Other Magazines

Putin the Menace

Economist on Russia, the bully of the Eastern Bloc.

Economist, Dec. 16 An editorial rails against Vladimir Putin’s “loutish behaviour” when it comes to managing Russia’s oil and gas supplies. A series of moves, including the apparent blackmailing of Ukraine’s new government by cutting off the country’s gas, have earned Russia the reputation of neighborhood bully. Russia’s insistence on refining its own oil through the state-owned energy company, Gazprom, doesn’t help, either. The editors predict these actions “will probably backfire,” as the country risks scaring off foreign investors. They chalk Putin’s self-defeating tactics up to his “belief that energy is a weapon with which to restore the lost greatness of the Soviet Union.” Dubai is pushing to become a leading financial hub—an effort a special report calls“the emirate’s most audacious gamble.” With the number of “very rich” citizens expected to hit 1.8 million by 2010, the government is building new legal and regulatory infrastructure and opening new markets to attract investors.— C.B.

New Republic, Dec. 25 In a cover piece, Andrew Sullivan sketches out the growing tension on the right over homosexuality and, in particular, Mary Cheney. For conservatives precariously caught between public support for anti-gay policies and private respect for gay friends and peers, Cheney’s existence—not to mention her pregnancy—is “an inconvenient truth.” Even as the state of Virginia, where she lives, passed a constitutional amendment limiting gay rights, Dick Cheney has declined to confront the matter: “And so the politics of ‘family values’ requires the vice president to ignore attacks on his own family.” A recently released report documenting Mitt Romney’s record on social issues “could spell death” for the Massachusetts governor and presidential hopeful, according to a piece. The report even ventures into the prurient by connecting Romney, however tenuously, to fisting and golden showers: “[W]hat could play worse with the Falwell set than implying Romney’s sympathy for women with penises?”— C.B.

Texas Monthly, January 2007
The cover piece honors Dick Cheney with its 2007 “Bum Steer of the Year” award, lauding the VP as “a man who’s a real blast to go hunting with, who this year gave the country (and his friend Harry Whittington) a shot in the arm, among other places.” A piece examines the debate over proposals to build 17 new coal power plants in Texas—a plan that would more than double the state’s reliance on the “dirtiest energy source.” What environmental advocates portray as an issue of public good versus private interest is complicated by the growing population, the rise in natural-gas prices, and the decline of nuclear power in the region. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey argues in an interview that the Republicans lost the elections after botching key issues like Terri Schiavo and illegal immigration: “Who is the genius that said, ‘Now that we’ve identified that [the Hispanic community] is the fastest-growing demographic in America, let’s do everything we can to make sure we offend them’? Who is the genius that came up with that bright idea?”— C.B.

New York Times Magazine, Dec. 17 In the cover story, philosopher Peter Singer tackles the big questions surrounding philanthropy. Criticism that Bill Gates’ generosity was motivated by Microsoft’s antitrust woes rather than altruism “tells us more about the attackers than the attacked,” Singer contends. Rather, such generosity should make us rethink our own behavior. He rejects the idea that people should only contribute their “fair share” to society, but notes the risks of asking for more: “If the majority are doing little or nothing, setting a standard higher than the fair-share level may seem so demanding that it discourages people who are willing to make an equitable contribution from doing even that.” A piece profiles Pastor Dan Stratton, a Manhattan evangelist whose congregation includes the homeless and Wall Street tycoons, alike. Stratton, a former commodities trader, dispenses financial advice with the religious. ”I’ve seen traders come into our meetings right from the floor, hardened guys, and they just burst into tears,” a congregation member says.— C.B.

New York, Dec. 18
A piece follows New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi as he picks up the pieces in the midst of an ethics scandal. When news broke during election season that Hevesi had assigned a state employee to chauffeur his ailing wife around, Hevesi pleaded security concerns. He still won the election by 17 points but lost many allies, including Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, whose anti-corruption ethos trumped friendship. With Spitzer taking the helm, Hevesi’s presence may serve as “not only a tonal embarrassment but also an early hint that the new sheriff’s zeal may not match his power.” A profile of millionairess socialite Louise MacBain, who regularly hosts ambassadors, artists, and Nobel laureates, calls her “as gusty, ruthless, and frivolous as a heroine in a Judith Krantz novel.” She organizes the Global Creative Leadership Summit—an “art Davos,” she calls it—and publishes Art + Auction magazine. “Working with me is a vocation, a calling,” she says. “It’s not for everyone.”— C.B.

Weekly Standard, Dec. 18 Norman Podhoretz eulogizes Jeane Kirkpatrick, calling the Democrat turned Republican former American ambassador to the United Nations a neoconservative in the best sense of the word and a “true American hero” of the Cold War: “[S]he stood up magnificently for this country at a time when it was under a relentlessly vicious assault at home no less than abroad,” he writes. And not only could Kirkpatrick practice statecraft with the best and brightest of Turtle Bay, she was impressive in the kitchen, too. Fred Barnes slams the Iraq Study Group report as “unrealistic and wrongheaded.” The crux of the report’s futility is that the panel was comprised of washed-up Washington “wise men” looking to “bail out an unsophisticated president from the consequences of his reckless intervention in Iraq that many of them … opposed from the start,” Barnes complains.—Z.K.

Time and Newsweek, Dec. 18
A Newsweek piece describes White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten’s role in orchestrating a response to the Iraq Study Group report. Since taking office last April, Bolten has spearheaded a “slow, careful effort” to convince Bush to hear dissenting voices on Iraq. After the ISG report was released last Wednesday, Bolten sought to give it a “respectful response” without embracing its conclusions. Bush called a meeting of key Congress members to solicit advice: “Bush the Decider transformed himself into Bush the Listener.” A dominant theme of the ISG report is the transfer of power to Iraqis, but handing over the reins to Iraqi police forces may prove difficult, as many in the ranks support Shiite militias, Time reports. Security forces have been “so thoroughly infiltrated by militias that some U.S. trainers will have to bring in new recruits and retrain much of the current batch before they can turn combat responsibilities over to the Iraqis.” Some police are apparently contributing to the violence: In the violent region of Mekanik, the murder rate dropped by 60 percent after police left. A U.S. officer voices concern that Iraqi police might target American troops: “If the police did turn on us during a patrol, it would be the last thing they ever had the misfortune of doing.”

Odds and ends: Time’s cover piece contends that educators will need to teach students “21st century skills” that emphasize creativity over mere knowledge accumulation in order to prepare them for the future. Success depends as much on a person’s EQ, or emotional intelligence, as his or her IQ: “We have to emphasize communication skills, the ability to work in teams and with people from different cultures,” says a former CEO. A Newsweek cover piece argues that Jewish family values shaped Christianity. Jesus preached that his followers should treat each other like biological relatives, de-emphasizing one’s earthly family in favor of a spiritual community: “What matters is the family, as he put it, of man.”—C.B.

New Yorker, Dec. 18 George Packer explores the value of social science in fighting terrorism. After comparing counterinsurgency efforts in East Asia, social scientist David Kilcullen concluded that radical separatist movements have less to do with religion than with social networks. “This is human behavior … not ‘Islamic behavior,’ ” he contends. He suggests fixing local problems before they become part of a global jihad movement, sending terrorists a “counter-message,” in part, by creating anti-jihadist Web sites that aren’t necessarily pro-America: “You’ve got to be quiet about it. You don’t go in there like a missionary.” A piece examines the debate over access to experimental drugs. Families who seek potentially lifesaving drugs for dying relatives are up against an FDA entrusted with guaranteeing drug safety. A new bill would grant dying patients access to experimental drugs after only preliminary phases of testing. But skeptics fear deregulation goes too far: “The bill opens the space for products that are sold by charlatans,” says a senior VP at the biotech firm Biogen Idec. — 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.