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  1. Opinion

Here’s what to read from the left and the right this week

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings speaks at the funeral service for her husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md., on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun via AP, Pool) [LLOYD FOX  |  AP]
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings speaks at the funeral service for her husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md., on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun via AP, Pool) [LLOYD FOX | AP]
Published Oct. 27, 2019

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 “The Greatest White Privilege Is Life Itself,” by Ibram X. Kendi in The Atlantic.

The context, from the author: My father, God willing, will turn 72 in May, which is the average life span for black men in the United States. Black men have the nation’s lowest life expectancy, four years less than white men, seven years less than black women, nine years less than white women.

The excerpt: When I stopped looking at (my dad) through the prism of racist ideas, when I handed him back his individuality, it became obvious who, or what, could encourage him to exercise regularly. An older, black male personal trainer whom my extroverted Dad could relate to, whom he could jokingly complain with about the hard exercises, whom he could develop a friendship with. Kelvin fit that bill. Kelvin was a solution for my father, but personal trainers are not an anti-racist solution for black deprivation, to stop the premature death of black men.

From “I Worked at Capital One for Five Years. This Is How We Justified Piling Debt on Poor Customers,” by Elena Botella in The New Republic.

The context, from the author: The subprime lending giant is a textbook case in creating a corporate culture of denial.

The except: The real question, of course, isn’t whether a credit card with a 27 percent interest rate and a $39 late fee is better than a payday loan. It’s whether Capital One’s marketing campaigns push people into debt who would have otherwise avoided it; whether it is actually in a person’s best interest, desperate though they may be, to borrow money at an exorbitant rate; and whether this enterprise is ethically defensible—in particular, for the decent, hard-working employees who toil every day to make Capital One’s mercenary strategy a reality. Because the ugly truth is that subprime credit is all about profiting from other people’s misery.

From “Trump Versus the Deep State: Let Them Fight?” by Jeet Heer in The Nation.

The context, from the author: The deep state is more accurately described as the administrative state -- all the people who make Washington function no matter what who is president. ... President Donald Trump and the administrative state have been trapped in a cycle of conflict from day one. The more the administrative state thwarts Trump, the more he becomes paranoid and lashes out against them, which provokes more resistance.

The excerpt: Trump’s fecklessness has made the administrative state overweening and insolent. The challenge for the next Democratic president will be bringing the administrative state in line, which means having a reckoning with the breakdown of discipline. A President Warren or Sanders will need to call attention to how Trump’s lawlessness encouraged insubordination in government, which needs to end. Whoever is president would do well at the very beginning of their term to call attention to the insubordination that has occurred, describe it as a failure due to Trump’s corruption—but underscore that it must never be repeated.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “The Problem with President Pence,” by Rich Lowry in the National Review.

The context, from the author: A trope of pro-impeachment commentary asserts that it should be simple for Republican senators to swap out President Donald Trump, who puts them in awkward positions every day, for Vice President Mike Pence, an upstanding Reagan conservative who could start with a fresh slate in the runup to the 2020 election. The only flaw in this scenario is that it is entirely removed from reality.

The excerpt: A lot of Trump supporters are going to want to blame the Republican establishment even if Trump loses in 2020 with the backing of the united party apparatus. Imagine what they will think if a couple of dozen Republican senators decide to deny him the opportunity to run for reelection, without a single voter having a say on his ultimate fate. It’s hard to come up with any scenario better designed to stoke the populist furies of Trump’s most devoted voters.

From “Congress: Stop Moaning About Syria and Start Voting on Wars,” by Daniel R. DePetris in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Members of Congress are the first to condemn troops being withdrawn from deployments they never authorized in the first place.

The excerpt: If Congress wants to start exercising its voice, it shouldn’t do so by enacting meaningless resolutions with no teeth. Lawmakers should instead take a look at the U.S. Constitution and scroll down to Article I, Section 8: “the Congress shall have power to … declare war.” There is nothing more consequential for members of Congress than the decision to send U.S. service members into combat. Declaring war, or at least authorizing the use of military force, is an enormously serious move because war is messy, risky and unpredictable.

From “Universities Breed Anger, Ignorance, and Ingratitude,” by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: A typical college-admission application is loaded with questions to the high-school applicant about gender, equality, and bias rather than about math, language, or science achievements. How have you suffered rather than what you know and wish to learn seems more important for admission. The therapeutic mindset preps the student to consider himself a victim of cosmic forces, past and present, despite belonging to the richest, most leisured, and most technologically advanced generation in history.

The excerpt: Colleges today can never assure students that after graduation they will at least test higher on the standardized tests than when they entered. If colleges could do that, they’d long ago have required exit examinations to boast of their success. Instead, the higher-education industry insists that almost any baccalaureate degree is a good deal, without worrying about how much it costs or whether their brand certifies any real knowledge. Again, the logic is that of consumer branding — as we see with Coca-Cola, Nike, and Google — in which status rather than cost-benefit efficacy is purchased.

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