When the Rule of Law Turns into Rule by Law

Ankush Khardori

Roger Stone celebrating outside his Florida home after President Trump commuted the sentence of his ally, Fort Lauderdale, July 12, 2020

The selective, skewed use of the law is dangerous precisely because it has the veneer of legal legitimacy that covers a corruption deeply corrosive to the political order. We are seeing versions of this playing out in countries like Poland and Hungary. A country governed through rule by law—especially the US, given its military power and global influence—is not remotely a desirable state of affairs. The threat that faces this country is of an increasingly dominant rule by law that could include a more comprehensive deployment of the criminal justice system against perceived opponents of the administration.

The Stanley Crouch I Knew

Adam Shatz

Stanley Crouch playing drums at the Jazz Journalists Association awards at B.B. King’s, New York City,  2004

For Stanley, the person who best exemplified American culture’s possible grandeur was Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, whom he worshipped. Stanley had no chance of climbing to the top of Mount Ellington, even as he traded in his dashikis for suits. He wasn’t suave or elegant. He was a heavy-set, bald man from a working-class family whom no one would have described as handsome: a bruiser, not an aristocrat. But Stanley was shrewd enough to turn his manner and looks into an asset. That a self-made man like him could become one of the country’s best-known cultural critics would become a source of rugged pride.

Costly Lessons from the Second Avenue Subway

Eric Goldwyn

A crowd entering the 96 St station of the Q line extension of the Second Avenue Subway on opening day of phase one, New York City, January 1, 2017

New York’s subways are consistently the most expensive in the world. It is not immediately clear why. The effect of these runaway costs is dire: first, they inhibit the expansion and development of high-capacity rapid-transit systems at a moment when concerns about climate and unequal access to affordable housing, jobs, education, and services are paramount. The incredibly high costs of phase one of the Second Avenue subway highlight three problems that plague transit-infrastructure costs across the country.

The Writer–Translator Equation

Tim Parks

Jan Ekels (II): A Writer Trimming his Pen, 1784

The translator is a writer. The writer is a translator. How many times have I run up against these assertions?—in a chat between translators protesting because they are not listed in a publisher’s index of authors; or in the work of literary theorists, even poets. Others claim that because language is referential, any written text is a translation of the world referred to.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933–2020

David Cole

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1977

She entered the law at a time when men wielded virtually all political and economic power, women were barely taken seriously in the legal profession or by the law itself, and the statute books were shot through with sex-based laws. She used her skills to elevate the status of women in the United States forever. The world she has left behind was transformed by her work. But at every turn, she pursued change methodically, with care and attention to her own imperative that one must always seek to bring others along.

‘Electric, Like Time Travel’: An Interview with Chantal Joffe

Imogen Greenhalgh

Chantal Joffe: Story, 2020

Imogen Greenhalgh: Aspects of lockdown behaved a bit like art does, in that they altered our sense of time and our attention to what is right in front of us.

Chantal Joffe: I’ve been painting my own mum a lot during lockdown, pictures of her now and when she was young. I love thinking that all of that isn’t lost—her youth, us little. It’s still present. You can hold on to the person she was. When I was painting it, I was there, in the picture: it was electric, like time travel.

In Place of Police: The Oregon Experiment

Krithika Varagur

Eugene Police officer Bo Rankin talking with CAHOOTS coordinator Ben Brubaker and emergency crisis worker Matt Eads, Eugene, Oregon, October 2019

Well before this summer’s historic protests against police brutality, the CAHOOTS program of crisis response teams had been advising similar projects and pilot programs in cities such as Denver, Oakland, Portland, and Olympia, Washington, which voted to create an unarmed Crisis Response Unit in 2017. But the experiences of CAHOOTS and its spinoffs have gained a new instructive pertinency as municipalities nationwide look to divest parts of their public safety apparatus from police departments. The idea is that armed police officers are simply called to address too many situations, often ones in which trained mental health or social workers would be more effective and more humane.

The Big Smoke

Anastasia Edel

San Francisco seen from Treasure Island as orange smoke and haze from multiple wildfires blankets the Bay Area, California, September 9, 2020

The beach, a scintillating embodiment of the California Dream just hours earlier, now looked more like the landing pad for Charon, the ferryman of Hades, with wisps of yellow smoke hovering above leaden waves and pebbles. It is hard not to think of California’s wildfire plight as a metaphor for America’s decline. “Just come to the state of California,” Governor Newsom said. “This is a climate damn emergency. This is real.” When the president finally visited the state, for a mere two hours this past Monday, he told its suffocating residents to be patient: “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.” It felt like an inverted déjà vu of what Trump had said about the coronavirus in February, when he told Americans to wait till “when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

America’s Eviction Epidemic

Gabriel M. Schivone

Housing activists breaking in to restore Kaotar Dee to her home of twenty-one years after she was locked out by her landlord, who had the LAPD board up the house, Los Angeles, California, May 29, 2020

Renters who enjoyed some measure of protection are now at risk of eviction since the moratoriums on eviction are coming to an end at both federal and local levels. In the coming months, up to 28 million people could be thrown out of their homes, according to a researcher with the Eviction Lab. “While eviction is a threat for people with resources, the risk of homelessness is much bigger for people at the bottom of the ladder,” the journalist Brian Goldstone told me. “For low-income people of color, the scale and scope and magnitude of the crisis in this country in the coming months is likely to be something we’ve never seen before.”

This Soldier’s Witness to the Iraq War Lie

Frederic Wehrey

US Army soldiers guarding detainees during a raid on a house in Tikrit, Iraq, 28 July 2003

There at the Baghdad hospital, I joined an FBI agent in questioning the bedridden Ahmed al-Ani about his time in the Czech Republic. A diminutive man with a grizzled face creased by bouts of pain, he epitomized the type of drab regime functionary I’d come to know in Iraq all too well. Al-Ani had never met the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta or even heard of him until he saw news reports after September 11. It is a cruel irony that this Iraqi man was first used as a prop for an American invasion and then subjected to disfiguring violence by soldiers who had carried out that invasion. But his story weighs on me in other ways.