TPM Cafe: Opinion

This past fall, before he died of cancer, my pal Joel Kurtzman reflected on what made its menace so fascinating. The terrible thing, he told me, was that cancer cells—clearly warped under the microscope—make themselves invisible to the immune system. The body would easily destroy cancer cells if it knew danger was there; but these cells evolve into forms that seem so ordinary, so passably normal on the surface, that they get away with growing. The body, or a subsystem of it, makes something fatal to the whole, deliberately designed (if that’s a phrase meaningful to evolution) to fool its defenses.

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Editor's Note: Mark Cuban is a genuine billionaire and frenemy of Donald Trump’s who’s been increasingly critical of Trump and the purported scale of his wealth over the course of the 2016 campaign. Having written at some length about the evidence that Trump’s claim to be worth over $10 billion is vastly exaggerated (technically speaking, a big fat lie) and that Trump may not even be a billionaire, I wanted to chat with Cuban about what makes him so suspicious. After all, billionaires have unique insights into how billionaires handle their money, even how purported billionaires handle their money. What follows is a lightly edited email exchange between Cuban and me over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday.

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This is the week to say the things that go without saying. Mainstream Republicans—not just their Gorgeous George nominee, shock-radio echo-chamber, and Bibi cheerleaders—are mocking President Obama for speaking of terror and not “radical Islam.” The inference to be drawn is that Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, are predisposed to intolerance and violence, as if the Muslim religion is a subtle ideological toxin that can be managed in homeopathic doses, but is fatal full force. If we said “radical Islam,” presumably, then we’d be acknowledging the real danger, now suffered for the sake of political correctness.

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Right after Barack Obama’s election in 2008, I flew off to Australia and New Zealand to attend a conference and take some vacation time. At the end of the long flight, when I got to Sydney, I picked up one of the local newspapers and read that the president-elect had chosen Rahm Emanuel, poster boy for corporate Democrats and the status quo, to be his chief of staff.

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Democrats love to talk about Republican voter suppression, and various ways, such as strict voter identification laws, that have been employed to keep Democrats from registering and casting effective votes. But ironically, the path to Democratic victory in November could be to adopt some methods to depress the Republican vote, specifically to encourage conservatives to stay home on Election Day or to vote for third party candidates. This may be an unsavory tactic but smart politics. The better long-run solution for Democrats is automatic voter registration, or even mandatory voting.

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“Darkness at Noon had staying power,” Michael Scammell writes in The New York Review of Books, “for Rubashov’s story…powerfully illuminates the human condition, men’s moral choices, the attractions and dangers of idealism, the corrosive effects of political corruption, and the fatal consequences of psychological and ideological fanaticism.”

The occasion for Scammell’s essay is the chance retrieval of Koestler's original German manuscript, by a doctoral student named Matthias Weßel, who was combing an archive in Zurich. Until now, Scammell reminds us, all translations worked from the English version Koestler produced hastily with his translator (and lover) Daphne Hardy, as they were preparing to flee France and the Nazi invasion. Presumably, the two themselves worked from this very manuscript, once thought lost.

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