Long-form journalism Sunday

Let us now give props to hardworking reporters.

The Times, maybe taking a hint from the Globe that large-scale China reporting wins awards and probably fondly dreaming of a country in which poorly-built vanity skyscrapers inspire awe, hits us — unh — two times. Jim Yardley finds that when you dam the fuck out a river and dump some hundred instant cities along its legnth, things get tricky. (Subsidiary props to Mike Davis for highlighting the relationship [PDF] between rivers, food, markets, and state power, thereby allowing me to dust off the phrase “hydraulic despotism” — ooh, it’s satisfying merely to type such things.)

In the magazine, I can guarantee a good time for all the Traub-haterz in the house. James Traub goes to Africa, the continent that will not get any pudding if it doesn’t eat its beef, and is frustrated to find that forty years of Chinese diplomatic attention, coupled with billions of dollars in investment, is among the few factors giving African economies hope for the future. You can see his poor brain get whipped back and forth, when he finds out that Angola is using resource revenues to successfully build infrastructure, and he sees it working, but then wrenches his head away from the scene — no, no, the economists and the IFIs haven’t given this their imprimatur yet, it must be wrong somehow, these terrible illusions fill my head… get… out… of… my miiiind…

You know what balls are? Balls are an American Jew kicking around Iraq for several years, all speaking Arabic, all fronting that he’s Bosnian, all reporting the shit out of it and not breaking a sweat. The New Yorker has now gently guided George Packer, who led the magazine’s early pro-war reporting with his breathless Chalabiage, off to misunderstand other places, hopefully clearing the decks for Nir Rosen to show us how it’s done (in the Boston Review — c’mon Remnick, let’s give Nir some shine).

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