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Best of the Web Today

Monday, September 10, 2007 3:21 p.m. EDT

Osama bin LA LA LA LA LA!
In the 1930s, a young liberal journalist named Alan Cranston sounded an alarm about the dangers of National Socialism. Cranston, who later served as a Democratic senator from California, recounted his anti-Nazi effort in an interview a few months before his death in 2000:

While I was doing my foreign correspondence work, I read Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." . . . There was no English-language version of it. When I quit journalism and came back to try to get involved in activities in the United States, one day in Macy's bookstore in New York I saw a display of "Mein Kampf," an English-language version, which I'd never seen before, which hadn't existed. I went over to look at it out of curiosity and as I picked it up, I knew it wasn't the real book. It was much thinner than the long book that I had read, which is about 350,000 words. So I bought it to see how come. And delving into it I found that it was a condensed version, and some of the things that would most upset Americans just weren't there as they were in the version I had read, the original, in German.

So I talked to an editor friend of mine in New York, a Hearst editor named Amster Spiro, and suggested that I write and we publish an anti-Nazi version of "Mein Kampf" that would be the real book and would awaken Americans to the peril Hitler posed for us and the rest of the world. . . . We proceeded to print in tabloid the version that I wrote, with a very lurid red cover showing Hitler carving up the world, and we sold it for ten cents on newsstands. It created quite a stir. Some Nazis went around knocking down newsstands that displayed it in St. Louis and the German part of New York and elsewhere in the country.

We sold half a million copies in ten days and were immediately sued by Hitler's agents on the grounds we had violated his copyright, which we had done. We had the theory that [though] he had copyrighted "Mein Kampf" in Austria, he had destroyed Austria with his army, so we said he destroyed his copyright at the same time. Well, that didn't stand up in court, and a Connecticut judge ruled in Hitler's favor. No damages were assessed, but we had to stop selling the book. We got what was called an injunction. But we did wake up a lot of Americans to the Nazi threat.

Today, when America's enemies speak, young liberal journalists cover their ears and go LA LA LA LA LA! When the latest Osama bin Laden video came out last week, the guys at TalkingPointsMemo.com felt it necessary to publish a series of posts saying that everyone really ought to ignore it. First up was David Kurtz, who begins with a long quote from the tape dealing with Iraq:

Now, here's the thing. Both sides of Iraq debate may be tempted to use bin Laden's words to some perverse advantage. Bush Administration supporters (and, in fairness, no one has exploited bin Laden's statements quite like the Bush Administration) will try to extract some measure of satisfaction that if bin Laden is against us, we must be doing the right thing. Iraq War opponents might be tempted to note that bin Laden is calling out the Democrats for not stopping the war. Whatever. Bin Laden is a crazy, evil man. No one should take any pleasure in trying to exploit his rantings for their own partisan purposes. The only legitimate political point to be made is why is this guy still free to spout such noxious rhetoric six years after the September 11 attacks.

Site founder Josh Marshall then attempts to use bin Laden's words to some perverse advantage, while dismissing them at the same time:

As I skimmed the transcript of the new bin Laden tape . . ., I could not help feeling sad again about how we gave this joker a new lease on life by invading Iraq. . . .

As an articulator of a vision, an expounder of "Islamofascism," or whatever the new trademarked word is now, he's about as coherent and comprehensible as a 9th tier blogger or one of those whacks sitting on a stoop in Union Square talking about fascism and Texas oil barons before they get overcome by the shakes or decide to start collecting more aluminum cans.

If my predictive powers are still working right, I'm sure I'll catch flack for taking such a mocking attitude toward this man who has so much American blood on his hands. But this, I think, is only the flip side of the vaunted perch we insist on giving him, a insistence that is a paradoxical part of Bushism. They are tacit partners in creating the world in which we now live.

And Steve Benen approvingly cites a post on his own blog making much the same argument:

Can we just skip it? Osama bin Laden is a madman. His perspective is one of insanity. The bastard's analysis of American politics is a) meaningless; and b) meant to sow division. Might we be better off not trying to make use of the rambling tirade of a monster who killed 3,000 Americans?

Hmm, the TalkingPointers have certainly spilled a lot of (figurative) ink on a message they claim to think everyone should ignore. But if you look at the transcript of the video, you can see why they so conspicuously do not want anyone to think about what bin Laden is saying. It's certainly true that he--or whoever actually wrote and recited the words on the tape--aims to "sow division." His method of doing so is to espouse a variety of mostly liberal causes.

He seems to view as his natural allies Americans who seek defeat in Iraq and fault congressional Democrats for failing to have brought it about, who loathe "neoconservatives like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Richard Pearle [sic]" and admire the work of Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer, who see U.S. military servicemen as chumps, who live in fear of "global warming," and who anathematize capitalism and corporations. In what appears to be a sop to the Ron Paul crowd, he also calls for a flat tax.

It seems both fair and accurate to note that there is a confluence of interests between bin Laden and those Americans who seek defeat in Iraq. It is little wonder that this is an embarrassment to the latter. But it would be unfair and inaccurate to suggest that this is anything more than a de facto tactical alliance. The Angry Left wants America to lose in Iraq for its own ideological and partisan purposes, which have little to do with the establishment of a global caliphate.

So what are we to make of bin Laden's striking a pose as a global warmist who hates capitalism? Here's a theory: Slate reports that by one estimate 10% of al Qaeda's "soldiers in the global jihad" are converts to radical Islamism, a religion/ideology that, as Slate puts it, "has become a magnet for some of the world's angriest people."

Blogger Roger L. Simon speculates that "the true author (or scriptwriter) of the tape" is Adam Gadahn, né Pearlman, an American-born "spokesman" for al Qaeda who, as The New Yorker reported earlier this year, had a decidedly countercultural upbringing--raised by hippie parents who converted to Christianity and lived on an isolated farm raising goats. A "shy, bookish" boy who rebelled against his parents' faith, Gadahn immersed himself in the world of satanic "death metal" before converting to Islam.

The bin Laden tape evinces a familiarity with, but a lack of sophistication about, America's political culture--just what you'd expect from the sort of alienated and immature weirdo Gadahn seems to have been. In particular, it seems not to have occurred to the makers of the tape that hardly any Americans, including bitter foes of the president, would actually want to be associated with al Qaeda. Bin Laden has succeeded here only in embarrassing his putative allies, and perhaps in somewhat diminishing their effectiveness at a crucial political moment for the future of Iraq.

America Doesn't Deserve Him
"Chuck Hagel will announce Monday that he is retiring from the U.S. Senate and will not run for president next year," the Omaha World-Herald reports. Since he never actually ran, he doesn't get a bye-ku--but if he did, it would go something like this:

An anxious nation
Has spent the spring and summer
Waiting to exhale

Haiku purists will be pleased that we got the seasonal reference in there.

Reliable Sources
From an Associated Press dispatch on the Hagel retirement:

The 60-year-old senator arranged a news conference for Monday in Omaha, Neb., to make his formal announcement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the event.

Because just telling us what Hagel is going to say doesn't "pre-empt" the event. The point is to hear Hagel say it, such a rock star is he.

Wannabe Pundits
Guess the topic of this quote and the forum in which it appeared:

You think I'm name dropping? That's nothing. Hell, I once shook hands with Richard Nixon, whose regime seems to be reborn and poisoning our lives once again. "I am not a crook." "I don't not speak English good." "Spreading democracy" while we run out of it at home?

It's from "Kermit's September newsletter." That would be Kermit Lynch, who owns a wine shop in Berkeley, Calif., where Sept. 29 is "Provence Day." After complaining about the sorry state of American democracy, Kermit says, "Back to Provence!" Where perhaps he can shake hands with President Sarkozy.

Then there's this, from Stephen Holden's review of "In the Shadow of the Moon" in the New York Times:

If today's world is even more strife-torn than the world of 1969, when the Vietnam War was raging, one reason may be that the same technology that produced Apollo 11 has since come under a cloud.

The good vibes are gone. The tone of international political discourse has toughened, and the United States is increasingly viewed as an arrogant, dangerous superpower. The concept of a cooperative multinational "we," working together for world peace, with America leading the way, is almost as quaint as the cozy concept of "the global village." The planet that looked so pretty to Mr. Collins from 240,000 miles away is more fragile than we realized.

Holden goes on to mention that the movie was pretty good. But c'mon, is the world really "more strife-torn" today than it was in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the world-wide hippie rebellion; two years after the Six Day War and one year after the Prague Spring and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy?

Or is Holden just grumpier because now he's old?

Defining Hypocrisy Down
Here is a very silly story from Salt Lake City's Deseret Morning News:

Teachers: Your school could become a BYOB zone.

No longer would you be able to get your Diet Coke at a faculty lounge vending machine under a policy the State Board of Education is working up.

Students wouldn't be able to get a pop or candy bar, either, at a school vending machine or a fund-raising table anywhere on campus during school hours.

The idea is, if there's going to be a campus junk food ban, then it should be everywhere.

"Part of the discussion (about faculty lounge treats) was around hypocrisy," board member Denis Morrill said in Friday's board meeting in St. George, which was streamed over the Internet.

Seeking to ban bonbons for kids is fine, says one teachers union boss. But extending it to faculty in a place that's off limits to kids is not.

"For heaven's sake, what's the matter with these people?" said Elaine Tzourtzouklis, executive director of Wasatch UniServ, a regional arm of the Utah Education Association. "Teachers are adults. . . ."

It's rare that this column finds itself in agreement with a teachers unionist, but Tzourtzouklis is right. Perhaps one could argue that a teacher who eats junk food in front of the kids sets a bad example. But that is no more an example of "hypocrisy" than the fact that teachers can assign homework to students and not the other way around.

Overheated Computers
"Two-thirds of the world's polar bear population could be gone by midcentury if predictions of melting sea ice hold true, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Friday," Reuters reports.

But what if the predictions don't hold true? The dispatch continues:

The fate of polar bears could be even bleaker than that estimate, because sea ice in the Arctic might be vanishing faster than the available computer models predict.

You mean to tell us that the computer models may be wrong? This is the first time we've ever heard that. Kind of calls the whole global warming thing into question, doesn't it?

War of the Worlds
"Soldier From Venus Dies in Iraq"--headline, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 8

What's Wrong With Dinner and a Movie?
"Record 60% Seek Date for Pullout"--headline, USA Today, Sept. 10

'Every Move You Make, I'll Be Watching You'
"Sting Charges Against Craig Harsher Than Some"--headline, New York Times, Sept. 10

A Salt and Battery
"McDonald's Worker Who Over Salted Burger Jailed"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 9

'Noah, Are the Elephants Getting Enough Exercise?'
"No Rise in Ark. Obesity, but Many Worry"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 10

What Has It Got to Hyde?
"Senator Demands Openness From Jekyll Island Authority"--headline, Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, Sept. 8

Bad News for Amsterdam Pit Bulls
"Dutchman Seeks to Help Nail Biters"--headline, FoxNews.com, Sept. 8

News You Can Use

  • "Rain Might Continue to Fall Today"--headline, News-Leader (Springfield, Mo.), Sept. 10

  • "Need a Hand With Hand? Call Hotline"--headline, Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), Sept. 8

  • "Argentinian Doctors Say Science Proves Only Two Sexes Exist: Male and Female"--headline, Catholic News Agency, Sept. 7

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • "Woman Has Yard Full of Snapping Turtles"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 8

  • "Pope Says Abortion 'Not a Human Right' "--headline, Reuters, Sept. 7

  • "Kerry, McCain Differ on Iraq Solutions"--headline, United Press International, Sept. 9

  • "Japanese Man Remains Air Guitar Champion"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 9

  • "Ralph Nader Not on Ballot for Winsted Selectman's Race"--headline, Register Citizen (Torrington, Conn.), Sept. 7

  • "Teamsters Official Charged With Stealing Election"--headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 8

Loaded for Bear
"Ted Grenda is downright inhospitable toward some of his neighbors, placing plywood strips with nails along his doors and windows," the Associated Press reports from Snowmass Village, Colo.:

But wildlife officials say that makes him a good neighbor to the black bears that share the mountains--especially this year, when a late freeze and drought across the West have drastically reduced their natural fare of berries and acorns. . . .

That threat of a death penalty for offending bears is why Grenda put up his home defenses, and keeps his garbage cans inside.

Apparently capital punishment does have a deterrent effect. But really, isn't this a case of political correctness run amok? Not only does the punishment not fit the crime, but it could have perverse incentives. If you can be put to death merely for offending bears, why would you bother talking to them at all?

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Michael Segal, Greg Askins, Eddie Weinhaus, John Forsberg, Taylor Dinerman, Ed Lasky, Dagny Billings, Avram Shacham, John Sinnott, Don Stewart, David Trimner, Daniel Foty, Gary Sehnert, Russ Evansen, Karl Kuehn, John Lord, Scott Romesburg, Tim Willis, Patrick Mulry, Bryan Fischer, Chris Green, Dave Wheeler, Jeffrey Shapiro, Linda Kidwell, Bill Schweber, Yehuda Hilewitz, James Penrose, Glen Cuccinello, Mark Davies, Sid Knowles, Scott Wright, John Williamson, Steve Karass, Doug Black, Michael Griffin, Roger Drake and Michael Zukerman. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

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