5 Best Monday Columns

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  • Josh Barro on the Intricacies of the Cordoba House  In a self-described "very long post" on the nuances of the proposed Ground Zero mosque, the National Review contributor details why critics are wrong to stop the building at all costs. He writes: "Part of supporting limited government is understanding that sometimes, things you don't like will happen, and the government (especially the federal government) won't do anything about it. Getting to do what you want comes at the price of other people getting to do what they want--including build mosques where you’d prefer they didn't." That conservatives are trying to undermine the building by throwing out obstructionist roadblocks is more than disconcerting. They are violating their own "principles about property rights, rule of law, and federalism."

  • Robert Samuelson on Bumper Sticker Politics  "We are our bumper stickers," begins the Washington Post columnist in a lengthy musing on the continued relevance and cultural significance of the bumper-sticker message. Ever since 1927, when the stickers first appeared on the early Model A Ford, America has been enamored with such slogans, which reflect the enduring tension between individualism and conformity. We use the stickers to self-congratulate, make a statement, or signal allegiance to a larger group. He concludes: "The stickers have] survived the rise of the Internet...and it has the saving grace of adding more to our humor than to our rancor."

  • Douglas Brown and Stephen Tosi on Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies  Writing in The Boston Globe, Brown and Tosi applaud Harvard Medical School's recent decision to bar staff from taking gifts from the pharmaceutical industry, and encourage all other medical schools and hospitals to institute the same policy. "Things must change," write Brown and Tosi. "Medical schools and teaching hospitals have nothing to fear by establishing more appropriate restrictions governing their relationships with industry." They point to their own experiences running UMass Memorial Health, which has a similar no-gifts policy. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. "Most physicians are happier with the more limited, and more appropriate, interactions with industry. And they don’t mind writing with generic pens."

  • Lawrence E. Joseph on the Probability of Solar Storms Just as the United States was caught woefully under-prepared for Hurricane Katrina, it may one day be similarly devastated by a once-in-a-lifetime solar storm that overwhelms electric grids and leaves them inoperable for months. While such a scenario sounds like science-fiction, its actually quite possible, writes author Lawrence E. Joseph in a New York Times op-ed contribution. If we don't develop stronger defenses to shield our communications network,"there could be trouble soon: the next period of heavy solar activity will be in late 2012. Having gone unprepared for one recent natural disaster, we would make a grave mistake not to get ready for the next."

  • Carlo Rotella on Boston and China  Rotella is director of American Studies at Boston College, but that didn't stop him from being shocked when he discovered Boston and China are, in fact, very different. He writes in The Boston Globe that "the dramatic contrasts between Boston and Chinese cities can be chalked up to differences in wealth and function." Life in China also made the professor appreciate that he can go outside in America and "take a deep breath and not cough." He wonders why "Boston seems so old and well-preserved in comparison to Chinese cities that are much older...but feel as if they were built with slipshod haste within living memory." He attributes it to the "distinctive civic culture" Boston fosters. "That culture can be contentious and frustrating," argues Rotella, "but we should appreciate it as a crucial element of a livable city."

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