Five Best Monday Columns

The New York Times on Iraq, Robert Samuelson on Dodd-Frank, Becca Rothfeld on rave culture, Nesrine Malik on a booming Mecca, and Adam ternbergh on celebrity deaths. 

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The New York Times on why the answer to the current crisis in Iraq is to let moderate Sunnis defeat the Islamic State. Although moderate Sunnis reject the extremist worldview of ISIS, they have joined them because they have no voice in mainstream society. "The group’s ideology is a perversion of Islam and an affront to our culture. Yet the group gets local support. The Sunni tribes defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, its predecessor, less than a decade ago. Today, they cooperate with ISIS (which now calls itself the Islamic State) — not as fanatics, but because they see it as the lesser of two evils, compared with Mr. Maliki." The solution in Iraq is to embolden Sunnis by restructuring the government. "First, we need a new prime minister.... Iraqi politicians also must agree on a new balance between central authority and regional autonomy... Any agreement must include amnesty for the tens of thousands of Sunnis detained without trial, the release from detention of the Sunni politician Ahmed al-Alwani, the end of the counterproductive de-Baathification program, and the repealing of the counterterrorism law, which has been used as a pretext to arrest Mr. Maliki’s Sunni rivals."

Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post on how Dodd-Frank undermined the importance of the Federal Reserve's independence. Samuelson explains that Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act allowed the central bank to prevent another Great Depression by lending money to failing institutions during a time of crisis. "Section 13(3) enabled the Fed to serve as a true “lender of last resort.” Many economists believe that this may have prevented a second Great Depression. And how did Congress, via Dodd-Frank, reward the Fed’s good deeds? It handcuffed (maybe gutted) 13(3)." Samuelson writes that Dodd-Frank eliminated the Federal Reserve's ability to act swiftly and independently in times of crisis. "In a crisis, the Fed’s ability to respond quickly is what gives it the potential to stop a panic. (Note: Most of the Fed’s loans have been repaid with interest.) The insistence on detailed oversight would, if applied to the military, require generals during wars to clear every tactical change with Congress. This sounds impractical because it is."

Becca Rothfeld in The New Republic on why ravers are the modern manifestation of flower children. Rothfeld contends that while "rave culture" often has negative connotations it is actually meant to celebrate "connection and community," by creating its own, unique environment and experience. "For a musical movement, EDM’s aims are ambitious and expansive, not unlike those of rock ’n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s. 'Festivals are kind of like an escape,' one electronic music fan told me. 'It’s not just about listening to the music … really, it’s about the notion that you can do whatever you want while you’re there without any reasonable expectation of repercussions or judgment … what I mean is that it’s a place where you can feel comfortable.' The authors of the Raver’s Manifesto, whoever they were, agree, casting electronic music events as a refuge for the downtrodden in an otherwise hostile world."

Nesrine Malik in The Guardian on how, despite its criticism, the modernization of the city of Mecca is necessary for 21st-century changes. Malik explains why the rapid development of Mecca in Saudi Arabia has angered many traditionalists. "The city has been a large construction site over the past 20 years, and the results are beginning to show. At night, all lit up and crowded with apartments and hotels, Mecca now looks like a Saudi interpretation of Gotham or even Las Vegas. A large, Big Ben-like clock tower looms over the centre, and shopping malls and high-rise blocks are being built in a circle around the pilgrimage zone... In order to make way for these new developments, historic sites – such as the prophet’s house and his wife’s houses – have been razed." She writes that, unlike many other religious and historical sites, Mecca isn't a relic of the past, but is growing and thriving. "While Mecca is a site of great historical religious significance, it cannot be preserved in the familiar sense, as its history has not ended. You might not appreciate what it looks like – but it matches the tastes and requirements of the present, as every place of pilgrimage has done in its heyday."

Adam Sternbergh in Vulture on why the public can't let their celebrities die. "Celebrities aren’t allowed to truly pass away, not in the public mind at least. Some of them aren’t even allowed to stop performing or, in Jackson’s case, duetting with Justin Bieber. It’s not weird that we miss those artists who’ve died. But it is weird that, increasingly, we expect them to keep producing art. The afterlife has become just another career stage—one that’s as lucrative and, in some cases, as productive as the pre-death career ever was." Sternbergh writes that while "digitally aided immortality" is becoming increasingly popular, it's hurting modern culture. "This new brand of digital immortality both over- and undervalues the artists it purports to memorialize. It sanctifies all the half-drafts and incomplete performances the artist left behind—mining them for an endless string of future releases—while disregarding all the revisions and edits the living artist would have undertaken. Fans of David Foster Wallace were happy about the publication of his unfinished novel The Pale King—yet it’s almost impossible to enjoy as a book, mostly because you’re constantly wondering how exactly David Foster Wallace would have improved it. And it seems like as much a 'tribute' to Michael Jackson to not dig through his artistic trash can as it is to find some way to make him perpetually dance on our TVs."

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