5 Best Thursday Columns

On the Muslim Brotherhood, conservative prison policies, and the greenness of city living

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  • Essam El-Errian on a Non-Secular Democracy in Egypt  In an op-ed today for the New York Times, El-Errian, a member of the "guidance council" of the Muslim Brotherhood, writes that it's incorrect to believe that the eventual political outcome in Egypt will lead to either "a purely secular, liberal democracy or an authoritarian theocracy." Noting the American and European examples, he says that "Secular liberal democracy ... with its firm rejection of religion in public life, is not the exclusive model for a legitimate democracy." Neither does the Muslim Brotherhood see democracy as "a foreign concept that must be reconciled with tradition." Rather, he argues, democracy is "a set of principles and objectives that are inherently compatible with and reinforce Islamic tenets."
  • Doycle McManus on Why It Will Be Mitt Romney  The columnist for the Los Angeles Times speculates on the Republican nominees for the 2012 Presidential election, reminding readers that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary is only 12 months away. "There are really only two spots on the GOP ballot," he says, with one of those a sure thing for Mitt Romney. The other? That could be "someone like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or Tim Pawlenty," who represent the changing guard that has catalyzed the Republican party, he says. "If the Republican Party worked the way it used to, Romney already would be the presumptive nominee. For decades, Republican governors and state party chairs coalesced early around a tested, experienced candidate," he says, citing Bush in '88, Dole in '96, GWB in '00, "but the party doesn't work that way anymore. Internet politics have arrived in Des Moines as well as Cairo."
  • Grover Norquist on Reconciling Conservatism and the Prison System  Against the back-drop of continual state budget woes, Norquist argues in the National Review for criminal-justice policies that focus less on incarceration and more on performance-based and locally-oriented solutions to reduce crime that mitigate the costs of a sprawling prison system at the same time. 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated, he notes--nearly one in every 100 adults--and many for non-violent crimes. "There is no reason that conservatives should be tied to the 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' strategy," he says, noting that Texas's crime has dropped to the lowest level since 1973, while incarceration rates have been reduced by 8 percent. "We must stand for the very principles of limited government, federal accountability, and reduced spending that our forefathers effectively deployed."
  • Edward Glaeser on Why, If You Love Nature, You Should Move to the City  The Harvard University economics professor takes a stab at the American ideal of kicking back in a suburban idyll, declaring them off limits to anyone who wants to take green living to heart. The right way for nature-lovers is simple, he says: swap the dream of a picket fence for a cozy hi-rise or brownstone in the heart of a city. Being a man of numbers, Glaeser focuses on the carbon emissions of a suburban Boston home with those of city digs and finds that the typical suburban family drives 1,000 miles per year, flooding the atmosphere with 23,000 pounds of carbon emissions, compared with a Bostonian's 4,400 in carbon emissions from short car trips within the city or around town using public transportation. But it's not just about cars. Glaeser notes that the home itself makes a difference: suburban homes, which are typically larger than city ones, require more energy to simply keep everyone happy and comfortable. In terms of electricity this translates into suburbanites using about 88 percent more electricity than city dwellers. The end result of Glaeser's study: people who live in the city produce 6 tons less in carbon dioxide pollution than suburbanites. In short, Glaeser says "We are a destructive species, and if you love nature, stay away from it. The best means of protecting the environment is to live in the heart of a city."
  • Linda Greenhouse on the Real History of Abortion and Race In response to recent comments from New York State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., that the abortion industry is "killing black and Hispanic children," Linda Greenhouse takes a look back at the history of abortions in the U.S. Diaz, Greenhouse says in The New York Times, is not the first to use the argument that anti-abortionists are actually trying to help black and Hispanic women by saving their children from unwanted abortions. But that doesn't mean the argument is legitimate. Greenhouse acknowledges that abortion as a method of "population control" over the black community and sterilization-for-welfare policies were once legitimate concerns. Genocidal fears were hard to shake even much later, during the abortion reform movement in the 1960s, though at that time 90 percent of legal abortions at that time were performed on white women, while the majority of illegal, death-causing abortions were being performed on Puerto-Rican and black women. Today, Greenhouse points out, black women seek abortions 5 times as often as white women, and Latinas do so twice as much as non-Latinas. "These startling differences reflect equally stark differences in the rate of unintended pregnancy," which can be blamed on "barriers to access to contraception, not only financial but cultural." Greenhouse's conclusion: "those of us privileged to live in a world" where abortion is not a crime and the perpetuated fear that abortion is a form of racial genocide is a false one "have an obligation to resist the cynicism of those who know better and the recklessness of those who don't."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.