Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Peruse Bush's Kansas State Speech

Gentle readers will note that recent posts have been few and brief. Life being what it is, SWNID lately has had to ignore some really delicious stories that need sustained attention. Consequently, we've only had the opportunity to blog what could be blogged quickly.

Today we would be remiss if we did not supply readers with a link to the transcript of Dubya's speech yesterday at Kansas State. We heard excerpts on the radio last night while washing dishes and have since only had the chance to scan parts of the transcript. Nevertheless, we will risk a judgment from our fragmentary examination: the speech was a masterful statement in plain language of the President's understanding of his duties, the state of the world and the needed response to it.

The President appears to have spoken extemporaneously from notes instead of from a prepared text. The effect was impressive. It was even more impressive when Bush took questions.

We hear that MSM outlets have focused on the President's response to a question about Brokeback Mountain. We find the transcript of that remark to be especially amusing, but we assume that the MSM presents it as a demonstration that Dubya is a Philistine.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Will Silence Be Bigger than Narnia?

Gentle reader calus the great informs us that the long-awaited film version of Shusaku Endo's masterpiece Silence, is finally underway.

We urge, encourage and admonish every gentle reader who has not read the novel, which SWNID nominates as the most important piece of Christian fiction of the 20th century (sorry, Lewis fans, I love every word that he wrote, but Silence is without peer), to read it soon so that the movie doesn't spoil it for you.

Martin Scorsese bought the option for Silence years ago. It appears that the success of other faith-films has at last produced financing for the project.

Silence is the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary to Japan in the 17th century. Longing for the fame of martyrdom, he goes to Japan to minister to its outlaw Roman Catholic community, whose live under constant threat of terrible torture and death. The novel is a profound meditation on human pride, the nature of grace, and the consequent nature of genuine Christian witness.

Endo, himself a Japanese Roman Catholic, reflected upon elements of Christian faith in all his novels. He writes with a distinct voice and a disturbing eye.

Too few American Christians have read Endo. It's time to correct that.

Fun Facts about Jack Bauer

We thank gentle reader Dave R for the following compendium of wisdom about our favorite cartoon character:

  • If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.
  • Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.
  • If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.
  • Jack Bauer killed 93 people in just 4 days time. Wait, that is a real fact.
  • Jack Bauer got Helen Keller to talk.
  • Jack Bauer's favorite color is severe terror alert red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.
  • Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
  • 1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.
  • Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.
  • Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
  • Jack Bauer doesn't miss. If he didn't hit you it's because he was shooting at another terrorist twelve miles away.
  • Let's get one thing straight, the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.
  • If Jack says "I just want to talk to him/her" and that him/her is you... well amigo, you're history.
  • Killing Jack Bauer doesn't make him dead. It just makes him angry.
  • When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer hates lemonade.
  • Jack Bauer does not sleep. The only rest he needs is what he gets when he's knocked out or temporarily killed.
  • In kindergarten, Jack Bauer killed a terrorist for Show and Tell.
  • Jack Bauer's family threw him a surprise birthday party when he was a child. Once.
  • As a child, Jack Bauer's first words were "There's no time!"
  • Jack Bauer literally died for his country, and lived to tell about it.
  • If you get 7 stars on your wanted level on Grand Theft Auto, Jack Bauer comes after you. You don't want to get 7 stars.
  • Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
  • Jesus died and rose from the dead in 3 days. It took Jack Bauer less than an hour. And he's done it twice.
  • Guns don't kill people, Jack Bauer kills people.
  • Losing a colleague or loved one for Jack Bauer is comparable to the feeling of missing the elevator for most people.
  • No man has ever used the phrase, "Jack Bauer is a wimp" in a sentence and lived to tell
  • Every time Jack Bauer yells "NOW!" at the end of a sentence, a terrorist dies.
  • When terrorists go to hell, if they say Jack Bauer sent them, they get a group discount.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lost Whale Sprouts Legs, Walks on Shore

Latest reports from London indicate a most unusual development in the story of the whale lost in the Thames River 40 miles from the English Channel.

The whale, seen at right, has apparently sprouted legs, donned men's swim trunks, size XXXXL, a baseball cap, water shoes and sunglasses, and stepped onto a pier.

Analysts report a similar phenomenon in July 1969 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. There a similar though younger, somewhat less orotund creature emerged from the water by night, apparently trying to avoid detection by humans. Attention to the event was diverted as it occurred during the Apollo 11 moon landing. A female of unknown relationship to the creature was reported drowned at the same site.

Evolutionary biologists note that these phenomena do not properly constitute evidence of evolution, as both events can only be evaluated as devolution, a development from a more adaptable, intelligent, able species to one less so. "Survival of the less fit is not a tenent of Darwin's theory," noted one expert.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hillary to Ds: Nominate Me to Maintain the Streak

So much bloggable news in the last few days ... so little time. SWNID will get to Ray Nagin soon, gentle readers. But this underreported flash needs immediate attention.

The New York Daily News is reporting a new Diageo/Hotline Poll that shows the following:
  • Head to head, John McCain (motto: There's no problem that my legislative proposals won't make worse) beats St. Hillary of Dogpatch by 52% to 36%. This is one of the largest margins noted in the history of polling at this point in the election cycle.
  • McCain drops to a 36% to 29% plurality over the ever-pollable "unnamed Democratic opponent."
  • Hillary only manages a 2% plurality, well within the margin of error, against the "unnamed Republican opponent" (which translates into the vernacular as "corrupt tool of the megarich and job-outsourcing multinational corporations and enemy of America's working families").
The interpretation of these data is so clear that we feel pedantic (alert to gentle readers: "pedantic" is the SWNID Word of the Day) pointing it out. But pedantry is what we do, so here goes:

Hillary's negatives outside the hard core constituency of the Democrat party are so great that nominating her means a loss to almost any conceivable Republican candidate, including Richard Nixon's corpse.

The news is not that McCain beats Hillary. It's that anybody does. McCain will more likely win if the Democrats nominate Hillary than if the Democrats nominate John Kennedy's corpse. Same goes for any generic Evil Republican who would run against the Former Co-President.

So despite what one might think about the judgment of the American public (as demonstrated, say, in the music nominated for the Grammy Awards*), it appears that our republic may remain safely in the hands of registered voters through another presidential election.

*Before a pedantic gentle reader points this out, I will acknowledge that the Grammy Awards are not based on sales or public opinion polling but on the judgment of members of the music industry. I aver, however, that such opinion is entirely commercial and reflects popular tastes. Further, I assert that the awards given at the "People's Choice Awards" will reflect even worse popular tastes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alito as Hamster

Mrs. SWNID shares the following bon mot from the impeccable Mark Steyn, who reflects on Sam Alito's confirmation hearings:
Even smear tactics require a certain plausibility. When you damn someone as a big scary mega-troubling racist misogynist homophobe and he seems to any rational observer perfectly non-scary and non-troubling, eventually you make yourself ridiculous. The boy who cried "Wolf!" at least took the precaution of doing so when there was no alleged predator in view. If he'd stood there crying 'Wolf!' while pointing at a hamster, he'd have been led away for counseling. That's the stage the Senate Democrats are at.

We again ask gentle readers to urge the Ds in their influence to rise to the role of a serious opposition party, and not the fringe band of lunatics that they have become.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Actual Debate Taking Place

A SWNID record for number of comments, eighteen currently, has been set on "The Surveillance Double Standard." We thank shadowy poster jpe for prompting the debate and longtime friend jb in ca for weighing in.

Gentle readers should note the difference in rhetorical style demonstrated by jpe versus SWNID and jb in ca. The former is, per himself, a "lawyer" who, by the powers of lawyerly reasoning and attention to facts, understands SWNID to be a "priest" (apparently Episcopalian or Orthodox, as SWNID is permanently and utterly married for over a quarter century). SWNID and jb in ca, on the other hand, are engaged in higher education: the former a Neutestamentler, the latter a philosopher. Hence, jpe appears to cross examine in comments, while SWNID and jb in ca wax didactic.

All participants are suitably arrogant, of course, as fits the tenor of this blog.

We urge gentle readers to follow the link and watch the fur fly. Or even to engage in the debate themselves.

However, as a new week has begun, this the first week of our spring semester, we doubt that we can say much more on the subject. The point is clear enough, in our never-in-doubt opinion. It is time, to borrow a phrase, to "move on."

In Memoriam: President David Palmer, 1941-2006

An assassin's bullet took the life of former President David Palmer yesterday. Palmer was 55.

Like Senator Bill Bradley a basketball star at Princeton University and the NBA, Palmer served two terms as a congressman and one as a senator before being elected to the presidency. He served one term, as personal scandals undermined his campaign for reelection.

Palmer's political career was distinguished by his extraordinary level of integrity and honesty with the public. Likewise, he was noted for decisive leadership and exceptional courage in times of crisis. Facing down an assassination attempt during the California primary in his first presidential campaign, he later led the country through two serious terrorist threats involving weapons of mass destruction.

It was his personal life that proved his undoing, however. Estranged from his wife, Sherry, during his first presidential campaign, he was later undermined by her politically. His refusal to cover up his wife's activities, beginning with her attempt to hush up their son's involvement in the death of a man accused of raping their daughter, was seen by many as his greatest demonstration of integrity. Others, however, questioned whether a man with such a chaotic household could lead a nation.

Those who knew him personally often commented on Palmer's strength of character. Loyal and warm toward associates, he could nevertheless be steely in his determination. The "Palmer stare"--eyes set, nostrils flared, mouth firm--was legendary.

Out of office, Palmer served as a consultant to the administration of President Logan. He supplemented his income by serving as spokesman for Allstate Insurance.

He is survived by a son, a daughter, and one brother.

Speculation is that his assassination was part of an elaborate plot to derail the antiterrorism pact to be signed yesterday between President Logan and the Russian government. Some also wonder whether the Serbian radicals who sought to assassinate him during his first presidential campaign are somehow involved.

Ironically enough, on the same day of Palmer's death, speculation abounds as to the possibility of America's first real African-American president. Contrarian pundit and jazz critic Stanley Crouch discusses the possibilities of a run by Condi Rice, recently remarked by the first lady as an excellent presidential prospect. Rice, however, is reported by news services as again denying that she has any interest in the job.

Those interested in changing party politics forever may want to check out this site.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Preemptive Strike on Iran's Nukes

Another provocative piece on today's Telegraph is Harvard (!) Professor Niall Ferguson's bit of prognostication on one possible course that the future may take in the Middle East. In the mode of Sir John Hackett's influential The Third World War, August 1985, Ferguson notes the similarities between, on the one hand, the anti-semitic regime in Tehran rearming and the attendant difficulties that the Western democracies have in responding, and events of about 70 years ago.

He suggests that if war does break out, we will all have wished we had pre-empted Iran's nuclear program. The alternatives are far bleaker.

Will measures short of preemption be effective in protecting the world from the Iranian bomb? Does effective preemption lie within the military ability of the United States or one of its allies? Does it lie within anyone's political ability?

Will such questions get the attention they deserve? On this last point, we are confident of the answer. A prize goes to the first person who guesses.

No Blogging Tonight, 8-10 p.m. EST

We've been patiently waiting for this day since the end of May. We've wondered whether this might be the last such day. Whether it is or not, it's here. 24 has its season premiere tonight.

Gentle readers, there will be no blogging between 8 and 10 p.m. EST. Please do not phone during those hours either.

Fox has teased its addicted public relentlessly about this event. We refer gentle readers to the Fox Video site (on the site, click the link at left for 24) for a clip from episode one of season five, some shallow showbiz interviews with cast members, footage of Kiefer Sutherland cutting a cake to celebrate the filming of the 100th episode, but most especially the last video, a promotion depicting "an obsessed 24 fan preparing for the premiere."

Regarding this last video, we have contemplated suing Fox for developing a promo so obviously based on SWNID. But in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, while not equating the Fox Network with the people of God, we will refrain.

One additional note: part of us hopes that this will indeed be the last season of 24, and we are disturbed by cast members suggesting that the show has inexhaustible potential, an assertion that lacks historical perspective. We fear that one day in a season to come, Jack will be surfing in a leather jacket and will deftly jump the shark poised to attack him. Let's keep it the experience pure, savoring memories and DVDs, with a tastefully limited run.

Please, Fox: don't do to 24 what you've done to the Simpsons.

The Iranian "Left Behind" Drama?

Is Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an Islamic apocalyptic nutjob? Well, we know that he's Islamic and a nutjob, so it's the apocalyptic bit that's in question.

Today's Telegraph offers some detail on the possibility that Ahmadinejad is pushing Iran's nuclear program to enable the appearance of the "Hidden Imam," a figure in Islam expected to appear at the end of days.

SWNID offers the following as a sort of analytical first strike, before this story gets circulated more widely:
  • First, comparisons between the expectation of the "Hidden Imam" and the Christian belief in the return of Jesus (hereafter, parousia) will likely be offered whenever this matter is discussed in the press. Gentle readers should remember the dictum that wherever there are similarities, there are also differences. To date, we know of no Christian who has taken over a government and developed weapons of mass destruction to hasten the parousia. Not that it couldn't happen sometime, of course. But we also assert that Christianity is better equipped than Islam to offer internal critique of such a move, were it to occur.
  • Second, whether Ahmadinejad is motivated by religious fervor or not is pretty much irrelevant. The bombs go off in the same way regardless of the motives of the guy who explodes them. The point is that a nuclear Iran is intolerable to the rest of the world until Iran becomes a true democracy. As Baroness Thatcher aptly observed, we cannot uninvent nuclear weapons. However, in the hands of liberal (in the historical and best sense of the term, meaning "committed to liberty") democracies, they are more likely to be used only to discourage their use by tyrants than under any other scenario.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Welcome, Leftists!

SWNID has noticed some comments recently posted expressing views somewhat to the left of the blogger. We are struck by this phenomenon, as any commenting on this blog has been unusual, much more so when the commenters are not personally known to the blogger (this is, after all, our little hobby, a means to commune with our peeps), and all the more so when the comments to not reflect the settled opinions of the blogger, who is, after all, seldom wrong.

But grateful for any comments made by actual human beings, we take this opportunity to welcome all members of the vast left-wing conspiracy, be they representatives of the Angry Left or of the Placid Left, if there is such a thing. We urge and encourage you to continue commenting during your sober moments, infrequent as they may be.

To demonstrate our goodwill, we make the following pledges:

We will not inquire about your sexual preferences, grooming habits, use of intoxicating or mood-altering substances, or dietary requirements. Not that it would do any good. No matter what you'd say, for all we know you could be one of the characters in the drawing at right.

We will not demean your favorite politicians or media outlets with silly puns (e.g., Barbara Boxershorts, New York Slimes). Such a practice is juvenile and insulting. We will instead from time to time offer sly nicknames (e.g., Teddy "Splash" Kennedy) or mottoes (e.g., MoveOn.org [motto: We haven't moved on since 1998]). This practice, while still insulting, is sophisticated, reminiscent as it is of Dave Barry's erudite subtlety.

We will not question your intelligence. We don't believe that the differences between conservatives and liberals are explaied by differences in intelligence. In the main, we believe that they are explained by differences in character. And since our character is superior, we are also constrained from openly questioning yours.

We will not complain of persecution, harassment, or personal offense for any remark directed against us. We will attempt the demeanor of Polycarp of Smyrna. It makes us look better and you look worse.

We will, however, delete your comments if they are of a sexual or scatological or patently profane nature. This is, after all, a family*-friendly site.


*Explanation for leftists: families are what conservatives have instead of abortions.

The Surveillance Double Standard

Gentle readers of SWNID, being thinkers, naturally also regularly read The American Thinker. But to be sure you don't miss this one: a story noting the NY Times's very positive take on the "Echelon" domestic surveillance program during the Clinton administration.

What's noteworthy about Echelon is that it screens nearly all emails and phone calls made in the United States. The super-duper computer that operates Echelon combs those messages for key phrases, (e.g., "Danny really bombed last night") and then kicks out suspicious stuff for further analysis.

Gentle readers will note that such a program was much more intrusive than anything that the Bush administration is accused of doing. They should note as well that it was put to nefarious political purposes by St. Hillary and her randy husband. The Thinker notes that insiders blew the whistle on the sharing of information from Echelon with corporate donors for use against competitors.

Gentle readers will also remember that the Republicans are the party of big business and the Democrats are the party of the little guy.

Having previously noted the existence of this program under Clinton, SWNID says again that Congress has been woefully negligent in not passing statutes to define what constitutes proper and improper use of Echelon and similar spying technology. The War on Islamo-Fascism makes this all the more imperative.

Of course, the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearings make clear why the Congress doesn't do its job. Congress's job is now to posture before cameras. Governing is the job of the Supreme Court and the MSM.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Write Your Congressman and Protect Your Access to SWNID

The winter edition of the vital City Journal is out, and it includes a detailed and compelling piece by Brian C. Anderson on the threat to free speech posed by campaign-finance reform. But note well: this threat is not just to the free speech expressed in cash contributions. It is to what might be said on talk radio, on cable TV, or even, dare we say it, on a blog.

That's right! If you want to keep getting SWNID's mix of free speech on subjects religious, cultural and political with the political intact, you should oppose all efforts to apply campaign finance regulations to the internet.

Actually, you should oppose campaign finance regulations, period. If there's one thing we've learned lately, it's that people can make up their minds even if they're overwhelmed with political ads. After all, Mark Mallory beat John Pepper like a conga drum.

But be sure of this: if the worst happens and the FEC tries to regulate what bloggers can write prior to elections, your faithful SWNID will continue shooting off his mouth with the level of arrogance and insensitivity that you've come to expect. Just let them try to fine us! You can't, as the saying goes, get blood from a turnip!

Final Score: Alito 42, Democrats 0

You've probably heard the one about Ted Kennedy belonging to an all-male club while he was in college. So Kennedy's questions to Sam Alito regarding his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton have a whiff of ... what's the word? It begins with an h. "Hypostasis"? It escapes me.

Anyway, it seems there's more. The very quotes that Kennedy used in his questioning were clearly and deliberately lifted from context in a way that distorted them.

As it happens, distinguished conservative pundit and writer Dinesh D'Souza worked for Concerned Alumni of Princeton in the early 80s. He knew the context of Kennedy's quotation of the CAP newsletter:

People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic.

And guess what? It was a satire piece.

We salute ABC News for at least letting reporter Jake Tapper post this on his blog. We'll know that they're ready for the new media environment when they run such stories on the evening news. Not that anyone will be watching by then.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Israel to Robertson: So's Your Old Man

Various news agencies are reporting that the Israeli Tourism ministry has announced that Pat Robertson will be excluded from any development of the proposed Biblical theme park in Galilee.

Meanwhile, Robertson has reportedly issued an apology. Delivered by hand to Sharon's son (does anybody wonder how Robertson gets money for this stuff?), the letter ascribes Robertson's "inappropriate and insensitive" words to Robertson's "concern for the future safety of [Israel]."

This apparently was not enough to placate the tourism minister. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez could not be reached for comment.

All this raises a question: now that Israel has broken ties with Robertson, will the rest of the world follow?

We can hope. And it seems that some have.

Over at the Conservative Voice, Adam Graham offers that Robertson has "jumped the shark" and calls for him to step down from the 700 Club. Graham's voice is heartening as he still finds means of viewing Robertson's legacy as positive in some regards, that is, "complex," like a "Christian Citizen Kane." He cites Robertson's notable achievements with Operation Blessing and Regent University, while noting his less than stellar record in politics.

But with Robertson's presence on TV, Graham nails the point succinctly:

CBN News is the crown jewel of the network. I remember how the reporters and anchors showed professionalism and poise while covering stories the mainstream media ignored. It is indeed for this reason that Robertson needs to step down from the 700 club. His comments detract from the professionalism of the committed men and women who work for his network. ... A man with foot in mouth disease should not be a broadcaster.

So what is Robertson's complex legacy? Again, we'll quote Graham:

Certainly, if at the end of my days, if it could be said that I helped feed millions, spread the Gospel across the globe, wrote a book on the end times that was better than Tim LaHaye's and rejected the pre-trib rapture, and hosted a TV show with a former Miss America that'd sound like a successful life to me. If on the other hand, I provided a forum for heretics and conmen, brought shame on my network through ill-chosen and unwise pronunciations, and had my political organization shrink to a shell of its former self because of my organizational decisions, than I'd have to consider my life a failure. What then if both were true? I guess that makes him human. For the flaws of great men are very great indeed.

SWNID, being SW but NID, says that Robertson's views of the end times are only marginally less flawed than LaHaye's. But we'll grudgingly grant Mr. Graham's assessment of Robertson's legacy, especially if doing so will in any respect hasten Robertson's departure from the airwaves.

Alito's Way: Breathe Deep, Talk Deep

SWNID has paid only passing attention to the Alito hearings, but it's clear enough that he'll sail through to confirmation. Just as clear is the way that the Senate Judiciary Committee Ds are using the hearings as a fundraising opportunity with NARAL, NOW, MoveOn.org and similar limousine liberal patrons. We like what James Taranto has to say about today's hearings, and the hearings in general, at OpinionJournal's "Best of the Web Today." Likewise, Peggy Noonan, whom we admire but haven't linked much, is discussing Alito with her usual graceful prose but an unusual amount of humor. She calls his approach "a low affect tour de force." Now there's a nicely crafted phrase. But for partisan, gloves-off humor, there's nothing like Ann Coulter, who uses the hearings to compare the two major parties:

Today's Republican Party stands for life, limited government and national defense. And today's Democratic Party stands for ... the right of women to have unprotected sex with men they don't especially like. We're the Blacks-Aren't-Property/Don't-Kill-Babies party. They're the Hook-Up party.
We see Alito as a master of patience with fools. As the senator's monologue goes on, Alito goes to his happy place, listening only enough to know the general subject of the question, if there is one (that means that he doesn't listen to Joe Biden at all). Then he patiently walks the bloviating senator, who was likely once a lawyer, through a detailed overview of the legal doctrines involved in the kind of case named, never committing himself to a decision.

For a careful judge, this has to be pretty easy. After all, he has no case before him to decide, just an issue. So he can't render a judgment. Politicians, on the other hand, imagine that everyone is like them. Ask a pol a question, he'll tell you what needs to be done (his "plan") and who will benefit from it (always "working American families," of course). So they don't get how a judge can't give a decision without an actual case. But for the judge, it's easy. He learned the principles in law school, so he just recites them, but he know that cases need facts and appeals need legal records. Having no facts or records, he just recites the principles.

So the judge looks knowledgable and evenhanded, while the senators look like political hacks.

Why NSA Datamining and "Wiretaps" Are Needed

Who recently arrested three Algerians plotting a bigger terrorist attack than 9/11?

The Italians.

Where were the attacks to take place?

The United States.

How did the Italians find the bad guys?


How do we know?

The story was covered by European media.

Who hasn't covered the story?

American media.


Speculation is that the story would support the activities of the NSA over which the President is being so heavily criticized.

Where can you read all about it?

The PowerLine ueberblog, what SWNID wishes we could grow up to become.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What's at Stake in the Global War on Terror

Over at National Review Online, contributing editor Michael Leeden passes along a letter from the family of deceased Navy Seal Robert Dean Stethem, who was tortured and killed by Hezbollah during an airplane hijacking 20 years ago. The letter was prompted by the German government’s release this week of one of Stethem’s murders, apparently in exchange for a German hostage in Iraq.

We strongly urge gentle readers to read the letter. Among other things, it reinforces several points noted variously in this blog. We enumerate:

*Our liberties are protected by the extraordinary self-sacrificial courage of a relatively small group of men.
*European governments are utterly irresponsible about global terrorism.
*The terrorist threat is actually quite old (the Munich Olympics were in 1972, as Stephen Spielberg has so tendentiously reminded us).
*Terrorists tend to stick together, regardless of their specific organization or ideology.
*There is absolutely no substitute for unwavering resolve against the evils of terrorism, as one cannot appease a person willing to torture and kill the innocent wholesale for a cause.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Bush administration has been complicit in the German release of this murderer. We can’t imagine why, unless it is in the vain hope of enlisting German support, which is both unlikely and mostly worthless at this stage. We would prefer that Stethem’s bravery be honored and all terrorists be warned by the hunting down and execution of this evildoer.

Defining Self Centeredness

Armin Meiwes is a cannibal. A German cannibal. It seems that he met a man on the internet who agreed to be killed and eaten by him. Thanks to the rigorous anti-cannibalism laws in the Federal Republic of Germany, he is now serving the inhumane sentence of 8 1/2 years in prison.

And he is filing lawsuits. The entertainment industry is exploiting him without his permission.

He is suing to stop the release of the film Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story, claiming it was based on his life.

"I feel used," MSNBC reports Meiwes as saying. His victim could not be reached for remarks on his own feelings.

Further, according to MSNBC:

Meiwes also is suing German rock band Rammstein, claiming its song "Mein Teil" (My Piece) refers to his case.

Perhaps if the EU hadn't sent so much money to the Palestinian Authority, it could provide better protections against cannibal exploitation at home.

We do not know where gentle readers can send donations for Meiwes's legal expenses, but we will pass the information along as it becomes available.

Is This Why We Need More Foreign Aid?

Ha-Aretz (Hebrew: "The Land") reports that World Bank official Nigel Roberts says that the Palestinian Authority, which with 130,000 employees is by far the largest employer in the Palestinian territories, is functionally bankrupt and will not be able to pay salaries to its workers.

The article also reports that the PA has received more foreign aid on a per-capita basis ($300 per year per Palestinian Arab man, woman or child) than any other entity in the post-World-War-II world.

This is obviously a failure of the United States to live up to its obligations as the world's sole superpower. Who can live on $300 per year? Clearly we need to give more to the kleptocrats on the West Bank, so that Palestinians can continue to watch Al-Jazeera full time.

Or maybe Yassir Arafat managed to take it with him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

SWNID Frequents Open-Air Drug Markets

The University of Cincinnati's Criminal Justice Department yesterday released a study of seven police "hot spots" in Our Fair City. The study identifies all as "open-air drug markets." Over 3000 police calls in 2004 came from these seven spots.

In the interests of full disclosure, SWNID reports that five of these seven spots have played a pretty significant role in our everyday life.

One is on Glenway Avenue at Dewey, just a couple of blocks from the former home of SWNID and family and less than two miles from the CCU campus. This spot we passed on foot twice daily for over a decade.

Four others are in Evanston, clustered near Walnut Hills High School, current educational location of daughter of SWNID and alma mater of Son of SWNID. We have driven past these sites on numerous occasions. On one occasion, we waited for a Metro bus in the midst of one.

SWNID nevertheless affirms that despite our association with major drug-dealing locations, we comply entirely with the drug-free policy of our employer.

On Real Domestic Surveillance Versus Imagined

The Wall Street Journal's indispensible editorial writers today remind everyone whose memory only goes back as far as 1974 that once upon a time, the federal government did engage in unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance of Americans. It was carried out by J. Edgar Hoover, with the knowledge and complicity of presidents, congressmen, senators, representatives and judges from the FDR administration until Hoover's death in Nixon's administration.

Note that when we refer to "knowledge and complicity," we don't mean oversight. Hoover dug up scandals about politicians and threatened to expose them if they tried to remove him as FBI director. Then he offered to share information that they'd find interesting.

In his magesterial biography of Harry Truman, David McCullough notes that FDR took salacious delight in reading Hoover's briefings on the peccadillos of various senators and judges. Truman, by contrast, refused to read Hoover's dirt, though he also did nothing to stop Hoover's activities. Presidents thereafter accepted Hoover's mess as part of the cost of doing business.

By contrast, the Bush administration's surveillance is (a) done with the knowledge of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FISA court; (b) directed at people making contact with known al Qaida operatives overseas; (c) not connected in any way to any purely domestic crimes or political matters of any kind.

Moral: those ignorant of history are likely to exaggerate the significance of the present.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Crouch to Educators: Study and Imitate Success

Stanley Crouch epitomizes the daydreams of SWNID. Starting as a jazz critic, he has become a leading voice on all matters social, cultural and political. In other words, he gets paid to do pretty much what we do for free on this blog.

His column today responds to the President's recent speech on education policy. Believe it or not, Crouch affirms the value of No Child Left Behind. But he says there's another obvious step to be taken.

It is this: identify schools that are succeeding with low-income kids, then see what they're doing to succeed, then imitate it shamelessly.

Who can argue with such obvious logic? As long as we keep in mind that education depends as much on the people engaged in the process as the process itself, this step is exactly what needs to be done to address the scandal of the isolated urban and rural underclasses.

SWNID recalls an initiative that ought to be studied to see whether it really offers what it seems.

When Son of SWNID was in fourth grade, he participated in Odyssey of the Mind at Fairview German Language School, with SWNID as one of two parent volunteers to supervise. His team included five other fourth and fifth graders, selected because of their achievement and creativity. The kids had a blast creating a robot from scratch (they designed their own large marionette to fit the bill) and building a humorous skit around it. And they learned a lot about teamwork, organization, creativity, and problem solving.

Meanwhile, across the hall, students who were having difficulties with math were meeting simultaneously. But they weren't drilling math. They were playing board games: Monopoly, Trouble, Parcheesi, dominoes. The school had actually received a grant to do this. The rationale?Children learn math skills by playing board games. Teachers told SWNID that at the beginning of the program most of the kids invited to the program said that they'd never played board games in their lives.

So on both sides of the hall, kids were having a blast, and were learning without realizing it.

That spring, fourth grade math scores went up noticeably at Fairview. The Odyssey of the Mind team didn't do all that great in the competition (SWNID believes that parents at swanky east-side schools had given unfair help to their teams, not that we have sour grapes), but they didn't care. Fun was had by all.

I wonder if there's an education researcher looking for a project who'd like to study the effect of board games on math learning.

Yet More on Russell's Retirement

WAVE TV 3 in Louisville has also covered the ministry transition at Southeast this weekend. Their piece is very evenhanded and gracious, though lacking the Courier-Journal's fine backgrounding.

Apparently media outlets in Louisville don't want to risk alienating 18,000 members of their audience who are also members at Southeast.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

One Megachurch Story Handled Fairly

The Louisville Courier-Journal today covers Bob Russell's announcement of his retirement as senior minister of Southeast Christian Church.

Remarkably, the article is balanced, fair and well informed. It's particularly helpful on noting the problems of leadership transitions in megachurches and the steps that Russell and Southeast have taken to learn about others' experiences and avoid the pitfalls.

When the media can stop looking for scandals where none exist, it can decently report on churches. That probably means that decent reporting on churches will always be rare. But this is one of those rare items.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Evangelical Philo-Semitism and Historical Perspective

The Sunday Washington Post has an interesting, albeit too brief, article on the rise of "philo-Semitism" among evangelicals.

The article does manage to note that the phenomenon is of three kinds: (1) seeking understanding with Jews because of the shared religious and social perspectives of evangelicals and Jews; (2) seeking to do good to the Jewish people as evangelicals seek to do good to all; (3) encouraging Jews in all endeavors, especially in the protection and expansion of the nation of Israel, so that the blessing promised in Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you" can be received and so that Jesus can come back.

Notable in the article is the suspicion that philo-Semitism raises among some Jews. Many are suspicious that Christians merely want to convert Jews, and they don't like that. Such reactions are like that of Julie Galambush, a former American Baptist minister and convert to Judaism: "But believing that someday Jews will stop being Jews and become Christians is still a form of hoping that someday there will be no more Jews."

SWNID notes the following on the subject:
  • It's unfortunate that those who seek a blessing from blessing Israel don't read to the end of Genesis 12:3, "by you all families of the earth will be blessed," and then read the New Testament Scriptures to gain the perspective that the early Christians, most of whom were Jews, believed that this "blessing" comes in Christ, thereby obliterating the distinction among "nations."
  • It's unfortunate that the work of us who have labored to note that the New Testament doesn't blame Jews in general for the death of Jesus has been largely ignored, so that Christians are still asked, as in this article, whether they'll teach that the Jews killed Jesus, and when asked, they lack a coherent response.
  • And it's unfortunate that in contemporary Judaism, being a Jew can be defined by almost anything except being a believer in Jesus. In the beginning it was not so.
  • And it's odd that anyone would think it problematic to see the Jews at the center of history, a notion expressed in the article by Leon Wieseltier, a Jewish scholar and literary editor of the New Republic. After all, Judaism sees Jews at the center of history. It all starts with one God. You see, he "calls" a "people" . . .
  • But what's most odd and unfortunate is that Pat Robertson, philo-Semite of the third order, expresses his "blessing" of Israel by insisting that it's beloved prime minister's stroke was God's judgment, thereby frustrating philo-semites of all three orders.

January 6: The Day Chicago's Music Died

Friday was a sad day for music in the Second City, former home of the SWNID family. Genre-defying singer Lou Rawls, a native Chicagoan, passed away from cancer, and in the neighborhood where Rawls grew up, Pilgrim Baptist Church, regarded as the birthplace of gospel music, burned to the ground.

Rawls's roots were in gospel. With classmate Sam Cooke, he was part of a quartet, the Teenage Kings of Harmony, and later the Pilgrim Travelers, before Cooke left to go solo. Rawls's work always reflected his roots in gospel, not the mention the grit of the South Side.

For SWNID, Rawls will always be the singer of the definitive recording of the "Star Spangled Banner." Rawls's blues-touched version was the sign-off music on the dear, departed WNOP through the years when its license only allowed broadcast from dawn to dusk. Cincinnati jazz fans knew that Rawls minor third and seventh melisma on the last note of the National Anthem was the end of music for the day. We find it fitting that we last heard him sing on TV when he sang the anthem at game 2 of this year's World Series.

Pilgrim Baptist was the home of Thomas A. Dorsey, the Father of Gospel Music. Dorsey was best known for "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," written in response to news of his wife's death. But he wrote more than one song. Dorsey integrated elements of the blues and other indigenous African-American musical idioms into his sacred music. The move scandalized some of the faithful, of course, as such moves always do. But it proved enormously successful, establishing the gospel genre. Ironically enough, people were scandalized again a generation later when Ray Charles took Dorsey's gospel idiom back into secular music.

We've more than enjoyed listening to Rawls today, as his songs have been in heavy rotation on WCIN (with its weak AM signal barely audible within Cincinnati's city limits) and WBGO (our very favorite online music source, deserving its claim to be the best jazz station in America). It's been a fitting tribute to Rawls, and to the church that was part of the community that nurtured him.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Most Underreported Aspect of the Abramoff Scandal

You can bet that neither the MSM nor even the conservative alternative media will cover what SWNID asserts is the most obvious and important aspect of the Abramoff scandal. What is that most obvious and important aspect, gentle readers ask? Abramoff bought off politicians to wield influence in regard to legal gambling.

The problem is not merely, as some opine, that the Republicans rewrote lobbying laws and produced the Indian Gaming Act to wield power. Neither is it merely that big government means so much control of everyday life that too much profit is to be made from government decisions.

It is that legalized gambling is a economic witch's brew : government control to keep a desired commodity artifically scarce plus greed without the harness of useful productivity.

Let's start with the second because it's simple. Gambling appeals to people because it offers monetary reward without work or thrift, without doing anything that contributes to anyone else's good. It lacks the virtue of capitalism, which directs greed toward doing things that benefit other people. In that respect it is never "victimless." It victimizes the character of the gambler. And humans being what they are, they love to be victimized.

Now the earlier part. If gambling were completely legal and unregulated, it would be ubiquitous (we want to say "more ubiquitous than it is now," which is of course illogical, but would be appropriate rhetoric). But our society believes that gambling is bad enough that it should be "regulated" so that it is available only on a limited basis. So the ordinary limits of the market are not deemed sufficient to restrain it, and we enlist the government to limit gambling. Hence, government decides who gets to open a casino or a horse track. And since the very profitable enterprise is entirely unproductive economically, creating no goods and providing no needed services, there's little basis to decide who gets to run the gambling.

So it's all about influence. And Abramoff knew how to get influence.

But if it hadn't been him, it would be someone else. Let's look at it this way: if gamblers need politicians to decide in their favor, should we expect gamblers and politicians to act honorably in the decision-making process?

If we are serious about reform after this thing is over, we'll look to shut down legalized gambling so that it no longer offers ready corruption. We could also shut down Congress, but that might be not be an entirely good idea overall.

But you can bet the house that there will be no move against the expansion of gambling. Politicos want to keep their graft. Elected officials want to keep their tax revenue. Communities with casinos and tracks want to keep their casinos and tracks. Communities without casinos and tracks want to get casinos and tracks. Gamblers want to gamble. Libertarians want to regulate less and not more.

No wonder the only ones who object to legalized gambling these days are ministers. Check out any organization opposing the building of a casino or track in a community, and you'll find an organization led by and composed mostly of pastors. Notice how well their work has been going lately.

So when people think that religion has too much influence on politics, they should take a drive to any of America's bazillion gambling outlets.

Ott's Got Pat

Check out the sublime Scott Ott of ScrappleFace.com on the latest Pat Robertson embarrassment. It will show you why ScrappleFace was voted best humor blog last year in the Washington Post.

How Ds and Rs Spend Saturday Mornings

Political news today reminds us of an important political adage. On Saturday mornings, Democrats sleep in. On Saturday mornings, Republicans get up and clean house.

The point of this adage is that for the last generation, Democrats have assiduously avoided confronting corruption in their own party. Characters like Jim Wright or Bill Clinton take forever to go down, or they don't go down at all. And then there's Senator Ted "Splash" Kennedy.

By contrast, Republicans have quickly moved to purge themselves of corrupt figures. In the 90s, when Newt Gingrich proved corrupt, he was shown the door. When his successor Robert Livingstone proved corrupt, he went out the same door, barely a week later. The party then turned to Mr. Clean, Wheaton College graduate Dennis Hastert, and hasn't had to look back on that one.

Likewise, when the evidence that Nixon obstructed justice was clear, a delegation of Republican senators, including former presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, went to the White House to tell Nixon that they would vote to impeach him. Nixon resigned.

And so today, leading House Republicans indicated that they do not expect Tom DeLay to return to Republican House leadership. They're looking to get ahead of the Abramoff scandal, cleaning house now instead of later.

The Ds, meanwhile, seem to be sleeping in. Never mind that Abramoff's cronies are on both sides of the aisle. The Ds intend to portray the Rs as the party of corruption in 2006.

Note well that SWNID does not ascribe purity to the Rs. They are humans. Worse, they are politicians. But the difference in how each party approaches its foibles is notable.

Book of Daniel: None of the Above

Having watched the last 5/6 of the premiere episode of Book of Daniel, SWNID is ready to pronounce.

Q: Is it blasphemy, joke or conversation starter?

A: None of the above. The show is just too uninteresting to be any of those.

We found it predictable, pedestrian, filled with largely uninteresting characters. There's barely a laugh in the show. More often than going for laughs, Daniel goes for the "human moment," something that shows its dysfunctional family members trying to connect with each other. Oddly enough, it turns out to be more Seventh Heaven than Desperate Housewives. But it neither warms the heart nor tickles the funnybone.

Daniel's conversations with Jesus were utterly unremarkable. Jesus prevents Daniel from indulging his dependency on prescription meds, but otherwise he talks to him like a mildly cynical, disengaged buddy. He is Daniel's imaginary friend, and Daniel's imagination is not very fertile.

SWNID found the only interesting parts to be the chance to admire the very tasteful decorating, architecture and landscaping in the upper-middle-class suburb of Long Island or Connecticut or wherever it is in the "tristate area" near the "city" that the show is set. We like white woodwork, red brick facades and weeping cherry trees.

The show did successfully frame NBC's music-video promotions for Winter Olympic coverage.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

One More Note on Pat

Today's flurry of Pat Robertson news coincides with a nice little part of SWNID's life.

We have been invited to preside in February at the wedding of a CCU alumna and her betrothed, the nuptials to be held at the Founders' Inn of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Such invitations are always a delight of course, as they allow us to enjoy a very happy occasion with an esteemed former student and her family and friends. The occasion provides many blessings and involves only the slightest of inconveniences, such as being sure that one has complied with the laws of the state in regard to the solemnization of marriages.

As it happens, Virginia requires that those who celebrate weddings as religious officiants be registered with the county court where the wedding will be held.

This means that SWNID must be registered with the county that is home to the ever-embarrassing Pat Robertson as he holds forth so eloquently on the 700 Club.

And so we wish that Virginia would find a way to pass a law to require televangelists to register and then find an excuse to deny Robertson his registration. We believe that, given Robertson's record, even the conservative Roberts Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of such a statute and its application.

And all the saints said ...

Pat Has a Busy Day

But there's more!

The Guardian reports that "a consortium of Christian groups, led by [drum roll] the television evangelist Pat Robertson [cymbal crash, trumpet fanfare]" is negotiating a free lease of land by the Sea of Galilee on which they will erect a "biblical theme park."

The Guardian describes the plan for the park as follows:

The site of the centre, covering nearly 50 hectares (125 acres) and provisionally called the Galilee World Heritage Park, would be north-east of the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and Capernaum which was described as the town of Jesus in the Bible. It would feature a garden and nature park, an auditorium, a Holy Land exhibition, outdoor amphitheatres, information centre and a media studio.

Is there any good news in this? Only that Israelis may harbor enough suspicion of Robertson's motives (i.e. to convert Jews so that Jesus can come back) to nix the project before it's final. It's a question of whether they want the extra tourism more than they want to avoid having a theme park full of people who've come to see the Transfiguration hologram on Monday and pass out tracts to Israeli Jews on Tuesday.

If it does go up, we just hope that the style is not on the order of Golgotha Fun Park.

Defying Odds, Robertson Embarrasses Christians Even More

Experts said he couldn't possibly say something more awful than his remarks about Hugo Chavez, but now he has.

Televangelist and professional Christian embarrassment Pat Robertson today attributed the stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as God's judgment against him for withdrawing from Gaza. CNN quotes Robertson further as saying:

He was dividing God's land, and I would say, "Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America."

God says, "This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone."

In response to criticisms of Robertson's remarks from various quarters, Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said:

What they're basically saying is, How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible!"

This is what the word of God says. This is nothing new to the Christian community.

Ms. Watts is noted by observers as apparently training to succeed Robertson as Most Embarrassing Christian when he is removed from the scene (see futher below).

Robertson apparently did not comment on whether overweight men in their late 70s and under enormous stress can be expected to suffer debilitating or fatal strokes. One source, who shall remain unnamed, suggested that his medical insight rivals his theological understanding.

Robertson's lead in the standings for Most Embarrassing Christian for 2006 now appears insurmountable, though the year is only five days old. Rumors are circulating that Jerry Falwell may announce his retirement from ministry in despair of ever overtaking Robertson.

Meanwhile, at SWNID headquarters, the prognostication department has issued the following bulletin:

We predict that Mr. Robertson will himself expire in the not too distant future of some physical ailment that some will find justification in attributing to divine judgment against him for every stupid thing he's said in the name of God on his nutty television program.

Book of Daniel: Blasphemy, Joke, Or Conversation Starter

Controversy precedes the premiere of NBC's new comedy series Book of Daniel. For those who haven't heard, the show, apparently the video love child of Desperate Housewives and Seventh Heaven, concerns the dysfunctional family of an Episcopalian priest, he the "Daniel" of the title.

So why controversy? Well, this family is really dysfunctional. Daniel abuses prescription drugs, his wife drinks to excess, elder son is gay (and a Republican, which apparently makes it funnier), daughter sells pot, younger adopted son (an attempt at multiculturalism?) is doing the bishop's daughter, the (lesbian) church secretary is doing Daniel's sister-in-law, and Daniel's brother has embezzled a pile of loot.

Oh yes, and Daniel talks to Jesus. In person. Although no one else sees Jesus but Daniel. And Jesus is open-minded about moral issues, rather like Daniel's own conscience.

We hope that the Reverend Daniel Webster has sufficient time for sermon preparation.

Naturally, Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association want to shut the show down, for reasons that don't need explanation here. We would supply a link to their site, but it doesn't seem to be working right now.

So is the show blasphemous to Christ and disrespectful to Christians? SWNID believes that it could prove to be ironically reinforcing Christian values. Is Daniel's family dysfunctional because his upper-middle-class, country-club Episcopalianism leaves him with a wimpy Jesus and no clear way to provide spiritual leadership to his church or his family?

We confess to a certain degree of positive curiosity about the show because it so obviously embodies common stereotypes about Episcopalians, many of them expressed in decently funny jokes. For example, one that Episcopalians like to tell about themselves, wherever three or four Episcopalians gather, there is always a "fifth." Or this delightful dialog:

Episcopal Priest: There's something wrong with this microphone.
Congregation: And also with you.

And should we be surprised that the church that ordains gay bishops is portrayed with the sexcapades delineated above?

But what about the portrayal of Jesus? Should that concern the faithful? We think perhaps not. Here's why.

First, any talk about Jesus can lead to good things. If we start talking with an obviously goofy Jesus on TV, can we move on to the real Jesus?

Second, does the very fact that this Daniel's Jesus is apparently so goofy and inconsequential, so obviously the projection of Daniel's own religious weakness, make the Jesus of historic Christian orthodoxy more appealing?

Let's say the conversation starts with how funny the show is. Let's say it goes to how Jesus in the show is so weak and vacillating that he clearly is a projection of the weakness of the one who speaks to him. Can the biblical Christian begin to talk about how a Jesus who is grounded in history, portrayed in Scripture, has an objectivity that goes beyond subjective projection? Can the discussion go on to note how the Jesus of the Bible challenges and reproves those who believe in him, down to their very core? That the Jesus who dies for others and calls his followers to do the same is hardly so inconsequential?

We hope the answer is yes. We'd like to have this conversation soon. The possibility might even induce us to watch the show.

Monday, January 02, 2006

What Do You Call an Echo Chamber with a Time Warp?

Answer: The Democratic Party.

Fox News is carrying a story about John Kerry's ongoing campaign for President (yes, of the United States, not France). How anyone who was beaten as Kerry was can think that he has a decent shot at the nomination, let alone the general election, is certainly beyond the experience of anyone outside the world of Democratic politics.

But it seems credible to some. Fox quotes Kerry spokesman David Wade:

He's continuing the fight he began in 2004. He wants to make it very clear he's a fighter who is going to continue to fight for his agenda.

Don't you just love the way Ds use "fight" and "fighter" all the time? Al Gore took this verbal tick to its zenith in his 2000 D-convention acceptance speech, and now it's the full D-lexicon. It seems Dems are always spoiling for a fight these days, unless it is against Islamo-fascists.

SWNID confesses that we are more inclined to see Kerry's quixotic crusade as does Dan Payne, consultant to the Ds and a former Kerry strategist, quoted by Fox as saying:

He is going to have a difficult time overcoming his last campaign and explaining to the party regulars how and why he lost. There's only so much that the Democrats can blame on Karl Rove.