Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
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.
Freya the walrus rests on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway, on July 19.
Freya the walrus rests on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway, on July 19. [ TOR ERIK SCHRODER/NTB | Getty Images North America ]
Published Aug. 20, 2022

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 “We Didn’t Deserve Freya the Walrus,” by Ian Gordon in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: Just a few weeks ago, a 1,300-pound walrus named Freya was enjoying the sort of Hot Girl Summer the average pinniped could only dream of. She’d left her native Arctic waters and recently ended up off the coast of Oslo, Norway, where she delighted onlookers and the animal-loving internet by hauling herself onto small boats, eating scallops and mussels and generally living a life of leisure and glamour.

The excerpt: The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries warned the public to stay away from Freya, for their safety and hers. (A few days ago), officials said they were weighing several options, including relocating Freya, but warned she might have to be killed if people wouldn’t listen. Alas, people didn’t listen. And so on Sunday, Norwegian officials euthanized Freya. ... Freya paid for this sort of human ignorance with her life. Freya didn’t deserve this. And we didn’t deserve her.

From “Yes, You Can Call Them Fascist,” by David Masciotra in The Progressive.

The context, from the author: The GOP and its allies have a lot in common with fascist movements of the past, so why can’t we just say that?

The excerpt: Evidence of the rightwing threat to national security and democracy accumulates on a daily basis, but the mainstream media, and even left-of-center critics, continue to tread lightly. “Authoritarian,” “extreme,” “illiberal,” “anti-democratic,” and the most incoherent, “populist,” are the preferred terms of the Democratic Party, journalistic establishment and commentariat when discussing rightwing extremism. The problem is that none of these words mean much to the average American. The one word that effectively communicates the danger of the contemporary rightwing program is evidently forbidden: fascist.

From “Water Privatization Makes It Impossible to Fight Climate Change,” by Chris Saltmarsh in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: Climate change makes droughts worse. And when water is privatized to enrich water companies (as in Britain), we can’t adequately fight those droughts.

The excerpt: Like all utilities providing basic needs, water must be run in the interests of people and the planet not private profit. A 2017 poll showed that 83 percent of the British public supported this move. A compelling Opposition could surely drive that number up further by communicating its necessity during a crisis. If we do not remove the profit motive from our water system, we will not see investment in infrastructure upgrades. We will see more homes and businesses damaged as pipes burst, and as extreme weather intensifies, we will not be able to guarantee access to water as a basic right during drought. Its scarcity will have a knock-on effect across the economy, disrupting the production of food, energy, and beyond. Without nationalization of water, it will be impossible to prepare for the worsening effects of climate change still to come.

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From “Liz Cheney Is No Martyr. Just Another Rich, Entitled Member Of The D.C. Establishment,” by Victoria Marshall in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: (Rep. Liz) Cheney is not a hero, and not a martyr, but a privileged child of establishment D.C., so reliant on her family name that her closing ad used the dynasty she was born into as a crutch.

The excerpt: Listening to the corporate media and the D.C. establishment, one would think Cheney is history’s greatest hero, a political martyr who put “principle over party,” and who courageously stood up against Republican voters and their strong support of the party’s most recent president, support which Beltway insiders find unseemly. Such simplistic and error-ridden sound bites work well in D.C., but not in the rest of America.

From “An Exercise in Missing the Point,” by Noah Rothman in Commentary.

The context, from the author: As a vague ideological lodestar, “environmentalism” has become a polarizing idea. Broadly, Democrats subscribe to it, and Republicans do not.

The excerpt: The state, in (New York Times columnist Paul) Krugman’s telling, is the author of all useful remedies to environmental degradation, and those who object to the state’s efforts, therefore, support environmental degradation. The right, by contrast, has tended to embrace the private sector and consumer choice — even the rare sort engineered into existence by taxpayer-funded incentives and regulatory standards — to advance environmental causes. Not, however, at the cost of the Constitution.

From “What If the Law Treated All Politicians the Same?” by Jim Geraghty in The National Review.

The context, from the author: The grassroots of both the Democrats and the Republicans believe that the opposition party’s leaders get away with murder and that their own leaders get the book thrown at them just for jaywalking.

The excerpt: The problem with arguing, “They didn’t enforce the law against Hillary Clinton or Hunter Biden, but they did against Trump,” is that it amounts to an argument that the American justice system is only fair if leaders and elites of both parties get to ignore laws they find inconvenient. But we shouldn’t want any of our leaders ignoring any laws. If a law is worth having on the books, it is worth enforcing; if it is not worth enforcing, it is not worth having on the books. If an official breaks the law, then prosecute them — even if they’re the all-but-certain Democratic nominee a few weeks away from the convention, or a former president that is a stone-cold lock to run for another term.