Economist, June 26 A pair of pieces preview the "partly symbolic, partly legal, partly substantive" June 30 transfer of power in Iraq. Some Iraqis think the dismantling of an official U.S. supervisory structure just means that Western contractors, who are exempt from local laws, will be running things. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has asserted himself by asking Arab countries to send weapons for the Iraqi military, a circumvention of America's stricter rearmament policy. The Iraqi defense budget comes mostly from American dollars, though—if the army is rebuilt too quickly for U.S. tastes, funds could be withheld.... Another piece reports that imams in Nigeria have banned dissemination of the polio vaccine, claiming it's a Western conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. As a consequence, the disease has spread to 10 African nations where polio had previously been eradicated and the United Nations' goal to stamp out the disease by 2005 is now in peril.
New Republic, July 5 and July 12 The cover story criticizes the Bush administration's distaste for "experts." Economic, environmental, and military analysts have all been ignored because of the "radically post-modern view that 'science,' 'objectivity,' and 'truth' are guises for an ulterior, leftist agenda." The piece offers a slap in the face in noting that the Nixon and Ford administrations had "greater intellectual honesty" than the Bushies—they solicited the advice of social scientists because they weren't ideologically stubborn and "demanded far fewer ready-made solutions."... Another article reports that Americans aren't any more knowledgeable about what to do during a terrorist attack than before Sept. 11. One survey indicates only one in four people know what "shelter-in-place" means and that only 10 percent of households stock a protective mask. The story suggests the Department of Homeland Security follow the example of the Israeli police and hand out instructive pamphlets to every citizen.
Legal Affairs, July/August 2004 Want someone to kidnap your kid? That's the question the cover story asks as senior editor Nadya Labi goes inside the world of the "teen transport industry." The piece profiles Rick Strawn, an ex-cop parents pay to take their troubled kids to boot-camp-style reform schools. As she accompanies Strawn on a job to transport a 16-year-old from his home in Florida to a reform school in Mexico, Labi offers a grim portrait of this peculiar industry. There is almost no regulation of the 20 or so businesses across the country like Strawn's, meaning kids often find themselves in dangerous situations. Strawn himself is a former alcoholic who's been arrested for molesting his stepdaughter, choking his wife, and driving under the influence. — A.B.D.
New York Times Magazine, June 27 The cover story profiles Lula, the Brazilian who rose from poverty to union leadership to the presidency. While he often stumps for a worldwide tax to feed the hungry, Lula's surprisingly conservative economic policies—and the unsurprising fact that most poor Brazilians are still poor—have dampened the hopes of his idealistic supporters. ... Another piece documents the New York Philharmonic's struggle to stay relevant without compromising its ideals. Sometimes, the orchestra's "vaunted history can be a drag." Higher-ups have been loath to test innovations like multimedia presentations and PDAs that offer real-time descriptions of the music being played. ... In an interview, Ronald P. Reagan carps at Dick Cheney for leaving his mother Nancy, who suffers from glaucoma, at the stairs after escorting her to Ronald Reagan's casket in the Capitol Rotunda. "He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being."
Weekly Standard, June 28 The magazine takes on the Clinton memoir hype by arguing that the Man from Hope is, "at best … Calvin Coolidge without the ethics and the self-restraint." According to the article, Clinton fails the three major tests by which presidents are assessed. He never confronted an "unprecedented challenge," he did not shape history, and he lacked vision, organizational skill, and "emotional intelligence."… Another article challenges the Sept. 11 commission's conclusions about links between Iraq and al-Qaida, charging that the commission's reports on such ties are incomplete and inconclusive and criticizes the media for misreading the report. The author, Stephen F. Hayes, argues that allegations that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague have not been proved false, an assertion the commission seems to ignore.—A.B.D.
The New Yorker, June 28 A long profile checks in on Arnold Schwarzenegger's progress in California. While it's not clear whether his budget machinations will work—the state's Legislative Analyst's Office says long-term fiscal prospects have worsened because of Schwarzenegger's measures—he's still convinced voters that his tenure has been incredibly successful. Schwarzenegger also has legislators doing his bidding. At one point, he spots the Democratic leader of the state Senate walking to his office. "He's bringing probably cherries. Look at him, every day he's coming down with flowers or something."… Seymour Hersh reports that Israel is hedging its bets in the Middle East by helping bolster the Kurdish army to counter the potential strength of Shiite militias. Israel's use of covert operations in Iran and Syria—countries with sizable Kurdish minorities—could alter the balance of power in the Arab world. In response, Iran, Syria, and Turkey have formed an alliance based on "mutual wariness of the Kurds."
Atlantic, July/August 2004 The cover story contrasts the debating skills of George W. Bush and John Kerry. Bush is best when he prepares; Kerry excels when spontaneous. Bush stays on message; Kerry shines when he delves into nuances. Most surprising, when Bush debated for Texas governor 10 years ago, he "spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical conclusions." … A savage profile of Al Sharpton follows the reverend's "virtual" campaign through the Democratic primaries. Sharpton loves cameras, but is averse to actually talking to people. Best scene: A campaign worker creates a photo-op by chasing down some kids and placing them next to the Rev. Then, they run away.... Another piece claims elections would cost less if their commercials were better. Instead of improving feeble ads, campaigns just air them more often to "pound viewers into distracted submission."
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, June 28 The goods on Bill: Time's cover package on Bill Clinton's 957-page My Life includes an essay, short book excerpts, and an interview. The stories give voice to Clinton's "parallel lives" thesis—in childhood, he seethed over the behavior of his alcoholic stepfather and smiled on the outside. Then, in his presidency he faced a "struggle over the future of America with the Republican Congress and a private struggle with my old demons. I won the public one and lost the private one." Also, he supported the invasion of Iraq because weapons weren't accounted for, regrets not launching welfare reform before trying to revamp health care, and says that to succeed politically, you must have "the wussy-mommy qualities and the macho-tough qualities."… It's "hardly an edge-of-your-seat experience," says Newsweek's review: "Chapters often pass in a blur of policies, people and trips abroad, making the rare moments of candor leap out."
Coming attractions: Newsweek's exuberant cover story on the upcoming summer blockbuster Spider-Man 2 rhapsodizes over the tentacle-waving enemy "Doc Ock" and offers the overreaching analysis that "after September 11, Superman was who we wanted to be. Spider-Man was who we were." …Newsweek also dissects the allegations in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The movie claims Bin Laden family members were flown out of the United States when airspace was still closed and without being interviewed by the FBI. In fact, the flight came after airspace had been reopened and 22 of the 26 passengers were interviewed. … Another Newsweek story says Disney, which declined to release Fahrenheit 9/11 under the company's Miramax subdivision, is counterprogramming with America's Heart and Soul, a documentary that features "heartwarming profiles of cowboys, gospel singers and handicapped athletes."
Air America: A Time reporter goes through the paces required to become a federal air marshal. Trainees must shoot a target seven yards away twice in three seconds and are taught to use "specially configured PDAs" in which you key in suspicious passenger behavior like "taking pictures" and "wearing clothes incompatible with the season." …U.S. News profiles Clark Kent Ervin, the head of the Transportation Security Administration. The mettle of the tough-talking Ervin will be tested soon when the TSA issues reports on the efficacy of security screeners, the air-marshal program, and the issuance of visas in Saudi Arabia. … A U.S. News special issue looks at the people (P.T. Barnum, Susan B. Anthony) and places (McMansions, Las Vegas) that exemplify uniquely American attributes (dissent, consumption).
Alexander Barnes Dryer also contributed to this column.