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Me on the Okavango Delta

My name is Ryan Cooper, and I am a writer and a journalist. This is my personal website.

Currently I'm a National Correspondent for I'm a blogger, basically.

Find me on Facebook, Twitter (also on the sidebar), and Google+. Find my stuff for The Week here.

Find some stuff I've written for TNR here.

I've written quite a bit for the Washington Monthly but there isn't a good way of finding it aside from like this. The same goes for the Washington Post, where I was a contributing writer for several months at Greg Sargent's blog.


  1. I recently watch your short video. You describe the environmental movement as a movement to set aside undeveloped land. That is not correct. That description does fit Teddy Roosevelt and a much earlier time.

    The environmental movement was very much concerned with toxins of all types - pesticides, herbicides, carcinogens, and environmental collapse from those toxins. Silent Spring was not about a park. It was also concerned with fisheries, wildlife, and it was the beginning of the organic food movement, an interest in herbs and natural healing, and a serious back-to-the-land movement for many people. We were also concerned about nuclear everything, military intervention for resources, and pretty much all the things that are occurring now except for global warming, which I was not aware of until later. The environmental movement of the 60s and 70s was far, far larger than you describe it to be.

    We just lost. Just like the Indians lost. There was a fork in the road that had to be taken, and we knew it, and the majority of the people and the powers that be did not take that road. They took the path to destruction.

    We knew that if it didn't happen then, it was very, very bad. It affected what did or did not occur in environmental activism for the next 20+ years.

    But it doesn't mean that we didn't understand or that we were not talking about and working for all the current environmental issues that plague the planet, because we were.

    We did and said the things that you are doing and saying. And we lost.

  2. My video was somewhat exaggerated, but much of what you demonstrate underlines my point. I'm not a fan of the word "toxin," but as you use it it's more a classic environmentalist issue rather than an existential one. Lead in gasoline, for example, is a transfer of resources from the broad population to the automobile and oil sectors in the form of unpriced externalities, not something that would eventually destroy those sectors themselves.

    The Indians lost but the white people won; the whites didn't end up slitting their own throats too.

    Now, I'm not blaming the environmentalists for this. Obviously they have been the first people to notice the problem of global warming, and for that they deserve a lot of credit. I'm just saying this is a different category of problem.

    1. You should have chosen something different than Lead in Gasoline as an example. The Lead that was in gasoline was fatal to the catalyst in catalytic converters. This is why it had to be eliminated as a cheap octane booster and why it was replaced with Methyl-butyl tertiary ether which while costing more than tetra-ethyl Lead does not kill the catalyst. Some things in chemistry can be a fatal toxin in a desired chemical reaction. The choice to remove the Lead from gasoline was made long before the Issue of global warming was invented. This was high school chemistry in the high school I went to. The reason for the catalytic converters was to reduce the level of Nitrous oxide emissions which end up as Nitrous acid as soon as it comes in contact with water vapor. That acid is pretty bad to breathe and will accumulate in areas with little wind or when a temperature inversion takes place. Another source of SMOG that can raise the death rate is coal fired power plants that have no scrubbers present to remove most of the particulates and SO2 from the Stack Gases. a prime example of that can be seen in photos of Beijing's pea soup polluted atmosphere. SO2 by the way promotes global cooling by reflecting Infra-red light spectra. Unless you consider death by asphyxiation an un-priced externality as opposed to death by what would clearly be labeled a toxin by the person dying, The room for argument on that term is clearly just a conscious choice of Orwellian semantic double speak.

    2. You're confusing the somewhat accidental method by which lead was removed from gasoline with the actual effects of lead in gasoline, which were brain damage and (probably) a gigantic crime spree, among other bad things. I know all about the chemistry of catalysis.

  3. Ryan..just read your refreshing article in The Week - Immigration problems solved by legalizing drugs...just making sure you know of LEAP?.... i am a co-founder and am law enforcement's advocate/lobbyist in the halls of Congress... i am at your service, howard

    PS.. i have some allies in the embassies here in DC...I was at the UN conf. in Vienna this past March..& i speak 4 languages

    1. Yeah, I know all about LEAP, I once brought Norm Stamper to my school back when I was in college. Great guy :-)

    2. Bitcoin hasn't failed (probably one of the dumbest articles i've read so far).

  4. The media needs to get over its blind hatred of Hillary ????? There are so many reasons to hate her but there is not enough room on this blog. A couple of reasons:
    1. Her acceptance of Bill's adultery is baffling (but she does it for political gain)
    2. She has been caught in so many lies that soon MSNBC will be calling her on it (but she does it for political gain)
    3. Her work as Secretary of State was unremarkable and no notable things were accomplished (but she did it for political gain)

    P.S. I love how you call out the Centrist Press. What a joke. About 95% of the press is liberal if their writings are compared to the definition.

    Craig Dombrowski

  5. Hey Ryan, this regards your recent Trump blather blog. You obviously don't spend enough time with regular Americans. Your "Trump is a fascist" drivel I'm sure gets all high fives at pinky raising cocktail parties with other parasites in the media. Maybe it gets you laid too, even with women. Why don't you get a real job and stop hiding behind your keyboard. Maybe you could get a construction job so when you spout off nonsense you get punched in the mouth.

    1. Construction is what put me through college, friend :-)

  6. Hi Ryan

    I just read your article How a 26 year-old White Wiman died a horrible death in an American jail. As someone who has worked in substance abuse facilities, I have to say that heroin withdrawals are not typically fatal like alcohol withdrawals can be. It wouldn't have been as simple as injecting her with Buprinorphine a couple of times to save her life, as your article suggested. People often suffer from painful withdrawals from Buprinorphine as well. My guess is that she was dehydrated (yes that's a complication from heroin withdrawal) and maybe this would have contributed to her death and maybe she desperately needed hydration instead of a heroin substitute to satisfy her opiate receptors. I get that you were trying to make the point that "it could happen to anyone" in an American jail but I found your article, about this particular case, inflammatory & too full of unknowns to make your case. Just my humble opinion

    1. Adequate health care does not seem to be a high priority in American jails. Some heart medications can be pretty tough to give up suddenly and have the worst effects that could be fatal over just a weekend. An unpaid traffic ticked or parking ticket could end up as a weekend in jail. Xarelto would be one example of bad news.

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  10. Ryan , your article headlined,"Trump, the ethnic cleanser", hits a snag when you refer to illegal immigrants as "practically model citizens". Hyperbole does not help you make your case.

    I say this as someone who greatly respects the work ethic of Latino immigrants. I think it is a total lie to say they are taking American jobs that anyone else wants. Here in Virginia, employers would like to stay legal, but they will do what they have to to fill manual labor jobs.

    The U.S. gov't is disingenuous about what happens to illegals. False SSN #s mean money into federal coffers that doesn't have to be paid out. Local businesses take advantage of these folks, who often cannot get a bank account, and who shop at the nearest over-priced venues.

    All that said, illegals take advantage of EDs at hospitals, use the schools while paying very little in property taxes,and make use of what social services they can. Some of them do not want U.S. citizenship,only to send home a modest amount of money to enable a better life upon return to their native lands (which seems fair enough to me). To say that they do not have a role in criminal activity is naive- anybody with nothing to lose will behave without constraint on occasion.

    I believe that they are a net positive to the nation as a whole, and that agriculture and the restaurant industry cannot do without them. A pathway to citizenship just makes sense, morally, and financially.A better question to be debating is just how many more people the country should allow in, and how to regulate this in the future. Do we need secure borders, and would they constitute another step towards a police state?

  11. Thank you for writing the piece on the Criminalization of Poverty, Ryan. Very sad. Question please: is there any data on the crimes/category/seriousness of crimes that the "bailed in" are arrested for ? With all the over crowding of prisons/jails etc, the correlation of the crimes category/seriousness etc should help make this a compelling issue for lawmakers to pursue. Thanks.

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  13. Just read your article which evidently seeks to minimize the danger of ISIS in the US, paraphrasing-the Orlando massacre was not terrorism but mass murder. Your article displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat ISIS poses and their manner of encouraging and sanctioning attacks here. Mischaracterizing events and minimizing the threat of a savage yet amorphous group of killers as you have represents a dangerous chase down a rabbit hole which effectively encourages gnoring an identifiable threat to public safety.

  14. I expect you've seen this?

    Get on over ther and reply, I should!

  15. Hi Ryan, re your article today (9/14) on the economy, there is indeed a new bubble . . . student debt. It is the new mortgage bundling, something which many universities and teacher's unions, as well as many others, are investing in. And you are right, we are in for another fall before too long.

  16. Ryan, I have read two of your articles since the Election and frankly if you are the new voice of liberalism and the Democratic Party I think you are going to see yourself in an ever growing minority. I researched you so I believe I owe you my short CV before I tell you why. I am a middle aged, MBA, professional with 6 patents to my name, I grew up in Texas and my great grandmother grew up on the Choctaw Reservation outside of Durant, OK. So while to most I look like the Irishman she married I have relatives that I like and am still in contact with that live on the Reservation. I am also an Independent who is a Fiscal Conservative and a Social Moderate, so I am an outcast of both Parties and a lot of my friends who identify with me also voted the same way.

    We walked into an election that we didn't want, there was a huge backlash when both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush came out to run. What part of no more Bush's or Clinton's did the two Parties not understand? Frankly I was really looking at the Third Parties hoping that one of them would really stand out because I was willing to throw away my vote to make a point that both Parties had lost a huge majority of the electorate.

    I wound up voting for Trump for the following reasons 1. He told me who he would appoint to the Supreme Court and I believe in the Constitution and could live with most of them - Hillary made some vague comments and after seeing what was done in the past I figured it was up for the highest bidder; 2. Hopefully Trump is a one term President, frankly I don't think the Country could stand two terms of either of them; 3. Trump is so disliked that anything he puts in front of Congress is going to have to pass a huge smell test - the Democrats have proven that they will line up behind anyone who identifies as a Democrat in leadership no matter how much of the Constitution or Law they have to bend completely out of shape. Yes I am a firm believer that no person's liberty, property, or future is safe while the Government is in session. This is my opinion but I believe if 'None of the Above' had been on the ballot it would have won in a landslide.

    However, with all of that instead of going ok we flat alienated a huge portion of the voting electorate you actually are right in step with the Democratic Liberal reply. That is to insult us who do not identify with you calling us racists, moral degenerates, Deplorables according to Hillary etc. Do you believe that doing that is going to change one mind of the people who didn't vote the way you wanted them to? When I took debate there was a rule that the first person who resorted to insults proved that they didn't have any viable facts.

    1. Hey Shawn, thanks for the comment. I have heard from a lot of people angry about Trump voters being cast as racist and sexist, and I suppose on one level I see where you're coming from. I imagine it is irritating to be cast that way when you didn't vote for Trump based on his racial appeals.

      On the other hand, this is a guy who was credibly accused of sexual assault by 12 different women, and whose signature policy is a ban of Muslim entry into the United States. It is definitionally bigoted to pin the responsibility for a tiny handful of acts on over a billion people, and I think it would be rather dishonest not to mention that fact.

      The way to understand that part of the article, however, is part of an inter-left debate. If you fail to mention Trump's bigotry then a big slice of the left will get incandescently furious at you (for rather justifiable reasons as I've said above). But that is part of an effort the end goal of which is placing the left on an economically egalitarian footing. Ideally the product of this would be a candidate who does not describe huge swathes of voters as "deplorables" or whatever while also maintaining a firmly anti-bigotry stance. Hopefully the next Democratic presidential candidate will be someone you could happily vote for.

      Out of curiosity, would you have supported Sanders if he had been the nominee?

  17. Ryan - I just read your opinion piece entitled "Hey, Trump voters! Paul Ryan is already coming for your Medicare." As a 57 yr. old taxpayer who, due to my income, has maxed out my Soc. Security payments probably each of the past 25 yrs. and who is expecting to be able to reclaim some of my payments into the system once I turn 67 I'd like to learn more about the down sides of privatization. I've read your piece and it is equating "privatization" with cuts and infers elimination. Can you please explain this? Also, why is Soc. Security and Medicare/Aid being considered an entitlement for everyone when many of us have contributed the maximum required to the system for many many years. I don't consider that an entitlement at all - rather a delayed benefit that I've paid for. Help me get a better understanding of all of this. Thanks. George S.

    1. Hi George. The typical form of Social Security privatization is some 401(k)-style account where you get to choose where you want to invest your payroll tax contribution. The biggest problem with this is that there would be a huge transition period where you stand up the new system. The structure of Social Security is such that all (or in fact more than all at the moment) of the payroll tax money is immediately kicked out the door to retired people. If you want people to start piling up an investment hoard, there are millions of people near retirement who have paid into the system their whole lives (like yourself) who don't have time to do so before they retire. Either you just completely screw those people, or you have some weird and probably horribly dysfunctional hybrid system where you slowly change over from one system to another for decades.

      More broadly, 401(k)s are terrible policy, and making Social Security more like them is no exception. It would be one more headache for individuals to manage, it might not even be possible for the financial sector to absorb so many more investments, and finance grifters would end up skimming off a ton of the money by conning people into high-fee accounts. There's simply no reason to shift it from the essentially government pension program into some private system.

      But conservatives have an ideological distaste for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, due to how they demonstrate how government can improve the lives of ordinary people, and have been gunning for them basically since they were implemented.

      I think it's totally fair to consider Medicare (and Social Security) not as an "entitlement" but as a system of basic social solidarity. You did your part paying into it when you were working, and so my generation coming up behind you will have your back when you retire. Personally I am deeply proud of getting that Social Security statement showing how I've been keeping my grandma out of the poor house.

      Hopefully in 10 or 30 years those programs will still be around.

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  19. I just saw some of your commentary. Well, it is readable and does explain what neoliberalism is. The concept of neoconservatism is well known, but the concept of neoliberalism is not. One of the issues with neoliberalism is that it is an elitist movement (I would say, of a bunch of privileged elite university graduates grown up and playing with power and money without really knowing what they are doing). One of its tenets is that it when it is exposed, it does not have to bother to account for itself. And it doesn’t. Neoliberals do not debate. They tell stories.

    How entertaining that you would accuse Trump of insulting every ethnic group “except white people”. The Clinton have gone beyond insults and into the realm of actual mass murder. Early in the campaign, Hillary Clinton said some about how Donald Trump was “committing political arson.”

    I went to a widely read online forum and said that Clinton had “a lot of nerve” accusing Trump of metaphorical political arson when “she and her handmaiden Janet Reno had committed actual political arson.”

    I don’t know if what I said had anything to do with it, but we never heard about this idea again. This in the context was a serious political gaffe, but when you control the mainstream of the press, you have the power to bury ideas when you need to.

    Let me clue you in one thing. Give up on the phantasm of bringing Scandinavian-style social democracy to America. I grew up in the belly of the beast, the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago. In spite of the fact that I look presentable (you’ll have to take my word), can speak articulately (take my word), and write articulately, I did not grow up in middle class economic conditions. The community was socioeconomically mixed in my day. The point is, I do know of what I speak.

    What American society needs today is what it has long needed, a few simple reforms. Free or low cost public college starting with community college is one of them. School choice in K-12 education. Tax based universal health insurance* is another. Not single payer, tax based universal health insurance. And there are more. But not a lot more, because not a lot more is needed to make the situation a lot more livable.

    None of these have anything to do with the old ultraliberal dream of using social democracy to make America into a new society of nice polite neo-Danes living in row houses and cuboid apartment blocks. Some of us wolly-haired Danes with a carved antelope on our coffee table. Some of us pale-hued Danes with a carved bear or a carved wolf on our coffee table. You get the idea.

    But it won’t work. Give it up.

    *Universal health insurance in three sentences: Institute a payroll tax of seven to eight percent collected along with social security tax. Give employer who provide a health and medical policy a credit against the tax. Take the money you raise, along with the general revenue already being spent on health services and buy everyone else a policy. Done.

    Let me add, in all likelihood, the Democratic Party, at least up to this point has not wanted any simple reforms passed. They do not want to lose the issues they have been able to use to incite their constituencies. The Democratic Party does need a new politics, that is true. But both the neoliberals and the left need to accept some discipline. Don’t count it. And no matter what they do, they are not going to get me, and, I am sure, a lot of people like me back, ever. That's politics. It works on bile and you can't change that.

  20. You have no credentials or experience in journalism. Can I have your job?

    1. Except for my six years' experience, you are correct. So no, you can't.

  21. Ryan...I just read your article "There will be a bloodletting in the Democratic Party" and have some serious concerns about several of your statements. You say that "broadly speaking, liberals want compromise, and conservatives don't". That is blatantly inaccurate and untrue. I am a middle-of-the-road conservative and feel that "broadly speaking, liberals want to move our country towards socialism, entitlements and take away many or our freedoms...and conservatives don't". As conservatives, we do NOT consider the American Constitution to be poorly designed, as you stated, but a document created by our founding fathers to protect the rights and privileges of all Americans...and a document to be fiercely proud of! You call it poorly designed? I could not disagree with you more.

    And thankfully our founding fathers had the foresight to create the Electoral College to insure that all states, including those with smaller populations, have a say in the election process. Clinton won the state of California by over 4-million votes. California is one of the most liberal left states in the union...and not typical of the majority of our population. I am SO thankful that we have the Electoral College to insure that the values, opinions and votes in the smaller states matter...and that they are recognized. Clinton won the popular vote with just one state. Thankfully, California can't make life altering decisions and choices for the majority of the nation.

    And please don't forget...the majority of Americans approve of the 90-day, temporary ban of Muslim immigrants until a thorough analysis of the entry and vetting process can be completed. This is about safety for American citizens...this not about a ban on a religion.

    Once again, broadly speaking, the minority liberal left is out there protesting because they lost what they think they are entitled to...the conservative majority is not.

  22. Net Present Value does account for time value of money spent.. ask a business colleague.
    Not sure your Public pension piece holds up without the assertion to the contrary.

  23. Hi Ryan, I just read your article on PBMs and was very disappointed with it. You provide essentially no evidence that PBMs are the root of high drug prices. The fact that they are profitable is actually evidence that they provide value to their customers, because no one is forced to use them. But either way, I did not see one fact to support your argument.

  24. Hey I ma doing a project and using one of your articles and I nwas wondering what degree(S) you have?

  25. In your article "The Troubling Origins of Trump's 'Alt-Left' Smear", you say that a far-left policy is necessary to combat white supremacy. As an example, you point to your article "To End Police Violence, We Have To End Poverty."

    I consider myself a centrist, and that article resonates with me. It doesn't sound far-left at all. It sounds like the kind of Capitalist-Socialist-fusion and Anti-Trotskyism that I admire in radical centrism. In fact, it sounds like something Obama might come up with.

    I suggest you examine yourself for bias regarding your assessment of the political gamut.

  26. You're one of my favorite writers on You do a much better job of articulating my point of view than I ever could. I particularly enjoyed your piece "The deep roots of American racism." It really speaks to my disilluionment with both Republicans and Democrats, with regard to the expoitation of, and discrimination against, Black Americans. I fully agree with you that neo-liberalism and overt racism work towards a similar (albeit to varying degrees) end goal, with black people at the bottom. Not sure what we (black people) can do, but always appreciate non-POC recognizing the America's race problem for what it is.

  27. Your article in The Week about Ted Cruz ( may just be the funniest characterization of any politician that I have ever read! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Love it! (and I *voted* for Cruz)


  28. I really enjoyed your book review and commentary, "Somewhere in Between," in The Nation. Americans do not understand that domestic policy is still distorted by confusion over Reaganomics (slash government, cut taxes, end regulations) which,as a denial of economic reality, always fails. Bill Clinton was a Reagan Democrat. Barak Obama could not overcome the GOP obstructionism based on a near-religious view of markets. These topics are explored in my book which may be previewed at Please note the EXCERPTS. I offer a complimentary copy to you on request.


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