Tax Cuts: As American as Apple Pie
The Economist offers suggestions for improving capitalism.
Economist, May 19"That's right: American capitalism is not beyond improvement," announces the cover package. As always, the magazine recommends simplifying the tax system; it also suggests cutting corporate taxes and getting rid of corporate welfare. The piece insists, "The way to support enterprise—American enterprise, the best in the world—is to be as unEuropean as possible." An accompanying article evaluates the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in response to the corporate accounting scandals. The act attempts to make the relationship between firms and their auditors less cozy, but one recent estimate claims that its "private net cost"—the "costs minus the benefits as perceived by the stock market as the new rules were enacted"—is $1.4 trillion. Critics say the act makes it harder for small businesses to take risks; moreover, its convolutions may discourage foreign investments and place a huge burden on accountants and auditors who have to unravel it.—B.B.
New Republic, May 30"[I]t is possible that a person's chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history," proclaims Gregg Easterbrook, citing a 2003 report published by the University of Maryland. Noting that news reports about war have skyrocketed even as the conflicts have diminished, Easterbrook writes, "I expected that evidence of a decline in war would trigger a sensation. Instead, it received almost no notice." He complains that the media have ignored the fact that, after being adjusted for inflation, global military spending has also gone down (from 1985's $1.3 trillion to "slightly over $1 trillion" last year) and suggests that the end of the Cold War, the rise of peacekeeping, the spread of democracy, and increased global trade could be responsible. … Also, NYU law professor Noah Feldman reviews two new books about the Justice Department torture memos that may have paved the way for Abu Ghraib.—B.B.
New York, May 23, 2005 The cover ponders the New York real-estate bubble. Henry Blodget, a Slate contributor and '90s dot-com veteran, asks, "Is your apartment like a dot.com stock?" Yes and no. Sure, prices are skyrocketing, lining the pockets of amateur investors, but "if prices drop you can live in your house—something you can't do with shares of Cisco Systems."… Another piece profiles Jerald Times, Harlem's Mott Hall School chess coach and his team, comprised of "a virtual United Nations of Kids." The program, initiated by Maurice Ashley, the only African-American grand master, had fallen on hard times financially. This year's team consisted of players who "had not played a game of tournament chess as recently as a year before, nor … taken the private lessons so important to the development of many of their neo-prodigy opponents." Still, the team finished second at the 2005 SuperNationals—the Super Bowl of the chess world.—Z.K.
New York Times Magazine, May 22 Former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke advises new National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to have all CIA analysts report directly to him, to replace CIA head Porter Goss, and to stand up to Donald Rumsfeld. He writes, "If Rumsfeld threatens to fall on his sword, let him. The president has to decide who is running these agencies, and if it's not you, walk."… In a profile of Rick Santorum, a former aide calls the conservative Pennsylvania Republican "a Catholic missionary who happens to be in the Senate." The article describes how some of Santorum's Hispanic constituents greet him as a "holy man." According to Karen's book Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum, Santorum and his wife, Karen, slept for a night with their newborn infant who died two hours after birth. They then took him home and allowed their other children to cuddle him. "He is an angel," one of the children said. The piece calls this incident "a cultural divide" because "some would find it discomforting, strange, even ghoulish—others brave and deeply spiritual."—B.B.
Weekly Standard, May 23
Claiming that last Friday's protests in Uzbekistan were "an expression of rising expectations," Stephen Schwartz announces that the move toward democracy in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan is influencing Central Asia, "where it cannot but intersect with the similar wave in the Muslim world, and where it cannot be obstructed for much longer." People started demonstrating against the imprisonment of 23 businessmen whom the government has accused of belonging to a neo-Wahhabi "Islamist conspiracy." Schwartz disputes this charge and suggests that reports of radical Islam's popularity in Uzbekistan are greatly exaggerated. … The cover emphasizes a recent Bible Literary Project survey of high-school English teachers; almost all agreed that students should know the Bible but believe that less than a quarter do. Noting "that the Bible has been a creative force without parallel in history", the piece wonders if the book can be taught as literature and calls on churches and synagogues to do a better job of teaching the Bible. Finally, it predicts a new "Great Awakening" among spiritually parched college students.—B.B.
The New Yorker, May 23
"After years of living in constant fear of AIDS, many gay men have chosen to resume sexual practices that are almost guaranteed to make them sick," claims a piece about the rising rates of HIV and syphilis among gay men in New York and San Francisco. The article blames the popularity of crystal meth, which lowers inhibitions, and Internet meet-up sites, which have proved far riskier than bars and bathhouses. … Anthony Lane rips Revenge of the Sith. He starts by mocking George Lucas' naming abilities: "Sith. It sounds to me like the noise that emerges when you block one nostril and blow through the other." He then grouches that Lucas' series "is a terrible puritan dream: a morality tale in which both sides are bent on moral cleansing, and where their differences can be assuaged only by a triumphant circus of violence" but that its popularity suggests "this is the only dream we are good for. We get the films we deserve."—B.B.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, May 23 Quran fallout: In the May 9 issue, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and John Barry quoted an anonymous government official who said that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay flushed a Quran down the toilet as part of their intimidation strategies. The story led to widespread riots in Afghanistan and the Middle East, wounding many and leaving 15 Afghans dead. The anonymous official has said he didn't have enough information to make the claim, and the Pentagon has denied the charge. Newsweek's editors write that they "regret" any possible error and are continuing to investigate. A related piece notes that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers did "cryptically refer to two mentions found in the logs of prison guards in Gitmo: a report that a detainee had used pages of the Qur'an to stop up a crude toilet as a form of protest, and a complaint from a detainee that a prison guard had knocked down a Qur'an hanging in a bag in his cell."
Fun and games:Time gushes that Microsoft's Xbox 360, which enables high-definition video games in surround sound, plays CDs and DVDs, connects to iPods, and allows online videoconferencing and live chat, will change our lives—or at least, allow those of us who'll play Call of Duty 2 (re-creating "the heroism and chaos of WW II on a scale never before possible") to experience "war the way Tolstoy described it." The article emphasizes Microsoft's quest to develop a hip product. A VP says, "They allowed us to set up a separate division almost, that is physically, geographically, psychologically and spiritually different from what Bill himself calls the Borg." …U.S. News' cover package focuses on the ever-increasing popularity of gambling and elucidates the new technologies casinos use to track every move their customers make. Casino managers are getting fond of "camera-and-sensor-embedded card tables called 'MindPlay' that record the location of every card and value of every bet."
History channel: U.S. News highlights fun facts from New York Times reporter John Markoff's new book, What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer. No. 1: "Apple Computer cofounder Steve Jobs says taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD was one of the most important things he has ever done and those who have not tripped on acid can not fully understand him." No. 2: Pioneering computer whiz Douglas Engelbart's "PC mouse taking its name from being chased by an early computer cursor called the 'CAT.' " …Newsweek's cover focuses on 1776, historian David McCullough's new book about George Washington. Noting that McCullough's "baritone is the voice of the past for two generations of PBS viewers," the piece takes issue with historians who think McCullough's work "is too safe and too smooth." … And a Time piece covers the recent reconstruction of King Tut's face.—B.B.
Bidisha Banerjee is the San Francisco-based co-author of a forthcoming Yale Climate and Energy Institute/Centre for International Governance Innovation report on scenario planning for solar radiation management. She is collaborating on a geoengineering game and has written about geoengineering governance for Slate and the Stanford Journal of Law, Science, and Policy.