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Saturday, December 30, 2006
This Week's Excellent Readings

Gerald Ford, poverty, Christmas, dogs, one guy who says Iraq is a success, and much more.

Favorites: One Less Mass-Murdering Dictator in the World

Ralph Peters says the overthrow and ultimate execution of Saddam Hussein are excellent things.

Of course, some folks on the Left can't admit that anything is good news if a Republican is in the White House. John Nichols may be one of them.

Favorites: Other Topics

In a superb essay on poverty and the people who propose to cure it, Thomas Sowell writes:

Progressives are in the business of complaining and denouncing -- as a prelude to seeking sweeping powers to control other people's lives, in the name of curing the ills of society. The last thing they want is to discover and discuss how millions of people rose out of poverty by entirely different methods, often by freeing economies from the control of people with sweeping power over other people's lives.

Here Thomas Sowell explains why it just does not make economic sense that there should be, as some suppose, an objective "fair and just price" for a thing -- including for labor. It's a medieval notion.

Paul Greenberg's essay on Gerald Ford is one of the more thoughtful. It is not entirely a panegyric; it ends thusly:

In the end the country was happy he came along; we could relax for a while. It gets tiring, always striving for principle.

Michael Barone has an important perspective on policies, the conduct of war, etc., in the real world: They're not perfect.

We Americans, despite our current grumblings, are fundamentally an optimistic people. Our optimism has helped us achieve great things. But it can also be a problem. There is an assumption in public life that every problem has an optimum solution, all gain and no pain. Much of our political debate takes the form of yelling that everything would be just fine if the other side weren't so stupid that it failed to see the perfectly obvious policy.

Jeff Jacoby suggests that climate-based fear is a political tool, among other things. Here are two excerpts:

Over the years, the alarmists have veered from an obsession with lethal global cooling around the turn of the 20th century to lethal global warming a generation later, back to cooling in the 1970s and now to warming once again. You don't have to be a scientist to realize that all these competing narratives of doom can't be true. Or to wonder whether any of them are.


"The whole aim of practical politics," wrote H.L. Mencken, "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Mencken was writing in 1920, but some things never change.

Kevin McCullough says Iraq is succeeding. (Somebody tell the BMA!)

If we take one expert's predictions about the imminent sharp decline of Iranian oil production more seriously that past predictions of global oil shortages have deserved to be taken, the scary scenario Jack Kelly outlines seems plausible.

One of the big reasons why oil production in Iran is declining does not suggest a happy outcome. Iran is spending so much on its nuclear program that next to nothing is being invested in modernizing oil production. Though the West has made it clear it will assist in developing nuclear energy if Iran will forswear its nuclear weapons programs, Iran would rather have the nukes than the carrots the West is offering.

So rather than come begging with his hat in his hand, it's more likely Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will seek a Saddamite solution. . . .

If Iran should take aggressive action against its oil rich neighbors, it will, ostensibly, be to protect Shia minorities from oppression by Sunni overlords. Or so Mr. Ahmadinejad will say. . . .

If you think Allah is on your side, and that your race is inherently superior, you can afford to wait. But if you think economic doom is just around the corner, maybe you can't.

Wanted: One governor to lead the way in education. Morton Kondracke describes the recommendations of an interesting new report on American education, by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.

True to form, Mark Steyn is thinking about demographics and self-extinction even at Christmas -- even when he's thinking of Christmas.

Paul Greenberg's Christmas offering is the innkeeper's story, somewhat modernized.

I don't particularly love dogs, but you might, and Burt Prelutsky does, too. I happen to be fond of good writing, even about dogs. Excerpts:

Even people who have known me for many years are sometimes surprised to learn how fond I am of dogs. It must be my curmudgeonly persona that misleads them. It's humans who annoy me. The truth is, it's dogs who should be surprised that I am fond of people. . . .

Both the dearly departed Sammy and the current master of the domain, Duke, have been Malteses. That's my wife's doing. Left to my own devices, I would have happily settled for mutts. I have nothing against the breed, but there is something slightly off-putting about living with animals whose pedigrees are so far superior to my own.

So now that the Democrats are in a position to claim some of the credit, maybe we can finally fix Social Security? Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) explains his sensible solution.


How 'bout some John Kerry to round out the year? Here he mistakes Iraq for Vietnam -- again -- and says clever things like this:

There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping": refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop.

Read why former New York City Mayor Ed Koch says President Bush is his hero.

I'm not sure Thomas Cahill's discussion of St. Francis of Assissi holds the immediate key to ending hostilities between the Western and Muslim worlds -- but it's worth thinking about, and it might help domestically in the Christmas wars.

Austin Bay explains the Egyptian origin of al-Qaida doctrine, explaining in the process how a recent speech by number two al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri fell flat among Palestinians and American Democrats. (Note Zawahiri's thoughts about the November US election and Bay's account of the role of American women in the influential world view of Sayid Qutb.)

Tony Blankley summarizes 2006, saying:

There is little about the threat from radical Islam that is not speculative. Those of us who find the darker potentialities sufficiently plausible to require active American and Western preparation are considered alarmists by those who expect the future to vary only by degree from the present state of relative inter-civilizational peace. I hope they are right.

But as we come to the end of the difficult year 2006, nothing has emerged to refute these darker fears, and in fact, evidence -- admittedly ambiguous -- continues to assemble to support them. Certainly from Iraq and Afghanistan to Africa, Europe and America, 2006 has been a good year for the forces that may be out to destroy our way of life.

Ben Shapiro says that 2006 saw the retreat of Western civilization (that is, freedom). 2007 is a new year . . .

What we do now will decide the fate of countless millions; we can destroy the chains forged by Islamic civilization to bind our children. We can lead the unborn into the warmth and sunlight of freedom or we can condemn them to shackles. History will judge us harshly if we do not turn around now, stand our ground and say to our enemies, "The triumph of liberty begins here."

Rich Lowry says President Bush is misinterpreting the mistakes of Vietnam.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann describe a way to hurt Iran that doesn't depend on the United Nations -- or the military, either, for that matter.

Victor Davis Hanson says one reason the US should not enter formal talks with Iran is that now is not the time to bolster President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's credibility in his own country.

National Politics: Former President Gerald R. Ford

Robert Novak writes of the "accidental president" who "tempered the practice of his trade's deceits with innate decency."

Michael Barone describes Gerald Ford, the Cold Warrior, and notes more generally:

It was apparent to me that, well into his 80s, he had a sure command of the facts and of the arguments on all sides of the issues. He gained a reputation as president for being clumsy and dumb. In fact, he was a graceful athlete (perhaps the best athlete of any president) and a smart man who worked hard and who was prepared for a challenge that he never sought.

George Will writes more fondly and calmly of Gerald Ford than he did after the Nixon pardon.

Matt Towery recalls what we know and don't know about Ford's influence on President Reagan's choice of George H. W. Bush as his running mate.

Debra J. Saunders says that President Ford's pardon of President Nixon was right, despite overwhelming political opinion to the contrary at the time.

Jonah Goldberg's looks at the lack of conservative vilification of Gerald Ford, the moderate Republican. I was even more interested in his account of shifting responses to other past presidents.

Mortuary Bob has, conveniently, been interviewing President Ford, writes Wesley Pruden.

National Politics: The 2008 Presidential Race

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann describe the latest in Hillary-for-President strategy. Is she more electable as a mom? (That particular packaging didn't work terribly well when she was the candidate's wife.)

Michael Goodwin looks at a competitive Democratic presidential field -- still mostly hypothetical, of course: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards (not necessarily in that order).

William Rusher says Barack Obama, the (possible) presidential candidate, is a flash in the pan -- this time.

Rich Lowry explains the basic illogic of John Edward's poverty platform.

Larry Kudlow says Edwards' anti-poverty plans are exactly the opposite of what is needed, and won't get him elected, either.

National Politics: Other Topics

Phyllis Schlafly recounts some very interesting recent developments related to illegal immigration.

Robert Novak reports that there is cause for industry (and therefore everyone else) to be nervous about the green agenda among Democrats and some Republicans.

Walter Williams subjects Congressman Charles Rangel's bright idea of reinstating the military draft to some economic logic.

Paul Jacob reports on the abuse of one lady by a county government in Portland, and what she's done to them in return. The subject is government's obligation in that state to compensate property owners when regulations devalue their property.

Speaking of the now apparently manufactured Duke rape case, Kathleen Parker wonders, "How does one parody a parody?"

Mary Katherine Ham offers a fact-based account of the excellence of Duke lacrosse players. (Here's a thought: Does the president of that university owe the former coach he fired an apology, or perhaps more than that? Innocent until proven guilty, right? Well, no, not in PC America.)

Michelle Malkin reports bipartisan cronyism in large post-Katrina contracts, while also noting the natural disaster/bureaucratic disaster cycle.

Cal Thomas suggests a strategy and an example for the Right.

Fredric U. Dicker says good riddance to outgoing New York Governor George Pataki.

Donald Lambro says little will come of the first 100 hours of the new Congress.

Rebecca Hagelin looks at the roots of the modern conservative movement in American, in a year that also saw, notably, the birth of your humble blogger.

The Culture

Greg Crosby remembers Guy Lombardo. (Do you?)

Jonah Goldberg decries the liberal opposition to certainty. Here are excerpts:

The fact is that unless you know where you stand, it's unlikely you'll have the courage to understand where someone else is coming from. . . .

Certainty has become code among the intellectual priesthood for people and ideas that can be dismissed out of hand. That's what is so offensive about this fashionable nonsense: It breeds the very closed-mindedness it pretends to fight.

In a fine essay, Michael Ledeen defends, of all things, the character and professionalism of Bobby Knight.

Burt Prelutsky isn't as high on a certain movie as some folks.

Lenore Skenazy offers some New Year's resolutions for the food industry. Here's a free sample which "goes to motive," as they say in legal shows on television:

Now you can buy S'mores-flavored Nesquik, the world's first drink engineered to taste like an after-school snack accident. By comparison, Mini Marshmallow Nesquik sounds like Dom Perignon.


Sometimes the best solution is also the obvious one. Paul Greenberg writes of giving school tests in English -- and also of a teacher to applaud.


Thomas Sowell takes on the hand-wringing over high corporate salaries. Excerpts:

If this obsession with income disparities is to be something more than mere hand-wringing or gnashing of teeth, obviously the point is that somebody ought to "do something" to change what you don't understand.

Usually that means that the government -- politicians -- should impose policies based on your ignorance of what is going on. Can you imagine anything more dangerous than allowing politicians to decide how much money each of us can earn?


It is also worth noting that the people who are said to be earning "obscene" amounts of money are usually corporate executives. There is no such outrage whipped up when Hollywood movie stars make some multiple of what most corporate executives make.

This is social or ideological bias added to envy and ignorance. It makes quite a witches' brew on which to base national policy.

And here Thomas Sowell blasts the notion of "the world's wealth" and the folks who agonize over disparities in its distribution.

George Will discusses the future of Ford Motor Company. In the process, he notes a connection between Ford and cheeseburgers.

Lawrence H. Summers takes an interesting look at the divergence between the financial markets' optimism and the "commentariat's" pessimism. An excerpt:

We will know much more about whether the market view and the general view can converge a year from now. In the meantime, it is fair for those who look to markets to point out that the easy path for the commentariat is to foretell disaster. If disaster occurs, it was foretold. If it does not, credit can be given for timely warning. Anyone who liquidated stock holdings a decade ago when Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, worried about "irrational exuberance" learned painfully that for those who put money behind their convictions, unwarranted pessimism can be very expensive.

Equally, those who take comfort from the markets' comfort should bear in mind that the markets hardly ever predict serious disruption. Historically, the moments of greatest complacency have been the moments of greatest danger.

Around the World

Steve Chapman reports that 2006 was not the best year ever for the worldwide progress of freedom and democracy.

Joel C. Rosenberg nominates Russia as the newest member of the Axis of Evil. He makes a compelling case.


Diana West chronicles 2006, a bad year for freedom of speech.

Linda Chavez has a wish list for 2007 that is likely to fail completely, but it's fun to read.

So is James Lileks' look back into the future.

There's nothing like a good, slanted poll to reinforce . . . well, whichever view you want to reinforce. In this case, it's Texans against energy independence. Commentary is by Bill Murchison.


Heidi Toth walks through a laundry list of issues likely to attract attention in the upcoming Utah Legislature session.

American Fork and Environs

Barbara Christiansen reports on a proposed change in American Fork's city logo.

Meanwhile, some folks want to change the air at the American Fork Recreation Center's pool, as Tanya Papanikolas reports in this KSL story.

Steve Gehrke reports on some unusual Christmas lights in Pleasant Grove and the neighbor response.

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