- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

The merry month of May apparently has Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair, seeing green. Its cover says as much in its variations on the shade — from the coolest mint to heartier hues in emerald and pine.

There’s so much green, in fact, that you can barely make out the features of Al Gore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In case there’s any doubt, a bold headline, “Special Green Issue,” proclaims its intent — inside and out — to draw our attention to environmental issues.

Other cover lines (such as “A Threat Graver Than Terrorism: Global Warming” on the left side of the cover) sound the alarm, as does another, “How much of New York, Washington, and other American cities will be under water?” If these don’t shock you into a state of anxiety, the cleverly digitalized photographs of the District and New York City sinking under the waves should thoroughly unsettle you. The “worst-case scenario” view of Manhattan with many skyscrapers virtually submerged is equally disturbing — and the accompanying article is ominously titled, “While Washington Slept.”

By way of introducing a bit of balance in the issue, a lighter read is offered through a very long and loving profile of Suzy Parker, one of the earliest supermodels. Take note of the captions, though. A few of the more memorable ones — such as “Just like that, Suzy Parker quit modeling to bake bread. … She was happy to trade fame for a stove” — appear to be there for the purpose of defusing any incipient jealousy on the part of female readers.

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The May 4 issue of Rolling Stone comes off the presses with a no-holds-barred cover story by Sean Wilentz, “The Worst President in History? One of America’s Leading Historians Assesses George W. Bush.” The headline is accompanied by a nasty caricature of Mr. Bush wearing a dunce’s cap, and the illustration within the magazine is an even more insulting depiction of the president and Vice President Dick Cheney done up as bandits snickering over a handful of gold coins.

The same issue also features a very strong and moving account of a young sergeant who suffered a major brain injury in Iraq. While critical of the Army, the article also states that modern battlefield medicine is helping soldiers survive injuries that would have killed them in past years.

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On a more upbeat note, let me call your attention to the Silver Spring-based Lady Magazine which has just published a special commemorative souvenir edition. The issue is rich in information about the African nation of Liberia, a country whose past may not be well known to many Americans but with a history that is tightly entwined with ours.

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The May issue of that sterling monthly the New Criterion has one especially fascinating article. “Revolution for the rich: James’s Princess Casamassima,” by Mark Falcoff, explains why this relatively little-known work “is not merely James’s great political novel, but his great conservative political novel.” Mr. Falcoff points out that it is particularly remarkable for managing to combine “a compassionate portrayal of those at the near bottom of Britain’s social scale with a decidedly mordant critique of radical politics and its practitioners.”

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The Atlantic’s May issue is carrying two splendid articles, both eminently worthy of attention. The first is “The Desert One Debacle,” the cover story by Mark Bowden about how everything that could go wrong in the attempt to rescue American hostages in the Iranian desert 23 years ago did so a big way. Mr. Bowden, author of “Black Hawk Down” — the best-selling novel about the harrowing American Delta Force military mission to abduct a Somali warlord — is in peak form here. In chilling detail, he makes you feel as if you were on the ground amid swirling clouds of dust with helicopters crashing about. The full story will be published in May under the title “Guests of the Ayatollah.”

The second Atlantic article, “Colonel Cross of the Gurkhas” by Robert D. Kaplan, deals with special military men as well. The Gurkhas hail from warrior tribes in western Nepal and were recruited into Queen Victoria’s forces to aid British civilians during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. They have fought for Great Britain ever since. Their courage and tenacity as fighting men is legendary. As Mr. Kaplan puts it while describing the “gentlemen warriors” he interviewed: “To call them Kiplingesque would be to cheapen them, they were practically out of the ‘Illiad.’”

Also of note: Franklin Foer’s profile of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, “The Talented Mr. Chavez.” I have to confess I’m most tickled by one of the read-outs: “Chavez’s psychiatrist, Edmundo Chirinos, told me, ‘The love of the people is like a narcotic to him. He needs it the same way he needs his coffee.’ (At one point in his presidency, Chavez drank up to thirty demitasses each day.)” What’s a head of state doing with a shrink, I ask you? Should we worry more or less with this fierce anti-American in power?

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To wind up, you may want to consider the thoughts of Publishers Weekly Editor in Chief Sara Nelson in the April 24 issue of that publication. She’s distressed that no publishers are bringing out any significant Democratic books. (However, she makes her own political alliances quite clear) Miss Nelson ends on this note: “Respect it or not, Regnery arguably won Bush the 2004 election with its publication of the Kerry-attacking ‘Unfit for Command.’ So what has publishing done for the left lately?”

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