Hampton Sides on Martin Luther King, Sinner Sides, the author of "Hellhound on His Trail," a narrative history of King's assassination, argues on the anniversary of King's assassination that we do a disservice to both to his legacy and to ourselves by remembering him as a saint and not a man. King was a human being like the rest of us: "flawed, vulnerable, uncertain about the future, subject to appetites and buffeted by the extraordinary stresses of his position," he says, noting that King took up drinking, smoking, and more than one mistress. That's not to take anything away from his drive for civil rights, but Sides reminds us how our hagiography reflects poorly on ourselves: "By calling our heroes superhuman we also let ourselves off the hook: Why do the hard work of bettering the world if that’s something only saints do? What made King's eloquence so ferocious and his courage so stirring was that, like the Memphis garbage workers he came to represent, he was a man."
The Wall Street Journal on Friends and Enemies in the Middle East Facing potential allies in the Middle East, we are often presented with a choice between "the bad--and the bad," The Journal's editorial board declares. The editors argue that we need a more clear understanding of who are friends and foes truly are. While Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar have all made "marks of friendship that deserve reciprocal treatment," the Journal says, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are vital allies that present a more complicated situation to the U.S. On Syria? "U.S. interests would also be well-served by the collapse of the Assad regime, which would deprive Tehran of its major Arab client, deprive Hezbollah of one of its principal backers and save Lebanon from once again becoming a province of Greater Syria." Overall, the Journal argues, the "U.S. can pursue a strategy in this Arab spring that combines calculations of national interest with the promotion of freedom." Though Obama faces a complicated, ever-shifting situation in the Middle East, "Mr. Bush's vision looks largely vindicated, even if the execution of his policies was often flawed."
James Surowiecki on the Power of Distraction You know all those studies that have documented how many billions of dollars in productivity might be lost to the distractions caused by March Madness in offices nation-wide? The New Yorker's James Surowiecki.offers a counter-argument. Though "there's no doubt that the Internet has made it much easier--and more entertaining--to slack off at the office," he says, "sometimes, it turns out, you have to take your eye off the ball in order to hit it." He cites numerous studies that demonstrate how a little intermittent mindlessness may paradoxically increase focus. Offices that go about restricting internet-use among employees, or blocking specific sites like Facebook and Twitter might be acting against themselves. His solution? Updating the coffee break for the modern era, and scheduling times for workers to access those nifty little cat videos.
Ross Douthat on the G.O.P's 'Empty Stage' Where are the 2012 Republican candidates for President? Sure, there's a large field of dark horse, spoiler, and vanity candidates, Douthat writes in The New York Times. But given that the G.O.P's "biggest names and brightest lights are mainly competing to offer excuses for why they won't be running in 2012," Douthat says that the "right's opportunity"--created out of deep popular dissatisfaction with Obama--"could easily be lost." He looks to a similarly-positioned Republican party in 1996, when Bob Dole got the nod out of a "mediocre primary field." The results were disastrous.
David White on Why Your Liquor Costs So Much Last month, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah introduced a bill to the House that would allow states to enforce protectionist laws in regards to liquor sales that would benefit the wholesale liquor industry, says White, the editor of the wine blog Terroisist, in The New York Times. Because of post-prohibition era laws that have created a class of middle men in the form of wholesalers, "it is estimated that ... consumers pay 18 percent to 25 percent more at retail than they otherwise would," he notes, citing a Wired article. The proposed bill in Congress would make things worse, White argues, particularly regarding wine sales. "Instead of burdening consumers by foisting more restrictions on alcohol sales, lawmakers should free the market and expand consumer choice by scrapping this bill and letting wholesalers know that it won't be considered again."