Five Best Thursday Columns
Jonathan Cohn on Starbucks and the fiscal cliff, Jacob Sullum on Adam Lanza and mental health, James Bessel on Chuck Hagel and Israel, Leonid Bershidsky on the new cold war, and William H. Janeway on American-made startups.
Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic on Starbucks In hopes of inspiring latte-sipping lawmakers to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff, yesterday Starbucks started writing "come together" on every cup it sells in the DC area. Cute effort, right? More like misguided, argues Jonathan Cohn. He thinks the issue isn't about two warring parties reconciling—it's about convincing the Republicans to quit hijacking the negotiation process. "One party, the Democrats, is already acting responsibly. And one party, the Republicans, is not," Cohn writes. "Washington doesn't need two parties that can 'come together.' It needs one party to 'get it together.' Maybe [Starbucks CEO Howard] Schultz should put that on a coffee cup."
Jacob Sullum in Reason on mental health With so many voices crowding the debate around gun violence, which issue should we be focusing on to prevent another horrible mass shooting like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary—gun control or mental health? Jacob Sullum remains skeptical about the latter. "Even if the mental-health criteria for rejecting gun buyers (or for commitment) were expanded, there is little reason to think [mental health professionals] could distinguish between future Lanzas and people who pose no threat," Sullum writes, citing data that says around half of Americans will become mentally ill at one point in their lives.
James Bessel in The New York Times on Hagel's pro-Israel critics One of the many camps that doesn't want to see Chuck Hagel become the Secretary of Defense includes the pro-Israel lobby. Groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel are already swinging at Hagel for remarks he made about the Jewish state years ago. "Support for the Jewish state remains strong among both parties on Capitol Hill and across the American electorate, and it won't disappear anytime soon," James Bessel writes. "But that support will wither if Aipac and other mainstream Jewish leaders don't forcefully reject the zealots in their midst."
Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View on Russia This time last year, Russia's dissidents seemed primed to remake the country, taming its corruption through massive protests. But 2012 hasn't seen those hopes borne out, argues Leonid Bershidsky. Instead, Vladimir Putin has squashed his opposition and launched "a new cold war" with the U.S. "By pushing back his opponents instead, Putin showed that, at 60, he still knows what cards to play with most Russians: traditional values, Orthodox Christianity, anti-Americanism," Bershidsky writes. "As a man deeply rooted in the Soviet past, he has fallen back on the old regime's tested recipes for suppressing dissent, and he has succeeded in annihilating the threat of peaceful revolution that seemed so real a year ago."
William H. Janeway in the Los Angeles Times on venture capital When it comes to juggernauts like Facebook and Spotify, Silicon Valley venture capitalists might not have built that, but they would say such innovations wouldn't have gotten built without their money. But one venture capitalist—William H. Janeway—wants to give credit to who really built the platform for all this development: government. "My colleagues and I and the entrepreneurs whom we backed were all dancing on a platform constructed by the federal government," Janeway writes. "Government cannot play the role either of entrepreneur or venture capitalist in creating the low-carbon economy. But entrepreneurs and venture capitalists cannot build this new economy by themselves."