Volume 2.46 (Nov 11-17)

Picks of the Week

A Yellow Card (Brian Phillips, Grantland)– “There are ways of thinking about World Cup problems, ways of framing a critique, that have the potential to make you, and I apologize for how this sounds, a more responsible person, a better citizen of the planet. And then there are ways that reinforce some vaguely paranoid sense of cultural superiority and, in the process, diminish your capacity for empathy.”

I’ve Got Whooping Cough.  Thanks, Jenny McCarthy (Julia Ioffe, The New Republic)– “The problem is that it is not an individual choice; it is a choice that acutely affects the rest of us. Vaccinations work by creating something called herd immunity: When most of a population is immunized against a disease, it protects even those in it who are not vaccinated, either because they are pregnant or babies or old or sick. For herd immunity to work, 95 percent of the population needs to be immunized. But the anti-vaccinators have done a good job undermining it.”

Stop thanking the troops for me: no, they don’t “protect our freedoms!” (Justin Doolittle, Salon)–“The undercurrent of all this is that “support” and “gratitude” for the military and those who serve in it is intrinsically apolitical. It’s just something that all decent Americans understand and respect. This approach serves a very important purpose, which is to further blur the lines between patriotism and support for the military. Americans of conscience who do not “support” the troops, particularly those who volunteer to fight in wars of aggression, are not allowed a seat at the table in this paradigm. Their existence is not even acknowledged, in fact.”

Why Isn’t Everyone More Worried About Me? (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “It’s one thing to feel your own problems more acutely than those of other people, even millions of other people, even many whose problems make yours look trivial by comparison. We all do that, and we could barely function if we didn’t. It’s quite another thing to expect that other people will see your problems as more important than those of millions.”


Voter Suppression’s New Pretexts (Richard Hasen, NYT)– “The Supreme Court has said that, in redistricting, it cannot distinguish between permissible partisan considerations (for example, grouping “communities of interest”) and unconstitutional gerrymandering. But outside redistricting, partisanship has no place. Our elections should be conducted such that all eligible voters (and only eligible voters) can easily register, and cast a vote that will be accurately counted.  Few states will be as bold as Texas and admit naked partisanship. Most will engage in polite obfuscation.  Federal judges should see through these cynical pretexts. They should hold that when a state passes a law that burdens voters, it must demonstrate, with credible evidence, that the burdens are justified by a good reason and that the laws are tailored to their intended purpose.”

Hillary’s Nightmare? A Democratic Party that Realizes its Soul Lies with Elizabeth Warren (Noam Scheiber, New Republic)

The New Politics of Evasion (William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, Democracy)

Farm Confessional: I’m an Undocumented Worker (Lauren Smiley, Modern Farmer)

It’s business that really rules us now (George Monbiot, The Guardian)– “It’s the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It’s the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It’s the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time.”

Republicans Suddenly Love Obamacare (Leo Gerard, In These Times)– “In a shocking turn of events, Republicans now care about whether Americans have health insurance!  It happened quite suddenly. The moment can be precisely pinpointed. It occurred early in the day of Oct. 1 when the media declared the launch of the Affordable Care Act website a fiasco.  Bam! Presto change-o! The GOP saw an opportunity and seized it, no matter that it required complete reversal of the party’s previous policy position. Congressional Republicans railed and ranted about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Affordable Care Act website denying Americans the ability to sign up for health insurance. Not only that, the GOPers cried, some insurance companies were cancelling the policies of some constituents!”

The Politics of the Mask (Thomas Nail, Critical Theory)– “The wearing of masks also attempts to undermine hierarchy and authoritarianism by eliminating markers of authority, including faces, within these movements. Watching hundreds of Guy Fawkes’ march on Washington, one cannot distinguish who is in charge — because no one is, because everyone is. Unlike the hierarchically ranked masks of right wing groups, the unranked masks of recent Left movements help establish an egalitarian anonymity without leaders or followers.”

Global Affairs

Growing Clamor about Inequities of Climate Crisis (Steven Lee Myers and Nicholas Kulish, NYT)


Why We are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley (Evgeny Morozov, Frankfurter Allgemeine)– “Well, this is all bunk: there’s no “cyberspace” and “the digital debate” is just a bunch of sophistries concocted by Silicon Valley that allow its executives to sleep well at night. (It pays well too!) Haven’t we had enough? Our first step should be to rob them of their banal but highly effective language. Our second step should be to rob them of their flawed history. Our third step should be to re-inject politics and economics into this debate. Let’s bury the “digital debate” for good – along with an oversupply of intellectual mediocrity it has produced in the meantime.”

The Big Picture

Switzerland’s Proposal to Pay People for Being Alive (Annie Lowrey, NYT)– “There’s a deeper, scarier reason that arguments for guaranteed incomes have resurfaced of late. Wages are stagnant, unemployment is high and tens of millions of families are struggling in Europe and here at home. Despite record corporate earnings and skyrocketing fortunes for the college-educated and already well-off, the job market is simply not rewarding many fully employed workers with a decent way of life. Millions of households have had no real increase in earnings since the late 1980s.”

The Extra Legroom Society (Frank Bruni, NYT)– “But lately, the places and ways in which Americans are economically segregated and stratified have multiplied, with microclimates of exclusivity popping up everywhere. The plane mirrors the sports arena, the theater, the gym. Is it any wonder that class tensions simmer? In a country of rising income inequality and an economy that’s moved from manufacturing to services, one thing we definitely make in abundance is distinctions.”

The great middle-class identity crisis (Simon Kuper, Financial Times)– “‘Fewer stay in the same profession for life. We are ceasing to be our jobs’”

The 40-Year Slump (Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect)


Richard Cohen in Context (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “The problem here isn’t that we think Richard Cohen gags at the sight of an interracial couple and their children. The problem is that Richard Cohen thinks being repulsed isn’t actually racist, but “conventional” or “culturally conservative.” Obstructing the right of black humans and white humans to form families is a central feature of American racism. If retching at the thought of that right being exercised isn’t racism, then there is no racism.”


‘Now That’s Scripture’: The Significant of Religion in 12 Years a Slave (Charity Carney, Religion in American History blog)


On Consulting the Body of Christ (Ronan James Head, By Common Consent)– “I would therefore welcome any attempt to discern the will of God as revealed to the laity, not in order to accept it without question, but to listen to that billion-strong voice with humility and wonder.”

Saints, Such as We Are (Mathew, By Common Consent)– “The problem with insisting that the church do what I want, however, is that it inevitably leads to disappointment. The church just isn’t that interested in what Mathew thinks about anything. It probably isn’t interested in what you think either. This can be hard. If the church would listen to me it would surely save itself a lot of embarrassment. And because the things I think are personal at times it feels not just that my opinions are being rejected but some more fundamental part of myself. I’m ready to lay my talents on the altar and am being told that those particular talents are not really needed right now, thank you very much. As you can imagine, for a clever fellow like me it’s a downer.  I’ve mostly learned to not insist too much that the church adopt my views. This is undoubtedly why I still count myself a member of the church and enjoy the blessings it has to offer me and my family. I haven’t abandoned many of my views and though I’m occasionally teased by a talk at general conference or a change in policy, I expect to die a voice in the wilderness. But I also expect to die a Mormon. I definitely expect to die. And then we’ll see who is right. In the mean time, it’s good to go to church and be with the saints, such as we are.”

Being a Mormon Intellectual (Taylor Petrey, Peculiar People)

A Mormon Mother of Daughters Talks to a YSA Bishop about Intimacy (Alison Moore Smith, Mormon Momma)

Apologetics Again– But This Time with Feeling (Joe Spencer, Peculiar People)– “Let me see if I can’t say this as simply and clearly as possible: The task of apologetics isn’t to establish the possibility (and therefore ever-increased probability of the actuality) of certain undemonstrable claims about the things that populate the universe; the task of apologetics is to make clearer and clearer that what’s to be defended calls for a radically transformed understanding of how the universe organizes itself….It’s much more crucial to see that a kind of general sense of the inadequacy of a certain approach to apologetics has developed. It’s come to be recognized that what apologetics has for far too long taken to be the “truth” of Mormonism isn’t nearly robust enough. It’s come to be recognized that what apologetics has defended as its insistence on transcendence and the supernatural remains just as trapped within the secular as any other intellectual program. It’s come to be recognized that the apologists, for all their study of history and scripture, aren’t giving us to see the real richness and force of what’s on offer in history and scripture. Now note: This isn’t to claim that “richness is the new proof”; frankly, it’s to claim just that there’s something anemic about the Mormonism that “traditional” apologetics has attempted to outline.”


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