This Week in Magazines: Eric Holder Mulls Investigating Alleged Bush-Era Torture

08/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • James Warren Washington Bureau Chief, New York Daily News; Former managing editor, Chicago Tribune

Let's call it survival of the feeblest.

Just as one shouldn't be
shocked if Dick Cheney did order the CIA to hide a secret intelligence
project, don't do a double-take if Cheney's generation openly approves
of online dating. In fact, an academic paper on the latter may be more
interesting than the former allegation, especially if the Cheney flap
inspires revelation of just another unimpressive clandestine effort
by the CIA.

"Partner Preferences Across
the Life Span: Online Dating by Older Adults" is found in Vol. 24,
No. 2 of Psychology and Aging. There, University of California-Berkeley
psychologist Sheyna Sears-Roberts Alterovitz and Gerald Mendelsohn,
assert that stereotypes of older Americans as withdrawn or asexual "fail
to recognize that romantic relationships in later life are increasingly

I'm not sure if this dramatically
advances Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection but, at minimum,
it is one of the first academic dissections of Yahoo! Personals. The
professors looked at ads supposedly placed by 600 mostly non-Hispanic
Caucasian heterosexual men and women from four different age groups.
Ultimately, they found that as men age, they seek women increasingly
younger than themselves, while providing more data about themselves
than women at every age. Men were more likely than women to request
physical attractiveness but women are more selective across all age

"We found that evolutionary predictions
about partner preferences held true for men throughout the life span,"
they conclude.

At all ages, men sought physical attractiveness and
offered more status-related information than did women. As they aged,
men desired women who were increasingly younger than themselves. Whether
this indicates that the age of maximum fertility exerts a downward pull
on the slope, that men are compromising between their fantasies and
their sense of reality, or that this is another example of age segregation,
we cannot say. However, the finding that there is no maximum age at
which women cease to be desirable is interesting in light of the current
cultural emphasis on the connection between youth and beauty. Many women
experience a negative transition to later life that is related to concerns
about their age (Barrett, 2004); it would be valuable to study how older
women's perceptions of their own aging relate to their sense of desirability
as a mate."

"For women, predictions from
evolutionary theory did not always hold true in later life. As predicted,
women at all ages sought status-related information more often than
men. However, we found that across the life span, women did not offer
physical attractiveness more than men did. Perhaps the online format
of personal ads, which encourages the ad writer to include up to five
photographs, obviates verbal descriptions."

---In Newsweek's
"Independent's Day" cover, Dan Klaidman raises the possibility
that Attorney General Eric Holder might not heed what seems to be the
White House preference not to look back and investigate allegations
of Bush-approved torture of detainees and enemy combatants. One might
just be in for a clash between seeming historical necessity and political
expedience. He writes:

"Holder, 58, may be on the verge of
asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources
tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor
to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices,
something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision
has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say
these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement
matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge
Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil
Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform.
Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for
months. 'I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative
impact on the president's agenda,' he says. 'But that can't be a
part of my decision.'"

---August Architectural
may generate some vicarious pleasure to those who cannot
afford "Exotic Homes Around the World," with some stunners in Kenya,
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Morocco, Hong Kong, Bali, Mexico, Croatia, Panama
and Egypt. My personal fave is recounted in the estimable writer Susan
Sheehan's "Living Green amid the Blue," an account of the home
built in Bali by movie director Rob Cohen and his wife. In case you
missed The Fast and the Furious or Dragonheart, they're
his handiworks.

He asked his designer for "oversize
and comfortable" and he got it on his seven acres, mostly via a main
residence with three traditional Minang rumah gadang (big houses), with
thatch roofs and multitiered upswept gables. The various guest pavilions
on the location are placed around "a continuously flowing and oxygenating
lake created by diverting water" from the nearby river. The homes
sit about 10 feet above ground on huge stones, apparently making them
less vulnerable to earthquakes. Whatever, it's pretty snazzy, with
a nice view of an active volcano from their "commodious tented bed
in the master bedroom pavilion."

--In July 2-27 Nation,
Erick Alterman, discussing "How Bold Is Barack?" notes some of the
imprecision in the frequently analogies to Franklin Roosevelt. "FDR
did not face an army of lobbyists seeking to thwart his every move.
Perhaps more important, he did not have to succeed in today's media
environment, in which nut cases like Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Hannity manage
to set the terms of debate."

---As the sun will rise in
the east, Michelle Obama fronts July-August Ebony's "The
It Factor" cover, or 25 women "who make us sit up and take notice."
It's mostly usual suspects from a female elite including Tina Turner,
Aretha Franklin, Condoleezza Rice, Oprah, Diana Ross and Beyoncé (interesting
that the pioneering African American publication doesn't find "It"
in any doctors, lawyers, ministers or social workers). Unrelated, "The
Cash Sta$h" focuses on a study indicating that "29 percent of people
say that they lied to their partners about finances and approximately
25 percent withheld financial information about personal spending or
spending on children."

---In National Review,
editor Rich Lowry clearly doesn't buy into the notion of a second

Confronted by the inadequacies of the current program,
its advocates have a predictable solution -- a new one. Since the worthiest
projects were presumably already covered in the first stimulus, a second
stimulus would have to fund even more marginal priorities, and it would
get into the economy even later. In other words, it would replicate
rather than rectify the failures of the first stimulus.

August Kiplinger's Personal
offers "Stocks that Pay Rising Dividends," led by politically
incorrect tobacco giant Philip Morris International; food distributor
Sysco Corp.; health care biggies Abbott Laboratories and Becton, Dickinson;
consultant Accenture; and French energy giant Total. Elsewhere, it sizes
up potential profits in investing in coffee companies and opts for Green
Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), which it tabs "the big winner in
the coffee wars" since its share price has doubled in the past year.
As for goliath Starbucks, it notes the impact of the recession on the
company and says that despite big cost-cutting, it needs a new source
of growth.

---August Bon
is loads of culinary fun, first with "Happy Birthday,
," a reminder of some of Julia Child's greatest recipes on
the event of a movie inspired by her life and commemoration of her birthday
in mid-August. But there's also, "A Week of No-Cook Dinners,"
namely a week's worth of food without a need for a grill or oven.
The pretty easy-to-make fare includes summer tomato and bell pepper
soup; a meze platter with hummus and shrimp and cucumber salads; Chinese
egg noodles with smoked duck and snow peas; and roast chicken and mango
salad with yogurt. And if you're not initially motivated, some of
the photos of the end results may steer you away from your microwave
popcorn or soggy, takeout sushi.'s "Logo
on Steroids
" touts Microsoft's new video game, Kodu, for those nine
years old and up and will help teach a child to think and even, alas,
think like a computer programmer in a fun way.

---June 9 Economist
does a nice, succinct job contrasting the currently dramatic differences
in California and Texas, with the former starting to pay creditors with
IOUs and the latter coping far better than most states with the recession.
And while noting that "American conservatives have seized on this
reversal of fortune," especially when it comes to lower taxes and
less business regulation in Texas, "the truth is that both states
could learn from each other."

"Texas still lacks California's
great universities and lags in terms of culture. California could adopt
not just Texas's leaner state, but also its more bipartisan approach
to politics and its more welcoming attitude towards Mexico."

---Much was written about Former
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's errant oversight of the Vietnam
War after his death last week. But July 20 Time

is still worth the recollection of Leslie Gelb, who way back when directed
the Pentagon Papers study.

And as I now contemplate
the departure of a life so central to my own and that of my country
as Bob McNamara's, one overriding lesson bombards my mind: nationalist
wars, civil wars, tribal and religious wars----they can never be won
by Americans. As long as we're there and willing to fight and die,
we won't lose. But in the end, we can't win either unless we realize
that it must be their war---a war for the South Vietnamese to fight
for their freedom and a war for Afghans to fight for theirs. We can
help, but it must be theirs.

---August Popular Mechanics
treads into territory you wouldn't necessarily associate with it via
"The Truth About Forensics," a fine primer on all the reasons to
doubt the metaphysical certitude of fingerprinting, fiber analysis and
ballistics analysis, among other staples of criminal "evidence."
As newspapers like the Chicago Tribune have helped to reveals in recent
years, more than 200 people have had convictions overturned as a result
of DNA testing, with lousy forensic work initially contributing to wrongful
imprisonment in many cases.

Bite marks, blood-splatter
patterns, ballistics, and hair, fiber and handwriting analysis sounds
compelling in the courtroom but m much of the 'science' behind forensic
science rests on surprisingly shaky foundations," as this explains.
For example, "Fingerprints are believed to be unique, but the process
of matching prints has no statistically valid model.

And as the 40th anniversary of his historic walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong approaches,
long-retired Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin vents about the state of our
space program, bashes a "myopic" NASA and argues that we're wasting
our time with getting back there and should instead focus on getting
to Mars. He argues that a human presence there "will maintain U.S.
leadership in human spaceflight, avoid a counterproductive space race
with China to be second back to the moon, and lead to a permanent American-led
presence on Mars by 2035 at the latest."

---Finally, kudos to Eric Effron,
an executive editor at The Week, for noting how the rest of the
country need not gloat over California's current fiscal and governmental
disarray. That's especially true if you live in New York, where state
government confronts an epic, self-inflicted mess amid partisan bickering
in the legislature. "It has gotten so ridiculous that at one point
Democrats and Republicans staged rival sessions; Democrats even remained
seated during the GOP-led Pledge of Allegiance, standing only during
their own rendition. The crises in New York and California have distinct
homegrown origins, but in both cases, the public interest has been sacrificed
to petty, entrenched partisanship." Yup, yup, yup.

It makes Illinois -- remember
Rod Blagojevich? -- look vaguely sane and honest.