Five Best Thursday Columns

Ezra Klein on the tax reform challenge, Ellen Ullman on computerized trading bugs, Arjun Sethi on Sikhs in America, Steve Coll on domestic terrorism, and Nicholas Kristof on Syria. 

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Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on the tax reform challenge "As polarized as Washington is over tax and budget issues, a base-broadening, rate-lowering tax-code overhaul has become the one policy every wonk in town can agree on," writes Klein. A recent study, though, shows the enormous obstacles to passing that kind of reform. "It is clean and elegant when imagined by technocrats who don't worry about the politics, clear and simple when endorsed by politicians who omit the crucial details, and likely to become polarizing and disappointing if it is actually taken up by Congress."

Ellen Ullman in The New York Times on bugs and computerized trades After Knight Capital's debacle involving computerized stock trading, the SEC might force companies "to fully test their computer systems before deploying coding changes," writes Ullman. "That policy may sound sensible, but if you know anything about computers, it is funny on several accounts. First, it is impossible to fully test any computer system." By detailing just how coding works, noting that there's no such thing as a program without bugs, she casts an expert's light on the SEC's inexpert plan. "The best solution would be to bring back the 'market makers' of old, the people who stood between the bid and the asking price and were responsible for making the trade work. Yet I cannot imagine they will return."

Arjun Sethi in The Washington Post on Sikhs and the American promise Sethi describes the harassment he's faced as a Sikh in the United States, and points to cases of violence toward his community through the years in the wake of this weekend's shooting. "Americans face a choice: We can look at these events in isolation, or we can have the courage to call them what they are: a threat to the promise of the United States," he writes. "There are steps ordinary citizens can take, including working within their communities to understand the causes of bigotry, including xenophobia, economic frustration and consternation over the U.S. population's evolving racial demographics."

Steve Coll in The New Yorker on the proportions of domestic terrorism "The Oak Creek murders reflect upon another neglected subject: the surprising pattern of terrorism in America since September 11th," Coll writes. According to a recent study of the past decade, mass shooting perpetrated by non-ideological killers far outnumber those motivated by hate for another's religion. "And all of the most frightening cases—involving chemical, biological, and radiological materials—arose from right-wing extremists or anarchists. None arose from Islamist militancy." The government should speak of terrorism "in its real proportions," he says, and "recognize the Oak Creek shooting's links to right-wing and racist terrorism that is every bit as potent at home these days as Al Qaeda and its followers are, if not more so."

Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times on a Syrian intervention At the Aspen Strategy Group this week, Kristof was surprised by the number of international policy strategists who believe we should intervene more forcefully in Syria. "As I see it, there are three main reasons for action in Syria," he writes. "First, the longer the fighting goes on, the more it destabilizes the region." Second, we should stabilize the chemical weapons we believe the regime possesses. And third, we have a "humanitarian imperative." "Syria, like Libya, is a rare case where we can take modest steps that stand a good chance of accelerating the fall of a dictator," he says.

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