Five Best Wednesday Columns
Owen Matthews on Russia's protests, George Will on Newt Gingrich, Paul Sherman on foreigners and free speech, Amy Davidson on 'All-American Muslim', and Nate Jackson on the N.F.L.'s medical advice.
Owen Matthews in The Daily Beast on Russia and the Arab Spring analogy As riot police and protesters clashed in Moscow after rigged parliamentary elections, John McCain predicted the beginning of a Russian "Arab Spring." "But he's wrong ... Moscow's Bolotnaya Square isn't Cairo's Tahrir Square, and Vladimir Putin isn't about to be unseated by a wave of popular anger," writes Matthews. He argues the numbers of protesters still don't represent a large percentage or wide sliver of Russian society, and notes that there's not support for a "Muslim brotherhood"-like party in Russia to fill a vacuum. He says Putin's position remains salvageable because protesters aren't as concerned with democracy or freedom of press as they are with everyday government corruption, an issue with which Putin could ally himself. "The key point is that the vast majority of Russians don't like liberals (whom they see as Western stooges), they don't like democrats (whom they believe ruined the country), and they don't like the idea of revolution."
George Will in The Washington Post on Romney's attackers Mitt Romney said Newt Gingrich should return the $1.6 million he earned from Freddie Mac, prompting Gingrich to say Romney should "give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain Capital." Thus Gingrich, "provided on Monday redundant evidence for the proposition that he is the least conservative candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination," Will writes. He notes that Gingrich is recycling arguments made by Romney's liberal past-opponents, and defends Bain Capital's practice of creating wealth for investors as an "essential social function." Will connects this to pattern of "unfair" attacks on Romney for seeming too polished and too moneyed, but Will says we shouldn't fault Romney's entrepreneurship, and certainly Gingrich, who accepted his wealth from a government-backed entity, shouldn't be launching the attacks. But Gingrich, Will says, "seems to believe there is always some higher synthesis, inaccessible to lesser intellects, that makes all his contradictions disappear."
Paul Sherman in The Wall Street Journal on foreigners and campaign contributions In the case Bluman vs. FEC, two Canadian citizens who reside in New York are asserting their right to donate to American political campaigns. The Supreme Court seems increasingly likely to let a lower court's ruling against them stand. "That would be a mistake, and a sharp reversal from the hard line the court has taken recently on speech-squelching campaign-finance laws," writes Sherman. He outlines Bluman's "perfectly logical" argument that because the courts have upheld an alien's right to First Amendment protections, and because they've declared political spending a First Amendment right, it follows that Bluman's case should succeed. Opponents worry that foreign influence on domestic elections would become dangerous, but Sherman argues that foreign newspapers endorse our candidates all the time and these voices would mix in with a huge amount of speech in our society. Finally he argues restricting the rights of foreigners to speak in turn restricts the rights of citizens to hear their opinion.
Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on 'All-American Muslim' and Lowe's When Lowe's pulled its funding from TLC's new show "All American Muslim" it cited a "diversity" of opinion into which it didn't want to wade. "What is shameful about the company's decision is that it bent to the suggestion that, simply by depicting Muslims as 'nice' Americans, a show became too controversial for it to engage with," writes Davidson. She says the show is reasonably intelligent and describes its depiction of a diverse group of Michigan Muslim-American families. She describes the Florida Family Association, whose lobbying has been the primary cause of controversy around the show, and the wrongheaded views they espouse that one simply cannot be a good American and a good Muslim. "We are in a dangerous place when people can be told, to their faces, that they are not real—that their identities make no sense, and that they are impossible Americans."
Nate Jackson in The New York Times on the NFL's bad medical advice Twelve former NFL players filed a class-action suit last week to claim the league's teams didn't warn them about side-effects of a painkiller Toradol. "The pain is constant in football and as a result it is constantly being manipulated," writes Jackson, a former Denver Broncos player. He describes his own personal experience lining up behind a dozen or more teammates each week for a shot of Toradol, and describes the pressures from his team's doctors and his coaches to accept medical advice without question and ignore the pain his play constantly caused his body. He describes the NFL as a "machine" that patches together its players with short-term medical solutions, and argues that medical decisions should be made by a league-wide organization with less incentive to think about a players' health in the week-to-week. "Until then, teams will continue to convince players that their bodies and brains are ready for professional football, even when they are not."