“The American Jobs Plan Will Make Our Infrastructure Crisis Worse.” Over at Strong Towns, Charles Marohn has a multi-part essay responding to Biden’s infrastructure bill. Chuck gets to the root issues that real infrastructure investment needs to account for:
I read the Fact Sheet for the American Jobs Plan recently released by the White House and found it difficult not to feel depressed by the approach. As advertised, it is bold, but when it comes to spending on infrastructure that boldness lies in its size, not its vision. It reflects the Washington consensus that more roads with more lanes are good, that when we fix bridges we should also expand them, that transit investments should primarily serve auto-based development patterns, and that simply building more is the path to making us richer.
In other words: no difficult choices. No meaningful reform. Nothing that is going to substantively change the trajectory of the North American development pattern.
”Under the Spreading Walnut Tree.” Paul Kingsnorth is starting a Substack. He lays out his plan in this opening essay:
We were all really born for an age of walnut trees and shaded pools, but instead we find ourselves in the Machine’s maw with the jaws closing, and it is hard to know whether to fight or run, or whether either is possible, or whether all of this is just words, of the kind I should have stayed away from. But these are our times, and those of us cursed to think too much must work out how to live in them.
In the coming weeks, FPR will run two lengthy essay grappling with his recently-completed trilogy of novels.
“My Mother’s Questions.” Deanna Briody wrestles with her mother’s questions about whether it was wise to send her three children to college away from home, questions that sound much like the ones Hannah and Nathan Coulter asked each other after their children moved away.
“HBO’s ‘Our Towns’ Tells How Americans Save America.” John W. Miller reviews a new documentary based on James and Deborah Fallows’s book. What is America? “America is about public art, local newspapers, farming, developing timberland, and making guitars. There’s even a cowboy in this movie. In its wide range, the documentary is visually stunning, farms and fields, cities and ski slopes, from sea to shining sea. If you spooled all the B-roll with a country soundtrack, it might make a good Ronald Reagan 1984 reelection commercial.”
“‘Justly Responsive.’” Anthony Domestico remembers the life and writing of the great literary critic Denis Donoghue: “He always gave you the sense that whatever he wrote about—beauty or violence, grief or God—mattered. That, in the end, is the critic’s great task. Joseph Conrad said that the novelist must “make you see.” The critic must make you care. Donoghue performed that task beautifully.”
“Border Backtracking.” What is happening at the southern border? Sophia Lee reports on the complicated and shifting situation: “When the Trump administration ended, the Biden administration stepped in promising a more compassionate border enforcement. But the reality at the border has not changed much… . While mixed messages prompt new waves of migrants to head for the U.S. border, a backlogged and broken immigration system keeps many of them waiting in border camps or crude U.S. facilities.”
“How to Be White.” Given the state of the public discourse around race right now, it is very difficult to say anything intelligent and helpful about “whiteness.” But Phil Christman does so in this essay, largely because he cuts through the cant and abstractions that have grown up around that term and refuses to settle for anything less than precision.
“Books you Shouldn’t Read in Public.” Bill Kauffman relates several anecdotes (most of which seem to involve Porchers) in support of his wry dictum that ”To read is to invite derision, especially if you grew up in a working-class town. Hey, I didn’t make up the rules.”
“Wes Jackson in conversation with Robert Jensen.” On the evening of April 22nd, Raven Book Store is hosting a conversation about two new books on the life and work of Wes Jackson.
“The Subversive Philosophy of Simone Weil.” Max Norman reviews Robert Zaretsky’s The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas: “Her family called her Antigone; her classmates, the ‘Categorical Imperative in Skirts.’”
“The Danger of Fact-ist Politics.” Taylor Dotson probes the roots of our culture’s obsession with certainty and “facts”: “The belief that misinformation is today’s main threat to democracy blinds us to the pernicious effects of a broader preoccupation with certitude. This obsession has been tearing at American politics throughout the Covid pandemic, and continues to imperil debates over vaccination, masking, and lockdowns. But the problem will remain with us long after the virus has been beaten.”
“A Once-in-a-Century Crisis Can Help Educate Doctors.” Molly Worthen wonders if “in the long run, the pandemic may give proponents of the humanities an unexpected opening to change the way we train doctors and think about health care.”
“In My Hometown, Opioids Are Still Stealing Lives.” Shawn McCreesh describes what it’s like to watch friends, classmates, children, and neighbors battle addiction and die from overdoses.
“This Farming Life.” Brian Miller offers a litany to remind those prone to think of farming in idealistic terms that farming entails many difficult and unpleasant—though not unrewarding—tasks.
”Could Price Parity, Supply Management Change the Game for BIPOC Farmers?” Ray Levy-Uyeda writes about Disparity to Parity, an organization advocating for “supply management and parity pricing” to return to US agricultural policy.
“Your Book Review: Progress And Poverty.” A contributor to Astral Codex Ten has put together a thorough review of Henry George’s classic book. If you want an overview of George’s economic thought, this is a good place to start: “if you treat land the same way you would a bar of pig iron, an hour of work, or a dollar bill, before you know it you’ll get poverty paradoxically advancing alongside progress, inexplicable bouts of industrial depression, literal genocides and holocausts (he’s dead serious about this), and The Rent Being Too Damn High.”