Five Best Tuesday Columns

Ai Weiwei on the NSA's behavior, Alex Pareene on Edward Snowden's personality, Michelle Cottle on Michelle Obama's second term, Chris Hughes on how we control technology, S.E. Cupp on young lung transplant recipients.

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Ai Weiwei at The Guardian on the NSA's behavior The Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei sees, in the NSA's widespread surveillance projects, more hints of his homeland's government: "In China, basically there is no privacy at all — that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity," he writes. "Of course, we live under different kinds of legal conditions — in the west and in developed nations there are other laws that can balance or restrain the use of information if the government has it. ... If we talk about abusive interference in individuals' rights, PRISM does the same. It puts individuals in a very vulnerable position. Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values." The similarities also shed light on China's relationship with the U.S., and whether it will extradite Snowden. "When conflict arises between China and the United States, the diplomatic resources in both countries tend to do a great job of quietly solving the problem," says Jonathan Galaviz at Forbes.

Alex Pareene at Salon on Edward Snowden's personality "The debate we're supposed to be having now is over whether or not our vast surveillance capabilities are constitutional, whether or not it operates with sufficient oversight, and why we entrust tens of thousands of private military contractors with access to potentially intimate details about anyone who uses a computer regularly," writes Alex Pareene, after taking stock of how prominent outlets are covering NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "The story of Edward Snowden is fascinating, and if and when law enforcement catches up with him his intentions and methods will certainly be worth arguing over, but right now it’s just an excuse to apply an idiotic cable news frame to the story." On TwitterForbes columnist Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry summed up the difficulty of such coverage: "It's possible to be a criminal AND a traitor AND insane AND right."

Michelle Cottle at The Daily Beast on Michelle Obama's second term What kind of First Lady is Michelle Obama? "Michelle Obama has never made secret her ambivalence about life in the White House," begins Michelle Cottle. "Sure, it’s swell that Barack could make history and push for a finer, fairer America. ... But the rest of it—the personal attacks, the media scrutiny, the Secret Service agents lurking about on date night—it all gets old pretty fast." This makes Obama's recent public appearances — including her confrontation with a heckler — ripe for scrutiny. Cottle continues: "While second terms typically provide an additional measure of freedom to first ladies—they’re more comfortable in the job, the public is more comfortable with them, they can finally stop worrying about getting their men elected to this or that office—Michelle Obama seems to be taking extra pleasure in her lame-duck status." At The Baltimore Sun, Liz Atwood praises the First Lady's absence from her husband's summit over the weekend with Chinese President Xi Jinping: "I imagine that now after more than four years of public ceremonies, Michelle Obama is willing to pass up a meeting with foreign dignitaries to spend time with the kids."

Chris Hughes at The New Republic on how we control technology Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes considers the inevitability of "big data": "Technologists see the rise of big data as the inevitable march of history, impossible to prevent or alter ... they say that we must cope with the consequences of these changes, but they never really consider the role we play in creating and supporting these technologies themselves." He goes on: "These well-meaning technological advocates have forgotten that as a society, we determine our own future and set our own standards, norms, and policy. ... Big data is not a Leviathan that must be coped with, but a technological trend that we have made possible and support through social and political policy." At Forbes, Wendy S. Goffe considers the impact of data on a smaller scale: "We need to think seriously about what we hold onto and what we leave behind, not just because it opens us to electronic surveillance by the government, but also because of the burden it creates for our descendants."

S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News on young lung transplant recipients Should young children be placed on waiting lists filled with adults hoping to secure a life-saving organ transplant? S.E. Cupp weighs the recent case of two young children seeking new lungs. "The only thing we know for certain is that prohibiting Sarah and Javier from joining the adult waiting list means they will die," she writes. "Denying these children access to even a chance at the medical care they need allows the federal government to override the expert opinions of medical professionals, and it is morally negligent. When in doubt — and there is much in doubt here — ... it is always our moral and ethical obligation to err on the side of life." Aaron Carroll at The Incidental Economist, meanwhile, wrestles with the moral complexity inherent to transplanted organs: "There is just no way that it ends well for everyone. When a lung becomes available, someone is going to get it, and others will not. That means one person gets a chance to live, and the rest likely die. It’s tragic, no matter how the decision is made."

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