Sunday, March 18, 2018

"What Happened to Irish America?"

"As the Irish left the subway tunnels, mills, and nursery wards for the middle and upper middle class, maybe we held hard to the wrong things. Step dancing classes and children's names with complicated Irish spelling, but not the old neighborhoods' practice of shared advancement. Donations to the Irish Studies Departments at prestigious colleges, but not commitment to the on-ramps that did us so much good."

Eileen Markey at The New Republic writes that Irish Americans "seem to have shed what was once a hallmark of Irish identity: a solidarity with the oppressed."

"Therefore Our Fight Has to Be Solidarity”

"In her recent research, Anat Shenker-Osorio of ASO Communications has found that ordinary people are increasingly concerned about the division in the country, and to her this showed the potential of a new way to talk about racism and inequality—a way to explain that the divisions are actually created intentionally to keep working people from coming together. It's a language that comes naturally to Ellison, who argued, 'We've got to ask who benefits from all this racism. Who loses? All of us! Because Florida purged black voters in the year 2000, the whole country got George Bush, which led us into a war with absolutely no justification and the whole country got a prescription drug benefit that enriched big pharma. This happened to everyone of every color. Racism helps elites control everybody else.'"

Sarah Jaffe at The New Republic discusses efforts by Democrats to create a "party within a party."

Friday, March 16, 2018

"The Cost of Throwing Pelosi Over the Side Would Be High"

"She has been an extraordinarily effective caucus leader. When Democrats last held the majority, she shepherded into law the most aggressive spate of liberal reforms since the Great Society: an $800 billion fiscal stimulus, health-care reform, Dodd-Frank. The House passed a cap and trade law at a time when bipartisan support for the idea still had some life in the Senate.
"It might seem tempting to dismiss these feats as automatic, the baseline expectation for what a leader can do when her party commands a majority. It is not. During many of these fights, Democrats were wandering off in multiple directions, as Democrats are wont to do. In particular, after Republican Scott Brown won a special election in Massachusetts in January 2010, many if not most Democrats collapsed into despair. Pelosi kept her nerve, talked her party off the ledge, and passed a bill that was signed into law."

Jonathan Chait defends Nancy Pelosi at New York.

"It's an Attempt to Shame the Middle Class"

"By forcing the middle class to divert their attention downward (and within) instead of at the real power players above, Vox and Giridharadas are playing into the Right’s hands. It’s an attempt to shame the middle class—those with some wealth but, relative to the top one or one-tenth of one percent, mere crumbs—to make them shut up about the rich and super rich and, instead, look at those below as a reminder that it could all be much worse

Connor Kilpatrick at Jacobin explains the problem with "privilege."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Academics Aren't Laughing Anymore"

"With a few notable exceptions, the genre largely vanished around the turn of the century. What happened? One answer is that academe's devastation since the late 1990s has rendered it too grim and vulnerable a target for satirists. The gutting of public universities by right-wing politicians, the brute transformation of colleges into exploitative institutions that run on adjunct and graduate-student labor—these changes have resulted in a landscape so desolate it hardly seems worth mocking."

Andrew Kay at The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the decline of academic satire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Historians Say It Still A Mystery How People In Ancient Times Didn't Just Go Crazy And Kill Themselves"

"McCullough speculated that one possible explanation was that with a life expectancy of 28, most ancients probably figured it would all be over soon enough anyway."

From The Onion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On Pi Day, No Less

"Those who live in the shadow of death are often those who live most. For Hawking, the early diagnosis of his terminal disease, and witnessing the death from leukaemia of a boy he knew in hospital, ignited a fresh sense of purpose. 'Although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before. I began to make progress with my research,' he once said. Embarking on his career in earnest, he declared: 'My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.'"

Ian Sample at The Guardian writes an obit for Stephen Hawking.

"Our Politics Are Just Not Very Much About Policy Right Now"

"I think it's two things. One is that the cruelty appeals to some people, and it fits in with the message of basically, 'They've been taking advantage of you, and I'm not going to let them take advantage of you anymore.' He demonstrates strength through cruelty, which I think is ridiculous, but it appeals to some number of people. But then the other thing to remember is that Donald Trump is not popular. So I think most people do have the reaction to this that you have to it. So if you're asking, 'Am I taking crazy pills?,' it's no. Most people agree with you."

Isaac Chotiner interviews Josh Barro in Slate.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"What Developed in the South Was a Theology Carefully Tailored to Meet the Needs of a Slave State

"Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology to thrive under a terrorist state. Principled critics were exiled or murdered, leaving voices of dissent few and scattered. Southern Christianity evolved in strange directions under ever-increasing isolation. Preachers learned to tailor their message to protect themselves. If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading of the New Testament, you'd expect that Christians would be hostile to wealth, emphatic in protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost socialist in their economic practices. None of these consistent Christian themes served the interests of slave owners, so pastors could either abandon them, obscure them, or flee."

Political Orphans runs Chris Ladd's article, which was pulled by Forbes, that explains "Why White Evangelicalism Is So Cruel."

And Isaac Chotiner interviews Michael Gerson in Slate.

"California Should Be Proud of Its Truly Indigenous Pastime"

"There's no question that California has played an important role in the history of surfing. Californians help surfboards evolve from heavy, canoe-like planks to the thin chips of today. We invented the wetsuit, created a multi-billion-dollar surfing industry, and developed the modern science of wave forecasting, opening the door for big-wave riding. Some of the best surfers in the world, including Kelly Slater and Keala Kennelly, have made California home. And we surely have the edge when it comes to surfing lore, from Butch Van Artsdalen and hellraisers of Windansea to Miki Dora and the pranksters of Malibu.
"But we didn't invent it."

Dennis Romero in the Los Angeles Times argues that "[s]kateboarding, not surfing, should be California's official state sport."

Ask What Your Country Can Do For You

"On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they've done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it's been replaced by a cult of individualism. It's hard to overstate how damaging this is.
"On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward. Because we failed to confront things like infrastructure decay and climate change early on, they've only grown into bigger and more expensive problems. When something breaks, it's a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been to just maintain it all along."

Vox updates the interview Sean Illing did of Bruce Gibney, author of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, as the book is issued in paperback.

And Jane Smiley reviews the book at The Guardian.

"This Is What the University Was Established to Do"

"Indeed, both sides enable the humanities' adversaries. Conservatives who seek to use the coercive and financial power of the state to correct what they see as ideological abuses within the professoriate are complicit in the destruction of the old-fashioned and timeless scholarship they supposedly are defending. It is self-defeating to make common cause with corporate interests just to punish the political sins of liberal professors. Progressives who want to turn the humanities into a laboratory for social change, a catalyst for cultural revolution, a training camp for activists, are guilty of the same instrumentalization. When they impose de facto ideological litmus tests for scholars working in every field, they betray their conviction that the humanities exist only to serve contemporary political and social ends."

Justin Stover at The Chronicle of Higher Education depicts the dilemma of "humanities scholars who simply want to do good work in their fields; to read things and think about what they mean; to tease out conclusions about the past and present through a careful analysis of evidence; to delve deeply into language, art, artifact, culture, and nature."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

"The Rise of Garbage"

"Finally, it's absolutely necessary to prosecute out of existence corporations like Apple whose business models depend upon a strategy of planned obsolescence. There is no reason that a telephone should not be made to last 15 or 20 years. The corded landline in the basement at my grandparents' house is older than I am. (Try talking on one of these sometime: You will be amazed that it is possible that a call could sound so clear.) Nerds will whine about the all-consuming importance of the new features they are missing out on, but their appetites are debased and unsustainable. Our great-grandchildren will thank us when they do not inhabit a world that looks like Pixar's Wall-E because we felt the need to throw our supposedly outmoded gadgets in the trash every other year."

Matthew Walther at The Week calls for the "end of cheap stuff."

"It's Not Hip to Brag About Your Pristine, Impressively Deep CD Collection—Yet"

"Amoeba's Henderson said that he can imagine a time when CDs experience a popular resurgence, but he wouldn't go so far as to suggest the format will become as beloved as vinyl, nor does he expect a CD collector's market to rival LPs.
"Part of it is the sheer quantity of used product floating around. Equally important, most compact discs lack the signifiers that create demand: different pressings, unique packaging and artful covers--the unique markers that make LPs collectible.
"The format's future mostly faces a less objective hurdle, Henderson says. "Ultimately, it's a really good product. It's just that right now it's being squeezed a little bit, and has a little bit of an identity crisis."

Randall Roberts in the Los Angeles Times writes that the "compact disc era may finally be entering its hospice stage."

"You Can Kiss Much of It Goodbye"

"Put it all together, and the prospect is for a dramatic change in the mix of California produce and overall output. The UC paper foresees a decline of more than 40% in avocado yields, and as much as 20% in almonds, table grapes, oranges and walnuts. (Wine grape yields will be generally unaffected, but their quality might be compromised.)
"Disruption is already evident with some crops in some regions, the paper notes—in truth, dealing with natural variations in weather always has been the hallmark of California farming—but that's nothing compared to what lies ahead. 'The increased rate and scale of climate change,' the researchers say, 'is beyond the realm of experience for the agricultural community.'"

Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times discusses the impact climate change will have for California agriculture.

"The Inventor of Modern Makeup"

"As a Factor coinage, brownette seems to have died with that company, but even on its home turf, I couldn’t help thinking it got the lamest of the four rooms, even if Rochelle Hudson was a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1931 and would feature in the OG Imitation of Life. Still, I did feel at home in that peach room—the others were in the more glamorous blue room, looking at the Marilyn stuff, or communing with Joan Crawford in pink—and was interested to read that the brownette color harmony demands were for 'rachelle powder, blondeen rouge, vermilion lipstick, gray eyeshadow (or brown shadow for those with hazel eyes), black eyebrow pencil and eyelash make-up, blush make-up foundation, and rachelle make-up blender.'"

Sadie Stein at The Paris Review visits the former Max Factor building in Hollywood.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"That Project Will Continue, Even in His Absence"

"As for the significance and influence of his work, especially his best-known book, White seems to have had a wry estimate of its importance. Metahistory 'still sells a lot,' he said around the time of its 20th anniversary. But, he added, 'I don't think people really want to read it; it's an intimidatingly long book. It's very tiresome and repetitive. Most people who read it read some of the introduction and maybe read around a bit. But no one reads it through. By the way, I don't think that in order to have an effect, you must produce books that people want to read. It's the project that interests people and not so much a particular way of doing it. I think the gesture of the project is toward innovation and changing the way we think about history.'"

Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed discusses the career of historian Hayden White.

"But the Main Purpose of Militias—North and South—During This Period Was to Suppress Slave Rebellions"

"Throughout the 17th century, almost all the English colonies along the Eastern Seaboard passed legislation prohibiting women and slaves from owning guns and forbidding the sale of guns to native peoples. By the 18th century, gun ownership had become a defining feature of white masculinity in the English colonies and guns played an integral role in Colonial men's public displays of that masculinity.
"The public training exercises Colonial men participated in as part of their militia service were central to such displays and offered opportunities for them to participate in competitions to demonstrate their martial prowess. In many cases, guns were not only central to these demonstrations but were the prize for victory. The commander of the militia in Henrico County, Va., William Byrd, noted in his diary that he made a practice of awarding pistols to the men who won the competitions that took place on militia days. Such guns thus acted as material manifestations of a Colonial man's physical domination of his peers, augmenting his reputation in terms of property ownership and bodily prowess."

Nathan Wuertenberg at The Washington Post explains the origins of American gun culture.

Friday, March 09, 2018

"New Evidence Reveals Ancient Greeks Immediately Regretted Inventing Theater"

"Brubaker added that several new findings suggest the ancient Greeks also lamented encouraging those prone to pondering life's unanswerable questions out loud to call themselves 'philosophers.'"

From The Onion.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

"Originated in a Very Different Time"

"But not all feminists see the international working class as their target audience. In the year since the Women's March, they've focused on exactly what Bustamante and the IWS organizers find to be inadequate—elevating the visibility and power of women in business, in the media, and in politics. Given the number of those who rallied with IWS last year compared with the massive turnout around the Womens March even in its second and smaller year, it's reasonable to guess the feminist politics of IWS are still in the minority, even after the flash of radicalism we've seen in recent years."

Haley Swenson at Slate discusses International Women's Day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Rise of the "Lifestyle Vinters"

"Most refer to themselves with straight faces as 'farmers,' even as 'environmentalists,' while more trees are cut on surrounding mountainsides for yet more vineyards. They loudly praise the valley's exemplary past and glorious future while exploiting its present. For instance, a prominent computer-boom beneficiary named Mike Davis has spent more millions on his sprawling new winery than will likely ever be recovered through wine sales. Since the Napa Valley floor is all planted, only the hillsides are available for new vineyards. And Davis is bent on scraping out a vineyard high on Howell Mountain that would adversely affect a precious wildlife preserve, one of the state's most biologically rich remnants."

James Conaway at The Atlantic argues that "Rich People Are Ruining Wine."

Monday, March 05, 2018

"Travel in Democratic Party Circles but Oppose Unions, Hate-Speech Codes, or Expanded Income Redistribution"

"When tech leaders prophesy a utopia of connectedness and freely flowing information, they do so as much out of self-interest as belief. Rather than a decentralized, democratic public square, the internet has given us a surveillance state monopolized by a few big players. That may puzzle technological determinists, who saw in networked communications the promise of a digital agora. But strip away the trappings of Google's legendary origins or Atari's madcap office culture, and you have familiar stories of employers versus employees, the maximization of profit, and the pursuit of power. In that way, at least, these tech companies are like so many of the rest."

Jacob Silverman at The New Republic reads Leslie Berlin's Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age and Noam Cohen's The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball.

"A Feat of Deceitful Legal Alchemy"

"Field nonetheless saw Davis's erroneous summary as an opportunity. A few years later, in an opinion in an unrelated case, Field wrote that 'corporations are persons within the meaning' of the Fourteenth Amendment. 'It was so held in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad,' explained Field, who knew very well that the Court had done no such thing.
"His gambit worked. In the following years, the case would be cited over and over by courts across the nation, including the Supreme Court, for deciding that corporations had rights under the Fourteenth Amendment."

Adam Winkler at The Atlantic explains how corporations became "people."

"The Swashbuckling, Visionary Entrepreneur"

"What Tower achieved was a sensation. Until the 1960s, there weren't many record stores outside of the Sam Goody chain in New York. Music was sold mostly in the remote corners of department stores. Inspired in part by dad's drug store, which sold a wide variety of goods, Solomon offered music fans a veritable feast, with generous helpings of the offbeat and obscure. Word soon went out: Tower sold records you couldn't find anywhere else."

At The Sacramento Bee, Dale Kasler and Bob Shallit report the death of Tower Records founder Russ Solomon.

As do Ed Christman and Colin Stutz at Billboard.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"They'd Rather Be Remembered for Their Patronage of the Arts Than for Profiteering Off Human Misery"

"But while Adam paints a detailed and convincingly dire picture of the art world's excesses, she never fully probes its implications. Perhaps ironically, its central weakness is her narrow focus on the activities of the art market itself: Her book largely brackets an exploration of the art market from the broader context of rising income inequality, economic exploitation, and staggering concentrations of wealth in the hands of the very few, all of which have enabled activity at the its upper reaches to continue unabated despite global downturns in other financial sectors. According to the sociologist Olav Velthuis, the art market ultimately benefits from an unequal distribution of wealth, as newly minted billionaires turn to blockbuster art purchases as a means of announcing their arrival."

Rachel Wetzler at the New Republic reviews Georgina Adam's Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century.

"It Was the Angriest I Have Ever Been in My Life"

"'I refused to go to the back of the bus,' but 'the teacher pleaded with me. She said it would be advisable.' Eventually, with passengers looking on and the bus ride at a standstill, ML reluctantly gave in. ML, Hiram, and Miss Bradley walked to the back of the bus and grabbed a handle. 'I had to stand all the way to Atlanta,' King remembered decades later, his anger still there. As the bus went up the rural highway, ML had nothing to look at but seated white people and the darkness outside. 'It was late at night and I was tired, but that wasn't the point. It was the humiliation.'"

The Atlantic presents an excerpt from Patrick Parr's The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

"The Political Danger Is Less the Alt-Right Than It Is Its Established Counterpart"

"For those who study the right, this attention to detail is indispensable and, at times, darkly amusing. But Neiwert's painstaking cataloging of these distinctions sometimes ends up undermining his overarching suggestion that far-right factions have come together in the age of Trump as a coherent political force. Ultimately, he depicts a far right that is deeply fragmented and often incompetent. By his account, these groups have rarely enjoyed a cozy relationship with one another, let alone with the majority of American conservatives. While right-wing extremists of all types undoubtedly congregate on some of the same internet forums, Neiwert offers little evidence that the various strains of Alt-America—rural sovereign-citizen militias, long-standing neo-Nazi and Klan chapters, and the new generation of college-educated alt-right media personalities—have begun building meaningful alliances with each other."

At the New Republic, J.C. Pan reviews David Neiwert's Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.

"Liberals Have Never Soared So High Again"

"The American taste for individualism will continue to frustrate the hopes of liberals and their sometime leftist allies. But the classic paradox that political scientists Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril identified during the heyday of the Great Society still holds: Most Americans are 'ideological conservatives but operational liberals.' Americans hate 'big government,' but they adore state and federal spending—as long as it benefits them and anyone else they regard as deserving that aid: particularly senior citizens, children, and veterans."

Michael Kazin at the New Republic reviews Joshua Zeitz's Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House.

"Make It Small"

"Although Dauber's greatest focus is on stand-up and television, there is a consideration of literature as well–I particularly like his calling Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus 'the Revolver of Jewish American Literature'. Like the comedy it is trying to parse, the book never gets above itself. Even when correctly describing Kafka as, at heart, a comic Jewish writer (what is more human and small than, having woken up as a beetle, to worry first and foremost about missing the train to work?), the parallel it draws with his Metamorphosis is the comic film There's Something about Mary, because they both deal in moments of 'excruciating, emasculating embarrassment and discomfort'."

David Baddiel at The Times Literary Supplement reviews Jeremy Dauber's Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.

"The Year That Gave Rise to Modern America"

"Before it ended, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy would be assassinated; U.S. troops would suffer their deadliest year yet in Vietnam––and massacre scores of civilians at My Lai*; Richard Nixon would be elected president; the Khmer Rouge would form in Cambodia; humans would orbit the moon; Olympic medal winners in Mexico City would raise their fists in a black power salute; President Johnson would sign the Civil Rights Act of 1968; Yale University would announce that it intended to admit women; 2001: A Space Odyssey would premier; and Led Zeppelin would give their first live performance."

Conor Friedersdorf introduces a series at The Atlantic on 1968.

"An Antidote to Trump and to Our Times"

"Most important of all, he never succumbed to the belief that evil was always on the other side, that those fighting for the good weren’t also capable of great wickedness, and self-deception. He was not one of those, in Mendelson's words, 'who can say of themselves without irony, "I am a good person," who perceive great evils only in other, evil people whose motives and actions are entirely different from their own … He observed to friends how common it was to find a dedicated anti-fascist who conducted his erotic life as if he were invading Poland.' I love that line. But what he saw most potently was that victims are also capable of becoming victimizers, that the best intentions come wrapped in the crumpled tissue of human fallibility, that 'I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.' He was, like Orwell, a patron saint of anti-tribalism.

At New York, Andrew Sullivan turns to W.H. Auden during the dark days of Donald Trump.