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Saturday, December 23, 2006
This Week's Excellent Readings

Some of this stuff is so good I want to read it again. Unfortunately, as Time's Person of the Year for 2006, I'll be busy with other things.

Favorites: Christmas . . . and the Christmas Wars

The essence of Christmas or just an interruption? Paul Greenberg says it was the former.

Maggie Gallagher found herself on the front lines of the Christmas wars. Her insight that the phenomenon is partly due simply to bureaucracy is . . . well, insightful, but that's not her only contribution to the discussion.

Burt Prelutsky responds to responses to his recent column about the Jewish face of anti-Christian activity in the US.

What truly astonishes me is the patience and good grace with which Christians have dealt with this attack on so many things they hold dear.

It is, I think, a tribute to their religion.

Mark Steyn opines on people who oppose Christmas for the rest of us. Here are some scattered excerpts:

The idea of calling a cop to break up the singing of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" would strike most of the planet as insane. . . .

An ability to prioritize is an indispensable quality of adulthood, and a sense of proportion is a crucial ingredient of a mature society. . . .

Once you put reality up for grabs, all kinds of pathologies suddenly become viable.

Do we call it the Christmas Wars now? In any case, Bill Murchison articulates clearly how unevenly matched the opponents are.

There's a reason bells ring out at Christmas and not on the opening day of Congress. Nor can secularism, the creeping creed of a creepy age, drive that reason from the hearts and minds of men. In the secular doctrine of man alone, bereft of God, there is neither warmth nor richness nor comfort -- just terrible coldness beneath a star that fails, perversely, to sputter out.

Favorites: I Am Person of the Year

I was feeling pretty good about myself for being named Time's Person of the Year until I read Ben Shapiro. Thanks a lot, Ben.

Jonah Goldberg has an award for the folks at Time who sold out in naming me Person of the Year.

George Will says, among other things, the following. (I love the Brian Williams quotation.)

To the person looking at his reflection, Time's cover announces, congratulations: "You control the Information Age." By "control" Time means only that everyone is created equal -- equally entitled to create content for the World Wide Web, which is controlled by neither law nor taste.

Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor, says, "Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger" and "Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, 'Poor Richard's Almanack.'" Not exactly.

Franklin's extraordinary persona informed what he wrote but was not the subject of what he wrote. Paine was perhaps history's most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves, for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but nothing demanding or especially admirable, either. They do it successfully because there is nothing singular about it, and each is the judge of his or her own success.


Time's issue includes an unenthralled essay by NBC's Brian Williams, who believes that raptures over the Web's egalitarianism arise from the same impulse that causes today's youth soccer programs to award trophies -- "entire bedrooms full" -- to any child who shows up: "The danger just might be that we miss the next great book or the next great idea, or that we will fail to meet the next great challenge ... because we are too busy celebrating ourselves and listening to the same tune we already know by heart."

The fact that Stengel included Williams' essay proves that Stengel's Time has what 99.9 percent of the Web's content lacks: seriousness.

Jeff Emanuel's effort includes a list of most or all of Time's people of the year.

Favorites: Everything Else

I don't think Orson Scott Card will be having a very merry Christmas. Be sure to read this long essay all the way to the end, where he describes his nightmare . . . but maybe you should do it after Christmas. He's talking about the War on Terror, so called, and America's place in the world, and the end of empires . . .

Daniel Henninger's essay, "Religion in the Modern Age," is well worth reading. It's not a big, thick history book, just a relatively brief essay (or a long column). Note that he identifies more than one species of modern secularism to compete for supremacy, if religion were removed from American life.

You gotta read Charles Krauthammer on Oswald. (No, not Lee Harvey Oswald.) Here's one morsel:

There's always an Oswald. There's always the husband who takes his wife to Paris for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day? The rest of us schlubs can barely remember to come home with a single long stem rose. What does he think he's doing? And love is no defense. We don't care how much you love her -- you don't do Paris. It's bad for the team.

Tony Blankley superbly describes one of the major challenges facing candidates and voters in our info-saturated age.

Today, as snippets of news flash past our consciousness at a rate and volume greater than our capacity to absorb, we don't know what to know and what to ignore. And of the information we decide to notice and absorb, there are so many versions of it that we don't know what is true and what is false or distorted.

Jeff Jacoby's words could apply to other things, but here he speaks of the Massachusetts legislature's refusal to have a vote when their state constitution requires it -- on the subject of an amendment banning same-sex marriage, that is. (A quoted excerpt from A Man for All Seasons elsewhere in the article is positively delicious.)

When the legal process is subverted by lawmakers who care more about blocking a certain result than obeying the constitution they swore to uphold, they leave all of us -- including themselves -- less secure.

Michelle Malkin reviews the Year of Perpetual Outrage.

Cal Thomas says politics has become the new American religion. (It's actually not new, but otherwise he makes a significant point, and makes it well.)

Joel Mowbray describes a dark-horse candidate he'd like to see run for the White House, conservative South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Cliff May advised the CESM. He gives a quick look at their inclinations, and offers his own plan, which makes a lot more sense. One quick excerpt:

We were divided from the start: A minority thought the mission was to find a way forward in Iraq; a majority thought the mission was to find a way out of Iraq, a way to manage what they view as America's inevitable defeat.

Jack Kelly reports on some other folks who make more sense than the CESM.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., tells the story of a famous and pivotal SpecOp led by George Washington in December 1776.

Rich Lowry offers a more recent piece of military history, from December 1944.


Victor Davis Hanson writes an excellent article explaining why radical Islam has arisen in so many places at this particular time.

Amir Taheri discusses the potential for upcoming pilgrimages to disrupted by Iran for political (revolutionary) purposes.

And here Amir Taheri describes a political defeat for Iran's leader, in case you're interested in internal Iranian politics.

Frank J. Gaffney says a surge in troop deployments to Iraq is not by itself a solution.

Jeff Jacoby (among others) wonders why Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not on trial for inciting genocide, like a certain Rwandan songwriter.

I've read several rants about Jimmy Carter lately and would love to write my own, but life's too short. Let's settle for Burt Prelutsky's, shall we?

Diana West wonders what victory in Iraq would look like.

Jack Kelly says we need a bigger and better military.

National Politics: The 2008 Presidential Race

Jonah Goldberg makes the best case I've read for Rudy Giuliani as a presidential candidate. Here's one excerpt -- but it doesn't do justice to Goldberg's whole argument.

By now, many are familiar with the story of Giuliani's quality-of-life campaign against turnstile jumpers, welfare cheats, squeegee men, graffiti artists and porn shops. But what is forgotten is that Giuliani was reviled for all these efforts by the New York Times, the entertainment industry and the intellectual left -- whose numbers are so great in the Big Apple that they actually constitute a voting bloc -- and that every day he leaped back into the breach.

George Will describes challenges John McCain and Mitt Romney face as presidential candidates.

In a too-lightly proofread but otherwise interesting article, Kevin McCullough adds to his previous list of reasons why Barack Obama will be elected president in 2008.

Scott Helman writes for The Boston Globe on Mitt Romney's evolution from moderate to conservative. Have his beliefs changed, or is he simply running for president? (Are politicians allowed to change their minds?)

Michael Barone writes:

Obama has the ability to be a strong candidate. But it's not clear, perhaps not even to himself, whether he has the capacity to be a strong and effective president.

On the other hand, John H. Fund thinks it likely that Obama will not run in 2008.

Kathleen Parker discusses the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton now is against the war that she was for before she was against it.

Meanwhile, writes Robert Novak, John Edwards is courting labor's support.

Jonathan Darman's Newsweek article about Mitt Romney's presidential prospects is reasonably fair to his Mormon beliefs.

I think Lawrence Kudlow is a little giddy when he describes John McCain as "Senator Backbone." Maybe you'll disagree.

Kathryn Jean Lopez says that Mitt Romney's example in handling his religion should be George Washington, not JFK.

National Politics: Aftermath of the November 2006 Election

Debra Saunders observes that the facts about the Mark Foley flap, as they have emerged, have painted a fairly clear picture of the situation, which has now almost fallen out of the news: There was no Republican cover-up, and Democrats had the incriminating e-mails for about a year before timing their release to sabotage the election. (Is anyone surprised?)

Dick Morris discusses some things President Bush could do without the cooperation of Congress.

Paul Weyrich probes Senator Tim Johnson's incapacity as it relates to Senate rules and historical precedents -- and a very tenuous Democratic majority.

National Politics: Other Topics

Thomas Sowell pulls no punches in reviewing the evidence of a prosecutor who cared for his re-election but not for the truth or for justice.

Rich Galen offers a recent Tim Russert interview of Newt Gingrich as an advanced lesson (by Gingrich) in giving a great interview.

Steve Chapman writes of a California scheme to extort massive quantities of money from US and Japanese automakers.


Matt Towery explains than the dollar is not healthy and could get a lot worse.

Alan Reynolds explains in detail how the numbers Senator-elect James Webb is using to speak of increasing gaps between rich and poor are wildly inaccurate.

And here Alan Reynolds exposes some bad -- almost doctored -- statistics The New York Times  is touting about income and consumption.

Louis Hau profiles Craigslist, a business which seems to buck the conventional wisdom that profits are everything.

Bruce Schneier takes a mostly economic look at e-mail spam.

Jack Trout has an interesting argument that Wal-Mart should not try to be something else.

Around the World

Jack Kelly is not sorry to see the end of Kofi Annan's term as UN Secretary-General. He explains why.

Paul Greenberg has some thoughts on the death of a dictator.

Meghan Basham compares the ACLU's anti-Christian follies at home with the persecution of Christians abroad -- a much-needed perspective. (Hint: It's a lot worse in India.)

However shifting the legal ground the ACLU stands on in the United States, compared to the hostilities third-world Christians must endure, their activities seem more like a nuisance than persecution. This is not to suggest that the war on Christianity in America isn't real, but in other parts of the world, that war has a body count.

Ben Stein wants to be wrong about Russia, and for Europe's sake we'll hope he is . . .

The Culture

Rebecca Hagelin describes sociological research on the benefits of religious activity. They are not small.

Paul Greenberg contemplates the prospect of religion at Harvard. Vocabulary words include profanation and instrumentalism. (Don't worry; he'll explain.)

Wesley Pruden writes of whole, prominent congregations leaving the Episcopal Church; their grievance is a familiar one.

I may have to see the "radically conservative" Will Smith movie Mary Katherine Ham praises. (The quoted phrase is not hers.)

At whom should one be angry when experiencing racial profiling? Walter Williams' answer is not the popular one.

Larry Elder tells of a happy recent meeting with a childhood hero, Sandy Koufax.

Here's a rerun of a good, old Ross Mackenzie essay on Christmas.

Mark Davis writes well of risk and safety and related things, in the context of dead mountaineers.

Mona Charen describes the life of a child -- her child -- with Type I diabetes, and looks at the promise of medical technology.

Just for the (slightly naughty) fun of it, stick to this Gene Weingarten column on misdirected e-mails until another, more famous comic writer appears at the end.


Ed Feulner wants school choice to be a critical issue in the 2008 campaign.

Oak Norton's weekly update includes an excellent article by Dan Olsen, which puts fuzzy math and drilling in the proper perspective.


Thomas Sowell recommends some books.


Matt Canham describes electronic voting machine costs and other issues in considerable detail, as they relate to city and county elections in Utah.

American Fork

Megan C. Wallgren reports that the American Fork Planning Commission has approved the creation of a marina zone, which, if approved by the City Council, will be a significant step toward allowing the creation of a resort on Utah Lake.

David Rodeback comments (12/30/06):

In re-reading this post today, I found about ten typos. I have fixed them, but I am duly mortified.

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