Five Best Monday Columns
Adam Gopnik on the Olympics, Fred Hiatt on campaign finance, L. Gordon Crovitz on the UN and the Internet, Albert Hunt on the Obama campaign, and Alan MacDonald on Africa's water supply.
Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on the Olympics With the Olympic Games soon to commence in London, Gopnik considers the odd ritual. "We are about to enter that period, which occurs every four years, when Americans become passionate about athletes we have never heard of participating in games we do not follow trying to please judges we cannot see according to rules we do not know." He says the Olympics offer an argument for nationalism, the idea that by belonging to a team, one can belong to a nation state, no matter your sport or status. He thinks that's healthy. "We are embracing the marginalized masters among us in order to make a team, as we have embraced once marginalized people to make a nation."
Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post on Republicans and campaign finance Republican arguments for unlimited campaign contributions were more persuasive when they came paired with arguments for disclosure of donors. Ever since Citizens United gave Republicans an advantage in the campaign finance world, Hiatt says they've changed their tune. "The Republicans, apparently, never meant it. Now that they have Unlimited Donations, or something pretty close, they don’t want Unlimited Disclosure after all." Hiatt shows his work, documenting prominent Republicans' support for unlimited disclosure earlier in the decade and their sudden shift away from it in the face of a bill proposing more disclosure. "Democracy is endangered, too, if politicians cannot hold to principle equally when it's politically beneficial and when it's not."
L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal on the U.N. and the Internet The United Nations is considering various proposals allowing countries to regulate the free and open internet, and it is a process shrouded in secrecy, except when leakers use the internet to expose the proposals under consideration, as they did recently. "Several proposals would give the U.N. power to regulate online content for the first time, under the guise of protecting against computer malware or spam," Crovitz writes. "[A]uthoritarian regimes are busy lobbying a majority of the U.N. members to vote their way. The leaked documents disclose a U.S. side that has hardly begun to fight back. That's no way to win this war."
Albert Hunt in Bloomberg View on Obama's 'amateurish' campaign In the wake of a month that's made the Obama campaign look "amateurish," Hunt says it needs an intervention. "Private conversations with a half-dozen of the smartest Democratic political thinkers ... reveal a consensus of advice for the president: Stop trying to tell voters they're doing better, offer an optimistic sense of how, if re-elected, you would lead America to more prosperous times, and challenge Republicans with specifics." Hunt shows how the campaign hasn't been meeting that standard, and proposes ways it could start.
Alan MacDonald in The New York Times on Africa's water resources MacDonald highlights interesting research that shows that Africa's groundwater resources might be far more extensive than their above water counterparts. "This water holds enormous potential to help people and nations move out of poverty, produce more food and better adapt to climate change. But it also could lead to tensions between neighboring countries," he writes. Among the challenges he details: how to use the water supply sustainably, and how to properly invest in the resources required to access the water. "New water supplies tend to gravitate to the better off, so investment in new services should be aimed at more remote areas where many of the poorest live."