Volume 3.1 (Dec 30, 2013 – Jan 5, 2014)

Humor

The Year That Will Be (Peter Funt, NYT)– “July 4 Macy’s kicks off the holiday season by having Santa ride in the final float of its Fourth of July Parade.”

The Big Picture

Redistribute wealth?  No, redistribute respect. (Noah Smith, Noahpinion)– “I want this to change. I want to move back toward a society where the hard work of an unskilled laborer is considered worthwhile in social interactions, regardless of how many dollars it brings home. I want to move back toward a society where being a good parent or a friendly neighbor earns as much respect as making a hundred million dollars on Wall Street.”

Raising the Minimum Wage Isn’t Just Good Politics.  It’s Good Economics, Too. (Noam Scheiber, New Republic)

This is One of America’s Most Violent Cities– and It Deserves More Attention (Laura Dimon, PolicyMic)

Economics

How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined (Alice E. Marwick, NYRB)– “But there are equally troubling and equally opaque systems run by advertising, marketing, and data-mining firms that are far less known. Using techniques ranging from supermarket loyalty cards to targeted advertising on Facebook, private companies systematically collect very personal information, from who you are, to what you do, to what you buy. Data about your online and offline behavior are combined, analyzed, and sold to marketers, corporations, governments, and even criminals. The scope of this collection, aggregation, and brokering of information is similar to, if not larger than, that of the NSA, yet it is almost entirely unregulated and many of the activities of data-mining and digital marketing firms are not publicly known at all.”

Thinking Outside the (Big) Box (Adam Davidson, NYT)– “Ton, however, argues that workers are not merely a cost; they can be a source of profit — a major one. A better-paid, better-trained worker, she argues, will be more eager to help customers; they’ll also be more eager to help their store sell to them. The success of Costco, Trader Joe’s, QuikTrip and Mercadona, Spain’s biggest supermarket chain, indicate, she argues, that well-paid, knowledgeable workers are not an indulgence often found in luxury boutiques with their high markups. At each of the aforementioned companies, workers are paid more than at their competitors; they are also amply staffed per shift. More employees can ask customers questions about what they want to see more of and what they don’t like, and then they are empowered to change displays or order different stock to appeal to local tastes. (In big chains, these sorts of decisions are typically made in headquarters with little or no line-staff input.) Costco pays its workers about $21 an hour; Walmart is just about $13. Yet Costco’s stock performance has thoroughly walloped Walmart’s for a decade.”

Politics

Utah Judge Unexpected as a Hero to Gay People (Jack Healy, NYT)

Talking Heads for Prohibition (Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish)– “I also wish that every pundit who writes about their youthful folly would do us a favor and research the current state of marijuana use and production, examine the far more sophisticated mixtures of CBD and THC, of sativa and indica, that this amazing plant is now grown to produce, and would acknowledge the medical uses of pot, which research is beginning to show are bewilderingly manifold. I wish they would not insult so many of their fellow adults and fellow citizens by arguing that their pleasure of choice is simply a way to be “dumb.” Calling those who disagree with you dumb is not that civil.”

Can He Save the GOP from Itself? (Garry Wills, NYRB)– “On issue after issue—reasonable gun control, women’s rights to contraceptives or elective abortion, marriage equality, easier voter access—a majority of Americans disagree with Republicans, who cannot admit this without losing their fanatical core.”

Monotony and the Culture Wars: A Reappraisal (Trevor Burrows, Religion in American History)

Sports

I Was an NFL Player Until I Was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot (Chris Kluwe, Deadspin)

Foreign Affairs

Fighting for the Soul of Ukraine (Tim Judah, NYRB)

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi (David D. Kirkpatrick, NYT)– The Times’ in-depth investigation and recounting of the Benghazi assault.

Hazards of Revolution (Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books)– On the failure of the Arab Spring.

Education

Dumbing America Down (Susan J. Douglas, In These Times)– “Among the many visionary goals of our nation’s right wing—impoverish older people, starve the poor, deny climate change, outlaw abortion and contraception, eliminate healthcare for millions—few are more foundational than defunding education in general and higher education in particular. Public colleges and universities nationwide have seen significant funding cuts over the past five years, and while the recession is usually blamed, the Right keeps the fiscal screws tight by cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations.”

Mormonism

Yes, M* is a Child-Sacrificing Misogynist and Racist Bigot Blog (TT, Faith Promoting Rumor)

The Conversation We Heard (MikeInWeHo, By Common Consent)– “Since Judge Shelby’s decision, I’ve seen discussions about the history of traditionalists’ agenda against gays, suggesting that traditionalists were never anything except compassionate and nice to gays. I read it and thought, “Have I been living on another planet?” No, but there are two conflicting narratives. It’s very different from the conservation I remember”

Excommunicating Sexism (Kate Kelly, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “Perhaps we do, indeed, need a purge. But the purge we need isn’t one of feminists, gays or intellectuals. It isn’t of well-meaning, dedicated, faithful Mormon women with legitimate, sincere questions. The purge we need is of sexist practices that place all males above all females.”

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