Five Best Wednesday Columns
Ana Marie Cox on why Republicans can't be green, Derrick Z. Jackson on the reason for Wyoming's rejection of national science standards, Michael O'Hanlon on Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Richard A. Friedman on why doctors can't identify killers, Alexander Stille on the other victory in the European Parliamentary elections.
Ana Marie Cox at the Guardian on why Republicans can’t be green. “Ask Americans about ‘global warming’, and a new study suggests that 13% more of them will think it's a bad thing compared to ‘climate change’. That, it turns out, was Republicans' point: way back in 2002, a Republican pollster warned candidates and then-President George W Bush to avoid using the term ‘global warming’ because people found it ‘frightening’. Since then, the debate about 'climate change' has become a cultural battle and, out in the field, Republican midterm candidates are engaged in a contest to become its most strident deniers,” Cox writes. “Of course, believing in climate change (let alone pushing policy solutions on its behalf) is Republican heresy, and Bob Inglis, former South Carolina Congressman, paid for it: in 2010, he lost his primary to tea party challenger Trey Gowdy. And the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (on which he once served) has, in the past two years, held more hearings on the possibility of extraterrestrial life than climate change.”
Derrick Z. Jackson at The Boston Globe on the reason for Wyoming’s rejection of national science standards. “There is nothing gentle about the spasm of ignorance that continues to prolong national inaction on climate change. The Wyoming legislature refused to approve the national standards because it was afraid they would turn children against the state’s coal and oil industry. State education board chairman Ron Micheli told the Casper Star-Tribune he does not accept climate change as a fact and that the new standards are ‘very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development.’ Meanwhile, South Carolina is considering adding guidelines to soften the references to climate change,” Jackson writes. “One reason we are not universally concerned is because we are not universally informed. In Wyoming, Micheli said he opposed the science standards because they do not teach ‘the cost-benefit analysis’ of controlling climate change. With each state that denies science, the nation moves closer to the tipping point where the cost is beyond control.”
Michael O’Hanlon at Politico on Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.“What are we to make of President Obama’s decision, assuming formal approval later this summer from the next Afghan president, to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the current NATO mission finishes this year—but then to cut that figure in half by the end of 2015 and reduce it virtually to zero by the end of 2016? First, I would like to commend the president for taking an approach on Afghanistan that he has generally avoided until now,” O’Hanlon writes. “Americans have fought shoulder to shoulder with Afghan partners for years despite the difficulties, because the cause was just and the stakes high, because the enemy was ruthless and cruel, because as a result the international coalition included the largest number of countries in the history of warfare. On Sunday, for the first time in quite a while, Obama made these kinds of arguments with enthusiasm.”
Richard A. Friedman at The New York Times on why doctors can’t identify killers. “Mass killers like Elliot Rodger teach society all the wrong lessons about the connection between violence, mental illness and guns — and what we should do about it. One of the biggest misconceptions, pushed by our commentators and politicians, is that we can prevent these tragedies if we improve our mental health care system. It is a comforting notion, but nothing could be further from the truth. And although the intense media attention might suggest otherwise, mass killings — when four or more people are killed at once — are very rare events. In 2012, they accounted for only about 0.15 percent of all homicides in the United States,” Friedman writes. “If we can’t reliably identify people who are at risk of committing violent acts, then how can we possibly prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who are likely to kill? Would lowering the threshold for involuntary psychiatric treatment, as some argue, be effective in preventing mass killings or homicide in general? It’s doubtful.”
Alexander Stille at The New Yorker on the other victory in the European Parliamentary elections. “The extraordinary success of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, in France, and of other right-wing, populist parties has, with good reason, been the main story of last weekend’s European Parliamentary elections. But Sunday’s election also produced another surprising, historic result, which has received much less attention: in Italy, Matteo Renzi, of the Democratic Party, won forty-one per cent of the vote, the largest total ever for a left-of-center party in Italy, a curious countertrend on a day marked by the advance of the right,” Stille writes. “Put simply, Renzi’s victory in Italy further highlights the distinctive failings of Hollande in France. The countries that have done the best in recent years are outside the euro zone and/or—as with Germany, Sweden, and Denmark—have undertaken painful structural reforms, finding a reasonable balance between a flexible job market, increased competitiveness, and the traditional security of the welfare state.”