BY JAMES TARANTO
Friday, May 30, 2003 1:14 p.m. EDT
Just about anyone whose job touches on politics has had the experience of fielding
telephone calls from kooks. Example: In the summer of 1988, we were a junior
employee at a Washington policy shop when the switchboard operator inexplicably
transferred to our desk a phone call from a woman distraught over the pounding
Dan Quayle, Vice President Bush's running mate, was receiving in the media.
We listened patiently and commiserated, but then the conversation took a really
strange turn, as the woman explained to us how concerned she was that Jews were
buying up all the real estate in Northern Virginia.
Fielding a call like this is awkward. One doesn't want to be rude--you're representing
your organization, after all--but on the other hand one doesn't want to encourage
such lunacy. We cut off the conversation as politely as we could.
The folks at the National Rifle Association have been dealing with a persistent
kook of late, or at any rate so says the kook, a guy who bizarrely calls himself
"Chatterbox" and refers to himself in the third person but whose actual
name appears to be Timothy Noah:
Chatterbox has been phoning the NRA press office for a week, seeking comment
on the weapons ban in Iraq. Every time he calls, a cheerful NRA employee promises
a response. Every time, Chatterbox never gets one. Starting today, Chatterbox
inaugurates the NRA Weasel Watch, which will document the NRA's ongoing efforts
to duck Chatterbox's simple question. Today is Day 7.
Oh dear, the Internet is a mixed blessing, isn't it? If our caller 15 years
ago had had a Web site on which to hold forth, we imagine this would only have
fueled the flames of her craziness.
One wonders how far things will go with this poor confused "Chatterbox"
fellow, who thinks it odd that the National Rifle Association, which
advocates Americans' gun rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, would demur from taking a position on the confiscation of firearms
in a foreign war zone. Will he start calling the American Civil Liberties Union
every day to ask if they think de-Baathification is a violation of the First
Amendment, or if they're campaigning against school prayer in Iraq?
On second thought, forget we said anything. We'd hate to give him any ideas.
We must admit, we'd never heard of the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News before yesterday.
We had to look at a map
to find out where Lufkin is (in the eastern part of the state, about 100 miles
from Houston and 150 miles from Dallas). But we know one thing about the Lufkin
Daily News: It has higher standards than the New York Times.
"The New York Times' considerable credibility problem is now our problem,
as well," writes editor Marc Masferrer:
But unlike the Times, which has been engaged in a torturous exercise of naval
[sic] gazing and self-flagellation, with its accustomed arrogance, since it
was revealed that one of its younger reporters had committed all sorts of
journalistic sins, we are doing something about it, and fast.
Until she explains to our satisfaction her own ethical transgression--an apparently
deliberate distortion of a comment by President Bush--you will not find the
work of Times columnist Maureen Dowd on this page.
Without a Dowd, the Lufkin Daily News will be a better paper. Dowd, as we noted
Wednesday, has adopted a new journalistic technique--we call it "dowdification"--that
makes strategic use of ellipses to distort the meaning of a quote. Alert reader
Brad Westmoreland uses this technique on Dowd herself, dowdifying her latest
column to produce this insight: "The president was . . . found
. . . to do the right thing . . . all of the time. . . .
Bush . . . is . . . ideal." From your ellipse to God's
Osama bin Larden
International is concerned about the treatment of terrorist detainees in
American custody. The hypocritical "human rights" outfit asserts that
"the conditions of the detainees' . . . detention in Guantánamo
Bay gave cause for serious concern." But Amnesty misses the biggest--and
we mean biggest--cause for concern: These guys are porking out. (We mean
that figuratively, of course; all food served at Guantanamo is strictly halal.)
Writes Manny Howard in Slate:
Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Joint Task Force returned to Afghanistan
19 of the approximately 664 men (from 42 countries) who have been held in
the detention camps. . . . During their 14-month stay, the detainees
(nearly all of them) had each gained an average of 13 pounds.
Can an epidemic of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related
ailments be far behind? Such a travesty of human rights is a heavy burden on
the world's conscience.
Would We Do Without the FBI?
"FBI Says al Qaeda Attacks Still Possible"--headline, FoxNews.com,
Would We Do Without Bush?
"Bush: Not Clear France Concerned With U.S. Security"--headline, Dow
Jones Newswires, May 29
Apart from the obvious headline, this sentence in the same dispatch left us
scratching our head: "Despite this, Bush insisted that France's opposition
to the invasion of France 'wouldn't influence my policies.' " When
has France ever opposed the invasion of France?
"Disagreements as Sharon-Abbas Enter Talks"--headline, Jerusalem Post,
When a stand-up comic has a successful performance, he'll say of his audience,
"I really killed them." When his show goes over badly, he'll say,
"I bombed," or "I died out there." That explains why there
are so few Palestinian comedians: In comedy, you can kill or you can die, but
there's no such thing as a murder-suicide.
That doesn't stop some Palestinians from trying. The Electronic Intifada Web
site features a "satirical online newspaper" called Bassaleh News
Network, for which one Najeeb Al-Anbarri makes a stab at humor. The topic is
songstress Whitney Houston's meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon. Seeking inspiration for a forthcoming Christmas album, Houston was in
Israel to visit the Black
Hebrews, a polygamous sect that claims to be descended from the lost tribes
of Israel. (Israel does not recognize them as Jews.) Anyway, Anbarri's gag is
a list of song titles:
- O Little Town of Glowing Wife Swoppers [sic]
- Silent Night (Punctuated by Shell Fire)
- All I Want For Christmas Is My Neighbour's Wife
- I Saw Three Helicopter Gunships
- I Saw My Mommies Kissing Santa Claus
- O Come All Ye Unfaithful
- Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (Stop Drinking From the River)
- Whose Child Is This? (We've Lost Track With All the Shagging)
- All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth (Palestinian Torture Victim
- We Wish You a Merry Checkpoint
- Let There Be Peace on Earth (Ditch the Stupid Road Map and Make the Miserable
Occupying Bastards Withdraw Unilaterally So We Can Get On With Our Lives Please)
See what we mean? No one will ever call Najeeb Al-Anbarri a homicide bomber.
You Find It?
"An alternative summit has opened in the south-eastern French town of Annemasse
ahead of this weekend's G-8 summit of world leaders in nearby Evian," Deutsche
Welle reports. The "Summit for Another World" is known by its French
acronym SPAM. Among the topics on the agenda are online gambling, exciting business
opportunities in multilevel marketing, and penis enlargement. After the summit,
delegates will adjourn and view photos of singles in their area.
Would Explain a Lot
"Kucinich on Medical Marijuana"--subheadline, Washington Post (second
item), May 30
Second Thought, You're Not Fired
After coming under fire for a plan to lay off 10 black employees--we noted
it yesterday--the Democratic National Committee has backed away, the Washington
Times reports. DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe now says he was unaware of the firings,
but "a prominent Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, hinted
that Mr. McAuliffe's explanation was less than genuine."
"S.C. Democratic Voters Anxious to Replace White House Tenant"--headline,
FoxNews.com, May 29
Would Hopefuls Do Without Experts?
"Long List of Experts Advising Presidential Hopefuls"--headline, the
Forward, May 30
item on Sen. Robert Byrd (since corrected) misstated the end of his term.
It is in 2007, not 2005.
"Federal Workers Knock Job Cuts"--headline, Tri-Valley Herald (Pleasanton,
Calif.), May 30
"Hooker to Close Kernersville Plant"--headline, WXII-TV Web site (Winston-Salem,
N.C.), May 29
"Norway Death Toll Climbs to Six as Replacement From Jamaica Dies"--headline,
Miami Herald, May 29
Your Name Is Will, Get Out of Bangladesh
"Bangladesh Police Get OK to Shoot at Will"--headline, Associated
Press, May 30
"Study: Laziness Makes for Dangerous Fat"--headline, Reuters, May 29
Smoking Claims Another Victim
"A teenage girl plunged to her death from the 15th floor of a block of
flats during a party," the Scotsman reports. "Jenna O'Keefe, 17, climbed
up on a window ledge so she could get away from cigarette smoke. However, as
she sat with her legs over the edge, she lost her balance and fell more than
150ft to a courtyard."
"Researchers tracking the health of almost 2,000 British adults found heavy
smokers had poorer memories in middle age," the Associated Press reports.
That explains all those plaintiffs in tobacco lawsuits who claim they didn't
know smoking was bad for you. They just forgot!
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Today on OpinionJournal:
And on the Taste page:
& Outlook: Who'll symbolize the "new Russia," Paul McCartney or Felix
& Tacky: An article on plagiarism gets plagiarized.
Buss: Rename the dinosaurs! On second thought, don't.
McWhorter: Gunfire kills another rapper. What an awful image for black
Ringwald: New Yorkers can now buy liquor on Sundays--and that's a shame.