Names, Please (Updated)

I don’t know whether David Appell disagrees with Matthew Yglesias’s hipshot opinion on Western water policy or whether he denies MY’s right to talk about it.

RoboticGhost doesn’t ask any journalist in the southwest who covers the water beat 40 hours a week, or any of a half-dozen writers who have written detailed and thoughtful books about the west and its water, or a thousand administrators whose job it is to ensure as smooth a water flow in the sw as possible. He asks a casual traveler.
And this casual traveler, who has spent his entire life living in apartments on the eastern seaboard, actually thinks he has something valuable to say, because a year ago he spent a few days in a Best Western somewhere in the southwestern US.

With no evident local knowledge whatsoever — even admitting as much — Yglesias nevertheless offers a solution to this enormous, complex problem, a solution based purely on some political theory he read in a magazine somewhere last year and which has absolutely no naunced understanding of the complexity of the true situation on the group or its many years worth of layered complexity or what privatizing water supplies would mean for hundreds of thousands of southwestern ranchers or the million living there facing ever rising water bills.

Far be it from me to defend MY. I note, however, that Mr. Appell mentions no names. I couldn’t name one journalist in the southwest who “covers the water beat 40 hours a week”. If Mr. Appell had, he’d have performed a service.

If you’re interested in the subject of water in the American Southwest, a good place to start getting a basis of understanding would be Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert. It’s a fascinating and infuriating subject which I suspect will be coming increasingly to the forefront as the growing populations of Southwestern states contend for scarce resources.


It reflects poorly on me but one can’t be perfect, can one? I can’t resist a snark of my own. Arthur Twining Hadley’s quip may be a hundred years old but it’s still true:

“You can always tell a Harvard man when you see him, but you can’t tell him much.”

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