A "Brittle" Legacy?
Andrew Sullivan remembers John Paul II.
Updated Friday, April 8, 2005, at 6:40 PM
New Republic, April 18 Calling John Paul II's papacy "brittle" and "showboating," Andrew Sullivan excoriates the pope for "allowing the rape and molestation of vast numbers of children and teenagers, and of systematically covering the crimes up." He also writes, "If you judge a successful leader by the caliber of men he inspires to follow him, then the judgment on John Paul II is damning."… Martin Peretz visits a new building on the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial site in Israel and says, "[I]t may be the most moral statement made by architecture in our time." He makes sure to berate Kofi Annan, who attended the opening ceremony: "If the history of our time is written honestly, it will record that Annan stood passively by as the new exterminators went to work. Shame will be his memorial, his everlasting name." … In a review of Ian McEwan's Saturday, James Woods holds forth on the novelist's role as "historian of inwardness."—B.B.
Economist, April 9"Is it possible for those who regard the popes' claim to be the representatives of God on earth as wrong, or simply nonsensical, to view with some respect the papacy of John Paul, and the church he remoulded?" asks the cover package, which focuses on the future of the church. The magazine suggests that the next pope should reconsider the church's position on using condoms to prevent HIV. … A piece about Zimbabwe's fraudulent election lambastes South African leader Thabo Mbeki: "No one is surprised when North Korea or Libya endorse other people's stolen elections, but one expects better of a serious democracy such as South Africa." … Also,the U.N. Security Council has told the International Criminal Court (which the United States opposes) to investigate ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan. "It is the first time the Security Council has referred a case to the fledgling court."—B.B.
Atlantic, May 2005 Two hundred years after Alexis de Tocqueville's birth, Frenchman Bernard-Henri Levy journeys through America. He notes the horrors of Rikers Island and slams the false mythology of baseball in Cooperstown, where he reposes at a bed-and-breakfast "run by two commanding women, mother and daughter, who wear identical blood-red canvas aprons and look the spitting image of Margaret Thatcher at two stages of her life." Levy marvels at the decline of Buffalo, N.Y., and Cleveland, and compares Detroit to Dresden and Sarajevo, but notices that its Arab-Americans are significantly more loyal to America than French Arabs are to France. He is seduced by Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention and berated by Native American leader Russell Means. …"What does it take for an immigrant to shift from 'you' to 'we,' " asks Christopher Hitchens, who is awaiting naturalization, in an essay about becoming an American. "[I]n America your internationalism can and should be your patriotism."—B.B.
N + 1, Spring 2005
A Turkish-American woman in California grapples with Isaac Babel, the grimly comic author who was persecuted by the Soviets. After narrating a series of stories about discussing Babel with scholars, she lauds Babel's "omnivorous vision" and "relentless vigilance." … An impassioned article starts with the author's account of selling his critical theory books, and notes Terry Eagleton's observation that "French theorists preserved the modernist tradition in literature when fiction writers did not." It rebukes novelists who try to compete against films, television, nonfiction, "the stand-up routine, and, in novel-memoir, the daytime talk show." Praising Michel Houellebecq and Jonathan Franzen for their engagement with both theory and contemporary culture, the author insists that the "novel is unexcelled at one thing only: the creation of interiority, or inwardness. … Beside the novel at its best, even Wallace Stevens is a bumbling simile-monger and Tarkovsky a crude footage-purveyor." —B.B.
New York Times Magazine, April 10 The cover story looks at several challenges to Nielsen's "electronic meter" monopoly on measuring television audiences. A technique developed by ErinMedia can mine cable boxes for magnified information about viewership—when people change channels, which commercials hold on to an audience, even which actors or newscasters viewers prefer. Maryland-based Arbitron has developed a device, to be worn like a pager, that would register any broadcast encountered by the carrier throughout the day. The gadget, called a "portable people meter," could someday yield a "closed-loop system that will measure the media people absorb—and then what they buy." … An article examines the bioethics and science of chimeras—animals implanted with human cells and bred to develop some human characteristics. "[E]veryone has a squirm threshold," writes the author. "What would you make of a sheep with a human face?"— D.W.
Reason, May 2005
When Mattel opened up a Barbie factory in Taiwan, the residentsof tiny Taishan made the American icon their own, says a piece on how the factory is still affecting the town nearly 20 years after the assembly line stopped. "For two decades, the famous doll with the golden tresses and the torpedo breasts was the symbol of financial opportunity in a country where no one looked like her," writes Holiday Dmitri. "As word of mouth about Taishan spread, people traveled from all over the island to get their piece of the plastic." …Tax-funded stadiums could become a thing of the past, according to a piece on two high-profile court cases. The cases, which challenge the NFL's monopoly status and the use of eminent domain, could put an end to "the team owners' favorite and most effective threat—to move to a new city," writes Daniel McGraw.—J.S.
The New Yorker, April 11
In an article about Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer, a now-obscure author of 19th-century children's books, a critic recounts his fascination with Mortimer's unabashedly racist travelogues (in China, "it is a common thing to stumble over the bodies of dead babies in the streets") and her penchant for writing lines like, "God has covered your bones with flesh. Your flesh is soft and warm. In your flesh there is blood. God had put skin outside, and it covers your flesh and blood like a coat…How kind of God it was to give you a body!"… Another piece focuses on ethnobotanist Paul Cox. Based on his study of "lytico-bodig" (a neurological disease occurring on Guam that's related to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's), Cox believes that cyanobacteria, which grow all around the world, contain a toxic poison that causes neurodegenerative diseases. If Cox is right, "we may risk consuming [the neurotoxins] wherever we live, whenever we eat a piece of fish or take a sip of water."—B.B.
Weekly Standard, April 11 A review of Jim Wallis'God's Politics scorns the activist's claim that he is above partisanship: "Jim (with a couple of notable exceptions) is a pretty average, down-the-line leftist who, by the way, believes in God." Wallis, a former commune dweller who dropped out of divinity school in the 1970s, has been a consistent critic of America. Although Democrats are turning to him because they want to reconnect with religion, the article attempts to debunk Wallis' brand of "progressive" evangelism. … An online-only piece hails the State Department's announcement that it will "help India become a major world power in the 21st century" as "the clearest sign to date that the Bush Doctrine has a genuine strategic logic, that it's more than a justification for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan."—B.B.
Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, April 11 Goodbye, Pope: All three newsweeklies provide comprehensive coverage of the pope's death. Calling John Paul II "the man who made history itself kneel down,"Time notes that he judged Catholics much more harshly than those outside the faith and examines his opposition to "the individual-rights paradigm so central to Western secular philosophy."Newsweek claims that John Paul brought the church "more political clout and diplomatic recognition than it had enjoyed since the Renaissance," but points out that "he most certainly failed to return once Christian Europe to its spiritual roots." Another piece evaluates the pope's frequent criticism of American culture and asserts, "Paul's influence on American political life was almost surely overestimated." U.S. News emphasizes the physical vigor that the pope enjoyed for most of his life and comments on his savvy: Although he "used the media as shrewdly as any modern politician," the pope "refused to follow opinion polls or tailor his words to please his audience."
Spies and lies: Newsweek reports that critics who hope to postpone or halt John Bolton's confirmation as U.N. ambassador are investing claims that Bolton tried to "intimidate or victimize two career intelligence officials for what he viewed as their insufficiently alarmist analyses of intel on purported Cuban biological weapons." Another story discusses a recently issued presidential commission report that blames the country's intelligence agencies for gathering faulty evidence about Iraq's WMD. Newsweek notes this report glosses over an e-mail (made public in a Senate report last year) by a CIA official who suggested that the Bush administration would to go to war no matter what the intelligence revealed: "[I]ts absence from the report raises questions of whether the Silberman panel may have 'cherry-picked' evidence to exclude anything politically embarrassing to the 'Powers That Be.' " U.S. News states that "President Bush promised action, but the report was timed to come out safely after the presidential election and Congress's major intelligence reform."
Tapeworm Jane: Time interviews Jane Fonda and excerpts a description of her struggle with bulimia from her new memoir, My Life So Far: "I remember cutting out a magazine ad that said with $2 and some box tops they would send you a special kind of gum that had tapeworm eggs in it and when you chewed it the worms would hatch and eat up all the food you consumed." (She sent away for the worms, but they never arrived.) The memoir covers Fonda's discovery of Christianity and feminism, her lifelong problems with bulimia, and the sexual threesomes that ex-husband Roger Vadim forced upon her. Last week's Newsweek pointed out that "the irony is that some of these "revelations" were 'revealed' before—it's just that Fonda hasn't been much on people's minds for a decade or so."—B.B.
Wired, April 2005
Alternative-fuel cars are poised to overtake China, according to a piece on the booming Chinese auto market. As pollution rises and automobiles become more affordable, going green may be a matter of necessity for the country's centrally controlled auto industry. This could give China a jump-start on the hydrogen economy. "China may actually benefit from it's very backward-ness," writes Lisa Margonelli. "All those bicycles mean there isn't a cumbersome—and entrenched—gasoline infrastructure to stand in the way of the next big thing."… A piece explores how four Mexican teenagers, all undocumented immigrants living in Phoenix, beat MIT's team at a national underwater robotics competition. The team built a robot capable of surveying mock submarine wreckage 50 feet underwater, all for just $800, compared with the MIT team's $11,000 budget.—J.S.
Bidisha Banerjee is the San Francisco-based co-author of a forthcoming Yale Climate and Energy Institute/Centre for International Governance Innovation report on scenario planning for solar radiation management. She is collaborating on a geoengineering game and has written about geoengineering governance for Slate and the Stanford Journal of Law, Science, and Policy.
Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.
David Wallace-Wells is a writer living in New York.