Slate Plus

Where There’s Smoke

The Slate Plus Digest for Feb. 17.

Some dudes carved into the side of a mountain.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Happy Presidents Day! What a wonderful occasion to reflect on the people who have served as president of the United States—diverse in their backgrounds, views, races, genders, and creeds, but united in their devotion to the greater good and their extraordinary intelligence, industriousness, and moral rigor. As we enjoy our long weekend, let’s take a moment to recognize how fortunate we are that our nation has been, from the day of its founding to the present moment, in such sure and capable hands.

From Slate

  • As the U.S. foreign policy apparatus is engulfed in turmoil, be sure to read War Stories columnist Fred Kaplan. Here he is on Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu and what it reveals about Trump’s ignorance, on the fallout from the Michael Flynn scandal, and on Robert Harward’s unprecedented refusal to serve as national security adviser.
  • With the resistance to Trump coming from the grassroots, Jim Newell argues, it’s time for Democrats to lead from behind.
  • Discovered: the inventor of the Trumpian insult shitgibbon.
  • It turns out that secondhand smoke is much less dangerous than we thought—and that smoking bans are based on bad science. Should we care?
  • One after another, industries that supported Trump are realizing he’s bad for their bottom line.
  • Why does the White House keep lying about voter fraud? To justify the coming push to suppress the minority vote.
  • And it’s time Grammy voters fixed the awards’ race problem—if not for neglected black artists like Beyoncé then for embarrassed white beneficiaries like Adele.

Not From Slate

  • If you missed this remarkable Kathryn Schulz New Yorker essay about loss, read it now.
  • “John McCain is somehow once again positioning himself as a renegade Republican who isn’t afraid to buck his party, despite his three-decade record of not ever actually bucking his party in any meaningful way.”
  • Kevin Birmingham won the Truman Capote Award, the biggest prize in English-language literary criticism, for his book on Ulysses. His acceptance speech is a beautifully turned polemic on “narrative historicism,” the collapse of the humanities, and the conditions under which criticism is produced. “The profession of literary criticism,” he writes, “depends upon exploitation.”
  • Gabriel Snyder’s state-of-the-New-York-Times report is an urgent, impeccably executed business story.
  • You have probably, and understandably, chosen to ignore the YouTube star known as “PewDiePie” and the recent scandal around his anti-Semitic “jokes.” What if I were to tell you that this essay will enlighten you about PewDiePie, and YouTube, and the connection between contemporary nationalist populism and the internet? You’d probably say, “Huh, it must be by John Herrman.” Good guess, hypothetical addressee!
  • Jonathan Chait has an admirably clear explanation of the Republicans’ ambitious tax-reform plan, and why it can’t succeed. (They’ll probably end up just doing the Bush tax cuts again.)
  • And here is a nice antidote to political hopelessness: You are aware that Republicans took advantage of the 2010 census to gerrymander many congressional districts to the point where their majority seemed unbreakable. It turns out that, due to some quite interesting math, that kind of gerrymandering could end up helping Democrats in an anti-Trump “wave” election.

Thanks, as ever, for your Slate Plus membership, which makes our journalism possible. See you next week!

Gabriel Roth
Editorial director, Slate Plus