University Press of Kentucky, Group Think, the Farm Bill, and more

Photo by George W. Ackerman

An Open Letter.” The bad news is that the University Press of Kentucky lost some of their funding in the new state budget. The good news is that UK and other universities whom the press supports will be chipping in funding: “UPK looks forward to continuing our work with writers and scholars around the world to advance thinking and scholarship.” The press’s Culture of the Land series, edited by Norman Wirzba, is of particular interest to Porchers.

Cheap Gimmicks are Ruining Baseball.” Bill Kauffman, FPR editor and author, weighs in on new rules designed to make baseball games shorter. As you’d expect, Kauffman has some intriguing suggestions of his own: “the single biggest time-saving step the majors could take—eliminating the 20 or more extra minutes provided for commercials during each televised broadcast—is about as likely to be ratified as a fifth base.”

America’s Prophet.” Plough Quarterly’s new issue is dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The essays in this issue offer a rich set of reflections on how King’s words remain all too relevant today.

Group Thinking.” David Bosworth, author of the FPR title The Demise of Virtue in Virtual America, laments the group think that flourishes in the rubble of the liberal order: “On the one side a purportedly radical ‘culture of suspicion’; on the other, a supposedly conservative ‘culture of assent.’ And yet, despite their starkly conflicting agendas, these dogmatic movements shared, in Bromwich’s view, a deeper fatal flaw: a ‘fundamentalist’ intolerance rooted in the erroneous assumption that education should be ‘communitarian’ in its goals.” As Bosworth goes on to argue, such group think threatens the conversations that lie at the root of political life:

The fearful retreat behind the physical and psychological walls of tribal belonging; the vicious scapegoating of political opponents in racial, ethnic, or sectarian terms; the willing submission to either an autocratic demagogue or the viral “likes” and loathings of the hive mind; the corruption of the Internet by the click-bait lies of fake news, the anonymous slander of cowardly trolls, and the omnipresent ads of a digitized mammonism; the citizenry’s flight, on both the left and the right, into “safe spaces,” whether in campus dorms, inside the “filter bubbles” of partisan news, or through the promiscuous prescription of mood-enhancing drugs: with these signs of the times, we’re witnessing, I fear, the global demise of the very premises of liberal modernity.

(Recommended by Jason Peters.)

How the Cult of the Colossal Imperils American Agriculture.” Gracy Olmstead writes about the farm bill currently under debate, but she is disappointed that the debate isn’t considering the real challenges:

The ethos we’ve built around farming in the United States is broken. Rather than encouraging farmers to eliminate risk by diversifying their crops, pursuing sustainability, and embracing a proper scale, we’ve propped up a truly unsustainable style of production with subsidies and insurance programs. When things go sour, we tell farmers to just keep following the same formula, never asking whether that formula is malfunctioning, hoping in vain that new machinery or cover-cropping initiatives can band-aid over the problem.

Education Is A Dangerous Thing: A Conversation With Wendell Berry.” David Kern interviews Wendell and Tanya Berry, and the result is a delightful conversation.

Everything You Think You Know About Fascism Is Wrong.” Scott Beauchamp reviews Carlo Lancellotti’s new translation of The Age of Secularization by the Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce. A taste:

Lancellotti puts it succinctly when he writes in the introduction that “the students confused the affluent society in which they had grown up with ‘tradition’, and thus rejected the very institutions (the family, the church, liberal education) that still resisted the technological mindset. This tragic misunderstanding led them to extremism, that is, to a from of revolutionary utopianism that fails to critique the society of well-being ‘because it supinely accepts, as a fragmentary mush, the ideal principles that started the process that led to the current system, the system it would like to oppose.’”

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