The “Well, Obviously It’s Jan. 6” Edition
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S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for January 6th, 2022, the well, obviously it’s the January 6th edition of the Gabfest. I am David Plotz of City Cast. I’m here in Washington, D.C. I’m joined by Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and a lowly instructor at Yale University Law School. She is somewhere sunny. Hello, Emily.
S1: Hello David.
S2: And from Washington, D.C., where he’s doing some important journalism today because it’s the January 6th anniversary is John Dickerson of CBS this Sunday Morning. Hello, John.
S3: Hello, David and Emily. It’s a little cold here
S2: this week, the anniversary of January 6th. Whether the country is in better or worse shape than it was, then we will talk with Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times about that. Then Omicron schools pandemic fatigue. Oh my god. Yeah, what’s to say? Well, we will tell. We will say it. Whatever there is to say, we will say it. And then our third topic will be the conviction of Elizabeth Holmes for defrauding investors and what it tells us about Silicon Valley. Plus, of course, we will have cocktail chatter. One year ago today, a mob of Americans, many associated with virulent right wing groups. Some most, I would say, drawn by a wickedly charismatic president who summoned them. They’re all in the thrall of a vicious lie about the election, stormed the Capitol, overwhelmed and attacked police officers, desecrated the halls of Congress, threatened the vice president and the House speaker and many others shamed America in the eyes of the world in a temporarily vain effort to stop the Senate and the vice president from certifying the presidential election that President Trump, then President Trump had lost. They were egged on by Trump, who watched their attack without acting and clearly was pleased by it. And it’s now very clear that we came very, very, very, very, very close to a coup that month, not only because of that attack, which I think was probably less dangerous, but also because of the paperwork coup. The great phrase of the Atlantic that presidential lawyers and various unscrupulous allies were attempting. So we’re joined by Jamelle Bouie, columnist of the New York Times, to talk about the national catastrophe of January 6th and how dangerous this moment is. Apologies I have like. Now some tree cutting in my background. I hope it doesn’t get picked up. John, let me start with you. If you believe and maybe you don’t, but if you believe that American democracy is in more danger than it was one year ago today, why is that? Why has the horror of that moment and the shame of that moment and what resulted from it taking us further away from a stable democracy rather than closer towards a stable democracy? Why have we gone in the wrong direction?
S3: Well, I think the first thing is just that that you had an incident where you had the person with the highest political power ever take direct aim at the heart of democracy. We’ve never had that before. You can’t get any higher than a president. And as you said, in both improvisation and the structural ways in which he tried to do that and there was not a universal revolt in the political system, there was for about a day or so. But that that revolt didn’t stick and that there is a debate even in the moment. I mean, you had the majority of House Republicans voting essentially with that day fouling or baffling, I should say, of democracy, so that from its inception, there was never a clear view on something that should be absolutely clear because of the because of just how bad it was. And then secondly, that that that as as we all know, the things that contributed to Jan. six started long before January six, and they still continue. The idea that fantasy can be can replace facts, the idea that the other side can be demonized constantly. It’s not just occasional demonization, but constant demonization which dehumanizes them and therefore makes any action against them. OK, that violence is a US is a possibility when you don’t get what you want. All of those things, which led to Jan. six, are still out there and in some cases are are being perfected. The thing that’s in fact being perfected is the idea that because democracy is so illegitimate in the way it’s carried out right now, efforts need to be made to put structures in place to basically overturn any election that doesn’t go the way Republican lawmakers would like that. All of those things are still continuing. And a person who should be a pariah in the Republican Party and President Trump, based on his actions, is in fact the leader of the party and the one that the majority of Republicans would like to see in the office again.
S2: Jamelle kind of the same question to you. What if we’re in more danger? Why are we in more danger than we were
S4: similar to what John said? I think through the top line answer to this is just that Donald Trump. Is the front runner for the 2024 Republican nomination. You know, if if he decides to run, it’s not clear that Newman would actually challenge him. And if he does have a nomination, there’s a good enough chances he’ll, you know, win the presidency with another Electoral College misfire, meaning he probably will not win the popular vote. But his coalition is geographically well distributed enough to win the Electoral College. But anyway. Which I think gets to be the biggest problem, the biggest issue. Sort of looking back and looking forward. Which is that I don’t think you can disentangle January six or the impulses that led to January six, the impulses that led a large parts of the Republican Party, not just to accept or go along with the argument that the election was illegitimate, but to actively push ahead with, as John said, policies laws that would make it easier to overturn future election results. I don’t think you can understand that without without looking at how American institutions have essentially allowed a party to win political power without having to win a majority of the vote and the incentives that creates for that political party. I think I like to remind people of is that after George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 as a minority president, losing the popular vote, his the Republican Party under Bush then attempted to build a national majority. Right. There is an actual effort to at least say we we didn’t win. There was an acknowledgement that we did not win a popular majority, so we should attempt to win a popular majority in 2016. There was no attempt to build a popular majority out of that win and that sort of asterix win and the extent to which Republicans have internalized the idea that they can only win through sort of the weaponization of the A.B. anti-immigrant Italian features of American democracy. I think it created this kind of spiral the sort of downward spiral in which the Republican, many Republicans and much of the Republican Party has since become unable to disentangle themselves from those institutions and embrace any attempt to build a popular majority to win over, you know, most Americans to their program and that they can interact also with something that’s even more longstanding. This idea that some Americans are legitimate participants in political life and some aren’t. And so when you have those two things kind of working together, what you have, I think, is this political idea. This ideology where democratic victories, regardless of the procedures at work, are illegitimate because they consist of people who are not legitimate. And on the other side of this, Republicans are entitled to power regardless of the actual outcome of the election for as long as that is kind of where things stand for much of the Republican Party. I think you can fairly say that American democracy remains in danger ought to amend that statement a little bit. The the ideal of political equality among citizens that we’ve been trying to move towards since the 1960s and is in danger because it is entirely possible that one future outcome one feature resting place for American democracy, quote unquote, is where we were before the 1960s, which is where political equality and political rights are basically distributed based on where you live in the country and based on what groups you belong to. And so you could very well have, you know, return to some system of, you know, subnational authoritarianism, as I think be is a term the political science term for it with kind of a facade of national democracy. So I guess I only say that just to make the point for listeners that the range of outcomes isn’t like, you know, it’s you know, you know, Jack would if were again in, you know, autocracy as we understand it from a movie, you know, like, you know, blue and gray color palette, it could look very much like what the United States was for most of its most of its history. And to be simply, that is jarring. It only should be a reminder that the norms of political equality. You know, one person, one vote equal access to the ballot that we take for granted are very recent. Historically speaking, in American life.
S1: So for me, the big fear about why I feel worse instead of better is that we haven’t done anything since January six to strengthen democracy. We’ve only seen some Republican led states move to weaken it and to create the opportunity for more partisan meddling if there’s a really close election. And so my faith that if there is a really close election, the winner will be fairly determined is less than I had, not more. And we did not use the crisis to act. You know, we didn’t even fix the Electoral Count Act, which is this like, you know, loaded gun, which hopefully will never go off. But the ambiguity in that law, which is about, you know, what happens if there are competing slates of electors that come from various states? What’s Congress supposed to do? It’s from 1876. It’s muddled, and we just need to get rid of the ambiguity in it. And then of course, there are these broader problems about equal access to voting and misshapen power in America the Jamelle is talking about. And for me, what isn’t gets tricky about this is some of those inequities are baked into the Constitution. For example, the way the Senate is apportioned. And so I think the conversation gets tricky because we don’t have this clear path to majority rule, and I actually think this is out of sync with what the framers even really wanted, although you can argue about this. But the lopsidedness, the difference in representation now the power of your vote for Senate if you live in a big state versus a small state is many fold what it was at the founding. And this is where I just get really worried that the structure of the Constitution is rickety and we don’t have mechanisms for fixing it. But because it has this kind of counter majoritarian elements in it, one party does not necessarily have to take the steps. Jamelle is just outlining that, I think is a if I stub my toe on that when I think about this topic because it’s not this sort of clean. OK, well, that’s unconstitutional. Some of the flaws are in our constitution.
S2: Do you guys think that we could get to a situation where if the Republican control over things like courts and state legislatures and state election boards and in enough states are deeply entrenched enough that there’s just this idea that, well, Democrats are not allowed to win national elections. I mean, I can’t see us getting to that point where you even even a minority in minority Republican Party, which is entrenched its role using these kind of majoritarian aspects of the Constitution where there would be Republicans would simply say, Well, Democrats can never rule. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for anything. I mean, I wouldn’t even think, I don’t even think Republicans want that, really. But but do you think there’s a possibility that it will just be like, oh, Republican president, Republican President, Republican President, Republican president, Republican president.
S4: I think Trump is the X Factor here. I think if it weren’t about Trump because there’s nothing unusual, historically speaking, about a party kind of trying to entrench itself into sort of as many parts of government as possible. This happens pretty much immediately, right? Sort of. After John Adams loses re-election. 18:00 The Federalist try to pack the courts and instead of one of the big four standoffs with the federal judiciary is between Jefferson and his Republicans and the Federalist along the lines of a McCourt’s. And then if I have this correctly, I think Marbury vs. Madison comes out of this kind of standoff. Yes. So a political party trying to burrow itself into the kind of majority and parts of the government in order to like stop a popular majority is, I think, just kind of the push and pull of American politics. What makes all of this different is Trump. Trump makes it different because he does not seem to see any distinction between himself and the office. And so for him, the press he is that he is the president and sort of like a Judge Dredd. I am the law kind of way, sort of like it is. He is a personification of the office, and he does not think that there are any other legitimate holders of the office. And to the extent that that attitude is sort of filtered down into the Republican Party base, I think it’s create a situation where we’re given a close election where, you know, the electoral votes in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan and Georgia are going to be the difference being Trump in office and Trump not in office. I actually do think that you would have Republican state legislatures, Republican state lawmakers pull the trigger on on on an attempt to put him in office above the will of their voters. If it wasn’t Trump, I’m not sure I think that would happen. Right? I think this is I think a lot of this is tied to the psychology of Donald Trump in the way that it’s interacted with the Republican Party in the political system.
S3: And I would just to add on to that. It’s it’s everything, Jamelle says, and it doesn’t. Necessarily. David need to be the end state you describe, which is Republican president after Republican president. What needs to happen is you need to have whether it’s Donald Trump or someone else, actions that are collectively so outrageous that then the response from Democrats or whoever feels robbed, by the way, in which Republicans have done this. The response is violent. It’s Kennedy said of peaceful revolution is impossible. Violent revolt is inevitable. And so it doesn’t need to be. What needs to happen is people to feel so robbed by the structure that’s been put in place that they respond violently. That begets more violence that you that you break the center of democracy, which is the idea that you can resolve things in a nonviolent way.
S1: So that’s a obviously terrible outcome. But I want to go back to Jamal’s point about a kind of Potemkin democracy, which in some ways seems more plausible to me because I think that it’s unusual in American life to have like the true boiling point, right? I mean, even January six, which boiled over, then kind of went away and then we kind of returned to status. And I look back on all of the decades in which there was hugely unequal representation to Congress and in some states, to state legislatures where, like Jamelle, seeing if you lived in a town with 200 inhabitants, you might have the same representation in the state legislature as a town with thousands of inhabitants. That was true in Connecticut for centuries, and people just kind of went along with it. And that was the case until the one person, one vote rulings by the Supreme Court in the 1960s. You would think that there would have been a kind of democratic swell to change that form of representation. But there was all this tradition and history behind it, and people just kind of lived with it. And I I worry about that scenario a lot
S2: Emily to dig into that a little bit. The I don’t think we are going to see a repeat of January 6th. I think the likelihood of an actual armed coup of a violent coup in this country is lower than it was a year ago. I think people were widely disgusted by what happened and felt ashamed by what happened, and even the people who participated felt ashamed by what happened. I don’t think that violence is the first tool that anyone is going to use. I’m not saying that violence is in a tool it could never used. I just think it’s it’s a pretty it’s dropped further down the list than it was a year ago.
S3: But people do see it as a more viable option than they did a year ago.
S2: No, I don’t think they do, because I don’t
S3: think that’s what they tell pollsters.
S2: Well, then they tell pollsters, but then when you kind of dig into, what did they mean by violence like,
S1: but how many have real ambiguity? That’s the thing.
S3: You don’t need a whole. Well, I’m sorry to interrupt, but
S2: I don’t think that one of the reasons why you can tell that even Republicans are uncomfortable with what happened on Jan. six is that they themselves have totally incoherent and self-contradictory explanations for it like that. Oh, it was a false flag, or they were just tourists like no one wants to really own the violence because owning the violence it means owning something which is so antithetical to to like the way we’re supposed to do things in government. But that doesn’t mean that the threat is less. I think just the threat is much more all these counter majoritarian things that exist in the Constitution than the people who are now running to manipulate election boards. The ways that you can do this on paper, the ways that you can do this legally, the ways you can sort of manipulate things on the edges then rather than we’re going to intimidate you with guns into doing this, it’s going to be done in all these other ways that allow you to maintain that, that Potemkin veneer around it. That would be my guess, which is Jamelle sort of confirming mean like agreeing with what Jamelle and Emily have just said. Can I make
S4: a point about this just by analogy to one of my hobby horses over the last couple of years has been, you know, whenever people talk about the decline of American democracy, they jump to the jump to a European example. And I find this very frustrating and annoying because you don’t really need to look outside. I’m a little parochial here. You tend to look outside the United States for examples of this kind of stuff. And I think that one of the more relevant examples and one that having cuts across all people think about how these things unfolded was basically how Jim Crow emerges. I think that how people understand Jim Crow is emerging is, you know, reconstruction ends and white people are very racist. And so then you have Jim Crow like the next year. But that’s not really how things work. What actually happens is after federal troops are largely withdrawn from the south, you have this kind of 15 year period where people are trying to figure out what politics looks like now in the absence of this federal commitment. And you have during this period, there’s a the beginning of what’s called the long depression. There’s just a term of economic unrest. There is lots of labor unrest, agrarian. Unrest and you have elections in the south become kind of hit with this even more endemic violence than before should have routine fraud. Routine killings, all sorts of stuff around elections. It’s in the 1890s that southern elites who are, you know, white supremacists, very racist, but also find the violence kind of distasteful and potentially destabilizing to their economic plans. Begin looking for ways to institutionalize elite dominance over politics. And that’s when you get Jim Crow. That’s when you get the sense of was meant to kind of write blacks, have the electorate write quite a few poor whites out of the electorate as well and kind of create a more stable status quo. And I think that’s that’s a better way to understand what may happen. Post January six, I think you’re right, David. I think elites probably find the violence very distasteful and very destabilizing. And so the effort to kind of look for ways to, you know, usurp popular majority is to entrench oneself into the constitutional system. Those things can get you the same kind of results with kind of a veneer of legality and legitimacy. And that’s, I think, kind of the like you said there. That’s the danger that sort of if you understand Jim Crow as the veneer of legitimacy over a system of dominance and hierarchy, then I think you have a better sense of like what things can actually look like
S3: on the on the violence point. I think you’re probably right, David, that that there’s not a storming of the Capitol again, although I don’t know. But the violence is now implicit, and it’s obviously the violence and the fear of violence is what has kept a lot of Republican lawmakers silent and quiet. And the only one of the ways this fever breaks is if Republicans of of stature and in number call out there their own party and they haven’t. And part of the reason of that is is that even those when they retire don’t do it because they’re worried about the violence. Grief, they’ll get in the streets of their own cities. I think you’ve also seen but
S2: the violence and grief for different things. I don’t think, you know, Liz Cheney is is anathema to the Republican Party right now. I’m sure Liz Cheney, you know, takes precautions. I don’t think there’s a legitimate.
S3: Well, there’s one of her. I mean, if it weren’t, people are more than one.
S2: No, but they’re scared. They’re scared about their political career. They are scared about losing their job and their wellbeing and their place in a community. They’re not fearful of their lives. They’re fearful of being ostracized because their political views do not reflect the views that the dominant force in the party demands.
S3: I think you can be fearful of both. I think when local school officials are getting people, armed people showing up in their front yards, I think there’s a reason for people to be a little nervous. And I think what going back to Jamal’s point about Trump is that what he has created, we don’t know what the possibilities are anymore because he has so lowered all of the restraints with the enabling of his party, all of the norms that were lowered for four years, starting back in the caucuses in 2016. All those norms that were lowered allowed all of this stuff to rush in. Those norms are all still lowered. And the apocalyptic, steady diet of apocalyptic television that and social media that people are getting encourages violence because it’s the only way you can stop these horrible monsters who are on the other side.
S2: Emily Do you think that the prosecutions of the January 6th insurrectionists have any impact on any of these larger questions that we’re talking about? I mean that whether or not they’re certainly correct, I mean, these are people who who’ve committed a violent act against the government and attempted to disrupt the election and and they should be prosecuted. But do you think that it actually has any deterrent effect on on these issues around? The stability of elections going forward.
S1: I mean, minimal. You know, it is important to hold people accountable. On the other hand, it’s only the people at this ground level who actually stormed into the Capitol, who are as yet being charged. Nobody in the sort of planning overseeing part of this is facing criminal consequences. And I mean, I don’t know what the evidence really is for bringing those kinds of charges. The Department of Justice is properly not been public about that, as they shouldn’t be until and unless they indict someone. But the fact is, you have the kind of foot soldiers, if you will, bearing the brunt of punishment here. And a few of them have kind of cried out at some point in their court proceedings to say that they were duped by former President Trump. But a lot of them don’t seem to necessarily have that attitude. And I think in this sort of scrum of incentives here that if you are a true believer and you think that there is glory to be gained and that this, you know, the election reached the false result because a lot of people on the right do believe that, according to the polls, then it seems like you would still have an incentive to rise up. And you know, it doesn’t take very many people right to cause a lot of violent trouble. That’s what I don’t think this is like a mainstream view. I don’t think most people were. Most people who are, you know, super right wing would do this. But I don’t like that’s one of the lessons of Jan. six is you need hundreds of people and they came so close. And it does seem to me like because we haven’t protected ourselves more the chances that, you know, some event of the same ilk could succeed. Not exactly the same thing, but something like it. I think those chances are higher, not lower.
S2: So Jamelle as we leave, you’ve just done this wonderful analogy to Jim Crow. Are there lessons from how we extricated ourselves from Jim Crow that could give us some, like tiny little shard of hope, a little a little crystal of hope to take forward to January six, 2023?
S4: Well, you know, the path towards something like democracy in the American South was like a hundred about 80 years, right? It was, you know, if you if you say 1890 is roughly the point in which you can say Jim Crow was like beginning to emerge, the Voting Rights Act becomes sort of the point where you can say that you’re the beginning of actual democracy in the South. And so for me, that isn’t terribly hopeful. Right? And so long time not
S1: to even modernise twice as much as Exodus.
S4: To get to that point, you have right like decades of intellectual work, of mass movement. You have, you know, I think you can’t really discount the importance of events the Second World War and the Cold War are these powerful forces that that galvanize and generate energy for reform in the South. So I’m not sure how much of history offers a path out outside of sort of the usual point about how, even under, you know, conditions of oppression, mass movement, mass organization can have a really powerful effect. And it sort of to that point, I think, you know, if you identify some of the issues here with the constitutional system itself, as is Emily was saying earlier, I think that the path forward, the path towards a stronger democracy is going to have to include a mass movement for constitutional change, including elites on both sides of the ideological spectrum, understanding that something needs to give in our constitutional system. And for that, it wouldn’t be the first time Americans have done something like that. But I think that’s what would be necessary that if you think, as I do, that the issues here are very much tied to the incentives are our electoral system and constitutional system are currently producing, but you just have to change those incentives. So you get to cheat, you get a change of swing. And it doesn’t have to be dramatic. You don’t have to completely tear down the infrastructure here, but you do have to be a little creative. But how you want a structure, you know, American politics and American democracy to avoid this kind of outcome.
S3: So then if those structures change, if you have basically a bottom up sense of pressure doesn’t, does it, then is the next step in the idea that that that essentially has to work on Republican lawmakers that that they have to feel either a moral pressure or an electoral pressure to do you know what Truman did with integrating the military and getting, you know, the delegates from Mississippi and Alabama to walk out of his convention or what Johnson did with civil rights and losing the South that they have to feel some other political benefit or just take the moral risk to lose support from within their own party. Is that how that? Next happens, or does the mass movement have another effect that changes the current system?
S4: That’s a good question, because the thing about the former option is that it kind of depends on Republican elites, in particular having a commitment to electoral democracy above and beyond whatever particular partisan advantage they might hold. And that’s I mean, we obviously can’t take that for granted anymore. I mean, my. This is when I started getting really speculative. If this gets to a point where this sort of a genuine mass movement for constitutional change rights rid of, it’s something that has a major impact on how American politics are conducted on along the lines of like the civil rights movement, right? Sort of in terms of scale, then maybe there would pressure lawmakers on both sides to begin to try to do something. Or maybe it becomes an avenue for the public through another set of representatives to to begin trying to change the Constitution and so on. This is this is why I say this is speculative. The constitution we have right isn’t the product of some sort of set of procedures that we followed. It’s the product of a bunch of elites and their supporters being like, we should have a new constitution and let’s do it and then convince everyone that they should adopt it. And I don’t know that we should write that out of the realm of possibility, right? For things that can happen in the future.
S2: Jamelle Bouie, columnist of The New York Times.
S1: Jamelle Thank you. That was excellent.
S4: Thank you for having me, as always.
S2: Slate Plus members, our bonus segment today, Jamelle is going to stick around for it. We’re going to talk about what work of art we would like to possess for ourselves. So go to sleep dot com slash Gabfest Plotz to become a member today. Omicron Oiie, as we are taping here on Thursday morning, my son’s school here in D.C. is supposed to be open, but given the testing chaos, who knows what’s actually going to happen. I could walk back in the door any moment because they’ve closed it down. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Chicago schools are not opening because of an increasingly acrimonious standoff between the teachers union and the school district. There’s just been this extraordinary surge in cases accompanied by a much smaller surge in serious illness, hospitalization and death. But not none, not nothing. And overwhelmingly, of course, the serious cases are among the unvaccinated. This wave is moving so fast Emily that is surely going to burn through the country in weeks and by February. We are all going to be back to normal in all respects of life, right?
S1: I mean, I like that idea. I don’t think it’s crazy actually in terms of the speed of the crown, and it does seem to be overcoming Delta and providing protection against Delta. What I am incredibly frustrated about is that in the moment when we don’t really know how long it’s going to last, it is again the schools that are bearing the brunt of closure instead of bars and restaurants. Even though two years in almost we know that its bars and restaurants, that the closures might actually really be the things that would prevent transmission. And yet again, we’re kind of making this big choice to have kids be the people who sacrifice. And we know at this point that remote learning has really been to kids detriment on average, that black and Latino kids are suffering more as a result of it, and also that the mental health consequences for kids have just been catastrophic. And yet we’re still running the same play. I it just it enrages me.
S2: Emily I’m totally enraged. I share your rage, but I do want to pause a minute and think about like what we’re talking about here. The issue is not, except in Chicago. I don’t think the issue is really, oh, they’re recalcitrant teachers who were like, I won’t teach. And it’s not that. It’s that there’s very little slack in the system, there’s very little slack in any of our systems. And if you have schools where 20 percent of the teachers are sick or have been recently exposed such that they’re not supposed to be showing up, what are they supposed to do when they can’t cover a quarter of their classes and a quarter of kids are, you know, there and there aren’t subs to do it either. It’s it’s it’s not necessarily that that that, oh, we’ve decided to to throw you to screw over the students. It’s that there isn’t. There aren’t enough resources supplied to schools such that they can cover all these classes that the kids can be taught.
S1: Yeah, I mean, that’s a totally important distinction. And if we have two weeks in which the staffing shortfalls because teachers are infected and sick and quarantining mean that the schools just can’t staff like, I mean, that’s the reality. However, the idea that as a society, we have not mobilized to make this the very last thing and that we can’t figure out what to do, and we didn’t prepare for it. Even though there was over $120 billion in the federal relief fund that was supposed to be about schools preparing for COVID. All of that is what is enraging me. I’m not enraged at the teachers. I mean, I think the situation in Chicago is its own particular problem, and I don’t know enough about it to really weigh in. But I it’s not that I’m angry with the teachers, it’s that we have as a society made this choice yet again. And it is a really bad choice. If it turns out to be very short term, that will be a lot better than medium to long term. But it is still a choice we’re making when we know that schools are not the substantial site of transmission.
S3: But just to be clear, you mean the choices we made were mistakes before the ones that were made today because you can’t have bars and restaurants, the bars and restaurants thing. I mean, you can’t have bartenders go teach school as David saying.
S1: Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s not fungible. I’m just saying that like if you were making a real effort, I understand that the short term problem of staffing shortages is real. It’s still roughly there is just this larger set of choices we made earlier. Right, exactly as you were saying that have brought us to this point and made this seem like an acceptable outcome and it is not right.
S3: And if they if people had a sufficient idea of the of how unacceptable this outcome was, they would have stocked every store room with tests. It does seem to me that that is a repeat of one of the original problems here and one that the Biden administration was supposed to have known how to avoid when they came into office. They said the lesson of Ebola was spend all the money, and if you get stuck having built a bunch of hospitals in Africa that you never use fine because you built them over there and the problem took care of itself over there and better to spend money than get stuck with a problem here because you didn’t spend the money. So now you hear the president saying, Gee, I wish I had, you know, ordered up a bunch or that we had a bunch of tests out there while we were doing shows two years ago about the necessity of easy, rapid at home tests. Yeah. And the idea that nobody said, you know, this thing might mutate and and that’s a real live possibility. In fact, we’ve been using that in our argument for why people should get vaccinated, because the more virus that’s out there, the more chances to mutate. And so in addition to using that as an argument for getting vaccinated, we might also want to spend a lot of money on tests because one of the keys to keeping schools open is making sure people are are tested, or at least, you know, after five days or a short period of quarantine. If you test and you’re clear, particularly with the particularities of of Omicron, you can get back into the into school and not be spreading. And that and the fact that the testing doesn’t exist is is outrageous. The only other thing I would say is that it would be great if we could all burn through with Omicron. And that was it. But I think one of the things Omicron has taught us is that because unlike the others, it can slalom around the vaccine, which is also what makes this case particular that it’s it’s no longer just the population of the unvaccinated population. The unvaccinated are the ones who are getting seriously sick. But for the purposes of quarantine and disruption, the vaccinated population increases the number of people who now have to worry again about getting infected. And you know, we could get another strain that, you know, slaloms around vaccines again or that is has some other particularity Bouie. And so I wish I could think this the last time. But I I don’t know. There always seems to be a mutation, but
S2: it’s but at some point, you know, there is a flu and there are cold and flus and colds move around the country all the time and every year they come and some people get vaccinated and some people don’t, and some percentage of people get sick and some thousands or tens of thousands die from the flu. But it is not. It is not an emergency that the whole country lives with and thinks about all the time, and ultimately people are just like, I’m not going to. I’m going to the movie there. Yes, we know there’s flu. I’m still going to the movies. I’m not wearing a mask because I want to go to the movies, but
S3: that’s a mindset we’re going to. That’s a mindset change, not a virus change. I mean, and that’s what’s worked interesting about this.
S2: Well, we’ve reached that right, right?
S3: Right. Much of the country. But you were saying, this is the last, this is the last one. It may not be the last one, but our but our response, the mindset change has definitely happen if you left eight. Listen to Anthony Fauci when he was defending the CDC decision to change the quarantine period from 10 to five days. He basically said, you know the idea, he said it was both, you know, the science suggested that after five days you weren’t transmissible, which is, you know, debatable. But then he also said, we want to get people back to their jobs and keep society running smoothly, which, you know, it means that there were two considerations in his mind not just the pure, pure science.
S2: I want to just actually linger on this spare capacity issue that the shortage we have and in a lot of cities now, public transportation is compromised because similarly, there’s a significant number of people who cannot operate trains or buses. Where I live in D.C., the buses are way down because of the huge number of bus drivers who are sick or are not allowed to operate buses right now. And there just aren’t extra people to do it. And this is to me, is analogous to what happened with the supply chain issue. The issue in inflation, as I understand it, is not really that there is not enough people making the goods in China or Thailand or or Mexico. The issue is not really that there is too much demand driving prices. It’s not that everyone suddenly absolutely needs to have this bar of chocolate. It’s that the in-between point, the sort of getting things, the logistics that gets the supply to the people who buy it is all fucked up and snarled. And that piece of it is screwed, and that’s what’s causing basically what’s causing the inflation. And I feel like that’s analogous to what’s happening in schools where the issue is not that nobody, everyone wants kids to go to school. Everyone knows that remote learning is bad, but there is this problem which is there just simply are not enough staff and teachers who are healthy to operate it and keep it going in a way that that allows children to get educated. And that’s there. Yes, there are ways to have prevented it to have established this infrastructure of testing and and infrastructure forced vaccinations of worth, but which we didn’t do. But right now it is. It’s just like, it’s not. It’s not a resolvable question. It’s not because people are ill, have ill intent. It’s just because we’ve we’ve we found ourself here,
S3: but that it is the extra demand that caused the snarls. So it’s just demand in a different part of that.
S2: No, it’s not necessarily. I don’t think it’s that
S3: no hoard of L.A. is up 20 percent over its highest previous part. I mean, and that’s true of all the ports in terms of the amount of stuff they’re trying to squeeze through the existing supply chain. I mean, that’s definitely what’s caused all the snarls is the increase in demand. That doesn’t really matter because it was just an analogy.
S1: OK, I got no dog in this fight. I have no idea what the answer is.
S2: Emily We were so very harsh on the Trump administration in the first year of the pandemic. The response, in most ways was really bad and ignorant and clear that the Biden administration is more rational in the Trump administration. The people who are staffing it have more experience and more expertise. And yet, the CDC messaging is confusing as hell. The testing capacity we’ve talked about is low. There is not this, you know this scads and we’re not being reined with with rapid tests such that everyone can be tested all the time. Why has the Biden administration been so poor when we expect them to be so much better?
S1: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I mean, I think there is some element of like entrenched bureaucracy, right? So one of the reasons we don’t have more rapid tests were the delays in approving tests from the FDA, which was following its usual procedures and treating tests in a way that made them harder to get quick approval for. And you know, the tension there is that if you change, maybe you have procedures that are antiquated and don’t work fast enough in a pandemic that seems clear to me. But then there’s an argument that if you mess around with them, that’s politicizing the process in some way or just that you’re losing these kind of guardrails that are important and that, I think sort of paralyzed at least part of our access to tests. I also think that there is just this way in which while it was predictable that they’re going to be variants, the fact that Omicron came along and was so transmissible and swept through the world at this stage, I think that did take a lot of the experts by surprise and has created this particular challenge. And I also think the. Mindset part of this is important, too. There are a lot of people I hear more and more people are just like ready to feel like they’re done with this. They are, you know, willing to take the risk of getting COVID, which for a lot of people is a relatively mild risk. But the policy changes are not there to support that way of life in parts of the country and the democratic led parts of the country. And I think the Biden administration has been kind of trying to straddle, right? So you hear this like five day instead of 10 day quarantine, but you’re not requiring a negative rapid test result to come back to work because probably we don’t have enough tests. Although then the CDC director Rochelle Walensky says, no, that’s not the reason. It doesn’t seem very believable and it’s muddled. But also again, I just feel like we’re not being given the straight talk, which has been a huge frustration of mine all along with the public health messaging. And it just feels so frustrating. And I think that’s why I’m maybe overly optimistic or at least like trying to imagine that in a few weeks, you know, there’s going to be tons of super useful natural immunity along with, of course, the amazing gift of the vaccines. And then we’re going to just like figure out a different stage because this just feels unsustainable.
S3: And you also have the benefit of right, those therapeutics that can even if you’re vaccinated and get sick and you’re in hospital, there are things they can give
S1: you now, right? I mean, that’s I’m so glad you brought that up, because if you have pills that mean that there is a 90 or 80 percent reduction in your hospitalization chances if you get really sick, that should also be a game changer. And we’re pretty close to mass marketing of those pills, right?
S3: One other thing I would add is that there does seem to have been a view that basically once you’re vaccinated, you were pretty much protected. And Omicron is bounce that on its head. There’s also, though, the fact that
S1: but wait a second, I mean on the ground is not balanced on this head that if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re not going to get really sick. And my point is for the should be the measure.
S3: Yeah, but not if you’re talking about things like schools where people have to quarantine. So in other words, you’re not sick. You may not even feel anything, but you now got to quarantine for five days. You don’t have a teacher, teach math, can’t teach math. Everybody’s gotta stay home. So we’re talking about the public policy implications of this. Not the I mean, the rule before was not only are you not going to get sick, but you’re not going to get it. I mean, you sure have no vaccine is 100 percent, but certainly the messaging and the thinking was once you’re vaccinated, we can go back to to life. And that has not been the case. Lots of people who were vaccinated were getting sufficiently. They’re getting COVID, and that’s causing all of these problems, even if they’re not going to the hospital. That’s causing these, these other problems. On the other
S1: hand, I totally agree. I just think it’s always really important to make this distinction between the vaccines not preventing any transmission or preventing breakthrough infections versus getting really sick. Because I think for most people, yes, the inconveniences and the staffing problems are real and they’re causing huge problems, but that is different from taking on a serious risk of severe illness or death.
S3: And in fact, the people that you were talking about who feel like they’re done with, it can in fact partially feel like they’re done with it because they know if they get it because they’re vaccinated and boosted, it ain’t going to be that bad. Whereas if we were still living in an age where there was no protection and it was making you go to a hospital and get on a ventilator, they might be a little different. The only final point I would make is I know you weren’t trying to do this David, but there’s a big difference between people who might be, you know, having difficulty sorting the science in the right way to get the public health message through and the cloudiness of bureaucracy and those failures of public health and the failures that were taking place in the Trump administration, which were the result of a programmatic and consistent downplaying of the fact that the virus was was out there and was virulent for sure.
S2: Yes, I looked I was looking this morning at the numbers in my city, Washington, D.C., which is the epicenter of what has had the highest infection rate of any place in the world in the past couple of weeks. And it looks like it’s topped out here. Looks like it looks like we’ve peaked. So if you compare it to what’s happened South Africa, I’m thinking maybe in places like D.C., maybe it’s it’s, you know, a week a week of of more where it’s still pretty high and then it’s just going to plummet, plummet, plummet, plummet, plummet. So that’s what I’m hoping for. I’m hoping for and actually just to at that point, which is like my I have spent the last three weeks in the house with two COVID infected children, one of whom who got slightly sick just had the vaccine. One who got not at all sick had the vaccine. The booster and I had the vaccine, the booster, and did not get sick. So I mean, it’s like it was. It is. It’s a totally livable disease with this situation. If you were, you know, for most people who are who are vaccinated and boosted. Elizabeth Holmes was convicted of four counts of defrauding investors this past week. She was not convicted of charges of defrauding the people who were subject to her boat of bogus Theranos tests, but she was convicted of defrauding investors, and unless she wins on appeal, she is very likely to be going to prison for many, many years, up to 20 years, in fact. So Emily is this justice?
S1: That’s pretty good. I don’t know. Have a lot of schadenfreude about Elizabeth Holmes. Sometimes I question my own schadenfreude about it, but it’s just, I mean, God, what a huckster. And I think there is something about messing around with public health in the way that she was doing. That just seems so offensive. And especially in this time where we’re thinking about public health all the time, the idea that someone came along and promised this like practically magical way of testing blood that was going to, you know, change everything and then delivered. Not a shred of that. It just seems like outrageous. It’s interesting that the counts against her about conning patients were not successful in court, and I think part of the reason for that is that doctors were able to make sure that those patients got proper testing right. There were these fail safes in the system that when her sick test didn’t deliver results were able to protect people. So I guess that’s a kind of cheery side of the story, but mostly it’s just seems in retrospect so unbelievable that she got access to this incredibly elite set of people at the top of American government. Jim Mattis, George Shultz. Like the whole foreign policy, Blob seems to have been on her board and then all of this gobs and gobs of money that came her way from venture capital funds. I guess my question is, how much is this conviction going to change the way this kind of selling operates?
S3: And there was also finding original press coverage, too, before the absence of great coverage there and uncorked it.
S1: But right? And then they tried to basically like bully and intimidate John Kerry, who of The Wall Street Journal, out of breaking the story, which was so crucial to understanding what had really happened.
S3: Don’t you assume that the answer to your question Emily is nothing at all will have changed? Zero. All the incentives are still there.
S1: Yeah, I guess. I think presumably those funds don’t want to get screwed in the same way, and there might be a little bit of hesitation. I mean, one thing that clearly went wrong was that people in Silicon Valley who had tech expertise pretended or imagined they could have kind of medical expertise in the same way. And that was why they got taken for such a ride. And I would assume that maybe they would do a better job of vetting and checking the next time.
S2: So, oh my God, I have so many thoughts about all of this. First of all, I actually do. I do not feel sorry for Elizabeth Holmes, but Elizabeth Holmes. There’s something depressing in the fact that the only woman in this club of messianic monsters who have have risen to the top of is is going to prison while people like Adam Neumann, if we work, or Travis Kalanick at an Uber to name just two of the terrible pros who who have run companies that shaded the line while they got away with billions. She’s she’s a disgrace, and I don’t.
S1: And she’s going to prison
S2: disgrace and she’s going to prison. And it’s, you know, of course, partly it is that she made the mistake of going to work in the medical field and not going to do something that was just some dumb service for millennials, where if it fails, no one cares. But she is by no means the only person who has lied or shaded or, you know, given given overly prophetic messianic talks about what her product is going to do. And it is sort of weird that she’s the only one who gets to go to prison and they all players, they all play the show. They all perform like this and. It’s, you know, I don’t as I said, I don’t feel sorry for her, but it is. It’s weird that Adam Neumann still has billions of dollars when we work with such a piece of fraud to. Thoroughness at least had an admirable goal like it wasn’t. She was trying to do something good. I don’t think she didn’t set out to create something that was a fraud. She set out to do something that was like actually would help people. She completely failed. She lied about it. She deceived people and she she took people for hundreds of millions of dollars. But you know, it wasn’t. It wasn’t just like Facebook or DoorDash or we were, which are not trying to do anything in the world. So she was aspiring to something greater. I the main point that I wanted to make, actually, it goes to your technical point. Emily, which is that. In fact, she didn’t get money from the people who knew about this field, right? She got money there and he got money from. Some VCs, but mostly from people who were investors who just were taken in by the marketing job, in the sales job and the people who are real experts were never really allowed to look at the machinery and look at the data. And that is obviously should have been a huge sign. I think it was a huge sign to the more biotech focused VCs in Silicon Valley because they were like, Well, if we can’t really see what this is doing, it’s not a good place for us to be. And I just remember as somebody who has raised, I mean, I spent years of my life at Atlas Obscura, raising money from VCs and other kinds of investors and the experts like when you go take your pitch to people who know more about this field than you do. Those are the best pitches. I mean, they’re so painful. People tell you exactly what’s wrong with your business and why your business is going to fail and all the mistakes that you’ve already made and all the mistakes that you’re going to make and why. It’s a really bad investment for anybody, and that’s really great. I mean, like those those meetings, when I would go and someone would just hand me my hat and tell me how stupid I was. Those were the most challenging, intellectually, intellectually challenging means I’ve ever had in my life, and they were great. And when somebody like that who gave you that many that much criticism then went ahead and invested. It was an incredible feeling of vindication. It was like, Well, we obviously have something at this guy who knows so much about this field. It was always a guy. If this guy who knows so much about this field is is willing to put his money in it, then maybe we really have something here. And it’s a shame that Holmes didn’t didn’t put thoroughness to the same test. She probably would have had a better outcome had she had she been more rigorous in what she was doing.
S1: So David, since you’re the person who’s actually raised money in this environment, is this conviction going to change anything?
S2: I want to borrow a point made by excellent, excellent writer Matt Levine, which is that there’s too much capital floating around right now. There’s too much money. Rich people have too much money, VC funds have too much money. They’ve had huge gains from everything. There’s more money available than there are decent investments. And so what happens is that that the money that’s available looks at the investments available and moves really, really quickly. If you don’t move fast, you don’t get a chance to invest in these new companies. And so people of doing even less due diligence than they used to do and some of them are going to be frauds. But on the other hand, if you if you get defrauded one time out of 10, if if the company you invest in one times out of 10 is just is a bullshit company built on complete nothingness, that’s not a really bad situation to be in. As long as as long as a couple of the other ones come through at 100x, you’re fine. So I don’t think there’s been any lesson at all learned. It’s not a great situation, so I think there will be yeah, I think there’ll be a lot more Ponzi schemes and and homes like fraudulent companies in the next few years. I look forward to the reporting about all of it.
S1: I find this aspect of inequality of wealth so distressing. Just like morally distressing, people are like looking for things to waste their money on because they have their sloshing around in it. And meanwhile, like most people, have so little.
S3: But isn’t that in tension with what you were saying earlier, which is that the gauntlet that that you have to run through with these people with all this money gives you a shape up routine that makes you sharper?
S2: Oh, I think when you choose to do it, and I guess what I’m just trying to say is that home homes missed out on that chance and took the easier route. And that was that was probably great for her ego for a while, but it wasn’t good for her company or her investors in the long run. Let’s go to cocktail chatter Emily Bazelon when you are having a delicious cocktail in the sun and whatever sunny place you are. What are you going to be chattering about with your dear ones?
S1: I am really enjoying Crossroads, the new novel by Jonathan Franzen, which several people recommended to me. It is really living up to my memories of the corrections as being this like big, bountiful, rich novel about a messed up family. So I recommend that, and I also deeply recommend an essay in The New Yorker, probably from last week by Parul Sehgal, who is one of my favorite critics. She wrote an essay called The Case Against the Trauma Plot, and it was one of those pieces. It’s so satisfying to read because the author identifies and names a concept that you’ve been sort of has been tickling at least the back of my mind for a long time, but that I didn’t really have a vocabulary or a framework for. I just thought it was excellent. And along the way, she skewered various books that I really also don’t like or object to along the same lines. So the case against the drama plot by a Parul Sehgal
S2: isn’t that mostly about a little life that Hanya Yanagihara novel, which I am the only person who hasn’t read?
S1: Exactly. And that is a book that I know lots of people loved. I really struggled with it. Just found it really manipulative and kind of maudlin. So, yeah, don’t get that one.
S2: It has various important people in my life. Favorite novel, notably my daughter, who’s over there. I’m in a
S1: minority here, so I feel safe criticizing this book. It’s already been a big hit. Lots of people loved it.
S2: John What’s your chatter?
S3: My chatter is about Window Swap, which is a website window dash swap outcome that you can go to and check out a window looking out onto the world anywhere in the world. So you can, you know, check out, I guess, where was I? Manitoba, Canada And and it shows you what’s happening out that window. And usually various people, particularly the ones in Iceland, have some incredibly pleasing music playing in the background. It just cycles through these incredible views of the world, and it’s very pleasing to have on in the background while you’re working, because it’s usually the music and sound is kind of either white noise or some pleasing music. But then you look up and you’re like, Suddenly you’re in Melbourne. They are recordings of video. So it’s not a live feed. So are you. If you’re looking in Stockholm, you won’t see snow on the ground, necessarily. So I recommend it to anyone.
S2: That sounds great. Very Dickerson Ian, too.
S3: I just felt very closed in the in my window in New York City, so I wanted something that was immediately transporting and there it was for me.
S2: My chatter is actually three quick chatters. First of all, I rewatched Fight Club with my sons the other day and realized, Wow, how much did the white nationalist dirtbag assholes who are so corrupting our country? Did they learn from it? It is so much of what the sort of paramilitary, ultra macho white supremacist ethos comes directly, and a lot of think that the actual tropes and the visuals and that kind of appearance and the haircuts come out of Fight Club. And while they learned the wrong lesson, they really learned the wrong lesson from that movie. I mean, it is. It does, I suppose, glorify violence in some ways, but it really is just about what a false substitute for actual human connection it is. And my goodness, what a disappointment. But then a lovely movie, a really lovely movie, which if you have kids, especially kids who are interested in video games, I cannot recommend enough. I didn’t. I was so skeptical. It’s called Free Guy came out last year. It’s Ryan Reynolds plays a background character in a video game who is alive and who develops a consciousness. And it’s it’s like, it’s like The Truman Show or Groundhog Day has that kind of vibe, and it’s a very funny movie and it. But it also grapples with the same hefty philosophical questions that those movies grapple with and in a very light way. No, it’s not the deepest movie ever made, but it’s it’s lovely and funny and thoughtful, and it’s just it’s great and and kids who like video games, I think will really groove to it. So definitely check out Free Guy. And finally, just to remind our listeners, if you live in Salt Lake City or Houston or Denver in Chicago, we have city cast and all of those cities. Now they’re also good. We are doing daily podcast and those cities. Please check them out there. Great ways to connect with your city or to reconnect with your city. They’re amazing. They’re warm, they’re funny, they’re smart. They’re useful. If you have any trouble finding them, let me know I will subscribe you in Salt Lake, Houston, Denver, Chicago and next week in Pittsburgh. So check it out. Also, of course, we have a listener chatter this week and our listener chatter this week was sent to us and they can be sent to us via a tweet. At Laib Gabfest, you can email them to us at Gabfest, at Slate.com, and it’s something that that in raptures you, that you find curious or diverting or fascinating or horrifying that you will be talking about, please send them to us at Gabfest, at Slate.com or tweet them to us at like Gabfest. And our listener chatter this week comes from Cynthia Weiner.
S5: Hi Slate Political Gabfest. This is Cynthia Weiner calling from Indianapolis, Indiana. My cocktail chatter for this week is looking at the winners of Smithsonian Magazines Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards for 2021. These pictures are hilarious photos of animals caught in the wild doing various poses. What I like about it is not so much the pictures themselves as some of the hilarious captions of these animals caught out in nature. My favorite one is not one of the 10 winners, but a runner up, which shows three little raccoons who look like they are whispering to one another as they are on some sort of stakeout. I hope you enjoy it.
S2: I love cute animal photos I’ve watched. I haven’t looked at this year’s entries, but I look at that contest in the past. It’s so, so charming. That’s our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank. Our researcher is Bridgette Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate Audio. June Thomas, managing producer. And Alicia Montgomery, executive producer of Slate Podcast. Please follow us on Twitter at Slate Gabfest and Tweet Chat or to us there or email it to us at Gabfest at Slate.com for Emily, Bazelon and John Dickerson and Jamelle Bouie. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week. Hey, Slate, plus how are you? I was listening to the culture Gabfest year end show the other day, and they had a question on there that grabbed my attention and made me think which was what work of art would you like to own? Would you like to possess? What a great subject. It was really fun listening to them. Talk about it and I thought, Why don’t we? Why don’t we steal this question and talk about it ourselves? And Jamelle has stayed around to do this with us, so we’re going to do it and I’m going to start. So I would start by by first. In a moment of virtue signalling, say that there are very few works of art I would actually want to possess. I’m not that it’s not my form of greed, and I think it would be a lot of responsibility to own something that was very, very valuable and it would be a lot of work and you’d have to, you know, have humidity control in your house and things like that. So I wouldn’t want that, but I will. I want to run through a few things that gave us quite a lot of thought. There’s a photo I actually own the piece of art that I like most in the world, and it’s a photo by a woman named Anastasia Taylor Lind of a wedding in Nagorno-Karabakh. And it’s an amazing photo that I got her to print at a huge scale. It ran in the New York Times, I don’t know, 10, 15 years ago, and it’s just an incredible photograph compositionally. And then also just it just says speaks to me. It seems to me so that the only thing I’ve ever lusted for, I actually have. So that’s great. But if I could, if I could. They’re like, Oh, I don’t like most Rothko’s, but there are few Rothko’s that kind of vibrate. And I would like one of the ones that vibrate one of those vibrating Rothko’s. That would be great. I would have that. I would have a kind of calm room would be a big room and there would be a big Rothko on the wall in my meditation room. And then also in my meditation room would be the thing that I maybe I want most, which is that this artist named Wolfgang Laib creates sculptures out of beeswax, and he made this a room out of beeswax and it glows and gleams, and it smells amazing. And it was it was the greatest sensation I’ve ever had in an art museum. I would like to own that. And then in my fun room,
S3: like God, I would pick up this damn house. Oh, it’s
S1: well, let’s it’s great.
S2: Once you get started, you can just keep going. And my fun room I would have. Alexander Calder has this thing he created, I think, pretty early in his education and no one in his career. But it’s a it’s called Finny Fish and it’s in the National Gallery of Art. And it’s it’s a wire and metal sculpture of a fish in which the gills and and and scales of the fish are made of like little shards of ceramic or shards of glass. And it’s so cool and so fun. Whenever I see it, I crack up. I would like to have Finny fish and then I probably get a Van Gogh just to have and be able to sell in case of emergency. The venue, the church at Parul. I would get that. What about what about you, Jamelle?
S4: So my favorite photographer is Walker Evans, who was his most known for his work as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression under the New Deal. And a lot of his work from this period is just documenting the effects of the depression on American life. But he has this eye for structure and for graphic design. And so a lot of my favorite photos of from Evans in this period are just of buildings and structures with, you know, advertisements and, you know, that kind of stuff. And so in his monograph here, Walker Evans is American photographs. There is a photo that is just a picture of a shuttered building like on a city block that the picture is of a of a business advertising photographs ad for photo studio is for licenses or whatever you might need. And it’s sort of like a nice, like little meta photo of of the kind of work Evans does, and I’m a real big fan of that kind of photo, so that’s what I’d like to own. Obviously, listeners can’t see it, but you guys can. So I’m just going to put it up on my screen here.
S2: Hey, Jamelle, do you know this is a separate point, you know about the greatest secret in Washington DC that there is? You can go to the photography collection at the National Gallery. They will let you in and they will give you a curator and you can ask them to bring up any print, any negatives that you want and they have like they have.
S4: I did not.
S2: It’s an incredible. It’s incredible. It’s it’s like this secret door at the National Gallery, but it’s totally open to the public. No one goes to it. I just happened to be tipped off to it and spent one of the best kind of hours of my life. I mean, they will show you. You know, Robert Frank, they’ll show you the Robert Frank negative sheet printed. It’s incredible.
S4: So, so, so to clarify this, will they will they show you a contact sheet of the. The negatives were they were the content, they were actual negatives, you know,
S2: they definitely show you the contact sheet, they will show you prints, they may even show you the negatives. I can’t remember. But they definitely had, you know, contact sheet. So you can look at where he’s, you know, circled and see to see, Oh yeah, he’s picking this one, right?
S4: Right. It’s great one one dream job. I sort of I wish I could have. I don’t know, are the people for museums who actually make prints, right? Like for photographers, like when you need to? Sometimes they have original prints. Some of those actually seem to make a new print for an exhibition or something. And so, you know, you can just do that with negatives, and there’d be a lot of fun. I once had a chance to look at Sally Mann’s room where she does her printing. And that was there was a lot of fun.
S2: Emily What work of art are you going to possess?
S1: I feel like I deserve to go last because I did not put enough thought into this, but I really love art and objects that I feel some personal connection to. And so I was thinking about two photographers I’ve worked with on stories whose work is just amazing. Ruddy Roy, who I worked on my piece about Utako Bailey’s exoneration with, and Larry Fink, who I did a story about juries in Louisiana with, and Ruddy has this series that he showed me where he was in the Mississippi and maybe Louisiana delta taking pictures. I can’t remember if it was after Katrina or a different hurricane, but they are these portraits that are kind of done in real time. They’re very vivid. And he showed them to me because he thinks they and I think he’s right. They were kind of evocative of the Walker Evans work, the Dorothea Lange work that work from the depression era. So I really love them. And Larry Fink is an amazing portrait photographer who is just a total character. And I I actually Larry took a picture of me talking to two of my subjects and my story that I sheepishly asked him for a copy of. And like you David, I got an immense pleasure out of having that
S2: picture, right? So your favorite the work you would most like to possess is a picture of you.
S1: I think I was trying to bring it back around to the idea that I am lucky enough to actually already have something by a photographer I deeply admire. But yes, now you’ve turned it into my narcissism, which I guess that’s also what it’s about, though I really didn’t mean it that way.
S2: John What’s yours?
S3: I have an original portrait I commissioned of myself by a Caravaggio.
S2: That’s the 12 foot by 16 foot one.
S3: Yeah, yeah. You may have noticed that a blown up version was posted on the side of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. No, I I’ve I’m caught unawares a little bit because, yeah, I have. I can’t sort through all the many pieces of art and photographs and sculpture that I’ve. I’ve really had deep attachments at various different parts of my life, like so but it does. So at the moment, I’ll just give you the moment. There’s an etching by a hopper, etching an Edward Hopper etching called Night Shadows, which is just a single man walking in a hat down a city street. I’m going to guess it’s Manhattan, and it’s seen from above, not directly above, but sort of at an angle from above. And it’s just I’m captivated by attempts to to to capture certain kinds of light. And this captures Late Night Street light for me. And also, the solitary city thing is very much something that I feel affectionate towards. The other one is the Caravaggio, the conversion of Saint Paul, which I think that in some ways the same way Bob Dylan for me is both an artist, but he’s also an artist to whom I attach my first sets of understanding of certain things about complexity of life, and so that a lot of ideas that I’m affectionate towards, I attach to him because I was discovering them at that specific period of my life. So they’re they’re invested with all of that meaning. And that’s true of the conversion of Saint Paul. The light in that and the way that Caravaggio captures these various different lights and the reflection off the horse. For those who can’t see Saint Paul, it’s on. He’s on the road to Damascus and he has fallen under his horse. And the light, which is the light of God, is bouncing off the horse, bouncing off his arms. It’s just an amazing in much the same way Vermeer captures these really elegant, different kinds of moments of light. And so those are two, I don’t, you know, I’m hoping to live just in a two room place. So those would be the two that I would hang. I don’t have David sprawling.
S2: I didn’t even talk about the installation art outside. Yeah. I mean, I feel like I. The Andy Goldsworthy wall,
S3: I feel like I’m definitely leaving a lot on the table because I can’t, you know, but but those are the ones I’ll I’ll conjure for the moment.
S2: All right, sleepless. Let us know what work of art you were going to hang in your home and we can all come up with a caper to steal these works of art. That would be great. Also, a great slate plus feature by Slate Plus.