Paul Greenberg on the Gulf Spill, Oysters, and Passover In today's New York Times, Paul Greenberg shares his somewhat controversial decision to add an oyster to his Seder plate last night, noting that the start of Passover falls on the one year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He likens the oil spill to one of the 10 plagues remembered on Passover, as its effects--not even fully realized--have already been detrimental to Louisiana's people, economy and the Gulf's ecosystem, with possibly 80 percent of oyster beds, crucial for water filtering, killed off. He suggests, for those who don't want to taint their Seder plate with an un-kosher shell fish, adding a dish of oil to the table. "In doing so remember that in A.D. 2010, the Jewish year 5770, humanity damaged a valuable, nourishing ecosystem to maintain the tyranny of oil," he urges. "Until we throw off that tyranny, we will mark many more plagues in the years to come."
Peggy Orenstein on the Ineffective 'I <3 Boobies' Campaign Yes, breast cancer awareness is a decent goal, but "given," writes Orenstein in today's Los Angeles Times, "that each October everything from toilet paper to buckets of fried chicken to the chin straps of NFL players look as if they have been steeped in Pepto-Bismol, I think that goal has long since been met." Trendy, sexed-up campaigns urging women to "Feel Your Boobies" contradict expert conclusions that breast self-exams are virtually ineffective and, she argues, by "fetishizing women's breasts" instead of the women themselves, they alienate the cancer's actual victims. Young people who care about breast cancer should volunteer their time at cancer centers, with the children of cancer patients, or fundraise for families who've lost they're key earner. "Because, among other things, the idea that you are taking action merely by wearing a titillating bracelet is not a great life lesson."
David Brooks on Understanding the Trump Phenomenon David Brooks explains that Donald Trump is one of a certain kind of character in our society, played often by "the abrasive rich man" who does not conform to social conventions, but rather says exactly what he thinks, acts exactly how he feels, and is followed loyally for it. By embracing a presidential run, Trump "is actually riding a deep fantasy: the hunger for the ultimate blowhard who can lead us through dark times." His uninhibited displays of success differentiate him from the reserved elite who have long run the country, making him "more at home with the immigrants and the lower-middle-class strivers, who share his straightforward belief in the Gospel of Success." Though Brooks doesn't think Trump will become president, nor would he ever vote for him, he admits, "I would never want to live in a country without people like him."
Cathy Young on Misappropriating Ayn Rand Cathy Young argues in today's Boston Globe that the aspects of Atlas Shrugged being touted by conservatives, and most recently in the new film version of the book, focus on the worst parts of Ayn Rand's ideology: "extremism, paranoia, and ideological intolerance." Young, a self-described "moderate libertarian conservative with a longtime interest in Rand's work," believes Atlas is one of Rand's worst books. Rand's heroes are unabashed capitalists and individualists while her villains are a mix of sensitive needy-helpers and those who cut corners to get ahead. "She consistently and viciously demonizes the people and ideas she disagrees with, reducing them to grotesque caricatures and easily shredded straw men," a factor that "unfortunately, makes her too good a fit for today's political environment."
Jen Singer on the Benefits of Chocolate Milk Jen Singer, editor of mommasaid.net, airs her grievances with a push to ban chocolate milk in public schools in The Wall Street Journal. After joining her second grade son for lunch at his school cafeteria, Singer observed that the majority of the food available for kids was unhealthful. She points out that, while chocolate milk does contain sugar, it's also a helpful tool in getting picky eaters to consume calcium. Singer argues that what those, like TV chef Jamie Oliver, who aim to get rid of chocolate milk in schools "seem not to realize is that targeting chocolate milk while there are still 'Honey Buns'--some sort of iced lard item that I witnessed at Lunch with Your Second Grader--is like running around blowing out candles while your house is on fire. You might say we have bigger fish to fry first."