Crikey long reads

Sally Whyte, journalist

“What do they make of Kyle Schwarber in heaven” by Julie DiCaro on CBSlocal.com

“By 2003, she was 94, and her mind came and went. Some days she was sharp as ever, other days she claimed never to have heard of family members who she had helped raise, supported and put through school. She still asked often about the Cubs, and we still watched together, her sitting in her familiar arm chair, nylons and heels on under her robe, a glass of wine in her hand …

“My grandmother died in 2004, more than a decade before the Cubs would return to the World Series.

“In Chicago, you don’t choose your team as much as your family chooses it for you. Most of us are born Cubs fans or White Sox fans, and we never change, passing the fandom on to the next generation the same way as eye color and double chins. It’s just part of who we are.”

Josh Taylor, journalist

“The Australian not-for-profit more popular than Google” by Jackson Gothe-Snape on SBS.com.au

“The idea for Tveeder came to Franco Trimboli, a technology product manager, when he was working with the deaf community in New Zealand on a substitute for the traditional voice-based emergency phone service. He now works with a handful of volunteers to keep the site running and updating it with new features.

“‘We launched in 2011, with the idea that the hearing impaired could use the service to access a great source of realtime information — television,’ he said. ‘Since then, it has grown into a useful resource for everyone.'”

Myriam Robin, media reporter

“The book that predicted Trump” by Matt Feeney in The New Yorker

“If Scalia showed that rarefied constitutionalism can rest on and generate a sort of existential hardness in conservative elites, the Tea Party shows how the elite game of textual argument translates into a mass politics of angry reaction. When the Tea Party Patriots first brought themselves to Washington, in 2009, conservative intellectuals were eager to take the movement at its constitutionalist word — to see it as a virtuous response to Washington’s power-grabs, which were not textually sanctioned by the Constitution.

“But it was obvious quite early that the Tea Party was more populist than constitutionalist. Or, to be more precise, it was obvious that constitutionalism and populism had become interchangeable. The thought leaders of the American Right had built a clean, critical vessel from pristine text and pure principle in which to navigate their debates with liberals and progressives; when an angry populist movement with lots of racists in it took control of this vessel and started slamming it into the Capitol, these conservative thinkers staged no counter-counter-revolution. They didn’t say, ‘Hey wait a minute! That’s not what we’re talking about!'”

Cass Knowlton, editor

“The GOP’s age of authoritarianism has only just begun” by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine

“That the contemporary Republican Party shares a name with the Republican Party of the 1970s — or even of the ’80s or ’90s — has created massive confusion over just how distinct its worldview is. According to one measure of ideology used widely by political scientists, the most conservative Republican in the House 25 years ago, when the House attacked a Republican president for the heresy of increasing taxes, would be among the most liberal House Republicans today …

“Still, as the conservative movement has completed its conquest of the Republican Party, it has never resolved the dilemma that haunted it from the beginning. Conservative opposition to policies like business regulation, social insurance, and progressive taxation has never taken hold among anything resembling a majority of the public. The party has grown increasingly reliant upon white identity politics to supply its votes, which has left an indelible imprint on not only the Republican Party’s function but also its form.”

Dan Wood, subeditor

“12 books to read after binge-watching Black Mirror” by Lincoln Michel in GQ

“The third season of Black Mirror has everything that fans have come to expect: hackers with questionable moral lessons, out-of-control sci-fi technology, and plenty of twists. As the name implies, Black Mirror presents dark reflections of our own world — mostly by conjuring nightmare visions of how our present technology may control us in the not-too-distant future.

“The biggest downside of Black Mirror? The entire series only thirteen episodes long, so if you’re a fan, chances are you’ve already binge-watched the new episodes and now don’t know what to do with yourself. There’s nothing else quite like Black Mirror on TV, but luckily there is a wealth of fantastic books that can sate your hunger for genre-bending satires and near-future dystopias.”
Bernard Keane, politics editor
“Very little is known about Islamic State’s internal workings; no one knows, for example, how many of its officials once worked for Saddam Hussein. Weiss and Hassan raise the interesting possibility that two of Baghdadi’s uncles worked for Saddam’s secret police: he wouldn’t have got into the University of Islamic Studies in Baghdad had his family not been regarded as loyal Baathists. It’s clear that IS has always relied on having former Baathists in senior positions: every head of its Military Council has been what the Americans used to describe as a ‘former regime element’.
“The caliph has been far more effective in government than that other self-declared leader of the faithful, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. In part this can be explained by the difference in levels of education in Iraq and Afghanistan, but again many of those who witnessed Islamic State’s victories in Syria detected the techniques and skills of Saddam’s intelligence services smoothing its advance. Gerges agrees that much of Islamic State’s organisational power is down to the Baathists, but he also believes that many former Baathists are true converts to the IS cause and rejects the idea that Baghdadi is little more than a front man for Baathist officers operating behind the scenes.”

Peter Fray

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