Tuesday, November 29th, 2022


Don’t Look Away

After years of our political obsession, culture wars, and a never-ending election cycle, it's tempting to look away from the latest warning signs. But don't. This stuff with Kanye is a big deal. Why? Because people agree with him and his hate loosens up the restrictions on theirs. You're sick of Trump. Rightfully so. But don't look away from that meeting with Nick Fuentes. It's a big deal that adds more fuel to a movement that is already an inferno burning across America. And the realtime radicalization of Elon Musk is a big deal, too. Don't cower in the face of his anti-woke hogwash. Pay attention. If the man who has benefited more from the status quo than anyone on Earth, who has made his fortune on the credit card swipes of the very political group he now attacks, can be radicalized into believing he is a victim of a broad conspiracy against people like him, anyone can believe it.

The threat of white supremacy movements did not disappear with the 2022 election. Kathleen Belew, history professor and author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America talks about what the Fuentes dinner and other recent events mean to the (getting less) fringe movement. And in The Atlantic, Tom Nichols explains that The Authoritarian Right Is Regrouping. "Over the past week, the global right has shown signs of trying to regroup after taking a hiding everywhere from the ballot box to the battlefield. Some of it seems little more than disorganized thrashing about, such as Jair Bolsonaro's election challenge in Brazil and Kari Lake's refusal to concede in Arizona. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is trying out a bolder version of his 2016 and 2020 race-baiting strategies by hosting a dinner for an anti-Semite and a racist—a pathetic and vulgar event that in a better political environment would be treated as yet another disqualification for participation in our public life." This isn't just political posturing. The FBI has consistently said that White supremacists 'pose the primary threat' of lethal domestic terrorism.

The recent acts of public antisemitism and antidemocratic leanings are examples of how this stuff spreads and movements go from the edges to the mainstream. For a great review, watch Ken Burns latest series, America and the Holocaust. Parts of it will feel remarkably familiar. And here's a take from Michelle Goldberg in the NYT (Gift Article): Antisemitism's March Into the Mainstream. "For most of my adult life, antisemites — with exceptions like Pat Buchanan and Mel Gibson — have lacked status in America. The most virulent antisemites tended to hate Jews from below, blaming them for their own failures and disappointments. Now, however, anti-Jewish bigotry, or at least tacit approval of anti-Jewish bigotry, is coming from people with serious power: the leader of a major political party, a famous pop star, and the world's richest man."


The Body Politic

"As abortion access dwindles, America's 'parental-involvement' laws place further restrictions on teenagers — who may need to ask judges for permission to end their pregnancies." ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine on what it's like when a judge gets to decide what a young woman does with her own body. I Was Never Ready for This: How States Limit Teen Access to Abortion.


Hire Education

"To have this many workers on strike is really something new in higher education ... The willingness of these workers to bring their campuses to a standstill is demonstrating that the current model of higher education can't continue, and that the current system really rests on extremely underpaid labor." Time: How the University of California Strike Could Reshape Higher Education. Oddly, the postdoctoral scholars, teaching assistants, and graduate student researchers who have walked out are represented by United Auto Workers union.

+ "American consumers and virtually all industries could take a hit at the beginning of the holiday season if workers do strike as soon as Dec. 5. Congress could intervene and impose contract terms on railroad workers, which is what Mr. Biden is urging them to do." Biden calls on Congress to avert national rail shutdown.


Dipping Into the Kitty

"For decades, Americans' collective spending on veterinary care has been rising—it exceeded $34 billion in 2021—a sign of a broader shift in how we think about pets. Our grandparents might have found it indulgent to allow pets on the living-room couch, let alone the bed. But as birth rates have fallen, pets have become more intimate companions. (In my own household, our cat Pete is really quite insistent on taking up the full third of the bed that he believes is rightfully his.) Cats and dogs now have day cares; health insurance; funerals; even trusts, should an owner die an untimely death—a proliferation of services that implies new obligations to pet ownership, turning it into something more like parenthood." In The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang asks, How Much Would You Pay to Save Your Cat's Life? (More than your cat would pay to save yours.)


Extra, Extra

Push Coming to Shove: "It takes a lot to make a well-placed Beijing resident feel a connection to the people of far-off Ürümqi, which is home to Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The fire, the fear, and accumulated frustration have done it." The New Yorker's Evan Osnos with a good overview of the protests in China. Chinese Protesters Warily Tell Xi Jinping, "Don't Push Me." The protests have been remarkable. The clampdown might be swift. AP: China sends students home, police patrol to curb protests.

+ No Mo Arigato: San Francisco considers allowing law enforcement robots to use lethal force. More detail from Mission Local: SFPD authorized to kill suspects using robots in draft policy.

+ Unexpected Reunion: "A woman who was kidnapped as a child 51 years ago was identified through DNA and found still living in Fort Worth, her family announced on Sunday after being reunited with her this weekend."

+ Roll Out the Barrels: "This week, some of the world's best big wave surfers are in Nazaré, Portugal, home to the biggest wave on the planet ... Among the surfers is 44-year-old Matt Formston. Like his counterparts, the Sydney-born surfer has been in the water for decades, winning national and international titles and riding some of the best waves in the world. But unlike his counterparts, Formston is blind."

+ Bad Seeds: "In every interaction, Goguen's immense wealth seemed to have a gravity all of its own, a by-product of a society in which the tiny few control an obscene amount of money and more and more people struggle to get by. In this setting, when people meet a billionaire, many see only an opportunity to cash in. The billionaire, in turn, starts to believe that enough money can make any problem disappear. And who's to say, in the end, that either side is entirely wrong?" Trust me, you won't know what to see after reading Ken Silverstein's piece in NY Mag. Seed Money: How one billionaire with a savior complex and a voracious sexual appetite got conned by his best friend, who saw him as the perfect mark.


Bottom of the News

Lawmakers in Harrisburg set aside $5 million in tax breaks for Pennsylvania filmmakers. So how did M. Night Shyamalan get all of it?

+ It's indie movie awards season. Which means it's Adam Sandler acceptance speech season.