Five Best Thursday Columns

Iran's Green Movement, Jeopardy, Japanese education and the Arizona obsession with illegal immigration

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  • Ray Takeyh on Toppling Iran's Mullah The senior fellow at the Council of Foreign relations says that if the United States wants to diffuse Iran's nuclear threat and dismantle the decades-old dictatorship, its best tactic would be to fund the Green Movement.  Writing in the Washington Post, Takeyh writes that Iran's protests aren't part of Egypt's ripple effect, but a more deeply rooted surge that started with 2009's contentious presidential election, when it became a political force ready to subvert "Tehran's callous leadership." Takeyh says diplomatic efforts and sanctions continue to be a waste of time, and the best way to change things in Iran would be to funnel financial support to "labor syndicates, savvy youth, clerical dissidents, liberal protesters and universities" just as the U.S. did in Eastern Europe to chip away at the Soviet Union. Sanctions have failed, Takeyh says, but the Green Movement is "the most effective means of disarming the Islamic Republic and ending its reign of terror."
  • Ken Jennings on His Jeopardy Showdown with a Computer
  • Jennings, the former Jeopardy champion who lost to IBM's Watson computer, writes in Slate about his experience facing down a machine on the game show. "Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman," he writes. While Jennings went into the contest feeling a bit like a stand-in for all of mankind, he realized that he "wasn't the good guy, playing for the human race." Instead, "that was Watson's role, as a symbol and product of human innovation and ingenuity."
  • Eliza Gray Wonders Why All the Extreme Anti-Immigrant Legislation Has Come Out Of Arizona
  • Against the backdrop of the various anti-immigration measures to emerge from Arizona, Gray points to one man she says has been behind them all: Russell Pearce the President of the state Senate and a staunch Republican. A descendant of one of the original Arizona Rangers, Pearce sees himself as a John Wayne type, Gray reports. In 2007 he wrote the Arizona law that suspended business licenses to those employing illegal immigrants, and two years later he wrote the now infamous SB 1070 legislation that allowed authorized broad crackdown's suspected illegal aliens in the state. With a recent increase of conservatives in Arizona's state government "Pearce and the newly elected Arizona conservatives are capable of doing real damage to immigrant rights," Gray writes, pointing towards legislation that would potentially deny "birthright citizenship" to children without at least one legal parent.
  • Hugh Cortazzi on Japan's Lagging Education
  • Writing in The Japan Times, Britain's former ambassador to Japan probes the reasons behind the falling number of Japanese students studying abroad and the seeming disappearance of a competitive spirit that characterized the Japanese education ethic during decades that propelled Japan's economic development. In fact, Cortazzi says, it's not just that fewer Japanese are studying abroad, but they are losing ground, as Chinese students are arriving in droves, and even as their domestic education standards are falling behind those of nearby South Korea. For Cortazzi, the reasons are twofold: first, Japanese children are coddled to an extent that no longer encourages independence, let alone the desire to leave home. Second, Cortazzi says, is that Japan's emphasis on conformity is no longer working. Once considered the source of its communal and economic strength, it has become the opposite. "To use mathematical terms, the outcome of consensus building is often the lowest common denominator rather than the highest common factor" he says. Fostering conformity, Cortazzi says, is an ethic with which Britain is struggling, but is learning that it has to abandon because "societies need some protruding nails, if reforms and improvements are to be made."
  • Karl Rove on Obama's Budget Strategy  
  • President George W Bush's senior advisor takes to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to attack what he considers Obama's budget strategy--submitting a budget not as a serious proposal, but simply a tactical maneuver to force "House Republicans to take the lead in cutting current spending," and thus take the political brunt for these unpopular moves. Rove, who was the political architect of the Bush Administration, says Republican calls to cut spending programs needs to be accompanied by smart, reasoned messaging in which Republicans "patiently show what they are doing and why, and to express their sadness and disappointment over Mr. Obama's failure of leadership." By fusing fiscal discipline with public outreach, the GOP can determine how popular its agenda is with voters, because "politics involves optics as well as policy ideas."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.