Five Best Friday Columns

On unemployment, graffiti, and torture apologists

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Paul Krugman on the Real Threat to Our Economy  "Who sends out the memos telling people what to worry about, and why don't I get them?" writes a world-weary Paul Krugman in today's New York Times. The economist-columnist   has been railing against deficit frenzy for months, and now updates his standard argument to deal with a new fear: the idea that " terrible things will happen within two years unless we make drastic spending cuts." Says Krugman: "I have no idea where that two-year deadline comes from." Despite what the debt commission argues, the fate of U.S. solvency does not depend on whether we pay back our debt in the next two years. On the other hand, he argues, America's future is most certainly affected by unemployment. "The longer this goes on, the more workers will find it impossible ever to return to employment, the more young people will find their prospects destroyed because they can’t find a decent starting job," he writes. "It may not create excited chatter on cable TV, but the unemployment crisis is real, and it's eating away at our society."

Rich Lowry on the Hypocrisy of the Graffiti Exhibit  At National Review Online today, Rich Lowry comments on the recent arrest of a graffiti artist for vandalizing a building near L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art inside which his street art was being featured. "The museum has lent all its cultural power--and the considerable financial might of its backers--to glorifying petty criminality and an urban blight practically synonymous with disorder and mayhem," he writes. Yet, "for all the self-congratulatory transgressiveness of [[museum director Jeffrey] Deitch and other promoters of graffiti, they tend to blithely accept only damage to other people's property." He points out that at such exhibits, even a pen for taking notes is forbidden. He also derides the concept of graffiti as art: "Surely, come vandals are gifted artists, just as some drug dealers have keen business minds. But so what? Graffiti is almost invariably hideously ugly. ... If an aspiring artist is ambitious and talented, there's an obvious recourse--find a canvas and paint on it. It worked for Rembrandt." In the meantime, he points out, "the people who run and back the museum are fortunate enough not to live in neighborhoods beset by graffiti or to own property likely to be targeted for the 'art' they celebrate...They can afford to excuse and patronize a public nuisance that is the bane of communities everywhere. They are a disgrace even to the decadent elite."

Jennifer Graham on Single-Mother's Day  Jennifer Graham notes the realities of a post-divorce Mother's Day at The Boston Globe and warns all mothers on the possible brink of divorce that, once the father of their children is out of the house, they can kiss the gifts you actually want--like breakfast in bed or a spa visit--goodbye. "On my first Mother's Day alone, I knew the homemade cards and assorted burnt offerings were the heart-felt work of my children alone, not their father," she recalls. She also considers all the greeting cards made specifically for Mom from Dad. "Why do so many men give cards to their wives, who are not their mothers, on Mother’s Day? It is the marketplace's acknowledgment of a truth: that Mother's Day is not possible without Father, even if he, at some distant point in the future, is glaringly absent when the family gathers at the Doubletree for the Mother's Day buffet."

Charles Fried and Gregory Fried on Torture  Charles Fried and Gregory Fried denounce at The Washington Post today the argument that waterboarding--which "make no mistake, is torture"--is responsible for leading the U.S. to Osama bin Laden."The claim is indecent most immediately because there is no way of knowing whether it is true, and any attempt to prove or disprove it must reveal intelligence that our security requires remain secret." They write of John Yoo's previous defense of torturing a terrorist's child: "the lack of a stopping place in justifying this evil shows how readily the resort to deliberate brutality metastasizes so that it can be used to justify torture to save just one person, or even if there is a chance of saving one person, or even if it involves random cruelty to soften up the next person we interrogate." Finally, they add, "We must deny bin Laden this posthumous victory."

Dana Milbank on the GOP Debate  To The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, the Republican presidential primary was like a remake of "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead," the 1991 film in which--in case you don't remember-- "a mom leaves her kids with a babysitter for three months, but after the babysitter dies of a heart attack, the children fend for themselves for the summer." In today's GOP version of the movie, "with the grown-ups (played by Jeb Bush and Mitch Daniels) out of town, the field has been left in the custody of caretakers (played by Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich). When even the babysitters fail to show up at the first debate of the season, the juveniles run the thing themselves." He gives examples of some of the childish statements made by Republican contenders in last night's debate, their inexperience shining through admissions of a lack of knowledge on Afghanistan, the economy and social issues. "There remains a hope that a white knight will arrive to rescue Republican primary voters from this lackluster field, but there is growing concern among party elders that such a person may not exist."

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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.