Five Best Monday Columns

On testing chemicals, a politician's crusade against Islam, and the value of one's voice

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Dominique Browning on Testing Chemicals  Dominique Browning notes in today's New York Times that the sale of BPA-free bottles and sippy cups for children is part of a genuine effort to keep Bisphenol A, "a synthetic estrogen that disrupts normal endocrine function," from children's hands and mouths. But, she points out, in most cases BPA is substituted with a different kinds of Bisphenol--"a dysfunctional family of chemicals"--that may be more dangerous than BPA and are not endorsed by the EPA. "A manufacturer can replace BPA with another untested compound and get a few years' use out of it before it, too, becomes the subject of health alerts or news media attention," she writes. "By the time we know what those new chemicals do to us, entire generations are affected. We are the guinea pigs." Browning insists chemicals be tested for safety before they are allowed on the market, to save parents the effort of figuring out whether what they give their kids can harm them.

Jonathan Kay on Geert Wilders's View of Islam  Jonathan Kay, editor at the Canadian National Post, describes his interaction with Geert Wilders, the Dutch Politician who is both loved and hated for his strong opinions on Islam. Kay discovers that Wilders "knows more about the Islamic faith and what it means to ordinary people than do most of Islam's most ardent Western defenders." Wilders insists that he doesn't hate Muslims but considers them "victims of bad ideas," describing Isam not as a religion, "but rather a retrograde political ideology with religious trappings." Kay understands why Wilders's opinions have branded him "a hatemonger" in the eyes of many Europeans. Still, "His insistence on the proper distinction between faith and ideology deserve to be taken seriously," he argues. "For it invites the question: If we permit the excoriation of totalitarian cults created by modern dictators, why do we stigmatize (and even criminalize) the excoriation of arguably similar notions when they happen to be attributed to a 7th-century prophet?"

Michael Bronner and John Farmer on Helping a Bahraini Reformer  Last Sunday, Bahraini officials carried out a mission to stifle opposition leaders, arresting at least two, explain Michael Bronner and John Farmer at The Washington Post. One, a politician named Matar Ebrahim Ali Matar, was a participant in George W. Bush's Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program through the State Department in 2008, during which he questioned Condoleezza Rice on the U.S.'s effective endorsement of the country's ruling family. This past December he asked Hillary Clinton, at a "town hall" in Bahrian, "to use America's influence to reverse a sharp decline in civil rights in the kingdom." This was before the, mostly Sunni, Bahraini people took to the street to protest their elite Shiite rulers. "Matar took to heart the American example of democracy and due process--and challenged the United States to live up to its rhetoric in courageous exchanges with two secretaries of state," they write, arguing that "Washington should do more to meet the challenge his case represents, finding a bolder balance in pursuing our national interests and affronts to human rights."

Seth Lipsky on the Supreme Court and Israel  The Wall Street Journal's Seth Lipsky points out that the upcoming Supreme Court case in which "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being sued by a 9-year-old American Citizen...who was born in Jerusalem and wants the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to issue him a certificate of birth abroad stating he was born in Israel," is particularly "explosive" because it may result in the court deciding "whether, under American law, Jerusalem is or is not a part of Israel."  It also runs into another question: "can a president, in signing a piece of legislation, announce that he doesn't agree with part of it and doesn't intend to enforce the law," as was the case with the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002, signed into law by George W. Bush and passed by the Senate, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital if Israel?

Christopher Hitchens on a Writer's Voice  At Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens reflects on losing his voice to cancer, writing that "deprivation of the ability to speak is more like an attack of impotence, or the amputation of part of the personality." He recalls using his voice to entertain, argue, tell jokes, recite poetry, and assert himself. As an older man he believes he "could hobble along by communicating only in writing," but "if I had been robbed of my voice earlier, I doubt that I could ever have achieved much on the page." Hitchens argues that good writing is impossible without the ability to talk, to make one's reader feel "personally addressed" and "to appreciate the miniscule twinges and ecstasies of nuance that the well-tuned voice imparts ... a whole continent of human sympathy, and of its minor-key pleasures such as mimicry and parody." The writer hopes for " if not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech."

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