Kathleen Parker on the Density Divide The Washington Post columnist has recently been living in New York City, and the former "smallish town girl" has discovered that living in a high density area entails succumbing to lots of rules. "Simply put, the more people cram themselves into small spaces, the more government will be involved in their lives," she writes. But all these sometimes-necessary rules that are intended for the "common good" can often overstep basic boundaries. She uses Mayor Bloomberg's ban on trans-fats (which affects her "cable guy," who likes to eat doughnuts) as an example: "shouldn't the cable guy have the right to be stupid? Every now and then?" This is the "fundamental area" where Republicans and Democrats currently square off, she concludes: "At what point is the common good bad for people?"
Farhad Manjoo on Why Writers Obsess Over Apple and Google A recent, "obvious" Pew Research Center study found that Apple and Google dominate coverage in the tech press, and the results serve as as reason for the Slate columnist to explain why he writes about the companies so often. By his own reckoning, Manjoo figures that 25 percent of the articles he has written for Slate have been about Apple, and the attention hasn't been unwarranted: "tech reporters like to write about Apple for the same reason that political reporters like to write about Sarah Palin--it surprises us, constantly confounding our expectations." Despite critics who say that the tech giants get too much coverage, they house the innovators who will be inventing what technology we consume in 2015, he insists.
Brian Whitaker on the Heavy Price of Blogging in Iran Hossein Derakhshan, one of Iran's most prominent bloggers, has been jailed 19 years for his writings, and The Guardian columnist pauses to discuss his plight. The "shocking" sentence, which was apparently for, "spreading propaganda against the establishment," illustrates how things work in the Middle East. "Blogging can get you a heavier sentence than commissioning a murder," observes Whitaker. "Much, of course, depends on who you are, what you represent, and the strength of your wasta (connections)."
Janel Lynch on Growing Up in Boston Lynch, a student in Boston's METCO program, which enables inner-city students to attend suburban schools, writes a first-person Boston Globe account of how difficult it is to deal with a cycle of crime and poverty that can make education feel like an afterthought. Even physical removal from the city has its limits. Lynch recalls the fear of returning at the end of the school day: "I knew that once 2:50 p.m. hit, I would be back to face my enemy after a 45-minute bus ride." Lamenting friends who were killed by violence or incarcerated, she concludes with a pledge addressed to the city: "I will end my last year in high school on honor roll; and I will never leave you. My goal is to reform you and make you a positive city."
Holman Jenkins on 40 Years of Energy Panic The Wall Street Journal columnist reflects on 40 years of energy panic in the United States, concluding that "the most mischievous and misleading trope in American politics is the idea that our energy supplies are in danger, that foreigners are out to get us, that a crisis is upon us." It's not that energy concerns aren't valid, contends Jenkins, but they've helped bring about an unhealthy culture of fear regarding shortages. "Americans might be more amenable to modest energy taxes to fight global warming (if that's your cup of tea)," says Jenkins, "if not preached into constant fear of energy shortages." Instead of worrying about access to oil, we'd be better off acknowledging that "the global oil market has proved to be anything other than what it is: robust, reliable, unfailing, if frequently volatile."