Volume 3.6 (February 3-9)

Pick of the Week— America and the Protestant Work Ethic (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish)– “At the core of this is a real debate about what we value in life, and what makes life meaningful.  And that’s a real debate we need to have more often and more publicly. Work is an ennobling, mobilizing endeavor. It is our last truly common denominator as Americans. But what if its pre-eminence is unavoidably weakened by unchangeable economic forces? What if the accumulation of wealth through work is beginning to seem like a mug’s game to more and more, trapped in a stalled social mobility escalator? Why wouldn’t people adjust their values to fit the times?”

The Big Picture

The Case for Socialized Law (Noam Scheiber, New Republic)– “There is something to be said for the basic Marxist critique of the law—that the source of injustice isn’t the way we adjudicate disputes, but the underlying imbalances of power between rich and poor.”

The Post Office Banks on the Poor (Mehrsa Baradaran, NYT)– “In this potential transaction between an institution and a population that are both in need, it would be wise to look back a century ago, at the last time a similar experiment was conducted. In 1913, the chief post office inspector, Carter Keene, declared that the postal savings system was not meant to yield a profit: “Its aim is infinitely higher and more important. Its mission is to encourage thrift and economy among all classes of citizens.” Any benefit to the post office’s bottom line should not come at the expense of those who can least afford it.”

Could Postal Banking Be the Next Big Thing? (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)

The Middle Class is Steadily Eroding.  Just Ask the Business World.  (Nelson D. Schwartz, NYT)– “As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.”

Olympics

White Snow, Brown Rage: The Racial Case Against the Winter Olympics (Reihan Salam, Slate)

Why Sochi? (Christian Caryl, NYRB)

Education

A Solution for Bad Teaching (Adam Grant, NYT)– “If we created three kinds of tenure rather than one, we might see net gains in both research and teaching.  A research-only tenure track would be for professors who have the passion and talent for discovering knowledge, but lack the motivation or ability to teach well…A teaching-only tenure track would be for professors who excel in communicating knowledge.  The third tenure track would be for research and teaching. Professors who succeed in both could maintain this dual role, whereas those who struggle in research could eventually shift to the teaching track, and vice versa.”

Science

Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases (Gina Kolata, NYT)– “On the spot, Ms. Baxley, 26, declared she would not let the disease take another life in her family line, even if that meant forgoing childbirth. “I want it stopped,” she said. The next day, her boyfriend, Bradley Kalinsky, asked her to marry him.”

Politics

From Ohio, lessons in redistricting reform (Jon Husted, WaPo)

‘Aid in Dying’ Movement Takes Hold in Some States (Erik Eckholm, NYT)

Foreign Affairs

Whose Turkey Is It? (Suzy Hansen, NYT)

Media

Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin’ plot (Jay Rosen, Pressthink)

Here, Let Ezra Explain (Benjamin Wallace, New York)– “The column inches devoted to the new are column inches not given to the important, and this stress on novelty is a holdover from when the cost of making and moving paper limited what you could print. “The web explodes that constraint,” Klein said. “We can publish War and Peace in the morning, then ten things on Obamacare, and then a hundred pictures of cats … And for all that, we haven’t created a resource that people can really use. We’ve just created a resource where it’s really easy to come and find out what happened today.”

Mormonism

Mormon Appropriation of Fundamentalism and Its Outcomes (Ben S., Times and Seasons)

Blue Collar / White Collar (Tracy M, By Common Consent)– “Have blue-collar bishops and leadership positions really disappeared over the last 30 years? Were they ever common? If they have disappeared, is that simply a reflection of the larger US economy, or a reflection on the ranks of Mormonism in general?”

Confession: Good for the Soul, Bad for Just About Everything Else (Steve Evans, By Common Consent)

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