David Samuels profiles the White House's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, and finds "an only slightly updated version of what Holden Caulfield might have been like if he grew up to work in the West Wing." Although the comparison, and the rest of the profile, seem intended to frame Rhodes as a serious thinker and decision-maker, Rhodes's derision toward the press corps ("They literally know nothing"), jaundiced candor about the "spin" used in selling the Iran deal, and statements like “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends" have set the media establishment afire with hot takes and critiques.
New York Times Magazine's The Work Issue: Reimagining the Office presents longform articles on questions regarding hiring, teamwork, meetings, automation, and more. Semi-permeable paywall. [more inside]
President Obama’s Letter to the Editor [New York Times]
For the cover story of our Aug. 2 issue, Jim Rutenberg wrote about efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [previously], the landmark piece of legislation that cleared barriers between black voters and the ballot. The story surveyed a broad sweep of history and characters, from United States Chief Justice John Roberts to ordinary citizens like 94-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in the current North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions enacted in 2013. The magazine received an unusual volume of responses to this article, most notably from President Barack Obama.
Inside America's Toughest Federal Prison For years, conditions inside the United States’ only federal supermax facility were largely a mystery. But a landmark lawsuit is finally revealing the harsh world within. (SLNYT)
My Saga, Part 1 By Karl Ove Knausgaard [New York Times] Following the trail of the first Europeans to set foot in America, the first of two parts. Previously. Previously. [more inside]
"If you don't know your own value, somebody will tell you your value, and it'll be less than you're worth." In a brutal and unforgiving vocation, forty-nine year old Bernard Hopkins is the oldest fighter in the history of professional boxing to win and defend a world title. Hopkins has developed his own particular worldview over the course of a rough life and he doesn't mind sharing some of his opinions, one of which, as Carlo Rotella notes, is "He's not shy about pointing out that both private and public interests invest heavily in the social failure of black men." Why has Hopkins lasted over twenty-five years in his fight career and what do his opponents in the ring fear most? It's his mind. (NYT)
Like blasted pecs or a little rhinestone flag pin, esoteric taste in music is an indicator of values. Under the heel of the major-label system in the early ’90s, indie taste meant more than liking weird bands. To care about obscure bands was to reject the perceived conformity of popular culture, to demand a more nuanced reading of the human experience than Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” and therefore to assert a certain kind of life. That assertion was central to my identity as a young adult, and I found that people who shared it were more likely to agree with me on seemingly unrelated issues. Like all aesthetics, taste in music is a worldview.
The New York Times Magazine's latest issue, The Lives They Lived, is a tribute to cultural icons that have died in 2012. Adam Yauch, a.k.a MCA of the Beastie Boys, is featured on the cover. [more inside]