Issue 9: Sept 30-Oct 7, 2017

In this week’s newsletter, we decide what we should and shouldn’t forgive Mark Zuckerberg for (see editorial, below). We also, as usual, offer a pithy summary of Trump’s doings and their significance as well as background readings. But before you dive in, I wanted to call your attention to two pieces I recently wrote—one in Vox, on the meaning of mindful resistance, and one in Wired, on how meditation can erode the cognitive biasesthat underlie the “psychology of tribalism.”

And as long as I have your attention: (1) Feel free to use the “share” function at the bottom of the newsletter to email the newsletter to anyone you think might like it; (2) Feel free to email us with reactions and ideas at We don’t have time to reply to each email, but rest assured that we read each one (mindfully).

—Robert Wright


Bump Stock Bipartisanship? The Las Vegas massacre seemed to create a bipartisan opening to ban “bump stocks,” which the shooter used to turn semi-automatic weapons into functionally automatic ones. Even the NRA signaled support for a ban, though Chris Cillizza argued that this was a ploy—that in calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to handle the issue, the NRA was trying to forestall broader action in Congress.

Iran Deal Threatened: Reports indicated that Trump would take “a middle ground of sorts” by not recertifying the Iran nuclear deal but not recommending that Congress reinstate sanctions. The move would increase the chances that Republicans in Congress, most of whom opposed the deal, will at some future date derail it even if Iran continues to comply with its terms. At a hearing on Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that he believed maintaining the agreement was in the U.S. national interest.

Rex Rift: NBC reported that the “rift” between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had widened after Tillerson failed to deny that he had called the president a moron. Buzzfeed reported that Mattis, Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have a “suicide pact … whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.”

DREAM Deal Deferred?: Politico reports: “The White House is finalizing a plan to demand hard-line immigration reforms in exchange for supporting a fix on the DACA program… an approach that risks alienating Democrats and even many Republicans, potentially tanking any deal.”

Contraception Exemption: The Daily Beast reported that the Trump administration was poised to weaken an Obama-era regulation requiring employers to offer birth control coverage. The envisioned rule would allow bosses to opt out of the requirement on “moral” rather than just “religious” grounds.

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Issue 4: Aug 26-Sept 1, 2017


Hurricane Harvey: The epic storm spawned criticism of things ranging from Trump’s failure to do president-with-storm-victims photo ops to his misspelled wish for post-hurricane ‘heeling’ to Melania’s high heels. (“The first lady offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy,” Robin Givhan wrote in the Washington Post after the Trumps flew to Texas.) More substantively, some raised the question of whether global warming, which Trump once dismissed as a concept “created by and for the Chinese,” is causing inordinately powerful storms—a question that may grow in prominence as a second big storm, Hurricane Irma, approaches the US mainland.

Arpaio Pardoned: Trump drew broad criticism by pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for his brutal treatment of illegal immigrants and other detainees. Arpaio had cost Arizona taxpayers nearly $70 million in legal settlements.

Tillerson Doesn’t Toe Line: The secretary of state’s remark that when it comes to values “the president speaks for himself” was widely taken as disavowal of Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville. Coming days after top economic advisor Gary Cohn bemoaned the administration’s failure to adequately condemn right-wing extremists, Tillerson’s remarks fueled commentary about administration officials in revolt (though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is in noncompliance with this narrative).

Anti-Antifa: The militant anti-fascist group antifa drew criticism from some prominent Democrats and observers on the left after violence at a right-wing protest generated such sub-optimal headlines as (in the Washington Post): “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley”.

America’s Just Not That Into You: On Friday Trump’s Gallup approval/disapproval rating was 34/61 percent—the worst net negative rating of his presidency.


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Issue 3: Aug 19-25, 2017


Raising Hell in Arizona: At a rally in Phoenix, Trump delivered an unscripted, crowd-pleasing oration, complaining that (for example) the media is unfairly critical of him. Much of the media reacted by being critical of him. One conservative observer tweeted, “the CNN panel: every one is in disbelief. upset. angry. Translation: mission accomplished.”

Afghanistan Mini-surge: Trump announced in vague terms a new Afghanistan policy that reportedly will send an additional 4,000 troops to the 16-year-old war. The once-again Bannon-run accused Trump of a “flip-flop” that betrayed his “ ‘America First’ base.”

Donald vs. Mitch: The New York Times reported that Trump’s relationship with the Senate Majority Leader has deteriorated so much that the two men haven’t spoken in weeks.

Arpaio Pardon Pondered: In Phoenix Trump signaled, without explicitly saying, that he will pardon controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a fierce opponent of illegal immigration and fierce proponent of birtherism. CNN reported that the White House had prepared the paperwork for the pardon.


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