Weekly Review — December 31, 2009, 10:38 pm

Yearly Review

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth
president of the United States and ordered the detention
center at Guantanamo Bay closed within a year. George
W. Bush gave his final press conference. “Abu Ghraib was a
huge disappointment,” he said. “Not having weapons of mass
destruction was a significant disappointment.” A federal
appeals court in Texas ruled to permit the sacrifice of
goats. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael
Steele announced an “off the hook” Republican publicity
campaign, targeting “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” “We
need to uptick our image with everyone,” Steele said,
“including one-armed midgets.” When asked about the state
of the Republican party, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
said, “It’s kind of like asking whether the stock market
has bottomed out.” Thirty-nine million Americans were on
food stamps, 54 percent of graduating U.S. business majors
lacked job offers, and two gunmen robbed a man of one
dollar in the parking lot of an Ohio Wendy’s. A top
Pentagon official said that “cutbacks at Best Buy” made it
easier to recruit better-qualified young people for the
military. The war in Iraq turned six; the war in
Afghanistan turned eight; SpongeBob SquarePants turned
ten. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban threatened to chop
off the fingers of anyone who votes, the government passed
a law allowing men to starve wives who refuse sex.

Sea levels continued to rise, and a 40-yard-wide asteroid
just missed the earth. The Mediterranean Sea was plagued
by blobs. Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa; in Angola he
warned against witchcraft, corruption, and condoms. Papal
archaeologists in Rome authenticated the bones of Saint
Paul the Apostle, and Jesus Christ was dismissed from jury
duty in Alabama. Toxic-mining wastes in Idaho were killing
tundra swans; a man in Munich received a two-year
suspended sentence for beating another man with a
swan. Highly aggressive supersquirrels were menacing gray
squirrels in England, where the Law Lords were replaced
with a new Supreme Court whose justices wear no wigs, and
where cosmetic nipple surgery was increasingly popular. A
London taxi driver tied one end of a rope around a post
and the other around his neck and drove away, launching
his head from the car. Anglican hymns were sung at
Darwin’s tomb. Two Yellowstone National Park workers were
fired for peeing into Old Faithful. Sarah Palin published
a book, and Sylvia Plath’s son hanged himself in
Alaska. Scientists in San Diego made a robot head study
itself in a mirror until it learned to smile.

Newspaper circulation in the United States declined to its
lowest level in 70 years. It was revealed via Twitter that
President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” and that a
coyote ran off with Jessica Simpson’s maltipoo. The Taco
Bell chihuahua died of a stroke, and Sonia Sotomayor was
sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Walter Cronkite,
Merce Cunningham, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy died, as
did Michael Jackson. Ariel Sharon was still alive. Hamas
and Fatah held peace talks in Cairo. Israel approved the
construction of 900 more settler homes in East Jerusalem,
and ten Florida middle schoolers were suspended for
participating in Kick a Jew Day. Chicago rats fed a diet
of bacon, cheesecake, pound cake, Ho Hos, and sausage
began to behave like rats addicted to heroin, and a
Minnesota man pleaded guilty to driving a La-Z-Boy while
intoxicated. China created a small black hole, and NASA
revealed that a mysterious streak of light spotted by
onlookers in the night sky above North America was a
fortnight’s worth of astronaut urine. Physicists said
that the aural jitters picked up by a German
gravitational-wave detector may indicate that we all live
in a giant and blurry cosmic hologram. The United States,
searching for water, bombed the moon.

Share
Single Page

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2018

The Bodies in The Forest

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Minds of Others

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Modern Despots

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before the Deluge

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Notes to Self

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Within Reach

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Minds of Others·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
Article
Within Reach·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Before the Deluge·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner

Percentage of Republicans who said they prioritized gun control over gun rights in 1999:

53

The kangaroo’s tail is a fifth leg.

Trump tweeted that he had created “jobs, jobs, jobs” since becoming president, and it was reported that Trump plans to bolster job creation by loosening regulations on the global sale of US-made artillery, warships, fighter jets, and drones.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today