Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
What your insurer is trying to tell you and why a good plumber is hard to find | Readings, excerpts
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses crowds during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he gave his "I Have A Dream" speech 60 years ago.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses crowds during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he gave his "I Have A Dream" speech 60 years ago. [ AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE/CENTRAL PRESS | Getty Images North America ]
Published Sept. 2, 2023

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 Civil Rights Movement Was Filled to the Brim With Leftists,” from an interview with Matthew F. Nichter by Shawn Gude in Jacobin at

The context, from the author: On the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, ignore the lies and distortions — the reality, as the latest research shows, is that scores of socialists influenced or were themselves key figures in the civil rights movement.

The excerpt of an answer by Nichter: I think that by the late 1960s, socialism for (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) went from being a lofty but distant dream, mostly discussed in private, to a strategic imperative that he started talking about more openly. With the escalation of the Vietnam War and urban uprisings across the United States, King concluded that we have to connect the struggles for economic justice, for racial justice, and against militarism, or we’re not going to win on any of these fronts.

From “What Your Insurer Is Trying to Tell You About Climate Change,” by Juliette Kayyem in The Atlantic at

The context, from the author: Insurers are trying to send a message. The government is trying to suppress it.

The excerpt: Rising home-insurance rates reflect a lot of factors: real-estate costs, building-supply prices, the whims of global financial markets, and, yes, corporate bean counters’ desire to maximize profits. But more and more, homeowners are also paying for the damage that climate change will cause to their property — and they should be paying. If the continuing risk of fires, hurricanes and other weather-related disasters isn’t enough to make Americans think carefully about how and where to build a home, perhaps the rising cost of insurance might concentrate their mind. Yet policies at all levels of government suppress the signal that insurers are sending.

From “How the Right Retired “Negrophile”—and Substituted ‘Woke,’ ” by Anthony Conwright in Mother Jones at

The context, from the author: During the Antebellum period, Southerners pathologized Northern whites’ intolerable friendliness—their “liking negroes”—as “negrophilism.” They chided abolitionists as “negro-maniacs” obsessed with “negro interest.” ... “Negrophile” sentiment had the power to make Black suffering legible and, as a result, Black American humanity legible too. In the white South, where Black flesh demarcated a non-human species, negrophilia was a deleterious liberal ideology that reimagined the natural (white) order of the world.

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The excerpt: Contemporary supporters of so-called “woke” doctrines have endured the same treatment — but referring to white Americans as negrophiles is unacceptable by today’s social standards, which forbid any suggestion of the “N-word.” The right has supplanted the epithet with what it now derides as “wokeness.” ... A “woke” white person — a negrophile — threatens to indoctrinate fellow whites into liberal obsession with racism.


From “America Has a Critical Shortage of Skilled Workers,” by Ward Clark in RedState at

The context, from the author: Ever had trouble finding a good carpenter, or plumber, or other tradesman? Turns out you’re not alone. At the moment, there are around a million jobs in the trades going unfilled. There are a number of reasons for this, including the “Every kid must go to college” outlook, but attrition is bringing the issue to the fore.

The excerpt: I have a bunch of nephews. None of them work in the trades. Most of them, I suspect, don’t know how to change a tire. This doesn’t bode well for the country. My paternal grandfather also told me, “A man who knows how to work with his hands will never have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.” This was a man who raised a family during the Depression. Now, due to a national failure to teach trades in the schools, and to emphasize them in our society, and, yes, to look the other way at the influx of cheap labor from other countries, we have a couple of generations of young men who don’t know how to work with their hands.

From “Why Obama Is Worried,” by Matthew Continetti in Commentary Magazine at

The context, from the author: We know what is bugging former President Barack Obama: It is the mixture of apathy and antagonism that the electorate feels toward President Joe Biden.

The excerpt: Former President Donald Trump’s “iron grip” on the GOP may help him in a primary. It may help him turn out supporters. But independent voters will decide the winner of the general election based on their assessments of Biden. And right now their appraisal is withering. Trump’s current strength is really a function of Biden’s weakness. Biden’s polls are a Russian nesting doll of bad news. His overall approval numbers, averaging in the low 40s, have entered the reelection danger zone. His marks on the most important issue for voters — the economy — are worse still.

From “Right and Left, Hierarchy and Equality,” by Sohrab Ahmari in The American Conservative at

The context, from the author: We must tame market power precisely because hierarchies are inevitable in human affairs.

The excerpt: Class-compromise politics are ultimately conservative. They are based on the recognition that hierarchies are inevitable in human affairs; that attempts to completely abolish inequality are bound to yield either chaos or, more likely, new and more monstrous hierarchies, as the 20th-century’s experiments in building the “classless society” demonstrated; and that if we are to forestall such calamities, and preserve some ambit for non-market values, we had better find some way of taming market power.