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.


Statistician Leah Libresco wrote in the Washington Post that her research into gun violence made her a gun control skeptic, and Vox’s German Lopez said his research made him stop being a gun control skeptic.

“Just three percent of adults own half of America’s guns,” reported the Washington Postlast month—though, according to a Pew poll, 42 percent of Americans live in a household with at least one gun. Elsewhere in the Post, E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann explain, “Why the majority keeps losing on guns”: “the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy … we need reforms to make majority rule a reality.”

Nashville writer Marissa R. Moss says in Politico that the Las Vegas massacre has roiled the country music industry: “Many country artists, including some speaking off the record for this story, endorse both gun ownership and responsible legislation, yet fear being ‘Dixie Chicked’ … if they speak out.’”

Liberals lauded Jimmy Kimmel for again delivering an emotional, political monologue—this time on gun control. But how did Kimmel’s sermon sound to conservatives? Fox News media analyst Brian Flood recalled that “late-night comedians used to provide an escape for Americans who wanted to be entertained before hitting the sack.” In National Review Theodore Kupfer wrote, “policy expertise is hard-won and not likely to dawn suddenly during crises… Kimmel is entitled to share his opinion, his audience is entitled to seek more-informed ones.”


“[L]eaders from the big multilateral institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, said they underestimated the impact globalization would have on people,” reports Forbes’s Kenneth Rapoza. In general, globalization has helped workers in many less developed nations while hurting some workers in more developed countries who are now subject to low-wage competition from abroad. Rapoza quoted IMF general director Christine Lagarde as saying in late September that “we need to include the excluded.”

“Americans are roughly twice as likely to express worry (72%) than enthusiasm (33%) about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans,” finds a new Pew survey.

Reflecting on Trump’s feud with the mayor of San Juan, Nate Silver weighed in on the perennial debate about whether Trump is acting tactically or just emotionally. In this case, and some others, Silver favors “crazy” over “crazy like a fox.”

The Nation’s Sasha Abramsky reports on the debate within the activist left over the use of violence, notably by antifa, and concludes that “any lurch toward violence would deprive progressives of the moral high ground.”

—by Aryeh Cohen-Wade and Robert Wright with contributions from Nikita Petrov and Brian Degenhart