With Mubarak's supporters bearing down for another round of assaults, demonstrators have found new strength in singing, dancing, and prayer
CAIRO, Egypt -- The demonstrators have been calling today "the day of departure" for Hosni Mubarak and, with their mission complete, presumably for themselves, too. Many protesters have been in Tahrir Square for as long as a week -- exhausted from stress, from having to sleep body-to-body on cold pavement and patchy grass, and from having to improvise (with miraculous effect) a static defense strategy against an enemy with virtually limitless supply lines.
And yet today it seemed as if many of the protesters want never to leave. The atmosphere a few days ago was doomed but resolute, like the last days of the Alamo. Now it was ecstatic, with an optimism that seemed wholly warranted. "We understand Mubarak's strategy, and we reject him," a young man who spent five days in the square told me. "This is a place of liberation [tahrir], not negotiation. Over our dead bodies." Two days ago those last words might have been sounded prophetic, but now they sounded merely figurative.
Cairenes poured into the square from several directions and in enormous numbers. The most heavily trafficked entry point, Kasr el Nil bridge, had multiple orderly queues, hundreds of yards long, with a wide cross-section of Egyptian society. Until late yesterday, the bridge was held by the Mubarak supporters. This morning, the only sign that the Mubarakites had been there was the disrepair of the base of the statue in the center of Opera Square, at the far end of the bridge from Tahrir. The stone had been broken up for throwing. Now those chunks of pink granite are stockpiled in Tahrir near the protesters' barricades, ready as ammunition against the next attack.
Using a tape measure and chalkmarks on the ground, the protesters organized themselves into neat lines for Friday prayer. So many newcomers appeared in the prayer lines that the bandaged heads were in the minority, although many still wore the headgear -- including hardhats and hunting caps -- that protected them as they dodged rocks yesterday. I asked a man with a thick callous on his forehead (a zabiba or "raisin," developed from years of placing one's forehead on the ground to pray) how he kept performing ritual ablutions without water. He said that when you're away from water and engaged in a just or holy cause, you can clean yourself not with water but with tayammum, the ritual striking of the earth with the palms. The cause of unseating Mubarak easily qualified, he said.
After prayers, the heads popped up like a hundred thousand jack-in-the-boxes, and fists pumped in the air to the chant of "Leave!" Next came a rendition of "My Country, My Country, My Country," the national anthem.
Mahmoud Awad, 35, approached me after prayers, with a forwardness that probably served him well in his former business as one of Tahrir Square's famously pushy tour guides. He wanted to go on the offensive, and said he wouldn't be satisfied even if Mubarak left. What he wanted was justice. "We will follow him everywhere. We will trap him," Awad said. "He stole our dreams, and we will never let him go."
The hatred is of course mutual. A café manager chased me out through his doors a few minutes ago in Zamalek, because a crowd of Mubarakites was on its way through to meet up with another Mubarakite group in Mohandiseen, and he wanted to shutter the business until they passed. Mohandiseen is on the other side of the Nile, in a business-dominated area with relatively strong Mubarak support. So far, Mubarakites have barely arrived at Tahrir to begin the day's attacks. When they arrive, they will find an opposing force that is physically, materially, and spiritually resupplied, and harder to dislodge than it has ever been.
The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.
It is insufficient to statethe obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
Sooner or later, the company will be forced to take on the responsibilities that come with being the world's dominant news distributor.
Nine months after Donald Trump won the presidency by unexpectedly swinging key states in the upper Midwest by slim margins, Facebook’s role in the 2016 election is still not clear.
Just in the last week, Facebook’s advertising has come under new scrutiny. Friday evening, The Wall Street Journal reported and CNN confirmed that special prosecutor Robert Mueller served the company with a search warrant to gather information on Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said purchased $150,000 worth of ads on the platform.
The Republican Party laid the groundwork for dysfunction long before Donald Trump was elected president.
President Trump’s approach to governance is unlike that of his recent predecessors, but it is also not without antecedents. The groundwork for some of this dysfunction was laid in the decades before Trump’s emergence as a political figure. Nowhere is that more true than in the disappearance of the norms of American politics.
Norms are defined as “a standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.” They are how a person is supposed to behave in a given social setting. We don’t fully appreciate the power of norms until they are violated on a regular basis. And the breaching of norms often produces a cascading effect: As one person breaks with tradition and expectation, behavior previously considered inappropriate is normalized and taken up by others. Donald Trump is the Normless President, and his ascendancy threatens to inspire a new wave of norm-breaking.
The right’s old guard faces an existential threat in populism. But it isn’t yet clear that they understand the stakes or possess the confidence to fight back.
Donald Trump’s rise to power put National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the sorts of journalists who work there in a distressing bind. Neither the president nor the #MAGA loyalists who staff his White House adhere to conservative principles. Yet many donors, subscribers, and readers who sustain their publications prefer Trump’s blustering, bombastic project, massively shifting the center of gravity on the right.
Tribalist populism is ascendant––and conservative publications no longer thereby benefit, in part because newer magazines and web sites are more closely aligned with it.
During the 1950s, when the postwar governing establishment presumed a liberal consensus and the right was as internally divided as it is now, William F. Buckley built a competing coalition in part by winning converts on the right to conservatism, famously declaring himself to be standing athwart history yelling, “Stop!”
What was it like inside the brain of an ancient prophet?
James Kugel has been spent his entire scholarly career studying the Bible, but some very basic questions about it still obsess him. What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? Were the biblical prophets literally hearing voices and seeing visions, understanding themselves to be transmitting God’s own exact words? If so, why did such direct encounters with God become rarer over time?
In his new and final book, The Great Shift, Kugel investigates these questions through the lens of neuroscientific findings. (The approach is reminiscent of other recent books, like Kabbalah: A Neurocognitive Approach to Mystical Experiences, co-written by a neurologist and a mysticism scholar.) First, Kugel uses biblical research to show that ancient people had a “sense of self” that was fundamentally different from the one modern Westerners have—and that this enabled them to experience and interpret prophecy differently than we do. Then he uses scientific research to show that we shouldn’t assume their view was wrong. If anything, our modern Western notion of the bounded, individual self is the anomaly; most human beings throughout history conceived of the self as a porous entity open to intrusions. In fact, much of the rest of the world today still does.
It’s the rare interesting work by a politician—and it offers an important critique of the press.
Most books by politicians are bad. They’re bad because they are cautious, or pious, or boring, or some even-worse combination of all three.
They’re cautious because over the years politicians learn they have more to lose than gain by taking “interesting” or edgy stands. (Something I learned when working as a campaign and White House speechwriter: In “normal” writing, your goal is to make your meaning as clear as possible, ideally in a memorable way. For a politician, the goal is to make the meaning just clear enough that most people will still agree with you. Clearer than that, and you’re in trouble.)
They’re pious because in one way or another the “revealing” stories about the authors are really campaign ads—for future elections by politicians who have a big race still ahead of them, or for history’s esteem by senior figures looking back. Thus politicians’ biographies fall into the general categories of humble-brag (most of them) or braggy-brag (Trump’s).
A historian looks at the legacy of racism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So many recent events in American life have been a call for the country to grapple with its legacy of racism and white supremacy, including the violence in Charlottesville and even the 2016 election. These events have created turmoil among some conservative Christian groups, who have tried—in fits and starts—to confront their own racial divisions.
One group, however, has taken a slightly different path: Mormons. While a majority of Mormons voted for Trump in the 2016 election, he fared far worse than previous Republican presidential candidates among the minority religious group. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, many in Mormon-heavy Utah doubted the president’s moral character and strength as a role model.
How the militant group will fumble into the next Middle Eastern war.
Two weeks ago, James Mattis, the U.S. secretary of defense, attempted to justify the provision of U.S. arms to Ukraine. “Defensive arms,” he said, “are not provocative unless you are the aggressor.” The claim was as banal as it was wrong.
Secretary Mattis’s statement made for good politics, and it also makes a degree of intuitive sense. But three generations of students of conflict who have studied “the security dilemma” know it is not, in fact, the case. All too often, nations act in such a way—building up big armies or navies—that they assume will better protect them from their adversaries. What they fail to realize is that sometimes their adversaries will view these “preventive” or “defensive” actions as quite aggressive, in fact, and will make conflict more, not less, likely.
The GOP is still missing the crucial 50th Senate vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. But a looming deadline is providing new momentum, and the legislation has advanced from no-shot to long-shot.
Updated on September 18 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Two things can simultaneously be true about the latest, back-from-the-dead attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. One, Republicans are very close to passing a proposal that would sharply curtail the law and result in millions fewer people having health insurance. And two, they are no closer than they were two months ago, when the party fell a single vote short of advancing legislation that would have repealed Obamacare’s core insurance mandates.
The proposal unveiled last week by, among others, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana has undeniably been gaining momentum in recent days. The White House has reengaged Republicans in an effort to push it over the top. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after giving up on repeal in July, is assessing the bill’s support within the conference and has asked the Congressional Budget Office to prioritize its analysis of the Graham-Cassidy proposal so that Republicans can have a score—and thus a vote—on the legislation before a September 30 deadline to pass it with just a simple majority vote. And on Monday, the legislation won the endorsement of a key Republican governor, Doug Ducey of Arizona, which could bring with it the support of Senator John McCain, who effectively killed the last repeal bill.