..The Coming Software Apocalypse…

…………….this one is a hike!………….milk and cookies and food fight …. at the end……………w

A small group of programmers wants to change how we code—before catastrophe strikes.


The 911 outage, at the time the largest ever reported, was traced to software running on a server in Englewood, Colorado.
Operated by a systems provider named Intrado, the server kept a running counter of how many calls it had routed to 911 dispatchers around the country. Intrado programmers had set a threshold for how high the counter could go. They picked a number in the millions.Shortly before midnight on April 10, the counter exceeded that number, resulting in chaos. Because the counter was used to generating a unique identifier for each call, new calls were rejected. And because the programmers hadn’t anticipated the problem, they hadn’t created alarms to call attention to it. Nobody knew what was happening. Dispatch centers in Washington, California, Florida, the Carolinas, and Minnesota, serving 11 million Americans, struggled to make sense of reports that callers were getting busy signals. It took until morning to realize that Intrado’s software in Englewood was responsible, and that the fix was to change a single number.
Not long ago, emergency calls were handled locally. Outages were small and easily diagnosed and fixed. The rise of cellphones and the promise of new capabilities—what if you could text 911? or send videos to the dispatcher?—drove the development of a more complex system that relied on the internet. For the first time, there could be such a thing as a national 911 outage. There have now been four in as many years.It’s been said that software is “eating the world.”

More and more, critical systems that were once controlled mechanically, or by people, are coming to depend on code.

This was perhaps never clearer than in the summer of 2015, when on a single day, United Airlines grounded its fleet because of a problem with its departure-management system; trading was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange after an upgrade; the front page of The Wall Street Journal’s website crashed; and Seattle’s 911 system went down again, this time because a different router failed. The simultaneous failure of so many software systems smelled at first of a coordinated cyberattack. Almost more frightening was the realization, late in the day, that it was just a coincidence.“When we had electromechanical systems, we used to be able to test them exhaustively,” says Nancy Leveson, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been studying software safety for 35 years. She became known for her report on the Therac-25, a radiation-therapy machine that killed six patients because of a software error. “We used to be able to think through all the things it could do, all the states it could get into.” The electromechanical interlockings that controlled train movements at railroad crossings, for instance, only had so many configurations; a few sheets of paper could describe the whole system, and you could run physical trains against each configuration to see how it would behave. Once you’d built and tested it, you knew exactly what you were dealing with.
Software is different. Just by editing the text in a file somewhere, the same hunk of silicon can become an autopilot or an inventory-control system. This flexibility is software’s miracle, and its curse. Because it can be changed cheaply, software is constantly changed; and because it’s unmoored from anything physical—a program that is a thousand times more complex than another takes up the same actual space—it tends to grow without bound. “The problem,” Leveson wrote in a book, “is that we are attempting to build systems that are beyond our ability to intellectually manage.”

Our standard framework for thinking about engineering failures—reflected, for instance, in regulations for medical devices—was developed shortly after World War II, before the advent of software, for electromechanical systems. The idea was that you make something reliable by making its parts reliable (say, you build your engine to withstand 40,000 takeoff-and-landing cycles) and by planning for the breakdown of those parts (you have two engines). But software doesn’t break. Intrado’s faulty threshold is not like the faulty rivet that leads to the crash of an airliner. The software did exactly what it was told to do. In fact it did it perfectly. The reason it failed is that it was told to do the wrong thing. Software failures are failures of understanding, and of imagination. Intrado actually had a backup router, which, had it been switched to automatically, would have restored 911 service almost immediately. But, as described in a report to the FCC, “the situation occurred at a point in the application logic that was not designed to perform any automated corrective actions.”

This is the trouble with making things out of code, as opposed to something physical. “The complexity,” as Leveson puts it, “is invisible to the eye.”

The attempts now underway to change how we make software all seem to start with the same premise: Code is too hard to think about. Before trying to understand the attempts themselves, then, it’s worth understanding why this might be: what it is about code that makes it so foreign to the mind, and so unlike anything that came before it.

Technological progress used to change the way the world looked—you could watch the roads getting paved; you could see the skylines rise. Today you can hardly tell when something is remade, because so often it is remade by code. When you press your foot down on your car’s accelerator, for instance, you’re no longer controlling anything directly; there’s no mechanical link from the pedal to the throttle. Instead, you’re issuing a command to a piece of software that decides how much air to give the engine. The car is a computer you can sit inside of. The steering wheel and pedals might as well be keyboard keys.

Like everything else, the car has been computerized to enable new features. When a program is in charge of the throttle and brakes, it can slow you down when you’re too close to another car, or precisely control the fuel injection to help you save on gas. When it controls the steering, it can keep you in your lane as you start to drift, or guide you into a parking space. You couldn’t build these features without code. If you tried, a car might weigh 40,000 pounds, an immovable mass of clockwork.

Software has enabled us to make the most intricate machines that have ever existed. And yet we have hardly noticed, because all of that complexity is packed into tiny silicon chips as millions and millions of lines of code. But just because we can’t see the complexity doesn’t mean that it has gone away.The programmer, the renowned Dutch computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra wrote in 1988, “has to be able to think in terms of conceptual hierarchies that are much deeper than a single mind ever needed to face before.” Dijkstra meant this as a warning. As programmers eagerly poured software into critical systems, they became, more and more, the linchpins of the built world—and Dijkstra thought they had perhaps overestimated themselves.

What made programming so difficult was that it required you to think like a computer. The strangeness of it was in some sense more vivid in the early days of computing, when code took the form of literal ones and zeros. Anyone looking over a programmer’s shoulder as they pored over line after line like “100001010011” and “000010011110” would have seen just how alienated the programmer was from the actual problems they were trying to solve; it would have been impossible to tell whether they were trying to calculate artillery trajectories or simulate a game of tic-tac-toe. The introduction of programming languages like Fortran and C, which resemble English, and tools, known as “integrated development environments,” or IDEs, that help correct simple mistakes (like Microsoft Word’s grammar checker but for code), obscured, though did little to actually change, this basic alienation—the fact that the programmer didn’t work on a problem directly, but rather spent their days writing out instructions for a machine.

“The problem is that software engineers don’t understand the problem they’re trying to solve, and don’t care to,” says Leveson, the MIT software-safety expert. The reason is that they’re too wrapped up in getting their code to work. “Software engineers like to provide all kinds of tools and stuff for coding errors,” she says, referring to IDEs. “The serious problems that have happened with software have to do with requirements, not coding errors.” When you’re writing code that controls a car’s throttle, for instance, what’s important is the rules about when and how and by how much to open it. But these systems have become so complicated that hardly anyone can keep them straight in their head. “There’s 100 million lines of code in cars now,” Leveson says. “You just cannot anticipate all these things.”

In September 2007, Jean Bookout was driving on the highway with her best friend in a Toyota Camry when the accelerator seemed to get stuck. When she took her foot off the pedal, the car didn’t slow down. She tried the brakes but they seemed to have lost their power. As she swerved toward an off-ramp going 50 miles per hour, she pulled the emergency brake. The car left a skid mark 150 feet long before running into an embankment by the side of the road. The passenger was killed. Bookout woke up in a hospital a month later.The incident was one of many in a nearly decade-long investigation into claims of so-called unintended acceleration in Toyota cars. Toyota blamed the incidents on poorly designed floor mats, “sticky” pedals, and driver error, but outsiders suspected that faulty software might be responsible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enlisted software experts from NASA to perform an intensive review of Toyota’s code. After nearly 10 months, the NASA team hadn’t found evidence that software was the cause—but said they couldn’t prove it wasn’t.It was during litigation of the Bookout accident that someone finally found a convincing connection. Michael Barr, an expert witness for the plaintiff, had a team of software experts spend 18 months with the Toyota code, picking up where NASA left off. Barr described what they found as “spaghetti code,” programmer lingo for software that has become a tangled mess. Code turns to spaghetti when it accretes over many years, with feature after feature piling on top of, and being woven around, what’s already there; eventually the code becomes impossible to follow, let alone to test exhaustively for flaws.

Using the same model as the Camry involved in the accident, Barr’s team demonstrated that there were actually more than 10 million ways for the onboard computer to cause unintended acceleration. They showed that as little as a single bit flip—a one in the computer’s memory becoming a zero or vice versa—could make a car run out of control. The fail-safe code that Toyota had put in place wasn’t enough to stop it. “You have software watching the software,” Barr testified. “If the software malfunctions and the same program or same app that is crashed is supposed to save the day, it can’t save the day because it is not working.”

Barr’s testimony made the case for the plaintiff, resulting in $3 million in damages for Bookout and her friend’s family. According to The New York Times, it was the first of many similar cases against Toyota to bring to trial problems with the electronic throttle-control system, and the first time Toyota was found responsible by a jury for an accident involving unintended acceleration. The parties decided to settle the case before punitive damages could be awarded. In all, Toyota recalled more than 9 million cars, and paid nearly $3 billion in settlements and fines related to unintended acceleration.

There will be more bad days for software. It’s important that we get better at making it, because if we don’t, and as software becomes more sophisticated and connected—as it takes control of more critical functions—those days could get worse.

The problem is that programmers are having a hard time keeping up with their own creations. Since the 1980s, the way programmers work and the tools they use have changed remarkably little. There is a small but growing chorus that worries the status quo is unsustainable. “Even very good programmers are struggling to make sense of the systems that they are working with,” says Chris Granger, a software developer who worked as a lead at Microsoft on Visual Studio, an IDE that costs $1,199 a year and is used by nearly a third of all professional programmers. He told me that while he was at Microsoft, he arranged an end-to-end study of Visual Studio, the only one that had ever been done. For a month and a half, he watched behind a one-way mirror as people wrote code. “How do they use tools? How do they think?” he said. “How do they sit at the computer, do they touch the mouse, do they not touch the mouse? All these things that we have dogma around that we haven’t actually tested empirically.”


The findings surprised him. “Visual Studio is one of the single largest pieces of software in the world,” he said. “It’s over 55 million lines of code. And one of the things that I found out in this study is more than 98 percent of it is completely irrelevant. All this work had been put into this thing, but it missed the fundamental problems that people faced. And the biggest one that I took away from it was that basically people are playing computer inside their head.” Programmers were like chess players trying to play with a blindfold on—so much of their mental energy is spent just trying to picture where the pieces are that there’s hardly any left over to think about the game itself.

John Resig had been noticing the same thing among his students. Resig is a celebrated programmer of JavaScript—software he wrote powers over half of all websites—and a tech lead at the online-education site Khan Academy. In early 2012, he had been struggling with the site’s computer-science curriculum. Why was it so hard to learn to program? The essential problem seemed to be that code was so abstract. Writing software was not like making a bridge out of popsicle sticks, where you could see the sticks and touch the glue.To “make” a program, you typed words. When you wanted to change the behavior of the program, be it a game, or a website, or a simulation of physics, what you actually changed was text. So the students who did well—in fact the only ones who survived at all—were those who could step through that text one instruction at a time in their head, thinking the way a computer would, trying to keep track of every intermediate calculation. Resig, like Granger, started to wonder if it had to be that way. Computers had doubled in power every 18 months for the last 40 years. Why hadn’t programming changed?

The fact that the two of them were thinking about the same problem in the same terms, at the same time, was not a coincidence. They had both just seen the same remarkable talk, given to a group of software-engineering students in a Montreal hotel by a computer researcher named Bret Victor. The talk, which went viral when it was posted online in February 2012, seemed to be making two bold claims. The first was that the way we make software is fundamentally broken. The second was that Victor knew how to fix it.

Bret victor does not like to write code. “It sounds weird,” he says. “When I want to make a thing, especially when I want to create something in software, there’s this initial layer of disgust that I have to push through, where I’m not manipulating the thing that I want to make, I’m writing a bunch of text into a text editor.”

“There’s a pretty strong conviction that that’s the wrong way of doing things.”

Victor has the mien of David Foster Wallace, with a lightning intelligence that lingers beneath a patina of aw-shucks shyness. He is 40 years old, with traces of gray and a thin, undeliberate beard. His voice is gentle, mournful almost, but he wants to share what’s in his head, and when he gets on a roll he’ll seem to skip syllables, as though outrunning his own vocal machinery.

Though he runs a lab that studies the future of computing, he seems less interested in technology per se than in the minds of the people who use it. Like any good toolmaker, he has a way of looking at the world that is equal parts technical and humane. He graduated top of his class at the California Institute of Technology for electrical engineering, and then went on, after grad school at the University of California, Berkeley, to work at a company that develops music synthesizers. It was a problem perfectly matched to his dual personality: He could spend as much time thinking about the way a performer makes music with a keyboard—the way it becomes an extension of their hands—as he could thinking about the mathematics of digital signal processing.

By the time he gave the talk that made his name, the one that Resig and Granger saw in early 2012, Victor had finally landed upon the principle that seemed to thread through all of his work. (He actually called the talk “Inventing on Principle.”) The principle was this: “Creators need an immediate connection to what they’re creating.” The problem with programming was that it violated the principle. That’s why software systems were so hard to think about, and so rife with bugs: The programmer, staring at a page of text, was abstracted from whatever it was they were actually making.
Our current conception of what a computer program is,” he said, is “derived straight from Fortran and ALGOL in the late ’50s. Those languages were designed for punch cards.” That code now takes the form of letters on a screen in a language like C or Java (derivatives of Fortran and ALGOL), instead of a stack of cards with holes in it, doesn’t make it any less dead, any less indirect.

There is an analogy to word processing. It used to be that all you could see in a program for writing documents was the text itself, and to change the layout or font or margins, you had to write special “control codes,” or commands that would tell the computer that, for instance, “this part of the text should be in italics.” The trouble was that you couldn’t see the effect of those codes until you printed the document. It was hard to predict what you were going to get. You had to imagine how the codes were going to be interpreted by the computer—that is, you had to play computer in your head.

Then WYSIWYG (pronounced “wizzywig”) came along. It stood for “What You See Is What You Get.” When you marked a passage as being in italics, the letters tilted right there on the screen. If you wanted to change the margin, you could drag a ruler at the top of the screen—and see the effect of that change. The document thereby came to feel like something real, something you could poke and prod at. Just by looking you could tell if you’d done something wrong. Control of a sophisticated system—the document’s layout and formatting engine—was made accessible to anyone who could click around on a page.Victor’s point was that programming itself should be like that. For him, the idea that people were doing important work, like designing adaptive cruise-control systems or trying to understand cancer, by staring at a text editor, was appalling.

And it was the proper job of programmers to ensure that someday they wouldn’t have to.There was precedent enough to suggest that this wasn’t a crazy idea.

Photoshop, for instance, puts powerful image-processing algorithms in the hands of people who might not even know what an algorithm is. It’s a complicated piece of software, but complicated in the way a good synth is complicated, with knobs and buttons and sliders that the user learns to play like an instrument. Squarespace, a company that is perhaps best known for advertising aggressively on podcasts, makes a tool that lets users build websites by pointing and clicking, instead of by writing code in HTML and CSS.It is powerful enough to do work that once would have been done by a professional web designer.
But those were just a handful of examples. The overwhelming reality was that when someone wanted to do something interesting with a computer, they had to write code. Victor, who is something of an idealist, saw this not so much as an opportunity but as a moral failing of programmers at large. His talk was a call to arms.At the heart of it was a series of demos that tried to show just how primitive the available tools were for various problems—circuit design, computer animation, debugging algorithms—and what better ones might look like.
His demos were virtuosic. The one that captured everyone’s imagination was, ironically enough, the one that on its face was the most trivial. It showed a split screen with a game that looked like Mario on one side and the code that controlled it on the other. As Victor changed the code, things in the game world changed: He decreased one number, the strength of gravity, and the Mario character floated; he increased another, the player’s speed, and Mario raced across the screen. Suppose you wanted to design a level where Mario, jumping and bouncing off of a turtle, would just make it into a small passageway. Game programmers were used to solving this kind of problem in two stages: First, you stared at your code—the code controlling how high Mario jumped, how fast he ran, how bouncy the turtle’s back was—and made some changes to it in your text editor, using your imagination to predict what effect they’d have.Then, you’d replay the game to see what actually happened.Victor wanted something more immediate. “If you have a process in time,” he said, referring to Mario’s path through the level, “and you want to see changes immediately, you have to map time to space.He hit a button that showed not just where Mario was right now, but where he would be at every moment in the future: a curve of shadow Marios stretching off into the far distance. What’s more, this projected path was reactive: When Victor changed the game’s parameters, now controlled by a quick drag of the mouse, the path’s shape changed. It was like having a god’s-eye view of the game. The whole problem had been reduced to playing with different parameters, as if adjusting levels on a stereo receiver, until you got Mario to thread the needle. With the right interface, it was almost as if you weren’t working with code at all; you were manipulating the game’s behavior directly.
When the audience first saw this in action, they literally gasped. They knew they weren’t looking at a kid’s game, but rather the future of their industry. Most software involved behavior that unfolded, in complex ways, over time, and Victor had shown that if you were imaginative enough, you could develop ways to see that behavior and change it, as if playing with it in your hands. One programmer who saw the talk wrote later: “Suddenly all of my tools feel obsolete.”

When john resig saw the “Inventing on Principle” talk, he scrapped his plans for the Khan Academy programming curriculum. He wanted the site’s programming exercises to work just like Victor’s demos. On the left-hand side you’d have the code, and on the right, the running program: a picture or game or simulation. If you changed the code, it’d instantly change the picture. “In an environment that is truly responsive,” Resig wrote about the approach, “you can completely change the model of how a student learns … [They] can now immediately see the result and intuit how underlying systems inherently work without ever following an explicit explanation.” Khan Academy has become perhaps the largest computer-programming class in the world, with a million students, on average, actively using the program each month.

Chris Granger, who had worked at Microsoft on Visual Studio, was likewise inspired. Within days of seeing a video of Victor’s talk, in January of 2012, he built a prototype of a new programming environment. Its key capability was that it would give you instant feedback on your program’s behavior. You’d see what your system was doing right next to the code that controlled it.

It was like taking off a blindfold. Granger called the project “Light Table.”

In April of 2012, he sought funding for Light Table on Kickstarter. In programming circles, it was a sensation. Within a month, the project raised more than $200,000. The ideas spread. The notion of liveness, of being able to see data flowing through your program instantly, made its way into flagship programming tools offered by Google and Apple. The default language for making new iPhone and Mac apps, called Swift, was developed by Apple from the ground up to support an environment, called Playgrounds, that was directly inspired by Light Table.
But seeing the impact that his talk ended up having, Bret Victor was disillusioned. “A lot of those things seemed like misinterpretations of what I was saying,” he said later. He knew something was wrong when people began to invite him to conferences to talk about programming tools. “Everyone thought I was interested in programming environments,” he said. Really he was interested in how people see and understand systems—as he puts it, in the “visual representation of dynamic behavior.” Although code had increasingly become the tool of choice for creating dynamic behavior, it remained one of the worst tools for understanding it. The point of “Inventing on Principle” was to show that you could mitigate that problem by making the connection between a system’s behavior and its code immediate.

In a pair of later talks, “Stop Drawing Dead Fish” and “Drawing Dynamic Visualizations,” Victor went one further. He demoed two programs he’d built—the first for animators, the second for scientists trying to visualize their data—each of which took a process that used to involve writing lots of custom code and reduced it to playing around in a WYSIWYG interface. Victor suggested that the same trick could be pulled for nearly every problem where code was being written today. “I’m not sure that programming has to exist at all,” he told me. “Or at least software developers.” In his mind, a software developer’s proper role was to create tools that removed the need for software developers. Only then would people with the most urgent computational problems be able to grasp those problems directly, without the intermediate muck of code.

Of course, to do that, you’d have to get programmers themselves on board. In a recent essay, Victor implored professional software developers to stop pouring their talent into tools for building apps like Snapchat and Uber. “The inconveniences of daily life are not the significant problems,” he wrote. Instead, they should focus on scientists and engineers—as he put it to me, “these people that are doing work that actually matters, and critically matters, and using really, really bad tools.” Exciting work of this sort, in particular a class of tools for “model-based design,” was already underway, he wrote, and had been for years, but most programmers knew nothing about it.

“If you really look hard at all the industrial goods that you’ve got out there, that you’re using, that companies are using, the only non-industrial stuff that you have inside this is the code.

Eric Bantégnie is the founder of Esterel Technologies (now owned by ANSYS), a French company that makes tools for building safety-critical software. Like Victor, Bantégnie doesn’t think engineers should develop large systems by typing millions of lines of code into an IDE. “Nobody would build a car by hand,” he says. “Code is still, in many places, handicraft. When you’re crafting manually 10,000 lines of code, that’s okay. But you have systems that have 30 million lines of code, like an Airbus, or 100 million lines of code, like your Tesla or high-end cars—that’s becoming very, very complicated.”

Bantégnie’s company is one of the pioneers in the industrial use of model-based design, in which you no longer write code directly. Instead, you create a kind of flowchart that describes the rules your program should follow (the “model”), and the computer generates code for you based on those rules. If you were making the control system for an elevator, for instance, one rule might be that when the door is open, and someone presses the button for the lobby, you should close the door and start moving the car. In a model-based design tool, you’d represent this rule with a small diagram, as though drawing the logic out on a whiteboard, made of boxes that represent different states—like “door open,” “moving,” and “door closed”—and lines that define how you can get from one state to the other. The diagrams make the system’s rules obvious: Just by looking, you can see that the only way to get the elevator moving is to close the door, or that the only way to get the door open is to stop.

It’s not quite Photoshop. The beauty of Photoshop, of course, is that the picture you’re manipulating on the screen is the final product. In model-based design, by contrast, the picture on your screen is more like a blueprint. Still, making software this way is qualitatively different than traditional programming. In traditional programming, your task is to take complex rules and translate them into code; most of your energy is spent doing the translating, rather than thinking about the rules themselves. In the model-based approach, all you have is the rules. So that’s what you spend your time thinking about. It’s a way of focusing less on the machine and more on the problem you’re trying to get it to solve.

“Typically the main problem with software coding—and I’m a coder myself,” Bantégnie says, “is not the skills of the coders. The people know how to code. The problem is what to code. Because most of the requirements are kind of natural language, ambiguous, and a requirement is never extremely precise, it’s often understood differently by the guy who’s supposed to code.”On this view, software becomes unruly because the media for describing what software should do—conversations, prose descriptions, drawings on a sheet of paper—are too different from the media describing what software does do, namely, code itself. Too much is lost going from one to the other. The idea behind model-based design is to close the gap. The very same model is used both by system designers to express what they want and by the computer to automatically generate code.Of course, for this approach to succeed, much of the work has to be done well before the project even begins. Someone first has to build a tool for developing models that are natural for people—that feel just like the notes and drawings they’d make on their own—while still being unambiguous enough for a computer to understand.They have to make a program that turns these models into real code.And finally they have to prove that the generated code will always do what it’s supposed to. “We have benefited from fortunately 20 years of initial background work,” Bantégnie says.
Esterel Technologies, which was acquired by ANSYS in 2012, grew out of research begun in the 1980s by the French nuclear and aerospace industries, who worried that as safety-critical code ballooned in complexity, it was getting harder and harder to keep it free of bugs. “I started in 1988,” says Emmanuel Ledinot, the Head of Scientific Studies for Dassault Aviation, a French manufacturer of fighter jets and business aircraft. “At the time, I was working on military avionics systems. And the people in charge of integrating the systems, and debugging them, had noticed that the number of bugs was increasing.”
The 80s had seen a surge in the number of onboard computers on planes. Instead of a single flight computer, there were now dozens, each responsible for highly specialized tasks related to control, navigation, and communications. Coordinating these systems to fly the plane as data poured in from sensors and as pilots entered commands required a symphony of perfectly timed reactions. “The handling of these hundreds of and even thousands of possible events in the right order, at the right time,” Ledinot says, “was diagnosed as the main cause of the bug inflation.”Ledinot decided that writing such convoluted code by hand was no longer sustainable. It was too hard to understand what it was doing, and almost impossible to verify that it would work correctly. He went looking for something new. “You must understand that to change tools is extremely expensive in a process like this,” he said in a talk. “You don’t take this type of decision unless your back is against the wall.”

He began collaborating with Gerard Berry, a computer scientist at INRIA, the French computing-research center, on a tool called Esterel—a portmanteau of the French for “real-time.” The idea behind Esterel was that while traditional programming languages might be good for describing simple procedures that happened in a predetermined order—like a recipe—if you tried to use them in systems where lots of events could happen at nearly any time, in nearly any order—like in the cockpit of a plane—you inevitably got a mess. And a mess in control software was dangerous.

In a paper, Berry went as far as to predict that “low-level programming techniques will not remain acceptable for large safety-critical programs, since they make behavior understanding and analysis almost impracticable.”

Cartoonish figures interact with the world through code.

Esterel was designed to make the computer handle this complexity for you. That was the promise of the model-based approach: Instead of writing normal programming code, you created a model of the system’s behavior—in this case, a model focused on how individual events should be handled, how to prioritize events, which events depended on which others, and so on. The model becomes the detailed blueprint that the computer would use to do the actual programming Ledinot and Berry worked for nearly 10 years to get Esterel to the point where it could be used in production.

“It was in 2002 that we had the first operational software-modeling environment with automatic code generation,” Ledinot told me, “and the first embedded module in Rafale, the combat aircraft.”
Today, the ANSYS SCADE product family (for “safety-critical application development environment”) is used to generate code by companies in the aerospace and defense industries, in nuclear power plants, transit systems, heavy industry, and medical devices. “My initial dream was to have SCADE-generated code in every plane in the world,” Bantégnie, the founder of Esterel Technologies, says, “and we’re not very far off from that objective.” Nearly all safety-critical code on the Airbus A380, including the system controlling the plane’s flight surfaces, was generated with ANSYS SCADE products.Part of the draw for customers, especially in aviation, is that while it is possible to build highly reliable software by hand, it can be a Herculean effort. Ravi Shivappa, the VP of group software engineering at Meggitt PLC, an ANSYS customer which builds components for airplanes, like pneumatic fire detectors for engines, explains that traditional projects begin with a massive requirements document in English, which specifies everything the software should do. (A requirement might be something like, “When the pressure in this section rises above a threshold, open the safety valve, unless the manual-override switch is turned on.”) The problem with describing the requirements this way is that when you implement them in code, you have to painstakingly check that each one is satisfied. And when the customer changes the requirements, the code has to be changed, too, and tested extensively to make sure that nothing else was broken in the process.
The cost is compounded by exacting regulatory standards. The FAA is fanatical about software safety. The agency mandates that every requirement for a piece of safety-critical software be traceable to the lines of code that implement it, and vice versa. So every time a line of code changes, it must be retraced to the corresponding requirement in the design document, and you must be able to demonstrate that the code actually satisfies the requirement. The idea is that if something goes wrong, you’re able to figure out why; the practice brings order and accountability to large codebases. But, Shivappa says, “it’s a very labor-intensive process.” He estimates that before they used model-based design, on a two-year-long project only two to three months was spent writing code—the rest was spent working on the documentation.

As Bantégnie explains, the beauty of having a computer turn your requirements into code, rather than a human, is that you can be sure—in fact you can mathematically prove—that the generated code actually satisfies those requirements. Much of the benefit of the model-based approach comes from being able to add requirements on the fly while still ensuring that existing ones are met; with every change, the computer can verify that your program still works. You’re free to tweak your blueprint without fear of introducing new bugs. Your code is, in FAA parlance, “correct by construction.”

Still, most software, even in the safety-obsessed world of aviation, is made the old-fashioned way, with engineers writing their requirements in prose and programmers coding them up in a programming language like C. As Bret Victor made clear in his essay, model-based design is relatively unusual. “A lot of people in the FAA think code generation is magic, and hence call for greater scrutiny,” Shivappa told me.Most programmers feel the same way. They like code. At least they understand it. Tools that write your code for you and verify its correctness using the mathematics of “finite-state machines” and “recurrent systems” sound esoteric and hard to use, if not just too good to be true.It is a pattern that has played itself out before. Whenever programming has taken a step away from the writing of literal ones and zeros, the loudest objections have come from programmers. Margaret Hamilton, a celebrated software engineer on the Apollo missions—in fact the coiner of the phrase “software engineering”—told me that during her first year at the Draper lab at MIT, in 1964, she remembers a meeting where one faction was fighting the other about transitioning away from “some very low machine language,” as close to ones and zeros as you could get, to “assembly language.” “The people at the lowest level were fighting to keep it. And the arguments were so similar: ‘Well how do we know assembly language is going to do it right?’”
“Guys on one side, their faces got red, and they started screaming,” she said. She said she was “amazed how emotional they got.”

Emmanuel Ledinot, of Dassault Aviation, pointed out that when assembly language was itself phased out in favor of the programming languages still popular today, like C, it was the assembly programmers who were skeptical this time. No wonder, he said, that “people are not so easily transitioning to model-based software development: They perceive it as another opportunity to lose control, even more than they have already.”

The bias against model-based design, sometimes known as model-driven engineering, or MDE, is in fact so ingrained that according to a recent paper, “Some even argue that there is a stronger need to investigate people’s perception of MDE than to research new MDE technologies.”

Which sounds almost like a joke, but for proponents of the model-based approach, it’s an important point: We already know how to make complex software reliable, but in so many places, we’re choosing not to. Why?

In 2011, Chris Newcombe had been working at Amazon for almost seven years, and had risen to be a principal engineer. He had worked on some of the company’s most critical systems, including the retail-product catalog and the infrastructure that managed every Kindle device in the world. He was a leader on the highly prized Amazon Web Services team, which maintains cloud servers for some of the web’s biggest properties, like Netflix, Pinterest, and Reddit. Before Amazon, he’d helped build the backbone of Steam, the world’s largest online-gaming service. He is one of those engineers whose work quietly keeps the internet running. The products he’d worked on were considered massive successes. But all he could think about was that buried deep in the designs of those systems were disasters waiting to happen.

“Human intuition is poor at estimating the true probability of supposedly ‘extremely rare’ combinations of events in systems operating at a scale of millions of requests per second,” he wrote in a paper. “That human fallibility means that some of the more subtle, dangerous bugs turn out to be errors in design; the code faithfully implements the intended design, but the design fails to correctly handle a particular ‘rare’ scenario.”

Newcombe was convinced that the algorithms behind truly critical systemssystems storing a significant portion of the web’s data, for instance—ought to be not just good, but perfect. A single subtle bug could be catastrophic. But he knew how hard bugs were to find, especially as an algorithm grew more complex. You could do all the testing you wanted and you’d never find them all. “Few programmers write even a rough sketch of what their programs will do before they start coding.”

This is why he was so intrigued when, in the appendix of a paper he’d been reading, he came across a strange mixture of math and code—or what looked like code—that described an algorithm in something called “TLA+.The surprising part was that this description was said to be mathematically precise: An algorithm written in TLA+ could in principle be proven correct.

In practice, it allowed you to create a realistic model of your problem and test it not just thoroughly, but exhaustively. This was exactly what he’d been looking for: a language for writing perfect algorithms.

TLA+, which stands for “Temporal Logic of Actions,is similar in spirit to model-based design: It’s a language for writing down the requirements—TLA+ calls them “specifications”—of computer programs. These specifications can then be completely verified by a computer. That is, before you write any code, you write a concise outline of your program’s logic, along with the constraints you need it to satisfy (say, if you were programming an ATM, a constraint might be that you can never withdraw the same money twice from your checking account). TLA+ then exhaustively checks that your logic does, in fact, satisfy those constraints. If not, it will show you exactly how they could be violated.

The language was invented by Leslie Lamport, a Turing Award–winning computer scientist. With a big white beard and scruffy white hair, and kind eyes behind large glasses, Lamport looks like he might be one of the friendlier professors at the American Hogwarts. Now at Microsoft Research, he is known as one of the pioneers of the theory of “distributed systems,” which describes any computer system made of multiple parts that communicate with each other. Lamport’s work laid the foundation for many of the systems that power the modern web.

For Lamport, a major reason today’s software is so full of bugs is that programmers jump straight into writing code.

“Architects draw detailed plans before a brick is laid or a nail is hammered,” he wrote in an article. “But few programmers write even a rough sketch of what their programs will do before they start coding.” Programmers are drawn to the nitty-gritty of coding because code is what makes programs go; spending time on anything else can seem like a distraction. And there is a patient joy, a meditative kind of satisfaction, to be had from puzzling out the micro-mechanics of code. But code, Lamport argues, was never meant to be a medium for thought.

“It really does constrain your ability to think when you’re thinking in terms of a programming language,” he says. Code makes you miss the forest for the trees: It draws your attention to the working of individual pieces, rather than to the bigger picture of how your program fits together, or what it’s supposed to do—and whether it actually does what you think.

This is why Lamport created TLA+. As with model-based design, TLA+ draws your focus to the high-level structure of a system, its essential logic, rather than to the code that implements it.

Newcombe and his colleagues at Amazon would go on to use TLA+ to find subtle, critical bugs in major systems, including bugs in the core algorithms behind S3, regarded as perhaps the most reliable storage engine in the world. It is now used widely at the company. In the tiny universe of people who had ever used TLA+, their success was not so unusual. An intern at Microsoft used TLA+ to catch a bug that could have caused every Xbox in the world to crash after four hours of use. Engineers at the European Space Agency used it to rewrite, with 10 times less code, the operating system of a probe that was the first to ever land softly on a comet. Intel uses it regularly to verify its chips.

But TLA+ occupies just a small, far corner of the mainstream, if it can be said to take up any space there at all. Even to a seasoned engineer like Newcombe, the language read at first as bizarre and esoteric—a zoo of symbols. For Lamport, this is a failure of education. Though programming was born in mathematics, it has since largely been divorced from it. Most programmers aren’t very fluent in the kind of math—logic and set theory, mostly—that you need to work with TLA+. “Very few programmers—and including very few teachers of programming—understand the very basic concepts and how they’re applied in practice. And they seem to think that all they need is code,” Lamport says. “The idea that there’s some higher level than the code in which you need to be able to think precisely, and that mathematics actually allows you to think precisely about it, is just completely foreign. Because they never learned it.”

Lamport sees this failure to think mathematically about what they’re doing as the problem of modern software development in a nutshell: The stakes keep rising, but programmers aren’t stepping up—they haven’t developed the chops required to handle increasingly complex problems. “In the 15th century,” he said, “people used to build cathedrals without knowing calculus, and nowadays I don’t think you’d allow anyone to build a cathedral without knowing calculus. And I would hope that after some suitably long period of time, people won’t be allowed to write programs if they don’t understand these simple things.”

Newcombe isn’t so sure that it’s the programmer who is to blame. “I’ve heard from Leslie that he thinks programmers are afraid of math. I’ve found that programmers aren’t aware—or don’t believe—that math can help them handle complexity. Complexity is the biggest challenge for programmers.” The real problem in getting people to use TLA+, he said, was convincing them it wouldn’t be a waste of their time. Programmers, as a species, are relentlessly pragmatic. Tools like TLA+ reek of the ivory tower. When programmers encounter “formal methods” (so called because they involve mathematical, “formally” precise descriptions of programs), their deep-seated instinct is to recoil.

Most programmers who took computer science in college have briefly encountered formal methods. Usually they’re demonstrated on something trivial, like a program that counts up from zero; the student’s job is to mathematically prove that the program does, in fact, count up from zero.

“I needed to change people’s perceptions on what formal methods were,” Newcombe told me. Even Lamport himself didn’t seem to fully grasp this point: Formal methods had an image problem. And the way to fix it wasn’t to implore programmers to change—it was to change yourself. Newcombe realized that to bring tools like TLA+ to the programming mainstream, you had to start speaking their language.

For one thing, he said that when he was introducing colleagues at Amazon to TLA+ he would avoid telling them what it stood for, because he was afraid the name made it seem unnecessarily forbidding: “Temporal Logic of Actions” has exactly the kind of highfalutin ring to it that plays well in academia, but puts off most practicing programmers. He tried also not to use the terms “formal,” “verification,” or “proof,” which reminded programmers of tedious classroom exercises. Instead, he presented TLA+ as a new kind of “pseudocode,” a stepping-stone to real code that allowed you to exhaustively test your algorithms—and that got you thinking precisely early on in the design process. “Engineers think in terms of debugging rather than ‘verification,’” he wrote, so he titled his internal talk on the subject to fellow Amazon engineers “Debugging Designs.” Rather than bemoan the fact that programmers see the world in code, Newcombe embraced it. He knew he’d lose them otherwise. “I’ve had a bunch of people say, ‘Now I get it,’” Newcombe says.

He has since left Amazon for Oracle, where he’s been able to convince his new colleagues to give TLA+ a try. For him, using these tools is now a matter of responsibility. “We need to get better at this,” he said.

“I’m self-taught, been coding since I was nine, so my instincts were to start coding. That was my only—that was my way of thinking: You’d sketch something, try something, you’d organically evolve it.” In his view, this is what many programmers today still do. “They google, and they look on Stack Overflow” (a popular website where programmers answer each other’s technical questions) “and they get snippets of code to solve their tactical concern in this little function, and they glue it together, and iterate.”

“And that’s completely fine until you run smack into a real problem.”

In the summer of 2015, a pair of American security researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, convinced that car manufacturers weren’t taking software flaws seriously enough, demonstrated that a 2014 Jeep Cherokee could be remotely controlled by hackers. They took advantage of the fact that the car’s entertainment system, which has a cellular connection (so that, for instance, you can start your car with your iPhone), was connected to more central systems, like the one that controls the windshield wipers, steering, acceleration, and brakes (so that, for instance, you can see guidelines on the rearview screen that respond as you turn the wheel). As proof of their attack, which they developed on nights and weekends, they hacked into Miller’s car while a journalist was driving it on the highway, and made it go haywire; the journalist, who knew what was coming, panicked when they cut the engines, forcing him to a slow crawl on a stretch of road with no shoulder to escape to.

Although they didn’t actually create one, they showed that it was possible to write a clever piece of software, a “vehicle worm,” that would use the onboard computer of a hacked Jeep Cherokee to scan for and hack others; had they wanted to, they could have had simultaneous access to a nationwide fleet of vulnerable cars and SUVs. (There were at least five Fiat Chrysler models affected, including the Jeep Cherokee.) One day they could have told them all to, say, suddenly veer left or cut the engines at high speed.

“We need to think about software differently,” Valasek told me. Car companies have long assembled their final product from parts made by hundreds of different suppliers. But where those parts were once purely mechanical, they now, as often as not, come with millions of lines of code. And while some of this code—for adaptive cruise control, for auto braking and lane assist—has indeed made cars safer (“The safety features on my Jeep have already saved me countless times,” says Miller), it has also created a level of complexity that is entirely new. And it has made possible a new kind of failure.

“There are lots of bugs in cars,” Gerard Berry, the French researcher behind Esterel, said in a talk. “It’s not like avionics—in avionics it’s taken very seriously. And it’s admitted that software is different from mechanics.” The automotive industry is perhaps among those that haven’t yet realized they are actually in the software business.

“We don’t in the automaker industry have a regulator for software safety that knows what it’s doing,” says Michael Barr, the software expert who testified in the Toyota case. NHTSA, he says, “has only limited software expertise. They’ve come at this from a mechanical history.” The same regulatory pressures that have made model-based design and code generation attractive to the aviation industry have been slower to come to car manufacturing. Emmanuel Ledinot, of Dassault Aviation, speculates that there might be economic reasons for the difference, too. Automakers simply can’t afford to increase the price of a component by even a few cents, since it is multiplied so many millionfold; the computers embedded in cars therefore have to be slimmed down to the bare minimum, with little room to run code that hasn’t been hand-tuned to be as lean as possible. “Introducing model-based software development was, I think, for the last decade, too costly for them.”

One suspects the incentives are changing. “I think the autonomous car might push them,” Ledinot told me—“ISO 26262 and the autonomous car might slowly push them to adopt this kind of approach on critical parts.” (ISO 26262 is a safety standard for cars published in 2011.) Barr said much the same thing: In the world of the self-driving car, software can’t be an afterthought. It can’t be built like today’s airline-reservation systems or 911 systems or stock-trading systems. Code will be put in charge of hundreds of millions of lives on the road and it has to work. That is no small task.

“Computing is fundamentally invisible,” Gerard Berry said in his talk. “When your tires are flat, you look at your tires, they are flat. When your software is broken, you look at your software, you see nothing.”

“So that’s a big problem.”


……………..      I’m sorry DaveSorry! https://goo.gl/images/PTbTmR


…What Facebook Did to American Democracy…

      ….and why was it so hard to see it coming?…………

The continental United States with the Facebook logo superimposed
Luchenko Yana / Shutterstock / Zak Bickel / The Atlantic

What Facebook Did to American Democracy

In the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after. Things we thought we understood—narratives, data, software, news events—have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump’s surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.

Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic, and elsewhere: Facebook’s enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of “viral” hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.
But no one delivered the synthesis that could have tied together all these disparate threads. It’s not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed the outcome of the election. The real problem—for all political stripes—is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump’s victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how. We’ve known since at least 2012 that Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics.
In that year, a combined University of California, San Diego and Facebook research team led by James Fowler published a study in Nature, which argued that Facebook’s “I Voted” button had driven a small but measurable increase in turnout, primarily among young people.Rebecca Rosen’s 2012 story, “Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand?” relied on new research from Fowler, et al., about the presidential election that year.
Again, the conclusion of their work was that Facebook’s get-out-the-vote message could have driven a substantial chunk of the increase in youth voter participation in the 2012 general election. Fowler told Rosen that it was “even possible that Facebook is completely responsible” for the youth voter increase.  And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook’s GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems.

The research showed that a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions, especially with America’s electoral-college format in which a few hotly contested states have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome.  And the pro-liberal effect it implied became enshrined as an axiom of how campaign staffers, reporters, and academics viewed social media.

In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic called, “Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out,” in which he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout. (He also suggested that Facebook be seen as an “information fiduciary,” charged with certain special roles and responsibilities because it controls so much personal data.)In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. “Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn’t,” testified a leader of the firm. “Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn’t. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads.”In April 2016, Rob Meyer published “How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election” after a company meeting in which some employees apparently put the stopping-Trump question to Mark Zuckerberg. Based on Fowler’s research, Meyer reimagined Zittrain’s hypothetical as a direct Facebook intervention to depress turnout among non-college graduates, who leaned Trump as a whole.
Facebook, of course, said it would never do such a thing. “Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community,” a spokesperson said. “We as a company are neutral—we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”They wouldn’t do it intentionally, at least.As all these examples show, though, the potential for Facebook to have an impact on an election was clear for at least half a decade before Donald Trump was elected. But rather than focusing specifically on the integrity of elections, most writers—myself included, some observers like Sasha Issenberg, Zeynep Tufekci, and Daniel Kreiss excepted—bundled electoral problems inside other, broader concerns like privacy, surveillance, tech ideology, media-industry competition, or the psychological effects of social media.

The same was true even of people inside Facebook. “If you’d come to me in 2012, when the last presidential election was raging and we were cooking up ever more complicated ways to monetize Facebook data, and told me that Russian agents in the Kremlin’s employ would be buying Facebook ads to subvert American democracy, I’d have asked where your tin-foil hat was,” wrote Antonio García Martínez, who managed ad targeting for Facebook back then. “And yet, now we live in that otherworldly political reality.”

Not to excuse us, but this was back on the Old Earth, too, when electoral politics was not the thing that every single person talked about all the time. There were other important dynamics to Facebook’s growing power that needed to be covered. Facebook’s draw is its ability to give you what you want. Like a page, get more of that page’s posts; like a story, get more stories like that; interact with a person, get more of their updates. The way Facebook determines the ranking of the News Feed is the probability that you’ll like, comment on, or share a story. Shares are worth more than comments, which are both worth more than likes, but in all cases, the more likely you are to interact with a post, the higher up it will show in your News Feed. Two thousand kinds of data (or “features” in the industry parlance) get smelted in Facebook’s machine-learning system to make those predictions.
What’s crucial to understand is that, from the system’s perspective, success is correctly predicting what you’ll like, comment on, or share. That’s what matters. People call this “engagement.” There are other factors, as Slate’s Will Oremus noted in this rare story about the News Feed ranking team.  But who knows how much weight they actually receive and for how long as the system evolves. For example, one change that Facebook highlighted to Oremus in early 2016—taking into account how long people look at a story, even if they don’t click it—was subsequently dismissed by Lars Backstrom, the VP of engineering in charge of News Feed ranking, as a “noisy” signal that’s also “biased in a few ways” making it “hard to use” in a May 2017 technical talk.
Facebook’s engineers do not want to introduce noise into the system. Because the News Feed, this machine for generating engagement, is Facebook’s most important technical system. Their success predicting what you’ll like is why users spend an average of more than 50 minutes a day on the site, and why even the former creator of the “like” button worries about how well the site captures attention. News Feed works really well.

But as far as “personalized newspapers” go, this one’s editorial sensibilities are limited. Most people are far less likely to engage with viewpoints that they find confusing, annoying, incorrect, or abhorrent. And this is true not just in politics, but the broader culture.

That this could be a problem was apparent to many. Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble, which came out in the summer of 2011, became the most widely cited distillation of the effects Facebook and other internet platforms could have on public discourse.

Pariser began the book research when he noticed conservative people, whom he’d befriended on the platform despite his left-leaning politics, had disappeared from his News Feed. “I was still clicking my progressive friends’ links more than my conservative friends’— and links to the latest Lady Gaga videos more than either,” he wrote. “So no conservative links for me.”

Through the book, he traces the many potential problems that the “personalization” of media might bring. Most germane to this discussion, he raised the point that if every one of the billion News Feeds is different, how can anyone understand what other people are seeing and responding to?
“The most serious political problem posed by filter bubbles is that they make it increasingly difficult to have a public argument. As the number of different segments and messages increases, it becomes harder and harder for the campaigns to track who’s saying what to whom,” Pariser wrote. “How does a [political] campaign know what its opponent is saying if ads are only targeted to white Jewish men between 28 and 34 who have expressed a fondness for U2 on Facebook and who donated to Barack Obama’s campaign?”
This did, indeed, become an enormous problem. When I was editor in chief of Fusion, we set about trying to track the “digital campaign” with several dedicated people. What we quickly realized was that there was both too much data—the noisiness of all the different posts by the various candidates and their associates—as well as too little. Targeting made tracking the actual messaging that the campaigns were paying for impossible to track. On Facebook, the campaigns could show ads only to the people they targeted. We couldn’t actually see the messages that were actually reaching people in battleground areas. From the outside, it was a technical impossibility to know what ads were running on Facebook, one that the company had fought to keep intact.

Pariser suggests in his book, “one simple solution to this problem would simply be to require campaigns to immediately disclose all of their online advertising materials and to whom each ad is targeted.” Which could happen in future campaigns.

Imagine if this had happened in 2016. If there were data sets of all the ads that the campaigns and others had run, we’d know a lot more about what actually happened last year. The Filter Bubble is obviously prescient work, but there was one thing that Pariser and most other people did not foresee. And that’s that Facebook became completely dominant as a media distributor.

About two years after Pariser published his book, Facebook took over the news-media ecosystem. They’ve never publicly admitted it, but in late 2013, they began to serve ads inviting users to “like” media pages. This caused a massive increase in the amount of traffic that Facebook sent to media companies. At The Atlantic and other publishers across the media landscape, it was like a tide was carrying us to new traffic records. Without hiring anyone else, without changing strategy or tactics, without publishing more, suddenly everything was easier.
While traffic to The Atlantic from Facebook.com increased, at the time, most of the new traffic did not look like it was coming from Facebook within The Atlantic’s analytics. It showed up as “direct/bookmarked” or some variation, depending on the software. It looked like what I called “dark social” back in 2012. But as BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel pointed out at the time, and as I came to believe, it was primarily Facebook traffic in disguise. Between August and October of 2013, BuzzFeed’s “partner network” of hundreds of websites saw a jump in traffic from Facebook of 69 percent.At The Atlantic, we ran a series of experiments that showed, pretty definitively from our perspective, that most of the stuff that looked like “dark social” was, in fact, traffic coming from within Facebook’s mobile app.
Across the landscape, it began to dawn on people who thought about these kinds of things: Damn, Facebook owns us. They had taken over media distribution.
Why?  This is a best guess, proffered by Robinson Meyer as it was happening: Facebook wanted to crush Twitter, which had drawn a disproportionate share of media and media-figure attention. Just as Instagram borrowed Snapchat’s “Stories” to help crush the site’s growth, Facebook decided it needed to own “news” to take the wind out of the newly IPO’d Twitter.

The first sign that this new system had some kinks came with “Upworthy-style” headlines. (And you’ll never guess what happened next!) Things didn’t just go kind of viral, they went ViralNova, a site which, like Upworthy itself, Facebook eventually smacked down. Many of the new sites had, like Upworthy, which was cofounded by Pariser, a progressive bent.

Less noticed was that a right-wing media was developing in opposition to and alongside these left-leaning sites. “By 2014, the outlines of the Facebook-native hard-right voice and grievance spectrum were there,” The New York Times’ media and tech writer John Herrman told me, “and I tricked myself into thinking they were a reaction/counterpart to the wave of soft progressive/inspirational content that had just crested. It ended up a Reaction in a much bigger and destabilizing sense.”

The other sign of algorithmic trouble was the wild swings that Facebook Video underwent. In the early days, just about any old video was likely to generate many, many, many views. The numbers were insane in the early days. Just as an example, a Fortune article noted that BuzzFeed’s video views “grew 80-fold in a year, reaching more than 500 million in April.” Suddenly, all kinds of video—good, bad, and ugly—were doing 1-2-3 million views.

As with news, Facebook’s video push was a direct assault on a competitor, YouTube. Videos changed the dynamics of the News Feed for individuals, for media companies, and for anyone trying to understand what the hell was going on. Individuals were suddenly inundated with video. Media companies, despite no business model, were forced to crank out video somehow or risk their pages/brands losing relevance as video posts crowded others out. And on top of all that, scholars and industry observers were used to looking at what was happening in articles to understand how information was flowing.  Now, by far the most viewed media objects on Facebook, and therefore on the internet, were videos without transcripts or centralized repositories. In the early days, many successful videos were just “freebooted” (i.e., stolen) videos from other places or reposts. All of which served to confuse and obfuscate the transport mechanisms for information and ideas on Facebook.

Through this messy, chaotic, dynamic situation, a new media rose up through the Facebook burst to occupy the big filter bubbles. On the right, Breitbart is the center of a new conservative network. A study of 1.25 million election news articles found “a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.”

Breitbart, of course, also lent Steve Bannon, its chief, to the Trump campaign, creating another feedback loop between the candidate and a rabid partisan press. Through 2015, Breitbart went from a medium-sized site with a small Facebook page of 100,000 likes into a powerful force shaping the election with almost 1.5 million likes. In the key metric for Facebook’s News Feed, its posts got 886,000 interactions from Facebook users in January.
By July, Breitbart had surpassed The New York Times’ main account in interactions. By December, it was doing 10 million interactions per month, about 50 percent of Fox News, which had 11.5 million likes on its main page. Breitbart’s audience was hyper-engaged. There is no precise equivalent to the Breitbart phenomenon on the left. Rather the big news organizations are classified as center-left, basically, with fringier left-wing sites showing far smaller followings than Breitbart on the right.
And this new, hyperpartisan media created the perfect conditions for another dynamic that influenced the 2016 election, the rise of fake news.
In a December 2015 article for BuzzFeed, Joseph Bernstein argued that “the dark forces of the internet became a counterculture.”  He called it “Chanterculture” after the trolls who gathered at the meme-creating, often-racist 4chan message board. Others ended up calling it the “alt-right.”  This culture combined a bunch of people who loved to perpetuate hoaxes with angry Gamergaters with “free-speech” advocates like Milo Yiannopoulos with honest-to-God neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
And these people loved Donald Trump.
“This year Chanterculture found its true hero, who makes it plain that what we’re seeing is a genuine movement: the current master of American resentment, Donald Trump,” Bernstein wrote. “Everywhere you look on ‘politically incorrect’ subforums and random chans, he looms.”  When you combine hyper-partisan media with a group of people who love to clown “normies,” you end up with things like Pizzagate, a patently ridiculous and widely debunked conspiracy theory that held there was a child-pedophilia ring linked to Hillary Clinton somehow. It was just the most bizarre thing in the entire world. And many of the figures in Bernstein’s story were all over it, including several who the current president has consorted with on social media. But Pizzagate was but the most Pynchonian of all the crazy misinformation and hoaxes that spread in the run-up to the election. 
BuzzFeed, deeply attuned to the flows of the social web, was all over the story through reporter Craig Silverman. His best-known analysis happened after the election, when he showed that “in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NBC News, and others.”
But he also tracked fake news before the election, as did other outlets such as The Washington Post, including showing that Facebook’s “Trending” algorithm regularly promoted fake news. By September of 2016, even the Pope himself was talking about fake news, by which we mean actual hoaxes or lies perpetuated by a variety of actors.

The longevity of Snopes shows that hoaxes are nothing new to the internet. Already in January 2015, Robinson Meyer reported about how Facebook was “cracking down on the fake news stories that plague News Feeds everywhere.”

What made the election cycle different was that all of these changes to the information ecosystem had made it possible to develop weird businesses around fake news. Some random website posting aggregated news about the election could not drive a lot of traffic. But some random website announcing that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump definitely could. The fake news generated a ton of engagement, which meant that it spread far and wide.A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia.
Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine, Facebook is “like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize.” No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.“
Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year,” Read wrote. And we haven’t even gotten to the Russians.Russia’s disinformation campaigns are well known.
During his reporting for a story in The New York Times Magazine,  Adrian Chen sat across the street from the headquarters of the Internet Research Agency, watching workaday Russian agents/internet trolls head inside. He heard how the place had “industrialized the art of trolling” from a former employee. “Management was obsessed with statistics—page views, number of posts, a blog’s place on LiveJournal’s traffic charts—and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines,” he wrote.  Of course they wanted to maximize engagement, too!
There were reports that Russian trolls were commenting on American news sites. There were many, many reports of Russia’s propaganda offensive in Ukraine. Ukrainian journalists run a website dedicated to cataloging these disinformation attempts called StopFake. It has hundreds of posts reaching back into 2014.

A Guardian reporter who looked into Russian military doctrine around information war found a handbook that described how it might work. “The deployment of information weapons, [the book] suggests, ‘acts like an invisible radiation’ upon its targets: ‘The population doesn’t even feel it is being acted upon. So the state doesn’t switch on its self-defense mechanisms,’” wrote Peter Pomerantsev.

As more details about the Russian disinformation campaign come to the surface through Facebook’s continued digging, it’s fair to say that it’s not just the state that did not switch on its self-defense mechanisms. The influence campaign just happened on Facebook without anyone noticing.

As many people have noted, the 3,000 ads that have been linked to Russia are a drop in the bucket, even if they did reach millions of people. The real game is simply that Russian operatives created pages that reached people “organically,” as the saying goes. Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, pulled data on the six publicly known Russia-linked Facebook pages. He found that their posts had been shared 340 million times. And those were six of 470 pages that Facebook has linked to Russian operatives. You’re probably talking billions of shares, with who knows how many views, and with what kind of specific targeting. 

The Russians are good at engagement!  Yet, before the U.S. election, even after Hillary Clinton and intelligence agencies fingered Russian intelligence meddling in the election, even after news reports suggested that a disinformation campaign was afoot, nothing about the actual operations on Facebook came out. In the aftermath of these discoveries, three Facebook security researchers, Jen Weedon, William Nuland, and Alex Stamos, released a white paper called Information Operations and Facebook.  “We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam, and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people,” they wrote.

One key theme of the paper is that they were used to dealing with economic actors, who responded to costs and incentives. When it comes to Russian operatives paid to Facebook, those constraints no longer hold. “The area of information operations does provide a unique challenge,” they wrote, “in that those sponsoring such operations are often not constrained by per-unit economic realities in the same way as spammers and click fraudsters, which increases the complexity of deterrence.” They were not expecting that.

Add everything up. The chaos of a billion-person platform that competitively dominated media distribution. The known electoral efficacy of Facebook. The wild fake news and misinformation rampaging across the internet generally and Facebook specifically.  The Russian info operations.  All of these things were known.

And yet no one could quite put it all together: The dominant social network had altered the information and persuasion environment of the election beyond recognition while taking a very big chunk of the estimated $1.4 billion worth of digital advertising purchased during the election. There were hundreds of millions of dollars of dark ads doing their work. Fake news all over the place.
Macedonian teens campaigning for Trump. Ragingly partisan media infospheres serving up only the news you wanted to hear.
Who could believe anything? What room was there for policy positions when all this stuff was eating up News Feed space? Who the hell knew what was going on? As late as August 20, 2016, the The Washington Post could say this of the campaigns:

Hillary Clinton is running arguably the most digital presidential campaign in U.S. history. Donald Trump is running one of the most analog campaigns in recent memory. The Clinton team is bent on finding more effective ways to identify supporters and ensure they cast ballots; Trump is, famously and unapologetically, sticking to a 1980s-era focus on courting attention and voters via television.

Just a week earlier, Trump’s campaign had hired Cambridge Analytica.

Soon, they’d ramped up to $70 million a month in Facebook advertising spending. And the next thing you knew, Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director, is doing the postmortem rounds talking up his win.

“These social platforms are all invented by very liberal people on the west and east coasts,” Parscale said. “And we figure out how to use it to push conservative values. I don’t think they thought that would ever happen.”And that was part of the media’s problem, too.
Before Trump’s election, the impact of internet technology generally and Facebook specifically was seen as favoring Democrats.
Even a TechCrunch critique of Rosen’s 2012 article about Facebook’s electoral power argued, “the internet inherently advantages liberals because, on average, their greater psychological embrace of disruption leads to more innovation (after all, nearly every major digital breakthrough, from online fundraising to the use of big data, was pioneered by Democrats).” Certainly, the Obama tech team that I profiled in 2012 thought this was the case.
Of course, social media would benefit the (youthful, diverse, internet-savvy) left.  And the political bent of just about all Silicon Valley companies runs Democratic.  For all the talk about Facebook employees embedding with the Trump campaign, the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, sat with the Obama tech team on Election Day 2012.
In June 2015, The New York Times ran an article about Republicans trying to ramp up their digital campaigns that began like this: “The criticism after the 2012 presidential election was swift and harsh: Democrats were light-years ahead of Republicans when it came to digital strategy and tactics, and Republicans had serious work to do on the technology front if they ever hoped to win back the White House.”

University of North Carolina journalism professor Daniel Kreiss wrote a whole (good) book, Prototype Politics, showing that Democrats had an incredible personnel advantage. Drawing on an innovative data set of the professional careers of 629 staffers working in technology on presidential campaigns from 2004 to 2012 and data from interviews with more than 60 party and campaign staffers,” Kriess wrote, “the book details how and explains why the Democrats have invested more in technology, attracted staffers with specialized expertise to work in electoral politics, and founded an array of firms and organizations to diffuse technological innovations down ballot and across election cycles.”

Which is to say: It’s not that no journalists, internet-focused lawyers, or technologists saw Facebook’s looming electoral presence—it was undeniable—but all the evidence pointed to the structural change benefitting Democrats. And let’s just state the obvious: Most reporters and professors are probably about as liberal as your standard Silicon Valley technologist, so this conclusion fit into the comfort zone of those in the field. By late October, the role that Facebook might be playing in the Trump campaign—and more broadly—was emerging.
Joshua Green and Issenberg reported a long feature on the data operation then in motion. The Trump campaign was working to suppress “idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans,” and they’d be doing it with targeted, “dark” Facebook ads. These ads are only visible to the buyer, the ad recipients, and Facebook. No one who hasn’t been targeted by then can see them. How was anyone supposed to know what was going on, when the key campaign terrain was literally invisible to outside observers? Steve Bannon was confident in the operation. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” Bannon told them. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Issenberg and Green called it “an odd gambit” which had “no scientific basis.” Then again, Trump’s whole campaign had seemed like an odd gambit with no scientific basis. The conventional wisdom was that Trump was going to lose and lose badly. In the days before the election, The Huffington Post’s data team had Clinton’s election probability at 98.3 percent. A member of the team, Ryan Grim, went after Nate Silver for his more conservative probability of 64.7 percent, accusing him of skewing his data for “punditry” reasons. Grim ended his post on the topic, “If you want to put your faith in the numbers, you can relax. She’s got this.”

Narrator: She did not have this. But the point isn’t that a Republican beat a Democrat. The point is that the very roots of the electoral system—the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest—had been destabilized.
In the middle of the summer of the election, the former Facebook ad-targeting product manager, Antonio García Martínez, released an autobiography called Chaos Monkeys. He called his colleagues “chaos monkeys,” messing with industry after industry in their company-creating fervor. “The question for society,” he wrote, “is whether it can survive these entrepreneurial chaos monkeys intact, and at what human cost.”
This is the real epitaph of the election.The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn’t just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of “dark ads.
”The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook.
And so, during the most significant shift in the technology of politics since the television, the first draft of history is filled with undecipherable whorls and empty pages.
Meanwhile, the 2018 midterms loom.
Update: After publication, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, sent an email describing some of the work that Facebook is doing in response to the problems during the election.
They include new software and processes “to stop the spread of misinformation, click-bait and other problematic content on Facebook.”
“The truth is we’ve learned things since the election, and we take our responsibility to protect the community of people who use Facebook seriously.  As a result, we’ve launched a company-wide effort to
improve the integrity of information on our service,” he wrote. “It’s already translated into new products, new protections, and the commitment of thousands of new people to enforce our policies and standards… We know there is a lot more work to do, but I’ve never seen this company more engaged on a single challenge since I  joined almost 10 years ago.”



…………this one should have legs…….comments should abound….or not…….




………Hey Denver! …..What’s happening ?….

……..big changes now……….big changes coming……

Cranes tower over the new Riverview ...
Cranes tower over the Riverview building under construction in the 1700 block of Platte Street as Denver’s skyline continues to change.

The public’s mixed feelings about Amazon relocating here underscores the depths to which Coloradans are growing wary of the state’s booming population.

Colorado’s growing pains: From roads to water, here are 5 key issues as the state’s population swells

 At a recent town hall meeting on the state’s population growth, House Speaker Crisanta Duran paused a moment to take an informal poll: How many in the audience, the Denver Democrat asked, want Amazon to bring its mammoth second headquarters and 50,000 jobs to Colorado? And how many have concerns?

By a show of hands, the crowd was split, almost neatly in two.

The mixed feelings about 50,000 high-paying jobs underscores the depths to which Coloradans — many of whom may be transplants themselves — are growing wary of the rising costs of the state’s prosperity.

The same growth that has brought Colorado good jobs, new amenities and, for a time, the country’s lowest unemployment rate has also driven housing prices through the roof and choked city streets and state highways.

And there’s no end in sight. State demographers expect Colorado to add another 2.2 million people by 2040. That, by historical standards, is slow, steady growth, but it still represents a 39 percent jump from the 5.6 million people who live here today.

So far, there’s little indication that Colorado will be any better equipped to deal with future growth than with the people it already has. Housing prices continue to grow. Traffic continues to slow. And warnings about the state’s deficiencies in these and other areas have so far led to few dramatic actions by state leaders.

“I think there’s a lot more that we should be doing and thinking about,” Duran said at the meeting.

Here are a few of the most pressing challenges that policy and political experts say the state will face in the coming decades:

Traffic of Interstate 25Traffic moves along Interstate 25 near Colorado Boulevard in Denver on March 14, 2016.

Traffic troubles

Building the transportation grid needed to move 2.2 million more people over the next 20 years would be a tall order on its own. But the reality is even worse — Colorado’s roads don’t have the capacity to support the people the state has already gained.

The stats are sobering. Since 2007, Colorado has gained 800,000 people. Yet, despite ample warning from top leaders, the state spends less on roads today than it did then. As a result, far from expanding roads to accommodate more vehicles, the Colorado Department of Transportation barely has enough revenue to maintain the roads it already has.

In 2015, CDOT projected needs of roughly $46 billion through 2040 — more than double the $21.1 billion it expects to collect. Against that backdrop, the legislature’s 2017 deal on roads — $1.9 billion in long-term financing, some of which will come out of CDOT’s own budget — offers little assurance that things will get better before they get worse.

The political challenges run deep. Ideological differences torpedoed a more ambitious funding effort earlier this year. The two sides even disagree on how the money should be spent.

On the left, advocates say Coloradans need more options — mass transit, bike lanes, even better sidewalks — which could unclog the roads for everyone else. But funding for alternate modes of transportation has long been a political hot button — many drivers don’t see the benefit of funding services they don’t use, particularly when the roads are underfunded already.

“I see those as challenging transitions because people don’t want to give up cars while transit is not robust, but making transit more robust means you lose parking and you lose lanes and things get worse in the short term,” said Sara Chatfield, an assistant political science professor at the University of Denver.

Views of the large pool and ...
Views of the large pool and expansive pool deck replete with grilling areas, outdoor fireplaces and places to lounge by the pool at the Union Denver apartments on June 22, 2017 in Denver.

Unaffordable housing

If traffic congestion is a top gripe directed at newcomers, the cost of housing isn’t far behind.

For years, metro Denver’s housing market has been among the hottest in the country, and it’s not clear how soon people can expect to see relief.

Construction has picked up since the Great Recession, but Elizabeth Garner, the state demographer, says there are still fewer new units being built today than in the past.

“Even though people think we’re doing a lot of building, it’s not as much as we think we are,” Garner said. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, she said, Colorado was building 40,000 to 60,000 housing units a year. In 2016, despite record demand, just 30,000 new units came online.

So far, policy solutions have been scattershot around the state. After a number of municipalities passed similar ordinances at the local level, state lawmakers this year approve a measure aimed at stimulating the state’s dormant condominium market, but it’s not clear if it alone will have a major impact.

In many cities, efforts are underway to encourage density and create more affordable housing. Denver’s long-range planning effort contains prescriptions for both, and city officials hope to raise $150 million for affordable housingthrough property taxes and a new fee on developers. But housing advocates worry that’s not enough to meet the enormous need.

Growing older

Even as young people are moving to Colorado in droves, state officials are bracing for an unprecedented demographic shift in the other direction.

“Even though people talk a lot about the influx of millennials, really the population that is growing and that we’re really concerned about is the over-65 population,” Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said in an interview. “We know that they’re going to create unprecedented demand.”

The numbers are jarring: From 2010 to 2025, the number of people retiring is expected to increase by 74 percent, compared with only a 27 percent increase in the workforce over the same period. By 2030, the state’s senior population is projected to increase by 508,000 — 68 percent over recent levels.

People make less and spend less in retirement, meaning less tax revenue for the state government. Meanwhile, seniors typically need more in public services, ranging from health care to transit.

A report commissioned by state lawmakers in 2016 urged policymakers to begin taking a number of immediate steps to prepare — but so far, the General Assembly hasn’t taken any significant actions in response to the report. Gov. John Hickenlooper did adopt one of the report’s recommendations in September, announcing a new position in his office: a senior adviser on aging.

Visitors spend a hot morning out on the water at the Aurora Reservoir on Aug. 24, 2017 in Aurora.
Visitors spend a hot morning out on the water at the Aurora Reservoir on Aug. 24, 2017 in Aurora.

Water worries

The trouble with people flocking to natural beauty is this: the more people that Colorado has, the harder it’ll be to preserve nature.

Air quality has long been a concern — particularly at high elevations, where a little pollution can go a long way. Global warming and development have combined to make wildfires more hazardous than in the past. And in the future, Colorado could face a more existential environmental threat than even climate change.

“The Rocky Mountain West was not meant to be a highly populated area,” says Tony Robinson, who chairs the political science department at the University of Colorado at Denver. “There simply is not enough water in the West to sustain the kind of growth rates that are going on.”

Conservation efforts are already underway, but many believe it’ll take more than simply using less. Technology will have to advance, as well, or Colorado may face some hard decisions about water rights.

“What worries me the most is that our population would just explode and we would start de-watering agricultural land for the benefit of municipalities,” said state Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose.

The good news on both pollution and water-use fronts? Hoping for “technological miracles,” as Robinson puts it, may not be all that far-fetched.

“We are actually using less water and emitting less carbon into the air than we were 20 years ago,” he said.

A growing divide

It’s hard to imagine a starker divide between urban and rural Colorado than the one that exists today, but projected growth patterns don’t promise much relief, either.

Most of the growth — and, with it, most of the jobs, income and political clout — will be concentrated along the Front Range, under the state demographer’s projections.

“The future will be crafted by the new demographic that is urban,” said Robinson, the political science professor, who studies growth. “There will be deep fissures. We can expect social divisions, political divisions, hostility between these two groups.”

As urban areas do well, Robinson believes policymakers “need to be considering strategies to tie the health of Denver to the health of the whole region and the whole state.”

By | brianeason@denverpost.com | The Denver Post


……………HERE WE GO……


…..Trump and the Art of Irrational Provocation….

Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations left behind an ambiguity about his plans for using nuclear weapons.

A day or so after a nuclear weapon was used during wartime, on Hiroshima, a Herald Tribune editorialist considered the “still hardly credible fact” that a “small instrument,” dropped on a “dense population center,” brought about “what must without doubt be the greatest simultaneous slaughter in the whole history of mankind.” That atomic bomb and a second one dropped, on Nagasaki, three days later, killed more than a hundred thousand people, most of them non-combatants. A third was ready to go, but President Harry Truman called it off. Former Vice-President Henry Wallace, then the Commerce Secretary, recalled Truman telling him that “the thought of wiping out another hundred thousand people was too horrible. He didn’t like the idea of killing, as he said, ‘all those kids.’ ” A little more than seven years later, in 1952, the first thermonuclear weapon, almost five hundred times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was tested near the Enewetak Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. Truman addressed that test in his final State of the Union message, writing that “the war of the future would be one in which man could extinguish millions of lives at one blow, demolish the great cities of the world, wipe out the cultural achievements of the past—and destroy the very structure of a civilization that has been slowly and painfully built up through hundreds of generations. Such a war is not a possible policy for rational men.” That’s been the rational outlook of American Presidents ever since.

Whether or not Donald Trump, the current American President, is a rational man, not long ago he threatened to commit the greatest act of mass killing in human history, far surpassing the toll from Hiroshima. That came on the morning of September 19th, at the United Nations, an organization founded in the last century in order that, as Trump’s speechwriter put it, “diverse nations could coöperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.” To be precise, what Trump said was that “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” after which he added that “Rocket Man”—the name he’s given to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un—“is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” Since then, Trump has insulted N.F.L. players (and the league itself) for peaceful protests against racial injustice; supported a losing senatorial candidate in Alabama (and then deleted his tweets expressing that support); and, last weekend, disparaged the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a proven way to deflect attention from his inattention, in that case to a major natural disaster affecting the lives of more than three million Americans.

Deflection is Trumpian tactic. The U.N. speech, though, has not receded into the deflected past, leaving behind its offhand ambiguity. What did “forced to defend itself or its allies” mean? Rather than say that the United States would strike back if North Korea actually attacked the United States, which never needs to be said, he chose to say something fuzzy, almost unintelligible, on a subject that demands clarity. Perhaps he just wanted to remind the world that a nation with overwhelming nuclear superiority could easily wipe out—“completely destroy”—a nation of twenty-five million people, with a vastly inferior arsenal, and probably do so in just a few minutes. But who needed that sort of reminder?

Trump seems to enjoy provoking Kim, a dangerous and easily provoked young man, uttering the sort of thing, as Evan Osnos wrote on Sunday, “perfectly engineered to trigger Kim’s paranoia and animosity.” As if the phrase “completely destroy” weren’t enough, a few days later, on September 23rd, Trump tweetedtweeted!—“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” What kind of threat was that? It came from the same President who recently said, “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more Presidential than any President that’s ever held this office.” It was therefore not wholly surprising to hear Kim respond by vowing to “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

One can only imagine how such name-calling might have affected the most dangerous nuclear moment of the twentieth century—the Cuban Missile Crisis, of October, 1962, when the Soviet Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev both believed that a vital strategic interest was as stake, but both were nonetheless determined to avoid a war. What if Kennedy, while insisting that the missiles be removed, had taunted Khrushchev as “Fat Nick,” or if Khrushchev, refusing, had called Kennedy a “spoiled punk”? If such language could have nudged the world even a tiny step closer to war, how would history, and morality, have judged that behavior?

The nation, and the world, have learned to shrug off a lot of what Trump says, if only because, soon enough, he says something else, or seems to forget what it was that he said in the first place—which, in the end, erases meaning from much of the record. But it’s the existence of thermonuclear weapons—which today have perhaps three thousand times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb—that makes Trump’s irrational outbursts unacceptable, even indecent. How long can rationality go missing before sheer lunacy steps in to take its place?


….A prison newsroom mourns its former editor in chief…

 ……recently released ………….then killed in a crash…

Down past the prison yard, where blue lilies grow near a fence topped with barbed wire, the men who manage one of the nation’s only inmate-run newspapers were mourning.

The front page of their next edition would mark the death of Arnulfo Garcia, who had been their editor in chief — and so much more.

Garcia had come to San Quentin State Prison as a heroin addict and burglar. He had transformed himself over more than 16 years into a beloved leader and living, breathing symbol of hope and redemption.

At the prison, they called him jefe because he ran the San Quentin News. They called him pachuco because in his youth he used to walk with such swagger. They loved his dry chili peppers, which he carried in his pocket and passed out to them like candy.

And they felt such hope for him when he walked out to freedom in July, full of big plans for not just his but their future.

He was deep into those plans two months after his release when he got in a car with his sister. She was driving. They were in a crash. Both were killed.

Garcia was a three-striker whose sentence was cut for good behavior from 65 years to 16. He used to tell men serving decades for robberies, assaults and murders to focus not on getting out of the infamous penitentiary but on becoming better men — men who moved forward and thought big.

“It takes a team to make it to the moon,” he used to say.

And they had faith in his goals, no matter how grandiose — to reform the criminal justice system, to end gang violence, to turn a fledgling newspaper into an award-winning publication.

Out in the yard, prisoners divide by color — blacks with blacks, whites with whites — but in the old laundry room turned newsroom, Garcia led a mix of men whose sole focus was telling stories and putting out the paper.

That work continued on a recent afternoon.

Jesse Vasquez, a staff writer serving 30 years to life for attempted murder, placed a thermos with Garcia’s favorite tea out on the pavement near the newsroom’s front door to ferment in the hot sun, the way Garcia taught him. Jonathan Chiu, in for first-degree murder, pieced together the paper’s crossword puzzle. And Richard Richardson, long and lanky like Snoop Dogg, bent over his computer pushing himself to finish his toughest assignment yet: Garcia’s obituary.

Richardson, who goes by Bonaru, serving time for home robbery, took over as editor after Garcia left. The two were best friends, he said.

“He taught me how to be a man, how to be a father, to be responsible and accountable for my actions.”

‘Drop that monkey off your back’

Garcia, who was 65 when he died, was in and out of jail for nearly 50 years.

He spent part of his childhood picking prunes on a farm in Northern California and as he grew up became a heroin addict. When he was busted for home robbery in the 1990s and faced 123 years in prison, he skipped bail and fled to Mexico.

His mother pleaded with him. Quit drugs, have a child, settle down.

“Drop that monkey off your back,” Carmen Garcia told him. “Then I can die in peace.”

Garcia did what his mother asked in the countryside of Mexico, working on a farm, staying clean. He met someone, and they had a daughter and named her Carmen.

But eventually his past caught up with him. He was arrested and sent to San Quentin.

In his 6-by-10 cell, he started writing. He told his life story and the stories of other inmates expelled from society because they killed their wives, shot up gang rivals, robbed gas stations, peddled drugs.

Garcia wrote thousands of words — now scattered in notebooks, on flash drives and pieces of toilet paper.

“He was a listener, someone you could talk to about your secrets and your sadness and the harm that you’ve done to others,” said his brother Nick, who also served time at San Quentin.

For years, Garcia had brushed aside his mistakes. “I blamed my father, the police, the probation office, the D.A., the judges,” he wrote in a 2014 column. “I blamed everyone but myself.”

Writing, he said, brought a new kind of clarity. “I came full circle to the realization that the person responsible for my situation was me.”

When he and Richardson began working in the prison’s print shop, Garcia didn’t even know how to turn on a computer. But they used to listen to the chatter of reporters and editors nearby in the newsroom.

“They’d be arguing about what story to run on the front page,” Richardson said. “And we’d get in there and tell them our opinion.”

The prison newspaper was just revving up again then. A prison warden had brought it back to life, after more than 20 years. It ran on donations, as it does now, and the help of journalists on the outside.

Garcia was hired on as a writer in 2009 and began spending more and more time there. Two years later, he was editor in chief.

He saw in the San Quentin News an opportunity not just to give prisoners a voice but to educate them about prison programs they could use to improve themselves. He published stories about inmates doing yoga, putting on Shakespeare plays, getting paroled after participating in rehab programs, showing remorse for their crimes.

He once wrote about how three inmates saved a correctional officer as he choked on a piece of steak.

Garcia’s paper featured soul-searching profiles and editorials critical of budget cuts and prison conditions. He invited in district attorneys and judges, for forums to update them on life at the prison.

Bob Ayers, the warden who brought back the newspaper, said Garcia didn’t just want a publication that squashed prison gossip. He wanted to do serious, respected journalism.

“While I may have plugged in the lamp, which was the resurrected San Quentin News,” he said. “Arnulfo tweaked it until it became a beacon.”

Garcia did so under strict supervision. The newsroom had no internet access. Each story was carefully vetted.

By the time he left prison, the San Quentin News was printing 28,000 copies, distributed to 35 prisons run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Wall City,” the quarterly magazine he dreamed up, was nearly a reality. The first volume, full of inmates’ stories, was just about to go to press.

A brave new vision

The morning of the crash, Nick Garcia, who had also been paroled, spoke to his brother on the phone.

Arnulfo was at a gas station in Hollister. He sounded excited.

His biggest plan was to build a reentry home with a full treatment center, somewhere in the countryside, a place where newly freed prisoners could acclimate themselves to life outside the walls.

He had the support of officials at public safety agencies, social workers and several prosecutors, including those who had once locked him up. His family planned to help him pay for it.

He and his sister Yolanda were on their way to check out a possible property.

The crash occurred minutes after the brothers hung up. Police say Yolanda Garcia missed a stop sign. Her car was hit first by an SUV, then by a big rig.

Brother and sister died at the scene.

‘This one’s hard to take’

At San Quentin, a weekly support group helps prisoners manage their day-to-day anger.

Garcia once led the group. Now those who came were grief-stricken.

In a high-ceiling room that was nonetheless airless, they sat in a circle and took turns saying goodbye.

“Arnulfo, you pulled one on us, man,” said one inmate, his face slick with tears. “This one’s hard to take.”

“Many times I wanted to quit,” said another, staring at the floor. “You told me, ‘Come on, let’s go’”

“I appreciate you,” said Fateen Jackson, 41, “because you saw value in me.”

Lucia de la Fuente, one of the group’s coordinators, told the inmates that Garcia had squeezed every last bit of his two months of freedom. Barbecues, shopping trips with his daughter. Food — lots of great food.

De la Fuente said it made him so happy, he texted her photos of his beans, his scrambled eggs and Mexican sausage.

“He was abundant in every single way,” de la Fuente said.

She got her final text from him three days before the crash, she said.

He was coming over the Bay Bridge at sundown.

The light, he told her, was so beautiful.



….Smartphone Dystopia….Our Minds Can Be Hijacked…..

Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet.

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.

Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.

In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform. Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.

It was Rosenstein’s colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook “like”, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost. Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook “likes” and other addictive feedback loops. She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesn’t have to.

Justin Rosenstein, the former Google and Facebook engineer who helped build the ‘like’ button: ‘Everyone is distracted. All of the time.’
Justin Rosenstein, the former Google and Facebook engineer who helped build the ‘like’ button: ‘Everyone is distracted. All of the time.’ 

“One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says. It may or may not be relevant that Rosenstein, Pearlman and most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.

It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organiser Nir Eyal.

Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”. “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.

Attendees of the 2017 Habit Summit might have been surprised when Eyal walked on stage to announce that this year’s keynote speech was about “something a little different”. He wanted to address the growing concern that technological manipulation was somehow harmful or immoral. He told his audience that they should be careful not to abuse persuasive design, and wary of crossing a line into coercion.

But he was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs. “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said. He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods. “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said. “Of course that’s what tech companies will do. And frankly: do we want it any other way?”

Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology. He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”.

Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”

But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?

Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. “All of us are jacked into this system,” he says. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”

Harris, who has been branded “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives.

A graduate of Stanford University, Harris studied under BJ Fogg, a behavioural psychologist revered in tech circles for mastering the ways technological design can be used to persuade people. Many of his students, including Eyal, have gone on to prosperous careers in Silicon Valley.

Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, is now a critic of the tech industry: ‘Our choices are not as free as we think they are.’
Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, is now a critic of the tech industry: ‘Our choices are not as free as we think they are.’ 

Harris is the student who went rogue; a whistleblower of sorts, he is lifting the curtain on the vast powers accumulated by technology companies and the ways they are using that influence. “A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today,” he said at a recent TED talk in Vancouver.

“I don’t know a more urgent problem than this,” Harris says. “It’s changing our democracy, and it’s changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships that we want with each other.” Harris went public – giving talks, writing papers, meeting lawmakers and campaigning for reform after three years struggling to effect change inside Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

It all began in 2013, when he was working as a product manager at Google, and circulated a thought-provoking memo, A Call To Minimise Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention, to 10 close colleagues. It struck a chord, spreading to some 5,000 Google employees, including senior executives who rewarded Harris with an impressive-sounding new job: he was to be Google’s in-house design ethicist and product philosopher.

Looking back, Harris sees that he was promoted into a marginal role. “I didn’t have a social support structure at all,” he says. Still, he adds: “I got to sit in a corner and think and read and understand.”

He explored how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network; how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.

The techniques these companies use are not always generic: they can be algorithmically tailored to each person. An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”. Such granular information, Harris adds, is “a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person”.

Tech companies can exploit such vulnerabilities to keep people hooked; manipulating, for example, when people receive “likes” for their posts, ensuring they arrive when an individual is likely to feel vulnerable, or in need of approval, or maybe just bored. And the very same techniques can be sold to the highest bidder. “There’s no ethics,” he says. A company paying Facebook to use its levers of persuasion could be a car business targeting tailored advertisements to different types of users who want a new vehicle. Or it could be a Moscow-based troll farm seeking to turn voters in a swing county in Wisconsin.

Harris believes that tech companies never deliberately set out to make their products addictive. They were responding to the incentives of an advertising economy, experimenting with techniques that might capture people’s attention, even stumbling across highly effective design by accident.

A friend at Facebook told Harris that designers initially decided the notification icon, which alerts people to new activity such as “friend requests” or “likes”, should be blue. It fit Facebook’s style and, the thinking went, would appear “subtle and innocuous”. “But no one used it,” Harris says. “Then they switched it to red and of course everyone used it.”

Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The company’s famous ‘likes’ feature has been described by its creator as ‘bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’.
Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The company’s famous ‘likes’ feature has been described by its creator as ‘bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’. 

That red icon is now everywhere. When smartphone users glance at their phones, dozens or hundreds of times a day, they are confronted with small red dots beside their apps, pleading to be tapped. “Red is a trigger colour,” Harris says. “That’s why it is used as an alarm signal.”

The most seductive design, Harris explains, exploits the same psychological susceptibility that makes gambling so compulsive: variable rewards. When we tap those apps with red icons, we don’t know whether we’ll discover an interesting email, an avalanche of “likes”, or nothing at all. It is the possibility of disappointment that makes it so compulsive.

It’s this that explains how the pull-to-refresh mechanism, whereby users swipe down, pause and wait to see what content appears, rapidly became one of the most addictive and ubiquitous design features in modern technology. “Each time you’re swiping down, it’s like a slot machine,” Harris says. “You don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s a beautiful photo. Sometimes it’s just an ad.”

The designer who created the pull-to-refresh mechanism, first used to update Twitter feeds, is Loren Brichter, widely admired in the app-building community for his sleek and intuitive designs.

Now 32, Brichter says he never intended the design to be addictive – but would not dispute the slot machine comparison. “I agree 100%,” he says. “I have two kids now and I regret every minute that I’m not paying attention to them because my smartphone has sucked me in.”

Brichter created the feature in 2009 for Tweetie, his startup, mainly because he could not find anywhere to fit the “refresh” button on his app. Holding and dragging down the feed to update seemed at the time nothing more than a “cute and clever” fix. Twitter acquired Tweetie the following year, integrating pull-to-refresh into its own app.

Since then the design has become one of the most widely emulated features in apps; the downward-pull action is, for hundreds of millions of people, as intuitive as scratching an itch.

All of which has left Brichter, who has put his design work on the backburner while he focuses on building a house in New Jersey, questioning his legacy. “I’ve spent many hours and weeks and months and years thinking about whether anything I’ve done has made a net positive impact on society or humanity at all,” he says. He has blocked certain websites, turned off push notifications, restricted his use of the Telegram app to message only with his wife and two close friends, and tried to wean himself off Twitter. “I still waste time on it,” he confesses, “just reading stupid news I already know about.” He charges his phone in the kitchen, plugging it in at 7pm and not touching it until the next morning.

“Smartphones are useful tools,” he says. “But they’re addictive. Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is addictive. These are not good things. When I was working on them, it was not something I was mature enough to think about. I’m not saying I’m mature now, but I’m a little bit more mature, and I regret the downsides.”

Not everyone in his field appears racked with guilt. The two inventors listed on Apple’s patent for “managing notification connections and displaying icon badges” are Justin Santamaria and Chris Marcellino. Both were in their early 20s when they were hired by Apple to work on the iPhone. As engineers, they worked on the behind-the-scenes plumbing for push-notification technology, introduced in 2009 to enable real-time alerts and updates to hundreds of thousands of third-party app developers. It was a revolutionary change, providing the infrastructure for so many experiences that now form a part of people’s daily lives, from ordering an Uber to making a Skype call to receiving breaking news updates.

Loren Brichter, who in 2009 designed the pull-to-refresh feature now used by many apps, on the site of the home he’s building in New Jersey: ‘Smartphones are useful tools, but they’re addictive ... I regret the downsides.’
Loren Brichter, who in 2009 designed the pull-to-refresh feature now used by many apps, on the site of the home he’s building in New Jersey: ‘Smartphones are useful tools, but they’re addictive … I regret the downsides.’ 

But notification technology also enabled a hundred unsolicited interruptions into millions of lives, accelerating the arms race for people’s attention. Santamaria, 36, who now runs a startup after a stint as the head of mobile at Airbnb, says the technology he developed at Apple was not “inherently good or bad”. “This is a larger discussion for society,” he says. “Is it OK to shut off my phone when I leave work? Is it OK if I don’t get right back to you? Is it OK that I’m not ‘liking’ everything that goes through my Instagram screen?”

A few years ago Marcellino, 33, left the Bay Area, and is now in the final stages of retraining to be a neurosurgeon. He stresses he is no expert on addiction, but says he has picked up enough in his medical training to know that technologies can affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use. “These are the same circuits that make people seek out food, comfort, heat, sex,” he says.

All of it, he says, is reward-based behaviour that activates the brain’s dopamine pathways. He sometimes finds himself clicking on the red icons beside his apps “to make them go away”, but is conflicted about the ethics of exploiting people’s psychological vulnerabilities. “It is not inherently evil to bring people back to your product,” he says. “It’s capitalism.”

That, perhaps, is the problem. Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist who benefited from hugely profitable investments in Google and Facebook, has grown disenchanted with both companies, arguing that their early missions have been distorted by the fortunes they have been able to earn through advertising.

He identifies the advent of the smartphone as a turning point, raising the stakes in an arms race for people’s attention. “Facebook and Google assert with merit that they are giving users what they want,” McNamee says. “The same can be said about tobacco companies and drug dealers.”

That would be a remarkable assertion for any early investor in Silicon Valley’s most profitable behemoths. But McNamee, 61, is more than an arms-length money man. Once an adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, 10 years ago McNamee introduced the Facebook CEO to his friend, Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google executive who had overseen the company’s advertising efforts. Sandberg, of course, became chief operating officer at Facebook, transforming the social network into another advertising heavyweight.

McNamee chooses his words carefully. “The people who run Facebook and Google are good people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific unintended consequences,” he says. “The problem is that there is nothing the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon their current advertising models.”

Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. One venture capitalist believes that, despite an appetite for regulation, some tech companies may already be too big to control: ‘The EU recently penalised Google $2.42bn for anti-monopoly violations, and Google’s shareholders just shrugged.’
Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. One venture capitalist believes that, despite an appetite for regulation, some tech companies may already be too big to control: ‘The EU recently penalised Google $2.42bn for anti-monopoly violations, and Google’s shareholders just shrugged.’ Photograph: Ramin Talaie for the Guardian

But how can Google and Facebook be forced to abandon the business models that have transformed them into two of the most profitable companies on the planet?

McNamee believes the companies he invested in should be subjected to greater regulation, including new anti-monopoly rules. In Washington, there is growing appetite, on both sides of the political divide, to rein in Silicon Valley. But McNamee worries the behemoths he helped build may already be too big to curtail. “The EU recently penalised Google $2.42bn for anti-monopoly violations, and Google’s shareholders just shrugged,” he says.

Rosenstein, the Facebook “like” co-creator, believes there may be a case for state regulation of “psychologically manipulative advertising”, saying the moral impetus is comparable to taking action against fossil fuel or tobacco companies. “If we only care about profit maximisation,” he says, “we will go rapidly into dystopia.”

James Williams does not believe talk of dystopia is far-fetched. The ex-Google strategist who built the metrics system for the company’s global search advertising business, he has had a front-row view of an industry he describes as the “largest, most standardised and most centralised form of attentional control in human history”.

Williams, 35, left Google last year, and is on the cusp of completing a PhD at Oxford University exploring the ethics of persuasive design. It is a journey that has led him to question whether democracy can survive the new technological age.

He says his epiphany came a few years ago, when he noticed he was surrounded by technology that was inhibiting him from concentrating on the things he wanted to focus on. “It was that kind of individual, existential realisation: what’s going on?” he says. “Isn’t technology supposed to be doing the complete opposite of this?”

That discomfort was compounded during a moment at work, when he glanced at one of Google’s dashboards, a multicoloured display showing how much of people’s attention the company had commandeered for advertisers. “I realised: this is literally a million people that we’ve sort of nudged or persuaded to do this thing that they weren’t going to otherwise do,” he recalls.

He embarked on several years of independent research, much of it conducted while working part-time at Google. About 18 months in, he saw the Google memo circulated by Harris and the pair became allies, struggling to bring about change from within.

Williams and Harris left Google around the same time, and co-founded an advocacy group, Time Well Spent, that seeks to build public momentum for a change in the way big tech companies think about design. Williams finds it hard to comprehend why this issue is not “on the front page of every newspaper every day.

“Eighty-seven percent of people wake up and go to sleep with their smartphones,” he says. The entire world now has a new prism through which to understand politics, and Williams worries the consequences are profound.

The same forces that led tech firms to hook users with design tricks, he says, also encourage those companies to depict the world in a way that makes for compulsive, irresistible viewing. “The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.”

That means privileging what is sensational over what is nuanced, appealing to emotion, anger and outrage. The news media is increasingly working in service to tech companies, Williams adds, and must play by the rules of the attention economy to “sensationalise, bait and entertain in order to survive”.

Tech and the rise of Trump: as the internet designs itself around holding our attention, politics and the media has become increasingly sensational.
Tech and the rise of Trump: as the internet designs itself around holding our attention, politics and the media has become increasingly sensational. 

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, many were quick to question the role of so-called “fake news” on Facebook, Russian-created Twitter bots or the data-centric targeting efforts that companies such as Cambridge Analytica used to sway voters. But Williams sees those factors as symptoms of a deeper problem.

It is not just shady or bad actors who were exploiting the internet to change public opinion. The attention economy itself is set up to promote a phenomenon like Trump, who is masterly at grabbing and retaining the attention of supporters and critics alike, often by exploiting or creating outrage.

Williams was making this case before the president was elected. In a blog published a month before the US election, Williams sounded the alarm bell on an issue he argued was a “far more consequential question” than whether Trump reached the White House. The reality TV star’s campaign, he said, had heralded a watershed in which “the new, digitally supercharged dynamics of the attention economy have finally crossed a threshold and become manifest in the political realm”.

All of which, Williams says, is not only distorting the way we view politics but, over time, may be changing the way we think, making us less rational and more impulsive. “We’ve habituated ourselves into a perpetual cognitive style of outrage, by internalising the dynamics of the medium,” he says.

It is against this political backdrop that Williams argues the fixation in recent years with the surveillance state fictionalised by George Orwell may have been misplaced. It was another English science fiction writer, Aldous Huxley, who provided the more prescient observation when he warned that Orwellian-style coercion was less of a threat to democracy than the more subtle power of psychological manipulation, and “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”.

Since the US election, Williams has explored another dimension to today’s brave new world. If the attention economy erodes our ability to remember, to reason, to make decisions for ourselves – faculties that are essential to self-governance – what hope is there for democracy itself?

“The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,” he says. “If politics is an expression of our human will, on individual and collective levels, then the attention economy is directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on.” If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point, I ask, at which democracy no longer functions?

“Will we be able to recognise it, if and when it happens?” Williams replies. “And if we can’t, then how do we know it hasn’t happened already?”

by in San Francisco

The Guardian


………………we don’t……………………..w

…The Funniest (and most brutal) Horoscope You Will Ever Read About Your Zodiac Sign…

Keep in mind, this is just for fun. No complaining!


Aries have ramlike eyebrows and smug expressions. They should not be quite so smug because they are constantly clunking themselves in the skull. Cat Stevens’ “Hard Headed Woman” was probably an Aries. Aries rarely say one thing and do another. They usually do the wrong thing and don’t discuss it. Never point this out to an Aries unless you want your kidneys pulled out through your sinuses. Aries folks love Pisceans because Pisces people make them feel well-grounded. Aries love to laugh at the funny moon-people who suck their thumbs at age 35. Aries use guns to describe philosophical concepts. Whether you live in a palatial estate or a cardboard tepee, you will insist until death that it is exactly what you always wanted. Most Aries were concrete parking bumpers in at least two of their past lives. Aries are never born. They skip gaily from their mothers’ wombs. This may even involve rollerblades. The Aries makes life decisions as a toddler. Aries marry several times for funnies but never divorce. Their spouses have many freak accidents resulting in death or crippling injury. Being infallible, God is probably an Aries. This would make Satan an Aquarius. Aries always hold management positions. If one is assigned to clean toilets, he will form a one-man union. Then he will go and picket in the parking lot. All of you think you’re Lech Walesa. People run away when an Aries comes around. They know that if they do not, the Aries will set them on fire. Aries hate listening to Scorpios talk because they take pride in being even more self-centered. In fact, much to the Scorpios’ dismay, you are the biggest pricks in the zodiac. Your rams’ horns are in everyone else’s asses.



You are brooding emotion incarnate. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down, the next you’ve shot your favorite newscaster in the kneecaps, “just ‘cuz.”. You’re very earthy, which may mean that you don’t shower as often as most people. Or it may just mean that you like to roll around with your nose in clover and sigh. Taureans love happy movies where everyone is jolly and having fun, but they fight with waiters and get upset with billboards. They like to psychoanalyze their friends but have no real experience with life in general. Taureans mumble while describing philosophical concepts. The Taurus is a strange bird because he or she holds grudges about things that never actually happened. This may stem from the feelings of inadequacy resulting from being beaten out for first in line in the zodiac by Aries. That is the Taurean self-image, always second best. However, they are undoubtedly the best at feeling like second best. All Taureans want to be God. Unfortunately, God is an Aries. You are generally tough to figure out because you answer every question with a question. Also, you won’t come out from under the bed. Most Taureans love conflict. If nothing is wrong, then that in itself is something wrong. Some especially like bar fights. If they can’t get into an actual bar fight, they will make up interesting stories about them which they can tell their friends right before they psychoanalyze them. If it weren’t for Bazooka Joe and The Family Circus, Taureans wouldn’t know what to do. You feel that you are going nowhere in life. You are probably right. Milwaukee is full of Taureans. Taureans are impatient and pushy. They are in a tremendous hurry to get to the nowhere that they intend to go to. They make little dioramas of their homes, complete with tiny effigies of the people they know, and act out scenarios of the way things would be if they were God.


Everyone loves a Gemini because everyone loves a schizophrenic. You like to think that you are a half-and half mixture of Socrates and Michelangelo, but in reality it’s more like Prince and Bea Arthur. You are progressive, outgoing, and one of the most popular rides at Cedar Point. However, you can and will negate all of this by the time you’re finished reading this sentence. Geminis drive funny cars. They often drive them into trees or buildings. Geminis are pushy and overbearing. They pick fights with small children and moon people at weddings. They like to use Libras as punching bags. A bisexual Gemini is a walking double date. The rest are hermaphrodites. Geminis vandalize their own houses. Geminis use far-fetched analogies to describe philosophical concepts. Geminis rarely compete in the Olympics. When they do, it is usually pool or air hockey. Frogger turns up as well. Geminis are always on some sort of medication. This medication is not always legal. Gemini is Latin for “I’m okay, I’m okay.” Geminis speak very loudly in order to be heard. This is unfortunate as they are nearly always talking to themselves. In fact, they often pick animated arguments with themselves in the bathtub. The most famous Gemini in history is Orville and Wilbur Wright. Geminis are frequently abidextrous, which means that they can pick both sides of their noses at the same time. The Gemini is essentially nothing more than a paranoid Aquarius.



You like to know what’s going on in the lives of everyone in the galaxy. However, you tend not know know what’s going on in your own. If you are lucky, your friends will tell you. Cancerians only get dressed because they have to, and their fashion sense can only be described as “erratic.” You are more likely than any other sign in the zodiac (except Pisces, who does not iron) to iron your clothes by sleeping with them sandwiched between the mattress and box-spring. Likewise, you can stretch one pair of underwear out for almost a month. Your home is like your very own Biodome, and you can remain indoors for months at a time. Despite your need to be everyone’s savior, you need no social interaction. SWAT teams often show up, mistakenly thinking there’s a hostage situation. A Cancer is like a walking Ladies’ Home Journal, quick on the draw with shortcake recipes and helpful hints on how to talk to your teen. Whether they know it or not, they are all born with an exceptional talent for cross-stitch. So much for buying the world a Coke – they would breast-feed the world if they could. This trait is not gender-specific. You will never excel in sports because you have to rest for fifteen minutes every time you breathe. You do not mind, since you plan to conduct your career from the comfort of your own bed. You maintain your questionable health through a steady diet of Ho-Ho’s and beer. You also imbibe a great deal of Pepto-Bismol in order to confuse your numerous ulcers. People walk on you often. Actually, not often – all the time. If you think someone is screwing you, you’re probably right. The most entertaining thing about this is that you like it. You strive to be a doormat. Cancerians coin their own words to describe philosophical concepts. This is why it is no surprise that George W. Bush is a Cancer. Cancerians have minimal influence over their friends, even though they show up with homemade soup to remedy every minor or major tragedy. However, they wield their power through the fact that they know what everyone is thinking at any given time. This is why they are never invited to parties. Cancerians claim to be “tactful”. The word for this is actually “shiftless”. Cancerians are always appointed to take their drunken, drooling friends home. These friends are usually Pisceans


You will grab attention in any way you possibly can. Self-immolation is not out of the question. You like to kiss mirrors a lot. Genghis Khan was a Leo, and so is Barney the Dinosaur. People still love Lucy, but less because she was a Leo. Leos will interrupt conversation to talk, and they will place themselves bodily in the way of someone who is trying to leave before the Leo is finished saying what he or she needs to say. All Leos want parades on their birthdays. Leos never marry because no one is good enough for them. If they do marry, they keep their spouses locked under the bathroom sink. They need physical affection at all times; unfortunately, they can’t find any because everyone thinks they are irritating punks. This is why so many of the people arrested for necrophilia are Leos. A Leo uses himself as an example of the Overman in order to describe philosophical concepts. Some Leos decide to be homosexual even if they aren’t, because they think this gives them shock value. It actually means that neither gender will want to hook up with them. In actuality, anything besides a romantic evening with themselves is considered a step down for the Leo. Leos open doors by screaming at them. They expect their Clappers to applaud when they enter a room. Leos are said to resemble lions. This means that they are loud, have cleft upper lips and slimy noses, and s**t under trees as they walk. They snack on monkeys while watching “Entertainment Tonight”. Humility frightens Leos. That is why Jesus was a Capricorn, Buddha was an Aries, and so forth. However, “radical cult leader” is not out of the question. Leos like to start fights with Aries. They will stomp and bloody each other regardless of whether or not they are in public. In fact, the Leos usually prefer it. You will see these fights taking place at bars, sporting events, fashion shows, or Taco Bell. If you are a clever Capricorn, you will sell tickets. Don’t worry about hanging posters–Leo will take care of that in advance. Aquarians hang posters of rock stars on their walls. Scorpios hang posters of famous disasters on their walls. Capricorns hang posters of great mathematicians on their walls. Pisceans hang posters of unicorns on their walls. Leos hang posters of themselves on their walls.



You are a pain in the ass. You regulate your breathing and color-coordinate the clothes in your closet. No Virgo in history has ever belched. Virgos clean every square inch of everything they own twice daily with a toothbrush. Everything has its place, and yours is on the floor scrubbing with a magnifying glass, checking for germs. Obsessive-compulsive disorder? A nice euphemism for the word “Virgo”. Virgos use pointers and elaborate charts to describe philosophical concepts. You commit a lot of drive-by shootings. When you are questioned, you tell the police that it was because “the bastard had a filthy car”. The police usually let you go because they are Virgos too. It is easy to freak out a Virgo. Tell them they have something between their teeth. Then watch them scrub frantically at the imaginary thing. Virgos are a hell of a lot of fun for assholes like us. Hell for a Virgo is being locked up in an elevator for eternity with a naked Aquarius. That is because in hell, Aquarians are allowed to bring beer, which they leave all over the floor. Virgos, however, have to surrender their brooms and squeegees to God. Virgos also have a hard time coping when they find out there’s something under the fridge. But it’s usually just a depressed Taurus. Virgos have read enough Hints from Heloise to know that the depressed Taurus can be coaxed out from under the fridge with a banana wine cooler. Virgos don’t see the world in shades of black and white. They see it in shades of clean and dirty. Cat hair makes Virgos foam at the mouth. Virgos are cool because they will do your laundry for you. They’ll separate everything by color and fabric until it consists of fourteen loads of three things apiece. Then they will put them in the washer in alphabetical order by name of manufacturer. Virgos are often found opening and shutting the refrigerator door, attempting to trick the light inside. Don’t put cheese where it doesn’t belong in a Virgo’s refrigerator. He or she will go Jack Torrence on your ass. You will be stabbed with a cuticle pusher. Jack Torrence was probably a Virgo in the first half of “The Shining”. After that, he went all Leo.


You are oh-so-elegant and tasteful to the point of incurring nausea from loved ones. You are also bipolar as hell and can’t make a decision on your own. You usually consult your therapist or TV Guide. Libras are trendy and malleable folks. They are funny because they will glom onto something they hated before if it suddenly becomes fashionable. Velour is not entirely lost upon these people. Libras eat a lot of ethnic food from cultures they don’t understand. They single-handedly started the cappucino movement. Ask them why, and they will claim something unintelligible about solidarity. You constantly worry about what other people think. If you really paid any attention, maybe people would like you more. Libras use quotes from David Mamet plays to describe philosophical concepts. Then they have those concepts engraved upon nice little wallet cards. The Libran interest in current events ends with the J. Crew catalog. They don’t eat fast food or have any clue where their trash goes. They have other people tie their expensive shoes. Only two Libras have ever been found in thrift stores. All of their bell-bottoms were color-coordinated to match their lamé turtlenecks. Libras are always on the cutting edge of what the rest of us think is absolute pretentious bulls**t. They have huge collections of CDs they’ve never even listened to. Libras give to designer charities. Hollywood is full of Libras. You are the reason butterfly hairpins and parachute pants have made a comeback. Next on the list is those big jam shorts. You probably never threw out your old pair. Hang on to your Winger t-shirt too. Get a Libra as drunk as possible and he or she will still be able to explain the difference between café latté and café au lait. This is peculiar as the rest of us know that there is no difference at all.


You got into computers early so you could use made-up, bulls**t terminology and get away with it. Most hackers are Scorpios, as are most people who think they’re going to find fame on a chat board. You embarrass Libras because you like your coffee straight out of the bag, eaten with a spoon. You may have actually snorted Chock Full o’ Nuts at one time in your life. You take your paranoid beatnik approach to life very seriously. Many Scorpios have found ways to successfully smoke in the shower. Your number-one grudge is about never having been abducted by aliens, or being the victim of a government conspiracy. Most of those fake virus warnings or cash offers from Bill Gates are your attempt to stir something up. Ironically, Bill Gates is a Scorpio. The fully-automated barracks he lives in should clear up any doubt. Your master plan for world domination will never work because it involves you at the helm. It is hard for you to accept that Star Trek is fiction, and you are not a Borg leader. Scorpios use expletives to describe philosophical concepts. It’s no wonder that Halloween falls smack in the middle of the Scorpio range. This is the only time of year when fake hauntings, sugar-induced hysteria, and impersonating Dr. Who won’t get you arrested. Scorpios have strong sex drives, because it gives them yet another opportunity to smoke. Scorpios have much advice to give on matters that are of no concern to them. If you want to find out if someone is a Scorpio, ask them a pertinent question. Five minutes of silence later, the answer will be “I’m sorry, what?” Scorpios are often hairy and feel that this makes them more virile. This is especially true of Scorpio women. Scorpios cheat at the lottery. If it’s automated, they can hack it.


Sagittarians are born adventurers. They like smashing spiders with their bare hands and trying to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night with the lights out. They would sooner sustain crippling injury than do anything the easy way. Sagittarians love to entertain their friends, family, and total strangers. This often includes transvesticism. Nearly every Sagittarian was born into the wrong gender. Sagittarians are loud and have no social graces. They seek to offend. Sagittarians usually have nicknames like Thunderpooper or Vomitus Maximus. Animals and small children love Sagittarians. This is unfortunate since adults usually hate them. However, Sagittarians make excellent circus freaks and vagrants. Sagittarians use interpretive dance to describe philosophical concepts. Buttons and bumper stickers with rude sayings on them are a trademark of the Sagittarian. They throw food at expensive restaurants and ask lots of questions in the middle of church. Don’t ever bring a Sagittarius home to meet your parents. He or she will tie up your mother and pants your dad. Famous Sagittarians include the Geo Metro. The holiday during which the sun is in Sagittarius is Thanksgiving. This is highly appropriate since everyone eats until they’re sick and passes out while a bunch of cross-dressers and huge inflatable things wander through the streets of New York, the most Sagittarian town in the universe. The Shriners driving around in the tiny little cars are a very Sagittarian image. Even more so if there’s a ridiculously busty woman stuffed into the car as well. A Sagittarius is always a better Madonna than Madonna. Men can pull off sequins, and women can pull off construction helmets. The Sagittarius is incapable of being unhip.


Capricorns are hardworking, reliable, and dull as hell. They are always on the move, headed to their next delusion of grandeur. They are often good at math which explains why they are such pains in the ass. René Descartes was a great mathematician and a crappy philosopher, so he must have been a Capricorn. Stephen Hawking is even more Capricorn because he’s all of the above and a pompous S.O.B. to boot. Sure, he’s overcome a lot of obstacles etc. etc., but even in perfect health you can’t overcome being a Capricorn. Most politicians are Capricorns, which is why our country is always in the hole. It is not surprising that politicians need so much security around them all the time. Capricorns are like a strange cross between a Leo and a Virgo. They think that this makes them both charismatic and logical. In reality, it means that they are tight-assed and nitpicky, and have to keep their egos in the backyard. In the event of nuclear war, only cockroaches and Capricorns would find a way to survive. The rest of us just don’t want to live in a world like that. The nation’s cockeyed system of toll roads was probably designed by a freakin’ Capricorn. They learn how to screw the public over at an early age. Their parents buy them books of law for Christmas so they can underline the loopholes. Capricorns cannot even fathom, much less describe, philosophical concepts because they don’t involve equations. (See comments about Descartes and Hawking above) Capricorns own lots of Filofaxes and other tools to organize the lives they do not have. They love to be seen talking on their cell phones. These phones are not actually turned on because Capricorns don’t have any friends to call. Capricorns went out of style in 1989. They still believe that Trump was a visionary. Most of the people arrested for counterfeiting are Capricorns


The Aquarius loves a party. Anytime, anywhere is their motto. It is not unlikely that an Aquarius will consider a wake a good place to meet chicks. Aquarians tend to be nostalgic about the 1960s because that was the last time they could be naked in public and get away with it. Aquarians love to be naked. It is even better if they are naked and crocked. 97.4% of the Night Train consumed in the past thirty years has been consumed by Aquarians. Almost every Aquarian will claim to have seen Jerry Garcia’s image in their Froot Loops at least once. Froot Loops is a very Aquarian cereal. So is Rice Krispies, since it will engage in a friendly chat with the Aquarian as he or she is eating breakfast. Count Chocula is off-limits, however. It belongs to the Scorpios. Aquarians are the only people in the zodiac who can play volleyball with themselves. And they frequently do. Aquarians use the phrase “Dude, man…” frequently when describing philosophical concepts. Aquarians have out-of-body experiences on a daily basis. If you are talking to an Aquarian and he or she zones out, consider the conversation hopeless. He or she is talking to the guy three feet away from you. Aquarians are fun because they channel people. Plus, if you tell them to, they will run around naked. Aquarians like astronomy because they’ve been to all those places. If you want to know what the food is like on Saturn, ask an Aquarius. They can also walk on water if they try really really hard. This usually happens in the bathtub. Aquarians can allow themselves every possible vice on the planet, and don’t think twice about it. That is why they piss everyone else off. They are cosmically entitled to do this. Most rock stars are Aquarians.


Everywhere you go, laughter and comedy ensue. This would be great if you were trying to be funny. You are deeply confused by the idea of sex. As far as you are concerned, if it didn’t happen in “The Velveteen Rabbit”, it doesn’t exist. Piscean women wear long floaty dresses and enormous amounts of unusual silver jewelry. On hikes. Pisceans claim to love the stars, but the only constellation they can find is the Big Dipper. If they cannot find it, they cry. You remember what you were wearing on March 3rd, 1981 but forget your own address. You have no sense of direction. The people you find going in reverse at 70 m.p.h. on the expressway are usually Pisceans. Pisceans are most likely to die by falling out of a window or getting run over by a truck. That is, of course, unless they live with a Cancer. Pisceans are so zoned and perpetually endangered that they can bring out the maternal instincts of a Leo. Don’t be fooled, however; many Pisceans can surprise you by kicking your ass and the asses of your four imaginary friends. While Leos tend to achieve the most fame in the field of entertainment, Pisceans strive to achieve historical greatness by sheer fluke. They are proud to tell you that Michelangelo, Galileo, George Washington, and Albert Einstein, none of whom had an agent, were all Pisceans. What they won’t tell you is that so is Ted Kennedy. Pisceans claim to want “honest criticism” of their work. Then they commit hara-kiri on the floor when you say you don’t like it. Never try to use logic with a Pisces; he or she is living about three feet off of the natural ground or in Narnia. Their tools of debate are non-sequiturs, quotes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and, of course, crying. It wouldn’t matter what linguistic devices Pisceans use to describe philosophical concepts because they aren’t positive they know what they’re talking about anyway. You cry over dead animals in the road but feel no remorse about mowing down humans you don’t like. Cancerians say one thing and do another. Scorpios say one thing and do it just for spite. Pisceans say far too much and do whatever the hell they want.

Via AstrologyWeek


………..if this ain’t fun….I don’t want none!…………w

….Why ‘Fake News’ is a Threat to Real Journalism – and Democracy…

………….I couldn’t pick Dennis Bailey out of a two Bailey line up…….but I’m liking his stuff more every day…….


Quick quiz: Which story is false?
  1. Donald Trump would have won the popular vote if not for the more than three million undocumented immigrants who illegally cast ballots in the 2016 election.
  2. Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower.
  3. Hillary Clinton adopted an alien baby who survived a UFO crash in Arkansas.
  4. Donald Trump got more electoral votes than any president since Ronald Reagan.
  5. The US is the highest taxed nation in the world.
  6. Hillary Clinton sold 30 percent of the US uranium supply to Russia in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Give up?

They’re all false. Every one of them. There are no facts or evidence to back up any of these claims. They’re not even debatable. They are all indisputably false.

And yet every one of them (except number three) was the subject of a tweet or repeated statements by the President of the United States. Think about that. Millions of people heard or read about the president of the United States saying these words as if they were true. And his disinformation was repeated throughout the conservative media echo chamber – Fox and Friends, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, InfoWars, etc.  Even more people saw and shared them on social media sites like Facebook, Reddit. Twitter and 4chan.

They’re all fake, but I can almost guarantee that Trump supporters will be emailing me shortly to passionately defend most of them. And they’ll likely call me an idiot and asshole for good measure. These are the same people who claim there is something “very fishy” about the death of former Clinton advisor Vince Foster (even Trump believes it), suggesting that he was murdered, maybe by the Clintons themselves, to keep him from talking.

In fact, there’s nothing fishy about it at all. It was suicide, and five official investigations have confirmed it.

Now these same people have moved on to Seth Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered in Washington, DC last year in what the police say was a botched robbery attempt. That doesn’t stop the right-wing conspiracy mob from weaving a fantasy that Rich was again murdered by the Clintons or someone in the Democratic Party because he leaked those famous DNC emails to WikiLeaks or the Russians.

No he didn’t, and there’s not a single shred of evidence to suggest otherwise. But try telling that to the true believers on the right who eagerly swallow these outlandish, evidence-free claims like a bag of M&Ms. For the right, they have become articles of faith – immutable and incontrovertible. And if you don’t believe them, you’re just part of the swamp, the “deep state,” a Clinton apologist, or worse a “libtard.”

I used to believe, naively, that all one had to do to convince a fake news believer to change his tune was to show him the facts, the contrary evidence from a respected news source. Nope. The purveyors of fake news don’t really care if they’re not true, or don’t want to know. All they know is the stories conform to what they believe, and they’ll keep posting and retweeting them even after they’ve been proven false. Besides, to a trafficker in fake news, there are no “respected news sources” in the mainstream media, only Breitbart, Fox News or Drudge, or even shadier sites like DailyWire, The Gateway Punditand Truth Feed News.

The fake news generated by these sites and others has so infected the national dialogue that we can no longer have intelligent, meaningful debates about important issues because the various sides can’t agree on basic facts. The venomous distrust of our once honored institutions – government, law enforcement, politicians, corporations, the news media – along with hyper-partisanship have combined to create a malignancy that has eroded faith in the very foundations of America itself. Make America Great Again? How is that possible if so many of its citizens believe it’s corrupt to its core, that all the elected leaders on one side lie, that its most respected news organizations are mere propaganda tools and aren’t telling the truth?

With the recent revelation of thousands of bogus accounts on Facebook by Russian operatives working to upset the 2016 election, the fake news phenomenon threatens more than just our national discourse and legitimate journalism. It’s a threat to democracy itself. The evidence may soon show that without Russian interference, Donald Trump would not be president, and that’s a scary thought. A foreign adversary may have been a decisive factor in installing its choice for “leader of the free world.”

And with Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of some of the most outlandish fake news conspiracy stories – and his total disregard and utter contempt for the entire Russian interference plot – we are moving deeper down the rabbit hole toward an Orwellian, authoritarian United States that only a few years ago would have been considered unthinkable.

How did we get here?

First let’s define “fake news.” The term has become so frequently used by Trump and his fans to blast any story they don’t like that it has lost all meaning. Fake news isn’t news articles that contain errors. Reporters often make errors, always have, and they usually correct them. Bad journalism is bad journalism. It isn’t fake news.

“Fake news” means articles on websites and other channels that have the look and feel of traditional news, but are deliberately fake or untrue. They are advocacy pieces, designed to persuade, incite or turn viewers and readers for or against a person or cause. They don’t serve the public interest, as good journalism does, they serve a narrow interest of the author (or in many cases their financial backers). Often thinly sourced or not sourced at all, the stories are highly clickable, shareable, and often end up going viral. Think “Pizzagate,” a fake news story about a supposed child-sex ring operated by Clinton and her aides out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Washington, DC. Evidence for this was supposedly contained in coded messages in the DNC emails that were leaked to WikiLeaks.

Crazy, you say? Who could possibly believe such nonsense, right? But after the story bounced around the Internet for months (including a retweet from Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of Trump’s national security advisor), one poll found that 46% of Trump supporters believed it. Forty. Six. Percent. Never mind that the basement below the pizza parlor where these child-slaves were confined doesn’t even exist. Almost half of Trump’s voters believed it because they wanted to believe it.

It’s called “confirmation bias,” and we’re all guilty of it: searching, interpreting, favoring or recalling information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypothesis. If you believe that Hillary Clinton is the human manifestation of Beeizebub, the web is a beautiful thing because articles or blog posts that support are is just a click away.

Truth, on the other hand, is harder to find. It means setting aside your bias, considering opposing views, and fairly evaluating evidence and the people or institutions offering it. Who does that anymore? Most people like and share news articles on Facebook without even reading past the headlines.


Fake news is nothing new. Remember those supermarket tabloids with screaming headlines about Bigfoot and Bat-boy? That alien baby story in the quiz was an actual cover story of the old Weekly World News. As crazy as those stories were, there was an audience that believed them, just as today they believe in nutty stories like Pizzagate. I remember working one night at a newspaper when I got a call from a very irate reader asking why we didn’t have the results of the latest professional wrestling match on the sports pages. My attempt to explain that Chief Jay Strongbow was really just an entertainer not an athlete didn’t go well.

People aren’t any more gullible than they were then. What’s different today is the extreme cultural and political divide that has widened in this country in just the past several years, coupled with the way most of us get our news – from what we used to call the World Wide Web, that enormous digital stew of data, news and information that is both a blessing and a curse. Everything you want to know, and a lot you don’t, is literally at your fingertips. But there is almost no way to tell if what you’re reading is from a legitimate news organization or from some pasty-faced techno-nerd living in his mother’s basement. Or maybe it’s from a Russian agent.

Not surprisingly, a disproportionate number of tweets about Pizzagate originated in the Czech Republic and other countries, and some of the most frequent retweeters were bots – automated software applications that can spread tweets and Facebook posts at higher rates than are humanly possible. Research has shown that in the last few months of the 2016 presidential campaign, fake news stories like Pizzagate that were overwhelmingly negative toward Hillary Clinton were shared far more often than stories from the New York Times, CNN or any other legitimate news source.

That’s the danger of fake news. It has overwhelmed us.

Russia is years ahead of us in understanding how accepting people can be of fake news on the web, and how it can be weaponized. We were sitting ducks, too arrogant to believe that we would ever fall for the kind of Cold War propaganda methods the Soviet Union employed on its own people for decades. No, we are much too intelligent, worldly and literate to fall for state-sponsored disinformation campaigns aimed at manipulating the news and controlling its citizens. Or so we thought.

Russia didn’t believe it either. As Patryk Babiracki, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, recently wrote, “The Soviet government never dreamed that millions of patriotic Americans would read — and believe — Pravda. But as Russian-generated stories zip around the Internet and through conservative media circles, propaganda is proving to be an effective tool to undermine the values and cohesion of the West.”

Remember: 48% of Trump voters believed Hillary Clinton was operating a sex-slave ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor. Russia is winning. And we have a president who doesn’t understand the threat, doesn’t believe it or doesn’t care, and won’t lift a finger to do anything about it.

By Dennis Bailey – The Savvy Blog

The Savvy Blog

September 26, 2017


………………………so whatcha thinking kids?…take al the time you need…………………..w




Remember Me Thursday Tribute

…….Remembering Einstein myself……..

Tails Around the Ranch

Today we remember all the pets waiting at shelters everywhere and pray they find their loving fur-ever homes. We’ve done our part trying to rescue these precious babies with our own little Ninja. But before her, both the sheepdogs came to us from Denver’s Dumb Friends League at different times. Eliot was found roaming on the streets of a very rough neighborhood known more Rottweilers or Pit Bulls. He was picked up and transferred to DDFL. We discovered quickly that he was a fence jumper but resolved the issue by providing him a safe and escape proof home where he never roamed the streets again. Eliot lived with me over 12 years and provided me with love and laughter like I’ve never known. Who knew dogs could be such pawsome comedians?

Continued and frequent visits to Dumb Friends, two years following Eliot’s rescue, another Old English Sheepdog who had been…

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…..Taking the Long View: The ‘Forever Legacy’ of Climate Change…..

Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.

A century or two from now, people may look back at our current era — with its record-breaking high temperatures year after year, rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and gradually rising sea levels — as part of a much cooler and far more desirable past.

The spate of extreme weather events in the past month — which have devastated America’s fourth-largest city, Houston; spawned a massive hurricane that tore through the Caribbean and Florida; and swamped large swaths of India and Bangladesh — may well be a prelude to more monster hurricanes, Biblical rain events, and coastal inundations brought about by extreme weather and vastly higher sea levels.

If getting the public, the media, and politicians to pay attention to what might happen to our planet in 2100 seems hard enough, it’s even more difficult to focus on how high — according to the latest research — sea levels may be only a couple of centuries in the future.  Yet recent findings lend urgency to the need to contemplate what the world might look like 200 or 300 years from now if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control. “Urgent” may seem like a wildly inappropriate word when applied to such a long span of time, but the truth is that humanity’s continuing failure to bring our enormous carbon emissions under control will have planet-altering impacts that could continue not just for hundreds, but thousands, of years.

Why are we so concerned about the long-term threats global warming may pose to the stable climate that has nurtured human civilization over the past 10,000 years? Because by looking at previous eras of high, naturally occurring carbon emissions and cycles of glaciation and deglaciation, we can see what may well be in store for the earth should human-generated carbon emissions continue on a business-as-usual trajectory. And what’s coming down the road in but a few generations will be determined by the inescapable laws of chemistry and physics: Temperature increases lag behind C02 emissions, a crucial fraction of which can persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years. In turn, sea level increases lag well behind temperature increases. The end result is that the world’s oceans can be expected to continue rising for many thousands of years even after temperatures stabilize.

The sea level increases we’re accustomed to seeing today — rising at 1.2 inches per decade, considerably faster than 50 years ago — may well jump to several inches per decade in a century. But that will just be the beginning.

Early stages of irreversible glacial collapse in Greenland and Antarctica indicate that considerably more rapid rise might be in store, although it’s impossible to say exactly when this might occur.

The geological record indicates that seas might have risen in the distant past at truly astounding rates — one foot per decade for centuries. Nothing remotely like that has been known in recorded human history. Yet having happened before, and given current greenhouse gas emissions trends, one can’t say that such epic rates, or higher, won’t happen again.

Long-term global mean sea-level change for the past 20,000 years (black line) and projections for the next 10,000 years, based on four possible carbon emission scenarios (1,280, 2,560, 3,840, and 5,120 gigatons). The illustration shows current and projected ice sheet extent on Greenland and Antarctica. CLARK ET AL. 2017.

These possibilities ought to be part of the calculus in decisions about energy, coastal development, and economic policy. Being blind to what the future will look like centuries from now ignores science. Sea level increases will not just miraculously stop in 2100, often our current end-year for forecasting. Indeed, sea level rise may be fast accelerating around then, especially in high-carbon scenarios.

Research indicates that steadily accelerating sea level rise is possible and can become unstoppable for millennia because inertia in the climate system is enormous; a 2016 paper in Nature Climate Change, for example, indicated that sea levels could rise, far in the future, roughly 80 to 170 feet.

Given current trends, keeping to the stated Paris Agreement goal of warming by no more than about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) looks quite unlikely.This is to say nothing of what the world might look like in 2200, 2300, or after, if global temperatures rise 7 to 10 degrees F over today’s levels, a realistic projection given current emissions trends. Such a climate would be scarcely recognizable.

Catastrophic storms and vastly higher sea levels aside, temperatures 7 to 10 degrees F hotter than today’s would wreak havoc with the oceans, agriculture, and, in the warmest parts of the world, go beyond human endurance.

How big an impact would such a jump in temperatures have on the planet in the coming centuries? Consider this: A temperature increase of 7 to 12.6 degrees F (4 to 7 degrees C) is what separates today’s “ideal climate” from the dramatic conditions of the last Ice Age, which peaked about 26,000 years ago.  At the height of the last Ice Age, ice sheets covered much of the northern hemisphere and piled up over some parts of North America to a depth of a mile or more.

Although we will unquestionably have a less hospitable climate in 2100 than today, that will be nothing compared to what might lie in store in 2200 and beyond. Yes, in 2100, sea levels might be three or more feet higher than today, which will be bad for low-lying nations like Bangladesh and U.S. states like Florida. But if greenhouse gas emissions continue at roughly today’s levels for another century, that may mean that sea levels 500 years from now would be nearly 50 feet higher as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt. That would mean losing large swaths of coastal areas worldwide. This is not alarmism; this is where the science takes us.

Given current and projected greenhouse gas emissions, we are looking at nothing less than creating a “forever legacy,” imposing monumental changes on the planet that can’t be readily unwound in a timeframe meaningful to our species.

We are, at best, now thinking decades into the future, while pressing our foot hard on a CO2 accelerator that virtually guarantees climate chaos for millennia to come. That’s why the issue of considering the long-term costs we might be imposing on the planet is every bit as much a moral issue as a scientific one: Because of our collective failure to rapidly decarbonize the global economy and slash CO2 emissions, we are poised to leave future generations a grim legacy of climate upheaval.

So what is the way out? If there were a simple path, we’d already be following it. Opponents of strong action to curb greenhouse gas emissions say that this is alarmism, highly uncertain, and that to aggressively pursue a low-CO2 path would be onerous and cause widespread economic damage. Most countries are either, by default, choosing inaction or are moving far too slowly to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But as renewable energy experts, we believe climate change presents opportunities: for cleaner air, new industries, job growth, and stronger economies.

Many solutions are well-known and are readily at hand. The first step might be enacting simple and transparent carbon taxes that begin to reflect true current and long-term costs of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere — costs that are in no way factored into the present-day global economy. It would be much smarter to tax “bads” like climate-changing greenhouse gases, than “goods” like work and productivity. That is what truly conservative, pro-growth, pro-jobs policies ought to look like.

Then there is carbon accounting across the public sector — including with the companies that want to do business with the government — and divestment of fossil fuel assets on the part of pension funds and financial institutions, as well as entities in the private, non-profit, and educational sectors. This is already happening in Northern Europe as renewables are simply growing much more attractive than dirty fossil fuels. And we need initial government support for clean-energy industries, as well as long-term funding for research and development on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and battery technologies.

We could also invest in technologies like “direct air capture” that might eventually employ millions of devices to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. But counting on “silver bullet” solutions to save us is not a sound strategy. These technologies use energy to operate themselves, and the scale of the challenge is immense, which is why we must immediately take concrete steps to drastically lower global emissions.

There is some reason for hope. Numerous European Union countries including Germany, and several U.S. states such as California, are making steady progress toward decarbonizing their economies. China is doing a lot more lately, though far, far more is needed. Sizeable segments of the private sector — including tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft — are choosing clean energy solutions. But without large-scale coordinated action on many levels across government, academia, and the private sector, our efforts to drastically cut emissions will fall far short of what chemistry and physics demand. The atmosphere and climate do not respond to hopes or aspirations.

It’s not easy for humans to look far into the future; we are accustomed to thinking that every mistake can be undone and that the earth is unchanging. But the stakes with climate change are uniquely so high, and the damages to the planet and society so enormous, that scientists, the press, politicians, and the public need to peer a few centuries down the road and imagine what kind of world we will be leaving to our descendants.

Rob Wilder is member emeritus of the Director’s Council at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He is a Fulbright Senior Specialist and Chairs the Advisory Committee for WilderHill Clean Energy Index (ECO). MOREABOUT ROB WILDER →

Dan Kammen is a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley where he chairs the Energy and Resources Group, and is a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. MOREABOUT DAN KAMMEN →


…………………TIC TOC TIC TOC…………………………w


. TheBestOfTimes #GSS @straight_arrow

…18 Major Moments In Hispanic History That All Americans Need To Know…

Hispanic-American history is American history.

From the first explorations into North America nearly a century before Jamestown to the banning of Mexican-American Studies in Arizona, here are 18 Latino historical events that every American should know.

    • 1 Cabeza De Vaca

      Getty Images

      What Happened: Hispanics, including mestizos, indigenous and Afro-descended people from the area today known as Mexico, explored North America almost a century before the British first founded Jamestown.

      Why It Matters: Hispanics aren’t foreigners in this country. Latinos, particularly those with Mesoamerican roots, have deeper roots in North America than those with other European backgrounds.

    • 2 Los Angeles Founded In 1781

      JOE KLAMAR via Getty Images

      What Happened: A group of Spaniards, Afro-Latinos, indigenous people and mestizos setting out from colonial-era Mexico traveled into California and founded the city of Los Angeles.

      Why It Matters: As of July 2014, Los Angeles is the city with the country’s largest Hispanic population, at nearly 5 million.

    • 3 José Martí Lived In New York City


      What Happened: Poet, revolutionary and Cuban nationalist José Martí spent four years in New York City, where he wrote for both English- and Spanish-language newspapers, developing ideas that would influence his thinking about the often tense relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.

      Why It Matters: Martí was one of Latin America’s greatest intellectuals, earning him a statue in front of Central Park in Manhattan.

    • 4 U.S. Extends Citizenship To Puerto Ricans In 1917


      What Happened: Perhaps not for the most altruistic of reasons, the United States extended both citizenship and, shortly after, military conscription to Puerto Rico in 1917, as World War I raged on in Europe.

      Why It Matters: Puerto Ricans are American just like anyone born in the 50 states.

    • 5 First Hispanic U.S. Senator

      What Happened: Octaviano Larrazolo of New Mexico became the first Hispanic elected to the U.S. Senate. As a politician, he pushed to boost Hispanic representation so that the political system would reflect the state’s population. He also helped write portions of the state’s constitution guaranteeing that people of Mexican descent wouldn’t be disfranchised.

      Why It Matters: Because score Team Latino!

    • 6 Mendez v. Westminster Decided


      What Happened: Before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the courts ruled it unconstitutional to segregate students of Mexican heritage into inferior schools. The plaintiff, Sylvia Mendez, sued after being turned away from a “whites only” public school in California.

      Why It Matters: The 1947 decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals helped pave the way for Brown v. Board of Education and played a key role in making school segregation illegal. This undated image provided by the U.S. Postal Service shows a 41-cent postage stamp, to be released Friday, Sept. 14 in Santa Ana, California, commemorating the 1946 court decision, Mendez v. Westminster School District, that paved the way for the nation’s school desegregation.

    • 7 The Longoria Affairs Shook Texas Politics In 1948


      What Happened: Private Felix Longoria was killed in the Philippines as World War II came to an end. When his body was recovered and returned to his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, the director of the funeral home forbad the family from using the chapel because he feared white residents would disapprove.

      The G.I. Forum, a civil rights organization led by Hector P. Garcia, organized a campaign that caught the attention of then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson. He arranged for Longoria to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

      Why It Matters: This repudiation of anti-Mexican-American sentiment stands as a milestone in the march toward the guarantee of Latinos’ civil rights.

    • 8 The Cuban Revolution Comes To Power In 1959

      Imagno via Getty Images

      What Happened: Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and its sharp leftward turn within the next two years, Fidel Castro established a Communist government that remains in place today.

      Why It Matters: More than one million Cubans left the island as the Revolution became more radical, with most of them settling in Miami, Florida, a city they transformed. Subsequent waves of Cubans migrated to the United States in the 1980s, with the Mariel boatlift, and the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union upended the island’s economy.

  • 9 Delano Grape Pickers Strike Of 1965-1970

    (AP Photo)

    What Happened: In 1965, Filipino and Latino farmworker unions joined in a strike, and later a boycott of grapes in the Delano area of California to protest poor conditions. The five-year campaign ultimately succeeded in forcing the grape producers to sign union contracts.

    Why It Matters: This early victory helped secure the place of the United Farm Works and its leader Cesar Chavez, all of whom were key players in the Latino civil rights movement.

  • 10 Zoot Suit Riots


    What Happened: In the 1940s, tensions in California rose between Chicanos and the Anglo sailors living there. Authorities viewed many young Chicanos, who favored baggy zoot suits, as criminals. Sailors went around beating them up. The tensions eventually erupted into a week of rioting in June 1943, when some 200 sailors descended upon Los Angeles and severely beat several “pachucos,” at times stripping the suits from their bodies. The violence was met with indifference from police.

    Why It Matters: The Zoot Suit Riots stand as a prominent example of the discrimination faced by the Mexican-American community that offers context for the Latino civil rights movement.

  • 11 The Killing Of Ruben Salazar


    What Happened: During a riot in 1970, police shot prominent journalist Ruben Salazar with a tear gas canister while he was drinking a beer at the Silver Dollar Bar and Cafe in Los Angeles, killing him.

    Why It Matters: Salazar was one of the great Mexican-American journalists of his time, who covered local politics with the same vigor as he covered foreign wars. His killing is viewed by many as a symbol of the injustices committed against the Chicano community in California.

  • 12 Roberto Clemente Helps Change MLB History


    What Happened: A champion of black and Hispanic rights who began his career before the end of segregation, Roberto Clemente was the first Latino in professional baseball to reach 3,000 hits. He played in two World Series, winning MVP in the 1971 games.

    “My greatest satisfaction comes from helping to erase the old opinion about Latin Americans and blacks,” Clemente said toward the end of his career. He died in a plane crash in 1972 while delivering supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake.

    Why It Matters: The trailblazing Puerto Rican-born ballplayer not only built a stellar career, but also acted as politically conscious representative of the Latino community at a time when professional sports included few Hispanics. Score Team Latino!

  • 13 1986 Immigration Reform

    Former President Ronald Reagan (AP)

    What Happened: In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed an immigration reform into law that legalized the status of some 3 million people.

    Why It Matters: It proves that passing comprehensive immigration legislation is possible.

  • 14 NAFTA Signed In 1994


    What Happened: Mexico, the United States and Canada signed a free trade agreement in 1994 that reduced trade barriers between the three countries.

    Though money was allowed to cross borders more freely, people were not. Millions of Mexican farm workers lost their jobs as cheap U.S. imports put Mexican farms out of business. Many of those migrants eventually wound up in the United States.

    Why It Matters: Many Americans think that Latinos leave their countries of origin in order to pursue the American dream. In fact, economic policies that dry up Latin American jobs drive illegal immigration more than the intangible lure of a foreign lifestyle.

  • 15 Prop 187


    What Happened: California Gov. Pete Wilson (R) championed this draconian referendum that would have made it illegal to provide public services, including schools and hospitals, to undocumented immigrants. Challenged in the courts, the law never went into effect.

    Why It Matters: Prop 187 paved the way for a long series of anti-immigrant legislation championed by nativists generally allied with the Republican Party. These laws, that many Latinos view as an attack on their communities, help to explain why the GOP consistently underperforms among Hispanic voters.

  • 16 Mexican-American Studies Banned In Arizona


    What Happened: Following allegations that an experimental Mexican-American Studies curriculum in Tucson, Arizona politicized students, Republican politicians passed legislation to shut it down. Under pressure from state officials, the local board of education dismantled the program, credited by independent researchers with boosting student achievement and fostering critical thinking skills. A lawsuit challenging the legislation has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Why It Matters: There are those in this country who feel so threatened by Hispanics that they refuse to let us learn our history.

  • 17 Largest Ethnic Group In The Most Populous U.S. State

    FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images

    What Happened: Last year, Latinos became the largest ethnic group in the state of California, overtaking non-Hispanic whites.

    Why It Matters: Latinos constantly deal with the misperception that we’re somehow more foreign than the other immigrant-descended people who live here. In fact, about two-thirds of U.S. Hispanics were born in this country. In places like California or New Mexico, where Latinos are the largest ethnic group, it’s become increasingly impossible to deny that Latinos are as American as everyone else.

  • 18 “The Pill” Trials In Puerto Rico

    Tim Matsui via Getty Images

    What happened: Working class Puerto Rican women were used as human guinea pigs for the birth control pill during the late ‘50s. Many of them were not told the pill was experimental and were unaware of the potential negative side effects. Additionally, their symptoms were often ignored or thought to be psychosomatic. Three women who participated in the trial died. No investigation was ever conducted to see if the pill had caused their deaths.

    Why it matters: The pill is a birth control method most widely used by white women, women in their teens and twenties, never-married and cohabiting women, childless women and college graduates, reports the Guttmacher Institute.




Hispanic-American history is American history.

..the more you know……w


..Why China Won’t Pressure North Korea as Much as Trump Wants…

China’s leaders don’t trust North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un—but they trust President Trump even less.

At the center of the North Korean nuclear crisis is a pivotal question: How much is China really willing to pressure and punish its longtime ally in Pyongyang?

Recent conversations in Beijing and Washington suggest that Chinese leaders have decided to increase pressure substantially but are not—and probably never will be—willing to help President Trump strangle North Korea into submission. China doesn’t trust Kim Jong Un—but it trusts Trump even less.

For decades, China backed North Korea in hostilities with the United States. The fellow Communist armies had fought alongside one another in the Korean War, and North Korea still relies on China for as much as ninety per cent of its overseas trade. In Chairman Mao’s analogy, the two nations were as close as “lips and teeth.”

But that is no longer true; since taking power, in 2011, Kim Jong Un, who is suspicious of China’s efforts to control North Korea or spur it to follow its model of economic reform, has openly antagonized the government in Beijing, including launching rockets that would embarrass the Chinese leadership. (Earlier this month, Kim fired a rocket just as Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, was opening an annual summit of developing countries in the Chinese city of Xiamen.)

By several measures, Chinese leaders have become more willing to get tough with Kim. Until recently, Chinese intellectuals rarely questioned China’s commitment to North Korea. But, in March, Shen Zhihua, one of China’s best-known experts on the Korean War, said, in a speech, “We must see clearly that China and North Korea are no longer brothers-in-arms, and in the short term there’s no possibility of an improvement in Chinese-North Korean relations.” 

The speech circulated widely, without much in the way of official censorship—a sign, to many Chinese analysts, that some of the country’s leaders agree.

When I met Shen last month, in Beijing, he told me, “I think more and more leaders share this view. At a minimum, they think that multiple views should exist.” Shen is a calm, silver-haired scholar who works in a research center at East China Normal University, in Shanghai. As a historian, he believes that long-standing tensions between Beijing and Pyongyang are becoming irreparable. “Officially, they tried to paper over the cracks, but the differences were inevitable,” he said.

Shen does not speak for the leadership or advise powerful officials. Rather, his views should be understood as a reflection of the change that is under way in the Chinese establishment. Of North Korea, he said, “I think China doesn’t care who is running the country. Xi and Kim have not met. It used to be a tradition if there is a new leader, to meet him. But not now.”

Fundamentally, he said, some have come to believe what was once anathema—that North Korea could one day turn its aggression on China: “Many in China don’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons are, first, threatening to China.”

I wondered if Shen was expressing a minority view. When I met Zhao Tong, who specializes in nuclear issues as a fellow at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, I asked him about Shen’s speech. “I think most people would broadly agree,” Zhao said. “It’s not a warm relationship of ‘brothers.’ ” Given that North Korea has continued to test nuclear weapons in the face of Chinese protests, he said, China would not feel automatically compelled to defend North Korea under their mutual-assistance treaty. “Most Chinese would laugh at the proposal that China should provide security guarantees,” he said.

Zhao ticked off examples of China’s new pressures on Pyongyang: “China has stopped coal imports. That’s a big step. It’s stopped supplying diesel and gas. That’s a big step. It has tightened regulations on companies and financial institutions, and the big ones have stopped doing business with North Korea. It’s the smaller ones that are motivated by narrow interests and are still doing business. China has enhanced inspections of goods at the border. They made efforts to help private-sector companies strengthen their export-control practices.”

But, importantly, Zhao added that it would be a mistake to misread those steps as China signing on, wholesale, to American efforts to force North Korea to the edge of collapse—a tactic, favored in Washington, known as “strategic strangulation.” “No, it’s just balancing Trump and Kim Jong Un,” Zhao said. “The reason China agreed to much tougher sanctions is to calm Trump down.” China has strategic tensions of its own with the U.S., so it is keeping both countries off balance.

“It’s basically, ‘Who is the bigger evil?’ For China, the U.S. is always the top geostrategic concern, the top threat.”

Zhao notes that the U.N. sanctions against North Korea that were passed on August 5th, which China supported, stopped short of seeking to undermine trade and humanitarian activities. “They are trying to draw a line between North Korea’s military program and civilian trade. To put more pressure on North Korea, without undermining it. China has been taking the incremental approach,” he said. In Zhao’s view, even though China has agreed to limit oil exports to North Korea, it is unlikely to cut them off entirely, which the Trump Administration believes is a vital step to change Kim’s behavior. “If China remains the sole supplier, meaning Russia won’t step in, I think China would find it very hard to do that,” Zhao said.

There are hard limits to China’s willingness to advance American interests in Asia, because the two powers have deep disagreements—about trade, contested territory in the South China Sea, and Taiwan. As the North Korea crisis has escalated, China has urged the U.S. to consider offering North Korea a deal known as “freeze for freeze,” in which the North would halt further tests if the U.S. halts or reduces joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan—exercises that China resents as well.

“I think some Chinese are secretly hoping the North Korean position can actually help drive the U.S. forces away from the Korean Peninsula,” Zhao said. “It is in China’s interest if, in the mid-to-long term, the North Koreans can have a deal with the United States where the U.S. reduces troops or reduces its exercises.”

In recent years, overly hopeful U.S. politicians and commentators have repeatedly misunderstood China’s views of North Korea and assumed that Beijing was, at last, turning against its irksome ally. In private meetings with President Obama, and later with President Trump, Xi has repeated a bottom-line principle about North Korea: “No war. No chaos. No nukes.”

A former U.S. official, who was at several of those meetings, told me, “Every American senior official that I know hears, ‘Blah, blah, blah—no nuclear weapons.’ And thinks, ‘Oh, we agree! Excellent!’

So the Chinese ought to be willing to limbo under this bar for us.

But, no, that’s third in the list of three strategic priorities. The first two are avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula, and avoiding chaos and collapse.” In that spirit, China has sought to limit the scope of U.S.-backed sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In the latest round, earlier this month, China succeeded in forcing the U.S. to drop its pursuit of a full oil blockade, which China fears would drive North Korea to collapse.

Nothing worries Chinese officials more than the following scenario: the U.S. uses harsh sanctions and covert action—and possibly military strikes—to drive North Korea close to the point of regime collapse. In turn, Pyongyang lashes out with violence against America or its allies, sparking a full-blown war on China’s border, just as China is trying to maintain delicate economic growth and social stability. Xi, in separate sessions, has offered Obama and Trump the same Chinese adage in reference to North Korea: “When a man is barefoot, he doesn’t fear a man with shoes.” In other words, even if attacking America would be suicide for North Korea, if it sees nothing left to lose, it just might do the unthinkable. For that reason, China, above all, wants the U.S. to avoid backing Kim into a corner from which he has no exit.

Trump is fervently seeking China’s coöperation, but, ironically, his rhetoric and aggression may be putting that further out of reach. On Sunday, Trump mocked Kim as the “Rocket Man.” Members of his Administration have repeated their openness to “military options,” despite projections that air strikes, or other attempts at targeted attacks, could spark a wider war. Chinese intellectuals have taken to joking that “Telangpu”—which is one of the Chinese pronunciations of Trump’s name—sounds like “te meipu,” which means clueless or lacking a plan.

In recent months, Trump has alternately praised China and threatened it with a trade war. “I don’t understand Trump,” Shen, the historian, told me. “One day he is saying something good about Xi Jinping and the next he is criticizing him.

Trump is becoming more and more of a problem. China is becoming more and more stable.”


……… so as an update to this….which now must include the fact that the crazy bastard …in his formal speech to the UN….calls the kid “Rocket Man”………………..again ….. somebody needs to stop this……………….. we do it or some country or group of countries….or some 400 pound guy sitting on his bed in New Jersey……well probably not him but……WTF?……

But……..WAIT WAIT WAIT….. This could all work out fine…..right?…………w











..Hurricane Harvey’s Floodwaters Were So Extreme That They Warped Earth’s Crust…

…..Wait!…..What? !…………

Hurricane Harvey from The International Space Station.

Hurricane Harvey is set to be one of the costliest natural disasters in American history. It was both unusually wet and extremely slow, and as a result, it dumped a whopping 125 trillion liters (33 trillion gallons) of rain on the US, mostly on Texas – more than four times that unleashed by 2005’s Katrina.

Last week, geoscientist Chris Milliner of NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sent out a tweet that contained a rather startling map. As various GPS markers across Houston have revealed, the city actually sank a little as Harvey dumped all of its precipitation on the unfortunate city.

Of course, a lot of the metropolis was underwater, but this isn’t quite what we mean here. There was actually so much rainfall that the Earth’s crust itself was depressed by around two centimeters (about 0.8 inches) for a few days. That may not sound like much until you remember that warping the surface of the planet isn’t actually easy.

A simple calculation by The Atlantic suggests around 125 gigatonnes (275 trillion pounds) of water fell from the sky back then. That’s a difficult number to envisage, so let’s just say that the water weighed the same as 155,342 Golden Gate Bridges. It’s about the same as 77 percent of the total estimated mass of Mount Everest.

Mount Everest, by the way, cannot get much taller. If it did, the crust beneath it would begin to sink in response. So it’s safe to say that a veritable mountain of water landing mostly on Houston had the same effect, except in this case, the land was forced downwards.

Someone asked Milliner if the GPS reading was simply due to the compaction of unconsolidated, sandy soil that was simply sinking under the weight of the water. Not so, says the scientist: The “subsidence is beyond noise level.” Although some soil compaction may be a factor here, if the ground rebounds and moves upwards again as the waters recede that will confirm the crustal warping theory.

Another person asked Milliner about climate change. As we’ve previously reported here, climate change doesn’t “cause” hurricanes, but it certainly makes them wetter and more powerful. Thus, it’s safe to say that Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall was worse than it should have been.

In response to the query, Milliner says: “Unfortunately, [climate change] is very real. You don’t have to believe politicians, just look at the data and science.”

By Robin Andrews

18 SEP 2017




…….and so ends another exciting episode of What The Hell Can Possibly Get Worse?…….but that is a catchy phrase….”You don’t have to believe politicians, just look at the data and science.”……… has kind of a ring to it……………………..w



….The Unlikely Return of Cat Stevens……….

Cat Stevens was giving us back the songs he’d taken away so many years ago. He was, after all this time, validating their worth again, and with it, our love for them.

Early in a Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Yusuf/Cat Stevens, concert in Boston a couple of years ago, there was a hushed pause in the room as the then sixty-six-year-old performer waited for a stagehand to bring him a guitar in between songs. “I’m really happy to be here!” the singer suddenly exclaimed.

It did not sound like ersatz show-biz banter; it sounded humble, childlike even, as if he himself were surprised by the emotion. It sounded like capitulation. The crowd, in response, rose to its feet en masse, producing a sound that was more than just a cheer. It was an embrace. It was an acknowledgment by artist and audience alike: Cat Stevens, a figure who, for all intents and purposes, had ceased to exist more than three decades ago, had come back.

For a long time, it has been hard to love the man once known (and now known again) as Cat Stevens. In the years since he formally retired from the popular music world, in 1978, his name has popped up in the media from time to time.

He would be quoted, or seen in a video-clip interview, and it was difficult to accept the visage of the person whom he now presented himself as—to reconcile this cold, humorless, unhappy, and severe-looking man with the joyful, understanding, goofy, wise songwriter whose music we’d known and loved. For a long time, the man who’d changed his name to Yusuf Islam had completely disowned his artistic output as Cat Stevens—a confusing, dispiriting slap in the face to those it once meant a great deal to.

The man who was Cat Stevens ran Islamic schools for children, spreading the word of Allah, and acted as a spokesperson for Islam. After a while, he began making some children’s albums, but he wasn’t playing the guitar, and the music was not for his traditional fan base. In interviews, he sounded defensive and removed. Some remarks attributed to him seemed to be in line with some of the more distasteful prejudices of orthodox Islam.

Then, in 2006, came “An Other Cup,” his first album of commercial music in twenty-eight years. He’d dropped his adopted last name of Islam, and was now calling himself, simply, Yusuf. Something had shifted, certainly. How welcome it was to hear that voice with that guitar again, after all these years. Still, the album’s opening track, “Midday (Avoid City After Dark),” set a tone of unease, paranoia, and judgment that never really lifted. Elsewhere on the recording, there was a revisit to a much earlier composition (“I Think I See the Light”) and an interesting (if forced-sounding) reworking of a section of his “Foreigner Suite” (“Heaven/Where True Love Goes”), but the bulk of the album felt earthbound. Nowhere was there the joie de vivre that inhabited his best work. The follow-up, “Roadsinger,” in 2009, sounded fresher, but still unconvincing. Which was it—was he wary of us, or we of him? There seemed to be skepticism and distrust on both sides.

Some live performances began to appear here and there online. Yusuf was steadfast about not playing any old Cat Stevens material, save for a select few songs that he could justify in the context of his religious path, such as “The Wind” and “Peace Train.” He had collaborated on a musical called “Moonshadow” that featured actors singing some of his old songs and was having a run in Australia. It proved a critical and financial flop.

I paid attention to all of this because, unhip as this may be to admit, the music of Cat Stevens once meant a great deal to me. I did not grow up listening to it, per se (I was too young), but his music became the soundtrack to my adolescence when I watched “Harold and Maude” for the first time, and my world changed. I went out and got a guitar. I listened to Cat Stevens obsessively, played and sang his songs with friends, hunted down all of his albums. While it was clear that he’d lost his way artistically on later albums like “Numbers” and “Izitso,” the earlier, classic albums that he’s still known for (“Mona Bone Jakon” through “Foreigner”) were full of treasures that could be mined again and again. Indelible melodies, beautiful production, emotionally committed performances, and, most of all, a gentle wisdom, a repudiation of the status quo, a sense that we were not alone. Here was someone who was trying to make sense of life, too; he may not have had the answers, but he was looking for them, and we were encouraged to join him. Here was a friend.

Of course, I quickly learned that Cat Stevens had already ceased to be. My adolescent soul despaired, knowing that there would be no more Cat Stevens albums, no more Cat Stevens concerts. The man who had become a hero to me had long since retired from the music world.

In time, his music, too, would fade from my consciousness. As I grew and matured, so did my musical tastes and sensibilities. I might reach for a Cat Stevens album on rare occasions, to remind myself of something that I’d once treasured, sometimes surprised that a song or album held up as strongly as it did, but his music was no longer a living thing for me. I paid attention when he came out of retirement with the two Yusuf albums, and listened to each of them a handful of times with attendant hopes and (it seemed) inevitable disappointment. It was hard to get excited about his music now. The voice was the same, but the spirit was changed, different, unwelcoming.

Nevertheless, when it was announced, in late 2014, that he was going to perform in America for the first time in thirty-eight years, I put my misgivings aside and became a teen-ager again, queueing up for tickets on the phone the morning they went on sale. I did not listen to his latest album, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” nor did I look for any news about the kinds of shows that he’d been playing of late. I simply drove up to Boston to see my old hero, expectations dimmed to almost nothing. I imagined that there I would see Yusuf Islam, delivering a respectful program of his latter-day music, with perhaps one or two old favorites thrown in as crowd appeasement. I wasn’t going for Yusuf Islam. I was going to pay homage to the singer who had once meant so much to me, for the chance to simply be in the same room with him for the first (and what I assumed would be the last) time.

It has taken some time for me to think clearly about what it was like to be at that show. What happened there was more than just a good concert given by a group of well-rehearsed, talented musicians, backing a pop icon on a comeback tour, though it was partly that. It was more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as a sold-out crowd sang along to songs that many (including myself) never expected to hear played live again, though it was partly that, too. Without resorting to hyperbole, being there, for me, was an unexpected catharsis, something like seeing a ghost.

I didn’t know, until I got there, that the singer was now billing himself with the ungainly but revealing name of Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Was he now acknowledging his former self? This was a surprise, the first of many that the evening would hold.

The once and future Cat Stevens walked onstage to a tremendous ovation (no surprise there) and launched into a solo performance of “The Wind.” O.K., in some way, this was what we’d all come for, and here he’d already given it to us. All the latter-day Yusuf stuff would follow, we’d give him some hearty applause at the encore, and that would be that—or so I thought. What was this, though? He was wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket—not the austere, devotional garb he’d worn in the (admittedly not so recent) appearances that I’d seen him do online. And the stage set—it was elaborate, whimsical, evocative of the old Cat, whose tastes sometimes crossed the line into outright silliness. Most significantly, though, he himself seemed engaged, connected, and—hardest to believe—lighthearted.

“Here Comes My Baby” and “The First Cut Is the Deepest” followed, two pop hits from the infancy of his career, both secular love songs, both jarring surprises. “Thinking ‘Bout You” followed, a more recent song of love and devotion, but it was buoyed by an energy and commitment that sustained the freshness of what had come before, and served as a bridge to the first real shock of the night, as the singer made his way to a piano at the side of the stage and, unaccompanied, launched into the opening strains of “Sitting,” and the crowd seemed to collectively gasp before erupting into joyous, grateful cheers. Here he was again. Cat Stevens. Questioning, seeking, proudly admitting that he did not have the answers, but that he was on his way to find them. Our companion, our friend, had returned.

It was the first of what would be many goosebump-inducing moments in the generous, two-part concert. He followed it with “Last Love Song,” from 1978’s obscure (and mostly uninspired-sounding) “Back to Earth,” the mere fact that he was exploring and reclaiming obscurities from his back catalogue speaking volumes. By the time he reached the end of the first set, closing it with “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” the message was clear—something had happened. He was giving us back the songs he’d taken away so many years ago. He was, after all this time, validating their worth again, and with it, our love for them. After insisting for so many years, as Yusuf Islam, that there was only one way, only one truth, one law, one path, he’d relented. He was giving us permission, again, to do and think and live how we wanted. And he seemed genuinely happy saying and singing it.

The second set held even more surprises, as song after song from the old œuvre was brought back to life. “Oh Very Young,” “Sad Lisa,” “Miles from Nowhere” (I have my freedom / I can make my own rules / Oh yeah, the ones that I choose). They were presented, for the most part, as set pieces, with hardly any improvisation at all, but that didn’t matter. The faithful Alun Davies was there on lead acoustic guitar, as he has been since 1970. Matt Sweeney was a welcome addition on electric guitar, adding a pinch of verve and danger to the mix, but if old concert footage is any indication, Cat Stevens was never one for taking too many risks onstage musically, choosing instead to eschew spontaneity in deference to the arrangements on his studio recordings.

It was touching to hear the singer-songwriter still tinkering with that beautiful failure “Foreigner Suite,” still trying to get it right. Classics such as “Where Do the Children Play?” and “Trouble” brought with them a great sadness; confronted with the simplicity, the naïveté even, of the sentiments in these gentle lyrics, it was impossible not to think of how the world has changed and darkened since these songs were written and last performed. Even “Moonshadow,” that lullaby of Buddhist acceptance, carried with it the sting of longing for less dire times.

Being at that concert, hearing those songs again, sung with conviction by that man, was like being allowed to spend a night in one’s childhood home, with everything back the way that it was from some preëxistential, innocent moment—with even one’s family members frozen in time the way that they were decades ago. For me, it was eerie, spooky, unsettling, like Emily’s return from the dead in “Our Town.”

At the end of each of these old songs, there was that same sustained applause that followed his aside, early in the show, about how happy he was to be there. It’s a sound I keep coming back to in my mind when I think about the experience of being at that concert, a sound distinct from any that I think I have ever heard. It was an entity, a palpable force, as though the emotion behind every voice and every pair of hands could be heard. There was a sort of desperate celebration to it. It was the sound of reconciliation, of gratitude, of forgiveness.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens has a new album coming out this week, called “A Laughing Apple,” and more tour dates have been announced. I have not heard the new recording yet, but news of its release has led me to reflect on that night, when it felt as though this shape-shifting performer had brought someone we once loved back from the dead, a phantom from another time, and with that act offered tacit acknowledgment that we’re so much better together than we are apart. It’s a notion as naïvely idealistic as any he ever gave us; an echo from the past, finding its way to us past a wall that is, miraculously, no longer there.

by Howard Fishman



……..stay with me for some early Cal Stevens and present day Yusuf/Cat Stevens…………….  Fishman chose not to add any music which is why I’m adding it on this side…..enjoy….


…..The First White President…..

The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.

IT IS INSUFFICIENT TO STATE the 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.

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president

THE SCOPE OF TRUMP’S commitment to whiteness is matched only by the depth of popular disbelief in the power of whiteness. We are now being told that support for Trump’s “Muslim ban,” his scapegoating of immigrants, his defenses of police brutality are somehow the natural outgrowth of the cultural and economic gap between Lena Dunham’s America and Jeff Foxworthy’s. The collective verdict holds that the Democratic Party lost its way when it abandoned everyday economic issues like job creation for the softer fare of social justice. The indictment continues: To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus. In this rendition, Donald Trump is not the product of white supremacy so much as the product of a backlash against contempt for white working-class people.

“We so obviously despise them, we so obviously condescend to them,” the conservative social scientist Charles Murray, who co-wrote The Bell Curve, recently toldThe New Yorker, speaking of the white working class. “The only slur you can use at a dinner party and get away with is to call somebody a redneck—that won’t give you any problems in Manhattan.”

“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes,” charged the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.”

That black people, who have lived for centuries under such derision and condescension, have not yet been driven into the arms of Trump does not trouble these theoreticians. After all, in this analysis, Trump’s racism and the racism of his supporters are incidental to his rise. Indeed, the alleged glee with which liberals call out Trump’s bigotry is assigned even more power than the bigotry itself. Ostensibly assaulted by campus protests, battered by arguments about intersectionality, and oppressed by new bathroom rights, a blameless white working class did the only thing any reasonable polity might: elect an orcish reality-television star who insists on taking his intelligence briefings in picture-book form.

Asserting that Trump’s rise was primarily powered by cultural resentment and economic reversal has become de rigueur among white pundits and thought leaders. But evidence for this is, at best, mixed. In a study of preelection polling data, the Gallup researchers Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell found that “people living in areas with diminished economic opportunity” were “somewhat more likely to support Trump.” But the researchers also found that voters in their study who supported Trump generally had a higher mean household income ($81,898) than those who did not ($77,046). Those who approved of Trump were “less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed part-time” than those who did not. They also tended to be from areas that were very white: “The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”
An analysis of exit polls conducted during the presidential primaries estimated the median household income of Trump supporters to be about $72,000. But even this lower number is almost double the median household income of African Americans, and $15,000 above the American median. Trump’s white support was not determined by income. According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker. So when white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascardads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81, with the remaining 68 votes either a toss-up or unknown.
Part of Trump’s dominance among whites resulted from his running as a Republican, the party that has long cultivated white voters. Trump’s share of the white vote was similar to Mitt Romney’s in 2012. But unlike Romney, Trump secured this support by running against his party’s leadership, against accepted campaign orthodoxy, and against all notions of decency. By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.

This transfiguration is not novel. It is a return to form. The tightly intertwined stories of the white working class and black Americans go back to the prehistory of the United States—and the use of one as a cudgel to silence the claims of the other goes back nearly as far. Like the black working class, the white working class originated in bondage—the former in the lifelong bondage of slavery, the latter in the temporary bondage of indenture. In the early 17th century, these two classes were remarkably, though not totally, free of racist enmity. But by the 18th century, the country’s master class had begun etching race into law while phasing out indentured servitude in favor of a more enduring labor solution. From these and other changes of law and economy, a bargain emerged: The descendants of indenture would enjoy the full benefits of whiteness, the most definitional benefit being that they would never sink to the level of the slave. But if the bargain protected white workers from slavery, it did not protect them from near-slave wages or backbreaking labor to attain them, and always there lurked a fear of having their benefits revoked. This early white working class “expressed soaring desires to be rid of the age-old inequalities of Europe and of any hint of slavery,” according to David R. Roediger, a professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. “They also expressed the rather more pedestrian goal of simply not being mistaken for slaves, or ‘negers’ or ‘negurs.’ ”

Roediger relates the experience, around 1807, of a British investor who made the mistake of asking a white maid in New England whether her “master” was home. The maid admonished the investor, not merely for implying that she had a “master” and thus was a “sarvant” but for his basic ignorance of American hierarchy. “None but negers are sarvants,” the maid is reported to have said. In law and economics and then in custom, a racist distinction not limited to the household emerged between the “help” (or the “freemen,” or the white workers) and the “servants” (the “negers,” the slaves). The former were virtuous and just, worthy of citizenship, progeny of Jefferson and, later, Jackson. The latter were servile and parasitic, dim-witted and lazy, the children of African savagery. But the dignity accorded to white labor was situational, dependent on the scorn heaped upon black labor—much as the honor accorded a “virtuous lady” was dependent on the derision directed at a “loose woman.” And like chivalrous gentlemen who claim to honor the lady while raping the “whore,” planters and their apologists could claim to honor white labor while driving the enslaved.And so George Fitzhugh, a prominent 19th-century Southern pro-slavery intellectual, could in a single stroke deplore the exploitation of free whites’ labor while defending the exploitation of enslaved blacks’ labor. Fitzhugh attacked white capitalists as “cannibals,” feeding off the labor of their fellow whites. The white workers were “ ‘slaves without masters;’ the little fish, who were food for all the larger.” Fitzhugh inveighed against a “professional man” who’d “amassed a fortune” by exploiting his fellow whites. But whereas Fitzhugh imagined white workers as devoured by capital, he imagined black workers as elevated by enslavement. The slaveholder “provided for them, with almost parental affection”—even when the loafing slave “feigned to be unfit for labor.” Fitzhugh proved too explicit—going so far as to argue that white laborers might be better off if enslaved. (“If white slavery be morally wrong,” he wrote, “the Bible cannot be true.”) Nevertheless, the argument that America’s original sin was not deep-seated white supremacy but rather the exploitation of white labor by white capitalists—“white slavery”—proved durable. Indeed, the panic of white slavery lives on in our politics today. Black workers suffer because it was and is our lot. But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry. And so an opioid epidemic among mostly white people is greeted with calls for compassion and treatment, as all epidemics should be, while a crack epidemic among mostly black people is greeted with scorn and mandatory minimums. Sympathetic op‑ed columns and articles are devoted to the plight of working-class whites when their life expectancy plummets to levels that, for blacks, society has simply accepted as normal. White slavery is sin. Nigger slavery is natural. This dynamic serves a very real purpose: the consistent awarding of grievance and moral high ground to that class of workers which, by the bonds of whiteness, stands closest to America’s aristocratic class.
This is by design. Speaking in 1848, Senator John C. Calhoun saw slavery as the explicit foundation for a democratic union among whites, working and not:

With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.

On the eve of secession, Jefferson Davis, the eventual president of the Confederacy, pushed the idea further, arguing that such equality between the white working class and white oligarchs could not exist at all without black slavery:

I say that the lower race of human beings that constitute the substratum of what is termed the slave population of the South, elevates every white man in our community … It is the presence of a lower caste, those lower by their mental and physical organization, controlled by the higher intellect of the white man, that gives this superiority to the white laborer. Menial services are not there performed by the white man. We have none of our brethren sunk to the degradation of being menials. That belongs to the lower race—the descendants of Ham.

Southern intellectuals found a shade of agreement with Northern white reformers who, while not agreeing on slavery, agreed on the nature of the most tragic victim of emerging capitalism. “I was formerly like yourself, sir, a very warm advocate of the abolition of slavery,” the labor reformer George Henry Evans argued in a letter to the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. “This was before I saw that there was white slavery.” Evans was a putative ally of Smith and his fellow abolitionists. But still he asserted that “the landless white” was worse off than the enslaved black, who at least enjoyed “surety of support in sickness and old age.”

Invokers of “white slavery” held that there was nothing unique in the enslavement of blacks when measured against the enslavement of all workers. What evil there was in enslavement resulted from its status as a subsidiary of the broader exploitation better seen among the country’s noble laboring whites. Once the larger problem of white exploitation was solved, the dependent problem of black exploitation could be confronted or perhaps would fade away. Abolitionists focused on slavery were dismissed as “substitutionists” who wished to trade one form of slavery for another. “If I am less troubled concerning the Slavery prevalent in Charleston or New-Orleans,” wrote the reformer Horace Greeley, “it is because I see so much Slavery in New-York, which appears to claim my first efforts.”Firsthand reports by white Union soldiers who witnessed actual slavery during the Civil War rendered the “white slavery” argument ridiculous. But its operating premises—white labor as noble archetype, and black labor as something else—lived on. This was a matter of rhetoric, not fact. The noble-white-labor archetype did not give white workers immunity from capitalism. It could not, in itself, break monopolies, alleviate white poverty in Appalachia or the South, or bring a decent wage to immigrant ghettos in the North. But the model for America’s original identity politics was set. Black lives literally did not matter and could be cast aside altogether as the price of even incremental gains for the white masses. It was this juxtaposition that allowed Theodore Bilbo to campaign for the Senate in the 1930s as someone who would “raise the same kind of hell as President Roosevelt” and later endorse lynching black people to keep them from voting.
The juxtaposition between the valid and even virtuous interests of the “working class” and the invalid and pathological interests of black Americans was not the province merely of blatant white supremacists like Bilbo. The acclaimed scholar, liberal hero, and future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his time working for President Richard Nixon, approvingly quoted Nixon’s formulation of the white working class: “A new voice” was beginning to make itself felt in the country. “It is a voice that has been silent too long,” Nixon claimed, alluding to working-class whites. “It is a voice of people who have not taken to the streets before, who have not indulged in violence, who have not broken the law.”
The fact of a black president seemed to insult Donald Trump personally. He has made the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. (Gabriella Demczuk)
It had been only 18 years since the Cicero riots; eight years since Daisy and Bill Myers had been run out of Levittown, Pennsylvania; three years since Martin Luther King Jr. had been stoned while walking through Chicago’s Marquette Park. But as the myth of the virtuous white working class was made central to American identity, its sins needed to be rendered invisible. The fact was, working-class whites had been agents of racist terrorism since at least the draft riots of 1863; terrorism could not be neatly separated from the racist animus found in every class of whites. Indeed, in the era of lynching, the daily newspapers often whipped up the fury of the white masses by invoking the last species of property that all white men held in common—white women. But to conceal the breadth of white racism, these racist outbursts were often disregarded or treated not as racism but as the unfortunate side effect of legitimate grievances against capital. By focusing on that sympathetic laboring class, the sins of whiteness itself were, and are still being, evaded.
When David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, shocked the country in 1990 by almost winning one of Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. Senate, the apologists came out once again. They elided the obvious—that Duke had appealed to the racist instincts of a state whose schools are, at this very moment, still desegregating—and instead decided that something else was afoot. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn,” a researcher told the Los Angeles Times. “These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.” By this logic, postwar America—with its booming economy and low unemployment—should have been an egalitarian utopia and not the violently segregated country it actually was.But this was the past made present. It was not important to the apologists that a large swath of Louisiana’s white population thought it was a good idea to send a white supremacist who once fronted a terrorist organization to the nation’s capital. Nor was it important that blacks in Louisiana had long felt left out. What was important was the fraying of an ancient bargain, and the potential degradation of white workers to the level of “negers.” “A viable left must find a way to differentiate itself strongly from such analysis,” David Roediger, the University of Kansas professor, has written.

That challenge of differentiation has largely been ignored. Instead, an imagined white working class remains central to our politics and to our cultural understanding of those politics, not simply when it comes to addressing broad economic issues but also when it comes to addressing racism. At its most sympathetic, this belief holds that most Americans—regardless of race—are exploited by an unfettered capitalist economy. The key, then, is to address those broader patterns that afflict the masses of all races; the people who suffer from those patterns more than others (blacks, for instance) will benefit disproportionately from that which benefits everyone. “These days, what ails working-class and middle-class blacks and Latinos is not fundamentally different from what ails their white counterparts,” Senator Barack Obama wrote in 2006: Downsizing, outsourcing, automation, wage stagnation, the dismantling of employer-based health-care and pension plans, and schools that fail to teach young people the skills they need to compete in a global economy.Obama allowed that “blacks in particular have been vulnerable to these trends”—but less because of racism than for reasons of geography and job-sector distribution. This notion—raceless antiracism—marks the modern left, from the New Democrat Bill Clinton to the socialist Bernie Sanders. Few national liberal politicians have shown any recognition that there is something systemic and particular in the relationship between black people and their country that might require specific policy solutions.

In 2006 Hilary Clinton acknowledged the existence of systemic racism more explicitly than any of her modern Democratic predecessors. She had to—black voters remembered too well the previous Clinton administration, as well as her previous campaign. While her husband’s administration had touted the rising-tide theory of economic growth, it did so while slashing welfare and getting “tough on crime,” a phrase that stood for specific policies but also served as rhetorical bait for white voters. One is tempted to excuse Hillary Clinton from having to answer for the sins of her husband. But in her 2008 campaign, she evoked the old dichotomy between white workers and loafing blacks, claiming to be the representative of “hardworking Americans, white Americans.” By the end of the 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama, her advisers were hoping someone would uncover an apocryphal “whitey tape,” in which an angry Michelle Obama was alleged to have used the slur. During Bill Clinton’s presidential-reelection campaign in the mid-1990s, Hillary Clinton herself had endorsed the “super-predator” theory of William J. Bennett, John P. Walters, and John J. DiIulio Jr. This theory cast “inner-city” children of that era as “almost completely unmoralized” and the font of “a new generation of street criminals … the youngest, biggest and baddest generation any society has ever known.” The “baddest generation” did not become super-predators. But by 2016, they were young adults, many of whom judged Hillary Clinton’s newfound consciousness to be lacking.

It’s worth asking why the country has not been treated to a raft of sympathetic portraits of this “forgotten” young black electorate, forsaken by a Washington bought off by Davos elites and special interests. The unemployment rate for young blacks (20.6 percent) in July 2016 was double that of young whites (9.9 percent). And since the late 1970s, William Julius Wilson and other social scientists following in his wake have noted the disproportionate effect that the decline in manufacturing jobs has had on African American communities. If anyone should be angered by the devastation wreaked by the financial sector and a government that declined to prosecute the perpetrators, it is African Americans—the housing crisis was one of the primary drivers in the past 20 years of the wealth gap between black families and the rest of the country. But the cultural condescension toward and economic anxiety of black people is not news. Toiling blacks are in their proper state; toiling whites raise the specter of white slavery.Moreover, a narrative of long-neglected working-class black voters, injured by globalization and the financial crisis, forsaken by out-of-touch politicians, and rightfully suspicious of a return of Clintonism, does not serve to cleanse the conscience of white people for having elected Donald Trump. Only the idea of a long-suffering white working class can do that. And though much has been written about the distance between elites and “Real America,” the existence of a class-transcending, mutually dependent tribe of white people is evident.
Joe Biden, then the vice president, last year:

“They’re all the people I grew up with … And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist.”

Bernie Sanders, senator and former candidate for president, last year:

“I come from the white working class, and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to the people where I came from.”

Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, in February of this year:

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

These claims of origin and fidelity are not merely elite defenses of an aggrieved class but also a sweeping dismissal of the concerns of those who don’t share kinship with white men. “You can’t eat equality,” asserts Joe Biden—a statement worthy of someone unthreatened by the loss of wages brought on by an unwanted pregnancy, a background-check box at the bottom of a job application, or the deportation of a breadwinner. Within a week of Sanders lambasting Democrats for not speaking to “the people” where he “came from,” he was making an example of a woman who dreamed of representing the people where she came from. Confronted with a young woman who hoped to become the second Latina senator in American history, Sanders responded with a parody of the Clinton campaign: “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough … One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.” The upshot—attacking one specimen of identity politics after having invoked another—was unfortunate.

Other Sanders appearances proved even more alarming. On MSNBC, he attributed Trump’s success, in part, to his willingness to “not be politically correct.” Sanders admitted that Trump had “said some outrageous and painful things, but I think people are tired of the same old, same old political rhetoric.” Pressed on the definition of political correctness, Sanders gave an answer Trump surely would have approved of. “What it means is you have a set of talking points which have been poll-tested and focus-group-tested,” Sanders explained. “And that’s what you say rather than what’s really going on. And often, what you are not allowed to say are things which offend very, very powerful people.”
This definition of political correctness was shocking coming from a politician of the left. But it matched a broader defense of Trump voters. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks,” Sanders said later. “I don’t agree.” This is not exculpatory. Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.One can, to some extent, understand politicians’ embracing a self-serving identity politics. Candidates for high office, such as Sanders, have to cobble together a coalition. The white working class is seen, understandably, as a large cache of potential votes, and capturing these votes requires eliding uncomfortable truths. But journalists have no such excuse. Again and again in the past year, Nicholas Kristof could be found pleading with his fellow liberals not to dismiss his old comrades in the white working class as bigots—even when their bigotry was evidenced in his own reporting. A visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma, finds Kristof wondering why Trump voters support a president who threatens to cut the programs they depend on. But the problem, according to Kristof ’s interviewees, isn’t Trump’s attack on benefits so much as an attack on their benefits. “There’s a lot of wasteful spending, so cut other places,” one man tells Kristof. When Kristof pushes his subjects to identify that wasteful spending, a fascinating target is revealed: “Obama phones,” the products of a fevered conspiracy theory that turned a long-standing government program into a scheme through which the then-president gave away free cellphones to undeserving blacks. Kristof doesn’t shift his analysis based on this comment and, aside from a one-sentence fact-check tucked between parentheses, continues on as though it were never said.
Observing a Trump supporter in the act of deploying racism does not much perturb Kristof. That is because his defenses of the innate goodness of Trump voters and of the innate goodness of the white working class are in fact defenses of neither. On the contrary, the white working class functions rhetorically not as a real community of people so much as a tool to quiet the demands of those who want a more inclusive America.Mark Lilla’s New York Times essay “The End of Identity Liberalism,” published not long after last year’s election, is perhaps the most profound example of this genre. Lilla denounces the perversion of liberalism into “a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity,” which distorted liberalism’s message “and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.” Liberals have turned away from their working-class base, he says, and must look to the “pre-identity liberalism” of Bill Clinton and Franklin D. Roosevelt. You would never know from this essay that Bill Clinton was one of the most skillful identity politicians of his era—flying home to Arkansas to see a black man, the lobotomized Ricky Ray Rector, executed; upstaging Jesse Jackson at his own conference; signing the Defense of Marriage Act. Nor would you know that the “pre-identity” liberal champion Roosevelt depended on the literally lethal identity politics of the white-supremacist “solid South.” The name Barack Obama does not appear in Lilla’s essay, and he never attempts to grapple, one way or another, with the fact that it was identity politics—the possibility of the first black president—that brought a record number of black voters to the polls, winning the election for the Democratic Party, and thus enabling the deliverance of the ancient liberal goal of national health care. “Identity politics … is largely expressive, not persuasive,” Lilla claims. “Which is why it never wins elections—but can lose them.” That Trump ran and won on identity politics is beyond Lilla’s powers of conception. What appeals to the white working class is ennobled. What appeals to black workers, and all others outside the tribe, is dastardly identitarianism. All politics are identity politics—except the politics of white people, the politics of the bloody heirloom.
White tribalism haunts even more-nuanced writers. George Packer’s New Yorker essay “The Unconnected” is a lengthy plea for liberals to focus more on the white working class, a population that “has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban ‘underclass.’ ” Packer believes that these ills, and the Democratic Party’s failure to respond to them, explain much of Trump’s rise. Packer offers no opinion polls to weigh white workers’ views on “elites,” much less their views on racism. He offers no sense of how their views and their relationship to Trump differ from other workers’ and other whites’.That is likely because any empirical evaluation of the relationship between Trump and the white working class would reveal that one adjective in that phrase is doing more work than the other. In 2016, Trump enjoyed majority or plurality support among every economic branch of whites. It is true that his strongest support among whites came from those making $50,000 to $99,999. This would be something more than working-class in many nonwhite neighborhoods, but even if one accepts that branch as the working class, the difference between how various groups in this income bracket voted is revealing. Sixty-one percent of whites in this “working class” supported Trump. Only 24 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of blacks did. Indeed, the plurality of all voters making less than $100,000 and the majority making less than $50,000 voted for the Democratic candidate. So when Packer laments the fact that “Democrats can no longer really claim to be the party of working people—not white ones, anyway,” he commits a kind of category error. The real problem is that Democrats aren’t the party of white people—working or otherwise. White workers are not divided by the fact of labor from other white demographics; they are divided from all other laborers by the fact of their whiteness.
Packer’s essay was published before the election, and so the vote tally was not available. But it should not be surprising that a Republican candidate making a direct appeal to racism would drive up the numbers among white voters, given that racism has been a dividing line for the national parties since the civil-rights era. Packer finds inspiration for his thesis in West Virginia—a state that remained Democratic through the 1990s before turning decisively Republican, at least at the level of presidential politics. This relatively recent rightward movement evinces, to Packer, a shift “that couldn’t be attributed just to the politics of race.” This is likely true—the politics of race are, themselves, never attributable “just to the politics of race.” The history of slavery is also about the growth of international capitalism; the history of lynching must be seen in light of anxiety over the growing independence of women; the civil-rights movement can’t be disentangled from the Cold War. Thus, to say that the rise of Donald Trump is about more than race is to make an empty statement, one that is small comfort to the people—black, Muslim, immigrant—who live under racism’s boot.The dent of racism is not hard to detect in West Virginia. In the 2008 Democratic primary there, 95 percent of the voters were white. Twenty percent of those—one in five—openly admitted that race was influencing their vote, and more than 80 percent voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Four years later, the incumbent Obama lost the primary in 10 counties to Keith Judd, a white felon incarcerated in a federal prison; Judd racked up more than 40 percent of the Democratic-primary vote in the state. A simple thought experiment: Can one imagine a black felon in a federal prison running in a primary against an incumbent white president doing so well?
But racism occupies a mostly passive place in Packer’s essay. There’s no attempt to understand why black and brown workers, victimized by the same new economy and cosmopolitan elite that Packer lambastes, did not join the Trump revolution. Like Kristof, Packer is gentle with his subjects. When a woman “exploded” and told Packer, “I want to eat what I want to eat, and for them to tell me I can’t eat French fries or Coca-Cola—no way,” he sees this as a rebellion against “the moral superiority of elites.” In fact, this elite conspiracy dates back to 1894, when the government first began advising Americans on their diets. As recently as 2002, President George W. Bush launched the HealthierUS initiative, urging Americans to exercise and eat healthy food. But Packer never allows himself to wonder whether the explosion he witnessed had anything to do with the fact that similar advice now came from the country’s first black first lady. Packer concludes that Obama was leaving the country “more divided and angrier than most Americans can remember,” a statement that is likely true only because most Americans identify as white. Certainly the men and women forced to live in the wake of the beating of John Lewis, the lynching of Emmett Till, the firebombing of Percy Julian’s home, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers would disagree.

The triumph of Trump’s campaign of bigotry presented the problematic spectacle of an American president succeeding at best in spite of his racism and possibly because of it. Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed. This presented the country’s thinking class with a dilemma. Hillary Clinton simply could not be correct when she asserted that a large group of Americans was endorsing a candidate because of bigotry. The implications—that systemic bigotry is still central to our politics; that the country is susceptible to such bigotry; that the salt-of-the-earth Americans whom we lionize in our culture and politics are not so different from those same Americans who grin back at us in lynching photos; that Calhoun’s aim of a pan-Caucasian embrace between workers and capitalists still endures—were just too dark. Leftists would have to cope with the failure, yet again, of class unity in the face of racism. Incorporating all of this into an analysis of America and the path forward proved too much to ask. Instead, the response has largely been an argument aimed at emotion—the summoning of the white working class, emblem of America’s hardscrabble roots, inheritor of its pioneer spirit, as a shield against the horrific and empirical evidence of trenchant bigotry.

Packer dismisses the Democratic Party as a coalition of “rising professionals and diversity.” The dismissal is derived from, of all people, Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and White House economist, who last year labeled the Democratic Party “a coalition of the cosmopolitan élite and diversity.” The inference is that the party has forgotten how to speak on hard economic issues and prefers discussing presumably softer cultural issues such as “diversity.” It’s worth unpacking what, precisely, falls under this rubric of “diversity”—resistance to the monstrous incarceration of legions of black men, resistance to the destruction of health providers for poor women, resistance to the effort to deport parents, resistance to a policing whose sole legitimacy is rooted in brute force, resistance to a theory of education that preaches “no excuses” to black and brown children, even as excuses are proffered for mendacious corporate executives “too big to jail.” That this suite of concerns, taken together, can be dismissed by both an elite economist like Summers and a brilliant journalist like Packer as “diversity” simply reveals the safe space they enjoy. Because of their identity.

WHEN BARACK OBAMA came into office, in 2009, he believed that he could work with “sensible” conservatives by embracing aspects of their policy as his own. Instead he found that his very imprimatur made that impossible. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the GOP’s primary goal was not to find common ground but to make Obama a “one-term president.” A health-care plan inspired by Romneycare was, when proposed by Obama, suddenly considered socialist and, not coincidentally, a form of reparations. The first black president found that he was personally toxic to the GOP base. An entire political party was organized around the explicit aim of negating one man. It was thought by Obama and some of his allies that this toxicity was the result of a relentless assault waged by Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Trump’s genius was to see that it was something more, that it was a hunger for revanche so strong that a political novice and accused rapist could topple the leadership of one major party and throttle the heavily favored nominee of the other.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” Trump bragged in January 2016. This statement should be met with only a modicum of skepticism. Trump has mocked the disabled, withstood multiple accusations of sexual violence (all of which he has denied), fired an FBI director, sent his minions to mislead the public about his motives, personally exposed those lies by boldly stating his aim to scuttle an investigation into his possible collusion with a foreign power, then bragged about that same obstruction to representatives of that same foreign power. It is utterly impossible to conjure a black facsimile of Donald Trump—to imagine Obama, say, implicating an opponent’s father in the assassination of an American president or comparing his physical endowment with that of another candidate and then successfully capturing the presidency. Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom and the great power in not being a nigger.
But the power is ultimately suicidal. Trump evinces this, too. In a recent New Yorker article, a former Russian military officer pointed out that interference in an election could succeed only where “necessary conditions” and an “existing background” were present. In America, that “existing background” was a persistent racism, and the “necessary condition” was a black president. The two related factors hobbled America’s ability to safeguard its electoral system. As late as July 2016, a majority of Republican voters doubted that Barack Obama had been born in the United States, which is to say they did not view him as a legitimate president. Republican politicians acted accordingly, infamously denying his final Supreme Court nominee a hearing and then, fatefully, refusing to work with the administration to defend the country against the Russian attack. Before the election, Obama found no takers among Republicans for a bipartisan response, and Obama himself, underestimating Trump and thus underestimating the power of whiteness, believed the Republican nominee too objectionable to actually win. In this Obama was, tragically, wrong. And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off “moderate” whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

This essay is drawn from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, We Were Eight Years in Power.Listen to the audio version of this article:Feature stories, read aloud: download the Audm app for your iPhone.


………..rather not………..well….not now anyway…..


…9 Nonthreatening Leadership Strategies For Women…..

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they’re not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent. One way to do that is to alter their leadership style to account for the (sometimes) fragile male ego.

Should men accept powerful women and not feel threatened by them? Yes. Is that asking too much? IS IT? Sorry I didn’t mean to get aggressive there. Anyhoo, here are nine nonthreatening leadership strategies for women.

When setting a deadline, ask your coworker what he thinks of doing something instead of just asking him to get it done. This makes him feel less like you’re telling him what to do and more like you care about his opinions.

When sharing your ideas, overconfidence is a killer. You don’t want your male coworkers to think you’re getting all uppity. Instead, downplay your ideas as just “thinking out loud,” “throwing something out there,” or sharing something “dumb,” “random,” or “crazy.”

Pepper your emails with exclamation marks and emojis so you don’t come across as too clear or direct. Your lack of efficient communication will make you seem more approachable.

If a male coworker steals your idea in a meeting, thank him for it. Give him kudos for how he explained your idea so clearly. And let’s face it, no one might’ve ever heard it if he hadn’t repeated it.

When you hear a sexist comment, the awkward laugh is key. Practice your awkward laugh at home, with your friends and family, and in the mirror. Make sure you sound truly delighted even as your soul is dying inside.

Men love explaining things. But when they’re explaining something you already know, it might be tempting to say “I already know that.” Instead, have the man explain it to you over and over again. It will make him feel useful and will give you some time to think about out how to avoid him in the future.

Pointing out a mistake is always risky, so it’s important to apologize for noticing the mistake and then make sure that no one thinks you’re too sure about it. People will appreciate your “hey what do I know?!” sensibilities.

When collaborating with a man, type using only one finger.  Skill and speed are very off-putting.

When all else fails, wear a mustache so everyone sees you as more manlike. This will cancel out any need to change your leadership style. In fact, you may even get a quick promotion!

Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian, and creator of TheCooperReview.com. Her first book, “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings,” is out now. Get it here.

This article first appeared on TheCooperReview.com.

Share image by TheCooperReview.com.


……………like shooting fish in a barrel………………………………….. ……………..         w


…The Rocky Mountains’ Largest Glaciers Are Melting with Little Fanfare ….

The glaciers remain some of the least understood ice sheets in North America

oneillbro Getty Images

WIND RIVER RANGE, Wyo. — Here at the roof of the Continental Divide, one of the Rocky Mountains’ largest glaciers is in retreat.

A new world is emerging in the wake of the receding ice. In a vast, glacially carved basin, where towering spires of granite dominate the skyline, a small colony of stunted Engelmann spruce has taken up residence in a pile of rocky debris, some 500 feet above the tree line. Bees flit among the yellow mountain asters dotting the boulder field at the glacier’s base. Grass grows along a stream where there was, until recently, only snow and ice.

“It’s a different place today,” Darran Wells, an outdoor education professor at Central Wyoming College, observed from a research camp near the base of the Dinwoody Glacier on a recent evening. A regular visitor to the glacier over the last two decades, Wells offered a succinct take on its evolution over his nightly meal, a dehydrated serving of shepard’s potato stew with beef.

“Every year, more grass, less snow,” he said.

The largest concentration of glaciers in the American Rocky Mountains are melting, unseen, in this remote corner of Wyoming. More than 100 glaciers cover about 10,000 acres in the Wind River Range, according to a recent study by researchers at Portland State University. No American mountain range outside Alaska and Washington is covered in more ice.

The Wind River glaciers remain some of the least understood ice sheets in North America. Researchers don’t have a firm grasp on the amount of water locked away in the alpine ice, and estimates of how much they contribute to local streams vary widely.

Answering those questions requires penetrating a rugged wilderness nearly the size of Rhode Island and climbing to elevations between 11,000 feet and 13,800 feet, where the glaciers hug the crest of the Continental Divide.

Today, a growing number of scientists are pushing into the backcountry to understand these icy reservoirs. Their concern: The Wind River glaciers are retreating just when Wyoming needs them most.

“If you haven’t had proximity to these glaciers, if you haven’t thought about where water comes from, it would be easy to understate or underestimate the implications of glacial ice loss in a state that has predominantly a semi-desert climate and certainly by contemporary climate models is going to be pretty significantly impacted by climate change,” said Jacki Klancher, a professor of environmental science at Central Wyoming College.

The Wind River Range cuts a 120-mile path across western Wyoming, rising from the wavelike sand dunes of the Red Desert in the south and terminating amid the rolling forests that ring the entrances to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in the north.

The range encompasses two national forests, three federal wilderness areas and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The mountains are popular among backpackers and climbers, but the lack of roads and the remoteness of this area mean the number of people pale in comparison with the crowds that pack Yellowstone and Grand Teton each summer.

Roughly three-quarters of the glaciers here hug the range’s eastern slope. That is where the Dinwoody sits, occupying a stark basin capped by the 13,800-foot summit of Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s tallest mountain.

When Wells first arrived here as a student on a National Outdoor Leadership School course in the late 1990s, the Dinwoody was blanketed in snow. Today, patches of bare ice blot its surface, revealing great twisting crevasses in its face. Each year, the ice climbs a little farther up the mountainside, said Wells, who at 46 maintains the trim physique of an adventure athlete.

The retreat hints at the wider challenges Wyoming faces as the climate warms. But, he said, “I think at this stage there is still a lot of denial, right. People don’t want to admit it’s a possibility because it’s not a pretty picture.”

In 1950, when researchers first measured the Dinwoody, they calculated its area at 850 acres. A follow-up study 50 years later concluded it was 540 acres.

The decline mirrors many glaciers in the range. One study in 2011 using aerial photographs concluded that many of the glaciers in Wind River lost on average 38 percent of their surface area over the latter half of the 20th century.

Glaciologists predict Glacier National Park will lose its ice sheets by 2080. The glaciers of the Cascades, the largest in the contiguous United States, are expected to hang on until roughly 2100. But there are few predictions for the future of the Dinwoody and its close neighbors.

Relatively few teams have tested the depth of the ice or examined other factors that could contribute to its demise. Both are essential to developing a prediction for how long the Dinwoody will last. It is this question Central Wyoming College researchers hope to answer.

In late August, Klancher and Wells led a team of roughly 15 undergraduates and researchers from Central Wyoming College, the University of Wyoming and the University of Redlands on their fourth summer expedition to the Dinwoody.

The trip, officially the Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition, is made possible by a five-year research permit from the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees this wilderness.

The wilderness designation means the glacier is inaccessible by helicopter or car. To reach it, the team loaded nine mules with 900 pounds of food, camping supplies, one ground-penetrating radar (the Noggin 100 MHz) — along with its batteries, cables, antenna and monitor — an incubator for snow samples, solar-powered batteries, test tubes, flow meters and other scientific instruments.

The 20-mile trip took more than two days, leading mules, professors and students 3,000 feet up and over a high alpine plateau and down several thousand feet into a valley, where they slowly weaved their way along a river in the direction of a boulder field until they finally reached the glacier’s base. From there, backpacks replaced mules, and equipment was hauled the last 2 miles over the rocks to a high-altitude research camp at roughly 11,000 feet.

The only signs of people here are the small tent sites that dot the boulder field. Small walls of piled rock ring each site, a testament to the wind that regularly rakes the basin and the ambitions of a few hearty climbers aiming for Gannett’s summit.

“If we didn’t come from the background we did, we would be using remote sensed images and studying it perhaps from a more theoretical perspective,” Klancher said one evening, bundled in a winter parka and windbreaker, the late summer sun having disappeared behind the mountains.

A former wilderness instructor, Klancher, 49, rode her mountain bike the length of the Continental Divide as a summer vacation this year.

Each morning, teams departed for the glacier, ice axes in hand and crampons strapped to their feet. One group dragged ground-penetrating radar across the ice, bouncing sonar off the bedrock below to test its depth. Another flew a kite equipped with a GoPro camera to snap images of its surface, needed to create a 3-D model of the glacier because drones are not allowed in federal wilderness areas. Still another took snow samples to measure black carbon, a component of particulate matter that absorbs sunlight and can speed glacial melt.

After the expedition, researchers will use ArcGIS, a geospatial software program, to map the glacier and compare the data with previous years.

“A lot of the water to irrigate fields for cattle comes from these glaciers and famous snowfields,” said Adam Frank, one of the Central Wyoming College students who helped measure the ice’s depths. “It’s not just trying to prove climate change is affecting the Wind River Range and the glaciers in it, but trying to get tangible data that we can use to show things are changing and changing quickly.”

His classmate, Marten Baur, framed the research in more personal terms. A year earlier, Baur, a baby-faced 22-year-old, hiked to the glacier and was struck by the beauty of the ice sheet and surrounding mountains. He resolved to join this year’s research expedition.

“Realizing my kids further on might not be able to experience this, they may not be able to strap on their crampons and ice axes and roam around on the ice fields — that’s significant,” he said.

But if the glacier is changing, Wyoming politics are not. On an August afternoon, the Wyoming Water Development Office led a tour of the Fontenelle Dam, an impoundment on the western flank of the Wind River Range where the Green River has been corralled to create a reservoir.



There, state officials discussed plans to bolster the dam, expanding its storage capacity in case an extreme drought triggers a cutback in the water supplied to municipalities and large industrial users like the Jim Bridger power plant, one of the West’s largest coal-fired facilities.

The dam is part of a wider state effort to harbor Wyoming’s limited water resources. Thus far, glaciers have played little role in that initiative.

Glacial meltwater is relatively insignificant to the state, said Harry LaBonde, director of the Wyoming Water Development Office, citing a study that found glaciers only account for 1 to 12 percent of annual stream flow in three local watersheds.

“It is not as significant as you would think,” LaBonde said. “Does it make up the surface water resource? Absolutely. But again, the Green River will not dry up as a result of no glaciers being there, if that’s ultimately what happens.”

He framed Wyoming’s efforts as a natural response to the state’s arid environment. People here have long built reservoirs to capture spring runoff for use at other times of the year. Climate change does not figure in the state’s planning efforts, he said.

“We rely on the period of record. In that period of record, you’re going to find drought periods and wet periods,” LaBonde said. “So we prefer to stay focused on this as an arid climate. Will we have droughts in the future? Absolutely.”

Meanwhile, the Dinwoody continues to melt. The glacier is transformed in late afternoon. Puddles of slush emerge out of solid ice near its base. A spiderweb of small rivers form, cutting channels in the ice and spilling into a series of glacial tarns at the mouth of the basin. The water continues downward, gaining power as it winds through the boulder field, before plunging into a river valley where it combines with runoff from the nearby Gannett Glacier to form Dinwoody Creek.

The creek cuts its way through a deep valley, arriving at Dinwoody Lake on the Wind River Indian Reservation, where it finally dumps into the Wind River, a major tributary of the Yellowstone River.

Like much of the West, the vast majority of the water here is used for irrigation, sustaining the hay and alfalfa needed to see Wyoming’s cattle herds through harsh winters. And like much of the West, most of that water comes from the snow that blankets Wyoming’s mountains in the winter and melts in the spring.

Glaciers contribute a relatively small amount of water by comparison, but they do play a stabilizing role by serving as a savings bank of sorts for the state’s water needs.

In late summer, when the last of the winter snow has melted, glacial runoff sustains the streams flowing off the Wind River. The glaciers’ importance only grows during drought, which climate scientists expect to be more frequent and severe in coming years.

One 2012 study estimated that late summer glacial contributions accounted for 23 percent to 54 percent of stream flow in several local watersheds. It also found that glaciated basins experienced less variability in stream flow than those without glaciers.

“There is a run on the savings bank. We’re not collecting interest anymore,” Klancher said. “We are dipping into the savings, and the interest we counted on for June, July, August, those hot summer months, is in great jeopardy.”

Federal officials are increasingly concerned by the glaciers’ disappearance. Forest Service officials recently began a study of the Mammoth Glacier, on the western slope, and have signed off on a field study by researchers at the University of North Dakota.

Officials at the Bureau of Land Management’s Lander field office have taken interest in Central Wyoming College’s research because it will help the bureau plan for an increasingly arid climate, said Kristin Yannone, the office’s planning and environment coordinator.

“The information we’re seeing is the glacier is changing, not in glacial terms but in immediate terms,” she said.

Few outside Wyoming are likely to be affected by the Wind River glaciers’ retreat. The meltwater does not help to feed orchards or generate electricity like the glaciers of the Cascades. They are not the prized jewel of Glacier National Park, their disappearance the subject of extensive study and concern. And while the Wind River Range is the headwaters of tributaries feeding the Colorado, Missouri and Snake rivers, glaciologists say the ice sheets’ contributions to those basins are relatively small. Their disappearance is unlikely to make a material change in downstream water flows.

“For Wyoming it’s a big deal, but for the world it’s not a big deal,” said Neil Humphrey, a glaciologist at the University of Wyoming who studied the glaciers here before turning his focus to Greenland. “If numbers of people matter, it’s not super-important.”

The Wind River glaciers are nevertheless harbingers of change. Glaciers across the West have been melting ever since the end of the Little Ice Age, a cool period in the Earth’s history that ended around the close of the 19th century.

But their decline appears to have accelerated in recent years. The Continental Glacier, one of the slower melting glaciers in the range, melted 1.6 times faster between 1999 and 2012 than the previous 30 years, according to University of North Dakota glaciologist Jeff VanLooy, who is conducting field studies of several Wind River glaciers.

The Knife Point Glacier, one of the range’s fastest retreating ice sheets, melted three times faster between 1999 and 2015 than it did between 1966 and 1999.


Central Wyoming College’s initial research show the Dinwoody sheds 1.3 meters of ice annually between 2006 and 2016. The ice sheet now measures as little as 2 meters at its shallowest and roughly 55 meters at its deepest.

“We’re not going to stop these glaciers from melting. They are going to melt,” VanLooy said. “It does mean we need to make adaptions to what we do in terms of water management. Agriculture and ranching are big to Wyoming. The economy may end up hurting in the future because of a lack of preparedness.”

Back at the base of the Dinwoody, Wells wondered what his students would take from the trip. Maybe they will be inspired by the beauty of this place. Maybe some will want to pursue a career in science as a result. And maybe a few will continue to study these glaciers, helping people in the semi-arid basins below prepare for the icy retreat.

But time is of the essence. Because this laboratory is disappearing.





…Clear ……..and Present …………………Danger….

It’s a little after sunrise on the first day of another week, and Cincinnati is waking up again with a heroin problem. So is Covington. And Middletown. And Norwood. And Hamilton. And West Chester Township. And countless other cities and towns across Ohio and Kentucky.

This particular week, July 10 through 16, will turn out to be unexceptional by the dreary standards of what has become the region’s greatest health crisis.

This is normal now, a week like any other. But a terrible week is no less terrible because it is typical. When heroin and synthetic opiates kill one American every 16 minutes, there is little comfort in the routine.

There is only the struggle to endure and survive.



“I just walked in and my buddy, he hasn’t been answering his phone. I believe he’s OD’d and I think he’s dead.”

7:25 A.M.

Jimmy Doherty arrives at the halfway house on Ravine Street still wearing the blue slippers he got in jail.

He came straight here after his release this morning because he thinks the program at the Pax House in Cincinnati will help him get his addiction under control.

“We’ll get you going,” says the house manager.

Doherty crushes his cigarette and sits down to fill out a form for new residents, but he’s stumped by a question about his history with drugs. It’s a long history.

“Describe all mood-altering substances?” Doherty asks.

The manager shakes his head. “Drug of choice,” he says. “Just put your drug of choice.”

Doherty nods. He turns back to the page and writes a single word.


9 A.M.

On some days, even before she calls their names, Judge Gwen Bender can tell why the defendants are in Courtroom A.

Their bones look as if they might poke through their skin. Their eyes are sunken, their hair a tangled mess. Some are unsteady on their feet. Others scratch at sores on their arms.

A few lean on the table in front of the judge as if it is the only thing holding them up.

“This is a heroin case?” the judge asks.

This morning, as on most mornings, one in four felony cases on this Hamilton County court docket is directly connected to heroin.

There’s a 70-year-old Army veteran who stashed a bag of syringes in a basement crawl space. A Taylor Mill woman who tried to hide needles in her vagina after shooting up. A St. Bernard woman who overdosed when a friend injected her with heroin.

The woman from St. Bernard looks confused, as if she’s unsure how she got here. She was on the floor of her friend’s house, barely breathing, less than 12 hours ago.

Now she’s standing before the judge, eyes sunken and hair tangled, leaning hard against the table.

10:22 A.M.

Tim Reagan’s radio crackles to life as he pulls his late-model sedan onto I-275.

“I’ve got him,” says one voice.

“He drove right past me,” says another.

Reagan is the agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Cincinnati. He’s on the road today with about 50 other agents and police officers.

They’re all on the tail of a man suspected of hauling two to three kilos of heroin to a potential buyer in Columbus. Each kilo, which is more than two pounds, is worth up to $300,000 on the street.

Heroin is big business, but not for the Mexican immigrant Reagan is tailing today. He’s just a suspected courier who might make $500 or so. The real money flows to the gangs that control distribution, and to the drug cartels back in Mexico.

When they finally pull him over, police rip up the floor boards and dig through the driver’s back pack. They check the bumpers and the trunk and look for secret compartments in the doors.


Reagan is frustrated. There have to be drugs in that car, he thinks.

The agents don’t have time to dwell on what went wrong. About 7,000 kilograms of heroin are seized in the United States every year, three times as much as a decade ago. They will be hunting someone new tomorrow.

11 A.M.

Jeremiah Dotson stands before the judge at the Hamilton County Courthouse, hands shackled behind his back.

He’s been in this spot before. Two years ago, he was charged with heroin possession. Since then, he’s missed meetings with his probation officer and failed to submit urine samples for drug testing.

Judge Melba Marsh looks over his record and tells him he has a choice between two doors: One leads to jail, the other to a treatment facility.

“Which one are you thinking you want to go through?” Marsh asks.

Dotson chooses jail.

“You’re not going to change me,” he says.

12:30 P.M.

Derrick Stewart, 26, of Lexington, Kentucky and Rikki Asher, 25, of Cynthiana, Ky., pleaded not guilty during their arraignments in Courtroom A at the Hamilton County Justice Center. According to Cincinnati police, the couple ‘admitted to shooting up heroin in the vehicle’. Their three-year-old daughter was in the car at the time.

The Enquirer/Cara Owsley

Rikki Asher and Derrick Stewart step into Courtroom A, one after the other. They were arrested two days earlier after running a red light on Gilbert Avenue. Police say they admitted to shooting heroin while Asher was driving.

A used needle was on the floor of the car.

Their 3-year-old daughter was in the back seat.

1:16 P.M.

The Clermont County Quick Response Team pulls up to a small ranch house where a couple in their 60s overdosed the night before.

The couple was given naloxone, also known as Narcan, which reverses the effects of heroin and other opiates and can save people who overdose. Both survived.

It’s the response team’s job to reach out to survivors to try to guide them to treatment.

Union Township Fire Lt. Charlie Caudill walks to the front door and knocks. He waits several minutes before a shirtless man, covered in sores, nudges open the door to see what Caudill wants.

This man is younger than the two overdose survivors. A counselor on the team thinks he’s high.

He pushes the door open just a few inches.

Team members explain why they’re there and offer to set up a time to train him to use naloxone. The man doesn’t want their help.

“I’m not the one with the problem,” he says.

1:25 P.M.

“Possible heroin overdose, woman on the corner with her eyes rolling in the back of her head.” – Police scanner call, corner of Melrose and Lincoln.

1:48 P.M.


“Possible heroin overdose, subject in main area on the first floor between shelves.” – Police scanner call, Covedale branch library.

2:59 P.M.

“Overdose in a gold vehicle, other subjects are attempting to perform CPR, last seen driving at high speeds.” – Police scanner call, no location given.

3:17 P.M.

Dispatcher: “Cincinnati 911.”

Caller: “Hello! Yes, please, sir, my brother and his friend overdosed in my car. I picked them up at McDonald’s and they overdosed in my car.”

“Where you at?”

“I’m by the Rapid Run Park.”

“Are they breathing?”


“If they’re breathing, do not do CPR.”

“But what if they’re blue?”

“We’re sending the paramedics.”

“OK. Please try to hurry.”

7 P.M.

The meeting begins, as it always does, with the women taking turns sharing how long it’s been since they’ve used drugs.

“I have 65 days.”

“I have 41 days.”

“I have 20 days.”

Tonight, the two dozen women at the WRAP House in Covington are waiting to hear from a young mother who quit heroin three years ago. Some of the women here have been using drugs most of their adult lives. Some are pregnant. Some have children.

To them, three years is a lifetime.

The young mother sits in the middle of the group with her curly haired daughter on her lap. The girl is 3 now. After she was born, the woman left the hospital to buy heroin. Today, she’s working two jobs, has an apartment and is trying to regain full custody of her child.

Then she asks the question about her recovery that she knows they’re all thinking.

“Is it hard?” she says.

“Yeah, it’s hard.”

7:54 P.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 1: Two sons, two moms, one week

Dispatcher: Campbell County 911. What is your emergency?

Caller: “Yes, um, … I just walked in and my buddy, he hasn’t been answering his phone. I believe he’s OD’d and I think he’s dead.”

Minutes later, Kim Hill’s phone rings. It’s her son Tommy’s girlfriend. She’s hysterical, sobbing, and Kim can’t make out the words.

It sounds like she’s saying her son overdosed. But that can’t be right. Tommy has been doing great. He’s been free of heroin for a year now. He goes to meetings. He’s a mentor to others struggling with addiction.

She hands the phone to a friend. “I think she’s telling me my baby’s dead,” Kim says.

She races to the car and drives to Tommy’s apartment in Newport, where he’s been living on his own for a few months. There are cops on the sidewalk. Someone from the coroner’s office is standing nearby.

This can’t be happening, she thinks. Her baby boy, the son she still calls “Tom Tom” even though he’s now 34, can’t be dead.

She watches the paramedics carry a body bag out the front door and down the concrete steps to the sidewalk. The body is heavy. One of the paramedics loses his grip.

Kim can tell the body inside is hunched over and stiff, as if he’d been dead for hours before anyone found him. As if he were still face down on his bed, alone for God knows how long, a needle in his arm.

Kim screams at them.

“That’s my child! He is not a piece of garbage!”

Later that night, Lizzie Hamblin logs into Facebook and sees a post from Kim about Tommy. Their sons grew up together, played together.

And battled heroin addiction together.

Lizzie’s son, Scotty Hamblin, walks into the apartment and she can tell he knows about Tommy.

Tommy was more than Scotty’s friend. He was a role model. He sponsored Scotty, 24, in a sober living program, and counseled him as he struggled to stay off heroin.

Lizzie hugs her son. He’s cold and clammy, sweating through his white T-shirt. Something isn’t right.

He’s using again, she thinks.



“Please don’t let this destroy you.”

7:40 A.M.

The parking lot at the NKY Med Clinic in Covington is bustling. About 1,200 people come here every day for a dose of methadone, a drug that can stabilize brains rewired by heroin.

One man walks toward the glass doors at the clinic’s entrance with a sleeping baby on his shoulder and a girl in pajamas at his side.

Two women with little boys follow a few minutes later.

Then a man in a business suit.

And a woman in a waitress uniform.

And a young man walking his dog.

And five pregnant jail inmates in orange and white stripes shuffling single file from a van to the entrance, wrists shackled, hands resting on their bellies.

Pregnant inmates are led into the Northern Kentucky Med Clinic in Covington where they receive methadone and counseling. Medication assisted treatment is standard care for women battling addiction to protect the fetus.

The Enquirer/Liz Dufour

9:19 A.M.

A 36-year-old woman paces the kitchen at Tamar’s Place in Over-the-Rhine, waiting for her frozen pizza to finish cooking in the microwave. She’s in a good mood this morning, but it may not last long.

She’ll start going through withdrawal soon unless she gets some heroin.

Sarah came to Tamar’s to clean up and grab a bite to eat. It’s a safe place for prostitutes and women addicted to heroin, but she knows she can’t stay.

Sarah talks to a homeless woman in the kitchen while eating her pizza. The woman says she’s lost two children to heroin in just the past year. She describes waking up in an abandoned building one morning to find her 25-year-old daughter at her side, cold and dead.

Sarah shakes her head. Her arms are covered with sores and needle tracks. She’s been using heroin since she was 17, almost half her life.

“I’m tired of this shit,” Sarah says.

Tomorrow, she tells the woman, she will go to a treatment center. Tomorrow, she will change her life.

Minutes later, tiny bumps appear on Sarah’s arms. It’s gooseflesh, a symptom of withdrawal.

She grabs her phone and heads for the door, racing down two flights of stairs. Once she’s outside, Sarah calls a man she refers to as her “sugar daddy” and asks him to wire money to a nearby Western Union.

Sarah needs a fix.

11 A.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 2

Kim Hill usually looks forward to the call from Tommy’s brother, Devlin. Not today.

Her oldest son, who is doing time for assault in a Kentucky prison, checks in with her every morning around this time. He doesn’t know yet that Tommy is dead.

Kim tells him.

“Please don’t let this destroy you,” Devlin says.

Lizzie Hamblin hasn’t heard from her son, Scotty, since he walked out the night before. She’s certain he’s using heroin again.

“Scott Hamblin Jr. I need to hear from you,” Lizzie posts on her Facebook page.

She calls him, too. And texts. Each message is more desperate than the last.

“Call me.”

“I need you.”

“I need to hear you are alright.”

12:17 P.M.

Police approach a parked car in Cheviot and find a 33-year-old West Chester woman about to inject heroin into her right arm. She’s holding a syringe filled with the drug and has three other needles in the car.

There’s a man in the car with her. He has a used syringe tucked behind his left ear.

1:10 P.M.

Kacie Rolfes walks into the conference room at the psychiatric hospital and takes a seat across the table from a 7-year-old girl.

The girl is wearing pink shorts and a bright blue T-shirt that reads, “I’m a Dream Believer.”

“Do you know why you’re in this situation?” Rolfes asks.

“Because my mom and dad did drugs,” the girl says.

Rolfes is a Hamilton County social worker. She made the five-hour drive today to the Belmont Pines psychiatric hospital in Youngstown to check on the girl, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric problems.

The girl is from Colerain Township, but she hasn’t been home since she found her mother slumped over the toilet last year, high on heroin and barely conscious. Her father died of an overdose earlier this year.

Children’s services placed the girl with a foster family, but that ended when she tried to drown her foster sister in a YMCA swimming pool. After that, the girl’s doctors sent her here for more intensive treatment.

“Do you need me to do anything for you?” Rolfes asks.

The girl says she’d like Rolfes to bring some things from home.

“I want the picture of me, my brother, sister and mom with my dad,” she says. “A necklace, too. It has a cross on it. My dad gave it to me before he died.”

Rolfes promises to do her best to find the photo and the necklace. If she can, she’ll bring them to their next visit.

When they finish the meeting, the girl leans on the table, looking tired and bored, ready to move on to whatever comes next. Rolfes pats her back softly.

“Take care of yourself, kiddo,” she says.

3 P.M.

Jeff Daunt bounces the baby girl in his arms and makes the kind of goofy face only someone holding a baby can pull off.

“Hi!” he says. “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii there!”

The baby looks up, eyes wide, and gives him a big, toothless grin. This is good, Daunt thinks. This is progress.

Not long ago, Daunt and his wife, Sandy, worried the baby and her 2-year-old sister would never connect to people this way. The children were distant, detached. For months, the baby cried whenever someone tried to hold her.

The Daunts adopted the oldest girl last year and hope to do the same with the baby. They say both kids are the children of heroin users here in Butler, Ky.

Today, the Daunts brought the kids to FIREhouse Ministries for a children’s program. They’re surrounded by a dozen or so other kids who are coloring and playing games. The 2-year-old is right in the middle of it. The baby, still smiling, is taking it all in.

Sandy and Jeff are glad to see them so engaged. Though they have no family relation to the girls, the Daunts, whose biological children are grown, decided they had to help.

They’d looked on for months as the girls’ parents, their neighbors, left the children strapped in car seats for hours, or dropped them off with friends for days at a time. Sandy remembers hearing the girls cry and cry inside the trailer where they lived, wondering why no one picked them up and held them and told them everything would be OK.

Someone should be holding those babies, she’d tell herself.

Someone should do something.

10:06 P.M.

An Indiana man is arrested in Avondale after his mother called police to say she caught him using heroin in her car. Police find him in the passenger seat of the car with a needle containing heroin.



“I need my kids more than they need me.”

6:06 A.M.

“Good morning!”

Officer Tim Eppstein’s greeting wakes about a half dozen homeless people dozing beneath the I-71 overpass on Butler Street in Cincinnati. Their heads poke out from under dirty blankets, eyes squinting to see who’s there.

“You’re not under arrest,” Eppstein assures them. He’s making the rounds at Cincinnati homeless camps to hand out eviction notices.

As the residents of the makeshift camps slowly get to their feet, Eppstein encourages those addicted to heroin to get some help. He can see by the orange syringe caps littering the ground that many of them need it.

The brightening morning light reveals some familiar faces. Terri Byrd, 26, is here with her boyfriend. Eppstein knows she’s got warrants out for her arrest, mostly on charges of carrying drugs and syringes.

He explains to Byrd that he has to arrest her.

“I’m sorry,” Eppstein says.

The handcuffs snap shut, and tears burst from Byrd’s bright blue eyes.

Her boyfriend stuffs their belongings into a backpack and turns to his girlfriend, now slouched in the caged backseat of the police car.

He blows her a kiss. Then starts walking down Third Street, disappearing into the crowd of people making their way to work.

10 A.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 3

Kim Hill arrives at the Don Catchen & Sons funeral home in Covington to see her dead son.

Catchen buried her parents a few years back. She trusts him to do his best for Tommy, but he warns her it will be a challenge. Tommy was dead for most of the day before his friend found him and made that 911 call.

“All you are going to see is his face,” Catchen says.

Kim walks downstairs to the mortuary. Tommy’s face is purple and swollen. She thinks it makes his red hair stand out even more.

Kim lies across his chest.

“Why would you do this?” she says, over and over. “Why would you do this, Tom Tom? Why, when you were doing so good?”

Lizzie Hamblin’s phone pings and she quickly takes a look at the text message. Finally, she thinks, it’s Scotty.

“You don’t give a (expletive) about ur son mom,” the message begins.

Any doubt she had about him using heroin again is gone. This is what the drug does to him. He’s hurting, so he hurts her.

11:30 A.M.

The green Saturn Ion leaves a trail of smoke and sparks as it weaves around traffic on I-471 in Fort Thomas.

A police cruiser pulls up behind and the Saturn veers across the highway, stopping on the emergency strip. Officer Zac Rohlfer sees a lot of this. He’s a member of the Heroin Interdiction Team, which targets dealers and users on the highway.

Rohlfer walks toward the car and tells the two men inside to get out. Michael Fryman and Terry Ray Caseltine emerge slowly from the car, both wearing basketball shorts, tank tops and flip-flops with socks.

Rohlfer and other officers question the men while they search the car. Both seem indifferent, barely paying attention.

The officers find two syringes, one empty and one filled with heroin. Rohlfer explains why he’s arresting them, but he has a question for Fryman before putting him in the police cruiser.

Why would he drive a car after using heroin?

Fryman shrugs his shoulders, and a sheepish grin crosses his face.

“Because I like to drive.”

1:42 P.M.

Ali, 25, talks about her need to get some money for fentanyl, her preferred drug, as she stand along West McMicken. Sores on her neck are from the heroin/ fentanyl use.

The Enquirer/Liz Dufour

Ali walks along McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine, looking for someone willing to pay her for sex.

It’s what she does to get money to buy fentanyl, and to keep a roof over her head. She’s 25 and addicted to the synthetic opiate. She used to take heroin, but now she prefers the more powerful and more dangerous synthetic.

She’s having trouble finding someone to pick her up on this steamy afternoon.

Ali already has changed her dress today. She’s wearing a metallic-studded, purple mini dress. She knows that sometimes her customers want someone pretty. Other times, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Tall and fine-boned, Ali could be a model. But she is emaciated. She has bruises on her neck from shooting up.

She runs a hand through her long, thick hair, grasps it and lifts it from her shoulders before letting it fall back down. Then she does it again. She’s getting anxious. Withdrawal symptoms are starting to set in and Ali thinks she might vomit on the sidewalk if she doesn’t get a fix.

Ali darts across the street, vanishes for a few minutes and returns with her drug in hand. She hides behind a couple of trash cans and uses it.

About 15 minutes later, she’s back, feeling better, walking the street in the hot summer sun.

2:36 P.M.

Amy Parker is talking about accountability to a roomful of people trying to recover from heroin addiction.

She knows better than most that this is a tough sell.

“It requires you to be responsible,” she says. “It requires you to be honest.”

Heads nod in agreement, but Parker is wary. She quit heroin almost five years ago and she remembers how she’d do and say anything to get by, to get money, to get more heroin.

It took her years and more relapses than she can recall to live drug-free. But she did. She got medicine and treatment. She got a job, met a good guy, renewed her relationship with her daughter and had a baby.

Now Parker is here, at Brightview treatment center in Colerain Township, working as a peer counselor with about a dozen people who are where she used to be: Walking the line between sobriety and relapse.

On the drive home, less than an hour later, Parker spots one of the group members in a parking lot. As she sits at a stop light, Parker watches the woman sidle up to a nice car, lean into an open window and walk away with her fist clenched, as if holding something tightly.

Parker’s heart sinks. She’s seen this before. She’s done this before, back when she was using.

She knows what that clenched fist conceals.

3:11 P.M.

Dispatcher: “Cincinnati 911, what is the address of your emergency?”

Caller: “Hatmaker … it’s the school parking lot. It’s like an emergency. I think he overdosed.”

“Is he breathing?”

“Yeah, but he’s like, ahhhhhrrrrrrrrgh, like he’s growling or something.”

“You’re not sure if he’s breathing?”

“He’s breathing. He’s out. He’s passed out. I think he overdosed.”

4:08 P.M.

The woman begins to cry as she tells the social worker about her conversation today with her kids.

Her oldest sons are 7 and 8 years old. They just passed their swimming tests, and one of them won an award at school for being kind to others. Her 3-year-old girl had a big day, too.

“Mom, I ate an apple,” she’d told her.

The woman is locked up at a Talbert House treatment center and her kids are in a foster home three hours away. She’s been separated from her four children since the day last August when she and her husband shot heroin and overdosed at a family picnic.

“I need my kids,” she says, still crying. “I need my kids more than they need me.”

7:54 P.M.

The paramedics are waiting for Doyle Burke when he walks into the Atrium Medical Center in Middletown.

As the chief investigator for the Warren County coroner’s office, he knows these guys pretty well. They’re the ones who try to revive overdose victims, and Burke is the one who collects the bodies when they can’t.

He’s here tonight to collect a 56-year-old Middletown resident. The paramedics found her unresponsive near her TV. They tried to save her with naloxone, but it was too late.

“Was she ever conscious enough to say anything?” Burke asks.

She wasn’t, they tell him.

They look defeated, and Burke understands why. As a former police detective in Dayton, he took tough cases personally, too. He learned long ago that sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much time you invest in someone.

So Burke looks at the paramedics and says the only thing he can think to say.

“You did everything you could do.”

8:35 P.M.

The police officers and medics find the man on the floor of the Speedway bathroom on West Main Street in Newark, sprawled next to the toilet, head under the sink.

They’ve tried spraying naloxone into his nostrils, but it’s had no effect. He’s not breathing. They’re running out of time.

One of the medics takes a drill out of his bag and turns it on. It whirs like a dental drill as he pushes it into the man’s shin bone, trying to create a more direct path for the naloxone to enter the bloodstream.

The medics install a stent and start pushing in doses of the life-saving drug.

The man rouses and tries to stand.

“Lay down, buddy. You overdosed,” a medic says. “We just brought you back to life.”

Later, at the hospital, the man hops off the gurney and runs outside, the stent still embedded in his leg.



“Taxpayers are paying for this crisis, but they didn’t create this crisis.”

6:16 A.M.

“Good morning Zachary Ziehm I just wanted to say I love you.” – Facebook post by Tami George of Crestview Hills, whose son, Zachary, died of a heroin and fentanyl overdose in 2016.

8:22 A.M.

Subject: Desperate need of help

My family is in desperate need of help. Both my fiancé and I have a substance abuse problem. We have two children one we are about to lose to the state due to our problems. we’ve battled with these addictions most of our lives. We love our daughter and we have tried so hard … I know if we could get away from our area and the poor influences we could succeed and keep this family together. please please help us. – A post on the website of Transitions, Inc., a Northern Kentucky treatment center.

9:47 A.M.

“The taxpayers are paying for this crisis, but they didn’t create this crisis.” – Clermont County Commissioner David Painter, announcing a lawsuit that claims wholesale pharmaceutical distributors fueled the heroin epidemic.

11:07 A.M.

Stephanie Gaffney is cuddling her baby when the nurse practitioner walks into the examining room.

“She got so big!” says the nurse, Patsy Uebel.

Elliana, who turns eight months old today, is here for a checkup at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She’s a patient at a special clinic that treats babies for neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when babies are born to mothers addicted to heroin.

The infants can suffer tremors, sleeplessness, seizures and other withdrawal symptoms.

Elliana gurgles and wobbles a bit when Uebel sits her on the examining table. As she checks out the baby, Uebel quizzes Gaffney on Elliana’s progress.

“Is she holding things?”

“She takes stuff and then drops it out of her chair,” Gaffney says. “She looks at it, then she looks at me and laughs.”

“Good,” Uebel says.

The clinic’s goal is to monitor the babies, but also to support the mothers. Many, like Gaffney, used heroin and other opiates for years.

Gaffney, 28, quit cold turkey after learning she was pregnant. She’s living now with the baby at First Step Home, a treatment center in Walnut Hills. They plan to move into an apartment together soon.

After years of addiction, Gaffney’s goals are modest. She wants to raise her child in a normal home. She wants a normal life.

Uebel finishes the examination. “She looks real, real good,” she says.

Gaffney is relieved. She scoops Elliana into her arms and takes her appointment card for her next visit to the clinic in December.

“See you then,” she says.

(Ten days later, Gaffney is dead from a heroin overdose.)

11:53 A.M.

Scarlett Hudson is on a mission. Her nonprofit, the Women of Alabaster Ministries, Inc., has been on West McMicken for almost two years. It’s faith based and assists women caught in human trafficking and struggling with addiction. Hudson often drives the women to appointments. The women know they can call Hudson and she’ll come. Twice a week, she also does outreach ministry on the streets in Over-the-Rhine and Covington. In the building, women can get food, shower, a nap, clothes and see a nurse once a week. But most important, Hudson says, is not judging what these women are going through.

The Enquirer/Liz Dufour

Scarlet Hudson pulls over when she spots the woman in fuzzy slippers walking along West Pike Street in Covington.

Hudson, known around town as “Momma Scarlet,” is with Women of Alabaster Ministries, a group that helps prostitutes with drug addictions. Many of them, like the woman in the fuzzy slippers, are addicted to heroin.

Today, Hudson packed 20 hamburgers from McDonald’s and plastic bags filled with toothpaste, shampoo, wet wipes and other toiletries.

She hands out the food and supplies because the women need them, and because she wants them to know someone cares.

Each bag comes with one of Hudson’s “Momma Scarlet” business cards bearing her phone number.

The woman in the slippers opens one of the bags. “Oooooooh!” she says, smiling.

She’s 53 and a long-time heroin user. Hudson encourages her to give up the street life.

“When you’re ready, sweetie, we’ll help you find a way.”

12:30 P.M.

Despite a steady drizzle, the neighbors gather in the parking lot to gawk as the cops and medics rush inside.

The lot in front of the Middletown apartment complex is small, so there isn’t much room. A rental sign out front says, “Mature Adults — $400.”

After several minutes inside, a police officer walks out of the building, smiling broadly.

“Hallelujah!” she says. “Narcan works!”

They’d just used the drug to save someone who’d overdosed on heroin. A woman in a purple shirt emerges from the apartment soon after. She’s disheveled with stringy blond hair, walking unsteadily and looking around, as if in an unfamiliar place.

A medic keeps his hand on her elbow as she makes her way to the fire truck.

“Big step,” he says, leading her inside.

2 P.M.

The needle exchange van pulls to a stop alongside a vacant building in Middletown, out of sight from passersby on the road.

Two women hop out and set up a large blue umbrella to hide the faces of clients. They run the Cincinnati Exchange Project like a covert operation: For the next hour or so, drug users will anonymously drop off used needles and walk away with new ones.

The goal is to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other viruses that thrive when drug users share needles.

It quickly becomes a popular stop. Skinny young men. Middle-aged women in yoga pants. A guy in a lawn care truck.

One by one, they slip behind the blue umbrella, emerging moments later, new needles in hand.

4:28 P.M.

Dispatcher: “Cincinnati police and fire. How can I help you?”

Caller: “Yes, I’m currently at the Burger King on Glenway and there’s somebody passed out in the women’s bathroom … Yeah, she’s OD’d.”

“Are you sure it’s a drug overdose?”

“Yes, the needle was right by her arm.”

8:30 P.M.

Brandon McCormick finds a seat in the back of the conference room and waits for the others to arrive.

It’s his first meeting with the “Bedtime Breakfast Club,” a support group at Dorman Products in Warsaw, Ky.

McCormick, 32, is new to the auto parts supplier and to the group. He was worried about coming because he thought it might be held against him, but he was more worried about trying to stay off heroin on his own.

“I’ve been on pills and heroin for the better part of the last seven years,” he tells the group.

He hasn’t used drugs in a month, he says, but he knows he’s not out of the woods. He tells them he thinks about using every day, multiple times a day. He’s afraid of what he might do next week when he cashes his first paycheck and has some money to spend.

“I have nobody to talk to,” McCormick says.

The group leader tells him he’s wrong.

“Now you have a whole big ol’ family,” he says.

10:30 P.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 4

Kim Hill searches through the boxes filled with her son’s belongings, unsure what she’s looking for. There’s a box for Tommy’s clothes, sneakers and hats. There’s a box for his cologne.

She can smell him on the clothes he’ll never wear again, and on the green comforter from the bed he’ll never return home to sleep in.

Kim decides to take the comforter home with her.

She will hold it close tonight, in her own bed, while she tries again to sleep. And she will think, “This is what is left of my child.”



“She looked bad. She didn’t look like my mom.”

8:01 A.M.

“This has been a crazy light week for ODs.” – Andrea Hatten, chief administrator for the Hamilton County coroner’s office, in an email to law enforcement and the media. So far this week, there have been at least 96 overdoses and 10 deaths in Greater Cincinnati.

10:34 A.M.

“This is a heroin run.” – Police scanner call regarding ambulance taking someone to Mercy West Hospital.

11:08 A.M.

The door swings open and Tammy Isbel’s two children run to her.

“Give mommy a kiss!” she says, arms enveloping the kids. “A big hug, a big hug.”

Isbel is here at the Family Nurturing Center to celebrate her son’s birthday. Bentley will be 6 in a few days, but she won’t be able to have a party at home with him and his little sister, 3-year-old Bailee.

The children are in the custody of Hamilton County children’s services because Isbel recently relapsed and overdosed on heroin. She’s struggled with addiction for 16 years. The only way she sees the kids now is through supervised visits like this one at the center.

The center is divided into 35 family visitation areas, each 24-by-24 feet. A camera records everything and a social worker watches and listens.

Still, Isbel does her best to make the room feel like home. She and the kids’ dad, Eric Inabnitt, decorated with streamers and balloons. They brought pizza and chips for the kids and a Batman birthday cake for Bentley.

The kids laugh and tear open presents. About an hour into the party, the social worker says: “OK, you guys have a half an hour.”

The family quickly poses for pictures. They hug and kiss and say goodbye. And when the kids say they need to use the bathroom, Isbel takes them by the hand and leads them out of the room. They laugh and squirm.

“Oh no,” she says. “You are not getting away from me.”

11:15 A.M.

“Three white males just sold heroin. Should be a large amount of heroin in the vehicle.”– Police scanner call about vehicle heading north on I-71.

11:44 A.M.

“Prostitute and possible heroin users present in apartment.” – Police scanner call about possible break-in at home in North Avondale.


The Lost Boys – Part 5

Lizzie Hamblin pulls a plastic bag filled with photographs from her purse and hands it to Kim Hill.

They sit together on a couch in Kim’s living room, trying to pick which photos to use in the collage they’re making for Kim’s son’s funeral.

There’s one of Tommy and his brother at Easter. Another of Tommy at Christmas.

“I want copies of that,” Kim says.

“You’ll get them,” Lizzie says.

They’ve been friends for so long that many of these memories are shared. Kim asks if Lizzie remembers how people would think Tommy was a girl when he was little because his hair was so long.

Lizzie smiles and they laugh together on the couch, still staring at the photos in their hands.

12:40 P.M.

A 35-year-old woman in a blue tank top and yoga pants collapses on the floor of the public restroom at Findlay Market. A syringe loaded with heroin is at her side when a shopper pushes open the door and finds her, struggling to breathe.

Police and medics are called, but a woman at the market takes action first. She has naloxone packs in her purse and administers the drug before medics arrive.

The woman regains consciousness. Medics take her to the hospital.

1:05 P.M.

Janie Foxx sits at the kitchen table of her Middletown home and imagines the funeral she would like to have for her sons.

Her youngest son, Kevin, died in 2014 from an infection he got using dirty needles. Her oldest, Darrell, overdosed on heroin and died last summer. She keeps their ashes in two black, shoebox-sized containers on a shelf in her family room.

A candle and photos of the boys stand nearby on the shelf. But Foxx wants to do better for them.

She wants to have a memorial service where people could remember her boys as they were before heroin turned their lives to ash. She wants to release white doves and find a nice place to spread their remains.

Foxx is 70, though, and her husband is sick with cancer. They have bills. More money going out than coming in.

So Foxx sits at her kitchen table, drinking coffee reheated from this morning, planning a funeral she may never see.

2:33 P.M.

It’s 86 degrees in Piatt Park when the middle-aged man passes out on a bench in front of Café de Paris.

A bike cop spots him and calls for paramedics. He shoots naloxone into the man’s nostrils, but it doesn’t work.

“He don’t hurt nobody. He’s my friend,” a bystander says.

“He’s drunk,” says another.

No one else pays much attention. Men in business suits walk by. A woman pushes a stroller.

When paramedics show up, they insert an IV and give him another naloxone dose. This time, the man rouses. The medics tell him he should go to the hospital, but he ignores them.

He gets to his feet and slowly walks away.

3:18 P.M.

Bree Schreck, a case worker with South Central Ohio Child Protective Services, runs her hand through a young client’s hair as she tells her how much she likes the new bright red color. Schreck carries a caseload of a 23 families and must meet with each one at least once a month. Photo shot Friday 14,2017.

The Gazette/Matthew Berry

Bree Schreck walks around the girl’s bedroom, checking out the bright butterfly stickers on the ceiling and the lava lamp on the night stand.

Schreck, a children’s services caseworker, is visiting the 12-year-old girl at her aunt’s house in Chillicothe, where she’s been staying for months because her mom is addicted to heroin.

The girl seems to be doing well. She’s eager to show off her hair, which she’s dyed bright red and braided, like a crown. Shiny bracelets dangle from her wrist and her room is as neat as it is colorful.

But her mood turns when Schreck asks her about the last time she saw her mom. It was in court, the girl says quietly, eyes fixed on the floor.

“How was that?”

“She didn’t look good. She looked bad,” the girl says. “She didn’t look like my mom.”

4:19 P.M..

Dispatcher: “Butler County 911, where is your emergency?”

Caller: “Yeah, I got a possible overdose.”

“Do you know this person?”

“Yeah, it’s my son.”

“Is he awake right now?”


“Is he breathing?”

“No … Well, yes. Lowly. I can’t see his chest rising up and down or anything.”

“You probably need to start CPR.”

7:30 P.M.

“It made me crazy, so insanely hating everything.

I tried to change the pain. I cannot take it.

I’m breaking down, hoping the next shot of dope I took

Would take me down.”

– Aaron Young raps at the Community Life Church recovery block party in Mount Healthy about his recovery from heroin addiction.

8:36 P.M.

Dispatcher: “What is the address of your emergency?”

Caller: (Gives address in Fairfield Township) “She looks like she’s overdosing. The girl just drove off and left her.”

“She dropped her off at the house?”

“She just pulled up and put her out of the car. We need to hurry, please!”

“Is she breathing at all?”

“I don’t know. You need to hurry.”

8:50 P.M.

The 24-year-old woman is wearing a green jumpsuit with silver buttons that barely cover her pregnant belly when she walks into the booking area of the Richland County jail in Mansfield.

She’s starting to experience withdrawal symptoms, which are dangerous to her baby, so corrections officers are going to send her to the hospital.

One of the officers locks a chain to her ankle and another to her hands, across her belly.

“Try not to put it on too tight,” the woman says.

She sits to answer some medical questions, rocking back and forth. She taps her fingers on the chain. Tink, tink, tink.

“How often do you use heroin during the pregnancy?” the medic asks.

“Every day,” she says.



“This is a war. There are casualties.”

8:30 A.M.

Gary Moore steps to the podium at the Boone County Sheriff’s office and looks over the crowd.

About 80 people are here, preparing to hand out thousands of pamphlets and door hangers packed with information about addiction and treatment. Some wear T-shirts proclaiming “NKY Hates Heroin,” or “Hope over Heroin.”

Moore, the county’s judge-executive, asks for a show of hands from anyone who’s been touched by the heroin crisis. Nearly every hand goes up.

Then he turns to the few people without hands in the air.

“You are touched by it,” he tells them. “You just don’t know it.”

11:15 A.M.


Cars skid and swerve wildly on I-75, near the Western Hills Viaduct. Two slam into a semi-truck and the rest of the cars stop in the middle of the highway.

Horns honk. Tempers flare. Traffic comes to a standstill on the region’s busiest interstate.

Motorists get out of their cars to see if they can help. One peers into the window of a black Chevrolet and sees a woman sitting on a man’s lap in the driver’s seat. The man is turning blue and the woman is tapping on the window, trying to escape the car as she loses consciousness.

Paramedics arrive moments later and revive them both.

Police charge the driver, Kevin Dwayne Pearson, with operating a vehicle under the influence of heroin.

2 P.M.

Becky Neal stands with a small group of protesters, holding a sign bearing the image of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.

“Have a heart! Carry Narcan! Save Lives,” it says.

She’s part of a protest against Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones, who won’t let his deputies carry Narcan. He’s the only sheriff in southwest Ohio whose department doesn’t use it. Two doses of Narcan cost about $75.

Across the street from Neal, counter-protesters gather to support Jones. They carry very different signs.

“Police are Not Doctors.”

“Heroin Addicts Can Buy Their Own Narcan.”

As TV cameras swarm, one of Jones’ supporters sums up the attitude of his crowd. “This is a war,” he says. “There are casualties.”

3:53 P.M.

An 11-year-old girl dials 911. She can’t wake up her dad. Neither can her brother.

“Are you there, sweetheart?” the dispatcher asks.

“Me and my brother’s here.”

She tells the dispatcher she can’t get her dad up. He’s been like this since last night. He snores, but they cannot wake him.

“I’m afraid that he’s gonna wake up and get mad that I called you guys. But I’m just trying, because I don’t want him to die.”

The two stay on the line, waiting for police and paramedics to show up. But the father’s girlfriend arrives first and takes the phone.

“Oh my God!” the woman yells.

“He’s turning purple!”

Police and paramedics arrive and begin treating the father for an opiate overdose. The little girl takes back the phone.

“You did a great job of calling, OK?” the dispatcher tells the girl.

She’s sobbing, but manages to answer.

“You’re welcome.”

5 P.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 6

Lizzie Hamblin’s phone keeps buzzing while she gets ready for her cousin’s wedding. The text messages quickly fill up the screen.

“How could you call yourself a mother?”

“You are a rat.”

“Stay out of my life.”

It’s her son, still lashing out. She wants to talk to Scotty, to see him, but she doesn’t respond. Not to messages like these.

Lizzie finishes getting dressed and drives to the wedding in Warsaw, Ky. She decides it will be good for her to get away for a few hours, to be where no one is talking about Scotty or Tommy or heroin.

7:43 P.M.

“Happy Birthday in Heaven.” – Facebook post from Kimberly Wright, in memory of Nicholas Specht, who died of a heroin overdose in Fort Thomas in 2013.

8 P.M.

The sun cascades through the enormous oak trees in Maureen Sharib’s front yard as her grandchildren drop into the grass and roll down the hill, giggling most of the way.

Sharib can hear their laughter from the back deck, where she’s sipping lemonade and watching the sun set.

Sometimes, Sharib wonders how they can be so happy. Jaxon is 4 and Brianna is 9 and they have plenty of reasons not to be. Their mom, Natalie Bauer, overdosed and died in January after a decade of battling an addiction to heroin and painkillers.

Sharib, Natalie’s mom, is raising Brianna now, and Sharib’s sister is raising Jaxon. They’re doing their best to provide safe and happy homes, but it’s hard.

Some nights, Brianna will cry out, “I want my mommy! I want my mommy!” Some nights, she climbs into the closet and digs out an old framed photograph of her mom that Sharib hides away, for fear it will upset the kids.

The children will spend the night together, as they do most weekends, here at Sharib’s house in Mount Lookout. They go to bed around 9:30, but Brianna keeps getting up and coming back into the living room.

She finally climbs onto her grandmother’s lap. Sharib strokes her hair and kisses her forehead until Brianna closes her eyes.



“There are no perfect people. It’s important to understand we all make mistakes.”

10:35 A.M.

“There are no perfect people. If you think you’re perfect, think again, because you’re not. It’s important to understand that we all make mistakes.” – Pastor Troy Gray in a sermon at Zion Baptist Church in Chillicothe, which runs a program to help men after addiction or incarceration.

3:30 P.M.

Covington paramedics find the woman on the floor of a flop house on Howell Street, barely breathing.

Her name is Gracie and they aren’t sure about her age. She’s in pretty bad shape. A neighbor said he gave her three doses of naloxone before the cops arrived. The paramedics are hooking her up to an IV to give her more.

“Gracie? Wake up, Gracie,” one of them says, kneeling next to her.

They rub her chest and continue setting up the IV. They talk about the possibility she took something even worse than heroin, like carfentanil, a synthetic opiate that’s blamed for a growing number of overdoses.

“Either she got a new dealer, or her dealer hosed her,” a paramedic says.

“Gracie? Gracie? Gracie? Want to wake up?”

She gasps and moves her arm.

“Gracie, wake up.”

She moves again and jerks her arm. They warn her to watch the IV line.

“I’m fine,” she says, sleepily.

They ask her to sit up, and she does. “Thank you,” she says.

The cops and paramedics laugh, relieved she’s going to make it. “You’re welcome,” one says.

They tell her they’re going to take her to the hospital, but she doesn’t want to go. She keeps saying she’s fine, that she doesn’t do drugs. Maybe, she says, she just drank too much alcohol and passed out.

They tell her naloxone doesn’t work on alcohol, only on heroin or a synthetic opiate.

“Gracie, you overdosed.”

“No, I didn’t. I don’t do drugs.”

8 P.M.

When the music stops at FIREhouse ministries, Michael Cummins begins to speak.

“A year ago yesterday,” he says, “I lost my 30-year-old son to heroin.”

Many of the 60 or so people who came for evening services at FIREhouse Ministries in Butler, Ky., nod their heads.

“For 15 years, he struggled.”

The music begins to play again, and the people raise their hands and sing.

“Some bright morning when this life is over,

I’ll fly away.

To that home on God’s celestial shore,

I’ll fly away.”

8:56 P.M.

The young man wobbles back and forth, struggling to stand, as the deputy at the Hamilton County Justice Center instructs him to take off his shoes.

He manages to get them off, barely, and sits in a plastic chair. A dirty bandage tinged with blood hangs from his arm. His head bobs up and down and he’s slurring his words so much the nurse can barely understand him.

“It’s going to be all right,” she tells him. “It’s going to be all right, baby.”

His name is Dan Stieritz. He’s 24 and he’s the last person sent to the Justice Center this week on charges related to using opiates. The nurse, Tammy Hopkins, is trying to ask him questions before he’s booked into the jail.

“Did you use heroin?”

He doesn’t answer. His head bobs. His eyes flutter.

“Dan? Dan?”

“I heard you,” he says.

Hopkins cleans the wound on the man’s arm and wraps it in white gauze and a new bandage. When she’s finished, Dan looks at his arm and then at the nurse who patched him up.

“Thank you,” he says.

10:30 P.M.

“Saying so long until I see you again little country girl.” – Facebook post by Candace Brewer of Covington, in memory of  Devany Mariah Stroude, who died on Wednesday from a heroin overdose.

She was 18.

11:41 P.M.

The Lost Boys – Part 7

Lizzie Hamblin stands in the doorway of her son’s room. It’s mostly empty now.

Scotty returned while she was gone and took almost everything of value that he owned. He’ll probably sell it, she thinks, so he can buy heroin.

Lizzie told him not to come home if he’s using drugs. She told him she’d call his parole officer if he did. She wants Scotty safe, but for too long she’s let her love for him stand in the way of doing what’s best for him. He needs to get treatment.

Earlier today, Lizzie talked to Kim Hill. She’ll see her tomorrow at the funeral for Kim’s son, Tommy.

Kim told Lizzie she’s praying Scotty gets arrested and locked up before it’s too late.

Lizzie scrolls through her text messages from Scotty. They have been angry, cruel. He blames her for his problems. It’s what he does when he’s using heroin.

She types a message to him: “Love you.”

She will keep saying those words until he hears her.

Her phone pings and she picks it up. It’s a message from Scotty.

“Love you too.”


It’s almost midnight on the last day of another week, and the heroin epidemic has done its damage.

18: Deaths known or suspected to be the result of overdoses.

180: Overdoses reported to hospitals in the region. This figure underestimates the actual number of overdoses because it only includes those requiring hospital treatment.

210: Inmates in the Hamilton County Justice Center, the region’s largest jail, who admitted to using heroin or other opioids. Jail officials have estimated that as many as half of all inmates, about 870 this week, have an opioid problem.

$95,550: Cost to taxpayers to house those 210 inmates for one week. If the inmate total is closer to the estimated 870, the cost would be $395,850.

15: Babies born with health problems because their mothers used heroin or other opioids.

34: Investigations opened in southwest Ohio into the well-being of a child whose parent or guardian was known or suspected of using heroin or other opioids.

102 hours, 42 minutes: Time it took first responders to tend to overdose patients. This figure is considered low by dispatch supervisors because many overdose runs are not initially called in as such.


About this project: From the editor: Why we did this

This story was written by Dan Horn and Terry DeMio.

Reported and photographed by Kim Armstrong, Jessie Balmert, Matthew Berry, Keith BieryGolick, Carrie Blackmore Smith, Dana Branham, Sarah Brookbank, Bethany Bruner, Daniel Carson, Mark Caudill, Carrie Cochran, Shae Combs, Chris Crook, Alex Coolidge, Sharon Coolidge, Mark Curnutte, Terry DeMio, Maria Devito, Phil Didion, Liz Dufour, Kareem Elgazzar, Kevin Grasha, Chris Graves, Sam Greene, Dan Horn, Jeanne Houck, Amber Hunt, Jona Ison, Jennie Key, Chad Klimack, Cameron Knight, Lara Korte, Chris Mayhew, Kelly McBride, Courtney McNaull, Emily Mills, Jason Molyet, Carol Motsinger, Sydney Murray, Mike Nyerges, Cara Owsley, Mariel Padilla, Jessica Phelps, James Pilcher, Melissa Reinert, Amanda Rossmann, Anne Saker, Shelly Schultz, Deirdre Shesgreen, Brian Smith, Kathryn Snyder, Hannah Sparling, Jon Stinchcomb, Trista Thurston, Monroe Trombly, Randy Tucker, Sheila Vilvens, Meg Vogel, Sarah Volpenhein, Scott Wartman, Lou Whitmire and Jason Williams.

Edited by Amy Wilson, Chrissie Thompson, Amanda Rossmann and Cara Owsley.

(These statistics were gathered for Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio, and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky. Sources include: coroner’s offices in every county, dispatch centers in every county, Job and Family Services in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties, Hamilton County’s Department of Pretrial and Community Intervention Services, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Hamilton County Job and Family Services, and The Health Collaborative on behalf of all regional hospitals. Overdose statistics could include a small number of cases involving a drug other than heroin or other opioids.)


……….that….in my opinion…..is a fine piece of journalism…….clear and present……………..w


…The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea…

  ……..parsing our way ever closer to justifying a first strike…………begs the question………….

On the ground in Pyongyang: Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into a devastating confrontation?

A guard at the D.M.Z. This summer, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the most hermetic power on the globe, entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

1. The Madman Theory

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there is no embassy in Washington, but for years the two countries have relied on the “New York channel,” an office inside North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, to handle the unavoidable parts of our nonexistent relationship. The office has, among other things, negotiated the release of prisoners and held informal talks about nuclear tensions. In April, I contacted the New York channel and requested permission to visit Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The New York channel consists mostly of two genial middle-aged men: Pak Song Il, a husky diplomat with a gray brush cut; and his aide-de-camp, Kwon Jong Gun, who is younger and thinner. They go everywhere together. (The North Korean government has diplomats work in pairs, to prevent them from defecting, or being recruited as spies.) Under U.S. law, they can travel only twenty-five miles from Columbus Circle. Pak and Kwon met me near their office, for lunch at the Palm Too. They cautioned me that it might take several months to arrange a trip. North Korea periodically admits large groups of American journalists, to witness parades and special occasions, but it is more hesitant when it comes to individual reporters, who require close monitoring and want to talk about the nuclear program.

Americans are accustomed to eruptions of hostility with North Korea, but in the past six months the enmity has reached a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War, in 1953. The crisis has been hastened by fundamental changes in the leadership on both sides. In the six years since Kim Jong Un assumed power, at the age of twenty-seven, he has tested eighty-four missiles—more than double the number that his father and grandfather tested. Just before Donald Trump took office, in January, he expressed a willingness to wage a “preventive” war in North Korea, a prospect that previous Presidents dismissed because it would risk an enormous loss of life. Trump has said that in his one meeting with Barack Obama, during the transition, Obama predicted that North Korea, more than any other foreign-policy challenge, would test Trump. In private, Trump has told aides, “I will be judged by how I handle this.”

On the Fourth of July, North Korea passed a major threshold: it launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile powerful enough to reach the mainland United States. In response, on July 21st, authorities in Hawaii announced that they would revive a network of Cold War-era sirens, to alert the public in the event of a nuclear strike. Trump said that he hopes to boost spending on missile defense by “many billions of dollars.” On September 3rd, after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon far larger than any it had revealed before—seven times the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, warned that a threat to America or its allies would trigger a “massive military response.”

A few days after the July 4th missile test, Pak told me that I could book a flight to Pyongyang. I submitted a list of people I wanted to interview, including diplomats and Kim Jong Un himself. About the latter, Pak only laughed. (Kim has never given an interview.) After Pak stopped laughing, he said I could talk to other officials. I wanted to understand how North Koreans think about the kind of violence that their country so often threatens. Were the threats serious, or mere posturing? How did they imagine that a war would unfold? Before my arrival in North Korea, I spent time in Washington, Seoul, and Beijing; many people in those places, it turned out, are asking the same things about the United States.

About a week before my flight to Pyongyang, America’s dealings with North Korea deteriorated further. On August 5th, as punishment for the missile test, the U.N. Security Council adopted some of the strongest sanctions against any country in decades, blocking the sale of coal, iron, and other commodities, which represent a third of North Korea’s exports. President Trump, in impromptu remarks at his golf club in New Jersey, said that “any more threats to the United States” will be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” A few hours later, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the Pacific Ocean near the American territory of Guam, from which warplanes depart for flights over the Korean Peninsula. Trump replied, in a tweet, that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”

Suddenly, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the most hermetic power on the globe had entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War, and the two men making the existential strategic decisions were not John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev but a senescent real-estate mogul and reality-television star and a young third-generation dictator who has never met another head of state. Between them, they had less than seven years of experience in political leadership.

Brinkmanship, according to Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who pioneered the theory of nuclear deterrence, is the art of “manipulating the shared risk of war.” In 1966, he envisaged a nuclear standoff as a pair of mountain climbers, tied together, fighting at the edge of a cliff. Each will move ever closer to the edge, so that the other begins to fear that he might slip and take both of them down. It is a matter of creating the right amount of fear without losing control. Schelling wrote, “However rational the adversaries, they may compete to appear the more irrational, impetuous, and stubborn.” But what if the adversaries are irrational, impetuous, and stubborn?

Three days after Trump’s “locked and loaded” tweet, I flew from Beijing to Pyongyang. The flight was mostly empty, except for some Chinese businessmen and Iranian diplomats. I was accompanied by the photographer Max Pinckers and his assistant, Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras. In the air, I deleted from my laptop some books about North Korea; the government is especially sensitive about portrayals of the Kim family. (When you buy a North Korean newspaper with an image of Kim Jong Un on the front page, the clerk folds it carefully, to avoid creasing his face.) The airport was quiet and immaculate. At customs, when I opened my suitcase, I saw that I had forgotten to discard two books: “The Great Successor,” an account of Kim’s ascent, and “The Impossible State.” The customs officer called over a colleague, who flipped through the pages and alerted his superiors. I was led to a room, where an officer told me that the books are “very disparaging about the D.P.R.K.” He wanted to know where and when I had bought them, and whether I had read them. After some discussion, I was told to write a statement promising “never to bring them to the D.P.R.K. again.” I signed it, the books were confiscated, and I hustled on.

I was approached by a smiling man in a crisp white short-sleeved button-down shirt with a small red pin on his left breast, bearing a likeness of Kim Il Sung—Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, and the first leader of North Korea. (Citizens over the age of sixteen are expected to wear a badge celebrating at least one of the Kims.) He introduced himself, in English, as Mr. Pak, of the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies, and said that he would be my guide. I followed him outside, where the air was clear and still. Pak presented the others who would be accompanying us: two drivers and a slim young man with a military bearing named Mr. Kim, who provided only one-word answers to my occasional queries. Pak and I climbed into a Toyota S.U.V.

Pak—by coincidence, he has the same full name, Pak Song Il, as the senior member of the New York channel—is thirty-five years old, with short bushy hair and a placid demeanor. Most of North Korea’s twenty-five million people are not permitted to travel abroad, but Pak’s job has allowed him to visit several countries, which he described in terms of their cleanliness: Switzerland (very clean); Belgium (not so clean); Bangladesh (not clean at all). In 2015, he went to Utah (clean) for a nongovernmental exchange affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The experience convinced him that Mormons have a lot in common with North Koreans. “When the L.D.S. started, they were hated,” he told me. “They were sent to the desert. But they made it thrive. They are organized like a bee colony, where everyone works for one purpose and they would die for it. And they make huge output, as a result. We understand each other very well.”

Pak spends most of his time analyzing American politics and news reports, trying to divine America’s intentions regarding North Korea. Since the election of Donald Trump, he said, the task had become more demanding. “When he speaks, I have to figure out what he means, and what his next move will be,” he said. “This is very difficult.”

That would probably please Trump, who prides himself on being unpredictable. Many commentators have drawn comparisons to Richard Nixon and his “madman theory” of diplomacy, in which Nixon sought to leave his adversaries with the impression that he possessed an unstable, dangerous state of mind.

Later, I asked Pak what he and other North Koreans thought of Trump.

“He might be irrational—or too smart. We don’t know,” he said. They suspected that Trump’s comment about “fire and fury” might be part of a subtle strategy. “Like the Chinese ‘Art of War,’ ” he said. “If he’s not driving toward a point, then what is he doing? That is our big question.”

For Pak and other analysts in North Korea, the more important question about the United States extends beyond Trump. “Is the American public ready for war?” he asked. “Does the Congress want a war? Does the American military want a war? Because, if they want a war, then we must prepare for that.”

Commuters on the Pyongyang Metro. The capital, marooned by politics, presents a panorama from another time.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

A chair used by Kim Jong Un during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School, in a room dedicated to commemorating his visit.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

We arrived at the Kobangsan Guest House, a small, three-story hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang, surrounded by corn and rice fields. The place had an air of low-cost opulence—chandeliers, rhinestones, and pleather sofas. We were the only guests. The Foreign Ministry uses the hotel for “Americans and V.I.P.s,” Pak said. (In 2013, Eric Schmidt, the former C.E.O. of Google, was put up there.) In North Korea, no visitor is left unattended, and Pak had a room down the hall from mine. I paid a hundred and forty-one dollars a night—a month’s income for the average citizen. “From time immemorial, there is a tradition of giving foreigners the best service,” Pak explained. “The No. 1 thing is to protect them, unless they are spies or enemies.”

We had dinner that night with Ri Yong Pil, a Foreign Ministry official in his mid-fifties, who is the vice-president of the Institute for American Studies. Gregarious and confident, he served eight years in the Army, learned English, and became a diplomat. He raised a glass of Taedonggang beer and toasted our arrival. We were in a private hotel dining room that felt like a surgical theatre: a silent, scrubbed, white-walled room bathed in bright light. Two waitresses in black uniforms served each course: ginkgo soup, black-skin chicken, kimchi, river fish, and vanilla ice cream, along with glasses of beer, red wine, and soju. (The U.N. says that seventy-two per cent of North Koreans rely on government food rations, and the country is experiencing a historic drought. But in Pyongyang a foreign guest eats embarrassingly well.)

Ri made a series of points, waiting for me to write each one in my notebook:

“The United States is not the only country that can wage a preventive war.”

“Three million people have volunteered to join the war if necessary.”

“Historically, Korean people suffered because of weakness. That bitter lesson is kept in our hearts.”

“Strengthening our defensive military capacity is the only way to keep the peace.”

“We are small in terms of people and area, but in terms of dignity we are the most powerful in the world. We will die in order to protect that dignity and sovereignty.”

After several more toasts, Ri loosened his tie and shed his jacket. He had some questions. “In your system, what is the power of the President to launch a war?” he asked. “Does the Congress have the power to decide?”

A President can do a lot without Congress, I said. Ri asked about the nuclear codes: “I’ve heard the black bag is controlled by McMaster. Is it true?” (He was referring to H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser.)

No, the President can launch nukes largely on his own, I said. “What about in your country?”

His answer was similar. “Our Supreme Leader has absolute power to launch a war,” he said.

I turned in early. My room was furnished in the style of Versailles by way of Atlantic City—champagne-colored leather and gold-painted trim. The room was equipped with a TV, but, instead of North Korean programming, the only options were Asian satellite channels. There was no news to be found. I flipped past a Christian evangelist and a Singaporean cooking show, and drifted off to the sight of sumo wrestlers colliding.

Trump is the fourth U.S. President who has vowed to put an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. Bill Clinton signed a deal in which North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear development in exchange for oil and a civilian reactor, but neither side fulfilled its commitments. George W. Bush refused bilateral negotiations, then switched tacks and convened negotiations known as the Six-Party Talks. Obama first offered inducements, and later adopted a stonewalling policy called “strategic patience.” Under Trump, the U.S. has led the U.N. Security Council in its passage of the eighth round of sanctions against North Korea in eleven years. The Kims’ nuclear program is still going. “They have managed to play an abysmally bad hand for more than seventy years,” Evans Revere, a former head of Korean affairs at the State Department, told me.

U.S. intelligence has often underestimated the progress of North Korea’s weapons development. But now the basic facts, accumulated by American, European, and Chinese intelligence agencies, are clear. North Korea has between twenty and sixty usable nuclear warheads, and ICBMs capable of hitting targets as far away, perhaps, as Chicago. It has yet to marry those two programs in a single weapon, but American intelligence agencies estimate that it will achieve that within a year. The U.S. is in the process of upgrading its ability to shoot down an incoming missile. It reportedly tried to derail North Korea’s weapons development through cyber sabotage, but it only delayed the progress. A former U.S. official said, “You spend millions putting it in place and then you ask, ‘Did it work?’ And the answer comes back: Maybe.”

In recent talks, when Americans have asked whether any combination of economic and diplomatic benefits, or security guarantees, could induce Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons, the answer has been no. North Koreans invariably mention the former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In 2003, when Qaddafi agreed to surrender his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Bush promised others who might do the same that they would have an “open path to better relations with the United States.” Eight years later, the U.S. and nato helped to overthrow Qaddafi, who was captured, humiliated, and killed by rebels. At the time, North Korea said that Qaddafi’s fall was “a grave lesson” that persuading other nations to give up weapons was “an invasion tactic.”

After-school swimming lessons at the Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

A view of the Ryugyong Hotel from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, who visited Pyongyang in 2014, told me, “The North Koreans are not going to give up their nuclear weapons. It’s a non-starter.” The American national-security community is now nearly unanimous on this point, but the government cannot say so openly, because that would cede leverage in a future negotiation, and raise the risk that other countries will try to follow North Korea’s example. “Whether it’s pressuring, threatening, negotiating, or trying to leverage China, everybody’s tried all of that—and it’s not working,” Clapper said.

Inside the Trump Administration, there is disagreement about how to handle North Korea. Shortly before Steve Bannon, the President’s former chief strategist, was fired, in August, he told an interviewer, “There’s no military solution here, they got us.” But Mattis and McMaster argue that Kim Jong Un must be contained. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in June, Mattis called North Korea “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,” supplanting Russia as the No. 1 threat to the U.S. In an e-mail, McMaster told me, “Their provocations seem likely to increase—not decrease—over time. The North Koreans have also proliferated just about every capability they’ve ever produced, including chemical weapons and a nuclear reactor. Then there’s the matter of what other countries do—in the region and beyond—when they see that a rogue regime developed nukes and got away with it.”

Experts can’t say definitively why Kim wants nuclear weapons. Are they for self-defense, as North Korea claims, or will Kim use them to achieve the unfulfilled ambition of the Korean War—forcing reunification with South Korea? A senior Administration official told me that members of Trump’s national-security team are not convinced that Kim will stop at self-protection. “There are fewer and fewer disagreements about North Korea’s capabilities now, and so then, inevitably, the question of their intentions becomes critical,” he said. “Are they pursuing these weapons in order to maintain the status quo on the Peninsula, or are they seeking to fundamentally alter the status quo?” The official added, “Sometimes dictators are able to kid themselves that ‘Hey, once I’ve got that weapon, I’m invincible, and I have a free hand to launch conventional wars and subversion and assassination campaigns against my neighbors.’ ”

The White House could try to deter North Korea from using or selling its weapons—or it could start a preventive war. Deterrence relies, at bottom, on the assumption that an adversary is not suicidal, but this Administration suspects that Kim’s recklessness could trigger his own destruction. The official said, “Saddam Hussein was not suicidal, but he committed suicide.” In 2003, as the U.S. threatened to attack Iraq, Saddam was surrounded by sycophants and cut off from reliable information. He doubted that America would actually launch a full-scale attack, and, as a result, he miscalculated the odds of destroying himself and his regime.

A warm drizzle was falling on Pyongyang the morning after my arrival, as we left the Kobangsan Guest House to see the city. More than any other capital that has been marooned by politics—Havana or Rangoon or Caracas—Pyongyang presents a panorama from another time. Soviet-era Ladas and ancient city buses ply the streets, while passengers stick their heads out the windows in search of cool air. Buildings are adorned with Korean-language banners hailing the “Juche ideology,” the official state credo, which glorifies self-reliance and loyalty. On an embankment near a major intersection, workers in gray coveralls were installing an enormous red sign that praised the “immortal achievements of the esteemed Supreme Leader, comrade Kim Jong Un, who built the nuclear state of Juche, the leader in rocket power!”

Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health. The city is surrounded by checkpoints that prevent ineligible citizens from entering.

For decades, there were few cars on the streets, but now frequent foreign visitors marvel at the growth in traffic. Pyongyang is the emptiest, quietest capital in Asia, but it is changing, slowly, driven by the legacy of famine. Between 1994 and 1998, a combination of mismanagement, droughts, and flooding paralyzed North Korean food production, killing up to three million people. Hundreds of thousands of people went to China in search of food and work, and many returned to their families having seen a better quality of life.

Since the famine, “the majority of today’s North Koreans have learned to lead an economic double life in order to make ends meet,” according to “North Korea Confidential,” a study of markets and daily life, by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson. North Koreans, outside their state-assigned jobs, sell homemade noodles in thriving markets; they drive private buses; they rent out apartments by the hour for courting couples. Government insiders import housewares, medicine, and luxury products from China, giving rise to an entrepreneurial élite known as donju—“masters of money.” Kim has allowed limited economic reforms, letting people accumulate profits, which has fuelled the growth of black markets, including in real estate. Officially, there is no private homeownership, but, in practice, people pay for better units. An ordinary one-bedroom apartment in Pyongyang costs three or four thousand dollars; the most luxurious offerings sell for hundreds of thousands.

The weak enforcement of sanctions, and continued demand from China and Russia, has allowed North Korea’s economy to grow with surprising speed in recent years. According to South Korea’s central bank, North Korea’s G.D.P. grew an estimated 3.9 per cent in 2016, the fastest pace since 1999. (South Korea’s, by comparison, grew 2.8 per cent.)

Students at the Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School, which is housed in a new brick-and-steel complex. In a class of ten- and eleven-year-olds, one boy asked, “Why is America trying to provoke a war with us?”

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

On the streets of Pyongyang, there are flashes of modernity, even style. Some women can be seen wearing stilettos and short skirts, though these can be no higher than two inches above the knee, according to Workers’ Party regulations. (Jeans are still practically taboo, because of their association with America.) Now and then, I saw people hunched over cell phones. Since 2013, Pyongyang has had 3G mobile service, but most people have access only to North Korea’s self-contained intranet, which allows them to send e-mail inside the country and to look at some Web sites. But many North Koreans have had some exposure to Chinese, American, and South Korean entertainment, smuggled over the border on SD cards that are small enough to be inserted into a phone. (Kim Jong Un, sensing the danger that information poses, has denounced foreign movies and music as “poisonous weeds.” In 2015, his government warned that people caught with illegal videos could face ten years of hard labor.)

“The regime does not really want the living standards to rise fast and too much, because that could shake the nation,” Alexandre Mansourov, a North Korea analyst who did an advanced degree at Kim Il Sung University and served as a Soviet diplomat in Pyongyang in the nineteen-eighties, said. “It’s the revolution of rising expectations. They want to manage that.” Kim Jong Un promotes economic growth on his own terms. Every year since assuming power, he has unveiled a new residential complex in the capital, as well as theatres, a water park, and a new airport. This past spring, he attended the opening of more than three thousand new apartments on Ryomyong Street, and Mr. Pak was eager to show off the buildings. The green-and-white complex, which includes a seventy-story high-rise, has circular columns and bulging round balconies that give it a “Jetsons”-like look.

I passed couples whispering on park benches, and a grandmother following a toddler across fresh asphalt. A black Lexus, buffed to a high shine, honked its way through pedestrians. (Officially, most private cars are provided as gifts from the Supreme Leader, but insiders acquire cars by registering them in the names of state enterprises.) We came upon a van fitted with oversized loudspeakers on its roof. Pak said that the message it played was a “warning about American aggression.” He explained, “We have a propaganda unit in every district.” Nobody seemed to be paying much attention.

I spent ten years abroad as a foreign correspondent, mostly in China, Egypt, and Iraq, but little of that experience is comparable to reporting in North Korea. Based on my requests, the government gave me an itinerary and then escorted me from place to place. A reporter cannot venture out into the city or the countryside independently without risking detention or compromising the safety of any North Korean who coöperates. But the country has become incrementally more open to scholars and reporters. In 2000, journalists who accompanied Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on a visit travelled on a bus with covered windows and were warned not to take photographs. Today, the constraints are more subtle. I asked to visit an ordinary apartment in Pyongyang—any apartment—and was told that it was “too late to be arranged.”

I’d asked to see some schools, so I was taken to the Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School—a brand-new brick-and-steel complex with an Astro-Turf field for four hundred lucky pupils. The principal, Pak Yong Chul, ushered me into a permanent exhibition on the ground floor, dedicated to the two-hour visit that Kim paid to the school on July 2, 2016. The walls of the exhibition are lined with photographs of Kim in his signature gray suit, striding through the facilities, holding an unlit cigarette between his fingers. On a large wall map, a red dashed line marked Kim’s route through the corridors. The students visit the exhibition every month, to “move along in the footprints of the Supreme Leader,” the principal said.

I stood in front of a large photo of Kim touching a red fuzzy blanket. The principal stepped aside, and, with a flourish, revealed, in a Plexiglas box, the blanket. “He personally touched it,” he said. So it was with other specimens—the white painted chair that he blessed with his presence in the lunchroom; the simple wooden chair from the language lab, on which he rested from his labors—all preserved under glass, like the relics of a saint. I asked Pak Yong Chul how it felt to be visited by the leader, and his eyes widened. “That moment is unforgettable. I would never have dreamed of it,” he said.

Upstairs, I stopped by a history class, where ten- and eleven-year-old students sat in perfect rows. I introduced myself as an American and asked if anyone had a question for me. After a long pause, a skinny boy with two medals pinned to his chest stood and asked, “Why is America trying to provoke a war with us? And what right do they have to block us from building our own nuclear weapon?” This did not seem the occasion for rigorous analysis or debate. I mumbled some bromides about hoping that things would get better. The boy seemed unimpressed.

II. A Marxist Emperor

Before Kim’s accession, in 2011, he was almost completely unknown, even inside the country. His name had first appeared in the state press a couple of years earlier. The C.I.A. had little more than a single photo of him—as an eleven-year-old, according to Sue Mi Terry, a former Korea analyst at the agency. In 2008, when Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke, Randal Phillips, a senior C.I.A. officer overseeing operations in Asia, met a Chinese counterpart to share analyses, as they sometimes did. But Phillips discovered that Chinese intelligence “didn’t know what was happening,” he told me. “I think the Chinese know a hell of a lot less than people assume.” Compared with other American adversaries, North Korea is the “hardest target,” Terry said. “There’s no other country that’s like that,” she told me. “It’s just pieced together.”

Kim Jong Il suffered a heart attack, and died in December, 2011. At the funeral, Kim Jong Un, the youngest of his seven children, appeared pale and childlike, weeping as his father lay in an open casket. Afterward, he led the pallbearers, including spy chiefs and Army bosses, decades his senior. Some prominent analysts predicted that Kim would not be as secure in his power as his grandfather and father had been; his regime could succumb to a coup or could implode for other reasons. Victor Cha, who had been George W. Bush’s lead adviser on Korea, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Times, “North Korea as we know it is over.” Cha told me recently, “I thought he would not last for more than a couple of years.”

At first, Kim worked under the guidance of three Party elders who served as “regents,” according to Ken Gause, a specialist in North Korean politics at the Center for Naval Analyses, a nonprofit research group in Washington. Kim and his mentors made shrewd choices that helped to establish his authority. Physically, he transformed himself into a near-reincarnation of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who was much more popular than Kim Jong Il. He bore a natural likeness to his grandfather, and, to accentuate it, he gained weight, cut his hair in a shorn-sided pompadour, and began wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a panama hat. (When foreign media suggested that he had undergone surgery to enhance the similarity, the state news agency condemned the speculation as “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”)

Politically, Kim put himself forward as a more candid and practical leader. His father never permitted discussion of flaws in the socialist paradise, but in April, 2012, Kim acknowledged the failure of a rocket that, upon launch, quickly crumbled into the Yellow Sea. The next month, during a televised inspection of the Mangyongdae amusement park, he made a show of bending down to pull weeds from the sidewalk, and chastising the managers: “How could you not see these? How could you be so negligent and complacent?”

Kim gradually shed the control of his regents and presented himself as a socialist of the modern age—he was seen in North Korean media flying on a luxuriously appointed Ilyushin jet, typing on a MacBook, and enjoying an amusement-park ride at the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground. He appeared in public with his wife, a stylish former cheerleader named Ri Sol Ju, whom he married in 2009. (They are believed to have three children.) As always, the propagandists were attentive: foreign analysts who track the use of Photoshop on North Korean state images say that official pictures of Kim are often altered around his ears, possibly to mask some sort of blemish.

Kim also sought to convey an ease with brutality, and embarked on North Korea’s most violent Party purge in decades. He executed two of his father’s seven senior pallbearers—his uncle Jang Song Thaek and the Army chief Ri Yong Ho—and expelled three others. His father had also executed senior cadres when he came to power, but killing Jang, an influential family member with deep ties to China, was an act of extraordinary boldness. The charges against Jang ranged from “treachery” to applauding “halfheartedly” when Kim entered the room. Many of Jang’s children and aides were also put to death, in ways that were intended to capture attention. Some were killed by flamethrowers; others were shot by anti-aircraft guns before outdoor audiences. (Media reports that Jang himself was fed to dogs proved to be false. He was executed by firing squad.)

Evan Medeiros, who was President Obama’s chief Asia adviser, told me that Kim Jong Il’s “approach to managing élites appeared to be more incentive-based than coercion-based, making sure that they all got goodies and spoils. The son’s approach appears to be ‘If you screw with me, I’m just going to kill you—and I’m going to kill you in a really nasty way.’ ”

That principle was expressed most dramatically earlier this year. The target was Kim’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam, who had been living in semi-exile in Macau for more than a decade. In recent years, Kim Jong Nam had given interviews that were critical of the young leader, telling Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist, that North Korea was “likely to become weak under the third generation.” In a fateful comment, he called his half brother “just a figurehead.”

On the morning of February 13th, Kim Jong Nam was at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Malaysia. At home in Macau, the Chinese government provided security guards, but he travelled alone. An airport security camera captured his arrival and movements. He wore jeans and a summer blazer, and carried a backpack. As he stood before a check-in kiosk, two young women approached, smeared liquid on his face, and then fled. Agitated, he approached a security guard. He grew dizzy and was taken to an airport clinic, where his condition rapidly deteriorated. In a photograph, he is slumped in a chair, arms splayed, eyes closed. He died in an ambulance, less than twenty minutes after the attack. Based on samples taken from his eyes and skin, Malaysian authorities accused North Korea of its first known assassination by the nerve agent VX, a tasteless, odorless chemical weapon. South Korean and Japanese media reported that he may have enraged his brother by preparing to defect or by aiding foreign intelligence services.

The killing caused a diplomatic crisis: North Korea demanded the return of the body and of several North Korean citizens, who were sought by police for questioning. When those demands were refused, North Korea sealed its borders to departing Malaysians, trapping nine embassy workers and their families. After two weeks, Malaysia released Kim Jong Nam’s body, and North Korea allowed the workers and their families to leave. The two women involved in the attack, who face first-degree-murder charges, are in custody in Malaysia; they have told investigators that they worked in local night clubs and were paid ninety dollars each for what they thought was a TV-show prank. After the attack, the women washed their hands, suggesting that each may have been given separate, harmless chemical components that became toxic when mixed together. They are scheduled to go on trial in October.

Six years into Kim Jong Un’s reign, some analysts in Seoul argue that senior Party officials can overrule or direct him, but U.S. intelligence believes that Kim is in sole command. The assassination of the half brother could not have happened without Kim’s approval, a U.S. official who works on Korea told me. “He’s the top decider, you might say,” the official said. “He’s the only guy that counts.” Many analysts worry that, as Kim moves deeper into confrontation with America, he does not have advisers who speak candidly to him. “We can’t identify an internal or external channel of information flow that’s effective in communicating the risks of the course that he’s on,” Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “What general is going to be willing to risk his stars, if not his life, in order to tell Kim Jong Un he’s doing the wrong thing?”

The U.S. has investigated the question of Kim Jong Un’s hold on power and has found no evidence of a potential coup or a challenge from disaffected élites. At the moment, Kim’s most visible vulnerability is his health: he is overweight and perhaps diabetic. In North Korea, the leader’s health is closely monitored by an agency called the Longevity Research Institute. Barring the unforeseen, Kim could rule North Korea for decades.

On the way to lunch one afternoon in Pyongyang, I noticed that the latest American threats had already been inscribed on the cityscape. A full-color billboard depicted a barrage of missiles descending on a bombed-out shell of the U.S. Capitol. Across the wreckage of Washington, it said, according to Pak’s translation, “Preëmptive Strike” and “Military Option.”

In the days after the President’s “locked and loaded” remarks, the U.S., following the doctrine of a standoff, was seeking to convey ambiguity—the sense that North Korea should tread carefully because it doesn’t know what might trigger a violent American response. But the message was getting garbled en route to Pyongyang. That morning, we had awoken to discover that Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had published a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that was clearly an attempt to ratchet down the tension. They wrote, “The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea.”

Pak, who is one of the government’s seasoned interpreters of American media, had a hard time following it all. In the car, he turned and asked, “How common is this, for the Secretary of State and the Defense Secretary to write a joint editorial?” Not very common, I said. He nodded, and turned back around. He could not understand how the two Cabinet members could so clearly contradict the President. At other points during the week, Pak tried to clear up some confusing details about the American media. “So the Wall Street Journal is conservative?” he asked. The editorial page is conservative, I said, but the news coverage is straight. He took this in and nodded again.

Occasionally, Pak misread something that was hard to discern from far away. He told me, “The United States is a divided country. It has no appetite for war.” On some level, that was true—the United States is a divided country, and it is tired of fighting wars in the Middle East, in South Asia—but he would be wrong to assume that these facts would, with absolute assurance, prevent the Trump Administration from launching a strike on North Korea.

We pulled up to a large blue-and-white boat that doubles as a restaurant, moored on the banks of the Taedong River. A sign over the entrance memorialized two visits by the Supreme Leader: “General duty ship Moojige received on-the-spot guidance by the esteemed comrade Kim Jong Un.” The restaurant’s distinguishing charm is that you can catch your own lunch in its tanks. On the way to our table, we passed a man standing on a ladder, holding a net, trying to nab a large fish with long whiskers. We reached a dining room where several tables were occupied by families, whose members ranged in age from a grandfather in a Mao-style suit to a couple of kids chasing each other around the table.

We ordered beef, cold noodles, rice cakes, and sashimi. A television in the corner was tuned to the main state channel. Three other channels, devoted to sports, entertainment, and education, broadcast only occasionally. Pak said that we were watching a classic North Korean drama called “The Lighthouse.” He patiently explained the plot: “A man lived alone on a remote island with a lighthouse. Under the Japanese, he was like a slave, but, when the Great Leader Kim Il Sung came to power, he said this man should be acknowledged, and—”

The movie cut off abruptly and a matronly news anchor appeared on the screen.

“There’s news,” Pak said.

New apartment buildings on Ryomyong Street.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

Women along a street in Pyongyang.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

The broadcast showed photographs of Kim Jong Un in a dark pin-striped suit, surrounded by military men in uniform. The announcer reported that the missile unit had been tasked with preparing to strike the Pacific Ocean near Guam. Another photograph showed Kim beside a screen bearing a satellite image of Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam. The announcer quoted Kim as saying that he “would watch a little more of the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before making his final decision to launch. The segment ended with orchestral music over a video montage of missiles soaring from the launch pad, rockets blazing out of their launchers, and soldiers cheering as fighter jets screamed overhead. I glanced around the room and noticed that the other diners were engrossed in lunch.

I was confused. “So is he going to launch them or not?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Pak said. “It depends on whether the United States sends another nuclear asset, like a B-1B, over the Korean Peninsula.”

“Does the U.S. know that’s the determining factor?” I asked.

“We haven’t told them! But they should know, because we said they should not send any further ‘nuclear provocations.’ ”

The mentions of war and weaponry were everywhere: on television, on billboards, in the talk of well-rehearsed schoolchildren. When I attended a show at Pyongyang’s Rungna Dolphinarium, in which dolphins flipped and jumped and performed tricks, the finale featured a video montage that included the image of a missile soaring across the sky. I asked Pak what connected dolphins with missiles. He said, “It’s inspiring to the people. We’re going to have everything we want. A dolphinarium. Nuclear weapons. One by one.”

At lunch, I asked Pak, “If your country would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange, why are you really entertaining the idea?”

North Korea, he said, is no stranger to devastation: “We’ve been through it twice before. The Korean War and the Arduous March”—the official euphemism for the famine of the mid-nineties. “We can do it a third time.” The argument is embedded in North Koreans’ self-image. They are taught to see themselves as inhabitants of a land shaped by a history of suffering, a sense of hostile encirclement, and a do-or-die insistence on survival.

But, to state the obvious, I said, risking a premature end to a friendly meal, a nuclear exchange would not be comparable.

“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again.’ ” He added, “A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

“We must envelop our environment in a dense fog,” Kim Jong Il once said, “to prevent our enemies from learning anything about us.” As a result, interested parties have to be creative. The South Korean intelligence service employs lip-readers to watch what Kim says away from the microphones at political events. To chart who is gaining and losing power, American scholars and analysts, like Cold War Kremlinologists, monitor the choreography of official funerals and dissect photo captions and propaganda reports. Over time, those efforts have started to cut through the fog around North Korea’s first family.

The Kim dynasty began in 1945, after the defeat of Japan. In a hasty redrawing of the map, the Americans and the Soviets divided the Korean Peninsula; in effect, each would control half. The Soviets installed Kim Il Sung, a nationalist guerrilla who had been living in the Soviet Union, as the leader of North Korea. After the humiliations of occupation and war, Kim presented himself as a Marxist emperor of sorts, who would revive Korea’s racial superiority and rebuild the nation as a fortress, impenetrable to imperialists. He restricted the entry of foreigners and curtailed his people’s freedom to leave or dissent. As he aged, Kim Il Sung sought to avoid the havoc that followed the deaths of Stalin and Mao by appointing his son as his successor, in the first hereditary transition in the Communist world. But Kim Jong Il, who assumed power in 1994, was not a natural demagogue. He was a cinéaste, plump and sedentary, who made his own version of “Godzilla.” (His favorite films also included “Rambo” and “Gone with the Wind.”)

Kim Jong Il grew isolated and paranoid. He allowed his voice to be heard in public only once, when he said, at a 1992 parade, “Glory be to the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army!” On foreign trips, his aides brought home his feces and urine, to prevent foreign powers from hijacking the waste and evaluating his health. He was five feet two inches tall, and insecure about his height. In 1978, he ordered the kidnapping of his favorite South Korean actress, Choi Eun-hee, and greeted her by saying, “Small as a midget’s turd, aren’t I?” (Choi was forced to act in North Korean films until 1986, when, during a trip to Vienna, she escaped.) Jang Jin-sung, a poet and a high-ranking propagandist who defected to South Korea in 2004, told me that, when he was brought to meet Kim Jong Il, an aide instructed him, “Don’t look him in the eye. Look at the second button down from his collar.” Jang went on, “Before you met him, you were given a moist towelette to wash your hands and asked to remove your wristwatch or any metal in case it could do him harm.”

And yet Kim Jong Il came closer than any other North Korean leader to forging peace with the United States and ending his country’s isolation. Madeleine Albright, the only U.S. Secretary of State who has visited Pyongyang, spent more than twelve hours with Kim over two days, in 2000, negotiating the terms of a deal regarding his missile program. She found him odd—he personally choreographed a dance that was performed for her delegation—but also pragmatic and well informed. When members of the delegation asked highly technical questions, he answered many of them without consulting experts. Wendy Sherman, a diplomat who accompanied Albright on the trip, and later became President Obama’s chief negotiator with Iran, sensed the single-mindedness that has driven North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. “We think in two-year, four-year, six-year time frames. They don’t. They’ve had a long-term vision since Kim Jong Il’s father, and they have stuck with it,” she told me.

In the final months of the Clinton Administration, Albright and Sherman believed that Kim was close to accepting a freeze on long-range missile tests. But the disputed election of 2000, and Clinton’s pursuit of a deal in the Middle East, consumed the Administration’s final weeks. They never returned to Pyongyang. Sherman told me, “If our team had gone, and if Kim agreed to our terms, I would have had a date in my pocket on which the President of the United States would have come.”

Once in office, George W. Bush declined to reaffirm a Clinton-era communiqué that pledged “no hostile intent” toward North Korea. Then, in his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush included North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, in his famous formulation, the “axis of evil.” The relationship has deteriorated ever since. In 2009, when Clinton visited Kim to secure the release of two imprisoned journalists, Kim lamented that, once Bush came in, “we found ourselves missing the earlier, better relationship with the previous Administration.” According to American notes from the meeting, which were later divulged by WikiLeaks, Kim added, “The United States would have had a new friend in Northeast Asia in a complex world.”

For all Kim Jong Il’s eccentricity, he cultivated his relationship with America in ways that his son has not. Jerrold Post, who founded the C.I.A.’s psychological-profile unit, and later studied Kim Jong Il’s decision-making, told me, “He always seemed to know the boundaries of his adversaries’ tolerance for provocation. He would go so far, then pull back just in time. He had finely tuned antennae.” Post said that he worries that Kim Jong Un has been thrust into a complicated scenario with little time to hone those skills. “His father had two decades in the wings before he formally took over,” Post said. “The son had two years.”

There was nothing preordained about which of Kim Jong Il’s children would run the country. Evans Revere, the former Korea expert at the State Department, said that Kim Jong Un became the successor largely on the basis of attitude and aggression. When Kim was a child, he would wear a Soviet military uniform on his birthday. The palace staff took to calling him Comrade General. He gave off an “inner strength,” according to Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese chef who spent part of his time as a playmate for the children. Fujimoto, who later wrote a memoir, entitled “Kim Jong Il’s Chef,” gave the young Kim video games and remote-controlled cars as gifts and, because the boy loved basketball, arranged for his sister to send VHS tapes of Chicago Bulls games.

In 1996, Kim joined a brother, Jong Chul, in Bern, Switzerland; they stayed with an aunt. At school there, Kim went by a pseudonym, Pak Un, and was introduced to other students as the son of the North Korean Ambassador. “One day, he said to me, ‘Yeah, I am the son of the leader of North Korea.’ But I didn’t believe him, because it was a normal school,” his classmate João Micaelo recalled, in a television interview. “He was very quiet. He didn’t speak with anyone. Maybe it was because most of the people, they didn’t take the time to understand him. He was competitive at sports. He didn’t like to lose, like every one of us. For him, basketball was everything.” Kim drew pictures of Michael Jordan and slept with a basketball, according to Ko Yong Suk, the aunt who cared for him. She took him skiing in the Alps, swimming on the French Riviera, and to the Disney park in Paris. He showed flashes of stubbornness. If he was scolded for not studying, he’d refuse to eat. “He wasn’t a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered,” Ko told the Washington Post last year. (She and her husband defected to the U.S. and now run a dry-cleaning business, under assumed names.)

When it came time for Kim Jong Il to choose an heir, his four daughters were ineligible, because of their gender. His eldest son, Jong Nam, was more a playboy than a statesman, and, in 2001, he was caught trying to enter Japan on a forged passport, to take his four-year-old son to Tokyo Disneyland. The next-oldest son, Jong Chul, was reserved and gentle. While in Switzerland, he had written a poem called “My Ideal World,” which began, “If I had my ideal world I would not allow weapons and atom bombs anymore. I would destroy all terrorists with the Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme.” According to Fujimoto, Kim Jong Il said that Jong Chul was unfit to rule “because he is like a little girl.” (He now works as an aide to his brother, and is thought to be his natural successor.)

At lunchtime on a boat on the Taedong River, the state TV channel broadcasts images of artillery, missiles, and fighter jets.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

That left Jong Un, who had received a degree in physics from Kim Il Sung University, had trained as an artillery officer, and was active in security and political work. In 2009, North Korea specialists began hearing that Jong Un, then twenty-five, was the likely successor. “He had never been in charge of anything, had never checked any of the boxes that you would normally expect someone to check on their way up through the ranks,” Revere said. “But clearly he had some personality characteristics and traits that appealed to his father, and those included a level of authority and aggression and self-confidence—some traits that his father didn’t have.”

Before assuming power, Kim involved himself in a brazen military operation that provided a preview of his tolerance for risk, according to U.S. intelligence. In March, 2010, the North torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, killing forty-six personnel. It also shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two people. These acts could have generated a fierce response, but, in the end, Seoul did not retaliate.

Alexandre Mansourov, the former Soviet diplomat in Pyongyang, told me that Kim’s role in the attacks reassured élites that he wasn’t averse to confrontation. “It was domestic positioning,” Mansourov said. “He needed to prove to them and his father that he could stand up.” That fall, Kim was promoted to the rank of general and made his first public appearance by his father’s side, signalling to the world that he was the chosen successor.

In his rapid rise, Kim acquired defining habits of mind. Mansourov said, “He’s a person who was never told no. Nobody drew the red line, and said, ‘Not a step further.’ Nobody punched him in the face, made him feel hurt. We say, ‘A man begins to grow his wisdom tooth when he bites more than he can chew.’ With Kim Jong Un, he has never yet bitten more than he can chew. Whatever he sets his sights on he gets. He keeps pushing, and pushing, and pushing. We don’t know where his brakes are, and I suspect he doesn’t know where he can stop.”

III. “Single-Hearted Unity”

After a couple of days in Pyongyang, I was eager to get some glimpses of life beyond the capital. My minders agreed to an outing. Up before dawn, we climbed into the Toyota and headed toward the demilitarized zone, which marks the border with South Korea. Leaving Pyongyang, we passed through a checkpoint, and smooth asphalt eventually gave way to potholes brimming with rainwater. The nation’s wealth and modernity, such as it is, is largely limited to the capital. The road emptied first of cars, then of bicycles, until we passed only clusters of farmers. A woman balancing a load on her head walked along railroad tracks to a point unseen. Without the industrial haze that hovers over much of East Asia, the North Korean landscape is an incandescent green, with layers of hills beyond. Eighty per cent of the country is mountainous. (American military planners liken the terrain to Afghanistan’s.)

We stopped to stretch our legs beside a closed restaurant and spotted two busloads of foreign tourists. On September 1st, American tourists would be banned from visiting North Korea, under a State Department order prompted by the death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who had been convicted of “a hostile act against the state,” for trying to remove a propaganda poster from the wall of a hotel in Pyongyang. In June, American officials, having discovered that Warmbier had been in a coma for more than a year, secured his release. He died six days after returning home.

I mentioned the upcoming ban, and Pak said that it was a pity, because, after years of internal deliberations, North Korea had been preparing to accept more foreign visitors. “The military used to be very unhappy about tourists coming here, because they might see the secrets of what we’re doing. But now we have gained strength.”

In recent months, I’d spoken to American negotiators involved in Warmbier’s case, and they wondered why it had ended tragically. (In the past two decades, at least sixteen Americans have been detained while visiting North Korea, but no others have suffered as much harm.) Warmbier was arrested in January, 2016. After a show trial, he was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. Pyongyang reported that Warmbier contracted botulism, was given a sedative, and entered a coma. But doctors in Cincinnati who treated him after his release found no traces of botulism. Many North Korea specialists wondered if he fell ill and was given a catastrophic overdose of medication. Others suspected that he was beaten or interrogated to the point of collapse, but that would be out of the ordinary; most American detainees in North Korea are not beaten, because they are considered bargaining chips.

Negotiators for the Warmbier family, such as Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, had been frustrated in their efforts, and I asked Pak why the government had stonewalled them. Pak blamed an Obama Administration decision, in July, 2016, to impose personal sanctions on Kim Jong Un and other top officials. “Obama blacklisted our leaders, and smeared them by name,” Pak said. “At that point, we could not accept it. We cut off the New York channel and we adopted wartime measures. From then on, we said, the situation will stay as is.”

A mural at the Museum of Natural History.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

Families enjoy National Liberation Day (August 15th) at the Rungna Dolphinarium.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

I told him that Warmbier’s death had done more damage to North Korea’s reputation in the U.S. than he probably realized. Pak was unmoved. “He broke our rules, and we take that very seriously,” he said. That morning, the news from America was about the racist demonstrations in Charlottesville, and Pak explained, “In the D.P.R.K., the military thinks Americans come here and try to do whatever they want, like white supremacists are doing in the United States.” (Three Americans are still detained in North Korea: Kim Dong-chul was convicted of spying and is serving a ten-year sentence; Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim are being held on unspecified charges.)

By midmorning, we had reached the D.M.Z., an open gash across the Peninsula, a remnant of the Korean War. For most Americans, the war is overshadowed by other dramas of the twentieth century, but it’s impossible to understand North Korea’s hostility toward the U.S. today without looking at the history. In June, 1950, North Korea, seeking to unify the Peninsula under Communism, invaded the South. The United States and China entered the war on opposing sides, and by 1953 President Eisenhower had concluded that the conflict had reached a stalemate. That July, after more than four million people had been killed, the sides signed a ceasefire, but not a peace treaty.

The regime’s efforts to cultivate paranoia and contempt for America are rooted in the scale and the devastation of the bombing during the war. Dean Rusk, who later became Secretary of State, recalled, in an oral history in 1985, that the United States bombed “every brick that was standing on top of another, everything that moved.” General Curtis LeMay, the head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984, “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off—what—twenty per cent of the population.” After the ceasefire, each side walked back two thousand metres, creating the D.M.Z., a buffer zone two and a half miles wide. Large numbers of troops are stationed on both sides, and outbreaks of violence have killed several hundred soldiers over the years. In the most recent incident, in August, 2015, two South Korean soldiers were wounded by land mines.

The Korean People’s Army assigned Lieutenant Colonel Pang Myong Jin to show me around. Pang is in his late thirties, with prominent cheekbones and a sharp chin. He wore a green uniform and an officer’s cap as broad as a dinner plate. We drove down a narrow road, through a gap in the tank traps and the barbed wire, to a clearing in the forest, which the North Koreans have turned into a shrine, called the North Korea Peace Museum. In their version of the conflict, the United States started the Korean War; the singular leadership of Kim Il Sung led to a humiliating defeat of the Americans, who have tried, ever since, to provoke another war. “This was the first time that the U.S. was defeated by the Korean people,” Pang told me. He led me to a tall stone tablet with a Korean inscription:

The great leader, Comrade Kim Jong Il, visited this spot four times, including on July 19, 1972. The esteemed high commander, Comrade Kim Jong Un, visited on March 3, 2012. They taught us the valuable lesson of preserving and passing on this historic site—where invading Americans knelt before the people in surrender—to the next generation, in a reunified homeland.

Every country valorizes its war record, but North Korea’s mythology—the improbable victory, the divine wisdom of the Kim family, and America’s enduring weakness and hostility—has shaped its conception of the present to a degree that is hard for the rest of the world to understand. In something close to a state religion, North Korea tells its people that their nation may be small, but its unique “single-hearted unity” would crush a beleaguered American military. That’s a volatile notion. Robert Jervis, a Columbia University political scientist, who studies the origins of war, once observed, “War is most likely if you overestimate others’ hostility but underestimate their capabilities.” It can be hard to know where North Korea’s reverie ends and realism resumes.

At our last stop, we drove through a grove of ginkgo trees, and arrived at a blue-painted hut that straddles the border with South Korea. North Korean guards in helmets watched us approach. When the two sides hold negotiations, they meet at a heavy wooden table that sits in both countries. I took a seat. “The microphones are the dividing line,” Pang said. I walked across the hut to stand, for a moment, in South Korea. When we stepped back outside, Pang said, “This is a very dangerous place, but the respected leader came here during the military exercises, at the highest level of tension. Do you think Trump would dare to come here?”

Yes, I said. He looked disappointed.

I asked Pang if he thinks the U.S. and North Korea will find themselves at war again. He reminded me that Kim had threatened to fire missiles into the Pacific Ocean. “We will fire a warning shot at Guam, and if that doesn’t work then we will fire a warning shot at the mainland United States. We want to achieve world peace, but if this isn’t possible then we are prepared for war.”

Citizens over the age of sixteen are expected to wear a badge celebrating at least one member of the Kim family.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

If you fire at Guam, I asked, how do you expect the U.S. to respond? He thought for a moment. It was quiet, except for the drone of cicadas. Then Pang cited a comment by Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, in a recent appearance on the “Today” show, which had filtered through translations and reached Pang more or less intact. Graham recounted his conversations with Trump, in which the President said he was prepared to strike Korea because the casualties will be “over there.”

“Trump said if there is war, then it will happen in the D.P.R.K., not in the U.S.,” Pang said. “So clearly he is preparing for war. He understands what he’s saying.”

What, exactly, are America’s options with North Korea? Many Korea specialists in Washington favor a major increase in pressure tactics, known as “strategic strangulation.” The U.S. would expand the use of cyber hacking and other covert methods to disrupt missile development and unnerve the government; it would flood the North with smuggled flash drives loaded with uncensored entertainment and information. It would also attempt to close off North Korea’s illicit trade networks, by interdicting ships, expanding sanctions against Chinese companies, and freezing the assets of individual leaders. “Make hundreds of millions of dollars of North Korean deposits in a Swiss bank disappear,” Evans Revere said. “The goal of this is not to cause the collapse of the regime. The goal of this is to convince the North Koreans that collapse is just over the horizon, and, if Kim Jong Un is a rational actor, then he will understand that.” Critics of the plan say that North Korea has perfected its ability to absorb pain, and that the plan is not fundamentally different from what previous Administrations have attempted.

There is also scattered support for a less confrontational option, a short-term deal known as a “freeze for freeze.” North Korea would stop weapons development in exchange for a halt or a reduction in U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Proponents say that a freeze, which could be revoked if either side cheats, is hardly perfect, but the alternatives are worse. Critics say that versions of it have been tried, without success, and that it will damage America’s alliance with the South. Thus far the Trump Administration has no interest. “The idea that some have suggested, of a so-called ‘freeze for freeze,’ is insulting,” Nikki Haley, the U.N. Ambassador, said before the Security Council on September 4th. “When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard.”

Outside the Administration, the more people I talked to, the more I heard a strong case for some level of diplomatic contact. When Obama dispatched James Clapper to Pyongyang, in 2014, to negotiate the release of two prisoners, Clapper discovered that North Korea had misread the purpose of the trip. The government had presumed that he was coming in part to open a new phase in the relationship. “They were bitterly disappointed,” he said. Clapper’s visit convinced him that the absence of diplomatic contact is opening a dangerous gulf of misperception. “I was blown away by the siege mentality—the paranoia—that prevails among the leadership of North Korea. When we sabre-rattle, when we fly B-1s accompanied by jet escorts from the Republic of Korea and Japan, it makes us feel good, it reassures the allies, but what we don’t factor in is the impact on the North Koreans.”

Clapper went on, “I think that what we should do is consider seriously, in consultation with South Korea, establishing an interest section in Pyongyang much like we had in Havana for decades, to deal with a government that we didn’t recognize. If we had a permanent presence in Pyongyang, I wonder whether the outcome of the tragedy of Otto Warmbier might have been avoided. Secondly, it would provide on-scene insight into what is actually going on in North Korea—intelligence.”

A fruit stall outside a station of the Pyongyang Metro.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

Table-tennis gear at the Kobangsan Guest House, on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

Ultimately, the Trump Administration must decide if it can live with North Korea as a nuclear state. During the Cold War, the United States used deterrence, arms control, and diplomacy to coexist with a hostile, untrustworthy adversary. At its height, the Soviet Union had fifty-five thousand nuclear weapons. According to the rand Corporation, the North Koreans are on track to have between fifty and a hundred by 2020; that would be less than half the size of Great Britain’s arsenal.

Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national-security adviser, argued, in a Times Op-Ed last month, that the U.S. can “rely on traditional deterrence” to blunt North Korea’s threat. But McMaster is skeptical that the Soviet model can be applied to Pyongyang. He told me, “There are reasons why this situation is different from the one we were in with the Soviets. The North Koreans have shown, through their words and actions, their intention to blackmail the United States into abandoning our South Korean ally, potentially clearing the path for a second Korean War.”

If the Administration were to choose a preventive war, one option is “decapitation,” an effort to kill senior leaders with a conventional or even a nuclear attack, though most analysts consider the risks unacceptable. Such a strike could rally the population around the regime and cause a surviving commander to respond with a nuclear weapon. Another option is akin to Israel’s 1981 stealth attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor, the linchpin of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons development, which set back Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by at least a decade. “That’s a textbook case of a preventive war,” the senior Administration official told me.

But the comparison between Osirak and North Korea is limited. In 1981, Iraq had yet to make a bomb, and it had just one major nuclear target, which was isolated in the desert and relatively easy to eliminate. North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.

The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or thaad.)

Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean artillery, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age.

In dozens of conversations this summer, in the United States and Asia, experts from across the political spectrum predicted that, despite the threats from Trump and McMaster, the U.S. most likely will accept the reality of North Korea as a nuclear state, and then try to convince Kim Jong Un that using—or selling—those weapons would bring about its annihilation. John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University, in Seoul, said, “If, one day, an American President comes along—maybe Trump—who understands the problem is the hostile relationship, and takes steps to improve it, then the slow train to denuclearization could leave the station.”

Managing a nuclear North Korea will not be cheap. It will require stronger missile defenses in South Korea, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, and more investment in intelligence to track the locations of North Korea’s weapons, to insure that we pose a credible threat of destroying them. Scott Snyder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I think we’re going to end up in a situation where we live with a nuclear-capable North Korea, but it will be a situation that is incredibly dangerous. Because, at that point, any unexplained move that looks like it could involve preparations for a nuclear strike could precipitate an American preëmptive response.” Even that risk, by almost all accounts, is better than a war.

IV. “We’re Not Going to Die Alone”

On the morning of August 17th, I awoke and found a new tweet from @realDonaldTrump: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable.” What decision was the President referring to? After poking around online, I discovered that Trump had picked up on Kim’s comment that he “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before deciding whether to fire missiles at Guam. To Trump, this was Kim standing down. He was pleased. (A few days later, Trump told a rally in Phoenix, “He is starting to respect us.”) But, it seemed, Trump was misreading the signals. “He only read one half of the statement,” Pak said, in frustration.

That morning, I was scheduled to interview a senior diplomat named Jo Chol Su, who had served in the Embassy in Geneva before being assigned, recently, to work on the United States. We spoke at my hotel, seated in a pair of giant armchairs, beside an especially large pair of Kim portraits.

Jo arrived with a young colleague to translate for us and carried a sheaf of printed remarks. Jo asked if he could begin with “an overview of the current situation and the history” of relations between our countries. He studied my face and added, “I’ll make it brief.” He spoke for seventeen minutes, lambasting the latest sanctions and hailing the ICBMs as a new era. “Today, we’ve got everything we need in our hands, and it’s preposterous to think that new sanctions and new threats will change anything.”

When he finished, I mentioned that, overnight, Trump had issued a tweet about Kim Jong Un. Jo looked stricken. There was nothing in his prepared remarks about it. He asked me to read it aloud, and he jotted it down as I read it. When I was done, Jo looked up and said, through his translator, “Once more, please.”

I read the tweet again. Jo stared at his paper. After a pause, he reiterated some of his speech and then improvised: “The U.S. should put an end to its high-handed practices and unilateral compulsion toward the D.P.R.K. and just leave us alone.”

Commuters reading the official newspaper on a Pyongyang Metro platform.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

Jo wrapped up with a grand farewell. “I know that The New Yorker is very influential and I’ve received good feelings through our dialogue today,” the translator said. “I’d be grateful if you just write articles which are conducive to the improved bilateral relations between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S.”

The three of us walked to the lobby. Jo lit a cigarette, ordered a coffee, and turned to me and said, in nearly perfect English, “I’m sorry—I should’ve asked first if you’d like a coffee. Can I order you one?”

Diplomats, no matter what their language skills, often use a translator on formal occasions, but I was impressed by how swiftly Jo eased out of his official mask. We chatted, and I asked him if he’d been to the United States. Never, he said. I had wondered what it must be like to experience the United States through the fog of Twitter. It turned out that it wasn’t much different from Americans trying to make sense of North Korea through its propaganda.

After breakfast one morning, Mr. Pak drove me to a subway station in downtown Pyongyang, and announced, “This is for the nuclear war.”

By now, I was accustomed to his chipper declarations about an imminent cataclysm, but this one baffled me. He explained, “Everything here has a dual-use purpose.” He pointed to an underpass, beneath an intersection, which he said can serve as a shelter. In the back yards of apartment blocks, residents can take cover in storage cellars. Surrounded by commuters, we boarded an escalator, heading down to the station.

Built in the seventies, with Russian help, the Pyongyang Metro lies a hundred metres underground, nearly twice as far as the deepest platform in the New York City subway. Pyongyang stations are equipped with large blast doors. “During the Korean War, we were threatened by nukes,” Pak said. In 1950, President Truman raised the possibility of using the atomic bomb in Korea. “It touched our people’s minds,” he said, adding, “We don’t want that to happen again. And now we’ve got nukes and we can comfortably say, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

In the event of a nuclear war, American strategists assume that North Korea would first launch a nuclear or chemical weapon at an American military base in Japan or Guam, in the belief that the U.S. would then hold its fire, rather than risk a strike on its mainland. I mentioned that to Pak, but he countered with a different view. “The point of nuclear war is to give total destruction to another party,” he said. “There are no moves, no maneuvers. That’s a conventional war.”

When we reached the subway platform, we were treated to patriotic orchestral music playing on the loudspeaker. Broadsheet newspaper pages were hung behind glass for people to read while they waited for the train. The scene reminded me of thirty-year-old photos I’ve seen of Beijing. We rode the train awhile, and then got on the escalator for the long ascent to the surface.

I was glad to be back in the open air. We got in the Toyota, and Pak said, “If the U.S. puts sanctions and sanctions and sanctions and sanctions, if they drive us to the edge of the cliff, we will attack. That’s how the world wars have started.” He thought awhile and then said, “Don’t push us too hard, because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”

This was a familiar refrain. Some of the American officials in Washington who are immersed in the problem of North Korea frequently mention the old Korean saying “Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!” It means “You die, I die!” It’s the expression you hear in a barroom fight, or from an exasperated spouse—the notion that one party will go over the cliff if it will take the other down, too. Krys Lee, a Korean-American author and translator, said, “My mother also used it on me!” Lee finds that it’s hard for Americans and Koreans to gauge each other’s precise emotions because Koreans tend to use “more abstract, dramatic, and sentimental language.” She has heard that many Korean literature students find Raymond Carver—the most laconic of American authors—“very dry, and that he didn’t translate well.”

On my last morning in Pyongyang, I visited the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. Shortly after Kim came to power, he renovated and expanded it; the museum is now nearly three-quarters the size of the Louvre. Choe Un Jong, a captain in the Korean People’s Army, showed me around. We were the only visitors. (It was a Friday, when, Choe said, the museum is open only to foreigners.) A tall woman in her twenties, Choe had stylish wavy hair that fell to her shoulders. She said, apologetically, “Today I cannot show you all of the museum. It takes three or four days.”

We stood beneath a three-story granite statue of a barrel-chested young Kim Il Sung, looking indistinguishable from his grandson. I told Choe that I had trouble telling their statues apart. She was thrilled. “Without any explanation, people think that that’s Marshal Kim Jong Un!” she said. The exhibits made use of life-size wax figures: there was a Korean commando crouching in the woods, and a dead American soldier with his eyes rolled back and a raven picking at his chest. We walked past captured howitzers and tanks, and a U.S. plane that she said delivered “germ bombs” loaded with “malaria, cholera, and typhoid.” (That claim has been widely debunked.) Choe sat me down for a video called “Who Started the Korean War?,” in which the narrator said, “The Korean War was precisely a direct product of the aggressive foreign policy of the United States to dominate the world.”

The mythology was no surprise, but one exhibit contained a stark implication for the current crisis. Beside the museum, we boarded the U.S.S. Pueblo, a Navy spy ship that was captured in January, 1968, long after the end of the Korean War. The seizure—during a surge of hostilities not unlike the present—was an audacious gamble on North Korea’s part. One American crew member was killed and eighty-two were detained. Lyndon Johnson considered retaliating with a naval blockade or even a nuclear strike. But he was consumed by the war in Vietnam, and, in the end, he did not retaliate. After eleven months, the U.S. apologized for spying and won the release of the prisoners.

The Pueblo incident nearly started a war, but Kim Il Sung drew a powerful, and potentially misleading, lesson from it. In a private conversation in 1971, Kim told Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian President, that the Pueblo and other standoffs had convinced him that Washington backs down. “The Americans don’t want to continue this fight,” he said, according to documents in Romania’s state archives. “They let us know it’s not their intention to fight the Koreans again.”

Van Jackson, a scholar of international relations who served in the Pentagon from 2009 to 2014, spent years analyzing the Kim family’s handling of crises, including the seizure of the Pueblo. The grandfather’s theory of victory still drives North Korea toward provocation, he said, but the regime also knows its limits; to survive, it chooses violence but avoids escalation. “When South Korea blares giant propaganda speakers at the North from the D.M.Z., North Korea fires warning shots nearby but doesn’t dare attack the speakers themselves,” he said. “When South Korean N.G.O.s send propaganda leaflets into North Korea using hot-air balloons—which really pisses them off—North Korea threatens to attack the N.G.O.s but instead just fires at the unmanned balloons.” In Jackson’s view, North Korea is not irrational, but it very much wants America to think that it is.

Jackson believes that the Trump Administration’s threat to launch a preventive war opens a new phase. “Trump may abandon the one thing that has prevented war in the past: U.S. restraint,” he told me. In embracing new rhetoric and rationale, the U.S. risks a spiral of hostility in which neither side intends to start a war but threats and intimidation lead to ever more aggressive behavior. Trump and Kim may goad each other into the very conflict that they are both trying to avoid.

In 1966, Thomas Schelling, the deterrence expert, wrote that brinkmanship hinges, above all, on “beliefs and expectations.” Our grasp of North Korea’s beliefs and expectations is not much better than its grasp of ours. To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other. In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks. We simply don’t know how Kim Jong Un really regards the use of his country’s nuclear arsenal, or how much North Korea’s seclusion and mythology has distorted its understanding of American resolve. We don’t know whether Kim Jong Un is taking ever-greater risks because he is determined to fulfill his family’s dream of retaking South Korea, or because he is afraid of ending up like Qaddafi.

To some in the Trump Administration, the gaps in our knowledge of North Korea represent an argument against deterrence; they are unwilling to assume that Pyongyang will be constrained by the prospect of mutually assured destruction. But if the alternative is a war with catastrophic costs, then gaps in our knowledge should make a different case. Iraq taught us the cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that we’re not making that mistake again. ♦

This article appears in other versions of the September 18, 2017, issue, with the headline “On the Brink.”
Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, and covers politics and foreign affairs.


……..and now what Buckwheat?…..that’s a long read and I understand that few will read  it all ….which I really don’t understand but who gives a hoot?……. I’ll go back for another read before Updating with any comments at there end.  May not be any….or there could be too many…….remains to be seen. ……………..w

……..if no comments…this will be it……. as in


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