Best of the Web Today - January 15, 2002
By JAMES TARANTO
Walker to Be Charged http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/01/15/ret.walker.charges/index.html
Marin mujahid John Walker will be charged with aiding and abetting terrorism. The Justice Department plans a press conference to discuss the matter around 3:30 p.m. EST. "It was not clear whether he would face other federal charges," CNN reports.
Pretzel Logic http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20020114/bs/enron_hands_off_2.html
As we noted yesterday http://opinionjournal.com/best/?id=95001725 , Democrats who are desperately seeking to spin the Enron fiasco into a political scandal have been having trouble agreeing on just what would constitute a scandal. Some think it would be a scandal if Enron's political contributions to President Bush influenced his administration's decisions; others think it would be a scandal if the administration refused to help the company in its hour of need. Now, the Associated Press reports, a self-proclaimed ethics watchdog has managed to twist the two contradictory scenarios into one:
*** QUOTE ***
Because of Enron's heavy donations to President Bush's campaigns, administration officials "were tied at the hip to Enron," said Bill Allison, an official of the private Center for Public Integrity. That made it hard to help.
"The appearance would have looked terrible," Allison said. "They felt that they couldn't act on behalf of Enron because of the political fallout."
*** END QUOTE ***
Allison seems to be complaining that Enron's campaign contributions did influence the administration--by making it impossible for it to help without creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. But wait. Haven't self-proclaimed ethics watchdogs been telling us for decades that it's a public official's duty to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest? Besides, there's no actual evidence that the administration ignored Enron's entreaties for any reason other than the merits. All we have is the appearance of an attempt to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. We doubt this pretzel is going to choke President Bush.
The Nativists Are Restless http://www.vdare.com/fulford/bush_arab.htm
One heartening feature of the post-Sept. 11 political landscape has been the absence of a generalized backlash against immigrants. You'd think a horrific sneak attack by 19 foreigners on American soil would be a perfect opportunity for the close-the-borders crowd, but they've scarcely been heard from. Of course, their argument wouldn't really stand up; it's preposterous on its face to suggest that Mexican gardeners are a national-security threat, even if Arab flight students are.
It also may be that the anti-immigrant folks are getting ignored because they have a tendency to be cranks. Evidence of the latter hypothesis can be found on Peter Brimelow's Web site, VDare.com, which features an article by James Fulford on Walied Shater, the Arab-American Secret Service man who is threatening to make a federal case out of his run-in with an American Airlines pilot. We have criticized Shater's behavior, but Fulford objects to his ethnicity:
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My question is one that no one seems to have asked: Why does W. have an Arab bodyguard anyway? . . .
Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own troops (Bin Laden and friends have been linked to that incident). But Sadat didn't have any choice about being guarded by Arabs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard. She did have a choice about being guarded by Sikhs, rather than Hindus, at a time when her troops were engaged in clearing Sikh terrorists out of the Sikh temple. In bullet-riddled retrospect, her choice was wrong. . . .
President Bush seems to be irate that his bodyguard couldn't get on the plane. . . . What makes me [upset]--even madder than heck--is that Bush, who is involved in a War on Arab Terrorism, is so politically correct that he apparently sees nothing wrong with being guarded by a man who may decide, on principle, to kill him.
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This is utterly cracked. Shater is no traitor; no one has accused him of being anything worse than a jackass. Unless all the news accounts are wrong, he is not an Arab national but an American of Arab descent. If Fulford had been around in 1944, would he have complained that the supreme allied commander in Europe was a "German"?
Intelligence at Sea http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20020115-76931312.htm
"U.S. intelligence agencies helped Israel track down a Palestinian ship that tried to smuggle a large supply of weapons obtained from Iran," The Washignton Times' Bill Gertz reports. "U.S. intelligence agencies, using various high-tech intelligence-gathering means, were able to identify the Karine A after it loaded the weapons near Iran's Kish Island, some 300 miles north of the major Iranian naval port of Bandar Abbas."
Hmm, maybe they could brief Colin Powell http://opinionjournal.com/best/?id=95001718#explain and explain just what the ship was up to.
Osama at Sea http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/escape020114.html
There's another ship they may want to keep an eye out for. ABC News reports that "an intelligence analysis sent to the CIA director last week concluded Osama bin Laden has escaped American efforts to find him in Afghanistan and that he most likely has fled the entire region by sea."
Roundup in Pakistan http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/15/international/asia/15STAN.html
Pakistan "has rounded up 1,430 people across the country in recent days and sealed 390 offices of militant groups as part of a widening crackdown on extremists ordered by Gen. Pervez Musharraf." For the first time, Kashmir-based militants are among those arrested. Indian officials remain skeptical; Defense Minister George Fernandes say, in the Times' words, that his country "remained poised for war if Pakistan did not act quickly enough."
Hide Your Women http://www.nationalreview.com/28jan02/kurtz012802.shtml
In National Review, Stanley Kurtz defends the traditional Muslim practice of covering women:
*** QUOTE ***
The "veil as body bag" notion is both mistaken and dangerous. There is no surer way to drive the Islamic world into the arms of the fundamentalists than to force Western feminism on a newly conquered Muslim country. It is no coincidence that the two Muslim fundamentalist regimes of our day--Iran and Afghanistan--arose in nations that had systematically attempted to root out traditional Islamic practices regarding women. (Those efforts were sponsored by the shah in Iran and the Soviets in Afghanistan.) Instead of being damned as a senseless outrage, veiling deserves a qualified defense. The practice has undoubtedly slowed the Muslim world's path to modernity, and that is a serious problem. But that difficulty would never have arisen in the first place if veiling hadn't accomplished something important. Veiling is embraced by millions of Muslim men and women as one of the keys to their way of life. They are not mistaken.
*** END QUOTE ***
Well, maybe. On the other hand, the Turkish government is so opposed to traditional Muslim practices that women aren't even allowed to wear headscarves in many public facilities, yet there's no danger of a fundamentalist regime arising in Ankara. Besides, surely there's a happy medium between the Taliban and "The Vagina Monologues." Why not just let women themselves decide whether and how much to cover up?
Shaved Heads and Cheeseheads http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/americas/01/14/cuba.detainees/index.html
Apparently there are no real human-rights problems left in the world. CNN reports Human Rights Watch is busy trying to protect a terrorist's unalienable right to facial hair. The U.S. military plans to shave Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, so as to prevent head lice. But HRW's James Ross complains: "Shaving prisoners, whose beards may be for important religious purposes, raises a concern because that would be an affront to their dignity." Wouldn't want to affront their dignity over a little thing like 3,000 people murdered on American soil.
Actually, the prisoners are being treated quite well. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke notes that they're being fed "three culturally appropriate meals" a day. Breakfast, according to USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/news/attack/2002/01/15/usat-detainees.htm , is bagels and cream cheese.
Hey, at least they're getting cheese. Green Bay Packers fans, by contrast, may be forced to doff theirs, should their team make it to the Super Bowl. Reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/newsstory/cheese12.html : "In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal law enforcement officials are leaving nothing to chance for the country's annual showcase of football hype and hysteria. That hand-wringing may leave Packer backers without the oversized wedges of yellow foam rubber that, when worn as a hat, transform their owners into cheeseheads." Maybe Human Rights Watch should take up the cause of cheesehead dignity.
Stanford http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2002/janfeb/features/rotc.html 's alumni magazine carries an article about ROTC, banned from campus since 1969:
*** QUOTE ***
"Basically the curriculum was awful," says Barton Bernstein, a Stanford history professor who helped lead the 1969 movement against ROTC. "It was on the level of mediocre coursework in high school. The readings were sophomoric. The ROTC faculty were not PhDs. I think it was the case that some [opponents to ROTC] had deeper political purposes, but everybody could agree that it was an intellectual embarrassment." . . .
"ROTC represents a group of pseudo-faculty preparing students for war and training them to kill, and that is fundamentally unacceptable at a university," says Bernstein.
"I understand that there are times when society wants militaristic approaches to problems, but I don't think it's the place of first-rate universities to feed those desires," says Cecilia Ridgeway, a professor of sociology and a Faculty Senate member. "Universities are about solving problems through discussion, not military approaches."
*** END QUOTE ***
Gary Hernandez, a Stanford senior who takes Army ROTC courses at another university, has a withering rejoinder to Bernstein's put-down of ROTC's intellectual content: "I don't see why I can get credit for posture and hip-hop but not military navigation."
The Boston Globe's James Carroll http://commondreams.org/views02/0115-01.htm opines that "because a unilateral war formed the core of America's response to Sept. 11, the single greatest moral shift to have occurred among nations in the 20th century has been undercut--the fragile, but precious idea of institutionalized international mutuality."
Hear that sound? It's the world's smallest violin, playing a dirge for that precious, fragile, wilted flower, institutionalized international mutuality.
Tasteless Pun of the Day http://www.auburnpub.com/edit.html
Under the headline "Hits and Misses," the Citizen of Auburn, N.Y., offers the following:
*** QUOTE ***
HIT: To Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman of San Antonio. He was the first U.S. soldier killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. And HITS go to the seven crew members of a downed KC-130 tanker that crashed into a mountainside in Afghanistan as it prepared to land. Chapman and those Marines died for their country.
*** END QUOTE ***
Homelessness Rediscovery Watch http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020114-89210984.htm
Several readers have written to ask if there really is more coverage of "homelessness" now than there was during the Clinton years. It certainly seems that way to us, and the Media Research Center has actually come up with some numbers. In an e-mail alert picked up in the Washington Times (fourth item), MRC's Liz Swazey writes:
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Homelessness--one of the media's favorite tool to portray the alleged downside of Ronald Reagan's '80s prosperity--was a more serious national problem during Bill Clinton's 1990s. Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless admitted as much on [Wednesday] night's Hannity and Colmes on the Fox News Channel: "Definitely, we saw more homelessness in the 1990s than we did in the 1980s."
But we saw far less homelessness on TV sets during the Clinton years. The MRC did the math: During the first Bush administration, morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN ran an average of 53 stories on homelessness annually, compared to less than 17 per year during the Clinton administration.
The soon-to-be #1 New York Times bestseller, Bernard Goldberg's Bias, devotes an entire chapter to the media's indulgence in advocacy journalism on this topic. In it, Goldberg cited a 1999 column by the Providence Journal's Philip Terzian, formerly of the Carter administration, that showed the New York Times ran 50 stories on homelessness in 1988, including five on page one, but in 1998 ran only ten--not one on page one.
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 from two and a half to three and a half million people, is again on the rise."
*** END QUOTE ***
Splitsville Chamber of Commerce http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/01/14/usatcov-divorce.htm
Most social-science findings fall into one of two categories: the obvious, and the obviously false. A new study of divorce by E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia is an example of the former category. It finds--surprise, surprise--that divorce is bad for kids. USA Today reports that among children of divorce, according to Hetherington's study, either 20% or 25% (depending on whether you believe the article text or the sidebar) "have serious social, emotional or psychological problems," whereas only 10% of children in intact families do. That is to say, if you're divorced, your kids are at least twice as likely to be seriously screwed-up as if you're still married to their other parent.
Incredibly, though, Hetherington tries to pass this finding off as if it led to the exact opposite conclusion. As USA Today reporter Karen S. Peterson unskeptically describes it: "The negative impact of divorce on both children and parents has been exaggerated and . . . only about one-fifth of youngsters experience any long-term damage after their parents break up." Hetherington protests that she's "not pro-divorce," but it's hard to see what purpose her pollyannish interpretation of her data can serve other than to ease whatever guilt and stigma are still associated with divorce.
To be sure, divorce is sometimes a necessary evil. It would be cruel and unreasonable to demand that anyone stay with an abusive or unfaithful spouse. But consider a case in which one spouse wants a divorce out of mere boredom or frustration. The spouse who doesn't want a divorce has a powerful rejoinder: "We should stay together for the sake of the children." It's all the more persuasive in light of Hetherington's finding that divorce more than doubles the likelihood that children will end up with "serious social, emotional or psychological problems." Unfortunately, readers or USA Today without a keen eye for statistical games will never know it.
http://opinionjournal.com/best/edmap.gif The White House Web site features a page touting the education bill President Bush recently signed. The page comes complete with a map of America; you can click on the state of your choice to get information about how the new law affects it. Just one problem: As the inset shows (click on it to see the whole thing), the map depicts Delaware as part of Maryland, and New Jersey is split in two, with the southern part of the state labeled as Delaware.
Out of curiosity, we clicked on the District of Columbia http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/education/states/dc.html . Alas, there's nothing there about remedial geography courses.
(Elizabeth Crowley helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to S.E. Brenner, Greg Brunt, George Mellinger, Shelley Taylor, Damian Bennett, Olly Vanos, Zena Hitz, Napoleon Cole, C.E. Dobkin, William Inboden, Doug Levene, Steven Getman, Michael Brousseau and Ian Laurenzi. If you have a tip, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org mailto:email@example.com , and please include the URL.)
Also on OpinionJournal:
- Michael Barone http://opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=95001727 : Will wartime be boom time for big government? Not this time (link requires registration).
- Nancy deWolf Smith http://opinionjournal.com/columnists/nsmith/?id=95001728 : A defaced Kabul castle, pummeled Pashtuns and Mullah Rocketi's Stingers.
- Tunku Varadarajan http://opinionjournal.com/columnists/tvaradarajan/?id=95001729 : Opposition to political correctness goes too far.
- Tom Bray http://opinionjournal.com/columnists/tbray/?id=95001726 : Will Europe's new money last?
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