Five Best Sunday Columns

On FBI investigations, drug cartels, and Father's Day for sperm donors

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The New York Times Editors on the Obama's Privacy Policy at the FBI. "When it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism," writes the Times, "the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did." In particular, "Obama’s Justice Department is getting ready to push the proper bounds of privacy even further." Three years ago, Michael Mukasey "issued rules changes that permit agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use highly intrusive methods" and "let the bureau go after people identified in part by race or religion." But, "incredibly, the Obama administration thinks Mr. Mukasey did not go far enough." The Times offers some examples of the further erosion on privacy rights: "Currently, surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets, may be used only once during an assessment. The new rules will allow repeated use." The new rules "expand the special rules covering 'undisclosed participation' in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant." Additionally, they also "remove the requirement of extra supervision when public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars are investigated for activities unrelated to their positions, like drug cases." The Times concedes that "everyone wants to keep America safe. But under President Bush and now under President Obama, these changes have occurred without any real discussion about whether the supposed added security is worth the harm to civil liberties."

Nicholas D. Kristof on Morocco's Arab Spring. "Perhaps no Arab ruler responded as wisely to this year’s pro-democracy protests as the king of Morocco," opines Nicholas D. Kristof, though he admits that this is "an exceptionally low bar." King Mohammed VI "grudgingly accepted demonstrations, at least when he was in a good mood" and "on Friday the king announced constitutional reforms that seem likely to reduce his own role in governing the country." While Morocco remains "repressive and utterly undemocratic" and a "police state," at least people dare call it that openly, according to Kristof. That may sound like faint praise, but Kristof notes that in his conversations with protesters in Morocco, he keeps "noting how much better off they are than those in Syria or Yemen." For the protesters themselves, however, they keep noting "how repressed they are compared with Americans or Europeans." But with the king's reforms, which include "a supposedly independent judiciary, a prime minister with increased powers, and official recognition of the minority Berber language," the country is at least moving away from autocracy, although "not nearly creating the democracy that protesters want." Still, the Moroccan government now seems at a turning point, and "if he moves over time toward turning Morocco into a British-style limited monarchy, that might be a historic step from a stormy Arab Spring to a balmy Arab summer."

Brett Arends on the Benefits of a Serious Dose of Inflation. The news last week that the official inflation rate had surged to 3.6% in May resulted in alarmed markets, and stocks were sold off. But Arends asks about inflation, "is this news as bad as it sounds?"  He argues that "what really ails the U.S. economy" isn't "a lack of consumer confidence, or sluggish exports or worries about Greek government bonds. It's the debt." So how do we get out of this? "The last time we were in this kind of trouble was, of course, the Great Depression. And what really cured the problem was World War II." Arends writes that "the most visible way it cured the problem was by injecting a massive amount of inflation into the U.S. economy... Inflation cures a debt hangover. It may be the only known cure. The reason? The value of the debt stays the same in dollars, but there are more and more dollars to go around and pay the debt off." Even though "we love it when prices fall," deflation "is a disaster. Deflation is what happened to the U.S. in the Great Depression." On the other hand, "inflation of 7% a year for five years would reduce the real value of our national debt by nearly one-third." There is some good news for us, namely, the  "surging inflation in China, including very high wage inflation. London-based hedge-fund manager Crispin Odey, one of the world's most successful investors, says the U.S. economy won't really pick up until we see that cross the Pacific."

William C. Rempel on the Mexico's Anarchic Drug Lords. William Rempel notes how one of the greatest triumphs of the war on drugs was the crushing of Colombia's Cali cocaine cartel, "once the richest and most powerful crime syndicate in the world," which "fell as a direct result of U.S.-led law enforcement and diplomatic pressure." But triumph though it might have seemed at the time, it actuality "the giant cartel's collapse left a power vacuum, and Mexican drug gangs are still fighting, with often grisly methods, to determine who will fill it." Rempel appears to make the point that a well-organized drug cartel might reduce violence ("it preferred bribery to violence in the normal course of business") and at the very least provide order: "Millions of cartel dollars were spent building community police stations. The bosses financed a hospital and a law library. They owned and operated Cali's professional soccer team. In a nod to civic sensibilities, they refrained from carrying out most contract killings within the city limits." Nonetheless, "what made the Cali cartel most dangerous, and the greatest menace to U.S. interests, was the way it bought off the Colombian government." In Mexico's relative anarchy, in comparison, "there is no evidence that Mexican drug gangs are financing presidential elections. Traffickers are not picking who runs the national telephone company. And gangland lawyers aren't drafting legislation to block extradition of their bosses." Nonetheless Mexico remains "in jeopardy," and unless "cocaine demand and its enormous trafficking profits fall, drug war successes are likely to generate similar patterns."

Colten Wooten on a Father's Day Plea to Sperm Donors. Wooten learned that he had been conceived through artificial insemination at the age of five. Later in life, he decided he wanted to learn who his father was. But when he called the agency, he was told "that no files were saved for anonymous donors," so they had no information for him. He writes: "I understand why fertility centers chose to keep sperm donation anonymous. They were attempting to prevent extra chaos, like custody battles, intrusion upon happy families (on either party’s side), mothers showing up on donors’ doorsteps with homely, misbegotten children with runny noses and untied shoelaces to beg for child support. It’s entirely reasonable, and yet the void that many children and young adults born from artificial insemination experience from simply not knowing transcends reason." He argues that "babies born of the procedure in the future should have the right to know who their donors are, and even have some contact with them. Sperm donors need to realize that they are fathers."

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