5 Best Wednesday Columns

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  • Thomas Friedman on the Uncertain Economic Climate There are two important points that The New York Times opinion columnist stresses in his latest article on recovering from the recession. The first is that there will be no quick fixes: there may be some additional stimulus needed to "kick-start" unemployment, but only if this money is funneled into "growth-enabling investments" will it make an impact. The second point, Friedman asserts, is that America is dealing with not only the mortgage lending-induced financial crisis, but also "deep structural problems" that have reached a critical point. In order for Americans to keep pace in a global economy that requires ever-more education and offers few jobs for the less skilled, the government needs to "train more Americans to win these jobs over their global competitors. There is no other way."

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Winning the Clash of Civilizations The former Dutch parliament member and famous critic of Islam is reminded of Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" argument during this period of increasing turmoil over the "Ground Zero Mosque" and tension with Iran. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed contribution, Ali probes Huntington's theory of a declining West, an ascendant Asia and a demographically booming Islamic bloc. In order for the West to cope with the potential threat of these competitor "civilizations," Ali writes, it must take pains to actively defend itself--which means admitting "our civilization is not indestructible" and jettisoning the "One World illusion."

  • Mary Schmich on the Rod Blagojevich Trial Yesterday's startling verdict in Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial should have been "no surprise" writes columnist Mary Schmich at the Chicago Sun-Times. Despite all the media and public outrage, actual "proof was in short supply," and Schmich says she would not have voted to convict. "It became fashionable to speak about Blagojevich as if he were evil on a par with a genocidal dictator. But in the past few weeks, as the trial went on, the public mood seems to have shifted...So a hung jury isn't as surprising today as it would have been even a few months ago."

  • Michael Tanner on Republicans and Social Security The National Review columnist says Republicans are making a mistake in their refusal to talk about Social Security reform this election season. "Given their large lead in current polls," Tanner acknowledges it is "understandable Republicans don't want to risk offending voters, particularly seniors." But it is a sign of political naivete if they think vulnerable Democrats are going to let the Republican's position "get in the way of a good political weapon." Tanner argues that with the exception of Rep. Paul Ryan, the failure of President Bush's privatization plan and "years of Democratic demagoguery" have scared the GOP from even articulating a position on an issue that's too important to ignore.

  • Eduard Freisler on the Day the Rolling Stones Came to Prague Twenty years ago today, the Rolling Stones played a concert in Prague. New York Times contributor Eduard Freisler was there with his dad. "To this day," writes Freisler, "I recall the posters promoting the concert, which lined the streets and the walls of the stadium: 'The Rolling Stones roll in, Soviet army rolls out.'" It was a seismic moment in the former Czechoslovakia, a country familiar with disappointment and deceit under Communist rule. "I sensed that everyone was nervous," he recalls. "They were accustomed to being lied to, to having promises broken. They didn't quite believe that the Stones were really coming to play live." But they did. And when it was over, a country had changed. Freisler saw it in his own father. "From that point on, no one would tell him how he should think, how he should feel. He had seen the Rolling Stones with his own eyes."

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