Research finds the "cultural elite" brought up on opera and the higher arts, which supposedly turns up its nose at anything as vulgar as a pop song or mainstream television, does not exist. Art-world politics explained: A review of Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture by Michael Kammen. Is Cubism's revolution behind us? If you think Picasso's work didn't last, keep looking. More and more on A Life of Picasso by John Richardson. A review of Art of the Everyday: Dutch Painting and the Realist Novel by Bernard Yeazell. A review of Architecture of the Absurd: How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art by John Silber (and more). More and more on Peter Gay's Modernism. An interview with Umberto Eco on the value of charm over beauty.

From Taki's Top Drawer, is the acquisition of an empire an inherent betrayal of American principles, and are we, as a people, suited to the job? Scholars and the military share a foxhole, uneasily: At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual. Walter Russell Mead on why we're in the Gulf: The world would be a much more dangerous place without America as a policeman. Hungry for America: After seven long years, the world is ready—and waiting—for the return of the United States. Who should be the world's most powerful person? As Iowa's caucuses start a global ball rolling, the dream team is President(s) Clinton and Vice-President Obama.

From Slate, Christopher Hitchens on why the undemocratic Iowa caucuses are a terrible way to choose a presidential candidate; and Jeff Greenfield on where the Iowa caucuses went wrong. "I hate Iowa": The first contest in the US presidential primaries is a perversion of democracy that does not deserve to be taken seriously. Here's how our democracy's most frustrating ritual actually works: Is this really how we pick a president? Dropping out of Electoral College: Maryland is the first state to pass the National Popular Vote into law, and several others are right behind. Hold one's nose and vote for the lesser evil? Why it's wrong to "sit this one out". This is the most important election of our lifetime: The choice before Americans in November 2008 will be stark indeed.

A review of Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics by William Bonner and Lila Rajiva. A review of When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy by William L. Silber. Postcards from the ledge: There is certainly a path out of the gathering banking crisis, but no guarantee that the world economy will find it. Beware of falling knives: It's tough to make money off the credit bubble—even for daredevil billionaires. Unsupported and untrue: WSJ lacks evidence to support a sweeping, front-page claim against mortgage borrowers. The match king: Ivar Kreuger was the world's greatest swindler — he would have thrived today.

From Reason, flunking free speech: An article on the persistent threat to liberty on college campuses. Tears for fears: Will a new slogan destroy Oberlin's hippie soul? Young, restless, and ready for revival: On-campus Christians are seeking holiness in unexpected numbers. An interview with Peter Wallenstein, editor of Higher Education and the Civil Rights Movement: White Supremacy, Black Southerners and College Campuses. Ending the great pill price hike: Congress, step up for college women before the year ends. Never having to say, "too expensive": Help from Harvard for an upper-middle class not up to paying the tab. A look at how Internet access is the only prerequisite for more and more college classes (and more).

From Boston Review, the testament of Mr. Cogito: An essay on Zbigniew Herbert and the limits of the political. Poetry can save the world: A review of Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A review of Gendered Dynamics in Latin Love Poetry by Ronnie Ancona and Ellen Greene. A review of Metrical Constraint and the Interpretation of Style in the Tragic Trimeter by Nicholas Baechle. From NYRB, a review of Tennessee Williams' Notebooks; and his design for living: A review of The Letters of Noel Coward. From The New Yorker, prophet motive: a review of Kahlil Gibran: The Collected Works. From TLS, a review of Janet Malcolm's Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice. A review of Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard M. Cook.

From Science News, physicists have shown that tumbled strings will form surprisingly complex knots, helping explain how knots spontaneously form in nature. From Wired, a look at the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2007. From Scientific American, a look at the top 25 science stories of 2007. No, we don’t want to kiss and make up: Lifelong feuds can be good for science, even if they are bad for the soul. A review of Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began by Jack Repcheck. The Edge Annual Question 2008: When thinking changes your mind, that's philosophy; when God changes your mind, that's faith; when facts change your mind, that's science — so what have you changed your mind about?

The end of postmodernism: An article on the "new atheists" and democracy. A review of There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese. A review of The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville. A review of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Schaeffer. A review of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Mormons are like the superheroes of Christianity: When disaster strikes, they spring into action — so why isn't Mitt Romney bragging?

From Discover, an article on the science at the very soul of cooking. A review of The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home by Steven Gdula. A review of The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones. The Holy Church of Food: A review of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (and more and more). An interview with Erik Finklestein, co-author of The Fattening of America: How The Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What To Do About It. Secrets of weight loss revealed!: A review of Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata and Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.

From Reason, a review of You Said What? Lies and Propaganda Throughout History by Bill Fawcett. A review of A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the 20th century by John Burrow (and more and more and more and more). Noble or savage? The era of the hunter-gatherer was not the social and environmental Eden that some suggest. The promise and politics of the mother tongue: The first chapter from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony.