5 Best Thursday Columns

Nicholas Kristof on life in Zimbabwe, E. J. Dionne on the consequences of fighting regulation, and more

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  • Nicholas Kristof on Life in Zimbabwe  Surreptitiously reporting from the African country, the New York Times columnist gauges the quality of life in Zimbabwe. Kristof discovers that the majority of the subjects of his covert interviews preferred the white regime of Rhodesia to the oppressive black government of Robert Mugabe, as the white government of the 1970s was significantly "more competent" at providing infrastructure, education and health systems, and jobs than Mugabe's band of goons. Saddened, Kristof can only hope for a way forward. "Worldwide pressure forced the oppressive Rhodesian regime to give up power three decades ago," he writes. "Now we need similar pressure, from African countries as well as Western powers, to pry Mr. Mugabe’s fingers from his chokehold on a lovely country."
  • E. J. Dionne on the Consequences of Fighting Regulation  Commenting on the West Virginia mining tragedy, the Washington Post columnist laments the successful efforts of big companies to stop efforts to regulate the industry. Stating the obvious fact that "companies just don't like regulation," Dionne argues money has triumphed over considerations of worker safety. "Too often, regulations are discussed in the abstract as a "burden" on companies that expend substantial sums to resist them. Only after disasters such as this one do we remember that regulations exist for a reason, that their enforcement can, literally, be a matter of life and death."
  • Karim Altaii on Education in Iraq  In a guest op-ed for the New York Times, the Iraqi-born professor at James Madison University examines the critical condition of education infrastructure in Iraq, which he reports "now lies in shambles." Calling on the U.S. to do more for Iraqi professors and teachers, he suggests stronger ties between American and Iraqi academics. "Imagine American and Iraqi experts working to uncover documents dating back to the earliest days of civilization," he writes. "Or a joint medical team solving the mystery of the alarming rise in the incidence of childhood cancer in southern Iraq and finding treatments that save children throughout the world."
  • Victor Davis Hanson on Personal Responsibility  At National Review, Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution,* offers a withering critique of the good-guys-and-bad-guys narrative often heard in liberal politics. Real life is more complicated, Hanson points out, and the sainted victims whose cause Obama champions haven't always made the best decisions in life. "The president would surely improve his standing if he urged Americans to buy fewer DVDs and instead more insurance plans," Hanson writes, "or to avoid drugs and drink, or not to borrow money that they have no desire or ability to pay back, or not to enter the United States in the first place without a proper visa."
  • Gail Collins on Selective Memory  The New York Times columnist delivers a typically wry indictment of Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who recently declared April "Confederate History Month" while neglecting to mention slavery. Collins places McDonnell alongside other shaky-grasp-on-history types, like John "Never Considered Myself a Maverick" McCain, before suggesting--breezily, but with unmistakable feeling--that Confederate History Month is one of the more "dreadful developments in modern history."

*Corrected: original misidentified Hanson as a historian at Stanford University

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