This week, I have been mostly reading:
- Breakfast with the Panthers — Suzanne Cope in Aeon:
Starting in 1969, and for several years afterwards, in church basements and community centre kitchens in cities and towns around the United States, thousands of kids sat around a table every school day morning, eating hot breakfast served by the young adults of the Black Panther Party. At each seat there was a plate and utensil setting, a cup and a napkin. The children learned to use their fork and knife properly, eating eggs and grits and bacon and toast, washed down by juice or milk or hot chocolate – whatever local businesses had donated that week. The Panthers – most of them in their late teens and early 20s, and about two-thirds of them women – had arrived at these community kitchens before dawn to prepare this hot meal for the children, serving them and then checking homework, and giving PE (political education) lessons.
- The Most American Thing That Has Ever Happened — Caitlin Johnstone:
The Biden administration has asked top Democrats to decouple the federal government’s Covid relief spending package from its much larger bill for funding of the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, because one of those two things is too controversial and contentious to pass quickly. Guess which one.
- Tom the Dancing Bug — by Ruben Bolling:
- How America’s Evangelicals Turned Themselves Into an Anti-Abortion Machine — James Risen at the Intercept:
No one who looked at Francis Schaeffer in the late 1970s would have figured him for a fundamentalist preacher. […] Yet by the late 1970s, Schaeffer had emerged as the intellectual driving force behind the political mobilization of Protestant evangelicals across the United States. Barely recognized outside evangelical circles, Schaeffer was nonetheless the man who first made evangelicals care about politics — and specifically about abortion. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973, Protestant evangelicals did not protest. At the time, evangelicals were not yet politically involved on any major issue. But just a few short years later, they were at the forefront of what became a four-decade conservative assault on Roe v. Wade, a bitter campaign that now appears to be on the brink of success, thanks in no small measure to Schaeffer’s efforts.
- Psaki Joins The Dems’ Corporate Career Pipeline — Julia Rock at the Lever:
The skills required to act as a press secretary in corporate Democratic presidencies — saying little of substance, committing to nothing, dispensing snark and scoffs, and never even accidentally challenging power — appear to carry over well to playing pundit on MSNBC, the corporate network that serves as the Democratic Party’s de-facto propaganda outfit. Psaki’s Democratic predecessors have taken similar paths, leaving their press secretary posts to defend corporate Democrats and big business on cable news spots. In fact, every single press secretary of the Clinton and Obama administrations eventually cut out the middleman and went to work directly in corporate PR — ranging from managing crisis communications for the scandal-plagued NFL to setting up Amazon’s vast lobbying and public relations shop. This ongoing history of Democratic presidential flacks becoming corporate lackeys and mouthpieces is proof that when the Jen Psakis of the world are standing behind the dais in the West Wing and dodging questions about campaign promises to cancel student debt or institute a $15 minimum wage, they aren’t just speaking for the president. They are also auditioning for their future corporate employers.
- xkcd — by Randall Monroe:
- Conservative parents take aim at library apps meant to expand access to books — David Ingram at NBC News:
E-reader apps that became lifelines for students during the pandemic are now in the crossfire of a culture war raging over books in schools and public libraries. In several states, apps and the companies that run them have been targeted by conservative parents who have pushed schools and public libraries to shut down their digital programs, which let users download and read books on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. […] The apps often market themselves to schools and libraries as a way to quickly diversify their digital shelves, especially after racial justice protests in spring 2020 drew attention to the lack of diversity in many traditional institutions. But convenience is a double-edged sword. In years past, parents might not have been able to find out what’s in a library collection, giving students a certain measure of freedom to roam the stacks. Now, they can easily search digital collections for books with content they object to and ask school administrators to censor or limit access with a few mouse clicks. “The terrifying thing is that they can be censored with the flip of a switch, without due process, without evaluating the substance of the claims,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association.
- “The Squad” Doesn’t Exist Outside Of Social Media — Caitlin Johnstone:
“I’ve avoided the term, but ‘Fraud Squad’ feels pretty apt,” journalist Aaron Maté tweeted of the House vote. “Challenging the military industrial complex is leftism 101. The Squad just voted to give it another $40 billion via the Ukraine proxy war. So, insofar as they claim to be a leftist contingent, how are they not a fraud?” The best assessment I’ve ever read about the clique of House Democrats comprised of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman comes from Columbia University’s Anthony Zenkus, who made the following observation: “The Squad doesn’t exist. They have never used their power as a bloc to push for votes on progressive legislation or to block regressive legislation. They are not protesting on the Capitol steps or outside the White House. They are a media creation and a brand who won’t disrupt status quo.” That’s it right there. “The Squad” has no real existence outside of the media, particularly social media. It’s a glorified online PR campaign for the Democratic Party, one which only came about because the party’s gerontocratic leaders are too senile to use Twitter and Instagram.
- Dinosaur Comics — by Ryan North:
- The Right’s Creeping Pro-Natalist Rhetoric on Abortion and Trans Health Care — Schuyler Mitchell in the Intercept:
While it’s ridiculous to equate reproductive or gender-affirming health care with forced sterilization, Republicans have been able to comfortably weaponize this language in part due to the progressive movement’s own dark history with eugenics. During the early 20th century, scores of Black, Indigenous, and Puerto Rican women were forcibly sterilized at the hands of the state. Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger supported eugenics and espoused birth control as a tool for demographic control. “Part of what’s so outrageous is the true vulnerability that people face when it comes to their bodily autonomy is real. It’s just being weaponized against them through false pretense,” said Jules Gill-Peterson, an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins and the author of “Histories of the Transgender Child.” “We see how much residue is left there, and how many sparks are available for people to weaponize those histories. They can sort of substitute the reality.” There’s another layer to the right’s eugenics rhetoric: Various nationalist authoritarian regimes throughout history have employed pro-natalist or “positive eugenics” methods in attempts to combat the demographic threat of declining birthrates. In 1925, Mussolini launched an aggressive domestic policy known as “Battle for Births,” which banned abortion, restricted access to contraception, and incentivized reproduction via tax breaks and welfare benefits. […] Similar events played out in Nazi Germany: Abortion and contraception were banned, traditional gender roles were reimposed, and economic benefits were awarded to women who focused on homemaking. These policies were explicitly tied to the belief in the superiority of the Aryan race; promoting the expansion of the white population went hand in hand with the compulsory sterilization and genocide of those deemed racially inferior. It’s worth noting that these authoritarian approaches to population goals emerged in the period following World War I into World II, when unprecedented mass casualties had fomented a growing anxiety about birthrates worldwide. In the wake of over 6 million deaths globally from Covid-19, it might not be a coincidence that fertility panic has crept into the current wave of Republican legislation. Today the endgame of constructing a “traditional,” white, Christian nation is an undercurrent in much of the right’s rhetoric.
- The Shovel’s definitive profile of Anthony Albanese:
He joined the Labor Party as a student, and then went off to get some life experience in the real world, trying his hand at all sorts of different jobs within varying arms of the Labor Party. After winning pre-selection for the seat of Grayndler in 1996, his first federal election was a closely-fought battle against the No Aircraft Noise Party (NAN), a single-issue party who fundamentally misunderstands how aircraft work. In the first Rudd Government, Albanese was given the position of ‘Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Leader of the House of Representatives’. It was later revealed that Albanese had used his contacts in the union movement to negotiate a salary that was directly tied to the number of letters in his job title.
- Health Data — xkcd by Randall Munroe:
- Laugh at Tucker Carlson’s Tanning Testicles Doc All You Want, But the Bulging Muscles and Potent Sperm Imagery is a Fascist Dream — Annika Brockschmidt at Religion Dispatches:
This trailer for Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s new documentary The End of Men has drawn a lot of mockery online—especially when it became clear that the device covering the genitals isn’t a glowing Covid test, but that the naked man standing on a pile of stones is in fact bathing his testicles in UV light—a process, that according to macho fitness influencers, is supposed to increase the sperm count. […] At first glance, the video may seem ridiculous, but it actually offers a chilling glimpse into the ideology of America’s increasingly radicalizing Right. In right-wing ideology—and most notably in fascism—gender roles are inherently political, as numerous historians and other humanities scholars have shown. The historian Michael Hatt writes: “The stability of masculinity depends upon the visibility of the male body; to be learned or consolidated, masculinity requires an exchange between men.” Not only are the depictions of idealized, militant masculinity important propaganda tools for fascists, they also provide viewers with a deep insight into their thinking. Fascism requires a perpetual state of war. This doesn’t have to be a real war—instead, a narrative is built in which the “real” people are threatened from the outside. These enemies are painted as both incredibly powerful, but also as despicable and degenerate. According to this understanding, in order to counter this constant threat fascism needs men—physically strong men, who are not only able to throw large car tires around, but who also deter their opponents through their overpowering physique. The relationship between masculinity and force is crucial: Fascism, as historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes, “links masculinity to the performance of violent acts.”
- On Bush’s Freudian Confession — Caitlin Johnstone:
While criticizing Russia for having rigged elections and shutting out political opposition (which would already be hilarious coming from any American in general and Bush in particular), the 43rd president made the following comment: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean, of Ukraine.” And then it got even better. After correcting himself with a nervous chuckle, Bush broke the tension in the empire-loyal crowd with the words, “Iraq too. Anyway.” He then quipped that he is 75 years old, leaning harder on his “Aw shucks gee willikers I’m such a goofball” persona than he ever has in his entire life. And Bush’s audience laughed. They thought it was great. A president who launched an illegal invasion that killed upwards of a million people (probably way upwards) openly confessing to doing what every news outlet in the western world has spent the last three months shrieking its lungs out about Putin doing was hilarious to them. There are not enough shoes in the universe to respond to this correctly.
- Calvin and Hobbes — by Bill Watterson: