From Vanity Fair, George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work; and here are four letters you won't find in the George W. Bush Library. From ResetDOC, Mahmoud Belhime on the slaves of oil. Lessons from the Great Inflation: Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan's forgotten miracle created a quarter century of prosperity — and a dangerous bubble of complacency. A review of The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. Can the ho’s speak? Black sex workers and the politics of deviance, defiance and desire. How to land a job in Obamaland: TNR's guide to beating the Washington feeding frenzy (and more on climbing the social ladder in Obama's Washington). Christopher Hitchens on the moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas. Dahlia Lithwick on Dick Cheney's unique gift for making hard questions easy and vice versa. Good readers are cannibals: Kurt Flasch's Kampfplatze der Philosophie strides across the battlefields of philosophy from Augustine to Voltaire. From Secular Web, from fundamentalist to freethinker: It all began with Santa. Group Think: Tel Aviv professor Yuval Shavitt melds math and sociology of the Internet to predict the next big thing in music

From Skeptic, an article on how to be psychic in ten easy steps. A review of The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization by Paul Froese. A look at how lesser-known appointments can have great impact. What’s happening to the adult-entertainment industry is exactly what’s happening to its Hollywood counterpart — only worse. More and more on Left in Dark Times by BHL. Jack Shafer has unsolicited advice for David Gregory, upon taking the wheel at "Meet the Press". A review of Scarface Nation The Ultimate Gangster Movie and How It Changed America by Ken Tucker. A review of Suicide: The Hidden Side of Modernity by Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet Polity. Prostitution vs. war crimes: As Dick Cheney heads off into a luxury-filled and respectable retirement, outrage continues to be directed at the petty transgressions of Eliot Spitzer. Another great writer secretly collaborated with the Stalinists — a lasting poison explained. No matter how bad your holiday is, rest assured that it could have been far worse. Santa (tm): Does Father Christmas live in Finnish Lapland? What really killed the office party? Admit it: You’re feeling pretty jolly that you don’t have to suffer through one of life’s grimmest annual rituals. (Don't) keep your shirt on: Sexing the action hero, wherein putting all that enticing musculature on display isn’t just the cost of doing business.

From Newsweek, a cover story on The Story of Power: The study of power is not only diverting (which Homer and Shakespeare knew), but illuminating. From NYRB, a review of books on the war we don't want to see. Anatomy of a breakdown: Concerted government policy helped trigger the financial meltdown — and will almost certainly extend it. More and more and more on Panic! The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis. From The Immanent Frame, Akbar Ganji interviews Charles Taylor, author of Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited. Dark days ahead: Why Republicans need Xmas vacation. What happens in Washington when no one is afraid of anyone else? From The Atlantic, Henry Blodget on why Wall Street always blows it — and why we never learn from the last bubble; pop psychology: Why asset bubbles are a part of the human condition that regulation can’t cure; and “be nice to the countries that lend you money”: James Fallows interviews Gao Xiqing, America's Chinese banker (and more and more). The case for keeping score: A democracy index could push states toward more ambitious electoral reforms. and Emily Bazelon, David Iglesias, Dahlia Lithwick, Joseph Rich, and Stuart Taylor Jr. set the table for Obama's Justice Department. A report finds post-Katrina, white vigilantes shot African-Americans with impunity.

From Open Democracy, Daniele Archibugi describes an agenda to return the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to relevance; and why is Russia romanticising the memory of Stalinism, when its defining feature was the use of terror? A review of American Therapy: The Rise of Psychotherapy in the United States by Jonathan Engel. The DSM-V is at least three years away from publication, but it is already stirring bitter debates over a new set of possible psychiatric disorders. Some point to Alan Greenspan, but his hands-off approach to the economy originated with Ayn Rand. It’s a novel! It’s a philosophy! It’s the instruction manual for a crazy cult! Atlas Shrugged could be all of those things. Whether the fairy tale has flourished in popular culture, or been diluted and diminished by global branding, is a question raised by a range of new books on the genre. Independent bookstores have been struggling to survive ever since the advent of the chain stores — but now, even the chains are under threat. An excerpt from Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. An excerpt from Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. A review of The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption by Daniel Herwitz. When celebs take charge: Today's politicians have to know what narrative the world wants to hear. An article on Deep Throat's legacy to journalism.

From New Scientist, an article on Archimedes and the 2000-year-old computer; and did our cosmos exist before the big bang? Anil Ananthaswamy investigates. From First Principles, an essay on Augustine’s Confessions and Voegelin’s philosophy (and more). What's the difference between a search engine and a browse engine? A look at the top 10 migration issues of 2008. According to new research, a man’s desirability depends on how he achieved his high status. More and more and more and more on A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam. A review of How Jesus Became Christian: The Early Christians and the Transformation of a Jewish Teacher into the Son of God by Barrie Wilson. A review of Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions. A review of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction by Lisa Chamberlain. From Fronesis, is migration a lever for union renewal? Newspapers can’t keep distributing content for free on Web. The first chapter from The Deaths of Louis XVI: Regicide and the French Political Imagination by Susan Dunn. The Great Mumble: A new generation slouches toward nukes. Robert Carroll plots an escape on foot from the  where we spend our days. Are romantic comedies a hazard to kids' emotional health? (and more)

From Mute, capital needs to sustain the fantasy of its health, efficiency and inevitability at all costs; as the crisis broadsides this fantasy, the spin-doctors are scrambling to reconstruct it; and what lies beyond the failed utopias of the modernist welfare state and the free market? A review of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East by KE Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac. Today the division is no longer between slave and free states, or agrarian and industrial states, but between two models of industrial society. The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism was supposed to encourage sustainable development in poorer countries — but it's now part of the problem. The first chapter from Is Pluto a Planet? A Historical Journey through the Solar System by David A. Weintraub. A review of Crude Continent: The Struggle for Africa's Oil Prize by Duncan Clarke. A review of Pragmatism as Post-Postmodernism: Lessons from John Dewey by Larry A. Hickman. Clay Risen examines France’s backwards sovereign wealth fund. From New Statesman, a review of Globalising Hatred: the New Anti-Semitism by Denis MacShane; a review of A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K Mack and Dinah Mack; and are plans to create a game based on Dante's Inferno likely to burn up or be a roaring success?

From Military Review, Amitai Etzioni (GWU): Reconstruction: A Damaging Fantasy? Research suggests that seeing the flag doesn't make Americans feel more patriotic, but it does make them feel more nationalistic and more superior to non-Americans. The first chapter from Reason and Rationality by Jon Elster. From Daedalus, a special issue on judicial independence. Why Barack Obama should nominate leading law professors for seats on the Federal Appeals Court (and more). Obama's inauguration speech is unlikely to disappoint — his words may be unremarkable; his delivery won't be.  A review of Arab Soccer in a Jewish State: The Integrative Enclave by Tamir Sorek. A review of The Liberal Defence of Murder by Richard Seymour. The first chapter from Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World by Bruce K. Rutherford. A review of Winning the War of Words: Selling the War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq by Wojtek Mackiewicz Wolfe. DNA dating: Can genes help you pick a mate? Most of us, whether we admit it or not, are moral hypocrites, but oddly, hypocrisy is rooted in high morals. The next decade or so is going to see the world of video games convulsed by battles between the moneymen and the artists; if the good guys win, or win enough of the time, we’re going to have a whole new art form.

From New Internationalist, a special issue on Afghanistan. Who carries out spectacular acts of terrorism and why? From PUP, here are three chapters from Introduction to Modern Economic Growth by Daron Acemoglu; and the first chapter from Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion by Joshua D. Angrist and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. From Radical Middle, an article on reinventing the law.  From IHE, a review of Talking Out of School: Memoir of an Educated Woman by Kass Fleisher; and New School economist Teresa Ghilarducci on her adventures with Rush Limbaugh. No sex please, we're American: The most controversial books in America. From LiveScience, an imperfect body might be just what the doctor ordered for women; research suggests men may flirt with risk because they think it will help them score women; and an article on sex and cheating: When does it count? The first chapter from Global Fragments: Globalizations, Latinamericanisms, and Critical Theory by Eduardo Mendieta. A review of Annie Leibovitz at Work. A review of Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman. Major League Baseball winds up its pitch to China, envisioning a billion fans. The introduction to Markets and Democracy: Participation, Accountability and Efficiency, ed. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.

From M/C Journal, Anthony McCosker (Melbourne): Blogging Illness: Recovering in Public. From Fortune, an article on three days that shook the world: The most powerful people in American capitalism convened on September 12 to try and save Lehman Brothers; and why a $1 trillion deficit is a good thing (for now). More on Ilan Stavans’s Resurrecting Hebrew. From Freedom Daily, insisting on the alleged virtue of loving one’s country mainly serves to give those in power a blank check. Jonathan Wolff proposes a definition of a super-classic: A book you have as good as read when you have read the title. The Observer profiles Roman Polanski. A look at how Rwanda's women politicians are transforming their country. A look at the world's friendliest countries: Those in search of a fresh start might head to these welcoming spots. A review of National Security Mom: Why “Going Soft” Will Make America Strong by Gina M. Bennett. James Traub on 100 years of nation building. A nation on the make: Greenland has voted to cut all ties with its Danish rulers (and more). From International Viewpoint, an article on The Communist Manifesto 160 years later; and here's a crash course on capitalism (and more on their crisis, our consequences). From Jewcy, an article on bashing Nazis, or how to feel morally superior. An interview with Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist.

From Miller-McCune, a look at how solar grand plans start answering basic questions. An interview with Mary Ellen O’Connell, author of The Power and Purpose of International Law. A review of The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do about It by Robert J. Shiller. Beyond Casino Capitalism: Bush let the gamblers run wild — here’s how Obama can rein them in. From Index on Censorship, articles by AC Grayling (and a review of The Choice of Hercules: Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century) and BHL (and a review of Left in Dark Times). A review of In Search of the Black Fantastic. Politics & Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era by Richard Iton. One of the longest-running spousal debates may now be settled in favor of men and for the sake of little boys. Places and strata of memory: The idea of 1989 as an annus mirabilis in which everything changed is too crude, writes Karl Schlogel. From First Principles, a symposium on George Carey (and part 2 and part 3). From Graduate Journal of Social Science, a special issue on Queer Studies. We are all suburban now: In popular culture the suburbs are always somewhere we long to escape from — not true. Phantom pain: The daughter of a Nazi soldier recalls the spark and fizzle of her tenth New Year’s Eve.