Five Best Friday Columns

Roger Cohen on Obama and the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Brian Fairbanks on the political implications of a beard, B.R. Oppenheimer on NASA's funding crisis, Zaid Jilani on the Georgia Democrat that has the GOP scared, Andrew Leonard on the Libertarian tinge of Silicon Valley.

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Roger Cohen at The New York Times on Obama and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. “What kind of figure will Obama cut at Omaha? I wish I could say he will cut a convincing figure. But Obama at bloody Omaha, in the sixth year of his presidency, falls short at a time when his aides have been defining the cornerstone of his foreign policy as: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff.’ Americans do not respond well to doctrine defined in negative terms. As citizens of a nation that represents an idea, they are hard-wired to the optimism of that idea. Since when did the can-do nation become the can-avoid nation?” Cohen writes. “He falls short at a time when Syria bleeds more than three years into the uprising. Obama falls short at a time when Vladimir Putin, emboldened by that Syrian retreat and the perception of American weakness, has annexed Crimea — the first such land grab in Europe by a major power since 1945. He falls short, also, when the Egyptian dreams of liberty and pluralism that arose in Tahrir Square have given way to the landslide victory of a former general in an 'election' only a little less grotesque than Assad’s in Syria.”

Brian Fairbanks at the Guardian on the political implications of a beard. “America was shocked enough this week that one of its own would be coming home after five years in Taliban captivity. But then, last Saturday afternoon, there was President Obama standing beside a solemn gentleman who bore more resemblance to a Sasquatch than a Middle American dad. The collective horror stemmed from a singular source: the unkempt, untrimmed and un-hip beard of Robert Bergdahl, the father of hero/traitor Bowe, who has sparked his own, far more serious controversy this week,” Fairbanks writes. “Although my beard, now trimmed to a more presentable shape, is far less controversial than Bob Bergdahl's, I nonetheless took it rather poorly when Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade offhandedly said the Terroristic Beard made its owner ‘look like a member of the Taliban’.” Journalist Talia Whyte tweets, “Why is Faux News harping on Bergdahl's dad's beard? What's wrong with looking Muslim, as if there is one way to look.”

B.R. Oppenheimer at The Los Angeles Times on NASA’s funding crisis. “Although America was not the first country to launch a satellite into orbit, it has, for more than half a century, pioneered the exploration of the universe from the advantageous perspective that sensors, robots and telescopes offer once they are off-world. This priceless knowledge is a result of the dedicated effort of thousands of people over several decades. It could not have been achieved without the resources and forward-thinking mentality that NASA enables. Today, however, our country's political climate has put this groundbreaking work in jeopardy,” Oppenheimer writes. “There are 10 current missions. When we heard what the guidelines were, we were horrified. We estimated that NASA was operating many of these missions at a level that was below 2% of the initial construction and launch expenses. In the next few years, this mission operating budget is projected to fall to less than 40% of this year's value.” UC Berkeley astrophysics Professor Joshua Bloom tweets, “Drastic funding woes lead NASA to ‘simply collecting data but not analyzing it.’”

Zaid Jilani at Al Jazeera America on the Georgia Democrat that has the GOP scared. “The Republican Governors Association (RGA) was clearly worried about news that Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter, grandson to former governor and president Jimmy Carter, was outpolling incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. In late May, the organization bought more than $500,000 worth of airtime for an attack ad in the Peach State. The ad’s narrator says ‘Obamacare’ five times and accuses Carter of wanting to ‘expand’ it,” Jilani writes. “Actually, Carter has been critical of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, saying it was a ‘mess.’ He insists, however, that Georgia should take the federal dollars offered as part of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and utilize them either to expand Georgia’s Medicaid program or to subsidize the health exchange market, which is what Arkansas and Kentucky did.”

Andrew Leonard at Salon on the Libertarian tinge of Silicon Valley. “Marc Andreessen is a major architect of our current technologically mediated reality. So when the man tweets, people listen. And, good grief, right now the man is tweeting. Since Jan. 1, when Andreessen decided to aggressively reengage with Twitter after staying mostly silent for years, @pmarca has been pumping out so many tweets that one wonders how he finds time to attend to his normal business,” Leonard writes. “On June 1, Andreessen took his game to a new level. In what seems to be a major bid to establish himself as Silicon Valley’s premier public intellectual, Andreessen has deployed Twitter to deliver a unified theory of tech utopia. In seven different multi-part tweet streams, adding up to a total of almost 100 tweets, Andreessen argues that we shouldn’t bother our heads about the prospect that robots will steal all our jobs. Technological innovation will end poverty, solve bottlenecks in education and healthcare, and usher in an era of ubiquitous affluence in which all our basic needs are taken care of.”

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