why does Facts Man have to genuflect to other peoples’ identity politics? Facts Man himself has no identity politics! He is an individual, as unique as a snowflake, but certainly not as fragile as one.

Facts Man is about the medium, meaning social media. Facts Man reaches everyone. Facts Man goes viral. Facts Man blasts out to every clear thinker out there, meaning he creates a political tribe of clear thinkers who think just like him! Clear thinkers who don’t care about feelings. The only feeling he has is righteous indignation.

You get the sense that Facts Man was the captain of his debate team. You get the sense that Facts Man went to law school because it teaches you how to think. Facts Man recently lost 15 pounds on the keto diet. Facts Man hates Disney moms. Facts Man claps on the one and the three.

Facts Man is a Man, if not a man. (He thinks this story is sexist.) Facts Man is a mechanism of discourse. Facts Men, they are everywhere. Facts, man. They’re out there.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

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