Volume 3.11 (March 10-16, 2014)

Obama’s Trauma Team (Steven Brill, TIME)– On the crack team of coders, engineers and project managers that turned healthcare.gov around.

The Big Picture

Obama was right: To boost the economy, spread the wealth (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)– The new studies are absolutely unequivocal on the issue: “Redistribution is overall pro-growth,” the authors write. “On average, across countries and over time, the things that governments have typically done to redistribute do not seem to have led to bad growth outcomes, unless they were extreme. And the resulting narrowing of inequality helped support faster and more durable growth.”

Congress to constituents: ‘Show me the money’ (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)– “[S]uccess rates for meetings with Congressmen were low overall, but the study authors note that non-donors rarely obtained any meetings with Congressmen or chiefs of staff. This suggests that being a donor is a near-necessary condition for obtaining high-level Congressional access, but it is not a sufficient one.”

What is Left? (Adolph Reed, The American Prospect)– “The core difference between us is that Meyerson has no patience for notions that there can, much less should, be a serious left politics that is not articulated relative to the Democratic Party. I argue the need for building an extra-electoral left that is independent of the Democrats because the party’s dominant political orientation has become less and less responsive to labor and other constituencies concerned with egalitarian economic policies, and more committed to placating the financial interests whose economic priorities intensify inequality and economic insecurity. ”

Foreign Affairs

America Exports Democracy, Just Not the Way You Think (Sasha Issenberg, NYT)– On the global expansion of political party primaries

The CIA’s Poisonous Tree (David Cole, NYRB)– “In law, we say that torture “taints” an investigation. The legal doctrine that precludes reliance on evidence obtained from torture is called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule. But as this latest saga reflects, torture does far more than merely “taint” evidence. It corrupts all who touch it. The CIA’s desperate efforts to hide the details of what the world already knows in general outline—that it subjected human beings to brutal treatment to which no human being should ever be subjected—are only the latest evidence of the poisonous consequences of a program euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation.””

The west’s do-somethings will do nothing for Ukraine (Simon Jenkins, The Guardian)

Let Crimea Go (Eric Posner, Slate)– “By engineering the referendum in Crimea, Putin has again thrown international law back into the face of the West. If a fair vote is held, and Crimeans vote overwhelmingly to join Russia, then any Western effort to stop them will be seen as an attempt to thwart the will of the people, a violation of their right to self-determination, which is enshrined in the U.N. charter and multiple human rights treaties. And how would the West stop them anyway? Because Crimea would not be an independent state but a province of Russia, the usual ways of not recognizing a country—withholding U.N. membership, refusing to appoint an ambassador, and refraining from trade—would not work. Once Russia swallows up Crimea, we could not isolate Crimea without taking action against Russia. But Europe relies on Russia’s oil and its bank accounts, and so the United States would stand alone, unable to hurt Russia and only isolating itself.”

The Domestic Basis of American Power (Francis Fukuyama, Lawfare)– “However, I do believe that the political discount rate that translates economic strength into internationally usable power has increased for the United States as a result of the political polarization in Washington. Here the problem lies more with the political elite and less with society. I am not sure whether there are significantly deeper polarizations in American society than previously on foreign policy issues the way there are on domestic economic and cultural issues. ”

Education

Oh Humanities! (Michael Hammond, Religion in American History)– “There was a time, not too long ago, when public conversations might turn to a discussion of the events of the past. A disagreement over details might emerge, and there was an advantage to whoever might possess the cultural literacy necessary to recall a particular fact or detail about a time in ages past. Today, if these conversations emerge, they are settled by someone pulling out a cell phone or similar device and searching for the answer. What makes history relevant in a culture that embraces the newness of information rather than the persistence of historical narratives? ”

Media

Building a Diverse Newsroom is Work (Shani O. Hilton, Medium)– “Getting to that level of diversity takes work. It’s something BuzzFeed is OK at — and we’re working on improving. The undercurrent to much of the criticism of Silver and Klein et al. is an assumption that it’s easy to hire a diverse staff if you try, but white dudes just aren’t trying. I’m not a white dude, so I can only speak to the first part of that sentence, as someone who’s done a fair amount of hiring in my year at BuzzFeed. So here goes: It actually isn’t easy to build a diverse newsroom.”

King of the Foxes (Steve Coll, NYRB)

Journalism startups aren’t a revolution if they’re filled with all these white men (Emily Bell, The Guardian)– “Maybe it is the fault of legacy media for failing to make enough women “marquee journalists” in the first place. Being a “personal brand” superstar journalist is a harder path for women to negotiate, not just through the closure of institutional opportunity, but also through the bruising nature of internet discourse, which can represent an entirely different and much less civilised clubhouse than the equitable one Nate Silver is building at ESPN with so much fanaticism that he hires by chart.  Women tend to have to choose in the newsroom, even digital-first newsrooms: serve others, as an editor or commissioner, or be your own presence as a journalist/columnist/blogger. The leadership in the new (new) journalism do both, and their founders would not for one second have thought they had to choose.”

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? (Walter Dean Myers, NYT)– “I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.”

The Future of Internet Freedom (Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, NYT)

Imaginary Jews (Michael Walzer, NYRB)– “What is being explained is the social world; the explanatory tools are certain supposed features of Judaism; and the enemies are mostly not Jews but “Judaizing” non-Jews who take on these features and are denounced for doing so. I will deal with only a few of Judaism’s negative characteristics: its hyperintellectualism; its predilection for tyranny; its equal and opposite predilection for subversive radicalism; and its this-worldly materialism, invoked, as we’ve seen, by both Burke and Marx. None of this is actually descriptive; there certainly are examples of hyper-intellectual, tyrannical, subversive, and materialist Jews (and of dumb, powerless, conformist, and idealistic Jews), but Nirenberg insists, rightly, that real Jews have remarkably little to do with anti-Judaism.”

Feminism

Opportunity Knox: The Duke Porn Star Makes a Feminist Case for Her Career Choice (Robin Kirk, Dame)– “The videos I watched—free teasers, to be sure—are tightly choreographed (freedom?) and entirely run-of-the-mill (empowering?), designed to appeal to precisely the prospective fraternity brother who revealed her identity to his peers. I am trying to understand how they can be spun as feminist. She does not appear to be in control of anything: The narrative, if this can be graced with such a lofty term, is utterly predictable, and everything is focused on male pleasure, the male gaze, and the inevitable cum-on-her-face crescendo. ”

We now know more about the economics of prostitution than ever (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)

Religion

What it Means to be Catholic Now (Peter Manseau, NYT)– “Who is a Catholic? If the late priest and sociologist Andrew M. Greeley was correct in his assessment that “Catholics remain Catholic” because “they are loyal to the poetry of Catholicism,” the answer may be more a matter of language than belief.  The hold the church’s symbolism continues to have on many, practicing and lapsed, Catholic and not, is also the key to understanding both the opportunity and the risk Rome faces in the age of Francis: The poetry of faith remains open to interpretation. Though he surely did not intend it this way, “Who am I to judge?” would be a fitting motto for a papacy that saw a thousand Catholicisms bloom.”

Religious Belief and Bigotry (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “Twenty years ago, I was confidently told by my leftist gay friends that Americans were all anti-gay bigots and would never, ever back marriage rights so I should stop trying to reason them out of their opposition. My friends were wrong. Americans are not all bigots. Not even close. They can be persuaded rather than attacked. And if we behave magnanimously and give maximal space for those who sincerely oppose us, then eventual persuasion will be more likely. And our victory more moral and more enduring.”

Mormonism

Beyond Hemlines: What Pope Francis Can Teach Us About Modesty (Stephen Carter, Sunstone)

BYU Search Committee considers both men and women for BYU President: Why another man? (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “Theoretically there have been at least three opportunities over the last 20 years to appoint a woman as President of BYU, and each of those times they have opted for a man from a very, very, very (excuse the yawn) familiar demographic.”

Doctrinal Disparity & Fragile Faith (Richard Livingston, Peculiar People)

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