New Republic, Feb. 11 The cover story cautiously applauds the State of the Union address, especially Bush’s hint at pre-emptive military action against Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. “There is no bitter or more stupid standpoint on the problem of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons than hindsight.” The editors didn’t like Bush’s allusion to an anti-Iraq coalition—no meaningful one could be assembled—or his revival of missile defense. … The “TRB”column wonders when the Enron backlash is going to hit Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La. Flush with campaign contributions from accounting firms, Tauzin and other House GOP members thwarted the SEC’s attempt at meaningful industry reform. … A piece encourages Democrats to defeat the GOP tax cut by “demagoguing” Medicare. The Dems should point out, for example, that the tax cut “shortchanges Medicare by as much as $550 billion over 10 years.” Is this strategy intellectually dishonest? Sure—but no more dishonest than Republican attempts to portray the Dems as tax-raisers.—B.C.
Economist, Feb. 2 The cover story heralds Bush’s State of the Union address as a landmark event in the war on terrorism. The gist of the speech may not be totally new, but he did clearly lay out two important points: 1) North Korea, Iraq, and Iran will be disarmed by whatever means necessary; and 2) American foreign policy will be dictated by nonnegotiable demands. … A piece describes America’s latest effort to increase the efficiency of life: speed-dating. Participants pay $35 to attend an event where they rotate through a series of up to 50 three-minute “dates” with other eager singles. After each brief introduction, the participants rate each other. A computer then plays yenta, and a few days later, everyone receives an e-mail informing them of their best match.— J.F.
New York Times Magazine, Feb. 3
Deborah Sontag’s cover story observes Palestine by profiling a handful of its residents. Sayeed Siyam is a Hamas leader who spouts rhetoric about suicide bombers as “liberators.” The Khoury brothers moved to Palestine after the 1993 Oslo declarations, the last serious hope of peace, and set up a thriving light beer operation. Last year, amid the violence, their business declined 75 percent. … A piece profiles Bryan Buckley, director of six of this year’s Super Bowl commercials. The author claims his ads are “as vital and at least as full of ideas” as the films of Errol Morris and the Coen brothers. … A photo essay talks to the wives of NFL coaches. Carol Vermeil’s husband, Dick, coached Philadelphia to a Super Bowl, then retired because of exhaustion; coached St. Louis to a Super Bowl, then retired because of exhaustion; now, to her dismay, he’s back with Kansas City.—B.C. Time, Feb. 4
The cover story handicaps the Enron wars in Washington. Democrats, ecstatic about the company’s ties to the Bush administration, are picking new fights about taxes, campaign-finance reform, and energy policy. President Bush would like the whole thing to be swept away by his upcoming State of the Union speech. … A preview of the John Walker Lindh trial says it might end quietly in a guilty plea. Prosecutors don’t have enough to charge him with treason, but most experts think they can get a conspiracy conviction. Lindh’s lawyer will argue that he never hurt an American and was denied a lawyer (though he signed a waiver). … A piece reports on the ever-declining importance of Yasser Arafat. Israeli tanks humiliate him by keeping guard over his bunker every day, and the United States has threatened to cut off all ties. Meanwhile, the threat of terrorism in Israel increases.— J.D. Newsweek, Feb. 4 The cover story profiles Bill Gates’ $24 billion philanthropic juggernaut. The Gates Foundation applies business standards to charitable giving, leveraging matching grants from other organizations and demanding performance from recipients. Now focused on maternal and child health care, he hopes to make “rich-world health conditions a human right.”… A piece rips into Enron Chairman Ken Lay’s PR mantra that he didn’t know what was going on. In fact, his “epic arrogance” turned him into “the high-rolling tycoon who begins to believe his own press releases.” Lay was primarily responsible for the hard-driving and ultimately shady corporate culture that ran Enron into the ground. … An article predicts that with the record industry in deep trouble, labels will start dumping their top stars, a trend EMI started last week when it bought out Mariah Carey’s $100 million contract. Downloadable music and the recession are eating into sales, and big-name acts that don’t always sell well (R.E.M., for example) will suffer.— J.D. The New Yorker, Feb. 4 A Nicholas Lemann piece checks in on John McCain and finds the same straight-talking maverick who made a run at the presidency in 2000. He has been giving the administration hell by positioning himself to President Bush’s right in the war on terrorism and to his left in matters domestic. McCain still charms the pants off everybody, and now he has carved out a coherent politics opposed to business-centric pork spending. Don’t bet against him trying again 2004.… An article about Fat Possum Records, a blues label, glorifies the nihilism of the old Mississippi musicians. Founder Matthew Johnson is frantically recording septuagenarian bluesmen such as R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford before they die, but most of the piece rejoices in outlandish tales of drinking, violence, squalor, and womanizing. T-Model Ford was beaten so badly by his father that he lost a testicle 60 years ago, but he still has a taste for young white women.— J.D.
Harper’s, February 2002 The cover story challenges molecular biology’s “central dogma,” which holds that DNA, and DNA alone, accounts for an organism’s constellation of inherited traits. In fact, a process known as “alternative splicing” destroys any one-to-one correspondence between a gene’s chemical structure and the proteins that are expressed. To predict a gene’s effect on inheritance, one needs to know about a whole host of auxiliary enzymes—a fact that frustrates the purposes of the Human Genome Project and suggests all sorts of problems with genetic engineering. What’s incredible, says the author, is that “alternative splicing” has been widely known about for years. … An acerbic piece of satire condemns the commercialization of the Academy. Universities are increasingly seeing things in term of profit, efficiency, and market pressures. What’s getting lost in the mix, of course, is good education.— J.F.
Weekly Standard, Feb. 4 Under a pretext of discussing the nature of human nature, the discursive cover article revisits David Brooks’ Bobos. America’s blasé bourgeois bohemians support biotechnology because, well, who wouldn’t want to add 10 years to their life? Of course, biotechnological progress may well destroy human nature and, in the end, make life more hellish. But what a fuss it would be for Bobos to raise their political will to stop it. … An article describes China’s persecution complex. Beijing strategists grumble that America is using Sept. 11 as an excuse to encircle China by putting troops on the country’s back porch and befriending many of the region’s major players. … A piece rates the oratory of four Democratic presidential hopefuls, none of whom are silver-tongued. Joe Lieberman comes out on top with 30 out of a possible 40 points. Dick Gephardt finishes last with only 15.— J.F.
The Nation, Feb. 11 The cover story wonders whether congressional Democrats will stand up to Bush this session. After rolling over repeatedly after Sept. 11, the Dems now face a number of issues, such as federal farm policy and campaign-finance reform, on which they can challenge the president. But, most important, they have to decide whether to push to scale back last year’s tax cuts. By aggressively confronting Bush on these issues, the Dems might be able to score as big in 2002 as they did in the 1982 midterm recession election, when they picked up 26 House seats. … A piece by Howard Zinn bemoans the media’s sparse coverage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. To compensate, he offers a series of short vignettes vivifying the war’s “collateral damage”—a sort of “Portraits of Grief” of Afghan victims.— J.F.