Links that made us think: False confessions, gilded cages, Keystone XL, and stopping the Islamic State

This is the first of what will become weekly posts highlighting outside articles that made us think. If you came across articles that made you think this week, please post them in the comments!

From Matt: What ISIS really wants (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic). What should we do to combat the Islamic State? Most agree that something needs to be done, both to stop the ongoing genocide abroad and to protect ourselves at home, but there is quite a lot of disagreement on what to do, particularly in Canada and the U.S. A wide array of strategies have been proposed or piloted, including military escalation, education and messaging, and expanding police and spy powers, to name a few. In one of the most in-depth pieces I’ve seen on the subject, Wood argues, among many other things, that ground military escalation from the west is what ISIS wants as part of an apocalyptic ideology. He proposes that continuing to slowly bleed them through the current aerial campaigns and support of local resistance may be the best among bad options; and that ultimately we should take the time to get to know our enemy, whose predictability, not unpredictability, might be their downfall. I’m not sure I agree with everything he says, but he offers an angle I haven’t seen before, and has certainly done a lot of homework.

Keystone solution runs through Canada (Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg News). Michael Bloomberg makes a new and interesting suggestion for how to resolve the Keystone XL saga: attach its approval to a new climate agreement between the U.S. and Canada. If the climate actions Canada committed to under such an agreement were meaningful, this might not be a bad idea.

From Ian: Planting false memories fairly easy, psychologists find (Sarah Barmak, Toronto Star). Raises some interesting questions about the boundaries on prosecutorial ethics. Related to this, another piece in Slate (Why are so many Americans in Prison? – Leon Neyfakh) probes the role of prosecutorial zeal in U.S. incarceration rates.

From Niya: Fifty Shades of Gilded Cages (Arthur Chu, Daily Beast). Chu’s piece poses an interesting set of opinions and draws parallels between sex, class and consumerism – specifically around how much society is willing to let people get away with when they have the “right” job titles. His conclusion that “Healthy sex, no matter how kinky, doesn’t need a sugar-coating of luxury brands and corporate respectability to make it somehow not be abuse.” is one well worth pondering, as is the growing shift or return to the perception that sex is a transaction and women’s value is still primarily determined by their position as sexual gatekeepers.

4 thoughts on “Links that made us think: False confessions, gilded cages, Keystone XL, and stopping the Islamic State

  1. To add to Matt’s link about ISIS, there have also been several thoughtful pieces on if and how we should choose our words when discussing Islam and terrorism, in light of President Obama’s recent summit on violent extremism. Here are three pieces, two from Slate and one from the National Post, which present interesting viewpoints with different angles:


  2. Two more links coming out that directly address topics that have been covered in The Tete a Tete recently:

    Food and Sustainability (see The US dietary guidelines committee released new recommendations that specifically linked meat consumption to environmental impact. From the Slate article above ““Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased [greenhouse gas] emissions, land use, water use, and energy use,” reads the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. “This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower.” The chapter goes on to conclude that Americans should eat a diet that “is higher in plant-based foods” and “lower in animal-based foods.” Translation: Eat less meat.”

    Campus Sexual Assault (see

    The documentary: “The Hunting Ground” on campus sexual assault was recently aired at the Sundance Film Festival. The New York Times mostly positive review of the film can be found here, which says that the film’s power derives from the raw personal accounts of the numerous women and men who share their stories on camera, empowering them by allowing them the opportunity to redefine the narrative of their experiences on their terms. Slate’s Emily Yoffe provides a more critical review of the film She argues that the film fails to follow up on the raw emotional testimony of the students interviewed with an honest discussion of the problem itself, current changes being implemented, and what should be done going forward. Amongst her more specific critiques are: 1) that the film fails to even acknowledge the sweeping changes that have already been implemented on campuses, under pressure from the OCR, and the criticisms that these changes go much too far in the other direction, as has been publicly asserted by Yoffe herself in December as well as in open letters written by large portions of Harvard’s and Penn’s Law Faculties; and 2) by resting their arguments on alarmist statistics that dishonestly represent the findings of the underlying research studies in a way that grossly exaggerates their conclusions.


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