May 1, 2014 / From the Editor, Uncategorized
Each Friday we compile a list of interesting links and articles our editors find from …
May 23, 2014
Each Friday we compile a list of interesting links and articles our editors find from across the web. Here’s what’s catching our eye this week.
Long read of the week is Ta-Nehisi Coates making the case for reparations:
As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected. Quakers in New York, New England, and Baltimore went so far as to make “membership contingent upon compensating one’s former slaves.” In 1782, the Quaker Robert Pleasants emancipated his 78 slaves, granted them 350 acres, and later built a school on their property and provided for their education. “The doing of this justice to the injured Africans,” wrote Pleasants, “would be an acceptable offering to him who ‘Rules in the kingdom of men.’ ”
A more light-hearted piece about seeing what you can buy from someone for $1000 cash on the spot:
SO I WENT TO CHICAGO, the City of Big Shoulders. The city where pale, flabby men take their shirts off as if by instinct upon sight of the lake. And I began the process of trying to buy people, from the outside in, starting with their laptop. I approached them on the street, sheepishly at first, which brought me nothing but grief. The offer seemed to offend. In fact, one guy shoved me so hard with his elbow that I could feel the outline of my liver for fifteen minutes. So I shifted gears, working to make it sound appealing, like a sales plan, like an opportunity. “I’ll give you a thousand bucks, right now, for your laptop,” I’d say. I even told them they could keep the bag.
Want to get away with murder? Try Yellowstone:
Let’s imagine Daniel and Henry are vacationing in Yellowstone National Park, and set up camp in the 50 square miles of the park that are in Idaho (unlike most of the park, which is in Wyoming). They get into a fight and Daniel winds up killing Henry. But rather than bury the body and try to cover up the crime, Daniel freely admits to it and surrenders himself to the authorities. At his trial, he invokes his right, under the Sixth Amendment, to a jury composed of people from the state where the murder was committed (Idaho) and from the federal district where it was committed. But here’s the thing — the District of Wyoming has purview over all of Yellowstone, even the parts in Montana or Idaho. So Daniel has the right to a jury composed entirely of people living in both Idaho and the District of Wyoming — that is, people living in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. No one lives in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. A jury cannot be formed, and Daniel walks free.
Karl Barth has had a busy week, that started with this essay at First Things:
Karl Barth was the greatest theologian since the Reformation, and his work is today a dead letter. This is an extraordinary irony. Barth aspired to free Christian theology from restrictive modern habits of mind but in the end preserved the most damaging assumptions of the ideas he sought to overcome. This does not mean he no longer deserves serious attention. Barth now demands exceptionally close attention, precisely because his failures can teach us how profound the challenges of modernity are for theology—and show us the limits of a distinctly modern solution to them.
Which then sparked several responses. Kevin Davis:
Really? Barth was concerned about our “speculative powers”? That was the last thing Barth cared about. Barth was concerned about our sin. Barth rejected natural theology because Paul told him, not Kant. Barth was concerned about idolatry and the wrath of God against human pretensions, not the limits of theology under the conditions of modernity. Barth cared about exegesis. Disagree if you will, but disagree with his exegesis.
There are a number of problems with Rose’s presentation of Barth, but I only want to focus on one aspect. Rose claims on several occasions that Barth essentially surrendered to modernity on the issue of reason’s limitations. As he says, “Barth yielded to modernity’s most pernicious idea, which took aim not at belief in the supernatural but at our rational capacity for knowledge of it.” This is false, not because Barth did not deny such rational capacity, but because he did so on his own theological terms. There was no “yielding” to modernity, as if Barth simply conceded to what is made out to be a pernicious, self-defeating idea. On Rose’s reading, it becomes very hard to sustain the opening line that Barth is “the greatest theologian since the Reformation.” Unless that is meant as an instance of damning with faint praise: there has been nothing remotely good since the Reformation, and so Barth is the best almost by default!
And Darren Summer:
The real heart of the matter in Rose’s reading of Barth is the latter’s doctrine of revelation. According to Barth revelation is secured by God, originating on the divine side, and shown to human beings in such a way that it never becomes a fixed possession, a human possibility now susceptible to the tools of modern historical criticism. Barth’s epistemological point is not that human beings are incapable of being recipients of revelation (and thus of knowing true things about God), but that this revelation is not based in the creature and her rational or even her existential capacities.
In other words, the modifications Ryan has in mind are strictly behavioral. If you don’t give a beggar money, the logic goes, then he won’t be able to spend it on drugs or alcohol. This is precisely Ryan’s logic, too: If government benefit programs are eliminated or slashed, then people who rely on them will be forced to seek some other source of income. This is presumably why his proposed budget features $137 billion in cuts to SNAP, a program aimed at providing food to needy families, more than 70 percent of which include children.
Instagram and the PR problem at New York Magazine:
The clusterfuck of controversy surrounding Jill Abramson’s forced exit from the New York Times also showed how the sly ambiguity of Instagram PR can control a narrative better than corporate PR doublespeak. When initial reports cited Abramson’s “pushy” demeanor and introduction of lawyers to investigate concerns that she was being unfairly compensated compared to male peers, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy fell into an argument that read like a philosophical causality problem: When Abramson lawyered up, “it was part of a pattern that caused frustration,” but “I NEVER said that it was part of a pattern that led to her firing.” As the Times’ own media reporters tried to sort out what all this meant, Abramson’s daughter Cornelia Griggs used Instagram to provide the battle’s enduring image: a picture of Jill posed in boxing gloves, captioned “Mom’s badass new hobby #girls #pushy,” which made the cover of the New York Post the next day. Good boss or bad boss, the tale of Abramson’s exit imbroglio was cemented as the sexist kneecapping of a woman who dared to “lean in.” (Griggs posted a comparison to Sheryl Sandberg on Instagram, too.)
An interview with the grumpy old man, Larry McMurtry:
McMurtry is not keen on being feted. If he’s obliged to go onstage and do the song and dance, he would rather have done it in Houston. “Houston was more or less my Paris, or such Paris as I had, and I still think of Rice University as my intellectual home,” McMurtry wrote in that same Texas Monthly essay. Houston is where McMurtry came of age in the mid-to-late ’60s as a young writer and professor. But even though Houston didn’t come calling for The Last Kind Words Saloon, the University of Houston Libraries, the holder of some of McMurtry’s papers, supplied Page 177 from the original Lonesome Dove manuscript for a special one-day exhibit at the DMA. A valuation was done for the transfer between institutions, and the dollar amount for the lone page was set at $20,000.
College and the trigger warning at the New York Times:
Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.
National Geographic lets loose the dogs of war:
They’re happiest like this. Jose has Zenit sit, which the dog does obediently, and then Jose jogs 50 yards down and hides a rubber toy, a Kong, up against a mud wall, covering it with dirt. On Jose’s command, Zenit bursts forward, zigging in search of it, tail wagging. It’s an intricate dance. Voice commands met by precise canine action, always with the same end goal in mind—to find the toy. Tomorrow, on patrol, the objective will be finding not a toy but an improvised explosive device, or IED, one of the Taliban’s most brutally effective weapons against American troops here in what many consider the most dangerous province in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. And no dog can find every bomb every time.
A new Coldplay album this week has Grantland putting their whole catalog in perspective:
I’ll concede this as well. However, “white bread” and “wussy-ish” doesn’t necessarily preclude a band being “good” in my book, particularly if the band in question happens to be skilled at making songs that are commercially popular and critically unfashionable. The fact is that Coldplay is usually attacked for what it is rather than how it performs the tasks it has set out to achieve. Yes, Coldplay songs tend to be softly played dirges that pad along with the kinetic urgency of slippers sliding across a vinyl-covered kitchen floor on a lazy Sunday morning. Coldplay songs are often soppy and occasionally soporific. They will not make you feel as if you can run a marathon, bench-press 300 pounds, or sleep with the person you’ve been dying to sleep with. Coldplay songs might indeed make you feel less awesome than you really are, not more, which is a pretty big flaw for a band that plays ostensible “rock” music.
However, if you like softly played dirges sometimes (because softly played dirges, like any kind of song, are not inherently evil and can be executed well in the right hands), Coldplay does them about as well as anybody.
If you need more to read, the Atlantic has 100 stellar pieces of journalism for you to read:
Each year, I keep a running list of exceptional nonfiction for The Best of Journalism, a weekly email newsletter I publish. The result is my annual Best Of Journalism Awards. I couldn’t read every worthy piece published last year and haven’t included any paywalled articles or many of the numerous pieces from The Atlantic that I enjoyed*. But everything that follows is worthy of wider attention.
David A. Garner