Jeff Lindsay on Our Obsession with Serial Killers. "I make my living writing about a serial killer," writes Jeff Lindsay, who wrote the book on which the Showtime series "Dexter" is based. He adds: "It’s a pretty good living... I found that amazing: I had done the darkest, least lovable thing I could think of, and a whole genre was there ahead of me... People, I realized, like to read about serial killers." However, "bodies turn up in real life and it isn’t funny anymore." But even though real life serial killers like the Long Island serial killer are not "lovable" like Dexter, "We read more — we can’t help it. We’re sickened and disgusted, but we need to know." Eerie though this sounds, he theorizes that "this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We don’t become evil because we dwell on it. In fact, one reason we gawk is to reassure ourselves that we could never do such a thing... You can’t know; but by watching, you know it could never be you. I think that’s good. We can’t deny that evil exists — but it’s not who we are. And the existence of evil implies its opposite: there is good, too."

Tim Rutten on the Appeal of Fugitives. It's not just serial killers who captivate us. Tim Rutten writes about the continuing appeal of fugitives from the law like Whitey Bulger. "There's something about the fugitive experience that holds our lawless imaginations in thrall, and with a capture of this sort, a dim candle gutters out somewhere in our private romantic firmaments." From Robin hood on, we see a glamor to "a life lived beyond the reach of authority." He notes that in actuality, "there's absolutely nothing about Whitey Bulger even vaguely romantic or slightly sympathetic... It's fascinating, moreover, to see how this undercurrent of sympathy persists in the face of what seems to be inevitably deflating reality." He goes in so far as to point out that "the similarity to that 'other' fugitive recently brought to well-deserved justice — Osama bin Laden... As it turns out, he was — like Bulger — hiding in what amounted to prosaic plain sight." Part of this has to do with our idea of "the fantasy of pursuit." In truth, "those efforts are sometimes far less fearsome than they seem." Neither Bulger nor Bin Laden were exactly hidden away in the middle of nowhere. "None of the sensible among us entertains the least sympathy for murderous thugs like Bulger, let alone a creature like Bin Laden," writes Rutten. Nonetheless, "it's the fantasy of the fugitive life that resonates."

John Avlon on the Gay Marriage Tipping Point. "If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere," writes John Avlon on New York's historic passage of the Marriage Equality Act. "There is the sense that this legislative victory marks a tipping point in the larger civil rights fight for marriage equality across the nation." When Democrats controlled the state Senate two years ago, a same-sex marriage bill went down to a "devastating" defeat, 38 to 24. For Avlon, "It is worth appreciating just what changed in the past two years to make this historic vote possible." First, "public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of recognizing same sex marriages... To some extent, the politicians were following the people." Second, "the coalition that rallied in support of marriage equality in New York was broad-based and bipartisan. Republican donors provided critical early funding." Finally, "Governor Cuomo made passage of this legislation a personal priority, tying the passage of property tax caps and rent regulations to a public vote on marriage equality... He balanced the budget on time and without raising taxes. He passed a property tax cap and much-needed ethics reform. Marriage equality was the capstone of this productive legislative session."

David Ignatius on the 'Long War' on Islamic Extremism. "Gen. John Abizaid used the phrase 'the long war' to describe America’s battle with Islamic extremism after Sept. 11, 2001," David Ignatius writes. He adds, "When I first heard him say it in the dark days of 2004, as Iraq was spiraling downward, I had the feeling that it would last for most of our lifetimes." Obama's desire to withdraw American troops thus makes sense, "not because the turbulence is over but because big American expeditionary forces aren’t the right answer." Although Ignatius finds Obama's policy to not be without its faults ("I’m scratching my head about the logic of his timetable,") he agrees with the larger theme. "This period of expeditionary wars does need to come to an end — not just because America is weary and broke but because the dialectic of history has brought the world to a new place." However, what remains worrisome to Ignatius is the new reliance on "killing machines," the "Predator drones and the 'capture or kill' night raids" through which "America has found a way to punish its enemies without risking large U.S. casualties." Obama concluded that "this counterterrorism side of counterinsurgency works far more reliably than the uncertain, nation-building side." While this "makes sense as an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and as a continuing check against al-Qaeda," America should "understand that this is a dark face of war — something perilously close to combat by assassination. It needs more debate before it’s elevated to a cornerstone of American strategy."

Charles M. Blow on the Cost of Poverty. James  Baldwin once wrote "“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” Charles Blow in turn writes that "Baldwin was referring to the poor being consistently overcharged for inferior goods. But I’ve always considered that sentence in the context of the extreme psychological toll of poverty." In the current economy, Blow looks at the psychological effect of poverty. He notes that "the Pew Research Center released a poll that showed how disillusioned low-income people have become. Those making less than $30,000 were the most likely to expect to be laid off or be asked to take a pay cut. Furthermore, they were the most likely to say that they had trouble getting or paying for medical care and paying the rent or mortgage... But at least those numbers include people with incomes. A vast subset is chronically unemployed and desperately searching for work." In light of this, he seems bewildered by "the current election-cycle obsession to balance the books with a pound of flesh, which is being pushed by pitiless Republicans and accommodated by pitiful Democrats... Until more politicians understand — or remember — what it means to be poor in this country, we are destined to fail the least among us."