Weekly Standard, Jan. 5, 2009
Charles Krauthammer's cover story calls for a "net-zero" gasoline tax. A $1-per-gallon levy tempered by a $14-per-week reduction in payroll taxes would leave the average American no poorer (and his government no richer), but it would shrink gas demand. This would help keep the price of oil down, hurting the United States' hydrocarbon-exporting enemies and rivals. Krauthammer contends that currently cheap gas (about $1.65 per gallon) combined with the memory of extremely pricey gas (over $4 last July) has made the tax not only wise but also "politically palatable"—a "once in a generation opportunity"... "Obesity is the new smoking," argues one article, citing New York's "fat tax" on soda and a Binghamton, N.Y., ordinance barring discrimination against the overweight. The author ridicules progressives' use of epidemiological language to cast the obese as blameless victims of disease and wonders whether that soda tax might not run afoul of that anti-discrimination law.
New York, Jan. 5, 2009
A spotlight on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who taught a course on faith and globalization at Yale last semester, argues that he is "a better American politician than most American politicians." Like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, he has found a warmer reception stateside, where his strong personal faith is not anomalous, than he has back home. ... A column points to foreign policy to explain why George W. Bush and Barack Obama seem to have found themselves cast in a transition buddy comedy. The success of the troop surge aided Obama by minimizing the commander-in-chief question. Now Obama will control much of Bush's Iraq legacy. The author argues, "Obama's foreign-policy instincts bear a strong resemblance to those of George H.W. Bush, whose pragmatic realism looks more and more like the essence of an emerging new consensus in foreign policy"—especially given that Dubya, too, has recently adopted his father's global outlook.
The New Yorker, Jan. 5, 2009
A lengthy dispatch examines the Darfur conflict from the perspective of the United Nations employees who run 12 camps in eastern Chad, which together have taken in about 250,000 Sudanese refugees. The author marvels at the nascent economies the refugees have established but finds himself giving money to a few desperate inhabitants. Meanwhile, portraits of aid workers, doctors, and bureaucrats do justice to the article's title: "Lives of the Saints."... A review of sex books past and present describes the "explosion" produced by The Joy of Sex's 1972 release while criticizing its infamous hairy-man drawings, unfortunate heteronormative inclinations, and general Internet-age obsolescence. The author then applauds the P.C. revisions in a new edition of Joy ("crucially, rear-entry intercourse is no longer called sex "à la Négresse"), but critiques its odd prudishness: "What was revolutionary in 1972 seems obvious now, and to present the material otherwise feels silly and square."
GQ, January 2009
Robert Draper describes his experiences interviewing George W. Bush for his book Dead Certain. "Bush's greatest talent is personal diplomacy," Draper relates. "Conversation with him feels like a physical experience. He listens acutely, relishes argument, and is just as quick to concede a point as he is to pummel a specious one." The article discloses Bush's post-White House plans—"I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers"—as well as some dish: Lynne Cheney, Draper says, "seemed affronted by my every question—except for the ones that gave her an opportunity to say what an asshole John Edwards was." … A dispatch from Foreclosure Alley, the expanse of southern California where the housing and credit crashes are yanking 500 homes from their owners per day, features a 21st-century ghost town and a McMansion with "walls ... so thin a Chablis drinker could put a fist through them without dropping the Brie from his wafer."
New York Review of Books, Jan. 15, 2009
In a review of three new books on the Bush administration's harsh interrogation techniques, David Cole expresses sorrow and anger at the U.S. military's official adoption of what amounts to torture. In one book, former Pentagon official Douglas Feith "practically gloats" about constructing legal doctrines that exempt alleged al-Qaida members from the Geneva Conventions; another tome "convincingly makes the case that [Donald] Rumsfeld committed war crimes." Cole argues, "The best insurance against cruelty and torture becoming U.S. policy again is a formal recognition that what we did after September 11 was wrong." But an official "reckoning" is as unlikely as it is crucial. ... An article on U.S. Middle East policy indicts Bush for a "lethal mix of arrogance and ignorance" while noting that President Bill Clinton also failed to produce positive results. So what ought the United States do under Obama? The authors counsel patience and humility concerning the limits of the United States' ability to bring peace.