Five Best Wednesday Columns
Leon Wieseltier on the emptiness of data journalism, Doyle McManus on how Putin's actions play in Russia, Sarah Kendzior on U.S. foreign policy's gender gap, Maureen Dowd on the contrast between the mayors of New York and Los Angeles, Paul Waldman on why the GOP won't change.
Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic on the emptiness of data journalism. “I wish to say a word or two in defense of “bullshit.” That is Nate Silver’s meticulously chosen term—he does nothing imprecisely—for opinion journalism. The state of American punditry is not strong. A lot of it is lazy, tendentious, and lost to style. But Silver’s outburst is nonetheless a slander,” Wieseltier writes. “Is numeracy really what American public discourse most urgently lacks? Neutrality is an evasion of responsibility, unless everything is like sports. Like Ezra Klein, whom he admires, Nate Silver had made a success out of an escape into diffidence. What is it about conviction that frightens these people?”
Doyle McManus at The Los Angeles Times on how Putin’s actions play in Russia. “Last week, before Vladimir Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea to Russia, I asked a leading Putinologist, Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, what the Russian president was likely to do. 'He's on the offensive,' she said. 'In his view, he's got the advantage. He doesn't seem likely to stop now.' In a defiant speech, the Russian president said the action merely restored Crimea to its motherland,” McManus writes. "Putin's central goal as president, Hill said, is to restore Russian influence over as much of the territory of the old Soviet Union as possible, beginning with Ukraine."
Sarah Kendzior at Al Jazeera on U.S. foreign policy’s gender gap. “The dearth of women in US foreign policy is a subject of continual interest, mostly because it never changes. When lists of intellectuals are made, women tend to appear in a second-round, outrage-borne draft. Female intellectuals gain prominence through tales of their exclusion,” Kendzior writes. “What accounts for women's exclusion? There are two problems. The first is perception, which translates into respect. The second is money, which translates into opportunity. The first problem is a gender problem (and a race problem). But the second problem is shared by everyone - or almost everyone. It is the "almost" that is itself the problem.”
Maureen Dowd at The New York Times on the contrast between the mayors of New York and Los Angeles. “The tremors may have had morning TV anchors diving under the desk, but it takes more than a 4.4 quiver to rattle Eric Garcetti. Critics say that Garcetti’s most vivid move in office so far — working for one day at a red metal table in a parking lot in Boyle Heights, a Latino neighborhood — was a stunt that only a high school class president would deem clever,” Dowd writes. “He has been a stark contrast to New York’s new Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has been highly visible but abrasive and obsessive about one cause: funding a pre-K program by taxing the wealthy. While de Blasio came to power belittling Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, Garcetti went to Manhattan before he was sworn in eight months ago to seek out Bloomberg’s advice.”
Paul Waldman at The American Prospect on why the GOP won’t change. “Exactly one year ago, a committee of Republican party bigwigs issued the report of its 'Growth and Opportunity Project,' better known as the 'autopsy.' It was always going to be a tricky thing to accomplish, both because the GOP is, in fact, made up in large part of grumpy old white guys, and because 'outreach' can only go so far if you aren't willing to change the things you stand for,” Waldman writes. “And even in the upcoming presidential election, the non-old-white-guy-outreach may not look all that important. As Jamelle Bouie notes, things like the economy and President Obama's popularity at the end of his term are going to matter much, much more than whatever outreach has been accomplished.”