Is Steve Bannon the Real President?

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There is an allure to believing in the man behind the curtain, the figure lurking in the Oval Office and manipulating the president like a marionette. For Donald Trump, that man is Steve Bannon, the former chairman of right-wing Breitbart News who shaped Trump’s nationalist appeal on the campaign trail and is converting the rhetoric into public policy one aggressive executive order at a time.

The political-svengali-turned-special-adviser role was played in recent years by Karl Rove for George W. Bush and David Axelrod for Barack Obama. Vice President Dick Cheney and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett often played shadow president. Sometimes called “evil geniuses” by foes, these advisers typically have a close bond with their presidents and can channel the people who put them in the White House. The term “kitchen cabinet,” trusted pals outside the normal decision-making structures, dates back to Andrew Jackson.

Bannon, then, is a familiar figure in some ways, but the question now rattling around the Swamp is whether his reach has extended beyond his predecessors. His vision can be found in Trump’s early moves more than that of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the establishment-tied former Republican National Committee chairman. Bannon reportedly cowrote Trump’s “America First” inaugural address and pushed the blizzard of executive orders — including one Friday blocking entrants to the U.S. from seven countries, along with all refugees. And as protesters stormed airports across the nation, Trump signed an order Saturday organizing his National Security Council that established, in governmentese, just how critical Bannon is.

The 63-year-old former naval officer has a formal seat on the high-ranking Principals Committee, along with the secretary of state and other cabinet members. The director of national intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not have such a formal role, as in past administrations, though they can attend as they like. “We don’t really have someone who is the equivalent of Bannon who has ever been at this kind of table,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on political communication.

Bannon himself defies precedent. He joined the Trump campaign after heading up Breitbart News, an outlet that often channeled the energy of the white nationalist “alt-right” and gleefully attacked Republicans. He was a Goldman Sachs banker and Sarah Palin documentarian. His early investment in Seinfeld continues to pay dividends with every Festivus rerun. He also appears to be the first White House official to be depicted by Saturday Night Live as the Grim Reaper.

Rove and Axelrod, who came up through party politics, were the communications pros in their respective White Houses, divining and shaping public opinion in service of their bosses’ agendas. Bannon’s profile, at this point, appears broader, not least because his sharp use of language and bomb-throwing nature mesh well with Trump.

Bush excluded Rove from NSC meetings. Axelrod and then–Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attended at times, a fact noted by the Trump White House to justify Bannon’s seat. But Axelrod, writing in a CNN column, said he was merely a “silent observer” who would occasionally be called upon to explain the thinking behind a presidential decision. He rejected comparisons to Bannon’s “unprecedented” role in shaping national security and foreign policy.

But in many ways Bannon’s seat at the table is the natural culmination of political strategists’ rising White House clout, says Princeton University political historian Julian Zelizer. “Why not let them sit in the meeting?” he says. “Why go through the pretense of not having them there?” In the age of the permanent campaign, the political strategist is always going to be one of the last people in the room with the president on a big decision. But Trump is still the unpredictable decider.

Why Russia Is Sure to Win the French Election

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What’s Russian for “Fancy some caviar?” Diplomats everywhere would be wise to find out. While many of Donald Trump’s American opponents portray the new U.S. president as Vladimir Putin’s lapdog, the truth is that Russia has upped its street cred on the global diplomatic stage — from the Washington Beltway to Syria to the Far East.

Even the ancient home of Jeanne d’Arc is poised to cozy up with the Kremlin — given the likely contenders in the second round of France’s presidential election. Whether France elects François Fillon, Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron, it’s certain that Russia will win: All three candidates have expressed an affinity for Putin. 

Et alors? This is a far cry from the current state of play. For decades, European unification has been partly about the “perceived threat of Russian power,” says Jim Shields, professor of French politics at the U.K.’s Aston University. The result was a tight-knit Western alliance throughout the Cold War and an orientation toward liberalism and human rights among politicos like President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Turning toward a “cruder policy of Realpolitik” could make responses like sanctions against Russia, in response to Putin overstepping in his perceived backyard, unthinkable, says Shields.

Moscow wouldn’t be too disappointed to see the momentum swing from Fillon to Macron, with Le Pen picking up some too.

The French Left has all but collapsed — Hollande isn’t even running — and it’s looking like the spring run-off will be between the conservative François Fillon and far-right Marine Le Pen, says Shields. Controversy is threatening to derail Fillon — he’s accused of paying his wife a government wage for no services in return, and he’s threatened to not run at all if investigated. The only other potential upset? Centrist progressive En Marche! Party candidate — formerly an independent and Socialist — in the form of ex–Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. For a while now, most had assumed that, between Fillon and Le Pen, it would be Fillon’s game to lose. Getting his hand allegedly caught in the till, however, “robs him of one of his strongest cards: his reputation for probity,” says Shields. 

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and French counterpart François Fillon back in 2010

Source FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

Fillon and Putin go way back and on a personal level. Back when Fillon was prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, Putin was his Russian equivalent. “They forged an amicable relationship that has endured, with Fillon becoming one of the most vocal advocates of a rapprochement with Putin’s Russia today,” says Shields. Policy-wise, this could mean drawing a line under what Fillon has called “ineffective” EU sanctions against Russia over Crimea and for a new geopolitical alliance with Russia to help end the Syrian conflict, as well as terrorism by ISIS at home and abroad.

Le Pen, meanwhile, “admires Putin’s strongman image, nationalist agenda and approach to global affairs,” he adds. She’s also in favor, according to David Bell, emeritus professor of French government and politics at Leeds University, of returning to the great European nation states of yore, which puts Russia front and center alongside France. Le Pen has defended the annexation of Crimea and promised to work closely with Putin, he adds.

Macron also wants closer ties with Russia and to lift sanctions — “so Moscow wouldn’t be too disappointed to see the momentum swing from Fillon to Macron, with Le Pen picking up some too,” says Shields, noting how Fillon’s dip in the polls helps both Macron and Le Pen. Either way, “Putin can sleep easy.”

All three candidates see Russia as a powerful friend for facing global crises, and Fillon has already been trying to get Merkel to ease up on Russia to help “cultivate a new alliance to tackle Islamist terrorism and other international challenges,” says Shields. There’s also a case being made for not being shut out. If Trump and Putin get along as well as pundits suggest, a U.S.–Russian alliance could weaken the EU’s influence in Washington. So Fillon is likely to push for a new security and economic cooperation between the EU and Russia — an about-face on today’s attempts to isolate Russia and contain Moscow’s influence. And in return? Some believe this could mean the West will increasingly recognize Russia’s sphere of influence in its “near-abroad,” says Shields.

Robert Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank, worries this would be demoralizing to Central and Eastern European countries “who will see a general rapprochement between Russia and the West as a signal that they, too, will be forced to acquiesce to Russia in light of less support from Paris, Washington and so on,” he says. Alexander Motyl, politics professor at Rutgers University-Newark, agrees. “Trump’s bromance with Putin will terrify all the East Europeans,” he says, adding that a pro-Russian French policy will just “strengthen Trump’s romantic inclinations.” 

Not everyone agrees that a Fillon win will lead to huge changes. Despite Fillon’s rhetoric, Bell reckons that the French politician would simply open a promised “dialogue” with Russia. “Dialogue and a dime will get you a good cup of coffee,” he jokes. But he acknowledges that Fillon is Gaullist and that if he rekindles the Gaullist notion that France and Russia have a natural affinity and that NATO infringes upon French sovereignty, there could be an upset in European power dynamics. And if Le Pen wins? She aims to disrupt the EU and see a resurgence of the European nation states and great powers, Bell explains. So, while Le Pen is unlikely to get a majority in parliament, if she wins, “all bets are off.” 

Top NBA Prospects From the D-League Showcase

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Mississauga, Ontario, may not spring to mind for world-class hoops. But don’t be fooled — Toronto’s eternally gray neighbor and home of the Raptors’ minor league affiliate, Raptors 905, recently hosted the best collection of professional basketball prospects.

The NBA 2017 D-League Showcase is minor league basketball’s premier event and a coming-out party for future NBAers. Twenty-two teams compete in the NBA’s development league, each affiliated with a parent organization that plucks players who prove their worth. Halfway into every season, the league holds this five-day event for NBA scouts and international executives looking to spot — and poach — the next diamond in the rough. Last year, 32 players were promoted from the D-League to the NBA; four of those call-ups occurred during the 2015–2016 Showcase. In total, 132 NBA players have earned their stripes in the D-League. 

Here are OZY’s favorite D-League prospects. Some are top prospects; some are sleepers. We think all will soon have permanent NBA homes.

Brianté Weber, Sioux Falls Skyforce (Miami Heat)

Weber has already proven he can play in the NBA — he just needs to stay healthy. From 2010 to 2015, Weber starred at VCU, leading the upstart Rams deep into March Madness with his ferocious defense. A brutal knee injury cut his senior season short, 12 steals shy of becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader. Weber had a great first pro season last year, earning six games (four starts) with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. His length and athleticism make him a versatile defensive point guard who excels as a rebounder (7.6 per game) and distributor (7.2 assists per game) and can score as needed (15.2 points). Weber is widely considered the top D-League prospect. Watch for the skinny guard’s ponytail to fly around Miami.

Dakari Johnson, Oklahoma City Blue (OKC Thunder)

College fans remember Johnson from his 2013–2015 run at Kentucky, where he helped UK reach two Final Fours and became one of seven teammates drafted in 2015. Johnson was the consensus top center in America out of high school, but due to a loaded roster, he was largely relegated to a backup role in Lexington. The Thunder drafted Johnson, hoping that increased D-League playing time would help the 7-footer soar. So far, so good: As a starter for the Blue, Johnson has become the D-League’s best young big man. He’ll have to build more strength as he matures, but his current 18 points and eight rebounds per game should land him on an NBA roster

Abdel Nader, Maine Red Claws (Boston Celtics)

Most D-Leaguers fall into two categories: young, undisciplined athletes or veterans who can’t keep an NBA job. Neither applies to Nader, a wily decision-maker who defends well and shoots 40 percent from three. At 23, he’s older than most D-League rookies. The 6′8″ point forward has excellent court vision and a controlled style of play that would suggest a background in international competition. The Chicago-raised Egyptian native is not as flashy as other D-League stars, but he has a chance to be a forceful contributor for many years. Nader, who averages 22 points, six rebounds and four assists per game, is the most NBA-ready prospect to have not yet made the big league. 

Quinn Cook, Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers)

LeBron James politely reminded Cavaliers management recently that his team still needed better point guard play. While he probably wasn’t asking for a D-League call-up, that may well be what he gets. In his second D-League season, Cook, the former Duke national champ, has been lights out. He averages 25 points per game, along with half a dozen assists and 4.5 rebounds. His game is clearly more mature than most competitors’ and ready for the next level. 

Axel Toupane, Toronto Raptors 905 (Toronto Raptors)

Toupane is a 6′7″ French swingman who can flat-out score, even with limited opportunities. At 16.6 points per game, he tops the league-leading Raptors 905 in scoring. The 905 are equal-opportunity scorers — evidenced by a cast of five double-digit scorers — but every so often Toupane decides to take over. He’s an excellent rim attacker from the wing and a comfortable distributor with a formidable deep shot. Toupane’s length makes him a capable defender at multiple positions, so long as he stops gambling on boneheaded steal attempts. He began his pro career as a 19-year-old in France, and he’s steadily improved every season since. Watch for an NBA contract to come from Toronto.  

Alfonzo McKinnie, Windy City Bulls (Chicago Bulls)

Most scouts consider McKinnie a “project” because, up until this season, he was a relative unknown. The 24-year-old Chicagoan’s college career was stunted by recurring knee injuries. Postcollege, he “pretty much went off the grid,” says Windy City Bulls coach Nate Loenser. McKinnie played a season each in Luxembourg and Mexico before attending an open tryout for the expansion franchise Bulls this off-season. Now, he’s starring for the D-League Bulls and has a legitimate chance for promotion to his hometown parent organization. At 6′8″ and 215 pounds, he’s a bit small to play power forward and is still developing an NBA-quality three-point shot. But he possesses freakish athleticism, is an impressive defender and rebounder and creates his own opportunities.

Jalen Jones, Maine Red Claws (Boston Celtics)

Jones went undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2016, but after seeing him in action, you wonder how. The “tweener” label is likely the culprit — a name given to forwards who are too small to play inside and not quite skilled enough to hold the perimeter. That was the scouting report on Jones out of college, but halfway through his first pro season, he has improved his outside shooting tremendously and can still push around larger opponents through sheer will. Jones is a high-energy ball hawk and a vocal defensive leader. It’s just a matter of time.

This Emerging Composer Is Opera’s Next Big Star

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Composer Missy Mazzoli’s epiphany arrived at an early age. She was 16, sitting on her bed at home in rural Pennsylvania, listening to Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking “Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments.”

“I felt like, ‘Oh I know what’s going on here. I understand this. This is making sense to me,’ ” Mazzoli remembers thinking. Just then, her younger sister entered the room and pulled a sour face. “She was like, ‘This isn’t music,’ and I said, ‘No, it is!’ It all had a kind of order to it instead of sounding like chaos, which is how it seemed to sound to her.”

Her little sister’s attitude toward classical music mirrors that of much of America’s — but Mazzoli herself may be on the verge of changing that. The 36-year-old composer, described by TimeOut New York as “Brooklyn’s post-Millennial Mozart,” has seen her work performed by classical music’s A-list, including Kronos Quartet, Maya Beiser, the L.A. Philharmonic and New York Opera. Unlike the blink-blonky, atonal endurance tests that can define modern classical music, her style blends electronic and traditional instruments, punctuating ethereal textures with dramatic dissonant crashes, challenging listeners while also inviting them into the fold. In January, Breaking the Waves, her second full-length opera, made its New York premiere at the Prototype Festival at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, solidifying her standing as one of opera’s best new talents.

David Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia, where Mazzoli is composer-in-residence and spent three years developing Breaking the Waves, sees her as a rare talent in the opera world. “She’s part of a handful of emerging composers who are now the authors of the future of opera and are adding their own unique voices to the form,” Devan says.  

Based on the 1996 Lars von Trier film of the same name, Breaking the Waves tells the story of a deeply religious young woman’s sexual awakening. After the man she falls in love with is paralyzed in an oil-rig accident, he encourages her to take other lovers and relay her experiences back to him. The promiscuous turn, however, proves disastrous, resulting in tragedy that New York Times critic Zachary Woolfe likened to Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In writing Waves, “I really felt like I’ve found the place where I was supposed to be,” Mazzoli says.

“It is not easy to find new operas that command attention, tell their story lucidly and create a powerful, permeating mood,” Woolfe wrote in his Times review. “Dark and daring, Breaking the Waves does all this with sensitivity and style.” The same adjectives could also be used to describe Mazzoli’s teaming with Victoire, an ensemble dedicated to performing her work that has featured such noted musicians as Bryce Dessner (The National), percussionist Glenn Kotche (Wilco) and producer and composer Lorna Dune.  

I’m a 36-year-old woman living in Brooklyn in 2016. There’s a lot of the classical tradition that does not work for me. 

Mazzoli herself is at home in many forms, writing for orchestras, operas and VictoireOn stage, the group utilizes synthesizers, drum machines, clarinet, violin and vocals to create music that sometimes feels like Philip Glass at a rave. “I’m a 36-year-old woman living in Brooklyn in 2016. There’s a lot of the classical tradition that does not work for me,” she says. “I’m interested in what’s going on in the noise scene, the more experimental music scene, the improvisation scene in jazz — you’re just surrounded by music of all kinds all the time.” 

To be sure, classical music has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, with composers like Mazzoli, Dessner and Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood all eager to further dismantle the barriers that have kept genres from mingling. But in the particularly staid world of opera, where precious few new compositions reach the stage, let alone remain for longer than a brief run, debate still rages over whether postmodern compositions will ever be embraced by audiences. “It’s challenging, complicated music to respect, not to love,” David Gockley, San Francisco Opera’s general director, told WQXR’s podcast “Conducting Business.” Mazzoli somehow manages to straddle that divide, in part because of the “emotional current” that librettist Royce Vavrek feels running through her work. “She has an amazing ability to use her music as a dramatic engine in the operas we’ve created together,” Vavrek says. “What’s so exciting about the new music world right now is that it pays to be unique, bold, radical.” 

Opera’s convention of staging dramatic stories has helped ground Mazzoli’s compositions, and she pushes it forward today by integrating narratives of a modern time. Devan calls her a “dramatist, like Verdi,” and not just a composer. Opera News critic David Shengold, who calls Breaking the Waves “one of the best operas gestated in this century,” sees the time Mazzoli spent at Opera Philadelphia as integral to her understanding of “large theatrical forms played in larger spaces.” Her highly anticipated next opera is Proving Up, which is set to premiere in 2018 at Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha and the Miller Theater in New York. Based on a short story by genre-bending author Karen Russell, the opera chronicles the hardships faced by a family of homesteaders heading out west just after the Civil War and examines the mythology behind the American Dream

Away from the stage, Mazzoli’s Brooklyn apartment serves as a rehearsal space and laboratory. It’s cluttered with amplifiers, keyboards and overflowing bookcases; the cozy living room has a funky mixture of ornate moldings and framed pictures of Frida Kahlo. It’s here, in this unassuming home, that Mazzoli is staking her claim in opera’s future.

Chinese RV Tourists Take to America’s Open Roads

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In 2009, the manager of Beijing-based Ntours International, Lin Yang, embarked on a familiarization trip with a group of Chinese tourists. Instead of hiring a tour bus and a flag-waving guide, Yang and his travelers flew from the Chinese capital to San Francisco, where they rented recreational vehicles (RVs). Their game plan? To visit Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in one epic road trip. With limited English and little experience driving the giant, diesel-powered vehicles, the group battled a few metaphorical potholes — like language barriers and the rules of the road — before eventually settling into their new travel style. Today, Yang estimates that there are 60,000 members of Ntours International who are interested in these “self-driving” vacations. “It breaks the cultural and language barriers between people,” he says.

The rise in the popularity of international RV vacations for seasoned Chinese travelers is due to the country’s rapidly improving standard of living, paired with fewer barriers to travel in the U.S., such as the advent in 2014 of a 10-year multiple-entry visa for Chinese tourists. According to Joe Laing, the director of marketing at El Monte RV, a popular rental dealer for Chinese visitors to Los Angeles County, “The U.S. is kind of considered the homeland for the RV industry, and where else can you rent a 45-foot diesel motorhome and drive it around like a tour bus for a rock star with your family?”

In their eagerness to see America, some Chinese RV road trippers may rush from stop to stop, soaking up the experience at breakneck speeds.

RVs first entered the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers with the 1999 film Be There or Be Square, a romantic comedy that follows a Beijing native living out of an RV in Los Angeles. But car ownership, let alone RV rental, has not always been the norm in China. In 2000 there were just four million cars distributed among a population of 1.3 billion, according to The Guardian. Now, China is the largest auto manufacturer in the world, with more than 280 million vehicles and 327 million drivers in 2015, according to its Ministry of Public Security.

On the road again … Chinese RV enthusiasts roll through Yellowstone National Park on a trip through the western United States.

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Chinese RVers make a pit stop to pose in the great outdoors on their tour of Yellowstone.

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In the late 2000s, RV travel began to gain popularity in China. Unlike RV travel in the U.S., many Chinese RVs are stationary — parked in campsites in what’s known as “destination camping.” Large groups of travelers, sometimes 20 strong, organize online in chatrooms for “lvyou,” or self-driving tourists. Members then gather at toll-road entrances in cars and caravan to their chosen campsites, meeting new friends and enjoying an accessible form of RVing.

 

The Chinese RVers who embark for America are looking for a much more adventurous experience. Middle- and upper-class groups of adults and sometimes families — often from Beijing — fly into western U.S. cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Chicago also is a popular starting point due to its access to the famed Route 66. Trips typically last 12 days, with the most popular travel times centered around the country’s National Day (Oct. 1), which is celebrated with a weeklong holiday called Golden Week. El Monte RV has streamlined the rental process for the Chinese market with an instructional video in Chinese, vehicles outfitted with rice cookers and directions to the nearest 99 Ranch Market, a popular Chinese supermarket chain.

Like Yang’s initial trip, these RV excursions can generate some inadvertent adventures. In August 2016 San Diego news stations reported that a “self-driving” Chinese tourist had unintentionally been caught up in a high-speed police chase, with the driver unaware that flashing lights and screaming sirens meant he was supposed to pull over. Luckily for all, the chase ended without injury or citation, but the incident does raise issues about the preparedness of Chinese drivers and their potential impact on the safety of unsuspecting locals tooling along highways and byways. 

In their eagerness to see America, Yang notes that some Chinese RV road trippers may rush from stop to stop, soaking up the experience at breakneck speeds. He explains that it takes a lot of time and money to come all the way from China to the U.S., resulting in high expectations and packed itineraries. Further, most RVs have speed caps that max out at 75 mph and, over the years, many Chinese tourists have asked Yang what’s wrong with their vehicles — why don’t they go faster?

One of the most meaningful parts of RV trips is interacting with fellow travelers. When you park in a camp, Yang says, you never know who your neighbor will be — perhaps another Chinese, an American or someone from a completely different part of the world. At night, travelers meet and greet one another, possibly sharing food or a bonfire. “Although most of our customers do not speak English well, through gestures and body language they somehow figure out a way to communicate with foreigners,” Yang says. “Our customers not only make new friends while learning about other cultures, but also sometimes they find new opportunities for work or even become business partners.”

Last year the Chinese government announced that it wants to build 2,000 campgrounds by 2020, up from an estimated 300, according to Craig Kirby, senior vice president of government relations and general counsel of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Says Kirby: “When we started [in China] no one knew what RVing was, and now the government references RVing and camping in its Five-Year Plan.”

— Translations by Xiaoying “Nicole” Zhang

Strange Times at Innovative Program High

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Nothing reveals as much about a society, and its future, as its high schools. Yet amid accelerating change — widening inequality, unprecedented globalization and technological advances — high schools have lagged woefully behind. There are, of course, exceptions. Follow OZY’s special seriesHigh School, Disrupted to find out about the global leaders, cutting-edge trends and big ideas reimagining secondary education — for the better.

Instead of the snoozefest that is first period, mornings at Innovative Program High School began with psychocalisthenics and tai chi stretches.

That’s just where the differences between traditional schools and this 1970s education experiment began. In 1970, a handful of teachers set up shop on the campus of the public University High School in Los Angeles and created an offshoot, with philosophical underpinnings like Zen, Erhard Seminars Training (aka Est, which gained prominence in the ’70s) and Scientology. Admittance was by lottery at first; in the school’s tenure, the ranks grew from some 100 students to around 200. Little, if anything, was typical about the school, which survived long enough to see Nixon’s resignation, the Vietnam War end and the 1973 oil crisis.

A conference with a teacher … could become a debate over one’s deserved grade.

At IPS, grades weren’t traditional. A conference with a teacher, for example, could become a debate over one’s deserved grade. If your argument stunk, “you wouldn’t get a grade,” former IPS student Karen Hampton says. Reasoning and rhetoric were key. Hampton recalls earning an A in a class taught by one of the school co-founders Fred Holtby — students called him by his first name — and being elated.

So were extracurricular activities the way to stack your résumé, as they are today? Not in the least. There were no clubs at IPS, says former student Joel Drucker. There were many types of students, according to Michael Apstein, who also attended IPS. Some were too smart to be engaged by typical classes; others bombed out of school because of family issues or chemical difficulties and needed something else.

Experimental education existed in the United States long before IPS. The modern birth of educational experiments began with John Dewey’s progressive education back in the 1890s. The core of progressive education formed a Montessori-like approach: hands-on learning, personalized accountability and emphasis on critical thinking rather than learning by rote, aka memorization.    

At IPS, sometimes the students learned from one another. Other times, the faculty taught what they called “frames,” a perspective-focused class that eschewed traditional tests. Some activities were built to break a person’s crunch-o-meter. “We’d have weekly withholds,” says former student Laurie Wagner. “It was a chance to go up to another student and talk about something you had been keeping from them. Maybe you had a crush on them, or maybe they had said something that hurt you. It was a weekly chance to clear all of that.”

Then there was an exercise in some classes called the “death process,” Drucker says. Students would lie down and close their eyes while peers talked like they were at their funeral. “There was a philosophy behind IPS and an exploration of what it is to be a human that was completely foreign to the regular curriculum of high school,” says musician and former IPS student Paul Roessler. The different curriculum meant that the transition to college was difficult for some. “I have a lot of friends from IPS who I know would tell you college was a shock to them,” Apstein says. Some traditional abilities lagged behind. “Some of the skills, because we didn’t do as much writing, were made up for later,” Hampton says.  

Sure, it was the ’70s, and plenty of drugs were in play even if drug use wasn’t condoned by the teachers. Affluent schools, Hampton says, saw students smoking pot and taking mushrooms or other mind-expanding drugs. “Inner-city schools would get cracked down, but anyone who knew, knew more was going on at affluent schools,” she says. But mostly, Drucker says, love and emotional intelligence were honed at the school. Hugs abounded. Drucker, who used to play tennis competitively, says he remembers two IPS teachers playing tennis and not taking advantage of their opportunities. He critiqued one of their shots for not being aggressive enough, and the teacher told him, “Oh no, this is cooperative competition. We’re not about winning at all costs. That’s what cost Richard Nixon.”

The school dabbled in religion, layering in Zen, Est and Scientology (the first Scientology church opened in Los Angeles in 1954). “Est and Scientology were both parts of the program, but sort of veiled,” Wagner says. “I think they picked parts that they thought would be the most helpful to us.” Later, Scientology received more emphasis, but many students weren’t buying it. “I left five weeks into [my senior year] because of Scientology — I was not getting involved in that,” Hampton says.

By 1978, IPS was nearing its end. A new principal at parent school University High was determined to end the experiment. Students knew the fate of their school, and at graduation, when the principal of Uni High handed out IPS diplomas, the students enjoyed one final act of defiance to the establishment. “Our rebellion was to not shake his hand when he gave us the diploma,” Drucker says.

Frank Sinatra’s Favorite Sub Sandwiches

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity who hasn’t been to the White House. George Clooney, Jimmy Fallon, Mr. T, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah. If you’re not impressed yet, I don’t mean that White House, but rather a small, family-owned sub shop in a slightly sketchy backstreet of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the bright lights of the gigantic Caesars casino a couple of blocks away are still visible.

The owners of White House estimate that since its opening in 1946, the tiny deli has served up more than 25 million hearty subs. And boy, do they mean hearty. After waiting in line for 20-plus minutes to get a booth, I ordered a “whole” rather than a “half,” wondering if it would be enough to satisfy my ravenous appetite. When the server brought my warm chicken Parm sandwich, overflowing with meat and sauce and measuring a whopping 2 feet long, precariously balanced across four paper plates, it was clear that my $15.30 had not gone to waste. “Some people even order two wholes,” she said when she saw my expression.

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WTF America? thought the Fab Four when they visited in 1964. 

Source Courtesy of White House Subs

The classic Italian joint has barely changed in 70 years: It’s owned and managed by the families of founder Tony Basile and his business partner, Fritz Sacco. If general manager Wayne Richardson — who married into the Sacco family — wants to change anything, from a recipe to a radio, he has to first run it past the family elders, he says. As a result, the decor — white wooden booths with gaudy orange leather trim — doesn’t just look vintage, it is vintage. The White House is as unpretentious as it comes in a city where gems are more often polished and adorned with neon than they are hidden away: Printouts using Windows ’98 WordArt are slotted into the napkin holders, proudly commemorating 60 years of the deli’s history (they clearly haven’t been updated in 10 years). Faded photos, covering every available space on the wall, show celebrity after celebrity who found their way to the White House after a show in one of the city’s casinos or clubs. A photo of the Beatles collectively holding up a 6-foot sub hangs above the cash-only register, and Frank Sinatra’s towel from his last performance in the city is framed and has pride of place.

In the summer, fresh bread comes in the door about every 30 minutes.

The celebs started coming to the White House from day one, with Sinatra and Dean Martin being early adopters. They came for the food, says Richardson — the place has served premium Italian meat, cheese and fresh-baked white sub rolls from the same two local bakeries since its opening. In the summer, fresh bread comes in the door about every 30 minutes. “There’s something about the Atlantic City water or humidity or something that makes those Italian rolls so damn good,” Richardson says. He might be onto something — the city has won international drinking water events.

 

But the golden age of the seaside resort is long gone: The White House “has seen a drop of business with Atlantic City going the way it has gone,” says Richardson, and even the city’s prized drinking water is at risk from the municipality’s financial problems. The White House knows the city’s troubles firsthand: The only move away from the original building was in 2011, when an outlet was opened in the now-bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal casino and hotel. The owners have left that restaurant fully equipped, should the casino ever reopen.

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White House is famous for its premium Italian meats and freshly baked bread

Source Courtesy of White House Subs

In the meantime, the original location keeps attracting both hopeful celeb-spotters and the hungry. My own sandwich was delicious (Richardson is right about the bread), from first bite to last. Even though it did take me three days to finish it.

This Land Was Made for You and Me

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Full disclosure: We at OZY have a soft spot for immigrants.

It’s not just that the company, though based in the United States, has strived to be global from the moment it began. It’s personal. Some of us were born outside the United States, in Colombia or Ukraine or India or, yes, Canada. Some of our spouses were born in other countries. And plenty of us are second-generation Americans, which is to say that our parents came here from a different country and probably speak English with an accent.

And if not them —  then our grandparents, or great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents or great-great-great-grandparents or great-great-great-great-grandparents. Just like the vast majority of the people who live here in the United States. And so: The president’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and his several-months-long ban on immigrants from a handful of majority-Muslim nations saddened us deeply. So did the chaos, confusion and humiliation he created for green-card holders this weekend. 

It is a coincidence that today’s issue includes a profile of a scientist and Egyptian immigrant trying to bring democratic change to his homeland. But today, as the president’s order on immigration begins to wend its way through the courts, we very deliberately bring you some of our favorite pieces on newcomers, refugee seekers and the people who offer them sanctuary — or deny it. 

A Recipe for a Melting Pot, by JFK runs down John F. Kennedy’s posthumously published pamphlet, which argued that the United States is, to its core, a nation of immigrants. It is also, alas, a nation of xenophobes. 

The Saddest Ship Afloat, and America’s Response to Refugees takes us back to 1939, when the United States, fearing instability, turned away a ship full of people fleeing the Holocaust. Many consider it a dark stain on the national consequence. 

A Very Refugee Thanksgiving tells the stories of some recent refugees as they settle in for their first Thanskgiving — the most quintessentially American holiday there is. 

Why Trump’s Real Supreme Court Fight Is the Next One

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President Trump is expected to reveal his selection to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court this week. Then the fun begins: Dirt excavation, senatorial speechifying, marches in the streets, presidential tweets. And the legal challenges surrounding Trump’s recent executive order on immigration only heighten the stakes. But this circus is a mere warm-up act for Act 2: the next confirmation fight.

Two Names to Remember: Robert Bork and Merrick Garland

In 1987, Ronald Reagan nominated Bork, an archconservative federal appeals court judge to replace the moderate Lewis Powell. The Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by a fella named Joe Biden, picked apart his record in a process amped up by liberal pressure groups that painted Bork as holding out-of-bounds views on race and gender. He was voted down — an outcome that has become a Washington verb, to get “borked” — and helped accelerate Congress’ ultrapartisan flame wars against presidential nominees, as the nominees themselves have become more circumspect. The opening eventually went to Anthony Kennedy, the swing justice who has sided with liberals to advance gay rights and protect abortion rights.

Trump has already said he would support going nuclear on his forthcoming Court pick.

Last March, Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of the conservative Scalia. While Garland’s moderate record was supposed to lure Senate Republicans, they instead declined to even hold a hearing, saying the vacancy should be filled by the next president.

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Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork listens during a panel discussion.

Source Alex Wong/Getty

Democrats are eager for some Garland payback, but don’t expect them to unanimously oppose Trump’s nominee out of the gate. (And because they’re in the minority, they cannot deny a hearing.) George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder says Democrats’ willingness to block the nominee rests on their ability to paint him or her as Bork 2.0 — “outside the mainstream of judicial thinking.”

 

The Nuclear Trigger and the Status Quo

When Democrats were trying to push through Obama’s nominees, they changed Senate rules to allow nearly all to be approved with a simple majority. The 60-vote filibuster threshold remains intact for Supreme Court nominees, but the precedent is there for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke what’s known as the “nuclear option” to alter the rules again. Trump has already said he would support going nuclear on his forthcoming Court pick. The dance, then, has already begun. Democrats are unlikely to bait the Republicans into going nuclear unless they determine the nominee to be egregious. And in order to make the procedural move to change the rules, Republicans must overcome concerns among institutionalists: Six GOP senators have been in office for at least 30 years, oscillating between minority and majority status.

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U.S. Supreme Court nominee and chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Merrick Garland (right) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) greet one another.

Source Chip Somodevilla//Getty

Trump has vowed to pick his nominee from a list of 20 conservative-approved names he released during the campaign. But it’s nigh impossible for Trump to pick a stronger conservative than Scalia, who beyond his votes was a withering inquisitor who wrote colorfully in defense of interpreting the Constitution as the framers intended, leaving a lasting influence throughout the judiciary.

Prepping for Round Two

While Trump’s pick this time won’t shift the Court’s ideological tectonic plates, the next one could be an earthquake. Barring a sudden death, all eyes are on Kennedy, 80, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83. Retirement announcements typically come around when the Court gavels out in June. The fate of many issues that have seen a one-vote margin would be at stake — affirmative action, same-sex marriage — but abortion is going to attract the most attention. Trump has said he would appoint justices who will overturn the legally shaky 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “We take him at his word,” says NARAL Pro-Choice America national communications director Kaylie Hanson Long.

The group is digging into the women’s rights records of possible justices and will press senators while engaging a million-strong list of “member activists.” The nationwide women’s marches the day after Trump’s inauguration already provided a jolt of energy. Long says NARAL will pay close attention to what questions senators ask of the first Trump nominee, and, if confirmed, how that person rules from the bench. “We’ll be taking all of those things into account for the next one.”

The Best Documentaries at Sundance

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The good. The bad. The must-see. 

This year, the Sundance Film Festival has a particularly strong crop of documentaries about subjects from around the world. Japan? Got it. Hong Kong? Yup. In the past, the massive fest has been the perfect platform to vault many docs into fame, including The Wolfpack, The Invisible War and What Happened, Miss Simone?

Here’s a list of the best docs this year. Meanwhile, start twiddling your thumbs until you can see them. 

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (Hong Kong)

The Skinny

Bought by Netflix, this documentary follows Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most infamous dissident of China. The film takes place during Wong’s teenage years (he’s 20 now), when he begins an activist group against National Education, a pro-China curriculum that was successfully stopped, and later ignites a movement to bring true democracy to Hong Kong. 

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. Not discussed in the film, there was a controversial art installation in 2016 — a countdown that ticked down to the end of the promise between China and Hong Kong to remain one country, but two systems. That installation was promptly shut down. 
  2. Try to Google this movie in China and you’ll likely come up with … nothing. China reportedly has blocked searches for the term “Joshua Wong.”
  3. Wouldn’t it be great if Wong and Malala got married? 
  4. The footage is incredible — long shots of the protests, up-close interviews with Joshua and his fellow activists — mixed in with news clips.
  5. Though the film compares Tiananmen Square and Joshua’s own protests, it’s kind of wonderful — Joshua wasn’t even alive for the 1989 Tiananmen Square events.  
 

STEP (U.S.) 

The Skinny

This will possibly be the most endearing documentary of the year. Two plotlines drive the story simultaneously. The first: The high schoolers are attending a new school that has pledged to send all students to college; the year being documented marks the first graduating senior class. The second plotline: There’s an end-of-year step competition that the young women desperately want to win. The film was acquired by Fox Searchlight for distribution and also for remake rights, reportedly.  

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. This movie reminds us a little bit of Mad Hot Ballroom (2005), which actually premiered at the alternative festival, Slamdance. Thank God it did, because we’d completely forgotten this movie and now have to go back and watch.
  2. The director, Amanda Lipitz, is a double (triple, even?) threat. She also has cred in television and Broadway as a producer. 
  3. Freddie Gray and Black Lives Matter are the backdrop of the film, distinguishing the young women’s confidence and fortitude even further.

Tokyo Idols (Japan) 

The Skinny

This examination of pop culture — J-Pop and “Idols” (young girls who perform, often for obsessed older men, and then hold meet-and-greets afterward) — delves into fame, gender, romance and even the economy in Japan. The story mainly follows Rio, an Idol with a few (but not a ton of) huge fans, who wants to become a singer. The male fans spend their income on her and her CDs — one says he could get an apartment if he wasn’t supporting Rio — toeing the line between being paternalistic, brotherly and perhaps a bit sexual. 

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. By the end of the film, it’s less like the men are creepy and more like they’re just sad and lonely.
  2. We take it back. The scene where men are cheering on adolescent girls as they parade around in costume is absolutely creepy.  
  3. This is the first Sundance for director Kyoko Miyake, who grew up in Japan but moved to the U.K. to study the history of witchcraft and has lived outside of Japan since. Seriously. 
  4. This is probably a movie that will do far, far better in America than in Japan.

Whose Streets? (U.S.)

The Skinny

This film documents two years in Ferguson in the aftermath of Michael Brown Jr.’s killing, and absolutely skewers the media coverage of the events. When I saw it, part of the crowd gave it a standing ovation — a reaction that should make anyone excited about this film. 

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. “This ain’t yo’ daddy’s civil rights movement” is the quote of the film. Potentially the best quote for this year.
  2. One of the film’s two directors grew up in East St. Louis, right across the river from Ferguson.
  3. A ton was filmed. Not everything of the estimated 400 hours made it into the movie.
  4. This is part of an emerging trend in documentary film — one that tells the truth(s) of the world by using social media, cellphone footage and more to tell all the different sides. 

Casting JonBenet (U.S., but directed by an Australian) 

The Skinny

This documentary is about the conspiracy theories around who killed JonBenét Patricia Ramsey, a beauty pageant queen who was killed in her home in Colorado at the age of 6. You’ll be able to watch it on Netflix.

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. The film’s form is becoming increasingly popular. It tells the story of JonBenét, but through a frame of “casting” the film about her and her family. Other docs that have followed a similar method include Kate Plays Christine from last year’s fest.
  2. The director, Kitty Green, is Australian and says she’s always been interested in the case — and that lots of people in Australia are. 
  3. The beauty of the film is that it was shot in Colorado, near the killing, so all the actors trying to get the roles are well aware of the case and provide their own thoughts on what happened.
  4. The case occurred more than 20 years ago and it’s never been solved.