5 Best Sunday Columns

Tucson reflections from the Weather Underground, warnings from Chinese classrooms, and glimpses of the past--from telescopes

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  • John McCain on Politics, Tuscon, and Obama's Speech "President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night," begins the senator and former Republican presidential nominee in his Washington Post op-ed. In addition to "movingly mourn[ing] and honor[ing] the victims" he "appropriately disputed the injurious suggestion that some participants in our political debates were responsible for a depraved man's inhumanity." McCain, at the same time, agrees that "our politics discourse should be more civil than it currently is." Here's his own declaration to set about remedying that:
I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them.
  • Mark Rudd on 'Believing in Violence'  Rudd, back at the age of 22 a founder of the Weather Underground, talks about both Jared Loughner, charged with the Tucson shootings, and his own experience with political violence. "I'm sure," says Rudd, "... he had convinced himself that he was doing what needed to be done. At his age, I had thought myself into a similar corner." Rudd says it "had something to do with an exaggerated sense of [his] own importance." He adds: "As the Weather Underground believed in the absolute necessity of bombs to address actual moral grievances such as the Vietnam War and racism, Loughner might have believed in the absolute necessity of a Glock to answer his imagined moral grievances." Reflecting on his own disillusionment with violent methods, as well as his decision to turn himself in in 1977, Rudd hopes that "[Loughner] and those families that were destroyed can find peace."
  • Holman Jenkins on Goldman's Facebook Valuation  The Wall Street Journal columnist suggests people calm down about Goldman Sachs's investment in Facebook, which brought the company's value up to $50 billion. "The devil theory of Goldman Sachs, at bottom, rests on the premise that Goldman knows the future better than its customers or the rest of us," he explains. "When Goldman sells anyone something, it's because Goldman knows the price is going down." Yet that's not actually what's happening. "In fact, the firm's real talent isn't knowing what the price will be, but what the price is." Thus, Goldman's investment simply indicates that the firm is "zeroing on what it takes to make a sale today"--there's little to be proved about bubbles or growth, here. Jenkins also mentions that he approves of Zuckerberg's delay when it comes to an initial public offering.
  • Nicholas Kristof on What to Worry About With China  "Americans think of China's strategic challenge in terms of, say, the new Chinese stealth fighter aircraft," writes the New York Times columnist. "But the real challenge is the rise of China's education system and the passion for learning that underlies it." He looks at the recent rankings of students in 65 different countries on performance in math, science, and reading. Students in Shanghai were "at the very top of the charts, in all three fields and by a wide margin." Then came students in Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. "The United States? We came in 15th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math."
  • Brian Greene on the 'Darkness on the Edge of the Universe'  The Columbia physics and math professor discusses, in The New York Times, some of the mysteries with which scientists are currently grappling. Currently, astronomers may look into the past: "The pinpoints of starlight we see with the naked eye are photons that have been streaming toward us for a few years or a few thousand." Thus, "when we look at such ancient light, we are seeing--literally--ancient times." But bizarrely, Greene explains, it seems that the universe is actually expanding at an ever faster rate, pushed, "likely," by "the repulsive gravity produced by a cosmological constant." Here we get into the murky and controversial issue of dark energy. Greene grows poetic talking about a sense of astronomical powerlessness:
If the dark energy doesn't degrade over time, then the accelerated expansion of space will continue unabated, dragging away distant galaxies ever farther and ever faster ... Light emitted by [distant] galaxies will therefore fight a losing battle to traverse the rapidly widening gulf that separates us. The light will never reach Earth and so the galaxies will slip permanently beyond our capacity to see, regardless of how powerful our telescopes may become. ... The past will have drifted beyond the cliffs of space. ... We've grown accustomed to the idea that with sufficient hard work and dedication, there's no barrier to how fully we can both grasp reality and confirm our understanding. But by gazing far into space we've captured a handful of starkly informative photons, a cosmic telegram billions of years in transit. And the message, echoing across the ages, is clear. Sometimes nature guards her secrets with the unbreakable grip of physical law.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.