4 Good Reading Tips, and 1 Correction

1) Ta-Nehisi Coates's item today, on our site, on how the (troubled) economics of the "serious" magazine business affect the sociology and (limited) diversity of magazine staffs. This is a tangled and difficult topic, whose tangles he lays out in a very useful way.

2) An assessment by David R. Patterson, who grew up outside Charlotte, of the soul of this week's convention city. It is on Zocalo's site, with a droll title that the piece explains, "The Third-Most-Influential Piece You'll Ever Read About Charlotte." Sample:

I've long felt that Charlotte's determined growth--its ceaseless acquisition of new cultural institutions, buildings, and other landmarks--is all part of an effort to finally, irrevocably, and indisputably establish it as a Major City. Whether you're an opera company or the first Olive Garden within comfortable driving distance, Charlotte wants you, and when Charlotte gets you it wants the world to know. The Democratic National Convention is just another trophy in the case. In Boston people tell you how old something is--it's always the oldest or first whatever-it-may-be in America. In Texas they tell you how big it is--always the biggest. In Charlotte, they tell you where it ranks. "The world's sixth-busiest airport" or "the fourth-largest university in the state system" or "the tallest building between Philadelphia and Atlanta."

Both the skyline (it's fuller) and the feeling uptown at 1 a.m. (it's jumping) are undeniably different from what they were just a couple decades ago.... 

3) An article by Eli Stokols, a reporter for FOX31 television in Denver, based on his interview with Paul Ryan. The context here, as previously discussed, is the evolving challenge for reporters and editors to move beyond he-said, she-said and find a way to describe reality in the "post-truth" era. In the sample below, note the part that begins "Actually": 

The noted deficit hawk [Ryan] who is the author of the controversial House GOP budget plan blamed President Obama for adding to the country's ballooning deficit because of the 2009 stimulus package and Obamacare, which was signed into law last year.

"It's actually the economy that's given us the deficit we have and the massive deficit spending and domestic spending we've seen under President Obama," Ryan told FOX31. "Yes, the wars are a small part of it."

Actually, the Iraq war, which Ryan voted to authorize, will cost the nation more than $3 trillion; and the Bush tax cuts, which Ryan also voted for when they first took effect in 2001, will ultimately cost the nation $3.2 trillion if extended again through 2021.

The stimulus, by comparison, came at a price tag of $787 billion.

4) An excerpt, in Salon, from Harvey Molotch's book Against Security. This essay deals with the consequences and the deep irrationality of today's security approach at airports and elsewhere. Sample:

One reason for the great concentration of security at airports in the first place is not that that it is effective, but that it can, quite simply, be arranged. Against the inherent ambiguity of securitization, having controls at entry gates presents itself as something doable. Planes are nice discrete people holders that have narrow points of ingress; passengers can be bunched  up for clearance at specific choke points. Logistical possibilities of this sort influence  just where security operates within the airport, even when it in fact creates crowds that otherwise would not exist...The  security gate furthers the gathering up, making for dense crowds -- still not yet scrutinized for weaponry -- often in a snaking queue. This is a security-generated target often consisting of a larger number of people than would be on any airplane....

As far as I know, the vast airport apparatus has not stopped a single incident of mayhem; the foiling of plots comes from other forces, such as advance intelligence or actions on board.

4A) Also on the security front: Yesterday I mentioned that I was surprised to hear that Valerie Jarrett had her own Secret Service detail. Traditionally Secret Service protection has been for a handful of people: the president and his family; former presidents, for life; the vice president and family; former VPs, for a limited time; major presidential candidates; and a few other exceptions. White House staff members were not protected in the same way.

On reflection, and after receiving a lot of notes on this point, I realize that my initial reaction was probably wrong. Political emotions are very raw these days, and enough of the extremist-fringe hostility to Obama has a violent tone (for instance, a few active-duty soldiers plotting against the president), that it is easy to imagine the threats extending beyond the president to, especially, other African-American members of his staff. Jarrett could well need security of a sort that her predecessors in other administrations didn't, and that we hope her successors won't. So, I have changed my mind on this and have so indicated in the original item.

Bonus #5 Ok, this is semi low-road, but I can't resist. I have found that my "adjusted" best-ever marathon time is 2:11.56. I was so much fitter and faster than I even knew! You can see what yours would be.

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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.


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