Five Best Friday Columns

Gary Younge on Obama's Bush conundrum, Timothy Noah on the value of unpaid internships, Jamelle Bouie on the GOP's reformist movement, Roxane Gay on Paula Deen's charged testimony, and Christine Rosen on the ethics of big data.

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Gary Younge at The Guardian on Obama's Bush conundrum Can we blame President Obama for carrying the torch of Bush-era policies? Gary Younge considers the weight of empire resting on Obama's shoulders: "America did not come by ... power through its own innate genius. It acquired it, as do all empires, in no small part through war, invasion, subterfuge and exploitation. Spying and lying about it comes with the job description for which Obama applied and was reappointed." Younge continues: "None of this is inevitable. But changing it cannot be entrusted to a single person at the top. It will change because there is a demand from Americans that is both large in number, deep in commitment and active in pursuit, to enable a fundamental change in America's role in the world. That does not exist yet." Still, the evolved NSA programs seem to be documented differently. Richard Benedetto at RealClearPolitics writes: "While the news media have not shied away from covering the controversial program and its citizen-privacy ramifications, the style, tone and use of language are far different from the Bush days."

Timothy Noah at MSNBC on the value of unpaid internships Timothy Noah weighs the value of unpaid internships in the context of recent court rulings undermining their legitimacy, as well as larger economic and social forces: "Might this be the end of our modern free-labor apprentice system? If so, good riddance. Unpaid internships are hardly new—I had one myself back in the 1970s–but they’ve proliferated in recent decades. ... Unpaid internships were always kind of a racket, and as they’ve gotten more common they’ve become more so." He adds: "The unpaid-intern model has run its ignoble course. If Judge Pauley has dealt it a fatal blow, good riddance. And if he hasn’t—if other judges fail to follow suit, or if he’s reversed on appeal—then that’s a pity. Interns are workers, and workers are supposed to get paid." As for the class dynamics of internships, Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic writes: "Broadly speaking, unpaid internships don't seem to hurt the poor because they're out of reach. Instead, they're too in reach. Middle class and poor students are choosing to work for free, even if they can't really afford it. And it's not at all clear that sacrifice is paying off."

Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect on the GOP's reformist movement Can GOP leaders forge a new path for their embattled party? After reading Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's much-discussed Politico op-ed, Jamelle Bouie wonders whether change is possible. "Change-hungry Republicans have no shortage of smart analysis ... and convincing rhetoric; both Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, for instance, can speak well on the need to emphasize economic mobility and the concerns of ordinary people," he writes. "But it’s hard (if not impossible) to find elected officials who will support the substance of reformist critiques. And with the ascendance of right-wing libertarianism as a “governing” philosophy, I doubt they’ll be able to find someone who can stand as an advocate." Buffy Wicks at The Daily Beast highlights the GOP's stance toward female empowerment: "Bad policy is bad policy and women voters can see through this. That is not the type of leadership women voters or this country want, need or reward. ... Sadly, today's Republican Party lacks any understanding of the struggles women face today."

Roxane Gay at Salon on Paula Deen's charged testimony Roxane Gay explains the uproar over the recently published deposition of cooking show host Paula Deen, focusing on her comments about African Americans. "This entire debacle reveals that there are unspoken rules around racism. There is a complex matrix for when you can be racist and with whom. There are ways you behave in public, and ways you behave in private," she writes. "There are things you can say among friends, things you wouldn’t dare say anywhere else, that you must keep to yourself in public. In her deposition, for whatever reason, Deen decided to break these rules or ignore them. Maybe she knew she was rich and successful enough that the rules, frankly, no longer apply to her." James Poniewozik at Time assents: "Deen didn’t just insult black people ... she insulted the present-day south and the decent people in it; she insulted the fans who wanted to like her food and TV shows and not be embarrassed; and she insulted the home-and-hospitality culture she purports to stand up for."

Christine Rosen at Slate on the ethics of big data "Our increasing surveillance capabilities, coupled with the rise of Big Data, have not as yet been matched by a sustained effort to craft ethical rules for digital human subject research," says Christine Rosen, after tracking the ways large amounts of data have been used to augment social systems. "Safeguards are erected in piecemeal fashion, if at all, and questions about what informed consent even means in this environment are left largely unanswered." She concludes by asking, "Are there alternatives to intrusive technological surveillance?  ... When and how should we create structures to provide ethical review and oversight of these technologies? In the era of Big Data, we are all potential research subjects." Andre Mouton at USA Today analyzes the temptation at play: "Big data is now used to foil terrorist attacks, and to decide elections. It might just as well be used to win a war. For governments and businesses both, it has become something irresistible."

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