OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 2, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – October 2, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    The Pride of Yale
    Remember Anita Hill? She was a lawyer who worked for Clarence Thomas in the early 1980s. When Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1991, Judiciary Committee Democrats tried to block him by claiming he was a scary right-winger. This failed, so they trotted out Hill, who claimed that years earlier Thomas had made some dirty jokes. People didn’t believe her, and he was confirmed. End of story–until now.

    Justice Thomas has a new book out, “My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir” (buy it from the OpinionJournal bookstore). Yesterday found us at the Heritage Foundation, which hosted a dinner for Thomas and some two dozen journalists and bloggers. We can’t remember if the Hill kerfuffle came up during the conversation; certainly it was not central to it. But it is mentioned in the book, and a result, the media have trotted out Hill, now a professor of “women’s studies.”

    Today she appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where interviewer Robin Roberts invited her to apologize to Justice and Mrs. Thomas. She refused. Hill also has an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which she defends herself against what the Times headline writer characterizes as a “smear.” We did not expect to be persuaded, but even we were surprised to find that her defense actually reinforces Thomas’s description of her. She writes:

    Justice Thomas’s characterization of me is also hobbled by blatant inconsistencies. He claims, for instance, that I was a mediocre employee who had a job in the federal government only because he had “given it” to me. He ignores the reality: I was fully qualified to work in the government, having graduated from Yale Law School (his alma mater, which he calls one of the finest in the country), and passed the District of Columbia Bar exam, one of the toughest in the nation.

    So Hill’s answer to Thomas’s assertion that she was a mediocre employee is to cite her law degree from Yale. In his book, Thomas describes an incident in which she similarly mistook credentials for competence. It happened in 1983, when Thomas’s chief of staff at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sought a transfer (pages 172-73):

    I knew I needed to replace him with someone who had a strong background in equal-employment opportunity policy, and I thought at once of Allyson Duncan and Bill Ng. Neither one had asked to be promoted, though it was obvious that they were the most qualified candidates on my personal staff. Instead it was Anita who approached me about the job, telling me that she deserved it because she’d gone to Yale Law School. (Allyson had gone to Duke University, Bill to Boston College.) It would have been hard for her to come up with an argument less likely to sway me, and it confirmed my feeling that she wasn’t cut out to be a supervisor.

    And if, as Hill claims, Thomas has ever said that Yale Law is “one of the finest in the country,” you wouldn’t know it from reading his book. Thomas writes that he had trouble finding work in law firms after graduation–because, he believes, of the stigma of “affirmative action.” He finally found a job in the office of Missouri’s Attorney General John Danforth. From pages 99-100:

    I’d learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much anyone denied it; I couldn’t do anything about that now, but I had a feeling that winning real cases in court would be a better demonstration of what I could do than a law school transcript. As a symbol of my disillusionment, I peeled a fifteen-cent price sticker off a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of my law degree to remind myself of the mistake I’d made by going to Yale. I never did change my mind about its value. Instead of hanging it on the wall of my Supreme court office, I stored it in the basement of my Virginia home–with the sticker still in the frame.

    Another of Hill’s claims is contradicted by the book:

    In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling “60 Minutes” this weekend, “She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed.” Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa.

    In fact, he discusses the letter of recommendation on pages 171-73. He writes that Hill “had been nagging me to write” it, even as he was mourning his beloved grandparents, “and the sooner I did it, the sooner she’d be out of my hair.”

    It seems clear that before writing this op-ed, Hill didn’t even bother reading the book. Having a law degree from Yale doesn’t mean you no longer have to do your homework. We have no way of independently evaluating her performance at EEOC, but to call her a mediocre op-ed writer would be generous.

    No-Nukes Barack
    “Senator Barack Obama will propose on Tuesday setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism,” the New York Times reports.

    This is the latest evidence that this guy just isn’t serious. How would cutting back American nukes reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism? Doesn’t the Non-Proliferation Treaty already prohibit all but eight or so countries from getting nukes? And isn’t the real problem that rogue states that are NPT signatories like North Korea and Iran have or are seeking nukes in violation of their treaty obligations? How does Obama plan on getting Pyongyang and Tehran to give up their nukes? Here’s how:

    In his speech, according to a campaign briefing paper, Mr. Obama also will call for using a combination of diplomacy and pressure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Aides did not say what Mr. Obama intended to do if diplomacy and sanctions failed.

    “A combination of diplomacy and pressure.” It’s the audacity of hope! But didn’t someone once say hope is not a plan?

    ‘That Perfect Moment’
    Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, commenting on the Hillary Clinton campaign, offers one of the oddest observations we’ve ever seen:

    Any woman who has ever been the only female in the room knows the guys are always waiting for that perfect moment–the one that makes the woman look silly, stupid, weepy or best of all, witchy.

    This does not describe anything we have ever witnessed on planet Earth, at least among adults. “What a very odd woman,” says Dinocrat.com. Or maybe she just hangs out with very odd men, or boys.

    Spoiling the Swastika
    Our item yesterday on the New Arrival Zone for India bedspreads, the ones with swastikas, prompted reader Michael Anselmo to remind us that the swastika has also been used as a symbol by the other kind of Indian:

    The item made me think back to a 2003 trip to Alaska. While wandering around a small town that we had docked at, I noticed that all the lampposts had an aluminum band around the base. At first I thought it was to cover an electrical box or some such. I then spotted a lamppost with a band around the base that had slipped down to reveal an old “Indian” sign. I’m sure that the lampposts are prior to 1940 or so.

    Anselmo sends along this photo:

    Which reminds us that the American Indian swastika also appeared on prewar Arizona highway signs.

    Toys “R” Us
    “The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a challenge to Alabama’s ban on the sale of sex toys, ending a nine-year legal battle and sending a warning to store owners to clean off their shelves,” the Associated Press reports:

    Alabama’s anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998, bans the distribution of “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value.”

    The law does not ban the possession of sex toys, and it doesn’t regulate other items, including condoms or virility drugs. Residents may legally purchase sex toys out of state for use in Alabama, or they may buy sexual devices in Alabama that have a “bona fide medical” purpose.

    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that, unlike a Texas sodomy law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a few years back, the sex-toy ban does not implicate the right to privacy but rather is a restriction on commerce. It seems as though this policy favors out-of-state retailers at the expense of local ones, but states can regulate only intrastate commerce and our guess is that the sex-toy lobby is influential enough in Congress to prevent any federal regulation. Back in Alabama, one purveyor of perverted playthings is vowing to continue the fight:

    Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, said she was disappointed, but plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds.

    “My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up,” she said.

    She’s suing on free-speech grounds? You mean these things talk?

    Homer Nods
    Robert Stethem, the U.S. Navy man murdered by terrorists on TWA flight 847 in 1985, was a diver, not a flier, as we said in an item yesterday (since corrected).

    Also, reader Stuart Creque makes a great point regarding that same item: “If we take Bill Clinton at his word that there was no terror threat in 1992, isn’t it safe to say that a massive, world-wide terror threat developed on his watch?”

    Life Imitates the Onion

  • “Collecting All 50 State Quarters Senior’s Only Reason to Remain Alive”–headline, Onion, July 25, 2001
  • “Nonagenarian Numismatist Anxious for New Wyo Quarter”–headline, Billings (Mont.) Gazette, Sept. 15, 2007

‘Don’t Worry, It Isn’t Wide’
“Thompson Defends Gay Marriage Stance”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1

Here’s Your Host, Al Gore
“World’s Most Boring TV Show to Measure Energy Use”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 2

‘I’ll Make an Honest Woman of You’
“Sheriff Offers to Marry Fugitives”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1

Does This Mean Our Insurance Will Pay for a Chauffeur?
“Driven People May Avoid Alzheimer’s”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1

‘Oh, Boys! Really, You Shouldn’t Have!’
“Brothers Stab Each Other on Mom’s Birthday”–headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 1

Will Traced to Way
“Smoke Near Lakeside High Traced to Fire”–headline, Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, Oct. 1

He Should’ve Thought With His Brain
“Trouser Snake Kills Cambodian Man”–headline, Bangkok Post, Sept. 30

News You Can Use

  • “Report: FBI Still Vulnerable From Within”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1
  • “Girls Are Often Neglected Victims of Concussions”–headline, New York Times, Oct. 2
  • “Roadshow: Honking Can Startle Innocent Drivers”–headline, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 1
  • “Looking to Pay a Lower Price? Just Try Asking”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 1

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Pennsylvania Man Breaks World Record for Stone-Skipping on Water, With 51”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1
  • “Loch Ness Monster Sightings Down”–headline, MSNBC.com, Oct. 1
  • “Market Soars; Risks Remain”–headline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 2

First Monday in October
From Law.com’s roundup of oral arguments on the first day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s term:

Funniest Justice:

Scalia and Roberts both got laughs from the audience for clever questions, but the loudest laugh came during an exchange with Justice David Souter, below.

Quote of the Day:

During arguments in the Washington State case, Souter pressed McKenna on the claimed distinction between political party “preference,” and party affiliation or registration:

Souter: “[G]oing back to my question, do you know any people who go around saying,: ‘Well, you know, I really prefer the Democrats; I’m a Republican myself.’ I mean that, that doesn’t happen.”

McKenna: “Well, the example of Senator [Joe] Lieberman comes to mind, where he said: ‘I really prefer the Democrats and I’m running as an independent.’ ”

Souter: “There’s always one.”

Isn’t a better example Souter himself?

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Brian Kalt, Jerry Rhoden, Ed Lasky, Steven Stratton, Kyle Kyllan, Jonathan Bailey, Richmond Trotter, Jeffrey Smith, Kenneth Krantz, Jeffrey Manor, Bob Barnes, James Fox, Larry Grant, Eric Stahlfeld, John Lavery, Fisher Reynolds, Floyd Cox, Clark Goodwin, Andy Strada, Joel McLemore, Bryan Fischer, John Sanders, Jon Pinnell, Ray Hendel, David Carrad, W. Garner Robinson, Steve Karass, Ami Avivi, Dan Powers, Jeff Dobbs, Ronald Morris, John Williamson, Matthew Kaufman, Andrew Curl and Burt Rublin. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010681

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: A strange kind of nonproliferation in North Korea.
  • Bret Stephens: Ahmadinejad’s queerest denial.
  • Richard Nadler: A new study shows the heavy price the GOP paid for “get-tough” border politics.


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