The Green New Deal, and an Unusual Night at the Orchestra
The Green New Deal is coming to the table during the one of the most divisive periods Washington has ever seen. Two advocates of the environmental plan—a young activist championing the cause, and a veteran of climate politics in Washington—consider what it would take to actually pass such legislation. And The New Yorker’s Patty Marx learns firsthand that conducting an orchestra can’t be mastered overnight.
The N.R.A.’s Financial Mess
Last March, Wayne LaPierre sent a fund-raising letter to his members—an urgent plea for money. LaPierre described an attack on the Second Amendment that is unprecedented in the history of the country. But, in reality, what is endangering the N.R.A. isn’t constitutional law; it’s destructive business relationships that have damaged the organization financially, and have put it in legal jeopardy.
Searching through N.R.A. tax forms, charity records, contracts, and internal communications, the reporter Mike Spies that “a small group of N.R.A executives, contractors, and venders have extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, enriching themselves in the process.” While the organization is quick to lay blame on its political opponents, Spies says, it’s its questionable financial practices that have weakened it from the inside.
Central to the story of the N.R.A’s financial problems is an Oklahoma-based P.R. firm called Ackerman McQueen. Ack-Mac didn’t just write press releases: for decades, it has steered the N.R.A.’s imaging on all platforms, and its executives routinely took positions within the N.R.A. In 2017, the N.R.A. paid Ackerman and affiliates almost forty-one million dollars, which totalled about twelve per cent of the N.R.A.’s total expenses that year. Ostensibly just a contractor, Ackerman influenced N.R.A. decision-making from inside, and the for-profit company seems to have used the nonprofit company as a vast source of funds to enrich itself.
Spies interviewed Aaron Davis, who worked in the N.R.A.’s fund-raising operation for a decade. “I think there is an inherent conflict of interest,” Davis says. “And it just doesn’t seem like N.R.A. leadership is all that concerned about this.”
(After this interview took place, the N.R.A. sued Ackerman McQueen, claiming that the contractor had hidden important documentation from it that detailed the business relationships.)
The actor Christine Baranski on “The Good Fight,” and Kurt Vile on Songwriting
Christine Baranski was a successful theatre actor who would never stoop to do television in the old days. But when she got the pilot script for “Cybill,” and had two daughters to put through school, she took the role of Marianne, the tough-talking best friend of Cybill Shepherd’s character. “Who goes to Hollywood at forty-two and becomes an overnight star?” Baranski asks the critic Emily Nussbaum. What made her such a sensation? “No one had seen that woman on American television” before, she notes, of her character, a badass with a Martini and an attitude. “Sex and the City” came later. Playing strong women seems to come naturally to Baranski; since 2009, she’s portrayed the capable, elegant Diane Lockhart, in “The Good Wife” and then “The Good Fight.” She talked with Nussbaum in a live conversation at the 2018 New Yorker Festival. Plus, Amanda Petrusich talks with the musician Kurt Vile, who performs his song “Pretty Pimpin” live.
Masha Gessen and Keith Gessen Debate Russian and American Politics
have, taken together, written more than a dozen books and a thousand articles. Keith Gessen is a founder of n+1 , an influential literary journal; Masha has written for major newspapers and journals as well as, since 2014, The New Yorker . Their parents emigrated from the Soviet Union in its latter days. Keith has spent most of his life in America, but Masha, who is older, returned to Russia as an adult and worked there as a reporter. In a conversation at the 2018 New Yorker Festival, the siblings discussed their different perspectives on the U.S.-Russia relationship. All through the Mueller investigation, Masha warned people not to expect a smoking gun to prove collusion between Putin and Trump, and then, somehow, this fierce critic of Putin was branded an apologist for his regime. Masha’s most recent book is “The Future Is History”; Keith’s is a novel, called “A Terrible Country.”
The Neurology of Bias, and a Visit with Thundercat
Most of us have biases and prejudices we don’t acknowledge—or aren’t even aware of. Admitting those biases is a baseline of political “wokeness.” But measuring and proving bias, and showing how it works, is another matter. Jennifer Eberhardt is a social psychologist at Stanford University who studies these issues through neuroimaging and other experiments. Bias, in her view, is not merely a learned phenomenon but one that involves neurological patterns that are “tuned” by cultural experience. And it may operate most prominently in situations where people have the least time for reflection. Eberhardt says that intervening on a policy level to reduce the consequences of bias involves slowing down decision-making in critical situations such as policing. She spoke with David Remnick about her new book, “Biased.” Plus, Briana Younger, a music editor at The New Yorker , visits with the bassist and producer who helped make Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” He goes by Thundercat.