What's new in New York, the New Yorker, and Foreign Policy.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Feb. 10 2009 5:42 PM

Are WeSocialist?

Newsweek and the Weekly Standard on big government.

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Newsweek, Feb. 16 The cover story argues that America has become more socialist than we'd like to admit, and, irony of ironies, much of it happened under a Republican president. We're still a "center-right" nation that distrusts big government, the authors write, but we're also attached to the perks that come with it. The U.S. government spends only 8 percentage points less of its country's annual GDP than its peers in the euro zone—we spent 39.9 percent; they spent 47.1 percent—and, over the next few years, "we will become even more French." An article explains why Americans don't hate the rich but prefer to laugh at them instead. While ire at the wealthy has surfaced during times of economic distress, "what Americans lack is what the European working classes gleefully exhibit: resentment of the rich personally." That might be because the United States began without an aristocracy, and obtaining wealth has been traditionally seen as a positive measure of an individual's personal qualities.

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Weekly Standard, Feb. 16 An article observes that "the state has never been more in vogue." The stimulus bill, the author writes, is only a "down payment"on social programs, with much more spending to come. Government clearly has a role in solving problems, but the current one is too caught up in its own groupthink to foresee the swift retribution when its grand ideas fail: "Democrats are marching lockstep down a road that has been trod before, with nary a thought of the consequences." An article reports on the post-election mood on the streets of Baghdad. The "drama-free" vote was a great success for Iraq and a relief for the United States, but making sense of it isn't easy. Encouragingly, the Iraqis the author interviewed "clearly saw themselves—and this is a first in Iraqi history—as the people's guardians."

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New York, Feb. 16
The cover story follows geek-comedian Demetri Martin as he finishes up the first episodes for his upcoming Comedy Central show Important Things With Demetri Martin. A law school dropout turned comic, Martin creates his one-man performances from a whimsical mix of one-liners ("Drummers are cool. Until you put them in a circle"), drawings, simple songs, and displays of ambidexterity. He's written two commissioned sitcoms that went unproduced, but his new show attempts to re-create his cultishly popular "handmade" stage aesthetic. An article finds a young survivor of the dot-com bubble visiting Twitter headquarters in San Francisco and declaring that the company's founders might be living in the last tech "dream world" on the planet. As an economic storm rages around them, the "Twitter boys" are taking their time, insisting that Twitter is "the triumph of the human spirit" and that, when the time is right, "the money will come."

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The New Yorker, Feb. 9 and 16 An article examines Beyoncé's "fierceness," observing that her brilliant, strange musical career has been executed without "cursing, committing infidelity, or breaking any laws, even in character." The fierceness already in her repertoire, particularly in her sassy performances with Destiny's Child, makes her experiments with a fictional alter ego, "Sasha Fierce," peculiar. But as she proved singing in Etta James during the Obamas' first dance, she's "really good at being good," and that's all anyone notices. An article downplays the importance of moral hazard, the idea that people act more rashly when insulated from the consequences. It seems like common sense, but policy driven by moral hazard—letting Lehman Bros. fail, for example—sometimes produces unforeseen problems. And there are many situations in which the "insulation"doesn't affect behavior, like a messy bailout that investors and regulators alike would rather not go through. An article slams this year's Oscar nominees, which beat out "more deserving movies."

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Foreign Policy, January/February 2009 An article by Condoleezza Rice's former speechwriter describes Bush's second-term foreign policy as "pragmatic internationalism based on enduring national interests and ideals for a country whose global leadership is still indispensable." Obama ran against a "caricature of Bush's first term," but his foreign policy is more likely to mirror what happened in the second. "Obama will inherit a Middle East peace process finally proceeding on both tracks at once"—state-building and peacemaking—and probably won't find a good reason to change course much. An article argues that climate change is happening more quickly than even scientists admit, and that we have missed our chance to "solve" the crisis. Projections have human activity raising the global temperature by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century, and 1 degree of increase has already wreaked havoc. An exhaustive list ranks the best national and international think tanks.

David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.

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