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Billionaire's in [Near] Space

Our priorities are fucked! But there is still good in this weird world.
Emily Mills
Jul 21 2021
8 min read


Vol. 11

Not-An-Essay | Read Local | The Big Picture |Now Read This | Watch This | For Your Earholes | Final Frame

There's smoke in the air from raging wildfires out West and the Milwaukee Bucks won all the basketballs last night. You win some, you lose some.


In lieu of an essay today, I’m just gonna share this poem by Gil-Scott Heron, “Whitey on the Moon,” which feels as apropos now (while the world burns/drowns and billionaire’s fly to near-space for vanity) as it did when it was first written.

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's uppi' me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I was already payin' 'im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin' my whole damn check,
Junkies makin' me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up,
An' as if all that shit wasn't enough
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face an' arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made las' year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I jus' 'bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll sen' these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

If you’ve got time tomorrow, check this out:

“History of Black Agriculture in Wisconsin” (tour and/or picnic) 

Read Local.

“Comedy On State to host transphobic, masturbaring clown” [Holly Marley-Henschen for Tone]

“A great way to get the ball rolling would be for C.K. to punch at the mirror and make jokes about his reprehensible behavior. Genuine apologies are a huge step on the road to healing and repair for all involved. Society needs to see a nasty man like Louis C.K. set an example. No one can heal, no one can learn, when we double down on our wrongdoing. It doesn't make you right. It makes you an asshole. So he's bypassing that like only a rich white man can.”

Related: Madison’s women comedians are holding “Babe-a-Palooza” on Sunday, July 25 as much-needed counter-programming to Comedy on State’s booking of Louis C.K.

“State Street businesses should not call the shots on Bus Rapid Transit” [Dayna Long for Tone] Hell to the yeah:

“At this point, the question of where the BRT stops are located feels, to me, secondary to a more important issue, which is who determines how the city works and who it is for. Business owners and property owners relentlessly insist that every aspect of public life in Madison be molded to suit their interests, and assert their needs as a top concern in every conversation from transportation to public health policy. In the meantime, the day-to-day needs of regular people are neglected and we do nothing to resolve racist inequities. This state of affairs has not worked well for Madison to date.”

The Big Picture

“Space Tourism Is A Waste” [Dharna Noor for Gizmodo]

“For the super-rich, a few minutes spent experiencing weightlessness and viewing the curvature of the Earth could leave humanity footing an ever-larger carbon pollution bill. It also reflects the increasingly unsustainable levels of inequality and concentration of power, which, coupled with the climate crisis, will lock in suffering for billions. That’s nothing to celebrate.”

“Nikole Hannah-Jones Issues Statement on Decision to Decline Tenure Offer at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and to Accept Knight Chair Appointment at Howard University”

“For too long, powerful people have expected the people they have mistreated and marginalized to sacrifice themselves to make things whole. The burden of working for racial justice is laid on the very people bearing the brunt of the injustice, and not the powerful people who maintain it. I say to you: I refuse.”

“Rosebud Sioux Youth Council Returns to Carlisle to Bring Their Relatives Home” [Jenna Kunze for Native News Online]

I’ve been reading and learning (with horror) about the recent discoveries in Canada of mass graves of indigenous children at the residential schools they were forced to attend up until 1996. While our cousins up north at least have begun to engage in the process of uncovering the truth and creating a path for reconciliation and healing, we have yet to follow suit in the U.S. In fact, it seems like our country’s own horrendous history of forced removal and de facto kidnapping gets largely ignored or swept under the rug by the powers that be. Some 357 indigenous boarding schools were run throughout the U.S. and 7,800 native children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to these facilities, which followed the directive to “kill the Indian, save the man.” Enormous love and support to those people working to bring the remains of some of those children home, and to shine a much-needed light on this still relevant, unresolved, and deeply painful history.

“The Moral Panic Over Critical Race Theory Is Coming for a North Carolina Teacher of the Year” [Isabela Dias for Mother Jones]

“A lot of our critics accuse us of not loving America, but if you love something you usually want to see it reach its full potential, and it has to be critiqued and corrected. How are we saying America is a bad country when we’re teaching what America has done?”

Related: “Texas Senate Bill Drops Teaching Requirement That Ku Klux Klan Is ‘Morally Wrong’” (aka this is what the faux outrage around Critical Race Theory is really about - it's cover for the racist backlash against teaching a fuller picture of American history and present)

Across the South, a Trans Housing Movement Grows [Raquel Willis for Vogue] <--- More like this, please.

“The Once-Perenniel Gila River Now Ebbs to an Uncertain Future” [Jim Robbins for High Country News]

I don’t think many of us not in the West (and some who are) fully grasp the scale of the threat to our water supplies, biodiversity, and ways of life posed by a warming climate. This is great reporting that digs into the subject.

“Not Every QAnon Believer’s an Antisemite. But There’s a Lot of Overlap Between Its Adherents and Belief in a Century-Old Antisemitic Hoax” [Morgan Halvorsen for Morning Consult]

GREAT (not great):

“A new Morning Consult survey tracking right-wing authoritarian beliefs shows that while not all believers of the conspiracy theory that helped spur the insurrection are antisemites, a large majority of adherents to a century-old antisemitic hoax are also believers of QAnon. And though efforts to deplatform the conspiracy group have sent QAnon underground, data shows that believers’ views on the issues that led to the insurrection track closely with those of self-identified U.S. conservatives.”

Now Read This.

“All the Bad Men and What to Do With Them” [Lyz Lenz]

“...the bigger picture is that, actually, we actually do have a cultural narrative of forgiveness. It’s the one that demands it from the victims so we can refuse to deal with the broader moral and systemic failures. It’s one that demands silence. That demands restoration without a full accounting of the harm. That puts the full responsibility for redemption on the victims, rather than the victimizer.”

Join me on The StoryGraph! Looking for an alternative to the Amazon-owned Goodreads for finding, tracking, and reviewing books? I just joined StoryGraph and have been enjoying it a great deal. Started and run by a Black woman, it’s a great way to get personalized recommendations for your future reading, too, and build community with other readers. The app is now available for iPhone and Android.


I recently bought and then absolutely devoured Hanif Abdurraqib’s newest collection of essays, “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance” and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. I think I cried like five times throughout the course of reading it? Absolutely beautiful prose from a professional poet. Hanif is always earnest and thoughtful and in love with his subject and it’s utterly infectious in the best way. Learn and feel things!

Watch This.

“Transnational” series for Vice - first episode, “How a Murder Mobilized Detroit’s Ballroom Community” - A new series about trans rights and resilience in America. It is expertly hosted and researched — plus, you can watch it on IG too!

For Your Earholes.

I’ve been remembering just how much I love the sound of the kora, a West African stringed instrument, and in particular how Malian artist Ballaké Sissoko plays it. He’s got a new album out this year, “Djourou,” that I highly recommend. Great music to work by, or just vibe. Also recommend his 2019 album, "Sissoko & Sissoko."

Final Frame.


'Til Next Time.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up with questions, comments, suggestions, and tips on great hiking spots.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I am employed by the Wisconsin chapter of The Nature Conservancy. However, any and all opinions expressed in this newsletter are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of my employer. 

I taped all six seasons of "Xena: Warrior Princess" off television.

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