Volume 3.10 (March 3-9, 2014)

Picks of the WeekThe ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse (Dan Barry, NYT)– No spoilers.  Just read it.

What’s Gone Wrong with Democracy? (The Economist)– “Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.”


Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good? (Julia Angwin, NYT)

Can We Learn About Privacy from Porn Stars? (Stoya, NYT)

The Inverse of Oversight: the CIA spies on Congress (Dan Froomkin, The Intercept)

Who Has the Rights to Track You? (David Sirota, In These Times)– “Do corporations have a legal right to track your car? If you think that is a purely academic question, think again. Working with groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, states are considering laws to prevent private companies from continuing to mass photograph license plates. ”

Can Privacy be Saved? (David Cole, NYRB)

Read the Pentagon’s $59 billion ‘Black Budget’ (Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast)

The Ukraine Crisis

What Putin Really Wants (Ruslan Pukhov, NYT)

Putin Goes to War (David Remnick, The New Yorker)

A Nuclear Ukraine (Jeremy Bernstein, NYRB)

Ukraine, Putin and the West (N+1)

Crimea: Putin vs. Reality (Timothy Snyder, NYRB)

Putin’s Golden Dilemma (Amy Knight, NYRB)

The Increasingly Awkward Conservative Crush on Putin (Isaac Chotiner, New Republic)

The Misplaced Question of Obama’s Toughness (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker)– “Politically speaking, Obama and Putin are each other’s perfect villain. The Russian’s narrow, brutal, and backwards-gazing nationalism flatters Obama’s universalism and promise of freedom and the future; Obama’s rhetoric of compromise and alliances flatters Putin’s image of his own strength. Commentators have a tendency to become trapped in that metaphor, and to conclude that Putin’s “strength” will always defeat Obama’s “weakness.” ”

Why Obama Shouldn’t Fall for Putin’s Ukrainian Folly (Anatol Lieven, Zocalo)

Russian Revisionism (Ivan Krastev, Foreign Affairs)– “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine should not be understood as an opportunistic power grab. Rather, it is an attempt to politically, culturally, and militarily resist the West. Russia resorted to military force because it wanted to signal a game change, not because it had no other options. ”

Why Russia Can’t Afford Another Cold War (James B. Stewart, NYT)– “It’s no wonder the crisis in Ukraine this week drew comparisons to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 or that a chorus of pundits proclaimed the re-emergence of the Cold War. But there’s at least one major difference between then and now: Moscow has a stock market.”

London’s Laundry Business (Ben Judah, NYT)– “Britain’s ruling class has decayed to the point where its first priority is protecting its cut of Russian money — even as Russian armored personnel carriers rumble around the streets of Sevastopol. But the establishment understands that, in the 21st century, what matters are banks, not tanks.”

Making Russia pay for its actions in Ukraine (Juan Zarate, WaPo)– “The United States and Europe must agree on what such a campaign seeks to achieve — and understand that this alone won’t roll back the Russian military presence in Crimea. An effective campaign would prove punitive but also could affect the thinking of those with influence around Putin, give teeth to diplomacy, deter further incursions and help buttress allies in Kiev and reassure those who neighbor Russia.”

How the Ukraine Crisis Ends (Henry Kissinger, WaPo)

Russia vs. Ukraine: A clash of brothers, not cultures (Akos Lada, The Monkey Cage)

‘We are Speaking Very Loudly.  We are Carrying a Small Stick.’ (John Judis, New Republic)

4 Concepts about the Ukraine Crisis That Shouldn’t Be So Hard to Understand (Jesse Walker, Reason)– “It is possible to believe it’s bad that Russia’s sticking its snout into its neighbor’s affairs and that it would be dumb for the U.S. to intervene to stop it.”

Russia doesn’t respect borders.  Neither has the US (Harold Meyerson, WaPo)– “Besides, by the standards of the Monroe Doctrine, Russia’s move into Crimea looks normal.”

Crimea and the Hysteria of History (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker)– “People who, a week ago, could not have told you if Crimea belonged to Ukraine—who maybe thought, based on a vague memory of reading Chekhov, that it was Russian all along—are now acting as though the integrity of a Ukrainian Crimea is an old and obvious American interest. What they find worse than our credibility actually being at stake is that we might not act as though it always is. The ins and outs, the explication of Ukrainian specificities—the expulsion of the Crimean Tatars, Khrushchev’s gift of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954—must be left to those who know them. But certain historical continuities appear at once to anyone with a memory of history’s grosser follies.”

Health Care

In Health Care, Choice is Overrated (Ezekiel Emanuel, NYT)– “But selective networks themselves are not a problem. The problem is that not all networks are of consistently high quality.”

When Health Costs Harm Your Credit (Elisabeth Rosenthal, NYT)– “Richard Cordray, director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has noted that half of all accounts reported by collection agencies now come from medical bills, and the credit record of one in five Americans is affected.”

It’s All in the Implementation (Jonathan Rauch, Washington Monthly)– “Marijuana legalization, by contrast, is like Obamacare in being anything but binary. Changing the law is merely the first step down a long and tortuous road. Colorado, Washington, and any other states that may eventually legalize need to create administrative and bureaucratic structures to regulate the growth, distribution, and sale of marijuana; they also need to coordinate those efforts with continuing law enforcement against illegal sellers. They need to set tax levels high enough to deter heavy use but not so high as to sustain a black market. They need to make all kinds of regulatory determinations, from how marijuana can be marketed to what level of use constitutes impairment; they must defend those rules in court and regroup when they lose. They need to work out a modus operandi with a hostile federal legal regime and a skeptical law enforcement establishment. They need to track outcomes, identify problems, and make adjustments.”

The Culture War

Ross Douthat’s Canny (and Utterly Dishonest) Defense of Homophobia (Mark Joseph Stern, Slate)

Gay marriage opponents don’t know they’re on the wrong side of public opinion (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)– “According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 41 percent of Americans oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry. But that same 41 percent has a highly skewed perception of where the rest of the country stands: nearly two-thirds of same-sex marriage opponents erroneously think most Americans agree with them. And only two in 10 same-sex marriage opponents realize that the majority of Americans support marriage equality.”

Politics and the African-American Human Language (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “This is deep ignorance masquerading as expertise. As anyone who’s spent time with African-American history, and specifically with the literature, testimonials, and music of enslaved black people, knows the use of “nigger” by black people to describe themselves is ancient. And as anyone with any familiarity with human beings knows, there are great many things you would not say to your grandfather that you would say to your friends, your wife, or your brother. And as anyone familiar with black people knows, many of our grandfathers certainly used “nigger” themselves. ”

A call to Duke men (Warren Kinghorn, Duke Chronicle)– “Women, and men, at Duke deserve to be able to live and to work among you without competing for mental space with the objectified bodies you watch online. They deserve not to be constantly mentally undressed by you, not to live in fear of the forms of rape and sexual objectification that pornography often portrays and, to some extent, legitimizes. And when they do give themselves to you sexually, they deserve not to be compared to the impossible, Photoshopped bodies you find online”

The Big Picture

These four charts show how the SAT favors rich, educated families (Zachary Goldfarb, Wonkblog)

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul (Todd Balf, NYT)

This is what a job in the U.S.’s new manufacturing industry looks like (Lydia DePillis, Wonkblog)– “”No one’s really worried about the fact that you’re so exhausted from working seven days a week, you’re dependent on some drug to stay awake, or dependent on some drug to go asleep, or for pain,” he says, relaxing after shift on an L-shaped leather couch at the home he rents in Columbia. His 37-year-old body is powerful, built like a football player’s, but no longer impervious. “That’s the most common thing people are addicted to. And everybody I work with has some type of pain, whether it’s hands, fingers, back, feet, something.””

How to save the US (Simon Kuper, Financial Times)– Some of the takeaways include: “Build socialism…Ban guns…Cut military spending.”

No, Americans are not all to blame for the financial crisis (Dean Starkman, New Republic)– “The idea that the American mortgage borrower went off the deep end has a psychological appeal that is broad and deep. It’s almost reflexive and speaks to a collective misanthropic streak: We know, after all, how people are. For op-ed writers and cocktail-party-goers everywhere, the “we-all-did-it” view has the advantage of projecting a world-weariness that can be taken for sophistication.”

A New Populism? (Michael Tomasky, NYRB)

At What Moment Do Poor Kids Deserve Poverty? (Matt Bruenig, Demos)– “It’s not just Caplan that holds such strange views. On this point, and everywhere else really, he is just unreflectively aping the cultural muck of the society he is born into. We can mobilize unbelievable sums of time, people, and money towards poor kids. We even do this often with the understanding that their plight will likely wreck their adult lives as well. But once they hit the age of majority or shortly thereafter, not only do people not care, they begin to hate them and regard them as undeserving or worse.”

For Boys, Moving into a Wealthier Neighborhood is as Traumatic as Going to War (Sarah Sloat, New Republic)– “In follow-up interviews conducted 10 to 15 years later, boys reported higher proportions of major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and conduct disorder than boys within the control group—rates of PTSD comparable to those of combat soldiers. The opposite occurred with girls, who reported mental health that was substantially better than the girls who stayed in high-poverty neighborhoods.”

Why You Truly Never Leave High School (Jennifer Senior, New York)– “High school itself does something to us, is the point. We bear its stripes. Last October, the National Bureau of Economic Research distributed a study showing a compelling correlation between high-school popularity—measured by how many “friendship nominations” each kid received from their peers—and future earnings in boys. Thirty-five years later, the authors estimated, boys who ranked in the 80th percentile of popularity earned, on average, 10 percent more than those in the 20th. There are obvious chicken-and-egg questions in all studies like this; maybe these kids were already destined for dominance, which is why they were popular. But Gabriella Conti, an economist and first author of the paper, notes that she and her colleagues took into consideration the personality traits of their subjects, measuring their levels of openness, agreeableness, extroversion, and so forth. “And adolescent popularity is predictive beyond them,” she says, “which tells me this is about more than just personality. It’s about interpersonal relations. High school is when you learn how to master social relationships—and to understand how, basically, to ‘play the game.’ ” Or don’t.”


7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook (Wait but Why)– So much of this rings true from my experience; at the same time, I don’t want Facebook to spiral into an endless vortex of negativity.


The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good (Rachael, Social Justice League)– “Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel!”

Feminism in Faith: Kate Kelly’s Mission to Ordain Mormon Women (Laura Marostica, Buzzfeed)– ““Kate, almost uniquely of anyone involved with Ordain Women, has never gone through a crisis of faith,” Wheelwright says. “She’s never doubted the church, or doubted God or her testimony, whereas so often the common narrative in Mormon feminism is doubting the church, doubting your faith because of gender issues. But Kate has never had that. Kate has always been a true constant believer — she served a mission, she’s married in the temple, she believes everything. And so uniquely she is capable of addressing the church on those terms.””

Unless a Woman Wants It (AuntMarvel, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Awkward Discourse, Awkward Practice (James Olsen, Times and Seasons)– “It’s hard not to see ourselves as deeply, awkwardly conflicted in numerous ways all stemming from our inability to acknowledge and practice true equality without jettisoning our tradition and what we find valuable in it. And this, I think, really is what’s at issue. How do we retain the overwhelming good of our tradition while moving uncompromisingly to embrace full and substantive equality? What would this demand, and what would it look like?”

Why ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ Doesn’t Work for Me (Kalani, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “As someone who has felt the pain and confusion of feeling like I am viewed by God as inherently flawed, “love the sinner, hate the sin” just doesn’t work for me. As someone who has felt like no matter who I married, it would not be acceptable to God just because of who I am, this stance doesn’t work for me. We tell our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, “I love you…except for this big part of you that is completely and irretrievably interwoven into the fabric of your soul. I hate that part because it is sinful. But, really, I do love you.” No, sorry, that doesn’t work for me.”

Why Equality is a Feeling (Nate Oman, Times and Seasons)– I share this, not out of any agreement with its premises– to the contrary, I think it is deeply flawed and a great example of spilling a ton of pixels on a fundamental misperception of the ideas at stake.  “Equality is not a feeling” ought to be read (and maybe ought to be explicitly revised to say) “equality is not just a feeling.”  A single person’s (or even a small or large group of people’s) perceptions cannot overwhelm a verifiable objective fact.  This is not to say that one must embrace the implications of this definition of equality or agree to whatever leveling the complainant requests.  But words have meaning(s) and this is one that is being bent and twisted beyond the point of recognition.


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