Afternoon Links

“If you can’t read Chaucer without a translation, or puzzle your way through a page of Cicero’s Latin, you aren’t educated. If you don’t have a few dozen tags of Homer within easy reach in your mind, or a few hundred lines of Shakespeare, you lack part of what high schools and colleges were created to teach. If you can’t name the books of the Bible, or the circles of Dante’s Hell, there are pieces missing from what we once assumed learned people should know. For that matter, if you can’t say how the Romans lost at Cannae, or how the Ten Thousand marched from Persia, or how Troy was defeated, then what was all your schooling for? If you can’t walk your way through patristics from Clement to Augustine, or describe the history of the English novel from Defoe to Joyce, or tell the story of Western music from Gregorian chant to Wagnerian opera, then contemporary academia has failed you. Yes, you might have a college degree, but no, you don’t have an education. The full tradition of Western learning never found its way to you.”

Researchers may have ‘found’ many of China’s 30 million missing girls

It pains me to say it, but she’s actually right for once.

“Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on…whether a large photo was attached.”


Witness France’s ban on a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome (DS). Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. “Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

France’s High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could “disturb the conscience” of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.

Advocates say the move hampers efforts to reverse the high rate of DS terminations. Ninety-six percent of DS pregnancies are terminated in France, according to the pro-life Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sought to overturn the ban. Setting aside the abortion politics, the Council’s reasoning is so broad that potentially any TV advocacy could be chilled. File this under the illiberalism of self-proclaimed liberals.

Don’t get too excited about Tom Price just yet.

Death of the hatchet job: Book reviewing used to be a blood sport. How has it become so benign and polite?

“But the math is the math is the math. Trump and Pence are trying to sell you a free lunch, the same way the Keynesians and their magical spending multiplier do when they promise that government stimulus programs (Trump is pushing one of those, too) will somehow magically pay for themselves.”

Jack London’s individuality

Nazi-looted Reinhold Begas sculpture returned to Jewish family by the city of Berlin

The scourge of dumb news

Media is a product. Firms that provide this product are servicing a need, and we’d only be kidding ourselves to claim news consumers desire only to be informed. This isn’t a matter of simple bias confirmation. News outlets have begun to cater not just to partisans but the minimally informed for whom fleeting and shareable controversies provide a sense of feeling informed. What media consumers reward outlets for are rarely deeply reported stories on matters related to consequential items of public policy. What takes off are emotionally stimulating stories that don’t require of their readers any background knowledge to fully understand them and to opine on them.

This phenomenon is not without consequence. Journalists and analysts complained that, at the height of the coverage of the fracas surrounding Hamilton, a story of much more objective value had been buried: Donald Trump’s $25 million fraud settlement. This was no small matter. In that same period, investigative reporters revealed that President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest verged on corruption. His global business empire includes ties to the governments of Panama, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia. Trump has made millions from deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is currently financing a Saudi hotel project he has said he “would want to protect.” Even after the election, Trump has been photographed with wealthy developers from India who are involved in two of the Trump organization’s five separate hotel projects in South Asia.

These stories are complicated. They take time to understand and require some underlying knowledge of American civics to follow along. It isn’t as though there was no reporting on these issues; there was. Those stories did not drive the national conversation, however, because audiences were not interested. Exposition doesn’t get clicks or eyeballs, and it doesn’t drive revenue. And as the Hamilton news cycle gives way to outrage over a handful of dreadful Trump-supporting racists celebrating his election in a hotel ballroom, the cycle begins anew. “Fake news” is a real problem, but it attracts a credulous audience because news consumers have been primed to expect emotional satisfaction from the news. That’s not the media’s fault; it’s their patrons.

What the Founding Fathers can teach us about our awful political ‘debates’

Israel’s forgotten founding novelist

The benefits of inequality

Remembering the milkman

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