David Rodeback's Blog

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Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Week's Excellent Readings

George Washington is the subject of some favorites. Steve Jobs tells it like it is -- the effect of unions on public education, that is. And that's just the beginning of the list.

Favorites: George Washington (and Successors)

Paul Greenburg is eloquent and insightful in commenting on George Washington and his country.

Michael and Jana Novak recount how George Washington spoke of God in his (Washington's) public life.

Jon Meacham's ongoing commentary on God in American politics includes some recent insights on "God, Presidents and Liberty." Here is one paragraph:

To think one's course is God's course is fraught. As Lincoln once said, he did not know if God was on the Union's side; he just hoped the Union was on God's side. In truth, presidents, no more or no less than anyone else, are at work in a fallen world, moving through twilight, struggling to find a way forward amid what George Eliot once called "dim lights and tangled circumstance." When you hear a president invoke God, then, always listen carefully to the context. Be alarmed if the president is saying that a particular political path is, in his view, ordained by God; be at peace if the president is saying that he is praying for God's blessing and guidance in a complex world. The former is hubristic and dangerous; the latter humble and wise.

Favorite: Education

Jay Greene describes a speech in which Steve Jobs went way out on a limb about education (and got it right, IMO). (Can anyone send me a link to the speech itself?)

Favorites: Everything Else

Marvin Olasky tells stories of volunteer service in the aftermath of Florida's recent deadly tornado. (Note: When volunteers help, the recipients see help as a gift. When government helps, they see it as an entitlement.)

Christopher Hitchens speaks of the bitter divides within Islam and the West's response. Here are his concluding thoughts:

All over the non-Muslim world, we hear incessant demands that those who believe in the literal truth of the Quran be granted "respect." We are supposed to watch what we say about Islam, lest by any chance we be considered "offensive." A fair number of authors and academics in the West now have to live under police protection or endure prosecution in the courts for not observing this taboo with sufficient care. A stupid term -- Islamophobia -- has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam's infallible "message."

Well, this idiotic masochism has to be dropped. There may have been a handful of ugly incidents, provoked by lumpen elements, after certain episodes of Muslim terrorism. But no true secularist or even Christian has been involved in anything like the torching of a mosque. (The last time that such a thing did happen on any scale -- in Bosnia -- the United States and Britain intervened militarily to put a stop to it. We also overthrew the Taliban, which was slaughtering the Hazara Shiite minority in Afghanistan.) But where are the denunciations from centers of Sunni and Shiite authority of the daily murder and torture of Islamic co-religionists? Of the regular desecration of holy sites and holy books? Of the paranoid insults thrown so carelessly and callously by one Muslim group at another? This mounting ghastliness is a bit more worthy of condemnation, surely, than a few Danish cartoons or a false rumor about a profaned copy of the Quran in Guantanamo. The civilized world -- yes I do mean to say that -- should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace. A short way of phrasing this would be to say, "See how the Muslims respect each other!"

Walter Williams scratches the surface of some popular ideas and finds utter nonsense underneath.

Peggy Noonan says Hillary Clinton seems a little less inevitable now.

Thomas Sowell's three-part series on prices (economics generally) and politics is vintage Sowell. Part One looks at municipal golf courses, of all things. Part Two explains the self-rationing and efficient distribution of resources which uncontrolled prices encourage. Part Three looks at unions, minimum wage laws, and other popular assaults on prices. Sowell concludes the third part with this observation:

Politics is not about facts. It is about what politicians can get people to believe.

Austin Bay explains that more troops are not the crucial part of the new Iraq strategy.

George Will says the political market is working. He cites several presidential candidates as examples.

Mark Steyn looks at new developments in Iraq, and the BMA and Capitol Hill responses to them.

Rep. John Linder puts global warming alarmism in historical and scientific perspective. Along the way, he offers this sage morsel from H. L. Mencken:

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it.

Dinesh D'Souza describes the distinction in Islam between Jews and Christians on one hand, and polytheists and atheists on the other, and describes its implications for the present conflict.

In the classical Muslim understanding, there is a fundamental distinction between Jews and Christians on the one hand and polytheists and atheists on the other. According to Islam, Judaism and Christianity are incomplete but genuine revelations. As monotheists, Jews and Christians have historically been entitled to Muslim respect and even protection. In every Islamic empire, from the Umayyad to the Abbasid to the Ottoman, Jews and Christians were permitted to practice their religion and in no Muslim regime has it ever been considered legitimate to systematically kill them.

By contrast, polytheists and atheists have always been anathema to Islam. The Koran says, "Fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together" and "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them." These passages, which Bin Laden frequently quotes, do not refer to Christians, because Christians are not considered pagans or idolaters. Rather, they refer to those, like the Beduins of ancient Arabia, who worship many gods or no god. Muslims are commanded to fight these unbelievers, especially when they threaten the House of Islam.

Donald Lambro reports some very good news -- some economic, some otherwise -- you may not have heard from the BMA. Note especially the news about the federal budget deficit.

Suzanne Fields writes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is waging a battle for women's rights that is far more dangerous and has far higher stakes than the struggles of American feminists in recent decades.

George Will profiles Rep. Ron Paul, a very, very dark-horse Republican presidential candidate who might be fun to watch, because he -- an anachronism, an eccentric, says Will -- reads the Constitution and believes in limited government.

Jimmy Regan, former Duke lacrosse player, is worth remembering. Mary Katherine Ham remembers him.


Jeff Jacoby explains that you cannot (rationally) support the troops and work for their failure.

Bill Murchison enlists Humpty-Dumpty in this essay on the depths to which our politics have sunk. Here's an excerpt without the big guy who looks like an egg:

The Iraq debates of last week were a national disgrace: a horror to frighten children, assuming any had the stomach for watching adults embarrass themselves.

It wasn't that the Iraqi conundrum didn't and doesn't need solution. It was that the new, muscle-flexing Democratic majority in Congress had no notion of solving the Iraqi conundrum. You don't "solve" a war problem by voting primly to disapprove of the commander-in-chief's latest strategy for ending said war. All that the Democrats aimed at was making their designated arch-foe, George W. Bush, look as incompetent as possible.

That's what the Valentine's Week tumult and shouting were about: What can we say, what can we vote on, to diminish the president's credibility? Start with offering resolutions that instruct him -- and the waiting, watching world -- that we, the Congress of the United States, regard the guy as a loser. Just what the troops in Iraq want to hear, of course -- that Congress thinks them to be risking life and limb, too often losing one or the other or both, in obedience to the commands of a nincompoop.

Tony Blankley's discussion of Democrat "one-card monte" on the war ends with this wise observation, which is of broader application:

Power so irresponsibly sought is not likely to be responsibly exercised.

Gerard Baker explains what's really happening in the reduction of British forces in Iraq.

Mark Steyn also analyzes the British troop reduction, and in the process notes the contributions (a generous term in some cases) of American allies.

Michael Barone analyzes two recent cases of misusing intelligence. Here's one excerpt:

The critics seem to be assuming that we can somehow obtain intelligence that is 100 percent accurate. But that is not possible in the real world. Intelligence tries to get information that regimes are making great effort to conceal -- evil regimes, in the case of Saddam and the mullahs. Our leaders must make decisions based on incomplete and highly imperfect information. And that information can remain imperfect for a long time. We still don't know what Saddam did with the WMD he once had and never accounted for.

Victor Davis Hanson updates the case for distrusting Newsweek.

Robert Novak explains Rep. John Murtha's new power over House policy on Iraq and the next step Murtha is planning to force the US toward defeat.

Carol Platt Liebau says the Democrats have finally formalized their position on the war. Here's her first paragraph:

With their vote on Friday for a non-binding resolution condemning the President's troop surge, the Democrats have finally formalized their position: They have thrown their political fortunes squarely behind an American defeat in Iraq. Of course, the vote was shameful, given General Petraeus' admonition that such a resolution would do nothing but dispirit our soldiers and embolden our enemies. But it was also dangerous -- because it means that, in order to realize their primary goal of maintaining and expanding their political power, Democrats now have a real and concrete stake in ensuring that America fails in Iraq.

Paul Greenberg muses about the possible uses of the "meaningless" Capitol Hill debate on the surrender resolutions -- but the benefit lies in remembering who voted how down the road.

Brendan Miniter suspects the American public will not look kindly on defeat in Iraq or those who advocate it.

Charles Krauthammer describes current efforts on Capitol Hill to make the war unwinnable.

The New Republic's (as in the Left's) Peter Beinart once supported the war, and now he doesn't -- because, he says, the US can't be trusted. We are not and cannot be good enough. (He slips in a simplistic, convenient caricature of neoconservatives as a foil to make himself look rational and humane. Are conservatives not to be allowed to attempt good because they are not morally perfect, in liberals' or anyone else's judgment, including their own?)

Larry Miller mocks the notion of "non-binding" and the Congress which loves it.

National Politics: 2008 Presidential Race

Dean Barnett explains why the BMA are targetting Mitt Romney more than his current prominence seems to justify.

Kevin Rennie says Rudy Giuliani's the guy. He likes his numbers, his rock-solid conservative credentials on some issues, and his straightforward explanations on others. Four excerpts:

Giuliani is the rare successful politician who avoids living in a state of constant calibration. He explains his views, he doesn't run from them. . . .

Giuliani provides explanations that avoid the condescending tone other moderate Republicans adopt as they strain to hide contempt for the right-wing party troops. . . .

The other candidates talk about social issues and seek to placate suspicious conservatives who've heard their sweet songs before. Giuliani showcases pelts on his belt. . . .

Giuliani's great advantage may be that he looks like a winner. He's broken into a big lead among Republicans who have a preference. And he beats Hillary Clinton in the general. Giuliani may be the only way back from the wilderness.

Jonathan Darman and Evan Thomas profile Mitt Romney for Newsweek, in a relatively balanced piece.

Burt Prelutsky is not buying what Barack Obama is selling.

Down deep, he's just another megalomaniac who thinks he should be running the world. He'll be black for black voters, white for white voters, and beige for Michael Jackson. But what do you want to bet that rather than risk offending a potential voter, he'll never even come right out and say whether he roots for the Cubs or the White Sox.

Rich Perlstein looks at Mitt Romney and his official announcement in terms of how to appeal to conservatives. (Be advised, he's looking from the Left.)

Jacob Weisberg obviously likes Michael Bloomberg as New York Mayor, not Rudy Giuliani. The latter he calls uninterested in management, vengeful, and "a bit of a dictator." (Get used to this. This angle of attack will probably catch on.)

Wynton Hall gives away the secrets of a Ronald Reagan speech, as he puts it, and wonders who among presidential candidates can give such powerful speeches.

Debra J. Saunders went to that Democratic presidential forum in Nevada. Here are her thoughts.

Michael Barone breaks down some early poll numbers, mostly looking at a Hillary Clinton-Rudy Giuliani matchup. Very interesting.

National Politics: Everything Else

If you think something called "the Fairness Doctrine" sounds like a good thing, you should read Ken Blackwell. 'Cuz it's coming back, if the Democrats have their way.

In a book review, Benjamin Wittes argues that the Bush era may not produce a lasting rightward movement on the US Supreme Court -- at least not enough to satisfy many conservatives. Among other reasons, he cites this one:

Producing "profound" change on the Court will require significantly more will and radicalism than either Roberts or Alito has demonstrated so far: Most important, it will require a willingness on the part of the Court's majority to overturn settled law in a variety of areas. Judicial attitudes toward precedent exist on a continuum. And conservatism, even very deep conservatism, can coexist with a relative caution about upsetting the apple cart blithely. While I have no doubt that Roberts and Alito are as conservative as Greenburg, the right, and the left all believe, both men seem more concerned with shaping the Court's posture prospectively than with revisiting huge swaths of the law that the Court has already decided. Roberts, in addition, has expressed a great deal of concern about increasing unanimity and the Court's ability to speak as a court, rather than as a collection of individual justices. He is too smart to think this aspiration is consistent with an aggressive approach to precedents he doesn't like. Unless both new justices prove very bold with regard to precedents across the spectrum of case law that gives conservatives heartburn, conservatives will once again find themselves disappointed with what their victories have won them.

Rich Karlgaard writes that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has a simple plan for US energy independence in 10 years.

Paul M. Weyrich describes what's wrong with making a new vaccine mandatory. (Note the power of lobbying.)

Suzanne Fields has some inconvenient truths of her own concerning the cost of past environmental crusades. Read this for the great Winston Churchill quotation, if nothing else.

Around the World

Ben Shapiro asks, What would the United Nations -- or the nations themselves -- do to stop an asteroid on collision course with Earth. Of course, his point is nearer than asteroids.

James Lileks has just as much fun with the asteroid and the UN, but with a slightly different approach.

In an insightful essay, Niall Ferguson looks at who hates the US most and why. Surprisingly, it's not our enemies.

George Will's article contains both a clear, concise analysis of the latest international spanking of North Korea -- just for fun, watch for the phrase "less than Americans spend on archery equipment in a month" -- and some discussion of possible presidential handling of possible congressional restrictions on the troop surge.

Paul Kengor describes secret economic warfare the US (under President Reagan) waged on the Soviet Union and wonders if similar strategies might be useful -- or already in play -- in our conflict with Iran.

If you think slavery is so two centuries ago, Rebecca Hagelin can tell you how much of it there still is.

Philip Nobel writes of the international lust for very tall buildings -- and taller ones than that.

The Culture, Broadly Defined

Burt Prelutsky doesn't know beans about his ancestors, and he likes it that way. He explains.

Robert Novak mourns the latest politically correct absurdity in the world of college mascots, nicknames, and other symbols.

Economics and Business

(See also "Favorites: Everything Else" above.)

David Strom covers some important (but to me familiar and almost tiresome) ground about capitalism. Then he finishes with this superb idea:

Maybe instead of "capitalism" or "free markets" we should just cut to the chase. Our preferred alternative to planned economies or European corporatist socialism is simple: call it "freedom."

Thomas Lifson chronicles Airbus's current woes, and those woes' roots in an identity crisis: Is Airbus a commercial enterprise or a jobs program?


An Investor's Business Daily editorial is suspicious that the Trolley Square shootings in Salt Lake City were an episode of "Sudden Jihad Syndrome." It lists numerous similar cases where the FBI "saw no religious motive, and quickly ruled out terrorism."

This Salt Lake Tribune editorial argues than a John Dougall bill to alter Utah's public employee pension fund is a very bad idea.

American Fork

Amy Choate-Nielsen reports the latest on the odor coming from that waste treatment plant and current efforts to mitigate it. Three years and $55 million . . .

Caleb Warnock reports on a recent UDOT visit to American Fork to allay fears and rumors. (At least they're noticing!)

The Daily Herald favors recycling in Utah County cities (but may be optimistic about costs).

Barbara Christiansen reports that now the American Fork Recreation Center is too popular for its parking capacity. (There are worse problems to have.)

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