OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – November 20, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – November 20, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Paul Gigot of “The Journal Editorial Report” interviews Cypress Semiconductors CEO T.J. Rodgers on Warren Buffett’s high-tax hypocrisy.

    Science Has Spoken, Now Shut Up
    “The Scientists Speak,” reads the headline of the New York Times editorial, which informs us that there is no question the New York Times editorialists are right:

    The world’s scientists have done their job. Now it’s time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest–and the most powerful–report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world’s most authoritative voice on global warming.

    Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

    There is no doubt! These are scientists, after all, and they’re working for the U.N. They don’t make mistakes!

    Or do they? Here’s a news story that also appears in the Times today:

    The United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency plans to issue a report today acknowledging that it overestimated the size of the epidemic and that new infections with the deadly virus have been dropping each year since they peaked in the late 1990s.

    We’re so confused. Didn’t the scientists speak? How could they have gotten it so wrong? After all, they’re scientists!

    Here’s a quote from the Washington Post that may shed some light on the matter:

    “There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda,” said Helen Epstein, author of “The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS.” “I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way.”

    Could it be that we are watching the same phenomenon with the whole global-warmist hysteria? Our bet would be yes.

    One Cheer for the Times
    So far as we know, pigs have not flown, and hell has not frozen over. But something almost as unusual happened: The lead story in today’s New York Times–stretching two-thirds of the way across the front page–is about Baghdad, and it’s good news:

    The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.

    As a result, for the first time in nearly two years, people are moving with freedom around much of this city. In more than 50 interviews across Baghdad, it became clear that while there were still no-go zones, more Iraqis now drive between Sunni and Shiite areas for work, shopping or school, a few even after dark. In the most stable neighborhoods of Baghdad, some secular women are also dressing as they wish. Wedding bands are playing in public again, and at a handful of once shuttered liquor stores customers now line up outside in a collective rebuke to religious vigilantes from the Shiite Mahdi Army.

    Iraqis are clearly surprised and relieved to see commerce and movement finally increase, five months after an extra 30,000 American troops arrived in the country.

    Of course the Times notes that “the depth and sustainability of the changes remain open to question”–which is just another way of saying that journalists can’t report on things that haven’t happened yet*. Blogger Edward Morrissey notes just how remarkable is this story’s appearance in the Times:

    Just two months ago, the paper gave MoveOn a price break to run an ad that accused General David Petraeus of treason and perjury even before he testified about the security improvements. The editorial board called Petraeus’ testimony “empty calories” and complained of his “broken promises and false claims of success” and asserted that Petraeus had not given an “honest accounting” in his Congressional briefings.

    The Times waited until the success of Petraeus could no longer be denied to publish the truth.

    The Washington Post, though, has a story you probably won’t read in the Times anytime soon:

    Abu Nawall, a captured al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, said he didn’t join the Sunni insurgent group here to kill Americans or to form a Muslim caliphate. He signed up for the cash.

    “I was out of work and needed the money,” said Abu Nawall, the nom de guerre of an unemployed metal worker who was paid as much as $1,300 a month as an insurgent. He spoke in a phone interview from an Iraqi military base where he is being detained. “How else could I support my family?”

    U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations.

    U.S. military officials have responded by launching a major campaign to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq’s financial networks and spread propaganda that portrays its leaders as greedy thugs, an effort the officials describe as a key factor in their recent success beating down the insurgency.

    The Times, in an effort to promote the notion that al Qaeda has nothing to do with Iraq, has actually adopted a house style of referring to al Qaeda in Iraq as “al Qeada in Mesopotamia” and describing it as a grassroots Iraqi group that “the Bush administration says” has foreign leadership. It would be more accurate to identify it as “al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, which recruits local mercenaries to murder their countrymen.”

    * Except, of course, when “the scientists speak.”

    Scary Movie 2
    Yesterday we noted that Rudy Giuliani seemed to be making an effort to evoke Ronald Reagan, by describing himself as a can-do optimist. Evidence that it is working comes from a “report” in Reuters about what a bunch of fraidy-cats Giuliani’s opponents are:

    Republican Rudy Giuliani vows to be tough on terror, chooses advisers who want to bomb Iran and doesn’t think pretending to drown prisoners is torture.

    Add to those views a reputation for being combative, and Giuliani often evokes the word “scary” from opponents who find the tough-guy image that served him so well after the September 11 attacks now a cause for concern as he seeks the U.S. presidency.

    Type the word “scary” and names of Republican candidates for president into a leading database of articles. The name of the former New York mayor will get the most hits.

    “He is a scary guy,” said Jerome Hauer, who ran the city’s Office of Emergency Management for Giuliani. “He was probably one of the more divisive mayors the city has ever seen.

    “People in this country should be very frightened of Rudy because he is not going to bring the country together,” Hauer added. “Who knows who he’d pick wars with?”

    We tried typing in the word “scary” and “Reagan” to find articles from 1980. Not many papers’ databases go back that far, but the New York Times’s does, and here’s a sampling of what we found:

  • “Reagan’s performance in the preliminaries of the Detroit convention is a puzzle. He allowed the far right to ride its hobby horses onto the Republican platform. The result can only be to make voters in the middle begin worrying that a Reagan Administration would after all be a scary ideological government–and to give Jimmy Carter an opening to play on those fears.”–Anthony Lewis column, July 14, 1980
  • “The fundamental responsibility of an American President is in foreign policy. There, as in economic affairs, this Republican convention has had a unifying theme: the incompetence of Jimmy Carter. Henry Kissinger put it: ‘Another four years like the last four will make disaster irretrievable.’ The Carter record is plenty vulnerable. But is the alternative prospect reassuring? Not when you look at the words of Ronald Reagan. On his record there is too much of the silly and the scary.”–Lewis column, July 17, 1980
  • “The point is more general. Reagan’s secret weapon as a candidate is his amiability. On television or in person he comes across as a comfortable old shoe, not one of those scary figures of the hard right. But his political ideas do come from the far right. So does most of his staff. And so does the basic constituency that made him the candidate.”–Lewis column, Sept. 22, 1980
  • “Although the early advertisements were obviously designed to stir questions about Ronald Reagan’s ability, at the age of 69, to handle the job, the second wave of Carter advertisements are more blunt and negative, portraying Mr. Reagan as an inadequate Governor who would prove to be a ‘scary‘ President.”–Bernard Weinraub “news analysis,” Oct. 8, 1980
  • “Mr. Reagan’s ‘Scary’ Mandate”–headline, editorial, Nov. 8, 1980

In fairness, that last headline actually is a quote from President-elect Reagan, who described his own mandate as “scary” (the Times apparently didn’t realize he was making fun of his easily-spooked opponents).

This history underscores the point we made yesterday about the psychology of the Angry Left. What most of them found most “scary” about Reagan was his purported belligerence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. When he accurately described the U.S.S.R. as an evil empire, his domestic critics ran for the hills.

But of course there was nothing scary about Reagan. What frightened his opponents was his refusal to let them forget what they were really afraid of: an evil empire with weapons of mass destruction pointed at all of us, including Tony Lewis. Likewise, today’s Angry Left is afraid of Giuliani (and George W. Bush) because he reminds them of a threat they are trying desperately to deny–a threat that will actually be greater if the cowardly deniers are allowed to make policy.

Even the Poetry Is Dangerous in Camden

  • “Detroit Named Most Dangerous City; Camden Ranks Fifth”–headline, Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), Nov. 19
  • “Poetry Slam at Camden College”–headline, Courier Post, Nov. 19

‘Judge Mukasey’s Working Late and Needs a Couple of Six-Packs’
“Molson Coors, SAB Miller Get Request From Justice Department”–headline, FoxBusiness.com, Nov. 20

Although Not as Bad as ‘The Waterboy’
“Opposing View: Iranian Bomb ‘Intolerable’ “–headline, USA Today, Nov. 20

Shouldn’t They Have Warned Before Shooting?
“Iraq Warns Foreign Security Firms After Shooting”–headline, Reuters, Nov. 20

He Was at the Rose-Tavern
“Missing Rake Found”–headline, WNEP-TV Web site (Scranton, Pa.), Nov. 19

What Is That Thing Under the Palm Tr . . . Oh, Look! A Squirrel!
“Mystery Fla. Animal Likely a Squirrel”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 17

Breaking News From 1975
“Khmer Rouge Tribunal Holds 1st Hearing”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 20

News You Can Use

  • “Big Paycheck Means Less Housework for Married Women”–headline, Reuters, Nov. 19
  • “Duck if You Feed Wild Animals”–headline, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Nov. 18
  • “Scared of Superbugs? Try Washing Your Hands”–headline, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 20
  • “REALITY CHECK: If You Speak Klingon, Chances Are You’re a Nerd”–headline, Mlive.com, Nov. 19

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Rumor Roundup: Trade Winds Not Blowing”–headline, Hockey News, Nov. 19
  • “Wrestler Ric Flair Supporting Mike Huckabee”–headline, CNN.com, Nov. 20
  • “News Staffers at CBS Authorize a Strike”–headline, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 20
  • “Al Gore Wins International Emmy Awards”–headline, Reuters, Nov. 20

Shock: Journalist Backs Mrs. Clinton!
The Boston Globe reports–are you sitting down?–that former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson, now a professor of journalism at Emerson College, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president:

Simpson, 65, said she immediately regretted her actions and offered her resignation the next day, which university officials refused to accept. Now Simpson is considering an offer from the Clinton campaign to stump for the candidate, namely before black audiences in the South. She and other university officials have agreed she will not teach political journalism courses if she campaigns for Clinton.

“I know I made a mistake. It was definitely the wrong venue for my first foray into free speech,” Simpson said. “But I’d really like to see her win. After being a reporter for so many years, where you wish you could do more than you can, it would be nice to make a difference.” . . .

Simpson said she regrets that the endorsement continues to be a flashpoint, and said her political opinions have never influenced her reporting or teaching.

“I anchored for 15 years, and I defy anyone to have determined my political feelings from that,” she said.

Well, some people certainly tried:

  • A 2000 editorial in The Wall Street Journal observed that while moderating a 1992 presidential debate, “Simpson let her anti-Bush feelings show with such sardonic asides as, ‘Who would like to begin? The education president?’ ” A few days later, our John Fund elaborated: “Carole Simpson of ABC News was an unusual moderator. A witness to the rehearsal saw her lead questioners into issue areas friendly to [Bill] Clinton and even go so far as to coach some participants. [George H.W.] Bush’s performance that night was indeed subpar (he even looked his watch at one point), but it wasn’t helped by Ms. Simpson’s on-camera tilt towards his opponent.”
  • In a 2002 column, we quoted a Media Research Center report: “The expanding homeless population was out of sight during the Clinton years but just three short weeks after George W. Bush assumed office, ABC won the race to be the first network to rediscover the homeless: On Sunday, February 11, 2001, World News Tonight Sunday anchor Carole Simpson intoned: ‘Homelessness, which is estimated to effect [sic] from two and a half to three and a half million people, is again on the rise.’ “
  • Three years ago, we quoted the following Simpson comments from a postelection panel: “I got a little map here of pre-Civil War free versus slave states. I wish you could see it in color and large. But if you look at it, the red states are all done in the South, and you have the Nebraska territories, the New Mexico territories and the Kansas territories, but the Pacific Northwest and California were not slave states. The Northeast was not. It looks like the map of 2004, and when you say, ‘Let’s let the states decide,’ I remember what the states decided when they had slavery. I think they’re going quickly after social programs, despite what he says. I think we’re going to get a rollback on all kind of things. Affirmative action is a bad word; liberal is a bad word; gay is a bad word, diversity. All these words that are perfectly fine words now are these touchstones, these trigger points, and that frightens me.”

So as you can see, we had Simpson pegged as a liberal long ago. Just a lucky guess, we’re sure!

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Philip Ellison, Ethel Fenig, Steve Schilwacther, Michael Segal, Jacob Roebuck, Steve Ginnings, Tom Elia, Gerald White, Bruce Goldman, Paul Gross, Charles Thomas, Daniel Peterson, Rod Pennington, John Lord, Ed Jordan, Doug Black, Tim Willis, Jeffrey McGinley, Chuck Bloomer, Dan O’Shea, Pat Rowe and Gary Pomeroy. 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=

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: Global Warming, Inc.: Al Gore, Silicon Valley, and venture politics.
  • Bret Stephens: Condoleezza Rice’s pointless Middle East conference.
  • Richard Woodward: Why do so many criminals want to be video stars?


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