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Selected readings from the left and from the right

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.

from the left

From "How Trump's Tax Returns Became A Liberal Fantasy" by Moira Donegan in the New Republic at

The context, from the author: There is a desperate belief that we're just one more disclosure away from bringing down the president.

The excerpt: Trump himself has always hidden behind some version of the (take him) "seriously, not literally" idea, claiming humor, exaggeration, or mere rhetorical flourish when his most incendiary actions backfire — as if the entire public sphere could be reduced to jocular "locker room talk." By pining for a hidden truth, instead of addressing the one staring us in the face, liberals also buy into this game. If the country was sufficiently outraged by his actions, it wouldn't matter what was in his tax returns.

From "Why You Should Read Books You Hate" by Pamela Paul in the New York Times at

The context, from the author: Reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it's a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link.

The excerpt: My taste for hate reading began with The Fountainhead, which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism. I thought it was a book about building things. I even showed it off to a French friend, an architect and a die-hard socialist, thinking he'd be impressed. "How could you bring that into our house?" he asked in disgust.

From "The False Promise of Universal Basic Income" by Alyssa Battistoni in Dissent at

The context, from the author: The version of universal basic income (the idea that people should get income simply because they exist) we get will depend, more than policies with a clearer ideological valence, on the political forces that shape it. Which is why the prospect of pushing for basic income in the United States right now — when the right controls everything — should be cause for alarm.

The excerpt: Capitalism's inability to provide a means of making a decent living for the over 7 billion people currently alive is one of its most glaring defects — and one of the most significant opportunities for the left to offer an alternative. A universal basic income, though not the only answer, might point us in the right direction.

from the right

From "Feminism Has A Ferocity Problem" by David French in the National Review at

The context, from the author: We are living in the age of the fierce girl. That's the new feminist ideal.

The excerpt: Let's imagine a person — let's call this person "Pat" — with the following characteristics. Pat is extremely aggressive and extremely ambitious and doesn't take crap from anybody. If somebody punches Pat, then Pat punches back twice as hard. Pat wants to get ahead and will face down anybody standing in the way. Career achievement seems to be Pat's highest goal. Pat's spouse needs to understand and facilitate Pat's dreams, and if children are involved, they're to be timed and spaced precisely so that Pat's climb to the top is unimpeded. If Pat is a man, then he's consumed with "toxic masculinity." If Pat is a woman, however, then Pat is leaning in. Pat is "fierce." Pat is our hero.

From "America's Misadventures in the Middle East" by Chas Freeman in the American Conservative at

The context, from the author: U.S. wars in the Middle East are — without exception — wars of choice. These wars have proven ruinously expensive and injurious to the civil liberties of Americans.

The excerpt: The United States is a secular democracy. It has no intrinsic interest in which theology rules hearts or dominates territory in the Middle East. It is not itself now dependent on energy imports from the Persian Gulf or the Maghreb. For most of the 2½ centuries since their country was born, Americans kept a healthy distance from the region and were unharmed by events there. They extended their protection to specific nations in the Middle East as part of a global struggle against Soviet communism that is long past. What happens in the region no longer determines the global balance of power.

From "Surprise: The New York Democrat is a New York Democrat," by Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review at

The context, from the author: During the campaign, Donald Trump published a "Contract with the American Voter," and he may even have read it. He described the document as "my pledge to you." If anybody had been listening, they might have learned from his former business partners what a Trump contract is worth and from his ex-wives what value he puts on a solemn pledge. I have some bad news, Sunshine: Ya got took.

The excerpt: No fighting China on currency, no wall, no NATO reform. Add a few more items to the list: Janet Yellen was definitely out before she wasn't; our relationship with Russia was "great" during the campaign but today is a "horrible relationship" that is "at an all-time low" (he may not know about the Cuban missile crisis); the president could not make war on Syria without congressional approval ("big mistake if he does not!") until he could. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land.

Selected readings from the left and from the right 04/20/17 [Last modified: Thursday, April 20, 2017 11:06am]
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