5 Best Monday Columns

Paul Krugman on voguish environmentalism, James Carroll on the PowerPoint letdown, and more

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  • Paul Krugman on Drilling, Disaster, and Denial   Departing from his usual economic musings, the New York Times columnist turns a critical eye toward the the environmentalist movement. Krugman asserts that while the impetus to play environmental caretaker was strong during the ecological doldrums of the 1960s, improved technology has reduced the visibility of environmental dangers and in turn its presence in the American consciousness. "Let's admit it: by and large, the anti-environmentalists have been winning the argument, at least as far as public opinion is concerned," writes Krugman. "Then came the gulf disaster. Suddenly, environmental destruction was photogenic again."
  • Simon Schama on England's Watershed Moment  Writing in The New Yorker, Schama, the world-renowned historian and art critic, offers a plummy gloss of why this week's parliamentary elections could represent a huge turning point for the U.K. If the Liberal Democrats, England's historically marginalized third party, get enough seats this week, they may be able to force a reform of the country's entrenched two-party system. Schama explains that "the really shocking, really thrilling thing is that many Britons, faced with this prospect, seem ready to say, Goodbye. And good riddance."
  • Jon Kingsdale on Health Care's Road Ahead  Kingsdale, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, gives a clear-eyed take on the policy and politics of actually implementing Obama's ambitious health care reform. "The executive branch has 3 1/2 years to work with 50 very different states in bolstering popular support and executing effectively," Kingsdale notes. "That will require massive amounts of technical expertise and project management, combined with public outreach and creative communications." He draws up a six-point plan for getting it done, but wraps things up with a sobering warning: "The real campaign has just begun."
  • Ruth Marcus on 'Spoken From The Heart'  Reviewing Laura Bush's memoir, the Washington Post columnist comes away believing the former First Lady is "good, very good" at transmitting the emotions of her life before marrying George Bush. "But like the West Texas soil, Bush has her limits," Marcus sighs, scouring the latter half of the book for similar emotional insights into Bush's time as First Lady and finding little. "It is a shame that 'Spoken From the Heart' was, in the end, overly edited by the head," Marcus concludes. "Because Laura Bush, with an ear trained by all those hours curled up with novels, clearly has more to tell, if she so chooses."
  • James Carroll on the Military and PowerPoint  In an artfully written analysis of the U.S. military's embrace of groupthink, the Boston Globe columnist traces the problem to the post-WWI bureaucracy boom in the Pentagon. "The face-to-face interaction of humans, debating urgent questions and criticizing the in-flow of intelligence, was replaced by the bite-size thought structure of electronic communications that inevitably delete complexity," Carroll recounts before lamenting the endgame of such mass-generated opinion: "a diffusion of moral responsibility and the emergence of an impersonal dynamic over which no human authority could be effectively exercised." Carroll sees the negative effects of the military's shift in everything from stockpiling nukes to the war in Iraq to, yes, PowerPoint.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.