Top Columns: Trig, Political Brain Chemistry, Love, and the First President

The best Sunday offerings

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Each Sunday we let the blogs take a back seat and bring you the best of traditional media. Here are some of the most interesting offerings from major papers, covering Sarah Palin, the brain chemistry of political preferences, love in search engines, and the legacy of George Washington.

  • Beware Exploiting Trig  In The Washington Post, Kathleen Parker is worried that Sarah Palin may be on the verge of "using her child as a political tool." Her examples: the recent uproar over Rahm Emanuel's use of the word "retard" (Palin's child has Down syndrome), and Palin's response to the health care debate. The latter issue, argues Parker, "became a personal referendum on [Palin's] child's right to life when Palin dispatched her 'death panel' interpretation of proposed reforms." Is Palin, like many mothers, not yet quite distinguishing between her child and herself? Parker thinks it's time for that to change.
  • Is Politics a Mere Matter of Reflex?  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof looks at provocative studies showing that those who flinch more when startled, for example, "were more likely to take such conservative positions as favoring gun rights, supporting warrantless searches, and opposing foreign aid." Likewise, conservatives tended to exhibit stronger physical responses to disgusting images.
  • Love in a Search Engine  Looking at the most popular autocompletes in search engines has been a popular exercise recently. In The Boston Globe, I.B.M. research scientists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg try it with questions about love. The resulting diagrams show the relative frequency with which users ask things like "should I call her/him/my ex" and "should I marry her/him/my best friend/someone with bad credit."
  • When Washington Decided Not to Be a Dictator  This came out Friday, but with President's Day tomorrow it deserves inclusion. "Today," writes Camelia Sims in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "we are so accustomed to presidents retiring at the end of their terms, that we miss the importance of what Washington did more than 200 years ago." At the end of the Revolutionary War, the first president of the United States refused to "become a king or a dictator," and "set another important precedent by voluntarily stepping down from the presidency at the end of his second term." Nearly unthinkable then, it remains impressive today--particularly, writes Sims, "to someone like me, born behind the Iron Curtain." The peaceful transfer of power, she argues, is a legacy worthy of celebration.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.