If Harvey Weinstein’s robe could talk, it would have plenty to say.
Not just as a witness to the alleged sex-related crimes by its wearer. But also as a creepy symbol of a watershed moment in America that is leading to the downfall of a growing list of powerful men.
It’s called “the Weinstein effect.” Women, emboldened by Weinstein’s brave accusers, are coming forward with a torrent of #MeToo allegations, derailing men of all ages, races, and political ideologies. The shamed now include Hollywood actors; two former presidents, along with the current one; Washington lawmakers; chefs, restaurateurs, artists, musicians, and comedians; tech executives; and a slew of media personalities. Their alleged crimes range from sexual assault to more vaguely defined sexual misconduct. The inappropriate behavior ranges from waist and butt groping to shoulder and neck rubs. Then there are the tongue kisses, groin presses, requests for lap sitting, and those moments when a wrinkly old man emerges from a shower.
And it all began with Weinstein and his bathrobe. They first appeared together in a blockbuster New York Times story that detailed how a young Ashley Judd went to meet Weinstein for what she thought would be a business breakfast meeting at the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel. Instead, Weinstein “had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower,” the actress told the Times. Over three decades Weinstein, naked beneath his bathrobe, targeted scores of other women. So much so, that the robe he donned while preying on his victims became something of an Internet sensation.
Knowing the scandal to come, the robe might have begged, “Please, Harvey, leave me hanging on the hook. Put on some pants, go downstairs and treat these talented women with the respect they deserve.” Weinstein didn’t and the fallout continues, ensnaring others who wrongly believed no one would ever be brave enough to expose them.
— JOAN VENNOCHI
The urban landscape is like fabric, stitched together by infrastructure and human activity. Well, whatever kind of fabric Boston is — a tweed, perhaps? — it’s been moth-eaten for a couple of generations. Over the years, a zeal for the wrecking ball left behind lots of cracking concrete and raggedy streetscapes. And a rash of new highways ripped their own gaping seams.
Desperate for a piece of Boston, developers are now drooling over all those holes and seams. They can’t build out, so they’ll fill in — or “infill,” in developer-speak.
Triangular sites once considered useless scraps — a Back Bay crumb discovered behind the Christian Science Center; a Big Dig remnant in Chinatown; the pointy tip where Boylston and Brookline streets intersect in the Fenway — have spawned skinny towers loaded with pricey, ship-shaped units that promise to torture interior designers forever.
The most challenging infill site is the ribbon of air above the Mass Pike. It’s also the most critical for restoring the city’s fabric. But earning approval to build over Interstate 90 involves romancing both the state and the city. And the logistics of erecting a foundation above a highway may burst a few engineers’ craniums.
Yet as 2017 crashes to a close, the first air-rights project in years seems imminent. The multi-use Fenway Center promises to fill in a bit of the urban fabric on Beacon Street over by Fenway Park.
If developers are bold enough to conjure usable square footage out of thin air, then they’ll no doubt continue combing Boston for holes to infill.
— RACHEL SLADE
The physics behind bump stocks are pretty simple. The device harnesses the recoil of a gunshot — the bump against the shoulder — into another pull of the trigger. Faster and faster. Until the gun runs out of bullets.
Newton’s third law can be stunningly lethal. In Las Vegas, a shooter standing in his 32nd-floor hotel room was able to pour bullets into a crowd of people at the rate of about nine shots per second. That’s approximately the rate of fire of a machine gun, which explains why 58 people were killed and another 546 wounded in just a few minutes. The shooter had 12 rifles equipped with bump stocks, which are legal to own in most states.
While we don’t yet know the Las Vegas shooter’s motives, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that mass killers inspire each other to plan and execute their rampages. Each massacre and the recoil of media coverage can trigger another slaughter. Faster and faster. In 2016, 71 people were killed and 83 wounded in six mass killings. This year, 112 people were killed and 531 wounded in 10 mass shootings.
The Las Vegas shooting appeared to produce political momentum to ban bump stocks; even the National Rifle Association expressed cautious support. But when it comes to gun control in Washington, Newton’s second law is often more applicable: Inertia is an extraordinarily powerful force.
— ALEX KINGSBURY
When critics of your industry start calling it “Big [Anything],” it’s a sign of trouble ahead. Labels like “Big Media” and “Big Tobacco” came into common use only when a critical mass of Americans began to question the intentions and the far-reaching power of the industries in question. Until recently, Internet companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook had managed to avoid that kind of suspicion, even as they vacuumed up consumer data and forced legacy businesses of all sorts — from brick-and-mortar retailers to ad-dependent media outlets — to confront their own mortality. If anything, the tech giants enjoyed a halo effect; their growing dominance and swelling share prices looked like a triumph of American ingenuity.
In 2017, though, opposition to “Big Tech” began to crystallize. It came out that, during last year’s presidential campaign, Facebook and Google had circulated intentionally divisive political ads by shadowy Russian interests — and earned revenue from doing so. Political figures as different as Steve Bannon and Bernie Sanders have raised the possibility of regulating the two companies like utilities. Meanwhile, as Amazon’s retail empire sprawled — it bought Whole Foods, rattled pharmacy stocks with talk of selling prescription drugs, and got cities across the country to offer huge concessions in exchange for its new headquarters — the company became the poster child for economists and legal experts seeking to ramp up antitrust enforcement.
The tech giants have responded to all this by escalating their lobbying operations. Perhaps that was inevitable, but to critics it only proves the point.
— DANTE RAMOS
Without throwing a single pass this season, Colin Kaepernick brought the NFL to its knees. With the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback shunned by the league, his protest against police violence and racial injustice seemed destined to fade when the season began. Then, out of the blue, President Trump bellowed that any NFL player taking a knee during the national anthem should be fired. The race-baiting, base-pleasing condemnation re-energized the protest.
The ranks of kneelers grew from six to 200.
Soon the protests surged beyond NFL players. Oakland A’s rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first baseball player to take a knee. Cheerleaders did it. High school athletes were kicked off their teams for taking a knee. As they finished the last notes of the anthem at pro sporting events, singers kneeled. Stevie Wonder did so during a concert. Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who has spent a lifetime fighting racism, tweeted: “Proud to take a knee, and to stand tall against social injustice.”
As the protest expanded, its message grew muddied. It was about free speech. Civil rights. Team solidarity. The anti-Trump resistance. Here’s what it wasn’t: a protest against veterans or the national anthem.
Trump tried to stifle this patriotic act of dissent. Instead, he amplified it — and underlined Kaepernick’s original point about racial inequities, one bended knee at a time.
— RENÉE GRAHAM
It was the first total solar eclipse since 1979 to cross any part of the continental United States, and the first in 99 years to traverse the country from sea to shining — well, maybe not shining — sea. Not until 2045 will there be another Great American Eclipse like the one we experienced on Aug. 21, when the moon’s shadow blocked out the sun, generating a path of totality from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic.
Total solar eclipses aren’t that rare; one occurs somewhere on earth every 18 months or so. But for a given location to find itself in the middle of a total eclipse is rare indeed: It happens on average only once every four centuries. That helps explain why eclipses evoke such astonishment and wonder, and why so many people travel so far to see one. To witness this year’s solar spectacle, millions of Americans took to the road, causing cosmic-level traffic jams and what may have been the greatest temporary migration of humans to view a natural event in history.
And what of those of us who couldn’t make it to Salem, Ore., or Paducah, Ky., or Columbia, S.C., or any of the other communities within the path of totality? We all watched on TV as the unbelievable happened, right on schedule: The enormous sun vanished behind the tiny moon, the fantastic corona appeared, and darkness reigned in the middle of the day.
In person or remotely, hundreds of millions of Americans were watching on Aug. 21. That was “nearly twice the number of people that watched the Super Bowl last year,” marveled The New York Times. If only for a few minutes, Americans were united during the eclipse in a way we almost never are anymore. And what united us was not some political outrage or horrific shooting. It was an eerie astronomical marvel, beautiful and awesome and joyful. The moon’s shadow raced from coast to coast, and we Americans, in all our diverse and messy and quarrelsome totality, were elated.
— JEFF JACOBY
If a tweet falls in the middle of the night, does it make a sound? If it descends from the fingertips of Donald J. Trump (aka @realDonaldTrump), it does. And that sound can be deafening.
At 12:06 a.m. May 31, his tweeted typo “covfefe” was enough to intrigue and obsess a dizzied nation for at least a full 24-hour news cycle.
Over the course of, oh, generations, we’ve become used to our presidents’ messages as not just scripted, but vetted — even informed by the ministrations of speechwriters. Number 45 has introduced us to a whole new world of the statesman unvarnished. Not even autocorrect can keep up.
— MATTHEW BERNSTEIN
“Shared leadership” seemed like an oxymoron when Senate president Stan Rosenberg first introduced it on Beacon Hill, a place where tight-fisted control at the top of the Senate and House has been the norm for the past quarter-century.
In a stark departure from that, Rosenberg wanted things to bubble up from the individual members in the Senate he led. That meant listening tours, with lawmakers traveling the state to hear the public’s concerns. Committee chairs would then develop legislation, with opportunities for other members interested in the subject to be part of a larger working group. The Senate used that approach on bills that became laws to promote pay equity for women, transgender rights, and fairness for pregnant workers. Still, other legislation, such as paid family leave and a sweeping healthcare measure, died or met pronounced skepticism in the House. Whether by reflection or projection, shared leadership saw Senate legislation take on a leftist slant. That pleased progressives, but Rosenberg’s revolution ran into a roadblock with the House, where centrist Speaker Robert DeLeo doesn’t seem particularly inclined to follow the Senate’s institutional or ideological inclinations.
Still, with Rosenberg having stepped aside at least temporarily pending an investigation of his husband’s conduct, his shared leadership initiative remains popular. If Rosenberg’s departure proves permanent, potential successors may well have to endorse it to win over his loyalists.
— SCOT LEHIGH
Donald Trump sure knows how to pick his enemies.
The “deep state” — where many of the president’s real and imagined foes reside — is nebulous enough that his supporters can read into it their worst paranoia, yet concrete enough for his foes to believe it will save the country from apocalyptic ruin.
The deep state is best understood as government workers who are not political appointees — in other words, career civil servants; members of the military, diplomatic, and intelligence corps; bureaucrats; and all of the other people that make up the government that Donald Trump campaigned so enthusiastically to join.
The deep state can slow down a political agenda, leak secrets, refuse to follow orders. The cumulative effect of this bureaucratic stubbornness is to reveal the relative impotence of the presidency — a sin that drives the MAGA crowd off the deep end.
The “resistance,” meanwhile, imbues the deep state with outsize reach — the hope that soldiers would refuse to carry out a nuclear attack, for instance.
The stiletto of the “deep state” slight is that it implies disloyalty. If someone is part of the deep state, their other loyalties — to country, to the president, to the rule of law — are somehow secondary. Indeed, legal experts say president and his supporters are flirting with a constitutional crisis by threatening special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by labeling it a deep state conspiracy.
Whoever wins that showdown, the deep state will long outlast the current administration. It’s a lesson that most presidents eventually learn: when draining a swamp, make sure you’re not out of your depth.
— ALEX KINGSBURY
Cosplaying, dressing up as your favorite fictional character, began in Japan in the early 1990s. Today it is more mainstream than ever thanks to the ascendance of geek culture. No wonder the term “cosplay” — short for “costume play” — broadened in 2017 from the fictional to the political.
While literal cosplay tends to involve an enthusiastic passion for Captain America or Wonder Woman, another aspect dominates when the term is used outside geekdom: pretending to be something you’re not.
The concept of cosplay is useful in calling out poseurs and skewering others. A Twitter user named @AngryBlackLady lamented: “Really tired of 20 something white kids who are cosplaying socialism telling me about my own politics.” Political scientist Paul Musgrave @profmusgrave used the term to make some observations about our ever-divided political scene: “I sometimes feel like I’m trapped in a politics in which one side is cosplaying The West Wing and the other side is fitting us for costumes in The Handmaid’s Tale.”
As it turns out, cosplay is a natural lens for viewing politics, where phoniness is always in fashion.
— MARK PETERS