Economist, March 28 The cover story expresses disappointment in President Obama, who has been “curiously feeble” on domestic policy for a president who won so decisively on domestic issues. The stimulus bill explains much of the problem: He did not include Republicans in the process and let his own party “mess him around.” Obama was also slow to announce his toxic-assets plan and has yet to fill crucial Treasury Department positions. There are signs his administration is getting things together, but he “has a long way to travel if he is to serve his country—and the world—as he should.”… An article picks apart Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s troubled assets relief program, warning that “some economists have denounced [it] as a disguised subsidy posing as a market solution.” Its biggest obstacle may be sellers who would rather hold on to their loans in hope of recouping more of the money later.
New York Times Magazine, March 29 An article profiles 85-year-old Freeman Dyson, a revered physicist who is cooling friendships by questioning climate change orthodoxy. Dyson is an “Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources,” but he has a “withering aversion” to scientific consensus. He believes scientists’ large-scale groupthink convinces them of their own rightness, and, in the case of global warming, distracts them from more deadly problems. Al Gore is “a good preacher,” Dyson says, but he knew Gore’s sources personally and wishes they were around to speak for themselves. … An article profiles Neil LaBute, whose new play, reasons to be pretty, makes its Broadway debut this week. LaBute’s friends say he’s a nice, even-tempered person, but he wants his plays to wound—“to ruin a perfectly good day for people.”
Time, April 6 The cover story argues that the recession will bring an end to the spirit of excess that began in the 1980s and persisted “like an awesome winning streak in Vegas that went on and on and on.” Getting through these hard times will be like overcoming an addiction, but we’ll emerge a more sensible, responsible nation. … An article surveys the wreckage of Detroit: “Feral dogs and pheasants stalk streets with debris strewn like driftwood: an empty mail crate, a discarded winter jacket, a bunny-eared TV in tall grass.” With a 13 percent unemployment rate and little hope of recovery, the city has become a “laboratory” for urban visionaries hoping to test out solutions to urban decline. To come back, Detroit will have to be “denser, greener.” Some are already sprucing up the ailing city’s dead zones with urban farms and art installations.
Reason, April 2009 The cover story by Radley Balko reveals proof that a doctor-dentist team in Louisiana manufactured evidence that led to a death row conviction. (One was caught on video pressing a mold of the defendant’s teeth into a corpse to create fake bite marks.) Several convictions based on the controversial pair’s testimony have been overturned, but officials are ignoring the scope of their damage to the criminal justice system. … An article argues that if President Obama’s stimulus package works, it will be “the first time in recorded history.” According to papers written by Obama’s own economists, “huge gold inflows in the mid- and late-1930s” spurred the recovery more so than the New Deal. World War II spending didn’t stimulate much, either: “Military spending had no effect on consumption.” Stimulus packages assume people are stupid and forget that to inject money into the economy, the government first has to take it out.
The Nation, April 13 An article investigates “clean coal,” an expensive rebranding effort launched by American coal industry to convince consumers that it’s committed to conservation. Most environmental activists see “clean coal” as the equivalent of a “healthy cigarette.” Much like tobacco companies kept doubt alive about whether cigarettes cause cancer, the coal industry intentionally casts doubts on environmental science. But some do seem at least half-interested in solutions like carbon-capture systems, which store CO 2 emissions deep underground instead of pumping them into the atmosphere. … An editorial criticizes Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for being “single-mindedly wedded to the goal of restoring the financial system to the way it was.” His toxic-assets plan depends too much on the “expertise of the market” and lays most of the risk on taxpayers. Its low odds of success put the president’s budget—“a smart, long-term bet on this country’s future”—in danger.
The New Yorker’s examination of solitary confinement is vivid, horrifying, and enlightening.
Best Politics Piece
Matt Taibbi’s detailed, lucid overview of the financial crisis in Rolling Stone is the perfect primer for those still struggling to understand the mess we’re in.
Best Culture Piece
New York Times Magazine’s profile of climate change skeptic Freeman Dyson. Read it.
Latest to the Party
Rolling Stone’s cover story on Gossip Girl sums up the zeitgeisty teen soap as well as any, but who doesn’t know this stuff by now?