Five Best Friday Columns

Jonathan Chait on yet another Republican getting prosecuted, Andrew Rossi on how student debt, Becca Heller on why the U.S. shouldn’t abandon those who helped in Iraq, Tony Horwitz on the pitfalls on being a digital best seller, Jonathon Green on the FBI’s attempts to crack slang codes.

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Jonathan Chait at New York on yet another Republican getting prosecuted. “In the wake of Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat, Republicans had at least one consolation: a deep bench of presidential contenders, including several governors with a proven ability to win majorities in blue states. Unfortunately, a large number of them appear to be criminals. Prosecutors yesterday alleged that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker directed a 'criminal scheme' to violate the state’s campaign finance laws,” Chait writes. “The announcement by prosecutors in Wisconsin raises several disconcerting possibilities for a prospective Walker candidacy. The worst possibility is that he will be convicted of running a criminal scheme. A second, less-bad possibility is that he will avoid prosecution, perhaps by Republican judges who see the first Amendment as carte blanche to violate any and all campaign finance laws.” ThinkProgress’ Jeff Spross tweets, “‘If nothing else, all this might give another boost to Republicans’ growing interest in sentencing reform.’ #SickBurn’ Media Matters’ John Whitehouse tweets, “Carelessness comes naturally to those who believe that government should have no role in anything.”

Andrew Rossi at The Boston Globe on how student debt crushes the college dream. “At the movies this summer, you’ll find blockbusters that deal with college, including ‘Neighbors’ and ‘22 Jump Street.’ Both feature classic depictions of the American campus: frat bros chugging beers at raucous parties and during spring break escapades. But these films won’t explain that of the characters played by Zac Efron, Dave Franco, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, at least two of them will graduate with an average of $33,000 in debt. Amid a tepid post-recession economy, over half of student loans have been deferred, and defaults are on the rise as more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed,” Rossi writes. “More troubling is the shift in the philosophy around higher education. Americans have come to view college as a path to private benefit rather than a public good which contributes educated citizens to our democracy. We need legislation on that grand scale to address the student loan crisis. But today’s political climate is unlikely to yield that result.”

Becca Heller at The Washington Post on why the U.S. shouldn’t abandon those who helped in Iraq. “I lead a group of lawyers representing more than 500 Iraqi refugees whose lives depend on resettlement to the United States. Among them are Iraqis whose work as military interpreters, journalists or human rights activists allied with the United States have made them targets for militants. Since the fall of Mosul last week to the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, we have received numerous e-mails like the one above from clients who can do nothing but watch in horror as swaths of Iraq fall under jihadi control,” Heller writes. “Six years after Congress passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act to provide safe passage and protection to U.S.-affiliated Iraqis, tens of thousands of people remain stuck in the bureaucracy or have been rejected for reasons that are often either unspecified or nonsensical. There is no way to formally request that a case be expedited, either because of a life-threatening medical emergency or whole cities falling to radical jihadists likely to kill anyone they find with a U.S. affiliation.”

Tony Horwitz at The New York Times on the pitfalls on being a digital best seller. “Five months ago I published a short book called ‘Boom.’ Commercially it was a bust. No news in that: Most books lose money and are quickly forgotten by all but their wounded authors. But this experience wasn’t just a predictable blow to what’s left of my self-esteem. It’s also a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers,” Horwitz writes. “Physical books live on physical shelves at physical bookstores and can catch the eye of browsing shoppers. ‘Boom’ was floating in the digital ether with millions of other works. Online journalism pays little or nothing and demands round-the-clock feeds. I also question whether there’s an audience large enough to sustain long-form digital nonfiction, in a world where we’re drowning in bite-size content that’s mostly free and easy to consume.” The Washington Post’s Ron Charles tweets, “Brilliant, witty, sad piece by Tony Horwitz about his experience w e-publishing.” The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle tweets, “Well, at least Byliner led to some really good NYT op-eds.”

Jonathon Green at The Telegraph on the FBI’s attempts to crack slang codes. “The FBI has always liked to anatomise the language of those whom it pursues. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request from the website, it transpires that the Feebs have been doing their best. Textspeak, typically used on social media, is seen as the big secret slang today. Now Edgar Hoover’s heirs have assembled some 83 pages of what they term ‘Twitter Shorthand’. As a lexicographer, I must tip my hat. As a human being and Twitter user, I have to wonder,” Green writes. “The thing is, of course, that while the collector ages, slang maintains an enviable consistency. I hope to see 67 next year; slang is 16 and ever more shall be so. The gap is large. Dare I suggest that for the FBI it may be even larger? The bulk of their entries are acronyms, sometimes quite lengthy: IOWAN2BWU – I only want to be with you, and HITULThtILuvU? – Have I told you lately that I love you?, to mention a couple popular in that well-used texting application, online flirting or, as the wags have it ‘textual intercourse’. Like those above, they seem very forced, risible even. How many people actually understand such strings? And how often are they actually brought into communicatory play?”

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