Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt eight)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

By evening, all of us who had traveled to the French Quarter for work from elsewhere wore the day’s labor on our bodies. We could place each other instantly by our uniforms: Napoleon House workers wore all black with white lettering on the breast pocket; women in black dresses with white aprons and scalloped hats were cleaning women at one of the hotels. If you wore a grass-green outfit, the ugliest of them all, you worked at the Monteleone Hotel. Black-and-white-checkered pants like those Michael wore with clog shoes meant you belonged to the kitchen of any one of the restaurants. My uniform was khaki pants, a burgundy cap, and a matching polo shirt with a CC’s emblem.

The malicious New Orleans heat could seem to crawl inside, affecting your brain so that walking felt like fighting air. New Orleans humidity is a mood. To say to someone “It’s humid today” is to comment on the mind-set. The air worsened the closer you came to the Mississippi River and wet you entirely so that by day’s end my hair was zapped of all its sheen and my clothes stuck to the body in all the wrong places. I needed a bathtub by the time I made it to work, so imagine how I looked at the end of the day, for travel home.



Monday, December 30, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt seven)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

Darryl became “Praise the Lord” man whenever he was in recovery, saying “Praise the Lord” like a tic after every single sentence no matter its relevance. After rehab, trust regained, he would reenter the Yellow House and find temporary work—at a candy factory, say. He’d work until his second paycheck, then start back on drugs. I always knew when he was using because he was moody and jumpy, sleeping for too long on the couch. Sometimes, when I tried to wake him, afraid that he was dead, he’d call me Fatso. I had wide shoulders and big thighs.

“Who even uses that word?” I’d say to him.

The Darryl we loved, but rarely saw now, was extremely funny, a wordsmith, teller of the best tales. It was less what he said, more how he said it. He had a comedian’s timing. He told tongue twisters using a lot of curse words, which made me crack up laughing, especially in those years when I could hear better than I could see. Sometimes, when we were younger, all of us who were in the house at any given time would end up in Mom’s pink-painted bedroom while Darryl regaled us with ordinary stories made to sound fantastical. How a bullet grazed his face during a fight over a girl at a middle school dance, leaving a scar under his eye that looks like a folded leaf. “I just kept dancing, you know, baby, those legs kept moving. Ain’t no thing,” Darryl claimed. Sometime we’d feel so free in our togetherness that we’d have the nerve to jump on Mom’s bed. It would be all laughs and smiles and sometimes jabs and light wrestling when Darryl would interrupt with what we thought was yet another wry story. “I’m the black sheep of the family,” he would say to ruin everyone’s mood.



Sunday, December 29, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt six)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

Shame is a slow creeping. The most powerful things are quietest, if you think about it. Like water.

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when I came to understand that no one outside our family was ever to come inside the Yellow House. During the Livingston days my mother started saying, You know this house not all that comfortable for other people. And that line seemed after a time unending, a verbal tic so at home with us that she need not ever complete the sentence.



Saturday, December 28, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt five)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

“Can I have some?” I still want to know.

My mother stirs a pot on the stove.

I change tack.

“The teddy bear needs a pickle,” I say to Mom who moves around seven-year-old me like I am invisible.



Friday, December 27, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt four)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

The Red Barn on the corner of Chef and Wilson that before blasted Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” became the Ebony Barn with Lee Dorsey’s “Working in the Coal Mine” coming off the stereos, serving a new clientele. Around this same time, constructions began on a public housing project, a scattered site some city planners called it, on Chef Menteur Highway just next door to the Ebony Barn. Its proper name was Pecan Grove, but on the streets it was just the Grove. Before it was all the way finished, the children on the short end sold Ms. Schmidt’s fallen pecans to the construction workers. Ms. Schmidt couldn’t have cared less; she was leaving the East soon anyway. The Grove would house 221 apartments in a reddish-brown brick, two-story compound. According to the newspapers, it was an “experiment” meant to bring residents from several different downtown housing projects closer to New Orleans East, which soon-to-be residents would call the country. From the start of the complex’s going up, Simon Broom said it would infest everything around. He pointed to Press Park, where Ivory Mae’s sister, Elaine, living, another scattered site, more westward. Press Park had been built on top of the Agriculture Street Landfill, ninety-five acres and seventeen feet of cancer-causing waste.

By the late 1970s, the racial composition of the East had flipped. Within twenty years, the area had gone from mostly empty to mostly white (investment) to mostly black (divestment).



Thursday, December 26, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt three)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

From the beginning, no one could agree on what to call the place. But namelessness is a form of naming. It was a vast swath of land, more than 40,000 acres. Some people called it Gentilly East, others plain Gentilly. Show-offs called it Chantilly, supposedly after French-speaking city founders. It was called the area “east of the Industrial Canal,” “Orleans East,” or just “eastern New Orleans.” Some people called it by their neighborhood names, what used to be: Orangedale or Citrus. Pines Village, Little Woods, or Plum Orchard. My generation would call it the East.

Big Texas money bought a single name that stuck: its vast cypress swamps were acquired by a single firm, New Orleans East Inc., formed by Texas millionaires Toddie Lee Wynne and Clint “Midas Touch” Murchison, one of whom owned the Dallas Cowboys, both of whom owned oil companies. Everything, they felt, could be drained. “Like the early explorers, New Orleans now gazes out over its remaining underdeveloped acreage to the east,” Ray Samuel, a local advertising man hired by New Orleans East Inc., wrote in a promotional pamphlet. “Here lies the opportunity for the city’s further expansion, toward the complete realization of its destiny.” That was the dream.



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt two)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

Edna and Uncle Goody lived uptown on Philip Street in a community of women where everyone called themselves something other than their given name, it seemed, where familial relationships were often based on need rather than blood. What you decided to call yourself, these women seemed to say, was genealogy too.

The disappeared Rosanna Perry had two sisters who were part of this community. People called her eldest sister Mama. Mama also answered to Aunt Shugah (Shew-gah), a supposedly Creolized version of Sugar except it is actually only a restating of the English word, the stress moved elsewhere. Aunt Shugah’s actual name was Bertha Riens. She was also sister to Tontie Swede, short for Sweetie. Aunt Shugah was the biological mother of a woman who only ever called herself TeTe, with whom Amelia shared a sisterhood even though they were cousins.

These women, who lived in close proximity, composed a home. They were the real place—more real than the City of New Orleans—where Amelia resided. In this world, Amelia became Lolo, another version of her name entirely, the origins of which no one can pinpoint. Everyone called her Lolo, no one uttered her given name again, not even her eventual children, which exacted on the one hand a distance between child and parent and on the other an unnatural closeness and knowing.



Monday, December 23, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt one)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

I can see him there now, in my mind’s eye, silent and holding a beer. Babysitting ruins. But that is not his language or sentiment; he would never betray the Yellow House like that.

Carl often finds company on Wilson Avenue where he keeps watch. Friends will arrive and pop their trunks, revealing coolers containing spirits on ice. “Help yourself, baby,” they will say. If someone has to pee, they do it in what used to be our den. Or they use the bright-blue porta potty sitting at the back of the yard, where the shed once was. Now, this plastic, vertical bathroom is the only structure on the lot. Written on its front in white block letters on black background: CITY OF NEW ORLEANS.



Sunday, December 22, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt fourteen)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Worse for Kalanick, his board of directors was putting new pressure on him to fire Anthony Levandowski. By late March, the dirt that had come out on Levandowski turned him into a major liability.

In December 2016, Levandowski had launched a self-driving-car test program in San Francisco without a permit and in direct defiance of the California transit authorities, who called the maneuver illegal. Almost immediately, the test program went awry. One of Uber’s test cars blew through a red light in broad daylight, an event captured on the dashboard camera of a nearby motorist. As the clip went viral online, Uber issued a statement: “This incident was due to human error. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers.”

But three months later, the New York Times published a story, citing internal documents, that claimed Uber’s narrative was false; it was the self-driving software that missed the red light, not the driver. Uber had lied to reporters, on the record, about an illegal program it was running in its hometown.



Saturday, December 21, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt thirteen)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

It was the leather jackets that truly stuck out in Fowler’s mind. Earlier in the year, all of the site reliability engineers were promised leather jackets as a gift from the company, a nice team-building perk to reward employees. Uber had taken all of their measurements and would buy them for the group later in the year. Weeks later, the six remaining women in Fowler’s division, including Fowler, received an email. The director told the group of women that they wouldn’t be getting leather jackets after all; Uber got a group discount on the 120 men’s jackets they were able to find. But since there were so few women in the organization, they weren’t able to find a bulk rate. That lack of a deal, the director said, made it untenable to justify placing a jacket order for the six women in the organization.



Friday, December 20, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt twelve)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Brazil was in upheaval when Uber arrived in 2015. Unemployment was at an all-time high, and violent crime and murder rates across Brazil were skyrocketing. While the lack of jobs meant many more Brazilians were willing to drive for Uber, the cash bankroll of each day’s earnings made them a tempting target for thieves. At least sixteen drivers were murdered in Brazil before Kalanick’s product team improved identity verification and security in the app.



Thursday, December 19, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt eleven)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

But during the “charm offensive” Josh Mohrer, Uber’s brash and cocky general manager in Manhattan, had made a grave mistake. In an interview that week he let slip a mention of an early version of “Heaven,” a tool that provided a “God View” of riders on trips in real time. The reporter had taken an Uber to meet with Mohrer that afternoon. Mohrer bragged that he had tracked her the whole way. The comment would not go unnoticed.

Eight days after the first story broke, Quentin’s team was hit with a bombshell. As scrutiny intensified in the wake of Uber’s recent scandals, an enterprising young hacker in Arizona named Joe Giron had decoded Uber’s Android application and found the list of data access permissions Uber’s app requested upon installation. The litancy went far beyond what most Uber users expected: phone book, camera access, text message conversation logs, access to Wi-Fi connections. These were permissions that were suspect for any app to request, much less a taxi service. Why would a ride-hailing app need access to their customers’ text messages or camera? It was seen as a broad overreach into users’ privacy. Not only was Uber willing to go after journalists, but the company also wanted to know everything about you and your phone.



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt ten)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Pham’s fraud specialists soon proved invaluable—and not just in China. In Brooklyn, the team watched as credit card thieves used stolen card numbers to run drug trafficking and prostitution rings using Uber vehicles. The ruse was simple: the dealers would buy stolen credit card numbers from the Dark Web, then plug those number into the app to charge Uber trips to the stolen accounts. Over hundreds of trips per week they delivered drugs and call girls throughout New York City—all paid by Uber incentives, or through chargebacks from credit card companies after the original card owners reported the fraud.

After monitoring the criminals for months, Uber eventually partnered with the New York Police Department to help take the scammers down in a complicated sting operation. Over the court of a single Uber ride, the police would obtain a report from a credit card company, call the driver of the vehicle and tell them to pull over, then arrest the rider on a number of charges, including credit card fraud, possession of narcotics, prostitution, and so on. Though they would never brag about it publicly, the fraud team helped the NYPD take out the entire operation.



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt nine)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Kalanick knew he had made some unforced errors. In the midst of the GQ profile, he let it slip that his newfound tech celebrity, and the attendant riches, made attracting women much easier now than it was when, say, he was living with his parents while building Red Swoosh. On-demand woman, he joked, wasn’t that far off.

“We call that boob-er,” Kalanick told the reporter.

Suddenly, Kalanick wasn’t just a grown man-child in readers’ eyes, he was a blatant misogynist. One particularly cringe-worthy paragraph in the GQ story had Kalanick quoting the infamous Charlie Sheen, describing Uber’s potential success as “hashtag winning.” He name-dropped boutique hotels in Miami like the Shore Club and SLS as places he’d rather be than hustling at Uber. He was trying to be honest—and perhaps a little bit cool—but to the public he sounded like an enormous douchebag.



Monday, December 16, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt eight)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Taxi owners knew they had to stop Uber. In some major cities, taxi owners had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase “medallions,” taxi-service permits required by the local government. Medallions could be absurdly expensive, upwards of a million dollars in peak markets like New York City. Drives and dispatchers took out huge mortgages to buy them. The limited number of medallions created an artificially constrained market, which meant cab drivers and taxi company owners could charge enough to earn a decent living (and pay for the medallion).

Then Uber showed up. The medallion system—a market based entirely on scarcity and exclusivity—was threatened to its core. With UberX, the company’s peer-to-peer service, anyone with a car could drive for Uber. That simple concept destroyed Big Taxi’s barrier-to-entry system, sending the price of medallions plummeting. In 2011, medallions in Manhattan were going for $1 million apiece; six years later, one fire-sale auction of forty-six medallions in Queens fetched an average price of $186,000 per medallion. Overnight, taxi drivers whose entire livelihoods were tied up in paying off an expensive medallion went underwater.

Cabbies were aghast. Doug Schifter, a livery driver from Manhattan, faced financial ruin after the rise of Uber wrecked his income driving for traditional car services. Schifter drove to City Hall in Lower Manhattan on a cold Monday morning in February 2018, put a shotgun to his head, and pulled the trigger.



Sunday, December 15, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt seven)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Once Google had bought Levandowski’s startup, he dove headlong into mapping and self-driving tech for his superiors, joining the secretive Google X division. Colleagues said Levandowski deserved much of the credit for convincing Google’s top brass, especially Larry Page, to pour millions into self-driving research. And by virtue of working on a project dear to the CEO’s heart, Levandowski began to develop a special relationship with Page.

But he was also shrewd. When Google ought 510 Systems, Levandowski sold it for just under the amount that would have required him to share the profits with the fifty or so employees under him, depriving dozens of his colleague of a rich payday. Even worse, Google hired less than half of 510 Systems’ staff. The rest had little to show for their time spent working on Levandowski’s robots.



Saturday, December 14, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt six)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

In theory, regulators were against Lyft’s antics; after all, the company was breaking rules. Uber had been recruiting drivers for some time, but within limits; all of Uber’s drivers were licensed livery vehicle operators registered with local transportation offices. Lyft turned that on its head. The mustachioed startup invited anyone with a car and an ordinary Class C driver’s license to start driving for Lyft.

But as one Uber employee competing with Lyft at the time said, “The law isn’t what is written. It’s what is enforced.” To Kalanick’s dismay, SF transit authorities weren’t enforcing a damn thing. For all his bluster about ignoring regulators and disrupting an industry, Kalanick hadn’t actually gone as far as Lyft and Sidecar. Up until then he hadn’t been willing to cross the line into extreme ride-sharing.



Friday, December 13, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt five)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Kalanick was growing nervous. Across town at Uber’s headquarters, he had heard about Zimride’s plans, and he had heard whispers about Sunil Paul’s escapades, too. Kalanick considered Mark Zuckerberg a friend—or at least a familiar acquaintance—and the Facebook CEO had given Kalanick a heads up. Facebook employees were going crazy for Sidecar, Zuckerberg told him. Zuckerberg warned Kalanick that he might want to keep an eye on the company.

Soon after, Green and Zimmer announced their pivot. Zimride would abandon its long-distance carpooling program and launch a new service called Lyft; the plan was to make casual ride-sharing a fun, friendly experience, asking passengers to ride shotgun next to their drivers and strike up friendships while joyriding to their destination. The cherry on top was a cutesy pink mustache. Lyft sent all of its drivers giant, whimsical, plush hood ornaments to affix to the front of their cars. It was an instant hit.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt four)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

The founder’s instinct proved correct. Uber’s guerilla tactics far outmatched the resources and technical acumen of government workers or taxi operators. In Seattle, for instance, Austin Geidt dropped in like a paratrooper, quickly hiring ground support staff to drum up interest from riders and drivers. Ryan Graves then swooped in and made the pitch to town car companies: “We’re giving your drivers a way to earn extra money.” In a matter of weeks, Uber was able to grow its ridership before the city even knew what had happened. By the time regulators had arrived, Uber was too popular with citizens to try and shut it down. Once Uber hit critical mass, transportation authorities lacked the manpower to stop the fleet.

To Kalanick, Uber wasn’t doing anything wrong. After all, these were official limo and town car drivers, operating well-maintained, insured vehicles and using Uber’s service to make extra money during inefficient downtime. Everyone working for Uber was a licensed, professional driver—period. (This was before UberX allowed anyone with a car to become a driver.) As Uber’s footprint spread across the United States—Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—it became more popular and thus more difficult for cities to block the company.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt three)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

What Gurley admired was the potential for scale. Most startups took a business that already existed and tried to make it slightly better or more efficient. Uber promised to upend an entire industry, one that had seen little innovation in decades. The sheer size of the taxi market could make Uber worth billions if the company continued its growth trajectory. And best of all, this new entity, potentially worth billions, had been created out of thin air. It could theoretically drag the entire transportation industry out of the analog world and into the digital one practically overnight. Best of all, whoever did the dragging would set the terms for the entire marketplace.

By downloading the Uber app, riders gave themselves the power and freedom to summon a car instantly, to any location, at any time. And drivers didn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars installing some cumbersome box in their dashboard to connect to these customers. Maybe they’d have to spend ten bucks on a dashboard smartphone caddy—Uber would give them the phone for free.



Tuesday, December 10, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt two)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

Rob Hayes, a partner at First Round Capital, saw Camp’s Twitter schtick and was intrigued. He sent an email, met the company, and quickly cut a check for nearly half a million dollars in the company’s first “seed” round of funding. Chris Sacca, a friend from Kalanick’s “JamPad” days, also threw in a chunk of capital, along with a handful of other close acquaintances who became “advisors”—a glorified title for early supporters. Of the early group of seed investors, though, Hayes and Sacca were the most hands-on, offering advice and strategy. Hayes and Saccas’s seed investments would one day be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.



Monday, December 9, 2019

the last book I ever read (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, excerpt one)

from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac:

But the crown jewel was the final musical guest. As Uberettos lined the venue inside the Palms hotel, the house lights went dark and the stage filled with smoke. A voice began to sing the first few slow bars of a familiar song. Then she appeared. Wrapped in a blood-red jumpsuit, sequins shimmering against the neon beams behind her, fog machines wrapping her in mist. The words started coming into focus, a hit all the twentysomething employees knew by heart: “Got me looking so crazy right now, your love’s got me looking so crazy right now. . . .”

Employees began screaming as the singer stepped into the spotlight. They realized what Kalanick had done: He got Beyoncé.



Sunday, December 8, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt fourteen)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

When the FBI’s investigation was completed, McConnell announced that its results would not be made publicly available; the White House would loan the FBI report to Congress for just twenty-four hours, starting on October 4, and senators would have to view it in a special soundproof reading room in the Senate building known as a sensitive comparmented information facility, or SCIF.

To enter the SCIF, senators had to go past a guard through a set of heavy metal double doors requiring punched access codes. The viewing began at 8 a.m., with Grassley getting the first look, followed by Feinstein at 9 a.m. Then, at ten, Senate Judiciary Republicans were invited in, followed by the committee’s Democrats at eleven, and so on in alternating intervals. The legislators were not allowed to take notes on paper or to bring in any personal electronic devices. They were not provided copies. They could not bring in staffers. They could not relay any of the findings.



Saturday, December 7, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt thirteen)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

At least one senator’s office learned of Ford’s supposition that Keyser had driven her home on the night of the gathering. But whatever credibility that detail might have lent to Ford’s account risked being undermined by Keyser herself, whose history of addiction made her a problematic witness to put on national television.

Months after Kavanaugh was already sitting on the court, a copy of a National Review article on his confirmation hung, framed, in Keyser’s downstairs bathroom. Dated October 8, 2018, it bore the headline “Was Leland Keyser the Hero of the Kavanaugh Controversy?”



Friday, December 6, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt twelve)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

Benjamin Wittes, the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, concurred in The Atlantic: “If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.” Wittes added that he wrote those words “with no pleasure, but with deep sadness,” since he had a long relationship with the judge.

“He delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage,” Wittes wrote. “His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice. I do not begrudge him the emotion, even the anger. He has been through a kind of hell that would leave any person gasping for air. But I cannot condone the partisanship—which was raw, undisguised, naked, and conspiratorial—from someone who asks for public faith as a dispassionate and impartial judicial actor. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.”



Thursday, December 5, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt eleven)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

Kavanaugh’s portrayal of his drinking in college did not square with what Ludington remembered: a college classmate who would drink so much that he was completely “shit-faced” by the end of an evening. The Kavanaugh whom Ludington had known would slur his words and be belligerent. To see Kavanaugh spinning his college drinking in such a misleading way made Ludington decide to speak out. “I simply wanted to say, ‘This is what I do know: the idea that Brett was never blacked out is preposterous,” he later recalled. “Because you don’t get as drunk as he got and remember everything.”

Despite the occasional concessions—“Sometimes I had too many beers,” for example, and the apology to Renate Dolphin—many of Kavanaugh’s classmates from both Yale and Georgetown Prep felt he had shown a lack of candor. Like Ludington, they had observed Kavanaugh drunk and seemingly out of control at times. They had been that drunk themselves and believed they would admit it under the same circumstances. Anything less, these people felt, would be fundamentally dishonest—an unforgivable trait for a Supreme Court candidate.

On September 30, the Sunday after the contentious hearings, Ludington put out a statement. “I do not believe that the heavy drinking or even loutish behavior of an 18- or even 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of his life. I would be a hypocrite to think so,” Ludington wrote. “However, I have direct and repeated knowledge about his drinking and his disposition while drunk. And I do believe that Brett’s actions as a 53-year-old federal judge matter.”



Wednesday, December 4, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt ten)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

The exchange with Klobuchar, even in light of the Clinton reference and the Graham outburst, would be regarded by many as a new low point in the Kavanaugh hearings. As damaging as the Ford allegations were, as excruciating as it had been to watch her, and as exercised as Kavanaugh had been up to then, nothing had appeared quite so impertinent as him turning the tables on a senior female senator who had just opened up about her own family history with alcohol.

Klobuchar, after all, was effectively interviewing Kavanaugh for a job as his superior in that context. She was using compassionate, deferential language and requesting honest answers. Yet Kavanaugh pounced on her, perhaps hoping to give her a sense of the personal anguish and humiliation he was experiencing.



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt nine)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

On September 24, shortly after the Fox interview, The New York Times reported that Kavanaugh and his close high school friends, including Mark Judge, had bragged at Georgetown Prep about their sexual interactions with Renate Schroeder—a student at the nearby girls’ school Stone Ridge who was a year younger—and memorialized their assertions with a club dubbed “Renate Alumnius” in their yearbook.

The boasts about fooling around or having sex with Schroeder, which were made around the fields and hallways of Prep—and in a ditty about her that was published in an inexplicit form on Kavanaugh’s friend Michael Walsh’s yearbook page—were frequent and offensive during the early 1980s. All in all, Kavanaugh and thirteen other boys had Renate references on their personal yearbook pages. A group photo of the future judge and some of his closest friends in their football gear was captioned “Renate Alumni,” which, in that context, suggested they had all been physically involved with her.

Through his attorney Alex Walsh, Kavanaugh denied having boasted about such sexual conquests. But Renate herself, now a Connecticut wife and mother with the married name Dolphin, called out the “insinuation” as “horrible, hurtful, and simply untrue.” Although she had been friends with Kavanaugh and other members of his circle at the time, she had not known of the sexual references implied by the yearbook or the song that belittled her. She and her friends from that era said she had never had sex with any of the Prep boys.



Monday, December 2, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt eight)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

She was a diligent, obedient student, becoming valedictorian at her Catholic elementary school, St. Lawrence, and excelling at her Catholic high school, St. Joseph. “She dedicated everything to school—she did not get in trouble, I don’t even think she dated,” recalled LeBlanc. “She just was determined to succeed, and she was going to go out and get it. And she did.” Ramirez worked summers serving ice cream at Carvel, driving there in the used car she’d bought with $500 of her babysitting earnings. Unable to afford full freight at Yale (nearly $13,000 at the time for tuition, room, and board; $72,100 in 2019), her parents had to take out loans. To chip in, Ramirez, who studied sociology and psychology, also obtained student loans and had work-study jobs on campus, including serving food in the dining halls and cleaning dorm rooms before class reunions.

She was a cheerleader her freshman year, sometimes positioned at the pinnacle of the pyramid, but learned quickly that although cheerleading was cool in high school, it didn’t carry the same cachet in college.

For Ramirez, Yale was full of painful ironies like that. People would call her Debbie Cheerleader or Debbie Dining Hall or start to say “Debbie does . . .” as a play on the 1978 porn movie Debbie Does Dallas. But Ramirez, who had limited sexual experience and knowledge, didn’t understand the reference.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt seven)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

Ramirez wasn’t new to prejudice. She’d had to argue her way into the honors class at her high school. Her mother worried that, at Yale, her daughter would feel inferior. But Ramirez was determined to press forward. “I was used to being underestimated,” she said. “I was used to people thinking, ‘How did she do that?’”

“My mom would have preferred me to go to a smaller college—looking back at it, she was right,” she said. At a place like Yale, “they invite you to the game, but they never show you the rules or where the equipment is.”

To some extent, Ramirez was experiencing the harsh reality that all Yale students face: “You think you’re badass in high school, then you go to Yale and you have to work your ass off just to be average,” said Andy Thurstone, a classmate. He added of Ramirez, “I think she was a little overwhelmed with that.”



Saturday, November 30, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt six)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

Kathleen Charlton had roomed with Robin Pogrebin at Yale and graduated in 1987. By Monday, September 17, Charlton had learned that news outlets were pursuing the Ramirez story. The following Thursday, September 20, she called her friend and classmate David Todd, who told her that The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow had contacted him.

“Todd also shared the surprising news that Brett had called him,” Charlton said in a statement she ultimately submitted to the FBI. “He said that Brett was giving him a heads-up that press would likely make contact and wanted to make sure Dave would share ‘no bad.’ It seemed Dave understood this to mean he was not to speak ill of Brett’s history.”

Todd also told Charlton that he had responded to Farrow’s questions about the assault details by saying, “I definitely don’t remember that.”



Friday, November 29, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt five)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

Kavanaugh also selected his four annual law clerks from across the political spectrum and made a point of hiring women, having been alarmed at reading a 2006 New York Times story about the “sudden drop” in female law clerks on the Supreme Court. During Kavanaugh’s dozen years on the D.C. Circuit, more than half of his clerks—twenty-five out of forty-eight—were women, and he later testified that more of his clerks went on to Supreme Court clerkships than did those of any other federal judge.

“After hiring us, Judge Kavanaugh goes to bat for us,” Taibleson said in her Senate testimony. “Studies have shown that women are often at a disadvantage on those fronts, but Judge Kavanaugh is a force of nature.”

She added, “I know of no federal judge who has more effectively supported women in this profession.”



Thursday, November 28, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt four)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

“Kavanaugh knew,” said Brian Lehman, who quit his clerkship after confronting Kozinski about his inappropriate conduct in 2000. (Among other things, Lehman reported that Kozinski had shown him a video of naked women skydiving, thinking it was funny to watch their breasts flapping in the wind.)

“He put up with it for a reason,” Lehman added of Kavanaugh. “You put up with that for a year and after that Kozinski would use that power to promote you.”

Heidi Bond, one of Kozinski’s former clerks, wrote in Slate that Kavanaugh’s assertion under oath that he did “not remember” any sexual comments made by Judge Kozinski strained credulity. “This last response leaves me wondering whether Kavanaugh and I clerked for the same man,” Bone wrote. “Kozinski’s sexual comments—to both me and women—were legendary.”



Wednesday, November 27, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt three)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

So Kavanaugh did what he always did: his homework. The judge pored over opinions from his tenure on the District Court, focusing on the more controversial ones he was likely to be grilled about, such as the case on Obamacare and the one involving a pregnant undocumented teenager. Perhaps he would be asked in more detail about his accumulated debt of between $60,000 and $200,000, which Kavanaugh had explained was due to home improvements and having bought Washington Nationals tickets for himself and friends.

In preparing for the hearings, Kavanaugh drew on his carefully cultivated social graces as he made the customary rounds of senators’ offices—brandishing his hail-fellow-well-met demeanor and a pocket copy of the Constitution.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt two)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

As a junior, Judge, hoping to host a smallish party, unintentionally held one of these ragers. Before the festivities began in earnest, he and a few friends moved the family china and the best furniture into sealed-off rooms.

“Despite our precautions,” he later wrote, “I had a feeling I was in for an apocalyptic evening.”

The party went well until a friend climbed into Judge’s attic, looking for a stash of booze, and got trapped in the dark, resulting in his kicking a large hole through the second-story ceiling below. Judge writes that he was both drunk and furious, almost starting two fistfights in anger over the damage before he cut off the keg and sent everybody home.



Monday, November 25, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, excerpt one)

from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly:

McGahn immediately sprang into action, calling Kavanaugh just a few hours after the Kennedy news broke and meeting with him in person two days later. McGahn was present on July 2, when Kavanaugh was interviewed by Trump, and two days later when the judge met with Vice President Mike Pence. On the morning of Sunday, July 8, Kavanaugh spoke again with Trump, this time by phone, and that evening he sat down with the president and his wife, Melania, at the White House. During that meeting, Trump offered Kavanaugh the nomination and he accepted, speaking later that evening with McGahn.

McGahn was on his way out of the White House, having clashed with Trump and cooperated with the investigation of the president by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be McGahn’s last push—for Trump’s legacy as well as his own. He planned to leave the job as soon as his friend’s place on the bench was assured. “He wanted to steer that process in a good and principled direction—he was Kavanaugh’s Sherpa,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a prominent constitutional law professor at Yale Law School. “He persuaded Trump to go with Kavanaugh, and he persuaded Trump to stick with Kavanaugh after Ford. Kavanaugh is McGahn’s greatest accomplishment.”



Sunday, November 24, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt sixteen)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

On Saturday morning, as they prepared for their meeting with Trump, some of the Republican leaders and agency heads were alerted by their aides to a barrage of sunrise tweets from the president. At 7:19 a.m., he began: “Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence . . . Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star . . . to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!”

The tweets were the elephant in the room when everyone gathered a short while later around a colossal conference table. Trump seemed his typical self, no more or less animated than usual. He was relatively engaged during remarks from several of the cabinet secretaries and seemed exceptionally interested by a classified briefing from Mattis on clashes with ISIS fighters. As the Pentagon chief spoke, the president scribbled wildly on a sheet of paper in front of him, all the while nodding and looking up to make eye contact. The others in the room took this as an encouraging sign: The Pentagon had released a report just weeks earlier claiming that ISIS had lost 98 percent of its territory.

When Mattis finished, the president lifted the piece of paper while gesturing, just high enough for several people to see it. He had drawn a flight of bullet points on the page, all of them underneath an all-caps header that was clearly visible: “SLOPPY STEVE.”



Saturday, November 23, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt fifteen)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Reached on his cellphone by the new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the senator agreed to sit down with the president and explain his displeasure. What ensued inside the Oval Office a few days later was a lengthy, Scott-led seminar on America’s history of institutional racism and systemic discrimination. He talked of the socioeconomic hurdles facing young black me in his native streets of North Charleston. He described the hopelessness, the lack of opportunity, that had long suffocated the potential of minority youths in America. He told the story of his grandfather, Artis Ware, who left a segregated school in the third grade to pick cotton for fifty ccnts a day. Scott remembered his role model scouring the newspaper each morning, impressing upon his grandsons the importance of reading; it wasn’t until years later that Scott realized his grandfather was illiterate.

The White House, for its part, released a photo of Trump listening intently to a senator identified as “Tom Scott.”



Friday, November 22, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt fourteen)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Trump sacked Comey on May 9, publicly citing Rosenstein's reasoning for doing so. Senior White House officials, including Pence himself, insisted to reporters that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Sessions and Rosenstein. They swore up and down that the president's decision had nothing to do with the Russia probe. Trump, however, would quickly undermine those claims--and sabotage his own stated rationale for dismissing the FBI director.

In the Oval Office a day later, Trump hosted two top Russian officials, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The president called Comey "a real nut job," according to the New York Times, and told them of the FBI probe, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." (Trump also disclosed highly classified information about an operation targeting the Islamic State, according to the Washington Post. The only photos of the meeting were shared by a Russian state photographer; no American media were permitted.)



Thursday, November 21, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt thirteen)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Finally, on the fourth day of his presidency, Trump used his first meeting with congressional leaders to complain that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for some three to five million ballots being cast illegally. The baseless claim drew a fresh round of harsh media coverage; election officials around the country, both Republican and Democratic, said there had been no indications of meaningful voter fraud, much less on a massive scale.

By any metric, this was a baneful start for the new administration.



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt twelve)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Some of the president-elect's appointments were products of patronage. Back in January 2016, South Carolina's lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster, became the first statewide official in any of the three early-nominating states to endorse Trump. McMaster went all in, traveling with the campaign and becoming close to the future president, never wavering in his support. A few days after the election, Trump called McMaster and said, "Henry, what do you want? Name it."

McMaster told him he wanted to be governor.

"That's it?" Trump replied. "Well, that should be easy. You're already the lieutenant governor!"

McMaster explained that it wasn't that simple. Elections were uncertain things. The only way to ensure his promotion would be for Nikki Haley to go away. Within days, seemingly out of left field, Trump announced Haley as his pick for ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster was sworn in on January 24.



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt eleven)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

The third and most significant reason for Trump's survival: the unflinching support of the Christian right. Where many evangelical leaders had once expressed an open contempt for the primary candidate, they became his staunchest, most faithful allies during the general election campaign--including in the aftermath of Access Hollywood. There were notable exceptions. On the evening of the tape's release, Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's political arm, tweeted in response to his high-profile peers, "What a disgrace. What a scandal to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the integrity of our witness . . . The political Religious Right Establishment wonders why the evangelical next generation rejects their way. Today illustrates why." The next day, after Trump defended his transgression as "just words," Moore tweeted: "No contrition. 'Just words.' How any Christian leader is still standing behind this is just genuinely beyond my comprehension."

But Moore was an outlier. In case after case, over the final five weeks of the election, prominent Christian leaders rallied around the Republican nominee. "The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than eleven years ago cannot be defended," Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham, wrote on his Facebook page. "But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended." Added Jerry Falwell Jr., the other spiritual dynasty scion, "We're never going to have a perfect candidate until Jesus Christ reigns forever on the throne."

Their principal rationale in standing by Trump: the Supreme Court.



Monday, November 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt ten)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

In August 2015, two months after Trump announced his bid for the presidency, they came to an understanding. In a meeting first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Pecker offered to protect Trump from women who came forward alleging sexual escapades. He would use AMI and its biggest brand, the National Enquirer, to "catch and kill" on behalf of the candidate: purchasing testimonies that could be damaging to Trump, having the women sign exclusivity and nondisclosure agreements, and then burying the stories for good. Trump loved the idea, and instructed Michael Cohen, his lawyer and fixer, to work in concert with Pecker.

The arrangement would prove extraordinarily beneficial--at least, in the short run. Over the ensuing year, Pecker and Cohen defused to bombshells that might have blown up Trump's campaign. The first deal was with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who approached AMI with details of her extramarital romance with Trump. Pecker bought the rights to her story for $150,000. Cohen, meanwhile, brokered an agreement with adult-film star Stormy Daniels, paying $130,000 in hush money to conceal her past sexual relationship with Trump.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt nine)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

By early March, with Trump clearing 40 percent in multiple nominating contests, it was clear that something radical needed to happen, and quickly, to prevent him from running away with the nomination. That's when an idea took root among Cruz's staff: a ticket with Rubio. The Florida senator was treading water and heading for a certain exit after losing Florida; what would happen if he teamed up with Cruz, running as his vice-presidential-pick-in-waiting?

Cruz was lukewarm to the idea. The two senators had a strained relationship, and the last several months, including Rubio's jab about not speaking Spanish, had been especially spiteful. But his outlook brightened upon seeing the polling. According to number compiled by Cruz's gold-standard data analytics team, a Cruz-Rubio ticket would demolish Trump in head-to-head competition in the remaining primaries, often winning more than 60 percent of the vote.

Cruz's pollster, Chris Wilson, called Utah senator Mike Lee to share the campaign's findings. Lee had not endorsed in the primary; he was close friends with both Cruz and Rubio. Reviewing the data, Lee sprang into action. He called dozens of hotels in the Miami area, needing one with an underground parking garage and an elevator that could ferry guests directly up to a private suite. Upon securing such an arrangement, at the Hilton Miami Downtown, Lee called Rubio to set up a meeting for March 9, one day before the Republican debate in nearby Coral Gables. He then informed Cruz that Rubio had agreed to a secretive sit-down at five o'clock that afternoon. Cruz cleared his campaign schedule and held his breath.



Saturday, November 16, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt eight)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Mark Meadows had never quite fit the mold of a Freedom Caucus radical. Unfailingly polite and winsome, with the faintest trace of a sweet-tea accent and his hand always on someone’s shoulder, the North Carolina congressman was as threatening as a sweater-clad kitten.

He was conservative, sure, but nobody’s idea of a firebrand. When word leaked to the GOP leadership that Meadows had been involved in the plotting against Boehner in 2013—even though he ultimately did not oppose him—the brand-new lawmaker requested a meeting with the Speaker. “He’s on the couch, sitting across from me in my chair, and suddenly he slides off the couch, down onto his knees, and puts his hands together in front of his chest,” Boehner recalls. He says, ‘Mr. Speaker, will you please forgive me?’”

Boehner’s chief of staff, Mike Sommers, who witnessed the encounter, said it was “the strangest behavior I had ever seen in Congress.”



Friday, November 15, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt seven)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

He was a latecomer to the birther movement. In fact, he had first commented publicly on Obama’s citizenship just a month earlier, during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. Trump called the circumstances surrounding Obama’s birthplace “very strange,” adding, “The reason I have a little doubt—just a little—is because he grew up and nobody knew him.”

This was not true. Obama’s upbringing on the big island was thoroughly documented by friends and family members, not to mention verified by journalists and academics. But that didn’t stop Trump from peddling falsehoods, with increasing certainty, in the days that followed. On ABC’s The View, he asked “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” On Fox News, he said Obama “spent millions of dollars trying to get away from this issue.” On Laura Ingraham’s radio show, he said of the certificate, “Somebody told me . . . that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’” And on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump announced that Obama’s “grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh, no, he was born in Kenya, and I was there, and I witnessed the birth.’ Now, she’s on tape. I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon.”

In fact, the tape features Obama’s grandmother stating repeatedly that she did not witness the future president’s birth because it occurred in Hawaii and she lived in Kenya. But facts had never stood in the way of conservatives’ theorizing about Obama’s shadowy past: How he was raised by his radical father (who actually had abandoned the family when his son was two years old); how he inherited an anticolonial bias from living in Kenya (he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia after his mother remarried); how he was a Muslim (despite being baptized in 1998 and writing extensively about accepting Christ after being raised by his nonbelieving grandparents).

Trump would later claim that he never truly believed that Obama was born outside the United States. But Boehner, a frequent golfing buddy, says Trump absolutely did. “Oh yes. Oh yes. He wouldn’t have sent people to Hawaii and do the investigation if he didn’t believe it.”



Thursday, November 14, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt six)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Suddenly high-strung and wary of his surroundings, Ailes proceeded to unpack for Boehner the outlines of an elaborate, interconnected plot to take him down. It started with Ailes’s belief that Obama really was a Muslim who really had been born outside the United States. He described how the White House was monitoring him around the clock because of these views. He concluded by assuring Boehner that his house had been fortified with combat-trained security personnel and “safe rooms” where he couldn’t be observed.

“It was the most bizarre meeting I’d ever had in my life. He had black helicopters flying all around his head that morning,” Boehner recalls. “It was every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard, and I’m throwing cold water on all this bullshit. Ratings were ratings to Murdoch, but I began to realize that Ailes believed in all this crazy stuff.”

The Speaker had come with hopes of quieting the furor on Fox News. He left more concerned than ever about the threat it posed to the country.



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt five)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Looking back, Boehner says that not solving immigration is his second-biggest regret after the failed Grand Bargain. He blames Obama for “setting the field on fire.” But it was the inaction of the House of Representatives—not voting on the Senate bill, not bringing up any conservative alternative, not doing anything substance to address the issue—that enabled the continued demagoguing of immigration and of immigrants. Ultimately, Boehner’s quandary boiled down to a choice between protecting his right flank and doing what he thought was best for the country. He chose the former.

It wouldn’t be the last time.



Tuesday, November 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt four)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Robert Jeffress, the prominent pastor of a Dallas megachurch, denounced Romney’s religion as a “cult” and implored evangelicals to oppose him. During an organized debate with Christian attorney (and Romney supporter) Jay Sekulow, Jeffress addressed “the hypocrisy” of church leaders who “for the last eight years of the Bush administration have been telling us how important it is to have an evangelical Christian in office who reads his Bible every day. And now suddenly these same leaders are telling us that a candidate’s faith really isn’t that important.” Jeffress added: “My fear is such a sudden U-turn is going to give people a case of voter whiplash. I think people have to decide, and Christian leaders have to decide once and for all, whether a candidate’s faith is really important.”

Jeffress continued his crusade during the 2012 campaign. A supporter of Perry for president, the pastor used an appearance at the Values Voter Summit in October 2011 to drive a wedge between Romney and evangelicals. “I just do not believe that we as conservative Christians can expect him to stand strong for the issues that are important to us,” Jeffress told reporters. “I really am not nearly as concerned about a candidate’s fiscal policy or immigration policy as I am about where they stand on biblical issues.”

(Four years later, Jeffress would become Candidate Trump’s most visible Christian disciple, appearing with the thrice-married, casino-owning candidate onstage in Texas during the heat of the GOP primary race. “I can tell you from experience, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News.)



Monday, November 11, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt three)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Numerous state governments debated newly urgent legislation in 2009 and 2010 requiring presidential candidates to release long-form birth certificates. This paranoia echoed beyond the provinces: Twelve House Republicans cosponsored a similar bill in Congress, lending a higher degree of legitimacy to the conspiracy theorizing. When one of the cosponsors, Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, urged Cantor in a meeting to bring up the bill for a vote, he made his point with the subtlety of a sledgehammer: “Kenya hear me? Kenya hear me?”

“Louie Gohmert is insane. There’s not a functional brain in there,” Boehner says, muttering a few expletives for good measure. “I don’t know what happened to him.”

But Gohmert wasn’t an outlier. “I knew people, smart people, who were into it,” says Karl Rove. “They thought it was this vast conspiracy, that people took this kid who was born in Kenya and faked newspaper clippings from the time of his birth, and documents in the Hawaii state government files, so this Kenyan-born kid could pass for an American citizen and wind up running for president. This was the Manchurian candidate on LSD and peyote.”