Five Best Monday Columns

Michael Lewis on Goldman Sachs, Steve Kornacki on the remaking of the GOP, Charles C.W. Cooke on Black History Month, Jennifer Vanasco on pedophilia in the Boy Scouts, and Michael Tomasky on the paranoia of the NRA.

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Michael Lewis in The New Republic on Greg Smith's Goldman Sachs memoir Few financial institutions command as much scrutiny as Goldman Sachs, the global investment firm whose inner machinations are only occasionally revealed. But when those machinations are revealed, as they were in Greg Smith's 2012 memoir Why I Left Goldman Sachs, do they show anything we didn't already know or couldn't have possibly guessed? And do these revelations change anything? Michael Lewis thinks not: "Today's insider confessions feel like vain and useless acts, he writes. "And what would [Smith] have us do, four years after the Great Collapse, to fix the system, or to change in any way his former employer's behavior?"

Steve Kornacki at Salon on Karl Rove's efforts to rejuvenate the GOP The 2012 election occasioned a good deal of soul-searching for the Republican Party, but it also forced its institutional leaders to figure out how, exactly, to avoid gaffe-prone candidates like former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who on live television told an interviewer that pregnancies from "legitimate rape" almost never happen. Steve Kornacki has faith in GOP strategist Karl Rove's ability to suss out candidates at risk of embarrassing their party — but only because it's pretty easy to do so. The difficulty, Kornacki writes, is that these same candidates "represent the same restive conservative movement that has promoted Paul, Toomey, Rubio and Cruz — successes that have given the right enormous sway within the GOP."

Charles C.W. Cooke at the National Review Online on Black History Month Has Black History Month, celebrated during the month of February since 1976, outlasted its purpose? Charles C.W. Cooke admits that the status of a special month is troublesome. Blacks have suffered throughout American history, he writes, but he wonders if "the correct response to that suffering" is really "a single month on the school-year calendar." Cooke adds: "If there is still too little 'black history' taught in America’s schools — or if 'black history' is being taught incorrectly — then we should change the curriculum."

Jennifer Vanasco in Columbia Journalism Review on pedophilia in the Boy Scouts Last week the Boy Scouts of America announced it might soon revise its long-held stance toward gay people. (Currently the organization forbids both scouts and leaders from being openly gay.) The announcement drew sharp responses from social conservatives, some of whom warned that the new policy would attract pedophiles. Jennifer Vanasco criticizes Fox News Channel (for endorsing the concept that gay men are more likely to molest children) and Salon (for not challenging it). "One of the most pernicious stereotypes about gay men is that any one of them might be a pedophile," Vanasco writes. "It needs to be debunked."

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast on the paranoia of the National Rifle Association Last September the NRA compiled and published a long list of "Anti-Gun Individuals & Celebrities" — people who pose, for whatever reason, an existential threat to the Second Amendment. Taking a cue from Josh Marshall (who reprinted the list last week), Michael Tomasky investigates the psychology of meticulously listing one's imagined enemies. "To the NRA ... the point is that vigilance has to be unceasing and eternal," he writes. "Enemies are everywhere, and who knows, it just might someday be loose talk from Robin Ruzan or Margaret Kemp that brings the walls of Jericho tumbling down." The column ends on an optimistic note: "The good news is that paranoid psychotics usually do themselves in."

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