Notes
First thoughts, running arguments, stories in progress
Susan Walsh / AP

“Like math and reading, like science, social studies, and the arts, diversity is no longer a luxury,” John King, the U.S. education secretary.

“There’s a very narrow doorway through which big ideas get to audiences,” Chris Jackson, editor-in-chief of Random House’s One World imprint.

People are on their best behavior when they think this relationship will be a happy one in the future,” Edward Lemay, a professor of psychology.

From reader Keith Wells:

One cover I still love to hear after 30-odd years is Jeff Beck’s cover of The Beatles’ “She’s A Woman.” It manages to be faithful to the original and, yet, so very different with a talk-box vocal—an early use of the effect—and a laid back, reggae-jazz vibe with amazing, complicated musicianship. (I still find it a bit hard to believe the drummer was 19-years-old at the time.) Widely considered one of the greatest rock guitarists, at the time Beck had tired of backing up singers like Rod Stewart, even though his albums were released as The Jeff Beck Group.  Instead of another rock album, however, he came out of left field with an instrumental jazz-fusion effort produced by George Martin, The Beatles’ producer, which became a huge hit.

Here’s a thought: What’s the best, most genre-bending Beatles cover you know of? Drop us a note with your pick and why you love it.

(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

All notes on "Cover Songs" >

Our newly revamped newsletter Politics & Policy Daily (formerly The Edge) started a new little feature on Monday, “Question of the Week.” In the inaugural entry, Elaine—who runs P&PD—asked:

Last week, Britain voted to break with the European Union—a decision known as “Brexit.” If the United States were to leave the United Nations, as Sarah Palin suggested, what would that exit’s nickname be?

Readers sent scores of submissions throughout the week, and today the Politics team picked a winner: Amerigo, submitted by Bob Kerr. The two runners-up are Conscious UN-coupling from Julian Ha and Saranara from Art Kane. Some honorable mentions:

  • Lee C. Fanshaw with my personal favorite: Yankxit
  • Barry Popik would text the United Nations: UNmeRnot2B
  • Chris Leggett goes social media: UN-friending
  • John Wetzel goes with the Italian word for “exit”: Uscita
  • Connor Phillips might be a servicemember: USAWOL
  • Kenny from California: USAway
  • Howard P. Cohen: USAloha!

Aloha indeed, and happy Fourth! When 240 years ago, Americans exited Britain.

(To sign up for Politics & Policy Daily, and to see what it looks like overall, go here. For the rest of our newsletter offerings, head here.)

Trump this morning, via NY Post.

In July, 1948, the 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, took an overdue step toward equal opportunity, equal dignity, and “more perfect union” with Executive Order 9981, ordering desegregation of the military.

In July, 2016, the aspirant to be the 45th President, Donald Trump, said he would “look into” a step in the opposite direction, by potentially replacing TSA agents who were Muslim and wore “hibby-jobbies.”

The term hibby-jobbies was from a questioner and presumably meant the veil or head cover known as hijab. But Trump did not resist or object to it, as he frequently has with other questions whose framing he dislikes. (He “let it slide,” as CNN put it in a headline.) Instead he said he would “look into” this concept of religion-based scrutiny of public employees.

You don’t have to go back to Harry Truman to see how extraordinary and odious this is — or to the Truman-era War Department film I mentioned yesterday. Eight years ago, John McCain earned boos from a partisan crowd, but increased respect in history’s eyes, for rejecting a questioner’s premise that his then-rival, then-Senator Barack Obama, was really an Arab.

In this cycle, McCain is still a Vichy Republican, officially backing Trump for the presidency.

***

Yesterday Trump also joked that a small plane overhead might be Mexican, because “they’re getting ready to attack.”

In retrospect it will seem remarkable, and it deserves more notice even now, how even-tempered the Mexican government and most Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Latino-background Americans in general have been about all of this. Think of the likely reaction if a presumptive major-party nominee had been turning against [blacks / Catholics / Jews / Baptists / Asian-Americans / etc ] the repeated off-hand slurs Donald Trump keeps issuing against Muslims and Mexicans.

A few readers made the case earlier that single-person bathrooms or private stalls in locker rooms might be the best way to accommodate transgender Americans and Americans in general. If that happens, who pays for all that new construction? The local, state, or federal government, or the private sector? This next reader’s logic leads her to conclude that pay toilets could be coming:

I see this on both the right and the left: People think they can change something dramatic as to how society is structured and nothing else will change. Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn’t. Like Kansas thinks it can destroy its tax rolls, suck the money out of the department of transportation, and that will be just fine for the state’s highway system. On the other hand, conservatives predicted dire consequences for allowing gay marriage, and that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Here’s what I see happening on this transgender issue. If conservative states are required to allow trans people to use the bathroom of their choice, that is the same thing as not having sex-segregated bathrooms at all. Will most people use the bathroom that most conforms to their gender identity? Probably. But there will be cisgender male creeps and jerks who will insist on their right to hang out in women’s locker rooms, and it will be un-actionable. Sure, everyone will know they are being a creep. But we can’t/shouldn’t police people’s gender identity. How do you draft a law that allows pre-transition bio-males in women’s spaces, but keeps out completely cisgender creepy men? [A previous reader highlighted Washington State’s approach.]

That’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. And I think it’s going to lead to a breakdown in public toilets.

Read On + All notes on "Transgender Debate" >
Adelman’s book on Reagan.

1) On aldermen. Kenneth Adelman and his family have been long-time good friends of our family. He is an even longer-term Republican. Ken worked in the Nixon and Ford administrations and had two senior positions under Ronald Reagan: as director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and as deputy to Jeanne Kirkpatrick as ambassador to the U.N.

Ken Adelman broke with the George W. Bush administration, and with his friends of many decades Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld, over the Iraq war. But still he is no one’s idea of a Democratic party loyalist.

Thus I found it significant that he was quoted as you see below in a Daily Beast story yesterday about Republican national-security veterans who had drawn the line at Trump:

“Not only am I not voting for Donald Trump, but also I am not voting for any Republican who endorsed or supported Trump—be it for Senate, House, alderman, or county clerk. And yes, I will vote for Clinton, simply because to not vote, or to vote Libertarian, would be a half-vote for Trump,” said Ken Adelman, U.S. arms control director during the Reagan administration.

***

2) Pilate Republicans. A reader from Texas suggests an addition to my taxonomy of Republican members of The Resistance — those who like Ken Adelman are publicly standing up against Trump — versus the Vichy team, those like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (and Marco Rubio and Reince Priebus and Jon Huntsman etc) who still officially support him. The reader writes:

Read On +

I always thought I was missing some important maternal chip in my system, some crucial feminine widget in my consciousness that was supposed to look at childbirth as simply beautiful—as the most natural thing in the world. Instead, long into adulthood, my overwhelming feeling toward the act of giving birth was something along the lines of: You want me to push what out of where?!

Ashley Lauretta’s wonderful piece for us this week, “Too Afraid to Have a Baby,” mentions that Helen Mirren was scarred by a childhood viewing of an educational film on the topic. I feared childbirth from the moment I heard how it was done; I don’t remember ever not thinking it sounded ghastly. But I too had my own filmstrip moment that pushed me further over the edge.

Read On +

A reader gets to the heart of the internal tension on the left when it comes to transgenderism:

I am confused by some of the ideological positions of gender progressives, and would appreciate if some of your readers can clarify an apparent contradiction.

On one hand, we are told that gender is simply a social construct; that there is no such thing as a “male brain” or “female brain,” as we all exist on a spectrum; and that we should break out of the rigid “binary” modes of thinking about male and female, allowing for a broader range of personal expression. This makes some intuitive sense: Men should be able to enjoy ballet and poetry and child-rearing without being cast as effeminate and unmanly, just as women who eschew oppressive standards of feminine beauty and sexuality are still women. A man or a woman is simply one who possesses male or female chromosomes and (except in rare cases) the corresponding sex organs.

But the transgender movement seems to disagree. It argues that a person who conforms outwardly to socially conditioned, feminine gender roles is actually and truly a woman, irrespective of sex, while a person who adopts stereotypical male behaviours and dress is actually and truly a man. How regressive!

Read On + All notes on "Transgender Debate" >
Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

“We’ve got Europe in our DNA; half my family are French, we’ve got staff here on an EU visa, and some of us are the children of immigrants. I wanted something to cheer us up,” John Kershaw, who created a dating app for Brits who voted to remain in the European Union.

“To me food is kind of that oral tradition. It’s something that can be lost if we don’t take the time to focus on it,” Ben Jacobs, owner of Tacobe, a Native American restaurant.

“My parents worked in manufacturing all their lives, and back in the day, they made a lot more. But we’re still kind of stuck in the middle like everybody else,” Kyle Olli, a Wisconsin resident.

(Previous quotes from our sources here)

    1947 War Department propaganda film, Don’t Be a Sucker.

    This one really is a time capsule. It’s a nearly 70-year-old U.S. government film called Don’t Be a Sucker, released in 1947 by what was then straightforwardly known as the Department of War. (Thanks to Daniel Buk for the lead.)

    Most of the 17-minute film is a history of Germany’s slide into Nazism, which is powerful but familiar. I think these three segments deserve another look in 2016:

    • The part from time 2:05 (where the video below is cued to start) to 4:25, in which our everyman-American hero confronts a rabble-rousing speaker who tells him that his jobs, opportunities, and future are being stolen by outsiders.
    • The two minutes of the video before that, which you can click back on the player to see, presenting one version of America’s view of itself, just after its great victory in war. It’s touching, up-to-date, out-of-date, achingly earnest, and unintentionally ridiculous (in retrospect), all at the same time.
    • The final two minutes, from 15:25 onward, when the immigrant-American narrator explains the importance of America being a nation-of-minorities.

    ***

    Obviously this video really is a time capsule from a different era. For instance, it talks unselfconsciously about the triumph of an American fighting force “made of people of all religions and skin colors,” at a time when the U.S. military was still formally segregated. But I was surprised by how many aspects of it still seemed relevant.

    (The original Time Capsule thread is here, with items #1-#27. For entries starting with #28, go here.)

    Jeremy writes a wonderful reader review:  

    Your cover song series is a such a great idea. I’d like to recommend Lake Street Dive’s cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The original version—with its young Michael Jackson vocals, instantly funky baseline, and infectious riff—has been called “certainly the fastest man-made route to pure joy.” It’s almost impossible to hear it and not want to move, bop your head, and crack a smile.

    Lake Street Dive takes the raw material and transforms it into an almost plaintive lament about lost love that fits the song’s lyrics much better. By slowing down the tempo, changing the harmonies and adding a meandering jazz trumpet that echoes and elaborates the joyous guitar riffs of the original, they completely change the song.

    Nowhere is this more clear than in the third verse. Whereas the Jackson version features a joyous a-ba-ba-bum-bum under Michael’s soaring “all I want, all I need” lyric, the cover goes all in with an upright base solo. In their reading, it is a jazz/country ballad, not a pop anthem.

    Although “I Want You Back” is by far my favorite of their covers, Lake Street Dive has a ton of compelling cover songs on YouTube. Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl,” George Michael’s “Faith,” Annie Lennox’s “Walking Through Broken Glass,” and even “Bohemian Rhapsody” have all gone through their unique jazz/Nashville/’60s Atlantic Records filter with great results.

    (Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here. Submit via hello@.)

    All notes on "Cover Songs" >
    Brian Snyder / Reuters

    The candidate: Donald Trump

    The gaffe: On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law restricting abortion clinics, a landmark in the decades-long battle over abortion. Yet Donald Trump was strangely quiet, not saying anything about the decision, which upset many Republicans. On Thursday, he finally weighed in. “Now if we had [the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia was living or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that. Okay? It would’ve been the opposite,” the presumptive GOP nominee said in a radio interview. The problem here is that the ruling was decided 5-3, so that either with a live Scalia or a Trump appointee, the math doesn’t add up.

    The defense: The Court isn’t always subject to simple math—a jurist as brilliant as Scalia could perhaps have convinced another justice to join him—but there’s no indication that’s what Trump meant.

    Why it matters (or doesn’t): The Supreme Court vacancy remains one of Trump's most potent talking points. Even some conservatives who fiercely dislike him would rather have him appointing justices than Hillary Clinton, who could hand lifetime appointments to liberals with long-reaching consequences. So it’s not a surprise that Trump would speak strongly about it. Still, the delay in response, followed by a questionable comment, can’t instill much confidence about his understanding of the justice system. Not that he’s alone: Bernie Sanders and Mike Huckabee have also delivered some howlers about how the Supreme Court works during this election cycle.

    The lesson: Justice is blind, but she isn’t innumerate.

    All notes on "Gaffe Track: The 2016 Election in Blunders" >
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