What's new in Boston Review, etc.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
April 15 2005 4:27 PM

Bring on the Flat Tax

If it can work for Russia, why not here?

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Economist, April 14
"[T]he gains from a radical simplification of the tax system would be very great,"proclaims the cover article. Eleven years ago, Estonia pioneered the idea of taxing all income at one rate; the idea worked out so well that several other Eastern European countries, including Russia, have adopted the system and benefited from it. Insisting that rich people pay just as much under a flat tax system as they do under "an orthodox code," the magazine encourages both Britain and the United States to consider adopting the system. After nine years of civil strife, Nepal is on the "abyss of humanitarian crisis," according to a statement from the United Nations, the European Union, and Nepalese organizations. An article looks at what's happened since February, when King Gyanendra forced out his hand-picked government; he claimed that he could take on the country's Maoist insurgency by himself. "Nepal now has the highest number of unexplained disappearances in the world—more than 1,200 people taken by the army."—B.B.

New York Review of Books, April 28
A review examines Blink, Malcolm Gladwell's encomium to instinct, alongside The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger as Your Brain Grows Older by Elkhonon Goldberg. The latter book argues that intuition shouldn't be seen as "an antithesis to analytic decision-making." Rather, as our brains age, they grow better at "pattern recognition and condensed decision-making." Arguing that, "What Gladwell is getting at may be more an issue about human anatomy than about human thought," the piece claims that our prefrontal cortex, which allows us to "plan and to ponder" is what "makes us human." … "I remember wondering what it would mean to have a biography of [British author V.S.] Pritchett: how do you fill a book out of all those working afternoons, those marked galleys, those uniform hours and small memories and cups of tea?" asks a reviewer who concludes that Jeremy Treglown's new biography illuminates the writer's seemingly boring life and "the excellence and flow of his chatter."—B.B.

Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone, April 21 The magazine finishes up its list of 100 "Immortals," the musicians who indelibly changed rock music during its first 50 years. Not content to honor just traditional rock gods, the list covers nearly every significant Motown artist, several prominent early blues musicians, and a smattering of hip-hop performers. Each immortal's entry is written by another prominent musician they've influenced. Justin Timberlake quips that Al Green "has helped overpopulate the world." Dave Navarro calls Black Sabbath "the Beatles of heavy metal." And in reference to Nine Inch Nails' debut album, David Bowie writes, "second to the Velvet Underground, there has never been a better soul-lashing in rock." A piece by Bob Moser explores the "Dominionists," a group of "biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government." Dominionist goals include making abortion and homosexual sex felonies, proliferating Ten Commandments statues in courts, and abolishing public schools.—J.S.

New York Times Magazine

New York Times Magazine, April 17
Jeffrey Rosen recounts the history of the "Constitution in Exile" movement, whose adherents oppose "the entire modern welfare state" and, by extension, most laws regulating the environment, minimum wage, occupational health and safety, and Social Security. "Unlike many originalists [such as Antonin Scalia], most adherents of the Constitution in Exile movement are not especially concerned about states' rights or judicial deference to legislatures; instead, they encourage judges to strike down laws on behalf of rights that don't appear explicitly in the Constitution." Although the cover suggests that the movement—which is spearheaded by libertarians and conservatives with deep pockets—could help determine President Bush's next Supreme Court appointee, the movement's intellectual leader, Richard A. Epstein, tells Rosen that he has "little hope, for now, in the Supreme Court." And Colm Toibin has a recommendation for the papal conclave: "Find a cardinal who was brought up with many, many sisters, who has a lesbian in the family," and who will "enter into real dialogue with women in the church."—B.B.

Boston Review
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Boston Review, April/May 2005 The GOP's success with evangelical Christians isn't just about matters of faith, a piece argues. Evangelicalism itself ties into a growing emphasis on individualism and independence, and it may be too late for the Democrats to adjust to it. Mike Gecan writes, "The Republicans have understood that communicating respect is more important than offering programs or incentives. The Democrats have failed to realize that multiplying programs or policies designed to meet people's needs is doomed to fail unless and until those people sense a fundamental level of recognition of who they are, not just what they need." Is that apple really red? Delving into the anatomy of the eye, the physics of light, and the zenlike paradox of a chameleon that turns red whenever anyone looks at it, Alex Byrne gives a thorough history of color philosophy, explaining why we may ultimately never know.—J.S.

Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report

Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, April 18 The Time 100: Time disses John Kerry and Carly Fiorina and asks celebrities as well as staff writers to evaluate this year's "100 most influential people." Henry Kissinger on Condoleezza Rice and Donald Trump on Martha Stewart? Blandly congratulatory, as is Bono's endorsement of economist Jeffrey Sachs' "punk-rock instinct to question the status quo." Tom Brokaw claims that during last year's election, Jon Stewart "was our Athenian, a voice for democratic ideals and the noble place of citizenship, helped along by the sound of laughter." James Carville admits to his admiration for Karl Rove: "If Rove wanted to switch parties, I'd take him up on it in a second." Barack Obama is hailed as a man for whom "nothing seems out of reach." Among the less obvious choices: Alterna-doctor Andrew Weil is celebrated for his "grounding in hard science and his intellectual flexibility," Stan Lee salutes Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, and Jay-Z is classified under "builders and titans" alongside the inventors of the BlackBerry.

After the pope: All three newsweeklies feature lavish coverage of the pope's funeral and its aftermath. Newsweek explores the Vatican's relationship with China—the Vatican recognizes Taiwan and doesn't have diplomatic relations with the mainland, but there's intense speculation that the Vatican might reverse this position in the near future. "The Catholic Church has exhausted its reach just about everywhere on earth, so China is the last virgin soil," claims a Taiwanese legislator. U.S. News declares that John Paul II's "greatest weakness was inattention to administrative details." While he was a great "prophet" and "pastor," "the times might call for more of a king to address such issues as guiding the sometimes undisciplined clergy." Time concurs: There are "a surprisingly wide cross section of clerics who think that the former Pope's flair for the symbolic gesture sometimes came at the expense of administrative housecleaning."

Odds and ends: Newsweek reports that House Majority leader Tom DeLay, who has increasingly come under fire for allegedly accepting money from lobbyists, may get in even more trouble if his former friend and "superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff, himself the subject of a Justice Department investigation, rats him out: " 'Those S.O.B.s,' Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. 'DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details.' " (ReadSlate's "Assessment" of Abramoff.) U.S. News devotes its cover package to the royal wedding: "A country that could live with the persistent (though apparently incorrect) rumor that one of Queen Victoria's grandsons, the genial if slow-witted Prince Albert Victor (known in the family as 'Eddy'), was in fact Jack the Ripper without the slightest diminution of its affection for the royal family can surely learn to live with an irritable, balding, blood-sports-loving Prince Charming and his frumpy, gray-haired consort."—B.B.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker, April 18 For this "Journeys" issue, Tad Friend travels to Oman alongside Lonely Planet mogul Tony Wheeler and his wife Maureen; along the way, Friend evaluates the guidebooks' cultural impact (U.S. forces used LP to figure out which sites they shouldn't bomb in Iraq) and notes, "like Apple and Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's, all of which began as plucky alternatives, Lonely Planet has become a mainstream brand." The author of a "Letter from New Guinea" describes going on a guided tour into the rainforest and meeting members of a tribe that hadn't encountered white tourists before. (Predictably, a naked tribesman asks the tourists, "Shall we wrap your penises?") A profile of Brazilian economist-turned-photographer Sebastião Salgado examines his quest to photograph Antarctica. And Jonathan Franzen, Jane Smiley, and others recall memorable family vacations. —B.B.

Weekly Standard

Weekly Standard, April 18 In an editorial, William Kristol strongly supports his friend John Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador: "[Bolton] has, after all, been confirmed for high government positions four times before. He has served in those posts with distinction during three administrations, untainted by a hint of scandal or a murmur of corner-cutting." Stephen Schwartz celebrates the mystical poetry of Bosnian Nikola Sop. Almost unknown outside of Eastern Europe, Sop wrote, among other things, poems about space "none of them bearing the flavor of science fiction or astronautical adventures." … And the cover story objects to descriptions of John Paul II as "postmodern:" "[T]o imagine these elements are simple contradictions, absurdly juxtaposed in a characteristically postmodern way—is to believe something about John Paul II that he himself never did. It is to imagine that helicopters are ridiculous beside devotion to the Blessed Virgin, or that prayer gainsays philosophy, or that faith ought not to go with modern times." —B.B.

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.