After more than 16,000 applications, the much-talked about Amtrak Residency program announced today it had picked 24 writers to take long-distance routes across the country and get a chance to work on their projects on the rails.
The residents, ranging from a former clandestine agent for the CIA to a recent Broadway star, get a sleeper car, some scenery, a power outlet, and uninterrupted time to work on whatever piece of writing they choose.
We talked over email with Jen Carlson, deputy editor at Gothamist and one of the 24 selected to climb aboard.
The Wire: So, where are you headed?
Jen Carlson: I'm not quite sure yet, but my top choice is the Seattle to Los Angeles route, on the Coast Starline. At the moment, I'm just not sure how the logistics work, say, if I choose a route that is nowhere near where I live, which is Brooklyn. My second choice is New Orleans to Los Angeles, on the Sunset Limited, but that train appears not to have WiFi.
Now, I'm not worried about being without Internet in theory, but what if Train Me can't handle it? That said, having been connected to it every day for the past howeverlong, it might be nice to see what happens to me without it. Or possibly terrifying? I'm not really sure what my brain without Internet looks like anymore. But, basically, I'm ready to roll with whatever happens on that front. You know, as long as I can still Instagram.
How long are you going to be aboard?
This depends on the route, but it seems most routes are two to five days. The Coast Starline is 36 hours.
Do you already have an idea of what you'll spend the time working on? Or will you wait for inspiration to strike once you hit the rails?
I have an idea of what I want to work on, yes... but I have a feeling the novelty of being on the train will make it difficult to concentrate at first. It will be nice to mix in the writing with some quality "staring out the window" time — see new things for a bit, not have a screen in front of me. There is no pressure to write on the train as part of the program, it can just be about inspiring you to write or allowing yourself this time to focus on your thoughts and ideas, which is kind of a luxury for anyone working on constant deadlines. So I plan to do a little bit of all of that!
Before you applied for the Amtrak residency, what was the longest train ride you'd been on?
I take Amtrak up to Vermont sometimes (FYI: The Vermonter has very good WiFI), and that's about a six-hour trip. And when I was little we drove down to Virginia (I think?) and put our car on an Amtrak, and went to Disney World that way. That was probably my longest train trip.
You'll obviously be bringing something to write with and some clothes. Anything else you plan to bring for the ride?
I'm a very light packer, so I think it'll be: laptop, phone, chargers, notebook, a book to read, and a couple of outfits. There might be something in an elastic waist there, but I do plan on dressing up for my solo dinners in the dining car, since I have a very romantic, old school notion of train travel.
Your day job is working at Gothamist, where the cycle is probably pretty up-tempo. How do you think you'll adjust to having nothing but time and scenery to look at?
I think my goal will have to be to not check Gothamist emails and work constantly, so I can actually use this train time as intended, to focus on other things. I have never successfully been able to unplug like that... maybe I should pick a no WiFi route.
I haven't heard anything about using the material from the trip. I don't think they plan to. And there's no pressure to write about the trip, or even Tweet or Instagram about it, but I think most involved will do the latter if social media is a normal part of their online life anyway — so I'm sure they'll be RT'ing and all that. [Ed note: Per Julia Quinn, Director of Social Media at Amtrak: "We’re not claiming any rights to the works the residents produce while traveling, nor are there any content creation requirement. There may be opportunities to promote their content and the experiences they had, but that will be conversations we have with the residents."]
Final question: what spot are you most looking forward to you on your trip?
I think I'm most looking forward to the little roomettes we get, which I THINK include a desk and window. So, no specific geographic location, but specifically that part of the train, since I'd probably never be able to afford something like that otherwise.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.
Seven years and three days ago, the House of Representatives grumblingly voted to approve the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats in the House were displeased by many of the changes introduced by Senate Democrats. But in the interval after Senate passage, the Republicans had gained a 41st seat in the Senate. Any further tinkering with the law could trigger a Republican filibuster. Rather than lose the whole thing, the House swallowed hard and accepted a bill that liberals regarded as a giveaway to insurance companies and other interest groups. The finished law proceeded to President Obama for signature on March 23, 2010.
A few minutes after the House vote, I wrote a short blog post for the website I edited in those days. The site had been founded early in 2009 to argue for a more modern and more moderate form of Republicanism. The timing could not have been worse. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism. Those were the days of Glenn Beck’s 5 o’clock Fox News conspiracy rants, of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” of Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers, of Tea Party rallies at which men openly brandished assault rifles.
Walk into the offices of Memac Ogilvy Advize, an advertising firm on the third floor of a car rental building in a business district of West Amman, Jordan, and you’ll be greeted with an immense black-and-white photo of Donald Trump’s face. The red cursive text printed across it reads: “We Trumped the awards.”
The sign sits behind a reception counter boasting a large trophy won at the Dubai Lynx 2017, an annual advertising competition where Memac Ogilvy won the Grand Prix for PR (a first for any Jordanian agency) along with four other silver and gold prizes, for trolling Trump in their ads on behalf of Royal Jordanian Airlines.
The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses—and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered.
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That's the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
That's a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff's eyebrows?
The miscellany of AP courses offered in U.S. high schools under the imprimatur of the College Board probably started with good intentions. The idea, going back to the 1950s, was to offer college-level courses and exams to high-school students. The courses allegedly provide students the kind of rigorous academic experience they will encounter in college as well as an opportunity to earn college credit for the work.
"Where people are desperate, it is still America they count on, whether they love or scorn it, and America they blame when aid does not come."
After Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election in November, a foreign ambassador accosted one of my deputies at the State Department, where from 2014 to early this year I served as theassistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. “You must be so sad!” the man, a representative of a Central Asian government, said, grinning widely. “All this talk of elections being important, of democracy being important, and now look at you! Now even your new president says there were 3 million illegal votes in your election! … You must all feel so stupid these days.”
Since then, the global club of autocrats has been crowing about Trump. Sudan’s dictator Omar al Bashir praised him for focusing “on the interests of the American citizen, as opposed to those who talk about democracy, human rights, and transparency.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei thanked him for showing “America’s true face” by trying to ban Muslim immigration. The Cambodian government justified attacks on journalists by saying Trump, too, recognizes that “news published by [international] media institutions does not reflect the real situation.”
Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead
During the seven years that I worked as a management consultant, I spent a lot of time trying to look older than I was. I became pretty good at furrowing my brow and putting on somber expressions. Those who saw through my disguise assumed I made up for my youth with a fabulous education in management. They were wrong about that. I don’t have an M.B.A. I have a doctoral degree in philosophy—nineteenth-century German philosophy, to be precise. Before I took a job telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should have known already, my work experience was limited to part-time gigs tutoring surly undergraduates in the ways of Hegel and Nietzsche and to a handful of summer jobs, mostly in the less appetizing ends of the fast-food industry.
The House abandoned its legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, handing President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan a major defeat.
Updated on March 24 at 6:28 p.m. ET
To a man and woman, nearly every one of the 237 Republicans elected to the House last November made the same promise to voters: Give us control of Congress and the White House, and we will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
On Friday, those lawmakers abandoned that effort, conceding that the Republican Party’s core campaign pledge of the last seven years will go unfulfilled. “I will not sugarcoat this: This is a disappointing day for us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference after he informed Republicans that he was ditching the American Health Care Act.
“We did not have quite the votes to replace this law,” Ryan said. “And, so yeah, we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
The Obama years left Republicans with excellent ratings from the Heritage Foundation, and no idea how to whip a vote.
The Republican Party’s marquee legislative initiative had just imploded in spectacular, and humiliating, fashion Friday afternoon when Paul Ryan stepped up to a podium on Capitol Hill. The beleaguered house speaker wasted no time in diagnosing the failure of his caucus. “Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with some growing pains,” he said. “And, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.”
Ryan wasn’t wrong. The GOP’s inability to maneuver a health-care bill through the House this week—after seven years of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare—is, indeed, emblematic of a deeper dysfunction that grips his party. But that dysfunction may not be as easy to cure as Ryan and other GOP leaders believe.
Speaking after the collapse of the Republican health-care bill, the president assigned blame to plenty of parties but cast himself as a mere bystander.
Speaking in the Oval Office Friday afternoon, President Trump surveyed the wreckage of the Obamacare repeal effort and issued a crisp, definitive verdict: I didn’t do it.
The president said he didn’t blame Speaker Paul Ryan, though he had plenty of implied criticism for the speaker. “I like Speaker Ryan. He worked very hard,” Trump said, but he added: “I'm not going to speak badly about anybody within the Republican Party. Certainly there's a big history. I really think Paul worked hard.” He added ruefully that the GOP could have taken up tax-reform first, instead of Obamacare—the reverse of Ryan’s desired sequence. “Now we’re going to go for tax reform, which I’ve always liked,” he said.
The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world.
THE HISTORY Ofcomputers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.
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Mathematical logic was initially considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications. As one computer scientist commented: “If, in 1901, a talented and sympathetic outsider had been called upon to survey the sciences and name the branch which would be least fruitful in [the] century ahead, his choice might well have settled upon mathematical logic.” And yet, it would provide the foundation for a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other.
If the lobbyist’s work did indeed “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” the contract wouldn’t be especially out of the ordinary for an American lobbyist—or for Russia.
MOSCOW—The reports that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had had a contract for tens of millions of dollars to “greatly benefit the Putin Government” were not exactly news here. And, in a certain sense, they didn’t have to be news in Washington, either.
Manafort, who has reportedly just volunteered to testify in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, had been a lobbyist, a notorious one, for decades. His work for less-than-democratic governments, including various African strongmen and the Marcos family of the Philippines, had been well-known in Washington and reported over the last year. It is also not uncommon for lobbyists and political operatives waiting out an administration of the opposite party to work abroad, helping foreign governments of whatever stripe sharpen their political game. Democratic operatives who had worked on the Obama and Clinton campaigns, for example, have done work advising politicians in Britain, Ukraine, and Georgia. Manafort seemed to have fewer moral qualms and filters than others—the only ticket to access his political skills, it seems, was the right amount of money—but it was all part of the swamp the Donald Trump campaign, with Manafort at the helm for about five months, promised to drain.