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21/11/2006

Magazine Roundup

The New Republic | Prospect | Gazeta Wyborcza | Semana | The Guardian | The Economist | Die Weltwoche | Elet es Irodalom | NRC Handelsblad | Journal Culinaire | The New York Review of Books


The New Republic, 27.11.2006 (USA)

From the editorial: "The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom."

But where to go from there? 14 strategists, historians, politicians, political scientists and journalists were asked for their positions. Some can be read on-line. They are coloured by bitterness, cynicism and desperation.

Peter Beinart "can't even imagine Iraq anymore. It exceeds my capacity to visualize horror. In a recent interview with The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, a woman named Fatima put it this way: 'One-third of us are dying, one-third of us are fleeing, and one-third of us will be widows.' At the Baghdad morgue, they distinguish Shia from Sunnis because the former are beheaded and the latter are killed with power drills."

Leon Wieseltier wants everything other than a withdrawal, while James Kurth favours this option, but not immediately. "Before it leaves Iraq, then, the United States must inflict a dramatic and decisive defeat upon the Sunni insurgents--one that will demonstrate the unbearable cost and utter futility of the Islamist dream of establishing a Muslim umma under the rule of a global Sunni caliphate. That defeat must be more than military; it must also be political..."


Prospect, 01.12.2006 (UK)

Former Tory parliamentarian Michael Fry sees only one way out for Scotland: independence. "I have no doubt independence would make the Scots happier. It is a shame that from their subordinate position in the union, so many feel they have to hate the English, and that this feeling is coming to be reciprocated south of the border. But I think Scottish independence could be a liberation for the English too—allowing England to get the measure of its real size, rather than gaze in a distorting mirror which distends its last imperial fantasies. Most English people have already taken the end of empire in their stride." Most British already make the most of their status as "successful middle power."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 18.11.2006 (Poland)

In an interview, French sociologist Loic Wacquant, who teaches in the USA, explains why "Law & Order" strategies are so popular, even in Poland. "Programmes like 'zero tolerance' in the USA lead to a criminalisation of social problems. You take all the tools out of the left, helping hand of the state and you put them in the right, punishing one. 'Zero tolerance' reduces security to the fighting of criminality. It covers up real problems: the social degradation that has resulted form the neo-liberal revolution. Incidentally, it was the economic boom and the decrease in the younger portion of the population that helped to reduce crime at the beginning of the 1990s and not the repressive measures of Rudolfo Giuliani." Repression as a technique has a major advantage for politicians, Wacquant goes on to argue. Because the state finds ever less place for itself in the economy and the realm of social security, "Law & Order" offers a justification for its existence.

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman is skeptical as always in his new book, writes Adam Leszczynski. "The book 'Work, consumerism and the new poor' reads like a long answer to the question: is social justice possible in the late capitalist era? Bauman answers with a clear 'no!'" Bauman considers the left to have capitulated ideologically; there is no sign of an alternative to consumerism, at least not in the West. "You can also understand work religiously," says Leszczynski, "like the story of the fall of man written in the language of sociology."


Semana, 18.11.2006 (Colombia)

Colombian writer Hector Abad Faciolince (more), who has just published a biography of his father who was murdered 19 years ago in Medellin, sees a glimmer of hope for Colombia. "The times of the worst massacres seem to be over for now. Should we get out of the habit of butchering each other for a few months, perhaps even years, it won't be that easy to start up again. The demobilization of the paramilitary groups has unleashed a positive dynamic that we should definitely take advantage of." What is important is not "that the paramilitary be put behind bars for 25 years or that they be allowed to walk. It's important that the truth be told. Only that guarantees justice: I would like to know who shot, who gave the order, who carried it out, whether they are still alive, how they did it and why."


The Guardian, 18.11.2006 (UK)

Crime writer Ian Rankin panics at the idea of a new novel by Thomas Pynchon, "the greatest, wildest, most infuriating author of his generation". "This was a cause for despair. It meant that once more I would begin to inhabit the shadowy, conspiracy-driven theatre of the absurd that seems to be Pynchon's imagination. It's a place that constrains and hypnotises the general reader, and exerts an even greater pull on the true fan. My wife and children would lose sight of me for as long as it took to read the book, and afterwards I would be shell-shocked, wide-eyed, and seeing everywhere around me the signs of another world, similar to the one I seem to inhabit, but darker, odder, and altogether funnier."


The Economist, 17.11.2006 (UK)

The Economist asks what position Germany is occupying in the world, 16 years after reunification. "Germany, says Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), is now pretty much where it belongs: squarely at the centre. Whether it wants to be or not, the country is a Mittelmacht, or middle power. It is not a superpower, able to throw its weight about, but it is in a good position to take responsibility in cases where it can bring something to the table." The Economist, however, considers this assessment a little pre-mature. "Germany has made great progress in finding its place in the world since unification, but it is not yet over the hump of history."


Die Weltwoche, 16.11.2006 (Switzerland)

The Taliban are in the process of re-conquering Afghanistan. Sami Yousafzai and Urs Gehriger met with the cadre of Mullah Sabir, who delights in an interview: "Look at the news. Half of Afghanistan is in our power again. We have made it all the way to the gates of Kabul. President Hamid Karzai is trapped in his palace. He may be flying around the world, visiting those in power in the West but he doesn't dare to take even a tour of condolence in his own country. You can imagine that at our meeting of 33 Taliban chiefs, the mood is anything but dismal."

In addition, the Weltwoche publishes the new codex of the Taliban, which is obviously intended to curb the rather loose habits of the warriors: "...17) Mujhadeen have no right to confiscate the money or personal belongings of civilians. 18) Mujhadeen should not smoke cigarettes. 19) Mujhadeen are not allowed to take youth without beards into the field of battle or into their private quarters."


Elet es Irodalom, 17.11.2006 (Hungary)

Janos Szeky believes the unrest and wave of demonstrations in Hungary show that the system change is complete and that Hungary has definitively arrived in Western Europe. "After a delay of seventeen years, the country is finally shaking itself and seeing to its astonishment that our society is no longer mostly made up of those petty individuals who scrupulously wash their cherry-red Ladas every Saturday, then stuff huge portions of breaded Wiener Schnitzel into themselves. Instead, we have now become just like the rest of the Western world. Here too, the youth sometimes riot in the streets. Here too part of the population silently agrees with them while the other part is shocked. Here too there are differences between ethnic groups, races and religions, and here too the articles of the constitution are not there to stifle them, but to regulate them. Here too the police commit excesses during the riots, above all when they think no one's watching (television images of a man lying on the ground being beaten by several policemen are causing outrage in Canada). Here too politicians are not thought of as larger than life figures who never make mistakes. And for that reason our politicians too do their best to enshroud what they do in the thickest possible fog."


NRC Handelsblad, 15.11.2006 (The Netherlands)

Remember Spinoza! The British historian Jonathan Israel advises the Dutch in general and Ian Buruma in particular to remember their philosophical heritage. Because, he argues, terms like "Enlightenment" and "Enlightenment fundamentalists" are used ever more unthinkingly in politics and the media: "More than ever we must reject today the idea that religious leaders, no matter of what stripe, should influence the course of society, lawgiving and politics. For reasons of security, theological criteria and dogma must be separated on all levels from juristic and constitutional processes. Regardless of the fact that individuals must be free to believe what they want, no one's religious feelings or theological criteria should play a significant role in politics and culture today. Giving in to ideas that place religious sensibilities as the highest good in communal life is the surest way to political and social catastrophe."


Journal Culinaire, 20.11.2006 (Germany)

Issue number 3 of the semi-annual magazine put out by Stuttgart media gourmet Vincent Klink focuses on the "Globalisation of Eating." In a separate essay, writer and journalist Elke Schmitter goes in search of the "primordial yardstick of taste," reflecting on the "memory of the stomach": "'Memory makes it all.' And it plays an essential role in what we eat and how it tastes. We want to be reminded of what we ate as babies, and we want to feel like we did back then. With taste, as with hearing, memory acts as the ultimate seal of approval. The old songs are the old songs. Even if you can't stand them, you still get sentimental when you hear them on the radio." Click here for a story from issue number 2.


The New York Review of Books, 30.11.2006 (USA)

Michael Tomasky has read Barack Obama's new book, "The Audacity of Hope." Obama is a Democratic senator from Illinois, and the first black politician who stands a realistic chance of one day becoming President. Obama doesn't fit into the typical Left / Right raster. Whether that's a strength or a weakness remains to be seen, writes Tomasky. "Alone among contemporary politicians, Obama has shown a great potential to break the current red–blue stalemate and construct a new politics that is progressive but grounded in civic traditions that speak to a wider range of Americans than the existing amalgam of Democratic constituencies. He will need to demonstrate more courage than he has; he will need audacity not only of hope, but of action. He needs to attach his civic beliefs to tangible proposals—on what to do in Iraq, on how to reformulate energy policy, on how to balance liberty and security—to show us in concrete ways what his imagined America will look like. If Barack Obama can do that, then phenomenon may be just the right word."
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