Volume 3.34 (Aug 18-24)

Pick of the WeekWhere Online Social Liberalism Lost the Script (Freddie DeBoer, The Dish)


America in Decay: The Sources of Political Dysfunction (Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs)

Breaking Out of the Party Box (Arthur C. Brooks, NYT)– “Scrambling the conventional categories would not merely shift electoral dynamics. It would improve our country. More trait-trespassing politicians would give all citizens the competition of ideas we deserve. Because of the lack of overlapping values between the parties today, most people have effectively one choice when it comes time to vote. Often, we just hold our noses and pull the lever. That makes politics about as edifying as shopping at a Soviet-era supermarket. Wouldn’t we all like some choice?”

Greenwald Derangement Syndrome and Political Mind Reading (Freddie DeBoer, The Dish)– “My response to the claim that Edward Snowden is a libertarian is simple: I don’t care. At all. It’s simply immaterial to me. I have no particular interest in his broader ideological or political beliefs. Snowden is not a candidate for President or Congress. He’s not my political czar or my personal friend. What has distinguished Snowden has been his actions, the action of releasing a small portion of a vast trove of secret government documents to the public, in order to reveal to us the extent to which our national security system has trod on our rights and on our freedom. It is of little consequence to me whether he believes in socialism or fascism or anything in between, so long as the fruits of his efforts leave us more informed and better able to at least understand how the military state has harmed us. I don’t know why that indifference to his broader politics would be surprising to anyone. I respect and value his actions, and I feel that we owe him a great debt. If he proposes political ideas that I find immoral or unwise, I will say so. There is no contradiction there.”


Global Warming is Just One of the Many Environmental Threats that Demand our Attention (Amartya Sen, New Republic)


The Enclosure of the American Mind (Anthony Grafton, NYT)– “Much of his dystopian description rings true. American universities spout endless, sickening self-praise. Professors are chosen for their specialized knowledge and receive no serious instruction in the art of teaching. As each field of study becomes denser with argument and discovery, its practitioners find it harder to offer broad courses. Students have complained for years that career services offices point them in only two or three very practical directions.  Above all, many students suffer from the relentless anxiety, the sense of exhaustion and anomie, that their hyperactivity generates and that Deresiewicz powerfully evokes. No wonder, then, that when he sketched this indictment in an essay in The American Scholar, his text went viral. Many students have contacted him to confirm his diagnosis. Some of my students tell me that they still remember exactly where they were when they read his sharp words. Anyone who cares about American higher education should ponder this book.”

Foreign Affairs

Israel is Singled Out by Israel’s Defenders (Freddie DeBoer, The Dish)– “One of the strangest and most fundamentally disingenuous lines of criticism used toattack critics of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine is that we are “singling Israel out,” that we pay special attention to Israel in a world of bad actors, and that this is indicative of obsession and, of course, anti-Semitism. The accusation is illegitimate on its face; America’s relationship to Israel, in terms of monetary aid, military aid, cooperation between intelligence services, and diplomatic protection at the UN and elsewhere, is unlike any other in the world. Read The Intercept’s exhaustive reportingon the incredible degree to which the United States supports Israel’s government and military. There is no relationship in American diplomacy –none– that is comparable to that between the United States and Israel. It is a wholly unique connection, unique in the depth of our support and in how unconditional that support is. The incredibly powerful Israeli lobby in American politics, which has earned very close to unanimous support for the Israeli government in Congress, has singled out Israel through those efforts. That’s just reality.”

Palestinians Live What Israelis Fear (Freddie DeBoer, The Dish)– “They are a record of seemingly reasonable people who have completely lost track of basic moral reasoning. And that represents itself nowhere more consistently or powerfully than here: treating what could possibly happen to Israelis as more important than whatalready is happening to Palestinians. It’s such a profoundly bizarre way to think, that only this maddening issue could bring it about.”

Why Jews are Worried (Deborah Lipstadt, NYT)– “The rationales — “it’s just rhetoric,” “it’s just Muslims” — bother me almost as much as the outrages. Instead of explaining away these actions, cultural, religious and academic leaders in all the countries where these events have occurred should be shaken to the core, not just about the safety of their Jewish neighbors, but about the future of the seemingly liberal, enlightened societies they belong to”

The Making of Vladimir Putin (Strobe Talbott, Politico)

Ferguson and Race

Shared Vision, Varying Styles (Peter Baker and Matt Apuzzo, NYT)

White political domination in Ferguson is doomed (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)

What would federal prosecutors have to prove in the Michael Brown shooting? (Paul Cassell, WaPo)

Libertarians Who Oppose a Militarized Police Should Support Gun Control — But They Don’t, Of Course (Alec MacGillis, New Republic)

Ferguson, Watts, and a Dream Deferred (Thomas B. Edsall, NYT)

Half of black men in the US have been arrested by age 23 (Dylan Matthews, Vox)

America’s Racial Divide, Charted (Neil Irwin, Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz, The Upshot)

Black students in Ferguson are more likely to be suspended and arrested (Libby Nelson, Vox)

How for-profit policing led to racial disparities in Ferguson (German Lopez, Vox)

The cold, hard cash at the heart of Ferguson’s out-of-control justice system (German Lopez, Vox)

My white Mormon feelings matter most (Winterbuzz, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “The harsh reality for all of us is that due to systemic and structural set ups that were instituted long before our time, we are all racist, even if we don’t want to be. We are all affected by white supremacy and there’s a population that benefits from it and populations that are oppressed by it. Study after study after study are showing subconscious racial discriminations that are gifted to us by our culture.”

White-on-white murder in America is out of control (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)– “Yet the disturbing truth, according to the FBI’s most recent homicide statistics, is that the United States is in the wake of an epidemic of white-on-white crime. Back in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims were killed by fellow Caucasians.  This is not to say that white people are inherently prone to violence. Most whites, obviously, manage to get through life without murdering anyone. And there are many countries full of white people — Norway, Iceland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States. On the other hand, although people often see criminal behavior as a symptom of poverty, the quantity of murder committed by white people specifically in the United States casts some doubt on this. Per capita GDP is considerably higher here than in France — and the white population in America is considerably richer than the national average — and yet we have more white murderers.”

Reparations for Ferguson (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.   It will not do to point out the rarity of the destruction of your body by the people whom you pay to protect it. As Gene Demby has noted, destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held accountable. The body of Michael Brown was left in the middle of the street for four hours. It can not be expected that anyone will be held accountable.”

How Ferguson Highlights the Danger of For-Profit Policing (Jordan Weissmann, Slate Moneybox)

I’m Polite, Middle-Class and Harassed By Police.  Here’s Why (Andrea Cambron, American Prospect)

The Ferguson Police Department’s Top 10 Tips for Protester Relations (Paul Waldman, American Prospect)– “4. Don’t forget to position snipers with their guns trained on the crowd. That gives protesters a gentle reminder that remaining quiet and polite is the best way to avoid getting a high-velocity bullet through your skull, which, let’s face it, nobody really wants.  “

Nobody Knows How Many Americans Police Kill Every Year (Reuben Fischer-Baum, FiveThirtyEight)

We Made Police Misconduct Inevitable (Freddie DeBoer, The Dish)– “I don’t want to oversell this; certainly, we’ve been living in a culture of deference towards police for far longer. But as we did with the presidency, the military, the intelligence services, and soldiers, we responded to 9/11 by buffeting our police officers with obsequious respect and endless displays of extreme gratitude. We feted them at football games and through parades in their honor. We plastered stickers celebrating them on our cars. We exhorted each other to “thank a first responder today.” We set about to create a culture of unwavering, unquestioning, credulous support for our police, and that has everything to do with today’s problems.  None of this should be surprising. In times of crisis, people often retreat to militarism, nationalism, and extreme respect for authority. This is part of why an aggressive foreign policy is so counterproductive; every time we rattle our saber at Iran, for example, we empower the theocracy and the establishment government and hurt the resistance. Our showy disdain for Russia, the way we layer disrespect on their displays of national pride and celebrations of their history– like we did during Sochi– only causes them to embrace Putin and his narrative more. You might find that foolish, but we did the exact same, affixing flags to our cars and writing our national security state a blank check in the form of the PATRIOT Act and similar legislation. And we told the cops, more or less explicitly: you can do whatever you want. The results are unsurprising.”

Surveillance/Civil Liberties/Technology

Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read? (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)

The Big Picture

Bank of America Settles for $17 Billion- and It Still Feels Like Wall Street Got Away with Murder (Jordan Weissmann, Slate Moneybox)


A Modest Proposal for BYU-friendly “gay-marriage” cards (Hermia Lyly, Young Mormon Feminists)

Putting Eternal Salvation in the Hands of 19-Year Old Missionaries (Andrea Bennett and Kim Fu, Atlantic Monthly)

Volume 3.33 (August 11-17)

Picks of the WeekWorking Anything but a 9 to 5 (Jodi Kantor, NYT)

The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of Ferguson (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)

Gaming is not the most important thing in my life (Ben Kuchera, Polygon)– Perfect piece for the father-gamers out there.


Where We Came From, State by State (The Upshot)– Great graphics on this story.

Where goes the neighborhood? (EJ Dionne, WaPo)

Is Summer Different Now? (The Upshot)

Mapping Migration in the United States (David Leonhardt, NYT)

I Do, I Do (Edmund White, NYRB)– “On the last page of Redeeming the Dream, we are told that Americans are accepting “gays and lesbians…as normal, loving, decent members of our lives and our communities.” I shouldn’t quibble, but as a gay man in his seventies I don’t quite recognize in that description most of the flamboyant, creative, edgy, promiscuous, deeply urban gays I have known. Kenji Yoshino, a law professor, wrote a book calledCovering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights in which “covering” is seen as downplaying a discordant trait in order to blend into the mainstream. It seems to me that gays are in danger of “covering” in order to obtain the permission to marry. Perhaps that’s a small enough price. I can’t decide.”


The South’s Lesson for the Tea Party (Curtis Wilkie, NYT)– “The movement’s success, with its dangerous froth of anti-Washington posturing and barely concealed racial animus, raises an important question for Southern voters: Will they remember their history well enough to reject the siren song of nativism and populism that has won over the region so often before?”

Can the GOP Ever Attract Black Voters? (Jelani Cobb, NYT)

Foreign Affairs

How Israel got American weapons behind Obama’s back (Zack Beauchamp, Vox)

The Liberal Zionists (Jonathan Freedland, NYRB)

How America lost the Middle East (Zack Beauchamp, Vox)– “The problem isn’t that America has gotten weaker. It’s that the Middle East has changed.  When the Middle East’s biggest problems were about conflict between formal governments, the United States had a lot more influence. But today, the Middle East is defined by a shifting, impossibly complicated web of ethno-religious tension, weak and failed states, and ascendant terrorist organizations. The collapse of central governments and rise of powerful non-state actors breed problems that foreign powers, even the world’s only superpower, simply cannot address.”


The data on white anxiety over Hispanic immigration (Scott Clement, Wonkblog)– ““Americans think of immigration in an ethnically specific way at this point,”Nicholas Valentino, a political scientist at the University of Michigan who studied the impact of news coverage on immigration attitudes, said in an interview. “They think of immigrants as Latino. Latinos trigger an anxiety in some Americans that other ethnic groups simply do not trigger. It changes both attitudes and behaviors on immigration policy.””


Teaching is Not a Business (David Kirp, NYT)– “While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed.  Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools. The best preschools create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.”

The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education (David Bromwich, NYRB)


How we’d cover Ferguson if it happened in another country (Max Fisher, Vox)

When police departments don’t look like the cities they’re meant to protect (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)– “”It’s sad,” someone commented to me yesterday about Ferguson, “that we don’t see this kind of community anger every time a child dies” — as if there were some equivalence between one black teen shooting another, and one black teen shot by a law enforcement officer. This misses the deeper grievance. Ferguson isn’t merely reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown; it’s reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown by someone who represents an institution of power that’s supposed to protect the public.”

If You are Black or Brown in America, Your Parents’ Warnings Can’t Keep You Safe (Eesha Pandit, American Prospect)

A movement grows in Ferguson (Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker)– “More than one person in the streets of Ferguson has compared what is happening here to the chaotic days of the Birmingham desegregation campaign in 1963. And, like that struggle, the local authorities, long immune to public sentiment, were incapable of understanding how their actions reverberated outside the hermetic world where they held sway—how they looked to the world. That incomprehension was the biggest asset the protesters in Birmingham had. Michael Brown was left lying in the street for hours while a traumatized community stood behind police tape in frustration, grief, and shock: an immobile metaphor for everything that was wrong in Ferguson, Missouri.”

White St. Louis Has Some Awful Things to Say About Ferguson (Julia Ioffe, The New Republic)

Ferguson Will Make it Harder for America to Set a Good Example Abroad (Julia Ioffe, The New Republic)

There is Only One Way to Prevent Future Fergusons: End the War on Drugs (John McWhorter, The New Republic)

Those War-Ready Cops in Ferguson are 9/11’s Awful Legacy- And Your Taxes Are Paying for It (Alec MacGillis, The New Republic)

America is Not for Black People (Greg Howard, Deadspin)– “By all accounts, Brown was One Of The Good Ones. But laying all this out, explaining all the ways in which he didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street, is in itself disgraceful. Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.  To even acknowledge this line of debate is to start a larger argument about the worth, the very personhood, of a black man in America. It’s to engage in a cost-benefit analysis, weigh probabilities, and gauge the precise odds that Brown’s life was worth nothing against the threat he posed to the life of the man who killed him. It’s to deny that there are structural reasons why Brown was shot dead while James Eagan Holmes—who on July 20, 2012, walked into a movie theater and fired rounds into an audience, killing 12 and wounding 70 more—was taken alive.  To ascribe this entirely to contempt for black men is to miss an essential variable, though—a very real, American fear of them. They—we—are inexplicably seen as a millions-strong army of potential killers, capable and cold enough that any single one could be a threat to a trained police officer in a bulletproof vest. There are reasons why white gun’s rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children’s toys. Guns aren’t for black people, either.”

In Defense of the Ferguson Riots (Robert Stephens II, Jacobin)– “The crowd was not irrational and apolitical. They were attempting to use this opportunity to address their broader political needs. They knew that intraracial violence within the community was also an issue, and that in most cases the perpetrators of violence are the communities’ own children, cousins, friends, and neighbors. Though many claim that black people don’t care about violence within our communities, the crowd’s calls for gang unity demonstrate that anti-police uprisings provide unique opportunities to unite people in ways that seek to resolve long-term issues like gang violence.”

The police are the issue in Ferguson, not Michael Brown’s character (Ezra Klein, Vox)– “This case is not about whether Michael Brown was One Of The Good Ones. It’s not even about whether he robbed a convenience store. The penalty for stealing cigars from a convenience store is not death. This case is about whether Wilson was legally justified in shooting Michael Brown.  It is a powerful thing to give some men and women guns and charge them with protecting the peace. It is a powerful thing because it can so easily, and so quickly, become a dangerous thing. As a society, we strictly regulate when police officers can use deadly force. The question here is whether those rules were followed, not what kind of kid Michael Brown was.”

A nation of Fergusons: Why America’s police forces look like invading armies (Amanda Taub, Vox)– “Although shocking, what is happening in Ferguson is merely a particularly severe example of a much broader and long-running phenomenon: the militarization of police weaponry and tactics in the US. In part thanks to federal programs that provide military equipment to local police (though not military training), and encourage its use as part of ordinary law enforcement, police are increasingly using SWAT-style tactics in routine policing. However, experts say, this phenomenon is extremely dangerous, and can make otherwise peaceful situations dangerous — as police appear to have done in Ferguson.”

Police are more likely to use force against protesters when black people are protesting (Zack Beauchamp, Vox)

The Front Lines of Ferguson (Rembert Browne, Grantland)– Great on-the-ground, narrative take on the story of the week.

It’s not just Ferguson: America’s criminal justice system is racist (Ezra Klein, Vox)– “But the ACLU did discover something worth knowing: after aggregating the reports and data on SWAT raids they could find, they found that the militarized police operations were overwhelmingly aimed at minorities. “Overall, 42 percent of people impacted by a SWAT deployment to execute a search warrant were Black and 12 percent were Latino. This means that of the people impacted by deployments for warrants, at least 54 percent were minorities.” (For comparison, 72 percent of Americans identified as white in 2010.) The feel of the police presence is much more militarized in minority communities than white communities.”

Tear gas is banned in international warfare– and in use in Ferguson, MO (Sarah Kliff, Vox)

Enough is enough in Ferguson (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)

Black People Are Not Ignoring ‘Black on Black’ Crime (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “It is not “black on black crime” that is background noise in America, but the pleas of black people.  There is a pattern here, but it isn’t the one Eugene Robinson (for whom I have a great respect) thinks. The pattern is the transmutation of black protest into moral hectoring of black people.”


The Most Wanted Man in the World (Wired)– Great interview and profile of Edward Snowden


The surprising link between lead and teen pregnancy (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)

Why most of the people Ebola kills never contract it (Amanda Taub, Vox)– “New, worrying information from Sierra Leone suggests that damage from the disease may go far beyond deaths from the Ebola virus itself. Rather, Ebola is claiming more victims by damaging already-weak local health systems and their ability to respond to other medical problems, from malaria to emergency c-sections. The Ebola-driven rise in deaths from those other maladies may outpace the deaths from Ebola itself.”

A $10,169 blood test is everything wrong with American health care (Sarah Kliff, Vox)

The Science Behind Suicide Contagion (Margot Sanger-Katz, The Upshot)


Visible Women (Melissa Inouye, Peculiar People)– “I can see how someone looking in from the outside could get the impression that women are not respected within Mormonism because the markers of women’s spiritual authority are subtle and often invisible in terms of formal church structure. An investigator who walks in to a Mormon congregation on Sunday sees a row of older men sitting on the stand and a group of younger men administering religious rites. To this outside observer, neither the formal leadership of the Relief Society president nor the informal influence of women within the community are immediately apparent.  And indeed, Mormon women who live in countries and regions where women are assumed to be inferior to men are not respected as spiritually equal to men, even by themselves. Church lessons and talks on marital companionship can only make so much headway against this powerful cultural current. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, the deeply patriarchal culture dictates that women do most of the everyday chores, defer to their husbands on decisions like whether to become pregnant or what to name their child, and generally act as servants to the men of the family.”

The Hypothetical ‘Missionary Library’ (Ben Spackman, Times and Seasons)

Salt Lake City, We Have a Problem (Dave Banack, Times and Seasons)– “It has always been the case that some missionaries “come home early,” as the gentle phrasing goes. It turns out that more missionaries are coming home early than ever before. The percentage is now into the double-digits, and it turns out the folks in Salt Lake City are already well aware that we have a problem. This is based on information quietly passed down the priesthood chain, coupled with an urgent request to extend support and guidance to our young men and women as they prepare for and depart on LDS missions. So the leadership recognizes there is a problem and, surprisingly, the young returning missionaries are not being blamed. But acknowledging a problem is only the first step. What is going on and what can be done to improve things? How can we fix the problem?”

Mormon apostle: ‘Disciples of the Lord are defenders of marriage’ (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “I agree with much of what Elder Nelson said about marriage in general. It is the foundation of a happy and enduring family life. It’s a partnership of shared goals, mutual loyalty, and the cultivation of each individual’s gifts. The family can be eternal.  Yes to all those things.  But I cannot agree with his unyielding determination to restrict the institution of marriage to a man and a woman only.   Nor can I abide the us-versus-them mentality that I sense here, pitting LDS Church members as sacred remnants in a world gone bad. Elder Nelson even goes so far as to quote Paul about the last days in which how blasphemers, lovers of pleasure, disobedient boasters, and the prideful will appear to carry the moment while lovers of Jesus Christ suffer persecution.”

A Disciple of the Lord (Jerilyn Hassell Pool, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “I am a disciple of the Lord. I believe a disciple of the Lord seeks to be a conduit for God’s love for all of his people. God’s love is everlasting and unbound, and I believe it is my God-given responsibility to show every man, woman, and child, be they gay or straight, black or white or brown that they are a precious child of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother and they deserve everlasting and boundless love, regardless of who they love or the choices they make. This is the discipleship I’ve chosen for myself—to freely love *all* of God’s children and to stand in solidarity with them as they attain the full measure of their creation and joy.”

Just HOW do Mormon women hold the priesthood? (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)

When the Levee Breaks (Lori Burkman, Rational Faiths)

Volume 3.32 (August 4-10)

1001 Blistering Future Summers (Climate Central)


Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived? (Robert Draper, NYT)

Revenge of the conservative nerds (Ezra Klein, Vox)– “Its argument isn’t the classically conservative argument that the left is full of nerds and their ambitious, arrogant designs should be mistrusted; it’s that the left is full of faux-nerds who lack scientific training but nevertheless wear glasses — and their ambitious, arrogant designs should be mistrusted. Or, to put it more simply, the problem isn’t nerds so much as liberal poseurs.”

Why Tea Party Members of Congress Act So Darn Crazy— And Liberal Democrats Don’t (Paul Waldman, American Prospect)


What Would Krishna Do? Or Shiva? Or Vishnu? (Gary Gutting, NYT)– Interview with Jonardon Ganeri


If We Want Feminism to Have Real Impact, Then Let’s Stop Teaching So Much Theory (Elizabeth Segran, New Republic)

Men Have Every Right to Complain About Parenting (Rebecca Traister, New Republic) (NOTE: I don’t feel like this title gives a good sense of what this article is really about)– “But what of the two-parent, hetero unions in which men are full-fledged, equally-stressed-out participants? They exist! The fact that we don’t hear very much about themall while hearing lots of valuable stuff from the women who are bearing the brunt of the pressuresmeans that in some way we are reinforcing this unequal set up as a norm, re-affirming an expectation that women, even those who enter socially and professionally equal partnerships, are somehow destined to wind up uniquely over-taxed, fighting the demons of guilt and overwork fundamentally on their own.”

What’s love got to do with it? (Amanda Bennett, WaPo)– “Why does this upset me so? Well, you see, I got married two years ago, a few days shy of my 60th birthday. My friends (and new husband) tell me I still look super awesome, and I can still do a pretty good downward dog. But the inescapable fact is that — under normal circumstances (more about that later) — I am way past reproductive age. I have the hot flashes to prove it. If, as Niemeyer says, the whole point of marriage is not the mere parenting of kids but actual biological reproduction, it is clear to me that he believes that my marriage is invalid. To opponents of gay marriage, marriage is all about breeding. Since my breeding days are over, it looks like, marriage-wise, I should be, too.”

Justices’ Rulings Advance Gays; Women Less So (Adam Liptak, NYT)


Liberals Are Killing Art (Jed Perl, New Republic)– “The erosion of art’s imaginative ground, often blamed on demagogues of the left and the right, is taking place in the very heart of the liberal, educated, cultivated audiencethe audience that arts professionals always imagined they could count on. The whole question is so painful and so difficult that I have frankly hesitated to tackle it. It is relatively easy to point to the deformations of art at the hands of politically correct left-wingers and cheap-shot moralists on the right, as the late Robert Hughes did in the fast-paced, witty series of lectures that he published as Culture of Complaint in 1993. It is far more difficult to explain why people who pride themselves on their carefully reasoned view of the world want to argue that art is not a value in and of itself, but rather a vehicle or a medium or a vessel through which some other human value or values are expressed. That these thoughts are often voiced indirectly makes them no less significant. Indeed, such thoughts may be all the more significant because they are being expressed by critics and scholars who would deny that they are in any way discomfited by the unique powers of the arts. An illiberal view of art is gaining ground, even among the liberal audience. This is one of the essential if largely hidden factors that is undermining faith in our museums, our libraries, our publishing houses, our concert halls, symphony orchestras, and theater and dance troupes.”

The case against time zones: They’re impractical and outdated (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)

This is what it’s like to have HIV in 2014 (German Lopez, Vox)– “There was a consistent theme in these interviews. After people were diagnosed, they quickly learned that proper medication can make the disease less deadly and more difficult to transmit. Indeed, HIV isn’t the death sentence it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. The age-adjusted death rate among people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS dropped by 93 percent between 1987 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A large part of that, the CDC explains, is attributable to the development of highly effective antiretroviral medication.  The big problem for these HIV-positive people instead came through the stigma attached to the disease. Three decades after the rise of HIV terrorized the world, many misunderstandings attached to the disease remain — from misconceptions about whom it affects to confusion about how it’s actually transmitted.”

Foreign Affairs

Gaza: Is Israel Fighting a Just War? (Jeff McMahan, The Prospect)– Highly philosophical and technical take on the subject.

Did Israel violate international law in Gaza? (Amanda Taub, Vox)


Telling white people the criminal justice system is racist makes them like it more (Dara Lind, Vox)


A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion votes cast (Justin Levett, Wonkblog)

Voter Discrimination Just Got Easier (Stephen Wright, NYRB)


A New Report Argues Inequality is Causing Slower Growth.  Here’s Why It Matters. (Neil Irwin, The Upshot)

Corporate America Hasn’t Been Disrupted (Ben Casselman, FiveThirtyEight)

Can Family Leave Policies Be Too Generous? It Seems So (Claire Cain Miller, The Upshot)– “A well-regarded study of 22 countries by two Cornell University economists found that European countries’ family-friendly policies made it possible for more women to work — but that European women are more likely to be in part-time jobs that do not lead to positions of power. As a result, women in Europe are half as likely as men to be managers, while in the United States women are just as likely to be managers.”


In Good Conscience… (Joe Spencer, Peculiar People)– “What I can’t make sense of is what can be meant by the formula itself. If one decides that certain convictions (or the lack thereof) are sufficient motivation to walk away, I don’t see how I can object. In such a case, one has made an eminently subjective decision the validity of which has no measure apart from the subject’s passion. But the formula regarding good conscience or good faith indicates that the matter has been decided for one. The formula appeals to a set of objective criteria the validity of which is supposed to be publicly available.”

Volume 3.31 (July 28-August 3)

Pick of the WeekWelcome to Dataland (Ian Bogost, Medium)– “Disney World is many things, and many of those many things involve crass conspicuous consumption and diluted, lowest-common-denominator cultural reverie. But despite commercialization, the phantom of Walt Disney’s down-home, populist futurism still drifts between the gaslamps. It’s a subtle alternative to both the dystopic surveillance state and the autarkic techno-futurist corporation. Here at Disney World, commerce takes place within a real, bounded physical community, and one already premised on the idea of fantasy in the first place. Perhaps this is all we really want: to participate in the fantasy of the future, to be invited to ponder and respond to it ourselves, rather than to be presented with it already formed.”

Intelligent People All Have One Thing in Common: They Stay Up Later Than You (Lauren Martin, Elite Daily)

Health Care

The US spends $15B a year to train doctors, but we don’t know what we get in return (Jason Millman, Wonkblog)– “The IOM panel says that groups participating in the GME program basically only have to report limited data to the federal government, leaving major questions about the program performance unanswered. Questions such as: Who’s being trained by the program? How much of the GME funding is used for education? Do doctors go on to practice in areas where there’s a shortage of physicians? And – probably most important – does the program produce competent doctors? On that last point, the IOM says the federal government doesn’t have data to measure whether the doctors are trained in patient safety or if they can provide coordinated care across different settings, a growing emphasis as America’s health-care system is changing to focus on preventive care and better management of chronic conditions.”

All Played Out (Ron J. Turker, NYT)– “We buy the hype about scholarships to college, but the numbers don’t support the athletic route to money. Despite what your “professional coach” tells you about your child’s athletic prowess, it isn’t possible to tell if your 12-year-old has the right stuff to be a college athlete. Very few scholarships are full-ride packages; most don’t come close to covering the cost of college. But when I tell parents that their kid’s chance of scholarship money is less than 2 percent, they shake their heads in sympathy for the other 98 percent.”

The Big Picture

More and more Americans are living with the ‘double burden’ of concentrated poverty (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)– “As Kneebone writes in a new brief: “This trend indicates that an increased share of poor individuals today face the ‘double burden’ of not only their own poverty, but also the disadvantages of those around them.””

The amazingly rapid suburbanization of poverty (Danielle Kurtzlebel, Vox)

America’s marijuana policy isn’t funny.  It’s racist.  (German Lopez, Vox)– “But for minority, poorer populations, marijuana policy is much closer to a civil rights issue. Marijuana isn’t just a drug that they would like to be able to use and carry out in the open. Marijuana criminalization has historically been used to harass and arrest people in minority and poor communities at hugely disproportionate rates.”

The Federal Marijuana Ban is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia (Brent Staples, NYT)


So It Really Is All About Sex Then, Rod? (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “That is a really striking statement – though not one that exactly comes as a surprise to those familiar with Rod’s evolution over the years. It’s striking because it doesn’t actually concern itself with doctrine, the critical content of a faith tradition, like, say, the Resurrection of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not about a literal reading of Scripture as the only avenue to truth; it is not about whether doctrine can evolve; it is not about a belief in a personal, intervening God as opposed to a more distant and absent one. It is entirely about how one manages one’s private parts.”

Gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide (German Lopez, Vox)


How the Government Exaggerates the Cost of College (David Leonhardt, The Upshot)

The Gaza Crisis

American aid to Israel doesn’t seem to buy any leverage.  Why? (Zach Beauchamp, Vox)

The Explosive Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan– And Watched it Crumble (Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon)

Is Genocide Right for You? (Aaron Bady, The New Inquiry)

Resistance is justified when Gaza is occupied (Eric Ruder, Socialist Worker)

An Israel Without Illusions (David Grossman, NYT)– “Here in Israel, as soon as the war is over, we must begin the process of creating a new partnership, an internal alliance that will alter the array of narrow interest groups that controls us. An alliance of those who comprehend the fatal risk of continuing to circle the grindstone; those who understand that our borderlines no longer separate Jews from Arabs, but people who long to live in peace from those who feed, ideologically and emotionally, on continued violence.”

Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)– “In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.””

The Problem with Both ‘Pro-Israel’ and ‘Anti-Israel’ (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “Once you stop worrying about whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you can judge the Israeli government’s decisions, developments within Israeli society, and other questions related to the country each on their own terms. You can also make judgments about the conflict that are freed from the necessity so many feel to continually compare the Israeli government’s actions to Hamas’ actions, or the opinions of the Israeli public to the opinions of the Palestinian public, with the only important question being which side comes out ahead. Those comparisons end up dulling your moral senses, because they encourage you to only think in relative terms.”

Israel’s Moral Justification for Killing Civilians (Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon, In These Times)– “The crux of the matter is that in the context of contemporary asymmetric warfare, the weak do not have many options. When there are no bomb shelters, people remain at home during extensive bombardment. And if, like in the case of the Palestinians in Gaza, fleeing is not an option—because all exits from the strip have been closed, or because the neighbour’s house is under the exact same threat as one’s own, or because one is already a refugee and does not want to become a refugee anew—staying put, which the high-tech states term “illegal human shields,” constitutes a form of resistance.”

Palestine: The Hatred and the Hope (David Shulman, NYRB)

For Gaza, ‘The Norm’ is Devastating (Noam Chomsky, In These Times)

Why 70% of the people killed in Israel-Gaza violence are innocent Palestinian civilians (Max Fisher, Vox)– “On the one hand, surely Israel is responsible for the bombs it drops in areas it knows to be civilian, especially given its overwhelming military superiority in the conflict. On the other, Israel and its defenders argue that Hamas forces it launch these overwhelming campaigns in civilian areas; this is not totally unreasonably, due to the Hamas tactics explained above.  But Israel bears some responsibility for this end too. Part of this comes from an unresolved contradiction in Israeli policy, which is both to avoid civilian causalities and to punish Hamas with overwhelming force in a way that will deter it from attacking Israel”

Why I have become more pessimistic about Israel (Ezra Klein, Vox)


Church Leadership and the Dilemma of Dementia (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– This is the kind of post that I used to dismiss as probably wishful thinking on the part of heterodox Mormons.  However, having recently received independent corroboration from within the COB and noting that nothing characterizes recent LDS PR struggles so much as the absence of the President of the Church, or of anything that resembles “prophetic” leadership, I think this is a live issue.

Who is God? (Part 1) (Jason K., By Common Consent)

R-rated content in a PG Mormon life (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “The “never see R-rated movies” approach is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, adult Mormons take a guideline that is intended for teenagers in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and expand it to all Mormons in all times and places. This all-or-nothing tactic goes beyond even what our church leaders have advised adults to do.  The idea behind that extrapolation — that a 50-year-old has no more sense than a 15-year-old about the moral acceptability of whatever behavior is depicted in a work of art (or, let’s lower the bar here, any form of entertainment) –- is just silly.  And we lump all ages and individuals together for a dark reason: to avoid moral discernment. Many of us just don’t want to do the hard work of deciding what is appropriate and what is not, so we surrender that decision-making to others.”

An Apologetics of Care (smallaxe, Faith Promoting Rumor)– “An apologetics of care seeks to reconfigure the context that induces feelings such as frustration, fear, and anger. It does not seek to remove these feelings since they serve important moral functions (frustration can signal, for instance, the fact that something valuable cannot be tended to); rather it seeks to validate these feelings through a process of sympathy (discussed below). An apologetics of care recognizes that people are relational beings seeking concern, comfort, and communion often before seeking an answer to a question. It recognizes that answers to intellectual concerns, provided without tending to the relationships they invoke, all too often fail to recognize the reasons for anger and frustration. “

Volume 3.30 (July 21-27)

Picks of the Week

The Problem with Collective Grief (Arnon Grunberg, NYT)– “The sad thing about mourning is that it really is quite unshareable, that it involves an extremely individual emotion. People have the right not to show their emotions and not to share them, even when it comes to soccer and calamity.  From this, it follows that we also have the right to admit that we sometimes feel nothing at all. The whole world puts a claim on our feelings, from the lady next door to our family members and the panhandler on the street, from the news about Gaza and on to Ukraine, from Congo to Syria. Our emotions are constantly being claimed.  That these claims have a numbing effect on us, that we are often indifferent, that we are busy enough as it is trying to provide emotional succor for those closest to us, and often don’t even succeed in doing that, seems to me not so much a sign of our inhumanity, but of our humanity. Were we to actually allow the world’s suffering to sink in, we would quickly become psychiatric cases, lulled by the power of psychotropic medications into a state of detachment.”

Blacklisted: The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist (Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept)

Health Care

Busy Doctors, Wasteful Spending (Sandeep Jauhar, NYT)– “And therein lies the sad irony of the health cost containment paradigm in this country. There is no more wasteful entity in medicine than a rushed doctor.”

Two Americas on Health Care, and the Danger of Further Division (Margot Sanger-Katz, The Upshot)

A Challenge to American Doctors (Arnold Relman, NYRB)– “Nevertheless, it is hard to deny two basic and fairly obvious points the authors want to make. First, inadequate social services in the US contribute to our poor national health. Second, adding welfare expenditures to those of medical care does help to some extent to resolve the American “paradox” of high medical expenditures and relatively poor health outcomes. But the resolution is not as complete or convincing as claimed, and there is no evidence that expanding welfare programs, as Bradley and Taylor argue, would more effectively improve national health than directly reforming the payment and organization of medical services.”

Border Issues

The war on marijuana is racist.  So is the rest of the war on drugs (German Lopez, Vox)

Why the Border Crisis is a Myth (Veronica Escobar, NYT)– “The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.”

How the war on drugs drives the child migrant crisis (German Lopez, Vox)

Inside the remote, secretive detention center for migrant families (Dara Lind, Vox)

Foreign Affairs

Behind the Scenes in Putin’s Court: The Private Habits of a Latter-day Dictator (Ben Judah, Newsweek)

We need an international court to stamp out corruption (Mark L. Wolf, WaPo)

The Big Picture

Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League (William Deresiewicz, The New Republic)– “I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.  High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take themyou know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognizeas we once did and as many countries still dothat the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.”

The many stubborn kinds of inequality that children face growing up in the US (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)


The Real Raw Material of Wealth (Ricardo Hausmann, Project Syndicate)– “The moral of the story is that adding value to raw materials is one path to diversification, but not necessarily a long or fruitful one. Countries are not limited by the raw materials they have. After all, Switzerland has no cocoa, and China does not make advanced memory chips. That has not prevented these countries from taking a dominant position in the market for chocolate and computers, respectively.”


Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins (TM Luhrmann, NYT)– “FAITH asks people to consider that the evidence of their senses is wrong. In various ways, and in varying degrees, faith asks that people believe that their minds are not always private; that persons are not always visible; that unseen presences should alter your emotions and direct your behavior; that reality is good and justice triumphant. These are fantastic claims, and the fact of their improbability is not lost on those who accept them.”


Elizabeth Warren’s 11 commandments for progressives show Democrats don’t disagree on much (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)–

  1. We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”
  2. “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”
  3. “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”
  4. “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”
  5. “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”
  6. “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”
  7. “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”
  8. “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”
  9. “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”
  10. “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”
  11. “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”

Corporations are people.  So what if people were corporations? (Catherine Rampell, WaPo)– “If companies are claiming the rights and privileges of people, maybe people should start claiming the rights and privileges of corporations. Rights harmonization, in other words, should flow in both directions, since we’re now all indistinguishable, equally protected“persons” — in the court’s eyes, anyway.”

A Different Idea of Our Declaration (Gordon S. Wood, NYRB)– “Jefferson’s notion of equality in fact went well beyond the political equality that Allen emphasizes. Jefferson believed that everyone, including the humblest of black slaves, had this moral sense, this capacity to feel affection toward his or her fellow human beings. This belief, stronger in Jefferson than in any other of the revolutionaries, is what has made him, a slaveholding aristocrat, the perennial spokesman for America’s democracy. Even as they differ on the meaning of equality, however, both Jefferson and Allen agree on one central point. Democracy requires that at some basic level everyone in a society must be considered the same.”

End Partisan Primaries, Save America (Charles Schumer, NYT)– “We need a national movement to adopt the “top-two” primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.”

The Public Lightens Up about Weed (Juliet Lapidos, NYT)

How Did the GOP Turn into a Bunch of Clowns? (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)

The Gaza Crisis

Are the Media Reporting the Gaza War Fairly? (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “If Israel is losing the propaganda war, it’s because propaganda can only take you so far when the facts are telling a story you’d rather people didn’t hear.Social media has something to do with it, but it’s still traditional media that show the largest numbers of people what’s going on. And when you have a Palestinian death toll that now exceeds 500 and is going nowhere but up while the numbers of Israeli civilians who have died is still in the single digits, you just aren’t going to be able to spin a story of equal suffering and blame. It’s as though Hamas said, “I dare you to kill those people,” and Israel replied, “You got it,” then turned to the rest of the world and said, “Hey, what do you want — he dared me!””

Who Bears More Responsibility for the War in Gaza? (John Judis, The New Republic)– “Israel is one of the world’s last colonial powers, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are its unruly subjects. Like many past anti-colonial movements, Hamas and Fatah are deeply flawed and have sometimes poorly represented their peoples, and sometimes unnecessarily provoked the Israelis and used tactics that violate the rules of war. But the Israeli government has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to rule harshly over its subjects, while maintaining a ruinous blockade on Gaza. That’s the historical backdrop to the events now taking place.”

Wild speculation on a highly controversial subject (The Yorkshire Ranter)

MH17, Iraq, Gaza and the deadly verbal dance around killing people (Annabelle Lukin, The Conversation)– “The global outrage over the killing of 298 civilians on flight MH17, apparently by a missile fired by pro-Russian rebels, is deafening. But the killing of Palestinians by Israeli troops in the Gaza strip – now at a figure well beyond the death toll in the fields of the Ukraine – just doesn’t seem to get people as hot and bothered.  Dead Palestinian children are no less dead than dead Dutch, Malaysian or Australian children. They are equally killed – murdered – by missiles made and sold by war profiteers.  If we can’t condemn all killing, then our hand-wringing over the deaths of the MH17 passengers is hypocritical. We are no better than Putin.”

God’s Foreign Policy (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “What’s absurd is the lockstep support for anything Israel might do in the United States. It’s the only country which, in a conflict with a US administration, will have Congressional Republicans and Democrats backing a foreign government over their own – and being rewarded for it in terms of money and votes. It’s the only country in which a foreign leader can address the US Congress as a rebuke to the US president – and get a standing ovation. It’s the only foreign country that receives $3 billion in aid and still gets to dress down the US president in the White House itself.”

Why the US has the most pro-Israel foreign policy in the world (Zack Beauchamp, Vox)

Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment is Grotesque but not Original (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)– “One can say many things about a military operation that results in more than 75 percent of the dead being civilians, many of them children, aimed at a population trapped in a tiny area with no escape. The claim that there is no intent to kill civilians but rather an intent to protect them is most assuredly not among them. Even stalwart Israel supporter Thomas Friedman has previously acknowledged that Israeli assaults on Lebanon, and possibly in Gaza, are intended ”to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties” because “the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians” (which, to the extent it exists, is the classic definition of “terrorism”). The most generous claim one can make about what Israel is now doing in Gaza is that it is driven by complete recklessness toward the civilian population it is massacring, a form of intent under centuries of well-settled western law.”


A Bird in Hand is Worth Two in the Bush (Kimberly, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “So, I propose that we start treating the people who are actually warming the pews as valued community participants, instead of perpetuating behaviors that alienate these members, including the coarse injunction to “just leave”, which is hardly the missionary perspective Christ embodied.   If we note that only 30% of LDS members actually attend church, it might be a better choice to value the fact they are invested enough to be there, regardless of political leanings, doubts, personal tragedies, struggles with doctrine, or even activists who are inspired to ask their leaders for revelation pertinent to modern days.”

A Lost & Tired Generation (Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

The challenge of ‘hastening the work’ in the UK (Aaron R., By Common Consent)– “The church is not growing in the UK. Baptisms are slowing and the younger generation – those raised in the church here – are not staying. The converts of the 70s-80s are still running the church but are now less socially tied to it. More than all of this, the old guard are carrying the weight of the unfulfilled promise of eternal families to mundane services every week; and that is not sustainable.”