• David Brooks on the Limits of Policy The New York Times columnist plays to his strengths in a cogent discussion of the cultural, ethnic and geographic factors that limit the effect of government policies. Highlighting the most radical differences these factors create ("The average Asian-American in New Jersey lives an amazing 26 years longer and is 11 times more likely to have a graduate degree than the average American Indian in South Dakota"), Brooks contends: "When you try to account for life outcome differences this gigantic, you find yourself beyond narrow economic incentives and in the murky world of social capital." Policy-makers, then, should be aware their actions--and rhetoric--are mostly for naught:
Finally, we should all probably calm down about politics. Most of the proposals we argue about so ferociously will have only marginal effects on how we live, especially compared with the ethnic, regional and social differences that we so studiously ignore.
  • Eugene Robinson on the Myth of Drug Violence  The Washington Post columnist peers skeptically at the notion that spillover drug violence from Mexico necessitates crackdowns like Arizona's immigration law. Robinson notes that "law enforcement officials in border communities say this simply is not true." After dismantling a few more specious claims, he weighs various options for enforcing a realistic border-security strategy, and finds that there isn't really one: "The U.S.-Mexico relationship is vital, economically and politically, and the border has to be permeable enough to permit a massive legitimate daily flow of goods and people ... The answer is not a bigger wall. And the answer surely is not Arizona's shameful new law."
  • William Galston on Oil-Spill Responsibility  Writing in The New Republic, Galston digs through a number of reports and documents and finds a troubling pattern of corner-cutting in the oil industry, from which he draws a line to the present disaster in the Gulf. Who's to blame? Galston points a finger at a familiar bugbear for the left: the oil-services company Halliburton, which handled a procedure for BP called cementing, "identified as a leading cause of well blowouts." Halliburton reportedly has a culture of indifference to business ethics, and Galston can't shake the feeling that the recent oil spill is a direct result. "It's possible that my dark suspicions are baseless," he admits. "But... I hope that some entity--public or private--with the needed staff and resources will do what's necessary to get to the bottom of these questions."
  • Marc Cooper on an Atheist Justice With the anticipation of Obama's Supreme Court pick gradually intensifying, the Nation contributing editor and USC Annenberg Digital News director offers a "no-brainer" piece of advice in the pages of the Los Angeles Times: the next person to take the bench should be an atheist. Almost counter-intuitively, Cooper cites founder intent, noting that Thomas Jefferson "liked what Jesus, the man, stood for, but could definitely do without the rest of the bunk." "Having an atheist justice, however, would not primarily be a matter of identity politics and some sort of equal representation," asserts Cooper. "Rather, a nonbeliever justice would be a mighty blow in favor of the secular principles of 'reason and freedom' of which Jefferson spoke."
  • Bret Stephens on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Mixing policy analysis with snarky jabs at foreign and domestic targets alike, the Wall Street Journal columnist slams the NPT for failing to deter Middle Eastern countries from trying to go nuclear while attacking states like Israel. "[The NPT] enshrines a status quo that is 40 years out of date," mutters Stephens, who also goes after President Obama for his stance on nuclear weapons.
Now Iran, in connivance with the usual Middle Eastern suspects (and their useful idiots in the West), is trying to use the NPT as a cudgel to force Israel to disarm. That makes perfect sense if you subscribe, as Mr. Obama does, to the theology of nuclear disarmament. It makes no sense if you think the distinction that matters when it comes to nuclear weapons is between responsible, democratic states, and reckless, unstable and dictatorial ones. Nobody lies awake at night wondering what David Cameron might do if he gets his finger on the U.K.'s nuclear trigger.