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kottke.org posts about usa

“Climate Change Is Death by a Thousand Cuts”

Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M, says that the most likely way people will be impacted by the climate crisis won’t be with some big disaster but with a bunch of small changes that add up to something unmanageable.

Let me give you an example of a tiny impact that I just heard about. My wife told me about a new group of members at her gym: active 70-ish-year-olds who used to go on walks around their neighborhood. Due to the unbearable heat in Texas, though, they joined a gym and now walk indoors on treadmills. This story embodies several aspects of climate impacts that everyone should understand.

First, this is an example of non-linear climate impacts. Although temperatures have been rising gradually over the last century, it was only recently that they crossed a critical threshold that made outdoor walks literally unbearable for these people.

Second, this is what adaptation to climate change looks like. Contrary to how it is typically portrayed by climate dismissives, adaptation is not free. These people are paying $50 per month for the gym membership that is an inferior replacement for something they used to get for free: an environment cool enough to walk in.

So these people are worse off financially and not getting as good of an experience as they used to. And they’re the lucky ones โ€” they have the opportunity and resources to do this.

There’s also the non-monetary costs of adaptation. When it’s too hot to go outside during the day, you are a prisoner of air conditioning instead of going outside and getting fresh air and exercise. We’ve lost something valuable but difficult to quantify.

Some great points here. Reading it made me think of the gun problem here in the US. The focus is often on the immediate damage that guns do (mass shootings, suicides) but there are hundreds of other ways, large and small, in which guns make Americans’ lives worse. For many people, the number of guns in this country and the hard-line views held by those who own them add up to a general vibe of feeling unsafe and under threat. For me, it definitely seems like “we’ve lost something valuable but difficult to quantify” by allowing so many guns to exist in our communities.


Car Bloat: “Huge Cars Are Terrible for Society”

Compare Carsized

David Zipper, who researches and writes about mobility and transportation, recently did a big thread on Mastodon (and Bluesky) about car bloat: the way in which cars and trucks have gotten much bigger and heavier in the US over the past few decades and how it’s bad for society. The whole thread is worth a read…here are a couple of Zipper’s points:

Tall vehicles have bigger blind spots and are more likely to strike a person’s torso or head. Heavier vehicles exert more force crashing into a person, bicycle, or smaller car. They also have longer braking distances.

Heavier cars exert more pressure on tires, eroding them faster. Tire particles are absorbed into water, where they damage ecosystems. They also float through the air, harming human health when ingested.

For further reading, Zipper links to a number of pieces he’s written in recent months: The Blatant Greenwashing of SUVs, EVs Are Sending Toxic Tire Particles Into the Water, Soil, and Air, Carry That Weight, and The Car Safety Feature That Kills the Other Guy. Zipper’s solution to these problems is government action: for example, taxing vehicles by weight, testing vehicles for pedestrian and cyclist safety, or requiring drivers have commercial driver’s licenses for larger vehicles.

The image above is from Carsized and compares a 2018 Dodge Ram to a 2005 VW Jetta.


Five Crises Republicans Made Up to Distract & Harm Americans

In a June piece for The Guardian and the video above from just a few days ago, Robert Reich outlines five crises โ€” including wokeness, the trans panic, and critical race theory โ€” that Republicans have manufactured in order to deflect from their true agenda.

Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin’s “day one” executive order banned the teaching of critical race theory. DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, have also banned it from schools.

Here again, though, there’s no evidence of a public threat. CRT simply teaches America’s history of racism, which students need to understand to be informed citizens.

Banning it is a scare tactic to appeal to a largely white, culturally conservative voter base.

However, I would argue that Reich needed to go a bit further. While the crises are inventions, their consequences go beyond mere distraction and into the territory of active harm, particularly of queer and trans people, Black people, and people of color. That’s why I modified the title from his original.


Why US Malls Are Dying (And European Malls Aren’t)

From Adam Kovacs’ YouTube channel Adam Something comes this brisk 10-minute video essay on why European malls are doing better than their American progenitors. I thought his third point, about poor urban planning, was particularly interesting: malls tend to fail in America because they are not integrated into the fabric of towns and cities (because very little is integrated into the fabric of cities and towns in many places these days).

Malls, hell, all commerce has to be an organic part of towns and cities. People should be able to get to them by means other than a car, and conveniently. Such integrated commercial spaces are far more resilient. If your commercial spaces aren’t resilient โ€” if you just plop a big box outside the town โ€” don’t be surprised when it goes bust in a few years. And then it’s bulldozed for the next thing to be put up for it to go bust the same way and then get bulldozed and then the next thing and the next and the next so on and so forth.


Donald Trump Indicted for Conspiring to Defraud the United States

Yesterday, a Washington DC grand jury indicted Donald Trump for “for conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding”, aka trying to steal the 2020 presidential election. Heather Cox Richardson lays it out in plain English:

The Trump team used lies about the election to justify organizing fraudulent slates of electors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Allegedly with the help of Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, they attempted to have the legitimate electors that accurately reflected the voters’ choice of Biden replaced with fraudulent ones that claimed Trump had won in their states, first by convincing state legislators they had the power to make the switch, and then by convincing Vice President Mike Pence he could choose the Trump electors.

When Pence would not fraudulently alter the election results, Trump whipped up the crowd he had gathered in Washington, D.C., against Pence and then, according to the indictment, “attempted to exploit the violence and chaos at the Capitol” to overturn the election results. “As violence ensued,” the indictment reads, Trump and his co-conspirators “explained the disruption by redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince Members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims.” On the evening of January 6, 2021, the indictment alleges, Trump and Co-Conspirator 1 called seven senators and one representative and asked them to delay the certification of Biden’s election.

Here also is the full 45-page indictment, annotated by the NY Times (gift link). The gist of the indictment is, yes, the attempts that we all saw Trump making in broad daylight to stay in power despite his clear election loss were real, serious, and harmful.

One important aspect of the indictment that neither of them picked up on was pointed out by Adam Serwer on Bluesky:

The indictment makes clear that Donald Trump and his accomplices planned to seize power by force and then maintain that power through the mass murder of American citizens by their own military.

That sounds pretty serious โ€” here’s what the indictment says:

On the afternoon of January 3, Co-Conspirator 4 spoke with a Deputy White House Counsel. The previous month, the Deputy White House Counsel had informed the Defendant that “there is no world, there is no option in which you do not leave the White House [o]n January 20th.” Now, the same Deputy White House Counsel tried to dissuade Co-Conspirator 4 from assuming the role of Acting Attorney General. The Deputy White House Counsel reiterated to Co-Conspirator 4 that there had not been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that if the Defendant remained in office nonetheless, there would be “riots in every major city in the United States.” Co-Conspirator 4 responded, “Well, [Deputy White House Counsel], that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”

And this:

Also on January 4, when Co-Conspirator 2 acknowledged to the Defendant’s Senior Advisor that no court would support his proposal, the Senior Advisor told Co-Conspirator 2, “[Y]ou’re going to cause riots in the streets.” Co-Conspirator 2 responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic. After that conversation, the Senior Advisor notified the Defendant that Co-Conspirator 2 had conceded that his plan was not going to work.

HuffPost explains who Co-Conspirator 4 is (top Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark) and what the Insurrection Act is all about. Co-Conspirator 2 is John Eastman, one of Trump’s lawyers.

Trump and his team were going to unlawfully (and immorally, I would argue) seize power and quell protests with military force by claiming there was a rebellion against the government or that public safety was at stake. Whether the military would have gone along with it (if Pence had chosen to play his part) is unknown, but it’s pretty incredible how close we came to the United States very quickly devolving into a dictatorship. This fucking traitor must be held accountable for his crimes and must not ever be allowed anywhere near any public office in the United States ever again.

Update: Updated the post to add a second passage from the indictment about the use of state violence to quell protest.


Robert Reich’s UC Berkeley Class on Wealth & Poverty

For the past 13 years, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has taught a class called Wealth & Poverty at UC Berkeley. He retired from teaching this year and has uploaded his lectures from the course to YouTube.

Welcome to my final UC Berkeley course on Wealth and Poverty. Drawing on my 40+ years in politics, including my time as secretary of labor, I offer a deeper look at why inequalities of income and wealth have widened significantly since the late 1970s in the United States, and why this poses dangerous risks to our society.

This course also offers insights into the political and public-policy debates that have arisen in light of this inequality, as well as possible means of reversing it.

Here’s the first lecture, What’s Happened to Income & Wealth:

Reich has also published an abbreviated syllabus for each of the classes; links can be found in his course introduction (here’s class #1).


The Prescience of Octavia Butler

I just finished reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (so good!) and while doing a little customary post-read research on it, I discovered that Butler wrote a sequel in 1998 called Parable of the Talents and, uh… (from Wikipedia):

The novel is set against the backdrop of a dystopian United States that has come under the grip of a Christian fundamentalist denomination called “Christian America” led by President Andrew Steele Jarret. Seeking to restore American power and prestige, and using the slogan “Make America Great Again”, Jarret embarks on a crusade to cleanse America of non-Christian faiths. Slavery has resurfaced with advanced “shock collars” being used to control slaves. Virtual reality headsets known as “Dreamasks” are also popular since they enable wearers to escape their harsh reality.

Well, our present reality certainly checks a remarkable number of those boxes, including an absolute bullseye on “Make America Great Again”.


Duck & Cover: Ukrainian Book Fair Poster

poster for a Ukrainian book fair that shows people using a book to protect themselves from Russian bombs and troops

This is a poster for the 2023 International Book Arsenal Festival which recently took place in Kyiv, Ukraine. The poster was designed by Art Studio Agrafka from an illustration they originally did for the cover of Linkiesta Magazine.

A book festival. During a war. In a city under martial law. While schools and legislatures here in the US ban books about Black and LGBTQ+ experiences based on bad faith complaints of tiny fundamentalist parent groups. Tell me, who’s doing democracy better right now? (via @gray)


“The Supreme Court Has Killed Affirmative Action. Mediocre Whites Can Rest Easier.”

Elie Mystal writing for the Nation on the Supreme Court’s recent decision that declared affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional.

But the death of affirmative action was not achieved merely through the machinations of Republican lawyers. While conservatives on the Supreme Court delivered the fatal blow, the policy has long been made vulnerable by the soft bigotry of parents, whose commitment to integration and equality turns cold the moment their little cherubs fail to get into their first choice of college or university. If you want to see a white liberal drop the pretense that they care about systemic racism and injustice, just tell them that their privately tutored kid didn’t get into whatever “elite” school they were hoping for. If you want to make an immigrant family adopt a Klansman’s view of the intelligence, culture, and work ethic of Black folks, tell them that their kid’s standardized test scores are not enough to guarantee entry into ivy-draped halls of power. Some of the most horribly racist claptrap folks have felt comfortable saying to my face has been said in the context of people telling me why they don’t like affirmative action, or why my credentials are somehow “unearned” because they were “given” to me by affirmative action.

That last bit is in some ways the most devastating: Black people are attacked and shamed simply because the policy exists, regardless of whether it benefited them or not. I’ve had white folks whom I could standardize-test into a goddamn coma tell me that I got into school only because of affirmative action. I once talked to a white guy โ€” whose parents’ name was on one of the buildings on campus โ€” who asked me how it felt to know I got “extra help” to get in. The sheer nerve of white folks is sometimes jaw-dropping.

I recommended this yesterday in a Quick Link, but Scene On Radio’s episode of their Seeing White series on White Affirmative Action is great.


The Value of Reparations

In 1990, the US government sent $20,000 and a formal letter of apology to more than 82,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. Morgan Ome, whose grandfather was imprisoned and got a check, looks at the effect this had on those who received it and how the reparative process might look for other communities (Black and Native Americans).

In one of the letters, the daughter of an incarceree tells how the $20,000, invested in her family’s home equity and compounded over time, ultimately enabled her to attend Yale. “The redress money my family received has always been a tailwind at my back, making each step of the way a tiny bit easier,” she wrote. Just as her family was able to build generational equity, she hoped that Black Americans, too, would have “the choice to invest in education, homeownership, or whatever else they know will benefit their families, and, through the additional choices that wealth provides, to be a little more free.”

In addition to money, acts of formal apology, an on-going acknowledgment of harm, and a public process can be important to those harmed:

A $20,000 check could not reestablish lost flower fields, nor could it resurrect a formerly proud and vibrant community. Still, the money, coupled with an official apology, helped alleviate the psychological anguish that many incarcerees endured. Lorraine Bannai, who worked on Fred Korematsu’s legal team alongside Don Tamaki, almost never talked with her parents about the incarceration. Yet, after receiving reparations, her mother confided that she had lived under a cloud of guilt for decades, and it had finally been lifted. “My reaction was: ‘You weren’t guilty of anything. How could you think that?’” Bannai told me. “But on reflection, of course she would think that. She was put behind barbed wire and imprisoned.”

Yamamoto, the law professor in Hawaii, stresses that the aims of reparations are not simply to compensate victims but to repair and heal their relationship with society at large. Kenniss Henry, a national co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, told me that her own view of reparations has evolved over time. She sees value in processes such as community hearings and reports documenting a state’s history of harm. “It is necessary to have some form of direct payment, but reparations represent more than just a check,” she said.


The Supreme Court Just Made This Gerrymandered Map Illegal

This short video from Vox takes a look at the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down a gerrymandered congressional map in Alabama.

In 2013, a divided Supreme Court gutted one of the major pillars of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In the 10 years since then, the court has moved even farther to the right. So when the Voting Rights Act came before the Supreme Court again in 2022, it didn’t look good for the law. But then something completely unexpected happened: in a 5-4 decision, two of the conservative justices voted with the 3 liberal justices to preserve the Voting Rights Act. And the effects could be huge.

At stake in the case was the way that Alabama divides up its Congressional districts. Alabama has seven districts, one of which is what’s called a “majority-minority district” in which Black Americans are the majority of the population. In 2022, a group of Black voters sued the state, saying that under the law, Alabama should actually have two majority-minority districts. And the Supreme Court agreed.

The decision could affect recently redrawn district maps in other states, which could in turn affect the balance of power in the House of Representatives. You can read more about these gerrymandering cases at the Brennan Center for Justice: Allen v. Milligan: Gerrymandering at the Supreme Court (Formerly Merrill v. Milligan) and Redistricting Litigation Roundup.


George Takei Recalls His Childhood in a WWII Internment Camp

In this short video from the BBC narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, activist and actor George Takei talks about his imprisonment in an American concentration camp during WWII because he was of Japanese descent.

I began school in Rohwer, a real school, in a black tar paper barrack. There was an American flag hanging at the front of the classroom and on the first morning, the teacher said, “We’re going begin every morning with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. I will teach it to you and you are to memorize that.” But I could see right outside my schoolhouse window the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower as I recited the words “with liberty and justice for all”. An innocent kid, too young to understand the stinging irony in those words.

Takei has done many talks & interviews over the years about his experience, including for the Archive of American Television, Democracy Now!, and a TED Talk back in 2014:

He also published a graphic novel about his time in the camps called They Called Us Enemy.


Fighting Fascism in America

In a Memorial Day reflection, historian Heather Cox Richardson highlights a pamphlet distributed by the US War Department to Army soldiers during World War II on the topic of fascism: what it is and how to combat it.

The War Department thought it was important for Americans to understand the tactics fascists would use to take power in the United States. They would try to gain power “under the guise of ‘super-patriotism’ and ‘super-Americanism.’” And they would use three techniques:

First, they would pit religious, racial, and economic groups against one another to break down national unity. Part of that effort to divide and conquer would be a “well-planned ‘hate campaign’ against minority races, religions, and other groups.”

Second, they would deny any need for international cooperation, because that would fly in the face of their insistence that their supporters were better than everyone else. “In place of international cooperation, the fascists seek to substitute a perverted sort of ultra-nationalism which tells their people that they are the only people in the world who count. With this goes hatred and suspicion toward the people of all other nations.”

Third, fascists would insist that “the world has but two choices โ€” either fascism or communism, and they label as ‘communists’ everyone who refuses to support them.”

It is “vitally important” to learn to spot native fascists, the government said, “even though they adopt names and slogans with popular appeal, drape themselves with the American flag, and attempt to carry out their program in the name of the democracy they are trying to destroy.”

See also The 14 Features of Eternal Fascism, How Fascism Works, Toni Morrison’s Ten Steps Towards Fascism, and Fighting Authoritarianism: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century.


Visualizations of American Household Types

Based on data from a 2021 survey, FlowingData made these cool infographics of all of the different types of households in the United States. Here are the ten most common:

infographic of the 10 most common household types in the US

Single homeowners are the most common but look at #9: inmate. Shameful.


The Immaculate Copy of the Declaration of Independence Found Hidden Behind a $4 Flea Market Painting

a copy of the original printing of the Declaration of Independence

Back in 1991, a man bought a painting at a flea market for $4 because he liked the frame. Hidden behind the painting was an envelope containing a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It turned out to be one of approximately 200 copies of the Dunlap broadside, the first published copies of the historic document. From a contemporary NY Times article:

Mr. Redden described the document, found behind the painting when the collector took the frame apart, as an “unspeakably fresh copy” of the declaration. “The fact that it has been in the backing of the frame preserved it,” he said. Of the 24 copies known to survive, only 3 are in private hands, he added.

How “unspeakably fresh” was this particular copy? The ink wasn’t yet dry when it was folded into the envelope:

“The ink was still wet on this copy when it was folded,” Mr. Kiffer said. “The very first line โ€” ‘In Congress, July 4, 1776’ โ€” shows up in the bottom margin in reverse, as a faint offsetting or shadow printing, one more proof of the urgency John Dunlap, the printer, and others felt in dispersing this document.”

The document sold for $2.2 million in 1991 and then sold again in 2000 for $7.4 million to legendary TV producer Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons), who mounted a three-and-a-half year tour of the it across the US. (via my modern met)


The Four Republican “Freedoms”

For the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie takes a look at the legislation that Republicans around the country are pushing and, in the style of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, outlines what goals they are attempting to achieve.

There is the freedom to control โ€” to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit โ€” to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor โ€” to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace โ€” to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

That sounds about right, and it reminds me, as Republican “governance” often does these days, of Frank Wilhoit’s definition of conservatism:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.


The Future Pandemic Playbook: What the US Got Right

From The Atlantic, 23 Pandemic Decisions That Actually Went Right, the result of interviews with more than a dozen pandemic experts.

17. Basic research spending matters. The COVID vaccines wouldn’t have been ready for the public nearly as quickly without a number of existing advances in immunology, Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told us. Scientists had known for years that mRNA had immense potential as a delivery platform for vaccines, but before SARS-CoV-2 appeared, they hadn’t had quite the means or urgency to move the shots to market. And research into vaccines against other viruses, such as RSV and MERS, had already offered hints about the sorts of genetic modifications that might be needed to stabilize the coronavirus’s spike protein into a form that would marshal a strong, lasting immune response.


“Making People Uncomfortable Can Now Get You Killed”

Roxane Gay, writing in the NY Times about the recent killings and assaults of people who had the bad luck to run into self-appointed executioners (gift link).

There is no patience for simple mistakes or room for addressing how bigotry colors even the most innocuous interactions. There is no regard for due process. People who deem themselves judge, jury and executioner walk among us, and we have no real way of knowing when they will turn on us.

I will be thinking about Jordan Neely in particular for a long time. I will be thinking about who gets to stand his ground, who doesn’t, and how, all too often, it’s people in the latter group who are buried beneath that ground by those who refuse to cede dominion over it. Every single day there are news stories that are individually devastating and collectively an unequivocal condemnation of what we are becoming: a people without empathy, without any respect for the sanctity of life unless it’s our own.

The whole piece is worth reading and sitting with.


American Cars Are Getting Too Big For Parking Spaces

a comparison of the size of a 1955 Fiat 600 with a 2020 GMC Yukon

The American car has gotten bigger in the past few decades but parking spot size has not kept pace.

Regardless of the cause, the end result is roughly 50 percent of the American car market switched from sedans and wagons to SUVs, especially midsize and large SUVs, chunkifying the average American car. Consider someone who switched from a Honda Civic to a Honda CR-V. This added about three inches in width. A CR-V to a Pilot, a large SUV, would add five more inches in width. This may not sound like much, but repeat for half the cars in a parking lot and it adds up. For example, in a 700-space garage, if each car is four inches wider than its predecessor, that is 233 additional feet in car width-from the goal line to the opponent’s 23 yard line on a football field-that needs to be accommodated.

The local community mailing list in the small town I live in has been discussing this issue recently. Over the past 20 years (and in my opinion, it’s really escalated in the past few years), it’s become more and more difficult to park in the lot that serves the more popular of the town’s two grocery stores, 3-4 restaurants, and a few shops. Length is more the issue here than width: we’ve got many more massive pickup trucks, SUVs, and sport utility wagons around here than we used to have, and it’s become much harder to navigate the increasingly narrow aisles between rows of parked cars. I hate parking there now โ€” getting into or backing out of a spot often requires multiple tries and just clogs things up for everyone.

BTW, before I get any feedback like “ban cars!”, you should know that I’m a very reluctant car owner โ€” the amount of resources America devotes to cars over better alternatives is one of the many reasons why โ€” but biking and public transportation in rural areas with cold winters are not viable options. I try to drive as little as possible and consolidate trips, but it still ends up being thousands of miles a year. (via curious about everything)

Note: The image above from Carsized compares the size of a 1955 Fiat 600 with a 2020 GMC Yukon.


The Availability of Guns and Books in America

political cartoon in which a child reaches past several easily accessible firearms to a too-high bookshelf

Image by Cuban cartoonist Osvaldo Gutierrez Gomez. The cartoon is a few years old, but with the increased scrutiny of and legal repercussions feared by school librarians and the never-ending gun violence in our communities, it’s more relevant than ever. (via @irwin)


The Style Guide for American Highways

diagram for a roundabout from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways

For Beautiful Public Data, Jon Keegan takes a look at the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, the style guide published by the Federal Highway Administration that governs how America’s roads are marked.

The MUTCD states that it “shall be recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel”. Exact specifications for the font, size, spacing of letters, background colors, reflectivity, mounting location and orientation help ensure that traffic signs are consistently readable at a glance while driving anywhere in the U.S..

The word “uniform” is key here, as you can only imagine the chaos if each state had its own version of stop signs, and safety warnings. But states do have some freedom in the signs that they use.


Trailer for The 1619 Project TV Series

Hulu and the NY Times are teaming up to bring Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project to television.

In keeping with the original project, the series seeks to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. The episodes โ€” “Democracy,” “Race,” “Music,” “Capitalism,” “Fear,” and “Justice” โ€” are adapted from essays from The New York Times No. 1 bestselling “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” and examine how the legacy of slavery shapes different aspects of contemporary American life.

The six-episode limited series will premiere January 26 on Hulu.


Abortion Protects the Lives of Women

Dr. Dipti S. Barot writing for HuffPost, My 11-Year-Old Patient Was Pregnant. Here’s What I Want You To Know About Being ‘Pro-Life.’ (Content warning: rape.)

Sophia is in her 20s now. I wonder how she has healed, how she has processed that trauma. Did she get to go to college? Has she been able to trust an intimate partner? Has she been pregnant on her own terms at the time of her choosing? Does she have a child? I can see her wide face and her soft smile in my mind’s eye and I know now, just as I knew then, that the decision to terminate Sophia’s pregnancy, supported by the ones who loved her the most, was a pro-life decision.

And:

I remember how tiny that clinic room felt. There was no room for politicians signing evil bills flanked by child props as old as Sophia, no room for Supreme Court justices who claim to value life while wondering aloud how pregnancy can be an undue burden. No room for those extraneous, unnecessary, useless others in that most intimate of spaces. Our clinic rooms will always be too small for anybody but providers and our patients.


The Real Fight for Abortion Rights

Melissa Gira Grant writing in The New Republic with a reminder that activists have seen this coming for a long time and moderates did not heed the warning:

Reproductive justice advocates have long warned that Roe v. Wade was in danger, well before the court agreed to take this case concerning a Mississippi abortion ban โ€” before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, before Trump shifted the balance of the court by appointing justices certain to roll back Roe.

Those who saw this coming, who never believed the court could save them, who have mostly given up on the Democratic Party’s promises to protect Roe, have hardly been quiet or thwarted. Every local abortion fund launched to bridge the divide between a right and acting on it, every shared how-to on self-managed abortion using misoprostol pills (and mifepristone, if you can get it) โ€” that’s what knowing this moment would come has looked like for years. It’s what surviving the end of Roe has already meant in the 89 percent of counties in this country without a clinic providing abortion, where abortion is already a contingent right.

(via waxy)


Into the Dark Ages

Speaking of the fundamentalist movement to repeal the 20th century, Jack Mirkinson isn’t writing for The Atlantic and therefore is free to not mince words:

[Alito] says that Roe should be scrapped because the right to an abortion is “not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions” โ€” a byzantine litmus test that would wipe out just about every modern civil rights protection you can think of, given the nature of American history. He forthrightly casts aside the notion that the court should be cautious about overturning decades of precedent. He sends unmistakable signals that other civil rights opinions, especially ones protecting gay rights, are in the crosshairs.

The final opinion could differ, but what we have in front of us is an extremist, illegitimate opinion from an extremist, illegitimate court, one that sees women as serfs and breeders, that sees queer people as subhuman, that sees minorities of every kind as dirt under its collective shoe. It is happily dragging us into the dark ages. Alito and everyone who joins him are evil people. No hell is too hot for them.

(via waxy)


The Plan to Repeal the 20th Century

Adam Serwer writing in The Atlantic about the leaked Supreme Court opinion draft penned by conservative justice Samuel Alito that will, if it remains substantially unmodified, overturn Roe v Wade and other precedents that guarantee the right to an abortion in the United States.

“The majority can believe that it’s only eviscerating a right to abortion in this draft,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me, “but the means by which it does so would open the door to similar attacks on other unenumerated rights, both directly, by attacking the underpinnings of those doctrines, and indirectly, by setting a precedent for such an attack.”

Aside from rights specifically mentioned in the text of the Constitution, Alito argues, only those rights “deeply rooted in the nation’s history in tradition” deserve its protections. This is as arbitrary as it is lawless. Alito is saying there is no freedom from state coercion that conservatives cannot strip away if conservatives find that freedom personally distasteful. The rights of heterosexual married couples to obtain contraception, or of LGBTQ people to be free from discrimination, are obvious targets. But other rights that Americans now take for granted could easily be excluded by this capricious reasoning.

“In a series of cases beginning in the early 1920s, the Court carved out a protected space for family, marriage, and children that the government is constrained from regulating,” Kimberly Wehle wrote last December. “A rollback of Roe could split this sphere open if the conservative theory that implied rights are constitutionally invalid takes hold, and states begin passing draconian laws that creep into other areas of intimate personal life.”

And:

On the grounds that it constitutes a form of religious discrimination, conservatives will be able to claim an exemption from any generally applicable rule they do not wish to follow, while imposing their own religious and ideological views on those who do not share them. Although the right-wing justices present this rule in the language of constitutionalism, they are simply imposing their ideological and cultural preferences on the rest of the country.

Abortion, same-sex marriage, birth control, rights for trans persons, other LGBTQ protections, other civil rights โ€” it’s all on the table, they’re coming for all of it.

Update: See also This is just the beginning:

I ask you to re-read the above passage and substitute for the word “abortion” any other modern liberty not mentioned in the Constitution: the right to use contraception, same-sex marriage, the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, marriage between different “races,” the right of any consenting adults to engage in sex, the right of unmarried couples to live together, and the rights of LGBTQ people to be treated with equal dignity.

Each of the above rights โ€” now widely accepted โ€” was criminalized or prohibited in many U.S. states until the latter part of the 20th century. Under Justice Alito’s reasoning, because the Constitution “makes no reference to those rights” and they were “unknown” in American jurisprudence until recently, the Constitution affords them no protection. Alito does handsprings to claim the draft ruling does not reach other rights rooted in the same legal ground as Roe and Casey. But there is no difference under Alito’s reasoning between abortion and contraception, same sex marriage, same-sex adoption, and bans against “fornication,” “sodomy,” cohabitation, and “miscegenation.”

This is just the beginning.


How We Do Money in America Is Insane

I enjoyed this roast of how we handle money in America by The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng.

He goes after income & sales taxes:

America decided filing taxes should be as quick and painless as getting a root canal at the DMV. You got your 1099s, your Form 1040, your Schedule C, your R2-D2, your Blink-182. You spend days trying to figure out what you owe the government and then the government tells you if are you right because apparently they knew the whole frigging time. It is like the world’s most pointless game show.

Tipping:

Everywhere else, a tip is a show of appreciation, not a GoFundMe for someone who doesn’t earn a living wage. A waiter’s ability to pay rent shouldn’t be dependent on how generous Becky feels after three martinis.

And our currency:

In other countries, every denomination is a different size because it makes it easier to tell them apart, especially if you are blind. But apparently blind people don’t need to use money in America ‘cause look at this shit. Same exact size, all of it. You gotta look over each individual bill to figure out which slaveowner to hand over.

(thx, meg)


The Del Monte $20 Bill

A misprinted $20 bill with a Del Monte banana sticker on it

Somehow, during the printing process at a US Treasury Department printing facility, this $20 bill got a Del Monte banana sticker affixed to it…and then the seal and serial number was printed over it. The bill, known as the Del Monte Note, was sold at auction in January 2021 for $396,000.


How Did This Many Deaths Become Normal?

In his newest piece for The Atlantic, Ed Yong explores why, despite more than 6 million official deaths worldwide and almost a million official deaths in the US, the toll of the pandemic isn’t provoking a massive social reckoning. This is a hell of an opening paragraph:

The United States reported more deaths from COVID-19 last Friday than deaths from Hurricane Katrina, more on any two recent weekdays than deaths during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more last month than deaths from flu in a bad season, and more in two years than deaths from HIV during the four decades of the AIDS epidemic. At least 953,000 Americans have died from COVID, and the true toll is likely even higher because many deaths went uncounted. COVID is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after only heart disease and cancer, which are both catchall terms for many distinct diseases. The sheer scale of the tragedy strains the moral imagination. On May 24, 2020, as the United States passed 100,000 recorded deaths, The New York Times filled its front page with the names of the dead, describing their loss as “incalculable.” Now the nation hurtles toward a milestone of 1 million. What is 10 times incalculable?

And it just keeps going from there โ€” this is one of those articles so well written and packed with so much information and insight that it’s difficult not to quote the whole thing, even though it paints a bleak picture of America. Read the whole thing here. See also Yong’s accompanying Twitter thread.


The Helpers: Profiles from the Front Lines of the Pandemic

Dismayed by the narrative that Americans did nothing to help each other out during the pandemic, Kathy Gilsinan took Mister Rogers’ advice and went to “look for the helpers”. The result is her new book, The Helpers: Profiles from the Front Lines of the Pandemic, a collection of profiles of those who worked with millions and millions of other Americans to combat the pandemic. From an excerpt in The Atlantic:

Paul Cary, for instance, was well known within the medical system in Aurora, Colorado, where he served as a paramedic โ€” not only for his walrus mustache or the near-obsessive hours he put in, but also for his warmth. Harried and cynical ER nurses would light up when Cary arrived and asked after their families, cracking jokes about living the dream even as he was spending the evening ferrying gunshot victims or septic patients to the hospital. He wanted to be there for people on their worst days; that was the job. And in late March 2020, with COVID deaths mounting into the hundreds in New York City but still in the low double digits in his own state, Cary, a retired firefighter, decided to race toward the fire: He drove his ambulance 28 hours across the country to help relieve overwhelmed paramedics in New York. He did this knowing that, at 66, with a blood-clot disorder, a bad back, and other health issues, he was squarely in the demographic COVID preferred to kill.

The excerpt ends with an important point (re: “feel good” news & societal failure) and I’m going to quote it here:

People, of course, fail, and so do institutions. Individual goodwill and altruism cannot by themselves compensate for systemic weaknesses, and no kind volunteer alone will fix decades of underinvestment in public health or vulnerable supply chains for protective equipment. No feel-good story can compensate for the loss of more than 900,000 Americans or repair the heartbreak of millions of grieving loved ones. Still, there are those โ€” many more than perhaps we expect โ€” who look impossible odds in the eyes and fight anyway.

The Helpers: Profiles from the Front Lines of the Pandemic is available online and in bookstores now.