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American Politics

The Good Rights Myth

The Good Rights Myth

Even the most obsessive water-law wonks among us will admit to the utter incomprehensibility of the system’s minutiae

Today, water law remains largely unchanged, a residually conservative doctrine that disfigures California’s progressive posturing. It’s all still a dizzying maze of pre- and-post-1914 rights claims, made more dizzying by the steady accumulation of niche contractual obligations, bizarre and dubious exceptions, the overlapping roles of roughly hundreds of county water districts and local agencies, and even the private leasing of rights between landowners.

Whiffing, Fast and Slow

Whiffing, Fast and Slow

Is baseball boring?

Something rekindled; baseball seemed all of a sudden a dramatic sport, filled with intellectual intrigue: the chess-like plots of the pitcher-batter duels, the way individual specializations harmonized with collective effort. I became the wearer of a White Sox hat, the austere black and white a sort of neighborhood camouflage, and then also an Astros hat, a commemoration of my years lived in Houston, the US’s most interesting and comfortless city. There was no better way to close out my day than by traveling to the Reddit thread with all the baseball streams. Or so it seemed until I watched Craig Kimbrel pitch and grew worried that what everyone else thought might in fact be true.

Four Hurricanes

Four Hurricanes

Every hurricane that hits, for the ones it fucks up, is the worst one ever

State officials lease our land to petrochemical engineering companies that produce the plastics and poisons that all but ensure we lose everything to climate change, at which point they will find someplace else to go. There are fewer and fewer wetlands to buffer storms on their way to the shore as a result of catastrophic losses to the region’s biodiversity. Don’t get me fucking started on the damming of the Mississippi, which would otherwise naturally rebuild the marsh by continuously depositing sediment it brought down.

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Before the recent withdrawal, private contractors had greatly outnumbered US troops in Afghanistan

It is worth recalling that “we don’t do body counts” became the Bush administration’s unofficial motto in the early years of the global war on terror, and that reporting on Afghan civilian deaths did not even begin until 2007. In 2017 the Department of Defense stopped reporting the number of US military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and in 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that revoked the requirement for US intelligence to report on civilian casualties outside of areas of “Active Hostilities.” Taken together, these actions indicate a clear preference to render both the nature of military interventions and their costs invisible.

Pictures at a Restoration

Pictures at a Restoration

On Pete Souza’s Obama

Once safely out of office, he acknowledged that “millions of Americans” had been “spooked by a black man in the White House.” An undeniable truth, but one that was miles away from the embrocations he had offered the country when he launched his national career by declaring that “there is not a black America and a white America.” That kind of thing sounds like denialism to some, a postracial utopia to others, and then, in certain places, like a threat.

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

The dream of strength and youth

One way to think about the viral explainers of the viral photo is that their function was almost pharmacological. A rapidly disseminated image that leads to spinning heads requires a dose of fast-acting cultural Dramamine. Speed is key. With the internet producing the weird stories, and grabbing all the ads that go with them, traditional media has been forced to move to the higher ground of analysis, but that was never journalism’s forte. So, somewhere between newsfeed dazzle and the insight that comes later (if at all), explanation became a familiar part of the information age news cycle. Sometimes, it’s enough.