5 Best Thursday Columns

On winter snows, dumb college students, and Europe's response to the Middle Eastern turmoil

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  • Timothy Garton Ash on Europe's Interest in Egypt's Future  We have heard relatively little from the European Union regarding the crisis in Egypt, but Timothy Garton Ash at The Guardian points out that it is Europe, not the U.S., that will be most affected by the outcome. "The Arab arc of crisis, from Morocco to Jordan, is Europe's near abroad," Ash explains. "As a result of decades of migration, the young Arabs whom you seen chanting angrily on the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and Amman already have cousins in Madrid, Paris and London." A successful uprising with a peaceful outcome could lead to modernization of these Arab countries, reducing the difference between life at home and life in Europe and prompting more young Arabs to live abroad, "contributing to European economies, and to paying the pensions of rapidly aging European societies." But if the uprisings result in further autocracy or Islamist rule, "then tens of millions of these young men and women will carry their pathologies of frustration across the sea, shaking Europe to its foundations." Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Ash insists that "if Egypt's new or merely transitional rulers--and those of Tunisia and other neighboring countries--are of the kind that would welcome help from Europe, we must be ready to give it."
  • Four Senators on the Merits of Health Care Reform  Writing in Politico, Senators Ben Cardin, Chuck Schumer, Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow defend the Affordable Health Care Act. "We are not willing to allow a wholesale rollback of health care reform that could take away popular benefits from American families, jeopardize the health and well-being of millions and add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit," the lawmakers write. Going segment by segment, the quartet outlines why health care reform, which was recently declared unconstitutional by a Florida judge, is a vital good. Among their reasons: it keeps seniors from paying full freight on prescriptions by fixing a flawed Medicare policy; it gives young adults breathing room by letting them stay on their parents' insurance policies longer; it helps small businesses pool insurance costs; and lastly, the senators say, the law forces insurance companies to funnel money toward better care, not executive salaries.
  • Jesse Singal on the Failings of Academia  Does college make people smarter? At The Boston Globe, Singal offers stories from three doctoral student teachers who present a bleak picture of unprepared undergrads and overly sympathetic professors. "What they wrote, while anecdotal, should give shudders to anyone who has ever paid a tuition bill or written a student-loan check," Singal writes. One of them called her students' papers "replete with sweeping generalizations and overly simplistic and overly confident perspectives on complex issues," while another friend complained to Singal that his students couldn't pick out a thesis in the writing of others. Grading "easily," according to Singal's friend, is "definitely the custom": one grad student recalls how a professor "said that 'the gentleman's C' is now 'the gentleman's B,' and that the lowest grade that we would give out in the class would be B-, in order to avoid angry phone calls from parents."
  • The National Review on the EPA's Overreach  The editors at National Review back this week's proposed legislation by Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Fred Upton to overturn the EPA's right to regulate greenhouse gases. The environmental agency isn't just out of control, they write, but out of bounds. "The EPA here is acting indefensibly: It claims authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions as pollution under the Clean Air Act, which does not specify carbon dioxide as a pollutant, nor establish a framework under which it reasonably could be found to be one." On a micro level, the editors say, this amounts to steamrolling Congress and Americans and placing costly restraints on businesses. On the macro level, meanwhile, the EPA's manipulation of the Clean Air Act renders the whole agency absurd, because "to whatever extent carbon dioxide may be a problem, it is a global problem, beyond the scope of the Clean Air Act and beyond the jurisdiction of the EPA."
  • Gail Collins on Where Crazy Winter Weather Comes From  Collins is puzzled by this winter's extreme weather and wants to blame it on someone. But who? Writing in The New York Times, Collins exhausts several options, among them Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, President Obama, and even Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, whom she compares to a gopher. Finally Collins lands on Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, a former champion of environmentalism who now opposes the E.P.A. She refers to an interview with Greenwire in which Kirk defends his denial of climate change based on "the personal and political collapse" of Al Gore. "In other words, environmental warrior Al Gore is responsible for the weather, as well as the pathetic wimpiness of Mark Kirk," concludes Collins. "Let's just think of it as the Senator Kirk snowpocalypse."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.