Volume 3.36 (Sept 1-7)

Pick(s) of the Week— The Greatest Threat to Our Liberty is Local Governments Run Amok (Franklin Foer, New Republic)– “Centuries ago, in the age of monarchs, the preservation of liberty required constraining the power of the central state. In our era, protecting rights requires the opposite. Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and townsthe very places where their nightmares are springing to life.”

Welcome Back to School (Shootings) (Rachel Maddux, Matter)– Once the rest of the country catches up to the South’s early start dates (we’re ahead on this, at least), I know it’s only a matter of time before we see the headlines, or the trending topics, or the vague posts of dismay and disgust, or however we get our news now. The summer was a reprieve, but here we are again, seemingly helpless in the face of what by now appears to be as much a feature of the American school year as report cards and field trips and homecoming dances.”


Why Higher Voter Turnout Scares the GOP (David Sirota, In These Times)– “In reality, same-day registration is all about turnout, not partisanship. According to data compiled by the think tank Demos, average voter turnout is more than 10 percent higher in states that allow citizens to register on the same day that they vote. Demos also notes that “four of the top five states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election all offered same-day registration.””

The Stupidity of Hating Your Senator for Living Where You’ve Sent Her to Work (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “But here’s the thing: As long as we’re going to have a republic in which the seats in our legislature are apportioned geographically, and until we have a full telepresence-based system where all members of Congress appear in the Capitol only in holographic form, our lawmakers are going to have to leave the places they represent and go to Washington in order to do their jobs. And to do those jobs well, it isn’t enough simply to hold on to your homespun values and be guided by the warm light of the people’s faith in you. It also requires things like understanding how laws work, learning about government’s strengths and weaknesses, and grasping the interplay of the various interests that inhabit Washington so you can build coalitions to accomplish important goals.”

Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them (Adam Liptak, NYT)


The New History Wars (James R. Grossman, NYT)– “The critics are unhappy, perhaps, that a once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.  And there’s the rub. Fewer and fewer college professors are teaching the United States history our grandparents learned — memorizing a litany of names, dates and facts — and this upsets some people. “College-level work” now requires attention to context, and change over time; includes greater use of primary sources; and reassesses traditional narratives. This is work that requires and builds empathy, an essential aspect of historical thinking.  The educators and historians who worked on the new history framework were right to emphasize historical thinking as an essential aspect of civic culture. Their efforts deserve a spirited debate, one that is always open to revision, rather than ill-informed assumptions or political partisanship.”

So Bill Gates Has this Idea for a History Class… (Andrew Ross Sorkin, NYT)

Teach for America has faced criticism for years.  Now it’s listening– and changing (Dana Goldstein, Vox)

The Big Picture

The Top 10 Percent of White Families Own Almost Everything (Matt Bruenig, The American Prospect)

Last year, millions of Americans were hungry.  Then Congress cut food stamps (Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox)– “Of those very-low-food-security households, 97 percent reported that an adult cut down their meals or skipped meals altogether, and 87 percent said this had happened in at least three months of the year. Two-thirds of respondents said they had not eaten despite being hungry, and 45 percent reported losing weight due to lack of money for food. That comes out to just over 3 million households in which someone was losing weight because they couldn’t eat enough. And 23 percent of very-low-food-security households had an adult who at times went without eating for a full day at a time in 3 or more months last year. That comes out to more than one and a half million households out of that 6.8 million.”

There’s poverty in the UK, but we are better off calling it inequality (John Lanchester, The Guardian)– “I don’t for a second think that inequality is unimportant: rising levels of inequality are going to be the central focus of politics and economics pretty much everywhere in the world for the next decade. But I do think it’s not quite the same thing as what is generally understood by the word poverty. Professionals discussing poverty know perfectly well that what they are talking about is relative poverty; they are fully aware of the nuances. But most of the rest of us aren’t. People look around the UK and just don’t believe in the existence of genuinely poor people.”

America May Have the Worst Hunger Problem of Any Rich Nation (Jordan Weissmann, Moneybox)

The Number of Hungry Americans Has Barely Fallen Since the Recession (Jordan Weissmann, Moneybox)

The End of History (Noam Chomsky, In These Times)– “Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.”

Where working women are most equal (Niraj Choksi, Wonkblog)

The class war in American politics is over. The rich won (Nick Carnes, Vox)

The human cost of Obama’s delay on immigration action (Dara Lind, Vox)

What Makes People Poor? (Thomas B. Edsall, NYT)– “Despite the conflicting nature of these left and right analyses, there is a strong case to be made that they are, in fact, complementary and that they reinforce each other. What if we put it together this way? Automation, foreign competition and outsourcing lead to a decline in well-paying manufacturing jobs, which, in turn, leads to higher levels of unemployment and diminished upward mobility, which then leads to fewer marriages, a rise in the proportion of nonmarital births, increased withdrawal from the labor force, impermanent cohabitation and a consequent increase in dependence on government support.”

Foreign Affairs

The Dying Russians (Masha Gessen, NYRB)– “The deaths kept piling up. People—men and women—were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.”

ISIS is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism (Slavoj Zizek, NYT)– “Deep in themselves, terrorist fundamentalists also lack true conviction — their violent outbursts are a proof of it. How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a low-circulation Danish newspaper. The fundamentalist Islamic terror is not grounded in the terrorists’ conviction of their superiority and in their desire to safeguard their cultural-religious identity from the onslaught of global consumerist civilization.  The problem with terrorist fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior. This is why our condescending, politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority toward them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment. The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that they already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them. Paradoxically, what the fundamentalists of ISIS and those like them really lack is precisely a dose of that true conviction of one’s own superiority.”

Police Abuse

The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments (Jeremy Ashkenas and Haeyoun Park, NYT)

Stop saying ‘officer-involved shooting’ (Alex Pareene, The Dish)– ““Officer-involved shooting” absolves the person who actually pulled the trigger of responsibility, turning the shooting into an apparently inevitable act. The officer was just involved!”

The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing (Clyde Haberman, NYT)


The Lingering Stain of Slavery’ (The Dish)


On Credibility, Allyship and Who Gets the Benefit of the Doubt (Katie L., Feminist Mormon Housewives)


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