“Closing Time: We’re All Counting Bodies.” Clare Coffey reviews two recent books that diagnose American rot: “Who is in any serious doubt that the American health-care system is cobbled together out of rusty tin cans and profit margins? The more pertinent question is what in America isn’t.”
“Amazon’s Monopoly Tollbooth.” Stacy Mitchell, Ron Knox, and Zach Freed have put together a damning indictment of Amazon’s monopolistic treatment of third-party sellers. Amazon gets, on average, 30% of each sale such sellers make on their site.
“Congress Forced Silicon Valley to Answer for its Misdeeds. It was a Glorious Sight.” Matt Stoller reports on the congressional hearing this week where the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were grilled about their business practices. We’ll see if this hearing results in any real change, but it is at least a good first step.
“Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan C. Slaght Review—An Extraordinary Quest.” Helen Macdonald reviews a new book detailing a fraught endeavor to understand the habits of the elusive Blakiston’s fish owl.
“The Church Forests of Ethiopia: A Mystical Geography.” Video footage by Jeremy Seif and a lengthy essay Fred Bahnson give a glimpse into a fascinating set of complex religious and ecological relationships. (Recommended by Rob Grano.)
“Love It or Lose It.” Nathan Beacom describes a hike along the north shore of Lake Superior and reflects on the fear of environmental catastrophe and the possibility of loving a beautiful place:
The real challenge is to learn to take threats to the environment personally, that is, to feel in a concrete way the threat to the particular places that we love and not to global abstractions. Conservation originates in love: love of family, of home, of country, of creation, even self-love, to start with. Without being in nature, how can we love it? Without loving it, how will we be galvanized to protect it?
“A Culture Canceled.” Chris Arnade writes about the real culture that’s being canceled: “What is replacing the union halls, churches, and local newspapers as advocates for the working class? Elite colleges and places filled with graduates of those colleges. Like think tanks, non profits, and media conglomerates. We have replaced smaller home grown institutions that ‘gave voice to the voiceless’ with far away soulless places filled with unfamiliar people that require credentials to access.”
“Loyola University Maryland Removes Flannery O’Connor’s Name from Hall.” Despite Jennifer Frey’s advice, Loyola is removing O’Connor’s name from a campus building. It’s almost as if administrators asked themselves, “What is the least painful gesture (i.e. the one that will least affect our bottom line) we can make to perform our commitment to racial justice?” This is certainly the approach taken by Apple et al, who make earnest public statements while profiting from an ongoing genocide. Of course, as O’Connor herself observed, the sentimentality of our age is “a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in force-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.”
“California’s Woke Hypocrisy.” Joel Kotkin looks at the economic data to argue that “despite [its] progressive intentions, Hispanics and African-Americans—some 45 percent of California’s total population—fare worse in the state than almost anywhere nationwide.”
“Why Coronavirus Is an ‘Existential Crisis’ for American Democracy.” Danielle Allen discusses what the pandemic has revealed about democracy, polarization, and more: “one can hope—and to some extent, we’ve seen that with all the social action—that this will give the opportunity for people to rebuild their civic muscles that they haven’t used so much lately because of the dominance of work in our lives.”
“The False Choice between Biden and Trump.” CNBC’s Kelly Evans draws on Patrick Deneen to indict both major political parties. What’s her solution? “I doubt it’s a national political party, although these themes are big planks of the American Solidarity Party. It would seem to be something much more mundane; millennials forming family units and working to rebuild the communities they live in. It’s political in the Aristotelian sense.”
“Placemaps.” Daegan Miller weaves his family’s migrations with reflections on maps as histories and the efforts of his children to make sense of space and distance.
“How a Massive Societal Shift Could Undo a Century of Ugly Building.” James Howard Kunstler reviews two new books on architecture that give him hope for the future of American buildings: “The necessary return to traditional modes and materials will yield a revived architecture of grace notes, humility, and decorum. Wait for it!”
“The Towns Brexit Forgets.” Gerard T. Mundy reviews David Skelton’s Little Platoons: How a Revived One Nation Can Empower England’s Forgotten Towns and Redraw the Political Map: “Skelton asserts that there are two major areas on which to focus if one is to understand the causes behind what has most maimed Britain’s “forgotten” towns and communities. First, a leftist-induced “identity” politics has marginalized people and their communities, and second, an economic system has left behind many people and their communities.”
“The Confession of a Rebellious Literary Citizen.” Tony Woodlief describes the travails that attend his attempts to patronize local bookstores.
“Publish and Perish.” Agnes Callard ponders why peer-reviewed essays in philosophy (and the other humanities) have become increasingly unreadable and uninteresting.