The same paradox of success is true of Iraq. Before we went in, analysts and opponents forecasted burning oil wells, millions of refugees streaming into Jordan and the Gulf kingdoms, with thousands of Americans killed just taking Baghdad alone. Middle Eastern potentates warned us of chemical rockets that would shower our troops in Kuwait. On the eve of the war, had anyone predicted that Saddam would be toppled in three weeks, and two-and-a-half-years later, 11 million Iraqis would turn out to vote in their third election — at a cost of some 2100 war dead — he would have been dismissed as unhinged.
But that is exactly what has happened. And the reaction? Democratic firebrands are now talking of impeachment. . . .
. . . a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle. . . .
A greater percentage of Iraqis participated in their elections after two years of onsensual government than did Americans after nearly 230 years of practice. It is chic now to deprecate the Iraqi security forces, but they are doing a lot more to kill jihadists than the French or Germans who often either wire terrorists money, sell them weapons, or let them go. For what it's worth, I'd prefer to have one Jalal Talabani or Iyad Allawi on our side than ten Jacques Chiracs or Gerhard Schroeders. . . .
Those in our media circus who deliver our truth can't weld, fix a car, shoot a gun, or do much of anything other than run around looking for scoops about how incompetent things are done daily in Iraq under the most trying of circumstances.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Cincinnatians Likeliest to Make a Positive Difference in Our Fair City's Fortunes in no particular order:
- Mayor Mark Mallory. Already City Council is functional. Already terrorist supporter David Crowley has been marginalized. Mark is making haste slowly, enacting a budget that maintains more than revolutionizes. But expect his "let's talk" management style to begin to yield thoughtful consensus among politicos and, more importantly, significant support from the business community and neighborhoods.
- UC President Nancy Zimpher. Has anyone noticed that the men's hoops team is playing pretty well? So Zimpher's plan moves forward. As UC becomes a more sane, orderly and seriously academic place, its community will continue to transform itself into the hippest place in Cincinnati. The economic boon will be felt throughout the community, and Clifton will become the engine that will drive renewal in the central city.
- Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Regardless of how far the Bengals go in the playoffs this year or next, Lewis's utter competence and humility will set a high tone for every public figure in the city. It will be tough to be a jerk in Lewis's town.
- CSO Music Director Paavo Jarvi. Paavo is a brilliant conductor who projects a hip image for the orchestra. Not only does he sell CDs and put behinds in the many seats at Music Hall, he sends an image of cultural sophistication for the city, something sorely needed as the economics of America's largest cities sends urbanites looking for an affordable place that is still stimulating.
What do these four have in common? They're changing the culture of self-indulgence and hooliganism that has characterized city institutions since...well...Mayor Jerry Springer.
Organizations Whose Fates Will Have the Biggest Impact on Cincinnati's Fortunes in no particular order:
- Delta Airlines. If, as appears likely, Delta can't survive even after pilots have taken a significant cut in pay, Cincinnati will instantly be knocked down a notch in the municipal economic hierarchy. Lacking an airport hub, the city will become significantly less attractive to businesses. Who wants to have to fly to Atlanta or Chicago or Dallas to fly anywhere else? Tourists may benefit, as Southwest and Jet Blue will probably take some gate space and lower fares, but Cincinnati will sink below Charlotte in accessibility. Business leaders should be hustling now to get the most they can to fill the gap when it comes.
- Cincinnati Public Schools. Test scores are up, state ranking is up, buildings are going up. Can Rosa Blackwell sustain the improvements that the district has managed in the last seven years? Her managements style is quietly despised by staffers at Mayerson Center, but her husband will be the next governor of Ohio. Much will depend on the district's ability to do what it hasn't done for years: trumpet the stunning excellence of its academic gems--Fairview German Language School, Walnut Hills High School, et al.--to keep folks in the city and even draw a few back.
- The Cincinnati Reds. Will Robert Castellini buy or steal the team into contention? Cincinnati is learning what Cleveland already knows: a new stadium only generates revenue if a contender plays in it. Eighty-one baseball games bring a lot more people to the city center than eight football games, and the city center needs the traffic.
Best Development for Cincinnati Arts, Culture and Public Awareness: the sale of WVXU to WGUC, allowing both stations to improve their formats, and most particularly, bringing the Most Reverend Doctor of Jazzology Oscar Treadwell back to the airwaves with his sweet love.
Biggest Political Non-Story of 2005: Jeanine Pirro challenges Hillary Clinton for Senate. Pirro, running an inept campaign from the start, realized that she couldn't possibly beat St. Hillary and so dropped out to run for NY attorney general. Had she run a perfect campaign, we might have had an interesting race to watch next November. As it is, Republicans can still say that their female candidates are much more attractive than the Ds'.
Most Underreported Stories of 2005 in no particular order:
- Corporations are leading the rebuilding and relief after Katrina.
- Harriet Miers is still working hard and well for Dubya as World's Most Politically Powerful Campbellite.
- The Iraqi economy is booming.
- Facing high unemployment and an uncertain cultural future, Western Europeans are starting to immigrate again.
- The UN's Oil-for-Food scandal continues to go unresolved, while evidence points to endemic corruption in Turtle Bay.
- The IRA is disarming after a generation of "insurgency" against British "occupation" of Northern Ireland.
- Malaria kills many more Africans than AIDS and could be largely prevented with the use of DDT. But the crypto-colonialists of the West make it economically impossible for African nations to battle malaria with DDT while spending loads of foreign aid ostensibly to fight the fashionable AIDS epidemic with condoms but actually to prop up kleptocracies.
Most Overmade Historical Analogy: Iraq compared to Vietnam.
Most Undermade Historical Analogy: Iraq compared to Northern Ireland.
Story That Best Illustrates Why Every Educated Person Needs a Good Course in Epistemology: the debate about Intelligent Design. Despite the Dover decision, this issue is not going away. It's been around since Aristotle, for goodness sake. SWNID continues to insist that the issue must be framed not as science versus religion in public school education but as disciplinary exclusivism versus interdisciplinary learning in public school education.
Most Hoped for Story of 2006: Popular movements in Syria and Iran bring pressure for real democratic reform in those bastions of totalitarianism.
Most Inconsequential Group of Retired Politicians: the 9/11 Commission. All these guys did was issue a report that said nothing that we didn't already know. All they do now is get together every six months to issue a statement deploring the fact that the government hasn't done what they said. All the administration does in response is note that their suggestions were incoherent and out of date.
Biggest Threat to Liberty in the United States, And No, It's Not the Patriot Act or Domestic Spying: the fecklessness of the Democratic Party. Human nature being what it is, human politicians become corrupt and irresponsible without a serious opposition. The Ds are not a serious opposition, overtaken as they are by partisanship and pacifism. Britain faced the same problem under Baroness Thatcher, when Neil Kinnock's band of socialists couldn't get the Labour Party elected to anything except Glasgow Council. America, not just the Democrats, needs a colonial version of Tony Blair to revive the health of our two-party democracy.
Best Christian Humor of 2005 That Was Intentional and Not Performed Live: The Vintage 21 Jesus Videos. SWNID will be re-viewing these for years to come.
Best Christian Humor of 2005 That Was Unintentional: Every public pronouncement made by Pat Robertson. What seriously isn't funny is that his idiocy got an actual missionary group kicked out of an actual country.
"Christian" Whom We Most Wish Was Unintentionally Funnier but Is Mostly Just Creepy: Judge Roy Moore, whose "Pimping the 10 Commandments Tour" continues.
Most Famous Friends of SWNID: the following folks who appeared by name in the MSM this year:
- Rick Ruble, of Come Alive and First South, cited as an exponent of the "cool church."
- Phil Kenneson, of the Traders Point Primary Department, cited as a critic of the "cool church."
- Mike Grooms, of the Very First New Testament Seminar Class Taught by SWNID, cited as as an opponent of gay marriage."
- Justin and Tasha Golden, more recently students of SWNID, cited as rising local musicians.
- J. Todd Smith, person SWNID would most like to get graduated this year, cited as WLW Talk Radio Idol.
- Paul Friskney--SWNID college roommate, best man and colleague--widely quoted and interviewed as a C. S. Lewis expert and author of the only family guide to reading Lewis.
- Cindy Willison, member of the SWNID bridal party and all-around fixer and detail person for the Come Alive program in the polyester era, who in her current role on the staff of Southland Christian Church was quoted by the scandalmongers at CNN on the shocking non-scheduling of services on Christmas Day.
Best Nonfiction Book of 2005: David McCullough's 1776, which narrates courage, loyalty, and fallibility in stirring fashion. We say again: President Bush should create a new honor (Son of SWNID suggests Historian Laureate) and bestow it on McCullough. We also say again: anyone who thinks that these are difficult times hasn't read decent history.
Best Fiction Book of 2005: Kazuro Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. There may be other worthy novels for the year, but none represents a more provocative or significant exercise of human imagination than this one.
Controversial Prediction That is Thankfully Most Proving Right: That New Orleans is becoming the Galveston of the 21st century. Displaced Big Easians, living now in cities above sea level with dignified occupations in industries that don't induce people to break commandments, are not returning to the Crescent City. Tourists never will. Expect New Orleans to become a medium-sized port city with no convention business, except maybe the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Most Over-Promoted Republican Presidential Candidate Since Tom Dewey: John McCain, who listens to problems and proposes solutions that make the problems worse. It doesn't matter that McCain's solution to nasty campaigns has made campaigns nastier or that his solution to controversies about interrogation techniques will make interrogations more controversial and less effective. Unless Rudi runs or Romney catches fire or Condi walks the Damascus Road, McCain looks set to be the next R nominee. And so, McCain, who slaughters Hillary in every poll, will likely be the next President, too, at which point we'll have to revise this post to read "Least Effective Republican President Since Grant."
Worst Liberal Columnist for 2005: We disqualify Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd, as their drivel now requires a subscription, proving that the NY Times is run by a 100 chimpanzees locked in a room full of typewriters trying to recreate the complete works of Shakespeare. And so the winner is Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, whose hysterical whining about Bush's mistakes-that-are-lies ceased to be serious journalism the twelfth time that he repeated them.
Best Conservative Columnist of 2005: Global Content Provider Mark Steyn. Here's a pull quote of special deliciousness:
George Clooney, the matinee idol, made an interesting point the other day. He said that "liberal" had become a dirty word and he'd like to change that. Fair enough. So I hope he won't mind if I make a suggestion. The best way to reclaim "liberal" for the angels is to get on the right side of history -- the side the Iraqi people are on. The word "liberal" has no meaning if those who wear the label refuse to celebrate the birth of a new democracy after 40 years of tyranny. Yet, if you wandered the Internet on Thursday, you came across far too many "liberals" who watched the election, shrugged and went straight back to Valerie Plame, WMD, Bush lied.
Bush lied, people dyed. Their fingers. That's what this is about: Millions of Kurds, Shia and Sunnis beaming as they emerge from polling stations and hold up their purple fingers after the freest, fairest election ever held in the Arab world. "Liberal" in the American sense is a dirty word because it's come to stand for a shriveled parochial obsolescent irrelevance, of which ''Good Night, and Good Luck,'' Clooney's dreary little retread of the McCarthy years, is merely the latest example. (Clooney says he wants more journalists to "speak truth to power," which is why I'm insulting his movie.)
We also note him as Best Guest on a Conservative Talk Radio Show of 2005 for his frequent forays into eloquence on Hugh Hewitt's program.
Best Single Political Column of 2005: William Stuntz in the New Republic, comparing Dubya to Lincoln.
Worst Ex-President of All Time: Jimmy Carter, who is also a miserable Sunday school teacher and is no longer physically able to swing a hammer for Habitat for Humanity. Were it not for the specter of Aaron Burr, we would note Carter as worst retired politician of all time. Were it not for Joe Wilson, we'd name him biggest narcissist in politics.
Best Catchphrase of 2005: Stuck on stupid. SWNID confesses to thinking this often at work but to lacking the courage to utter the phrase out loud.
Second Best New Blog of 2005: "From the Mouths of Babes." Full Disclosure Alert: We freely confess paternal prejudice in this listing, but we still find the blog very stimulating.
And Some Suggestions from our Gentle Readers:
Worst Television Phenomenon: Laguna Beach (we confess to not having viewed a millisecond, and from what we hear, we thank God).
Sportsmen of the Year: The Chicago White Sox (we affirm this choice and celebrate this fine team's stylish triumph for the Second City's underappreciated South Side).
Worst Song: "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson (we confess to not having heard a note, with thanksgiving as above).
Most Arrogant Idiot: Kayne West (we confess inability to sort out all the idiots but are content to affirm this one).
Funniest New Comic Strip: "Pearls Before Swine" (we like what we've seen so far and look forward to more, wishing that the Enquirer had the Post's comics).
Best Returning Comic Strip: "Boondocks" (to which we give a hearty "Amen" because, intentionally or not, nothing lays out the foibles of the radical left more amusingly). We confess that we cannot say anything about the nomination of "Zippy the Pinhead" in this category, as there cannot be two "bests" and as we cannot decipher this monstrosity.
Best TV Series DVD Set: Monty Python's Flying Circus (of course!).
Best Place to Sell Your Unreturnable Chemistry Book (and probably biology too): Amazon.com (we concur, though we kept our geology text for many years before finally offering it to Goodwill).
Best Site Other Than This One for a Year-End List: National Review Online's "2006 Crystal Ball." It's probably longer than this, and just about as uneven in quality, but there are some gems. Read it, gentle readers!
And thanks for reading the first fractional year of blogging by SWNID. See you in January, if not before!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Bill Kristol has dropped his usual detached style to write about this one with passion. We will summarize a few points, give a pemmican quotation, and then make a couple of points of our own.
- The so-called wiretaps amounted to computer screening of myriads of mobile phone conversations between the United States and foreign countries. High speed computers filtered these for words and phrases that could point to terrorist activity so that analysts could concentrate on real leads. This is technology and procedure that is well beyond the ability of the FISA judges to review for warrants. And it's also well beyond what could easily be used to harass political opponents or otherwise oppress the innocent.
- General Michael Hayden, former National Security Agency director, has stated to the press that this procedure yielded information not available otherwise that thwarted actual terrorist plots.
- Democrats have gone into a hissy fit about "the constitution in crisis" in response.
To quote Kristol (and modesty forbids us to point out that we've been saying this since this blog began):
What is one to say about these media--Democratic spokesmen for contemporary American liberalism? That they have embarrassed and discredited themselves. That they cannot be taken seriously as critics. It would be good to have a responsible opposition party in the United States today. It would be good to have a serious mainstream media. Too bad we have neither.
Now, our own points:
- Our current free-time reading (and we have actual free time this blessed week) is David McCullough's Truman. Among the many things of which this book reminds the reader is that during World War II, J. Edgar Hoover wiretapped all kinds of phones around Washington, ostensibly for national security reasons, and sent reports to FDR, mostly about what the wiretaps revealed about the sexual proclivities of Roosevelt's political opponents. We note that Roosevelt's heroic profile still graces the dime, the very coin for which the victims of the Great Depression begged their "brother" to "spare" during the vaunted Democrat's administration. Hoover and FDR were not doing right, of course, but the indifference that their actions met in the 1940s demonstrates the constantly rising standards of "privacy" that leftists and libertarians demand as "constitutional."
- The ability to process millions of cell phone calls and emails through high speed computers to find potentially dangerous messages was developed by the CIA and Defense Department in the 1990s, under that President whose wife we hear so much about these days. Meanwhile, neither party did anything to develop with legislation or even a constitutional amendment a means ensuring that the technology could be used to protect public safety and national security while at the same time protecting citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. It's high time that someone did, not as a "gotcha" for Bush but as a means of getting the laws in touch with the times.
A federal judge has issued a 132-page ruling that the Dover (PA) school board can't require in high school biology classes of a statement qualifying evolution as a theory with a rival, namely, intelligent design. Per the judge, ID is creationism renamed.
Lefties are applauding this because it's everything they've asked for. Specifically, they've wanted a decision equating ID and creationism, as "creationism" is already off limits in case law. Never mind that "creationists" and ID advocates spend much of their time criticizing each other. The courts say that they're as identical as, say, Christians and Jews.
We refer gentle readers to two writers who summarize well the significance of this decision. The first is law professor Paul Campos, whom we have linked before. Campos lays out nicely the legal and philosophical weaknesses of the ruling. We quote, rather extensively:
Consider some of the justifications put forward for the proposition that it's a great day for truth, justice and the American way when a federal court makes it illegal for teachers to mention the existence of a dissenting point of view to their students:
Â Science has refuted theories such as intelligent design, because science is based on the postulate that theories such as intelligent design cannot be true. It says a great deal about the power of orthodox thought that many people of normal intelligence are apparently incapable of seeing what's wrong with this argument. To quote the philosopher Bertrand Russell: "The method of 'postulating' what we want has many advantages. They are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil."
Â Intelligent design is not a scientific theory, because it cannot be refuted. This claim is true only in the trivial sense that no scientific theory can be refuted from within the theory itself. Consider the theory of naturalism, which undergirds the argument in the previous paragraph. Naturalism assumes that all events have natural causes. Is there any evidence that could refute this theory in the eyes of someone who
adheres to it? Obviously not, since any evidence such a person examines will always and already be interpreted within a framework that excludes the possibility of a supernatural cause.
Â Metaphysical orthodoxies about the origins of life, the universe, and everything become something other than a form of religious belief when you use the word "science" instead of the word "God." Even more preposterously, it's asserted that requiring one particular form of metaphysical orthodoxy to be presented in public schools as The Truth allows the government to maintain "neutrality" toward religion.
But, as has been noted in another context, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquistion.
Also worth reading is Jay Cost's blog over at RealClear Politics. Cost is devastating to the epistemology that denies consideration of ID, and notes well the way that "science" is used as an ideological cudgel in public discourse. Again, we quote:
In other words, rationality outside of science is quite possible, and has been around for a long time. How do you think humanity invented science in the first place? We surely did not do it scientifically. Science as we know it is the product of millennia of philosophical debate -- from Aristotle to Lakatos. Science depends upon philosophy, which itself is unfalsifiable and unscientific.
The debate about ID has been blown way out of proportion because of the social status that science has acquired in 21st century Western society. For better or for worse, deserved or undeserved, science is a very powerful concept. It is quite coercive. If somebody tells you that you are not being scientific, you will probably take that as a criticism. You should not necessarily, though. The fact of the matter is that, despite the message of our culture about the authority of science, it is not the end-all-be-all of rational thought. Science is a very limited form of inquiry that produces results that are, from a certain perspective and with certain assumptions, reliable. But they also do not tell us all of the things we need, or want, to know about life. Man cannot live by science alone.
Neither, for that matter, can science. Do you have a snarky friend who thinks that science is the only legitimate type of inquiry? Tell him to prove that one scientifically!
Monday, December 19, 2005
Today SWNID received a phone call from a member of the news staff at WMUB, NPR affiliate in Oxford, Ohio, asking for some sound bites on the subject of closed churches. Our reaction: "Isn't anything else going on?" Response: "Well, it is Monday, and Mondays are pretty slow."
Elections in Iraq ... revelations about domestic spying ... Bush makes a speech and holds a news conference ... Cheney goes to Iraq and Afghanistan ... the Bengals are going to the playoffs ... ongoing recovery from hurricanes in the US and Central America and from the tsunami in the Indian Ocean basin ... a pending appointment to the Supreme Court ... pending reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act ... Bush agrees with McCain on torture ... lots of proposals on immigration and border security ... but the big news is what isn't happening at the local megachurch.
Meanwhile the Akron Beacon-Journal has picked up a SWNID comment from the AP news wire. Like anyone in Akron has even heard of Cincinnati.
SWNID is fond of saying that the newsweeklies produce a semi-annual nod-to-God issue, that is, an issue at Christmas and another at Easter that purports to report on the state of affairs among Christians who observe the holiday. The usual stories are (a) scholarship challenges traditional beliefs; (b) nontraditional practices challenge traditional rituals. The effect is always that the dwindling numbers of orthodox are at once upset (SWNID was asked to comment on the observation that "traditional Christians" are "shocked" that megachurches aren't having services) and doomed to extinction.
There was an excellent article in the Christian Century (yes, I mean "excellent" in that venerable organ of mainline Protestant liberalism) several years ago on the very narrow range of stories that the media cover about religion. I seem to recall the author offering six distinct templates, but only six. At this point, I believe that I've only ever read two. We invite gentle readers to suggest others.
And someone with the inclination to consult the ATLA Database to find the original article in the Century will become eligible for a SWNID Superlative on December 31.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The article certainly illustrates that the problem of creation versus evolution and the evaluation of intelligent design theory are at least as much matters of sociology and political science as natural science. For those who wonder why intelligent design is instantly labeled "a high-tech name for creationism," they need only recall that legal precedent exists for excluding discussion of "creationism" from public school classrooms in the United States. Hence, if Darwinists can by constant repetition get the two identified with each other, they've protected their preserve. Likewise, if certain Christians can label anything that challenges their notion of biblical literalism as godless, the same is accomplished.
By contrast, Randall O'Brien, provost at Baylor University, offers that at Baylor, "we're really as much about interrogation of faith and learning as we are about integration of faith and learning." Now there's an approach worth emulating.
Steyn's contribution to today's Chicago Sun-Times has more brilliant ripostes than is legally allowable. We can't even begin to offer pull quotes. Every sentence is a pull quote.
Of course, he had the subject that a political columnist prays for: a signal event, the Iraqi parliamentary elections, the significance of which is completely missed or mistaken by one entire side of the political spectrum, namely, the left. But Steyn rises even beyond this task.
Follow the link, gentle readers, to see what political writing should be.
We invite gentle readers to consult this nascent web site, which makes the following pledge in its first posting:
Hello, and welcome to the best source of amateur political and cultural criticism available on the internet. Future posts will validate this claim.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
[Readers with access to a recording may want to cue up Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" as score to this pronouncement, or maybe a tasty rendition of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" or "The Church's One Foundation."]
SWNID understands and sympathizes with the rationale for not having services on Christmas Sunday and affirms the creative efforts on the part of churches that did make this move to provide alternatives in the form of an expanded schedule of services leading up to Christmas, guides to family worship for Christmas day, and the like.
However, SWNID would have delighted to see these churches add things like the following to their response:
- A call for their megachurch members to make it a point to visit a smaller church that is holding services and connect with some other members of the blessed body of Christ.
- A special, low key service on Sunday specifically enabling those who attend to make the statement that Christians eschew the rampant materialism of "holiday season" and want to declare loudly their subversive, countercultural belief that Jesus rose from the dead and reigns at God's right hand, utterly negating the value of every material gift except for those generously and graciously given to the genuinely needy.
And we wait with anticipation to see how many people will show up in church on the morning of January 1, 2006.
(Conservatives know that the "hard part" always remains. As Christian conservatives would put it: the world is sinful, we have the gospel, but Jesus hasn't returned yet. Try the following mundane examples in human development: [a] College over, now comes the hard part: working for a living; [b] Wedding over, now comes the hard part: building a marriage; [c] Childbirth over, now comes the hard part, raising a child; [d] Children raised, now comes the hard part: adjusting to empty nest; [e] Employment over, now comes the hard part: managing retirement and aging.)
Side two of the coin: Mrs. SWNID's favorite young conservative pundit Rich Lowry (note at left his uncanny resemblance to SWNID, at least as this blogger looked in the early 90s) details that the Ds are really acting on their principles, tastes and personal fantasies, not facts and reality or even polls, when with delight they label Iraq an American defeat.
Why one coin? All the facts say Iraq, as noted too many times on this blog to link, is going pretty well, thanks much. All the opinion to the contrary, as noted too many times on this blog to link, is based on utopian and pacifist fantasies and nostalgia for Chicago in August 1968.
Meanwhile, President Bush has labeled the leaking of the practice a breach of national security, noted that it has been confined to the monitoring of communications between people in the United States and those outside the country, and noted that members of Congress have been briefed on the procedure multiple times.
In a comment on an earlier post, gentle reader tim notes the controversy on commercial interests in the marketing of the Narnia film. SWNID notes here the confluence of commercial interest in the disclosing of sensitive information on the part of our Newspaper of Record.
The story doesn't add much by way of news or analysis. But it does have some audio from Jon Weece's sermon in response to the controversy last Sunday.
On principle (the principle of time management), SWNID seldom listens to entire sermons on the web. But for gentle readers without SWNID's busy schedule as self-important professor, meddling academic administrator and bloviating blogger, Southland has posted Weece's sermon here.
To get an idea of the coverage of this issue world-wide, we urge our gentle readers to Google the words "closed" and "churches." This is even news in Jamaica, mon!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Today's Coulter is extra funny. We quote the first and last paragraphs an urge gentle readers to follow the link for the rest.
I'm getting a little insulted that no Democratic prosecutor has indicted me. Liberals bring trumped-up criminal charges against all the most dangerous conservatives. Why not me? ...
Can't we rustle up a right-wing prosecutor to indict Teddy Kennedy for Mary Jo Kopechne's drowning? Unlike the cases against Limbaugh and DeLay, Mary Jo's death was arguably a crime, and we could probably prove it in court.
Gentle readers can access the program here. Find the RealPlayer download or streaming video link for Friday, December 9. If you want to spare yourself the rest of the program, slide over to about the 30 minute mark.
SWNID finds the interviewer to be well informed and focused, though we are puzzled by her apparent implication that Harry Potter is dangerous fantasy because it is set in our world. Paul, of course, is superb.
SWNID expresses sympathy for Mr. Weece's difficult position and empathy (something that does not come easily to SWNID) with his obviously hurt feelings. We are not sure that we would have reacted any differently under similar circumstances.
We are, however, also not sure we would recommend that others follow this mode of response in dealing with criticism from outside the congregation. Sometimes the best public response is the most measured. In regard to its critics, Southland might consider the wisdom related to SWNID earlier today about an entirely different matter: Don't ascribe to malice what stupidity will explain. We needed to hear that at the time. So, maybe, do the megachurches under fire.
And for purposes of historical honesty, let's clear up a couple of points in the remarks as reported:
- There's no more reason to think that Jesus was born in January or April than any other month. Arguments based on shepherding practices (when were shepherds out at night with their sheep?) are entirely conjectural: shepherds didn't leave documents, and the Mishnaic rabbis and apolcalyptic sectarians, our sources on Jewish customs of the period, didn't much discuss shepherding practices. (Side note: when told that X was customary in Jesus' time, always ask about the evidence in primary sources).
- The justification that the Jewish calendar reckons the day from sundown only matters if such a practice is widely recognized in the culture in which the post-Jewish church is operating, as the reckoning of days of the week are, after all, a social construct (remember that the British invented the International Date Line, for instance, and the railroad companies devised Standard Time).
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Linda's talent, intelligence, good will and diligence are apparent every day at work. She applies them to the study of minerals as well.
Congratulations to our rock-solid administrative assistant.
We are happy to report that Ms. Prendergast was gracious, articulate, engaging and thoughtful. We don't know how accurately we will be cited, let alone quoted. But we hope for good things.
Look for a link to the story that emerges, when it appears.
Click the link for the first in the series, then keep clicking "Next" to see subsequent installments.
Here's yet another story worth checking out, mostly because it indicates what the Campbellite Mother Church, Southeast Christian Church is doing. Per the Lexington Herald-Leader (motto: More than Just Coverage of UK Basketball), Southeast will "have one service on Christmas in the fellowship hall. Fewer than 1,000 people are expected to attend."
What currently interests SWNID is whether churches that are supplying resources for family worship at home on Christmas day will survey their congregations to see how many actually did the family worship. We predict (a) that such surveys will not be taken, and (b) that they would reveal an abysmally low rate of participation.
We invite gentle readers to comment, not that we need to, of course.
- The Washington Post, of all things, today runs a brilliant column by Marine Major Ben Connable entitled "The Truth on the Ground," which asks the nonmusical question, why do 64% of American military officers believe that we will succeed in Iraq when 60% of American civilians think it's time to leave? Speaking as an officer with extensive experience in Iraq, Connable asserts, "The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading."
- In a speech broadcast live on state television, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as a "fabricated ... legend."
- On the border between Iraq and Iran, a tanker truck loaded with forged Iraqi ballots was seized as it made its way from Iran to Iraq. American and British military officials have previously said that sophisticated explosive devices are coming from Iran into Iraq as well.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
As in previous years, the plot is thin and the acting awful, but the views of the White House decorated for Christmas are wonderful, and the whole thing is so innocent and silly that it's enjoyable.
From Barney Cam 2005 SWNID observes:
- Lynn Cheney is a decent actress.
- Treasury Secretary John Snow, criticized for not getting out in the media to plug the Bush economic accomplishments and agenda, is manifestly so terrible in front of the camera that all Bush supporters should be grateful for every moment he spends behind the scenes.
- The Rs continue shamelessly to court the Hispanic vote at every opportunity.
- The White House is a very, very, very fine house.
We invite gentle readers to click and scroll through several pages to see what is now, with hindsight, unintentionally funny.
Of course, since the NY Times covered this story, now everyone is covering it. CNN's contribution is noteworthy in the SWNID household because Cindy Willison, friend of SWNID and Mrs. SWNID, is quoted as "a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church."
We draw attention to two features of our dear friend's response.
First, it highlights what commentator "Raymond" has noted, namely, that the volunteer-intensive church faces a distinct challenge when Christmas falls on Sunday.
Second, we predict that our friend Ms. Willison will be pilloried for offering the justification that worship can take place anywhere, not just in a church building. Not that this isn't manifestly true, of course, but since the same justification is offered lamely by so many who avoid church services every Sunday, it will prompt those inclined to make such criticisms to insist that the office of "spokeswoman" should not exist in the church.
Monday, December 12, 2005
While final judgments will be SWNID's alone, we invite gentle readers to post comments recommending people, events, trends, institutions, or whatever, as the best, worst, most interesting, most disgusting, or whatever superlative category comes to your gentle mind.
Post your nominations soon!
The verdict: thumbs enthusiastically up from all the SWNIDs. All the actors are most excellent. Special hat tips for the portrayals of Lucy, the White Witch and Mr. Tumnus.
Now, some pickiness:
- It was totally wrong that Mrs. Beaver served the children unappetizing food. As all readers with half an eye to the development of the story have realized, the rustic lusciousness of the beavers' larder stands in stark contrast to the sinister allure of the White Witch's Turkish delight. The good-food-versus-bad-food motif was lost, and to the detriment of the filmmaking. A brief pan of the food available in the beaver household would have been a visual treat, especially as the sugary messiness of the Turkish delight was so nicely portrayed earlier (Edmund looked like a pig, and the candy looked disgustingly saccharine).
- The added scene at the river just didn't work. It was an exercise in film cliche, with Lucy's deliverance right out of the Disney playbook, according to which every movie must have the fake death of the hero. (This started with Snow White. Come to think of it, Disney made LWW. Hmm!)
- Since the beavers' exquisite exposition of the character of Aslan was not included in the screenplay, SWNID is very glad that the crucial contrast between Aslan as tame and Aslan as good was retained in the epilogue at Cair Paravel. However, we found Liam Neeson's voicing of Aslan a little too close to the tame. Nevertheless, we are glad that on moral and artistic principle we didn't see Kinsey, or we would be haunted by hearing the depraved doctor's voice coming from the messianic lion's mouth.
Now, the real comment: while LWW the movie is most excellent, as good as we could expect it to be, it does not attain the artistic quality of the book. Lewis's wondrously simple prose cannot be represented on the big screen, no matter how well the special effects are rendered. (Incidentally, this is why the Christian imagery, wrongly labeled "allegory" in the press, is less obvious in the movie even than in the book: we aren't reading Lewis's words, so the connections and allusions are less apparent.)
In this, LWW is not alone. Is there a great book that has been rendered with equal greatness on the screen? Is there a great movie that is based on a great book?
SWNID believes not. We therefore opine that the best movies are based on original screenplays or mediocre books. Predictably, we cite The Godfather, a popular but grossly flawed book made into a nearly perfect movie and followed by a nearly perfect sequel based not on a book but on an original screenplay.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
At National Review Online, political correspondent John J. Miller (author of the delightfully titled Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France) gives not so much a review as a field guide for those who know and love the book. He told SWNID what we wanted to know before we go to a bargain matinee sometime after the press of the semester's end is over. But on the review side, the verdict is that the movie is excellent.
At the New Yorker, Anthony Lane reviews LWW along with Brokeback Mountain, the latter leading the column. Nothing could illustrate the decline of what was once America's wittiest weekly than Lane's snippy review that maximizes post-Christian Britain's distaste for the forthrightly Christian Lewis, misstates the story as an "allegory," notes Tolkien's reservations about Narnia but misstates their nature, and in general dismisses the movie for an audience that wouldn't consider going in the first place. Lane is no Pauline Kael, in case gentle readers wondered, but the New Yorker hasn't been the New Yorker since Tina Brown destroyed the literary and journalistic legacy of William Shawn. (N.B. that SWNID is not bitter about this, just wistful and nostalgic.)
For those who wonder whence the story for the gay cowboy movie came, the New Yorker also links the original Anne Proulx short story. SWNID has always found Ms. Proulx to be among the most leaden of the so-called stars of the "literary fiction" firmament, and a few paragraphs of this story, which doesn't take long to get well beyond family friendly, illustrates.
In sum, the critics are as divided by LWW as the synagogue at Iconium was by Paul's gospel. Hardly surprising.
P.S. For those who haven't heard, Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis and executor of the Lewis literary estate, appeared on the Michael Medved radio program earlier this week. SWNID was the first caller to address a question to Mr. Gresham. We are still tingly over our near brush with nearly Lewis.
The NY Times, the Washington Post, and the AP are noting the criticism that Lieberman is taking for his statements about staying the course and supporting the President on the Iraq War. Lieberman is getting it from every corner, including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean.
There's even talk of a primary challenge to Lieberman, whose term as senator from Connecticut is up in 2006. Lowell Weicker, former Republican, fringe liberal and perpetual hot-air machine, is also talking of a run as an independent on Lieberman's far left.
What amazes SWNID about all this is that Reid has condemned Lieberman with the remark that he is out of touch with America's majority. We now know how tightly sealed the Defeatocrat echo machine really is. To read poll results as a political prediction that opposition to the war and a call for withdrawal will shift the Republicans' national electoral majority, to think that the tune that America wants to hear is an incessant drumbeat of defeatism and gloom about Iraq, to ignore that elections will be held in Iraq this week is ... well ... pretty goofy.
The D leadership is clearly committed to a single issue for 2006: withdraw from Iraq ASAP. Events are going to make their platform, which was never viable, marginal, if not moot.
The last time the Dems did this was 1864. They lost.
Thomas Dewey of the Rs didn't do it in 1944, and Wendell Wilkie of the Rs didn't even do it in 1940 before that war started. They lost too. But they preserved the integrity of their party, which participated nobly in the politically unified American effort in World War II and its generation-long Cold War aftermath.
There will be a politically unified effort in the generation-long war against Islamo-fascism, in which we are engaged at the beginning. But the political unification looks as if it will take the shape of one-party rule for the foreseeable future.
By the way, we predict that Lieberman will trounce any opposition in 2006.
Friday, December 09, 2005
And SWNID is pleased that his favorite national restaurant chain, New Orleans based Popeye's, is among them, per USA Today.
The story makes clear that Popeye's located its scattered New Orleans employees and got them back to work after the hurricane. They also managed to open up quickly in the recovering Big Easy, albeit with improvised menus and few outlets, feeding relief workers who were on the scene.
The story also makes clear what we've all been expecting: like Galveston a century before, New Orleans will be a much smaller city when the rebuilding is over.
But the distinctive, ragin' Cajun flavor of Popeye's chicken and side dishes will live as long as there are hungry, sensate human beings.
Today's Times notes that several "megachurches," including Mega-Mother-Church Willow Creek and the Campbellite "Fort God" Southland Christian Church, have canceled services for Sunday, December 25, 2005 (link requires free registration, and what kind of gentle reader are you if you won't register for the NY Times?).
SWNID, wanting to be right on this and all issues, will set forth an definitive opinion after rumination. We supply the link to this interesting story to give gentle readers the chance to ruminate too.
We will briefly note the following, however, as this constitutes a regular SWNID topos:
In its original social context, the Christian observance of the Lord's day was a powerful theological statement. In the Graeco-Roman world, only Jews counted days by sevens. To do something special on a seven-day calendar was to say, I am part of Israel, the people of the God of Abraham and Moses.
But Jews didn't do something special on day one of the seven days. They observed day seven as a day of rest, commemorating creation and deliverance from Egypt; secondarily, they met in the synagogue for prayer and the reading of Scripture on that day.
Christians, on the other hand, gathered on the first day, not for a Christian Sabbath (Christian Jews continued to attend synagogues for as long as they were welcome, or at least not thrown out) but to commemorate the resurrection of Christ. Observance of what they called the "Lord's Supper," a revision of the annual Jewish Passover, as a celebration of the death of Christ, coincided with this gathering to celebrate the resurrection.
Hence, Christians, gathering on the first day of the Jewish seven-day calendar, in effect said:
- We believe ourselves to be the true people of the God of Abraham.
- We have been made such by an action of God that is like his freeing the Israelite slaves from Egypt, only greater; namely, God has redeemed us by the death of Christ.
- We have been made such by an action of God that took everyone by surprise on the first day of the week; namely, God raised Jesus from the dead.
- This is so great and wonderful that we celebrate it not once a year like Passover, but once a week.
Now, back to the "megachurches." Those guys, following the Willow Creek model of suburban seeker-sensitivity, have always eschewed symbols. They communicate by music, drama, and the spoken and written word. But symbols--be they the later developments like crosses on walls or pictures in stained glass windows or the biblical originals like baptism and the Lord's supper--are played down or altogether ignored in the Willow Creek model.
So it's hardly surprising that the significance of first-day observance, already heard only faintly in a culture that lives for the "weekend," is being gently skipped one year out of every seven. And it's no surprise that it's being replaced with exhortations to and resources for "family worship," as strengthening families is always near the top of the agenda in the Willow Creek model.
Hmm. Maybe we have already offered a definitive opinion.
*It is not easy for the Times to adopt a popular term. Following its style sheet that demands that individuals in a story be referred to first by their first and last names and then by their last name with the appropriate title (Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr.), the Times is said to have referred to rock star Meat Loaf as "Mr. Loaf."
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Having linked this amazing site before, SWNID confesses his deep desire that this student's opinion prove true. However, with other voices at the Museum of Hoaxes, we must admit that this over-the-top site has too many signs of seriousness and authenticity to assume safely that it is intentionally farcical. We hope that it is, we believe that it might be, but we are unwilling to commit our lives, our treasure and our sacred honor as SWNID to this proposition.
Truth is, the best Christian humor is generally unintentional.
And here's a site that demonstrates it: Jesus of the Week. The fine folks at this web site compile examples of tasteless Jesus products and renderings from around the world.
SWNID is aware that at least one gentle reader is a sort of collector of these oddities, so we urge him and others to follow the link for some cultural enrichment.
And we offer our own "Jesus of the Week." These are photos from a SWNID family vacation at Mammoth Cave in 2003. We report the surprising news that the Golgotha Fun Park, including its biblically themed miniature golf course, was closed, having apparently failed to capture the public's religious and recreational interest.
Gentle readers, if you do not follow the link to William Stuntz's article on the Iraq War in the New Republic, consider yourself no longer a gentle reader. You are not welcome on this blog if you don't follow the link. Fail to click and read, and you can no longer read SWNID. Period.
Stuntz's analysis is the most penetrating morally and historically that SWNID has encountered to date. What makes it all the more remarkable is the New Republic's avowedly liberal editorial slant. And more remarkable still, Stuntz is a professor at Harvard Law School.
Early reports indicate that the man was likely mentally ill and that he had no explosives.
Mental illness is a tragedy for the stricken person and for the family. This tragedy is deepened by the man's death. Our heart and prayers are with the family.
However, let's make no mistake. Air marshals are not in the position to diagnose the patient while dozens or hundreds of lives are at stake. This air marshal acted exactly as he should have.
And SWNID is glad.
We are not a terribly frequent flyer, but we fly often enough. We have wondered how many air marshals are on how many flights, understandably a very closely guarded secret.
So we find it very comforting that the story in the MSM is not "Deranged man terrorizes passengers with claims about bomb" but "Deranged man who claims to have bomb shot by air marshal." Whatever faults exist in the homeland security system, this time the system worked.
It is a tragedy that this man had to die. But how many serious bombers have now shelved their plans to strike the airlines again?
SWNID believes that Casey's departure was inevitable. Sooner or later, someone had to go to make room for all the stallions in the outfield. And as Adam Dunn plays first base better than he does left field, and as Dunn's power is more potent that Casey's average, and as Casey's salary was seriously high, well, the proverbial writing was on the proverbial wall.
Meanwhile, Cincinnatians are stockpiling white bread and 2% milk in anticipation of the first episode of the White Death, currently forecast for 2"-5" Thursday night.
Gentle readers can celebrate these two local occasions by visiting this interesting site and following these instructions:
- Click once, to get the penguin to jump
- Click once again to make the snowman hit the penguin as he descends from the cliff.
Click on the "OK" flag to try again
Monday, December 05, 2005
There's no link in this entry because we can't find an announcement on the WLW web page, or anywhere else on the web, for that matter. At the time of the announcement, 7:20 a.m. today, SWNID was listening to Morning Edition on WVXU. But we have Mr. Smith's own word, left on voice mail, to confirm.
And Todd Smith may be a big talker, but he's no liar!
We congratulate Todd on outtalking the best that Cincinnati had to offer and wish him the best on his guest show coming up on WLW. We will alert gentle readers to the time of the show so that they can become gentle listeners.
Now Howard Dean--medical doctor, governor, presidential aspirant, and primal screamer--has managed to interpret a single event, the Iraq War, as both. Yes, Iraq is both Vietnam and Watergate. We note the relevant quotes:
I've seen this before in my life. This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. . . . . What we see today is very much like what was going in Watergate.
In the immortal words of Dave Barry, we are not making this up. Even SWNID lacks the gall to create something this absurd.
These days parents often complain that their children learn only a few isolated events of history. The chairman of the Defeatocrat party seems intent on reducing that small number to two.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
He also uses the apt term "Defeaticrats" to refer to those members of Andrew Jackson's party who first objected that the transfer of sovereignty and the holding of elections were too soon and who now complain that nothing is happening soon enough.
Concerned that some gentle readers will not bother to follow the link, we quote the concluding paragraph in all its deliciousness:
So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East. You can argue the merits of that, but once it's underway it's preposterous to suggest we need to have it all wrapped up by Jan. 24. The Defeaticrats' loss of proportion is unworthy of a serious political party in the world's only superpower. In next week's election, the Iraqi people will shame them yet again.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Wikipedia describes HB as "Summoner and buttinski of long, boring conversations." We affirm HB's taste, tact and sociability and thank the essential Mr. Adams for encouraging behaviors like his and SWNID's.
Abu Hamza Rabia, an Egyptian credited with heading al Qaeda's international operations, was among five militants killed in an explosion at a house where they were hiding in North Waziristan on Thursday.
The story notes further [bracketed explanation inserted]:
While Pakistani security forces have killed hundreds of al Qaeda members over the past four years, several of their key leaders were arrested and handed over to the United States.
Pakistani forces launched an offensive in South Waziristan [= Wild-West-istan, per the evaluation of American intelligence agents and special forces operatives, a historically lawless region of Pakistan which Pakistani military units used to avoid altogether] early last year after President Pervez Musharraf vowed to clear foreign militants from Pakistani soil.
Hundreds of militants and Pakistani troops have been killed in battles in the rugged region and about 70,000 Pakistani troops are now concentrating their search in neighboring North Waziristan.
SWNID confesses that this story confuses us. We understood from the Ds and the MSM that the United States, thanks to the ineptitude of George W. Bush, has no allies in the global war on terror. We understood further that the fight against al Qaeda had been abandoned for the quixotic, doomed campaign in Iraq. We note that 70,000 troops are a lot, even in a corrupt military dictatorship like Pakistan. Will someone please explain?
The story of "Narnia" likewise has little in common with the blood-soaked "Passion," said Paul Friskney, an English professor at Cincinnati Christian University, and author of the newly published "Sharing the Narnia Experience: A Family Guide to C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (Standard Publishing, $7.99).
The "Passion," said Friskney, "was intended to be directly doctrinal and had a very strong preaching message. I believe this (story) is much more engaging. ... It's not so in-your-face."
Friskney said the series' charms derive from Lewis' rare imagination. "He created a complete world, then thought, if there were such a world, and God were going to redeem that world, what would He do? There are unique things about the way the redemption happens that have no parallels in the Bible," he said. "Its themes are about issues, not events."
As noted previously, Paul is the friend, colleague and former roommate of SWNID. We congratulate him for articulating so clearly Lewis's vision of Narnia, and we congratulate reporter Margaret McGurk for having the common sense to give Paul the ... ahem ... lion's share of interview space in the story.
Meanwhile, the Enquirer (motto: Eliminating local columnists and running more generic syndicated material is our road to increased circulation!) also reports that Clifton's venerable Old St. George's church building has been sold by the group that purchased it from the Cincinnati Roman Catholic Archdiocese to the redevelopment corporation that is doing all the cool construction along Calhoun and McMillan.
The historic "church" is thus "saved," at least for awhile, from the demolition that would make way for another attractive Walgreen's Drug-and-Big-Mouth-Billy-Bass Store. But its recent life as a funky community arts center and even funkier living space for young urban bohemians of various Christian and quasi-Christian commitments* appears to be in question.
What ties all this together?
First, SWNID opines that no matter how faithful and successful the Disney LWW proves to be, it cannot surpass the two-actor stage production of the story presented now and again by Cincinnati's leading Christian theater troupe, Friends of the Groom, most recently at Old St. George, where it was enjoyed by all members of the family SWNID.
Second, the Enquirer quotes CCU alum Tasha Golden, who with husband Justin constitutes the band Ellery, and who with husband Justin constitutes a delightful couple whom SWNID is honored to have taught in college, on the possible demise of OSG as a venue for concerts like the one that Ellery will present next Tuesday:
Maybe this show offers a warm way for people to say goodbye to the building and the live music it has hosted over the years.
So in sum, there are good times for Narnia, better-than-they-could-be-but-maybe-not-as-good-as-they-have-been times for a historic building in Cincinnati, and very good times to be noticed by the press if you're connected to CCU.
*A SWNID friend who lived for awhile in an apartment at Old St. George remarked that he heard more vulgar and profane language there than at any other site of his acquaintance.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Today, Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger compares George W. Bush to the avatar of the slogan, "What, me worry?"
Mere coincidence? Gentle readers will make their own determination.
But Henninger's column is more than noteworthy. He draws attention to the nearly unprecedented economic growth in the United States in the last quarter, and the tangible progress in Iraq, asking why even Bush's conservative base is down on Bush. His answer is worth reading.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The Telegraph provides a provocative report about the aftermath of the racially motivated murder of Anthony Walker, an 18-year-old black youth in Britain's capital. Here's the lead paragraph and an excerpt (with British punctuation intact):
The mother of Anthony Walker drew on her Christian faith yesterday to find forgiveness for the two thugs who murdered him with a mountaineering axe because he was black.
Outside the court, Mrs Walker, with her daughter Dominique, who had gone to school with Taylor [one of the defendants], said: "Do I forgive them? At the point of death Jesus said 'I forgive them because they don't know what they did'.
"I've got to forgive them. I still forgive them. My family and I still stand by what we believe: forgiveness."
On the island that exported the song, "Shine, Jesus, Shine," the Lord shines indeed.
But the darkness of sin is present as well, obviously. Britain, no less than the United States, and no less than any other nation of sinners, has a "race" problem. We use the quotation marks because before the concept of race existed, the problem of animosity toward nations, tribes, cultures and such was nevertheless rampant. When there was just one family in the world, with two brothers, the farmer brother killed the shepherd brother.
We also note with scorn that experiences like the Walkers' exposes the theological lie that the "tribulation" is something that lies only in the future. Having your own or your son's or your brother's head split open with an ax is tribulation enough, thank you very much.
May God comfort, bless and keep the Walker family and all close to them! And he will, too!