Today, Other Magazines reads the Economist, Time, the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, and Vanity Fair to find out what's worth your time—and what's not.
Best Candidate Profile
In a cover story for the New Republic, Jonathan Chait challenges the conventional wisdom that John McCain is "basically a right-winger." Actually, Chait argues, McCain has "diverged wildly and repeatedly from conservative orthodoxy" and has "reinvented himself so completely" over the years that it's hard to know where he really stands.—J.L.
Best Religion Piece
In a book excerpt in Time, Amy Sullivan, who has written for Slate, details the Democratic Party's attempts to regain religious voters' confidence—and examines the mistakes that alienated the faithful in the past.—C.W.
The Economist reveals an unexpected affection for the recently deceased Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the Beatles. Despite conceding that the Maharishi may have been a "crackpot" and "charlatan," the magazine is smitten with his good intentions, if not his penchant for yogic flying. Perhaps most admirable to the Economist, though, was the Maharishi's fiscal enlightenment, for "he certainly knew how to make money."—N.M.
In an education-focused issue, Time compares Clinton's, Obama's, McCain's, and Huckabee's positions on No Child Left Behind, vouchers, merit pay for teachers, and longer school days or years. The magazine finds that McCain fairs the worst, having only recently made any serious education proposals.—C.W.
Best History Lesson
In Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue, Peter Biskind looks at the making of Coming Home and The Deer Hunter—two very different films about the Vietnam War that stirred up heated political debates before battling it out at the 1979 Oscars. Biskind notes that "with the U.S. fighting two new wars" and "Hollywood in the midst of another film cycle devoted to those conflicts," these movies seem more relevant than ever.—N.R.
Best Economic Piece
The New Republic has a good overview on why we're heading into a recession. The story of the junior trader at Societe Generale who lost the bank's $7.2 billion is just one indication of how global finance got out of control. U.S. investment banks were borrowing 80 percent to 90 percent of every dollar they invested. Plus, collateralized debt obligations were priced based on overly optimistic evaluation models or untested patterns. Basically, "a lot of smart people took a lot of foolish risks."—J.L.
Best Technology Package
A special section in the Economist looks at how governments can improve Internet services without unduly intruding on citizens' privacy. An accompanying piece recommends that governments look to the example of private banks and open-source software for ways to minimize technological red-tape.—N.M.
Best Science Piece
The New York Times Magazine's cover story asks "Why Do We Play?" and gives an in-depth look at the evolutionary motivators behind the fun. The piece presents a variety of possible evolutionary explanations and consequences, including a proposed link between a lack of play and the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.—A.J.