“Right now, all people are hearing about are the deaths,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson told the New York Times last week. “I’m sure the deaths are horrific, but the flip side of this is the vast majority of people who get coronavirus do survive.” The problem with this line of reasoning is that “the vast majority” is not a useful standard when measuring a pandemic that is projected to infect at least half the population.
Johnson is comparing the virus to auto fatalities. Around 37,000 people die every year in car crashes, which is certainly a lot. But losing 1 to 3.4 percent of people who get the coronavirus would mean millions of deaths. So no, we don’t shut down the economy to prevent 37,000 deaths, but we might shut down the economy to prevent 100 times that many deaths.
Despite the underlying threat of contracting COVID-19 aka the Trump Flu, I voted in the primary today.
The process was simple – it took me longer to walk to the polling location1 than it did to actually exercise my voting franchise.
I checked in, signed my name and address, using my own pen, gave my piece of paper to one clerk of the dozen or so, all of who were keeping several feet from each other, got my ballot smart card, went to the touchscreen. Again, there were enough voting machines that nobody was close to anyone else. Filled out my ballot, checked it twice, printed it out, and went to the optical scanner. Easy, peasy.
More than just the president is on the ballot, as is always the case. I am interested in my Congressman losing in the primary, as I think it is time for fresh blood. I’ve had a Google alert for my Congressman for years, and he seemingly does nothing newsworthy most months. In fact, sometimes it will be years before I read any tidbit of news with his name. Sad, really. What does he do all day? I assume he does some work, and he seems like a pleasant enough man on a personal level, but I would be pleased if he was no longer my Congressman.
[Danny] Davis faces a similar push for new blood in the 7th Congressional District, which spans from west-central suburban Hillside all the way to Lake Michigan, making it one of the most economically diverse in Illinois. He was elected to his seat in 1996, after having served for nearly two decades on Chicago’s City Council and then the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Davis’ opponents criticize him for missing a lot of votes, saying he’s no longer effective. One of his young challengers, Clark, a veteran and teacher from Oak Park, identifies as a Democratic Socialist and has been pushing a heavily issues-oriented campaign. Clark snagged the endorsement of the Sun-Times. Kina Collins, a community organizer for health care policy, has aligned with the newly elected alderman of Woodlawn, who’s been pressuring the Obama Presidential Center for a community benefits agreement. Another Davis challenger, Schanbacher, is a human rights lawyer from Streeterville. She already has the endorsement of three downtown and lakefront aldermen in Chicago and the west suburbs.
The U.S. was not prepared to respond to the coronavirus — in no small part because Trump had hamstrung the nation’s pandemic response capabilities. The Washington Post detailed Saturday the “many preventable missteps and blunders in the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis — the embodiment of an administration that, for weeks, repeatedly squandered opportunities to manage and prepare for a global epidemic.” The problems started from the top: Trump “has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear,” Politico reported the same day.
Trump’s lax response to the spread of the coronavirus mimics the reaction of his favorite network — and that’s no coincidence. The president is shunning aides who provide him with negative information about the epidemic and basking in Fox’s glowing coverage. On Friday afternoon, amid a rambling and incoherent press event at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Trump downplayed the threat posed by the disease, praised his administration’s response, lashed out at Democrats, and told reporters that he was getting information about the spread of the coronavirus from Fox.
“As of the time I left the plane with you, we had 240 cases — that’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News,” he said. “I know you love it. But that’s what I happened to be watching.” This was not an anomaly. As coronavirus spread in February 2020, Trump sent more than twice as many live-tweets of Fox’s coverage as he did in February 2019. On Friday morning alone, he sent three tweets about coronavirus in response to Fox.
What was Trump learning from his regular Fox-watching? Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging Trump politically. The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the Trump administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus, that the fears of the disease are overblown, and that the real problem is Democrats and the media politicizing the epidemic to prevent Trump’s reelection. The president absorbs those narratives and parrots them to the public in tweets and statements; the network responds by continuing to push those talking points.
No one wants a public panic. But by downplaying the risks of coronavirus in order to rally to Trump’s defense, Fox is endangering its audience, which skews older and is most susceptible to the disease. It seems to be having an effect — both anecdotally and based on polling: Republicans are less likely to view the disease as a serious threat.
But the greater danger is that one of Fox’s older Republican viewers is the president of the United States. And when the network tells him that coronavirus is nothing to worry about, he listens.
As a result, a significant number of Americans are likely to die — prematurely and unnecessarily — because Trump is taking advice from Fox News. We are courting disaster, thanks to the Trump-Fox feedback loop.
All of official Washington has come to an agreement that swift, bold action is needed to counteract the dramatic economic impact of the coronavirus’ spread. But negotiations around such a package have been complicated by the fact that President Donald Trump can’t stand the idea of negotiating one-on-one with his chief counterpart, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, he suspects that she would use the moment to try to humiliate him.
Two senior Trump administration officials described a president who, out of an intense bitterness toward the House Speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public-health crisis and economic reverberations.
Put President Trump in a room full of scientists, and he’s going to start to feel very insecure. Put him in a crisis he can’t boast his way out of, and things are going to go very badly.
That’s what we now face with the coronavirus. The crisis is not happening only in a foreign country, or in just one spot in America. It threatens to touch all of us. By all accounts, the president’s handling of it so far has been somewhere between awful and disastrous. Worst of all, from his perspective, it threatens the reality distortion field he works so hard to maintain.
Trump is plainly more concerned with how the virus affects his public image than how it affects Americans’ health. He blurted out that he wanted to keep a cruise ship off the coast of California “because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”
But when Trump feels the need to remind you that he is related to a smart person, it’s pretty obvious that he’s afraid people might not think he’s smart enough.
First, I am disappointed that more Americans don’t consider Elizabeth Warren as the best choice for president. She seems to me the most likely to get a progressive agenda through Congress.
Second, I worry that Joe Biden, the Democratic establishment’s favorite, also known as Credit Card Joe, will not beat Donald Trump. Biden reminds me of Al Gore, of John Kerry, of Michael Dukakis, even of Walter Mondale. And of course, Hillary Clinton. All centrist, corporate friendly Democrats, supported by the Democratic establishment, who won the Democratic Party’s nomination, but then lost because of these same reasons. Maybe I’m wrong: I don’t know how Biden would actually perform when going up against the Trump/GOP Wurlitzer. Biden does have a tendency to misspeak, make gaffes, but then there is Trump who lies nearly every sentence he utters. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Third, if Biden does pull out the nomination, of course I’ll vote for him in the general election, just as I did for all those mentioned above1 but not enthusiastically. Donald Trump is a threat to our entire planet, and a threat to the continuation of America as a nation of democratic ideals; other than marching in the street, voting against Trump is our only recourse to removing him.
The Guardian U.K.:
The former vice-president Joe Biden surged to Super Tuesday victories in nine states, sweeping the south and taking the key state of Texas in a remarkable comeback on the most pivotal night of the Democratic presidential primary race.
His rival, Bernie Sanders, won the crucial state of California, according to the Associated Press, where 415 delegates – more than any other state in the Democratic primary – were up for grabs. Exit polls indicated that the Vermont senator had an approximate 15-point lead, though final results may not be confirmed for days.
The win gave Sanders a much-needed boost after a rejuvenated Biden swept the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, propelled by black voters, and scored surprise wins in Massachusetts and Minnesota, before topping the winning streak with the delegate-rich state of Texas.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the first Democratic 2020 hopeful to take a direct swing at former Vice President Joe Biden since he got into the race, accusing him of being “on the side of the credit companies” in a fight that launched her political career a decade ago.
Warren’s quarrel with Biden isn’t personal. It’s about a 2005 bankruptcy bill he supported as a senator. Warren opposed the bill so vehemently that its passage inspired her transition from a Harvard bankruptcy law professor, who studied middle-class economics, to a senator and now a presidential hopeful.
“I got in that fight because [families] just didn’t have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies,” Warren said after an April rally in Iowa. “It’s all a matter of public record.”
The bill made it harder for individuals to file for bankruptcy and get out of debt, a legal change that credit card companies and many major retailers had championed for years. The bill passed Congress with large majorities, but most Democratic senators, including Barack Obama, voted no. Biden voted yes and was widely seen at the time as one of the bill’s major Democratic champions.
To Warren, bankruptcy is fundamentally about bad luck rather than irresponsible behavior. The changes were mostly unnecessary additional burdens for struggling families that would enrich powerful special interests. Supporters of the changes, like Biden, believed that too many people were filing for bankruptcy — often people with more ability to repay their debts — a problem that was costly not just to creditors but to ordinary nonbankrupt consumers.
In a development that got lost in all the jabber about the Nevada caucuses, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor used a dissent in a case that highlighted one of the worst ideas ever to slime its way out of Stephen Miller’s twisted mind to call out her Republican colleagues for being Republican hacks. Back in August, the administration* sought to limit immigration through something called the “public charge” rule. In brief, this means that someone can be denied the right to come here if that person could potentially take advantage of our pathetically shabby social-safety net. Resistance to this idea was loud and immediate. People pointed out that this was exactly the argument the government had used to send Jews who were fleeing Hitler back to Europe.
…Make no mistake. In this dissent, Justice Sotomayor is calling out the new 5-4 conservative majority—which includes Chief Justice John Roberts—for being White House errand boys. This is an astonishing development. You simply do not ever see this kind of attack on the Court’s objectivity from inside the temple. And the hell of it all is that she’s right. There was no reason for the Court to act so precipitously on this noxious principle except to do the White House’s bidding, and, by doing the White House’s bidding in this way, the 5-4 majority submarined the authority of the appellate system all the way down through the federal judiciary.
There was a time when I actually believed that Roberts cared enough about the institution over which he presides that he never would let it become an adjunct chop-shop to a criminal enterprise. Madame Justice Sotomayor just told me how wrong I was. I stand corrected.
[The Dotard] trumpets that he is the most bodacious barrier builder of all, yet he can’t seem to get his one “big, beautiful wall” funded or even taken seriously, much less built. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has continuously stamped his tiny feet and demanded that Congress shell out more than 10 billion of our taxpayers’ dollars to erect a monster of a wall across some 2,000 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. Like a flimflamming snake-oil peddler, he rants that his magnificent edifice would magically keep “aliens,” “rapists,” “murderers,” “terrorists,” “drugs” and “cartels” from entering the U.S. from the south. But even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress, the presidency and the courts, his grand scheme went unloved, unfunded and unbuilt.
Still, he kept insisting … and persisting. In January, he directed his Customs and Border Control officials to put up a short section of his 30-foot-tall wall on the border at Calexico, California, to show the world how effective the Trump bulwark would be. Alas, though, the thing blew over! Not from a hurricane-force storm but from moderate winds topping out at only 37 miles an hour. The metal panels flung over into Mexico. Embarrassing.
A month later, a climbing group in Kentucky built a replica of that wall and held an up-and-over competition. Winning time was 13.1 seconds! Sixty-five competitors easily topped it, including an 8-year-old girl and a guy who climbed it one-handed while juggling various items with his other hand.
Would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. What else could Wall money be spent on? Nearly anything would be more useful…
El Paso Times reports:
Smugglers in Juárez have engineered camouflage hook-and-ladders made of rebar that blend in so well with the border wall that it can be hard to detect, according to U.S. Border Patrol. The ladders are the same rust brown color as the mesh panels or steel beams of the fence.
El Paso’s urban stretch of border is littered with the rusted rebar ladders at the base on both sides — ladders lying in wait on the Mexican side, ladders pulled down by border agents or abandoned by smugglers on the U.S. side. One of the rebar ladders was poking out of a dumpster in a lot near the Chihuahuita neighborhood on Thursday.
The ladders appear to be made with two poles of 3/8-inch rebar and four thinner poles, outfitted with steps and bent over at the end in a U, to hook on the top of the wall. It’s the sort of cubed rebar support structure used in construction in Mexico, called castillo.
Six meters of castillo costs 99 pesos, or about $5.30, at the Hágalo — or Do It Yourself — True Value hardware store in Juárez. There is no indication that smugglers are shopping at that store in particular.
Romero said the rebar ladders started turning up in large numbers in the El Paso sector last year in May, around the time that construction of the most recent replacement wallfinished downtown. They’ve been a go-to method for scaling the fence in the urban footprint since.
A pardon for Roger Stone would be the capstone of the White House’s extraordinary interference in this legal case. Attorney General William Barr already created a firestorm by overriding the sentencing guidelines of the original prosecutors in the case, who resigned in protest.
Trump’s use of his pardon power can be distinguished from the other scandals of his presidency in that it is a perfectly legal, indeed constitutional, form of corruption. The fact a president can pardon his own criminal associates doesn’t make the action any better than actually impeachable offenses like obstructing justice or using foreign aid to advance his political fortune.
Rather, the very constitutionality of Trump’s actions makes them worse, because they show how the legal powers of the presidency are themselves ripe for abuse. Trump, by being bolder than his predecessors, has shown how easily a president can undermine the rule of law without even breaking any laws.
I couldn’t stomach watching much of the debate last night, happily, from what I saw, the loser was Michael Bloomberg. He was only in the debate because he is a billionaire, which is such a strange decision by the DNC. What is the depth of support for an oligarch among the Democratic Party’s base? Not much.
That said, I hope Bloomberg is a man of his word who spends freely up and down the ticket to unseat the Republicans, including in the Senate. We’ll see.
Ted Cruz, the Republican Texas senator, has given an unwitting boost to an Alabama lawmaker’s attempt to push back on restrictive abortion laws in her state, by tweeting about her proposal to force men to have vasectomies when they reach the age of 50.
Democratic representative Rolanda Hollis introduced the measure to the state’s House last week, intending it as protest against a law passed by the Alabama legislature last year to outlaw abortion in almost every case unless the life of the mother was at risk.
“The responsibility is not always on the women. It takes two to tangle [sic],” Hollis wrote in a tweet acknowledging that her long-shot House bill, which would also a mandate a vasectomy after the birth of a father’s third biological child, was intended to “neutralize the abortion ban bill”.
After an initial flare of mostly local publicity, the issue was set to fade back into obscurity – until Cruz waded in with a tweet that placed it firmly before a national audience and his own 3.5 million Twitter followers, exposing his apparent hypocrisy over reproductive legislation at the same time.
“Yikes. A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything… literally!” Cruz wrote, linking to an Alabama news website’s account of the story from three days previously.
Ted Cruz is not as smart as he pretends to be, in other words. Or else, secretly he believes in progressive ideals but says the opposite because he is a Senator from Texas?
Nahh, Cruz is just not that smart.
For nearly a decade, as male politicians have repeatedly sought to chip away at our reproductive rights, female legislators have responded with bills of their own, meant to regulate theirs. In 2012 we had a whole slew of them — Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Illinois proposed adding an amendment to a bill requiring those who get abortions to watch an ultrasound beforehand that would also require men who get Viagra to watch a graphic video about its potential side effects; Sen. Janet Howell of Virginia thought men who wanted Viagra should probably get a rectal exam first; and Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner felt that the best way to show men who feel they need a drug for erectile disfunction “that we care” about them would be to require a psychological examination beforehand, and then a cardiac test every 90 days after that, and that they should also be required to sign a form saying they understand the side effects.
Then, in 2017, Texas state Rep. Jessica Farrar “A Man’s Right To Know Act” proposed fining men $100 for masturbating (every sperm is sacred!), allowing doctors to refuse to perform vasectomies or prescribe Viagra if they feel they have a religious objection to it, and requiring all men to read an informational booklet before getting Viagra or a vasectomy or a colonoscopy. So good! All of them!
The latest of these bills comes from Alabama state Rep. Rolanda Hollis (D-Birmingham), who on Thursday filed a bill (HB 238) that would require men to get a vasectomy prior to their 50th birthday or after their third child. Naturally, this would be at the man’s own expense. And Ted Cruz is positively outraged!
South American military dictatorships combined forces in the late 1970s on a continent-wide crackdown they called Operation Condor against perceived threats to their rule. It was part of a broader wave of violence in which nuns and priests were imprisoned, dissidents were tossed out of airplanes and thousands of victims were “disappeared.”
To coordinate this brutal campaign, Argentina, Chile and other countries established a secret communications network using encryption machines from a Swiss company called Crypto AG.
Crypto was secretly owned by the CIA as part of a decades-long operation with West German intelligence. The U.S. spy agency was, in effect, supplying rigged communications gear to some of South America’s most brutal regimes and, as a result, in unique position to know the extent of their atrocities.
Whether there were opportunities to act, and failures to do so, are among the difficult questions raised by the revelations about the CIA’s involvement in Crypto — dubbed Operation Rubicon by the agency. The program enabled U.S. spy agencies to monitor the communications of dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America over half a century.
Two brief thoughts: one, why didn’t the US government do more to reign in these abuses? Because they were being conducted by right-wing governments?
and two, no wonder China wants to emulate this program with the installation of Huawei networking gear, and also no wonder the US is opposed.
No NATO ally should succumb to the temptation of letting Chinese tech giant Huawei into their next-generation cellular networks, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday at Allied headquarters, turning U.S. opposition to Huawei into a bipartisan effort.
Pelosi said the invasion of privacy that would result from having Huawei integrated into Europe’s 5G communication networks would be “like having the state police, the Chinese state police, right in your pocket.”
She insisted such technology was far too sensitive to turn to over to Chinese interests, even though they can deliver such technology cheaper, thanks to the fact that the company relied on Western know-how to build its systems.
“While some people say that its cheaper to do Huawei — well yeah — it’s a People’s Liberation Army initiative using reversed engineering from Western technology,” Pelosi, the senior Democratic lawmaker, told reporters in Brussels.
“So, of course it’s going to be cheaper to put on the market. And if it’s cheaper, then they get the market share and then they (China) bring in their autocracy of lack of privacy.”
A revelatory book about the rise and fall of the world’s biggest bank might hold some interest to financiers, business school professors and readers of the Economist. But what about one that also has all the elements of a page-turning mystery novel: suspicious suicides, Russian money laundering, securities and tax fraud, price fixing, $100 million bonuses, whistleblowers who are ignored and fired, and a heroin junkie peddling stolen documents to journalists and FBI agents? Add to that a big client with a sketchy financial history who suddenly becomes president of the United States, and you’ve got the makings of a blockbuster.
A new Russian subsidiary laundered tens of billions of rubles into dollars for Russian oligarchs and cronies of President Vladimir Putin. Its London traders helped organize a conspiracy to fix interest rates. Its New York investment bankers were at the front of the pack peddling collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and mortgage-backed securities they knew would go bad. Its bankers conspired with corporate clients to evade economic sanctions against Iran and Syria, and helped giant hedge funds avoid taxes in the United States. Its enormous stash of risky derivatives was carried on its books at prices well above their market value. And its top executives repeatedly lied about all these things to investors, regulators and even their own directors.
The consequences of all this risk-taking, mismanagement and fraud are now clear. Between 2015 and 2017, the bank was forced to record losses of more than $10 billion, and it only barely returned to profitability in 2018. Since 2007, its stock price has fallen 95 percent. And as Enrich reports, the bank’s financial position was so precarious that even longtime corporate customers abandoned it. The International Monetary Fund recently singled out Deutsche Bank as the institution posing the biggest risk to the global banking system.
And when Trump was on the verge of defaulting on loans used to buy his failing hotels and casinos in Atlantic City, Deutsche Bank came to the rescue by peddling $484 million in junk bonds to investors — bonds on which Trump defaulted within a year.
Normally, such a default would have been enough to scare away even the most risk-tolerant lenders. But within months, Deutsche Bank’s real estate division was again providing Trump with a $640 million loan needed to build a new Chicago hotel, while its team in Moscow was steering Russian investors to Trump projects in Hawaii and Mexico. The relationship hit a low point in 2009 when Trump announced he had no intention of repaying his loan on the Chicago hotel, claiming that the unfolding financial crisis was an act of God that freed him of his obligation.
When Deutsche Bank sued to get its money back, Trump countersued, preposterously accusing the bank of predatory lending practices. The matter was finally settled with a two-year extension on the loan — and a vow by the bank’s real estate lenders never to do business with Trump again. But two years later, Trump somehow sweet-talked his way into Deutsche’s private banking division, which over the next several years provided him with $350 million in personal loans to cover projects in Chicago, Miami and Washington.
Sounds interesting. It always seemed odd to me that a bank would continue to lend vast sums of money to such an obvious deadbeat like Trump. Was it all money laundering? Something else? I guess I’ll have to read the book and find out.
“Enrich tells the story of how one of the world’s mightiest banks careened off the rails, threatening everything from our financial system to our democracy. Darkly fascinating. A tale that will keep you up at night.” — John Carreyrou, #1 bestselling author of Bad Blood
From New York Times finance editor David Enrich, a searing exposé of the most scandalous bank in the world, revealing its shadowy ties to Donald Trump, Putin’s Russia, and Nazi Germany
On a rainy Sunday in 2014, a senior executive at Deutsche Bank was found hanging in his London apartment. Bill Broeksmit had helped build the 150-year-old financial institution into a global colossus, and his sudden death was a mystery, made more so by the bank’s efforts to deter investigation. Broeksmit, it turned out, was a man who knew too much.
In Dark Towers, award-winning journalist David Enrich reveals the truth about Deutsche Bank and its epic path of devastation. Tracing the bank’s history back to its propping up of a default-prone American developer in the 1880s, helping the Nazis build Auschwitz, and wooing Eastern Bloc authoritarians, he shows how in the 1990s, via a succession of hard-charging executives, Deutsche made a fateful decision to pursue Wall Street riches, often at the expense of ethics and the law.
Soon, the bank was manipulating markets, violating international sanctions to aid terrorist regimes, scamming investors, defrauding regulators, and laundering money for Russian oligarchs. Ever desperate for an American foothold, Deutsche also started doing business with a self-promoting real estate magnate nearly every other bank in the world deemed too dangerous to touch: Donald Trump. Over the next twenty years, Deutsche executives loaned billions to Trump, the Kushner family, and an array of scandal-tarred clients, including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Dark Towers is the never-before-told saga of how Deutsche Bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality—the corporate equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction. It is also the story of a man who was consumed by fear of what he’d seen at the bank—and his son’s obsessive search for the secrets he kept.
Briefly, I’ve never understood the reasoning behind dropping out after not coming in first or second in New Hampshire and/or Iowa. Why not wait a few more weeks and see what happens in the next round of primary states, especially the Super Tuesday round?
I’ve never been on a campaign, so maybe this is naive, but dropping out before any meaningful votes vast seems dumb. Your team and you have spent gazillions of hours so far, why not see what chance you have nationally before quitting?
I assume part of this is fundraising drying up, but in the 21st C.E. system, that shouldn’t be such a big deal.
And I’m not talking about peripheral candidates who never got any traction, for whatever reason, candidates like Deval Patrick, Michael Bennet, and that tier. No I’m talking about Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and maybe even Julián Castro. Why drop out before March 3?
Alabama primary American Samoa caucuses Arkansas primary California primary Colorado primary Maine primary Massachusetts primary Minnesota primary North Carolina primary Oklahoma primary Tennessee primary Texas primary Utah primary Vermont primary Virginia primary
If you haven’t watched the 5 episodes of The Family on Netflix – based on Jeff Sharlet’s book of the same name, you should. Fascinating, and a bit creepy. Jesus has no place in the corridors of power, per my reading of the Christian Bible, but these dudes think otherwise.
The series profiles an American evangelical Christian organisation, sometimes dubbed “the Family” but more often known as the Fellowship – which presumably was felt to lack the connotations of death cults and organised crime that make for a juicy documentary title. For decades, the Fellowship was overseen by the mysterious Doug Coe: a series of amusingly Zelig-esque photographs of him lurking smoothly behind US presidents and foreign leaders confirms Coe (who did Netflix’s lawyers a favour by dying in 2017) as the most powerful guy you never heard of.
It is made clear to Sharlet that the gang he has joined is all about power, based on a Bible reading that sees Jesus – and, in the Fellowship’s reading of its favourite scripture story, murderous home-wrecker David – as a sort of original alpha male, lending legitimacy to men who believe they have been chosen to be in charge. The faith and devotion are perfunctory, a means to an end, an excuse.
The Family’s focus on the Fellowship hides what is really a portrait of the whole “Christian” right wing in the US – as well as the type of (white) man who has thoroughly infected western postwar politics. A stale whiff of viciously inadequate masculinity hangs over the whole show, from the young Fellows’ awkwardly enforced celibacy to the episode that sets out how Fellowship missionaries have been sent to less developed countries that might be vulnerable to campaigns against gay rights. As an LGBT activist in Romania puts it: “They have a purpose in their life now. To hate you.”