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Get a weekly roundup of the best Substack posts, by hacker news affinity:

Top posts of the month

By hacker news affinity
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Letters from an American 38 HN points 08 May 22
I told this story here two years ago, but I want to repeat it tonight, as the reality of women’s lives is being erased in favor of an image of women as mothers…. If you google the history of Mother’s Day, the internet will tell you that Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. But “Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change modern society.
Letters from an American 27 HN points 15 May 22
An unusually warm May day had me out in the kayak today, early this year, in time to see the jellyfish bloom. I spent a while just floating and watching the moon jellies, and thinking about time and the persistence of the Earth and its creatures, and of what matters.
Letters from an American 9 HN points 22 May 22
On May 22, 1964, in a graduation speech at the University of Michigan, President Lyndon Johnson put a name to a new vision for the United States. He called it “the Great Society” and laid out the vision of a country that did not confine itself to making money, but rather used its post–World War II prosperity to “enrich and elevate our national life.” That Great Society would demand an end to poverty and racial injustice.
Letters from an American 9 HN points 01 May 22
In the spring of 1890, Republicans were convinced they would win the upcoming midterm elections. Thanks to their management of the economy, they insisted, the United States was on its way to becoming the most advanced nation in the world. Technology had brought new products to the country—bananas, for example—and upwardly mobile Americans had enough leisure time and money to celebrate weddings with special dresses and cakes, and to give their children toys on their birthday. Massive factories like that of industrialist Andrew Carnegie in Homestead, Pennsylvania, churned out steel to make buildings like Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, completed in 1885, its 10 stories making it so astonishingly high it could only be called a “skyscraper.”
Letters from an American 7 HN points 23 May 22
I am in Boston, trying to get my ducks in a row to finish a new book and to pick up threads abandoned when the pandemic hit, and I have gone a little too hard for the past several days. Turning things over to my friend Peter tonight, so I can get to bed before midnight. I always love his images of our home, but they are especially sweet when I've been way for awhile.
Letters from an American 6 HN points 26 May 22
All day, I have been coming back to this: How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so? This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself.
Letters from an American 5 HN points 25 May 22
Today, a gunman murdered at least 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. For years now, after one massacre or another, I have written some version of the same article, explaining that the nation’s current gun free-for-all is not traditional but, rather, is a symptom of the takeover of our nation by a radical extremist minority. The idea that massacres are “the price of freedom,” as right-wing personality Bill O’Reilly said in 2017 after the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, in which a gunman killed 60 people and wounded 411 others, is new, and it is about politics, not our history.
Letters from an American 5 HN points 16 May 22
Yesterday, an 18-year-old white man murdered 10 people and wounded three others with an AR-15. The shooter traveled more than 200 miles to get to a predominantly Black neighborhood, where he put on heavy body armor and live streamed his attack as he gunned down people grocery shopping. Eleven of those he shot were Black.
Letters from an American 5 HN points 29 Apr 22
It has been hard for me to see the historical outlines of the present-day attack on American democracy clearly. But this morning, as I was reading a piece in Vox by foreign affairs specialist Zack Beauchamp, describing Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s path in Florida as an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the penny dropped.
Letters from an American 4 HN points 27 May 22
One of the key things that drove the rise of the current Republican Party was the celebration of a certain model of an ideal man, patterned on the image of the American cowboy. Republicans claimed to be defending individual men who could protect their families if only the federal government would stop interfering with them. Beginning in the 1950s, those opposed to government regulation and civil rights decisions pushed the imagery of the cowboy, who ran cattle on the Great Plains from 1866 to about 1886 and who, in legend, was a white man who worked hard, fought hard against Indigenous Americans, and wanted only for the government to leave him alone.
Letters from an American 4 HN points 05 May 22
The uproar over the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade continues. You can tell just how furious the reaction has been by the fact that establishment Republicans are desperately trying to turn the public conversation to the question of who leaked the document. They are baselessly blaming the opposition to the decision—a
Letters from an American 4 HN points 12 May 22
In the last year, the Republican Party has transformed. The modern Republican Party rose to power in 1980 promising to slash government intervention in the economy. But that was never a terribly popular stance, and in order to win elections, party leaders wedded themselves to the religious right. For decades, party leaders managed to deliver economic liberties to business leaders by tossing increasingly extreme rhetoric and occasional victories to the religious right. Now, though, that radicalized minority is driving the party. It has thrown overboard the idea of smaller government to drive economic growth and embraced the idea that a strong government must enforce the religious and social beliefs of their base on the rest of the country.
Letters from an American 4 HN points 24 May 22
Scandals today, and be forewarned: the first deals with sexual assault. If you want to skip over it, the next one starts about nine paragraphs down, with the word TODAY in all caps. Yesterday, a nearly 300-page report from a third-party investigation revealed that the leadership of the Southern Baptists buried sex abuse claims for more than 20 years. They ignored accusations or attacked sex abuse survivors to protect the church from legal liability, describing survivors as “‘opportunistic,’ having a ‘hidden agenda of lawsuits,’ wanting to ‘burn things to the ground,’ and acting as a ‘professional victim.’”
Letters from an American 4 HN points 03 May 22
Tonight, news broke of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right. That news is an alarm like the 1857
Letters from an American 4 HN points 21 May 22
As the hearings on the events of January 6th and the attempt to overturn the 2020 election approach, the extent of the operation is becoming clearer. Last night, lawyers for John Eastman filed a brief arguing, once again, that Eastman should be able to hide documents associated with the attempt to overturn the 2020 election on the grounds that he was working for former president Trump and so their communications are protected by attorney-client privilege. Eastman was the author of the infamous Eastman memo that provided a blueprint for then–vice president Mike Pence to throw the election to Trump, and he has done his best to delay the release of documents despite court orders to turn them over.
Letters from an American 4 HN points 04 May 22
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan’s team made a conscious effort to bring evangelicals and social conservatives into the voting base of the Republican Party. The Republicans’ tax cuts and deregulation had not created the prosperity party leaders had promised, and they were keenly aware that their policies might well not survive the upcoming 1986 midterm elections. To find new voters, they turned to religious groups that had previously shunned politics.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 07 May 22
While most eyes were on the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision this week, the Biden administration continued its work to move the country forward, demonstrating that investing in ordinary Americans creates a strong economy. Since the 1980s, Republicans have insisted that the way to establish strong economic growth is to cut business regulations and taxes in order to free up innovation and capital for investment. Rejecting the system in place since 1933 that used the government to keep the economic playing field level and protect the rights of workers, Republicans argued that the economy worked best when business leaders ran it. Government should support the employers on the supply side of the economy rather than the workers and consumers on the demand side.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 13 May 22
Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas for testimony to five members of Congress: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representatives Scott Perry (R-PA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). The committee previously invited them to cooperate voluntarily, and they refused. The committee has evidence that these five, in particular, know crucial things about the events of January 6 and activities surrounding the attempt to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 10 May 22
Weeks of speculation that Russian president Vladimir Putin would use the May 9 Victory Day celebration to announce he was escalating his war on Ukraine were incorrect. The celebration went off—subdued this year—and Putin delivered a speech, but it simply covered his usual topics. During the day, hackers broke into Russian televisions with the message: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands…. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”
Letters from an American 3 HN points 30 Apr 22
The “Ghost of Kyiv,” an ace pilot who heartened the Ukrainian resistance by shooting down a number of Russian aircraft on the first day of Russia’s invasion, was real after all. According to The Times of London, he was Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29 years old, and was killed in action on March 13.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 14 May 22
Today was White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s last day at the White House after 15 months. She set out to restore truth, transparency, and accountability of the administration to the press, and to that end she has held 224 press briefings—together, all of former president Trump’s press secretaries combined held only 205 in his four years in office. Psaki gave her first press conference on January 20, 2021, the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, telling the press, “I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play,” before answering questions.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 06 May 22
Fallout continues over the leaked draft decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the draft overturning Roe v. Wade. Tonight, in addition to the “non-scalable” fence erected last night, Capitol Police are placing concrete barricades around the United States Supreme Court. Legal commentator Joyce White Vance tweeted: “Odd that the Supreme Court is acting like they’re under assault, when it’s actually us who are under attack by them.”
Letters from an American 3 HN points 20 May 22
Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol sent a letter to Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), asking for his voluntary cooperation in their investigation. The committee members believe he has “information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” the day before the January 6 insurrection.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 09 May 22
I had not intended to write tonight despite some huge news dumps this weekend, but there are two time-sensitive stories to note. First, today First Lady Jill Biden celebrated Mother’s Day with an unannounced visit to western Ukraine, where she visited Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at a school currently being used to house internally displaced Ukrainians. Before going to Ukraine, Biden visited displaced Ukrainian mothers and children in Romania and Slovakia, telling them that she wanted to come to “say the hearts of the American people are with the mothers of Ukraine.” On her Facebook page, Biden posted: “On this Mother’s Day, my heart is with you, First Lady Olena Zelenska, and all of the brave and resilient mothers of Ukraine.”
Letters from an American 3 HN points 11 May 22
That Republicans appear to be on the cusp of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion seems to have thrown them into confusion. Since Nixon first raised the issue of abortion as a political wedge in 1972, the year before Roe (recall that Nixon characterized 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern as the candidate of “acid, amnesty, and abortion”), they have used the issue to raise money and turn out voters. But now, with the prize seemingly within reach, they are ratcheting up their demands, at least in part to continue to raise money and to turn out voters. They also need to re-create their sense of grievance against the “libs” they have just “owned.”
Letters from an American 3 HN points 18 May 22
On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, which declared the segregation of public schools unconstitutional. Today, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo, New York, where ten Americans were murdered and three wounded at a grocery store by a white supremacist on Saturday.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 17 May 22
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began her first press briefing today by noting its significance. “I just want to say a few words about how honored I am to be here with all of you today in this role, in this room, standing behind this podium,” she said. “I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts. I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of… barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders…. I benefit from their sacrifices. I have learned from their excellence, and I am forever grateful to them. Representation does matter.”
Letters from an American 3 HN points 28 May 22
The timeline for the Uvalde massacre is becoming clearer. After shooting his grandmother in the face and taking her truck, the gunman got to Robb Elementary School at 11:28 Tuesday morning and started firing into the school windows. A police officer responded to a call about the shooter but drove by him, instead mistaking a teacher for the suspect. The gunman got into the school through a door that had been propped open, and began his rampage down a hallway, ending up at about 11:30 in two joined fourth-grade classrooms, 111 and 112, with students and two teachers.
Letters from an American 3 HN points 19 May 22
Finland and Sweden have applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a defensive alliance originally formed in 1949 to resist the expansion of the Soviet Union and now standing against Russian expansion under president Vladimir Putin. Now the 30 member nations will consider the applications. They are expected to go through, although Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he does not view their applications positively, likely to gain concessions from the United States in ongoing negotiations. The timeline to membership will be shortened since the countries are at risk from Putin’s current policies.
Letters from an American 0 HN points 17 May 22
How has the federal government limited and protected free speech rights over the course of American history? How have citizens responded when Washington has limited their speech rights? And what can Elon Musk’s commentary on online free speech tell us about the difficult lines between free speech, disinformation, and political power?