Online Opinion Outpost: Feb. 10, 2015


The Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Barbarian logic
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

Why did they do it? What did the Islamic State think it could possibly gain by burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot?
I wouldn’t underestimate the absence of logic, the sheer depraved thrill of a triumphant cult reveling in its barbarism. But I wouldn’t overestimate it either. You don’t overrun much of Syria and Iraq without having deployed keen tactical and strategic reasoning.
At first glance, this seems to make no sense. The savage execution has mobilized Jordan against the Islamic State and given it solidarity and unity of purpose.
Yes, for now. But what about six months hence? Solidarity and purpose fade quickly. Think about how post-9/11 American fervor dissipated over the years of inconclusive conflict, yielding the war fatigue of today. Or how the beheading of U.S. journalists galvanized the country against the Islamic State, yet less than five months later, the frustrating nature of that fight is creating divisions at home.
Jordan is a more vulnerable target because, unlike the U.S., it can be destabilized.
The time is not right today. Jordanian anger is white hot. But the danger is that as the Jordanians attack — today by air, tomorrow perhaps on the ground — they risk a drawn-out engagement that could drain and debilitate the regime, one of the major bulwarks against radicalism in the entire region.


Breaking public trust
Roxanne Jones, CNN

Much of America, including myself, are having a hard time understanding how NBC news anchor Brian Williams could possibly have “misremembered” whether he was actually aboard a Chinook helicopter forced down by rocket fire during the Iraq invasion in 2003. Instead, Williams inserted himself into the story. He made himself the hero and for that he should be held accountable. After finally being called out earlier this week by the real heroes of that day who risked their lives, Williams now has a different recollection: He was not on that plane, but on another one that landed later.
Williams’ admission, 12 years later, came after crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor was “nowhere near that aircraft or the two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire.”
It’s a sad day for journalism and the public. When journalists believe that misremembering is a legitimate excuse for misleading the public — it’s time to get a new job.


Tinder defense
Eli J. Finkel, The New York Times

Is the smartphone revolution sullying the online dating world?
The new paradigm is a mobile app like Tinder. You quickly browse photos on your phone, swiping to the right if the photo appeals, to the left if it doesn’t. If the attraction is mutual — that is, if both of you have swiped right — you might try to set up a date for, say, five minutes later.
Critics complain that Tinder is a hookup app. But this is a false dichotomy.
The first faulty idea was that you could get a sense of your compatibility with a potential partner through profile browsing.
The second faulty idea was that effective matchmaking algorithms could be based on information provided by individuals who were unaware of one another’s existence. Predicting whether two people are romantically compatible requires the sort of information that comes to light only after they have actually met.
Yes, Tinder is superficial. But this approach is at least honest and avoids the errors committed by more traditional approaches to online dating.


Airline fees
USA Today

Consumers didn’t like it when companies started tacking on fuel surcharges after the price of oil shot up to $145 a barrel in 2008. But at least those charges made some sense: Airlines, delivery services, taxi companies and others that use a lot of fuel were getting clobbered. And the charges were portrayed as temporary. When the price of oil fell, the surcharges would come off, right?
Even though fuel prices have dropped dramatically, many of those surcharges are sticking around.
At least the big package delivery companies prominently post their fuel fees online, adjust them regularly and say they charge separately for fuel because it’s such a volatile commodity.
Airlines are another matter.
You have to go to a special website to see that domestic carriers are still adding hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges to the cost of international flights.
What’s going on is a demonstration of what most consumers already know: Once a fee goes on, it hardly ever comes off. Now that fuel prices are down, airlines defend the surcharges by insisting that other costs have gone up. Do the surcharges cover fuel, peanuts, airsickness bags, the price of a new Boeing?
Who knows?

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