Five Best Thursday Columns

Caroline Baum on BLS jobs numbers, Margaret Talbot on the "war on women," Joshua Green on Roger Clemens's trial, David Schulz on the press and Guantánamo, and Jim Sollisch on donating a kidney.

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Caroline Baum in Bloomberg View on the meaning of jobs numbers News that the economy had added only 120,000 jobs in March yielded speculation that the recovery was stalling. But Baum reminds us that every month the BLS report notes that there's a "confidence interval" of plus or minus 100,000 in their figures. "Translation: From a statistical point of view, an increase of 120,000, 220,000 or 20,000 is pretty much the same. But oh what a difference it makes in our world of snapshot analysis!" Baum writes. The monthly reports are subject to "noise," or variations in weather, holiday dates, and other random factors that affect employment cycles. We should listen to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner when he admits the March numbers are undesirable, but not terribly meaningful, and signs continue to point to a solid recovery. "He's right. Take a step back, take a deep breath and look at the big picture."

Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker on the women's vote Talbot argues that the "war on women" has been exaggerated by the Democrats, but also too quickly dismissed by Republicans. "There has always been a tension in catering to the women's vote, and, indeed, in feminism: part of what women want, understandably, is to be treated like anybody else ... they also want, just as understandably, an acknowledgement that they are sometimes treated differently and unfairly ...The trouble with Romney’s gambit was not that he tried to change the subject, but how he did it." Romney focused on the jobs lost under Obama by women, but he ignores the fact that many women vote Democrat not because of social issues, but because they've always sympathized with big government types on the economic ones. "Romney can tell women voters that he shares their concerns about the economy, but caring is not the same as agreeing on what to do about it," she writes.

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on the Clemens trial and steroids Roger Clemens is back on trial for perjury this week, but the court is having trouble finding jurors because so many recall the Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball as an exercise in Congressional attention-grabbing. "That’s a common attitude, and a dismaying one. It stems from a misconception that Major League Baseball actively promoted at the time — that the hearings had no higher purpose than to glorify arrogant, media-hungry lawmakers," writes Green. In fact, the hearings focused on a dangerous increase in steroid use among American teenagers. The purpose of that testimony was to convince the league that steroid use among players set a bad example. Americans disliked the hearings, but they were effective in bringing down rates of steroid use and raising awareness of its harmful effects among teenagers. "As his latest trial inches along, Clemens himself has become a kind of backhanded testament to that success ... Once destined for the Hall of Fame, Clemens has been disgraced."

David Schulz in The New York Times on the press and Guantánamo Schulz, a First Amendment lawyer, argued before a military judge at Guantánamo Bay that the press had the right to cover military commissions there; it was the first time a judge had agreed to hear the argument in person. "Whether this marks a new openness, or is another in a long line of false starts, remains to be seen. But the government has a real opportunity to show its commitment to the rule of law by acknowledging that the public’s First Amendment rights apply at Guantánamo," he writes. He details his argument that the fact that testimony might reveal classified information -- in this specific case the info as already widely available on the internet -- isn't cause to bar the media from a hearing altogether. Open hearings are important so that the verdicts gain public legitimacy, he argues. "The world will never accept the Guantánamo verdicts if significant testimony is closed for fear of embarrassment over detainee mistreatment."

Jim Sollisch in The Wall Street Journal on donating a kidney Sollisch, a partner at an ad agency, donated a kidney to his co-worker recently, and received a hero's welcome from friends and colleagues. "So why did I do it? For the same reason I do a lot of things: because someone I know did it." Sollisch makes the process sound relatively easy, but he notes that with 90,000 people in the U.S. awaiting a kidney transplant, the idea of stepping up isn't always popular. Perhaps if others had a role model, as he did, they would feel more comfortable taking the leap, he says. "That's where I come in. Now you know (well, kind of know) someone who has done it. Now you know that donating a kidney is not that big a deal," he says.

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