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The Real Lie of the “War on Terror”

Salman Rushdie chastises President Bush.

Reason, August/September 2005 Salman Rushdie takes President Bush to task about the war, but not because he’s against it—Rushdie wishes the president would stop insisting the war against terror is not about Islam. Speculating that the motivation behind such proclamations are the specters of political correctness and cultural relativism, Rushdie believes, “You can respect those reasons, but there is a problem of truth.” And the truth is that “there is an existing Islam which is not at all likeable.” Even as 500,000 children fester away in America’s foster-care system, an article reveals that more states are adopting measures that would restrict adoption privileges by homosexuals, preferring that children languish in orphanages because, as Texas state Rep. Robert Talton says, “At least they have the chance of learning proper values.” The article goes on to systematically debunk social conservatives’ arguments against gay adoption.—Z.K.

New Republic, Aug. 22 The cover slams intelligent design for being “a pseudoscientific incarnation of religious creationism.”It calls an upcoming Pennsylvania court case the Scopes Trial of our age, and notes that William Buckingham, chair of the Dover, Pa., school board’s curriculum committee, and defender of ID has said, “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution,” and also, “Nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state.”* The piece lays out the history of the competition between evolution and creationism, and emphasizes that evolution is both “a theory and a fact.” An accompanying essay by Leon Wieseltier debunks the notion of ID as scientific theory: “Intelligent design was conceived as the solution to a religious problem, not a scientific one. The problem is that the cosmogony in Genesis does not resemble what we know about the origins of the world”—B.B.

Economist, Aug. 13 The cover criticizes Ariel Sharon’s planned withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip next week: “Instead of land for peace—the principle under which Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in 1982—Israel is quitting Gaza pretty much unilaterally, after minimal co-ordination with the Palestinians, and with no firm promise that their ferocious intifada will not erupt again the moment the settlers have gone.” The magazine calls on President Bush to intercede and play peacemaker “the day after Mr Sharon pulls out.” Another piece remarks on the renewed popularity of the Welsh language and notes an increase in the number of people—especially teenagers—who speak it. The article attributes this growth to the increase in Welsh language schools in Wales and notes that Welsh-speakers are usually middle managers and small-business owners. It concludes with this advice to “other linguistic nationalists, from the Québécois to the Basques. Forget bombings and hunger strikes: to ensure the survival of a language, create a closed shop.”—B.B.

Rolling Stone, Aug. 11 An article calls the Bush administration’s War on Drugs a big fat flop. The government spends $40 billion dollars a year fighting drugs, yet “Drug prices are at an all-time low, drug purity is at an all-time high, and polls show that drugs are more available than ever.” The article criticizes the feds for going after every M.S.-afflicted granny rather than focusing on Scarface-type kingpins and cracking down on distribution. Even the most ardent drug opponents “concede that treating pot smokers as criminals does not appear to be justified.” An article examines the fallout after the revelation that Rockstar Games, the delinquent geniuses behind Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, embedded a sex scene that was unlocked by a modification created by a Dutch gamer. Longtime targets of parental ire for the game’s splatter, Rockstar finally “got burned by for the oldest mistake in the book: covering up a fuck.”—Z.K.

City Journal, Summer 2005 Back in January, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers remarked that the dearth of females in math and science could perhaps be attributed to gender, setting off a firestorm of student protests, hand-wringing op-eds, and a faculty vote of no-confidence. An article reveals how the melee cost Harvard $50 million dollars and sent the university’s diversity handmaidens gleefully scurrying around to establish the Task Force on Women Faculty to “affirm [the school’s] commitment to the advancement and support of women in academic life.” A profile crowns Pete Seeger, a pioneer in “mixing music and politics,” as the “most effective American communist ever.” The son of a Berkeley musicologist whose membership in the International Workers of the World union was provoked by his disgust at the treatment of migrant workers, Seeger’s journey into a Popular Front vessel began by performing with such musical groups as the Almanac Singers and the Weavers and has culminated in witnessing “Turn, Turn, Turn” sung at a Taiwanese anti-Communist march.—Z.K.

New York, Aug. 15 Kurt Andersen argues that we all are constantly profiling—and you’d be absurdly P.C. to do otherwise. While profiling ranges from unfair (charging young men high car insurance premiums) to offensive (pulling over a disproportionate number of African-Americans), Andersen argues that in the case of young Arab and Pakistani men on New York subways, it just makes sense: “Even the most expert, subtle forms of racial profiling are imperfect, discriminatory, morally dubious, but probably necessary tools that one hopes are a temporary means to a desirable outcome—like affirmative action in college admissions.” Ariel Levy interviews Liz Phair about her new album, inspired by Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and described by Phair as “a soul record.” Levy promises that fans wounded by the commercial aspirations of Phair’s last album will come running back to her old-school confessional lyrics. But Phair’s still scraping along: “I spend so much time scheming, like how to make money … I’ve read The Tipping Point three times.”— L.W.

New York Times Magazine, Aug. 14 Amanda Hesser profiles Bruno Goussault, a scientist and economist who is helping make Cryovacking (also known as sous vide) all the rage among top-notch chefs in France and the United States. While the technique, which involves vacuum-packing food and then cooking it in the bag, or using the pressure to imbue flavors into food, has been around for more than 20 years, at least one chef considers Goussault’s improvements upon the process to be as important as “the invention of the food processor and the gas stove.” Instead of maintaining a steady simmer, “Goussault discovered that keeping the temperature as low as possible and later cooling the food in several stages yielded a wildly different—and tastier—result.” Although many chefs have long scorned the process, more and more of them are now swearing that Cryovacking retains flavor better than other methods. For the cover, Daniel Bergner describes the lives of private security guards in Iraq. Says one guard, “At worst you’ve got cowboys running almost unchecked, shooting at will.”—B.B.

Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 12 The cover focuses on Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University who started receiving international acclaim and condemnation (including the requisite death threats) after she led a group of men and women in prayer at an NYC mosque. Wadud, an African-American convert to Islam, has long tried to understand the Quran’s attitude toward women. “Before she began her research, she made herself a promise: if it was true that the Koran really did view women as inferior, she could no longer be a Muslim.” But she eventually concluded that the Quran “adapts to the modern woman as smoothly as it adapted to the original Muslim community 14 centuries ago.” Although she had led some private ceremonies before, her determination to “not have Islam defined by hooded kidnappers” led her to widely publicize the occasion in New York. Alarmed by the threats to her safety, VCU now has Wadud teach her courses through a video link.—B.B.

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, Aug. 15 Biology: Newsweek’s cover features the latest studies of babies’ brains. This new information is overturning the conventional wisdom that a baby’s perspective is just a “blooming, buzzing, confusion.” It turns out that babies are really good at reading emotions (like “jealousy, empathy, frustration”), learning foreign languages (from humans, not tapes), and detecting minute differences in faces. These findings might help doctors make much earlier diagnoses of depression, autism, and learning disorders. Time’s cover focuses on Intelligent Design, a theory that posits intervention by a supernatural force in the origin of life. It points out that a recent Harris poll shows that 54 percent of Americans don’t believe that humans “developed from earlier species”—only 45 percent thought this in 1994. The piece also reports that 20 states have considered or are currently trying to implement new laws that question the way evolution is taught. “If I were China, I’d be happy,” says Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the national Science Teachers Association.

Money: Time profiles Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer. The show has increased ratings 74 percent for the down-on-its-luck network with its “vertigo-inducing camera movement and the blustery, hyperkinetic Cramer bouncing around the set howling stock-market strategy.”Newsweek reports on the massive popularity of online poker, a $2.4 billion industry. Although online poker isn’t legal in the United States, many U.S. companies—like Goldman Sachs—have invested in it. The Web sites circumvent U.S. law because most of the companies have gone offshore to locations like Gibralter or the Isle of Man. “Only the U.S. casino giants are left on the sidelines, banned from the action,” because of the American laws, notes the piece, which also points out that Americans make up 70 percent of online poker players.

Odds and ends: Time profiles Condoleezza Rice and hails her as “the most influential Secretary of State in more than a decade.” When asked about Iraq, Rice says, “It’s a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing than to see the rather quiet political progress that’s going on in parallel.” But the piece also notes that Rice only “offers vagaries” about how to deal with the insurgency. Moreover, “people who know Rice say they have strained to figure out whether she has come up with [a strategy].”  U.S. News discloses that Belize, which has long been considered a haven for criminals fleeing the clutches of American law, has started cooperating much more readily with U.S. authorities. The piece profiles Thad Osterhout, a member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau, a diplomat “who carries a badge and a gun.” Though the bureau’s first job is securing the embassy and its staff,  “Diplomatic Security has agents in 159 countries, and last year alone they helped return some 104 fugitives from 40 countries.”—B.B.

Weekly Standard, Aug. 15
Andrew Ferguson’s cover article describes the National Mall in Washington as “a vision of hell”: a place at once barren, alienating, and crowded with memorials—not to mention a pitiful lack of parking. The National Capital Planning Commission reports that at the pace of current trends, the Mall could be home to 50 memorials by 2050. An associate regional park director hopes to remove all unauthorized foot and car traffic from the mall, “[j]ust like at Disneyland. Nobody drives through Disneyland. And we’ve got the better theme park.” Tamar Jacoby assesses the two competing immigration bills before the Senate. Jacoby argues that despite the intense rhetoric surrounding immigration reform, a consensus is emerging that recognizes both the need for foreign workers and control over their arrival. “[F]or reasons of national security and the rule of law—we must come to terms with this shadow world,” writes Jacoby. “But we cannot realistically compel 11 million [illegal immigrants] to leave the country.”—L.W.

Correction, Aug. 22, 2005: This article originally and incorrectly called William Buckingham the chair of the Harrisburg, Pa., school board. In fact, he’s the chair of the Dover, Pa. school board’s curriculum committee. Return to the corrected item.