Money and Power

Business Is Bad for Business

Business Is Bad for Business

Why aren't American companies spending money?

For forty-years American management has leveraged capital mobility to demand concessions from organized labor. Holders of sovereign debt do the same to demand reductions in public spending and shrinking the public sector. This has severely strained liberals’ willingness to stimulate private investment through taxes and transfers. Meanwhile, corporate boards of directors continue to refuse to invest on any but their own terms. Loosening their grip on investment decisions is the only way through this impasse.

Ecuador After Correa

Ecuador After Correa

Contradictions and dilemmas of left populism in Latin America

Rafael Correa’s tenure has seen an expansion in the political participation of the poor, and the proliferation of new collective rights and democratic institutions. These gains stand alongside crackdowns on social movements, the weakening of left opposition parties, and the centralization of power in the executive. After a decade of left rule, Ecuador is at once more equal and more unequal, more democratic and more centralized, radically transformed and mired in historic patterns of domination that date to the colonial era. These antinomies have their origins in a left populism that made a pact with oil and mining—a story that has echoes across the continent.

Landscape of Treason

Landscape of Treason

On the French elections

As François Hollande’s ignominious presidency draws to a close, his party confronts its gravest crisis since it was refounded in 1971 out of the ruins of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). Party membership has dropped to as few as 42,000 cardholders, a mere quarter of the 2014 figure. Municipal Socialism has imploded: today, the PS controls less than a third of large- and mid-sized cities, five of seventeen regions, and only twenty-seven of France’s 101 departments.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution? 

One Word: Authenticity!

One Word: Authenticity!

Oscars 2017

The post-classic French musicals that do away with singers and dancers (A Woman Is a Woman) or emphasize melancholy and failed romance against a backdrop of societal drabness (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) serve as models for La La Land. Their use seems academic, befitting a director running for Student Council President of the Movies.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Storming the Winter White House

When a pickup truck came down from the other side of the bridge with a Confederate flag on its bumper and its windows down, the occupants engaged protestors, who shouted into the window. The driver, a grey-haired white man, leaned out and screamed back, but drove away when West Palm cops approached, flanking out in front of the street to keep it clear for cars trying to get to or from the Red Cross gala at Mar-a-Lago. It was the second time I thought about concealed carry.

The Last Last Summer

The Last Last Summer

Donald Trump and the fall of Atlantic City

All along the Boardwalk, the sun-bleached, tattered banners read do ac — the city’s latest marketing catchphrase. The Boardwalk was a scrum of such imperatives, with Trumps on every side issuing edicts and diktats, offering bargains. Trumps in toupees and with their guts hanging over their change belts, out on Steel Pier, out on Central Pier, trying to get me to try the ring toss, though the rubber rings always bounce off the rubber bottles, or to try the beanbag pitch, though the lily pads they’re supposed to land on are kept wet and slippery with a shammy. Try Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, which contains no saltwater. Step right up and I’ll guess your weight, or at least I’ll make your wallet lighter. What American literature taught me — what Melville taught me in The Confidence-Man, what Poe taught me in “Diddling,” that imagination or fantasy can be a form a greed, even a uniquely American form — the shills and carny barkers taught me first, at $2 a lesson: I would never win that stuffed elephant.

In Tbilisi

In Tbilisi

”It’s forbidden to be sad in Georgia.”

Most of Günel’s reports deal with women’s rights in the South Caucasus.

“The lives of Azerbaijani women living in Tbilisi are different from those of Georgian women,” she said. “Azerbaijani girls are taken out of school by their families in the ninth grade and married off at the age of 14. If Azerbaijani girls resist, it’s suicide. Our child’s nanny became a grandmother at 32. Talk to her.”

Their nanny, Renka, agreed to pose for a portrait and talked a little bit about herself.

She was married at 13 and had a daughter when she was 14.

The Last Last Summer

The Last Last Summer

Donald Trump and the Fall of Atlantic City

All along the Boardwalk, the sun-bleached tattered banners read do ac—the city’s latest marketing catchphrase. The Boardwalk was a scrum of such imperatives, with Trumps on every side issuing edicts, diktats, offering bargains. Trumps in toupees and with their guts hanging over their change-belts, out on Steel Pier, out on Central Pier, trying to get me to try the ring-toss, though the rubber rings always bounce off the rubber bottles, or to try the beanbag-pitch, though the lily pads they’re supposed to land on are kept wet and slippery with a shammy. Try Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, which contains no saltwater. Step right up and I’ll guess your weight, or at least I’ll make your wallet lighter. What American literature taught me—what Melville taught me in The Confidence-Man, what Poe taught me in Diddling, that imagination or fantasy can be a form a greed, even a uniquely American form—the shills and carny barkers taught me first, at $2 a lesson: I would never win that stuffed elephant.

After <em>Columbia</em>

After Columbia

Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester.

We need an Obama or Clinton NLRB to step in at Harvard and Yale, in other words, because Obama’s and Clinton’s friends and allies, their cronies and chiefs of staff, are preventing workers at those universities from exercising their rights. The reason we need to put a Democrat in the White House is to keep Democrats at bay in the private sector. The reason we need an Obama or Clinton to run the state is to stop Obamism and Clintonism in civil society.

Who Works for the Workers?

Who Works for the Workers?

The union movement’s problem isn’t that workers don’t want to fight; it’s that they don’t want to lose.

You can’t ever really be ready for the class war, but much of the job of working-class strategy is to stage and escalate conflict at the most advantageous moments. So-called legacy unions represent living traditions with institutional memories of what worked and what didn’t against an individual boss, in a given industry, or among workers of particular types. It’s an error to perceive union defeat as evidence of some strategic mistake. American workers can do everything right and still lose.

A Wedding From Hell

A Wedding From Hell

His promises? To end crime. To tell no lies. To provide fast relief, like a pack of Rolaids.

He emerged to the sound of swelling strings: two thumbs up. A closed-mouth smile, an open-mouthed smile, eyebrows wagging, voicelessly mouthing the words thank you—so much worse when not spoken aloud, somehow, less of a thank you than an I know.

Business Is Bad for Business

Business Is Bad for Business

Why aren't American companies spending money?

For forty-years American management has leveraged capital mobility to demand concessions from organized labor. Holders of sovereign debt do the same to demand reductions in public spending and shrinking the public sector. This has severely strained liberals’ willingness to stimulate private investment through taxes and transfers. Meanwhile, corporate boards of directors continue to refuse to invest on any but their own terms. Loosening their grip on investment decisions is the only way through this impasse.

Ecuador After Correa

Ecuador After Correa

Contradictions and dilemmas of left populism in Latin America

Rafael Correa’s tenure has seen an expansion in the political participation of the poor, and the proliferation of new collective rights and democratic institutions. These gains stand alongside crackdowns on social movements, the weakening of left opposition parties, and the centralization of power in the executive. After a decade of left rule, Ecuador is at once more equal and more unequal, more democratic and more centralized, radically transformed and mired in historic patterns of domination that date to the colonial era. These antinomies have their origins in a left populism that made a pact with oil and mining—a story that has echoes across the continent.

Landscape of Treason

Landscape of Treason

On the French elections

As François Hollande’s ignominious presidency draws to a close, his party confronts its gravest crisis since it was refounded in 1971 out of the ruins of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). Party membership has dropped to as few as 42,000 cardholders, a mere quarter of the 2014 figure. Municipal Socialism has imploded: today, the PS controls less than a third of large- and mid-sized cities, five of seventeen regions, and only twenty-seven of France’s 101 departments.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution? 

One Word: Authenticity!

One Word: Authenticity!

Oscars 2017

The post-classic French musicals that do away with singers and dancers (A Woman Is a Woman) or emphasize melancholy and failed romance against a backdrop of societal drabness (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) serve as models for La La Land. Their use seems academic, befitting a director running for Student Council President of the Movies.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Storming the Winter White House

When a pickup truck came down from the other side of the bridge with a Confederate flag on its bumper and its windows down, the occupants engaged protestors, who shouted into the window. The driver, a grey-haired white man, leaned out and screamed back, but drove away when West Palm cops approached, flanking out in front of the street to keep it clear for cars trying to get to or from the Red Cross gala at Mar-a-Lago. It was the second time I thought about concealed carry.