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LongWonk: LongForm.org’s weekend reading list

By Elon Green,

Every weekend, Longform.org picks the week’s best in-depth stories on politics and policy for Wonkblog. For daily selections of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform.org or follow @longformorg on Twitter.

Doom!

John B. Judis • The New Republic • October 2011

Recovery Summer is over and the United States teeters on the precipice of a double-dip recession. Where did it all go wrong?

In their initial response to the recession of 2008, leaders in the United States and Europe appeared to heed the lessons of the Great Depression. Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy each backed generous government spending programs to revive the economy, and they also advanced proposals for reforming the increasingly dysfunctional international monetary system. In the United States, Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke and Council of Economic Advisers chair Christina Romer had both made their mark as academics with analyses of the Great Depression. And Britain’s Labour Party had become a bastion of Keynesianism after World War II. In short, there seemed little doubt that the follies of the late ’20s and early ’30s would be avoided this time. But then problems began to arise.

The Whole World Is Watching

James B. Rule • Democracy • Fall 2011

From travel data to credit scores, surveillance is an increasingly intrusive fact of life. Is it too late to reclaim our privacy—and do we even want to?

What’s disturbing is that newer generations seem increasingly resigned to the proposition that personal information, once yielded, slips permanently out of one’s control. This does not have to be true. But the actual interests and practices governing disclosure, given the absence of broad legal rights over one’s own data, are often extremely difficult to discern. Privacy statements put forward by websites and companies often acknowledge, on close scrutiny, data-holders’ virtually unconstrained discretion to disseminate and exchange personal data. Thus, legislation like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is officially described as assuring “the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information,” when in fact it ratifies broad disclosure of patients’ data without their permission and even against their interests.

The Tsuris

John Heilemann • New York • September 2011

Republicans perpetually predict that the party’s support of Israel’s policies will attract Jewish Democrats. It’s generally a pipe dream, but 2012 may be different—President Obama may lose votes for toeing the line drawn by his predecessors:

Regarding the call for a settlement freeze, the Obamans defend the decision without a trace of apology. Beyond the political rationale behind the demand, the settlements have been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, are supported by no country in the world, and have been opposed by every American president since Richard Nixon. “We were enunciating twenty-plus years of U.S. policy,” observes Emanuel. “The difference was we weren’t just lip-synching it.

All the President’s Frenemies

Adam Serwer • The American Prospect • September 2011

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are deeply unhappy with President Obama. Here’s why:

For decades, the leadership of the black community represented the conscience of the United States, the voice articulating the contradictions between the nation’s stated ideals and the present inequality—speaking “truth to power” as King once did. Now, the “power” to whom truth must be spoken is a black man named Barack Obama, and the black-rights movement finds itself facing a complex contradiction in the presidency, in which a black man has ascended to the summit of American power even as the community as a whole remains without the power or influence to demand that its interests be addressed. To be true to that historical legacy, West and Smiley believe that opposition is the only moral course—and that uncritical support for the president is indefensible moral compromise.

An Interview With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Nicholas Kristof • The New York Times • September 2011

Nick Kristof interviews the Iranian president:

N.K.: So when you saw the photo of Neda Soltan, what did you think?

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longformorg. For more great writing, check out Longform.org’s complete archive of great political writing. Elon Green is a contributor to LongForm.org.

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