James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Ideas 2011

  • 3 Final Aspen Photos

    Bill Clinton makes the case for activist government

    Bill Clinton made an appearance on the final Saturday evening session of the Aspen Ideas Festival, as he has done a number of times in the past. Ron Brownstein of National Journal was his interviewer this time. Others have included Walter Isaacson in 2005, me in 2006, Richard Stengel in 2007, and Jane Wales in 2008. All have shared the experience of sitting next to Clinton on stage while he talked about whatever was on his mind. This is the way he came across this evening on the Jumbotron, which if somewhat distorted from the real image is true to the temper of his comments.

    Thumbnail image for IMG_9543.jpg

    The next picture shows how he "really" looked -- although the picture above shows how thoroughly he was into his argument, mainly about the need to control health-care costs, and the insanity of a world in which legislators asked Grover Norquist's "permission" before voting on bills:

    Thumbnail image for IMG_9541.jpg

    It is too late tonight, but tomorrow I'll try to convey the gist of his comments, which (predictably) was a stronger version of the case for Democratic initiatives, and against know-nothing anti-governmentism, than we're used to hearing from the current Administration. I'll mention now only the fact that, in a brief review of the Republican field, he said that he disagreed with just about everything Michele Bachmann stood for but respected her because she had "a lot of juice."

    After the jump, an Atlantic in-house picture: part of the team of ninjas that has made the whole event happen, near the end of their round-the-clock work this past week

    More »

  • Cheap Chic at Aspen

    Not a big idea but a small one: cheap time pieces. Then, an attempt at a bigger idea.

    As Jeffrey Goldberg and Alexis Madrigal have reported, an Atlantic contingent is in Aspen this week for our annual Ideas Festival. More on the topic from me as time, event-obligations, and thin air permit; meanwhile Atlantic updates here and on Twitter at #AspenIdeas.

    Whole different topic for the moment. This morning I was on a panel with the legal luminaries Jeffrey Rosen, Jonathan Zittrain, and Lawrence Lessig, moderated by Richard Wilhelm (formerly of the NSA, now Booz Allen Hamilton). The topic was "Freedom of the Press in the Age of Wikileaks," etc.

    Lessig was sitting to my immediate left, and he started to laugh as he looked at my wrist. What he saw is below, photographed just now after I took it off. (Not that easy, I discover, to take an acceptable picture of a watch while you're wearing it.)


    Yes, it's my beloved $25 Timex Indiglo watch, model T20041, the kind I have sworn by for years. It's known by its big black numbers, its faux silvery case, its red second-hand, and its elegant brown pleather strap. I love this watch because it's easy to read in the day; because it lights up (gently) at night, if you push the stem button; and because I can buy backups in bulk, so that I never have to worry if I lose a watch or leave it in the car or in the pocket of my other coat or on my desk. I have an inventory of three or four in various places and reorder when the stock runs low.

    Lessig pointed at my watch with his right hand, brought his left hand over to show that he was wearing the identical model, and said, "I've got twenty of 'em at home." He explained that his watch philosophy was the same as mine -- if carried out with a more thorough backup-in-depth policy.

    By similar accident I found out recently that the Atlantic's deputy editor Scott Stossel has come to the same conclusion about the ideal watch. I therefore declare this a trend: the official watch of Aspen and the Atlantic. (Maybe.) Even though I see that the price has now shockingly risen to $28.43.

    Now, back to "Ideas": At the opening session yesterday, ten people each presented a nominee for a Big Idea, with a no-exceptions time limit of three minutes on stage. My nominee(s) after the jump.

    More »


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming



From This Author

Just In