Five Best Thursday Columns

Alex Pareene on Howard Kurtz's Jason Collins mistake, Matthew Yglesias on Medicaid in Oregon, Matthew K. Lewis on liberalism, Gary Marcus on replication in social psychology, and Daniel Henninger on Obama's permanent campaign.

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Alex Pareene at Salon on Howard Kurtz's Jason Collins mistake Alex Pareene takes on Reliable Sources host and media critic Howard Kurtz, who erroneously reported at the Daily Beast on Wednesday that Collins had failed to reveal that he was previously engaged to a woman. "This is, easily, Kurtz's worst error since the time he accidentally invented a conversation with a member of Congress," Pareene writes. "But while that one seemed like a truly weird circumstance, involving a massive misunderstanding, this one seems like the natural result of a lazy hack thoughtlessly weighing in on the news without actually thinking (or reading the article he was weighing in on). ... Howard Kurtz is a media reporter, though he is often mistakenly referred to — and hired to act as — a media critic." Meanwhile, Kate Arthur at BuzzFeed, in seeking answers from Kurtz, wonders: "Why write about the closet and sexuality if you have such a limited understanding of it that you end up being insensitive? ... Does Kurtz think that because Collins was engaged and dated women that he's not gay? (That last question is astounding, but it seems to be Kurtz's entire pose here.)" At the Huffington Post, Jason Linkins breaks out the telestrator.

Matthew Yglesias at Slate on Medicaid in Oregon After identifying several flaws in a recent study of an expanded Medicaid program in Oregon — which found that people randomly chosen to access Medicaid were less depressed but no more healthy than those who were not chosen — Matt Yglesias seizes on the study's political consequences: "The political debate in America is about whether we should tax the rich to expand Medicaid or whether we should cancel Medicaid expansion in order to cut taxes on the rich. If you like the idea of taxing the rich to help the poor (I sure do), the study shows that Medicaid helps. If you don't like the idea of taxing the rich to help the poor, the study gives you a talking point." Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast, however, considered the study bad news for the Affordable Care Act: "What is the likelihood that Obamacare will have a positive impact on the average health of Americans? Every one of us, for or against, should be revising that probability downwards. I'm not saying that you have to revise it to zero; I certainly haven't. But however high it was yesterday, it should be somewhat lower today."

Matthew K. Lewis in The Week on liberalism Whatever arguments he has with his fellow conservatives, Matthew K. Lewis says, he remains beholden to their shared political tradition — and deeply hostile to progressive policy. "The Left's worldview ... implicitly argues that morality is subjective. This is a natural outcome of a rejection of the numinous, but it's an idea that has consequences. When there are no moral absolutes, we make policy decisions based on efficiency instead of compassion. Or we make decisions based on our own individualistic needs, not on what is right or good." But as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf notes, conservatives have their own shades of grey, too. After citing a number of Bush-era policies that continue to be defended in conservative circles — wiretapping, indefinite detention, and so on — Friedersdorf writes: "It is often hard to discern whether a wrongheaded position is explained by relativism or irrationality or unwitting hypocrisy or any number of other factors. It nevertheless seems clear that at least some conservatives subscribe to a belief system whereby certain actions are regarded as obviously immoral, except when they are undertaken by the United States, which is exceptional and facing a brutal enemy, so the means justify the end."

Gary Marcus at The New Yorker on replication in social psychology Going off a recent Times report on a Dutch scientist who forged data for numerous social psychology studies, Gary Marcus considers the state of the same academic field, and its renewed commitment to replicating prior studies: "Throughout my career, and long before it, journals emphasized that new papers have to publish original results; I completely failed to replicate a particular study a few years ago, but at the time didn’t bother to submit it to a journal because I knew few people would be interested. Now, happily, the scientific culture has changed. Since I first mentioned these issues in late December, several leading researchers in psychology have announced major efforts to replicate previous work, and to change the incentives so that scientists can do the right thing without feeling like they are spending time doing something that might not be valued by tenure committees." Janet D. Stemwedel at Scientific American agrees: "Scientific journals have not generally been very interested in publishing negative results ... so scientists tend to view them as failures. They may help us to reject appealing hypotheses or to refine experimental strategies, but they don’t usually do much to help advance a scientist’s career."

Daniel Henninger at The Wall Street Journal on Obama's permanent campaign After studying President Obama's statements to the press — on gun control, on Syria, on partisanship — Daniel Henninger wonders where Obama's second term will lead the country. "Tuesday's meandering mess of a news conference exposed that his first term's permanent campaign—attempting to reframe all issues to maximize him and minimize his opposition—is going to be inappropriate for the only thing Mr. Obama has got now: a mere American presidency." But Jonathan Chait at New York argues that Republicans are as much to blame for Obama's difficulty in governing the country — and that various calls for Obama to "lead" aren't going to coerce others into being led. "It's hard to argue against this kind of analysis because, like gut-based electoral forecasting, it’s not quite coherent enough to rise to the level of wrong. 'Leadership' is a real thing — but it's a quality used to describe the way you rally your underlings or your peers. You don't use 'leadership' against your opponents!"

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