5 Best Tuesday Columns

On protecting earth from asteroids, George Soros's support for legal marijuana and Jon Stewart's out-of-fashion centrism

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  • Anne Applebaum on the Disappearing Center  The Washington Post columnist argues Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity--aka the Million Moderate March--is proof of just how out-of-fashion political centrism is in America today. "Whatever connotations it once had," writes Applebaum, "the word 'moderate' has now come to mean 'liberal' or even 'left-wing' in American politics." Left-leaning groups like The Huffington Post and PETA have appropriated the gathering, she notes, and nobody seems to care. It's a disastrous development for true moderates, the people working to "find solutions to problems that divide liberals and conservatives bitterly." Jon Stewart's rally might be well-intentioned, but it will have a partisan, anti-Republican quality that true moderates should find unnerving. "Moderates often achieve less than they could," admits Applebaum. "But extremists achieve nothing at all."

  • David Brooks on Arrogant Democrats  Democrats are poised to sustain significant losses in next week's midterm elections, a fact that somehow hasn't hurt the party's sense of superiority, notes The New York Times columnist. Arrogance, Brooks believes, is to blame for Democrats ignoring "Republicans like Rob Portman, Dan Coats, John Boozman and Roy Blunt, who are likely to actually get elected" in favor of turning the election into a referendum on "Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning." Why? "Because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos." Democrats have also been shockingly uninterested in retaining independent voters. And why should they be? As Brooks sardonically notes, "Losing friends makes you sad. It is better to not think about why these things happen." When all else fails, liberals have fallen back on self-pity. "Here’s a fun party game," advises Brooks. "Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article 'The Education of President Obama' from The New York Times Magazine...Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three."

  • George Soros on Why He Supports Legal Marijuana  The businessman takes to the Wall Street Journal to endorse California's proposition 19, which may effectively legalize the drug within the confines of state borders. As of now "our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good," Soros argues. The 750,000 arrests made for possession of small amounts of marijuana amount to nearly forty percent of all arrests. Law enforcement agencies should focus their attention on more "serious" crime and let education serve as a preventative to keep youth off drugs. Currently the largest beneficiaries of illegal marijuana are "major criminal organizations in Mexico and elsewhere that earn billions of dollars annually from this illicit trade." If the drug was legalized these organizations "would rapidly lose their competitive advantage."

  • Derrick Z. Jackson on Unlimited Corporate and Union Political Spending  In a blistering dissent in the Citizens United decision, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that lifting the restrictions on corporate and union spending "unleashes the floodgates" and could "cripple" the ability of ordinary citizens to take part in the electoral process. The Boston Globe columnist notes that it only took one election for the worst fears of the justice to be realized. The AFAFSCME, Karl Rove’s pro-Republican American Crossroads, the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association are all culprits in this spending game. Whether the money is supporting "Democrats or Republicans, it is already an endless game of leapfrog." He concludes that it's "an election where Americans are voting less for a candidate than for a corporation."

  • Russell Schweickart on Protecting Earth From Errant Asteroids  The former astronaut, now chair of NASA's Task Force on Planetary Defense, argues in The New York Times that there is a need to get an asteroid "detection-and-deflection program up and running." While the chances of a major asteroid wiping out the majority of species on Earth is statistically small, even if a "relatively little object was to strike a city, millions of people could be wiped out." Right now, there is a nascent telescope and radar system that functions as an "early-warning system." But Schweickart notes that more funding ($250 to $300 million to NASA) would "allow for a full inventory of the near-Earth asteroids that could do us harm, and the development and testing of a deflection capacity." How can asteroids be deflected? A "crude but effective" method is to "ram a hunk of copper or lead into an asteroid in order to slightly change its velocity."

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