Category: News

A Feature, Not a Bug

“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”
– James Baldwin 

Alright, this can’t wait for Friday; let’s talk about the Trump administration policy of separating children from families at the border and why the administration’s attempt to flip or shift the narrative is bullshit. The good news at the moment is that for once, it seems as if the administration’s attempt to steamroll facts isn’t working, but given their unbelievable success at doing this in the past doesn’t fill me with wild hope.

Let’s review: this is not new, it has been a long time coming, the AG announced this new policy in May, the ACLU has been filing cases against this for a hot minute now, asylum is being treated as an illegality–it isn’t. Over the last three days, every single one of the following explanations, denials, or justifications has been used:

Let’s be clear. The administration has taken children away from the parents for a crime ranked as a misdemeanor (on the same level as petty theft or public intoxication), and made their release and reunification (a flimsy prospect since it doesn’t appear that there are robust enough systems for this already) conditional upon certain legislation. The administration has taken hostages.

Remember, provocation is a feature, not a bug, of this White House. They manufactured this crisis by creating the policy in the first place and are now claiming their hands are tied. They are positioning themselves as the victims when they are the hostage takers. This should not hold water with anyone, I’m incredulous that it is in some quarters. And while I hope the president backs down, I’m not counting on it because if you think the president and key people in the White House want this “problem” (meaning the furor and coverage) to go away, you have not been paying attention. They live for this.

Also remember, this nativism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and militant enthno-nationalistic grievance is literally the horse Mr. Trump and all his people rode in on. While I hope shame and outrage will be enough to turn the tide, it does not at all surprise me to read that some of his administration are planning more crackdowns–judging that this is the issue that will fire up their base more than touting their tax victory. This has always been part of the stated plan. But I forget, were we supposed to take him literally or seriously, again?

Yes, I abhor the policy. But almost as disgusting to me is how the administration gets away with it all. They can defend a pro-Israel policy and defend Nazis rallying in our streets. The president can go on TV and state publicly that he fired the director of the FBI to try and make an investigation go away and experience zero consequences. He can promise healthcare “for everybody,” dismantle the current healthcare system, and be praised by the people who voted for him on his original promise and who will pay the highest price. His DHS Secretary can go from denying a policy’s existence to defending it in less than 24 hours without batting an eye. Where are the consequences of this kind of double speak? How long until it is checked? The damage it does to our credibility, our position of moral leadership, and our underlying moral fiber is frightening.

Finally, I don’t care what your politics are, I need people to understand that one way or another, there is no future in which this does not come back and bite all Americans in the ass. Whether it enables new scorched earth warfare between the parties that will end in casualties, or whether antagonists over the world feel empowered to use the same tactics against us someday, THIS. WILL. COST. US. Anyone willing to trade in lives will someday have to pay the same price themselves. All of human history is a testament to this awful fact.

This time, the call is coming from inside the house.

Weekend Links

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Happy weekend, kittens!

I spent yesterday walking 20 miles for charity and my body is hurting. Therefore we are diving straight into the links. Political news is almost moving too fast to keep up with but to summarize some major stories of the week: Manafort’s bail was revoked, Michael Cohen might be flirting with the prosecution, an the FBI released a report that may or may not affect your personal feelings on James Comey, but has nothing whatsoever to say about “exonerating” Mr. Trump in relation to the Russia investigation given that the report was on the handling of the FBI’s investigation into Ms. Clinton’s emails. No matter what the hell he tweets.

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A look into a world we don’t get too many glimpses of.

When it all went wrong, at least pop culturally speaking, and at least according to current curmudgeons.

There is so much shady money hiding in plain sight. Here’s some engrossing reporting from The Guardian on Russian money in the UK, but this is hardly the only combination out there. I appreciate the point made that in many cases of money moving through the world, it’s not happening necessarily with nefarious intent so much as it is a need for aggressive self-interest in preserving wealth through uncertain financial and political times. Conspiracy theories about “elites” sitting in darkened rooms smoking cigars and contemplating the best way to keep poorer people down and shake governments aren’t really true. Conspiracy theories about wealthy and powerful people meeting in daylight in comfortable office spaces and speaking practically about the best way to use completely legal means to protect their assets are.

Our entire society–media, politics, you name it–seems built on charlatans all scheming to get out just before the house of cards comes down at the moment. Some of them even manage to luck into success doing it.

Let’s be clear: broadly speaking, it’s still much harder and more negatively consequential for women to come forward about sexual assault and harassment then for me who assault and harass.

We were all rooting for this little guy this week.

This is horrific and unacceptable.

The White House is trying to shift ownership of this policy onto the opposing party, probably to try and force people to the negotiating table. It’s disgusting. Don’t cite holy writ, whatever your creed, to justify it. Either buck up and own your cruelty or be ashamed of it and stop weaponizing suffering.

God, we need Mr. Rogers more now than ever before...

Queer Eye is an active force for good in the world (with bonus Mormon content!)

Three cheers for healthy masculinity!

How the Netflix model works when it comes to programming and showrunning.

Here in Britain there is a bit of a celebrity gossip news this week that rather stuck in my craw in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. Then, Lainey put it better than I ever could.

Weekend Links

“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.” 
― Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

I’m on birthday leave, kittens, let’s get straight to the links!

The objectification of men and masculinity is a tricky but real subject for conversation.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, AKA the internet’s new boyfriend, has been a delight to discover. Let him and Bob Marley bless your ears this day.

Interesting. But let’s pick this up in six years, shall we?

Ireland, come through! Here’s to a future where we don’t need martyrs first.

You know what? Credit where it’s due to a guy who realized that he was part of the problem and owned it in public (after that awful NYT interview). This is what complacency and complicity looks like in real life, and it’s good to be reminded of the fact. Most accomplices to toxic or sexist workspaces are not Jeffrey Tambor, most are Jason Bateman. Let’s know better and do better.

Another deep dive profile for the ever reliable McKay Coppins at The Atlantic, this time on White House aide Stephen Miller and what the culture of trolling has to do with where is based today. I’d genuinely like sociologists and experts to do more writing and speaking on what the long term effects of trolling as professional or political strategy may be. Coppins points out that the difference between provocateur comments for the sake of being “edgy” and outright racism have effective blurred in many area and that studied irony and sincerity are near impossible to tell apart on some forums. There has to be some kind of study on what this mentality does to a society.

I will read the crap out of this book.

Important reminder that by most standards, the world is getting better. But also a reminder than progress isn’t inevitable.

Immigration has been in the news lately and with good bloody reason. Vox has a (policy based!) take on how the Department of Justice is reshaping the immigration debate and system in a way that will have long term ramifications.

There are solid pieces of advice in this reddit thread.

Bach as a weapon.

This series is a joy.

A comprehensive overview of the coverage and surrounding issues for the ICE stories in the news this past week.

We live in such a weird time.

Where? Point me to these women? I sure as hell don’t know any of them. And to give them all due credit, the vast majority of millennial men I know are supportive of their partners who do out-earn them. As Jeff put it to a coworker who queried this exact subject in our own marriage, “Who the hell is mad about more money?!”

Our dispatch from the Mormon world this week is not religiously based, but says something interesting (I feel) about men who feel increasingly displaced in society–which is a valid academic and social discussion to have–and what some of them want in response to gender dynamic changes–namely, the right to rule again.

A lot of people really want to believe a conspiracy because it’s a lot easier to think a malevolent force is in charge than that our government is run by idiots.” This piece is an intense read, or would be in normal times. In any other age, a confirmed and avowed conspiracy theorist of this caliber would not hold the office he holds, or have the capacity to damage/shift narrative the way he does.

These photos of the fading remains of WWI are powerful.

Wow, this guy had a bad day

The cancellation of Roseanne was a hot topic this week, but this take from Variety resonated most with me. Roseann Barr has been a controversial figure (and overtly racist/conspiracy theorist tweeter) for a long time. ABC knew that when they hired her. They still gave her a show. I’m glad there are consequences to this kind of speech, unless you’re running for president or something, but it feels like they’ve taken away something she should never have been given in the first place

I’m convinced every woman has SOME kind of story that she has had to go over, review in her own mind, and re-contextualize over time. Was it me? Should I have done this differently? Am I at fault? It’s a funny story…right?

Oh J. Crew, will you win me back? Time will tell!

And finally, this whole YouTube series about how the Alt Right uses language as a tool and a weapon is fascinating listening.

This guy has a delightfully specific vocation!

 

Late night rambles on the C-word

“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.” 
― Mel Brooks

Samantha Bee used the C word to describe Ivanka Trump this week on her show and, like unto Roseanne Barr, it caused something of a kerfuffle. More in the links post tomorrow.

But in the meantime, and while I have this on the brain, do you know what? I HATE the C word. Hate it. It’s slung around in the UK like loose change in a way I never experienced in the States, and I haven’t gotten used to it in five years. I still feel a full body cringe at its ugliness whenever someone uses it. If TBS chose to reprimand or punish Samantha Bee like ABC chose to do with Roseanne, I wouldn’t like it, but I’d grudgingly admit it’s the network’s prerogative to make that kind of call.

I similarly think it’s the NFL’s right to try and set certain boundaries the speech of its players. I further think that deliberately defying rules is literally the point of a protest so we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. Nevertheless, the Twitter wars rage.

The difference between a comedian and a president is that one of those people is expected, even encouraged to be vulgar. The other, historically, is expected to set an example to the nation state. One is expected to set standards, the other to push boundaries.vWhich brings me to the broad point I can’t shake.

Anyone who tries to defend the current political administration (the target of the comment in the first place) with the claim that vulgarity (as opposed to racism, for instance) should cost someone their job needs to have an intellectually honest conversation about the dude in the White House and how he got there. He weaponized vulgarity and rode it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

You do not get to cheer a man who kicked off his political life by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, has a history of sexual assault allegations, and been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their “pussy,” and then cry foul when an entertainer uses foul language towards one of his administration officals. One side does not get to say that Roseanne Barr’s statements on her twitter feed, filled with antisemitism and conspiracy theories, are jokes and then turn around and say that an unfriendly comedian’s jokes are beyond the pale.

Pick a lane. Either offensive jokes are acceptable more broadly or they are not. If you insist on your side’s right to be offensive, you should in turn be prepared to buckle up and be offended right back.

Here’s the thing. I believe wholeheartedly that the overall coarsening of our culture and public discourse is not a good thing. We’re all worse off for it. But spare me the moral hand wringing if your whole ethos and political strategy is built around “triggering” other people. These are your rules, it’s your game, and you’re in charge. Either toughen up and take what you sling out, or do your best to claw back the moral high ground if you can.

But to say that systemic and historically racist speech and vulgar speech are on par is a false equivalence. Both are bad. Both may incur consequences on the speaker. But one traditionally operates from the vantage point of power which could be interpreted as punching down, while the other is “punching up.” Ugly language may be frowned on but as a society we agree that there are places where it’s appropriate or at least acceptable. Antisemitism on the other hand, is not welcome. Unless you agree that there are “fine people” who believe in it.

Here. Someone smarter than me said it better.

Weekend Links

“Every person needs to take one day away.” 
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

It’s a long weekend this week and I took an extra day off for my first holiday time since Christmas so links are landing early, kittens. Forgive the short intro, but I’m on break mode!

Scene of the crime.

This take on the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress was my favorite. Her evening reception frock was a lovely, lovely number as well!

Yay, heraldry!

One last take on the Royal Wedding from the great and good Linda Holmes.

This man was not prepared for the replies to his tweet.

It’s the guns.

Much surprise, such shock, wow.

More shock. This is one hell of a FARA violation. 

Yet more shock. (ETA: he might not know what he’s talking about. Super shocking.)

Yet more shock still. Such a shocking week this has been. Please read this and the past four links in a devastatingly monotone voice.

We live in such weird times

I have to stop falling in love with brands. One will always break your heart. The Deciem weirdness continued this week.

Speaking of skincare, though, this is 100% how I lured Jeff in.

Also this week in awful, an organisation with almost 100% white ownership and a 70% black workforce told its members that they couldn’t engage in certain acts of civic protest over police brutality. I refer of course, to the NFL. There is some hope, however.

They may have a different version of the truth than we do.” This year’s version of “alternative facts.”

ARE THERE NO HEROS LEFT?! Also Weinstein has turned himself in on rape charges. Good.

Two bad ICE stories in the news. Both horrifying.

Here, something good in the world.

Good dog.

#RepealTheEighth

I’m not dwelling overly long on the various political dramas of the White House week, but I’m conflicted about that choice. Because in part I think that it means the perceived tactic of this White House is working: they are sowing so much chaos, unreliable information, or outright conspiracy theories that it’s almost impossible to land any kind of blow on them no matter how necessary. The president is in tone (and who knows, I’m typing this on Wednesday, this could total expand by the end of the week) suggesting that the FBI planted evidence against him. This is farcical. He’s tried this tactic before, claiming that the game was rigged against him and his messaging was rather thrown off course when he actually won the election. Meaning that the long term scheme was for the government to plant a spy in his organization to gather information that they didn’t release while simultaneously investigating his opponent’s campaign organization and holding press conferences about that, so that he would win the election to install an administration of his own supporters….to then start undermining him?

The alternative option on this Occams Razor edge is that at some point Mr. Trump or people around him came to FBI attention due to the various shady dealings in his business past. But hey, why be simple when you can start another conspiracy theory. The president lies constantly and no one cares.

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Oops. I dwelt.

The Duchess of Sussex

Image from the BBC

An absolute stunner of a modern dress by Givenchy with protocol-required sleeves…but collarbones on display?

The Song of Solomon in the reading?

MLK, African American spirituals, and social issues in the sermon?

An unabashedly progressive and somewhat controversial Reverend?

A gospel choir?

A bride walking herself up the aisle and giving herself away?

All of the Commonwealth nations referenced in her veil?

The signature messy updo?

The groom choosing to wear a ring?

THAT cello player?

Feelings on display? Publicly?!

The (utterly elegant, lovely, and show-stealing) MoB wearing dreadlocks and a nosering whilst seated across from the Queen in coordinated colors?

Stand By Me and This Little Light of Mine?

The new Duchess of Sussex could have gone quietly into her new life, gone traditional, acquiesced to the frank ugliness of the tabloids, played it safe, and had a perfectly nice and boring wedding. She didn’t.

Color me too-emotionally-involved, but the whole ceremony felt at once deeply personal and also a signal for the kinds of public figures this couple intends to be. Weddings are typically the “bride’s day,” at least when one is not marrying into a firm, and that’s what this felt like in all the important ways.

She might be marrying into an institution and making concessions to do so, but she is clearly carving out a way to do it on her and her husband’s terms. She respected the tradition she is stepping into it while unabashedly–without being brash but also without shrinking–brought her own tradition, family, heritage, and personality along with her. This woman is a smart cookie.

I STAN.

 

Weekend Links

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz
– Lorde

Another long week, kittens, but the weekend is upon us and on Saturday we are setting up shop on my mate Chris’s terrace to watch Royal Wedding 2.0. We like to think we represent the rowdy and awkward colonist cousin contingent. The news is terrible again this week, so excuse me while I enjoy a little basic pageantry.

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“History” is so much closer to us than most people realize.

We’re getting a new princess/duchess this weekend and she’s quite deft in managing her own style straight out of the gate.

She’s marrying into a strange family, but she’s from a strange family…and truly, aren’t we all?

Oh man, I added this on Monday and things are already getting weird.

ETA, its only Wednesday and I’m grossed out by the whole news cycle around Ms. Markle’s family and their shenanigans. Sali Hughes says it better than me.

ETA again, it’s Friday and this woman is clearly controlling her own messaging straight out of the gate. More power to her. I would never want the life she’s choosing, so I hope this is a signal of being able to set terms and boundaries that will make the requirements of her new role manageable for a person who may chafe under cultural expectations she was not raised with or born to. Good luck, future-presumable-duchess. I’m rooting for you!

The annual Tiny Desk Contest winner performs!

EIC of Vox, Ezra Klein argues the republic has faced worse than Mr. Trump…but also argues as sure as he is about this, he’s not 100% sure.

Whatever your opinion on the move, the difference in the photography is pretty striking. Also…people are dead.

Actively bad news from Jeff’s home state. This newsroom JUST won a Pulitzer.

Oh dear. I have long lusted after Lisa Eldridge’s jewels and now this?

Yanni v. Laurel.

Quick question, when does Ronan Farrow sleep?

Wow…this is quite a statement from the bishops.

The marketing team for this is very, very good.

Speaking of religious news, there was a Mormon news story this week that needs some unpacking. An elaborate fake message, designed to look like an official statement of apology for the church’s racism, briefly blew up on social media before being exposed. Zealous and pious mormons decried the fake news making the church look bad, zealous and irreverent exmormons gleefully opined at the twists and turns the organization was having to make to explain that they weren’t in fact apologizing for past racism. For those not in the know, the LDS church forbade the ordination of black men to the priesthood and the participation of black members in services and ceremonies in mormon temples (which are considered essential to salvation, so…). The most succinct take on why this whole story is gross, regardless of your religious beliefs, can be found here.

It’s been fascinating to watch the party of “law and order” turn on law enforcement.

And a developing story, but another heartbreaking school shooting has taken place. Details are still coming out so I won’t say more than: enough.