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Saturday, January 13, 2007
The Week's Excellent Readings

Amid all the serious talk of a possibly pivotal speech about the war, an underwhelming beginning for the new Congress, a developing presidential race, and more local items than usual, this week's list somehow also includes a funny column about sheep, discussion of a famous cartoon bear, and a report on male pantyhose.

Favorite Re-Read of the Week

I read this weeks ago, but it's worth a second look. Orson Scott Card writes of a wounded soldier, a deceased one, and some airline passengers who get it. He even suggests some legislation. (Tell me he's wrong.)

Forget the constitutional amendment about flags. Let's demand that Congress pass a law banning any kind of political demonstration within the sight or hearing of people in attendance at the funerals, viewings, or burials of men and women who died in uniform, and forbidding demonstrating at or defacing their grave.

Patriotic display would be exempted, of course -- because the rituals of leavetaking should include the right of family and friends to speak in favor of what the soldier sacrificed for.

Anyone who breaks this law by holding up signs or shouting slogans or throwing things at such a funeral would receive a felony conviction, including the loss of their right to vote, and a mandatory sentence of exactly one year.

Favorites: Various Topics

Dean Barnett calls Mitt Romney "the Yogi the Bear candidate" -- he's "smarter than the average bear" -- and describes the Romney revolution in fund-raising events and vulcanized chicken.

I always enjoy Thomas Sowell's random thoughts.

David R. Henderson explains California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's health care plan for his state. Examining ArnoldCare is a good exercise to prepare for the next (and inevitable) similar proposal from DC Democrats.

Paul Greenberg's thoughts on the occasion of his son becoming an Arkansas state legislator are not entirely what you might expect.

Oh, my. Someone actually is polling voters on an issue, then educating them, then polling them again and noting vastly different results. If only this were the standard . . . Douglas Schoen reports.

I don't agree on some points, but Tim Rutten writes an excellent essay on Mitt Romney and the brewing religious brouhaha over a Mormon presidential candidate. Along the way, he summarizes some of the recent writing on the subject. The last word of the article is "inquisition." And here's the first paragraph, which is excellent on its own merits:

The Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem once remarked that in the Jewish hamlets of his native Ukraine there were only two people who really were serious about God. One was the local rabbi and the other was the village atheist.

Favorites: The War, the President, the Speech

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., had some excellent thoughts for President Bush prior to the latter's Wednesday speech on Iraq strategy. Of course, who knows if anyone read this . . .

Also prior to Wednesday's major speech, Amir Taheri offers ten ideas for dealing with Iraq. He makes as much sense to me as anyone does.

Daniel Henninger describes the new Iraq plan in some detail and says it is a last chance -- but it is a good chance. Here are some noteworthy excerpts:

The U.S.'s primary problem in Iraq, manifest across 2006, has been an urban insurgency in a 30-mile radius around Baghdad and in Anbar province. The [David] Petraeus command is the overdue beginning of the counterinsurgency. . . .

In broadest outline, the plan divides Baghdad into nine districts, essentially neighborhoods. The job of providing daily security in each district will be undertaken by an Iraqi army brigade of several thousand soldiers, a U.S. support battalion of up to 1,000 troops, and most importantly, about 20 U.S. military "embeds" or advisers. . . .

The source of this idea, in part, was a successful Marine experiment in Anbar province. . . . The Marines reported that the Iraqis fought with more confidence and effect, a k a spine-stiffening. . . .

Whether the U.S. should have done this back when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his foreign suicide bombers emerged is a legitimate question. The point is this: The Iraq violence has not been running like an untended open hydrant. Some of our best and brightest have been thinking hard about how to shut the valve. . . .

Is it all a day late and a dollar short? Maybe. Some 20,000 more troops may be insufficient. The inevitable front-page casualty reports and blood-soaked photos may still drain the will of domestic pundits. But what we are seeing in the Petraeus command is the kind of step back that the military sometimes excels at. This the U.S. military at its potential best--remaking itself, as it did with the transition to training a volunteer army after Vietnam.

It is not the least bit obvious that this counterinsurgency plan will fail, and only the most churlishly neurotic Bush hater would want it to. The stakes for the region and the war on terror have been described many times. There is another reason: How this ends will have an important effect on the morale of our officer corps, the people who must summon the gumption to protect us. They deserve a final chance to succeed. This is the chance. . . .

Nothing would more raise the tenor of this debate than if some member of the Democratic Party would take ownership of the subject of military doctrine in Iraq. On the evidence of their statements the past 24 hours, barely a Democrat exists with . . . a clue of what Gen. Petraeus is about to do or why.

Barry Casselman thinks there may be a lesson for us in 1864.

Rebecca Hagelin writes of the little-reported financial front in the war on Islamic fascism.

Writing after President Bush's speech, Jonah Goldberg writes that at least the president wants to win. Here are excerpts from an article well worth reading in its entirety:

Americans are torn between two irreconcilable positions on the Iraq war. Some want the war to be a success -- variously defined -- and some want the war to be over. Conservatives are basically, but not exclusively, in the "success" camp. Liberals (and those further to the left) are basically, but not exclusively, the "over" party. And many people are suffering profound cognitive dissonance by trying to believe these two positions can be held simultaneously. The motives driving these various positions range from the purely patriotic to the coldly realistic to the cravenly political or psychological perfervid. Parsing motives is exhausting and pointless, but one fact remains: "End it now" and "win it eventually" cannot be reconciled.

[Of partisans Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, he writes:]

On the one hand, they tell the president that they want this war "brought to a close." On the other, they refuse to use their power of the purse to do exactly that, opting instead for a symbolic resolution. It may be the wisest political course for them, but it does a disservice to the nation by making the Iraq debate the equivalent of boxing with fog.

Here we have a president forthrightly trying to win a war, and the opposition -- which not long ago was in favor of increasing troops, when Bush was against that -- won't say what it wants. This is flatly immoral.

John Podhoretz writes that the Bush plan has to work, then lists what will happen if it doesn't.

Michael Barone analyzes specific parts of President Bush's speech.

Linda Chavez doesn't particularly like the Democrats playing politics with national security. She describes their likely tactics to prevent success in the war and says they missed a good opportunity.

Mona Charen asks,

If the president is correct (and I think it is indisputable) that failure in Iraq would permit "radical Islamic extremists to grow in strength and gain new recruits," permit Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, allow Islamists to topple moderate governments and funnel oil wealth to terrorists for attacks against American targets, then why is the surge so modest? If that much is at stake for us, why only five brigades?

Quin Hillyer offers an excellent essay on the present and future in Iraq, including the practical possibility of US victory. Watch for the excellent Joe Lieberman quotation. Also, this excerpt offers a valuable perspective:

The little-recognized truth from Iraq is that even once-dicey areas of that country have been successfully cleared of terrorists, with civil society in those areas already showing signs of taking hold, when American troops have remained there long enough to "hold" the territories after first "clearing" the bad guys out. What remains is not a battle to pacify an entire country, but just to re-civilize one large city and a two other provinces (out of 18).

Victor Davis Hanson offers a detailed account of how the US is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. Here's an excellent excerpt:

It may be hard for the world's new impatient generation to accept the truth: There are no simple black-and-white solutions at little cost in today's technologically connected but politically fragmented world. Restless Americans and a demanding global public are going to have to accept that in Afghanistan, Darfur, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Somalia and the West Bank, the United States itself -- not just the bogeyman George Bush -- has only bad and far worse choices.

What sometimes works against jihadists and tyrants in one place won't always in others. Unilateral, multilateral, react or preempt -- these have no innate moral value but are just differing strategies for a baffling multitude of new problems that all defy a cookie-cutter approach. After 9/11, caution in the long run may prove deadlier than intervention has in the short term. People will die daily on CNN no matter what we do.

The only constant in this wired-together but split-apart global family? The frantic American parent will try its best, as it is blamed for saying no, yes -- and everything in between.

Jack Kelly says it matters which generals the president listens to.


Wesley Pruden describes a possible escalation in the brewing Iran/Israel conflict. This one has nukes, but is it real?

When I studied international relations, political science, history, etc., no one cared about Somalia. Now we are learning that small mistakes there had big consequences, and maybe there's more to be learned there now, too. Niall Ferguson takes a look.

Rich Lowry discusses the words the Democrats will not say, even if they believe them.

Jeff Jacoby describes the extremist infiltration of American mosques.

Debra J. Saunders says Iraq could get a lot worse -- if the US leaves, that is.

In a bitter rant, Terry Michael asks where are the Democratic leaders who are willing to stand up and lead us out of the war with all deliberate speed?

William Odom writes that we should frighten other countries into helping establish stability in the Middle East -- by leaving.

Rich Lowry says that Iraq first needs order, and only then will justice and freedom come.

Gerard Baker says President Bush is sticking to his guns, despite naysayers:

President Bush's address to the nation last night was not just a rejection of the political clamor at home for an early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. It was not simply a rebuff to those in his own party and in the Pentagon who believe that victory in Iraq is irretrievable from the mire in which the US finds itself. It was not merely an admission of mistakes in the execution of this calamitous war so far.

It was a clarion reaffirmation, even in the midst of unparalleled adversity, of the entire foreign policy strategy that drove the Bush administration in the weeks and months after September 11, 2001. It was a defiant and ringing rededication of a beleaguered president in the final two years of his term to the revolution in global affairs he unleashed five years ago.


The deployment of five or six more brigades of US forces to Iraq and the commitment of additional financial resources to bolster the fledgling democracy were the main indications of Mr Bush's defiant determination to stick to his radical foreign policy strategy. But much more striking was the blunt warning to Syria and Iran to stop interfering in Iraq and a reminder of the threat Iran's nuclear programme poses to the US. That warning and reminder followed the unusual appointment of an admiral as head of central command, where the main current conflicts are two large ground wars, a move that surely hints that the administration is seriously considering a military approach by air and sea to defanging the Iranian threat.

Dick Meyer emphasizes that President Bush is essentially alone, then lists the prominent people who are against him.

I don't think many outsiders know much about President Bush's inner life. But in the outside world, by all the measures of politics and power, he is alone.

Cliff May says that success in Iraq cannot be made to depend on success in getting Israel and the Palestinians to live together without frequent recourse to explosives.

George Will's analysis of President Bush's revised strategy, the Democratic response to it, and other factors is less negative than most of his recent offerings in this subject area, despite predictions of Chechnya coming to American living rooms, and offers a useful perspective.

National Issues: The Next President

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann articulate the conservative need for a presidential candidate.

Kathryn Lopez takes up essentially the same question. Excerpts:

Going into 2007, conservatives' best option, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is already a bit wounded. The problem? Some chattering Beltway conservatives with access to wide-reaching e-mail lists simply don't believe he is one of them.

<snip . . . big snip>

So is it Rudy 2008 for the GOP? Not by a long shot. But staying low-key for a while and watching the other guys fight it out, inflicting wounds on one another, is not an insane strategy. At least for America's mayor.

And that is something conservatives might want to keep in mind as some appear to be poised to kill off their most obvious conservative alternative early.

Nancy, Hillary . . . The sexual politics are evolving, writes Suzanne Fields.

Check out this good cartoon about Mitt Romney supporters and detractors, from [Provo] Daily Herald cartoonist Aaron Taylor, published Thursday.

Froma Harrop writes that Mitt Romney's dilemmas are of Himalayan proportions, and he doesn't have the finesse to negotiate his way past them.

National Issues: New (Old) Direction on Capitol Hill

Suzanne Fields says, Twainlike, that rumors of American conservatism's death are greatly exaggerated.

Is a tax increase coming, courtesy of a president who really ought to know better by now? Robert Novak says there is concern about just such a development in Washington.

Jeff Jacoby looks at arguments for and against some of the items on the so-called 100-hour agenda. He summarizes:

As a broad rule, intentions are the currency of the left, while results matter most to the right. That is why Bill Clinton made a point of feeling our pain, while Ronald Reagan insisted that facts were stubborn things.

James Lileks analyzes the Republicans' disaffected base and wonders what it would take to energize them. On the way, he offers this pithy observation:

New taxes? Veto. In the first 100 hours, after all, the new Democratic majority changed the rules to allow a simple majority -- emphasis on "simple," at least in terms of economic intelligence -- to raise taxes.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann look at congressional Democrats' broken promise of a five-day work week, combined with a certain football-related junket, and wonder:

Is it that they don't get how bad it looks, or that they don't care?

Charles Krauthammer notes the interesting coincidence of a vote on Capitol Hill to erase President Bush's moral line in the sand (line in the moral sand?) on stem cell research and the apparent discovery that there is another very promising way to obtain stem cells -- other than from a dead fetus, that is. If this holds, he says,

It will have turned out that Bush's unpopular policy held the line, however arbitrary and temporary, against the wanton trampling of the human embryo just long enough for a morally neutral alternative to emerge.

According to Jay Sekulow, Congressional Democrats aren't wasting any time in trying to narrow the First Amendment to exclude opponents' speech and political activity.

National Issues: Other Topics

Professor Mike S. Adams presents his assignment for students: Figure out if the American justice system is broken. (Skip step nine if you want to; it contains a coarse but not gratuitous reference to a sexual act. Then continue reading at step ten.) Then think about the ending.

Joel Mowbray looks at the Sandy Berger case and one other, and notes that there are certain inconsistencies in the justice system and the BMA. (I suppose we already knew that.)

John H. Fund describes a little-remembered but significant part of Ronald Reagan's life.

The Wall Street Journal likes new White House Counsel Fred Fielding and describes in detail why.

How far will the food nazis go? Maybe as far as the smoking nazis, says Walter Williams.

Robert Novak reports trouble at the State Department.

William R. Maurer describes the post-Kelo world.

While the court noted that states were free to provide greater protections for homes and small businesses if they chose, Washington state stands as evidence that a strong state constitution means little if the courts do not enforce it and local governments disregard it.


Washington courts now allow local governments to condemn more land than is necessary, for longer than is necessary, in the hopes that the government can play real-estate speculator with whatever is left.

The Culture (Even More Broadly Defined than Usual)

Mark Steyn writes hilariously of sheep: gay sheep, Muslim sacrificial sheep . . . Read this at your own risk.

I'm not ready for male pantyhose. Are you? Perhaps Lenore Skenazy can help. Perhaps not. This is just so . . . wrong.

Now here's something I've actually used. Dan Neil muses about Google Earth.

Betsy Hart describes recent research findings about happiness.

Doug Giles offers a wide-ranging debunking of uppity Yankee attitudes about the South.


This Clarence Page piece begins and ends with Oprah, but it's a good commentary on education nonetheless.

Too many Asians at elite American universities? Thomas Sowell doesn't think so. (How 'bout this: Too many people drawing salaries in American education for doing something other than teaching.)


Michael Medved explains why people who won't have their taxes increased under the Democrats' new plan should oppose the tax increase. He offers three reasons, then three lessons to extract from the situation.

George Will delves into the woes of the auto workers' union (UAW).

Utah Schools

Nicole Stricker writes of ongoing efforts to revise Utah's math curriculum.

Nicole Stricker also reports the latest campaign to reduce class sizes in public schools, and of legislative concern for requiring money appropriated for that purpose to be used for that purpose.

Kim R. Birmingham's opinion piece competently recites the party line on vouchers. (Birmingham chairs the State Board of Education.) They are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad -- or so she says. You've heard this before, of course.

American Fork and Environs

This Daily Herald article discusses the local Crescent Super Band's exploits in New York City.

Barbara Christiansen and others converse with local mayors, including American Fork's, about the coming year

A local charter school is behind schedule in building a new building. Caleb Warnock reports.

Jared Lloyd reports on the haircut as a honey-do evasion technique, now coming to a Utah town near you.

One of those government buildings in American Fork is expanding, says this Daily Herald article.

Is it back to paper ballots for Orem? Whatever. Sara Israelsen reports.

Numerous cities in Utah County give the families of deployed soldiers a break on utilities. Natalie Andrews actually lists them.

Here's a brief Deseret News story about the Alpine School District's plans to spend $110 million.

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