OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – December 3, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – December 3, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO



    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: James Taranto talks Internet politics with Fox Business’s David Asman, and Mary O’Grady on Bolivia’s imperiled democracy.

    Playground Politics
    As Democratic primary voters experience pre-emptive buyer’s remorse–that is, second thoughts about Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability”–a desperate Mrs. Clinton stands on the brink of losing all dignity. This is from a press release she put out last night:

    At an event in Boston this evening, Senator Obama claimed for the second time today that he is “not running to fulfill some long held plans” to be elected President, contradicting statements his friends, family, staff and teachers have all made about him. . . .

    In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want To Be a President.’ His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga “asked her class to write an essay titled ‘My dream: What I want to be in the future.’ Senator Obama wrote ‘I want to be a President,’ she said.” [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]

    In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want to Become President.’ “Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama’s kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, ‘I Want To Become President,’ the teacher said.” [AP, 1/25/07]

    Honest, we’re not making this up. Mrs. Clinton really is attacking Obama for something he wrote in kindergarten. It’s as if she took those adorable Swift Kids for Truth ads seriously.

    Wait, it gets even sillier. The New York Sun reports that Mrs. Clinton’s description of Obama’s third-grade essay isn’t honest:

    The missive from Mrs. Clinton’s operation omitted an interesting, and arguably germane, part of the anecdotes from Mr. Obama’s childhood. Although Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, when he was in kindergarten and third grade, he lived in Indonesia. It is not clear, therefore, whether the young Mr. Obama was aspiring to be president of Indonesia, America, or the whole world for that matter.

    In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Obama’s third-grade teacher, Fermina Katarina Sinaga, said the future senator “wrote he wanted to be president” in response to an assignment about what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Clinton research sheet picks up that part of the story but ignores the quote that comes next. “He didn’t say what country he wanted to be president of. But he wanted to make everybody happy,” Ms. Sinaga said. The similar kindergarten anecdote, which comes from an Associated Press dispatch, has no indication of what country Mr. Obama hoped to lead. . . .

    Yesterday may not have been the first time the Clinton campaign seized on the report about Mr. Obama’s kindergarten dreams. A Web logger for Time magazine, Ana Marie Cox, reported on November 11 that “a little birdie” had urged her to fact-check the Illinois senator’s claims against his kindergarten record.

    She did not indicate whether the tip came from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, but many who posted comments online assumed that was the source.

    What the heck is a “Web logger”? Ah well, never mind. The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that Mrs. Clinton is now “challenging” Obama’s “integrity”:

    [Mrs.] Clinton has hammered Obama recently over his health-care proposal, arguing that he is misleading voters because it omits millions of people and would not lower costs. But Sunday, in a dramatic shift, she made it clear that her goal is to challenge Obama not just on policy but also on one of his strongest selling points: his reputation for honesty.

    “There’s a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we’re willing to fight for,” Clinton told reporters here. She said voters in Iowa will have a choice “between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who’s walked the walk.”

    Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama’s character, she replied: “It’s beginning to look a lot like that.”

    So Mrs. Clinton is going to attack her opponents for lacking honesty and integrity? Good luck with that. That is like Obama attacking Mrs. Clinton for her inexperience, or John Kerry attacking President Bush for not being patriotic enough back in the Vietnam era: attacks that, whatever their merits, only underscore the manifest flaws of the attackers.

    Is there anything that can be done to save Mrs. Clinton from utter humiliation? Well, the Associated Press is trying manfully:

    When the hostages had been released and their alleged captor arrested, a regal-looking Hillary Rodham Clinton strolled out of her Washington home, the picture of calm in the face of crisis.

    The image, broadcast just as the network news began, conveyed the message a thousand town hall meetings and campaign commercials strive for–namely, that the Democratic presidential contender can face disorder in a most orderly manner.

    “I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well,” she declared as she stood alone at the microphone. . . .

    It was a vintage example of a candidate taking a negative and turning it into a positive. And coming just six weeks before the presidential voting begins, the timing could hardly have been more beneficial to someone hoping to stave off a loss in the Iowa caucuses and secure a win in the New Hampshire primary.

    That is what the AP calls “accountability journalism.”

    Death With Dignity
    The New York Times reports on an effort in Washington state to legalize physician-assisted suicide via ballot measure:

    The [proposed] law would let doctors prescribe lethal doses of narcotics to terminally ill patients who ask to end their own lives. It would be modeled closely on a statute in Oregon, the only state where the movement has been successful.

    This may be a solution to another problem, on which the Times reported in October:

    Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution on Tuesday evening and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring. . . .

    While there is no schedule for that review, it will almost surely not take place until the court decides the Kentucky case, Baze v. Rees, which will be argued in January. The issue in that case is not the constitutionality of lethal injection as such, but rather a more procedural question: how judges should evaluate claims that the particular combination of drugs used to bring about death causes suffering that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

    Why not just execute murderers using the Oregon assisted-suicide drug combo, which has been established to be compassionate?

    Larry Craig’s Too-Public Idaho
    He said he’d retire at the end of September, but he decided to stick around to try to clear his name. He still says he’s leaving at the end of his Senate term. Now the Idaho Statesman has uncovered shocking evidence that Larry Craig may be homosexual.

    Not that Craig’s rumored sexual orientation–which has been the subject of whispers for decades and shouts for the past three months, since news leaked of his arrest in a sex-solicitation sting at an airport men’s room–is proved by the Statesman’s report. “The new evidence is not definitive,” the Statesman admits. “There are no videos, no love letters, no voice messages. Like last August, they are he-said, he-said allegations about a man seeking discreet sex from partners whom he counted on to never tell.”

    But the “allegations can’t be disproved,” and that’s good enough for the Idaho Statesman.

    What are those allegations? Let’s start with the one at the bottom of the article:

    [Tom] Russell, 48, a Nampa native who lives in Utah, was among three men who contacted the Statesman about what they described as unusually attentive behavior on Craig’s part. . . .

    Russell worked as a food service manager at Bogus Basin ski resort and said his encounter probably occurred in the 1983-84 ski season, soon after Craig had married following the 1982 page scandal. Russell had taken a food class from Suzanne Craig [the senator’s better half] and had heard the rumors that Craig was gay.

    Russell, openly gay at the time, said he set out to engage Craig “and attempted to show a personal interest–not in a suggestive way–but a personal interest to see if he would respond.”

    “I recall that he was very delighted to talk to me–smiling, happy, very delighted–and that he had suggested that we could get together sometime,” he said. “Why would he have a personal interest in meeting me elsewhere?”

    Russell said he became convinced Craig was gay because he used subtle signals consistent with communication between gay men in public places.

    “You’ve heard the term, ‘gaydar’? OK, it’s there. You know it. You know when somebody is raising an eyebrow at you because it’s their gesture when they say ‘hello’ or when they are subtly trying to send you a message that they recognize you as being a gay person.”

    Nothing came of the meeting, Russell said. But he came forward now because he is offended by Craig’s denials.

    “I’m disgusted because it’s hypocritical, and he’s lying. He’s lying through his teeth. Heterosexual men do not behave like that.”

    In other words, just under a quarter-century ago, Russell says, he had an encounter with Craig in which nothing actually happened, but Russell is sure that Craig is homosexual because he was acting gay (in the original sense of “happy”) and because Russell’s “gaydar” picked up a Uranian vibe. Such innuendo usually goes by the name “homophobia,” but because it’s Larry Craig Russell is some kind of gay liberator.

    The other stories we cannot repeat, because they are quite explicit and gross, and The Wall Street Journal is a family newspaper that circulates in locales less free-wheeling about such matters than Idaho. This column has no brief for Larry Craig, who we wish had enough shame to resign from the Senate and leave the public stage. But it’s hard to see why the Statesman’s report is of anything more than prurient interest. People who claim to believe in the right to privacy ought to try exercising it.

    But They Support the Troops!
    Helen Thomas, American journalism’s crazy old aunt in the attic, had this exchange the other day with White House press secretary Dana Perino:

    Q: Why should we depend on him [Gen. David Petraeus]?

    Perino: Because he is the commander on the ground, Helen. He’s the one who is making sure that the situation is moving–

    Q: You mean how many more people we kill?

    Perino: Helen, I find it really unfortunate that you use your front row position, bestowed upon you by your colleagues, to make such statements. This is a–it is an honor and a privilege to be in the briefing room, and to suggest that we, at the United States, are killing innocent people is just absurd and very offensive.

    Q: Do you know how many we have since the start of this war?

    Perino: How many–we are going after the enemy, Helen. To the extent that any innocent Iraqis have been killed, we have expressed regret for it.

    Q: Oh, regret. It doesn’t bring back a life.

    Perino: Helen, we are in a war zone, and our military works extremely hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunity for liberty and freedom and democracy, and that is exactly what they are doing.

    I’m going to move on.

    Columnist Sean Kirst of the Post Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.) reports that a Syracuse University professor turned down an offer for U.S. servicemen to speak on campus:

    In October, Marine Major Christian Devine sent an e-mail to Mark Rupert, chair of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Devine asked if Rupert’s department would be interested in a talk by college-age members of a military program known as “Why We Serve.” . . .

    Rupert turned down the offer. He did some research and found an article in which Devine described “Why We Serve” as an attempt to “win the ‘war on narratives,’ especially in the mainstream media.” In the same article, a lieutenant involved in the program spoke of the need to change American perceptions in a “very, very powerful information war.”

    In his response to Devine, Rupert wrote, “I must decline your invitation to (host) a Pentagon domestic outreach program which appears to want to substitute an allegedly ‘non-political’ meet and greet with the troops for a direct and explicitly political discussion of the issues.”

    That kind of one-sided message runs contrary to a departmental mission to “foster open and honest discussion,” Rupert said Wednesday.

    Another professor stepped in and accepted the invitation. Kirst quotes one student who was puzzled at Rupert’s determination to suppress the military viewpoint:

    “I didn’t understand the problem with having the actual troops come and speak,” said Katelyn Hancock, a student who helped to organize the event. “We can have Michael Moore come and speak on campus, but the troops can’t come?”

    The Colorado Springs Independent reports that police cars in the Colorado town sport “Support Our Troops” magnets, which has raised the hackles of some local lefties:

    Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, says the magnets are on shaky legal ground. As a representation of the view of the city, they’re fine, because they don’t represent a religious viewpoint. The problem is, the public might think the magnets represent not only the view of the city, but also that of the employee driving a given vehicle.

    “I think [the city has] the right to make the decision as to whether or not they want a message on their vehicles,” Hazouri says. “The question is, do their employees have the right to not have the same views and not publicize the same views?”

    is Hazouri questioning the patriotism of Colorado Springs cops? Then there’s this letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle (seventh letter):

    Editor–I have put a green light in my window to signal that I want the troops home.

    Anyone want to join me?

    RON NORLIN
    San Francisco

    Seems like an odd way of making friends, but hey, whatever works for you.

    The Emperor’s New Winter Clothes
    Does anyone really take global warmism seriously? Today’s New York Times features a story titled “Climate Talks Take On Added Urgency After Report.” Added urgency? Wow! As if it wasn’t urgent enough before! And how urgent is it now, after the added urgency of the report? Here’s the third paragraph of the Times story:

    But few participants expect this round of talks to produce significant breakthroughs. At most, they say, it will result in new commitments to negotiate to update the original treaty by the end of 2009.

    Yaaaawn. Meanwhile, the Times of London reports that “green scientists have been accused of overstating the dangers of climate change by researchers who found that the number of people killed each year by weather-related disasters is falling”:

    Their report suggests that a central plank in the global warming argument–that it will result in a big increase in deaths from weather-related disasters–is undermined by the facts. It shows deaths in such disasters peaked in the 1920s and have been declining ever since.

    Average annual deaths from weather-related events in the period 1990-2006–considered by scientists to be when global warming has been most intense–were down by 87% on the 1900-89 average. The mortality rate from catastrophes, measured in deaths per million people, dropped by 93%. . . .

    Indur Goklany, a US-based expert on weather-related catastrophes, charted global deaths through the 20th century from “extreme” weather events.

    Compared with the peak rate of deaths from weather-related events in the 1920s of nearly 500,000 a year, the death toll during the period 2000-06 averaged 19,900. “The United Nations has got the issues and their relative importance backward,” Goklany said.

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, meanwhile, profiles Peach State prognosticator Richard Noone:

    Today, Noone is living in Bayonet Point, Fla., having survived — along with the rest of us–his forecast in the book, “5/5/2000 Ice: The Ultimate Disaster” that, on Friday, May 5, 2000, the earth’s poles would shift and millions would die as the planet was plunged into another ice age. . . .

    As far-fetched as that sounded then–and now–Noone still sticks by the research that went into his book, first published in 1982.

    “The overwhelming majority of articles in my bibliography were from the world’s prestigious science journals, such as Scientific American, Smithsonian and Science,” he says. “It’s not like I quoted some mythical evangelist like Jimbo Billy Euripides.” . . .

    At age 63–30 years after he went from an Atlanta wig and jewelry importer, to futurist author who wrote the first draft of his book in longhand–he’s suddenly in the company of another global weather doom prognosticator: former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore.

    If Gore hasn’t read “Ice,” he ought to, says Noone.

    Noone never won the Nobel Peace Prize, of course, but a quarter-century hence, perhaps he’ll be the next Richard Noone.

    Homer Nods
    On Friday, we faulted Amnesty International, among other organizations, for its silence in the face of Sudan’s imprisonment of schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons for allowing her students to name a teddy bear “Muhammad.” Although there doesn’t seem to be anything about the case on Amnesty’s Web site, the BBC did quote the group’s Mike Blakehoe: “The sentence is a mockery of justice and Amnesty International consider Gillian to be a prisoner of conscience. She should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations also put out an op-ed mildly criticizing Sudan. But we won’t cop to an error here, as the CAIR piece was published after our column.

    In another item Monday, we wrote that the House the sole power to “move to impeach” a federal official. But the House rulebook tells a slightly different story (citations omitted):

    In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury; or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House.

    So the Legislature of Guam could set impeachment in motion, but Joe Biden, a U.S. senator, cannot.

    Zero-Tolerance Watch
    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel brings us one from the Turnabout Is Fair Play Dept.:

    As readers of a conservative blog debated the subject of teacher salaries, a writer using the pseudonym “Observer” weighed in.

    The West Bend teachers’ salaries made him sick, the person wrote, adding that the 1999 Columbine High School killers had the right idea.

    “They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time! Too bad the liberls (sic) rip them; they were heros (sic) and should be remembered that way,” the writer said.

    But police say the writer was a teacher himself–and the past president of a teachers union–apparently posing as a teacher-hater.

    James Buss was arrested Thursday by West Bend police, and the 46-year-old Cudahy man could face criminal charges. He has been suspended from his job as a teacher at Oak Creek High School.

    The Journal-Sentinel story includes an odd correction: “Because of an editing error, an article . . . incorrectly stated that police said he was ‘apparently posing as a teacher-hater.’ That statement was not made by police.” We guess that means it was made by Owen Robinson, who runs the blog on which Buss allegedly made the comment.

    Robinson “said Friday that it seemed that ‘Observer’ was ‘posing as a conservative, right-wing whack job to discredit’ the Web site’s discussion of teachers’ salaries. Robinson also criticized Buss’ arrest as an overreaction.” We have to agree, although we’ll admit that at some level it pleases us to see a teacher rather than a child on the receiving end of such excess. The really interesting question is whether the school district will try to fire Buss–and, if so, whether the union will defend him.

    On his blog, Robinson reports that he gave the police the commenter’s IP address, through which they were able to trace him. Blogress “Mary” of Freedom Eden has some pertinent observations on the disinhibiting influence of online communication:

    When will people learn that posting anonymously on the Internet is not the same as being anonymous? . . .

    Buss is certainly paying the price for posting irresponsibly.

    It appears that he may have posted while drunk or otherwise impaired. More likely, I think he utilized the technique of attempting to disguise himself with multiple misspellings and poor punctuation. (I’m assuming that Buss, the teacher, is more proficient at writing than his posts reveal.)

    As Owen notes, the Internet provides a false sense of anonymity.

    While blogs can provide forums for lively discussion, posters need to understand that they can be traced. They aren’t free to say anything without being held accountable. They need to understand that they don’t check their personal responsibility at the Internet’s door.

    The Internet is not a responsibility-free zone.

    It’s a creepy phenomenon. An otherwise responsible person will morph, jumping at the chance to let loose an alter ego when online. It can be remarkably reckless, as well as remarkably naive.

    As we’ve seen with various online sex-abuse stings, and with the case of Lori Drew, the middle-aged Missouri woman who posed as a teenage boy to torment a 13-year-old girl who used to be friends with her daughter, such naiveté sometimes coexists with downright evil. It’s an interesting question to what extent the Internet causes such bad behavior and to what extent it merely makes it easier to catch people who otherwise would have misbehaved more cautiously.

    Metaphor Alert
    “The straight talk express may be getting a bit rusty, but it still runs. More importantly it is doing what it should be doing, namely converting years of principled conservatism and love for America into a campaign that if elected can give America and the world a gentle parachute out of the turbulent Bush years. It will not be a break with Bush, no, but neither will it be the sort of repudiation that we can expect under re-energized Democratic management. John McCain is in all likelihood the only man who can soft-land the Bush agenda in calmer waters by taking the sharper edges (think torture, think measurable milestones in Iraq) off a legacy that was not flawed in principle, but flawed in its execution.”–blogger Pieter Dorsman, Dec. 3

    The Last Slaveholder
    “Former Owner of Laconia Citizen Dies”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 1

    He Ain’t Got Rhythm
    “Judge Rejects La. Congressman’s Motion”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 30

    What Do You Have in Bottles?
    “Snow, Freezing Rain on Tap in Northeast”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 2

    Whatever You Do, Don’t Tell Anyone!
    “Autopsy Slated for Secret Porn Star”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 1

    Not Shopping at All Is More Effective
    “EDITORIAL: Shopping Locally Keeps Money at Home”–headline, Benton (Ark.) Courier, Nov. 30

    Uh-Oh, Not Another O . . . Oh, look! A Squirrel!
    “The Next Attention Deficit Disorder?”–headline, Time.com, Nov. 29

    All Your Base Are Belong to Us
    “Pack Stan Sheriff for BCS Picks Party”–headline, Honolulu Advertiser, Dec. 2

    Breaking News From 1762
    “Thomas Jefferson at Top of Class”–headline, Washington Post, Nov. 30

    News You Can Use

  • “Don’t Be the Life of the Office Party”–headline, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec. 2
  • “Sex and Chocolate ‘Boost Brain Power’ “–headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Dec. 3
  • “For True Progress, We Need Faith”–headline, Time.com, Dec. 1
  • “Baking Soda Could Help Save Planet”–headline, CNN.com, Nov. 29

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “No Stampede at Lakewood”–headline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec. 3
  • “Huge Wooden Moose Planned in Sweden”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 30
  • “U.S. Credit Crisis Adds to Gloom in Norway”–headline, New York Times, Dec. 2
  • “Snow Day Closes Schools Across Quebec”–headline, CBC.ca, Nov. 3
  • “Greenpeace Warns of Rising Climate Change”–headline, Xinhua (Red China), Dec. 3

Big Deal, It’s Karl Rove’s Birthday
We’ve heard of a husband forgetting his anniversary or wife’s birthday, but this is ridiculous. The Associated Press reports:

In a December newsletter to the families of elementary school students, Spokane [Wash.] Public Schools’ list of “important dates” didn’t include Christmas.

Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, winter break, the Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, first day of winter and Kwanzaa all made the list. But no Christmas.

“It was absolutely an error of omission,” district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said. “In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious.”

The omission drew complaints from some parents that Christians are being overlooked in favor of other cultures and beliefs. . . .

Hutton School parent Jane Harper noted the absence of Christmas but didn’t think the omission was meant as a message to Christians.

“Christmas is so dominant in our society. I don’t know that anyone should feel slighted,” Harper said.

We’ll believe they just forgot if they show up for work on Dec. 25.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to John Hartness, Tom Elia, Mordecai Bobrowsky, Michael Segal, John Sanders, Ken Jorgensen, David Babkow, Robert Koslover, Alan Utter, Ed Lasky, Richard Haiseley, Greg Hartman, Charles Sykes, Jim Moran, Joe Perez, Jack Raia, Ed Jordan, Salil Tripathi, Bob Routier, James Pindar, Brian Kalt, Tom Linehan, Mark Finkelstein, Kyle Kyllan, Mark Davies, Richard McKeown, Bruce Goldman, Doug Welty, James Silverglad, Daniel Foty, Ivo Vegter and Tom Brown. 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=110010940

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Dan Gerstein: Don’t underestimate the power of Oprah–or Mrs. Clinton’s inept response.
  • John Fund: A Clinton-era grudge may derail a judicial nominee with bipartisan support.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: A transcript of the weekend’s program on FOX News Channel.


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