Archive for July 12th, 2010

A pessimistic lawyer, an optimistic dissident, and a fatwa

Monday, July 12th, 2010
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Scott Turow talks very briefly about his new book here.  What’s the difference between his 1987 hit, Presumed Innocent, and this season’s Innocent?

“The practice of law is not the same,” he says. “The veneer has worn away. People realize that private practice is about money, and public practice is often about politics. These facts—which were demurely hidden from the public and sometimes, among lawyers, from themselves—are now in the open.”

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Milani in the classroom (Photo: Toni Gauthier)

The same Stanford Magazine issue also profiles author and leading Iranian dissident Abbas Milani (we’ve written about him here and here).  In the article, Milani recalls a 2006 dinner at the Stanford home former Secretary of State George Shultz, where President Bush was a guest:

“When Bush met Milani, the president told him to stay after the other guests left. ‘I want to talk to you one-on-one,’ Bush said. Milani and Bush chatted privately for 15 minutes. Bush asked if there were any reliable intermediaries who could negotiate with the mullahs on Washington’s behalf. As they were leaving, Milani told Bush, ‘You know, you’ve got a lot of popularity in Iran for standing up to these guys.’ The president wheeled around and stared at Milani. Then he said, ‘You’re not bullshitting me, are you?'”

Milani seems an eternal optimist.  The most unambiguous supporters of democracy tend to be those who didn’t grow up under it. If democracy happens in Iran, would Milani board a plane for Teheran?

“Milani considers the question for a while. Outside, it has grown dark. ‘Many of my friends who live there tell me, even if you can come back, don’t. The Iran you have in your mind, that you love and miss, is lost. These guys have created a different animal.’

Then Milani brightens. ‘Regimes in my view are like relationships,’ he says. ‘If you have a bad relationship, the worst of you comes out. If you are in a good relationship, you do things you never thought you were capable of. You see colors you never knew existed. Democracy is like a good relationship. It really brings out the best in people.'”

His books have been banned in Iran, and he was last summer put on trial in absentia as “one of the most important leaders of the opposition.”

Meanwhile, also in Iran, Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani, an Iranian mother, could be put to death by stoning (or other means).  Sign an electronic petition for her here.

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Molly Norris

Elsewhere in the Middle East:  Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is not a forgive-and-forget kind of guy.  He’s placed Molly Norris — the cartoonist  who helped launch the recent “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day!” before distancing herself from the campaign — on an execution list, with these words: “A soul that is so debased, as to enjoy the ridicule of the Messenger of Allah, the mercy to mankind; a soul that is so ungrateful towards its lord that it defames the Prophet of the religion Allah has chosen for his creation does not deserve life, does not deserve to breathe the air.”

Read about it here and here.

She joins a growing class of cartoonists, thinkers, activists and filmmakers who now must have lifetime protection by bodyguards, 24/7.

UPDATE 7/14 — Article at the Huffington Post here.

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The Book Haven and yours truly got a nice mention in the thoughtful, often provocative Anecdotal Evidence — in a post called “Solitary, Silent, Compellingly Warm” (no, Patrick Kurp was not referring to moi).