New Republic, Jan. 24 As Democrats struggle for power in Congress, they’d be wise to steal a trick or two from Newt Gingrich’s playbook, says Michael Crowley in this week’s cover story. “There is growing sentiment among Democrats that it is time to stop scorning the Gingrich revolutionaries … and start imitating them.” Younger Democrats may be more comfortable with Gingrich’s brazen tactics than their senior colleagues, but in order to regain the majority, “It’s time … to adopt George W. Bush’s motto: You’re either with us or against us.”… Another piece explains how Democrats can combat Bush’s plans to overhaul Social Security by analyzing the GOP’s defeat of the Clinton health care bill back in 1993. For instance, Gingrich and cohorts first took Clinton’s crime bill to task and used that momentum to successfully defeat his health bill. Some Democrats support this strategy today: “A fight over a highly polarizing Supreme Court nominee could be the magic bullet that saps energy from Social Security.”
Economist, Jan. 13 The magazine focuses on George Bush’s impending inauguration and lofty second-term goals: Reform the tort system, the tax code, and Social Security, among other things. Bush has an overloaded agenda, and it will be virtually impossible to achieve all goals. Tort reform seems most likely because of progress made during his first term; the privatization of Social Security, on the other hand, “will be a long, tough battle. Failure need not sink Mr. Bush’s whole agenda, but it will overshadow any progress elsewhere.”… Another article applauds the president’s ability to recognize the need for, and plan for, sweeping change but criticizes his methods of implementing said change: His “follow-through has been shambolic and unnecessarily risky.”… A report on Michael Chertoff assesses the pros and cons of a former prosecutor and federal judge taking over the reins of the Department of Homeland Security, concluding that whatever happens, he’ll “surely fit in better at cabinet meetings than Mr. Kerik.”
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 16 In a cogent analysis of the complex world of Social Security, Roger Lowenstein concludes that despite Bush’s plans for reform, “the program is not in crisis.” Small changes can be made, which “could include raising the cap … and tax increases,” among other things, but a grand overhaul of the program is not necessary. Because any surplus in Social Security goes into the government’s coffers, the extra money can tempt a boost in spending and, in turn, increase the deficit. To prevent this, “the government needs to exercise discipline” … in the years when Social Security is comfortably in the black. … A piece on tax reform says that given Republican control in Congress, Bush may be able to replace the Tax Reform Act of 1986 with his own, which would leave “[t]he tax code considerably less progressive than it once was” as it favors the wealthy above middle and lower classes.
Weekly Standard, Jan. 17
Philip Nobile calls C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln”a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized—from me, as it happens.” Nobile was a co-author on the book, but left when Tripp refused to acquiesce to Nobile’s complaints that Tripp was intentionally shading the book to convince readers of Lincoln’s homosexuality: “Tripp had Lincoln boinking four bosom buddies during his prairie years, but there was not a whiff of this supposed hanky-panky anywhere in the record.”… An article about Social Security reform says that Bush’s plan to delay his agenda will be an opportunity for “substantive debate.” It offers some criticism about Bush’s ideas, stating that Bush “is right to want individuals to have personal accounts, but these could supplement Social Security, rather than supplant a part of it.”
The New Yorker, Jan. 17 When staff writer Dan Baum turned on CNN and witnessed one military officer’s strategy for dealing with an unruly crowd of Iraqis, it prompted him to investigate how soldiers learn today. He found that contemporary military officers are more creative strategic thinkers than their forebears, a development that may be attributed to their being Gen Xers, who are “markedly more self-reliant and confident of their abilities.” This autonomous nature has led soldiers to share information with each other online to learn how to manage situations from how to cope with death to the appropriate etiquette when interacting with Iraqis. The military has embraced these untraditional learning strategies; by 2003, it was hosting two popular Web sites: Companycommand.com and Platoonleader.org. … A profile of the renowned Japanese animator, director, and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki explores his unsurpassed ability to tap into children’s minds and imaginations, as well as Japanese society’s fascination with animation.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 17
Tsunami aid. Newsweek and U.S. News report on relief efforts in Aceh, an Indonesian province currently experiencing civil war, where rescue workers must worry about their own safety among gangs, Islamist extremists, thieves, and hijackers, as well as deal with the devastation. Newsweek focuses on the political repercussions of humanitarian efforts. American relief efforts may draw the United States closer to the region and instigate its involvement in trying to bring peace there. U.S. News looks at how Banda Aceh, the province’s capital, is coping with the tragedy: “The medical relief effort is hampered by all sorts of logistical problems.” Although almost $4 billion in aid has been raised in the wake of the tsunami, “[r]aising money is just the beginning. Delivering supplies to the people who need them turned out to be the greater challenge.” Once these more logistical obstacles are surmounted, “political ones remain.”
Torture. In the wake of Alberto Gonzales’ Senate confirmation hearing, Time and Newsweek turn to recent FBI evidence concerning the abuse of Guantanamo detainees. Newsweek reports that Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy both wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller to complain that he should have made his agents’ disturbing eyewitness accounts public sooner. …Time gives a rundown of the United States’ torture policy, addressing how the administration came to approve the use of additional interrogation techniques to get information out of prisoners. The article also questions whether the CIA may have been involved in prisoner abuse. Though “ex-CIA officials insist they obeyed the letter of the law,” the article says, “it remains impossible to know what rules the CIA is following when it conducts interrogations in ‘undisclosed locations’ outside the U.S.”
Sound mind, sound body? Time presents a collection of articles about “the science of happiness” that cite some already well-known facts, such as the benefits of optimism on your health: “[H]eart-disease rates among men who called themselves optimistic were half the rates for men who didn’t.” Another article reports that money, age, and education have little impact on one’s happiness, but spending quality time with loved ones does. … Newsweek’s cover story focuses on “nutritional genomics,” which looks at “the interplay of nutrients and genes.” Because of genetics’ impact on health, it’s impossible to devise a diet that’s successful for everyone. For instance, one variant of the protein known to affect cholesterol “is potentially lethal. It increases the risk of diabetes, it raises total cholesterol, and it reverses the usual protective effects of moderate drinking.” Such knowledge can help those carrying this variant to alter their lifestyles to reduce these risks.