What's new in New York, the Weekly Standard, and The Nation.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Dec. 16 2008 5:07 PM

Tamm I Am

The NSA whistle-blower reveals himself.

Newsweek, Dec. 22
The cover story profiles former Department of Justice lawyer and whistle-blower Thomas M. Tamm, who reveals "against the advice of his lawyers" that in 2004 he disclosed the Bush administration's secret warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens to a New York Times reporter. While Tamm could face felony charges and decades of jail time, FBI agent Jason Lawless (really) admitted that he would hesitate to prosecute, lest a jury perceive Tamm as a patriot rather than a traitor. Tamm may have outed himself by sending an e-mail to a Senate aide seeking information about the program from his work computer. "I guess I'm not a very good criminal," he says. In an interview, Pakistan Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari denies that his country's military intelligence agency has any relationship with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist organization that India accuses of executing the "horrific" attacks in Mumbai, India, last month. "Nobody will be allowed to use Pakistan soil for any form of aggression toward any friend or foe," Zardari insists.

Weekly Standard, Dec. 22

Weekly Standard, Dec. 22 The charmingly antiquarian cover story rereads 19th-century Englishman Walter Bagehot on the collapse of the Overend, Gurney, & Co. bank. How can we "be moral in the way we think about money" while also making sure the economy stays afloat? The key is to maintain "strategic ambiguity" about whether a failing bank will be rescued. "Central banking is thus often a high-stakes game of chicken," the author writes. "And sometimes, when banks enter the game insufficiently scared, it will be played out to the end." Here's looking at you, Lehman Bros.... An editorial frets over the potential for the growth in Pakistan of homegrown but globally oriented jihadist movements. Unlike Turkey, which has managed to graft official secularism onto its larger narrative, Pakistan remains "just the Muslim alternative to Hindu India" and is therefore especially susceptible to the allure of militant Islamism.

New York, Dec. 22
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New York, Dec. 22
The magazine's annual Reasons To Love New York package offers undeniable ones ("Because a Legally Blind, Formerly Adulterous Onetime Recreational Coke User Can Be Governor") and doubtful ones ("Because Obama Is One of Us, Despite All That Business About Chicago"). And check out their favorite sentences published about New York this year.... One article explores the possibility that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, may formally request to be named Hillary Clinton's replacement in the U.S. Senate. (She has since done so.) While her fundraising prowess, name recognition, and celebrity quotient are unmatchable, she is unproven in baby-kissing retail politics. But the author says Kennedy is interested for the right reasons: "She genuinely, cornily, wants to advance the ideas the family cares about, and she knows better than most that only so much can be accomplished through symbolism."

The New Yorker, Dec. 22 & 29

The New Yorker, Dec. 22 & 29 The Winter Fiction issue contains stories by Roberto Bolaño and Alice Munro, plus a personal history from Zadie Smith.... A dispatch explores the massive popularity in Japan of keitai shosetsu: novels written on cell phones and published serially on the Web. For such cutting-edge media, the novels themselves have rather conservative sensibilities: They "purport to be autobiographical and revolve around true love, or, rather, the obstacles to it that have always stood at the core of romantic fiction."... While the loss of advertising revenue and the failure to adapt to the Internet are "real enough" problems for the newspaper business, one author maintains that "even as big papers have become less profitable they've arguably become more popular," thanks to the way the blogosphere has "magnified" them. At some point, consumers will have to compensate for this increased use, either by paying up or by tolerating a diminished product.

The Nation, Dec. 29

The Nation, Dec. 29 The cover story indicts the political establishment's "fetishization of the pragmatic" and hopes that Barack Obama will steer clear of it. Those who argue for flexible, technocratic, and nonideological policies as an antidote to the Bush years have committed a "collective category error": George W. Bush's problem was not being in thrall to an ideology; it was being in thrall to his particular ideology. The author cites ideological opponents of the Iraq war as examples of those who let principle trump purported pragmatism only to find themselves having gotten the question right on pragmatism's own terms. "Principle is often pragmatism's guardian."... An article challenges Senate Democrats to change the filibuster. In 1975, the cloture requirement was changed from 67 votes to 60; the author now proposes taking it down to 55. "If Democrats allow the sixty-vote filibuster to survive," the author says, "it is because they want to keep it as a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility."

Marc Tracy is a writer living in New York.