My colleague, Alexis Madrigal, has a wonderful daily newsletter called 5 Intriguing Things. If you haven’t signed up for it, you can check out back issues here and sign up to get it delivered daily here.
In the same spirit, and before resuming the High Speed Rail saga, here are
five (bonus six!) articles worth mentioning. These are connected only by my having noticed them while reading and traveling and wanting to pass them on.
The biggest problem with that ranking system is that it ends up being mainly an input measure. The oldest, richest colleges, which can choose from the widest range of the best-prepared students, naturally come out on top. Over the past few years, The Washington Monthly (where I also once worked) has developed inventive ways to measure output—not the advantages that students begin with, but the difference a school makes to them and to society. Rankings aren't going away, so the only answer to bad rankings is more and better ones.
This week TWM put out its latest update, with a set of associated articles. You can find links to all of them here. I’m delighted that the #1 school on this year's “National Universities” list is UC San Diego, where I have spent so much time over the years (including last year as a “Pacific Leadership Fellow”) that I feel like an honorary Triton. Also, that four of the top five are UC branches--and the other is Texas A&M, whose research programs I've written admiringly about.
2) "Terrorism as Theater," by my Atlantic colleague Robert Kaplan, in his role as chief geopolitical strategist for the global intelligence firm Stratfor. Kaplan's article, which you can read here, explains the hideous logic of ISIS's videotaping its murder of James Foley. A sample:
In producing a docu-drama in its own twisted way, the Islamic State was sending the following messages:
• We don't play by your rules. There are no limits to what we are willing to do.
• America's mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay comes with a "price tag," to quote a recently adopted phrase for retribution killings. After all, we are a state. We have our own enemy combatants as you can see from the video, and our own way of dealing with them.
• Just because we observe no limits does not mean we lack sophistication.
Sobering and worth reading in full.
3) "Friends of Israel," by Connie Bruck in The New Yorker, which you can read here. This is a long, dispassionate, names-and-dates-and-quotes explanation of how situations like the following can arise: