Volume 3.31 (July 28-August 3)

Pick of the WeekWelcome to Dataland (Ian Bogost, Medium)– “Disney World is many things, and many of those many things involve crass conspicuous consumption and diluted, lowest-common-denominator cultural reverie. But despite commercialization, the phantom of Walt Disney’s down-home, populist futurism still drifts between the gaslamps. It’s a subtle alternative to both the dystopic surveillance state and the autarkic techno-futurist corporation. Here at Disney World, commerce takes place within a real, bounded physical community, and one already premised on the idea of fantasy in the first place. Perhaps this is all we really want: to participate in the fantasy of the future, to be invited to ponder and respond to it ourselves, rather than to be presented with it already formed.”

Intelligent People All Have One Thing in Common: They Stay Up Later Than You (Lauren Martin, Elite Daily)

Health Care

The US spends $15B a year to train doctors, but we don’t know what we get in return (Jason Millman, Wonkblog)– “The IOM panel says that groups participating in the GME program basically only have to report limited data to the federal government, leaving major questions about the program performance unanswered. Questions such as: Who’s being trained by the program? How much of the GME funding is used for education? Do doctors go on to practice in areas where there’s a shortage of physicians? And – probably most important – does the program produce competent doctors? On that last point, the IOM says the federal government doesn’t have data to measure whether the doctors are trained in patient safety or if they can provide coordinated care across different settings, a growing emphasis as America’s health-care system is changing to focus on preventive care and better management of chronic conditions.”

All Played Out (Ron J. Turker, NYT)– “We buy the hype about scholarships to college, but the numbers don’t support the athletic route to money. Despite what your “professional coach” tells you about your child’s athletic prowess, it isn’t possible to tell if your 12-year-old has the right stuff to be a college athlete. Very few scholarships are full-ride packages; most don’t come close to covering the cost of college. But when I tell parents that their kid’s chance of scholarship money is less than 2 percent, they shake their heads in sympathy for the other 98 percent.”

The Big Picture

More and more Americans are living with the ‘double burden’ of concentrated poverty (Emily Badger, Wonkblog)– “As Kneebone writes in a new brief: “This trend indicates that an increased share of poor individuals today face the ‘double burden’ of not only their own poverty, but also the disadvantages of those around them.””

The amazingly rapid suburbanization of poverty (Danielle Kurtzlebel, Vox)

America’s marijuana policy isn’t funny.  It’s racist.  (German Lopez, Vox)– “But for minority, poorer populations, marijuana policy is much closer to a civil rights issue. Marijuana isn’t just a drug that they would like to be able to use and carry out in the open. Marijuana criminalization has historically been used to harass and arrest people in minority and poor communities at hugely disproportionate rates.”

The Federal Marijuana Ban is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia (Brent Staples, NYT)


So It Really Is All About Sex Then, Rod? (Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)– “That is a really striking statement – though not one that exactly comes as a surprise to those familiar with Rod’s evolution over the years. It’s striking because it doesn’t actually concern itself with doctrine, the critical content of a faith tradition, like, say, the Resurrection of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not about a literal reading of Scripture as the only avenue to truth; it is not about whether doctrine can evolve; it is not about a belief in a personal, intervening God as opposed to a more distant and absent one. It is entirely about how one manages one’s private parts.”

Gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide (German Lopez, Vox)


How the Government Exaggerates the Cost of College (David Leonhardt, The Upshot)

The Gaza Crisis

American aid to Israel doesn’t seem to buy any leverage.  Why? (Zach Beauchamp, Vox)

The Explosive Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan– And Watched it Crumble (Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon)

Is Genocide Right for You? (Aaron Bady, The New Inquiry)

Resistance is justified when Gaza is occupied (Eric Ruder, Socialist Worker)

An Israel Without Illusions (David Grossman, NYT)– “Here in Israel, as soon as the war is over, we must begin the process of creating a new partnership, an internal alliance that will alter the array of narrow interest groups that controls us. An alliance of those who comprehend the fatal risk of continuing to circle the grindstone; those who understand that our borderlines no longer separate Jews from Arabs, but people who long to live in peace from those who feed, ideologically and emotionally, on continued violence.”

Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)– “In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.””

The Problem with Both ‘Pro-Israel’ and ‘Anti-Israel’ (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “Once you stop worrying about whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you can judge the Israeli government’s decisions, developments within Israeli society, and other questions related to the country each on their own terms. You can also make judgments about the conflict that are freed from the necessity so many feel to continually compare the Israeli government’s actions to Hamas’ actions, or the opinions of the Israeli public to the opinions of the Palestinian public, with the only important question being which side comes out ahead. Those comparisons end up dulling your moral senses, because they encourage you to only think in relative terms.”

Israel’s Moral Justification for Killing Civilians (Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon, In These Times)– “The crux of the matter is that in the context of contemporary asymmetric warfare, the weak do not have many options. When there are no bomb shelters, people remain at home during extensive bombardment. And if, like in the case of the Palestinians in Gaza, fleeing is not an option—because all exits from the strip have been closed, or because the neighbour’s house is under the exact same threat as one’s own, or because one is already a refugee and does not want to become a refugee anew—staying put, which the high-tech states term “illegal human shields,” constitutes a form of resistance.”

Palestine: The Hatred and the Hope (David Shulman, NYRB)

For Gaza, ‘The Norm’ is Devastating (Noam Chomsky, In These Times)

Why 70% of the people killed in Israel-Gaza violence are innocent Palestinian civilians (Max Fisher, Vox)– “On the one hand, surely Israel is responsible for the bombs it drops in areas it knows to be civilian, especially given its overwhelming military superiority in the conflict. On the other, Israel and its defenders argue that Hamas forces it launch these overwhelming campaigns in civilian areas; this is not totally unreasonably, due to the Hamas tactics explained above.  But Israel bears some responsibility for this end too. Part of this comes from an unresolved contradiction in Israeli policy, which is both to avoid civilian causalities and to punish Hamas with overwhelming force in a way that will deter it from attacking Israel”

Why I have become more pessimistic about Israel (Ezra Klein, Vox)


Church Leadership and the Dilemma of Dementia (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– This is the kind of post that I used to dismiss as probably wishful thinking on the part of heterodox Mormons.  However, having recently received independent corroboration from within the COB and noting that nothing characterizes recent LDS PR struggles so much as the absence of the President of the Church, or of anything that resembles “prophetic” leadership, I think this is a live issue.

Who is God? (Part 1) (Jason K., By Common Consent)

R-rated content in a PG Mormon life (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “The “never see R-rated movies” approach is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, adult Mormons take a guideline that is intended for teenagers in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and expand it to all Mormons in all times and places. This all-or-nothing tactic goes beyond even what our church leaders have advised adults to do.  The idea behind that extrapolation — that a 50-year-old has no more sense than a 15-year-old about the moral acceptability of whatever behavior is depicted in a work of art (or, let’s lower the bar here, any form of entertainment) –- is just silly.  And we lump all ages and individuals together for a dark reason: to avoid moral discernment. Many of us just don’t want to do the hard work of deciding what is appropriate and what is not, so we surrender that decision-making to others.”

An Apologetics of Care (smallaxe, Faith Promoting Rumor)– “An apologetics of care seeks to reconfigure the context that induces feelings such as frustration, fear, and anger. It does not seek to remove these feelings since they serve important moral functions (frustration can signal, for instance, the fact that something valuable cannot be tended to); rather it seeks to validate these feelings through a process of sympathy (discussed below). An apologetics of care recognizes that people are relational beings seeking concern, comfort, and communion often before seeking an answer to a question. It recognizes that answers to intellectual concerns, provided without tending to the relationships they invoke, all too often fail to recognize the reasons for anger and frustration. “


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