Five Best Thursday Columns

E.J. Dionne, Jr. on Dick Cheney's Iraq op-ed, Philip Delves Broughton pines for the way soccer used to be, Emma Brockes doubts on Amazon Fire phone’s, Nelson Lichtenstein on how the South is moving backwards, Jo Anne Bader remembers the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

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E.J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washington Post on Dick Cheney's Iraq op-ed. “The infinitely valuable Yiddish word chutzpah is defined as ‘shameless audacity’ or ‘impudence.’ It’s singularly appropriate for the astonishing op-ed from former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz that was published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. It’s not every day that a leader of the previous administration suggests that the current president is a 'fool' and accuses him of intentionally weakening the United States. ‘President Obama seems determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch,’ the Cheneys write. Are they charging our president with treason? ‘President Obama,’ they write, ‘is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.’ Squandered our freedom?” Dionne Jr. writes. “The Cheney polemic would be outrageous even if our former vice president’s record on Iraq had been one of absolute clairvoyance. As it happens, he was wrong in almost every prediction he made about the war. Thanks to the Cheney op-ed, we can see how Obama’s hawkish critics are out to create a double standard.”

Philip Delves Broughton at The New York Times pines for the way soccer used to be. “It’s wonderful that America has fallen in love with World Cup soccer, as it plays out across the greenswards of Brazilian host cities like Natal, Manaus and Curitiba. But as someone who grew up in England in the 1970s and ’80s, I still can’t take seriously this idea of soccer as a wholesome multicultural bauble, the sporting equivalent of the small-plate gastropub,” Delves Broughton writes. “England’s national team used to be made up of hard nuts willing to bleed for the country on the field and drink off it. I’m happy the players today are all listening to their nutritionists and thanking God for their blessings, but I wonder if ever there will be another Stuart (Psycho) Pearce to grace the England back four or a Paul (Gazza) Gascoigne to celebrate scoring by pretending to drink pint after pint of lager.” Journalist Lauren Davidson tweets, “A beautiful ode to the beautiful game's old days of hooliganism, before football became respectable and wholesome.” Journalist Andrew Griffin tweets, “This article appears to be calling for football to bring back the fascists.”

Emma Brockes at the Guardian doubts we’ll actually use the Amazon Fire phone’s fancy features. “When Amazon launched its much anticipated new smartphone, the Amazon Fire, on Wednesday, most of the marketing emphasis revolved around feature creep – the exciting and potentially useless extension of the frontiers of phone innovation. Among what Forbes magazine called ‘an alluring ecosystem of apps and content’, the Amazon smartphone's new features include: cameras in all four corners of the device; ‘face-sensing’ technology to track your head and eyes as you use it; 3D images; and something called ‘Firefly’, a tab that allows users to point the phone at ‘over 100 million’ items to bring up information about what it is ‘seeing’. The question is: so what?” Brockes writes. “The technology may be new, but the promise implicit in the Amazon phone – that it will make you faster, sharper, smarter, more desirable – turns on a simple and age-old question of salesmanship. It doesn't matter if the only features you use are text, email, Facebook and Candy Crush. It is new and therefore must be worthwhile.”

Nelson Lichtenstein at Reuters on how the American South is moving backwards. “We used to call it the ‘New South.’ That was the era after Reconstruction and before the Civil Rights laws — when the states of the old Confederacy seemed most determined to preserve a social and economic order that encouraged low-wage industrialization as they fought to maintain Jim Crow. But the New South has returned with a vengeance, led by a ruling white caste now putting in place policies likely to create a vast economic and social gap between most Southern states and those in the North, upper Midwest and Pacific region," Lichtenstein writes. "Exhibit A is the refusal of every Southern state except Kentucky and Arkansas to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The Republican Party as a whole has made opposition to Obamacare virtually a fetish.Today 21 states have raised minimum wages higher than that of the federal standard of $7.25 an hour. But only two of these states, Missouri and Florida, border on the South."

Jo Anne Bader at The Miami Herald remembers the signing of the Civil Rights Act. “I awoke June 19 in my Cambridge apartment to finish packing and to fly to Washington for a friend’s wedding. But my focus was really on Capitol Hill, where the U.S. Senate was in the last stages of debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It appeared that the roll call vote would take place that day and I wanted to be there. Five days after Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced to a joint session of Congress: ‘We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights,’ Johnson said. ‘It is time now to write the next chapter — and to write it in the books of law.’ He made the passage of the bill a tribute to the memory of JFK,” Bader writes. “The clerk began the roll call. Our excitement mounted as each senator’s name was called until there were the necessary 51 ‘yea’ votes and then a final tally of 73 yeas to 27 nays. The gallery erupted into cheers and applause. It was the pivotal moment of what is still considered one of the most significant legislative achievements in U.S. history.”

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