Outlook & Opinions

Spring is fast slipping away -- and you still need to go through your closets, basement and kitchen drawers and get rid of all that random stuff you haven't used or worn in years. But what about a little spring cleaning for your brain, your country, your world? Outlook asked a dozen writers, thinkers and doers to each suggest one thing we'd all be better off without. From virginity to tactical nuclear weapons to exit polls, here are their answers:

Vote among Outlook's candidates and suggest your own -- we'll highlight the most interesting entry next week. Also, check out our "Spring Cleaning" list from 2009.

Fine print

America is drowning in fine print. From mortgage applications to television commercials, those tiny letters obscure the terms of a contract and mislead consumers, contends Harvard Law School's Elizabeth Warren. Let's ban them from all agreements.


Promise rings, chastity pledges and other efforts to keep teenagers from having sex aren't jut ineffective -- they put kids in harm's way. It's time, writes feminist blogger Jessica Valenti, to lose virginity.

Exit polls

Karl Rove hates exit polls -- absolutely hates 'em. Why? Because the former top adviser to President George W. Bush thinks they made the 2000 election closer -- and more contentious -- than it needed to be.

Tactical nukes

It's great that Washington and Moscow are reducing their stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons, but there's no reason to hold on to those "tactical" nukes that were supposed to back up our troops during a Cold War showdown. Besides, asks military thinker John Nagl, why risk having them fall into terrorist hands?

"Washington Week"

This long-running Friday night PBS show exemplifies much of what is wrong with political journalism, argues media critic Jay Rosen, reducing news to permanent campaigns and politics to an end, not a means.

Internet memes

Instead of having fun on the Internet, we now compete to show our awareness of the latest online craze. Instead of instant nostalgia, argues Onion editor Joe Randazzo, Internet memes give us manufactured zeitgeist.


They gulp down water, petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, and they jeopardize local biodiversity. Actor and activist Ed Begley, Jr. tells why he ripped his lawn out.


Why listen to party hacks drone on about the big issues of the day? Instead, suggests Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, people with real expertise should get their turn on the airwaves.

High-stakes tests

Tests used to measure a student's mastery of the material. But now, worries historian Diane Ravitch, we've made them a source of punishment for teachers, schools and districts. This is not smart education.

Computer keyboards

The computer keyboard and mouse have introduced billions of people to the digital experience. But according to technology journalist Kara Swisher, they have now become an antiquated obstacle to a new kind of computing.

Carbon offsets

In theory it sounds great: Set up a market system that offset pollution in one part of the world by limiting it elsewhere. If only it could ever work, laments environmentalist Mike Tidwell.

The Congressional Budget Office

The CBO is revered in Washington, with its economic analyses constituting holy writ. The only problem, complains political economist James K. Galbraith, is that its forecasts are pretty much pulled out of thin air.

What do you think? Click here to leave your comments.
Here are ten things we suggested getting rid of last year.
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