Friday, April 16th, 2021


America the Shootiful

We're caught in a revolving door of revolvers because in America, it's always hammer time. The stories blur into each other and the outcome is always the same: the bodies pile up and the body politic does nothing. If only Congress could be as active as the shooters. Last night, I was watching the news about the last big gun violence story while seeing internet stories about the latest. We barely have time to rifle through the details of one mass killing before we're confronted by the next. And in between, we have the even bigger, but less covered, problem of people killing individuals in numbers too small to be considered mass (but they add up). Missed last night's mass murder of eight at a FedEx facility in Indiana? Don't worry, there will be sequels. There always are. This is the third mass shooting of 2021 in Illinois alone. Meanwhile, the US has reported at least 45 mass shootings in the last month. I know this is a little heavy for a Friday, but it's like they say, in America, come heavy or not at all.

+ We murder each other with such frequency that these highly publicized events don't make up a significant percentage of the wider problem. "Despite the despair about their slightly growing frequency, they are actually uncommon incidents that account for just 0.2% of firearm deaths in the U.S. each year."

+ Then there's the other kind of gun violence that's been in the news this week/month/year/etc. Video Shows 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo Had His Hands Up When A Police Officer Fatally Shot Him.

+ "This story is all too familiar — Philando Castile, Maurice Gordon, Ronell Foster, Walter Scott, Samuel DuBose, and Sandra Bland were all pulled over by police for traffic stops, which included broken tail lights, failing to use turn signals, and riding a bike with no light. All were Black people taken into police custody as the result of being pulled over for minor traffic violations. The stops allowed the negative interactions to occur that ultimately led to the victims' killings."

+ In Stockton, an innovative gun violence program saved many lives and millions of dollars. (This makes too much sense to replicate.)


Admissionary Position

"The reversal on Mr. Biden's promise to welcome in thousands of families fleeing war and religious persecution signals the president's hesitant approach to rebuilding an immigration system gutted by his predecessor." NYT: Biden will keep Trump's historically low cap on refugee admissions.

+ One other way Biden is pushing back against his own party and popular opinion: Biden's blunt opposition to marijuana legalization.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: "The numbers are staggering: over the past twenty years in Chicago, 14,033 people have been killed and another roughly 60,000 wounded by gunfire. What does that do to the spirit of individuals and community?" No one is better at answering that question and humanizing those numbers than Alex Kotlowitz. An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.

+ What to Hear: Lately, I've been enjoying the smooth stylings of Julien Baker, a young singer, songwriter out of Memphis. And I'm quite sure you will too.

+ What to Read: "But as I noted at the time, the exploitation is rooted not in a single company but in an industry that operates with impunity, and punishing one corporation may simply benefit its rivals. That's happening here. When Pornhub deleted videos, millions of outraged customers fled to its nemesis, XVideos, which has even fewer scruples. Pierre Woodman, a veteran European pornographer, told me that while I may have damaged Pornhub financially, for XVideos 'you are Santa Claus.'" The NYT's Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece that dramatically changed the game for the internet's top adult site. But the traffic just moved. The whole internet industry needs to get involved. Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos?


The Long and Short of It

"The President has framed the war's end with the upcoming September 11th anniversary, for obvious reasons, but it strikes a hollow ring of political marketing at a moment that ought to evoke sombre reflection about the tragic cost of hubris—the more than twenty-two hundred American lives lost, but also, crucially, more than a hundred thousand Afghans killed. It is the Afghan people, of course, who have paid the highest price for America's failed ambitions in their country, and who now face the bleak threat of a second Taliban revolution, or a deepening and grinding civil war, and this after more than forty years of almost continuous conflict, started and prolonged by the invasions and covert actions of outside nations." The excellent Steve Coll in The New Yorker with a short summary of America's Longest War.


Where’d Everybody Go?

"In December, LinkedIn found that cities like Austin, Phoenix, Nashville and Tampa gained the most LinkedIn members (from all age groups) based off a change in the zip codes from April 2020 to October 2020." Millennials have been moving out of big cities — here are the places to avoid now ... er, I mean here's where they are going.


Konstant Kontact

"The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday that Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate and ex-employee of Paul Manafort, 'provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,' during the 2016 election, an apparently definitive statement that neither Special Counsel Robert Mueller nor the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation made in their final reports." (I always assumed he just wanted a little light reading for himself...)


An Ax to Grind

"A member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and heavy metal guitarist on Friday became the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Jon Ryan Schaffer, the frontman of the band Iced Earth, has agreed to cooperate with investigators in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, and the Justice Department will consider putting Schaffer in the federal witness security program." (This is one guitar player who will sing.)


I’m Waiting for Graduation…

"I am occupied by meandering thoughts of what the next few months might be like. Do I want to go on a vacation? Maybe I just want a dinner reservation—what's available a couple of weeks from now? Do I want to move out of the apartment I've been sitting in for nearly every waking moment of the past 13 months? What's everyone doing this weekend?" Amanda Mull in The Atlantic: America Has Pandemic Senioritis.

+ Sadly, we have worse pandemic afflictions than that, as evidenced by this Bloomberg headline: Unused Vaccines Are Piling Up Across U.S. as Some Regions Resist.


Jeanetic Engineering

"But these days, the whispers of its decline may carry real weight as American shoppers flock to high-waisted, loosefitting jeans in droves." The NYT's Sapna Maheshwari with a bold prediction: After a Decade, Jeans Move From Skinny to Loose. (Thank god because my nuts are killing me...)


Feel Good Friday

"It's WILD, in the very best unbelievable way, what the scientists and everyone's been able to do in this year of all-enveloping darkness to invent these vaccines and produce them. Confetti, balloons, cherry blossoms and wisteria from trees, hot music from the 2000s, stars should fall on these people, forever." Katherine Miller: Everything Has Been Terrible — And That Deepens The Good, Transformative Moment Of Getting Vaccinated. (Bonus: You LIVE!)

+ Scientists in the US have developed a paint significantly 'whiter than the whitest paint currently available.' Tests carried out by researchers at Purdue University on their "ultra-white" paint showed it reflected more than 98% of sunlight. That suggests, the scientists say, that it could help save energy and fight climate change." BBC: Whitest ever paint reflects 98% of sunlight.

+ How a tiny Calif. town rallied to save its Chinese restaurant.

+ The exchange project uniting young Americans during the pandemic.

+ An end to cigarettes? New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation.

+ Winners of the 2021 World Press Photo Contest.