Q. Which US state is actually flown over the most? — Jesse Ruderman
A. When people say "flyover states," they're usually referring to the big, square states out west that people stereotypically cross over while flying between New York, LA, and Chicago, but don't actually land in.
But what state do the largest number of planes actually fly over? There are a lot of flights up and down the East Coast; it would be easy to imagine that people fly over New York more often than Wyoming.
To figure out what the real flyover states are, I looked at over 10,000 air traffic routes, determining which states each flight passed over.
Surprisingly, the state with the most planes flying over it — without taking off or landing — is...
This result surprised me. I grew up in Virginia, and I certainly never thought of it as a "flyover state."
It's surprising because Virginia has several major airports; two of the airports serving DC are actually located in Virginia (DCA/Reagan and IAD/Dulles). This means most flights to DC don't count toward flights over Virginia, since those flights land in Virginia.
Here's a map of US states colored by number of daily flyovers:
Close behind Virginia are Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
These states have substantially more daily flyovers than any other.
So why Virginia?
There are a number of factors, but one of the biggest is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Atlanta's airport is the busiest in the world, with more passengers and flights than Tokyo, London, Beijing, Chicago, or Los Angeles. It's the main hub for Delta Air Lines — until recently the world's largest airline — which means passengers taking Delta flights will often connect through Atlanta.
Thanks to the large volume of flights from Atlanta to the northeast US, 20 percent of all Atlanta flights cross Virginia and 25 percent cross North Carolina, contributing substantially to the total for each state.
However, Atlanta isn't the biggest contributor to Virginia's totals. The airport with the most flights over Virginia was a surprise to me.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) seems an unlikely source of Virginia-crossing flights, but Canada's largest airport contributes more flights over Virginia than New York's JFK and LaGuardia airports combined.
Part of the reason for Toronto's dominance is that it has many direct flights to the Caribbean and South America, which cross US airspace on the way to their destinations. In addition to Virginia, Toronto is also the chief source of flights over West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.
This map shows, for each state, which airport is the source of the most flights over it:
Flyover states by ratio
Another possible definition of "flyover state" is the state that has the highest ratio of flights over it to flights to it. By this measure, the flyover states are, for the most part, simply the least dense states. The top ten include, predictably, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and the Dakotas.
The state with the highest ratio of flights-over-to-flights-to, however, is a surprise: Delaware.
A little digging turned up the very straightforward reason: Delaware has no airports.
Now, that's not quite true. Delaware has a number of airfields, including Dover Air Base (DOV) and New Castle Airport (ILG). New Castle Airport is the only one that might qualify as a commercial airport, but after Skybus Airlines shut down in 2008, the airport had no airlines serving it.
Least flown-over state
The least flown-over state is Hawaii, which makes sense. It consists of tiny islands in the middle of the world's biggest ocean; you have to try pretty hard to hit it.
Of the 49 non-island states, the least flown-over state is California. This came as a surprise to me, since California is long and skinny, and it seems like a lot of flights over the Pacific would need to pass over it.
However, since jet-fuel-laden planes were used as weapons on 9/11, the FAA has tried to limit the number of unnecessarily fuel-heavy flights crossing the US, so most international travelers who might otherwise travel over California instead take a connecting flight from one of the airports there.
Lastly, let's answer a slightly stranger question: What is the most flown-under state? That is, what state has the most flights on the opposite side of the Earth pass directly under its territory?
The answer turns out to be Hawaii.
The reason such a tiny state wins in this category is that most of the US is opposite the Indian Ocean, which has very few commercial flights over it. Hawaii, on the other hand, is opposite Botswana in Central Africa. Africa doesn't have a high volume of flights over it compared to most other continents, but it's enough to win Hawaii the top spot.
As someone who grew up there, it's hard for me to accept Virginia's status as the most flown-over state. If nothing else, when I'm back home with family, I'll try to remember — once in a while — to look up and wave.
(And if you find yourself on Arik Air Flight 104 from Johannesburg, South Africa to Lagos, Nigeria — daily service, departing at 9:35 a.m. — remember to look down and say "Aloha!")
Excerpt from WHAT IF? by Randall Munroe. Copyright 2014 by xkcd. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The golden age of American politics was illiberal, undemocratic, and bloody.
A university recently invited me to participate in a forum considering this question: Has American politics ever been this bad? The answer, clearly, is that it has been much worse. We had a Civil War, after all. Congress worked out proposals to eradicate and subjugate Native American tribes. We interned families of Japanese descent. We pitched into the Iraq War based on lies. But the fact that the university was posing the question, and seriously, speaks to the anxiety of this age.
Every morning feels like a fresh emergency. We wake to hear the president of the United States rage that the election was rigged, that a “deep state” is plotting against him, that the press has too much freedom, that he intends to jail his political enemies and sue those who might embarrass him and fire those who don’t protect him.
The distance between the indicators of American prosperity and the unease that permeates American politics is vast. Despite 3.9 percent unemployment, a booming stock market, and relative peace abroad, only 38 percent of people say the country is on the “right track.” A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71 percent of Americans believe our “problems have reached a dangerous new low.”
“The United States of America is in a better place today than we have almost ever been in the history of our country,” says Mitch Landrieu, the Democratic mayor of New Orleans. “We’re economically stronger than anybody in the world; we’re militarily stronger. The job creation over the last 80 months has been pretty spectacular. We’re not in the worst place that we’ve been historically. So why are we feeling so agitated with each other?”
The frameworks offered by the political scientists are dire. In The People vs. Democracy, Mounk argues that liberal democracy — “the unique mix of individual rights and popular rule that has long characterized most governments in North America and Western Europe” — is decomposing into warped incarnations of its constituent elements: illiberal democracy and undemocratic liberalism. “The question now is whether this populist moment will turn into a populist age — and cast the very survival of liberal democracy in doubt,” he writes.
In How Democracies Die, Levitsky and Ziblatt argue that “two basic norms have preserved America’s checks and balances in ways we have come to take for granted: mutual toleration, or the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals, and forbearance, or the idea that politicians should exercise restraint in deploying their institutional prerogatives.” Those norms, they say, are rapidly eroding, and America’s democratic future hangs in the balance.
Immersing myself in the growing literature of American decline has been a disorienting experience. These are persuasive, thoughtful analyses that match the anxiety I feel. Donald Trump’s illiberal impulses are real, and the way much of the electorate and most of the elected Republican Party has chosen to accept them chills me.
But reading these books raised a question for me: is this really a uniquely alarming moment in American life? Is the future of liberal democracy so much less sure today than it has been in our recent past? The more I looked for answers to that question, the less certain I became.
A shining city on a bloody hill
The triumphant story we tell about American history can obscure both the extent of our progress and the fragility of our consensus. To see what we are, or what we may become, requires clarity about what we have been. And what we have been is violent, disordered, undemocratic, and illiberal on a scale far beyond anything the United States is undergoing today.
You do not need to go back to the country’s early years — when new arrivals from Europe drove out the Native Americans, brought over millions of enslaved Africans, and wrote laws making women second-class citizens — to see it.
Just a few decades ago, political assassinations were routine. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered on the streets of Dallas. In 1965, Malcolm X was shot to death in a crowded New York City ballroom. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, as was Robert F. Kennedy. In 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, standing about arm’s length from President Gerald Ford, aimed her gun and fired; the bullet failed to discharge. Harvey Milk, the pioneering gay San Francisco city supervisor, was killed in 1978. President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981; the bullet shattered a rib and punctured a lung.
For much of the 20th century, the right to vote was, for African Americans, no right at all. Lynchings were common. Freedom Riders were brutally beaten across the American South. National Guard members fired on, and killed, student protesters at Kent State. Police had to escort young African-American children into schools as jeering crowds shouted racial epithets and threatened to attack.
Violence broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Urban riots ripped across the country. Crime was rising. The US launched an illegal, secret bombing campaign in Cambodia. Richard Nixon rode a backlash to the civil rights movement into the White House, launched an espionage campaign against his political opponents, provoked a constitutional crisis, and became the first American president driven from office by impeachment proceedings.
Ian Haney López, director of the Racial Politics Project at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas Institute, calls the 20th-century United States “a herrenvolk liberal democracy” — a democracy for the majority ethnic group but something very different for the rest of society. “That herrenvolk liberal democracy solved major problems for whites,” says Haney López. “It solved the problem of national identity. It solved the problem of how to ensure wealth in society was continuously pushed downward and outward, so prosperity was shared and broad. For whites, democracy was working very well.” But for nonwhites, America was neither liberal nor a democracy.
During this era, there were regions of America that arguably weren’t democratic at all. In his book Paths Out of Dixie, Robert Mickey argues convincingly that much of the American South was under one-party authoritarian rule until the mid-20th century. It was only “with the abolition of the whites-only Democratic primary in 1944 and continuing up through the national party reforms of the early 1970s” that the South — and thus America — actually democratized.
This is not a counterintuitive take on American history, by the way. Among experts, it is closer to the consensus. The Varieties of Democracy project, which has been surveying experts on the state of global democracies since 1900, gave the US political system a 48 on a 1-100 scale in 1945 and a 59 in 1965. It was only after the civil rights movement that America began scoring in the 70s and 80s, marking it as a largely successful democracy.
The era that we often hold up as the golden age of American democracy was far less democratic, far less liberal, far less decent, than today. Trump’s most intemperate outbursts, his most indecent musings, pale before opinions that were mainstream in living memory. And the institutions of American politics today are a vast improvement on the regimes that ruled well within living memory.
Our checkered past is not ignored in the more recent literature on democratic decline, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. Indeed, both How Democracies Die and The People vs. Democracy include excellent, insightful discussions of this history. But I don’t think the brutality of our past is taken sufficiently seriously in informing the analysis of our present.
Levitsky and Ziblatt, for instance, write that, “The norms sustaining our political system rested, to a considerable degree, on racial exclusion.” It’s an unsettling analysis that raises the question of how long, exactly, America has actually been a democracy.
Much punditry about this era — including my own — has been even more ahistorical. In the story we tell of America, this violence and tumult and repression is absorbed into a tale of progress — a country gaining in power and prosperity, inching ever closer to the fulfillment of our founding ideals.
“America is aspirational,” says Carol Anderson, the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divideand a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “That is part of what sets it apart. Marginalized people have used those aspirations to say, ‘This is what you say you are, but this is what you do.’ But what also happens is those aspirations get encoded as achievements. You get this longing for a mythical past.”
Believing in a mythical past makes it hard to assess a grim present. The head-snapping transition from Barack Obama’s presidency to Donald Trump’s can seem like a betrayal of the American story, evidence that something has gone radically and unexpectedly awry. Much of today’s conversation presents American politics as falling from a state of liberal democratic grace.
In my reporting, Trump’s presidency has been less surprising, and often less alarming, to those with a more realistic view of America’s racial past. There is a strange comfort in recognizing that for all Trump’s illiberal antics, it was the very architecture of American politics, not just the president, that was deeply illiberal and undemocratic in living memory.
“This idea that we have achieved liberal democracy and Trump is taking us back from this achievement is inaccurate,” says Sarah Song, a UC Berkeley political theorist who focuses on issues of American citizenship. “Illiberal strands have been with us all along, and Trump is able to tap into those.”
A fair question, however, is whether the tumult of our past has much bearing on the threats of our present. As Mounk told me when I posed some of these questions to him, “I don’t know how helpful it is to say to a 70-year-old guy, ‘When you were 35, you had a heart attack; it was touch-and-go there, but you got through it. Now you have cancer, but you’ll get through it.’ The answer to that is that was a different disease at a different point.”
But what if it wasn’t a different disease?
Periods of racial progress trigger periods of political instability
In White Rage, Carol Anderson reflects on the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the way the nation has always been transfixed by black rage, by images of “rampaging, burning, and looting.” But not all rage is so visually arresting. “White rage is not about visible violence,” she writes, “but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular — to what it can see.”
This point — that we see some deviations from a peaceful, liberal, democratic system more clearly than others — is useful for thinking about both our past and our present. Trump’s anger, paranoia, dishonesty, and illiberalism operate at human scale, in 140-character bursts. His behavior would worry us if we saw it in our spouse, our neighbor, our boss. You don’t need to dig through court documents or follow the machinations of congressional procedure to be alarmed. His actions are shocking; as with a car crash, we can’t look away.
Past violations of liberal democracy often worked their way through courts, Congress, and government bureaucracies; they were proposed and implemented by men who could hold their temper and appear respectable in public. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt justified his abandonment of anti-lynching laws because, otherwise, the Southern Democrats who chaired powerful committees would “block every bill I ask Congress to pass,” he was genteelly operating within the customary boundaries of a transactional political system, but he was cooly rationalizing a morally gruesome choice. In many cases, decisions like that one were more illiberal than anything we are seeing today, but they were less visible, particularly to the majority — that is why so much of the civil rights movement’s strategy was about provoking the violence of the system to make itself seen on the nightly news.
Thinking back on those eras is a reminder that, in America, periods of racial progress have always triggered periods of political instability. The Civil War is the most profound and bloody example but far from the only one. Richard Nixon, the last president to evince so little respect for constitutional norms, was also a “law and order” candidate who promised to represent a silent majority frustrated by rapid racial advancement and unnerved by black anger.
Viewed from this perspective, it is not surprising that the first African-American president was followed by a candidate like Trump, who promised to put the restoration of America’s dominant political majority above the niceties of normal politics, who is visibly enraged by Black Lives Matter protests and kneeling NFL players.
And yet it is the friction of progress, rather than the injustice of the unchallenged status quo, that often scares Americans about the state of our country. The disorder that comes as things change is more visible than the order that often reins when they don’t. It’s worth remembering that 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the Freedom Riders’ actions and 57 percent disapproved of the civil rights movement’s sit-ins and demonstrations.
That said, Mounk is right that it would be dangerous to take too much comfort from successfully navigating previous eras of progress. We are entering a turbulent period in our politics. In Political Tribes, Yale Law professor Amy Chua puts the coming danger crisply:
We find ourselves in an unprecedented moment of pervasive tribal anxiety. For two hundred years, whites in America represented an undisputed politically, economically, and culturally dominant majority. When a political tribe is so overwhelmingly dominant, it can persecute with impunity, but it can also be more generous. It can afford to be more universalist, more enlightened, more inclusive, like the WASP elites of the 1960s who opened up the Ivy League colleges to more Jews, blacks, and other minorities — in part because it seemed like the right thing to do.
Today, no group in America feels comfortably dominant. Every group feels attacked, pitted against other groups not just for jobs and spoils but for the right to define the nation’s identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into zero-sum group competition — pure political tribalism.
The future of America is not a white-majority America. In 2013, for the first time, a majority of infants were nonwhite. If current demographic projections hold, we will be a majority-minority nation in less than 30 years.
These changes are already transforming what is possible in American politics. In 2012, Obama won the White House with 40 percent of the white vote — a lower share than Michael Dukakis got in 1988, but enough to win a convincing majority nevertheless. That you can win the presidency while losing the white vote by 20 points is a recent development in American politics, and it has left many white voters anxious and angry.
“If there’s one axiom of political tribalism,” writes Chua, “it’s that dominant groups do not give up power easily.”
The doom-and-gloom can distract from what is genuinely good news. A country where no group is secure in their command of political power is also a country where fewer groups are continuously oppressed, where more groups can fight for true equality. But that transition carries a social cost: The sense of security created by the stability that flows from monoethnic dominance is gone.
The question, then, is whether the instability we feel now is a byproduct of progress, a portent of coming fracture, or both.
The case for optimism about America
My core argument here is that how American politics feels — particularly to those in the majority — is not a good guide to how just it is. A fair counterargument is that too much discord can shake the fundamental consensus American politics requires to operate, and the consequences of such a collapse could be disastrous. Some scholars, like Mounk, worry that the public is losing faith in liberal democracy altogether. In his book’s scariest section, Mounk relates research showing, among other antidemocratic attitudes, that the percentage of Americans who say they have a favorable opinion of military rule has increased from one in 16 in 1995 to one in six in 2011.
There is a vibrant debate in the political science community about how durable these attitudes are and what they truly mean. In a new survey for the Democracy Fund’s Voter Survey Group, Lee Drutman, Larry Diamond, and Joe Goldstein find that support for democracy is holding steady and young Americans do not show a rising preference for authoritarian political systems. Optimistically, they find “support for a strong leader declining for the first time in 2017 and returning to levels last seen in 1995.” It’s possible that Trump’s example is reminding Americans what they like about more traditional political leaders.
That said, I don’t pretend to know what is truly in the heart of the American voter. The nearness of our undemocratic past is proof of the possibility of an undemocratic future. My mother grew up amid segregation. I was voting when Republican politicians overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The #MeToo moment is less than a year old. You do not have to reach far back into the mists to realize there is nothing in our nature that precludes illiberalism or that ensures progress. But that should also remind us not to overstate either the threat posed by Trump or the changes wrought by him; I would rather America be what it is today than what it was even 20 years ago.
This is to take nothing away from the very real injuries Trump has inflicted upon immigrants, the way his rhetoric has empowered neo-Nazis and racists, the chilling rise in hate crimes, the refugees who will suffer or die because America has closed its doors to them. And the policy problems we worried about before Trump — from rising inequality to Super PACs to climate change — are worsening.
But I often find myself perversely appreciative that Trump’s rage manifests itself so visibly — a leader mounting a more subtle racial backlash would mount a more effective one. Trump’s eccentric behavior has flipped what feels abnormal about the past decade in American politics. It’s now Obama, America’s first black president, who is young America’s model of what a president should look and act like, whose approval rating is above 60 percent. It is Trump, the septuagenarian white billionaire governing atop a standard Republican agenda, who seems like as a reckless detour from tradition. That is remarkable given what America was even a few decades ago.
America’s deepest challenge is not Donald Trump or anything he has proposed to do. It is how a political system that does more to amplify conflict than calm it will govern a country that is unsteadily becoming the first truly multiethnic liberal democracy in world history. That is the challenge of our generation. And it’s a challenge that, even today, we are navigating without the level of violence and fracture and political repression that defined America’s recent past.
“Fifty years ago, there seemed to be political stability, but lots of Americans were excluded,” says Song. “Fast-forward to today: There’s a sense in which a lot of these historically excluded groups feel like they’re supposed to be on the inside, that they have these formal rights and representation, and when they don’t feel they exercise influence, they see a problem in the institutions. There’s more tumult now because the door has been opened to these historically excluded groups and they’re supposed to have their interests represented by those in power, and that shakes up the culture.”
I wonder often about how this period in American life will look to future historians. One possibility that has been much discussed is that it will be seen as the dawn of America’s descent into illiberalism. But another possibility — one that’s less often considered — is that it will eventually look like the turbulence that has always accompanied racial progress in this country, and it will eventually be seen as modest compared to the upheavals of our past.
This depends, of course, on what happens next — on the judgment Americans render on Trump in 2020, on whether our political institutions or fundamental freedoms are weakened in the meantime, on the way we navigate the demographic turbulence already disrupting our politics. But America has absorbed worse than this into its story of progress. As Anderson says, we are an aspirational country, and the power of being an aspirational country comes in having something to live up to. Now it is our generation’s work to write the next chapter.
Epilogue: what if I’m wrong?
I want to be honest. This is one of those articles where I am far from sure I’m right. If you’d like to hear a persuasive counterargument — a case for being uniquely alarmed about this moment in American history — I suggest listening to my podcast discussion with Yascha Mounk:
Image credits, from top: Herb Scharfman/LIFE via Getty Images, Stan Wayman/LIFE via Getty Images, Wally McNamee/Corbis via Getty Images, Joseph Louw/LIFE via Getty Images, Keystone/Hutton Archive via Getty Images, Burton McNeely/LIFE via Getty Images, Bettman Archive/Getty Images, Paul Schutzer/LIFE via Getty Images, Bettman Archive/Getty Images, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Bettman Archive/Getty Images, RHS/AP, Anonymous/AP, Bettman Archive/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, The White House Handout/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images, J. Scott Applewhite/Getty Images, Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images
I firmly believe that one of the root causes of the current political climate is the way that Americans teach history to schoolchildren. The standard school approach is to avoid controversy by making two contradictory theses: America has always been perfect, and America has always gotten better over time. Kids swallow these lies, but realize that the present day is a mess, and bam! You've just convinced an entire generation that America has suddenly gone to hell, and that the elders don't know how to fix it. And we've been teaching that method for about 50 years now.
On Monday, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other leading lights of the Trumpist right gathered in Israel to celebrate the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, a gesture widely seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians who envision East Jerusalem as their future capital.
The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.
Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.
This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump’s Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 40 miles away. Since March 30, there have been mass protests at the fence separating Gaza and Israel. Gazans, facing an escalating humanitarian crisis due in large part to an Israeli blockade, are demanding the right to return to homes in Israel that their families were forced from at Israel’s founding. The demonstrators have been mostly but not entirely peaceful; Gazans have thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers and tried to fly flaming kites into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with live gunfire as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. In clashes on Monday, at least 58 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tell us a lot about America’s relationship to Israel right now. It has never been closer, but within that closeness there are seeds of potential estrangement.
Defenders of Israel’s actions in Gaza will argue no country would allow a mob to charge its border. They will say that even if Hamas didn’t call the protests, it has thrown its support behind them. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” a White House spokesman, Raj Shah, said on Monday.
But even if you completely dismiss the Palestinian right of return — which I find harder to do now that Israel’s leadership has all but abandoned the possibility of a Palestinian state — it hardly excuses the Israeli military’s disproportionate violence. “What we’re seeing is that Israel has used, yet again, excessive and lethal force against protesters who do not pose an imminent threat,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told me by phone from Jerusalem.
Much of the world condemned the killings in Gaza. Yet the United States, Israel’s most important patron, has given it a free hand to do with the Palestinians what it will. Indeed, by moving the embassy to Jerusalem in the first place, Trump sent the implicit message that the American government has given up any pretense of neutrality.
Reports of Israel’s gratitude to Trump abound. A square near the embassy is being renamed in his honor. Beitar Jerusalem, a soccer team whose fans are notorious for their racism, is now calling itself Beitar “Trump” Jerusalem. But if Israelis love Trump, many Americans — and certainly most American Jews — do not. The more Trumpism and Israel are intertwined, the more left-leaning Americans will grow alienated from Zionism.
Even before Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped open a partisan divide on Israel in American politics, where previously there had been stultifying unanimity. “Until these past few years, you’d never heard the word ‘occupation’ or ‘settlements’ or talk about Gaza,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, said of American politicians. But Ben-Ami told me that since 2015, when Netanyahu tried to undercut President Barack Obama with a controversial address to Congress opposing the Iran deal, Democrats have felt more emboldened. “That changed the calculus forever,” he told me.
The events of Monday may have changed it further, and things could get worse still. Tuesday is Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate their dispossession, and the protests at the fence are expected to be even larger. “People don’t feel like they can stay at home after loved ones and neighbors have been killed for peacefully protesting for their rights,” Abdulrahman Abunahel, a Gaza-based activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, told me via email.
Trump has empowered what’s worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity. But some day, Trump will be gone. With hope for a two-state solution nearly dead, current trends suggest that a Jewish minority will come to rule over a largely disenfranchised Muslim majority in all the land under Israel’s control. A rising generation of Americans may see an apartheid state with a Trump Square in its capital and wonder why it’s supposed to be our friend.
AI only learns what you teach it. Netflix has had several versions of the "nevermind" option of the years; the latest is a big thumbs-down icon. But it's still an extra bit of effort from the users -- and so the AI fails.
Even in an administration that has gotten us used to reversals and back-and-forths, President Donald Trump performed an impressive U-Turn on policy Sunday, when he wrote a tweet vowing to help Chinese telecom giant ZTE get back in business following devastating U.S. sanctions. Days earlier, ZTE had said it would cease “major operating activities” because of trade sanctions imposed by the United States. The Commerce Department had last month banned American companies from supplying to ZTE for seven years as a result of findings that it had illegally sold goods to Iran and North Korea.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump suggested he told the Commerce Department to get ZTE back in business. “Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump wrote. “Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” Trump also said he was working with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.”
ZTE had already agreed to a $1.2 billion fine due to the violations of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Yet the ban was the result of the Commerce Department finding that the world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer had failed to comply with terms of the agreement. Although American wireless companies don’t use ZTE products out of security concerns, the company relies on a lot of components from American companies for its products.
Analysts were immediately confused about the president’s tweet particularly because it seemed to be such a clear reversal fromhis usual tough stance on China. Plus in his tweets, Trump seemed to show concern over Chinese jobs rather than American ones, which has long been his rallying cry. Many were also confused as to why the president gave away what many saw as the main leverage the United states had over China in the tense trade discussions between the two countries. “If Mr. Trump was announcing a huge concession with his tweet, it was without any indication of what he might have gotten in return,” notes the New York Times.
Experts said the move by Trump was unprecedented because “it’s highly unusual for a president to personally intervene in a regulatory matter and could undercut the leverage of Treasury and Commerce officials seeking to enforce sanctions and trade rules,” notes the Washington Post. The move could send a sign to foreign leaders that the way to get their way with the United States is to convince Trump personally.
“I am speechless,” Kevin Wolf, who oversaw the launch of the ZTE case as assistant secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, told the Financial Times. “I’m highly confident that a [US] president has never intervened in a law-enforcement matter like this before . . . It’s so outside the way the rules were set up.”