Smart people saying smart things (12.17)

Smart people saying smart things (12.17) December 17, 2014

Kathryn Schulz, “The Story That Tore Through Trees”

The story of man against nature is one of the most ancient and compelling of all human narratives. But it is also, by definition, adversarial. Not by coincidence did Maclean come to Mann Gulch after years of trying to write about Custer’s Last Stand — another small group of men succumbing to the enemy on the side of a hill. The book he wrote instead is the seminal text in our national war on fire. As an account of how that war is fought, it is accurate and thrilling. As an elegy for the victims, it is beautiful. But, like many such stories, it fails to ask the crucial question: whether that war should ever have been fought in the first place.

Ezra Klein, “One sentence that proves the American torture program was a national disgrace”

W. Caleb McDaniel, “History’s Echoes in the Policing That Made Eric Garner Say ‘Enough'”

In view of that past, there is little, if anything, about our country and our legal system that we should not be subjecting to a critical eye today. None of our institutions stand outside of our history, not our grand juries, not our police and not even our excise tax laws. And every chapter of that history contains evidence of black Americans being harassed by both legal and extralegal means.

The nation has found countless ways to “mess with” black lives for generations, and our past ways are not dead. They are not even past. That is why Eric Garner started by saying “I’m tired,” and why so many other Americans are now shouting “I can’t breathe.”

Stephen Prothero, “Do Liberals Always Win? An Interview With Religion & Politics

Culture wars are often seen as these battles between liberals and conservatives over cultural questions. But I see them more as dramas that are produced and acted in by conservatives. They are conservative projects whose purpose is to drum up support from traditionalists in society who perceive that something precious is being lost to them, and that something precious changes over the course of history. It might be the traditional family, with a man at its center. It might be a society in which the leaders are all white. It might be a society in which the important figures are Protestants. In order to activate that anxiety … which is going to create a political upsurge for your party, you need to find an issue that will agitate peoples’ emotions. The moment of highest agitation seems to be the moment when it’s becoming clear that the liberals are starting to win, the conservative complaint kicks in, but lo and behold, the liberals actually do win. It is a fixed game. It’s not really a fair fight because the conservatives are not picking the issues on which they are winning, which are many. In my lifetime, conservatives have done better than liberals on many political issues. But on questions in the culture wars, they tend to pick the issues that they are losing or are about to lose.

Andrea Powell, “Children who are prostituted aren’t criminals. So why do we keep putting them in jail?”

Only 12 states have “Safe Harbor” laws that prohibit the arrest of children for prostitution-related crimes. … But while these children can’t be arrested for prostitution, many are instead jailed for truancy, being a runaway and other minor violations. The majority of FAIR Girls’s 45 minor clients (we have 125 clients total, aged 11 to 24) last year were arrested for such crimes. Without effective training for law enforcement and a comprehensive trafficking response model, the vast majority of child victims are simply locked up anyway.


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