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Saturday, July 15, 2006
This Week's Excellent Readings

Israel, Superman, interstate highways, leaks by the New York Times, North Korean dud rockets, Mexico, Kooksville, marriage, rap, and more. It's been a busy week.


My favorite of the week is a long essay by Peter Berkowitz on those "Gentleman Revolutionaries" some of us celebrated last week.

Here's to the Interstate Highway System and the shipping container. George Will writes.

Paul Greenberg describes how conservatives could win the immigration battle and lose the war for the next generation.

Okay, I'll grant that the Mr. Roger's thing at the end is a little cheesy. I also confess a serious pro-Pittsburgh bias; I spent more than a year there and loved the city. In any case, here's Tom Purcell on neighborhoods and being connected. Postscript: I want a job like Tom's, sitting around in interesting places and writing my thoughts. Could that be why I blog?

I've read several essays about the changing of "truth, justice, and the American way" in the new Superman movie. James Lileks' is the best so far, and he characterizes several recent decades quite memorably.

Thomas Sowell talks about the power of ordinary people in the immigration debate.

Walter Williams emphasizes the importance of appreciating the vastness of what we cannot know.

George Will writes quite personally about something I hope never to experience: dementia (not his own) and the long, slow loss of life (also not his own).

Greg Crosby has an interesting update on immigration. Note especially the contrasting behavior of the two sides in a recent showdown..

I'm considering this one as a permanent feature: Whichever Dave Barry piece this link happens to point to today is almost certainly excellent.

Israel and Its Enemies

Robert Satloff describes Israel's attackers in detail, along with their loyalties, their connections, and their supporters.

Thomas L. Friedman says there's something new going on here. An excerpt:

The little flowers of democracy that were planted in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories are being crushed by the boots of Syrian-backed Islamist militias who are desperate to keep real democracy from taking hold in this region and Iranian-backed Islamist militias desperate to keep modernism from taking hold.

Michael Gallagher would like the UN's support of terrorists attacking Israel to be the last straw. It's time, he says, for the UN to leave New York.

Charles Krauthammer notes that, as we have lately witnessed, the Arab grievance with Israel is the latter's existence, not particular borders.

Mona Charen explains the same point further.

Michael Medved makes sense: We need a Middle East victory process, not a peace process. He wonders, Are we sane?

Wesley Pruden examines statements on both sides. It's a serious piece, but he still manages to use the word fruitcake.

The War on Islamic Fascism (and Throwback Renegade Commies)

Hollywood is putting in its umpteenth vote for American surrender by engaging in a "rolling fast." Tell me Mark Steyn's sarcasm isn't exactly what this deserves. He's serious when he says, "Even al-Qaida couldn't have come up with as withering a parody of the Great Satan's decadence as a celebrity pseudo-fast."

In an excellent (if inadequately edited) essay David Horowitz explains that familiar phenomenon, making war on the thing you say you're defending. Here's an excerpt (with one obvious typo corrected):

The government leakers who provided the Times with the information that won its reporter a Pulitzer prize, are conducting a war against the very system the Times is claiming to defend. This is an unacceptable way to dissent from national policy, and no excuse can be offered for it. It is an act of violence against our democracy and the Constitution which governs it.

If this were an illegal war; if it had [not] been ratified by the American people; if the government was not concerned to justify its acts legally; if the representatives of the people — the Congress of the United States — were muzzled or the Congress itself dissolved; if the courts were closed, matters would be different. But they are not.

Peter Brown has a metaphor that seems to work: "Think of World Politics as High School."

In Jack Kelly's essay, it's more a matter of bad parenting.

Michael Goodwin is pessimistic about our political system's ability to grapple with what he dubs World War III.

I sound pessimistic because I am. Even worse than the problems is the fact that our political system is failing us. Democratic Party leaders want to pretend we can declare peace and everything will be fine, while President Bush is out of ideas. Witness Bush now counseling patience and diplomacy on North Korea. This from a man who scorned both for five years.

Lawrence F. Kaplan's piece in The New Republic has the expected leftward spin at certain points, but it is an interesting look at the world view of soldiers in Iraq, who -- duh! -- pretty much have to ignore the Big Media Acronyms if they're going to do their jobs and survive.

Diana West has some thoughts, including this one:

Besides the will to resist, then, we need the knowledge to resist -- the knowledge that there is in the religion of Islam itself the historical, inexorable and driving force behind what the entire non-Muslim world is now experiencing as jihad terror. Whether most Muslims wouldn't hurt a fly is an increasingly irrelevant footnote to the hostile aggression of other Muslims who, in a very short time, have actually transformed civilization as we used to know it.

All The Secrets That Are Fit to Leak

Apparently the public understands the need to protect national security even if the New York Times doesn't. Robert J. Caldwell reports some interesting poll results.

Paul Greenberg writes of the contradictions in the "New York almighty Times'" justifications for spilling military secrets.


Michael Barone analyzes the recent Mexican presidential election and related elections elsewhere.

John H. Fund says we have some lessons to learn from Mexico in the matter of preventing fraudulent votes. (I myself don't care where we learn them, as long as we learn them well and soon.)


William Bennett tells of John Paul Jones and a famous sea battle, in another book excerpt.

Armstrong Williams summarizes Egyptian history and modern culture.

Other Matters International

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., writes of global taxes (a.k.a. solidarity levies) sneaking up on us. (Perhaps it's time to load the shotguns and take posts on the front and back porches -- although I have neither a shotgun nor a back porch.)

With friends like China and Russian . . . Tony Blankley writes.

Jules Crittenden writes of Japan on the verge of growing up.

The latest development in Russia's growing authoritarianism is the near-elimination of independent news sources there. Jeff Jacoby writes, in part:

The West ought to find its voice, and fast -- particularly the American president who keeps saying that the promotion of freedom is the cornerstone of his foreign policy. The G-8 summit that convenes in St. Petersburg this weekend is supposed to be a gathering of democratic allies, but Russia is no longer a democracy, and it doesn't act like an ally. Putin is counting on the West not to embarrass him by making a fuss about his creeping dictatorship. As a rule, guests are not supposed to scold their hosts. This is one time when that rule should be broken.

Suzanne Fields calls President Bush and the new German prime minister "The Odd Couple," and speaks of an upcoming summit in Germany.


Lee Siegel writes, in a delightful blog post (you may want to peruse the comments, too):

Get hitched by a surly, latently homicidal clerk in New York City's marriage bureau--they have their own lovely chapel, which is a cross between a rented storage space and the visiting room in a prison--and the only place to go is up.

Kevin McCullough reports on two judicial victories for the defenders of marriage.

The Massachusetts Constitution requires a vote; opponents of the proposed marriage amendment there are trying to avoid a vote. Democracy is at stake, and the outcome is anything but certain. Jeff Jacoby comments.

Can Pope Benedict XVI overturn the Spanish government as John Paul II did the Polish government? The issue is gay marriage, and this might be fun to watch. Jennifer Roback Morse writes.

Wesley Pruden thinks some judges might be learning restraint on the subject of marriage.

Superman as deadbeat dad? (Apologies for the spoiler. I haven't seen the movie yet, either.) Kathleen Parker says:

In the absence of a satisfactory moral to the story, we are left to improvise. For my ration of popcorn, one thought emerges with clarity: When it comes to fathers, it's better to have an ordinary man on the ground than have to rely on a flighty narcissist who woos girls on rooftops, and then vanishes in search of self

Maggie Gallagher writes of the fruits of divorce in one Manhattan neighborhood.

The Culture

David Shribman remembers something important about Pope John Paul II.

Suzanne Fields writes of the the Internet, the digital library, its strengths, and its future. Here's an excerpt:

The Internet, which has become the most remarkable repository of information in the history of man, is nevertheless a thousand miles wide and an inch deep, and a lot of the "facts" available on it are the sheerest fantasy. But it can be deepened, extended and mined by the dedicated and the diligent. The archives already seem limitless, an index to knowledge if not to wisdom. The wisdom depends on how we use what we learn, but that's true in the library, too.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., follows a laughable rapper-proposed boycott of $200 champagne to this conclusion:

Among the many lies of hip-hop, this whole notion that wearing or imbibing or driving the proper brand will make you whole is in some ways the most infuriating. It represents a corporatization of cool that would have made Miles Davis ill. In his era, after all, cool meant being an iconoclast, a visionary threat to the status quo. In Jay-Z's era, it is a brand name, it has a sponsor, it can be bought off the rack.

Rap could have been, should have been, a truth-teller and world-shaker. Instead it has largely contented itself with being free advertising for corporate titans, selling fake cool, sometimes with corporate assent, but often, without even a thank-you. Brand names, it says, will make you whole.

Burt Prelutsky is hot-dogging again. (The category is culture, not high culture.)

Besty Hart writes of siblings' mutual influence.

National Politics

Robert Novak reports on Congress' none-to-rigorous work schedule, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's continuing insistence that the Republicans be allowed to accomplish nothing, and other situations on Capitol Hill.

Robert Novak discussses Senator Lindsey Graham and his concerns over the Republicans possibly losing the Senate in November.

Mary Katherine Ham wants to hear from Mr. Newt in the presidential race. I can't say I'd mind it, either.

George Will describes a new book which, in turn, describes how the 2004 election was won. He also offers some views of his own, which don't necessarily seem connected to the book itself.

According to Rich Lowry, a Lieberman defeat would be bad for the Democratic Party. (Okay, so that was already rather obvious.)

Have you heard of the Republican "suburban agenda"? It's time you did. Morton Kondracke will help.

Why is it that, when Cal Thomas begins with, "The following is not a parody," I instantly intuit that he is about to talk about something on Capitol Hill? I'm right, of course.

Alan Reynolds writes of tax revenues, spending, estimates of both, and so forth.

James J. Kramer has some interesting, detailed praise for the relatively new Fed chair.


There's a certain sense among liberals that, if elections are fair, they cannot lose. Therefore, if they lose, somebody cheated. At its most psychotic, this phenomenon produces quasi-fact-based tirades like Michael Parenti's, who insists that the 2004 presidential election was stolen through a vast conspiracy. His chief evidence is that actual votes didn't exactly tally with exit polls. It would take ten years and a book-length report to refute this one-sided laundry list of grievances, but don't waste your time. Anyone who believes this twaddle -- anyone who believes a sample is more accurate than the full data set -- won't believe your book refuting it.

Lenore Skenazy outlines a new wave of concern for our food. It seems that . . . well, you gotta read it to believe it. (Can I have both a hot dog and a hamburger for lunch, please?)

Niall Ferguson explains North Korea historically, to some extent, and wonders when China will finally have had enough.


I can't tell you how glad I am that Thomas Jefferson persuaded us we could actually eat tomatoes. Paul Greenberg's celebration of tomatoes here is almost pornographic, besides being the best thing I ever heard about Arkansas.

It's not Kelo v. New London, but James J. Kilpatrick describes an interesting property rights case the Supreme Court refused to hear.

Rebecca Hagelin argues that we should take mental illness (or health) as seriously as physical illness (health), as a matter of policy.

Sometimes Gene Weingarten is just weird. This is one of those times, and the subject is quite concrete.

Rich Lowry says it's time to dump the penny.

American Fork and Thereabouts

The next test of the new touchscreen voting machines is the recount. Glen Warchol reports for the Salt Lake Tribune.

In a later Tribune article, Glen Warchol reports the results of a recount. There's some premature and excessive crowing by officials, perhaps. Note that this recount did not compare the electronic results with the paper record. (If you're in Kooksville -- see above -- none of this is of any comfort whatsoever.)

Jeremy Twitchell reports on the 15th anniversary of that Alpine School District institution known at my house simply as "the space center."

A Denver judge isn't quite saying that Americans have a legal obligation to ingest whatever filth Hollywood directors and producers care to put on the screen, but the editing of such things by video stores, which began in American Fork, Utah, is currently taboo. Vince Horiuchi reports for the Salt Lake Tribune. "Irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression" is their version. I suspect something more like, "Those religious people are getting in the way of our trashing the culture." They don't seem to mind sanitized versions of their movies playing in airplanes or on television. What's the difference?

Here Vince Horiuchi updates the situation.

Amy Choate reports the latest on sewage northern Utah County.

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