• Timothy Noah on the Dumbness of $100 Bills  The government's inability to carry out Benjamin's latest makeover has prompted Slate's Timothy Noah to ask, "why does the world need 1 billion $100 bills? Indeed, why does the U.S. continue to print C-notes at all?" Noah cites a 1976 essay that makes the case that organized crime and tax evasion are the only activities for which a person in the U.S. would need to use $100 bills. The Slate writer argues that the bills are even less necessary in today's economy, where "technological change has reduced much further the plausible need of any law-abiding American to carry a C-note in his wallet or to stash a pile of C-notes in his mattress."

  • Jamelle Bouie on Democrats and the Black Vote  It seems to be the consensus that President Obama is unlikely to face a challenger in the next primary election. The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie adds a key piece of evidence to this argument: the African-American vote is crucially important to Democrats' success, and challenging Obama from within the party is a surefire way to turn away this large and valuable demographic. Bouie points out that black Americans have consistently supported Democratic presidents since Johnson and "like Republicans and their base voters, Obama's relationship with the black community is partly based in partisanship and partly based in cultural affinity. To them, a primary challenge looks less like principled objection and more like an attack from white liberals, who could put up with worse from white presidents but won't hesitate to turn their backs on the first black one." Though Bouie is aware that the chances of an opponent going up against Obama are extremely slim, he encourages Democrats to consider the lasting effects a primary challenge might have on the party.

  • Jeremy Warner on Germany Bailing Out Its EU Partners  "Here we are, 11 years after the euro was introduced, with the weaker nations again pressing at Germany's door for the no bail-out clause to be abandoned and for Europe to accept a greater degree of debt sharing," finds the Telegraph columnist. Germany, for its part, has stood firm in upholding its "no bail-out" stance as a way to stop "weaker nations free-riding on the back of stronger ones." But the Germans are not likely to be persuaded by the idea to replace national debt markets with a single European bond market. There is one large, perpetual question looming over the future of a single European currency: "Does Europe press on down the road of  ever closer union, which means debt sharing and fiscal homogenisation, or do nations retreat back into the pursuit of narrow self-interest?" A new generation of German politicians, at least, "see no reason why  Germany should act as a cash cow for others."

  • Azar Nafisi on Iranian Women Through History  In a piece for The Times of London, reprinted at The Huffington Post, Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, gives a compelling gloss of the role women have played in modern Iranian society. From Tahereh, a woman who dared to appear unveiled in public in 1848 (and was murdered for her trouble), through present-day political prisoners like Shiva Nazar Ahari and Sakineh Ashtiani, Iranian women have challenged and subverted authority and been at the forefront of countless major national movements. Nafisi in unsparing in her critique of Iran's religious oppressors: "Who degrades Islam? Who imposes stoning, forced marriage of underage girls and flogging for not wearing the veil? Do such practices represent Iran's ancient history and culture, its ethnic and religious diversity? Its centuries of sensual and subversive poetry? What makes the guardians of the Islamic Republic more Muslim or more Iranian than others?"

  • Jacob Sullum on the Absurdity of Terrorism Trials  In a piece for Reason, Sullum twits the Obama administration about its handling of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Sullum points out that "if Ghailani is convicted ... he will be imprisoned for life, and the same thing will happen if he is acquitted"--under the U.S. policy of detaining "enemy combatants" until the end of hostilities between American and al-Qaeda, which could continue indefinitely. "Even with the benefit of the Fifth Amendment's ban on coerced self-incrimination and the exclusionary rule, Ghailani has zero chance of regaining his freedom," writes Sullum. "So what exactly is the point of the trial?" Sullum adds dryly that "in any event President Barack Obama claims he can kill suspected terrorists without permission from a court ... which suggests a third option for Ghailani, in addition to life imprisonment upon conviction and indefinite detention upon acquittal. The government could simply let him go--and then kill him."