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March 22, 2007
7:35pm EDT




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BY JAMES TARANTO
Monday, March 12, 2007 2:57 p.m. EDT

An Anxious Nation Holds Its Breath
Like most Americans, we spent the weekend on edge, wondering: What will happen Monday? Will he or won't he? We refer, of course, to this news, from Friday's Washington Post:

Sen. Chuck Hagel will make an announcement about his political future on Monday in Omaha. It's anybody's guess, however, exactly what the Nebraska Republican plans to announce.

Hagel's options include a bid for the 2008 presidential nomination as a Republican or an independent, a race for reelection to the seat he has held since 1996, or retirement from elected office.

Most Republican observers believe that Hagel will announce a bid for the presidency when he takes the podium but warn that the senator is known for keeping his own counsel, making it difficult to predict his plans.

And after all, as Charles Pierce notes in a profile of Hagel for Esquire, "Country's calling now":

War's gone bad and nobody's listening, and the country's calling the way it always does, like the moan of a train whistle, soft and distant at first, but with increasing power behind it, the way the trains come through all the small places where Chuck Hagel grew up in Nebraska. All the little towns, where everyone knew if your father was drunk and smashed up the car or lost his job, where every family kept secrets that every other family knew anyway but were too polite or kind to mention. Rushville and York and Ainsworth.

And Columbus, too--the City of Power and Progress--founded in 1856 by men of grim visage and considerable chin whiskers, where Bill Cody first worked out the rough parts of his Wild West show before taking it down the line to the bright lights of Omaha. . . . Country's calling from places just like that, louder and louder, demanding in a new, plainer language an end to incompetence and vainglory, creating one of those moments that find the man through which the moment finds its voice.

All right, all right, we know you're just dying to find out what the voice that the moment found at the moment when the moment found its man in Hagel had to say this morning. We shall keep you in suspense no longer. Reuters reports:

"I'm here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year," he said. "In making this announcement, I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date." . . .

"I am leaving my options open," he said.

Hear that, Ahmadinejad? All options are on the table! Well, except maybe selling shoes. Hagel is manifestly unqualified to do that.

Run, Obey, Run!
It may not be as exciting as watching Chuck Hagel ponder his options, but the video of Rep. David Obey at YouTube is pretty entertaining nonetheless. The video shows Obey in the halls of Congress, where he is approached by an antiwar activist who is also the mother of a Marine. Later another antiwarrior joins the fray.

Although Obey and the activists all agree America should run away from Iraq, they differ over tactics, as the Hill reports:

"We're trying to use the supplemental to end the war," Obey said. "You can't end the war if you're going against the supplemental. It's time these idiot liberals understood that." . . .

[The woman] asked why Obey was not cutting off funding for the war.

Obey responded that the Washington Post has been running numerous stories on the inadequacies of military hospitals and that Congress is holding hearings on the topic, adding that the supplemental spending bill includes extra money for military healthcare.

A few moments later he grew angry and began attacking liberal groups for failing to understand how the supplemental bill, of which he is a sponsor, would affect the war.

"The liberal groups are jumping around without knowing what the hell is in the bill," he bellowed. "You don't have to cut off funds for an activity that doesn't exist."

A chastened Obey "immediately apologized for getting angry with the woman, saying that his immense frustration about 'this stupid war' boiled over." This in turn reminded Glenn Reynolds of an item of ours from last June in which we described a scene from "Forrest Gump," set sometime around 1968:

Forrest, who by the way served in Vietnam, has encountered his love interest, Jenny, at an antiwar rally in Washington. Jenny gets into an argument with her hippie boyfriend, who slaps her in the face. Forrest decks the hippie, who later tries to smooth things over with Jenny: "Things got a little out of hand," he tells her. "It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch, Johnson! I would never hurt you. You know that."

Maybe those who say they're for peace would have an easier time making the case if they tried leading by example.

El Pollo Puesto en Peligro
It's been three years and a day since al Qaeda's pre-election attack on a Madrid train station, in which 191 people were murdered. The Los Angeles Times has a follow-up report, which includes this:

Spanish officials and experts say the country is potentially in more danger now than ever before as extremist groups reorganize just beyond Spain's southern coast.

As the trial began here last month, more arrests and prosecutions were announced, and senior officials say radicals in Morocco and other parts of northern Africa, many with ties to Spain, increasingly take their cues from Al Qaeda. . . .

Maghreb-based networks remain the most serious threat to Spain in terms of Islamic extremism, law enforcement officials said this week. They said militants had begun to set up a centralized command and a string of training camps in southern Algeria and northern Mali, and have launched recruiting efforts targeting their brethren who live in Spain.

"We are seeing the Al Qaeda-ization of the Maghreb militants, and that is the evolution that most worries us," a senior counter-terrorism official in the Spanish Interior Ministry said in an interview.

But wait! Didn't Spain respond to the 3/11 attack by electing a Socialist government that quickly cut and ran from Iraq? Sí, they did! Why in the world would al Qaeda still hate the Spanish then?

Shawn Turk Is Sorry
"Black legislative leaders said Thursday they will introduce proposals asking Georgia to follow Virginia's lead and apologize for the state's role in slavery and segregation-era laws," the Associated Press reports from Atlanta:

The proposal, which is expected to be unveiled in the next few days, could also go a step beyond an expression of regret, said Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia chapter of the NAACP.

"By asking Georgia to apologize for its role, we're asking it to assume responsibility," DuBose said. . . .

The NAACP said it is unfazed by the criticism.

"I didn't expect real cooperation from many of the white Republicans," said DuBose. "Not all of them feel that way. But certainly people who benefit from slavery, especially in the state of Georgia, you wouldn't expect cooperation from."

This prompts the following comment from reader Shawn Turk: "As a white Republican from Georgia, I am cut to the quick. Not only am I willing to apologize for slavery, but I am acting on my pricked conscience and immediately freeing all my slaves. I am sorry for my role in continuing to perpetrate this crime against humanity."

A Fine Lesson
Because of a computer error, some 100 government schoolteachers in Houston erroneously received bonuses ranging from $62.50 to $2,790, the Associated Press reports:

A total of almost $75,000 was overpaid because a computer program mistakenly calculated the bonuses of part-time personnel as if they were full-time employees, according to the Houston Independent School District. . . .

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the district can't force the 99 teachers to sign forms authorizing it to deduct the money from their paychecks, and promised legal action if it attempts to do so.

"If it's the district's error, then the district should bear the loss," she said.

Because the Houston Federation of Teachers only cares about what's best for the children!

Wiping Out the Earth
This "global warming" stuff is getting ridiculous! The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McIntyre describes one ghastly effort at conservation:

Despite the focus on climate change, the green conundrum is alive across myriad product categories, including toilet paper.

Australians spend $500 million a year on the stuff but just $20 million each year goes to brands using recycled paper. Since 2005 the category has been in decline, although it showed some promise in the latter part of last year.

The success story for Australian paper manufacturer ABC in the past 18 month has been its conventional brand Quilton stealing market share from big brands such as Sorbent and Kleenex, rather than improved sales of its recycled Naturale range.

"Recycled as a category is bugger all," says Joe Hancock, managing director of Gorilla Communications which developed the Quilton ad campaign Loves your Bum.

"Using recycled toilet paper is a no-brainer yet people are not prepared to make the sacrifice on their arse."

Recycled toilet paper? For crying out loud, can't we use carbon credits instead?

The Voice of Reason
Anthony D'Auria of Brant Beach, N.J., has his say in the Press of Atlantic City (last letter):

I must confess that I was quite surprised but delighted by the excellent March 2 letter, "Here's why Christianity is on the decline today." The writer should be congratulated on his outstanding rhetoric.

His observations are a reminder that what we are observing is the demise of the monotheistic religions of Abraham, which include Christian, Islamic and Jewish tradition. The ignorant ranting reflecting a frightened and dying religious mentality is no longer compatible with 21st-century critical thinking. These are the death throes of a losing, unreasoning, insane cult composed of extremely gullible humans who are witnessing the insidious collapse of their doctrines.

Our dilemma is, do we have enough time for their departure, or will they drag the critical-thinking and reasoning people on the Earth down the drain with them and their unrelenting delusion? Who would deny that the sudden demise of the religions of Abraham today would result in instant peace and the eradication of biblical blood-letting?

It's a good thing atheists are so reasonable!

Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
"An article last Sunday about a book of photographs of Vidor, Tex., incorrectly referred to a killing as part of the town's legacy of racism. James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to his death near Jasper, Tex., in 1998, had not moved from Vidor the day before he died and was not a resident of Vidor. (Those were the circumstances of a different case involving Bill Simpson, one of four blacks trying to integrate a housing project there in 1993. He left Vidor after seven months, complaining of harassment. Hours after moving out, he was shot dead in Beaumont, Tex.) The article also referred incorrectly to the distance from Vidor to Fredericksburg, Tex., home to a painter who attended a gallery show of the photographs. Fredericksburg is about 300 miles away, not 'nearby.' "--correction, New York Times, March 11

Have You Driven a Sham Lately?
The Middle East Media Research Institute translates an article from the Syrian "newspaper" Al-Thawra:

Yesterday, March 8, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad inaugurated and test-drove the "Sham" car, the first manufactured by the Syrian-Iranian company SYAMCO.

The Sham? That's got to be the worst car name since Edsel.

What Would We Do Without Dr. Paul Petty?
" 'We were called "baby boomers," ' says Dr. Paul Petty, a plastic surgeon and consultant at the Mayo Clinic. 'But when we look in the mirror, we don't see "baby" anymore.' "--Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.), March 12

'Oy, He Was Meshugeh When He Got Farshnoshket'
"Israel Recalls Envoy Found Naked, Drunk"--headline, Associated Press, March 12

Odd That They'd Name a Hospital After Him Then
"Soldier: Walter Reed Didn't Care"--headline, Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star, March 10

It's Too Warm for an Ice Sculpture
"Harvey Milk Sculpture Planned for SF"--headline, Associated Press, March 9

West Virginia Has a Very Strict Open Container Law
"Report: Mayo in Car Stopped by Police"--headline, Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, March 10

They'd Have a Better Argument if They Were at Their Desks
"State Workers in Store for Salary Hike"--headline, Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, March 9

What's Their Weight-Loss Secret?
"Colo. Looks to Thin Elk Herd in Park"--headline, Associated Press, March 9

We Think They'd Be Cooler if They Didn't
"Germans Are Cool to Call to Impose Autobahn Speed Limit"--headline, Day (New London, Conn.), March 12

News You Can Use
"Contractors Shouldn't Take On More Work Than They Can Handle"--headline, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, March 12

Bottom Stories of the Day

Publish or Perish
The Bookseller, a British trade magazine, gives out an annual Diagram Prize for the "Oddest Title of the Year," reports Agence France-Presse. This year's nominees:

  • "Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan"

  • "How Green Were the Nazis?"

  • "D. Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry--An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans"

  • "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification"

  • "Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium"

  • "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence"

That last one caught our attention, so we looked it up on Amazon.com. The author, David Benatar, is head of the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Here's the book description from Amazon:

Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence--rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should--they presume that they do them no harm.

Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence.

Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence.

The author then argues for the "anti-natal" view--that it is always wrong to have children--and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a "pro-death" view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct.

Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.

So basically, this joker has built an entire philosophy around the childish protest "I didn't ask to be born!"

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Brian Azman, Ed Lasky, Evan Slatis, Stuart Creque, Don Hubschman, Mike Glasgow, Charles Sykes, James Currin, Robert Koslover, Paul Dyck, Michael Hopkovitz, Anne Tyrrell, Mike Stevens, Bruce Goldman, Kevin Dietrich, Aaron Gavant, Alex Selim, Chris Garvin, Lee Robinette, Alan Utter, Dawson Bell, Jim Miller, Kathleen Sullivan, Mark Finkelstein, Tim Hoffman, Tim Bagby, Bart Harmon, Michael Friedman, Joe York and Chris Overstreet. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: Incompetence at the Justice Department is compromising presidential power.
  • John Fund: Public-sector lobbyists lavish gifts on congressmen and their staffers. The scandal is it's perfectly legal.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: A transcript of the weekend's program on the FOX News Channel.

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