Now You Can Donate to the “Victims” of the Non-Existent Bowling Green Massacre

Moved by the terrible loss of nonexistent life, the Veep actor has set up a GoFundMe page to benefit the victims of this terrible fictional tragedy. I am raising money to donate to the victims of Bowling Green. I was personally affected by this tragedy, as my mother was lost that day.  She was 160 years old at the time and expecting her thirteenth child.  Now I’ll never meet little baby Jack. Simons writes:

WE WILL NEVER FORGET. Should the fact that the Bowling Green Massacre is not a real thing that ever happened slow you from contributing, the money actually goes to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is busy defending the tens of thousands of people who have been swept up in the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and the millions more endangered by its reckless fomenting of anti-Islamic hatred. Sure, everyone is talking about the Bowling Green Massacre, but Timothy Simons is actually doing something about it. The men, women, and, let’s say, children who died in this terrible incident—which, again, is a completely fake thing that Kellyanne Conway invented out of whole cloth—deserve nothing less.

Jackie-Inspired Video Essay Charts the Course of First Ladies from Kennedy to Trump

Wade was “the best thing in the world.”
The shadow of the 2016 election looms large over “Not Another Camelot.” Lee follows Barbara Bush’s suggestion that she was immensely popular “because I’m fat and old and nobody feels threatened by me” with Hillary Clinton’s infamous statement about pursuing her career instead of staying home and baking cookies, and while candidate Clinton doesn’t make an appearance, the juxtaposition of Michelle Obama’s forthright advocacy with Melania Trump’s blandly plagiarized nostrums speaks volumes about where the office is headed in the next four years. (When Morley Safer asks Rosalynn Carter if she ever regrets becoming First Lady, she confesses she’d rather be taking a nice nap.) It also serves as a reminder of how decisively the political winds can shift: It’s impossible to imagine a Republican First Lady saying, as Betty Ford did, that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Originally created to introduce screenings of Jackie at the Rotterdam film festival, the latest from video essayist Kevin B. Using deft editing, sometimes joining interviews with consecutive First Ladies by the same TV journalist, Lee tracks the swings between women who have embraced the power and profile of the office and those who shied away from the spotlight. Jackie Kennedy redecorated the White House; Melania Trump won’t even live there. Lee attempts to answer the question, “How did we get from Jackie Kennedy to Melania Trump?” Like Pablo Larraín’s Oscar-nominated feature, “Not Another Camelot” uses Kennedy’s role as the first TV-savvy First Lady as the springboard to an exploration of power, media, and celebrity, but it expands its focus to the ten women who have followed her since.

Stephen Colbert Puts Trump “On Notice” for Stealing His Schtick

“Only one of us knew it was a joke.”
Trump putting Iran “on notice” is another Colbert-copycat move, since the character had a recurring segment in which he would literally add his enemies’ names to an On Notice board. would be taking any military or diplomatic actions against Iran in response, making the warning seem like empty, potentially dangerous rhetoric. “Plus, we both ran for president,” pointed out Colbert, who announced his candidacy on The Colbert Report in 2007 and seriously attempted to get himself on the ballot in South Carolina. After Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, Donald Trump announced, in a totally appropriate and completely presidential manner, that the United States is "formally" putting the country “ON NOTICE.”
That’s a strange announcement to make for so many reasons, but not least because Trump’s national security adviser, who used the same phrase, hadn’t yet announced that the U.S. (Still on notice: grizzly bears.) Colbert isn’t the first to notice how closely Trump resembles satire, but he missed a much more important point: If Trump really is mimicking the fictional Colbert’s riffs, then instead of the State of the Union address, we can soon expect regular presidential segments of Tip of the Hat/Wag of the (Short, Stubby) Finger. (The Treasury Department has since announced sanctions.) But Stephen Colbert noticed something even odder about the phrase—that Trump has seemingly been stealing material from his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. See, on the show, Colbert played a fictional version of himself, also named Stephen Colbert, an “over-the-top TV character who’s desperate to be loved, doesn’t believe in facts, and has a pet eagle,” a description that applies pretty well to our current commander-in-chief. On Thursday on the Late Show, Colbert dug out that very same board—after retrieving it from his scene designer’s parents’ house in Massachusetts—specifically so he could add Trump’s name to it for stealing his jokes.

24 Is Back, and Its Politics Are … Confusing

You can take the villain out of the James Bond movie, but you can’t take the James Bond movie out of the villain.)
Right-thinking people can disagree about whether it’s enjoyable or not for a TV show to send you into a state of panic, but that’s what 24 did at its most compelling. A team of Army Rangers who participated in a successful raid to kill the terrorist mastermind Ibrahim Bin-Khalid—think Osama bin Laden, with the Rangers as SEAL Team Six—are being violently interrogated by Bin-Khalid’s survivors, who are madly searching for a strongbox that was taken during the initial raid. Like a beehive accidentally delivered to a houseful of anaphylactics, 24: Legacy is likely to cause more volatile reactions than intended. The series begins with scenes of torture. In the second episode, as Carter plans to get arrested in order to gain access to the $2 million, Ingram wonders how he’s going to do that. Given the president’s TV-watching habits, it is easy to imagine he believes this because he saw it work on 24. 24 didn’t just normalize torture; it popularized it. The Trump administration’s Muslim ban looms even larger over 24: Legacy, reframing the series’ very premise—a terrorist organization about to unleash upward of 15 sleeper cells on American soil—as fearmongering rather than an adrenaline jolt. Under serious time constraints, Jack Bauer and his colleagues at the Counter Terrorism Unit known as CTU regularly inflicted physical and undue psychologically pain on their suspects, reliably extracting good information from informants who often showed no lasting ill effects from their treatment. Ingram and Carter, with the help of CTU analysts, are soon engaged in an off-book mission to help Carter track the strongbox. But if Hillary had won, 24: Legacy could perhaps have snuck back onto prime time as a residually controversial piece of entertainment. For all the fears of a looming Muslim attack on American soil that 24: Legacy fans, its values are not entirely predictable. “It shouldn’t be too hard.” Seconds later he is stopped and frisked by a racist cop with a history of harsh arrests. Kiefer Sutherland, with his gravelly voice and creepy calm, could really imbue a cheesy line with gravitas. Hawkins does not quite have the knack yet. Then came Donald Trump to heat things up with his blithe conviction that torture “absolutely” works. The plot then expands to include Carter trying to break $2 million out of a police station, Ingram using a Taser on the current head of CTU, Carter’s druglord brother, a Chechnyan sleeper in suburbia, moles, subterfuge, the Islamic State group, and an Oxford-educated terrorist mastermind who speaks with a British accent. Can a show be tacitly anti-immigration and also woke? Instead, it is being released at a time when discussions of torture and the portrayal of Muslims in the media are more fraught than they have been since the original 24 aired. (Also: Donovan is a half-Hispanic presidential candidate, and CTU has two gay employees.) A white terrorist-foiling superhero has been replaced by a black terrorist-foiling superhero, this one with a wife (Anna Diop) who seems about a billion times more competent than Jack’s string of helpless helpmeets. 24: Legacy wishes Hillary Clinton were president. The torture, which includes the execution of the rangers’ wives and children, is again portrayed as effective—“He would have told us,” one of the jihadis says, about whether a now-dead Rangers’ denials could be trusted—but it is being carried out by the “bad” guys. Carter was the leader of that Ranger team, and the terrorists are coming for him next. When you need a piece of information, why punch someone in the face when you can just eavesdrop on all his calls? CTU’s warrantless access to all phone records and closed circuit cameras is the morally reprehensible time-saver 24: Legacy uses instead of torture. Carter alerts Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto, following up her recent appearance on Homeland with another stint in national security), the former head of CTU, recently retired to support her husband John Donovan (Jimmy Smits) in his bid for the presidency. 24, especially in the early seasons, was tense, taut television that simultaneously stoked and assuaged post-9/11 anxiety, tapping directly into Americans’ terrorism fears and solving them with a great white hope: the strong man willing to do anything to keep us safe, in a world where “anything” always worked. During the Obama years, when many of the immoral and ineffective enhanced interrogation tactics practiced by the Bush administration were outlawed or retired, the debate around torture cooled. And then there is the progressive fact at the very center of the series: Eric Carter is black. But what 24: Legacy lacks in nail-biting excitement, it makes up for in head-spinning politics. The original 24 ran from 2001 to 2010, a high-octane and controversial advertisement for torture as practiced by the Bush administration. It does not have particularly liberal politics. The CTU team, thus far, does not torture, but they do invade the privacy of American citizens at will. The sleeper cells that Carter and CTU are trying to find consist of terrorists both homegrown and international, but to get into the country, those “bad guys” need the help of a shadowy arms dealer and human trafficker: They are not slipping past our borders disguised as refugees. The plotting recalls late-season 24 rather than early-season 24: In just four episodes, Carter and Ingram have undertaken two operations alone because they can’t trust anyone at CTU. Perhaps in response to the Muslim-bashing the original was accused of, the sleeper cell that the show focuses on most closely consists of two Caucasian Chechnyans and a blond science teacher. In another storyline, it’s not the Muslim woman who’s the national security leak, it’s the fat cat. “I’m a black man standing on the corner,” he says. The revival of Fox’s real-time series about a one-man anti-terrorism squad, now starring Corey Hawkins as former Special Forces Army Ranger Eric Carter instead of Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, does not have a thing for women in pantsuits or a vendetta against men who believe orange is their best color. (One of the terrorists in the History Channel’s new show about Navy SEALs, Six, also has an Oxbridge accent. Politics aside, Legacy doesn’t come anywhere close.

With Scathing New Parody Videos, Countries Around Europe Are Mocking Donald Trump

They are so flat. has eroded to a record low—all want to get in on the Trump trolling, too. Comedy shows in these countries have recently produced their own “second” videos, featuring Trump impersonations that sharply mimic his unique oratory eloquence. “They were the best World Wars in the world and we won both of them big league, anyone who says anything else is fake news—period.”
In other words, yes, the world is pretty relentlessly mocking us right now. (Now partly transparent!) Last week, the Netherlands tried to assuage fears of friction with an “official” welcome video, using President Trump’s own words to promise he’ll be embraced with open arms. “We’re not flat like, for example, the Netherlands. As their new saying goes, “America First, The Netherlands Second.”
Turns out that Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany—where citizens’ trust in the U.S. President Trump’s antagonizing of people around the world has sparked quite the backlash. He’s instituting barely-coded religious tests, “yelling” at and hanging up on leaders of democratic countries, and still vowing to build that big, beautiful border wall. Some, like Swiss TV show Deville Late Night’s parody, compare their country directly to the Netherlands in Trumpian fashion: “Look at those mountains, those big flat mountains,” the voiceover goes. Total disaster.”
But perhaps best capturing the spirit was the German late-night show Neo Magazin Royale, honing in on Trump’s apparent desire to provoke countries until we’re on the brink of war. “Germany hosted two World Wars in the last 100 years,” the video explains.

George Orwell’s 1984 Is Headed to Broadway, But Not Because Dystopia Is Relevant or Anything

The Guardian wrote that “[in] raising serious questions, Icke and Macmillan distill Orwell’s core dystopian narrative with great skill,” arguing that the postmodern framing was successfully provocative. Here’s a trailer for the London production: According to the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, “This production … allows us to viscerally experience the brutality of such a regime”—which, depending on where we are by the time June rolls around, might just mean rubbing salt in the wound. In 2014, when the play first premiered, director Robert Icke told the Guardian it was “particularly current” for the era of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. As sales of George Orwell’s seminal 1984 have skyrocketed, Broadway is looking to cash in on Americans’ sudden, mysterious demand for plausible dystopian fiction. Now, he and co-director Duncan Macmillan say that it is “horrifyingly relevant.”
The structure of the play veers away from the novel in one critical respect: It’s framed around the discussions between members of a book club in 2050, analyzing the diary entries of the original story’s protagonist, Winston Smith, and meditating on the underlying ideas and questions behind the text. According to the Guardian, the original West End production of 1984 is headed stateside, expected to make its debut on the Great White Way in June. Reviews of the West End production found the approach fascinating.

Ottolenghi Puts Onion Dip in His Kale and It’s Genius

Spinach dip on your rapini? Pimento cheese on your roasted squash? Baba ghanoush on your spicy slaw? Then you douse the kale in lemon juice—so the whole mess ends up spicy and loud and quite resilient, a place where swooping your fork through smokey trails of cool cream is welcome, even needed. Yotam Ottolenghi & Ramael Scully’s Burnt Green Onion Dip with Curly Kale Serves 6 to 8
For the green onion dip:

1 head garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 1/4 ounces green onions (12 to 14), ends trimmed, then sliced in half lengthwise (3 3/4 ounces)
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
2/3 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
Coarse sea salt and black pepper

For the kale:

6 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 large fresh red chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
1 1/4 pounds curly kale, washed, tough stems removed, cut widthwise into 1 1/2-inch slices (1 pound)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

See the full recipe on Food52. But when Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully—chefs who’ve taught us to yoke vegetables in so many unexpectedly wonderful ways—are the ones telling you, you pause. If most people told you that what your kale was missing was just a few blobs of onion dip, you’d probably nod kindly and then just go back to eating greens in all your usual ways, forgetting that the conversation had ever happened. But so does sautéing chickpeas in baking soda, or saucing tofu with five tablespoons of black pepper, other Ottolenghisms that we’ve learned to love. But hold some of said dip back, so you can use it to calm down your kale later in the week. “Slices of fried red chile and thin slivers of garlic are like old Ottolenghi friends,” says the recipe’s headnote in NOPI, the cookbook where this dish is tucked. Stir it together for any football- or award show-related party, when people will be expecting dip to go with cold beer and anxiety/excitement/boredom. Here is why it all works so well, despite every indication otherwise. This kale isn’t just wilted like any old green—you sauté it quickly, with a lot of toasted garlic and chiles. Serve it with meeker proteins like roast chicken or hard-cooked eggs or lentils, or feistier ones like lamb chops or hanger steaks, or even as the main event. With charred scallions and roasted garlic, it’s a sultry spin on the classic onion dip, and little trouble to make. This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes from Food52. More from Food52: For a Velvety Vegan Soup, Just Add Potatoes & Water (But Seriously)  Are Chickpeas Your New Favorite Taco Filling?  Pavlova is More Than Australia’s National Dish—It’s an Emblem  Five-Ingredient DIY Junior Mints to Sneak into the Movie Theater  How to Make $100 Go Really, Really Far at Aldi  A Centuries-Old Way to Turn Booze Bottles into Mood Lighting All signs point to yes. More muted flavors wouldn’t require cold dip to soothe; a mushier texture would not invite more mush on top. Or, of course, you can make this whole recipe from start to finish for any dinner where you want to get people talking. But this is one hot, twisted pile of green and the answer, quite sensibly as it turns out, is dip. With extra bread for dipping. And, because its dip for dinner—plenty of cold beer. Does it sound a little weird, dip in kale? You can channel this new information in a few different ways: “Make just the dip if you want to keep things simple,” Ottolenghi and Scully write. Oh, sure. Or you can take this concept and run with whatever other dips are on hand, rather than scraping at them with the sad potato chips your friends left at the bottom of the bag.

Why the Grand Romantic Gesture Will Never Die

George Clooney, making a grand gesture: This is the rom-com dream, people! Like the rom-com, they’ve evolved, developed a darker side, and—more on this later—even infiltrated reality. Television fell in love with the grand romantic gesture, too, inserting it into Friends (there was more than one key airport scene during that comedy’s run), Gilmore Girls (remember Max and his thousand yellow daisies?), and How I Met Your Mother (Ted Mosby loved him some grand gestures), among others. Eventually, he takes a leap of faith and spontaneously hops on a flight to Chicago to visit her. See also: Why A-List Actresses Don’t Make Romantic Comedies Anymore But the truth is that, like all rom-com grand gesturers, Ryan presumptuously assumes that Alex will drop everything and swoon over his efforts. (The promposal—which may be more about showing off than anything resembling love—has become such an American high-school tradition that MTV is, so help me God, planning a new reality series called Promposals.)
So it’s not that we no longer appreciate a grand romantic gesture, it’s just that we expect more from them. Even the more offbeat films in the genre often snuck in grand gesture moments, from Juno shoving endless orange Tic-Tacs into Paulie Bleeker’s mailbox in Juno to Will Ferrell giving his baker-crush Maggie Gyllenhaal several “flours” in the underrated Stranger Than Fiction. hilltop leads to a potential bride being jilted well before the altar, and Catastrophe, where Rob’s attempt to ask for Sharon’s hand over a romantic dinner winds up with him offering a ring that a drunk woman just peed on, even that most sacred of grand gestures gets punctured as well. That bold move was hardly the first over-the-top demonstration of love in a rom-com, but it was a defining one for the genre in the contemporary era. But the end result jibes with what we’ve seen in countless rom-coms: The grand romantic gesture concludes with the happy couple back together with a kiss. In Trainwreck, when Amy Schumer puts on a Knicks City Dancer uniform and shakes her booty in an affirmation of affection for Bill Hader, it’s a ridiculous scene, but it’s also one that comes from a place of sincerity. A grand gesture, as the name implies, requires something more demonstrative. She doesn’t because she has responsibilities that she’s never acknowledged to him, responsibilities that he also never bothered to consider. So, what kind of behavior qualifies as a grand romantic gesture? Yeah, that’s definitely a grand romantic gesture. Hugh Grant’s “I think I love you” speech in Four Weddings and a Funeral is lovely, and much appreciated for its David Cassidy reference. Billy Crystal as Harry racing across Manhattan to profess his love for Meg Ryan’s Sally on New Year’s Eve: That’s borderline, but I’d call it a grand gesture because it catches Sally off guard and also involves so damn much running, in addition to speaking Nora Ephron’s perfectly scripted When Harry Met Sally words. In The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler serenades Drew Barrymore on an airplane, with an assist from Billy Idol. It all began in 1989’s Say Anything, when Lloyd Dobler demonstrated the depth of his feelings by lifting a boom box toward the sky. But it’s not a grand gesture. In Never Been Kissed, Barrymore (again) announces her love for Michael Vartan in a newspaper column, then invites him to plant one on her in the middle of a pitcher’s mound. Simply confessing one’s feelings in a heartfelt way does not, on its own, qualify. Yes, a lot of people tune in primarily so they can crack jokes about all the Bachelor ludicrousness. The marriage proposal is a classic opportunity for a grand gesture. It’s also been satirized, perhaps most pointedly in a 2009 Saturday Night Live sketch in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt reenacts the famous moment while a pair of nosy neighbors keep interrupting. But—and I’ll say spoiler alert here, even though, come on, this movie came out eight years ago—when Ryan arrives, he discovers that Alex is married, with kids, and doesn’t want to see him. Seriously: Toby is a walking Cameron Crowe movie. (“Did you try giving her flowers or something first?” neighbor No. Like the Trainwreck basketball stunt, it’s played for laughs. To find grand romantic gestures that lean unapologetically into sentimentality, one doesn’t have to look very far. During a subsequent phone call, she explains that their relationship was just an escape for her, adding, in what has to be one of the harsher rom-com rejections in recent years: “You’re a parenthesis.” It’s a heartbreaking moment for Clooney’s character and a deflating, but refreshingly realistic one for the audience. But on shows like You’re the Worst, where popping the question on an L.A. Even though we’ve grown savvier about how manipulative such moments can be, there’s still part of us that, contrary to every cynical, world-weary bone in our bodies, still wants to look out the window and find our personal equivalent of a Cusack with a boom box. (“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out.”) Andrew Lincoln flipping through all those cards that spell out his passion for Keira Knightley in Love, Actually? This should go without saying, but there was also much, much rushing to or through airports to cement one’s commitment back then, in straight-up rom-coms (Love Actually), movies slightly more com than rom (Liar, Liar), rom-coms mostly set in Jamaica (How Stella Got Her Groove Back), and indie rom-coms set in Jersey (Garden State). Depending on its context, the trope can make hearts flutter or prompt eye rolls, and sometimes it elicits both at the same time. In 2009’s Up in the Air—a film that, as a society, we really don’t talk about enough—the noncommittal frequent flier Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) falls for Alex (Vera Farmiga), a woman whose plane-hopping, rewards-program-coveting sensibilities match his own. One of the most popular shows on television, The Bachelor, culminates every season with a grand gesture: the rose ceremony. “Okay, I get it now. But having seen it happen so many times, a certain level of skepticism began to creep into the picture. Turn on just about any Hallmark Channel original movie, especially during the holiday season, and you’ll easily find some. You’re trying to scare the hell out of her.”)
That dual-faceted response to the quintessential Say Anything moment mirrors the mixed feelings many have about the grand romantic gesture. Over the years, that boom-box moment has become an enduring symbol of steadfast, albeit slightly stalker-ish, devotion that’s been saluted in countless other movies and TV shows. Really, with security even tighter in the years following 9/11, how much longer were we expected to believe an airport rendezvous was even feasible anyway? We want to see Clooney, who spends most of this movie madly racing through airports, show up unexpectedly and sweep away the woman he loves. When Lloyd blasted a Peter Gabriel song in the direction of Diane Court’s window, giving Generation X its version of a Romeo just beyond Juliet’s balcony, Say Anything permanently established the power of the grand romantic gesture in the modern rom-com. It would be easy to conclude that grand gestures just don’t work anymore. 1, played by Jason Sudeikis, asks. We like the grand romantic gesture so much that it’s even been co-opted from rom-coms and incorporated into real life, as every flash-mob wedding proposal and elaborate invitation to senior prom demonstrates. (Also: creepy.) Basically any admission of feelings that requires audio or visual aids, singing or dancing, a dash through an airport, or the giving of an extravagant gift falls in GRG category. However, the (slightly) more pure—or at least less pissy—ones haven’t gone extinct. This article originally appeared in Vulture. We want to be surprised, sometimes in a way that subverts our expectations and reflects the harshness of reality, and sometimes simply by how charmed we are by what we’re witnessing. As absurd and schmaltzy as such extreme onscreen displays of affection can be, they still haven’t disappeared from film and television. When she arrives, instead of dropping everything so they can be together, Greg launches into a musical number in which he declares, “Let’s get real/We know the deal/So darling let’s not tiptoe/This thing we had, was not just bad/It was a shit show.” Shit show is a term that didn’t get used nearly enough in Julia Roberts movies. Or turn on This Is Us—a family drama that’s got at least a couple of rom-coms baked into its crust—and you’ll see Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), via flashback, surprising his wife (Mandy Moore) by buying a house, or Toby (Chris Sullivan) wooing Kate (Chrissy Metz) by literally rolling out a red carpet and convincing her to sing for a bunch of senior citizens. As the first decade of the new millennium gave way to the second and rom-coms started to become less of a force at the box office, it was natural to assume the grand gesture might fade away as well. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Heath Ledger sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles with backing from a marching band. Physical effort and/or a sacrifice of time, money, or pride are key, as is the element of surprise. But even the most jaded viewers might admit that they enjoy the pomp, circumstance, and orchestrated tears that often accompany that flower presentation. Same goes for the “We Belong” kayak serenade that Fat Amy busts out for Bumper in Pitch Perfect 2. In the ‘90s and ‘00s, the boom time for mainstream, multiplex-friendly rom-coms, such random public acts of unabashed adoration became a standard feature of the genre. What happened, instead, was that our affair with the grand gesture shifted from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.” There was still a desire, on the part of creators and audiences, to see men and women really put themselves out there on behalf of the ones they loved. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a show premised entirely on a grand gesture, threw cold water all over the dashing-through-the-airport idea by having Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) try to stop one-time lover Greg (Santino Fontana) from boarding a flight for Atlanta.

“This Is My Town”

They neglected vital renovations and repairs to the manufacturing plant, a dangerous omission when it comes to machines designed to work with molten glass. (Greenmailers stealthily buy up stock in sleepy companies, then threaten to make trouble unless they are bought out at a premium.) Icahn’s gambit inspired an Anchor executive to capture a division of the company in a leveraged buyout and relocate it to Tampa, forcing many of its employees to choose between their jobs and their community. Anchor’s facilities became increasingly out-of-date and incapable of making items it had once profitably produced. Today, Anchor Hocking is a ghost of its former self, although it’s still hobbling along. Martin’s Press. John Kasich. “The ‘vicious, selfish culture,’ ” he writes,” didn’t come from small towns, or even from Hollywood or ‘the media.’ It came from a 35-year program of exploitation and value destruction in the service of ‘returns.’ ”
Yet, maddeningly, the original champion of this exploitation—Ronald Reagan, with his embrace of Milton Friedman’s free-market gospel—and the politicians claiming to carry on his legacy remain heroes to the benighted residents of Lancaster, a longtime redoubt of moderate Republicanism. What followed was a long, complicated, and sickening ballet of financial sleight-of-hand in which one investment firm after another bought Anchor with borrowed money then loaded the debt back onto the company, pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy (and, on one occasion, over the brink). “Their pro-business bias blinded them,” Alexander writes, “to how … Cerberus picked their pockets.” But not quite all of them. The series of companies that owned Anchor exploited the town’s desperate desire to save the hundreds of jobs the plant provided, obtaining free land from the city as well as, in 2003, a 100 percent tax abatement that took $50,000 away from Lancaster’s public schools. Vice presidents no longer drank beer next to factory workers or paid municipal taxes, and their wives were no longer around to raise money for schools and the hospital. Solomon is also black, as was the CEO who succeeded him, although race doesn’t seem to have figured much in either man’s experience with the company. Many of the town’s residents, marinating in conservative cable news, remain in deep denial about what caused the decay of the local economy and how bad it’s become. (One of Alexander’s sources estimates that some workers would have seen their take-home pay reduced to $10,000 per year if they bought into the health plan.)
Private-equity vampires didn’t just suck all the value out of Anchor to line their own pockets. The head of Lancaster’s Major Crimes Unit begins to cry while telling Alexander about fending off the pleas of distraught families while arresting people he played high-school football with. They both belong to a wealthy, educated, highly mobile professional class that finds the adherence of Anchor Hocking workers unfathomable. Old-timers deeply wedded to the idea that Lancaster is a town specially endowed with the essence of American decency tell themselves that the riff-raff consists of “outsiders” drawn by the (fictional) bounty of Lancaster’s social services. Unlike many other heartland industries, glass manufacturing, by virtue of the fragility and weight of its product, has some built-in resistance to outsourcing and imports. All to appease a billion-dollar equity firm whose top executives bought multimillion-dollar apartments on Central Park West and traveled by private jet. But Alexander speaks with others who feel a deep bond to Lancaster, including a woman with a college degree who works two jobs (as a drug education teacher by day and as a waitress by night) to the tune of about $36,000 per year in total. Solomon—who immediately recognized that Anchor could become profitable were it to get out from under the outrageous debt heaped on it—dreamed of turning EveryWare into a $300 million dollar company. Williamson, who accuses the white working class of being “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. It was not lost on Lancastrians that the new overlords considered their once-celebrated home as a hickburg with third-rate shopping. … they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.” But Williamson also insists that local “culture” is entirely to blame for the plight of towns like Lancaster—presumably the same local culture that Forbes once found so admirably American. The case he makes is damning. This also meant that when Lancaster—like so many Middle American small towns—began to collapse economically in the late 20th century, its citizens didn’t have a racial scapegoat at hand. Some of the younger Lancastrians Alexander profiles—particularly a winningly maverick amateur artist and musician who refuses to own a cellphone or otherwise truck with “the System”—do talk of escaping what to them feels like a dead-end community. They also casually imposed changes that devastated Lancaster, such as moving the company headquarters out of state. But beginning in the 1980s, the company fell victim to a near-fatal combination of bad management and private-equity financiers emboldened by the new Reagan administration’s embrace of unfettered free-market capitalism. Others are too entangled in addiction or simply don’t want to be separated from their extended families. Pensions were replaced with 401(k)s, and eventually employer contributions to those accounts dwindled to nothing. St. Employees’ portion of their health insurance premiums ballooned to the point that many could no longer afford to make them. This book hunts bigger game. Those firms, their executives, and their $1,200-per-hour lawyers, Alexander writes, “didn’t bear any personal responsibility. The cops and aimless young people Alexander profiles in depth in Glass House can testify otherwise. Aiming to quickly flip the company at a profit, Anchor’s various owners forced cost-cutting measures and concessions from the union. Alexander’s book is less personal, less tortured, a work of journalism far more willing to indict forces larger than the stubborn, delusional pride of the white working class. —
Glass House: The 1 Percent Economy and the Shattering of an All-American Town by Brian Alexander. Anchor itself has remained a viable economic enterprise, at least in theory, throughout its history. Back then, Lancaster parents felt no qualms about letting their kids run around on their own recognizance. In Glass House, Alexander begins by tracing the history of a young couple who moved to Lancaster two years after the Forbes story ran. Gaunt, tattooed drug addicts roam Lancaster’s streets in pajama pants. Although Vance mostly avoided making political recommendations, he’s a conservative and a regular contributor to National Review and has been knocked, somewhat unfairly, as an unmitigated bootstrapper. Forbes (father of Malcolm) held up Lancaster as a shining paragon of what the nation could achieve without the meddling of “left wingers,” although his belief that union activity there had been subdued was incorrect. Alexander’s account of Anchor’s rare ups and many downs documents most closely a yearlong period during which a new CEO, Sam Solomon, took charge of EveryWare, an amalgamation of Anchor and a couple other houseware brands. Alexander grew up in Lancaster, Ohio, a town celebrated in a 1947 Forbes article as the quintessential American town, the “epitome and apogee,” as Alexander puts it, “of the American free enterprise system.” The magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief B.C. Brian Alexander’s Glass House belongs to a new and still fairly accidental genre: the on-the-ground Trump explainer, a nonfiction book illuminating the desperation driving white small-town Americans, as told by a native son. Alexander presumably finished it before the ascendancy of Donald Trump, and most of the Lancastrians he spoke with seem to have favored Ohio Gov. Alexander could not disagree more about that. Parroting the doctrine of personal responsibility, they admire the leaders who unleashed the jackals of Monomoy Capital Partners, Cerberus Capital Management, and a half-dozen other parasites on Lancaster. Read the rest of the pieces in the Slate Book Review. When he asks her why she didn’t leave in search of greener pastures, she “looked at me with wide, pitying eyes and said, ‘This is my town’—as if my asking the question meant I’d been deprived of the quiet power of belonging to a place.”
This rootedness is alien not only to cosmopolitan liberals; Alexander quotes at length a blistering essay by National Review correspondent Kevin D. (The few people he met who voted for Obama told him they generally kept that fact to themselves.) When push came to shove, however, 59 percent of Fairfield County voters voted for Trump. Vance’s surprise success Hillbilly Elegy, a portrait of the dysfunctional, self-defeating working-class white culture in Appalachia and Rust Belt Ohio, published last spring. They got rich.” By the end of Glass House, as Alexander works his rhetoric up to this fiery pitch, all the preceding chapters in which he carefully detailed the arcane financial engineering that enabled private-equity financiers to strip Lancaster of its hard-earned wealth and ultimately its soul pay out like gangbusters. When Alexander asks Eric Brown, the head of the Major Crimes Unit, what happened to destroy the “social contract” in Lancaster, the policeman responds, “Corporate America is what happened.” No one can blame him for crying about that. Some of the biggest donors to Lancaster’s local politicians are the predatory lenders of the short-term loan industry, who make payday advances to poor Lancastrians at 636 percent interest. Perhaps books like Glass House—for more like it are surely on their way—will someday make a dent. First, the company became the target of “greenmail” by corporate raider Carl Icahn. Will Lancaster itself ever recognize this? The vanguard title in this pack is J.D. Lancaster had a pretty, historic downtown (Civil War generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Thomas Ewing were born there), and a thriving civic culture fostered by the glassmaking industry, in particular a glassware company called Anchor Hocking. “I mean,” says Solomon’s successor, “two decades for me is … staying in place is a structure I have …” He literally cannot find the words to describe to Alexander how strange it seems to him. Glass House reads like an odd—and oddly satisfying—fusion of George Packer’s The Unwinding and one of Michael Lewis’ real-life financial thrillers. The young man took a sales job at Anchor then moved up in the company, while his wife volunteered to raise funds for the hospital and campaigned for levies to build new public schools. Carl Icahn, the billionaire financial buccaneer who opened season on Anchor Hocking, is one of Trump’s key economic advisers, and Stephen Feinberg, founder of Cerberus Capital Management—one of the firms that gutted the company to line its own pockets—is another. Anchor Hocking vice presidents drank alongside factory workers in Old Bill Bailey’s tavern. They didn’t get a lecture or a jail sentence. Alexander pings back and forth between portraits of despairing and bewildered Lancastrians and the labyrinthine corporate history of Anchor Hocking. People worked at Anchor Hocking for 40 years and retired on sound pensions. Lancaster, Alexander writes, “really was about as close to the clichéd image of the all-American town as you could get, outside of a Hollywood movie set.”
It is also, as a local saying has it, “the whitest town in America.” The Ku Klux Klan, during its resurgence in the 1920s, had a thriving presence there, although with hardly any blacks to terrorize, it had to content itself with harassing Catholics. Glass House’s subtitle, The 1 Percent Economy and the Shattering of an All-American Town, hints at the book’s difference from its best-selling predecessor.