Volume 3.13 (March 24-30)

Pick of the Week– Hobby Lobby and the Return of the “Negro Travelers’ Green Book” (Kent Greenfield, The American Prospect)– “In America, 120 million of us are employed by small businesses. Much of our lives as consumers are spent interacting with restaurants, dry cleaners, grocers, shops, hotels, and gas stations. Many of the owners of these establishments are religious. Some store owners may feel they are commanded by their divinity to refuse service to Muslims. Some believe, sincerely, that they should not provide health insurance for vasectomies.  The owners of some barbecue joints will think that serving African Americans is a violation of God’s command to banish those with the mark of Cain. Some chicken sandwich restaurants will claim that providing benefits to same sex partners undermines their corporate conscience.”

Foreign Affairs

What do we say about the national question? (Paul D’Amato, Socialist Worker)– “One cannot support the full equality of nations unless one vigorously supports the right of oppressed nations to self-determination–that is, their right to secede from the imperial power that oppresses them.”

The war of words over Ukraine plays into Putin’s hands (Anne-Marie Slaughter, WaPo)

Confronting Putin’s Russia (Michael McFaul, NYT)– “We did not seek this confrontation. This new era crept up on us, because we did not fully win the Cold War. Communism faded, the Soviet Union disappeared and Russian power diminished. But the collapse of the Soviet order did not lead smoothly to a transition to democracy and markets inside Russia, or Russia’s integration into the West.”

Turkey Goes Out of Control (Christopher de Bellaigue, NYRB)– “The parties to the confrontation are the prime minister, sixty-year-old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and a Turkish divine, Fethullah Gülen, thirteen years his senior. Erdoğan leads the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and works in the political hurly-burly of Ankara, the country’s capital. Gülen is Turkey’s best-known preacher and moral didact. He lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania, reportedly in poor health (he has heart trouble). Gülen presides loosely but unmistakably over an empire of schools, businesses, and networks of sympathizers.  It is this empire that Erdoğan now depicts as a “parallel state” to the one he was elected to run, and he has undertaken to eliminate it.”


Why churches should brace for a mass exodus of the faithful (Damon Linker, The Week)– “But in both Catholicism and Mormonism, there’s often nowhere else to go. It’s either love it or leave it.  I think it’s likely that over the coming years these churches are going to confront a stark choice: Reform themselves in light of equality or watch their parishioners opt for the exits. In droves.”

James Kugel: Professor of Disbelief (Michael Orbach, Moment)

Sacred and Profane (Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker)– “Docherty points out that the techniques that work on bank robbers don’t work on committed believers. There was no pragmatism hidden below a layer of posturing, lies, and grandiosity. Docherty uses Max Weber’s typology to describe the Davidians. They were “value-rational”—that is to say, their rationality was organized around values, not goals. A value-rational person would accept his fourteen-year-old daughter’s polygamous marriage, if he was convinced that it was in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Because the F.B.I. could not take the faith of the Branch Davidians seriously, it had no meaningful way to communicate with them”

The Big Picture

Forces of Divergence (John Cassidy, The New Yorker)– “The proper role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate. “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” does all these things. As with any such grand prognostication, some of it may not withstand the test of time. But Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore. “

America’s Class System Across the Life Cycle (Matt Bruenig, The American Prospect)

Companies are Hiring Autistic Workers to Boost the Bottom Line (Alison Griswold, Slate Moneybox)– “”Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,” Freddie Mac states in its policy. At the end of the day, the bottom line is business as much as social good.”

The Politics of Envy (Michael Winship, In These Times)– “What’s handy about making accusations of envy or jealously is that it doesn’t have to reflect badly on you, the accuser. Hey, it can’t be helped if people are resentful — your success is your own and why should there be apologies for making something of yourself? Thus, victimhood becomes the whine du jour of the superrich—it goes well with everything.”

How to Get Ahead in Business: Neoliberal Ideology (Adam Blanden, Critical Theory)– “Neoliberalism thus reflected, locally and internationally, the interests of a broad variety of social classes. If it has fractured recently it has done so under pressure of its expansion, the central contradiction of which is the demand that an inherently inegalitarian system be adapted to include the growing demands of societies whose previous roles had been to supply both cash (in the form of government bond purchases) and products for western markets. Neoliberalism is thus increasingly forced to confront immediate pressures from within. Yet the question remains: can it any longer support the social classes whose real desires it appeared, for a while, to meet? “


Dr. Steven Hotze’s Weird War Against the Texas Medical Board (Craig Malisow, Houston Press)


The Miseducation of the Tiger Mother (William Deresiewicz, The New Republic)– “Conspicuously absent from their account, as the authors make a point of noting, is the standard explanation of “model minority” success: a historical commitment to education. When minorities prosper, Chua and Rubenfeld claim, it is not because they believe in education per se; it’s because they believe in success, and they realize that education, in the modern world, is the path to success. As for groups that fail to get ahead—and here, of course, the authors venture onto very tricky ground—the problem isn’t inherent inferiority. The problem, for African Americans or Central Appalachians, the two examples they discuss at any length, is that years of bigotry and disadvantage “grind the Triple 
Package out of” them. Insecurity, yes—but 
no impulse control anymore, no sense 
of ethnic destiny.”

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

How Businesses Use Your SATs (Shaila Dewan, NYT)

Health Care

The Political Roots and Ramifications of the Hobby Lobby Case (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)

Why I’m Jealous of My Dog’s Insurance (Eric L. Wee, NYT)

The Philosophical Case Against Obamacare is Here.  And It’s Weak. (Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic)– “What’s so interesting about this excerpt is the way that it views the pre-Obamacare status quo. Ask yourself this: would someone who didn’t have health insurance ever describe the pre-Obamacare system in these terms? We already had a healthcare system that made all kinds of trade-offs. And many people, of course, never really “voluntarily agreed” to the system, even if they were lucky enough to have had insurance. Was paying high premiums because of pre-existing conditions a choice? Was taking the plan from your employer a choice? In Mankiw’s world, however, things only became disruptive after Obamacare.”

4 Ways the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS Case Could Spell Disaster (Erika L. Sanchez, In These Times)– ““The Hobby Lobby case will affect millions of women. That by itself is cause for serious alarm,” says Eric Ferrero. “It’s a slippery slope of discrimination. A decision can have very far reaching consequences. It could allow companies to discriminate against a wide range of people. Anybody who they could claim to have moral disapproval of without having to substantiate it. These are beyond retro views about the role of women in society. It gives a peek at how these folks are trying to move the clock back. ”

Religious exemptions– a guide for the confused (Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy)


Productive Labor (Christiana Z. Peppard, Medium)– “Universities should consciously and consistently choose to implement parental leave and childcare policies. Without such policies, universities cannot embody their best self-understandings as nondiscriminatory meritocracies. At worst, they will be exploitative.”

It’s Not Bigfoot.  It Exists.’  On Melissa Gira Grant’s Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Kurt Newman, U.S. Intellectual History)


The GOP’s Racial Dogwhistling and the Social Safety Net (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)


Does Porn Hurt Children? (David Segal, NYT)– “At a minimum, researchers believe a parent-teenager conversation about sexuality and pornography is a good idea, as unnerving to both sides as that may sound. The alternative is worse, according to Professor Reid. Putting a computer in a kid’s room without any limits on what can be viewed, he said, is a bit like tossing a teenager the keys to a car and saying: “Go learn how to drive. Have fun.””

‘Big data’ needs a helping hand in Washington (Catherine Rampell, WaPo)

Can Evolution Outrace Climate Change? (Sarah Laskow, FiveThirtyEight)


No More Strangers (Melissa Inouye, Peculiar People)– “In the first place, we are forgetting that a group of people that comprises at very most .002 percent of the world’s population cannot afford to excise entire sections of its membership in a fit of temper.”

Its Time to Overhaul the Church Bureaucracy (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “What is it about our church that we have become so highly regulated, over managed and policed by a faceless, sometimes mean spirited and arrogant corporate structure that consistently wastes our monetary sacrifices on thoughtless projects and processes that often lack any sense whatsoever?  How is it that they unfailingly evade scrutiny or accountability from those who pay their operational costs and salaries?  ”

These Are Our Sisters (Roger Nicholson, FAIRMormon)

Inverting Jesus: Protecting the Ninety-Nine (Seth Payne, Worlds Without End)– “Even those who recognize and accept the institutional Church policy of protecting the majority may justify it by claiming that these so-called “lost sheep” are nothing more than “wolves’ in sheep’s clothing” that should be cut off from the flock and intentionally marginalized as they represent a real spiritual danger.  While this view may be emotionally satisfying it falls apart upon further examination.  In each of the cases I cite above, never is the core doctrinal issue raised by minority voices dealt with directly and candidly.  Rather, these issues are simply labeled as “extreme” or “heretical.”  I am forced to wonder why, if the Church’s doctrinal position on these issues is so solid, the Church simply refuses to substantively engage.  In other words, how can the Church recognize a wolf if it doesn’t take a moment to know and understand the sheep?”

The care and feeding of Mormon trolls (Stephanie Lauritzen, Flunking Sainthood)– “I’ve often wondered how someone with such a beautiful family or lovely wedding picture could so easily condemn me to hell. People are complex. Very few are truly awful or unkind; rather they are normal human beings who sometimes make mistakes. I’ve learned to try and see my detractors as whole people, not just villainous writers of hate mail. Choosing to view people with compassion doesn’t mean I agree with them, but it helps diffuse the pain when I realize the person writing me is inevitably hurting too. Happy people don’t threaten people they disagree with, but broken people do.”

To the Saints Who Tell Heretics and Apostates to Leave (christer1979, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “Christ wasn’t interested in destroying the people who had disrespected him. His mission was to love, to convert, to bring peace and understanding. If he wasn’t interested in driving away disrespectful Samaritans, how then can we assume he wants us to drive away people who are respectfully asking questions? If he could cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” how we can we insist that they know very well what they do and they deserve to be cast out?”

Where is the door?  How do WE knock? (James Olson, Times and Seasons)– “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens? How do we collectively ask, how do we faithfully seek, how do we collectively knock? Where is the official door, behind which our prophets and apostles sit, on which we CAN knock? And how does a group of faithful members with a serious concern gain access to that door?”

Equal Means Something (Julie M. Smith, Times and Seasons)– “My larger point is that if you want to argue that equal doesn’t mean the same, that’s fine. But “equal” does mean something and we have lots of work to do before many current LDS practices could be described as “equal” in any meaningful sense of the word.”

Faith, Revelation and Jewish Parallels (Ben S., Times and Seasons)– “Would it be helpful to think of Apostles as stewards of the Church who also may receive revelation, instead of Infallible Prophets who can’t NOT receive revelation?”

Progress is Non-Negotiable (Derek, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “They have instead chosen to dig in their heels, and to cast Ordain Women in the role of meddlesome troublemakers. Instead of embracing these women who feel pain and sadness, the hierarchy pushes them away. When the Church does invite dialogue, it is through and with Public Relations representatives, people whose job it is to spin information, not to make change.  The only non-negotiable for Ordain Women, I would say, is evidence of hearts open to the stories of the sort of women represented by Ordain Women, evidence of a door to *some* sort of progress. By denying them this, who is being intractable?”


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