February 10, 2017

Three down, 205 to go…


Another week, everyone.

There’s cause for gladness. For now, the federal judiciary is holding up, and the constitutional principles most directly under assault from the Turnip Administration are being defended. (Thanks, Washington. Thanks, Minnesota. Thanks, ACLU.) In the senate, world-class jerk Mitch McConnell used a point of order to silence Elizabeth Warren by condemning the words of civil rights hero Coretta Scott King, accidentally giving the Resistance its next great slogan: “Nevertheless, she persisted.” We are gaining steam.

This isn’t by a longshot to pretend that it’s been a week of great news. The state of national affairs is, to quote Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, demoralizing: the confirmations of Devos and Sessions, the insane Nordstrom debacle, the spectacle of a malevolent president who has assumed office like someone taking over the controls of a 747, in mid-air, with no training.

So, you know what to do. Resist.

In the meantime, here are some updates on recent stories, and other things worth noting:

1. Viva la Pizza! author and all-around top-notch human being Scott Wiener is up to something characteristically flavorful and excellent. As Max Falkowitz writes at Saveur, Scott—who earned his NYC-food-tour stripes as a kind of pizza Socrates—is helping start Breaking Bread NYC, a project that will distribute maps to, and lead tours of, restaurants slinging the cuisines of nations affected by Trump’s Muslim ban, in the process raising some money for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. As he told Gothamist’s Jake Offenhartz, “You know when you go to your friend’s house and eat a meal with their family, and you get this really intimate view of what they’re all about? We’re just trying to do that.”

2. A few months ago, we checked in with the great Rudolph Herzog, and his alas-more-relevant-by-the-day classic on humor under Hitler, Dead Funny. This week, Herzog wrote a terrific blog post for Foreign Policy, “Laughing All the Way to Autocracy.” Considering the risk that we’ll mistake comedy for more effective resistance, Herzog writes:

Berliners particularly loved jokes about their self-proclaimed Führer. “Absolutely everyone was telling them,” Carl Schulz, a wartime inhabitant of the German capital, told me in an interview. Yet the streets of Berlin were also the site of some of the war’s most vicious fighting. In some parts of the city, the Red Army had to literally fight house by house. If political humor helped undermine the morale of the Berliners, the effect was minuscule. Compared with the fear wielded by the SS and Gestapo, comedy dwindled into nothingness.

In fact, much of the humor—even the ostensibly satirical—may have contributed to keeping the regime in power.

Read the whole piece here.

Tom Raworth, indulging in some prop comedy for a reading at UC Berkeley

3. The other week, we wrote about British poet Tom Raworth, who had announced he was dying. Late Wednesday, American poet Charles Bernstein confirmed on social media, Raworth let go peacefully at home, surrounded by family. His wife Val called it “a release from his sufferings.” The Poetry Foundation has written a wonderful obituary, remembering Raworth as “a funny, warm, sprightly gentleman, who seemed to know exactly how we he wanted to live.” In his final weeks, rumors that the candle had gone out erupted several times, only to prove untrue, leading Bernstein to observe, “The intensity of the vigil is the measure of how much he meant to both those who knew him and those who know him by his work.”

4. US Customs and Border Protection is confiscating poetry books, and Gizmodo writer Matt Novak would like to know why. In a column published last Wednesday, he notes that “poem books” were enumerated among the entries of an official list of contraband items seized in Florida by CBP this summer. When he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to know more about the seized poems, all he got back was an earful of bullshit. “I’ll be filing an appeal,” Novak goes on to say, “but it should probably be noted that I’ve been getting a ton of FOIA request denials in the past week from the Department of Homeland Security. I have a feeling that FOIA requestors are going to have to fight doubly hard to get even basic information released over the next four years.”

5. So, the world is garbage. Would it help if you could spend a few minutes reading the adorable story of two scholars falling in love over a shared enthusiasm for the library of one of Williams James’s students? It would? Great news, then.

6. Happy 118th birthday of Bertolt Brecht!

And if you can:

7. Did you catch ACLU executive director, and What We Do Now contributor, Anthony Romero talking with Rachel Maddow the other night, about what it was like to have Trump steal his catchphrase, and how things are looking on the legal road ahead? Don’t worry, we got you:

8. At the present moment in America’s history, music is heartily recommended:

Here’s something to load your ears with for the hard days ahead:


We’re wishing an extremely happy ninetieth birthday today to the immensely great Leontyne Price:

And likewise a very happy seventy-eighth to Roberta Flack:


This one goes out to the attorney general:

This one, too:

This video clip of a Steve Bannon foreign policy briefing has been leaked to the press:

For everyone building the F17 strike movement: