Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published September 4 2018
Updated September 7 2018

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 "Rahm Emanuel Will Be Remembered As Chicago’s ‘Murder Mayor’ " by Miles Kampf-Lassin in The Nation at

The context, from the author: The outgoing mayor’s legacy will be defined by austerity, privatization, displacement, gun violence and police brutality.

The excerpt: Just last month, Chicago saw the worst weekend of violence in years, to which Emanuel responded by blaming not systemic inequities but the lack of "a value system and a moral compass." Along with linking culpability to a lack of morals, Emanuel’s response to the crisis has been to invest more resources into policing, rather than mental-health services, education, community programs, and other social services that could help prevent this violence in the first place. Yet the Chicago Police Department itself is a documented perpetrator of such violence.

From "Can We Choose Our Own Identity?" by Kwame Anthony Appiah in the Guardian at

The context: If Caitlyn Jenner could announce that she was a trans woman, and receive widespread admiration from liberals, why was Rachel Dolezal vilified for identifying as black?

The excerpt: When we apply a label to ourselves, we’re accepting that we have some qualifying trait — say, Latin or African ancestry, male or female sex organs, attractions to one gender or another, the right to a German passport. More important, there are things we believe we should feel and think and do as a result. Identities, for the people who have them, are not inert facts; they are living guides. Women and men dress the way they do in part because they’re women and men. Given that we connect these labels with our behavior, it’s natural to expect other people to do the same. And that means we’re going to have to tell other people not just which labels they can claim, but what they must do if they are to fit our labels. So identities don’t just affect our own behavior; they help determine how we treat other people.

From "Welfare, But For CEOs" by Meagan Day in Jacobin Magazine at

The context, from the author: Taxpayers often subsidize corporate profits indirectly. The boss pays pennies or is stingy with benefits, and tax-funded public social programs make up the difference. Or the company receives a huge tax break and uses the money to line executives’ pockets. But as explored in a new report form the Institute for Policy studies, there are many corporations that receive direct public subsidies, too. And their CEO-to-median-worker pay ratios are out of control.

The excerpt: If you ask ordinary Americans what they think CEO-to-median-worker pay ratio should be, their answer is six to one — which is, quantitatively if not qualitatively, a lot closer to a socialist vision than to the current reality under capitalism. It’s obvious that no boss works 473 times harder than his average employee, so when we see a CEO-to-median-worker pay ratio of 473 to one, we’re forced to concede that there is some flaw in the system.


From "Democracy Dies In Subversion" by Charles C.W. Cooke in the National Review at

The context, from the author: The anonymous New York Times piece that has the political world aflutter is a deep national disgrace. It is a threat to our constitutional order, and, in any other circumstance, it would be broadly accepted as such.

The excerpt: If we have reached the point at which the 25th Amendment must be invoked, then the 25th Amendment must be invoked. If Trump’s staff can no longer work for him, then they must resign, and explain why they resigned, with their own names attached to the justifications. But there is no room in our system for anonymous internal resistance, and it is peculiar that the people who like to posit wild conspiracy theories and to throw around the word "treason" cannot see that.

From "This Is a Constitutional Crisis" by David Frum in The Atlantic at

The context, from the author: A cowardly coup from within the administration threatens to enflame the president’s paranoia and further endanger American security.

The excerpt: What would be better (than writing an anonymous op-ed for the New York Times)? Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the 25th Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections. Your service in government is valuable. Thank you for it. But it is not so indispensable that it can compensate for the continuing tenure of a president you believe to be amoral, untruthful, irrational, antidemocratic, unpatriotic and dangerous.

From "The Cost of Our Digital Addictions" by Matthew Hennessey in the National Review at

The context, from the author: The "just look it up" Millennial mindset has contributed in large measure to the dumbing down of the culture.

The excerpt: Someone who has been well educated knows enough to know what he doesn’t know. The problem now is that an entire generation of kids have grown up, graduated from high school and college, and are working their way through the professional world without knowing what they don’t know ... because they don’t know anything. The ethos they have imbibed is, in fact, not to know. Knowledge is outsourceable. Google is standing at the ready, waiting to help them anytime they’re ready to "just look it up."