5 Best Wednesday Columns

Wes Davis on Bloomsday, Claire Berlinski on Sarah Palin as Thatcher's second coming and more

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  • Wes Davis on a Leopold Bloom Education  In a thoughtful op-ed for The New York Times, Davis, the editor of An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, recounts the surprising story of the Bell Telephone company's successful mid-'50s push to instill a liberal-arts education in about a dozen of its executives. Lectures, seminars, trips to museums, close study of the James Joyce masterwork Ulysses: all of it produced employees who were "more confident and more intellectually engaged"; "more curious about the world around them." Today, Davis suggests, "as the worst economic crisis since the Depression continues and the deepening rift in the nation’s political fabric threatens to forestall economic reform... reading 'Ulysses' this Bloomsday may be more than just a literary observance. Think of it as an act of fiscal responsibility."
  • Harold Meyerson on China's Labor Pains  The Washington Post columnist cautiously cheers on the nascent labor movement in China, where workers are striking for better pay and working conditions. Meyerson gives a cogent gloss of the political conditions that shape life for working-class China: "A young, better-educated workforce, cognizant of the new Chinese prosperity and frustrated at their inability to share in it, is no longer content simply to reap the marginal benefits of swapping rural for factory life," he explains. But the road ahead won't be easy, and here American workers may be able to sympathize: Meyerson draws the surprising conclusion that "no other major industrial nations are as hostile to independent unions as China and the United States."
  • David Ignatius on Opportunities in Kyrgyzstan  In the face of the worst ethnic violence in Central Asia in decades, David Ignatius discerns a glimmer of hope, if only for U.S.-Russia relations. "The United States and Russia have stayed in close touch since the crisis exploded late last week," observes Ignatius. "The two countries cooperated on a presentation to United Nations officials Monday night that laid the groundwork for collective action, if it becomes necessary." For the Washington Post columnist, the close communication between the U.S. and Russia may finally sound the final death knell for the chicken game of the Cold War and bring about a new era of geopolitical cooperation. "Substituting cooperation for Great Gamesmanship in Central Asia is a welcome change from a few years ago. Now if this model of Russian-American collaboration could just be expanded to deal firmly with Iran, we might have the beginnings of a system that deserved to be called 'collective security.'" 
  • Bret Stephens on a Requiem for a Revolution  Reflecting on the 2009 Iranian election protests, Stephens laments the stifling of the Green movement. Stephens chastises the international community, not just for missing an opportunity to harshly deal with Iran's continued intransigence, but for not supporting the Iranian people in their time of need. "The regime is more emboldened than ever—and much closer to a nuclear capability. Israel, the one country that might yet take action, is more isolated than ever," says Stephens. "Worst of all, the Green movement is, if not extinguished completely, little more than a flickering ember. The three million Iranians who marched for freedom last June may have to wait another generation for a similar opportunity." 
  • Claire Berlinski on Sarah Palin as Thatcher's Second Coming  In a provocative Guardian column today, the contributor pits Palin against Margaret Thatcher, comparing the political styles of both, concluding that Palin comes far short of "the Iron Lady." She says about Palin that "no one (not me, anyway) can argue with her conservative instincts, but to compare her ability to express them with Thatcher's would be ludicrous." At the same time, she brings out a picture of Thatcher as one of an immensely skillful, smart politician, saying she "studied incessantly. But in the end, she had a knack for knowing stuff and for whipping out what she knew when she needed it." She also makes note of the difference in Thatcher's ability to "exploit her femininity – how to engender the desire not only to obey her but to protect her." As for Palin, she says, "When Palin is bullied, it is every normal man's instinct to protect her and every normal woman's instinct to identify with her...If Palin can't learn from Thatcher to master the statistics, she'd better concentrate on mastering that. It won't be hard: she's well on her way as it is."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.