What's new in The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
March 24 2009 4:32 PM

Rage Against the Machine

The glossies tackle populist anger.

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Newsweek, March 30 The cover package is a series of takes on the benefits and dangers of "populist rage." The introduction takes a historical tour of populism, which began in the late 19th century as citizens from small towns and mining centers targeted "economic tycoons who betrayed the public." Robert J. Samuelson praises the adaptability of American capitalism but warns that populist outrage could "veer into a vindictive retribution." Joel Kotkin argues that populism can raise powerful support for reform and that the Obama administration hasn't used it enough against Wall Street. Slate columnist and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer says we should accept basic market realities and restore "logic, not anger" to the debate in Washington. An article profiles Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who argues that Western aid to Africa keeps the continent poor and oppressed. She urges celebrities to give up photo-op advocacy and focus on more constructive ways to help.

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New York, March 30
The cover story scans President Obama's economic brain and reports that "it's not pretty at this moment." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner botched his first presentation, "speaking slowly, swaying side to side," and the rest of the economic team mistakenly believes businesses are excited about their "turning the country into a socialist state." They also appear to be capitalizing on the crisis instead of solving it, using their array of rescue plans to advance Obama's policy agenda, when this "should be an all-hands-on-deck moment." An article profiles Cara Muhlhahn, a New York midwife and home-birth activist who believes childbirth should be "more poetic than clinical." She operates without required licenses and avoids partnerships with hospitals to escape their restrictions. "I don't enjoy being an outlaw," she says, but she insists no one else respects the body's natural processes enough. Most of her happy customers agree.

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The New Yorker, March 30 An article explores the torturous effects of solitary confinement—a slow psychological deterioration that happens to prisoners of war and common American criminals alike. The widespread use of isolation in U.S. prisons is a phenomenon of the past 20 years. "Supermax" prisons, designed for mass solitary confinement, now contain at least 25,000 inmates. Advocates say solitary confinement is the only way to contain violent prisoners, but studies show no drop in violence when the worst offenders are isolated. An article examines the "environmental benefits of an economic decline" and wonders how to reignite the economy without burning up the time the recession has "put back on the carbon clock." Once the economy is "no longer teetering," our environmental success will come from policies that seem to take us back to our leaner times. In a piece of fiction, Woody Allen imagines a Bernie Madoff seafood dinner through the eyes of two lobsters.

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Weekly Standard, March 30 The cover story predicts that the financial crisis could destroy the EU, the union's "soft authoritarianism" having "left it peculiarly ill suited to weather the storm." EU voter turnout is low and displeasure is high, meaning any direction it takes will push its alienated electorate toward extremist politics on either side. Populist movements are gaining ground across Europe, and as the EU's members hang together against their own interest, the "wild men of the fringes" will see their numbers swell. It seems "disturbingly likely" that the union will realize, "too late, that there was something to be said for democracy after all." An article sees in this year's New Jersey gubernatorial race the beginnings of a GOP comeback. Democrat incumbent John Corzine trails both likely Republican challengers, including Chris Christie, the state's former U.S. attorney. Christie is winning statewide appeal with his engaging style and message of reform.

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Rolling Stone, April 2 The cover story follows the cast of Gossip Girl around New York, where they live in a bubble of glamour that sometimes resembles the lives of their privileged Upper East Side characters. The young stars take the opportunity to reiterate that the rumors brought up "in every interview"—that the girls hate one another, that the boys are gay—have no more weight than the hearsay on the show's titular gossip blog. The story wonders if the fabulous five might be the last few living the high life in Manhattan. Matt Taibbi reviews the financial crisis and rails against megabanks for creating an "idiotic language" too convoluted for regulators to understand. The people trying to fix the mess are graduates of that same class, making the entire crisis a charade of ass-covering that the American people should be way angrier about than they are.

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

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