Article of the Day: 11/27/2020

Go to the article in the Washington Post to see the strips.

As ‘Doonesbury’ turns 50, Garry Trudeau picks his 10 defining strips

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau in his office in December 1972. (AP)
Cartoonist Garry Trudeau in his office in December 1972. (AP) (AP Photo )

By Michael CavnaNovember 27, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. CSTAdd to list

In the beginning, while still in college, Garry Trudeau thought he might commit to his syndicated strip “for a year or two.” Now, he has reached a rare perch: His “Doonesbury” is one of the few newspaper comics ever to hit the half-century mark as the creation of a single mind.

Trudeau is marking the anniversary with a new collection, “Dbury@50: The Complete Digital Doonesbury.”
Trudeau is marking the anniversary with a new collection, “Dbury@50: The Complete Digital Doonesbury.” (Andrews McMeel Syndication)

Trudeau’s trailblazing strip launched into national syndication 50 years ago this fall in 28 newspapers, and in the early going, a swath of stodgy editors wasn’t rushing to publish this Yale-sprung voice of the boomer counterculture. But his gifts for satirizing the zeitgeist persevered. Five years in, “Doonesbury” became the first comic strip to receive the Pulitzer Prize, and his illustrated epic eventually unspooled to include scores of recurring characters — a literary latticework unprecedented on the comics page.

This month, Andrews McMeel Publishing is celebrating the milestone with “Dbury@50: The Complete Digital Doonesbury,”which includes a companion book and a flash-drive archive of the comic’s whole history. To mark the moment, The Washington Post asked Trudeau via email to select and illuminate the 10 “Doonesbury” strips that have proved defining and enduringly meaningful to him.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

“GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!” (May 29, 1973) AD

As the Watergate hearings captivate the nation, “Doonesbury’s” own campus radio talk jock, Mark Slackmeyer, profiles various Nixon conspirators.

Trudeau: This strip has long been misremembered as being about Nixon, when Mark’s denunciation was directed at his top henchman, Attorney General John Mitchell. A dozen newspapers across the country dropped the strip on the grounds that not even a fictional cartoon character was entitled to prejudge a suspect before trial.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

BABY WOMAN (Dec. 13, 1973)

Amid the era’s women’s rights movement, burgeoning feminist Joanie Caucus teaches young Ellie at her Walden Day Care Center.

Trudeau: I remember the moment when the idea for a “baby woman” came to me, because it so perfectly crystallized the effects of Joanie’s feminist proselytizing on her young charges. It was also a sign of my own growing understanding of feminism as the most impactful social movement of the 20th century. I borrowed Joanie’s last name from the National Women’s Political Caucus, which I supported with a number of benefit shows through the ‘70s. I was their first male member, and while cynical friends assumed my involvement was some sort of dating strategy, I saw it as having a front-row seat at the revolution. I felt I was witnessing history.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

THE WHITE HOUSE WALL COMES DOWN (Sept. 2, 1974)ADhttps://1f03d86143e480550172059b145f0b57.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The once-stonewalling president, Richard Nixon, resigns, and Gerald Ford takes office.

Trudeau: I’m sure I wasn’t the only cartoonist inspired by Nixon’s use of the word “stonewall,” but I doubt the others riffed on it for quite so long. Over several weeks, I drew a variety of barriers in front of the White House — stone walls or coils of concertina wire or sharpened stockade posts — until finally Nixon flew off to California and Ford moved in and the wall was struck and the sun came out. Spoiler alert: You’re going to see it again in January.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

JOANIE IN LOVE (Nov. 13, 1976)

Joanie Caucus, now a campaign worker, and reporter Rick Redfern share a bed on election night — a daring depiction for a comic strip at the time — and wake up to the dawn of a long relationship.

Trudeau: This was the final strip of a weeklong, wordless, slo-mo pan of dailies that took us from Joanie’s empty bedroom across town to Rick’s apartment. The soapy denouement aside (a little bit of happiness for Joanie was long overdue), I was mostly drawn to the idea of creating suspense by obliging readers to wait all week without any hint of what I was up to. Many clients were not amused — the final strip was removed from some 30 newspapers — but the editor of the Bangor paper had the wit to replace the image of the sleeping couple with that day’s weather forecast.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

PALM BEACH CARD CONTROVERSY (June 21, 1985)AD

Palm Beach, Fla., ordinance requires low-wage service employees to register with police and carry ID cards.

Trudeau: The legendary Mary McGrory told me that in all her years of writing columns, she wasn’t sure a single one of them had changed anything. That’s not a bar that cartoonists generally set for themselves, but in the case of my story arc about racist Palm Beach pass cards, the strip did have an impact. Exposure of the apartheid-like ordinance proved so embarrassing to Florida that the state legislature passed a law banning it. It was called the “Doonesbury Bill,” and the governor sent me the signing pen. Still, that’s the exception. Most of the time, expecting satire to make a difference is purely aspirational.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

DEATH OF DICK DAVENPORT (Nov. 7, 1986)

Back from a nearly two-year sabbatical, Trudeau kills off his character Dick Davenport, husband of politician Lacey Davenport.

Trudeau: After I returned from a hiatus in 1984, I decided it was time to move my characters forward in real time so I could explore the life transitions that I myself was experiencing. It also meant that sooner or later, I would have to deal with death. I decided that birder Dick Davenport would be the first to age out — partly because his wife, Lacey, was a robust-enough character for me to write without him. I tried to put some poetry in the grim business of his demise [by coronary], making him a hero on his own terms: He expires through the excitement of capturing an image of a Bachman’s warbler, then thought to be extinct.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

WAITING FOR MARIO (Nov. 30, 1987)AD

Gov. Mario Cuomo (D-N.Y.) sends mixed signals about whether he will run in the 1988 presidential election.

Trudeau: Literary parody isn’t exactly a staple of the comics — understandable considering the lack of a common syllabus in American education. But I thought drawing from the Theatre of the Absurd to depict Cuomo’s ambivalence about a presidential run would work whether readers were familiar with [Samuel] Beckett’s play [“Waiting for Godot”] or not. It also gave me another chance to move away from the strip’s original aesthetic, which was spare and repetitive, toward something closer to the feel of a graphic novel.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

MARK COMES OUT (Sept. 1, 1993)

The late attorney Andy Lippincott suggests to Mark Slackmeyer in a dream that Mark is gay.

Trudeau: In 1975, we meet Andy, the strip’s first gay character, but by 1990, he’d succumbed to AIDS. Around that time, a classmate of mine announced he was gay, which inspired me to send Mark on a similar journey of midlife self-discovery. Andy comes to him in a dream sequence and reveals his true nature, upending Mark’s world. Later, Mark meets Chase, whom he marries, and then — in another comics first — he divorces. Happiness is the enemy of story, so Mark carries on in misery.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

B.D. LOSES A LEG (April 21, 2004)AD

Trudeau — whose blog the Sandbox for years provided a forum for service members and their families — makes news with a main character who is serving in Iraq.

Trudeau: B.D.’s loss of a leg during an RPG attack near Fallujah was unique in a number of ways. First, the strip’s foundational character was physically maimed. Second, the life-altering injury meant my assuming a narrative obligation for months, if not years, to come. And lastly, B.D. is seen without his helmet for the first time ever — as astonishing to longtime readers as the missing limb itself.

(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication)
(G.B. Trudeau/By permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication) 

TEXAS ABORTION LAW (March 13, 2012)

On Feb. 6, 2012, a Texas law goes into effect requiring that a woman seeking an abortion must first receive a sonogram.

Trudeau: The infamous Texas sonogram bill was intended to shame women who sought abortions, so I did my best to shame those responsible for it. The topic was so incendiary that the strip was removed for the week from some 65 newspapers — the most ever. The good news was that not a single client actually canceled the strip. I had treated the subject with the seriousness it deserved, and I suppose I’d built enough trust through the years to earn a pass. I’ve always assumed most editors make decisions about what’s suitable for their comics pages in good faith. It’s called editing, not censorship, and it’s important for creators like me to say.

Read more:

Garry Trudeau describes his journey from pummeling Nixon to tackling Trump

Trudeau spoofs the Trump presidency by treating it as ‘a hostile takeover’83 Comments

Michael CavnaWriter/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the Comic Riffs column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Washington Post’s Book World. Follow

Article of the Day: November 24, 2020

TRANSCRIPT

Jane Goodall on Chimps, Presidents and Other Alpha Males

Hosted by Kara Swisher

The 86-year-old primatologist says it takes more than having opposable thumbs to save our planet.

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

[MUSIC PLAYING] (SINGING) When you walk in the room, do you have sway?Kara Swisher

So how would you like to be addressed? Professor, or doctor, or how? Dr. Goodall?Jane Goodall

You can either call me just Jane. Or you can call me Dr. Jane, if you wish for the first time.Kara Swisher

All right.Jane Goodall

Anything but Dame Jane.Kara Swisher

If there’s one person who can wrangle an alpha male, it’s Jane Goodall. She’s been studying them and other chimpanzees since the 1960s. Her early research with famed archaeologist Louis Leakey made Goodall a star. That resulted in a decades long career, which has focused the world on environmental activism and has inspired generations.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince Harry are fans. Greta Thunberg calls her a “true hero.” Goodall normally travels about 300 days a year. But when I spoke to her, it was from her home in England. She was in lockdown and had some time to tell me about how it all began.Jane Goodall

Well, the reason I got to Kenya was because I’d always wanted to go and live with wild animals and write books about them, ever since I was 10 reading Tarzan. So I saved up money when I was invited by a school friend to Kenya. And when I was staying with her, somebody said, if you want to learn about animals, you should meet Luis Leakey. So although I was very shy, that’s what I’d come for. So I called him up. And this is kind of weird, but two days before I met him, his secretary had suddenly quit. He needed a secretary, and there I was. And he gave me a job. And I think he was impressed because I’d read everything I could about African animals. I think it was then that Leakey decided, well, she hasn’t been to college, she’s new from England, but she’s the person I’ve been looking for to go and study chimpanzees.Kara Swisher

So when you went there, you went in as his secretary. Did sexism persist then at the time, where women couldn’t be doing these jobs, or did you perceive it at all? Or were you just, this is the skill you had and you went in?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, back then, it was so different. I mean, the times were different. And the feminist movement hadn’t really started or impacted us. And so, yeah, I was his secretary. Almost all, but not quite, of the staff were men. But it was fine. And luckily, Leakey had decided that women might be more patient in the field and make better observers. So, you see, the fact that I was a woman helped.Kara Swisher

So let’s talk a little bit about the observational skills that you had, because your whole job was to be present with the chimpanzees. Go back to then.Jane Goodall

Well, I mean, I came out with my mother because the authorities wouldn’t allow me to go alone. That’s why she came. But I went into the field with a pencil, often a pencil because it was raining, and a little notebook that fitted in my pocket, and a little piece of polythene that I put over my head if it rained, and a pair of binoculars, which weren’t very good. They weren’t good enough because we had so little money. I mean, we had one secondhand army tent. We had a few pots and pans and tins of food. And that was it. I started just climbing up and down the hills and looking for the chimps and writing everything with my pen, writing it up at night. And you know, at first, the chimps took one look at this peculiar white ape and ran away. It was really awful. I was really glad of my mother, because she helped to boost my morale, because the chimps just went on running away. And I knew if I didn’t see something exciting before that money ran out, it was only for six months.Kara Swisher

When you look back at that, you’ve talked about it as the best times of your life. How would it have been different if you were doing it today?Jane Goodall

Well, the trouble is that we’ve now learned that animals can catch diseases from us and we can catch diseases from them and that our presence can interfere with behavior. So to do things with camera traps and so on is the way to go. But the reason I say they’re the best days of my life, today, we wouldn’t do a study like that. We wouldn’t hand out bananas. It’s not the thing to do. But back then, it was the accepted thing to have a feeding station. That’s what people did. And because we’d started the banana feeding, it meant that I could follow their development almost daily. And I don’t think today anybody can learn them exactly the way I did.Kara Swisher

Can you talk about that connection? How do you remember it now, 60 years later?Jane Goodall

Well, I remember that when I was out there in Gombe, and I spent, of course, a lot of time out in the forest with the chimpanzees. But they accepted me. So I could sit there. I never considered myself part of a group, but I was just somebody who was there observing them, and they weren’t afraid. And because they accepted me so totally, I had the freedom of seeing how they really interacted with each other. And so the criticism has been, well, maybe the banana feeding affected their behavior. And I’m sure it did to some extent. But it affected them all equally. And right from the beginning, my emphasis was on differences between individuals, which wasn’t accepted back then. And it’s the same today. People don’t like to think of animals as individuals, but as species.Kara Swisher

And you gave them names, which was resisted by people at the time. When Leakey wrote we must redefine man because of the observations you made and brought back. What do you think was the most important about redefining?Jane Goodall

Well, I know how this began. One chimp, I named him David Graybeard. He had a beautiful white beard, and he was very handsome. And on this one day, when he’s begun to lose his fear before the others — I wasn’t that close to him. And I still had to use my binoculars. But he didn’t run away. And I saw him breaking off and using grass stems to fish for termites. I saw him picking up leafy twigs, carefully removing the leaves to make a tool. And that brought in The National Geographic Society to give money when the first six months ran out. That brought in my husband, Hugo van Lawick to film. Geographic sent him. And that was the turning point of the entire — you know, but for that, maybe after six months, everything would have ended.Kara Swisher

Explain to people who don’t understand why that’s a big deal. People have seen chimpanzees manipulate various things. Why is that so important?Jane Goodall

Well, because of how science defined us. Up to that time, we had been defined by Western science — and I repeat Western science, because other parts of the world were so different in their relationship to animals, but anyway — as man, the toolmaker. It was when Leakey heard about this tool using and tool making, he wrote to me and said now we must redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans. And actually, if you want to know now what I believe is the biggest difference between us and chimps — I mean, we know so much about animal intelligence now — but, you know, the main difference, I believe, is that at some point in our evolution, we developed language, spoken language.

Chimps communicate. They have gestures. They have calls. Whales communicate. Birds do, too. Chimps can learn a human language. So can parrots. But chimps and parrots haven’t learned a spoken language, not that we know of. And so once we developed this spoken language, we were, for the first time, able to bring people together to discuss a problem. We could teach about things that weren’t present with language. And I think that triggered this explosive development about intellect that’s taken us to the moon, to Mars. That’s helped people understand the place of planet in the galaxy, in the solar system.Kara Swisher

If you had to go back, what is the thing that stayed with you? And perhaps, what is the sound you remember and the sight, if you had to remember all this many years later, decades later?Jane Goodall

Oh, my goodness. Well, the sight? Climbing up onto my peak, which I discovered, and looking out over the valleys to Lake Tanganyika, looking behind me to the peaks of the Rift Valley. So beautiful, so untouched in those days. The sound would be the calling of chimpanzees on the other side of the valley. Those chimpanzees you’d been searching for and hoping to hear and hoping to find. And you hear them on the other side of the Valley. And you think, yes, there they are! So the pant-hoot, the distance call, which is something like [IMITATES PANT-HOOT].

And that, to me, it does something to me. It comes deep into me.Kara Swisher

When you were there, there were two million chimps, I think and then it went down to 150,000. Where are we today?Jane Goodall

Oh, the whole of Africa, you mean?Kara Swisher

Yeah.Jane Goodall

Well, nobody knows exactly how many chimpanzees there are. But they are in danger. And they’re more endangered in some areas than others. And it’s that sort of picture across Africa.Kara Swisher

So you’ve been a leader, trying to keep things from getting worse. And your main approach has been to fight for land conservation. When did that start?Jane Goodall

Well, I went to a conference, which I helped to start, in America in 1986. And one of the sessions was on conservation. It was shocking. I mean, I guess we all knew there was deforestation and so on. But the extent of it hadn’t penetrated — well, it certainly hadn’t penetrated me. And there was also a session on conditions in places like medical research labs, which I won’t go into. But it was horrible, horrible, horrible. And learning about the bushmeat trade.

I left the conference as an activist. I went as a scientist, planning to carry on with this wonderful life, out in the rainforest, learning about the chimps, having students. And I left knowing I had to do something, but I didn’t know what to do.Kara Swisher

So talk about that, sort of the brass tacks of that moment. What pushed you so hard? You were at this conference, which was where? It was —Jane Goodall

Chicago.Kara Swisher

Chicago. What was the thing that struck you that you were like, no?Jane Goodall

Well, remember that to start off with, I wasn’t a scientist. I never dreamt of being a scientist. I wanted to be a naturalist. I wanted to live with animals and write books about them. And then Leakey pushed me into getting a PhD which, actually, I’m really glad I did, because It taught me to think objectively, which I love. But I refused to believe that scientists had to be cold and shouldn’t have empathy with their subjects. I rebelled against that. So the shock was seeing what was happening to the environment in Africa, and the shock of seeing how chimpanzees, our closest relatives, who can have feelings and emotions like ours, who have very astute intelligence, the way that they were treated in medical research, circus entertainment, and so on. I think it was seeing secretly filmed footage of chimpanzees in 5 foot by 5 foot cages, maybe for 20 years, just bare cages alone, these very social beings alone with nothing to do, boredom, it was horrible. And I knew that they’d done so much for me, I had to try and do something for them. So I didn’t make the decision. People say was it hard? I didn’t make it. I always say it was a bit like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Something happened, and he started one person and ended up another. And that’s what happened to me. [MUSIC PLAYING]Kara Swisher

We’ll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, hit subscribe. You’ll be able to catch up on Sway episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with couples therapist, Esther Perel, and you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Jane Goodall after the break.

When you have this much fame, because since the National Geographic stuff came out and all the movies, you were a well-known person. You obviously had moral authority. You had a sense of power. How did you use that power?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, when I began, I didn’t have those feelings. I didn’t really understand what had happened to me. I mean, I didn’t have power. I didn’t have any of that. To me, I was and I still am just me. I’m just Jane. I’m here where I grew up. And then, this kind of iconic status was thrust upon me. And I was at first very — I hated it. I wanted to hide from it.Kara Swisher

Why?Jane Goodall

Because I didn’t like — I mean, I didn’t feel I deserved it. But then, at a certain point, I realized that this could help the cause that I was so passionate about, which basically, from the beginning, was to help people understand that animals are not just things. That they’re sentient beings, they have feelings. And that, you know, that is a passionate ruling of my life. But equally, protecting the environment. We’re poisoning the land with our conventional agriculture. We’re putting chemical poisons down. We are polluting the ocean. We’re destroying the forest, which along with the ocean are the great lungs of the world, absorbing CO2 and giving us oxygen.Kara Swisher

One of the things you talked about years ago was the increasing incursions from China, taking forests, taking minerals, all kinds of things. Has that improved at all, or do you feel it’s still a threat?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, China is a large country with a growing economy. And yes, they are causing havoc in many developing countries, taking their resources. They’ve learned about conservation within China. It’s a huge change from when I first went back in the mid-‘90s, and animal protection, all these things. But they are taking resources from other countries for their own development. But, is that any different from European colonialism? Is it any different from the big multinational corporations today? No, it’s not. And so it’s a whole area that we need to address, not pointing fingers, but working out ways ahead.Kara Swisher

So a lot of these things are about education, about, again, moral authority. There is more — a different confrontational style of activism growing here in this country and around the world, like Greta Thunberg and others. Is it possible these days to be Jane Goodall? Do you really still believe in that?Jane Goodall

I totally believe in it because, really because of the young people. I mean, everywhere I go — well, I’m not going now, but I see it on these kind of Zoom things — I see young people with shining eyes, wanting to tell Dr. Jane what they are doing to make the world a better place. I want to help all animals. I can’t. You know, I can’t do it. But out there, in this huge group of young people, hundreds of thousands of them, there’s always somebody who wants to help a turtle. There’s another group that wants to help moon bears. You know, all of it, it’s out there.Kara Swisher

When passion moves to anger, because you’re seeing that with a lot of groups, that they’ve had enough. They want the system to change completely and not cooperatively.Jane Goodall

Well, I don’t blame them if they have had enough. But I will never, ever believe that the way for change is confrontation and aggression, because people change when you reach the heart. And so, you know, when people ask me, what do you do when you meet somebody who’s behaving in a way that you really dislike or something? Try and find a connection. Maybe they have a dog or a cat or a horse or a child or something. Just for one minute, if you have a short time to talk to them. And then, stories. Tell stories. So when I went into the labs that I accused of treating the chimps badly, which they were, I showed pictures of Gombe and how the chimps are and how they’re lying around and grooming each other and playing. It got to the people’s hearts. And I got this lesson early on, don’t make high up people lose face, because it doesn’t work.Kara Swisher

Mhm. When you look at the protests, though, especially environment, do you think that helps, too, or not at all?Jane Goodall

Oh, I think it helps. It raises awareness, no question about it. I mean, Greta’s raised awareness in many, many people, without any question about it.Kara Swisher

So let me put that to you. If you were standing in front of President Trump, how would you tell him a story? He is one of the more partisan figures, creates a lot of thumping, like chest thumping. What would you say? You have five minutes, or two minutes, or one minute.Jane Goodall

Yeah, apparently, the attention span is less than that. But anyway, I would actually refuse this opportunity, because I don’t think he’d listen. I truly don’t. And it’s a waste of time when people won’t listen. But one of the very few people I would talk to President Xi. I definitely would. It probably wouldn’t do any good. But I would be fascinated to talk to him. I mean —Kara Swisher

What would you say?Jane Goodall

What would I say? Well, I would congratulate him on all the amazing improvements he’s made for people’s livelihood. I would not talk about his treatment of the Muslim community, because you want people to be on your side and change. And I would talk about the amazing things like banning ivory trade, and now putting pangolins up at top level protection, and all the things he’s done for the environment. And you know, hopefully, if you approach people like that, then they want to do more. That’s the case. That maybe stupid. It may be naive. But with many, many people in high positions, it’s worked.Kara Swisher

It works for them. But Trump is a chimpanzee too far, I guess. [LAUGHS] How do you look at it?Jane Goodall

Well, don’t compare Trump with a chimpanzee, because it’s terribly rude to the chimpanzee.Kara Swisher

So you’re not put off by this partisan time we’re in? You feel like it’s overcomeable?Jane Goodall

You know, the Trump administration has repealed so many environmental protections, and this is my main passion. I am shocked, horrified. Opening up the oil reservoirs in Alaska, shocking. Drilling in various parts of the ocean. It’s shocking. And if this goes on, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, it’s not just America that’s going to suffer. The whole flipping world — and then there’s Bolsonaro. And so many, you know, the swing to the far right, and it’s got to be the bottom line, and it’s unlimited economic development. And how do we move from this pandemic into this new green economy, which everybody is saying we need to do? We do need to do it. I don’t know how to do it. But we do need to do it.Kara Swisher

So who are your environmental heroes?Jane Goodall

Well, I mean, it started off with Rachel Carson, actually, when she wrote “Silent Spring.” And then I went and stayed with Margaret Owings, who helped to save the sea otters from extinction. And then I wrote this book, “Hope For Animals And Their World,” and I met so many amazing, incredible people. My last reason for hope: the indomitable human spirit, the people who tackle what seems impossible, won’t give up, and succeed. And it’s so inspiring to see that an animal, or an environment on the brink of extinction or destruction can be saved. And has been. There’s many examples. And my big problem with the media today is this concentration on the bad. There’s so much bad, yes. But there’s so much good that doesn’t get reported. And I think, today, I would say that more people are aware of what we’re doing to the planet than ever before, and the reason they’re not taking action is they feel helpless, don’t know what to do. My job is to give people hope by telling them that every one of us makes a difference every single day.Kara Swisher

So talk about your legacy. You’re 86 years old. You look like you’re going to last well beyond me. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?Jane Goodall

I want to go on doing what I’m doing. I want to get to this tipping point. I also want to create an endowment. Because people are relying on me. I go to a different country and help them raise money for their programs, et cetera, et cetera. So a big concentration now on raising an endowment. It’s all set up. We’re ready to go. Of course, the pandemic comes, maybe, at a very bad time for that. But it’s still there, and I will do it, because I’m determined that I want some money to make sure that these programs that I’m so passionate about — that work. I’m passionate about them because they’ve been proven to work. And I want them not to disappear, slowly fade away when I’m gone.Kara Swisher

So when you look back on your life, where would you like to be if there wasn’t COVID? Where would you like to be sitting, on Lake Tanganyika, drinking a whiskey? I’ve heard you like to drink whiskey by the lake.Jane Goodall

Well, one reason I have to have whiskey, it actually does help your voice when you’ve overused your voice.Kara Swisher

I heard apples work the same. But whiskey is fun.Jane Goodall

I know four opera singers who swear by it. And one pop singer, so it’s not just me. Where would I like to be?Kara Swisher

Right now, close your eyes, where would you like to be?Jane Goodall

Close my eyes. I would love to be sitting on the beach at Gombe without tourists, with the people who are working there now, throughout the COVID experience, looking out over Lake Tanganyika, looking at the mountains on the other side, and knowing that up behind me, the chimps are making their nests, and the baboons are climbing up into their trees. It’s a beautiful place to be. [MUSIC PLAYING]Kara Swisher

Dr. Goodall, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time to do this.Jane Goodall

Well, I loved talking to you.Kara Swisher

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Paula Szuchman. With music and sound design by Isaac Jones. Fact checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Renan Borelli, Liriel Higa, and Kathy Tu. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to subscribe to a podcast. So subscribe to this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you, with a glass of whiskey, download a podcast app like Stitcher or Google Podcasts, then search for Sway and hit subscribe. You’ll get episodes every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.SwayNov. 23, 2020

Jane Goodall on Chimps, Presidents and Other Alpha Males

The 86-year-old primatologist says it takes more than having opposable thumbs to save our planet.

Hosted by Kara SwisherTranscriptBack to Sway0:00/25:53

TRANSCRIPT

Jane Goodall on Chimps, Presidents and Other Alpha Males

Hosted by Kara Swisher

The 86-year-old primatologist says it takes more than having opposable thumbs to save our planet.

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

[MUSIC PLAYING] (SINGING) When you walk in the room, do you have sway?Kara Swisher

So how would you like to be addressed? Professor, or doctor, or how? Dr. Goodall?Jane Goodall

You can either call me just Jane. Or you can call me Dr. Jane, if you wish for the first time.Kara Swisher

All right.Jane Goodall

Anything but Dame Jane.Kara Swisher

If there’s one person who can wrangle an alpha male, it’s Jane Goodall. She’s been studying them and other chimpanzees since the 1960s. Her early research with famed archaeologist Louis Leakey made Goodall a star. That resulted in a decades long career, which has focused the world on environmental activism and has inspired generations.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince Harry are fans. Greta Thunberg calls her a “true hero.” Goodall normally travels about 300 days a year. But when I spoke to her, it was from her home in England. She was in lockdown and had some time to tell me about how it all began.Jane Goodall

Well, the reason I got to Kenya was because I’d always wanted to go and live with wild animals and write books about them, ever since I was 10 reading Tarzan. So I saved up money when I was invited by a school friend to Kenya. And when I was staying with her, somebody said, if you want to learn about animals, you should meet Luis Leakey. So although I was very shy, that’s what I’d come for. So I called him up. And this is kind of weird, but two days before I met him, his secretary had suddenly quit. He needed a secretary, and there I was. And he gave me a job. And I think he was impressed because I’d read everything I could about African animals. I think it was then that Leakey decided, well, she hasn’t been to college, she’s new from England, but she’s the person I’ve been looking for to go and study chimpanzees.Kara Swisher

So when you went there, you went in as his secretary. Did sexism persist then at the time, where women couldn’t be doing these jobs, or did you perceive it at all? Or were you just, this is the skill you had and you went in?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, back then, it was so different. I mean, the times were different. And the feminist movement hadn’t really started or impacted us. And so, yeah, I was his secretary. Almost all, but not quite, of the staff were men. But it was fine. And luckily, Leakey had decided that women might be more patient in the field and make better observers. So, you see, the fact that I was a woman helped.Kara Swisher

So let’s talk a little bit about the observational skills that you had, because your whole job was to be present with the chimpanzees. Go back to then.Jane Goodall

Well, I mean, I came out with my mother because the authorities wouldn’t allow me to go alone. That’s why she came. But I went into the field with a pencil, often a pencil because it was raining, and a little notebook that fitted in my pocket, and a little piece of polythene that I put over my head if it rained, and a pair of binoculars, which weren’t very good. They weren’t good enough because we had so little money. I mean, we had one secondhand army tent. We had a few pots and pans and tins of food. And that was it. I started just climbing up and down the hills and looking for the chimps and writing everything with my pen, writing it up at night. And you know, at first, the chimps took one look at this peculiar white ape and ran away. It was really awful. I was really glad of my mother, because she helped to boost my morale, because the chimps just went on running away. And I knew if I didn’t see something exciting before that money ran out, it was only for six months.Kara Swisher

When you look back at that, you’ve talked about it as the best times of your life. How would it have been different if you were doing it today?Jane Goodall

Well, the trouble is that we’ve now learned that animals can catch diseases from us and we can catch diseases from them and that our presence can interfere with behavior. So to do things with camera traps and so on is the way to go. But the reason I say they’re the best days of my life, today, we wouldn’t do a study like that. We wouldn’t hand out bananas. It’s not the thing to do. But back then, it was the accepted thing to have a feeding station. That’s what people did. And because we’d started the banana feeding, it meant that I could follow their development almost daily. And I don’t think today anybody can learn them exactly the way I did.Kara Swisher

Can you talk about that connection? How do you remember it now, 60 years later?Jane Goodall

Well, I remember that when I was out there in Gombe, and I spent, of course, a lot of time out in the forest with the chimpanzees. But they accepted me. So I could sit there. I never considered myself part of a group, but I was just somebody who was there observing them, and they weren’t afraid. And because they accepted me so totally, I had the freedom of seeing how they really interacted with each other. And so the criticism has been, well, maybe the banana feeding affected their behavior. And I’m sure it did to some extent. But it affected them all equally. And right from the beginning, my emphasis was on differences between individuals, which wasn’t accepted back then. And it’s the same today. People don’t like to think of animals as individuals, but as species.Kara Swisher

And you gave them names, which was resisted by people at the time. When Leakey wrote we must redefine man because of the observations you made and brought back. What do you think was the most important about redefining?Jane Goodall

Well, I know how this began. One chimp, I named him David Graybeard. He had a beautiful white beard, and he was very handsome. And on this one day, when he’s begun to lose his fear before the others — I wasn’t that close to him. And I still had to use my binoculars. But he didn’t run away. And I saw him breaking off and using grass stems to fish for termites. I saw him picking up leafy twigs, carefully removing the leaves to make a tool. And that brought in The National Geographic Society to give money when the first six months ran out. That brought in my husband, Hugo van Lawick to film. Geographic sent him. And that was the turning point of the entire — you know, but for that, maybe after six months, everything would have ended.Kara Swisher

Explain to people who don’t understand why that’s a big deal. People have seen chimpanzees manipulate various things. Why is that so important?Jane Goodall

Well, because of how science defined us. Up to that time, we had been defined by Western science — and I repeat Western science, because other parts of the world were so different in their relationship to animals, but anyway — as man, the toolmaker. It was when Leakey heard about this tool using and tool making, he wrote to me and said now we must redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans. And actually, if you want to know now what I believe is the biggest difference between us and chimps — I mean, we know so much about animal intelligence now — but, you know, the main difference, I believe, is that at some point in our evolution, we developed language, spoken language.

Chimps communicate. They have gestures. They have calls. Whales communicate. Birds do, too. Chimps can learn a human language. So can parrots. But chimps and parrots haven’t learned a spoken language, not that we know of. And so once we developed this spoken language, we were, for the first time, able to bring people together to discuss a problem. We could teach about things that weren’t present with language. And I think that triggered this explosive development about intellect that’s taken us to the moon, to Mars. That’s helped people understand the place of planet in the galaxy, in the solar system.Kara Swisher

If you had to go back, what is the thing that stayed with you? And perhaps, what is the sound you remember and the sight, if you had to remember all this many years later, decades later?Jane Goodall

Oh, my goodness. Well, the sight? Climbing up onto my peak, which I discovered, and looking out over the valleys to Lake Tanganyika, looking behind me to the peaks of the Rift Valley. So beautiful, so untouched in those days. The sound would be the calling of chimpanzees on the other side of the valley. Those chimpanzees you’d been searching for and hoping to hear and hoping to find. And you hear them on the other side of the Valley. And you think, yes, there they are! So the pant-hoot, the distance call, which is something like [IMITATES PANT-HOOT].

And that, to me, it does something to me. It comes deep into me.Kara Swisher

When you were there, there were two million chimps, I think and then it went down to 150,000. Where are we today?Jane Goodall

Oh, the whole of Africa, you mean?Kara Swisher

Yeah.Jane Goodall

Well, nobody knows exactly how many chimpanzees there are. But they are in danger. And they’re more endangered in some areas than others. And it’s that sort of picture across Africa.Kara Swisher

So you’ve been a leader, trying to keep things from getting worse. And your main approach has been to fight for land conservation. When did that start?Jane Goodall

Well, I went to a conference, which I helped to start, in America in 1986. And one of the sessions was on conservation. It was shocking. I mean, I guess we all knew there was deforestation and so on. But the extent of it hadn’t penetrated — well, it certainly hadn’t penetrated me. And there was also a session on conditions in places like medical research labs, which I won’t go into. But it was horrible, horrible, horrible. And learning about the bushmeat trade.

I left the conference as an activist. I went as a scientist, planning to carry on with this wonderful life, out in the rainforest, learning about the chimps, having students. And I left knowing I had to do something, but I didn’t know what to do.Kara Swisher

So talk about that, sort of the brass tacks of that moment. What pushed you so hard? You were at this conference, which was where? It was —Jane Goodall

Chicago.Kara Swisher

Chicago. What was the thing that struck you that you were like, no?Jane Goodall

Well, remember that to start off with, I wasn’t a scientist. I never dreamt of being a scientist. I wanted to be a naturalist. I wanted to live with animals and write books about them. And then Leakey pushed me into getting a PhD which, actually, I’m really glad I did, because It taught me to think objectively, which I love. But I refused to believe that scientists had to be cold and shouldn’t have empathy with their subjects. I rebelled against that. So the shock was seeing what was happening to the environment in Africa, and the shock of seeing how chimpanzees, our closest relatives, who can have feelings and emotions like ours, who have very astute intelligence, the way that they were treated in medical research, circus entertainment, and so on. I think it was seeing secretly filmed footage of chimpanzees in 5 foot by 5 foot cages, maybe for 20 years, just bare cages alone, these very social beings alone with nothing to do, boredom, it was horrible. And I knew that they’d done so much for me, I had to try and do something for them. So I didn’t make the decision. People say was it hard? I didn’t make it. I always say it was a bit like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Something happened, and he started one person and ended up another. And that’s what happened to me. [MUSIC PLAYING]Kara Swisher

We’ll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, hit subscribe. You’ll be able to catch up on Sway episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with couples therapist, Esther Perel, and you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Jane Goodall after the break.

When you have this much fame, because since the National Geographic stuff came out and all the movies, you were a well-known person. You obviously had moral authority. You had a sense of power. How did you use that power?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, when I began, I didn’t have those feelings. I didn’t really understand what had happened to me. I mean, I didn’t have power. I didn’t have any of that. To me, I was and I still am just me. I’m just Jane. I’m here where I grew up. And then, this kind of iconic status was thrust upon me. And I was at first very — I hated it. I wanted to hide from it.Kara Swisher

Why?Jane Goodall

Because I didn’t like — I mean, I didn’t feel I deserved it. But then, at a certain point, I realized that this could help the cause that I was so passionate about, which basically, from the beginning, was to help people understand that animals are not just things. That they’re sentient beings, they have feelings. And that, you know, that is a passionate ruling of my life. But equally, protecting the environment. We’re poisoning the land with our conventional agriculture. We’re putting chemical poisons down. We are polluting the ocean. We’re destroying the forest, which along with the ocean are the great lungs of the world, absorbing CO2 and giving us oxygen.Kara Swisher

One of the things you talked about years ago was the increasing incursions from China, taking forests, taking minerals, all kinds of things. Has that improved at all, or do you feel it’s still a threat?Jane Goodall

Well, you know, China is a large country with a growing economy. And yes, they are causing havoc in many developing countries, taking their resources. They’ve learned about conservation within China. It’s a huge change from when I first went back in the mid-‘90s, and animal protection, all these things. But they are taking resources from other countries for their own development. But, is that any different from European colonialism? Is it any different from the big multinational corporations today? No, it’s not. And so it’s a whole area that we need to address, not pointing fingers, but working out ways ahead.Kara Swisher

So a lot of these things are about education, about, again, moral authority. There is more — a different confrontational style of activism growing here in this country and around the world, like Greta Thunberg and others. Is it possible these days to be Jane Goodall? Do you really still believe in that?Jane Goodall

I totally believe in it because, really because of the young people. I mean, everywhere I go — well, I’m not going now, but I see it on these kind of Zoom things — I see young people with shining eyes, wanting to tell Dr. Jane what they are doing to make the world a better place. I want to help all animals. I can’t. You know, I can’t do it. But out there, in this huge group of young people, hundreds of thousands of them, there’s always somebody who wants to help a turtle. There’s another group that wants to help moon bears. You know, all of it, it’s out there.Kara Swisher

When passion moves to anger, because you’re seeing that with a lot of groups, that they’ve had enough. They want the system to change completely and not cooperatively.Jane Goodall

Well, I don’t blame them if they have had enough. But I will never, ever believe that the way for change is confrontation and aggression, because people change when you reach the heart. And so, you know, when people ask me, what do you do when you meet somebody who’s behaving in a way that you really dislike or something? Try and find a connection. Maybe they have a dog or a cat or a horse or a child or something. Just for one minute, if you have a short time to talk to them. And then, stories. Tell stories. So when I went into the labs that I accused of treating the chimps badly, which they were, I showed pictures of Gombe and how the chimps are and how they’re lying around and grooming each other and playing. It got to the people’s hearts. And I got this lesson early on, don’t make high up people lose face, because it doesn’t work.Kara Swisher

Mhm. When you look at the protests, though, especially environment, do you think that helps, too, or not at all?Jane Goodall

Oh, I think it helps. It raises awareness, no question about it. I mean, Greta’s raised awareness in many, many people, without any question about it.Kara Swisher

So let me put that to you. If you were standing in front of President Trump, how would you tell him a story? He is one of the more partisan figures, creates a lot of thumping, like chest thumping. What would you say? You have five minutes, or two minutes, or one minute.Jane Goodall

Yeah, apparently, the attention span is less than that. But anyway, I would actually refuse this opportunity, because I don’t think he’d listen. I truly don’t. And it’s a waste of time when people won’t listen. But one of the very few people I would talk to President Xi. I definitely would. It probably wouldn’t do any good. But I would be fascinated to talk to him. I mean —Kara Swisher

What would you say?Jane Goodall

What would I say? Well, I would congratulate him on all the amazing improvements he’s made for people’s livelihood. I would not talk about his treatment of the Muslim community, because you want people to be on your side and change. And I would talk about the amazing things like banning ivory trade, and now putting pangolins up at top level protection, and all the things he’s done for the environment. And you know, hopefully, if you approach people like that, then they want to do more. That’s the case. That maybe stupid. It may be naive. But with many, many people in high positions, it’s worked.Kara Swisher

It works for them. But Trump is a chimpanzee too far, I guess. [LAUGHS] How do you look at it?Jane Goodall

Well, don’t compare Trump with a chimpanzee, because it’s terribly rude to the chimpanzee.Kara Swisher

So you’re not put off by this partisan time we’re in? You feel like it’s overcomeable?Jane Goodall

You know, the Trump administration has repealed so many environmental protections, and this is my main passion. I am shocked, horrified. Opening up the oil reservoirs in Alaska, shocking. Drilling in various parts of the ocean. It’s shocking. And if this goes on, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, it’s not just America that’s going to suffer. The whole flipping world — and then there’s Bolsonaro. And so many, you know, the swing to the far right, and it’s got to be the bottom line, and it’s unlimited economic development. And how do we move from this pandemic into this new green economy, which everybody is saying we need to do? We do need to do it. I don’t know how to do it. But we do need to do it.Kara Swisher

So who are your environmental heroes?Jane Goodall

Well, I mean, it started off with Rachel Carson, actually, when she wrote “Silent Spring.” And then I went and stayed with Margaret Owings, who helped to save the sea otters from extinction. And then I wrote this book, “Hope For Animals And Their World,” and I met so many amazing, incredible people. My last reason for hope: the indomitable human spirit, the people who tackle what seems impossible, won’t give up, and succeed. And it’s so inspiring to see that an animal, or an environment on the brink of extinction or destruction can be saved. And has been. There’s many examples. And my big problem with the media today is this concentration on the bad. There’s so much bad, yes. But there’s so much good that doesn’t get reported. And I think, today, I would say that more people are aware of what we’re doing to the planet than ever before, and the reason they’re not taking action is they feel helpless, don’t know what to do. My job is to give people hope by telling them that every one of us makes a difference every single day.Kara Swisher

So talk about your legacy. You’re 86 years old. You look like you’re going to last well beyond me. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?Jane Goodall

I want to go on doing what I’m doing. I want to get to this tipping point. I also want to create an endowment. Because people are relying on me. I go to a different country and help them raise money for their programs, et cetera, et cetera. So a big concentration now on raising an endowment. It’s all set up. We’re ready to go. Of course, the pandemic comes, maybe, at a very bad time for that. But it’s still there, and I will do it, because I’m determined that I want some money to make sure that these programs that I’m so passionate about — that work. I’m passionate about them because they’ve been proven to work. And I want them not to disappear, slowly fade away when I’m gone.Kara Swisher

So when you look back on your life, where would you like to be if there wasn’t COVID? Where would you like to be sitting, on Lake Tanganyika, drinking a whiskey? I’ve heard you like to drink whiskey by the lake.Jane Goodall

Well, one reason I have to have whiskey, it actually does help your voice when you’ve overused your voice.Kara Swisher

I heard apples work the same. But whiskey is fun.Jane Goodall

I know four opera singers who swear by it. And one pop singer, so it’s not just me. Where would I like to be?Kara Swisher

Right now, close your eyes, where would you like to be?Jane Goodall

Close my eyes. I would love to be sitting on the beach at Gombe without tourists, with the people who are working there now, throughout the COVID experience, looking out over Lake Tanganyika, looking at the mountains on the other side, and knowing that up behind me, the chimps are making their nests, and the baboons are climbing up into their trees. It’s a beautiful place to be. [MUSIC PLAYING]Kara Swisher

Dr. Goodall, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time to do this.Jane Goodall

Well, I loved talking to you.Kara Swisher

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Paula Szuchman. With music and sound design by Isaac Jones. Fact checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Renan Borelli, Liriel Higa, and Kathy Tu. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to subscribe to a podcast. So subscribe to this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you, with a glass of whiskey, download a podcast app like Stitcher or Google Podcasts, then search for Sway and hit subscribe. You’ll get episodes every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.Listen 25:53 PreviousMore episodes ofSwayJane Goodall on Chimps, Presidents and Other Alpha MalesWhy 3rd Grade MattersAt-Home Covid Tests and Other Powers of a Tech BillionaireMath Lessons From PennsylvaniaPost-Election Therapy With Esther Perel‘Some Version of the Apocalypse Is Inevitable’Sarah Cooper Is Tired of Being Donald TrumpShe’s Bursting Big Tech’s BubbleHillary Clinton Says It’s Different This TimeShould You Choose Your Baby’s Eye Color?The Election Isn’t Doomed … YetCan Big Tech Make Sure That 2020 Is Not 2016?See All Episodes ofSwayNextNov. 23, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET



Jane Goodall is an expert on alpha males — for decades, she’s been studying them in chimpanzee communities. She’s also inspired leaders in business, politics and culture to change their approach to animals and the environment.

It’s been 60 years since Dr. Goodall’s first excursion to observe primates in Africa. Her discoveries there, which transformed our understanding of animals, continue to inspire generations of scientists and environmental activists.

Now, at the age of 86, she reflects on her legacy. On this episode of “Sway,” she reveals how she rose to celebrity status, how she uses her platform to persuade world leaders and which politicians (like President Trump) she wouldn’t even bother trying to persuade.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Guerin Blask for The New York Times

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A podcast about power, hosted by Kara Swisher (@karaswisher). Every Monday and Thursday, from New York Times Opinion. Listen and subscribe.

This episode of “Sway” was produced by Nayeema Raza, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Paula Szuchman; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones. Special thanks to Renan Borelli, Liriel Higa and Kathy Tu.

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Article of the Day: Monday, November 23, 2020 “you shall not exact interest from them…”

Exodus 22:25: If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.

A major Trump donor’s company got a 3 percent government-backed pandemic loan. It sells title loans at a 350 percent annual rate.

Wellshire Financial Services got the money despite rules meant to prevent most lenders from qualifying for the Main Street program

This LoanStar Title Loans in San Antonio is part of the title loan empire operated by Wellshire Financial Services and its owner, Rod Aycox.
This LoanStar Title Loans in San Antonio is part of the title loan empire operated by Wellshire Financial Services and its owner, Rod Aycox. (Matthew Busch for The Washington Post)

A company owned by a major donor to President Trump that operates auto-title loan stores with names such as LoanStar and Moneymax secured a $25 million low-interest loan from a government pandemic aid program, using what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from getting this federal help.

The cash infusion to Wellshire Financial Services — part of a multi-state title loan empire run by Atlanta businessman Rod Aycox — came from the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion Main Street Lending program for small- and medium-size businesses. It’s the same program that is among the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities that will be allowed to expire at year’s end after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced last week the unspent funds will be redirected to more distressed parts of the U.S. economy. The decision does not affect loans that already have been made, such as the one to Wellshire.

Wellshire’s government-backed, five-year loan came with a 3.15 percent interest rate, Fed records show.

Loans to consumers at Wellshire’s auto-title loan stores can carry a 350 percent annual rate, thanks to high fees and interest supercharging the cost of borrowing, according to corporate disclosure documents.

One of Aycox’s stores, LoanStar, which has dozens of branches in Texas, notes that someone taking out a $1,200 loan, secured by a vehicle as collateral, needs to pay back $1,589.97 within one month or potentially lose their vehicle. That works out to a 352.24 percent annual credit cost.

“That doesn’t look good at all,” said Marcus Stanley, policy director for the nonpartisan advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform. “This is not about keeping a local restaurant open.”

Payday lenders that charge 400 percent interest want access to small-business loans

Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable, a government watchdog group tracking pandemic spending, said the government should not be helping companies such as Wellshire.

“If the Trump administration thinks the high-cost lending industry deserves a taxpayer-backed loan,” Herrig said, “it should come with the same 300 percent interest rate they charge consumers.”

Aycox and representatives of Wellshire did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails requesting comment.

A trade association that represents the owners of more than 8,000 payday and auto-title loan stores — but not Wellshire Financial — has argued that consumer finance companies should be allowed to receive pandemic stimulus loans. The industry has been “extending essential financial services during the coronavirus pandemic,” Ed D’Alessio, executive director of the Infin Financial Services Alliance, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Aycox is one of the auto-title lending industry’s biggest players, building up stores across the country after years of success with a controversial business model that consumer advocates say exploits low-income people and can trap them in an unyielding cycle of debt.

Aycox and his wife, Leslie Aycox, are major Trump donors, contributing $746,000 to Trump’s presidential campaigns and political action committees and $1 million to Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

Last year, the auto-title lending industry — along with payday lenders — scored a major victory when the Trump administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed delaying a rule that would force these lenders to scrutinize whether borrowers can actually afford to pay back the loans.

Now, one of Aycox’s companies has turned to the government for help with a loan.

The Main Street Lending program has made loans to just 420 companies worth a total of $4.1 billion through the end of October, leading to criticism that it has been slow to help businesses — and, along with the other stimulus programs passed by Congress, has failed to provide enough help to people hurt economically by the pandemic.

In ongoing debate over Fed’s Main Street program, lawmakers reach little consensus

The five-year loans have terms favorable to borrowers, including no principal payments for two years and no interest payments for one year.

The loans begin with a private bank before the Fed buys 95 percent of the obligation.

And the Main Street Lending program makes it clear that the Fed leaves it up to banks and borrowers to judge whether a company qualifies.

“Each borrower is required to certify that it is eligible to participate in the program,” Fed spokesman Darren Gersh said, describing what happens with all Main Street loans and declining to discuss Wellshire’s case. “If we find that a borrower has not properly certified their eligibility, we take appropriate remedial action.”

Wellshire got its $25 million loan in September, Fed data shows. The determination that Wellshire qualified was done by Fieldpoint Private Bank & Trust in Greenwich, Conn.

“It’s one we researched heavily throughout the process,” said Kevin O’Hanlon, who is director of business development at Fieldpoint and served as the commercial loan officer on the deal.

Wellshire plans to use the money to expand its auto-title lending business, according to Fieldpoint.

At first glance, Wellshire’s ownership of title loan stores appears to disqualify it. The Main Street Lending Program rules, based on Small Business Administration guidelines, prohibits companies that are primarily engaged in lending.

“The federal government doesn’t want to be subsidizing companies that are just going to jack up the interest,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center.

There is an exception for some lenders, such as pawnshops, if less than half their revenue comes from interest.

Wellshire appears to base its case for loan qualification on how it lends money — thanks to changes adopted by short-term lenders in Texas several years ago to avoid that state’s cap on interest rates.

Wellshire, despite operating title loan stores, does not actually earn money from loan interest payments, according to Fieldpoint.

While the company’s storefronts have names such as LoanStar Title Loans and websites promoting “Cash loans on car titles,” the stores are organized in Texas as “credit access businesses,” not auto-title lenders, Texas regulatory records show.

It wasn’t always that way. Texas originally created the category of credit access businesses to keep track of companies that help consumers repair their credit. But, according to consumer advocates, then the state capped interest rates on consumer finance loans at 10 percent.

So most auto-title lenders and payday lenders became credit access businesses — operating just as they always did, except the loans were financed by outside lenders who took the interest payments, according to consumer advocacy groups.

Interest charges were still capped at 10 percent. But the auto-title lenders were free to charge whatever fees they wanted.

“It was a workaround on state usury laws,” said Ann Baddour, director of the Fair Financial Services Project at the nonprofit Texas Appleseed.

So LoanStar Title Loans does not technically earn interest on loans. It markets and arranges the loan with an outside lender who profits from interest payments. But LoanStar does profit from the fees it charges for the loans — fees that make up the bulk of the loan’s cost.

On that $1,200 loan from LoanStar, the outside lender earns $12.96 in interest after one month, according to the title lender’s disclosure. But LoanStar earns $377.01 in fees on the loan in that same time.

The relationship between the title loan store and the outside lender is extremely close, blurring the distinction between the two, Baddour said. Usually the borrower has no idea. After all, the auto-title store is required by state law to be a party to the loan. The auto-title store also guarantees the loan, so if the consumer fails to make payments, the title store pays off the outside financing company and takes over collection on the loan. The borrower can lose their car or truck.

An auto-title lender acts just like any other lender, Baddour said.

So the idea that a title lender qualifies for government aid during a pandemic, she said, “that’s deeply troubling.”

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.

Article of the Day: November 22, 1963

On this day fifty-seven years ago John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On this day the rule of law is under attack. Thus far, it has been sustained by the courts in the fraudulent election cases. Thank God for the rule of law. Thank God for our system of checks and balances.

Trump’s wildest claims are going nowhere in court. Thank legal ethics.

The president’s lawyers can’t make assertions without evidence in front of judges.

By Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches legal ethics and other subjects.

President Trump’s lie that the election was stolen has had some unfortunate success in the court of public opinion: Polling shows that more than three-quarters of his supporters believe the contest was riddled with fraud. To overturn the result, though, Trump needs to win in the court of law. A president who packed the federal courts with conservatives now depends on the judicial system to agree with his perspective and provide him a pathway to a second term despite Joe Biden’s win.

Yet Trump’s legal strategy has run aground — in no small part because of legal ethics. While lawyers are often cast as unscrupulous and immoral, they are required to follow a strict code of professional responsibility established by state bars. The famous duty of lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, for instance, comes from these ethical codes. Law students must take a course in legal ethics, the bar exam includes a section on ethical rules, and continuing-education requirements emphasize lawyers’ duties to clients and to the courts.

Two ethical rules have been fatal to Trump’s election lawsuits in state after state: the lawyer’s duty of candor to a court and the lawyer’s duty to avoid frivolous claims. The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence.

According to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer is prohibited from making “a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal.” This rule is as straightforward as it sounds: Lawyers are obligated to be truthful in everything they say to a court. If they aren’t, they can lose their license to practice law. (Former Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane, for example, was disbarred after she lied under oath about leaking grand jury material about a political rival while in office.)

In a hearing over Trump’s claim that his campaign was being excluded from observing the ballot count in Philadelphia, the judge — a conservative George W. Bush appointee — asked Trump’s lawyer if campaign observers were in fact present. “There’s a nonzero number of people in the room,” the lawyer responded vaguely. The judge, irritated, said he was “asking you as a member of the bar of this court” — judge-speak for “Be honest with me right now or I’ll have your bar card.” Because of the duty of candor to the court, Trump’s lawyer had to concede that campaign observers were indeed in the room.

Trump says he’s going to court. He has absolutely no basis to sue.

In Arizona, where Trump says Republican voters were instructed to use Sharpie pens that would supposedly cause their ballots to go uncounted, legal ethics required the Trump campaign’s lawyer to admit that many of the supporting affidavits by voters who alleged that they were affected were probably untrustworthy and no more than “spam.”

The duty of lawyers to avoid making frivolous claims has also hurt Trump’s efforts to use the courts to overturn the election. Lawyers are prohibited from making assertions in court or in their filings “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous,” in the words of the ABA’s Model Rules. Lawyers have to be especially careful about this one, because judges can impose monetary sanctions against them on the spot. A whole section of the rules of federal civil proceedings specifies the duties lawyers have to ensure that the factual claims they’re making are supported by evidence and that the legal ones have a sound basis, too.

The Trump campaign’s lawyer in Arizona confessed that, again contrary to Trump’s tweets, he was “not alleging that anyone was stealing the election.” He simply didn’t have any facts to substantiate that assertion. In Michigan, campaign lawyers couldn’t show evidence that GOP observers were hindered in watching the counting in Detroit and later withdrew their federal lawsuit. This past week, Trump voters had to drop lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for similar reasons.

So far Trump’s lawyers haven’t been sanctioned, perhaps because they are rapidly dropping their lawsuits to avoid it. More than two dozen suits filed by the president or his supporters have been withdrawn or thrown out. On one day, Nov. 13, Trump’s campaign lost or dropped nine cases. The Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, who has been involved in opposing Trump’s litigation in several states, crowed on Twitter that the president and his allies had lost 31 times in court and won only once.

Trump is failing because institutions are holding strong against him

Concerns about violating ethical rules partly explain why Trump’s lawyers are deserting him. Two large law firms withdrew as counsel only days after filing lawsuits. Two new lawyers signed on, only to withdraw within days themselves. Lawyers in high-profile cases rarely quit a client so quickly — unless they fear that the representation will violate the rules of legal ethics. Then they have no choice. Likewise, most of the establishment legal team that defended Trump during his impeachment has stayed away from the post-election litigation efforts.

The exodus has left Trump’s lawsuits in the hands of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who until this past week hadn’t been in a courtroom in decades. Although he’s made wild accusations in news conferences about “a massive fraud” involving the Clintons, George Soros and Hugo Chávez, Giuliani acknowledged in a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania that “this is not a fraud case.” And so far, none of the strangest claims he’s made publicly have found their way into any court filings.

Trump has thrived by bending the world to his own version of reality. But in court, his lawyers are ethically obligated to be honest and pursue only meritorious claims. The president’s undemocratic effort to overturn a free and fair election is being turned aside, and we have the ethics of lawyers to thank.

Trump’s legal strategy is to sue first and ask questions later. That’s dangerous.

Trump’s legal challenges to the election will help Democrats

Trump’s scheme for state legislatures to overturn the election won’t work

Follow our updates on Facebook and

Article of the Day: Friday, November 20, 2020

This article is for those of you who are interested in the press conference held by people representing the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. It is a fact check by the Washington Post of charges made without evidence at the news conference. I encourage those who don’t trust the reporting of The Washington Post to go to Youtube and watch the news conference itself: https://youtu.be/-_xp7rq58vc. This is a link to a 6 minute MSNBC report, but you won’t have any trouble finding the entire one hour and forty-five minutes. How have we sunk to this level of behavior?

Rage Against the Voting Machine

Trump blames the result on Dominion’s systems. Where’s the evidence?

By The Editorial BoardNov. 17, 2020 6:33 pm ET

  • PRINT
  • TEXT

Listen to this article6 minutes00:00 / 05:371x

Voters cast ballots at the polling station in Atlanta, Ga., Nov. 3. PHOTO: JESSICA MCGOWAN/GETTY IMAGES

President Trump has so far been unwilling to concede to Joe Biden, and his latest argument is that the voting machines must have been rigged. Where’s the evidence? Strong claims need strong proof, not rumors and innuendo on Twitter.

Chatter is swirling around Dominion Voting, a company that supplies equipment in some 28 states. What seems to have launched this theory was an early misreport of results in Antrim County, Mich. In 2016 Mr. Trump won 62% of its 13,600 ballots, so eyebrows rose this year when the initial tallies showed Mr. Biden up by 3,000.OPINION: POTOMAC WATCHTwo Covid-19 Vaccines Show Promise 00:001xSUBSCRIBE

In reality, Mr. Trump had won 61% of Antrim County. The unofficial reporting was wrong, but the underlying votes were counted correctly. As officials later explained: In October the county had to tweak the ballot information for two local races. Tabulating machines in the affected areas were updated, but others weren’t. On Election Day the differing data didn’t line up right after being merged. But the printouts from the tabulators showed accurate totals.

In any case, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office said the error “would have been identified during the county canvass,” when Democrats and Republicans “review the printed totals tape from each tabulator.” Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy told the Associated Press: “There was no malice, no fraud here, just human error.” She’s a Republican.

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A different problem hit Gwinnett County, Ga. Officials had trouble with a Dominion module for adjudicating absentee ballots, for example, if the voter put a check mark in the circle instead of filling it in. Some adjudicated ballots, the county said, “were displayed as in progress but would not move over to be accepted.” The county ended up re-adjudicating some votes until Nov. 5. Sounds like the usual boring IT snafu.

Other pundits mash together all sorts of stuff. A couple of counties in Georgia had trouble with electronic poll books, but that would affect wait times at precincts, not final vote totals. There’s footage from a House hearing a few years ago, at which Princeton Computer Science Professor Andrew Appel said that voting machines could theoretically be hacked. Where’s the proof they actually were in 2020? “Vulnerabilities,” Mr. Appel wrote in a blog post Friday, “are not the same as rigged elections, especially when we have paper ballots in almost all the states.”

Mr. Trump was even further astray last week in a tweet. “REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED.” Dominion says it’s “impossible” that its machines deleted nearly a million Trump votes in Pennsylvania, where it serves only 14 counties. With turnout at 76%, it adds, those counties registered 1.3 million votes.

Others have tried to draw lines between Dominion and prominent Democrats. In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, the company in 2014 agreed to donate voting machines to “emerging and post-conflict democracies” via a Clinton Foundation initiative. This shows exactly nothing about Dominion’s current operations. The company says it has no ownership relationships “with any member of the Pelosi family, the Feinstein family, or the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Another rumor is that Dominion has deep ties with Smartmatic, which has supplied voting systems to Venezuela, where the ruling regime manipulates elections. Both companies deny this. Smartmatic says it“has never provided Dominion Voting Systems with any software, hardware or other technology.” Dominion says they “do not collaborate in any way and have no affiliate relationships or financial ties.” In 2009, Dominion adds, Smartmatic “licensed Dominion machines for use in the Philippines,” but the contract “ended in a lawsuit.”

***

No voting system is foolproof, and hiccups are inevitable in a country with roughly 3,000 counties. The distributed nature of American elections is a strength on this point, since voting is handled by innumerable local officials instead of a few central authorities. Texas has declined to certify Dominion systems for its elections. The examiners objected to everything from the “tedious” and “unintuitive” setup, to a crash they witnessed in an adjudication module, to an indicator light that hackers could hypothetically remove to get at a USB port.

But so far there’s no good evidence of voting problems that would come close to Mr. Biden’s lead of 73,000 votes in Pennsylvania or 145,000 in Michigan. In Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State last week ordered a hand recount of all five million ballots. The effort turned up 2,600 missing votes that Floyd County forgot to upload. Adding them would cut Mr. Biden’s lead to slightly north of 13,000. But the error isn’t Dominion’s fault, and it better hope no glitches are revealed, given its 10-year contract with the state for $107 million.

If Georgia’s recount doesn’t find big irregularities, then these claims should be put to rest. In the George W. Bush years, the conspiratorial left focused on Diebold, a maker of electronic voting machines. It would be a mistake for anyone on the right to go down a similar dead end, especially if Georgia’s paper ballots give the same result as the computers.

Article of the Day: 11/18/20 The state of the election from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Rage Against the Voting Machine

Trump blames the result on Dominion’s systems. Where’s the evidence?

By The Editorial BoardNov. 17, 2020 6:33 pm ET

Listen to this article6 minutes00:00 / 05:371x

Voters cast ballots at the polling station in Atlanta, Ga., Nov. 3. PHOTO: JESSICA MCGOWAN/GETTY IMAGES

President Trump has so far been unwilling to concede to Joe Biden, and his latest argument is that the voting machines must have been rigged. Where’s the evidence? Strong claims need strong proof, not rumors and innuendo on Twitter.

Chatter is swirling around Dominion Voting, a company that supplies equipment in some 28 states. What seems to have launched this theory was an early misreport of results in Antrim County, Mich. In 2016 Mr. Trump won 62% of its 13,600 ballots, so eyebrows rose this year when the initial tallies showed Mr. Biden up by 3,000.OPINION: POTOMAC WATCHTwo Covid-19 Vaccines Show Promise 00:001xSUBSCRIBE

In reality, Mr. Trump had won 61% of Antrim County. The unofficial reporting was wrong, but the underlying votes were counted correctly. As officials later explained: In October the county had to tweak the ballot information for two local races. Tabulating machines in the affected areas were updated, but others weren’t. On Election Day the differing data didn’t line up right after being merged. But the printouts from the tabulators showed accurate totals.

In any case, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office said the error “would have been identified during the county canvass,” when Democrats and Republicans “review the printed totals tape from each tabulator.” Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy told the Associated Press: “There was no malice, no fraud here, just human error.” She’s a Republican.

A different problem hit Gwinnett County, Ga. Officials had trouble with a Dominion module for adjudicating absentee ballots, for example, if the voter put a check mark in the circle instead of filling it in. Some adjudicated ballots, the county said, “were displayed as in progress but would not move over to be accepted.” The county ended up re-adjudicating some votes until Nov. 5. Sounds like the usual boring IT snafu.

Other pundits mash together all sorts of stuff. A couple of counties in Georgia had trouble with electronic poll books, but that would affect wait times at precincts, not final vote totals. There’s footage from a House hearing a few years ago, at which Princeton Computer Science Professor Andrew Appel said that voting machines could theoretically be hacked. Where’s the proof they actually were in 2020? “Vulnerabilities,” Mr. Appel wrote in a blog post Friday, “are not the same as rigged elections, especially when we have paper ballots in almost all the states.”

Mr. Trump was even further astray last week in a tweet. “REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED.” Dominion says it’s “impossible” that its machines deleted nearly a million Trump votes in Pennsylvania, where it serves only 14 counties. With turnout at 76%, it adds, those counties registered 1.3 million votes.

Others have tried to draw lines between Dominion and prominent Democrats. In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, the company in 2014 agreed to donate voting machines to “emerging and post-conflict democracies” via a Clinton Foundation initiative. This shows exactly nothing about Dominion’s current operations. The company says it has no ownership relationships “with any member of the Pelosi family, the Feinstein family, or the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Another rumor is that Dominion has deep ties with Smartmatic, which has supplied voting systems to Venezuela, where the ruling regime manipulates elections. Both companies deny this. Smartmatic says it“has never provided Dominion Voting Systems with any software, hardware or other technology.” Dominion says they “do not collaborate in any way and have no affiliate relationships or financial ties.” In 2009, Dominion adds, Smartmatic “licensed Dominion machines for use in the Philippines,” but the contract “ended in a lawsuit.”

***

No voting system is foolproof, and hiccups are inevitable in a country with roughly 3,000 counties. The distributed nature of American elections is a strength on this point, since voting is handled by innumerable local officials instead of a few central authorities. Texas has declined to certify Dominion systems for its elections. The examiners objected to everything from the “tedious” and “unintuitive” setup, to a crash they witnessed in an adjudication module, to an indicator light that hackers could hypothetically remove to get at a USB port.

But so far there’s no good evidence of voting problems that would come close to Mr. Biden’s lead of 73,000 votes in Pennsylvania or 145,000 in Michigan. In Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State last week ordered a hand recount of all five million ballots. The effort turned up 2,600 missing votes that Floyd County forgot to upload. Adding them would cut Mr. Biden’s lead to slightly north of 13,000. But the error isn’t Dominion’s fault, and it better hope no glitches are revealed, given its 10-year contract with the state for $107 million.

If Georgia’s recount doesn’t find big irregularities, then these claims should be put to rest. In the George W. Bush years, the conspiratorial left focused on Diebold, a maker of electronic voting machines. It would be a mistake for anyone on the right to go down a similar dead end, especially if Georgia’s paper ballots give the same result as the computers.

Article of the Day: Monday, November 16–What are our Supreme Court Justices thinking?

It has become common for our Supreme Court justices to make speeches that are increasingly political in nature. Here’s an interesting take by Ruth Marcus, opinion writer for the Washington Post, on a speech recently given by Justice Samuel Alito to the Federalist Society. “Of the current nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States, six (Brett KavanaughNeil GorsuchClarence ThomasJohn RobertsSamuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett) are current or former members of the organization.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Society).

Why so sour, Justice Alito? Your side in the Supreme Court is winning.

Ruth Marcus

Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. testifying before Congress in 2019
Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. testifying before Congress in 2019 (Susan Walsh/AP)

You might think, given that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has just been buttressed with a sixth conservative justice, that the mood of the keynote speaker at the Federalist Society’s annual convention would be jubilant. Triumphant, even.

Not Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who helps anchor the conservative end of this very conservative court. Alito’s address — one of several he has delivered to the conservative lawyers group, but this time done via streaming video — was, instead, suffused with grievance.

About efforts (unsuccessful) to prevent federal judges from belonging to the Federalist Society. About politically correct pressure on law school campuses that exposes students to “harassment and retaliation if they say anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.”

About a friend-of-the-court brief by five Democratic senators suggesting that the court might need to be “restructured,” calling it “an affront to the Constitution and the rule of law” — comparing it to a tank pulling up outside a courthouse in an authoritarian regime.

He lamented that the Second Amendment had been treated as “the ultimate second-tier constitutional right.” He asserted that “you can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”

He suggested a gay couple that sought a wedding cake from a baker who opposed same-sex marriage had nothing to complain about: They got a free cake from another baker and “celebrity chefs have jumped to the couple’s defense.”

It was a distillation of conservative victimhood, perhaps unsurprising from a talk-radio host, remarkable from a sitting justice, even if it did not particularly depart from his written work. And even more remarkable because it was delivered at precisely the time when legal conservatives, through ghoulish good luck (the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just before the election) and unbridled hardball (preventing Merrick Garland’s confirmation in 2016; ramming through Amy Coney Barrett’s), are in the ascendance.

Last year’s Federalist Society keynote, before a cheering, packed audience, featured Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. His anodyne theme, in his first public remarks since the confirmation battle, was gratitude. “I will always be on the sunrise side of the mountain,” Kavanaugh pledged. “I will always be not afraid.”

Alito saw no sunrise, and much to fear, in particular about how “the covid crisis has served as a sort of constitutional stress test.”

He warned ominously that “the pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” Alito wrapped that caution in caveats: that his message should not “be twisted or misunderstood,” that “I am not diminishing the severity of the virus’s threat to public health,” that “[I am not] saying anything about whether any of those restrictions represent good public policy.”

For Alito, the pandemic response illuminates the unfortunate “dominance of lawmaking by executive fiat rather than legislation,” in particular the emergence of a powerful administrative state. “Every year, administrative agencies acting under broad delegations of authority churn out huge volumes of regulations that dwarfs the statutes enacted by the people’s elected representatives,” he complained. “And what have we seen in the pandemic? Sweeping restrictions imposed, for the most part, under statutes that confer enormous executive discretion.”

To which I say: Thank goodness. As Alito himself acknowledges, “broad wording may be appropriate in statutes designed to address a wide range of emergencies, the nature of which may be hard to anticipate.” And where he is taken aback by what he describes as “the movement toward rule by experts,” I think most of us, watching the flailing pandemic response and the alarming current trajectory, are grateful for such expertise, not fearful of it. We need more Faucis, more empowered, not fewer.

Alito also perceives, as part of the pandemic response, a disturbing disregard for religious liberty. “It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right,” he said.

Alito cited pandemic “restrictions that blatantly discriminated against houses of worship.” I wouldn’t defend every rule governors or state health officials have adopted — for instance, Nevada’s seeming indulgence of casinos over churches, which the Supreme Court let stand. The difficult question is whether and how much courts are going to second-guess this kind of line-drawing in the face of an undoubted emergency.

But Alito’s suggestion that “religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right” is inconsistent with reality. In particular, it is inconsistent with the reality on his own court. Notwithstanding Alito’s accusations, the majority has been extraordinarily and increasingly solicitous of claims of infringement on religious freedom — and with Barrett’s addition is poised to become even more so.

In three of three cases last term, the court ruled solidly in favor of religious institutions — carving out a broad exemption from federal anti-discrimination laws for employees of religious institutions, requiring that state aid to private schools must include religious ones and upholding a Trump administration rule that exempted an order of Catholic nuns from having to arrange contraceptive coverage for employees.

Justice Alito, your side is winning. From my vantage point, that’s the constitutional stress test that should worry us all.

Read more from Ruth Marcus’s archivefollow her on Twitter or subscribe to her updates on Facebook

Fareed Zakaria: The Supreme Court might have to choose between power and principle

Marc A. Theissen: Trump is the greatest president in the modern era when it comes to shaping the judiciary

Ruth Marcus: Amy Coney Barrett joins a Supreme Court that’s largely out of step with the national consensus

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Enlarging the Supreme Court is the only answer to the right’s judicial radicalism

David Von Drehle: What Thomas and Alito get wrong in their grumbling about same-sex marriage

Article of the Day: 11/15/2020 Covid Denialism Explained

CONSERVATISM INC.COVID-19

The Federalist’s Dangerous Coronavirus Trutherism

WTF happened? The publication’s reactionary turn and the hollowing out of conservatism.byROBERT TRACINSKI  MARCH 30, 2020 5:31 AMFeatured Image(Photo collage by The Bulwark / Gage Skidmore / Flickr)Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via emailPrint

Coronavirus Truthers are now a thing, and I regret to inform you that a publication I used to work for has taken the lead in spinning crazy Infowars-style conspiracy theories about how the virus is all being hyped up by the Deep State.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, recently took to Twitter to explain epidemiology to the epidemiologists, proclaiming that “The 3.3 million unemployment claims today are a direct result of everyone from Morning Joe to Tucker Carlson repeating the baseless predictions of the Imperial College as fact.” He is referring to recent testimony from Neil Ferguson, lead author of an influential academic report on the virus, which had warned of 500,000 deaths in Britain and millions in the United States unless we took strong measures to stop the spread of the virus. More recently, Ferguson testified that he now thinks fewer than 20,000 Britons might die. As Domenech sneers, “2 million people will die vs 20k people will die is a BIG DIFFERENCE NEIL. I mean, how do you even explain that? I accidentally held down the zero button?”

Take that, experts! You have been refuted with Twitter snark.

Except it is Domenech who is getting this completely wrong, and not just wrong, but wrong in a way so crudely simple—and so insistently repeated in his publication—that it cannot possibly be an honest mistake.

The Federalist has always flirted with the ragged edge of trollish contrarianism. I should know, I was there for most of its first five years of publication. But in the past few years, it has transformed from a fresh and vibrant platform representing a diverse spectrum of ideas on the right to a conspiracy-mongering partisan rag that has now become a menace to public health.

Podcast episode cover image

PODCAST · NOVEMBER 13 2020Benjamin Wittes on the High Water Mark of DelusionOn today’s Bulwark Podcast, Benjamin Wittes joins Charlie Sykes to discuss his recent piece about the difficulty of over…

Domenech’s tweet was based on a piece published the same day in The Federalist, in which Madeline Osburn claimed, “The Scientist Whose Doomsday Pandemic Model Predicted Armageddon Just Walked Back the Apocalyptic Predictions.”

This is not remotely what happened. Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College team had predicted in an analysis dated March 16 that the U.K.’s health care system would be overwhelmed and many people would die if the U.K. did not impose a shutdown and adopt strict “social distancing” policies. Then, in testimony delivered last week on March 25, he told a parliamentary committee that he is now projecting far fewer deaths after the U.K. adopted those policies. This is not a “walkback” of his previous predictions but a confirmation of them. It’s all right there in the New Scientist article that Osburn misidentifies as a “retraction”:

[Ferguson] said that expected increases in National Health Service capacity and ongoing restrictions to people’s movements make him “reasonably confident” the health service can cope when the predicted peak of the epidemic arrives in two or three weeks. UK deaths from the disease are now unlikely to exceed 20,000, he said, and could be much lower. [Emphasis added.]

As the man himself explained on Twitter:

Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19. This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged. My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place. Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).

You can read the original Imperial College report for yourself and look particularly at Tables 4 and 5, where a long-term “suppression” strategy that includes shutdowns and social distancing—as opposed to the less restrictive “mitigation” strategy previously adopted by the British government—leads to a total number of deaths consistent with Ferguson’s current predictions. (See good fact checks herehere, and here.)

The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that Ferguson’s new projections don’t assume a long-term series of shutdowns but instead are based on a transition to “community testing and contact tracing,” the successful South Korean model, which, as the New Scientist explained, “wasn’t included as a possible strategy in the original modeling because not enough tests were available.” This is consistent with what other experts in infectious disease have been saying: Shutdowns are a necessary short-term measure to buy time for a better response such as mass testing.

I am not myself an expert on infectious diseases, by the way. I merely possess basic reading-comprehension skills and an interest in finding out and understanding what the real experts have to say.

What, by contrast, is that Federalist piece based on? Scrolling through Twitter.

No, really. If you read the article, you find that there is no analysis of Ferguson’s original report, no analysis of his new testimony, no interviews with or quotations from scientific experts. What you will find in place of these things is a set of embedded tweets from a novelist and two political commentators. This is the embodiment of that running joke about people getting their degrees in law, medicine, and now epidemiology from Twitter University.

The Federalist was not the only outlet to badly mangle this story. So did The Daily Wire and the Washington Examiner. (The Daily Wire piece has since changed to a less inflammatory headline and noted the correction. The Washington Examiner piece’s opening paragraphs were stealth-changed, without any indication of an update or correction.) What these articles all have in common is a cheapo, smash-and-grab, clickbait-driven style of journalism that hires young and inexperienced writers to recycle Twitter chatter in a way that reinforces the partisan prejudices of their audience.

But The Federalist has been leaning into Coronavirus Trutherism harder than most, publishing a retired dermatologist’s extravagantly harebrained scheme to have millions of young people deliberately infect themselves to acquire immunity to the disease. Among the many things wrong with this idea—it is still unknown, for example, how long immunity to the coronavirus lasts—this is a proposal for the hospitalization and gruesome death of many thousands of young people. As Ann Coulter inadvertently reminded us, the virus may be less deadly for the young than the old—but even for them, it is many times deadlier than the flu.

As for whether the people running the show are pushing this line because they really believe it or out of pure cynicism, I’ll just point out that Ben Domenech’s wife has rather publicly announced that she is self-quarantining to protect their unborn child. Good for them—but this sure looks like a case of one message for the rubes, and another message for yourself.

Is that a low blow? I’m sorry to cause Ben pain by making this personal, but at this very moment there are people gasping out their last breaths, alone and in pain, connected to a ventilator if they can still get one. If people listen to Ben and The Federalist—and they will—then there will be many more people who meet that horrific end. So maybe he’s not the victim here.


This seems like a good time to answer the question a lot of people have been asking me over the last year and a half: WTF happened to The Federalist?

It may seem hard to remember, but in its first few years, when The Federalistgrew rapidly in readership and influence, it did so by publishing interesting and, yes, provocative articles from writers representing a wide range of views within the right. Ben Domenech built it up by finding writers who were underused and under-appreciated elsewhere for a variety of reasons—mostly because a lot of us lived outside the big media centers of D.C. and New York, or because we didn’t mesh with the ideological lines of existing publications. (I was about the fourth person they hired, and I qualified on both counts.)

But from the very beginning, there was always something of a contest for The Federalist’s soul.

Ben used to talk about wanting his publication to be like The Atlantic, but for the right. That was the vision that sold me. The idea was to provide thoughtful, in-depth articles that represented a vibrant intellectual diversity. On that score, we would be even better than The Atlantic, because we wouldn’t fire Kevin Williamson. That sounded really great—right up to the point, about a year and a half ago, that The Federalist fired me. Another former contributor (who quietly drifted away at about the same time, when the paychecks stopped arriving) agreed that we were let go because we weren’t willing to work for peanuts and we were “not Trumpy enough.”

That was the other model vying for The Federalist’s soul and embodied by its other co-founder, Sean Davis. It’s a model that’s about quantity over quality, about churning out the articles—quick, dirty, and relentlessly partisan—where the only motto is: Always Be Trolling. In the years following the rise of Donald Trump, The Federalist finally went all in on this model.


This little tragedy is just a microcosm of what has gone wrong with the conservative movement more broadly, and the best way I can sum it up is that conservatism has become merely reactionary. I mean that in the literal sense: It has no well-defined ideological and moral core but is merely reacting against whomever it regards for the moment as its enemies. Donald Trump is the focal point of this reactionary politics right now, but he is only a symptom.

In the middle of the 20th century, conservatism went from being dismissed as a set of “irritable mental gestures” to having several competing ideological frameworks—some more “libertarian,” some more religious. These all found common cause in the fight against Soviet communism—but it is now clear, in retrospect, that in the absence of such a defined enemy (radical Islam served the role briefly), conservatism is falling apart. Not only is it losing whatever unity it had. It is losing its own sense of self-definition and instead is degrading back to the level of irritable mental gestures.

Nothing exposes this like the right’s response to the coronavirus. Conservatives have been almost comically prone to grasping at quack pseudo-science and wild speculation on social media, anything that will help them cast doubt on the real and evident epidemiology of a disease. Why? Simply to poke a finger in the eye of the mainstream media, the experts, the “Deep State,” the “elites.” All that is left of conservatism is “own the libs”: If their partisan enemies are for it, the conservatives are against it, and there is no other, deeper reality to consider.

This needs to be a moment for conservatism to take stock and realize how profoundly it has hollowed itself out. A moment of crisis is an opportunity for an intellectual movement to demonstrate what it has to offer the world. In response to the coronavirus, large parts of conservatism have had nothing to offer but the reflex of petty partisanship.

Article of the Day: Saturday, November 14, 2020

This is a New York Times piece by a former soldier. It raises issues that are worth thinking about. I was always interested in the military. I wanted to go to West Point. But I didn’t. 4-F. I do not regret having missed Vietnam. I do regret all of the lives lost there and all of the pain and suffering that remains there and was brought back home. Why was I interested in the military life? I even modeled my style and my behavior on what I considered “squared away”?

I think that my growing up had so many chaotic elements, I was longing for order and understandable structure. I thought the military would help me make sense of the world. I wasn’t aware of these motivations back then. As the author of the article points out, most young men do not have the capacity for complex thought at the point they might enlist.

This year I did not celebrate Veterans Day as such. Instead, I chose to think of November 11 as Armistice Day, the day in which we celebrated the end of World War I, the War to End All Wars. I remembered my Uncle Arch who was gassed and suffered from narcolepsy for the rest of his life. I remembered my Uncle Jack who served in the Pacific in World War II and came home a shattered life-long alcoholic. I remembered my Dad who bailed out of a plane in Burma, saved by people whose relatives I might have met in my former parish church in Tennessee.

Perhaps we would honor our veterans more by making sure they are cared for when they return from service, rather than ending up homeless. Perhaps we would honor our veterans more by making sure that our military is used only as a last resort. Perhaps we would honor our young men and women more by making sure they have good educations and the opportunity to find meaningful work when they leave school.

Lord, forgive us and have mercy on us. Protect all who serve in the military. Help them to leave their service whole and healthy.

A Veteran’s Search for Meaning

Why we serve, and what we’re fighting for, aren’t always clear.

By Jeremy SternNov. 11, 2020

“I don’t get it,” President Trump is reported to have said in 2017 while standing at Arlington National Cemetery. “What was in it for them?”

Taken out of its vile context, the president’s question doesn’t have an immediately obvious answer, and the reflexive barrage of veteran worship that came in response didn’t shed much light. As with similar past flare-ups, this one was quickly extinguished with the mass incantation that America’s troops “defend our freedom.”

It’s nice to know people think that, but in the five years I spent in the U.S. military, I never met anyone who seriously thought that’s what they were doing. Soldiers who talk that way are usually in basic training, or making up for a lack of combat experience, like the civilian who overcompensates for never serving by lighting Colin Kaepernick jerseys on fire.

Truth to tell, very little of a soldier’s time is spent guarding the “American way of life,” as the Soldier’s Creed has it, and motivations tend to be fairly straightforward. Shooting an anti-tank missile at a Toyota Hilux, lighting up a fuel tank with a 50-caliber machine gun, getting blisters and dysentery and going to sleep cold and hungry in a dirt hole — these are all part of a rich personal and fraternal experience that doesn’t necessarily require any higher source of inspiration.

In 2014, I joined one of the military’s most lethal career fields, the Army’s bomb squad. I wanted the adventure and glory of Special Operations, but knew I wouldn’t make a good “doorkicker,” which left helicopters and bomb disposal. I’d seen the “Hurt Locker” recently, and the decision was a quick one. (According to the medical community, the rational part of one’s brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25.)

In the end, I got most of what I thought I wanted: adventure, camaraderie, swag. But glory, alas, lay just out of reach. I deployed to five countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, but I never fought a great battle, never defused a suicide vest with my bare hands, never liberated a village whose name I could lend to my memoirs. It’s a curious agony, not being shot at. Without such scars, one fears being seen — strictly within military circles, of course — as a loser or sucker.

Fresh from that experience, I’ve been thinking about a better answer to Mr. Trump’s question. What was in it for me?

***

It is never desirable to put troops in harm’s way, but remember to enlist is to expect just that. Many soldiers actually get upset when something goes badly wrong and they miss it.

A soldier in my platoon hadn’t skipped a combat patrol for over two months, during which he saw no action. One morning he came down with the norovirus and spent the day vomiting. When the patrol left that night, he stayed behind. The team proceeded to engage in a protracted firefight, complete with explosive belts, exploding trucks and enemy bodies. I’d never known him to sulk, but for the rest of the deployment he was nearly catatonic, struggling to conceal the depths of his melancholy.

About a thousand kilometers away, on a small base, I shared his misery. We sometimes saw nearby ballistic missile fire and would get alerts on our phones and computers instructing us to seek shelter from incoming projectiles, which we took as our signal to run outside and capture the attack on Snapchat. But the missiles were consistently inaccurate, and the air defense systems were frustratingly competent.

If being a hero is hard, and defending your way of life is not really part of the job, what makes a good soldier? Some big things, but mostly small ones. There are the true warriors, the Audie Murphys and John McCains. They belong to a rare caste I don’t pretend to understand. Suffice it to say the soldier you thanked at the airport probably wasn’t one of them.

A good soldier loves her job, and spends her free time becoming world-class. She guides younger soldiers through the byzantine promotion system, and protects them from the bureaucratic predations of higher headquarters. She has an eye for destructive behavior. She is obsessed with training her soldiers, but takes no credit for their success. She puts the mission first, but she also makes sure no one misses a graduation, an anniversary, a soccer game that doesn’t need to be missed. None of that gets you eternal glory. It just repays your soldiers’ trust, which they have no choice but to give you.

But the soldier you thanked at the airport may not be much like her, either. Soldiers are like schoolteachers. Some relatively small number are exceptional, the best America has to offer. Some small percentage are toxic, capable of ruining lives and entire organizations. And a large portion sit somewhere in the middle, meeting whatever standard has been set to keep the machine running, serving their country, earning their pay, and working toward their pension, along with a few wild stories to regale friends and family.

Soldiers are like teachers in another way: It’s hard to screw up so badly that you lose your job. Everyone in the military knows this (and knows someone who should’ve been kicked out but wasn’t), which is why many service members regard the arbitrary gratitude of sycophantic strangers with a mix of appreciation and ridicule. They know these are just the trappings of America’s post-draft bargain. Under the terms of this deal, less than half a percent of Americans serve in the active-duty military, and everyone else agrees to revere them.

When I first enlisted, I was surprised how many of the people in my life suddenly had stories about how they once — almost — joined the military, too. If it wasn’t for this asthma medication or that knee surgery or an ailing relative, my progressive California suburb apparently would’ve been overrun with military recruits. None of them took the idea seriously enough to discover that the military has had enlistment waivers for such things. But I got the point. Even people who didn’t want or have to serve still seem strangely self-conscious when faced with those who chose to, or had no choice.

When asked why I did it, I usually prattle on about patriotism and giving back. That’s part of it, too. But I still don’t have a frank, pithy answer, because when I think back, I don’t really know. I don’t know why anyone does it, other than that it’s a good job with a slightly higher risk-reward ratio. There are certainly other jobs to choose from, even if glory is what you’re after.

It is a trying and amusing life. Within a few weeks of taking over a platoon, a newly minted lieutenant nursing martial fantasies will quickly find herself occupied instead with a parade of eccentric melodramas: one soldier’s former spouse demanding disciplinary action under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for giving her chlamydia; an angry call from the president’s Secret Service detail accusing a soldier of helping himself to a morning buffet without wearing pants.

Even in the heat of the fight, she may find herself less the protagonist of an epic than the bewildered witness to a series of bizarre spectacles: a soldier testing out a new-generation armored vehicle by intentionally driving it over an I.E.D.; a soldier trying to locate a buried vat of white phosphorus by kicking the ground and lighting his foot on fire.

There are the long nights and early mornings, the compressed discs and fractured hips, the last-second missions and ambiguous orders, the cutting-edge technology and shortages of food, the labyrinthine bureaucracy and paperwork. There are the waits, delays, postponements, setbacks, extensions, reversals, retractions and cancellations, the myriad spouses and children cowed by experience into anticipation of disappointment.

I take my hat off to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who make the military a life’s work. I didn’t do in five years what many of them have done in an afternoon, and to the military they will give the remainder of their youth, if not, in the end, their lives.

As for me, I’m finished. I left last year, and for whatever reason, I hadn’t thought about it much since. But back in September, when I saw reports of Mr. Trump’s comments at Arlington, certain memories resurfaced.

I got out the pictures, the videos, the passports, the patches, the uniforms. My old helmet, my old bag of tools. It was an odd sensation. I felt as though I was never a soldier, so much as I played one once. Would that have been different if I’d been shot? If I’d liberated a village? If I could point to a great cause and say, “I fought for that.” In a word, if I found meaning?

It’s only at the end, when you think less of the battles you fought than the places you saw and the people you loved, that you realize there was meaning all along, and that’s what was in it for you.

Jeremy Stern (@JeremySternLA) was an explosive ordnance disposal officer in the U.S. Army from 2014 to 2019. He was chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin from 2019 to 2020 and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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Article of the Day: November 13, 2020 Today’s Great Story

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after being attacked in 1958 with a letter opener lodged near his heart.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after being attacked in 1958 with a letter opener lodged near his heart.Credit…Vernoll Coleman/New York Daily News, via Getty Images

Before ‘I Have a Dream,’ Martin Luther King Almost Died. This Man Saved Him.

The untold story of the patrolman who took charge when the civil rights leader was stabbed in Harlem.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after being attacked in 1958 with a letter opener lodged near his heart.Credit…Vernoll Coleman/New York Daily News, via Getty Images

Michael Wilson

By Michael Wilson

  • Nov. 13, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

The bar in Showman’s Jazz Club, a Harlem destination for visitors from just down the block to Japan and back, stretched from the front door to the stage. The owner, Al Howard, liked to sit at the curve near the entrance.

John Miller, a regular at the club and a deputy commissioner in the Police Department, knew the habit well. “Typical detective thing,” he recalled. “So he could see everyone going in and going out.”

The club’s owner had in fact been a police detective, and the two men became friends. And so, decades later, Mr. Miller was surprised to hear one particular story about Mr. Howard’s years on the force. He wondered if it indeed could be true and, if so, found it shocking that it was not more widely known. So, a couple of years ago, very late one Saturday night — actually, already Sunday morning — after the crowd had thinned and the band had packed up, Mr. Miller took a bar stool beside the club owner and just came out and asked.

“I heard this story that you saved Martin Luther King,” Mr. Miller said.

What happened on Sept. 20, 1958, in a Harlem department store is briefly recounted in history books and old newspaper clippings that dutifully tell the who, what, when and where of a tragedy averted. But lesser known, because it was not in the nature of the men involved to broadcast it, are the snap decisions of a young officer and his partner, dropped into a scene of bedlam and confusion, that would change the course of American history.

That night in the bar, Mr. Howard, then 91, drew closer, and told his story.

Al Howard, a nightclub owner and former detective with the New York Police Department, died of Covid-19 last month. A highlight of his life, rarely told, was how he helped save Dr. King.
Al Howard, a nightclub owner and former detective with the New York Police Department, died of Covid-19 last month. A highlight of his life, rarely told, was how he helped save Dr. King.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

It was a warm and cloudless Saturday afternoon. Officer Howard, 31 years old and on the job three years, was driving a patrol car with a rookie he’d just met that day, Officer Philip Romano. A call came over the radio: There was a disturbance at Blumstein’s department store in Harlem.

They arrived to find chaos on the second floor. At its center, in a dark suit and tie and sitting still as stone in a chair, was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then 29. There was a letter opener jutting out of his chest. He had been signing copies of his book “Stride Toward Freedom,” about the Montgomery bus boycott, when a young woman approached and stabbed him.

An advertising executive for The Amsterdam News, a prominent Black newspaper, grabbed the woman and restrained her until a security officer took over. Stunned local leaders and politicians looked on as another woman, fearing for Dr. King’s life, reached to pull the blade out. “She was hysterical,” Officer Romano said later. The officers, knowing that the blade might have been saving Dr. King from bleeding to death, stopped her in time.

They needed help.

“In those days we didn’t have walkie-talkies,” Officer Howard said years later in an interview for the internal N.Y.P.D. magazine, Spring 3100. “The only radio we had was the one in the patrol car. Once we left that, our communication was cut off. We were entirely on our own, and believe me, it was some predicament.”

He went into greater detail that night in Showman’s. “I said, ‘Take me to a telephone,’” Mr. Howard recounted to Mr. Miller. “I called Harlem Hospital. I said: ‘Send an ambulance. I have this man who’s got a knife sticking out of his chest. What do we do?’ The doctor came on the phone and said: ‘Don’t take it out. We’ll send an ambulance right away.’”

Officer Howard said: “There’s a big crowd at the front of the store. Send it to the back of the store.”

The two patrolmen hatched a fast plan, and Officer Howard turned to the crowd. The sight of a Black police officer in Harlem was no longer a novelty — the traditionally Irish-American force would have some 1,200 Black officers by 1960 — but Officer Howard nonetheless stood out.

“He had a mild face,” the New York Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote of him in 1993, “but at the same time a face that caused people, upon looking at it even for a moment, to stop what they were doing and behave.”

Officer Howard announced that Dr. King would be taken out through the front door on 125th Street and asked that a path be cleared. It worked. He himself stayed out front, as if waiting, while Officer Romano and others carried Dr. King, still seated in his chair, to an ambulance out back, on 124th Street. “Rather than try to push inside, a couple of thousand excited people remained out on the street to watch,” Mr. Breslin wrote.

Dr. King was taken to Harlem Hospital, where a team of doctors worked to pull the blade from his chest. Outside the operating room, 40 people offered to give blood. A doctor told reporters that the blade “impinged on the aorta, a blood vessel near the heart,” and that a puncture would have caused “instant death.”

The police arrested Izola Ware Curry, a mentally ill woman who believed Dr. King and others were following her, and charged her with the stabbing.ImageThe letter opener still protruding from his chest, Dr. King was wheeled into Harlem Hospital in September 1958.Credit…Phil Greitzer/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty ImagesImageA doctor with the recuperating Dr. King, who recounted years later, “The blade was on the edge of my aorta,” adding, “Once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood, that’s the end of you.”Credit…Pat Candido/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

Dr. King spent weeks in New York City recovering. He addressed reporters from Harlem Hospital: “First let me say that I feel no ill will toward Mrs. Izola Curry and know that thoughtful people will do all in their power to see that she gets the help she apparently needs if she is to become a free and constructive member of society.”

He blamed larger societal ills: “A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt.”

He later wrote a letter to thank the police. “I have long been aware of the meaning of the phrase ‘New York’s finest’ when applied to members of the N.Y. Police Department,” he wrote. “From the moment of my unfortunate accident, I have concurred, wholeheartedly, in that appellation. There are none finer.”

Officer Howard rose in the department, though not because of his actions at Blumstein’s. The earliest commendation in his personnel file would arrive two months later, for arresting a man with a gun. He worked bigger cases later, helping in the hunt for the serial killer Son of Sam and with a drug squad doing extensive heroin investigations in the Bronx.

He told Mr. Miller that years after the stabbing, he walked into a sandwich shop in Harlem and saw Dr. King sitting with three other people at a table. “I was looking at him, and he was looking at me,” he recalled, “so I walked across the store. I asked, ‘Do you remember me?’ He said: ‘I know I know you. I can’t remember from where.’”

Dr. King’s career and stature soared over the decade that followed that afternoon at Blumstein’s. During a speech in Memphis in 1968, he would reflect on that day.

“You know, several years ago I was in New York City, autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented Black woman came up,” he said. “The next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman.”

He continued: “The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood, that’s the end of you.

“It came out in The New York Times the next morning that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died.” He repeated the phrase over and over, “If I had sneezed,” while naming the Civil Rights milestones he had accomplished since then — the lunch-counter sit-ins, the march on Selma, the “I Have a Dream” speech — and then concluded, “I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”ImageDr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, leaving Harlem Hospital in October 1958. Dr. King’s career and stature soared in the decade that followed that near-fatal afternoon at Blumstein’s department store.Credit…Phil Greitzer/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty ImagesImageDr. King said he bore no ill will toward Izola Ware Curry, center, his attacker.Credit…Pat Candido/New York Daily News, via Getty Images

The following day, Dr. King was shot dead.

Officer Howard reacted to the assassination with the same shock and sadness as countless others. But he held his own story close. “He was old police,” said his son, Al Howard Jr., 72. “They did their work and they came home and they were father, husband.”

After Officer Howard retired, he took over Showman’s. “If you wanted to hear the best jazz in the world, you could come to Showman’s and not pay a cover,” his son said.

The club drew many from the neighborhood, said the Rev. Robert Royal, a Baptist minister and himself a regular. “‘Bob Royal, you’re a preacher,’” he recalled Mr. Howard telling him once in the club. “‘How come I see you sitting on a bar stool night after night?’ I said, ‘Well, Al, I’m undercover for Jesus.’”

The coronavirus shut down Showman’s in March. Mr. Howard stayed home and kept busy, but finally had enough of lockdown. He and Mona Lopez, his companion and partner at Showman’s, were regular visitors to Las Vegas, and they flew there in September. On the way home the following week, Mr. Howard fell ill with what appeared to be a cold but was actually the coronavirus. He died several days later of Covid-19. He was 93.

His funeral on Oct. 27 at J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home in Jamaica, Queens, was limited in size by social-distance restrictions, but mourners included people from both sides of his working life — the Police Department and the club. His grandson Malik Howard read from an obituary that listed his many accomplishments. Tucked among them: “He helped save Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.”ImagePaying respects  at services for Mr. Howard on Oct. 27 in Jamaica, Queens. Malik Howard, his grandson, is at the center in the foreground.ImageBurial at The Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn. Mr. Howard “was old police,” not prone to broadcasting his accomplishments, said Al Howard Jr., his son. Credit…Photographs by Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

That night at the bar in 2018, as Mr. Howard’s story reached its end, the place had emptied. Mr. Miller was struck by what would seem to be the ultimate futility of his friend’s actions in 1958.

“I mentioned it’s a shame he was killed a few years later,” Mr. Miller said. “You can save a guy’s life, and still, the life isn’t saved.”

His friend disagreed.

“Al made the point that in that span of years that he didn’t die by being stabbed,” Mr. Miller said, “he went on to do the most important works.”