The Word Factory

Daily broadsides from The Baffler's just-in-time corps of knowledge workers

The Baffler’s Trump-Era Gift Guide

Hannah GaisDecember 21, 2016
“We're gonna be saying Merry Christmas.” —Donald Trump / pexels
“We're gonna be saying Merry Christmas.” —Donald Trump / pexels

Forcing the phrase “Merry Christmas” back to the forefront of American culture will make our liberal-infected country “great again,” insists president-elect Donald Trump—but somehow, we’re not feeling the cheer. Instead of masking our suffering with enough mulled wine and spiked eggnog to kill a small horse, we’ve opted for a less traditional, more “smarmy” route: the gift guide.

Decent Drapery

Gary GreenbergDecember 20, 2016
red tape
red tape

The first time it happened was a sunny afternoon early in the spring just after Barack Obama’s inauguration. I was fetching my mail from the post office, located in the wing of a house in the center of the village, right across the road from the town green.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 19, 2016
Mike Licht
Mike Licht

Was the Trump campaign’s decision to spend 3.2 million on badly-designed hats between July 2015 and September 2016 a good one? Over at the Fast CompanyBaffler art director Lindsay Ballant gives an insight into why it was indeed.

Breadwinners, Breadlosers

Stuart WhatleyDecember 19, 2016
statue of men in unemployment line
statue of men in unemployment line

Like a malevolent Mr. Magoo, Donald Trump continues to barrel incompetently, obtusely, and conveniently into economic windfalls. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported the lowest unemployment rate since 2007. At 4.6 percent, the American economy is at “full employment” by most economists’ standard.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 16, 2016
It seems more tasteful in French. / Dereckson
It seems more tasteful in French. / Dereckson

In Queensland, Australia, a horse named Party Till Dawn tested positive for methamphetamine. That makes the aptly-named mare “the only other horse in the state to test positive for methamphetamine was Island Tang in Mackay in October last year.” 

Cuba has found a curious way of paying off its debt to the Czech Republic: rum—specifically 276 million dollars worth.

Tech Meets Trump

Jacob SilvermanDecember 16, 2016
Hawaii Savvy
Hawaii Savvy

It’s clarifying to see the oligarchy assemble itself in the open. President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet selection show has offered a murderer’s row of venal billionaires, spousal abusers, wild-eyed ex-generals, Christian fundamentalists, racists, and the self-admittedly incompetent. Beyond a shared ideology, the common thread is Trump’s total obsession with money and success and his inability to see the world as anything but a series of business deals.

New American Feud

Nikkitha BakshaniDecember 16, 2016
Left: Watergate salad (pistachio pudding, pineapple juice, marshmallows). Right: New American (duck, something, something). /
Left: Watergate salad (pistachio pudding, pineapple juice, marshmallows). Right: New American (duck, something, something). /

The 1980s in America meant saying tata to Watergate salads and letting a bit more of the world into our national cuisine. Then, in a 1998 restaurant review in New York magazine, Hal Rubenstein recorded a plot twist in New York’s—and, by domino effect, America’s—culinary history: Tavern on the Green, “mother of all tourist restaurants,” was trying to win the hearts of sophisticated locals.

Comedy Gold, Man!

Chris LehmannDecember 15, 2016
americans4financialreform
americans4financialreform

How does a decades-old plutocratic convergence of power look to the hometown paper of America’s public-sector ruling class? Why, like a puckish plotline in a high-living thirties comedy of manners, or as fodder for a campy sci-fi horror punchline, that’s how!

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 14, 2016
Bill Gates: one of capitalisms teddy bears? / Red Maxwell
Bill Gates: one of capitalisms teddy bears? / Red Maxwell

Baffler contributing editor Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom has made the New York TimesTop Ten Books of 2016, where it was described as a “rich, arresting and ultimately generous memoir, [in which] Faludi—long known for her feminist journalism— tries to reconcile Steven, the overbearing patriarch her father once was, with Stefánie, the old woman she became.”

Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has joined Donald Trump’s economic advisory board.

Do Friedmans Dream of Electric Sheeple?

David V. JohnsonDecember 13, 2016
Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman’s books are distinctive for their awesome length and unrelenting banality—sort of like a tech-support chatbot that got a non-fiction MFA. But there’s a question to resolve: Is he a human being or an android?

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 12, 2016
Tommaso Meli
Tommaso Meli

Pankaj Mishra writes about the new angry world we live in, in which old liberal dichotomies no longer make sense. Quoting Tocqueville, he argues that “people liberated from old hierarchies ‘want equality in freedom, and, if they cannot get it, they still want it in slavery.’”

Teen Vogue’s latest piece of good political coverage is entitled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” and it’s worth reading:

Trump won the Presidency by gas light.

The Russia House

Max B. SawickyDecember 12, 2016
Russian meddling in U.S. politics is here to stay, writes Max B. Sawicky. / James Vaughan
Russian meddling in U.S. politics is here to stay, writes Max B. Sawicky. / James Vaughan

“Russians pretty bad people, Mr. Wessby,” Tiu agreed.
“They stink bad.”
— John Le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy

I, for one, do not look forward to the rule of our new Russophilic overlords.