Five Best Saturday Columns

On loyalty to Peace Corps, Nuremberg and Bin Laden, and why we love an apocalypse

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Michael Shermer on the Enduring Appeal of the Apocolypse. With Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicting the apocalypse for May 21st, Michael Shermer considers why human beings are so inclined to come up with apocalyptic prophecies. The key, according to Shermer, is in the human cognitive evolution. "In our ancestral environments, vigilance and rapid reactions often made the difference between life and death, so the default position was to assume that all patterns are real... Doomsday scenarios are patterns based on our perceptions of the passage of time... These patterns are often false, of course, but they are correct often enough that, in our brains, time and causality are inseparably linked." Moreover, apocalyptic visions "help us to make sense of an often seemingly senseless world... For human beings, it is much easier to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune when we believe that it is all part of a deeper, unfolding plan."

Glenn Greenwald on the Nuremberg Principles Applied to Osama bin Laden. "There's a strong desire to believe that the U.S. -- for the first time in a long time -- did something unquestionably noble and just, and anything which even calls that narrative into question provokes little more than hostility and resentment," writes Glenn Greenwald about the raid on Osama bin Laden. But these questions must be asked, particularly with regard to contrasting 9/11, Bin Laden's death, and the Iraq War. "There is, of course, a difference between deliberately targeting civilians and recklessly causing their deaths.  But, as American law recognizes in multiple contexts, acts that are undertaken recklessly -- without regard to the harm they cause -- are deemed intentional... The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks deserve to be held accountable for those crimes.  But it's been a bit difficult listening to a country that continuously commits its own egregious crimes -- ones that constantly cause civilian deaths -- righteously celebrating the bin Laden killing as though it is applying universal principles of justice grounded in unmitigated contempt for lawless aggression."

Jia Tolentino on the Loyalty to the Peace Corps. When Congress invited Peace Corps volunteers to share their stories of sexual assault, what emerged was that a startling number of volunteers had not only been assaulted, but had had their complaints ignored or downplayed by the Corps. Tolentino, a recent Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, recalls how after these statistics were exposed, she was told to pack her bags and leave. "I felt crushed. Yet I was also relieved that the Peace Corps had finally turned its mixed messages into decisive action, regardless of the image concerns that prompted it. The reconsideration is long overdue, since volunteers tend to support the Peace Corps until the end. If I had been raped and the Peace Corps had told me it was my fault for not following safety protocol, I might well have believed them."

The Boston Globe on Navy Weddings for Gay Soldiers. The Globe considers at the reversal of the Navy's policy that would have allowed same-sex couples to use military facilities for weddings. The policy would have applied only to chapels in states where same-sex marriage is legal, and would not have required chaplains who opposed gay marriage to perform weddings. Nonetheless, at the behest of conservative critics, the Navy shelved this policy on Tuesday. "The complaint stinks of mean-spirited grandstanding, intended to punish a small number of couples just to score political points," writes the Globe. "Gay sailors in states with same-sex marriage — whether crewmembers at the USS Constitution, or submariners in Connecticut — have a legal right to marry. Denying them access to chapels available to other sailors is both discriminatory and a breach of basic courtesy."

Stanley Druckenmiller on an Impending Financial Crisis. James Freeman interviews legendary investor (and onetime fund manager for George Soros) Stanley Druckenmiller for the Wall Street Journal about the real dangers faced by the government. The problem, according to Drunkenmiller, is not a failure to raise the debt ceiling, but that politicians might give the government authority to borrow beyond the current limit of $14.3 trillion without any conditions to control spending. In a recent letter from Timothy Geithner to House Speaker John Boehner, Geithner said, "Default would cause a financial crisis potentially more severe than the crisis from which we are only now starting to recover." But Drunkenmiller disagrees: "I think technical default would be horrible, but I don't think it's going to be the end of the world... [but] if [Obama officials] believe what they're saying, they'll cave. If they believe this is Armageddon and this is worse than Lehman and this is the greatest catastrophe ever, they'll cave...What's going to be catastrophic is if we don't solve the real problem," Drunkenmiller said, in reference to Washington's spending addiction.

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