Five Best Tuesday Columns

Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, and Rand Paul on how to end the NSA dragnet, Lawrence Wright on ISIS’s brutal strategy in Iraq, Justin Webb on why the Republican implosion could harm Hillary, Murong Xuecun on China’s crackdown on ‘evil cults’, Kavitha A. Davidson on Tony Gwynn.

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Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, and Rand Paul at The Los Angeles Times on how to end the NSA dragnet. “One year ago this month, Americans learned that their government was engaged in secret dragnet surveillance, which contradicted years of assurances to the contrary from senior government officials and intelligence leaders. It is time to end the dragnet — and to affirm that we can keep our nation secure without trampling on and abandoning Americans' constitutional rights,” Sens. Wyden, Udall, and Paul write. “The debate over exactly what reforms should be made is likely to continue for at least the next few years as Americans continue to learn about the scale of ongoing government surveillance activities. This package of reforms includes overhauling domestic surveillance laws to ban the bulk collection of Americans' personal information, and closing the loophole that allows intelligence agencies to deliberately read Americans' emails without a warrant.”

Lawrence Wright at The New Yorker on ISIS’s brutal strategy in Iraq. “The Islamist storm passing through Iraq right now has been building up since the United States invaded the country in 2003, which unleashed longstanding sectarian rivalries that spilled over into civil war. But the appalling brutality currently on display, initiated by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is more than a carnival of revenge. Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant—and successor—Ayman al-Zawahiri did not see Iraq as a likely candidate to become a Sunni Islamist state,” Wright writes. “The crippled condition of Al Qaeda’s core after 9/11 left the field free for Zarqawi to wage his own brand of jihad. Guided by certain Islamist thinkers who believed that attacking Shiites would draw Sunnis to their cause, Zarqawi concentrated his violence on native Iraqi Shiites, not the American military. The strike has been so sudden and surprising that other forces haven’t yet responded, but they will. And then the long-sought goal of Zarqawi and his progeny—a vast war inside Islam—will become a reality.”

Justin Webb at The Times of London on why the Republican implosion could harm Hillary. “On the morning after the 1948 presidential election, the Chicago Daily Tribune’s headline read: ‘Dewey defeats Truman.’ There’s a famous photograph of Truman holding the paper and smiling: the headline was wrong — Truman had won. Against all the odds. Now it has happened again. True, the race was merely a primary to decide the Republican candidate for a congressional seat, but the victory of a man called David Brat over Eric Cantor, the sitting congressman and a senior Republican, is a bombshell. Nobody in Washington saw it coming,” Webb writes. “Eric Cantor was a Washington insider. He looked too comfortable, too in love with himself. So where does this leave the 2016 presidential poll? The pundits who failed to see the Cantor train crash now suggest that the big winner is Hillary Clinton. This is the thinking: if the Republicans are split over immigration they risk going into 2016 with a policy stigmatising Hispanics at the very moment that Hispanic voters reach levels of real power in American politics. This must whet her appetite for the fray. I don’t buy it. And I doubt that she does.”

Murong Xuecun at The New York Times on China’s crackdown on ‘evil cults’. “On June 1, my friend Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu was arrested while distributing anti-forced-abortion leaflets. The stated grounds for detaining him were ‘illegal advertising.’ He was let go after half an hour. Three days later, Mr. Wang was detained again. After 12 hours of interrogation, he was finally released at midnight. When I posted an account of the harassment on Weibo, a microblogging platform, several people protested against the injustice — and many wrote in support of the government’s actions. One netizen commented, ‘The cops have done a beautiful job!’” Xuecun writes. “The government’s anti-religion campaign is not borne of concern for public security stemming from a horrific murder. This is a concerted effort to bring independent churches and their followers into line. The clampdown is simply the government’s way of strengthening its control of society.”

Kavitha A. Davidson at Bloomberg View on the passing of Tony Gwynn. “The greatest hitter of a generation is gone. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died today at 54, four years after a diagnosis of with cancer of the salivary glands. In his 20 years in the majors, he racked up 3,141 hits, a .338 career batting average, eight batting titles, 15 All-Star Game appearances, and the eternal reverence of most he met or who was lucky enough to watch him play. He was, as USA Today's Paul White put it, the ‘purest hitter in an impure era,’ a contact hitter who maintained his subtler dominance amid the often artificially inflated power numbers put up by his contemporaries,” Davidson writes. “And he did it his way, refusing to swing at bad pitches and ignoring the advice from Ted Williams, with whom he is often compared, to drive the ball more. Last year, Bleacher Report noted the recent increase in power and strikeouts in batters who hit for average, signaling ‘the death of the pure contact hitter’ in MLB.” NPR’s Scott Simon tweets, “Astonishing stat in Tony Gwynn tribute: HOF Mad Dog Maddux never struck him out.”

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