Five Best Monday Columns
Eduardo Medina Mora on the arrest of 'El Chapo' Guzman, Simon Jenkins on Putin's handling of the Ukraine crisis, Willa Paskin on True Detective's female characters, Laura Bennett on Piers Morgan's cancellation, Rob Stephenson on bizarrely named graduate courses.
Eduardo Medina Mora at The Washington Post on the arrest of ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. “The arrest of Joaquin Guzman, the most notorious criminal in Mexico’s history, immediately made international headlines, but just as significant as his detention were the reasons that led to his capture. The crime and violence that surged in Mexico some years ago originated from weakened security and justice institutions, the loss of public spaces in communities and the consequent breakdown of the social fabric — issues that were aggravated by lack of economic and educational opportunities,” writes Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “In the end, the meaning of the detention of Joaquin Guzman is two-fold: Mexican forces arrested the biggest emblem of drug trafficking and violence of our time, and they achieved this victory through the use of intelligence, not force. That is an important sign of what is happening in Mexico.”
Simon Jenkins at The Guardian on Vladimir Putin’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. “Even before the final ceremony Putin was entombed in his Moscow bunker, bullying a client state of the old Soviet empire to do his bidding. One minute he was embracing his adored skating champion, Yulia Lipnitskaya, the next he was screaming down the phone at Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych to suppress the Kiev uprising by whatever means it took, however murderous,” Jenkins writes. “How Putin plays this crisis will decide his fate as sophisticated statesman rather than kleptomaniacal bully. He prepared the ground for Sochi with some deft diplomacy in Iran and Syria. He was revelling in the west's ham-fisted debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that was arm's-length politics. No slaloms, somersaults and double axels will guide him out of this one.”
Willa Paskin at Slate on True Detective’s female characters. “True Detective, let me concede upfront, does not come close to passing the Bechdel test. The show opens with the violated body of a dead woman crowned with antlers, and it has consistently objectified the naked bodies of the young women Marty has slept with—particularly during Sunday night’s extended, groaning, porny sequence with Beth. The other women on the show have been mistresses, prostitutes, corpses, or some combination thereof, most of them barely memorable,” Paskin writes. “Presenting women as a parade of scolds, sluts, and the strung-out typically makes me hate a television series. But I love True Detective. When it comes to women, True Detective is undeniably shallow—but I think it’s being shallow on purpose.”
Laura Bennett at The New Republic on why Piers Morgan couldn’t last. “From the beginning, Piers Morgan Live was a pure bid for ratings, designed as the antidote to Larry King’s bland likeability. Yet somehow the show spent nearly its whole time on the air gasping for ratings. It reeled in as few as 50,000 viewers in the 25-to-54 year-old demographic earlier this week for a show featuring Rudy Giuliani and coverage of the violence in Kiev,” Bennett writes. “Morgan was a genius of tabloid journalism because he was shameless: in his reporting, but perhaps even more so in his self-promotion, publishing ego-tripping memoirs and name-dropping relentlessly. It’s easy to see why his controversial style looked at first like a potential win for the struggling network. But when he set his journalistic sights on gun control — regardless of the validity of his arguments or the incisiveness of his questioning — his high dudgeon managed to seem like the thinnest veneer for the boosting of his own brand.”
Rob Stephenson at The Los Angeles Times on bizarrely named graduate courses. “From January to March, the academic calendar is dominated by the admissions process. You can find me this time of year poring over hundreds of grad school applications. In my 10 years of reading such applications, I have borne witness to an alarming trend: the increasingly bizarre course names listed on transcripts. What, exactly, does someone learn in a course called Finding Myself (and should I worry that the student got an F?),” Stephenson writes. “Try to decipher what students who took courses in Stupidity (Occidental College), Daylighting (MIT) or Self-Esteem (Cal State Fresno) might have studied. Too clever to be useful: Some titles are often very clever and intriguing. See, for example, Sex, Rugs, Salt and Coal (Cornell), Those Sexy Victorians (Ole Miss), and the Amazing World of Bubbles (Caltech). While I would gladly sign up for any of these courses, they don't exactly offer a reviewer much insight into what the student might have learned.”