What's Good: Jun. 18, 2021

Patriots, a powerball, and cookies.

Hello, good afternoon, happy Friday. Last week the new Ratchet and Clank game got released, and I finished my first run through it in a day, it super rules. One of my favorite reviewers gave it a perfect score; I agree. It’s beautiful and compelling and a pinnacle of the genre, and it was nice to be able to channel some energy into it.

This week my next door neighbor moved in and I took him to the brewpub and bought him a Malört shot, it was great. (Minecraft Reddit post.)

By the way, there is a ton of animal content this week, so you may need to open the full post in your browser to see all of it, or read the addendums, or whatever. It is a banner week for both animals and for content, so you should do that. I have a ridiculous number of tabs open.


I am generally of the opinion that the concept of patriotism is unhelpful and destructive; that it serves more to establish out-groups than it does to build any kind of positive coalition. But it’s hard to describe this brave decision as anything else:

Texas lawmaker Rafael Anchía was preparing to make a speech he thought would stop a draconian Republican voting bill from passing when he got a text message from Democratic leadership: Leave.

“Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building,” the chair of the Democratic caucus texted members of his party at 10:35 p.m. on May 30.

Anchía’s 14- and 17-year-old daughters had been watching from the gallery when the text arrived, along with his partner, Rebecca Acuna, who ran the Biden campaign in Texas. Anchía locked his desk and took the keys. “I got up from my chair, went over to a side rail, and there were a bunch of Republicans standing there,” Anchía recalled at a bustling breakfast stop in the Dallas district he represents. He took his plate and container of butter and jam, walking me through his path — around the butter, next to the plate, exiting closest to the men’s room for plausible deniability, straight to his car.

Democrats walked out as a last resort, ending the session before Republicans could force, and win, a vote that would have restricted voting in what’s already one of the hardest states to do it. What Anchía and others did was not without risk: Legislators can be arrested for breaking quorum like this. Such walkouts had only happened three other times in Texas history, most recently in 2003, when Democratic legislators fled the state to slow the passage of Republican-drawn redistricting maps that they said, and courts later agreed, were racist.


Here is a story about coal miners in Alabama:

Alabama is a beautiful place filled with contradictions and complexities, but there are a few things that my time there has taught me that this state holds sacred. God, football, and barbecue top the list, of course (Roll Tide!), but for a group of coal miners in Tuscaloosa County, there’s another hallowed institution perched up on that pedestal: the union.

While Alabama itself may be a “right to work” state with a blood-red Republican legislature, its labor bona fides run just as deep, and its people are no strangers to organizing for the common good. The labor movement in Alabama is tough, determined and nimble; it has to be, given what it’s so frequently come up against from anti-worker politicians and powerful corporations. This past year, a high-profile union drive at an Amazon warehouse in nearby Bessemer, Ala., captivated the nation—but really, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given the area’s grounding in the civil rights movement and its unionized industrial past. A few days after the sad results of the Amazon election were announced (and national attention turned back away from the Deep South), a small coal-mining community in the rural region between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa came together to launch one of the largest strike actions in Alabama’s recent history.

What are the archives?

It’s a murder story:

On May 14, 2018, I was led into a nondescript courtroom in Kew Gardens, Queens to testify at a murder trial. I am a historian who loves details, and the resources involved in getting me into that humdrum room to be questioned with a jury to my left, a judge to my right, and a murderer sitting in front of me astounded. An entire system of asking, telling, tracking, and filing for the grand finale of live community listening and judging: no wonder so many historians love to study court cases.

From years of obsessively watching Law & Order, I had assumed my questioning would focus on the titillations mass media devours—which was how my name was associated with the crime in the first place. My involvement with the case did not begin January 31, 2015 when the 42-year-old Croatian historian William Klinger was shot twice in an Astoria park in broad daylight and left to die. After he was declared dead in a New York City emergency room, no one had informed me because I was irrelevant to his life. Three weeks later, however, I got emails and calls because the murderer claimed I was part of why Klinger had died.

Uncritical racists

The right-wing media explosion of the last few weeks has been about “critical race theory.” This is purely concern trolling, yet another manufactured crisis:

Nearly a dozen of the Fox News guests the network has presented as concerned parents or educators who oppose the teaching of so-called “critical race theory” in schools also have day jobs as Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media personalities, according to a Media Matters review.

Critical race theory is an academic legal framework which examines the systemic impact of racism in the United States. But “critical race theory,” like “cancel culture” and “political correctness” before it, also functions as an umbrella term the right-wing movement uses to turn its mostly white adherents’ racial anxiety into political energy

In this case, a sophisticated, nationwide network of conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, and GOP officials have seized on the term and, in the words of Christopher Rufo -- a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a key player in the effort -- sought to render it “toxic” and apply to it “the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.” Republicans have proposed or passed a slew of legislation restricting “critical race theory” and hope to use it as a core part of their political strategy in upcoming localstate, and federal elections.

And it is being used as a con to rile people up and seize power:

A booby-trapped billboard. A list of demands. A conservative media frenzy.

Jeff Porter, superintendent of a wealthy suburban school district in Maine, had no idea that his community was about to become part of a national battle when in the summer of 2020 a father began accusing the district of trying to “indoctrinate” his children by teaching critical race theory.

To Porter, the issue was straightforward: The district had denounced white supremacy in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, but did not teach critical race theory, the academic study of racism’s pervasive impact.

I actually took a class on critical race theory in law school! It was great! But I can almost guarantee that it is not being taught in K-12 schools. It’s hard to even find a class on it if you go looking! Students at my law school - the Black Law Students Association specifically - spent a lot of effort trying to get it to become part of the Law School’s curriculum.

Bake sale

In last week’s addendums I included a story about how hackers got access to EA’s files. This week I have a cool (terrifying?) story for you about what let them do that:

Last week Motherboard revealed that hackers stole a wealth of data from game publishing giant Electronic Arts, including source code for the Frostbite engine and FIFA 21 game. The hackers said they did this, in part, by purchasing a cookie for $10 that let them log into an EA Slack account, and then tricking EA's IT support into granting access to the company's internal network.

Now, a representative for the hackers has told Motherboard where they allegedly bought that cookie: Genesis Market, an invite-only underground site where cybercriminals can source cookies that have been lifted from hacked computers for a cornucopia of services.


With stories like this, it’s not hard to see why people don’t trust the police:

The manager of a Manhattan Shake Shack falsely accused of serving cops poison milkshakes last year said officers forced him to make a shake in front of them, then tried to trick him into admitting he added bleach.

Marcus Gilliam, 28, told the Daily News Tuesday he and his staff were bullied and humiliated by cops last June — after the leaders of the police and detectives’ unions claimed three cops were fed bleach-dosed milkshakes at the Fulton Center Shake Shack.

“It was one of the worst feelings of my life,” the Queens resident said.


Here is a long and terrifying read about Airbnb:

The first-floor apartment on West 37th Street, a few blocks south of Times Square, was popular with tourists—so popular that a set of keys was left at the counter of a nearby bodega for Airbnb renters to pick up. That’s where a 29-year-old Australian woman and a group of her friends retrieved them, no identification needed, when they arrived in Manhattan to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2015. The apartment had been advertised on Airbnb even though most short-term rentals are illegal in New York. The city, prodded by powerful hotel unions, was at war with the company, which was listing thousands of apartments in the five boroughs despite some of the strictest regulations in the country.

It’s probably bad that there are stories about nearly every major company being “at war” with cities across the country. Seems problematic for our economy and our democracy.


Someone in a small town in Maryland won the powerball:

LONACONING, Md. — There haven't been a lot of big wins in this little town tucked between gentle green mountains in Maryland's far western reaches. Coal brought work, then took it away. The railroad meant prosperity, then stopped running. They made glass here, and then they didn't.

These days, the line of cars at the First Assembly of God food giveaway is so long that the volunteers split each box into two smaller portions to feed more families.

But over the past few weeks, Lonaconing — the locals call it “Coney” — has acquired a new shine, a glint of gold in iron country. Sometime in late January, someone bought a Powerball lottery ticket at the Coney Market, and that ticket’s six numbers won the big one — $731 million, the biggest jackpot ever in Maryland and the fifth-richest payout in U.S. history.

Pillow fight

This is just wild all around:

CHASKA, Minn.—One day in mid-May, after a rally in South Dakota to promote his new website, Mike Lindell, the pillow magnate and indefatigable election-conspiracy promoter, barreled into his company headquarters, sat himself down at a long table in a conference room he uses as a makeshift office and slid a dropper under his tongue.

The dropper was full of oleandrin, a plant extract that he touts—alarmingly, to scientists—as both a preventative and “miracle” cure for Covid-19. He squeezed.

“Look at this … I can never get the virus,” he said, near the beginning of the roughly six hours I spent with him over two days at MyPillow. “It’s impossible for me to get it.”

You deserve some good animal content

Have a good weekend.

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“Can you briefly explain how the universe works?” Pride database. Regal Wasabi. The Reign of Fred Figglehorn. Kosher ham? Pride paintbrush. No good billionaires. Shady OnlyFans founder. Manhattan DA candidate didn’t pay taxes. Gina Torres rules. Biden’s new antitrust expert. Build the best blanket forts. Garland makes no sense. New Yorker union. NYT sinks stonks. Conflicts of interest. The Ganges doesn’t lie.

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