Monthly Archives: August 2016

Instead of blowing it up, Let’s fix it

In his epilogue to “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart,” Scott Anderson writes: “On a more philosophical level, this journey has served to remind me again of how terribly delicate is the fabric of civilization, of the vigilance required to protect it and of the slow and painstaking work of mending it once […]

The Gerrymander and Other Embarrassments: Readers Respond

The word “gerrymander” has been around for over two centuries. It entered the language in 1812, after Governor Elbridge Gerry’s Democratic-Republican Party (yes, that was one party – Jefferson’s – in those days) redrew the electoral map to ensure its continued dominance in the Massachusetts senate. That effort took such creative mapmaking that one district […]

Should We Just Blow It All Up?

A reader responds to The Potemkin Don: “One could say this [emptiness] is true of all politicians in the modern era. Agendas are biased to the lobby efforts they are tied to. Look at Obama. The guy has done a decent job on many fronts but ran on an agenda that doesn’t reflect his actual presidency. […]

The Potemkin Don

In 1787, four years after Russia had annexed Crimea for the first time (the second would occur 231 years later), Catherine the Great set off on a six-month trip to see her new acquisition. She had appointed Prince Grigory Potemkin governor-general of the new lands and instructed him to rebuild the region, which had suffered […]

There But for Fortune

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” H.L. Mencken. Despite losing $14 million last quarter, The New York Times produced on Sunday the kind of in-depth journalism that is disappearing from newsrooms around the world. “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart,” Scott Anderson’s 18-month-in-the-making article on […]

I Stand Corrected

Yesterday I ended my post with the following sentence: “We don’t treat air as a commodity to be owned, bought and sold by powerful people, so why water, which is equally essential to all living things?” Then my old friend, Jock, sent me this: “Canadian start-up sells bottled air to China, says sales booming” “Vitality Air […]

Whose Water is it Anyway?

Those of you who drink Fiji water, drink P♥M juice or eat nuts may want to skip this post about water and the Wonderful Company, the California-based agribusiness empire of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. By many accounts, the Resnicks are good people: entrepreneurs and wildly successful marketers; large donors to worthy causes; community builders – […]

The Fix is Out

Recently, three federal appeals courts, in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas, affirmed what Republican state legislatures have barely even tried to conceal – that voter identification laws hurriedly imposed in the wake of Barack Obama’s election had one purpose: the disenfranchisement of poor and minority voters whose singular offense is to vote largely for Democrats. Critics […]

War on Coal

Increasingly absent in the bombast and bizarre behavior of this campaign is a discussion of issues that separate the candidates and their parties – issues that once defined the boundaries of political debate. I’d like to examine some of them in upcoming posts. First up: energy and the environment. When I traveled through the Rust […]