Five Best Tuesday Columns

Richard Russo on Amazon's price check promotion, Marc Thiessen on Amnesty International, Jonah Goldberg on 'Newtzilla', Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar on the defense bill, and Jonathan Macey on insider trading.

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Richard Russo in The New York Times on Amazon's price check promotion This season, Amazon is encouraging customers to scan items they see in stores into a phone app and earn a 5 percent credit if they then buy the item from Amazon. "[Amazon] sells everything now, and it sells it all aggressively. Maybe Amazon doesn't care about the larger bookselling universe because it's simply too big to care," writes Russo, the novelist. He asks several small bookstore owners and well-known authors, from Stephen King to Ann Patchett, for their opinions, and while many of them keep level heads or sound resigned to Amazon's behavior, most of them see the move as a mean-spirited way to turn independent businesses into Amazon showrooms. But Russo sees it as something other than well-calculated arrogance. "There's also something bizarrely clumsy and wrong-footed about it ... [I]f the wind shifts, Amazon's ham-fisted strategy has the potential to morph into a genuine Occupy Amazon movement."

Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post on Amnesty International's bad call  When Bill Clinton considered whether to perform an "extraordinary rendition" -- the "snatching" of a suspected terrorist for interrogation in a foreign country -- he ignored his legal counsel's advice that it violated international law.  "This episode is worth recalling in light of Amnesty International's call for the arrest of former President George W. Bush during his recent visit to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia for alleged 'crimes under international law' ..." writes Thiessen. He notes the hypocrisy of Amnesty International's move when the organization hasn't made similar calls for the arrest of numerous brutal dictators from Syria's Bashar al-Assad to North Korea's Kim Jong Il. He ascribes it to a partisan act that condemns Bush for behavior initiated by Clinton. He quotes the Canadian immigration minister saying, "This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International."

Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times on 'Newtzilla' Goldberg says that when he suggested to some prominent conservatives that Newt Gingrich could win the presidency, he was greeted with horrified looks, for established conservatives are at a loss on how to stop Gingrich's rise. "Conventional weapons are useless against Newtzilla," Goldberg says. He lays out the obvious, "conventional" ways one might consider arguing against Newt, his history as an insider with unattractive personal history for example, and argues that Gingrich benefits from voters having long known this of him, and thus, being unconvinced by reminders of it. Goldberg theorizes that voters think these are "crazy and extraordinary" times hence the search for a similarly crazy candidate. "In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don't require him."

Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar in The New York Times on the National Defense Authorization Act The National Defense Authorization Act, a budget bill expected to pass in Congress this week, will allow the military to detain terrorism suspects even when apprehended on U.S. ground. "President Obama called on us to 'reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.' We agree. Now, to protect both, he must veto," write Krulak and Hoar, both retired four-star generals. They argue against the idea that because this provision is pretty much codifying existing habit, it deserves to be made legal. They also argue against giving the military jurisdiction over domestic terrorism suspects, saying the military didn't ask for the task of policing its own citizens, and noting that the provision denies the work of the FBI and other domestic agencies. The bill also prevents transfers out of Guantanamo, which the writers believe should be closed. "[R]ight now some in Congress are all too willing to undermine our ideals in the name of fighting terrorism," they write.

Jonathan Macey in The Wall Street Journal on Congressional insider trading Recent reports have brought attention to the fact that congressmen often trade stocks based on inside information, beating markets by a large margin, and now, Congress is seeking to legislate against this practice. Macey, a Yale law professor, argues that while the S.E.C. rules on insider trading are vague and broad for the rest of us, the specific rules under consideration in Congress would actually just provide them a road-map to more successfully trade on inside information while appearing to take steps to avoid it. Their rules , for instance, would only limit trading on info in proposed legislation, not on info gained from a briefing of some kind. Much better, he says, would be to reconsider and specify the rules governing everyone else's insider trading, eliminating the vagaries that give the S.E.C. leeway to decide cases as they like. "If enacted, the law of insider trading will remain one of many where one reality applies to Congress and an uncomfortable and insecure reality applies to everybody else."

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