Volume 3.9 (February 24-March 2)

Pick of the Week– Rethinking our ‘Rights’ to Dangerous Behaviors (Mark Bittman, NYT)– “All of these industries work hard to defend our “right” — to smoke, feed our children junk, carry handguns and so on — as matters of choice, freedom and responsibility. Their unified line is that anything that restricts those “rights” is un-American.  Yet each industry, as it (mostly) legally can, designs products that are difficult to resist and sometimes addictive. ”


The Big Picture

The Nexus Between Insider Trading and Infidelity (Matthew Yglesias, Slate Moneybox)– “Why would a prosperous business executive risk his freedom to engage in a little insider trading? In a fascinating column, Gary Silverman observes that the motive is often not so much money as love—or, rather, a need for money that can be disguised from your wife in order to give it to your mistress”

The philosophical anthropology of the 1% (Will Davies, Potlatch)– “They are exempt from ordinary modes of evaluation and criticism, indeed their leadership status makes them the authors of new modes of evaluation and criticism. Moreover, seemingly unjustifiable levels of income are then profferred as examples of how unusual these people are. The more they are paid, the harder it is to subject them to any public measure of evaluation, because the less they appear to be normal members of society, and the more they seem like an eruption of genius or glorious violence.”

The Billionaire’s Scheme to Destroy Democracy (Leo Gerard, In These Times)

LGBT Isses

Platinum-Level Citizenship (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “What they seek is nothing short of a different definition of American citizenship granted only to highly religious people, and highly religious Christians in particular. They are demanding that our laws stake out for them a kind of Citizenship Platinum, allowing them an exemption from any law or obligation they’d prefer to disregard. They would refashion the First Amendment in their image.”

Discrimination by law carries a high price (Jim Yong Kim, WaPo)– “Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”

No excuses for bigotry (Nicole Colson, Socialist Worker)

Religious Freedom in the Public Sphere (Michael Austin, IVN)– “If somebody’s religion prohibits them from providing goods and services to some segment of the public, then they should not go into the business of providing things to the public. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause will protect them absolutely in their choice of a career that does not require them to do something that violates their religious principles.”

In Michigan, Same-Sex Marriage Goes to Trial Today.  Opponents Will Cite This Study.  Too  Bad It’s Already Been Discredited. (Nora Caplan-Bricker, The New Republic)

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: The Missing Science (Helen Epstein, NYRB)– “The existence of a significant number of gays in human populations around the world could be a consequence of the fact that a high degree of diversity in sexual preference is necessary to ensure our survival. In other words, what is hardwired into our genes isn’t homosexuality itself, but the human tendency to exhibit a wide range of sexual preferences. Scientists refer to this as “hypervariability” and it may well give rise, in some irreducible number of cases, to men who fall on the masculine-preference end of the spectrum and become gay, and women who fall on the feminine-preference end and become lesbians.”


Cheap Words (George Packer, The New Yorker)– “At the moment, those people are obsessed with how they read books—whether it’s on a Kindle or an iPad or on printed pages. This conversation, though important, takes place in the shallows and misses the deeper currents that, in the digital age, are pushing American culture under the control of ever fewer and more powerful corporations. Bezos is right: gatekeepers are inherently élitist, and some of them have been weakened, in no small part, because of their complacency and short-term thinking. But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?”

Why Do Liberals Tolerate Pseudoscience at Whole Foods? (Jerry A. Coyne, The New Republic)– “Now some “left-wing pseudoscience”, like the false belief that vaccination causes autism and other dangers, has been roundly condemned (see the piece by Julia Joffe in these pages), but, by and large, we give a pass to quackery purveyed by liberals or New Agers.  There’s a lot of criticism of creationism, but not so much of acupuncture, spiritual healing like reiki, homeopathy, organic food, and belief in the paranormal.  That’s because neither conservatives nor liberals have a monopoly on magical thinking, but the left dominates the skeptical movement.  And while magical thinking on the right is dominated by religious belief, the brand on the left comes from pure ignorance of science and, perhaps, a weakness for nonreligious “spirituality.””

The Dark Power of Fraternities (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic)

Foreign Affairs

Romantics and Realists (James Meek, London Review of Books)– “In the past 48 hours Ukraine has reached that tipping-point where the romantics become realists and the realists romantics. In the conventional world, romantics are those who think in terms of national destiny, the will of the people, of battle, of glory and self-sacrifice, of the radical political gesture; the realists those who prioritise money, balance sheets, personal safety, resignation, fatalism, the acceptance of an unjust, imperfect world where people know their place and limits, where things change slowly.”

Fascism, Russia and Ukraine (Timothy Snyder, NYRB)

The Kingpin at Rest (Alma Guillermoprieto, NYRB)

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda (Timothy Snyder, NYRB)


How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive and Destroy Reputations (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)– “Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.”


On the Meaning of Journalistic Independence (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)– “That journalistic outlets fail to hold accountable large governmental and corporate entities is a common complaint. It’s one I share. It’s possible to do great journalism in discrete, isolated cases without much funding and by working alone, but it’s virtually impossible to do sustained, broad-scale investigative journalism aimed at large and powerful entities without such funding. As I’ve learned quite well over the last eight months, you need teams of journalists, and editors, and lawyers, and experts, and travel and technology budgets, and a whole slew of other tools that require serious funding. The same is true for large-scale activism.  That funding, by definition, is going to come from people rich enough to provide it. And such people are almost certainly going to have views and activities that you find objectionable. If you want to take the position that this should never be done, that’s fine: just be sure to apply it consistently to the media outlets and groups you really like.  But for me, the issue is not – and for a long time has not been – the political views of those who fund journalism. Journalists should be judged by the journalism they produce, not by those who fund the outlets where they do it. The real issue is whether they demand and obtain editorial freedom. We have. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is the journalism we or any other media outlets produce.”


An Offhand Apologia of Sorts , and some Reflections (Ben S., Times and Seasons)

Uncorrelated tips for how NOT to be a terrible Bishop (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)

5 Reasons We Love the NY Times Front Page Article on Mormon Women (Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Have Mercy on Us Whiners (Steve Evans, By Common Consent)

Tad Callister’s Talk: One Active Mormon Woman’s Response (Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “And what hurts me very, very much to this day is that we can do so much better. In his talk, Callister says that God’s moral standards are “positive, uplifting, and liberating.” I believe they can be, if taught in that spirit. But when 70-90% of the discussion around sexuality is centered on fear and warning and guilt, then the cursory nods to how sex is wonderful and sacred get completely overshadowed. It doesn’t have to be like that. I see within our doctrine a beautiful and wonderful sense of sexuality. There is empowerment here. There is depth and thought and celebration. Am I a committed and believing Mormon woman? Yes, I am, and I am committed to improving our conversation on this subject, and I believe we can improve and that we have to improve. For all the 15-year-old Mia Maids out there, for the young men and young women who are growing up in the church and deserve far better than this.”

Temple Worship and Temple Worthiness (Brad Kramer, By Common Consent)– “Of the unnerving and progressive discomfort transformed into an emotional and spiritual sense of peace and comfort at the ceremony’s culminating moment. I have thought about it a lot, and come to the conclusion that there is a deeper truth in his story about the temple, about seeking and finding God’s presence in our grossly imperfect world with our grossly imperfect lives. We are required to be worthy to be in the temple, to receive and renew our endowment covenants. Yet in a very real sense, the endowment makes us even less worthy. It’s not just that God has unreasonable standards of absolute commitment and even perfection, but that we freely and willfully promise to live up to those standards. We turn, by covenant, high standards into minimum requirements. And we go back over and over again and are reminded of what standards we have committed ourselves to and, if we’re being really honest with ourselves, just how much and how often we fail to live up to them. And the ceremony itself frames just how impossibly high the stakes are. We place ourselves in a double bind by acknowledging the necessity of our worthiness and ensuring our unworthiness at the very same time and through the very same means.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s