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Pro-Trump Pundit Accused of Pocketing $200K Meant for Ukraine Body Armor

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/YouTube

Pro-Trump pundit John Cardillo is known for his pugnacious Twitter commentary, once dubbing Joe Biden’s relationship with his son Hunter “creepy.” A former Newsmax TV host, Cardillo is prominent enough on the right to recently dine at the Florida governor’s mansion with potential 2024 contender Ron DeSantis.

But Cardillo has a little-known second job as an arms dealer operating in the former Eastern bloc, selling ammunition and body armor under the name M42 Tactical from his Fort Lauderdale home. According to a recently filed lawsuit, he doesn’t always deliver and now stands accused of stiffing Ukraine’s embattled government on a delivery of almost $200,000 in body armor.

In court papers, the company describes itself as an importer and wholesaler of “rifle and handgun ammunition.” On its website, the company touts its access to Serbian and Russian-made small arms ammunition.

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Music, of all art forms, is uniquely tied up with memory. It’s stitched into the fabric of daily life: Think about the mixtape you made for your first crush, the pop star whose posters were plastered in your teenage bedroom, the album that got you through your divorce, the jam band whose tour you followed across the country. All provide tantalizing insights into your past—and present—selves.It’s no wonder, then, that the best music writing gets personal. The writer can turn herself into a prism, refracting her subject, allowing us to see its components. Why does this song move me? she asks. Why does this band matter to me? And most important: Why should we care? The ability to answer this last question can distinguish a good critic from a great one.In her 1995 essay “Music Criticism and Musical Meaning,” the musician and philosopher Patricia Herzog wrote, “For interpretation to carry conviction, it must be based on intense appreciation—indeed, on love.” These six books masterfully explore what the songs we cherish (and, in one illuminating case, hate) reveal about us. University of Texas Press Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, by Hanif AbdurraqibAbdurraqib’s music writing proves that criticism and memoir are inextricable. His essay collections, A Little Devil in America and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, look as intimately at the output of artists including Aretha Franklin, ScHoolboy Q, Don Shirley, and Carly Rae Jepsen as they do at the author himself. Go Ahead in the Rain, his homage to the trailblazing hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, is another shining example of this signature approach. As a “decidedly weird” teenager at the turn of the ’90s, forever plugged into his Walkman, Abdurraqib fell in love with the group—especially founding member Phife Dawg—because he sensed that “they, too, were walking a thin line of weirdness.” Even at his most introspective, Abdurraqib embraces nostalgia without succumbing to it, and honors the experience of fandom while interrogating it. The book is ultimately an elegy: A Tribe Called Quest broke up in 1998, and Phife Dawg died in 2016, just after the band reunited to record its first new album in 18 years. “A group like A Tribe Called Quest will never exist again,” Abdurraqib writes. With Go Ahead in the Rain, he manages to both celebrate their achievements and “lay them to rest.”[Read: Phife Dawg’s walk on the wild side]Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, by Carl WilsonAt the outset of this pivotal entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 ⅓ series of books (each focusing on a single record), Wilson—a critic and fairly omnivorous lover of music—professes his hatred for the Quebecoise pop diva Céline Dion. The book, he says, is an “experiment” intended to answer questions about taste, fandom, and popularity using Dion’s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love as a case study. Wilson tries to uncover the reasons for the power-balladeer’s remarkable popularity, mining philosophy, sociology, history, and his own Canadian roots. He talks with diehard Dion fans and even attends a show of her Las Vegas residency, a “multimedia extravaganza” that surprisingly “coaxed a few tears” out of the freshly divorced author. Dion’s allure proves to be more complicated than expected, and his lines of inquiry lead him, by the book’s end, to examine the very purpose of music criticism itself. Wilson doesn’t exactly come out on the other side a Dion convert, but he acknowledges her widespread appeal to be not just valid, but valuable. “There are so many ways of loving music,” he concludes. Faber Nina Simone’s Gum, by Warren EllisIn 1999, the Australian musician Warren Ellis attended a performance by Nina Simone. After the show, he snuck onstage and swiped a piece of chewed gum that Simone had stuck to the bottom of her Steinway. Twenty-two years later, Ellis’s obsession with this bit of refuse spawned this mixed-media memoir, which interweaves text and images to exalt the everyday objects and experiences that represent “the metaphysical made physical.” In it, he recounts how he took Simone’s gum with him on tour, wrapped in the towel she’d used to wipe her brow during the concert—a “portable shrine”—before storing it in his attic for safekeeping and, finally, making a cast of it for posterity. He describes the concert with pious zeal—it was “a miracle,” “a communion,” a “religious experience.” He’s self-aware enough to know his devotion is odd, but not self-conscious enough to let that stifle the joy it brings him. In a screenshotted, reproduced text exchange from 2019 with his friend and frequent collaborator Nick Cave, Ellis reveals that he kept the gum. “You worry me sometimes,” Cave replies. “Haha,” Warren writes back. “I guess I do.”[Read: Nina Simone’s face] University of Texas Press I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton, by Lynn MelnickDuring what she calls “the worst year of my adult life,” Melnick, a poet, went to Dollywood, the country icon Dolly Parton’s Tennessee theme park. Part retreat, part pilgrimage, her trip moved her to write I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, a memoir that puts her harrowing story into conversation with Parton’s biography—and discography. Across 21 chapters, each cleverly pegged to a different song (the book’s structure alone makes it worth picking up), Melnick, a self-professed “diehard Dolly fan,” recounts a life marred by drug addiction, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Along the way, she looks to Parton as a model of resilience, gleaning lessons from her nearly six-decade career and interviews. She also unspools the tensions in Parton’s hyperfeminine persona, which leads to a broader consideration of women’s self-fashioning. The author writes with remarkable vulnerability and candor yet ensures that the often-painful memories she relates don’t cloud her critical gaze. She moves gracefully between confessional and analytical registers, her prose both sharp and full of heart. New Directions My Pinup, by Hilton AlsAls’s ambivalence toward Prince’s mutable persona propels this slim memoir about aura, authorship, and authenticity. As a young man at the turn of the ’80s, Als admired how the singer-songwriter embodied Black queerness with his bombastic androgyny and genre-bending virtuosity, and he was awed by the way Prince flouted the rules of race, gender, and sexuality to “remake black music in his own image.” So he experienced a sense of betrayal when, for albums such as 1999 and Purple Rain, Prince took to tailored suits and poppy hooks. “He was like a bride who had left me at the altar of difference to embrace the expected,” Als writes. “Could my queer heart ever let any of this go, and forgive him?” The parasocial relationship Als has with Prince is a rich site for study, on both a personal level (What does it mean to feel hurt by someone you don’t know?) and a political one (What does it mean to endow one person with so much representational power?). That parasociality is finally shattered when Als is sent to interview his idol during Prince’s 2004 Musicology tour. 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But if we just perpetuate the same harms in a clean-energy economy, and it’s just a world of Exxons and Elon Musks—oh, man, what a nightmare.” Many progressive commentators similarly believe that countering climate change requires a fundamental reordering of the West’s political and economic systems. “The level of disruption required to keep us at a temperature anywhere below ‘absolutely catastrophic’ is fundamentally, on a deep structural level, incompatible with the status quo,” the writer Phil McDuff has argued. The climate crisis, the Green New Deal advocate Naomi Klein has insisted, “could be the best argument progressives have ever had” to roll back corporate influence, tear up free-trade deals, and reinvest in public services and infrastructure.Such comments raise a question: What is the real goal here—stopping climate change or abolishing capitalism? Taking climate change seriously as a global emergency requires an all-hands-on-deck attitude and a recognition that technological solutions (yes, often built and deployed by private firms) can deliver real progress on decarbonization before the proletariat has seized the means of production. A massive infusion of private investment, made not for charity but in the anticipation of future profits, is precisely what’s needed to accelerate the clean-energy transition—which, like all revolutions, will yield unpredictable results.The belief that top-down decision makers can choreograph precisely how the clean-energy revolution will proceed runs deep in progressive circles. In the manifesto describing his version of the Green New Deal, Bernie Sanders declared, “To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.” Many environmental groups share the Vermont senator’s aversion to these technologies. But the climate emergency demands we take a closer look at some of them before writing them off completely. In the face of uncertainty about the best path to decarbonization, policy makers should think like a venture capitalist—placing lots of bets in the expectation that some technologies will fail but the investment portfolio will succeed as a whole. The “false solutions” that Sanders decries may indeed prove unworkable. Nuclear energy might never be cost-competitive, and geoengineering may prove technically infeasible. 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The only way to permanently reverse that warming will be to suck carbon directly out of the atmosphere. More traditional carbon capture and sequestration methods, designed to capture greenhouse gases as they’re generated at large pollution sources, are showing less promise than carbon-dioxide removal given that they typically leave some residual emissions, but they’re still certainly better than unmitigated fossil-fuel use.In a variety of other ways, Americans will have to choose between the perfect and the good. Some environmentalists are skeptical of geothermal energy, which requires extensive drilling. Yet it has high potential as a source of clean baseload power with a small geographical footprint that can, in theory, be deployed anywhere in the world (if you drill deep enough). One way to accelerate investment in geothermal energy would be to give this clean technology the same expedited permitting that oil and gas companies already receive for leases on federal land.[M. Nolan Gray: How Californians are weaponizing environmental law]Yet permitting reform requires loosening regulations and laws that many environmentalists hold dear. The National Environmental Policy Act requires reviews that give enormous power to anyone who wants to block or delay a proposed energy project, either out of genuine social concern or for self-interested reasons. In practice, it is a major bottleneck to building clean-energy infrastructure. According to an analysis of government data by the R Street Institute, 65 percent of the energy projects categorized as either “in progress” or “planned” are related to renewable energy, and 16 percent have to do with electricity transmission. And nearly 20 times as much offshore wind power is held up in permitting as is currently in operation or under construction. U.S. climate spending could exceed more than half a trillion dollars by the end of this decade—but without permitting reform, those investments won’t translate into much physical infrastructure. A new permitting-reform measure put forth by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has drawn criticism for fast-tracking some specific fossil-fuel projects, such as the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, but in general clean-energy infrastructure has much more to gain relative to fossil fuels by streamlining permitting, because so much of it still needs to be built.None of this means that the United States should let the energy market run wild. On the contrary, the federal government will need to use a heavy hand in ensuring that technologies like carbon-dioxide removal actually deliver on their claims (unlike carbon offsets—a sketchy market rife with fraud and greenwashing). And public investment in clean technologies has already been pivotal in driving down the costs of solar and wind power as well as batteries.Yet we cannot succeed in the fight against global warming without giving many alternatives to the status quo an opportunity to evolve and prove themselves. In reality, the false solution to climate change isn’t geoengineering or nuclear energy—it’s the belief that we can decarbonize the economy only by upending our economic system, categorically rejecting certain technologies, and spurning private investment.
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