Five Best Friday Columns
David Halperin on gay culture, Stephen L. Carter on the Supreme Court's legitimacy, Charles Krauthammer on Obama's immigration move, Paul Krugman on New Jersey's privatization, and Jack Shafer on TV industry coverage.
David Halperin in The New York Times on gay culture Halperin, a history professor, critiques the traditional argument he sees made every gay pride month that younger generations of gay people have assimilated with straight culture. "Gay men in particular, who used to frighten the horses with flamboyant displays of sexual outlawry, gender treason and fabulousness, have supposedly dropped their insignia of tribal belonging and joined the mainstream," he writes. "The problem with such a claim — besides its denial of the Lady Gaga phenomenon — is that we've heard it for so many decades now that it can't possibly be true." Halperin tries to define gay culture as expressed through gay style and argue for its importance. "[G]ay culture is not just a superficial affectation. It is an expression of difference through style — a way of carving out space for an alternate way of life."
Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg View on the Supreme Court's legitimacy Carter asks those who warn that the Supreme Court risks its legitimacy by striking down the health care law to "lighten up." In cases that have infuriated one side or the other -- Bush v. Gore and Roe v. Wade for instance -- the court has survived with little permanent impact to its reputation, he says. Dred Scott and Brown v. Board are probably the only cases that have seriously weakened the court's standing, he says. Scott launched Abraham Lincoln, an obscure lawyer, to national fame by critiquing it. And Brown gave us "our silly modern circuses" the confirmation hearings. The health care ruling, he argues, stands little chance of hurting the court to a similar degree. "Delegitimizing the institutions that check and balance is a dangerous game. Those who engage in it should remember that once the game begins, everybody gets to play."
Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on Obama's immigration move Krauthammer points out that President Obama once stated that he could not "just suspend deportations ... through executive order, that's just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed." He makes the case that Obama is abusing his ability to "exercise prosecutorial discretion" in stopping deportations of younger immigrants without Congressional legislation. "Imagine: A Republican president submits to Congress a bill abolishing the capital gains tax. Congress rejects it. The president then orders the IRS to stop collecting capital gains taxes and declares that anyone refusing to pay them will suffer no fine, no penalty, no sanction whatsoever," he says. "It would be a scandal, a constitutional crisis, a cause for impeachment."
Paul Krugman in The New York Times on New Jersey's prison privatization Krugman uses the Times's recent investigative work on awfully run half-way houses funded by New Jersey's state government to critique the "broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded." Something companies that private prison service companies are "definitely not doing is competing in a free market," he writes. "They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn't any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency." Further, contracts often allow politicians to hide government debts, and the favors they incur bring politicians friends and campaign money. "Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence," he says. "Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent."
Jack Shafer in Reuters on coverage of the television industry Shafer takes issue with the length and style in which the New York Times reported news that Ann Curry would soon leave her post as co-anchor of Today. "Overdramatizing the comings and goings of on-air talent and the hirings and firings of network executives is a traditional part of the TV beat," Shafer writes. "The TV industry defines itself by ratings, ratings produce winners and losers, and from winners and losers flow an endless river of copy to bottle and sell. The People Who Cover Sports have been doing a similar thing for more than a century." He applauds Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post for writing a TV column with perspective that approaches the subject more as a sports columnist than a sports reporter and cautions others against "writing a soap opera about a TV show."