My feed is rotating between federal indictments, disaster at airports, food lines for federal workers, countless posts about loss of information/talent from federal government and mass journalism layoffs. We are on day 25 of 2019.
— Meghann Farnsworth (@mtfarnsworth) January 25, 2019
“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”
I’m probably going to type this phrase at least thirty more times this year, but it has been a hell of a week, pumpkins…
I’m steering clear of shutdowns and witness tampering in public on the opposite side of the Atlantic, and not touching Brexit. The world is a mess, the media is cutting good journalists and other workers from the very institutions we need most right now, and Ebola cases are rising. There’s a lot to take in and I’m afraid I’m going into the weekend feeling a little moody and grumpy over all.
Cheer me up! Let me know what you’re getting up to in the comments and share a GOOD news story that delighted you this week.
Some shit is going down in Zimbabwe and we need to be following it.
This series of short essays at The Atlantic actually dropped last week but is still worth a review.
This longform piece on human history, DNA, and the complexities of trying to solve the deepest questions of our existence is well worth the time. Our better technology is not exactly uncomplicating the matter.
Quite literally a problem I had never thought of before!
I wrote a piece last week about the confusion I feel over people who align themselves with political movements, the end point of which seem to require their eventual removal from power. It seems dangerously short sighted. I am equally confused about the point that this piece from the Huffington Post raises: one day Mr. Trump will no longer be president, however and whenever that may be. The Republican party has rebranded itself in his image in record time. What on earth is the plan for when he’s no longer in the Oval Office? He has reduced his political focus to the circa 35% of people who fanboy for him, specifically aggrieved white men, and leaned blatantly into racism and misogyny. While this may be heart-rendingly powerful in the short term, in the long term it is not a winning coalition–the demographics are against you.
And on the back of the previous link, this opinion piece: “Populism of all stripes may be anathema to the billionaire class, but they helped create it.”
I’ve been craving a longform or profile piece on Senator McConnell lately, to better understand his motivations or endgame. The New York Times came through. It’s a fascinating read, not least of all because of how many connections the Senator is able to call on to speak on his behalf. I dislike much of what he has done, but he is damned effective at his job.
Oh you KNOW I was going to share this piece. I either want to beg, borrow or steal the MERL’s social media team for my own nefarious work devices.
“I am quite literally from another age,” Attenborough told an audience of business leaders, politicians and other delegates.
This is a concept I will fully and unabashedly stan.
I have been following the #CovingtonCatholic story all week and it’s a mess. The initial images went viral for a reason, the clash of two competing moral positions each staked out with handy props. On one side, while and male America with his MAGA hat, and on the other a champion of identity and narrative politics. Both sides believe they are defending themselves, and they have armies of Twitter eggs on their mutual sides. First the tale was of on the side of the indigenous Elder, then the wronged Good Catholic Boys, and then who even knows. As the story has continued to spin out as it’s been revealed that the children are represented by a PR firm who was aggressively pushing narratives on their behalf (and booking them news slots), further clips of further bad behavior of the sexist and racist variety have surfaced undermining the GCB narrative, and the timeline of events has clarified. In other words, yeah…the kids were behaving in demonstrably racist ways and the initial images probably portrayed the emotional truth. But by this time, the real story is the overcorrections by the media first to cover the story, then to cover the counter stories, and then to mop up the timeline long after the damage was done. The event is a Rorschach test for your political views and we’re long past the point where the facts matter.
I’ll just end by saying that Trayvon Martin didn’t have a PR team. Tamir Rice didn’t have the backing of one of the world’s most powerful religious institutions. Thousands of children have been separate from their parents, made orphans or actually LOST. Meanwhile these Good Catholic Boys are being defended from within the Oval Office and still being positioned as victims of oppression. Spare me. This whole exercise reaffirms the underlying conflict in the initial images that caused this media incident: who is power, and who isn’t? Who is protected and who isn’t? The victimhood narrative does not work when you control all of the levers of power.
Let’s end on a fun note and an aesthetic I can get behind!
ETA: JUST KIDDING. I should never publish Weekend Links early on a Friday in 2019, I truly should know better by now. Excuse the language, but holy shit…lying to Congress is not a “minor charge,” whatever his lawyer may say.
“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
– Winston Churchill
Gillette released an ad about target masculinity and every single Mens Rights Activist on the internet lost their god damned mines over it. “Hamberders” happened. Theresa May squeaked by a vote of No Confidence in her government but Brexit is still no less shambolic. American elected leaders are in a game of oneupmanship in cancelling one another’s public duties. Approximately one million Democrats are running in 2020. New news about the investigation into the President caused him to frantically tweet that new caravans of asylum seekers are coming to impose shariah law or something…
It’s telling that we are three weeks into the new year and there is already THIS MUCH to recap. I actually forgot that the news about the FBI opening an investigation into a sitting president is less than seven days old…
But never fear, kittens! I have lovingly curated enough good and interesting things from around the internet today to help you in processing the fact that the world is on fire.
I want to live in Jeremy Irons’ house..
Were we living in normal times, this would be administration-ending in its own right. Not the outcomes, whatever they were or may yet be, but just that the FBI felt the need to even look into this.
Less than 24 hours later, this reporting also dropped. Even if the sheer amount of inappropriate contact with known-hostile actors and resources could be explained by dumb coincidence and bad luck (which is one hell of a reach at this point, but let’s allow it), at this point the amount of piss poor judgement shown should invoke some kind of major censure from Congress and others with co-equal authority under Constitutional law.
Why can’t we just say he’s not a good manager? Incidentally, this whole presidency is a great case study for those who claim they want people to run the government like a business. I have never understood this, they are in no way analogous. A business exists to make profit, a government exists to administer services, enforce laws, manage public spaces, fund agreed projects and programs that serve the good of the populace, and maintain infrastructure. These are not the same thing as maximizing profit!
K, so I’m switching careers to become a cheeseplate influencer. Thank you for coming to this important announcement.
Media bias is real, but it seldom cuts along the lines that the people complaining about it most loudly claim it is.
I really liked this short Vlogbrothers video on different types of burnout, which follows the viral Buzzfeed article on the same topic I shared last week.
I now long for a sight of Benny!
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rebranded as AOC, has been making waves in the media–mostly thanks to how much attention is being flung at her by white, male, conservative media. It’s included a horrific attempt to pass off nude photos as hers, patronizing language, and attacking her comments while ignoring whole swaths of the rest of the cohort of freshman congressmen and women. Why the vitriol? This writer argues it’s more than run-of-the-mill misogyny (of which there is plenty), it’s deeper than that. (In related writing, this Op Ed about how women are changing the face of power, not least of all by refusing to play into the historical white, male narratives of what power looks like and how it should be practiced.)
This is important investigative reporting on who can access what data about you and how.
What a great piece on whether we may have had that whole slather-on-suncreen-100%-of-the-time thing wrong…
In the interest of even-handedness, Lawfare lays out a compelling case that the FBI has overstepped in troubling ways far too many times in recent years and why that’s a bad thing.
I am delighted to report that, much like unto Logan Paul, I had no idea who this internet person was until this story happened.
This piece from The New Yorker on the interpretations of heaven and hell is an excellent read.
I’ve learned the value of being read to (audiobooks) as an adult.
Late on Thursday, this piece of news dropped. A bit more granular detail which is also pretty damning. The word “bombshell” is genuinely overused these days, but this qualifies. There needs to be rigorous and impeccable investigation on this point because it does cross into potential impeachment proceedings territory if true.
ETA: The special counsel issued an extremely rare statement in response to this reporting and the news media is still dissecting it.
“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”
Trump and Brexit. Between them it has been one hell of a week…and I’m typing this on a TUESDAY.
But from the various breaking news alerts to the sense of being caught between not just one but two non-functioning governments, I put on my best political Carrie Bradshaw and couldn’t help but wonder…
What is the upside to all of…this? Because in spite of the sheer-head-shakery of it all, I think there is a potential long game win for us here.
The thing about the election of Trump, Brexit, the waves of other disruptive political movements across the West in the last few years is that they are leaving many people with the sense that the old rules have been not just set aside, but torn up and tossed to the winds. There is a lot about that which is (rightfully) scary. But there’s also this:
The old rules include patriarchy and systemic sexism. The old rules include systemic racism coupled with classism. The old rules included systemic privilege for some and systematic exclusion for others. The old rules required certain systems to function, operating in symbiosis.
The groups of the historically powerful (mostly political leaders, mostly white, usually rich, and typically male) who have glommed on to these leaders and movements, which are trying to shake up the status quo, strike me as fundamentally shortsighted. Every Brexiteer and Never Trumper who eventually became converted has made a bet that the fundamental changes they are driving (or allowing to happen) somehow won’t affect him–that the cost of the disruption in our institutions and status quo will be born by someone else. So what if he challenges the norms of the presidency, at least the libs are owned, right?
This is faulty logic to me on the macro scale. If you help to unmake the system and rules that protects and privileges you, what exactly is your plan for when your protections erode? When your foes play by new rules? When your old friends no longer stand by you? When your access to wealth and privileged is diminished? I think a lot of the traditionally powerful are in for a surprise, and I’m not exactly angry at the prospect.
If one good thing comes out of this political era, it may be the unmaking of bad systems. I don’t pretend that the work of building better ones won’t be hard or unpleasant, but I’m also not going to pretend I mourn the loss of many of those Old Rules. I wish we could arrive at better and more just New Rules through a less destructive, less morally bankrupt, and more noble process than what we often have before us… but I think we must take what we can get. To waste the sheer human cost of the damage that is being done by not at least trying to make something better seems criminal.
“But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work.”
Happy Friday, ducklings! I’m dropping the Links a bit early because it is a particularly scrumptious load of internet-y goodness and I refuse to let a(nother) shocking week of political news get in the way of some things worth reading.
If 2018 was anything to go by, something genuinely newsworthy will drop the moment after I schedule this thing to go live… The shutdown is still on, the Trump Show is still trumping, Brexit is still a flaming mess of malice…truthfully I needed a break from most of it.
Here’s your batch of reading, let me know what you are getting up to this weekend in the comments. I’m going to try and get some writing down, the house cleaned, and a just-because-it’s-fun-and-I-can creative project idea going. It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to sketch up a project like this so I’m enjoying the process.
This thread of museums and cultural heritage institutions sharing their “best ducks” missed the last weekly links post by sheer bad timing but was simply way too good not to post. My weird little nerdy heart could barely take the glee. Whoever runs this account is my new true love. (Here’s an easier to digest rundown if you don’t have time to scroll…but you’d REALLY be doing yourself a disservice.)
Something interesting happened where the creative world intersects with the business world recently.
This story is horrendous, full stop. But it is horribly telling that the term “rape” is conspicuously absent from this article.
Here’s a great round up of TED talks to start your year with some inspiration.
This longform piece from Buzzfeed hit me hard and has stuck with me. Why burnout and anxiety are the millennial condition, and how we got here. You may start off rolling your eyes or yawning, but I hope plenty of people read this through to the end. It describes almost everyone in my general age range that I can name. “To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.” (The follow up piece is worth reading too.)
Of course I’m not going to bypass the opportunity to share yet another piece on eschewing fast fashion.
The internet has always been a strange place and we’ve always struggled with how to navigate it. We’re now dealing with the aspect of how much of it is fake.
What an important study project this must have been, into those who joined ISIS from the US and why.
Why I decided not to pursue freelance writing full time and as my only source of income: the increasingly grim reality. I suspect this will always be my What Might Have Been personal topic–if I had had a different life or circumstances I might have made different choices–but I found that even as a young woman who was able to land pitches, I didn’t make nearly enough until I branched into other kinds of work as well. I want this to be different, and creative and thoughtful writing to be valued more by society (I sure as hell pay for it), but for so many people it’s not a feasible career. We are missing critical voices and perspectives on every conceivable topic as a society because of it.
Like many, I found the closing quote of this piece extremely telling, “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” In other words, this person voted for a man not on the basis of the bridges he could build or the problems he could solve, but because of the people he said or implied he would harm. President as weapon, not as servant; attack dog rather than home defender. Vox breaks this down more eloquently than I.
GUYS. Our girl Hannah Capin’s debut novel made Goodreads Best Young Adult Books of January list!
The White House announced that the President would give an address from the Oval Office regarding the “crisis” of the border (reminder, almost everything that can be termed a crisis–including moral ones–at the border has been a crisis of the President’s own policy and making). All major networks were asked to carry the message, and after some perfunctory handwringing (which is not the same thing as a vigorous debate of how to best coverage a president with record breaking false claims, especially given the precedent of not granting other presidents the same kind of airtime), they agreed. Some thought this was a good idea. Others did not. The speech happened, it moved the national mood not a whit and here we are (presumably) still fighting about it.
Meanwhile – because we live in a reality TV show now – Mr. Manafort’s lawyers either on-purpose-sneakily or stupidly filed some paperwork. Oops. Is this incompetence or a leak, do we think? Because we learned that Mr. Manafort shared some information with people associated with Russian intelligence. And wh
Longtime readers know that my love of collective nouns runs deep, so I was delighted to learn that collective nouns themselves have a collective noun.
And incredibly important and valid point in this piece.
Who wants this?! Who asked for it?! Bring me their names!
Great, now we’ve got aliens to deal with…
Well, they are late because this is happening.
“Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.”
Hey there, kittens. I’m back and WOOF there was a lot of news whilst I was away. I shan’t attempt to recap it here, let’s just pick up fresh and lean into the fact that Lizzo has released a new song and there are tons of more women elected to representative office in the US. I can be happy all weekend off of that! It’s 2019 and there is much to do and celebrate.
Let’s kick off with one hell of a Girl Gang Good News Minute: Hannah’s book is coming out this year and you guys need to read it!
The third season of The Trump Show has premiered and right on target there is an old rival from a previous season (a certain senator-elect from the Beehive State), fresh new antagonists (in the form of dozens of new congresswomen and senators), and a disappointing and lackluster character has been written out (hand over the gavel, Ryan). I kid, I kid! I would never think of our government in terms of reality television!
A quick editorial note generally: we aren’t allowing ridiculous comments about a then-teenage woman having fun with a viral sensation or a grown woman’s “likability” distract us. Misogyny is very 2016, guys. We’re on to you and we’re not having it.
The plight of rural America and why a country that is so unevenly resourced with fair wage opportunities is a problem for everyone.
The essay that made a lot of people (including me) cry recently.
“I’d come expecting to meet fierce partisans, die-hard right-wingers, guys who were truly preparing to fight the real-life battle everyone in the media seems so sure is coming and that a few lunatics are clearly trying to spark. Instead, everyone seemed kind of horrified by the idea.”
Never mind the US government, who the hell is running its Twitter feeds?!
Speaking of, Politico makes the case that our Tweeter-in-Chief is actually getting worse at Twitter. Seeing as how it’s probably the medium most responsible for his”political” career, what does it mean that he’s no longer really a master of the medium and has been supplanted by younger native users and more adept wielders?
My goodness, I want these jewels fiercely.
Another gorgeous piece from over the Christmas holiday to make you feel all the feels.
“For all intents and purposes, we’re only 35 years into a 75- or 80-year process of moving from analog to digital,” said Tim Bajarin, a longtime tech consultant to companies including Apple, IBM and Microsoft. “The image of Silicon Valley as Nirvana has certainly taken a hit, but the reality is that we the consumers are constantly voting for them.”
God damn it…I’m not crying, you’re crying:
The Dogs of 2018 pic.twitter.com/vxbahkstHe
— WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) December 31, 2018
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
My ducklings! My darlings! My scrumptious Christmas puddings!
I’m officially on holiday, can you tell? By the time most of you read this I will likely be on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, winging my way westward to the nation of my birth. The past week has been a frenzy of work activity to close as many tasks as possible, whilst juggling the occasions and events of the festive season. The Christmas “do” is over, I’ve dropped off presents to my London peeps, and Now I’ve got eight hours on plane to catch up on podcasts, audiobooks, and reading. How I’m looking forward to it!
We are shamefully unprepared for this holiday. I mentioned previously that November seemed to skate by at warp speed and by the time I felt I had looked up, it was halfway through December and I had managed nothing on my seasonal To Do list. Even our holiday packing is a last minute affair…I pen these words to you in a fit of desperate procrastination between outfit wrangling for two weeks and toiletries. And the sheer amount of mismatched food we need to eat in the next twelve hours to clear out the fridge is positively bonkers.
You’ll get a scattering of missives from me over the next couple of weeks, but I’m taking a proper holiday this year and mostly checking out. You can keep up with our Stateside shenanigans here if you feel so inclined. See you a bit nearer to the new year!
Let’s start with the news. Once again the stories are still breaking fast and hot as I put this post together but what a week! The American president is officially an un-indicted co-conspirator in multiple investigations and his bagmen are being found guilty of crimes left and right. It’s been amazing to watch the propaganda machines whirl this week. In normal times a credible allegation of involvement of a foreign power in his election campaign OR a credible allegation of major breach of campaign finance law OR an allegation of significant and corrupt business practices in his private capacity with corresponding state level investigations OR multiple mistresses would derail a politician. To have all at once may genuinely overwhelm our democracy. It’s an incredible testament once more of how much of a curve this man is graded on and I’m truly baffled as to how many people decided this was the guy they were willing to overturn all the rules for.
The progression of defenses:
1) It didn’t happen.
2) Okay it did, but I wasn’t involved.
3) Okay I was involved, but It wasn’t a crime.
4) Okay maybe it was a crime, but not one of those really BAD crimes.
5) What is crime, even, except a social construct?
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) December 12, 2018
It speaks volumes that he can’t seem to find a competent, willing, able, and viable chief of staff, a whole week after (perhaps presumptively) announced his incumbent was leaving. Though I swear if Newt Gingrich gets it, I will set something alight…
From The New Yorker, summarizing so much of the news out of Trump world generally: “It may be only part of the full story, but what we now know is a powerful tale that combines elements that are familiar from other Trumpworld scandals. It is, at once, shockingly corrupt, blatantly unethical, probably illegal, yet, at the same time, shabby, small, and ineptly executed.”
How politics became one of the many things replacing more traditional religious practices in the west, and why.
Another hero of mine down. God damn it, Neil.
Our bigotries cost us. Morally, without question, but also financially. I had a long and delightful conversation with a friend recently after we both saw an item online praising a woman for choosing to take a lower paying job at her husband’s request so that he wouldn’t feel intimidated or inadequate. Congratulations, was my take, you have literally put a price on that man’s pride and the whole family got to pay it. Other prejudices cost us too, and here is a much bigger and darker story about one such bill.
Why lip gloss is relevant again. Look, I’m open to being convinced on this, but lip gloss was the bane of my teenage years and I see no reason to go back down that dark road again.
Why that gene editing story in humans has so many people up in arms: the truth is we simply don’t really understand the complexity of how genes interact within us and the few times we’ve meddled with other creatures, the unintended consequences have ranged from strange to alarming.
Good. He should be anxious. I’m particularly struck by the line that states that that President wants to move away from legislation (actual outcomes) and towards politics (which I think we can safely file under showmanship). This is not a man who has ever actually been interested in governing.
Face facts, countrymen: we didn’t “miss” the rise of white supremacy and nationalism, we’ve been pointedly ignoring it or making excuses for the institutions or cultures that perpetuated it.
We must examine the notion of “adults in the room” who keep getting worn out by (in this metaphor) an adolescent-in-chief. As one writer at Vox has summarized it: “Consider the fact that Trump is now on his second secretary of state (Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo); his third national security adviser (Mike Flynn, H.R. McMaster, and John Bolton); his second secretary of health and human services (Tom Price and Alex Azar); and his second EPA administrator (Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler). He’s just nominated his second UN representative (Nikki Haley and Heather Nauert), though Nauert won’t serve as a Cabinet-level official. By Trump’s methodology of counting interim officeholders, he’s on his third VA secretary (David Shulkin, Peter O’Rourke, and Robert Wilkie) and will be on his third attorney general (after Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker), should William Barr be confirmed by the Senate. And then there’s the intra-White House turnover that has given him two press secretaries (Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders) and five White House communications directors (Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci, Hope Hicks, and Bill Shine). And the fact that Trump has removed both the chief of the FBI (James Comey) and the head of the Federal Reserve (Janet Yellen) for dubious reasons.”
Time Magazine named their Person(s) of the Year.
Final Vox piece this week, and it’s Ezra Klein’s take on Paul Ryan. It’s not kind (nor should it be): “To be clear, I am not particularly concerned about deficits right now, just as I wasn’t in 2010. But I took Ryan seriously when he said he was. I covered the arguments Ryan made, the policies he crafted, and I treated them as if they offered a guide to how Republicans would govern. I listened when Ryan said things like, “In Europe, generations of welfare-dependent citizens are hurling Molotov cocktails because their governments can no longer fund their entitlement programs. We can’t let that happen here.” Ryan’s office did not grant my request for an interview for this piece. But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, in Britain… The Prime Minister survived a vote of no confidence but was subsequently humiliated with the EU and generally continues to have the political’s world’s most poisoned chalice of a job. British politics has been wild this week.
Brexit explained through a metaphor. Come for the thread, stay for the follow up puns.
This week in Mormon news, a weirdly deep piece on defecation. Yes, seriously. There is some downright lyrical, scatological writing this this piece. How the hell do I find this stuff…
Yes, Michael Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer, but more recently he was Deputy Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee. The Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC was just sentenced to 3 years in prison for felonies committed during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) December 12, 2018
Hm. Giulianni seems like he’s looking for his next gig.
Not great for Ivanka. I mean, not surprising, but not great.