5 Best Wednesday Columns

On Haitian exiles, lonely tweeters, and stay-at-home moms

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  • Juliette Kayyem on How to Keep Haitians in Haiti  In today's Boston Globe, Juliette Kayyem asks what kind of help Americans can offer to Haitians to rebuild their country, protect themselves from future disaster, and deter a mass exodus by boat to the United States. Kayyem believes the U.S.'s investment in ensuring Haiti's fair and free elections is just as important as making sure Haitians have adequate food and shelter. She argues that we should wait till spring to judge how Haiti has progressed, after the results of the election are finalized. "If the process is accepted as fair and legitimate, then Haitians will have confidence in the government that will hold power during its long reconstruction phase," she writes. "Success, in this regard, may be measured by the number of boats in the ocean."
  • The Los Angeles Times on the Politics of Closing Guantanamo  The editors write that, since taking office two years ago, President Obama has made little progress on his campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. And while the paper agrees that Obama deserves criticism for dithering on the subject, the Los Angeles Times also blames Congress for further "frustrating the president's intentions" on closing Gitmo. The paper cites the recent passage of a "defense authorization bill that bars the use of federal funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States or to send them to foreign countries without a litany of assurances from those countries." Obama was faced with a tough choice: "Veto the entire authorization bill, which included funding for a host of defense-related activities such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or... sign it, which would make it that much more difficult for him to close Guantanamo." With a new Congress where "members of both parties ... seem adamant in their opposition to closing Guantanamo," the Times wonders if the president will pay even less attention to this issue in 2011.
  • Dahlia Lithwick on Jared Loughner's Insanity Defense  If Loughner's court-appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, "advances an insanity defense for her client, I wonder how many of the same people who are today arguing that Loughner was far too sick to be influenced by a toxic public discourse, will be arguing that he is too sane to plead insanity," observes the Slate columnist. One of the "great ironies" to emerge from the shootings is that "the initial call for everyone in America to simply talk more civilly to one another has mainly resulted in everyone in America becoming angrier and crazier." While Lithwick won't "diagnose" Loughner from her desk, she nevertheless wants to make the point that "we should be doing a far better job of diagnosing and caring for those with serious mental illnesses, and of making sure that they can't get their hands on guns." And, again, "to anyone who claims to know today how much of Loughner's conduct last weekend was rational and how much was pathology, all I ask is this: Please stand by your words if and when Loughner and his experts and lawyers someday opt to make those very same arguments in court."
  • Jessica Bennett on the Loneliness of Technology  The Newsweek contributor spotlights MIT professor Sherry Turkle's new book, Alone Together, and boils it down to this question: "Is technology offering us the lives we want to live?" The answer, inevitably, is yes and no. "The technology that was supposed to simplify our lives has become the ultimate time-suck: the average teen spends more than seven hours a day using technological devices, plus an additional hour just text-messaging friends." And, oddly enough, all this connectedness has the effect of making us just a little bit more lonely. "Online, you can ignore others' feelings. In a text message, you can avoid eye contact. A number of studies have found that this generation of teens is less empathetic than ever," Bennett writes. "That doesn't spell disaster, says Turkle--but it does mean we might want to start thinking about the way we want to live."
  • Ruth Franklin on the Working Mother Revolution That Wasn't  Writing in The New Republic, Franklin, a recently divorced mother of two, observes that coverage of the "Opt-Out" revolution--in which working mothers left careers to raise their children--ignored a serious flaw. What happens when former career women, either by choice or financial circumstances, try to return to the rat race? The math, Franklin notes, is not in their favor. Workplaces don't want to accommodate working mothers in more demanding (and higher-paying) jobs; salaries shrink by 10% for every two years "off." Add divorce to the mix, and Franklin says the era of a housewife's financial dependency and health is as much a snapshot of the 1950s lifestyle as it is that of 2011. "Few people seemed to consider this long-term view eight years ago, when opting out was suddenly all the rage," she notes. But solutions are not as easy to come by as one might think, requiring accommodating workplaces, legal agreements long before divorce is in the picture, and finally, navigating the push-pull of trying to hold onto a tax bracket and earnings potential while battling an overwhelming push for mothers to stay at home.

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