Economist, Oct. 18 An article surveys the magazine's historical defenses of economic liberty and responds to global calls for the "end" of the free market: "Capitalism has always engendered crises, and always will." The notion that privatization and deregulation have brought the world to the brink of economic collapse is shortsighted. Capitalism is still "the best economic system man has invented yet," and governments should manage the bailouts responsibly to ensure that it stays that way. … An article bluntly tells John McCain's campaign to "drop his current line of attack." He should "dump the dumb populism (even though it seems to be too late, alas, to dump the dumb populist-in-chief, Sarah Palin)." McCain should focus on three "plausible" criticisms of his opponent: Obama is the most anti-business Democrat in a generation, single-party rule in Washington is dangerous, and Obama "has never once in his career said boo to a Democratic goose."
The Atlantic, November Editor James Bennet introduces the Atlantic's semi-retro redesign. … An article follows an 8-year-old boy whose parents have decided to let him live as a girl. His story encapsulates one side of a deeply conflicted debate over transgender children, as psychologists and neuroscientists wrestle with inconclusive evidence for gender's biological origin. Some families embrace prepubescent sex changes while others have successfully implemented a therapeutic approach that involves "turn[ing] their house into a 1950s kitchen-sink drama, intended to inculcate respect for patriarchy, in the crudest and simplest terms."… An essay by Andrew Sullivan describes his passion for blogging but says it poses an unprecedented personal danger to writers. Its heavily introspective, diarylike nature "exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before." Today is a "golden age" of journalism, producing the most carefully fact-checked, ruthlessly critiqued information we have ever had available.
New York Times Magazine, Oct. 20 The cover story follows Barack Obama as he implements his "50 state strategy"—a tactical and philosophical plan to create "new" battleground states. Winning red states is crucial to Obama's plans for uniting a culturally divided country as well as his electoral math. (He doesn't want to be in the "dreary position" of counting on three states that make or break the election.) The strategy may well succeed; Obama is poised to win Virginia but still polls poorly with crucial demographics like rural white men. … A column claims that observing human flesh in high definition is "emotionally overwhelming." Comparing Joe Biden's and Sarah Palin's high-def expressions during the vice-presidential debate would lead anyone to conclude that "signs of cosmetic effort gone awry can be worse even than plain old human features." What if our bodies were never meant to be seen in this detail except by loved ones?
Time, Oct. 27 The cover story analyzes the presidential candidates' temperaments—does "Mr. Fire or Mr. Ice" better fit our national character? Temperament is "as elusive as it is essential," and attempts to analyze it often lead to caricature. McCain's and Obama's temperaments only hint at potential blunders, and voters can't know what challenges they will face in office. … A column by Slate's founding editor Michael Kinsley insists the next president must exhibit "greatness." The problem is, our political system is "designed to weed out precisely the qualities that are most needed." Contrary to popular opinion, empathy isn't one of them. The country needs "astringency"—the willingness to tell voters how it is—and "intelligence" in the form of "intellectual curiosity." We face complex crises that require "a willingness to engage with complicated ideas."
Rolling Stone, Oct. 30 The magazine retires its famous wide format in an issue that features Barack Obama on the cover for the third time this year. … The cover story is an interview with Obama on his 16th wedding anniversary. He gives some frank responses—he's "not completely pure" when it comes to big donors' influence—and some predictably evasive ones. He won't talk trash about the ladies—specifically why he didn't pick Hillary Clinton and why on earth John McCain picked Sarah Palin. … An article co-authored by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. alleges that Republican operatives "are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats." The authors charge that disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff packed a widely applauded bipartisan election-reform bill with hidden clauses and favors for clients. The alleged tactics also include purging legitimate voters from ballots, requiring unnecessary photo IDs, and rejecting "spoiled" ballots.
The Atlantic's article on the lives of transgender children is thorough and relentlessly compelling, finding sympathetic figures on both sides of the contentious psychological debate.
Time's Oct. 27 cover story rehashes well-worn presidential leadership theory and paints mostly inconclusive portraits of the candidates.
Best Politics Piece
The New York Times Magazine's cover story on Barack Obama's "new battleground states" achieves where other overlong strategic pieces fail—it shows us Obama up close as he tries to reach out to those inclined to distrust him.
Best Culture piece
New York Times Magazine media columnist Virginia Heffernan's take on candidates in high def humorously investigates the visceral realities that emerge when technology puts our bodies under its microscope.
The Economist's open memo to John McCain is full of the magazine's wry humor and no-nonsense realism.