David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

Normal Version

Saturday, January 20, 2007
This Week's Excellent Readings

From Iraq to chopsticks to the economist who enlists Martians to help him explain the trade deficit, it was a good week to be reading.

Favorites: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read the speech -- Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, that is. His most famous speech. Forget what people have told you it says. More importantly, forget what people who claim to be his heirs have told you it means. Read the speech and understand it for yourself.

Then read Leonard Pitts, Jr., about the speech and its vision.

Star Parker celebrates the universal message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and -- imagine this -- applies it to the modern world.

Favorites: Islamamok

Jack Kelly evaluates the situation in Iraq and explains how to win there. Among his observations are these:

We have a much lower threshold for what constitutes defeat than our grandparents did. In the summer of 1942, the Japanese were planning to invade Australia, and German tanks were at the gates of Stalingrad and Cairo. But few then said we should throw in the towel.

Our parents and grandparents realized the fascists we were fighting then were really nasty guys; that living in a world in which they were dominant would be intolerable.

And they realized our country had great strengths, and our enemies had weaknesses. If our strengths could be mobilized, and their weaknesses exploited, victory would be ours. . . .

Our elites have become so insulated from reality that they imagine America can suffer defeat without inconvenience to themselves. Defeat would be an embarrassment to President Bush, but nothing more. . . .

If the president is prepared to lean on Mr. Maliki, I think there is a reasonable chance the new strategy will succeed. But if it doesn't work, we should keep trying until we find something that does. Because the only cost we cannot bear is the cost of an Islamofascist victory.

Charles Krauthammer argues for the development of a reasonable fallback plan in case the surge fails.

Anne Yasmine Rassam does an excellent job describing the enemy and notes that each front may require different tactics..

Oh, for a Winston Churchill . . . Wesley Pruden asks, "Does anyone here want to survive?"

Anyone unacquainted with the bitterly politicized nature of debate about and reporting of the war on Islamist Fascism would expect certain things to be self-evident, including Thomas Sowell's opening thoughts here:

Nothing is easier than to second-guess decisions made in wartime. Anyone who has bothered to read the history of wars knows that very few wars have been without disastrous surprises, often on both sides.

It is not that the people in charge are stupid. Too many things are unpredictable in war, despite politicians who demand timetables, as if running a war is like running a train.

We can now look at the Iraq war with hindsight, as no President or Secretary of Defense could when making decisions that had to be made. Still, it can be useful to determine with hindsight what went wrong, if only to avoid similar mistakes in the future and to see what needs to be changed in the present.

Here are two further points from Thomas Sowell's next article, represented as Part II of the first:

The most fundamental difference between President Bush and his critics has not been in who has made mistakes, because both have. The biggest difference has been that the President has taken a long-run view of the worldwide war on terror, while his critics are seeking a quick fix.

Critics claim that there is no connection between the war on terror and the war in Iraq. They don't seem to notice that the terrorists themselves obviously see a clear connection, which they express in both words and deeds.

Terrorists are pouring into Iraq, even at the cost of their lives, in order to prevent a free, democratic government from being established in the Middle East. They see victory or defeat in Iraq as having major and long-lasting repercussions throughout the region and even throughout the world.

Amir Taheri explains why good news just doesn't get out of Iraq much these days. Here's a substantial excerpt:

Last month, Iraq received the U.N.'s special environmental prize for reviving parts of the marshes drained by Saddam, thus saving one of the world's most precious ecological treasures. Almost no one in the media noticed.

Also last month, the Iraqi soccer squad reached the finals of the Asian Games - beating out Japan, China, South Korea and Iran. Again, few in the West noticed.

In 2006, almost 200 major reconstruction projects were officially completed and 4,000 new private companies registered in Iraq. But few seem interested in the return of private capitalism after nearly 50 years of Soviet-style control.

Iraq's new political life is either ignored or dismissed as irrelevant. The creation of political parties (some emerging from decades of clandestine life), the work of Iraq's parliament, the fact that it is almost the only Arab country where people are free to discuss politics to their hearts' content - these are of no interest to those determined to see Iraq as a disaster, as proof that toppling Saddam was a modern version of the original sin.

Iraq may still become any of those things - but right now it is none of them. When the real history of the Iraq war is written, posterity might marvel at the way modern media were used to manufacture that original sin.

Favorites: Everything Else

In a superb essay, Jonah Goldberg describes the modern propensity to derive morality from science, and the serious associated pitfalls.

This is the beauty and curse of science: It tends to undermine the cherished positions and assumptions of everyone, even those who claim to be its champions. Perhaps that's one reason we shouldn't derive our values from such a moving target in the first place.

Charles Murray explains in detail a crucial hole in educational research. His attempt to point out the hole and start to fill it are not likely to be very welcome.

If I hadn't already written off most of the Democrats on Capitol Hill and many of their Republican colleagues as crass, irresponsible power seekers with only secondary interest in the welfare of the United States (if even that), Tony Blankley's piece on "vulture politics" would have pushed me firmly in that direction. It's also noteworthy as to Democrat strategy for the coming two years.

Tom Purcell ponders his meter maid, the predictable effects of perverse incentives, and Democrat motives in Washington. Along the way, he explains what it means to be conservative.

The government is in the business of misdirected incentives. . . .

It's not that I dislike government. I liked the federal loans that got me through Penn State. I like the world's finest highway system that allows me to travel freely state to state. I loved the way local police nabbed the fellow who hit my car and ran.

I just don't trust government.

Rich Lowry reports on the Democrats' quest to keep drug companies from making profits. (Good grief, that sounds stupid when I put it like that!)

Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana) makes more sense to me on Social Security than the White House does.

Steve Chapman debunks the Democratic orthodoxy on free trade.

Paul Greenberg attempts to describe the greatness of Robert E. Lee.

More Islamamok

Read Jonathan Garthwaite's interview of Dinesh D'Souza while sitting down. If you've been watching the nation and the world for a few years, his description of how President Bush is fighting a war on two fronts -- one at home and one abroad -- won't surprise you. But the comprehensiveness of his explanation, together with the fact that someone making the arguments openly, might enlighten and unsettle at the same time. Note what D'Souza says the rest of us can do, near the end of the interview.

Michelle Malkin recently returned from Iraq. Read why she writes:

I came to Iraq a darkening pessimist about the war, due in large part to my doubts about the compatibility of Islam and Western-style democracy, but also as a result of the steady, sensational diet of "grim milestone" and "daily IED count" media coverage that aids the insurgency.

I left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve.

Edward N. Luttwak says there's a high road to US domination in the Middle East, and it's closed. There's also a low road, and it's wide open.

The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

Victor Davis Hanson has an interesting insight into our enemies' thinking.

Suzanne Fields things some folks should stop and think about the war -- and maybe even listen. She notes:

Protesters by nature are compelled more by emotion than facts; it's difficult to get much analysis on a picket sign.

Dick Morris finds in President Bush's Iraq speech the symptoms of a dangerous but familiar presidential tunnel vision.

Now there's an idea. Let's detain some of those Iranians who are causing trouble in Iraq. According the Jeff Emanuel, we're starting (starting?!?) to do that.

Victor Davis Hanson compares Saddam Hussein's fate to that of other recent mass-murdering tyrants, and finds it different.

Kathryn Jean Lopez says congressional Democrats lack vision with respect to the war, with one exception.

Michael E. McBride uses a metaphor to explain the US at war. He's not very kind to Congress.

Robert Novak describes Republican pessimism about Iraq.

Clifford D. May says this is not the time to try to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

National Politics: 2008 Presidential Race

Jeff Jacoby catalogs interesting developments in the almost-officially-begun Mitt Romney campaign.

Hugh Hewitt writes of Mitt Romney and "the new bigotry."

Michael Barone says the field is open and does a little tentative matching of candidates to the political landscape, or vice versa.

Jeff Emanuel notes that so-called civil rights leaders are watching Barack Obama with very muted enthusiasm, if any at all. A partial, possible explanation:

Obama's ability to garner media attention -- and positive media attention at that -- without having to appear at the side of Cindy Sheehan or Hugo Chavez, without having to publicly support the schizophrenic Duke rape case accuser in Durham, NC, without having to defend criminals by means of often-hollow claims of racism or police brutality, and without having to go to any other extreme lengths has doubtless grated on these men, none of whom shy from the spotlight.

Matt Towery says Hillary Clinton will be the Democrats' presidential nominee.

Steve Chapman has some interesting thoughts on Barack Obama's prospects as a presidential candidate.

Clarence Page is happy to see Barack Obama in the race.

National Politics: The New Congress

Mona Charen reviews the features of our newly-revived situation, Democratland.

It is a world in which facts always bow to feelings. What matters is not so much that you do good, but that you feel virtuous, or perhaps more to the point, are seen to be virtuous.


Robert Novak say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk in the matter of earmarks and similar waste and corruption.

Those first 100 hours are dragging on, Rich Galen notes, and privilege still bears sway.

Wesley Pruden writes derisively of those "100 hours," the new Congress' agenda, etc.

Nancy Pelosi just hasn't managed yet to convince Bronwyn Lance Chester that all that talk about ethics is serious.

National Politics: Other Topics

Here's an important word for you, under the general heading "Government as Trough": totalization. Phyllis Schlafly explains:

Totalization is the bureaucratic buzzword for the plan to put millions of illegal Mexican workers into the U.S. Social Security system. They would collect U.S. benefits based on their U.S earnings under false or stolen Social Security numbers plus alleged earnings in Mexico.

U.S. citizens must work 10 years to be eligible for Social Security benefits, but the totalization agreement would allow Mexicans to qualify with only 18 months of work in the United States, and pretend to make up the difference by assuming work in Mexico. It is highly doubtful that the illegal immigrants ever paid into a Mexican system for eight and a half years.

Dick Morris says the Democrats are about to convene another circular firing squad.

Now we have a new verb: to nifong. A synonym looms: to fitzgerald. Jack Kelly compares two abusive prosecutions.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., considers measures to promote energy independence and has some strong words about the important of that independence.

According to Terence Jeffrey, the liberal advocacy of a right to privacy is a smoke screen, since it doesn't stop them from pushing the government to require a certain vaccination for pre-teen girls.

Rich Galen writes that President Bush should pardon Scooter Libby.

Debra J. Saunders revisits a sick case of putting the law enforcement officers behind bars and letting the drug smuggler go free and sue the government.

Linda Chavez catches the US immigration bureaucracy looking clownish and cruel . . . again.

Around the World

Arnaud de Borchgrave writes of a Russia that sounds somehow . . . familiar . . . and is back in the game, on its own side, not the West's.

John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, evaluates Ban Ki-moon's first days as Secretary General of that body, and hopes that Ban will follow his instincts, not his predecessor.

Economics and Business

Jacob Sullum offers an intriguing economic exercise showing how government subsidies of higher education actually increase its cost.

Walter Williams says trade deficits are not bad, and he's got numbers and history to prove it.

Despite all the criticism from abroad and the doom-mongers at home, the world finds our economy attractive. Just as we've been chomping at the bit to buy foreign goods and services, foreigners have been chomping at the bit to invest trillions of dollars in the U.S. Mr. Malpass says our 10-year government bonds yield 4.6 percent per year compared with Japan's 1.6 percent; our government debt is 38 percent of GDP versus 86 percent in Japan; and while Europe's debt to GDP ratio is not as extreme as Japan's, it's not nearly as favorable as ours.

Here's a smell test. Pretend you're a man from Mars knowing absolutely nothing about Earth and you're looking for a nice place to land. You find out that there's one country, say, country A, where earthlings from other countries voluntarily invest and entrust trillions of dollars of their hard earnings. There are other countries where they're not nearly as willing to make the same investment. Which one of those countries would you deem the most prosperous and with the greatest growth prospects? You'd pick country A, which turns out to be the United States. As such, you'd be just like most of the world's population who, if free to do so, would invest and live in the U.S.

Alan Reynolds looks at tax rates and revenues.

The top tax rate is already too high, and believe it or not, the lowest tax rate is also too low.


When you hear about Pelosi's grandiose impulse to squeeze another $70 billion or so out of her affluent neighbors over 10 years, that's about two-tenths of one percent of the revenue Congress will be collecting and wasting in any case.

This has nothing to do with the budget. It's about rich politicians posing as populists.

Claire Cain Miller writes of Virgin America's attempts to start flying in the US and major US airlines' lobbying to prevent it.

Mark Tatge writes of a developing bidding war for Delta Airlines.

George Will describes Boeing's comparative triumphs and Airbus's relative woes.

The Culture, Broadly Defined

Dinesh D'Souza explains how it is that liberals defend pornography so vigorously.

Dennis Prager's vacation travels inspired some thoughts on happiness, politics, etc.

According to Lenore Skenazy -- and what motive would she have to lie to us? -- the times are always changing, and it's always Steve Jobs' fault.

Marvin Olasky says we're having a Great Respecting, but not a Great Awakening.

My recent trip to traffic court wasn't as successful as Gene Weingarten's.

Michael Medved explains how a New York Times reporter cooked census statistics to advance his anti-marriage agenda, and no major media outlet called him on it.

Kathleen Parker says anonymity might be the fashion of the future.

David Grimes described -- perhaps even boasts of? -- his lack of chopstick skills.

Sad, isn't it, that people are shocked at Betsy Hart's domestic job chart?


Oak Norton offers his own primer on the Utah Legistlature's annual session, plus some useful information on education-related topics.

American Fork and Environs

Barbara Christiansen writes that American Fork is actually getting serious about sidewalks.(It's a long time coming, this seriousness. We'll see.)

Want to know more about that new film, American Fork? This Salt Lake Tribune piece will help a little.

The recreational area formerly known as the Tri-City Golf Course has a new name, Fox Hollow -- inspired by actual foxes. Cathy Allred reports.

. . . And Caleb Warnock describes a recent run on fitness passes at the American Fork Fitness Center. (Does it have a new name? I thought it was the Rec Center.)

Don't take to many deep breaths at the pool. Steve Gehrke writes of a problem with American Fork's.

. . . And Jeremy Twitchell writes of a possible solution at the pool.

Reva Bowen and Caleb Warnock write of municipal elections, paper ballots, and the costs of using electronic voting machines.

Normal Version