New Republic, July 25
“If Roe v. Wade goes by the boards, abortion law will stay roughly the same. Nor will American life change much if the Ten Commandments start dropping off courthouse walls,” argues Harvard law professor William J. Stuntz. He insists that regulating crime is a much graver task, but one that the Supreme Court is not very good at. He rails against the disproportionate number of African-American prisoners and the confusing nature of criminal trial procedures, and he urges President Bush to nominate a justice who can foster innovative reforms among lawmakers, prosecutors, and police. … David Pryce-Jones suggests that the London bombings “threaten to push beyond the breaking point” the tensions between British Muslims and working-class whites in poor industrial cities. Noting that a mosque in Leeds was firebombed in apparent retaliation, Pryce-Jones writes, “In order to be free and equal citizens, [British Muslims] need better leadership and a more realistic government.”—B.B.
Economist, July 16
In light of the revelation that the July 7 bombings were committed by British natives, a piece reveals the patterns that often precede a Western-born Muslim’s descent into terrorism. What typically begins as a sense of alienation from “stuffy” Islamic culture, experts say, can turn into “drink, drugs and petty crime before seeing a ‘solution’ to his problems—and the world’s—in radical Islam.” … The release of the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series is expected to break all publishing records, with Britain anticipating first-day sales to exceed 1.8 million copies. A piece notes, however, that the profits the series has brought to its British publisher, Bloomsbury, are increasingly rare. Slow market growth has driven struggling publishers “into the arms of media giants with deep pockets. The era of the patrician, tweed-suited publisher has given way to one of cost-cutting and job losses in a quest for efficiency and decent profits.”—M.O.
Harper’s, July 2005
Jack Hitt deflates the hoopla over Kennewick Man, a “Caucasoid” skeleton found along the Columbia River in 1996. The skeleton was determined to predate the arrival of Asian hunter-gatherers in North America by 3,000 years, sparking a new archaeological movement to prove that Americans were originally of European descent. Hitt, who believes that the movement is inspired by racial preferences rather than plausible evidence, suspects that the theory’s popularity will increase: “If the majority profoundly longs to believe that men of Caucasoid extraction toured here 16,000 years ago,” Hitt writes, “… [then] that is what in time the majority will happily come to believe.” … While advancements in body armor have minimized fatalities in Iraq, they have also produced more veterans surviving with limb, eye, and brain injuries than in any other recent war. Ronald Glasser, a doctor who served in the Vietnam War, notes that recent budget cuts have left Veteran Affairs ill-equipped to handle the situation: “If the Bush Administration continues its refusal to accept the realities of this conflict,” he writes, “the most enduring images of the Iraq war will be the sight of legless and addled beggars on our street corners.”—M.O.
Rolling Stone, July 28
A profile of New York Times darlings Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn offers up the following insights: Aspiring New Yorker contributor Wilson, a self-proclaimed “ass man,” is averse to condoms and believes “women have to be responsible for their own orgasms.” A one-night-stand enthusiast, Vaughn doesn’t have a preference since, “you can drink a lot of girls pretty.” Oh, and both are single. … Once upon a time counterfeiting was as easy as scoring some acid-free paper and having a decent color printer, but the feds smartened up in the 1990s by redesigning the currency to include such counterfeiting foilers as an embedded security thread and the watermark. An article chronicles Art Williams Jr.’s quest to outfox them with the perfect $100 bill. With a little elbow grease, luck, and a supportive spouse, Williams was soon busy laundering his perfect imitations at strip malls across the country until he was done in by his stepmother.—Z.K.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2005
With the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings approaching, the Bulletin asks eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines, “Would you have dropped the bomb?” Overwhelmingly the answer is no. Lutheran minister and professor Martin E. Marty believes an invitation to a test demonstration would have resulted in a Japanese capitulation. Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy, disparages Truman’s decision as not only “short-sighted” but “immoral and dangerous.” Author Richard B. Frank calls it, “The best worst option.” … An article reveals that physical scientists have a PR problem and it’s all Albert Einstein’s fault. Research shows that kids associate Einstein’s awkward visage with the field. Adding insult to injury, some believe that “such a narrow idea of what physical scientists do could be deterring them from pursuing careers in those fields,” causing a dearth in homegrown scientists, especially among women.—Z.K.
Granta, Spring 2005
In a memoir from the “Factory” issue, Andrew Martin recalls growing up between the Rowntree and Terry chocolate factories in York. Founded by Quakers and Tory paternalists, the factories’ seeming disinterest in profits distinguished York from the “hard” mining towns that dominated northern England. “Terry’s,” Martin writes, “seems to levitate above the district of South Bank where my grandfather lived, and where I was born—sometimes it seems to be the horizon. … At night, the huge white clock face—on which are spelt the words TERRY and YORK—is like a substitute moon.” … A photo essay by Alec Soth delves into Division Stampings, a metal-parts factory outside of Minneapolis. Soth is unsettled by the noise level, which precludes conversation among the workers. “But,” he concludes, “it’s too easy to assume their boredom or cynicism.”—M.O.
New York Times Magazine, July 17 Matt Bai’s cover article argues that since the 2004 elections, Democrats have been smart in focusing less on new ideas and more on how to frame them. Where Republicans once ruled Congress with “tax relief” and “partial-birth abortion,” the Dems held their own in the recent filibuster battle with “abuse of power” and “checks and balances.” At the center of the vocabulary makeover is George Lakoff, a linguist-turned-political sensation. Lakoff’s advice is taken seriously within the party, yet Bai thinks perhaps “Democrats are still unwilling to put more concrete convictions about the country into words, either because they don’t know what those convictions are or because they lack confidence in the notion that voters can be persuaded to embrace them.”… Drivers love breezing past toll booths with E-ZPass, but the technology could threaten the security of personal information, and the government could use it to track drivers’ whereabouts or even automatically ticket speeders who arrive at the next tollbooth too quickly. Americans “waver on whether to trade privacy for convenience,” writes Christopher Caldwell, “but they’re pretty untroubled about trading privacy for security.”—L.W.
New York, July 18 Jason Itzler called himself the “King of All Pimps,” running the posh NY Confidential escort service in a loft not far from City Hall. A class-obsessed Jewish guy who made his first million by age 23 with a phone-sex start-up, Itzler’s dream was to create a fantasy world of beautiful women for successful men. His escort service featured his girlfriend Natalia, a skinny beauty whom he transformed into an elite hooker charging $2,000 an hour. Now he’s paying for his braggadocio in a cell at Riker’s Island, charged with money laundering and promoting prostitution: “Jail is terrible, really boring,” he says. “But it does give you plenty of time to plan your next move.”… Rachel Maddow, a radio host on Air America, is the token liberal on Tucker Carlson’s new show, The Situation. A self-described populist and “old lefty,” Maddow is winning praise for her well-reasoned arguments within a political climate where the snarky sound bite rules. “You can’t take this long-view, revolutionary-archetype approach to things,” she says. “You have to save people’s lives right now.”—L.W.
Atlantic, Fiction Issue 2005 Atlantic’s inaugural special fiction issue features short stories by Joyce Carol Oates and Charles Baxter, among others. … Mary Gordon debates novelist John Gardner’s assertion that “true” literature should heighten the morality of its readers: “If you take Gardner’s position, that fiction more concerned with the play of language than with human behavior is ‘false,’ ” Gordon writes, “then what do you do with a book like Finnegans Wake? I would like to think that anything that gives joy because of its mastery of language must be on the side of the angels.”… An Edith Wharton excerpt pulled from the archives has the novelist pondering whether her stories are initially inspired by a character or a situation: “I may be strolling about casually in my mind, and suddenly a character will start up before me, coming seemingly from nowhere; and again, but more breathlessly, I watch; and presently the character draws nearer, and seems to become aware of me, and to feel the shy but desperate need to unfold his or her tale.”—M.O.
The Nation, July 18 and 25 A piece charges the FDA with incompetence in its refusal to make Plan B, also called the morning-after pill, available without a prescription. An FDA advisory committee voted in favor of the proposal in early 2004, but the FDA eventually bowed to opposition from the Bush administration and FDA staff member Dr. W. David Hager, who cited concern about increasing “risky behavior” among young girls. The article then examines a unique proposal by Barr Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s maker, to have the drug available without a prescription to women older than 16. … Despite 17 state amendments banning same-sex marriage, 10 of which also bar civil unions, an article claims that the family values movement is not actually rooted in opposition to gay marriage. Unnerved by climbing divorce rates and decreased financial security, the piece argues, voters seek household security in stricter marriage laws, with “damage to gay equality caught up in its wake.”—M.O.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, July 18 The London attacks: British officials told Time last week that the group of al-Qaida-linked Moroccans associated with the Madrid train bombings also may have been involved in the July 7 bombings. London’s “openness and multiculturalism,” a piece notes, has long made the city a bastion for Islamic extremism, and radical groups had abstained from attacking Britain in order to maintain tolerance in their home base. After British officials cracked down on suspected terrorists after Sept. 11, however, jihadists “decided to go ahead and send the first blast.”… In U.S. News, American intelligence officials say much of al-Qaida’s leadership has been destroyed, but such success presents new problems. As Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, notes: “Those people don’t all look the same, don’t all work for the same people, don’t all speak the same language; they have extraordinarily high tradecraft, and they’re willing to die for their beliefs,” Harmon says. “That’s as close to a perfect storm as you can get.”
Navy SEALs: A Time dispatch from Afghanistan recounts how a shepherd named Gulab rescued a wounded Navy SEAL who had been ambushed by Taliban insurgents. “Several months ago, U.S. and Afghan officials claimed the Taliban was a spent force,” Tim McGirkreports. “But the Islamist fighters and their al-Qaeda allies have sprung back with fresh recruits.” Gulab refused to turn the American over to the Taliban, bringing him safely to a U.S. base. He then took his family and fled the Taliban reprisal that would be quick to follow. … A Newsweek piece describes the Navy SEALs’ frustration at being relegated to peripheral duties such as VIP escorts and rescue missions, while the Army’s Delta Force and Green Berets get to “go after the bad guys.” SEALs are ignoring the Defense Department’s $150,000 “retention incentive” and leaving the program for jobs in the private sector.
Odds and ends: As the White House eyes an impending second Supreme Court vacancy, Newsweek depicts a rift in the president’s conservative base centered on potential nominee Alberto Gonzales. While corporate interests are likely to support Gonzales, the religious right is outraged that the president would consider a nominee with a moderate stance on values issues such as abortion. As Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation said, “If they don’t nominate a true conservative, it will be a betrayal. … It will split the base, and it will devastate the party in 2006.” … A Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff reveals that Karl Rove was the source who gave his “personal consent” for Time correspondent Matthew Cooper to testify before the Valerie Plame grand jury.—M.O.
Weekly Standard, July 18 Christopher Hitchens lashes out against one of his favorite bêtes noires, British MP George Galloway, who has held British involvement in the war on terror and reported abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay responsible for the London bombings. Hitchens writes, “If [Galloway] really knows that much about the killers, he should be asked to make a full disclosure of his sources to Scotland Yard. If he doesn’t know, he should at least have waited until the blood was dry before opening his ugly mouth. Scant chance of the latter.” He also insists that “[W]e must increasingly confront the fact that the war within Islam is also a war within Europe.” … William Kristol uses the occasion to re-emphasize the links between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism: “The insurgents in Iraq are terrorists. They are killing innocent civilians just as surely and just as ruthlessly as their allies in London.” He insists that democracy in Iraq will mean victory over global terrorism and notes that Abu Zarqawi has made the same point.—B.B.