The Economist's Year in Review
Bush, Arafat, and Janet Jackson, too.
Economist, Dec. 16
The magazine waxes poetic, publishing a 4,274-word rhyming rundown of the year's events from the war in Iraq, the U.S. presidential election, and Arafat's death, to more mundane occurrences like Howard Dean's scream and the revelation of "Janet Jackson's tit." (They had to rhyme "Democrats in fits" with something.) ... Another article advocates amending the U.S. Constitution to allow immigrants to seek America's highest office, given Arnold Schwarzenegger's desire to run. "There are plenty of good reasons to mock the idea of President Arnold Schwarzenegger. His birthplace is not one of them." ... A piece on President Bush's religious beliefs points out that he's hardly the first president to make his faith an integral part of his presidency—Carter and Clinton did, too. Bush employs religion in five ways: "as a literary device"; "as consolation"; "as history"; "arguing for his faith-based policies"; and "to talk about providence."
New Republic, Dec. 27
The cover story on Dr. Phil exposes the hypocrisy of his approach to therapy. Since Dr. Phil's solutions to his whack-job guests' problems often lie in footing the bill so that they can receive some lavish treatment at a plush rehab center, for example, all he's really advocating is the need for everyone to have a "rich, well-connected fairy godfather to swoop in, reorder our lives, and keep us in line." ... Cass Sunstein reviews A Court Divided by Mark Tushnet and offers his own insight on the matter. According to Sunstein "two drastically different approaches to constitutional law" have divided the Rehnquist Court. He compares the ruling style of O'Connor and Kennedy, who err on the side of caution with that of Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist, who are more aggressive—they're "eager to insist on the supremacy of their own view of the Constitution, whatever the precedents say."
New York Times Magazine, Dec. 19 Michael Lewis attempts to parse out what—precisely—makes a legendary quarterback with a play-by-play examination of rookie Eli Manning's pro-football career. The New York Giants' risky, $54 million decision to make Manning the starting quarterback caused wonderment over whether Manning was favored for his legacy—his father played QB for the Saints, his brother plays QB for the Colts. But Giants GM Ernie Accorsi determines that it's more than promising genes—Manning possesses that je ne sais quoi you only know when you see. Unfortunately, it's too soon to determine if Accorsi made a smart bet. … Another piece dissects the Midas touch of film executive Bob Berney, responsible for marketing hits like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Berney's current challenge is marketing The Woodsman, a new film starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile. His strategy to get viewers interested in the controversial subject: Market with an air of mystery, and push the film's psychological drama.
Oxford American, Winter 2005"The Southern Magazine of Good Writing" is back—again. Now affiliated with the University of Central Arkansas, the magazine plans to operate as a nonprofit, putting out four issues a year. The "first" issue sees a number of new columns and departments, including a regular column by Oprah-endorsed novelist Kaye Gibbons and a department called "Writing on Writing," in which authors ruminate on their successes and foibles—this issue features Kevin Brockmeier and Charles Portis. Of particular note is an Orchid Thief- esque profile of Dean Ripa, snake fiend extraordinaire, whose love affair with the reptiles began at 14, after he was bitten by a cottonmouth snake. But Ripa, unlike orchid thief John Laroche, is not fickle in his obsession—it's a lifelong passion. Ripa runs, and resides in, the Cape Fear Serpentarium in Wilmington, N.C., where visitors can view a hundred of "the rarest and deadliest" snakes in the world, and other reptiles like crocodiles and lizards.
The New Yorker, Dec. 20 and 27 The winter fiction issue features stories from Edward Jones, Ian McEwan, and Hanna Krall. … In a moving "Personal History," novelist A.M. Homes, who is adopted, describes the life-altering experience of meeting, and kindling, relationships with her birth mother and father as an adult: "To be adopted is to be adapted, to be taken apart and sewn back together again. Whether or not you regain full function, there will always be scar tissue."… Dave Eggers celebrates Monty Python in light of the new Mike Nichols-directed musical Monty Python's Spamalot. Eggers comments on the comedy troop's history and its initially shaky reception in 1969: " 'Do you realize,' John Cleese said to Michael Palin before the first taping, 'this could be the first comedy show to go out with absolutely no laughs at all?' " Eggers concludes that "Spamalot will make no sense to a certain segment of the population, but to those who see the point … it will mean everything in the world."
Weekly Standard, Dec. 20 Andrew Ferguson dissects the scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and "public affairs specialist" Michael Scanlon, who are currently under investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for allegedly scamming six tribes over three years for $82 million. Abramoff has passed his clients on to utilize Scanlon's (exorbitantly priced) services; Scanlon would then outsource the work, and Scanlon and Abramoff would split the fee. While lobbyists like Abramoff must divulge their clients and their fees, Scanlon, who is not a lobbysist, is not subject to the same rules. "By directing Abramoff's clients to hire Scanlon … the two men could make as much money as possible without having to disclose anything." Ferguson says that although lobbyists want to believe that the investigation will fizzle out, that's "just wishful thinking." Sen. John McCain, who heads the committee, "has made it clear he has much more material to ventilate in hearings that will continue next year."
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 20 Rummy on the defense. The newsmags ruminate on Donald Rumsfeld's defensive response last week to a question about why the military's vehicles lack proper armor. Although officials say there are "5,905 new armored humvees, and 9,134 have been retrofitted with some plating," a director for the Army Materiel Command acknowledges to U.S. News that "some soldiers still work out of unarmored vehicles."… One Army officer tells Time that the reason for the shortage lies in the strength of the insurgency: "In terms of the equipment strategy, that changed everything."… Rep. Robin Hayes tells Newsweek that the 82nd Airborne has been waiting a year for armored equipment that it requested, and he's been "frustrated" by this process. He's written to Rumsfeld to tell him so: "I simply cannot understand why we are not equipping our soldiers and Marines on the front lines with every weapon in our arsenal."
Homeland insecurity. Speculation continues about whether Bernard Kerik withdrew his name for consideration of director of Homeland Security for reasons other than his employment of an illegal alien as his family's nanny. Newsweek cites as one possible reason a previously unknown arrest warrant that resulted from a lawsuit Kerik faced for not paying fees on a New Jersey condo: "Kerik paid the fees and the warrant was withdrawn, but the existence of the warrant was news to the White House and Kerik's handlers." … Rudolph Giuliani tells Time that "his protégé's withdrawal is solely about the nanny problem," rather than issues like Kerik's involvement with Taser International, a government supplier of nonviolent law enforcement devices. Kerik cashed in $6.2 million of stock options he had in the company, of which he also serves on the board … Also, U.S. News examines reports indicating Saddam Hussein planned an insurgency pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom.
New intelligence. Although the Intelligence-Reform Bill, which Congress passed last week, creates a director of national intelligence, or DNI, many say the DNI will not have the power necessary to make substantive changes. "What it fails to do is to create a leader … who is clearly in charge and as a result is fully accountable," Pat Roberts, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, tells U.S. News. Time says, "So that the director would remain neutral and not become bogged down in operational details, Congress didn't give the DNI control over spying at the CIA and other agencies. But without operational control, the director may be less useful to the president and therefore have less access to him." Possible contenders for the DNI include CIA Director Porter Goss, but Time says that "9/11 commission Chairman Thomas Kean, former Sen. Sam Nunn and ex—Navy Secretary John Lehman" are also possibilities.