Five Best Thursday Columns

Amy Davidson on the 'kill list,' Michael Kinsley on military interventions, Alec MacGillis on the Polish gaffe, Matthew Miller on education reform, and Karen Fingerman and Frank Furstenberg on moving in with one's parents.

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Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on the 'kill list' Recent stories in Newsweek and The New York Times shed light on President Obama's "kill list" and his process for identifying targets for lethal drone attacks. "The 'kill list' story is a reminder of how much language matters, and how dangerous it is when the plain meaning of a word is ignored," Davidson writes. She runs through the list of silly words used with disregard for their true meaning, such as the "baseball cards" depicting possible nominees for death, and the important words, like "due process" whose meanings are being degraded. "Brennan and other officials interviewed by the Times and Newsweek said that Obama had enormous faith in himself. It would be more responsible, though, if he had less," Davidson writes. "The point isn't just the task, or burden, he takes on, but the machine he has built for his successors to use."

Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on foreign interventions As the nation debates our lack of intervention into the atrocities in Syria, Kinsley muses on the inconsistent and not strictly partisan standards we've developed for foreign interventions. "People used to make a great distinction between America's interests, America's values and purely humanitarian concerns. Intervention to protect the first was regarded as mandatory, serving the second and third was not," he writes. "In practice, at least in the Middle East, they all get muddled." He says we'll probably never settle on a simple standard, but most decisions will depend on context. "We will never have logically consistent rules about such things (to the frustration of people, including me, who tend to equate logical consistency with justice and good sense.)"

Alec MacGillis in The New Republic on Obama's Polish gaffe MacGillis writes that he's usually cynically dismissive of over-reaction to political gaffes, but in the case of Obama's ill-selected choice to refer to a "Polish death camp," he's more confused by reasonable pundits who have joined the chorus to condemn the president. "I truly don't get this one. It is abundantly clear that what was meant in that line, but so poorly phrased, was a reference to the death camps that were in Poland." The was probably prepared by someone else, and Obama missed the chance to stop and correct himself when reading from prepared remarks. "It was lousy wording. He should've corrected it. He didn't. Move on."

Matthew Miller in The Washington Post on education reform Miller regularly joins in with education reformers to criticize entrenched teachers unions. But in light of both Mitt Romney's and President Obama's dissatisfying reform proposals, he makes the case that unlike countries like Singapore and Japan where politicians frame reform as an effort to flood their education system with elite teachers, we're more focused on weeding out the bad ones. "Whose approach sounds more effective to you?" he asks. He continues on to revisit suggested ways we could transform the teaching profession into one that attracts our best talents.

Karen Fingerman and Frank Furstenberg in The New York Times on grads moving home As the recession forces more college graduates to move in with their parents, there's been a lot written about the negative impacts on the younger generation and on society. Fingerman and Furstenberg make the case for the benefits of strengthened parent-child bonds. "Our research shows that the closer bonds between young adults and their parents should be celebrated, and do not necessarily compromise the independence of the next generation. Grown children benefit greatly from parental help." As people delay marriage, they are taking more advice from their more experience parents rather than their contemporary friends. "Forty years ago, the news media were filled with reports of a generation gap. Let’s be grateful that we've finally solved that problem."

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