Wednesday, May 18, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt seven)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

When Andreas set foot on the street outside, he felt the world had been freshly painted and renovated, he no longer felt at home in it; just as you feel like a stranger when you return to your room and it’s been painted a different color. The movements of people, vehicles, and dogs were all strange and baffling to him. Particularly odd was the swarming of bicycles on a busy square, like light-colored mosquitoes in among the big buses and trams, trucks, and black-covered hackney cabs. A vibrant yellow vehicle swaggered, rattled, and surged across the square. On its side was the burning red legend: ‘Smoke Iota Cigarettes.’ It was the van of insanity. Insantiy sat inside it, surrounded by four vibrant yellow and burning red walls, and his breath wafted destructively out of the little barred windows. Strange that it’s taken me until now to see the connections, thinks Andreas. That car spreads the germ of insanity through the world. That car has driven past me thousands of times. How stupid of me! It was never a mail van! What would the post office be doing with Iota cigarettes? What does the post office care about what cigarettes people smoke?



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt six)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

‘Can we talk about it tomorrow?’ said Andreas.

‘You’re a fool,’ said Croaky. ‘You’ve done everything wrong. If I was you, I’d have sued the gentleman. You just need to know the ropes. I would have beaten him up and then sued him. What did he look like? Maybe I’ll run into him sometime. The world is round and not all that big.’



Monday, May 16, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt five)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

How long has it been that we could no longer set one foot silently in front of the other? Each one of our strides resounds and echoes. Our approach is noisy, and our going away is a clatter. We are forever surrounded by din. The crutch punches holes in our thoughts. People on two legs overtake us.

The two-legged are our enemies. The gentleman on the platform with the squishy nose has two legs. The rowdy conductor has two legs. The disrespectful policeman has two legs. The police inspector with the pointy chin has two legs. Katharina has two legs. The apple-checked Death who called for Mooli has two legs. All the ‘heathens’ have two legs.



Sunday, May 15, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt four)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

Luigi Bernotat seemed to have been waiting for the question. Like an actor hearing his cue, he embarked slowly and confidently on a speech, with pauses for effect and occasional very rapid passages for contrast, and his voice so compelled its listener that after a short time he was only listening to the rising and falling tone, without thinking of interrupting.

‘I suppose,’ said Luigi Bernotat, ‘you take me for a blackmailer? Ach, what else could you think? People of your sort are bound to believe that every man’s honor has its price. Well, mine doesn’t! Not mine, Herr Arnold. You yourself will admit the rashness of what you attempted. There are still courts, thankfully. You never imagined an artist would be so persnickety. You’d never have laid a finger on the betrothed of a business associate of yours, or a lawyer’s, or a student’s or an officer’s. I mean to teach you that an artist’s fiancée is not there for the taking either. I might have challenged you to a duel, but for the fact that I belong to an anti-dueling society. And don’t make the mistake of supposing I’m a coward. I have a reputation. You will have heard of Martin Popovics, the wind artist. I slapped his face twice for a stupid joke he made. I’m an amateur boxer. As you see, I’m not a coward. But I won’t betray my principles either. The most important thing in life is to be true to oneself. Now you be true to yourself, and take the consequences!



Saturday, May 14, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt three)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

The street is our enemy. It really is as it appears to us, sheer and uphill. We only don’t notice it when we stride along it. In winter, through – so the newspapers tell us – the porters and shop attendants, the ones who chase us out of buildings and courtyards, and throw hard words after us, forget to strew ashes or sand on the ice, and we fall, robbed of our mobility by the cold.



Friday, May 13, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt two)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

There was gruel, as there always was on Sundays. The invalids intoned their regular Sunday complaint: gruel is boring. But Andreas didn’t find it at all boring. He raised the bowl to his lips and drank it down, having vainly trawled through it with his spoon a couple of times. The others looked on, and hesistantly followed his example. He kept the bowl at his lips a long time, and peered over the edge of it at his comrades. He saw that they liked the gruel, too, and their complaining had been all for show. They’re heathens! crowed Andres to himself, and he put his bowl down.

The dried vegetables, which the others called ‘barbed wire,’ were less to his liking. Nevertheless, he finished his plate. It gave him the satisfying feeling of having done his duty, as though he had polished up his rusty rifle. He regretted that there was no NCO on hand to inspect the plates. His plate was as clean as his conscience. A sunbeam struck the china, and it gleamed. It looked like a check mark from Heaven.



Thursday, May 12, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt one)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

Only Andreas Pum was content with things as they were. He had lost a leg and been given a medal. There were many who had no medal, even though they had lost more than merely a leg. They had lost both arms or both legs. Or they would be bedridden for the rest of their lives, because there was something the matter with their spinal fluid. Andreas Pum rejoiced when he saw the sufferings of the others.

He believed in a just god. One who handled out shrapnel, amputations, and medals to the deserving. Viewed in the correct light, the loss of a leg wasn’t so very bad, and the joy of receiving a medal was considerable. An invalid might enjoy the respect of the world. An invalid with a medal could depend on that of the government.



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt ten)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

Returning to the kitchen, Viktor ate two boiled eggs, drank tea, and got out the typewriter from under the table. Sticking out of it was an unfinished obelisk on a certain Bondarenko, Director of Broadway Private Funeral Services. He smiled at the bitter irony of it. He could imagine how professional his funeral would be, with colleagues standing decorously beside a splendid, gilt-handled coffin.



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt nine)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

As before, Nina kept Sonya amused during the day, sometimes at home, sometimes out and about, leaving Viktor on his own. But at night they were reunited, and knowing that neither love nor passion came into it, he still found arms and body anticipating that time with eagerness. Embracing, caressing Nina, making love, he became oblivious of himself. The warmth of her body seemed to be that very spring he so looked forward to. And then, in the small hours, with Nina asleep and breathing gently, he lay open-eyed, with the curiously comfortable sensation of leading an ordered, normal life–for which the essential requisites: wife, child, pet penguin, were present; and obviously artificial as this foursome was, Viktor shut his eyes to this fact for the sake of his feeling of comfort and a temporary illusion of happiness. But who could say? Maybe his happiness was not as illusory as the sober thoughts of morning suggested. But what, at night, were the thoughts of the morning? The very alternation of nocturnal happiness with morning common sense, and the constancy of it, seemed to prove that he was, at one and the same time, both happy and clear-thinking. So that all was well and life worth living.



Monday, May 9, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt eight)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

The thaw had made the pavements treacherous, and on his way to the October Hospital he had several falls, the last of them on the steps of Oncology.

Ward 5, which he located unaided, was huge, like a school gymnasium. To some extent, and probably by reason of the strict alternation of beds and bedside tables, it was like a barracks. Not a nurse was to be seen. A sour medicinal odour pervaded the place. Some beds were screened off.

After a good look round he spotted Pidpaly, lying staring at the ceiling, on a bed by a window. His head seemed to have shrunk.



Sunday, May 8, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt seven)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

The year that was ending had brought much that was strange into his life. And it was ending strangely, engendering mixed feelings and thoughts. Loneliness had given way to a kind of semi-loneliness, a kind of semi-dependence. His own sluggish life force had borne him as on a wave to a strange island, where suddenly he had acquired responsibilities and money to discharge them. Remaining, in the process, remote from events and even from life itself, he had made no effort to grasp what was taking place around him. Until recently, with the arrival of Sonya. And even now, life around him was still dangerously unfathomable, as if he had missed the actual moment when the nature of events might have been fathomed.

His world was now him, Penguin Misha and Sonya, but so vulnerable did it seem, this little world, that should anything happen, it would be beyond his power to protect it. Not for lack of a weapon or karate skills, but simply because, containing no genuine attachment, no sense of unity, no woman, it was too ready to crumble. Sonya was someone else’s little girl temporarily in his care, his penguin was sickly and sad, and under no obligation to show gratitude doggy-fashion, wagging his tail after fresh-frozen fish.



Saturday, May 7, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt six)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

With this batch completed, he was struck for the first time by the thought that only one of his obituaries–an unplanned one-had had as subject an unsullied victim, with no fact or hint suggestive of a dubious past. Yuliya Parkhomenko, the singer, was who he had in mind. But now he had his doubts. He recalled the allusion to involvement in the disappearance of another artiste … And her love for the late Yakornitsky … No. The pure and sinless did not exist, or else died unnoticed and with no obituary. The idea seemed persuasive. Those who merited obituaries had usually achieved things, fought for their ideals, and when locked in battle, it wasn’t easy to remain entirely honest and upright. Today’s battles were all for material gain, anyway. The crazy idealist was extinct–-survived by the crazy pragmatist …



Friday, May 6, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt five)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

The other papers, he noticed, devoted far less space to the war than Capital News. Against that, there was a little more about the death of the singer, whose body had been discovered in the early hours at the lower funicular station. She had been strangled with a leather belt. Furthermore, her architect husband had vanished and their flat was in disorder, having evidently been ransacked in search of something.

Viktor pondered. The singer’s death had, on the face of it, nothing to do with clan warfare. A completely extraneous crime, in fact. The missing husband might have had a hand in it. And--the thought horrified him-–so might he, having referred to her in his Yakornitsky obituary. He had not named her, of course, but for many a nod was as good as a wink, and that might have been the last straw for hubby …



Thursday, May 5, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt four)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

Working from home, he had lost any sense of distinction between working and non-working days: working if he felt like it, or not, if he didn’t. Mostly though, he did feel like it. It was just that he had nothing further to work on. As to writing stories, starting a novella or even a novel, that had not come off. It was as if he had found his genre and was so constrained by its limits that even when not writing obelisks, he was thinking obelisks, or thoughts so elegant and attuned to mourning that they could be slotted, by way of a philosophical digression, into any obituary--and sometimes were.



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt three)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

Here, on the broad arm beside him, was where, just over a year ago, petite blonde Olya, of attractive little snub nose and perpetually reproachful expression, was wont to perch. Sometimes she would rest her head on his shoulder and fall asleep, plunging into dreams in which he, very likely, had no place. Only in reality was he allowed to be present. Though even there, he rarely felt needed. Silent and thoughtful–that was her. What, since her pushing off without a word, had altered? Standing beside him now was Misha the penguin. He was silent, but was he thoughtful too? What did being thoughtful amount to? Just a word describing the way one looked, perhaps?

He leant forward, searching the penguin’s tiny eyes for signs of thoughtfulness, but saw only sadness.



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt two)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

He had dreamt once of writing novels, but had not achieved so much as a novella, in spite of all the unfinished manuscripts lying around in folders. But unfinished they were fated to remain, he having been unlucky with his muses, they, for some reason, having never tarried long enough in his two-room flat to see him through a short story. Hence his literary failure. They had been amazingly fickle, his muses. Or he had been at fault for picking such unreliable ones. But now, alone with his penguin, here he was, churning out little pieces regardless, and getting well paid.

Warm at last, he left the café. It was still drizzling. Still a grey, wet day.

Before returning to his flat, he dropped into a shop and bought a kilo of frozen salmon–for Misha.



Monday, May 2, 2022

the last book I ever read (Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov, excerpt one)

from Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):

Misha-non-penguin left. The grey, rainy morning dragged on. The door opened, and there stood Penguin Misha. After a moment he came over and snuggled against his master’s knee. Dear creature, thought Viktor, stroking him.



Sunday, May 1, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt fourteen)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

Zelensky, however, had been swept to power on a wave of popular discontent with precisely such backroom politicking. His hastily assembled team had few experienced political hands, but its members understood the need to project an image of transparent governance. Before the March 2019 election Zelensky’s campaign managers were unaware of the difficult problem in US-Ukrainian relations they were about to inherit from Poroshenko. When Giuliani first contacted Prosecutor General Lutsenko about the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election, one can safely assume that President Poroshenko knew about this and likely authorized Lutsenko to meet with Giuliani in person in New York in January 2019. Moreover, Poroshenko himself met with Giuliani twice in early 2019. The Ukrainian president retroactively acknowledged the meetings but avoided questions about what was discussed there, other than American assistance with Ukrainian cybersecurity—a strange topic to discuss with a person holding no official position in the US administration. According to Parnas, Giuliani offered Trump’s support for Poroshenko’s re-election bid, complete with a visit to the White House, in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens and Ukraine’s alleged role in 2016.

After Zelensky took an impressive lead in the first round on March 31, members of the Poroshenko team started fighting for their political survival. Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who had the lowest chance of remaining in office, took a desperate gamble by denouncing publicly the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, for allegedly impeding his fight against corruption. In his trademark populist style, Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a “do-not-prosecute” list of Ukrainian officials—a statement he would eventually retract. Lutsenko intended to demonstrate his usefulness to Trump, but instead he alerted the Zelensky team to the conflicting signals from Washington. Trump’s removal of Yovanovitch in late April 2019, right after Zelensky’s sweeping runoff victory, put the American dilemma at the top of the new president’s agenda.



Saturday, April 30, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt thirteen)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

In the election held on July 21, 2019, Servant of the People won an outright majority in the parliament by securing 254 seats of 450, and for the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, the winning party did not need to join any coalitions. The pro-Russian opposition, now organized as the tandem of the Opposition Platform and the new party For Life, came second with 43 seats; followed by Tymoshenko’s Fatherland with 26, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc with 25, and the new party Voice with 20. It is telling that the Servant of the People won in both colleges: it received 124 seats of the 225 awarded based on the nationwide vote for party lists and 130 seats of the 199 in the first-by-the-post territorial electoral districts. (The total number of the latter was also 225, but 26 were in areas not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.)



Friday, April 29, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt twelve)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

All the calculations and strategies that these main players had developed for the campaign were confounded on New Year’s Eve, when the popular comedian Volodymyr Zelensky announced on television his intention to participate in the election. Zelensky represented the direct opposite of establishment candidates—he had zero political experience and the mien of an honest everyman. A successful entrepreneur, he rose to fame as the star of an unpretentious Russian-language comedy television show, but he also possessed the Charlie Chaplin–like charisma of a “little man” refusing to accept this world’s injustices. The latter came out clearly in a television series called Servant of the People, where Zelensky played a lowly history teacher who accidentally becomes the president and attempts to build a more equitable Ukraine. The runaway success of this series gave Zelensky and his supporters the idea of transitioning into politics, and early secret polling showed that he could do very well in an election. Zelensky’s open acknowledgment of being Jewish did not hurt his popularity at all, contradicting the stereotype of Ukrainian anti-Semitism.

By the beginning of March, Zelensky’s candidacy came to dominate the polls, leaving all others to fight over a place in the run-offs. Shrewdly, he and his advisors delayed until the last moment the release of any platform, which meant that voters ascribed to him the intentions of his popular television persona. Zelensky did not speak against the Ukrainian language and culture but downplayed such issues by stressing that peace and reforms had to take precedence. He managed to undercut his main rivals by attracting voters from across the ethno-linguistic spectrum—both Ukrainian-and Russian-speakers, who, for quite different reasons, felt disillusioned with Poroshenko and his traditional opponents. Meanwhile, Poroshenko had to use all his considerable powers as president and oligarchical owner of two television channels to secure second place in the race. He campaigned on the slogan, “The army, the language, and faith,” but even during the de facto war with Russia, such a narrowly national-patriotic program appealed to only a small sector of the electorate. Poroshenko’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce martial law after the Russians captured Ukrainian navy boats in the Strait of Kerch in November 2018 undermined his posture as commander-in-chief. Erupting just before the election, a corruption scandal over military acquisitions involving his longtime business partner, then serving as deputy chairman of the Council of National Security and Defense, made the president’s slogans about the army ring hollow.



Thursday, April 28, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt eleven)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

In this context, Biden’s micro-management of Ukrainian politics was nothing out of the ordinary. When an independent Ukrainian parliamentarian with KGB and Russian connections released to the public in May 2020 audio clips from 2015 and 2016, purported to be from Biden’s (and then Secretary of State John Kerry’s) phone calls with President Poroshenko, there was nothing there even close to the “favor” Trump asked of Zelensky in July. What stood out in these tapes was how closely the United States was involved in forcing the various Ukrainian reformist parties to work together, as well as in pushing through major anti-corruption measures. Although the tapes confirm the well-known story of Biden making US $1 billion in American loan guarantees conditional on the removal of the then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in 2016, Biden never denied this and, in fact, spoke repeatedly of this episode.

Although Poroshenko saw Shokin as a reliable ally, the Ukrainian public disagreed, giving him a stunning negative rating of 73.2 percent in a February 2016 poll. By then, the US ambassador, EU representatives, the IMF, and leading Ukrainian anti-corruption groups denounced Shokin for blocking decisive anti-corruption measures and the much-needed reform of the prosecution system. His own deputy resigned because of the alleged corruption and politicking in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Biden’s 2016 ultimatum to Poroshenko was thus completely in line with the opinion of Western diplomats and the Ukrainian public. Shokin was forced to resign, not because he was investigating the wrong people, but because he was not investigating them with sufficient vigor. Nobody in Ukraine protested his removal.



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt ten)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

As a US senator, Joe Biden has cultivated an interest in European affairs and, more specifically, in the Soviet Union and its successor states. Between 2001 and 2009 he served three times as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Biden’s foreign policy experience was one of the reasons that Barack Obama picked him as running mate in 2008.

As vice president between 2009 and 2017, Biden visited Ukraine six times, sometimes making a brief stop on a larger tour of Europe or the United States’ strategic allies in Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. The Obama administration saw Ukraine, together with the Republic of Georgia, as the two keystone states in the region; both also experienced Russian aggression. To Ukrainian politicians and the public at large, Biden’s frequent visits symbolized American commitment to building a strong, independent Ukraine free of corruption and rule by cronyism. During one trip to Ukraine, in February 2014, Biden witnessed the revolution on the Maidan entering its crucial stage. All of this made him popular with patriotic Ukrainians, who realized nonetheless that their fight for freedom enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States. The late Republican senator John McCain also visited often and spoke even more strongly in support of the EuroMaidan; there is now a street in the Ukrainian capital named after him.



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt nine)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

When the news broke in Ukraine, the public likewise focused more on the Ukrainian politicians who were implicated, especially the ones still prominent in public life. The then head of the Central Electoral Commission, Mykhailo Okhendovsky, was the only one to be officially charged, although in the end his case did not go to trial, as was common in cases of political figures. In early June, Leshchenko testified at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, but then the summer began and with it, the dead season in Ukrainian politics. In mid-August Leshchenko broke some sensational news that was immediately confirmed by the head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau: The black ledger also listed the American lobbyist and political consultant Paul Manafort. He was well known in Ukraine as a long-serving advisor to Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. Manafort was credited with rebuilding Yanukovych’s image inside Ukraine after his defeat in the Orange Revolution of 2004–2005, as well as making him more acceptable to American decision makers during his tenure as president from 2010. Little was known at the time about his role during the EuroMaidan Revolution; subsequently, messages allegedly hacked from his daughter’s phone in 2017 seemed to suggest that he had proposed a violent scenario to end the revolution after a staged provocation, 10 but he was also involved in early attempts to rebuild the pro-Russian forces into a viable opposition after the EuroMaidan Revolution. Not only did Manafort work for the discredited Yanukovych and other pro-Russian forces in Ukraine but also he had known connections to Russian oligarchs. His account in the black ledger was also one of the largest, with a total of US $ 12.7 million recorded between 2007 and 2012. (Two prominent businessmen who sat in parliament as members of Yanukovych’s party signed as intermediaries on these disbursements.)

For all the right reasons that patriotic Ukrainians had to dislike Manafort, the timing of Leshchenko’s revelation was highly suspicious. Since June 2016 Manafort had been the manager of Trump’s presidential campaign, and the release of any compromising material on him was bound to harm it. It is also telling that the announcement came from someone better known as a controversial investigative journalist than a politician, although the head of the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency conveniently confirmed Leshchenko’s words right away, adding that a name in the ledger in and of itself did not prove anything. The ever-present factionalism in Ukrainian politics and Leshchenko’s reputation as a loose cannon cast some doubt on conspiracy theories presenting this affair as Ukraine’s state policy of interference in the US elections. But even if one accepts the view that the Ukrainian authorities sought plausible denial by allowing Leshchenko to break the story, Manafort’s transgressions were very real, and concealing this information about his entries in the black ledger would have constituted interference as well, benefiting the Trump camp. The Poroshenko administration found itself in a predicament, and its strategy of issuing only a limited confirmation of Leshchenko’s story from the technically independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau was likely the safest choice. Doing so meant leaving this matter up to the American justice system.



Monday, April 25, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt eight)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

Since President Yanukovych’s last-minute reversal on concluding this agreement was the last straw that unleashed the revolt, the new Ukrainian authorities sought to sign it as quickly as possible. The Association Agreement does not offer Ukraine a clear accession path to the European Union, as many media commentators have assumed. Its tangible benefits for Ukraine include free trade with the European Union and, at some unspecified point in the future, visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens. In the long run, the treaty committed Ukraine to aligning its legislation and production standards with that of the European Union, a process to be supported by Western funding.

The Russian government objected to Ukraine’s agreement with the European Union on ideological and geopolitical grounds, but advanced an economic argument as its primary reservation. Because Ukraine also had free trade with Russia, European goods could enter Russia through Ukraine with no tariffs being collected on either border. Expressing concern over lost revenues and damage to the economy, Russia threatened retaliatory economic measures. The European leaders paid attention, not so much because of this threat, as because Russia had just annexed the Crimea. As a result, Ukraine and the European Union took the unusual step of dividing the Association Agreement into two parts, general political and economic, and then signing each part separately. In order to provide symbolic closure to the EuroMaidan Revolution, Prime Minister Yatseniuk went to Brussels on March 21, 2014, to sign the mostly declarative political clauses.



Sunday, April 24, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt seven)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

The new cabinet was sworn in on December 2, 2014, just as the first Minsk ceasefire collapsed and fierce fighting resumed in the Donbas. During the next two months, the hryvnia went over a cliff, causing the population to empty supermarket shelves. The government desperately needed the next installment of the IMF loan, but it was only after some painful military defeats and a second Minsk agreement in February 2015 that it could push through some austerity measures, making the funding possible. On March 2 the parliament approved measures that would see household energy bills triple and also reduce some categories of state pensions. The IMF immediately disbursed US $5 billion with another US $5 billion promised within a year, an announcement that halted the hryvnia’s free-fall. Yet, all sides understood that Ukraine needed a lasting peace to start serious economic reforms.



Saturday, April 23, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt six)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

Street fighting ensued in central Kyiv between January 19 and 25, with riot police using rubber bullets and water cannons, while the protesters armed themselves with cobblestones and Molotov cocktails. On January 22 the first three protesters were shot dead, allegedly by special-forces snipers. This event shocked the nation, as it represented the first time in over half a century that protesters were killed by the governing authorities in Ukraine. Amid calls for a general strike, EuroMaidan activists in the western regions began occupying government buildings.

The so-called titushky contributed greatly to the escalation of violence. They were young men from the provinces, often members of local athletic clubs, hired by the Party of Regions to pose as anti-Maidan protesters. The name refers to one Vadym Titushko, a paid thug from the city of Bila Tserkva, who had been convicted of physically assaulting journalists in 2013, before the EuroMaidan. Although they did not carry firearms, titushky freely employed violence and coordinated their actions with the police. During the winter of 2013–2014, they camped out in a park near the Ukrainian parliament, where several protesters died in clashes. Titushky also roamed the streets beating up protesters both in the capital and in other large cities, such as Kharkiv.



Friday, April 22, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt five)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

When Yanukovych became president in 2010, he and his clan sought to restore Kuchma’s model of an oligarchic state. Its components included controlling the national media, helping the oligarchs to loot the country’s economy, and maintaining a political balance between Russia and the West without getting too close to either—all with the ultimate aim of enriching the ruling group’s families and allies. Ultimately, Yanukovych and his friends perfected Kuchma’s scheme—too much so—by pushing Ukraine practically into bankruptcy. State procurements became the preferred method of instant enrichment for all sides involved, because of massive kickbacks, inflated costs, and outright embezzlement. The officials and oligarchs close to Yanukovych particularly liked mammoth construction projects generously funded by the state. In preparation for the 2012 European soccer cup, the state funded so many new airports, stadiums, roads, and high-speed trains that there was no way to patch the huge hole left in the budget. Nobody was even trying to find a solution, because the government was hoping for a bailout from either the West or Russia. The Yanukovych administration assumed that both these geopolitical rivals would be happy to spend US $ 15 billion and possibly more for the privilege of having Ukraine in their sphere of influence.



Thursday, April 21, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt four)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

The tumultuous events of August 1991 afforded Yeltsin an opportunity to assert democratic Russia’s authority against the weakening Soviet state. When conservative party apparatchiks tried to organize a coup against Gorbachev, it was Yeltsin who led popular resistance in Moscow. In contrast, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Leonid Kravchuk, took a cautious stand in Kyiv, not coming out openly on either side. The all-Union governing structures and institutions essentially disintegrated with the collapse of the coup, and the republics filled the power vacuum by formally declaring independence. Any remaining hopes to salvage the former Soviet polity in the form of a loose confederation were laid to rest on December 1, 1991, when Ukraine held a national referendum to confirm its declaration of independence. Their hopes buoyed by optimistic projections of economic prosperity that was to follow liberation from Soviet imperial fetters, the overwhelming majority of the republic’s citizens voted in favor of independence: 92.3 percent nationally, including a majority in each province, and 54.2 percent even in the Crimea with its ethnic Russian majority. On the same day, Ukrainian voters also elected Kravchuk as the country’s first president. At the time, this historic choice was not seen as a parting of ways with Russia, but as a farewell to the oppressive communist empire. Gorbachev, the discredited Soviet president, was the only prominent politician advocating the “no” vote in the Ukrainian referendum, while Yeltsin’s Russia appeared to be a valuable ally in constructing the new democratic future. Later in December the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt three)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

The “reunification” of Ukraine with Russia was the official term for the 1654 Pereiaslav Treaty; the term was prescribed for obligatory use in Soviet historical works and public discourse by the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 1954. The concept of the treaty as a “restoration” of a single nation’s ancient unity resonates to this day with Russians in particular, and for good reason. When Soviet ideologists gave it their stamp of approval in 1954 for the treaty’s tercentenary, they were actually resurrecting the axiom of pre-revolutionary Russian official discourse that Ukrainians lacked a separate national identity. Before the Central Committee’s authoritative pronouncement, Soviet historians of the prewar period had spoken less approvingly of Ukraine’s “incorporation” into the Russian state and even of the ensuing colonial exploitation of Ukraine and persecution of Ukrainian culture. Reverting to the language used in the Russian Empire removed any sense of guilt for tsarist policies and also muted the notion of Ukraine’s separate identity. “Reunification” was thus an ideologically loaded label, one implying inordinate closeness between Ukrainians and Russians. This was the historical narrative that the last generations to grow up in the Soviet Union learned in school.



Tuesday, April 19, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt two)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

It is worth keeping in mind that prior to World War II, the region we now call western Ukraine was divided among Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. Before that, these lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This westernmost region, which constitutes more like a quarter than a half of Ukrainian territory, only experienced Soviet rule for half a century and therefore underwent a much shorter indoctrination in “fraternal relations” with Russia. It was also there, and in Galicia in particular, that the Ukrainian national movement developed freely during the nineteenth century, while it was being suppressed in the Russian Empire. Patriotic intellectuals gained access to the peasantry early on through reading rooms, co-ops, and the educational system, resulting in a strong popular sense of Ukrainian identity by the early twentieth century. Ukrainian radical nationalism was also born in the region in the 1920s, after the Allies denied the Ukrainians the right of self-determination, and nationalist insurgents in Galicia fought against the Soviets for several years after the end of World War II. Assimilation into Russian culture was least advanced there. In the years leading up to the Soviet collapse, mass rallies and demands for independence also originated there.

With this in mind, perhaps one could call Galicia and, with lesser justification, all of western Ukraine a hotbed of anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalism. Yet, this in itself would not make the region “pro-Western.” The immediate neighbor to the west, Poland, was to local Ukrainians a former imperial master just like Russia, and during the interwar period the Polish state was the main enemy of Ukrainian radical nationalists. The periods of Hungarian and Romanian rule did not leave warm memories either. However, western Ukraine could be seen as culturally “Western” in the sense of having experience with political participation and civil society, two phenomena that were sorely lacking on the Russian side of the border. Imperfect as they were, the Austrian models of parliamentary democracy and communal organization shaped western Ukrainian social life. This experience of political participation in a multinational empire and its successors also strengthened Ukrainian national identity.



Monday, April 18, 2022

the last book I ever read (Serhy Yekelchyk's Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know, excerpt one)

from Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:

As the second most populous and economically important Soviet republic after Russia, Ukraine’s geopolitical choice after the Soviet collapse in 1991 held major significance. It took American policymakers some time to orient themselves in the confusing world of post-Soviet politics and to realize Ukraine’s strategic importance. Once they understood, by the mid-1990s, that an independent Ukraine was crucial for preventing an increasingly assertive Russia from reclaiming its Soviet-era control of East-Central Europe, they made Ukraine the focus of American attention in the region.



Sunday, April 17, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt fourteen)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

Our electoral system is madness. And it’s madness on a good day. It would be madness when all involved are acting in good faith to try to help people access their rights. But in this country, we have one party—the Republicans—who have decided to act in bad faith and exploit aspects of the madness to suppress and discourage people from voting based on the color of their skin. As I’ve said elsewhere, conservatives don’t take constitutional amendments as a denouncement of their racism; they take them as a challenge to become more creative in their bigotry.



Saturday, April 16, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt thirteen)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

Yet some conservatives argue that Roe v. Wade is the intellectual doppelganger of Dred Scott. They argue that the Court in Roe found that the unborn had no rights that (actual) people are bound to respect, and they argue that the ruling is every bit as erroneous as the one upholding slavery. They think that the same amendments that functionally overturned the Dred Scott decision can and should be used to overturn Roe v. Wade, or they’re willing to introduce an entirely new amendment to do the work.

To quote TV president Josiah Bartlet: “Your indignation would be a lot more interesting to me if it wasn’t quite so covered in crap.” How dare the fetal personhood brigade, last seen ripping breast-feeding children away from their mothers at the border, lecture me about the rights of the unborn. How dare they equate the bondage, rape, and torture that was American human chattel slavery to the failure of a clump of cells to implant in a uterus after a woman takes a drug cocktail a few weeks after accidental conception? The supposed rights of the unborn hold no moral suasion in a society that is willing to consign children who are born alive to poverty, malnutrition, and toxic air and water. I am unmoved by the alleged moral clarity of people who throw around the term anchor babies and are willing to deport children who have lived in this country for decades because they were brought here “illegally” as babies. These hypocrites want to make rights attach at conception, but not citizenship and representation in the census. These would-be moralists can fuck all the way off.

Their legal arguments are no better than their moral ones. Because fetal personhood amendments aren’t really about one kind of theoretical right “to become life.” If they were, activists would be busy trying to bring the hundred of thousands of embryos lying abandoned in frozen stasis at our nation’s fertility clinics to life, which they’re not. No, what the conservatives want is forced incubation of fetuses by women who are unwilling to perform the work.



Friday, April 15, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt twelve)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

Now, my read of the Constitution tells me that the Equal Rights Amendment is redundant. Remember, I think that the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment do all the work. Of course women are entitled to equality under the law. Of courst that includes employment rights, health and safety protections, and the economic right to equal pay for equal work. Of course women have the substantitive right to control their own bodies, including their reproductive system, and to access medical care.

I support the ERA, because sometimes you have to really dumb things down for men to get it. But if you ask me, the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified in 1868 and the problem is that white guys have spent the last 150 years trying to undo it.

If you don’t agree with me—if you don’t think that the Fourteenth Amendment provided for the full political, civil, and social equality of women—then how in hell are you against the ERA? How can you possibly think that women don’t already have equal rights because of your limited, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, but also don’t think the Constitution should be changed to right this clear wrong that your interpretation has created?

Unless, at core, you don’t think women should have equal rights at all.



Thursday, April 14, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt eleven)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

Still, Loving is one of the most important decisions in the history of the country. It aligned the Fourteenth Amendment not just with the protection of civil rights, which the Court did in Brown v. Board of Ed., but the the protection of social rights as well. The right to participate in society with equality and dignity is also protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and that is what Loving stands for.

Which is why the case if kryptonite for originalist logic. Because if there’s one thing most nineteenth-century white men who wrote, debated, and adopted the Fourteenth Amendment were dead set against, it was the social equality of the races. I could make an argument that the Fourteenth Amendment wouldn’t have even been ratified if the white men supporting it thought it meant their daughters could marry Black people. There is no originalist understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment that comports with the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in Loving. Either our understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment “evolved” to include a rejection of racist anti-mescegenation laws, or it didn’t. If the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t evolve, Alabama could force people to submit “pure-blood” certifications from Ancestry.com before issuing marriage licenses, and we’d need a while different constitutional amendment to stop them. Originalism has no satisfactory answer for Loving, and originalists expose the whole intellectural bankruptcy of their ideology when they try to fashion one.



Wednesday, April 13, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt ten)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

The legislation marked the last time white lawmakers would give a shit about Black people for nearly a hundred years. In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes was installed as president after a disputed election where the validity of the Electoral College was called into question. A special commission decided the election in favor of Hayes, a Republican, with the help of Southern Democrats, but there was a catch. Hayes had to agree to remove federal troops from the South, which he did, thereby marking the effective end of Reconstruction.

By 1883, the Supreme Court overturned much of the 1875 Civil Rights Act, including all of the protections against the discrumination in public accommodations and transportation. The Supreme Court, in a case called the Civil Rights Cases, ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment could not prohibit “private” discrimination.

Without troops left in the South to protect Black people who were trying to exercise their rights, without states willing to write laws prohibiting discrimination in their own territories, and without a federal cause of action so that Black people could object to the discrimination they were facing, the Jim Crow era was off and running. State governments didn’t even have to pass laws formally discriminating against Black people; they could just let so-called “private actors”—like private restaurants or private hotels—do all the work for them.

But, of course, states did pass laws discriminating against Black folks, because if there’s one thing about racists, it’s that they’re never satisfied with being ahead. They need total subjugation of Black people to make them feel good about themselves.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt nine)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

The Union survived the Civil War, but its slavers’ Constitution did not.

If I’d been in charge, I’d have written an entirely new document. I’m sure that everybody knows that the original document counted slaves as “three fifths” of a free individual, but I’m not sure that most people appreciate how deeply cynical this clause was, beyond the obvious racism.

First of all, the actual text referred to three-fifths of “all other persons,” because the slavers who wrote it didn’t want to put the word slaves in their precious document. It’s one of the most obvious indications that the founders knew damn well that slavery was wrong and didn’t give a shit. But when you dig deeper, you realize that the three-fifths clause was put in there to help the slavers and the slave states. The Northern states out-peopled the Southern states, and so, rightly, the Southerners were worried about a federal government controlled by the states in the North with more people in them. You know, like a democracy or something. To counteract the places with the most people, the slave states put a bunch of antidemocratic loopholes in their Constitution, while also trying to inflate their own numbers by counting slaves who—by their own evil logic—had not right to representation. But they couldn’t just say that slaves should be counted as full people, because then why are they holding people in bondage? So the counted slaves as three-fifths of a person to give their captors more congressional representation.

A document that flawed, one animated by such evil, and one that so spectacularly failed that the country fought a live-ammo Civil War less than a hundred years after its conception, should have been thrown out with the bathwater. That’s what they did in South Africa. In South Africa, they didn’t just track chance and strike through the old apartheid constitution. You can’t make Freddy Krueger friendly by giving him a new hat. Instead, they wrote an entirely new document, in a constitutional convention that represented all of the people, and they took two years to do it. Adopted in 1996, the South African Constitution now stands as a model for the world, while we have a “constitutional crisis” every time a Republican president figures out a new way to commit crimes.



Monday, April 11, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt eight)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

For Black people, the Sixth Amendment is a cruel joke. The point of a trial by jury, if there is one, is to be judged by a community of your peers. But Black people are and have always been regularly brought up on charges by a white prosecutor, in front of a white judge, to have their guilt or innocence judged by an all-white or predominately white jury. That’s not “impartial” justice; it’s white justice imposed on Black bodies by a system that treats white people and their experiences as the default.

And it’s certainly not a jury of your peers. Can you imagine a white banker accused of tax fraud sitting in front of an all-Black jury of “peers”? Can you imagine a white cop accused of murder being subjected to an all-Black jury? It doesn’t happen. This country doesn’t let a panel of all Black people judge white people involved in a freaking reality television dance competition. There is scarcely a situation in American life where any white person this side of Eminem is subjected to the final judgment of Black people, but Black people are subjected to the final judgment of white people all the damn time.



Sunday, April 10, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt seven)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

The first time I heard about eminent domain was in college, where I read Robert Caro’s seminal book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Robert Moses is responsible for so much of how modern cities look and feel, and not just in New York because his methods were imported and copied throughout the country. Moses was a destroyer of Black and brown communities. And eminent domain is what allowed that asshole to be racist at an industrial scale.

If I may summarize one of the greatest modern biographies ever written in two sentences: Robert Moses was a deeply racist man who built highways, bridges, parks, beaches, and even housing projects by bulldozing the hopes, dreams, and often literal homes of people in his way. His main tactic for acquiring land for his projects was identifying vulnerable minority or immigrant communities, declaring their homes and land “blighted,” and then using the government’s power of eminent domain to evict people from their homes over their objection and for a fraction of what their communities were actually worth.



Saturday, April 9, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt six)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

The Central Park Five are Anton McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise. They were all sixteen or younger when they were rounded up, along with seven other Black and brown boys, on suspicions of committing various crimes in Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989. One of those crimes was the brutal beating and rape of Trisha Meili, the “Central Park Jogger.” Under the lead of Linda Fairstein, who was head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s “sex-crimes” unit, the boys were questioned for hours, without an attorney or their parents present.

Eventually, all five boys “confessed” to some aspect of the crime against Meili. They were convicted and sent to prison. In 1989, then real estate developer Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in four New York newspapers, demanding that New York State reinstitute the death penalthy, in response to the attack on Meili.

We know know that the boys were wrongly accused, and that their confessions were entirely fabricated. We know that because in 2002, serial rapist Matias Reyes was captured and confessed to the attack on Meili after he met Korey Wise in prison. This is why they’re now called the Exonerated Five.



Friday, April 8, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt five)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

In the real world, the strength of your Fifth Amendment protections depends on your level of legal education or exposure to the law. I know to never talk to the police without an attorney present, because I’ve been to law school. Every lawyer, every person who had a lawyer for a parent, every person who made it through a first-year course on criminal law knows not to talk to the police, no matter what the police offer who in exchange for talking. If the police suspect you of a crime, get a lawyer. If the police don’t suspect you of a crime, shut up before you talk yourself into becoming a suspect.

The Fifth Amendment is a litmus test of whether you have enough education (from the books or from the streets) to know it exists. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Your constitutional rights aren’t supposed to change depending on whether you know they exist.



Thursday, April 7, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt four)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

In America, we’ve taken that ancient right to self-defense and made it more violent and bloodthirsty. The right to self-defense used to include a duty to retreat. That made sense: you can defend yourself from deadly force with deadly force, but if you can safely get away from deadly force, you should be all means do so. But I guess retreat isn’t performatively masculine enough for the assortment of weekend warriors and ammosexuals who get to make the rules in this country. Most state governments now specifically reject the duty to retreat, and the most deadly form of that rejection has been codified in “stand your ground” laws in many jurisdictions.

Understand, the right to self-defense, as applied in this country, is one of the most provably racist functions of law that we have statistics for, and stand your ground just makes those racial disparities worse. One well-respected study by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center found that white people who kill Black people are 250 percent more likely to have their homicides ruled as “justified” than when white people kill other white people. In stand your ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent—it is 354 percent more likely that white people will be ruled as justified in their killings of Black people.

“Self-defense” is how white people get away with murder. It is a textbook example of a “race-neutral” concept that has been applied with deep prejudice against Black people. It doesn’t matter if the Black person was armed, unarmed, strong, weak, fast, slow, or just walking home with some Skittles. If a white person kills that Black person, they always have a chance to “get out of jail free” by claiming self-defense.



Wednesday, April 6, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt three)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

What these people don’t understand is that the right to gun ownership for self-defense is an entirely new constitutional argument, made up whole-cloth by the gun lobby, and only recently given the force of constitutional validity by Republicans on the Supreme Court. Self-defense is a philosophical right, but that right was not grounded in the “original” meaning of the Second Amendment; self-defense is not mentioned once in the text of the Constitution. What Republicans think is their strongese and most ancient defense of gun rights is actually a mere advertising campaign from manufacturers.

Our current interpretation of the Second Amendment was invented by the National Rifle Association in the 1970s. You see, in the 1960s, Republicans were all about gun control, because in the 1960s Black people thought that they should start carrying guns. The Black Panthers figured out that white people were much less likely to mess with them if the Panthers were openly carrying loaded weapons around with them. It’s not as fun to shout the n-word at a Black guy who happens to be carrying a loaded rifle, I imagine. You could lose an eye trying to do something like that.

Of course, Black people being able and willing to defend themselves from racist Americans was a very serious problem for racist Americans. In a direct response to African Americans patrolling Oakland, California, and “copwatching,” Republicans in California passed the Mulford Act, which banned open carry of loaded firearms in California. Who signed that law? Republican patron saint and then governor of California Ronald Reagan. The absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment is new, but using gun rights or gun control, as necessary, to maintain racial dominance is old.