Five Best Wednesday Columns

Adam Briggle on fracking politics, Jessica Valenti on the discourse of rape, Justin Green on the GOP's entitlement trap, Ben Smith on New York's soda ban, and W. James Antle III on Rand Paul's foreign policy.

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Adam Briggle at Slate on fracking politics Should hard science dictate energy policy? In the matter of our reliance on fossil fuels — hydraulic fracturing in particular — we may need to answer bigger, more philosophical questions before addressing harder, more scientific facts. "Persistent debates about the science of fracking are only echoes of deeper political fractures. No study—no matter how independent or rigorous—is going to settle the issue," writes Adam Briggle, who wants to distill the questions beyond partisan terms. "The larger questions at stake with fracking are about values: How much risk is acceptable? ... What is the proper place of humans in nature? ... What kind of world do we want to live in and pass down to our children? These questions are not reducible to science."

Jessica Valenti at The Nation on the discourse of rape Inspired by the recent treatment of Fox News contributor Zerlina Maxwell by an array of conservative commentators, Jessica Valenti weighs the suggestion that women should bear arms in order to protect themselves from rapists, rather than educate people not to rape. "When you argue that it's impossible to teach men not to rape, you are saying that rape is natural for men. That this is just something men do," notes Valenti. Arguing that women should carry guns misses the point entirely, she argues: "When you insist that the only way to prevent rape is for women to change their behavior ... you are arguing that misogyny is a given. ... [When] you argue that this is 'just the way things are,' what you are really saying is, I don't care enough to do anything about it."

Justin Green at The Daily Beast on the GOP's entitlement trap GOP attempts to alter the country's budget — best characterized by Congressman Paul Ryan's various attempts to reform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — are caught in a trap, says Justin Green. "We ostensibly want to cut entitlements, yet our base is predominately composed of people who are maximally animated by opposition to entitlement reform." Green wants the GOP to position itself  as "the party of and for the young and ambitious, rather than the aged and conservative." That, Green suggests, is the only way the GOP can take action on entitlement reform. "As long as the GOP is the party of the Medicare/Social Security voting population, we won't seriously reform entitlements."

Ben Smith at BuzzFeed Politics on New York's soda ban New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's thwarted ban on large containers of sugary drinks opened up debate on the government's role in public health. According to Ben Smith, it also exposes the ugly underbelly of local politics. Smith reads the NAACP's opposition to the ban in light of a Yale study showing how the tobacco industry bought, with large donations, the silence of minority interest groups. (The NAACP, along with other interest groups, has taken money from both Coca-Cola and Pepsi.) "There must have been, some allowed back in the 1970s, some shred of logic or integrity to urban pols' and groups' advocacy for the tobacco industry," Smith inveighs. "Actually, in the light even of recent history, it's a particularly embarrassing episode of a large industry's deep dive into ugly, transactional, and nickel-and-dime local politics."

W. James Antle III at The American Conservative on Rand Paul's foreign policy The Republican Party is still reeling from Rand Paul's drone strike filibuster on March 6, writes W. James Antle, because it placed conservative foreign policy under a microscope. By highlighting intramural rebuke from the Weekly Standard's William Kristol and others, Antle arrives at a diagnosis. "Paul's critics are unnerved precisely because he is pointing out the obvious: when most Americans—and even most conservatives—signed up for the war on terror, they meant retaliating against those attacked us on 9/11 and taking greater care to prevent future attacks," he writes. "They did not sign up for routine presidential military interventions in a growing number of countries loosely based on a decade-old authorization of force. And they definitely did not believe they were consenting to live under the laws of war at home in a conflict without geographic or temporal limits."

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