OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – November 29, 2007


Best of the Web Today – November 29, 2007


    Today’s Videos on WSJ.com:

    Take That, You Little Cracker!
    Here’s an appalling press release from the University of Texas:

    Challenging the idea that racism education could be harmful to students, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin found the results of learning about historical racism are primarily positive. The study appears in the November/December issue of the journal Child Development.

    Psychologists Rebecca Bigler and Julie Milligan Hughes found white children who received history lessons about discrimination against famous African Americans had significantly more positive attitudes toward African Americans than those who received lessons with no mention of racism. African-American children who learned about racism did not differ in their racial attitudes from those who heard lessons that omitted the racism information, the study showed. . . .

    Both white and black children who learned about racism were more likely to value racial fairness and to express greater satisfaction with the lesson. White children whose lessons included information on discrimination showed more defensiveness, had more racial guilt (if they were older than 7) and were less likely to accept stereotypical views about African Americans.

    Breaking down stereotypes is all well and good, but what kind of sicko thinks it’s “positive” to make 7-year-olds feel guilty about the color of their skin?

    Appeal to Authority
    This column likes and admires John McCain, but an exchange in last night’s Republican debate reminds us why we are uneasy with the idea of his becoming president. McCain had an exchange with Mitt Romney on the subject of “waterboarding,” an interrogation technique that the CIA is believed to have used to extract life-saving information from a few high-level al Qaeda terrorists. Romney has no clear position on whether waterboarding is “torture,” but McCain does. He said:

    I am astonished that you would think such a–such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our–who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that’s not torture. It’s in violation of the Geneva Convention. It’s in violation of existing law.

    And, governor, let me tell you, if we’re going to get the high ground in this world and we’re going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We’re not going to torture people.

    We’re not going to do what Pol Pot did. We’re not going to do what’s being done to Burmese monks as we speak.

    Romney persisted in leaving his options open, and McCain replied:

    Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, which were for the treatment of people who were held prisoners, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war. Because it’s clear the definition of torture.

    McCain profoundly misunderstands the Geneva Conventions, which were designed to impose basic rules of warfare. Protecting those who ignore the rules is directly contrary to the purpose of the conventions.

    The conventions did not in fact protect illegal combatants, and to the extent that they now do, it is the result only of activist judges–namely, the five justices who ruled last year, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that enemy combatants are entitled to some protections under the conventions’ Common Article 3–which was written to apply to civil wars, not conflicts with international terrorist organizations. (For a full exposition, see our June 26 Wall Street Journal op-ed.)

    It is true that it would be a violation of international law to torture even an al Qaeda terrorist. The relevant treaty, however, is not the Geneva Conventions but the Convention Against Torture, which imposes an absolute ban. If McCain doesn’t know this, why is even Romney eager to credit him as some sort of authority? “Sen. McCain,” Romney said, “I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response.”

    McCain, of course, is supposed to have “moral authority” because, as a naval airman decades ago, he was tortured at the hands of his North Vietnamese communist captors. (By the way, were any of them ever tried for war crimes?) Moral authority, however, is not a substitute for accurate information.

    Furthermore, it is a matter of controversy whether waterboarding constitutes torture. McCain’s position is certainly a defensible one, but we find his instinct unsettling. There are going to be gray areas in the war on terror, and we’d rather have the man at the top be someone who, when faced with difficult questions, errs on the side of protecting American women and children from being murdered rather than protecting terrorists from being treated unpleasantly.

    In the Garden, Growth Has Its Seasons–II
    Earlier this month we noted that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had planted softball questions in audiences at campaign appearances. At last night’s debate, CNN was embarrassed when one of the questioners turned out to be an adviser to Mrs. Clinton, NewsBusters.com reports:

    CNN, as part of its Republican debate with YouTube, failed to mention that retired general Keith Kerr, who announced he was gay after his retirement from the Army, is a member of Hillary Clinton’s “LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committee.” Not only did General Kerr ask the question via a YouTube video, but he was also present in the audience, and got to ask the candidates for a “straight answer” (pardon the pun).

    CNN apparently was not aware of Kerr’s connection to Mrs. Clinton when it selected his question. During postdebate coverage, NewsBusters reports, moderator Anderson Cooper said that “had we had that information, we would have acknowledged that in using his question, if we had used it at all.” According to HotAir.com, the network cut Kerr from its rebroadcast of the debate. Keeping it in and adding a disclosure would have been more honest.

    It’s also unclear whether Kerr was acting in coordination with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. It’s hard to believe she would be eager to raise the issue that occasioned her lesser half’s first big blunder as president–a subject on which public opinion probably is not on her side, even if it is less hostile than in 1993.

    Breaking News From 93 Years From Now
    Here is a bit of “journalism” that is ludicrous even by Reuters’ standards:

    If nothing is done to combat global warming, two of Florida’s nuclear power plants, three of its prisons and 1,362 hotels, motels and inns will be under water by 2100, a study released on Wednesday said.

    In all, Florida could stand to lose $345 billion a year in projected economic activity by 2100 if nothing is done to reduce emissions that are viewed as the main human contribution to rising global temperatures, according to the Tufts University study.

    That equals about 5 percent of what economists project the state’s gross domestic product will be by the end of the century.

    Why is it news that some guys are speculating about what is going to happen 93 years from now? To put things in perspective, 93 years ago Woodrow Wilson was in his first term; Archduke Ferdinand had just been assassinated, setting off what would for decades be known as the Great War; the Soviet Union and commercial radio had yet to come into existence; Adolf Hitler was an enlisted man in the Bavarian Army; and Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo were among America’s 10 most populous cities.

    Just about everyone who reads this Reuters dispatch today will be dead by 2100. If that doesn’t make this story “too good to check,” we don’t know what would.

    Humer Nods
    The byline of yesterday’s column (since corrected) incorrectly identified the author as James “Taratnto.” In fact, our name yesterday was James Taranto, as it is today and has been on every other day we can remember. We regret the error.

    Where’s John Kerry When You Need Him?
    “U.S. 4th-Graders Slip in Global Test”–headline, USA Today, Nov. 28

    Maybe He Should Threaten Politely
    “Leahy Threatens White House With Contempt”–headline, SwampPolitics.com, Nov. 29

    Life Imitates the Onion

  • “Disgruntled Ninja Silently Kills 12 Co-Workers”–headline, Onion, Sept. 29, 1999
  • “Natavia Lowery: Linda Stein Was Killed by Rogue Ninja”–headline, New York magazine Web site, Nov. 28, 2007

All Your Base Are Belong to Us
“Fans Pelt Telly Perv at Footie”–headline, Sun (London), Nov. 29

Someone Set Up Us the Bomb
“Deters Seeks ‘Sex Offender’ Label”–headline, Enquirer (Cincinnati), Nov. 29

News You Can Use

  • “Getting a Grasp on Teenage ‘Love’ Can Be Complicated”–headline, Miami Herald, Nov. 29
  • “Sex With Americans Risky for Mexican Hookers”-headline, San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 28
  • “Hidden Dangers in Visiting Porn Sites”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 28

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “No Action Likely Tonight on Impact Fee”–headline, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Nov. 28
  • “Ice Cream Parlor Is Big on Flavors”–headline, Miami Herald, Nov. 29
  • “California Highway Patrol Chasing Black Cow on 58th Avenue in Indio”–headline, Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.), Nov. 28
  • “Reports: Former Officer Moved Container”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 28
  • “Clinton Says She Has Her Own Mega-Celebrities”–headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 28

Reliable Sources
From an Associated Press dispatch by Edison Lopez:

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said he was unaware of the document.

C’mon, Lopez, you call that reporting? We thought we could do better, so we phoned one of our favorite sources, veteran journalist James Taranto. His line was busy, but we caught up with him as he was looking into the bathroom mirror in his Manhattan apartment. We seized the opportunity for a face-to-face interview.

“I am not authorized to speak on the matter either,” Taranto told us. “But dammit, I’ve been silent long enough. I am unaware of the document. There, I’ve said it–let the chips fall where they may.”

Let that be a lesson to aspiring journalists: You don’t have to settle for anonymous quotes. You can find a source courageous enough to go on the record. All you need is shoe leather and moxie.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Michael Segal, Ethel Fenig, Kevin Aylward, Tom Vail, Pat Rowe, Michael Yore, Kurt Jarrett, Kevin Englet, Michele Schiesser, Tom George, Don Stewart, John Keyes, Danyelle McDow, Barry Sine, Hillel Cohen, Paul Stewart, Quentin Neill, Don Hubschman, David Gerstman, Peter Minton, Mike Stevens, Henry Grimmelsman, Ed Jordan, Jared Schultz, Patrick Bedwell, Bruce Goldman, Kathleen Sullivan, Kyle kyllan, Ray Hendel and Fred Furia. 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=110010923

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: Abu Dhabi takes Manhattan–and Washington, too?
  • Dan Henninger: Amazon debuts Kindle just as the National Endowment for the Arts says reading is fading.
  • John Hulsman: What’s wrong with Michael Gerson’s “heroic conservatism.”


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