In the World
Steve Thorngate on public life and culture
I agree with everyone everywhere: Fox News's "why would a Muslim write about Jesus???" interview of Reza Aslan was pretty lousy stuff, yet he handled himself quite well, and good for him for selling more books because of it. All correct. Yet I'm puzzled by what both Aslan's on-air defense and many subsequent commentators imply: that academic/professional credentials inform a person's writing to the exclusion of personal convictions.
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin in the 80s and 90s. I regularly encountered poor people and people with substance abuse issues in their families. I knew very few people of color. But I was certainly familiar with the concept of a “crack baby.”
On Sunday I visited a church that's majority white but not overwhelmingly so. After worship, I stuck around for a planned conversation about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Here the demographics were flipped: a slight majority of African Americans. But the white folks did their share of the talking.
Greg Sargent reports on how those GOP House members who want to pass comprehensive immigration reform intend to get enough of their caucus on board to do it. He includes their re-exploration of this doozy: keep the rough outline of the Senate’s path to citizenship, but require people to admit their guilt—and instead of calling the middle category “legal status,” call it “probation.” Problem solved: we’re still Tough on Crime!
In theory, splitting up the farm bill to deal separately with farm policy and nutrition assistance makes a lot of sense. Farm subsidies used to go mostly to actual farmers who could use the help. So while the pairing of farm aid and food aid was always politically motivated, it also made some sense: the farm bill was safety-net legislation, and food stamps fit right into that. As agriculture has changed, agricultural policy has become more and more of a mess of corporate welfare that's against the public interest. And one big thing protecting this status quo has been the fact that liberals can't vote against a business-as-usual farm bill, because it's also how hungry people get fed.