Five Best Wednesday Columns

William Moseley on the drought, Masha Lipman on Pussy Riot, Maureen Dowd on Obama, Dana Milbank on Bain, and Edward Glaeser on city parking.

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William G. Moseley in The New York Times on the drought Moseley says there will be a silver lining to the drought that is driving up global commodity prices if it leads to policy changes. "We have become dangerously focused on corn in the Midwest (and soybeans, with which it is cultivated in rotation). This limited diversity of crops restricts our diets, degrades our soils and increases our vulnerability to droughts," he writes. "As droughts are predicted to become more frequent with global climate change, we must rethink our increasingly vulnerable agri-food system. As such, the failing corn crop may not be such a bad thing if it prompts a push for change."

Masha Lipman in The New Yorker on Pussy Riot's trial A verdict is expected in the trial of three women in Pussy Riot, a Russian punk rock band accused of inciting religious hatred for praying to oust Putin in a Moscow cathedral. "The women insist that their act was artistic and political in nature—and, indeed, politics is why they are being prosecuted, as part of a broader crackdown by Vladimir Putin's government," Lipman writes. "Throughout the trial, though, the judge, Marina Syrova, consistently removed or ignored any mention of politics." She documents the myriad ways the trial has been unfair or abusive. "The prosecution of Pussy Riot does, indeed, have a lot in common with the Soviet dissidents' trials ... [But] Putin's Russia is not Brezhnev's U.S.S.R.—it's a much freer and open country. Lots of people actively protest the prosecution of the Pussy Riot women."

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times on the aloof Obama At a fundraiser recently, Harvey Weinstein suggested President Obama is "the Paul Newman of American presidents." Dowd writes, "I interviewed Paul Newman. I knew Paul Newman. Paul Newman was an acquaintance of mine. Mr. President, except for the eyes, you are sort of like Paul Newman." Like Newman, there's an aloofness to Obama, demonstrated in stories of disaffected donors, and legislators who don't feel enough of the presidential love. This works better for movie stars, she says, than for presidents running for reelection.

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Mitt Romney's Bain games Milbank writes somewhat cheekily about the similarities between his daughter's "Tiny Tower" cell phone game, in which players try to efficiently build a business and make a profit, and Mitt Romney's behavior at Bain. "The game is devoid of business ethics; the goal is to maximize value by boosting output," he says. "[I]t gets at Romney's larger problem with Bain and his personal income taxes: The question is not whether he did well, or whether he did it legally, but whether he did it with any sense of ethics."

Edward Glaeser in Bloomberg View on city parking Glaeser takes issue with the way cities subsidize parking and require it as part of construction projects, but he notes that it's a tricky problem. "Parking for public housing sits in the middle of three separate problems: the scarcity of on-street parking, the congestion of city streets, and poverty," he writes. "But we can eliminate subsidized parking in a fair and reasonable way, by allowing current beneficiaries to get some of the cash generated by more efficient use of city space."

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