Volume 2.44 (Oct 28-Nov 3)

Pick of the Week– Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News? (Bill Keller, NYT)– Needless to say, I think that Greenwald gets the better of the exchange.

Foreign Affairs

Restoring Trans-Atlantic Trust (Wolfgang Ischinger, NYT)– “The problem is not that countries spy on one another per se. Everybody does it (well, many countries do it) with varying degrees of effectiveness and success. But few governments do it to the extent that the Americans appear to have…”

Bitter Faces in the Holy Land (David Shulman, NYRB)– “In the long term, probably nothing is as transient as a wall. Once it falls, one wonders what it was doing there for so long and why anyone ever bowed to its existence. I’m sure Edly is right; one day this Wall, too, will fall. Even now the Wall is more holes and empty space than solid barrier; perhaps it remains unfinished because its planners know deep down how futile and foolish the whole enterprise is. Fencing some two million innocent, disenfranchised people into a vast open-air prison cannot be a good idea.”


All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines (Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic)– “Whether it’s a pilot on a flight deck, a doctor in an examination room, or an Inuit hunter on an ice floe, knowing demands doing. One of the most remarkable things about us is also one of the easiest to overlook: each time we collide with the real, we deepen our understanding of the world and become more fully a part of it. While we’re wrestling with a difficult task, we may be motivated by an anticipation of the ends of our labor, but it’s the work itself—the means—that makes us who we are. Computer automation severs the ends from the means. It makes getting what we want easier, but it distances us from the work of knowing. As we transform ourselves into creatures of the screen, we face an existential question: Does our essence still lie in what we know, or are we now content to be defined by what we want? If we don’t grapple with that question ourselves, our gadgets will be happy to answer it for us.”

Big Mother is Watching You (Judith Shulevitz, New Republic)– “And there’s another, possibly even more insidious, consequence of eavesdropping on our offspring. It sends the message that nothing and no one is to be trusted: not them, not us, and especially not the rest of the world. This is no way to live, but it is a way to destroy the bonds of mutual toleration that our children will need to keep our democracy limping along.”


Right-Wing Populism Could Hobble America for Decades (John Judis, New Republic)– “Throughout much of the twentieth century, business leaders and public officials assumed that the great danger to the American polity would come from the far left—from communist revolutionaries or New Left anarchists. But it never really did, and doesn’t today. The real threat to America’s large republic is from the far right. The middle-American radicals represent the dark intolerant side of American politics. They reject the attempt, beginning in the Progressive Era, to smooth the rough edges of a capitalism that, left to its own devices, leads to monopoly, inequality, and poverty. And they promote the polarization of the parties, making a functioning government impossible and throwing into question the Constitution they claim to revere.”

Plutocrats vs. Populists (Chrystia Freeland, NYT)– “Politics in the winner-take-all economy don’t have to be extremist and nasty, but they have to grow out of, and speak for, the 99 percent. The pop-up political movements that come so naturally to the plutocrats won’t be enough.”

Slavery, a film narrative and the empty myth of original intent (David Simon, The Audacity of Despair)– “Anyone who acquires the narrative of 12 Years A Slave and finds it within his shrunken heart to continue any argument for the sanctity and perfection of our Founding Fathers, for the moral wisdom of their compromised document of national ideal that begins the American experience, or for their anachronistic or historically understandable tolerance of slavery — they are arguing from a desolate, amoral corner.  If original intent included the sadism and degradation of human slavery, then original intent is a legal and moral standard that can be consigned to the ash heap of human history.   Hardcore conservatives and libertarians who continue to parse the origins of the Constitutions under the guise of returning to a more perfect American union are on a fool’s journey to decay and dishonor.”

Kludgeocracy in America (Steven M. Teles, National Affairs)

Hidden City (Ian Frazier, The New Yorker)

Health Care

The Health-care Trilemma: How Obamacare is changing insurance premiums (Ezra Klein, Wonkblog)– One of the best explanations I have seen thus far.

NBC’s Obamacare Scoop is Actually Three Years Old (Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic)– “Regulation always involves tradeoffs. Food is more expensive because government demands the processing companies take steps to avoid contamination. Houses cost more because government insists builders use sturdy materials. Plenty of people would be happy to take their chances with less stringent regulations, but the government bans the sale of such products, even if they might be cheaper for some, because they are hazardous to the public’s health.  A similar choice is at the heart of this latest controversy. You can set higher standards for insurance, even though it means forcing some people to get better coverage. Or you can leave the standards as they are, even though those standards expose people to financial and medical calamity. Obama and his allies chose the former. Those who disagree should explain why they prefer the latter.”

Healthcare.gov 2: The Contractors’ Search for More Money (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “In government contracting on large projects, the use of dozens or even hundreds of different contractors for a single project not only isn’t unusual, it’s standard practice. The wealth gets spread around to lots of companies and lots of congressional districts, ensuring that as many members of Congress as possible have a stake in continued funding. To use a relevant tech-industry expression, the complexity isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.”


Old Testament and New Testament journalism (Jay Rosen, PressThink)


Why Do Women Do Market Work? (Matt Bruenig, The American Prospect)– “In the reality of most women, working in the labor market is not a discretionary activity undertaken voluntarily for self-liberation purposes. Like men, women work because they have to work in order to survive. There is no option….I am just saying that the whole discussion [about women working outside the home] is incoherent from the beginning because it assumes that for the great majority of women, there is even such a choice. Or more realistically, it is a discussion that simply ignores the plight of the majority of women, which is doubtlessly a reflection of the sort of people who get to participate in public sphere debates.”

Ending Million-Dollar Pay Packages, Papal Style (Leo Gerard, In These Times)– “Unlike Elst and Thain, Pope Francis is beloved for his asceticism. He lives in Spartan rooms and drives a 1984 Renault. He runs an organization as big as any American corporation. Yet he doesn’t demand millions in pay and perks. American CEOs, by contrast, place themselves on $35,000 thrones bought with the sweat of struggling minimum wage workers. The income inequality they’ve caused over the past half century is corrosive to the American ideal of an egalitarian society free of grotesquely wealthy royalty. It’s poisoning the cherished concept that any American who works hard and follows the rules can make it.”


Stranger in the Strange Land (Reny Jazayerli, Grantland)

Andre Dawkins has a story and the Duke guard would rather not talk about it (Brandon Sneed, SB Nation)– Sports journalism can be a little light, but this one captures the human drama element of quasi-amateur sports that fascinates so many while at the same time being reflective about what it means to do the act of journalism itself.


A World Without Employed Mothers (Thunderchicken, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– And this is why I can’t take the call for mothers to stay in the home seriously on any broadly applicable level…

Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage: experience from Europe (Walter van Beek, Times & Seasons)– “In 2001 over 70% of Dutch population fully agreed with this new liberty; at present it is over 80%. The second reason is that about the same percentage holds for the Dutch Church members: there would never be any ground support for a Dutch church action against the bill. Maybe, if the top leadership would have pressed, some more members would have been willing to rally for this cause, but from Salt Lake there was only a deafening silence. On the whole, the Dutch members reflected the general attitude towards the issue, and most would not have been moved in the opposite direction by any leadership.”


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