Archive for the ‘op-ed’ tag

#  Obama’s Culture Wars →

May 13th, 2009 at 21:02 // In Worth Considering 

Ross Douthat, who to little derision or attention has started having his column published in the New York Times, has a good summary of Obama’s apparent plan for “winning” America’s culture war:

Engage on abortion, punt on gay rights.

And just to say, if the first two weeks are any indication, Douthat’s going to be a great compliment to Brooks. The two most conservative columnists at the paper are very probably the best.

#  In Praise of Institutions →

January 28th, 2009 at 19:40 // In Worth Reading 

David Brooks offers a surprisingly reasonable lament about the way that kids today don’t have any respect for traditional structures of power and order.

Each of these institutions comes with certain rules and obligations that tell us how to do what we’re supposed to do. Journalism imposes habits that help reporters keep a mental distance from those they cover. Scientists have obligations to the community of researchers. In the process of absorbing the rules of the institutions we inhabit, we become who we are.

New generations don’t invent institutional practices. These practices are passed down and evolve. So the institutionalist has a deep reverence for those who came before and built up the rules that he has temporarily taken delivery of. “In taking delivery,” Heclo writes, “institutionalists see themselves as debtors who owe something, not creditors to whom something is owed.”

#  The Republican Platform →

September 1st, 2008 at 12:34 // In Worth Reading 

Andrew Ferguson, of The Weekly Standard, does something I’ve always been curious to do — watch a party platform in progress — and comes to, among others, this conclusion:

“Republicans,” the platform says, “will attack wasteful Washington spending immediately,” even though they can’t. They can’t impose anything on anybody, either, but nevertheless “we will impose an immediate moratorium on the earmarking system.”

Powerlessness opens up a limitless future. It has the fierce urgency of not right now.

#  In Defense of Boxed Wine →

August 18th, 2008 at 21:07 // In Worth Considering 

Tyler Colman says that we need to get over the stigma about wine that comes from a box. One reason:

A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.

#  Keeping Kosher →

August 5th, 2008 at 22:12 // In Worth Reading 

A jarring and fascinating op-ed from Shmuel Herzfeld in tomorrow’s New York Times about, of all things, kosher meats:

In May in Postville, Iowa, immigration officials raided Agriprocessors Inc., the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the country.

What began as an immigration sting, however, quickly took on larger dimensions. News reports and government documents have described abusive practices at Agriprocessors against workers, including minors. Children as young as 13 were said to be wielding knives on the killing floor; some teenagers were working 17-hour shifts, six days a week.

… there is precedent for declaring something nonkosher on the basis of how employees are treated. Yisroel Salanter, the great 19th-century rabbi, is famously believed to have refused to certify a matzo factory as kosher on the grounds that the workers were being treated unfairly. In addition to the hypocrisy of calling something kosher when it is being sold and produced in an unethical manner, we have to take into account disturbing information about the plant that has come to light.

#  Happiness Equality →

July 28th, 2008 at 21:50 // In Worth Reading 

There is now greater equality of happiness in America than there was in the 1970s. Eduardo Porter considers why:

Still, it is not surprising that happiness among blacks rose in the years after the civil rights law outlawed segregation and discrimination on the basis of race. Mr. Wolfers speculates that the gay-straight happiness gap is also likely to have declined over the period, for similar reasons. Changes in family life might also help. Married people are happier than unmarried people, on average. Still, later marriages and more divorces might have winnowed out the unhappiest marriages. And while the shift to two-earner families brings to mind the stressful rush from work to pick the kid up at day care, it also has empowered unhappy stay-at-home moms.

#  Saving the Chimps →

July 22nd, 2008 at 20:30 // In Worth Considering 

…by barring them from popular culture(?!). Maybe it’s just me, but this thesis seems a little absurd:

And many of those who imagined chimpanzees to be safe reported that they based their thinking on the prevalence of chimps in advertisements, on television and in the movies.

Having said that, I also didn’t know that chimpanzees are endangered. But I attribute it to insuffient publicity for that fact, not their presence popular culture.

#  The Psychology of Gasoline →

July 22nd, 2008 at 18:17 // In Worth Considering 

It’s a pretty well-understood truth that public perception of the economy’s welfare is disproportionately focused on the price we pay to fuel our cars. Dan Ariely’s recent op-ed explores why:

For the several minutes that I stand at the pump, all I do is stare at the growing total on the meter — there is nothing else to do. And I have time to remember how much it cost a year ago, two years ago and even six years ago.

Yet I have no such memory about the prices of items in any other category. I have no idea how much milk was six years ago, how much bread was three years ago or how much yogurt was a week ago. But I suspect that if I stood next to the yogurt case in the supermarket for five minutes every week with nothing to do but stare at the price, I would also know how much it has gone up — and I might become outraged when yogurt passed the $2 mark.

Another odd thing about the way we buy gasoline is that we usually buy multiple units. I just bought 13 gallons for a little more than $55. The sticker shock isn’t as intense when I see the price per gallon as it is when I’m faced with the total cost. Fifty-five dollars! I remember when I filled my tank for $20 and $25 and $30! Maybe if we bought 13 loaves of bread at a time or 15 gallons of milk we might become just as sensitive to how much we spend on those items.

#  The ICC and Omar al-Bashir

July 17th, 2008 at 20:08 // In Worth Reading 

I haven’t been following too closely, but I found both of these pieces on the (recommended) indictment of the Sudanese president to be useful:

#  Street Sweeping →

July 14th, 2008 at 20:48 // In Worth Considering 

Pat Nelson’s Sunday op-ed about street sweeping (and alternate-side parking) mostly reminded me or the only Calvin Trillin book I’ve read. But it also made an interesting point about the questionable efficacy of sweeping at all:

Consider Park Slope, Brooklyn, where sweeping has been suspended for the past three months so that thousands of signs could be replaced to reflect a shorter street cleaning window of 90 minutes, down from three hours (itself progress).

Despite the foul and filthy outcome predicted by many, Park Slope does not look or smell like an urban wasteland. The drains have not overflowed; Union Street and Seventh Avenue are not buried under garbage. Nonetheless, the alternate side parking rules are scheduled to go back into effect tomorrow.