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Saturday, March 4, 2006
A Week's Readings

William J. Stuntz, Walter Williams, Star Parker, and The Onion lead the charge.

In case you're wondering how many articles I read to produce my list of recommendations, this week I counted them: about 100. That's actually less than usual. But onward . . .


When The New Republic is good, it is sometimes very good, indeed. Here's a superb piece by William J. Stuntz on the departure of Lawrence Summers as president of Harvard University, what it means for higher education generally in the United States, and how General Motors gives us insight into Harvard's situation. (Read it soon, before it becomes available online only to TNR subscribers.) Here are a few favorite lines, which don't necessarily reflect the full article reliably:

No system that depends on systematic irrationality can long survive, much less succeed.

In universities, as elsewhere, there is an inverse relationship between the pretentiousness with which a task is described and the quality with which the task is performed.

The academic world has never seen a university president so eager to hear and engage opposing arguments. Summers might indeed tell you you're flat wrong, an experience people in my job too rarely have. But you could tell him that he's full of s***--and he'd smile and argue back. [Yes, yes, the article has that word in it. Sorry. Perhaps it's like finding a tiny bug in an otherwise exceptionally fine soup.]

It is as if you took the bottom half of GM's factory workers a half-century ago and told them to run the corporation, promising that whatever they did, their jobs were guaranteed and their pay could only rise. It's a great gig while it lasts.

A friend of mine who runs a small business likes to say that the last move of a failing enterprise is to fire all those who want change. It's hard to imagine another such reform-minded president in a top university anytime soon.

Walter Williams says it's a republic, not a democracy. The difference matters. (He's right.)

Star Parker writes of black families and school choice. Here's an excerpt:

In addition to the benefits of competition, it is inordinately important that single black mothers have the option of sending their kid to a school where the educational culture is defined by traditional values. This is not the case with public schools.

How much can be expected from a single, poor mother who must compete with a prevailing popular culture that conveys meaninglessness and relativism to her kid, and then must compete with a school system that conveys the same? This mother should, and must, have the option of sending her child to a school that teaches traditional values.

Schools can and must play a vital link in helping to break the cycle of kids from poor, broken families going on to create more poor, broken families.

It is ironic that a country that rejects the idea of imposing values on others maintains a monolithic public school system that does just that.

To me, for what it's worth, this seems urgent and important single mothers and broken families of all races.

Finally, I'm really not sure what it means that two of my favorite recent pieces are from that pillar of satire, The Onion. Here is a deft and polished piece of satire, "Rotation Of Earth Plunges Entire North American Continent Into Darkness." If you like more overtly biting, political humor, try "Democrats Vow Not to Give up Hopelessness." (Thanks to Jon Rodeback for the latter link.) But if you're going to the site, be advised: The Onion insists that it is for readers 18 and over. These pieces aren't rated R, but it's possible to find articles at the site which should be. Enter at your own risk.)

Is It Too Soon to Talk about the 2008 Presidential Race?

Peter A. Brown takes up the interesting question, "Why so long since a member of Congress was elected president?" To be sure, it has been nearly half a century, but can anyone who has watched Congress so far in 2006 really wonder why that is?

Mark Joseph tells the Democratic Party how to win the White House in 2008.

Dick Morris warns that Hillary Clinton really could be elected president, and that Republicans are underestimating her.

Eliot Peace looks at Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a possible candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Iraq, Terror, Ports, and Foreign Policy Generally

Peter Beinart, writing in The New Republic, offers a sort of scorecard of American foreign policy factions.

In 2001, [Walter Russell] Mead published a book titled Special Providence, in which he argued that four traditions comprise U.S. foreign policy. Wilsonians believe America must make the world safe for liberty. Hamiltonians believe America must make the world safe for commerce. Jeffersonians fear that both of these crusades threaten liberty at home. And Jacksonians believe in destroying America's enemies and defending America's sovereignty, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

Excellent piece by Michael Barone on President Bush's National Security Strategy.

Paul Greenberg is excellent on hysteria in American politics (and the ports thing).

Max Boot is thought-provoking on his visit to Iraq.

Economics, Economic Policy, and the Politics of Economics

Thomas Sowell excels in analyzing the welfare state. (Do the math, if you still can!) Part II may be even better. You ought not miss Part III, either; it's about getting something for nothing, the effects of a "living wage," and how to get 28 percent unemployment without really trying. Here's an excerpt from Part III:

For politicians, however, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs is a viable strategy, provided that the goose doesn't die before the next election. Provided also that people have short memories, don't connect the dots, and don't keep in mind that there is no such thing as something for nothing.

Frank Gaffney, Jr., says we are (or should be) at war, and not just in Iraq.

George Will won't cheer you up -- he's not even close to cheerleading here -- but he's worth reading on Iraq.

Robert Novak analyzes the political motives and the political blunders behind the seaport battles.


See also "Favorites" above.

John Stossel bears reading on competition and public schools.

Jeff Jacoby catalogs the supposed offenses of resigned Harvard University president Lawrence Summers. Here's a telling paragraph:

Harvard's motto is ''Veritas," Latin for ''truth." But at Harvard, as in much of academia, ideology, not truth, is the highest value. Nothing exemplifies the moral and intellectual rot in so much of elite academic culture like the sight of Harvard's president falling on his sword for the crime of uttering statements that the vast majority of Americans would regard as straightforward common sense.


Burt Prelutsky muses on what heroism is and isn't.

Chuck Colson on religious freedom and its opposites in Massachusetts.

I could read Paul Greenberg all day -- even on, of all things, media ethics.

Dick Morris says the fruits of our dependence on foreign oil are so severe that we should try everyone's ideas to reduce that dependence -- both the left's and the right's ideas, that is. Nuclear power, domestic drilling, ethanol, coal, wind power, solar power, hydrogen . . . the works.

Ever wonder what Republicans on Capitol Hill are smoking? Read Tim Chapman  and you'll still wonder.

Cal Thomas has an interesting thought: Maybe the Supreme Court isn't the most effective way to minimize abortion. (Didn't I say a similar thing in 2004? Oh, yes, I did.)

Wondering how seriously to take the threat that some people on the Internet pose to your offspring? Read Rebecca Hagelin -- but don't expect to enjoy yourself.

Charles Krauthammer says, essentially, that this year's Oscar nominations show a pronounced sympathy for Osama bin Laden.

Horace Cooper describes a Texas redistricting battle that is moving to the US Supreme Court.

Locally, the American Fork Library gets a big grant to upgrade its computer systems; see this Barbara Christiansen story from The Daily Herald.

Jonathan Gurwitz offers a great piece on words, government, and so forth.

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