February Smart Money is very good on what mutual funds have emerged from our economic debacle with a strong record. And there's a generally upbeat assessment of what's emerging as Obamanomics, namely the President-elect's tentative stimulus plan.
But then, folks, it's got real news you can use, namely, "Ten Things Your Online Dating Service Won't Tell You."
These include the need to keep expectations very low, despite one survey concluding that two percent of marriages are the result of an eHarmony.com connection; the reality that deception remains high, especially lying about age; con artists abound, looking to make a few bucks (a female, say, seeking money for a plane ticket or gas to meet you); the lack of service from the company in actually helping you; the need to make your personal profile less specific and forthcoming; and the distinct possibility your credit card will still be charged after you've canceled.
Despite its obvious popularity, the industry is not necessarily booming. "In fact, total revenue for the online dating industry was projected to reach $1.18 billion in 2008, less than a 1 percent increase from 2007," according to one research firm.
---Jan. 19 Newsweek's "Obama"s Cheney Dilemma" cover story may seem a tad muddled precisely because the topic, national security and the disputed tactics to keep us safe, can be inherently muddled. Here, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas argue that Barack Obama's campaign rhetoric, attacking Bush administration secrecy and alleged torture techniques, will have to bend or even be abandoned in some cases since "presidents live in a gray area" and since "national security is an unavoidably murky world." They will surely raise some eyebrows by asserting that it's a "liberal shibboleth that torture doesn't work," while exhibiting some sympathy toward Vice President Dick Cheney's tough-guy, covert approach to this whole area. This underscores points Taylor has previously made in his National Journal writings, especially about the thorny ramifications of closing the detainee camp at Guantanamo, while it still concludes that Cheney's "obsessive love of secrecy came back to haunt him. By trying to strengthen the presidency, he weakened it."
---Cheney is inevitably a recurring player in February Vanity Fair's richly kaleidoscopic "Farewell to All That---An Oral History of the Bush White House" by Cullen Murphy, Todd Purdum and Philippe Sands. This is a distinctly anecdotal first draft of history, with lots of administration insiders, both friend and foe, opining on key events and atmospherics during the past eight years. Even amid ample tales of personal kindnesses by Bush, it underscores the impression of an intellectually lazy, dogmatic leader and his conniving, headstrong chief lieutenant (Cheney).
It may be inevitable that the most notable claims are also the most critical, including former Bush pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd's sense of a failed presidency, given too many "missed opportunities," and of Hurricane Katrina being "the tipping point," where Bush "broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public." In addition, not much is left to the imagination when it comes to the well-known rift between the White House and both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Powell's close chum, Richard Armitage. Here, a top Powell aide recounts the earthy Armitage using "language to describe the vice president's office as the Gestapo, as the Nazis."
Elsewhere in the issue, Christopher Hitchens looks back on the real legacy of the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie 20 years ago, namely Western media self-censorship when it comes to perceived adverse response by Muslim fundamentalists. In addition, James Wolcott is fun in discerning winners and losers in the presidential campaign, including cable host "Rachel Maddow's captivating rise from minor-league hottie to prom-queen media darling," contrasting her "sparky enthusiasm" with the "granitic monotone of Fox News hosts such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity." A big media loser is radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, a "Promethean twit possessed of an infallible gift for getting it pompously, egregiously wrong."
---The week's most engagingly obscure opus may be "The 'Winter' Analogy Fallacy: From Superbombs to Supervolcanoes" in the History of Meteorology 4. There, Matthias Dorries, a science historian at the Universite Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, contends that, "In the late 1980s, a few volcanologists created an ill-founded analogy."
"Drawing upon the then-fashionable 'nuclear winter' theory, they claimed that certain explosive eruptions in historic times might have led to 'volcanic winters.' The nuclear winter debate of the 1980s was about the possibly disastrous effects of a nuclear war on the Earth's atmosphere and climate, thus on agriculture, and human beings; the term implied that the dust and soot released into the atmosphere by nuclear bombs and the resulting fires would drop world-wide temperatures enough to turn summer into winter. Major effects, it was inferred then, would last for weeks or at most a few months."
The real consequences of nuclear war, he asserts, were debatable as modeling was insufficient. It was the same with research into volcanoes and climate change.
"Given the uncertainties in both models and the significant differences concerning the causes (dust and soot, versus sulphates) and length (three months to several years), the analogy between 'nuclear winter' and ' volcanic winter' was unsubstantiated, having only a vague commonality in a short-term diminution of global temperatures. In fact, as I will show, the analogy never underwent scrutiny, debate or substantiation, as some volcanologists succeeded in turning a passing speculation into a matter of fact."
"Over the following years, the analogy took on a life of its own and spawned further
analogies: large-scale volcanic eruptions turned into 'supereruptions,' and 'supervolcanoes' became natural equivalents for the human-made 'superbomb,' the hydrogen bomb. Some volcanologists played up this hype and tendency to self-aggrandizement, not only in their scientific articles, but also in popular TV features. For example, BBC and Discovery Channel programs on supervolcanoes played out the horrific scenario of a possible repetition of the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano in the state of Wyoming, which last erupted 600,000 years ago. Prominent volcanologists painted a somber picture of future eruptions while ill concealing their excitement at how they had figured out that doom is inevitable. These programs obfuscated the fact that the more dangerous and also more imminent threats came, and still come from humans themselves--and volcanologists tended to play along."
---Jan. 19 Business Week, which is looking decidedly thin these days, offers the inescapably alluring, "The Worst Managers." They include former Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne, who appeared "clueless" as his company collapsed; Former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld, convinced that his company was too big to fail; Yahoo! Boss Jerry Yang, who walked away from Microsoft's offer to buy the company; General Motors chief Richard Wagoner, who inherited a mess "but did little to invest in fuel-efficient cars and force radical change": and Tribune Co. head Sam Zell, who is cited for "sucking the life out of an ailing media empire" as he promised to save the newspaper business, then filed the largest print media bankruptcy ever.