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."