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The New York Times Magazine

The Totally Religious, Absolutely Democratic Constitution

  • By
  • Noah Feldman,
  • New America Foundation
December 11, 2005 |

A decade ago, almost everyone across the political spectrum--from neoconservatives to Islamic fundamentalists--agreed that democracy and Islam were inherently incompatible. This consensus followed from definitions: democracy means the rule of the people, whereas Islam teaches the sovereignty of God. In October, though, Iraqis went to the polls and ratified a Constitution that committed itself with equal strength to both democracy and Islam. The document announced that Iraq would be a democracy with equality for all and declared that no law could contradict the principles of democracy.

The Meaning of No

  • By
  • Noah Feldman,
  • New America Foundation
October 9, 2005 |

Casting a yes vote in next Saturday's constitutional referendum in Iraq would be easy to understand. Although the proposed document is too decentralizing for some tastes and too Islamic for others, those who choose to ratify it are clearly embracing democratic politics instead of violence. But what would it mean to vote no, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis seem poised to do?

If enough no votes are cast in the right places, they will sink the constitution.

Foundering?

  • By
  • Noah Feldman,
  • New America Foundation

When a constitution succeeds, its framers come to be regarded as visionaries. They are seen in retrospect to have predicted future difficulties and dealt with them ingeniously, by building a machine that would run of itself. From the inside, though, constitution drafting is not so philosophical and frictionless; it does not take place under the aspect of the eternal. The immediate politics of the moment dominate, along with the lurking fear that if the constitution is not ratified, national collapse may follow.

A Church-State Solution

  • By
  • Noah Feldman,
  • New America Foundation

I. THE EXPERIMENT

For roughly 1,400 years, from the time the Roman Empire became Christian to the American Revolution, the question of church and state in the West always began with a simple assumption: the official religion of the state was the religion of its ruler. Sometimes the king fought the church for control of religious institutions; other times, the church claimed power over the state by asserting religious authority over the sovereign himself.

In the Balance

  • By
  • Nir Rosen,
  • New America Foundation
February 20, 2005 |

There were two days left before election day, and Gen. Rostam Hamid Rahim, guerrilla war hero and a member of Iraqi Kurdistan's regional Parliament since 1992, was determined that every Kurd vote. Known as Mam (Uncle) Rostam, he told me he had joined the Kurdish nationalist militia, or peshmerga ('those who face death'), at age 15, in 1968. In 2003, he led the peshmerga into the northern city of Kirkuk -- the fourth-largest city in Iraq and its most ethnically mixed and contested -- following the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Too Much

  • By
  • Margaret Talbot,
  • New America Foundation
November 2, 2003 |

Every now and then a study comes along whose chief interest lies in how peculiarly askew its findings seem to be from the common perception of things. Sometimes, of course, the "surprising new study" itself turns out to be off in some way. But if the data are fundamentally sound, then what you really want to know is why sensible people hold such a contrary view.

Subversive Reading

  • By
  • Margaret Talbot,
  • New America Foundation
September 28, 2003 |

From a certain perspective, there is something thrilling about the recent face-off between Attorney General John Ashcroft and the librarians. The American Library Association and many of its members, indignant about a provision of the U.S.A. Patriot Act that could oblige them to cooperate with federal agents by turning over the records of what some library patrons have checked out, have managed to unleash the most rigorous re-examination of the entire Patriot Act since its passage in October 2001.

Why, Isn't He Just the Cutest Brand-Image Enhancer You've Ever Seen?

  • By
  • Margaret Talbot,
  • New America Foundation
September 21, 2003 |

The Extreme skate park in downtown Louisville, Ky., sits between a loop of interstate highway and the headquarters of a grain company whose sign reads "Producer Feeds -- Since 1869." The park looks a little like a homemade Hot Wheels track, something a resourceful toy-deprived child might make out of flour-and-water paste. It has every feature a skateboarder could want, though.

The Executioner's I.Q. Test

  • By
  • Margaret Talbot,
  • New America Foundation

Most people will never take an I.Q. test, and if they do, it probably won't have a big impact on them. Generally speaking, I.Q. tests do not carry much weight anymore. Not with vague charges of cultural bias still clinging to them. Not at a time when multiple intelligences -- that happy, inclusive vision in which nearly everybody is good at something -- are on the ascendancy. If you do take a Stanford-Binet or a Wechsler, and you score in the average range, well, there you'll be, with hardly a reason to mention it.

My Son, the Cyborg

  • By
  • Margaret Talbot,
  • New America Foundation

Why, exactly, was it front-page news (and Starbucks-line conversational fodder) that playing "first-person shooter" video games enhances visual skills? Maybe it had that tang of the counterintuitive that makes certain stories from academia attractive far beyond it: Hey, violent video games can be good for you! Maybe it was a consolation prize for parents whose kids can't get enough of games like "Grand Theft Auto 3," "Rogue Spear" and "Medal of Honor," where the object is to terminate with extreme prejudice as many enemies as you can.

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