Five Best Wednesday Columns

Ruth Marcus on Peter King and Islam, Praveen Swami on China and oil, and more

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  • Ruth Marcus on Why Peter King Is Right to Ask Questions  Peter King has become a flash point in yet another controversy over Muslim Americans, and Marcus argues that, regardless of your feelings about King, "the unavoidable fact is that, however much violent terror reflects a distortion of the tenets of Islam, it is not only practiced by adherents of the religion but practiced in its name." This does not mean sweeping critiques should be made of the entire faith, but it does mean that terrorism--increasingly homegrown--should be examined in connection to its extremist roots. "Yes, there are other sources of terrorism....And, yes, King is a flawed questioner. But the question he poses is an appropriate--and important--one," Marcus writes.
  • Praveen Swami on Oil's Importance to China  Writing in the Telegraph, Swami talks about China's positioning of an advanced missile frigate off the coast of Libya last week. "The big picture is this," he says: "the world’s great powers are competing for an ever-diminishing pool of oil, making the prospect of potentially catastrophic conflicts pitting them against each other ever more likely." As countries like Russia and Nigeria tap out their reserves, and China increasingly relies on petroleum, the stage is slowly being set for international conflict over limited oil supplies concentrated in the unstable Middle East. "It isn’t as if a new world war is around the corner," Swami writes, but "failing to pay close attention to the strategic environment we live in is a dangerous business."
  • Neal Gabler on Why Charlie Sheen Isn't Like You  We were not going to read anything about Charlie Sheen today, but then we came upon this fresh take. "Sheen seems to have decided to liberate himself by liberating us from the illusions we harbor about the stars," writes Gabler, author of an upcoming book on Edward Kennedy, in the Los Angeles Times. Gabler aruges that unlike our European counterparts, Americans have always liked to view celebrities as people just like themselves, who've earned their fame through some classic combination of hard work, talent and good luck. "It allows us to indulge the fantasy that it could be us up there on the screen," Gabler writes. For better or worse, Sheen exposes the fallacy of this. By boasting about his life, his "Adonis DNA," his "goddesses," his drugs, Gabler says "even as Sheen blows the whistle on the idea that celebrities are just like us (or that he has ever been anything other than a loose cannon), he also reveals the cracks in the 'humble star-grateful audience' contract."
  • Amanda Little on Counting Gas Like Calories  Amanda Little contributes a unique proposal in the New York Times today for lowering the amount of energy Americans consume. She points out that Libya's problems are not only reflected at our gas stations, but in every product we use. Little argues that, like calories and grams of fat, we should be able to check quickly how much oil is used in the production and transport of objects before we buy them, or how much gas it takes to make trips and run errands before we embark on them. Her suggestion? Labeling--nutrition-label style. Though Little admits these labels might not make everyone change their behavior, it would likely influence most--as nutritional facts stickers on foods did when they were first introduced. "What America needs isn’t more cheap oil to feed a gluttonous economy, but rather better ways to use less," she writes. "Any other path is the equivalent of ignoring our high cholesterol numbers and attributing our corpulence to a broken bathroom scale."
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel on Rupert Murdoch and Lax FCC Regulation  Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, challenges the FCC over its inaction on Murdoch's News Corp. and breaks down the issue of "duopolies" in the Washington Post today. Duopolies, now permitted by the FCC, are situations in which one company owns more than one television station in the same market, allowing "big conglomerates such as News Corp. [to] buy up stations, reduce their staffs and consolidate newsrooms." The quality and quantity of local news coverage both suffer from these types of arrangements, giving "local governments a free pass to operate without any real media coverage." She argues that the FCC needs to step up and take seriously the rules it was created to enforce. "Either the rules mean something in a democracy, or they don't."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.