Volume 3.5 (January 27-February 2)

Pick of the Week

Kindness and Civility: The Smiling Face of Oppression (Tariq Khan, The Mormon Worker)– “This is exactly where I see the LDS Church today; preaching a hollow form of kindness and civility, a love that functions in the real world as hate, while perpetuating oppression, and doing so in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Popular Myths

The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking (Kate Mogulescu, NYT)– “When the discussion is dominated by fear-mongering, we fail to meaningfully address the actual causes of human trafficking. The annual oversimplification of the issue, in which we conflate all prostitution with trafficking, and then imply that arrest equals solution, does a disservice to year-round efforts to genuinely assist survivors of trafficking — with emergency housing, medical care and other crucial services.”

Vaccine Fear Mongers are Wrong but They’re Not Ideological (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “And it turns out that not only do very few people believe that childhood vaccines pose a danger, liberals are no more likely to believe that than conservatives; in fact, they’re slightly less likely to believe it.”

 The Economy

 

Capitalism vs. Democracy (Thomas Edsall, NYT)– “Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty’s view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, “when pay setters set their own pay, there’s no limit,” unless “confiscatory tax rates” are imposed.”

Investing in Stock Buybacks, Not People (Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect)– “To the extent that this flock of Scrooge McDucks has done anything with their cash, they’ve used it to buy back their own shares—which increases the value of the outstanding shares, to which CEO salaries and bonuses are happily linked—and increase dividend payments to shareholders. Last year, American corporations set a record for share buybacks—nearly 900 of them opted to purchase their own shares…While buybacks were soaring, neither investment nor employee pay was going anywhere.”

This Walmart worker went from temp to store manager.  Here’s why that’s so tough.  (Lydia DePillis, Wonkblog)– “To be sure, McKenzie beat the odds. That’s wonderful, and it’s fair for Walmart associates to take inspiration from her example. But it’s not proof that all our ladders to opportunity, as the White House calls them, are all in good working order. The United States still has an economic mobility problem, after all — and it’s worst in the areas where Walmart’s presence is most felt.”

The Big Picture

The Cognitive Dissonance of the One Percent (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “When cornered, the sequestered, guilt-ridden, but psychologically rigid mindset does not reflect. It cannot see the broader picture. It cannot even publicly acknowledge what it must internally understand somewhere: that it played a part in the catastrophe that has now led to public shaming. And they worry deeply that this buried truth, if embraced by the politically influential, could come back to bite them yet. That worry is as rational as their response to it is irrational. If only they could know it, Obama is the best friend they could have in times like these. He wants to defend the capitalist system from its fatal, unregulated flaws. And it’s only by doing that can the one percenters’ wealth-creating dreams have a chance of being realized. If only they could see that. And if only they could adjust.”

State pension obligations can be crushing.  But corporate welfare costs more (Lydia DePillis, Wonkblog)– “…the annual cost of tax breaks and corporate subsidies often exceeds even the most out-of-control pension loads. In an examination of 10 states with some of the hottest battles over retirement plans for public employees, it calculated that they spend an average of 51 percent more to help out corporations than they do keeping up with contributions to pension systems.”

The Gap Between Rich and Poor, Accidentally Explained by Bob McDonnell (Leo Gerard, In These Times)– “… if humanity is to be served by wealth and not ruled by it, then humanity cannot simply sit back and wait for wealthy Jonnies to voluntarily relinquish power.”

The poor deserve equal protection by the law (Gary A. Haugen, WaPo)– “The repercussions extend far beyond the elites and businesses that buy safety: When protection must be purchased, the poorest are left with nothing to shield them from violence. In many developing countries, if you want to be safe, you pay to be safe. And if you can’t pay to be safe — you aren’t.”

National Security

Almost Everything in ‘Dr. Strangelove’ Was True (Eric Schlosser, The New Yorker)

The Drug War

Marijuana: The High and the Low (Jerome Groopman, NYRB)

Religion

Why do believers believe THOSE silly things? (John S. Wilkins, Evolving Thoughts)– “So the reason why (or if you prefer a pluralist approach, a major reason why) religions have these silly beliefs is that they serve to honestly signal identity. But this doesn’t explain why they have these silly beliefs. And extending the argument to all kinds of belief-systems, it fails to explain why belief-groups settle on the particular beliefs they do as the tribal markers of identity.”

What Drives Success? (Amy Chua, NYT)– “The fact that groups rise and fall this way punctures the whole idea of “model minorities” or that groups succeed because of innate, biological differences. Rather, there are cultural forces at work.  It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

Atheist Guilt (Chris, Ordinary Times)– “And here enters a concept, and feeling, wholly alien I imagine to the native atheist, that of atheist guilt. I love my parents very much, so the knowledge that I am causing them pain is deeply disturbing to me. Yet what am I to do? Am I to lie to them and pretend that I have come back home? No, I respect them too much to deceive them. Am I to indulge them in their attempts to bring me back into the fold, with all of the praying and Bible verses and invitations to church when I visit? Nothing can come of such things, and I worry that false hopes inevitably dashed will only increase their suffering.  So my guilt is a dilemma, and the more I think on the dilemma, the more I am aware of being powerless to overcome it. Powerlessness in the face of guilt all but guarantees dysfunction in interpersonal relationships, and my relationship with my parents is no exception. I tip toe over many of the insensitive things they say, things that reveal how little respect they have for my world view while they, at the same time, are deeply intolerant of any perceived disrespect for theirs, and my doing so results in resentment — likely mutual at times — that occasionally spills over in the form of anger. On my last trip to visit my parents, during a conversation with my mother that involved her sobbing and imploring, I briefly lashed out, only to reign myself in and let the resentment begin to rebuild, all while adding another layer to the mound guilt that I have spent much of my adult life building.”

Politics

Law Doesn’t End Revolving Door on Capitol Hill (Eric Lipton and Ben Protess, NYT)

Planet Hillary (Amy Chozick, NYT)

Rand Paul’s Mixed Heritage (Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg, NYT)

The Champion Barack Obama (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “Barack Obama was not prophecy. Whatever had been laid before him, it takes gifted hands to operate, repeatedly, on a country scarred by white supremacy. The significance of the moment comes across, not simply in policy, by in the power of symbolism. I don’t expect, in my lifetime, to again see a black family with the sheer beauty of Obama’s on such a prominent stage. (In the private spaces of black America, I see them all the time.) I don’t expect to see a black woman exuding the kind of humanity you see here on such a prominent stage ever again. (In the private spaces of black homes, I see it all the time.) And no matter how many times I’ve seen it in my private life, at Howard, in my home, among my close friends, I don’t ever expect to see a black man of such agile intelligence as the current president put before the American public ever again.”

Our Dangerous Budget and What to Do About It (Jeffrey D. Sachs, NYRB)– “Combine these three long-term trends, and the underlying fiscal problem is clear. Revenues amount to around 19 percent of GDP; mandatory programs require around 13.6 percent of GDP and rising; and security-related spending runs at around 5 percent of GDP. There is no room to fund civilian discretionary programs, a vast category that includes education, job training, protecting the environment and regulating land use, infrastructure such as roads, community development, housing, agriculture, and the technologies of the future, including advanced biomedical research, nanotechnology, information technology, renewable energy, and more.”

Education

How our universities teach violence (Tithi Bhattacharya, Socialist Worker)– “Let me take you on a tour of my campus and show you where I think the university breeds the bacilli of violence that have the power to infect everyday life on campus. It is on such sites we ought to seek the roots of violent actions that haunt life in this country, rather than solely in individual psychosis.”

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age (Clay Shirky)– “Those of us in the traditional academy could have a hand in shaping that future, but doing so will require us to relax our obsessive focus on elite students, institutions, and faculty. It will require us to stop regarding ourselves as irreplaceable occupiers of sacred roles, and start regarding ourselves as people who do several jobs society needs done, only one of which is creating new knowledge.”

Foreign Affairs

Turkey: The Fakir vs. The Pharoah (Christopher de Bellaigue, NYRB)– “Imagine a Mormon Ivy Leaguer with friends in the Grand Lodge and you will have some idea of the connections that Gulenists can call upon in Turkish society.”

9 Questions about Ukraine you were too embarrassed to ask (Max Fisher, WaPo)

Mormonism

The Facebook of Mormon (Shira Telushkin, The Atlantic)

The Exhausted Mormon (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)

Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Mormon Male Privilege (Kate Kelly, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– A brilliant riposte to Nate Oman’s argument here.

Utah Same-Sex Marriage and the International Church (Wilifred Decoo, Times & Seasons)

The Anthropology of Providing and Nurturing (Julie Hartley-Moore, Times & Seasons)

A Society Meet for Male Priesthood (Fiona Givens, Difficult Run)

Let’s Talk about Sex (Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Rational Faiths)– “As much as many marriages have modernized in the church and function in more egalitarian ways relative to a generation ago, I am still struck by how much the dynamic of inequality persists in many LDS marriages. While immaturity in marriage and the challenges to selfhood that marriage evokes are not problems specific to Mormons, the institutionalized support for glorified under-functioning in women is indeed a Mormon cultural problem. We need to stop acting like real strength in women undermines marriages and mothering. We need to stop embracing impotence in women as a kind of goodness, much in the way that we regard children as good—innocent, powerless, and harmless. We strip women of their strength and autonomy in the gender narrative and then ask men to take care of them. This may create an ethic of dependency and deference in women, and therefore potentially less overt conflict in marriages. However it does not, in my experience, create strong people, strong families, or passionate, stable marriages.”

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