Five Best Friday Columns

On Colbert's PAC, the dwindling female population, and NewsCorp's British monopoly

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Dana Milbank on the Reality of Stephen Colbert's 'SuperPAC' Stunt  Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC stunt aims to "prove how flimsy campaign-finance limits have become since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling," but The Washington Posts Dana Milbank argues that "what he proposes to do isn't nearly as abusive as what's already going on." Milbank explains that "while Colbert's PAC has to release the names of people who give him more than $200, the campaign-finance vehicles preferred by Karl Rove allow individuals to give millions of dollars to elect candidates without the donors' names becoming public." The most recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign-finance laws "ha[ve] largely wiped out post-Watergate campaign reforms and, in the case of corporate contributions, undone nearly a century of law." Since Congress can't agree on a disclosure for donors law, "those who violate what’s left of the law, [face] little risk of punishment." Milbank concludes: "When it comes to making a mockery of campaign-finance law, American Crossroads is way ahead of Colbert Nation."

Donald Rumsfeld on Resisting Defense Budget Cut Demands  Two-time secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld advises Leon Panetta, next in line, not to "accede to the White House's proposal to carve out $400 billion, if not more, from the national security budget by 2023." He warns in today's Wall Street Journal that "procurement decisions and budgetary actions do not yield results, or reveal their flaws, for years and sometimes decades." While shrinking the defense budget may have no immediate backlash, "the penalty for being ill-prepared tomorrow when the unforeseen occurs--whether another terrorist attack at home or a major crisis abroad--can be measured in American lives lost." That is not to say that the budget can't be cut--"more than $80 billion in unnecessary spending for pet projects has been shoved down the Pentagon's throat over the last decade," he notes. But such cuts will not cure our economy. "Even if President Obama tomorrow brought home each and every troop in Iraq and Afghanistan, tore down the Pentagon, shuttered the CIA and the national security agencies of government, and pink-slipped the three million men and women defending the country, it wouldn't solve America's financial woes," Rumsfeld insists. "The principal challenge for Mr. Panetta, beyond seeing a successful conclusion to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, will be fending off White House and congressional raids on national security spending."
Valerie Gribben on Real Life Fairy Tales  "In my undergraduate years I majored in English and studied Victorian fairy tales," writes Valerie Gribben, fourth-year medical student, in today's New York Times. "But when I started medical school, I packed up my youthful literary indiscretions." Dealing with the horror of medical practice, she has found that fairy tales remind her both that "happy endings are possible" and that "what I'm seeing now has come before. Child endangerment is not an invention of the Facebook age. Elder neglect didn't arrive with Gen X." She attributes the idea that "healing...begins with kindness." She suggests that doctors-in-training add "Grimm's Fairy Tales" to their reading list. "Fairy tales are, at their core, heightened portrayals of human nature, revealing, as the glare of injury and illness does, the underbelly of mankind. Both fairy tales and medical charts chronicle the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic. And the terrifying things that go bump in the night are what doctors treat at 3 a.m. in emergency rooms."
Mara Hvistendahl on Abortions and Gender Imbalance  Mara Hvistendahl wrote the book on gender imbalance that New York Times columnist Ross Douthat took as a starting point for an abortion discussion this past Monday. At Salon, Hvistendahl pushes back against the conclusions Douthat tried to draw from her research: "Douthat suggests that victim might be the fetus. I make very clear in my book that the victim is women." She explains that Douthat and others are trying to pick and choose among the facts of the matter: "Antiabortion advocates would have us believe that the practice of sex selection--a fundamentally sexist act--somehow justifies further curtailing women's rights. They are aided in this hypocritical quest by the comparative silence of American feminists, many of whom are fearful of confronting the complex issues involving abortion." She notes that not all sex-selection methods rely on abortion, some focusing on selecting for X-carrying and Y-carrying sperm prior to fertilization. These methods "have not incited so much ire among the likes of Mr. Douthat.," she notes. "Perhaps that is because they require a shift of focus away from the fetus and toward women--and confronting the actual fact of our disappearance."
The Guardian Editors on NewsCorp's Unfair Monopoly "No well-functioning democracy should allow one man to frame its window on the world," the Guardian editors declare, referring to Rupert Murdoch's move to control 100 percent of British Sky Broadcasting in addition to the "40 percent of the newspaper market" already in his possession. "The fourth estate of the free press...should check and balance political power from the outside, while itself being held in check by the ordinary process of the criminal law," they argue. "The fact that BSkyB's summer party last night was staged in the Foreign Office, however, seemed apt: Murdoch's tentacles reach deep into the establishment's heart." In the face of NewsCorp's recent phone hacking scandal, however, "any cabinet minister worth their salt would be desperate to keep their distance from this company if it were any other line of business," they insist. Instead, Britain's culture secretary has argued on behalf of the company before the House of Commons to "secure [its] editorial independence." The editors observe that now, "within the mainstream, ever more voices must answer to a single empire, and democracy will pay the price."
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