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This Week in Magazines: Michelle, Carla and Silda: Hero, Badass and the Humiliated

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Dahling, you must get the latest Vogue.

The March issue of the longtime fashion arbiter gives us radiant Michelle Obama on the cover (a shot by power chronicler Annie Leibovitz as the family slummed at the Hay-Adams Hotel before moving across the street) and a reverent tale, "Leading Lady," by Andre Leon Talley.

The two originally met at Oprah's place (where else?!) in Santa Barbara, with Talley seated for dinner between Obama and Tina Turner and seemingly nonplussed that a Harvard Law grad might have done a bit of pre-party homework, or that the host presumably told her with whom she'd be sharing the salt and pepper shakers. When Obama disclosed that she knew who he was, "I was so flattered my jaw dropped." His solicitous effort is further evidence.

A trifecta of high, mighty and embarrassed women continues with a Joan Juliet Buck profile, "Paris Match," of French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Her Valium-like impact on her purportedly mid-to-low-brow, frenetic spouse's life is explained by an otherwise unidentified "sharp-tongued Parisian," who informs, "She drags him to desperately abstract plays that he sleeps through, but he's thrilled; she makes him watch DVDs of foreign films in the original language; she's made him into the kind of man intellectuals can be seen with. She ennobled him; she made him elegant."

Finally, there's "The Survivor," an inspection of Silda Wall Spitzer, another Harvard Law grad and wife of disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. With talking points in hand and publicist in tow, she meets the magazine in a hotel lobby, underscores both her charity work and new efforts at a hedge fund run by women, Metropolitan Capital Advisors.

As for her husband, ah, well, read what you want into a line like this, about each helping the other with online magazine pieces and books they're working on: "I value Eliot as a colleague. He is a wonderful human being with a great sense of humor who is smart and fun." The publicist, who also represents the husband, indicates that he'll have no comment. Based on this, Silda seems the better, more deserving, and smarter, family spokesman, anyway.

---March Harper's Magazine is worth Ken Silverstein's "Invisible Hands," a look at the changing world of oil fixers, those conduits between corporations and foreign governments, albeit in a world in which "the means of payoffs have become more complex" as old-fashioned cash bribes are a bit more difficult, given various laws. Elsewhere, Gideon Lewis-Kraus takes us to the Frankfurt Book Fair, "The Last Book Party," where at least social vitality is in evidence amid the industry's glum trends (ah, if only Hunter Thompson were around to stumble around this bastion of back-scratching, tony commerce). Edward Hoagland's "Curtain Calls," rumination on getting older, is the best writing here. "If you've loved life, are grateful for the bonus years that pharmaceuticals have provided, and believe that heaven is on earth, why would you suppose a void is going to follow all that energy?"

---March 16 Forbes's "Wall Street's Disappearing Women" argues that women may be disproportionately impacted by Wall Street layoffs. "If the claims have any merit, the mostly male club that gave rise to explosive sex discriminations lawsuits a dozen years ago against Citigroup's Smith Barney brokerage unit is back at work." This asserts that 72 percent of workers laid off have been females, thought they comprised 64 percent of the work force before the crash. Some employment specialists quoted here find the basic allegation to be balderdash, but this somewhat rebuts such qualms and finds that a whole generation of future female managing directors is being wiped out.

---March 9 Business Week's "The Next" is the latest look into gradual erosions in privacy, this one on how a few computer geeks working in New York's SoHo neighborhood can track movements of cell-phone users and help companies ultimately discover "what individuals will be most likely to buy, or where they'll be when a craving hits." Just like Google develops divines lessons from how we surf the Web, this project aims to do same with the physical world around us, namely stores, bars, arenas, street corners, and in the process develop conclusions about the sorts of people who go to those spots and how we all might be marketed to.

---March 9 New Yorker's "Lost" is Ian Parker's trek to beleaguered Iceland, which lost its economic shirt amid free-market giddiness, resulting in its economy tanking and national soul-searching. Should left-wing intellectuals be blamed? Meanwhile, though the notion of mentioning the magazine's Hendrik Hertzberg in the same line with Peggy Noonan seems strained, the former's "Talk of the Town" analysis of President Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress strikes a theme similar to one Noonan proffered in Saturday's Wall Street Journal; namely that, "In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama took full possession of his job and his role." Yup.

---"On John Updike" in March 12 New York Review of Books is an Ian McEwan homage of mountainous imagery, summarized thus: "And now this masterly blasphemer, whose literary schemes and pretty conceits touched at points on the Shakespearean, is gone, and American letters, deprived in recent years of its giants, Bellow and Mailer, is a leveled plain, with one solitary peak guarded by Roth. We are coming to the end of the golden age of the American novel in the twentieth century's second half."

---So what if Hitler's great-great-great grandparents had never had sex? Well, this is actually broached in "Consequentialism, Cluelessness, and Indifference" by Gerald Lang, a University of Leeds philosopher, in the Journal of Value Inquiry. Perhaps Bill Maher will get to this topic one of these days but this is a response to what Lang calls an important, forcefully argued article in which James Lenman "claimed that consequentialism, which is the view that the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by its total overall consequences, is exposed to a crippling difficulty. The difficulty concerns the wildly unpredictable or unforeseeable nature of an act's total consequences across time, particularly when the identity-affecting dimensions of an act, which need not have an explicitly reproductive character, since many ostensibly innocuous acts will have decisive implications for how, and when, couples meet and then mate, are taken into account."

"Let us take, as an example, the consequences of the conjugal activities of Hitler's great-great-great grandparents: in ways that were epistemically inaccessible to the couple, the consequences of their reproductive act eventually included genocide. But for their act, the particular genocide that constituted the Holocaust would not have occurred. It would seem, then, that the act was wrong. But perhaps the events that comprised the Holocaust will turn out to have the effect of averting a larger genocide, or a whole series of them, at some date in the future, as a result of the international security apparatus and heightened general political awareness that ensued from the experiences of World War II. If that is so, the reproductive act may not have been wrong after all. It is difficult to say. But that is Lenman. The main lesson of his discussion is that, given the radically open-ended, temporally scattered reverberations of any given act, consequentialists cannot pretend to be able to attain any sort of grasp at all of the rightness or wrongness of the act. We may call this the cluelessness objection to consequentialism. "

As my five-year-old is given to declare, this gives me a headache.