1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Jul. 12, 2019

By Jim Verhulst

Of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board compiled these summaries.

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 "After I Lived in Norway, America Felt Backward. Here's Why," by Ann Jones in the Nation.

The context, from the author: What Scandinavians call the Nordic model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That's two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they're concerned, you can't have one without the other.

The excerpt: Thanks largely to the solidarity and savvy of organized labor and the political parties it backed, the long struggle produced a system that makes capitalism more or less cooperative, and then redistributes equitably the wealth it helps to produce. Struggles like this took place around the world in the 20th century, but the Scandinavians alone managed to combine the best ideas of both camps while chucking out the worst.

From "Tucker Carlson Has Failed to Assimilate," by Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic.

The context, from the author: The Fox News host betrayed core American values in his attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The excerpt: While I favor granting citizenship automatically to children born in the United States, I was reminded of birthright citizenship's biggest downside Tuesday while listening to Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show. Unlike immigrants, natural-born citizens such as Carlson are neither screened nor forced to pass a citizenship test nor made to swear an oath. And when they stray from the American way, no one thinks to tell them that they're failing to assimilate.

From "It's the End of the World as They Know It," by David Corn in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: The distinct burden of being a climate scientist. ... So what is it like to be cursed with foreknowledge that others ignore?

The excerpt: It's hardly surprising that researchers who spend their lives exploring the dire effects of climate change might experience emotional consequences from their work. Yet, increasingly, (scientists) in the field have begun publicly discussing the psychological impact of contending with data pointing to a looming catastrophe, dealing with denialism and attacks on science, and observing government inaction in the face of climate change


From "Let Us Have Our Boyhoods and Girlhoods," by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Writing in the New York Times, tech writer Farhad Manjoo says that we ought to eliminate "gendered" pronouns. ... Manjoo personally wants to be referred to as "they."

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The excerpt: Only two types of people object to Farhad's proposal, they (Manjoo) writes. They (the types) are the grammarians and "the plainly intolerant." They (Manjoo) has two children, a boy and a girl. They (Manjoo) says they (Manjoo) has been watching them (their's children) grow up and adapt themselves (their's children) to roles prescribed by their (all of the above) society. This horrifies them. By "them" I mean them (Manjoo). Okay, I can't do this anymore. Speaking as a member of the plainly intolerant community, the discomfort Manjoo feels is a great illustration of the difference between conservatives and progressives.

From "As Big Tech Gets Richer, We Get Smaller and More Vulnerable," by Paul Ingrassia in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Why have we surrendered to Facebook's and Google's unprecedented encroachments into our private lives and politics?

The excerpt: In short, our liberal ruling class is entitled to their vast fortunes because they are better than you. By this perspective, they make the meanest of 19th-century robber barons seem like angels. In the past, the Carnegies and Vanderbilts would, in the custom of noblesse oblige, pour a substantial lot of their accumulated wealth back into their country. They did this for two reasons: they understood that a nation cannot exist without being ordered toward a higher common good (which historically had been based on Protestant morality); and they genuinely cared, to some degree at least, for their fellow countrymen. By contrast, today's capitalists lecture the philistine masses on the dangers of climate change while globetrotting on private jumbo jets, their carbon footprints a hundredfold the size of those of the environmentally unwoke. Instead of building public libraries, they invest in Chinese sweatshops to produce cheaper products.

From "Justin Amash Left the GOP — Opening a New Set of Possibilities in American Politics," by Nick Gillespie and Paul Detric in Reason Magazine.

The context, from the authors: In choosing principle over party, the Michigan congressman has changed what's possible in politics — and possibly the 2020 presidential race.

The excerpt: Modern politics is "trapped in a partisan death spiral," says Amash. But there is a way out if Congress will actually do its job and if the House and Senate become less fixated on partisan advantage. "What you have right now are two parties that are relatively small and weak, and, actually the reason they are so partisan right now is because they are small and weak," he told Reason. "The future I see is one where there are no strong parties and more independent candidates. We don't really need the parties anymore."


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