Pure hatred, for all to see

Can we all agree that advocating the hanging of an elected official is out-of-bounds?

State Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) has proposed legislation that would require gun owners in Pennsylvania to register their guns and pay a $10 fee. His proposal prompted gun-rights advocates to unfurl a banner Tuesday at the Capitol in Harrisburg, proclaiming: "Rep. Cruz should be hung from the tree of liberty for treasonous acts against the Constitution."

Extremist lynch mobs, figurative or otherwise, have no place in any rational discussion of anything. Equally reprehensible are those who tolerated this premeditated display of hate in the Capitol.

The lynch mob also might actually try reading a copy of the Constitution sometime. It defines treason as two, and only two, explicit offenses - levying war against the United States, or giving "aid and comfort" to U.S. enemies. No mention of a $10 fee.

Why hello, GL-581 c

Our brother is another planet.

On Tuesday, a team of European researchers said they'd discovered, in a solar system very far from ours, a planet - and this is a first - of the right size and temperature to have a chance of fostering biology, and thus life.

Gliese 581 c is very far away, at 120 trillion miles, so we don't know very much more. But knowing there's a planet where conditions for life might exist is big, big, big.

Scientists have reported about 230 "extrasolar" planets, a dazzling array, although many of them are big, dead rocks or gas giants in places where nothing could live. What's different about GL-581 c is that it's roughly like Earth and seems to be orbiting at a distance from its star (a red dwarf) suggesting temperatures that could allow the formation of liquid water, which, as far as we know, you need to have a chance of life.

We don't really know whether there's life on Gliese 581 c. But there could be. That's what's tantalizing. Life requires the stars to align, forgive the metaphor, very exactly. And a dispute rages in the scientific community about whether there's complex life all over the universe, or we just lucked out.

So now we know Earth has a near match out there. The question is: Do earthlings?

Honoring a city friend

Of the city's two great, civic honors - the Liberty Medal and the Philadelphia Award - there is a special fondness for the latter, inasmuch as the yearly honor started in 1921 by Ladies Home Journal publisher Edward W. Bok is given for good works here - in the 'hood, as it were.

For this year's honoree, philanthropist Leonore Annenberg, the evidence of her good works is visible on all four points of the compass.

Carrying on the philanthropy of her late husband, former Inquirer owner Walter H. Annenberg, the head of the Annenberg Foundation has supported the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Constitution Center, and the Philadelphia public schools' "Teach for America" effort. She has endowed a chair at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and famously helped to keep "The Gross Clinic" painting in town.

Long before receiving this honor, Leonore Annenberg has been known for a quiet grace and her determination to direct the family fortune toward good causes. Philadelphia is indeed fortunate to have such a patron.

Not exactly role models

Friendly

does not describe the divorce of actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Noxious

works, though.

Baldwin says it was frustration with his former wife and their child-custody arrangement that pushed him to leave a nasty voicemail for his 11-year-old daughter. The tirade included calling the girl names.

It's not a stretch to assume that Basinger exploited the situation - and her daughter - by releasing a recording of the call. She certainly used the situation to insult Baldwin.

Let their bad behavior serve as a reminder of the obvious: Children should not be put in the middle of a war between adults, famous or not, who remain parents even after they no longer are spouses.

Exes who can't get beyond their anger should at least allow their kids to suffer their parents' selfishness in private. Both Baldwin and Basinger should be ashamed.

Who can replace Halberstam?

We have just lost one of our chroniclers.

Throughout history, cultures have relied on a certain kind of writer - part journalist, part scholar, part seer - to amass and narrate the history of their present moment. David Halberstam, who died Monday at 73 in a car crash, was one of our chroniclers.

As a young man, Halberstam covered the civil rights movement. In the 1960s, he covered the Vietnam War. His influential book The Best and the Brightest turned many minds against the war and was a black wreath laid on the failed policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He won the Pulitzer for it. Halberstam also wrote chronicles of Michael Jordan, the 1950s, baseball, the war on terror, and much else.

Who now will be our chroniclers of the future? Who will take up that important, august role, of tireless researcher, constant writer, always-engaged narrator? Whoever does it, they have a very high standard to meet; if they do it half as well as Halberstam, on half as many subjects, they will do their time a great service.