On Sept. 23 and 24, Houston was host to Beyoncé’s brilliance. The city took note: Harris County was dubbed, for several days, Bey County. Traffic across the inner loop’s interlocking roads felt more insufferable than usual. Both performances sold out, cries for last-minute tickets proliferated social media, and, arriving at NRG Park on either night—past the highway, over the hill, across the bridge, and into the 72,220-seat stadium—felt a lot like floating on electricity, or the precipice of a foundational shift.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Beyoncé’s assignment for previous cities had been simple: wear silver. Houstonians also obliged. Ascending the venue’s walkway, a group of Black women with glowing centaur horns and heels glided past my boyfriend and me. A caravan of bears dressed in frilly crop-tops and boyshorts with knee-high boots followed them. The weekend saw legions of silver ballcaps, silver cowboy boots, silver capes, silver earrings, silver chains, silver gloves, silver thongs, silver facemasks, silver bodysuits, silver shades, silver track pants, silver piercings, and silver jackets glowing from the hall’s highest concessions and back down to the floor seats. My own aesthetic was something like femme biker cub, alongside a silver cowboy hat—an outfit I passed at least nine variations of on the way to our seats.
Both evenings, Beyoncé’s first address, entering a stadium that hit an astounding decibel, and an electricity she’d conjured entirely on her own, was: “Houston, Texas, I love you.” She called this series of performances, a global tour that began in Stockholm this May, her “gratitude tour.” Then, she proceeded to grace us. Beyoncé began with the operatic, before dipping coolly into a deep trill. Beyoncé rolled from a crisp set of notes into a growl and back, before descending again, only to ascend seemingly six more octaves a second later. Beyoncé vogued with a series of robot arms, cascading directly into a croon. Beyoncé vogued with a team of glowing dancers, as they snapped fans and duck-walked and clicked heels alongside her (Girl, whispered one of the bears beside us). Beyoncé rapped, as brash and present as your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Beyoncé rode a metallic tank on stage (Girl, exhorted one of the women, a New Orleanian, in front of us), swinging from a structure atop it, grinding and cheering and jeering and carrying.
Read More: 100 Women of the Year: Beyoncé
Numerous outfit changes unspooled before us. Between each section of the set, house music blasted beside kaleidoscopic visuals. In the midst of its immaculateness, each evening’s rollout achieved, and then eclipsed, what might be the highest bar for a performance: a solid night out at the club, dancing with your friends. And any single one of these components would’ve made an incredible show. But this was simply beyond what could or should be expected or thought of from an actual individual—and, as the performance continued, each night, there was no peak, really. Beyoncé’s performance simply escalated, ascending a mountain of precision with no visible climax, and then it ended.
Mid-way through her set, as Beyoncé rolled into “Church Girl,” a chorus opened behind her. My sequin-clad neighbors sighed, blushing. A lady in a silver-spiked vest beside me squeezed my elbow. She said, “We’re here,” and I concurred, and then she began to cry.
In many ways, the Renaissance tour, which is scheduled to end on Oct. 1 in Kansas City, is an extension of Beyoncé’s overarching ambition: over nearly three decades, and nine solo concert tours, she has constantly reinvented herself. Her sound, her presentation, and her audience’s expectations for what a performer can, or should, be or do have risen alongside her. Across more than 50 shows internationally, she has managed to eclipse seemingly every expectation but her own.
And Beyoncé’s Renaissance album itself further underlined her prowess’s scope: the record is a celebration, among other things, of the Black origins of disco and house music, Black ballroom, vogue, drag, and the infinitude of crevices encapsulating any particular nook or cranny of queer culture. Each track announces itself. They are physical and emotional. The record champions Black queer artists, ceding space and attention to their works from song to song. And upon a first, third, or 30th listen, it’s hardly difficult to allow each track to progress like a breezy, singular set unfurling from the hands of its deeply meticulous curator. Much of the record’s genius resides in how its communities are magnified, accentuated, and given the floor to dance.
But Renaissance’s immersion, and embrace of the queerness permeating its beats, gives the record a very particular context: as a result, the life that it’s lived—and the life it will continue to live—has taken very different forms from her previous projects. I’ve heard “Thique” at queer orgies in Oakland. I’ve heard “Cozy” between cocktails at brunch after brunch in Los Angeles. It seems like every queer I know worked their way through some sort of “Alien Superstar” Sailor Moon mashup. Earlier this year, I listened to “Virgo’s Groove” in the smoking room of a sauna in Osaka, several nights before it shut its door forever, and every man beside me mumbled the chorus.
My own first encounter with Beyoncé live is so commonplace in Houston as to be anecdotal lore for anyone who grew up in the city: I saw her for the first time at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2004. I saw her again when she returned in 2007. Despite an environment largely built for the apex of masculinity—inundated with cowboys donning bravado and brashness—her performances felt like a bright, bright light. She was everything, and then some. Since then, I’ve seen her in other cities, in her other iterations, sets, and modes, but these initial performances had been, for me, cemented into my conception of her—at least until the Renaissance tour.
Lately, I’ve spent more time outside of Houston than in, but it wasn’t negotiable that I would be in town for this record’s performance at NRG. It simply had to happen. I suspect many of the show’s queer local attendees felt the same. And while Beyoncé’s ascension to the peak of performance is hardly inevitable, sometimes, watching her on stage, it all felt like a natural crescendo: that one of the best performers and musicians in the world is a Black woman from Houston could only be surprising to someone outside of Houston.
On Sunday evening, as Beyoncé rolled into “Diva,” she addressed the crowd: “You know you’re responsible for your own happiness? Your own joy?”
And later: “I want this to be a safe space. I want you to let loose.”
And later: “I want you to remember who you came here with, what you wore. Remember this night.”
Quips like these were peppered throughout each evening. This, too, felt deeply constructed: Beyoncé’s performances felt both entirely interstellar and deeply, deeply local. She thanked attendees at every level, acknowledging those in the highest seats first, nodding to the sacrifices that many folks in the room likely made to see her that evening. Houston, she noted, would be a place that she’d carry wherever she went. When she said it, you really f-cking believed her. And as she worked at what felt like the pinnacle of human performance, care was taken between songs to remind the crowd to be present for the concert, sure, but also for themselves.
But what may have been the most remarkable component of the show, for me, lay within its final moments: as the performers launched into “Pure/Honey,” the set’s penultimate track, the stage was ceded to the dancers to vogue in a tight, bright circle. Everyone who’d stood with Beyoncé throughout the show, in some capacity, was given a moment. Which was a deafening punctuation mark on a deeply deliberate thesis that the performers, crews, assistants, and architects had spent nearly three hours constructing: the event was made possible by queerness—and the culture of Black queers across the decades, specifically. Seeing this in a room of tens of thousands, as a disco ball passed overhead, felt stunning to the point of elation.
Because this fantasia, for many folks watching in Houston, dissipated immediately after the set was over. Texas is one of the most hostile states in the country for queer people. In the past year, more than 100 bills targeting LGTBQ+ communities were introduced in the Texas legislature, making up over 20% of anti-queer legislation that has emerged in state governing bodies across the U.S. Gender-affirming care is no longer accessible for trans minors in Texas; the state has joined others in creating many more refugees looking to leave its borders. An anti-drag bill has just been defeated in the courts. Book bannings are routine. LGBTQ+ affirming centers on public universities have been eliminated, and Texas continually attempts to advance its own iteration of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. There are few areas of public life in the state where its government hasn’t at least attempted to eradicate its queerness from visibility.
And maybe, this, too, is further evidence of Beyoncé’s excellence: for a few hours, we all were privy to something better. A better way of being. I’ve seen and experienced things in my life that I never would have thought I’d see, but I simply could not have imagined standing in the same stadium I first saw Beyoncé—dressed in leather and mesh, alongside queers from across the community very openly enjoying themselves—watching the culture not only be celebrated but also accentuated. Much talk is made of Beyoncé’s otherworldliness—and her very visible labor allows this—but what’s more interesting, and extraordinary, is that she is entirely human. Calling her Houston performances perfect would, in some ways, belie the many things they achieved. In that stadium, she expanded possibility—an even higher bar, more elusive and foundation-shifting.
Leaving the show both evenings, Houston’s gayborhood, Montrose, felt energetic in a way that it simply hadn’t in some time. Money has invaded the neighborhood in the last decade, sealing many of each block’s vectors for queer visibility into neat lines. But, on these nights, the streets were packed. The clubs were packed. The bear bar and the kink bar and the dance bar and up-and-coming-bar and the druggy bar and the party bar vibrated with energy, until security told us all to go home, shepherding folks onto the sidewalk—and then we stood outside, buzzing still.
Walking back to my car with my guy Sunday evening, groups of folks making their way back to their own homes strolled underneath the neighborhood’s patchy shrubs. Some chewed taco truck fare. Some still glowed from the evening’s performance, literally golden. Others were headed to afterparties downtown, and elsewhere throughout the city, until well into the morning. But, eventually, we all split off, and another pair of guys walking beside us shared our silence for a few blocks, before we eventually turned to each other, instinctively, and smiled, and said to get home safe. This, too, felt like an extension of the moment, like the show will continue enveloping us, even still.
Russia is defending its “sovereignty” and “spiritual values” by waging war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said in a video address posted on the Kremlin website.
The speech came a year after Putin signed documents to illegally annex four Ukrainian regions in Europe’s biggest land grab since World War II.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
“We are defending Russia itself, are fighting together for the Motherland, for our sovereignty, spiritual values and unity, for victory,” he said of the invasion Kremlin forces launched in February 2022.
Putin said Russia has to implement a “large-scale program” to revive and develop the annexed regions, and vowed to achieve its goal. Kremlin forces control only parts of the four regions, whose combined area is roughly the size of Bulgaria.
The speech sought to demonstrate that Putin has solidified his territorial claims even as Kyiv’s four-month-old counteroffensive, backed by billions of dollars in weapons from the U.S. and other allies, makes halting progress in the country’s east and south.
The Kremlin held sham referendums a year ago to annex the Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson regions. The votes drew condemnation from the United Nations and Ukraine’s allies, and aren’t recognized internationally.
Russia-appointed authorities held elections in those regions earlier this month, even as Moscow’s forces continue to lose parts of the territory they took at the start of the February 2022 invasion.
Ukrainian units this week moved forward near the village of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region, with troops pushing toward Russian strongholds further south. The Institute for the Study of War, U.S.-based military analysts, called it a “tactical breakthrough” but said the situation remains fluid.
Russia in 2014 annexed the Crimean peninsula, which Ukraine has been targeting recently with more frequent attacks on weapons, bases and supply lines there.
In a speech last year at a signing ceremony to formalize control over the four occupied regions in Ukraine, Putin vowed the annexation would be irreversible and that people on these territories would become Russian citizens “forever.”
In a post on Telegram, Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minister who’s now deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, said the war will last “until the complete destruction” of the Kyiv government and “liberation of native Russian territories.” Medvedev, a frequent provocateur on social media, also wrote that Russian will have “more new regions.”
NEW YORK — Millions of Americans must start repaying their federal student loans again in October, with monthly payments averaging hundreds of dollars. To get ready, borrowers are cutting expenses, taking on additional work, and looking for options to reduce their monthly payments.
Megan McClelland, 38, said she has started asking for October shifts with a catering company and a winery to help supplement her income.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
McClelland’s main job is as a counselor at Petaluma High School in California. During the more than three years payments were suspended because of the pandemic, she paid off her car loan and was able to save for the first time. She’ll put the $235 she was spending on her car payment toward her student loan, but that still leaves another $270 or so she’ll have to reallocate or earn.
“It had been a huge relief the past few years to not have that financial burden,” she said. “In the next months, I’m looking to see where I can scale back in my budget. Probably less going out to eat, and more picking up side gigs.”
Justin Cole, 35, of Little Rock, Arkansas, said he doesn’t know how he’s going to come up with the $166 a month he’ll owe starting in October. That’s the estimated payment on his roughly $19,000 of loans from paying for college more than 10 years ago.
“I’m already in a mountain of debt, and while I just got a raise at work, it doesn’t go into effect until we’re full staffed at my family practice clinic,” he said.
Cole works the front office at a medical practice, checking in patients, handling records and managing payment collection. Some of his other debt comes from medical expenses after a car accident early in the pandemic.
“If those loans were forgiven, I could finally work on getting my credit up and actually saving money for once,” he said. “If they were forgiven out of the blue, I’d be ecstatic.”
The Supreme Court in July rejected a plan by President Joe Biden’s administration to wipe away $400 billion in student loan debt.
For now, Cole has applied for adjustments to his payments based on both the new SAVE plan and prior income-driven repayment options, which are listed as processing and “in review” on his account. The SAVE, or “Saving on a Valuable Education,” plan allows borrowers to make lower payments based on a percentage of their discretionary income.
His major household expenses are “rent, car payments, groceries, and utilities — the same as everybody else,” he said.
Not yet clear is how millions of people suddenly having less discretionary income might affect the economy.
On an earnings call last month, the chief financial officer of Target said that student loan payments restarting will “put additional pressure on the already-strained budgets of tens of millions of households,” a sentiment echoed by the financial chiefs of Best Buy and other retailers.
In the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of economic conditions, one restaurant-industry observer in Boston said workers are taking on more hours, and, for the first time, credit card debt has topped $1 trillion. According to credit bureau TransUnion, more than half of student loan holders added credit card debt during the pandemic. Meanwhile, consumer savings, which peaked in 2021, are on the decline.
McClelland qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness as a public school teacher who will have worked in the field for 10 years next March. She’s putting her loans in order to hopefully receive that cancellation next year. The program erases remaining debts for federal student loan holders who work in public service while making 10 years of payments.
“I only have six payments to go, but it’s still stressful,” she said. “I have to find about $500 a month starting next month towards this payment that I haven’t had in so long.”
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is one of several avenues for relief still available to many with student debt. After Biden’s original plan for forgiveness was struck down by the Supreme Court in July, the White House has said it will use the Higher Education Act to bring cancellation to more borrowers. It’s currently undergoing a process known as “negotiated rule-making” to determine the details of that plan.
Other sources for relief for borrowers include: false certification, borrower defense, closed school, total/permanent disability discharges, and alternate repayment programs like income-driven repayment.
McClelland, for her part, said she now spends a lot of time counseling high school students on how to avoid taking on burdensome loans.
“I had no financial guidance when I was younger, from my own parents or from school,” she said. “I didn’t ever understand the long term impact.”
Despite working while in school and since — moonlighting at Starbucks, wineries and restaurants as well as counseling — McClelland still has a balance of about $38,000 in debt, from original loans of $10,000 towards her undergraduate studies and $40,000 for her masters in counseling at Sonoma State.
“I knew I wanted to go to college, and my parents didn’t have any money,” McClelland said. “I tell kids all the time, openly, ‘As someone who was once in your shoes, I highly recommend finding a way to avoid taking out loans.’ When you’re 17 or 18 years old, you think, ‘Oh, sure, I’ll figure this out.’ Then it’s frustrating to still be in this financial situation.”
WASHINGTON — Staring down a likely government shutdown, the White House wants to make sure any blame falls at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue — specifically on House Republicans.
After all, it’s House Republicans who have been paralyzed by their inability to pass a funding package, and Republicans who don’t want to uphold a bipartisan spending agreement from earlier this year.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
President Joe Biden is hoping the rest of the country will see things the same way. It’s a murky proposition at a time of extreme political polarization, with many Americans dug into their partisan corners regardless of the facts of the matter.
A shutdown would arrive at a tenuous moment for Biden, who already faces low poll numbers and concerns about the economy as he seeks a second term in office, partially on the pitch that he offers steady stewardship in Washington.
If no spending bill passes Congress by the end of Saturday, federal workers stop getting paid, air travel could be ensnarled by staffing shortages and food benefits will pause for some of the country’s most vulnerable families.
Asked on Friday if Biden should bear any responsibility for the shutdown, White House budget director Shalanda Young said “absolutely not” and accused Republicans of being cavalier with people’s lives.
“The guy who picks up the trash in my office won’t get a paycheck,” she said. “That’s real. And that’s what makes me angry.”
Anita Dunn, Biden’s senior adviser, blamed the looming shutdown on “the most extreme fringe” of House Republicans in a presentation to allies on Thursday. She said “we have to hold them accountable” and “make sure they pay the political price.”
Speaking from the White House, she criticized adherents of former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” coalition — but she stopped just short of using the MAGA acronym.
“We’re not allowed to actually use the M-word here in the White House right now,” said Dunn, referring to legal guidance intended to ensure compliance with the Hatch Act, which prevents political activity while administration officials are on the job. “But everyone here knows what I mean. It’s a four-letter word. It begins with M. It ends with A. It’s got an AG in the middle.”
Dunn added, “So those people are the ones who are refusing to do their job and shutting the government down for no reason.”
The current crisis is a sequel to the standoff over raising the debt limit earlier this year. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., refused to authorize the federal government to issue debt unless Biden negotiated over spending cuts.
After resisting, Biden agreed to budget talks, reaching a bipartisan deal that averted a first-ever default. But now a group of House Republicans want even deeper spending cuts and they’ve threatened to oust McCarthy from the speaker’s job if they don’t get what they want.
So far, the White House has refused to negotiate, stressing that an agreement was already in place and House Republicans are refusing to honor its terms. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Republicans were “solely to blame” for any shutdown, calling that “a basic fact.”
Administration officials have also been highlighting that a shutdown would cause lapses in paychecks for military service members and delays in assistance for victims of natural disasters.
The White House messaging effort has received no shortage of unintended help from Republicans themselves, with moderates criticizing their hard-right colleagues.
Rep. Mike Lawler, R-New York, said “just throwing a temper tantrum and stomping your feet — frankly, not only is it wrong — it’s just pathetic.”
Even McCarthy acknowledged recently that some members of his caucus “just want to burn the whole place down.”
At a Wednesday fundraiser outside San Francisco, Biden said McCarthy cares more about protecting his job as speaker than keeping the government open.
“The fact is that I think that the speaker is making a choice between his speakership and American interests,” Biden said.
While Washington endured partial shutdowns as long as 35 days during Trump’s presidency, Biden warned his donors that Republicans could shutter the government for weeks, if not months.
“It would be disastrous for us, especially if it became long-term,” he said.
Romina Boccia, a veteran of Washington fiscal debates and the director of budget and entitlement policy at the Cato Institute, said this situation is much different than the government shutdown in 2013.
At that time, Republicans were united around trying to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And even then, it didn’t work. Once the shutdown happened, Boccia recalled, “it didn’t provide any more leverage,” and “Republicans caved and reopened the government when they learned the hard way that they weren’t going to get their way.”
This time, she said, “it’s not clear what they’re trying to get out of a government shutdown. It just seems dysfunctional all around.”
Some polls conducted ahead of the expected shutdown suggest Biden and Democrats in Congress could bear a substantial portion of the blame if a closure occurs. But U.S. adults generally have two conflicting priorities regarding the federal budget.
About 60% of them say the government spends too much money, but majorities also back more money for Social Security, health care and infrastructure, according to a survey by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This enables some Republicans to say the public backs them on cuts, but it also justifies spending on programs that are projected to contribute to higher deficits in the years to come.
The likely shutdown overlaps with Biden ramping up next year’s reelection campaign. For the past few months, the president has taken full ownership of the economy’s performance as inflation has dropped while unemployment has stayed low.
But an emerging set of risks are on the horizon and most U.S. adults still feel pessimistic about the country’s direction.
Mortgage rates are at a 22-year high. Oil prices are nearly $91 a barrel, pushing up the cost of gasoline. Unionized autoworkers are likely entering a third week of strikes. Student loan repayments are restarting. Pandemic-related money for child care centers is set to end, potentially triggering a set of closures that could hit working parents.
A government shutdown would be another dose of chaos that could cause pain for millions of households. White House officials who are ready to blame Republicans say they’d rather see a shutdown avoided.
“I’m still hoping,” Young said Friday. “I’m still remaining an optimist.”
LAS VEGAS — The first arrest in the 1996 slaying of Tupac Shakur had its roots in the investigation of the killing of Biggie Smalls.
The shooting deaths of the two hip-hop luminaries and rivals — Shakur in Las Vegas and Smalls in Los Angeles six months later — have always been culturally inseparable, and one man, Duane Keffe D. Davis, found himself involved in both investigations.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
On Friday, Davis was arrested and charged with murder, with prosecutors saying he ordered and masterminded the Shakur killing.
Now retired Los Angeles police detective Greg Kading was assigned to investigate the slaying of Smalls — whose legal name was Christopher Wallace — and in 2009 interviewed Davis as a person of interest in the case. Davis had had been at the party at the Peterson Automotive Museum that Wallace had just left when he was shot.
Kading had helped build a federal drug case against Davis to get leverage to compel him to talk to Los Angeles police, who to date have made no arrests in the Wallace case.
“He confesses to his involvement in the Tupac Shakur case, he gives all the details of how he and his co-conspirators killed Tupac,” Kading recalled in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.
Davis, who had immunity for what he said in his police interview but not what he said outside it, went on to divulge many of the same details in documentaries, on podcasts and in a tell-all 2019 memoir that would give new life to the Las Vegas police probe and help lead to his grand jury indictment.
“He has essentially talked himself right into jail,” Kading said.
Davis had long been known to investigators as one of four suspects identified early in the investigation. He isn’t the accused gunman but was described as the group’s ringleader by authorities at a news conference and in court. In Nevada a defendant can be charged with a crime, including murder, if you help someone commit the crime.
Davis, now 60, said in his memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he provided the gun used in the drive-by shooting.
Davis was arrested early Friday while on a walk near his home on the outskirts of Las Vegas, hours before prosecutors announced in court that a Nevada grand jury had indicted the self-described “gangster” on one count of murder with a deadly weapon. He is due in court next week.
The grand jury also voted to add a sentencing enhancement to the murder charge for gang activity that could add up to 20 additional years if he’s convicted.
Hundreds of pages of transcripts released Friday provide a view into the first month of grand jury proceedings, which began in late July with testimony from former associates of Davis, friends of Shakur and a slate of retired police officers involved in the case early on. Their testimony painted a picture for the jurors of a deep, escalating rift between Shakur’s music label Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records, which had ties to Davis and represented Wallace.
“It started the whole West Coast/East Coast” rivalry that primarily defined the hip-hop scene during the mid-1990s, one of Davis’ former associates testified.
Davis denied an interview request Friday from jail, and court records don’t list an attorney who can comment on his behalf. Phone and text messages to Davis and his wife on Friday and in the months raided their home in the nearby city of Henderson on July 17 were not returned.
In a statement Friday, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the rapper’s sister, described the arrest as a victory, but in a measured tone.
“This is no doubt a pivotal moment. The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community,” she said. “It’s important to me that the world, the country, the justice system, and our people acknowledge the gravity of the passing of this man, my brother, my mother’s son, my father’s son.”
She gave no praise to the authorities who have worked the case.
“I know there’s been many people who did not believe that the murder of Tupac Shakur was important to this police department,” Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a news conference Friday. “I’m here to tell you, that was simply not the case. It was not the case back then, and it is not the case today.”
He added, “every single victim, every life that is lost is important and remains a priority to this police department.
On the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur and Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight were in Las Vegas to watch a Mike Tyson heavyweight title match. Outside the fight just after it ended, the men were involved in a brawl with Davis and his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, with whom Shakur had feuded previously.
Later that night, Shakur was sitting in a BMW that Knight was driving when a Cadillac pulled up next to them and gunfire erupted.
Shakur was shot multiple times and died a week later at the age of 25.
Davis, in his memoir, said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had slipped a gun into the back seat, from where he said the shots were fired.
He implicated Anderson, saying he was one of two people in the backseat.
Anderson died two years later. He denied any involvement in Shakur’s death.
The rapper’s death came as his fourth solo album, “All Eyez on Me,” remained on the charts, with some 5 million copies sold. Nominated six times for a Grammy Award, Shakur is still largely considered one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.
On Sept. 17, on the heels of New York Fashion Week, Climate Week saw more than 70,000 people marched in the streets of Manhattan demanding the end of fossil fuel industries and climate justice at scale. This was in stark contrast to the shows on the runway, where collections were presented without the slightest acknowledgement of the increasing signs of our ongoing climate emergency— some as recent as a week before Fashion Week began, with the floods in Libya killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Despite Fashion Week’s dreadful silence regarding one of today’s most pressing existential issues, shows, including luxury fashion brand Coach, were interrupted by climate protests and signs calling for the end of animal exploitation (also implicated in greenhouse gas emissions). This resulted in protestors being violently snatched by men in black and kicked out of venues.
The consensus seems to be that fashion executives aren’t visibly addressing the climate crisis. When speaking with creative directors, designers, and fashion industry professionals, there seems to be a shared fear amongst them: A fear of “getting canceled” for not doing the right thing—or for not doing enough when it comes to addressing climate issues. But visibly or not, the question remains: Are they anxious enough about the scientific consensus that in less than six years, without a massive reduction in carbon emissions, our world will begin to tip into a chain of ecosystem collapse?
As a climate activist, I have worked since the early aughts to provide access to crucial information regarding climate justice in the fashion industry and beyond through my organization Slow Factory. Through our work, we have observed that there is an undeniable collective anxiety that seems to exist only on the surface of the fashion industry. And while the fashion industry is filled with promises and good intentions, with a few exceptions, the overall trajectory of fashion is one of business as usual.
On the one hand, lack of transparency and lack of clear data remain an issue. But more fundamentally there seems to be a lack of perspective in the fashion industry as a whole: stakeholders operate in narrow tunnel vision goal-oriented frameworks that aren’t broad enough to perceive the entire system in question. The industry is made up of complex decentralized systems that have a plethora of human rights issues and environmental impacts particularly around chemical dyes and textile waste. Businesses, however, have a hard time making decisions that would impact the overall system because they don’t have a clear overview of it. Instead, decisions are made with laser-focused precision on certain parts of the industry, but limited impact to the whole. Currently, bridging the gap between intention and action relies on adjacent non-profits and institutions such as Fashion for Good, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), and the Apparel Impact Institute—all three of which are not collaborating closely enough to problem solve and have competing agendas. The proposed Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (also known as the Fashion Act) also makes many promises to reduce emissions, but that depends not only on brands and their C-Suite’s endorsement. It also relies on a plethora of other actors (producers, manufacturers, marketers, and other executive decision makers) that need to work together towards shared goals and establish clear milestones.
How can the fashion industry, known for its fierce competitiveness, reach a collective agreement, share knowledge and data, and have enough incentive to collaborate in order to reduce carbon emissions? Especially when the general reaction on social media tends to lean into despair and doubt that these harmful systems of overproduction and exploitation of human labor can’t be transformed at scale in time.
Like any good relationship, we need to start communicating. The fashion industry is large, complex, and touches on so many global systems—from agriculture, animal husbandry, metals, and mining to global transportation, supply chains, pulp and paper, manufacturing, plastics and fossil fuels, retail and consumer goods—that it creates a microcosm of the entire global economy. Some of these industries are working in tandem with each other—and some are not aware that they must be. Companies and even departments continue to operate in silos, and although the issues and solutions are systemic, brands seldom meet to discuss shared climate goals unless they are on stage at conferences, making promises to appease their customer base with often dubious follow-through.
Ignorance, then, becomes a sinister bliss, and downplaying sustainability seems to be the norm in fashion—as though the elephant in the room was not big enough, loud enough, interrupting pristine fashion shows enough. But in this vast system of complexity where the long-term negative effects will be felt by all (and the offenders are only concerned with short-term profit), who will be shouldering and fronting the financial commitment required to fund systemic change? And better yet, how can we measure impact within the fashion industry when most of the data points aren’t traceable and can’t seem to agree on sustainable standards?
A 2018 report co-authored by Fashion for Good and Apparel Impact Institute estimates that the systemic change within the fashion industry required to address the climate emergency will cost $1 trillion. This will require the biggest offenders and players in the industry to collaborate and invest in solutions.
Solutions are starting to get underway. Measuring impact and decarbonization solutions that move beyond clean tech and towards processes within the industry has recently inspired multiple players to raise funds to support necessary innovation in the industry. This includes replacing fossil fuel-based ones such as polyester, acrylic with new materials such as fiber derived from recycled plastic bottles. There are also initiatives and frameworks in fashion embracing a total carbon reduction across the supply chain, such as the UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, and the Fashion Pact launched in 2019 as a mission given to Kering Chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault by French President, Emmanuel Macron, with dozens of global fashion signatories.
But overall the industry is far away from meeting any science-based emissions targets, so further efforts are necessary. The Fashion Act, for instance, would require fashion companies to be responsible for their entire supply chains. Slow Factory has also developed its own context-specific framework called the Sustainable Standard, which would force fashion brands to consider the emissions and human rights effects of their operations and their waste, reusing their deadstock materials including unwanted and unsold goods.
So far, a few funds have emerged focusing on financing climate-informed solutions in the fashion industry. For example, the Slow Factory Fund for Systemic Change is now raising 0.01% of these required funds—$100 million—to invest in socially responsible climate justice solutions. It is the only fund unifying goals of emissions reduction, human rights, and waste circularity. Apparel Impact Institute’s $250 million Fashion Climate Fund aims for incremental change across the fashion supply chain to reduce emissions. Both of these funds are examples of initiatives that represent clear investments in a shared future, leveraging philanthropic and venture funding sources to accelerate climate innovation.
If fashion executives care and can act fast enough to invest in solutions, we can achieve true traceability, work across departments, measure impact, and reflect the times the industry exists in.
There was a romantic guitar serenade, a daring “birthday suit” entrance, some boozy bickering, and more than one make-out session in the season premiere of The Golden Bachelor—which is to say, despite the promise of something new with a senior citizen spin-off, it was still business as usual for Bach Nation. Since the show was officially announced this spring after years of development, it was viewed as a potential savior for the beleaguered franchise, which has been riddled with scandals and controversies in recent years. The franchise has been suffering from decreased viewership, a seeming reflection of a changing fanbase, oversaturation in the reality TV romance space, the increasingly tiresome contestant-to-influencer pipeline, and viewers who have simply moved on from the show’s arguably outmoded views on romantic love.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
For over 20 years, viewers have watched season after season of The Bachelor, where a leading man (or leading lady, in its gender-flipped spin-off The Bachelorette) dates 20 to 25 women simultaneously, eliminating hopeful paramours each week, until he comes down to the final two, ultimately choosing one to be his one true love—and more often than not, his wife. The franchise made pop-culture history by gamifying the search for a long-term relationship and romanticizing a specific idea of true love: hetero, Christian, monogamous, and focused on marriage as a goal.
Along the way, it also became notorious for the cheesy, outrageous, and sometimes even cringe antics of its attractive 20- and 30-something cast members, whose booze-filled interpersonal drama provided much of the show’s entertainment as they vied for the affection of the bachelor. It’s a formula that made relative stars of its contestants, both the couples and memorable single ladies, providing niche fame, especially in the social media era, and helping to create the now-common phrase, “here for the right reasons,” which is used to question a contestant’s motivation for being on the show.
Read more: The Alarming Rise of the Wholesome Romance
With The Golden Bachelor, the Bachelor franchise had the rare opportunity to flip the script in a new way, if they could swing it. Their cast seemed less likely to be seeking influencer fame. The contestants were probably less attuned to creating viral moments born out of drunken drama and petty fights, by virtue of maturity and lives lived comparatively offline. And the goal of the show had the potential to be more complex. While a dating show centered around the romantic endeavors of young adults often focuses on the goal of marriage and settling down, a show about senior citizens looking for love could highlight how desires evolve throughout life, offering a look at what someone might want after having one or more marriages and kids. What the show delivered, however, was an aged-up version of their tried-and-true formula.
The “Golden Bachelor” is one Gerry Turner, a sweet and dapper 72-year-old widower with the conventional good looks required to be a Bachelor heartthrob, and the prerequisite tragic backstory that’s become a Bachelor signature. Turner was married to his high-school sweetheart, Toni, for 43 years, before losing her to an unexpected bacterial infection, just weeks after they had retired and moved to their dream lake house. Now, six years later, he’s open to giving love another shot—and begins his journey by meeting the 22 Golden Bachelor contestants. The arrivals of the contestants may be the most glaring proof that the Bachelor franchise has no intention of subverting its conventions with the show; like their youthful predecessors, the contestants put on a campy show, arriving in glamorous gowns and outlandish costumes, pulling stunts like riding in on a motorcycle in an attempt to keep Turner’s attention and capture the first impression rose.
While the backstories shared about the contestants gave some meaningful context about the fuller lives they have lived, the show proved much more obsessed with the tensions already rising in the Bachelor mansion. Like all other iterations of The Bachelor, the women fret and squabble over their time with Turner, with one cutting in on another’s session with him. The edit also seems more concerned with salacious moments than it is with true connection, with plenty of screen time given to Turner’s passionate makeouts with not just one, but two women on the first night and the diva-like antics of a contestant who seems destined to be this season’s villain.
It’s refreshing to see physical affection between older folks, something not usually shown on primetime, much less dating shows. And senior citizens are just as entitled to be divas or have conflicts as their younger counterparts. But the show seems (so far, at least) unconcerned with accounting for the years of life experience that their cast has or exploring how that could affect the way they look for love at this stage in their lives. While the preview of the rest of the season shows a make-out in a hot tub and many, many tears shed in future episodes, it would be far more interesting to see the show engage with the cast’s age and experience. Imagine a Golden Bachelor that seriously grappled with the question of whether a previous marriage changes what you look for in a partner in your golden years or if physical intimacy is as important later in life. Does the lack of young children and parenting concerns make a relationship less fraught, or do grown adult children complicate matters of the heart further?
While The Golden Bachelor’s lack of innovation may have disappointed fans looking for some welcome change to the franchise, it didn’t show up in the viewership. According to early data from Nielsen, the premiere drew 4.09 million viewers, 38% more viewers than the most recent premiere of The Bachelor. Whether or not it can hold those numbers remains to be seen—as does the possibility that later episodes go deeper into more nuanced conversations about what it means to date and fall in love in your 60s or 70s. But if there’s anything the franchise has taught us, it’s that first impressions matter. Judging from its premiere, it appears that the Golden Bachelor is still The Bachelor, the same old story with a few more wrinkles.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Saw X.
After being killed off in Saw III, Tobin Bell returns for a grisly showcase of Jigsaw Killer John Kramer’s torture trap prowess in Saw X, now in theaters.
Set between the events of Saw and Saw II, the tenth installment in the Saw series takes place while both Kramer and his original apprentice, Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), are still alive and hoping to find a cure for John’s terminal brain cancer. The movie, directed by franchise veteran Kevin Greutert, follows John as he travels to Mexico for an experimental medical procedure touted by Dr. Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) and her team as a miraculous new cancer treatment.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
But after undergoing what he believes was a life-saving surgery, John discovers the experiment is fake and run by con artists—from the cab driver who picked him up at the airport to the supposed neurosurgeon—scamming desperate patients out of money.
With the help of Amanda, John goes to work kidnapping Cecilia and her colluders to subject them to his unique brand of justice in the same warehouse where they pretended to perform his surgery.
Read more: How Saw X Fits Into the Saw UniverseHow does Saw X end?
After two of Cecilia’s accomplices have endured—and failed—John’s gruesome tests, Parker (Steven Brand), a man introduced to John earlier in the movie as a fellow recipient of the treatment, shows up at the warehouse with a gun demanding his money back. Amanda is able to knock him out and brings him up to the viewing area to watch a third collaborator, Gabriela (Renata Vaca), undergo her test.
Gabriela is mangled and irradiated, but ultimately manages to complete her task and survive. But before John and Amanda can take her to the hospital to have her injuries treated, Parker is able to take back his gun and it’s revealed that he’s actually Cecilia’s lover, arriving to save her. He forces them to free Cecilia—and she kills Gabriela. Parker and Cecilia start locking John up where had kept Cecilia, when suddenly, Carlos, an innocent boy who John met before his surgery, also shows up at the warehouse. Cecilia lures him inside and locks him up on a platform across from John.
The device John rigged for Cecilia is a two-person blood waterboarding trap of sorts that gives each person the ability to pull a lever that allows the other to come up for air while they drown. John tells Carlos not to pull the lever, preparing to sacrifice himself for the boy. But Carlos realizes what’s going on and does his part to save John.
Meanwhile, Cecilia and Parker head upstairs to reclaim the bag of swindled money they think John stashed there. But, of course, this was all ultimately part of John’s plan.
When Cecilia and Parker grab the cloak they think is hiding the bag of money, it triggers a new trap that locks them inside the viewing area as it begins to fill with poison and stops the blood flowing on the other trap. As Amanda frees John and Carlos, flashbacks fill in some gaps in the overall mystery: the cab driver who helped trick John later revealed to him that Parker was romantically involved with Cecilia. When Cecilia briefly got hold of her phone and tried to make a desperate call for help during the games, Amanda saw that she had called Parker. Since John knew Parker’s true motives, he switched out the bullets in Parker’s gun for duds while he was unconscious, giving Parker a test of his own.
Parker failed his test by retrieving his gun and turning on John and Amanda, but John had a contingency plan. While John did not intend for Carlos to show up and thought it would be him and Amanda strapped into the waterboarding trap, everything else worked out accordingly.
John informs the couple that there is only one air hole in the room, meaning only one of them can survive. Cecilia ends up killing Parker and survives the gas by sticking her head out the air hole. But there is seemingly still no way for her to escape as John, Amanda, and Carlos leave the warehouse together. John also gives Carlos the bag of defrauded money to keep in a gesture of good will for braving the trap.Does Saw X have a credits scene?
Saw X does in fact have a mid-credits scene that shows how John dealt with Henry (Michael Beach), the fellow cancer support group member who originally told John about Cecilia’s “miracle treatment.”
The sequence shows Henry waking up in a trap as John and Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), another of John’s fan-favorite disciples, walk into the room. John notes that Henry no longer has the massive stomach scar he showed him from his supposed life-saving surgery—and the game begins.
Franchise producer Oren Koules has said that if there were going to be an eleventh Saw movie, it would center on Hoffman’s role in the Jigsaw killings. “One of the things that we’ve read a lot about is that Jigsaw always seems so ahead of everybody,” Koules told Dexerto. “So one of the tricks in this movie that we wanted to show is that he’s been dealing with Detective Hoffman for a long time. So when he’s been ahead of everybody—and knows things that people are doing—it’s a little nugget for the fans to realize that he’s been talking to Detective Hoffman a lot earlier than we previously saw him in a movie.”
Twenty-five years ago, Felicity Porter unwittingly made the most important decision of her life. In the 1998 series premiere of Felicity, the titular character (played by Keri Russell) follows her high school crush Ben Covington (Scott Speedman) from Palo Alto to New York City, ditching her plans to study medicine at Stanford University to attend his school of choice, the University of New York. Felicity’s decision to blow up her college plans after reading a surprisingly moving yearbook message from a boy she barely knew is certainly impulsive. But it’s also a powerful act of defiance by a sheltered young woman who, as she admits, “never made a substantial choice in my life” without her mom and dad’s permission. With her cross-country move, Felicity didn’t just chase a guy, she finally followed her heart. She took a risk, the first of many that she would take in the show’s four seasons, and it paid off in a big way.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Unfortunately, not all of Felicity’s choices were as well-received—like a certain season 2 haircut that came to exemplify what was right and wrong about the show. In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, it’s time to take a closer look at Felicity’s choice to chop off her hair, and how it became the most infamous—and misunderstood—hairstyle in pop culture history.
The first season of the much-hyped WB series ended on a cliffhanger: Would Felicity spend the summer with her teenage crush Ben or with her freshman year fling Noel (Scott Foley)? In the season 2 premiere, it’s revealed that she had unsurprisingly chosen Ben, and after spending the summer on the road together, they had become (kind of) an item. But by the second episode of the new season, Felicity realizes she is compromising herself too much in order to please a guy who is not emotionally mature enough to deal with her big feelings.
“I mean, I’m an emotional person. I feel things and I need to be able to get upset and to talk about how I’m feeling,” she tells Ben in the Platonic ideal of a breakup speech. “I mean, that’s who I am. I can’t change it. I don’t want to.” But Felicity walks away from that brief romance realizing that there are some changes she would like to make. In the final moments of episode 2, she goes to a salon and gets the kind of dramatic haircut one gets after a big breakup. “But I wasn’t doing it for a guy,” Felicity explains. “I was doing it for me.”
At the 2018 ATX TV Festival, Russell recalled filming the episode’s pivotal final scene at 4 a.m. on a Friday. The on-set hairstylist snipped a few strands in order for the episode’s director, Lawrence Trilling, to get the dramatic shot of her long curly locks hitting the floor. “Then a few hours later,” she said. “I went to a hair salon and someone cut the rest of it off.”
Russell made it all sound so normal, but the response to it would be anything but. Felicity’s new hairdo, which was finally revealed in the opening moments of episode 3, was almost immediately regarded as a hair don’t. “We got a lot of emails and letters and feedback from our friends in the industry who were fans of the show,” Brad Turell, the WB’s then spokesman, told the New York Times in December 2000, more than a year after the episode originally aired. “People were disappointed and angry at us and at Keri for cutting off her hair. ‘Who made that decision?’ they asked.”
The show’s co-creators, a pre-Alias J. J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, the future director of The Batman, made the choice, with the network’s full knowledge. But Russell became the scapegoat. (She would later reveal that she received death threats over the haircut.) Not to mention a punchline: Felicity’s pixie cut became the butt of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Gilmore Girls jokes. A decade later her hair would continue to be comedy gold for 30 Rock, Family Guy, and Happy Endings.
Funnily enough, it was Russell who inadvertently inspired Felicity’s haircut. “When we were wrapping up season one and putting everything in boxes, there was a wig that was like a little boy’s wig,” she explained during a 2019 episode of the Armchair Expert podcast. “I put it on as a joke and [hair & make-up] took a picture of me. They said, ‘You know what would be really funny? Send this to J. J. and Matt over the break and [as a joke] just say, ‘Isn’t this so cute?’ to give them a panic attack.” She did, but instead of freaking out, Abrams called her looking to see if she would be willing to cut her hair for real. “I said, ‘Yeah of course,’” she told W Magazine in 2017. “My hair was curly and it was an awkward haircut, but even so I didn’t care, like I loved it. I thought it was so true [to the character] and great. I did not expect all the hysteria.”
The frenzy was made worse by the WB’s claims that Felicity’s post-breakup chop resulted in fans splitting up with the show. “Women kind of identified with her,” Turell told the Times. “When she cut her hair, they basically said, ‘I don’t want to be that person; it ruins the illusion for me.’ We heard that over and over again.”
Russell didn’t agree with the network’s assessment, telling Entertainment Weekly in 2000, “I think that’s a pretty lame excuse. I think a lot more than a haircut was deciding the ratings [last year].” And she wasn’t wrong. Felicity’s ratings did dip in season 2, but there were other factors at play beyond the show’s lack of Pre-Raphaelite curls. The WB had moved the show from Tuesdays at 9 p.m. to Sundays at 8 p.m. in its second season, which led the show to lose a third of its viewers. In its new time slot, Felicity was going up against major network juggernauts like The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, and Touched by an Angel. The latter averaged more than 11 million viewers per week in the 1999-2000 TV season while Felicity averaged a modest 3.4 million. (Felicity would move again in season 3, to Wednesdays at 9 p.m., in hopes of improving the ratings; it did, but only marginally.) That same TV season, the WB saw their overall viewership dip. By the time the season 2 finale of Felicity aired in May 2000, the WB had dropped to last place in ratings among the six major broadcast networks.
Despite a myriad of possible explanations for Felicity’s sophomore slump, including darker storylines and Ben and Felicity’s breakup, the network used the hair fiasco to put an unofficial “no haircut” policy in place for its fresh faced young stars. Moving forward, if any of their actors wanted to cut their hair, it would “be given more thought at the network than it previously would have,” Susanne Daniels, the then-president of WB Entertainment, told reporters at the 2000 Winter TCA Press Tour. (“It will grow back, Susanne,” was reportedly Russell’s response to Daniels when the exec broached the topic of her hair.)
Reading the quotes from that time, it’s hard not to sympathize with the then 23-year-old Russell, who spent two years having her appearance picked apart by network execs. Even Abrams ended up apologizing for the haircut storyline he initially championed. “She’s so gorgeous, we thought, ‘Who cares how long her hair is?’ The answer came back pretty quickly,” he told the New York Times in 2000 while promoting season 3. “Frankly, we thought of extensions and all sorts of things. Finally it’s growing back.”
Amid a sea of misogynistic discussion, Russell’s support for the haircut never wavered. She was the only one, in interview after interview, who stood up for the chop and what it symbolized. “For the character, I think it was a brave, crazy, sudden, extreme thing to do,” she told Deseret News in 2000. “But those are things a girl in college might do. I think it was quite appropriate.” After girls started coming up to her on the street to compliment her new look, she wanted to own the haircut even more. “I had a mom who came up to me at a mall at that time and said, ‘You were so pretty until you cut your hair.’ And I was like, ‘Oh thanks?’” she recalled on Armchair Expert. “But being a kid in that storm, I was already rebelling in my own mind and pushing it all away, so in a way I was like, ‘F–k you. I don’t f—ing care. I cut my hair!’”
The truth is, the WB didn’t know what to do with Felicity with or without her hair. They wanted Russell to be their sexy ingénue, someone their preferred target demographic, men between the ages of 18 and 34, would lust after. That was very clear from a quote Daniels gave at the 2000 Winter TCA Press Tour: “I think it turned some audiences away. In particular, men and some women.” Though women were the only audience that seemed to stick around no matter how long Felicity’s hair was, the show aired in an era when Hollywood saw no reason to cater to them, especially those age 18 to 34. (Barbie aside, they still don’t, despite every sign that they really, really should.) The network didn’t understand that what made Felicity, and therefore Russell, so relatable to female viewers was her vulnerability, not just her beauty. She was willing to take big leaps knowing she might fall, and did so without apology or doubt. Felicity never once questioned her decision to cut her hair, even when others around her did. (“Guys are gonna hate it,” Felicity’s roommate Meghan (Amanda Foreman) bluntly tells her in the cold open of episode 3, as if the writers predicted what was to come.) The fact that Felicity was so willing to explore the world of a young, hyper emotional, introspective woman on the brink of adulthood at a time when so many other series weren’t is what has made it one of the best TV shows of all-time.
The funniest and most infuriating part of all of the haircut hullabaloo is that it wasn’t even the most rash decision Felicity would make in her sophomore year. Early in episode 3, she tells her trusted confidant Sally (voiced by Janeane Garofalo), via the audio recordings the two would exchange throughout the series, that she has done something drastic. She’s not referring to her hair, but to her decision to switch majors from medicine to art. The haircut inspired her to let go of everyone else’s preconceived ideas of how she should live and once again follow her heart.
With that haircut Felicity wasn’t looking to please anyone but herself, an empowering concept that went right over the heads of the network and so many others. Russell, however, understood the importance of establishing Felicity’s independence. In many ways, cutting her hair allowed her to establish her own independence as well — and like Felicity, she has never apologized for that. “I looked like a Chia Pet for a good few years and then it was fine,” she told W Magazine 18 years after the episode aired. “I have nice shoulders.”
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In her prime, there was no one—no man or woman, no one wearing Team Red or Blue, no one brandishing centrist or progressive labels—who could rival Dianne Feinstein. She knew what it was like to lose; even before arriving in Washington, she had two failed bids for San Francisco mayor and one for California governor under her belt, not to mention the trauma of finding her friends immediately after a former colleague assassinated them in San Francisco City Hall back in 1978, all of which informed her desire to make the wins she did notch count all the more.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
And did she ever win.
Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died Friday at the age of 90 and as the Upper Chamber’s oldest member. No cause was announced, but her health in recent months generated plenty of chatter in Washington and beyond about just how long was long enough for a powerful lawmaker to hang around the Capitol. Hospitalized in February with shingles that later turned out to include encephalitis, she was quickly dogged by rumor and innuendo about her health and legacy, but Feinstein refused to yield and kept her seat. While Washington gnashed its teeth about the choice, it had a practical upside: had President Joe Biden come upon a window to nominate a Supreme Court justice, her vote would have allowed the pick to advance to the full Senate; without Feinstein, the nomination may languish on a tied panel. One of the richest members of the Senate, Feinstein could have retreated to the Bay Area but instead stuck around far longer than her armchair critics would have preferred. They saw headlines while she saw unrealized headaches.
Born Dianne Goldman in 1933, the oldest of three daughters and future senior Senator from California unfurled policy ambitions that were as unapologetic as they were sincere. Essentially, no matter of policy escaped Feinstein’s voracious appetite over the last half century. Gun safety. The HIV/AIDS epidemic. Government transparency. Gender equity. LGBTQ rights. All were set on new courses in part because of the dictates of Feinstein, whose seeming indifference to national political trends helped to insulate her from the leftward shift inside her Democratic Party, for whom she was considered a V.P. candidate in 1984. While she came up through San Francisco politics, it’s impossible to chart her history-making identity without also recalling that the California that sent her to Washington in 1992 was also not far removed from that of former Governor and barely-ex-President Ronald Reagan. She knew her home state wasn’t the caricature of itself, nor did she allow anyone to confuse her with some pushover heiress.
Not long after she won election in 1992’s so-called Year of the Woman, Feinstein and her new colleague, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, clashed on the Senate floor over an assault weapon ban. “The gentlelady from California needs to become a little more aware with firearms and their deadly characteristics,” Craig said. Feinstein interrupted: “I am quite familiar with firearms. I became mayor as a product of assassination.”
If the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a lion of the Senate, Feinstein was its lioness, but not one who always stayed with the pride. She bucked convention when she found it ill-advised. She joined the Senate in the wake of the incendiary Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, which included the all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee infamously questioning Anita Hill about her sexual harassment allegations. The committee’s chairman at the time, Joe Biden, recruited Feinstein to join his panel soon after she arrived in D.C. For years, she warned that Roe was in peril and voted against George W. Bush Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito on that basis.
From Judiciary and her post on the quietly powerful Senate Intel panel, she remade decades of U.S. policy. She declassified a summary of a report on CIA torture programs over the objections of spooks and Barack Obama. She proved a hawkish defender of U.S. spycraft, a brief loyalist to George W. Bush’s War on Terror, but not without checks.
But it was her decisions on the Judiciary panel during the Trump years that made her an enemy of the left, including her handling of a confidential letter from Christine Blasey Ford alleging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. Her conduct during the confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett effectively brought to a close Feinstein’s reign as the top Democrat on Judiciary; her colleagues bristled when Feinstein hugged Sen. Lindsey Graham and praised Judge Barrett’s hearings as “one of the best” hearings she had sat on. She soon stepped aside as the top Democrat on the panel and, shortly after, said she would not be serving as the Senate leader pro temp, taking her out of the line of presidential succession.
Feinstein may have carried herself with a regal demeanor, but her true self was the one who cornered colleagues in basement hallways and hosted dinners for friends across the aisle. She never stopped looking for a deal and seldom came into any meeting without something she was willing to trade away in service of a bigger get. While most other Senators draw sniping or eye-rolling from their House colleagues from the opposite party, it’s tough to find Republicans in the California delegation willing to share a negative word about Feinstein; when House members hit walls, they knew they could call her office to dislodge a logjam.
After nearly three decades in the same seat, Feinstein faced a tough re-nomination fight in 2018 but survived, perhaps hinting that California Democrats were willing to try something new. Feinstein, unbowed and indifferent, put her head down and powered to a fifth term.
All of that, however, was clouded by the discussion of her health during her final years in office. In February of this year, Feinstein announced she would not seek a sixth full term and instead set in motion what stands to be one of the most expensive, contentious, and prophetic primaries in the Democratic Party in quite some time. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce an interim replacement; a Black woman, per his promise.
Still, Feinstein remains an iconic figure, and not just for Democrats or women. Her stature is cemented for future generations. Her gains were hard-fought, her wins often in the face of opposition. But Feinstein, who almost walked away from politics in the 1970s, stuck around and did the hard work. In doing so, she remade the expectations for women in politics and remade a half-century of history into one that hewed more to her pragmatic demand for betterment, even if it didn’t always match her party’s ideology.
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