Five Best Thursday Columns

On 9/11 and Virgil, Glenn Beck and unemployment, and AARP's game

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Caroline Alexander on the Inappropriateness of the 9/11 Memorial Quote  Caroline Alexander points out, in The New York Times today, that the quote selected to be inscribed in front of the victims' remains at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is misused and inappropriate. The line, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time," comes from Virgil's "Aeneid" and, though it seems thoughtful enough at first glance, a look at the context reveals that the line was delivered after a pair of Trojan soldiers were killed brutally by the opposition. "The central sentiment that the young men were fortunate to die together could, perhaps, at one time have been defended as a suitable commemoration of military dead who fell with their companions," writes Alexander. "To apply the same sentiment to civilians killed indiscriminately in an act of terrorism, however, is grotesque." Alexander argues the importance of considering context when selecting a quote to memorialize the dead and recognizes that such a task is very difficult. But,"there is an easy mechanism, also time-hallowed, for winnowing out what may be right from what is clearly wrong: it's called reading."

Dana Milbank on Glenn Beck's Departure  Though the reasons Beck and Fox are parting ways remain murky, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank draws a connection between Beck's departure and the recent drop in unemployment, comparing the controversial host to radio priest Charles Coughlin of the Great Depression. Both used widespread economic hardship to build an audience, but eventually, Coughlin "faded from relevance as his angry themes lost their hold on Americans and his anti-Semitism became more pronounced." This story is not unlike Beck's, says Milbank: Beck's apocalyptic preaching is less salient for Americans no longer suffering from the recession, and his anti-Semitic undertones have become more pronounced. Though it is unclear whether Beck was officially pushed out or left on his own, Milbank declares that "Fox deserves credit for finally putting an end to this." Milbank notes that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, "other purveyors of fear," are also sinking in popularity. Milbank takes the end of the Glenn Beck show as "a sign of the nation's health and resilience."

Daniel Pipes on Assigning Proper Blame to Afghan Islamists  Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, objects at National Review to people blaming Pastor Terry Jones for the deaths of U.N. staff members in Afghanistan. Pipes points out four key members of Congress in particular who have argued that Jones's Koran burning motivated the violent Afghan protests. Yet, Pipes says, "however distasteful, Jones' act is both legal and non-violent. He is not responsible for the 43 deaths; the repugnant, barbaric ideology of Islamism is to blame. Critiquing Islam ... is a constitutional right. Indeed, done intelligently it is a civilizational imperative." It's time to remember that "Islam is one religion among others, with no claim to superior status."

Robert VerBruggen on AARP's Borderline Scam  Robert VerBruggen has read a recent Congressional report about the AARP and observed some interesting details he thinks retirees should know. "They most certainly should be concerned about how AARP benefited when Obamacare gutted Medicare Advantage, about how much AARP is paying its executives, and about how AARP refused to fully cooperate with the committee's investigators," he writes. He points out that "AARP supported Obamacare, and specifically the cuts to Medicare Advantage [a program that is popular with seniors], to line its own pockets." AARP has been accepting payments for more insurance endorsement deals, about which, VerBruggen writes, they are not picky. Furthermore, AARP's executives are significantly overpaid and offered a luxurious travel policy, all without being subjected to standards of transparency. VerBruggen insists that all of these factors prove AARP's tax-exempt status should be revoked, something he notes will be no easy task. "But this report does accomplish something that's very important: It lays bare some of the inner workings of AARP, so that potential members can see what they're signing up for."

Edward Glaeser on America's 'Infrastructure Crisis'  Harvard Economics Professor Edward Glaeser argues in today's Boston Globe that America's supposed infrastructure crisis "has been oversold." He shoots down several arguments for more spending, such as a "$7.2 bill proposal to expand broadband deployment" based off a study that found more Koreans than Americans have broadband. "But only 3 percent of Americans without broadband said that it wasn't available," he points out. "46 percent said they didn't need it or weren't interested." He finds similar fault with other reports on the inadequicy of US railroads, highways, and drinking water. "The US economy is built around ideas and services, not moving manufactured goods cheaply, and our economic future depends far more on the knowledge in our children’s heads, not more roads," he insists. "Before increasing infrastructure spending, we should make current spending more efficient."

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