5 Best Tuesday Columns

Bret Stephens on Lady Gaga, Arianna Huffington on the broadband gap, and more

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  • David Brooks on What Makes Us Happy The New York Times columnist applies his usual grandiose style to a profound subject: the source of human happiness. Citing Sandra Bullock's situation, Brooks argues interpersonal relationships are far more important to one's happiness than wealth or accolades. "Just as the old sages predicted, worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through," he lectures. Brooks comes full circle when he chastises governments for focusing on what's quantifiable over what actually matters.
In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones ... Governments keep initiating policies they think will produce prosperity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spiritual blind side.
  • Bret Stephens on Understanding the Middle East Disgusted at claims that Israeli settlements are the source of anti-Western resentment in the region, Stephens provides a history lesson on the source of "radical anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world." Stephens posits the problem is one of jihadists' resentment at our culture (e.g. Lady Gaga), citing the 1950s teachings of Sayyid Qutb, "the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda." "The America Qutb found so offensive had yet to discover Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women's lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey Shore and, of course, Lady Gaga," he contends. "In other words, even in some dystopic hypothetical world in which hyper-conservatives were to seize power in the U.S. and turn the cultural clock back to 1948, America would still remain a swamp of degeneracy in the eyes of Qutb's latter-day disciples."
  • Michael Tomasky on Fraying Anglo-American Relations Writing in The Guardian, Tomasky, an American journalist, suggests that it may be time to retire the notion of a "special relationship" between England and the U.S. This political and cultural harmony has its roots in World War II, Tomasky writes, but "today's threats are different, and to face them down requires multinational co-operation on intelligence that extends far beyond just two countries." With a wink, Tomasky also implies that since Obama's father was from Kenya, a former English colony, the president may have little love for the British Empire in his heart.
  • Eugene Robinson on Far-Right Unrest In a scorching Washington Post column, Robinson indicts conservative "demagogues" who "scream at people that their government is illegitimate." Groups like the Hutaree militia, he says, are an inevitable result of this kind of inflammatory language. Robinson torpedoes the idea that the far left has as many dangerous radicals as the far right, calling it "an equivalence that does not exist," and reminds us that "the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed in this country was authored by a member of the government-hating right wing: Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City."
  • Ariana Huffington on America's Decline in Innovation  The Huffington Post founder and namesake wonders whether the United States, after decades at the forefront of scientific and technological advancement, is becoming a third-world country for innovation. Looking to a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation covering 40 countries in which the U.S. ranked dead last, Huffington points to our failing "education edge" and declining investment in innovation as some of the many sources of America's fall from inventive grace. "America is rich with resources -- both natural and human -- but we can no longer afford to utilize them so inefficiently," concludes Huffington. "We can't afford to be the only nation in the industrialized world in which half the country doesn't have access to broadband. We can't afford to allow other nations to take the lead in creating a green economy. And we can't afford to keep making it so hard for people with job-creating ideas to start their businesses here."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.