Other Magazines

Houston, You’ve Had Some Problems

Texas Monthly, September 2002
The cover stories take stock of Houston, the city flambéed by the Enron scandal. Evan Smith assesses the Houston Chronicle and its editor of four weeks, Jeff Cohen. Two years ago, the fourth-largest city in the country had a paper that toadied to the city’s power elite and ranked behind backwater rags in Alabama. Now, it’s Cohen’s job to resuscitate it. An article profiles Rusty Hardin, the Houston lawyer you want on your side. Anna Nicole Smith’s late husband’s family hired him. (He won.) So did Arthur Andersen. (He lost, but deadlocked the jury for days.) A rival calls him “slicker ‘n deer guts on a doorknob.” A piece profiles socialite Becca Cason Thrash, the next great Texas high-society matron. Friends call her “TriBecca,” because she’s known to change outfits three times at every soiree.— B.C.

Rolling Stone, Sept. 19
The redesigned magazine doesn’t look very different. Format, layout, fonts haven’t changed. Differences: more music reviews; shorter snippets (for shorter attention spans); lots of Spy-magazine-esque floating cutout heads. A 9/11 anniversary retrospective features mostly retread remarks from the likes of Jimmy Breslin and Sen. John McCain. A piece explores voluntary kidnappings. A writer gives artist Brock Enright $1,500 to abduct him in public at gunpoint, blindfold and bind him, take him to a secret location, and keep him prisoner, while beating and humiliating him, for two days. The writer suspended disbelief and really panicked. Enright claims to have many clients, some of them repeat customers.— S.G.

Washington Monthly, September 2002
The cover article by retired Gen. Wesley Clark argues that by refusing to bring our allies into the fold, “we are fighting the war on terrorism with one hand tied behind our back.” Engaging NATO builds international consensus; it makes “our” war theirs as well. An article argues that the Bush administration is filled with “confidence men” who are all “talk, bluff, and bluster.” With their MBAs and trappings of competence, they project an air of supreme self-assuredness while pushing through an improbable agenda. But the confidence game can only work for so long. Ultimately, reality kicks in. A piece predicts what global warming has in store for the President’s Crawford, Texas, ranch. His wraparound porch will become too hot to sit on, his fake bass pond will dry up, and Laura’s flowers will wilt.—J.F.

New Republic, Sept. 9
The cover package describes what hasn’t changed since Sept. 11. We swore that we’d pay more attention to the rest of the world, but we aren’t: An article says that less than a quarter of Americans noticed the rising nuclear tension between India and Pakistan, and students are again opting for seminars on musical theater instead of ones on the Middle East. A piece says the administration still doesn’t get it when it comes to nuclear terrorism. Bush thinks homeland security is all at home, with better inspection and sensors, when what we really need to do is prevent terrorists from getting nuclear weapons in the first place, from Russia and the former Soviet states. An article argues that liberating Iraq won’t be as expensive or bloody as the doves say. With morale in the Iraqi army pitifully low, there’s good reason to believe many Iraqis will just throw down their arms.—K.T.

Economist, Aug. 31 The cover piece says the key to making the Johannesburg, South Africa, summit a success is to keep the agenda simple. The risk of these sorts of large summits is a cacophony of different voices and the onset of cynicism when bold proposals never get implemented. A special report decries government encroachment on civil liberties around the globe. Since Sept. 11, Spain has banned the political wing of the ETA, Germany wants to retain its citizens’ e-mails, China is lashing out at its Muslim population, and Central Asian despots are squelching all dissent. A piece is skeptical of the booming housing market. Investors are increasingly making property a key part of their portfolios, but they shouldn’t expect housing prices to outpace income growth over the long run.— J.F.

New York Times Magazine, Sept. 1
Baseball great Barry Bonds defies the cover story’s desperate effort to admire him, revealing himself to be just as arrogant and unpleasant as his reputation. But at least he doesn’t pretend that baseball is anything more than a business. A piece marvels at the Goldsteins, an obsessive New York couple who prod their four children to study maniacally for the national spelling bee. The kids consistently finish in the top 20 but haven’t won. One of the kids refers to the hours of drilling obscure words as “playing.” In other oddball news, the highly trendy raw-food movement is dissected. In one restaurant, “ravioli” is made from turnip and “cheese” from cashews. Raw-foodism, based on a preposterous theory that cooked food saps the body’s energy, has attracted all kind of health nuts but may actually be harmful: One study found that a third of women on a raw-food diet stopped menstruating.— D.P. Newsweek, Sept. 2
The cover profile of Phil McGraw, better known as Dr. Phil, loves the get-tough talk-show psychologist just as much as everybody else does. He may finally close the era of self-help psychobabble: “It’s not about what you tried to do, it’s about the results,” he says. “Life is a full-contact sport, and there’s a score up on the board.” An exclusive looks at some of Enron’s cooked books. Top executive Michael Kopper, who plea-bargained last week, ran a company called SONR that covered tax liabilities for Kopper and his domestic partner and paid bogus consulting fees to Enron CFO Andrew Fastow’s wife. Though the company kept no offices, Kopper wrote himself a $1,500 monthly check for rent. A great article about “ghetto fabulous,” hip-hop culture’s yen for luxury style (Louis Vuitton, Belvedere, etc.), says rappers and their favorite blue-blood brands have the uneasy marriage you might expect. A Burberry store in New York refused to give Ja Rule clothes for a photo shoot because he doesn’t fit their image. Still, says his stylist, “Ja took Burberry to another whole level.”—J.D.

Time, Sept. 2
Pegged to the recent Atkins diet binge, the
cover story explains why Americans are fat. Evolution works glacially, so the genes that control weight are still geared toward a population that hunts and gathers. But we buy our food, which is cheaper and more plentiful than ever, and we don’t burn nearly as many calories as we used to. Scary statistic: 60 percent of adults are considered overweight. An article calls Sacramento, Calif., the most integrated city in the United States: 41 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 17.5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 15.5 percent black. Twenty percent of the city’s babies are born to mixed couples. America’s future looks like Sacramento. A piece scolds America’s hawks for trumping up connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Hard-liners desperate to justify war with Iraq, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, have been touting evidence that most intelligence experts think is bunk.— J.D.

The New Yorker, Sept. 2
An article explores the science of traffic, which keeps getting worse and worse. Building new roads makes more jams, not fewer. The key is understanding the minutiae of traffic patterns so experts can prepare for a crisis in advance. But in the end, it’ll take high tolls targeted at problems such as rush-hour commuters and single-occupancy vehicles to break the jam. A profile of Buddy Cianci, Providence, R.I.’s outrageous mayor who was convicted of a conspiracy involving bribes, kickbacks, payoffs, and extortion, suggests that he’s not really guilty. People in his office were crooked, but nothing ties him directly to the chicanery, and Providence’s political culture never had much to do with rectitude anyway. Meanwhile, he’s been a great mayor, turning a broken city into a livable community and a tourist attraction. Cianci thinks of himself as a big-picture visionary haunted by others’ pettiness. About a previous conviction for torturing his ex-wife’s boyfriend, he says: “Yeah, I punched a guy in the mouth for fucking my wife, but look at the city.”— J.D.