Five Best Friday Columns

Julia Ioffe on life in Sochi, Robert S. Hoffman on heroin-related deaths, Jonathan Chait on Republican healthcare proposals, Andrew Cohen on the death penalty, and Alex Pareene on why the Left should embrace the CBO report. 

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Julia Ioffe at The New Republic on life in Sochi. "As Western journalists have flooded into Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they have taken to Twitter to howl about the state of disarray in their hotel rooms. The curtains are broken, the elevators are breaking, the pillows are deficit goods, the water is yellow and cold, and it's all an unmitigated clusterfuck," Ioffe writes. "On one hand, yes, things are objectively dysfunctional and not ready despite the fantastic sums spent, and there is objective photographic evidence of this. On the other, as I prepare for my Moscow-Sochi flight tomorrow, a lot of this complaining does smack of some pretty fantastic schadenfreude. From where I sit ... it does seem like the Western press is on the hunt for evidence of how inept and hilarious the Russians are. There does seem to be something mean-spirited in all of this, as if the Western press came hoping to encounter pillow shortages and rusty water," she argues. Politico editor Blake Hounshell tweets, "In which defends Russians from our awful stereotyping."

Robert S. Hoffman at The New York Times on heroin-related deaths. "Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent heroin overdose on Sunday, was just one of hundreds of New Yorkers who fall victim to this drug each year. Heroin-related deaths increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012 in New York City and occur at a higher rate — 52 percent — than overdose deaths involving any other substance," Hoffman, emergency physician at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, writes. "I rarely see victims die of heroin overdose because most fatalities occur before patients get to the hospital. Overdoses often take place over one to three hours. People just slowly stop breathing; often they are assumed to be sleeping deeply, or they are alone," he explains. "The most frustrating part is that each of these deaths is preventable, because there is an antidote to heroin overdose that is nearly universally effective." Naloxone "can be administered via needle or as a nasal spray, and it works by displacing heroin from its receptors in the brain and rapidly restoring the overdose victim to consciousness and normal breathing," Hoffman writes.

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Republican healthcare proposals. "Last week, Republican Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, and Orrin Hatch unveiled a healthcare proposal – or, at least, a close approximation of one. Conservatives hailed it as a seminal event, the moment when the Republican Party would finally dispel the accusation of mindless obstructionism and assert its full equal status as a vessel for serious health-care policymaking," Chait writes. Still, "the moment has not arrived." Chait explains, "Within hours of the new plan coming into contact with political reality, things began to fall apart. The general outlines of the plan involved deregulating health insurance, so that healthy customers paid less for cheaper plans and sicker customers paid more, and shifting the tax burden off the wealthy and onto the middle class." Justin Green, the web editor at Washington Examiner, tweets, "Methinks is overthinking this."

Andrew Cohen at Politico on the death penalty. "Attorney General Eric Holder may have put some attention on capital punishment in America last week with his announcement that the Justice Department would seek to execute Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But further from the national spotlight, a truer representation of the roiling nature of the death penalty played out late last Wednesday evening in an execution chamber in Bonne Terre, Missouri," Cohen argues. Convicted murderer Herbert Smalls was executed before all his legal rights were exhausted. "It's not supposed to happen that way," Cohen writes. "This is just the latest episode suggesting a level of chaos, a form of lawlessness even, in the administration of the death penalty in America. Other examples abound and include the continued execution of the 'mentally retarded,' (an outdated term the Court continues to use) which was supposed to be outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2002 but which is occurring anyway." Former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin tweets, "The US doesn't do 'legal' killings well (this time it's the death penalty, not drones)."

Alex Pareene at Salon on why the Left should embrace the CBO report. "Much of this week’s political debate centered around that most exciting of topics: A Congressional Budget Office report. The report in question concerned the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans initially argued that the report said the ACA would 'destroy' millions of jobs. That was a misinterpretation: It said that many Americans would voluntarily work less as a result of healthcare reform," Pareene explains. "So that became the problem: The ACA will encourage sloth and dependence! This line has resonated among certain political pundits, but I don’t expect it to win many elections. When even Ron Fournier can grasp that it’s a good thing that Americans will eventually be less dependent on employment for health insurance, there’s no excuse for any other pundit, no matter how braindead [sic], to fall for Republican spin," he argues. And "it’s also ridiculous to imagine that many able-bodied, working-age Americans will outright quit working altogether thanks to this slight improvement on our meager welfare state. Man cannot live on subsidized health insurance alone." Next City writer Bill Bradley tweets this line: "People should be free from shitty jobs."

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