Five Best Thursday Columns

Nasser al-Awlaki on the American drone strike that killed his grandson, Amy Davidson on Trayvon's false choices, Alberto Gonzales on immigration visas in same-sex marriage, Cass Sunstein on the decline of science majors.

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Nasser al-Awlaki in The New York Times on the drone strike that killed his grandson Though neither was ever charged with an official crime, Nasser's son Anwar and 16-year-old grandson Abdulrahman were killed by American drone strikes in Yemen in 2011 based on suspicion of involvement in Al Qaeda, despite the grandson's American citizenship. "Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed," the eldest al-Awlaki writes. "A country that believes it does not even need to answer for killing its own is not the America I once knew." Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine calls the op-ed "devastating," and Media Bistro writer Peter Ogburn tweets "This is an amazing read." However, John McCormack, a staff writer at The Weekly Standard, tweets that Mr. al-Awlaki "should read this" and links to a story that quotes Abdulrahman as saying he wants "to attain martyrdom."

Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on Trayvon's false choices "I still don’t understand what Trayvon Martin was supposed to do," Davidson writes. Neither of the two options she has repeatedly heard—"run straight home" and "not be black"—was appropriate at the time. The former advice is wrong, as "Martin seems to have alarmed Zimmerman and the police dispatcher both when he moved too quickly and when he was slow." And the latter idea, that Martin "ought to have been exquisitely conscious of his blackness" and deferred to Zimmerman, reminds Davidson of blaming women victims for being assaulted because they are asking for it. "Amy Davidson gets it exactly right," David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times writes. "Sad, insightful commentary on people blaming Trayvon Martin for his own death," Huffington Post writer Mona Gable writes.

Alberto Gonzales in The New York Times on whether gay marriage applies to immigration The former attorney general argues that though the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, legal precedent stipulates that same-sex couples should not receive federal immigration benefits like visas. "Congress has almost total power over immigration, and its decisions in this realm are subject to limited judicial review." Given Congress' power in this regard, Gonzales argues that the recent ruling against DOMA does not necessarily answer the question for immigration. "The Supreme Court has not settled this question, and the Obama administration should not act as though it has." The timing of Gonzales' op-ed is important, writes Ben Winograd, an attorney at Immigrant & Refugee Appellate Center: "On the same day Alberto Gonzales said the DOMA decision doesn't apply to immigration, the BIA held that it does," referring to the Board of Immigration Appeals. "Office consensus seems to be that based on this NYT op-ed, Alberto Gonzales would've failed undergrad con law," tweets ThinkProgress Communications Director Josh Dorner.

Rich Lowry at Politico on the national conversation about race "Let’s take a tragedy and make it a racial crime," reads Lowry's biting, sardonic article in response to Attorney General Eric Holder's call to have a candid discussion about race after George Zimmerman's acquittal. "Let’s say the trial was about race in America or about whether black men can walk home from the store or any other insipid, racially charged nonsense to fill the air or the column inches," he writes. "In short, let’s take a terrible event and make it a festival for all our ideological and racial ax-grinding and a showcase for our inability or unwillingness to reason clearly." Lowry covers "a host of topics in the national conversation," writes MSNBC reporter Rick Bosh. "Excellent column by Rich Lowry," tweets Eddie Scarry, a writer for the conservative blog The Blaze.

Cass Sunstein at Bloomberg on the decline of university science majors Why do so few American students major in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? Sunstein looks at the latest study that says science is, well, hard. "Many of them would like to major in science and plan to do so. But when they are disappointed by their own performance, they switch." Sunstein writes that it's up to local, state, and federal governments to fix this problem. "The U.S. can’t tolerate a situation in which its students enter college with real enthusiasm for science, only to discover they aren’t up to it." Several people have chimed in that the problem is science's difficulty, particularly compared with the supposedly easier liberal arts. Bryan Rye, Bloomberg financial analyst, tweets "Put differently, is grade inflation within liberal arts courses drawing students away from harder science classes?" Bob Litan, director of research for Bloomberg Government, writes "Students may not be prepared for science as u note ... But science teachers also grade heavily on curve."

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