Selected readings from the left and from the right

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Published January 4
Updated January 4

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 “This Deep-Red State Decided to Make a Serious Investment in Preschools. It’s Paying Off Big-Time,” by Kiera Butler in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: How did Alabama, of all places, end up with some of the nation’s most effective preschools? It wasn’t by accident.

The excerpt: “People look at Alabama and they don’t think of it as No. 1 in anything,” says Allison Muhlendorf, who heads the School Readiness Alliance. “But we’re very proud to be No. 1 in pre-K quality.” This success has implications well beyond Alabama’s borders. It is the first real test, in the reddest of red states, of the notion that investing in early education can improve not only children’s outcomes, but entire economies.

From “We Have Entered A Dangerous Moral Universe,” by Patricia J. Williams in The Nation.

The context, from the author: What futures can we imagine when we no longer trust our senses?

The excerpt: Meanwhile, in the land where haddock is not haddock and climate change is not real, we tolerate other misnomers and strange loops of meaning. We begin to accept that boxing children up in desert detention camps like industrial surplus will not break them. We start to believe that drone strikes and border armies will make for sustainable ecosystems. As we walk farther and farther down an ideological path where we see one another only as data points for disaster, we will end up having abandoned some of our most fundamental commitments: to hospitality as humanizing, to children as our future, and to earth as our mother

From “The Philosopher Redefining Equality,” by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker.

The context, from the author: Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.

The excerpt: Anderson grew intellectually restless. Other ideas that were presented as cornerstones of economics, such as rational-choice theory, didn’t match the range of human behaviors that she was seeing in the wild. She liked how philosophy approached big problems that cut across various fields, but she was most excited by methods that she encountered in the history and the philosophy of science. Like philosophers, scientists chased Truth, but their theories were understood to be provisional — tools for resolving problems as they appeared, models valuable only to the extent that they explained and predicted what showed in experiments. A Newtonian model of motion had worked beautifully for a long time, but then people noticed bits of unaccountable data, and relativity emerged as a stronger theory. Couldn’t disciplines like philosophy work that way, too?


From “Why Twitter Is Even More Toxic Than You Think,” by David French in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Twitter takes underlying trends and makes them more extreme. To borrow from Spinal Tap, it turns everything up to eleven, all day, every day.

The excerpt: The gap between the engaged online few and the real-world many only grows. I’m consistently asked by those in the former group how Trump’s supporters stick with him in spite of the long list of scandals for which every political Twitter user can cite chapter and verse. My first answer is simple: Trump’s supporters often have no idea the scandals of the day even exist. They erupt, they’re hashed out in a day’s or a week’s worth of tweets and disposable news stories, and they pass from the scene before they penetrate the larger offline culture.

From “Donald Trump’s Nationalist Moment,” by W. James Antle III in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Voters are primed for country, border, and sovereignty — and this president is listening.

The excerpt: For now, the new nationalism’s goals are modest: remind those in government that their primary fiduciary duty is to their current lawful residents, not the population of the whole planet, even in powerful and affluent countries like the United States; remain independent of the supranational entities that would transform mutually beneficial trade among self-governing peoples into rule by Davos-approved bureaucrats; police one’s own borders rather than the world. A new fusionism that balances national identity with tradition and liberty could become key to the next politically successful conservatism.

From “New California Law Allows More Litigation Over Who Gets The Pets After A Divorce,” by Joy Pullmann in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Welcome to American divorce law, kitty cat. Are you sure you don’t want a feral life instead? The back door’s open.

The excerpt: So now pets can look forward to the same anguish, manipulation, bribery, and other petty power battles that children often endure during a divorce. All filtered through lawyers, who get paid handsomely for every word the bickering couple exchanges, and fees parallel to the level of spousal acrimony.