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Fight Club, Fleabag and The Battle Against Toxicity

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Phenomenal piece from Sarah Gorr on “Fight Club”, “Fleabag” and The Battle Against Toxicity. Within the essay Gorr examines her affinity for Fight Club, the film's failure to stick the landing and how Fleabag both supports and supplants the ideas within.

I've always hated how Fight Club was co-opted by individuals that saw it as a Bible for "how men should be" but could never articulate it quite as well as Gorr has here:
At its core, Fight Club wants to be a skewering of both modern life and toxic masculinity. After all, in the end, the narrator not only rejects Tyler and his philosophy in favor of Marla and a future where he takes responsibility for his actions, he kills him. Tyler and his violent misogyny are rejected. Tyler dies. This is text. But it just can’t help but feel like a half-hearted attempt at that text. In trying to skewer toxicity, it replicates it so seductively. Part of it is inescapably in the way Brad Pitt’s magnetism radiates on screen. But Tyler also keeps offering these efficiently quotable little nuggets of violent anti-consumerist philosophy (many of which would later go on to be used by the alt-right).

...

As much as the film wants to criticize this desire, it yearns for it, too. Worse, it offers no real alternative. There’s no real empathy in the film for Norton’s growth, nor is there any real change in his character, he just keeps echoing the same vague notions that all this has gone “too far.” So, of course, his words end up ringing hollow. Especially for a film that “kills” Tyler, but then still has him with us in a meta sense as he sneaks a few frames of a penis into the final shot. And it’s all part of the reason the ending can’t help but feel like a get out of jail free card; a limp in-text defense for a movie that’s hellbent on having its cake and eating it too.
Absolutely. The film attempts to shine a light on all the things wrong with the kind of toxic masculine behavior it depicts but, in the end, just glorifies it.

It's an excellent read, particularly when she compares and contrasts the themes of Fight Club against the pain, the displacement and misbehavior of Fleabag. There's plenty of overlap but with quite different results.

TLDR: Do read.
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CallMeWilliam
20 hours ago
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I'll be reading this; for sure, Fight Club was seductive and, in the end, not quite right.
diannemharris
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Mathematicians

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Eternal gratitude to my patreon subscribers who realized that the original version of this had the wrong value. Nerds.


Today's News:
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skorgu
3 days ago
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coppersmith%E2%80%93Winograd_algorithm
CallMeWilliam
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acdha
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Washington, DC
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You're Not Going To Remember Any Of This Shit: Joker, Reviewed

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Image: Warner Bros. “The feeling that the future does not exist, that it is only more of the same, means all utopias are meaningless. Literature has always been relegated to utopia, so when utopia loses meaning, so does literature.” -Karl Ove Knausgaard, Min Kamp 1 “I’ve tried to find meaning

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CallMeWilliam
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The McKenzie Method for stretching will have your back and neck thanking you forever

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Pin It Good Sweat by Tehrene Firman , October 5, 2019 Pin It Photo: Getty Images / Cavan Images There are so many different ways to stretch. There’s dynamic stretching , stretches you can do in doorways that feel like full-body massages, movements specifically for your feet … it’s kind

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CallMeWilliam
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What’s Behind Warren’s Rise In The Polls?

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren has come a long way in the polls since the early days of her 2020 presidential campaign. Back in April, she was polling in the mid single digits nationally, but she now leads a number of national and early-state polls. And based on polls from September and August, Warren has expanded her support in a few overlapping directions — making inroads with groups and categories of voters she was previously struggling with. The result is that she is now positioned as the leading alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden. Here’s a look at where Warren has made inroads, so far:

Warren is appealing to more moderate voters now, too

Along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren has long been a favorite among more liberal voters. And since June, she’s actually been the top choice among very liberal voters, according to polling from Quinnipiac University. Now, however, there’s evidence she’s picking up support from more moderate voters, too. In the latest Quinnipiac national survey, Warren not only inched ahead of Biden in overall support from Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents, 27 percent to 25 percent, but she also beat him for the first time in Quinnipiac’s polling among somewhat liberal voters, capturing 30 percent of that group to Biden’s 19 percent. (She was also the clear second choice among moderate or conservative voters, although Biden still had a 10-point lead there.)

Earlier in September, I wrote that it was good for Warren that she was doing so well among very liberal voters, but that it probably wasn’t enough to carve out a path to the nomination as the Democratic Party is roughly evenly split between liberals and moderates. But now, it seems as if Warren’s appeal is broadening beyond her ideological base of very liberal supporters.

Quinnipiac isn’t the only pollster who found this, either. Monmouth University’s September national survey found that Warren led with 37 percent of the vote from liberal voters and was also in second place among moderate or conservative respondents with 20 percent support — 10 points behind Biden’s 30 percent. This marked an uptick of 4 percentage points among these moderate or conservative voters since Monmouth’s August poll. Additionally, the latest YouGov/Economist national poll pegged Warren as the first choice for 15 percent of moderates — some distance behind Biden’s 30 percent, though still in second place. But this was still about twice the level of Warren’s support among moderates in late August.

Warren is finally starting to make inroads with voters without a college degree

For the past couple of months, Warren has been the leading candidate for college-educated voters, particularly white ones,1 but there are now signs she’s garnering support from voters who aren’t college educated, too. This is important for Warren because a plurality of Democratic voters are white voters without a college degree, and they currently form a key constituency for Biden and Sanders. And in Quinnipiac’s latest survey, Warren had 26 percent support among non-college whites, which put her in a near-tie with Biden at 27 percent and ahead of Sanders’s 19 percent. By comparison, in Quinnipiac’s late-August survey, Warren had 20 percent to Biden’s 30 percent among non-college whites and was roughly tied with Sanders, who had 19 percent support among that group.

Fox News also found a slight improvement in Warren’s support among white voters without a college degree in its September survey: 19 percent support, compared to 15 percent in August, and she now sits just 5 percentage points behind Biden. Granted, these aren’t huge shifts we’re talking about — and we should be cautious with reading too much into the crosstabs because they have larger margins of error than the overall sample — but the trend has been consistent across a number of recent polls. Monmouth also found Warren’s support among voters (of all races) without a four-year degree went up from 17 percent in August to 24 percent in late September.

And if Warren is gaining among white voters who don’t have a college degree, it’s likely to the detriment of Biden and Sanders, who are the only other candidates who get at least double-digit support from this group. This is especially important in light of the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the Democratic primary, are predominantly white and, as a result, have a large share of white voters without a college degree. In fact, if we look at Democratic primary exit polls from 2016, half of Iowa caucus-goers weren’t college graduates, and 40 percent of New Hampshire primary voters fell into that category as well.2 So if Warren can keep improving her standing among whites without a college degree, it could help her chances in the first two contests, which could potentially catapult her to outright front-runner status early in 2020.

Warren is also winning over voters who aren’t white

Arguably the biggest threat to Warren’s chances at the nomination has been just how white her support is. She has consistently had low support among nonwhite voters, especially African Americans, who make up anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of the Democratic electorate. But polls now suggest Warren may be, at last, gaining traction. Quinnipiac’s past two national polls showed Warren’s support among black voters nearly doubled from 10 to 19 percent, and the most recent YouGov/Economist survey found her at 15 percent among African Americans compared to 9 percent in its final August poll. And Monmouth’s late September survey found her at 20 percent among nonwhites more broadly, up from 14 percent in August.

It’s worth noting, however, that Fox News’s August (13 percent) and September (11 percent) surveys showed virtually no change in Warren’s support among nonwhites. And though she might be eating into Biden’s support elsewhere, two new polls in South Carolina show Biden doing far, far better than Warren among black voters. A Winthrop University poll found Biden winning 46 percent of black voters to Warren’s 9 percent, while a Fox News survey had Biden at 50 percent compared to Warren’s 8 percent among that group. So while Warren has started to make inroads among nonwhite voters, we shouldn’t rush to overstate her improvement. She still has plenty of work to do to expand her support.

Warren is also maybe winning over some former Harris backers

This theory may be on less solid footing than the other ones I’ve floated so far, but I venture that at least some of Warren’s gains have come at the expense of Sen. Kamala Harris’s support, too. If we look at the last two months of national polls and split them into three different periods (each spanning three weeks) and calculate the polling average for Warren and Harris using polls from pollsters with at least a B- rating, according to FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings, you can see Warren and Harris have pretty clearly moved in opposite directions. Warren has moved from the mid-teens to the low 20s, while Harris has fallen from the high single digits to just the mid single digits.

And one reason to think that some of Harris’s supporters have moved into Warren’s camp is that they have tended to name Warren as their top second-choice candidate. In part, this is probably because there is some demographic overlap in their support — both candidates have a fair amount of backing from college-educated voters and more progressive voters.


To be clear, Biden is still leading in the polls, but the distance between him and Warren has narrowed considerably. And so while we’ll be keeping an eye on how things develop, it does seem like Warren has improved her position from where it was in April. She has done this, in part, by starting to build support from a broader coalition that includes more moderate voters, less-educated voters and some nonwhite voters, as well as some voters who supported Harris earlier in the campaign. There’s still a lot of progress left for Warren to make, particularly among voters of color, but for now, her trajectory for the 2020 Democratic nomination is moving in the right direction — up.

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CallMeWilliam
10 days ago
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Sharing for Brian.
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The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You

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Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.

The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households last year was only 23 percent, meaning that their combined tax payments equaled less than one quarter of their total income. This overall rate was 70 percent in 1950 and 47 percent in 1980.

For middle-class and poor families, the picture is different. Federal income taxes have also declined modestly for these families, but they haven’t benefited much if at all from the decline in the corporate tax or estate tax. And they now pay more in payroll taxes (which finance Medicare and Social Security) than in the past. Over all, their taxes have remained fairly flat.

The combined result is that over the last 75 years the United States tax system has become radically less progressive.

[Sign up for David Leonhardt’s daily newsletter with commentary on the news and reading suggestions from around the web.]

The data here come from the most important book on government policy that I’ve read in a long time — called “The Triumph of Injustice,” to be released next week. The authors are Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, both professors at the University of California, Berkeley, who have done pathbreaking work on taxes. Saez has won the award that goes to the top academic economist under age 40, and Zucman was recently profiled on the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine as “the wealth detective.”

They have constructed a historical database that tracks the tax payments of households at different points along the income spectrum going back to 1913, when the federal income tax began. The story they tell is maddening — and yet ultimately energizing.

“Many people have the view that nothing can be done,” Zucman told me. “Our case is, ‘No, that’s wrong. Look at history.’” As they write in the book: “Societies can choose whatever level of tax progressivity they want.” When the United States has raised tax rates on the wealthy and made rigorous efforts to collect those taxes, it has succeeded in doing so.

And it can succeed again.

Saez and Zucman portray the history of American taxes as a struggle between people who want to tax the rich and those who want to protect the fortunes of the rich. The story starts in the 17th century, when Northern colonies created more progressive tax systems than Europe had. Massachusetts even enacted a wealth tax, which covered financial holdings, land, ships, jewelry, livestock and more.

The Southern colonies, by contrast, were hostile to taxation. Plantation owners worried that taxes could undermine slavery by eroding the wealth of shareholders, as the historian Robin Einhorn has explained, and made sure to keep tax rates low and tax collection ineffective. (The Confederacy’s hostility to taxes ultimately hampered its ability to raise money and fight the Civil War.)

By the middle of the 20th century, the high-tax advocates had prevailed. The United States had arguably the world’s most progressive tax code, with a top income-tax rate of 91 percent and a corporate tax rate above 50 percent.

But the second half of the 20th century was mostly a victory for the low-tax side. Companies found ways to take more deductions and dodge taxes. Politicians cut every tax that fell heavily on the wealthy: high-end income taxes, investment taxes, the estate tax and the corporate tax. The justification for doing so was usually that the economy as a whole would benefit.

The justification turned out to be wrong. The wealthy, and only the wealthy, have done fantastically well over the last several decades. G.D.P. growth has been disappointing, and middle-class income growth even worse.

The American economy just doesn’t function very well when tax rates on the rich are low and inequality is sky high. It was true in the lead-up to the Great Depression, and it’s been true recently. Which means that raising high-end taxes isn’t about punishing the rich (who, by the way, will still be rich). It’s about creating an economy that works better for the vast majority of Americans.

In their book, Saez and Zucman sketch out a modern progressive tax code. The overall tax rate on the richest 1 percent would roughly double, to about 60 percent. The tax increases would bring in about $750 billion a year, or 4 percent of G.D.P., enough to pay for universal pre-K, an infrastructure program, medical research, clean energy and more. Those are the kinds of policies that do lift economic growth.

One crucial part of the agenda is a minimum global corporate tax of at least 25 percent. A company would have to pay the tax on its profits in the United States even if it set up headquarters in Ireland or Bermuda. Saez and Zucman also favor a wealth tax; Elizabeth Warren’s version is based on their work. And they call for the creation of a Public Protection Bureau, to help the I.R.S. crack down on tax dodging.

I already know what some critics will say about these arguments — that the rich will always figure out a way to avoid taxes. That’s simply not the case. True, they will always manage to avoid some taxes. But history shows that serious attempts to collect more taxes usually succeed.

Ask yourself this: If efforts to tax the super-rich were really doomed to fail, why would so many of the super-rich be fighting so hard to defeat those efforts?

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: <a href="mailto:letters@nytimes.com">letters@nytimes.com</a>.

Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.

David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardtFacebook

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CallMeWilliam
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diannemharris
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acdha
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