Five Best Tuesday Columns
Joanne Bamberger on Silicon Valley's working moms, Jonathan Cohn on the inevitable sequester, Jeffrey Toobin on Pistorius' likely plea bargain, Hussein Banai on Iran's refusal to talk, and Arthur Levitt on an SEC failure.
Joanne Bamberger in USA Today on Silicon Valley's working moms If Silicon Valley is creating the workplace of the future, they're pushing working women back into an inflexible past, argues Joanne Bamberger. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stirred controversy this week by ordering remote employees to move back to the office. And Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg may have written a book that tries to empower women to seize executive positions within their company, but Bamberger sees the message as hostile to working mothers who need more flexible schedules than what Sandberg describes. "The message coming from these C-suite moms is less about empowerment and accountability than it is about guilt," Bamberger writes. "Guilt for women wanting to work remotely in order to manage their lives and provide for their families. Guilt for not acting with more ambition. Guilt for daring to put their children and spouses on equal footing with their careers."
Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic on the inevitable sequester What was once a looming crisis is now an inevitable certainty, argues Jonathan Cohn. In the absence of a bipartisan deal, a sequester will take effect on Thursday night, triggering indiscriminate across-the-board federal spending cuts at a time when discretionary spending is already at a historic low. Neither party likes the prospect of sequestration, but they like each other's proposed solutions even less, to the point where they're willing to put the nascent economic recovery on the line. "Within a week or two, political rhetoric may matter a lot less than longer lines at airport security, smaller unemployment checks, and other reminders that less government spending also means fewer government services," Cohn writes.
Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on Pistorius' likely plea bargain As in the United States, South Africa's legal system relies heavily on plea bargaining. That's why Jeffrey Toobin believes that the courtroom drama of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner charged with murdering his girlfriend, will be cut short soon. "To a greater extent than either side may want to acknowledge, the facts of the case are largely undisputed," Toobin writes. "But why would the government want to make a deal? Well, because Pistorius has a defensible case. Home invasions are epidemic in South Africa ... The prosecution may also have a hard time proving motive. Pistorius and Steenkamp were a relatively new couple. There were no reports of public tension, much less murderous violence, between them." With such a hard case cut out for them, the government may prefer accepting a plea bargain over trying to prove premeditation on Pistorius' part. "The risk of uncertainty is too high. Both Pistorius and his pursuers will welcome the certainty of a deal," Toobin concludes.
Hussein Banai in the Los Angeles Times on Iran's refusal to talk If you take Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at his word, Iran refuses to cooperate with the United States over nuclear weapons negotiations because the West is "illogical," "disingenuous," and "insulting." But Hussein Banai believes that Iran's supreme leader takes such a hardline stance because of domestic, more than foreign affairs. "Normalization of relations between Iran and the United States would deprive Khamenei and the deeply invested cohort of radical ideologues around him of a powerful justification for their arbitrary rule," Banai writes. "Continued enmity with the United States has time and again proved to be a convenient excuse for silencing the reformist opposition (as in the case of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, which has simply become known as "the sedition") and managing the increasingly fragmented conservative establishment."
Arthur Levitt in Bloomberg View on an SEC failure Former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen Arthur Levitt was recently asked to sign a letter standing up for SEC's regulatory independence. So why did he refuse to sign it? He believes that the SEC has fundamentally failed to follow its core mandate on the issue of money-market mutual funds. "If the SEC won’t take action, it would be irresponsible for the Financial Stability Oversight Council not to," Levitt writes. "The lack of transparency in prices in money- market funds is startling; we would never permit this in any other publicly traded financial instrument ... I normally find myself among the loudest defenders of the principle of regulatory independence. But in this case, the national interest -- prevention of systemic risk -- trumps all other considerations. In this case, the SEC’s mandate to protect the public interest is paramount. If it won’t pursue that mandate, the FSOC should."