Your Weekend Must-Reads

Just links this week. No original thoughts. Check out stories about the Notorious R.B.G., America's democracy teetering on a cliff, a new podcast about guns and Facebook, and a Texas mystery.

Ten Worth Your Time

  1. R.I.P. RBG: Not long ago, my brother called me and started a story with this question: “You ever get into an argument, and then midway through the argument, you realize that you’re just wrong? But you keep on arguing anyway?” (The short answer: “Absolutely, for this is my toxic trait.”) I remembered one such argument in the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s death. It was connected to one of her earliest famous decisions: United States v. Virginia, which ultimately concerned whether the male-only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. I was in law school, struggling my way through a constitutional law class, and after reading the case, I got into a debate about the merits of the case with a friend, a woman who was considerably smarter than I. I was taken with Justice Scalia’s dissent, but more than that, I think I was taken with me own tortured and conflicted identity as a conservative. I made some points that could technically, legally, hold water, but I remember seeing and hearing pure disappointment from my friend. Perhaps she thought me smarter than that. I doubt it, but surely she thought me more principled than that. I was flat-out wrong, and yet I argued with her anyway. I returned to the case later, and knew in my heart that I agreed with Justice Ginsburg and my friend: of course such a policy violated the equal protection clause. I only wish I’d been brave enough to say that back then.

  2. This essay from Longreads was shared with me (h/t Jen Rowe), and there is so much goodness to behold in this single piece of writing. It involves brotherhood, running, the death of a loved one, and what masculinity looks like (or could look like). I especially love this paragraph: “How many times in this world has it taken a woman to teach a man something? Not just in movies, when the bewildered man is stunned on the doorstep of loss, and the woman steps, sure and poised, to put her hand on his shoulder. Think. Think beyond the movie, into the fact of daily life. Ask yourself: how many times has it taken a woman suffering to really teach a man something? When I ask myself, I know the answer is: too often.”

  3. A New Yorker story of the virtues and failures of America’s judicial system as experienced by one Iranian man who was recruited by the FBI to spy on his home country but stood his ground in refusal.

  4. I’ve been hearing an ad for a new podcast from NPR, which is a story about three brothers using Facebook to advance an absolutist gun rights agenda. It’s the type of movement that calls longtime members/supporters of the N.R.A. “soft” on guns. It sounded so familiar to me because a colleague of mine at the paper, @Goodrick_Jake, recently reported on a group known as WYGO, short for Wyoming Gun Owners, that had targeted longstanding conservative Republicans and labeling them as liberal because they’d simply entertained legislation related to guns. I told him about the ad and said, “Sounds like there’s a podcast that you might be interested in.” He asked about it and when I tried to describe it from my half-listenings, he saw what I saw: a close similarity to the story he’d done. He asked what the podcast was called, and I told him: No Compromise. He said, “That’s them. That’s their motto.” I listened to the first episode, and I think you should check it out.

  5. Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker piece about the potential for a protracted legal battle after Election Day raises a scary prospect. It calls to mind his book Too Close To Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election which I read at least a decade ago now. It’s a wonderful book that goes deep inside each camp, the Republicans and the Democrats, as they schemed and maneuvered and litigated their way to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that decided a presidency.

  6. The Atlantic’s most popular article this week similarly anticipates a doomsday scenario where the very fabric of American democracy is ripped to shreds, where President Trump loses the election but refuses to acknowledge the loss and peacefully transfer power. This line is prescient and accurate: “Maybe you hesitate. Is it a fact that if Trump loses, he will reject defeat, come what may? Do we know that? Technically, you feel obliged to point out, the proposition is framed in the future conditional, and prophecy is no man’s gift, and so forth. With all due respect, that is pettifoggery. We know this man. We cannot afford to pretend.”

  7. A new documentary, Agents of Chaos, by Alex Gibney, whose documentaries are never to be miss, hit HBO Max this week, and it details the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  8. I got the October issue of Texas Monthly in the mail earlier this week, and the cover story is a Texas-sized mystery written by Skip Hollandsworth called “Tom Brown’s Body.” It explores the disappearance of a popular high school student in a small Panhandle town, and the eventual discovery of his body. The magazine is doling out the story over multiple issues, and perhaps even more interestingly, the website isn’t even running the story. Instead, it’s a preview of story’s accompanying podcast. Check it out here.

  9. Roger Angell turns 100: The celebrated New Yorker writer, the only writer honored by both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has lived a long life and has a storied career. (His career, in fact, is the thing dreams are made of.) This is a collection of some of his best, rounded up by the Columbia Journalism Review.

  10. Gene Weingarten’s wonderfully quirky essay for The Washington Post of a random neighbor’s request for a tomato that spiraled into something much different.


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