David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Saturday, August 5, 2006
This Week's Excellent Readings

A lot of good writing on Israel vs. Hezbollah/Iran joins by insights into such diverse themes as the philosophy of music, fantasy fishing, and electoral hanky-panky in Missouri.


In an enlightening essay, Michael Medved weighs the issues of gay marriage and gender difference against each other in an effort to re-orient the debate. (Sorry, silly choice of verb.)

Ranking as a favorite this Jonah Goldberg article on the foolishness and perversity of agricultural subsidies and other tinkering won't win me a lot of friends among the farmers I worked for as a teen, but they probably don't read my blog, so what's to lose?

Charles Krauthammer astutely observes, "Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on July 12 provided Israel the extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate its utility by making a major contribution to America's war on terror." Then he suggests that Israel's leadership isn't seeing this just now.

Victor Davis Hanson has a diagnosis: moral near-insanity. (We have met the patient, and they are us, so to speak.)

Our present generation too is on the brink of moral insanity. That has never been more evident than in the last three weeks, as the West has proven utterly unable to distinguish between an attacked democracy that seeks to strike back at terrorist combatants, and terrorist aggressors who seek to kill civilians.

Kathleen Parker quite reasonably argues that the death of Lebanese children in Israeli attacks (if that's really when they died) is Hezbollah's fault, not Israel's.

Martin Olasky offers a few facts by way of inoculation against the Katrina anniversary specials which are looming. Here's his conclusion:

What happens when we look to the feds rather than emphasizing family, community, local and state help? Even when payments aren't fraudulent, we have not only budget-busting but amplification of the already-existing tendency of Americans to become subjects rather than citizens, dependently waiting for federal money rather than independently acting -- and that leads to an atrophy of community muscles. People ask what this country can do for them, instead of what they can do for themselves and for their neighbors.

There is a better way: Church, community, local and state groups should take the lead in disaster relief -- and many did so following Katrina. The feds (apart from military rescue operations) should only be involved as a very last resort. But you won't hear that on the media specials.

Paul Greenberg eloquently wonders, "Has any country ever been so ill-served by its leadership as Lebanon?" And, "Can it be that Lebanon's leaders thought their policies would cause the deaths only of Israeli innocents?"

Israel vs. Iran, Continued

See also Favorites above.

Paul Greenberg's notes on the war in the Middle East are worth a thought or two.

Jeff Jacoby reviews Hezbollah's resume as a serious enemy of the United States.

J. R. Dunn says (writing on Monday) that Hezbollah has now defeated Israel, and Israel has squandered a rare opportunity.

Jonah Goldberg explains Israel's lose-lose proposition. An excerpt:

The point here, alas, is that Westerners are suckers. Or, put another way, terrorists aren't stupid. They understand that images are more important than armies. Heck, that's why they're terrorists in the first place.

Jack Kelly analyzes reality-based diplomacy and its popular alternative, specifically with respect to Israel and Hezbollah.

Leon Wieseltier offers an intelligent piece of reasoning about the moral implications of war -- a specific war, in this case.

Bill Murchison explains why it's nice to be Hezbollah.

Rich Lowry explains the depravity of several aspects of the world response to Israel's attacks on Hezbollah. It's far easier to destroy than to create, after all.

The Bankruptcy amd Utility of World Opinion

Read Dennis Prager's indictment of "world opinion" for two things: its list of the millions of victims to whose slaughter world opinion was indifferent last century, and the four reasons he offers for this abhorrent phenomenon.

Tony Blankley takes a more pragmatic -- but not sympathetic -- view of world opinion, with a great Marcus Aurelius quotation and thoughts like these:

But over time, we ignore world opinion at our peril. World opinion tends -- to some extent -- to shape American voter opinion. And voter opinion tends to shape American politicians's opinion. Thus over time world opinion may weaken American will to defend itself against the amorphous but deadly Islamist virus.

Also, to the extent that defeating radical Islamism is enhanced by winning the hearts and minds of so far non-radical Muslims, corrosive world opinion against us only deepens the deep hole in which we currently find ourselves. America needs to get a lot better, fast, at the propaganda war that we are losing by default in the court of world public opinion. During the Cold War we spent billions and employed our smartest people to fight and win the propaganda war. Today, we are hors de combat.

. . . Our policy should be: Billions for propaganda, but not a single step back from fighting when necessary.

National Politics (and Slightly Beyond)

William Rusher discussed what sort of ambassador we should send to the United Nations, in the context of the renewed effort to confirm John Bolton.

Thomas Sowell explains why reinstating the draft would be bad for the military.

Alan Reynolds analyzed the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which shows more evidence of politics at work than of sane thinking.

Kathleen Parker talks about Christianists, anti-Chritianists, and others you may or may not have heard of. Good grief, there are a lot of people thinking with something other than their brains . . . Fair warning: This essays uses the word <gasp> eschatological.

Debra J. Saunders has some thoughts on the Democrats' latest scheme to buy votes by promising to be our mommy -- and all at no cost to us, right?

Robert Novak explains some interesting developments on Capitol Hill, which cause folks to question what Republicans really believe, if anything, and remind me why it is said that people who like laws or sausages shouldn't watch them being made.

Paul Jacob describes electoral monkey business in Missouri.

Jeff Jacoby discusses the dumbing down of the voting process, mostly in the context of a bad idea in Arizona. Here's one particularly well-framed thought:

Adults who care about government and public policy make it their business to vote. Those who don't care shouldn't vote. We are all better off when people with no interest in civic issues ignore elections and leave policy matters to those who take the responsibilities of citizenship more seriously.

The Culture (and Its Periodic Collisions with Politics)

Paul Johnson asks, why have we no philosophy of music -- but this is more interesting than it sounds.

Kathleen Parker thinks I should see an Oliver Stone movie -- and I'm beginning to agree. How weird is that?

Lenore Skenazy is not Christie Brinkley, and she (Ms. Skenazy) thinks that's a fortunate thing.

Jonathan V. Last has an unhappy thought: We get the movies we deserve.

Jonathan Gurwitz has this and more to say about fantasy fishing (of all things!):

On July 20, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story about the latest "fantasy" sports craze — never mind that fantasy sports and sports share the same relation as pornography and love. At computer screens across the country, adults are now indulging themselves in fantasy fishing contests.

It sounds almost frivolous, but Niall Ferguson is serious: Superman's and America's roles in the world, and their respective attitudes toward them, are quite similar. Somewhere Tony Blair fits into this, too.

Meanwhile, Richard Cohen notes that the world is having a "Mel Gibson moment." Again.

Miscellany (and Genocide)

Victor Davis Hanson has some cautionary words about the fragility of the good life. Here's an excerpt:

In our own new age of war, terrorism, huge debt, high-priced gas and frightful weapons and viruses that we try to ignore, we should remember that civilization's progress is not always linear. The human condition does not inevitably evolve from good to better to best, but always remains precarious, its advances cyclical.

The good life sometimes can be lost quite unexpectedly and abruptly when people demand rights more than they accept responsibilities, or live for present consumption rather than sacrifice for future investment, or feel their own culture is not particularly exceptional and therefore in no need of constant support and defense.

We should tread carefully in these challenging days of our greatest wealth — and even greater vulnerability.

Does anyone want to talk about Darfur? Besides Nat Hentoff, I mean.

American Fork and Environs

Caleb Warnock reports on the upcoming property tax increase and the looming water bond election in American Fork.

Closing the State Developmental Center in American Fork would put a bunch of people I know out of work, and numbers alone rarely tell the whole story, but someone's lobbing statistical grenades in the general direction of American Fork nonetheless, as reported in this Salt Lake Tribune article.

Laura Hancock's Deseret News story reports a shocking, heretical, decades-overdue development: Some folks are looking seriously at making it easier for public schools to encourage ineffective teachers to seek employment in other lines of work.

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