5 Best Wednesday Columns

Marilyn Monroe vs. Sarah Palin, the problem with Jon Stewart's rally, and the food stamps and soda issue

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  • Holman Jenkins on the Downside of the Chevy Volt  The Volt--Chevy's new $41,000 plug-in electric hybrid--has been hailed as a breakthrough for the American auto industry. But The Wall Street Journal columnist is skeptical. "Why bother with all this complicated doohickery?" Jenkins wonders. In the end, the car can't be all that green, contends Jenkins. It draws energy from the power grid, which in America is "more dependent than ever on 'dirty' coal for its electricity," he writes. "Storing electricity--which is what the Volt's batteries do--is probably the least efficient thing you can do with the output of such plants." It's little wonder that the Michigan utility industry ("a territory where most of the power is supplied by nine coal-fired power plants") has given the Volt such a "rapturous greeting," jumping at the chance to construct new Volt "charging stations." Even if the Volt is a success, he argues, it will not alter the fundamentals of the global energy market. "Oil would remain an immensely versatile commodity, and Middle Eastern countries (which have the lowest production costs) would continue to reap large revenues."
  • Sadhbh Walshe on Food Stamps and Soda  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, fresh from a successful campaign to outlaw trans fats in the city's restaurants, is now trying to ban people from using food stamps to purchase sugary soft drinks. Bloomberg might be genuinely interested in improving the public's health, but if his newest proposal becomes law it will go down as his "Marie Antoinette moment," writes The Guardian columnist. Walshe notes that people on food stamps "not only cannot afford to choose what is better for them, but...quite often, the choice is not even available." Why? Because even as the government is trying to stigmatize sodas with food stamp policy, it's also subsidizing them corn subsidies. Walshe argues that a more constructive way to combat the obesity epidemic among the poor would be "to subsidise the production of fruit and vegetables in low-income neighbourhoods, instead of Big Macs and 20-ounce Cokes and the like."
  • Maureen Dowd on Making Ignorance Chic  Women have always been faced with the false choice between intellectualism and sexuality, Dowd writes. In the '50s, Marilyn Monroe was the poster girl for the dichotomy, a silver screen "dumb blonde" famously described as "a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes." Yet she was an avid reader, and aspired to erudition. Unfortunately, "another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin," argues The New York Times columnist, "has made ignorance fashionable." Dowd recalls that "in Marilyn's America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners," and sex icons like Monroe assembled 500-book personal libraries. Compare that to today: so what if you "endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? ... At least you're not one of those 'spineless' elites with an Ivy League education."
  • Timothy Noah on the Case Against the Rally to Restore Sanity  In classically contrarian fashion, the Slate columnist decides that the Comedy Central hosts, who are planning a joint rally on the National Mall, "are brilliant comedians" but "make lousy leaders," and should cancel their event. More specifically, the type of implicit political assumptions that the duo will bring to the mall will have a harmful effect on the midterm elections. Tea Partiers, who famously hate anything that smacks of elitisim, will take notice of the "spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers." It will, Noah contends, "have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull."
  • The Los Angeles Times on the Federal Government and Legal Marijuana  While proposition 19  proponents have held out hope that the initiative to make marijuana legal in California will be approved by voters on November, Attorney General Eric Holder has come out strongly against the plan. The Los Angeles Times editorial board ventures that the passage of prop. 19 will lead to a "legal morass" that could clog courts with lawsuits and perhaps worsen the pervasive "grey-market lawlessness" that persists for the state's marijuana distributors. The editors conclude: "We can understand the frustration that led to the drafting of Proposition 19. It is absurd that the federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug.... Yet, as we've said in our ballot endorsements, Proposition 19 is not the answer."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.