Smart people saying smart things

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “A Flawed America in Context”

When you study racism, with all its attendent woes, there is something comforting about those kind of numbers. It tells you that whatever you are struggling with here is not a deviation from the human experience, but an expression of it. There is very little that “white people” have done to “black people” that I can’t imagine them doing to each other. America’s particular failings are remarkable because America is remarkable, but they are not particularly deviant or outstanding on the misery index. This is just sort of what we do. The question hanging over us though is this: Is this what we what we will always do?

Kathleen Geier: “Internet payday loans and the major banks that enable them: a growing scourge”

So what do the major banks get from participating in payday loans? It’s simple: it’s all about the overdraft fees. The automatic withdrawals frequently result in overdrafts, and that can add up to big bucks in overdraft charges for the banks. The Times article relates one particularly nightmarish story of a woman who visited her local Chase branch and closed her account — or at least, she thought she closed it. But it remained open, and Chase ended up charging her $1,523 in overdraft fees. Overdraft fees running into hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year are not uncommon. The payday lenders are by no means the only bloodsuckers here.

Rosemary Radford Ruether: “Can Men Be Ordained?”

A synod of bishops from the four corners of the earth, and a full panoply of Mother Superiors, recently converged on the Holy City of Rome to consider the vexed question of the ordination of men. The Holy See had received many tearful appeals from the cruder sex claiming to have a call to the priesthood directly from God Herself. But Her Holiness had firmly replied to these appeals that the call must have been a wrong number. Our Holy Mother in Heaven would never call to the ministry those so obviouslv disqualified by reason of gender. But the men had refused to take no for an answer. Throwing down their picks and shovels, they had declared that they would do no more maintenance work for the Church until there was equality of rites. They sent petitions to the Holy See, filled with arguments for the ordination of men, both theological and practical. Although, of course, they could cite no example from Jesus himself, the incarnation of Holy Wisdom, since he most evidently had ordained no men to the priesthood (or women either).

John McKay: “Mini-Snopes: Congressional pay edition: again”

I’m all for economic populism, but let’s focus on the right things. How much pay Congress makes is not important. How much pay you make is. How much Social Security and Medicare your parents, grandparents or you collect is. How much food, rent, and medical support other vulnerable Americans get is. If you’ve fallen into the the trap of hating the poor, then do it for the veterans. Many of them are poor, old, hungry, and sick. Everyone loves the veterans, in theory. It’s too bad they don’t care as much for the civilians that the veterans were protecting.

Will Bunch: “If This Is the Deal, Philadelphia Schoolteachers Should Strike”

Strike? I know what some of you are saying: What about the kids? Spare me. Aside from the basic — and fairly obvious — fact that the long-term education of Philadelphia’s children would die the death of 1,000 cuts here, there’s something bigger at play. What I would like Philadelphia’s — no, America’s — kids to witness first-hand, more than anything else, is that they can grow up to be adults who will fight for their rights, for their families — and for their human dignity.

And win.

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