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Saturday, March 3, 2007
The Week's Excellent Readings

There were almost too many favorites to list this week. Almost.

Steve Jobs' Speech Revisited

Last week I asked if anyone knows where on the Web to find Steve Jobs' recent speech on education. I still don't have a link, but alert reader Mark Steele sent a link to a 1996 Steve Jobs interview with some similar content. Look near the middle of the speech, at Jobs' answer to the question, "Could technology help by improving education?"


Charles Krauthammer eloquently explains why humans do and should explore space themselves, not just with robots. His final paragraph:

And then there's the glory. If you find any value, any lift of the spirit in a beautiful mathematical proof, in an elegant balletic turn, in any of the myriad human endeavors that have no utility but only breathtaking beauty, then you should feel something when our little species succeeds in establishing new life in a void that for all eternity had been the province of the gods. If you don't feel that, you are -- don't take this personally -- deaf to the music of our time.

Walter Williams takes a brief, clear look at liberty and democracy. He finds that we value liberty over democracy, and that democracy can pose a fatal threat to liberty. (Yes, he knows the Founders got there first. He quotes them.)

Alan Reynolds analyzes the week's bearish blip in the stock markets.

I'm certain Gene Weingarten's column means something. I'm equally certain I'm not going to venture a guess on the record. He writes of the ball clock -- and also of men.

David Strom profiles the looming fascism of the 21st century -- and it's not Islamic.

I usually avoid listing commentary by Senators and Members of Congress here, but here's a superb essay by Senator Joseph Lieberman about the situation in Iraq and in Washington. He gets it, unlike many members of his own party and more than a few members of the other party. An excerpt:

Congress thus faces a choice in the weeks and months ahead. Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq--or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?

If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security--meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.


I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to step back and think carefully about what to do next. Instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed.

Gen. Petraeus says he will be able to see whether progress is occurring by the end of the summer, so let us declare a truce in the Washington political war over Iraq until then.

W. Thomas Smith tells the story of one Marine's heroism on Iwo Jima. (In the process, he makes an important point: sometimes a mighty struggle not only proceeds, but also follows, the photo op.)

Dinesh D'Souza summarizes what happened at Abu Ghraib and draws some conclusions, including about Muslim perceptions of the affair. (This is not pleasant reading, but it's a good summary. It is more factual and less sensational than the BMAs' imagery . . . and the conclusions are hard to fault.) An excerpt:

The main focus of Islamic disgust was what Muslims perceived as extreme sexual perversion. For many traditional Muslims, Abu Ghraib demonstrated the casualness with which married Americans have affairs, walk out on their spouses, and produce children without bothering to take responsibility for the care of their offspring. In the Muslim view, this perversion is characteristic of American society.

Moreover, many Muslims viewed the degradation of Abu Ghraib as a metaphor for how little Americans care for other people's sacred values, and for the kind of humiliation that America seeks to impose on the Muslim world. Some Muslims argued that such degradation was worse than execution because death only strips a man of his life, not of his honor.

In one crucial respect, however, the Muslim critics were wrong. Contrary to their assertions, Abu Ghraib did not reflect the shared values of America, it reflected the sexual immodesty of liberal America.

Mark Steyn starts with an account of a brief, interesting period of American History. Then he wonders where all that Yankee ingenuity that tried to save President Garfield has gone when the challenge is a war on Islamic fascism.

(This is a favorite not because I enjoyed it, which I didn't, but because it very articulately explains what a lot of Democrats are thinking, which in turn explains some other things.) On one hand, David Remnick's book Lenin's Tomb and its sequel, Resurrection, are absolute -- and very readable -- classics on the character, fall, and aftermath of the Soviet Union. (I'd be the last to quibble about the former's Pulitzer Prize.) On the other hand, in this article about US politics Remnick isn't just drinking the Kool-Aid, he's taking it intravenously. Al Gore is the rightful president, and he would have done everything just right, whereas President Bush has done nearly everything wrong. You have to read it to believe it. It hurts to see any party's -- even the Democrats' -- minds so fixated on a version of the past that just ain't so, and mourning the supposed loss of a present paradise that simply could not have been. No wonder they hate and fear Bush more than bin Laden, if this is what they're thinking!

Tom Bevan interviews Mitt Romney.

Jack Kelly mercilessly exposes Al Gore's articles of faith to the facts, and notes in the process that, as far and Hollywood and the rest of the Left are concerned, sacrifices are for other people to make.

Paul Greenberg's is the most insightful commentary I've read on immigration in a long time.

Burt Prelutsky muses on Al Gore's electric bill, the Oscars, and other related themes.


See also "Favorites" above.

Victor Davis Hanson offers some historical perspective on public attitudes about the war. His first paragraph:

Given all of this country's past wars involving intelligence failures, tactical and strategic blunders, congressional fights and popular anger at the president, Iraq and the rising furor over it are hardly unusual.

Robert Novak reports that the Democratic campaign to lose the war is not proceeding as easily or as successfully as they had hoped. The next step might be trying to rescind Congress's 2002 authorization for the President to go to war, but that looks likely to fail. (Note as you read the negative effect Democrats talking had on one prong of the campaign.)

William Rusher's opening paragraph to a detailed article tells you exactly what it's about:

It is said that if enough monkeys were set to work poking randomly at enough typewriter keys, one of them, on the sheer law of averages, would sooner or later write "Hamlet." By the same token, if enough Democratic Congressmen try long enough, one or another of them may someday come up with a rational alternative plan for American military involvement in the Middle East. But it hasn't happened yet, and the signs are not encouraging.

Daniel Henninger mourns the loss of the warrior ethos.

Paul Kengor suggests the modern relevance of a great spy story from the Reagan days.

The way things are going now, writes Diana West, we might as well have John Kerry in the White House.

National Politics: The 2008 Presidential Race

See also "Favorites" above.

Tony Blankley analyzes the strategic implications of the current elongated presidential campaign.

Kevin McCullough says the new, even longer presidential election cycle is a good thing. He hopes it will allow for greater scrutiny and less buyer's remorse.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann say the John McCain campaign is fading for two reasons: lack of a spine (he's a Senator, you know) and Rudy Giuliani.

Michael Barone surveys presidential candidates' web sites and concludes:

So far, candidates have told us very little about where they think the world is headed and what we should do about it. And they've shown us little to indicate that they've thought seriously about governance and long-term problems like Social Security and Medicare.

Donald Lambro says that Mitt Romney is sounding a lot more like Ronald Reagan on the subject of taxes than Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are.

Don't look now, but Barack Obama is closing on Hillary Clinton in the polls, write Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.

On one hand, David Remnick's book Lenin's Tomb and its sequel, Resurrection, are absolute -- and very readable -- classics on the character, fall, and aftermath of the Soviet Union. (I'd be the last to quibble about the former's Pulitzer Prize.) On the other hand, in this article Remnick isn't just drinking the Kool-Aid, he's taking it intravenously now. Al Gore is the rightful president, and he would have done everything just right, whereas President Bush has done nearly everything wrong. You have to read it to believe it. It hurts to see any party's -- even the Democrats' -- minds so fixated on a version of the past that just ain't so, and mourning the loss of a present paradise that simply could not have been.

Kathryn Jean Lopez articulates the attractions of "the Reagan template."

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann report that Barack Obama is having trouble pulling the black vote away from Hillary Clinton.

This long Stephen Rodrick article on Rudy Giuliani is condescending and simplistic in its view of Giuliani and especially of people who live outside the five boroughs, but if you're wondering how the snootier-than-thou left-wing New York intelligentsia evaluates Giuliani, you may find it interesting.

John Podhoretz -- who gets it -- describes what folk outside the five boroughs see in Rudy Giuliani: an energetic, effective anti-liberal.

John H. Fund paints Hillary Clinton as a has-been from an unwelcome (potential) dynasty.

Donald Lambro says the current Democratic infighting in Congress and among presidential candidates is self-destructive.

Without endorsing his politics, Kathleen Parker writes of Barack Obama:

He is . . . that next generation history has been waiting for.

Whatever his politics, Obama is the prize that men like Lewis bled for and for whom Martin Luther King died. Just two generations after passage of the Voting Rights Act, a black man is a serious contender for the presidency.

Linda Chavez thinks the Clintons' long-enjoyed exemption from laws others live by may be coming to an end.

Bradford Plumer says that even a moderate Republican president would have to enact policies to please conservatives.

National Politics: Other Topics

Neal Pierce says this is one of those times when the states, not the federal government, lead in many areas.

George Will discusses the quintessentially Orwellian escapade of trampling freedom in legislation called "The Employee Free Choice Act."

Thomas Sowell considers the implications of a recent book on the inner workings of the US Supreme Court. In a sequel, he wishes Republican presidents would think through the judge thing and avoid appointing liberals and lightweights. In Part III he discussed the leftward slide of some Supreme Court judges after their nomination. Part IV, on "quota nominations," among other things, really is not too much of a good thing.

Mark M. Alexander explores the fact, fiction, and politics of global warming.

Terence Jeffrey has a story about a case where the US court system clearly did not work sensibly.

Duncan Currie explains why Democrats love Jim Webb so much.

Matt Towery illustrates the dangers of bad legislation by looking at the effects of some bad legislation he wrote.

William Perry Pendley looks at a court case which involves US government officials claiming immunity against charges that they violated a citizen's constitutional rights.

Around the World

Michael Crowley describes how former Senator Sam Nunn is busily trying to prevent nuclear terrorism through the activities of a private organization. Very interesting.

Paul Greenberg at first seems to be saying, "They're baaaaaaaaack." -- They being the Russians. -- But no, times have changed, the Russians are more predictable, the rhetoric is not ideological, and overall things have improved. Then Greenberg walks briefly through American foreign policy generally, ending with this paragraph:

One keeps hearing demands from this president's critics that he change his ways, adopt a more multilateral approach, and generally moderate his foreign policy. Let's not spoil their fun by pointing out that he has already done so.

Max Boot explains that US allies have seriously downsized their military forces in recent years.

Mona Charen takes up an unhappy subject: slavery in the twenty-first century. There's a lot of it.


Michael E. McBride explains why he's pulling his daughter out of school. (He can't spell "principal," but otherwise has some familiar points.)

The Culture, Broadly Defined

Joe Queenan says the Academy Awards are Hollywood's self-delusion.

This is what makes Oscar night so special. It's not so much a case of the industry presenting itself the way it would like to be seen; it's the night when the industry gets tanked up and forgets what it does for a living.

Is this a bad thing? I guess not. Hypocrisy and self-delusion are two of America's most revered traditions, without which none of us could function. More to the point, the academy's self-delusion reaps vast benefits for us all.

George Will writes of an increasingly distant world war -- not in my lifetime -- and a movie, and attitudes toward an enemy.

Kathleen Parker looks at some research which affirms what common sense has been saying for a long time, about how our culture is messing up girls' lives -- but the research carefully avoids prescribing the obvious solutions.

Frank Pastore summarizes the Religious Left in 19 articles of faith, asking, How many do you agree with? (Note that he himself is not of the Religious left, and some of the wording might not be quite what the Religious Left itself would approve.)

Suzanne Fields contrasts the days of Sandra Dee with the much different days of Britney Spears.

Bill Murchison says the schism in the Anglican Church is about something deeper than whether homosexuality is okay or not.

Steve Chapman wrings his hands over the practical need to wear a hat and the fashion need not to.

Michael Medved offers a delightful romp through the Ten Commandments, describing the Left's distaste for each in its turn.

If you are an ill-mannered slob, Greg Crosby pleads with you to stay out of the theater. (No, not the movie theater.)

Paul Greenberg critiques a shallow, ideological reading of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Economics and Business

Star Parker applies a very basic economic principle to government-mandated vaccines and to health care generally.

Bill Gates discusses the keys to American economic competitiveness.

Thomas Lifson analyzes Airbus's woes and current attempts to address them. He uses the word brinksmanship.

Paul Weyrich says that if airlines don't guarantee customer rights themselves, government with do it, and that will be bad.

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