Volume 3.41 (Oct 6-12)

Pick of the Week– The culture wars are back, and this time, everyone can win (Alyssa Rosenberg, WaPo)– “As we consume and discuss everything that is available to us now, we might not settle our big questions about art and politics and which values are best and how best to present them. The wonderful thing about this moment of technological and economic evolution and cultural proliferation is that we do not actually have to. The present culture war is the rare conflict in which almost everyone has a chance to win.”

The Economy

Amazon must be Stopped (Franklin Foer, The New Republic)

Why is the recovery so weak? It’s the austerity, stupid. (Matt O’Brien, Wonkblog)

Blessed are the wastrels for their surplus could save the Earth (Stuart Armstrong, The Conversation)– “Thus, the very efficiency that has driven human production to its dizzying peaks, creates a brittleness and a fragility to crises or disasters that are slightly too large. And the whole system is connected: when one part starts being overwhelmed, when one category of ultra-specialised manufacturers go under, others that rely on it will start to suffer too. This could be followed by knock-on effects across the economy, hitting consumers and employees and spreading to other industries. A slightly-too-large disaster may bring down our interconnected economy just as effectively as a huge disaster would.  So it is important to preserve sources of resiliency where they exist. And the current waste in the world’s food system is such a source. It’s a tragedy that rich Westerners and aspiring rich Westerners eat wasteful meat and that supermarkets and individuals throw away so much food (indeed half the food purchased in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers). But what that means is that there is a lot of slack in the system. If disaster struck, we could go back to eating more vegetables and carefully preserving excess foodstuffs. Even if half the world’s food production was wiped out by a super-plague, we’d still have enough to feed most of the people we feed today.”

Politics

Midterms: The Voter ID Mess (Steven H. Wright, NYRB)– “However these laws play out in court, most crucial will be the rules that poll workers themselves are prepared to apply on election day. Past elections have shown that poll workers can become especially confused by controversial criteria such as whether a voter must present identification. All too often, poorly-trained poll workers don’t follow their state’s voter-ID rules, demanding identification when none is required, failing to request an identification when the law requires them to do so, accepting an impermissible form of identification, or rejecting a state-approved form of identification.

 These issues become all the more concerning when there are last minute changes to the law.”

It’s All for Your Own Good (Jeremy Waldron, NYRB)– “There’s a sense underlying such thinking that my capacities for thought and for figuring things out are not really being taken seriously for what they are: a part of my self. What matters above all for the use of these nudges is appropriate behavior, and the authorities should try to elicit it by whatever informational nudge is effective. We manipulate things so that we get what would be the rational response to true information by presenting information that strictly speaking is not relevant to the decision.  I am not attributing informational nudging to Sunstein. But it helps us see that any nudging can have a slightly demeaning or manipulative character. Would the concern be mitigated if we insisted that nudgees must always be told what’s going on? Perhaps. As long as all the facts are in principle available, as long as it is possible to find out what the nudger’s strategies are, maybe there is less of an affront to self-respect. Sunstein says he is committed to transparency, but he does acknowledge that some nudges have to operate “behind the back” of the chooser.”

A Better Way to Encourage Charity (Ray Madoff, NYT)– “We should adopt a system that reduces excise taxes on private foundations that distribute greater amounts to charitable causes. Private foundations could qualify for these reduced tax rates by meeting higher payouts. Retain the current 2 percent excise tax for those private foundations that spend 6 percent or less; reduce the rate to 1 percent for those that spend between 6 and 8 percent; and eliminate the tax completely for those that spend 8 percent or more. Each year the foundation could choose its own payout and excise tax rates. This would be a simple system, easily understood by everyone. The more a private foundation spends on its charitable purpose, the less it would pay to the government.”

Foreign Affairs

Israel & the US: The Delusions of our Diplomacy (Nathan Thrall, NYRB)

Key Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No Doubt that Endless War is Official US Doctrine (Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)

Mexico’s deadly narco-politics (Ioan Grillo, NYT)– “It’s a terrifying concept. Being ruled by corrupt and self-interested politicians can be bad. But imagine being ruled by sociopathic gangsters. They respond to rowdy students in the only way they understand: with extreme violence designed to cause terror. They stick the mutilated body of a student on public display in the same way they do rival traffickers.”

Making the case against Obama’s new war (Ashley Smith and Alan Maass, Socialist Worker)

Feminism

Men have Depended on the Government for Centuries– So Why Shouldn’t Women Do the Same? (Rebecca Traister, New Republic)– “But what too often goes unacknowledged is that women aren’t the only Americans who have relied on the government as a partner. Rather, it’s a model of support and dependence that has bolstered the fortunes of American men throughout the nation’s history.  It’s hard to remember that guys did not rise to the top of business and political worlds passively, by dint of their hard-wired inclinations and the gravitational pull of their penises alone. Men too, even the rich, white married ones who vote Republican as reliably as single women vote Democratin fact, especially those menhave benefitted terrifically from government policies and practices. Call it “The Wifey State,” and come to grips with the fact that white guys have been taking advantage of it since the founding.   The government, after all, has historically supported white men’s home and business ownership through grants, loans, incentives, and tax breaks (concessions that were not, until the second half of the twentieth century, made widely available to most women or to people of color). It has allowed them to accrue wealth and offered them shortcuts and bonuses for passing it down to their children. ”

Sex is Sex but Money is Money (Svetlana Z, Matter)

What liberals and conservatives think about raising children (Dylan Mathews, Vox)

Our horrible consent culture is a tax on women (Amanda Taub, Vox)

The Big Picture

During the downturn, America’s poor helped each other more.  The rich pitched in less (Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox)– “And yet amidst all that, something odd happened. Even during the downturn and recovery, the poorest Americans upped their charitable giving. Meanwhile, the highest-income people gave less and less, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week.  The rich also give to charity differently than the poor: compared to lower-income Americans, the rich’s charitable giving places a far lower emphasis on helping their disadvantaged peers. When the poor and rich are (figuratively and literally) moving farther apart, an empathy gap naturally opens up between the upper and lower classes — after all, if I can’t see you, I’m less likely to help you.  Taken together, the trends paint a disturbing picture for the future of both the American economy and philanthropy: as the rich get richer and more removed from the daily lives of the poor, the bulk of charitable giving is also likely to become further removed from the needs of the poor.”

One in four Americans think poor people don’t work hard enough (Roberto Ferdman, Wonkblog)

Race

Whites think discrimination against whites is bigger problem than bias against blacks (Michael A. Fletcher, Wonkblog)

Crime

A Wrongful Conviction Robbed William Lopez of His Freedom, Then His Life (Lilliana Segura, The Intercept)– ““The impact of being wrongly incarcerated does not show up when you’re in prison,” Deskovic explains. Much of the trauma manifests itself later, making it harder to find a home, get a job, or sustain relationships. “Psychological research of the wrongfully convicted shows that their years of imprisonment are profoundly scarring,” the Innocence Project reportedin a 2009 study examining inadequate compensation for exonerees nationwide. At least 20 states provide no compensation for people who are wrongfully convicted. New York does, but on a case by case basis, and according to an amount determined in civil court. But as the Innocence Project notes, “After years of fighting to prove their innocence, exonerees need a safety net, not another long legal battle.” Counseling and medical care are among the most immediate services exonerees desperately need.”

Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime (Margo Kaplan, NYT)– “Part of this failure stems from the misconception that pedophilia is the same as child molestation. One can live with pedophilia and not act on it. Sites like Virtuous Pedophiles provide support for pedophiles who do not molest children and believe that sex with children is wrong. It is not that these individuals are “inactive” or “nonpracticing” pedophiles, but rather that pedophilia is a status and not an act. In fact, research shows, about half of all child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims.  A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice. Recent research, while often limited to sex offenders — because of the stigma of pedophilia — suggests that the disorder may have neurological origins. Pedophilia could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response. M.R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause. Some findings also suggest that disturbances in neurodevelopment in utero or early childhood increase the risk of pedophilia. Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.”

Mormonism

Are We Not All Beggars? (Tracy M, By Common Consent)

Do Women Count? (Julie Smith, Times & Seasons)– “The idea of editing a prayer so that no one would think that the General Women’s Meeting was part of General Conference really grates on me. If you had set out to find one petty, bureaucratic, and completely meaningless way of being sure that Mormon women get the message that they don’t “count,” you couldn’t do any better than this–altering the words of a prayer so that their meeting literally does not count. And the real shame of it is that the General Women’s Meeting itself was nearly perfect in every way.”

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