Commentary

Commentary — August 8, 2012, 10:21 am

Decoding the Syrian Propaganda War

Anand Gopal writes frequently about the Middle East and South Asia. He is the author of “Welcome to Free Syria,” in the August 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. His book about the war in Afghanistan is forthcoming from Henry Holt. Last month, video emerged from the Syrian town of Tremseh showing scores of blood-sodden bodies of children and adults, some with cracked skulls and slit throats, all of them purported victims of the Syrian army. As the camera panned across the grisly tableau, an anguished commentator read out the names of the dead and cried, “God is greater!” The Syrian …

Commentary — August 6, 2012, 12:58 pm

A Q&A with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh

In 2011, Time magazine recognized Sue Savage-Rumbaugh as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for her research into language among bonobo apes, which has profoundly altered our understanding of language, learning, social behavior, and cognition in primates. I write about Savage-Rumbaugh in an essay on the history of ape language research in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. When her work with bonobos began, Sue and her colleagues were trying to get Matata, an adult female, to understand a system of lexigrams—arbitrary, nonrepresentative pictures indicating everyday meanings. Matata did not learn them, but her adopted infant …

Commentary — August 1, 2012, 10:21 am

On Libya’s Missing Men

All images © Guy Martin/Panos   In the spring of 2011, photographer Guy Martin came across a wall covered with photographs of missing men outside the central courthouse in Benghazi, Libya. They were images of men who had disappeared during the forty years that Muammar Qaddafi had ruled the country, whether during the conflict then taking place or during decades of arrests and kidnappings. At the time Martin was there, fierce fighting was still underway between rebels and government forces, with months to go before Qaddafi would be overthrown. The pictures have since been removed. The August 2012 issue of …

Commentary — July 30, 2012, 8:49 am

High and Dry

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and the author of “Broken Heartland: The looming collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains,” from the July 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The drought settling over the American heartland this summer would be historic by any measure. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is the most widespread drought in half a century, covering more than half the country and affecting nearly 90 percent of the nation’s corn and soy crops. In a single July afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declared more than …

Commentary — July 25, 2012, 2:20 pm

A Brilliant Life: Remembering Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn passed away on July 21 at age 71. He wrote many pieces for Harper’s Magazine over the years, among them “The Tedium Twins,” a classic of humor writing and media criticism. Alexander Cockburn was no saint, and he always hated the idea that obituary writers should sanctify the dead no matter how egregious their high crimes, misdemeanors, and other failings, so he’d no doubt disapprove of what follows. But his death hit me hard, and so I apologize to him for this highly sentimental remembrance. I first discovered Alex when I was a student at The Evergreen State …

Commentary — July 20, 2012, 7:30 pm

The Price of Gun Control

Dan Baum is the author of Gun Guys: A Road Trip, which will be published by Knopf in March. He wrote “Happiness Is a Worn Gun: My concealed weapon and me” for the August 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine. He blogs at Our Gun Thing. When you write about guns, as I do, and a shooting like the one in the Aurora movie theater happens an hour from your house, people call. I’ve already done an interview today with a Spanish newspaper and with Canadian radio. Americans and their guns: what a bunch of lunatics. Among the many ways America …

Commentary — July 20, 2012, 11:59 am

A Uniformly Useless Flap

Alan Tonelson is a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Educational Foundation and the author of The Race to the Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards (Westview Press). He wrote “Up From Globalism” in the January 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine. For all its intensity, nearly all the outrage sparked by news about the U.S. Olympic team’s Chinese-made uniforms has been pathetically superficial and downright useless. Even worse, the furor is shaping up as another lost opportunity for Americans to learn why jobs and production really move overseas, what …

Commentary — July 18, 2012, 2:14 pm

How Mary Kay Cosmetics Sells Women on “Having It All”

Virginia Sole-Smith is a reporting fellow with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Her article “The Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay cosmetics preys on desperate housewives” appears in the August 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Feminists have long been blamed for making women want to “have it all”: the supportive spouse, the beloved children, the high-powered career. When Anne-Marie Slaughter published her treatise in The Atlantic last month on why even the highest-powered of women don’t yet have all of it, this mindset prevailed again. “I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist …

Commentary — July 13, 2012, 4:36 pm

The American Model Won’t Work for Europe

William Pfaff has been contributing to Harper’s Magazine since 1961. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is not the only European convinced that the European crisis, now a political as well as economic crisis, can only be solved by pressing forward—ever forward!—to an ever more closely unified European Union, with ever-strengthened institutions of federalism and centralized authority. This is the formula insistently put forward not only in Germany but in European Union staff circles and the E.U. administration, and in the academic and other professional groups concerned with the EU’s future. What about going backward rather than forward? I would argue that …

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“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
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