OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 15, 2007


Best of the Web Today – October 15, 2007


    Mrs. Blood for Oil
    Consider the following reasons why America might consider military action against Iran:

  • To save Israel from nuclear annihilation.
  • To prevent a nuclear arms race between Iran and neighboring Arab regimes.
  • To keep Iran’s mullahs from acquiring a nuclear deterrent, which would give them leverage in Iraq and make it easier for them to wage terror elsewhere with impunity.
  • To topple Tehran’s repressive, theocratic regime.
  • To protect America’s oil supplies.

What if we told you one of the presidential candidates accepted the last rationale–blood for oil!–but rejected arguments for war based on concerns about human rights or nuclear proliferation? Based on the media stereotypes, you’d probably think Dick Cheney had thrown his hat in. The Associated Press has the real story from Florence, S.C.:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton advocated talks to settle differences with Iran but said Saturday that Tehran would invite U.S. action if it were to disrupt oil supplies.

“I will make it very clear to the Iranians that there are very serious consequences attached to their actions,” Clinton said. . . .

The New York senator, responding to a question, said blocking oil shipments “would be devastating to the world economy.”

If the U.S. took military action as a result, she said, “I would hope that the world would see that was an action of last resort, not first resort. Because we need the world to agree with us about the threat that Iran poses to everyone.”

Clinton said that is why, as president, she “would immediately open a diplomatic negotiation with Iran over all issues that we disagree with them on.”

Mrs. Clinton is in a difficult spot when it comes to Iran. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to seem soft in front of the general electorate. On the other hand, she doesn’t want to seem firm lest she alienate the Angry Left in her own party. The position she’s put forward is clearly a compromise. Yet you’d think from the Angry Left’s rhetoric that promising war for oil–the way they disparage every American military action in the Middle East–would be the least likely approach to appease them.

Then again, if Mrs. Clinton can hold on to her Angry Left support despite this, she will have proved herself to be a truly deft politician. Maybe this is Mrs. Clinton’s “Sister Souljah moment.”

Less Moolah for the Mullahs
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed legislation mandating that CalSTRS and CalPERS, the pension funds for California teachers and other government employees, respectively, divest themselves of foreign companies that do business in Iran. Back in May we interviewed Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister of Israel, who argued that such disinvestment could help topple the Islamic revolutionary regime in Tehran. Since then, Florida as well as California has passed a divestment bill, so Netanyahu’s idea is about to get a real test.

First Things First?
A lot of bloggers have disparaged the media coverage of recent comments by retired Ricardo Sanchez about Iraq. It’s a standard media-bias complaint: that stories play up Sanchez’s negative comments about the war effort, while giving short shrift to his comments about the media. We weren’t even going to bother writing about this, but a piece in Saturday’s Washington Post expresses this bias in such a clever way that we thought it merited recognition. It begins:

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who led U.S. forces in Iraq for a year after the March 2003 invasion, accused the Bush administration yesterday of going to war with a “catastrophically flawed” plan and said the United States is “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

Sanchez also bluntly criticized the current troop increase in Iraq, describing it as “a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war.”

“The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure, and the American people must hold them accountable,” Sanchez told military reporters and editors. “There has been a glaring unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders.”

The Post does mention his criticisms of the media–but only in the story’s final paragraph:

Sanchez opened by criticizing the U.S. news media, saying he was unfairly labeled “a liar” and “a torturer” because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and he alleged that the media have lost their sense of ethics. He said that members of the media blow stories out of proportion and are unwilling to correct mistakes, and that the “media environment is doing a great disservice to the nation.”

So the Post closes by telling us how Sanchez opened. Earlier–at paragraph 10, the story first mentioned the Abu Ghraib connection:

But Sanchez may be best remembered for being the top U.S. general in Iraq during the period when the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison occurred and was later revealed. Photographs of Iraqi detainees being humiliated shocked many and provoked a reevaluation of the U.S. presence in Iraq. After those disclosures, some enlisted troops and Army Reserve officers were charged, but in legal proceedings and official reviews no top commanders were deemed responsible for the scandal.

Sanchez retired after more senior defense officials, fearing that a public confirmation hearing would go badly in light of the abuse allegations, decided not to give him a fourth star. He is now a senior mentor at the military’s Joint Warfighting Center.

The Post could have mentioned Abu Ghraib in the first or second paragraph; it might have led the story: The former commander in Iraq who was forced to retire amid revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration yesterday . . .

Instead, the article tells us, in paragraphs 1-9, that a former commander in Iraq criticized the Bush administration, and in the remaining paragraphs that the guy who was forced to retire amid Abu Ghraib revelations criticized the media. Very subtle editorializing–very impressive if you like that sort of thing.

Today’s Post carries an article titled “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled.” It’s a generally upbeat report, though with significant caveats. What’s interesting is the absence from the story of one word: surge.

Don’t Know Much About History
From the New York Times:

It was President Bush who, a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rewrote America’s national security strategy to warn any nation that might be thinking of trying to develop atomic weapons that it could find itself the target of a pre-emptive military strike. . . .

This time it was the Israelis who invoked Mr. Bush’s doctrine, determining that what they believed was a nascent Syrian effort to build a nuclear reactor could not be tolerated.

Perhaps the Times has forgotten that in 1981, when Bush was just a Texas oil man, the Israelis bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein’s regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon. To say that Jerusalem is following “Bush’s doctrine” is like saying the Jews have embraced the Christian concept of monotheism.

To Serve Man
Eric Alterman can be so over the top sometimes:

Yes, the prize is rightly his. No one has devoted himself with such dedication and intellectual probity to a cause as important as this one. No one. So he deserves the Nobel. And the country deserves Al Gore to make another run at the presidency, he having lost his last try through chicanery and the arrogance of a party for which lying is second nature. Or maybe first.

But this is not one of those times. The quoted passage is from Marty Peretz, titular editor of The New Republic. (Hat tip: David Gerstman.) From Commentary’s Gary Rosen comes a dose or reality:

The problem with another Gore candidacy is that it would be a huge embarrassment, not for all the old, familiar reasons but precisely because of the issue that has redeemed him. Gore’s alarmism about climate change, now widely recognized, has left Democrats in an awkward position. If they were to follow the lead of the Nobel committee, which commended Gore for recognizing “the measures that need to be adopted” to remedy the problem, they would commit instant political suicide.

Gore advocates drastic, immediate measures to end global warming. As he wrote in an op-ed on the eve of this past summer’s Live Earth concerts, if we do not act “within 10 years,” we are likely to reach a “tipping point” making it impossible “to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.” In response to this dire situation, he would have the United States “join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global-warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide.”

The pitter-patter you hear, behind the earnest applause for Gore’s Nobel Prize, is the sound of Democrats in flight, running from such ideas as fast as their feet can carry them. A radical shift to clean energy is on the agenda of no mainstream politician, least of all those now on the stump in Iowa and New Hampshire. . . .

Democrats have temporized on the issue, endorsing half-measures like “cap and trade” emission programs, whose costs would be relatively small and largely invisible (and whose effect, under most schemes, would be marginal). Only the irascible, independent-minded Congressman John Dingell, for reasons of his own, has pressed for something like the full Gore.

Rosen generously links to our colleague Kim Strassel’s interview with Dingell. Meanwhile, a Texan shares his fantasies in a letter to the Austin American-Statesman (hat tip: Tom Elia):

Doesn’t it seem tragically and hilariously ironic that leaders of countries are salivating at gaining access to crude below the Artic, courtesy of the greenhouse effect, thereby allowing us to add that carbon to the atmospheric soup guaranteeing civilizational collapse?

Lately I’ve had this recurring, disturbing fantasy of Earth finally being visited by aliens, and after sizing up our circumstances, they leave awkwardly and I die of embarrassment knowing we’re the laughingstock of the galaxy.

[email address omitted]

Hey, it’s better than being eaten! Anyway, we detect a certain meeting of the minds here. Marty, why not have Mr. Barrios up for a job interview?

Another Reason Gore Deserves the Nobel
“Obesity Crisis Could Be ‘on Par With Climate Change”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 14

Excerpt From Gore’s Acceptance Speech
” ‘I Liketo Scarepeople’ “–headline, Saginaw (Mich.) News, Oct. 14

Loss Leader
“Governor Deval Patrick plans to introduce an ambitious program today to assist Massachusetts communities in preventing foreclosures by pressing lenders to accept losses on their mortgages so that homeowners are able to sell their properties and pay off smaller loan balances,” reports the Boston Globe.

Of course! It’s that simple! People can’t afford to pay their mortgages, so government just steps in and presses the lenders to accept losses, and voilà! Problem solved.

This could work for other problems too. Health-care costs too high? Just have the government press doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to operate at a loss. Three-dollar-a-gallon gasoline putting a crimp in your budget? We’re from the government, and we’re here to help! Just press the oil companies to sell gas for 50 cents a gallon (plus tax, of course). Food too expensive? The government can press stores to give the stuff away.

The only problem with this is that it is expensive for the companies involved, and it wouldn’t do anyone any good if they all went out of business. The government should do something! What about labor costs? Perhaps the government can press employees to work free. All this would require is the repeal of the 13th Amendment.

Hey, come to think of it, Patrick’s program is an ambitious one!

Rama Lama Ding Dong
Back in August we noted with amusement Red China’s plan to prohibit Tibetan Buddhist monks from reincarnating without government approval. Others found this funny as well, but not Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher who has written advertising copy for Abercrombie & Fitch. In a New York Times op-ed piece, he offers what we guess is supposed to be a defense of the Chinese law:

The Western liberal media had a laugh in August when China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs announced Order No. 5, a law covering “the management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.” This “important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation” basically prohibits Buddhist monks from returning from the dead without government permission: no one outside China can influence the reincarnation process; only monasteries in China can apply for permission.

Before we explode in rage that Chinese Communist totalitarianism now wants to control even the lives of its subjects after their deaths, we should remember that such measures are not unknown to European history. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555, the first step toward the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that ended the Thirty Years’ War, declared the local prince’s religion to be the official faith of a region or country (“cuius regio, eius religio”).

Hey, for all we know the Peace of Augsburg was a source of great hilarity back in 1555. Though we guess you had to be there.

She Isn’t Their Type
“Some women’s rights groups are expressing disappointment with the decision for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to lead Israel’s delegation to next month’s peace conference, saying among other things that she is not enough of a feminist,” Ha’aretz reports:

The groups were also disappointed with the lack of representation of women at the summit.

The meeting in Maryland will be the first test of the implementation of a new amendment to the Knesset’s law on women’s equality, which states that women must receive “varied and appropriate” representation in government-appointed peace-negotiation teams.

But the feminist groups, headed by the International Women’s Commission and Itakh: Women Lawyers for Social Justice, say they do not want Livni representing them. They say she is not sufficiently identified with feminist issuess[*]. The feminists also note that Livni is not perceived to be a devout peacenik, with a firm commitment to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Their preference, they say, would be to see a woman like the former MK Prof. Naomi Chazan, who is both a prominent feminist and a peace activist.

Anytime you think American politics is crazy, just remember, it could be worse.

* We almost stuck a “sic” in here, but then it occurred to us that maybe issuess is the feminine form of issue.

Wannabe Wannabe Pundits
Over on The New Republic’s Web site, Alex Massie comments on baseball and politics:

It’s déjà vu all over again. For the seventh successive year the New York Yankees have failed to win the World Series. No wonder it’s open season in New York. Repeated failure demands a sacrificial scapegoat. George Steinbrenner may have decided that Joe Torre’s head must go, while the media–perplexingly–argues that it’s all Alex Rodriguez’s fault. These are targets that are obvious and tempting but, nonetheless, inadequate.

Yankee fans should aim higher. Can it really be a coincidence that the most-storied and successful team in American sports has failed to win while George W. Bush has occupied the Oval Office? I think not. The successor to the Curse of the Bambino is George W. Bush’s hex upon the Yankees. Call it the Revenge of the Hanging Chad.

A wannabe pundit is someone who usually writes about sports, entertainment, food, technology or some other nonpolitical topic, but feels compelled to insert (usually silly) political commentary into his work. A wannabe wannabe pundit, then, is an actual pundit who uses labored references to sports, entertainment, etc., to make some (usually silly) political point.

An example would be an October 2004 item by The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who claimed that the Yankees had been cursed by New York’s election of Hillary Clinton as the state’s senior senator 12 days after the Yankees won their last World Series.

“Of course, Taranto’s item is different,” said a source close to Taranto, who asked not to be identified because of just how close to Taranto he is. “It makes no sense to think that the Yankees curse is Bush’s fault. New Yorkers didn’t even vote for Bush. Besides, of the six World Series since Bush took office, three have been won by blue-state teams. And you’d think if Bush were going to curse someone, it would be the Boston Red Sox.”

We pressed our source as to whether Taranto was qualified to write about sports. “As Yogi Berra might say, let him who lives in a glass house cast the first stone,” our source replied. “Before you start criticizing Taranto, ask yourself if you’ve ever done the same thing.” We had to admit, he had a point.

Another amusing point about Massie is that he works for the Scotsman, a newspaper from a country where baseball is virtually unheard of. Maybe the analogy would have worked better if it had been about golf or whisky.

Recipe for Trouble

  • “Rice Appeals to Turkey for Restraint Against Kurdish Rebels”–headline, FoxNews.com, Oct. 13
  • “Turkey & Wild Rice Skillet Cakes”–headline, Toronto Star, Oct. 3

Headlines We’d Like to See
“The Clinton Indictment”–headline, New York Sun, Oct. 15

As Long as He Isn’t Driving
“Kennedy ‘Eating Ice Cream’ After Surgery on Artery”–headline, WBZ-TV Web site (Boston), Oct. 12

Who’s the Warm-Up Act?
“Concert to Replace Stolen Donated Coats”–healdine, Flint (Mich.) Journal, Oct. 14

War of the Worlds
“Bombing Mars Holiday Celebration”–headline, Washington Post Express (page 7), Oct. 15

World’s Biggest ‘Star Trek’ Fan
“No Sex for 40 Mln Years? No Problem for 1 Organism”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 11

The Right to Bear Arms
“Bears Discover a New Weapon”–headline, Times (Munster, Ind.), Oct. 14

Must’ve Been a Cat Burglar
“Dallas Man Shoots, Kills Burglar Twice in 1 Month”–headline, KTVT-TV Web site (Dallas), Oct. 14

Now They Just Roll Around in the Mud
“Pigs Used to Increase Water Flow in Cartersville”–headline, Daily Tribune (Cartersville, Ga.), Oct. 14

Please, AP, Stay Away From N.Y. Water
“AP IMPACT: Calif. Water Is Getting Worse”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 12

Help Wanted
“Armed Muggers Wanted for Street Robbery”–headline, KUSA-TV Web site (Denver), Oct. 12

Breaking News From 1945
“Messerschmidt Guilty of Murder”–headline, New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 13

Breaking News From 1974
“Nixon Nails Old Mates, Indians Tie ALCS”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 14

News You Can Use

  • “Carelessness Can Be Fatal When It Comes to Fires”–headline, Times (Munster, Ind.), Oct. 15
  • “Chocolate Cravings May Start Deep in Gut”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 12
  • “Marriage Is Important, Children Do Notice”–headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Oct. 15
  • “Titan Forecast: Drizzle Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday . . .”–headline, CNN.com, Oct. 11

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Atheist Radio Show Goes National on Air America, With Ron Reagan as Guest”–headline, FoxNews.com, Oct. 12
  • “Tiny New York Town Votes to No Longer Exist”–headline, FoxNews.com, Oct. 14
  • “Business Owner Dismayed by Droppings”–headline, Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.; penultimate item), Oct. 15
  • “Edwards Questions Clinton’s Sincerity”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 14

The Friend Police
Here’s an odd report from the Chicago Sun-Times:

An African-American Chicago Police officer contends that a rule barring cops from associating with criminals discriminates against black officers.

The officer argues the rule is more restrictive on black officers because of the disproportionate number of African Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system.

Now, our initial reaction to hearing about this rule is that it’s vastly overbroad, an example of the sort of zero-tolerance policies we often criticize in the educational context.

To be sure, it can cause problems if policemen associate with criminals, and the Sun-Times notes that the rule “was originally designed to break up cozy relationships between cops and the mob.” But if cops are prohibited from any contact with anyone who has a criminal conviction (and the Sun-Times says this includes misdemeanants as well as felons), a lot of innocent relationships will end up being covered. In the case that prompted the story, the officer says she didn’t know that her acquaintance had a criminal record.

The thing that struck us about this story, though, was that line about people “who have had contact with the criminal justice system.” Is that just a euphemism for “criminals”? If not–if the officer literally means “contact with the criminal justice system”–why is she pushing for a rule change that would result in more such contact?

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Monty Krieger, Scott Barnett, Chris Scibelli, Ed Lasky, Fred Furia, Ethel Fenig, Kevin Coughlin, Larry Pollack, Jane Vawter, Tim Willis, Jeff Spiegel, Harry Forbes, Michael Segal, Avi Cutler, Emile Artus, Roger Baumgarten, David Stewart, Paul Wicht, Rex Pilger, Jeff Rosenthal, Robert Koslover, Andy Hefty, John Filcher, Bryan Fischer, Michele Schiesser, George Sturve, Thomas Shea, Edward Himmelfarb, Stu Seman, Justin Bartlett, Molly Reader, Doug Black, Andrew Pietila, Dana Nottingham, Steve Edwards, Rod Pennington, Duncan Witte, Merv Benson, Jason Shanker, Jon Wolter, Steve Biddle, Alan Utter, James O’Toole and Bruce Goldman. 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=110010737

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Akbar Atri: Don’t believe it when people say Iran’s democracy activists don’t want U.S. help.
  • John Fund: It’s time to draw the line on gerrymandering.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: A transcript of the weekend’s program on FOX News Channel.


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