WP: His pastors tried to steer him away from social media rage. He stormed the Capitol anyway.

From the Washington Post:

Facebook was making him angry.

For weeks last spring and summer, Michael Sparks had watched video of protests for racial justice around the country with growing unease. He could not turn away from his phone, even as he feared it was changing him. He posted his outrage. He posted that he hated seeing what was happening to his country. He posted that it made him want to kill people.

The 43-year-old husband and father didn’t believe that he actually would, but he knew even just saying so fell short of the Christian witness he wanted to bring to the world. His pastor at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church in Cecilia, Ky., advised him to leave Facebook. He considered it. Instead, the rage that had begun online led him to Washington, D.C., not long after the new year.

According to the FBI, Sparks was the first to enter the Capitol through a smashed window near the Ohio Clock Corridor…

The attack on the Capitol was for many involved a Christian insurrection, urged along by passages of scripture and culminating with prayers intoned in the occupied Senate. But as Sparks’s story shows, his faith played a more complicated role in his journey to Jan. 6. While his social media posts make clear he connected the election and his religious beliefs, his church community had also been a force cautioning him against letting online resentment take over his life. That tension — religious rhetoric as a goad to extremism on the one hand; community accountability as a safeguard against it on the other — highlights the complex influence some churches have had through the past tumultuous months, and may yet in the future…

His occupation at the time of his arrest is unclear. One relative said he has been working at an auto parts company. He once owned a small construction firm, but state corporation records indicate it is no longer active…

However, facets of his social media persona also present a reflective man struggling with fears of what he was becoming, in particular a 17-minute video he shared with his “church family.”

Speaking directly into the camera in July, Sparks acknowledged that his attitude online had become extreme. With an air both abashed for things he had said and hopeful that he had put those things behind him, he recounted multiple attempts at community intervention and vowed to resist forces that ultimately would overwhelm him.

“As you know I consider myself a devout Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and that’s my passion, has been for many years now,” he said. “As of late, with everything that’s been going on, boy it’s been a rough time for me, honestly. And I’ve been fighting really hard with anger. And seeing everything that’s been going on — whew, it is just … it’s eatin’ my lunch.”

Much of his message was devoted to the importance of going to church, relying on others to keep one on the straight and narrow. He spoke often of gratitude and love for people in his life who had helped him through a hard time. But he could not let go of the notion of a world under siege.

The problem, as he saw it, began with Black Lives Matter, which he regarded as “an absolute racist … horrible … non-Christian organization.” The protests in dozens of cities following the death of George Floyd in police custody had driven him over the edge.

“I’m a patriot. I love the United States of America. I love our freedom,” he said in the video. “This is the greatest country in the entire world. And that being said, we are under attack. There’s — It’s good versus evil now.”

But it wasn’t just the fact of what was happening. It was also the way seeing it felt impossible to escape. “It’s really got me, and it has had me, very angry,” he said in the video. “Because if you watch, Facebook is where they’re feeding this anger and hatred. … They’ll find out what you are for or against and they’re gonna feed anger, that’s what they’re doing.”

That wasn’t the reason for the video, though.

“I want to apologize,” he continued. “I have definitely not been showing godly things on there. You know, I’ve even said as far as I would shoot that person in the head, I would shoot this person in the head. Whether I would or not doesn’t matter; I don’t need to get on there and spread this because I’m not showing the love of Christ.”

Posted in Internet, Voter Fraud | Comments Off on WP: His pastors tried to steer him away from social media rage. He stormed the Capitol anyway.

The Slate Star Codex Blog & Its New York Time Profile

Here’s a timeline:

* A New York Times journalist wants to write an article about you and your online community.
* You don’t want to face that you have threatened your own well being and you fear that exposure of your choices will reveal some things many people won’t like.
* So you freak out and delete your whole blog and blame the New York Times for that.
* Your community reacts by viciously going after the New York Times.
* The New York Times is confirmed in its suspicion that there are dark sides to you and your community and writes that story.

Scott Alexander Suskin created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As Elizabeth Spiers wrote:

I suggest an easier route than summoning an army of bots, oppo researchers, Dark Enlightenment (ironic labeling for whatever that constitutes) warriors, etc., to go after journalists whose work you don’t like: pay careful attention to what you’re afraid they’re going to write, and why you wouldn’t want it to be public. Then apply some rational thinking.

The New Yorker wrote July 9, 2020:

In a parenthetical aside, he asked that his supporters remain courteous: “Remember that you are representing me and the SSC community, and I will be very sad if you are a jerk to anybody. Please just explain the situation and ask them to stop doxxing random bloggers for clicks. If you are some sort of important tech person who the New York Times technology section might want to maintain good relations with, mention that.” This plea conformed with the online persona he has publicly cultivated over the years—that of a gentle headmaster preparing to chaperone a rambunctious group of boys on a museum outing—but, in this case, it seemed to lend plausible deniability to what he surely knew would be taken as incitement.

…Alexander’s appeal elicited an instant reaction from members of the local intelligentsia in Silicon Valley and its satellite principalities. Within a few days, a petition collected more than six thousand signatories, including the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, the economist Tyler Cowen, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the cryptocurrency oracle Vitalik Buterin, the quantum physicist David Deutsch, the philosopher Peter Singer, and the OpenAI C.E.O. Sam Altman. Much of the support Alexander received was motivated simply by a love for his writing. The blogger Scott Aaronson, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote, “In my view, for SSC to be permanently deleted would be an intellectual loss on the scale of, let’s say, John Stuart Mill or Mark Twain burning their collected works.” Other responses seemed unwarranted by the matter at hand. Alexander had not named the reporter in question, but the former venture capitalist and cryptocurrency enthusiast Balaji Srinivasan, who has a quarrelsome Twitter personality, tweeted—some three hours after the post appeared, at 2:33 a.m. in San Francisco—that this example of “journalism as the non-consensual invasion of privacy for profit” was courtesy of Cade Metz, a technology writer ordinarily given over to enthusiastic stories on the subject of artificial intelligence. Alexander’s plea for civility went unheeded, and Metz and his editor were flooded with angry messages. In another tweet, Srinivasan turned to address Silicon Valley investors, entrepreneurs, and C.E.O.s: “The New York Times tried to doxx Scott Alexander for clicks. Just unsubscribing won’t change much. They can afford it. What will is freezing them out. By RTing #ghostnyt you commit to not talking to NYT reporters or giving them quotes. Go direct if you have something to say.”

Other prominent figures in Silicon Valley, including Paul Graham, the co-founder of the foremost startup incubator, Y Combinator, followed suit. Graham did not expect, as many seemed to, that the article would prove to be a “hit piece,” he wrote. “It’s revealing that so many worry it will be, though. Few would have 10 years ago. But it’s a more dangerous time for ideas now than 10 years ago, and the NYT is also less to be trusted.” This atmosphere of danger and mistrust gave rise to a spate of conspiracy theories: Alexander was being “doxxed” or “cancelled” because of his support for a Michigan State professor accused of racism, or because he’d recently written a post about his dislike for paywalls, or because the Times was simply afraid of the independent power of the proudly heterodox Slate Star Codex cohort.

The proliferation of such elaborate conjectures was hardly commensurate with the vision of Slate Star Codex as a touchstone of patience and disinterest. Alexander’s initial account of his exchange with Metz seemed to have seeded the escalation. For one thing, the S.S.C. code prioritizes semantic precision, but Metz—if Alexander’s account is to be taken at its word—had proposed not to “doxx” Alexander but to de-anonymize him. Additionally, it seems difficult to fathom that a professional journalist of Metz’s experience and standing would assure a subject, especially at the beginning of a process, that he planned to write a “mostly positive” story; although there often seems to be some confusion about this matter in Silicon Valley, journalism and public relations are distinct enterprises. Finally, the business model of the Times has little to do with chasing “clicks,” per se, and, even if it did, no self-respecting journalist would conclude that the pursuit of clicks was best served by the de-anonymization of a “random blogger.” The Times, although its policy permits exceptions for a variety of reasons, errs on the side of the transparency and accountability that accompany the use of real names. S.S.C. supporters on Twitter were quick to identify some of the Times’ recent concessions to pseudonymous quotation—Virgil Texas, a co-host of the podcast “Chapo Trap House,” was mentioned, as were Banksy and a member of isis—as if these supposed inconsistencies were dispositive proof of the paper’s secret agenda, rather than an ad-hoc and perhaps clumsy application of a flexible policy. Had the issue been with Facebook and its contentious moderation policies, which are applied in a similarly ad-hoc and sometimes clumsy way, the reaction in Silicon Valley would likely have been more magnanimous.

Until recently, I was a writer for the Times Magazine, and the idea that anyone on the organization’s masthead would direct a reporter to take down a niche blogger because he didn’t like paywalls, or he promoted a petition about a professor, or, really, for any other reason, is ludicrous; stories emerge from casual interactions between curious reporters and their overtaxed editors.

…But the rationalists, despite their fixation with cognitive bias, read into the contingencies a darkly meaningful pattern. Alexander, whose role has been to help explain Silicon Valley to itself, was taken up as a mascot and a martyr in a struggle against the Times, which, in the tweets of Srinivasan, Graham, and others, was enlisted as a proxy for all of the gatekeepers—the arbiters of what it is and is not O.K. to say, and who is allowed, by virtue of their identity, to say it.

…These conversations, about race and genetic or biological differences between the sexes, have rightfully drawn criticism from outsiders. But the rationalists, despite their fixation with cognitive bias, read into the contingencies a darkly meaningful pattern. Alexander, whose role has been to help explain Silicon Valley to itself, was taken up as a mascot and a martyr in a struggle against the Times, which, in the tweets of Srinivasan, Graham, and others, was enlisted as a proxy for all of the gatekeepers—the arbiters of what it is and is not O.K. to say, and who is allowed, by virtue of their identity, to say it.

…Alexander has long fretted over the likelihood that the presence of these fringe figures could tarnish the reputation of the blog and its community. In late 2013, he published “The Anti-Reactionary FAQ,” a thirty-thousand-word post now regarded as one of his first major contributions to the rationalist canon. The post describes the world view of a group, centered around a figure called Curtis Yarvin, also known as Mencius Moldbug, whose “neoreactionary” views—including an open desire for the restoration of feudalism and racial hierarchy—contributed to the intellectual normalization of what became known as the alt-right. Alexander could have banned neoreactionaries from his comments section, but, on the basis of the view that vile ideas should be countenanced and refuted rather than left to accrue the status of forbidden knowledge, he took their arguments seriously and at almost comical length—even at the risk that he might lend them legitimacy. Ultimately, he circumscribed or curtailed certain “culture war” threads. Still, the rationalists’ general willingness to pursue orderly exchanges on objectionable topics, often with monstrous people, remains not only a point of pride but a constitutive part of the subculture’s self-understanding.

They have given safe harbor to some genuinely egregious ideas, and controversial opinions have not been limited to the comments.

…It remains possible that Alexander vaporized his blog not because he thought it would force Metz’s hand but because he feared that a Times reporter wouldn’t have to poke around for very long to turn up a creditable reason for negative coverage.

…Are they wrong to worry that a reporter would want to make them pay for it? In the case of Slate Star Codex versus the Times, the stridency and hyperbole of the reactions of Alexander’s cohort to his cause bear the classic markers of grandiosity: the conviction that they are at once potent and beleaguered.

The Nation posted Dec. 5, 2019:

The online magazine of the “intellectual dark web” is repackaging discredited race science

Quillette is Reid Ross’s fascist creep par excellence; it’s fascism creeping so close to liberalism that the radical ethicist Peter Singer was willing to write a short statement for the magazine condemning a protest against a racist professor, and erstwhile liberal Steven Pinker praised it as “a gust of fresh air.”

The constitutive ideology of Quillette comes out most clearly in the arena of race. At least five Quillette contributors—Kevin M. Beaver, Brian Boutwell, Adam Perkins, Jason Richwine, and John Paul Wright—have gone on white nationalist Stefan Molyneux’s show to discuss their “research” on topics like race, intelligence, and “criminality.” Richwine, who in the past wrote for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s website alternativeright.com, agreed with Molyneux’s assertion that there is a “hierarchy” of IQ extending from “Ashkenazi Jews and East Asians” on down in decreasing order to “the whites, and then the Hispanics, and then the blacks.” Boutwell declared, “It’s no secret…that there are differences that emerge across racial and ethnic groups for involvement in crime.” Wright has written that African Americans have a deficit in “executive function,” “self-control and IQ” that leads them to “commit more violent crime than any other group.” Perkins, who claims welfare recipients have a genetically based capacity to be “aggressive, antisocial,” and “unemployable,” has also appeared on the white nationalist show Reality Calls, which had a celebratory feature called “This Week on the Alt-Right.”

Quillette takes this racist HBD theory and launders it in lifeless prose. For example, one article declared its support for Charles Murray’s 1994 book The Bell Curve, and included the blandly articulated claim, “There are race differences in intelligence, with East Asians scoring roughly 103 on IQ tests, whites scoring 100, and Blacks scoring 85.” The Quillette authors themselves concluded, “There are, as yet, no good alternative explanations” for “racial differences in IQ scores” other than “genetics.”

Noah Smith writes:

I think Americans dramatically underrate how much better life will be without Nazis around.

And by “Nazis”, I do not mean Republicans, or conservatives, or Trump supporters, or people with racist attitudes in general. I specifically mean hardcore passionate white supremacists for whom white supremacist activism is a lifestyle. This is a relatively small fringe; most racists don’t make a lifestyle out of it.

But even though Nazis are a small fringe in America, they are a fractal fringe — they branch out and ramify and flow into any space that allows them. In the 1980s, a Nazi fringe tried to be part of the punk subculture. Punks responded by punching Nazis in the face and kicking them out of the subculture. In recent years, Nazis have tried to be part of the Black Metal subculture. Black Metal fans are responding by systematically excluding Nazis. Gamer culture has also tried to kick out infiltrating Nazis, with less success. And Nazis successfully infiltrated and destroyed 4chan.

The lesson is that Nazis will relentlessly infiltrate anywhere where the powers that be fail to expel them with extreme prejudice. They will infiltrate your web forum. They will infiltrate your blog comments. They will go anywhere where they are not forcibly expelled. And once they are allowed in a space, they will make it awful for everyone else in that space, like a single rat turd floating in your bowl of cereal.

The lesson the punks and metalheads learn is: Ban the Nazis, and things just get better. Yes, it can feel intolerant. But that’s the Paradox of Tolerance:

I suspect most people vastly underestimate how much better America as a whole will get when our current crop of Nazis finally gives up and goes away.

Given the dominant anti-social ethos of white nationalism in America, Noah Smith’s suggestion is not absurd. I don’t agree with it either because I like free speech, but I recognize it is economical for most people to automatically dismiss anyone associated with white nationalism due to the poor quality of the people in America who espouse white nationalism (e.g., the large numbers of criminals, deviants, fantasists and under-achievers in the movement). Just as many people are extreme left for psychological and social reasons, surely many people are extreme right for psychological and social reasons? White nationalism, antifa and BLM probably give many people an opportunity to burn and destroy and the ideological reasons for this behavior are not important to most participants. They just want release from moral norms.

If you spend hours posting/reading 4chan/pol, you’re probably anti-social.

Similarly, normies probably have rational reasons for wanting to avoid association with anybody in the porn industry, even though that might limit connection with some interesting people. For normies, that which is so different as to be socially unacceptable is disturbing.

Will Wilkinson writes:

Journalism isn’t science. It’s often more like low-grade war with hostile subjects. People who are newsworthy often wish that they weren’t and are often straight-up antagonistic. If you’re a reporter, they will respond as if you personally have it out for them (very unlikely) and are an enemy of their interests (often true, because people often don’t want others to know the truth about them). They will lie to you. They will recruit people you’re less likely to suspect of lying to you to lie to you. They may try to intimidate you and your family — or wink and look the other way when their allies do. They may refuse to give their real name, even if you already found it. They may even hurt themselves to hurt your story if they really, really, really don’t want it written.

Reporting is a hard job devoted in large measure to ferreting out truths that the subjects of the story you are writing are actively trying to conceal. I think it’s important to emphasize that there is simply no sense — none! — in which people who like to talk about epistemology on the Internet are more committed to objectivity and truth than experienced reporters who, in the service of truth, navigate mazes of lies, gaslighting, spin, bullshit and threats for a living.

That Scott Siskind’s name is Scott Siskind is a fact relevant to a story about him, period. That’s why it seems insanely paranoid to journalists like Lewis-Kraus to infer that Cade Metz, or the New York Times itself, in all its abstract corporate majesty, must harbor some vendetta because they think it makes sense to use your name in a story about you.

…He’s come to see that nobody at the Times was animated by ill will or had undertaken some nefarious ideological mission. It was just a guy doing his job all along. So, when Scott utterly lost his shit, it wasn’t because Metz or the Times had done anything that reasonable person would anticipate leading to such an operatic response. Siskind seems to see that now. He gets that he’s responsible for his reaction to his perception of the consequences that might have been brought about by his loss of anonymity. Neither Metz nor the Times sought to bring them about. The critical, volatile variable in the whole episode is the surprising ferocity of his attachment to anonymity, and he knows it…

Siskind sees that’s it’s definitely reasonable to see him as an entitled jerk, but he’s not actually admitting that he is. On the contrary, he ends up arguing (in typically illuminating and entertaining terms!) that, sure, he was irrational … but! There’s a higher rationality to acting so crazy that folks you feel so antagonized by decide to back away and just leave the rabid dog alone. As he goes on, Siskind continues to tendentiously characterize reporting true, publicly available facts about people, such as their names, with “doxxing,” the exposure of identifying information with malicious intent to cause harm.

I think he does this, despite having conceded that there was no malicious intent in his case, because he thinks it’s nevertheless seriously wrong to communicate certain facts about a person if they’d rather they stay under their hat. More than that, Siskind suggests that people should not be allowed to freely communicate those facts without express permission — even if others have good reason to want to know. He seems to me to be saying that our interest in the privacy and impunity of anonymity generally outweigh our interest in freely speaking and receiving information about identity without the subject’s consent.

…A bunch of people in the community, Scott included, really are interested in neoreactionary thinking. In a recently leaked email exchange, Siskind admits to finding a lot worthwhile in it and confesses that he’s hard on neo-reactionaries in public in part to throw people off the scent. Curtis Yarvin/Mencius Moldbug really is a familiar and known quantity who does hang around the community, even if he’s not a central figure. Peter Thiel gives him money…

I want to urge Siskind’s irked supporters to consider that when Metz brings up Charles Murray, Voldemort feminists, unusually collegial engagement with neo-reactionary thought, and speculation about tech being male-heavy because women for some reason just get bored by numbers and gadgets, it’s not because he’s writing a hit job — it’s because these are the kinds of things Siskind was terrified his employer and patients would connect to him. Huh? Why would you aim directly at the realization of Siskind’s fears if not out of spite and malice? Well, the most interesting things about Slate Star Codex, from an outside perspective, are (1) that it’s influential in Silicon Valley, and its enthusiastic fans include incredibly rich and powerful people whose technologies and businesses affect all our lives; (2) one day Siskind burnt it all down and summoned a vengeful horde to attack an innocent reporter and assail America’s best newspaper.

Now, the rules of America’s best newspaper don’t allow for speculation about motives and Siskind wasn’t talking. But the rules definitely allow for laying out facts and letting readers draw their own conclusions. Well, all the allegedly “negative” stuff on SSC is illustrative of why Siskind might panic and spike his blog. That powerful and influential men like Thiel and Balaji, who infamously harbor vitriolic hatred for snooping journalists, number among Siskind’s fans is very interesting given how Siskind weaponized his rationalist readership to protect the anonymity that protects his reputation — especially since Siskind himself tells us that Balaji was advising him on how to fuck over journalists. Creating a mob of rationalists may seem a bit puzzling. Why would such smart people be so willing to enlist in a mercenary army fighting for the greater glory of Scott Siskind’s psychiatric practice? Well, if you see it in the light of the Siskind’s relentless promotion of the idea that the marketplace of ideas will end up abandoned and shuttered unless we come to treat anonymity as a basic right, it starts to make sense.

Posted in Internet | Comments Off on The Slate Star Codex Blog & Its New York Time Profile

Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes

Ira Rosen writes in this 2021 book:

* Allan looked at me like I was crazy. “I tuned him [Mike Wallace] out. I didn’t hear any of it. If you are going to listen to everything he says, you will go crazy, so I figured out a way to go into a cone of silence.”
Allan was a talented filmmaker and had married Mike’s former secretary. He appeared calm on the outside, but he lost most of his hair in his twenties.
Mike’s abuse, I was to learn, affected people in different ways.
The least harmful way was that your back went out. Allan walked around with a back brace. The tension of the job led other producers to develop heart disease or cancer at an early age. One lucky producer “only” got ulcers, which he nicknamed Myron, Mike’s real name. For me, my back would go into spasms during my entire time working with Wallace. I would end up sleeping on many hotel room floors to reduce the pain, including years later, during my honeymoon.
I realized that the real trick of being a successful producer was to save a story that was going to hell. Producing was easy when subjects showed up on time, the correspondents got a good night’s sleep and prepared for the interview, and the subject was full of wit and energy.
That rarely happened. Usually correspondents showed up pissed off, angry that they actually had to work; the main interview subject decided to bring his lawyer, who interrupted constantly; and the cameraman got distracted and doesn’t notice that the subject was moving around in his chair and was going out of frame.

* In 2016 during a trip to Chicago, Sharpton visited Jackson unannounced at his offices—the student visiting the mentor. Jackson was in a three-piece suit, watching daytime soap operas. They spent an hour together and the phone never rang once. Jackson was now alone, his hands shaking from Parkinson’s disease, his lifestyle and hustles finally having caught up to him. Sharpton told me the sad scene will stay with him forever.
Sharpton often thought about Jackson’s fall from grace and changed his act.

* When I first came to Washington, I was overly impressed by congressmen and senators. But after a while I found most of them to lack authenticity. Many of the legislators would say and do whatever it took to get on 60 Minutes, which made their beliefs and motives suspect. I discovered that the more you know about politicians, the worse they appear.

* One time he [Ed Bradley] went to one of his producers and told him that he wanted to do a story in San Diego.
“Why San Diego?” the producer asked.
“Because the best blow job I ever received was from this girl in San Francisco. And I asked her where she learned to do that, and she said from her sister in San Diego.”
Every producer he worked with had a favorite story. Bradley once agreed to substitute as anchor of the CBS Evening News for a week. They told him that he would be on twenty-four-hour call if any news broke. Bradley didn’t like that.
“We’ll only call you if something really bad happens, like the president is shot,” the evening news show producer told him.
The way Bradley told the story, that night at about two in the morning, he was with a woman in bed when the phone rang.…
Bradley shot up and said to his female companion, “The president has been shot.”
It turned out to be a wrong number.

* “Charlie [Rose], would you sleep with a woman who was sixty years old?” I asked.
“Are you crazy?”
“That is a woman who is fifteen years younger than you,” I replied.
“You have no idea what my life is like,” he said.
Charlie clearly hadn’t looked in the mirror for a while.
“Charlie, you are seventy-five. You are old enough to be some of these younger women’s grandfather. They want to hang out with you, talk to you, go to parties with you. They don’t want to fuck you.”
He got up and left my office.

* The Charlie Rose show played the entire three-hour interview spread over five nights. A year of meetings, late-night calls, and honoring his confidences had paid off. It was, in Bannon’s word, epic. But the story created a monster. Bannon took the interview momentum and began to speak and act like a presidential candidate. A narcissist, he told me that he wanted to run for president if Trump decided he didn’t want a second term. He ticked off the rich right-wing money people who would fund his campaign—the Mercers, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers.
His criticism of Trump privately to me took on a different tone. He believed Trump was suffering from early stage dementia and that there was a real possibility he would be removed from office by the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, where the cabinet could vote that the president was no longer mentally capable of carrying out his duties. Bannon began to push that story hard.
Bannon said that the president had no attention span, didn’t read, and now doesn’t listen. He said Trump repeats himself a lot, telling the same story minutes after he told it before.
I sent him part of a David Brooks column from The New York Times : “The Republican senators went to the White House and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they knew which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.”
“You need to do the 25th amendment piece … BTW brother I never steer u wrong,” he texted back.
But Bannon began to push removing Trump via the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to some of his friends and biggest Trump backers. In the summer of 2017, he went to the Long Island home of Bob Mercer and briefed him on his trying to build up a consensus to remove Trump from office. He mentioned a Sunday prayer service some cabinet officials attended, along with Vice President Pence, as a place where the conspiracy to remove Trump could begin. Mercer dismissed the talk and began to have serious doubts about Bannon.

* The next time I saw him, Bannon was at the Bryant Park Hotel, a place known on Wall Street to go for discreet affairs, before catching a train at Grand Central. Bannon was occupying a small room and being guarded by a security person who looked like he had just come from the Hells Angels. That day Bannon had given an off-the-record speech on China to a small group at the Council on Foreign Relations. His topic was mostly the same and can best be summarized as “the Chinese are going to clean our clocks unless we do something about it.”
Later that day, Bannon wanted me to meet his new girlfriend at a small French restaurant on the East Side called Le Veau d’Or. He entered the restaurant with a small security force and an attractive brunette.
His girlfriend was about twenty years younger than Steve and he was smitten. He had already bought her a car and a house and later texted me that “She could be the next ex Mrs. Bannon she is very very cool—first time I’ve enjoyed anything outside of work in 30 years.”
Bannon tried to support the president as a way of building up his own brand, but it conflicted with his true feelings about Trump’s family. I had read an early version of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, and it quoted Bannon as saying Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower before the election “was treasonous.” It was apparent that Bannon believed he could throw Trump’s kids under the bus and still be a Trump loyalist.
The day after the Wolff revelations came out, Bannon said on his radio show that he still supported Trump. Five hours after he said that, he emailed me a story from Politico on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: how it can be used to remove Trump from office. The article he sent claimed a psychiatrist had briefed U.S. senators as to Trump’s mental incapacity.
Bannon was living in an alternate reality.
He supported Trump while pushing stories to get him removed. Maybe the most accurate thing Trump said all year was in response to Bannon’s comments about his son’s “treasonous” activities: “Steve not only lost his job; he lost his mind.”

* She [Rebekah Mercer] took a liking to me, in part, because of the exposés I did about Congress. I also was not a leftist ideologue like some of my colleagues. I certainly believe global warming is real, and left unchecked, will devastate the planet, but I am willing to listen to how those who don’t believe in it got there. As a result, those who frequented her condo opened up to me, the stranger in their midst.
One such person was Bob Cohen, a famous New York matrimonial lawyer. He had represented the ex-Trump wives, Ivana and Marla Maples. After Rebekah introduced me to him, the eighty-year-old, former marathon-running attorney felt like bragging. He said that he now represented Melania Trump.
“But she is not divorced,” I said, a bit puzzled.
“I had gotten her a postnup agreement.”
I was puzzled again. “What is a postnup?” I asked.
“You know what a prenup is?”
“Well, a postnup is after you have a prenup. After Donald got elected, he said I can’t be president without a first lady, so he added four years to her existing agreement,” Cohen said with a big smile. “I got her millions more added to her deal.”
It was implied from Cohen that had Trump lost, he might have separated from Melania. But it is not good optics to be a president without a wife, so Trump renegotiated his agreement to ensure she had a financial incentive to remain. It was clear that if Trump won in 2020, there would be yet another renegotiation.

* Rebekah had direct access to Trump before the 2016 election and advised on his cabinet picks. But 2020 was different. She had withdrawn her financial support of Trump because he didn’t deliver on his promise to take on the entrenched corruption on both sides of the aisle. The political swamp had only grown during the Trump presidency. She also was offended that Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale had been spending millions on fancy cars and expensive real estate and he and his company were being paid millions by the campaign. She didn’t want her contributions to benefit his lifestyle.
If she had her misgivings about Trump, I was surprised she didn’t support Vice President Pence as a second choice to Trump.
She gave me a look. “You know he talks to G-d,” she said.
“A lot of people talk to G-d. What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“G-d answers,” she said.
“Like the burning bush?” I asked.
I realized it is very hard to disagree with someone who says he got his orders from G-d.

* Trump had invited [Dylan] Howard and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker for dinner on July 12, 2017. Howard told me that while touring the Executive residence of the White House, when he was just outside the Lincoln Bedroom, the president said to him, “Editor man, I’m glad I’ve been good for business.”
He then asked if the former Playboy model Karen McDougal still loved him. “Of course she does,” Howard said. Trump seemed pleased.
Trump then told Howard the secret nickname he had for her, “the Hoover Dam,” Trump said, “because she was always so wet.”

* The Palm Beach culture was never more evident than when Patriots owner Robert Kraft got busted, along with other wealthy people, for going to a low-rent massage parlor to get a hand job. I had gotten to know Dave Aronberg, a young, ambitious Palm Beach County prosecutor who had made a name for himself aggressively prosecuting doctors who recklessly prescribed insane amounts of opioids to patients.
Aronberg’s team got a tip that Chinese massage parlors, which had taken the place of the pain management clinics that once dotted South Florida strip malls, were now engaged in sex for pay. The local police set up cameras inside one called the Orchids of Asia Day Spa after they noticed eight men in golf carts showing up and acting, in the words of the police, “as if they were about to score.”
One of those who would later go was Kraft. He claimed that he couldn’t get a massage at the Breakers, a fancy upscale hotel-condo complex in Palm Beach, so a friend volunteered to drive him to the place for a massage.
Kraft was at the location twice and was caught on surveillance, getting masturbated by a Chinese female and anally stimulated.

Posted in Journalism | Comments Off on Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes

A Dance To The Music Of Time

Anthony Powell never wrote a memorable sentence, but this 12-volume work is filled with important observations, such as this one in book two: “I USED TO IMAGINE life divided into separate compartments, consisting, for example, of such dual abstractions as pleasure and pain, love and hate, friendship and enmity; and more material classifications like work and play: a profession or calling being, according to that concept—one that seemed, at least on the surface, unequivocally assumed by persons so dissimilar from one another as Widmerpool and Archie Gilbert, something entirely different from “spare time.” That illusion, as such a point of view was, in due course, to appear—was closely related to another belief: that existence fans out indefinitely into new areas of experience, and that almost every additional acquaintance offers some supplementary world with its own hazards and enchantments. As time goes on, of course, these supposedly different worlds, in fact, draw closer, if not to each other, then to some pattern common to all; so that, at last, diversity between them, if in truth existent, seems to be almost imperceptible except in a few crude and exterior ways: unthinkable, as formerly appeared, any single consummation of cause and effect. In other words, nearly all the inhabitants of these outwardly disconnected empires turn out at last to be tenaciously inter-related; love and hate, friendship and enmity, too, becoming themselves much less clearly defined, more often than not showing signs of possessing characteristics that could claim, to say the least, not a little in common; while work and play merge indistinguishably into a complex tissue of pleasure and tedium.”

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Cancel Culture From Thomas More To Godward Podcast (2-17-21)

Scott Alexander is not in the Gizmodo Media Slack

Persecution and the Art of Writing , https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JY89ECY/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1
Cancel Culture From Thomas More To Godward Podcast, https://lukeford.net/blog/?p=137087
Luke’s journey to Judaism: https://www.lukeford.net/luke_ford/bio/l1.html

Posted in Philosophy | Comments Off on Cancel Culture From Thomas More To Godward Podcast (2-17-21)