Today the Republic of California, as a couple of dozen settlers christened it in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, again feels like a breakaway state, with its own mores, laws, phobias, and monumental contradictions. The California legislature’s rebellion against President Trump’s polices may be the most serious one that an individual state has mounted against the federal government since South Carolina threatened to secede over cotton tariffs in the 1830s. The terms of the rebellion were set on November 9, 2016, the day after Trump won the presidency, when the heads of the state senate and assembly issued a joint statement declaring that California “would lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.” “Resistance” has become an overused word, but state lawmakers have made good on their vow.
Measured by yearly production, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the highest-value stretches of farmland in the country, and is dominated by large growers who preside over a labor force of migrant workers in a way that has not changed much since Carey McWilliams described it in his 1939 book, Factories in the Fields. The Fresno-based writer Mark Arax likens it to a Central American country. “It’s the poorest part of California,” he told me. “There’s almost no middle class. To find its equivalent in the United States you’d have to go to Appalachia or the borderlands of Texas.”
A running series of brief dispatches by New York Review writers documenting the coronavirus outbreak with regular updates from around the world, including Michael Greenberg in Brooklyn, Raquel Salas Rivera in San Juan, Aida Alami in Paris, Rahmane Idrissa in Niamey, Verlyn Klinkenborg in East Chatham, Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos, Merve Emre in Oxford, Yasmine El Rashidi in Cairo, Keija Parssinen in Granville, E. Tammy Kim in Brooklyn, Adam Foulds in Toronto, Tom Bachtell in Chicago, Ivan Sršen in Zagreb, Sue Halpern in Ripton, Michael S. Roth in Middletown, Ben Mauk in Penang, Martin Filler in Southampton, Eula Biss in Evanston, Richard Ford in East Boothbay, George Weld in Brooklyn, Nilanjana Roy in New Delhi, Ursula Lindsey in Amman, Zoë Schlanger in Brooklyn, Dominique Eddé in Beirut, Lucy McKeon in Brooklyn, Yiyun Li in Princeton, Caitlin L. Chandler in Berlin, Nick Laird in Kerhonkson, Alma Guillermoprieto in Bogotá, Lucy Jakub in Northampton, Rachael Bedard in Brooklyn, Hari Kunzru in Brooklyn, Minae Mizumura in Tokyo, Jenny Uglow in Keswick, Sylvia Poggioli in Rome, and more.
On June 14, the State Legislature in Albany passed a bill that will profoundly change the tenor of life in New York City. The law—known officially as the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, but dubbed by its advocates “universal rent control”—strengthens tenant protections for the city’s nearly one million privately owned, rent-stabilized apartments. The release from distress for thousands of people facing the prospect of displacement will ripple through the city. With the passage of this bill, the lament that has become a cliché—that New York has lost its soul, that it offers no space for the unconventional, that it is home only to the rich and ruthless—will be significantly less true.
Was the shutdown of the online news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist purely an act of spite? Ricketts’s acquisition of Gothamist in March suggests that he had been determined to make the business work. He seemed willing to continue to try to “crack the code” of profitability at DNAinfo only if his reporters had no bargaining power. News organizations’ only recourse at present is to hope that Congress may enact antitrust legislation that takes into account the monopolistic evolution of the Internet.