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Saturday, February 17, 2007
This Week's Excellent Readings

I subdivided the "Favorites" this week. Valentine's Day makes an appearance, along with a lot of other good stuff, and one February 14 thing that's kinda creepy.

Favorites: Valentine's Day (And V-Day, the Feminist Alternative)

Paul Greenberg offers this delightful Russian valentine. One excerpt:

It is a breathtaking smile. Full, warm, generous, giving, maybe a little mischievous, proper but knowing, and given freely to someone who has to be a stranger forever.

If you're still basking in the glow of Paul Greenberg (above), come back to this one another time. Kathleen Parker's portrait of the growing feminist alternative, V-Day, is not delightful, but it may be a useful glimpse of contemporary American culture, especially on campus. (Some of the article is more graphic than this excerpt. You've been warned.)

V-Day, unlike the lowly valentine, isn't a small gesture. It is an institution on many college campuses, a global movement and a multimillion-dollar industry aimed, at least initially, at stopping violence against women and girls.

No one can argue against such a noble cause, even if it does mean pretending that talking publicly about one's privates is a sign of intellectual vigor. But let's be honest as long as we're being open: The subtext of the monologues is implicitly anti-male -- misandrist messages pimped as high art.

(Now, if you need to get V-Day out of your system, reread Paul Greenberg.)

Favorites: Global Warming

Mark Steyn doesn't seem convinced by all the media types, plus Al Gore, who say that human-caused global warming is settled scientific fact, and that we have no choice but to destroy our economies and societies in a vain hope of saving the planet.

Neither is Thomas Sowell, who explores some of the deceptions in the rampant propaganda. And here's Part II of Sowell's discussion. And here's Part III.

Favorites: The Presidential Race

Alan Reynolds looks at polls asking, Would you vote for a Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, African-American, woman, etc. He finds some problems and also suggests an alternate question:

Why not just ask more general questions such as, "Are you such a narrow-minded, intolerant religious bigot that for that reason alone you'd gladly reject the best candidate and let the other party win?"

Terry Michael is a reluctant fan of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. (Thanks to alert reader Jon Rodeback for the link.)

Stephen Stromberg says Mitt Romney's faith is not what voters should focus on.

Wesley Pruden writes of Rudy Giuliani's likely candidacy, his reception in California, and some bold positions taken without the aid of the latest opinion polls. (It's refreshing.)

Favorites: Everything Else

Australian Janet Albrechtsen dissects global anti-Americanism and finds it intellectually dishonest and irrational.

Gregory Koukl responds to arguments in favorite of same-sex marriage systematically and thoughtfully.

Jonathan Turley writes a superb essay on war and pacifism, inspired by a war-themed children's birthday party some parents didn't like.

There is a palpable sense among such playground objectors that boys harbor some deep dormant monster that, once awakened, inevitably ends with the invasion of Poland or a massacre at My Lai. Of course, millions of men played war games as kids without becoming war criminals. To the contrary, playing war was for most men an early type of morality play, defining values of sacrifice and selflessness. George Orwell once observed that a war-weary parent "who sees his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won't do."

To teach that all war is immoral is to deny the absolute values that frame a truly moral life. Arguably, the view of all war as immoral is itself amoral. Whether it is World War II or the first Gulf War, there are wars worth fighting and causes worth dying -- and yes, killing -- for.

Before we destroy the US health care system in a big-government frenzy, let's look at the British and Canadian systems which are supposedly so wonderful. Walter Williams offers a brief collection of grim reports from both countries. Here's one excerpt:

The Observer (12/16/01) also reported, "A recent academic study showed National Health Service delays in bowel cancer treatment were so great that, in one in five cases, cancer which was curable at the time of diagnosis had become incurable by the time of treatment."

Paul M. Weyrich reports and explains the re-emergence of actual leadership among Senate Republicans.

Cliff May notes the power of ruthless minorities and observes:

Today, it is not clear that most Iraqis want to slaughter other Iraqis and return Iraq to despotism. But a fanatical and ruthless minority does.

This minority -- actually two rival minorities, one Sunni, one Shia -- enjoys the support of both al-Qaeda and the regime that rules Iran. That is not surprising. What is: the fact that such mass murderers are neither opposed nor even seriously condemned by "the international community." Instead, in the Middle East, Europe and even America, opposition and condemnation are meted out in fullest measure to those reluctant to quit the fight against the mass murderers. . . .

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found that between 2004 and 2006 the number of Iraqis who support the idea of an Islamic state declined from 30 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile, those who favor separating religion and politics rose from 27 percent to 41 percent. In Baghdad, where sectarian violence has been most frequent, the number of people who see themselves as Iraqis first and Muslims second has doubled to 60 percent. And the percentage of Iraqis who say it “very important” for their nation to be a democracy has risen from 59 percent to 65 percent.

This suggests that neither Sunni nor Shia extremists are winning hearts and minds. Then again, they may not need to so long as they can put knives to throats and electric drills to skulls.

If you still think Speaker Pelosi is trying to clean up corruption on Capitol Hill and want to keep thinking that, don't read Paul Weyrich about her lust for an Air Force 747 and some rules changes.

Charles Krauthammer writes of Vladimir Putin and his intentions.

Putin's aggressiveness does not signal a return to the Cold War. He is too clever to be burdened by the absurdity of socialist economics or Marxist politics. He is blissfully free of ideology, political philosophy and economic theory. There is no existential dispute with the United States.

He is a more modest man: a mere mafia don, seizing the economic resources and political power of a country for himself and his mostly KGB cronies. And promoting his vision of the Russian national interest -- assertive and expansionist -- by engaging in diplomacy that challenges the dominant power in order to boost his own.

He wants Gromyko's influence -- or at least some international acknowledgment that Moscow must be reckoned with -- without the ideological baggage. He does not want to bury us; he only wants to diminish us. It is 19th-century power politics at its most crude and elemental. Putin does not want us as an enemy. But at Munich he told the world that vis-a-vis America his Russia has gone from partner to adversary.


Ralph Peters celebrates Muqtada al-Sadr's apparently fearful flight to Iran -- as in, he was fleeing, not flying. There's a lot of that going around.

Not only does the effectiveness of leaders-in-hiding plummet, but it makes an obvious case - which we've failed to exploit - that the demagogues who order in the suicide bombers and the AK-armed "martyrs" are personally in no rush to enter paradise.

Mark M. Alexander explains the difference between Sunni and Shiite.

Jonathan V. Last takes a look inside radical Islam in the United States and finds that the threat is not just terrorism.

Jack Kelly notes that our government's intel weenies (a technical term he doesn't actually us) don't quite agree on who is running the resistance in Iraq: ex-Baathists or al-Qaida. (Seems like a pretty fundamental thing not to know, doesn't it?)

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., discusses inappropriate behavior by members of Congress with regard to the war. Don't miss the Abraham Lincoln quote at the beginning.

Austin Bay reports Pentagon claims that other US government agencies are pulling their share of the load in Iraq.

Victor Davis Hanson lists some things we can do about Iran without bombing -- yet.

Jack Kelly muses on the merits of being right versus achieving consensus in analyzing intelligence. Read to find out why and about whom he says:

This is a big boo boo. It's as if you took a Mercedes hood ornament, and put it on a Yugo.

Douglas J. Feith defends himself and his refusal to bow to the intelligence community's consensus without question.

Munich is Munich is Munich, writes Cliff May. Some things, it seems, never change.

William Rusher wonders why there has been no follow-up attack after 9/11 in the United States. He supposes this is a temporary condition.

Mona Charen analyzes what's good and not so good about Dinesh D'Souza's controversial new book. (Do they hate us for Britney Spears, or is it more fundamental than that?)

National Politics: 2008 Presidential Race

George Will profiles a dark horse conservative Republican presidential candidate, Duncan Hunter of San Diego.

Marvin Olasky profiles Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. (No, seriously! He's a conservative.)

Debra J. Saunders favorably compares Rudy Giuliani to other candidates and to Congress, with its non-binding resolutions.

As Giuliani noted: "What I don't get is the nonbinding resolution. I don't get that. In the business world, two weeks spent on a nonbinding resolution would be considered nonproductive." He also called it "a comment without making a decision."

It felt good to see a politician looking at a run for the White House without first reconfiguring his platform to reflect polls that show Americans souring on the war in Iraq.

Dick Morris says Newt Gingrich has passed Mitt Romney and is challenging John McCain for second place.

Mike Gallagher extols the virtues of a Giuliani-McCain ticket in 2008.

Donald Lambro ponders the implications of an increasingly front-loaded primary calendar.

Robert Novak describes Hollywoods' and others' reluctance to support Hillary Clinton for president.

James P. Pinkerton says an outsider is the one to transform Washington -- and Mitt Romney might be that outsider.

Star Parker wonders, which is Barack Obama's intent: to be somebody or to do something? In the process she has some useful insights into the politics of school choice and social security reform.

John H. Fund recalls the unimpressive record of those who like to predict presidential elections early.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann explain that Ralph Nader could be a problem for candidate Hillary Clinton.

I disagree with Michelle Malkin. Barack Obama is articulate -- it's just that his views are pretty far left.

Jonah Goldberg called Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani "canaries in the coal mine."

Jonah Goldberg dissects a chilling thought: "Maybe a Democrat should win."

National Politics: Everything Else

Robert Novak recounts a Senate Republican surrender on an omnibus appropriations bill.

The Republican defeat would have been a plausible outcome if Democrats held a commanding Senate majority, even as large as their edge in the House. In fact, the Senate margin is 51 to 49, with Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota hospitalized and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut barely a Democrat. What ails Senate Republicans is lack of principle and lack of will, two reasons why they lost the 2006 elections.

George Will suggests that Ronald Reagan's conservatism was of a curious sort, that big-government conservatism is a logical consequence, and that Republicans need to stop expending so much energy being nostalgic about Reagan and get some good ideas of their own. (The political theorist in me is intrigued but not yet persuaded by this reading of Reagan.

Kirsten Powers reviews Senator Chuck Schumer's new book -- or, rather, his plan for victory in 2008. (Actually, the plan sounds a lot like what Josh Lyman and Toby Zeigler came up with on The West Wing to help President Bartlet win re-election.)

Schumer is uncharacteristically modest about his recent coup in orchestrating the Democratic takeover of the Senate, arguing that despite great candidates and a great strategy, "the overwhelming reason for [the Democratic] victory was that Bush had screwed up."

No doubt, a Republican Congress that will go down as one of the most ineffective in history and an unpopular president were key factors. But one cannot read Schumer's book without realizing what a rare find he is: an Ivy-League educated, enormously successful U.S. senator who seems devoid of the snotty elitism that plagues so many of the liberal ruling class.

When he discusses the Baileys of the world - the solidly middle-class family who hates flag-burning, believes in God, worries about college tuition, outsourcing, illegal immigration and declining social values - it's clear that he takes their concerns seriously, even where he may not share their worldview.

Here are excerpts from Mary Eberstadt's column on current Democratic piety and the Christian-bashing liberal pundits and bloggers indulged before the Democrats regained power. Two excerpts:

Heavens, it's getting crowded in the pews these days--at least with Democratic presidential candidates. Here is Sen. Barack Obama in California's Saddleback pulpit at the invitation of mega-selling pastor Rick Warren. There is Sen. Hillary Clinton with downcast eyes in Newsweek, praying before the cameras in New York's Riverside Church. And there preaches John Edwards, also in Riverside Church, weaving his personal faith into everything from AIDS to the minimum wage. Clearly the push is on to show that, for now anyway, the Democratic hopefuls are just plain folks in the religion department. . . .

Just being a bilious feminist with a potty mouth doesn't much distinguish one in the blogosphere these days. What does matter is something else: We have here a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern moment, in which the fate of bit players becomes emblematic of a larger drama.

For what the blogger tempest really illuminates is a fact that could come to haunt the Democrats as they vie for national office: namely, that their past few wilderness years have also been boom years for the church-loathing liberal/left punditry. As a result, anti-Christian invective now graces (or disgraces) many of the books, magazines, Web sites and blogs to which liberals, including the Democratic elite, habitually look for ideas. One motto of this cottage industry is that the most serious threat to the American republic can be found in, no, not those religious fundamentalists, the ones that first leap to mind after 9/11; but, incredibly, certain other believers--our nation's Christians.

Michael Barone extols the virtues of President Bush's health care proposal and notes that its support on Capitol Hill is at least greater than zero.

Clarence Page writes of Gardasil, HPV, and politics.

Jeff Jacoby bemoans the long lines at the Massachusetts RMV (DMV to others) and explains the solution.

Arnold Kling has some interesting, detailed thoughts about health care and related policy.

Jon Sanders lists Americans whose free speech government entities really are suppressing, and the Dixie Chicks are not among them.

Michael Medved suggests a different measure than we usually use to judge the success of our presidents.

John H. Fund praises a new history of libertarianism's considerable legacy in the United States.

Gary J. Andrus thinks the time is right for a federalist revival.

John Hawkins overstates his case. There are thoughtful liberals. But others are very much as he describes them.

It takes a lot more integrity, character, and courage to be a conservative than it does to be a liberal. That's because at its most basic level, liberalism is nothing more than childlike emotionalism applied to adult issues.

Going to war is mean, so we shouldn't do it. That person is poor and it would be nice to give him money, so the government should do it. Somebody wants to have an abortion, have a gay marriage, or wants to come into the U.S. illegally and it would be mean to say, "no," so we should let them. I am nice because I care about global warming! Those people want to kill us? But, don't they know we're nice? If they did, they would like us! Bill has more toys/money than Harry, so take half of Bill's money and give it to Harry. . . .

Now, that's not to say that conservatives never make emotion based arguments or that emotion based arguments are always wrong. But, when you try to deal with complex, real world issues, using little more than simplistic emotionalism that's primarily designed to make the people advocating it feel good rather than to deal with problems, it can, and often has had disastrous consequences. Liberals never seem to learn from this.

Why don't they learn anything from failed liberal policies? Because there is nothing underpinning them other than feelings and so even when they don't work, their good intentions are treated, by other liberals at least, as more important than the results of their actions. . . .

In Thomas Sowell's immortal words, conservatives believe that, "There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs." Because of this, conservatives regularly do something that liberals seldom do: they consider the long-term consequences of their policies.

Sometimes in politics, that's a tough duty. It's always easier to say, "We're going to use someone else's tax money to give you this right now," than it is to say, "We're going to keep government out of your way and let you do this for yourself." But, that's the path conservatives have chosen for themselves. They’re willing to be attacked and called, in some form or fashion, "mean" in order to advocate policies that are good for the country.

According to Diana West, the NFL now considers the US border (or the Border Patrol -- is there a difference?) "controversial."

Around the World

Suzanne Fields explains how abusing the language attacks free speech, while discussing more specifically the tendency of the global warming crowd to insist than anyone who disagrees is in denial.

Tom Purcell, too, is unpersuaded that human-caused global warming is hard science.

Lyndsay Moss writes of a remarkable discovery involving carrots in Scotland.

John Podhoretz says North Korea's leader is running "one of the most successful extortion rackets in the history of the world." And he has struck again.


Donald Lambro explains that manufacturing is not dead or dying in America, contrary to the talking points of certain people with political agenda. (He seems to think the purpose of manufacturing is to make things, while those others think it is to provide jobs.)

David Strom used to think that liberal politicians were misguided but well-meaning. Now he thinks otherwise. On the way to a good little lesson in the economics of taxation, he observes:

Why? It's pretty simple, really. So many things that liberals argue about economics are simply and demonstrably wrong. But even when you prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are wrong, the liberals keep mouthing the same basic untruths.

Jerry Flint presents a case study in competition. If you're, say, Detroit, and you want to compete with Japanese cars, is it better to imitate Japan or be different?

The Culture, Broadly Defined

Burt Prelutsky writes of his love for, nay, his addiction to chocolate.

Bruce Schneier's reasons to "just say no" to Windows Vista are political, economic, and technical.

All too often, bad things happen when good books go to Hollywood. Megan Bashan seems to think this may not be one of those times.

Brent Bozell III's focus is a bit broader, on a film company that wants to use movies to get children to read. A superb line:

I decided to stop cursing the darkness.

Mark E. Babej and Tim Pollak have the odd idea that even Super Bowl commercials should have the objective of selling your product. They have some tips for next time, too.

Call us sticks in the mud, but the purpose of a Super Bowl ad, the mother of all marketing investments, should be the mother of all returns.

Lenore Skenazy discusses a proposed law in New York City (which is enough to make me think fondly of Darwin).

Suzanne Fields uses the appointment of a new president of Harvard University, a woman, as a jumping-off point to discuss feminism, femininity, and masculinity. Near the end one encounters the "alpha-pansy."

Burt Prelutsky documents journalistic hubris, and it's not just about politics.

Janice Shaw Crouse writes "in praise of virginity."


Nat Hentoff recommends a recent PBS series on the US Supreme Court to remedy the average American's ignorance of the Court's role in our government and history. He notes,

There's more to television than Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell.

Things have come full-circle in Arkansas, writes Paul Greenberg.


Tiffany Erickson describes what may be a rough road for school vouchers, even after the Utah Legislature approved (created) them, and after Governor Huntsman presumably will sign them. (It's the typical liberal strategy: If you can't get your way with the elected officials, use judges.)

According to this Nicole Stricker article, cooler heads prevailed in the Utah Legislature, and a bill to require the public election of school district superintendents died in committee.

Glen Warhol offers this brief report on a bill to open the Utah State School for the Deaf to students with other handicaps.

American Fork and Environs

Barbara Davis describes the Crescent Super Band's recent adventures in New York City.

Stacy Johnson reports on the continuing organization of the Utah Lake Commission.

Laura Hancock's article suggests that Alpine School District officials actually believe their own propaganda about what many (not a few) parents want in the math curriculum. (The straw man has a long and storied history in political and other debates.)

So does Brooke Barker's.

Oak Norton cites a number of newspaper articles about the Alpine School District math curriculum and provides a dissenting view to some.

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