Monday, October 31, 2005

National Review's 100 Best Non-Fiction Books Of The Century

A list put together back in 1999. Number 1? The Second World War by Winston S. Churchill. See the whole thing here.

Political Books -- Polarized Readers

An interesting graphic from showing the commonality of readership among the top 100 political books at Amazon as of May 2004: Political Books -- Polarized Readers -- May 2004 .

With the exception of a dozen or so books read on both the Right and the Left, most political books are read solely by those who agree with them.

The President's Speech on the War on Terror

What we're fighting - from the President's October 7th speech to the National Endowment for Democracy:
Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus -- and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.

Many militants are part of global, borderless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, which spreads propaganda, and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, and the Philippines, and Pakistan, and Chechnya, and Kashmir, and Algeria. Still others spring up in local cells, inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed. Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for our world.

We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it -- in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands." Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.
Michael Barone thought it was the first time the Ptresident has clearly nemed our enemy in this struggle. Read his comments here.

The Claremont Institute: Resenting the Heartland's Success

What's the Matter with Kansas? What's the matter with author Thomas Frank asks Kimberly Shankman in her review:

However, it is not entirely accurate to say that Frank sees only economic motives as real. There is one more "real" motive he acknowledges—resentment. He believes that almost all socially conservative positions—what he calls the "backlash"—regardless of the religious or theoretical rhetoric they are garbed in, arise from the fact that lower middle-class Midwesterners resent the cultural elite, and therefore oppose their cultural policies to demonstrate that they don't have to accept their moral leadership.

This envious opposition to cultural elitism reveals itself foremost in a fundamental anti-intellectualism. Thus, Frank argues, the fervor of the anti-abortion movement arises not from a legitimate conviction that innocent life is being sacrificed; rather, it is "its power as an anti-intellectual rallying point" that accounts for the centrality of the pro-life cause among social conservatives. So convinced is he that only class resentment can explain the strength of the movement that he finds it difficult even to comprehend how pro-lifers can equate their movement to the anti-slavery movement of the 1850's.

Now, for most people, this is not too hard to understand: in both movements, those who sought to protect innocent human life from a culture that devalued it were considered beyond the pale of political discourse because they disturbed the court-mandated compromise with evil that allowed politics as usual to continue. Although this parallel has been drawn by a number of people—most famously, perhaps, by George McKenna in a cover article in the Atlantic in 1995—Frank just doesn't get it. At first, he decides that it's just a way for pro-lifers to call pro-choicers names. But then he applies his construct that resentment is the key to everything. Doing this, he finds a way to reclaim the historical high ground from the pro-life movement and to link them, not with the abolitionists, but with the backwoods pro-slavery "Bushwackers" of Missouri who violently opposed the settlement of Kansas as a free state. According to Frank, both contemporary pro-lifers and the Bushwackers felt themselves to be despised by the cultural elite of the day; therefore, they're both the same.

It actually is this focus on resentment that is the key to unlocking Thomas Frank's entire understanding of politics. After all, his focus on economics doesn't really make too much sense. It's based on the premise that conservative policies actually are bad for ordinary people, and the evidence just isn't there to support that argument. In fact, Kansas, that reddest of red states, is doing better than the rest of the country on most major economic indicators. So, Frank has constructed a paradigm so powerful that he can't see beyond it even when it is directly contrary to fact, all to explain the solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Why?

The answer comes in the book's autobiographical section. As a true-believing conservative in high-school and young adulthood, Frank's conversion to liberalism came about, not through seeing for himself the effects of poverty, nor through economic arguments that convinced him of the error of his ways, but rather as the result of being snubbed by former high-school classmates, who came from wealthier families than his, who wouldn't talk to him after they pledged the elite fraternities at the University of Kansas. When he realized that he was not going to be selected to a leadership position among the college Republicans at KU: "I did a very un-Kansan thing: I started voting Democratic." In other words, and by his own admission, because young Frank's political identity sprang from his resentment of the popular kids, he has decided that everybody else must also make their political choices on the same basis.
Some people really carry grudges.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Plame Gate Round-up

From Winds of Change on what the Senate Intelligence Committe Report said about Joe Wilson:

I see Instapundit as well as both the Associated Press and the Washington Post has already beaten me to the punch on this one, but it's a point that needs to be made. Joe Wilson is a liar and not a particularly good one at that. As the report, starting on p. 39 and going through p. 47 very carefully explains, the claims that Wilson during his media blitz and subsequent canonization as a representative of all that is righteous and pure within anti-war circles were every bit as misleading if not factually inaccurate as anything that one may charge that the administration had done. Even more so, I would argue, if only for the fact that he was making claims about a number of issues, for example the forged documents referring to Niger, of which he had no actual knowledge - a very polite way of saying that the man was blowing smoke out his ass.

National Review's Media Blog on the highs and lows of the New York Time's reporting on its own Judith Miller's involvement:

In what has been one of the most infuriating aspects for conservatives of the Times coverage of the Plame leak, editors and reporters have consistently avoided reporting the fact that Joseph Wilson lied on a number of key points after he became an outspoken critic of President Bush. Stephen Hayes highlighted one NYT whitewash from earlier this summer:

ON JULY 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger; from the now-famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.
Well, the Times also included a timeline in its online package today, and guess which event got whitewashed out again? Judith Miller, in a first-person account of her testimony to the grand jury, explains why this constant whitewashing is such a problem: The Times has been Wilson’s biggest cheerleader:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether I ever pursued an article about Mr. Wilson and his wife. I told him I had not, though I considered her connection to the C.I.A. potentially newsworthy. I testified that I recalled recommending to editors that we pursue a story.Mr. Fitzgerald asked my reaction to Mr. Novak's column. I told the grand jury I was annoyed at having been beaten on a story. I said I felt that since The Times had run Mr. Wilson's original essay, it had an obligation to explore any allegation that undercut his credibility. At the same time, I added, I also believed that the newspaper needed to pursue the possibility that the White House was unfairly attacking a critic of the administration.
The reason Wilson’s wife was even an issue is because he lied when he said she had nothing to do with sending him to Niger, and definitely didn’t recommend him for the job, but the Senate report proved that she did exactly that. Why didn’t the Times let Miller write the story? The independent team tries to answer:

It is not clear why. Ms. Miller said in an interview that she "made a strong recommendation to my editor" that an article be pursued. "I was told no," she said. She would not identify the editor.Ms. Abramson, the Washington bureau chief at the time, said Ms. Miller never made any such recommendation.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Katrina Round-up

Some random items:

Michael Fumento rounds up some of the media's Katrina scare stories and comments on their true cost - Katrina and the Price of Panic:

Yet for all of the talk about violent deaths that never materialized, it appears that the talk itself led to real deaths.

For example, efforts to evacuate by helicopter some of the 200 patients at New Orleans' Charity Hospital were halted for a day because of reports of sniper fire. According to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, two patients died awaiting evacuation. "The inability to get people out of these hospitals is frightening," he said.

Could he have known false reporting from his own employer had contributed to this nightmare?

The evacuation of the Superdome, where conditions may not have been as bad as described but were bad enough, was also halted because of unconfirmed reports of shooting at military helicopters.
Deaths from Katrina in all of Louisiana - 1,003
Deaths from the European heatwave in 2003 - 35,000

English Prime Minister Tony Blair on the BBC's anti-American bias in covering Katrina:

Tony Blair has re-opened the government's long-standing row about BBC bias by describing the corporation's coverage of the aftermath of the havoc caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina as being "full of hatred of America".

The UK Prime Minister's comments on the BBC's coverage have been revealed by Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation. Murdoch also claims that Blair thought the BBC was "gloating" at the slow response of the federal and local authorities in helping and evacuating the hundreds of thousands of victims made homeless and the dead who were left lying uncollected where they had fallen for days.
Bill Clinton and former CBS News head Sir Howard Stringer also detected bias:

Former US president Clinton said the corporation's coverage, while factually accurate, had been "stacked up" to criticise the federal government's slow response to the catastrophe without focusing on any of the other relief efforts or the magnitude of the task.

Sir Howard Stringer, a former head of CBS News, said he had been "nervous about the slight level of gloating" in the BBC's coverage of the devastation caused by the hurricane and the response from the federal authorities to the plight of the victims. But he noted that the tone changed after two days and that other news outlets and the government had underestimated the effects of Katrina.

From Real Clear Politics - Katrina, What Went Right:

Largely invisible to the media's radar, a broad-based rescue effort by federal, state and local first responders pulled 25,000 to 50,000 people from harm's way in floodwaters in the city. Ironically, FEMA's role, for good or ill, was essentially non-existent, as was the Governor's and the Mayor's. An ad-hoc distributed network responded on its own. Big Government didn't work. Odds and ends of little government did.
From Powerline - Thomas Friedman's solution to hurricane woes? Totalatarianism!

In Tom's view we should be emulating Singapore, a state ruled by wise leaders who know how to get things done. He quotes approvingly a Singapore newspaper columnist who states that today's American conservatives "believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for [the] country to pay for even the government that it has".

So let me get this straight. Tom wants us to be more like Singapore, an authoritarian state where voting is compulsory but there is only one candidate for President. That candidate is selected by a ruling party which has ruled the nation since its founding. How orderly compared with our messy process where candidates who fail to receive the support of the MSM still get elected.