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Saturday, October 28, 2006
This Week's Excellent Readings

It's true that a major election is fast approaching, but some of the week's best reading (for me, at least) was in economics. But there's also a lot of politics here and a good variety of other things.


I'm not finished thinking about this Peggy Noonan piece, and I'm not fully sure what it means. But wrestling with the elegance of her prose and her thoughts -- agree or not -- is a pleasure as great as it is predictable.

Read Greg Crosby, forgive the need for more editing than the article received, think about his message, and tell me you think he's wrong. This will get you started:

Is it your civic duty to vote? Even if you don't know who or what you're voting for?

In a superb piece, Jeff Jacoby says "if we had known then what we know now" is not a good way to judge the current Iraq War.

The point isn't that the violent mess in Iraq today is analogous to the Civil War in 1863, or to the Ardennes in 1944, or to the burning of Washington in 1814. The point is that we don't know. Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.

Dinesh D'Souza explains "the continued existence and vitality of religion," in a world some folks think should be moving beyond faith.

If you don't already fully appreciate how messed up US border enforcement is, in principle and practice, Debra Saunders can help. Now we're turning the bad guys loose and jailing the good guys.

Michael Barone discusses the growing American desire for another holiday from history.

Now it appears that voters are willing to turn over Congress to a party most of whose representatives voted against allowing the National Security Agency to surveil without a court order al-Qaida suspects when they place calls to persons in the United States and against allowing terrorist interrogations under rules supported by John McCain. We are weary, it seems, and ready to go back on holiday. Some things -- a nuclear attack on the United States, the successful release of a disease pathogen that could kill millions -- are just too horrifying to think about. But maybe we should think more about them. As Leon Trotsky is supposed to have said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."

John Fund's explanation of why we may need the courts for the 2006 election, too, is full of good information about the current state of voting in America.

Grammar lives! Thus saith Bill Murchison.


See also "Favorites" above.

George Will has some good questions about Iraq.

Victor Davis Hanson has some better ones, and describes the limitations of hindsight and the mission in Iraq as it now exists.

Jack Kelly wonders if the US will soon support a change in government in Iraq -- toward leadership more willing and able to crack down on Shia militias.

Kathleen Parker's essay is about more than an "un-put-downable" novel. If you read it, hang on for the last sentence. In fact, here's a spoiler: "In the final analysis, good people do not turn away."


Paul Jacob explains competition, cooperation, etc., quite sensibly.

Paul Driessen explains the impact of environmental overreaction on the world's poor:

The real danger is that we will handcuff economies and hammer poor families, to promote solutions which won't solve a problem that the evidence increasingly suggests is moderate, manageable and primarily natural in origin.

The real catastrophe is that we are already using overwrought claims about a climate cataclysm to justify depriving Earth's most impoverished citizens of electricity and other modern technologies that would make their lives infinitely better.

Real ethics and social responsibility would weigh these costs and benefits, foster robust debate about every aspect of climate change, ensure continued technological advancement, and give a seat at the decision table to the real stakeholders: not climate alarmists -- but those who have to live with the consequences of decisions that affect their access to energy, health, hope, opportunity and prosperity.

Bill Bennett briefly tells the story of President Ulysses S. Grant putting economic good sense ahead of politics in 1873, with disastrous political consequences for his party.

Not that it's new, but economists are going political over the minimum wage. Steve Chapman explains why it's still a bad idea.

It may be deeply unwelcome to hear that the government can't fix the price of anything without self-defeating side effects. But even dismal truths are true.

This Forbes.com piece on microlending (a fascinating idea recently legitimized by a Nobel Prize) comments upon the current state of the art and its future.

Paul Johnson argues that envy is bad economics. (Consult the bloodbaths of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and you may conclude that it is deadly politics, as well.)

Walter Williams explains the benefits of trade -- and very clearly.

This just in: The economy really doesn't need the government's help. So writes Jonah Goldberg.

Anatole Kaletsky's explanation of how the Euro is killing Europe is provocative, if you really like political economics.

National Politics

You didn't think we were finished with October Surprises, did you? Robert Novak's reports another, and the truth is a victim once again.

If you're up for it, Jay Cost's analysis of some recent polls is stellar, in its illustration of the construction and limitation of polls and the later spinning of poll results. In case you're not up for it, here's just one thought:

Polls like this are consistent with a general phenomenon I have noted: media polls are designed to maximize news value, not truth value. I see a lot of that. Media polls always seem to offer lots of heat and very little light.

Dick Morris has a formula for Republican success and an interesting observation about the Republican base.

Here's an intelligent paragraph from an intelligent Tony Blankley article.

I want each new Congress to be as conservative as then politically possible. I will freely associate with lesser evils -- for the greater public good. Perhaps I am too promiscuous with the political company I will keep. But a life in politics convinces me that incremental improvement -- or, at times, even not losing ground -- is better than radical reversal.

As Linda Chavez puts it,

Politics is sometimes about making the least bad choice.

Matthew Continetti's lengthy profile of Montana senate candidate Jon Tester, a Democratic, includes some wondering whether the Democratic Party is on the rise in the West. (Less obvious is the implication that the "new" Democratic Party may include candidates who were once real people.)

Heather MacDonald argues that piety has no place in politics. I myself am a religious person, and my religious values inform my political values. I think religious people belong in the public square. I don't agree with every detail of the following . But I think the lady has a point. Here are substantial excerpts:

What are we supposed to learn when a candidate talks about his faith: That he is a good person? The rich history of religious bounders and charlatans should give the lie to that hope. Nor has a sincere belief in God prevented behavior we now view as morally repugnant. There were few more religious Americans than antebellum slaveholders and their political representatives; their claim to a divine mandate for slavery was based in unimpeachable Scriptural authority.

Or perhaps a politician's discussion of his prayer habits should reassure the public he'll make the right decisions in office. But what if opposing candidates declare themselves supplicants of the divine will -- how will a voter decide who is most likely to receive divine guidance?

. . . Monumental decisions such as whether to enter or terminate a war should rest on reasons accessible to believer and non-believer alike. . . .

For the past six years, Republican pundits have declared that religious faith is what makes Republicans superior to Democrats. Secular conservatives beg to differ. It is a proven track record that makes conservative principles superior to liberalism, not the religious inclinations of their proponents.

Conservative atheists and agnostics vigorously support the two-parent family because the life chances of children raised by both their biological parents are demonstrably superior to children raised by single mothers. Moreover, when marriage disappears as a community norm, so do civilizing constraints on male behavior. It doesn't take Bible study to see this. Conservatives do not need God to prove the value of marriage; the sad state of the inner city is testament enough.

Likewise, secular conservatives look to the world as we know it to ground their support for the free market and the principles of limited government. Recent history alone shows that governments have little capacity to run an economy, produce widespread prosperity, or take over the functions of the family. . . .

The greatest conservative triumph of late 20th century America -- New York City's return to civility -- was achieved by appeal to secular values alone.Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke relentlessly about the need for personal responsibility and respect for social order; he based his policies on principles that non-believers and believers alike could test against their own experience.

Invoking God in the political realm is a conversation stopper, not an invitation to robust debate. America's rules of religious etiquette demand that we acquiesce silently in a believer's claim of revelation. But conservatism doesn't need such revelation; common sense and an openness to fact will do just fine as support. Conservative principles are available to people of all faiths or no faith at all.

Thomas Sowell has some stern thoughts about the election and those who may or may not vote in it, including this one:

Senate Republican leaders deserve whatever happens to them. If this election were about the fate of one political party rather than another, it would hardly be worth thinking about.

Bruce Bartlett describes moderating forces he expects to prevail among House Democrats if they win a majority. Here's one of the less interesting (but nicely phrased):

Keep in mind as well that Republicans have lots of experience using the power of the presidency to keep Democrats in Congress under control, even when they had much larger majorities than they are going to have in January. Indeed, I believe that a key reason why Republicans held the White House so frequently in the postwar period is precisely because voters thought that congressional Democrats needed adult supervision.

Wesley Pruden catalogs the evidence of Democratic glee over elections not yet won, then reports one fairly credible projection that the Republicans will hold both houses, after all.

Pete DuPont predicts Democratic control of the House, with unfortunate consequences.

Among the problems with Scott Lehigh's account of the supposed mixing of religion with the Mitt Romney campaign is his odd suggestion that individual church leaders' "not having any objection" constitutes a church's official support for a candidate.

Mona Charen lists 13 reasons to vote Republican.

Charles Krauthammer has the most sensible explanation I've heard yet of why Barack Obama should run for president in 2008.


Armstrong Williams looks at the power of expectations in education.

If we juxtapose public school coaches' expectations of black male players with public school teachers' expectations of black male students the difference is night and day.

Jonathan V. Last's account of directionless mob rule on a college campus is not especially heartening.


Burt Prelutsky has a job for Bond -- James Bond -- and some good lines in the process, including this one:

Understand, I'm not entirely opposed to diplomacy, although I do believe that, in nearly all cases, the best thing to be said for diplomacy is that it provides gainful employment for people who would otherwise be wards of the state.


Bruce Schneier notes that even casual conversations are now routinely logged and may resurface much later.

Here's one for your rhetorical repertoire: the "Irish bull," courtesy of Paul Greenberg.

Read Marvin Olasky's musings at least so his excellent conclusion will have context:

We should look up so we have the strength to look down. We should look down so we appreciate all the more what is above.

American Fork and Environs

Caleb Warnock's account of dog park discussions in American Fork does more complete justice to a recent discussion than I did. Warnock's deadpan is just the right touch for this high political comedy.

KSL reports on Utah's most congested roads. Their locations will not surprise you.

Here (in the American Fork section) is a minor detail connected to the proposed water bond.

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