Weekly Review — December 30, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Israel bombed Hamas targets in Gaza for three days, killing at least 300 people, 50 of them civilians, and blowing up a mosque and a television station. Palestinians seeking to flee into Egypt were turned back; a doctor at a Gaza hospital said that after 18 months of Israeli sanctions the lack of medical facilities made it better for a patient “to be brought in dead.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the bombing, ordered in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas, would be “widened and deepened as is necessary,” and an area around Gaza was declared a “closed military zone,” with access forbidden to civilians, including journalists. “No one,” explained an Israeli government spokeswoman, “is trying to hide anything.” Anti-Israeli protests and demonstrations erupted throughout the Arab world, and UFO-cultists in Tel Aviv canceled a “mega-orgy” for world peace.New York TimesYnet NewsNew York TimesA poll found President-elect Barack Obama, who was photographed shirtless while on vacation in Hawaii, to be the man Americans most admire,USA TodayChicago Tribuneand Manpower Inc., a temporary-staffing agency, lowered its fourth-quarter financial forecast due to a rapid decline in demand.Wall Street JournalEartha Kitt, who sang “Santa Baby,” died,New York Timesand a man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at his in-laws’ Christmas Eve party in Covina, California, killing at least eight people before setting fire to the house and killing himself.New York TimesPresident Bush signed, then withdrew, a pardon for a real estate developer whose family donated more than $40,000 to the Republican Party,Washington Postand Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters it was too early to judge the Bush Administration a failure. “I mean, for goodness’ sakes,” Rice said, “good historians are still writing books about George Washington.”Associated PressA study found that women find prestige more appealing than dominance in potential mates.Science Daily

A suicide car bomb at a school in Shalbandi, Pakistan, killed more than 30 people, suicide bombs in Afghanistan killed at least 20 people, including 13 schoolchildren, a car bomb in Baghdad killed at least 24 people, and cancer rates were on the rise worldwide.New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesSomalian President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, whose government controls only a few city blocks in a country nearly the size of Texas, resigned and was expected to return to the northern stronghold of his clan, leaving the country to be run by insurgents. Islamist militant group Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama killed ten members of rival Islamist militant group the Shabab and called for its own members to “prepare themselves for jihad against these heretic groups” in order to “restore stability and harmony in Somalia.”New York TimesNew York TimesMilitary officers in Guinea took control of the country in a bloodless coup,New York Timesand protesters in Thailand surrounded the parliament, delaying the new government’s opening legislative session.New York TimesIt was revealed that the CIA has been bribing Afghani tribal leaders with Viagra,CBS Newsand Bjork started a venture-capital fund in Iceland.New York Times

Scientists found that chimpanzees use the same region of the brain as humans to recognize familiar faces.Science DailyAt a movie theater in Philadelphia a man shot another man in the arm for making too much noise during a Christmastime showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Associated Pressand a man in Pittsburgh was arrested for assault after he failed to change his three-year-old’s diaper for several days, causing second-degree burns on the child’s legs and genitals.The Pittsburg Post-GazetteHedge-fund manager and New York Yacht Club member Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who lost more than a billion dollars in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, stayed late after work at his Manhattan office, slit his wrists with a box cutter, and bled to death at his desk.The IndependentChip Saltsman, a Tennessee Republican seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, defended his decision to include the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on a holiday mix CD he sent to Committee members. “I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Saltsman said. “I think RNC members understand that.”CNNDozens of people in Illinois contracted food poisoning from contaminated ham served at the Lawrence County Health Department Christmas party. “It’s not been funny,” said the head of the department, who was among those sickened by the ham. “It’s taken the punch out of my whole Christmas.”MSNBCAn eight-year-old Saudi Arabian girl was denied a divorce from her 58-year-old husband because she was too young to file, Guardiana man in Massachusetts died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a raccoon became stuck in his furnace exhaust, The Boston Channeland an Ontario woman was found buried under three feet of snow three days after she went missing. “Wow,” she told rescue workers. “I’ve been here a long time.”CNN

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Rebirth of a Nation

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The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

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Rebirth of a Nation·

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Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Blood Money·

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Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

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When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Wrong Object·

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e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

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Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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