What's new in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and Mother Jones.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Nov. 14 2008 5:52 PM

Change.gov

The Economist and Time on Obama's transition.

The Economist, Nov. 15

The Economist, Nov. 15 The cover story downplays the significance of the upcoming G-20 summit: "[G]lobal finance will not be remade in a five-hour powwow hosted by a lame-duck president after less preparation than many corporate board meetings." International finance is a "tug-of-war" between global markets and national sovereignty—it cannot simply be "fixed." The leaders have a chance to make progress, "but only if they temper their hyperbole with realism and humility." An article calls Obama's transition "the most difficult in living memory" and urges him to "translate his vague philosophy of 'hope' and 'change' into governance." Obama's transition team is guided by Reagan's, which "hit the ground running" and worked closely with a policy think tank. President Bush is also trying to ensure that the transition moves fluidly, requiring even low-level staff to draw up detailed briefings and giving Obama unusual access to various departments.

Time, Nov. 24

Time, Nov. 24 The cover story surveys Obama's transition, reporting that it already occupies 120,000 square feet of office space in Washington. The president-elect has announced staff picks relatively early and plans to choose his Cabinet by the end of the month. Obama is doing his best to avoid a repeat of Bill Clinton's "chaotic" 1992 transition that left him ill-prepared for his first term. A column scolds journalists who have heralded Obama as "a messiah who can give black people some manners, a God-child descending from the heavens to teacheth benighted African Americans the virtues of books and proper English and the evils of Pacman Jones and blaming the white man." Obama is a president, not a moral reformer, and statistics show that blacks are already helping themselves: Oprah and Bill Cosby are among their most respected figures, and 60 percent of young African-Americans find rap music's depiction of women offensive.

New York Times Magazine, Nov. 16
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New York Times Magazine, Nov. 16 The cover package features a series of interviews with outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, footnoted and "amplified" by other Bush administration figures. Rice thinks that electing a black president "says around the world that you can overcome old wounds." And she's convinced that the administration she worked under has set the stage for positive change around the world. In a brief interview, Karl Rove says he's never been booed off stages, as was widely reported. "I've been booed on stages," he says. "I'm a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly." An article takes a bird's-eye view of the movement that led Obama to victory, summarizing the moments and turning points that created a climate of "change." One such moment came in Iowa, when Obama told his staff he would "hold their hand," effectively turning their apprehension into triumph.

Mother Jones, November/December

Mother Jones, November/December An article by Al Gore challenges the United States to transition to exclusively American-made electricity in 10 years. While it would require sacrifice on the part of every citizen, a dramatic reduction in the cost of alternative energy sources has placed self-sufficiency well within reach. With the right technology, there's enough wind, solar, and dam energy to power the entire world. An article totals the costs of the Bush years, calculating both actual spending (Iraq) and lost opportunities (salaries that fallen soldiers didn't earn). All said, "the gap between what we could have produced and what we did produce will easily exceed $1.5 trillion." Republicans "simply trusted in supply-side economics—believing that, somehow, the economy would grow so much better with lower taxes that deficits would be ephemeral." That's a fantasy, and the only way to dig ourselves out of the hole is to cut spending or raise taxes.

Harper's, December

Harper's, December A front-of-book essay examines the historical relationship between masquerading (think Boston Tea Party) and politics, noting how often political debates are filled with participants adopting imaginary personas. Why do people mask their shared humanity in textbook partisan biographies? "The partisan badge, the counterculture face paint, creates the illusion of membership in something less dull and burdensome than the whole human race." An article lays out a blueprint for prosecuting the "outlaw" Bush administration, arguing that "simply 'moving on' is not possible." But a president who committed "war crimes" is an unusual legal situation: It's hard to know whether he should be tried before an international criminal tribunal, a foreign court, or in U.S. military courts. The fourth and best option would be a "commission of inquiry"—a slow, deliberate process that would gradually build public consensus. But it would only be a first step, to be followed by formal prosecution.

Must Read
P.J. O'Rourke's acerbic essay in the Weekly Standard is the most amusing and unconventional "death of conservatism" analysis you'll find this week.

Best Politics Piece
A Time column on African-Americans' motivation to improve themselves without a "messiah" is a refreshing antidote to hyperbole.

Best Culture Piece
A profile of Malcolm Gladwell in New Yorkis both a window into an intriguing writer's mind and a study of journalistic celebrity.

Must Skip
New York's cover story is a mass of high-flying, post-election feel-good-isms. Save it for future generations, but you've heard all this elsewhere lately.

Copycat Award
Articles on Obama's transition in Timeand the Economistinclude paragraphs that say—all but word-for-word—exactly the same things about Obama avoiding Clinton's mistakes by using his transition to hit the ground running. 

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