Five Best Tuesday Columns

Ryan Chittum on the housing crisis, Emily Bazelon on the definition of bullying, Mark Seidner on the baby supposedly cured of HIV, Andrew Ross Sorkin on how to prosecute big banks, and Adam Gopnik on America's writing culture.

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Ryan Chittum at the Columbia Journalism Review on housing crisis myths Who was most to blame for the 2008 housing crisis, the effects of which we still feel today? Ryan Chittum debunks the myth that homeowners were completely responsible for the crash: "In any rational placing of blame in a foreclosure ... the lender gets the bulk of it, because of its unique role in the economy and because of the decidedly uneven power relationship between subprime borrower and lender," Chittum writes, responding to Forbes columnist John Tamny's suggestion that foreclosed homeowners "deserve our disgusted scorn." Instead: "It's just a matter of historical record that many, many borrowers were either financially unsophisticated and taken advantage of or actively defrauded."

Emily Bazelon in The New York Times on the definition of bullying We don't know what "bullying" means anymore, argues Emily Bazelon. "The word is being overused — expanding, accordionlike, to encompass both appalling violence or harassment and a few mean words." Usually used to describe a pattern of verbal and physical intimidation, bullying now seems to encompass any sort of interpersonal conflict. "When every bad thing that happens to children gets called bullying, we end up with misleading narratives that obscure other distinct forms of harm," writes Bazelon, who argues that we are better served when we know what bullying isn't. "Bullying is a problem we can and should address. But not if we're wrongly led to believe that it’s everything and everywhere."

Mark Seidner in The Wall Street Journal on the baby supposedly cured of HIV You probably heard about the baby who was mysteriously cured of HIV. Mark Seidner takes issue with the language of "cure" since the baby was merely exposed to HIV, not conclusively infected by it in the first place. The baby "was exposed to HIV, had HIV in her blood, [and] at least some cells in her blood were found with sleeping virus—though we will likely never know if those cells were from the child or maternal cells that had been transmitted during pregnancy or birth," Seidner writes, setting up the crucial question: Was the baby cured of HIV? The answer: "It seems more likely that her treatment prevented her, after exposure to HIV, from being infected."

Andrew Ross Sorkin at DealBook on making big banks pay When a bank is deemed "too big to fail," how should the law go about punishing it if its constituents break the law? Weighing the recent testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder, Andrew Ross Sorkin admits that federal authorities failed to make an example out of any particular bank. But, Sorkin writes, "the fact that prosecutors have not claimed a big-time scalp in the financial crisis obscures the issue of prosecuting companies themselves and the complications such prosecutions raise." Noting that pursuing charges against companies often leads to large-scale layoffs, Sorkin suggests a more surgical method. "There is a powerful argument to be made that prosecutors should focus on the individuals responsible for the misconduct" instead of the banks themselves.

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on the future of American writing The 80th birthday of Philip Roth, the Pulitzer-winning American novelist, provides Adam Gopnik the occasion to take stock of his country's writing scene. Gopnik sees a culture in peril, if not in decline: "The future of writing in America—or, at least, the future of making a living by writing—seems in doubt as rarely before ... anyone can write, and everyone does, and beginners are expected to be the last pure philanthropists, giving it all away for the naches." Gopnik isn't totally hopeless, though: "Even if it is a tough time to be a writer, it is a matchless time to be a reader. The same forces that have hampered writing as a profession have empowered reading as a pastime: everything ever written, it seems, is now easily available to be read, and everything is."

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