Harper’s, August 2008 An essay traces how, in the 1980s, a young Jack Abramoff helped transform conservatism into a money-making scheme for its adherents. “[C]onservative politicians had long served business interests, and so businesspeople had long tended to be conservatives.” But the disgraced lobbyist developed the idea of “conservatism as business, conservatism as a source of profit for the people [he] once referred to as political entrepreneurs.”… A piece by Ken Silverstein examines the economic interests involved in directing foreign policy with China, revealing that “most of America’s so-called experts on China, including advisers to Obama and McCain, have a definite if unacknowledged stake in keeping close ties with Beijing.” The current policy of “constructive engagement” is not “working well for the United States or the Chinese people … [but] it is working quite well for the very individuals from whom we might hope to see a new approach emerge: namely, America’s foreign-policy elite. …”
New York Times Magazine, July 27 The cover story is a photo essay on the women of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the polygamist group whose children were taken away by the state of Texas earlier this year. The piece notes that “in a case … about doctrinaire male authority, and supposed abuse committed by men, it’s the women of the F.L.D.S. who have largely had to assume a public mantle these past months, making court appearances, trying to defend both their faith and their life style in the face of deep skepticism.”… A profile of European Grand Prix wunderkind Lewis Hamilton observes that the black British racer has been “compared with another sports prodigy, Tiger Woods.”… In her “Medium” column, Virginia Heffernan urges television producers to stop targeting young audiences: “Give up on the idea of edgy, contemporary shows featuring characters that mirror the audience producers hope to attract (’Will and Grace,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘Seinfeld’). Hip quarter-life characters no longer watch television, so why should their audience?”
American Scholar, Summer 2008 An essay by a recently retired Yale professor warns that an elite education “teaches you to think that measure of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense.” The gilded universities also encourage “entitled mediocrity”—the notion that “for the elite, there’s always another extension, a bailout, a pardon, a stint in rehab—always plenty of contacts and special stipends. …” But the “most damning disadvantage” of Ivy League institutions is they are “profoundly anti-intellectual”—they seek to train “leaders, not thinkers—holders of power, not its critics.”… A piece considers the “unusual friendship” between Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Emily Dickinson, who sought out the radical abolitionist in hopes he would read her poems. The pair corresponded through letters for eight years without meeting. After their seemingly only face-to-face introduction, Higginson wrote that “he had never met anyone who ‘drained my nerve power so much.’ “
Time, August 4 The cover story names “100 Olympic athletes to watch.” The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James tops the list, which calls him the “rarest of athletes, a phenom who has actually exceeded the enormous expectations that trailed him out of an Akron, Ohio, high school.” No. 2 is 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres, who already has nine Olympic medals. … In an interview on his foreign tour, Barack Obama says that while visiting the troops in Iraq, he “was reminded … just how high troop morale remains despite the difficulties. … [W]hen the troops are in the field, they are energized, and they are working hard, and they believe in the small slice of work that’s been given.”… In a column, Joe Klein declares McCain’s “greatest claim to the presidency—his overseas expertise—now seems squandered. … [He] has straitjacketed himself into an ideology focused more on enemies (real and imagined) than on opportunities.”
Economist, July 26 The cover story surveys a “glum” America beset by bad credit, high energy prices, and an unsuccessful war and warns that “countries, like people, behave dangerously when their mood turns dark. If America fails to distinguish between what it needs to change and what it needs to accept, it risks hurting not just allies and trading partners, but also itself.”… A briefing questions the belief that in modern societies, “the elaborate discrimination which made religious allegiance into a public matter is … a thing of the past.” Though Westerners expect such a right, a “religious free-for-all is very much the exception, not the rule, in human history—and increasingly rare, some would say, in the world today.”… A piece reveals that “in many developing countries the newspaper business is booming.” Even nations “with more meddling governments” that restrict freedom of the press are experiencing an uptick in print circulation.
New Scientist’s cover story unpacks a study that suggests men and women may have different brain structures—and explains how this is causing doctors to re-examine how diseases and medication affect the sexes.
There’s little meat in Newsweek’s profile of McCain adviser Mark Salter—except if the fact that he bought a beach house with proceeds from books he’s written about or co-authored with the candidate is a revelation.
Best Politics Piece
In Mother Jones, an article revisits the questionable dealings of former senator and former McCain guru Phil Gram that led to the Enron implosion and the subprime-mortgage crisis.
Best Culture Piece
An essay in the American Scholar condemns Ivy League schools for being “profoundly anti-intellectual,” observing that “the liberal arts university is becoming the corporate university, its center of gravity shifting to technical fields where scholarly expertise can be parlayed into lucrative business opportunities.”
Most Likely To Offend
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Nobel laureate Doris Lessing sounds off against feminism: “I don’t think that the feminist movement has done much for the characters of women. … What has happened is that given the scope to women to be critical and unpleasant, by God they have taken it, so men are suffering from it.”