American Politics

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.

Freeway Ends

Freeway Ends

Infrastructure, they’re talking about it a lot more

A billboard whose finer print I can’t read says FREEDOM and the next says EMPIRE (an insurance group) and the next says ESCAPE REALITY (an image of a boat). This road leads to Lake Superior, which might as well be an ocean. 35 takes you to the end of America, or the beginning, depending on whom you ask. But there’s an energy to the ends of things. Cars and trucks are driving very fast.

The People, It Depends

The People, It Depends

What’s the matter with left-populism?

The New Deal is the ultimate horizon of Frank’s political imagination. In the 1930s, Frank argues, the Great Depression finally forced the American ruling class to rethink its unabashed elitism, leading inevitably to the rediscovery of the virtues of the populist tradition. The New Deal was at its heart, then, a cultural and rhetorical phenomenon with downstream economic consequences. He devotes orders of magnitude more attention and detail to poets like Carl Sandburg (whose epic The People, Yes gives the book its title), filmmakers like Orson Welles, and the oratory of FDR at his most fire-breathing than to the substantive economic policy of the President and his postwar successors. Frank even quotes, approvingly, labor secretary Frances Perkins’ remark that the New Deal was “basically an attitude.”