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Performative masculinity is making American men sick 
Sardar Ismail, an Iraqi Kurdish bodybuilding world champion, trains at a gym in a mask! Be more like Sardar! | Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images American men are failing the pandemic. Fellas, is it gay to not die of a virus that turns your lungs into soggy shells of their former selves, drowning you from the inside out? Is wearing a mask to avoid death part of the feminization of America? Is it too emasculating to wear a mask to protect the others around you? Does staying alive make you feel weak? According to many American men, yeah. Poll after poll, most recently a Gallup poll from July 13, has found American men are more likely to not wear masks compared to women. Specifically, the survey found that 34 percent of men compared to 54 percent of women responded they “always” wore a mask when outside their home and that 20 percent of men said they “never” wore a mask outside their home (compared to just 8 percent of women). What’s startling about these numbers is that it’s now been months since the US first began measures, including statewide lockdowns, against the virus. Since late April, health experts and medical professionals have stressed the importance of wearing masks, as more and more research has found that the virus spreads through face-to-face close contact like talking, sneezing, and coughing. US cases and deaths continue to rise; at the same time, scientists are finding that men are more likely to die from Covid-19 and do not know why. With the deaths and rising cases, it seems unclear what would convince more men to wear masks. According to bias, behavior, and health experts, the reason is maddeningly simple: Masks aren’t manly. Attempts have been made to make masks aesthetically more stylish, more age-appropriate, and more sustainable in a hope to appeal to the mask-less and change their ways. Sports heroes like LeBron James and Mike Trout have been photographed playing with masks on. And when President Trump finally wore one in public in July, his supporters rushed to praise him. Still, some see masks as weakness, and men, regardless of politics or race or sexuality, don’t like being seen as weak. This virus can’t do pushups or race cars, so the usual displays of dominance are meaningless. Instead, it can best be battled by, of all things, putting on little cloth accessories. The coronavirus has issued an undeniable taunt to American men on their home turf, and some have chosen to prove their virility through risk with no foreseeable reward. It’s a narrow vision of manhood that ignores other tropes like self-sacrifice and being a protector; performative masculinity for an audience of one that puts many more people at risk. And the solution would be so easy, if it weren’t left in the hands of the manliest men in the country. Masks are caught in the eternal battle of men versus their own masculinity Carolyn Kaster-Pool/Getty Images Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) removes his mask. Americans can tell you how the coronavirus has completely changed their lives. From buying habits to social gatherings to commuting (or not) to the way we work out, the pandemic has altered our day-to-day existence. But not everyone’s behaviors have changed the same way. The personal difference, as experts told me in July, comes down to how we respond to threats and stress. In crises, humans go into fight-or-flight mode, and we rely on our instincts. Those instincts tell us whom to listen to, which messages are important, and whose behavior to emulate. That notion about being sensitive to important messages and signals is central to why certain men are more likely to go against health directives and not wear a mask. “The notion is masculinity is a status that you constantly have to prove,” Peter Glick, a Lawrence University professor and senior scientist at the Neuroleadership Institute, told me. Glick specializes in overcoming biases and stereotyping. “Any sort of stumble is perceived [as you losing your masculinity]. So if you do have a stumble, then you have to reestablish it. And if you perceive a mask as ‘Oh, I’m scared of this little virus’ — that’s weakness.” The term for this phenomenon is called “precarious manhood,” coined by Joseph A. Vandello and Jennifer K. Bosson, researchers from the University of South Florida. In their research, they found that past studies show men experience anxiety when it comes to their manhood and masculinity, or masculine gender identity. Vandello and Bossun posit that this is because masculinity, or what society thinks is “manly,” is something that’s hard to achieve and easily lost. And when masculinity is slighted, men compensate by acting out in risky ways. “[M]en experience more anxiety over their gender status than women do, particularly when gender status is uncertain or challenged,” they wrote in their 2012 research paper. “This can motivate a variety of risky and maladaptive behaviors, as well as the avoidance of behaviors that might otherwise prove adaptive and beneficial.” In the US specifically, American culture has a history of framing disease as an individual battle or competition in which there are victors and losers, triumph and defeat. More recently, right-wing pundits and Republican lawmakers turned masks into a political issue, often framing masks as a slight on manliness. Gestures like Vice President Mike Pence’s mask-less visit to the Mayo Clinic in April and actions like President Donald Trump calling Dr. Anthony Fauci’s credibility into question strengthen the mask-is-weakness connection. Especially among men who see Trump as a leader they want to emulate. “In those situations where your masculinity is called into question, the question is embarrassing” “Trump even kind of made fun of people who are wearing masks, right?” Glick said, referring to Trump’s mockery of Joe Biden wearing a mask in May. “In those situations where your masculinity is called into question, the question is embarrassing. And ostracism is extremely powerful. Embarrassment, ostracism — that’s what keeps us in line with social bonds.” Glick’s analysis lines up with research that people with sexist attitudes are less likely to take precautions against the virus. Tyler Reny, a postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, found this by combing through data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project, a public opinion survey that’s been interviewing more than 6,000 Americans about the virus per week since March 19. “Those who had more sexist attitudes were far less likely to report feeling concerned about the pandemic, less likely to support state and local coronavirus policies, less likely to take precautions like washing their hands or wearing masks, and more likely to get sick than those with less sexist attitudes,” Reny told me. “What I found is that sexist attitudes are very predictive of all four sets of [aforementioned] outcomes, even after accounting for differences in partisanship, ideology, age, education, and population density.” There’s no set-in-stone rule that face masks are a sign of weakness. Masks and masculinity existed separately long before the pandemic. Health officials have also consistently said shame doesn’t work to get people to change their behavior for the better. Yet the triggers of shame and slighted masculinity are so effective in getting people to abandon advice that could save their lives. So why, then, does shame work to deter men from wearing masks? It could be that men are more invested in their own masculinity than in their community. Shaming people who don’t wear masks “doesn’t have the same power,” Glick said. “Are those people really experiencing shame? I don’t think they’re ashamed about their behavior. Shame is something you have to buy into.” How we get men to wear masks Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images LeBron James wears a mask! YAY! There exists an entire industry to masculinize inanimate objects to make them worthy of man usage. War Paint is makeup specifically branded for men. So were Kleenex’s “Man-Size” boxes and “Brogurt,” a yogurt for bros, before being rebranded after public mockery. And the Dude Wiper 1000, according to its semi-ironic, tongue-in-cheek website, “is not some ordinary bidet attachment,” as it has “blasters” to clean even the manliest of buttholes. Going by capitalism’s penchant for man-plifying objects and knowing about men’s fragile relationship to their masculinity, it would seem that the obvious way to get more men to wear masks would be to make the manliest version of a mask possible. Maybe put guns on it, or a football team, or make a mask that makes men feel like a super-soldier spliced from both Rambo and Captain America. You can see the effect in sports and athletic wear, where companies like Nike and Under Armour are making masks that superheroes might don. They’re sleeker, curved like shark fins. In June, Under Armour launched its Sportsmask, which it promised would “reinvent” the face mask for athletes. The Nike Strike Snood, which kind of makes the wearer look like Bane or a ninja, is sold out. GQ’s pick for masks includes one that makes you look like “you’re in Mortal Kombat.” Make a mask that makes men feel like a super-soldier spliced from both Rambo and Captain America For men concerned with masculinity, the appeal here is that these masks not only look cool but allow you to do masculine things like run faster, lift heavier, and be stronger. At the same time, in Asia, designers are incorporating new tech and fashion into their masks. But according to health officials, appealing to consumerist impulses isn’t the best way to change men’s, or anyone’s, behavior. Glick and Reny echoed a sentiment that health experts I spoke to in July said: To get people to change behavior, masks have to become a socially accepted norm. Once people start accepting masks as normal behavior, like they do wearing seat belts and not smoking indoors, the number of people going against the norm decreases. Getting to that tipping point is a lot easier said than done. Laws and mandates that the government used in the past in regards to seat belts and smoking took time for everyone to adjust to — time we don’t have due to how fast coronavirus is surging in the US. And while experts say people are likely to emulate behavior they see from leaders, Republicans like Trump and Pence haven’t consistently modeled good mask behavior or messaged how important they are to our health. “So a good start would be to have stronger repeated signals from elites (particularly Trump) on the importance of mask-wearing as an easy and cheap way to slow the pandemic,” Reny said. “Having publicly ‘tough’ men (actors, athletes, some musicians) and other Republican elites also join in and wear masks would help.” There’s evidence of this working. In late June, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter posted a picture of him wearing a mask with the hashtag #RealMenWearMasks. And Trump wore a mask in public for the first time in July at a visit to Walter Reed medical center. He called himself “patriotic.” His supporters hailed him for looking “intensely masculine” and putting #AmericaFirst, and lauded how heroic he looked in a mask. truly incredible.— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) July 11, 2020 In May, Trump and conservatives had mocked Biden for wearing a mask, some saying it was a sign of weakness. The abrupt turn is, of course, politically driven. But it’s worth noting that the praise Trump received is about his manliness and heroism — the type of motivators that Glick and Reny mentioned. If Trump wearing a mask gets more people, men specifically, to wear masks, that’s a positive for health officials. The problem therein, though, is that there’s not enough consistent messaging or consistent visibility to really effect change — Trump and Pence need to wear masks consistently and visibly for it to make a difference. That’s what makes Glick a little more skeptical. “It’s an uphill battle at this point,” he said. “It’s going to be hard as long as our leaders are undermining the message.” Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
The Huge Minimum Wage Reform in Biden's Disability Plan
For 15 years, Ross Ryan traveled an hour from his Oregon home to clean bathrooms, mop floors, and take out trash at noisy car dealerships and cavernous state buildings from 4 p.m. until midnight. His employer paid him about 60 cents per completed task—and it was legal.Ryan’s employer was a sheltered workshop, a program that exclusively employs people with disabilities for less than minimum wage. Ryan, 51, has a developmental disability called Russell-Silver syndrome and couldn’t find a job after graduating from high school. Until his 40s, he believed that a sheltered workshop was his best option. But he didn’t like it. “We were treated as second-class citizens,” he told me. “They looked down on us like we didn’t know what we were doing and we didn’t know the value of money.”Although the Americans With Disabilities Act, passed 30 years ago this summer, protects people with disabilities from employment and pay discrimination, a little-known loophole allows employers that hold a special certificate to pay disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These employers can even pay workers with disabilities according to how productive they are, or at a rate per piece. In other words, if the average nondisabled worker cleans 10 car-dealership bathrooms an hour for $7.25, and the employer can show that the disabled worker cleans one bathroom an hour, it can pay the disabled worker 72.5 cents an hour. This waiver program stipulates no minimum for wages paid to workers with disabilities. The same rules do not apply to nondisabled people: An employer cannot pay a nondisabled worker less for performing below peak productivity on an “off day,” because they, unlike some disabled workers, are guaranteed a minimum wage.Today, more than 1,200 employers nationwide employ more than 300,000 workers with disabilities in below-minimum-wage jobs, in which they often perform menial labor, such as shredding newspapers and counting bolts and nuts. These employers are supposed to transition workers with disabilities into the mainstream workforce, but many fail to do so. Only 5 percent of workers—most of whom have developmental and intellectual disabilities—ever find employment outside the workshop, according to a 2001 report to Congress by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.But a Joe Biden presidency could mean the end of sheltered workshops and the subminimum wage.Biden’s disability plan, released in late May, includes a promise to work with Congress to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. The act would provide grants for which states can apply to help employers phase out the subminimum wage and integrate workers with disabilities into their community over a period of six years.[Read: What Joe Biden can’t bring himself to say]Introduced in 2019 by Bob Casey, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, and co-sponsored by 59 Democrats and seven Republicans in both houses, the legislation is the product of a yearslong effort. Since the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, disability-rights activists have decried the subminimum wage as discriminatory, and federal lawmakers have made several unsuccessful attempts to abolish it. Their efforts have been thwarted time and again by lobbyists for large subminimum-wage employers, such as Goodwill, who argue that eliminating the subminimum wage would deprive people with disabilities of work opportunities. Neil Romano, the chair of the National Council on Disability, says these lobbyists often have the “single most important weapon” in tow: parents or guardians of someone in a workshop who fear for their loved one’s prospects in the mainstream workforce.But Biden and an increasing number of lawmakers today are resolute about getting rid of the submimimum wage, arguing that it conflicts with existing policy meant to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, including the ADA. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, for example, has been pushing federal legislation, including the bill Biden supports.“The subminimum wage sends a message to the disability community that their work isn’t as valuable as the work done by able-bodied people,” Duckworth, the first woman with a disability elected to the Senate, told me in an email. “It traps disabled workers in low-end jobs, creates a stigma associated with their work, and makes them feel more isolated. Integration of our workforce should always be the goal, and we will never achieve that goal so long as we keep accepting this outdated, exploitative policy.”For these reasons, Duckworth said, she’s a “proud” co-sponsor of the bill, as well as another: the Raise the Wage Act introduced by Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over six years for all workers, including workers with disabilities. Sanders’s bill has no bipartisan support.The fate of both bills may hinge on whether Biden takes office and Democrats take Congress, as disability rights have unprecedentedly become associated with the left. Until President Donald Trump’s 2016 run, disability rights were largely uncontentious and not associated with a particular party. The ADA, for example, was enacted by a Republican president, George H. W. Bush. However, after Trump mocked the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Serge F. Kovaleski, who has a physical disability, and after reports that Trump has been repeatedly sued for violations of the ADA, disability issues entered the mainstream political conversation. For the first time in history, they became a focus of a major-party presidential nominee’s campaign, as Hillary Clinton pledged to ban the subminimum wage.[Read: How did disabilities become a partisan issue?]Since then—because of the efforts of activists such as Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, who together co-founded the nonpartisan movement #CripTheVote—all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have emphasized their relationship with voters with disabilities. Many held Twitter town halls to answer questions from the community and, like Biden, released disability plans. Biden’s advisers are also vetting Duckworth to be his running mate, which excites some members of the disability community, given her strong attention to disability rights.Movement on the issue could happen without legislation. Since June 2018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been investigating whether the subminimum-wage program violates the civil rights of people with disabilities. It expects to publish its findings in September.Some states have also already ended or begun phasing out the subminimum wage and sheltered workshops. In 2002, Vermont became the first state to abolish the subminimum wage—and, data show, has been the most successful at integrating people with disabilities into the mainstream workforce. Within three years of sheltered workshops’ closure, 80 percent of former workshop workers found employment. Today, the state’s integrated employment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is twice the national average: 38 percent, compared with a rate of 19 percent nationally.At least six states have followed Vermont, including New Hampshire, Maryland, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Maine. In 2019, Texas mandated that all state contractors increase their wages for workers with disabilities to the federal minimum wage by 2022. To date, 40 states have adopted “Employment First” legislation or state policy aimed at integrating workers with disabilities into the community.Maine has transitioned less successfully. According to two studies prepared by George Washington University, Maine has seen the number of disabled people employed after the policy shift decline. The latest study showed that 24.9 percent of people with an intellectual disability were employed in 2009, compared with 17.2 percent in 2015.For Ross Ryan, leaving the workshop has made a huge difference. A couple of years before a class-action lawsuit shut down his workshop for violations of the ADA and other civil-rights legislation, Ryan found work as a community advocate at the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition, providing testimony to state lawmakers on legislation that affects people with disabilities. He earns about $16 an hour—more than double the federal minimum wage.The wage increase has transformed the way Ryan lives, he told me. “It allows me to buy stuff I couldn’t before. I was able to go to a NASCAR race in California and a KISS concert,” he said, adding, “It makes me happy to be able to pay taxes and contribute to my community.”Ryan says it’s time for the rest of the country to catch up. He envisions a future where people with disabilities aren’t just gainfully employed, but community leaders. He wants to see those “more successful than me … helping younger people with disabilities to stand up for themselves,” he said.
Dear Therapist: I Don’t Want My Sister in My Bridal Party
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at Dear Therapist,My younger sister is a few years younger than I am. Growing up, I had to care for my younger sister, and tension resulted from me having to include her when playing with friends, etc., despite not wanting to. This tension continued when my sister had mental-health issues and other life crises. Although I didn’t have a great relationship with her, I was responsible for stepping in and filling the role of caregiver. My parents were so overwhelmed and unable to meet my sister’s emotional needs that they turned to me to do so instead. This resulted in much resentment and anger and hurt between my sister and me. My sister craves closeness and my approval, and I just want to be left alone.I recently became engaged to a stable and loving partner, and I informed my sister that she would not be in the bridal party, because she and I don’t have a close relationship. Instead, I said that I would like her to be an usher with my partner’s sister and walk my mom down the aisle. It should be noted that before I even spoke about how I would want my sister involved in my wedding, she started off by saying, “I’m not sure I am even going to attend your wedding.” Now my entire nuclear family is incredibly angry with me and has taken drastic actions, such as calling my best friend to tell her that they are upset with me.Over the past few years, I have tried to set caring boundaries with my family, which has been viewed as an act of war. I feel as though I am at the end of my rope with my family and don’t know what else I can do, save cutting ties completely.AnonymousMilwaukee, WisconsinDear Anonymous,There are two issues here: the question of how to handle your family’s discomfort with your bridal-party decision, and the more general question of how to handle your discomfort with the role you’ve played in your family since childhood. Understanding the latter issue will help you manage the former.It sounds like your sister has long felt hurt and rejected by you, and you’ve felt resentful of her. This is a common dynamic in families with a high-need sibling, whether those needs stem from mental-health issues or simply from a certain kind of temperament. The high-need sibling tends to take up a lot of emotional air in the house, sometimes so much that the parents, as you said, begin to feel overwhelmed and unequipped to help. In an attempt to keep the peace, they may accede to the high-need sibling’s requests and desires at the expense of everyone else’s. This might involve asking the other siblings in the house to “be flexible” and “help out”—by, say, including the high-need sibling when playing with friends, or caretaking in a variety of ways that aren’t appropriate responsibilities to place on a child or a teenager or even a young adult.This is what happened to you, and you didn’t have much choice in the matter. The result is that you became angry and resentful toward your sister—even though none of this was really her fault. It was your parents who placed you in this role—not your sister—but because your sister seemed to be the problem, constantly interfering with everything from your autonomy to your joy, she became the focus of your rage. So it’s no wonder that she would crave your closeness and approval while you just wanted her to leave you alone.The difference between then and now, though, is that you’re both adults, and with adulthood comes agency. You can either remain stuck in the past and react to your sister and parents from that place of childhood anger, or you can separate the past from the present by taking advantage of the choices available to you and managing your feelings in a more productive way.For instance, consider the way you approached your sister about your wedding. So far, you’ve both reacted exactly as you did in childhood. Feeling perpetually rejected by you and possibly anticipating the perceived rejection to come, she preemptively rejected you: I’m not sure I’m going to your wedding. Instead of hearing the hurt underneath her comment, you went back to that childhood place of Here she goes again, creating drama. Then, rather than looking at how you contribute to the tension between you, you communicated your choice about the wedding in a way that sounded like a rejection, thus confirming her feelings of rejection.There’s a world of difference between saying, essentially, “You’re not going to be in my bridal party, because I don’t like you very much, but you can be an usher to keep the peace,” and saying something like, “My partner and I are very excited about our wedding and we’d both love to include our sisters in the ceremony as ushers to the other important people in our lives. I’d love to have you walk with Mom down the aisle—that would feel really special to me. Would you accept this honor?”When those childhood resentments are simmering just beneath the surface, you may struggle to communicate your needs and decisions to your family in a gentle and loving way. You say that you’ve tried to create “caring boundaries” with your family, but you might want to reflect on how much care has actually gone into those efforts and why they might be perceived as “an act of war.” Keep in mind, too, that boundaries aren’t about dictating what someone else will or won’t do. They’re about getting clear with yourself about what you will or won’t do.That distinction matters, because I think what you really want as you embark on this new chapter of your life with your partner is to make choices that feel right for you, and then no matter what your family does, to be able to tolerate their disappointment (often delivered in the form of guilt or pressure or attempts to control) if they want you to do something different.So what does that look like now? With your sister, you might muster some compassion for her hurt feelings about the wedding, and take responsibility for your role in the tension between you. You might say something like “I’m sorry about how I handled my request for you to participate in my wedding. It came out all wrong, and what I wish I had said was this.” Then you rephrase the request, and let her know that you’ll understand if she chooses not to do it, but that you hope she will, because it would mean a lot to you. And here’s the important part: No matter what she does with this kinder request, you keep your boundary to yourself, which might look like not investing any emotional energy in her response and instead staying focused on the fun parts of planning your wedding with your partner.Meanwhile, you can take your parents aside and begin the conversation you’ve been wanting to have with them for decades but haven’t had the words to do so. It might go something like this: “You may not be aware of this, but my sister isn’t the only one who has struggled in our family. I have some feelings to work through about what happened in our family, and maybe that’s gotten in the way of how I’ve tried to communicate about the wedding. I want my wedding to be a joyous occasion, and I want to include everyone in a way that’s meaningful to my partner and me.” Then you explain how happy you would be to see your mom walk down the aisle with your sister. If your parents still try to get you to do something different, give them a big hug and say, “I love you very much and I know we see this differently, but I hope this is the start of a conversation we can continue to have as this next chapter in my life begins.” Then, hold your own boundary: If your parents continue to express disappointment over your decision, don’t engage in those conversations other than to say, each and every time, calmly and with warmth and compassion: “I know you love me, and one way to show your love is to make room for my happiness. I’m so looking forward to having a closer and more peaceful relationship with you, and I’m optimistic that focusing on the joy of my wedding can be a great first step.”People often wonder whom weddings are for—are they for the couple, or for the family and friends of the couple? Many would say it’s the former (“It’s your day; do it your way!”), but in my view, weddings are about the couple, and they’re also about the community surrounding the couple. They’re about building a family that consists of the old and the new, the past and the future, and it’s because of this that they offer a unique opportunity to redefine who we are in relation to the people we love.Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.
What Is MasterClass Actually Selling?
Image above, clockwise from top left: MasterClass instructors Serena Williams (who teaches tennis on the platform); Natalie Portman (acting); Gordon Ramsay (cooking); Malcolm Gladwell (writing)Sometimes an advertisement is so perfectly tailored to a cultural moment that it casts that moment into stark relief, which is how I felt upon first seeing an ad for the mega-best-selling writer James Patterson’s course on MasterClass a few years ago. In the ad, Patterson is sitting at a table, reciting a twisty opening line in voice-over. Then an overhead shot of him gazing out a window, lost in thought like a character in a movie. A title card appears: “Imagine taking a writing class from a master.” It didn’t matter that I’d never read a book by Patterson before—I was hooked. What appealed to me was not whatever actionable thriller-writing tips I might glean, but rather the promise of his story, the story of how a writer becomes a mogul. Any hapless, hand-to-mouth mid-lister can provide instructions on outlining a novel. MasterClass dangled something else, a clear-cut path out of the precariat, the magic-bean shortcut to a fairy-tale ending—the secret to ever-elusive success.To hear more feature stories, get the Audm iPhone app. MasterClass launched in 2015 with just three classes: Dustin Hoffman on acting, Serena Williams on tennis, and Patterson on writing. Since then the company has grown exponentially, raising $135 million in venture capital from 2012 to 2018. It now has more than 85 classes across nine categories. (Last year it added 25 new classes, and this year it intends to add even more.) After the pandemic hit, as people started spending more time at home, its subscriptions surged, some weeks increasing tenfold over the average in 2019; subscribers spent twice as much time on the platform as they did earlier this year. In April, the company moved from offering individual classes for $90 a pop, with an all-access annual pass for $180, to a subscription-only model, and in May, it raised another $100 million. Its trailers have become so familiar and ubiquitous that they spawned their own SNL parodies, “MasterClass: Quarantine Edition,” in which Chloe Fineman appears as Phoebe Waller-Bridge for a class on journaling, as Timothée Chalamet for a class on fashion, and as Britney Spears for a class on … something.[Watch: David Sedaris on keeping a diary in the age of over-sharing]MasterClass trailers tend to follow a certain playbook: the introduction of a famous person; a peek behind the curtain; an overview of their setbacks and failures; the promise of what you might learn; the emotional, soaring soundtrack. But the courses are distinct from one another—there’s no standard format or formula. What MasterClass purports to provide is a premium, high-level learning experience via a series of glossy videos taught by the world’s best. In some classes, instructors address the camera for a few hours. In others, they are more hands-on, demonstrating techniques or leading workshops. You can take writing classes with Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, David Baldacci, Joyce Carol Oates, David Sedaris, Shonda Rhimes, Malcolm Gladwell, or Aaron Sorkin. You can take photography with Annie Leibovitz; acting with Natalie Portman; comedy with Judd Apatow or Steve Martin; and cooking with Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, or Alice Waters. There’s a directing class with Ron Howard, a makeup class with Bobbi Brown, a negotiation class with the former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, and a class on how to be a boss with Anna Wintour. RuPaul has a class on authenticity and self-expression, and Neil deGrasse Tyson has one on scientific thinking. Two classes—taught by Kevin Spacey and Hoffman—have been removed following allegations of sexual misconduct against the actors (which both have denied). MasterClass is a brand built on other people’s impeccable brands.David Rogier, who co-founded MasterClass, likes to tell the story of his grandmother who as a young woman fled the Nazis, emigrating to the United States with her mother. After working in a factory for years, she applied to medical schools and was rejected by dozens of them—one dean flat-out told her that she had three strikes against her: She was a woman, she was Jewish, and she was an immigrant—until she finally found one that would accept her. She always impressed upon her grandson that an education could never be taken away from you. That was the grain of the idea for MasterClass.It’s a great origin story, the kind perfectly suited for a MasterClass trailer, and also the kind that every young Silicon Valley founder is more or less ready to recite when the press comes along. But the story sits somewhat uncomfortably alongside the actual product, which is to a medical degree what an apple is to an orange planet.Rogier grew up on the Westside of Los Angeles, the son of two lawyers who became artists in retirement. After getting his M.B.A. at Stanford, he asked one of his professors—the angel investor Michael Dearing, who founded Harrison Metal, a seed-stage venture-capital fund in San Francisco—for a job. Rogier got the position, but after a year or so realized it wasn’t for him. He went to Dearing and told him he planned to quit. When Dearing asked what he had lined up, Rogier responded, “ ‘I’m going to build something.’ He’s like, ‘What?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ So he wrote me a check for about half a million dollars.” Rogier formed a holding company and called it Yanka Industries, after his grandmother.The question of who (and what and how and why) gets funded in Silicon Valley might not be asked often enough, considering the impact of technology on our society, economy, politics, and daily lives. But patterns are discernible: Mainly, the ideas that rise to the top are those that seek to address deficiencies in an industry by creating a new category from within the old one, the way caterpillars consume themselves to become butterflies. (Also, most of these ideas are had by young white guys.) Turning the housing market into an infinite unregulated hotel, for instance, or everyone’s cars into an unregulated fleet of taxis. Or aggregating mastery across disciplines.“I felt a lot of pressure,” Rogier told me of the windfall investment. He was aware that he’d been given a gift. “You can’t whine about it or complain about it, because there’s nothing to whine or complain about, right? This guy threw me a blank check.” Rogier knew he wanted to do something related to education, but he wasn’t sure what. So he posted ads on Craigslist offering to pay people $25 an hour to talk about their experiences with education. He asked subjects about the schools they’d gone to, whom they’d learned from the most, the topics they wished they had studied more. What things did they want to learn now? How did they want to learn now?[From the June 2016 issue: How kids learn resilience]Rogier already knew life was changing at a much faster rate than it had for his parents’ generation. What you learn in school no longer lasts you through your career. His research showed that people are willing to invest in personal growth and education, but many feel “ripped off” by their education. He isn’t referring only to formal education. “People pay tremendous amounts to take not-great classes,” he said. “And then there are also the scam stories. Somebody went to school to be a receptionist, and she paid for it, but the ‘school’ was answering phone calls for two weeks at an office.”MasterClass instructors Shonda Rhimes (writing for television) and RuPaul (self-expression and authenticity) (Illustration by Jade Purple Brown; MasterClass)Rogier had an idea: What if anybody could learn from the best? “That would be kind of awesome,” he said. Especially if he could offer the class at a relatively low price. After two rounds of fundraising, getting the first instructors on board (Hoffman was the first to agree—Rogier was school friends with his daughter), filming some test classes, and hiring a small team, Rogier asked a friend, the entrepreneur Aaron Rasmussen, to join the company as co-founder and chief technology officer, which he did. (Rasmussen left the company in January 2017 and later founded the for-college-credit education platform first, Rogier said, many people told him his idea would never work. It was unclear whether people would pay to watch high-end tutorials when they could view lower-budget ones on YouTube for free. It was also unclear whether celebrity teachers could be recruited in meaningful numbers. The best in the world will never want to teach, people told him. They’re not going to be good at teaching. People aren’t going to want to learn from them. It’s going to be too expensive. People won’t pay for production—they won’t care if it’s higher production quality. Everything’s free on the web. Why are you trying to do everything from making the classes to putting the classes out? You should just take one small slice. One of the things Rogier is still often asked is whether he’s selling education or entertainment. The question annoys him. “Why can’t education also be entertaining?”Rogier always knew that part of being an entrepreneur is believing in something that nobody else believes in, but still, he was scared. Within a few days of MasterClass’s launch in May 2015, however, the numbers told him he was onto something. Within four months, he had 30,000 students.MasterClass’s mission, as it was originally defined, was to “democratize access to genius.” But the service actually offers something different—although what that is, exactly, is hard to put your finger on. Strictly speaking, a master class is a small class for very advanced students taught by a master in their field. But very advanced students in particular subject areas are vanishingly small cohorts—certainly not enough to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. And so, MasterClass courses are not really designed for a specific skill level, but instead are aimed at the most general of general audiences.MasterClass doesn’t disclose how much it pays instructors, although a 2018 Bloomberg article reported that they are paid a guaranteed sum, plus up to 25 percent of revenue generated by their classes. (In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that instructors were paid roughly $100,000.) But money is not the only motivation. For many of the instructors, MasterClass presents an opportunity to take stock of a remarkable career. Wintour, the longtime editor of Vogue, kicks off her MasterClass by saying, “I know many people are curious about who I am, how I approach my work, and what I believe … I have never had the opportunity to share the many lessons I have learned as an editor and as a creative leader in one place before.” Her class feels, more than anything, like a historical document.For Atwood, the celebrated author of The Handmaid’s Tale, among many other novels, the decision to participate was partly motivated by her age, “which is old,” she told me over the phone. “This is a way of downloading what I would ordinarily do, or possibly uploading it.”Scenes from MasterClass courses led by (from top to bottom) Margaret Atwood (creative writing), Anna Wintour (creativity and leadership), and Aaron Sorkin (screenwriting) (MasterClass)The last time Atwood taught full-time at a university was in the 1970s. Filming a MasterClass was an opportunity to reach a less-privileged cohort than she might in a university setting. “For a lot of people who might have jobs, but also might be interested in writing, [MasterClass is] a way they can pursue this in their own time, at their own pace,” she said. On the other hand, Atwood said, “in-person teaching is interactive. People get to ask you direct questions.” Later she added, “If you’re teaching in a university, you can see the people you’re teaching. You know how old they are. You have some idea about what background they may have come from. You usually start asking them what were the last five books that they read … But if you’re doing something online, it could be anybody. It’s more like publishing a book. It’s out there. It’s accessible. You don’t know who may be accessing it.”[Read: The future of college looks like the future of retail]As an educational platform, MasterClass is limited by its instructors’ inaccessibility. But as a repository for career advice and discussions about the creative process and how to navigate life as an artist (or athlete, chef, magician, entrepreneur), it’s a gold mine. When you are just starting out—especially if you lack connections in your areas of interest—it can be helpful to hear how other people “did it,” what obstacles they faced and how they overcame them. You might get a hit of encouragement or see yourself reflected for the first time in a field you thought was off-limits to you. The ballet dancer Misty Copeland says MasterClass was a way of doing this.Copeland’s class is typical of MasterClass’s more inspirational offerings. It’s a mix of instruction and aspiration, covering subjects on everything from owning your power and being confident, to barre exercises (pliés, tendus), to working with Prince, to the importance of mentorship and diversity, to showing people that ballet is more approachable than they think.“The fine arts and classical dance have been kind of categorized as this elite form that is only for an elite, exclusive category of people,” Copeland—the first Black principal dancer of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre—told me over the phone. She wanted to show that dance didn’t have to be so intimidating—“that it’s for every person, with any background and body type.” For Copeland, the tools, perseverance, strength, and passion that you need to be an artist are derived from doing the work, engaging in the process. That’s what she aimed to share in her class, to “give people some insight into what it is to be an artist and an athlete.”I’ve taken Atwood’s class, Rhimes’s class, and most of Gladwell’s, among others. I’ve watched Part One of Keller’s course, and a little bit of Part Two. I’ve watched Brown’s “smoky eye” tutorial, tried the technique on myself, and came out looking like a prizefighting panda. The classes are visually sumptuous, transporting, uplifting, and yet, frankly, a little boring, especially if you try to watch them all the way through. Doing so feels like being seated next to the dinner guest of your dreams—the Dalai Lama or Oscar Wilde or Barack Obama—and discovering that they won’t stop talking and that the dinner is 12 courses long.The cooking classes are enjoyable and resemble the prestige food programming on Netflix. The mixology and gardening classes interested me as an unskilled cocktail maker and novice gardener, but I still found it easier to Google specific questions like how exactly to deal with my lettuce or make a cocktail with things I already have in my bar. Yet, after watching Gordon Ramsay do it, I did finally learn how to properly salt an eggplant.Instructors approach their classes in different ways, from simply walking viewers through their practice and methods, to putting their teams to work on a comprehensive curriculum, as Keller did upon being asked to come up with a class. But Keller was told his curriculum was too much.“From what they told me, they’d never seen anything like it before, both in presentation, as well as in content, as well as in length,” Keller said when we spoke. It would have been much too long to film, so it was distilled down to the fundamentals and split into three parts.Having someone of Thomas Keller’s stature teaching the basics of cooking is impressive, but is it necessary? You can learn useful things by watching a video, but formal education is generally understood to demand some kind of participation, as well as a teacher evaluation. Some instructors host promotional contests with student participation—in one case, James Patterson co-wrote a book with a student—but in general, Malcolm Gladwell isn’t going to grade your essay, nor is Thomas Keller going to evaluate your meringue.Scenes from MasterClass courses led by Misty Copeland (ballet technique and artistry) and Thomas Keller (cooking techniques)(MasterClass)As terrible as the pandemic has been, it has proved unexpectedly good for some—specifically billionaires, yeast manufacturers, and streaming services, of which MasterClass is now one. For a certain cohort of people looking to pass the hours at home, namely those with leisure time and money, the new courses in cooking, mixology, and gardening arrived at the perfect homesteading moment. But the fact that MasterClass is so popular now also speaks to people’s fears, especially economic uncertainties that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Tens of millions of jobs have been lost, and many newly unemployed people are looking for a different direction. And if they’ve kept their jobs, they are dealing with a whole new way of navigating work, which is stressful and confusing. In a way, MasterClass seems ideally suited to frustrated 30-somethings for whom education has not necessarily resulted in upward mobility or even a job, who feel stuck in their career without a clear path to success.In fact, the company refers to its target customers as CATS: “curious, aspiring 30-somethings.” CATS are old enough not to be planning to return to school, but young enough, in theory, that they need help advancing in their career. A CAT is a person whose life has become complicated, who has had to put aside some of the things they loved to do, who isn’t exactly doing the thing they dreamed of doing, David Schriber, MasterClass’s chief marketing officer, told me. They’re anxious about their future, their present, their position relative to that of their peers. “They’ll talk about having anxiety that their co-workers or the people on their social networks all seem to know more about a subject than they do,” Schriber said, referring, presumably, to pre-pandemic focus testing. “Someone will come to the office party and talk about wine, and then they’ll feel like I don’t know enough about wine. Someone else will talk about photography, and they’ll be like Man, I should pay attention to who the photographers are these days. Or their boss will say things like ‘You need to work on your leadership profile, or hone your creative judgments,’ and the poor 30-something is like Where am I gonna get all this?” Something about this struck me as clammy and sad, as far away from They can’t take your education away from you as it’s possible to be. As though it’s revealing another layer of unpaid labor—cultural labor—one is expected to do in order to secure the privilege of performing actual labor.What MasterClass offers 30-somethings is “a curated group of people” recognized as “the world’s best,” who are “breaking down the thing that they do in a really entertaining and digestible way,” Schriber said. “You can take away the life lessons, but you can also take away the conversation points. You can come back to work on Monday and talk about what Anna Wintour did for the Met Gala—you can also think, Man, Anna Wintour really gave me permission to show up like a boss today.”But what does it mean to “show up like a boss” at this moment? And what does it mean to learn it from Anna Wintour, who has recently come under fire for allegedly feeding a toxic and racist culture at Condé Nast? The idea that everyone should show up like a boss, so current five years ago, feels hollow now that the brutal inequalities in our system have become undeniable to all but the most willfully obtuse.[Derek Thompson: Workism is making Americans miserable]Education researchers have known for decades that being good at something and being good at teaching something are two completely different skill sets. In fact, universities are mostly ranked on the strength of their research, and, of course, the brand name can be worth a lot. Something similar holds true for MasterClass, whose impressive roster of talent feels like a who’s who of elite professionals, a gallery of the meritocracy’s winners.To understand where we are right now, and why MasterClass seems to slot in so perfectly with the moment, it’s useful to think about how it has evolved over time.MasterClass launched after the early hype around online education had already fizzled. Filmed university lectures seemed to be even less thrilling than the real thing. MOOCs (massive open online courses) had poor retention rates, and still structurally favored people of means. At first, MasterClass focused on specific skill sets, and providing an educational journey from beginning to end. But its data revealed that people weren’t necessarily consuming the courses from start to finish, nor was this really necessary to benefit from the content. “What we were finding was that when people were allowed the freedom to jump from lesson to lesson based on their interest, it was just a much more freeing experience,” Nekisa Cooper, MasterClass’s vice president of content, told me. What people seemed to want was a fun mix of short-form inspirational content. They also displayed surprisingly wide-ranging interests. Students who first watched Bobbi Brown followed her up with Chris Voss.[Read: Virtual classrooms can be as unequal as real ones]Lately, MasterClass has started presenting its offerings less as classroom education and more as part of a learning lifestyle built around a community of people with common interests and concerns. It reminds me of a kind of Spotify for careerist inspiration, a platform for dispensing assorted self-help and personal-development bonbons for the young capitalist striver. “And we’re not just offering classes or education,” Cooper said. “We’re also offering escape.”As for whether it matters if a MasterClass member finishes a course, Rogier said, “Most education sites look at completion rates. But I think that’s the wrong metric. The measure I look at is what’s the impact we have on your life. I know it’s going to sound fluffy, but we legitimately ask people if we changed their life”—which nearly 20 percent of those polled said it did.[From the September 2014 issue: The real value of online education]Silicon Valley has talked about changing the world and people’s lives for a long time, and it’s safe to say that it has succeeded. The world has been remade by private equity and venture capital. Tech has “disrupted” almost every aspect of modern living.Maybe it’s not a coincidence, then, that we find ourselves in a golden age of self-help and self-development, of “how I did it” podcasts and conferences and workshops. We’re encouraged to optimize ourselves at all times, and told to look upon this as fun, albeit compulsory. But although you can get a lot out of these activities, you can waste time looking for the answer, when what these stories all reveal is that great success is a combination of doing the work and getting (or perhaps starting out) really, really lucky.Lately, I’ve been thinking about how prospectors in the California Gold Rush rarely struck it rich. In 1849, the ones who did well were those who supplied prospectors with shovels, tents, and jeans—they kept the dream alive. Samuel Brannan, who sold shovels and other goods, was considered California’s first millionaire. Levi Strauss, who co-invented blue jeans, died with a fortune of $6 million, worth $175 million today. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with supplying people with what they need to pursue their dreams, but it seems that during this time of growing wealth and social inequality, the jeans and shovels have become largely symbolic, and the prospecting they facilitate, the endless panning for something, anything, ever more intangible. There is no goal, really. The panning is the goal.This article appears in the September 2020 print edition with the headline “What Is MasterClass Actually Selling?”
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Americans Can Barely Imagine a Congress That Works
At a hearing of the House’s antitrust subcommittee recently, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos seemed rattled to discover that his appearance was not a public-relations exercise but a deposition.Bezos, who devoted much of his five-minute opening statement to talking about his childhood, appeared unprepared to field questions about his sprawling empire, which dominates online retail in the United States, controls the backbone for much of the web through its cloud-computing division, and has lately built a parcel-delivery operation that rivals UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Remarkably, Bezos had never before testified in front of Congress. As pointed questions came at him from both sides of the aisle, he hesitated and stammered through many of his answers, and said—implausibly—that he didn’t know or couldn’t recall the details behind several of Amazon’s strategic decisions and core functions. On occasions when he did venture more of a response, he made incriminating admissions about specific tactics his company uses to snuff out competitors.The hearing was one of the final steps in the subcommittee’s bipartisan, yearlong probe into whether Amazon and three other tech companies—Apple, Facebook, and Google—are abusing their market power to thwart competition and entrench their own dominance, and if so, what Congress should do about it. The committee is expected to release its report in early September, and it could well be damning. The report may call for both regulating the tech giants’ behavior, splitting them up into smaller companies, or both.Despite all of this, Amazon’s share price barely budged after the hearing, suggesting that Wall Street harbors little fear that anything will come of the investigation. The very next day, Amazon announced record profits. During a quarter in which the overall economy shrank by a staggering 32 percent amid a cascade of business failures, Amazon’s blockbuster earnings provided still more evidence that its grip on e-commerce is tightening. Seeing no end to the monopoly gravy train, investors sent Amazon’s share price soaring. By the end of the week, the discussion in tech-policy circles had moved on to whether President Donald Trump had the power to ban the Chinese-owned app TikTok.[Read: For whom the Tok Tiks]These developments illustrate the challenges facing lawmakers who want to rein in the U.S.-based tech titans. Even if they can put forward a convincing case that, for instance, Amazon is unfairly crushing small companies, most Americans can hardly imagine that the government will act, or even that it can. The problem isn’t just that Amazon employs more lobbyists than the U.S. Senate has members. It’s that the machinery of government has been dysfunctional for so long that Americans forget it even exists. This is especially true when it comes to questions of how the economy is structured. Both political parties long ago abdicated their responsibility to be a check on the accumulation and the abuse of private power. Americans who believe this deference to big business is unwise have been conditioned to see ourselves as helpless.I encounter this every day in my work. As a researcher and the head of a nonprofit organization that seeks remedies for rising inequality and the decline of small local businesses, I’m worried about monopolies in general and Amazon in particular. (Last year, I testified before the committee as an expert witness in its investigation.) Amazon is a gatekeeper. By some estimates, more than 60 percent of Americans start their search on that site when buying goods online. The retailers and the manufacturers who do not sell there are at a deep disadvantage—which gives Amazon enormous power to dictate terms. If my inbox is any indication, many people share my view that Amazon has too much power. And yet the only response most can envision is a campaign calling on people to cancel their Prime memberships. Americans have somehow forgotten that we’re citizens of a democracy that possesses formidable tools for restoring balance and fairness to our economy.[Franklin Foer: The tech giants are dangerous, and Congress knows it]For that reason, what happens next in the investigation is crucial. The committee’s work is that of a democracy rediscovering its capacity to determine how the economy should operate—and how to hold the powerful accountable to the law. Its ultimate outcome will speak to two of the most consequential economic questions Americans face. One is whether a handful of tech giants will continue to wield outsize power over our commerce and communications. The other is whether we’re still capable of governing ourselves.Much of the subcommittee’s work has been happening quietly out of view. Over the past year, its staff of attorneys has sifted through more than 1 million documents that the four corporations were ordered to hand over, reviewed submissions from more than 100 of their suppliers and competitors, and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with witnesses. Seeking testimony from the CEOs was the final step in the investigation. It gave the executives a chance to address the evidence against them before the committee issues its findings.The burden is on the subcommittee to show Americans that what Amazon and the other tech giants are doing is both wrong and harmful. Armed with witness statements and internal company documents, the subcommittee and its staff are framing an argument: Although these companies may still produce the occasional innovative product, they’re not nearly as inventive as they would have us believe. Rather, they have achieved their extraordinary reach through raw power. The tech giants have become gatekeepers, and they exploit that control to advance their own interests. At the hearing, the subcommittee members translated the sometimes-arcane language of antitrust law into words everyone understands. They talked of spying, stealing, and bullying.Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a Democrat whose district encompasses Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, pressed Bezos on evidence that Amazon routinely mines the pricing and sales data of the independent sellers on its site and uses this information to develop its own competing versions of their most lucrative products. “Do you think that’s fair to the mom-and-pop third-party businesses who are trying to sell on your platform?” she asked. When Bezos asserted that these sellers are Amazon’s “partners,” Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who chairs the subcommittee, quoted from company documents in which Amazon instead calls them “internal competitors.”That Amazon exploits its power in one part of its operations to further its interests in another was a theme the subcommittee returned to repeatedly. One example of this was the questioning by Democratic Representative Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania about Amazon’s logistics division. During a moment that will undoubtedly haunt the company’s lawyers, Bezos confessed that Amazon’s algorithms deliberately steer shoppers to sellers who use its shipping services. This helps to explain how Amazon has, in just a few years, built a package-delivery operation that’s on track to overtake UPS and FedEx by 2022. It accomplished this feat not by competing with these carriers on price and service, but by leveraging its control over the many businesses that depend on its website.[David Dayen: America’s monopoly problem goes way beyond the tech giants]Ken Buck, a Republican representative who is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, continued the theme, grilling Bezos about evidence that Amazon had deliberately allowed counterfeits to proliferate on its site in order to extract protection money from suppliers. He cited the experience of PopSockets, a start-up in his home state of Colorado that makes popular phone accessories. The company’s founder told the subcommittee that Amazon declined to rid its website of fake versions of his products until he agreed to spend $2 million to advertise on the site.The subcommittee also has evidence that Bezos had leveraged his exceptional backing from Wall Street to block upstart competitors from gaining a foothold; that Amazon lost $200 million in a single month selling diapers below cost in a bid to force the parent company of a popular rival,, to agree to be acquired; that Amazon sold Echo speakers below cost and bought up potential rivals such as Ring so that its Alexa voice assistant could dominate the “smart home” market. Lawmakers have also documented the consequences of these practices—the small businesses, the software developers, and the product inventors who live in fear of being crushed at Amazon’s whim.Amazon, of course, is just one of the tech giants under the antitrust subcommittee’s scrutiny. The panel is building a case that these companies have created a form of private government—autocratic regimes that are tightening their control over our main arteries of commerce and information. As such, they threaten Americans’ liberties. “Our founders would not bow before a king,” Cicilline said at the hearing. “Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy.”Congress has not conducted so detailed an investigation of monopoly power in the lifetimes of most Americans, so it’s hard to conceptualize where it might lead. But if the past is any guide, it could precipitate both new laws and antitrust prosecutions. In 1938, for example, Congress set up a commission to examine concentration across multiple industries. Its findings led the federal government to file a major antitrust case, change the patent laws, and, in 1950, pass sweeping legislation to restrict mergers. Congress conducted other investigations of monopoly in the 1950s and 1960s, and the results shaped antitrust enforcement. But then, beginning in the 1970s, monopoly was sidelined as a concern by both political parties.The House’s antitrust subcommittee is resurrecting this tradition, and there are signs its work is already having an effect. State attorneys general in New York and California have reportedly opened antitrust investigations into Amazon.But a multiyear court fight is not the only way to restructure Amazon and the other tech giants. The subcommittee may recommend a more straightforward approach. Congress could approach digital platforms the same way it did the railroads, another pivotal technology that governed market access. In the late 19th century, a handful of railroad barons used their control of the rails to monopolize other industries. They captured the market for coal, for example, by blocking rival producers from using the rail lines to get their coal to market. They also charged farmers exorbitant rates to ship their crops. Congress responded by setting up a commission to oversee rates and ensure that the railroad companies did not discriminate against some customers by imposing higher prices or different terms of access. Then, in 1906, Congress enacted a law barring the railroads from maintaining an ownership stake in firms that produced goods requiring rail transportation, thereby dissolving their ability to self-deal.By passing a similar law today, Congress could compel Amazon to spin off its core parts, making each of its major divisions—its online marketplace, retail division, cloud services, and logistics operation—a stand-alone company. Doing so wouldn’t eliminate what people like about Amazon. But it would prevent Amazon from leveraging the interplay between its parts to sidestep competition, exploit smaller companies, and expand its dominance into adjacent markets. It would, in the words of the NYU business professor Scott Galloway, “oxygenate the economy,” opening the way for new businesses, new innovations, and new jobs.Amazon’s investors clearly aren’t worried that this will happen. The antitrust subcommittee’s work may not lead to legal changes for years, if at all. But in the middle of a pandemic that has spawned so much rethinking of how American society has come to operate, the panel is offering a reminder that tech monopolists, too, are subject to democratic rule. By limiting their ability to expand their power, Congress could also reestablish America as a democracy that can actually solve problems and govern itself.
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While cancellation may seek to stifle speech, it causes social and economic destruction as well.
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Op-Ed: How Jose Huizar's alleged crimes may have been aided by redistricting
Huizar's City Council district picked up a swath of downtown in the last redistricting process. Now he is accused of taking money from developers with projects in that area.
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Coronavirus-curbed video gamers are falling for 'Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout' and other diversions
Video game players are spending even more time playing games during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's a quartet of fun games to try this summer.        
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How NBA has expanded community testing for COVID-19 in team markets
The NBA has launched a community testing program it says will provide thousands of COVID-19 PCR tests for free in its team markets through August.        
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Youngstown, Ohio, Lost Its Only Paper. A 'Zombie' News Site Wants To Fill The Void
Nearly one year since The Vindicator went out of business, the new site Mahoning Matters is hoping to become a destination for local watchdog journalism.
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'Pragmatic and cautious': As some Americans avoid travel, others visit COVID-19 hot spots anyway
People are still searching for domestic vacation destinations that have long been major draws — including in places where COVID-19 cases are rising.       
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Dear Care and Feeding: My 6-Year-Old Suddenly Wants to Breastfeed Again. Should I Let Her?
Parenting advice on breastfeeding jealousy, family bedrooms, and misophonia at mealtimes.
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Ilhan Omar faces a fierce primary challenge in her first reelection bid
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a “Strike for Black Lives” demonstration to advocate for the passage of the HEROES Act in the Senate outside of the U.S. Capitol on July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images Minnesota’s primaries could have major repercussions for both poles of the Democratic Party. When Minnesotans go to the polls on Tuesday, the political futures of one of the state’s most progressive Democrats — as well as its most conservative — will be on the ballot. In Minnesota’s Fifth District, voters will decide whether they want to return Rep. Ilhan Omar — a former Somali refugee and one of the first Muslim women ever to serve in Congress — to Washington. And in the Seventh District, voters will pick a Republican challenger for Rep. Collin Peterson, a 15-term incumbent who has held on for term after term in an ever-reddening district in western Minnesota. Elsewhere in Minnesota, general election matchups are already set — like in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, where incumbent Rep. Angie Craig, who flipped the seat from GOP control in 2018, is up against Marine Corps veteran Tyler Kistner — or aren’t expected to be competitive. In Minnesota’s Fourth District, longtime Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum will face a handful of challengers, including political strategist and first-time candidate Alberder Gillespie, who co-founded the organization Black Women Rising. McCollum won her 2018 primary with more than 80 percent of the vote in 2018. The Minnesota Senate race is effectively locked in as well: Neither incumbent Sen. Tina Smith nor presumptive GOP challenger Jason Lewis, who previously represented Minnesota’s Second District in the House, have serious primaries to contend with on Tuesday, and their focus is on November. Minnesota’s Fifth District: A progressive luminary in a harsh spotlight The old Tip O’Neill aphorism holds that “all politics is local.” But in Minnesota’s Fifth District, which centers around Minneapolis, national politics has fueled a challenge to Rep. Ilhan Omar from lawyer Antone Melton-Meaux. Melton-Meaux isn’t too far from Omar on the issues, and he brands himself as a “lifelong progressive.” But it’s not his position on Medicare-for-all or similar progressive policies that have buoyed his candidacy: Instead, it’s dislike of Omar, who serves as whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On the back of an (arguably racist and sexist) anti-Omar backlash, Melton-Meaux raised a staggering $3.2 million in the second quarter of 2020 alone. As BuzzFeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reported last month, much of that money has come from large donations and pro-Israel bundlers. And for both candidates, many of their donors are from out of state. Melton-Meaux has criticized Omar on at least two fronts: One, her voting record — not what she’s voted for, but the number of votes she’s missed. (Omar missed about 6 percent of votes in 2019.) “I was hopeful that she would use her platform to do great work for the district,” he told MinnPost. “But what I’ve seen since then is someone that doesn’t show up for votes and someone that doesn’t show up for voters.” And two, Israel: Omar supports the Boycott, Divest, Sanction, or BDS, movement; Melton-Meaux, meanwhile, has the backing of several pro-Israel groups. But for all the traction Melton-Meaux has gained in the race, it’s not too likely that Omar is going anywhere — a recent poll commissioned by her campaign found her with a 37-point lead over Melton-Meaux, with the other three challengers — journalist Les Lester, campaign strategist John Mason, and attorney Daniel McCarthy — relegated to single digits. Omar has a long list of high-profile endorsements to her name, both in Minnesota and nationally. Sen. Tina Smith, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz have all backed her candidacy, though the Minneapolis Star-Tribune chose to endorse Melton-Meaux just last week. Larry Jacobs, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, believes that Omar will win out on Tuesday — and go on to win the reliably blue district come November. “Yes, she’s controversial,” he said. “Yes, she’s alienated some Democrats and angered the Jewish community. But she’s in a district where she’s progressive and voters are progressive. And so she’s likely to, I think, win the primary and go on to being reelected.” Minnesota’s Seventh District: Third time’s the charm? By some metrics, Rep. Collin Peterson is the most conservative member of the House Democrats’ 232-person majority — and he’s still more liberal than his district. First elected to the House in 1990, Peterson represents a district that went for Trump by 30 points in 2016, which means that the National Republican Congressional Committee is champing at the bit for a chance to flip his seat this cycle. Before the Minnesota GOP gets around to Peterson though, there’s still a five-way primary coming up on Tuesday. Air Force veteran Dave Hughes is something of a perennial candidate in Minnesota’s 7th District, where he has twice now won the Republican nomination and gone on to lose to Peterson. This year, former Minnesota Lieutenant Gov. Michelle Fischbach looks to be his main challenger on the way to the nomination, but three other candidates — Dr. Noel Collis, pastor Jayesun Sherman, and farmer William Louwagie — are also in the running. Though Hughes was the anointed candidate in 2018, when he lost to Peterson by a bit more than 4 points, in 2020 Fischbach has won endorsements from President Donald Trump, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Minnesota Seventh District Republican Party. It’s already been a contentious race: According to MinnPost, Fischbach’s former campaign manager pleaded guilty to harassing Hughes just last month. Nonetheless, most signs point to her being the favorite heading into Tuesday. Not only does she hold the edge in terms of big-name endorsements, but she has a more than 10:1 fundraising advantage — MinnPost reports that she had more than $900,000 in the bank last month compared to just $66,000 for Hughes. If Fischbach wins on Tuesday, though, she likely won’t have an easy time come November, despite how much the district favored Trump in 2016. Peterson has at least one major advantage: He chairs the influential House Agriculture Committee, a plum position for someone representing a rural district. “Donald Trump won by double digits in his district,” Jacobs said. “It’s by the sheer power of Peterson’s name that he held on, though it’s worth saying that his last few elections have been competitive. He used to win by large double digits.” Currently, the Cook Political Report rates Minnesota’s Seventh District as a toss-up this November. Jacobs, though, believes that Peterson, 76, will pull off a win. “But,” he adds, “this could be his last election. I mean, it’s not fun for him anymore. This is like a fistfight.” Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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How to Show Kids the Joy of Reading
Editor’s Note: In the next five years, most of America’s most experienced teachers will retire. The Baby Boomers are leaving behind a nation of more novice educators. In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. Less than three decades later, that number had fallen to just three years leading a classroom. The Atlantic’s “On Teaching” project is crisscrossing the country to talk to veteran educators. This story is the 20th in our series.“Look at this cloud,” Deloris Fowler coaxed her third graders during a science lesson about different types of clouds last year. “What shape do you think it is?”A student I’ll call Abby raised her hand. “That cloud is shaped like an anvil,” she volunteered.Fowler was impressed. Anvil isn’t a word most 21st-century third graders would know. Abby came from a family with little formal education and was particularly unlikely to have picked up vocabulary like that at home.In fact, Abby remembered the word from a story Fowler had read to the class weeks before, about a Viking boy whose father was a blacksmith—a story all the kids had followed with rapt attention. Abby had a reading disability, but Fowler had seen her confidence grow over the course of the school year. She often contributed some of the most insightful comments during class discussions. While she still had some trouble sounding out words, her score on a reading-comprehension test had zoomed from the 10th percentile at the beginning of the school year to just below average by mid-December.Things weren’t always like this in Fowler’s classroom. In her 28 years of teaching, she’s seen educational reforms come and go. That’s not unusual; in a 2017 survey of a nationally representative sample of teachers, 84 percent said that as soon as they “get a handle on a new reform,” it changes. To Fowler, some of the changes only seemed to make it harder for her students to learn—like a directive to discontinue an effective phonics program, or the emergence of a joyless and stressful regime of test prep. So when the district unveiled yet another new initiative a few years ago, Fowler was skeptical. But, to her surprise, it turned out to be the one that did the best job of achieving what has always been her goal: inspiring a love of reading in her students—including struggling ones like Abby.[John McWhorter: How I taught my kid to read]Fowler grew up in Silver Point, a rural hamlet in Putnam County, Tennessee, about 70 miles east of Nashville. Her parents only made it through eighth grade, although her mother eventually got her GED. But they put a high value on education. As a child, Fowler was a precocious and avid reader. Books, she felt, made life interesting.With the help of scholarships, she attended Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville—a town of 35,000, about 15 miles from Silver Point—that Fowler’s family considered “the big city.” Inspired by a charismatic literacy professor as well as her own book-filled childhood, Fowler made it her goal to introduce children to the delights of reading.Graduating with a degree in elementary education in 1992, she snared a job teaching first grade right in Cookeville, at Capshaw Elementary. And though she’s bounced between first, second, and—for the past seven years—third grade, she’s been at Capshaw ever since.When Fowler started, her school district, like most across the United States, grounded its literacy instruction in a textbook called a basal reader. Intended to teach both aspects of reading—sounding out words and comprehension—the reader didn’t do an adequate job with either, in the opinion of Fowler and her colleagues. In terms of comprehension, the reader was organized around skills and strategies, like “finding the main idea” and “making inferences,” but it presented the skills in such a fragmented way that kids soon forgot them. So the teachers supplemented the reader with a phonics program, paid for by the school’s parents’ organization, that systematically taught students to hear the individual sounds in words and connect them to letters. According to Fowler, the supplementary phonics program worked—until the district directed teachers to stop using it.Fowler found her own way, trying to teach comprehension skills through texts that could infuse more joy into the process than those in the basal reader. She read aloud chapter books by well-known children’s authors and biographies of historical figures like Helen Keller. The children were far more engaged in those books, begging her to keep reading when it was time to stop. She would also try to carve out 15 or 20 minutes a day when kids could choose books from the classroom library and read silently on their own. Sometimes she would have students do spontaneous talks to describe the books and convince others to read them.But the best parts of teaching, for Fowler, were the two- or three-week units she and her colleagues created around science and social-studies topics. When the class studied Italy, for example, they read books by the Italian American author Tomie dePaola and went to a local Italian restaurant to eat spaghetti. A unit on Japan included reading books by Japanese American authors and making kimonos. When kids studied the Arctic, they did projects on penguins. “I always felt in my heart that was the best way to teach kids,” Fowler told me, “because they got so involved in it.”[Read: Every child can become a lover of books]Then, in an effort to boost student achievement and address inequities, Congress enacted No Child Left Behind in 2002. The legislation required states to give annual reading and math tests in third through eighth grade and once in high school. If schools didn’t make sufficient progress toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency, a range of sanctions could be triggered. In Tennessee, as in many states, the scores also factored into teachers’ job evaluations. Capshaw had a relatively affluent student body, and test scores were fairly high. Nevertheless, Fowler says, teachers there came under pressure to teach to the test.The district continued using the same curriculum—which, for literacy, was essentially the dreaded basal reader. But there was no more time to enrich it with perceived frills like deep dives into Italy, Japan, or penguins. The focus had to be on the tested subjects, reading and math. And, for several weeks before the tests were given in April, the basal reader was abandoned in favor of instruction that mirrored the test format—even for the first graders Fowler was teaching. While they weren’t yet required to take state tests, first graders were given other tests designed to predict their performance in years to come.To prep them, Fowler would give her students workbooks with reading passages on disconnected topics, followed by comprehension questions. The kids were uninterested in the passages in the workbooks, and they found the testing stressful. Some started to hate reading. Fowler found the situation so dispiriting that she briefly considered taking a different role in the school district.While Fowler could see how the focus on testing was failing her students, others in the district—particularly Jill Ramsey, who oversees elementary curriculum—had a view of the bigger picture. Throughout the district, there was a dramatic drop in scores after fourth grade. The problem, Ramsey believed, was that at higher grade levels, students were suddenly being confronted with test passages that assumed more academic knowledge—knowledge that elementary schools had been failing to build. What looked like a middle-school problem, Ramsey thought, was actually an elementary-school problem.The solution was yet another reform, but this time the impact would be very different. In 2016, the Putnam County School District decided to try a more rigorous literacy curriculum, beginning in the elementary grades—one that included solid phonics instruction and also built the kind of knowledge students would need in order to understand material at upper grade levels. They opted for Core Knowledge Language Arts, or CKLA.The next year the district piloted CKLA’s “Listening and Learning” strand, which—unlike basal-reader instruction—was organized around specific topics in subjects like history and science. A teacher would spend two to three weeks on each topic, reading aloud about it to the entire class and leading class discussions based on questions provided in a teacher’s guide. Students would also have simpler books to read on their own. The pilot involved one teacher at each elementary school. At Capshaw, that teacher was Fowler, then teaching third grade.At first, she had serious doubts about the new curriculum. CKLA didn’t explicitly teach comprehension skills, and it covered topics that seemed far too sophisticated for third graders, like the Vikings, ancient Rome, and astronomy. It seemed, she says, that this approach was “taking a big gamble on kids.” And, like many teachers, she didn’t relish the idea of teaching from what she saw as a script.But Fowler found that her third graders were not only able to understand the material, they also loved it. Eager to learn more, they would often read ahead in their student books. Fowler still tried to make time for students to read books of their choice, but she found they often wanted more books on the CKLA topics. When they clamored to learn more about Pompeii, Fowler appealed to the school librarian for additional books, bought some with her own money, and brought in a friend who had traveled there to do a show-and-tell. [Read: The new preschool is crushing kids]Fowler was also impressed by the improvement in students’ writing. Writing instruction at Capshaw, as at many schools, had long been a struggle. To prepare kids for the writing component of the state tests, teachers would mimic the test format, providing them with two or three paragraphs of information about a topic like insects and asking them to write a paragraph in response. The kids had trouble producing anything. But with CKLA, they had lots of information to draw on and eagerly wrote multiple paragraphs on the topics in the curriculum.By the end of the pilot year, all 20 teachers who participated were enthusiastic about the curriculum, and it was tried district-wide the following year. This past spring, Putnam County officially adopted it for kindergarten through fifth grade.Fowler says she doesn’t worry anymore about CKLA’s “scriptedness”; teachers infuse the lessons with their own personalities. And she values the equity in giving all children access to the same content, regardless of individual reading ability. While Fowler will occasionally work with small groups of students on discrete skills—like coming up with the topic sentence of a paragraph—students no longer routinely work in reading groups. She’s found that all children, including those with a disability like Abby, are able to take in more sophisticated information through listening than through their own reading—and that inspires them to stay engaged. At the end of the school year, Abby told Fowler she would keep reading over the summer. “I’m not going to stop,” she said, bringing Fowler and the girl’s mother to the verge of tears. “I promise you.”CKLA isn’t perfect, Fowler says. She wishes the curriculum included more fiction and poetry—partly because she feels kids should be introduced to a variety of genres, and partly because the state tests expect third graders to know about elements of fiction like plot and setting. The tests—now required under NCLB’s successor legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act—still loom large, and they aren’t connected to the content in CKLA. But Ramsey, the curriculum supervisor, hopes that the knowledge and vocabulary students are now acquiring beginning in kindergarten will eventually result in better scores at upper grade levels.As for Fowler, the measure of effectiveness is, as always, whether her students are finding joy—and she sees them discovering not only the joy of reading but also the joy of learning. Instead of making kimonos and dioramas of penguins, they’re dressing up like ancient Egyptians and building pyramids. But their level of engagement is the same.“This is how I used to teach 20 years ago,” she says. “I’m back to the beginning. This is what I thought kids wanted. So it makes my heart happy.”This article is part of our project “On Teaching,” which is supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Panta Rhea Foundation.
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The ‘Blue Shift’ Will Decide the Election
As polling places closed on November 6, 2018, the expected “blue wave” looked more like a ripple. Not only had some of the highest-profile Democratic candidates lost, but the party’s gains in the House and the Senate looked smaller than anticipated.The wave, it turned out, simply hadn’t crested yet. Over the ensuing weeks, as more ballots were counted, Democrats kept winning races—eventually netting 41 House seats. In Arizona, the Republican Martha McSally conceded the Senate race to the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who picked up more than 70,000 votes in post–Election Day counting. Democrats narrowed deficits in races in Florida and Georgia too. Republicans were stunned.“California just defies logic to me,” then-Speaker Paul Ryan said in late November. “We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every contested California race.”This sort of late-breaking Democratic vote is the new, though still underappreciated, normal in national elections. Americans have become accustomed to knowing who won our elections promptly, but there are many legitimate votes that are not counted immediately every election year. For reasons that are not totally understood by election observers, these votes tend to be heavily Democratic, leading results to tilt toward Democrats as more of them are counted, in what has become known as the “blue shift.” In most cases, the blue shift is relatively inconsequential, changing final vote counts but not results. But in others, as in 2018, it can materially change the outcome.[Read: The Democrats’ delayed gratification in the midterms]Although it is slowly dawning on the press and the electorate that Election Day will be more like Election Week or Election Month this year, thanks to coronavirus-related complications, the blue shift remains obscure. But the effect could be much larger and far more consequential in 2020, as Democrats embrace voting by mail more enthusiastically than Republicans. If the public isn’t prepared to wait patiently for the final results, and if politicians cynically exploit the shifting tallies to cast doubt on the integrity of the vote, the results could be catastrophic.Imagine that as November 3, 2020, ticks away, President Donald Trump holds a small lead in one or more key states such as Pennsylvania—perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 votes—and seems to have enough states in his column to eke out an Electoral College win. Trump declares victory, taunts Joe Biden, and prepares for a second term. But the reported results on Election Night omit tens of thousands of votes, including provisional ballots and uncounted mail-in votes. Over the coming days, as those votes are counted, Trump’s lead dwindles and eventually disappears. By the end of the week or early the next, Biden emerges as the clear victor in Pennsylvania—and with that win, captures the race for the presidency.If that’s how things unfold, Trump is unlikely to take defeat snatched from the jaws of victory graciously. He has already spent months attempting to delegitimize the election system. So imagine that he instead cries fraud and insists he’s the target of a criminal Democratic coup. What if he encourages his supporters to take to the streets, where there are violent clashes between partisans? He might even urge the Republican-led Pennsylvania General Assembly to submit a slate of Trump-backing electors, citing the Election Day returns, even if the full tally clearly shows Keystone State voters chose Biden.[David A. Graham: Trump can’t postpone the election—but he’s trying to destroy its legitimacy]The hypothetical of a blue shift reversing the early projected winner is the “nightmare scenario,” according to the election-law expert Rick Hasen. Either Trump or Biden could win by a sufficient margin to make the result clear on Election Night; it’s also possible that multiple states might see a decisive post–November 3 blue shift, creating even more chaos.“You don’t need to worry about Russia,” Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State, told me. “Simply anxiety over a blue shift and willingness to litigate about it and fight about it could cause a raging contestation over a presidential election.”The blue shift is the product of two major developments in elections over the past 70 years. First, Americans began to expect that they would have results on Election Night itself. In the first national elections, it was impossible to gather results from many different jurisdictions promptly, and even then, there was no way to instantaneously deliver the results to the public. Electronic communications began to change that. Abraham Lincoln learned he’d won in 1860 by staking out the telegraph office until the wee hours of the morning. But when the races were close, or the votes were slow to be tallied, even instantaneous communications couldn’t deliver a result that hadn’t yet been determined. Nearly a century after Lincoln, in 1948, CBS News’s Edward Murrow signed off without being able to give the result of the close election between Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey. (The Chicago Daily Tribune was not so patient.)The second change was the introduction of a technology that allowed television networks to project who would win the election, sometimes even before the last polling places had closed. In 1952, for the first time, CBS and NBC each experimented with using computers to analyze the early returns, and by 1960, they were a key part of the election coverage. Television became central to Americans’ Election Night rituals, and the networks’ projections came to stand in for actual results. Strictly speaking, there are no election results until boards of elections certify them. Practically, Americans usually assume that whatever the TV tells them is fact.“From a legal perspective, there are no results on Election Night, and there never have been,” Foley told me. “The only thing that has ever existed on Election Night are projected results that the media has helpfully provided to its audiences.”[David A. Graham: The damage of Trump’s voter-fraud allegations can’t be undone]Eliding this distinction created a disaster in 2000. On Election Night, networks projected a win for Democrat Al Gore, then withdrew it, then predicted a victory for Republican George W. Bush, and then withdrew that too, as results in Florida were too close to know the outcome. A final answer wouldn’t come until December 12, when the Supreme Court slammed the door shut on a recount, ensuring that Bush’s lead in Florida would stand, and thus that he would be president.The mess of the 2000 election in Florida—butterfly ballots, opaque instructions, hanging and pregnant chads—inspired the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Among other things, the law requires that voters who believe they are eligible to vote but who don’t appear on a voter register be allowed to cast provisional ballots that are adjudicated later. A growing number of states also adopted no-excuse absentee ballots, which were intended to make it easier for people to vote without waiting in long Election Day lines.In 2012, while watching the Ohio returns, Foley wondered what effect votes counted after Election Day might have. He found something astonishing. Looking at five battleground states, Foley discovered that from 1960 to 2000, there’d always been some change between the Election Night tally and the final results, usually in the hundreds or thousands of votes, and sometimes favoring either party. Starting in 2004, the size of the shifts had become reliably Democratic and significantly larger—nearly 80,000 votes in Virginia in 2008. Foley christened this effect the “blue shift.”The blue shift remains little studied and poorly understood. In a 2015 paper, Foley and the MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III found evidence that the blue shift was correlated with the number of provisional ballots cast. A California Institute of Technology paper this year studying the blue shift in Orange County, California, found that many provisional voters are younger, more likely to be nonwhite, and more transient, all populations that tend to vote for Democrats. Foley and Stewart also found no strong correlation between mail-in or absentee ballots and a blue shift. These votes have not historically had a strong partisan leaning.[David A. Graham: Trump is brazenly interfering with the 2020 election]“I think an honest assessment of this is that we’re still learning,” Foley said. “While we have made some progress as a field, I don’t myself feel confident that we’ve really pinned down causality.”Meanwhile, politicians and the general public seem largely unaware of the phenomenon, which is one reason Paul Ryan was caught so off guard by the 2018 results.“I can understand why professional politicians would be anxious if their Election Night leads are slipping away when they’re used to the expectation that you could bank on an Election Night result,” Foley said.Ryan was quick to say he didn’t question the final California results. But not all Republicans were so scrupulous. (Democrats lodged some of their own claims about stolen elections, especially in the Georgia gubernatorial race.) Even though there was no indication of fraud in Orange County, Trump likened the slow tally of the votes there to a massive ballot-fraud operation in North Carolina, which resulted in an election do-over. And as Democratic candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate in Florida gained votes in post–Election Day counting—roughly 20,000 a piece—Trump grew agitated: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!” The state’s sitting senator, Marco Rubio, and then-Governor Rick Scott, who ultimately won the Senate race, both echoed that claim.This was nonsense: The ballots that were being counted had been cast legally, and to not count them—to “go with Election Night,” in Trump’s parlance—would have constituted widespread voter disenfranchisement. In the end, the votes were counted, the Republicans won, and the fuss quieted down. But Trump’s fury offers a small taste of what might happen in a similar situation—only with Trump himself on the ballot, and the presidency at stake.A blue shift this November is all but certain; the real question is how big it will be. In a 2019 paper on the prospect of a disputed 2020 election, Foley wrote: It is not unreasonable to expect Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2020 to gain on Trump by over 20,000 votes in Pennsylvania during the period between Election Night and the final, official certification of the canvass. The key question is whether this kind of gain simply extends a lead that the Democratic candidate already has, comparable to what occurred in two statewide races in 2018. Or whether, instead, it cuts into a lead that Trump starts with on Election Night—and, if so, whether it is enough of a gain for Trump’s Democratic opponent to overcome Trump’s Election Night lead. That was all before the coronavirus. Elections held during the pandemic so far have revealed a slew of problems: not enough poll workers, not enough polling stations, and long lines to vote. That’s all happening in relatively small primary elections. Extend that to a nationwide election with the high turnout expected in November and the risks become greater.[Read: Why Americans might not trust the election results]Much of that turnout will not be in person. The use of mail-in voting has expanded massively, as states seek to offer voters a way to cast their ballots without having to worry about their health. Although some states use universal mail-in balloting, no national election has ever relied so heavily on it, and most states don’t have experience processing so many mail-in votes.The explosion of mail-in voting could enormously magnify the blue shift. In the past, there’s been little correlation between mail-in ballots and the post–Election Day Democratic gain. But there is growing evidence, and concern among GOP strategists, that the president’s crusade against mail-in voting is discouraging Republicans from casting their ballots that way. If mailed ballots are disproportionately Democratic, and Republicans disproportionately vote on Election Day, then the blue shift could be huge—especially in states where officials are restricted from counting mailed ballots until Election Day, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida.Other states might not be presidential tipping points, but could have pivotal House and Senate races. (Two New York Democratic congressional primaries saw winners officially declared only last week, more than a month after Election Day.) Courts and state governments could alter these rules—for example, by mandating different schedules, or requiring that votes postmarked but not received by Election Day be counted.“We saw delays in the primaries,” Hasen, the election-law expert, told me. “There’s going to be much more volume [in the general election]. There’s a lot that could be done to help. It’s just a question of whether the system will be adequately resourced.”Even a well-prepared system will see a blue shift, though, and that will make it vulnerable to the kind of attacks Trump used in 2018.“The public is more likely to perceive, rightly or wrongly, that ballots counted for the first time after Election Day are more susceptible to partisan manipulation than ballots counted on Election Day, with this perception stronger if these overtime ballots tilt more favorably toward one party and diverge from the Election Day count,” Foley and Stewart wrote.[Norm Ornstein: The November election is going to be a mess]Neal Kelley, the registrar of voters in Orange County, told me it was hard to even describe his experience of trying to canvass voters after the midterms. “It’s just a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said. “You’re getting scrutiny from attorneys, candidates, media, across the board. It’s kind of like captaining a ship in battle.”Kelley said he doesn’t worry about fraud, noting that in most states there are more checks on mail-in votes than on in-person votes. But he said offering full transparency was helpful in instilling confidence in the tally. TV crews rolled tape all day as his team counted votes, and political operatives were watching too. “I don’t expect people to just blindly trust us,” he said.Open communication from election officials will be essential to maintaining legitimacy if blue shifts significantly change the initial projections this November. The public has to understand what to expect: not only that the timeline for results will be extended, but also that the final tally might be different from the early returns. But much of the burden for protecting the credibility of the voting will fall on elected officials. Unfortunately, the president’s track record makes it clear that he will cry fraud no matter the result—he did so even in victory in 2016, insisting that “millions of people” voted illegally.“A lot of this is on responsible members of the Republican Party,” Hasen told me. “If there’s no way Trump’s going to win, even with claims of fraud, I expect Republicans will reject Trump’s claims of fraud. If it’s close, then they’ll get in line behind Trump.”If that prediction comes true, it might be the only orderly thing to happen this November.
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The Utter Failure of the Trump Administration’s Antitrust Chief
Makan Delrahim briefly looked like a serious trustbuster. He proved to be yet another of the president’s political hacks.
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All the Intrusive and Insulting Ways Bosses Are Smothering Their Remote Workers
Multiple daily check-ins. To-do list tyranny. Constant virtual monitoring. Too many managers don’t believe working from home is really working.
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China sanctions 11 US politicians, heads of organizations
The move is a tit-for-tat response to U.S. sanctions
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Lightweight king Mason Jones targets 'champ champ' status at Cage Warriors 116
Lightweight champion Mason Jones will take on Adam Proctor for the vacant welterweight title at Cage Warriors 116.       Related StoriesNeil Magny vs. Robbie Lawler booked for Aug. 29 UFC event after Geoff Neal suffers health scareMMA's week out of the cage: Conor McGregor, Dee Devlin announce engagementUFC on ESPN+ 32 post-event facts: Derrick Lewis conquers one record and approaches others 
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Record-breaking shark breach captured on camera
Since Air Jaws debuted on the Discovery Channel back in 2001, the series has given audiences a glimpse of some of the most exciting visuals of great white sharks breaches.
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Unrest follows police shooting in Chicago
Police blame misinformation on social media about the age of they suspect they shot for helping to spark the trouble. He was a young man, not a boy, they said.
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