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Devil’s Bargain Basement

The Slate Plus Digest for July 28.

Reince Priebus.

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Most urgently: We got a new fridge. It’s slightly bigger and the landlord paid for it. Thanks for your concern during this difficult or at least inconvenient time.

In other news: The GOP’s flailing attempts to end Obamacare are done (for now). Why did they fail? They didn’t want it enough. Will they finally try a bipartisan approach? No. Also, chief of staff Reince Priebus got whacked. Things are going badly for Trump, so he’s returned to his comfort zone: standing on a stage spinning out an insane fantasy of racial violence. Jamelle Bouie explains why. Vladimir Putin may be experiencing buyer’s remorse, and who could blame him?


Meanwhile, the career of new White House Communications Director Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci “has been based on finding people who are richer, more powerful, or otherwise more successful than himself and trying to be more like them.” What happens when a soulless thug-for-hire meets an autocratic showman? We’re about to find out!


In college I knew a punk band who got signed to a major label. (Elektra? Maybe.) The first thing they did after signing the paperwork was get drunk and drive around shouting “Fucking sellouts!” at people, because getting a record deal in those days was bound up with ethical ambivalence and reflexive irony. Who would do that today? Does this story even make sense at all, to a young person of the modern generation? Franz Nicolay tries valiantly to explain.


Most Canadian killer of the week: The nurse who murdered eight elderly patients. “ ‘I thought this was something God, or whoever, wanted me to do,’ she tells the detective. Later she adds, ‘I’m so embarrassed.’ ”

Not From Slate

This series of posts in which MTA employees explain why the New York subway is suddenly falling apart is recommended to everyone who enjoys reading about organizational failure. I just realized that’s a genre, and it turns out it’s one of my favorites. RIYL The Wire or the Iraq war.

A generation of Russians was obsessed with the NBC daytime soap Santa Barbara.

We’ve reached the point in the Trump administration when the books are starting to come out, which means we’ve also reached the point when the book reviews are starting to come out, “book reviews, not books, being the principal engines of change in the history of thought,” as Nicholson Baker put it. In which spirit, here’s Sam Tanenhaus on Trump and Bannon, by way of reviewing Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain.


Just gonna let the lede do the work for me here: “She was born to royalty in British colonial Burma, but rejected that life to become a cross-dressing warlord whose C.I.A.-supplied army established opium trade routes across the Golden Triangle. By the time of her death, last week at 90, she had led hundreds of men, endured prison and torture, generated gossip for her relationship with a film actress and, finally, helped forge a truce between ethnic rebels and the government.”


Gossip doyenne Liz Smith, in her twilight: “It’s just the diminution of your name … I began to be forgotten, like the seven newspapers I worked for are forgotten.”

From the Archives

The appointment of Choire Sicha to the helm of the New York Times Styles section reminded me of Leon Neyfakh’s lovely defense of the Styles trend piece: “These stories were worth reading for the same reason candy is worth eating; to find such confections tucked inside a paper that is otherwise full of in-depth reporting on issues of grave importance is a reminder that journalism can be fun as well as informative and that being the paper of record doesn’t mean only Very Important Stories are fit to print.”

Thank you for your Slate Plus membership, which keeps us company when we’re staying up late to live-blog a Senate vote on the off chance something unexpected happens. Sometimes it does! See you next week.

Gabriel Roth
Editorial director, Slate Plus