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Saturday, September 23, 2006
The Week's Excellent Readings

The Pope and angry Muslims play a large but not overwhelming role in this week's list of goodies for your brain.


Kathleen Parker's account of what the Pope actually said about the West and the Muslim world is excellent, and it includes a few delicious barbs such as these:

  • "To understand what the pope actually said, one would have to stop and think, which is a colossal waste of time when there are infidels to kill."
  • "How interesting that the emperor and the Persian could debate these issues several centuries ago, but 21st-century man is driven mad by ideas that challenge him."
  • She notes his bravery in "speaking truth to madness."

Paul Jacob has an update and some pithy thoughts about school choice.

Thomas Sowell subjects some terrorist-related court decisions and legislative positions to some cold, hard reason.

Even with a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon and the prospect that its nuclear weapons will end up in the hands of international terrorists that it has been sponsoring for years, many in the media and in the government that is supposed to protect us have been preoccupied with whether we are being nice enough to the terrorists in our custody.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., addresses the same subject, using words like sanctimony and poppycock. Aren't we already treating our prisoners too well? An excerpt:

The Defense Department is bending over backwards to avoid any appearance of mistreatment of these unlawful enemy combatants. For example, the detainees at "Gitmo" are supplied with three square meals a day made up of foods to their liking (all "halal," Islamic kosher, and a choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream); expensive medical care (including colonoscopies, dental work and prostheses); extensive legal representation (an average of 2.2 lawyers for every detainee); and extraordinary latitude for the practice of their faith (for example, interrupting interrogations for prayers).

. . . Detainees have repeatedly attacked their guards, seeking to kill or at least maim them using improvised weapons fashioned from fans, cameras, plumbing and light bulbs. Lately, detainees who have been rewarded for good behavior with more lenient treatment have also taken advantage of their conditions to mount savage attacks on their guards. Some of their lawyers are suspected of facilitating terrorist communications.

Wesley Pruden discusses the recent offense some Muslims have taken at the Pope, in the context of Western response to the jihad mentality. He includes this delicious tale from down under:

There's a shrinking market for squishiness like this. The Australian minister for multiculturalism called his country's Muslim leaders in for tea on Sunday and -- speaking of rioting -- read them the act: "We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," said Andrew Robb, the minister. "And because it is your faith being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem. You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others."

Walter Williams offers an insightful definition and explanation of prejudice.

Islamamok: Kill the Pope, Etc.

Michael Medved offers an intelligent analysis of what he calls "the Pope's mistake."

The Dark Ages thinking that prevails in nearly all Islamic societies produces logic that suggests that the best way to rebut the ancient charge that Islam is inextricably intertwined with violence is to provide alarming displays of new violence. The public relations masters in Mecca and other centers of Islamist "thought" have concluded that they can prove that they do indeed honor reason and persuasion more than force by fire-bombing churches, killing nuns and issuing statements (even in London!) demanding the Pope's assassination.

The stupidity remains so obvious and so striking that it only underscores the need to keep our focus on contemporary conflicts, rather than giving the Islamist cheerleaders any opportunity to obscure the wildly uneven nature of the current struggle by looking, nostalgically, to the more balanced battles of the dim and distant past.

Jonah Goldberg begins with this observation:

Before you can discuss the manifest seriousness of the latest controversy involving the pope, you have to acknowledge its hilarity.

In the Pope's and Henry Kissinger's recent remarks, Tony Blankley sees the welcome emergence of moral clarity in our view of the current world war.

Suzanne Fields discusses the Pope's controversial words and offers some thoughts on religious tolerance generally.

I get the sense that if we asked James Lileks the difference between Islamic fascists and an particularly poorly-adjusted two year old, he'd say that we don't let the latter play with guns and bombs, especially in anger.

Charles Krauthammer notes that religious fanatics have no sense of humor, and at least some of them lack any sense of irony.

Cliff May explains what you'd think might be obvious:

Many commentators are missing the point: These protestors -- and those who incite them -- are not asking for mutual respect and equality. They are not saying: "It's wrong to speak ill of a religion." They are saying: "It's wrong to speak ill of our religion." They are not standing up for a principle. They are laying down the law. They are making it as clear as they can that they will not tolerate “infidels” criticizing Muslims. They also are making it clear that infidels should expect criticism -- and much worse -- from Muslims.

Jeff Jacoby ponders religious intolerance in its latest, angry-Muslim incarnation.

Of course nobody's faith should be gratuitously affronted. But the real insult to Islam is not a line from a papal speech or a cartoon about Mohammed. It is the violence, terror, and bloodshed that Islamist fanatics unleash in the name of their religion -- and the unwillingness of most of the world's Muslims to say or do anything to stop them.

Islamamok: Non-Papal Topics

Iraq's deputy prime minister Barham Salih writes of things which must be done, politically and otherwise.

Bret Stephens' essay on the Left's unwillingness to "face up to the threat of radical Islam" is more subtle than the noting of similarities between the two might suggest, but this excerpt is otherwise representative of a very thoughtful piece of commentary.

For whatever else distinguishes Islamism from liberalism, both are remarkably self-absorbed affairs, obsessed with maintaining the purity of their own values no matter what the cost. In the former case, the result too often is terror. In the latter, the ultimate risk is suicide, as the endless indulgence of "the other" obstructs the deeper need to preserve itself.

Mark Steyn's much different piece somehow manages to be about the same subject, more or less. He juxtaposes very plain language with purple phrases such as "self-regarding pseudo-sophistication"; "limpidly fey, tastefully mopey"; "tasteful passivity"; and "a parodic masterpiece of note-perfect generically effete huggy-weepy blather." And then there's what he says about rebuilding . . . something . . . in place of the twin towers, and a telling point featuring two kins of unmanned drones.

As usual, Jack Kelly pulls no punches. His point:

Adnan El Shukrijumah [a Saudi who grew up in Brooklyn native, who is trained as a pilot and a nuclear technician, and who is believed to be planning the next major al-Qaida attack on the US] was last seen in Mexico in November, 2004, where he allegedly stole a crop duster near Mexicali. He's plotting to kill as many of us as he can. If he succeeds, give much of the credit to those in the Senate who want to cripple our ability to listen in on terrorist communications; to track terror financing, and to interrogate terror suspects.

Michael Rubin analyzes the current impasse between the West and Iran, regarding the latter's nuclear weapons program. There's a lot of good detail here, but his first paragraph gives you the general tenor of the article. Note also the absolute European impotence suggested here:

The Iranian government continues to enrich uranium despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's generous package of incentives -- and in defiance of the U.N.'s Aug. 31 deadline. Still, European officials hold out hope for the success of diplomacy.

Rusty Shackleford makes an important point: Applying the Geneva Conventions to terrorists who defy them actually undermines the Conventions.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has come to America. I am inclined to agree with George Will that this is an excellent thing.

Mona Charen suggests some questions students and faculty at Columbia University might ask Iran's chief kook when he comes.

National Politics

Jonah Goldberg notes that power isn't all it's cracked up to be, and that conservatives aren't particularly thrilled with six years of Republican control in Washington.

The rub of it, from a conservative perspective, is that Republican control of the House doesn't equal conservative control. It may not seem that way to liberals who think Joe Lieberman is right wing, but from the vantage point of the conservative movement, GOP dominance has been an enormous disappointment -- good judicial appointments and tax cuts notwithstanding. Our hopeful joy upon the 1994 takeover of Congress was like finding a new pony by the Christmas tree. Now it's more like finding it slumped over dead on top of the presents.

Niall Ferguson expects the Republicans to hang on in November.

George Will is insightful in this look at one prominent liberal who just doesn't understand conservatives.

Bill Lauderback writes of some Texas politicians' efforts to undermine reasonable attempts to provide enough electricity in their state.

John H. Fund writes of pork, belated efforts to control it, and notes that some of the pork provisions Congress creates are not legally binding and could be ignored by the White House if it so chose.

If you think government corruption is a victimless crime, Marvin Olasky has an anecdote to the contrary.

Victor Davis Hanson chronicles the slow improvement of Republican fortunes as the election approaches.

Jay Sekulow introduces a House bill called the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act and asks (in advocating it) such questions as these:

Why should religious organizations be forced and intimidated into taking a hands-off approach to addressing political issues that form the basis of our culture and our direction as a nation?

Why have we put the IRS -- which is designed to collect revenue for the general treasury -- in the position of being the speech police?

Rich Lowry notes that in the matter of immigration generally and the controversial border fence specifically, "the political marketplace worked."


So Chicago will get Wal-Mart, and vice versa. Tom Van Riper writes for Forbes.

Rich Lowry writes of Michigan's one-state economic recession, concluding with this observation:

The way to thrive in a globalized environment is to create a low-tax economy without the rigidities that come with heavy unionization and regulation. For those who disagree, Michigan beckons.

Thomas Lifson reports on a rough ride for Airbus, with all sorts of larger implications.

The Culture

More television -- just what kids need, right? Lenore Skenazy doesn't think so.

Some of us have the luxury of worrying about the books our children read, not worrying that our children don't read books. For this happy crowd, Rebecca Hagelin suggests a new Web site.

The linguistic snob in me delights in Gene Weingarten.

"What I miss most is the courtesy," laments Greg Crosby.

Betsy Hart discusses disciplining others' children.

This long James Wolcott piece from The New Republic is actually a review of four books, but in the best tradition of book reviews, it is also commentary. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but there are some thick, juicy thoughts and delightful phrases to be had, including this one (chosen almost at random):

Like so many cultural conservatives, Flanagan promotes the notion that those with traditional values are the only ones who reliably conduct themselves with honor and decency, while everybody else is busy sacking Rome.

Abroad (or Nearly So)

Robert Novak describes the political machinations over the proposed confirmation of UN Ambassdor John Bolton.

Jonah Goldberg writes of "Boltophobia," which of course means that there must be "Boltophobes." (Too obscure? How about this: This is an article about conflicting American visions of the United Nations and urging the Senate confirmation of John Bolton.) You might think that these first lines are insufficiently serious for making a serious point, but I think he's also suggesting that some folks defy all attempts to take them seriously.

I speak now not so much in praise of John Bolton as in dispraise of Boltophobia. Bolton is a fine man, a sharp intellectual, a committed public servant and has the most aggressive mustache in American politics today.

Rich Tucker writes of the Nonaligned Movement, which he calls "a dictator's club," and also of larger things.

Paul Greenberg writes of Cuba -- past, present, and future.

Matt Towery is seriously suggesting it's time for a new organization to replace the UN. Here's an excerpt:

Yes, we're stuck in Iraq and we can't abandon our troops. But when we've finally reached the point that a room full of international freeloaders are applauding wildly as our president is called the Devil and our demise is predicted, then it's time to seriously reassess whom we want to deal with, in what manner and in what international forum.

Timothy Lee recounts some developing consumer backlash against European government attempts to pillage Microsoft.

Peggy Noonan suggests and explains a particular response to Hugo Chavez.

American Fork and Environs

This Daily Herald story explains a proposed new ordinance in American Fork imposing fines for excessive false alarms requiring police response.

Barbara Christiansen explains a settlement in a lawsuit against American Fork by solicitors (not the British kind).

The State of Utah tests a lot of gasoline pumps every year. Lee Davidson reports for the Deseret Morning News.

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