IT WAS a brief encounter—an hour of discussions followed by a low-key dinner—but one of great historical resonance. Not since Mao Zedong’s takeover of China in 1949 had there been any meeting between the leaders of China and the island of Taiwan, to which the defeated government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek fled. At a hotel in Singapore, Xi Jinping, China’s president, and his Taiwanese counterpart, Ma Ying-jeou, clearly revelled in the symbolism, grinning and waving as they shook hands before a mass of cameras gathered in a ballroom. But China’s dream of eventual unification with Taiwan is no closer to fulfilment, and its suspicion of the island’s increasingly separate identity is undiminished.
Officials had given only a few days’ notice of the unexpected meeting, which took place on the sidelines of Mr Xi’s long-planned state visit to Singapore. Careful choreography aimed to ensure that both statesmen would be seen as equals. The two emerged into the flash bulbs together, but from opposite sides of the room. They had agreed to refer to each other using only the honorific “Mr”, forgoing titles such as “president”, which would risk conveying legitimacy. And both delegations have reportedly agreed to split the bill for dinner, and for the use of the hotel’s conference rooms.
The seeds of the meeting were some very immediate concerns. Ties between the two countries have warmed immensely during Mr Ma’s premiership. But term limits require him to step down at elections in January, when polls suggest the presidency (and perhaps the legislature) will fall to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose members lean towards independence and are suspicious of China’s overtures. Mr Ma is presumably not foolish enough to think that kudos from the landmark meeting will give his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), a better chance of holding power. He may instead be thinking of his own political legacy, given that growing domestic opposition to recent cross-strait trade deals has left his and his party’s popularity in tatters. For the KMT, the resonance of the meeting goes back to 1945 when it ruled all of China. In August that year Chiang met Mao for the last time before full-scale civil war erupted. The discussions between Mr Ma and Mr Xi were the first between the two parties’ leaders since then.
Illustration by Sean McCabe
Down in Miami, in a suite in the Crowne Plaza, Jeb Bush stared at a computer screen. Surrounded by his wife, his children, staffers and several reporters, the 41-year-old Republican candidate for governor of Florida had been running for office for 18 months and had been thinking about it for a lot longer than that. He watched the results roll in, showing the state’s closest such race in more than a century. But he knew.
“I’m going down,” Bush said.
He called his opponent around 11:30 p.m. to concede, then stayed up into the wee hours, smoking his first cigarette in years and drinking Scotch.
Bush lost more than just the election in Florida that night, because his older brother won one in Texas. George W. Bush would get to be a governor, and Jeb Bush would have to wait, upending the family’s expectations and radically scrambling the brothers’ trajectories and presidential prospects.
“Had Jeb won in ’94, he would’ve been the nominee in 2000,” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist tells me. Many people I talked to, from politicians to analysts to operatives, say the same thing.
And Clinton’s failure in her zealous efforts at health care reform, hitched to her role in the debilitating Whitewater hassle, made her conservatives’ top target. “I don’t know what’s right anymore,” she confided that year to an adviser. “I don’t even trust my own judgment.”
“If you want to see where modern Hillary starts,” Republican strategist Joe Brettell tells me, “that’s it—1994.”
For both Clinton and Bush, 1994 was a year that looked bad then—but looks worse now. It was a year that changed them, and their lives, forever. It was a year when political opponents learned how to take them on—and win. It was a year when being Bill Clinton’s wife or George H.W. Bush’s son started to feel quite complicated for two aspirants who sought to stand on their own. It was a year, too, in which the new contours of our collective media mayhem began to become clear, with seminal moments in 24-7 news entertainment, reality television and the advent of the commercial Internet, and talk radio rumbling on behalf of Republicans. The far-seeing already were imagining hand-held miracle phones.
The ‘Gist Settlement’ for freed slaves leads to a legal fight 200 years later
A troubled country has the chance to take a step forward
FOR the capital of a country where recent election turnouts have been low, Port-au-Prince does not lack for political advertising. Lampposts, electricity poles, even the lintels of lottery shops are plastered with toothy photos of the 53 candidates who are competing to be Haiti’s president in elections that begin on October 25th. Hundreds more are vying for parliamentary and municipal seats.
Though teeming with would-be presidents, Haiti barely has any elected officials. Just 11 are in office in the entire country: the current president, Michel Martelly, and ten senators. Elections were delayed twice—in 2011 and 2013—and parliament was dissolved early this year, leaving Mr Martelly, who cannot run again, to govern by decree. This month’s vote is thus a step towards restoring a functioning elected government.
Whoever leads it will face huge challenges. More than five years after an earthquake flattened much of the capital, Haiti is hobbled by corruption and political instability, and still vulnerable to disasters. The biggest shortcomings are in education, electricity and governance, says Gilles Damais of the Inter-American Development Bank. Money to fix them is scarce. Income from foreign donors dropped from 12% of GDP in 2010 to 7% last year. The government’s domestic revenues were a scant $1.1 billion, or 13% of GDP, in 2013.
In 1996, John Perry Barlow published the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. “I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind,” Barlow wrote. “Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live. We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.” Online, the “legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us,” he continued. Barlow envisioned an Internet where all users are created equal—male or female, rich or poor, sweetheart or asshole. “In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.”
In real life, Barlow comes from Wyoming. He’s a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and a white male libertarian. Read one way, Barlow’s declaration gives marginalized communities permission to speak truth to power. Read another, it discourages women and people of color from discussing their bodies and identities online while emboldening others to bully them into silence. Upon publication, Barlow’s declaration “spread like kudzu through the electrical wires of the virtual world,” Businessweek reported. Within months, it had been republished across the Web 5,000 times. Nearly two decades later, Kate Miltner, who studies online structural inequality at the University of Southern California, recognized Barlow’s words “echoing through the #GamerGate controversy.” It was almost as if the Web had been calibrated from the very beginning to allow a bigoted harassment campaign to flourish.
Why does hate thrive online? In a roundtable discussion published recently in Social Media + Society, Miltner and a crew of fellow digital culture scholars attempt to answer that question by identifying the historical roots of Internet trolling, bullying, flaming, and harassment. One culprit: The flattened perspective promoted by early Web activists like Barlow—which seeks to erase power politics, social context, and physical cues from digital culture—may force users to speak louder and harsher in order to be seen and heard. University of Sussex digital cultures professor Tim Jordan argues that because online “markers of identity” are “inherently unstable, unlike the body or timbre of a voice,” they “have to be stabilized by being heard consistently.” On the Internet, women and people of color are forced to constantly articulate aspects of their identity that are often obvious in face-to-face communication or already established in personal relationships where identities remain stable—you already know which participant in the discussion identifies as black and which has had an abortion. Meanwhile, their haters need to spew insults constantly in order to be consistently “recognized” as opponents of a marginalized group.
Based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name, 1979’s The Warriors had a tumultuous release with rumors of vandalism and violence breaking out at showings of the film resulting in Paramount pulling advertising for the movie. Critics generally panned Walter Hill’s film although critic Roger Ebert mentioned in a review of Hill’s Southern Comfort in 1981, that perhaps he overlooked some of the film’s positive qualities due to the very broad manner in which Hill paints his characters. As he put it,
“He knows how to make a movie look great, and how to fill it with energy and style. But I suspect he is uncertain about the human dimensions of his characters. And to cover that up, he makes them into larger-than-life stick figures, into symbolic units who stand for everything except themselves.”
Ronald Reagan was a fan of the film, so much so that he called Swan (Michael Beck) to let him know that he screened the The Warriors at Camp David.
Both the original cut and Walter Hill’s 2007 directors cut of The Warriors are available to stream.