American Politics

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.

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.

Source Code

Source Code

Silicon Valley in the Shadow of William Shockley

In the last two decades of his life, William Shockley turned away from technology and began promoting the idea that intelligence was biologically determined—with blacks cognitively subordinate to whites—arguing under the auspices of estimable science that without forced sterilization of those with inferior intelligence, the world would be plunged into a dysgenic panic.

A Recognition That We're All Getting Screwed

A Recognition That We're All Getting Screwed

Winning the white working class for criminal justice reform

To win the election, Krasner needed a “ground game,” and he needed to win white working class votes—including the pro-police constituency that would vote for anyone but him. This is what took me to the doors in Port Richmond, canvassing with an organization called Reclaim Philadelphia. Like the rest of Philly, this ward, the 25th, predominantly votes Democrat, and has for generations. But the vote has been shading from blue to violet. Even though Clinton won this ward (in both the primary and the general election), 28 percent voted for Trump; the citywide average was 15 percent.

Not at That Price

Not at That Price

On the future of DACA

The accomplished young people who crowd our sympathies in the political theater are Americans, and we deserve legal recognition. In lieu of comprehensive legislation, DACA is our best recourse. But we did not come from nothing, Athenas born in full armor. We were raised by men and women who spilled sweat and sometimes blood for us, and I defy you to find a Dreamer who does not owe to their elders their lives and the work ethic you so admire. To use us as collateral against them is psychological torture, cruel and unusual, and it will destroy our communities.

Laundered Violence

Laundered Violence

Law and protest in Durham

One of the impressive and now oft-remarked ironies of the present fights is that the people who are accused of wanting to “erase history” are doing more to remind others of history than Ken Burns’s entire oeuvre could do lined up end-to-end. I wonder whether something similar might be happening with the law: that the people who are accused of ignoring and defying it will end up instructing everyone else about how it works.

The Origin of Endless War

The Origin of Endless War

On Barbara Lee and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

The AUMF is the War on Terror’s key piece of legislation. The text of the law is brief, beginning with, “Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens,” and ending with an assurance that nothing in it would supersede “any requirement of the War Powers Resolution,” the 1973 law passed (over Nixon’s veto) to prevent any more Presidents from waging undeclared war, as they had for years in Korea and Vietnam.

The Annihilator

The Annihilator

It’s just the President mouthing off again!

The deaths of other people may truly be a matter of utter indifference to Donald Trump. But how does he think of his own death, if he does at all? Certainly his body will fail him, eventually, as it must. And, contra the protestations of his muppet of a doctor, Trump must already feel its growing limits, the indignities of age. But I am hard pressed to think of an occasion where he has spoken of what he hopes his posthumous legacy will be, of how he hopes to be remembered.

Irregular Order

Irregular Order

Why Congress can’t work

The repeal bill still sits on the calendar, but the Republican Party still has no idea what to do about healthcare in any serious way. Their majority is small enough that the procedures in Congress gummed up the works, at least so far. But that may not last forever. Its elites want tax cuts. They accept a mass base that wants ethnonationalism. That fateful embrace is the central fact in contemporary American politics. The consequences go beyond legislative output in Congress to endanger the system itself. Far more than the first branch of government is tied up in the fate of the Republican Party.

What is Community Justice?

What is Community Justice?

Mama's Bailout Day and other bottom-up interventions in everyday justice

Existing options for criminal justice participation focus too heavily on the decorum of deliberation. Much like the system they protect, they equate disruption with criminality and reinforcing the inequalities that reforms try to dismantle. Relying on deliberation and consensus ignores the ways in which our current criminal justice system relegates African-Americans and other marginalized populations to non-democratic subjects—not just through literal disenfranchisement of individuals with criminal records, but also through doctrine, policy, and rhetoric. And a focus on seeking consensus may lead us to privilege discourse that repeats rather than re-envisions our reigning ideas of what criminal justice should look like.

Heads without Bodies

Heads without Bodies

Trump has grafted his head onto our collective body, with his horror-movie hairdo always in our face.

Earlier in his career, in 1989, when he was merely a rich gasbag and an annoyance, Trump bought a big ad in the New York Times so he could publicly call for the executions of the Central Park Five, young black men accused and convicted of assault and rape. The men were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002 and released from prison. They sued the City of New York and won. Trump went out of his way last year to let voters know he still believed they were guilty. This is how he thrives. Now he has grafted his head onto our collective body, with his horror-movie hairdo always in our face. Trump’s head is struggling to control our actions and responses the same way Milland’s head struggled to control Grier’s body in this cheap movie. The devil finds work where he can. The Thing with Two Heads was too dumb to be noticed by James Baldwin in his book-length essay on race and the movies, and I had to go to Canada to run into it. Now it’s the kind of stupid we live with every day.

Converts to Abortion Rights

Converts to Abortion Rights

Dr. Willie Parker’s new book attempts the unusual and difficult task of reconciling support for abortion rights and abiding religious belief.

The word “conversion” fits the abortion-rights cause awkwardly. There is no progressive equivalent to Priests for Life, a website cataloging the stories of sidewalk protesters-turned-Planned Parenthood donors. Abortion rights were, in the beginning, a public health issue. Opponents started framing the cause in moral terms—something that defenders were at pains to avoid. The president of the Association for the Study of Abortion, Jimmye Kimmey, is credited for coming up with the phrase “pro-choice” in 1972. She preferred, she wrote in a memo, because “what we are concerned with is, to repeat, the woman’s right to choose—not with her right (or anyone else’s right) to make a judgment about whether that choice is morally licit.”

Hear Our Voice

Hear Our Voice

Zadie Smith and the problem of her single story

When black people in America are three times as likely as white people to be killed by police it becomes hard to argue that there is no clear distinction between black and white life. But Zadie Smith suggests otherwise: her ultimate argument rejecting the notion of any one group owning black pain stems from her assertion that Americans are one, that “‘us’ and ‘them’” narratives are “therapeutic,” but ultimately a “cheap gag.” It’s a galling dismissal of the brutal reality of black lives in America, where white mass murderers are apprehended alive while black unarmed citizens are arbitrarily killed. I would imagine that Kalief Browder’s family might think differently, that the black teenagers on Rikers Island, arrested without trial, held in jail and coerced into confessions might think differently. The so-called “super-predators” who became victims of the Clinton “three strikes” bill and now fill America’s prisons might think differently.

Disrupt the Citizen

Disrupt the Citizen

Against ride-sharing

The proliferating but ever meaningless distinctions between the “bad” Uber and the “good” Lyft have obscured how destructive the rise of ride-sharing has been for workers and the cities they live in. The predatory lawlessness that prevails inside Valley workplaces scales up and out. Both companies entered their markets illegally, without regard to prevailing wages, regulations, or taxes. Like Amazon, which found a way to sell books without sales tax, this turned out to be one of the many illegal boons.

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

The US has no prospects for improving the stability of Afghan politics through military force.

The US army, through a combination of historical ignorance and disastrous blundering, failed to populate Afghanistan’s post-invasion government with the people who could have given it a chance at real stability. The US pretended as though the Afghan civil war had never occurred, and allowed mujahedeen and warlords who had terrorized the country throughout the 1990s to assume positions of political power, which did not endear Afghans to their new rulers.

Isn’t America a Dream?

Isn’t America a Dream?

Book Tour Diary

Something is always breaking down on the New York subway, and when the loudspeaker announces it to the ladies and gentlemen, you have to invent a new route to your destination. On one occasion, I found myself walking back and forth through a subway station with a group of Chinese people, Latin Americans, and Europeans. None of us could manage to figure out a new way to get to Queens, where not a single train seemed to be going.

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.

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.

Source Code

Source Code

Silicon Valley in the Shadow of William Shockley

In the last two decades of his life, William Shockley turned away from technology and began promoting the idea that intelligence was biologically determined—with blacks cognitively subordinate to whites—arguing under the auspices of estimable science that without forced sterilization of those with inferior intelligence, the world would be plunged into a dysgenic panic.

A Recognition That We're All Getting Screwed

A Recognition That We're All Getting Screwed

Winning the white working class for criminal justice reform

To win the election, Krasner needed a “ground game,” and he needed to win white working class votes—including the pro-police constituency that would vote for anyone but him. This is what took me to the doors in Port Richmond, canvassing with an organization called Reclaim Philadelphia. Like the rest of Philly, this ward, the 25th, predominantly votes Democrat, and has for generations. But the vote has been shading from blue to violet. Even though Clinton won this ward (in both the primary and the general election), 28 percent voted for Trump; the citywide average was 15 percent.

Not at That Price

Not at That Price

On the future of DACA

The accomplished young people who crowd our sympathies in the political theater are Americans, and we deserve legal recognition. In lieu of comprehensive legislation, DACA is our best recourse. But we did not come from nothing, Athenas born in full armor. We were raised by men and women who spilled sweat and sometimes blood for us, and I defy you to find a Dreamer who does not owe to their elders their lives and the work ethic you so admire. To use us as collateral against them is psychological torture, cruel and unusual, and it will destroy our communities.

Laundered Violence

Laundered Violence

Law and protest in Durham

One of the impressive and now oft-remarked ironies of the present fights is that the people who are accused of wanting to “erase history” are doing more to remind others of history than Ken Burns’s entire oeuvre could do lined up end-to-end. I wonder whether something similar might be happening with the law: that the people who are accused of ignoring and defying it will end up instructing everyone else about how it works.