Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Herrenvolk President

"But there's another way to read Trump's promise—not as a commitment to economic populism but as a statement of racial solidarity. Far from acting as a president for all Americans, he's governed explicitly as a president for white Americans and the racial reactionaries among them. He's spoken to their fear and fanned their anger, making his office a rallying point for those who see decline in multiracial democracy and his administration a tool for those who would turn the clock back on racial progress. If those Americans are the 'forgotten men and women' of President Trump's inaugural address, then he's been a man of his word."

Jamelle Bouie at Slate argues that Trumpism's "simmering pursuit of racial grievance has been its defining characteristic and threatens to be its most enduring achievement.

Friday, January 19, 2018

"The Epitome of the 'Record Man'"

"The big break came in 1961, after the partnership had been dissolved, with Hall keeping the Fame name. A local singer named Arthur Alexander came in with a song he had written, a mid-tempo country-inflected R&B ballad called You Better Move On. Hall liked it, put a small group of musicians together for a recording session, and took the tape to Nashville, 120 miles away, where he licensed it to Dot Records, Pat Boone's label. The song was the first of Alexander’s run of hits and entered the repertoire of many British groups, notably the Rolling Stones, who recorded it in 1964.
When Hall received a cheque for $10,000 as the initial proceeds of Alexander’s success, he built a full-scale studio in nearby Muscle Shoals, where musical lightning would strike over and over again. Jimmy Hughes's Steal Away; Maurice and Mac's You Left the Water Running; Staton's I'm Just a Prisoner; Clarence Carter's Patches and Etta James's Tell Mama were among the Hall productions that attracted world attention to the Muscle Shoals sound.

Richard Williams at The Guardian writes an obit for record producer Rick Hall.

"Anything Could Happen. Let's Make It Something Good"

"Neoliberalism is running into its historical limits, exhausting its ability to stabilise capitalism and pacify those to whom it has doled out poverty and misery. An identity politics that is detached from material and historical questions cannot help us now; neither can faithfully repeating the left tactics of the twentieth century. The process of reconstituting something new, something that addresses the unique situation in which we find ourselves, has begun. We must let go of defeatism and nostalgia, reject crumbs thrown off the table by capital, and watch carefully for openings and opportunities."

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian discusses "contemporary left debates about identity, class and the eternal question of what is to be done."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"The Porn President"

"It's easy for liberals to decry the hypocrisy of Republicans, the putative party of family values, embracing Trump as its avatar. But there is no real hypocrisy here. The core value is patriarchy, which can take different forms. There is an older patriarchy which wears the mask of chivalry, and offers women protection in exchange for submissiveness. But the age of chivalry is no more. We now have raw patriarchy, which asserts its rights through naked displays of power."

Jeet Heer at the New Republic argues that Donald Trump "is the perfect leader for conservatives' post-chivalric world."

"We versus Them"

"'Believe in America!' 'A new American century!' What are they talking about? wondered voters battered and bruised by the previous American century. Donald Trump, the oldest candidate on the Republican stage, was also the first to discern that the political language of the 1980s had lost its power. The most common age for white Americans in 2015 was 55. These older white voters were more eager to protect what they had than to hustle for more. They wanted less change, not more. They cared about security, not opportunity. Protection of the status quo was what candidate Trump offered.
"Donald Trump created in effect a three-party system in the United States, by building a new Trump Party in between the Democratic and Republican Parties."

The Atlantic runs an excerpt from David Frum's Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Urban Suburbia"

"'The first wave of suburbanites were people attracted to urban environments, like artists, who had cultural capital but needed affordable housing and liked racially and culturally diverse environments,' said Christopher Niedt, a sociologist at Hofstra University and the academic director of its National Center for Suburban Studies. 'The art they create attracts people who are less tolerant of diversity and want to create a more homogeneous environment.'
"Ride-hailing apps are also popular with this cohort, which largely grew up in places without much public transportation. Uber and Lyft remind some customers of rides home with their parents or their parents' friends because the driver always knows where to go and little communication is needed.
"'You can depend on the car being there, kind of like depending on mom or dad,' said Eden Sutley, a 28-year-old TV producer from Lafayette, La., who lives in the East Village."


Aaron Elstein at Crain's New York Business discusses the suburbanization of New York City.

"But in the End, People Find in Nietzsche's Work What They Went into It Already Believing"

"People often say that the Nazis loved Nietzsche, which is true. What's less known is that Nietzsche's sister, who was in charge of his estate after he died, was a Nazi sympathizer who shamefully rearranged his remaining notes to produce a final book, The Will to Power, that embraced Nazi ideology. It won her the favor of Hitler, but it was a terrible disservice to her brother’s legacy.
"Nietzsche regularly denounced anti-Semitism and even had a falling-out with his friend Richard Wagner, the proto-fascist composer, on account of Wagner's rabid anti-Semitism. Nietzsche also condemned the 'blood and soil' politics of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman who unified Germany in 1871, for cementing his power by stoking nationalist resentments and appealing to racial purity."

At Vox, Sean Illing explains "what the alt-right gets right and wrong about their favorite philosopher."

"I Have Had My Consciousness Raised. Seriously"

"A quarter century is enough time to examine deeply held shibboleths and to see if they comport with reality. In my case, I have concluded that my beliefs were based more on faith than on a critical examination of the evidence. In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender—and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.
"This sounds obvious, but it wasn't clear to me until recently."

Max Boot confesses to the error of his ways in Foreign Policy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

"The Number of People Living in Mexico Fell From an Estimated 20 million to 2 million"

"Bos and her team have previously identified plague bacteria in the teeth of Black Death victims, but the cocolitzli samples presented a different challenge. Scientists already suspected that the Black Death was caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, but no one is as certain about the exact cause of cocolitzli. So Bos's team repurposed a method called metagenomics that sequences all of the DNA in a sample, generating a long list of all bacteria present in the teeth. One researcher went through the list by hand, and a specific strain of Salmonella enterica popped up repeatedly. Dental pulp samples from five people who died before European contact but buried in the same site contained no significant amounts of S. enterica."

Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic reports on recent research on the cause of "mysterious disease called 'cocolitzli'" in sixteenth-century Mexico.

"The Greatest Pandemic in History"

"The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of speculation over the last century. Historians and scientists have advanced numerous hypotheses regarding its origin, spread and consequences. As a result, many of us harbor misconceptions about it."

Richard Gunderman at Smithsonian presents "Ten Myths About the 1918 Flu Pandemic."

"Racial Equality Could Only Be Achieved Through a Combination of Anti-Discrimination Policies and Social-Democratic Economic Policies"

"The horizontal organization of Black Lives Matter ensures a diversity of perspectives among participants and even branches. Nevertheless, the now-commonplace claim at the heart of the recent Black Lives Matter protests against Sanders is that white liberals have long reduced racism to class inequality in order to deflect attention from racial disparities.
"This is not just wrong, but the formulation—which ultimately treats race as unchanging and permanent rather than a product of specific historical and political economic relations—undermines both the cause of racial equality in general and pursuit of equitable treatment in the criminal justice system in particular."

In a 2015 Jacobin article, Touré F. Reed explains "Why Liberals Separate Race from Class."

"As One Letter to The Globe Put It the Other Day: 'Revolution Isn't About Justice. It's About Change'"

"What happened is that the Revolution has entered a new phase. Having vanquished the reactionaries, the Jacobins are sending the moderates to the guillotine. The buildings must be razed so that society can begin anew. Everyone who isn't for them is against them. Moderates like Ms. Atwood, with their odious ideas about due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, are traitors to the Revolution."

Margaret Wente at The Globe and Mail reacts to the reaction to Margaret Atwood's opinions on sexual misconduct.

"A Nearly Successful Slave Revolt Was Intentionally Lost to HIstory"

"The suppression of the extent of the rebellion kept the uprising from historical attention for decades. Hall calls it a kind of 'historical amnesia' in the Times-Picayune piece. However on the 200th anniversary of the revolt, area museums and historical sites in Louisiana organized a year-long commemoration of the event. In time, the uprising may gain the recognition it deserves, thanks to the efforts of historians willing to sort the fiction from the reality."

In a 2016 Smithsonian article, Marissa Fessenden discusses the 1811 Louisiana slave revolt.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

In the Eye of the Storm

Kevin Jennings and Victor Davis Hanson debate immigration in the Los Angeles Times.

"Lego Renderings of Crematoria and Barracks"

"This week, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland, announced on its website that it has acquired Libera's concentration camp creations. The museum said it purchased the artwork on Dec. 30 from a Norwegian art collector for 55,000 euros, or approximately $71,800. The museum described the pieces as 'one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art.'"

A 2012 Los Angeles Times article by David Ng discusses the most controversial Lego set of all time.

"The Most Unusual Exhibition That We've Done Here at the Museum"

"Her interest was sparked by a family friend, Dr. George Burgess Magrath, one of the first medical examiners in the country, who believed many cases went unsolved because untrained investigators contaminated or misread crime scenes.
"Marks said, 'They would talk for hours and hours in the evenings about crimes and the state of crime detection. And she decided, "I can do something about that."'
"At age 65, Lee--then living in New Hampshire--began meticulously constructing the 3-D models, spending three to six months of each one."

"The Beating Heart of Trumpism"

"In the shithole remarks we see it very unadorned: why do we want more low-quality non-white people? To Trump, it is an obvious and urgent question. Arguments about cultural assimilation are often prettied-up in right-leaning policy journals as concern that too rapid immigration doesn't give enough time for assimilation and thus threatens social stability. That may be true at extremely high levels of immigration, though here in New York City we have a massive immigrant population (documented and undocumented) and we seem to do fine as the safest big city in the country. But with shithole you get to the heart of it which isn’t these prettified, intellectualized theories but rather a voice of contempt and dehumanization about people who–let's just say it–aren't white.
"'They are taking over' is the backdrop of Trumpism. The shithole comments make that crystal clear."

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reacts to the latest expression of racism from Donald Trump.

"We're Not Good Because We're Old, We're Old Because We're Good."

"An entrepreneur credited with introducing the ready-to-wear suit to the American market, Mr. Brooks also laid the groundwork for innovations—sack suits, navy blazers, reverse-striped rep ties, button-down shirts, patchwork madras, seersucker suits—now so familiar we tend to forget they were ever new. 'He was a disrupter and influencer,' Mr. Del Vecchio said of Mr. Brooks. 'And we're ready to start the disruption again.'"

Guy Trebay at The New York Times discusses the bicentennial of Brooks Brothers.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Higher Education Is Drowning in BS"

"BS is the university's loss of capacity to grapple with life's Big Questions, because of our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.
"BS is the farce of what are actually 'fragmentversities' claiming to be universities, of hyperspecialization and academic disciplines unable to talk with each other about obvious shared concerns.
"BS is the expectation that a good education can be provided by institutions modeled organizationally on factories, state bureaucracies, and shopping malls—that is, by enormous universities processing hordes of students as if they were livestock, numbers waiting in line, and shopping consumers."


Christian Smith throws down the gauntlet at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"A Tireless Fighter"

"It was a Venice which was a counter cultural mecca, a community of small individual two story or 24 foot high homes and duplexes, of homeowners with small incomes, working stiffs, professionals and students who voted Democrat or Progressive, or Peace and Freedom, of a community which was tolerant and supportive of dissent and outright opposition to moneymaking, greed, exploitation and racial and gender chauvinism."

The Free Venice Beachhead remembers activist Moe Stavnezer.

"A Concert That Some Germans, Rightly or Wrongly, Still View as Having Helped Change History"

"In 1977, the year Bowie recorded Heroes, the second of his three Berlin albums, East German border guards shot and killed 18-year-old Dietmar Schwietzer as he tried to flee west across the wall; a few months later, 22-year-old Henri Weise drowned trying to cross the Spree River. Heroes was haunted by the Cold War themes of fear and isolation that hung over the city. Its still-famous title track tells a story of two lovers who meet at the wall and try, hopelessly, to find a way to be together.
"A decade later, when, in 1987, Bowie returned for the Concert for Berlin, a three-day open-air show in front of the Reichstag, he chose 'Heroes' for his performance."

In a 2016 Vox article, Max Fisher discusses the impact of David Bowie's 1987 Berlin performance.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

"But for Every Amusingly Wrong Prediction, There's One Unnervingly Close to the Mark"

"With fourteen contributors, ranging from the weapons theorist Herman Kahn to the I.B.M. automation director Charles DeCarlo, penning essays on everything from 'Space' to 'Behavioral Technologies,' it's not hard to find wild misses. The Stanford wonk Charles Scarlott predicts, exactly incorrectly, that nuclear breeder reactors will move to the fore of U.S. energy production while natural gas fades. (He concedes that natural gas might make a comeback—through atom-bomb-powered fracking.) The M.I.T. professor Ithiel de Sola Pool foresees an era of outright control of economies by nations—'They will select their levels of employment, of industrialization, of increase in GNP'—and then, for good measure, predicts 'a massive loosening of inhibitions on all human impulses save that toward violence.' From the influential meteorologist Thomas F. Malone, we get the intriguing forecast of 'the suppression of lightning'—most likely, he figures, 'by the late 1980s.'"

Paul Collins at The New Yorker revisits the 1968 book Toward the Year 2018.

"To Understand Neoliberalism, You Need to Understand Where It Came From"

"From the late 1980s to 2016, neoliberal ideas held hegemonic sway among the Democratic elite. But the economy created by this ideology—and the ensuing crises—is a major reason why Clinton lost to Trump and the party is completely out of power today. This obvious failure has provided an ideological opening that the American left has been eager to fill.
"Yet even the left-wing is divided about the best way forward. Should it follow Elizabeth Warren's lead and promise a return to the trust-busting ways of the early 20th century? Or should it emulate the more sweeping, Nordic-style politics of Bernie Sanders? Or perhaps the Democratic Socialists of America are right and something even more extreme is needed."

Ryan Cooper at The Week starts a series to "address each of these factions in the Democratic Party, reckoning with their failures and analyzing their potential to transform the country." First up: neoliberalism.

"New Regulation Requires All Protected Species To Be Actively Looking For New Habitat In Order To Receive Funding"

"At press time, the Department of the Interior announced further regulations capping the amount of time a species can remain on the endangered list at six months."

From The Onion.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

"So If You Are Genuinely Worried About Killing Jobs, Our Current $7.25-an-Hour Minimum Wage Is Arguably Far Riskier Than $15"

"For decades, our minimum-wage debate has been dominated by ideology—the zero-sum claim that if wages go up, employment must inevitably go down—leading even many progressives to believe that the minimum wage is at best a necessary trade-off between fairness and growth.
"But 78 years of evidence demonstrates that this old trickle-down model just isn't true. On the contrary: When workers have more money, businesses have more customers and hire more workers. That is the virtuous cycle that has always described the way market economies actually work."

In a 2016 Business Insider article, Nick Hanauer writes that "[o]f the nearly two dozen federal minimum-wage hikes since 1938, total year-over-year employment actually increased 68% of the time."

Saturday, January 06, 2018

"Where This Door Has Been Closed to Contemporary Students, It Must Be Reopened"

"That sort of response, I venture to affirm, is still possible, and it is still necessary. In our time, as in all times, the voices of Vanity Fair shout at us that if only we have enough wealth and power we can get everything we want and can force others to do our will. The voice of uncivilized humanity, in other words, teaches us to be sociopaths. The voice of the old humanities, which is the voice of the best in our civilization, teaches another lesson. It teaches that our life is more valuable when we care about the sort of person we are becoming, when we learn to love what deserves to be loved, when we are admired by people whose good opinion is worth having. It prevents us from becoming ideological puppets of the powerful, it defends us against the sham values of commercialized culture, and it gives us a center that is our own. It makes us, in a word, humanior—more human."

James Hankins at American Affairs promotes a revival of the humanities.

"This Open Secret"

"They know what is wrong with Donald Trump. They know why it's dangerous. They understand—or most of them do—the damage he can do to a system of governance that relies to a surprising degree on norms rather than rules, and whose vulnerability has been newly exposed. They know—or should—about the ways Trump's vanity and avarice are harming American interests relative to competitors like Russia and China, and partners and allies in North America, Europe, and the Pacific.
"They know. They could do something: hearings, investigations, demands for financial or health documents, subpoenas. Even the tool they used against the 42nd president, for failings one percent as grave as those of the 45th: impeachment.
"They know. They could act. And they don't.

James Fallows at The Atlantic laments congressional Republicans "failure of responsibility."

As does David Frum more generally.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

"We Were All in This Together. And Now There's No More This"

"There are, to be sure, many healthy exceptions to this rule. In garages and basements and dorm rooms across the country and around the world, bands are forming this very minute. They are arguing over favorite songs, greatest albums, Stratocaster versus Telecaster, and inevitably which one of the members is going to have to switch from guitar to bass. These hopeful young dreamers give me hope.
"But we also shouldn't kid ourselves: they are exceptions. For every one of these fledgling anarcho-syndicalist collectives, there are a thousand or a million kids alone in their bedrooms staring at Protools screens wondering what they have to do to get the Swedish cabal to write a hit song for them. They download a file onto Bandcamp or YouTube, start logging the hits, and pray.
"And oh my God, that sounds so lonely."
Rhett Miller at The Baffler sizes up the current-day pop-music industry.

"A New Generation of Historians Seeks a More Diverse Set of Characters"

"For generations, a romanticized vision of Texas history was of white male settlers taming a wilderness; of James Bowie and Davy Crockett falling at the Alamo; of cowboys herding cattle across the plains; and of gushing oil wells. That vision largely left out Native Americans, women, African-Americans, and other groups.
"Texas is far from unique in that sense, as evinced by roiling battles over the removal of Confederate monuments in the South and revisionist accounts of the rebels' cause. Still, in recent years the state has taken steps to promote more diverse and unvarnished perspectives on its history, even as conservatives have pushed back on school textbooks.

With the tricentennial of San Antonio, Henry Gass at The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at the state of Texas history.

"The Window Into the Past That These Children Provide Is Priceless"

"By analyzing the older infant's genome, Potter and his colleagues, including José Víctor Moreno Mayar and Lasse Vinner, have shown that she belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient people, who are distinct from all known Native Americans, past and present. The team have dubbed them the Ancient Beringians.
"'We'd always suspected that these early genomes would have important stories to tell us about the past, and they certainly didn't disappoint,' says Jennifer Raff from the University of Kansas, who was not involved in the study.'"

Ed Yong at The Atlantic writes about new "clues about when and how the first peoples came to the Americas."

"The Short-Term Upside of a Massive Leveraged Gamble with America's Future"

"Many, if not most, functions of government are designed to mitigate risk. Social insurance protects individuals from the risk of outliving their savings, or of facing unaffordable medical costs. Economic regulation protects society from dangers like financial risk, environmental danger, or crime and other social disorder. Laissez-faire ideology often amounts to an acceptance of greater risk. (This is a basic description of the trade-off, which holds regardless of whether you think Republicans are generally eliminating regulations that are important or unnecessarily burdensome.) By scaling back access to health insurance, they would expose more people to the risk of high medical bills, for the benefit of enjoying lower taxes and premiums right away. Much of their deregulatory agenda would allow business to operate more cheaply by taking fewer precautions to protect workers, consumers, and the environment."

Jonathan Chait at New York tells readers that the "Trump administration's mania for reducing federal power runs so deep that it can be difficult to tell where deregulatory fervor ends and incompetence begins."

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

"It Belongs to the World"

"These younger scholars learned about King, Nixon and the Kennedy clan growing up, then in college and graduate school read works by historians who, as it happened, were often part of 1960s political movements. Gitlin, who teaches at Columbia University, was president of Students for a Democratic Society.
"'This is not to dismiss a generation of scholars,' Schieder said, 'but I think right now is a kind of reckoning.'"

Michael S. Rosenwald at The Washington Post discusses how young historians are coming to view 1968.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!

"Hopeful contenders for everlasting fame must run the gauntlet of numerous challenges, including the jealousy of rivals and possible extinction of their own civilisation and language. But there are some clues hidden in the life stories of those who succeeded and those who were lost along the way."

Zaria Gorvett at the BBC asks, [w]hy are some people almost instantly forgotten when they have gone, while others cling on?"

"It's a Shanda"

"Toby Talbot's 2009 book, The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes From a Life at the Movies, has an appendix listing all the American theatrical debuts that happened at Lincoln Plaza. The list is a murderers' row of every important auteur (or one-off magic-maker) from the mid-twentieth century on. Wim Wenders, Maurice Pialat, Hector Babenco, Jim Jarmusch, Wayne Wang, Zhang Yimou, Agnieszka Holland, Olivier Assayas, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Lukas Moodysson, Arnaud Desplechin, Agnès Jaoui, Noah Baumbach, Guy Maddin, Andrei Zvyagintsev, and the list goes on and on. Will those films still play in New York? Sure, the swank Metrograph or sleek Quad is ready for the job. (And some rumors suggest we shouldn't lose hope for a worthwhile theater in this location down the line.) But will you be able to complain about the line while noshing carrot cake beneath tropical-themed canvases painted by the owners' daughters? Unlikely."

Jordan Hoffman at The Village Voice laments the closing of New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

And Tom Brueggemann at IndieWire notes the passing of Lincoln Plaza owner Dan Talbot.

"The Victorian Ethos Is Not Dead, Not By a Long Shot"

"This seeps over into everyday activities as well. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are filled with people dressed in workout gear with no sweat in sight. This clothing marks its wearers as the type of people who care for their bodies, even when they aren't exercising. Yoga pants and running shoes display virtue just as clearly as the nineteenth-century wives' corseted dresses did.
"Being fit now indexes class, saturating both fitness and food culture. As calories have become cheaper, obesity has changed from being a sign of wealth to a sign of moral failure. Today, being unhealthy functions as a hallmark of the poor's cupidity the same way working-class sexual mores were viewed in the nineteenth century.
"Both lines of thinking assert that the lower classes cannot control themselves, so they deserve exactly what they have and nothing more. No need, then, for higher wages or subsidized health care. After all, the poor will just waste it on cigarettes and cheeseburgers."
Jason Tebbe at Jacobin notes that "nineteenth-century bourgeoisie used morality to assert class dominance--something elites still do today."