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Saturday, April 15, 2006
The Week's Readings

Many interesting things are happening just now in the world at large and in various subdivisions of it, but this week's favorite is history: A fine piece on George Washington by Michael and Jana Novak.

This week, there are two ranks of favorites, and one piece stands alone in the first rank. To me, at least, it's well beyond the usual high quality of favorites here. Hence . . .

The Super-Favorite

Michael and Jana Novak write on George Washington and, among other subjects, his faith. They have summarized my own view and understanding of Washington stunningly well.

The Favorites

Here's a long, insightful piece by Mark Steyn on Iran, nukes, and the future. It's not light reading or cheerful in any degree, but it would be nice if a quarter-billion or so Americans would read and understand it.

Before I recommend to you Garry Wills' article "Christ Among the Partisans," I should note that I don't think this excellent scholar reads scripture correctly on all points. But he makes several of his own points that need to be made, including these:

  • "The state cannot indulge in self-sacrifice." He says this in the context of the divine command to care for the poor. He is at least partway to the notion that a Christian's religious duty is to care for the poor personally, not to pay some institution to do it for him or her, impersonally and bureaucratically.
  • The question, "What would Jesus do?" is of limited usefulness, especially in politics. Wills notes, "[His disciples] never knew what Jesus was going to do next."
  • I don't read the Gospels as being "scary" and "dark" to the degree that Wills does. But I agree, "It is not surprising that people want to tame them, dilute them, make them into generic encouragements to be loving and peaceful and fair." Then this insight: "If that is all they are, then we may as well make Socrates our redeemer."
  • Wills' final sentence, I think, is an important perspective: "The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats." A fair reading of the Jesus of the Gospels yields a character who resists recruitment by either (or any) political party.

(We interrupt this list for a personal memo to the folks that want my vote, my campaign contributions, my support of any kind: You won't get it by claiming that Jesus is on your side. You may get it by living your life, publicly and privately, as if you're trying to be on his side. But your politics had better not try to impose upon me your version of what that means. I have my own version, and the political and religious principle I value most -- it is both political and religious -- is my right to practice my version, not yours.)

Here is George Will on the failing corporate welfare state, General Motors.

Tom Purcell talks taxes. 'Tis the season.

Bill Murchison discusses the Republican Party and the marketplace, and the former's evident indifference to the latter. Look out, November. Here is an excerpt -- a strong finish, to be more precise.

You would expect Republicans to understand in their bones that you don't win the "customer's" favor by punting problems downfield, or by just leaving the general impression of disorientation and fecklessness. It is the impression Republicans thought only Democrats left. That, alas, was when Republicans mostly knew what they were up to, what their purpose in Washington was -- namely, expanding freedom rather than scrambling for spending "earmarks," campaign contributions, lobbyist junkets and the occasional bribe.

What a bunch of blitherers this group of once-earnest reformers, with purpose and pedigree, has turned into. What confusion of mind they present to the customers. Would you buy a new car from them? A used one, even?

Here's one sentence from an excellent Thomas Sowell piece on immigration.

The releasing of children from schools to take part in these marches and the support of the marchers' goals by some religious leaders demonstrate that this contempt for the laws of the land has spread well beyond immigrant communities.

In his sequel, Thomas Sowell points out that the solution depends on which problem one is trying to solve: the nation's or the politicians'. I like this paragraph:

Worse yet, we ensure that there will be millions of people living here who are routinely accustomed to violating the law. What does that do to respect for our laws, not only by illegal aliens but by native-born Americans who see the law openly treated with contempt without any consequences?

Tony Snow writes eloquently on Easter, resurrection, belief, and unbelief.

Iran, Iraq, and Militant Islam Generally

John Podhoretz is in excellent form in this piece on how President Bush should approach the Iranian situation.

Mark Helprin seems to make sense, too.

Michael Ledeen spends less and less time reading what he calls "the dead tree media," and more reading the blogs. Here's one reason why.

US Politics

The Wall Street Journal editors analyze the Republican plan for defeat in November. (So far, it's going well.)

Here is an excellent John Fund piece on voter fraud in Pennsylvania and the people who care about it. Some want it stopped, some want it continued. The state's governor is among the latter. Guess which party he belongs to.

Clifford D. May has an interesting historical parallel to offer.

Jonathan Chait of the Los Angeles Times here reports on a new effort to move away from the Electoral College toward a popular vote for President of the United States. I don't share his position, but he does make the case well, illustrating in the process why, in crass terms of political power, the small states don't and won't support such a thing.

John H. Fund discusses the Republican Party's haplessness and its implications for November.

Jennifer Roback Morse reports on the use of federal legislation for extortion, in a scheme Jesse Jackson would be proud of.

George Will muses on Senator John McCain's presidential prospects.

Michael Barone is informed and articulate on the subject of our growing welfare state and its future.

I don't mention abortion much in these lists, but Kathleen Parker illustrates the complexity of the issue.

Steve Muscatello writes about an unusual field trip . . . Hey, some of that is my money!

Going National: Mitt Romney

Governor Romney explains his health care plan for Massachusetts.

Here Mitt Romney outlines his plan to reform education. It's not a great piece of writing, but I think he's mostly on the right track.

Sally C. Pipes offers some further discussion of the Romney health care plan.

The editors of The New Republic prefer a different kind of universal health care, but they're willing to stop and be Romney's cheerleaders for a few minutes.

Easter, Jesus Christ, Politicians, Etc.

Here is a good essay by Richard Wightman Fox on Lincoln and his contemparies' inclination to see him as a Christ-figure.

Martin Peretz of The New Republic comments on John Kerry and his (self-)reported links to Jesus Christ. Careful, there's some coarse language here. In case you want to avoid that, here's the best snippet:

[Kerry] said, "Not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicare." I'd actually go Kerry one further: I doubt that Jesus ever mentioned Medicare at all. Still, it's probably significant that some presidential aspirants--Kerry, for one--want to demonstrate that there are among them some real live Democrats for God.

Cal Thomas ponders the Big Media Acronymns' seasonal challenges to the Christian faith.


Jeff Jacoby thinks that if we really value families, our immigration policies should reflect that. (Revolutionary!)

Paul Greenberg describes how partisan politics undermined the Senate's near-compromise on immigration.

Charles Krauthammer analyzes the goals and tactics of the illegal immigrants.

Diana West observes that developments in the immigration debate and the related protests bear a striking similarity to . . . well, you'll see.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to hit something . . . It's Mark Steyn on the aggressive irrationality of our immigration policies and their enforcement.


Reading Mona Charen is nearly always worth the time. You can get the general sense of this piece from her three sentences (which follow), but read the whole thing for full effect.

A couple of weeks ago I was felled by a particularly nasty flu. Too sick even to read, I listened to radio and watched television for long hours every day. What I heard and saw was not conducive to recovery.

Alan Reynolds writes on education: Check the facts, do the math, and if it's too bad to be true, it probably isn't true.

Another Congressional Medal of Honor winner has left us. His story, reported by Mark M. Alexander, is remarkable.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., tells of a wife, a birthday, and a car -- but there's a larger point.

Here is Wes Pruden on Al Gore, global warming, a movie, actual science, and so forth.

Jonah Goldberg comments on a different kind of Washington movie -- different from the sometimes delightful but absurd movies which we tend to see about the nation's capital. Along the way, there's some interesting commentary on the cultures of Washington and Hollywood.

Local Interest

This Amy Choate piece in The Deseret News about paramedics in American Fork is excellent news. Some might oppose it a paramedic system because it costs money -- but so do a lot of things a growing city needs.

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