Five Best Thursday Columns

Daniel W. Drezner on GirlsJosh Barro on CPAC, Richard Kim on wealthy asceticism, Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler on the prosecution of Bradley Manning, and Douglas Rushkoff on our relationship to computers.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Daniel W. Drezner at Foreign Policy on Lena Dunham's foreign policy "The true TV connoisseur," declares Daniel W. Drezner, "appreciates that the most insightful television show about world politics airing right now is, obviously, Girls." Drezner takes the HBO sitcom's underlying structure (young things making their way in post-aughts Brooklyn) and its various plots (like Marnie losing her job) and uses them to illustrate the global balance of power. For example: "Hannah Horvath, a struggling young writer ... clearly represents the United States in all her fading hegemony." A wider view holds, too: "The central journey in Girls is how immature people fumble their way toward maturity," Drezner writes. "The parallels to world politics here are surprisingly strong — after all, sovereign states are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history, so national polities also possess some immaturity."

Josh Barro at Bloomberg View on the problem with CPAC The Conservative Political Action Conference — which commences today — exists to unite and organize the conservative movement. But, Josh Barro writes, it's become something of a joke. "CPAC is not as important as the news media often makes it out to be. Its attendees are largely college Republicans and grumpy retirees: the sort of people with the time and inclination to spend a couple of weekdays listening to stump speeches at a conference hotel outside Washington," he observes. Citing one panel he served on a few years ago — "easily the dumbest, most poorly organized panel discussion I've ever been involved in" — Barro admits that CPAC can focus media attention, however briefly. "If the things you plan to do at CPAC won’t be televised, you can afford to skip it."

Richard Kim at The Nation on Graham Hill's asceticism On March 9, The New York Times published a curious op-ed by Internet millionaire Graham Hill on living with less, which was almost immediately scorned for equating simplicity — or at least a lack of clutter — with virtue. Richard Kim assesses the flaws of Hill's argument, which amounts to the "gospel that Americans are spending increasingly untenable amounts of money on stuff and this is what’s making us (as households and as a nation) both bankrupt and unhappy." Instead, Kim writes, "the incomes of most Americans haven’t soared like Hill's; they've stagnated. And within those depressingly static budget lines, most Americans don’t spend more and more of their money on stuff; they can’t afford to. Quite the opposite, they have to spend it on school and doctor’s visits."

Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler in The New York Times on Obama's whistleblower policy The prosecution of Bradley Manning — the Army private who furnished WikiLeaks with thousands of classified documents, including the infamous "Collateral Murder" footage, and who may face a lifetime in prison — sets a "chilling precedent" for government whistleblowers, write Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler, who take to task the prosecution's theory that Manning "aided the enemy" by publicizing documents that could "be read by anyone with an Internet connection" — including al Qaeda operatives. "You don't have to think that WikiLeaks is the future of media, or Private Manning a paragon of heroic whistle-blowing, to understand the threat," the pair argue, adding, "Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them."

Douglas Rushkoff in The Wall Street Journal on our relationship with computers We like to think of computers in the same way as pets — things we train and control to improve our lives. Taking stock of today's work and life habits, Douglas Rushkoff comes to the opposite conclusion: "Instead of teaching our technologies to conform to our own innate rhythms, we strive to become more compatible with our machines' timeless nature." In other words, computers are not becoming more human; humans are become more like computers. "We want all access, all the time, to everything—and to match this intensity and availability ourselves: citizens of the virtual city that never sleeps." He doesn't advocate a clean break from technology, though, and even advocates technology which monitors, and helps exploit, the rise and fall and certain brain chemicals (like dopamine).  "While digital technology can serve to disconnect us from the cycles that have traditionally orchestrated our activities, it can also serve to bring us back into sync."

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