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Abortion Protects the Lives of Women

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2022

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

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2022

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 — 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) — 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

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2022

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” — 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

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2022

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 — 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 — now widely accepted — 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

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

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

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2022

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?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2022

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 — 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

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2022

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 — 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 — many more than perhaps we expect — 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.

A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2022

book cover of Allow Me To Retort by Elie Mystal

That’s the subtitle of a new book by Elie Mystal — the full title is Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution. From the Kirkus review:

Mystal, an analyst at MSNBC and legal editor for the Nation, reads the Constitution from the point of view of a Black man keenly aware of the document’s origins in a slaveholding nation. “It is a document designed to create a society of enduring white male dominance,” he writes, “hastily edited in the margins to allow for what basic political rights white men could be convinced to share.” As the author abundantly demonstrates, people of color and women have always been afterthoughts, and recent conservative applications of constitutional doctrine have been meant to further suppress the rights of those groups. “The law is not science,” writes the author, “it’s jazz. It’s a series of iterations based off a few consistent beats.” Conservative originalists know this, but they hide their prejudices behind the notion that the text is immutable. Mystal shows how there’s plenty of room for change if one follows a rule hidden in plain sight: “There’s no objective reason that the Ninth Amendment should be applied to the states any less robustly than the Second Amendment. The only difference is that the rights and privileges that the Ninth Amendment protects weren’t on the original white supremacist, noninclusive list.” Article by article, amendment by amendment, Mystal takes down that original list and offers notes on how it might be improved as a set of laws that protect us all, largely by rejecting conservative interpretations of rights enumerated and otherwise.

The Ninth Amendment, in case you were wondering, reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” So basically, the Bill of Rights (and subsequent Constitutional amendments) are not the only rights Americans have.

John Oliver Explains Critical Race Theory

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2022

I don’t know if it was the plan for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to become Funny Cliffs Notes for Important Social Issues in the Failing States of America, but here we are. On this week’s Last Week, Oliver explains the “manufactured panic” around critical race theory in America.

How American Conservatives Turned Against the Vaccine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2022

From Vox’s Joss Fong, a video essay on how conservatives turned against the Covid-19 vaccine in the US.

President Donald Trump presided over the fastest vaccine development process in history, leading to abundant, free vaccines in the US by the spring of 2021. Although the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines haven’t been able to stop transmission of the virus, they have been highly effective against hospitalization and death, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and rendering the majority of new Covid-19 deaths preventable.

Trump has received three doses of the vaccine. But many of his most dedicated supporters have refused, and many have died as a result. Why? Obvious culprits include misinformation on social media and Fox News and the election of Joe Biden, which placed a Democrat at the top of the US government throughout the vaccine distribution period. But if you look closely at the data, you’ll see that vaccine-hesitant conservatives largely made up their mind well before the vaccines were available and before Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

Fong makes a compelling argument for the potential genesis of conservative vaccine denial: early on in the pandemic, in February and March 2020, prominent conservative leaders and media outlets (like Trump and Fox News) told their constituents that the threat of the pandemic and of SARS-CoV-2 has been exaggerated by journalists and liberal politicians. So, in the mind of a Fox News viewer, if the pandemic is not such a big deal, if it is “just the flu”, then why would you want to get vaccinated? Or wear a mask? Or take any precautions whatsoever? Or, most certainly, why wouldn’t you be angry at you and your kids (your kids!) being forced to do any of those things?

The Overthrow of Hawaii

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2022

In this TED-Ed video, Hawaiian scholar Sydney Iaukea tells the abbreviated story of how Hawaii came to be a territory of the United States.

On January 16th, 1895, two men arrived at Lili’uokalani’s door, arrested her, and imprisoned her. The Missionary Party had recently seized power and now confiscated her diaries, ransacked her house, and claimed her lands. Lili’uokalani was Hawaii’s queen and she ruled through one of the most turbulent periods of its history. Sydney Iaukea shares how the ruler fought the annexation of Hawaii.

An Explanation of the US Interstate Numbering System

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2022

From CGP Grey, here’s an explanation of the numbering system used by the US Interstate Highway System. Here’s the basic deal, from Wikipedia:

Primary Interstates are assigned one- or two-digit numbers, while shorter routes (such as spurs, loops, and short connecting roads) are assigned three-digit numbers where the last two digits match the parent route (thus, I-294 is a loop that connects at both ends to I-94, while I-787 is a short spur route attached to I-87). In the numbering scheme for the primary routes, east-west highways are assigned even numbers and north-south highways are assigned odd numbers. Odd route numbers increase from west to east, and even-numbered routes increase from south to north (to avoid confusion with the U.S. Highways, which increase from east to west and north to south).

In-car and on-phone GPS systems have made knowing this system largely irrelevant for most drivers. I spent a lot of time in the car as a kid — summer roadtrips around the country and frequent local travel out of our rural area — and loved maps & atlases even at that age, so this was pure nostalgia for me. The video covers some of the numbering exceptions at the end (like the 35E/35W split in the Twin Cities I used to drive on often), but I would easily have sat through 10 more minutes of them.

The History of Blue Jeans

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2022

This is a short clip of a PBS American Experience episode called Riveted: The History of Jeans. It traces the origin of blue jeans back to India and Europe:

James Sullivan, Author: We’re not quite sure exactly where the fabric originated, but there are several hints: One is Dungri, India, where as early as the 17th century, they were creating a coarse cloth for workers, eventually called dungaree. There’s the Genoans of Italy, who had a certain type of sail cloth that was eventually fashioned into work pants. And there’s Nimes, France where the cloth there was known as “serge de Nimes.” Not always but very often, these various types of cloth were dyed blue. Probably to hide dirt as much as anything.

Rabbit Goody, Weaver: So, we have blue “jean” from Genoa, we have blue “de Nimes” or denim coming from Nimes but when we make it into pants in America, we end up morphing the garment into blue jeans.

When denim came to America, much of the labor to produce it and knowledge of the process for dying it blue came from enslaved people who had been working with indigo for hundreds of years in Africa:

Daina Berry, Historian: In fact we know the names of all the enslaved people that were owned by the Lucas and Pinckney family. These are generations of families. We’re not just talking about a husband and a wife, or a mom and a dad. We see grandparents on this list. They’re the ones that came from communities that dyed all kinds of cloth beautiful colors. They’re the ones that had the knowledge of indigo; they’re the ones that created generations of wealth for these white slave-holding families.

Evan Morrison, Collector: Back in the 19th century denim really dominated because it’s a strong weave. So with the rise in durable cotton goods, denim made itself the accepted second skin in terms of cloth that was put into clothing meant for laborious work.

Seth Rockman, Historian: So as American cotton manufacturing begins to sort of find its footing in the 18-teens and 1820s, mills in Rhode Island, mills in Massachusetts, mills in New Hampshire, they need a source of cotton. And the only source of cotton that’s available to make these mills economically viable is cotton that’s being grown by enslaved men, women, and children in the American South.

If you’re in the US, you can watch the entire episode on PBS or on the PBS website.

Free Masterclass on Black History, Black Freedom, and Black Love

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2022

For Black History Month, Masterclass is offering an entire class on Black History, Black Freedom, and Black Love for free.

From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.

The class includes several hours of videos about “the history you weren’t taught in school” from an absolutely incredible lineup of instructors: Angela Davis, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Jelani Cobb, Sherrilyn Ifill, John McWhorter, and Cornel West. This is a fantastic resource. (thx, neil)

Native Tribes Have Lost 99% of Their Land in the United States

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2022

A recent study estimates that indigenous people in the US “have lost nearly 99% of the land they historically occupied”.

The data set — the first to quantify land dispossession and forced migration in the United States — also reveals that tribes with land today were systematically forced into less-valuable areas, which excluded them from key sectors of the U.S. economy, including the energy market. The negative effects continue to this day: Modern Indigenous lands are at increased risk from climate change hazards, especially extreme heat and decreased precipitation.

What’s different about this study, says Deondre Smiles, a geographer and citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, is the quantification of the land dispossession:

Indigenous people have always understood the devastating effects of these policies, Smiles says. But most of their stories existed only in qualitative historical records, including hundreds of treaties, or oral histories. “The pushback you get in academia is that qualitative narratives are not robust. [Scientists often ask,] ‘Where’s the data? Where’s the hard science?’” Smiles says. “It’s right here, in this article.”

See also A New Online Archive of 374 Treaties Between Indigenous Peoples and the United States and these Native Land maps. (thx, meg)

Ten Years Since Trayvon

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2022

a collage-style illustration of Trayvon Martin

A special issue of New York magazine tells the story of the first decade of the Black Lives Matter movement: Ten Years Since Trayvon. Zimmerman getting away with murdering Martin (and becoming a right-wing celebrity for it!) is still infuriating almost a decade later. Michael Arceneaux on The Day I Quit Believing:

The day George Zimmerman was acquitted was the end of a very brief moment in which I gave America the benefit of the doubt. Six days later, Barack Obama, the man responsible for that temporary suspension of disbelief, gave a speech that drove home for me how foolish I had been.

The president acknowledged the pain many of us felt, but, ever the peddler of hope, he stressed that “as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better.”

I didn’t believe it when he said it, and it sounds even sillier to me now so many years later.

The whole timeline and package of stories are essential reading.

J Is for Jim Crow - Typography and Racial Stereotypes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2022

Ruby Font Jim Crow

For The Believer, Sarah K. Kramer wrote about a typeface called Jim Crow, how it came to be called that (its original name was Gothic Shade), and what its casual use by designers for decades means.

One of Seals’ pet peeves is “stereo-typography” — things like east Asian restaurants with brush-script logos — and in particular, he takes issue with the way designers often use “black weight” (very thick and bold) font to signify African American culture. For example, the Neuland typeface (designed in 1923 by Rudolf Koch) has been used on many covers of books by Black writers, like Richard Wright’s Native Son. One theory on the origin of the association of these black-weight fonts with Black culture is that they evoke woodblock typefaces printed on nineteenth century tobacco ephemera — an industry closely linked with slavery. Needless to say, much of this material featured racist imagery of African Americans. When Seals was contracted by HarperCollins to design a cover for Charles Blow’s The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, he definitely was not going to use a “black weight” font. Instead, he designed the cover with Ruby.

Ruby is a reworked version of Jim Crow from Tré Seals’ type foundry Vocal Type Co, which I covered here a few years ago. (thx, reed)

“It’s a Terrible Idea to Deny Medical Care to Unvaccinated People”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2022

For The Atlantic, Ed Yong writes about an idea that has gained a certain amount of traction in recent weeks as hospital systems have been overwhelmed by the Omicron surge: medical care for unvaccinated people should be limited. Yong says that’s a very bad idea:

I ran this argument past several ethicists, clinicians, and public-health practitioners. Many of them sympathized with the exasperation and fear behind the sentiment. But all of them said that it was an awful idea — unethical, impractical, and founded on a shallow understanding of why some people remain unvaccinated.

“It’s an understandable response out of frustration and anger, and it is completely contrary to the tenets of medical ethics, which have stood pretty firm since the Second World War,” Matt Wynia, a doctor and ethicist at the University of Colorado, told me. “We don’t use the medical-care system as a way of meting out justice. We don’t use it to punish people for their social choices.” The matter “is pretty cut-and-dry,” Sara Murray, a hospitalist at UC San Francisco, added. “We have an ethical obligation to provide care for people regardless of the choices they made, and that stands true for our unvaccinated patients.”

Unvaccinated people are unvaccinated for a wide variety of reasons, many of them structural constraints beyond their control. Yong connects the care of the unvaccinated to the difficulty in receiving quality care already faced by women, Black people, and disabled people:

As health-care workers become more exhausted, demoralized, and furious, they might also unconsciously put less effort into treating unvaccinated patients. After all, implicit biases mean that many groups of people already receive poorer care despite the ethical principles that medicine is meant to uphold. Complex illnesses that disproportionately affect women, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis, dysautonomia, and now long COVID, are often dismissed because of stereotypes of women as hysterical and overly emotional. Black people are undertreated for pain because of persistent racist beliefs that they are less sensitive to it or have thicker skin. Disabled people often receive worse care because of ingrained beliefs that their lives are less meaningful. These biases exist-but they should be resisted. “Stigma and discrimination as a prism for allocating health-care services is already embedded in our society,” Goldberg told me. “The last thing we should do is to celebrate it.”

That is a compelling argument and provides a necessary dose of empathy for those of us who might feel betrayed by people who are unvaccinated at this point in the pandemic. Blaming individuals for these collective responsibilities and failures is of a kind with asserting that mask-wearing and vaccination are solely personal choices rather than necessary collective actions to be undertaken by communities to keep people safer. This is the same sort of individualist thinking that has people focused on their personal “carbon footprint” instead of what massive corporations, high-emissions industries, and governments should be doing to address the climate crisis.

The Real Martin Luther King Jr

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2022

For the Guardian, Michael Harriot writes that “The real Martin Luther King would make white people uncomfortable”:

One does not have to reach back into the historical archives to explain why King was so despised. The sentiments that made him a villain are still prevalent in America today. When he was alive, King was a walking, talking example of everything this country despises about the quest for Black liberation. He railed against police brutality. He reminded the country of its racist past. He scolded the powers that be for income inequality and systemic racism. Not only did he condemn the openly racist opponents of equality, he reminded the legions of whites who were willing to sit idly by while their fellow countrymen were oppressed that they were also oppressors. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it,” King said. “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Toni Morrison’s Ten Steps Towards Fascism

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2022

In a convocation address delivered at Howard University in March 1995, Toni Morrison noted that before fascist movements arrive at a “final solution” (the euphemism used by Nazi leaders to refer to the mass murder of Jews), there are preceding steps that they use to advance their agenda. From an excerpt of that speech published in The Journal of Negro Education:

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.

Morrison then continued, listing the pathway to fascism in ten steps:

  1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.
  2. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.
  3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works.
  4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification.
  5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy.
  6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.
  7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.
  8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy — especially its males and absolutely its children.
  9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions, a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press, a little pseudo-success, the illusion of power and influence, a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.
  10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.

As I have said before, you can see many of these steps playing out right now in America, orchestrated by a revitalized and emboldened right-wing movement that has captured the Republican Party. Jason Stanley, a scholar of fascism, recently wrote of Morrison’s speech:

Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.

Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices — ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.

Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.

See also Umberto Eco’s 14 Features of Eternal Fascism and Fighting Authoritarianism: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century. (via jason stanley)

US Quarter Featuring Maya Angelou Starts Circulating

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2022

US quarter featuring Maya Angelou on the reverse side

The US Mint has started shipping a quarter featuring poet & activist Maya Angelou on it.

A writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher, Angelou rose to international prominence as an author after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou’s published works of verse, non-fiction, and fiction include more than 30 bestselling titles. Her remarkable career encompasses dance, theater, journalism, and social activism.

The front of the Angelou quarter features a portrait of George Washington (a slaveowner, I feel it is important to note) that is different from the usual image on regular quarters. The new image was sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1931:

In 1931, Congress held a competition to design a coin to honor the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The original competition called for the obverse of the coin to feature a portrait of George Washington, based on the famed life-mask bust by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The reverse was to feature a design that was to be “national” in nature.

Laura Gardin Fraser submitted a design that features a right-facing portrait of George Washington on the obverse, while the reverse shows an eagle with wings spread wide. In a 1932 letter to recommend Fraser’s design, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) wrote to (then) Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon:

“This bust is regarded by artists who have studied it as the most authentic likeness of Washington. Such was the skill of the artist in making this life-mask that it embodies those high qualities of the man’s character which have given him a place among the great of the world…Simplicity, directness, and nobility characterize it. The design has style and elegance…The Commission believes that this design would present to the people of this country the Washington whom they revere.”

While her design was popular, it was not chosen. Instead, Secretary Mellon ultimately selected the left-facing John Flannigan design, which has appeared on the quarter’s obverse since 1932.

the obverse side (with George Washington) of a US quarter featuring Maya Angelou on the reverse side

The Angelou quarter is the first in a series of quarters featuring notable American women:

Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters in each of these years. The ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts. The additional honorees in 2022 are physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, who achieved international success despite racism and discrimination.

The Angelou quarter will start circulating later this month and early next month — look for it in your change soon!

“America Is Now in Fascism’s Legal Phase”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2022

Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, writes about the recent revitalization of the long tradition in the United States of fascist movements using race & racism as tools to move towards their goals. And now with attacks on the courts, education, voting rights, and women’s rights, America is now in fascism’s legal phase.

According to the International Center for Not for Profit Law, 45 states have considered 230 bills criminalizing protest, with the threat of violent leftist and Black rebellion being used to justify them. That this is happening at the same time that multiple electoral bills enabling a Republican state legislature majority to overturn their state’s election have been enacted suggests that the true aim of bills criminalizing protest is to have a response in place to expected protests against the stealing of a future election (as a reminder of fascism’s historical connection to big business, some of these laws criminalize protest near gas and oil lines).

The Nazis used Judeo-Bolshevism as their constructed enemy. The fascist movement in the Republican party has turned to critical race theory instead. Fascism feeds off a narrative of supposed national humiliation by internal enemies. Defending a fictional glorious and virtuous national past, and presenting its enemies as deviously maligning the nation to its children, is a classic fascist strategy to stoke fury and resentment. Using the bogeyman of critical race theory, 29 states have introduced bills to restrict teaching about racism and sexism in schools, and 13 states have enacted such bans.

Something I was disappointed about on last week’s anniversary of the terrorist attack on Congress was too much emphasis on Trump’s role in what happened on that day, as if focusing on him somehow makes it possible that the rest of the Republican Party can jettison this bad seed at some point without losing face and American politics can get back to the bipartisan business as usual. This is a total fiction, and as Stanley correctly notes, this shift towards fascism is a party-wide effort that preceded Trump and will outlive him.

CDC Report Shows Steep Drop in US Life Expectancy in 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2021

The CDC recently released their report on Mortality in the United States, 2020 and this graph of US life expectancy at birth since 1950 by Christopher Ingraham dramatically summarizes the report’s main finding:

graph showing US life expectancy at birth since 1950, featuring a steep drop in 2020

That’s a decrease in life expectancy of 1.8 years from 2019. Here are some more of the report’s significant findings:

In 2020, life expectancy at birth was 77.0 years for the total U.S. population — a decrease of 1.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. For males, life expectancy decreased 2.1 years from 76.3 in 2019 to 74.2 in 2020. For females, life expectancy decreased 1.5 years from 81.4 in 2019 to 79.9 in 2020.

In 2020, the difference in life expectancy between females and males was 5.7 years, an increase of 0.6 year from 2019.

graph of the death rates in the US for 2020

The age-adjusted death rate for the total population increased 16.8% from 715.2 per 100,000 standard population in 2019 to 835.4 in 2020. Age-adjusted death rates increased in 2020 from 2019 for all race-ethnicity-sex groups, increasing 42.7% for Hispanic males, 32.4% for Hispanic females, 28.0% for non-Hispanic Black males, 24.9% for non-Hispanic Black females, 13.4% for non-Hispanic White males, and 12.1% for non-Hispanic White females.

graph of the leading causes of death in the US in 2020

In 2020, 9 of the 10 leading causes of death remained the same as in 2019. The top leading cause was heart disease, followed by cancer. COVID-19, newly added as a cause of death in 2020, became the 3rd leading cause of death. Of the remaining leading causes in 2020 (unintentional injuries, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease), 5 causes changed ranks from 2019. Unintentional injuries, the 3rd leading cause in 2019, became the 4th leading cause in 2020. Chronic lower respiratory diseases, the 4th leading cause in 2019, became the 6th. Alzheimer disease, the 6th leading cause in 2019, became the 7th. Diabetes, the 7th leading cause in 2019, became the 8th. Kidney disease, the 8th leading cause in 2019, became the 10th leading cause in 2020. Stroke, and influenza and pneumonia, remained the 5th and 9th leading causes, respectively. Suicide dropped from the list of 10 leading causes in 2020.

And from the report’s summary:

From 2019 to 2020, the age-adjusted death rate for the total population increased 16.8%. This single-year increase is the largest since the first year that annual mortality data for the entire United States became available. The decrease in life expectancy for the total population of 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020 is the largest single-year decrease in more than 75 years.

Since more people in the US died of Covid in 2021 than in 2020, I’d expect the decline life expectancy and the rise in death rate to continue.

Donations to Local Holiday Toy Drives Are Down This Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2021

My kids and I went to the local toy store yesterday to do some holiday shopping for Toys for Tots. When we took our purchases to the counter, the woman thanked us for contributing and said that individual donations are much more important this year because big corporate donations to the program were way down. She said that the toy companies don’t have excess inventory to donate (I’m assuming because of supply chain issues and a desire for more corporate efficiency).

I posted about this on Instagram and heard from folks in other parts of the country that both individual and corporate donations to community toy drives are down. A quick check of Google News reveals several articles around the country about toy drive shortages; here’s a good piece from the Associated Press:

Similar worries are being felt across the country as COVID-related supply chain snafus — produced by clogged U.S. ports, a lack of workers to move the cargo and skyrocketing shipping costs — lead to empty store shelves and higher prices on some products.

The supply chain slowdown is one of the main reasons why donations of new toys to The Toy Foundation have declined by nearly 80% in dollar value this year compared to 2019, according to Pamela Mastrota, the executive director of the group, which was formed by a toy industry trade association to act as an industry-wide charitable collective for manufacturers.

The lack of trade shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic also put a wrench in their collection efforts for the second year in a row, straining their ability to get gifts for sick, impoverished or other vulnerable children who are in need.

“It’s been a real challenge this year, and last year,” Mastrota said. “But this year especially.”

With Christmas just 8 days away, I know it’s late in the game but if you can swing it this year, consider a big donation to your local toy drive. Kids from low-income families have borne the brunt of the pandemic in America — parents/caregivers losing their jobs, erratic education, upheaval, loved ones dying of Covid, sickness and death all around. Let’s do what we can do to help give these kids a happy holiday.

But on a more long-term note (and supply chain & pandemic issues aside), programs like this should be unnecessary in a country as rich as the United States. Remember, feel-good news stories in America are often signs of societal failure and nothing is more feel-good than helping low-income kids during the holidays. Supporting programs and leaders who want to build a much stronger and more robust social safety net is essential if we want to eliminate make needless scarcity like this in America.

America Is Not Ready for Omicron

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2021

This piece, from Ed Yong, is not at all surprising: America Is Not Ready for Omicron.

America was not prepared for COVID-19 when it arrived. It was not prepared for last winter’s surge. It was not prepared for Delta’s arrival in the summer or its current winter assault. More than 1,000 Americans are still dying of COVID every day, and more have died this year than last. Hospitalizations are rising in 42 states. The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which entered the pandemic as arguably the best-prepared hospital in the country, recently went from 70 COVID patients to 110 in four days, leaving its staff “grasping for resolve,” the virologist John Lowe told me. And now comes Omicron.

Will the new and rapidly spreading variant overwhelm the U.S. health-care system? The question is moot because the system is already overwhelmed, in a way that is affecting all patients, COVID or otherwise. “The level of care that we’ve come to expect in our hospitals no longer exists,” Lowe said.

The real unknown is what an Omicron cross will do when it follows a Delta hook. Given what scientists have learned in the three weeks since Omicron’s discovery, “some of the absolute worst-case scenarios that were possible when we saw its genome are off the table, but so are some of the most hopeful scenarios,” Dylan Morris, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA, told me. In any case, America is not prepared for Omicron. The variant’s threat is far greater at the societal level than at the personal one, and policy makers have already cut themselves off from the tools needed to protect the populations they serve. Like the variants that preceded it, Omicron requires individuals to think and act for the collective good — which is to say, it poses a heightened version of the same challenge that the U.S. has failed for two straight years, in bipartisan fashion.

The main point:

Here, then, is the problem: People who are unlikely to be hospitalized by Omicron might still feel reasonably protected, but they can spread the virus to those who are more vulnerable, quickly enough to seriously batter an already collapsing health-care system that will then struggle to care for anyone — vaccinated, boosted, or otherwise. The collective threat is substantially greater than the individual one. And the U.S. is ill-poised to meet it.

Also from Yong: he recently cancelled his 40th birthday party because of Omicron and wrote about how he thought through the decision.

If someone got sick, I know others could too. A week later, many of my friends will spend Christmas with their own families. At best, a cluster of infections at the birthday party would derail those plans, creating days of anxious quarantine or isolation, and forcing the people I love to spend time away from their loved ones. At worst, people might unknowingly carry the virus to their respective families, which might include elderly, immunocompromised, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or otherwise vulnerable people. Being born eight days before Christmas creates almost the perfect conditions for one potential super-spreader event to set off many more.

As has been the case the entire pandemic, our political and public health systems are not equipped to collectively combat this virus, so it falls to individuals to make good choices for our communities. It’s a nearly impossible thing to ask to pandemic-weary folks to focus in again on making good personal choices and even harder to achieve if few are willing to do it, but goddammit we have to try.

Humans (and Vaccines!) Vs the Microbes

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2021

From Max Roser at Our World in Data: Our history is a battle against the microbes: we lost terribly before science, public health, and vaccines allowed us to protect ourselves.

Science is the foundation for our success. 150 years ago nobody knew where diseases came from. Or more precisely, people thought they knew, but they were wrong. The widely accepted idea at the time was the ‘Miasma’ theory of disease. Miasma, the theory held, was a form of “bad air” that causes disease. The word malaria is testament to the idea that ‘mal aria’ — ‘bad air’ in medieval Italian — is the cause of the disease.

Thanks to the work of a number of doctors and chemists in the second half of the 19th century humanity learned that not noxious air, but specific germs cause infectious diseases. The germ theory of disease was the breakthrough in the fight against the microbe. Scientists identified the pathogens that cause the different diseases and thereby laid the foundation for perhaps the most important technical innovation in our fight against them: vaccines.

Here’s what vaccines did for us, in three charts:

graphs showing marked reduction in cases and deaths for smallpox, polio, and measles

Even among those who accept and understand how good vaccines are at stopping disease, it’s difficult to truly appreciate just how incredible and transformative they have been. By one estimate, vaccines saved between 150 & 200 million lives from 1980 & 2018…and that’s just for smallpox. Covid-19 vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Europe and the US in the first year of their availability. Truly a miraculous invention.

Vaccine Avoidance, The Class Divide, and the Common Good

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2021

This is such an interesting article on vaccine avoidance in America by a primary care doctor & sociologist who have studied the phenomenon in America and other places. As more data has come in about the pandemic and vaccination program, the main differentiator in whether someone is willing to get a vaccine or not is class.

Over the past four decades, governments have slashed budgets and privatized basic services. This has two important consequences for public health. First, people are unlikely to trust institutions that do little for them. And second, public health is no longer viewed as a collective endeavor, based on the principle of social solidarity and mutual obligation. People are conditioned to believe they’re on their own and responsible only for themselves. That means an important source of vaccine hesitancy is the erosion of the idea of a common good.

Americans began thinking about health care decisions this way only recently; during the 1950s polio campaigns, for example, most people saw vaccination as a civic duty. But as the public purse shrunk in the 1980s, politicians insisted that it’s no longer the government’s job to ensure people’s well-being; instead, Americans were to be responsible only for themselves and their own bodies. Entire industries, such as self-help and health foods, have sprung up on the principle that the key to good health lies in individuals making the right choices.

Almost more than anything else, the pandemic has shown how damaged the US is from decades of neglect of the common good and how vulnerable we are to things like disease and political coups.

An Enslaved American in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2021

In this excellent piece for the NY Times, African American historian Martha S. Jones travels to Paris to search for the signs of someone who came to France as part of a delegation to broker a peace to end the Revolutionary War, an enslaved woman named Abigail who was owned by Founding Father John Jay.

I’ve searched for Abigail a long time now, nearly 10 years. I first puzzled over her life and death as a newcomer to Paris when I stumbled upon the city’s many tributes to American founders. Exiting the Musée d’Orsay and heading to the Right Bank across the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, with the bateaux-mouches tourist boats passing below, I met up with a 10-foot-tall bronze likeness of Thomas Jefferson, another U.S. founder, plans for his Virginia estate, Monticello, in hand.

Hiking along the 16th arrondissement’s rue Benjamin-Franklin, I ventured to the tiny Square de Yorktown to discover that the figure seated high atop a stone plinth was Franklin himself. Fresh from people-watching from a sidewalk table at cafe Les Deux Magots, once the haunt of the 20th-century luminaries James Baldwin and Richard Wright, I made my way around the corner on rue Jacob. Pausing at number 56, I read the pink marble plaque that marks the site of the Hôtel d’York, where three of the men who shaped America’s independence — U.S. Peace Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay — finalized the Treaty of Paris.

These fabled places are, I recognized, whitewashed. There is no mention of the enslaved people, like Abigail, who were bound to labor in the founders’ Parisian households. No site explains that during John Jay’s time in the French capital, while he brokered the new nation’s freedom, he also dealt in the unfreedom of others.

(thx, meg)

The Graphic Edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

book cover for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

sample page spread for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

sample page spread for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

Originally written as a Facebook post in the wake of the 2016 election, Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century went on to become a bestseller and a prescient warning on what was to come for America. Now, a graphic edition of On Tyranny has been released, designed and illustrated by Nora Krug. From Steven Heller’s piece on the book in Print:

Krug’s goal for this project was to use her medium to echo Snyder’s call for action. “While it was important to me to create images that would highlight the contemporary relevance of Snyder’s message,” she writes, “the use of historic images was clearly essential. At moments in the book that refer to a particular event in time — such as this one about Hitler’s annexation of Austria, when Austrian Nazis captured Jews and forced them to scrub the streets clean — I felt that rather than showing my own visual representation of that event, it was more powerful to feature a historic photograph because of the immediacy of the medium that would make that moment in history come to life.”

Combining Krug’s drawings with historic materials gave her the license to contrast the documentary with the imagined, the factual with the poetic, and to create a narrative tension that emphasizes historical relationships. “More importantly,” she explains, “this combination of mediums allows me to admit to the fact that we don’t exist in a vacuum, that we can only exist in relationship to the past, that everything we think and feel is thought and felt in reference to it, that our future is deeply rooted in our history, and that we will always be active contributors to shaping how the past is viewed and what our future will look like.”

You can order the graphic version of On Tyranny here but it seems to be backordered in most places.