5 Best Tuesday Columns

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  • Malcolm Moore on the Modernization of China's Military  "While other armies fret about their funding, China's generals have unveiled three major new weapons that could challenge the military supremacy of the United States and provide the firepower to underline China's superpower status," writes the Telegraph columnist. Those weapons include the Shi Lang (the first of an aircraft carrier fleet for the nation), the first Chinese stealth fighter jet (said to be able to compete with an F-22 fighter in a dogfight), and the Dong Feng 21D missile (a weapon that can sink an aircraft carrier). The nation has also trimmed its standing army, the world's largest, from 3 million troops to 2.3 million, and plans to shed troop numbers down to about 1.5 million, which would be "around the same size" as the American and Russian forces. But for all the Chinese advances, the country does have some "fundamental" flaws to work through: It can't reliably produce its own jet engines, and its "underdeveloped" missile guidance system means that a launched missile may not "actually hit a ship." Yet "for now," figures Moore, "Beijing wields enough power to keep the US in check in the Pacific and to discourage Taiwan from relying too heavily on American support."

  • Michelle Rhee on School Reform in a Budget Crisis  The star former chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system takes to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to promote her new national school reform organization, StudentsFirst. She highlights three key areas where the organization will partner with states or cities to pursue "aggressive reform" to encourage better academic results for students. The suggestions: 1) "Staffing decisions and professional development should be based on teachers' effectiveness, not on their seniority." 2) Give families, especially lower income ones, more choices. "This includes allowing the best charter schools to grow and serve more students" and "giving poor families access to publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools." 3) Education dollars should be spent where they count the most. That means "states and districts must shift new employees from defined-benefit pension programs to portable, defined-contribution plans where employees can contribute a proportionate amount to their own retirement savings," Rhee recommends. "This will help ensure that states aren't draining their budgets with pension payouts."

  • Aurelie Sheehan on the Tuscon Community  The writer had planned on spending Saturday writing a short story about her adopted home of Tuscon, Arizona, before she found out about the shooting that targeted Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others. In The New York Times she notes the overwhelming amount of negative attention her state has received in the national news lately, even before the shooting. "It's been a tough couple of years here since the presidential election, and our friendships with some Republicans have grown strained," she writes. "In the wake of this attack, I don't know if we will be able to talk to each other more now, if we will reach out across the political divide, or if the sides will become further entrenched, if this is the harbinger of more divisiveness." That night, though, Sheehan's faith in Tuscon began to be restored as members of the community gathered in solidarity for the victims of the day's events.

  • William McGurn on Cuomo and Quinn  For all the talk about the gap between Democrats and Republicans, writes the Wall Street Journal columnist, there are intra-party divisions that are even more striking. McGurn sees New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and the different ways they approach their respective states' budget crises, as emblematic of this divide. Although both are new in office, only Cuomo seems willing to make tough choices and break with traditional party constituencies to tame New York's budget. After just a week in office, Cuomo has already "delivered separate inaugural and state-of-the-state addresses that would have drawn cheers at a tea party," while Quinn's recent inauguration speech in Springfield did little more than make "ample use of someone's Bartlett's Familiar Quotations." The difference isn't just stylistic, writes McGurn. "Messrs. Cuomo and Quinn appear to read events around them in opposite ways." While Cuomo still has "not yet translated his language into action," his tough fiscal talk is striking for a Democrat, and especially so when set against that used by his more conventional party peer, Mr. Quinn."

  • Paul Kanjorski on the Sacrifices of Public Service  Former U.S. Representative Paul Kanjorski contributes to The New York Times this arguing that politicians need to remain open to the public instead of hiding behind barricades and protective glass. When Kanjorski was a House page, he witnessed a shooting in the gallery and has since opposed the extreme security measures enacted in response to subsequent violence, believing that personal security is part of what one sacrifices to work at the Capitol. "We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people," he writes. "Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation."

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