John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.


  • 26/03/2023: Old note found: moving up the time of grace

    ImageDr. Nadia Chaudhri died on October 5, 2021.

    She narrated her death from cancer on her Twitter feed.

    Every time I read her writing I thought about the grace on display.

    The lessons she was able to give us. I just found a note I wrote to myself after reading one of her entries: “move up the time of grace in life.”


    Not long after I found this note, I saw this Tweet, which feels like a soundtrack to this thought:


  • 25/03/2023: A satisfying GPT exchange

    A lot of the coverage of change GPT has been about the learning and development of artificial intelligence. What I wonder is how we, as humans, are going to slowly learn and acculturate to the kinds of exchanges with ChatGPT and its cousins. What I’m thinking about is the psychological closeness that will accrue in our brains the more we use it. This exchange that I had– which was a bit of a test– was very pleasing and colloquial. After a number of these exchanges I’m sure I will start to think of it as more human, or at least, I will start to change my psychological relationship with it. It’s very easy to imagine people going overboard.

    Chat GPT Pleasing Interaction

    This expression was another find from my notebook from when I traveled to England in 1990.


  • 25/03/2023: A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion

    The Met has a wonderful write-up of all that is going on in this etching:

    A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, James Gillray (British, London 1756–1815 London), Hand-colored etchingJames Gillray’s famously brutal caricature of George, Prince of Wales encapsulates the effects of uncontrolled self-indulgence upon the heir to the British throne. Sprawled in his chair after a lavish meal, the prince picks his teeth with a meat fork; his lack of gentility is underscored by the over-flowing chamber pot at his elbow used to anchor unpaid bills. Just thirty years old, his accumulated ailments can be inferred from remedies piled at right – pills and potions to treat “stinking breath”, “piles” (hemorrhoids), venereal disease and poor digestion. A portrait on the wall suggests a more effective remedy – depicting Luigi Carnarro, a Venetian nobleman whose life was famously saved by going on a strict diet. By including “Voluptuary” in the title, Gillray invoked contemporary worries that traditional British masculine virtues were being enervated by a culture obsessed with luxury.

    Click here to get a very close up view of the etching. Gillray had a troubled and fascinating life which I should like to know more about. Or, if you prefer…about which I should like to know more.

  • 25/03/2023: In the days of easy poison

    When people dropped dead for any variety of reasons, it was much easier to poison your enemies,and have your murder written off as just another one of those episodes where a person was dropping dead because people dropped dead all the time. This seems to have been what happened. In the case of. William Longespee the First Earl of Salisbury.

    File:William Longespée.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsHubert De Burgh and Billy Long, as no one called him, got crosswise with each other. They were both loyal subjects to the kings during the 13th century. But De Burgh didn’t think Longespee was sufficiently loyal. They had a set-to and ultimately De Burgh backed down. To make it up to Longespee, De Burgh invited him over to his house for a feast. Several days after the repast, Longespee turned up dead.

    Oh well, people die all the time in the Middle Ages. It is, after all, the 13th century and the lines at the pharmacy for leaches were notoriously long, even for nobles.


    Fine. Then, in 1791, during the refurbishment of the Salisbury Cathedral, William Longespee’s tomb was opened and the mummified corps of a rat was found in his skull. The rat displayed serious arsenic poisoning.

    The mummified rat is still on display at the cathedral because it was assumed that the rat died from the arsenic that was placed in Billy Long’s dinner by Hubert De Burgh.


    More from the Salisbury Journal.

    This entire episode was kicked off by a notation I found in one of my notebooks from June, 1990 when I was traveling through England as a junior in college:

    Notebook rat skull

  • 24/03/2023: This is how we beat the robots

    I’m not kidding. When artificial intelligence becomes so good at copying human behavior, we will need to get really good at head fakes. Remember this simple rule: head fakes beat deep fakes.

  • 23/03/2023: Beethoven's Grit and Gut

    You’ve probably seen the stories about how scientists used strands of Beethoven’s hair to examine his DNA. They did so in the hopes of trying to learn more about the cluster of illnesses that troubled the composer throughout his life.

    He was a mess. I knew that he was afflicted–most notably by a loss of hearing– but whoa I did not know how bad it was. The hearing loss, liver ailments and chronic gastrointestinal detonations got so bad he contemplated suicide. “only Art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce.”

    He wrote a wrenching note to his brothers about his withdrawal from polite society and asked that when he died his doctor explain to people what happened to him.

    To read what going deaf was like is just heartbreaking:

    Ah how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others…what a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life — only Art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence

    The entire letter is known as the Heiligenstadt Testament and I reprint it here:

    For my brothers Carl and [Johann] Beethoven.

    undefinedO you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me, you do not know the secret causes of my seeming, from childhood my heart and mind were disposed to the gentle feelings of good will, I was even ever eager to accomplish great deeds, but reflect now that for six years I have been a hopeless case, aggravated by senseless physicians, cheated year after year in the hope of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible), born with an ardent and lively temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was compelled early to isolate myself, to live in loneliness, when I at times tried to forget all this, O how harshly was I repulsed by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing, and yet it was impossible for me to say to men speak louder, shout, for I am deaf. Ah how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others, a sense which I once possessed in highest perfection, a perfection such as few surely in my profession enjoy or have enjoyed — O I cannot do it, therefore forgive me when you see me draw back when I would gladly mingle with you, my misfortune is doubly painful because it must lead to my being misunderstood, for me there can be no recreations in society of my fellows, refined intercourse, mutual exchange of thought, only just as little as the greatest needs command may I mix with society, I must live like an exile, if I approach near to people a hot terror seizes upon me, a fear that I may be subjected to the danger of letting my condition be observed — thus it has been during the last half year which I spent in the country, commanded by my intelligent physician to spare my hearing as much as possible, in this almost meeting my present natural disposition, although I sometimes ran counter to it yielding to my inclination for society, but what a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life — only Art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence — truly wretched, an excitable body which a sudden change can throw from the best into the worst state — Patience — it is said that I must now choose for my guide, I have done so, I hope my determination will remain firm to endure until it please the inexorable parcae to break the thread, perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not, I am prepared. Forced already in my 28th year to become a philosopher, O it is not easy, less easy for the artist than for anyone else — Divine One thou lookest into my inmost soul, thou knowest it, thou knowest that love of man and desire to do good live therein. O men, when some day you read these words, reflect that you did me wrong and let the unfortunate one comfort himself and find one of his kind who despite all obstacles of nature yet did all that was in his power to be accepted among worthy artists and men. You my brothers Carl and [Johann] as soon as I am dead if Dr. Schmid is still alive ask him in my name to describe my malady and attach this document to the history of my illness so that so far as possible at least the world may become reconciled with me after my death. At the same time I declare you two to be the heirs to my small fortune (if so it can be called), divide it fairly, bear with and help each other, what injury you have done me you know was long ago forgiven. To you brother Carl I give special thanks for the attachment you have displayed towards me of late. It is my wish that your lives be better and freer from care than I have had, recommend virtue to your children, it alone can give happiness, not money, I speak from experience, it was virtue that upheld me in misery, to it next to my art I owe the fact that I did not end my life with suicide. — Farewell and love each other — I thank all my friends, particularly Prince Lichnowsky and Professor Schmid — I desire that the instruments from Prince L. be preserved by one of you but let no quarrel result from this, so soon as they can serve you better purpose sell them, how glad will I be if I can still be helpful to you in my grave — with joy I hasten towards death — if it comes before I shall have had an opportunity to show all my artistic capacities it will still come too early for me despite my hard fate and I shall probably wish it had come later — but even then I am satisfied, will it not free me from my state of endless suffering? Come when thou will I shall meet thee bravely. — Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead, I deserve this of you in having often in life thought of you how to make you happy, be so –

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Heiligenstadt October 6 1802


  • 24/03/2023: Chat GPT on the difference between how to think about important issues.

    There is a gap in American public conversation between what gets covered and what is objectively important. Presidential campaigns exacerbate this gap. I asked Chat GPT to list the important stories and then I asked Chat GPT to list the stories about issues that impact the greatest number of Americans, which is a rough proxy for perhaps what we should talk about. Look at how the lists differ.
    What are the most important stories in American life today?
    As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or emotions. However, here are some important stories that have been widely reported and discussed in American life today:
    1. COVID-19 pandemic: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on American life, with rising cases and hospitalizations, vaccine distribution, and debates around mask mandates and other public health measures.
    2. Climate change and environmental issues: Climate change continues to be a major issue in American life, with extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and other environmental concerns.
    3. Racial justice and police reform: The killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans by police sparked nationwide protests and calls for racial justice and police reform, leading to ongoing discussions and policy changes.
    4. Immigration: The ongoing debate over immigration policies, including border security, refugee resettlement, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), continues to be a major topic in American life.
    5. Political polarization: Political polarization and division continue to be major issues in American life, with ongoing debates around election integrity, voting rights, and the role of government.

    These are just a few of the important stories in American life today, and there are many others as well.

    What are the most important issues in America ranked by the number of people they directly affect?

    As an AI language model, I do not have access to real-time data on the number of people affected by different issues. However, here are some issues that affect a significant portion of the American population:

    1. Healthcare: The healthcare system affects nearly everyone in the United States, whether through access to medical care, health insurance, or the high cost of prescription drugs.
    2. Economic inequality: Economic inequality affects a large portion of the population, with disparities in income, wealth, and access to education and job opportunities.
    3. Education: Education is important for nearly everyone in the United States, with access to quality education and student debt being major concerns.
    4. Climate change and environmental issues: Climate change and environmental issues affect everyone in the United States, from extreme weather events to air and water pollution.
    5. Gun violence: Gun violence affects a significant portion of the population, with ongoing debates around gun control, mass shootings, and community safety.

    These are just a few examples of issues that affect a significant portion of the American population, and there are many others as well. The impact of different issues can vary depending on factors such as location, socioeconomic status, and other individual factors.

  • 22/03/2023: John McPhee on reading out loud.

    From The Paris Review.


    Is reading your work aloud still important?


    Certainly the aural part of writing is a big, big thing to me. I can’t stand a sentence until it sounds right, and I’ll go over it again and again. Once the sentence rolls along in a certain way, that’s sentence A. Sentence B may work out well, but then its effect on sentence A may spoil the rhythm of the two together. One of the long-term things about knitting a piece of writing together is making all this stuff fit.

    I always read the second draft aloud, as a way of moving forward. I read primarily to my wife, Yolanda, and I also have a friend whom I read to. I read aloud so I can hear if it’s fitting together or not. It’s just as much a part of the composition as going out and buying a ream of paper.

    [It’s not just reading aloud. It’s reading aloud to a person]

  • 22/03/2023: Historical Shade and political anti-intellectualism

    Governor Ron DeSantis gave this response to Donald Trump’s nickname “Ron Sanctimonious” in a recent interview: “I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one. I don’t really know what it means, but I kinda like it, it’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels. We’ll go with that, that’s fine.”

    The nickname thing is ridiculous, of course, and we should all pay attention to the more substantive and interesting issues related to the debate over national interest going on in the GOP, but DeSantis (who attended Yale and Harvard)(*) running to Trump’s left as an anti-intellectual tells you something about how he views the GOP audience and has a deep tradition in American politics.

    Which brings me to the point of this post.

    Richard Hofstadter could say it well. In this book he refers to presidents Hayes and Benjamin Harrison as “innocent of distinction.”

    Page 1


    Here’s the thing though about the point DeSantis is making: It’s an intellectual one. He’s said in the interview, don’t pay attention the name calling, pay attention to the kind of team a leader builds and their capacity for execution. Pay attention to what the job requires, not the way a leader makes you feel with his barbs. As a person who wrote a book arguing a version of this about the presidential selection process I recognize the pitch!

    As I think about DeSantis’ remark, I can’t really produce in the noggin a modern conservative elitist boogeyman of the kind of role that Willilam F. Buckley played. Kevin Phillips, author and former Nixon aide, called Buckley “Squire Willie,” and in his book The Emerging Republican Majority, (1969) heralded a “New Right” that connected with real people. “Nor can we expect Alabama truck drivers or Ohio steelworkers to sign on with a politics captivated by Ivy League five-syllable word polishers,” wrote Phillips, who attended Harvard. “Any politics or coalition has to surge up from Middle America … not dribble down from Bill Buckley’s wine rack and favorite philosophers shelf.”

    *Is it likely that the Governor of Florida doesn’t understand this word? It is unlikely. Pretending you don’t know a word when you know a word is the kind of thing that Donald Trump might spend a lot of time lampooning. All the while he does so, Trump will repeat the word “sanctimonious,” thereby cementing the underlying charge. Then, people will go look up the word and see that it means “making a show of being morally superior to other people,” and they will decide that pretending you don’t know a word and that a childish nickname doesn’t matter to you because you’re focused on morally superior pursuits is a behavior consistent with a word you recently looked up.

  • 21/03/2023: How Imprint helps me beat the morning and makes the day richer

    For those of you who have read my Atlantic essay on recapturing my day, you know about my daily fight to beat the morning. I have found an extremely useful tool: The Imprint app.

    ImageI have developped a pretty good routine for keeeping focus while at my desk (thank you Calk Neport, Marshall Goldsmith, David Allen, Stphen Covey and James Clear).

    The challenge is the in-between times, when I’m waiting in line, riding in a cab, etc.

    The snack times.

    That’s when I turn to Twitter. The result is rarely pleasant. (I am not a snob about this; I think social media as an outlet of noticing is vital).

    Snacking creates a habit. Then it creates a need. I subconsciously want to snack. So I employed a trick I outlined in the Atlantic piece.

    When I want to go to Twitter or Instagram I open the Imprint app.

    The Imprint app offers extremely useful lessons about things you care about (deep work, philosophy, relationships etc.). It is engaging, not attention poking.

    When I close the app I am better than when I started. It is like anti-Twitter.

    I recommend it highly. I am deeply grateful for the people (none of whom I know) who created it. Needless to say, this is not a paid endorsement.

    I hope you find it has the same benefit for you.


  • 18/03/2023: Writing: The leaving out

    I’ve written a lot in this space about the space in which art takes place. In the writing I’m working on now I’m working on that puzzle. How to say what you need to say, and how to evoke and how to carry along a reader without giving them too much. I don’t want to rob them. This is from George Saunders A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, which I love.

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  • : Meetings can be a black hole that sucks your soul from your body. Priya Parker describes how to make them more intentional.

    I have long been obsessed with intention in even the mundane tasks in life. Priya Parker has put intention into gatherings and meetings. I talked to her about her book and her ideas on Prime Time 3/16/23 as a part of our shifting workplace special. We wanted to talk to her because if the workplace is changing and companies need to improve their culture to make work a place worth returning to then they’re going to have to be more intentional about making meaning out of the day:


  • 15/03/2023: Faith and Hope

    At the end of 2020 I wrote about that pandemic year so I wouldn’t forget what it was like.

    I wrote about hope and Thomas Merton:

    “By hope…the abstract and impersonal become …intimate conviction,” wrote the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. “What I believe in faith, I possess and make my own by hope.” Hope in the unseen. Hope in a better future. Hope in heaven. This is worship. If you hope that hope will carry you through, it will. (You can also write that sentence a different way: If you hope, that hope will carry you through. It will. The first is an instruction and the second one is a promise. They are saying the same thing but also something slightly different which contributes to the liquid boundaries of hope.)

    The reading this past Sunday was one of, if not the passage, that Merton seemed to be relying on for that view:

    Reading II

    Brothers and sisters:
    Since we have been justified by faith,
    we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
    through whom we have gained access by faith
    to this grace in which we stand,
    and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

    And hope does not disappoint,
    because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
    through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
    For Christ, while we were still helpless,
    died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
    Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
    though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
    But God proves his love for us
    in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

  • 14/03/2023: Essay for our 3/13/23 Show

    How it started:

    IMG 6174

    How it wound up:

  • 14/03/2023: T.R. Barista

    Another important contribution to history: presidents as wrestlers. Or, in Teddy Roosevelt’s case, a Brooklyn barista.


  • 14/03/2023: Tricky balance for presidents in a bank panic

    Usually, I’d just post this to the Twitter thread connecting public events to the book The Hardest Job in the World, but this passage is too big:

    Presidents and the economy

  • 07/03/2023: Getting off your Phone is just the first step

    Thank you to The Dispatch for the link to this article by Rhiannon Williams in MIT Review:

    “The problem isn’t necessarily the amount of time you’re spending scrolling on the phone as much as what you’re looking at.” The piece touches on something I wrote about in this piece for The Atlantic, which is about how to develop a system for replacing the automatic go-to device scrolling that can take over our lives. I got there by essentially working through a process similar to the one that Williams describes in this article.


  • 07/03/2023: Quiet Hired

    Quiet hired seems like a good new term for an old thing. That’s distinct from fad expressions to name things that don’t exist or that have existed forever but aren’t illuminated by the new phrase.

    A wave of the Quiet Hired might lead to a Quiet Riot.

  • 04/03/2023: Happy Birthday Time Magazine

    Time magazine celebrated its 100th birthday on March 3rd.

    We’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of my first professional byline on March 22, 1993. Tanks to Joelle Attinger, John Stacks, Sam Gwynne, Jonathan Beaty and Jill Smolowe for that first shot:


    It was not for a few months that I’d get a top byline (the vestige of the old Time system where writers were one class of person and reporters were another).



  • 04/03/2023: The Calvin Coolidge Colonic

  • 03/03/2023: Runaway Presidency

    When you are president, things can get out of hand:

    035DDDD9 545E 4EC7 B0F0 DF1A1ACBB968 scaled

    This is from Jimmy Carter’s White House diary. It demonstrates something about Carter but also the benefit of a presidential retreat where a president can have a minor mishap like this and it won’t get blown out of proportion by the press.

    Think it wouldn’t? Think it wouldn’t have been used by his opponents to make Carter look inept and out of control? Then you’ve forgotten the killer rabbit episode.


  • 02/03/2023: The Most Rarefied Presidential List

    The ranking of presidents provides hours of enjoyment for professionals and hobbyists alike. This ranking is perhaps the greatest of all:

    “…soon, remains of George Washington, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight D. Eisenhower will join the DNA and cremated remains of many of the people who worked on Star Trek and be blasted into space for evermore.” (source)

    I mean sure, FDR helped win WW II and fight the Great Depression but is he worthy of being sent into space?

    I learned about this from the wonderful newsletter 1440.

  • 02/03/2023: AI Rendering of Presidents with Mullets

    This Twitter thread of presidents with mullets is hit or miss, but reminds that LBJ essentially grew a mullet at the end of his life:


  • 01/03/2023: New words from that I like

    rage farming

    noun. Informal. the tactic of intentionally provoking political opponents, typically by posting inflammatory content on social media, in order to elicit angry responses and thus high engagement or widespread exposure for the original poster.

    📝 This term was coined in 2022 (in the form rage farmed) by investigative reporter John Scott-Railton. Read about some other terms for negative practices that play out exclusively online.  

    trauma dumping

    noun. unsolicited, one-sided sharing of traumatic or intensely negative experiences or emotions in an inappropriate setting or with people who are unprepared for the interaction. 


  • 27/02/2023: How to solve the work week.

    From Business Insider: “I do ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’ at work.” The TikTok creator and startup founder Marisa Jo Mayes says it helps her beat the “Sunday scaries” and avoid burnout — and it has completely changed her life. Find out more.

    If enough TikTok influencers can work really hard to brand not working at all we can get rid of working entirely: Bare Minimum Monday, Tentatively Engaged Tuesday, Wednesday Hump Day Pause, Thursday Pre-Weekend slowdown. No work Friday: Four-day workweek. FIN

  • 25/02/2023: We Still Smoke the Water Pipe

    I found a quote in one of my notebooks from the second year of the Iraq war (3/20/2005).

    “Life goes on,” Hayawi says. “We are in the middle of a war, and we still smoke the water pipe.”

    This feels like a universal message to me.

    After some work in the shop with the search engine I discovered that the quote comes from this Washington Post piece. I am going to try to work this into conversation.

  • 08/01/2023: House GOP Learned How to Govern

  • 25/02/2023: A Conversation with Tim Frye on what's changed since the invasion of Ukraine

    I talked to Timothy Frye, the Marshall D. Shulman professor of post-Soviet foreign policy at Columbia University, for “CBS News Prime Time” about how Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed global energy, the economy and politics.



  • 13/12/2022: Sam Bankman Fried not instilling confidence.

    “Like I, like, kind of vaguely knew, kind of, sort of maybe, um, on a qualitative level what was going on.” — Sam Bankman Fried on Unusual Whales podcast on movement of customer funds from FTX to Alameda without permission. via Dealbook

  • 13/12/2022: Spies Just like us.

    The Ruskies next door. Our story on it on CBS News Prime Time can be found here.

  • 14/12/2022: Reality and columnists are two different things.

    The world is much worse than it would have been had the virus not emerged, and thats not the fault of columnists you disagree with.” Matt Yglesias.

  • 14/12/2022: Did someone have inside information?

    60 seconds before CPI number came out there was significant trading activity:

    Markets Rally Before CPI | Stock, bond buying seen moments before 8:30am ET data release

    Bloomberg thinks someone got the news!