Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraqi Leadership and "Civil War"

From where we sit, we find ourselves compelled by the insightful analysis in today's WSJ "Review and Outlook." With several MSM outlets affirming "civil war" in Iraq, we'll go with the more nuanced and comprehensive view of the situation epitomized in this closing paragraph:

The next Iraqi or American official to be asked about "civil war" might want to reply by asking the journalist who, precisely, is fighting whom, and why Iraqi security officers of all backgrounds continue to risk their lives for the elected Baghdad government. The truth is that the enemies of Mr. Maliki's government are terrorists and thugs. Mr. Bush could help give Mr. Maliki the confidence he needs for the tough fight ahead -- first against the Sunni terrorists, then against the Shiite revenge killers -- by assuring him that U.S. policy will be based on this fact.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CPS Board Does What It Always Does, Accedes to Parents in High-Achieving Schools

Last night's Cincinnati Public Schools board meeting was a replay of the drama seen about every two years in the district. The plot goes this way:

1. The district identifies cuts that need to be made to balance the budget and serve current enrollment.

2. Parents in CPS's highest-achieving schools object loudly to cuts at their schools.

3. The board accedes to the noisy parents, knowing that these middle-class and upper-middle-class families have the means of leaving the system.

4. Cuts are concentrated in schools with quiet parents, who are mostly themselves poorly educated and so economically poor.

So Walnut Hills and the Montessoris will not get any cuts, but more neighborhood schools will get the ax.

As we've noted for Walnut Hills, this leaves open the question as to whether the school, already enrolled below its capacity, can continue to enroll students who meet its entrance standards in numbers near its capacity while the overall CPS student population declines.

To say that all students will do better at a school like Walnut is like saying that anyone will play baseball better if he plays for the New York Yankees. The truth is, Walnut does a great job with bright, well-prepared, motivated students, but it has little capacity to help those who are less than that.

Now, here's the question for five years from now: what will the noisy parents of means do when their schools have excess capacity and the district wants to move poor kids into them because there isn't room elsewhere?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Schweder: Enlightenment on the Ropes?

Today's Gray Lady offers a too-brief piece by Richard Schweder, Professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, on the spate of pro-atheism books recently published. In sum, Schweder diagnoses that the anti-religious heirs of the Enlightenment realize that history is not going the way it was supposed to.

We wish the piece contained more on why the religious impulse persists, but we think that many gentle readers can fill in the empty spaces that the essay leaves.

Walnut Alum: Don't Cut Great School; SWNID: Can It Remain Great at Present Size?

Yesterday's Enquirer featured an opinion piece by a 1970s vintage Walnut Hills High School alumnus noting the schools accomplishments and insisting that CPS not cut funds for its most outstanding school.

While the column read a little too much like a valedictory address at a high school graduation, it made sense.

Except for this: if the student population in CPS is declining, can WHHS maintain its standards with the same number of students it has presently?

We're not convinced that a district that will soon have half the students it once had can fill a selective, college-preparatory high school with the same number of students who are adequately prepared for its rigorous curriculum.

In primary and secondary education, learning is accomplished with the cooperation of teachers, students and parents (in higher ed., it's the same, but the parents start playing a smaller role). It takes all three to make it happen. CPS can only supply the first ingredient in the formula for WHHS. If the second and third are lacking, there's not going to be the same kind of learning.

It's math, something that the writer of the Enquirer opinion piece seems to understand well, but something that he hasn't taken into account in writing his defense of the present size of WHHS.

Bronson on Bad News: CCU Keeps Faith

Having recently visited the CCU campus at the president's invitation for a general introduction, Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson discusses the situation on the hill with eloquence and sensitivity that SWNID appreciates.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lileks on Edwards's Wal-Mart Hypocrisy

We've enjoyed a bit of sparring in the past regarding the present and future of one John Edwards, multi-millionaire retired tort lawyer, former Breck Shampoo spokesmodel and, if memory serves, maybe once a political figure. Gentle readers might know, if they bother with such arcane details, that Mr. Edwards campaigns actively against the Evil Wal-Mart Corporation, enemy of The People and all-around destroyer of all that is right and good about the Workers' Paradise that was the United States before January 2001. They may know further that one of Mr. Edwards's staffers recently dropped Mr. Edwards's name at a Wal-Mart retail outlet, hoping thereby to score a coveted video-game system for the boss's family.

We delight in the ever-clever James Lileks's take on the whole affair.

We add only that we don't really think that Edwards was entirely hypocritical on this matter. Truth is, his attempt to use political influence, impotent as it was, to manipulate the free market is of a piece with his entire economic view. That is, the smart and rich (i.e. Edwards and associates) should be free to manipulate capitalism (e.g. by raising the "minimum wage") for the benefit of the poor and downtrodden. That one of the poor and downtrodden happens to be one of the Edwards family moppets, so often trotted out on campaign events to spin the image of Edwards as a reliable, white, Southern papa, only complicates matters a little from the Edwards POV.

VDH on Past and Future History for US in Middle East

As news of sectarian violence in Iraq gets worse, reminding us less of a civil war than a gang war (yes, it's The Godfather again), we turn to the ever-wise Victor Davis Hanson, who again, for those with short memories, discusses both the history of the Iraq invasion and the American policy options for the future in the Middle East.

Our tease-quote comes from the close of the column:

And long after the present furor over Iraq dies down, the idea of trying to help democratic reformers fight terrorists, and to distance America from failed regimes that are antithetical to our values, simply will not go away.

That tough idealism will stay - because in the end it is the only right and smart thing to do.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Berlinerblau on SBL: Make It Mine

As we blog, the mighty Society of Biblical Literature is holding its annual meeting for pointy-headed biblical scholars. In keeping with a pattern of five years' standing, we are not attending, thanks to other, more pressing travel obligations of an academic-administrative kind that keep us away from the classroom enough already. So we feel a little bit left out of the biblical studies party.

But we are intrigued nevertheless that last week's Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article by one Jacques Berlinerblau of Georgetown University critiquing the work of the august scholarly society (link will work fully only for paid subscribers).

What intriuges us is that Berlinerblau is in part concerned with what bugs us about the SBL, but in part he seems to object to what makes it possible to have such a society.

In sum, he complains that the society does little to address people who actually read the Bible outside the academic context. We agree.

But he also complains that the society is dominated by people who read the Bible from a faith perspective. We agree that it is so dominated, but we doubt that Berlinerblau's complaint can ever be addressed to his satisfaction. He wants more scholars of no particular confessional identity engaged in the study of the Bible for the sake more objectively informing its use in public discourse. But we aver that (a) people without a faith perspective are generally not interested in doing this at all; (b) those who are aren't so much nonreligious as antireligious, militantly opposed to faith and lacking in objectivity at least as much as religious people.

In particular, we are amused by Berlinerblau's desire that the SBL discover whether the rumors are true that the society is dominated by conservative Christians. As one of them, I can tell the world that such a study is unnecessary. There are lots of such folks who attend the SBL, but they probably don't constitute anything close to a dominating majority of attendees, and not even a coherent minority, not least when one considers the array of confessional perspectives that constitute what Berlinerblau would call "conservative." Further, the SBL's meeting and publication program is so much not dominated by conservatives that they continue to operate separate meetings (the Evangelical Theological Society and the Institute for Biblical Research) to do what they care about. And in addition to these other, big societies, there are lots of little groups holding what are called "additional meetings," meaning privately arranged meetings during the main society meeting, to get done what they really care about. That there are multiple groups holding such side meetings, and that many SBL members openly confess that they attend the annual meeting entirely for such side meetings and the book discounts available in the display area, illustrates perfectly that there's no way on earth that a conservative group can now or would ever control proceedings.

Once upon a time, the SBL was an elite organization composed of the most prominent biblical scholars at the oldest, best endowed mainline Protestant seminaries and university divinity schools in the United States. Some of the oldsters who remember those days still pine for them. Berlinerblau wants something else, mostly more room for folks like him.

We don't object to folks like him. We just don't believe that there's enough interest in what he imagines should be done to carry the day.

In our not-so-humble opinion, mostly what ails the SBL is what ails biblical scholarship. That's not the confessional perspectives of the scholars. Wish as we might, that situation isn't going to change. It's the minutiae with which too many scholars concern themselves in their quest to find something original to put in the dissertations that earn their degrees and the publications that earn their tenure and promotions.

Scholars' worthwhile ideas about the Bible almost always find their way into scholarly discourse. Some of them manage to filter down to where some members of the public hear about them. But they don't generally need the intentional support of the SBL for that. And the filtering-down will always take place in confessional contexts, i.e. churches and their ilk, to the chagrin of Berlinerblau's ilk.

Krauthammer: Iraq's Failed Leadership

The Even-More-Seldom-Wrong Charles Krauthammer today explicates the SWNIDish perspective that the mess in Iraq is largely a consequence of failed leadership.

Sir Charles suggests that the solution would be a new ruling coalition of moderate Shiites with Kurds and Sunnis. We hope he's right. But we think it's a longshot, for the very causes that Krauthammer cites for the present situation: the political inability to compromise one's sectarian loyalties for the good of all.

The messier but likelier solution is partition. Sadly, events in Iraq seem to be preparing the way for partition, much as they have in earlier partition situations. That is, people who live as part of a cultural minority in an Iraqi neighborhood or region are leaving to join their fellows in a region where they predominate. The same happened in India a couple of generations ago, and it is a process in part forestalled and in part ongoing in the Balkans.

Kuo: Evangelicals Back to Basics

Everybody's telling SWNID to blog on former Bush staffer David Kuo's NY Times op-ed noting that in this election evangelicals didn't so much go over to the Democrats as they cooled to politics in general.

And we should blog on it. But there's nothing to add.

Kuo is right. If we understand the gospel, we care deeply about the present state of the world (focusing entirely on life after death is a denial of the central gospel message that God raised Jesus from the dead in space and time on this earth). Politics affects the present state of the world pretty deeply, but most of what we ought care is not primarily political.

That includes such issues as abortion and gay marriage as well as care for the poor and loving one's enemies. On all matters, what needs doing most is changing the thoughts and feelings of people, not legislation.

We still remain committed to the notion that the Republic's laws can articulate and reinforce key moral principles, though the case for such moral principles must of necessity be made in secular terms . But we remain committed more to the idea that what ails the world is not its politics but the people who do its politics.

We said that there was nothing to add, and then we added something.

Murtha Crushed, Republic Safe

Thoughtful Americans are again breathing at normal rate today, as Democrats decided not to align their party with the "values" of Rep. John Murtha (D-Featherbedding).

We are most amused by the picture of Democrat unity (that most celebrated of oxymorons) that heads this Gray Lady article, not least because Rahm Emanuel glowers to the side, looking every bit like Peter Lorre.

I guess both parties have their Evil Geniuses.

Update on Bad News

For those wondering about developments in the tragic case involving two CCU students, the latest is reported here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More on Cincinnati's Budget: Curbside Recycling Is Bad for Everyone

Our previous post that connects to one part of Milton Dohoney's proposed 2007 Cincinnati city budget prompts us to make a controversial statement.

Dohoney proposes reducing curbside recycling to twice per month to save dollars. We think that's an excellent move, both environmentally and fiscally. In fact, we call for the courageous elimination of curbside recycling.

Why, gentle readers ask? Is SWIND a rapacious Republican who sees Planet Earth as his repository of wealth to be extracted and storehouse for waste to be dumped? Hardly. We just think, with many environmentalists, that curbside recycling makes little sense.

The reasons for this are simple:
  • The materials typically recycled are not in short supply. Aluminum is among the most abundant minerals on earth. Glass is made from sand. We're unlikely to run short of petroleum extracts, a byproduct of refining used to make plastics, any time soon. Recycling paper does save trees, but at what expense (see below)? And if we ever did run short of these items, we could mine the landfills for them.
  • In some cases, we understand, the energy used to recycle exceeds energy used to produce new products. And since energy usage is among the most critical environmental issues, the unnecessary expenditure of energy should be avoided.
  • Curbside recycling doubles the number of heavy trucks on the road each week to collect our waste. Their exhausts more than offset any positive environmental impact of recycling.
  • Landfills don't fill as quickly when people recycle, but the overall impact is fractional. Further, the landfill "crisis" seems to have been overblown. Well managed landfills have some negative environmental impact, but the issue is largely one of management. Further, the specter of a planet covered in trash is, of course, a mathematical impossibility, as a bit of reflection will show (we're not creating more matter when we throw something away, only moving something that we had previously extracted).

For those interested in an extended discussion, here's a place: an article from the New York Times Magazine (!) of about ten years' vintage.

So when the city is facing a tight budget and clear crime and safety issues, this is a no brainer. End the pointless, mildly destructive practice of curbside recycling, hire cops, and maybe even build a jail!

Has Price Hill's Renaissance Begun?

Our local paper of record reports that the Price Hill Civic Club is crowing.

This engine of neighborhood redevelopment yesterday announced that the vacant lot left after the demolition of a problematic apartment building will soon be the site of a pizza parlor, a bank, and maybe one other business.

Meanwhile, City Manager Milton Dohoney has announced that the demolition of derelict properties in East Price Hill will be a priority in the city's lean 2007 budget.

Price Hill is not going to turn into Mount Adams anytime soon. It remains filled with substandard housing stubbornly in the hands of people who enjoy the profit of renting decaying properties to people without alternatives. Hence, it will have a concentration of folks with social problems for awhile.

But for those who think that everything moves inexorably in a single direction, in this case downward, these developments suggest that nothing is as simple as it seems.

More Murtha: Could the Ds Be More Cynical?

John Fund at OpinionJournal offers a timely reminder that John Murtha is more than just "cut and run." He's also "take and cover up." The man for whom "redeployment" means a retreat of 5000 miles also believes that "ethics" means immunity from prosecution.

Specifically, Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1970s Abscam probe. He escaped prosecution because he delayed the acceptance of the bribe offered by undercover FBI agents and because he threatened to carry the probe into House Speaker Tip O'Neill.

Murtha is also well known for his shameless use of "earmarks" in House bills to bring federal spending to his district without careful scrutiny.

In other words, Murtha is the epitome of the "culture of corruption" against which his party ran this year. Further if he is elected to House leadership, it will be through the hardball tactics of his patron, Nancy Pelosi, who has proclaimed a new era of openness and ethics in Congress.

We have previously characterized Murtha as a sort of union boss in relation to the military. This reminder of his past reinforces that notion. For Murtha, the federal government is a huge engine of self-aggrandizement and the military a grand dispenser of money and benefits.

Today on NPR, Juan Williams stated that Murtha doesn't have the votes to be elected House Majority Leader. Let's hope he's right. If not, the Republic will get what it should have known that it voted for.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Knew: The Best Vocal Chops and Best Taste, Plus Theology

We thank the intrepid Mrs. SWNID for drawing our attention to the most stunning of artistic and cultural revelations in our recent experience, from none other than the august but sometimes predictable pages of Christianity Today.

Extraordinary jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, of whom we have known thanks to his winning many Downbeat polls but whom we've heard far too little, is a former divinity student who is managing a thoughtful, informed and honest approach to his music.

Elling has amazing chops as a singer. He covers five octaves and zero to one hundred decibels. His voice is supple, flexible and edgy. He also has uncanny taste, whether he's singing vocal standards, adaptations of instrumental standards, reworkings of pop tunes, or originals. His singing demands attention, and it rewards it. He puts his soul out there, not just his technique.

And now we see that this is more than talent. It really is his soul that's out there, and he knows it.

Why has this been a big secret for so long?

We urge the reading of the CT review by Mark Gauvreau Judge. We also note that we just added "more Kurt Elling recordings" to our SWNIDish Christmas wish list.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dems Elected as Trumanites, To Govern as McGovernites

We all hoped that the Democrats would realize that what they won last week was with candidates who stuck to the middle. This blog questioned the party's commitment to that middle.

Now we see what happens when you trust the middle to a party in a muddle for forty years.

Nancy Pelosi has issued a ringing endorsement for John Murtha to become House Majority Leader, the second in command for the House Ds. Murtha, styled by the media as pro-military but in about the same way as a union boss is pro-business (everything for the workers/soldiers, who should do no actual working/soldiering), is the leading voice in calling for the unconditional withdrawal (his Orwellian styling of it has been "redeployment," to spots as far away as the Philippines) of American troops.

Murtha is, in other words, a McGovern for our times.

If the Ds elect a more moderate candidate, one dedicated to fixing Iraq instead of leaving it in a fix, we'll know that there's hope for our two-party system. If they follow the leader, we'll know that nothing has changed.

A different way to frame this question is whether the Ds will try to govern with the voters or their donors in mind. Never mind the good of the country or the world, for that matter.

And if they make such moves as Murtha, will St. Joe Lieberman start caucusing with the Rs? He seems to be leaving the door open. That, of course, would switch the Senate to the Rs. Will the MSM cover such a move as expressing or subverting the Will of the People?

It only gets more interesting, and more serious.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bad News Today

Our campus is devastated today by the news that is reported here.

We thank everyone for their prayers for the students who were victimized by this crime, for their families and for their fellow students who share their sense of pain. We are happy that they are physically well and with their strong, loving families. We are also glad that the police have arrested a suspect.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

News You Won't Find Elsewhere

Here's a report that comes to us from a dear friend who ministers the gospel in India:

By the grace of God ministry is doing good and growing. I believe the ministry grows more when there are oppositions and problems. I think we preachers depend on God when oppositions and problems come in our ministry.

Anyway God is really blessing our ministry. On October 24th we baptized 39 people in [name of village] church. On November 7th we baptized 18 people in [name of another village] church. On November 8th (yesterday) we baptized 13 people in [name of another village] church. There were more people ready to be baptized; some of them couldn't make it for the baptism service. We are going to have baptism service for people from [name of town] church on Nov 11th. I have the great honor to baptize all these people. "O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures for ever."

How true it is, I am experiencing this everyday. Tomorrow (Nov 10th) we are going to have a prayer meeting on the hill in [village]. Believers in that church want to have the prayer meeting on the top of a big hill. It reminds me of Jesus teaching on the mountain (Matthew chapter 5). I have the honor to preach there also. God is working through us in a mighty way. Lot of new opportunities is coming for us to reach out to new areas for God. People are asking us to come and start bible study and prayer meeting. We are not able to do that now. We are praying so that God will open the door for us to start prayer meetings in those new villages. So we ask your
prayers for this. It is the time in India to reach ONE MORE FOR GOD who is in their sins and darkness. I am exited about the opportunity to do the ministry among the Hindu people in India.

The other day I attended the fasting prayer meeting in [name of city] church. We had over 130 people in that meeting. We had testimony time during that time. Tears of joy came from my eyes as I sat the life changing experiences these Christians shared. They shared their experiences with God and all the blessings they are receiving from god. On Nov 3rd one of our Christian asked to come to their house for prayer. It was a thanksgiving prayer. It was the 1st time I visited that house. The house was one room 8' X 8'. She gave her testimony there. She said her husband left her for another woman. He was an alcoholic and very abusive. She has 3 children. She became a Christian 2 years ago. She started to share about her experiences with God. There was not a single dry eye. She started to praise and thank God for all the peace and joy and happiness she has now since she became a Christian. I live in LUXURY when I compare to her life. I am a billionaire when I compare to her. But when I compare my spiritual experiences I am very poor and she is a billionaire. I Just shared this with you so that you can see the power of God, which transforms a sinner from darkness to light. This is the life changing experiences. And you are a big part in changing the life of her and thousands of other people like her. I wish she could speak English or you could understand Kannada so that I can tape it and send it to you. Is there joy in serving God among the poor and neglected people in India? You bet there is a great joy and reward in serving God especially among the poor and needy Hindus. I like to be known as the preacher to the poor and rejected and unwanted people in India.

That is what I do and I enjoy it. So I give thanks to my God because He is good and Merciful.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rummy Retires: SWNID Glad to Be Wrong

Word of Donald Rumsfeld's retirement does damage to our Seldom-Wrong reputation, having earlier today opined that the Democrat majority made his resignation less likely.

But we're glad at any rate. Defense needs fresh leadership with fresh ideas.

Bush shows himself to have more flexibility in this than we expected. The time for Rummy to go had clearly come, but he seemed mired in his personal loyalty.

Of course, the first sign that a person is about to lose a cabinet post is the President's announcement of his confidence in the person, which announcement Bush made last week.

I Promise, This Is the Last One

For some reason, listening to Nancy Pelosi today reminds us of this story, recently reported.

Can't Resist: One More Thing

The defeats of Blackwell, Swann, and Steele prove that Rs can't break the D coalition merely by running African-American candidates. As Jack Kemp observed many years ago, the party of Lincoln must not pander to the African-American community, as has the party of Jefferson. Rather, it must address the concerns of that community in a direct, fresh and honest way that better reflects the values that the community holds and better promises results that the community wants.

The defeat of Ford shows that to appeal sufficiently to be elected, any candidate must inspire personal confidence. We think that Ford lost not because he is black, and not because he was a Democrat (he ran on a very moderate platform) but because as a single man who went to the Playboy party at the Superbowl, he doesn't appear dependable. The damage done in that famous "call me" ad was not that the woman was white (anyone who would vote against Ford because he might date white women would vote against Ford, period) but because she was a floozy. Even immoral people like their politicians solid and dependable (with the exception of the State of Louisiana, of course).

Obama has a wife and two kids. A winner, he illustrates Ford's problem.

Random Observations on the Midterms

Wanting to blog but needing to educate, we will confine ourselves to a disorganized bullet list of observations, unencumbered by helpful hyperlinks to relevant stories:

  • This reminds us more of 1992 than 1994. Democrats will have difficulty claiming much of a mandate because they didn't run on much, a la Clinton. It's more of a repudiation of The Republicans Who Make Life Hard than an affirmation of anything in particular.
  • Democrats who think that they have a mandate against the war should look closely to Lieberman's trouncing of Lamont. What voters want, short of a miracle, is better management of Iraq, not an unconditional withdrawal.
  • Those most political on the Religious Right are also the least likely to help their candidates. Blackwell got beat like a fresh egg, thanks to alienating most independents and many Republicans with his too-friendly association with Reformation Ohio, a Christian group so out there that even our SWNIDish self was repulsed, though not enough to support the clueless Strickland. Yet today, we heard Russell Johnson, renegade Campbellite and co-organizer of the Gang that Shot Its Own Candidate, saying that as a Christian, he was used to crucifixions on Friday but knows that there's a resurrection on Sunday. Sorry, Russell, but much as we want to see everything in life as cruciform, in our book you just blasphemed.
  • In some, both parties need to continue to move to the middle. If they don't, they'll lose.
  • Strickland will have a tough time governing with two chambers of the legislature still in the control of the Rs. But Rs won't rule entirely, as they won't be able to override a Strickland veto without a few Ds on their side, and there's no chance of that. So expect either sensible compromise or absolutely nothing from Columbus.
  • "Mallory" is still a magic name in Our Fair City. Despite his every misstep over the last six months, Dale Mallory carried two-thirds of his Ohio House race against Kim Hale.
  • Indiana took two more steps toward becoming the New Jersey of the Midwest. First, it sent three more Ds to the House (we knew it was over in the House when Chocola lost Indiana-2 early). Second, Ohioans preserved the income of all the tour bus operators and gave the Rising Sun Grand Victoria Casino a new lease on life by voting down slots. That establishes it as a Democrat stronghold and firms it up as a gaming haven for nearby states. Add that it's become a bedroom state for Cincinnati (compare Philly) and Chicago (compare NYC) and that it has a big stretch of smelly industry on the lake, and you've got Newer Jersey.
  • Ohioans have voted stagflation (high unemployment and high inflation, for those too young to remember the 1970s) into their state constitution. Issue 3 will not only raise the minimum wage in Ohio by over 30% this year, but it will raise it for inflation every year thereafter. I can't think of a better way to take us back to the Nixon-Ford-Carter bleakness except to nationalize this, which seems to be what the Ds in Congress might do. For those who think it appropriate that low-wage workers be guaranteed by law what no one else is guaranteed, we note that the law does not forbid the elimination of low wage jobs as the wages push higher, making the jobs pay more than they're worth to the employer.
  • Steve Chabot's victory and Phil Heimlich's defeat show that Cincinnati likes their conservatives nice. Jean Schmidt doesn't prove the opposite. She proves that Cincinnati likes their representatives conservative. Had the Ds run a moderate like Cranley in Ohio 2, they'd have one more Congressman.
  • By voting against the jail tax and the slot parlors, Hamilton County proved that it doesn't do everything that Si Leis says.
  • 2008 will be fought in the middle. The Republican standard bearer will be one of three moderates: Giuliani, McCain or Romney. The Democrat will be Hillary. Both sides will stress moderation, competence, problem-solving and values. Appeals to religion will be largely off limits, as each side will concede the other's godliness (and thoughtful people of faith will dismiss the likelihood that either side is genuinely godly). For those who insist on an overtly and purely Christian candidate, the alternatives will be to stay home or vote for a fringe party loser, thereby casting half a vote for the greater of two evils.
  • It's less likely that Rumsfeld will retire than if the Rs had carried at least one chamber. Bush won't want to look like he's caving to pressure or abandoning his buddy. Too bad.
  • We wish Benny06 well in his new job in the Strickland administration as Undersecretary for Business Unfriendliness.

For Solace, We Turn to Scott Ott

There's little more to say this morning that what has been said by Scott Ott, a.k.a. "Scrappleface," who offers "Bush's Top Ten Positive Outcomes of Election."

We won't spoil the fun by even offering a quote. Follow the link.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

CBS Makes Valiant Attempt to Fix Exit Polls

Upon exiting the polls at our local, Roman-Catholic-Church-accommodated precinct in our leafy, city neighborhood, Mrs. SWNID was asked to participate in a CBS exit poll. And her experience suggests that the folks with the Eye on America are trying to avert their eyes for better polling.

In 2004, the word was that exit pollsters were predominantly female grad students, and the people whom they polled, proving that Samoans aren't the only ones who tell Margaret Mead what she wants to hear, tended to tell the pollster falsely that they voted for St. John Kerry of Beacon Hill.

This exit pollster is described as "a dad in a ballcap" who handed the lovely and gracious Mrs. SWNID a machine where she could record her preference secretly. Sounds pretty innocuous. Of course, the pollster could be a female grad student in disguise.

Still, word is that the exit polls will be jealously guarded in a room to which only two people have access (two in case one dies?) and in which there is no electronic access to the outside world at all.

Voting in the Rain, Watching the Returns

Rain on election day is normally taken as good for Rs and bad for Ds, as it's assumed that Democrat voters are less likely to brave the elements. And it's raining right now in Cincinnati.

But this year, rain is to the advantage of Democrats. You see, Evil Genius Karl Rove and Prince of Darkness Dick Cheney have stationed snipers at polling places, and any member of America's Working Families who manages to get through the ring of land mines around the precinct will be shot. But rain spoils the aim of these Republican snipers, so it's likely that some gay, disabled veterans of color will get through to vote. Not that it should matter, as they won't have the 42 kinds of government-issued ID that the Rascally Republicans are requiring this year for citizens to exercise their franchise.

But still somehow, it's going to be a Democrat blowout. By sheer numbers, like an ant colony or the Borg on Star Trek, the People will prevail against every Republican plot to steal yet another election. Expect peace and prosperity for all, by February at the latest.

For those with a serious interest in following the results, we recommend John Fund's guide to significant races (print and consult during the reports of returns tonight).

For those who, like the SWNID household, refuse to pay for television, there aren't a lot of options for viewing results and punditry. NBC will have brief updates on the hour at 8 and 9 p.m., but otherwise, it's great TV like Dancing with the Stars until 10 p.m. We wish that Fox's broadcast division would field the same team that they did in 2004, with the immortal Michael Barone reviewing district-by-district returns and divining their significance. But it appears that Antichrist Rupert Murdoch is acceding to the Will of the People and maintaining normal programming.

So we recommend the internet for results. Start with RealClearPolitics. But don't neglect local returns. Hamilton County is posting "real time" results here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

MacDonald on Haggard: For the Ages

Gordon MacDonald's Christianity Today blog entry on the Haggard mess is definitive. We defer to his wisdom, born of bitter experience and decades of reflection.

In particular, he gives eloquent voice to our little observation about the intersection of sex and power.

Haggard Parsed, at Least Approximately

The reports of Ted Haggard's written confession and apology to his church underline the tragedy of his situation. We will make a few observations about the nature of the case as revealed, to whatever degree anything is revealed, by his letter.

First, Haggard's accuser, Mike Jones, says that he wanted to expose Haggard's hypocrisy, as Haggard supported a ban on gay marriages. We think that's imprecise. Haggard's hypocrisy was in concealing his actions that he believed and preached were wrong. That's classic hypocrisy, and it's different from the politicized view of hypocrisy asserted by the gay-rights crowd.

For Jones and others, hypocrisy is experiencing same-sex attraction and not supporting moral equivalency for gay sex ("Jones told CNN he went public with his allegations because of Haggard's support for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that is on the ballot this Tuesday in Colorado"). Per them, if you want to have sex with a person of the same sex, you should not only act on the desire, you should believe that such action is right and good. If you feel this compulsion, you are gay, and to be true to your gayness, you must be in political solidarity with the gay political movement. Jones and company dismiss the possibility that one might feel something and believe that to act on the feeling is wrong.

Haggard is the kind of person that the gay rights movement doesn't want to allow to exist. We take him to be speaking honestly when he says that he regards this matter as "repulsive and dark." What he wants to do, he doesn't; what he doesn't want to do, he does.

He's no hypocrite for thinking that his desires are for something immoral. The fact is, everyone but the sociopath (we welcome members of the psychological community to sharpen our categories here) thinks that he has impulses that must be restrained. What the so-called gay-rights community advocates is that gay sex be viewed as the moral equivalent of straight sex. Hence, if you're of the persuasion that sex belongs in marriage, there should be gay marriage. If you're of the persuasion that sex belongs between consenting adults, regardless of marriage, then gays should have all the consenting, "safe" sex partners they want.

Haggard, a Christian who now confesses to a powerful sexual attraction to people of the same sex, instead believes that his impulses take him to something that is morally wrong. He, like many weak, sinful humans, chose to act on the impulses and conceal his actions, not just because others would condemn him but because he was himself rationally and consistently ashamed of them. And now, like many, his sins have gone public. And he's admitted to them, asking for forgiveness.

That ends his hypocrisy, in our view. For gay-rights advocates, his hypocrisy will end only when he endorses the moral equivalency of gay sex (for some, it may end only when he leaves his forgiving wife and five children and "lives as a gay man," but we'll ignore that for now).

Second, we acknowledge that Haggard's confession doesn't end the matter for him and those near him. But we hope and pray that it does mark a beginning of the kind of transparency and support that all sinners need in the community of Jesus Christ.

"Accountability" is a term used so much in so many contexts these days that we avoid it in our own conversation. But it can embody what everyone needs to mortify sinful selfishness. Without those who know us and are honest and gracious but firm with us, we have less reason to resist our impulses toward those things that are inconsistent with our identity as God's people. Those who fill that role incarnate God's own actions, as God knows all our secrets, instructs and corrects us, forgiving us while calling us to live in a way that genuinely reflects who we were created and recreated to be.

We pray that more Christians will find themselves able to confess before their brothers and sisters the temptations with which they struggle, and that those spiritual siblings can respond with the grace and love that does not condemn but forgives and challenges. It's not a panacea, but we've seen it help a lot.

Third, let's be clear about this. What Haggard did was no different from what various other Christian leaders have done with members of the opposite sex. He believes that sex is for permanent, monogamous, heterosexual marriage, but he hasn't lived up to that. If he had done what he did with a woman, the outcome would be the same.

But the solution is not to allow Haggard to marry a man, any more than the solution to Jimmy Swaggart's problem would have been to add multiple female concubines to his staff. We don't make our lives better by finding social accommodations or rationalizations for our sinfulness. The reign of God that Jesus brings means that we continually conform ourselves to the purpose for which God created us, not by attempting to revise what that purpose is. It's a hard task, but so was hanging on a cross.

Finally, the link between sex and power remains strong. Not all who misbehave sexually have power, but the occurrence of sexual misbehavior among the powerful is too frequent to ignore. The kingdom of God belongs to the weak. Those who count themselves in the kingdom do well to remind themselves of that, especially when they wield what the world calls strength.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pew Research: Momentum with Rs

Expect a really late night on Tuesday, or go to bed early and get up extremely early on Wednesday. It's going to be very close, and it may just surprise the MSM, minus Michael Barone.

Pew Research is reporting a significant gain for Republicans in the generic congressional poll, and a concomitant dive for Ds. October 17-22 the Rs pulled 39% among likelies. This weekend, they poll 43%. By contrast, Ds have dropped from 50% to 47% in the same period.

Worse still, the Ds do worse among likelies than among registereds, while the Rs do better. This pattern holds true in polls most years, but Ds have been counting on their voters being mad enough at Bush to come out in bigger numbers to vote for low-name-recognition challengers against Republican congressional incumbents. Looks like their engine is running out of steam.

Let's remember the pledge of James Carville that the Democrats will need to rethink the whole idea of their party if they lose in 2006. And let's see if that's yet another political promise that goes unfulfilled.

Don’t Doubt, Vote Right: The SWNID Voter’s Guide

For the comforting of our friends and the confounding of our enemies, we here offer our SWNIDish advice on ballot casting for Tuesday. Gentle readers registered to vote in Ohio should click the permalink for this post, print it, and carry it proudly to the polls.

And of course, we offer not just our recommendations but our Seldom Wrong rationale for each.

By the way, we are noting only those candidates on the ballot in our precinct. If you’re in another part of the world, we’d like to tell you who the SWNID candidates are down the ballot, but we just can’t manage all that. But you can generate a sample ballot and some information on the candidates here, thanks to the venerable League of Women Voters.

Governor of Ohio: Ken Blackwell
Blackwell has run the most miserable campaign in history, perhaps justifying at least some of the rotten things said about him in Strickland’s ads. But the fact remains that Ohio’s economic situation will not be improved by the kind of high-tax, pro-public-employee environment that Strickland will perpetuate. Nor will its education system be improved by more toadying to the AFT and NEA. Blackwell’s principles are strong, even if his political ability has faltered.

Attorney General of Ohio: Betty Montgomery
Montgomery has been tarred unfairly with the coingate scandal. An effective legal officer, she will serve well in the AG’s office. Marc Dann, her opponent, lacks her experience in statewide office.

Auditor of State: Mary Taylor
Taylor is an accomplished state legislator and a CPA. Her opponent, Barbara Sykes, is part of the pro-union cabal of northeast Ohio Democrats, the folks who have brought us the kind of state economy that is dragging. And she has no accounting experience.

Secretary of State, State of Ohio: Greg Hartmann
Hartmann has served with remarkable effectiveness in Hamilton County government, streamlining the Clerk of Courts office and vastly improving customer service. He has also pledged not to chair anyone’s campaign while he is in office regulating elections, a welcome, voluntary move. We have met him and find him impressively energetic and more than a little amusing.

Treasurer of State, State of Ohio: Richard Cordray
We’ve decided that it’s time that Ohio had someone in statewide office who is not a Republican. Cordray is pick of the Democrat litter, and a worthwhile candidate even in a year that doesn't require a bit of housecleaning. Holding the MA in economics from Oxford University (the real Oxford, not that fake Oxford in Ohio with a newer university in it) and a JD from the University of Chicago, he’s easily the best educated person on anyone’s ballot this year. He’s done a creditable job in Franklin County as treasurer. And since the real Republican scandal has been with the treasurer’s office, this is the place to make the move.

US Representative, District 1: Steve Chabot
We think that John Cranley is a decent guy, pretty smart, and moderate for a Democrat. We’ve voted for him for city council. But Chabot is too good to throw out just because we’re tired of Republicans. He’s honest, plainspoken, and thoroughly conservative, just like SWNID. He's done good work as a Congressman, and he needs to stay for awhile.

United States Senate: Mike DeWine
DeWine proved himself right in joining the gang of fourteen that negotiated an end of the judicial wars, and we’ll admit that our misgivings about that deal were just maybe a little bit wrong. More than that, he’s a voice of decency and wisdom in the Senate, and a strong voice for human life. Meanwhile, Sherrod Brown is a recast William Jennings Bryan, whose so-called populism is really protectionism and support for closed shop arrangements that would shackle American economic growth. We urge gentle readers to prove the polls wrong on this race.

State Representative, District 32: Kimberly Hale
This is a tough one. On one side is Dale Mallory, member of the Mallory clan, and supporter of the development of a new social service center in the West End. We like Dale and we like his family, who have served Cincinnati with distinction for two generations. But he completely mishandled the whole West End social service center deal, misadvising the center’s sponsors in a way that is proving fatal to the project and probably fatal to his own political career, as he is also under criminal investigation for mishandling community council funds. On the other side is Kimberly Hale, who has run a vigorous campaign for a Republican in the city. She doesn’t have any big and bright ideas, but of late Mallory has looked pretty ham-handed as a politician, to put it mildly. So we’ll say yes to Kim Hale and wish her the best.

State Senator, District 9: Eric Kearney
Kearney is a thoughtful, decent, honest, experienced and well-connected individual, committed to civil rights and economic development. His opponent is a political neophyte. We go with Kearney for the personal qualities. If you're keeping a tally, that's two Democrats we're endorsing.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Terrence O’Donnell
O’Donnell, an incumbent member of the court’s slight majority of conservatives, has stated flatly that he doesn’t believe that the Supreme Court of Ohio can order the legislature, an equal branch of state government, to do something. His opponent, William O’Neill, states that the legislature can be found in contempt of court if it doesn’t obey the orders of the Supreme Court of Ohio. We know whose judicial philosophy is most in tune with the history of our Republic.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Robert R. Cupp
Neither candidate in this Supreme Court race is an incumbent. But again, you can tell what’s up by what each says about the court’s power over the legislature. For Cupp, the Supreme Court interprets Ohio law, but it is a co-equal member of government. For his opponent, Ben Espy, the court can enforce its rulings by holding individual members of the legislature in contempt.

Judge, Ohio State Court of Appeals, District 1: Patrick Dinkelacker
Dinkelacker, the incumbent, is a former prosecutor. His opponent is a law professor. The problem in Ohio doesn’t seem to be a lack of understanding of the law but a lack of will to jail the bad guys. We go with the prosecutor.

Other Judicial Races
In all other judicial races, the candidates are unopposed. N.B. that William Mallory and Dennis Helmick are both listed for the Court of Common Pleas, but two judges are to be elected in that category.

Member, State Board of Education, District 4: John Hritz
Don’t miss this one. G. R. Schloemer is the incumbent and is campaigning on a platform to keep discussion of alternatives to evolution out of the classroom Hritz sees it otherwise. We have declared our undying support for the interdisciplinary public school classroom, the same in science as in English and history. It’s an offense against nature that there even is a state school board, but since we’ve got it, we need thoughtful people on it, not reactionaries.

County Commissioner: Phil Heimlich
Phil is a divider, not a uniter. But he manages to save money and get stuff done. Most recently, he got the jail on the ballot. David Pepper’s list of accomplishments on Cincinnati City Council is short. He styles himself a moderate, but who can tell with his lack of any real activity? This is his last chance politically, and we wish him well in the private sector.

County Auditor: Dusty Rhodes
Dusty is unopposed again, proving that Democrats can get elected in Hamilton County if they do a good job. He’s been a responsive and responsible auditor, and I will forgive him for taking conservative talk off of AM 1160 in favor of oldies.

State Issue 1: No Vote
This has been removed by the courts, though it appears on the ballot. Vote yes, no, or leave it blank, but it won't become law.

State Issue 2: Constitutional Amendment to Raise the Minimum Wage: AGAINST
This is a bad idea, as raising the minimum wage will help few of the people it’s aimed at helping while hurting the businesses that give them jobs. It’s also a bad way to do it, as the state constitution is hardly the place to set the minimum wage. Really, this is a ruse to get liberals to the polls. Tell them that you’re no fool.

State Issue 3: Gambling and College Scholarships: AGAINST

Promoted in probably the most deceptive campaign waged since the Marlboro Man, this constitutional amendment will open Ohio to slot parlors. A sliver of the money gambled will go for scholarships for students in the top 5% of their high school graduating classes, hardly denting Ohio’s high public university tuition. Other money will go back to local governments to spend with their usual frugality and common sense. One percent will be devoted to developing recovery programs for gambling addicts. We insist that it is fundamentally immoral to appeal to people’s greed as a means of raising public revenue, period.

State Issue 4: Constitutional Amendment to Reduce Smoking: AGAINST
This is the pro-smoking move made by Big Tobacco, masked as an anti-smoking measure. It would actually eliminate the ability of local governments to restrict smoking to the degree that many already have.

State Issue 5: Proposed Law to Limit Smoking: FOR
This is the bill that passed the legislature and is now up for review by the voters. It will eliminate smoking in all public places, thereby ending the victimization of people forced to work around secondhand smoke. Remember, SWNID is a moral conservative, not a libertarian. We believe in limited government, but we believe that government can encourage virtue. Cigarettes and slot machines aren’t virtuous.

Issue 12: Proposed Sales and Use Tax—Hamilton County: FOR
This is the additional quarter percent sales tax for ten years to finance law enforcement. The county commissioners have pledged this to build a jail. We’re in favor of putting people who commit crimes in places where they can’t commit more crimes.

Issue 13: Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal)—Hamilton County: FOR
This goes for children’s services, and it’s not an increase. We’re for children!

Issue 14: Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal and Decrease)—Hamilton County: FOR
This is for health and hospitalization. By most standards, our local indigent care is pretty good. We’re for maintaining the local public health clinics and the public hospital services at University Hospital.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Army Times: Rummy Must Go; SWNID: We Agree

Today's well-publicized Army Times editorial calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense prompts our reluctant agreement.

We affirm that Rumsfeld is an honorable and diligent man of exceptional ability. We furthermore deny that anyone can know that the war would have gone better had it been prosecuted with more soldiers. It's easier to know how it has gone wrong than to say how it would have gone right.

But calling for Rumsfeld's resignation is the only rational response to a situation where his credibility with the uniformed military is so seriously in question. Even if that were not the case, he has still served over five difficult years, and the situation that the military faces could use a fresh set of eyes at the top.

As far as his subordinates are concerned, Bush is, as we have said before, the loyalest of loyalists. He demands loyalty, and he gives it in return. Often that is an asset. If he does not relent on this issue, it will be a liability.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Haggard: Elmer Gantry Redux?

The allegation that National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard has consorted regularly with a male prostitute and taken methamphetamine is starting to look like so many other scandals that have hit media-prominent Christian preachers. The accusation comes at a time when the leader's influence is socially or politically significant, it's made by an unsavory character on the fringe of society, it produces a combined denial and admission from the leader, it prompts a series of supporting statements from members of the leader's flock, and it prompts others in the leader's organization to launch an investigation.

Of course, readers of Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry know this story all too well. Readers of 2 Samuel know it too.

Reports are that Haggard admitted that some of Mike Jones's allegations are true. From reports of the saved voicemails that Jones has produced, it appears that Haggard may be admitting to drug use, to which the voicemails allude. So Haggard's line of defense may become, Yes, I used drugs, but no, I didn't have sex with a man.

In either case, however, Haggard is probably finished. Jimmy Swaggart's recovery to markedly lesser prominence depended on his powerful Pentecostal persona, something that Haggard cannot claim. Further, the Colorado Springs evangelicals whom he leads aren't as likely to allow his continued leadership as were Swaggart's television diaspora.

We make one broad observation. Haggard is married, the father of five, the pastor of a huge church, and the president of a huge organization. He risked all that for something that he wanted to keep secret from all those people. Now that it is not a secret, he is ruined. Sin is powerful.

Update: The independent board of overseers for Haggard's church has stated that they find him guilty of sexual misconduct and have acted to remove him from his position with the church. There's nothing to be happy about here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

SWNID on Obama: We Defer to Crouch

Recently and often we have been asked our opinion of Barak Obama as presidential timber. We have given as noncommittal an answer as possible, as we think a public figure needs a public record for public comment. In other words, we're impressed by the persona, we're hopeful for anyone with the potential to moderate the Democratic party's extremism, but we just can't tell from a keynote address at a convention and an appearance on Oprah what we're dealing with here.

But we defer to SWNID-favorite (because he manages to get paid to write on politics and culture and jazz) Stanley Crouch on what may well prove the most difficult matter in an Obama candidacy, namely, his ethnicity. This is not to say that some will vote against him because he's black; that is no surprise. It is whether "black" in the usual sense should be applied to him. Per Crouch:

Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.

Race, we are reminded, is a social construct, without any completely objective content (as Crouch has written elsewhere, we are a nation that prides itself on scientific accuracy and yet calls people "white" or "black" when no human is actually either color). Ethnicity, another social construct, is a complex of physical appearance, history, culture, and experience, with the latter categories in most ways more important than the first. Color, in other words, is not the same as ethnicity.

But Crouch says it better. Read him.

Comments Warmly Invited: An Anthropologist Does Christianity

Inside Higher Ed is running a stimulating essay by anthropology prof Alex Golub on his sympathetic, outsider-yet-quasi-insider perspective on Christianity that he employs in the undergraduate classroom.

We find it interesting enough to link it with the fervent request that gentle readers not only read it but post whatever they think about it in the comments. Our own comments would run to several pages, much more than we can type these days, and would likely stifle discussion, if not distort Golub's voice as well.

So have at it, dearest blog-friends, if you please.

And if you need an appetizer, here's a tease-quote:

I actively incorporate the gospel of Christ into my teaching--although not for the reason you might think.

I myself am not Christian-- as some readers may remember, I'm Jewish. I am, however, a passionate choral singer with an interest in music of the Baroque and Renaissance, and it is hard to find secular ensembles that perform this repertoire. As a result I spend a lot of time in church. . . .

My decision to begin incorporating the anthropology of Christianity into my classes was premised on the belief that, academically speaking, Christianity could be used to soften hands while I did the dishes. That is to say, I realized that I didn't just have to let the fact that my classes were saturated with Christianity go unremarked.

Cincinnati's Poor Neighborhoods Movin' on Up, or How Any Story Can Be Written Any Day

Back when the Census Bureau told Cincinnati that it was losing population faster than Baghdad, our leading local newspaper (surprisingly celebrated in last night's premiere of The Rich List) chronicled the reasons why every sensible person is moving as quickly as possible to a McMansion in West Chester.

Now that the Census Bureau is telling Cincinnati that it has actually gained a tiny sliver of population, our leading local paper is telling us that upscale residents are gentrifying some of the city's oldest and poorest neighborhoods.

We observe first that a journalist, armed with an interpretation of reality, can find seemingly limitless anecdotes to illustrate and demonstrate that interpretation. Good journalists can do personal interest stories on conflicting interpretations simultaneously, or nearly so, as the Enquirer illustrates.

We observe second the demographic trend under-reported in either Enquirer story: people without children are moving urban; people with children are moving suburban. This trend is very pronounced in the densest and most expensive cities and will likely manifest itself in medium size metros like Cincinnati. It will affect schools, businesses, politics and churches.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry's Tasteless Joke, Or Why the Ds Can't Get a Majority

Many things will be said today, as they were yesterday, on John Kerry's so-called joke about people who don't study ending up stuck in Iraq. We'll discuss it in terms not about Kerry's actual intentions, nor about the merits of Kerry, Bush or the Iraq war. We will discuss instead the nature of Democrat rhetoric. We think Democrat rhetoric generally fails these days, we recent elections as proof, we mildly prognosticate that November 7 will prove that the Democrats will not have fully exploited their moment of opportunity this autumn, and we think that Kerry's dumb joke and his ongoing response illustrates why. In sum, this affair embodies all the dumb assumptions that Democrats embed in their rhetoric, leading to dumb jokes like this one that further erode their position in the body politic.

We detail as follows:

Dumb assumption number one: Republicans differ from Democrats because Republicans are stupid and Democrats are smart. This has been the refrain ever since Gerald Ford was President. It got harsh in the Reagan years, and it's been harsher still in the Dubya years. The vain attempt is to ascribe policy differences to intellectual differences. It's vain because lots of smart people are Republicans. It's vainer still because during the 2004 election campaign, we got a glimpse of Mr. Kerry's and Mr. Bush's records at their shared alma mater and discovered that Bush had the slightly higher GPA, though neither legacy admission was a distinguished scholar.

Applying the "dumb Republican" trope to the Iraq war is especially ineffective for Kerry & Co. when the Democrats have studiously avoided putting forward anything resembling an Iraq policy (as if a clear policy is even possible in a situation like this). If the Rs are dumb on Iraq, then the Ds appear to be dumber.

Dumb assumption number two: Republicans differ from Democrats because Republicans are immoral and Democrats are moral. Broadly speaking, the Ds, the party that brought you a mushroom cloud in a TV ad in 1964, generally wail the loudest about unfair attack ads (and Evil Genius Karl Rove, heir to the Lee Atwater legacy, who produces every single one of them). This is, of course, the opening line of their own attack ads. Kerry is now complaining that Bush is attacking him about his joke, by which he now claims he was merely attacking Bush. Is Bush's attack that Kerry insulted the American military less fair than Kerry's attack that Bush is dumb? Well, it is if Bush is just being mean but Kerry is being fair. And in the absence of supporting evidence, the nature of which one cannot even imagine, we can get to that conclusion only if we allow that by nature Bush is morally bad and Kerry morally good.

Once again, it doesn't work. Both parties are completely filled with bad people. Republicans alone didn't corrupt the electoral system with their evil attack ads, any more than Democrats alone did. Voters know this. They distrust politicians, not just Republicans or Democrats.

Dumb assumption number three: Republicans must carry the stigma of everything they've ever done, but Democrats are new creatures every morning. A Democrat can accuse a Republican of doing the same old dirty tricks, as when Kerry so accuses Bush regarding his response to Kerry's joke. The notion that Republicans are the dirty tricksters resonates because of history, of course, namely the Watergate break-in and cover-up. But if even one Republican compares Kerry's joke to his infamous testimony on Vietnam before a Senate committee in which without evidence he ascribed the frequent commission of war crimes to American forces, that Republican will be accused of "swiftboating."

And it's worth remembering that that odd expression arose when former military associates of Kerry wanted to call him to account for that very testimony, thereby, in Democratese, "questioning his patriotism."

Again, this doesn't work. When Kerry says stuff like he did, it is far, far too reminiscent of that earlier episode of testimony and far, far too much in accord with the anti-military stance that his party has taken since 1972. Complaining that he, the decorated veteran, is being attacked by people who never served, Kerry neatly glosses over the reality that Bush did do a stint in the reserves (and dare he imply yet again that serving in the reserves doesn't count, thereby insulting all reservists?). But quite apart from that point, he continues to act as if he and his were at least as highly thought of by people in the military as are Bush and his. The overwhelming majority of enlisted personnel and officers in the American military continue to support Bush and other Republicans.

And it's obvious why. Just play the tape.

Again, all of this is not simply to say that we prefer one party over the other these days. It is to beg, once again, that the opposition party in this country take seriously the evidence of history, the insights of economic science and the political realities, that they move away from the policies and campaign methods that have consigned them to the political wilderness, and that they get with the center right as did Tony Blair's Labour Party, thereby creating a real debate about policy and thereby providing a viable political alternative.

That would be the smart and moral thing to do, and the very thing that would allow the Dems to overcome the 35 years of political irrelevancy on the far left.

Update: Jonah Goldberg has handled all this with matchless wit on NRO Online. Meanwhile, we're trying add to this post this superb photo, appropriately celebrated by the NY Post.