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The Criminal as Entrepreneur

The latest iteration of rap beef—this time between the multiplatinum hitmaker Drake and the street-credible lyricist Pusha T—had all of the attributes of the tradition, only it was fueled by the warp speed of social media and the glitz of a calculated marketing plan. Witty innuendo, gossip, and slick production were married to the Spotify playlist algorithm and Instagram stories. But there was something…

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Incarceration as Incapacitation: An Intellectual History

Explaining the dramatic rise of incarceration in the United States has been surprisingly difficult. Theories abound, but they are continually defeated by the vastness and complexity of the American criminal justice system. For a time, the prime suspect was the War on Drugs, which President Obama described as “the real reason our prison population is so high.” Numerically, this never made sense, given that drug offenders are a small fraction of state prisoners. Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws were tangible reforms that attracted a great deal of attention. But as causal explanations they, too, wither under scrutiny. “There’s not a lot of evidence that the amount of time spent in…

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Black America and Donald Trump

My thinking along these lines is not Trump-centric. It is how I have viewed the political strategy and emotional reaction of the black community to the Republican Party for twenty years. Yes, because so much of our dialogue and activity is a reaction to the Republican Party, we are controlled by it. The impact has been devastating, at times…

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Reevaluating the Culture Wars

In America, “culture war” is a term of surprisingly recent origin. It dates from the early 1990s, and the conflict it signified was declared over almost as soon as it was named. “In his convention speech, Pat Buchanan referred to the ‘culture wars,’” Irving Kristol wrote in 1992, “I regret to inform him that those wars are over, and the Left has won.”…

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