Five Best Friday Columns

Paul Krugman on the dominoes of Cyprus, Mark Joseph Stern on the shifting tactics of gay marriage opponents, Ken Tucker on the joy of ScandalJohn R. MacArthur on Obama's political failures, and Jonathan Cohn on the rising star of Dr. Ben Carson.

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Paul Krugman in The New York Times on the dominoes of Cyprus "You might wonder why anyone cares about a tiny nation with an economy not much bigger than that of metropolitan Scranton, Pa.," writes Paul Krugman, who assesses the debt crisis afflicting the Mediterranean country's unusually large banking system, which functions as a tax haven for wealthy foreigners. Since Cyprus belongs to the Euro zone, Krugman argues, "events there could trigger contagion (for example, bank runs) in larger nations." Ultimately, the country let its banks grow too consolidated and too big, even after the global financial turmoil of 2008. "Everyone has seen the damage that runaway bankers can inflict, yet much of the world’s financial business is still routed through jurisdictions that let bankers sidestep even the mild regulations we've put in place."

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate on the shifting tactics of gay marriage opponents As the Supreme Court mulls overturning the Defense of Marriage Act — it will hear oral arguments next week — opponents of gay marriage have begun emphasizing the sexual aspect of marital relations, notes Mark Joseph Stern, who surveys their arguments in detail. "For years, [opponents of gay marriage] said gays were too libidinous and licentious to create stable marriages," observes Stern. "Now, as proponents of gay marriage emphasize love, fidelity, and commitment, the right is fetishizing coitus." Stern thinks that conservatives are approaching a new (and odd) understanding of intercourse, highlighting the strained logic of their opposition. "You should copulate with your opposite-sex spouse not to make a baby, but to behave in a way that would make a baby if you were fertile," according to this new understanding. "Coitus is sacred not as a means, but as a performance."

Ken Tucker at The Nation on the joy of Scandal The scripted ABC drama Scandal, starring Kerry Washington and set in the nation's capital, matches — and maybe even exceeds — the sophistication of Game of ThronesMad Men, and other shows popular with TV critics, according to longtime TV critic Ken Tucker. And it does so, Tucker writes, by focusing on the rising stature of women and minorities in national politics. "A big part of the kick in Scandal is the way women are shown to do the dirty work usually reserved for men," Tucker notes, adding, "The vice president portrayed by Kate Burton makes Dick Cheney look like a more bumptious Gerald Ford." Scandal, Tucker concludes, "feints in the direction of harrumphing about The State Of American Politics, but its real focus is its intense interest with the politics of gender and race."

John R. MacArthur at Harper's on Obama's political failures Is President Obama as hostile to the rich — and as sympathetic to the poor — as his supporters like to think? John R. MacArthur, publisher of the left-leaning monthly Harper's, offers a counter-narrative: "[Obama never stops serving the ruling class, yet the mainstream media, from right to left, continues to pretend that he’s ... fully committed to the downtrodden and deeply hostile to the privileged and the rich." After assessing the President's support of certain economic policies and the way he ascended to the White House, MacArthur insists that liberal disappointment with Obama is partly self-inflicted. "I can’t help but remark," he says, "on how effective Obama has been at muzzling criticism, or even intelligent analysis, from the liberals who should be revolting against him."

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on the rising star of Dr. Ben Carson "Conservatives have a new darling: Ben Carson. Or, as they prefer to call him, Doctor Ben Carson," begins Jonathan Cohn in his profile of Carson, a conservative neurosurgeon who rose to prominence when his criticism of the Obama administration went viral. "In early February, during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, he bemoaned the national debt, attacked progressive taxation and took jabs at Obamacare—all with President Obama sitting just a few feet anyway." Cohn is quick to note that Carson, far from a Republican hero, is the last in a long line of sudden conservative stars — think Jonathan Kohn — who may not heed the party line. "Until we know more about what he actually thinks—and until Carson knows more about what he actually thinks—the phenomenon is more interesting than the man himself."

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