Five Best Tuesday Columns

Alex Brill and James Glassman on the G-20, Joe Nocera on city finances, Jeffrey Goldberg on Romney's Jewish standard, Sara Khorshid on Egypt's military council, and Joanna Weiss on George Bush and Game of Thrones.

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Alex Brill and James Glassman in The Wall Street Journal on G-20 membership Brill and Glassman argue that because the membership criteria was so unclear at the founding of the G-20, which meets this week in Mexico, the organization has had a crisis of legitimacy. "Many observers have noted that the lack of membership criteria has diminished international trust in the G-20's decisions and activities. The G-20 needs clear admission standards, and in a study sponsored by the National Taxpayers Union, we propose a set of seven criteria that correspond to the group's stated policy objectives." Those standards, which include economic size and commitment to the rule of law, would remove members like Argentina and boost non-members like Switzerland into its ranks.

Joe Nocera in The New York Times on city budgets Nocera highlights a stand-off in the Rhode Island legislature over a proposed property tax increase in the city of Woonsocket. The city's representatives blocked the measure, even though the state may now appoint a receiver, unbeholden to voters, to get the city's struggling finances in order. One of those representatives is on the national board of American Legislative Exchange Council (or, ALEC). "[I]n a democracy, the decision of what -- and whether -- to cut should rest with elected officials who are responsible to voters, not to an unelected receiver using bankruptcy law to unilaterally make cuts. That may be the ALEC solution, but it shouldn't be ours."

Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg View on Romney and the Jewish test Romney's press team has criticized articles that describe Mormonism's pratices by using a "Jewish test," asking in each case, "Would you write this sentence in describing the Jewish faith?" Goldberg says it's a confused standard because when Joseph Lieberman ran for vice president, news articles did in fact describe his Orthodox practices in a tone similar to that given to Romney's Mormonism. "The Romney camp should also have confidence, and understand that not every reporter asking questions about their man's religious practices is trying to subvert Romney's candidacy or his church."

Sara Khorshid in The New York Times on Egypt's military council Egypt's military council reacted to the Muslim Brotherhood candidate's likely win in an Egyptian presidential election by curtailing that office's powers. This after a decision to dissolve the Parliament. "The military's unwillingness to cede power and allow a genuinely democratic government has been clear for months. Yet the United States has continued to support the council — indeed, American-made tear gas canisters are still being used by the Egyptian authorities to suppress anti-military protesters," writes Khorshid. The author paints a bleak picture describing Egypt's move toward democracy, and calls American actions and statements in that light "ridiculous."

Joanna Weiss in The Boston Globe on Game of Thrones and George Bush Last week HBO apologized after DVD commentary on a Game of Thrones episode revealed that a severed head appearing on a pike was actually a re-purposed George W. Bush replica. Weiss says the degree of one's disgust probably aligned with one's voting pattern, but took heart that nearly all reasonable people found it tasteless. "We have standards, it turns out, lines of thought that we'd rather not follow. Most of us, at least."

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