Five Best Friday Columns
Karin Klein on the dangerous, underpaid lives of Everest's Sherpa guides, Phoebe Gavin on the U.S. Army's new regulations for black female hair, David Brooks on the Thomas Piketty phenomenon, Esther Breger on why TV should stop treating mental illness as a superpower, John Dickerson on why Rick Perry's scandal may help him.
Karin Klein at The Los Angeles Times on the dangerous, under-paid lives of Everest's sherpa guides. “Just go home, climbers. The adventure of scaling Mt. Everest is not as important as the concerns of the Sherpa guides who lost 13 of their own — three more are missing and presumed dead — in an avalanche. Many climbers already are showing respect for the Sherpas' situation, packing up for the year. But a few have indicated that they still plan to climb,” Klein writes. “Climbing Everest is a luxury undertaken only by those with $30,000 to $100,000 to spend on what most of us would consider a nonessential trip. The guides receive a very small chunk of that. But for now, any team that insists on going ahead with the climb must know that it's being widely viewed as a group of rather spoiled, privileged brats.”
Phoebe Gavin at the Guardian on the U.S. Army’s new regulations for black female hair. “When the Army updates AR 670-1, every soldier takes notice. But this time around, many female soldiers of color had to plan an expensive trip to the beauty salon. Why? Because this change to the Army's regulation of uniforms effectively outlawed afros, most braids and all twists. For men and women without exposure to the cultural behemoth that is black hair, this probably doesn't seem like a big deal. I can assure you that it is,” Gavin writes. “Rolling back these changes would have no negative impact on the professionalism or safety of female soldiers of color. They will continue to lead, train and fight for their country. And they will be able to do so wearing the hair that grows out of their heads.” The Guardian’s Martin Hodgson tweets, “The US military has very detailed regulations on hair braiding”.
David Brooks at The New York Times on the Thomas Piketty phenomenon. “Many people join the political left driven by a concern for the poor. But, over the past several years, the Democratic Party has talked much more about the middle class than the poor. And into this fray wanders Thomas Piketty. His book 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' argues that the real driver of inequality is not primarily differences in human capital. It’s differences in financial capital.,” Brooks writes. “Inequality is not driven by young hip professionals who arm their kids with every advantage and get them into competitive colleges; it’s driven by hedge fund oligarchs. Well, of course, this book is going to set off a fervor that some have likened to Beatlemania. The reaction to Piketty is an amazing cultural phenomenon. But it says more about class rivalry within the educated classes than it does about how to really expand opportunity.”
Esther Breger at the New Republic on why TV should stop treating mental illness as a superpower. “Catherine Black, a celebrated neurologist and the main character of ABC’s risible ‘Black Box’ is known as 'the Marco Polo of the brain.' She’s so good at understanding the intricacies of the brain because—irony!—there’s something wrong with her own brain. She has a secret: she’s bipolar. But ‘Black Box,’ debuting Thursday night, offers a glaring example of one of pop culture’s most noxious tropes: mental illness as superpower,” Berger writes. “Catherine explains to her psychiatrist that her manic episodes are 'a freaking rocket ride'— but they mostly just involve dancing in the moonlight to smooth jazz. The show’s particular absurdities are all its own, but 'Black Box' is part of a long line of fictions that treat psychological disorders as a professional asset.” Wittenberg University’s Michael Anes tweets, “Didn't watch but agree wholeheartedly. Devastating piece on Black Box & other shows”.
John Dickerson at Slate on why Rick Perry’s scandal may help him. “The Texas governor is thinking about running for president again and he’s been on an extended reboot to get himself ready to make the final decision. Lately, though, there has been speculation that his plans might be derailed by a grand jury investigation into whether he abused the powers of his office. What about the allegations? That’s a pretty safe question to ask of Republican governors thinking about running for president in 2016,” Dickerson writes. “Could this be Perry’s Bridgegate? No politician wants a special prosecutor on the prowl. Like Christie, Perry must sweat it out while the prosecutor hunts. But unlike Christie, Perry has a story that works in his favor.” CNBC’s Dan Mangan tweets, “The taffy story of the day. Huuuuuge stretch”. Politico’s Blake Hounshell tweets, “Kind of weird that there isn’t more interest in the Rick Perry scandal?”