Weekly Update 28Jun-04Jul 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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By David Brooks for The New York Times
Great nations thrive by constantly refreshing two great reservoirs of knowledge. The first contains the knowledge from the stories we tell about ourselves. This is the knowledge of who we are as a people, how we got here, what long conflicts bind us together, what we find admirable and dishonorable, what kind of world we hope to build together. This kind of knowledge isn’t merely factual knowledge. It is a moral framework from which to see the world. Homer taught the ancient Greeks how to perceive their reality. Exodus teaches the Jews how to interpret their struggles and their journey.
By Daniel Immerwahr, for The New York Times, Mr. Immerwahr is a professor of history at Northwestern and the author of “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.”
The world didn’t expect much from Edward Bellamy, a reclusive, tubercular writer who lived with his parents. Yet if he lived small, he dreamed big, and in 1888 he published a phenomenally successful utopian novel, “Looking Backward, 2000-1887.” It told of a man who fell asleep in 1887 and awoke in 2000 to electrified cities, music broadcasts and “credit cards.” Even more exciting than Bellamy’s technological forecasts were his political ones. Unforgiving capitalism would be replaced by a welfare state, he predicted, with universal education, guaranteed incomes and supported retirement. His readers started Bellamy Clubs and set off a craze for utopian novels. In the 19th-century United States, only “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sold more copies in its first years than “Looking Backward.”
The CIA veteran says the defense industry has a ‘moral imperative’ to support the U.S. and its allies ‘in the work they do to keep democracy safe’
By Emily Bobrow, The Wall Street Journal
A General Dynamics Corp. shareholder meeting in May turned contentious when an antiwar activist confronted CEO Phebe Novakovic over the company’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other repressive governments. “You ought to have some more moral reflection about how you earn your billions of dollars,” the activist said. After offering to sit for a “principled conversation,” Ms. Novakovic calmly defended the company’s mission to support the policy of the U.S., which is “just and fair and in our interest.” She added that everything General Dynamics makes, from nuclear-armed submarines to armored vehicles, is designed to “deter evil—and there is evil in this world.” Ms. Novakovic, 63, who has run General Dynamics since 2013, keeps a low profile. Because her Fortune 100 company has one primary customer, the Department of Defense, she says she doesn’t see much upside in “proselytizing publicly” about their products and services.
By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine
I grew up in the 1980s and became an adult in the 1990s, in a country whose political and cultural authorities believed it had been shaped irrevocably for the worse by John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy represented greatness — or at least incipient greatness tragically cut short. It was the last time government was good, before the ’60 revolt, Vietnam, and Watergate destroyed the public’s trust in it. That belief still has purchase. C-Span’s latest Presidential Historians Survey finds that Kennedy has maintained his long-held rank among the pantheon of historical greats. Despite having served less than one term, and having left behind barely any accomplishments, he ranks eighth, according to a panel composed of academic historians, along with a smattering of presidential biographers.
Tips for finding entry requirements, digitizing documents and expediting check-in now that travel abroad is becoming possible again
By Nicole Nguyen, The Wall Street Journal
Now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing for vaccinated tourists in Europe and elsewhere, you might have your sights set on some international summer travel. But it won’t be business as usual. Depending on where you’re going, expect wildly fluctuating prices, new testing and vaccination rules and even varying mask specs. (Sorry, Air France doesn’t want your pretty homemade face covering.) “You’re going to have another item on your pre-check checklist. But the reward is being able to visit some of those most iconic tourist destinations with a fraction of the summer crowds,” said Scott Keyes, author of “Take More Vacations” and founder of the price-tracking website Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Learn how levity, authenticity and transparency can help employees thrive—and possibly save your business.
By Robby Brumberg, PR Daily
As the threat from COVID-19 abates, companies are at a vexing crossroads. Is it time to call everyone back into the office? Should you pursue hybrid scheduling? If you plan to keep everyone remote, how will you maintain some semblance of culture and cohesion? Regardless of how your business is planning to proceed, managers are vital linchpins who have an outsize effect on your bottom line. They hold immense sway over your employee experience, which directly shapes productivity, morale and engagement.
By Jeff Stein, The Washington Post
The Internal Revenue Service closed the most recent filing season with more than 35 million in unprocessed tax returns, as the agency’s backlog grew markedly amid a crush of challenges related to the pandemic and economic relief efforts, a government watchdog said Wednesday. Erin Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate, said in her report that about 17 million paper tax returns are still waiting to be processed and approximately 16 million additional returns have been placed on hold because they require further review manually. Another 2.7 million amended tax returns have not been processed.
"The federal government's current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana,” the conservative Supreme Court justice wrote.
By Pete Williams, NBC News
Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court's most conservative justices, said Monday that because of the hodgepodge of federal policies on marijuana, federal laws against its use or cultivation may no longer make sense. "A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government's piecemeal approach," he wrote. His views came as the court declined to hear the appeal of a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks that other businesses are allowed. Thomas said the Supreme Court's ruling in 2005 upholding federal laws making marijuana possession illegal may now be out of date.
How Secure Is the CCP?
By Orville Schell, for Foreign Affairs July 23 marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded in Shanghai in 1921. The first party congress was attended by, among others, a 27-year-old Mao Zedong, who had made an arduous journey from his inland Hunan Province. This summer, China will hold an epic celebration to honor the occasion. Although the party will forgo a military parade in Tiananmen Square (lest it appear too militaristic), the jingoistic Global Times explained that “large-scale exhibitions will be held to display the glorious course, great achievements, and valuable experience of the CCP over the past 100 years.” There will be celebratory publications, seminars, commemorative stamps and coins, medals for “outstanding party members,” and a special hotline set up so that patriotic citizens can report any “historical nihilists”—miscreants who might deign to “deny the excellence of advanced socialist culture.” Xi Jinping, China’s president and the general secretary of the CCP, has, in rhetoric that would have pleased Mao, exhorted the party’s 90 million members to “vigorously carry forward the Red tradition.” Meanwhile, propaganda organs are bombarding the public with wordy slogans: “Adhere to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important idea of the ‘Three Represents,’ the Scientific View of Development and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for the New Era as the guide!”
By Farah Stockman, for The New York Times
When the Soviet Union crumbled in the 1990s, Americans did a victory lap that lasted for decades. We saw it as the triumph of capitalism over communism, freedom over authoritarianism, democracy over one-party rule. We assumed that the game was over and that we had won. We had reached “the end of history.” We thought that it was only a matter of time before China, which had already embraced some free-market reforms, transitioned to a system just like ours. Americans normalized trade with China and waited patiently for the “Chinese Gorbachev.” If you’re still out there waiting, don’t hold your breath.
Democracy, Autocracy, and the Defining Clash of Our Time
By Hal Brands, for Foreign Affairs On his recent trip to Europe, President Joe Biden hammered home the defining theme of his foreign policy. The U.S.-Chinese rivalry, he said, is part of a larger “contest with autocrats” over “whether democracies can compete . . . in the rapidly changing twenty-first century.” It wasn’t a rhetorical flourish. Biden has repeatedly argued the world has reached an “inflection point” that will determine whether this century marks another era of democratic dominance or an age of autocratic ascendancy. Tomorrow’s historians, he has predicted, will be “doing their doctoral theses on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy?”
By David Ignatius, The Washington Post
China is politically unpopular in Washington these days, and for good reason: Thursday’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party featured a jarring threat from President Xi Jinping that China’s enemies will be impaled on a “Great Wall of steel” if they challenge Beijing. The Biden administration’s counter to such bombast is to argue that it seeks the rule of law, contrary to Xi’s fulminations about “insufferably arrogant lecturing from those ‘master teachers’” in the United States. But making good on this promise of a rules-based order isn’t easy when China so routinely ignores legal standards at home and abroad.
Former defense secretary led Pentagon in 1975 and again in 2001
By Nancy A. Youssef, The Wall Street Journal
Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and an ardent advocate of measures to streamline and modernize the American military, has died. Mr. Rumsfeld, who died at age 88, was the only person to serve two different times as defense secretary, becoming the country’s youngest leader of the Pentagon in 1975 and one of the oldest when he returned to the job in 2001. His death in Taos, New Mexico, was announced Wednesday by his family.
America’s worst secretary of defense never expressed a quiver of regret.
By George Packer, The Atlantic
In 2006, soon after I returned from my fifth reporting trip to Iraq for The New Yorker, a pair of top aides in the George W. Bush White House invited me to lunch to discuss the war. This was a first; until then, no one close to the president would talk to me, probably because my writing had not been friendly and the administration listened only to what it wanted to hear. But by 2006, even the Bush White House was beginning to grasp that Iraq was closer to all-out civil war than to anything that could be called “freedom.”
The two aides wanted to know what had gone wrong. They were particularly interested in my view of the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and his role in the debacle.
By The Defense & Aerospace Report This week…an exclusive interview with Congresswomen Elaine Luria, who in only a few years has quickly emerged as one of the key seapower advocates in congress. She’s got a lot to say, so don’t miss it. In our squawk box segment Chris Servello sounds off on the need to deliver connected and clear messaging to gain more understanding and support for maritime operations.
Reconsidering the meaning of Maverick
By Megan Garber, The Atlantic
In 1983, the Swedish aerospace and auto company Saab ran an ad with an old premise—sports cars are sexy—and a new twist: Saab’s cars, the ad suggests, are as sexy as its fighter jets. The spot makes its case by splicing slo-mo shots of a car and a plane emerging from their respective hangars. The soundtrack is orchestral, the effect vaguely voyeuristic. The crescendo comes when the car and the plane meet on a shared runway, the jet hovering over the car, each pulsing with raw power. The ad was the handiwork of the British director Tony Scott. On the strength of it, he was hired to create another ode to high-velocity machismo, this one at feature length. Top Gun premiered in May 1986, when the pain of Vietnam had receded, the Cold War was on the wane, and people had embraced the hope that it was morning in America. Scott’s film answered the moment by attempting to sell not a car, but a country: Love the U.S. again. Buy the U.S. again.
The Navy should examine how it treats those who took the challenge of command and fell from grace—and how others could learn from their experience.
By Captain John P. Cordle, U.S. Navy (Retired), July 2021 Proceedings
Over the past few years, I have had a number of long discussions with friends who did not make it to the end of their command tours. None of them committed treason or sexual assault, ran their ships aground, or suffered collisions or allisions. Their unfortunate mistakes did no lasting damage to any ship or person (except maybe themselves). They did not break any laws or Navy regulations (outside of the “catch-all” Article 134). But their mistakes cost them the most precious thing a naval officer can have: their superiors’ “confidence in their ability to command.”
As part of a new reading initiative, the academy handed out Takei’s bestseller about being one of the 120,000 people of Japanese descent incarcerated during World War II.
By Cynthia Silva, NBC News
The U.S. Air Force Academy has distributed actor and activist George Takei's graphic memoir "They Called Us Enemy," which recounts his family's incarceration during World War II, to cadets as part of a new reading initiative. In the bestselling book, Takei, known for playing Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" TV series, describes what it was like to be a 5 year old who was one of the approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their West Coast homes and put into concentration camps in the 1940s.
A pair of recent cheating scandals—one in the “speedrunning” community of gamers, and one in medical research—call attention to an alarming contrast.
By Stuart Ritchie, for The Atlantic
In the competitive pursuit of speedrunning, gamers vie to complete a given video game as quickly as humanly possible. It’s a sport for the nerdier among us, and it’s amazingly popular: Videos streaming and recording speedruns routinely rack up seven-figure view counts on Twitch and YouTube. So when one very prominent speedrunner—a U.S. YouTuber with more than 20 million subscribers who goes by the nom de game “Dream”—was accused in December 2020 of faking one of his world-record runs of the block-building game Minecraft, the online drama exploded like a batch of TNT.
Historian Walter McDougall admires the founders’ ideals—but with a wink rather than a woke scowl or a reverent gaze.
By Jason Willick,for The Wall Street Journal There are two interpretations of 1776 that matter in 2021. Call them the Whig and the woke. The Whig version is a story of progress. It interprets the founding as an imperfect expression of political ideals that have come steadily closer to realization over time. That’s more or less the vision that many red states are trying to salvage with measures against “critical race theory” in K-12 schools. Florida’s Board of Education enacted a rule last month that public-school teachers “may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Such mandates are a response to woke history, which takes a darker view. Instead of arguing that “this country has not been living up to its ideals,” says the historian Walter McDougall, the woke “believe this country does not have any ideals,” or at least any worth striving for. Rather than trace how the past’s aspirations reverberate in the present, woke history selectively imposes modern politics onto the past.
By Sophie Maerowitz, PR News
Something fishy is happening with Subway’s tuna…Or is it? That’s the debate on social media after New York Times reporter Julia Carmel chronicled sending samples of the sandwich chain’s tuna sandwich to a California lab for DNA testing. The lab found no DNA evidence of tuna fish, the June 19 article revealed. Initial suspicions of inauthenticity surfaced after a Jan. 2021 Washington Post article shared details of a California lawsuit, alleging the company's tuna sandwich was tuna-free. Doubters spread the news quickly.
Language relies on a shared definition of common terms—but what happens when our definitions are out of sync with colleagues, friends and loved ones?
By Laura Hale Brockway, PR Daily
Have you ever been troubled by a word? Not a curse word or an offensive term, but an ordinary, everyday word? Maybe it’s a word that an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend used that drove you crazy, or maybe it’s a word that everyone uses to sound smart. Or, a word that someone once used to deliberately anger you. Whatever the reason—you hear the word and you’re immediately on edge. As writers and editors, how often do we prioritize the mechanics of words (denotation) and miss their intent (connotation)? What are the people around you trying to tell you with their word choice? Should we dig a little deeper before we hit “delete”?
By Seth Arenstein, PR News
You can look at recent surveys in at least two ways: 2020 was an anomaly, so any survey results are suspect, or let’s dive in and see if assumptions about PR’s role during an usual moment hold water. A new poll of 300 communicators indicates several assumptions are solid. One is that the pandemic pushed the importance of communication into the spotlight, particularly internal communication. Indeed, some 80 percent of those surveyed in the 4th annual JOTW (Ned’s Job of the Week) poll agree or strongly agree that companies put greater value on communication last year. Specifically, 93 percent said the importance of employee communication rose during 2020. Certainly we're anxious to see data detailing the C-Suite's opinion of communication's value.
By Karina Elwood, The Washington Post
A sign staked in the median of North Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond reads “Grow your four.” Just up the street, Happy Trees Agricultural Supply is helping people get ready to do just that. With rows of fertilizer, lights and other hydroponics supplies, Happy Trees co-founders Josiah Ickes and Christopher Haynie are preparing people to grow their own marijuana plants in their homes. That’s because on Thursday, Virginia became the first state in the South where it’s legal for people 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of pot.
Final Column by Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post
Surprise and amazement live next door to delight — or dejection. Maybe it’s all just brain chemistry, and sports merely monetizes our dopamine roller coaster. But love is ignited by and lives on dopamine. Who fights that? Small wonder so many follow sports for enjoyment, for a sense of community or for a few hours of release from our personal cares. For the old, ill or idle, sports can fill long hours many times a year, or just when needed. As little kids, when “playtime” makes us squeal with joy, until we are old and cherish the pleasures that we have not lost yet, games meet us near the high and low points on our emotional spectrum — and are a gift either way.
Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post
The so-called investigative report on the nasty skirt-clutching culture inside the Washington Football Team has vanished like invisible ink. And somehow the NFL thinks it can make it all right by handing Tanya Snyder the mop and broom. Great. That’s the perfect NFL solution, isn’t it? Just to turn to the wife and say: “Here. You clean it up.” Nothing against Mrs. Snyder — who is sure to do a far more professional job overseeing the business operation of the Washington Football Team than the twerp who has run it like a beer-slopping stag party these past 20-some years. But what do they take us for, really? As you read the NFL’s statement on its months-long investigation of Daniel Snyder’s cesspool of an office, you can almost feel Commissioner Roger Goodell and his legal eagles admiring their soft-shoe work as they step around the sleaze puddles.
By Tom Goldman, NPR
The NBA has long been considered the most progressive of the major professional sports leagues – teams and especially players have taken the lead with their activism and focus on social issues. But coaching hires this week have critics wondering whether the NBA has taken a step back. As new Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups sat down for his introductory press conference on Tuesday, it was a difficult moment. Billups is a highly-respected former player and seemed to be a good fit for a team that prides itself on hiring high character people. During his playing career, which included an NBA title with Detroit in 2004, Billups was honored with several character-based awards, including the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and the NBA Sportsmanship Award. But a story recently emerged about Billups when he was an NBA rookie in 1997. He was accused of rape.
The NFL Sportswriter And Analyst Plays By Her Own Rules
By Emma Carmichael, Ssense
The first autofill that pops up when one types “Mina Kimes” in a YouTube search bar is “Mina Kimes laugh.” Without giving too much credit to whichever anonymous fan took the trouble to edit “Just five minutes of Mina Kimes laughing” and upload it onto the platform a few years ago, it is true that the ESPN senior writer and NFL analyst has a delightful laugh. When something really tickles her, she surrenders to a high-pitched, staccato exhalation, and briefly loses the ability to talk, which happens to be her full-time job. “It’s like circular breathing,” Kimes explains to me one early evening in mid-May in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and dog, Lenny.
Naval Academy plebe’s mom was ‘all in,’ looking forward to Navy Football mothers group before she was fatally shot
By Hope Kahn and Bill Wagner
The 57-year-old Houston woman fatally shot Tuesday in Annapolis was looking forward to becoming a part of the Motherhood of the Brotherhood, a tight-knit group of Naval Academy football moms. Michelle Jordan Cummings was in Annapolis for her son’s Induction Day. Her son, Midshipman Candidate Leonard Cummings III, attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School and was a football prospect. His mom was in Annapolis with him to drop him off for Induction Day.