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Money and Power

Border Crises

Border Crises

Five decades of ordinary bipartisan anti-immigrant politics

In May 2018, as Trump’s family separation policy became a major scandal, former Obama speechwriter and “Pod Save America” host Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of two migrant girls sleeping on the floor of a cage. “Look at these pictures. This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible.” As a number of his replies pointed out, the photos were actually from 2014, when his boss was still President. As with Biden’s response to the recent assault on Haitians, Favreau was fixated on the image.

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.

Billionaire Follies

Billionaire Follies

Bezos as space conqueror, Gates as global vaccinator

As weirdos who have been appointed to positions of great social power and influence by nothing more than the accident of their wealth, billionaires cannot be trusted to fix the world’s problems. No matter how much of their money they want to give away, things won’t begin to improve until we take it from them. Not because we need it, but because they can’t be trusted to handle it without destroying the collective preconditions of common existence.

In the Penal Colony

In the Penal Colony

Outsourcing Australia’s detention industry

While private companies should not have been given so much power over Victoria’s hotel quarantine, the program itself illuminates the swiftness with which this country reaches for tools of punitive confinement. Initial evacuations of Chinese-Australians from Wuhan in early 2020 were sent to Christmas Island. Hotel quarantine may be a comparatively benign and expedient manifestation of that impulse, but others during the pandemic have not been so.

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.”

They Thought They Had the Energy

They Thought They Had the Energy

Emily Grubert on Texas, energy infrastructure, and the prospects for renewables

It’s not just climate and weather that make these events bad. A lot of the time, it’s really the intersection between unusual events—events that are outside design parameters—and the fact that on the infrastructure side we have a lot of issues with long-term deferred maintenance and obsolescence.

After Neoliberalism

At the heart of the new age are novel configurations of fear, certainty, and power

The big reveal: Google and Facebook are marketing companies. That is how they make money. What is more extraordinary is how much the two companies have thus far dominated their markets. Zuboff reports that between 2012 and 2016 Google and Facebook together accounted for 90 percent of the growth in global advertising expenditures. But there is nothing much “unprecedented” about advertising.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

The restaurant before and after Covid

Pandemic-era restaurant culture extends and amplifies forces that were already apparent under the old regime: the numbing frictionlessness of delivery food, the retreat into private spaces, the appification of everything. By raising the cost of staying afloat online, Grubhub and Yelp have contributed more to the demise of Covid-era restaurants than their survival. Delivery workers’ bodies are now deemed essential, but their paychecks remain as murderously trivial as ever.