Sanctuary Cities, the Branded Presidency, Lana Del Rey Personas: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve also been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

You’ve likely already heard — since it’s been trending on Twitter all day — that Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, aka around what you may have spent on your last visit to buy groceries. In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson details how this acquisition isn’t just about groceries, and looks “into some of the more long-term, hypothetical implications of this deal”:

This is about Amazon as a “life bundle,” particularly for affluent Americans. Several years ago, I predicted that Amazon Prime was becoming the cable bundle of the future —an annual subscription to a fleet of diverse services that gave the retail company a dependable revenue stream and a growing, devoted customer base. After today’s announcement, several people on Twitter joked that between Prime and Whole Foods, Amazon may now account for a majority of some urban Millennials’ discretionary spending. What’s not a joke, however, is that Amazon’s life bundle, like TV’s cable bundle, is fundamentally about the merchandizing of convenience, which is often indistinguishable from sheer human laziness.

And speaking of all-encompassing brands, in a long piece in the Intercept, Naomi Klein cites her most recent book, and a couple of past articles, to outline the ways in which the Trump brand and his presidency are symbiotically intertwined. One of the factors she details is American Idea, a budget-friendly hotel chain for which Trump’s sons got the idea while tagging along on the campaign trail. She writes:

It turns out that while the Trump kids were on the campaign trail last year, they weren’t just stumping for their father — they were conducting market research on ways to profit from Trump voters. The sons would return to Trump Tower and report on the quaint and old-timey tastes enjoyed in “real America,” as Eric Trump described it on “Good Morning America.” As Donald Jr. put it, he realized “there’s something here, there’s a market here that we’ve been missing our entire lives by focusing only on the high end.” And there were more perks to tagging along on the campaign trail. They also met people who donated to the Trump campaign, and some of those very people are now the first partners for this new venture.

Also on The Intercept, Ali Winston discusses a law suit about New York City’s 900,000 records on IDNYC applicants, and jumps into an extensive look at how data collected for innocuous (or even noble) causes can be used by ICE as a tool for identifying undocumented immigrants. (Judging against the suit, which sought to preserve the records, a federal judge thankfully ruled that they legally can be destroyed.) Winston explains how sanctuary cities can avoid incidentally supplying ICE with tools for arrests and deportations:

Advocates have long warned that even ID programs like New York’s — which aimed to bring undocumented residents out of the shadows — could put those same residents at risk if ICE got its hands on any revealing paperwork. And some cities took heed: San Francisco’s municipal identification program, created in 2009, immediately destroys all materials provided by applicants. But for the many others that haven’t taken such steps, data like the application materials for New York City’s municipal identification cards has moved to the center of the battle between Washington, D.C., and local governments over immigration policies. For all the tough talk by cities that have announced their intention to stand up to the president’s deportation plans, once such data is collected and saved there is little they can do to monkey-wrench ICE’s enforcement operations.

In yet another week of multiple mass shootings — the most publicized of course being that which injured GOP Whip Steve Scalisce Nancy Leong writes for the Washington Post about the commonness of mass murderers having histories of committing domestic violence.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise domestic violence and mass shootings are correlated. As I have pointed out before, domestic violence is a form of violence, just one that we don’t always take as seriously as other kinds. People who are likely to act violently often start with those nearest to them, who are vulnerable due to proximity, and who are often financially, emotionally or legally dependent on their abuser. The justice system also plays a role, treating domestic violence with less weight than “real” violence.

On Buzzfeed, Shannon Keating discusses the work of various queer organizers, and addresses the identity of Pride, addressing the oft-recurring question of whether it should be a “party or a protest” — a question that’s particularly relevant now, as a range of queer people are feeling left out of mainstream Pride. The article largely compares/contrasts Washington, D.C.’s Equality March for Unity and Pride with mainstream Pride events, questioning how celebration can also be a demonstration, and where the marginalized fit within the escalating corporatism of Prides:

Two years after the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality decision and barely five months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the national LGBT movement is grappling with whether Pride should be a party or a protest, and whether it could possibly be both. And Washington’s Equality March, billed as an international call to arms on behalf of the queer and trans people who have been left behind by the mainstream gay rights movement — an event technically separate from Pride, but smack dab in the middle of a Pride weekend — put those questions to the test.

And finally for a bit of pop culture: in the lead-up to Lana Del Rey’s upcoming album, former Flavorwire Editor-in-Chief Judy Berman has written a breakdown for Pitchfork of Lana’s projection-courting personas, via the symbolic life of her music videos. Beginning with “Video Games” (where else would one begin?), the piece ends with the album trailer for the upcoming Lust for Life:

Early in her career, many wondered whether Lana Del Rey was kidding. As became clear with the 2014 release of Ultraviolence cut “Brooklyn Baby” (sample lyrics: “Well, my boyfriend’s in the band/He plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed/I’ve got feathers in my hair/I get down to Beat poetry”), the better question would’ve been: Is Lana trolling? The rollout for her fourth album, Lust for Life, has felt especially mischievous, from a title lifted wholesale from Iggy Pop’s greatest solo record to “Coachella — Woodstock in My Mind”—a single whose title is actually embarrassing to say out loud. Although she’s already released videos for the title track and “Love,” the most distinctive imagery associated with Lust for Life appears in the trailer. Del Rey has probably always been more self-aware than she’s given credit for, but this preview, directed by Clark Jackson, finds her actually having fun with her odd, aloof starlet image.