Jim Verhulst - Editorial Writer
Here’s what to read from the left and the right | Column
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing on July 22, 2021, in Tokyo.
People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing on July 22, 2021, in Tokyo. [ EUGENE HOSHIKO | AP ]
Published Aug. 1

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 Revenge of the Cars,” by Doug Gordon in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Traffic, car sales, and car rentals are rising, crushing the pandemic-era hope that streets could be reclaimed for pedestrians and bikers.

The excerpt: So what happened? If the pandemic was supposed to change everything, how is it that so many cities have wound up back where they were during the before times, with people arguing about parking spaces and drivers demanding unfettered access to every square inch of asphalt?

From “For Every $1 We Spend on Food, We Rack Up $2 in Public-Health and Environmental Damage,” by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: A new Rockefeller Foundation report adds heft to the concerns about the high costs of cheap food. The United States boasts the “most affordable food in the world,” the foundation’s researchers found. But this cheap fare hides some dirty secrets.

The excerpt: For every dollar we spend feeding ourselves, we generate at least another dollar in insults to public health. Non-communicable conditions, like obesity and hypertension, make up the bulk of these expenses.

From “Ban Private Beaches,” by Ben Burgis in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: There are few summertime activities more essential than trips to the beach. But huge swaths of waterfront throughout the country are private property, off-limits to the public. This is a crime: all beaches should be public.

The excerpt: Nationalizing the dry sand blocking off meaningful access to the wet sand and water isn’t exactly a wild-eyed socialist proposal with no precedent in the real world. Private beaches are illegal in Spain, for example. And there’s no reason that, after making all the beaches currently hoarded by the wealthy into public property, we couldn’t end the practice of charging for parking at publicly owned parking lots at the edge of all these publicly owned beaches. The cities and counties that own many beachfront parks right now can plead poverty and insist that they need to charge such fees, but this wouldn’t be plausible if the whole system was federalized.


From “We’re Not Going to Fix Our Spending Crisis,” by Charles C.W. Cooke in the National Review.

The context, from the author: No matter who controls Congress in two, four, or eight years, our debt and deficits will just keep growing.

The excerpt: One might have expected that, assessing the scene in January of 2021, the Democratic Party would have said, “Well, I guess all the money is gone.” But it didn’t. And why would it, given that we are now so far down the hole that the public has come to see astronomical numbers as mere abstractions? Even ten years ago, a trillion dollars was regarded as an enormous amount of money — enough, perhaps, to disqualify any spending proposal at the first hurdle. Now? Nobody seems to care. $2 trillion? $4 trillion? $10 trillion? None of it is deemed real anyway, so what does it matter? Balance sheets, interest rates, opportunity costs — whatever. Tell me, instead: What’s the right thing to do?

From “A Civilizational Crisis,” by J.D. Vance in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: A country that has children is a healthy country that is worth living in. It takes courage to protect that kind of country.

The excerpt: To me, the American Dream is about a good life in your own country. The American Dream of my Mamaw, who did not graduate from high school, and the woman who really made me and gave me so many of the opportunities that I’ve been able to have in my life, she did not care what I did. She did not care where I went to school. She did not care how much money I made. She just wanted me to be a good husband and a good father. She wanted me to be able to provide my kids the things that I didn’t have when I was growing up. And I’m proud to say that Mamaw’s American Dream for me has actually been realized.

From “The Feminist Left Thinks The Best Thing It Can Do For Women Is Send Them To War,” by Elle Reynolds in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: I’m sure if you asked the women of America for a list of things that could make their lives better, being forced to sign up to go to war would not be high on the list.

The excerpt: Lawmakers could be helping worried moms whose kids have lost a year of in-person schooling, by making sure schools stay open. They could be supporting, not denigrating, women (especially pregnant women) who want to make sure an experimental vaccine is safe before they are forced to take it. But nope, Senate Democrats think the best way they can help women is to put them on a list from which, if those same lawmakers ever decide we need to activate the draft, women will be yanked and handed a pair of combat boots.