Hi! Welcome to the Weekly Dingus, my Friday newsletter, where I round up my internet reads, share a drink, and yell about a dingus. Is that dingus a politician? A boat in a canal? My dog? Or maybe it’s just pants. You can read about past weekly dinguses in the archives.
On Thursday, CNN aired a segment featuring a family with nine children, complaining that the cost of their food budget has gone up by $100 a week. The CNN reporter notes in a tweet that this is not the typical American story, but then, in the lede to the piece, they make it the typical American story. The most notable thing about the segment was that the anchor leading the story highlighted this quote, “A gallon of milk was $1.99. Now it’s $2.79. When you buy 12 gallons a week times four weeks, that’s a lot of money.”
Data journalist Dan Nguyen immediately was there with a fact-check, noting that milk hasn’t been sold for $1.99 a gallon since the ’90s.
And then my mom was there with another fact-check. My mom is the mother of eight children, and yes, she did raise kids not on the East Coast, most notably in Texas and other parts of the Midwest (Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, etc.).
She said we went through six gallons max a week, max. She also noted that milk is gross (true) and wanted to know if these people even drank water.
And then I reminded her about the time she used to buy straight-up cow’s milk on the black market. Illegal unpasteurized milk. She says she did it for one of my younger brothers (who doesn’t want to be named, and since he’s very tall and involved in [redacted] and knows how to shoot [redacted], I’ll allow his privacy for now). My mother’s willingness to violate ACTUAL MILK LAW for this brother checks out. Because he’s the kid they also got a gaming system for after refusing to let us older kids have a gaming system for 20 years. No, I am not bitter. Not about that. I’m bitter because my parents let the younger four watch TV on the regular. Even though I got grounded in high school for watching The Simpsons.
Yes, I am almost 39, why do you ask?
Back to the matter at hand. Journalist Christopher Ingraham had a great factual post on why the milk story was so off base. It allowed the people interviewed to just straight-up lie about money on the air with no fact-check. And it also made the story of this family’s grocery budget about the rising cost of consumer goods. Which is in all actuality like 5 percent over the past year. And not about stagnant wages or the Child Care Tax Credit, which is by any number of calculations more than covering the rising cost of groceries. The framing choice was not neutral as GOP talking points try to furiously blame Biden for overblown claims of inflation.
Of course, people had a lot of opinions about how much milk people should and should not buy. None of which I am interested in.
But as Parker Molloy points out in her newsletter, the story fuels a narrative that simply does not exist. It is harder to be an American family right now. No one is disputing that. But it’s not because of milk prices. It’s because of a lack of affordable healthcare, housing, and a lack of childcare.
The problem in America is not inflation, it’s our social systems falling apart in a pandemic and a complete lack of will to change them. The CNN reporters are doubling down and making this a culture war issue . But the facts of the story don’t bear this out.
What is also interesting is how milk-drinking started anyway. Analysis of Neolithic dental cavities suggest that humans evolved to drink milk almost 6,000 years ago. But milk-drinking didn’t really take off until refrigerators and trains meant that milk could safely be transported and stored in cities.
But milk-drinking declined in the mid-’90s as soon as humans evolved to realize we had choices! Why drink a glass of thick, tacky-tasting liquid when you can have coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, water with lemon, or die of dehydration?
Also, despite milk being marketed as essential for growth and development, there are a lot of studies that show that is simply not the case. Milk is fine, but it’s not even the best source of calcium.
Of course, the Dairy lobby handled the free market and fair competition like adults, realizing that this is how the invisible hand works. Just kidding. There is now a vicious fight over what can and cannot be labeled as milk.
All of this is far more interesting than a shallow story about milk-guzzling Texans who want to complain about inflation.
What I Am Reading:
This week, there are several high-profile trials happening in America that seek to litigate white supremacy in America. And the Supreme Court heard a challenge to Roe v. Wade, which was exhausting to follow along.
Please take care of yourselves out there. And I don’t mean detoxes, I mean a radical rethinking of what it means to be a human. This beautiful essay by Natasha Deón on radical self-care is so important.
I wrote about the curse of both siderism and how we need to redefine balance in an unfair world.
Good news. Paid leave seems to be back in the Build Back Better Plan. Bad news, it involves filling out forms attesting to how much childcare you did. I hope someone squirts these lawmakers with baby vomit.
David Dayen @ddayenAnd there are periodic reports. Unpaid bureaucrats! https://t.co/sSmXPtMvbl
Moira Donegan wrote about the continued fight for justice for sexual assault victims on college campuses.
Please read this INCREDIBLE project that reveals how newspapers were complicit (and, I would argue, still are complicit) in racial violence.
Speaking of papers, Jonathan Katz, over in his newsletter, has this stunning breakdown of how right-wing extremists are allowed to seem normal in the pages of the New York Times. I met Jonathan in Charlottesville and he seems great and his newsletter is smart! Subscribe!
Also, in NYMag, Sarah Jones had this smart analysis of the Virginia election.
Speaking of elections. (Sorry for the niche Iowa content, other readers!) Cedar Rapids mayoral race is headed to a runoff. And I will say, no matter what mayor we get, I do believe either woman would have called in the National Guard during our derecho and at least neither one of them ran a Midwestern Fyre Fest that pissed off John Waters. So either one will be better than our previous mayor and also New York’s new mayor.
And across Iowa, there were a lot of great wins for Black candidates.
Also, Iowa’s deer apparently have COVID, and they got it from us. And, I don’t know, I see this ending in at least one COVID-zombie deer running for governor.
What I Am Drinking:
Last week, on my flight home from Charlottesville, I was watching Witches of Eastwick, which I had never seen before. And it is marvelous! I think of all the time I wasted sitting next to men watching Donnie Darko or Memento, when I could have been watching deranged Devil Jack Nicholson (is there any other kind?) and Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon.
That movie reminded me that I have not had a gin martini in a long, long time. I actually quit gin altogether in the spring of 2020 after one too many French 75s. So, because Cher manifested it, I made a gin martini the other night, very dry and as filthy dirty as it can get. And what a treat!
I encourage you all to make yourselves a gin martini. Lots of olives. Because olives are perfect.
I will confess. I didn’t finish the entire movie before I dressed up like a skeleton, had a drink with a friend on Halloween night, and wished into existence the arrival of an interesting single man into this town. So, I didn’t realize it doesn’t go well in the movie. And my apologies to whatever monkey paw situation I unleased on my town. But the good news is, if Devil Jack Nicholson shows up, no rant he says will be worse than what I’ve seen on Tinder. Have a great weekend!
MY KIDS GET VACCINATED TOMORROW!!!
Men Yell at Me is a newsletter about the places where our bodies and politics collide and yes, the occasional yelling man. Learn more about it and me (Lyz) here. You can sign up to receive the free weekly email, which includes interviews, essays, and original reporting. The Friday email is a weekly round-up of dinguses, drinks, and links. On Monday I have a subscribers-only open thread where we discuss politics and our bodies and more.