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Coming Green

The Economist on alternative-energy sources.

Economist, Nov. 18 The cover package compares the current surge in clean-energy investments to the dot-com boom. With global green investment estimated at $63 million, governments are increasingly subsidizing alternative energy. But the article argues that a global carbon tax would be “a more efficient way to close the price gap between fossil and alternative fuels.” A piece chalks up clean-energy enthusiasm to rising oil prices, energy security concerns, and fears of global warming. Investment spiked after President Bush promised in his State of the Union address to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. But some analysts call it another case of irrational exuberance: “There’s too much money chasing too few opportunities,” one analyst says. “How is it possible that this many solar companies are going to succeed? They’re not.” A piece argues that dialogue with Iran and Syria isn’t the panacea for Iraq some Americans seem to think. Iraq’s strife is internal, and Iran and Syria don’t have enough influence over its Shiite majority to make a difference.— C.B.

New Republic, Nov. 17 In an issue devoted to Iraq, the editors “deeply regret” their early support for the war. There is no reason to expect a morally or strategically satisfying outcome, let alone victory, they write. That said, “America’s role in creating this Mesopotamian hell does not diminish our moral obligations. It increases them.” Peter Beinart argues that the United States “has only one card left to play in Iraq: the threat to leave immediately.” He proposes offering the Sunnis a greater stake in Iraq’s oil wealth and promising the Shiite majority we’ll send more U.S. troops if they cooperate. If they don’t respond, “leave as fast as we humanly can.” Richard A. Clarke advocates immediate withdrawal. The going arguments for staying—to honor the dead troops or to prevent a spiral of violence—suffer from foggy logic: “Chaos will almost certainly follow any U.S. withdrawal, whether in 2008 or 2012.”— C.B.

Mother Jones, November and December A sprawling cover piece argues that human beings must adapt to the challenge of global warming. Twelve geological “tipping points,” from Amazon deforestation to the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, may force climate change to spin out of control. According to the article, to avoid catastrophe, we must reach a “13th tipping point: the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility.” Americans fall along a spectrum from “naysayers” to “alarmists,” the latter of which will grow with sustained public education, says an expert. But the combination of sensationalist media and “social loafing”—the tendency to slack when one is not accountable—has delayed progress. A piece questions the value of corporate social responsibility. For every conscience-driven business like Ben & Jerry’s or Seventh Generation, there are numerous firms looking to cut costs wherever possible. The author recommends good old Roosevelt-era regulation. This would mean imposing penalties that “put possible global warming liability on the same scale as the fallout from asbestos.”— C.B.

New York Times Magazine, Nov. 19 The cover story explores the dynamics of families in which lesbian couples raise children conceived with sperm donated by gay male friends, focusing on the roles of the male donors. They tend to fall somewhere on a ” ‘more than an uncle but less than a father’ continuum,” and their relationships to their children, and their children’s mothers, tend to be different—and more vexed—than they anticipated. As the number of gay couples raising children skyrockets, more people are encountering a legal system that doesn’t know how to treat nontraditional families, as well as the very difficult business of reinventing the “family.” A profile of poet Paul Muldoon casts him as a joyful trickster and a stone-cold genius, a master of baroque technical poesy and an amateur indie-rocker, acknowledging that “sometimes all [Muldoon’s] technical wizardry seems an end its self,” but not seeming to mind.— B.W.

New York, Nov. 30
A piece predicts that winning Congress was a cakewalk compared to what’s in store for Democrats as they try to figure out what to do about the war. After framing the elections around President Bush’s bumbling of Iraq, voters are going to look to the party for a solution. The writer imparts this advice: “Like it or not, we still live in a dangerous time—an age of terror, even. And like it or not, cleaning up the mess in Iraq involves more than merely bugging out.” Jay McInerney pens a eulogy to the no-longer socially relevant Upper East Side. New York’s crème de la crème is giving up zip-code snobbery and trading sweeping Central Park views for the graffitied, yet gentrified, landscape of the city’s downtown. McInerney pinpoints the beginning of the trend: when Upper East Side princeling John F. Kennedy Jr. put down stakes in Tribeca—Z.K.

Weekly Standard, Nov. 20
An editorial predicts that President Bush can salvage his legacy by committing 50,000 more troops to Iraq. Withdrawing troops would likely produce a collapse, the result of which “could well be the creation of safe havens, perhaps quite extensive ones, for international terrorist groups.” The editors look askance at the Baker commission’s plans for “redeploying” troops out of the most violent areas and for talks with Iran and Syria. By committing more ground forces to clear and hold Baghdad, “the president would be able to hand off an Iraq that had some prospect of success instead of one heading inexorably toward disaster.” With skirmishes over Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Prize revealing deep schisms in Turkish society, a piece argues that Turkey’s greatest obstacles to membership in the European Union are not religious but political. The author cites “the state ideology of Turkishness, the systematic denial of minority ethnic and religious rights, and the excessive influence of the military within the government” as factors contributing to the nation’s denial.— C.B.

New Yorker, Nov. 20 A piece traces Donald Rumsfeld’s military vision back to Andrew Marshall, a national-security guru schooled in Cold War strategy. After the Berlin Wall fell, Marshall pushed for a “Revolution in Military Affairs” that would scrap expensive arms systems in favor of precision weaponry. When Rumsfeld returned as secretary of defense, he assigned Marshall to oversee the transition to a “lighter, more agile” force able “to project lethal power over great distances.” Rumsfeld never realized such a plan would have “very little application to certain kinds of conflict, such as a counter-insurgency fight against some indigenous guerrilla force.” A piece examines a phenomenon called “ocean acidification.” The ocean naturally absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide, producing carbonic acid. Plunging oceanic pH levels may corrode marine organisms, particularly coral reefs, and upset the food chain. Members of Congress asked climate scientist Ken Caldeira to give a “stabilization target” for CO 2. “If you’re talking about mugging little old ladies, you don’t say, ‘What’s our target.’ … You say, ‘Mugging little old ladies is bad, and we’re going to try to eliminate it,’ ” he says.— C.B.

Time and Newsweek, Nov. 20
A Newsweek cover piece examines President George W. Bush’s relationship with his father in light of the recent midterm elections. The party’s “thumping” at the hands of the Democrats signals a turn away from the neoconservatism of Bush 43 to the old-school centrism of Bush 41. Now, with the help of his dad’s confidantes, James Baker, Lee Hamilton, and Robert Gates, Bush Jr. has a chance to make a “remarkable course correction” and repair the family legacy. In a Time cover piece, Joe Klein declares the election a victory for “realism” in both parties. Exit polls suggest the war was not the deciding issue. But the administration’s stubbornness in Iraq—plus President Bush’s decision not to sack Rumsfeld until after the elections—paved the way for pragmatic Democrats. Campaign architects Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel selected candidates from across the Democratic spectrum, including a few pro-lifers: “The common denominator wasn’t liberalism or moderation but the ability to win.”

Odds and ends: History will not judge Donald Rumsfeld kindly, according to a Newsweek piece. The man who set out to streamline the military and “exorcise the ghosts of Vietnam forever” has instead stranded the United States in Iraq, an equally messy quagmire. “He will be seen as the Robert McNamara of this generation,” retired Lt. Gen. William Odom says. As Saddam awaits hanging, a Time piece discusses capital punishment in Iraq. The interim prime minister reinstated the practice in 2004 and now Iraqis are executed regularly. Escalating street violence may play a role: “From the Iraqi point of view, they don’t like to see a lot of people get killed every day and have a low number of executions,” an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says. But human rights groups fear many executions go unreported.—C.B.