Public financing of elections sounds like a good idea. But so does free speech. And it appears that honest philosophical examination finds these two ideals incompatible. Witness Hillary: The Movie, banned from cable television during the 2008 elections because of its campaign-promotional aspect. Well, off to the Supreme Court it went, which Supreme Court sent the case back for re-arguing. Given that the SC as it currently stands decidedly on the pro-free speech anti-campaign-reform side, this is taken as an indication that they’re planning on doing way more then conceding that the film should have been allowed to run. They very likely are looking at drastic scaling back of the limitations we place on political contributions, etc. If you need the “pro-free speech” argument spelled out again, George Will help you out.
Something is rotten in the state of C-SPAN: I subscribe to C-SPAN’s Podcast of the Week [iTunes link], and yesterday heard a pretty great speech that Bill Clinton gave [mp3] last month to the Netroots convention. Pretty great speech, if only just to hear how well he can hold interest over a near-hour. Thing is, that link goes directly to an mp3, hosted locally at that, because I have no idea what’s going on with C-SPAN’s site. This page refers to the podcast, and as of this moment still links to the audio file, but there is no reference to the speech anywhere else on C-SPAN’s site that I can find, and no permanent link to the podcast item. Pardon me, but this does not seem like the right way to run a service that is the de-facto record of our government’s activities, does it?
Five easy facts about healthcare: 62% of the bankrupcies in the United States are caused by devastating medical bills. 78% of those cases were people who had health insurance, but who found themselves not covered, or not sufficiently covered, when the time came. 18,000 people unnecessarily die here every year because of a lack of insurance. (Source.) Of the top 50 richest nations in the world, the United States is the only one that does not have guaranteed healthcare for everyone. (Source.) The last Republican administration had 8 years to fix the healthcare system their way, and they decided to do nothing.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) on Meet the Press: This segment is much more notable for the “how to win an argument by talking over someone,” though actually Sunday’s episode of MtP was not only fun to watch (Gregory is losing control!) but was informative about the healthcare debate. (Actually, the best thing I’ve seen recently there was this article, which explains why doing some reform, but not all the components being talked about, wouldn’t work.) But come on, Rangel is amazing, right?!
In Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch compares contemporary hip-hop battles to international diplomacy (Jay-Z is the parallel to American hegemony). (via)
Dahlia Lithwick argues that the Republicans are really shooting themselves in the foot with how they’re handling the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. They’re hammering away on her “Wise Latina” comment — a single badly worded sentence from a 2001 speech — instead of her 10 year long record on on the Second Circuit court, where she’s heard 3,000 cases and written 380 opinions. Although the Republicans have agreed that she will almost certainly be confirmed and this is their version of going easy on her, they’re making themselves look like assholes.
Last year congress held hearings to the effect that oil price speculation has a lot to do with driving up prices. There is now legislation being passed to limit the practice.
- So, how does the Supreme Leader get the gig? He’s appointed by the awesomely-named Assembly of Experts. They made him, and they can unmake him. While there doesn’t seem to be the will to unseat Khamenei just at the present moment, keep a eye on these guys.
- File under shifting winds: Yesterday, more then a third of Iran’s 290-memer parliament didn’t show up for a victory party for Ahmadinejad.
- Note the geography of Tehran, which is a sprawling low-density city (not unlike Miami) connected by highways. This is part of why we haven’t seen the dramatic protest photos this week that we saw last week; it’s not for an absence of protests. It’s because the government has shut down many of the highways and imposed brutal martial law, making it impossible for people to get to each other. Instead of one protest of hundreds of thousands, there are smaller protests scattered around the city.
- As Nic points out, the Basij has been savage in all of this. Listen to this woman to get a sense of what some of the protests have been like. On the other hand, many soldiers in the much larger Revolutionary Guard have shown an increasing unwillingness to be inhuman towards their fellow citizens. Once the momentum really starts to shift you may see them begin to outright ignore orders, and the bottom may begin to drop out of everything.
- More then two thirds of Iran’s population is under 30(!), born after the revolution of 1979.
- As the protests continue, and spread around the world, (fueled in no small part by the video of Neda Agha-Soltan’s death), pressure on the Iranian government mounts.
- There is the idea going around that this could never have happened under Bush, who united the various political factions in Iran against himself. So it is precisely President Obama’s tone and handling of international politics that deserves recognition here.
- The NYT has a nifty infographic of the timeline of the events so far. Also do not miss Karim Sadjadpour on Fresh Air, from whom I’m stealing some of these observations.
After over a week, the daily protests in Iran are going strong, and have spread all over the world, but it doesn’t exactly seem like “a matter of time” until the government gives in and gives the protesters what they want. And this may be all for the better — by not nullifying the election, the legitimacy of the whole system, not just of the election, is cast into question. A new president may not be forthcoming, but the future power of the Supreme Leader seems to be under gradual revision.
In the meantime, it’s a matter of forces of will, the people against the government, right versus wrong. And it’s encouraging that you can’t have partial oppression. It works in North Korea because there is no money in North Korea. Introduce a little entrepreneurial spirit and education into a society, and what follows is the internet, cell phones, signs of a free media, and before you know it, the tide is shifting irrevocably in the direction of freedom. Maybe it will not be this time, but the future of Iran is clear — it’s going in the way of Eastern Europe in the late 80s. It may not be quite a Velvet Revolution (which, remember, took almost two months), but it’s got a poetry all its own.
Oh, right, the forces of will. On the one side you’ve got a vast cross-section of the Iranian public. On the other, a government increasingly driven to desperate-seeming tactics. Yesterday, they began parading college students in front of the media who were forced to say that they were influenced to protest by foreign media. (One of the losing candidates from the election was also persuaded to withdraw his complaints of vote rigging.)
Meanwhile, the photos keep rolling in — people taking to the streets by the hundreds and thousands, despite the government practically shutting down the city. Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not next week, but something new is coming to Iran.