Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Why we owe so much to these guys

SWNID has commented before on the courage and dedication of America's servicemen and women, mostly connecting stories in the news with personal anecdotes from our contacts with active duty and reserve servicepeople.

Well, here's another one.

We've heard that National Guard units are on their way to the south to help in aid and recovery efforts. One such soldier is Cincinnati Christian University student Larry Vinson.

Larry has already served in Iraq. Back in the classroom at CCU, he's now been activated again, with the semester barely a week old, to serve in Mississippi. Worse, his wife is expecting their first child any day now.

Larry will not be present for the birth of their child. But he will be present for all of us in Mississippi.

He called me tonight, to check on what could be done to salvage his semester. Of course, we'll do everything we can to keep his education moving toward graduation. But there's not much we can do for the pain of his separation from his wife and child.

But we can thank him, honor him and those like him, and continue to try to live in a way that reflects our gratitude for sacrifices like his, remembering that there is an even bigger sacrifice on our behalf, gratitude for which has changed everything about life.

SWNID Corrects Revered Web Columnist

James Taranto, editor of the invaluable and aptly named "Best of the Web Today" at, has for some time made statements like the one in today's column:
Neither the biblical story of creation nor the idea of "intelligent design" is a scientific theory (despite the latter's pretensions), and thus neither belongs in science class, as opposed to courses in history, religion and philosophy.

Mind you, Taranto is no friend of secular evolutionists either. But his attempt to strike a middle ground on the question of teaching origins questions in schools is strikingly illogical, for one reason. Why should the question of origins demand a rigorous observance of the limits of an academic discipline in the classroom, when no other subject does?

To wit:
  • English teachers regularly discuss moral/ethical questions raised by the actions of characters in novels, even though ethics is not a branch of language study.
  • History teachers regularly discuss questions of ethics and current politics, though neither are history.
  • Science teachers regularly discuss public policy questions that relate to the application of science.
  • Math teachers regularly talk about the use of math in business or science, though they teach neither.

The truth is that all good teaching is interdisciplinary. That's because knowledge is interrelated.

And the fact is that no one would care about questions of origins if we didn't think that they had relevance to our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. This is not just human curiosity about the world. No one really cares much that dogs are descended from wolves. But we do care that people may be descended from apes. Or that there might be a Creator. That's why origins gets studied, taught and argued about.

So SWNID has boldly emailed to Taranto a challenge on this very point. Step out from behind your slender objection, Mr. Taranto, and face up to the question that you are avoiding! This question of God won't go away with appeal to the so-called limits of science. Give up the illogic that such questions don't belong in the science classroom. No one would stay awake in a science classroom that never breached the methodological walls of science.

Where to Give

With a lot of other blogs, SWNID is recommending a way to give for hurricane relief. We're going with two.

For immediate relief, give to the Salvation Army (be patient with the link: heavy traffic means slow downloads). These folks are dedicated to the task, knowledgeable and still doin' it in the name of Jesus. Some interesting anecdotes from other recent stateside disasters suggests that they maybe surpass even the Red Cross for short-term effectiveness.

For long-term relief, go for International Disaster Emergency Services. This organization has an amazingly low overhead because it works with churches located in or near disaster areas to distribute the aid that the locals know they need to the people whom the locals know are in need. If you know of churches in or near the affected area, contact IDES with the information, or contact the church--if you can--and have them get in touch.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

World's Smartest Person Explains, But Is Anyone Listening?

Christopher Hitchens, who genuinely deserves the motto of this blog, offers a typically erudite and scathing explanation--once again--of the necessity for the Iraq War. A brief quotation, to whet the appetite:

This state--Saddam's ruined and tortured and collapsing Iraq--had also met all the conditions under which a country may be deemed to have sacrificed its own legal sovereignty. To recapitulate: It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption. In May 2003, had things gone on as they had been going, Saddam Hussein would have been due to fill Iraq's slot as chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Meanwhile, every species of gangster from the hero of the Achille Lauro hijacking to Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finding hospitality under Saddam's crumbling roof.

SWNID happily points gentle readers to this piece. But SWNID wonders whether anyone cares any more, SWNID readers excepted. The American attention span has been exhausted, it seems. Iraq and global jihad must go away.

Well, Hitchens knows that they won't. Let's hope that someone is listening.

Why do facts keep contradicting analysis?

The Times (UK, not NY) reports that Islamic Fundamentalist candidates took a huge electoral beating in the border provinces of Pakistan.

This give a huge boost to President Musharraf, a key American ally who has stuck his neck out repeatedly to support the War on Terror.

It also is factually problematic for the antiwar left's drumbeat that the Iraq War is creating more terrorists.

But this time SWNID doesn't blame the MSM for ignoring the good news about Iraq. Blame the American MSM for ignoring the fact that there is such a place as Pakistan.

Or India, or Sri Lanka, or Malaysia, or Fiji, or Botswana, or Paraguay. Or Bulgaria or Armenia or Estonia. Or Canada!

The British press remembers that "the pink bits [used to be] ours," and reports on them regularly. The American press knows that there are the European Union, Israel, places where illegal immigrants come from, and, occasionally, places where bad people harvest narcotics. They've known about Iraq since 1989 and Iran off and on since the 70s. They don't even know that there used to be an American Empire of sorts. When was the last time you heard anything about the Philippines?

And when American reporters get outside their comfortable surroundings, they all check into one hotel with herds of other reporters. And they do their reporting from there. I wish I'd saved a link to a story to this very effect that was posted recently by a MSM outlet. A reporter in Baghdad actually said something like, We don't need to leave the hotel; we can see the explosions from here. Remember Hotel Rwanda?

But back to the big point. Who would have expected that pro-Musharraf candidates would have reversed a 50-point deficit in the very provinces where the Qaida guys are cave-dwelling? Is it possible that there is a fairly universal human longing for freedom and dignity?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Robertson Follows Clinton Example, Widens Lead in Embarrassment Standings

Responding to criticism of his remarks about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, professional Christian embarrassment Pat Robertson has issued an apology coupled with the remark:
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him
out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping;
there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing
him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all
the time."

Observers note that Robertson's claim to have been misinterpreted is seriously weakened by the context of his original remark, which included: "If he [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it."

Inside sources reveal that Robertson's inspiration for this pallid equivocation was President Bill Clinton's famous remark, "It depends on the definition of is." Those sources refuse to speculate whether Robertson will continue to imitate the two-term Democrat president.

Robertson's apology and equivocation have moved him further ahead of rival Jerry Falwell in the standings as Most Embarrassing Christian Ever.

(Hat tip to Son of SWNID for the idea. See also, SWNID is loath to admit, the fine satirical piece on the Brown Daily Squeal.)

More on Vietnam Parallels

Jeff Jacoby has the unenviable job of making sense within the pages of the Boston Globe. But I do envy that he can devote his full-time attention to writing opinion pieces. I therefore defer to him and direct readers to his superb column on why Iraq is not Vietnam.

I will only add anecdotally that the transcript of Matt Lauer's Today Show conversation with an American solider in Iraq is confirmed by SWNID's stateside conversations with veterans of the campaign.

If you think this is bad, you should have seen ...

  • The Battle of Brooklyn
  • Valley Forge
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • The Whiskey Rebellion
  • The American Civil War

This list, of course, is for those who don't like what they see in Iraq as a new constitution is written. Opinion Journal's "Review and Outlook" has a nice summary today of what's going on and what we can make of it. What we can make of it is, overall, optimistic.

If democracy were easy, it wouldn't be so necessary. It certainly wasn't easy in this country.

As another reminder on this point, SWNID recommends to all what was a most enjoyable part of our summer reading, David McCullough's 1776. The book is a sober narration of the events of that fateful year for the Continental Army and its general, George Washington. It takes little rhetorical embellishment to highlight the character, courage, creativity and commitment of those revolutionary leaders. And while McCullough doesn't go to preaching about the present, the sermon isn't hard to imagine.

Apologies, gentle readers, for the alliteration in the preceding paragraph. Honestly, it was an accident.

McCullough is a national treasure. The President should invent a new award and give it to him.

Premier Conservative Columnist Agrees with SWNID

George Will, still the number one American conservative pundit, today notes the persistent growth of extremist rhetoric in the discourse of the Democrats, the way that this marginalizes the Ds electorally, and the way that this is an electoral boon to the Rs but a long-term threat to the health of the republic.

Of course, SWNID's gentle readers have known this almost since this blog began. We're glad that Will is catching up on this issue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Huggins Mess

Since SWNID obviously knows more about academic administration than University of Cincinnati President Nancy Zimpher, I feel obliged to share my insights on the biggest story in Cincinnati since Pete Rose was released from a federal penitentiary

SWNID readers not blessed to live in Cincinnati may not have heard, but Dr. Zimpher has delivered to UC basketball coach Bob Huggins, hailed as the "winningest coach in UC history," an ultimatum: by 2 p.m. EDT either resign for $3 million, be fired for $2 million, or work in another university job until 2008 for about $3 million.

Huggs will announce his decision at 2 p.m., just minutes from now, but we don't need to wait to weigh in. First, his choice seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? Second, what Huggs does is really not as interesting as why Zimpher did what she did.

First, the only reason this seems to be a big surprise is timing. Huggs was told months ago that his contract would not be renewed, and he was given the opportunity to resign then. He opted to serve out his contract as a lame duck. So it's no shock that Zimpher decided to raise the stakes to get him out, clearly what she wanted and expected in her first action. Why she waited as long as she did is the only mystery here. She can only be blamed for underestimating Huggs's desire to stay.

I say the wait is the only mystery because it's clear why Huggs had to leave Zimpher's UC. The university has an image problem--or more accurately a reality problem--that Zimpher is trying to shed, in part by following up on plans made before her administration, in part with bold initiatives like firing UC's most popular figure.

UC's image is "urban hoodlum." That's been manifested in various ways:
  • The campus is surrounded on three sides by a gritty, run-down neighborhood (the north end has remained really nice).
  • A nearby commercial district, "short Vine Street," has become a crime center.
  • "Cinco de Stratford" had until this year amounted to an annual beer-soaked student riot on a nearby street.
  • The campus itself has suffered for years with an impersonal, institutional, confusing and un-customer-friendly ethos, communicated by both the physical facilities and the attitude of many faculty and staff.

But worst of all has been the basketball team. Huggs has been famous for recruiting players with past academic problems and, more importantly, criminal issues. He's offered his work as redemptive (and SWNID endorses redemptive efforts, though cautioning that NCAA basketball is an ineffectual savior). But the truth is that the results have been mixed. Players have been charged, convicted, and dismissed from the team. Some have just disappeared. And ironically enough, the players' academic program of choice has been criminal justice.

It looked as if the best outcome for Huggs's players was that they could use their incomplete degrees so that they could serve as their own legal counsel at their criminal trials.

And then there's Huggs himself. For years he was notorious for angry outbursts in games and at practices. Those seemed to disappear after a heart attack; apparently his cardiologist suggested some links between stress, anger and coronary disease. But just when we thought we had a new Huggs, he was arrested for DUI. Finally, after Huggs was forced to take some time off for counseling and such and had returned sober, one of his assistants was arrested for DUI.

Right now Zimpher is overseeing projects that are rebuilding the UC neighborhood. When these are completed, the Clifton area may well become the most attractive urban neighborhood in Cincinnati, a place that resembles some of the hipper areas of America's biggest cities. The campus is getting a major facelift too. And new programs are in place to attract and retain the best students in the area (consult Son of SWNID, who refused such an offer, for details). Presumably Zimpher is also working behind the scenes with the Cincinnati Police to reduce crime problems: Cinco de Stratford didn't happen this May, after lots of pre-emptive police work.

So dismissing Huggs was maybe the only remaining step. But you can't say that it was a surprise. Zimpher has a plan for the whole university. She says this in public all the time. It explains her firing Huggs. She should be believed.

Now, I move to another area of personal incompetence: basketball. Ted Gregory and other aggrieved Bearcat athletic supporters should quit griping. Here's why.

First, Huggs was already gone. His contract was not renewed. His departure today accelerates the rebuilding process.

Second, my friends who do know basketball tell me that Huggs had big limits as a coach. He recruited individuals and trained them to play as individuals. They were talented and well trained, so they had a measure of success. But just a measure: the Bearcats could win in Conference USA and make it through a round or two of the NCAA, but they could never manage the Big One because they were outplayed by teams that played like teams. And now that they are leaving the mediocre Conference USA for the Big East, the truth would be on display throughout January and February.

I agree with my friends. Born and raised in Indiana, I know enough about basketball to affirm what they say. To wit: name the great passers at UC under Bob Huggins.

So don't cry, UC fans. Look across town to Xavier, or across the country to Duke or Stanford. You can build a team with hoodlum-athletes. But you can build a university with, among many other things, scholar-athletes. That's the Zimpher plan in brief.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Support our troops, make their home worthy of them."

That's a breathtaking line from Ralph Peters's opinion piece in the New York Post (not to be confused with the New York Times or the Washington Post).

His argument is simple: the US military is exceeding its enlistment and re-enlistment goals in nearly all categories. Hence, things are not as they seem in the MSM. Patriotism is alive and well, especially in the military. Their sense is that their dangerous work is making a big difference in the world.

As you know, SWNID agrees. So I'll buy the first bumper sticker that I see with this slogan on it.

Robertson Leading in Most Embarrassing Christian Standings

Remarks yesterday by televangelist Pat Robertson moved him back into sole possession of first place in the standings for Most Embarrassing Christian Ever.

Robertson's call for the assassination of the president of Venezuela placed him ahead of Jerry Falwell, with whom he has been in a statistical dead heat for several months.

Robertson enjoyed several years alone in first place after his comical bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. Falwell, who dropped in the standings during a period of near sanity as a frequent guest on ABC's Nightline, has more recently put together a string of outrageous statements to challenge Robertson for supremacy.

The two have been tied for first place since just after September 11, 2001, when both stated that the terrorist attacks were a form of divine judgment on America for abortion, homosexuality and other immoralities.

Robertson's statement yesterday is regarded by some analysts as his most outrageous ever. "At least with the 9/11 remarks, he had some grounding in theological tradition for making such a claim," remarked one pundit, who asked not to be named. "But to hear a self-styled Christian leader calling for the assassination of a democratically elected president, even if he is a Marxist, achieves a new level of brainless, un-Christian lunkheadedness."

Monday, August 22, 2005

CCU Alum in Gay Marriage Controversy

We hope that the headline got your attention.

CCU alum and friend of SWNID Mike Grooms is featured in a Kentucky Enquirer story on the gay marriage issue in the United Church of Christ. Don't worry: Mike is on the "right" side of the issue.

Gentle readers who believe that they have problems with conflict management at their churches should be glad that they don't have Mike's problems.

"God Is Cool," and So Are SWNID's Friends

USA Today (a.k.a. "McNewspaper") has a predictably shallow piece about marketing in the church.

What SWNID finds notable is the number of Friends of SWNID mentioned in the piece. Two, to be exact: (a) fellow denizen of First South, bass singer in Come Alive and member of the Glorious Class of 1981 Rick Ruble; (b) fellow student in the primary department of the Traders Point Christian Church Sunday School Phil Kenneson.

I recall Kurt Vonnegut making the remark that one day you wake up and realize that the world is being run by people with whom you went to high school. It is a disturbing thought indeed that people in the same stage of life as SWNID make decisions that actually affect others' lives.

CLARIFICATION: SWNID's friends are not shallow; the writing by the USA Today staff is shallow. And it is perfectly appropriate that SWNID's friends have their considerable responsibilities, as they are highly capable people. It's just that none of us homo sapiens is really all that capable. Got it?

A Correction and a Homage

The gentlest of SWNID's gentle readers, Mrs. SWNID, receives the coveted SWNID hat tip this morning. Twice in fact.

The first is for correcting SWNID's abuse of the nominative case in an earlier posting. SWNID confesses to having been wrong on this point but insists that this instance still amounts to "seldom wrong." The barbarism has been corrected.

The second is for noting that the phrase "gentle reader," SWNID's habitual form of address to fans, was shamelessly stolen from the stylebook of Judith Martin, the superb Miss Manners syndicated by the Washington Post.

But SWNID avers that this is not theft but homage. SWNID seeks to honor Miss Manners's deft sarcasm, which has made her column a delight for decades, though we cannot hope to attain her civility.

Just Like Vietnam, Except It's Not

A gentle reader has directed SWNID's attention to Sen. Chuck Hagel's weekend remarks comparing Iraq to Vietnam. It's apparently significant that Hagel is a Republican and makes such remarks contradicting a Republican President.

Before SWNID responds to the substance, let's remember the politics. Hagel's political identity is "Republican Maverick," like fellow Vietnam vet John McCain. For this reason and this reason alone the press pays attention to him: as a maverick, he makes statements that are good stories. His record in the Senate is otherwise entirely undistinguished.

Now to the substance. Iraq is like Vietnam, except that it's not.

It's like it in that:
  • It's far from the United States.
  • They didn't attack us directly.
  • We're taking casualties.
  • It's taking longer than we'd like.
  • The war is opposed by the antiwar left.

So, the US is "bogged down" per Hagel. At least he didn't use the "q" word.

As SWNID is eager to point out on every occasion where similarities between any two things are noted, one must also note differences. These are some that come to mind between Iraq and Vietnam:

  • The insurgency in Iraq has no superpower backing.
  • Iraq is not a jungle.
  • A substantial majority of the Iraqi population support the stated goals of the American military (despite the alleged growth in the insurgency, Iraqis in large numbers support peace and the establishment of a new, democratic Iraq).
  • The US has allies active on the ground in Iraq, more than the ever-faithful Australians, the only nation to fight alongside the US military in all of its armed conflicts of the 20th century and now the 21st.
  • The enemies of the US military in Iraq have no real "army" and cannot engage in a pitched battle.
  • The enemies of the US military in Iraq control no territory.
  • US casualties in Iraq are a small fraction of those in Vietnam, despite the recent uptick in the last month.
  • The US began the war with a plan to quickly acquire and hold territory, a strategy that succeeded beyond anyone's expectation, and all the territory remains in US control.

Those who need a parallel should think of the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899 to 1902 and was followed by forty-four years of American administration of the Philippines and a generation of independent dictatorial rule before the fall of Marcos. Now that was a "quagmire." But would anyone see that action as less than necessary for the long-term interests of the US, or less than beneficial for the long-term well being of the Filipino people?

Well, of course some would. But SWNID will continue to hold otherwise.

And because it's Monday morning, we offer an additional observation, mildly apropos. The mainstream media has two kinds of major stories (where X represents any subject whatsoever):

  1. X is another Watergate.
  2. X is another Vietnam.

So don't be surprised whenever the MSM draws either parallel. They only history they know occurred between 1968 and 1974.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Reigning Christian Video Satire Champion, and Something Even Funnier

Gentle readers who haven't yet seen the Vintage 21 Jesus Videos must click the link and download them NOW. These gems--which even cracked up Mrs. SWNID, whose taste does not run to the satirical--have displaced "Baby Got Book" as Number One Christian Video Satire on the Web in the SWNID Universal Rating System.

But even funnier was the scene performed this weekend by Ephiphany actors Judy and Glenn at White Oak Christian Church. The comic timing was worthy of the best sketch comedy on the old Carol Burnett Show. SWNID embarrassed himself multiple times with laugher too vigorous for a church setting. Video is not yet publicly available, and in any case, you probably had to be there, as the saying goes.

Political Expert Agrees with SWNID

Check out the Washington Post's summary of Michael Barone's introduction to his all-important Almanac of American Politics.

Certain gentle readers will recall SWNID's post-presidential-election email statement that the best part of the election coverage was watching Barone crunch and interpret numbers as they became available.

Now he's had a chance to digest the whole mess of statistics. And the news is good for Rs and bad for Ds. Barone shows little by way of demographics to support the hope of a Democrat recovery in the near future.

So Barone, who has facts and expertise, agrees with SWNID, which has only attitude.

And for those who suspect Republican bias, I point out that the Washington Post is bowing to this analysis. Remember Woodward and Bernstein?

So it seems we are in for a period of single-party rule, with all of its attendant problems. At least it's the party I like. I just hope that I still them ten years from now.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

This year's new students: the times, they are a changin'

We've just moved in the remainder of new college students at CCU, the first portion having come in last week for early fall classes. And as usual, I have some opinionated, unscientifically derived notions of what's true about this year's class.

First, they're bringing less stuff to the dorms. Gone are the massive collections of CDs. Big TVs are few. Big stereos are nonexistent. Big computers are gone too. This seems to do, in part, with the way that electronics are getting smaller (laptops are the norm now) and the internet is providing more entertainment options. But it also seems that students are not as anxious to have lots of possessions around them. Maybe they're mildly less materialistic than the norm.

Second, a large number of them are making last-minute decisions to go to CCU. In the past, I have decried last-minute applicants as directionless slackers who choose CCU because it's available, safe and cheap. This year I've revised my estimate. The typical late applicant is a good student who was already accepted at another place, usually a state university, and over the summer began thinking seriously about a life of service instead of a "career." For some, it happened at a conference like CIY. So I now like late applicants.

Third, students seem less interested in living off campus than they did a few years ago. That may be because we've improved campus life, or because we've insisted on following our own rules. Or it may be that students have a better estimate of the real costs and inconveniences of living off campus. Any way you look at it, though, they're here among us at 2700 Glenway.

Fourth, the likelihood that a student has packed massive supplies of fattening snacks is directly proportional to the hefty proportions of his or her parents.

One Year of CCU

Cincinnati Christian University has now been in existence for almost a year. Or more precisely, CCU has been called CCU for almost a year. What can be said about the success of the name change as we approach its first anniversary?

For the most part, it's done what we hoped. Our profile has already been raised, and we note a greater number of prospective students recognizing the full range of educational options that we offer. Negative response has been slim to none. One college president did run a piece in his college's PR publication pointing out that while others had become "Christian universities" his place was still a "classic Bible college" (like a place where all undergraduates major in Bible and the only graduate school is a seminary is somehow not a "classic" Bible college). But no one here can name any tangible negative response.

But there are still signs that we remain a stepchild of the higher education family. Today's Cincinnati Enquirer ran a table of starting dates for local colleges along with an article on the latest US News university rankings (link does not include the table, which seems to be in the print edition only). The starting-date table included UC, Miami, XU, MSJ, NKU and Thomas More. Not CCU.

In part this may be a function of our not sending out press releases at the crucial time. More likely, the reporter simply followed the template of the previous year's coverage, as did the previous reporter, and so on. Either way, CCU is not there. It's like we don't count as a real part of the university family. We're the stepchild, locked in a bedroom like Harry Potter at the Dursleys'.

It will take awhile yet to overcome the perception that we're not a real institution of higher learning. And it will take some work, too. Like sending out those press releases, with a hook in the story that sets us apart.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A personal relationship with God

The incomparable Mark Noll, historian extraordinaire at Wheaton College, has a significant posting at, the free side of the Wall Street Journal online. It briefly reviews and responds to the latest hot item in Christian publishing, a little book called Dinner with a Perfect Stranger.

Check out Noll's piece to get a picture of what the book's about (hint: "perfect" in the book's title is a play on words), if, like me, you hadn't heard of it before. But check it out especially for a keen historical synopsis of the idea of a "personal relationship with God" in American evangelical Christian discourse.

Will we ever have a national two-party system again?

Today's opinion pages have some trenchant takes on the anemic state of the Democratic Party.

David Ignatius of the Washington Post notes that the Ds have no platform, no "coherent alternative account" to offer, and insists that they will keep losing nationally until they do.

Froma Harroup takes the Rs to task and says that the Ds should seize the moment. But she ends on a telling note: "All they need is the New Democrat platform, which is fiscally conservative and respects the values of ordinary Americans." Elsewhere she describes such an animal as addressing real problems and calling for sacrifice on the part of all.

If you have the time, check out Rich Tucker too. Something's going on when a range of columnists like this is on a topic like this all at the same time.

But when are we likely to see the creature that Harroup describes? Reread Ignatius after reading Harroup, and you'll be reminded why the Ds won't become coherent in the near future, let alone fiscally conservative or respectful of ordinary Americans' values.

A coherent, fiscally conservative Democratic platform that is respectful of ordinary Americans' values is not just an endangered species. It became endangered in 1972. It became extinct in 2004.

I'll add this: as long as Hollywood, George Soros and MoveOn.Org pay the Democrat piper, the tune they call will be far-left, socialistic, pacifistic, and condescending. To the American electorate, that tune sounds as shrill as a Barbara Streisand show tune.

Case in point: is it not plausible to think that that Cindy Sheehan, current number one spokesperson for the opposition party, is really Babs S. without her makeup?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Intelligent Falling

Hat tip to a gentle reader for pointing SWNID to this gem in the Onion ("America's Finest News Source") on "Intelligent Falling Theory" versus the law of gravity:

Warning to SWNID's gentle readers who are unfamiliar with the Onion: although this article does not contain any offensive material, the Onion commonly contains vulgar and offensive language and themes. It nevertheless contains some of the cleverest satire on the web, at least from time to time.

Of course, SWNID readers don't need to be told that this piece is satire. They are, after all, SWNID readers.

The object of this satire is intelligent design theory (ID), of course. And to be honest, it's pretty telling at one level. Criticism of Darwinian evolution that is based on gaps or problems is, frankly, not all that significant. All theories have gaps and problems. Consider, for example, the logical response to the Christian theologian who claims to have laid out a comprehensive theory of life, the universe and everything, without gaps or problems. We reject such a claim as coming from a nut job, but we don't invalidate the core claims of Christian theology as a consequence.

So is ID baloney? Hardly. The significant contribution of ID to the discussion is raising the point of the unlikelihood of the origin of life at its present level of complexity apart from intelligent design and regardless of the pattern or visible method of development of the present complexity. ID's use of scientific data here is of a different order: marshaling the accumulated data about the complexity of the physical universe, the living cell, and of individual organs in complex organisms, for example, and asking the larger question as to whether it is reasonable to think that such things arose by chance.

Critics of ID insist that ID is not "science." Actually, they're right. It's not science in that it is not a hypothesis that is subject to testing. But then neither is Darwinian evolution if it is taken to imply the absence of a creator. ID confronts us with a scientifically informed philosophical question, what philosophers call a metaphysical question (i.e. the kind of question to which Aristotle turned after he wrote his Physics). Given the context, we might style it a metascientific question, what we ask after we've done the science.

The problem, then, is not that Darwinism is science and ID isn't. The problem is that many scientists and many in the public at large are lousy philosophers who don't address the epistemological questions of the scientific method's limits versus the broader limits of human knowledge. Many scientists who are hostile to ID and religion simply assume that the only real knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that that which cannot be proved scientifically is not simply unprovable scientifically but is untrue. The public, conditioned to interpret the white lab coat as the garment of authority (call it the high priestly garb of the modern era), accepts this illogic.

That simply makes it all the more important that thoughtful people of faith articulate their approach to the question of creation with precision. Otherwise, we'll be shouting at each other for another hundred years or so.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Good Source for Christian News

If you're not already in the montly habit, check out LarkNews right now (motto: "a good source for Christian news"). This month's edition is even better than usual, with stories like

  • Worshipers for hire boost Sunday excitement
  • Grown man a slave to triumphant Bible quiz past
  • Short-term missions team returns in righteous anger
  • Man draws inspiration from odd passages in Ezekiel

And don't ignore the ads, which are not the usual deal. Check out the ads for the Pastors' Suit Exchange, LarkNews Auctions, Pam Anointing Spray, and the University of the Apostles.

And then there are the links. But I've said too much already. See (and hear) for yourself.

9/11 Commission: Worst Team Ever

Deborah Orrin, watchdog columnist at the NY Post, notes just how crucial the Clinton-era "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement was to the concealment of the 9/11 plot, how the 9/11 Commission systematically ignored this issue, and how Jamie Gorelick, who wrote the Justice Department memo that built the wall, should have been a Commission witness instead of a Commission member.

Check it out at

So I'm nominating the 9/11 Commission as the Worst Team Ever, worse than the 1962 NY Mets, the LA Clippers, the Walnut Hills High School football team, or even the Cincinnati Reds since 1990.

And I'm begging people to stop talking about 9/11 Commission "findings." They only "found" stuff that would not embarass commission members.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Q: How long does it take to replace a centrally planned economy with a thriving free market?

A: One weekend plus a Monday.

Proof: On Friday, August 12 CCU faculty and staff were told that the era of free coffee was over. Our equivalent of the Central Committee Chairman told employees that they can drink all the coffee they want (and a certain academic VP is out to test the human limits of consumption), but they have to buy it at the coffee shop or cafeteria or bring in their own coffee and coffee makers.

On Monday, August 13, all university-supplied coffee, coffee makers and coffee supplies were summarily rounded up. But the anxiety and dull headaches of the caffeine-dependent were allayed by the appearance of individually owned and operated coffee makers, coffee supplies, and actual coffee in offices and lounges all over campus. One diminutive director of volunteer services was credited with securing Operations and Maintenance a Mr. Coffee machine for the princely sum of $5. O&M staff believed that this Wizard of the Yard Sale could get one for a quarter but still expressed joy at the outcome.

So the central coffee roundup was no tragedy. It was more like the fall of the Berlin Wall. The people were free. The entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed.

By Tuesday the smell of brewing Arabica permeated all corners of the campus. Employees browsed other offices searching for their favorite blend. "He comes here because he knows I make Starbucks," stated a certain director of a certain adult degree completion program about a certain employee of the business office.

Gone were the days of one-brew-fits-all, centrally controlled coffee supply, where mediocre blends were brewed and choked down to satisfy the caffeine jones, then allowed to simmer all day, reaching battery-acid quality. A thriving laissez faire coffee bazaar had opened. People made what they liked, as much as they wanted but no more, and enjoyed what they made.

And at the daytime headquarters of SWNID, we brewed some English breakfast tea. Tomorrow we'll have the leftovers iced for lunch.

President Bush has a reputation for stubbornness. Does the record support that conclusion? Check out this surprising fact in the Christian Science Monitor:

Of course, SWNID has a special affinity for the President, who also is seldom wrong but never in doubt. Don't ask this blogger to name his mistakes either!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Evolution of Scrapple

If you don't know ScrappleFace, Scott Ott's brilliant satirical newsblog, you should get to know it. Check out this delight, a sendup of the evolution wars and of America's oldest university:

Why California Is So Full of People
Because they get to see things like these all the time.

These are sights enjoyed by Mrs. SWNID and me during our recent 25th anniversary trip to the left coast.
A More Eloquent Voice Than Cindy Sheehan

With thanks to the incomparable James Taranto, I point my gentle readers to the post on Iraq the Model (great blog from pro-American Iraqis) in response to media hog of the silly season Cindy Sheehan:

This will also explain why a young marine, whom I first knew as a junior high boy afraid of the dark at church camp, told me that he's looking forward to his third tour in Iraq because "I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. I know that what I'm doing is important."
Is the Iraq War "Over"?

A gentle reader has registered polite objections to my brief remarks on the Iraq War. I will respond on two counts, briefly on the military question, less briefly on the political.

Militarily the Iraq War is over in the sense that, as the president declared, major military operations are concluded. Allied forces control the country, a new government is in place, a new constitution is moving forward. That's the normal sense in which a war is "over." It's not in common usage right now, but I'd say that historically, it's the way the term is used.

Of course, the war is not over in the sense that limited hostilities continue. Terrorists are very active in Iraq right now. American soldiers and others are dying violent deaths. But that's a far different situation than two armies meeting in battle. A stable nation has not yet been created, but a state of war between two nations no longer exists. This isn't even a civil war.

Now, the political question. Here I simply insist that there's little chance of the Republican party being punished by the electorate in 2006 or 2008 for the war.

Even if the outcome of the Iraq war were as negative as the Vietnam war, it’s worth remembering that the only national candidate punished for his conduct of that war was Lyndon Johnson, and that happened within his own party. Nixon rolled to victory in 1972 after a controversial bombing campaign in Vietnam. Ford, a miserable campaigner who supported the war but under whose watch (thanks to the Senate’s violation of prior agreements by refusing to fund the South Vietnamese army) Saigon fell, barely lost in 1976 to a candidate who ran on honesty, not the conduct of the war.

Carter, on the other hand, lost mightily in 1980, largely because his only tangible effort to address the Iranian invasion of American sovereign territory and enslavement of American citizens (i.e. the Tehran embassy) was to invade with eight helicopters. Otherwise, all he did was vow not to leave the White House until the hostage crisis was resolved, a promise Reagan nearly managed to allow him to keep by getting the hostages freed in the first hours of his presidency, literally.

In other words, the American electorate shows a propensity for favoring leaders who will take decisive action, even if the outcome isn’t perfect, over those who dither or criticize the action once taken. Expect that to play out in coming Novembers.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

What to think about the battle of the wronged women

This weekend the mainstream media is making much of the similarities between Hillary Rodham Clinton and her likely Republican opponent in the 2006 New York Senate election, Republican Jeanine Pirro. Both favor abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons (are there any other kind of weapons?), we are told. But more importantly, both have "husband issues." As Reuters puts it (
When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's name comes up for re-election next year, New York voters may well be choosing between a high-powered female attorney with a wayward husband and a high-powered female attorney with a wayward husband.

Well, that's all well and good, just the kind of cute analogy that the press uses to fill up the Sunday pages in advance of their deadlines so that they can take the weekend off with the rest of us. Even more, it undermines the image of the Republican party as the bastion of moral rectitude, a consistent trope of the mainstream media.

But as Don Carson intoned repeatedly in the class on intertestamental literature at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and as I have repeated endlessly in classes as well, when people insist on the significance of similarities, one should look at differences.

So what are the similarities?

Businessman Albert Pirro spent eleven months in the federal pen for tax evasion. Later, a DNA test demonstrated statistical certitude that he is the father of another woman's child. So, he's a cheat in more senses than one, and it's certifiable. Hillary's husband (remember him?) also had an extramarital fling with one Monica Lewinsky. The blue dress certifies that too.

Well, there's the similarity: both men humiliated their wives by cheating on them. That's it, right?

Hmm. Let's think about the differences.

Albert Pirro is a private citizen. Yes, his wife is a prominent prosecutor, and he presumably plighted the usual troth to his bride. But as far as the political issue goes, his marital unfaithfulness had impact limited to those who are part of his family and the family of the other woman, including their child. He worked for himself. And as far as we know, he made no sworn statements to the effect that he was not this child's father.

William Jefferson Clinton, however, worked for about 280 million of us at the time of his unfaithfulness. That might be overlooked, given the indifference of many of those 280 million to such matters. But I seem to recall that he lied about it under oath--twice--while under investigation stemming from another alleged sexual indiscretion. And besides Monica and Paula there were Gennifer and Juanita.

So from a political point of view (not a moral one, obviously), Pirro's husband shouldn't be an issue at all, if the same standards apply as do to the Clintons. No public office, no perjury. For Albert Pirro, unlike Bill Clinton, it really was "just sex."

But wait! What about Albert Pirro's financial fraud? That's another difference, right?

But I seem to recall a little matter--not so little, really--called Whitewater. Now we have another similarity.

The Clintons' financial sleight-of-hand got several people jailed, including a sitting governor of Arkansas. We can only conclude that the loyalty of some of their associates and the exceptionally high burden of proof necessary to go forward with the prosecution of a sitting president or his wife protected B & H from the same fate as others with less involvement in those real estate shenanigans.

And, by the way, Whitewater occurred while Bill was in public office as well, though then he was beholden only to the good people of Arkansas.

So it ends there. A final similarity.

No, there are differences. Hillary clearly had primary involvement in Whitewater, while Bill was busy raising Arkansas' educational standards to 49th place in the nation. Jeanine Pirro had no involvement in her husband's fraud.

So there's the last of the differences, right? Wrong again!

Jeanine Pirro's political career is entirely her own. She has succeeded in New York politics despite her husband's checkered legal and marital history. He has no influence, coattails, or positive name recognition.

Hillary on the other hand, owes her national prominence entirely to hubby Bubba's affable electability. Hey, she probably owed her partnership at the Rose law firm in Little Rock to her spousal influence on the governor.

So, does this mean that SWNID is supporting Pirro as the morally and politically superior candidate in 2006 NY? It does not.

First, no one can beat Hillary in NY. If she died, her corpse would win. She chose NY to run for the senate because it provides no prayer for a conservative opponent. All this attention to Jeanine Pirro is a way of filling the papers lull in political news in August of an odd-numbered year. If Pirro weren't so amazingly photogenic, there'd be even less attention.

Second, it won't make a dime's worth of difference to Senate operations if Hillary is reelected. The Senate will remain in Republican hands, and I'll give odds that the D's will have a couple fewer Senators after the first Tuesday of November 2006. Remember that the Iraqi constitution will be over a year old by that election. Opposition to the war will be looking very unimaginative at that stage.

Third, Hillary's election will further her presidential ambitions, something for which all conservatives should sincerely hope.


Because she is completely unelectable nationally. Her political maneuverings are obvious, her speaking style and presence are barely tolerable, her command of others' loyalty is tenuous. She polls the highest negatives of any national figure since Newt Gingrich. All she has is the commitment of the mainstream Democratic party in the 21st century, the group with the least ability to elect a national candidate since the Whigs of the 1850s. As they've shown, they'll carry NY and the rest of the NE, along with the Pacific coast, states without serious, conservative Republican parties or constituencies. But that's not the sum of the republic, or even close to a majority.

So I'm indifferent to the 2006 NY Senate election. May it rest in peace, a peace from which Democrats won't consider party reform that might make them viable nationally.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What to read when you're not reading SWNID

So, my friends ask me, where do you find all this stuff that you seem to know? How is it that you are SWNID on such a range of topics? After all, we expect you to know biblical stuff, since you're a NT professor, and maybe a few things about higher education. But where are the headwaters of this mighty river of information on politics, world affairs, and such?

At the risk of making SWNID obsolete in its second post, I share with you my habitual reads.
  1. The News Forum posted by Lucianne Goldberg at is absolutely the first thing to check every morning when logging onto the web. Lucianne's devoted readers clue her in on the most interesting news and opinion sites, and she highlights, with witty teasers, the best of the best. You'll know what all the conservative bloggers and radio hosts will discuss after scanning LG's "must reads," and you'll be the pundit of the water cooler if you pick one a day to digest carefully.
  2. "Opinion Journal: Best of the Web Today," published every weekday afternoon by James Taranto, also benefits from input from readers, but even more from its editor's keen analysis and sharp wit. If I've been in the habit of sending you links, most of them have come from this. Find it at
  3. RealClear Politics rivals these first two for timely links to important news and opinion. It's also a great source for polling information during elections. John McIntyre and Tom Bevan gather all the good stuff in the morning and update it in the evening. Find it at
  4. My one print subscription to a general-interest publication is The Atlantic Montly. I know of nothing that rivals it for consistently interesting writing about important topics and reviews of important books. Once upon a time the New Yorker did this, but then the evil Tina Brown appeared and turned it into the love child of Vogue and the New Republic. There's a web site, but spend the outrageously low subscription price and get the actual magazine on dead trees.
  5. Is there a funnier man alive today than P. J. O'Rourke? Every book he writes, I read. You should too, if you are interested in politics--or cars, for that matter--and like to laugh. Start with Parliament of Whores if you're new to his world. My favorite P.J.-ism (from The CEO of the Sofa, commenting on rapper Eminem): "How did God, with all his tornadoes, happen to miss this one trailer park?"

Welcome to Seldom Wrong, Never in Doubt

Greetings, gentle reader, and welcome to "Seldom Wrong, Never in Doubt." This is where I, Jon Allen, share my self-important, inflated thoughts with the world. Or at least with some of my friends. Who, I hope, remain my friends even after reading this.

Why another blog? Because I am using a lot of time to send links and such to my friends and family. This will be easier for me, and will spare some of you a cluttered inbox, if I've had the habit of sending you things of interest.

What can you expect here? Well, I don't know, because I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. However, here's what I expect to post:
  • Links to news and opinion pieces on the web that I find interesting.
  • Some of my own rants on topics political.
  • Maybe an occasional link to Christian sites that I find interesting (these will be occasional because, frankly, I don't find Christian sites all that interesting for the most part).
  • Some occasional reflections on things that are happening around me at the places where I hang out, namely Cincinnati Christian University and White Oak Christian Church (but no "inside information," as that would be inappropriate).
  • Some reflections on what I'm reading that isn't in cyberspace.
  • The odd picture now and then.

Why the name? I don't remember a time when I didn't know this pair of phrases--seldom wrong, never in doubt. My father said this all the time as a sarcastic, self-depreciating way of acknowledging that he was opinionated. So I picked up both the attitude and the phrase from him.

And to be honest, even though both Dad and I are being sarcastic when we utter these magical words, we really think they're true, though we would never admit it.