Five Best Monday Columns
Elliott Abrams on Tunisia's press freedom, L. Gordon Crovitz on Apple and anti-trust, Patricia Murphy on Gingrich's Southern strategy, James Surowiecki on the recovery, and Richard Brodsky on nuclear regulation.
Elliott Abrams in The Washington Post on Tunisia's press freedom Two recent incidents involving press freedom are cause for concern that the ruling Ennahda party will threaten the revolution's democratic gains: A TV station owner is on trial for showing the "blasphemous" film Persepolis. And the publisher of a newspaper went to jail for reprinting a racy photo from Germany's GQ magazine. "[I]t will be difficult for liberal groups to defend press freedom if the ruling party will not do so. That makes it all the more important that the United States and other democratic countries speak up now for freedom of expression in Tunisia," writes Abrams. So far, Hillary Clinton has praised Tunisia's political progress, focusing only on creating more economic opportunity. That praise is at times well deserved, but "The challenge is also to ensure that political development in Tunisia is not blunted."
L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal on price-fixing and e-books Apple is the subject of a potential suit from the government for price collusion after Steve Jobs made an agreement with book publishers to change the model they'd used with Amazon and set their own prices. "But Jobs's proposal was not about price fixing. It was about treating book publishers like every other industry," writes Crovitz. The government's lawyers haven't learned from the upheaval to the book industry caused by technologies like Amazon. Anti-trust regulators should be happy that Apple has broken Kindle's near-complete share of the e-book market. "Instead, as Authors Guild president Scott Turow wrote to members, 'our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.'"
Patricia Murphy in The Daily Beast on Gingrich's Southern strategy Gingrich hasn't competed in the Midwest while he focuses on states like Alabama and Mississippi, where he hopes some wins this week will boost his momentum in the Republican primary contest. That strategy is unlikely to work, writes Murphy. "More often than not, a Southern strategy for GOP candidates historically has amounted to a recipe for disaster, not a path to the nomination, if they could not appeal to voters in other regions of the country." She runs through the history of failed bids for the nomination or even general elections founded on a Southern strategy from Barry Goldwater to Mike Huckabee. She notes that Gingrich focuses on different issues from most who target the South, but so far the result is the same: poor results outside the region.
James Surowiecki in The New Yorker on a real recovery Though there are current signs that the economy is recovering, we've seen such signals before only to have it slow again. "Bitter experience might suggest that we regard these numbers with a jaundiced eye. But there are at least a couple of reasons to think that, this time, we aren't looking at a false spring," says Surowiecki. One is the new demand for cars, which both signals a gain in confidence and opportunity for new jobs in Detroit. Still, there's no uptick in new households which continues to hold the economy back. But if and when those numbers bounce back, the recovery could really take off. "Of course, there's still a lot that can get in the way of recovery. But if the recession was a vicious cycle ... we may finally be seeing the signs of a virtuous one."
Richard Brodsky in The New York Times on nuclear regulation The meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Fukushima after a tsunami hit Japan led to renewed interest in nuclear regulation, and hopes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would seize the moment. "A year has passed, though, with almost no progress. One thing has become clear: It's not enough to push for change at the industry level. We must also reform the regulators themselves," writes Brodsky. He outlines several failures, including secret exemptions the Commission gives to reactors up for relicensing and a failure to demand that reactors implement new rules. He describes the lack of foresight, one that means there's no evacuation plan for New York City should the nearby plant at Indian Point melt down. "In order for nuclear power to play a significant role in our energy future, the American public needs to have confidence in the industry and the government agencies that oversee it."