Hello and thank you for reading. If you missed it the other day I sent this piece out to paid subscribers. Among other things it has a lengthy essay on the history of the lemonade stand and its role as an early introduction to the lessons of capitalism for children.
“While the stories of the iconic lemonade stand, one of the most enduring symbols of wholesome Americana we have, are supposed to be about self reliance, and initiative, and all of the other phony parables about bootstrapping we teach children under the mythology of capitalism, much like everything else in American history, the real lesson is a lot more brutal than that. It’s about beating the competition. It’s about struggling to survive. It’s about winners and losers.”
If you’d like to read that and every issue from the archives mentioned in here today please subscribe. Later this week I’ll have pieces coming on the sanitation worker strike in New Orleans and a dispatch from our postal worker correspondent on Republicans’ efforts to destroy the USPS.
This week marks the anniversary of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton which came one right after the other on a horrific weekend last summer. This piece in the Guardian looking back on the day in El Paso in particular is worth reading. I also went back and read this Hell World from that weekend to see if anything much had change which it hasn’t at least not in terms of the gun debate. Everything else has changed of course. This part from an interview I did with Patrick Blanchfield author of the book Gunpower (out later this year from Verso) stood out to me.
The pattern is all so familiar. I sort of refrained from saying too much from this time around. I’ve got my things I say every time and it doesn’t do anything. It feels like I’m performing this grief for nothing. Not to center my own experience here. But I understand that nihilistic bleak thing. I try not to think nothing will ever get better but I do feel it.
We’re taught to feel it. I struggle with depression majorly because of this shit. But this is a cultivated response we’re getting. We got exhausted by it. We’re doing it to our kids too. I get texts from teachers like, I led my class into the bathrooms they’re all standing on toilets so that if someone were to come un with a gun… We’re teaching our kids to also hop skip and jump through this shit. We’re teaching them to expect that catching a bullet is as much a part of the natural order as a fire drill or tornado. That’s a way to depoliticize. That’s a way for people to make money, and abrogate any responsibility for political action.
That’s why the thing that’s going on now with this shooting is really bothering me. People are so exhausted they’re like well somebody has got to do something about this. Why don’t we treat it like terrorism? Talk about how fucking exhausted we must be. First of all what the fuck does that mean? Do we occupy gun shops and get blown up all the time? It’s madness. What people want are the right authorities to take care of it, to double down on police.
That idea of treating it as part of the War on Terror is interesting because, not because they’re not terrorists, but because of the potential for overusing that framework.
There are so many examples of that. Yes this is clearly terrorism, but also I would argue that state terrorism is here. If you’re a black guy going to school you’re going to be stopped by police and forced to undress on a sidewalk while people look at you looking for guns. That is racial terror that happens on a daily basis. The fact that we can only call one thing terror and not the other suggests something.
You can go back to the 1960s, but I’m being very literal, the phrase gun control doesn’t show up until the 1960s because of the Black Panthers.
So what do mean by terror? The Trump shit today where he was talking about terror and hate, if you look at his tweets, and you search for the word hate, who does he actually attach hate to? Ilhan Omar, Elijah Cummings, Colin Kaepernick. Hate and terror is always racialized.
And again it’s always about doubling down. The Democrats do the terror thing pretty frequently. They did it after the Pulse shooting. The No Fly List was bullshit. They were deliberately eliding the Terror Watch List, which I would argue is also bullshit, into the No Fly List. Like 400,000 people they were going to cut away their claim to civil liberties. I’m not saying guns are the be all and end all of civil liberties, but that’s the problem. These people are going to take every opportunity they can to expand the security state and the carceral apparatus. And they will shamelessly use gun violence for this.
It’s really easy to see Democrat stepping on their dicks on this. Bungling their way into decreasing civil liberties…
100%. It would not surprise me at all if the El Paso Memorial Act is also going to have Nancy Pelosi sign a bill where CBP and ICE get a special SWAT team and the DHS is going to have a new division to deal with Antifa.
Yeah they’re going to pass something to deal with domestic terrorism and they’re just going to fuck with Antifa.
The whole point of talking about Antifa as a terrorist organization is to be able to get away with criminalizing white leftists. To make thinkable the use of technologies and systems of oppressions that are regularly employed for Muslims and black people, to leverage those same resources against white folks, or dissenting liberals.
Unsurprisingly that part about using any excuse possible — in this case regarding the uprisings against police violence — as a means to constrain the left and define their dangerousness up is proving true whether it’s through the deployment of federal agents into cities or the use of drone surveillance on protests or the compiling of dossiers on otherwise typical protestors in order to characterize them as terrorist supervillains. Just this week we saw Trump conflate protest with terrorism when defending the practice of law enforcement hiding their identity. “These terrorists, these Antifa people these people that are anarchists and agitators, when they see the name on a uniform of us, of a person, a policeman and law enforcement person they find out where that person lives and then they go and they scare the hell out of the person's family.”
Yesterday at a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee Ted Cruz brought far right propagandist Andy Ngo in front of the Senate to further muddy the waters here.
“Unless we take action, what is happening in Portland today, will soon be happening in cities across the country,” he lied. “Antifa's goal is not only to abolish the criminal justice system it is to bring down the republic itself.”
“Rioters are not protesters and protesters are not rioters,” Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli also lied. “To confuse the two does a grave disservice to the critical place for peaceful protest in our country.”
Meanwhile as Ken Klippenstein at The Nation reports “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers ‘antifa’ and attempting to tie them to a foreign power,” which will naturally broaden the means by which they can violate protesters’ civil rights and privacy and ratchet up any penalties in potential prosecution.
“They targeted Americans like they’re Al Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in the DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the ’60s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
While the law generally prohibits intelligence agencies from spying on US residents, many of those protections do not apply if the individual is believed to be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
“Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s a crucial distinction. Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person. The whole apparatus of US intelligence can be brought to bear on someone who is considered an agent of a foreign power.”
Ted Cruz who chaired the hearing explained his thoughts on the protests to Fox News earlier this week. “We’re seeing our country torn apart,” he lied. “Violent anarchists and Marxists are exploiting protests to transform them into riots and direct assaults on the lives and safety of their fellow Americans.”
“These violent riots are not spontaneous, nor are they mere coincidences. Instead, the evidence suggests they are organized terror attacks designed to instill fear and tear down the fundamental institutions of government. This hearing is designed to understand who is driving the violence, who is driving the assaults, who is driving the murders, and what their objective is,” Cruz lied.
None of that is true obviously but it’s important that they think it is because they’re going to do whatever they can to expand the definition of lawless anarchy to anyone they see fit.
All of which reminds me again of how the center and cable news in particular helped set the narrative for this reaction from the early days of the uprisings. Not that the right wouldn’t have always and isn’t always trying this shit anyway but it probably doesn’t help to have the centrist media serving a sort of consensus up to them on a platter. As I wrote in here at the beginning of June:
Picking out various groups amidst the protests who are really responsible for the destruction and don’t have their official protest papers in order is a way — especially for comfortable white libs — to disprove of the protest in more socially respectable terms. None of them would dare speak up against people of color protesting for their lives but they also really really don’t like the idea of people pushing back against the state and forcing change — they would prefer that you vote the police baton off of your skull — so they take that instinctual discomfort they are feeling and place it upon a more socially acceptable group to despise which is as it always is the left.
Relatedly here’s a new piece from Slate about one of my particular hobby horses around here which is how police lie. Police lie constantly and habitually and without remorse.
The police reaction to George Floyd’s murder, as well as the resulting nationwide protests, introduced many Americans to the fact that law enforcement officers lie. After officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement falsely claiming that Floyd “physically resisted officers” and excluding the fact that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. When Buffalo police officers violently shoved a peaceful 75-year-old man, their department falsely asserted that the victim “tripped and fell” during “a skirmish involving protesters.”
This tendency to lie pervades all police work, not just high-profile violence, and it has the power to ruin lives. Law enforcement officers lie so frequently—in affidavits, on post-incident paperwork, on the witness stand—that officers have coined a word for it: testilying. Judges and juries generally trust police officers, especially in the absence of footage disproving their testimony. As courts reopen and convene juries, many of the same officers now confronting protesters in the street will get back on the stand.
Defense attorneys around the country believe the practice is ubiquitous; while that belief might seem self-serving, it is borne out by footage captured on smartphones and surveillance cameras. Yet those best positioned to crack down on testilying, police chiefs and prosecutors, have done little or nothing to stop it in most of the country. Prosecutors rely on officer testimony, true or not, to secure convictions, and merely acknowledging the problem would require the government to admit that there is almost never real punishment for police perjury.
Jesus Christ this is a grim video man.
We’re all fucked. These poor kids.
“Teachers returned to a Georgia school district last week. 260 employees have already gone home to quarantine,” this headline from the Washington Post reads. I’m thinking about my nieces and nephews in Georgia and everyone’s nieces and nephews in Georgia and everywhere for that matter.
Not that we’re doing much better currently in Massachusetts one of the states that has supposedly handled this all very well.
I mentioned in here earlier that I had joined together with some other great writers and podcasters to start Discontents a weekly digest of the work we’ve all been up to. So far it’s off to a promising start. In case you’re looking for other people to read and listen to here’s some of the latest issue which went out on Monday reprinted below.
I don’t really have anything to share, since Foreign Exchanges and I took the week mostly off. Though if you’re a fan of Remembering Things, you might appreciate the “Today in History” pieces I do when I’m away, where we commemorate the anniversaries of things like the Korean Armistice Agreement or the founding of the city of Baghdad. Mostly though, I just wanted to thank you all for sticking with us for a second week and say I hope you’ll keep sticking with us in the weeks to come!
Last week, I wrote about Pacific Rim and how it excels at not cynically pretending to care about Important Themes it has no real interest in. This week’s newsletter will either be about Train to Busan and what it means to have something to say about class in a piece of narrative art, or it’ll be about Claire Keegan’s Foster and what we really mean by “beautiful prose.” Now is a good time to sign up because I’m going to start asking subscribers to help me figure out what my premium content should be.
This was a light week for Perspectives because I spent most of it moving to the middle of the desert in the middle of a pandemic. With that said, I did write a post about the world during the heart of the last Ice Age, and how Paleolithic people survived tens of thousands of years on the icy grasslands of the mammoth steppe while creating some of the coolest art in human history. If you’d rather think about the present day, you might check out this essay on how imperial wars always come home sooner or later. This coming week, I’ll have a new post on the first people to come past the ice sheets to the Americas more than twenty thousand years ago, and how genetics and new archaeological discoveries are changing our understanding of these folks.
Apart from being fun and occasionally life-affirming, sports are very goofy and absurd; one of the reasons why Deadspin, now Defector, was such an excellent site is because it was the one of the only mainstream sports publications capable of honestly writing about their goofiness and absurdity. Now sports are back, and deeply alien in a way the powers that be are nonetheless trying to pass off as completely normal and even a little exciting. That’s not dissimilar from the way a great many things work now, which I tried to write about.
For the latest “Wars of Future Past,” I (Kelsey Atherton) use the roll out of new AI principles for US Intelligence agencies to talk about the weird and semi-visible fight over creating principles of AI ethics for the Pentagon. Designing constraints for the computer brains that may someday hold guns is a tricky matter, and the direction of principles drafted suggests imposing even voluntary constraints is going to be a constant battle.
There’s also a reference to Leeroy Jenkins in a story about EMP fears, and a look at some of what I think is essential on-the-ground reporting from state-directed violence within the United States.
Gaby Del Valle and Felipe De La Hoz
Last week, we wrote about what’s happening with DACA, which the Trump administration tried to end and is now trying to gut by refusing to process new applications. Our working title was “DACA fuckery,” because that’s basically what’s going on, but we ended up going with a more jargony one. We also looked at what’s happening on the border, which has been effectively closed to asylum seekers since the pandemic began. “Kids in cages” has become a popular liberal refrain, but instead of incarcerating children and families, immigration agencies are now detaining them in hotels before “expelling” them back to Mexico.
Next week, we’ll be publishing a premium post explaining the legal justifications the administration used to send Border Patrol officers to crack down on protesters in Portland. You may not be surprised to hear it all originated with the War on Terror.
“It only gets worse from here,” warned Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“As the shootings continue, so will retaliation. It’s a vicious cycle that the NYPD worked hard to mitigate, but that they are no longer able and in some cases willing to do.”
Were I not willing to do my job I would get fired, but I suppose my boss has more of a spine than Bill de Blasio.
Jordan Uhl and Rob Rousseau
On this week’s episode we talked to John Iadarola of TYT’s The Damage Report about whether there’s going to be an election in November, the Joe Kennedy/Ed Markey race, how woke language is being weaponized by both liberals and conservatives, Joe Biden’s increasingly terrible platform, America’s looming cataclysmic eviction crisis, and some stuff about board games for some reason.
Also, Rob bids a tearful goodbye to his dream of viral Tik Tok superstardom, and Jordan recounts his interesting week, after his mild troll of an Army recruiter on Twitch turned into a national news story and ended up being debated on the floor of the House.
Last week, I once again got very mad about the many ways in which the leaders of certain big, influential unions continue to fail us. This time, it was the matter of how the presidents of SEIU, AFT, IBEW, and NEA all voted against a measure to add Medicare For All to the DNC’s 2020 platform (and also helped shoot down efforts to add weed legalization and Medicare expansion). I generally steer as far clear of electoral bullshit as possible, but this latest abdication of labor leadership’s duty to the working class got under my skin given the circumstances (you know, global pandemic, massive unemployment, eviction apocalypse looming).
If I was in charge, not a single penny of union money would go to any political party or politician, but since, sadly, I am not, I ended up writing an essay about how certain elected union officials seem more concerned with greasing the wheels of the Democratic Party machine than listening to what their rank-and-file membership actually wants on pressing issues like Medicare For All and expelling police from the labor movement. Knock that shit off.
Over the weekend Tobe Nwigwe released The Pandemic Project, a six track masterpiece that I cannot stop listening to. The project has depth, sorrow, hurt, anger and a tenderness that is sorely needed during this time in particular, when everything is so scary. I dropped some notes about each track in hopes that you will find the project as precious as I have.
Jay Caspian Kang, Tammy Kim, Andy Liu
This week on the podcast, Jay scuba dived the depths of Asian American TikTok to engage Andy and Tammy in a critique of gendered home-cooking videos. How far have we really come? We then get a bit more serious, with a discussion of the continuing Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Portland and lessons in coalition-building from the 1970s Combahee River Collective.
Like most weeks, Discourse Blog published stuff all over the place. Paul Blest celebrated the launch of sports blog Defector by writing about how we need to immediately cancel all sports. Caitlin Schneider, meanwhile, put out a call for the weirdest unsolved mysteries from your hometown, including a truly strange story about a giant pile of banana peels. Our biggest effort this week is a reporting project started by Sam Grasso, which is attempting to compile people’s stories of experiencing police violence during the protests these past few months. You can email us those at email@example.com.