In the wake of the shocking results of November’s election, readers in Notes had a robust discussion titled, “Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?” One of the most revealing and contentious entries came from a Trump supporter who “voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball.” He began by countering some common stereotypes about Trump voters:
I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.
His was a protest vote:
I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us. The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.
Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it.
Many readers disagreed here. Another one, Susan, emailed this week asking, “Could we have an update from the guy who ‘voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball’? I’d be very interested to know what he thinks of the first two months of President Trump.”
I actually wondered the same thing in early February, when I emailed the wrecking ball reader to see if his views on Trump has shifted during the presidential transition and his first few weeks in office. Here’s the reader’s verdict on February 9 (followed by a reply to Susan’s request):
It’s too early to tell, really—kind of like calling the Falcons to win after their first touchdown, right? I think Trump is still too combative and his messaging is awful at times—a lot of the time—but so far he is the guy (ass?) he’s been through the entire run. Trump thinks of himself as an executive in the most stringent application of the word—the buck stops here, the buck begins here, the buck is always here—but he’ll that learn running a company and the country are not the same thing, not matter how much I sometimes like the idea of someone “running the government like a business.”
I wish Trump had what we call down here—the land of obesity, fireworks, and Flannery O’Connor-inspired realities—a “pull-back guy.”
See, we love our college football down in the buckle of the Bible Belt. We love to watch our Clemson Tiger defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, go crazy on the sidelines. To handle him, they have to get a designated staffer be the “pull-back guy”—grabbing Venables around his britches and pulling him back off of the field so he doesn’t draw a penalty.
Trump also needs a pull-back guy—I should be hired, by the way—to help him pause before hitting send on Twitter, to take ten deep breaths in front of any microphone, etc. (Ol’ Slick Willy from Arkansas needed a pull-back guy too, especially for that body part that always got him in trouble, you know?)
Seriously though, I think the all noise over the executive orders and the appointments and the nominees have been shrill. I have tuned out, I’ll admit it. Elizabeth Warren reading Coretta Scott King makes her a warrior princess? The same woman who ridiculously claimed Native American heritage? Really? I’m supposed to pay attention to that? Nah, we’re still celebrating our win over ‘Bama!
Time will tell with Trump, but it hasn’t told yet. I am not ready to start a fire in Berkeley because they invited a guest speaker I don’t like, but I’m not ready to cast a ballot for Trump’s second term yet either. Damn man, I know we are all for instant gratification these days, but holy shit, let’s all get over the election hangover before we start impeaching, re-electing, calling the damn game against Tommy Brady with most of the game still to play. Let things play out, let those elected to govern try to govern—it’s harder than it looks.
The loyal opposition is important and needs to be robust and constructive and play a role, but screaming drowns out conversations—and conversations are still what we need more of in this country.
He continued the conversation yesterday—and it seems like he’s slowly turning against Trump:
My take on the president about 60 days in? Not much: He is the same blowhard, thin-skinned, egomaniacal maniac I voted for in November. Do I regret my vote? Not yet. Might I down the road? Sure.
The foreign Russian influence in our democratic process troubles me, and if it’s determined to be true, I will not stand for it. Can’t have it. Still smells eerily like Whitewater to me right now, though. The vast left-wing conspiracy maybe!
Throwing out Obamacare? I’m all for it if a workable alternative replaces it. I wouldn’t support getting rid of it just to get rid of it. Just like so much of it all, Obamacare has some things I like and some things I do not. Make it better, call it whatever you want, let’s just make the problem less of a problem for less people and move forward.
Less regulation? I’m for less regulation. I’m not John Stossel yet, but in general I do think we have a million stupid regulations we could get rid of and be better off for it.
Sanctuary cities? We already solved the nullification crisis some 150 years ago, didn’t we? No state, not even California or New York, can stand on solid ground defying the federal government on matters of immigration. Weed, maybe, immigration and enforcement, no. I’m ok with strangling the shit out of sanctuary cities.
Expanding military spending? I’ll defer on that one; I have a brother in the Army, so I’ll follow his lead. I want them equipped, capable, and ready— but not fighting other people’s wars. Can we afford it? I don’t know.
His Supreme Court nominee? Seems like a man of the law, serious and studied. I have no problem with his nomination. The Court should always be around 5-4. It keeps us all in the same sane lane.
Overall, Trump has not been the wrecking ball or the middle finger I anticipated. He’s a dumpster fire in a lot of ways, but mostly harmlessly so, in my opinion.
Should he comment on an NFL player not standing during the anthem? No, it is his right and he should protect that even if he hates it. Should he tweet about Ivanka’s fashion brand? No. Should he claim wiretapping without proving it? No.
It’s all ridiculous reality TV that we should expect from Trump—and frankly expect from ourselves. Like it or not, that is who we are. We are not “all Berliners” anymore; we are all Kardashians, and our president proves it—as does our collective “we” every day. We know who is in the Sweet 16 or what happened on The Walking Dead, but we don’t know shit about Mike Pence or the governor of our own state.
I’m guilty, I promise—hell, this email proves it. My opinion on Trump so far is as worthless as anyone’s, maybe more so than most. I wake up every day, take kids to school, work my ass off for 10 hours a day, get to baseball or soccer practice, listen to the news on the radio, help with homework, pay some bills, do my taxes, change out a light bulb, do some laundry, seduce the wife and go to bed. Repeat. Repeat. Oh shit, it’s the weekend? Soccer tournament, cut the grass, wash the car, plant some flowers, go to church, check Monday’s work calendar, get back to it.
Notice that I left out bitching and complaining, committing a crime, tweeting, screwing my neighbor’s wife, expecting something for nothing, asking for a handout, stealing someone else’s pension, polluting the land, harming any animals, swearing to destroy another country, beating up someone who looks different from me, worrying about who is in the stall next to me at Target ...
So I voted for Kanye’s better half. He hasn’t jumped the shark just yet. Give him time.
Monday marked the beginning of what will probably be Judge Neil Gorsuch’s toughest job interview: his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers what they would ask Gorsuch if they were on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here are some of our favorite questions from readers.
Keli Osborn is curious about how the judge would rule on previous Supreme Court cases:
How would your judicial philosophy of originalism have influenced rulings on Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Griswold v. Connecticut, Bigelow v. Virginia, and Obergefell v. Hodges?
Bill Rogers simply wants to know which Supreme Court justice Gorsuch admires most—and why.
Susan Perkins would ask specifically about the case Shelby County v. Holder: “Do you have any views on the Supreme Court decision that limited the Federal Government’s power to monitor state election laws for their discriminatory impact?”
Catherine Tanaka thinks it’s absolutely crucial to know where Gorsuch stands on climate change:
So many of the problems on Earth stem from the heating up of the world, from lack of water, to the die-offs in the ocean, from which so many people get their food, to coastal flooding, and to famine leading to wars and mass migrations. No other problem needs such a coordinated approach. If we don’t fix the climate, really, what else matters?
Josh White offered a slightly more light-hearted question for the judge: “In New Mexico, there is a state question: red or green?”
John Consentino would ask Gorsuch if he believes “freedom of religion includes imposing your religious tenets on public policy?”—a question Vicki Bliss echoed: “In ruling on religious legal issues that differ from your own, would you be able to judge fairly and truly separate church from state?”
Mitchell Kaplan thinks understanding Gorsuch’s thoughts on science and religion would offer insight into how he might rule on future cases:
How old is Earth? How old is the universe? When did homo sapiens first arrive on earth? Do you believe in adaptation as defined by Darwin? Do you take the Bible literally or metaphorically? Do you believe in creationism?
John Geerken would want to know if Gorsuch, an originalist, would “hold that corporations are people and, as people, have First Amendment religious protections?” Another John would ask whether Gorsuch can think of any errors made by strict conservatives in the past few years.
From Karen Bottemanne, a question about the world’s changing media landscape:
In view of the 21st-century invention of social media, how would you apply the First Amendment’s freedom of speech to the increasing volume of fake, false, manipulative, hate-filled “speech” carried out by computer bots on well-known media platforms? Many crimes have been committed because of this type of “speech” and events have been altered due to this type of “speech.” How can it be halted? What will be the responsibility of the platform (business) to take down this “speech” in the future? How can the government intervene?
Finally, reader Taylor Jarnagin would ask just one question: “Is your name Merrick Garland?”
If he answers no, Sara would ask:
In as much as the Republicans prevented President Obama from nominating a candidate to the Supreme Court when he had ample time to do so, do you think your nomination is even legitimate? How do you think we should proceed, in view of the controversy over the so-called stolen nomination?
Two readers are very wary of hiring practices in Silicon Valley that strongly take gender into account. Here’s Sally:
This article [“Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?”] refers a couple times to people saying that hiring women or minorities may “lower the bar” as some kind of evidence of bias. But usually when people say that, they are referring to using gender as a criteria for hiring. When you do that, you have to give less weight to technical merit.
And indeed, towards the end of the article, using such criteria is advocated. Whenever you set a “goal” (i.e. quota) that 40 percent of your workforce should have quality X when X has nothing to do with your ability, you are going to get people with lower-than-average ability. What’s worse, you have a situation where those in the company with quality X have less ability than those without that quality, which only reinforces the stereotypes about those people—which is unfair to those Xs who are competent.
Personally, I’d much rather companies focus on treating their female employees equally than worry about increasing the number of female employees. But that’s just me.
It’s also Carla Walton, a female engineer in HBO’s Silicon Valley:
More of Carla vs. Jared here. This next reader has an outlook and attitude similar to Sally’s:
I’m a senior tech executive in Silicon Valley who happens to be female. I also have a male name, which makes initial introductions interesting. (“Oh, I thought you would be a man...”) If it matters, in addition to leading an R&D technical team at work, I’m on [the board of a computer engineering department], and a startup advisor [for a prominent venture capital firm].
I have a lot to say about this article. On one side, I am burned out on the “women in tech” topic. I want to be included/recruited because I totally kill it and always bring my A-game—and never ever ever because I am a woman.
Being a token mascot isn’t a respectable job. In my experience, the women who vocally wave the “I’m a woman in tech!” banner have shitty or non-existent technical skills. I could tell numerous stories about women who are using that banner yet they can’t write a basic if-then-else statement, let alone spell A-P-I. It makes it harder for the rest of us.
One topic that wasn’t covered in the article is the additional pressure that successful senior women leaders have to inherit sometimes. Their male colleagues dump the gender gap on them to fix, and ask them to make the culture more inclusive. This places further burden on women leaders to carry the load for the up-and-coming females.
I have to say, true male champions and advocates are the key to fixing this quagmire. Many men say the right supportive things, but the decisions they make on who they promote or hire say otherwise. The male champions, who stand up for their female peers, who consistently demonstrate creating an environment that is conducive for women—they should be promoted into senior leadership.
One last ah-ha: I’ve never been hired or promoted by a woman—only men. I don’t know if that’s because there aren’t many women senior enough to make those decisions, or if I just was pulled towards male-dominated roles. But in 15 years of my tech career, the woman manager who had every reason to promote me did not. One month into her maternity leave, her male colleague promoted me because he figured out who was totally killing it.
Please don’t publish my name, but I’m happy to discuss further if you’re writing a follow-up. I’m knee deep into AI apps for holographic data conversion and don’t have time for another “get more women in tech” side project. Plus I need to stay employed. Bills, yo! :)
If you have a different experience than hers or Sally’s, or disagree with their views on gender in hiring, please drop us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A reader with a Ph.D. in physics has been working in the tech industry for many years, but she’s struggled to cope with the huge gender imbalance at the start-ups she’s worked for. She feels she can’t fully be herself—or a mother:
When I entered the office for my interview, I saw every head in the glass-enclosed conference room pop up and look over at me. I’ve trained myself to have a sort of small, permanent smile plastered on my face, and I hoped, as the room was looking me over, that my smile looked natural, approachable, and genuine.
That is the persona I’ve settled on: Approachable and genuine. Everyone’s little sister.
In that way, I can inhabit a special place, still allowed to be feminine, someone everyone roots for but no one is sexually attracted to, or intellectually threatened by. Everyone wants his kid sister to win. Everyone will defend his little sister from bullies.
Sure, you may forget she is a girl; you may leave her out of some things because you forget about her; but you are not going forget her all together. And you certainly aren’t going to want your friends to sleep with her.
Every face that turned my way that day was a male face. At this late-stage start-up, the engineering office had never had a woman in a technical role work. I know, because at the end of my interview I asked: “There is no right or wrong answer, but I was curious. Are there any women who work here?” No—aside from the office admin—but they sincerely hoped to hire more women.
I accepted the job because I was desperate. The start-up I had previously worked for had failed to “start up” and they stopped paying their employees. I hoped, during my tenure at the new start-up, that I could push for more women to be hired and that I could make the office a better place for them to work.
Being the only woman at the whiteboard isn’t an entirely new experience for me. Earning my Ph.D. in Physics, the field wasn’t exactly overrun with women, but at least there were women. I learned in graduate school how to be everyone’s little sister—how I need to repeat myself over and over again, and then send an email, to get my point or idea across. I learned to let the guys yell themselves hoarse over a problem, take notes, and come back with the answer. Even when you have the answer, they still might not listen to you. But I learned not to take it personally.
At one research internship, I was put at a desk at the opposite side of the building from the rest of the all-male research group. I was given three pages of handwritten notes and told to get to it. The other intern, male of course, was placed with the group and worked side-by-side with the others on projects.
Towards the end of the internship, my adviser, who was only a few years older than me, took me out to lunch, and proceeded to proposition me, even though I had only been married a few weeks earlier. I learned that, perhaps, I dressed too nicely. Wore too many skirts and dresses. I learned that men early in their careers don’t necessarily know how to communicate with their female colleagues. It is a skill you have to learn.
So at my new job, I had a bit more experience under my belt (since I now generally only wore pants to work). I had learned what to expect, and how to better navigate the workplace. I had learned that you will be expected to open the door when the doorbell rings, to wash the office dishes and clean up the office kitchen. (Not that others won’t, but that obviously you, the woman, will do these things.) I learned that if a man comes in and shakes everyone’s hand, he will not shake yours; that you will be expected to answer the phones so that it “seems like we have a receptionist.”
When I recount my workplace adventures, I find myself saying “Everyone is very nice, but …”. And to give my boss credit, he is fantastic mentor, who knows how to communicate with everyone on his team. He is observant and approachable. When, for some unfathomable reason, the topic of discussion in our company chat room was “Should Pregnant Women Be Allowed To Make Their Own Decisions,” he put a stop to it and reprimanded the instigators of the conversation.
I, as Everyone’s Little Sister, am able to selectively dish it back to everyone. But not all the time. I have to pick and choose my moments. And it’s exhausting. And maddening.
My blood is still boiling about comment a colleague made a few weeks ago, saying “I fully support paid maternity leave, but you have to admit, pregnant women are a huge inconvenience to businesses.” And even though my company offers four months of paid maternity leave, I know I can’t stay here if I want to have a baby with my husband. I cannot be pregnant here—I know, because one morning, a coworker mimed to us what happens in a miscarriage, saying “miscarriages only happen to certain types of women.” I know, because if my shirt is a little too thin, and it’s cold, and my nipples peak through, people will stare at my breasts. (Now I add extra padding to my bras to prevent this from happening.) I can only imagine how they would handle a pregnant woman. I know, because there is no closed-off room in this open-concept, glass office to nurse a baby. I know, because in the two years I’ve worked there, they haven’t hired any women in the office.
Diversity is not important to them. So I need to go. To someplace bigger, where there are more women around. Where I have some more protections and some more anonymity. Because it is pretty damn hard to be Everyone’s Little Sister when you are just wanting to be yourself.
Henry David Thoreau is something of a poster child for solitude. In his essay “Walking,” published just after his death in our June 1862 issue, Thoreau made the case “for absolute freedom and wildness … to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society”:
We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return, prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk.
Thoreau himself was “a genuine American weirdo,” as Jedediah Purdy recently put it, and solitude suited him: His relentless individualism irritated his friends, including Atlantic co-founder Ralph Waldo Emerson, who described Thoreau’s habit of contradicting every point in pursuit of his own ideals as “a little chilling to the social affections.” Emerson may have had Thoreau in mind when, in our December 1857 issue, he mused that “many fine geniuses” felt the need to separate themselves from the world, to keep it from intruding on their thoughts. Yet he questioned whether such withdrawal was good for a person, not to mention for society as a whole:
This banishment to the rocks and echoes no metaphysics can make right or tolerable. This result is so against nature, such a half-view, that it must be corrected by a common sense and experience. “A man is born by the side of his father, and there he remains.” A man must be clothed with society, or we shall feel a certain bareness and poverty, as of a displaced and unfurnished member. He is to be dressed in arts and institutions, as well as body-garments. Now and then a man exquisitely made can live alone, and must; but coop up most men, and you undo them. …
When a young barrister said to the late Mr. Mason, “I keep my chamber to read law,”—“Read law!” replied the veteran, “’tis in the courtroom you must read law.” Nor is the rule otherwise for literature. If you would learn to write, ’tis in the street you must learn it. Both for the vehicle and for the aims of fine arts, you must frequent the public square. … Society cannot do without cultivated men.
Emerson concluded that the key to effective, creative thought was to maintain a balance between solitary reflection and social interaction: “The conditions are met, if we keep our independence, yet do not lose our sympathy.”
Four decades later, in our November 1901 issue, Paul Elmore More identified a radical sympathy in the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which stemmed, he argued, from Hawthorne’s own “imperial loneliness of soul”:
His words have at last expressed what has long slumbered in human consciousness. … Not with impunity had the human race for ages dwelt on the eternal welfare of the soul; for from such meditation the sense of personal importance had become exacerbated to an extraordinary degree. … And when the alluring faith attendant on this form of introspection paled, as it did during the so-called transcendental movement into which Hawthorne was born, there resulted necessarily a feeling of anguish and bereavement more tragic than any previous moral stage through which the world had passed. The loneliness of the individual, which had been vaguely felt and lamented by poets and philosophers of the past, took on a poignancy altogether unexampled. It needed but an artist with the vision of Hawthorne to represent this feeling as the one tragic calamity of mortal life, as the great primeval curse of sin … the universal protest of the human heart.
Fast-forward a century, and what More described as “the solitude that invests the modern world” had only gotten deeper invested—while “the sense of personal importance” gained new narcissistic vehicles in the form of social-media tools that let us “connect” online while keeping our real, messy selves as private as we choose. Which is not a bad thing: In some ways, the internet looks like the perfect way to achieve Emerson’s ideal balance between independent thought and social engagement.
A considerable part of Facebook’s appeal stems from its miraculous fusion of distance with intimacy, or the illusion of distance with the illusion of intimacy. Our online communities become engines of self-image, and self-image becomes the engine of community. The real danger with Facebook is not that it allows us to isolate ourselves, but that by mixing our appetite for isolation with our vanity, it threatens to alter the very nature of solitude.
The new isolation is not of the kind that Americans once idealized, the lonesomeness of the proudly nonconformist, independent-minded, solitary stoic, or that of the astronaut who blasts into new worlds. Facebook’s isolation is a grind. What’s truly staggering about Facebook usage is not its volume—750 million photographs uploaded over a single weekend—but the constancy of the performance it demands. More than half its users—and one of every 13 people on Earth is a Facebook user—log on every day. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, nearly half check Facebook minutes after waking up, and 28 percent do so before getting out of bed. The relentlessness is what is so new, so potentially transformative. Facebook never takes a break. We never take a break.
The same year, Brian Patrick Eha also noted the changing nature of solitude—particularly the kind of solitude achieved by wearing headphones in public. “We are each of us cocooned in noise,” he wrote, “and can escape from one another’s only when immersed in our own.” For both Marche and Eha, the problem with technology is not its tendency to isolate people so much as the way it works to prevent us—through a sense of connection or simply through distraction—from fully experiencing that isolation and all it entails.
And as the author Dorthe Nors explained in 2014 for our By Heart series of writer interviews, a full experience of isolation has serious benefits:
The artistic process unfolds in the lonely hours. That’s when the work happens. You have to control the creative energy that you’ve got. You have to discipline yourself to fulfill it. And that work only happens alone.
Solitude, I think, heightens artistic receptivity in a way that can be challenging and painful. When you sit there, alone and working, you get thrown back on yourself. Your life and your emotions, what you think and what you feel, are constantly being thrown back on you. And then the “too much humanity” feeling is even stronger: you can’t run away from yourself. You can’t run away from your emotions and your memory and the material you’re working on. Artistic solitude is a decision to turn and face these feelings, to sit with them for long periods of time.
For Nors, like for Hawthorne, solitude not only enables personal reflection, but also grants access to some deeper, more universal strain of human feeling. That’s the same lesson that Nathaniel Rich, writing in our latest issue, took from the story of Christopher Knight, who spent 27 years living utterly alone in the woods of Maine:
Since his arrest in April 2013, Knight has agreed to be interviewed by a single journalist. Michael Finkel published an article about him in GQ in 2014 and has now written a book, The Stranger in the Woods, that combines an account of Knight’s story with an absorbing exploration of solitude and man’s eroding relationship with the natural world. Though the “stranger” in the title is Knight, one closes the book with the sense that Knight, like all seers, is the only sane person in a world gone insane—that modern civilization has made us strangers to ourselves.
Yet a total withdrawal from civilization can’t be the answer—nor, at a political moment when empathy and understanding seem ever-more-urgently needed, can walling yourself off from other people’s ideas be wise. In February, Emma Green offered this critique of a new book by Rod Dreher, a conservative Christian thinker who calls for like-minded members of his faith to withdraw from public life into communities of their own:
Dreher wrote The Benedict Option for people like him—those who share his faith, convictions, and feelings of cultural alienation. But even those who might wish to join Dreher’s radical critique of American culture, people who also feel pushed out and marginalized by shallowness of modern life, may feel unable to do so. Many people, including some Christians, feel that knowing, befriending, playing with, and learning alongside people who are different from them adds to their faith, not that it threatens it. For all their power and appeal, Dreher’s monastery walls may be too high, and his mountain pass too narrow.
So, tell us about your experience: How do you incorporate solitary reflection into a 21st-century lifestyle? Can you see communitarian benefits in spending more time on your own—or, on the other hand, point to what society loses when more people spend more time alone? Please send your answers (and your questions) to email@example.com.
A reader revives our collection of miscarriage stories with an uncommon case of her own—two cases, in fact:
Thank you so much for the series on abortion you carry, Chris—turning the abstract (which is very easy to judge, from a distance) into real-life stories, of real-life people. The many stories exemplify that there is no “one-size-fits-all” in this matter—that people’s lives tend to have many nuances that, when judged from a distance, are easily overlooked.
I have two healthy children, but it took us years to conceive, and we were helped by fertility treatments. [See many infertility stories from readers here.] My first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, around the 6-to-8-week mark. Same for my third pregnancy.
In both cases I never felt like I lost a child; rather, I grieved because of the missed opportunity. Fertility treatments are usually like that. In many cases, you need several trials before having one that takes.
Early in my second pregnancy, the doctor could see I was pregnant with twins, with one of the twins showing delayed development. The doctor told me to just wait and see what happened, and so I did.
In our next check-up, we saw that one of the twins had vanished.
Exactly the same thing happened with my fourth pregnancy: Initially we saw (identical) twins, with one of them being less well developed than the other. I had read enough about twin pregnancies to know that one of the twins being less developed may be a liability for the pregnancy as a whole. When one of the twins dies in utero, it may “poison” the other one, so to speak, resulting in a miscarriage of both.
I have never considered—not for one second—the losses early on in my pregnancies (the miscarriages, the vanishing twins) as “children lost.” Rather, I was happy to have the totality of my attempts resulting in two healthy, beautiful children. I feel very blessed.
I think it’s because of my fertility treatments that I could witness up close some of the varieties that nature has up its sleeve. If I hadn’t had the many early check-ups that come as part of the treatments, I would’ve probably thought my period was late that one month, and I would never have known about the twins.
Here’s some basic information on vanishing twin syndrome, which usually goes undetected because one of the fetuses disappears so early in the pregnancy, absorbing into the mother’s body or even the other fetus:
Vanishing twin syndrome has been diagnosed more frequently since the use of ultrasonography in early pregnancy [especially when fertility treatments are involved, as in the case of our reader]. Estimates indicate that vanishing twin syndrome occurs in 21-30 percentof multifetal pregnancies. … Analysis of the placenta and/or fetal tissue frequently reveals chromosomal abnormalities in the vanishing twin, while the surviving twin is usually healthy. Improper cord implantation may also be a cause.
The fetus becomes “mummified” in the uterine membranes and is discovered during delivery. This is called a “fetus papyraceus,” and it’s exceedingly rare. In other cases, the surviving baby takes on some of the lost twin’s cells and becomes a chimera—one person with two sets of DNA.
In research published [in 2014], epidemiologists analyzed the data from a previous longitudinal study of 272 elderly Danish women. Out of that group, 70 percent had Y sex chromosomes in their blood, a sign of the presence of male cells.
Although cardiovascular disease was slightly elevated among women with male microchimerism, their overall mortality rate was a whopping 60 percent lower, primarily because of a lower incidence of cancer. Eight-five percent of these women made it to age 80, compared to 67 percent of women without the presence of these cells.
Scientists don’t know for certain what biological mechanisms cause these findings, but past research suggests microchimerism may boost immune surveillance—that is, the body’s ability to recognize and destroy pathogens and cells that might become cancerous—and also play a role in the repair of damaged tissue, helping form new blood vessels to heal wounds. Microchimerism is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer.
Read the rest here. In the comments section of that piece, Kelly Kittel offers a poignant passage:
I wrote about this fascinating topic in the prologue of my memoir, Breathe, which is about motherhood, grief, and family conflict. To quote, “Recently, I learned about microchimerism, which is the presence of cells in one person’s bloodstream that originated from a different person and are therefore genetically distinct from the other cells swimming around them. In humans, the most common form of this is called fetomaternal microchimerism. This occurs when cells from a fetus pass through the placenta and establish cell families within the mother. As far as we know, these fetal cells remain and multiply for several decades, perhaps even forever. This means that swimming around in my body could be cells from thirteen different babies. I am the embodiment of my children, most of whom are otherwise dead. And as I’m carrying them, they, too, are carrying me. This also means that when my children died, a part of me died, too. I knew this. I felt this. I just didn’t know exactly why. And now I do.”
Another woman provides some further reading:
After losing two babies, this subject is not only fascinating to me but also important on a deep level. We’re all connected in ways we cannot imagine, ways science is only beginning to understand. I first read about microchimerism in an article titled “Mother & Child Are Linked at the Cellular Level,” which has a little more on the subject. I haven’t entirely gotten it out of my head since.
When I was 11, my mother died. My father had become blind a few years before, from a rare form of glaucoma. He had no choice but to allow me to do things that are normally done by an adult, such as budgeting and paying bills, cooking and cleaning, and other various things. He had to talk to me in an honest way, and make me understand things and rely on my judgement in lots of matters. Other adults did too. I was never a child again after my mother died and my dad knew it.
Another reader’s mother also died at a pretty young age:
I became an adult when my mother died and my dad started dating four months later. I was 20 years old. Once he had a new woman in his life (whom he is still married to now) and essentially a new family, I was out. We had really started to be at odds the year before, when I had started to do things my way instead of his way. He had pretty much taken for granted that I could make it in this world without his advice or anything.
For this next reader, it was boarding school:
I’m not sure the end of childhood is the sort of thing that one can pinpoint; seems to me there were rather a number of distinct rites of passage. The first was when I went to boarding school, around age 10. When my parents dropped me off that first day, I knew I was on my own. Calling home to say they should come get you was not an option; my parents made this pretty clear, but it was not necessary. I knew.
Another reader had to go abroad to step out of childhood:
When I was an exchange student, my father came down to visit. There I was, living independently in a foreign country at 17. I could speak the language fluently and had to navigate us for him.
I was 18 and turned down an Ivy League school and, using my own money, moved to Italy to live with my 25-year-old girlfriend. I think my parents would say I became an adult when, at 26, I handed them a copy of my will and let them know I had been chosen to deploy in a war zone as a civilian alongside a joint counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency military unit. Strangely enough, they weren’t happy with either bit of news.
Rachael was 18 and had just started college:
I received an offer for health insurance in the mail. It went to my home address, and my mom was absolutely thrilled at the notion that I would be off her employer-supplied (but expensive) health insurance. I began paying for my own health insurance at that time, but I also let her know that I wouldn’t allow her to claim me as a dependent on her income taxes anymore. I paid my own expenses (insurance, college, etc). I laugh now when I think of “kids” still being on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.
This next reader is almost 26:
I became an adult in the past year or so, when my dad learned how much was in my savings account and I mentioned my credit score in the context of considering new car costs. I think my parents assumed up to that point that I was just scraping by and blowing my money irresponsibly, and they were impressed with the degree to which I was caring for myself.
I think calling my dad and asking for advice has helped him to see me differently as well. There’s something about discussing investments and trying to decide on insurance plans that I would assume makes it hard to keep seeing your kid as a kid.
Another reader also nods to financial independence: “I became an adult when I began to pick up the check for my parents by surreptitiously passing plastic to the maître d’ early in the meal.” This next reader entered adulthood in a brutal fashion:
I was 20 and began working at the same factory as my father did. He was in maintenance as an industrial electrician. There had been a summer program for employees’ children and I worked out well enough that I was hired at the end of the summer. He was proud that I carried my weight.
However, three years into it and just after my 23rd birthday, my hand got caught in a take-up roll for a large paper machine and I was flung around like a rag doll. With both femurs and my left ulna, left radius, and left humerus broken, I spent months recovering.
But I kept a good attitude, believing falsely that I would be back to my normal self. My dad told me that he could never have had such a good attitude having gone through what I did.
This next reader also defined his adulthood alongside his dad’s admiration:
I became an adult when I joined the ROTC program my freshman year of college to appease my dad. He got a glimmer of pride in his eyes, saw it as me taking initiative, and was proud that I seemed interested in serving my country. I wasn’t really; I only did it to get him off my back so I could do drugs and other hedonistic things in college. But it was good to have his approval for once and no stress.
The first moment of adulthood was rather mundane for this reader: “Probably the day Mom asked if she could come to my apartment 45 minutes away to use my washing machine because hers was broken.” For another reader, the moment was different for each of his parents:
For my dad, I’d say the writing was on the wall around the time I was 16 and it became apparent that I was physically stronger than he was. He maintained the power of the purse for a few years after, but, considering that it was at about the same time when he’d occasionally offer me a beer, I’m inclined to accept that I was an adult in his eyes.
Mom? Damn, who knows what she really thinks about anything, but I’m guessing she first fully acknowledged my adulthood not through any of the accomplishments or milestones, but when, in 2003, I bought her a car and she therefore had a tangible symbol that could be seen and acknowledged by others.
This next reader’s parents need grandkids before truly considering her an adult:
I’m a 31-year-old married attorney homeowner with no kids. I don’t think my parents look at me like an adult. I don’t think they will until I have kids. This is most obviously manifested in my parents’ constant amnesia of me being a lawyer. They will be having discussions about some legal consideration, I’ll weigh in, yet my opinion is given no weight whatsoever. Though maybe I’m just being whiny that they aren’t taking me seriously. Is that the same thing as not seeing me as an adult? They seem very proud of me, but that doesn’t seem akin to viewing me as an adult either.
Jason might never become an adult in his parents’ eyes:
In some ways, my sister and I will always be “kids.” My mom will randomly start doing things to my hair or bring over something like saucepans that we already have and don’t need. My dad critiques my yard and is always convinced something is wrong with my car (there isn’t, Dad, it’s fine!) I just laugh at this stuff, though; it doesn’t really bother me.
It bothers Doug, though; he finds the topic a “sore spot”:
I’m not convinced my parents believe I’m an adult. I’m 32, the youngest of three, the second most-educated (sister has multiple grad degrees), and the highest earner. I’m constantly getting asked if I’m saving enough or if I need help with anything. Meanwhile, I never ask for help, but both of my older sisters constantly need help. I’m the one who made sure my dad got power of attorney for my grandmother before she totally lost it, and who opened college accounts for my nieces and nephews.
This week, in honor of March Madness, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers: If you had to pick a lawmaker to coach your team and take it to the Final Four, who would you pick—and why?
Eileen is one of several readers who thought of Arizona Senator John McCain:
His military service and his ability to survive as a POW held by the Vietcong are a tribute to his character. Equally impressive is his courage as a Republican to speak out when he sees something is wrong. He did this recently in asking President Trump to show evidence of wiretapping by former President Obama or to stop talking about it.
But after some consideration, Eileen decided she’d rather have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as her team’s coach:
His energy, enthusiasm, clear thinking, and ability to decipher complex issues and explain them in simple terms is more than impressive. He is a role model for all people, no matter their race, nationality, or religion. He gets my vote for the above reasons. He is my go-to guy. If there is a job to be done, he can be counted on to do it.
For reader Adela, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice:
Can’t you just see her on the court cheering on her players? She’d be a dynamo! And she’d defend her team like a mother tigress. No ref would dare to argue with her if she knew she was right. She would, no doubt, get ejected from many games because she’d be warned, but, nevertheless, she’d persist!
Another suggestion for Warren—plus some notable support staff—comes from Barbara:
Warren is feisty, and would have high expectations of her team players as well as her assistant coaches. Everyone would know they needed to play their best game, both on the court and off. As a player, you would know Coach Warren would be fair and have your back. You would know not to cross her or be dishonest with her lest you incur her “come-to-Jesus” and get benched.
Her players and assistant coaches (Hillary Clinton, teaching community-building skills by listening and bringing together players, parents, community, and fans; Tammy Baldwin, teaching loyalty and team building skills; Michelle Obama, teaching healthy-eating and exercise-training skills; Barack Obama, team adviser) would be dedicated to helping each player be their best as a student athlete, in their coursework, and as a global citizen.
Tricia picks 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to take her NCAA team to the final four. Here’s why:
She’s tougher than nails, smarter than a whip, she does her homework, and she perseveres to the end. She’d have a few tricks up her sleeve and our team would be the winner against unimaginable odds. It would be my—and her—thrill of a lifetime.
Dirk of Holland, Michigan, chooses a congressman from his home state to bring his team to victory—Republican Representative Bill Huizenga:
He’s got the spine, imagination, and drive to get ’er done. He’s also Dutch-American, which means he’s hard-headed, a great coach to those alongside him, and knows his people well.
Kennedy recommends South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, “because Lindsey Graham.” And finally, Bruce has a joke about the popular vote:
Come on! It would have to be Trump. Even if the other team scored more points, you’d somehow still win.
In the 1920s, young women worked in an Ottawa, Illinois, factory painting radioactive glow-in-the-dark numbers onto watches. They were told to lick their brushes to a fine point. They were told that the glowing radium in the paint was safe.
Radium is extremely dangerous. The element gets absorbed into the bones like calcium, and these women would go on to lose their teeth, jaws, and limbs to the radium poisoning. Many died. Earlier this month, I spoke with Kate Moore, author of the new book The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, about how the surviving women fought for justice in court in the 1930s.
That seems like it should be the end of the story, but it isn’t.
While the women were taking their case through court, the Radium Dial Company, where they worked, went out of business. Its owner opened up another radium-dial factory nearby, called Luminous Processes, which operated until 1978. The old Radium Dial Company building became a meatpacking plant and then a farmer’s co-op. It was finally demolished in 1968, when its radium-contaminated rubble was used as landfill around Ottawa. The Luminous Processes building was later used a meat locker after that company closed. These buildings were full of radium particles from the days of dial-painting.
Today, 16 sites in and around the city comprise the Ottawa Radiation Areas Superfund site. Moore recalled driving to the cleanup site with the niece of one of the dial-painters, a hundred years after her aunt was first poisoned. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the sites still pose a hazard to human health, but groundwater contamination should be under control. Concerns remain.
After publishing my interview with Moore about the dial painters, I received a letter from a reader who lived in the area:
I have just completed reading your article, “The Girls With Radioactive Bones,” and I want to share an incident in Ottawa in the late 1990s. My wife and I were there looking for an apartment for her. She was to begin her postdoctoral work at an Illinois state prison nearby. Unbeknownst to us, the Radium Dial Company (1918-1936) and Luminous Processes, Inc. (1937-1978) had been manufacturing radium-based luminous dials in Ottawa.
After a morning of unsuccessful apartment hunting, we broke for lunch. As we were entering the restaurant, I saw a passenger in a car driving by with the physical manifestations of a rare birth defect. During lunch we decided to find a realtor to help in our search. As she drove us to rental properties, I observed a second individual with the same birth defect as the first.
Now alarm bells were ringing in the back of my head.
Our last stop was to see the realtor’s husband, who owned a rental unit. He was recovering from brain cancer surgery. When he asked what I did for a living, I said I was a cancer researcher. His chilling reply was, “You’ve come to the right place.”
When we finally returned to the realtor’s office, she shut off her car, turned to us and said, “I have to tell you something.” She revealed a closely guarded secret in Ottawa. The Radium Dial company had come to Ottawa during the First World War and, after a few years, dial painters began to suffer cancers. Her grandmother worked at the factory and died from cancer. (The realtor told us that the EPA disinterred her grandmother’s body and it was so radioactive she was reburied in a lead-lined casket.) When the old factory was torn down and replaced, some of the rubble was used as fill for public buildings—schools, municipal buildings, Section 8 housing, etc. There are currently 16 radioactive EPA Superfund sites in Ottawa. Some of these sites are fenced off with warning signs and some are completely accessible to the public.
After all of this, we drove to DeKalb and found an apartment.
Has the radium from the Superfund sites migrated into the groundwater? Is it airborne? If yes, how is it affecting the reproductive activity of the town’s population and the growth of its children? The realtor revealed that, after the new factory was opened, cancer clusters developed in the nearby residential neighborhoods. Are these neighborhoods still contaminated?
Here’s how an Atlantic author answered that question in September 1858:
Full of anticipations, full of simple, sweet delights, are these [childhood] years, the most valuable of [a] lifetime. Then wisdom and religion are intuitive. But the child hastens to leave its beautiful time and state, and watches its own growth with impatient eye. Soon he will seek to return. The expectation of the future has been disappointed. Manhood is not that free, powerful, and commanding state the imagination had delineated. And the world, too, disappoints his hope. He finds there things which none of his teachers ever hinted to him. He beholds a universal system of compromise and conformity, and in a fatal day he learns to compromise and conform.
But it wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists began to seriously study child development. In our July 1961 issue, Peter B. Neubauer heralded “The Century of the Child”:
Gone is the sentimental view that childhood is an era of innocence and the belief that an innate process of development continuously unfolds along more or less immutable lines. Freud suggested that, from birth on, the child’s development proceeds in a succession of well-defined stages, each with its own distinctive psychic organization, and that at each stage environmental factors can foster health and achievement or bring about lasting retardation and pathology. …
Freudian psychology does not, as some people apparently imagine, provide a set of ready-made prescriptions for the rearing of children. … The complexity of the interactions between mother and child cannot be reduced to rigid formulas. Love and understanding cannot be prescribed, and if they are not genuinely manifested, the most enlightened efforts to do what is best for the child may not be effective.
According to this view, children weren’t miniature adults, but they were preparing for adulthood. Growing up was a process that had to be managed by adults, which made the boundaries of childhood both more important and more nebulous.
A few years later, in our October 1968 issue, Richard Poirier described the backlash to a wave of campus protests as “The War Against the Young.” He implored older adults to take young people’s ideas seriously:
It is perhaps already irrelevant, for example, to discuss the so-called student revolt as if it were an expression of “youth.” The revolt might more properly be taken as a repudiation by the young of what adults call “youth.” It may be an attempt to cast aside the strangely exploitative and at once cloying, the protective and impotizing concept of “youth” which society foists on people who often want to consider themselves adults.
What’s more, Poirier argued, idealism shouldn’t just be the province of the young:
If young people are freeing themselves from a repressive myth of youth only to be absorbed into a repressive myth of adulthood, then youth in its best and truest form, of rebellion and hope, will have been lost to us, and we will have exhausted the best of our natural resources.
But how much redefinition could adulthood handle? In our February 1975 issue, Midge Decter addressed an anxious letter to that generation of student revolutionaries, who—though “no longer entitled to be called children”—had not yet fulfilled the necessary rites of passage for being “fully accredited adults”:
Why have you, the children, found it so hard to take your rightful place in the world? Just that. Why have your parents’ hopes for you come to seem so impossible of attainment?
Some of their expectations were, to be sure, exalted. … But … beneath these throbbing ambitions were all the ordinary—if you will, mundane—hopes that all parents harbor for their children: that you would grow up, come into your own, and with all due happiness and high spirit, carry forward the normal human business of mating, home-building, and reproducing—replacing us, in other words, in the eternal human cycle. And it is here that we find ourselves to be most uneasy, both for you and about you.
Decter blamed this state of affairs on overindulgent parenting: Adults, she argued, had failed their children by working too hard to protect them from unhappiness and by treating their “youthful rebellion” with too much deference.
The next decades’ developments in child psychology gave parents new advice. In our March 1987 issue, Bruno Bettelheim stressed the importance of letting kids guide their own play, without parents pushing them to obey rules they aren’t yet developmentally ready for. And in our February 1990 issue, Robert Karen outlined attachment theorists’ recommendations for how to “enable children to thrive emotionally and come to feel that the world of people is a positive place”—standards measured in part by a baby’s willingness to explore apart from its mother.
Were these parenting styles encouraging kids’ independence, or failing to push them hard enough? A generation after Decter, in Lori Gottlieb’s 2011 Atlantic piece “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” she also worried about parental indulgence:
The message we send kids with all the choices we give them is that they are entitled to a perfect life—that, as Dan Kindlon, the psychologist from Harvard, puts it, “if they ever feel a twinge of non-euphoria, there should be another option.” [Psychologist Wendy] Mogel puts it even more bluntly: what parents are creating with all this choice are anxious and entitled kids whom she describes as “handicapped royalty.” …
When I was my son’s age, I didn’t routinely get to choose my menu, or where to go on weekends—and the friends I asked say they didn’t, either. There was some negotiation, but not a lot, and we were content with that. We didn’t expect so much choice, so it didn’t bother us not to have it until we were older, when we were ready to handle the responsibility it requires. But today, [psychologist Jean] Twenge says, “we treat our kids like adults when they’re children, and we infantilize them when they’re 18 years old.”
In Hanna Rosin’s April 2014 article “The Overprotected Kid,” she lamented the loss of independence that once helped kids come of age:
One common concern of parents these days is that children grow up too fast. But sometimes it seems as if children don’t get the space to grow up at all; they just become adept at mimicking the habits of adulthood. As [geographer Roger] Hart’s research shows, children used to gradually take on responsibilities, year by year. They crossed the road, went to the store; eventually some of them got small neighborhood jobs. Their pride was wrapped up in competence and independence, which grew as they tried and mastered activities they hadn’t known how to do the previous year. But these days, middle-class children, at least, skip these milestones. They spend a lot of time in the company of adults, so they can talk and think like them, but they never build up the confidence to be truly independent and self-reliant.
Yet how exactly do you measure “true” independence and self-reliance? And what’s the final milestone that marks the transition to adulthood? Decter suggests it’s settling down with a stable career and a family. But in Julie Beck’s 2016 Atlantic piece, “When Are You Really an Adult?,” she places that rite of passage in historical context:
The economic boom that came after World War II made Leave It to Beaver adulthood more attainable than it had ever been. Even for very young adults. There were enough jobs available for young men, [historian Steven] Mintz writes, that they sometimes didn’t need a high-school diploma to get a job that could support a family. And social mores of the time strongly favored marriage over unmarried cohabitation hence: job, spouse, house, kids. But this was a historical anomaly. …
Many young people, [psychologist Jeffrey] Jensen Arnett says, still want these things—to establish careers, to get married, to have kids. (Or some combination thereof.) They just don’t see them as the defining traits of adulthood. Unfortunately, not all of society has caught up, and older generations may not recognize the young as adults without these markers. A big part of being an adult is people treating you like one, and taking on these roles can help you convince others—and yourself—that you’re responsible.
So, adults: What convinced you? Many readers have discussed the topic already, and we’d like to reopen the call for your stories—this time with an eye to the gaps between what it takes to feel like an adult and what it takes to be seen as one. Did you feel you’d become an adult long before you got treated like one? Or have you passed the markers of adulthood without quite feeling you’ve fully grown up? If you’re a parent, when did you feel your kids had grown up, or what will it take to make you certain? Please send your answers—and questions—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
A project begun after 9/11 assumes new urgency after the 2016 election—creating a more sensible plan for what happens when a chief executive steps aside.
American politics is deep into the theater of the absurd—but unfortunately, it is a deadly absurdity, like being in a horror funhouse where the creatures leaping out at you have real knives and chainsaws. Americans now have to face at least the possibility, a tangible one, that the election itself was subverted by a hostile foreign power in league with the winning presidential campaign, with implications all the way down the ballot.
What to do if that proves to be the case? It is a question I have been asked a lot; my stock answer begins with, “The Constitution does not have a do-over clause.” But I am now rethinking the response: Maybe it needs a do-over clause. And it does not have to require a constitutional amendment.
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.
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 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.
Supporters of Trump’s budget are eager to restore the central role of faith-based organizations in serving the poor—but it’s not clear they can be an adequate substitute for government.
President Trump’s initial budget proposal would end aid for poor families to pay their heating bills, defund after-school programs at public schools, and make fewer grants available to college students. Community block grants that provide disaster relief, aid neighborhoods affected by foreclosure, and help rural communities access water, sewer systems, and safe housing would be eliminated. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested recently that even small amounts of federal funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to house-bound seniors, may not be justified.
With billions of dollars worth of cuts to federal social services likely ahead, the wars of religion have begun. Bible verses about poverty have suddenly become popular on Twitter, with Republicans and Democrats each claiming to better know how Jesus would think about entitlement spending. While conservatives tend to bring religion into public-policy conversations more than liberals, the valence is often switched when it comes to the budget: Liberals eagerly quote the Sermon on the Mount in support of government spending, while conservatives bristle at the suggestion that good Christians would never want cuts.
After a high-speed crash in Arizona, the ride-hailing giant grounds its autonomous fleet.
In the era of self-driving cars, a scary but otherwise uneventful car crash can be huge news. This was the case in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday, when an Uber self-driving car was hit so hard that it rolled onto its side. There were no serious injuries reported.
Uber has grounded its fleet of self-driving cars in Arizona as a result, a spokeswoman for the company told me. “We are continuing to look into this incident, and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Atlantic. Uber also suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh and San Francisco “for the day, and possibly longer,” The New York Timesreported. In addition to its global ride-hailing service, Uber has been testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California for several months.
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.
The divide sometimes has devastating consequences.
Doctors are doctors, and dentists are dentists, and never the twain shall meet. Whether you have health insurance is one thing, whether you have dental insurance is another. Your doctor doesn’t ask you if you’re flossing, and your dentist doesn’t ask you if you’re exercising. In America, we treat the mouth separately from the rest of the body, a bizarre situation that Mary Otto explores in her new book, Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.
Specializing in one part of the body isn’t what’s weird—it would be one thing if dentists were like dermatologists or cardiologists. The weird thing is that oral care is divorced from medicine’s education system, physician networks, medical records, and payment systems, so that a dentist is not just a special kind of doctor, but another profession entirely.