Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Week’s Media Round-Up #1

This is a new thing I’m going to be trying out. Each week, I’ll put together a short round-up of best (and worst) stories in the vast array of magazines I read and subscribe to. I’ll do this every Saturday or Sunday, as the majority of magazines either come out on Saturday or arrive somewhere around then. I’ll try to link to the stories whenever possible, to make it easier for people to find. This isn’t going to be some scholarly exercise in media criticism or discourse analysis; merely my opinion on the journalism published each week.

So, starting with three weeklies, we have The Nation, The Economist, TIME; and for the monthlies there’s Foreign Policy, and US News & World Report.

TN-20090406 In The Nation, Chris Hayes writes a good comment about the AIG Bonuses. Alex Cockburn gives us his opinion of NATO at 60 (“It needs to disappear into the trash can of history along with the cold war that engendered it”), in an article good for many reasons, but specifically for informing the reader that in the 1940s, there was a publication called Armored Cavalry Journal. David Cole takes a look at the Obama administration’s “attempts to shield illegal exercises of executive authority from judicial review”, in a disturbing continuation of a Bush administration policy. And Katha Pollitt explains why she doesn’t like Ross Douthat and his recent appointment to be the second conservative columnist at the New York Times (his latest article, here), and how “Douthat seems unusually averse to engaging with women intellectually”.

For the cover-story, we see the magazine partaking once more of the print media’s favourite pastime – reporting on its own imminent demise and the dire consequences this will have for American democracy. Rather than just explain why it’s declining, authors John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney offer their prescriptions of how we might go about fixing it (it includes at least a $20 billion investment from the state). It’s a very good article, and as someone who did a (not entirely satisfactory) MA in International Journalism at Cardiff University, their proposal that the government fund training courses in journalism starting in high school meets with approval.

Economist-20090330 The Economist this week, in the most notable leader-article twofer, looks at how China sees the world, with a pretty good cover image to go with it. Now that China’s rise is witnessing an accompanying decline in the West, China should be able to satisfy its nationalist fringe. There is discussion about internal issues facing China and also the country’s record on the international scene. Some quotes:

“Far from oozing self-confidence, China is witnessing a fierce debate both about its economic system and the sort of great power it wants to be – and it is a debate the government does not like.”

“China’s leaders also face rumblings of discontent from leftist nationalists, who see the downturn as a chance to halt market-oriented reforms at home, and for China to assert itself more stridently abroad.”

“China’s record as a citizen of the world is strikingly threadbare. On a host of issues from Iran to Sudan, it has used its main geopolitical asset, its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, to obstruct progress, hiding behind the excuse that it does not want to intervene in other countries’ affairs.”

TIME-20090330In this week’s TIME, the AIG bonuses scandal takes pride of place. Bill Saporito’s 6-page feature discusses the failing of AIG (including a very short, very clear explanation of what the scandal actually is), and Justin Fox explains what we ought to take away from the whole scenario. Josef Joffe looks at NATO at 60, writing a better article than and taking a different view to Alex Cockburn (The Nation, above), arguing that it is still going strong. Joe Klein asks for patience, to give Obama’s policies time to actually happen before we write his presidency off as a failure.

FP-200903In the March edition of Foreign Policy (now available trhough Zinio), there are a couple of particularly good articles (among the rest of a very good issue). First off, there’s Niall Fergusson’s cover story, “The Axis of Upheaval”. Cheng Li’s “China’s Team of Rivals” discusses the internal factions of the CCP, its future leaders (who have already been chosen) and how the divisions might affect China’s future, and how they affect the present; it’s very good for anyone studying or with an interest in Chinese domestic politics. “Inside the Ivory Tower”, by Daniel Maliniak, Amy Oakes, Susan Peterson and Michael J. Tierney, takes a look at opinions of leading foreign policy and international relations scholars, and what they think Obama’s attention should be focused on. With other articles about different opinions on the future of globalisation, this is, overall, a very good issue.

USNews-200903 US News & World Report. In April’s environment and energy issue, there are a couple of stand-out articles. The first is on the greening of the US army: Anna Mulrine explains why there’s a growing desire for the DoD to “untether” itself from fuel – convoys are popular targets for insurgents, high fuel-consumption is a logistical issue, not to mention the expense (e.g., in 2008, Air Force used $7.7billion of fuel) – there are actually some rather surprising and enterprising, low-tech methods used. Kent Garber, in “Taking Some Risk out of Nuclear Power”, tells us about the benefits of using thorium to generate nuclear power (its potentially safer, and lasts longer so there’s less waste, which isn’t viable for nuclear weapons, apparently). In this issue’s Two Takes, Fred Krupp and William L. Kovacs argue their sides of the argument about Kyoto Protocol-type treatise: Krupp says “The moment has arrived for Congress to take bold action”, advocating renewable energies and cap-and-trade policies, and leading by example; Kovacs, on the other hand, seems to take a “why should we if they won’t” position, pointing to developing nations’ exemption from emissions caps and greater competitiveness through lower production costs. Kovacs does, however, point out certain hypocrisies of ‘clean’ nations who buy ‘dirty’ energy from other nations (e.g. Austria).

In the next round-up, I’ll look at the latest issues of The Atlantic, The American Prospect, The Weekly Standard, and National Review.

I think next time I’ll probably also write less, as this turned out to be considerably longer than anticipated… I might just do individual magazines as and when they come in and after finishing them. This at least will break things up.

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