A video and some thoughts on police reform

The last few years have been fascinating for a number of reasons, but one that’s really caught my attention is the way conservatives and their media have completely abandoned even the pretense of honesty, integrity, and a desire to make things better. I think the leaders and news outlets know that their base are so isolated from reality that they can tell them whatever they want, and they’ll just believe it. One of the best examples of this is their response to calls to defund the police. There are, of course, lies about what that phrase means, but I think those pale in comparison to the lie that the police have already been defunded, as though the slogan itself were some form of incantation that made it so. In case you’re not certain of the numbers, the agenda proposed by the Defund movement has been adopted by precisely zero cities. Some toyed with the idea, but overall, funding for police seems to have increased, rather than being reallocated to reduce the pressures that drive crime. .

These days I don’t really like the concept of “insanity”. It’s a dismissive over-simplification that I believe does more harm than good. That said, there’s a popular saying – that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I mention it because it’s brought up in the video below, and because that certainly seems to be the cycle that our leaders are trapped in. It’s as if they lack the ability to conceive of any response to unrest beyond increasing the number of soldie- sorry, police officers, and giving them more money. Never mind the killings, maimings, torture, theft, sexual assault, and harassment that all come from cops, we just have to have more cops, and then they can police the police! That always works, right? We just need the right reforms.

Well, no. Reform doesn’t work. I feel confident in saying that, because it’s been the primary approach for decades, and things have not improved. I also don’t buy that this is a new problem. It may be getting worse, with increase police militarization, and increased police protections, but cops have always been like this in the United States. Still, reform is a popular talking point, and our leaders don’t actually want the police to change in any significant way, so they will keep leaning on it, no matter how rotten it is. That’s why I want to share this video from Skip Intro, using the cop show We Own This City as a lens through which to examine police reform, and why it fails:

I also want to highlight a more blunt point made by writer Robyn Pennachia – police already know it’s bad to beat people to death. They aren’t robots that just don’t have the right programming. They are people with their own thoughts and opinions who routinely choose to beat people to death, or to shoot them, or to maim them, or to steal from them, or to plant evidence, or to rape them. They already know that that stuff isn’t allowed, and they do it anyway. Reform cannot work because police don’t want it to work, and actively fight against it. Giving them new rules won’t help, because they already break the rules that they have.

It’s worth noting that the Memphis police department enacted a series of reform measures back in 2020 following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It was part of a program called “8 Can’t Wait” that aimed to reduce police violence by requiring certain things of police officers during stops.

  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  • Require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force.
  • Require officers to give a verbal warning in all situations before using deadly force.
  • Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor.
  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  • Establish a Force Continuum that restricts the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations and creates clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic.
  • Require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians. Comprehensive reporting includes requiring officers to report whenever they point a firearm at someone, in addition to all other types of force.

Like most flavors of police reform, these measures presume that the police officers who kill do so only because they simply don’t know what else to do, because they haven’t been trained to do anything else. It presumes that they won’t use a chokehold if they are told to not use chokeholds. It presumes that if we just tell police officers “Hey, stop murdering people who are no kind of actual threat to you,” they will stop doing that. It assumes a certain amount of good faith that is not necessarily applicable to the kinds of police officers who kill people.

You know what the number one “deterrent” is to people committing crimes? It’s not long sentences, it’s not harsh prison conditions, it is certainty that they will be caught. This also applies to police officers in a systemically racist society who shoot or kill people to death.

If these officers didn’t know that what they are doing is wrong in these situations, they would also do them when dealing with rich white people. They’d act the same way when television cameras are rolling. They don’t. If this were the only way they knew to handle these situations, if all they needed was better training and more funding, they would never bring White mass murderers in alive. They do. Quite often, in fact. When was the last time police beat a mass murderer to death? Or a serial killer?

They know it’s wrong, they do it anyway, because they think they won’t get caught. They do it because power corrupts.

And because power attracts those who would abuse it.

Likewise, I think many of the rich and powerful people who advocate for “reform” already know that it won’t work, at least for the change wanted by the general public. They don’t want that change. I think that they want the police to keep the people in line, regardless of what the people want. There’s a paranoid part of me that worries that this continued ramp-up of police and the military isn’t actually about current conditions, but rather about future conditions, as the planet warms and capitalism continues to grind the masses into the dirt.

That’s why I’ve been convinced that the change we need has to come from us. We need to organize and build collective power, because the systems in place are designed to resist this kind of change no matter the cost. As with climate change, even if we don’t have a perfect solution, we sure as hell know how we could make things better, and yet “we” (the people in power) refuse to do it. All we have is us.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Common levels of traffic pollution impair human brain function.

I believe that we should replace nearly all car traffic with mass transit (free at the point of service), better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and a smattering of electric personal vehicles as needed for people with disabilities or ailments that make the former options unworkable. There are plenty of reasons for this, not least of which is giving people back the time that’s currently spent on commuting, but the biggest one is probably air pollution. I mention environmental racism fairly often, and traffic pollution is one of the ways in which it manifests. A great many major highways in the United States were deliberately built through the middle of black neighborhoods, not only fragmenting them, but also poisoning their air. New research now adds to our understanding of that poison and its effects on our brains:

A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria has shown that common levels of traffic pollution can impair human brain function in only a matter of hours.

The peer-reviewed findings, published in the journal Environmental Health, show that just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust causes a decrease in the brain’s functional connectivity – a measure of how different areas of the brain interact and communicate with each other. The study provides the first evidence in humans, from a controlled experiment, of altered brain network connectivity induced by air pollution.

“For many decades, scientists thought the brain may be protected from the harmful effects of air pollution,” said senior study author Dr. Chris Carlsten, professor and head of respiratory medicine and the Canada Research Chair in occupational and environmental lung disease at UBC. “This study, which is the first of its kind in the world, provides fresh evidence supporting a connection between air pollution and cognition.”

For the study, the researchers briefly exposed 25 healthy adults to diesel exhaust and filtered air at different times in a laboratory setting. Brain activity was measured before and after each exposure using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The researchers analyzed changes in the brain’s default mode network (DMN), a set of inter-connected brain regions that play an important role in memory and internal thought. The fMRI revealed that participants had decreased functional connectivity in widespread regions of the DMN after exposure to diesel exhaust, compared to filtered air.

“We know that altered functional connectivity in the DMN has been associated with reduced cognitive performance and symptoms of depression, so it’s concerning to see traffic pollution interrupting these same networks,” said Dr. Jodie Gawryluk, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria and the study’s first author. “While more research is needed to fully understand the functional impacts of these changes, it’s possible that they may impair people’s thinking or ability to work.”

I think it’s important to note here that what was tested here isn’t “traffic pollution”. In many ways it’s probably less damaging than what’s encountered in the wild, so to speak, because a huge chunk of that pollution comes not from the exhaust, but from the tires of the cars:

Almost 2,000 times more particle pollution is produced by tyre wear than is pumped out of the exhausts of modern cars, tests have shown.

The tyre particles pollute air, water and soil and contain a wide range of toxic organic compounds, including known carcinogens, the analysts say, suggesting tyre pollution could rapidly become a major issue for regulators.

Air pollution causes millions of early deaths a year globally. The requirement for better filters has meant particle emissions from tailpipes in developed countries are now much lower in new cars, with those in Europe far below the legal limit. However, the increasing weight of cars means more particles are being thrown off by tyres as they wear on the road.

The tests also revealed that tyres produce more than 1tn ultrafine particles for each kilometre driven, meaning particles smaller than 23 nanometres. These are also emitted from exhausts and are of special concern to health, as their size means they can enter organs via the bloodstream. Particles below 23nm are hard to measure and are not currently regulated in either the EU or US.

“Tyres are rapidly eclipsing the tailpipe as a major source of emissions from vehicles,” said Nick Molden, at Emissions Analytics, the leading independent emissions testing company that did the research. “Tailpipes are now so clean for pollutants that, if you were starting out afresh, you wouldn’t even bother regulating them.”

Exhaust is getting cleaner, and that’s good, but even if we were to eliminate it altogether, by swapping to all-electric vehicles, I don’t think it would improve health as much as the first study, by itself, might imply. I’m also irked by the authors “steps to protect yourself”, because they seem to assume an array of options that simply are not available to everyone:

Dr. Carlsten speculated that the effects could be long-lasting where exposure is continuous. He said that people should be mindful of the air they’re breathing and take appropriate steps to minimize their exposure to potentially harmful air pollutants like car exhaust.

“People may want to think twice the next time they’re stuck in traffic with the windows rolled down,” said Dr. Carlsten. “It’s important to ensure that your car’s air filter is in good working order, and if you’re walking or biking down a busy street, consider diverting to a less busy route.”

When I was commuting across Boston and Cambridge, by bike, by foot, or by bus, I didn’t really have any “low-exposure” options. I suppose it’s good advice to keep your windows up in traffic, but really none of these solutions seem particularly meaningful to me. What about people who live right by a highway, as I used to? What about people who work in cities? I suppose everyone could start wearing respirators everywhere. I feel like it’d be unpleasant, but I have been wanting our cyberpunk dystopia to better fit the genre’s aesthetic.

No, we need societal solutions, not individual ones. We need to stop making so much air pollution, and fortunately we do know how to do that. It means more mass transit, as I said, but it also means far less pressure to travel in the first place. Changing to more of a steady-state economy, and ending greed-driven overproduction would go a long way toward reducing the amount of shipping and commuting required to keep things running. Beyond that, working from home should be allowed by default, where doing so is possible. This path won’t entirely eliminate air pollution, but it would make a huge difference for many millions of people, while also improving quality of life in other ways.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Video: The history (and pre-history) of trans people

At the moment we are in the middle of an effort, by conservatives, to erase trans people from existence. Part of that effort, as with the Nazi book-burnings, is to erase any understanding of trans people, and part of that effort is pretending that they are some sort of new phenomenon. The are not. Gender has always been more complex than bigots are comfortable with, just like most other things about the world. Tristan from Step Back History does a good job of covering what we know about the history of the many examples through history of people who don’t conform to the artificial gender “binary”, from all over the world. It’s a fascinating part of who we are as a species that has been deliberately kept from most people, at least in the English-speaking world. The fascists don’t want you to know this stuff, so what are you waiting for?

Massachusetts lawmakers propose prison organ-harvesting scheme

What would you give for your life?

What would you give for your freedom?

I periodically talk about the ways in which our society coerces people into accepting circumstances that they wouldn’t otherwise. Bad working conditions, insufficient pay, extortionate rent, little time in which to actually live – that’s the default for a growing number of people. The problem is that it gets so much worse.

The U.S. carceral system is rife with abuse, torture, rape, and murder, from inmates, sometimes, but from guards often. I don’t know what proportion of the U.S. public actively likes that our prisons are such horrific places, but there’s always a pretense that justice is somehow involved. After all, we don’t explicitly sentence anyone to rape or torture, right? We just sentence them to spend months, years, or their entire lives in a place where we know, for certain, that that happens.

And at the same time, prisoners are still expected to enrich the ruling class, through charging extortionate rates for booksfood, necessities, and even contact with family and loved ones. How much would you pay to talk to your spouse after a year apart? How much to talk to your children? How much to see the face of someone who you know – or at least hope – still loves you? What if you had the option to be tortured, for someone else’s benefit, to get your freedom a little bit faster?

Would you let the government take your organs for a shorter sentence?

SECTION 1. Chapter 127 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following text after the word “petition”:-

Section 170. (a) The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections shall establish a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program within the Department of Correction and a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee. The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program shall allow eligible incarcerated individuals to gain not less than 60 and not more than 365 day reduction in the length of their committed sentence in Department of Corrections facilities, or House of Correction facilities if they are serving a Department of Correction sentence in a House of Corrections facility, on the condition that the incarcerated individual has donated bone marrow or organ(s).

(b) The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee shall consist of five members: The Commissioner of the Department of Correction or their designee who will act as chair of the committee; the Medical Director of the Department of Corrections or their designee; a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Specialist from a hospital within the Commonwealth or their designee; a representative of an organization advocating for bone marrow donations within the Commonwealth or their designee; and two appointments shall be made by the Governor to serve three-year terms and one of whom shall be a board member of an advocacy group advocating for the rights of incarcerated individuals, and one of whom shall be from the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association. The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee shall be responsible for the effective implementation and ongoing administration of the incarcerated individual Bone Marrow and Organ Donation program. The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee shall also be responsible for promulgating standards of eligibility for incarcerated individuals to participate and the amount of bone marrow and organ(s) donated to earn one’s sentence to be commuted. Annual reports including actual amounts of bone marrow and organ(s) donated, and the estimated life-savings associated with said donations, are to be filed with the Executive and Legislative branches of the Commonwealth. All costs associated with the Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program will be done by the benefiting institutions of the program and their affiliates-not by the Department of Correction. There shall be no commissions or monetary payments to be made to the Department of Correction for bone marrow donated by incarcerated individuals.

This bill has been sponsored by two Democrats from my former home state of Massachusetts – Carlos Gonsález and Judith A. Garcia, and personally I think support for it should immediately disqualify anyone from holding any power. If inmates want to donate organs, marrow, or blood, they should absolutely be able to, but tying it to a reduced sentence means that we’re now viewing organ harvesting as an acceptable punishment within our so-called justice system, same as prison time (no less than two months and no more than one year), or the fines some people are able to pay in lieu of prison time.

This is the kind of shit I’ve seen in dystopian, gritty scifi shows like Killjoys or Lexx. It’s the kind of stuff people say China does, when they want to wave away the fact that the “Land of the Free” locks up a much larger proportion of its population. I’m not sure there’s really much more to say about this. U.S. prisons are traumatic hellholes as a matter of policy, and both major parties have played a huge role not just in locking up so many people, but in ensuring that prison conditions stay horrific. They much prefer spending money on armed goons to punish you for speaking or acting out.

So I ask again? What would you give for your freedom?

The image shows Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean, with a neon glowing hat brim, a popped collar with neon light bars on the inside, and a glowing VR-lookin visor thing. The text reads, “You best start believing in cyberpunk dystopias – you’re in one”

Hat tip to @NoCopsNoMasters for putting me onto this.

Some More News: Why Is Housing So Expensive

Everyone should have a guarantee of quality housing. There’s no question that we have the resources to do it, but there’s currently a huge, politically entrenched parasitic class of people who make money off of owning other people’s homes. I’ll put in the obligatory “not all landlords” here – I believe a majority of landlords are “small”, just renting out part of the home they themselves live in, and things like that. The problem is that a majority of renters have to deal with the big landlords – the ones who own dozens or even hundreds of homes. Having a housing market of the kind that we do means that landlords’ right to profit is treated as more important than anyone’s right to shelter. When you include homes that are kept deliberately vacant, the wealth of landlords comes at the cost of the death of poor people. The presence of good landlords who do their best by their tenants doesn’t change that broader dynamic.

This is also an entirely solvable problem. We could make high-quality public housing that doesn’t have a stigma attached to it, but the people in power would rather have people die on the street. That is not an exaggeration, it is the literal truth. Multimillionaires and multibillionaires actively want people dying on the streets. They generally won’t say it directly, but that is the intended outcome of their efforts to use austerity to curb inflation – they want more poverty and desperation, because it makes people easier to control.

And they know that that means more people dying on the street. That’s an intended outcome.

As usual, Cody’s Showdy does a good job digging into this subject, as well as the extremely racist history of housing and home ownership in the United States. He also goes more into solutions, like the public housing I said we could be doing, so here – have Some More News!

Children are collateral damage in Tim Pool’s anti-LGBTQIA hate campaign

Right now, the American conservative movement is trying to erase LGBTQIA people from society. As with past genocidal projects, all of the “justifications” are bullshit, but that doesn’t stop bigoted grifters from spreading that manure around. You see, they want to destroy queer people, and they’re happy to lie to get their way. This is not a new project, but it has gotten new life in recent years, as part of a larger fascist movement and conservative backlash against the progress we’ve made on trans rights in particular, and LGBTQIA rights in general, over the last four decades or so.

This post is inspired and partially informed by a video by Lance, from The Serfs, but I dig into the subject below. I find this video useful because it shows how Pool weaves anti-queer propaganda in and around an unrelated story, to give shallow thinkers the impression that the movements for gay and trans rights, and the push for comprehensive sex education, are leading to child sexual abuse. In trying to give that impression, Pool lies, misleads, and literally cites the opinions of someone with close ties to the NXIVM sex cult, which actually did groom and abuse a great many children and adults. It’s worth keeping in mind, if you’re not already, that all of these lies and implications about Queer people serve to cover up and enable real abuse, by misdirecting people’s attention. For some, that might just be acceptable collateral damage, and for others, that is almost certainly the point. I think that going through how Pool’s video is set up, similar to what Lance does below, is useful in seeing how he furthers this agenda by association and implication.

So, to begin with, let’s look at the news from Chicago. Tim Pool builds his case around a real report of hundreds of cases of grooming, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by teachers and staff in the Chicago public school system, during the 2021-2022 school year. This is a horrifying report, and I think it does demonstrate a need for real change. I also suspect that this is more widespread than just Chicago. Schools, like churches, give a number of adults a huge amount of power over children, and while most may gravitate to those lines of work for good reasons, others do it for that access. This seems to be the case within pretty much any hierarchical institution, but children are uniquely vulnerable because they have neither the knowledge nor the power to defend themselves, within society as it exists today. There are annual reports on this in CPS, and if the one from 2019 is anything to judge by, this is a long-standing problem, and as I said I doubt it’s limited to Chicago. I don’t recommend it as a news site, but I’m going to use the Daily Caller article Pool is using in the video above. Content warning for child sexual abuse, in case that wasn’t clear:

The Chicago Board of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) annual report found hundreds of Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers were accused of adult-to-student sexual misconduct in the 2021-2022 school year.

The OIG’s Sexual Allegations Unit (SAU) opened 447 cases investigating teachers for allegedly grooming, sexually assaulting, or raping CPS students last school year, following the 325 opened in 2021. Of the open cases, the SAU closed 600 over the past 12 months, according to the OIG annual report, reported ChicagoCityWire.

SAU investigated a Chicago high school substitute teacher for grooming several students for sex and engaging in sexual acts with at least one student on school property, the OIG found.

The CPS teacher allegedly talked to students about their sex lives in person and through social media, cell phones, and “other common grooming techniques,” according to the OIG. The report stated the teacher gave the “student unnecessary passes to exclude her from class, and encouraging students to confide in him about personal problems.”

SAU claims he made “intimate physical contact with students (including kisses, sexual hugs, and back-rubs), openly solicited sexual acts (such as asking a student to recruit another student for a ‘threesome’).”

A separate SAU investigation into a former JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) staff member found he allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old female high school student. SAU found that for 12 months, he threatened to kill the student and her family if she reported the sexual abuse.

SAU reported that the JROTC staff member and the student exchanged hundreds of text messages that “were overtly sexual, including ‘I’m ready to f*** right now … I’m not gonna be gentle either.’”

Chicago Police Department arrested the JROTC staff member and charged him with eight counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to the report.

She noted that the district has taken action against those engaged in wrongdoing.

Several of the open cases involved CPS-affiliated adults exposing students to pornographic images, including one high school teacher who accessed porn while he was sharing his screen with minor students.

The report applauded the OIG’s SAU’s ability to “manage its extraordinarily high case volume without compromising the quality of its investigations.”

“Over the past four years, the SAU’s accomplishments have been significant. It has opened 1,735 cases following allegations reported by students, alumni, parents, staff, and others. Of those, it has closed a total of 1,384 cases raising concerns of adult-on-student sexual misconduct, and substantiated policy violations in 302 investigations,” the report stated.

The OIG added that of the over 1,700 cases of alleged sexual misconduct between CPS-affiliated adults and students, sixteen criminal charges have been filed.

So, that’s the situation. Because of the nature of the misinformation surrounding this issue, I think I need to emphasize that the vast majority of perpetrators of this stuff are straight, cis men. That is the over-represented demographic here, not queer people of any stripe. Likewise, none of this has anything to do with drag queen anything. I also want to draw attention to the JROTC staff member, because when I wrote about schools forcing children to participate, I linked but didn’t go into that organization’s history of this exact problem.

JROTC programs are promoted not as a pipeline to active duty but as a valuable source of adult mentoring, exposure to military discipline, and inculcation of civic values. Cadets get to drill in uniform, handle weapons, learn military ranks and history, and stand at attention when visitors come to their classes. Their instructors are military veterans certified by the DOD, but many states don’t require them to have either teaching certificates or a college degree. In addition, the DOD leaves day-to-day monitoring of their performance to school administrators busy with many other responsibilities.

That lax oversight has had calamitous results. As the New York Times recently revealed in a major investigative piece, at least thirty-three JROTC instructors have engaged in sexual misbehavior with young women in the program during the last five years. And that JROTC rap sheet does not even include the “many others who have been accused of misconduct but [were] never charged” or the inappropriate behavior that went unreported because cadets were afraid of jeopardizing their potential military careers.

JROTC accounts for a minority of students (a minority of whom go on to join the armed forces), but note again the dynamic described here – it’s adults who are put in positions of authority over children. Similar power dynamics are often part of the sexual assault of adults in the U.S. military, which is also a huge problem, church abuse, workplace abuse, and familial abuse, which seems to be the most common.

Tim Pool starts his video talking about the the systematic grooming and abuse of children, while his background was a completely unrelated article about a trans activist supposedly getting someone fired from their job at a video game company for following Libs of Tiktok (a well-known stochastic terrorist), and Ian Myles Cheong, a bizarre far-right twitter activist. I looked up the Post Millennial article Pool put up there, and it’s pretty transphobic. It also ignores the fact that the firing wasn’t just about who the employee followed, but also about at least one tweet spreading the bigoted lie that trans rights are a threat to cis women’s safety. The company, Limited Run Games, felt that this public bigotry from a community manager was harmful to their brand an image, and so they fired her.

But whether or not you think that was justified, I have to ask – why announce the headline of the article about Chicago Public Schools, over an image of a headline about a trans activist, and saying, “Now the story that is on the screen is not that story. I want to give you a few moments before we get into the darker element of what’s been going on and what’s being exposed, and I want to just briefly highlight the cultural elements that are allowing such a thing to occur.”

This has nothing to do with Chicago Public Schools. As we’ve covered, most child abuse in general is by cis people. Not trans people. Trans people have nothing to do with this, but Pool brings up the abuse headline, and then immediately switches to talking about trans people. He insist that he is “Quite literally only referring to people who are targeting children in order to groom them”, and not LGBTQ+ people. As Lance points out, Tim is pretty vague about what grooming means, and he’s called things like Drag Queen Story Time, which is literally just people in colorful costumes reading stories to children. This is the same absurd fudging of definitions that has Republicans in Oklahoma trying to outlaw all “flamboyant makeup” around children. I guess they hate clowns, too?

The article describes “grooming behavior” that includes, among other things, personal conversations with children about their sex lives. His interpretation of that is that any discussion of sex or sexuality in the presence of children is “grooming”, which allows him to segue into attacking materials designed for sex ed. He literally says, “I was told that’s just claiming that gay people exist!”, without any acknowledgement of the context in which the conversations are being discussed – sexual text conversations, adults showing pornography to children, in-person sexual activity, and so on. Again, gay people haven’t come up so far, except when Pool has interjected them. The article has, so far, only described abuse by straight cis people.

He then brings out a book called Gender Queer, which is an autobiographical book targeted at older teens and adults.

When I was a teen, I did not want to actually talk about that stuff with my parents, or with anyone. Still, it was important stuff to learn, so my parents got me a book called It’s Perfectly Normal. It’s an illustrated primer on puberty, sex, and sexuality. The version I had didn’t include any mention of trans people that I can recall, but I believe it has been updated since then, following advances in general understanding of the issue, and the social change that the current conservative backlash is angry about. The book goes out of its way to be friendly and positive, including working against the various sorts of body-shaming that exist in our society. It’s illustrated, including drawings of a diversity of nude body types, as well as some depictions of sexual acts, drawings and diagrams of genitals, and so on. That’s the topic of the book. Some of the drawings may be arousing, and some may not be, and which is which will be different for different people. The whole point of the book is to teach about this stuff that’s necessary to learn as part of growing up. Consequently, this is one of those books that is banned pretty often, because conservatives think it’s “pornographic”.

The book Pool complains about is also illustrated – it’s a “graphic memoir”, but it’s a story about a young person discovering their asexuality, and that they don’t fit the gender “binary”. I’m willing to bet that it’s less explicit than my “puberty textbook”, but that hasn’t stopped people from banning it. Why is he bringing out this book? Because the religious right has been freaking out about it, and Tim Pool, despite his pretense to centrism, is a right-wing extremist.

So, he has started out this story about abuse in Chicago Public Schools by pointing to an unrelated story involving a trans activist, and then after reading a bit of the Daily Caller article out loud, he holds up this book called Gender Queer, and says “No, I got no issue with the Queer people involved in that book. I have an issue with the behaviors they’ve engaged in, such as the pushing of this book to children, which includes pornographic images”.

And then he switches to praising Dave Rubin, a gay conservative pundit, apparently to say that Rubin’s “one of the good ones”? He says that he’s fine with Rubin being “gay married”, and having kids, because he’s teaching good values, and it’s up to parents whether their kids are raised around “this stuff”. But the schools? The schools are hiding it from parents, and grooming kids by showing them porn.

You can see what’s going on here, right? So far the only actual harm to children we’ve talked about has been done by straight, cis men, preying on girls. There was one example of a teacher showing children literal pornography, and Pool is equating that to the book Gender Queer, and the LGBTQIA movement in general. This is nothing new. It’s the same bullshit propaganda used to demonize Queer people for longer than I’ve been alive. It’s the same old insistence that anything outside of cis, straight relationships is inherently more sexual, and that any discussion of can only ever be sexual.

This is a weapon that conservatives love to use. It’s not that long ago that they were working to create a moral panic about Muslims, by declaring that they made up a disproportionate majority of “grooming gangs” in the UK. That narrative conveniently left out the definition of “grooming gang” being used by pundits – localized, in-person, grooming activities on the street that targeted white girls. You may note that this definition excludes everyone abused by churches, all online activity, all abuse by families, all abuse of boys, and all abuse of non-white children, all so that they can spin the narrative that Islam somehow uniquely encourages child abuse. You can check out this Lonerbox video for more on that particular thing.

What Pool is doing seems even more dishonest than that, though, given that he’s just choosing random stories and anecdotes relating to LGBTQIA people to associate with the CPS report, so he can say that “putting these books in school and not telling parents” is the line which must not be crossed. Pool has also called a family-friendly drag show “a grooming event”.

And then Pool cites James Lindsay to justify this leap. Lindsay has made something of a career out of accusing people of being pedophiles with no evidence. Lindsay himself, on the other hand, has (or had) a long-standing friendship with Nicki Clyne, who was part of the inner circle of the NXIVM (generally pronounced “nexium”) pyramid scheme/sex cult, which engaged in actual grooming of girls. I know it’s beyond cliché at this point, but Lindsay seems to be the epitome of “every accusation by a conservative is actually a confession”.

This is the person on whose authority Tim wants us to believe that all things rainbow are part of a vast conspiracy to groom children. This person who made accusations like that while being, at best, very close to someone involved in an actual conspiracy to groom children.

And he goes back to ranting about the Limited Run Games story, calls the LGBTQIA movement a cult (having just cited someone who was friendly with an actual cult), throws in the odd concept of “political grooming”, whatever that is, and then proceeds to lie about the concept of child liberation.

So, as I understand it, “child liberation” means giving children more autonomy in their lives, rather than treating them like they aren’t people. This means letting education be more self-directed, and it means helping them figure out how to make decisions for themselves. This is an approach that would give adults less power over children. Less power to do things like grade kids worse if they don’t like them, affecting their future, and less power to abuse them, because part of the point of child liberation is teaching children that their personal autonomy matters. Andrewism has a good video on the subject if you want to dig into it. If you prefer to read articles on the subject, Andrewism links to a number of articles on the Anarchist Free Library, digging into the age-based power dynamics in our society, and the similarities between the current default schooling system, and prison. It’s an interesting subject, and not one you’re likely to encounter much outside of anarchist circles, which makes it perfect for bigoted grifters to lie to the general public about it.

I’m assuming that most of my readers are on board with comprehensive sex ed, and early teaching of consent. In the case of the former, it’s important for children to know about their bodies – including their reproductive systems – for a couple main reasons. The first is health – knowing how their bodies look and feel normally, and knowing what “normal function” is supposed to look like, gives them the tools to know when something’s wrong, and to express that more clearly. On that same note, as they age and go through puberty, their “normal function” is going to change, and it’s generally a good idea to give them warning about this so that they’re not freaked out by it. The second is safety from other people – teaching them how all the basic physiological stuff interacts with society, and what constitutes sexual activity. This is important, among other reasons, because if you don’t do that, you’ll get ignorant twits like Tim Pool who apparently can’t tell the difference between teaching someone about sex, and actually engaging or trying to engage in sexual activity with that someone.

When it comes to teaching consent, there’s little reason for sex to come up at all. At the earliest ages, it’s all stuff like whether or not they want to hug someone, whether they’re OK with a particular game or activity – it’s about teaching that they have a right to autonomy. You may note that we’re back to language from a couple paragraphs ago. Child/youth liberation is an extension of the same principle. It’s a bit contradictory to tell children that they have a right to not participate in activities that make them uncomfortable, while also telling them that they have no right to refuse to go to school when they’re told, for how long they’re told, no matter what they’re suffering while they’re there. The current system, as a default, trains children to just accept what adults tell them – of course abuse will come out of that!

But conservatives don’t actually like autonomy, in children or in adults. They want people who will be good, obedient cogs in the machine, but they know that just saying that doesn’t look great, so they have to lie, and create scapegoats for the very real problems in our society. Teachers are abusing children? Must be the gays. Oh, the vast majority of abusers are heterosexual? It’s gay culture that’s somehow infecting everyone.

This isn’t stuff that should be taken seriously, but the unfortunate fact is that Pool has a vast audience on Youtube and other platforms, and the same narrative is being pushed by the fantatical bigot who is the most watched cable news host in the United States, not to mention the entire GOP. A couple months ago, I wrote about the absurdity that always seems to lie at the core of fascist movements, and this is no exception. These people actually are the monstrous clowns that they accuse drag queens of being. They’re loud, gaudy, ridiculous, and they are committed to destroying countless lives in pursuit of their bizarre notions about how the world should work. Pool’s video ends with him telling his viewers that these horrors are happening because they, the viewers, didn’t speak up, and didn’t act. I feel a need to say something similar, but actually grounded in history – there is a fascist movement in the U.S. right now that is working hard to bring about the extermination of anyone who doesn’t fit the roles society has assigned to them. They are coming for our Queer siblings, and it is our responsibility to speak up, and to stand up in opposition to this hate, wherever we can, and however we can.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Video: Let’s talk about Pink Floyd, rainbows, and social media…

Nothing too heavy today – I needed time for other pursuits. As some of you are no doubt aware, it was recently the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and the fact that the album art has always had a rainbow in it has some “fans” upset. I suspect it’s the same fans who get upset periodically when they find out that Rage Against the Machine “gets political”, because they apparently never know the lyrics?

I honestly don’t get how some people go through life so utterly oblivious to so much of what’s happening around them, but I guess that’s the point of all the indoctrination, propaganda, and systems of control. As Beau says, when someone’s so afraid of what’s different that they can’t stand to see a rainbow, well…

All in all, they’re just

Greener environments can improve breast milk

Since this week seems to have developed a bit of an environmental justice theme, this story seemed appropriate. Oligosaccharides are complex sugars in breast milk that help the development of an infant’s immune system, and help protect from infections. Because they’re polymers, made up of monosaccharides, there are plenty of ways they can be put together, meaning that as a group, oligosaccharides are pretty diverse, with over 200 having been identified by scientists so far. Apparently, the more oligosaccharide diversity the breast milk has, the better for the baby, and new research has shown that living around greenery increases that diversity:

The oligosaccharides in breastmilk can protect the infant from harmful microbes and reduce the risk of developing allergies and diseases. The oligosaccharides are also closely connected to the immune system and gut microbiota which also have an impact the infant’s health.

“Earlier studies have shown that genetic and biological factors, such as mother’s obesity, can change the oligosaccharide composition in breastmilk. Our aim was to study how green living environments affect the composition of oligosaccharides in breastmilk, as greener environments have been found to have a beneficial impact on immunity and reduce the risk of disease in children,” says Adjunct Professor Mirkka Lahdenperä from the Department of Biology at the University of Turku.

Closer connection to nature may affect child’s health via breastmilk

Approximately 800 mothers participated in the longitudinal follow-up study, the STEPS Study, that started at the University of Turku in 2007. The breastmilk samples were collected when the infants were three months old, after which the oligosaccharide composition was analysed at the Bode Lab at the University of California San Diego.

The residential green environments were measured at the time the child was born around the homes of the families with measures of greenness, diversity of vegetation, and naturalness index, i.e. how much human impact and intervention there has been in the residential area. The results were independent of the education level, occupation, marital status and health of the children’s parents as well as the socio-economic disadvantage in the residential area.

The study showed that the diversity of oligosaccharides increases and the composition of several individual oligosaccharides changes when the mother’s residential area includes more green environments.

“This could indicate that increased everyday contacts with nature could be beneficial for breastfeeding mothers and their children as the oligosaccharide composition of breastmilk would become more diverse. The results imply that breastfeeding could have a mediating role between residential green environments and health in infancy,” says Lahdenperä and continues:

“The results highlight the importance of understanding the biological pathways that can impact health and lead to the development of different diseases starting from infancy.”

I think a lot of the time, when I talk about environmental injustice and environmental racism, I’m focused on pollution sources like traffic, factories, and waste disposal. Another facet to that issue is the racial disparity in access to nature. The reality is that in the U.S. and other wealthy nations, the history of white supremacy has forced non-white people into neighborhoods that are worse not because of the people there (as some like to claim), but because they’re poorer, more crowded, have worse services, and have less in the way of access to “green spaces”.

Racial differences in urban greenspace availability and access are evidence-backed and analyzed in a number of studies and policy reports. A study on factors affecting access to green space conducted by Nesbitt et. al. (2019) provides some relevant findings. Areas with higher Latinx and African-American populations are less likely to have access to green space. Meanwhile, the share of white residents is positively associated with access to green space. Dai (2011) has similar results. In New York City, the average park size is 7.9 acres in predominantly Black neighborhoods compared to 29.8 acres in predominantly white neighborhoods, and the former are five times more crowded than the latter.

There is substantial evidence that suggests the disparity in outdoor space stems from systemic racism. For instance, by studying cities with a history of majority Black populations, it was found that in Memphis, Tennessee, just five percent of land area consists of parks, while in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, only three percent of the city is dedicated to parkland, as compared to the national median of 15 percent (Trust for Public Lands, 2019). Currently, due to the inequitable nature of park availability, there is an observance of disproportionate heat exposure as well. Hoffman, Shandas & Pendleton (2020) found that red-lined communities were the hottest neighborhoods in 94 percent of cities, indicating a trickle-down effect of historically racist urban planning policies. Also, analysis by Jesdale et.al. (2013) showed that Black individuals were 52% more likely to live in areas with higher heat risk and the risk increased with increasing degrees of segregation.

There are also racial disparities in the way Black people access the outdoors, best illustrated by the incident when a white woman called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher, when he simply asked her to leash her dog. This incident is singular neither in context nor in outrage. In a survey of racial minorities using a city park, Black, Latinx, and Asian users reported feeling discriminated against by other users, police, and park staff at higher rates than white users (Gobster, 2002). According to Carolyn Finney, scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, including non-white communities as stakeholders in the process of creating and programming parks can work towards addressing universally accessible park design.

Think of this as being similar to the way redlining – race-based residential districting that’s supposedly a thing of the past – can determine a child’s lead exposure, it also affects other aspects of life, including access to nature. I was fortunate, as a kid. When we lived in the Boston area, I still spent a lot of time in forests and wetlands because my dad was a botanist, and my school was near a section of conservation land. In New Hampshire, of course, I lived in the woods. When I was working as a ridgerunner in college, I ran into kids who were part of various summer programs, and for some it was pretty clear that they’d never been in a forest before. Later, living in the city as an adult without a car, I realized how hard it can be to actually get out into the country. It feels like something nobody should need to say, but access to nature shouldn’t be gate-kept; not by race, not by class – not at all.

This also, of course, fits very well with my position that our cities should be green. We should be growing plants wherever we can in cities, and designing new construction to be easier to grow plants on. Obviously the details are going to vary from place to place – the plants need to be able to survive without too much help, but I think it’s worth having an army of gardeners in every city, for the sake of making them healthier places to live.

This is also why efforts to defend urban green spaces are also important – it’s literally a matter of guarding the health of the people who live there. Destroying parks and cutting off access to forest is, as I’ve said, the opposite of what we should be doing. It’s the kind of thing that’s often treated (by the rich and powerful) as if it doesn’t relate to a population’s quality of life, but as we’ve seen, it can measurably affect people’s health during the time when we are the most vulnerable, and during which conditions can most affect our development in ways that might last for our entire lives. Aesthetics are important to us as humans, for all the denigration of art education seems to have been in vogue, in the United States, for my entire life. I would think it correct to fight for green spaces even if their only benefits were for our mental health (the notion that that’s separate from “health” is a rant for another day), but it has been shown over, and over, and over again that it goes far beyond that. As I keep saying, we are part of the ecosystems that surround us, and the sooner we start acting like it, the better off the whole world will be.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

Military indoctrination forced on U.S. children

I was in the early days of my second year of high school on 9/11. As I’ve mentioned before, I was pretty involved in political activism at the time, and the general feeling around me was that this event, with this administration, could only lead to war and authoritarianism. That means, of course that when the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 2001 was put forward in December of that year, it caught my attention. I had already gotten the standard counselling given to young Quaker men about how to establish a paper trail to prove a deep-seated opposition to war, in the event of a draft. If memory serves, I wrote “I am a conscientious objector” on my draft card as soon as I got it, and I knew plenty of people who had been of that age during the last draft for the invasion of Vietnam. If memory serves, the carveout for those religiously opposed to war was that we would be exempted from the arms and combat training, but still be required to go through other aspects of basic training, including courses in history, as told by the U.S. armed forces.

Similar laws were proposed and rejected in the coming years, but it was always there as a concern, as The War on Terror ground on. Over the years since, I’ve learned more about how the U.S. does its military propaganda, from Stargate being my favorite science fiction franchise for a long, long time, to hearing about things like Top Gun and military involvement in superhero movies. Despite all that the term “indoctrination” tends to retain more coercive vibes. It conjures images of re-education programs, or government mandated history lessons, like those in the law I mentioned earlier. Sure, there’s some propaganda through shows and movies, but it’s not like anyone is required to watch it, and we do have military programs for children, like JROTC, but those aren’t mandated either, right?

Well…

On her first day of high school, Andreya Thomas looked over her schedule and found that she was enrolled in a class with an unfamiliar name: JROTC.

She and other freshmen at Pershing High School in Detroit soon learned they had been placed into the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program funded by the U.S. military designed to teach leadership skills, discipline and civic values – and open students’ eyes to the idea of a military career. In the class, students had to wear military uniforms and obey orders from an instructor who was often yelling, Thomas said, but when several of them pleaded to be allowed to drop the class, school administrators refused.

“They told us it was mandatory,” Thomas said.

JROTC programs, taught by military veterans at some 3,500 high schools across the country, are supposed to be elective, and the Pentagon has said requiring students to take them goes against its guidelines. But the New York Times found thousands of public school students were being funneled into the classes without ever having chosen them, either as an explicit requirement or by being automatically enrolled.

A review of JROTC enrollment data collected from more than 200 public records requests showed dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75% of students in a single grade into the classes.

See, the reality is that the U.S. government makes liberal use of coercion within its borders, but it has developed a whole array of tactics to hide its hand. There are some who want more overt coercion, of course, but I think a big part of why so many people in the U.S. believe they live in the most free country in the world, is that the illusion of freedom is carefully maintained. We’re not free, but we’re taught to view the walls that enclose us as natural features of the landscape. We’re lab rats, not fully aware of the fact that the maze in which we find ourselves was made with intent.

The problem of people living without adequate shelter isn’t “just the way things are”, it’s a deliberate policy decision to keep people in line. When workers start getting too much power, the ruling class starts talking about inflation, allegedly caused by the peasantry having too much money, so they say we need to raise interest rates, and cut programs that help people (when they’re not using the debt to do that), and so artificial scarcity is maintained, and if you act out too much, well, nobody’s gonna hire you, so you could end up on the street, which for many is a fate worse than death. More than that, extreme poverty is increasingly being made illegal, so that we’re using the police – armed agents of the government – to attack, rob, and in some cases imprison people for the crime of being unable to afford to pay rent to a landlord. Remember also that New York City is planning to lock people in mental hospitals because cops decided they were mentally ill.

This is the setting in which the U.S. has an “all-volunteer” military, and in which the military is advertised -falsely- as a ticket out of poverty. Activists have pointed to this for a long time, but occasionally you’ll even get politicians admitting that they don’t want to get rid of student debt because it’ll hurt recruitment. With that being so open, I have to wonder about the motivation behind things like the decision to increase child poverty that I talked about earlier today. After all, if we’re relying on poverty to recruit young people, a reduction in child poverty could hurt recruitment just as much as a free college education.

This is where understanding the United States as an empire becomes crucial – throughout its history, the United States has pretty much always been waging war somewhere, and while U.S. soldiers aren’t particularly likely to die in combat (an early death later BECAUSE of combat and service is a different matter), it takes a lot of people to maintain constant warfare and hundreds of military bases all over the world. Add in the fact that the U.S. military tends to treat the people in its care like dirt, and you have to have something to drive recruitment.

And yet, it seems like it’s not enough, so someone somewhere decided to just start requiring children to participate in a military training and indoctrination program. I don’t know if money changed hands, or if it was just the pet project of a few fascist types in charge of schooling, but this seems to be a pretty widespread problem, scattered all around the country. There is, however, a bit of a pattern in the schools where this happened. Can you guess what it is?

A vast majority of the schools with those high enrollment numbers were attended by a large proportion of nonwhite students and those from low-income households, the Times found.

[…]

In analyzing data released by the Army, the Times found that among schools where at least three-quarters of freshmen were enrolled in JROTC, more than 80% of them had a student body composed primarily of Black or Hispanic students. That was a higher rate than other JROTC schools (more than 50%of them had such a makeup) and U.S. high schools without JROTC programs (about 30%).

In some districts examined by the Times, it was difficult to discern whether a school required JROTC or if some other reason had led a large percentage of its freshmen to enroll in the program.

In Detroit, the district said in a statement that administrators did not require students to take JROTC, although they “do encourage students in ninth grade to take the course to spark their interest.”

But two recent students at Pershing, in addition to Thomas, said in interviews that they had been required to take the class. District data showed 90% of freshmen were enrolled in JROTC during the 2021-22 school year.

Three other Detroit high schools also enrolled more than 75% of their freshmen in the class, according to district data.

Schools that have faced questions over mandatory or automatic enrollments have often responded by backing away from the requirements, as Chicago did last year.

In that case, which came to light after an article from the education news website Chalkbeat, an investigation by the school district’s inspector general found that nearly 100% of freshmen had been enrolled at four high schools that served primarily low-income students on the city’s South and West sides.

It was “a clear sign the program was not voluntary,” the report said.

The U.S. has long had a narrative that the only problem facing black people is their own “mysterious” lack of discipline, work ethic, responsibility, and so on. From what I can tell this narrative has existed virtually un-changed since the early justifications for race-based chattel slavery. It’s hard for me not to think of that when I see who was told that they’re required to go through this military program that’s supposed to teach “discipline” and “service”. It’s doubly infuriating when coupled with the federal government’s decision to increase child poverty. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing this at the same time as a rise in fascism, and I think we should be on the lookout for more stuff like this to come.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!

A video and some thoughts on school lunch and child poverty in the U.S.

Moving to another country can change how you see your homeland. One of the changes, for me, was the horrifying realization that I had under-estimated the degree to which everything in the United States is set up to funnel money to an ever shrinking number of aristocrats. I knew that that was the case, but I guess maybe I just hadn’t fully realized what that meant. Part of that change was just me learning more about politics, history, and how the world works, which wasn’t due to the move, but I hadn’t expected just how much the lack of worry over medical bills would change my life. It was your standard “weight lifted from my shoulders” situation, but I hadn’t even realized the weight was there. There have been a couple other moments like that, though not as life-changing as universal healthcare, and I also think the pandemic did a great job of forcing our rulers to show how little they valued our lives.

There were, however, some exceptions. Even as pundits and politicians ranted about how important it was for people to “get back to work”, a couple measures were passed that nearly cut U.S. child poverty in half. The bigger one of those was an expansion to the child tax credit, which gave parents monthly checks to help with the ever-rising cost of having children in the Land of the Free. The smaller one was an expansion to the free school lunch program that made it universal. Both of those are now expiring, and child poverty could be about to just about double as a result, back to where it was pre-pandemic. It’ll take some time to figure out exactly how much harm this will do, but we already know that the rough answer will be “a lot”.

For the first time in half a year, families on Friday are going without a monthly deposit from the child tax credit — a program that was intended to be part of President Joe Biden’s legacy but has emerged instead as a flash point over who is worthy of government support.

Retiree Andy Roberts, from St. Albans, West Virginia, relied on the checks to help raise his two young grandchildren, whom he and his wife adopted because the birth parents are recovering from drug addiction.

The Robertses are now out $550 a month. That money helped pay for Girl Scouts, ballet and acting lessons and kids’ shoes, which Roberts noted are more expensive than adult shoes. The tax credit, he said, was a “godsend.”

“It’ll make you tighten up your belt, if you’ve got anything to tighten,” Roberts said about losing the payments.

The monthly tax credits were part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — and the president had proposed extending them for another full year as part of a separate measure focused on economic and social programs.

But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, from Roberts’ home state of West Virginia, objected to extending the credit out of concern that the money would discourage people from working and that any additional federal spending would fuel inflation that has already climbed to a nearly 40-year high.

I think Manchin does own a lot of blame here, but it’s worth noting that Democratic leadership has proven wholly unwilling to play hardball with Manchin. They could fund pro-labor campaigning in West Virginia, which would undermine Manchin’s power, but they’re not pro-labor, so they won’t do that. They could run political ads about how Manchin’s daughter was personally involved in jacking up EpiPen prices, and how the whole family routinely hurts West Virginians for personal profit, but they don’t want to, for some reason. Whatever their reasons, they’re apparently more important than ending child poverty in “the richest nation in the world”. I’ll have another post up today that will look at one of the reasons why that might be, but regardless, the people governing our country, as a group, have chosen that more children need live in poverty and go hungry, and they have chosen to increase the uniquely USian problem of school lunch debt.

You know those snickers ads? Some person is out of place – Betty White on a construction site, or a bigfoot at a business meeting – and then they’re given a snickers, and they’re just a construction worker or office worker. The tagline is something like “you’re not you when you’re hungry”? It’s an acknowledgement of the well- known fact (as part of trying to get some of your money), that doing just about everything is harder – physically and emotionally – when you are hungry. That’s especially true for children, both because they are actively growing, and NEED those calories to literally build functional bodies, and because their perception of time is so different – an hour of a child’s life is a much, much larger proportion of their total experience than an hour of an adult’s life. Spending a whole school day hungry, and being required to focus, work, and behave, is damned close to torture in my opinion.

As usual, Beau of the Fifth Column has some good thoughts on the issue:

Let’s be clear – there is no choice here. Parents are required by law to have their kids in school, and they are required by our economic system to spend most of their waking hours working, usually for someone else’s profit, just to cover food, shelter, and other necessities. Why should they also be required to pay for food, especially at a public school? There is no good reason, but there are some bad ones. “Personal responsibility” is probably the most vapid, with some form of eugenics being the most sinister, but I think it’s more that school lunches are a way to funnel money from everyday folks to the eternally greedy upper class, and those at the top sincerely believe that they need to use poverty to motivate people to work.

I suppose that’s true, to an extent. You do need some form of coercion to get a person to spend most of their energy and waking hours working for the profit of someone else, be it the violent enclosure of the commons that created and enforced the modern default of selling labor to a rich person for survival, or the current threat of poverty or houselessness, and the lowered quality and duration of life that come with both.

I want to leave you on a rather grim note. You know how the U.S. is increasingly putting cops in schools? And how that is causing a lot of harm to kids in general, and disproportionally to black kids? Now add more hunger to that. I talked earlier about how hunger affects people, children included. Short tempers, physical discomfort, tiredness – it all comes from a lack of fuel. The body literally does not have the materials it needs for you to function well. And we are dramatically increasing the number of children who will be hungry, in schools that have been dramatically increasing their use of police to deal with the fact that children are children. It’s as if they are deliberately creating conditions that they know will lead poor, non-white, and disabled kids in particular to be criminalized for even minor “behavioral problems”.


Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!