Monthly Archives: June 2012

Six Questions — June 29, 2012, 10:51 am

Magic Hours: Six Questions for Tom Bissell

After more than a decade spent writing on subjects as diverse as Uzbekistan, the Iraq War, and video-game voice-overs, Tom Bissell published his sixth book, a collection of some of his finest essays, this April. Titled Magic Hours: Essays On Creators and Creation, the book includes Harper’s Magazine pieces on film from 2000 and 2006, as well as his 2010 feature, “Cinema Crudité,” about the cult movie The Room. Harper’s put six questions to Bissell about art, film, and writing. 1. The first essay in your book, “Unflowered Aloes,” touches upon the role of chance in a writer’s success, pointing …

Mr. Fish — June 29, 2012, 10:41 am

A Cartoon

No Comment — June 28, 2012, 12:25 pm

Our Politicized Judiciary

The Supreme Court has held the news spotlight this week as at no other time in recent memory. The Court’s 5–4 ruling on this year’s cornerstone case, addressing challenges to the constitutionality of Obama’s health-care-reform legislation, proved anticlimactic: it upheld the law, though on somewhat different grounds than most constitutional-law scholars had anticipated before oral argument. Instead of validating the mandate to purchase insurance under the commerce clause, Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion called the mandate a tax. But earlier in the week, in a ruling that may prove equally important, the Court expanded upon its 2010 ruling in Citizens …

Commentary — June 27, 2012, 10:15 am

From “Broken Heartland: The looming collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains”

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. This excerpt is drawn from his July 2012 cover feature for Harper’s Magazine. Subscribers can read the entire story here. Sprawling beneath eight states and more than 100 million acres, the Ogallala Aquifer is the kind of hydrological behemoth that lends itself to rhapsody and hubris. Ancient, epic, apparently endless, it is the largest subterranean water supply in the country, with an estimated capacity of a million-billion gallons, providing nearly a third of all American groundwater irrigation. If the aquifer were somehow raised to the surface, it …

Official Business — June 26, 2012, 4:33 pm

A Discussion with Thomas Frank in Washington, D.C.

Please join Harper’s Magazine columnist and best-selling author Thomas Frank for a discussion about Super PACs and the corrupting influence of money in politics this Thursday. Frank will also sign copies of his most recent book, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right. Details: Thursday, June 28 Noon to 1 P.M. Books-A-Million 11 DuPont Circle, N.W. [map]   RSVP on Facebook here. For questions and media queries, contact Jason Chupick at jason@harpers.org.

Weekly Review — June 25, 2012, 9:12 pm

Weekly Review

Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was declared the winner of the election to succeed ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, thereby becoming the country’s first democratically elected leader. Tens of thousands of Egyptians celebrated the announcement in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where they had assembled to protest recent decrees by the country’s high court and Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that dissolved parliament, implemented martial law, and stripped the presidency of most of its powers. “The onus now is on the new president to unite the nation,” said a military source, “and to rebuild the country economically and politically.” Protesters …

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Monumental Error·

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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

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Destroyer of Worlds·

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In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

Illustration by Darrel Rees. Source photographs: Kim Jong-un © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Donald Trump © Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Newscom
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Crossing Guards·

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The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

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“I am Here Only for Working”·

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But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

— Karl Marx

Photograph from the United Arab Emirates by the author. This page: Ruwais Mall

Factor by which the brightness of a recent supernova exceeded that of all the stars in the Milky Way:

20

Fetuses yawn.

Trump’s former chief strategist, whom Trump said had “lost his mind,” issued a statement saying that Trump’s son did not commit treason; the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that “no one questions” Trump’s mental stability; and the director of the CIA said that Trump, who requested “killer graphics” in his intelligence briefings, is able to read.

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Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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