Best of the Web Today
by JAMES TARANTO
Monday, September 10, 2007 3:21 p.m. EDT
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
Then there's this, from Stephen
Holden's review of "In the Shadow of the Moon" in the New York
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?
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
"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.
"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
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?
of the Worlds
"Soldier From Venus Dies in Iraq"--headline, Dallas Morning News,
Wrong With Dinner and a Movie?
"Record 60% Seek Date for Pullout"--headline, USA Today, Sept. 10
Move You Make, I'll Be Watching You'
"Sting Charges Against Craig Harsher Than Some"--headline, New York
Times, Sept. 10
Salt and Battery
"McDonald's Worker Who Over Salted Burger Jailed"--headline, Associated
Press, Sept. 9
Are the Elephants Getting Enough Exercise?'
"No Rise in Ark. Obesity, but Many Worry"--headline, Associated Press,
Has It Got to Hyde?
"Senator Demands Openness From Jekyll Island Authority"--headline,
Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, Sept. 8
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,
- "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,
Citizen (Torrington, Conn.), Sept. 7
- "Teamsters Official Charged With Stealing Election"--headline,
Sun-Times, Sept. 8
"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
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Michael Segal,
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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,
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