New Republic, Feb. 13
The cover story explores differing perspectives on GOP foreign policy being proffered by possible candidates for the 2008 Republican ticket, such as Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, and Chuck Hagel. “What emerges is unlikely to be either the neoconservatism embraced by Bush administration purists or the realism that has traditionally been its counterpoint. Instead … there will be a struggle for a new direction, one that acknowledges Bush’s democratizing vision but incorporates lessons from the previous eight years.” … An opinion piece criticizes John Kerry’s attempt to out-liberal fellow Democrats with his 11th-hour push for a filibuster against the confirmation of high-court nominee Samuel Alito. “Kerry’s last-minute stand spoon-fed reporters a story line of Democratic division and infighting. What’s more, Democrats complained that this Gallipoli charge had handed Republicans an easy victory on the eve of the State of the Union—and had drowned out their own competing message.”—M.M.
Washington Monthly, March 2006 An article bemoans the right turn taken by Sunday morning political talk shows. Lately, the majority of “Sabbath Gasbags” appearing on these shows have been conservatives. The author complains that journalists from right-leaning publications such as the Weekly Standard are regular guests, while representatives from their lefty counterparts are absent. This slant leads to an impoverishment of debate, especially on the Iraq war. “Over time, the shows have begun to take on a Groundhog Day quality, with each Sunday bringing yet another tribute by an administration official or friendly Republican to the terrific ‘progress’ being made in Iraq.”… The cover article critiques Imposter, Bruce Barlett’s new book that claims the president is a “pretend conservative.” The author disagrees: Bush is a conservative, but one of a different stripe. “He’s a conservative who is defined by a visceral loathing of ‘60s-era ‘moral decay,’ not one who’s read the collected works of Russell Kirk and Milton Friedman or who has been inhaling National Review since he was a teenager.”— S.S.
Economist, Feb. 4 The cover story details the divisions within political Islam. While al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a Palestinian off-shoot) start in similar places ideologically, they “differ hugely over politics and tactics.” Al-Qaida dreams of the re-establishment of the caliphate, the Brotherhood (which, the article says is “a shadowy, not secret” organization) thinks of pragmatic, albeit sometimes violent, ways to work within national boundaries. … An editorial lauds President Bush for promoting democracy, even in the face of recent Islamist victories at the polls. While democracy “do[es] not guarantee that countries will make wise choices,” working within the political system may push Islamist parties toward the middle: “Having to keep voters sweet may instead force it to pay less heed to its ideology of destroying Israel and more to the Palestinians’ real needs and achievable goals.”—S.S.
New York Times Sports Magazine, Feb. 2006 The magazine debuts this Sunday with a cover story on semi-disgraced U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller. Miller’s speed on the slope has helped him get away with bad behavior and an indifference to technique and teamwork. But now that he is the public face of the U.S. ski team and a multimillionaire celebrity, he may have to choose between his bad-boy self and his career. Always a little out of control on the slopes, Bode is “a skier who manages to enact, by way of his sport, the drama of a soul in free fall struggling to rescue itself.” … Slate’s Bryan Curtis joins former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms at a home film-study session to deconstruct four plays that fans are likely to see during the Super Bowl.—B.W.
New York Review of Books, Feb. 23
A review essay by Daniel Mendelsohn refutes the argument that Brokeback Mountain is not really a gay film and criticizes both the flaks and the critics who are pushing it as a “universal” love story. “Both narratively and visually,” he writes, “Brokeback Mountain is a tragedy about the specifically gay phenomenon of the ‘closet’—about the disastrous emotional and moral consequences of erotic self-repression and of the social intolerance that first causes and then exacerbates it.” … John Banville pays homage to the life and work of the late English poet laureate Philip Larkin, by way of reviewing Richard Bradford’s new Larkin biography and a recent edition of his collected poems. Banville isn’t squeamish about Larkin’s dark side—the bigotry and bitterness and conservatism revealed in the publication of his correspondence. But “all this,” he writes, “is incidental to what matters, which is the poetry … [and] Larkin was—is—a great poet.”—B.W.
New York Times Magazine, Feb. 5 Noah Feldman stresses the importance of next week’s Senate judiciary hearings on the legality of the NSA’s domestic spying scheme. While Congress cannot make legal pronouncements on the administration’s proclivities for sacrificing the citizenry’s right to privacy for the sake of national security, “it has a critical role to play in shaping public deliberation, which in the end maybe just as legally influential. By debating what the N.S.A had done in pursuing security at the expense of privacy, the senators can put before the public the question of how we ought to strike that delicate balance far better than unelected judges could.”… In the current brouhaha in New York between city officials and the Hasidic community over the circumcision practice in which mohels clean blood from boys’ foreskins orally—a practice that resulted in three infants infected with herpes—Jeffery Rosen cautions that protecting religious freedom can result in a slippery slope toward a theocracy.—Z.K.
New York, Feb. 6 An article profiles the Weinstein brothers in their post-Miramax days, happier than ever at the helm of the new Weinstein Company. The article captures how the brothers’ considerable savvy and their aggressive tactics have made them wildly successful—while garnering them many enemies. “In 1979, two guys recognized independent film as an opportunity to make wildly profitable movies and not just have them check into a creaky art house, pick up a review in the Village Voice, and then be swept away with the Junior Mints on the floor,” says the piece … The cover article tracks the sexual escapades of a racy Stuyvesant High School clique that is “emblematic of the changing landscape of high-school sexuality across the country.” The teens stretch the definitions of their sexuality and create new terms to describe it. “Along with gay, straight, and bisexual, they’ll drop in new words, some of which they’ve coined themselves: polysexual, ambisexual, pansexual, pansensual, polyfide, bi-curious, bi-queer, fluid, metroflexible, heteroflexible,” the author writes.—S.S.
Atlantic, January/February 2006 An essay by Caitlin Flanagan examines the “blowjob craze” afflicting teenage girls, chastising the media’s sensationalism of the topic and reflecting on whether it indicates a change in the sexual attitudes of teenagers. She sends barbs at Dr. Phil (who, she writes “has the vast, impenetrable physique of a pachyderm and the calculated folksiness of a country-music promoter”) and Frontline in particular for their sensationalism. Flanagan recognizes that teenage attitudes toward sex and intimacy have evolved in disturbing ways. “[H]ere are America’s girls: experienced beyond their years, lacking any clear message from the adult community about the importance of protecting their modesty, adrift in one of the most explicitly sexualized cultures in the history of the world.”… An article highlights how the majority of Iraq war veterans running for congress are Democrats and muses on their prospects for long-term impact. While veterans of WWII had a long-term impact on Washington politics, Vietnam vets had an immediate impact but not staying power.—S.S.
Weekly Standard, Feb. 6 An editorial congratulates the Bush administration for shaking off the Harriet Miers debacle and choosing Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Alito’s nod “was surely a trade-up, so to speak, a net plus for judicial conservatism.” And it allowed Bush not to welsh on “choosing a jurist of the kind he long promised,” to conservative stalwarts. However, the moral of the nomination story, according to the piece, is this: The era of senators kowtowing to the president’s choice of judicial nominees is over. Going forward, “senatorial elections will remain highly relevant to the making of judges and justices.”… An article bangs the drums of war in support of ending Iran’s nuclear aspirations. The article cites the ever-increasing saber-rattling from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as reason enough to consider a military strategy.—Z.K.
The New Yorker, Feb. 6
Malcolm Gladwell draws parallels between ethnic profiling by law enforcement and the recent decision by the provincial government of Ontario, Canada, to outlaw pit bulls. He points out that East African men and Chechen women can be suicide bombers, not just Arabs; and chows and huskies are dog breeds that kill, not just pit bulls. He cites the improved success rates of law enforcement agencies that profile behavioral trends, not race. But logic doesn’t always win out. “It’s always easier just to ban the breed,” Gladwell concludes. … An article follows one of Louisiana’s “swamp nurses” as she makes her rounds through the Cajun heartland, attempting to school impoverished, undereducated young mothers about child care and self respect. “Infant-development strategies, like other forms of social capital, are perversely distributed in America—fetishized in places where babies are fundamentally secure and likely to prosper, undervalued in places where babies are not.”—M.M.
Time and Newsweek, Feb. 6 NSA and the war on terror: Newsweek reports on the quiet protest against the Bush administration’s war on terror policies by a group of Justice Department attorneys who say they were shunned after objecting to the administration “riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution.” Some have resigned their posts rather than endorse administration policies. “They worried deeply about whether their principles might put Americans at home and abroad at risk. Their story has been obscured behind legalisms and the veil of secrecy over the White House. But it is a quietly dramatic profile in courage.”… A Time piece puts a positive spin on the NSA scandal, suggesting that it may have upped Bush’s tough-on-terror status. Polls show that most Americans don’t mind warrant-less wiretapping if it is used against the bad guys, according to the article. “When a new threat on tape from Osama bin Laden emerged, Bush was set up to return to the stage as Protector in Chief, the Republicans’ award-winning role in the past two elections.”
On the cover: Newsweek’s cover package explores the unfolding world of DNA-based genealogical research. Research has connected people as far flung as New Mexico Catholics, tribal Africans, and European Jews. “As individuals track down their personal family narratives, population geneticists are seeking to tell the larger story of humankind,” says the article. Genetics are turning into a hobby for some searchers, revealing a worldwide family tree they never knew existed. … Time’s cover story, pegged to new immigration legislation, focuses on migrants who have flooded into the Hamptons from Tuxpan, Michoacan, Mexico, for the past 30 years. Tuxpenos, like millions of Mexican migrant workers, send money back home, which may actually destabilize the local economy. Though migrants earn a higher wage in America, “there has been a heavy price to pay for the opportunity: estranged marriages, wayward children, hostile neighbors here in the U.S. and a beloved hometown in Mexico whose long-term prospects seem to dim with each worker lost to the north,” according to the story.—M.M.