Thursday, January 29, 2009

Essential reading (no, really)

I know I've been linking and doing not much else, but these two pieces are true tours de force. (I've been swamped with work and trying to get back into the rhythm of school after ICCAs, okay, I have obligations and whatnot.)

The first is "An Oral History of the Bush White House" from Vanity Fair. I'm only on page 2 myself, but it's already been amazing hearing people from Richard Clarke to Germany's foreign minister give their uncensored, undiplomatic takes in colloquial language on various moments of the administration. The piece has also illuminated a number of moments or occurrences that I never knew had taken place.

I found the piece through Ta-Nehisi, who gave it a stirring endorsement:
...folks should read the piece just because it really is stunning to see it all laid out before you. Rarely does one see cravenness, arrogance and incompetence married in such expert fashion. I was 25 when Bush came to office, and I never thought it would get this bad. But Purdum and Murphy show how things almost necessarily--from day one--had to go this way.

I read this piece on the plane ride out West, yesterday. I got halfway through and couldn't take it, I had to take a break. Finished it just we were coming over Utah, and I was just stunned. Journalism takes a lot of heat on this blog, perhaps some of it undeserved. So it's only right that I call out something when it's well done. Read this piece. Read it. Read it. Read it.

Second, Radley Balko explains with inimitable and wide-ranging logic why the War on Drugs is both a failure and a costly, harmful, and and misguided effort to begin with in "War on Drugs: The Collateral Damage" over at Culture 11. I particularly found his points about the militarizaton of police to be fascinating, though I suppose that's not surprising given all the studying of political power and state formation/state institutions I do. The piece is a comprehensive indictment of the drug war and its attendant policies and it's very much worth reading for the higher-level perspective that is generally so lacking in discussions of drug policy.

A note on Culture 11--it's a website (webzine?) dealing with culture as well as politics, geared to the American cultural conservative. It's been cited by many conservatives who have been revolted by the contemporary Republican party. I moseyed over there once before and was unimpressed, but this article has caused me to revise my estimation--clearly the piece I read that time was not fully representative of Culture 11's offerings. I'll be interested to see what comes out of the site as part of my continuing effort to understand what the hell this "conservatism" business is actually all about.

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