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Ghosts of 2012

Ghosts of 2012

What have we learned about “gun violence,” as a phenomenon and as a political cause, over the last five years?

The entrenched white supremacy that enabled George Zimmerman to kill Martin with impunity was likewise at play in the genesis of Sandy Hook. There were abundant red flags in the Adam Lanza case—from repeated hospitalizations, to warnings by mental health professionals, to troubling behavior in school, to an explicit tip given to police in 2008 by one of Nancy Lanza’s friends, who reported that Adam had access to an assault rifle and planned to “kill his mother and shoot children at Sandy Hook.”

I Write Because I Hate

I Write Because I Hate

William Gass, 1924–2017

It is not hard to imagine young Gass chafing at the bit that midcentury analytic philosophy had sought to place in his mouth. In interviews he sometimes compared metaphor to junk food, which is of course dangerous, but also hard to define. In a broad sense any food is junk if you eat too much of it, or at the wrong time; in a narrower sense, junk food is delicious, and can be very good for the soul.

Announcing Issue 30

Announcing Issue 30

Inside our Winter 2018 issue, Motherland, out this month.

Writing by Gabriel Winant, Dayna Tortorici, Justin E. H. Smith, Christine Smallwood, Nikhil Pal Singh and Thuy Linh Tu, Nausicaa Renner, Aziz Rana, Nicolás Medina Mora, Thomas de Monchaux, Dawn Lundy Martin, Andrea Long Chu, Claire Jarvis, A. S. Hamrah, and Thomas Bolt.

You're the Real Job Creator

You're the Real Job Creator

An interview with Stephanie Kelton

It is absolutely true that states, municipalities, and local governments depend on tax revenue in order to fund themselves. It is absolutely untrue that the federal government of the United States depends on tax revenue to fund itself. The United States government is the issuer of our currency—the US dollar. It has to spend dollars before the rest of us can get any. Households, local governments, private businesses, state governments—they are all users of the dollar. They have to get dollars in order to spend them. That’s the big difference.

The Plutocratic Id

The Plutocratic Id

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lets corporations loose to do what they will—and then imposes pain to make the numbers work.

Eventually, perhaps in the reading room of the Trump library, a researcher may actually find a document that sheds some real light on whether Republicans in Washington genuinely think this is their last chance or think that nothing matters so why not grab it all.

Pirates and Traders

Pirates and Traders

A sack of oat flour was mysteriously displayed on the front desk.

The traffic in Lagos is famously bad. The local driving culture dictates tailgating, honking, flashing of brights, left turns into oncoming traffic, passing on the right, and shouting (but no cursing or lewd gestures—not in such a religious country). It isn’t rare to see a car casually reversing down an on-ramp, a motorcycle scattering pedestrians on a sidewalk, or a truck inching over a highway median to make an improbable u-turn.

Why Are We in Niger?

Why Are We in Niger?

It has become safer to assume that the American military has a presence in a given country in Africa than not.

Faced with political instability in the developing world—often a region of the developing world in which the US and its allies have at least some interest in resource extraction—the US advises weak governments to fight “terrorism,” providing training and material assistance as needed. When the government proves unable to stand on its own two feet, the US sends in troops of its own.

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Millennial habits so often mocked and belittled in the press are the survival strategies of a demographic “born into captivity.”

The summation Kids These Days gives us is harrowing: here is a generation hurrying to give in to the unremitting, unforgiving commodification of the self. Malcolm Harris predicts a future of debt servitude, confinement for the “malfunctioning,” worsening misogyny (though his gender analysis is less coherent than the rest of his argument), and total surveillance. Millennials, that is, are the first generation to live in the dystopia to come.

Desperately Seeking Cities

Desperately Seeking Cities

Amazon has bankrupted the ideology it claimed to appeal to: the ideology of “urbanism.”

Most city dwellers, it turns out, live lives of quiet desperation for Amazon. What was happening to Philadelphia disclosed the emptiness not just of this city, but of what people all over the country had learned to think cities were good for.

The Forever Chancellor

The Forever Chancellor

Helmut Kohl excelled in a revisionism so miniaturized that to take offense would have seemed absurd.

West Germany in the 1980s was a country of unattractive affluence, headed by a distant, uncharismatic figure who wasn’t even particularly adept as a technocrat. During the Helmut Kohl era history was everywhere—or rather, everywhere else.

Houses Are Built on Top of Mountains

Houses Are Built on Top of Mountains

Hurricane Ophelia diary

Coping and suffering is what Ireland has decided to throw its chips on. Years of corruption in our planning system, with politicians receiving payments to approve ill-thought through housing projects, have led to housing developments on flood plains, at the mercy of the weather each winter. Houses are built on the top of mountains, or in remote fields, draining resources, encouraging the use of the private car, and wrenching apart Ireland’s small towns and villages.

The Recovery

The Recovery

Disaster capitalism in Mexico City

The collectives transmitting on the radio out of Café Zapata have made it their goal to speak through the misinformation, malpractice and cover-ups that have proliferated in the chaos after the earthquake. They call themselves the Brigadas Autónomas. “Let’s say it clearly,” they wrote in a press release on September 26, “solutions will not come from the State and from capital; on the contrary, they are responsible for a natural phenomenon turning into a tragedy.” In a way, there can be something equitable, at least initially, about a natural disaster: rubble falls on rich and poor alike. This time, as in 1985, buildings in the wealthy Roma and Condesa neighborhoods suffered some of the greatest damage in the city. But reconstruction comes at a price, and after the earth stops shaking, the vulnerable find themselves even more so.

#CasperNights

#CasperNights

On my way off the patio I can’t tell who’s winning and who’s losing here—the museum, the mattress company, or the guests.

A white male, twenties, appears at the top of the steps w/ a catering tray. He wears the tucked-in black T-shirt and tight black jeans of a stagehand; he passes the guests gooey triangles of cheese quesadillas. He nods in response to the appreciative thank yous and offers guests thick napkins branded with the company logo: a thick, bland “C,” its top half altered to suggest, vaguely, a pillow on a bed. The paper goods are a not-so-subtle reminder that when we wipe the grease from the corners of our mouths we must do so courtesy of the company’s largesse.

By What Measure?

By What Measure?

On Catalonia and the referendum

To suggest that the issue with the referendum specifically, and the Catalan government’s pursuit of independence from Spain more generally, is that it is not legal under Spanish law presumes that under Spanish law there exists some legal and democratic path to independence. But the Spanish constitution makes no such provisions for secession.

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers

On the mass shooting in Las Vegas

Mass shootings reveal to Americans otherwise insulated from quotidian gun murder that they are not immune, that brutal death or grievous injury can, in principle, come to them no matter who they are or where they might be. Compounding this sense of terrifying vulnerability is the recognition of a properly existential futility: an understanding that, no matter your station or your status, if this is how death comes to you, then, in any substantive sense, your death will not matter.

Austerity Natural Disaster

Austerity Natural Disaster

Why we should push for debt forgiveness for Puerto Rico

Over the last twenty years, international stakeholders have come together in an impressive show of political consensus to provide debt forgiveness to poverty stricken countries through the introduction of programs like the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Eligible countries, often affected by war, famine, or natural disasters, have been able to get complete write-offs of their external debt, as well as access to development loans at sustainable rates of interest. Most crucially, these countries have seen their gross domestic product rise after decisive debt relief. Puerto Ricans should get a similar deal.

Commercial Surveillance State

Commercial Surveillance State

Blame the marketers

The tactics of carefully targeted, data-driven manipulation—though innovative and destabilizing—are not entirely new. They predate the existence of Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook, and the contemporary notion of “fake news” itself. For decades, digital marketers—working in both commercial and political domains—have been perfecting models for using consumer data to identify and manipulate decision-making vulnerabilities.

Take a Knee

Take a Knee

The revenge of Colin Kaepernick

It will no doubt strike many as inappropriate, to say the least, to speak of Colin Kaepernick’s protest as a kind of revenge. Before this year, I would have agreed with them. Tactically it has seemed necessary to downplay the mounting evidence that not only was Kaepernick’s protest working, but that it was actually tearing the league apart. Letters poured in from aggrieved white patrons demanding an end to the protests, ratings started to drop and they’re still dropping, such that it now seems impossible to deny what the fascists have been saying for a while now, that Kap has succeeded where concussions, Deflategate, and roughly thirty thousand hours of advertisements per game had failed: it has given people a reason to give up the game for good.

In-Between Locations

In-Between Locations

On the pasts and places of Game of Thrones

What gives Game of Thrones its strange credibility and its seeming complexity, its gravity and its sense of place, its sensation of depicting a lived-in world uncannily like our own, are those cities and buildings. They’re somehow sufficiently unfamiliar-yet-familiar to seem like real old places.

Stories of Excess

Stories of Excess

Turn on the Bright Lights, fifteen years on

Turn on the Bright Lights, now experiencing a well-deserved fifteen-year anniversary celebration, is an album that could definitely while away a wistful witching hour or two. I don’t mean this to sound like bragging: though I was one of its composers, I now feel more like a confused participant, or a survivor of PTSD.

Ghosts of 2012

Ghosts of 2012

What have we learned about “gun violence,” as a phenomenon and as a political cause, over the last five years?

The entrenched white supremacy that enabled George Zimmerman to kill Martin with impunity was likewise at play in the genesis of Sandy Hook. There were abundant red flags in the Adam Lanza case—from repeated hospitalizations, to warnings by mental health professionals, to troubling behavior in school, to an explicit tip given to police in 2008 by one of Nancy Lanza’s friends, who reported that Adam had access to an assault rifle and planned to “kill his mother and shoot children at Sandy Hook.”

I Write Because I Hate

I Write Because I Hate

William Gass, 1924–2017

It is not hard to imagine young Gass chafing at the bit that midcentury analytic philosophy had sought to place in his mouth. In interviews he sometimes compared metaphor to junk food, which is of course dangerous, but also hard to define. In a broad sense any food is junk if you eat too much of it, or at the wrong time; in a narrower sense, junk food is delicious, and can be very good for the soul.

Announcing Issue 30

Announcing Issue 30

Inside our Winter 2018 issue, Motherland, out this month.

Writing by Gabriel Winant, Dayna Tortorici, Justin E. H. Smith, Christine Smallwood, Nikhil Pal Singh and Thuy Linh Tu, Nausicaa Renner, Aziz Rana, Nicolás Medina Mora, Thomas de Monchaux, Dawn Lundy Martin, Andrea Long Chu, Claire Jarvis, A. S. Hamrah, and Thomas Bolt.

You're the Real Job Creator

You're the Real Job Creator

An interview with Stephanie Kelton

It is absolutely true that states, municipalities, and local governments depend on tax revenue in order to fund themselves. It is absolutely untrue that the federal government of the United States depends on tax revenue to fund itself. The United States government is the issuer of our currency—the US dollar. It has to spend dollars before the rest of us can get any. Households, local governments, private businesses, state governments—they are all users of the dollar. They have to get dollars in order to spend them. That’s the big difference.

The Plutocratic Id

The Plutocratic Id

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lets corporations loose to do what they will—and then imposes pain to make the numbers work.

Eventually, perhaps in the reading room of the Trump library, a researcher may actually find a document that sheds some real light on whether Republicans in Washington genuinely think this is their last chance or think that nothing matters so why not grab it all.

Pirates and Traders

Pirates and Traders

A sack of oat flour was mysteriously displayed on the front desk.

The traffic in Lagos is famously bad. The local driving culture dictates tailgating, honking, flashing of brights, left turns into oncoming traffic, passing on the right, and shouting (but no cursing or lewd gestures—not in such a religious country). It isn’t rare to see a car casually reversing down an on-ramp, a motorcycle scattering pedestrians on a sidewalk, or a truck inching over a highway median to make an improbable u-turn.

Why Are We in Niger?

Why Are We in Niger?

It has become safer to assume that the American military has a presence in a given country in Africa than not.

Faced with political instability in the developing world—often a region of the developing world in which the US and its allies have at least some interest in resource extraction—the US advises weak governments to fight “terrorism,” providing training and material assistance as needed. When the government proves unable to stand on its own two feet, the US sends in troops of its own.

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Millennial habits so often mocked and belittled in the press are the survival strategies of a demographic “born into captivity.”

The summation Kids These Days gives us is harrowing: here is a generation hurrying to give in to the unremitting, unforgiving commodification of the self. Malcolm Harris predicts a future of debt servitude, confinement for the “malfunctioning,” worsening misogyny (though his gender analysis is less coherent than the rest of his argument), and total surveillance. Millennials, that is, are the first generation to live in the dystopia to come.

Desperately Seeking Cities

Desperately Seeking Cities

Amazon has bankrupted the ideology it claimed to appeal to: the ideology of “urbanism.”

Most city dwellers, it turns out, live lives of quiet desperation for Amazon. What was happening to Philadelphia disclosed the emptiness not just of this city, but of what people all over the country had learned to think cities were good for.