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Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday links 3. [UPDATE: Comments closed on this post due to harassment from a banned commenter. Looking into solutions. Reopened.]

* How long will the MSM cover up the heroics of time-traveling Ronald Reagan?

* Another take on Mark McGurl’s The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, this time from the Valve, about transnationalism and the American university.

* More on yesterday's unjust Supreme Court decision on the right to DNA evidence from Matt Yglesias, including a link to this striking observation from Jeffrey Toobin on John Roberts's governing judicial philosophy:

The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.
* Peak Oil, risk, and the financial collapse: some speculative economics from Dmitry Orlov. Via MeFi.

* Mark Penn's superscience proves pessimism is the new microtrend. Via Gawker.

* Freakonomics considers vegetarianism-sharing.

* Possible outcomes in Iran from Gerry Seib in The Wall Street Journal. Via the Plank.
* People power prevails. After some period of extended protest, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is shown to be a fraud, his re-election rigged, and Mir Hossein Mousavi and his forces of moderation win a runoff. A long process of changing Iran's system in which real power lies in the hands of clerics operating behind the scenes begins, and the voices demanding an end to Iran's international isolation move to the fore. Such a simple and straightforward outcome seems unlikely, but that's what happened in Ukraine.

* Mr. Ahmadinejad survives, but only by moderating his position in order to steal the thunder of the reformers and beat them at their own game. U.S. officials think it's at least possible the erratic leader decides to survive by showing his critics that he actually is capable of what they claim he isn't, which is reducing Iran's isolation. He stays in power and regains his standing with internal critics by, among other things, showing new openness to discuss Iran's nuclear program with the rest of the world.

* The forces of repression win within Iran, but international disdain compounds, deepening world resolve to stop Iran's nuclear program and its sponsorship of extremists. In other words, Iran doesn't change, but the rest of the world does.

* The protests are simply crushed by security forces operating under the control of spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, the election results stand untouched, and Iran's veneer of democracy ultimately is shown to be totally fraudulent. That makes it clear that the only power that matters at all is the one the U.S. can't reach or reason with, the clerical establishment. There is no recount, no runoff, and the idea that "moderates" and "reformers" can change Iran from within dies forever.

* There is some legitimate recount or runoff, but Iran emerges with Mr. Ahmadinejad nominally in charge anyway. He emerges beleaguered, tense and defensive, knowing he sits atop a society with deep internal divides and knowing the whole world knows as well. His control is in constant doubt. What's the classic resort of such embattled leaders? Distract attention from internal problems with foreign mischief, and use a military buildup (in this case, a nuclear one) to create a kind of legitimacy that's been shown to be missing on the domestic front.

* Mr. Mousavi somehow prevails, perhaps through a runoff, and becomes president, but he operates as a ruler deeply at odds with the clerical establishment that controls the military and security forces, and deeply mistrusted by it. As a result, he's only partly in charge, and in no position to take chances with a real opening to the West. He has always supported Iran's nuclear program anyway and now has to do so with a vengeance to show that, while a reformer, he isn't a front for the West.