Friday, December 15, 2006

Profanity Waning?

For those who wonder whether our culture's adolescent fascination with forbidden words will ever end, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has some interesting observations today. Per Henninger, some comedians are declaring excessive profanity and obscenity (which trend in comedy Henninger traces to Eddy Murphy's 1987 filmed standup act Raw) to be absolute in entertainment.

Henninger points out that not long ago, HBO's dramatic series were averaging well over one f-bomb per minute.* That may have pushed even the most calloused cursers over their point of tolerance.

Or maybe the question is utility. Once profanity is used that often, it loses its power to shock. Once it no longer shocks, it becomes superfluous. And no, gentle readers, that doesn't mean that everyone will find something even more shocking. No social pattern moves consistently in a straight line, not least this one.

At any rate, we welcome any trend toward less of it.

*We'd estimate that rate at roughly 1/3 that of the Scottish teenagers who stood outside the SWNID bathroom, adjacent to the local fish-and-chips emporium, when the SWNIDs lived in the Auld Country.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Powers: Hypersexualized Dolls for '06 Christmas

Former Clinton (!) appointee and current Fox News political analyst Kirsten Powers in todays NY Post lambasts toymakers for their marketing of super-sexy dolls clearly modeled on the party-girl image of MTV and similar entertainment figures.

Though the SWNID household has been untouched by the deliterious image of womanhood promoted by Brittany, Paris, MTV dancers and their ilk, we nevertheless add our voice in outcry against this expansion of the tramp franchise.

Here's a passage from Powers (after reading, join us in saying "Amen"):

Feminists used to complain that Barbie sold girls an unrealistic body image. Modern dolls make Barbie look like what she was meant to be: child's play. There were no bustiers and garters for Barbie when I was growing up, nor did she sell a particular lifestyle. She could be a stay-at-home mom or a working woman, depending on who was dressing her.

The new dolls have gone beyond selling a body image and now sell a materialistic, hyper-sexualized, party lifestyle. Where Barbie had no real-life counterpart, the newer dolls are clear rip-offs and reinforcements of what's already being sold 24/7 to girls through movies, reality TV, music performers, MTV and glossy magazines.

Doo-Wop Christmas Greetings from SWNID

We offer this classic flash animation as our Christmas greeting to all of our gentle readers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Harvard Excommunicates Proposed Religion Requirement

The Boston Globe (motto: "Same ownership as the NY Times, but with even more pronounced leftist bias") reports that Harvard University will not go forward with its radical proposal to require all students to take a course in religion.

Instead, students must take a course from a cluster of disciplines that explore what it means to be a human being. The cluster will include art, literature, philosophy, evolutionary biology and cognitive science as well as religion.

This move can be interpreted various ways. One is as a cave-in to those who have criticized the proposed religion requirement as too narrow. Another is as yet another expression of anti-religion bias at Harvard and other universities in the higher-education establishment.

We'll agree with both of those assessments and add a third: it is likely a response to pressure from various academic departments at Harvard who want to be sure that their turf is covered in the new requirements. No one wants to be in the department that doesn't have courses that meet core requirements. The consequence of such exclusion is lowered enrollment in the department, fewer chances to snag students into the departmental major, and less funding from the university over the long term. Such considerations drive most discussions of curriculum at most universities, where there's hardly an issue that isn't driven by the preservation and expansion of someone's institutional domain.

We'll also decry the obvious balkanization of this proposed, high-minded exploration of human meaning. We doubt very much that a Harvard course in, say, cognitive science or evolutionary biology is likely to be taught with inclusion of significant critique of the reductionistic tendencies of the use of such scientific disciplines to explain human experience. Such critique would largely come from religious circles, of course, and the assumption of the behaviorial and life sciences is that their mandate is to explain all religious notions within their disciplines, not to consider critique of their own discipline from religious thought.

There is an exception in the Harvard curriculum, of course. Those who watched the magisterial PBS series The Question of God know that for years Harvard psychiatrist (!) Dr. Armand Nicholi has taught a course exploring the rationale for belief in God via the exploration of the contrasting lives of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. It's that kind of breadth of thinking, embracing psychology, literature, religion, philosophy and the full palette of human experience, that is missing generally in higher education.

But even in the Harvard desert, there is the occasional oasis. That's why Armand Nicholi is one of our heroes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Military and Seminary: Coincidence?

James Taranto today is running five comments from military personnel and their families offering reaction to the recent remarks by John Kerry and Charles Rangel that have suggested that military enlistees are mostly down-on-their-luck unfortunates who didn't do well in school.

What we find interesting is that two of these missives mention seminary. One is from a military doctor, who also possesses a seminary degree, and the other is from a military mom who says that her son would have gone to seminary had he not gone on active duty. In any event, that's 40% of a small sample.

What is it that makes some people see ministry and military as their prime career options? Desire to change the world? To do something audacious and meaningful with their one-and-only life on earth? Succumbing to the propaganda of the deceptive religious and military establishments? Being too stupid to see that religious faith and patriotic conviction are meaningless?

We think it's one or both of the first two, and we totally discount the last two.

Crouch: Women Can Change Destructive Hip-Hop Culture

Stanley Crouch offers an exceptional dose of Crouchism today.

The greatest living fan of Louis Armstrong once again decries the degrading effect of hip-hop thug culture. There's nothing new there, but it's a tasty serving of Crouch's vigorous prose. We quote one passage strictly on style points:

Added to this low-lying mix are the supposedly sympathetic white liberals, who are more than happy to submit gutlessly to the black middle class. These white liberals have been intellectually hustled into believing that the inarticulate thug and the freelance slut are young black people in their natural state.

The black middle class, terrified of being defined as a group that kowtows to "white values," does not tend to have the nerve to stand up to this crabbed vision of life or ethnic "authenticity."

But, at the end of the ride, the ones losing and left holding the bag are neither white liberals nor the black middle class. The tragic losers are those black kids who believe that their true identity is achieved through illiteracy, thuggish behavior, dropping out of school and psychologically ingesting the subterranean attitudes toward women that are espoused by pimps. They are sloughing through a spiritual sewer, incapable of knowing just how much it stinks.

That's enough for one column, in our SWNIDish judgment. But Crouch adds an additional and most telling observation: thug posturing has become the key to the affections of many young women. Consequently,

The solution may have to come from the women, who have been known to get men to act right when they have gotten tired of them acting like animals.

Does feminine realignment have the power to overcome the vast commercial interest that underwrites the thuggification of much of America?

Save the Planet: Drive to the Vegan Market

Today's Independent reports the latest on global warming from that always informative international organization, the UN.

To wit: cows, not cars, are heating the planet to the boiling point.

The calculation is made by considering the effect of all aspects of cattle production, from fertilizer manufacture to transportation of feed and livestock to clearing of forests to runoff from feedlots to methane and ammonia excreted by cows.

Eliminating this scourge is clearly a global priority, as the damage done will double by 2050.

And if it all sounds a bit outrageous to you, well, we beg to differ. Cincinnati has already been terrorized by two runaway cows in recent years, only to be rescued by dedicated environmentalist and aged hippie artist Peter Max. Such disruptions to the social fabric haven't even been considered by the august UN.

We've decided to do all we can to reduce this plague. Our personal commitment is to eat all the beef that we can in the coming months, to get it out of circulation and so discourage others from participating in this unholy practice of animal slavery and murder that is damaging our arteries, our planet and our very souls.

Encouraging News from West Asia: Students Heckle Ahmadinejad

From totalitarian states, Muslim or otherwise, one seldom hears reports of dissent. Such a report comes today from what is probably the most dangerous totalitarian state currently: Iran.

University students heckled Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For those who think that this event is insignificant, we insist that it is for the following reasons.

First, it was reported at all. As we note, totalitarian states don't have much truck with dissent. When it happens, they tend to crush it and silence the reporting of it.

Second, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was started by students.

None of this is to say that another revolution, this one leading to peace and democracy, is near. It is to say that the Iranians have a very complicated political situation themselves, perhaps made no easier by the presence of about 140,000 Americans to their immediate west.

What this calls for on the United States' part--in our SWNIDish, typically contrarian but otherwise uninformed opinion--is (a) encouraging and enabling friendly Muslim states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, the Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia, even Libya--it's actually an encouragingly long list) to encourage the development and empowerment of this student-led dissent; (b) being very, very patient in Iraq, so that we don't squander the advantages that our military presence in that region brings to the larger picture.

Pandemic Flu Update

Of all the crises facing the world, the one that has the most potential to kill lots of people is pandemic flu. This is no mere fearmongering in some larger cause (cf. global warming) but a lesson of tangible science (viruses mutate) and history (the Spanish flu of 1918 killed considerably more people than WWI).

So wassup with the much balleyhooed bird flu? We haven't heard much about it lately. The AP explains why. It's out there, but it's hard to track, and this isn't the season. But, and this is the significant point, it may not ever become the starting point of the next human pandemic. There's a certain randomness to all this that can't be predicted at all.

Such events as these are reminders that (a) much of what we fear never occurs; (b) much of what occurs we can't control. These are both good reasons to focus instead on that on which by definition one can actually depend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Classic on YouTube

Yet another intrepid soul has posted last year's classic "A CCU Christmas" on YouTube.

Now all the world can enjoy the foibles of the professors at East Price Hill's finest university. Kudos to all who produced this little delight.

To Correct His Sanctimony, Carter Serves Up More Sanctimony

Ex-President and Current National Embarrassment Jimmy Carter today defends his much-maligned book on Israel and the Palestinians in the LA Times. Which is to say he once again claims to be the only person in America doing the moral thing.

We are particularly irritated by Carter's implication there's no real debate in the United States on this subject and that he is breaking the silence by setting forth a vision of "Israelis and Palestinians living side by side within their own internationally recognized boundaries." Apparently the only debates that Carter knows about are the ones that play out between the voices in his head. The two-state solution has been debated in this country for years, so much so that it goes by that shorthand expression. As we recall, the current President is the first in that office to have explicitly endorsed it, and he did it at the beginning of his first term.

We are not just irritated but amazed that Carter describes Professor Kenneth Stein's criticism of the book as coming from "a former Carter Center fellow" who "took issue." Well, he became a "former" fellow because of his objection to the book. He resigned in protest. And he didn't just take issue. He said that the book is full of factual lies.

If a history of ex-Presidents is ever written, it will have to note the irony that the shamed Richard Nixon, after his years of exile, with his occasional articles and few books contributed tremendously more to public life in retirement than Carter did with all his self-righteous blather.

State: Releasing North a Mistake. Public: Duh!

Terry Collins, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, admitted yesterday that releasing Fernando Lee North was a mistake.

Immediately after his statement, the exclamation "Duh!" was collectively uttered by all citizens of southwest Ohio.

Of course, corrections officials say that there will be changes because of this. We hope so, but history doesn't give us much basis for optimism.

Hoops Haven't Been as Much Fun . . .

. . . since this guy retired from making the ball do impossible things.

Larry Bird is 50. How did that happen?

Thanks to Son of SWNID for the link.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lawson Gives State of the Movement Message

Gentle readers who align as Campbellites will certainly know that when LeRoy Lawson offers an article entitled, "The Restoration Movement: Its Vitality, Quirks, and Needs in the 21st Century," that article should be read. We affirm it as the clearest assessment that we've read in awhile, and we commend the good editor and staff of the Christian Standard for inviting Roy to write it.

Here's a tantalizing quotation, which is how the artful Lawson ends:

FORGET about respectability—We have attained it. Now we can forget about it. More important than reputation is relevance—not relevance to the religious world, because that is one of our attainments, but relevance to the nonreligious, the pre-Christian, multicultural world to which we have been sent. That means judging our progress or lack of it not by our standing among Christians, but by our reception among those who have not yet heard and heeded the Word.

SWNID Prophecy Fulfilled: Liberal Talk Dies on Cincinnati Airwaves

We thank gentle reader Scott for the heads-up that ClearChannel is taking Cincinnati's liberal talk radio off life support.

Reasons cited are Jerry Springer's departure for the proverbial "other oppportunities" and content-provider Air America's bankruptcy.

The corporation will use the 1360 frequency for consumer-oriented talk (home improvement, gardening) and some self-help chatter like Dr. Laura.

N.B. that despite the Enquirer's spin that liberal talk is a tough sell in a "red state," the truth is different. First, Ohio is a purple state. Second, Cincinnati proper is predominantly Democrat, and while the county and region may be a Republican stronghold, there are a lot of liberals in any major metro. Third, this format is dying everywhere, as the alleged "cause" of its demise in Cincinnati--Air America's failure--so aptly illustrates.

Liberal talk radio is almost uniformly humorless, bitter, angry, mean and repetitive--remarkably like the worst conservative talk radio (cf. Bill Cunningham). We don't think that any entertainment medium can survive for long on that set of characteristics.

Another Classic Video Spoof

This video is a classic from 2000, obviously produced by a CCU student. We are gratified to see it whenever we please, as a reminder of pleasant times past.

Celebrated Christian Satire Available in Quicktime

We are pleased to discover that some intrepid soul has posted the classic "Doctrine of Hairology by Dr. G. I. Barber" in Quicktime format.

We first enjoyed this clever spoof in the 1980s when we heard a primitive cassette recording in circulation among the postgraduate students of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. Ever since, on arising every morning we have combed our hair to restore our fellowship with the Lord. We commend it for your edification and instruction.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On Global Distribution of Wealth

Today's Financial Times (motto: World's Favorite Pink Newspaper) neatly summarizes the latest statistics on the distribution of wealth worldwide. Here's the lead: weath is distributed very unevenly.

We expect these new statistics to become fodder for more calls for more even distribution of wealth in the United States and globally. But we continue to confess ourselves to be more interested in other questions. Rather than asking how evenly distributed the world's wealth is, we'd prefer to know what percentage of the world has access to clean water, adequate nutrition, functional housing, basic health care, decent education, and political and religious freedom.

If pressed, we would confess ourselves also to be interested in the growth of institutions that lead to the growth of prosperity. Banks and capital markets, with the fairly enforced laws that assure their honesty, create opportunities for individuals to maximize their creativity and productivity and so to acquire assets that provide more of the kinds of things described above.

But why should it matter that the top 1% has scads more stuff than anyone else? The rich are at best only marginally better off in experiential terms than those who have access to all the stuff noted above. Perhaps we all need that reminder now and then.

Prof to Carter: Even Ex-Presidents Shouldn't Lie

The Ueber-bloggers at Powerline have performed a major public service by printing Emory University Professor Kenneth Stein's letter of resignation as a fellow of the [Jimmy] Carter Center at Emory. His reason for resigning is his objection to Carter's new book on the Middle East, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid (that is not a joke, by the way).

We quote the most telling paragraph:

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

Once again, Carter, still America's most embarrassing political figure, demonstrates that sanctimony is no substitute for actual morality.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Worst Consequence of D Congress: Bolton Quits

United States Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who did nothing but improve the general tone of Turtle Bay while advancing US interests there to the degree possible in that moribund and irrelevant organization, will not seek permanent appointment to the job.

The obvious reason is that the Democrats who control the Senate will lose their rich leftist patrons if they dare admit that the demonized-by-Democrats Bolton has been a striking success.

But don't take our word for it. Check out the nice laundry list of Bolton's achievements compiled by Anne Bayefsky at NRO Online.

History on Partition: Bad, But Is Un-Partition Worse?

Over at the Atlantic Monthly one Zaina Arafat has posted a review of past articles on the outcomes of various partitions of territories in the last century. Her conclusion is that partitions in India, Afghanistan, and Palestine have led to ongoing conflicts. Hence, partition in Iraq is not a good idea.

We find this overly simplistic. Our differently simplistic version is that in each of these areas, particularly India/Pakistan, partition dampened rampant violence and confined the ongoing conflict to a smaller region with fewer deleterious effects on the population as a whole.

Hence, we will challenge the parallel posting by Atlantic senior editor James Fallows. Fallows, who has been an unrelenting critic of the war in contrast to other Atlantic staffers like Robert Kaplan, essentially proclaims that all that is left to do in Iraq is for America to withdraw with as much face-saving public-relations management as possible, followed by a lingering consciousness of how much the war has screwed up the world.

We continue to disagree with Fallows, for reasons noted before. First, the danger posed by a dictator with Saddam’s demonstrable ambitions, means and ruthlessness was considerable, and the fact that he was not an overtly active danger in 2003 doesn’t change that calculation. Second, the Iraqi Kurds are notably well on their way to establishing a better life for themselves. Third, whatever future mischief occurs in what is now Iraq will be considerably less than it might have been had the country remained under a single strongman capable of marshaling its resources, overtly or surreptitiously, against other parts of the world, especially our part.

Hence the value of partition. It preserves the Kurdish progress, formally divides resources among factions that will remain at odds with each other more than with the West, and potentially confines genuine hostility to the West to one segment of the country.

The danger is realignment of one third of the country with Iran and another with Syria. However, that threat appears to be less than it might seem. There remains considerable animosity between Iraqi and Iranian Shiites, and it’s not at all clear that Syria plus the Iraqi Sunni minority constitutes a big enough sum to increase the threat of Syrian terrorism or military aggression.

So to Fallows and Arafat, we say that partition remains an excellent consideration. It’s not ideal, but nothing in this world, not least that part of it, ever is.

Quinnipiac: Breck Girl in 2008

Our opinion of John Edwards as a political irrelevancy may have to change. Peter Brown of the august Quinnipiac University Polling Institute today notes that the youthful, earnest and undistinguished former trial lawyer is (a) from the South; and (b) less likeable than Obama but just as likeable as Hillary but with fewer negatives.

So if Obama melts down and Hillary runs true to form, Edwards might have the privilege of losing to Giuliani or McCain, both of whom trounce all Ds in likeability as well as other categories in all polling.

John Edwards: A Walter Mondale for Our Time.

Harmless Monday Fun

For those like daughter of SWNID who love dogs and videos in the style of America's Funniest Home Videos, we link to a YouTube video addressing both tastes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

SWNID to American Thinker: Mind Our Trademark!

Today's American Thinker posts a clever bit of doggerel by one G. W. George, presumably a pseudonym, lampooning the Big Liberal. We like it.

Except for this: it appropriates the phrase "never in doubt" and sarcastically applies it to someone politically at odds with our SWNIDish self.

As we have noted before, this phrase constitutes half of an incantation that we claim as our trademark and intellectual property, indeed as part of our family legacy.

Watch out, American Thinker and Mr. "George." Don't tread on me!

Latest Lefty Style: No Wedding Until Gays Can Marry

Today's Gray Lady chronicles the latest coolness among the stylish denizens of the political left: heterosexual cohabiting couples who pledge not to marry until "everyone can," meaning until same-sex marriage is legal in all fifty states plus Puerto Rico and Guam.

SWNID is struck by the failure of the left to respond meaningfully one of the most frequent observations of the right, namely, that leftists act as if ineffective personal gestures toward an issue are somehow significant. Or to put it more succinctly, the left demonstrates daily that it favors style over substance.

The grim reality is that every one of the chronicled couples already in every way lives as if married. We observe further that each was cohabiting exactly as they are now before coming to the conviction that a no-wedding protest was in order. As every one appears to be a savvy member of the upper-middle class or beyond, we'll assume further that most have availed themselves of alternative means that provide nearly all the legal benefits that marriage would afford automatically.*

There is, of course, no way in this life or the next that anyone who will vote to ban so-called gay marriage will relent in that conviction because of the brave example of movie actresses, museum exhibition designers, graduate students of sociology, and United Church of Christ ministers who continue to live with their opposite-sex "partners" instead of plopping down $50k for a champagne-soaked dinner-dance preceded by a procession of balding men in rented morning coats and thirtysomething women in strapless taffeta, presided over by a Buddhist hospital chaplain and accompanied by new-age ballads of mutual respect and free-verse vows that pledge no actual behavioral commitment but that remind their older relatives of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

We rank this trend with Al Gore's incessant moving about, entourage in tow, in private jet planes and really big automobiles to warn the world of the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions.

*As far as we know, there's no way for cohabiting couples to obtain the tax advantages of joint filing, but as it is an article of faith of the left that its upper-middle-class members are undertaxed, this too should be a badge of honor.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Trinity Seminary of Newburgh, Indiana Drops Bid for Regional Accreditation

Exchanges, the e-newsletter of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, this week announced the following:

Although the Board took no formal action, it received notice that Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary (IN) resigned its candidacy status with the Commission.

Trinity Seminary (not to be confused with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a SWNIDish alma mater) is probably the best known and most successful unconventionally accredited institution of theological education in the United States. Operating unconventionally and almost entirely on a distance-learning basis, it has never had a standard form of accreditation. Recently it had made much of its candidacy status with the HLC. Now, that's over.

One can only conclude that the good folks at Trinity realized that regional accreditation would mean a serious change in the way they do business, one that would threaten their viability.

We feel bad for all the folks who signed on for classes on the assumption that the institution would be accredited by the time they finished. Like a lot of longshots, it didn't pay off.

For those who wonder, this higher educator insists that while accreditation may not assure everything about the quality of education that one might want, lack of accreditation is a reliable indicator that the student is getting less than what the degree normally signifies. Diligent students can learn a lot in an unconventionally accredited institution. But they can always learn more in a joint with external quality assurance.