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Saturday, December 2, 2006
The Week's Excellent Readings

There's some serious writing about the war, here, along with a few short philosophical pieces, some analysis of the next Congress, accounts of mass media fraud about Iraq, interesting looks at the Pope's trip to Turkey, and a lot more. There's even a piece on parenting from a new grandparent, Orson Scott Card. Some of this week's readings are funny. Some are just sad.


I wanted to cheer when I read Walter Williams on why Americans love government (the fools!).

Once Congress establishes that one person can live at the expense of another, it pays for everyone to try to do so. You say, "Williams, don't you believe in helping your fellow man?" Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one's own pockets to help his fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another's pockets to help his fellow man is despicable and worthy of condemnation.

The bottom line: We love government because it enables us to accomplish things that if done privately would lead to arrest and imprisonment. For example, if I saw a person in need, and I took your money to help him, I'd be arrested and convicted of theft. If I get Congress to do the same thing, I am seen as compassionate.

This vision ought to bother the Christians among us, for when God gave Moses the commandment "Thou shalt not steal," I'm sure He didn't mean thou shalt not steal unless you got a majority vote in Congress.

George Will looks back to shopping, food, childhood, and other things in the 1950s, with Bill Bryson's help.

Jonah Goldberg does as good a job as I have seen exposing the frivolity of comparing the Iraq campaign with World War II.

This excellent, long Michael Medved column discusses the economic and political implications of middle class insecurities.

Paul Jacob explains why the new congress will look a lot like old Congresses.

In [Republican] leadership, there remain no serious free-market voices, no conservatives, no reformers. One would have to conclude it is a great stroke of luck that these Republicans are in the minority . . . until one looks at the majority. Especially the incoming committee chairs. . . .

The new Democrat committee chairmen in the House have, on average, been in Congress a whopping 27 years. In the Senate, it's even worse, with the average new Senate chair having already served 30 years in the Congress. That's the average tenure, mind you.

Here I could insert the unmistakable truth that we need term limits. But that only points to the larger problem we face: Congress won't do what the American people want, on term limits and so many other issues, because they do not represent us.

They represent themselves. They represent their party's leadership, their friends, their special-interest friends. But not us.

Congress didn't represent the American people when Democrats were in control; it didn't represent us when Republicans held the gavels; and this new Congress has no intention of representing the people come January.

Here's a good paragraph from Janet Daley's insightful essay on what is really a war to the death between the West and radical Islam. The immediate context is Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey.

Liberal democracy reached an understanding with religion a long time ago: your right, as a citizen, to observe your faith without persecution will be explicitly protected by the state. In return, you will agree to make your peace with the civil law and respect the rights of others to pursue their beliefs. That's the deal. We cannot make exceptions either by removing Muslims who accept their side of the bargain from that protection, or by permitting those who refuse to accept it to flout our law (on, say, sexual equality or the overt slavery of forced marriages).

Thomas Sowell introduces a new book by someone else on some of Sowell's own favorite themes.

More frightening than any particular beliefs or policies is an utter lack of any sense of a need to test those beliefs and policies against hard evidence. Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. It is liberals who advocate "forgiveness" of loans to Third World countries, a "living wage" for the poor and a "safety net" for all. . . .

Conservatives not only donate more money to charity than liberals do, conservatives volunteer more time as well. More conservatives than liberals also donate blood. . . .

Those on the left proclaimed their moral superiority in the 18th century and they continue to proclaim it in the 21st century. What is remarkable is how long it took for anyone to put that belief to the test -- and how completely it failed that test.

Suddenly, I'm really liking the new pope's John Paul II impression. Here Maggie Gallagher writes of a mostly unsung purpose of the Pontiff's present junket.

Victor Davis Hanson argues that civilization itself -- the Enlightenment itself, we might say -- is under siege.

It would be fun, beneficial, and -- I admit -- unsettling if Utah Republicans absorbed Paul Greenberg's excellent thoughts on the dangers ideologues pose to a political party, but I won't hold my breath. Ideologues, as Greenberg aptly portrays them, are so in love with hearing their own opinions that they don't care to reflect on them critically, let alone to hear anyone else's opinions.

Charles Krauthammer injects a dose of real realism into the Iraq discussion which is now dominated by mind-numbing, jaw-dropping faux realism. Here's an excerpt:

If we really had been in the grip of "idealism," we'd be deep in Chad and Burma and Darfur. We are not. We are instead trying to sustain fragile democracies in three strategically important countries -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon -- that form the geographic parentheses around the principal threat to Western interests in the region, the Syria-Iran axis.

Orson Scott Card offers a very interesting essay on raising good, happy children (or not).


Looks like the BMA have done it again: Reported false stories from unreliable or illegitimate sources, simply because they further a certain political goal. Once again, it's largely the blogosphere hurrying to the truth's defense. Michelle Malkin reports.

Austin Bay provides details of the latest media scam.

Jack Kelly says Iraq's neighbors are a much bigger problem now than Iraq itself.

Elie Wiesel doesn't really think the UN would expel Iran, but he argues convincingly that they should.

Steve Forbes says Iran is the biggest looming problem. Key word: nukes.

Debra J. Saunders writes of author Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, sometime convert to radical Islam, who now has written a thoughtful book about it.

Mark Steyn picks "a quartet of ladies" to show where we're headed as a civilization. (He's rather frank. If you are offended by mention of a promiscuous professor talking through her backside, don't read this.)

Rich Lowry wonders if the US still has a commander-in-chief.

Bush has been at the mercy of events in Iraq. Perhaps that's forgivable. Even Abraham Lincoln famously confessed, "Events have controlled me." What's less understandable is being controlled by other people's advice. Bush has been presiding over the Iraq War for three years, and he really has no better ideas than might bubble up from his national-security council or from an Iraq Study Group including the likes of Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan about how to prosecute the war?


Bush . . . -- for all his swagger and protectiveness of executive prerogatives -- is becoming a disturbing study in lassitude in the executive branch.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., discusses how and why we're slouching toward a "solution" in Iraq which looks a lot like throwing Iraq and Israel to the wolved.

Debra J. Saunders precisely captures my view of the unjustifiably vaunted Iraq Study Group.

Charles Rangel yields nothing to John Kerry in the matter of Democratic Senators bashing US troops. Jack Kelly comments.

Tony Blankley praises Pope Benedict XVI's efforts with respect to Islam.

Victor Davis Hanson explains the modern connection between blood and oil.

Why do they keep signing these things? Joel Mowbray reports yet another almost immediate violation of yet another cease-fire agreement between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Six-Imam Setup

Ben Shapiro has some sobering thoughts about all the hand-wringing for six imams who may not be terrorists, but who were certainly acting like terrorists. (At some point the question, "How stupid do they think we are?" yields to the question, "How stupid are we?")

Julia Gorin is a tad sarcastic here, but the subject deserves it. We've lost our minds.

On the same subject, Michael Graham is angry, but insightful

Eastern Europe

Phyllis Schlafly reminds us of the failed 1956 Hungarian revolution, US failures in connection with it, and its importance in advancing the ultimate downfall of the Soviet Union.

Rich Galen reports what he has learned lately about the newly-fashionable murder weapon, polonium.

Wes Pruden begins his article on the Litvinenko murder with these words:

When the wolf at the door is big enough, the easiest way to deal with him is to invite him in for supper and hope he's content to eat just the wife and kids.

Ed Feulner has an interesting idea for Russia, modeled on successes in Poland and elsewhere.

National Politics

Michael Barone assesses the difficulties of the new congress making specific strides in the direction many Democrats want to go: toward a European-style welfare state.

Robert Novak profiles a triumphant Charles Schumer and the strategy that made him so.

Doing a good job -- actually a superb job -- is not enough, if your name is John Bolton and it's a Democratic Senate that gets to decide if you continue. Among Suzanne Fields' thoughts are these:

If the senators were to re-examine his record in the spirit of what we're told is the less partisan Democratic Congress, instead of preening with outdated cynicism, they could demonstrate that they mean what they say about eliminating cheap and thoughtless partisanship.

Burt Prelutsky reminisces on themes such as his conversion to conservatism, hereditary insanity, and the alleged greatness of former president Jimmy Carter.

John H. Fund discusses the fact that 9 of 11 federal spending bills for the fiscal year which began October 1 have not been passed by Congress and are not likely to be passed until the new congress. (In other words, as I read it, Republicans are so addicted to earmarks that they're willing to let the Democrats trash the budget next year rather than giving up their earmarks this year. Morons. They still don't get that the voters get that they don't get it.)

Not a big surprise, is it, that in Florida they still can't figure out how to vote? Lisa Lerer reports.

Joan Vennochi's current contribution to the major East Coast media campaign to destroy Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate includes essentially this argument: His record is moderate, but now he's impersonating a conservative . . . and it's all irrelevant anyway, because everyone knows the November 7 election means people only care about the war. (Note yet again how Republicans' past words can be resurrected -- at best, or sometimes even twisted or invented -- to discredit them later, which may be the chief difference between them and Democrats.)

On the other hand, Time's Mike Allen writes of Mormons and Mitt and presidential politics fairly evenhandedly.

John Dickerson has a good piece on Mitt Romney and his Mormonism.

Bruce Bartlett contemplates the possibility of good news emerging despite the Democratic takeover of Congress. He notes that the world hasn't actually ended yet.

Bill Murchison wonders what happened to those Christians who supposedly were going to take over our government and impose right-wing Republicanism on us all.

Michael Barone looks in Robert Gates' 1996 memoir for clues to what sort of SecDef he will be. Here's the final paragraph of a long analysis:

The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world -- and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.

Jacob Sullum writes an excellent essay on symbolic laws that actually impede the causes the purport to advance.

Jonah Goldberg defends his own cynicism -- and mine with it, to be sure.

David Hill has some detailed I hadn't heard before about the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, also known (among the wags) as the Incumbent Protection Act.

George Will is not impressed so far by Senator-elect Jim Webb.

Michael Barone analyzes close Senate races and unforced errors over the last several years state by state.

Lynn Sweet thinks Barack Obama will run for president, and she suggests some items from his to-do list.

William Perry Pendley recounts a modern western water battle with an irrational, belated ending.

Robert Novak notes an interesting Harry Reid strategy which may avoid recess appointments by President Bush -- if Reid can keep Democratic senators in town.

The Culture

Betsy Hart has some provocative thoughts about women leaving the workforce to raise children, and women working at home, and women who need to get out of the house sometimes.

Star Parker, who is black, has a very clear explanation for racism's continued survival in our society. In addition to the following, she also says, "Blacks who want a better world ought to get out of the gutter."

We live in a country that insists on placing all its citizens in racial categories and using measures of how these categories stack up as measures of national decency.

Every major institution -- business, government, educational -- one way or another keeps track of how many blacks it has on board. Every major corporation has a diversity officer to make sure the colors of the beans are in order. Every corporation gets surveys from the NAACP asking them how many blacks they've got.

When I get a loan from the bank, the loan officer sheepishly asks if it's OK to report that I'm black.

We have institutionalized race consciousness to the very core of our society, so it should be evident why it persists. It's the law.

These laws, by transforming human beings into racial categories, dehumanize blacks and whites. Blacks feel less personally responsible for their own lives and whites are forced to relate to blacks as beans to count rather than human beings. One result is animosity of blacks toward whites and whites toward blacks.

Tom Purcell interviews himself on the subject of happiness and its ties to marriage, politics, education, etc.

"All things considered, [Kathleen Parker would] rather be embarrassed in America."

James J. Kilpatrick says we should listen to what we write. (So do I, but that's another story.)

Robert Novak talks of Bella, an unlikely movie with an unlikely stance on a familiar topic. (Hint: It didn't come from Hollywood.)

James Lileks has some pungent thoughts about evolving copyright law -- or is that devolving copyright law?

Burt Prelutsky samples topics we're all sick of from this year and makes a rather fun column out of them.

Kathleen Parker describes a movie about animal fetuses which probably wasn't intended as pro-life propaganda, but could have been.

Mona Charen wonders if we really want to live nearly forever.


Paul Greenberg's tribute to Milton Friedman is well worth reading.

Dan Frommer writes of Internet bandwidth and where the bottlenecks are.

Steve H. Hanke writes of the Fed's legacy of overreaction in his discussion of price indexes, the money supply, and related topics.

Suzanne Fields invites us to behold the power of mirth -- specifically, satire.


Terence Jeffrey illustrates the philosophical bankruptcy of modern public schools with a parable about apples.

Is it possible that religion will again be welcome at Harvard University? Chuck Colson thinks so.

Henry Edmondson says commas are making a comeback. (Will the Grammar Wars follow the Math Wars?)


Paul Greenberg mixes a bit of history, a bit of autobiography, some human insight, and even a thought or two about economics into this essay on his father, the shoemaker.


Heidi Toth reports on developing plans for a fourth congressional district in Utah.

. . . As do Bob Bernick, Jr., and Suzanne Struglinski.

American Fork and Environs

Alison Snyder reports on American Fork's consideration of resort development on Utah Lake.

Amy Choate-Nielsen reports on a looming Utah Lake commission, which will involve municipalities and other entities.

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