Five Best Friday Columns

Michael Crowley on Congress' drone anxieties, Michael Hastings on waking up to drone realities, Jonathan Last on immigration filling the population gap, Ruy Teixeira on the population non-problem, and Jason Dorrier on job-stealing robots.

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Michael Crowley in Time on Congress' drone anxieties CIA director nominee John Brennan wasn't the only one who seemed nervous at yesterday's confirmation hearing. The members of Congress asking the questions also expressed their anxiety about the United States' growing reliance on drones in warfare both abroad and at home, argues Michael Crowley. "Congress has generally played a hands-off role on counter-terrorism policy under Barack Obama. But several members of the Intelligence Committee seemed frustrated with various aspects of the ongoing campaign against al Qaeda," Crowley writes. "The Brennan hearing may have shed little light on Obama’s likely next CIA director. But it might have been a sign that, when it comes to our long counter-terror campaign, a long-acquiescent Congress is finally getting restless."

Michael Hastings in Buzzfeed on waking up to drone realities And as Congress' awareness of drone warfare increases, so does the American public's — thanks to leaked Justice Department documents outlining the President's criteria for targeting suspected enemies, be they citizens or not. Taking stock of this moment, Michael Hastings writes, "This is The Drone Awakening many of Obama's fiercest civil liberties critics on both the left and right have been pushing toward: a public accounting of the legality and morality of a program that has gone on in secret for more than 10 years now." Though they've provoked much anger, Hastings cites experts who believe the the leaks were a "'CYA,' or cover-your-ass strategy," a way for the Obama administration to contextualize previous drone killings. But try as they might to continue the war on terror without resorting to disastrous ground wars, Hastings writes that mounting public pressure ensures that, "This problem isn't going away."

Jonathan Last in the Los Angeles Times on immigration filling the population gap The most important issue embedded in the immigration reform debate has little to do with fairness, argues Jonathan Last. Population growth hawks love arguing that domestic-born Americans simply aren't having enough babies, and that in order to stay economically competitive, we'll need to attract the workers of tomorrow from other countries. There's just one slight problem: countries like Mexico that have reliably sent huge waves of immigrants to the U.S. in the past also have declining birth rates, and will be less likely to contribute to our economic growth regardless of how we reform immigration. "The truth is that both liberals and conservatives have valid concerns about immigration's effect," Last writes. "But this political debate is shortsighted, and whatever policy choices we make will probably only matter in the near term. In the end, demography always wins."

Ruy Teixeira in The New Republic on the population non-problem Ruy Teixeira, however, doubts that demographic trends are as significant as Last makes them out to be. "According to Last, fertility decline will inevitably lead to population shrinkage, which in turn will inevitably doom us to economic stagnation and social breakdown," Teixeira writes, summarizing his book What To Expect When No One's Expecting. "If fertility levels really did constitute a looming disaster, and we had to confine ourselves to Last’s solutions, we would be in big trouble. Fortunately, the problem is far more manageable than Last believes and can be addressed effectively by the very things Last rules out — more immigration and more robust government programs. We are not doomed or even close to it."

Jason Dorrier in Singularity Hub on job-stealing robots There's been much freaking out over the rising role robots play in today's economy, and with unemployment at nearly 8 percent, it's tempting to blame machines. But Jason Dorrier wants to put these trends in a reassuring perspective. "Beyond the anecdotal, there is no good way of measuring technology’s broader speed or aggregate effects on the economy," he writes, arguing that automation is nothing new and that we simply can't tell how many jobs it has replaced. "Ultimately, technology frees us from one task so we can focus on another ... No job is secure from the coming robot invasion — not even the writing of news stories. But if robots taking over for humans in some realms allows us to pursue multitudes of new, creative, and as yet inconceivable paths … then long live the bots."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.