Five Best Thursday Columns

Juliette Kayyem on Obama and Medvedev, Michael Bloomberg on taxes, David Ignatius on Syria's transition, Ezra Klein on the individual mandate, and Stuart Green on illegal downloading.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on Obama and Medvedev President Obama's comments to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have more flexibility on missile defense after his election were caught on a live mic and have, predictably, gotten caught up in election politics. "The more surprising line in the public tete-a-tete was actually what came after ... 'I understand,' Medvedev told Obama, ... 'I will transmit this information to Vladimir,'" The two are likely discussing Russian opposition to the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe. Medvedev's comments show he's open to finding a middle ground in the aftermath of their own election, and Kayyem describes some possible resolutions. "As we now know, the important message that both countries may be willing to compromise was transmitted quite publicly, so publicly that the any progress on missile systems is getting lost in the political drama. This is exactly what Obama said would happen."

Michael Bloomberg in The Wall Street Journal on budgets and taxes On the issues of taxation and budget deficits, both parties are guilty of appealing to their bases at the expense of sound policy proposals, writes Bloomberg. "Over the past year, as the candidates jockeying for the Republican nomination raced to the right, the Obama campaign has sought to re-energize its base by tacking left," writes Bloomberg. By telling voters that only the richest Americans should pay more taxes, Obama isn't actually putting forward policy that will reduce the deficit. Meanwhile Republican insistance on making the Bush tax cuts permanent makes that goal just as implausible. "A serious deficit-reduction plan that both increases revenues and reduces expenditures would be the most effective economic stimulus plan Washington could adopt," Bloomberg writes, laying out some ways the candidates could propose getting there.

David Ignatius in The Washington Post on transition in Syria The Syrian government said it would accept a U.N. peace plan, one that Ignatius says could be a first step toward a managed transition of power. He writes, "Maybe it’s time for Syrian revolutionaries to take 'yes' for an answer from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." Ignatius lays out his argument againt furthering the military conflict in Syria. In particular, he draws parallels to Iraq, where a violently induced transition "destroyed social cohesion." A diplomatic transition will be difficult, and it'll require the help of Russia, but it's better than the alternative, he says. "The alternative to a diplomatic soft landing is a war that shatters the ethnic mosaic in Syria. "

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on the individual mandate The Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments on the health care reform law Wednesday, which chiefly centered on the constitutionality of the health care mandate requiring people to buy health insurance. "Compare it to three ways of addressing the free-rider problem in health care that are clearly, indisputably, constitutional," writes Klein. The other three options, which he outlines, likely result in fewer insured Americans without reducing cost or appeasing conservative worries. In fact, the individual mandate, in effect, is exactly the same as Paul Ryan's proposed tax credit for purchasing insurance. The difference is in the framing. "Of course, this battle isn’t really about the constitutionality of the individual mandate... The real fight is over whether the Affordable Care Act should exist at all."

Stuart Green in The New York Times on theft law In bringing down the site MegaUpload, the Justice Dept. has participated in the tradition of framing illegal downloading of copyrighted material as theft. "From its earliest days, the crime of theft has been understood to involve the misappropriation of things real and tangible," writes Green. That definition should require a zero-sum outcome in which one person loses what another wrongfully gains. Green traces how the legal definition of theft slowly became more inclusive. Authorities haven't managed to convince people to stop illegal downloads with the "theft" frame. "We would do better to consider a range of legal concepts that fit the problem more appropriately: concepts like unauthorized use, trespass, conversion and misappropriation."

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