Commentary — January 9, 2012, 5:03 pm

Links: The January 2012 Issue

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Dear Readers,

The January 2012 issue is with subscribers, for whom it is also available online, and will be on newsstands for another few weeks yet. Herewith, our monthly roundup of blog posts and web links related to the stories in the issue:

 

Thomas Frank‘s Easy Chair column, “Semper Infidelis” (p. 6) takes up the co-opting of the term “infidel” by people who consider themselves to be anti-jihadists. Among the various markers of infidel culture that Frank mentions is the comic book The Infidel, which was satirized by Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show:

 

The comic book’s creator wrote a behind-the-scenes post about the segment here. As for Frank, he, too, is a writer of books. He appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show on January 5 to discuss his latest, Pity The Billionaire.

Statistics from the current Harper’s Index (p. 13) are tweeted throughout the month using the hashtag #HarpersIndex. Follow @harpers to see them as they go out.

One of this month’s Readings, “Cloak and Swagger” (p. 20), is taken from several months’ worth of emails from web-security firm HBGary, which were posted online by the hacker collective Anonymous. Ars Technica has done some strong detective work on the story behind the HBGary hack, and the hack’s effects.

The Quotable Michael Dahlie

From the short story “The Pharmacist from Jena” (p. 65):

  • My uncle was a passionate lover of cocaine and had situated himself in such a way that he supplied nearly all the nearby interested parties—the brothels of Fort Wayne and Muncie in particular—with the drug.

  • [A] brothel owner owed my uncle money and this tamed bear was meant to serve as partial repayment while he raised other funds. My uncle ran his fingers through the bear’s coat as he explained this to me, adding that this was simply the kind of thing pharmacists had to put up with these days.

  • I shot him again, this time in the face… and then reloaded and shot him in the stomach, with eight subsequent shells. Naturally, he was quite distressed by all this.

Christopher Ketcham’s “Stop Payment!” (p. 28) discusses efforts to rally for lawsuits some homeowners whose mortgages were packaged for sale as financial products. Leading the efforts, and Ketcham’s story, are the people behind the National Homeowners Cooperative and the website Protect America’s Dream. Ketcham also discusses the landmark Landmark National Bank v. Boyd A. Kesler decision, in Kansas, which was one of the first rulings to note that packaged mortgages had failed to maintain properties’ title chain.

For “The Long Draw” (p. 50), written by Jeremy Miller and featuring photography by Lena Herzog, Geoff McGhee of Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West created an interactive map showing the routes taken by two early expeditions in the American West. The map allows readers to compare images drawn by Friedrich von Egloffstein, the first cartographer and illustrator of the Grand Canyon, with modern photographs taken by Herzog. Miller’s accompanying text asks whether some of the images commonly taken to be of the Grand Canyon might in fact be of a different canyon.

In his New Books column this month (p. 71), Larry McMurtry reviews a biography of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, noting the changes the web has wrought for booksellers the past few years. McMurtry knows whereof he writes, as the proprietor of Booked Up, in Archer City, Texas. McMurtry also reviews John Updike’s collected criticism and a book on whales—which, it must be said, are not to be trusted:

 

Jenny Diski’s “Unfaithful: The false nostalgia of Mad Men (p. 74) criticizes the popular television show, ultimately arguing that the Doris Day and Rock Hudson film Lover Come Back “does a better job of critiquing the advertising business than Mad Men ever sustains.” Brilliantly slick though the film may be, its own marketing trailer was ironically ham—Hamm?—fisted:

 

And last, the issue’s concluding Findings section (p. 80), where you will learn, among other facts, that sex with animals doubles a man’s risk of penile cancer.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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