Five Best Thursday Columns

On Libya's importance, Apple's gamble, and China's secret

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  • Linda Hirshman on Why Republicans Should Give Up on DOMA  At Salon today, Linda Hirshman argues that it "would be a mistake" for Republicans to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court if it does not approve of the administration's recent decision not to enforce what it sees as an unconstitutional law. Hirshman points out that those who attempted to defend Proposition 8 in California court proved that there is no sound, legitimate argument for depriving same sex couples of the same benefits opposite sex couples receive. The arguments against gay marriage are based solely in religion. "The prohibition is the last vestige of the religious belief that homosexuality is sinful, a rare application of the language of the Old Testament to otherwise victimless behavior in a secular society. (One of the hardest things about talking to God is finding an expert to give a proper deposition)," she writes, pointing out that those who have testified in the past against gay marriage "didn't just look dumb--they looked mean." Hirshman can see why it would be tempting for Republicans to fight: their supporters are overwhelmingly against gay marriage. But considering the fact, according to the latest poll, that gay marriage is not actually something these supporters care much about (as compared to, say, the deficit) Hirshman suggests House Republicans do themselves a favor and leave the issue alone.
  • Conrad Black on Why Libya Is Different  Conrad Black lays out  lays out the stages of disturbance that can occur in an uprising: "First, strikes and widespread demonstrations; second, widespread violence and civil disorder; third, direct attacks on the leadership; fourth, the overthrow by physical armed takeover of the instruments of government and the arrest, rout, or execution of the leaders." He says the "litmus tests are: Will the regime order the use of live ammunition on crowds, and will the orders be carried out? If the answers to those questions are positive, only a very well-organized and fervent opposition will succeed." The way things are going so far, it doesn't look like Bahrain has much of a chance of forcefully uprooting it's leadership. Libya, however, "has gone beyond stage two," and the Libyan people's resistance toward Qaddafi's violence may encourage the people of Iran, whose opposition contains powerful Iranians. Though "it is unlikely that whatever government emerges in Egypt will be a significant change from what Egypt has had," in Libya, as in all places "where governments are so brutal and incompetent that the people are disgusted," there is a chance for real change. Ultimately, he argues, once all of the violence subsides, only those countries that focus on economic development will succeed in achieving real democracy. 
  • Dirk Vandewalle on the Many Faces of Qaddafi  Vandewalle, a government associate professor at Dartmouth as well as the author of Modern Libya, writes today in the New York Times about the many twists and turns in the narrative of Qaddafi's 42 year rule. There was Qaddafi the revolutionary, the young man who came to power through a coup, Qaddafi the Arab nationalist, Qaddafi as "mastermind of international terrorism," Qaddafi the "would-be philosopher" and Qaddafi the clownish demagogue. In 2003 Qaddafi was able to rehabilitate his image temporarily by convincing the world that his violent ways were behind him. Qaddafi has always envisioned himself as "a global figure of major proportion, a visionary thinker whose ideas about democracy were worthy of serious intellectual contemplation," Vandewalle writes. But with his brutal crackdown on the opposition in Libya the "image of Colonel Qaddafi as the vicious monster who will go to any lengths to survive has reappeared." It might never have truly disappeared in the first place, Vandewalle implies.

  • Paul Johnson on China's Growing Drug Problem  In the latest round of debates on China's challenge to the United States' global supremacy, the British historian and author presents a new angle on what may hold the world's largest country back: gambling and drugs. Writing in Forbes, Johnnson recalls the Opium Wars of the 19th century but then cites a recent survey that has shown 40 percent of the heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan now go to China. While he acknowledges that countries undergoing economic development typically see increases in drug use, China might end up caught in a vicious cycle of addiction followed by government oppression mirroring the government's response in the 19th century. Organized crime and corruption are sure to be factors. "The Chinese are learning that prosperity comes at a price," writes Johnson.
  • Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson on Apple's Gamble  Writing in the Financial Times, Edgecliffe-Johnson believes Apple is making a risky bet in the tablet market by demanding a 30 percent fee for every subscription purchased for the iPad. Big media conglomerates may be able to live with this fee, Edgecliffe-Johnson notes, but start-ups "could be crushed by such a toll." Edgecliffe-Johnson suggests that Apple might be leaving itself vulnerable to competitors who are willing to offer lower rates, noting that Google's subscription service for Android takes only a 10 percent cut. Compared to iTunes, which quickly established itself as the dominant force in digital music, "the tablet market and subscription apps are at an earlier stage" and could give media owners and technology firms an opportunity to challenge Apple's dominance.

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