• excerpt • June 30, 2020

    An excerpt from Industrial-Strength Denial

    There are many reasons why the risks of climate change would not fully register in the human mind. In addition to the denial-provoking gravity of the threat, climate change is not the type of risk our minds evolved to detect. It is gradual, and it derives largely from the familiar and widespread practice of burning fossil fuels. It is something we all contribute to and cannot just blame on enemy evildoers. And it manifests as natural phenomena like heat waves, droughts, fires, storms, and floods; we need experts, assessing global data and long-term trends, to tell us if what is happening is

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  • excerpt • June 23, 2020

    Abolitionist Alternatives

    If jails and prisons are to be abolished, then what will replace them? This is the puzzling question that often interrupts further consideration of the prospects for abolition. Why should it be so difficult to imagine alternatives to our current system of incarceration? There are a number of reasons why we tend to balk at the idea that it may be possible to eventually create an entirely different—and perhaps more egalitarian—system of justice. First of all, we think of the current system, with its exaggerated dependence on imprisonment, as an unconditional standard and thus have great difficulty

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  • excerpt • June 18, 2020

    How “School Resource Officers” became a fixture in the American education system

    In 2005, three police officers in Florida forcibly arrested a five-year-old African American girl for misbehaving in school. It was captured on video. The singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, like most others, was appalled by what he saw and initiated a campaign to train the next generation of civil rights activists: the Gathering for Justice, which in turn created the Justice League, an important force in the Black Lives Matter movement. At the core of the group’s demands is a call to end the criminalization of young people in schools.

    Over the last twenty years there has been

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  • print • Summer 2020

    The Spirit of St. Louis

    In the twelfth century, the city of Cahokia, settled on mounds near the Mississippi River, had a population greater than London’s. Its trade and travel routes stretched to present-day Minnesota and Louisiana. Around 1350, Cahokia’s residents abandoned the city for unknown reasons, but its traces remained. In 1764, traders led by Auguste Chouteau built a fort across the river and saw the abandoned mounds. Assuming they were the remains of a long-gone civilization, the French traders thought the people living around them—a different group of indigenous people than Cahokia’s inhabitants—were

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  • print • Summer 2020

    Meet Me in Moscow

    The mood, when a story about Edward Snowden begins any time before the news-breaking Guardian piece of June 5, 2013, is a clean dramatic irony. We know the identity of the anonymous source; the characters don’t. The greatest secret-exposer of his generation was himself an unexposed secret that winter and spring, a cipher who insinuated his way into journalists’ lives through encrypted channels, making vague and terrifying claims that were hard to grasp and verify. He could be a liar or a catfisher. It could be a sting; you’d spend the rest of your life in jail.

    Three journalists stood at the

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  • print • Summer 2020

    Dream City

    When Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was fifteen and growing up in New York, she called the restaurant where her father worked as a deliveryman and pretended to be a beat reporter at a city paper to get an abusive manager fired. In 2010, after she wrote an anonymous essay about being undocumented and a student at Harvard, she received her first offers to publish a memoir, which she rejected. But she is not, as she tells us in The Undocumented Americans, a journalist. “Journalists are not allowed to get involved” the way she gets involved, nor to “try to change the outcome of their stories as crudely

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  • excerpt • May 11, 2020

    “An Exercise in Triage”

    In 1959 Otto Kirchheimer described the concept of asylum as “situated at the crossroads of national and international law, compassion and self-interest, raison d’état and human capacity for shame.” Nations may have pushed, twisted, and stretched their capacity for shame, but they seem less inclined to test the flexibility of their compassion. One of the principal underlying assumptions for border fortification, for asylum deterrence and denial, is that the survival of the state is threatened by extending the roof, by opening the gates. In Anna Seghers’s novel Transit, the unnamed narrator, a

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  • excerpt • May 07, 2020

    Babysitters Club

    Institutionalists have been warning about the breakdown of democratic guardrails for quite some time. An optimist might have fretted about these trends but noted that everything would be okay so long as the President acted like, you know, a grown-up—someone who recognized that with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, Donald Trump really does think and act like a toddler. He has done so for most of his life.

    Beyond the checks and constraints studied by political scientists, pundits gravitated toward two additional “guardrail narratives” in the early months of the Trump

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  • review • April 23, 2020

    A Brief History of the Great American Healthcare Scam

    Even before the COVID-19 disaster, the American healthcare crisis felt so patently absurd, so coeval with a very 2016 flavor of political cynicism, that many Americans might be surprised to recall just how old the debate over reform really is. The first call for universal coverage arrived during the 1912 election, when rogue Progressive Party candidate Teddy Roosevelt campaigned on a national system modeled off those already available in Europe.

    Less surprising to many Americans: He lost.

    The fight for universal healthcare has since been less an uphill battle than a century-long stalemate.

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  • excerpt • April 21, 2020

    A Brief History of Fascist Lies

    One of the key lessons of the history of fascism is that racist lies led to extreme political violence. Today lies are back in power. This is now more than ever a key lesson of the history of fascism. If we want to understand our troublesome present, we need to pay attention to the history of fascist ideologues and to how and why their rhetoric led to the Holocaust, war, and destruction. We need history to remind us how so much violence and racism happened in such a short period. How did the Nazis and other fascists come to power and murder millions of people? They did so by spreading ideological

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  • excerpt • March 30, 2020

    Truisms

    a little knowledge can go a long way

    a lot of professionals are crackpots

    a man can’t know what it is to be a mother

    a name means a lot just by itself

    a positive attitude makes all the difference in the world a relaxed man is not necessarily a better man

    a sense of timing is the mark of genius

    a sincere effort is all you can ask

    a single event can have infinitely many interpretations a solid home base builds a sense of self

    a strong sense of duty imprisons you

    absolute submission can be a form of freedom abstraction is a type of decadence

    abuse of power comes as no surprise

    action causes more

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  • print • Apr/May 2020

    User Illusion

    For a long time, the internet seemed to resist description. Like the unconscious, the early Web was baffling, unsettling, even a little embarrassing. New users, unaccustomed to virtual terrain, compared it to a dream. Its inventors favored unhelpful hyperbole: Theirs, they claimed, was the greatest invention since penicillin or the printing press. Novelists steered clear of online life altogether, brandishing their abstinence as a sign of literary integrity.

    Meanwhile, many journalists, the demographic perhaps best suited to cover the internet revolution, were boosterish and complacent. Even

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