Five Best Thursday Columns

Ezra Klein on Americans Elect, Felix Salmon on the Goldman op-ed, Fareed Zakaria on deterrence, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov on sanctioning Russia, Theresa Brown on measuring hospital care

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Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on Americans Elect The group Americans Elect gets most of its press for its efforts to find a ticket of independents to run for president and vice president in 2012, but Klein says we should be more interested in their long-term strategy to get a space for their candidates on ballots in all 50 states and at all levels of government. Their philosophy that politicians can be affiliated with a party as long as they maintain independence and occasionally break from it could allow for more moderate politicians to avoid appealing to the parties' poles in primary battles. "Candidates can run on the Americans Elect line, but still caucus with the Democrats, the Republicans or no party at all. In effect, the goal isn’t to create a new party, but to provide a new path for moderate members of the two reigning parties."

Felix Salmon in Reuters on Greg Smith and Goldman Sachs Greg Smith caused quite a stir when he quit Goldman Sachs in a New York Times op-ed, accusing the firm of moral bankruptcy, but Salmon says that though Smith "declared a moral purpose," we must wait and see whether he joins a rival firm or keeps up the crusade before we get a sense of his real motivations. "Which is not to say that Smith doesn't make important points," Salmon says. Still, Goldman's board of directors, he says, will never provide solutions to the problems Smith pointed out. "The real muppets, in this story, are Goldman’s board members, who have never had any real control over how the company is run. And, frankly, never will," he argues.

Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post on deterrence and Iran Zakaria recalls the debate during the Reagan administration over deterrence of the Soviet Union, a policy that liberals abhorred. "I am reminded of that turbulent meeting as I listen to the debates over Iran’s nuclear ambitions because it highlights a strange role reversal in today’s foreign policy discourse ... it used to be those on the right who would patiently explain the practical virtues of deterrence." He recalls the voices of prominent conservatives back then who argued the case, and he notes the seemingly counter-intuitive arguments for it that make it hard to support. Ultimately, he says, Obama is right to choose a policy that doesn't neccessarily end in preventive war. "The argument that Iran would be deterred does not rest on its reasonableness but on the regime’s desire to survive."

Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov in The Wall Street Journal on repealing a Cold War relic The U.S. Senate Thursday will decide whether to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which impedes some trade with Russia, and which Obama has called a Cold War relic. "We support the repeal, both as leaders of the pro-democracy opposition in Russia and as Russian citizens who want our nation to join the modern global economy. It is essential, however, to see the bigger picture of which Jackson-Vanik is a part," write the Russian activists. Jackson-Vanik was a symbol for American disapproval of Russian human rights abuses. Putin's elicit election should demand a continued U.S. symbol of protest. It should be replaced with an accountability bill that imposes visa sanctions on leaders responsible for abuses. "Jackson-Vanik is a relic and its time has passed. But allowing it to disappear with nothing in its place, ... turns it into little more than a gift to Mr. Putin."

Theresa Brown in The New York Times on surveying hospital patient satisfaction The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed a customer satisfaction survey for hospitals and they will begin basing reimbursements on it. "Put colloquially, it evaluates hospital patients’ level of satisfaction. The problem with this metric is that a lot of hospital care is, like pleurodesis, invasive, painful and even dehumanizing," writes Brown. She uses anecdotes and data to show that patients must hurt to heal, and in cases where patients rank their care higher, costs and sometimes death rates also rise. "In other words, evaluating hospital care in terms of its ability to offer positive experiences could easily put pressure on the system to do things it can’t, at the expense of what it should."

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