Five Best Friday Columns

On the problem with Libya, the importance of lightbulbs, and the centrality of teachers

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  • John Kerry on the Need for a No-Fly Zone in Libya  Noting that Qaddafi may merely be lying in wait to unleash more vicious attacks in Libya, Kerry is unequivocal about the need for a no-fly zone in a column for The Washington Post: Public discourse is rife with historical comparisons right now, but Kerry suggests a new one: IIraq in 1991, when Shiites, Kurds, and Marsh Arabs rebelled with U.S. encouragement, but "when Iraqi attack helicopters and elite troops began butchering their own people, coalition forces were ordered to stand down." Iraqis were "slaughtered" and the world watched. "We need to take concrete steps now so that we are prepared to implement a no-fly zone immediately if Gaddafi starts using his airpower to kill large numbers of civilians," argues Kerry, acknowledging that a no-fly zone would be no "panacea." We need to approach the UN first, which may do nothing. Then, "to avoid the perception of NATO or the United States attacking another Muslim country, we need the backing of the Arab world." Luckily, "there are promising signs" on this front.
  • Simon Tisdall on the Mess Libya Represents  The Guardian's Simon Tisdall is less optimistic. It's looking increasingly that Qaddafi will prevail, he says, and the West is left with a lose-lose situation. "To their ill-disguised horror, governments suddenly find themselves looking at high-risk, open-ended intervention in yet another Muslim country that is almost guaranteed, sooner or later, to enrage Islamic opinion." But the flip side isn't looking so good either: "If the west does not intervene, and the revolution is bloodily suppressed, leaders who spoke out boldly and bravely in support will be ridiculed as impotent charlatans." Tisdall is bleak and unsparing in his assessment: "It is a conundrum made in hell," he says. "Except it was made in Downing Street."
  • Roger Pielke on Why We Need Energy Efficiency Standards  Roger Pielke will excuse members of Congress, such as Michelle Bachmann, who want to get rid of standards for lightbulb efficiency. The government's role in standardizing technology has "been so successful," the University of Colorado professor explains at The New York Times today, that it "has become invisible." But it is there, and it is necessary. Pielke offers a brief history lesson to those who cite Edison's innovation as reason against industry standards--recalling that the lack of standards during Edison's time actually "threatened to overwhelm industry and consumers with a confusing array of imcompatible choices." When the U.S. finally got on the standardization bandwagon, after most of Europe, it experienced what we now know as the 20th century's technological innovation boom. "Technological standards do not only promote innovation--they also can help protect one country's industries from falling behind those of other countries," he writes, arguing that in order for the U.S. to continue to produce new and better technology and stay ahead of global competition, it needs regulations to keep it in line.
  • Michelle Rhee on Preparing for the Teacher Layoffs  Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of D.C.'s public schools, gets right to the point in a brief, but pointed, contribution to the Wall Street Journal's opinion page today. "It's absolutely imperative that state leaders completely eliminate the 'last in, first out' policy, which mandates that the last teachers hired must be the first fired, regardless of how good they are," she writes. New York's governor is supporting legislation that focuses on defining good or bad performance, Rhee notes, but what is most important right now are the thousands of impending layoffs in New York City and the rest of the country as well. She explains that "there exist three categories of teachers who should be the first considered for layoffs: those who have lost their full-time status and have been reassigned as substitutes, those with excessive absences without medical excuse, and those who have received an unsatisfactory rating." Her solution to the layoffs problem: get rid of "everyone in these three buckets," satisfying financial needs without sacrificing the students.
  • Charles Krauthammer on Where Social Security Really Stands Charles Krauthammer is shocked by the Obama Administrations argument that Social Security is safe until 2037 because of a solvent trust fund. "This claim is a breathtaking fraud," he declares. "What happens when you retire? Your Social Security will come out of the taxes and borrowing of that fiscal year. Why is this a problem? Because as of 2010, the pay-as-you-go Social Security system is in the red." The denial is particularly troubling, Krauthammer suggests, because Social Security is the "most solvable" of the entitlements problems: "Raise the retirement age, tweak the indexing formula (from wage inflation to price inflation), and means-test so that Warren Buffett’s check gets redirected to a senior in need."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.