Journal 96

Gerald Ford meets with staffers including Paul Manafort (middle row, in the cream jacket)

This week — the black market for social media influence, big farming in California, the story behind an extraordinary memoir, and an insight into Anthony Scaramucci’s time in the White House. 
If you only read one thing — The Atlantic on Washington lobbyist Paul Manafort is worth the time.


The Plot Against America // The Atlantic // Politics

Paul Manafort had a six month tenure as a member of Team Trump, when his troubling ties to Ukrainian and Russian political influence were well-documented. This profile looks further into his past as a lobbyist with a controversial track record stretching back to the 1970s — alleged cash payments of millions of dollars from Ferdinand Marcos, a dandification strategy for an Angolan guerrilla leader, and suspected side-hustles with arms dealers all feature prominently.

The Follower Factory // The New York Times // Technology

A look at social media’s “black market” for influence in the form of followers and some of its intended and unintended consequences.

A Kingdom from Dust // The California Sunday // Business

A profile of the biggest farmers in the US — a married couple working in partnership — and the story of their extraordinary rise via floor cleaning, security, plastic figurines, advertising, and philanthropy. Their story is also now the story of water in California as the yields from their crops continue to increase just as the water supply has declined through nearly a half-decade of drought.

Is This Story Real? // Tablet // Life

This piece examines a memoir written by a former waiter at Paris’s celebrated Brasserie Lipp. In the manuscript, this unassuming man describes the horror of the Holocaust and deeds of extraordinary derring-do including infiltrating the SS, joining resistance groups, and hunting Nazis after the war whilst serving as a member of the French Foreign Legion. It’s far from clear whether large parts of the story are true or not, but perhaps that’s not the point.

“F — -ing Sith Lord,” “Horrific Leakers,” and “Berserkazoid Craziness”: The Mooch Recalls His Brief Shining Fortnight at the Center of American Politics // Vanity Fair // Politics

This piece reads like so much political gossip, but it is a truly remarkable example of the genre — mainly due to short-lived White House staffer Anthony Scaramucci’s filter-free volubility and talent for name calling.