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Q&A: Jim Reid, Lead Singer Of Jesus & Mary Chain

May 15th, 2017

REID BROTHERS JESUS MARY CHAIN

 

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Hard to remember now but there was a time when the Jesus & Mary Chain divided the population of planet Earth into two camps: Those who were sure they were the Second Coming and those who thought they were the end of Western Civilization. Such was the response 30 years ago to the band’s debut, Psychocandy. History would, of course, judge it a seminal and deeply influential classic. After a lengthy hiatus, the band is active again, and recently released  the most def Damage And Joy, their first LP since 1998’s Munki. Don’t call it it a comeback, call it a return to form — and yet another reminder that the band once derided as unlistenable noise has become the soundtrack of our lives. In advance of the re-activated Jesus And Mary Chain’s show at Union Transfer on Monday May 15th, we got  frontman Jim Reid on the phone from his home in Devon, England, and he spoke candidly and at length about noise and melody, drugs and religion, and life 30 years after lighting the fuse on a cultural flashpoint that’s still blowing up in our faces like an exploding cigar that just keeps giving.

PHAWKER: First things first, let’s just go over some ancient history. How did the name Jesus and Mary Chain come about?

JIM REID: Well, I mean, it’s the same as any other band, I suppose. We looked for ideas and stuff, like, things that we thought would be cool and not like any other bands names. We actually had a gig before we had a name. We kind of arranged this London show with [Creation Records founder] Alan McGee. It was based on demos that we’d made. But we’d kind of made all these demos under various names, most of which were absolutely shite, to be honest with you. The one I can remember was, I think, The Poppy Seeds. We were The Poppy Seeds for awhile.

PHAWKER: The Poppy Seeds? [laughs]

JIM REID: There were others that I can’t remember. And then it was William that just said, I don’t know where he got it from, but he just said ‘The Jesus and Mary Chain.’ And at first it sounded like, “Naah, no way.” And then you kind of think about it, you think, ‘well, fuck, that sounds like no other band.’ So we went with it.

PHAWKER: Were you guys raised Catholic?

JIM REID: Eh, no. I mean, religion wasn’t a part of our lives. I mean, it’s kind of a fascinating subject. I discovered The Bible when I was like in my late teens and out of curiosity read through it to see what it was all about. But, in the end, came away with the idea that it’s kind of a lot of mumbo-jumbo. For a different set of people and a completely different time it probably stopped people from killing each other before there was any such thing as the law. Stuff like that. So it served a purpose for then, but, you know, I just don’t think it really belongs in the modern era.

PHAWKER: And now that there is a thing called Rule of Law it provides and excuse for people to kill each other.

JIM REID: Yeah, exactly. That’s the irony isn’t it. Now people kill in the name of God.

PHAWKER: When did you guys come up with the idea of combining Phil Spector-style pop melodicism with, you know, White Light/White Heat-style noise?

JIM REID: Well, we were always into both pop music and noise music, so we kind of thought, well, why can’t we combine the two? I mean, we weren’t the first, I would never claim to be. I mean, the Velvet Underground didveverything that we attempted to do, but 20 years earlier. But, you know, that was one of the facets of the Velvets that we absolutely adored, that they could, on the same album, they could have “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and then “[I’m] Waiting for the Man.” You know, you say, ‘well, fuck,  that’s it. That’s the answer.’ Why be tied down to one style? At that time, you know, there was people making noise music, and there’s people making pop music. But nobody was combining the two. And we thought, well, that would be us. That’s what we would do.

PHAWKER: What role, if any, did drug use play in the creative development of the band and its sound and/or songwriting?
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BEING THERE: Metallica @ The Linc

May 13th, 2017

Metallica_@Linc_by_Dylan_Long

Photo by DYLAN LONG

“We don’t give a shit,” declared James Hetfield, frontman of the heavy metal machine known as Metallica, to the sold-out crowd Lincoln Financial Field last night. Hetfield then elaborated, stating that Metallica doesn’t care what you look like, what you’re wearing, what religion you practice, or your political beliefs. “We’re here to celebrate live music and being alive. This is family.” It was a touching and beautiful moment between Hetfield and the crowd, a moment which of course would be followed by imminent doom and riffs from the bowels of hell.

Kicking off the night with “Hardwired,” the title track from their most recent LP Hardwired… To Self Destruct, I was immediately blown away by how tight these guys both looked and sounded onstage. Yes, it’s Metallica, but I admittedly had my doubts that the members of Metallica in their 50s would be able to match the intensity they possessed when drummer Lars Ulrich was 16. The good news is that I was totally wrong. Hetfield and co. were running back and forth across the gigantic stage, doing laps around the ramps that bled into the crowd and connected back to the stage — jumping, squatting, and most important of all, shredding. Hetfield’s voice sounded like a finely-aged leather jacket, full of toughness and vigor. Not only was the musicianship impressive on all fronts, the production and sound for this show were equally as mental, with fire, pyro and explosions at every turn.

While Metallica has found themselves on the shorter end of the stick of success for what’s felt like forever, they’ve seemed to finally come to a game-changing realization with their latest album and live show: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Some simply brush this mantra off as a revisiting of their earlier days, an attempt to relive what Metallica once was. However, even if that’s exactly what they’re doing, who gives a shit? They kicked ass. The riffs cut into the crowd with precision and force, Lars’ kick drum beat its way to the front of the stage with every thud, and Robert Trujillo ripped some absolutely gnarly bass solos. Unloading more of their new material, Metallica electrified Lincoln Financial Field with pyro-infused performances of “Atlas, Rise!,” “Now That We’re Dead,” and “Moth Into Flame.” Several oldies were woven into the set to balance out the new, such as “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “One,” “Master Of Puppets,” and a firework-ridden finale featuring nothing other than “Enter Sandman.”

Having grown up on Garage Inc., Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice For All, seeing these guys still going strong brought me great joy. Towards the end of the set, Hetfield told the crowd, “I hope you guys are feeling better than when you first got here; I sure am.” At that moment it was clear to me then that metal is in the blood of these four gentlemen, and the fact that they’ve stuck with their craft through thick and thin attests to their love for live music, for rock & roll and for the Metallica family that they have spent their careers creating and appreciating. – DYLAN LONG

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MUST SEE: Friends In Low Places

May 13th, 2017

Part one of a new Dutch documentary that says what American media is afraid to say.

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TONIGHT: Sometimes Salvation

May 12th, 2017

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PREVIOUSLY: The Crowes’ axis turned on the brothers Robinson – frontman Chris Robinson, who actually sounds like he earned the sandpaper timbre in his petulant rasp of a voice, and guitarist Rich Robinson, who makes a commanding grasp of the early ’70s blues-rock vernacular look effortless. On and off since the early 1990’s, The Black Crowes have cut their own path on Rich Robinson’s unique brand of vintage melody and classic-rock swagger. Hits like “She Talks to Angels” and “Jealous Again” off their multi-platinum debut Shake Your Moneymaker helped them find footing among the grunge and heavy metal that was so popular at the time. They followed with The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion which silenced the critics who wrote them off as a cheap Faces rip-off. Though the Crowes would go on to sell more than 30 million albums, the Robinson brothers often toxic relationship resulted in a series of breakups and two abandoned album attempts. While they always remained a force on stage, the music they did manage to release sounded like a band falling apart. In 2015, they broke up for good after a dispute between the Robinson brothers about who “owned” the band. Since then, Rich Robinson has stepped out on his own. […] Robinson took the time to talk to Phawker about the new record as well as the Crowes, the state of the music biz, the importance of vinyl and how he really feels about Rick Rubin. MORE

25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE BLACK CROWES’ ‘SOUTHERN HARMONY & MUSICAL COMPANION’ FEAT. TALLER + GUESTS TONIGHT @ ARDMORE MUSIC HALL

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Everything You Need To Know About Net Neutrality But Were Too Low Information Voter To Ask

May 12th, 2017

The end is nigh. Share this with everyone you know, before it’s too late!

PREVIOUSLY: Internet users deserve far better, and we thought we were going to get it from a president who promised to “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality.” Watch now as he and his FCC chairman try to spin tomorrow’s betrayal as another “mission accomplished.” Don’t believe it. This bogus victory has become all too familiar to those watching the Obama administration and its appointees squander opportunities for real change. The reality is that reform is just a rhetorical front for industry compromises that reward the biggest players and K-Street lobbyists while giving the public nothing. It’s not the FCC chairman’s job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users. More than two million people have taken action on behalf of Net Neutrality. Tomorrow, we’ll all get the carpet yanked from beneath our feet. Net Neutrality is the freedom of speech, freedom of choice issue of the 21st century. It’s the guarantee of a more open and democratic media system that was baked into the Internet at its founding. On Tuesday, Obama’s FCC is going to sell that out. MORE

PREVIOUSLY:  When Is Comcast Buying Time-Warner NOT A Monopoly? Apparently, When David L. Cohen Hosts A Couple Obama Fundraisers At His Mt. Airy Manse

PREVIOUSLY: Sign Petition, Help Netflix Find Its Spine & Stop The Internet From Becoming Another Cable TV Rip-Off

PREVIOUSLY:  Comcast, Where The Internet Goes To Die

PREVIOUSLY: Spielberg In Town To Honor Comcast For Doing Something Nice And Un-Evil For A Change

PREVIOUSLY: WORTH REPEATING: 8 Reasons Why Comcast Sucks

PREVIOUSLY: WEASELS RIPPED MY INTERNET: Cowardly House Dems Cave On Net Neutrality, Cut FCC Off At The Balls

THE VERGE: In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.

And the power of the new network-industrial complex is immense and unchecked, even by other giants: AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime and Google’s Hangouts video chat services for the preposterously silly reason that the apps were “preloaded” on each company’s phones instead of downloaded from an app store. Verizon and AT&T have each blocked the Google Wallet mobile payment system because they’re partners in the competing (and not very good) ISIS service. Comcast customers who stream video on their Xboxes using Microsoft’s services get charged against their data caps, but the Comcast service is tax-free.

We’re really, really fucking this up.

But we can fix it, I swear. We just have to start telling each other the truth. Not the doublespeak bullshit of regulators and lobbyists, but the actual truth. Once we have the truth, we have the power — the power to demand better not only from our government, but from the companies that serve us as well. “This is a political fight,” says Craig Aaron, president of the advocacy group Free Press. “When the internet speaks with a unified voice politicians rip their hair out.”

We can do it. Let’s start.

THE INTERNET IS A UTILITY, JUST LIKE WATER AND ELECTRICITY

Go ahead, say it out loud. The internet is a utility.

There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion. Internet access isn’t a luxury or a choice if you live and participate in the modern economy, it’s a requirement. […] It’s time to just end these stupid legal word games and say what we all already know: internet access is a utility. A commodity that should get better and faster and cheaper over time. Anyone who says otherwise is lying for money. MORE

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: It Was 30 Years Ago Today!

May 11th, 2017

Terry Gross Love Song

 

WABE: On May 11, 1987, NPR first broadcast a program that has become synonymous with public radio: “Fresh Air.” The interview and commentary show originally ran as a live, three-hour weekday broadcast, hosted by Terry Gross and airing only in Philadelphia. While “Fresh Air” is still produced by Philadelphia member station WHYY, NPR now syndicates it in a daily, one-hour national edition. According to WHYY, 6 million listeners tune in each week on more than 646 NPR stations across the country and in Europe. And in the age of streaming and downloading, “Fresh Air” is NPR’s most downloaded podcast for two years in a row. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Gross was born in 1951 in Brooklyn. She grew up in Sheepshead Bay, between Avenues X and Y. It was a new neighborhood, with postwar apartment buildings that went up on the site of an old racetrack. As a little girl, Gross loved realistic fiction (Beverly Cleary, the Betsy-Tacy series) and would retreat to the couch with a book when her family visited relatives. Gross’s father helped run a family business selling materials to hatmakers. Her mother had worked as a secretary but quit after Gross’s older brother was born, and later Gross would seek the life outside the home that wasn’t available to her mother.

As a freshman at SUNY Buffalo, Gross wanted to write. But she was worried she wasn’t good enough to be great, and she struggled to find a subject. At the same time, she was shedding her ‘‘good girl’’ identity. She tried being a hippie — ‘‘I was too inhibited to be very convincing at it. And too Sheepshead Bay, probably’’ — and she tried drugs. One of the first times she dropped LSD, she determinedly brought along paper and pen: ‘‘I’m going to have a subject,’’ she recalls thinking. ‘‘All of my writerly inhibitions are going to open up, and my talent is going to be released!’’ LSD didn’t help her writing, but for Gross it was a beneficially ‘‘immersive experience.’’

In the first months after she graduated in 1972, Gross floundered. She had married, but would soon divorce;Terry Gross 70s copy she was fired from a job teaching eighth grade after only six weeks (she couldn’t control the class). But then she discovered radio. One afternoon, about a year after she finished school, she was sitting in her house in Buffalo listening to ‘‘Womanpower,’’ a feminist program on WBFO, the university station. One of her roommates was a guest, and she came out as gay on the air. Gross was surprised by the revelation, but more so by the way her roommate had delivered it: sitting before a microphone in a radio studio.

Gross, who had wanted to do ‘‘something in media’’ but hadn’t known how to begin, was intrigued. Through her roommate, she learned there was an opening on ‘‘Womanpower,’’ and Gross started on the show as a volunteer. Just over a year later, she moved to a program called ‘‘This Is Radio.’’ The show’s superpower was a phone line that allowed the staff to call anywhere in New York State toll-free. Gross would scour the Village Voice classifieds for people who might be interesting — jazz musicians offering lessons, a tattoo artist — and call them up and interview them. During college Gross had shed some of her innate reserve, but ‘‘I still was just inhibitively shy,’’ she said. ‘‘With a microphone, I wasn’t shy.’’ In 1975, Gross moved to Philadelphia to take over ‘‘Fresh Air,’’ which was created by a former WBFO colleague (NPR began distributing it as a daily show in 1987). Gross says she was ‘‘always inquisitive,’’ and her curiosity vibrates on the surface of old tape. MORE

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MUST SEE TV: Viceland’s Desus & Mero

May 8th, 2017

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BY BILL HANGLEY JR. Yes, Desus and Mero are stoners. But they’re not foggy wookie stoners. They’re rat-a-tat Bronx stoners who’ll snatch a sentence out of your mouth, run with it into the middle of the street, swing it around until it gets dizzy and then give it back to you upside-down and laughing. What results are some of the best interviews on television: The Daily Show as delivered by two smartass kids riding the subway all day when they should be in school. It’s not just that they ask the right questions, as in last week’s interview with Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio [SEE BELOW]:

“You ever roll up at Red Lobster like, forty deep?

“When was the last time you’ve been in a chain restaurant? Like your plane got stranded in Jacksonville?”

“What’s the worst thing you ever ate on the show?”

They know how to shut up when they’re getting the right answers. Again, from the Colicchio interview:

 “I probably would have been diagnosed with ADD. So I couldn’t get through a recipe. I got really frustrated. And when I was about fifteen, I guess, my dad came home with a book by a chef named Jacques Pépin, called La Technique, and it stressed the importance of technique and methods. I still can’t figure out why the hell my father brought that book back. He said he got it from the library at work. My father was a corrections officer in a jail. So I’m not sure how that book ended up in that jail. But he brought it home and it completely changed my life.”

Desus and Mero honed their craft on YouTube and podcasts, and just celebrated their 100th late-night show on the Viceland channel. Their politics are merciless (“Trump goes on Sirius – why? Just another hot take on the Civil War and his boy Andrew Jackson. Another event he found out about yesterday, or like five minutes before the briefing…”), and their taste in video clips shamelessly juvenile (one choice featured an arm wrestler snapping his humerus), but their humor is good-natured and contagious, and their tag-team improvisation invariably disarms their guests and brings out their best.

Some recent favorites include rap duo Run the Jewels  (“are you going to add Bernie Sanders as a third member?”), science guru Neil DeGrasse Tyson (“best-known astrophysicist from the Bronx – at least I got that”), political pundit Angela Rye (“what is it called when you got two different baby mamas pregnant at the same time? What kind of twins is that? Bronx twins. I didn’t say that”) and Blackish star Anthony Anderson: “My momma be asking for fifty grand at a clip! Oh my God! That’s why I had to give her a fucking job! Now it’s a tax writeoff.”

If you’re not watching, watch. Like all great interviewers they’re genuinely interested in their guests and what they have to share, and like all great improvisers they make everyone onstage raise their game:

DESUS: “I’m out here in these streets. What’s the best place to eat in New York that’s not Papaya King?”

TOM COLICCIO: “Best restaurant in New York besides Papaya King? What are you going out for?”

DESUS: “To get slizzered.”

MERO: “And then possibly go home, you know what I’m saying? Get a little cheek action?”

DESUS: “I’m saying…”

COLICCIO: “I got a few that could fit the bill. So you’re talking about a good romantic place?”

DESUS: “I ain’t say all that.”

COLICCIO: “In that case, stick with Papaya King. You’ll be all right.”

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CINEMA: Star Bored

May 6th, 2017

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NEW YORK MAGAZINE: The saddest thing about the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which carries the official title Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is that it’s going to make a lot of people think they’re happy. “Hold on,” you say. “Think they’re happy? If they think they’re happy, then they are happy.” Which is often true, but not always. I think I’m happy eating a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large fries. But a few minutes later, when my salt/sugar/fat high has dissipated into self-disgust, I realize that what I’ve paid for is mainly bloat. The ruling aesthetic of the Marvel universe is now bloat. Which isn’t to say that the first Guardians wasn’t fun. By Marvel standards, it was a modest affair, a goofy break from the dark nights of the soul/tortures of the damned experienced by Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, et al. (Never mind the kiddie Macbeths and Oedipuses in the even more grandiose DC universe.) Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, was a likable screw-up; the wisecracking raccoon had some good comebacks; and there was a jolly, B-movie vibe that brought me back to the days of the old (admittedly terrible) Flash Gordon serial, as well as the first Star Wars movie and Joss Whedon’s much-missed Firefly. The Guardians might have been saving the galaxy but for once what was absent was the weight of the world. This one is heavier, man. It has, Gods help us, a theme, not to mention a god — or demigod, the deistic hierarchy of the Marvel universe being opportunistically elastic. MORE

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ALBUM REVIEW: Slowdive s/t

May 5th, 2017

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The last time English shoegazers Slowdive released an album, I was in kindergarten, and Bill Clinton was in the White House weaponizing Wall Street with deregulation when he wasn’t busy paying for Monica Lewinski’s dry cleaning bills. I was learning basic arithmetic, or maybe the “clean up, everybody, everywhere” song, but I think the counterculture adults were mostly either flying the flannel on the grunge bandwagon or throwing down mad adlibs at coffee shop poetry slams. Daria, a cartoon that followed a feminist, critical-thinking teenager through the intellectual wasteland of a wealthy suburban high school, was one of the most popular shows on TV. In the context of this decade, which celebrated difference and sensitivity, the shoegaze movement, led by My Bloody Valentine, made perfect sense. A genre that blended distorted electric guitar swells with obscured, saccharine vocal melodies, shoegaze music gave critics the opportunity to hone their thesaurus skills in the search of synonyms for “shimmering.”

Well, it goes without saying that a lot’s changed in the past twenty years. A nihilistic populist wave has washed over the country. Irony has turned against the satirists and put some of the sharpest minds in shackles. And most notably, technology over-load has overstimulated the population into a horde of want-to-be automatons, waiting for their opportunity to plug their brains into the matrix. So why’s a band that hasn’t released new material since 1995 coming out with an album now? Do they need to make a buck? Are they just bored? Nope, not as I see it. In the context of the millions staring at screens, living in their minds, Slowdive’s new self-titled album does what any good shoegaze does; it brings you down to earth, into your body, where you notice how shallow your breath has become. Seriously, after their long hiatus, with their undulating, swelling, swirly, etc. post-rock sound, Slowdive’s new album feels like a good, deep breath.
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CINEMA: The Riddler

May 5th, 2017

FreeJulianAssange2

RISK (2017, directed by Laura Poitras, 97 minutes, U.S.)

Buskirk AvatarBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC As Risk, the latest film from documentarian Laura Poitras, gets underway — with its darkened hotel rooms, glowing LED screens and Poitras’ distinctive, hushed, monotone narration — it quickly feels like we’re back for a sequel to her Academy Award winning profile of whistle-blower Edward Snowden, 2014’s Citizenfour. Nobody is calling Risk a sequel, yet in some ways it is that and more, a film in production both before and after Citizenfour that contains and builds on all of the earlier films themes. As the film sets out to tell the story of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, it soon becomes clear that the Wikileaks story is hugely complicated in both its details and ramifications. Personifying all that is Assange himself, a man of contradictions and complications, someone about whom everyone seems to have an opinion. Poitras’ profile of Assange, in ways seemingly purposeful and accidental, underlines the tragic insufficiency of our media system to untangle such complex issues as those brought up by this sometimes infuriating man and his public crusade.

As Poitras starts to unwind this story it seems that right away the important context of Wikileaks birth goes unmentioned. They could go back to the history of how America’s massive intelligence services were formed. Or perhaps they could just start with the story of the Church Commission, the last real attempt the nation made back in the mid 1970s to gain oversight and control of the massive power of the the domestic and foreign intelligence services of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. It was both Watergate and the revelation of laws being broken to harass the constitutionally-protected non-violent risk_xlgactivities of the civil rights and anti-war movements that fueled the commission’s fight to pull back the reins on the illegal overreach the U.S. intelligence services. The reform that came in the committee’s wake did much to curtail these crimes against the American people by their own government.
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INCOMING: God Of Thunder

May 4th, 2017

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In advance of his performance at the Trocadero on Friday June 2nd as part of the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con nerd jamboree at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (June 1-4), we got Gene Simmons, commander in chief of the Kiss Army, on the horn. DISCUSSED: Trump, comic books, his $300 million net worth, the death of rock, Spinal Tap, and making peace with Terry Gross. Coming soon to a Phawker near you!

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NOW PLAYING: The Rough Draft Of America

May 4th, 2017

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The United States Constitution, the global lodestar of liberal democracy, remains a work in progress. The first draft of the Constitution took over 100 days of furious argument and deliberation among the Founding Fathers to finally complete, and it has been amended multiple times since its genesis in 1787. Two hundred and thirty years later, constitutional lawyers, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, even the POTUS continue to debate the exact parameters and intended consequences of constitutional language such as “We the People,” the “Right to Bear Arms,” and “Equal Rights for All.” A new exhibit at the National Constitution Center called American Treasures: Documenting The Nation’s Founding traces the evolution of these foundational ideals. For the first time in our nation’s history, after centuries of languishing in the obscurity of private hands, the complete set of original drafts and revisions of the United States Constitution have been made accessible to the American people. “These are the most constitutionally significant documents in American history,” says Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the NCC. The exhibit utilizes interactive touchscreen displays that explain the meaning of the language in the documents and map how it has changed from draft to draft, and who was behind these changes — how the Constitution was conceived, argued over, revised and revised again. American Treasures not only gives you a deeper understanding of what democratic principles like “liberty” and “justice” mean in the American experience, it will deepen your appreciation for just how precious and rare these founding principles were at the time of the nation’s birth and remain so even to this day, and why we can never let them be taken away from us. – MAX ABRAMS

AMERICAN TREASURES: DOCUMENTING THE NATION’S FOUNDING IS NOW ON DISPLAY AT THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER IN PHILADELPHIA

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WORTH REPEATING: Tales Of Ordinary Madness

May 4th, 2017

TRUMP MAD

 

NEW YORKER: Only one Administration is known to have considered using the Twenty-fifth Amendment to remove a President. In 1987, at the age of seventy-six, Ronald Reagan was showing the strain of the Iran-Contra scandal. Aides observed that he was increasingly inattentive and inept. Howard H. Baker, Jr., a former senator who became Reagan’s chief of staff in February, 1987, found the White House in disarray. “He seemed to be despondent but not depressed,” Baker said later, of the President.

Baker assigned an aide named Jim Cannon to interview White House officials about the Administration’s dysfunction, and Cannon learned that Reagan was not reading even short documents. “They said he wouldn’t come over to work—all he wanted to do was watch movies and television at the residence,” Cannon recalled, in “Landslide,” a 1988 account of Reagan’s second term, by Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus. One night, Baker summoned a small group of aides to his home. One of them, Thomas Griscom, told me recently that Cannon, who died in 2011, “floats this idea that maybe we’d invoke the Constitution.” Baker was skeptical, but, the next day, he proposed a diagnostic process of sorts: they would observe the President’s behavior at lunch.

In the event, Reagan was funny and alert, and Baker considered the debate closed. “We finish the lunch and Senator Baker says, ‘You know, boys, I think we’ve all seen this President is fully capable of doing the job,’ ” Griscom said. They never raised the issue again. In 1993, four years after leaving office, Reagan received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. His White House physicians said that they saw no symptoms during his Presidency. In 2015, researchers at Arizona State University published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, in which they examined transcripts of news conferences in the course of Reagan’s Presidency and discovered changes in his speech that are linked to the onset of dementia. Reagan had taken to repeating words and using “thing” in the place of specific nouns, but they could not prove that, while he was in office, his judgment and decision-making were affected.

Mental-health professionals have largely kept out of politics since 1964, when the magazine Fact asked psychiatrists if they thought Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit to be President. More than a thousand said that he wasn’t, calling him “warped,” “impulsive,” and a “paranoid schizophrenic.” Goldwater sued for libel, successfully, and, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association added to its code of ethics the so-called “Goldwater rule,” which forbade making a diagnosis without an in-person examination and without receiving permission to discuss the findings publicly. Professional associations for psychologists, social workers, and others followed suit. With regard to Trump, however, the rule has been broken repeatedly. More than fifty thousand mental-health professionals have signed a petition stating that Trump is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that, in this instance, the Goldwater rule is outweighed by another ethical commitment: a “duty to warn” others when he assesses that a person might harm them. Dodes told me, “Trump is going to face challenges from people who are not going to bend to his will. If you have a President who takes it as a personal attack on him, which he does, and flies into a paranoid rage, that’s how you start a war.”

Like many of his colleagues, Dodes speculates that Trump fits the description of someone with malignant narcissism, which is characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies. On February 13th, in a letter to the Times, Dodes and thirty-four other mental-health professionals wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” MORE

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