Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Apr. 5, 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 "Russiagate Is Ending Like Any White-Collar Crime," by David Klion in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: Today, Trump and his cronies are at the helm of the U.S. government, openly plundering the public via their hotels and businesses — including Trump's undisclosed, ultimately unrealized efforts to build a major real estate project in Moscow while simultaneously running for president and promising improved relations with Russia. So far there have been no consequences.

The excerpt: Russiagate is best understood as a story of international white-collar crime. ... It was a story of a presidential candidate who has surrounded himself throughout his life with crooks and grifters, and of a Republican Party that didn't care. It's only fitting, then, that Robert Mueller's investigation should end with Trump escaping any accountability for his inner circle's strange dalliances with Russia, just as he has consistently escaped accountability for dozens of other criminal dealings throughout his sordid career. After all, this is how white-collar crime stories usually pan out. The problem with counting on the criminal justice system to save us from Trump is that the entire system is rigged.

From "How the South Won the Civil War," by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker.

The context, from the author: During Reconstruction, true citizenship finally seemed in reach for black Americans. Then their dreams were dismantled.

The excerpt: The premise of postwar de-Nazification, in Germany, was a sound one: you had to root out the evil and make it clear that it was one, and only then would minds change. The gingerly treatment of the secessionists gave the impression — more, it created the reality — that treason in defense of slavery was a forgivable, even "honorable," difference of opinion. Despite various halfhearted and soon rescinded congressional measures to prevent ex-Confederate leaders from returning to power, many of them didn't just skip out but skipped right back into Congress.

From "Don't Believe the Hype: Paying for Medicare for All Is Simple," by Matt Bruenig in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: The critics have it wrong. By reducing health care spending through efficiency gains, Medicare for All would actually make it easier to fund other government programs.

The excerpt: If the government does not take over all of the health spending by implementing Medicare for All, then that means the health sector will continue to depend on the money private individuals pump into it via compulsory premiums, voluntary premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. ... If the health sector needs those (private payments of) $1.9 trillion to operate, then that money is not available for other uses. If the government is not going to tax those $1.9 trillion to use for Medicare for All, then it cannot tax them for any other purpose. The dollars have to be left in the hands of individuals and businesses so they can pump them into the health sector through the private channels.

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From "Biden and the Problem of Touch," by Mona Charen in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Before we close the books with the #MeToo conclusion that touching is "problematic," we might want to consider some other evidence that suggests we aren't touching enough.

The excerpt: There is no delicate way to say this: Screens can deliver orgasms, but they are completely unable to provide the other benefits of human contact. People who are not romantically involved or who lack close friends or family are also missing out on the kind of touches that Biden sometimes inappropriately delivered — back rubs, head kisses, hand holding, and bear hugs. There is a wealth of psychological literature showing that skin-to-skin contact is critical for the normal mental development of human infants. All but the most fragile preterm babies do better when cuddled in their mothers' arms than in incubators. Studies have shown that babies in Romanian orphanages who were provided with nutrition and clean diapers but were rarely held or spoken to, grew into emotionally stunted children.

From "How the Other Half Learns," by Oren Cass in City Journal.

The context, from the author: Vocational education is the better option for a substantial portion of students who will never earn bachelor's degrees. It's time to rethink our priorities.

The excerpt: This vocational pathway might not be more attractive than a bachelor's degree — for those who'll earn a bachelor's, that is. For most of the students who won't earn such a degree, though, this would be a far superior option. Rebalancing opportunity in the real world means moving vast sums from the college track to the vocational alternative. Education funding should begin with the principle that a student pursuing a vocation deserves at least the same level of public support as one pursuing college.

From "If Kindness To Men Is Too Much To Ask, Can We At Least Save Fashion From Butt-Hugging Leggings?" by Katya Sedgwick in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: If college girls wear stretchy tights these days, it's largely because they simply don't know that a well-placed dart creates an outfit infinitely more flattering and sophisticated. Lacking the ability to figure out aesthetics of dress, they default to comfort.

The excerpt: If a young woman can go for months without finding herself in a situation where she needs to get a nice dress and a pair of heels out of her closet, if nothing breaks the monotony of her legging days, perhaps she should be wondering what she's doing wrong. Visit a temple, an opera house, or even a nice restaurant where one is expected to look nice because she has to show that she understands she's partaking in an important activity. Do so not as a slob who is regularly commended for merely getting out of the house, but as an adult.