• Saroop Ijaz on Reforming Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws  "It is almost an accepted fact now that the war on terrorism, both globally and in Pakistan, cannot be won by military might alone," writes the human rights activist in the Los Angeles Times. In order to isolate the Taliban, there must be a push for reforming institutional biases in the Pakistani legal system. Namely, the the blasphemy law--which forbids "derogatory remarks" from being made directly or indirectly about the prophet Muhammad, and which was at the root of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer's assassination Monday--must be repealed in order to have any hope of a secular and tolerant Pakistan. Introduced in the 1980s by General Zia ul-Haq as "part of his broader effort to Islamize laws," these rules have victimized minority communities (like Pakistani Christians) and inhibited hopes of eradicating Islamic fundamentalism. Legal reform may strip the "moral authority and public sympathy" away from the Taliban. "And the international community is well placed to demand change," Ijaz figures, "given Pakistan's extraordinary reliance on foreign support."
  • Thomas Jones on Facebook Friends and Bullies  The Guardian contributor laments the reality of what Facebook has done to the Internet. The initial promise of cyberspace was a world of anonymity where "the fat kid with glasses who was bullied at school wouldn't be overweight or shortsighted, because those categories wouldn't exist." Facebook, which Jones suggests may be more popular than Google, is more of an extension of one's real life, where you share practically everything about yourself including photographs, than an anonymous realm where people can reinvent themselves. Jones calls the notion of being "among friends" on Facebook an "illusion" and concludes that it's "all very well, but it does mean that the overweight kids in glasses get bullied there too."
  • James C. Ho on Birthright Citizenship  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the Texas solicitor general argues that conservative challenges to the 14th Amendment at the state level smack of hypocrisy. Immigration reform activists "cannot claim to champion the rule of law and then, in the same breath, propose policies that violate our Constitution." Pursuing the issue at a federal level would have been the smarter legal strategy. "U.S. citizenship is the unique province of the federal government," Ho explains. "It does not take a constitutional expert to appreciate that we cannot have 50 different state laws governing who is a U.S. citizen. As a result, courts may very well strike down these state laws without even invoking the 14th Amendment. The entire enterprise appears doomed to failure."
  • Kathleen O'Brien on Chris Christie's Snow Day  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has defended his decision not to cut short his vacation and return to the state before last month's blizzard, saying "my number one priority is to be a husband and a father." That's all well and good for Christie, writes the Newark Star-Ledger columnist, but a female politician could never get away with using family as an excuse: "Her political career would be toast. Crispy, blackened, set-off-the-smoke-detector toast." Yet male politicians remain free to play the husband and father card. "After all," O'Brien writes, "who doesn't love a family man?"
  • James Stevenson's New Yorker Op-Art  James Stevenson recounts his journey from The New Yorker's summer office boy to a full-time cartoonist in The New York Times this morning. Stevenson hand-writes his experience, complete with cartoon illustrations, in the voice of the 16-year-old who nervously rode the elevator to The New Yorker's offices, took orders from the hat-wearing Miss Terry, avoided eye contact with anyone important-looking, and sharpened pencils for a never-present E. B. White in the summer of 1945. As a married adult with children, the narrator maintains the same innocent voice to recall the details of his meeting with the magazine's Santa Claus-looking art director and a brief encounter with William Shawn in which the editor offered Stevenson a cigarette from an empty box and sent him on his way to begin his career for the magazine.