This Week in Magazines -- Middle East Mayhem, Gagging Conservatives and Vicki Iseman's Side

02/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • James Warren Washington Bureau Chief, New York Daily News; Former managing editor, Chicago Tribune

You can start the New Year feeling indulgent and selfish by inspecting Jan. 12 Time's "Wasting our Watts" and the Jan. 3-9 Economist's "Troubled Waters." On land and sea, we appear equally our own worst enemy.

Time's> treatise is less about conservation than it is the many technologies we could use to build more efficient cars, light bulbs, machines, you name it. The Economist lengthy special report is about the horrendous impact of our activities on the sea, whether it's declining stocks of fish, the damaging of coral reefs (home to a quarter of all marine species) via too much carbon dioxide, too much discarded plastic everywhere. It's estimated that 75 percent of marine fish are near falling below sustainable levels.

One truly interesting heads-up in the Economist involves the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea; a topic rarely discussed on Sunday morning talk shows (or anywhere else beyond the UN, for that matter). Four months remain for nations worldwide to submit claims extending the traditional legal control of the sea beyond 200 miles from their shore. If a country has the proper scientific data, mostly involving how far the continental shelf extends beyond its coastline, they will be given rights over the natural resources on and under the seabed up to 350 miles from land. A huge land grab is imminent with the real prize minerals, not fish.

Along with a host of other problems, this deeply-researched, quasi-academic analysis concludes that, "The possibility of widespread catastrophe is simply too great."

---But if you're feeling guilty about contributing to worldwide ecological disaster, February Bon Appétit offers "50 Easy Ways to Eat Green" and "have a more meaningful impact on our environment. These include eating fair-trade and organic chocolate; filling up your freezer and using less energy; saving a species by eating it, possibly opting for bison meat to make your burgers; starting to eat sardines, rather than overfished tuna; roasting a whole chicken, leading to less processing and less waste, then using the leftover bones to make your own stock; signing up for a weekly email from Heritage Foods USA so you can be informed on preserving native American livestock; eating American cheese; eat more tofu; and biking to the market (oh, please, in a Chicago winter?!!!).

There may be peace in the Middle East before a majority of these ideas find a truly significant audience.

---There was precious little sex in the presidential campaign and most of it, real and possibly imagined, was confined to the John McCain campaign. There was the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter and, before that, a 3,000-word New York Times opus last February, strongly suggesting that McCain had sexual relations with a little-known telecommunications lobbyist during his failed 1999 campaign for the Republican nomination.

Now National Journal's estimable investigative reporter Edward T. Pound gives us "Her Side of the Story," namely lobbyist Vicki Iseman's categorical denial of any hanky-panky. Based on a series of chats, it comes just as Iseman has filed a libel suit against the newspaper, which maintains that it didn't suggest there was definitely an affair but that McCain aides were convinced something of a romantic nature might well be going on.

The early Vegas line on this litigation might be that one should expect an out-of-court settlement.

---Despite the difficulty for journalists in reporting on the latest mess in Gaza, given onerous press restrictions, it's an obvious topic for many magazines, with most suggesting more reason for fatalism (Economist's "Pummeling the Palestinians") than for some hope (Jan. 12 Newsweek's "Will It Ever End?"). They tend to spread the blame, coming to various conclusions about the failure of eight years of Clinton-era diplomacy, when success seemed potentially at hand, and about the frustrations of a clearly Israel-sympathetic Bush administration.

And in the Jan. 12 New Yorker's "Talk of the Town," editor David Remnick mulls the mayhem and, while especially bleak on the hopes in Gaza, hopes that Barack Obama does find some unavoidable imperative in the Talmudic notion of our having an "obligation to repair the world."

---National Review editor Rich Lowry uses the internet blogosphere to enter the political Blagosphere created by the ongoing soap opera in Illinois. His "Devil in Illinois" on National Review's online site correctly captures the adroit cynicism of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, replete with the self-inspired mess facing U.S. Senate Democrats led by a paragon of political nepotism, Harry Reid of Nevada. "Enjoy Rod Blagojevich's revenge while it lasts," he writes.

---"Is Silicon Valley Losing Its Magic" is the centerpiece of Jan. 12 Business Week, with reporter Steve Hamm's road trip concluding that there's a lot more risk aversion among start-ups and the old war horses, like IBM, Intel, Apple and Microsoft showing more potential for taking on worldwide competitors exhibiting more innovation than we are.

"Microsoft and Google will race each other to come out with cutting-edge Net technologies. And Apple seems likely to produce more hit products. But unless entrepreneurs and venture capitalists refocus on more ambitious tech projects---even though they take more time and money to incubate---the Valley's and the tech industry's contribution to the national economy is likely to wane."

---Conservatives will gag at "American Conservatism in Historical Perspective" in Early American Studies a full bashing of the anti-intellectual nature of neo-conservatism in the United States. The University of Pennsylvania's Michael Zuckerman is less than veiled very early:

"In French slang, the word con means jackass or imbecilic wuss. So when the néo-cons---the néo-cons as the French read the term---went ahead with the ill-considered invasion and imperialist occupation of Iraq, the French thought that this was just the sort of thing that néo-cons---incompetent fools, milksop morons---would do."

He concludes with what he deems the hypocrisy of neo-cons alluding to the Founding Fathers on various issues, finding scant links and scant conservatism among the neo-cons.

---January Harper's Bazaar briefly takes our mind off all the depressing realities of a poor economy and disastrous holiday performance of high-end retailers with a solicitous Scarlett Johansson profile, essentially pimping her new movie, in which she's decked out in a $7,240 Roberto Cavalli sequined silk gown (can't Cavalli round off the price to a mere $7,200?). And, like Washington telecommunications lobbyists, actresses can be the source of whispering campaigns, too, as a droll Johansson speaks of rumors of her not just having been pregnant but possibly even giving birth to sextuplets.