Police brutality, caught on tape

My latest for the Globe and Mail is on the murder of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police:

In 1991, when video was released of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers, Alton Sterling of Louisiana was 12 years old. Philando Castile of Minnesota was seven.

The King video was supposed to provide irrefutable evidence of what black Los Angeles residents had been describing for decades: systematic, racist police brutality. Now, many assumed, the violence black Americans had long endured from police would not be denied. Now, finally, officers would have to face legal repercussions.

But instead, the officers who abused Mr. King walked free. And today, videos of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile being killed by police officers circulate online, joining videos of police officers killing Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Walter Scott of North Carolina, and Eric Garner of New York, among others.

The legacy of the Rodney King video was not justice, but sequels.

Mr. Sterling died at 37. Mr. Castile died days before his 33rd birthday. They left behind children, parents, and friends. They were men who loved and were loved. Today their loved ones, in the midst of grief, are tasked with not only proving these men’s innocence, but vouching for their basic humanity. Advocates of Sterling and Castile will fight to put the officers who killed Sterling and Castile on trial, knowing Sterling and Castile were on trial their whole lives in the court of public opinion. Their very existence as black men is considered, in the eyes of many Americans, evidence of their guilt.

Read the whole thing at the Globe and Mail

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The myth of millennials

My latest for Quartz is on the danger of generalizing generations:

Three years ago, TIME magazine published a cover story called “The Me Me Me Generation—Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” It was the print version of clickbait, designed to be devoured by TIME’s Baby Boomer base, or perhaps flipped through angrily by millennials killing time at TIME’s most reliable subscriber, the doctor’s office. That is, if the millennials in question were lucky enough to have health insurance, which roughly 23% did not at the time

Of course, these kinds of inconvenient statistics did not make it into the piece. When TIME’s cover story was published, millennials were in the fourth year of the “jobless recovery,” facing high unemployment, mounting debt, and an eroded social safety net. And yet, with breathtaking cluelessness, TIME framed the millennials’ desperate search for stable work as a privileged character flaw—look at the kids too flaky to handle “choosing from a huge array of career options.”

Fast forward to 2016, and millennials are now valued as an electoral prize and a revenue source. Media coverage has adjusted accordingly. But the idea that today’s young people are narcissistic and lazy lingers just beneath the surface. Browsing through news articles, two parallel worlds of millennials emerge. The first is inhabited by overtly political youth advocating for controversial initiatives like campus safe spaces. The second is filled with young consumers who are happy and prosperous yet prefer style over stuff–which, upon closer examination, is a euphemistic way of saying they cannot afford to buy much stuff anyway.

These narratives are more nuanced than TIME’s ridiculous 2013 attempt to capture millennials, but they still fail to accurately portray the reality of young people’s lives. For one thing, most depictions fail to define the age bracket of the cohort and relate it to historical context. In this way, critics often end up repackaging millennials’ economic desperation as lifestyle choices, leading to a sort of generational gaslighting over what life in the new economy is really like.

Read the whole thing at Quartz

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Trump and Brexit

From my latest for the Globe and Mail:

The 2000 race led to the phrase “red states and blue states”. Republican red states are usually in the middle, while Democratic blue states tend to be on the coasts. After 2008, this divide became sharper, as the “recovery” which followed the Great Recession was unequally distributed. Regions like New York and Silicon Valley boomed while the Rust Belt eroded and small towns throughout the Midwest and South struggled to survive.

Having lost its manufacturing base, the mostly red state heartland went on to lose other industries, among them media, which became dominated by coastal elites. By 2014, one of four journalists lived in New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, versus one of eight in 2004. Middle American newspapers struggled or shuttered while our regions went largely uncovered by the coastal media – except during elections, when politicians and journalists dipped briefly into the red sea and puzzled over our concerns, oblivious to the daily struggle. That is what happens when you care only every four years.

When you look at a map of the Brexit results, the same pattern emerges. England is a sea of red indicating “leave”. The blue dot of prosperous London is the sole holdout for “remain”. Journalists who cover England’s central regions, like the Guardian’s John Harris, saw it coming. He described the areas with the highest “leave” rates as marked by “a terrible shortage of homes, an impossibly precarious job market” and residents boasting “a mixture of deep worry and often seething anger”.

This geographical divide – between expensive and prosperous cities and a heartland left to rot – is not unique to the U.K. or the United States. When I previously wrote about U.S. geographic inequality, I received dozens of e-mails from Globe and Mail readers discussing the same dynamic in Canada, describing being priced out of Toronto or Vancouver, or struggling to find good jobs in the central provinces. Readers from Australia, South Africa, India and other countries claimed the same post-2008 geographic inequality had restructured their lives as well.

The new world economy is structured on gated citadels of prosperity and gaping joblessness in between. Brexit, and the chaos in its wake, feels shocking. But it should not be surprising.

Read the whole thing here.

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The best advice on Twitter trolls was written by al-Ghazali in the 11th century

As I posted on Twitter earlier today, the best advice I’ve seen on dealing with Twitter trolls comes from the 11th century Sufi philosopher al-Ghazali and his text “Ayyuha l’Walad”. Al-Ghazali anticipated our social media problems by 1000 years.

By al-Ghazali’s definition, there are four types of Twitter trolls. Below: a description of the trolls, and his advice on how to deal with them.

Type 1: Jealous haters. Advice: “Depart from him and leave him with his disease.”

Then know that the sickness of ignorance is of four sorts, one curable and the others incurable. Of these which cannot be cured, [the first] is one whose question or objection arises from envy and hate, [and envy cannot be cured for it is a chronic weakness] and every time you answer him with the best or clearest or plainest answer, that only increases his rage and envy. And the way is not to attempt an answer.

One hopes for the removal of every enmity
Except enmity arising from envy.

So you must depart from him and leave him with his disease. Allah the Exalted said, “Withdraw from whoever turns away from our warning and desires nothing except the present life.” And the envious, both in all he says and in all he does, kindles [a fire] in the sowing of his deed: as the Prophet said, Allah bless him and grant him peace, “Envy eats up excellences as fire eats up wood.”

Type 2: “Well, actually” Twitter. These folks come sliding in your mentions pretending to be experts on that which they are not. Ignore them too.

The second, whose weakness arises from stupidity, and he also is incurable. As ‘Isa said, upon him be peace, “Indeed I did not fail in bringing the dead to life, but I failed in curing the stupid.” And he is the man who has busied himself in seeking knowledge a short time and has learned something of the sciences of the intellect and of the sacred law, and so he asks questions and raises objections in his stupidity before the very learned one who has spent his life in the sciences of the intellect and the sacred law, and so this very stupid fellow does not know, And thinks that what is obscure to him is also obscure to the highly learned; and since he does not think this much, his question arises from stupidity, and you must not attempt to answer him.

Type 3:  People who ask you for information they can find on Google, then don’t believe the facts that they find. They’re hopeless. Ignore.

And the third is one who is seeking guidance and whatever he does not understand of the speech of the great ones, he lays to the defects of his own understanding and his question is in order to seek benefit; but he is dull and cannot arrive at the truth of things. You must not attempt to answer him also, as the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “We, the company of the prophets have been commanded that we speak to the people according to their understanding.”

Type 4: This troll is not really a troll at all. They are asking you questions which may be annoying, but are asked in good faith. It is worth engaging with this person.

But the sickness which is curable is that of the intelligent and understanding seeker of guidance, who is not overcome with envy and anger and the love of worldly vanities and wealth and honor, but is seeking the straight road; and his questions and objections do not arise from envy and a desire to cause trouble and to make trial. And he is curable, and it is permitted to attempt to answer him—nay, it is necessary.

That’s it! Follow al-Ghazali’s advice, and spare yourself a lot of online misery. Sometimes the best social media tips come from the 11th century.

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What does the election mean for Poland and Polish-Americans?

Last week the Polish news outlet Onet.pl did a long Q & A with me about the  US election, its relevance for Poland, and its relevance for Polish-Americans. A Polish-language excerpt of our conversation is up now on the website. This was an interesting interview, because I rarely get asked about Polish-American issues, and given the heated racial/ethnic rhetoric of this election — and Trump and Bill Clinton’s controversies regarding Poland and Polish-Americans — it was a good opportunity to write about things I can’t elsewhere. Here is the full transcript in the original English.

Ms Kędzior, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump probably will be the official candidates in the 2016 US presidential elections (after their parties’ conventions in July). Who would be a better US president for the United States’ interests in the 21st century – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton is the better candidate, mostly because Donald Trump is the worst major party candidate of my lifetime. He is an open racist who has called for mass deportation, a US database of Muslims, indiscriminate bombings of foreign countries, and torture. He has no legislative experience and a history of corrupt business ventures and is being investigated for fraud. He is backed by white supremacist groups like the KKK, and his rhetoric has empowered them and led to physical attacks on non-white American citizens. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the US.

That said, the one thing Trump does convey more compellingly than any other candidate is the dismal reality of the US economy. Our 4.7% unemployment rate hides the fact that most jobs created since 2008 have been low-wage, part-time jobs, and most Americans cannot pay their bills. Nearly half of Americans have less than $400 on hand. Americans are suffering and Trump taps into that suffering very effectively. If Clinton wants to win, she needs to better acknowledge the urgency of the US economic crisis. It’s not that she’s uninformed, but she does not know how to connect with voters in an emotional way like Trump does.

How could the 2016 presidential elections change The United States? Is The United States at a turning political point in 2016? What impact on the US could the 2016 presidential elections have?

Trump could not have won the nomination if the US were not already a broken country. We have had fifteen years of war and eight years of a decimated economy, decades of partisan gridlock, and constant racial strife. We are a wounded nation. People feel desperate, and that desperation shows in the support for Trump. But while some voters think Trump is the cure, he’s really a symptom of the disease.

If Trump wins, the US will have a mix of chaos and authoritarianism. It’s important to consider who Trump would select in his cabinet, since he is likely to be bored as the president and outsource the bureaucratic aspects of the job. He will likely select officials who advocate for war and propose policies that hurt the most vulnerable Americans. It’s difficult to predict who will be in his cabinet since Republicans vacillate in their support of him. It is also difficult to predict how the military will react to Trump as Commander in Chief.

If Clinton wins, we will likely have a continuation of the Obama administration, which is preferable to Trump but still doesn’t adequately address the economic problems the US faces. We will also be dealing with millions of angry Trump supporters, some of whom have warned they will form militias if Trump loses. The social problems created and exacerbated by Trump’s rise will not disappear with a Democratic win.

Ms Kędzior, who has a greater chance to win presidential elections in November in your opinion? Many people thought that it was Hillary Clinton who could win votes from minorities (for example, ethnic minorities) but support for Donald Trump in national polls started to rise in the latest weeks. So does Trump have a chance to win the election? Is such a political surprise possible?

The Democratic primary was the most racially divided in US history. Clinton won nearly every state with a black or Latino population of 10% or over. Sanders won the states dominated by white people, and the whiter the state, the more they liked Sanders. It speaks to a troubling racial divide. It’s difficult to say who Sanders’ voters will support – some may vote for Clinton, some may not vote, and some are already saying they will vote Trump, joining his coalition of angry white men.

Clinton’s coalition resembles Obama’s coalition in its diversity, and demographically, the odds are in her favor. However, demography is not destiny. New voter laws have been created that make it difficult for non-white citizens to vote. This is especially important in “swing states” where a few thousand votes might make a difference. Clinton also faces obstacles as the first female candidate, and as someone who many Americans dislike for other reasons: her policy decisions as a Senator and Secretary of State, her husband’s record, or because they believe the conspiracy theories about her that have been swirling for 25 years. Clinton has enthusiastic supporters, but she also has some voting for her simply because she’s not Trump. (She has picked up some Republican supporters for this reason – another factor that complicates the election.)

I also think Trump’s skill as a campaigner is underestimated. He’s a master con man who has used tabloids and reality TV to build himself up for years, and is now using the internet to do the same. He is currently in a crisis, but he has a long track record of bouncing back from crises. I think it will be a very close race. It’s possible either of them could win, and unpredictable factors – like if there’s a terrorist attack or a big financial collapse – could sway the vote between now and November.

4.What about the electoral campaign in coming weeks, what should we expect? Is Trump going to use the e-mail scandal to attack Hillary Clinton? Does Hillary Clinton have any chance to defend herself and attack Trump on some other issues? Should we expect that campaign is going to get really ugly?

The campaign is already really ugly! Right now Trump is imploding due to racist comments he made about a Mexican-American federal judge presiding over a corruption case against him. Republicans are struggling to figure out how to maintain their support when he has attacked a fellow federal employee based on his ethnicity. A lot of people tried to dismiss Trump’s racism by saying it was an act and that he would not behave this way as president. Now they know exactly how he will behave, and they are trying to figure out whether to endorse his behavior. This is the lowest moment of his campaign. But like I said, he has a track record of bouncing back.

Both candidates have plenty of ammunition to attack each other. Clinton will have every scandal she has been associated with over the past 25 years dragged up. This has already happened as she ran against Sanders and against Obama in 2008, so it’s not anything new. Clinton has an advantage against Trump because many of Trump’s most horrifying moments have occurred over the last 12 months, whereas the issues Trump raises to attack her are often decades old. I do not expect the email scandal to lead to an indictment. It may make voters question her judgment, but I do not think Clinton will face criminal charges.

What about internal divisions in Republican Party and Democratic Party and among voters? Some politicians from GOP establishment probably won’t support Trump, there’s also the possibility that some voters who backed Sanders won’t vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Are Trump and Clinton divisive candidates in your opinion? Do they have any chance to unite their electorates?

I’ve answered this a bit in the previous questions, but yes, they are both deeply divisive candidates. They are the two most disliked candidates in US history. We are likely to see some strange bedfellows – Republicans for Hillary, Sanders fans for Trump. The biggest divides fall along lines of gender and race. Clinton will have a racially diverse group of supporters with many women involved in the campaign. Trump appeals primarily to white men. This divide reflects a broader debate over diversity and power in the US.

Ms Kendzior, don’t you get the impression that current presidential campaign is more populist and extreme in nature? There are many personal attacks and little substance in electoral platforms, especially on Trump’s side. It seems to me that this campaign is very similar to the electoral campaigns in Europe that often are emotional and populist – would you agree with that?

Yes, Trump’s campaign is in line with the rise of right-wing populism in Russia, Austria, France, Poland and other European countries. The West is still recovering from the 2008 crash, and many citizens take their frustrations out on immigrants – that is one of the themes of Trump’s campaign that is also seen in anti-immigrant actions in Europe. Trump’s campaign appeals to a lot of white people nostalgic about earlier eras in the US, when they had good jobs and did well. I’ve interviewed many Trump fans, and some of them live in poor, majority white towns with few jobs, and they believe their jobs were stolen by immigrants and foreigners. (This is usually not true.) I’ve also met other Trump fans who are openly racist and believe the US is a country meant for white Christians only.

Who would be better US president for Poland’s interests – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Who would favor the Polish American community in November in your opinion? Polish people are worried by Trump’s words about “obsolete NATO”, but many people in Poland don’t trust Hillary Clinton either.

Donald Trump is an interesting figure when it comes to the treatment of Poles and Polish-Americans. He hired hundreds of undocumented Polish laborers to build his real estate properties in 1979 and 1980, and many of these Polish workers said they were treated terribly and exploited. Some Poles were never paid for their work. This eventually led to a lawsuit in which Trump had to pay millions of dollars. So Trump has a pretty terrible record in terms of how he treats Poles.

However, this does not mean he does not have support in the Polish-American community. His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is Polish-American, as are other members of his staff. His key advisor, Paul Manafort, is from New Britain, CT, which is historically a Polish-American city. Manafort has a long relationship with Polish-American communities in the northeast, and I think he knows how to target Polish-American voters.

Unlike all the other campaigns, Trump has cultivated support groups for white ethnicities – “Italian-Americans for Trump”, “Polish-Americans for Trump”, etc. Usually candidates divide voters into broader demographic categories – “white”, “black”, “Latino”, etc – while ignoring white ethnic heritage. But that heritage matters to a lot of people. Trump’s approach is unique, and I think savvy, because white ethnic groups (especially ones who immigrated to the US more recently) don’t want to feel like they and their heritage are being ignored.

That said, as a Polish-American myself, I hope that other Polish-Americans recognize that Trump will not be good for our country. When my family immigrated to the US 100 years ago, they were treated like Mexicans and Muslim immigrants are today. Poles weren’t considered “white”, they were deemed suspicious because of their Catholic religion, and they were viewed as potential terrorists because of Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President McKinley. Polish-American newspapers had to write op-eds begging US citizens not to judge all Poles based on Czolgosz’s actions. The way politicians and journalists talked about Poles in the early 20th century resembles the terrible way Trump discusses Mexicans and Muslims now. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. As a Polish-American, I think we are obligated to stand up for ethnic and religious groups who are being persecuted.

There are also some worries about perspectives of cooperation between the next US president and the Polish government which is accused (by some politicians from the European Union and The United States) of breaking democracy rules. Would such cooperation be hard? Or maybe right-wing Trump would be a better president for right-wing Polish government interests?

Trump and the right-wing elements of the Polish government would probably get along well, but I think that their relationship would be damaging for both Polish and American people. They would likely agree on many things, such as the erosion of free media, the disparagement of Muslims, and how to manipulate the legal system to maintain power. This sort of collaboration is not good for anyone.

One factor that would complicate US-Polish relations under Trump is Trump’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Putin and Trump are mutual fans, and Manafort, Trump’s advisor, has worked for pro-Russia forces in Ukraine. So Trump would have to deal with competing strains of right-wing nationalism when it comes to Poland and Russia. I suspect Trump will side with Russia.

Bill Clinton last month said that some people in Poland (and Hungary) favor democracy more in Vladimir Putin’s style (than in Western style). He was harshly criticized in Poland for those words. Ms Kedzior, could Bill Clinton’s words have an impact on the 2016 US presidential elections and could it harm Hillary Clinton’s chances for victory among Polish Americans?

Bill Clinton said a deeply stupid thing. Hillary would be better off if she kept him quiet until November. His comments led to protests among Polish-Americans in Chicago and understandable anger. I think it is fair to critique the political direction Poland is going, but to say that Poland aspires to be like Putin’s Russia is a slap in the face to any Pole who endured Russian oppression. I don’t think the Clinton campaign addressed Bill’s comments adequately, in part because they don’t consider Polish-Americans to be an important voting bloc. However, I don’t think Bill’s comments will determine the Polish-American vote, because Trump also has a terrible history with Poles and Polish-Americans – and of course, Polish-American voters consider all sorts of issues when choosing a candidate, not just ones that concern their ethnicity.

It’s also worth noting that this incident was not covered much by the US press. The two main outlets that covered it were Breitbart, a very right-wing website that has endorsed Trump; and the New York Observer, which is run by Trump’s son-in-law. Most Americans are not paying attention, and it is possible many Polish-Americans don’t even know about it.

Will there be a chance for lifting the visa regime for Polish citizens who would like to come to The United States after 2016 US residential elections? It’s almost an eternal problem (still without solution) in US-Polish relations. It seems that there won’t be even a slight chance for lifting visas if isolationist Trump wins? But what about Hillary Clinton’s stance on this issue?

Trump is an interesting guy when it comes to Eastern European immigration – he rails against foreigners, but two of his wives are from Eastern Europe. However, I don’t think that necessarily means he’ll be open to easing visa restrictions for foreigners who do not intend to marry Donald Trump. I doubt that Trump even understands how the visa system works, and his rhetoric is very isolationalist. I’m not sure what Clinton would do – she has not addressed this issue, to my knowledge – but I’m confident she at least knows how the visa system works.

Matuesz Morawiecki (Polish Deputy Prime Minister and influential Minister of Development) said on Polish television several weeks ago that “the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton would be the choice between plague and cholera”. (It’s a very pejorative saying in Poland). Ms Kedzior, what do you think about such harsh words? Should any member of Polish government say such things publicly? Trump or Hillary Clinton could win elections in November so won’t Morawiecki’s words make Polish relations with future US president (Trump or Clinton) harder? Could Morawiecki’s words be costly in a political sense?

Morawiecki is expressing a sentiment that many Americans have also expressed, so it’s not anything Trump or Clinton has not heard before. The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Trump is very thin-skinned and becomes enraged at the slightest insult. He expects to be flattered. If any foreign official were to criticize him in office, he will likely have a tantrum – but may be held in check by his staff, so that he doesn’t cause a diplomatic crisis. (This will be a constant challenge for whatever staff Trump appoints.) Clinton has experience working in a diplomatic capacity with leaders around the world, and while I’m sure she doesn’t appreciate Morawiecki’s comments, I doubt they’ll have much impact. She has heard worse and continued to behave in a diplomatic manner. That said, if elected, she should make Bill apologize for his disparaging comments comparing Poland to Putin’s Russia, in order to improve US-Polish relations.

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Want to have a career like Hillary’s? You’d best be born like Chelsea

For Quartz, I wrote about the sexism that Hillary Clinton has faced throughout her career, and the economic barriers that prevent young aspiring female politicians from emulating her path:

Like all women of her generation, Hillary faced formidable sexism, fighting for rights women now take for granted. But like many women of her generation, she also benefited from being born in an era when upward mobility was arguably more feasible, at least economically.

Though now multi-millionaires, the Clintons came from relatively modest beginnings. Bill grew up in poverty in Arkansas, while Hillary grew up in an Illinois family that only reached middle class stability in the mid-20th century. The Clintons rise to power was not buoyed by inherited wealth, but by a system that allowed lower and middle-class baby boomers increasing access to higher education and prestigious jobs.

But the contemporary versions of Bill and Hillary Clinton—talented middle-class or lower-class students from the Midwest or South—may find that achieving the same success will be stymied by their family’s class status or their geographical distance from centers of power. The prototype for a future Hillary is someone who grew up more like Chelsea Clinton—wealthy, connected, and able to pursue multiple advanced degrees.

While gender barriers have eased over the past forty years, economic barriers have tightened. Older generations of women have diversified once closed fields: female lawyers are now common, the number of female politicians is still disproportionately low but has been slowly rising, and we have our first female presidential nominee. But the path to professional success is increasingly narrow, dependent on expensive advanced degrees and the financial ability to work in prestigious fields for no or low pay in America’s most expensive cities. Momentum forged by earlier generations has stalled.

The hard work and ambition of women like the young Hillary Clinton have much less currency in today’s system, because only one type of currency—hard currency—counts.

Read the whole thing at Quartz

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Americans are rejecting capitalism — because capitalism rejected them

My latest is for Foreign Policy:

Imagine that you’re twenty years old. You were born in 1996. You were five years old on 9/11. For as long as you can remember, the United States has been at war.

When you are twelve, in 2008, the global economy collapses. After years of bluster and bravado from President George W. Bush — who encouraged consumerism as a response to terror — it seems your country was weaker than you thought. In America, the bottom falls out fast.The adults who take care of you struggle to take care of themselves. Perhaps your parent loses a job. Perhaps your family loses its home.

In 2009, politicians claim the recession is over, but your hardship is not. Wages are stagnant or falling. The costs of health care, child care, and tuition continue to rise exponentially. Full-time jobs turn into contract positions while benefits are slashed. Middle-class jobs are replaced with low-paying service work. The expectations of American life your parents had when you were born — that a “long boom” will bring about unparalleled prosperity — crumble away.

Baby boomers tell you there is a way out: a college education has always been the key to a good job. But that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. The college graduates you know are drowning in student debt, working for minimum wage, or toiling in unpaid internships. Prestigious jobs are increasingly clustered in cities where rent has tripled or quadrupled in a decade’s time. You cannot afford to move, and you cannot afford to stay. Outside these cities, newly abandoned malls join long abandoned factories. You inhabit a landscape of ruin. There is nothing left for you.

Every now and then, people revolt. When you are fifteen, Occupy Wall Street captivates the nation’s attention, drawing attention to corporate greed and lost opportunity. Within a year, the movement fades, and its members do things like set up “boutique activist consultancies.” When you are seventeen, the Fight for 15 workers movement manages to make higher minimum wage a mainstream proposition, but the solutions politicians pose are incremental. No one seems to grasp the urgency of the crisis. Even President Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat — the type of politician who’s supposed to understand poverty — declares that the economy has recovered.

You wonder when the economic recovery will reach your family. You have been wondering for eight years.

Read the whole thing, Why young Americans are giving up on capitalism, at Foreign Policy

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The Orlando massacre

My heart goes out to the victims of the Orlando shooting. I hope people in the area continue to donate blood and that people nationwide give money and support to local organizations working to protect LGBT rights.

For the Globe and Mail:

We know the script: the breaking news of the first shots, the rise of the body count, the revelation of the shooter’s identity, the grief and rage, the thoughts and prayers, the knowledge that nothing will change. That the script is known only makes it more painful, with every tragedy reviving past anguish and warning of future loss. American geography is carved in pain. Small towns have become shorthand for shootings – Newtown, Conn.; Littleton, Colo. No region is safe or spared.

No population is safe either – not the Sikhs murdered in their temple in Wisconsin in 2012, nor the black churchgoers gathered in South Carolina in 2015, nor the moviegoers in Colorado in 2012, nor the college students in Oregon in 2015 and California in 2014, not the office workers in California in 2015, nor even the elementary school children in Connecticut in 2012.

America is a diverse nation, politicians announce proudly. Yes, diverse in our death toll – and united in our frustration and fear.

Gun culture is debated most after mass carnage. But it permeates our everyday routine, especially for those of us who live in the most violent states. My state, Missouri, leads the country in shootings by toddlers. The streets of my city, St. Louis, are lined with teddy bears tied to trees – makeshift memorials for shooting victims. “Rolling gun battle” is St. Louis vernacular for people shooting at each other from cars on a highway. One candidate for governor, Eric Greitens, fired an assault rifle into an empty field in a TV ad to appeal to voters. This is normal life.

Read the whole thing here

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Trump’s VP pick

For the Globe and Mail, I wrote about how, if elected, Trump will outsource the day-to-day work of the presidency to the VP — most likely to be Newt Gingrich:

Donald Trump’s top adviser, Paul Manafort, recently reflected on the role of the vice-president in a Trump administration, saying: “[Mr. Trump] needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

Since declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination a year ago, Mr. Trump has been underestimated at every turn: in his ability to woo voters, to transform the GOP opponents he insulted into sycophantic lackeys, and to sell himself as a leader despite being the only major presidential candidate in U.S. history with no legislative or military experience.

His bigotry and brutality – Mexicans are rapists, Muslims should be banned, waterboarding is good – are rationalized by his more moderate supporters as insincere pandering, a sales pitch to be walked back in practice. (That advocating torture and ethnic persecution is now a mainstream campaign strategy speaks volumes about both Mr. Trump and Americans.) His inconsistent positions and lack of government experience have left many wondering what he would actually do if he were to win office.

What is most likely, Mr. Manafort all but confirms, is that Mr. Trump would be deeply bored.

He plays to win – but wins to play. The day-to-day, bureaucratic machinations of power appeal to him less than the joy of flamboyantly wielding it. In his 1987 memoirThe Art of the Deal, he scornfully listed “number-crunchers,” “consultants,” “surveys” and “committees” as things he could do without. This is unfortunate for a man applying for a four-year job dealing with number-crunchers, consultants, surveys and committees.

But his boredom can be assuaged – and that is why the vice-presidential candidate is so important. Exit the showman, enter the wonk. The United States is not only on the verge of electing a master con artist as president, but a con artist backed by a shadow government that may wield more pragmatic power than the president.

The idea of a charismatic but unstudied leader backed by a wonkish power broker isn’t new. The United States saw it with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and to a lesser extent with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. What is different now is the weakness of the United States at this political moment: economically wounded from the 2008 crash, exhausted by 15 years of war, and torn apart by partisanship and racial unrest. Mr. Trump’s rise was made possible by his country’s decline. But his rule will rest on the subordinates to whom he outsources the art of statecraft.

Read the whole thing at the Globe and Mail

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Election Coverage

Since March, I’ve been covering the 2016 presidential election for a variety of outlets. The most salient pieces are probably these two for Foreign Policy and Quartz, because many of the predictions in them came true within weeks:

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America (8/3/16)
Donald Trump and his racist followers could destroy America even if he loses (8/5/16)

Other highlights (last updated 8/25/16):

AP tweets (then deletes, then reposts) deceptive Trump family puff piece (8/20/16)
Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin underscores an unsettling truth about the two leaders (8/19/16)
Trump is right: the greatest threat is indeed from within (It’s him) (8/16/16)
Clinton Derangement Syndrome: Diagnosing the real reason that so many Americans hate Hillary
(8/11/16)
In a history littered with political corpses, Trump’s assassination hint is a new low (8/10/16)
How Trump punked American by manipulating our obsession with useless polls (7/28/16)
Donald claims he was sarcastic about Russia — no one’s buying it (7/28/16)
How nostalgia blinds Trump to the reality of working-class America (7/28/16)
The Democrats’ America on display: flawed but not fatalistic (7/26/16)
Making America work again — for Trump’s family (7/20/16)
Ottawa Today, Mark Sutcliffe Show, interview on Trump (7/21/16, 10-11 slot, 34 minutes in)
On the ground in flyover country (7/15/16)
Where economic despair and xenophobia meet, you find Trumpism – and Brexiters (6/28/16)
What does the election mean for Poland and Polish-Americans? (6/17/16)
Why young Americans are giving up on capitalism (6/16/16)
Most women won’t be able to follow in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps — unless they’re rich (6/16/16)
Why Gingrich may be Trump’s running mate
(6/3/16)
How state politicians are quietly working to steal the US presidential election
(5/20/16)
Why Bernie Sanders is still running
(5/19/16)
The term “anti-establishment” has lost all meaning (5/12/16)
Trump is the smartest candidate — he’s running on American pain (5/4/16)
Clinton, Sanders, Trump: Who really belongs to New York? (4/18/16)
Metropolis, the hometown of Superman, has a new hero: Donald Trump (4/6/16)
This Is Hell, “Writer Sarah Kendzior reports on the tabloid spectacle of Trump’s campaign through the Midwest” (3/26/16)
The trump card for U.S. cable news: Riots, ratings and rallies (3/30/16)
Trumpmenbashi: What Central Asia’s spectacular states can tell us about authoritarianism in America (3/22/16)
Who Won the Midwest? Not the people who live in it (3/16/16)
Trump supporters in St. Louis: How ‘midwestern nice’ became a sea of rage (3/12/16)
Super Tuesday was a referendum on racism (3/2/16)
Trump and the Media: Exploitative synergy (2/26/16)

For years, I’ve been writing about themes that are key to this election: economic exploitation, the lack of a true “recovery”, mass media and social media manipulation, the rise of dictatorships, the role of racism and white supremacy, and the abandonment of the American heartland.

As a result, very little about this election cycle has surprised me. You can read all about those topics in my book, The View From Flyover Country.

And seek out other analyses here.

 

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