Swift Going.” It’s hard to describe this essay by Peter Bast. But you should definitely read it: “I’m still amazed that my folks allowed me to see the Grateful Dead unsupervised as a seventeen-year-old, something I’d never let my own kids do. Historians claim that ancient Greece would strike a time-traveling contemporary American as bizarre. The religious rituals, for instance, would seem utterly alien to us. These historians have obviously never seen the Dead live, which is a Dionysian ecstatic festival par excellence. . . . I believe it was during ‘Eyes Of The World’ that a nearby security officer threw in the towel and took repeated hits off a spliff the size of a Cohiba. Quite simply, it was the most charismatic church service—albeit a drug-fueled, pagan one—that I had ever witnessed. Until I saw Taylor Swift.”

Why Nikki Haley Could Be the Most Dangerous President.” Ross Douthat sees Nikki Haley as an heir to a dangerously flawed foreign policy, one that fails to recognize the limits of military force: “When the history of 21st-century American decline is written, the crucial chapter will focus not on Trump but on one of his predecessors, George W. Bush: a better man than Trump, a capable politician with a number of sound policies to his credit, but also the architect of a hubristic foreign policy whose disastrous effects continue to ripple through the country and the world.”

This Is Why Americans Are So Cynical About Politics.” Yuval Levin diagnoses the dynamics that continue to erode trust in public institutions like congress: “The outsider yelling at the system can speak some truth to power, but at the cost of having no power. . . The insider acting in the system can exercise real authority, but at the cost of being restrained by institutional responsibility and public accountability. . . The twisted hybrids that we now live with present themselves as simultaneously truth tellers and power players but, in fact, are just exercising power without responsibility.”

How Politics Makes us Stupid Ezra Klein draws on the research of Dan Kahan to argue, with depressing rigor, that “the smarter the person is, the dumber politics can make them.”

The Silicon-Tongued Devil.” Leif Weatherby argues that LLMs call for a renewed attention on the part of Marxists to human culture: “If the right answers come out, how can you deny that you’re dealing with intelligence? The problem is that the question itself is wrong: AI really is producing language — but not the kind that tells us how human minds work. The metaphysics of OpenAI can’t be defeated by Chomsky’s framework, because he can’t connect his view of human language and his analysis of propaganda. The missing concept is culture.”

Biden’s Democracy-Defense Credo Does Not Serve U.S. Interests.” Writing for the Atlantic, Stephen Wertheim takes a hard look at the dangers that beset Biden’s foreign policy: “Biden may think he’s unifying the country by defending distant democracies, but his democracy-first framing is divisive—and may be making overseas conflicts worse.”

Revealed: How the City of London Keeps Putin’s Oil Flowing.” Will Dunn details the profitable financial and legal apparatus that allows Russia to sell and ship its oil despite sanctions: “The “dark fleet”, which Bockmann says has grown to around 560 tankers, representing almost 80 million tonnes of capacity[,] are typically old ships, owned by companies whose owners are invisible and whose funding is unexplained, registered in opaque jurisdictions such as Panama or the Marshall Islands, and used almost exclusively to transport Russian oil. Their numbers grew rapidly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allowing the Putin regime’s main source of income to proceed unaffected. They did so with the help of lawyers, brokers and insurers in the City of London.”

A ‘Revolutionary’ Way to Feed the World That’s Very Old.” Somini Sengupta reports on a small but promising shift in US foreign policy: “Instead of urging developing countries to grow only huge amounts of staple grains, like maize, as American policy has done for decades in Africa, Mr. Fowler is promoting a return to the great variety of traditional crops that people used to grow more of, like cowpeas, cassava and a range of millets.”

Why Do the Heathen Rage?” Katy Carl reviews Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel, newly compiled by Jessica Hooten Wilson: “In this unfinished work, now available to the public in its first edition, O’Connor strives to grow beyond her comic gifts. She seeks to develop the latent strengths of her Dostoyevskian religious consciousness, chronicling life after the violent moment of grace while also handling social questions in earnest.”

More Light!” A.E. Stallings takes the occasion of a new collected poems and a new biography to reassess the poems and translations of Anthony Hecht. In a perceptive essay, she notes that there are good reasons to read Hecht despite his relative neglect today: “The barriers to Hecht’s broader popularity include the difficult surfaces of many of his poems, his elusive allusions, his fascination with high European culture (painting and music), his deep knowledge of biblical scripture, his use of a traditional prosody fallen out of fashion, and his penchant for extended dramatic monologues. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hecht eschewed confessionalism, although many of his poems spring directly from his lonely childhood, his harrowing wartime experiences, and his marriages—one tumultuous and unhappy, and one blessedly stable.”

C. S. Lewis and American Catholics.” In this excerpt from Mark Noll’s new book on C.S. Lewis’s reception in America, he looks at two early Catholic academics who praised Lewis’s space trilogy: “Specifically Catholic concerns surfaces only once in these essays, when Brady chided reviewers for treating Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra “very shabbily,” including some “feckless” Catholic reviewers who missed the subtle defense of Christian orthodoxy in these works. For the rest, this first American to write comprehensively about C. S. Lewis’s books offered his glowing introduction in a Catholic magazine with the express hope that more Catholic readers would be drawn to those books.”

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