5 Best Friday Columns

On raunchy captains, offshore drilling, and the war on judges

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  •  Kate Sheppard on Regulating Offshore Drilling  In the months after the BP oil spill, other "industry giants attested to the public that the accident was an aberrance, the fault of BP's irresponsibility alone," writes Sheppard in The Guardian. But a glimpse at the National Oil Spill Commission's forthcoming report shows that that's not the case. It wasn't just "poor decision-making" but "industry-wide failures" that contributed to the disaster; the commission "makes clear that a level of complacency has developed in the industry that allowed expediency and profit to supersede safety." Although the Obama administration has made a number of moves to regulate the industry (replacing the Minerals Management Service with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement), Congress, she argues, hasn't done enough to enact stricter legislation to set tougher standards for safety. "At this point, then, the administration will need to do as much as it can with the existing regulatory authorities and statutes to ensure that a disaster like this is not repeated," she concludes. "More advice on how to deal with Deepwater drilling is expected in the full report next week, but the extent to which that guidance is followed will show whether the country has truly learned anything from the Deepwater disaster."

  • Bert Brandenburg on What Constitutes Judicial Impeachment  Writing in The Washington Post, Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the nonprofit group Justice at Stake, addresses an important fight going on in Iowa--an attempt by political operatives to impeach four high court justices who were involved in a 2009 decision to allow same-sex marriage in the state. Last fall, the three justices who were up for reelection were voted out. "Impeachments of judges were not designed as a tool for this kind of political disagreement, and the reason is essential to our democracy," argues Brandenburg. "If courts can't make tough calls, they won't be able to uphold the Constitution and protect our rights."

  • Peggy Noonan on the Raunchy Captain and the King's Speech  "Why is it a good thing that the captain of the USS Enterprise was this week relieved of his duties? Second, why is the movie 'The King's Speech' so popular and admired?" The Wall Street Journal columnist attempts to "unite" these seemingly disparate themes--and even toss in a reference to Britain's soon-to-be princess Kate Middleton--in her latest piece. Her conceit is this: Owen Honors, the "raunchy" captain, was attempting to be seen as one of the "regular" guys. He is a product of a culture that prides itself on being anti-establishment, celebrating vulgarity, and raising its children to "question authority." This brings us to Kate Middleton, whom pundits are praising for bringing less "stuffiness" to the royal family. But Noonan would advise her to go the opposite direction and use her middle-class upbringing to "add dignity and distance" to a royalty in need of classing up. Which brings Noonan to the latest Colin Firth movie, The King's Speech. She finds relief in the idea that a hero can be someone "old-school," someone who isn't "cool" but has a sense of decency and morality. "What a relief to see it," she writes. No wonder the audience in her theater "burst into applause, and some, you could tell, wanted to cheer."

  • Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria on Life as an Exile  Spanish and comparative literature professor Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria commemorates the 50th anniversary of President Eisehower's decision to break diplomatic ties with Cuba by reflecting in The New York Times on his own experience as a Cuban exile growing up in America. The author, who rejected American life as a teenager and returned to Cuba as frequently as possible until travel was prohibited, realizes now that he is lucky to live in a democracy which, "for all its faults, is the best form of government to which we can aspire." He adds that "fifty years after the break in relations, while Cuba is still ruled by a male, white, militaristic, totalitarian gerontocracy, Barack Obama is the president of the United States and Hillary Clinton the secretary of state. Which of my two countries is the revolutionary one?"

  • Michael Moynihan on Free-Speech Equivalence  It is the duty of free speech advocates to fight censorship in all forms, writes the Reason editor in a column adapted from remarks delivered at a symposium last month. "Opposition to censorship must be evenly applied, without special consideration to group feelings, without ideological exception," he writes. True believers in free speech must defend, with equal vigor, the right of Danish cartoonists to depict the Prophet Mohammad and the right of New York Islamic leaders to build a Muslim community center in lower Mahattan; "we don't get to choose our allies in the fight for free speech."

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