Best of the Web Today – October 9, 2007
By JAMES TARANTO
Where Dissent Really Is Dangerous
“To chants of ‘death to the dictator,’ hundreds of Iranian students have mounted a vociferous protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” London’s Telegraph reports:
The demonstration at Teheran University, where the president gave a speech opening the academic year, drove home the depth of his domestic unpopularity. . . .
Protests against the president have taken place on Iran’s university campuses before. Last December, some students burned his portrait in front of him. On that occasion, Mr Ahmadinejad defended their right to demonstrate, saying that it proved Iran’s devotion to freedom.
But many of the students were arrested later. Some are still believed to be in detention.
The Los Angeles Times, which puts the number of anti-Ahmadinejad protesters at “about 50,” notes that some of them cited his recent visit to New York:
“You, Mr. Ahmadinejad, claimed at Columbia University that there is freedom of speech in Iran’s universities,” one student said over a megaphone. “Then why are three students still in jail?”
This vindicates those of us who criticized Columbia president Lee Bollinger for allowing Ahmadinejad to be invited, at least if you assume that criticism spurred Bollinger to be tougher on Ahmadinejad than he otherwise would have been.
The L.A. Times says pro-Ahmadinejad demonstrators matched the opponents’ turnout–which is rather remarkable. After all, it takes no courage to take to the streets in favor of an authoritarian regime.
It’s a reminder, too, of just what phonies and blowhards our American “dissenters” are. They know it takes no courage to oppose a democratic government that holds freedom of speech sacrosanct. So they spin lurid fantasies of authoritarianism in order to convince themselves of their own bravery.
What if They Held an Antiwar and No One Came?
This report from The Politico is no surprise to us:
Congressional Democrats rode anti-war sentiment to victory last fall–but they are staking their success in the final months of this year’s calendar on more traditional domestic issues amid concern that the war may not be the potent political issue it once was by Election Day 2008. . . .
“Iraq has always been the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but there are other issues to deal with,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “We did well with our initial agenda. Now we need to move on to a broader agenda.”
But there’s another driving factor under the radar: a latent concern that Iraq may not be as favorable a political issue for Democrats a year from now, as images of brigades of U.S. troops coming home could well be flickering on American television screens.
“They’ve run millions of dollars of ads and had untold rallies and protests, but they’re actually losing approval” on the war, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “How’s it going to look when troops start coming home next year and, while most people are holding a ‘Welcome Home’ sign, they’re left holding a MoveOn.org ad or Code Pink banner?”
If the Democrats have abandoned their passive-aggressive pursuit of defeat in Iraq, that is certainly good news for the country. All Americans should rejoice. But Republicans qua Republicans have little reason to celebrate. After all, in 1991 most Democrats took the wrong side in the Gulf War, but because that war was “won” quickly, the issue was forgotten by the next election, and Bill Clinton managed to get elected despite his lack of national security experience. It’s possible his wife will pull off the same trick next year.
‘Experts’ Against America
We really have mixed feelings about the end of TimesSelect. On the one hand, exposure to Dowdrich and that former Enron adviser can’t be good for anyone’s health. On the other hand, the opening of much of the New York Times archives is quite useful. An example of the latter is a June 2003 article by Alexander Stille that bears on a topic we addressed yesterday. Excerpt:
When the cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict was asked to write a report on Japan in the spring of 1945 for the American Office of War Information, she was working under difficult conditions. She had never been to Japan and had no chance of going there during wartime. She did her ”field research” among Japanese-Americans living in the United States and wrote Report 25, titled ”Japanese Behavior Patterns,” in just three months between May and August, shortly before the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. . . .
Her government work ended up becoming the bible of American troops who undertook the occupation of Japan. . . .
As the occupation of Iraq appears more complex by the day, where are the new Ruth Benedicts, authoritative voices who will carry weight with both Iraqis and Americans?
As we noted yesterday, some of them are working with the U.S. military. Perhaps the Pentagon was belated in enlisting them, but there is a move by some anthropologists to blacklist their peers who cooperate with the U.S. military. This effort may be anti-American in intent, but if it is successful, it will also be anti-Iraqi in effect.
One of the reasons we love this job is that we learn so much from our readers. Yesterday’s item on the Republican National Convention logo brought this explanation from Brooks Mick:
In heraldry the position of the elephant in the logo is called “rampant.” It is one of a number of standard poses, and the most active one. Given the accomplishments of Congress under [Harry] Pelosi and [Nancy] Reid, the logo for the the Democratic Convention should show the donkey lying down or “passant.”
For those who don’t know (we didn’t), heraldry is the practice of designing coats of arms.
Decent but Not Private
The Great Debate over the District of Columbia Bar Exam continues, with several readers taking exception to an assertion one made yesterday:
I realize that responding to Darin Bartram’s comment is continuing down a course far afield from the original issue of the difficulty Anita Hill may or may not have faced entering the District of Columbia Bar in the 1980s, but his claim that “no decent law school teaches the state law where the school is located” needs clarification.
It seems as though Mr. Bartran views the universe of “decent” law schools as only consisting of private institutions. In reality, many public law schools that are, to say the least, at least “decent,” such as my alma mater, the University of Texas, also teach the laws of the states that support them.
Indeed, the University of Texas-Austin is the 18th-best law school in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, and four public universities–UC Berkeley, Michigan-Ann Arbor, Virginia and UCLA–do even better. And of course one may argue that “decent” is a relatively low standard, which would encompass many more public institutions.
Other readers, meanwhile, offered insight into Frank Rich’s claim that the job of Missouri assistant attorney general was more prestigious that Justice Clarence Thomas made it out to be. This is James Leritz:
As a Missouri lawyer, I know that the job of assistant attorney general for the state of Missouri is not one that most Ivy League law graduates clamor over. Perhaps a few Yale grads have worked for the attorney general over the years, but probably not many. This is not to say that there have not been plenty of very bright lawyers in that office over the years, but most of them probably came out of Mizzou–a good school, and if I ever face a jury I will take the best Mizzou lawyers over the best Yale lawyers any day (and the Tigers over whatever their football team is called).
A cursory review of Westlaw shows some 30 or 40 cases in which Clarence Thomas represented the state in the Court of Appeals or the Missouri Supreme Court. Many of them involve sales tax disputes; some are criminal cases. It’s pretty standard stuff, and it does not appear Thomas was hired for any kind of special position. I doubt he was very excited about moving to Jefferson City, but there may have been an added incentive.
His boss, Jack Danforth, was very much ascendant in Missouri politics. He came from the bluest of the St. Louis blueblood families, and was young when elected attorney general. He was the first Republican elected statewide in a long time, and rightly credited with ushering in an era when most statewide officeholders were from the GOP. Thomas would not have been the only person to see Danforth’s potential.
And indeed, after a stint as a corporate lawyer, Thomas went on to work for Danforth in the U.S. Senate before moving to the executive branch. We also heard from an actual former assistant attorney general from a state bordering Missouri, Philip Zukowsky:
When I graduated from law school in 1980, I took a job as an attorney with the Illinois attorney general (then Neil Hartigan) and overnight became an assistant Illinois attorney general–with all of the other law school graduates who had been hired by Mr. Hartigan. I received a letter from Mr. Hartigan on embossed stationary appointing me “Assistant Illinois Attorney General.”
The job paid $16,999 [just under $43,000 in 2007 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator] to start (three years earlier my friend started at a private Chicago firm at $29,000), but I got to say that I was an assistant Illinois attorney general. That sounded like a big deal and usually got translated into “the assistant Illinois attorney general,” as if I were just a rung below Mr. Hartigan and had an adjoining office with him.
I never met the man (or his successor, Tyrone Fahner–or I may have the order backwards); but on a couple of occasions at bars, it impressed a lady or two (although I couldn’t afford to buy them a drink because I was making $16,999 a year, for goodness’ sake).
According to Wikipedia, Fahner was attorney general beginning in 1980 and was succeeded by Hartigan in 1983. Meanwhile, Robert Lawrence tells of his entry-level Missouri job:
In 1974, I graduated from Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Mo., with an accounting degree and went to work for a Kansas City bank. I was paid the princely sum of $9,400 a year. Just think–if I had graduated from Yale Law School, I could have made $600 a year more!
Actually, Thomas’s starting salary was a whopping $10,800–Rich rounded it down–so that Lawrence could have made $1,400 more had he only gone to Yale Law.
Several readers also faulted us for passing over this Rich remark:
Had it not been for Yale taking a chance on him in the first place, in other words, Mr. Thomas would never have had the opportunity to work the Yalie network to jump-start his career and to ascend to the Supreme Court.
It does seem condescending at best for Rich to suggest that Yale was “taking a chance” in admitting a qualified black student.
‘Oh, Gosh, What Was His Name? I’ve Been Up Here Too Long!’
“Tree-Sitters’ Leader launches Bid to Recall Berkeley Mayor”–headline, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 9
Gov. Schwarzenegger, Call Your Office
“Gurley Man Sues City Club for Rough Toss”–headline, Huntsville (Ala.) Times, Oct. 9
News You Can Use
- “Oil Prices Could Go Either Way”–headline, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8
- “School Fees Can Add Up”–headline, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 8
- “Hard Choices Often Are the Only Solution to Settle Money Concerns”–headline, Oklahoman, Oct. 7
- “Study Says Balls Boost Abdominal Workouts”–headline, Ann Arbor (Mich.) News, Oct. 9
Bottom Stories of the Day
- “Motorists Handle De Pere Roundabout in First Day of Traffic”–headline, Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette, Oct. 9
- “Record-Setting Gourd Wins Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Weigh-Off”–headline, San Mateo County (Calif.) Times, Oct. 8
- “Carrollton High Cafeteria Doors to Get Replaced”–headline, Saginaw (Mich.) News, Oct. 9
The Bush Recovery
Here’s a fascinating story from C.W. Nevius, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco–the liberal, left-coast city conservatives love to mock–could be undergoing a transformation when it comes to homeless people. Although the city would still be a poor choice for a pep rally for the war in Iraq, indications are that residents have had it with aggressive panhandlers, street squatters and drug users.
“Maybe there has been an epiphany,” says David Latterman, president of Fall Line Analytics, a local market research firm. “People have realized they can hate George Bush but still not want people crapping in their doorway.”
A few years ago, a prominent psychiatrist identified a new mental condition he called Bush derangement syndrome. This has been controversial, with liberal-leaning psychiatrists denying that there is such a condition. But if a patient experiences ordinary revulsion at human waste as an “epiphany,” surely we can all agree that he is suffering from some sort of disorder.
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Michael Segal, Rodney Hoiseth, Brooks Mick, Brian Teague, Martin Seeger, Lars Hott, Emily Craig, Gregory Richardson, Chris Green, Michael Nunnelley, Steve Bunten, Bruce Goldman, A. Dahnke, Tim Willis, Thomas Sattler, Bryan Fischer, James Desy, Steve Feyer and Greg Nelson. If you have a tip, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include the URL.)
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