Five Best Tuesday Columns
Andrew Ross Sorkin on the myths of Davos, Elizabeth Economy on polluted Chinese water, John Cassidy on Obama's liberal agenda, Ruth Margalit on Israel's left, and William Pesek on Lew's strong dollar.
Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times on the myths of Davos The hotels of Davos, Switzerland, are again filling up with economists, businessmen, politicians, and other "thought leaders" right about now. The 2013 World Economic Forum begins tonight, and Andrew Ross Sorkin reminds us to be skeptical about the big ideas emerging from this international summit. "If you're looking to the Alps for the wisdom of crowds, the wisdom of this crowd of the global elite may not be the most accurate," he writes, recalling Bill Gates' 2003 prediction that Google would be a flash in the pan and French finance minister Christine Lagarde's 2011 insight that the euro zone could only improve. "In 2008, the futurists and technology forecasters Peter Schwartz, a co-founder of the Global Business Network, and Paul Saffo of Stanford University declared that they expected the publication of newspapers to end by 2014," Sorkin writes about his own line of work. "Luckily, the prediction track record in Davos isn’t great."
Elizabeth Economy in The Diplomat on polluted Chinese water According to some research, around 20 percent of China's rivers are so polluted that coming in contact with them would be toxic. The smog in Beijing might make for better slideshows, but Elizabeth Economy writes that we should perhaps be more concerned about water pollution in China. "On top of whatever polluted wastewater might be leaching or simply dumped into China’s rivers from ... factories, the Ministry of Supervision reports that there are almost 1,700 water pollution accidents annually," Economy writes. "The total cost in terms of human life: 60,000 premature deaths annually. While the macro picture is concerning, even more worrying is that individual Chinese don’t know whether their water is safe to drink or not."
John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Obama's liberal agenda John Cassidy had a much higher opinion of Monday's address than Obama's first time at the inaugural podium. "Cleverly constructed, pointed, and surprisingly political, it marked the emergence of a more confident, more combative Obama—a President who knows he is personally popular and who is increasingly willing to put that popularity on the line," Cassidy writes. "His speech, though it included some obligatory language about the need for Americans to come together and tackle the challenges ahead, was primarily devoted to acknowledging and celebrating the rainbow coalition that saw him safely to reëlection, and to defending its liberal agenda. For a day, at least, here was the Obama that progressives hoped to see back in 2008."
Ruth Margalit in Slate on Israel's left With the Israeli elections about to wrap up, Ruth Margalit isn't hopeful that left-wing parties will achieve much power in the new parliament. "Polls predict that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beiteinu list will win handily, leaving the entire center-left bloc (excluding the Arab parties, who have traditionally declined to serve in the coalition) with about 40 seats—only one-third of the parliament," she writes. Even though the Labor Party may have widely popular policy positions, it can't muster anywhere near the domestic support the hawkish Likud-Beiteinu party can. "Mostly what the left seems to be hoping for is a concerted international effort—from the United States and, they hope, also from Jordan and Egypt—that would put a stop to terror and bring an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank."
William Pesek in Bloomberg View on Lew's strong dollar Jack Lew will likely come out favoring a strong dollar as Treasury secretary—but his word and his actions won't line up, William Pesek predicts. "A key goal for President Barack Obama’s second term is to resurrect the nation’s manufacturing sector. Nothing would help that process more than a weaker dollar, and the Federal Reserve’s ever-expanding balance sheet may limit the currency’s gains," Pesek notes. "If Lew really is sincere about wanting a strong dollar, he will surely get it while everyone else heads the other way."