Thursday, September 21, 2017

"This Paper Belonged to New York"

"But the Voice, in its heyday—and when that was depends on who you ask—was a prime mover of the tectonic variety, and it attracted revolutionaries. The Voice tackled subjects that no one else did in ways that no one else would. If you were a politician, a real estate developer, a wealthy industrialist, a would-be art, music, or film star, or anyone deemed to be of dubious intent or motive, the Voice could be brutal. If you were marginalized, mistreated, ill, poor, a victim of injustice, or an activist or advocate for those who were, the Voice could be a beacon. At its best—and sometimes, its worst—the paper has been a combustible melting pot of people, ideas, and ambitions. The Voice changed the course of journalism, elections, court cases, legislation, political careers, popular culture, lives, loves, and New York itself."

Stephen Mooallem at The Village Voice marks the end of the newspaper's print edition.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"It Is Imperialism"

"For Trump, by contrast, sovereignty means both that no one can tell the United States what to do inside its borders and that the United States can do exactly that to the countries it doesn't like. That's not the liberal internationalism that Obama espoused. Nor is it the realism of some of Obama's most trenchant critics."

Peter Beinart at The Atlantic criticizes Donald Trump's speech at the United Nations.

"While It Can't Forgive the Presidents Who Lied, It's Too Forgiving of Everyone Else"

"The Civil War, which first aired in 1990, can be understood as being tangentially about Vietnam: It was a call for national unity decades after another war tore the country apart. The Vietnam War comes at a time when the nation is as divided as it was in the 1960s and '70s, and is still mired in a number of foolish and enormously destructive foreign wars. Unlike the other documentaries Burns has made (both with and without Novick) about baseball and jazz and the Roosevelts, The Vietnam War deals with living history, which means that he is forced to reckon with politics in ways that he is not used to."

Alex Shephard at the New Republic reviews Ken Burns's The Vietnam War.

"Ken Burns Completes Documentary About Fucking Liars Who Claimed They Watched Entire 'Jazz' Series"

"'This project is going to explore exactly who these dishonest little sons of bitches think they're fooling by claiming they sat down and watched the whole damn thing. There's even some rare footage of a few of these pieces of shit talking about my depiction of Benny Carter, which wasn't even in the fucking film.'"

From The Onion, 2016.

"Public Higher Education Is Ideally Suited to Meet All These Goals, Yet We Are Starving It of Funds Just When We Need It Most"

"Our information age requires a public that is able to see through manipulation and avoid scapegoating. We need politicians who are able to view a range of options delivered by experts and choose wisely among them. We need people with advanced skills who can innovate in increasingly complex new realms. We need people with empathy and perspective to navigate conflict, ease social connections and help us comprehend rapid change. We need educators able to explain and analyze complexity and pass on those skills to new generations."

Katherine Pickering Antonova at The Washington Post champions a return to the humanities.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Vital Centrists

"It was one thing to defend the American Nazi Party's right to march in Skokie, Ill. in 1977, when the liberal establishment and mainstream media were still intact and American Nazi Party was a marginal fringe group. The group was offensive, but neither its actions nor its ideas posed a threat to the political or social order, which was stable. The situation is different today, with an erratic President Trump in the White House, elites in disarray and white nationalism on the rise. In this situation, and against this foe, it may be worth remembering that our constitutional rights are not unchanging abstract principles, but, as Hook and Schlesinger argued, always evaluated in terms of their consequences for society at any given historical moment.
"At the same time, however, colleges and universities need to recognize that their liberal critics of, say, diversity policies or Title IX excesses are not political foes and should not be subject to censorship or censure. One reason the right has been able to so effectively exploit 'free speech' is because campuses have become places where the free exchange of ideas has been curbed by peer pressure, self-policing and a self-righteous call-out culture, as described by Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait and Mark Lilla. Until university presidents offer real leadership in reconciling the liberal critique of 'identity politics' with a new generation of diverse students, faculty and staff for whom such politics represent progress, they will be unable to protect their institutions from conservative attacks."

Jennifer Delton at The Washington Post looks to liberal anticommunists of the 1940s as models for combatting reactionary conservatives today.

"A Much Deeper Force Is Also at Work"

"Humans aren't well wired to act on complex statistical risks. We care a lot more about the tangible present than the distant future. Many of us do that to the extreme—what behavioral scientists call hyperbolic discounting—which makes it particularly hard to grapple with something like climate change, where the biggest dangers are yet to come.
"Our mental space is limited and we aren't primed to focus on abstruse topics. Except for a small fraction that are highly motivated, most voters know little about the ins and outs of climate change, or the policy options relating to it. Instead, voters' opinions about such things derive from heuristics such as political party affiliation and basic ideology."

In the Los Angeles Times, David G. Victor, Nick Obradovich, and Dillon J. Amaya argue that "the wiring of our brains makes it hard to stop climate change." 

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Progressive Individualism Created by Late Capitalism"

"Currid-Halkett convincingly argues that the consumer preferences of today's elite—be it the approved podcast, TED Talk, or magazine; goat tacos from the farmers market, a five-dollar cup of Intelligentsia Coffee, ceviche at the Oaxacan restaurant in the approved urban enclave, or tuition for the anointed school—are now the primary means by which members of the educated elite establish, reinforce, and signify their identities. In a detailed analysis of the experience of shopping at a Whole Foods supermarket, for instance, she explores the rather stark hypothesis that 'for the aspirational class, we are what we eat, drink, and consume more generally.' By creating 'an identity and story to which people wish to subscribe,' the store allows members of that class to 'consume [their] way to a particular type of persona.' The upshot is that elite consumption—the pursuit of personal gratification—somewhat paradoxically entwines with the pursuit and buttressing of what amounts to a tribal identity."

Benjamin Schwartz at The American Conservative reviews Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Shouting Someone Down or Provoking a Violent Confrontation Just Plays Into the Narrative of the Far Right"

"Free speech has itself become controversial. We have a generation of students now who are much more willing to think about restrictions on speech. There are certainly faculty who also believe that. I grew up feeling the libertarian language of John Stuart Mill was absolutely natural. It's what I believe. But that's not true of a lot of students today. They grew up having lots of instructions in anti-bullying, … on what constitutes harassment. They've been told strongly and repeatedly that certain kinds of speech are inappropriate. And so they don't understand the difference between how we say it's right to act in a community, whether it's a classroom or a dormitory, and what a public speaker is allowed to say in a public square. So there is a kind of disagreement right now about free speech. I sometimes say ironically that in 1964 it was the students for free speech and the administration was against it; now you've got this weird reversal."

Teresa Watanabe at the Los Angeles Times interviews U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ.

"One Is Struck by the Continuing Relevance of His Writings"

"As for the future, Foner denounces the divisive politics of Donald Trump, but he also laments the failure of Barack Obama to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Great Recession of 2008 to make fundamental changes in the nature of American capitalism. While disappointed with Obama as a mainstream Democrat who refused to challenge established corporate and banking interests, Foner sees promise in the 2016 Presidential campaign of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, observing that the type of fundamental change advanced by the Senator from Vermont is evidence of how American radicalism and a usable past have persisted into the present day. In discussing his teaching of a class on the radical tradition in America, Foner cautions that the key is to emphasize movements to promote social change and freedom rather than to concentrate upon individuals. Foner has retired from Columbia University, but let us hope that we will continue to benefit from his observations as a public intellectual in the pages of the Nation and other influential publications."

Ron Briley at History News Network reviews Eric Foner's Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History.

"Library Of Congress Completes Destruction Of 70 Million Works Deemed Culturally Insignificant"

"'In some cases, such as our vast troves of military march sheet music and photographic negatives of rural Americans quilting, works were selected for destruction based on their lack of artistic merit, while others, like Styx's The Serpent Is Rising and the movie sequel Grease 2, represent the nadir of a particular historical era. Wiping out these terrible pieces is vitally important to maintaining our proud, rich cultural heritage.'"

From The Onion, 2016.

"Donald Trump Outperformed Mitt Romney's 2012 Campaign on Minority Vote Share"

"A big part of the story is that Hillary Clinton did much worse among minorities than Obama did. Not only was her share of the minority vote worse than Obama's, but minorities turned out less for her than they had for him.
"For example, in Michigan, Hillary Clinton received 50,000 fewer votes in Detroit's Wayne County than President Obama had in 2012. Trump's margin of victory in Michigan over Clinton was about 11,000."

In a 2016 Forbes article, Avik Roy looks at changes in the American electorate.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"And That's a Problem"

"The language we turn to in describing the war, from speaking of compromise and plantations, to characterizing the struggle as the North versus the South, or referring to Robert E. Lee as a General, can lend legitimacy to the violent, hateful and treasonous southern rebellion that tore the nation apart from 1861 to 1865; and from which we still have not recovered. Why do we often describe the struggle as between two equal entities? Why have we shown acceptance of the military rank given by an illegitimate rebellion and unrecognized political entity?"

Christopher Wilson at Smithsonian argues that "We Legitimize the 'So-Called' Confederacy With Our Vocabulary."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"We Can't Buy Into the Conservative Frame That the Democrats Are a Party of the Minorities"

"If Democrats try to win future elections by relying on narrow racial-ethnic targeting, they will not only enable the Republicans to play wedge politics, they will also miss the opportunity to make a broader economic argument. Not long ago, I spoke with Mustafa Tameez, a Houston political consultant who made his name helping to elect the first Vietnamese-American to the Texas House. The momentum in American politics, he believes, is with Democrats who stress 'an economic message rather than ethnic-identity politics.'"

John B. Judis at the New Republic repents his belief "that demographics favored the Democrats."

"Unable to Advance a Coherent (or Even Accurate) Narrative"

"On the surface, this is almost interesting—the kind of reference that makes its wielder seem erudite. The 'American system' was a program for the development of the nation's infrastructure (financed by high tariffs for selected industries and sustained by a national bank), a project of the Whig Party and its leaders, like Kentucky's Henry Clay. Abraham Lincoln was an admirer of this system and promoted key elements as president. And one could say that the Roosevelts, or at least Franklin Roosevelt, were pioneers of a second American system, whose ideas were contiguous with the first. But that's where the actual history ends."

At Slate, Jamelle Bouie criticizes Steve Bannon's view of the nineteenth century.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Unnatural Disaster"

"Soft rains, torrents and even hurricanes are part of that balance. Hurricanes are essentially giant engines that transfer heat from sea to atmosphere. Scientists are working hard to understand the extent to which global warming may fuel them. Yet at this most crucial time, the Trump administration has purged climate experts, research funding and even the science itself from public websites as if we were back in the witchcraft days."

In the Los Angeles Times, Cynthia Barnett provides perspective on extreme weather.

"Climate Change Denier Battens Down Worldview To Weather Hurricane Irma"

From The Onion.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Yes She Can

"Bratts mother was an activist, involved in the American Indian Movement's occupation of Alcatraz Island between 1969 and 71. His passion for telling Huerta's story came from a frustration at her erasure. When he sent out his archival producer, Jennifer Petrucelli, to find footage of Huerta, he was shocked at the bulk of discoveries. 'Jen literally criss-crossed the country to visit archives,' he says, speaking of the 'treasure troves' of documentation of the activist's work, of which the documentary is comprised. 'I kept thinking, "For a person that people were saying now was unimportant, news crews and journalists and others sure did put their camera on her a lot in that time."'"

April Wolfe in the LA Weekly discusses the new documentary about Dolores Huerta.

Friday, September 08, 2017

"He's Simply Not Hearing"

"But of course this is a different and much darker picture since whites aren't new arrivals to power. They've always had the power and they mostly still have it. Trolls and racists sometimes ask what's wrong with having National Association for the Advancement of White People if there's a NAACP and no one thinks there’s anything wrong with that. But most people, even if it's more intuitive than reasoned, realize that it's fundamentally different. The ethnic consciousness and demands of the powerful and dominant are intrinsically aggressive and threatening in a way that those of the powerless or marginalized are simply not.
"On another level, though, I found Coates essay what I can only call baffling."

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reacts to Ta-Nehisi Coates's new article, "The First White President."

Meanwhile, Asad Haider at Viewpoint criticizes both Coates and Mark Lilla.

And Marshall writes "that some significant number of white voters who were activated by racist appeals need to be won back to turn back the tide of Trumpism."

"Here are some unsettling truths: Trump won. Some voted for him because they're white supremacists, but others did for a range of other reasons (party loyalty, negative partisanship, anger about economic stagnation, resentment in response to cultural despair and decline, Clinton hatred fueled by a mix of right-wing media and foreign meddling, and on and on). Trump voters of all kinds aren't going anywhere. They are our fellow citizens and have the right to vote. Many of them probably aren't persuadable by left-of-center candidates, but some of them probably are. Moving beyond Trump and reversing the agenda of his presidency will require appealing to some of these voters."

Damon Linker at The Week also criticizes Coates.

"When you construct an entire teleology on one cause—even a cause as powerful and abiding as white racism—you face the temptation to leave out anything that complicates the thesis. So Coates minimizes sexism—Trump's disgusting language and the visceral hatred of many of his supporters for Hillary Clinton—background noise. He downplays xenophobia, even though foreigners were far more often the objects of Trump's divisive rhetoric and policy proposals than black Americans. (Of all his insults, the only one Trump felt obliged to withdraw was his original foray into birtherism.) Coates doesn't try to explain why, at one point in the campaign, a plurality of Republicans supported Ben Carson over the other nine candidates, all white. He omits the weird statistic that slightly more black and Latino voters and slightly fewer whites went for Trump than for Mitt Romney. He doesn't even mention the estimated eight and a half million Americans who voted for President Obama and then for Trump—even though they made the difference. No need to track the descending nihilism of the Republican Party. The urban-rural divide is a sham."

And George Packer at The Atlantic takes Coates to task.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

"She Still Doesn't Get It"

"The simple facts are these: Senator Sanders enjoyed so much success in the primaries and Donald Trump won the election because they both tapped into widespread voter anger against the very establishment Hillary Clinton represented. And to top it all off, they both were simply more convincing and persuasive as campaigners than Secretary Clinton ever was or could be."

Jake Novak at CNBC reacts to Hillary Clinton's book about the 2016 election.

"Clinton Already Working On Follow-Up Book Casting Blame For Failures Of First"

As does The Onion.

Sarah Jones reviews What Happened at the New Republic.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

"These Images Are Just as Frightening Now"

"There is an aspect of horror that Freud initially called the uncanny. That's where something is familiar enough to be recognizable but weird enough to give you the shivers. The uncanny explains a lot of horror tropes, where you look at something and it's not quite right—like a human face that's decomposing. It's recognizable, but just enough away from normal to scare you. In my lectures, I'll show a slide of a beagle, and I have a series of Photoshopped slides where I keep changing the eyes of the beagle and it gets creepier and creepier, because you recognize that there's something not right about it, and it takes you a second to place it."

Gwynne Watkins at Slate talks with Steven Schlozman about horror movies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

"The Peace Sign 'Gave Way to "the Finger"'"

"This view dominated conceptions of race relations throughout the 1970s and 80s, eliminating the possibility of an 'American culture' and replacing it with several. As previously noted, Schulman's exploration of disco’s ability to draw the ire of both black nationalists and white bigots provides a useful example regarding the rejection of integration. 'Disco acknowledged dancers' solidarity across racial and cultural lines,' Schulman writes. 'It held out the allure of integration. Disco artists fused black, gay, and Latin strands and found a huge, mass audience.' (73) Suburban white kids thought disco 'feminine, too gay, too black. But its hybrid form mocked ethnic nationalists dedicated to preserving distinct Black and Latino cultural identities.' (74) Of course, benefits arose from this new multiculturalism, as a cultural vibrancy arose in various venues such as art museums, music clubs, classrooms, and the street itself. Obviously, the Nuge would not agree. However, politically Schulman argues 'the demise of liberal universalism and the celebration of diversity exacerbated the political crisis of the 1970s. Politics always revolves around citizenship–around defining the "we" marking out an "us" against "them" Everyone desires good schools, good housing, roads, and health care for "us"; few wish to spend their hard earned dollars on "them."'"

In a 2011 Topics of Meta article, Ryan Reft considers the cultural politics of Ted Nugent.

It's in the Post

"Instead, I wanted to recover my own lived sense of the period not as a dwindle into disparateness but as the true fruition of punk's ideals. The after-zones of rock history are hard to grasp precisely because they're so various. This rich muddle demands identifying labels that are umbrella-broad and open-ended. Hence post-punk, not a genre so much as a space of possibility, out of which new genres formed: Goth, industrial, synthpop, mutant disco, and many more.
"I can think of at least a couple more 'post-' terms that could usefully redraw the map of pop music history:"

In a 2009 Slate article, Simon Reynolds discusses the "'in-between' periods in pop."

"Deserve a Little More Respect?"

"They are, in a sense, the exuberant everymen of the music world. What they do seems attainable to everyone in the crowd. Although that's certainly not to say they don’t take their craft seriously. 'You're not just bumbling around,' insists Dmochowski. 'I definitely thought I could add to the live experience, by expressing the music and the poetry, and make it much more dynamic and visual.'"

Chris Salmon at The Guardian praises the "great dancing mascots of pop."

Monday, September 04, 2017

"What Happened to Walt's Tomorrow?"

"The future was exciting, optimistic, radiant, and at Tomorrowland, it was a place you could visit and enjoy, marveling at what was to come.
"But at some point in the last six decades, Tomorrowland went from a land of possibility to a land of nostalgia. Today, on that same land in Anaheim, California, stands a retrofuturistic attraction, full of old-fashioned, cutesy ways of thinking about space travel, transportation, and robots. Even the 2015 Tomorrowland movie flopped. Disneyland seems to have lost its passion for futurology, letting what was once an innovative, optimistic, imaginative Tomorrowland slip into a symbol of yesteryear."

Rachel Withers at Slate discusses the eclipse of the future at Disneyland.