Five Best Monday Columns

Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen on Obama's struggle to win support for a Syria strike, David Carr on the questionable prosecution of Barrett Brown, Choire Sicha on the New York City That Got Away, Cory Doctorow provides an easy way to warn about government surveillance, and Laura Helmuth cites the importance of grandparents.

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Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen at Politico on Obama's struggles to win over Congress The legitimacy and credibility of President Obama's presidency depend on convincing Congress to approve a Syria attack, but even Obama's supporters are hesitant to go along with the military strikes. "But the grim reality for Obama is that his reservoir of personal capital on Capitol Hill is running dry," Brown and Allen write. Greater personal involvement with House Democrats could help Obama's case, as the authors note that Democrats are well aware that their former colleagues have not been taken care of by the White House after contentious votes on Obamacare and the stimulus. "Chickens coming home to roost for Pres. Obama? Slighted Democrats," tweets National Journal's national correspondent Ron Fournier. And BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith seems doubtful of that plan's success, as the article "channels a pretty exotic White House case for unity on Syria."

David Carr in The New York Times on Barrett Brown's questionably illegal link "Journalist-agitator" Barrett Brown faces more than 100 years in prison for reposting a link to a treasure trove of leaked documents, some of which included stolen credit card and security data. "But keep in mind that no one has accused Mr. Brown of playing a role in the actual stealing of the data, only of posting a link to the trove of documents," Carr writes. "Much of what he did is legal & protected by 1st Amdmt," tweets The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, whose reporting on Edward Snowden's stolen NSA documents could theoretically be prosecuted under the same grounds as Brown's case. "The DOJ believes that retweets are endorsements  — actually, that retweets are treason of a sort," tweets The Guardian editor Heidi Moore.

Choire Sicha in New York on the New York City that could have been New York City just isn't as great now as it was — or could have been — back before the money came in, Sicha writes in an ode to the Big Apple at the turn of the millennium. "But if New York City is better than ever — and we think it is — then why does it suck so bad?" he asks. "Now New York seems like every little thing in it is beyond priceless, and nothing will ever be yours." For Sicha, economic segregation has made New York lose its combination of entertainment, mayhem, and magic. "I couldn’t help but wonder, like an aging Carrie Bradshaw: Does everyone else daydream about the New York That Got Away?" Sicha writes. "I do. Every single day," responds Helaine Olen, a New York-based personal finance writer for The Guardian, just one of many New Yorkers lamenting the old city. "Too late to start a Choire-Sicha-for-mayor write-in campaign?" tweets New York Times higher education reporter Ariel Kaminer.

Cory Doctorow at The Guardian on silence as an NSA warning sign Companies are not allowed to announce when they have been served with a government or NSA order to reveal information on their clients, but they may be allowed to be conspicuously silent. To warn their clients, Doctorow thus suggests that companies use a "dead man's switch," in which they constantly announce something like "THE FBI HAS NOT BEEN HERE (watch very closely for the removal of this sign)," and then remove that notice if the government has been there. "If the law is perverted so that we cannot tell people when their security has been undermined, it follows that we must find some other legal way to warn them about services that are not fit for purpose," Doctorow concludes. "Here's Cory @Doctorow with a brilliant solution for foiling NSA sabotage," tweets Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian reporter whose work with Snowden's classified documents puts him at the forefront of the current national security stories. "Really good solution for uncompromised URLs from @Doctorow," tweets David Galbraith, the tech designer behind key innovations for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, who advises that he "could run this as built in browser proxy e.g. 'httpsh://' ."

Laura Helmuth at Slate on the vast importance of grandparents The rise of the human civilization can be traced to about 30,000 years ago, when, for whatever reason, grandparents became more common. "A lot of skills that allowed humans to take over the world take a lot of time and training to master, and they wouldn’t have been perfected or passed along without old people," Helmuth writes of her study of anthropologist and paleontologist research. "Old people made humans human," she adds. "Compelling argument that populations with more old folks, lower infant mortality is more humane, civilized," tweets Dr. Nicholas Genes, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

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