If you read the New York Times on Real Estate Shell Games and then last week's impressive series on the perils of arbitration, you could be left with the impression that corporations are entirely dishonest parasites. The headline of Stephainie Saul's piece is "Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes," and that pretty much sums it up. It's an old story, really, made possible by the corporate rules that allow Limited Liability Companies to shield the names and other identification of their owners. Getting desperate homeowners to sign contracts they think will refinance their mortgages is simple enough. Getting away with the money is harder—and an LLC helps throw the cops off the trail. Such illegal shenanigans are penny-ante when laid next to the perfectly legal outrages lurking in just about every user agreement you sign these days. As the Times shows, most people sign away their right to go to court to redress any grievances—what used to be a constitutional right before Supreme Court Justice John Roberts ruled otherwise in an opinion that echoed a brief he'd written years before, when he was just a lawyer. Arbitration is rigged against consumers (Ralph Nader's Public Citizen* has warned of this for decades) but now most of us have no choice in the matter: Justice is truly corporate-controlled. (Edward Ericson Jr.)
In a piece for Artnet News, "Frank Stella at the Whitney Is All Style, No Substance," the critic Ben Davis talks about the celebrated geometric abstraction painter Frank Stella's retrospective at the Whitney. He offers a pretty handy context about the artist's come-up, beginning with the fact that after Stella graduated from Princeton nearly 60 years ago, he "almost immediately landed a career of art stardom, one that has lasted up to this minute." In the '50s this was extremely rare, Davis contends, adding that the school-to-stardom effect is more common nowadays (although, I dunno, it's still pretty damn hard for most artists to make a modest living off of their art, let alone earn millions from their work and garner retrospectives at major institutions). He also shares that Stella's thesis has always favored form over "social content." Some might argue that, well, that's fine—let people make whatever kind of art they want to make. But, reading between the lines, it also opens up a broader set of questions around privilege and wealth and the ruling class's tastes, which dominate the art market, especially when we think about the huge reach of Stella's work. "[I]t's actually hard to think of a space where [Stella's later pieces] would work as passive décor," Davis says. "It's just that the direction they transcend decoration towards is the domain of theme parks and Broadway bombast. That is, spectacles built not to savor but to stun, not for connoisseurs but for visitors passing through." Who is this work really for? (Rebekah Kirkman)
Weeks after the New York Times Magazine created a Twitter sensation by asking readers, "If you could go back and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it?" a reporter from the Huffington Post posed the same question to Jeb Bush. His response: "Hell yeah, I would!" What if Baby Hitler is cute? "No, look, you gotta step up, man," he said. Seemingly aware that this time travel expedition would forever alter the universe, at least if "Back To The Future" is to be believed, the former Florida governor continued, "It could have a dangerous effect on everything else, but I'd do it—I mean, Hitler." No word on whether the other candidates for president would go back in time to kill an infant Adolf Hitler. (Brandon Weigel)
*A previous version of this post mistakenly said Common Cause instead of Public Citizen. City Paper regrets the error.