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S2: Hello and welcome to Slate political gabfest for July 9th, 2020. The ministerial exception addition. I am David Plotz of Business Insider.
S3: I’m in Vermont, New England, not in Washington, D.C. I’m out of the hidey hole. I’m in a airy, airy upstairs room in Vermont, which is a blessed relief, although still really sweaty. Joining me from New Haven, also in New England from her office is Emily Basilone of New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School. Hello, Emily.
S4: Hello. I just want to make it clear it is my home office in which I perch because I don’t think I’m really allowed into my law school office.
S5: And I don’t want to seem like I am breaking the rules and never a rule breaker. Emily Bethen is not a rule breaker. Not in that regard. In particular, he’s very dutiful towards the public health demands made by the authorities of Connecticut and John Dickerson of CBS 60 Minutes, who is probably also in New England. I think you think Connecticut. Hello, John.
S4: Finally made it an isolated in my direction. I like. Right. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s good you’re not on the Connecticut shoreline because two million pounds of sewage dumped from the Mill River into the Long Island Sound right off of Branford, Connecticut.
S5: And the beaches are closed as if there weren’t enough things, bad things happening in the world that that seems like a good reason to close beaches, although really to two million pounds of sewage in the grand scheme of the ocean doesn’t seem like very much.
S4: It feels like days of beaches for two million pounds of Brosset. I think that’s the trade.
S5: Six hundred sixty seven thousand pounds a day. All right. On today’s gabfest, the very strange unfolding of this presidential campaign, we have President Trump’s grievance politics. We have his attempts to hold rallies. Still, he’s going to have one in New Hampshire. We have a raging pandemic. We have a fight over voting. Who gets to vote? And then we have Joe Biden, who I hear tell is the Democratic nominee for president. But who could say who’s seen him? Haven’t seen him. We will talk about the absent presidential candidacy of Joe Biden and whether that’s a great strategy to be absent. Then at the Supreme Court wraps up really consequential term with huge rulings around religious organizations and what religious organizations do and don’t have to do. Unlike the rest of us, as well as on President Trump’s tax returns and then Hamilton, the musical, returned to the public eye in the public consciousness this past week as it streamed on Disney. Plus, in a sad or grimmer time that when than when it first appeared. What does it feel like to see this Obama musical in a Trump world? What does it mean? What how do we read this incredibly important cultural document differently? Four years on from its original ascendance in the world. Plus, we’ll have cocktail chatter. The state of the presidential campaign, John Dickerson, is pretty strange. Joe Biden is very invisible relative to other presidential candidates in the past year. There’s no serious plan for a Democratic convention. Trump has also embarked on a very bizarre campaign. He is clearly frustrated by his inability to do these huge rallies that he loves. Police are going to attempt to have one in New Hampshire this week. He has decided to invest a significant amount of time and energy in the politics of statues and racial grievance. He spent the week of July 4th in vain against statue pullers, downers and defending the Confederate flag of all things, at least implicitly defending the Confederate flag. And he’s completely given up on fighting the pandemic even as it scorches through the country. So, John, what just like where we are now, four months out from Election Day, what do you make of this super weird presidential campaign generally to start with a general view of it?
S6: It’s hard to know what’s weird, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And what’s weird, because we’ve got a one of the most idiosyncratic rule breaking presidents. Ever. Who is is hard to predict on his own terms. But then we are all feeling the hangover to some extent of the the predictions and measurements of 2016, which were based on a certain ways, you know, expectations about the way the ball would bounce and the ball didn’t bounce that way. So you kind of have three different things you have to to look at the most predictable. And yet this is a surprise to me a little bit is the president’s behavior. I mean, he’s just mashing the same button. And and so, in a sense, he’s playing exactly to form on coachable by his aides and running. Right. And running and like it to the to the deepest core of his base, regardless of the current challenges he faces, which is that he’s shedding voters who are making an ultimate conclusion about his ability to handle the job he has. So that’s the thing that actually seems the most normal.
S5: And yet it doesn’t seem electorally wise, Emily, going to that point of Trump’s consistency. I don’t know if you saw the piece by Jamelle Bouie, our occasional gabfest guest host and former colleague, The New York Times columnist. Jamal has a column in The New York Times in which he talks about the racial grievance, politics and theatrical populism, the sort that Trump is practicing today and made the case that kind of racial grievance politics work in American politics. But they work when things aren’t serious.
S3: And right now, it does feel that people may be hungry enough. People may be hungry for just dreary competence. And people are exhausted and they’re scared and they’re frustrated and they just want something calm and reasonable. And. And Jamal had this interesting callback to the Sarah Palin, who is the Proteau Trump of the 2008 campaign and how she eventually became a liability during 2008, which was a crisis campaign. If anything, we have a much more of a crisis. And and Trump has a record that is much deeper than Palin’s incompetence. So do you do you think that that the this kind of grievance politics is miss time for the moment in the way Jamal predict?
S4: Yeah, I do. I mean, what’s dreary about competence right now? Competence seems like some bright, shining star that we could reach for forever and never achieve. And the way in which the pandemic is so grimly plodding on in America and and changing for the better in other countries, particularly in Europe, that we compare ourselves to. Angela Merkel said this interesting thing yesterday that the pandemics had shown the limit of fact denying populism. And she can say that in Germany because things are on the mend. And I think the German people with much more consensus embraced the science of wearing masks and of preventing spread. And in America, it’s not clear that we’ve reached that limit. But I think the polls suggest that people want to reach that limit. And I imagine I mean, maybe I’m just talking about my own sense of desperation here. But as parents look forward to the fall and the school plans have started forward, I think you move forward.
S5: Look, lady, look, he has in the direction not an anticipation.
S4: Yes, I believe it is precise that way. I mean, you know, school plans are trying to come out around the country. Many of them are a couple of days a week or for some, but not all hours with like, you know, just a lot of worry about what it’s all going to look like. And then you have Trump coming out and blasting the schools and saying he’s going to take away their federal funding rather than offering them anything to help. I mean, that and then also at a moment where there’s a lot of uncertainty and people are feeling afraid of what opening schools will do in terms of the virus, to say that, you know, to blast his own CDC guidelines. And then basically the CDC says, OK, well, will weaken them like that is not confidence inspiring. And all of these things are such a disruption to normal life, like for everybody in this way that I think often in American life we have costs borne so much by poor people are people are disadvantaged in some way. They have a medical emergency. Now, it’s like kind of among us, the American public. And to see the election as like a release from that and then watch the person who’s supposed to be in charge, you know, yelling about the Confederate flag instead of like getting us all on the same page to address the coronavirus. It’s it’s pretty bizarre. I think.
S6: I think. Yeah. You go back to the central question of priorities. What is the most important thing in America right now? What are the top 52? Two things. What are the top one hundred and thirty eight? And where is the Confederate flag defending the honor of the Confederate flag in that list. And then secondly, two of the biggest challenges. They they’re being faced right now, which is the shortage of PPD and the overloading of hospitals as a result of the spike in cases and school reopening question are totally and thoroughly predictable. You can try to claim that the pandemic was an event, that it was a super big surprise, even though the federal government for the last three administrations has been preparing for just that thing. It is indefensible that you don’t have a plan for these two things, which is the rising cases and the pressure it would put on the system and then the reopening of schools. And yet there isn’t a federal plan other than the president’s just kind of forcing. And it seems to me that when you talk about competence, what you’re talking about is not only who can handle the current situation, but whatever happens next. And, you know, whatever the next challenge is for the next president, it seems to me that that Biden could argue basically whatever the next challenge is, Donald Trump will either be creating it or not preparing for it. And that given that it’s the job of the president to manage big challenges, that that is that this is a huge not only referendum on him in the moment, but also whatever he may face in the next four years.
S7: And also maybe people are just tired of having to think about this all the time, like it’s in our face. It’s exhausting. And maybe also back to Jamal’s point, that grievance politics works better when there’s less on the line. Like it’s it wears when you’re actually worried about stuff in the entertainment value, I think goes way down.
S5: Right. That that is certainly true. The entertainment that the pleasure that people took in the 2016 campaign, going back to a favorite hobby horse of mine, getting to ride on it and the the the malicious glee that people had and aligning with Trump. I don’t think there’s even among his supporters, there’s there’s certainly there’s loyalty. He is a hard core of supporters, but there’s no pleasure in American life right now. If you look at the numbers on the people who think we’re going in the right direction, wrong direction. I mean, it’s just shocking. And even Republicans have just completely lost their mojo around this. And and I think people are just they’re enervated. I wanted to with that innovation x I want to change the subject slightly, Emily, which is to go to. There’s no doubt that President Trump, if you poll, is well behind Joe Biden. There are all these issues around the election itself, however, which make it possible that President Trump will win re-election or that there will be a a a highly contested election. The president has been attempting to sort of throw chaff everyplace he can, and particularly now around mail in voting where he’s attempting to sort of depict all mail balloting is as illegitimate and rife with fraud, which is completely false. Does the opposite. You’ve been following this issue really closely. On the on the mechanics of voting and the legitimacy of the November vote. Do you think that Trump is getting anywhere in such a way that the even if we have the election, that it may just it may be soured or poisoned and people may not trust it?
S7: I think we don’t know the answer yet. I mean, there are two parts of this. One is the political throwing up chaff part. And one is just like a different kind of basic competence, which are local and state election officials getting ready for this election in a way that will enfranchise people. So we are starting to see applications for mail in ballots go out in a bunch of states. I just got one like in Connecticut. You check the box for Cauvin, you get your mail in ballot. And Connecticut is usually a state where you have to have a look excuse like actual illness or travel to get an absentee ballot. And our governor did away with that. And other states are doing that as well, but not everywhere. So people in Texas are not going to be able to say that fear of covered is the reason that they need a mail in ballot and Alabama. I think that is also the case. And I also think even Governor Sununu in New Hampshire hasn’t made a decision. I should also make clear, because sometimes I mess this up, that I’m talking about applications for mail in ballots, not the ballots themselves, which is a significant distinction. Another interesting development in the last couple of weeks have been that in states where the state is not sending out the applications, certain counties have decided to do that. We saw in Iowa this week in Polk County, the county made a decision to send every registered voter an application for an absentee ballot for November. They’re going ahead where the state is not doing that. You know, presumably because of President Trump’s opposition to mail in ballots, the governor has signed a law saying that they can’t do a big applications for ballots mailing without special approval from a panel of legislators. So you see here a potential advantage for counties that are Democratic strongholds. If they mail all these applications to their voters, they may see their voters vote in greater numbers than other parts of the state dominated by Republicans. The other parts of. Guilty about all the chaff, though, is that this isn’t really about administering the election. It’s about the aftermath. Finding a way to sow distrust, kind of no matter what the result is like to have confusion, to say it’s illegitimate. And I think this just comes down to whether the election is close or not, if it’s not close. It’s gonna be really hard for Trump, I think, to really, like, do show that again, you know, whatever sort of legal challenges you can throw at the result. If it’s close, though, he’s going to have laid all the groundwork for that.
S6: One thing I would add to that to keep an eye on is how Republicans in Congress behave in the House and the Senate relative to this question of the sanctity of the election. Did a did a embrace the Trump line? Do they stick to it or do they, for their own local reasons, care about the voting in their states in a different way? But that leads to a bigger question, which is, you know, when I talked about the president mashing on the same button. What I meant was, you know, demonizing the other as a way to rally his base and try to sow confusion or at least lower turnout in the Democratic base. He tried to do this in 2018 with the caravan and the and the MS 13 and scare everybody about how Democrats were gonna make the world unsafe. And he lost 41 seats in his party so he’d failed miserably in 2018. And I think what’s interesting about that is now a presidential year is different than an off year. But all the Republicans running in House districts have to make a decision about whether embracing the president’s brand of politics is wise or not for them. Public polls show that incumbent Senate Republicans are trailing in in five states, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina. Those senators all have to make a conclusion about whether the president’s approach is a good one or not. It’s impossible for them to get out from under the president. We know that in general terms, and it’s really impossible now. Nevertheless, they’re not going to just sit there mute. So I think it’ll be really interesting to watch those people running in those swing House districts and then those Senate districts, both about their feelings about the president’s tactics, but also about what you guys are talking about, which is the sanctity of the election, and see if any of those members speak out.
S5: John, this is a segment that when when conceived, we thought it was gonna be bad. Biden. And here we are most of the way through it barely said his name. So let’s try to say his name. I’m gonna say it. Joe Biden. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.. Joe Biden is running for president and is leading in all the polls. And he does do various kinds of public appearances here and there or appearances which have him on on video. And he has incredible support among Democrats. There’s this amazing figure. And in the I think it was in the Times, the Post this week is now gone. Yeah, I was Nate Cohn from from The Times. But when you poll people who had supported Elizabeth Warren, were they going to support Biden? All of them. There was not a single person who had supported Warren who was polled, who said they would not support Biden. And similarly, huge support among former Sanders voters. He has walked up those Democrats, which which Hillary Clinton never did. So where what is the state of his campaign right now?
S6: Well, I think the state of his campaign is, you know, in 1896, William McKinley ran a front porch campaign because the Republicans told him, you can’t go out and campaign, just stay at home and let the voters come to you. And so in some ways, Joe Biden is running a front basement campaign, but that’s because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. So it seems natural and it’s also fits nicely because President Trump is making Joe Biden’s case better than Joe Biden is. But by which I mean that hope for a kind of normal return to things. Is the appetite being created by the president’s behavior? And it’s essentially what Biden has been pitching. He also happened to have wisely chosen the moment in Charlottesville where the president’s behavior, which really predates Charlie Charlottesville as being you know, he was the nation’s lead birther for five years. Then as a candidate, he was accused both by the speaker of the House and the Republican leader in the Senate of of either racism or playing footsie with racists, and then had his response to Charlottesville, which was not in keeping with either the his job or the or the American tradition. So this is a long there’s a long pattern. But Biden launched his campaign around the idea of Charlottesville, which which has some connection with the current moment and the president’s view that we’ve seen played out in the polls, that he hasn’t been able to respond to this moment of racial reordering with any kind of competence. So that helps that helps Biden in this kind of getting back to a more normal version of America. And then I think finally. He’s not being baited into fights either by anything. He’s I mean, he’s having gaffes in a typical Biden way, but he’s not being baited by the president. And there’s Dave Weigel found an amazing fact, which was during the Clinton Trump campaign. Regnery, the conservative publisher, sold 12 books about Hillary Clinton in 2012. They had sold 13 books about Obama this year. Regnery only has won about Biden.
S1: That was such a great detail from libel.
S6: Yeah, that Biden is less demonizing. And if you look at the latest Times poll, Trump’s very unfavorable rating in the polls about 50 percent. And that was roughly what it was, I think, in 2016. Biden’s, though, is only 27 percent, which is much lower than than Hillary Clinton. So he is harder to demonize in the moment. And demonize is different than gaffes. Gaffes. You make fun of them. Demonize makes you think, oh, my gosh, electing this person will be a danger to the country.
S7: You know, it’s interesting because Briseno is supposed to be all about demonizing. Right. Like, that was supposed to be the tactic. And yet it’s sort of gone away. Can I just say, did you guys see that like 30 second video of Biden yesterday that was supposedly attacked? I mean, he was talking about anti compete clauses for fast food workers, but he said maybe deliberately. I don’t know. He mangled the idea of the word woak and the idea of being WOAK. You just, like, said it wrong. And it’s it’s great. Like, it’s funny. It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s sort of I don’t know. I thought it was obviously the campaign decided to use it. And I thought they were right, that it’s like out of touch in kind of exactly the right way. It’s fine that he doesn’t really get what that is or know how to say the word in a sentence properly.
S5: I think I’ve been struck by the absence of the well, I suppose there are still these whacks against the squad and against Illana Omar and AOC and stuff, but it’s much less. It feels like that that even that isn’t having a lot of currency. We see Tucker Carlson with these just disgusting attacks on Tammy Duckworth. Disgusting. And sure, he’s doing them. It’s on Fox. It is being seen by by millions of people on Fox, but it doesn’t it feels like this is again, this is so out of line with where the country as a whole is, where people are really anxious because they have lost their jobs and there’s a pandemic raging and they have a president who doesn’t seem to be doing anything. And no one seems to have a plan like that that seems to be where the country is. And and the the kind of conservative, separate universe, the what is it epistemological closure of the conservative universe is just not working at this moment.
S1: Well, you just wonder how much people are going to really care about statues when there are all these actual human beings trying to keep breathing. And like, that’s a really big problem.
S5: Remember Slate plus members and would be members that we do a bonus segment on the gab fest and other Slate podcasts.
S3: Also do a bonus segment that just goes to Slate plus members. And today’s bonus segment is going to be about whether P recipients, those paycheck protection program. Companies that got loans as bailouts as part of the Emergency Carers Act, whether they should be named and shamed, if they’re big rich companies or organizations that are have a lot of resources already. Should they be shamed or not? So go to Slate dot com slash gabfests plus to sign up to become a member of Slate plus today. And you’ll really be helping Slate out and you’ll be helping us out and you’ll be getting all this great bonus content as we tape.
S5: We are waiting. The Supreme Court releasing its final decisions of the term and trumps the cases involving Trump’s tax returns. As we wait, we’re going to talk about some of the decisions they made yesterday. The rulings he made yesterday, in particular around the ability of religious organizations to get kinds of liberty and freedom and and exemptions might one day, as one might call it, ability discriminate that that others organizations do not get. When I was a high school student, my basketball coach would sometimes berate us as we were playing or at halftime and say, you couldn’t beat the Little Sisters of the Poor. He would he would always use the Little Sisters report example of how badly we were playing. We couldn’t even beat some old nuns. And anyway, the point is that we definitely couldn’t have beaten little sisters of the poor. Little Sisters of the poor apparently are great at everything. They won a huge case yesterday. Emily, talk about Little Sisters of the Poor and also about the other big case that the Supreme Court decided around religious exemptions.
S8: Yeah, so the Little Sisters of the Poor case got lots of attention. So basically, you have Obamacare. Birth control is supposed to be part of regular preventative medicine. Everybody’s supposed to get it. So then there are challenges from Hobby Lobby. People may remember this big company that didn’t want to pay for birth control because of religious objections. Then you have the Obama administration passing a rule exempting churches and the Trump administration vastly expanding on that rule, exempting anyone who doesn’t like the contraceptive mandate, who has religious or moral objections. Any employer can be a for profit corporation, can be a nonprofit, does not have to be a religious organization. They can all opt out. And the question was, did the Trump administration have the authority to do that? And it was a seven to two majority saying, yes, some of the case, other aspects of it will go back to the lower courts from our proceedings. This is like the longest journey. It’s like just a case going on and on. I was actually more struck by the other ruling yesterday. So here are the facts of this case. You have two teachers at Catholic schools saying that they lost their jobs. One of them had breast cancer and said that when she took a leave for treatment, she was fired. The other one, it’s an age discrimination claim. And the Supreme Court said that because they their work included the teaching of religion, they could be fired. The schools did not have to respect the laws that protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of disability or age.
S7: And this is kind of an amazing idea. So the court did this by expanding what’s called the ministerial exception in 2012. There was this unanimous ruling that you if you’re actually a minister, like a member of the clergy, the idea was, well, your religious organization could fire you for whatever reason it wanted because you don’t want the government interfering in those decisions. But now you have this expanded to teachers and it’s I don’t know, what do you guys think about this idea? Like if you’re a Catholic school teacher and you go to get treatment for breast cancer and you get fired, you have no recourse.
S5: Well, and I think it it’s important to talk about what they said, which is that essentially any teacher, any employee who has some role in religious instruction is qualifies as a minister. By that definition, yes. And it sounds like the schools can can really designate whoever they want. And. And once you start there, it feels like you can also this could apply to camps. This could apply to nonprofit organizations. It’s not just going to any religious organization. Feels like it’s going to very quickly say, well, these people are engaged in a ministerial work on our behalf. And therefore, we have to be able to do whatever we have people to fire them because they’ve gotten old. And you can’t have old people in our teaching people about our religion. It just it it feels really strange in the piece that I didn’t understand Emily and I was hoping you would clarify is what if it’s like that the church decides, oh, it’s because they’re black or they’re Latino or whatever. It’s it’s a racial category and not a not a not age. I think I think I mean, age discrimination is a disgusting, vile form of discrimination also. That when people think about discriminate, the idea that you if you’re a teacher at a Catholic school and the Catholic school decides, oh, you know, we don’t want to have black teachers here, we can do that and we can get rid of them because they’re black. Like, that seems completely crazy. But is that now allowed?
S7: I’m not sure. I mean, they’re still on the books. This case called Bob Jones an old case from the 1980s in which Bob Jones University barred interracial dating and the government took away its tax exempt status. And the Supreme Court said that the government had the authority to do that. So, you know, you could imagine a future challenge in which that precedent butts up against this one. I mean, I don’t think schools are going well. I hope they’re not going to go around explicitly saying they’re firing people for racial reasons. That’s just like horrible to contemplate. But I’m also just struck by this idea that, like, religious schools should be able to fire people on the basis of disability or age. Like there’s just weird idea.
S6: So, Emily, is this an excessively rigorous reading of a wall between church and state? Or does the or does the legal process have to make some determination about whether the reason for which people was fired has any connection to the actual practice of the faith?
S7: It’s the former it’s not like, oh, Catholics, you know, don’t like people with breast cancer. Right.
S9: It’s not that there has to be some religious objection to the conduct. It’s the idea that you can’t have the government interfere with the workings of a religious organization and that enforcing these anti-discrimination laws would be a form of government interference with the free exercise of the religious organization.
S5: I mean, it feels like the free, free exercise is should apply to the work that is done in in a church, in a in a in a house of worship. But I don’t see why free exercise applies to every single aspect where religion touches your life or education or a hospital or a camp or it doesn’t make sense to me because then you you end up with this you end up with with religious organizations having these vast territories of like almost like foreign. What is it, foreign embassies where where the rules are totally different. They are allowed to do what they want because of this strange, expansive reading of what free exercise means. Free exercise to me means you can’t the government can’t tell you how to worship. You can worship however you want. And and but doesn’t mean that you know how how your child goes to school, like when they their athletic league. All of that stuff should be subject those same rules. It feels.
S8: Yeah. I mean, I think that stretching of it. It’s also why it’s not sitting well with me. I. There’s a interesting op ed in The New York Times today by Michael McConnell, who’s a conservative law professor at Stanford. And he was pointing out that the court has ruled in favor of the religious party in the last 12 cases about religion. And he was making the argument that this is a move toward pluralism on the court’s part. And now I’m going to riff on it a little bit.
S7: It’s basically as if there’s a trade going on where the court, you know, earlier this term recognized the rights of LGBT people in this way, that liberal celebrated, which we talked about. But now we’re carving out these big exceptions. We’re basically saying, well, those rights stop at the front door of any religious organization. We’re going to let them handle discrimination and other aspects of life and of how their organizations work on their own, where we’re going to basically, like, not look inside what’s happening there. And maybe this is like a larger trade as sort of, you know, implicit social bargain.
S8: The court is making where that where they’re essentially carving out exceptions for religious groups and treating them as a kind of protected minority of people. And that’s a way of insulating some evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, et cetera, from the kind of larger secular order. And then the question becomes like, well, is that the court’s job? Is that a good thing for American life? Is that, like all well and good because you’re kind of letting some people lag in the kinds of, you know, sensitivity to discrimination that you’re expecting of everyone else? Or should you just be like applying these rules even handedly and equally to everybody?
S5: I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s Catholic schools. That are at issue here, because there is a sympathy in this court that a lot of the justices come out of the Catholic school system and there’s a I think Thomas certainly Thomas Gorsuch and Kevin are all products of the Catholic school system and others maybe as well. I got more concerned back in the Hobby Lobby area where the idea that a religious organization could include a private employer engaged and just private employment practices and the moral or religious beliefs of the employer could trump the basic facts of law. That felt to me much worse even than this idea of extending extending all these extra exemptions to Catholic schools.
S8: Yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, one thing I’ve been wondering about the son of a looming issue is that, you know, there are a lot of Catholic hospitals in the country and there are secular hospitals that have merged with Catholic hospitals. And then there are these questions about whether they’re going to embrace the guidelines for Catholic hospitals that prevent not just abortion, but sometimes like letting women have tubal ligation to end their fertility or long acting contraceptives may not be available there. Like, again, these kind of carve outs around religion. And if you have enough Catholic guideline dominated hospitals, you really change health care. So that’s another area that there may be future legal challenges.
S5: I want to just quickly go back to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Before we leave it, which is that it is first. First, a question, which is what if it was a organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Could they put in their in their program like no blood transfusions? Like all the all the people who work for us cannot get blood transfusions. We need a health insurance plan that doesn’t cover blood transfusions because that’s, you know, contra to our religious principles, as I understand Jehovah’s Witness religious principles. Is that okay?
S9: That’s a good question. I mean, I think the answer is no, because this exception to the contraception mandate comes from the Department of Health and Human Services, not the religious organization itself.
S5: And then the other thing is just the monumental idiocy. These cases remind us again to the monumental stupidity of the American system, where health care coverage is tied to employment, where your employer has some say in what kind of health coverage you get. And there are all kinds of women who use hormonal contraception, not for contraception, for other reasons. It has other benefits, other health benefits. It’s prescribed for other reasons. The idea that because their employer has made some moral decision about, you know, their sexual behavior, they should not be eligible for those benefits is just. Perverse at the highest order, what on earth, what other system in the world is like that? It’s crazy that your employer, your employers views should shape what kind of health care coverage you get. It’s ludicrous.
S7: Yeah. And actually, that came up in one of the concurrences. I can’t remember if it was Alito or Gorsuch or Thomas, but, you know, one of the arguments from the dissent by Sotomayor and Ginsburg was this idea of like, well, you know, the government passed Obamacare saying they were mandating contraceptive coverage for everyone. And the conservatives said, no, no. What about all the women who don’t work, that there is no mandate for contraceptive coverage if you don’t have employer based health care and you don’t have Obamacare? So actually, like, no. So is using the fact of employer based health care as a reason to say, well, there isn’t this universal coverage. You say it’s so important.
S5: So we’ve been waiting for the decisions in the Trump tax cases, the two Trump tax return cases, tax document cases, John had to step out four minutes. It’s just me and Emily. Emily, we have those decisions. They’re both they’re not strictly partisan. They’re both 72 decisions. I think you said yes. So are we going to see Trump’s tax returns before the election? Is New York District Attorney Cy Vance going to see Trump’s tax returns before the elections? Is anyone going to see any tax documents of Trump’s before the elections accepting his account?
S7: I believe it or not, don’t know the answer because the court sent the both of these cases back to the lower courts for more procedures. Cy Vance, the district attorney in Manhattan, has a much better chance of getting these tax returns before the election than in Congress.
S1: The court issued, in the end, Trump vs. Vance a pretty resounding opinion that a state law enforcement official can subpoena documents from the president. It’s a decision that really like goes back to the Nixon case in which there was a federal subpoena for the Nixon tapes famously. And this case says that the same kinds of rules apply in a state proceeding.
S9: But then the majority opinion in the last line sends the case back to the lower courts. And there is a separate concurrence by Justice Cabinet in which he points out that there are all kinds of new issues that Trump’s lawyers can now raise below that haven’t been heard before. And so we have definitely not seen the last of this case. So Cavenagh says the court today concludes unanimously that a president does not possess absolute immunity from a state criminal subpoena, which I guess means that even the dissent agreed with that premise. But Kavanaugh says the court also unanimously agrees that this case should be remanded to the district court, where the president may raise constitutional and legal objections to the subpoena as appropriate. So, you know, we’re gonna have another round of litigation and we just don’t quite know whether it’s going to happen fast enough. We have the district court. We have the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. There could be a further challenge coming back to the Supreme Court. That’s a short timetable by November. I think it’s unlikely.
S5: So, Emily, what about the other case, the case that involves Congress, various committees of Congress seeking presidential tax documents that they are not going to see?
S9: Correct. I, I don’t think this could happen fast enough. So here you have the same seven to two split. So the dissenting justices in both case are Justice Thomas and Justice Alito. Everyone else came up with a new balancing test. And I should add that Chief Justice John Roberts is the author of both of these opinions. And so Roberts is essentially saying the president is trying to hold us to a it’s trying to get us to impose a really high standard for Congress subpoenaing his personal documents. We think that’s going too far. We think that that would give the congressional subpoena power to short shrift. And so we’re not going to do that. But we also like the idea from Congress that whenever it asserts a valid legislative purpose for this kind of subpoena, we have to go along with it. Because if you just let Congress decide, then the court says, well, they could ask for any personal papers. It could turn into harassment. They could have, like, motives that really have nothing to do with passing legislation. And I think unfortunately for the House here in the initial asks for these documents, they made it clear that they were interested in these documents, in part because they just want to know what’s in Trump’s tax returns as a way of investigating him, as well as for, you know, future legislation that might in some way curb the power of the presidency. And so there’s this key line where Roberts says, like, we’d have to be blind not to see what all others can see and understand that the subpoenas do not represent a run of the mill legislative effort, but rather a clash between rival branches of government over records of intense political interest for all involved. Given that the court is coming up with its own new balancing test, and it seems fairly common sense as a balancing test. I also feel like it’s these tests, like you could really just decide these factors either way in a lot of hard cases. So first, the test says the court should carefully assess whether the asserted legislative purpose warrants the significant step of involving the president and his papers. So, like, what does that mean then? The court is supposed to make sure the subpoena is no broader than reasonably necessary. Third, courts should be attentive to the nature of the evidence offered by Congress to establish a subpoena. Actually. Vance’s about legislative purpose. That part’s important because it means that Congress doesn’t just get to say for itself what its legislative purpose is. And that part is also reminiscent, I think, of Robert’s approach to these cases, the Dacca case, the census case last year in which Roberts was willing to kind of look under the hood of the executive branch and say basically like we need to see some real valid justification here. So now he is not saying Congress doesn’t have that justification, but he’s telling the lower courts to go make sure. And then the last part of this four pronged test is that courts should be careful to assess the burdens imposed on the president by a subpoena. So these are kind of obvious considerations, not a whole lot of guidance here. I would argue about how the lower courts are supposed to balance this in this quite difficult particular case. And going forward. But I think you see the court trying to make sure that Congress has some kind of subpoena power, but also make sure that the president maintains his separate sphere. So I don’t know. I haven’t read the dissents yet. I bet when I read the dissent in the case about the congressional subpoenas, Alito and Thomas are going to say, how the hell are the lower court supposed to figure out what to do here?
S7: I would say in defense of the majority opinion by Roberts that the court is clearly trying to look far ahead and not just think about President Trump and his unusual decision not to release his tax returns. The court is clearly trying to make sure that the facts of this case don’t obscure the big separation of powers here. And the court also makes really clear it’s never been in this position before and it doesn’t want to be in this position. So there’s a lot of language early on like, hey, normally y’all two branches work things out by yourselves over these subpoenas. You don’t put us in the middle of it. We’re gonna try to work it out for you. But we’d really like it better if you could just keep doing that. And while Robin doesn’t say this explicitly, I think you can see here that the justices feel like there’s a breakdown between Congress and the presidency and they hope to see those relations restored.
S3: Hamilton returned this week on July 3rd, Disney plus Streambed, or began streaming a filmed version of the famous musical.
S5: It was filmed back in 2016 before the presidential election. And Disney Plus decided to release it. Disney plus then I guess the creators and owners of the Hamilton Lin Manuel Miranda decide to release it during the pandemic as a streaming rather than wait for theatrical release because band it seems like a good time for it. It was all the rage in my Twitter feed. At least you have heard us talk about Hamilton repeatedly before. You’ve heard other people talk about it. You might have seen it. You certainly know people who’ve seen it and you know a ton about it. It was this kind of Obama era sensation, this idea of the American story rewritten to allow people who weren’t just the dead white men to be depicted here. I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about it. Do you feel differently about it? I felt. I felt very differently about it. Yes.
S6: I felt like it over and over.
S5: Of course. I mean, what I that was the question, is it what is it like to see it again and to see it again? Well, what do you do? And what backdrop of tragedy in a broken political system in a nation horridly divide over race and a fight over history where a president can’t even disavow the Confederate flag? What was it like?
S7: Well, I thought watching it that actually it wasn’t telling a different story. Like the actors are different. There are all these people of color onstage and they’re amazing performers and they bring music and dance to the stage that inflects the story with all these cultural, very modern feeling, resident resonances. You know, there’s Dubie Diggs like rapping and dropping the mike. And I totally enjoyed that. But the story is the story of the founders, and it’s a different story than usual because it’s centered on Alexander Hamilton rather than Washington or Jefferson. They’re subsidiary characters, and Hamilton’s immigrant identity is emphasized. But there’s like barely a reference to slavery in it. There’s like a throwaway line about Sally Hemings, who, you know, had children with Thomas Jefferson and who Annette Gordon Reed at Harvard has written this amazing history about. And it felt like racial divides at the time were being completely glossed over. And that actually was hard to take in this way that I don’t remember being as aware of five years ago. And if done, well, I guess Obama was president. So I had felt it felt it that that time like we’d overcome more of these divisions. But also, I kept thinking about The New York Times magazine, 16 19 project and how that has changed, how I see what is like dominant in our history and what is missing. I should say there are lots of historians who worked on this before, but culturally, at least for me, my awareness of like the deep ways in which raises totally central and slavery is totally central, like I think about that a lot. And so it was just massively absent.
S6: Yeah. Well, I guess you have to figure. I think the problem or the challenge with trying to put a finger on this is that there is the art and then there’s the history. And because you can say it’s absent, but if you know from another way of looking at it, it is everywhere in in the musical.
S7: So that’s it’s implicit rather than explicit, right? Yeah, that’s part of it’s art. I could make an argument for that, but it fell deeply on radical to me. In a sense. That’s unfair.
S5: Yeah, it’s deeply on radical and that’s why I continue to love it. I think as a deeply on radical person, I mean, there is this way in which a lot of I mean, one of the questions I was asking myself is, is am I watching this musical in the context of a Trump administration, which is just disavowed the kind of great ideas of America, and it’s put forward this this kind of highly racist, white, nationalist, anti-immigrant, kind of homogenous vision of American life. Or am I watching in the context of the Black Lives Matter? George Floyd protests which have which have brought a kind of incredible lens. I put the 16 19 project in the kind of thing incredible lens on the way in which history has been mis told and misused. And I guess I’m such a conservative person by nature. That what? I don’t like the idea that we throw out the Hamilton musical because it is a conservative musical or because it is. It it it overlooks slavery, doesn’t acknowledge Hercules Mulligan was a slave owner. Alexander Hamilton, you know, did law work to help people sell and buy slaves? Hamilton was not much of an immigrant activist, but I kind of I believe in mythmaking. I, I think one of the things that I find so troubling about the movie, the kind of anti statue movement which which is really important, and I think like everything that any Confederate should come down, take them all down. But in general, I like statues because I like myth. And I think society depends on a certain kind of myth and read. And you recast the myth and you retell the myth and you rebuild the myth before you eat each age. But that myth is important and myth is a lie. And the Hamilton is all filled with lies. It’s filled with dishonesty. It’s filled with, you know, misstatements of what the absolute truth is. But it’s supposed to instill a feeling and emotion in people about what America is and what America can be. And, of course, it like it grotesquely misleads about slavery or the impact of slavery. But it does it in, you know, and that and it should be critiqued for that. And I love the critiques, but it shouldn’t not be. But like that, that art that inspires and fills people with kind of a sense of that. We’re part of a collective project around an idea of America is a great project and it’s a worthy project. And it’s better than than one which says there can be no collective project which that we have together. And so that that I still cling to. But I’m a conservative. So I would, wouldn’t I?
S7: I mean, it just is. Can you imagine that play if there was an enslaved person as a character on stage? It’s interesting that in order to perpetuate the myth and like and I end and succeed in the feelings of I think it couldn’t work within it.
S5: I think it could work with a character within his lappers if Hercules Mulligan had like his slave who helped him in the spy network.
S6: Yeah. I don’t. I think it would do. It would it could work.
S7: I mean, you would imagine I mean, maybe would be better in some way.
S6: Yeah. I mean, I think more interestingly is Mesan. We’ve been David, you said a distorted slavery doesn’t distort slavery. Maybe this is the same thing or just not. It kind of deals with it. You know, now and again, I mean, I’m leading the first all black battalion and and freed slaves are I mean, there are discussions of slavery in throughout. And again, there’s that’s rather important scene with Thomas Jefferson. So it’s not like it’s totally absent. But does it really distort slavery or just doesn’t talk about it enough yet?
S5: Elides it. But that’s a distortion. Like, it doesn’t it overlooks the fact that the the greatest, you know, crime committed. That’s not really discussed.
S6: Right. Ones a ones of omission, one’s commission.
S7: But there are a lot of actual people, enslaved people who are not onstage with them while were romanticizing them.
S5: Obviously, I mean. Emily, do you think that. I mean, I think John John because he’s a historian of the presidency, probably. I’m sure John knows that Bob Dylan might what even the president, the United States sometimes has to stand naked. So John knows that president. You know, presidents are. Regular, fallible people. We all know that they are in no sense myths and giants. But John has also written about these people as its giants. I believe in them as John. And like that, the impact they have on the world is outsized. Do you think that that mythmaking of the sort that Hamilton engages in is a is a valuable process for society or not?
S8: Oh, I totally think it’s important. I mean, I think the beauty of Hamilton is that sometimes patriotism is just much less available to liberals. Right. Like, who are less likely to have flags on our house. Like there are all these symbols that liberals, I think, shy away from. And I think that’s a mistake. Like, you want to claim patriotism. And I think Hamilton was like a great way into celebrating that history and learning about it and thinking about it through the lens of all these amazing actors. Like John was saying before, it is really important. It’s just that it also is important to wrestle with it and to see the absences and, like, decide how heavily they’re going to weigh on one’s enjoyment.
S5: And yeah, actually, wait, Saajan, I mean, two to two quick points. One is it is really interesting to me how much new criticism turned up this time in 2020 because of what’s happened with the 60 19 projector. Black lives matter how much people are able to see this thing, which was so over analyzed and 2016 in new ways and to offer new takes on it in 2020, which hadn’t occurred to us in 2016 or hadn’t occurred to me. That’s number one. Number two is I so want to align myself with your point about liberals and patriotism. I saw the Harriet Tubman movie this year. I know if you guys saw it, not a great movie at all. But, man, what a fantastic story. What a story. Like what is there anybody in American life who is more deserving of of being put on statues and currencies and celebrated and then Harriet Tubman? I cannot think of such a person.
S6: You know, it seems to me that the big tension here is that the at that it’s hard. The the art of Hamilton is that in America, no matter your station, no matter where your birth, you can become famous, you can become worthy of a statue. And obviously, that’s the story of Alexander Hamilton and that’s the story of the artist who created the Hamilton musical in part.
S10: I mean, that that that people of descendants see that once would have been enslaved could nevertheless make this culturally changing thing. That’s the through line. The problem is that the big blockage there is that obviously at Hamilton’s time, there were people for whom, no matter how great the American dream was, it was completely shut off, walled off and cemented closed to them.
S6: And so you can’t have a singing story of American opportunity exist. At the same time, you have this big fact that it was not available. And that’s the that seems to me that the big clash, that’s not resolved.
S7: And we should be aware that it’s not very available right now either and that we’ve. Right. Like, we’ve lost some of that elasticity in possibility in the last 20 to 30 years. And that is like a huge problem and a huge loss and. Right. And so they also felt right.
S10: Although this goes back to both of your points about the power of myth. So one of Donald Trump’s powers is that he has said to a lot of people, you know, these myths and norms that everybody maintains, they’re all baloney. And they’re only said that they can stay in power and they know they’re not real. And so don’t buy. The fact that I don’t kowtow to those myths and norms is no big deal because the people who benefited from them really didn’t pay attention to them either. And they just use them to enrich themselves, which is the downside of destroying all myths or norms. But the benefit of the myth is that even in its imperfection, it can elevate people and cause people who are don’t have the right instincts at heart to nevertheless do the right thing. So you need those. One of the things that struck me about Harry Truman in integrating the armed forces is he put privately in his letters was basically, if not a straight up racist, expressed lots of racist sentiment in his letters. And yet he was he felt propelled and compelled to integrate the military because it felt it was at it, not in keeping with the values and goals of America. And so to the extent that those are elevated and made and kept in the forefront, even as we fall short of them, there is that way in which myth keeps pulling us in the right direction.
S6: And without it, we do both. Right. Even if it’s. Well, yeah. And if it’s felt right, of course. And if you focus too much on its falseness, then you think, oh, well, it’s meaningless as a myth and therefore we don’t need to go pulling in that direction.
S5: Well, I think the Patrick Keefe has this interesting podcast series, Wind of Change. Just about the question of just came out with on Spotify. Patrick Keefe, of course, is the author of the fantastic book about the troubles in Northern Ireland Say Nothing, which won all the awards last year. But he has a podcast series that is about the song Wind of Change, recorded by a German heavy metal band, the Scorpions Band Band. I used to listen to a lot. I’m not ashamed to say and and whether this song was, in fact written or somehow influenced by the CIA because the wind of change became this very powerful cultural totem behind the Iron Curtain or in the in the as the Iron Curtain fell and as as communism fell, young people across Eastern Europe and in Russia found some kind of meaning in the song. And and America is. And Patrick goes into the history of American cultural propaganda and how often we use our cultural might to spread ideas and to shape what happens in other countries and how young people in other countries start to see America. And it’s a really important thing to do. And it’s because we are good, we’re great propagandists. We’re great creators of culture and evangelizing a certain set of ideals. And Hamilton, I think, is in the great spirit of that. So I want to close on sort of the aesthetic experience of watching Hamilton. I will say I was sort of bored in the second half. I fell asleep. The show kind of drags in the second half. I thought the first half was stupendously great. And the second half, I was like, this is really long. I think this could be sped up a little bit. But I’m maybe I’m a bad person now.
S7: We’ve moved from cultural criticism to theater.
S6: Well, that’s fine. Usually we go the other way. Everything’s about theater criticism. You know what struck me about reminded I mean, obviously, the story of Aaron is all about naked ambition that is unmoored from, you know, fundamental and deep values. Is that name for John Bolton to name his book in the room where it happened is basically saying it because Aaron Burr just wants to be in the room. It’s not that I want to be in the room to advocate for this or that. I just want to be in the room, which was, you know, the thing that frightened those founders the most. And so for Bolton to name his book after that is a is a bit of a cell phone, which occurred to me only when I was watching Leslie Odom’s amazing performance of that. He really came across gorgeously in the film.
S5: Let us go to cocktail chatter when you are in the room. Where someone’s making you a drink. Emily Bazelon, what were you chatter about with your bartender?
S1: I have a light and a serious chatter. My later chatter is a recommendation of a novel I read last week called CYF by Amity Gaige, which came out, I think, this spring, which really succeeded in pulling me in. Which is tough right now. I can’t read anything the least bit avant garde or abstract. I can only read stories. So I’m having so much trouble concentrating. And this book really intrigued me. It’s about a family that goes off to see taking their marital troubles at their interesting children with them. So I just really liked it and it stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about particularly the marriage in it and Amity Gages ideas about how people overcome trials and tribulations from their youth, perhaps by overcoming later tragedies as well. So anyway, it’s called CYF by Amity Gaige. I recommend it. And my more serious chatter is about, I think, of kind of first of its kind report that came out this week from the district attorney’s office in Brooklyn. This is an office I’ve done a lot of reporting on for my book, and they opened up their files from the Conviction Integrity Unit in Brooklyn, which has decided and exonerated twenty nine people in Brooklyn whose convictions were wrongful. So this comes from the prosecutors as opposed to defense lawyers appealing in court. And these people collectively spent more than 400 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. And it’s really like an interrogation of the officers past practices, both prosecutors and also working with the police that led to these tragic cases in which the wrong person went down for a violent crime. It’s just gonna be such a useful document for thinking through what goes wrong. And it reminded me of the reporting I did for my book because so much of it is about tunnel vision and confirmation bias. The idea that, like, once you have a suspect, you start cutting corners and, you know, using suggestive I.D. procedures or like really just sort of nudging the case towards condemning this particular person and just shaping the evidence that way or not disclosing evidence that might contradict your foregone conclusion. This report will be out this week. And if you’re interested in what goes wrong leading to wrongful convictions, it’s an amazing resource.
S5: John Dickerson, what does your chatter?
S6: My chatter is? Two definitions. One is the Mandela effect, which I knew about roughly speak, but was reminded to me by two to two readers of my book who correctly identified an error in the book, which is that I referred to the monopoly man as having a monocle. And the monopoly man does not have a monocle. It’s the planter’s peanuts. Mr. Peanut Haythem. Mr. Peanut. Mr. Peanut, who has been discontinued. Long may rest, but J.P. Morgan was the model for the monopoly man. And so I mentioned him in the context of his meeting with Teddy Roosevelt.
S5: Can I can I pause for a second? Yeah. What is that? What what did you use a monocle for? If you had them. What? How did you use it?
S6: I believe that it was if you were nearsighted like me. Well, I am, but near and far. But if you can’t read and you just need to read a little bit, you put it over your eye and read a little bit that you have to read and then you drop it.
S7: It’s like the glasses, like the idea that you would only use one eye. Just seems weird, right? Like, I can’t see very well at all out of one of my eyes and the other one I can see out of. But I still try to use both my eye.
S6: Yeah. No, I’m probably wrong about. But it would be.
S7: No, I think you must be correct.
S6: What else could you do at the end. So I don’t know. I mean but that’s the way I use the glasses that I carry on the back of my iPhone, which right for both eyes. But it’s, you know, for like emergency short term reading. Although then it raises the question, what kinds of emergency, short term reading were they doing? You know, back at the turn of the century or turn the last century? I don’t know. Maybe we will have a historian of the monocle weigh in and help us see more clearly. But anyway, the Mandela effect is was named after. Well, the idea that Nelson Mandela had died earlier than he did. So people believe that he died in prison. But in fact, he didn’t die in prison at all. And that this misunderstanding and and rewriting of contemporary history is a thing that we all do. And so apparently thinking that the monopoly man has a monocle is not just my mistake. It’s apparently a typical example of this phenomenon. So there I made that common mistake. But I was I’d forgotten the origin of the term. Then now my other term that I really like a lot is something called zugzwang, which is in chess. A player is in zugzwang when it’s their turn. And any possible move. That they make will worsen their position. But because it’s their turn, they have to they have to go. And this.
S7: I wish I’d known you skip in chess. You can’t. You can. You do a pass.
S6: I don’t think you can. I don’t think you can. But this. I wish I’d known about this term when I wrote the book because that’s the original conception of of Harry Truman’s The Buck Stops Here. It’s not that you’re responsible for everything, but that the nature of the job is that you have you are given two options, both of which will worsen your position and you’ll have to move. And that if you understand the job that way, you have a little bit more context for the kinds of decisions presidents make. But that was originally the way he where the term came from and then it morphed over time. But anyway, regardless of my book, zugzwang feels like a posture we are often in. And so now you have a new word for when you feel like you are in zugzwang.
S5: My chatters about Alexander Vandeman Alexander Binmen. You may remember, is Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who testified in the House impeachment hearings to President Trump’s intense and grotesque meddling in the Ukraine matters. Venkman is a public servant in the most noble sense of that term. He has served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years. He’s an immigrant. He has been selfless. He loves his country. He’s a patriot. And he was up for promotion to full colonel. And the U.S. Army decided he deserved his promotion to full colonel. His promotion was going forward. And when word came from the White House that the White House did not want him to be promoted. A kind of a kind of interference in U.S. Army personnel matters, that is unheard of. It’s unprecedented. And Venkman was a victim of a.. In that case, and then in much other in his life of bullying and intimidation and a vendetta from the president and the White House, he was berated in conservative media on Fox News and smeared. And it is hard to think of someone who has been as ill treated as Alexander Veneman has been. The gap between what should happen to someone with who has served his country so selflessly and so well and what is actually happening is vast and Venkman. This week announced through his lawyer that he is resigning from the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army is losing this person who has done it, done such good, great, hard, honest work for it and is giving up. It is disgusting. So when people say, oh, Trump supports the military or Trump is strong, I do not understand what they mean because what he is doing is undermining the men and women who have volunteered for service and have worked so hard and have believed in a system and a system that Trump is destroying for his own personal vendetta, his psychopathic, selfish, vicious. Self-service of the president. I want to live in a country where you can count on soldiers. To serve the Constitution, we’re the best people are drawn to government service and where truth telling and honesty are respected and rewarded and where you have a loyalty to the nation, not the president. And it is absolutely unsettling and disturbing that I do not live in that country. And so I am Alexander Binmen. I hope you get a fantastic, great job serving the country in some other way. And I’m sorry as a citizen that we’ve done you so wrong. Listeners, you have continued, as always, to send us a wonderful listener, chatters. This week. I want to call out a chatter from Emmy Ronald at at Rold Emmy. And she tweeted them to us, tweeted this chatter to us at at Slate Gab Fest, where I hope you will tweet your chatter to us. And her submission for cocktail chatter is landscape of fear. What a mass of rotting reindeer carcasses taught scientists. And it’s about in a gruesome episode where three hundred and twenty three reindeer were killed by lightning, a lightning strike in a remote Norwegian plateau, and their bodies were left for nature to take its course. And scientists filmed what happened. And what they saw was this amazing efflorescence of of the natural world where all kinds of creatures were drawn to it, where there’s different kinds of flora and fauna that developed at these carcasses, served as a incredible buffet and then and then compost and service to the land. And in reading this article actually came out that in many countries it’s a practice to actually remove carcasses, remove animal carcasses. But animal carcasses have this in the way that a dead tree has this huge value. It has this incredible organic power in it. All these years of growth in it. And these these reindeer carcasses cause this place to blossom and flourish and wildlife to live there. And so it’s a case for allowing allowing corpses to lay where they are. I myself want my corpse to be thrown out in the woods, to be not on and to be come part of a cycle of nature. And from my bones one day to be discovered by some some person walking through the woods who wonder, why is there why is there a human femur here? That’s what I would like. And so that’s what’s happened to these reindeer. And it’s it’s a really interesting story about their study. If you enjoy the gap as please subscribe to the show, you’ll get new episodes the second they are published. That is our show for today. Gabfests is produced by Jocelin Franker. Researchers visit Dunlap Gabriel Roth as editorial director, urging Thomas is managing producer.
S2: Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate podcasts for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson and David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.
S3: Hello, Slate, plus, the paycheck protection program was passed as part of the Keres Act or the emergency relief bills, and that came up in Congress after the pandemic and it provided hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses in the form of a loan that you could take if you were a business which had 500 or fewer employees. And it would allow you to fund your payroll for your employees for about eight weeks. And some other expenses as well. And the was literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars have been dispensed in the form of these loans. In these loans, in fact, end up basically being that you don’t have to pay them back. If you maintain your payroll, you don’t fire your employees. And under certain conditions, the data about what organizations have received those paycheck protection lungs has come out. And it shows that private equity firms received it. It shows that it’s incredibly fancy private schools, including Sidwell Friends, a fancy private school, which John attended. By the way, John is not joining us for this segment because he had to run. So I’m not going impugn Tidball friends in John’s absence. There were companies run by members of Congress. There were companies that were obviously prospering that receive these paycheck protection program loans. And now that the data has been public, some of these companies are being shamed publicly for having accepted these loans. So the question is, should they be shamed for having taken these loans? Emily, thoughts?
S7: I mean, I’m okay with the shaming because I think that some of these wealthy institutions should not be taking this money. On the other hand, if it’s available to them and they’re doing with it what the government asked them to do. Maybe this shaming is misplaced. Like maybe it’s just I don’t know, it’s hard to, like, feel sorry for these institutions and saying we’re not being fair to them. But I don’t know. I mean, the other argument is like, look, we just want this money going out the door. The economy is in so much trouble right now. We should not be worrying about the details very much. I have a feeling you’re going to argue that side, right?
S5: Well, I’ve my views on this have switched. And the reason there’s a reason they’ve switched. So at the beginning of this, I was absolutely livid about places like Sidwell Friends and big private equity and hedge funds getting these funds.
S3: Also, I saw because I did a ton of reading about this, I was doing a project at the beginning of the pandemic, which involves understanding the paycheck protection program. And so I knew a lot about it and was clear that banks were giving preference to their favorite customer. So if you were a favorite customer of a bank, which means a company was already doing pretty well, you got in the front of the line. Whereas some of the smaller companies, companies that hadn’t ever taken loans before. Companies that had never dealt with banks really before that you ended up in the back of the line. There were companies that felt like they were never any money and and Congress had allocated only a limited amount of money for this. I can’t remember the initial traunch. Maybe it was 300 billion something on that order. And that that initial tranche of money that was allocated was run through really quickly because the these other companies got in line first and the Sidwell Friends of the World’s gotten mine first and grabbed it because they were savvier, they were better wired. They got money. And these smaller companies and and and less sophisticated companies did not. And at that point, I was outraged. But then what happened is that Congress replenished the funds and they put enough money in the PDP that really almost any company that wanted to get those funds could get those funds. So no longer was who who who got in line first or who got helped by the bank. First it was everybody. Everybody could get it. And it was done really quickly. And they made it pretty easy to apply. So you’d have to be make a real effort to not get those funds if you wanted to get those funds. And the fact that now that it’s that they made it universal and everyone could get those funds makes me feel like, you know, that the program was set up so that everyone could get the funds.
S5: Even the hedge funds. And therefore, it is stupid to name and shame these organizations because it was set up so that they these organizations, like every other, would get funds. That doesn’t mean that, you know, organizations that chose not to get funds are plenty of organizations that chose not to get funds that could have. But. And that that’s fine. But it doesn’t mean that the companies that went and got the money should be embarrassed about it, that it was designed for them to go get it. There was enough there for them to go get it. It helped people keep people employed at productive organizations. And so it should be maintained.
S7: Yeah. I mean, I guess it closes out.
S8: The last thing I’d say is just that the idea of this program is that you’re supposed to be paying rent and employee salaries. And those are things that are really important for keeping the economy going and making sure trying to have fewer people laid off. I don’t. I so love the idea of these wealthy institutions not having to fend for themselves because I can’t believe there’s really going to be a bottomless pit of money. On the other hand, I don’t want this program to get blocked in a way. It took some people already, some businesses a long time to get approved for these funds. And the idea that you wouldn’t just keep the money flowing, I think is damaging to the economy. I don’t know. I mean, look, in the end, I just I don’t like to see wealthy corporations get our tax money. It just, like, offends me as somebody who pays taxes. I just, like, really can’t quite swallow it. So I can’t get over that, even though I have a feeling that, like, the more rational position is just like whatever. Just don’t quibble over it. Just let them let all these companies that qualified get this money.
S5: Yeah. I think it’s don’t quibble over it. And it’s a successful government program. It got it. Aid to millions and millions of small businesses. And I saw it in its earliest days and was working so poorly in the first couple of days. And then it became a program that worked. It has worked. They’ve gotten the money out the door. It’s great. So let’s be glad about that.
S7: All right. I’m giving you the last word.
S3: Goodbye, Slate plus.