Nine years ago, near the end of my residency training, I sat across from a patient, wondering whether he’d accepted that he was dying. He was in his 60s, an artist with sinewy arms and serene eyes, someone I’d come to know well over the past three years. Cancer had broken into his liver and bone marrow, robbing him of hunger and energy. Each time I saw him, the hollows of his cheeks deepened. I wanted to tell him that he was dying, that I wanted to understand how he envisioned spending his remaining life. But he mostly spoke about his plans: a camping vacation in six months, a friend’s wedding after that. I awaited some sort of arbitrary signal that it was safe to talk about dying. Maybe he’d tell me that he didn’t want more chemotherapy or that his affairs were in order. Like many physicians, I feared that by talking about death before he appeared ready, I might take away his hope, make him give up or send him into an unstoppable tailspin of anxiety and depression. Whether he … [Read more...] about As a Doctor, I Know Being Ready to Die Is an Illusion
Eastern Kentucky Needs Flood Relief, Not Another Federal Prison
Along the riverbanks of Eastern Kentucky, the redbud trees are just starting to bloom, their branches still lumbering under the weight of last summer’s catastrophic flood: Lawn chairs, trampolines, twisted gutters and school backpacks remain high in the treetops, each item a persistent and disorienting sign of how life here was turned upside down last July when shallow streams surged more than 18 feet in 10 hours in parts of the state, killing more than 40 people and leaving hundreds homeless . Yet while residents reach for the possibility of renewal, the largest regional investment being offered is a federal prison proposed for Letcher County, the heart of the flood zone. The possible federal correctional institution adds insult to an already injured region. In 2019 activists defeated the proposal, demanding that the funds be used for more forward-thinking purposes, including safe and affordable housing — all the more needed since the flood. The Trump and Biden … [Read more...] about Eastern Kentucky Needs Flood Relief, Not Another Federal Prison
I Know How Nuclear War Is Waged, So I’m Calling for Peace With North Korea
Not many people know how to wage nuclear war. I’m one of them. As a young U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in the late 1970s, I was trained to carry out nuclear strikes in a rigorous process designed to ensure that no contingencies — mechanical or ethical — deter your mission. Certain things remain burned into my memory: maps and photos of my target and the realization of the Armageddon I would leave in my wake. Training culminated with a sworn pledge to vaporize that target without hesitation. Much of my 33-year career was spent as a nuclear warrior — I later oversaw the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile fleet and served as deputy commander of American military forces in the Pacific — experience that informs my deep alarm over the growing risk of nuclear conflict with North Korea. The United States has tried for decades to prevent the country from becoming a nuclear threat, veering from diplomacy to pressure to patience. None of these approaches have worked. Here’s something … [Read more...] about I Know How Nuclear War Is Waged, So I’m Calling for Peace With North Korea
How the Right Turned Radical and the Left Became Depressed
One of the notable dynamics of American life today is that conservatives report being personally happier than liberals but also seem more politically discontented. The political left has become more institutionalist, more invested in experts and establishments, even as progressive culture seems more shadowed by unhappiness and even mental illness. Meanwhile conservatives claim greater contentment in their private lives — and then go out and vote for paranoid outsiders and burn-it-down populists. These dynamics aren’t entirely new: As Musa al-Gharbi writes in an essay for American Affairs, the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives is a persistent social-science finding, visible across several eras and many countries. Meanwhile, the view that “my life is pretty good, but the country is going to hell,” which seems to motivate a certain kind of middle-class Donald Trump supporter, would have been unsurprising to hear in a bar or at a barbecue in 1975 or 1990, no less than … [Read more...] about How the Right Turned Radical and the Left Became Depressed
Do You Live in a ‘Tight’ State or a ‘Loose’ One? Turns Out It Matters Quite a Bit.
Political biases are omnipresent, but what we don’t fully understand yet is how they come about in the first place. In 2014, Michele J. Gelfand , a professor of psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business formerly at the University of Maryland, and Jesse R. Harrington , then a PhD. candidate , conducted a study designed to rank the 50 states on a scale of “tightness” and “looseness.” Appropriately titled “ Tightness-Looseness Across the 50 United States ,” the study calculated a catalog of measures for each state, including the incidence of natural disasters, disease prevalence, residents’ levels of openness and conscientiousness, drug and alcohol use, homelessness and incarceration rates. Gelfand and Harrington predicted that “‘tight’ states would exhibit a higher incidence of natural disasters, greater environmental vulnerability, fewer natural resources, greater incidence of disease and higher mortality rates, higher population density, and greater degrees … [Read more...] about Do You Live in a ‘Tight’ State or a ‘Loose’ One? Turns Out It Matters Quite a Bit.
There Is No Single Blueprint for Building a Healthy Democracy
There's no form of governance more effective in protecting rights and maintaining the rule of law by consent than democracy. However, despite what is often claimed, there is at times tensions between universal rights and the particularities of democratic sovereignty. As Zambia co-hosts this week's second U.S. Summit for Democracy , it is important to underscore the fact that guaranteed rights vary from democracy to democracy. Of course, restrictions on rights often accompany democratic regression and some civil liberties appear integral to a democratic system itself such as freedom of expression. Yet it does not follow that rights and democracy are always mutually-reinforcing. For instance, freedom of speech is rarely absolute. When violence is invoked, it can impinge on others' right to life and security of person. In most democracies, freedom of speech does not extend to shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. Across every democratic country's spectrum of rights there are … [Read more...] about There Is No Single Blueprint for Building a Healthy Democracy
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Promised to Give a Racist Security Minister His Own Government Militia
Get more news and opinions in the twice-daily Beast Digest newsletter. Don’t miss the next big story, sign up here . Last November, the far-right neo-Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir helped deliver Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory . Once a fringe fixture of Israel’s radical right, he is now the country’s minister of public security. Unlike the late Meir Kahane , his hero, Ben-Gvir walks the corridors of power . Like Kahane, however, he finds himself at the eye of a continuous political storm. On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu , Israel’s prime minister, placed a temporary hold on his bid to degrade the country’s judiciary. To garner Ben-Gvir’s support, Netanyahu made a jarring concession that left critics seething and Ben-Gvir grinning—he would hand control of the National Guard ( presently a unit of the Border Patrol ) over to the ministry of national security, which is currently run by Ben-Gvir (the Border Patrol would then be subsumed into the reconstituted … [Read more...] about Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Promised to Give a Racist Security Minister His Own Government Militia
Why the Swiss Scorn the Superrich
WINTERTHUR, Switzerland — Abroad, Switzerland may be best known for its smart ski resorts and discreet banking services for the superrich, but the Swiss themselves are remarkably allergic to the trappings of conspicuous wealth. It was not quite another Occupy moment perhaps, but in a referendum held in March of this year, the Swiss electorate voted by a two-thirds majority to ban bonuses and golden handshakes and force companies to consult shareholders on executives’ remuneration. It’s not easy for ballot initiatives like this to succeed in Switzerland: Of the 110 that have made it to a vote in the last 32 years, only 20 have passed. Many observers agreed that Daniel Vasella, the C.E.O. and chairman of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, played a decisive role in the plebiscite’s success. Shortly before the vote, it emerged that Mr. Vasella was demanding a $78 million severance package in return for a promise not to work for a competitor for six years. More disturbing than the sum … [Read more...] about Why the Swiss Scorn the Superrich
Helping People Pay Their Sky-High Water Bills Is a SNAP
Everything is more expensive these days—even tap water. U.S. water utility prices have been rising faster than general inflation , driven in large part by a need to replace and update aging infrastructure. New regulations to remove "forever chemicals" from drinking water will surely drive costs even higher. Although these investments are needed, low-income households can struggle to afford this essential service. That concern propelled Congress to introduce the first federal Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) in 2020. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), LIHWAP was an emergency measure to aid a nation reeling from COVID-19. The program is set to expire at the end of this year, and some in Congress are calling to make LIHWAP a permanent, ongoing program. Before making LIHWAP a permanent part of America's alphabet soup of anti-poverty programs, we ought to consider a simpler approach to water assistance: allowing … [Read more...] about Helping People Pay Their Sky-High Water Bills Is a SNAP
Will Ambitious Plans for a ‘New’ New York Get Crushed in Albany?
Since the pandemic began to wane, New York-watchers have stoked fears about an urban doom loop : Millennials like me — liberated from the chains of our desks — would abandon Midtown Manhattan and perhaps the city or state altogether in search of lower costs of living. The commercial tax base would be obliterated, leaving no funds to support essential services like the subway. To prevent this dystopian future, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams convened an expert panel that I served on, and they released the “ Making New York Work for Everyone ” plan (also known as the “‘New’ New York” plan) in December, a sweeping set of 40 proposals to keep the economy humming. The goals of the plan, broadly, are to reimagine the city’s business districts, to make it easier for New Yorkers to get to work, and to generate inclusive growth that positions the city to “lead the emerging industries of the 21st century.” But now, it is budget season in Albany. The proverbial “three men in a … [Read more...] about Will Ambitious Plans for a ‘New’ New York Get Crushed in Albany?