OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 19, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – October 19, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Brendan Miniter on the retirement of Ohio Republican Rep. Ralph Regula.

    As Long as You Don’t Serve the Chicken That Way
    Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been raking in money from New York’s Chinatown, the Los Angeles Times reports. A single fund-raising event in April brought in $380,000. John Kerry, by contrast, raised $24,000 from Chinatown in the entire 2004 campaign.

    “Chinatown’s newfound role in the 2008 election cycle marks another chapter in the centuries-old American saga of marginalized ethnic groups and newly arrived immigrants turning to politics to improve their lot,” the Times says. But much of its story raises questions about this feel-good description. “Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton’s campaign treasury,” the Times reports.

    The paper tries, without much success, to figure out who these people are and how they can afford to write big checks to Mrs. Clinton:

    Of 74 residents of New York’s Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx or Brooklyn that The Times called or visited, only 24 could be reached for comment. . . .

    The tenement at 44 Henry St. was listed in Clinton’s campaign reports as the home of Shu Fang Li, who reportedly gave $1,000.

    In a recent visit, a man, apparently drunk, was asleep near the entrance to the neighboring beauty parlor, the Nice Hair Salon.

    A tenant living in the apartment listed as Li’s address said through a translator that she had not heard of him, although she had lived there for the last 10 years.

    A man named Liang Zheng was listed as having contributed $1,000. The address given was a large apartment building on East 194th Street in the Bronx, but no one by that name could be located there.

    Census figures for 2000 show the median family income for the area was less than $21,000. About 45% of the population was living below the poverty line, more than double the city average.

    In the busy heart of East Broadway, beneath the Manhattan Bridge, is a building that is listed as the home of Sang Cheung Lee, also reported to have given $1,000. Trash was piled in the dimly lighted entrance hall. Neighbors said they knew of no one with Lee’s name there; they knocked on one another’s doors in a futile effort to find him.

    Salespeople at a store on Canal Street were similarly baffled when asked about Shih Kan Chang, listed as working there and having given $1,000. The store sells purses, jewelry and novelty Buddha statues. Employees said they had not heard of Chang.

    Another listed donor, Yi Min Liu, said he did not make the $1,000 contribution in April that was reported in his name. He said he attended a banquet for Clinton but did not give her money.

    Reading the story, one suspects–although the Times never raises the possibility, and offers no direct evidence that this is the case–that one or more contributors are evading the $2,300 donation limit by either giving money under phony names or laundering contributions through busboys and others who would not normally make political contributions.

    If this is the case, it is an example of how campaign finance restrictions create incentives for corruption. (Mrs. Clinton voted for the McCain-Feingold law in 2001.) If the law allowed unlimited contributions but required full disclosure, we would know who was giving money to Mrs. Clinton. As it is, it appears as though some party or parties are doing so corruptly.

    And even if this is all on the up-and-up, because of campaign finance restrictions, Mrs. Clinton is burdened with the appearance of corruption. Though to be fair, there may be no legal regime that can prevent that.

    Stark, Raving Mad
    The House yesterday sustained President Bush’s veto of a measure that would expand a health-care program for “poor children” to include adults and nonpoor children. In the debate that preceded the vote, Rep. Fortney Hillman Stark Jr. decided he wanted to change the subject. The Washington Post reports what he said:

    “You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

    When Minority Leader John Bohener demanded an apology, Stark “responded only by calling those who voted to deny children health care ‘chicken hawks’ “–apparently now a generic term of abuse.

    Stark, whose district covers much of Alameda County, Calif., south of Oakland, is–not to put too fine a point on it–a bit of a nut. When he has appeared in this column in the past, it has generally been for his outlying votes, such as these:

  • October 2004: In favor of Charlie Rangel’s proposal to reinstate the draft (a proposal so preposterous that Rangel himself voted against it.)
  • July 2006: Against a nonbinding resolution condemning terrorist attacks against Israel.
  • December 2006: Against a nonbinding resolution criticizing a French city for naming a street in honor of the man who murdered Philadelphia policeman Danny Faulkner.

The votes on these measures were 402-2, 410-8 and 368-31 respectively, so Stark is well outside the mainstream even of his own party. Predictably enough, his outrageous comments yesterday have been drawing denunciations from Republicans and conservatives. But like the McCarthyite MoveOn.org ad, this is a political opportunity for Democrats to renounce extremists in their own midst, thereby reassuring Americans that the Democratic Party does not stand for the views of Fortney Hillman Stark Jr.

Will the Dems be smart enough to take advantage of this opportunity? We hope so, but we won’t hold our breath.

Latest Dance Craze: The Pelosi Misstep!
“The two meetings House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended before a vote on a resolution labeling the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a genocide foreshadowed the biggest political misstep of her speakership,” Bloomberg reports:

In the hours before a House panel approved the resolution Oct. 10, Pelosi was told in a tense meeting with Turkey’s ambassador that the vote would endanger his country’s alliance with the U.S. She had a warmer session with an Armenian cleric and representatives of Armenian-Americans, who have a large presence in her home state of California. In both, she made clear she intended to bring the resolution to a full House vote.

Since then, Pelosi, 67, has been in retreat. Her vow to bring the measure to a vote outraged Turkey, which recalled its ambassador and threatened to cut off the use of its military bases to resupply U.S. troops in Iraq. On Oct. 17, Pelosi said it “remains to be seen” whether the vote would occur after more than a dozen lawmakers pulled their names from the measure and some Democrats asked her to drop it. . . .

“She dug in her heels to find that she didn’t have her members with her,” said Representative Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican. “If you get too far out in front of them, it can be embarrassing.”

Some have speculated that the timing of the resolution reflected a sinister motive–that Democrats hoped to sabotage the Iraq effort by offending the Ankara and provoking a response harmful to U.S. interests. But it seems to us that the answer to the question “Why now?” is more innocent: It is simply because Pelosi is new in the job and was out of her depth in dealing with a sensitive geopolitical question. (As we noted Wednesday, Pelosi’s predecessor, Dennis Hastert, made the same mistake, albeit less spectacularly, during his first term as speaker.)

Still and all, this misstep may be just the break the Cindy Sheehan campaign has been waiting for!

Patriots Outnumber Hippies–in Berkeley!
“Flag-waving demonstrators far outnumbered a group of peace [sic] advocates who were protesting a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center in downtown on Wednesday,” the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times reports from Berkeley:

On one side of the street was CodePINK, Grandmothers Against the War, Berkeley East Bay Gray Panthers, Women in Black and other peace groups holding “no war” signs and chanting “out of Iraq.”

On the other were military veterans, mothers and fathers of soldiers, members of the UC Berkeley College Republicans and Melanie Morgan, whose conservative talk show airs on KSFO. They waved American flags and chanted “USA, USA, USA.”

Berkeley is one of the last places you’d expect patriots to outnumber hippies. What could account for this? Well, maybe the rest of the hippies are across the bay in San Francisco, where, as the Associated Press reports, “city health officials took steps Thursday toward opening the nation’s first legal safe-injection room, where addicts could shoot up heroin, cocaine and other drugs under the supervision of nurses.”

Meanwhile in Portland, Maine, the AP reports that “school officials on Thursday defended a decision to allow children as young as 11 to obtain birth-control pills at a middle-school health center.”

In both San Francisco and Portland, however, smoking in bars is strictly prohibited. It’s bad for your health, after all.

Our Evolving Standards of Racial Etiquette
The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal reports on a local racial kerfuffle:

Dutchess County Legislator Fred Bunnell, D-Poughkeepsie, has apologized for twice using the “N” word during heated public debate this week on illegal immigrants being allowing to drive. . . .

Bunnell used the racial epithet, along with a slur used in reference to Italians, during the Legislature discussion over Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s recent directive to no longer require Social Security numbers when issuing driver’s licenses. Spitzer’s policy is meant to bring hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the roads. . . .

In making his point, Bunnell said calling someone an “illegal immigrant” is equivalent to slurs used against Italians and blacks, using both words.

It’s hard for an outsider to know what to make of this, given that the Journal never tells us which “slurs” Bunnell used. We can guess what the black one was, but the Italian one could have been any of several.

Meanwhile, the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas, reports on a similar remark that does not seem to have spurred any outrage. The comment refers to You Don’t Speak for Me, a group for anti-immigration Hispanics:

Brent Wilkes, national executive director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said You Don’t Speak for Me is just a “front group” set up by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based group that wants to tighten immigration enforcement.

“These Latinos are duped,” he said. “When they had slavery, I suppose they were able to find a couple of African-Americans out there who said it was a good thing.”

This column generally supports open borders, but the comparison of immigration restrictions to slavery strikes us as an invidious one. Why did Bunnell’s remarks lead to demands for an apology, while Wilkes’s seems to have gone unremarked until now? Surely no one believes racial slurs are worse than slavery.

Another bit of appalling racial news comes from Abbey Brown, a columnist for the Town Talk of Alexandria, La.:

Two of the teens enmeshed in the nationally known “Jena Six” case helped present the most anticipated award during Black Entertainment Television’s Hip Hop Awards show broadcast Thursday night.

Carwin Jones and Bryant Purvis were introduced by Katt Williams, a comedian and the awards show’s host, as two of the students involved in a case of “systematic racism.”

“By no means are we condoning a six-on-one beat-down,” Williams said during his introduction of the teens, one of whom is still facing attempted murder charges in connection with the attack on white student Justin Barker.

Well, that’s a relief.

Wannabe Pundits
From Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert’s review of “Rendition”:

This is being done in our name. People who are suspected for any reason, or no good reason, of being terrorists can be snatched from their lives and transported to another country to be held without charge and tortured for information. Because the torture is conducted by professionals in those countries, our officials can blandly state that “America does not torture.” This practice, known as an “extraordinary rendition,” was authorized, I am sorry to say, under the Clinton administration. After 9/11, there is reason to believe the Bush administration uses it frequently.

Of course one cannot fault Ebert for discussing the subject matter of the movie in his review of it. But you have to love the way he apologizes for the Clinton administration while denouncing the Bush administration for the same thing.

Reliable Sources
“Morgan Stanley has sold its 7.2 percent stake in The New York Times Company, people close to the matter said yesterday, bringing an end to a bitter fight between one of the bank’s asset managers and the company,” the New York Times reports:

Over the last two years, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, led by the fund’s manager, Hassan Elmasry, had been conducting a campaign to press the company to change its dual-class share structure, which allows the members of the Ochs-Sulzberger family to control the company through a special class of stock.

A spokesman for Mr. Elmasry said he was traveling overseas and could not be reached for comment. In a statement, Morgan Stanley said: “As a matter of policy, Morgan Stanley Investment Management does not publicly comment on changes in its portfolio.”

The New York Times Company, through a spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

The New York Times refused to comment to the New York Times? How common is that? In an attempt to find out, we called James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, but he declined to comment.

The Former Veep Has Bad Genes
“Nature, Not Man, Is to Blame, Gore Critic Insists”–headline, Seattle Times, Oct. 13

Sandy Berger Has a New Best Friend
“Man Puts Puppy in Pants and Slips Off”–headline, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Oct. 19

Listening Is Overrated Anyway
“Impotence Drugs May Increase Risk for Sudden Hearing Loss”–headline, CNN.com, Oct. 18

Even if It’s Sparkling, a Quarter Doesn’t Sound Like Much
“Google Rides Internet Ad Wave to Another Sparkling Quarter; 3Q Profit Soars 46 Percent”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 19

Let’s Hope Someone Read Them Their Rights
“Neanderthals May Have Talked”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 18

What Happened to Being Fashionably Late?
“Early Humans Wore Makeup, Ate Mussels”–headline, Discovery.com, Oct. 17

We Were Afraid He’d Develop Bedsores
“Congo War Crimes Suspect Turned Over”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 18

Why Not Replace Them With STERN Ones?
“LAX Screeners Fail 75% of Bomb-Detection Tests”–headline, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 18

Help Wanted
“Cross-Dressing Bandit Sought”–headline, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 18

And It Turns Into a Butterfly Net
“Caterpillar Net Rises on Strong Sales”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 19

All Your Bees Are Belong to Us
“Blue Orchard Bees Find Favor in Colony Collapse Disorder Peril”–headline, Bloomberg, Oct. 19

Someone Set Up Us the Bomb
“Waterloo CVB Head South Bend Bound”–headline, Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, Oct. 18

News You Can Use

  • “Elephants Can Literally Sniff Out Danger”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 18
  • “You Can Have a Personal Chef”–headline, CNN.com, Oct. 18
  • “Living Paycheck to Paycheck Gets Harder”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 19
  • “Admirers of Life-Size Dolls Say They’re ‘a Balm for Loneliness’ “–headline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 19

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Wal-Mart Worker Gets His Finger Stuck”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 18
  • “Wife of Presidential Candidate Kucinich Visits Bisbee”–headline, Sierra Vista (Ariz.) Herald, Oct. 18
  • “Potato Expert Jim to Address United Nations”–headline, Market Rasen (England) Mail, Oct. 17
  • ” ‘Canadians Don’t Want Another Election Right Now’: Dion”–headline, CBC.ca, Oct. 17
  • “Florida GOP Excludes Alan Keyes From Orlando Debate”–headline, Alan Keyes for President press release, Oct. 19

More Metric Confusion
“Those not blessed with height are often accused of having a chip on their shoulder,” reports London’s Evening Standard. “Now a study has found that they might, in fact, have an unhealthy attitude to life”:

Lead researcher Dr Torsten Christensen said: “Using this large and nationally representative sample of the UK population, we found shorter people report that they experience lower physical and mental well-being than taller people do. . . .

Dr Christensen found that short people would have a 6 per cent higher health rating if they were around three inches taller.

This is the equivalent to the health benefit experienced by an obese person losing two and a half stones.

Why would losing stones be beneficial to health? Is he referring to kidney stones?

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Jonathan Pittinsky, Ryan Klar, Ed Lasky, Thomas Dillon, Dan O’Shea, Joseph Eule, Paul Dyck, Jeffrey Shapiro, Patrick Bell, Randall Woodman, Ethel Fenig, Rod Pennington, Lawrence Peck, Peter Pullen, Edward Tannen, Dan Tracy, Steven Stratton, Chris Stetsko, Orin Ryssman, John Sanders, Michael Graham, Yan Mogilyanksy, George Shea, Christopher Thompson, John Neal, Jed Flint, Kirk Watson, Ed Jordan, Jeff Dobbs, Peter Matos, Bruce Goldman, Brian O’Rourke, Paul Goodrich, Mitch Townsend, Jim Schubilske, Robert LaFleur, Justin Bartlett, Doug Black, Eric Orbock, Martin Mix, Buddy Smith, Monty Kriger, Daniel Foty, W. Garner Robinson and Al Dubinsky. 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=110010758

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: What happened at Haditha: The massacre that wasn’t, and its political exploitation.
  • Peggy Noonan: Being a woman is Mrs. Clinton’s biggest asset–and she’s trying to seem like one.
  • Steve Moore: Democrats tell business to pay up or else.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: Tune in this weekend for discussions of the Armenian genocide resolutions, al Qaeda in Iraq and taxes.

And on the Taste page:

  • Bret Stephens: Manhattan real estate: defining luxury down.
  • Stephen Bates: Baby boomers put their own spin on marking the end of life.
  • Paul Harvey: Gospel truth: The evolution of an American musical tradition.

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