Money and Power

Workers Full of Poems

Workers Full of Poems

On Eddie Sadlowski, 1938–2018

Sadlowski embodied the wish for organized labor to wake from its postwar slumber and again throw its weight behind a great movement for a different country, as it had done in the 1930s and before. The AFL-CIO had shamefully backed the Vietnam War; Sadlowski opposed it and denounced the growth of “the weapons economy”—of which steel was very much a part. Many of the unions in the federation, including the USWA, had dragged their heels at best on racial integration of their workplaces; Sadlowski called for strengthening the union’s civil rights apparatus, attracting the support of Jesse Jackson and members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Much of organized labor met environmentalism with hostility; Sadlowski dissented. “It’s one hell of a thing for me to say—we just don’t need any more steel mills. We don’t need that kind of industrial growth, at the expense of what the environment should be.” He followed the thought where it led: “Enough with the car!” What more radical claim could a blue-collar worker make about postwar society than to doubt the automobile?

The Globalist

The Globalist

George Soros after the open society

From his earliest days as a banker in postwar London, Soros believed in a necessary connection between capitalism and cosmopolitanism. For him, as for most of the members of his cohort and the majority of the Democratic Party’s leadership, a free society depends on free (if regulated) markets. But this assumed connection has proven to be a false one.

Money, Power, Gay Shenanigans

Money, Power, Gay Shenanigans

On Alan Hollinghurst

At this point, you might be wondering what the plot of this book is, and that’s a fair question. “My old friend the novelist Lawrence Norfolk used to say, ‘You write marvelous descriptions, but why do you have these terrible plots?’” Hollinghurst noted in The Paris Review, in 2011. “I like evoking atmospheres and analyzing relationships and feelings, but plot I feel faintly embarrassed by.” If I try to explain the wider plot of The Sparsholt Affair, and the half-tangled lives of a cast of supporting characters who flit in and about without too much consequence, it all begins to fall apart. In the fourth section, as the book begins—very slowly—to wind down, Johnny is living a relatively untroubled life in London as a moderately successful portrait painter. He’s a vegetarian. He fathers a child with a lesbian couple. He has a long-term partner called Pat, of whom we only really glimpse his “broad back and hairy thighs and long fat member, retiring now after a hard half-hour’s work,” and who later dies, of cancer, essentially in a footnote.

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

On the Marvel movies

Marvel’s first hit, Iron Man, was released in 2008, just as the surge in Iraq was coming to a close. This marked the end of the hot wars of the Bush years and the transition to a cooler state of continuous half-war, characterized less by boots on the ground than by eyes in the sky. The Obama era revealed that the war on terror would be unlike past wars, with beginnings and ends. It was a way of life rather than a discrete event, a chronic condition rather than an acute one. The war was routinized and, with the dramatic surge in the use of drones, mechanized.

The Prequel Boom

The Prequel Boom

Why do studios keep doing prequels if fans hate them? And why do fans hate them so much in the first place?

In other words, though the term is recent, the narrative technique of the prequel is not as new as it may appear. What is new, it seems, in modern prequels is their much lower ideological stakes. People were willing to kill and die over the legitimacy of Julius Caesar’s consolidation of imperial power in Rome, and despite the heated rhetoric of online debate, it is difficult to imagine anyone working up as much real-world fervor over George Lucas’s decision to posit a racial-biological basis for susceptibility to the Force in The Phantom Menace. Yet as the debates over diversity in casting and the portrayal of female leadership in the recent Star Wars films shows, story-telling decisions do carry a political-ideological charge, which is presumably not unrelated to their ability to provide the foundation for community and identity among particularly enthusiastic fans.

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Italian election preview

Today’s demented circus, a reality show whose rivals compete for the title of most insensate and most nihilistic, is the result of a crisis more than twenty-five years in the making. At the start of the 1990s, when Italy was preparing to enter the eurozone, the downturn in productivity was already evident, the backwardness of the economic system as undeniable as the total corruption of our political class. The crisis of 2008 and the semi-recent collapse of Europe’s core were only the icing on a rotten cake.

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The end of the Zuma years

The global scandal of Donald Trump, like Zuma highly promiscuous and a figure of the grotesque and the laughable, has yielded much useful reflection on democracy, including the fact that the problem of love in politics is more complicated than it had seemed. The unattractiveness of Zuma and Trump is inscribed in everything from their ungainly physical presence to their ugly habits of casual lying and worse. Zuma’s rise was hindered neither by his having driven a wife to suicide nor by the charge of having raped the daughter of one of his close friends. The ruling party’s Women’s League demonstrated outside his friend’s daughter’s rape trial under a singular banner—“Burn the Bitch”—and, by some stroke of fortune, the victim’s house was indeed burnt down and she was forced into exile: one of the many occasions on which sections of the public have made clear their identification with the abuser. He bankrupted the country while reducing his party to a criminal enterprise. Yet he had no apparent charisma on Robben Island where, during the ten years of his imprisonment, he received not a single visitor.

Feel Something Again

Feel Something Again

On Superbowl LIII

When it looked like the aging Brady might make good on the automaker’s threat, Artemis smiled, picked up her bow, and sent Brandon Graham to restore order to the universe. After the fumble, Brady still got the ball back once more, now down by eight with a little over a minute left and no time outs, but it was too much, even for him, and Pats fans watching knew it. Still I will always cherish the absolute reticence of the Eagles fans to declare it over when it was. The shot of Philly waiting in disbelief to start celebrating that they had, in fact, beaten Tom Brady and won the Super Bowl will go down in my mind as one of the highest compliments ever paid to a competitor. When Brady was on the field, it wasn’t over until it was over and sometimes not even then.

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

The propagation of allegations is now taking place under the pretense of official congressional business, and without apology.

Hurricane Nunes is the latest weather system to fill the radar screen. It takes its name from Congressman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Over the first year of the Trump administration, Nunes has repeatedly made himself a useful arms-length proxy for the White House. Last March he cast some young White House national security staffers who complained about the “unmasking” of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as being in the mold of Edward Snowden. His other services to the Republican Party include leading the fruitless two-year Benghazi investigation and repeatedly characterizing proponents of environmental regulation and universal health care as communists. In a Monday morning tweet, Trump called him “a man of tremendous courage and grit . . . a Great American hero.”

Unsatisfactory Closure

Unsatisfactory Closure

After Jacob Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa’s triumph makes for unsatisfactory closure, given his long silence as Zuma’s deputy, and the holdovers elected along with him to run the ruling party, not to say the dual centers of power in the party and the presidency which will likely persist until the 2019 general election. Ramaphosa lacks (or seems to lack) the psychological strangeness of his predecessors, Zuma and before him Thabo Mbeki, who were often in the grip of destructive and self-destructive political passions. He nevertheless embodies the contradictions of the society, being at once the most successful trade unionist on the continent and, as a mining executive, the face most associated with the police killing of mineworkers at Marikana on August 16, 2012.

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.