Volume 3.21 (May 19-25)

Pick of the Week– The Case for Reparations (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– What is there to say about this that has not already been said?  It’s a master class, a tour de force, and the epitome of the work of one of the best writers out there today.

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Politics

The Veterans Affairs Scandal was Decades in the Making (Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic)– “In 2001, the General Accounting Office issued a report warning that wait times for medical services at VA clinics were excessiveand dangerous. Since that time, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created a whole new generation of veterans. Advances in battlefield medicine have allowed more fighters to survive serious injuries, but that has also meant more returning home with wounds and disabilities, both physical and mental. Even though the total number of veterans has been declining, as the World War II generation passes on, the number of veterans seeking care has been increasingplacing further strains on the system. As my colleague Alec MacGillis has noted, the lawmakers screamingly most loudly right now seem blissfully unaware that the need for VA services is a direct by-product of wars they supported even more enthusiastically.”

What Schoolhouse Rock Left Out

Final Word on U.S. Law Isn’t: Supreme Court Keeps Editing (Adam Liptak, NYT) — “The Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon.”

The Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency, explained (Ezra Klein, Vox)

Foreign Affairs

Tiananmen: How Wrong We Were (Jonathan Mirsky, NYRB)

U.S. needs a strong moral narrative to combat Putin (Paula J. Dobriansky, WaPo)

Economics

How competitiveness became one of the great unquestioned virtues of contemporary culture (Will Davies, LSE)– “The outrage with the ‘1%’ (and, more accurately, with the 0.1%), the sense that even the rich are scarcely benefiting, is to be welcomed. It is also overdue. For several years, we have operated with a cultural and moral worldview which finds value only in ‘winners’. Our cities must be ‘world-leading’ to matter. Universities must be ‘excellent’, or else they dwindle. This is a philosophy which condemns the majority of spaces, people and organizations to the status of ‘losers’. It also seems entirely unable to live up to its own meritocratic ideal any longer. The discovery that, if you cut a ‘winner’ enough slack, eventually they’ll try to close down the game once and for all, should throw our obsession with competitiveness into question. And then we can consider how else to find value in things, other than their being ‘better’ than something else.”

Taking on Capital without Marx (David Harvey, In These Times)

‘Let’s Like, Demolish Laundry’ (Jessica Pressler, New York)– “In Silicon Valley, where The Work of creating The Future is sacrosanct, the suggestion that there might be something not entirely normal about this—that it might be a little weird that investors are sinking millions of dollars into a laundry company they had been introduced to over email that doesn’t even do laundry; that maybe you don’t really need engineers to do what is essentially a minor household chore—would be taken as blasphemy. Outside mecca, though, there are still moments of lucidity.”

Big Pharma (Karen Hitchcock)– “he giant global pharmaceutical research enterprise is dedicated to a program of small-scale risk fiddling. Where’s the new, heroic life-saving drug? Where are all the new anti-microbial agents? There aren’t any, and it’s all big pharma’s fault. There’s major money in tweaking what we already have: turning a 3% risk into a 2.8, making something more consumer-friendly or more expensive. And we pretend this is progress, when really all we do is spin round and round. We pretend our interventions are huge. We pretend we’re at war and every decision is life and death. Mostly we tinker at the edges, sweating over drug X versus drug Y. Drug companies urge us to choose X, please choose X. It’s 0.001% better.”

Texas

Could legalization of marijuana be in Texas’ future? (Angelica Leicht, Houston Press)

Race

You can be a beneficiary of racism even if you’re not a racist (Ezra Klein, Vox)– “White America built its wealth by stealing the work of African-Americans and then, when that became illegal, it added to its wealth by plundering from the work and young assets of African-Americans. And then, crucially, it let compound interest work its magic.”

How much have white Americans benefited from slavery and its legacy? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution)– “I would suggest that most living white Americans would be wealthier had this nation not enslaved African-Americans and thus most whites have lost from slavery too, albeit much much less than blacks have lost.  For instance it is generally recognized that freer and fairer polities tend to be wealthier for most of their citizens. ”

Feminism

Eight facts about violence against women everyone should know (Sarah Kliff, Vox)– “The most recent, national survey of American women found that a slight majority (51.9 percent) reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their life. ”

Beyond the Right to Choose (Jane Miller, In These Times)– “It’s not just that choice is an illusion in most important aspects of our lives—and that it is even more illusory for some people than others and a vital marker of our growing social inequality—it fails us even in more trivial matters.”

Mormonism

A Brief Note on History, Angels and Such (Adam Miller, Times and Seasons)

What does a serious, credible discussion on women’s issues in the LDS Church look like? (Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Our Sisters are Leaving (Karen H., By Common Consent)– “The spokespeople of the church are selling a dubious product—submission and feminine agreement—that is not palatable to an increasingly large number of concerned and thoughtful women whose public lives and responsibilities are ever-increasingly at odds with their expected demeanor at church.  Dressing it up through proxy self-congratulatory language extolling the “treasure” of “bold women” who dare to publicly agree with the status quo and current authority is unconvincing.  The problem of female alienation within the church is real.  Is there enough loving energy to solve the problem?  Or are we only capable of the tepid drive to politely show our sisters the door?”

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