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Brazilians try to rebuild after deadly dam collapse

By Marina Lopes
Brazilians try to rebuild after deadly dam collapse
A house inundated by the collapse of the Brumadinho dam in Brazil about a week after the January disaster. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Pétala Lopes for The Washington Post

BRUMADINHO, Brazil - It was a quiet Friday in January when the residents here first heard the trees falling. A dam at the local iron ore mine had collapsed, generating a wave of toxic waste that crushed everything in its path. Residents tried to outrun the rust-red mud as it engulfed their homes, their cars, their pets. Almost 300 people were killed or went missing.

The collapse was the second deadly dam disaster in Brazil in just three years. In 2015, a dam holding mineral waste burst, gushing toxic mud into a nearby river in Brazil's worst environmental disaster to date. Both dams were owned by Vale, the world's largest iron ore miner.

Since January, Vale's chief executive and other leaders have stepped down, with documents revealing that the company knew the dam had a high risk of collapse before the disaster. The Brazilian government is investigating whether the company willfully misled officials about the dam's safety.

Today, survivors are trying to rebuild their lives in a wasteland.

Residents of Brumadinho had long feared that the dam above their town would break. Denisiana França, 39 and a member of Brumadinho's residents association, said Vale called a town meeting last year to present an escape route in case of emergencies. When she asked whether there was a risk that the dam could collapse, the company assured her that was impossible.

In January, she was home alone when she noticed a drainpipe in her home start to shake. Then her phone rang: It was her boss's husband, who worked at the mine, telling her to run.

"I went downstairs and everyone was crying, watching their houses being taken away," França said. "It was a horror scene. The mud took everything."

She was able to get away from the sludge, but her cousin and a nephew were buried alive. Now, as she helps her neighbors rebuild their homes, she fears the long-term effects of the collapse.

"The disaster broke the town's spirit," she said. "We lost the will to smile, to play. It was so peaceful here. Now we are fighting for space with vultures, who come after the dead animals and body parts in the river. The smell is unbearable."

Father Andre Agostino Theotokos was at a nearby conference when he witnessed the disaster unfolding on television. The next day he traveled to the town to counsel families whose loved ones had disappeared and to organize donations. When he arrived, he was shocked.

"It looked like the moon: the dryness, the silence, the pain. The emptiness of the scene hit my chest," he said. "It got me thinking of man's destructive power, of the greed and abuses in the mining sector."

The dam, made out of hardened silt, is used to store waste produced by the iron ore mine. But because of the way they are constructed, the walls of the dam can liquefy and collapse after heavy rain.

As the mud washed over Brumadinho, survivors of the 2015 dam disaster watched a replay of their tragedy on national television in disbelief.

"I was revolted. The company didn't see what happened here as a warning and take precautions," said Tania Penna Carvalho, 51, whose husband, Daniel, drowned in waste when the first Vale dam burst in 2015. "It is awful. We know what these families are going through."

A Tuskegee hero is buried 75 years after his death in World War II

By Michael E. Ruane
A Tuskegee hero is buried 75 years after his death in World War II
Marla Andrews, right, watches on Friday in Arlington National Cemetery as an honor guard lowers the casket carrying her father, Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a Tuskegee Airman whose remains were located in 2017 in Austria. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Michael Robinson Chavez

Seventy-five years after his fighter plane crashed in Austria, Tuskegee Airman Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday as four Air Force jets roared overhead and his daughter and grandchildren looked on.

A stiff wind rustled nearby magnolia trees as the mourners sat before his silver casket and his 76-year-old daughter, Marla L. Andrews, received a folded flag from an Army general who knelt before her.

Earlier, at a church service, a minister likened Dickson to the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, whose bones were carried by his people to the Promised Land from the foreign realm where he died.

"Joseph served his people on foreign soil," said the Rev. Jerry Sanders of Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, New Jersey. "What we do for Captain Dickson today is what they did for Joseph in the long ago."

It was a solemn farewell for a daughter who cherished a father she never knew and who lamented the life she might have had.

"I don't think I would have felt so empty and so alone," Andrews, of East Orange, New Jersey, said Thursday.

"I heard many people say that he was very friendly, he was very warm, he was extremely personable," she said. "I just had the feeling that if he would have lived, it would have been so different."

"But he didn't," she said.

So she strove to raise her children so her father would have been proud of them. And although there were painful times, "I just have to thank God that he got me through as far as he has," she said.

In July, the Defense Department announced that it had accounted for Dickson, who was among more than two dozen black aviators known as Tuskegee Airmen who were still missing from World War II.

Dickson, who was 24 when he went down, joined the Army Air Forces from New York and was a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group.

He trained at the Tuskegee Army Flying School and crashed in mountainous southern Austria on Dec. 23, 1944, while on an escort mission.

He was among the more than 900 black pilots who were trained at the segregated Tuskegee airfield in Alabama during the war.

They were African-American men from all over the country who fought racism and oppression at home and enemy pilots and antiaircraft gunners overseas.

More than 400 served in combat, flying patrol and strafing missions and escorting bombers from bases in North Africa and Italy. The tail sections of their fighter planes were painted a distinctive red.

During the service in the Old Post Chapel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Sanders spoke of the Israelites' escape from slavery, comparing it to men such as Dickson helping African Americans on their exodus from bondage.

"Remember your future is based on my past," Sanders said Joseph reminded his people.

"Where you're going has something to with where I've been," he said. "The bones of Joseph, like the bones of Captain Dickson, tell a story."

During a dig in 2017 at the crash site, near Hohenthurn, Austria, a ring belonging to Dickson was found in the dirt by a University of New Orleans graduate student, Titus Firmin.

Charred remains and other small personal items were also found, along with parts of the airplane.

Last August, the Army presented Andrews with the ring and a formal report on how her father was accounted for.

The 14-karat art deco ring was a precious physical link.

There had been talk for months that a ring had been found during the dig. When an official gave it to her in her home, she said quietly, "Wow, guys."

The excavation had also found the ring's aqua-colored stone, which had broken loose and was found separately.

The ring was inscribed: "P.D.," with a heart with an arrow through it, and "L.E.D. 5-31-43."

P.D. was Andrews' mother, Phyllis Dickson. L.E.D. was her father, and May 31, 1943, was his 23rd birthday.

The Army also gave her a remnant of a harmonica that was found at the crash site, and a small cross.

The identification had been confirmed when DNA was extracted from arm- and leg-bone fragments found at the crash site and matched with DNA from Andrews, a nephew and a distant cousin.

The dig in 2017 was conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the University of New Orleans and the University of Austria at Innsbruck, with help from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

There are 26 Tuskegee Airmen still missing from the war.

Two days before Christmas 1944, Dickson took off from his base in Italy in a P-51D Mustang nicknamed "Peggin," headed for Nazi-occupied Prague.

He was on his 68th mission and had already been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for meritorious service.

He was leading a three-Mustang escort of a fast but unarmed photo reconnaissance plane, according to the account of a wingman, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Martin, many years later.

(Martin died July 26, 2018, at the age of 99 at his home in Olympia Fields, Illinois. His daughter, Gabrielle Martin, was present for Friday's service.)

The four planes headed over the mountains for Prague. About an hour into the trip, Dickson radioed that he was having engine trouble and began losing speed.

His wingmen stayed with him as he dropped back. The twin-engine reconnaissance plane sped on and was soon out of sight.

Dickson decided to turn for home in his crippled plane, and his buddies stuck with him.

He looked for a spot to land or bail out. Martin saw him jettison the canopy of his cockpit before bailing out, but then he lost sight of the airplane.

The two wingmen circled, looking for a parachute, a column of smoke or burning wreckage. There was nothing but an empty, snow-covered valley.

After the war, the Army searched for Dickson in northern Italy, where Martin thought he went down. Other crashed planes and remains were found, but not his.

In 1949, the Army recommended that his remains be declared "nonrecoverable."

In 2017, the Pentagon, armed with new data on the crash location, began investigating the case anew.

"We need to have more reverence for the bones," Sanders said Friday. "There are some things we can learn from bones. There is a . . . blessing in the bones. We need to remember those who have gone before."

Inside Roseanne Barr's explosive tweet

By Geoff Edgers
Inside Roseanne Barr's explosive tweet
Actress, comedian, writer, and television producer Roseanne Barr took a two-week trip to Israel in January. Barr had big aspirations for the Roseanne reboot until an explosive tweet ended it all. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara

JERUSALEM - Two questions into Roseanne Barr's packed appearance at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in late January, it happens: A reporter goes right for the Valerie Jarrett.

Last May, Roseanne tweeted 11 words that managed to reference the Obama adviser, the science-fiction film "Planet of the Apes" and the Muslim Brotherhood. Within hours, ABC killed the most popular show of 2018. And Barr went from beloved sitcom star to spreader of hate.

"You are a sorry excuse for a human being," actress Rita Moreno tweeted at the time.

"Roseanne made a choice. A racist one," added "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes.

"There is not any room in our society for racism or bigotry," tweeted civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis.

Now, from the third row of the auditorium, Sagi Bin Nun of the news website Walla takes his own shot.

"Israel is the place where people ask to be forgiven by God," he says. "Would you like to take this opportunity to apologize for your racist tweet?"

Boos rain down on Bin Nun, and some guy yells, "You're a jerk." For two days, Barr has been telling anybody in Israel with a camera that she's a "Jewy Jew," a warrior for their homeland and disgusted with "repulsive" Natalie Portman and other so-called Hollywood hypocrites.

During her two-week excursion to the Holy Land, she will pray at the Western Wall, tour the West Bank, huddle with government officials, serve on a panel with spoon-bending illusionist Uri Geller and, when she's worn out, crash back at her suite at the Inbal Hotel.

But right now, she can't let Bin Nun go.

"You're a mean person who just wants to insult people for no reason whatsoever," Barr says in front of everyone. "I pray to God to raise the sparks in you so that you'll become a decent person."

What to make of this. It's uncomfortable and entertaining and weird, particularly with Barr sitting between an Orthodox rabbi and the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset. Last March, Barr was on the cusp of one of the great comebacks in television history. Twenty years after wrapping her groundbreaking sitcom "Roseanne," Barr, 66, had signed to return with the entire cast. The reboot premiere reached more than 27 million viewers. Three days later, ABC renewed the revived "Roseanne" for another season.

There was a problem, though: Barr had Twitter, and she wasn't afraid to use it.

Just after Christmas 2017, a few months before the reboot's premiere, she tweeted: "i won't be censored or silence chided or corrected and continue to work. I retire right now. I've had enough. bye!"

The tweet did not slip by network brass.

"Sorry to bother you with this at the holiday, but wondering if you know what spurred this tweet from Roseanne," Channing Dungey, then ABC Entertainment Group president, wrote in an email to the show's executive producer, Tom Werner, on Dec. 29.

Thus began an unusual, behind-the-scenes battle, as ABC and Barr's producers tried to protect their TV property, and Barr continued to speak out on Twitter, her preferred medium for pushing tales of Pizzagate and George Soros as well as profane blasts at TV personalities such as Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow. The network didn't propose a no-tweet clause in Barr's contact. Instead, as revealed by interviews with people close to the show and messages shown to The Washington Post, they spent months nudging her to stop while also trying not to offend her.

"It was always this back and forth of ABC not wanting to appear they were censoring Roseanne but also not quite pulling out the big guns," says James Moore, Barr's longtime publicist. "Going, 'You're one tweet away from us canceling the show.' Something that would jar Roseanne."

Despite repeated warnings - and even after her youngest son briefly hid her Twitter password - Barr stayed online.

"I admit it," she says, in her hotel room. "I'm a troll. I'm the queen of the [expletive] trolls."


By all counts, Barr, whose 1990s network go-round had been surrounded by chaos - whether it was firings on the set, the "Star Spangled Banner" debacle or that whole Tom Arnold thing- was a model citizen during the reboot, hugging audience members after tapings, hustling to news conferences and baking chocolate chip cookies for a get-to-know-you-again lunch with Disney Chairman Bob Iger.

Online, though, she remained as polarizing as ever.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Comedy is full of misfits and oddballs obsessed with disruption. They roam stages, television sets and the Internet, teetering between the sort of shock that sparks deep reflection and that other kind, which leads to groans, backlash or, at worst, a public retraction.

Wasn't that President Donald Trump's bloody, rubber head that Kathy Griffin offered to the masses? Didn't Samantha Bee call Ivanka a "feckless" four-letter word that rhymes with bunt? And why did Trevor Noah make that joke about Aboriginal women? Of course, they apologized - or, in Griffin's case, apologized and then retracted the apology - and were forgiven.

Barr and her family contend there's a simple reason she has been treated differently: her support of Trump.

"I'm not saying any of the others should be fired," says Jake Pentland, Barr's 40-year-old son who runs her studio and voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016. "I'm a free speech absolutist. But you can pretty much say whatever you want as long as you supported Hillary Clinton. Soon as Mom donned that MAGA hat, she was an enemy."

As a comic, Barr has always ignored the typical standards of subversion. Her freewheeling attacks seem almost designed to score her enemies in high places. It's as if she's not just playing for laughs, she's trying to blow up the entire system - even if that means blowing up herself.

After the Jarrett tweet, daughter Jenny Pentland's first words to her mother were to accuse her of self-sabotage.

"You did this on purpose," she told her.

The pre-Internet Barr had been the most headline-grabbing comic of her time. At her 1990s peak, she blasted the women harassed by Sen. Bob Packwood, saying "they should have just kicked his balls in." In a sprawling New Yorker profile, she called Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster and Susan Sarandon "castrated females." Her Twitter feed would go even further.

In 2012, she tweeted the home address of George Zimmerman's parents after the Trayvon Martin shooting. The Zimmermans sued, but the case was dismissed. As the 2016 election heated up, and she completed her shift from lefty agitator to Trump booster, Barr was distributing deep-state conspiracy theories like a UPS driver on Christmas Eve.

"Her tweets, before the one that got her in trouble, were absolute nonsense," says Doug Stanhope, a comedian and friend of Barr's who had a bit part on the "Roseanne" reboot. "Zionist things, a Palestinian thing, none of it made sense. The idea that a network would give her a show . . . they had to know what they were getting into."

Whitney Cummings, the "2 Broke Girls" co-creator and an executive producer for the reboot, says Barr was her "hero" back in the day. But she signed onto the show, she admits, without looking closely at Barr's social media: "I had not gone through the years of past tweets, and that was my mistake."

Sara Gilbert, who was 13 when she starred in the first "Roseanne" and was a driving force with Werner in reviving the series, felt reassured about the reboot after talking with Barr. "I knew that Roseanne, the person, was unpredictable at times, but she told me this was her redemption," says Gilbert, now 44. "I chose to believe her."

It didn't take long for Barr's tweets to create tension within the show's production team. In August 2017, Barr tweeted to defend Trump's handling of the violent conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attack the Antifa movement. Gilbert and Werner called Moore to set up a conference call. "I don't want to talk about it - it will be gone," Barr emailed Moore, before deleting the tweet.

That fall, Gilbert and Werner set up a meeting with Barr and Kelly Bush Novak, the powerful press agent they had hired to represent the show. Novak, who had read an upcoming script involving the grandson's curiosity about girl's clothes, was concerned the plot would lead the LGBTQ community to examine Barr's online comments.

So Novak asked GLAAD, which had once lauded Barr as a champion of gay rights, to prepare a report called "Roseanne Barr's Anti-Trans" record. The private, 27-page document called her out for such acts as "Tweeted story that Obamas killed Joan Rivers for saying Michelle Obama is a tranny."

"I said, 'I've already apologized' " Barr said, recounting the meeting with Novak. "And I did. Over days on Twitter. You know I understand that there's a real serious issue with trans lives and trans rights for trans people. They want to be safe. But you know we tell our little girls to watch out for penises basically to stay safe. So what a mixed message this is. And I think it really needs more analysis and a lot more conversation, and I said that 400 [expletive] times."

Ultimately, there was only one way to keep Barr off Twitter. In December 2017, Buck Thomas, 23, the youngest of Barr's five children, saw her phone open on the table and grabbed it. He reset her password and signed her out. He had grown weary of her online presence. "And I didn't want her to get in trouble before the show even started."

In January, Barr complained about losing social-media access at a huge ABC press event. At some point, the badgering worked. Thomas turned over the password.

A month later, Barr questioned whether the Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors were actors. Co-showrunner and executive producer Bruce Helford texted Barr, suggesting she take her tweets down before ABC saw them.

"I'm really sorry to ever ask you to hold your voice," he wrote, "but I think there are even more powerful ways to put ideas out there through the show itself, which I hope we have the opportunity to do many, many more episodes of together."


Barr's trip to Israel is a lot of things. A chance to return to a country that in previous visits has renewed her spirit. A way to raise awareness of what she views as the rise of anti-Semitism and the threat of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. A paid-for vacation.

She's been brought here by Shmuley Boteach, who calls himself "America's Rabbi" and runs the World Values Network, a New Jersey-based organization funded largely by the Trump-boosting, casino-owning billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Pentland, Barr's daughter, views Boteach as one more in a line of men who cozy up to her mother to get attention.

"At least," she says with a laugh, "she didn't marry him."

Barr considers Boteach a great friend. When ABC canceled her show and she was holed up in her mom's basement in Utah, chain-smoking and in tears, it was Boteach - not her co-stars - who called to check on her.

"Shmuley saved my life," Barr says. "I was suicidal. He was the only person who stood by me and said they were going to destroy me because I love Trump and Israel."

Boteach also helped Barr deliver what remains the closest thing to a heartfelt apology. He recorded the raw exchange with her two days after the cancellation and aired it, a month later, as a podcast. Barr has never listened to it. On the call, she tries to explain herself. That she didn't know Jarrett, the Obama adviser, was black. She just knew Jarrett had played a part in the Iran nuclear deal, which she hated. And even though few may believe her, she insisted that she would have never used the "Planet of the Apes" reference if she had known Jarrett's race.

"I'm a lot of things, a loud mouth and all that stuff," Barr said on the podcast. "But I'm not stupid, for God's sake. I never would have wittingly called any black person, I never would have said, 'They are a monkey.' I just wouldn't do that. And people think that I did that, it just kills me. I didn't do that. And if they do think that, I'm just so sorry that I was unclear and stupid. I'm very sorry."

As she tells the story now, from a couch inside her hotel room, Barr is completely unguarded. She doesn't have a publicist or an agent to watch over her. (Her previous agency, ICM, dropped her after the tweet.) With no makeup or jewelry on, she nibbles at a hummus plateas the Jerusalem sun descends over the eighth-floor balcony.

She's not an unreliable narrator so much as a complicated one. There are moments, now that it's over, when she'll insist she never had a chance. The lefty narcissists were always going to get her. There are other moments when she concedes she should have been smarter. Nobody wanted her on Twitter, not even her kids.

It feels like forever since she had nothing at stake, when a short set on "The Tonight Show" on an August night in 1985 introduced the world to her glorious, spontaneous laugh and marked the rise of the self-appointed "domestic goddess." Gum-chewing. Overweight. That dry, nasally, Midwestern voice. Acting like she was about to say something so boring you might as well change the channel. Except you couldn't.

She grew up in a family haunted by a generation wiped out by the Nazis. At 16, Barr was badly injured when she got hit by a car and, as a result, spent months in the state's psychiatric hospital. As she found success, she didn't hide her battles with mental illness. She revealed her multiple personality disorder, her compulsions with food, cutting herself and sex, and the years she spent in counseling.

In 1988, Werner and Marcy Carsey, the producers behind "The Cosby Show," brought her to ABC as Roseanne Conner, the central figure of a sitcom that included husband, Dan (John Goodman), sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert). The show went where other sitcoms hadn't - into working-class Middle America. It rose to No. 1 on the way to a nine-year run.

"People forget how groundbreaking and how good that show was," says David Mandel, an executive producer on "Veep" and a former "Seinfeld" writer. "The notion of the house that wasn't perfect and the multiple jobs and the factory line work. Things we had never seen before or in this exact way."

Feminist activist and author Barbara Ehrenreich proclaimed Barr "the neglected underside of the American female experience, bringing together the great themes of poverty, obesity and defiance."

"Roseanne" was daring - not only for the famous lesbian kiss episode, but also for the honest way it portrayed gay characters. (Barr's brother and sister are gay.) There was also the 1994 episode centered on her son's refusal to kiss a girl in the school play because she was black.

"I didn't raise you to be some little bigot," she snaps at D.J.

Most sitcoms would have ended there, with the star as the hero. Except "Roseanne" adds a scene. A black man approaches her diner one night. Roseanne flips the door's sign from open to closed. It isn't until the man identifies himself - he's the father of the girl D.J. wouldn't kiss - that Roseanne lets him in. He tells her he's not surprised her son is prejudiced.

"If he was a white guy with the exact same build in those exact same clothes, you would have done the exact same thing," sister Jackie says.

"Yeah, well, I'm glad one of us is sure," Roseanne responds, as the credits begin to roll.


Barr had high hopes for the reboot when she signed on in early 2017. Her politics had shifted hard to Trump. But the country was deeply divided. The reboot would show that American families, like her own, could disagree politically without hating each other.

"She really wanted to bring people together and get them talking about it," Goodman says.

The first episode, which premiered March 27, found Roseanne, a Trump supporter, re-connecting with Jackie, who wore a pink pussy hat and "Nasty Woman" T-shirt to dinner.

It also tackled racial issues. Roseanne had a black granddaughter, and there was the Muslim couple moving onto the street. At first, Roseanne snickered that they were "a sleeper cell getting ready to blow up our neighborhood" - until she met them and realized that she had been unfair.

Off screen, Barr's politics were harder to resolve. At a January news conference in Los Angeles, reporters pressed Barr about Trump. She mostly deflected them. Then she took a question from Soraya Nadia McDonaldof the Undefeated, an ESPN website.

McDonald, a former Washington Post reporter who is African-American, told Barr how much she appreciated as a child watching Roseanne Conner blast her son for refusing to kiss a black classmate. But wouldn't that same Roseanne find "candidate Trump's xenophobia or racism to be a disqualifying trait for the office of the presidency?"

Barr: Well, that's your opinion.

McDonald: But he said Mexicans were rapists.

Barr: Well, he says a lot of crazy [expletive].

"It was a trial," Goodman says now. "I just thought we were going to do this dumb [expletive] 'Entertainment Tonight' [expletive] but it just got heavy quickly. I can understand that there was still a lot of residual anger about Trump. . . . But she's entitled to the way she voted."

For Barr, already a conspiracy theorist, the message was clear. Everybody was in on it: ABC, the producers, even the press. They couldn't sit idly as a Trump crazy took over their television sets.

She felt betrayed in May when the ABC entertainment president, Dungey, in a conference call with reporters, said the next season of "Roseanne" would move away from politics.

Who told her that? Barr had been planning to cast Luenell Campbell, a comedian and a good friend, and dig deeper into race.

Helford, the co-showrunner and executive producer, was as baffled as Barr when Dungey talked about the show's new direction. During "Roseanne's" first run, Barr had considerable clout, forcing out the show's co-creator, Matt Williams, only 13 episodes in. This time, she began to feel powerless. When she learned the writers were starting work on the reboot's second season without her involvement, she thought, "Oh, they took my show."

Helford takes issue with that. "We didn't do anything without consulting her," he says. "One of the agreements was that Tom, her, Sara Gilbert and I would work as a group and whoever had the best idea would be the one who would win. She was very much a part of everything we were doing."

But now, as he hears her take, Helford can see how Barr may have grown wary. There were the constant nudges from the producers over her tweets, the knowledge that her colleagues differed so much politically and that jarring statement from Dungey.

"I understand why she was paranoid and why she would feel the network wasn't in sync with her," he says. "But no one came to us and said 'You've got to do it our way,' and not what Roseanne wants."

That evening in May, while Barr was visiting her mother in Utah and feeling down about the show's direction, she says she took an Ambien and dozed off next to her laptop. In the middle of the night, she woke up and saw a thread started by SGTreport, whose tag is "the corporate propaganda antidote." SGTreport referenced a WikiLeaks "bombshell," which would apparently reveal that the Obama CIA had been spying on the French government.

@MARS0411 responded by bringing up the Obama aide: "Jarrett helped hide a lot."

It was 2:45 a.m. when Barr replied to the thread: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."

Barr has continuously repeated that she was comparing the movie to Iran's repressive regime. But even she understands it's a leap to interpret that from those 53 characters.

That morning, people who didn't know Barr slammed the tweet as racist. Her friends figured it was another perplexing online blast.

In the morning, ABC held an emergency call with Barr, Werner and Disney/ABC Television Group President Ben Sherwood.

Why did you do that? Sherwood asked her.

"I'm a comedian," Barr told him. "We step in [expletive] all the time. I already took it down. What else can I do?"

At 1:48 p.m., only hours later, ABC canceled "Roseanne," after Iger called Jarrett to personally apologize. (Jarrett declined to speak to The Post.) In a statement that morning, Dungey called the tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values." Werner would eventually negotiate a settlement with Barr - neither party will say for how much - so ABC could launch a spinoff. When the network announced "The Conners" on June 21, the release made sure to note that Barr would have "no financial or creative involvement."

That deal now infuriates Barr. She says Werner told her she would be a hero if she signed over her rights and saved so many jobs. He would go out and say Barr was not racist. She had even hoped to perhaps return to the show. Instead, "The Conners" killed off Roseanne with an opioid overdose in the first episode. And Werner remained virtually silent.

She also can't forgive Gilbert. On May 29, 27 minutes before ABC announced the cancellation, Gilbert tweeted that Barr's comments were "abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show."

"She destroyed the show and my life with that tweet," Barr says. "She will never get enough until she consumes my liver with a fine Chianti."

Gilbert, in a brief interview with The Post about Barr, said that "while I'm extremely disappointed and heartbroken over the dissolution of the original show, she will always be family, and I will always love Roseanne."

Like Gilbert, Werner reluctantly agreed to an interview with The Post after first declining several times. He said his focus has been on keeping the cast and crew working. He also acknowledged that, after the cancellation, distributors had briefly taken the show's original nine seasons off the air, with deep financial implications for him and Barr. The original series is available again. ABC, though, has pulled the "Roseanne" reboot from all platforms. (Iger, Sherwood and Dungey declined interview requests.)

"The process has been difficult for me," Werner says. "I did not want the last note of the series to be such a sour one."

When asked about Barr's complaint that he had not defended her, Werner said he has always found "her to be tolerant of others and inclusive."

"It's my belief that Roseanne is not a racist person," Werner said, "although I find the tweet to be repugnant and racist."

Goodman calls Barr's tweet "stupid" and "incoherent," but also says she isn't racist. He believes that defending her will probably to turn people against him. But he feels terrible for her. He texted her last May but didn't press when she didn't write back.

Luenell, the comedian Barr planned to cast on the show, remains torn. Barr had been one of her supporters and heroes, someone who "represented hope" for outsiders who didn't fit into Hollywood culture. But she remains unhappy with how Barr handled herself after her tweet.

"The way she could have got some traction is if she immediately did a news conference and said, 'I have [expletive] up. I am an idiot. I'm going to be seeing somebody to try to get myself together. I apologize to Valerie Jarrett. I apologize to the African-American community and when you see me again, I'm going to be a more sensitive, responsible Roseanne.' If she said that, she might be able to chill and come back."


In Jerusalem, Barr meets with attorneys as she considers whether to sue ABC or Werner or everyone involved. She talks about an upcoming gig scheduled for Detroit and other potential projects, including a cartoon show and a Torah-themed program with Boteach.

At the Begin Center, after scolding Bin Nun, Barr calls on another journalist: Jordana Miller, a local television correspondent.

"To be honest, I had kind of a spiritual question about what happened with ABC," Miller says. "Why, looking back, do you think this really happened?"

You can feel the mood shift. Barr walks to the front of the stage.

"Oh my God," Barr says. "I'm so glad you asked that."

She launches into what will effectively be an eight-minute monologue. It's May 29. She's in Utah, so proud to tell her mother she's back at No. 1. That night, she surfs around all this Iran stuff, goes to bed and wakes up to find that, as she puts it, "Roseanne said that black people look like monkeys."

She talks of pleading with ABC - to apologize, to get help, to do anything - and her voice cracks as she recounts how quickly they canceled "Roseanne."

"I can't believe that it takes them a year to get paper towels in the bathroom, but Disney in 40 minutes decided to fire me from my own creation," Barr says.

But she doesn't sound angry. She's in control.

"I was so embarrassed in front of my mother, because she's finally so proud of me that I was not married to any [expletive] . . . You know. You know what I mean?"

She laughs.

"I know you're all bored to death. I'll end quick."

The story ends in her mother's basement. She's terrified that everybody hates her, of the paparazzi gathered outside, when a group of fans knock on the door.

"And they said, 'We don't think it's right what they did to her. We know she's not racist.' And they said, 'Here's some cookies.' ''

Barr chokes up again.

It could be a cheery ending, the comic reconnecting with her fans. Except this is Roseanne Barr - and as soon as she returns to Los Angeles, she's in the news again. Her Twitter remains off-limits. Daughters Jenny, 42, and Jessica, 44, each have part of the password so Barr can't bully one of them into turning it over.

So, Barr finds other outlets.

In a self-made YouTube video posted Feb. 16, Barr calls Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a "Farrakhan-loving . . . bug-eyed [expletive]." On a podcast hosted by Fox News commentator Candace Owens in early March, she calls the creators of the #MeToo movement "hos" and attacks Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford.

On a Saturday night, just after the Owens podcast makes headlines, Barr is askedif there's a part of her that ever considers quieting down, just for a few months, like everybody keeps telling her to. Wouldn't that help? Wouldn't that make things easier?

"I can't," she says in a text message. "Do I look like the kind of woman who obeys?"

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

Embrace the exclamation! All those critics are missing the point.

By megan mcardle
Embrace the exclamation! All those critics are missing the point.



(For McArdle clients only)


Like many Americans, I nurse an inveterate addiction to the exclamation point. Rare is the day when I am able to compose an email reply without a liberal sprinkling of emphatic punctuation, often complemented by a smiley emoticon to emphasize how excited and pleased I was to hear from my correspondent.

This habit strikes many Europeans as something between eccentric and creepy. Having once worked for a British magazine, I am aware of how my effusive punctuation style reads to them. And yet, when I sit down to compose an email to a European, I find myself compelled to add the things anyway. (!!!)

I have been musing on this habit because I am headed to Britain next week to write about Brexit -- or, given the latest developments, the lack thereof. You want to put your best foot forward when asking strangers to explain things to you, and so, as I sat down at my keyboard to type out my interview requests, I thought, "This time I shall be strong: no exclamation points." With great mental effort, I managed to pare them down to the absolute minimum. Which was still approximately 1,000 percent more than most Europeans would consider the utter maximum.

But, in the end, I wonder if I should have just worn the punctuation as a badge of honor, a symbol of national pride. Exclamation points in emails are, after all, as American as apple pie and "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- and like those patriotic staples, they actually have some nice history behind them.

It seems likely that the habit of peppering emails with exclamation points is related to the broader American habit of expressing effusive enthusiasm over almost everything. Some foreigners express wonder at our incredible friendliness (which shows up, among other ways, in our customer service), but others complain that it seems fake -- rather the way Americans regard excessively oleaginous salespeople.

There's something to the complaints of artifice; after all, the store clerks who ask how you're doing don't actually expect to hear about your recent divorce. Emotion and language that would elsewhere signal deep intimacy are in America just a kind of mass-produced social lubricant.

But then, we need more lubricant than most. Cultures that have more heterogeneity -- a fancy term for "lots of different subcultures, all mashed up together" -- turn out to rely more than others on exaggerated displays of emotion. We smile more, and bigger; we frown more, and bigger, too. That's because we can't rely on subtler cultural signals of mood, or even the same language. Emotionally speaking, where other countries whisper, we have to shout.

So it's not surprising that a country that has experienced high levels of migration for hundreds of years ended up with a culture where the default public presentation resembles that of a Labrador retriever. And when such zeal becomes the default, a more reserved style doesn't simply signal tasteful understatement; it signals a cold indifference to the people around you.

Nor is it surprising that this exaggerated positive affect would make its way into our emails, which most people treat more like a conversation than formal letter-writing. Just as you wouldn't respond to someone who did something for you with a toneless "thanks" -- at least, not unless you were (BEG ITAL)trying (END ITAL)to signal your disappointment with their lackluster efforts -- you can hardly deliver the same words over email unadorned.

Of course, this creates a struggle for Americans who interact with people abroad. We may be aware that our exclamation points and smiley faces make us look, to many foreigners, like a nation of particularly unsophisticated 12-year-old girls. But we'll still struggle to tone it down, because cultural norms like the appropriate level of friendliness to strangers are deeply ingrained by the time we hit correspondence age. Few people can steel themselves to be willfully rude, even to strangers who won't take it that way.

So perhaps the best solution is simply to own it. Fly those emoticons proudly! Exclaim away!

And perhaps it will help to remember that our hyper-extroversion is actually more a sign of sophistication than its opposite -- of a culture that had to get cosmopolitan centuries before that became fashionable, and that somehow figured out a cultural hack to make one people out of many.

Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Democrats are conspiring to reelect Trump

By dana milbank
Democrats are conspiring to reelect Trump


(Advance for Sunday, March 24, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, March 23, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Milbank clients only)


Watch in slow motion as Democrats, goaded by the media, conspire to reelect President Trump:

Voters care about the economy and making education and health care affordable. And so Democrats are talking about ... abolishing the electoral college?

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren started the latest distraction at a CNN town hall on Monday. "Get rid of the electoral college," she said, neglecting to mention that this has zero chance of occurring in the foreseeable future.

The media took it from there.

On Tuesday, MSNBC's Garrett Haake pressed former representative Beto O'Rourke: "Getting rid of the electoral college: Is that an idea you're exploring?"

O'Rourke saw "wisdom" in the idea.

On Fox News, Martha MacCallum said "everybody" is talking about "abandoning the electoral college" and asked former representative John Delaney his view.

"It's a total waste of time to talk about it," Delaney replied.

Apparently not. Jimmy Kimmel on ABC on Tuesday night asked California Sen. Kamala Harris if she agreed with Warren. She hedged.

Wednesday morning, Willie Geist of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" put the electoral college question to South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. "It's got to go," Buttigieg affirmed.

Naturally, Trump seized the opportunity. "The Democrats are getting very 'strange'," he tweeted Wednesday. "Actually, you've got to win it at the Ballot Box!"

Just like that, another Democratic litmus test was born. Encouraged by left-wing activists and the media, Democrats are performing acid tests like lab technicians. While the rest of the country built March Madness brackets, Democrats, in their own madness, put themselves in boxes, supporting proposals that are impossible, extreme or oversimplified: Medicare-for-all. A Green New Deal. Guaranteed jobs for all. Impeachment. Reparations to African Americans. Packing the Supreme Court. Late-term abortion. Banning PAC contributions. Abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Legalizing marijuana. Eliminating the filibuster. Opposing all Trump judicial nominees. Boycotting the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. Abolishing the electoral college.

Many of these have merit. The problem is that they have become a battery of binary tests of ideological purity -- allowing Trump to caricature Democrats as extremist.

Opportunistic activists (generally not the established environmental, labor or abortion-rights groups) see a chance to put an issue on the agenda with a simple yes-or-no question. Some candidates in the crowded field, afraid of being outflanked on the left, reflexively agree with the proposition (never mind that typical Democratic primary voters are not so doctrinaire). Reporters, who love conflict and favor the shorthand of pigeonholing, force others to take the litmus test. And Republicans, with an assist from Fox News, gleefully fan the flames.

Much of the blame lies with the media, which, after creating Trump in 2015 and 2016 with endless, uncritical coverage, now facilitates his reelection with litmus-test coverage of Democrats. Trump got away with platitudinous promises, but now Democrats must take positions on purely theoretical ideas. This is an easy way to advance a story for content-hungry cable news. But for Democrats, the tests are potentially ruinous.

Consider the Green New Deal, now co-sponsored in the Senate by Warren, Harris, Cory Booker, N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, Minn. They've committed to "guaranteeing a job," higher education and paid vacations "to all people of the United States."

Or take Medicare-for-all, promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others. It gets 56 percent support in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, but that drops to 37 percent when private health insurance is eliminated or people are required to pay more in taxes, and 26 percent if it means delayed tests and treatments.

The purity tests are promoted by groups such as Progressive Change Campaign Committee (Medicare-for-all), Indivisible (filibuster), Sunrise Movement (Green New Deal), National Popular Vote (electoral college), MoveOn (boycotting AIPAC) and Demand Justice (judicial picks) -- and furthered by charismatic progressives such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The press takes it from there.

Here's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday: "Would you support adding seats to the Supreme Court?" "Would you support getting rid of the electoral college?" "Medicare-for-all?" "Do you support reparations for slavery?" Obama said that he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Do you?

Here's CNN's Erica Hill, also Wednesday: "There are calls to expand the Supreme Court. Where do you stand on that?" "Getting rid of the electoral college, and really giving people their vote?" "What about reparations?"

Fox News: "The Green New Deal ... How do you vote?"

Woe to those who don't answer correctly. On NBC, Chuck Todd observed that O'Rourke "was once for Medicare-for-all. On Friday, he backtracked."

Fear not: On Monday, he'll be asked again.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Mayor Pete's case for community

By e.j. dionne jr.
Mayor Pete's case for community


(Advance for Monday, March 25, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Sunday, March 24, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Dionne clients only)


WASHINGTON -- Pete Buttigieg has broken through the noise of a cacophonous Democratic presidential field by raising issues that usually fall by the wayside in an era when politics feels prepackaged and defined by short-term obsessions.

The South Bend mayor frequently talks about matters that are not strictly political, do not necessarily lend themselves to solutions by government, and have more to do with how we live our lives than where we stand on an ideological spectrum. It will be useful if his recent comments on two themes, religion and community, have a contagious effect.

During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" last week, Buttigieg made a modest plea: "I do think it's important for candidates to at least have the option to talk about our faith," he said. He specifically targeted the idea that "the only way a religious person could enter the politics is through the prism of the religious right."

An Episcopalian and a married gay man, Buttigieg pointed to the core Christian concept that "the first shall be last; the last shall be first."

He added: "What could be more different than what we're being shown in Washington right now -- often with some people who view themselves as religious on the right, cheering it on? … Here we have this totally warped idea of what Christianity ought to be like when it comes into the public sphere that's mostly about exclusion. Which is the last thing that I imbibe when I take in scripture in church."

Buttigieg's assertiveness about religion's role ought to draw attention to other Democratic hopefuls who are openly faithful. "I don't know how many speeches of mine you can listen to and not have me bring up faith," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said last year. Like Buttigieg, Booker suggested that works count for more than words. "Before you tell me about your religion," Booker said, "first show it to me in how you treat other people." New York magazine writer Ed Kilgore has asked whether Booker might turn out to be "the candidate of the Christian left."

There could be real competition for the title. When I interviewed Elizabeth Warren during her first race for the U.S. Senate in 2012, she spoke powerfully about her Methodist faith. It "stresses the importance of community, because it says, in fact, it's about action and it's about action together," she said. "There is God in ... the hungry, the poor, the stranger," she continued, "there is God in each of us."

In our public life, we don't hear God talked about this way as much as we should.

Buttigieg also broke ground in placing the rise of white ethno-nationalism in the context of "a kind of disorientation and loss of community and identity."

"The sense of belonging can be very powerful," he told The Washington Post's Greg Sargent last week, "and we're very fragile without it."

Conservatives have tended to talk about community breakdown more than liberals have -- see, for example, Timothy P. Carney's new book "Alienated America." Carney doesn't discount economics, but he sees the collapse of social capital as leaving "a scar far deeper than an unemployment rate."

In his interview with Sargent, Buttigieg turned the argument in a progressive direction by stressing work itself. For many Americans, the "very basic human desire for belonging … historically has often been supplied by the workplace ... based on the presumption of a lifelong relationship with a single employer." Economics can matter in surprising ways.

At its best, political argument is about learning. Our exchanges give us a chance to see things through someone else's eyes. That sounds positively utopian these days. What's important about Buttigieg's remarks on religion and community is that he broached issues that the political right is more eager than the left to talk about. He takes conservatives seriously enough to challenge them on concerns that genuinely engage them.

If some liberals, as conservatives complain, seek to marginalize religion's public role, might one reason be the bizarre and reprehensible invocation of faith by Christian nationalists to justify bigotry? Conservatives are right to worry about the decay of community. But the left is right to insist that this problem is aggravated by radical changes in our economy that have shattered communities, and individual lives.

Campaigns (and -- I know what you're thinking -- the media) are generally not good at encouraging debates of this sort. The very unlikeliness of Buttigieg's candidacy gives him an opportunity to change this -- and good for him for trying.

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

The 2020 race is on -- between the commentariat and the modelers

By megan mcardle
The 2020 race is on -- between the commentariat and the modelers



(For McArdle clients only)


We in the political commentariat tend to like complex and nuanced campaign narratives. We pore over the details of the policy prescriptions, hunt for subtle trends in national sentiment and analyze how this remark or that alliance will affect a candidate's chances with America's amazing variety of demographic constituencies.

The opposite approach is taken by a group of academics and consultants focused on politics: They prefer blunt, brute-force models that forecast elections using only a handful of factors. Nate Silver, whose models for FiveThirtyEight rely heavily on polls, is the most famous of this group, but some of the forecasters work on a level even more removed from day-to-day detail and political personalities, looking at questions such as whether there's an incumbent in the race, or a recession in the offing.

The fact that some of these models perform pretty well has not discouraged the commentariat from pursuing its hobby. And now, with President Trump, we who tell stories about the electorate may have an opportunity to beat the abstract indicators.

As it stands now, many narrow-factor models predict Trump winning in a landslide. He is an incumbent, and voters seem to generally prefer the devil they know to the one they don't. He is also presiding over a strong economy, and voters seem to be particularly reluctant to toss out the devil-in-residence during good economic times.

You can protest that presidents don't make the economy grow, and you'd be right. Presidents can play ham-fisted havoc with the economy, but they have a negligible ability to deliver upside surprises. Yet it's obvious that voters (BEG ITAL)think(END ITAL) they can, which means that any incumbent whose first term happens to coincide with a boom goes into a reelection campaign is heavily favored.

That axiom has only one caveat: Donald Trump. His approval ratings are far from where we'd expect them to be, given the strength of the economy. Only one president has ever been in this ballpark at this point in his first term and gone on to reelection. And that president was Ronald Reagan, at a time when the United States was just beginning to pull out of a brutal recession. Reagan had enjoyed an average 57 percent approval rating his first year in office, and after a rough couple of years post-recession, his approval ratings began rising back toward what we might think of as their natural point, peaking at 60 percent in 1986. Trump, by contrast, entered office with a 45 percent approval rating, according to Gallup, a high point he has matched only once since then. It is currently bouncing between the high 30s and the low 40s.

It seems possible that the models predicting Trump's reelection, however well they've worked in the past, may contain a hidden assumption: a normal sort of president who will not repel swing voters with intemperate vulgarities or disappoint the base by not really pursuing a policy agenda. Which means narrative may beat predictive numbers in the next election.

But as we begin to construct those narratives, we should remember that journalists are apt to undervalue the strong economy because the economy for the news business isn't good. Journalism's business model faces an existential threat, and the pervasive sense of economic gloom in the industry can color the reporting on what is in truth a generally healthy economy.

For the rest of the country, unemployment is low, and workers who gave up and exited the labor force between 2010 and 2014 are clearly being drawn back in by the lure of open jobs and briskly increasing hourly earnings. Gross domestic product growth is strong, inflation is quiescent, and the stock market is near its all-time peak. Those things could change of course, but until they do, we shouldn't let our own troubles -- or our tendency to assume that every single thing Trump says is a lie -- blind us to the truth of economic growth under his administration.

Nor should we let our dour outlook tempt us to give those blunt, brute-force models shorter shrift than they deserve. It is highly possible that the 2020 campaign will see those simple models bested by grand narratives and complex stories. But if we let our own circumstances dominate those narratives, we're likely to wind up surprised on Election Day, having succumbed -- as we did three years ago -- to blunt-force trauma.

Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Has America gone socialist?

By robert j. samuelson
Has America gone socialist?


(Advance for Monday, March 25, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Sunday, March 24, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Samuelson clients only)


WASHINGTON -- We Americans are all socialists now. That's news. Since at least 1906, scholars have contended just the opposite. What happened in 1906 was that Werner Sombart, a now-obscure German sociologist, published a book titled "Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?" Unlike Europe, America was hostile to socialism, Sombart argued.

Prosperity was one cause; it weakened revolutionary consciousness. The economy enjoyed some natural advantages: fertile land, ample resources and good harbors. But the larger cause was the resistance of American workers. Obsessed with "getting ahead," they felt that socialism might hold them back.

Sombart wrote:

"I believe that emotionally the American worker has a share in capitalism: I believe he loves it. Anyway, he devotes his entire body and soul to it. ... [T]he worker … wants to earn as much as his strength will allow, and to be as unrestrained as possible."

Well, history has finally caught up with Sombart. The term socialism is now increasingly bandied about by pundits, scholars and presidential candidates. The result is much confusion. Many Democrats deny that their proposals (say, Medicare-for-all) are socialism; Republicans claim that they are, trying to tap into Americans' historical opposition.

Let's try to dispel some confusion.

It's true that traditional socialism has fared poorly in recent decades. This strand of socialism, following Karl Marx's political timetable, involved government owning more and more of the "means of production" -- entire industries -- for the good of the proletariat. Central planning, not markets, determined what would be produced and by whom, in theory.

After World War II, this traditional socialism flourished in Europe. The Great Depression had discredited private enterprise. Great Britain -- one example -- went on an orgy of nationalizations: coal, 1946; electric power, 1947; railroads, 1948; steel, 1951. Later, ailing car companies joined the list.

It was an unhappy experience. Writes economist Marc Levinson in his absorbing "An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy":

"[The unions at state-owned firms] repeatedly won large wage increases unmatched by productivity improvements. ... Management was in disarray, because experienced private-sector executives were reluctant to take on jobs in which key decisions were determined ... by the government."

As other countries faced similar problems, nationalizations waned, and privatization -- the selling of state-owned firms -- gained. Democrats discount the failures of Marxist socialism, which (it's argued) differs fundamentally from what's being proposed today: These are mostly income transfers for the poor, the aged and the middle class.

That's relevant up to a point. It's true that modern socialism, as opposed to the traditional strain, is mostly about the welfare state. But the ultimate goal is similar. It is to control as much of the economy as possible to advance agendas of economic and social justice -- to edge toward the socialist ideal of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

This has already produced huge changes. In many advanced countries, government spending constitutes roughly half of the economy's output (gross domestic product). In 2017, the figures were 56 percent in France, 44 percent in Germany, 49 percent in Sweden, 49 percent for Italy and 41 percent for the United Kingdom, reports the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

It is here that the U.S. experience increasingly resembles that of other advanced countries. In 2017, U.S. government spending for national, state and local budgets was 38 percent of GDP, according to the OECD's calculations. If the part of health care that is not now financed by government -- approaching 10 percentage points of GDP -- is added to existing government spending, the U.S. total would be comparable to many European countries.

This is where Sombart becomes less relevant or, perhaps, not relevant at all. Americans are now all socialists in the sense that they broadly support the programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance and others) that constitute the largest share of government spending.

We don't call these benefits "socialism," because that would, given our history, stigmatize them, and we don't want to do that. They enjoy public approval, because they seem the decent thing to do, and of course, they now have millions upon millions of beneficiaries who magnify their political clout.

Both parties are addicted to this socialism, though Democrats are more so than Republicans. Just because it is inconvenient to question the drift toward an ever-larger -- even socialist -- welfare-state does not mean that we can escape the possible consequences of moving in this direction.

Is the collective weight of higher government spending, taxes, budget deficits and regulations permanently eroding the economy's capacity to grow? Could Europe's sluggish growth indicate that some countries have already reached their limits? Could we be next? The questions linger even if we ignore them.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

Trump's 'socialist' rhetoric is lazy name-calling from a lazy thinker

By catherine rampell
Trump's 'socialist' rhetoric is lazy name-calling from a lazy thinker



(For Rampell clients only)


President Trump has made fearmongering about "socialism" a key plank of his reelection campaign. It's more lazy name-calling from a lazy thinker, but this time the lazy name-calling may backfire.

For years, Trump has premised his political pitch on the idea that he alone can protect Americans from the many invaders who wish us harm -- chiefly immigrants, terrorists and globalists. Lately, he's added another boogeyman to the bunch, one that's supposedly homegrown: socialists.

In this year's State of the Union, he declared, "Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country," as if that were ever truly a risk. He has ramped up similar comments in recent months and has now enlisted his economic advisers in his fight against the great socialist straw man.

Ever since 1947, the White House Council of Economic Advisers has released its annual Economic Report of the President. This enormous tome is supposed to summarize the trends in the economy and lay out the president's vision for solving ongoing and future challenges. Though the document usually has (BEG ITAL)some(END ITAL) political spin -- the president's economic advisers want their boss to look good, after all -- it usually sticks to legitimate economic concerns facing the country.

Not so this time. When the council released its report this week, it bizarrely included an entire chapter seemingly designed to flesh out cable-news talking points about how Democrats secretly want to turn the United States into a socialist hellscape. Readers of the report -- or of even just the council's slides posted on Twitter -- might reasonably come away thinking that the most pressing economic questions facing the U.S. economy include: Was collective farming under Mao Zedong successful? How much did Joseph Stalin end up shrinking the livestock population?

If these throwbacks seem wholly unrelated to any of the debates we're actually having right now as a country, that's because they are.

The real debate Americans are having -- including those on the far left trying to gain greater control of the Democratic Party -- is about how regulated markets should be and how to make the rules fairer. No one in the 2020 race, not even relative outlier and self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is proposing that we recreate the Great Leap Forward.

Despite what you may have heard from Team Trump -- and despite the many TV interviewers asking Democratic politicians whether they're "capitalist" or "socialist," as if that's a meaningful binary -- all modern countries have elements of capitalism and socialism.

That includes the United States. We have public schools, public roads, subsidized health care for the elderly and other forms of social insurance. Yet we also have private property, and the government does (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) control the means of production -- which is, you know, actually how socialism is defined.

Trump and his advisers pretend otherwise, in the hopes of confusing and freaking out the public. After all, most people know they're (BEG ITAL)supposed(END ITAL) to be afraid of "socialism," even if they have no idea what the term means.

In fact, in a Gallup poll last year that asked Americans to explain their understanding of the term "socialism," responses were all over the map. The most common answer, volunteered by about a quarter of respondents, was that it had something to do with "equality" -- "equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution," something to that effect. Smaller percentages mentioned communism, government control of utilities or even "talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people."

Given this level of confusion, it's not clear that Trump's strategy to smear the Democratic Party as a Socialist Menace will be terribly effective.

Sure, maybe it'll mobilize older people who lived through the Cold War and associate socialism with the evil Soviet Union. But Trump probably already had the old people vote locked up.

Whether it will scare younger people is a separate question. A majority of adults under age 30 already view the term "socialism" positively; about 40 percent of those ages 30 to 49 say the same.

That might be because of dissatisfaction with the results of the existing (predominantly capitalist) economic system. But it might perversely also be (BEG ITAL)because(END ITAL) Republicans have been so relentless in their alarmist attacks on socialism -- or, rather, "socialism."

Over the past 60 years -- since Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would doom the country to the s-word -- the GOP has turned into the boy who cried socialism. If you persist in describing popular and not-all-that-radical policies as "socialist" (protections for preexisting conditions or letting kids stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26), at some point the term starts to lose its negative valence.

Catherine Rampell's email address is Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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