OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – December 12, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – December 12, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Kim Strassel and the rest of the panel from “The Journal Editorial Report” discuss Republican congressional prospects in 2008.

    The Parsin’ Parson
    Mike Huckabee put his foot in his mouth in 1992, and he is still trying to extract it. The Associated Press reported the story over the weekend:

    As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. . . . In 1992, Huckabee wrote, “If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.”

    “It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.” . . .

    At a news conference in Asheville, N.C., on Saturday, Huckabee said he wanted at the time to follow traditional medical practices used for dealing with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

    “Medical protocol typically says that if you have a disease for which there is no cure, and you are uncertain about the transmission of it, then the first thing you do is that you quarantine or isolate carriers,” Huckabee said.

    In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” though, Huckabee tried to distance himself from his 1992 statement:

    Chris, I didn’t say that we should quarantine. I said it was the first time in public health protocols that when we had an infectious disease and we didn’t really know just how extensive and how dramatic it could be and the impact of it, that we didn’t isolate the carrier.

    Now, the headlines yesterday started saying that I called for quarantines, which if you’ll go back and read my comments, I did not.

    I had simply made the point, and I still believe this today, that in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we didn’t know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols.

    Huckabee’s attempt to parse the distinction between isolate and quarantine reminds us of another former Arkansas governor’s verbal gymnastics over what does and does not fit the definition of “sexual relations”–except that Huckabee is trying to distinguish between two words that are synonymous. Why can’t Huckabee simply admit that he made a mistake 15 years ago?

    Fair Tax Flimflam–II
    In yesterday’s item on the so-called fair tax, we noted that radio talker Neal Boortz, who has written a book advocating the plan, was understating the rate of the proposed national sales tax by calculating it as a percentage of the total purchase price (including tax) rather than as a percentage of the item’s pretax price, the way state sales taxes have traditionally been computed in America. Through this sleight-of-hand, fair tax advocates claim that they are advocating a 23% tax when in fact what they are calling for is a levy of nearly 30%.

    It turns out that before publishing his book on the subject, Boortz himself initially fell for this shell game. In August 2004, he posted on his blog a draft of a chapter titled “But What About the Poor?” It includes this example:

    Pull out the calculators. Say that a single mother with two children spends $45 a week on groceries. The removal of the 22% embedded tax [the portion of the pretax purchase price that fair-tax proponents attribute to other taxes] would bring the price of those groceries down to $35.10. The sales tax would be $8.07. This brings the total price to $43.17. That’s less than would have paid under today’s tax system. This single mother, whom we’ll consider “poor,” has just received a 10% to 15% increase in her weekly paychecks, and she’s paying less at the grocery story [sic] for her basic necessities.

    Boortz arrives at the $8.07 figure by taking 23% of $35.10–i.e., the pretax purchase price. The actual “fair tax” on a pretax purchase of $35.10 would be $10.48, which is 23% of the after-tax purchase price of $45.58.

    We got lots and lots of emails about yesterday’s and Monday’s items on this topic. One of our favorites comes from Tim Hartley:

    I think Neal Boortz concentrated on debunking your joke, thereby missing your point.

    Boortz is using the item on the shelf as a metaphor for prostitution or drugs. See, currently, if you pay a drug dealer $100, you get $100 of drugs. He has $100 of income, which he carefully records in his ledger book and then, after offsetting by cost of acquisition, overhead, and depreciation of assets, he pays the federal government on his profits, probably quarterly if he is a sole proprietorship or S-corp.

    Under the new scheme, you give the drug dealer $100, and you get $77 worth of drugs. The drug dealer dutifully turns over the $23 fair tax to the federal government with his monthly sales statements.

    So you see, Mike Huckabee is correct. Drug dealers and prostitutes will pay taxes under the new scheme, or they’ll go to jail for tax evasion, and they would never risk that.

    All of that is fun and games, but of course Huckabee’s main point is that a drug dealer who makes a million a year and spends a million a year currently pays only sales and property taxes, probably to the tune of $70,000 a year, whereas under a fair tax, he would pay $230,000 a year, a threefold increase.

    So, while underground activities remain untaxed, the individuals involved in the the underground activities will start paying a more equitable share of the total tax burden.

    Another comes from Jeff Gilbert:

    You obviously don’t appreciate the awe and mystery the fair tax. It lowers the cost of everything! Consider Neal Boortz’s $100 item.

    First, the kind proprietor of the store would lower her price $81.30 because, well, without the income tax why wouldn’t she?

    Next, the 23% Flimflam Tax on $81.30 would be $18.70, restoring the $100 cost.

    But the 7% state sales tax applies to the $81.30 base price (California learned the folly of applying a sales tax to an excise tax in its great gasoline tax debacle).

    Hence, the original $107 cost is lowered to $105.69–meaning the FFT saves you $1.31. And we’ll leave the governor to find a way to do with a bit less sales tax revenue.

    Everybody wins with lower prices! It’s the perpetual motion machine of the tax world!

    Or, as Mike Huckabee tells the New York Times, it’s “like waving a magic wand, releasing us from pain and unfairness.”

    Worse Even Than Usual
    We had missed last Friday’s New York Times editorial on Mitt Romney’s religion speech until a reader called it to our attention last night, but it’s such a shoddy piece of work that we thought it worth some attention even at this late date:

    Mr. Romney filled his speech with the first myth — that the nation’s founders, rather than seeking to protect all faiths, sought to imbue the United States with Christian orthodoxy. He cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the creator” endowing all men with unalienable rights and the founders’ proclaiming not just their belief in God, but their belief that God’s hand guided the American revolutionaries.

    Mr. Romney dragged out the old chestnuts about “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, and the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance–conveniently omitting that those weren’t the founders’ handiwork, but were adopted in the 1950s at the height of McCarthyism. . . .

    The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

    We believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state, not that public displays of faith are anathema. We believe, as did the founding fathers, that no specific religion should be elevated above all others by the government.

    Let’s start with the historical inaccuracies. As the U.S. Treasury Web site notes, “In God we trust” first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864, not in the 1950s. It is true that the motto’s first appearance on paper money was not until the 1950s, but it was in 1957, the year Joseph McCarthy died, not at “the height of McCarthyism.”

    Similarly, while “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, this too was after McCarthyism’s height. President Eisenhower signed the legislation changing the pledge on June 14 of that year; five days earlier, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Joseph Welch famously confronted the senator from Wisconsin. Less than six months later the Senate censured McCarthy.

    The Times Web site itself has the text of Romney’s speech, and it makes clear that the paper’s editorialists grievously misrepresent what the candidate actually said. His references to the Declaration of Independence’s acknowledgment of the Creator are not in the context of calling for official “Christian orthodoxy”–quite the opposite:

    The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation “Under God” and in God, we do indeed trust.

    We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders–in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. . . .

    It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.

    We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.

    Finally, let’s ponder the Times’s statement that “we believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state.” What an utterly mindless statement. Yes, separation of church and state is central to the American constitutional order. But to believe that democracy cannot exist without it is to believe that Britain is not a democracy.

    Two for the Price of One?
    Here’s a somewhat disturbing story from New York’s Daily News:

    Bubba to the rescue!

    Alarmed by his wife’s slide in the polls and disarray within her backbiting campaign, a beside-himself Bill Clinton has leaped atop the barricades and is furiously plotting a cure–or coup.

    “She’s in big trouble and he knows it,” a top Democratic operative and Hillary Clinton booster told the Daily News.

    Sources familiar with the ex-President’s thinking say he doesn’t believe his wife’s situation is desperate. But he’s unhappy with her operation–once hailed as a juggernaut–and concerned she could lose the Democratic nomination without major alterations in strategy and staffing.

    Bill Clinton is mulling “a lot of different ideas and a lot of different scenarios to fix this,” an official who regularly speaks with him said. “He will come up with literally dozens of ideas. The trick will be to figure out the most important one or two to get her out of this downtrend.”

    There’s not a word about what the actual candidate, this person who seeks to be the leader of the free world, is doing to right her own campaign. If the candidate were a man and his wife were taking things over to the extent described in the News piece, we would question whether he’s capable of leading anything. Sexual equality demands that we hold Mrs. Clinton to the same standard.

    Barack Obama, the Only Sane Choice
    “Nutter Endorses Clinton”–headline, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 12

    Recount!
    “Chad Force Turns to Russia”–headline, Financial Times, Dec. 9

    Answers to Questions No One Asked
    “George Clooney Says No to Presidency”–headline, Hollyscoop.com, Dec. 10

    Someone Alert Homeland Security
    “Dangerous Seahawks Flying Under the Radar”–headline, MSNBC.com, Dec. 10

    ‘Clichés Are a Dime a Dozen,’ Washington Replies
    ” ‘It Takes Two to Tango,’ Beijing Tells US”–headline, Financial Times, Dec. 11

    If These Walls Had Cheeks, the Tails They Could Tell
    “Police Say Woman Pinned Boyfriend to Wall With Buttocks”–headline, Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, Dec. 12

    But Keep It Under Your Hat
    “Reports Say Fedora New USM Coach”–headline, Press-Register (Mobile, Ala.), Dec. 12

    ‘Michael Vick, You Are Hereby Sentenced to Death. Psych!’
    “Deception Added to Vick’s Punishment”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11

    ‘Earth Is Nice, Pluto’s Not So Hot’
    “Voyager 2 Finds Solar System Uneven”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11

    What an Odd Name for a Stadium
    “Padres, Cubs, White Sox Interested in Fukudome”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11

    ‘Dude, Does He Make Doritos Too?’
    “Pot-Growing Cave Sold to Cheesemaker”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 10

    Help Wanted
    “Thieves Seek Holiday Victims”–headline, Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star, Dec. 12

    Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Former Georgia Congresswoman Running for President Stops in Wis.”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11
  • “Jackson Undecided on Gypsy Moth Prevention”–headline, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Dec. 12
  • “FAA: 2 Planes Landing at Kennedy Airport Were Never in Danger”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 11
  • “Congress Stymied as Politicians Bicker”–headline, Reuters, Dec. 11

Post-Intelligent Journalism
With their business in flux, newspapers are increasingly experimenting with new kinds of content and ways of delivering it. A case in point is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which last month started publishing fantasy and satire on its opinion pages.

First the fantasy, an article by one Linda Boyd urging the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney:

On Nov. 6, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney on the floor of the House of Representatives. For one shining moment the will of the majority of Americans and the promise of this nation’s founders were truly represented. . . .

Impeachment is squarely on the table, and momentum is building.

Dream on. In a letter to the editor (seventh one) responding to the Boyd piece, Russ Tibbitts of Renton, Wash., penned an amusing satire:

I am writing this in my basement with the lights off, having traveled home via a circuitous route while checking constantly to make sure I was not followed. I hope Linda Boyd is taking similar precautions, because after her courageous piece on impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, I suspect she is on their watch list.

It can only be a matter of time before those who have questioned this administration are rounded up and quieted who knows how.

If I were Boyd, I would be fearful of the possibility of being “disappeared” by Bush & Co. I have stopped using both my land-line phone and my cell phone, knowing that I am probably being monitored, and now communicate almost exclusively by carrier pigeon. Our nation cannot act soon enough to expose the crimes of this unholy cabal.

But wait. Is it possible that the P-I’s editors took Boyd’s piece and Tibbitts’s letter seriously? Nah, nobody’s that postintelligent.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Jim Carson, Dan Rubottom, Peter Shalen, Bruce Goldman, Sid Knowles, John Nernoff, Kate Adell, Jim Orheim, Mark Simpson, John Williamson, Rodney Hoiseth, Mordecai Bobrowsky, Scott Miller, Aidan O’Connell, Joel McLemore, Mike Stevens, Shawn Gibson, Jim Miller, Daniel Kane, P.J. Moriarity and Duncan Witte. 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=110010982

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Alan Greenspan: The roots of the mortgage crisis.
  • Jeffrey Lord (from The American Spectator): Mitt Romney has a passion for data. A great president needs a passion for principle.
  • Jonathan Kolatch: Doha, Qatar, pursues the 2016 Olympics.

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