Volume 3.15 (April 7-13)

Pick of the Week– When Youth Violence Spurred ‘Superpredator’ Fear (Clyde Haberman, NYT)– “But a funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypse. Instead of exploding, violence by children sharply declined. Murders committed by those ages 10 to 17 fell by roughly two-thirds from 1994 to 2011, according to statistics kept by the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Mugged by reality, a chastened Mr. DiIulio has offered a mea culpa. “Demography,” he says, “is not fate.” The trouble with his superpredator forecast, he told Retro Report, is that “once it was out there, there was no reeling it in.””

The Big Picture

The safety net catches the middle class more than the poor (Catherine Rampell, WaPo)

The Doom Loop of Oligarchy (Ezra Klein, Vox)– “[C]apitalism, left unchecked, subverts democracy by always and everywhere concentrating wealth at the tippy-top. That creates a class with so much economic power that they begin wielding tremendous political power, too. And then they use that political power to further increase their wealth, and then they use that wealth to further increase their political power, and so on.  You might call this the Doom Loop of Oligarchy: wealth buys power, which buys more wealth. You can see it playing out over the last two weeks in American politics.”

Why hasn’t democracy saved us from inequality (Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage, WaPo)

The skeptics are wrong– the gender pay gap is very very real (Mathew Yglesias, Vox)– “Life is complicated. Any summary statistic is, by definition, going to be an effort to simplify that reality. And it is absolutely true to say that pay discrimination on the part of employers between the women they employ and the men they employ only accounts for a minority of the gap. But the statistical controls that reveal that don’t make the problem of the wage gap go away. They help us identify where it exists. Some of it exists inside the companies where women work. Some of it exists inside household dynamics and broad social expectations of how family life should work. And some of it exists at the level of occupations, where women’s job opportunities are structured in an economically unhelpful way.”

Yes, Being a Woman Makes You Poorer (Monica Potts, The American Prospect)

Gender Pay Gap Tracks Number of Women in State Legislatures (Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight)

Inflation May Hit Poor the Hardest (Ben Casselman, FiveThirtyEight)

Why We’re In a New Gilded Age (Paul Krugman, NYRB)


U.S. policy has gone liberals’ way for 70 years (Matt Grossmann, WaPo)– “The arc of the policy universe is long, but it bends toward liberalism. Conservatives can slow the growth of government but an enduring shift in policy direction would be unprecedented. History shows that a do-nothing Congress is a conservative’s best-case scenario.”

Is There a Wonk Bubble? (Felix Salmon, Politico)– “The same thing is likely to happen with the wonks. As the Wonk Bubble continues to grow, and online news organizations become more comfortable with this new form of journalism, you’ll increasingly find that the wonks’ journalistic techniques—the explainers, the charts, the accessible-yet-informed voice—will appear all over the news file. Eventually, a separate wonk site will feel as quaint as a separate blog site feels today. This is how journalism evolves nowadays.


Raising a Moral Child (Adam Grant, NYT)– “Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions”

Kids Are Having Sex Before Sex Ed (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)

Teens are shockingly great at using birth control (Sarah Kliff, Vox)


Want to see how problematic Medicare pricing is? Look to ophthalmology. (Max Ehrenfreund, Wonkblog)– “A dose of Avastin costs only $50. A dose of Lucentis costs $2,000. Both Avastin and Lucentis are made by the same company, and they’re remarkably effective in treating a form of macular degeneration that was long the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, The Post reported. They are very similar on a molecular level and probably cost about the same amount to manufacture.  Nonetheless, doctors prescribe Lucentis almost as often as Avastin. They also make more money doing so. Medicare is legally obliged to pay for any drug a doctor prescribes, and doctors also receive commissions of 6 percent to cover their own expenses. The commission a doctor collects on each dose of Avastin would be only about $3, as opposed to $120 on each dose of Lucentis. Congress and the courts have refusedto allow Medicare to save money by scrutinizing doctors’ decisions.”

Forget Obamacare: Vermont wants to bring single payer to America (Sarah Kliff, Vox)

Culture War

When whites are told they’re becoming a minority, they become more conservative (Andrew Prokop, Vox)

The Color of His Presidency (Jonathan Chait, New York)– “But if you instead set out to write a social history of the Obama years, one that captured the day-to-day experience of political life, you would find that race has saturated everything as perhaps never before. Hardly a day goes by without a volley and counter-volley of accusations of racial insensitivity and racial hypersensitivity. And even when the red and blue tribes are not waging their endless war of mutual victimization, the subject of race courses through everything else: debt, health care, unemployment. Whereas the great themes of the Bush years revolved around foreign policy and a cultural divide over what or who constituted “real” America, the Obama years have been defined by a bitter disagreement over the size of government, which quickly reduces to an argument over whether the recipients of big-government largesse deserve it. There is no separating this discussion from one’s sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America.”

The gay marriage bigots strike again (Damon Linker, The Week)– Not posted for agreement.

Simply talking to people about same-sex marriage makes them more tolerant (Dylan Mathews, Vox)

The most important fact we rarely admit in talking about segregation and poverty (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)– “The geography that we have today — where poverty clusters alongside poverty, while the better-off live in entirely different school districts — is in large part a product of deliberate policies and government investments. The creation of the Interstate highway system enabled white flight. The federal mortgage interest deduction subsidized middle-income families buying homes there. For three decades, the Federal Housing Administration had separate underwriting standards for mortgages in all-white neighborhoods and all-black ones, institutionalizing the practice of “redlining.” That policy ended in the 1960s, but the patterns it reinforced didn’t end with it.”


Six things colleges don’t want you to know about financial aid (Libby Nelson, Vox)

Foreign Affairs

The oil curse– how black gold makes countries more authoritarian, corrupt and violent (Zack Beauchamp, Vox)

The worse you are at finding Ukraine on a map, the likelier you are to want to bomb it (Ezra Klein, Vox)


UConn basketball’s dirty secret (Libby Nelson, Vox)– It graduates only 8 percent of its players.


A Very, Very Serious Response to Ordain Women (Casey, Experts Textperts)– Poe’s law strikes again.  “My only real wish is that OW had behaved differently at every point. Less confrontationally. Less publicly. Had they done so I still wouldn’t support them, but I would feel much less uncomfortable about seeing the whole thing unfold. Frankly, as one who theoretically supports the hypothetical idea of women being ordained at some unspecified future time, it’s tremendously difficult to be a moderate in times like this.”

Hook of Mormon: Inside the Church’s Online-Only Missionary Army (Bianca Bosker, Huffington Post)

The Movement to Ordain Mormon Women (Natalie Dicou, The Atlantic)

Why More Missionaries ≠More Converts (Christopher Smith, Worlds without End)– “The problem seems to be market saturation. More missionaries means more converts only if there’s pent-up “demand” or demand increases in proportion to the missionary “supply”. Since the Church has largely discontinued the practice of random, door-to-door “tracting,” the demand being met by proselytizing missionaries consists almost entirely of prospective converts whose names have been submitted by current LDS members. There are only so many member referrals to go around, and the missionary force was already large enough to handle them before the missionary age was lowered. Adding 22,000 new missionaries doesn’t increase the number of member referrals; it just means the referrals are spread across a larger number of missionaries and each of them has less to do.”

LDS Church PR and Ordain Women: Amputating the Body of Christ (Katie L., Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “This depiction of the action is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst…I repeat, the depiction from church PR in no way reflects the scene I observed.But perhaps even more disappointing than the flexibility with the facts is the overall message the statement conveys to the membership. From their initial request asking OW to stand in the “free speech zones” to last night’s heartbreaking spin, I am becoming increasingly concerned that their strategy is designed to give cues to the membership how to view us—as rabble rousers, outsiders, haters, disobedient apostates; people to be ignored or even ridiculed.”

A Warning About Alonzo Gaskill’s New Book (Taylor Petrey, By Common Consent)– “The idea that a notable professor invokes the Spirit to testify in favor of a 19th century forgery should trouble us precisely because it reinforces the critiques about the gullibility and overeagerness of Latter-day Saints to accept factual historical errors based on our desires rather than critical investigation. The sort of paradigm exhibited in this book shows that a professor is not capable of distinguishing between an obvious 19th century forgery and the sacred scriptures of Mormonism, and chooses supposed parallels between modern prophets and a modern forgery as evidence of what Jesus would have said in the first century.”

Mormons and the problem of selective obedience (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “The problem with any all-or-nothing view of prophetic authority is that it removes our greatest gift, agency. In the Mormon cosmogony, our God cared so deeply about human freedom that a full third of the host of heaven was sacrificed in order to preserve it. How tragic that those on the far right are so anxious to surrender that agency and allow someone else to do their thinking for them. It is equally tragic, however, when those on the far left conclude that there is no such thing as prophetic or inspired leadership, or that God has long since stopped speaking through human mouths.”

Female Ordination and the “Second Shift” (Christopher Smith, Worlds Without End)– “More importantly, the Church could easily help avert the “double burden” problem if its introduction of female ordination were coupled with an effort to redress the balance of domestic duties. This is one of the advantages of a change in LDS Church policy over the change in US government policy that allowed women to enter the workforce: the LDS Church can exercise much more social control over men’s responses to the change. As with rape, the solution is not to impose constraints on women to prevent their victimization; the solution is to teach men to be fairer, more aware, and more ethical in their treatment of women.”

Volume 3.14 (March 31-April 6)

Foreign Affairs

Bye, Bye Baby (Michael Teitelbaum and Jay M. Winter, NYT)– “But with the global economy still quite fragile, it’s a safe bet that ominous jeremiads about endangered, geriatric societies will continue. Population doom of one kind or another is a recurring fad. Like most fads, this one can be safely ignored. Humanity has many legitimate problems to worry about. Falling fertility is not one of them.”


Following Orders in Rwanda (Jean-Marie Kamatali, NYT)– “To do that, the government now must focus on changing the culture of obedience, for two reasons: so that the instinct to follow leaders blindly never again leaves evil unchallenged, and to nurture habits of individual thought that are essential to growth and freedom in any modern society. Rwandans need steps to create a true rule of law, rather than compliance: education that emphasizes critical thought, not obedience; reliance on strong legal and legislative institutions rather than strong personalities who give edicts from the top.”

China After Tiananmen: Money, Yes, Ideas, No (Perry Link, NYRB)



The Big Picture

Houston’s Hidden Homeless Live Under Bridges, In the Shadows, Out of Sight and Mind (Angelica Leicht, Houston Press)

Judges Blind to Justice (Moe Tkacik, In These Times)

Game of Homes (Rebecca Burns, In These Times)– And for a more personal take, read Kicked Out of Our Home, Courtesy of Blackstone (Michael Donley and Carmilla Manzanet, In These Times)

Sure Bigwigs Want Labor Rights– But Only for Themselves (David Sirota, In These Times)– “The problems with such a twisted ideology should be obvious. For one thing, there’s the sheer hypocrisy of insinuating that the ruling class has a right to stand in solidarity with each other, but everyone else should be prevented from exercising similar rights. Additionally, the argument posits that the real problem in an America plagued by economic inequality is that workers have too much power and the ruling class has too little—not vice versa.” One Dollar, One Vote (David Cole, NYRB)– “In other words, even if no money is redirected and channeled to a particular candidate, and even if there is no bribery or quid pro quo corruption, there is a serious problem that warrants Congress’s attention. Why should those with more money have a greater say in who gets elected? And why isn’t Congress justified in restricting aggregate contributions to offset these negative effects on the democratic process? It is this aspect of the decision—the refusal to recognize any interest beyond quid pro quo corruption—that is likely to have the most damaging effect on campaign finance laws going forward.”

What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong? (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones)– “Far from eschewing marriage as an institution, she found, poor women idealized it to such an extent that it became unattainable. They didn’t believe that a marriage born in poverty could survive.  In a society that increasingly saw marriage as a choice, not a requirement, low-income women were embracing the same preconditions as middle-class women. They wanted to be “set” before marrying, with economic independence to ensure a more equitable partnership and a fallback should things go bad. They also wanted men who were mature, stable, and who had mortgages and other signs of adulthood, not just jobs.”


More Than Corruption Threatens Our Democracy (Adam Lioz, The American Prospect)– “So, what’s the difference, in a democracy, between bargaining with money and bargaining with votes? Here’s one thought: the difference is that—at least in theory—everyone has an equal vote to bargain with. Not so financial bargaining power. “

The Only Antidote to Big Money in Politics Might be Critical Thinking (Michael Austin, IVN)

John Roberts Shows He Has No Idea How Money Works in Politics (Sam Kleiner, New Republic)– “The Court comes off as remarkably uninformed when it comes to the relationship between wealthy donors and elected officials. Roberts says that legislation cannot seek to limit what he calls the “general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.” Roberts said “spending large sums of money” would not “give rise to such quid pro quo corruption.” The reality is, of course, that looking for evidence of direct trades of a Congressional vote for a donation will reveal very few instances of corruption. However, as Lawrence Lessig has established, there is a broader system of “dependence corruption” in which candidates must rely on wealthy donors in order to have access to the political system. The Roberts Court reflects a lack of understanding in how money actually operates in our political system and has adopted such a hollow understanding of corruption that they are able to view our system as free of any corrupting influence. “


MIT Climate Scientists Responds on Disaster Costs and Climate Change (Kerry Emanuel, FiveThirtyEight)– “The point here is that the number of bears in the woods is presumably much greater than the incidence of their contact with humans, so the overall bear statistics should be much more robust than any mauling statistics. The actuarial information here is the rate of mauling, while the doubling of the bear population represents a priori information. Were it possible to buy insurance against mauling, no reasonable firm supplying such insurance would ignore a doubling of the bear population, lack of any significant mauling trend notwithstanding.”

The CIA and the Moral Sunk Costs of the Torture Program (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “The picture this paints is one of an agency that is simultaneously torturing prisoners, without much effect, and also trying desperately to tell a story to the rest of the government that the torture is working. And to this day, everyone on up the chain—most recently Dick Cheney, who said the other day of the torture program that he’d do it all over again, because “The results speak for themselves”—insists the same thing. Because if it didn’t work, what are they? They’re monsters. They transgressed one of humanity’s most profound moral injunctions, for nothing. And no one wants to believe that about themselves.”


Teaching Tolerance: How white parents should talk to their children about race (Melinda Wenner Moyer, Slate)

Culture War

Childless People Should Pay Much Higher Taxes (Reihan Salam, Slate)– “y shifting the tax burden from parents to nonparents, we will help give America’s children a better start in life, and we will help correct a simple injustice. We all benefit from the work of parents. Each new generation reinvigorates our society with its youthful vim and vigor. As my childless friends and I grow crankier and more decrepit, a steady stream of barely postpubescent brainiacs writes catchy tunes and invents breakthrough technologies that keep us entertained and make us more productive. The willingness of parents to bear and nurture children saves us from becoming an economically moribund nation of hateful curmudgeons. The least we can do is offer them a bigger tax break.”

Can Liberals and Conservatives Come Together to Support Families? (Noah Smith, The Atlantic)– “It’s time to reach out to conservatives on the issue of family stability. It’s becoming clear that traditional family gender roles—the idea that the man should be able to be the sole breadwinner—are not sustainable in the modern economic environment. This is probably one reason behind the breakdown of two-parent families among the working class, as documented by Charles Murray in his bookComing Apart. But liberals—the same kale-munching, bottle-recycling goofballs that National Review and David Brooks have spent decades lampooning—have found a better way. The better way is what Richard Reeves, in a landmark article in The Atlantic, calls “High Investment Parenting.” When families focus on the kids, instead of on maintaining traditional gender roles, it turns out to be a lot easier to keep the family together.”

A Marine silent no longer on gay marriage (Roger Dean Huffstetler, WaPo)

These congressmen want to tear down the wall between church and state (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)

Major League Baseball, Daniel Murphy and what real men do when their wives give birth (Alyssa Rosenberg, WaPo)– “It is not clear whether that spike in anxiety means men feel more obligation from their jobs, or a greater desire to support their families. But for men like Daniel Murphy, policy is just barely keeping pace with their desire not just to verify that their offspring are healthy before returning to more manly tasks, but also to contribute in some way to the first days of life.”


Parenthood makes gaming better by making time your most precious resource (Ben Kuchera, Polygon)


I’ll be at the Ordain Women event, but… (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “But simply naming it a patriarchy ignores its additional features – because it’s not just a patriarchy.  It’s a colonial patriarchy.  It’s a white patriarchy.  It’s a class-based patriarchy.  It’s an Americentric conservative patriarchy bound to a particular economic and political order that is nearing its ‘use by’ date.”

Founder of Ordain Women desires ‘complete equal footing’ with men (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)

Eli & Hannah: How Mormons Can Reverence Sacred Space and Divine Petition (Katy Meldau Cummings, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Ask Not (Stephanie Lauritzen, Salt Lake City Weekly)– “Moody’s letter represents another instance of the church contradicting its own standards and attempting to vilify the members of Ordain Women as going against a doctrine that does not exist. “

Some non-arguments against the ordination of women (Jupiterschild, Faith Promoting Rumor)– “Protests and complaints have never resulted in change or revelation.  Anyone who asserts this needs a Mormon History refresher. The LDS church has a long tradition of revelations received in response to protests, complaints, and questioning. The 1978 revelation is the most salient, I think, (and anyone who wants to say this wasn’t because of protests needs a US history refresher). But there are many others, like Emma Smith’s protest about tobacco on her floor apparently leading to the Word of Wisdom. In any case, revelation in our tradition (including in the Hebrew Bible) almost never comes from a prophet sitting by the phone, waiting for God to call. And thank God for that.”

We Change Ourselves (fmhLisa, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Ordain Women, Women’s Ordination (Jacob Baker, All Eternity Shakes: Letters from the Vineyard)– “This is what I mean when I say that nothing at this point will “stop” Ordain Women–not that they are on an inevitable track to absolutely secure Mormon priesthood for women, but that they have become something that is more than their stated intentions, something already historicized and important whatever the ultimate outcome, and something that will go on, in tributaries and rivulets, spreading and branching in unforeseen ways.”

Volume 3.13 (March 24-30)

Pick of the Week– Hobby Lobby and the Return of the “Negro Travelers’ Green Book” (Kent Greenfield, The American Prospect)– “In America, 120 million of us are employed by small businesses. Much of our lives as consumers are spent interacting with restaurants, dry cleaners, grocers, shops, hotels, and gas stations. Many of the owners of these establishments are religious. Some store owners may feel they are commanded by their divinity to refuse service to Muslims. Some believe, sincerely, that they should not provide health insurance for vasectomies.  The owners of some barbecue joints will think that serving African Americans is a violation of God’s command to banish those with the mark of Cain. Some chicken sandwich restaurants will claim that providing benefits to same sex partners undermines their corporate conscience.”

Foreign Affairs

What do we say about the national question? (Paul D’Amato, Socialist Worker)– “One cannot support the full equality of nations unless one vigorously supports the right of oppressed nations to self-determination–that is, their right to secede from the imperial power that oppresses them.”

The war of words over Ukraine plays into Putin’s hands (Anne-Marie Slaughter, WaPo)

Confronting Putin’s Russia (Michael McFaul, NYT)– “We did not seek this confrontation. This new era crept up on us, because we did not fully win the Cold War. Communism faded, the Soviet Union disappeared and Russian power diminished. But the collapse of the Soviet order did not lead smoothly to a transition to democracy and markets inside Russia, or Russia’s integration into the West.”

Turkey Goes Out of Control (Christopher de Bellaigue, NYRB)– “The parties to the confrontation are the prime minister, sixty-year-old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and a Turkish divine, Fethullah Gülen, thirteen years his senior. Erdoğan leads the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and works in the political hurly-burly of Ankara, the country’s capital. Gülen is Turkey’s best-known preacher and moral didact. He lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania, reportedly in poor health (he has heart trouble). Gülen presides loosely but unmistakably over an empire of schools, businesses, and networks of sympathizers.  It is this empire that Erdoğan now depicts as a “parallel state” to the one he was elected to run, and he has undertaken to eliminate it.”


Why churches should brace for a mass exodus of the faithful (Damon Linker, The Week)– “But in both Catholicism and Mormonism, there’s often nowhere else to go. It’s either love it or leave it.  I think it’s likely that over the coming years these churches are going to confront a stark choice: Reform themselves in light of equality or watch their parishioners opt for the exits. In droves.”

James Kugel: Professor of Disbelief (Michael Orbach, Moment)

Sacred and Profane (Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker)– “Docherty points out that the techniques that work on bank robbers don’t work on committed believers. There was no pragmatism hidden below a layer of posturing, lies, and grandiosity. Docherty uses Max Weber’s typology to describe the Davidians. They were “value-rational”—that is to say, their rationality was organized around values, not goals. A value-rational person would accept his fourteen-year-old daughter’s polygamous marriage, if he was convinced that it was in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Because the F.B.I. could not take the faith of the Branch Davidians seriously, it had no meaningful way to communicate with them”

The Big Picture

Forces of Divergence (John Cassidy, The New Yorker)– “The proper role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate. “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” does all these things. As with any such grand prognostication, some of it may not withstand the test of time. But Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore. “

America’s Class System Across the Life Cycle (Matt Bruenig, The American Prospect)

Companies are Hiring Autistic Workers to Boost the Bottom Line (Alison Griswold, Slate Moneybox)– “”Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,” Freddie Mac states in its policy. At the end of the day, the bottom line is business as much as social good.”

The Politics of Envy (Michael Winship, In These Times)– “What’s handy about making accusations of envy or jealously is that it doesn’t have to reflect badly on you, the accuser. Hey, it can’t be helped if people are resentful — your success is your own and why should there be apologies for making something of yourself? Thus, victimhood becomes the whine du jour of the superrich—it goes well with everything.”

How to Get Ahead in Business: Neoliberal Ideology (Adam Blanden, Critical Theory)– “Neoliberalism thus reflected, locally and internationally, the interests of a broad variety of social classes. If it has fractured recently it has done so under pressure of its expansion, the central contradiction of which is the demand that an inherently inegalitarian system be adapted to include the growing demands of societies whose previous roles had been to supply both cash (in the form of government bond purchases) and products for western markets. Neoliberalism is thus increasingly forced to confront immediate pressures from within. Yet the question remains: can it any longer support the social classes whose real desires it appeared, for a while, to meet? “


Dr. Steven Hotze’s Weird War Against the Texas Medical Board (Craig Malisow, Houston Press)


The Miseducation of the Tiger Mother (William Deresiewicz, The New Republic)– “Conspicuously absent from their account, as the authors make a point of noting, is the standard explanation of “model minority” success: a historical commitment to education. When minorities prosper, Chua and Rubenfeld claim, it is not because they believe in education per se; it’s because they believe in success, and they realize that education, in the modern world, is the path to success. As for groups that fail to get ahead—and here, of course, the authors venture onto very tricky ground—the problem isn’t inherent inferiority. The problem, for African Americans or Central Appalachians, the two examples they discuss at any length, is that years of bigotry and disadvantage “grind the Triple 
Package out of” them. Insecurity, yes—but 
no impulse control anymore, no sense 
of ethnic destiny.”

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul (Todd Balf, NYT)

How Businesses Use Your SATs (Shaila Dewan, NYT)

Health Care

The Political Roots and Ramifications of the Hobby Lobby Case (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)

Why I’m Jealous of My Dog’s Insurance (Eric L. Wee, NYT)

The Philosophical Case Against Obamacare is Here.  And It’s Weak. (Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic)– “What’s so interesting about this excerpt is the way that it views the pre-Obamacare status quo. Ask yourself this: would someone who didn’t have health insurance ever describe the pre-Obamacare system in these terms? We already had a healthcare system that made all kinds of trade-offs. And many people, of course, never really “voluntarily agreed” to the system, even if they were lucky enough to have had insurance. Was paying high premiums because of pre-existing conditions a choice? Was taking the plan from your employer a choice? In Mankiw’s world, however, things only became disruptive after Obamacare.”

4 Ways the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS Case Could Spell Disaster (Erika L. Sanchez, In These Times)– ““The Hobby Lobby case will affect millions of women. That by itself is cause for serious alarm,” says Eric Ferrero. “It’s a slippery slope of discrimination. A decision can have very far reaching consequences. It could allow companies to discriminate against a wide range of people. Anybody who they could claim to have moral disapproval of without having to substantiate it. These are beyond retro views about the role of women in society. It gives a peek at how these folks are trying to move the clock back. “

Religious exemptions– a guide for the confused (Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy)


Productive Labor (Christiana Z. Peppard, Medium)– “Universities should consciously and consistently choose to implement parental leave and childcare policies. Without such policies, universities cannot embody their best self-understandings as nondiscriminatory meritocracies. At worst, they will be exploitative.”

It’s Not Bigfoot.  It Exists.’  On Melissa Gira Grant’s Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Kurt Newman, U.S. Intellectual History)


The GOP’s Racial Dogwhistling and the Social Safety Net (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)


Does Porn Hurt Children? (David Segal, NYT)– “At a minimum, researchers believe a parent-teenager conversation about sexuality and pornography is a good idea, as unnerving to both sides as that may sound. The alternative is worse, according to Professor Reid. Putting a computer in a kid’s room without any limits on what can be viewed, he said, is a bit like tossing a teenager the keys to a car and saying: “Go learn how to drive. Have fun.””

‘Big data’ needs a helping hand in Washington (Catherine Rampell, WaPo)

Can Evolution Outrace Climate Change? (Sarah Laskow, FiveThirtyEight)


No More Strangers (Melissa Inouye, Peculiar People)– “In the first place, we are forgetting that a group of people that comprises at very most .002 percent of the world’s population cannot afford to excise entire sections of its membership in a fit of temper.”

Its Time to Overhaul the Church Bureaucracy (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “What is it about our church that we have become so highly regulated, over managed and policed by a faceless, sometimes mean spirited and arrogant corporate structure that consistently wastes our monetary sacrifices on thoughtless projects and processes that often lack any sense whatsoever?  How is it that they unfailingly evade scrutiny or accountability from those who pay their operational costs and salaries?  “

These Are Our Sisters (Roger Nicholson, FAIRMormon)

Inverting Jesus: Protecting the Ninety-Nine (Seth Payne, Worlds Without End)– “Even those who recognize and accept the institutional Church policy of protecting the majority may justify it by claiming that these so-called “lost sheep” are nothing more than “wolves’ in sheep’s clothing” that should be cut off from the flock and intentionally marginalized as they represent a real spiritual danger.  While this view may be emotionally satisfying it falls apart upon further examination.  In each of the cases I cite above, never is the core doctrinal issue raised by minority voices dealt with directly and candidly.  Rather, these issues are simply labeled as “extreme” or “heretical.”  I am forced to wonder why, if the Church’s doctrinal position on these issues is so solid, the Church simply refuses to substantively engage.  In other words, how can the Church recognize a wolf if it doesn’t take a moment to know and understand the sheep?”

The care and feeding of Mormon trolls (Stephanie Lauritzen, Flunking Sainthood)– “I’ve often wondered how someone with such a beautiful family or lovely wedding picture could so easily condemn me to hell. People are complex. Very few are truly awful or unkind; rather they are normal human beings who sometimes make mistakes. I’ve learned to try and see my detractors as whole people, not just villainous writers of hate mail. Choosing to view people with compassion doesn’t mean I agree with them, but it helps diffuse the pain when I realize the person writing me is inevitably hurting too. Happy people don’t threaten people they disagree with, but broken people do.”

To the Saints Who Tell Heretics and Apostates to Leave (christer1979, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “Christ wasn’t interested in destroying the people who had disrespected him. His mission was to love, to convert, to bring peace and understanding. If he wasn’t interested in driving away disrespectful Samaritans, how then can we assume he wants us to drive away people who are respectfully asking questions? If he could cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” how we can we insist that they know very well what they do and they deserve to be cast out?”

Where is the door?  How do WE knock? (James Olson, Times and Seasons)– “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens? How do we collectively ask, how do we faithfully seek, how do we collectively knock? Where is the official door, behind which our prophets and apostles sit, on which we CAN knock? And how does a group of faithful members with a serious concern gain access to that door?”

Equal Means Something (Julie M. Smith, Times and Seasons)– “My larger point is that if you want to argue that equal doesn’t mean the same, that’s fine. But “equal” does mean something and we have lots of work to do before many current LDS practices could be described as “equal” in any meaningful sense of the word.”

Faith, Revelation and Jewish Parallels (Ben S., Times and Seasons)– “Would it be helpful to think of Apostles as stewards of the Church who also may receive revelation, instead of Infallible Prophets who can’t NOT receive revelation?”

Progress is Non-Negotiable (Derek, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “They have instead chosen to dig in their heels, and to cast Ordain Women in the role of meddlesome troublemakers. Instead of embracing these women who feel pain and sadness, the hierarchy pushes them away. When the Church does invite dialogue, it is through and with Public Relations representatives, people whose job it is to spin information, not to make change.  The only non-negotiable for Ordain Women, I would say, is evidence of hearts open to the stories of the sort of women represented by Ordain Women, evidence of a door to *some* sort of progress. By denying them this, who is being intractable?”

Volume 3.12 (March 17-23)

Pick of the Week– Contraception as a test of equality (Walter Dellinger, WaPo)– “For all women, denying practical access to the method of contraception that is right for their health and life circumstances, as well as the well-being of their families, can represent a serious incursion into their individual moral autonomy.”


Why Charity Can’t Replace the Safety Net (Jordan Weissmann, Slate Moneybox)

A Primer on Inequality and Economic Growth (P.a.P. Blog)

The Automatic Corporation (Vivek Haldar)– “Corporations can be thought of as information-processing feedback loops. They propose products, introduce them into the marketplace, learn from the performance of the products, and adjust. They do this while trying to maximize some value function, typically profit.  So why can’t they be completely automated? I mean that literally. Could we have software that carries out all those functions?”


The Most Righteous Man at ESPN (Marc Tracy, The New Republic)– Jay Bilas’ Twitter feed is a national treasure.

Foreign Affairs

We Finally Start to See What Drove Snowden (Jonathan Coppage, The American Conservative)

Moral Injury (__, Huffington Post)– “Most people enter military service “with the fundamental sense that they are good people and that they are doing this for good purposes, on the side of freedom and country and God,” said Dr. Wayne Jonas, a military physician for 24 years and president and CEO of the Samueli Institute, a non-profit health research organization. “But things happen in war that are irreconcilable with the idea of goodness and benevolence, creating real cognitive dissonance – ‘I’m a good person and yet I’ve done bad things.’””


The Emptiness of Data Journalism (Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic)– “Many of the issues that we debate are not issues of fact but issues of value. There is no numerical answer to the question of whether men should be allowed to marry men, and the question of whether the government should help the weak, and the question of whether we should intervene against genocide. And so the intimidation by quantification practiced by Silver and the other data mullahs must be resisted. Up with the facts! Down with the cult of facts!”

Finally, a Formula for Decoding Health News (Jeff Leek, FiveThirtyEight)


Our Naive Innovation Fetish (Evgeny Morozov, The New Republic)– ““Innovation” is no substitute for a robust technology policy. It must frame its arguments around big themes of equality and justice. Of course, those goals are buried somewhere in its information agenda; it’s just that the left, mesmerized by the jargon of TED Talks and Al Gore, has simply preferred not to emphasize them. Instead, the left accepts that these questions require economic thinking, with its fascination with efficiency and constant change. But the genuine act of innovation would be to redefine the idea altogether.”

Trapped: There Are No Simple Solutions to Houston’s Traffic Crisis (Jeff Balke, Houston Press)

Betrayed (Charles Simic, NYRB)– “It is the selective morality of our interventionists that offends me. They judge acts of violence not by their consequences, but on whether someone else or we are the perpetrators—if the acts are done by us they tend to have their full approval. Hypocrites who are blind or indifferent to their own country’s atrocities are not well suited for playing the part of moral conscience of the world, especially when their claims to desire democracy in these troubled countries has a long and notoriously checkered history.”


The Technology is Out There’ But Satellites Don’t Track Jets (Jad Mouawad, Christopher Drew, Nicola Clark, NYT)– This is the most insane thing about this whole story to me.  As the article points out, my iPhone can be tracked within a matter of feet at practically any time of day and my car is tracked via GPS satellite all day long.  How we don’t have at least comparable technology following planes carrying hundreds of passengers is beyond me.


Students See Many Slights as ‘Microaggressions’ (Tanzina Vega, NYT)

Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “I view white supremacy as one of the central organizing forces in American life, whose vestiges and practices afflicted black people in the past, continue to afflict black people today, and will likely afflict black people until this country passes into the dust. “


A Quick Way to Cut College Costs (Steve Cohen, NYT)– “So let’s get serious instead. Congress and the president should drastically cut the E.F.C. — by around 75 percent, to reflect the fact that since 1980 tuition has risen at nearly five times the rate of the Consumer Price Index. Doing so would force colleges to construct financial aid packages without the artificial price supports of inflated contribution numbers — and make paying for college less agonizing.”


A mad world (Joseph Pierre, Aeon)– “People worry that psychiatrists think everyone is crazy because they make the mistake of equating any form of psychiatric illness with being crazy. But that’s like equating a cough with tuberculosis or lung cancer”

The Glorious and Necessary Torture of Dark Souls (Joseph Bernstein, Buzzfeed)

What Lies Beneath (Linda Greenhouse, NYT)– “In that state of ignorance — and in contrast to my past professional life as a reporter, during which I knew at least enough about every case on the court’s docket to know which ones I didn’t have to care about — I was like most people who might encounter a stray Supreme Court decision without any prior buildup and wonder what it was that the justices had done. The experience, a natural experiment in a way, was instructive enough to share.”

The Overprotected Kid (Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic)



The Problem of Gendered Voice in the Church Memo to the Leaders of Ordain Women (jupiterschild, Faith Promoting Rumor)– “The problem of voice in this press release might strike one at best as an ironic category error, and at worst as a feint that displays the weakness of the position. It is a category error in that it employs the voice of a woman to declare through official channels that women cannot use their voice to declare through official channels. On the other hand, besides the obvious adoption of a female persona to defuse cries of sexism, the problem of voice also reveals what might turn out to be a major chink in the armor.”

Many are Chosen, but Few are Called (Angela C., By Common Consent)– “What is the result of our current gender-restricted Priesthood?  One result is that we must dig deep into the male-only talent pool while ignoring completely the female talent pool.  When we dig that deeply, we are not always putting our best people at the helm, particularly at local levels where there are many rotating leadership roles to fill.”

Why the LDS Church’s statement on Ordain Women convinced me to join OW at Temple Square on April 5 (Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “If there has been a “conversation” about gender equality in Mormonism, it is not because the Church has led or even supported it.  It is because generations of Mormon feminists have continued to ask faithful but agitating questions of the faith we love, even when it has discouraged, rejected, and disrespected us. We’ve asked questions in our prayers, in our families, among friends, on our own blogs.  The national media–including the New York Times–has done more to proactively acknowledge and advance serious conversation about gender issues in Mormonism than the LDS Church, which has been on the defensive on women’s issues for decades.”

I’m a Mormon feminist, not an anti-Mormon protestor (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “In other words, the best-case scenario of these “thoughtful discussions” is to leave Mormon women hoping that conversations about their spiritual future are occurring . . . in all-male leadership meetings to which they have no access.”

Ordaining Women is Not Going Away for LDS (Taylor Petrey, Peculiar People)– “In spite of these challenges, Mormonism has a gender inequality problem, not only culturally, but structurally.  This issue is one which the leadership is aware of and has been tinkering with in various ways. Whether such tinkering can satisfy enough of the moderates for the short term to relieve pressure on the call for women’s ordination remains to be seen.  Still, perhaps ordination is the only true solution to the problem and all such tinkering only puts off, and makes more painful, an inevitable necessity.”

Denial and Deniability: The Church’s PR Strategy on Female Priesthood Denial (Christopher Smith, Worlds Without End)– “The press release’s female authorship and informal format has another important implication as well: it gives the Church’s leadership plausible deniability with respect to the letter’s central assertion that the all-male priesthood is a “matter of doctrine” and that female ordination is “contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for his Church.” Ironically, this statement was penned by a woman who doesn’t have the priesthood and therefore doesn’t have the institutional authority to make novel assertions about revelation and doctrine. Should the Church decide, in twenty years, that the denial of priesthood to women was merely a mistaken “policy” rather than a revealed doctrine, this PR statement will present no real obstacle.”

Volume 3.11 (March 10-16, 2014)

Obama’s Trauma Team (Steven Brill, TIME)– On the crack team of coders, engineers and project managers that turned healthcare.gov around.

The Big Picture

Obama was right: To boost the economy, spread the wealth (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)– The new studies are absolutely unequivocal on the issue: “Redistribution is overall pro-growth,” the authors write. “On average, across countries and over time, the things that governments have typically done to redistribute do not seem to have led to bad growth outcomes, unless they were extreme. And the resulting narrowing of inequality helped support faster and more durable growth.”

Congress to constituents: ‘Show me the money’ (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)– “[S]uccess rates for meetings with Congressmen were low overall, but the study authors note that non-donors rarely obtained any meetings with Congressmen or chiefs of staff. This suggests that being a donor is a near-necessary condition for obtaining high-level Congressional access, but it is not a sufficient one.”

What is Left? (Adolph Reed, The American Prospect)– “The core difference between us is that Meyerson has no patience for notions that there can, much less should, be a serious left politics that is not articulated relative to the Democratic Party. I argue the need for building an extra-electoral left that is independent of the Democrats because the party’s dominant political orientation has become less and less responsive to labor and other constituencies concerned with egalitarian economic policies, and more committed to placating the financial interests whose economic priorities intensify inequality and economic insecurity. “

Foreign Affairs

America Exports Democracy, Just Not the Way You Think (Sasha Issenberg, NYT)– On the global expansion of political party primaries

The CIA’s Poisonous Tree (David Cole, NYRB)– “In law, we say that torture “taints” an investigation. The legal doctrine that precludes reliance on evidence obtained from torture is called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule. But as this latest saga reflects, torture does far more than merely “taint” evidence. It corrupts all who touch it. The CIA’s desperate efforts to hide the details of what the world already knows in general outline—that it subjected human beings to brutal treatment to which no human being should ever be subjected—are only the latest evidence of the poisonous consequences of a program euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation.””

The west’s do-somethings will do nothing for Ukraine (Simon Jenkins, The Guardian)

Let Crimea Go (Eric Posner, Slate)– “By engineering the referendum in Crimea, Putin has again thrown international law back into the face of the West. If a fair vote is held, and Crimeans vote overwhelmingly to join Russia, then any Western effort to stop them will be seen as an attempt to thwart the will of the people, a violation of their right to self-determination, which is enshrined in the U.N. charter and multiple human rights treaties. And how would the West stop them anyway? Because Crimea would not be an independent state but a province of Russia, the usual ways of not recognizing a country—withholding U.N. membership, refusing to appoint an ambassador, and refraining from trade—would not work. Once Russia swallows up Crimea, we could not isolate Crimea without taking action against Russia. But Europe relies on Russia’s oil and its bank accounts, and so the United States would stand alone, unable to hurt Russia and only isolating itself.”

The Domestic Basis of American Power (Francis Fukuyama, Lawfare)– “However, I do believe that the political discount rate that translates economic strength into internationally usable power has increased for the United States as a result of the political polarization in Washington. Here the problem lies more with the political elite and less with society. I am not sure whether there are significantly deeper polarizations in American society than previously on foreign policy issues the way there are on domestic economic and cultural issues. “


Oh Humanities! (Michael Hammond, Religion in American History)– “There was a time, not too long ago, when public conversations might turn to a discussion of the events of the past. A disagreement over details might emerge, and there was an advantage to whoever might possess the cultural literacy necessary to recall a particular fact or detail about a time in ages past. Today, if these conversations emerge, they are settled by someone pulling out a cell phone or similar device and searching for the answer. What makes history relevant in a culture that embraces the newness of information rather than the persistence of historical narratives? “


Building a Diverse Newsroom is Work (Shani O. Hilton, Medium)– “Getting to that level of diversity takes work. It’s something BuzzFeed is OK at — and we’re working on improving. The undercurrent to much of the criticism of Silver and Klein et al. is an assumption that it’s easy to hire a diverse staff if you try, but white dudes just aren’t trying. I’m not a white dude, so I can only speak to the first part of that sentence, as someone who’s done a fair amount of hiring in my year at BuzzFeed. So here goes: It actually isn’t easy to build a diverse newsroom.”

King of the Foxes (Steve Coll, NYRB)

Journalism startups aren’t a revolution if they’re filled with all these white men (Emily Bell, The Guardian)– “Maybe it is the fault of legacy media for failing to make enough women “marquee journalists” in the first place. Being a “personal brand” superstar journalist is a harder path for women to negotiate, not just through the closure of institutional opportunity, but also through the bruising nature of internet discourse, which can represent an entirely different and much less civilised clubhouse than the equitable one Nate Silver is building at ESPN with so much fanaticism that he hires by chart.  Women tend to have to choose in the newsroom, even digital-first newsrooms: serve others, as an editor or commissioner, or be your own presence as a journalist/columnist/blogger. The leadership in the new (new) journalism do both, and their founders would not for one second have thought they had to choose.”

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? (Walter Dean Myers, NYT)– “I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.”

The Future of Internet Freedom (Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, NYT)

Imaginary Jews (Michael Walzer, NYRB)– “What is being explained is the social world; the explanatory tools are certain supposed features of Judaism; and the enemies are mostly not Jews but “Judaizing” non-Jews who take on these features and are denounced for doing so. I will deal with only a few of Judaism’s negative characteristics: its hyperintellectualism; its predilection for tyranny; its equal and opposite predilection for subversive radicalism; and its this-worldly materialism, invoked, as we’ve seen, by both Burke and Marx. None of this is actually descriptive; there certainly are examples of hyper-intellectual, tyrannical, subversive, and materialist Jews (and of dumb, powerless, conformist, and idealistic Jews), but Nirenberg insists, rightly, that real Jews have remarkably little to do with anti-Judaism.”


Opportunity Knox: The Duke Porn Star Makes a Feminist Case for Her Career Choice (Robin Kirk, Dame)– “The videos I watched—free teasers, to be sure—are tightly choreographed (freedom?) and entirely run-of-the-mill (empowering?), designed to appeal to precisely the prospective fraternity brother who revealed her identity to his peers. I am trying to understand how they can be spun as feminist. She does not appear to be in control of anything: The narrative, if this can be graced with such a lofty term, is utterly predictable, and everything is focused on male pleasure, the male gaze, and the inevitable cum-on-her-face crescendo. “

We now know more about the economics of prostitution than ever (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)


What it Means to be Catholic Now (Peter Manseau, NYT)– “Who is a Catholic? If the late priest and sociologist Andrew M. Greeley was correct in his assessment that “Catholics remain Catholic” because “they are loyal to the poetry of Catholicism,” the answer may be more a matter of language than belief.  The hold the church’s symbolism continues to have on many, practicing and lapsed, Catholic and not, is also the key to understanding both the opportunity and the risk Rome faces in the age of Francis: The poetry of faith remains open to interpretation. Though he surely did not intend it this way, “Who am I to judge?” would be a fitting motto for a papacy that saw a thousand Catholicisms bloom.”

Religious Belief and Bigotry (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “Twenty years ago, I was confidently told by my leftist gay friends that Americans were all anti-gay bigots and would never, ever back marriage rights so I should stop trying to reason them out of their opposition. My friends were wrong. Americans are not all bigots. Not even close. They can be persuaded rather than attacked. And if we behave magnanimously and give maximal space for those who sincerely oppose us, then eventual persuasion will be more likely. And our victory more moral and more enduring.”


Beyond Hemlines: What Pope Francis Can Teach Us About Modesty (Stephen Carter, Sunstone)

BYU Search Committee considers both men and women for BYU President: Why another man? (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “Theoretically there have been at least three opportunities over the last 20 years to appoint a woman as President of BYU, and each of those times they have opted for a man from a very, very, very (excuse the yawn) familiar demographic.”

Doctrinal Disparity & Fragile Faith (Richard Livingston, Peculiar People)