5 Best Monday Columns

On the first cyber-strike, the man for all factions, and the defense myth

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  • Ross Douthat on the Democrat's Left/Center Divide  The New York Times columnist retraces the decades of "civil war" between the Democrat's left and centrist factions, noting how they made brief peace under then-nominee Barack Obama. But even the common ground found on health care, global warming and income equality could not hold the coalition together. "Lately, Obama has managed the more difficult feat of alienating both of them at once," Douthat observes. In order for the President to rebuild his coalition, he can't pretend to be all things to all people. Simply put, "he may have to do it the old-fashioned way: not by transcending his party's divisions, but by uniting his supporters around their common fears."

  • Erwin Chemerinsky on the Conservative Supreme Court  The U.C. Irvine law school dean and Los Angeles Times contributor sizes up the Supreme Court, which reopens today, and concludes that it is, and will continue to be, "the most conservative court since the mid-1930s." In the Roberts era the court has ruled consistently in favor of corporate power, struck down laws regulating firearms, and expanded the power of government to regulate abortions. And, "if the court is split 5 to 4, as it often is in the most high-profile and important cases, these four justices can usually count on being joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy," writes Chemerinsky. "The court's conservative majority could last another decade no matter who wins the White House in the next presidential elections ... and it is likely to stay that way for years to come."

  • Richard Spencer on the Stuxnet Worm  A recent presentation by Irish computer coding expert Liam O Murchu has The Telegraph columnist wondering about the Stuxnet computer worm. It has already infected Siemens-made operating systems and has hit Iran particularly hard--"by last week [Iran] had reported three in every five infections worldwide." Of particular concern is the possibility of an attack against Bushehr, the recently-delayed Iranian-Russian collaboration for a nuclear power station. Iranian officials have confirmed computers in the facility were infected by the virus. Who might be behind it? Responds Spencer: "We may never know for sure. The odd thing is that Stuxnet, so far, hasn't actually been proved to have done anything." Tracing the worm as far as Denmark, Malaysia, and Taiwan before "the trail goes cold," however, he clearly has his own suspicions:

Iran will never admit, and Israel may never say, if it was Stuxnet that damaged Natanz. There is one further hint, though. When Stuxnet does triumph, it leaves a number imprinted on its new host: 19790509. That number, Mr O Murchu says, seems to be a date--May 9, 1979. Many things could have happened on May 9, 1979: it may just be someone's birthday. But newspaper archives also tell us it was the day Habib Elghanian died. Who was Mr Elghanian? He was the first Iranian Jew to be hanged for spying by the new Islamic Republic.
  • Peter Orszag on Health Care's Lost Weekend  When it comes to reducing inefficiencies in the health care industry, one answer is simple, argues the former budget director in The New York Times: make doctors work weekends. Of course, Orszag writes, "doctors, like most people, don't love to work weekends...but their industry can no longer afford to protect them from the inevitable." By only operating with a skeleton crew on Saturdays and Sundays "a $750 billion-a-year industry is letting its capacity sit idle a quarter or more of the time." Orszag points out that "if hospitals were in constant use, costs would fall as expensive assets like operating rooms and imaging equipment were used more fully. And if the workflow at existing hospitals was spread more evenly over the entire week, patients could more often enjoy the privacy of single-bed rooms."

  • Arthur C. Brooks, Edwin J. Feulner and William Kristol on the Defense Spending Myth  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the three conservative writers push back against the idea that out-of-control defense spending is to blame for America's budget crunch. "Defense spending," they note, "has increased at a much lower rate than domestic spending in recent years...Even as the United States has fought two wars, the core defense budget has increased by approximately $220 billion since 2001, about a tenth as much as the government devotes each year to 'mandatory' spending" on programs like Social Security and Medicare. "A weaker, cheaper military," they believe, "will not solve our financial woes. It will, however, make the world a more dangerous place, and it will impoverish our future." Prosperity, they point out, depends on peace--which "does not keep itself."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.