After the announcement of John Brennan as the nominee for director of the CIA, Amy Davidson at The New Yorker asks, "What does John Brennan consider to be a 'legal framework' within which the American government can decide whom to torture or to assassinate?"
"Then the Defense Department spent nearly $500,000 to construct a war court website decorated with 'Fairness, Transparency, Justice' on each and every page that posts documents — after the intelligence agencies get up to 15 days to scrub them." More through-the-looking glass work on government censorship and secrecy from the Miami Herald's stalwart reporter covering the Guantánamo beat, Carol Rosenberg.
At The Washington Post, Dahlia Lithwick reviews Sonia Sotomayor's new autobiography: "Sotomayor’s life has been a series of high windows, casual glimpses into worlds of which she knew nothing — from television lawyers to high school forensics classes to college applications to law firm interviews to federal judgeships — followed always by a decision to jump through, to learn, to emulate."
Tara Bahrampour at The Washington Post on a new report showing that the United States spends more money on enforcing immigration laws than on all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. That money buys us enforcement actions like this one, against the mother and brother of undocumented DREAM activist Erika Andiola. By Julianne Hing at Colorlines.
The Grandma Brigade has always existed, but now it is more powerful than you could ever imagine. Lois Beckett at ProPublica with a look at Minnesota campaign volunteers who compile and update information for voter databases: "76-year-old Fran Merriman, a former high school American history and government teacher, tracks the public records of voters moving in and out of the area — something that's a lot of fun, she quips, for a 'nosy old lady.'"
"'The money he makes isn't even sufficient to pay the rent.'" From Jacqueline Charles at the Miami Herald, three years after the Haitian earthquake, a "miracle baby" and her family struggle to make it in Miami.
Powerful personal essay at The New York Times by Sohaila Abdulali: "We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtrue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims."
"Feminists talk often about 'rape culture' and how it generates impunity around sexual violence, but a chorus of strangers telling you you made up your rape or were asking for it is its own testimony." Irin Carmon at Salon on "Rape in the age of social media."
What I read from Dissent this week: Melissa Gira Grant's "Girl Geeks and Boy Kings," on Katherine Losse's memoir about the early days of Facebook.
"I am compelled to invent stories for an eight year old niece who points to the many people on my News Feed and says, 'Tell me stories about your friends'." From bilingual Indian literary journal Pratilipi, a surprising meander of an essay about Facebook and freedom by Sumana Roy, "Freedom Posts." (Via Nilanjana Roy.)
"Because every writer needs to know her audience, I investigated my bots." The the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Caitlin Donohue records her excellent "adventures in being fake popular on Twitter." (You guys would love me more if I paid $26 for 2500 Twitter followers, too, yes?)
"McCormick said she was particularly dismayed when a district staff member told her that the test's margin of error is greater than the gains her students are expected to make." An entire Seattle high school refuses to take flawed assessment exams purchased by the former superintendent of schools, who was on the board of the company that sells the exam! By Linda Shaw for The Seattle Times. (Via Audrey Watters.)
I often link to Quinn Norton's journalism, but this heartbreaking eulogy for Aaron Swartz is of a different order altogether. Here's Maria Bustillos' 2011 piece for The Awl about the federal indictment of Swartz for downloading five million articles from JSTOR, if you need a little background.
"There's an enormous continuum of experience for queer people right now. I have students who are in the most profoundly oppressed group you can possibly imagine. And then I know men who are so entitled that they have in fact more advantage than straight people because they can access two male incomes." Fascinating, wide-ranging interview by Ella Boureau at Full Stop with Sarah Schulman about her new book about Israel, Palestine, and the complex relationship of queer politics to anticolonialism.
"Among Israel's 7.9 million people, only 14-15% now describe themselves as secular Jews, whereas about 50% identify themselves as traditional, religious or ultra-Orthodox." Depressing article by Harriet Sherwood for the Guardian on Israel's slow transformation from secularism and socialism to religion and capitalism.
America, fuck yeah. "Americans die younger than others in rich nations." By Liz Szabo for USA Today.
"Before you get to see Beyoncé, you must first agree to live forever in her archive, too." Another Amy Wallace celebrity profile at GQ, and those are always worth reading.
"I really like to be left alone, honestly, and indie bookstores are often 'here is a cat and a twenty-minute lecture about how the author you are looking for is not as good as this other author.'" Funny bit between Nicole Cliffe and Edith Zimmerman about ethical considerations and the Hairpin's Amazon Associates links. (Attention, Rachel Hartman: there is a conversation about Geddy Lee in comments.)
I'm still playing on Team Rankin/Bass. Ilana Teitelbaum at the Los Angeles Review of Books with a splendidly cranky review that asserts, "finding the moments in The Hobbit film that are actually adapted from Tolkien's book can start to resemble a Where's Waldo exercise."
"Texts from Don Quixote" is excellent ("please do not stab my tea kettle"), but, wow, "The Apology" is a.ma.zing. Mallory Ortberg at The Awl.
Finally, in the self-help aisle with one of the widest-ranging intellectuals working today: Kathryn Schulz at New York Magazine with more quotable sentences than I can count, let alone quote. "The Self in Self-Help."