Five Best Thursday Columns

Rand Paul on the NSA, Robinson Meyer on Facebook's $19 billion WhatsApp purchase, Brian Beutler on the GOP and the minimum wage war, James Franco deconstructs Shia LaBeouf's erratic behavior, Fiona Broom on Australia's child refugees.

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Rand Paul at The Guardian on the NSA“Director of Intelligence James Clapper now says the National Security Agency (NSA) should have been more open about the fact that they were spying on all Americans. I'm glad he said this. But there is no excuse for lying in the first place," the Republican senator from Kentucky writes. When Sen. Ron Wyden asked Clapper in March whether "the NSA was collecting the data of millions of Americans, the director lied under oath and denied the charge," Paul writes. "The notion that if the NSA had informed us they were monitoring every American would somehow make it OK, does not make it OK. Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment. It shouldn't happen again, and I will keep fighting to protect the US constitution I took an oath to uphold. It's time to trash the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” Jacob Weindling at The Chiefly tweets, “Rand Paul keeps doing things that make me want to vote for him in 2 years.”

Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic on Facebook's $19 billion WhatsApp purchase. “WhatsApp makes a glorified texting app. It lets you send text and pictures to another WhatsApp user’s phone. Free to use for the first year, it costs $1 annually after that. Why, you may be wondering, would Facebook spend $19 billion on it?” Meyer writes. He cites the classic example of a couple who use the app to navigate the perils of a transatlantic relationship, just two of WhatsApps 450 million monthly active users. “But is it worth $19 billion? No one’s really sure. What’s more, buying WhatsApp fits into a pattern that’s emerged from Facebook. For me, there are three clear reasons why Facebook spent crazy money on the new messaging giant. Facebook wants to dominate among mobile apps. Facebook wants to dominate in messaging apps. Facebook wants to dominate in the developing world.” Simon Usbourne at The Independent tweets, “This is good,” and Matt Schivenza at The Atlantic tweets, “Anyone who has seen how WeChat eclipsed Weibo in China understands why Facebook paid through the nose for WhatsApp.”

Brian Beutler at Salon on the GOP and the minimum wage war. “Raising the minimum wage is a popular idea. It’s also a good, if suboptimal, way to help low-wage workers, address inequality, and reduce poverty," Beutler writes. "And at a time when conservatives aren’t willing to entertain more income support or another payroll tax cut, without simultaneously taking it out of the hide of the poor in some other way, the minimum wage is a natural place for liberals to fight for the poor. With all that to speak for it, it’s no surprise that conservatives hate the minimum wage, certainly don’t want to increase the minimum wage, and are desperate for independent confirmation of their claim that a $10.10 minimum wage, as President Obama has proposed, is a job killer. They got their wish on Wednesday, when the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis concluding that a phased-in $10.10 minimum wage would have a modest but real disemployment effect." He continues, “By their own logic, Republicans should have agreed to extend emergency unemployment compensation yesterday, and refused to vote for sequestration — their big victory over Obama — back in 2011. But confront them with the inconsistency and they retreat to ideology.”

James Franco at The New York Times on Shia LaBeouf’s recent behavior. “The recent erratic behavior of Shia LaBeouf, the 27-year-old actor best known as the star of the Transformers movies, has sent the press into a feeding frenzy. Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct. This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona,” Franco writes, noting that Marlon Brando was guilty of the very same thing. “Mr. LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult. I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist.”

Fiona Broom at Al Jazeera English on Australia’s child refugees. “Ten years after Australia's human rights commission found the country breached its international obligations towards children in immigration detention, a recently-announced new inquiry will find no change in the treatment of the most vulnerable of refugees.And the situation shows no sign of being turned around. On Sunday February 16, 10 unaccompanied children were sent to offshore detention on the remote Pacific island of Nauru by their legally-appointed guardian, the Australian immigration minister. The human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs said she had to call the inquiry because the government will not co-operate in providing information about mental health and self-harm among the more than 1,600 children in detention,” Bloom writes. “It is a blight on Australia's humanitarian record that the inquiry needs to be held. You don't need to be an expert in international conventions to see that Australia fails to treat child refugees humanely. You don't need to be a 'bleeding-heart' to see that keeping children locked up indefinitely is a blatant contravention not just of international law, but of human decency.”

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