1. "The point guard"
James Traub, Foreign Policy
For weeks, Republican leaders have been highly critical of Susan Rice — the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, who is widely expected to be President Obama's top choice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. The controversy stems from remarks Rice made in the days after the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which several Republicans allege were deliberately misleading. A September profile of Rice, published shortly before the Benghazi attack, offers some perspective on her life and career:
[Susan Rice] had not wanted to be U.N. ambassador. She had taken a huge risk with a promising career when she decided in 2007 to support Obama over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Rice had served all eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency, first on the National Security Council staff and then as assistant secretary of state for African affairs. But when Obama decided to seek the presidency, Rice threw in her lot with him because, unlike Hillary Clinton, he had opposed the war in Iraq. What's more, as she told me at the time, she thought that Obama (and not Clinton) had a "21st-century view of the world." Rice became a leader of Obama's foreign-policy team and his most important surrogate on foreign affairs; early in the campaign, they emailed and spoke constantly. When Obama won, Rice hoped to be national security advisor, or at least deputy. But Obama was a young black man with no foreign-policy experience; in Gen. James Jones, his first national security advisor, he chose an older, tall, and craggy white man with many stars on his shoulders. Rice got the United Nations.
2. "Why hating Chris Brown isn't the same as supporting Rihanna"
Ann Friedman, New York
On Friday, pop star Rihanna publicly posted a photo in which she's embracing singer Chris Brown, along with the message "I don't wanna leave!!!" This has been widely interpreted as definitive proof that Rihanna and Brown have rekindled their relationship — a relationship that had previously ended under intense media scrutiny in 2009 after Brown physically abused her, eventually pleading guilty to a charge of felony assault. The news has proven disheartening to many Rihanna fans and critics, who have been very vocal in their disapproval. But according to one expert, their attacks on Brown and the rekindled relationship are hurting Rihanna, not helping her:
Rihanna may have forgiven Brown, but most of the rest of us haven't. We don't know her personally (even though we sing along to "Diamonds" like five times a day), yet after watching the drama unfold for years, we're collectively starting to play the role of the friend-of-the-abused, a role that carries its own emotional baggage. While it's by no means the same thing as being in an abusive relationship, we're confused, unsure of whether listening to "Nobody's Business" is a betrayal or support. We nod supportively when she says he's no longer hurting her, but we scan her face for signs of trouble. We're still furious with him, even if she's not. Earlier this week, Brown stomped away from Twitter after a nasty back-and-forth with writer Jenny Johnson, who called him a "worthless piece of shit." Many Rihanna fans cheered. But this is just about the worst way to try to support her, says Katie Ray-Jones, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. "Oftentimes, the survivor is not ready to leave, not sure what to do, confused," she says, "so the worst thing that someone can do is bad-mouth the abuser, because she's probably going to go back home to him. The average survivor leaves seven times before she leaves for good."
3. "How two presidents helped me deal with love, guilt, and fatherhood"
Ron Fournier, National Journal
Veteran political journalist Ron Fournier is used to breaking down complex situations — but when his son was diagnosed with Asperger's, it took the help of two U.S. presidents for Fournier to learn how to understand and accept it. Following the advice of his wife, Fournier brought his history-loving son to important historical sites throughout the country, and took him to meet both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In a personal essay, Fournier explores how seeing how two former presidents interact with his son helped him to become a better father:
Tyler was terse, even rude, but Bush was solicitous. Rather than being thrown by Tyler's idiosyncrasies, he rolled with them, exactly as he had in the Oval Office nine years earlier. He responded to every clipped answer with another probing question. Bush, a man who famously doesn't suffer fools or breaches of propriety, gave my son the benefit of the doubt. I was beginning to think that people are more perceptive and less judgmental toward Tyler than his own father is. Bush certainly was.
4. "Atari Teenage Riot: The inside story of Pong and the video game industry's Big Bang"
Chris Stokel-Walker, BuzzFeed
On Thursday, the Museum of Modern Art acquired 14 video games, including Pac-Man and Tetris. The acquisition is the beginning of a collection that will eventually span roughly 40 games, including some of the most recent and technologically advanced. But it will also reportedly include Pong — a game that debuted in 1972, and is commonly cited as the progenitor of the multi-billion dollar video game industry:
Games today are bigger than the global film industry, which had a 60-year head start. Pong is the reason that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 can make more than three times as much in its first five days on sale as The Avengers can in its first five days in theaters. But while today's blockbuster games are largely created by hundred-strong teams at bankrolled developers, the men who created and crafted Pong embodied the bootstrap start-up culture that typifies the most exciting edges of today's tech landscape. They were knocked back by old men in drab suits who said games weren't going to be big business. But games were going to be big business, even those started in assuming surroundings. And nothing was going to stop them.
5. "Secret fears of the super-rich"
Graeme Wood, The Atlantic
Earlier this week, as the Powerball ballooned toward an unfathomably large jackpot of $580 million, Americans across the country raced to stores to purchase tickets. In the wake of the drawing on Wednesday, lottery officials verified that two winning tickets — purchased in Missouri and Arizona — had been sold. (The Missouri winners have since come forward to collect their prize.) But the truly lucky Americans may have been the hundreds of thousands who didn't win. A 2011 survey of super-rich Americans, defined as anyone with a fortune in excess of $25 million, explores the deeper anxieties caused by wealth — showing that money may impede happiness, instead of granting it:
Work is what fills most people's days, and it provides the context in which they interact with others. A life of worklessness, however financially comfortable, can easily become one of aimlessness, of estrangement from the world. The fact that most people imagine it would be paradise to never have to work does not make the experience any more pleasant in practice. Career advancement is the standard yardstick by which most people measure success, and without that yardstick, it's not easy to assess whether one's time is well spent.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- 10 things you need to know today: November 27, 2014
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How to stop Black Thursday — and still score that big screen
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
Subscribe to the Week