GQ, August 2005
An article profiles the right’s prodigal son, Newt Gingrich, as he dips his dainty toe in the murky waters of a possible presidential run. The ring leader of a gang of Republican back-benchers who in the mid-’90s stripped big government down to its corrupted, corpulent core, Gingrich retired in 1999 surrounded by controversy. The intervening years have mellowed Gingrich, especially on the Clintons, heretofore frequent recipients of his verbal spitballs. “Total admiration” is what he has for Hillary Clinton. “You have to respect her. This is a first-class professional. And if Bill is First Spouse, it’ll be one of the great moments.” … Macho up your summer reading with the “10 best books about war ever written.” The Iliad has battle scenes that would “make for the best movie in Hollywood history,” and A Rumor of War reveals an old martial secret: “The job of an officer is pretending to be an officer.”—Z.K.
Economist, July 30
An article about Mali’s severe drought and locust plague points out that not much has changed since the G8 countries promised debt relief earlier this month. Noting that the country is part of the Pentagon’s trans-Sahara plan, which will train African commandos to participate in the war on terror, the piece points out that “Mali hopes that helping to catch terrorists might shame America’s administration into slashing the subsidies of $3 billion or so it gives its own cotton growers (many of them Texan) and which help keeps Mali (and Niger) so poor.” … Another piece hails the narrowly passed Central American Free Trade Agreement as a tiny but encouraging sign that the upcoming Doha round of world trade talks might be “less gloomy.” The article also notes that President Bush secured some Republican votes “by promising that the linings and pockets of any garment stitched in Central America would be made from American fabric.—B.B.
New Republic, Aug. 8
In a Web-only review of a new television documentary, Private Screenings: Lauren Bacall, Lee Siegel explores the actress’s relationship with her first husband, Humphrey Bogart. He writes that in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, “Bacall seduces Bogart by becoming Bogart, and she holds onto him by bending entirely to his will.” Claiming that Bacall couldn’t make any more great movies after Bogart’s death, Siegel insists that Bacall found a new identity on stage, in Applause in 1970. “The live audience found her, and not only revived her, but seemed to make her a person for the first time.” … Spencer Ackerman claims that Newsweek’s Quran story has made the media shy away from torture stories at the very moment when new findings are coming to light. He focuses mostly on the details of a new investigation into torture at Guantanamo Bay.—B.B.
Foreign Affairs,July/August 2005
Ah, 2003—the halcyon days of regime change. Back then, it seemed to be the answer to our national security gremlins, i.e. the axis of evil. But regime change is showing itself not to be the “panacea” the Bush administration promised it would be; actually it’s more comparable to snake oil, an article suggests. In order to rein in rogue states, we need “a foreign policy that chooses to integrate, not isolate, despotic regimes.” … An article cautions that the flu can threaten the world population as much as WMD. The 1918-19 flu pandemic killed between “50 to 100 million people globally.” The current global population has tripled, so experts predict that another pandemic could exterminate between “180-360” million people. If a concert of efforts by local, national, and international groups is not orchestrated soon, the next flu blitz could result in “a global world economy that remains in a shambles for several years.”—Z.K.
Wired, August 2005
The advent of photography during the Civil War connected the citizenry viscerally to the horrors of war; an article investigates how blogs now bring “over there,” over here, but this time it’s in real time. Military bloggers offer “a real-life window on war and the people who wage it,” people who sometimes “compete with and occasionally undermine the DOD’s elaborate message machine and the much-loathed mainstream media.” Despite their wish for all to stay on message, Pentagon authorities haven’t officially cracked down on bloggers, but steps are being taken to monitor them. … An article commemorates 1995 to 2005 as “10 years That Changed the World.” Year zero for “netizens” is Aug. 9, 1995, Netscape’s initial public offering. While props are given to Vannevar Bush, who conceived the notion of hyperlinked pages in 1945, and Ted Nelson, the Net’s St. Peter, who, as far back as 1965, preached its genius, 1995 marks the start of the Net becoming like crystal meth—cheap, accessible, and highly addictive.—Z.K.
New York Times Magazine, July 31 Jonathan Mahler examines New York Mets’ GM Omar Minaya’s quest to “Latinize” the team. In an aggressive move last year, Minaya ignored colleagues’ reservations and offered Dominican pitcher Pedro Martínez a four-year, $53 million contract. Minaya’s appeal to New York’s growing Latino population paid off; attendance increases by about 5,000 fans when Martínez starts. “Pedro was as much a marketing signing as a baseball signing,” Minaya says. … Noah Feldman assesses the challenges facing the authors of the Iraqi Constitution. The drafters of last year’s interim constitution were confounded by the task of reconciling a call for equality among citizens with Islamic laws regarding marriage, divorce, and inheritance, which can be interpreted to mandate gender inequality. “The elephant in the room,” Feldman writes, “is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time?”—M.O.
National Review, Aug. 8 The cover article rips into New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer for stridently leading an “anti-Bush crusade.” Schumer is purportedly trying to change the way the Senate considers nominees to the Supreme Court, encouraging Democrats to focus on politics rather than professional credentials. Since the president’s first year in office, John Miller writes, Schumer has been “doing his best to keep limbo fully populated with Bush nominees.”… A piece disparages the “rock-and-roll left” for its condescending and ineffectual Live 8 concerts. The concerts were not, as Live 8 founder Robert Geldof called them, better than doing nothing at all. There is danger in self-gratification, Anthony Daniels writes. “Ostensible concern for the state of the world is compatible with, and perhaps even promotes, the most complete egotism, in which concern for the good of humanity is a mask for the absolute tyranny of whim.”—M.O.
Granta, Summer 2005 In a piece from the “Country Life” issue, Kathleen Jamie explores her great-great-grandmother’s hometown in the Scottish Lowlands. “I squeezed through the fence, climbed the bank and there was what my father had warned me of. All the land between this farm and the next had been gouged out. … It too had been abandoned and was flooded with sullen green water which looked almost ashamed of itself, as if it couldn’t help but gather there.”… A memoir by Robert Macfarlane praises the melancholy of night-walking. “I sat on the turf for a while and watched light crimp on the water and flex on the stones which cobbled the streambed. … The sun was now full in the eastern sky, and in the west was the ghost of the moon, so that they lay opposed to each other above the white mountains, the sun burning orange and the moon its cold replica.”—M.O.
New York, Aug. 1 Memoirist and former Maxim editor Dave Itzkoff recalls a childhood plagued by his father’s cocaine addiction and how he became the man’s reluctant savior. He asks, “Should I continue to fantasize about what my own life might have been like if my father never acquired his drug habit, and thus never came to depend on me, or should I be thankful for the bond it established between us, even if it came at a cost no reasonable human being would ever agree to pay?”… A piece profiles Bruce Kovner, manager of the world’s largest hedge fund and “the most powerful New Yorker you’ve never heard of.” His projects range from printing what is now a historic edition of the Bible to financing the right-wing New York Sun daily to chairing Julliard. After several arcane run-ins, which was all Philip Weiss could get in terms of an interview, he concludes, “I got the sense that Kovner was, like all geniuses, a nutty one.”—M.O.
American Prospect, August 2005 A piece gloats that Karl Rove is finally getting his comeuppance. “The malicious leaks against the Wilsons … displayed the style Rove has developed ever since his youthful apprenticeship with the Nixon gang,” Joe Conason writes. While it took the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame to finally reveal this “powerful bully,” Rove has been launching smear campaigns for decades. Conason blames Rove for the false accusations of pedophilia levied against an Alabama judge and John Kerry’s “dirtied up” military service record. … A piece disparages the right for reveling in the London bombings. Matthew Yglesias sums up the subtext of conservative propaganda: “Attacks are welcome because they allow the right to recapitulate its finest hour, the days and weeks immediately following 9-11, when Bush’s popularity reached historic highs and liberals were too cowed to criticize conservatism on any front.”—M.O.
Weekly Standard, Aug. 1 Fred Barnes describes the method by which President Bush chose John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, explaining that picking “another Souter” was a primary fear among Republicans. Justice David Souter, selected by the elder President Bush in 1990, has proved to be liberal in his decisions. This time around, the White House was explicit in asking the candidates about their political orientation. “I’m glad we had Souter-phobia,” said one aide to the president. “If we hadn’t asked these questions about judicial philosophy and the view of the court’s role, the nominee wouldn’t have been John Roberts.”… Irwin Stelzer criticizes Tony Blair’s reaction to the London bombings as a criminal concern and not an act of war. “So British policy remains,” he laments. “Easy entry for potential terrorists; benefits for them while they are in the country; and relative safety from deportation and detention as enemy combatants.”—L.W.
The New Yorker, Aug. 1
John Cassidy’s profile of tax reformer Grover Norquist shows the path by which he has become the “ringleader, visionary, and enforcer” for conservatives. An admirer of Newt Gingrich and close to Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff, Norquist hosts a Wednesday morning gathering of congressmen, staffers, and lobbyists that has led one friend to christen him “the Grand Central Station of conservatives.” Now facing allegations that his tax-reform group served as an intermediary for large sums of money from Indian tribes dealing with Abramoff, Norquist denies wrongdoing but is facing attacks from his own party. … Jonathan Rosen profiles Henry Roth, the author plagued by writer’s block for decades after writing his now-classic immigrants’ tale, Call It Sleep. Rosen explains, “The reasons for Roth’s monumental block—which include but are not limited to Communism, Jewish self-loathing, incest, and depression—are ultimately as mysterious as the reasons for his art and are in some ways inseparable from them.”—L.W.
Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Aug. 1 John Roberts: All three newsmagazines poke at President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee to assess who he is and how he thinks. While some have focused on the fact that Roberts clerked for Justice William Rehnquist, Newsweek claims that Henry Friendly (“perhaps the greatest appeals-court judge of the 20th century” and “intellectually honest, almost brutally so”) influenced Roberts much more. The piece also notes that Roberts is a P.G. Wodehouse fan, and that his wife Jane’s membership in a “low-key” pro-life group is unlikely to influence how he votes on abortion. U.S. News plays up Roberts’ conservatism a little more, suggesting that his “unswerving support for Bush administration policy may provide one of his toughest challenges on Capitol Hill.”Time notes that Roberts is a rarity—an ambidextrous squash player. “I’ve played [squash] with a lot of people over the years, including Scalia,” says a friend, “and John is the only one I know who can do that.”
Terrorism:Newsweek reads much into the story of a man who survived the London bombings and escaped for a holiday—only to witness the Sharm al-Sheikh car bombings in Egypt. Claiming that the goal of this new wave of attacks is to make everyone to feel unsafe, the piece quotes a member of Britain’s Royal Military College of Science as saying that the attacks are “purely nihilistic.” … U.S. News devotes its cover to the Pentagon’s updated approach to fighting terrorism, citing a soon-to-be-released report. The plan recognizes “extremist Sunni and Shia movements that exploit Islam for political ends”—and not just al-Qaida—as the “primary enemy,” and targets about 24 groups. It also “lays out a detailed road map for prosecuting [the war on terror], and establishes a score card to determine where and whether progress is being made.” …Time reports that some insurgents have allegedly infiltrated the Iraqi Police Service.
Odds and ends:Time’s cover focuses on the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and examines the nuclear threat today. Michael Elliott writes, “It is the global terrorist threat that has made this the least predictable moment since the dawn of the nuclear age.” Another piece explores the conflict between long-term residents of Danbury, Conn., and new immigrants from Ecuador over “ecuavolley,” a form of volleyball. The Ecuadoreans have built “backyard courts all over town, some big enough to accommodate up to 150 fans and players,” but the town’s original residents say that that game encourages prostitution, drinking, and gambling. …Newsweek interviews director David Lynch, who is trying to raise $7 billion to fund his Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education. Lynch speaks out against war, emphasizes the need for “8000 peace-creating experts” who would function as a “factory” for peace, and wants to “train any U.S. child who wants to learn how to practice Transcendental Meditation.”—B.B.