Other Magazines

Star Wars for Truck Bombs

Vanity Fair, November 2002
The music issue: profiles of the “other” British invasions; the rise and fall of Warner Bros. Records; and the Music Portfolio, portraits by Annie Liebovitz, et al. Christopher Hitchens motors west on the old Route 66 and finds the hallowed highway bleak and amusing by turns. Highlights: He stays in Elvis’ room at the Oklahoma City Best Western and finds the bathroom too small; he is stranded on the road to Amarillo, Texas, when his red Corvette blows a tire, leaving him wearing conspicuously pink socks and at the mercy of a passel of locals named “Larry.” James Wolcott, “lifelong drug virgin,” reads a bunch of rock-star memoirs and muses on the role of drugs in rockers’ lives in an attempt to show the unnecessary, pathetic, and boring mess they wreak (“Ozzy Osbourne with the lid off”).—S.G.

Wired, November 2002 The cover story calls for a different kind of nuclear shield: a wall of radiation sensors encircling our major cities. Any cesium 137-filled truck getting onto the Beltway would set off overhead gamma ray detectors, alerting the proper authorities. The technology exists and could be installed for pennies on the dollar compared to a Star Wars shield. A piece tours the tricked-out houses of the richest techno-geeks. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison spent a million bucks installing a rock-concert-sized video projector and turning a drained swimming pool into a giant subwoofer. A supplemental guide demonstrates how, for $19,000, you, too, can soup up your pad with wi-fi, video games, automated temperature control, and the fanciest audio/video.— J.F.

Economist, Oct. 19 The cover story says last week’s bombing in Bali is serving as a wake-up call in both the East and West. Indonesia and other moderate Muslim nations are belatedly coming to understand that they must fight the war on terrorism, too. To America, the bombing is a reminder that Sept. 11 wasn’t just a lucky strike. An article finds the Iraqi populace deeply apprehensive about regime change. America, not Saddam, is still the No. 1 enemy, and many fear the anarchy that could follow war. An article tags President Bush the “partisan-in-chief.” He spends more time fund raising and stumping for local candidates than any previous president, including Clinton. And yet polls show that voters place Bush above the partisan fray.— J.F.

New Republic, Oct. 28 The cover piece exposes how the American media pander to Saddam Hussein. Threatened with not having visas renewed—and sometimes even with physical harm—journalists agree to report the regime’s propaganda. Is the access worth it? Journalists could learn more, and report more, talking to Iraqi émigrés in Jordan. TRB” says that the Nobel committee honored the wrong kind of peacemaker in honoring Jimmy Carter. Carter, like Kofi Annan, who won last year, put international rapprochement before human rights. The Nobel judges should realize that only freedom can bring lasting peace. A piece predicts that Democrats will win at the polls this November, even if they don’t deserve to. The Dems’ cautious approach on the economy—criticizing Republican slackness on corporate crime but not challenging the Bush tax cut—might be just right in the current climate, which is neither a boom nor a full recession.—K.T.

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 20
In Part 1 of a two-part piece on social class, Times columnist Paul Krugman says we’ve entered a new Gilded Age, in which the rich again wield as much wealth and power as they did in Gatsby’s time. In the 1980s, the experts looked for economic explanations for the increase in inequality. Now there’s a growing consensus that the change was cultural: a new “permissiveness” that condoned huge executive compensation packages. A profile of White House strategist Karl Rove explains why he has so much at stake in the upcoming midterm elections. In the primaries, Rove threw his weight behind the administration’s chosen (usually moderate) candidates. If his picks are defeated now, he’ll have made conservative enemies and lost face. A piece describes the growing influence of Web sites like Television Without Pity, where fans critique their favorite shows. Increasingly, execs and writers take notice.—K.T. Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 21
All three newsweeklies front coverage of the serial sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area. Newsweek’s cover story calls the shooter the “tarot card killer” and details how investigators are working to catch the sniper. In an apparent scoop, the magazine reports that police at the latest shooting scene bagged a piece of yellow legal paper that contained driving directions. The FBI has asked the Defense Department to search records from the sniper school at Fort Bragg, N.C., for rejected applicants or former students with psychological problems. (A Time story also reports the sniper school lead but is far less specific.) Time’s cover story looks at how forensics is revolutionizing police work—and television, noting the popularity of shows like CSI and Crossing Jordan. U.S. News leads with a psychological profile of the killer. Even though the spree appears to have nothing to do with geopolitics, overloaded tip lines and tension between different police agencies are a bad omen should terrorists strike D.C. again.

A Newsweek piece says that if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is killed or forced from office, power would likely pass to his two sons, who have grown to be more ruthless than their father. U.S. News profiles Michael Mobbs, a little-known Defense Department adviser who’s behind efforts to imprison two American citizens for ties to terrorism without formally charging them or giving them access to lawyers. Little is known about Mobbs or his motivations, but his influence is expanding. He’s now planning Iraq policy for the Pentagon. A Time article weighs in on the latest source of tension between the Bush administration and CIA Director George Tenet: Iraq. The agency is trying to stay neutral in the debate over war, but the White House is making things tough by stretching the evidence against Saddam.— H.B. Weekly Standard, Oct. 21 The cover article by Reuel Marc Gerecht makes the case for why deposing Saddam Hussein is central to the war on terrorism. Arab states, which would just as soon not provoke Osama Bin Laden’s wrath, won’t lend a hand in the war on terrorism unless they fear America is looking over their shoulders. The United States has to show the Arabs that it means business by demonstrating its power in Iraq. And we shouldn’t fret about losing our European allies in the process since, unlike the Arabs, they’re just as scared of Bin Laden as we are. A piece argues that America’s interests would be better served by supporting democratic reform in the Middle East than by propping up friendly autocrats. Encouraging democracy may lead to temporary chaos in the region, but in the long term, it’s the only way to cure the social ills that breed terrorism.— J.F.

Atlantic, November 2002
The cover piece by James Fallows is a reminder of how difficult it will be to rebuild a post-Saddam Iraq. Internal ethnic tensions, neighbors jittery about a U.S. occupation, a Saddam who might go underground, massive infrastructure repairs, a ravaged economy: It’s all quite daunting. In terms of its claims on American resources, postwar Iraq will effectively become the 51st state. Robert Kaplan argues that after Saddam, Iraq could replace Saudi Arabia as America’s primary military staging ground in the Middle East. An article by Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden goes inside the cockpit with the American pilots who flew the sorties—the “greatest pickle run in history”—over Afghanistan. On the ground, the pilots are pampered with MTV, PlayStations, and field trips to Kuwaiti malls. In the air, life is less luxurious: “Most of these fliers can strip, crap, and fly all at once.”— J.F.