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Interns' Favorite Pieces of the Week (8/1/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to look beyond the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

In 2013 Races, New York Prepares for ‘Super PAC’ Effect,” by David W. Chen. The New York Times, July 31, 2012.

The largesse of Super PAC donations, currently debasing the presidential campaign, is coming to local NYC elections. Because “moneyed interest groups and wealthy individuals are watching the ‘super PAC’ phenomenon…and preparing to adapt it for local use,” as the Times reports, the city will implement mandatory disclosure of independent expenditures next year in the 2013 races. By posting spending not associated with a campaign online and archiving the advertisements run by these groups, the NYC elections will be among the most financially transparent since the Citizens United ruling.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Here’s How to Score Copay-Free Birth Control, Coming This Week to a Pharmacy Near You,” by Erin Gloria Ryan. Jezebel, July 30, 2012.

You get free birth control, and you get free birth control, and you get free birth control! August 1 marked what some activists are calling “No Copay Day”: The day the Affordable Care Act kicked in for American women, who no longer have copays on seven categories of medical services (including breast exams and birth control). At Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan explains how to get your hands on your free medical goodies as well as the exceptions to the August 1 launch date.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

Mayor: ‘We’ll Listen’ To Anaheim Residents,” hosted by Michel Martin. NPR, August 1, 2012.

This NPR interview with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait demonstrates the effective PR campaign that Anaheim’s predominantly white elite is running in the context of mass protests against police brutality in the city. While Tom Tait attempts a listening, open posture and calls for an “investigation,” he refuses to provide any immediate policy implications—such as demanding an immediate end to police brutality in the city, placing officers involved in the shooting of children with rubber bullets on unpaid leave, or discussing any of the broader systemic issues of disempowerment that have made Anaheim the way it is today. The NPR interviewer asks one slightly difficult question, and the rest are softballs. The interviewer neglects to ask, for example, why Anaheim, in a city that is 53 percent Latino, has no Latino elected officials.

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

‘Voluntary’ Work Program Run in Private Detention Centers Pays Detained Immigrants $1 a Day,” by Yana Kunichoff. Truthout, July 27, 2012.

Yana Kunichoff points out a disturbing irony in her exposé of the Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) “voluntary” work program for detained immigrants: “the unfairness of people criminalized as workers detained and then made to work.” Not only that, but detainees are denied protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (facilities in Arizona, California, and New York pay a maximum wage of $1 per day under the program, despite the fact that federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour). Plus, the money they make circles directly back to the CCA (a private, profit-making company—see a chilling piece on the value of its stock here) because detainees usually spend their meager earnings on food and hygiene products at CCA-run stores inside detention centers. These facilities house individuals while their immigration cases are being processed—usually, detainees have “committed low-level crimes, or none at all.”

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

The Power Gap Behind India’s Mass Blackouts,” by Andrew C. Revkin. The New York Times, July 31, 2012.

Power might have been restored Wednesday to the 600 million people in India who lost it earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean the problem’s gone. Andrew Revkin aggregates on his Dot Earth blog current and old news articles, videos and some tweets that are a good way to start understanding how not only a blackout like this, but a long-term energy shortage, has been in the cards for India for years. The country is developing fast, and way faster than it can support with its resources or infrastructure.

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy,” by Robert Fisk. The Independent, July 29, 2012.

Legendary British reporter Robert Fisk weighs in on the situation in Syria. He focuses on the hypocrisy of US policy in the region, and points out that just a few years ago the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar’s torturers to tear their fingernails out for information. These torture victims were “imprisoned at the US government’s request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week.” He stresses that the same Bashar we are condemning today “was our baby” for many years. In addition, Fisk offers a scathing indictment of the BBC for spending a week broadcasting the preparations for the Olympics and allowing the games to take precedence over the most recent Syrian atrocities. Fisk concludes that mainstream commentators are missing the “big truth” concerning Syria—that the attempt to defeat the Syrian dictatorship is “all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans—if they exist—and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies.”

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

For-Profit Colleges Only a Con Man Could Love,” by Chris Parker. The Village Voice, August 1, 2012.

(Shout out to Marisa for sending this one my way!) Oh boy, where to begin. I’ve been following the debate on for-profits for a while, starting with some really eye-opening Frontline programs that I highly recommend, such as “Educating Sgt. Panzke” and “College Inc.” It’s simply angering. Angering because, much like Brooksley Born’s warning in the ’90s regarding OTC derivatives that led to the financial crisis, alarm bells are going off about this parasitic industry fueled by greed and the simple dreams of those who simply want to make a better life for themselves—it’s an all-too-familiar bubble that is going to burst big time. And just how seedy are these for-profits? Parker begins his piece with a 14-year-old—a high school freshman—being solicited and eventually gouged by a recruiter. He also cites a Bloomberg story in which a for-profit recruiter visited a Wounded Warrior barracks, quoting the opening lines, “U.S. Marine Corporal James Long knows he’s enrolled at Ashford University. He just can’t remember what course he’s taking.” Hopefully Senator Tom Harkin’s recent report on for-profits will gain traction—unlike with Born, hopefully this time government will listen and take action.

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

Modern Love In Mumbai’s ‘Wild West’: A Critique Of Orientalist Fantasies In Contemporary Travel Narratives,” by Aditi Surie von Czechowski. Racialicious, July 31, 2012.

Columbia graduate student Aditi Surie von Czechowski briefly explores the New York Times’s coverage of India through the year-old “India Ink” blog and a recent Modern Love column, placing both in the context of imperialism, Orientalism and the history of the travel narrative. The majority of reporting on “India Ink,” von Czechowski argues, is based on a Western neoliberal discourse of rights and “progress,” portraying India as “not yet fully modern.” In Modern Love, the East/West dichotomy and “familiar eroticization” of the former work to recreate the tired trope of the traveling Westerner’s experience of the enticingly wild East, used as a tool for cultural consumption and self-discovery.

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

A People’s Budget for New York City,” by Youjin B. Kim. Policy Shop, July 19, 2012.

Participatory Budgeting, where city council members meet with their constituents to actually decide on how some of their tax money will be spent, is a revolutionary and expanding project. It seems to be gaining substantial momentum, and as the New York City Council regains a modicum of power after Bloomberg's exit in 2013, should factor heavily in the agenda of its ascendant Progressive Caucus. Participatory Budgeting is gaining traction throughout the country, and its application in New York City could either make or break the movement. Should be an interesting few months ahead. 

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds,” by Leo Hickman. The Guardian, July 29, 2012.

Climate change skeptics are hard to come by among scientists, with the overwhelming majority firmly in the anthropogenic warming reality camp. But there are still a few who are unconvinced, and very vocal, amplified by the skeptic community beyond their numbers. This week, however, the Guardian ran a story about a new study that convinced a few scientists that “humans are almost entirely the cause” of what it identifies as the one-to-five-degree Celsius land temperature rise over the past 150 years, which is due to double over the next fifty years (or twenty, if China continues its coal use at the present rate). The physicist in charge of the study, Richard Muller, was himself a skeptic prior to its completion. Perhaps most interesting is the $150,000 in funding for the study that came from Charles Koch—certainly a spot of light in the midst of much disheartening talk of industry-influenced academic research. Meanwhile, at the Senate meeting on climate change this week (the first in almost three years), senators were told point-blank by UN scientists that our summer of drought and extreme storms is the direct result of climate change.

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Afghan war: Did US commanders cover up ‘horrific’ conditions at hospital?” by Anna Mulrine. The Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2012.

This story details testimony regarding bribes for care, surgery with no drugs and accusations of ongoing efforts by the military to manipulate public opinion. In a prepared statement, Col Schuyler Keller said, “Today, not just in 2010 or 2011, individuals wearing ANA uniforms, being paid salaries that US taxpayers support and who perpetrated or allowed to be perpetrated unspeakable abuses upon Afghan soldiers, civilians and family members walk the halls of the Daoud Khan Hospital unrepentant, unscathed, enriched and still unprosecuted.”

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

Dependence on Middle Eastern Oil: Now It’s China’s Problem, Too,” by Damien Ma. The Atlantic, July 19, 2012.

A highly speculative article that features noteworthy perspectives on the future of US policy towards the Middle East. The argument, put forth by Chinese commentators, is as follows: With future technological improvements in the energy sector, the United States will likely become less interested in oil as a source of energy. However, it will take time for those technological improvements to proliferate to competing states—the commentators focus exclusively on China—who continue to grow more dependent on petroleum, as we become less dependent. Consequently, US interest in Middle Eastern oil output will not diminish until our competitors on the global scene are also weened off of oil. Damien Ma, author of the Atlantic article, dismisses the argument as “China-centric.” I disagree with that point. However, he flatly equates the US definition of Middle East “stability” with stability of oil—and on that point, how could I disagree?

What Does Low-Cost Contraception Mean to Young Americans?

On August 1, 2012, the Obamacare provision requiring coverage of contraception without co-pays or deductibles goes into effect. The provision will be phased in based on when plan years begin for new health plans. Because university health plans usually start in August, students will be among the first to reap the law's benefits. At the recent annual Campus Progress conference in Washington, DC, reporters from Campus Progress's parent organization, the Center for American Progress, asked young Americans about what no-cost coverage of birth control will mean to them. The answers are eye-opening and help give some sense of the enormity of the impact the ACA will have in many people's lives.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (7/25/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election. 

Can vouchers fix campaign finance?” by Dylan Matthews. The Washington Post, July 22, 2012.

A growing number of campaign finance experts support a donation-based voucher system for congressional elections. Writing in Ezra Klein’s Wonk Blog, Dylan Matthews notes that professors at Yale and Harvard have been advocating for a scheme where every voter has a $50 voucher to give to a campaign of their choosing. Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) plans to introduce legislation that would do just this. The Grassroots Democracy Act is comprised of three parts: 1. a $50 voucher program, as described, 2. a matching system where campaigns get $5 in public funds for every $1 donation if they reject PAC money, and 3. a fund that provides financial assistance for any candidate whose speech is being drowned out by super PACS. The system would expand participation in the donation process. Now, only .26 percent of Americans give more than $200 to a congressional campaign.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Pariahs amid the rainbow,” by Elly Fishman. The Chicago Reader, July 18, 2012.

The Boystown neighborhood on the Northside of Chicago is so named for its gay-friendly residents, businesses and history—it was the site of Chicago's first Pride Parade in 1970. Boystown is hailed as a place where LGBTQ people can thrive, but this Chicago Reader article complicates that narrative by profiling the queer, homeless teens who also reside there. As the national dialogue about gay rights becomes ever more mainstream (for better and for worse), this piercing look at underground Chicago is a must-read.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

With Poverty Worst in Decades, Maybe We Owe Tavis and Cornel an Apology,” by Boyce Watkins. Black Agenda Report, July 24, 2012.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have been aggressively criticized by Obama administration loyalists by pointing out that the Obama administration has ushered in the most extreme black poverty in a generation, in addition to absolutely no confrontation to the massive criminalization of said poverty. Boyce Watkins correctly identifies that the loss of the last gains made by the War on Poverty should invite the left to listen more closely to the prophetic critiques made my Smiley and West. 

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

Greg Ousley Is Sorry for Killing His Parents. Is That Enough?” by Scott Anderson. The New York Times, July 22, 2012.

Scott Anderson’s carefully reported profile of Greg Ousley, who entered the Indiana penitentiary system as an adult at fifteen to serve a sixty-year sentence for killing his parents, displays one individual’s capacity for reform and casts doubt on the rationale behind sentencing juveniles to long prison terms. While recognizing that Ousley is “an unlikely representative for sentencing reform,” given the nature of his crimes, Anderson presents an in-depth portrait that challenges what our justice system, in its current form, really seeks to accomplish.

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math,” by Bill McKibben. Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012.

Perhaps it's a response to the Midwest's biggest drought in more than 50 years, but this week saw a flood of articles (pun intended) about the dangers and future of climate change. So if you haven't read Rolling Stone's nearly-viral piece, please do. The article lays out clearly and empirically how the amount of carbon the world is planning to burn—in the reserves of oil and gas companies, who already use the potential oil supplies as assets that are figured into their share prices—is far above the amount the planet can handle. Bill McKibben calls this the carbon bubble, because if the oil companies don't pump out this oil, their values would drop dramatically, losing an estimated $20 trillion in assets. And if we don't stop them, the results would be beyond catastrophic. (For something to lift your spirits after this article thoroughly depresses you, check out this New York Times opinion piece about there's still hope yet in the battle against climate change.)

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

Arab instability and US strategy,” by Joseph Massad. Al Jazeera, July 17, 2012.

Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, argues that Washington's belief that dictatorships create and facilitate stability has been challenged by the events of the past year, and the US is adjusting its strategy of regional control accordingly. In this deeply-informed piece, Massad lays out the major political issues in MENA, such as how powerful countries are going to deal with the ongoing revolts, and describes the political stance of the region’s major actors. Massad demonstrates how, since the initial start of the Arab Spring, Washington has done all it can to make sure that US interests in the region are served and maintained. He concludes by arguing that the main achievement of the Arab Spring has so far been “an instability that could end up changing the strategic rules of the game that the United States introduced to the region after World War II. And that is good news for the Arab peoples.”

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

The Trouble With Online Education,” by Mark Edmundson. The New York Times, July 19, 2012.

This op-ed goes into the "responsiveness" issue with online education in that, traditionally, at the heart of the learning experience between teacher and student is a dialogue. Personally, I'm staunchly against online classes for a number of reasons, including the ones Edmundson lists in this piece. As a student dealing with online education, you never get a true feel of who you're learning from, and vice-versa if you're an educator. And this is a very important factor in the learning experience because what results from this knowledge is the most important facet of the learning experience– respect. And I don't ever remember anyone saying how inspired they were by a textbook– which is essentially what online education is reducing educators in becoming.

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

Anaheim police on a rampage,” by Danielle Hawkins. SocialistWorker.org, July 24, 2012.

Not only did Anaheim police shoot Manuel Diaz, unarmed and fleeing, this past Saturday—first in the leg, then in the head; the sixth officer-involved shooting in Anaheim so far this year—but they opened fire on protestors in the mostly Latino neighborhood where Diaz was killed, using rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas. Then, Monday morning, Anaheim police shot and killed a man they claimed stole an SUV, reporting return-fire, which has been disputed by a neighboring resident. Racialized police brutality continues to be a serious, pressing problem. And while the federal government has been nationally investigating civil rights misconduct in police departments to push reform (with the notable exception of New York)—Tuesday, the New Orleans Police Department came to a consent decree agreement that will hopefully usher in serious reform, after federal investigations that began in 2010—one wonders how many lives will be lost before serious change occurs and police are made accountable.  

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and renewed access to urban life.

East End Has Thousands In Illegal Squalor Near Olympics,” by Simon Clark and Chris Spillane. Bloomberg, July 25, 2012.

Before settling in to this week's Olympic opening ceremonies, letting a warm sense of Anglophilia wash over you, remember this: The English are just awful. From the poor laws, to nuclear pollution, and the deeply ingrained class-discrimination and racism, the English have made life most wretched for the disadvantaged. This article, which details how the Olympic games are being held in the middle of a first-world slum, is a great example of how a culture built on the idea of charity and mercy, instead of equality, will always remain deeply resentful towards the poor. For some recommended reading on the British "welfare state," which worked against social mobility (while posing as a benevolent, motherly program), check out Marilynne Robinson's Mother Country or Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence. 

Frackers Fund University Research That Proves Their Case,” by Jim Efstathiou. Bloomberg, July 23, 2012.

A study on fracking out of Pennsylvania State University is part of the reason Pennsylvania still has no tax on natural gas drilling—the only state in the US without one. It "predicted drillers would shun Pennsylvania if new taxes were imposed." But the study was funded by gas drillers—a fact that went unmentioned in the study itself—and was conducted by an industry-friendly economist. This report from Bloomberg articulates why these undisclosed ties are a growing problem that extends far beyond Pennsylvania, with many universities short on money to fund research. Universities defend their work by noting that fracking is criticized in other studies, and in regard to other industries, a few schools of public health (like ones at Columbia University and Harvard) now ban funding from tobacco companies. But disclosure in studies is still the central debate--if industries benefit from their conclusions, shouldn't sponsorship be plainly cited?

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan. 

Afghan Good Enough,” by Meredith Tax. Dissent, June 7, 2012.

One senior CIA officer who worked the Middle East met with CIA Director William Casey in 1986 about Afghanistan. He asked, "What are we going to do after we [defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan]?" Casey answered, "We're not going to do a goddamn thing! Once we get the Russians out we're finished." This Dissent piece by Meredith Tax, a feminist of "Women's WORLD," criticizes this type of short-sidedness, specifically, the alliance between State Department “realists” and the antiwar movement in regards to the conflict in Afghanistan. She criticizes the eye-rolling in discussions of women in the region and urges the Left to support the demands of Afghan women and civil society. She also quotes the Afghan Women’s Network, who advocate for deeper investments for education and human rights in order to ensure peace with justice.

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

The anti-war left's concerns over Syria are understandable, but ill-founded,” by Richard Seymour. The Guardian, July 26, 2012.

Richard Seymour addresses the discourse of portions of the anti-war left on US policy towards the Syrian opposition. Opening with a brief critique of international intervention in Libya, he concedes the concerns of some in the anti-war movement have some merit. However, he spends the rest of the article allaying fears about the hijacking of a grassroots revolution. The strong point of the article is the distinction Seymour makes between the self-proclaimed leaders of the opposition—typically based in foreign countries—and the activists and militias working on the ground. Localized and decentralized, he argues that these groups actually do have a fair amount of autonomy.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (7/20/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

Are Republicans Secretly Anxious About Opposing Campaign Finance Reform?” by George Zornick. The Nation, July 18, 2012. 

Senate Republicans decided twice this week that debating campaign finance reform wasn’t worth a discussion. Two Republican filibusters stymied the Disclose Act, a law that requires complete disclosure of spending on election advertising. In a column this week, George Zornick provides interesting evidence that the GOP is secretly anxious about opposing the legislation. Republicans have long sought to add transparency to the campaign finance landscape, as Lee Fang argued in a post this week, which means their decision to thwart the Disclose Act opposes party precedent. This development, like the GOP’s past support for individual mandate and cap and trade legislation and present opposition of both of them, is emblematic of the party’s move to right.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Louis C.K. on Daniel Tosh’s Rape Joke: Are Comedy and Feminism Enemies?” by Jennifer Pozner. The Daily Beast, July 18, 2012.

Over the past two weeks, there has been a lot of digital ink spilled about the ethics of "rape jokes" following an incident with comedian Daniel Tosh and a female audience member. Typifying this media firestorm have been strong and weak arguments made by both sides.  Media critic Jenn Pozner wrote perhaps the most comprehensive response by synthesizing other effective pieces on the subject, talking to a slew of feminist comedians (including several friends of The Nation), and ultimately arguing that "feminists aren't against good comedy—they're just against lazy hacks."

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

Chicago's teachers could strike a blow for organised labour globally,” by Richard Seymour. The Guardian, July 16, 2012.

As I have emphasized in talking about a prior article about the impending Chicago teacher's strike, this movement is rapidly approaching a watershed moment where we will be able to discern whether public education can continue to exist, as we know it, in the United States. There is a rapid movement towards the broad privatization of public education, and only some form of direct action seems capable of stemming the tide. Seymour is correct to identify this strike as potentially being the most important since PATCO.

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

Obama’s killings challenged again,” by Glenn Greenwald. Salon, July 18, 2012.

On Wednesday morning, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit against senior military and CIA officials, seeking to hold them liable for the targeted drone killings of US citizens Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and AbdulRahman al-Awlaki in Yemen last year. The complaint alleges that such “killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts,” and pushes for enhanced judicial scrutiny and transparency on the part of the Obama administration. Greenwald offers an insightful analysis of the case’s potential and a synthesis of perspectives on the assassination program, arguing that supporters and critics alike should be able to agree on the value of judicial review.

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

Without federal recognition, tribe struggles to protect sacred sites,” by Mark Dadigan. California Watch, July 16, 2012.

This piece, part of a California Watch series that looks at neglected communities in the state, zooms in on the Winnemem Wintu tribe and its fight against a retrofit of the Shasta Dam that would damage 40 of the tribe's sacred sites. What's interesting about the story is how it reveals the lose-lose situations that “ghost tribes”—those, like the Winnemem, that are not recognized by the federal government—face when trying to secure their place in society, and those of lawmakers who want to allow the tribes access to the land for their religious ceremonies but also want to do what's best for the general public. For instance, being federally recognized would give the Winnemem more legal grounds to stand on when fighting the proposed Shasta Dam work, and the tribe's Congressman, Jim Reed, promised that he would write legislation granting them federal recognition — but only if they stop protesting the dam expansion. 

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

Don’t do what Allende did,” by Greg Grandin. London Review of Books, July 19, 2012.

Greg Grandin, Professor of History at NYU, demonstrates why so many powerful American right-wingers, including President Nixon, saw Salvador Allende as such a profound threat. In his review of Tanya Harmer’s Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (North Carolina, 2011) Grandin describes and contextualizes Harmer’s lucid historical analysis. Harmer, a historian and Cold War specialist at the London School of Economics, dispels some of the most pervasive myths concerning Chilean history and the relationship between Chile and the US. She argues that Allende embarked on a project that would shatter the illusions encouraged by Cold War ideology; for example, the idea that Socialism could never be compatible with electoral democracy. Allende was seen as a threat, especially to Washington establishment figures such as Henry Kissinger, because he was a “living example of democratic social reform in Latin America.” Far from taking a back seat to the unprecedented social reforms of the Allende government, Nixon and CIA demanded that its operatives Santiago use "every stratagem, every ploy, however bizarre" to incite a coup. In addition, she debunks the falsehood that Washington couldn’t have predicted that the Pinochet regime would be so ruthless once in power. She argues that Washington “wanted authoritarian rule patterned on Brazil’s dictatorship and a war against the left as the only remedy to reverse the damage done by Allende’s presidency.” Harmer historicizes Allende's legacy and concludes that he was a genuine pacifist, a democrat and a socialist by "conviction not convenience."

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

Why Our Elites Stink,” by David Brooks. The New York Times, July 12, 2012.

Where to start? It's obvious Brooks didn't do a close reading of Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites—indeed, it's questionable if he read it all drawing from his conclusions in the above article. I suppose what irked me the most was this particular quote by Brooks concerning who's “really” disadvantaged when it comes to specialized exams saying, “Phenomena like the test-prep industry are just the icing on the cake, giving some upper-middle-class applicants a slight edge over other upper-middle-class applicants." [Emphasis mine.] Brooks completely eliminates the working and poverty-stricken classes in his argument, even positing that those in the lower-end of the income scale do not work longer hours than those at the top. If you're reading this right here and now, I don't need to explain why that “logic” is one of the most absurd things you've probably ever heard. What really gets my goat is the fact that when it comes to journalism, and even scholarship, there are a substantial number of people writing about topics and issues that they really have no authority on. Brooks is beyond ill-qualified and ill-read to write about elitism and meritocracy—especially in the education system. Yes, Hayes was fortunate in the meritocratic system and attended good schools, but he understands the dynamics within the system from his experience, highlighting that, as years have passed since he attended Hunter College High School, there have been fewer and fewer minorities in attendance (no doubt due in part by the aforementioned test-prep courses that more affluent, non-minority families can afford). Brooks hasn't experienced the system first hand—he seems to think only privileged children and teens are vying for these spots at specialized schools and programs, which often offer free tuition. 

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

On the Intersection of Race & Feminism: A Conversation With Neesha Meminger and Ibi Zoboi.” Tiger Beatdown, July 17, 2012.

In an interview about race and feminism, Haitian-American writer Ibi Zoboi and Indian-Canadian-American writer Neesha Meminger cover a wide range of topics, jumping off from their first-remembered experiences with “feminism,” and whether they embrace the term today. The Q&A goes on to explore the writers’ varying, and overlapping, experiences as immigrant women of color in both the US and Canada, breaching issues and questions like what role men of color can play in the struggle for women of color's rights, the necessity for white feminist allies to be economically invested in the well-being of all women (and the dismantling of white supremacy), the politics of help, the conflation of communities of color with homophobia, and how disability and ableism fit into the matrix of domination.

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

Batman and Gotham: A Deeply Dysfunctional Love Story,” by Adam Rogers. The Atlantic, July 19, 2012.

A writer of Batman comics from the 70s once described Superman's Metropolis as "New York above 14th Street on a warm spring day," and Batman's Gotham City as "New York below 14th Street on a cold, rainy autumn night." Gotham is an amalgamation of all things that could go wrong in a Fin de siècle American city. This article, about Batman's relationship to the city he both patronizes and defends (knowing, ultimately, that he will lose), is a pretty fun read before we all head out to see The Dark Knight Rises (I CAN'T BELIEVE I MADE IT).

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

The Big Heat,” by Elizabeth Kolbert (a former Nation intern!). The New Yorker, July 23, 2012.

The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert knows how to write a lede. "Corn sex is complicated," opens her column in the latest issue, which takes us through the stunningly difficult process of corn pollination (it relies on 800 lucky microscopic maneuvers per ear)and its failure this season in drought-stricken agricultural America. As the season approaches Dust Bowl conditions and the daily experience can be described as "farming in Hell," it becomes less possible to imagine climate change as a phenomena playing out someplace far from home. NPR's recent Talk of the Nation is an excellent compliment to Kolbert's column; they spoke with several farmers, each attempting their own methods of adaptation and ad hoc irrigation. The direness communicated throughout is stunning. "I was born in a drought, and I've been through several, but this one is probably the most damaging one I've seen," says one farmer. "I've never seen buffalo grass die. And it has."

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Afghanistan minerals fully mapped.” BBC, July 18, 2012.

Afghanistan's desolate appearance belies the abundance of underground minerals that have now been fully mapped. Can this mineral wealth be used to build up and solidify the role of the state—as Bolivia is investing in its lithium—or will the wealth encourage tribes to rip the country apart like the Congo?

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

Why Russia Won't Yield on Syria,” Bernard Gwertzman interviews Dimitri Simes. Council on Foreign Relations, July 17, 2012.

Understanding what motivates the major actors to play their roles in the unfolding crisis Syria is the key to outlining the shortcomings of current US policy towards the tumultuous country. In this interview, Dimitri Simes provides a fairly sober analysis of Russia's stance towards the Assad regime. He makes three salient points. The first is that Russia—in particular Putin—is opposed to the principle of regime change. I am not sure how much I agree with that particular assertion. The second, more creative point has to do with Russia's reliability as an arms dealer. The final—and, I feel, strongest point—can best be summed up by the following quote by Simes: "President Putin, as did many in Russia, came to the conviction that Russia was not treated sufficiently as a great power by the United States."

 

A Letter From the Next Generation of Nation Readers

In this moving letter to Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, ten elementary school students from Reservoir Avenue Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island share their experience reading a Nation editorial together in their school principal's office. Many thanks to the students for writing and to Principal Socorro Gomez-Potter for hosting the conversation

Dear Ms. Vanden Heuvel, 

We are fifth-grade students from Reservoir Avenue Elementary School in Providence, RI. Reservoir is a poor school community, but we have accomplished many academic goals. Currently we are as good or better than ninety-three schools in our state. Our school population of 312 students is made up of 75 percent Latino, 16 percent Asian, 8 percent African-American and 1 percent other.

The purpose of this letter was to share with you our experience reading your editorial. During our reading class we were discussing the word "raid" which moved our discussion to war. We posed a question to our principal. Why are we still at war even after Osama Bin Laden has been killed? She told us about you and how you asked a similar question in your magazine. The next day we were introduced to your editorial from May 23, 2011. Ten of us met in the principal's office to read your editorial and discuss the text.

Reading your editorial was challenging, but it made us feel powerful. While we read your editorial, some of us felt like low-level readers because of the many words that were new to us. In order to understand it we used our reading strategies like chunking, cause and effect, words in context, and monitoring and clarifying. After reading and discussing your editorial we felt motivated enough to write you this letter. 

We discovered that the Bush administration started a war on terror that is infinite. This could potentially cause devastation in many different countries. We agreed with your suggestions to President Obama on how to take a step on closing the "dark chapter" that this war created. We think we should reduce US forces in Afghanistan and increase positive communication between everyone.

While we were working on this letter we found out that President Obama followed many of your suggestions in your editorial. On May 1 President Obama went to Afghanistan and personally addressed our troops. It seems President Obama took advantage of the opportunity, as stated in your editorial, to take a step to close the "dark chapter in American history." He will reduce US forces and begin Peace Talks.

In conclusion, we would like to thank you for writing this editorial and challenging us to discover more about our current events. We hope that more people take your advice and increase positive communication globally to solve conflicts. 

Sincerely,

Ivan Davila, Shyloc Ork, James Dorante Jr., Jovan Cabreja, Sergio Liranzo, Izaiha Ortiz, Elianix Lugo, D'zire Scott, Zechariah Toppin-White, Issac Bun, Jason Hernandez

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (7/12/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

How to Beat Citizens United,” by EJ Dionne Jr. The Washington Post, April 22, 2012. 

This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo told New York State Public Radio he would renew his efforts to get state campaign finance reform in the coming months. “We have to get the people of this state to demand campaign finance reform,” he said. “I plan on doing that, and I think this presidential election will be the bully pulpit for this discussion.” This news reminded me of a WaPo op-ed by E.J. Dionne, “How to Beat Citizens United.” If Cuomo did pass a law requiring the government to give candidates $6 for every dollar an individual donates up to $175, as he pledged to do, Dionne argues New York could “repair some of the Citizens United damage.” The legislation would incentivize 99 Percenters to make small donations, offsetting the influence of the One Percent’s hefty contributions. America, Dionne concludes, “badly needs the example of politicians who believe in democracy enough to democratize the mother’s milk of politics.”

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Does 'Gay Inc.' Believe in Free Speech?” by Steven Thrasher. The Village Voice, June 20, 2012. 

Since Village Voice staff writer Steven Thrasher was just named the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association journalist of the year, it seems appropriate to share from his series on the so-called “Gay Nonprofit 1%.” In “Does ‘Gay Inc.’ Believe in Free Speech?,” Thrasher examines how privileged gay voices—from porn-king and Zionist Michael Lucas to GLAAD—pander to “pro-gay” corporations at the expense of queer workers, stifle free speech and, ultimately, prevent the LGBTQ movement from achieving radical change. 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on dissent in the US. 

Are We at a Tipping Point?” by Mark Brenner. Labor Notes, June 27, 2012.

Mark Brenner, the director of the magazine and organizing project Labor Notes, presents his view on the labor movement post-Wisconsin and post-Occupy. Brenner encourages unions to focus on building cross-union solidarity, organizing the supply chain, and making every fight about the 1%. Considering the current state of the labor movement, his injunctions provide at the very least a helpful conversational starting point for bringing back labor. 

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad. 

Cell coverage,” by Alysia Santo. Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2012. 

This piece features Alysia Santo from the Columbia Journalism Review in conversation with Paul Wright, a journalist and former prisoner who founded the Prison Legal News—a publication dedicated to the review and analysis of prisoners’ rights—while serving a seventeen-year sentence in Washington State. “We’re advocacy-oriented,” Wright explains, “but the facts are what they are.” The PNL has helped put critical issues on the map, from censorship (the magazine has filed several lawsuits against prisons that have banned distribution), to the private use of prison labor, to unfair and inadequate treatment. Wright highlights the corporate media’s lack of ethnical inquiry into prison-related stories, suggesting that inside narrative is crucial to advancing public discourse.

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy. 

Heat Wave Causes US Airways Plane To Get Stuck In Tarmac At Reagan National Airport,” by Timothy Stenovec. The Huffington Post, July 8, 2012.

As The Nation's only intern in DC, I feel as if I have some kind of responsibility to comment on the ridiculous heat wave that ripped through the Capitol last week. (Also, being originally from Southern California, I think any day that isn't 75 degrees and sunny is a supernatural phenomenon that must be discussed.) It reached 105 degrees on Saturday in DC— just one degree short of the city's highest temperature ever recorded— and, as this article explains, it was so hot that the tarmac at Reagan National Airport melted slightly and a plane sunk in four inches. Studies have shown repeatedly that climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and more severe (another study affirming this actually just came out Tuesday) and I'd say this is a perfect example of that.

 Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

 “The Great Charter: It’s Fate, Our Fate,” by Noam Chomsky. In These Times, July 6, 2012.

Noam Chomsky argues that the Magna Carta is being destroyed before our eyes. He demonstrates how President Obama's “kill list” of terrorists, which incorporates the idea that "all military-age males in a strike zone” are combatants, is the clearest example of the dismantling of the ideas ingrained in the Great Charter, such as the "presumption of innocence." In addition, he notes that the elements of the charter that required protection of common natural resources from external power has “fallen victim to the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality.” The privatization of the commons and domination of free trade agreements has made genuine environmental protection nearly impossible. In the wake of the abject failure that was the Rio+20 Conference, Chomsky's observations are vital in order to contextualize the destruction of the commons.

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

Judge rules that city must reinstate staff at turnaround schools,” by Rachel Cromidas and Philissa Cramer. GothamSchools, July 10, 2012.

I've been following this story since the announcement Bloomberg made in January regarding the closures of a number of New York City public high schools, including three from Queens that are 100+ years old (my mom and several of my friend’s parents went to Newtown). At first I supported the effort given these schools are not only some of the worst performing in the city, but also some of the most dangerous. However, after the coverage provided by the reporters at GothamSchools, I've changed my position. Reading the arbitrator’s opinion in favor of the unions was evidence enough that this was yet another attempt by the Bloomberg administration to chip away at the UFT's rights because of his dislike of the way they handle terminating poor teachers—sigh, I should've guessed. I'm not partial to tenure either and do believe there needs to be a change to make the termination process less bureaucratic, but that change can only come through negotiation. Besides, the issue at hand here really should have never been about that. Last year both sides came together in an effort to receive a School Improvement Grant of about $60 million that is part the Obama administration’s efforts to turn around failing schools across the country. The city and unions agreed to adopt the less invasive models of the program for the schools that required them to devise new teacher evaluations. But by December they had declared an impasse over the union's proposal to allow teachers to appeal their poor-performance grade to a third party arbiter (in an effort to avoid “capricious” reviews like the one at the center of a scandal at Fordham HS for the Arts). I can't help but feel those negotiations were all just a show by Bloomberg to paint himself as having “tried” diplomacy with the unions. Why? Because 2 weeks after the talks broke down he was already announcing the school closures. Tsk-tsk. To quote the hysterical woman from The Simpsons: "Won't someone please think of the children?"

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

Courts Putting Stop-and-Frisk Policy on Trial,” by Russ Buettner and William Glaberson. The New York Times, July 10, 2012.

More than 80 percent of those targeted by stop-and-frisk in New York are black or Latino, with 686,000 stops last year and numbers on the rise. But the city's controversial policy has recently been criticized, not only on the street (as with the Father's Day March), but in the courtroom as well. Recent rulings by federal and state courts have shown judges to be critical of the practice, and from their decisions, many conclude that New York will have to redefine its stop-and-frisk policy. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, granted class-action status to a civil suit filed on behalf of people who were frisked and released, remarking on the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” NYT writes, “A settlement last year of a class-action case involving stop-and-frisk policies in Philadelphia laid out a model that, if followed in New York, could call for the courts to supervise an imposed system of police monitoring and accountability.” But with homicides in that city up since 2011, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey wonders how to curtail violence without infringing civil rights. Many Philadelphians report that stop-and-frisk is still used violently and irresponsibly today.

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

Money Talks,” by Daniel Denvir. Philadelphia City Paper, July 5, 2012.

Daniel Denvir, who has been all over the corporate take-over of the Philadelphia school system (he even wrote a short piece for The Nation), keeps following the money in this article for Philadelphia's City Paper. Highlighting the often politically-motivated “generosity” of major foundations, Denvir traces how the head of the William Penn Foundation has spearheaded “an emerging corporate education-reform network” that aims to stifle dissent and end public administration of the Philadelphia school system. One of the most egregious corporate take-overs of a public good, this whole affair illustrates the insidious ways the corporate elite will work to dismantle all public goods, and with it, any chance of a true, equitable democracy.

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

BP Spill Workers Say Dispersant Made Them Sick,” by Kate Sheppard. Mother Jones, July 11, 2012.

Dispersants are a combination of surfactants and solvents that work like detergents to break up oil into droplets, to speed up the process of microbial degradation of spilled oil. During those three months in 2010 before the well was capped, BP applied an estimated 1.8 million gallons of two types of the dispersant Corexit in an attempt to break up the oil. Much of the Corexit was applied directly to the wellhead at the ocean floor, something which had never been done (or tested) before. Now, spill workers are sick, and the company who makes Corexit, Nalco, is trying to get out of paying damages. This Mother Jones article is chock full of excellent links that tell the complicated story of this dispersant and why our chemical approval system needs a complete revamping.

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Michael Semple interviews a senior member of the Taliban,” by Michael Semple. New Statesman, July 11, 2012.

Semple (who is an excellent Foreign Affairs writer) interviewed the top leadership in the Taliban for New Statesman. Their leaders believe the following: the insurgency is futile; there is deep resentment towards al-Qaeda; they cannot militarily defeat the U.S. or the Afghan forces; and that they will need to negotiate with other parties in the near future as the U.S. withdraws.

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy. 

Behind the Paraguayan coup,” by Nikolas Kozloff. Al Jazeera, July 8, 2012.

Nikolas Kozloff's analysis is a valuable read for a number of reasons. First, and most simply, by drawing attention to US military endeavors in Paraguay as far back as 2005, he provides a compelling counter-narrative to conventional wisdom that Bush Administration policymakers were complacent towards Latin America. He describes how the election of Fernando Lugo complicated the US military's relationship with Paraguay. Towards the end of his article Kozloff zooms out. Moving away from discussing US interests in Paraguay as a bulwark against Hugo Chavez, Kozloff explicates the trajectory of US policy objectives throughout the entire Southern Cone. Additionally, he astutely bolsters his analysis by digging deep into the diplomatic cables cache, published by Wikileaks, and unearthing several gems—like a cable from 2007 which suggested “that Washington should enhance relations with regional military leaders who shared concerns over Chávez's rising influence.”

Nation Interns' Top Summer Books, 2012

It wouldn’t be possible to publish The Nation without the critical help of our peerless interns. Their energy, passion, ideas and engagement are reflected in print each week and literally around-the-clock at thenation.com. We also rely on our interns to tell us what’s hip, what music we should be listening to and what new (or old) authors we should be considering. Now we’re sharing the knowledge by asking our summer group to tell us what they’re reading this summer and why.

Max Rivlin-Nadler, Queens, NY
Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscape for Politics, by Rebecca Solnit.
I’ve only spent a few days exploring the American West, Solnit’s topic for most of these essays. Even for that short time, it was tough to ignore the attention to ecology that open space demands. Solnit’s essays fill that apparent “openness” with a history of murder, environmental degradation, nuclear pollution and protest. The idea of the West is that it’s a blank slate, but Solnit just has to scratch that surface a little bit to reveal something beautiful, terrifying, archaic and not quite yet lost. But close.

Zoë Schlanger, Bethel, CT
The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
I was handed The Power of Habit by my neighbor Amy after I expressed frustration over a recent procrastination marathon (it was the week of final exams). While not a self-help book, it certainly eliminated the feeling that reorganizing my bookshelf instead of studying phases of eutrophication was somehow irreparable behavior. Each chapter is a precisely written piece of journalism on the latest scientific research on why we form habits, with stories about medical marvels, political solidarity and how corporations like Target, for example, use habit data to predict what individual customers will want to buy before they even know it themselves. A recent episode of This American Life highlights an excellent chapter from the book about the mechanics of one woman’s descent into gambling addiction, and is well worth a listen. 

A chronic book-starter, I’m also digging into Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, sporadically poking around a collection of Gabriel García Márquez’s short stories, and am halfway through Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, which has been an absolute adventure.

Lucy McKeon, Princeton, NJ
Tar Baby, by Toni Morrison
I’m currently reading Tar Baby as part of a larger project to read her complete works. I admire the masterful way her narratives are also vehicles for political argument. So far, we are in the Caribbean with Jadine and Son—two black Americans from different worlds—but will follow the main characters to Manhattan and then to the Deep South, exploring questions of gender, race, nationalism and diaspora along the way. I’ll also soon be starting Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark—a defense of hope in a pessimistic political climate—just handed to me by Tom Engelhardt.

Michael Youhana, Newport Beach, CA
Blackwater, by Jeremy Scahill
Nation reporter Scahill manages to move beyond providing a detailed history of the various scandals Blackwater—now Academi—found itself mired in during the Bush era. He highlights obstacles to accountability posed by the privatization of combat. The pecuniary incentive to support violent policies and politicians that results from the government’s patronage of groups like Blackwater is certainly not lost on him either. Additionally, Scahill manages to provide compelling, cursory accounts of the brutality of the Iraq War, the Bush administration’s shameful attempts to stifle the independent journalism of Al-Jazeera, and a discussion on the oil politics of the Caspian. All this and I still have a third of the book to go!

Gizelle Lugo, Queens, NY
Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson
Among my parting gifts from my internship at Simon & Schuster is a host of books that I hope to get to before the year is out. The one I’m tackling at the moment is Winner-Take-All Politics. Now, more than ever, it’s an ideal read given the disparity of wealth in this country, the current climate postCitizen’s United, the student debt crisis and the increased activity among social movements who have had it with the status quo. People are frustrated, and while the majority have some semblance of an idea as to how we got to this point, Hacker & Pierson offer concrete theories and examples as a result of their meticulous research on the issue. What’s great about their delivery is the fact that it’s accessible; they ease the reader into each theory and argument without getting too technical. And while they do get heavy-handed with the oversimplifications at times, I personally prefer skipping three “setting the scene” sentences over suffering from a conniption trying to grasp dense economic terminology. Like I said, a good layperson’s read for those of us who are just getting our feet wet with regard to the inner workings of the economy and how its relationship with politics has defined the class system we have today.

Marisa Carroll, Chicago, IL
Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir, by Susie Bright
Writer, feminist sex educator and performer Susie Bright’s memoir opens with a challenge: “How does a woman, an American woman born in mid-century, write a memoir? The chutzpah and the femmechismo needed to undertake the project go against the apron.” In Big Sex Little Death, Bright’s chutzpah arises from some combination of womanhood, sex, socialism, death and a wild band of Teamsters. Thrillingly fast-paced and clever, Bright’s memoir also breathes, granting the author and reader space to absorb her prose.

Soumya Karlamangla, Thousand Oaks, CA
A House for Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul
I was supposed to read this book for one of my classes last year but never got around to it, so I’m reading it now. I remember my professor saying that it’s frequently considered to be some of the best prose of the twentieth century and, so far, I’m really enjoying the writing. Admittedly, the story itself is depressing, but in the most delightful way.

Andrea Jones, Seattle, WA
Open City, by Teju Cole
I just finished Open City, a meandering journey through the narrator’s mind and the streets of New York that calls attention to the solitude of being surrounded by people. I’m looking forward to beginning Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which promises a compelling critique of our criminal justice system as redesigning racial oppression in the contemporary United States.

Buster Brown, Charleston, SC
A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls
A Theory of Justice helped revive political philosophy and provided a new liberal paradigm for social justice. For me, Rawls’s book galvanized my interest in political science and inspired my undergraduate years. If laws were set to keep markets competitive, resources fully employed, property and wealth distributed through taxation and people above a reasonable level of poverty, then Rawls believed government was doing its job. After careful review, it seemed like he had indeed figured out the best way to govern. So I continue to look to him when trying to figure out my own view of a “just” society.

Brett Warnke, Michigan City, IN
Romola, by George Eliot
George Eliot’s writing is unmatched and the summer is a great time to roll and revel in her prose, especially with a historical novel set in Florence. I picked Romola because of its turbulent layers. First, for its unsettled landscape in Renaissance Italy and second because it was written during the equally stormy Victorian period. I’m eager to see the parallels. Having never finished during my first half-hearted effort, I feel I’ve got my second wind!

Daniel LoPreto, New York, NY
Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back edited by Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson
This is my favorite book I’ve read this summer so far. These academics attempt to problematize, challenge and occasionally condemn the main ideas of some of the most popular writers in contemporary American discourse, including Samuel Huntington, Thomas Friedman, Robert Kaplan and Dinesh D’Souza. These scholars conclude that many of the arguments made by these trendy pundits are directly challenged by decades of serious anthropological research. This book is indispensable for those who wish to seek an empirically grounded and nuanced interpretation of the world in rejection of an oversimplified and buzzword-oriented analysis.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Brattleboro, VT
Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C to 2000 A.D., by Chancellor Williams
I am currently reading is The Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams. Williams’s magnum opus shook the black studies world by presenting a radically different account of African civilization than that previously propagated by white supremacist historians. Williams forcefully crafts his narrative in such a way that breaks with the stereotypes of Africa as permanently war-stricken and primitive prior to the arrival of colonizers. With this, Williams also seeks to envision a form of black American intellectual inquiry that emphasizes the importance of Afrocentric historical training.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (7/4/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.
Wall Street Is Still Giving to President,” by Peter Nicholas and Daniel Lippman. The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2012. 

Despite Obama’s attempts to raise taxes on one-percenters by ending the Bush tax cuts and regulate Wall Street with the Dodd-Frank bill, the securities and investment industry is nonetheless filling the president’s campaign coffers. The WSJ reports the 77 bundlers he now has from the aforementioned industry have already topped 2008 levels by $300,000, with $14.5 million.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
Conscience Clause’ Gone AMOK—Rape Victim Denied Morning After Pill By Prison Guard,” by Robin Marty. RH Reality Check, June 29, 2012.

A Tampa woman was raped, treated by a rape crisis center and given two emergency contraception pills—one to be taken at the center and one to be taken 12 hours later. When she reported the rape to the police, she was arrested on an old warrant for failure to pay restitution and failure to appear. The prison guard confiscated the second pill because it “was against [the guard's] religious beliefs,” and now the victim is suing the Sheriff's office. This case is horrifying, but ever-more commonplace as the fight for “religious freedom” (and against women's rights) expands the conscience clause, from nurses to bus drivers and, now, prison guards.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.
Cost to Protect U.S. Secrets Doubles to Over $11 Billion,” by Scott Shane. The New York Times, July 3, 2012. 

The past decade has demonstrated that it has became increasingly more difficult to be in a space of dissent in the United States. However, due to the increasing levels of secrecy, not only is it more difficult to be in a space of dissent, but it is also more difficult to access information that would allow a space of dissent to emerge. The fact that the government has doubled the amount that it spends on secrecy in the last decade confirms this.

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad. 
Louisiana Incarcerated: How we built the world’s prison capital: “Part 1: Louisiana is the world’s prison capital,” by Cindy Chang, Scott Threlkeld, and Ryan Smith. The Times-Picayune, May 2012.

In this sprawling 8-part series, investigative journalists in Louisiana explore how the state came to incarcerate more individuals per capita than anywhere else in the world, reaching disturbing conclusions about the exploitative roles of both for-profit prison companies and local law enforcement agencies. In a system in which each inmate is worth $24.39 per day in state funding, empty beds mean money lost. The consequences, as you can imagine, are dehumanizing. 

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
Expert: Health ruling could be used to challenge pollution rules,” by Ben Geman. The Hill, June 29, 2012.

This post on the Hill's environment blog tackles a question raised by a law professor at Syracuse University about what implications the Supreme Court's health care ruling could have for environmental regulation. Since the court decided that Congress can only regulate what individuals do, not what they don't do—which is how the individual mandate survived as a tax not under the Commerce Clause—what's being considered now is whether this will provide new grounds for objections to environmental regulations. For instance, couldn't requiring a company to install a pollution control device be seen as forcing someone to purchase a product, and therefore argued unconstitutional under the court's recent ruling?

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
Washington and Damascus: What Will Stop Ongoing Violence to Civilians?” by Saul Landau. Institute for Policy Studies, June 25, 2012.

Legendary scholar and filmmaker Saul Landau argues that diplomacy, not military escalation, is the only way forward regarding the situation in Syria. The international community is having a hard time differentiating the parties that are committing atrocities and escalating the violence. The recent news coming out of Syria is not completely clear and the U.S. media has, for the most part, accepted opposition claims uncritically. While Asad's government has "shelled neighborhoods," it has been reported that the rebels are also committing violent acts. Landau warns against another western venture into the Middle East. He cites British journalist Patrick Seale, who argues that the West should "unite with Russia and China" to pressure "both sides" to stop the violence and negotiate. 

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.
Filling the Skills Gap,” by Joe Nocera. The New York Times, July 2, 2012.

The Nation’s own Dana Goldstein has reported on the importance of vocational education, and how the youth unemployment rate in other Western countries is lower than that of the US with the help of such apprenticeship programs. In this article, Nocera highlights a program called Year Up, which trains high school graduates to work in an office setting by learning "middle-skills" such as computer support. I think the program is a step in the right direction, as I'm of the convention that the education system after 8th grade is in desperate need of reform. Perhaps in our parents' time high school actually taught students something worthwhile—but now? It's four-years of busy work and regents exams that have nothing to do with transitioning students into the workforce/college, which, in this day and age, should be the goal of high school. The first two years should be about culturing students in history, literature, the arts and sciences so they can better integrate themselves into our globalized society. And the last two years should be about preparing them for their future, whether they will go on to a certification program, community or senior college. During these two years they can enroll in an internship or apprenticeship program so they can narrow their focus, and gain work experience (perhaps even some pay) in the process. Not too long ago my brother was an intern at Smith Barney at the age of 16, and his accumulated work experience since that time landed him a position at corporate Avon. By the time I was 16 in 2006, such opportunities ceased to exist, most likely due to the shift in culture (and dwindling job opportunities) where now college graduates are occupying such internships. Bottom line: We need to remove the stigma of vocational education, support our drowning community colleges, and reform high schools so their graduates will be better prepared for whichever path lies ahead of them.

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
Asian Americans Respond to Pew: We’re Not Your Model Minority,” by Julianna Hing. Colorlines, June 21, 2012.

Pew's recently released study “The Rise of Asian Americans” mixes skewed data with mythology to reinforce the old stereotype of the “model minority,” a simplified and damaging image of what is in actuality a diverse community. Misleading measurements of median household income (vs. per capita income) indicate that Asian Americans are comparatively well-off while failing to address living arrangements—in fact, earlier this year the Economic Policy Institute found that Asian Americans have actually suffered the worst from long-term unemployment. The danger of Pew's simplified findings, and the way the study has been portrayed in the media, is that institutions and policy makers may ignore real disparities and injustices that exist within the community. 

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation,” by Ethan Bronner. The New York Times, July 3, 2012.

Because our jails are run for profit, it only makes sense that our courts are too. It's not surprising to find for-profit companies tracking indigent people down for misdemeanors or violations and giving them the option of paying outrageous fees or serving jail time (which comes with added fees). It's articles like this that demonstrate how seriously warped our justice system is—and that's not even confined to the bad ole' south (which is the topic of the article). District Attorneys across the country wage a war on the poor by turning DWI's, speeding violations, disorderly conduct, etc. into costly and punitive ordeals, with justice being muted out by the complete financial destruction of the “offender.”

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
NPR misses mark with Mingo ‘war on coal’ profile,” by Ken Ward Jr. The Charleston Gazette, July 3, 2012.

The Coal Tattoo blog at the Charleston Gazette is a reliably sharp look at the environmental issues facing the industry, from inside a state where news about coal is very much an immediate reality. So when NPR published a piece this week about “clean coal” and the peculiar results of West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary, Coal Tattoo responded with a heap of context—and made the story that much more interesting.

Here's what happened: An imprisoned felon named Keith Judd managed to get 40 percent of the vote in the WV primary, actually beating Obama in a number of counties in the state. The reason? Obama’s perceived “War On Coal.” But the NPR piece, as blogger Ken Ward Jr. points out, didn't mention that coal jobs in West Virginia actually increased during Obama's first three years in office, and that intra-state competition is affecting mine employment too. The NPR story is fascinating, but append Coal Tattoo's take, and perhaps we can see all the way around.

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.
After America: Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the U.S. leaves?” by Dexter Filkins. The New Yorker, July 9, 2012.

Filkins is a Pulitzer-winning combat journalist who neither screeches about the evils of every American action, nor does he sugar the stories of the very uncertain future for the Afghan government and its ethnic multitudes. Weaving in the political history, Filkins describes the obstacles—Afghan military preparedness, local dependency, official pessimism and incompetence—but he impressively details the weakening of the Taliban, the successes within the Hazara minority, and the positive development of the country's infrastructure.

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
The decade of war to come,” by Nick Turse. Al Jazeera, July 2, 2012.

Nick Turse offers a comprehensive snapshot of aggressive US foreign policy under Obama. Turse describes how the coarse paradigm governing Bush-era policy has given way to expansive 'small footprint' military and intelligence endeavors. As Turse points out, perhaps most disturbing is the confidence with which this new, potentially destructive, style of warfare is being waged.  

The Future of Feminist Activism: Live Chat With Jessica Valenti, Anna Holmes and Aimee Thorne-Thomsen—2 PM

As the GOP’s “War on Women” has intensified and states have passed ever more onerous restrictions on abortion access, feminist activists have shown again and again that they have the energy and organizing prowess to forcefully take on any adversary—from the once-popular Susan G. Komen Foundation to Rush Limbaugh to legions of anti-choice lawmakers.

Meanwhile, when the reaction to Anne-Marie Slaughter's recent article inThe Atlantic proved that the question "can women have it all?" still hits a nerve, the varying responses from feminist writers made one thing clear: in order to solve the problems facing working women, we need more feminism, not less.

As with any dynamic movement, the future outlets for this energy are all but certain. What direction (or directions) is feminist activism heading? What organizing will we see in years to come?

On Thursday July 5, at 2 pm EST, Nation readers are invited to participate in a live chat on the future of feminist activism with Feministing.com co-founder and Nation blogger Jessica Valenti. Jessica will be joined by writer and editor Anna Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel.com; and reproductive justice activist Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, vice president for strategic partnership at Advocates for Youth and former executive director of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project.

Of course, the “future of feminist activism” is a broad topic that encompasses countless important questions. To narrow things down a bit, we’re asking you—our readers—to get us started with suggestions for issues and questions you’d like to see discussed. Post your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to join us on Thursday, July 5, at 2 pm for a lively conversation!

Note: Readers can replay the chat in the box below or access an edited transcript here.

The 2012 Nation Student Writing Contest


REUTERS/Larry Downing

The winners of the 20112 Contest have been announced! See them here.

Seven years ago, The Nation launched an annual Student Writing Contest to identify, support and reward some of the many smart, progressive student journalists writing, reporting and blogging today.

This year, we're looking for original, thoughtful, provocative student voices to answer this question in 800 words: What do you think is the most important issue of Election 2012?

Essays should not exceed 800 words and should be original, unpublished work that demonstrates fresh, clear thinking and superior quality of expression and craftsmanship. We’ll select five finalists and two winners–one from college, one from high school. Each winner will be awarded a $1,000 cash prize and a Nation subscription. The winning essays will be published and/or excerpted in the magazine and featured on our website. The five finalists will be awarded $200 each and subscriptions, and their entries will be published online. Entries will be accepted through June 29, 2012. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 15.

The contest is open to all matriculating high school students and undergraduates at American schools, colleges and universities as well as those receiving either high school or college degrees in 2012. Submissions must be original, unpublished work (the writing can have been published in a student publication). Each entrant is limited to one submission.

Submissions and questions can be e-mailed to studentprize@thenation.com. Please include the essay in the body of the e-mail. All e-mailed submissions will be acknowledged. Each entry must include author’s name, address, phone number, e-mail and short biography and school affiliation – and say “student essay” in the subject line.

Read last year's winners and please help spread the word.

 

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