Atlantic Monthly, September 2003
Another marathon article by William Langeweische, this time about maritime terrorism and how horrifyingly likely it is—and how very helpless we are to prevent it. A mix of The Perfect Storm and The Life of Pi, the article paints a nightmarish picture of unregulated oceanic commercial activity—the seas are simply too vast to police. … James Fallows takes a “sticky beak” at Aussie media king Rupert Murdoch, whose empire is largely impervious to politics and whose resilient model—dedicated to profit and profit alone—may represent the future of all journalism. … Christopher Hitchens re-examines Edward Said’s seminal 1978 book Orientalism, finding it erudite but simplistic. Said misses an opportunity, in writing his intro to the book’s new edition, to shed rational, nonpartisan light on the post-9/11 tension between East and West.— S.G.
New York Times Magazine, Aug. 17
A seamy underbelly issue. The cloak-and-dagger cover story—filled with secret meetings and death threats—profiles Russian Victor Bout, the world’s largest arms dealer. Bout’s ostensibly legitimate air-freight business has ferried helicopter gunships, machine guns, and missiles to dictators and insurgents such as Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Afghanistan’s Ahmed Shah Massoud. Lots of vivid detail about the unbelievably dirty world of arms dealing, notably how a hellish, ex-Soviet quasi-state named Trans-Dniester has become a global center of illicit weapon sales. … In the late ‘90s, American bookmakers flocked to Costa Rica to open Internet gambling shops, assuming the Web would allow them to build enormous and legal international gambling enterprises. But the bookies find themselves in a mess: The U.S. crackdown on Internet gambling means they risk prosecution if they return home, and it turns out bookmaking online is just as risky and unpleasant as it is offline.—D.P.
The New Yorker, Aug. 18 and 25 The family issue. A profile of NASCAR’s William Clifton France family shows the cantankerous spirit that has grown the franchise from a “nearly broke, tobacco-belt sport” to the multibillion dollar enterprise it is today. The phenomenal expansion from its redneck roots continues: NASCAR is actively looking for a New York venue. … An article tells the extraordinary tales of two women living in Sooner Haven, an Oklahoma public-housing project. They attend a government-boosted program that hypes marriage among impoverished African-Americans, but a prickly question remains: Why should self-sufficient women move heaven and earth to marry only to risk being mistreated and slip into worse financial straits than they were in before? … David Sedaris reminisces about an odd, transitory friendship he struck up at age 26 with his 9-year-old neighbor, Brandi. His mother told him it was a disastrous idea, and boy, was she right.— S.G
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Aug. 18 On Ahhnuld: Time’s cover story looks at the highest-profile twists in California’s recall melee. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Gray Davis’ most dazzling adversary, naturally garners comparisons to Ronald Reagan, but the two don’t really stack up. Reagan set a careful stage for his entrée into politics; Schwarzenegger’s bid announcement seemed impulsive (yet it smacked of canny manipulation to some insiders). A notorious control-freak, Arnold may scuttle his chances by calling his own willful shots. Another stumbling block: He has yet to demonstrate a grasp of any issue whatsoever; pundits predict aide-penned position statements soon.
Newsweek believes Arnold’s a force to be reckoned with. Not even remotely a Bush-style Republican, he has professed political opinions that look markedly moderate, even liberal (pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights). Plus, his massive popularity might produce a Jesse Ventura-style tidal wave of uncommon voters come ballot-time. Somewhat surreal though his candidacy may appear, the actor’s “cunning and competitiveness” may be enough to deliver him Sacramento.
On the onus of being a consumer:U.S. News’ double issue examines the escalating troubles facing consumers today, including battling go-nowhere 800-number frustrations and the sometimes pointless option of issuing formal complaints. … The magazine profiles advocates, like New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who crusades self-consciously (and, some say, righteously) for the benefit of the little man in commercial dealings. … A series of battle-plan articles arms customers with tools to help fight for their right to shop smart.—S.G.
New Republic, Aug. 18 and 25
Ne’er-do-well foreign rebels and the conservative pols who love them! Franklin Foer notes that conservatives—for whom “skepticism about revolutions and revolutionaries” used to be a core belief—are now so gung-ho about spreading democracy that they see “any thug, charlatan, or hopeless dreamer who happens to align himself with U.S. interests as a budding Thomas Jefferson.” Take, for example, Ahmed Chalabi, who was hailed as Iraq’s “president-in-waiting” but proved to have little support. Conservatives have also praised the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, but an alliance with those brutal Iranian dissidents would be as devastating as President Reagan’s support for Nicaragua’s Contras. … “TRB”: Liberia’s civil war is viewed less as a political crisis than as an inevitable humanitarian one—like an earthquake or a hurricane. But such treatment lets America off the hook: In the ‘80s, Reagan propped up Liberian leader Samuel Doe, and current tyrant Charles Taylor came to power by organizing the ethnic groups Doe oppressed.—J.T.
Economist, Aug. 9
Count on the Economist for an acerbic outsider’s take on the latest American shenanigans: With the Terminator’s announcement of his candidacy, “Has California, a legendary gathering-ground for America’s kooks and crazies, finally gone off the deep end?” Not necessarily, the magazine concludes, but Arnold does have a decent shot at the governorship: He’s more shrewd than he seems, his liberal brand of Republicanism is likely to appeal to left coast constituents, and (above all) he has a “compelling story,” one that “cannot help melting the hearts of a people obsessed with celebrity and upward mobility.” Who, us?— J.T.
—David Plotz and Julia Turner also contributed to this column.