Jesse Hicks

A writer and editor interested in science and technology. @jessehixxx JesseHicks.com

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Jesse Hicks

9 days ago

But if his four books on George W. Bush and two on Barack Obama were case studies in proving Didion’s point, Woodward’s latest, Fear: Inside the Trump White House, drives it home with almost excruciating feats of self-parody. It’s not just that Woodward’s self-consciously Serious approach to Serious People sputters and short-circuits when confronted with the ludicrously Unserious figure of Donald Trump himself (who, unlike previous Presidents, did not make himself available for Woodward to interview.) Rather, Fear showcases Woodward in his most abject and pathetic role as what Christopher Hitchens, who also saw him for what he was, called a “stenographer to power.” For page after dumbfounding page, Fear reproduces, with gobsmacking credulity, the self-aggrandizing narratives of factitious scoundrels. Didion was absolutely right to class Woodward’s work as fundamentally a kind of “political pornography.” But Fear is to Woodward’s previous oeuvre of political pornography what Fifty Shades of Grey is to Twilight: vampiric fan-fiction repackaged as middlebrow smut.

Dupe Throat

nplusonemag.com

Jesse Hicks

9 days ago

President Donald Trump uses many fascist tactics. But Stanley makes it clear throughout his book that Trump is not a unique figure in U.S. history. On the contrary, fascist tactics have been a staple of American politics practically since American politics have existed. Hitler himself was inspired by the Confederacy, Jim Crow, and especially by the 1924 Immigration Act, with its race-based immigration exclusions. (Jeff Sessions is also a fan.)

In particular, Stanley tells me, America’s recent history with mass incarceration makes us very vulnerable to fascism. “How Fascism Works” points to the 1996 monograph “Body Count: Moral Poverty...and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs" by William J. Bennett, John J. DiIulio and John P. Walters, which made claims about supposed criminal "superpredators" who would unleash an unstoppable tsunami of youth violence.

The tsunami never materialized, and crime has actually been dropping in the years since “Body Count” was published. But the idea of superpredators has helped to justify the harassment, incarceration and disenfranchisement of millions of people. "We tolerated completely fake news to justify inhumane treatment of our black population," Stanley tells me. "So in a way we were more vulnerable than Germany in the 30s, because we've already had this fascist mechanism in play."

Is Trump a fascist? Learning about how fascism works can help prevent its spread in America

nbcnews.com

Jesse Hicks

22 days ago

The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.

The Coming Collapse

truthdig.com

Jesse Hicks

23 days ago

The story of McCain’s life and career is as much a tale of the obsessions of a media and political culture as it is the story of a man. Fixated on symbolism, rhetoric, war stories, and the concept of bipartisanship for its own sake, the political establishment found a tailor-made idol in McCain, who could deftly feed these compulsions on one hand while dutifully advancing the agenda of the postwar conservative movement of Buckley and Goldwater with the other. In this sense, McCain was one of the most successful politicians of the last forty years, even if his ultimate prize of winning the presidency forever eluded him.

John McCain Wasn’t a Hero

jacobinmag.com

Jesse Hicks

47 days ago

Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm

bloomberg.com

Jesse Hicks

90 days ago

Obama nominated the most blandly inoffensive left-of-center jurist he could find, on the presumption that if he showed some deference to Mitch McConnell’s caucus, they would have no choice but to hand over the conservative movement’s most-prized possession. This would have been an understandable gambit in the first year of his presidency; in the last, it was incomprehensible. When had congressional Republicans ever given Obama cause for believing that forbearance and compromise would be rewarded? When had they given him cause to doubt their commitment to preserving a reactionary judiciary?

In Hindsight, Democrats Really Mishandled That Merrick Garland Thing

nymag.com

Jesse Hicks

92 days ago

If the president of the United States is constantly lying, complaining that the independent press is responsible for fake news, calling for the withdrawal of licenses from television networks, publicly demanding jail sentences for political opponents, undermining the authority of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, magnifying social divisions, delegitimizing critics as “crooked” or “failing,” and even refusing, in violation of the law, to protect young children against the risks associated with lead paint—well, it’s not fascism, but the United States has not seen anything like it before.

With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here, but it would be foolish to ignore the risks that Trump and his administration pose to established norms and institutions, which help preserve both order and liberty. Those risks will grow if opposition to violations of long-standing norms is limited to Democrats, and if Republicans laugh, applaud, agree with, or make excuses for Trump—if they howl with the wolf.

In their different ways, Mayer, Haffner, and Jarausch show how habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness make terrible things possible. They call attention to the importance of individual actions of conscience both small and large, by people who never make it into the history books. Nearly two centuries ago, James Madison warned: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.” Haffner offered something like a corollary, which is that the ultimate safeguard against aspiring authoritarians, and wolves of all kinds, lies in individual conscience: in “decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

It Can Happen Here

nybooks.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Graeber divides “bullshit jobs” into five categories: “flunkies” (those who exist to make others feel important such as door attendants and admin assistants), “goons” (those who agitate on behalf of their employers such as lobbyists and telemarketers), “duct tapers” (those who undo damage by lax or incompetent superiors), “box tickers” (such as performance managers) and “taskmasters” (such as middle managers).

How many “bullshit jobs”, I felt compelled to ask, are there at LSE? “Oh God, I don’t know, and I’ve been intentionally not studying it,” Graeber said. “But I’ve been told that this university tops the UK, or did a few years ago, in terms of time spent assessing your work as opposed to actually doing it.”

For Graeber, “bullshit jobs” and the “bullshitisation” of others are “a scar across our collective soul”. He attributes their existence to the puritanical glorification of work, “managerial feudalism” (under which subordinates are continually added to enhance status) and political convenience. As George Orwell wrote in Down and Out in Paris and London: “I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob… It is safer to keep them too busy to think.”

US anarchist David Graeber’s crusade against the rise of “bullshit jobs”

newstatesman.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

On the road even the most meticulous must let go of the expectations they have of their hair. Strange water, sample-size shampoos, the wind, and tiny mirrors all conspire to make your hair so willful it may seem like an additional passenger at times. Let it go. This isn’t about looking good, it’s about feeling something new; all new feelings worth their salt eventually mess up your hair.

Driver Controls th

How to Road Trip

themorningnews.org

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Despite being a relative newcomer to the insular world of extreme travel – a competitive subculture of people who journey to some of the most obscure and treacherous corners of the globe, often at great monetary cost – Baekeland earned an astonishing amount of trust from the group in a matter of days.

As Mitsidis puts it, Baekeland's demeanor was convincing enough to gain entry into the travel group's inner circle. The young explorer was in some respects too peculiar not to be authentic. Baekeland seemed like "a throwback to [David] Livingstone," Mitsidis tells Rolling Stone, referring to the famous Victorian adventurer. "The old-style explorer with a hat."

Given all his eccentricities and expertise, how could he not have grown up with a bottomless family coffer to finance his jet-setting lifestyle? Mitsidis remembers Baekeland well three years after their encounter on the Ortelius.

"I've never met such a good liar," he says.

The Mysterious Heir of Extreme Travel

rollingstone.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

The Trump administration is doubling down on its efforts to undo Obama-era fair-housing policies in the wake of a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had wrongfully suspended a requirement that communities address barriers to racial integration.

HUD on Friday evening announced that it is withdrawing a computer assessment tool that provides communities with data and maps to help them gauge neighborhood segregation.

The tool, developed during the Obama administration, was meant to help communities comply with a little-enforced provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act that compelled local governments to use federal dollars to end residential segregation.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson doubles down on dismantling Obama-era fair-housing policies

washingtonpost.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Democracies cannot survive on norms alone. When markets are left under-regulated — and workers, unorganized — the corporate sector becomes a cancerous growth, expanding until it dominates politics and civil society. An ever-greater share of economic gains concentrates in ever-fewer hands, while the barriers to converting private wealth into public power grow fewer and farther between. Politicians become unresponsive to popular preferences and needs. Voters lose faith in elections — and then, a strongman steps forward to say that he, alone, can fix it.

All this contraindicates the democracy movement’s prescription: If our republic’s true sickness is its inegalitarian economic system, then that illness won’t be cured by cross-ideological coalitions. Quite the contrary: What’s needed is a movement that mobilizes working people in numbers large enough to demand a new deal from capital. Thus, if the liberal intelligentsia wishes to save American democracy, it should devote the lion’s share of its energies to brainstorming how such a movement can be brought into being — and what changes that movement should make to our nation’s political economy, once it takes power.

America’s Version of Capitalism Is Incompatible With Democracy

nymag.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Silicon Valley has no shortage of big ideas for transportation. In their vision of the future, we’ll hail driverless pods to go short distances — we may even be whisked into a network of underground tunnels that will supposedly get us to our destinations more quickly — and for intercity travel, we’ll switch to pods in vacuum tubes that will shoot us to our destination at 760 miles (1,220 km) per hour.

However, these fantasies of wealthy tech CEOs are just that: fantasies. None of these technologies will come to fruition in the way they promise — if they ever become a reality at all. The truth is that the technologies we need to transform our transportation networks already exist, but Americans have been stuck with a dated, auto-dependent system for so long while being denied the technology of the present — let alone the future — by politicians who are in the pockets of the fossil fuel lobby and addicted to a damaging “free-market” ideology that they’ll believe any snake oil salesman — or wealthy entrepreneur — who comes along with a solution.

And, out of all of them, Elon Musk is the worst.

Elon Musk’s “Innovations” are Not the Future — They’re Delaying It

medium.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

“There’s all kinds of reasons for things,” Cogan tells Frankie in the novel. “Guys get whacked for doing things, guys get whacked for not doing things, it don’t matter. The only thing matters if you’re the guy that’s gonna get whacked. That’s the only fuckin’ thing.”

Words As Weapons

newyorker.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

The attempt to kill a former Russian spy in England bore an ominous signature: The assailants used a lethal nerve agent of a type developed in the Soviet Union, and British investigators quickly concluded that only the Kremlin could have carried out such a sophisticated hit.

Soon after the March attack, Rex Tillerson, then the U.S. secretary of state, ordered State Department officials to outline the case for designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Experts in the department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism began to assemble what they thought was a strong case.

But almost as quickly as the review began — within about two days — the secretary of state’s office sent new instructions to drop the initiative, according to State Department officials familiar with the episode.

“There are a lot of issues that we have to work on together with Russia,” a U.S. official said. “Designating them would interfere with our ability to do that.”

The U.S. Considered Declaring Russia a State Sponsor of Terror, Then Dropped It — ProPublica

propublica.org

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

But to the extent that the Democratic Party has moved left since the 2016 election, it is largely thanks to pressure from its left flank. The question isn’t whether or not the party needs a revolution. It’s whether Our Revolution and groups like it can actually compel the institution to change. For that to happen, the House of Sanders needs to put its affairs in order. Our Revolution could be a superior alternative to centrist institutions, and indeed it often is, but voters need consistency and deserve transparency. Our Revolution hasn’t achieved either objective. It might not, without better leadership.

Is It Time for Change at Our Revolution?

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Ultimately, to challenge Facebook, Google, and the many unknown players of the data economy, we must devise new business models and structural incentives that aren’t rooted in manipulation and coercion; that don’t depend on the constant surveillance of users, on gathering information on everything they read and purchase, and on building that information into complex dossiers designed to elicit some action — a click, a purchase, a vote. We must move beyond surveillance capitalism and its built-in inequities. In the short-term, that might be achieved by turning to basic subscription services, by paying for the things we use. But on a longer time horizon, we must consider whether we want to live in a world that converts all of our experiences into machine-readable data — data that doesn’t belong to us, that doesn’t serve us.

Often compared to oil, data was supposed to be the next great resource, enriching everyone and powering a new generation of companies and services. Instead, we have suffered from a form of the resource curse that is said to afflict developing nations. Rather than contributing to the public good, data has become a tool of capital, which is to say a tool of power. In the United States, there’s little effort to regulate data, to tax it, to steer it toward public interests. The Census — perhaps the most important personal data collection scheme undertaken by the US government — is currently imperiled by a Republican administration that wants to use it to survey undocumented immigrants, which would have a chilling effect on the whole project. Even our tech leaders, who have become apostles of success by monetizing our user data, seem to have no sense of how to leverage this resource for anything but private benefit. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg still speak airily of connecting the world without offering any clearer sense of what that means — or of all that could go wrong. This is part and parcel of Silicon Valley ideology, which, among other features, assumes that everyone should want to use their products. “We’re trying to connect the whole world,” Sandberg recently told NPR. She then added, “Two billion people use our service; a lot of them would not be able to if they had to pay for the content itself.”

That’s the rub. If you don’t make it free, if you don’t turn people into commodities, if you don’t monitor and monetize them, you can’t count them among your ever-expanding user base. Put another way, you can’t “connect” them. That’s why Facebook eliminated WhatsApp’s 99 cent annual fee after acquiring the messenger service. Scale and growth have long been at the heart of the Facebook project, as early Facebook employee Kate Losse wrote in her book The Boy Kings: “Scaling and growth are everything, individuals and their experiences are secondary to what is necessary to maximize the system.”

Searching for a Future Beyond Facebook

longreads.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Still, when he writes, “You must find work which feeds your self-esteem in the very doing of it, rather than depending on some future reward, some future raise, some future promotion,” it seems to me that he’s asking very little of employers. The perverse question that Bolles, who appeared to believe in the logic of the system and in the fundamental decency of most workplaces, never seems to consider is: What if today’s world of work is not incidentally or accidentally cruel, but in fact intentionally designed to ensure that workers’ self-esteem is crushed and their sense of self-worth eroded? In today’s professional climate, is the dream job Bolles urges us to look for available? Is finding even a bearable one likely? I ask this as someone with two graduate degrees who has, as a worker, done everything from cleaning up broken glass and used condoms off a barroom floor to enduring sexual harassment from my boss and bullying from colleagues. I would of course like an affirmative answer, but I remain unconvinced.

Is Your Job Lynchian, or Is It More Kafkaesque?

longreads.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Beck said he contacted the authorities at the unit’s headquarters, Camp Lejeune, a large Marine installation on the North Carolina coast, and spoke briefly with an investigator for the post’s military police.

“I told them what I had seen him do, the evidence I had,” recalled Beck.

Beck said he offered to share his dossier with Marine detectives, but they didn’t take him up on the offer.

After the phone conversation, he said, “I never heard a thing.”

Beck’s phone bill, which he provided to ProPublica and Frontline, shows that he spoke multiple times with personnel at Camp Lejeune on Oct. 29. The records indicate that he received a brief six-minute call from military police at 9:24 that night.

More than six months later, Pistolis is still serving in the Marines.

An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then an Uncertain Response — ProPublica

propublica.org

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

There’s a broad (and correct) media consensus that Republicans feign outrage about alleged infractions, then proceed to do much worse when in power—that right-wing politics is built on a foundation of feigned outrage and bad faith—but there’s also a broad (and incorrect) consensus that this should not factor in to how journalists interpret and report on the parties.

If the standard journalists set for themselves is that anything Republicans claim to be outraged about must be treated as a live controversy, then journalists disclaim a major potential point of failure, and become conduits for propaganda. This insulates media organizations from accountability for their handling of the email server matter, but also guarantees that the patterns of the past years will repeat themselves. One month ago, a handful of conservatives pretended to be upset about a standup comedy routine at the White House correspondents dinner, which they pretended to consider indecorous. Everyone knew they were pretending because they had a wonderful time at the dinner and continued to hobnob with their supposed antagonists at black-tie afterparties. Everyone knew they were pretending because these self-professed keepers of decorum support Donald Trump. And yet rather than dismiss their complaints as obvious fabrications, the White House press corps publicly disassociated itself with comedian Michelle Wolf, their invited guest.

The Wolf incident was the talk of the chattering classes for several days, but for all the wrong reasons. It was only really important as a window into the future. It showed that when the balance of political power shifts again, the right will resume pretending to be outraged over nonsense as if the Trump presidency had never happened, and most reporters will proceed as if it’s all sincere. This standard of newsworthiness can be changed in theory, but only if our media institutions decide that bad faith politics should be treated as such, and not rewarded indefinitely at the expense of the truth.

How the Media Rewards Bad Faith

crooked.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

Perhaps you’ve heard of Hans Monderman. I hadn’t until recently. With a name like that, I imagined he was a cheese Danish or the guy who invented the spin cycle on Maytag washers. Instead, Monderman (1945–2008) was a traffic engineer in the Netherlands, where he offered to help speed the flow of traffic—as much as 22,000 cars daily through some intersections—in a town in Holland called Drachten. In response, Monderman apparently dialed his brain to its own spin cycle, because he ripped down every single traffic signal in the city.

The Story of Hans Monderman and the Safety of Insecurity - Column

caranddriver.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

nytimes.com

Jesse Hicks

118 days ago

No longer tethered to a tow truck and able to use big data to find targets, the repossession industry is booming at an unexpected time. Although the U.S. economy recently entered its second-longest-ever period of expansion, the auto loan delinquency rate last year reached its highest point since 2012, driven by souring subprime auto loans. It’s evidence of how the economic recovery has not been evenly felt, with some of Americans’ biggest purchases — automobiles — being fueled by unsustainable borrowing rather than rising wages.

And the repo man has noticed the change.

“So much of America is just a heartbeat away from a repossession — even good people, decent people who aren’t deadbeats,” said Patrick Altes, a veteran agent in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It seems like a different environment than it’s ever been.”

Repo agents are the unpopular foot soldiers in the nation’s $1.2 trillion auto loan market. They don’t make the loans or issue the repossession orders that, for some high-risk customers, can come as soon as a single payment is days late. But they are the closest most people come to a faceless, sophisticated financial system that can upend their lives.

The surprising return of the repo man

washingtonpost.com

Jesse Hicks

120 days ago

There has been a recent push for what's called "media literacy," much of it focused on schools. But what about Musk? Or Mark Zuckerberg, who recently met with a group of editors, and similarly seemed to not know a lot about how our business works. Zuckerberg is nothing like Musk, and expressed his views earnestly, with none of the macho bluster. He saw the problem pretty clearly: how to ensure “a set of common facts and common understanding on top of which we can have rational discourse and make decisions,” he said during the meeting.

But his solution, like Musk’s, is essentially to crowdsource truth, and to dismiss the notion that there’s anything particularly worthwhile about the simple, imperfect profession of reporting.

Instead, Facebook is "trying to have our community tell us what is quality, and then feeding that back into" another crowdsourced measure of what is "broadly trustworthy."

In response, the New York Times’ Joe Kahn tried to explain the reality of the news business, which is both simpler to express and harder to code:

“The institutional values of most really good media companies should transcend any individual opinion,” he said. Zuckerberg’s idea of making professional reporting subservient to opinion is “part and parcel of the polarization of society.”

Elon Musk Is No Donald Trump

buzzfeed.com

Jesse Hicks

122 days ago

Billionaires owning newspapers makes much more sense for billionaires than it does for a healthy democracy. But it’s clear that Musk isn’t interested in ensuring that people have better access to information. His media criticism is linked, instead, to the fact that, after years of being treated as a kind of demigod, he’s now being treated as a human: flawed, greedy, maybe even corrupt. It’s an experience he clearly doesn’t like.

Elon Musk’s Fall to Earth

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

125 days ago

According to people familiar with Trump’s thinking, his team is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion. The theory goes that the F.B.I. later used these contacts with the Russians to delegitimize his presidency. Trump’s advisers say the intelligence community believed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but in case she didn’t, they concocted this elaborate plot to remove Trump from office. “Just when you think it can’t get stranger, it does,” a Trump adviser told me. Stone claims the anti-Trump conspiracy includes senior intelligence officials from the Barack Obama administration. “The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former C.I.A. director] John Brennan,” Stone told me. “If I were him I’d break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down.”

(Nick Shapiro, who served as Brennan’s deputy chief of staff at the C.I.A., described Stone’s comment as “contemptible” and said his words should be condemned. “We’re seeing a growing chorus of former national security leaders speaking out to warn us about Trump,” he added. “Instead of attacking these dedicated patriots, we should be concerned about why they all feel the need to speak out.”)

As loopy as Stone’s theory can sound, the notion that there’s been a conspiracy among the Obama administration and the so-called Deep State to bring Trump down is more than a legal stalking horse—it’s now a dominant narrative in Trumpworld. The president himself is convinced that the secret F.B.I. informant who reportedly met with several Trump campaign advisers in 2016 was not merely an informant, but an Obama political operative. One administration official told me the theory has become so widely accepted that people in the West Wing are paranoid that the F.B.I. has multiple informants working to take down Trump. “There’s a paranoia about who else is one,” the official said.

“That Psychopath Is Going Down”: Inside Trumpworld, a Bizarre Counter-Narrative Takes Hold

vanityfair.com

Jesse Hicks

126 days ago

A Death in Slow Motion

features.propublica.org

Jesse Hicks

132 days ago

I want to suggest a hypothesis that may sound outlandish: What if the whole narrative is backwards? What if people who think they are voicing suppressed dangerous ideas are actually the ones suppressing the truly dangerous ideas? What if this effort to condemn the irrational excesses of political correctness is in part a way of avoiding having to engage with its arguments and listen carefully to its advocates? What if people who seem to be “challenging” a dissent-stifling power structure are actually defending one? Now, I’m not saying this is the case; I’m just asking some questions. But let’s, for a moment, because we are rational and skeptical, consider the possibility that the conservative narrative is totally upside-down. Let’s picture a topsy-turvy world in which Donald Trump is the president and left ideas are actually marginal. Stretch your powers of imagination and consider the following hypotheticals:

What if a cable news network that seemed to hate the president actually benefited from his existence?
What if the national idea that “people who work hard get rewarded” was actually false? What if the people who worked the longest hours often had the least to show for it? 
What if things we consume in our daily lives are built on an almost unimaginable amount of conscious suffering?
What if slavery never actually did go away? What if it’s still happening somewhere but we just don’t notice?
What if elite academia wasn’t actually a hotbed of radical activism, but was a profoundly conservative place that resisted any challenges to the existing distribution of power?  
What if, as we walked through our cities on warm spring days, a few miles away there were thousands of people locked in cages, slowly losing their minds? What if the freest country in the world was actually the least free? What if sentencing people to prison also often meant sentencing them to be raped? What if we put children in adult prisons? What if we executed someone who had been in prison since the age of 15? 
What if large parts of our liberal “resistance” were actually endorsing political quietism?
What if the people who supposedly created wealth actually created nothing of social value at all?
What if “equality of opportunity” was a meaningless concept?
What if the 13th Amendment didn’t actually ban slavery? What if the minimum wage wasn’t actually the minimum wage?
What if capitalism wasn’t actually about respecting “individuals”? What if modern corporations were a form of collectivism?
What if it’s leftism that actually offends establishment political sensibilities?
What if civility masks atrocities and prevents honesty? What if bipartisanship is bad?
What if prominent Democrats who bragged about their history of fighting segregation were actually complicit in perpetuating it?
What if people celebrated for their honor and integrity were actually callous and ignorant? What if celebrated intellectuals actually knew almost nothing? What if people celebrated as “philosophers” could barely complete a syllogism and were also racists?
What if crises like “teacher shortages” and “Social Security going bankrupt” were artificial? What if these ideas were pieces of propaganda designed to persuade people that austerity is inevitable?
What if you didn’t need to feel bad about not paying your debts? What if individual consumers were being encouraged to be moral and generous to companies while companies were encouraged to be rational self-interested sociopaths?
What if it were perfectly possible to provide cutting-edge comprehensive health care for everybody? What if attempts to convince people otherwise were sophistry and speculation?
What if the “common sense” understandings of gender (there are just men and there are women and it’s obvious and that’s that) were actually incoherent? What if ideas about gender that seemed strange or discomforting were actually better descriptions of social reality?
What if there was no such possibility as “the United States going bankrupt”? What if countries don’t need to raise revenue to spend money?

The Real “Dangerous” Ideas

currentaffairs.org

Jesse Hicks

132 days ago

How lightly some men tread through the garden of ideas, as if it were a manicured bed of roses, and how sweetly they traipse, never once looking down and seeing the corpses under their feet.

Thus we find — not yet ten days after a white Ryder van plowed into a crowd in Toronto, killing eight women and two men and critically injuring sixteen others — the ideas that led to this act of terror being laundered by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, under the cheeky, winking guise of “provocation.”

Let’s reconstruct this sequence of events, shall we?

Someone Please Tell the Times That Incels Are Terrorists

villagevoice.com

Jesse Hicks

132 days ago

In the grand scheme of NBA achievements, the Sixers haven't done much of anything yet. The ultimate outcome resulting from The Process is still uncertain -- and it's more than likely that there might never be a satisfying verdict. Superstars suffer injuries, and successors divert from paths and principles that were laid down during the foundational stages of a project. It's difficult to imagine Hinkie trading two bites of the apple for one, as the Sixers did last offseason when they dealt the No. 3 pick (which became Jayson Tatum) and a future first-rounder for the No. 1 pick (which became Markelle Fultz).

Yet the most interesting question might be not whether The Process made sense but why so many people who had to suffer through its early stages took its message and shibboleths to heart.

The deafening chant at the Wells Fargo Center or Embiid's embrace of "Trust The Process" as his personal epigram or the existence of a billboard along I-95 honoring Hinkie after his departure or the wide availability of paraphernalia suggests that people in search of answers crave two things: tribal identity and a plan. And it isn't only fans who want to be part of an in-group and want direction from above. It's also the people inside an institution.

Was The Process worth it?

espn.com

Jesse Hicks

132 days ago

One lens in particular—the 50-mm lens—is often seen as the most objective of objectifs, and it is said to be the lens that best approximates human visual perspective. For example, the precision-lens manufacturer Zeiss states that its Planar 50-mm lens is “equal to the human eye.” Many artists have taken up 50-mm lenses to render ordinary, everyday experience. Yasujirō Ozu, whose films subtly depict the daily life of 1950s and 1960s Japan, used a 50-mm lens almost exclusively. The French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson also used one. Underlying its popularity is a promise of shared perspective and common understanding.

But the concept of “normal vision,” let alone the 50-mm lens’s ability to reproduce it, is hardly a given. The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.

How the 50-mm Lens Became ‘Normal’

theatlantic.com

Jesse Hicks

132 days ago

Trump promised to do a lot of un-Republican things to give resources and influence to blue-collar Americans, which would have threatened his party’s power brokers. Many of these promises were feasible if Trump actually wanted to follow through on them. Instead, the only promises he has kept are the ones that put money in the pockets of Trump and his cronies.

Trump Has Now Broken Every One of His Economic Populist Promises

nymag.com

Jesse Hicks

133 days ago

Donald Trump ran for president as an economic populist. This fact has been largely forgotten, buried by the flurry of bizarre and outrageous actions, and activists on both sides have had little reason to bring it up. Conservatives have pushed the administration to forget its unorthodox gestures and follow Paul Ryan’s lead. Progressives have emphasized the racist and sexist nature of Trump’s appeal. But Trump’s ability to distance himself from his party’s economic brand formed a decisive element of his appeal. Voters actually saw Trump as more moderate than any Republican presidential candidate since 1972. And he has violated every one of his promises.

Trump Has Now Broken Every One of His Economic Populist Promises

nymag.com

Jesse Hicks

133 days ago

This is not how the economy is supposed to work. Pay is supposed to increase during periods of low unemployment, because workers have more power to demand raises from their current employer, or else leave for a better-paying job, while employers have to pay more to retain employees and to compete for new ones. That’s what happened during the jobs boom of the late 1990s, when wages jumped as high as 5 percent annually.

But that hasn’t happened to a meaningful degree today, defying expectations and confounding economists. It’s intuitive that employers don’t like increasing wages, because that leaves fewer profits for them. But economic dynamics like low unemployment are supposed to force their hand. So why have workers not seen the benefits in their paychecks from one of the longest periods of economic and employment growth in history?

How America Broke Its Economy

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

136 days ago

Sometimes, it's just a university official getting baristas fired for playing hip-hop music with colorful language, as a Duke vice president did just days ago. But for those incidents involving the cops, it is hardly hyperbolic to imagine that any one of those folks could've ended up dead had they met the wrong officers that day. I've addressed this before, and the rash of similar incidents in recent weeks only further underscore how little some folks feel our lives are worth if they sic the cops on us for any damn reason at all, knowing the risks.

That infuriating and tired reality is all hard enough to stomach without the apologies.

America Is So Very Sorry for Profiling You (Again)

rollingstone.com

Jesse Hicks

138 days ago

For those that have never read the actual text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or are less familiar with nuclear inspections, here’s what President Trump is throwing away.

Before the JCPOA came into force, Iran had close to 20,000 uranium enrichment machines, called centrifuges, in operation. Most of these were primitive, but some were more advanced models and the pace of advancement was accelerating. Under the JCPOA, Iran cannot have more than 5,060 centrifuges operating and cannot use more advanced models until 2025, and then would have had to slowly introduce them and explain why they were doing so. Iran was also required to let IAEA inspectors track and monitor centrifuge production and storage of parts. That all goes away after today. Iran is within its right to reject any restrictions now that the U.S. is openly violating the deal.

Before the JCPOA entered into force, Iran had enriched some uranium up to 19 percent of uranium-235 content, i.e. where 19 percent of the uranium sample consists of the particular isotope that can be easily split (uranium-235). Natural uranium has less than 1 percent U-235, while producing weapons requires uranium enriched above 90 percent U-235. Iran also possessed large amounts of uranium gas, many times more than needed to make one nuclear weapon. Under the JCPOA, Iran is barred from enriching any uranium above 3.67 percent and from possessing more than 300 kg of uranium gas, less than the amount needed for even one bomb. Both of these restrictions were to last until 2030. Now, Iran can enrich to whatever level it wants, for any reason, and posses as much uranium gas for enrichment as they choose. This will leave Iran weeks if not days from a bomb once they restore their infrastructure.

Anatomy of a Lousy Decision

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

138 days ago

There are many theories as to why New York is so corrupt. In 2013, NPR’s Allan Greenblatt listed a few: It’s effectively a one-party state, with the Democrats so dominant that there is no political competition and machine politics set the agenda; the elections are expensive, making candidates reliant on donors; many key decisions, such as the shape of the state budget, are made in backroom deals between a few power players; the local media is so focused on national events that it ignores what’s happening in the state (especially upstate); and there’s no anti-corruption movement to challenge the existing culture.

New York politics are also very male dominated, a gender disparity that might explain why sexual harassment is so common. An Associated Press investigation in January found that “New Yorkers have paid more than $10 million over the last nine years to settle 88 cases of sexual harassment, discrimination, and related cases in state government, almost all of which were brought by women reporting groping, come-ons and demeaning treatment.” The following month, Politico reported that “more than 1,000 people ... have complained of sexual harassment in New York state government entities since 2012,” costing taxpayers at least $6.4 million in legal settlements.

New York Is the Most Politically Toxic Place in America

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

141 days ago

Chait warns that if we talk about a female politician suffering from sexism and harassment, then we run the risk of destroying her “agency” and reducing “her to the status of victim.” But seeing agency and victimhood as antithetical is a false dichotomy.

In political activism, victimhood and agency reinforce each other: Someone becomes aware of their suffering, articulates it, then works with others to overcome it. Did Frederick Douglass become disempowered by discussing his suffering as a slave? No, that suffering was the root of his activism, both as a motive and a source of his authenticity. Similarly, Gloria Steinem was not disempowered by talking about the sexism she experienced by going undercover as a Playboy Bunny in her famous 1963 article. Rather, by describing the experience of victimhood, Steinem energized countless other women who had similar experiences. The current #MeToo movement also shows how speaking out about victimhood brings people together and creates the conditions for political change.

The dynamic between victimhood and agency can be seen in less overtly political activities. The organization Mother’s Against Drunk Driving was formed by women who had experienced trauma and used it as the basis for activism. Similarly, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence was started by White House Press Secretary Jim Brady after he was wounded in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America began after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In such cases, taking on the overt identity of victimhood is a way to gain power over trauma, to fight back against the cause of suffering.

The Centrist Grievance Against “Victim Politics”

newrepublic.com

Jesse Hicks

141 days ago

What Kanye West seeks is what Michael Jackson sought—liberation from the dictates of that we. In his visit with West, the rapper T.I. was stunned to find that West, despite his endorsement of Trump, had never heard of the travel ban. “He don’t know the things that we know because he’s removed himself from society to a point where it don’t reach him,” T.I. said. West calls his struggle the right to be a “free thinker,” and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.

It would be nice if those who sought to use their talents as entrée into another realm would do so with the same care which they took in their craft. But the Gods are fickle and the history of this expectation is mixed. Stevie Wonder fought apartheid. James Brown endorsed a racist Nixon. There is a Ray Lewis for every Colin Kaepernick, an O.J. Simpson for every Jim Brown, or, more poignantly, just another Jim Brown. And we suffer for this, because we are connected. Michael Jackson did not just destroy his own face, but endorsed the destruction of all those made in similar fashion.

The consequences of Kanye West’s unlettered view of America and its history are, if anything, more direct. For his fans, it is the quality of his art that ultimately matters, not his pronouncements. If his upcoming album is great, the dalliance with Trump will be prologue. If it’s bad, then it will be foreshadowing. In any case what will remain is this—West lending  his imprimatur, as well as his Twitter platform of some 28 million people, to the racist rhetoric of the conservative movement. West’s thoughts are not original—the apocryphal Harriet Tubman quote and the notion that slavery was a “choice” echoes the ancient trope that slavery wasn’t that bad; the myth that blacks do not protest crime in their community is pure Giulianism; and West’s desire to “go to Charlottesville and talk to people on both sides” is an extension of Trump’s response to the catastrophe. These are not stray thoughts. They are the propaganda that justifies voter suppression, and feeds police brutality, and minimizes the murder of Heather Heyer. And Kanye West is now a mouthpiece for it.

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye

theatlantic.com

Jesse Hicks

141 days ago

In the Iran operation, as in its operation for Weinstein, Black Cube focussed much of its work on reporters and other media figures, sometimes using agents who posed as journalists. The company compiled a list of more than thirty reporters who it believed were in touch with Obama Administration officials, annotated with instructions about how to seek negative information. Transcripts produced by Black Cube reveal that the firm secretly recorded a conversation between one of its agents and Trita Parsi, a Swedish-Iranian author. The conversation, which began as a general discussion of Iran policy, quickly devolved into questions about Rhodes, Kahl, and whether they had personally profited off of the Iran policy. “I’ve had the first part of the conversation five hundred times,” Parsi recalled, of his conversation with the agent, who claimed to be a reporter. “But then he started asking about personal financial interests, and that was more unusual. He was pushing very, very hard.”

The Observer reported that aides of President Trump had hired Black Cube to run the operation in order to undermine the Iran deal, allegations that Black Cube denies. “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it,” a source told the Observer. One of the sources familiar with the effort told me that it was, in fact, part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran. (A Trump Administration spokesperson declined to comment to the Observer on the allegations.)

Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials

newyorker.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.

Why we should bulldoze the business school

theguardian.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

According to the Democrats’ report, Trump Jr. exchanged calls about the meeting with Emin Agalarov on June 6 at Goldstone’s request. The first call was at 4:04 pm. At 4:27 pm, prior to Trump Jr.’s second call with Emin, Trump Jr. received a call from a “blocked” number. Trump Jr. told the committee last year he did not know who had called him. The Democrats note, however, that Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, told the committee that Trump Sr.’s “primary residence has a blocked [phone] line.”

Democrats say they made “repeated efforts to obtain the home or cell phone records for then-candidate Trump to determine whether the blocked call was Trump Jr.’s father.” But, they note, “the Majority was unwilling to pursue the matter.”

Did Trump Jr. Talk to His Dad About the Trump Tower Meeting?

motherjones.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

If it hadn’t been for his decision to scold poor black Americans for their moral failures while decades of sexual-assault allegations had remained hidden, it’s possible that none of Cosby’s victims would have gotten their day in court.

Five years ago, he seemed to have gotten away with it. Although more than 10 women came forward with allegations against Cosby in the mid-2000s, they would not become fixed in the public consciousness for another decade. In the meantime, Cosby had built an image as a prophet of black conservatism, scolding poor blacks for not lifting themselves out of poverty, and for focusing on discrimination.  

How Cosby's 'Pound Cake' Speech Helped Lead to His Downfall

theatlantic.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

Grandpa’s pompous Lord Tywin Lannister response encapsulates exactly what’s wrong with NFL management: They insist on being the self-appointed guardians of America’s mythological vision of itself. Malt shops on every corner, Pat Boone crooning on the jukebox, and modestly dressed virgins sitting around with knees clamped together waiting to be asked to prom. This 1950s, Father Knows Best soundstage fantasy doesn’t stop with paternalistic and puritanical gender stereotypes, but also promotes simplistic notions about race and patriotism. The NFL’s anachronistic fancies aren’t just a misguided attempt to pander to what they think their traditionalist fans want, but also projects the hard-core conservative values of the mostly rich, white one-percenters who own the teams. We must live in their Disneyland – or else.

These powerful Citizen Kanes – isolated from contemporary American culture by wealth and self-importance – still think of the country as it appears in old-fashioned Archie comics, where teen hijinks rule the day, not the current version in the TV series Riverdale, where Archie has sex with Ms Grundy. Where the Parkland students single-handedly lead a nationwide political revolution. Where young girls and women launch #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that topple high-powered gropers in business and government – perhaps even a president.

The NFL’s plan to protect America from witches

theguardian.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

As time passes, I fear that more and more of what happened in those days will live only in memory. The internet has slowly unraveled since 2011: Image-hosting sites went out of business, link shorteners shut down, tweets got deleted, and YouTube accounts were shuttered. One broken link at a time, one of the most heavily documented historical events of the social media era could fade away before our eyes.

It’s the paradox of the internet age: Smartphones and social media have created an archive of publicly available information unlike any in human history — an ocean of eyewitness testimony. But while we create almost everything on the internet, we control almost none of it.

Silicon Valley Can't Be Trusted With Our History

buzzfeed.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

Two weeks ago, a lifetime in the Trump news cycle, the conservative radio-show host and blogger Erick Erickson published an interview with a Republican congressman who praised Trump on television but loathed him in private. The congressman, from a strongly pro-Trump district, declined to be named and asked Erickson to go grocery shopping with him at an out-of-the-way Safeway to avoid detection as he unburdened himself. “It’s like Forrest Gump won the Presidency, but an evil, really f*cking stupid Forrest Gump,” the politician, described by Erickson as an old friend, said. “He can’t help himself. He’s just a f**king idiot who thinks he’s winning when people are b*tching about him. He really does see the world as ratings and attention.”

The congressman went on to suggest that few Republicans would stand by Trump in a crunch and that, if they do indeed lose the House, as many expect in November, impeachment might even get G.O.P. support. Most Republicans in Congress, he implied, were like him: appalled by Trump but lacking the political courage to say what they thought. Then again, he told Erickson, “If we’re going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherf*cker.”

After the article was published, I asked Republicans and journalists who cover Congress I ran into if it accurately captured the view on Capitol Hill among at least some members of Trump’s party. All agreed that it did. Some have even said so publicly, if not quite so profanely.

Dear President Macron: Le Bromance with Trump Won’t End Well

newyorker.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

The president of the United States is committed to undoing journalism, and the country’s top journalists are debating a dinner format.

The president is seeking to destroy journalism. Now let’s debate dinner entertainment!

washingtonpost.com

Jesse Hicks

147 days ago

After the speech, Mr Trump’s people pressed their advantage. Mrs Schlapp told a reporter that “journalists should not be the ones to say that the president or his spokesman is lying.”

This raises an obvious question—if not journalists, then whom?—with an equally obvious answer: nobody. Mr Trump’s communication staff would prefer it if nobody pointed out when he and his media team lie.

Ms Talev invited Mrs Sanders to sit at the head table because she “thought it sent an important decision about…government and the press being able to work together.” But of course, that is precisely what should never happen, particularly with an administration as ambivalent about the First Amendment—among other norms and laws—as this one. (The Justice Department recently removed a section entitled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” from its internal manual for federal prosecutors.)

Calls for press-corps civility are in fact calls for servility, and should be received with contempt. Some might argue that insults do not deserve the same protection as investigative journalism, but that is a distinction without a difference. Anyone who wants to outlaw or apologise for the former will end up too timid to do the latter.

The Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

economist.com

Jesse Hicks

153 days ago

The poll — which was presented on a slide deck obtained by The Intercept and Documented — found that seven in 10 Americans want to see the minimum wage raised even if it means that they’d have to pay more for meals. It also found that the industry’s various talking points against raising the wage are mostly falling flat with the general public.

Conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s firm LuntzGlobal on behalf of the other NRA — the National Restaurant Association — the poll found that 71 percent of people surveyed support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

The Restaurant Industry Ran a Private Poll on the Minimum Wage. It Did Not Go Well for Them.

theintercept.com

Jesse Hicks

153 days ago

On Dec. 14, 2016, one month after his election, President-elect Donald Trump had a call with the prime minister of Vietnam. At a time when foreign governments were scrambling to contact Trump, the conversation was a victory for the Vietnamese. State television broadcast footage of the call, with the prime minister surrounded by other smiling officials.

But inside the State Department, officials were puzzled and concerned. Historically, post-election calls to heads of state are choreographed affairs. Careful deliberation goes into who the president-elect speaks to first and career diplomats deliver background briefings on issues to be raised and avoided.

The Trump transition operation ignored those conventions. The contact with Vietnam was not set up by the State Department. Instead, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, helped arrange the call.

Kasowitz had another client with a keen interest in Vietnam: Philip Falcone, an American investor with a major casino outside Ho Chi Minh City. After the Trump call, Kasowitz traveled to Vietnam with Falcone. They met with government officials as part of an effort to persuade Vietnam to lift a ban on gambling for its citizens. Such a shift would deliver vastly more gamblers to Falcone’s casino.

“Phil asked if Marc could arrange a phone call between the president and prime minister of Vietnam,” said a person familiar with the call. “Marc did that.”

The Hidden Hand of a Casino Company in Trump’s Contact with Vietnam — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast

propublica.org

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