Politics & Policy

Window on The Week – 8/18/06

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Window on The Week” acts as our weekly, quick-and-punchy, “between-the-issues” survey of some of the hot topics of the day. “Window on The Week” gives you a sense of what “The Week” — a popular feature that appears fortnightly in National Review — looks like.

#-# The City of New York has released recordings of more than 1,600 previously undisclosed 9-1-1 calls on September 11, 2001. They supplement the prior release of other emergency calls from that day, as well as the oral histories of rescue workers and the transcripts of their radio transmissions. These latest recordings remind us once again of the heroism of ordinary Americans. May it continue to serve us in good stead.

#-# We worried earlier this week that over time it would become clear that — despite U.N. Resolution 1701 — Hezbollah was not disarming or leaving southern Lebanon, and that neither the Lebanese government nor an international force would make it do either of those things. We were wrong. It became clear immediately. The premises of the arrangement to keep southern Lebanon from returning to the status quo ante are already in tatters, and it is Hezbollah and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran that benefit. Israelis are having a wrenching debate about how their war failed so miserably, as well they should. They will surely have to fight another one soon enough.

#-# That was a pretty costly laugh line. Sen. George Allen got a chuckle from an audience when he singled out an Indian-American staffer from the Jim Webb campaign who was tracking him with a video camera and referred to him as “macaca.” In French, the word can be a racially charged term of abuse. The left-wing blogosphere lit up with denunciations of Allen as a racist; people who make their living being offended took due offense; and the Washington Post ran, incredibly, two front-page stories on the controversy. We believe the Allen camp’s explanation that the senator was repeating a nickname his campaign aides had come up with for the tracker, and that it had no racial connotation (only a scatological one). But a U.S. senator should never appear to be bullying a 20-year-old. Allen is among the most personable one-on-one campaigners in the business. He should have known better.

#-# Hazleton, Pa., a small town not too far south of Scranton, is unremarkable except for the fact that its city council has figured out how to deal with illegal immigration — a task that has proven beyond the abilities of politicians far more exalted. The solution was simple enough: Businesses that hire illegal immigrants are denied permits, and landlords who rent to them are fined. The town is of course being sued. The logic? If the federal government doesn’t enforce immigration laws, no one can. The federal government, though, doesn’t have to deal with illegal immigrants who don’t learn English, don’t pay taxes, and don’t obey the law; the town of Hazleton does.

#-# Being president of Iran is a busy job — dissidents to jail, nuke-building to oversee, Jews to wipe off the map. But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a break to sit down for an interview with Mike Wallace. Turns out he isn’t such a bad guy after all. Misunderstood, is all. “Smart as hell,” according to Wallace. “Rational.” “Savvy.” “Rather attractive.” Even “good-looking in a strange way.” (Note to CBS stylists: Beards are back.) Ahmadinejad is, moreover, a man of principle: He hasn’t “the slightest doubt” how he feels about “the American administration and the Zionist state.” There is of course a long tradition of liberal journalists who swoon like lovesick schoolgirls over any old tyrant. But Wallace’s display marks a new birth of foolishness.

#-# For millennia, Chinese law was not a means for the individual to protect his rights, but a tool for the emperor to enforce his prerogatives and subdue his enemies. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much still the case. The Chinese Communist party — Bejing’s current dynasty — is set to try one Chen Guangcheng for allegedly disrupting traffic and destroying property. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. Mr. Chen’s supporters say the charges are false, and that his real crime was to expose and protest the abortions China forces upon pregnant women who violate the one-child policy. We cannot know for sure that Chen did not commit the acts for which he will stand trial. But if he were a mere vandal, would the Chinese government have kept him under house arrest for the past year, as it has done? And would it have detained his defense attorneys, as it also has done? Once again, we see the chasm that sunders China from countries whose governments have a decent respect for the dignity of their people.

#-# Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped in Gaza on Monday, and the world has learned little about their fate since then. The kidnapping followed a depressingly familiar script: Armed men blocked their news van in the center of Gaza City, overwhelmed their bodyguard, and abducted them at gunpoint. On Wednesday night, Fox anchor Shepard Smith announced, “There are indications of some kind that this may in fact resolve itself, and we have been led to believe now that Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig have not been harmed.” We hope that Smith is right, and that these two journalists are swiftly released and reunited with their families.

#-# “My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas.” Thus the schoolroom mnemonic for the names of the nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, etc. In recent years this traditional scheme has been thrown into confusion by the discovery of large, spherical bodies in the outermost reaches of the sun’s domain, far beyond the orbit of Pluto, and in some cases bigger than the ninth planet. Even before these discoveries, Pluto’s status as a true planet had been questioned on grounds of size (less than 1 percent the mass of Earth), composition (more ice than rock), and orbital peculiarity. Should we extend the list of planets? Or place these remote, icy bodies in a category of their own? The International Astronomers’ Union has now ruled that Pluto and its remoter pals are sort of planets — “plutons,” to be precise — defined as planets that take more than 200 years to orbit the sun. Everyone clear on that? Since planets don’t care what we call them, we suggest that conservatives stick with the traditional scheme. Fie upon these innovations!

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