New Republic on Southern politicians and Time on the West's new independents.
Updated Friday, Jan. 19, 2007, at 6:06 PM
New Republic, Jan. 19 In the cover piece, Nicholas Lemann reviews books about politics in the South, including new memoirs by Senate vets Jesse Helms and Trent Lott. Despite their journeys from lower-middle-class families to Washington power circles, both "manage to drain just about all the inherent interest from their life stories." When it comes to their records on race, including Lott's controversial praise for Strom Thurmond, both politicians offer "selective" histories: "That does not necessarily mean, however, that they are consciously hypocritical, that they sit around the family dinner table talking longingly about the days of segregation or even slavery," Lemann concedes. "Life is more complicated than that."… An opinion piece lambastes conservative economist Alan Reynolds for rejecting claims of growing income inequality. As with subjects like global warming and evolution, supply-side economists argue there's not enough information available: "Their primary concern is that newspapers treat the question as a matter of dispute rather than a settled fact," the writer contends. — C.B.
Time, Jan. 29 The "Mind and Body" issue features a Steven Pinker piece on the science of consciousness. Last year, a woman in an apparent vegetative state showed signs of neurological activity, raising questions about treatment for unconscious patients: "If we could experience this existence, would we prefer it to death?" Pinker wonders. Scientists break down questions of consciousness into the "Easy Problem"—figuring out the difference between conscious and unconscious states—and the "Hard Problem"—explaining subjective experience. … A piece examines the rise of Democrats in the West. The casual style of politicos such as Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar stands in contrast to the "coastal, urban, legislative" manners of the Obama-Clinton-Edwards camps. Their agendas tend to include fiscal conservatism, a moderate stance on immigration—many of them must appeal to both Latino immigrants and local farmers—and a liberal attitude toward homosexuality and abortion. "[T]hat's the way it is out here in the West," said Barbara O'Brien, now lieutenant governor of Colorado. "People like their politicians independent."— C.B.
Economist, Jan. 20 An editorial assesses the growing inequality wrought by globalization. Over the last 20, salaries for top American managers have soared from 40 to 100 times the average worker's wage. Workers' share of GDP has plummeted. "If globalisation depends upon voters who, as workers, no longer think they gain from it, how long before democracies start to put up barriers to trade?" the editors wonder. Economists aren't sure whether to blame technology or globalization, since the two are intertwined. Whatever the culprit, the editors contend, countries must create greater mobility for companies, workers, and investments before equality will become a reality. "The first rule is to avoid harming the very miracle that generates so much wealth," they argue. … A special report speculates that Microsoft may have peaked. The upcoming release of its Vista operating system has generated little buzz compared to previous technology, and the spread of open-source programs and online software like YouTube has reduced consumers' dependence on Microsoft products.— C.B.
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 21
Many anti-abortion activists have dropped right-to-life rhetoric in favor of claims that abortion hurts the mother, despite scientific evidence that abortion doesn't increase the risk of depression any more than unwanted pregnancy or giving birth. Their viewpoint "challenges the connection between access to abortion and women's rights—if women are suffering because of their abortions, then how could making the procedure readily available leave women better off?" writes Slate's Emily Bazelon. To treat ensuing feelings of guilt and regret, abortion-recovery therapists "offer a diagnosis that gives meaning to the symptoms, and that gives the women a way to repent," says psychology professor Brenda Major. … Marc Leibovich profiles Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont staple and Socialist former mayor of the "People's Republic of Burlington." Even his political allies, like Rep. Barney Frank, decry his "holier-than-thou attitude." But his unorthodox style has earned him respect and, especially recently, votes: ''People have gotten to know him as Bernie,'' Leahy says. ''Not as the Socialist.''— C.B.
New York, Jan. 22 In January 2005, on the day the New York Fire Department still calls Black Sunday, six firefighters leapt from a fourth-floor window in the South Bronx to escape a blaze. The four who survived break their silence in a piece by Robert Kolker. After months of litigation and recriminations, questions remain about where to lay blame. Some fault the lack of safety ropes, others the floor plan that blocked fire escapes. But a report by the FDNY suggests that the firefighters themselves could have handled the situation better. … New York chef David Chang dishes on the vision that earned him a reputation as a "culinary rebel." When patrons of his Momofuku Noodle Bar complained about the lack of vegetarian options, he eliminated every vegetarian dish except ginger-scallion noodles. "We said, 'Fuck it, let's just cook what we want,' " Chang says. But his unorthodox approach to dining hasn't translated into success in his latest effort: Asian burritos.— C.B.
Newsweek, Jan. 22 In a Newsweek exclusive, Mark Miller, who covered the O.J. Simpson trial, parses a chapter of If I Did It, which describes the killings in lurid detail. The author is struck by "how closely it tracks with the evidence in the case." The way Simpson describes it, he loses control during the killings: "[S]omething went horribly wrong, and I know what happened, but I can't tell you exactly how." He claims a second man—an "unwilling accomplice" named Charlie—accompanied him. By the end, "Simpson reverts to his more familiar public stance: outrage that anyone could believe he committed the murders."… The cover piece examines how sectarian violence is "poisoning the next generation of Iraqis." The author speculates that no matter what happens with the "surge," the "larger battle" may already be lost: "Instead of training them to rebuild their country, they are being trained to use weapons to destroy it," says a former U.S Army captain.— C.B.
The New Yorker, Jan. 22 A piece examines the journey of al-Qaida "homegrown" Adam Gadahn from death metal enthusiast in rural California to propaganda specialist for Osama Bin Laden. Plagued by feelings of emptiness, Gadahn joined Christian support groups as a teenager but later criticized them for their "blind dogmatism." He converted to Islam at 17, joined the Islamic Society of Orange County, and later left for Pakistan, where he eventually narrated messages for al-Qaida. "The streets of America shall run red with blood," he said in a 2005 video. … A profile explores the world of environmentalist guru Amory Lovins. Thirty years after he first argued the United States should wean itself off fossil fuels, Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is still proposing unlikely solutions to complex problems. When the author refers to "thinking outside the box," Lovins interrupts: "There is no box."— C.B.
Reason, February 2007
A gaggle of prominent libertarians sounds off on the "much-anticipated return of gridlock" in Washington, D.C. Two-party government will mean a "return to a system of partisan checks and balances," stagnant government, and limited presidential power. One writer predicts that both sides will agree to increase education spending, while ignoring underperformance; another counsels that Democrats will be too busy investigating the Bush administration to enact "wealth transfers"; the consensus is summed up by Ryan Sager, who warns, "bipartisanship is just another word for 'terrible idea.' "… Supreme Court decisions and the federal DEA may pose less of a threat to medical marijuana in San Francisco than the local zoning boards. An article contends that a California public that "seems to favor an approach to medical marijuana that combines Communism with imminent death" has started to deny local "dispensaries" the ability to sell pot (and possibly attract riff-raff).— A.Z.
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.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Avi Zenilman is a former Slate intern.