Monday, July 31, 2006

Q Discovered, and It Isn't What We Thought

We thank gentle reader Matt for drawing our attention to something not to be missed.

A singular moment in biblical studies has been reached. Q has been discovered.

And it's not what we thought it was. SWNID, of course, thought that Q, the hypothetical source shared by Matthew and Luke in addition to Mark, was a figment of the scholarly imagination. But now it's for real.

But it isn't an ancient papyrus document. It's a cell phone with a full keyboard. Motorola offers it to the public. They say:

"Prepare to be illuminated ... by a very enlightening device."

Already a Heretic on Foreknowledge, Boyd Takes a Beating on Apolitical Christianity

We thank gentle reader Dynitta for drawing our SWNIDish attention to an article detailing the recent departure of about 1000 people (or 20% of attendance) from the Woodland Hills Church of Maplewood, Minnesota, where Greg Boyd preaches.

Boyd is famous for his adherence to "openness theology," the notion that God preserves human freedom by limiting his knowledge of the future. That position has made him the object of scorn for many in the Reformed tradition (and the object of praise for many in the anti-Calvinist Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement).

But now he has taken a step too far. He has questioned the justification for the alliance between evangelical churches and the Republican Party, yea, even the expression of American nationalism as part of the worship of evangelical churches.

SWNID applauds Boyd's position. Loudly, conservatively and patriotically.

If this surprises gentle readers who have observed our enthusiastic support for things Republican and American, note well what we say here. Our faith defines the values that we support politically, but not the means. We are not politically conservative merely because we are theologically conservative. We are generally politically conservative because we think political conservatism, as usually defined these days, has better historical and social-scientific support as a political philosophy that brings decent order to human societies. So our theologically conservative values are supported best by political conservatism, we believe.

But we don't think that a person has to be a Christian to figure out that political conservatism is the best available political alternative. Divine enlightenment is not necessary to perceive the general patterns of human history and social behavior. It's garden-variety, secular wisdom. As Boyd himself is quoted in the article:

I don’t think there’s a particular angle we have on society that others lack. All good, decent people want good and order and justice. Just don’t slap the label "Christian" on it.

Further we also adhere to a Christian tradition that insists on liberty in matters of Christian opinion and has always put political issues in that category. Further, we insist that the church embrace people of all nationalities, and so find the expression of American nationalism to be problematic in Christian worship, except as a prayer of thanksgiving or supplication for much-needed divine blessing that is not the exclusive right of America.

So Christians, like us, should be involved in politics. And their faith should inform their involvement. But they shouldn't confuse their political convictions with their faith.

So we're right there with Greg Boyd.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Music That Makes SWNID Dance

SWNID was born, as we like to say, without a groove thing. But the music video linked here by the helpful folks at Powerline, the Right Brothers performing their one and only hit, the partisan celebration "Bush Was Right," sends us into a frenzy of head-banging, theo-conservative dancing every time we replay it, which has been often.

We give the band special recognition for its use of a playground taunt as a guitar hook.

Gentle readers will no doubt be glad that they can view the video but not our reaction to it.

The SWNID Poll: In a Hypothetical Election ...

Our previous post prompts us to ask our gentle readers the same question posed to us this morning by Daughter of SWNID while driving to worship services:

In a hypothetical presidential election in which the only candidates were (a) William Jefferson Clinton; (b) Hillary Rodham Clinton, for whom would you vote?

Please post your choice and any rationale for it in the comments. While we do not discourage creativity in forming alternatives (going to Canada, fomenting revolution, ritual suicide, etc.), we are interested in your choices as confined to these two Arkansan alternatives.

Or are they New Yorkers now?

Why Giuliani, You Ask?

For those who wonder the origins of our SWNIDish enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, we note again that it is largely the product of our conviction that of the three most likely winners of the 2008 election, he is far the preferable.

Our preference is illustrated by the NY Times's recent revelation that the other two engaged each other in a vodka-drinking contest while on a senatorial junket to Estonia two years ago.

We prefer our presidents neither stirred nor shaken, thank you very much.

Update: And for good measure, columnist Salena Zito in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review poses the most relevant political question: "Rudy: Hero of Our Age?" and notes that (a) Gallup has Rudy as the number one choice of 75% of Republican voters; (b) significant conservative Republican leaders see Giuliani as readily electable (e.g., Barry Winn, "If the primary were held today, Rudy would be out in front just on leadership. ... The house is on fire and we are sorely lacking firemen -- Giuliani would fill that role").

Friday, July 28, 2006

Trade Talks Breakdown Means the Poor Stay Poor

Over at National Journal economics writer Clive Crook (motto: "I am not a crook!") offers a timely exposition of exactly why the breakdown of the latest round of world trade talks is terrible news for the world's poor. In sum, this is Economics 101 again: tariffs and subsidies prevent everyone on both sides of a nation's borders from working at maximum efficiency. That's bad news for all, but especially those who are not well off.

More specifically, the problem is this. Developed nations like the United States and the European Union have large agricultural industries. They subsidize them with government payments while protecting them with tariffs on imports. That means that (a) domestic farms work at less than full efficiency, as they lack the incentives to be more efficient or simply to close down because efficiency is impossible; (b) foreign producers with the ability to produce more cheaply can't sell in the subsidized, tariff-protected markets and so lack the incentive to produce efficiently.

The foreign producers are mostly in developing countries of the South (Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia) where climate, soil and labor supply can produce food more efficiently than in the North. Those countries' economic development would be greatly enhanced by free access to the huge markets of the industrialized countries. Access to markets would spur the development of more efficient means of production in those countries, giving their own people a rising standard of living both through cheaper domestic production and through the income gained by selling abroad.

Imagine that farmers in the Philippines, Kenya and Uruguay had free access to markets in the United States, Japan and the European Union. They would get hard currency for crops that they previously could grow but not sell. With that currency, they could upgrade the efficiency of their farms with better machines, fertilizers, and chemicals (also more environmentally friendly, BTW). With upgraded efficiency, more income flows to these farmers, freeing them from the need to send their children into the fields and giving them the means to build schools and hire teachers, or to build hospitals and hire doctors. Likewise, increased efficiency lowers the cost of food for domestic customers, improving local nutrition. Soon a generation arises that is literate, nourished and healthy. If this sounds to you like what happened on the American frontier thanks to far-reaching policies like the Homestead Act, then you get the idea.

But this stunningly positive scenario isn't happening because no one wants to be the first to cut subsidies and tariffs, even though the greater efficiency and lower prices would benefit the country that did the cutting as well as the countries with which that country would trade. Everyone fears (a) the short-term dislocations to their own economies that free trade brings; (b) the use of the issue by the opposition party (whichever party is in opposition in whatever country) in the next election.

We got close to making a move on this a few years ago when Richard Lugar and some other senators and congressmen from Midwestern states proposed a schedule to eliminate agricultural subsidies. The proposal died. So did the hopes of a billion of the world's poor.

N.B. that free trade doesn't equal the Return of Jesus Christ. We're not prophesying a free-market utopia. But we'd like to see informed self-interest and human decency come together with a bit of political courage to make a move on this issue, even if it's a unilateral move by a single country. Say, the United States?

Write your congressman and senator.

The Latest on Homosexuality and Christianity

Readers of this blog are no doubt aware that faculty and staff at Christian colleges, seminaries, universities, institutes, and the like are sinners in the same proportion as the general Christian population. As a long-time habitue of institutions of Christian higher education, SWNID knows of no such institution that has not been touched by sexual scandal.

So it is in one sense completely unremarkable that Professor John Rumple's resignation from Johnson Bible College was followed by his public announcement that he is an active homosexual, having lived secretly with his same-sex lover while teaching at JBC.

What is more remarkable, perhaps, is that Rumple has launched a web-based campaign to challenge the understanding of Christian ethics that forbids same-sex sexual expression. We call this remarkable because we know of no adulterer, fornicator, pedophile or pornography-consumer who has taken similar steps to challenge Christian sexual ethics. In the larger respect, Mormonism might be seen as a polyamorous challenge, but most analysts would see all that as belonging on the fringes, including most contemporary Mormons. But of course, Rumple is hardly the first to launch such a quest (more on that below). So maybe this isn't remarkable either.

There is so much that can be said on this subject, we hesitate even to raise it at all. So, in our limited time that we are stealing from more pressing tasks, we make only these observations.

One: Like most who advocate the moral acceptability of homosexual practice, Rumple's argument largely hinges on the notion that the expression of individual identity or personhood demands acting on one's sexual impulses, especially same-sex attraction. SWNID objects to this move. Why do we consider "homosexual" to be a category of personal identity but not, say, "greedy person"? We expect that the truth of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit will compel and enable us to restrain our greed. But the argument is that the same should not apply to homosexual impulses, which belong to something of the essence of a person. To oversimplify, some would probably say, "I experience greed, but I am gay." We challenge the validity of that distinction.

In fact, we'll get confessional with this challenge. SWNID has frequent, strong impulses to be bitter and rude. We will even say that bitterness and rudeness are of the very essence of our being, something that we've always experienced and can't seem to shake. We don't just have bitterness and rudeness, we are bitter and rude. We wouldn't be who we are without bitterness and rudeness. But the cross of Christ compels us to struggle against that aspect of ourselves, to "deny" ourselves, as the Lord's phrase can be translated, to "buffet" our "body," as the apostle's phrase can be translated, in favor of something closer to the nature of the God in whose image we were created and are being recreated. That this struggle is in small part on display for all the world in this blog is an irony that we note in passing.

So how is that of a different category than being sexually attracted to members of the same sex?
Two: We are puzzled that more than 30 years after the rise of the gay rights movement, Rumple or anyone else would believe that he had something to add to the discussion of pro-gay biblical interpretation by starting a web site. We've been alive and alert for the entirety of this "debate" (more on that below), and pro-gay exegetes and theologians have been rephrasing and recapitulating the same tendentious arguments since the 1970s. Perhaps Rumple believes that as a refugee from it, he has a special voice on the subject for the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. But the truth is, opinion-shapers in the SCRM listen to folks outside the SCRM too. So quite apart from the merits of his cause, we find Rumple's efforts to be superfluous.

Three: We insist that the call for an opening of dialogue on this issue among the Christian churches and churches of Christ reflects a completely inadequate assessment of the "dialogue" or "debate" in the mainline Protestant denominations that have been so engaged for years. There is no discussion in those contexts that suggest one can make a pro-homosexual theological case without first assuming that human experience as interpreted in the present has a preeminent role in critiquing biblical theology rather than the other way around. So the debate is really between those who would adhere to biblical teaching despite the Zeitgeist and those who would use the Zeitgeist to critique biblical teaching. The lines are drawn on theological method, not specific theological argumentation based on a shared method. So there's no meaningful dialogue or debate on the homosexual issue, just a lot of politicking between factions of denominations that have in reality been split for generations on what it means to believe the gospel. For those who want an example, see the most recent Christianity Today for its coverage of what's happening among Episcopalians.

Four: Drawing from Rumple's statements and those of a former student who in a letter accompanying a gift copy of her self-published, coming-out-of-the-closet memoir mistakenly thanked SWNID for caring more for how students think that what they think (we care for both equally, as careful thought about thought should suggest), we object to an assumption in the thinking of both, an assumption shared by many who are not gay and who pursue ministry. The assumption is this: that a "calling" to ministry is somehow a self-identified entitlement. In the case of Rumple and the former student, this thinking is reflected in the notion that one should be free to be in a position of professional Christian leadership and act without restraint on same-sex attraction.

Rumple reflects this mentality with statements like this (all quoted from his open letter to JBC):
  • I have no doubt that God called me to the ministry of the Word (which the church confirmed by my ordination).
  • No venue exists within our church tradition where I could engage in meaningful dialogue on homosexuality and not forfeit my vocation; I therefore felt unable to speak openly with the church (or with my colleagues) and still follow my calling.
  • In fact, I have lived "in the closet" all my life in the church simply to survive and minister to it.

We will not comment on the rationalizations in these statements. We will note, however, that we have heard this same notion of entitlement from (a) a minister who committed multiple acts of adultery with multiple partners and justified his actions by appealing to the fruit of his ministry (big congregations) and his right to have some personal pleasure; (b) a student of ministry who insist that his talents, commitment and calling justified cheating on exams and plagiarizing book reviews; (c) a pastor who insisted that his calling and long tenure entitled him to pry into others' personal lives, even those outside his flock, exempt from the charge of gossip; (d) a student of ministry who insisted that his calling justified his ignoring his financial obligations.

We don't here assert that the moral standards of Christian leadership should be high. They should be, but we are making another point. We assert first that all leaders are sinners. But what we assert emphatically is that the nature of Christian leadership--no, ordinary Christian discipleship--is that it is a cross-shaped, towel-and-basin-carrying, forced march through the desert. It's a frustrating, humiliating, irritating slog that carries no emoluments except the title "unworthy servant." Finding some kind of church-enforced disconnect between one's "calling" and one's self means, again, giving up oneself, if one is serious about that self-proclaimed calling. And if you can't find the joy in that, read Philippians 2:5-11 until you can.

Fifth: When Rumple accuses JBC of approaching the homosexual issue with bad exegesis uninformed by scholarship, he's either uninformed or disingenuous. Yes, a number of exegetical and systematic theologians have offered pro-gay positions. But they represent theological scholarship as a whole about as much as Robert Funk's Jesus Seminar did. JBC knows this, and they've drawn conclusions different from Rumple's. Rumple is being unfairly accusatory when he implies otherwise.

For those who would like to start digesting the kind of scholarship that Rumple is not acknowledging, we recommend fellow Neutestamentler Robert Gagnon, professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who has done yeoman's work in exegesis, theology and debate on the subject of homosexuality. And best of all, in addition to excellent books and articles he's provided a terrific web site chock full of stuff. We give him props for fine work that frees the rest of us for other work.

Sixth: Rumple finds his treatment at JBC to have been abusive and hateful. But this begs the real question in the same passive-aggressive manner of the substance addict who tells his enabler that if she loved him, she would give him the money he needed for drugs or booze. What if homosexual practice really is destructive to the persons involved (in ways that we both understand--or did once--and don't yet understand)? What if JBC is right that homosexual practice is not according to God's purpose for human sexuality? Is it love to let the person attracted to members of the same sex act on those impulses with moral endorsement if so to act is destructive?

We know a lot of folks at JBC. They're all sinners. But it's a crime to label an exceptionally gentle, humble, self-giving bunch of people as hateful and abusive.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Israel Vs. Hezbollah: SWNID Defers to Taranto

Gentle readers waiting for our SWNIDish response to the terrible conflict in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah can now have limited satisfaction.

First, we affirm the necessity of Israel taking decisive action to defend its civilian population from Hezbollah's rockets and to respond to the unprovoked abduction of its soldiers. War is always at least heck, but sometimes it's a lesser heck than letting a whole nation of people be overrun by bad guys.

Second, we grieve the considerable collateral damage that warfare creates, especially when one side uses civilians and UN "peacekeepers" as crude shields for propaganda advantage. In the best of wars, the innocent suffer, and it's not best when one side deliberately holes up in crowded urban neighborhoods so that they can represent the other side's actions as targeting of civilians. We wish that there was as much grief for Hezbollah's deliberate targeting of civilians with their dumb rockets, for which they celebrate almost hourly, as there is for Israel's collateral damage (admittedly a term that minimizes the real human effect) to civilians with their smart weapons, for which they apologize (admittedly words only) almost daily. Of course, the double standard that assumes the Islamist side are savages who can't be held to moral account and so all blame belongs to Israel and America is so embedded into the discourse on this issue, one can hardly expect otherwise.

Third, we note that this series of events has exposed again the utter fecklessness of the UN and the current Democrat Party leadership on such matters. On this we defer to the ever-clever James Taranto (see his first two entries), who rightly skewers the Ds' fake umbrage at Iraqi President al-Maliki's tepid objection to Israeli actions and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's patently false accusation that Israeli forces were deliberately targeting UN observers.

Update: Not suprisingly, no one has expressed all this better than psychiatrist and pundit Charles Krauthammer. A quotation:

The perversity of today's international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.

In perhaps the most blatant terror campaign from the air since the London blitz, Hezbollah is raining rockets on Israeli cities and villages. These rockets are packed with ball bearings that can penetrate automobiles and shred human flesh. They are meant to kill and maim. And they do.

But it is a dual campaign. Israeli innocents must die in order for Israel to be terrorized. But Lebanese innocents must also die in order for Israel to be demonized, which is why Hezbollah hides its fighters, its rockets, its launchers, its entire infrastructure among civilians. Creating human shields is a war crime. It is also a Hezbollah specialty.

Sculptor Renders Hillary for the Ages

We copy this item from Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online's indispensable blog, "The Corner." For some mysterious reason, probably an action of the Massive Left-Wing Conspiracy, we can't get the relevant image to upload, so follow the link to see what's discussed. The press release quoted below hardly needs elaboration, though happy to do the superfluous, we will offer brief elaboration.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Bust To Be Unveiled at the Museum of Sex

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- New York, NY- July, 26 2006—- A presidential bust of Hillary Clinton is set to be unveiled at the Museum of Sex on August 9, 2006 at 10 am. Accentuating her sexual power and bolstered by the presidential seal, The Presidential Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton: The First Woman President of the United States of America will be officially open for public viewing on August 9 for a limited six week run.

Artist Daniel Edwards describes this new sculpture as capturing Clinton “with her head held high, a youthful spirit and a face matured by wisdom. Presented in a low cut gown, her cleavage is on display prominently portraying sexual power which some people still consider too threatening.”...

...Edwards’ inspiration for the piece was derived from actress Sharon Stone’s controversial quote earlier in the year about challenges that would most likely be encountered should the Junior Senator from New York run on the ’08 ticket. “I think Hillary Clinton is fantastic,” Stone said. “But I think it is too soon for her to run. This may sound odd but a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. Hillary still has sexual power and I don’t think people will accept that. It’s too threatening.”

“Displaying a sculpture to encourage discourse about the sexual power debate surrounding the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency is very much in line with our mission as a museum,” noted Daniel Gluck, Executive Director. “We are wholly dedicated to the exploration of the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality. Historically, leaders are often expected to possess an exceptional amount of virility or fertility with displays of that sexual power often tied to their success. The artist’s portrayal of Hillary Clinton as a president who also happens to be a sexual being conveys the message that a woman need not squelch her sexuality in order to succeed as leader of the free world.”

Political opponents of Senator Clinton should thank the forward-thinking Edwards and Gluck for providing a priceless resource for her defeat in 2008. Not since the Greek myth of the Amazons has a more frightening image of female power been rendered. We applaud Edwards for taking inspiration from social and artistic sage Sharon Stone and Gluck for faithfully following the crucial mission of his distinguished museum.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Entertainment Worlds Collide: Kiefer to Appear on The Simpsons

What happens when the star of SWNID's favorite drama appears as a guest voice on SWNID's favorite comedy? We'll find out whether the whole is more or less than the sum of the parts when Kiefer Sutherland (motto: "Intimidating when sober") voices a belligerent army colonel when Homer is mistakenly drafted into the army in an upcoming episode of The Simpsons (motto: "Not as funny as we used to be, but still funnier than anything else").

We hope for more but bet on less.

Put Your Shirt Back On: A Good Case for Government Action

Britain's Daily Mail reports that local governments in the UK are considering ordinances to forbid men going shirtless in public.

We affirm this thoughtful and timely effort to spare the public the sight of bare, sweaty, often hairy skin stretched over a male chest and gut--whether flabby, flaccid or fit--and to spare the skin's owner the shame of public ridicule and potentially deadly UV radiation exposure. Despite our broad distaste for government intervention in daily human affairs, we find this an entirely sensible and appropriate measure.

The fact is that (a) no man's bare chest is really attractive to anyone but the man himself; (b) no one is really more comfortable bare-chested, as light, comfortable, ventilated fabrics are cheap and common in shirts these days. So with the exception of the beach or pool (and we applaud the commercial distribution of stretchy, quick-drying shirts for men to wear in the water), there is no appropriate place for a man to be seen without his shirt.

We were recently introduced to the curious cable-television program What Not to Wear. We believe that an episode should be dedicated to this very topic, pardoning the double negative: "What Not to Wear: No Shirt."

Colson on "Religious Left" Conference: Nothing Done by People Who Tolerate Anything but Conviction

Chuck Colson's BreakPoint offers a superb analysis of the just-concluded Spiritual Activism Conference in DC, the much balleyhooed move by the left to capture a religious tone and so recapture some political power. We tip the SWNID cap to Mrs. SWNID for pointing us to it.

Here are a couple of Colson & Company's bon mots:

Ironically for a group that prides itself on tolerance, it seems the only thing the conference could agree on was its opposition to the “religious right.” But frustrating as it was for them, the group had to concede that the “religious right” is a lot better at getting things done. Beliefnet suggests this was because “religious conservatives are willing to argue there is one correct view on policy issues.” . . .

Tony Campolo . . . tried to explain at this conference the necessity of following Scripture. But one participant retorted, “I thought this was a spiritual progressives’ conference. I don’t want to play the game of ‘the Bible says this or that,’ or that we get validation from something other than ourselves.”

There you have it. Validation from ourselves simply means you make up your own god. We Christians may interpret the Bible differently; we may apply it to life differently; we may have arguments over exegesis. But the Bible has to be the ultimate authority. Otherwise we end up worshiping the goddess of tolerance and believing that tolerance takes precedence over truth.

Expect to hear something SWNIDishly related to this crucial point in an upcoming post.

Former CCU President Buys Thoroughbred Track

Gentle readers will be interested to learn that Ron Geary, Cincinnati Christian University President in the late 1980s, is completing purchase of a small horse-racing venue, Ellis Park, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (motto: "With bourbon, tobacco and racehorses, we cover all the vices").

SWNID firmly opposes all forms of gambling, which we see as the financial exploitation of the inability to do math by appealing to greed. We will not even enter a contest if it involves the wager of a first-class stamp (sorry, Publishers' Clearing House, but that means you). We do not consider the operation of a gambling emporium to be a suitable business venture for a person committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But unlike Mr. Geary, we are neither a businessman (that's obvious) nor a citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where the culture of horseracing has a storied history. Further, we stipulate that parimutuel betting, like that on a horse track, at least offers the prospect of a winning margin over time to those whose expertise in the contest is well above average. In this respect it is different from casino gambling or state lotteries, which assure that over time everyone loses but the house.

Nevertheless, the offer of the horse track is still financial gain without labor or thrift, an unholy fantasy. And a small percentage of the human population, comprising a significant number of people, are especially susceptible to the allure of gambling, becoming "addicted" to the thrill of the wager to the point of economic and social ruin.

So we wish Mr. Geary good luck in his venture and pray for God's protection for any who would patronize his establishment. That seems appropriate to us.

Samuelson Does Econ 101 on Oil Prices

For those who still wonder why gas costs 75 cents per quart (doesn't that sound better than $3 per gallon?) yet people keep buying it, media economist Robert Samuelson provides an apt explanation.

More to the point Samuelson analyzes the possibility that oil prices are inflated beyond their economic value, that we have an oil "bubble." Answer: maybe, but probably not a big one, and in any case, conservation and the development new resources are more sensible than hoping for prices to come down.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NRO: Technology, Economics, Mild Government Incentives Improve Environment

We thank National Review Online's editors for a trenchant piece on our ever improving environment. That's right: it's improving. The last three years show the lowest rate of ozone and particulate pollution in the United States since the air was first monitored in the 1960s. More cars are on the road than ever before, but emissions from cars are falling at a rate of 8% per year. The EPA predicts that in 20 years, auto emissions will be 80% lower than they are today.

The reasons for this are clear: improvements in technology make for cleaner operations. What government can do to encourage this trend is to enhance the inherent economic incentives to invest capital in cleaner technology.

What the environmental movement could do is cooperate with such moves. But it's committed to the idea that industry and business are always the problem and stringent regulations are always the solution.

We say to members of the environmentalist movement, Take a deep breath.

Barnes on Bush Versus Reagan: History or Mythology

We thank tireless gentle reader JB in CA for pointing us to a timely article by political sage Fred Barnes noting the revision of Reagan's legacy currently afoot.

What Barnes details is that the Reagan of history is very different from the Reagan to whom Dubya is unfavorably compared by Democrats (motto: "Speak no ill of the dead, nothing but ill of Bush"). E.g., the Reagan of actual history was a military hardliner; the Reagan of Democrat mythology was a multinational moderate.

Some "conservative" Republicans (motto: "No matter how conservative you are, I am more conservative") have done the same thing, of course. E.g. the Reagan of actual history agreed to massive federal spending increases; the Reagan of "conservative" mythology cut federal spending massively.

Politicians, it seems, will always hearken to a golden era of the past when all was right with the republic and the world. But they always do so to emphasize how awful things are right now with the other guy in the power and how much better things would be with themselves in power.* This is why actual history is so important: it's the antidote to political science ("history without facts"). In actual history, things have always been awful, making the present look not so terrible.

E.g., John Kerry in Detroit the other day, commenting on Israel's incursions into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah: "If I was President, this wouldn't have happened."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Boo Cheesy Biblical Theatrical Production! Hooray Bible!

Inspired by (a) a week's vacation that gave us cable TV access to view Red Stripe Beer commercials on ESPN; (b) our return trip from the Outer Banks to Cincinnati via the Smokey Mountains, we begin what may become a recurring feature: a shameless imitation of the delightful Red Stripe commercials in which we boo something utterly tasteless done in the name of Christianity so that we can by contrast cheer the antidote to such hooey, namely, the sacred canon of Christian Scripture.

Our reference point for tastelessness is drawn from that Great Mecca of the Garish,* that giant neon-and-plastic scar on the southern stretch of the Appalachian Mountains, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Having stopped for a much needed sandwich near the northern end of the Pigeon Forge strip, we learned from Son of SWNID's discovery of a brochure about Pigeon Forge's amazing Miracle Theater. The musical stage production The Miracle includes depiction of creation (nudity avoided with anachronistic leaf-colored clothing), a battle between angels of good and evil (complete with plastic armor and big, fluffy wings), and lots of Jesus episodes.

Now, we are all for biblical drama. And we aren't in a position to condemn anyone for insincerity. But we note that the folks who produce this have a number of shows on the Pigeon Forge Strip. One might conclude that the objective is as much to appeal commercially to the religious sensibilities of the Bible-Belt patrons of Pigeon Forge as to propagate the Christian message.

But where the propagation of the gospel is concerned, motives are secondary, after all. And we are all for the strategic use of drama to convey the Christian message. We simply doubt that a commercial production can have the same impact as a production done by nonprofessional Christians in a church setting, where church members are around to provide context, interpretation, and encouragement to the people whom they have themselves invited to the production, or where the production is but a part of a many-faceted program of communication. Further, we somehow doubt that anyone who wasn't already pretty interested in things Christian would attend The Miracle while vacationing in Pigeon Forge.

But here's what really bugs us. The gospel story is better in its unadorned form in the book than it is even in a tasteful stage production, and this isn't a tasteful stage production. We insist that the unadorned biblical text creates way, way better pictures in our heads than what Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment can produce nine times a week near Dollywood.

So we say, Boo Cheesy Biblical Theatrical Production! Hooray Bible!

And remember to read responsibly.

*We also nominate Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada for this designation.

New SWNID Hotel Recommendation

The SWNIDs having returned from a delightful week of summer vacation, we are happy to add to our growing list of hotel recommendations. This one is not for cheap, clean accommodations in an urban area but cheap, clean accommodations in a seasonal beach resort area.

What does the typical beachgoing family want most from the place where they stay while visiting the beach? Is a large, attractively furnished room the most important factor? Are the number of services offered by the facility important? How about the overall sense of style? None of that matters as much as one thing: easy access to a good beach.

And for that, the Cavalier Motel in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, in the heart of the Outer Banks, offers the maximum beach access for a minimum price.

The Cavalier is a throwback: a fifties-vintage motor court built right on the beach, its beachfront building severing the line of dunes now protected by various sensible codes and regulations. The rooms are simple and small. They bespeak the time of their construction, sporting knotty pine paneling on the walls and black and white tile in the tiny bathrooms. But they've got sufficient modernity as well: cable TV, a 12-cubic-foot refrigerator, and a microwave oven. And in the center of the motor court is a new swimming pool of decent size, a children's play area, and a seniors play area (shuffleboard court).

But here's the deal: no one in the place is more than 100 feet from the beach. And in the peak season, you pay as little as $88 a night for a room.

Mrs. SWNID overheard one patron talking to some others on the beach. The upshot of his conversation was this: having vacationed on the Outer Banks for eighteen years, and having stayed at condos, upscale rentals, and nicer hotels, they prefer the Cavalier.

With narrower experience, so do the SWNIDs. The staff was friendly and efficient, the other patrons, largely from Virginia and North Carolina, friendly and quiet, and the location better than anything else available. We enjoyed a week of beachfront bliss.

While on the beach, are you hungry? At the Cavalier, you can walk back to your room in about 90 seconds and make a sandwich from the stock in your own fridge. While on the beach, did you finish your book? At the Cavalier, you can walk back to your room in about 90 seconds and get another book. While on the beach, do you need to retreat from the sun's burning rays? At the Cavalier, you can walk back to your room in about 90 seconds and get a cover-up.

Some day, the owners will get tired of maintaining the place and will sell to the developers who are doubtless making offers all the time (the place is surrounded by upscale properties). Or a big hurricane or nor'easter will howl through and wash away all the red brick and knotty pine. So book this one while you can.

Friday, July 14, 2006

From the SWNID Files: Actual Student Bloopers

The SWNID domestic unit soon will be leaving Our Fair City for a one-week holiday at an Undisclosed Destination, so new posts will be infrequent to nonexistent for awhile. To pacify our demanding but gentle readers, we offer this from the SWNID Files: our own compendium of amazing statements from student papers. Most are from papers submitted to our SWNIDish self; some were shared with us by academic colleagues.

"Paul surely heard the whaling Jewish teachers screaming about the Day of the Lord."

A title from a student paper on Isaiah 14:12-15 (which begins, "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning"): "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up"

"Hosea was a gentile and loving man."

"Also in the Court of the Priest was a laver of bras which was supported by twelve colossal lions."

"Christ has undertaken men's responsibility. He has relieved them of their accountability. He has borne their quilt."

"Because the main source of communication in the first century that expanded some distance was by letter, it is not out of the realm of probability that Paul's letters were actually his and that the circulation of those letters between churches probably took some time. The time involved in copulation of these letters have led many to believe that others have written under Paul's name."

"For the most part the big events in both the OT & NT go in a specific order."

"Jude is recognizing a problem within the church and he is trying to nip it in the butt."

"Included in sharing the gospel [Paul] shoots a clear theme that proclaims a more pointed massage to the Romans . . . ."

"The key verb in John is 'believe' and requires both knowledge and violation."

"[Christ] first laid out John's character by asking the crowd why they went to see him in the dessert."

"[Jesus] began by asking the people what it was they expected to see when they went into the dessert."

In Nahum 2:4, "I think he was describing what it looked like when the charities came in and they were ready for war."

"About AD 268 Farmilian , bishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia, quoted that Peter excreted heretics and warned against them."

"The first section of [Matthew] chapter thirteen, the parable of the sewer, is a foretelling of what will happen to the people who hear the word preached."

Among the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John is "the razing of Lazarus."

"Annas held the potion of high priest in the Sanhedrin."

"The Bible, that is the answer. It is God's reviled, inspired word for the human race."

"The reason for this [trials] is because as Christians we are seen as a threat to satin and his plans."

"There is no crown without a Calgary, no glory with a Gethsemane."

"Since my area of giftedness is in the area of exhalation and teaching, my natural instinct seems to lean toward preaching ideas for communicating this."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Breaking News: Emergency Vehicles at Christ's Church Mason

Driving from a local restaurant to pick up our daughter and her friends at King's Island this evening, SWNID and Mrs. SWNID were detoured by a disturbing sight: Western Row Road was blocked for a fire hose stretched to the building of Christ's Church Mason, where several fire trucks and rescue vehicles were visible around the parking lot.

We've searched local news sources for information but have none. We invite our crack network of gentle readers to post any information they have as comments.

We pray that damage is slight and injuries are none.

Wayne Krivsky, Baseball Genius?

The announcement of our beloved Reds' massive trade with the Washington Nationals has provoked SWNIDish wonder and amazement. The Reds appear to be getting an awful lot of what they need (pitching, a great prospect and a steady veteran infielder) and giving up exactly what they can afford to lose (a weak-fielding infielder, yet another outfielder, and a pitcher whose potential continues to go unrealized).

We therefore preemptively and prematurely nominate Reds GM Wayne Krivsky as a Seldom-Wrong-Never-in-Doubt Baseball Genius. Best of all, he did the deal with the Nationals GM who is the former Reds GM, the Evil Un-Genius Jim Bowden.

So maybe the season's second half will be interesting after all. Not that we look forward to hearing from all the students who want to miss class to stand in line for playoff tickets.

Grim Example of Matthew 10:17-42

We pass along something of importance that we received in an email:

The minister of the Price Hill Guatemalan church (Iglesia Nazeret) Santos Vasquez and his daughter Sandra were involved in a car wreck that left them both in intensive care. Both have some bleeding on the brain. Santos is responsive and can converse somewhat. Sandra is unresponsive at this point. Santos was shot in the abdomen last summer during a mugging, and beat over the head with a crowbar the summer before in a racial attack. Please pray for the healing of Santos and Sandra, and for strength and faithfulness for his family and congregation during this long season of suffering.

Is the End Near? Gore, Wal-Mart, SWNID, Hog Farmers Seem to Agree

Look out for snowstorms in Gehenna.

It seems that Wal-Mart is making a commitment to sustainable energy and reduced emissions. Consequently the maligned corporation is being praised by Al Gore. And both are SWNIDishly noting the confluence of economic and environmental interests for the corporation, to wit: increased fuel efficiency, as it becomes technically possible, reduces both emissions and costs.

The genius of Wal-Mart has always been cost control. Now they're on to something besides inventory costs and human resources costs.

Meanwhile, in the desolate plains of Northwest Indiana (motto: "Why did we drain these swamps, anyway?") a similar initiative is underway. The agricultural town of Reynolds is slated to become the Midwest's first energy self-sufficient municipality, relying primarily on biomass. As a recovering Hoosier whose work requires many trips along I-65 in this part of Indiana, we can testify that Indiana's prosperous hog industry generates mass biomass.

At any rate, the economic issues are still clear:

Farmer Roger Wiese, 65, hasn't decided yet whether to sell 2 million gallons of hog manure to Biotown instead of using it as fertilizer on his fields. He'll agree only if he can make a profit.

"There's not enough money in agriculture that we can run it as a charity," he said. "Without it working economically, it doesn't become feasible."

However, officials report that with 150k hogs within a 15-mile radius,* they've got 74 times the biomass they need. Perhaps Wal-Mart can use the surplus.

If the Reynolds, Indiana plan succeeds in any measure and is accompanied by parallel successes in corporate initiatives like Wal-Mart's, look for Indiana Govenor Mitch Daniels's presidential star to rise.
*We invite comparisons to the human population of Cincinnati.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Livin' in the City on the Rise in One Part of Greater Cincinnati

For all those who think that there's no chance that Cincinnati's core will ever change for the better, there's evidence for such change right in our metro area. The Enquirer notes that older neighborhoods in Covington have become a hot real estate market.

Is that because of great Covington schools and great Covington government? [Note to gentle readers: laugh at the silly rhetorical question!]

No, it's because the houses and neighborhoods have charm and potential and are close to cool stuff.

The End of Plamegate, Except for the Angry Left

Bob Novak--protean figure of the Plamegate saga, the most insignificant major news story of the last two years--has spoken at last. So maybe this will be the last we will hear about this nonissue, except from the perpetual grudgeholders of the Angry Left, who need something to do in between losing elections.

With a suitably spare, empirical style, Novak's column today details everything significant about his revelation that Joe Wilson was sent to Niger to investigate Iraq's attempts to secure uranium at the suggestion of his wife, a CIA officer who at one time worked under a mostly transparent cover. Novak confirms every significant detail except for the identity of his primary source, which, he notes, is known to the special prosecutor but has not been made public by some other means.

What will anger the Angry Left is that Novak (a) confirms that Karl Rove confirmed that Wilson's wife got him the appointment; (b) notes that Patrick Fitzgerald's informing Rove that he is no longer a target of the investigation implies that Fitzgerald has come to the conclusion that what Rove did--and he definitely did it--was no crime.

This will anger the Angry Left because by their definition anything Rove has ever done is a crime. Never mind that a Democrat prosecutor has determined him patently innocent on the law. He's self-evidently guilty because he works for the wicked President Chimpy W. Hitliar.

Here's the line that we enjoyed most in Novak's delivered-dry-as-the-Sahara column:

I learned Valerie Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in "Who's Who in America."

That's how pervasive the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is, Angry Left. It extends to our most sacred reference books.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

7th Circuit Common Sense: Christian Group Need Not Admit Active Gays

A federal court has issued a ruling that makes a rare brush with reason.

Per Inside Higher Ed, the US Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit has made permanent an injunction barring the University of Southern Illinois from enforcing its antidiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation against a chapter of the Christian Legal Society.

The ruling appears to recognize that the Christian group has a right to regulate its membership according to its beliefs and to be accorded the same powers of discriminating in membership granted to other religious groups or to gender-based groups. Further, the CLS had argued that it did not forbid persons of homosexual orientation to belong, only people who engaged in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, and so actually adhered to SIU's antidiscrimination policy.

This ruling, along with the recent ruling in New York that same-sex couples have no right to "marriage," suggests that not everything in the legal sphere is heading towards Gehenna. Or at least not everything is headed there at the same rate.

Recurring Feature for a Slow News Day in Summer: From the SWNID Files--Are You White Trash?

Here's another classic from our extensive files of vintage emailed and web-posted humor:

Are You White Trash?

You might be White Trash if...

•You ever cut your grass and found a car. •You own a home that is mobile and 5 cars that aren't. •You think the stock market has a fence around it. •Your stereo speakers used to belong to the Moonlight Drive-in Theater. •You own four cars and no hubcaps. •Your idea of a great Christmas present is a gift certificate to the local bail bondsman. •Your boat has not left the drive-way in 15 years. •Chiggers are included on your list of top 5 hygiene concerns. •You burn your yard rather than mow it. •Your wife has ever said, "Come move this transmission so I can take a bath." •You refer to the time you won a free case of motor oil as "the day my ship came in." •You read the Auto Trader with a highlight pen. •The Salvation Army declines your mattress. •You've ever raked leaves in your kitchen. •Your entire family has ever sat around waiting for a call from the Governor to spare a loved one. •Your grandmother has ever been asked to leave the bingo hall because of her language. •Someone asks, "Where's your bowling bag?" and you answer, "She's at home with the kids." •Birds are attracted to your beard. •Your wife's job requires her to wear an orange vest. •You were shooting pool when any of your kids were born. •You have the local taxidermist's number on speed dial. •You've ever hit a deer with your car...deliberately. •You've ever given rat traps as gifts. •You clean your fingernails with a stick. •Your coffee table used to be a cable spool. •You keep a can of RAID on the kitchen table. •You hammer bottle caps into the frame of your front door to make it look nice. •Your wife can climb a tree faster than your cat. •Your mother has "ammo" on her Christmas list. •Every socket in your house breaks a fire code. •You've totaled every car you've ever owned. •There are more than five McDonald's bags currently in the floorboard of your car. •The Home Shopping operator recognizes your voice. •There has ever been crime-scene tape on your bathroom door. •You've ever been kicked out of the zoo for heckling the monkeys. •The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape. •You think a subdivision is part of a math problem. •You've ever bathed with flea and tick soap. •You think "taking out the trash" means taking your in-laws to a movie. •Your kids take a siphon hose to "Show and Tell." •The dog catcher calls for a backup unit when visiting your house. •You've ever bought a used cap. •Your CB antenna is a danger to low-flying planes. •You pick your teeth from a catalog. •You've ever financed a tatoo. •You've ever stolen toilet paper. •People hear your car a long time before they see it. •The gas pedal on your car is shaped like a bare foot. •You prefer car keys to Q-tips. •You take a fishing pole into Sea World. •You've ever stood in line to have your picture taken with a freak of nature. •You think the French Riviera is foreign car. •You go to a stock car race and don't need a program. •You've ever filled your deer tag on the golf course. •Your toilet paper has page numbers on it. •MOTEL 6 turns off the lights when they see you coming. •You own more than three shirts with the sleeves cut off. •You've ever spray painted your girlfriend's name on an overpass. •Your pocket knife often doubles as a toothpick. •You own a denim leisure suit. •Your dog has a litter of puppies on the living room floor and nobody notices. •Your family tree does not fork. •You see no need to stop at rest stops because you have an empty milk jug in the car. •You have a rag for a gas cap. •The dog can't watch you eat without gagging. •You have a Hefty Bag for a passenger-side window. •You show your boyfriend you really love him by carving his name on your arm. •You've ever had to turn your pickup truck around because of bridge clearance restrictions. •You've ever had to scratch your sisters name out of a message that begins, "For a good time call...." •You ever hit on somebody in a V.D. clinic. •Your brother-in-law is also your uncle. •You bought a VCR because wrestling is on while your at work. •After the Prom you drove the truck while your date hit road signs with beer bottles. •Your father executes the "pull my finger" trick during Christmas dinner. •All of your four letter words are two syllables. •You've ever been too drunk to fish. •You cut your toenails in front of company. •You view the upcoming family reunion as a chance to meet women. •Your wife has a beer belly and you find it attractive. •Hitchhikers won't get in the car with you. •Your house doesn't have curtains but your truck does. •You wonder how service stations keep their restrooms so clean. •You can spit without opening your mouth. •You consider "Outdoor Life" deep reading. •You call your boss "dude." •You have grease under your toenails. •You consider your license plate personalized because your father made it. •Your mother keeps a spit cup on the ironing board. •You think Dom Perignon is a Mafia leader. •You've ever been fired from a construction job because of your appearance. •You've ever worn a tube top to a wedding. •You've ever cleaned fish in your living room. •You think Campho-Phenique is a miracle drug.

Worm's-Eye View of What Ails Cincinnati

Yesterday we enjoyed a fine lunchtime conversation with an alumnus of our institution of higher learning who is experiencing firsthand a major reason why people are leaving Cincinnati.

This fine gentleman and his fine wife are engaged in a very productive ministry in one of Cincinnati's worst neighborhoods. They currently rent an apartment in that neighborhood but would like to buy and renovate a house that is currently vacant.

You'd think that would be easy, right? The building's owners, lenders and the city government should be falling all over themselves to get committed homeowners back into bad places.

Well, no. My friends have been trying for months to buy the house. They can't. And it's not because they can't put up a down payment or get a loan. It's because no one will sell them a vacant, run-down house that no one else will buy.

As we understand it, first the house was tied up in foreclosure. Then after the sheriff's auction, it was still somehow in the hands of the mortgage company. Now it has unresolved liens because a previous buyer skipped town with major cash from a renovation loan, no renovations even having been started. Now the house is bundled with dozens of other vacant properties in a single potential sale to investors (translation: "slum lords") who presumably will simply sit on the properties, leaving them blighted, until some major developer wants to buy up whole blocks for some unknown purpose in the distant future.

Still, you'd think that someone would want to break up this logjam, to cut financial losses and to get redevelopment moving wherever it can take place. Better to get something for this property than something less, like nothing. But no. Such common sense is uncommon in the world of Cincinnati real estate, it seems.

Whatever the city is doing to encourage improvements in older, troubled neighborhoods, it needs to do something effective to allow people who really, really want to live in their own houses in those neighborhoods to do it, not least when those same people are working every day to make the city a much better place than it is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Barone on Mexico and Calderon: Conservatives Ascendant, NAFTA Texifies

The impeccable Michael Barone has analyzed electoral results from Mexico and made two keep observations:

  • Despite what we've heard from the press, the center-right is doing quite well in Latin America, especially since even the non-Chavista left is supportive of free trade and fiscal responsibility.
  • Predictions that NAFTA would transform more of North America to look like Texas have proved true, and northern Mexico is a clear case in point.

And our favorite quote from the column:

These center-right parties all stand for change--change in the sense of allowing a vibrant private sector to grow and alter our ways of living and making a living. Their opponents tend to stand against change, for the vested interests of public-sector unions, for (in Canada and Mexico) the subsidy of anti-American metropolitan elites.

Major Cincinnati Development: Rookwood Pottery Reborn

Yesterday's Enquirer carried the amazing news that a group of investors has a plan to revive the manufacture of Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. They've secured capital, rights, original molds, and the services of leading ceramic artists.

Who would have thunk it, but who can think of a better business development for Our Fair City? We're SWNIDishly confident that the revived company will succeed commercially as it rides the wave of historic preservation and restoration that brings lots of folks with money back to older neighborhoods in America's cities. It all tracks with "Your Voice" columnist Jean Kinney, who today celebrates Cincinnati's aging but timeless charms. Some additional Rookwood detailing in this and other cities will enhance the attraction.

Maybe College Football Can Add Up

Readers of this blog still recovering from the shock of learning that Kentucky Christian University is starting a football team will want to read the NY Times's coverage of startup football programs at small colleges looking to boost male enrollment. The plan has actually worked at some other colleges. And we hope it does for KCU too. We like those guys. And gals.

For those who wonder whether CCU will follow this trend, I would simply point out that CCU currently suffers no shortage of male students, with about 58% of undergraduates and a higher percentage of graduate students being male. Football at CCU would be the equivalent of the proverbial coals to Newcastle.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rauch: A No-Gasoline Treaty. SWNID: What If OPEC Lowers the Price?

Jonathan Rauch, member of that rare species the serious-minded liberal, today offers Dubya the intriguing proposal that he pursue an international treaty to end the use of gasoline by 2039. Doing so, Rauch notes, would have salubrious (our Word for Today) effects on global politics and the global economy as well as the global environment.

We believe that every reason he gives for hailing the end of gasoline is sound. But aside from wondering out loud whether economics and developing technology have foreordained gasoline's demise before 2039 anyway, we have to ask ourselves this question out louder:

What if, in response to a global anti-gasoline treaty, oil-producing nations banded together with their own agreement to pump more oil at a smaller profit margin, or even for a time to "dump" oil at a loss, making fossilized hydrocarbons so cheap as to buy off treaty signatories and maintain for a span of time their lock on the global economy? Could America count on such global partners as Russia, China, or France to keep their promises with cheap oil on the market again? Could America itself resist gasoline at the equivalent of, say, $1.50/gallon in 2006 dollars?

We believe that if oil-producing nations have that fundamental economic capacity, they will exercise it effectively. We believe further that if they don't, economic developments will overtake them at about the same pace with or without a treaty.

In other words, we believe that the world will be gasoline free at about the same time and with the same effects whether or not Rauch's treaty gets written and signed.

But we could be wrong, just this once.

We Utter the G-Word Again

The well-connected Robert Novak breathes hope into the moribund prospects for 2008 with this insider information (we have inserted the emphases):

Well-connected public figures report that they have been told recently by Rudolph Giuliani that, as of now, he intends to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

The former mayor of New York was on top of last month's national Gallup poll measuring presidential preferences by registered Republicans, with 29 percent. Sen. John McCain's 24 percent was second, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich third at 8 percent. National polls all year have shown Giuliani running either first or second to McCain, with the rest of the presidential possibilities far behind.

Republican insiders respond to these numbers by saying rank-and-file GOP voters will abandon Giuliani once they realize his position on abortion, gay rights and gun control. Party strategists calculate that if he actually runs, he must change on at least one of these issues.
So yet again, but as we haven't for awhile, we offer yet again a challenge to those principled Republican conservatives who say that Rudy (a) won't run; (b) can't get elected by Republicans; (c) is no friend to conservatives. None of the three propositions are self-evident.

But what we think is self-evident is that Rudy's presence in the race will make it a considerably more serious one, with a better prospect for a salubrious outcome.

And we still entertain fantasies that the former mayor could induce the superb Condi Rice, who appears determined not to run for President in 2008, to serve as his formidable running mate, changing this country's politics forever.

WSJ Profiles Lomborg: SWNID Topoi Everywhere

Mimicking the Observer, doubtless because SWNID drew attention to the article, Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal today profiles environmental contrarian Bjorn Lomborg. A trio of pull quotes will reveal why the more we hear about this guy, the more we're intrigued.

First, on why the left is a spent political force and what it needs to become a powerful force again:

Bjorn Lomborg is a political scientist by training, but the charismatic, golden-haired Dane is offering me a history lesson. Two hundred years ago, he explains, sitting forward in his chair in this newspaper's Manhattan offices, the left was an "incredibly rational movement." It believed in "encyclopedias," in hard facts, and in the idea that mastery of these basics would help "make a better society." Since then, the world's do-gooders have succumbed to "romanticism; they've become more dreamy." This is a problem in his view, and so this "self-avowed slight lefty" is determined to nudge the whole world back toward "rationalism."

Second, a summary of his earlier work:

Bjorn Lomborg busted--and that is the only word for it--onto the world scene in 2001 with the publication of his book The Skeptical Environmentalist. A one-time Greenpeace enthusiast, he'd originally planned to disprove those who said the environment was getting better. He failed. And to his credit, his book said so, supplying a damning critique of today's environmental pessimism. Carefully researched, it offered endless statistics--from official sources such as the U.N.--showing that from biodiversity to global warming, there simply were no apocalypses in the offing. "Our history shows that we solve more problems than we create," he tells me. For his efforts, Mr. Lomborg was labeled a heretic by environmental groups--whose fundraising depends on scaring the jeepers out of the public--and became more hated by these alarmists than even (if possible) President Bush.

Which brings us to the present, where he insists on rational prioritization of global actions to address human problems that can be addressed by the global body politic:

If you have a rational list that tells you that you do a lot more good preventing HIV/AIDS, then those in favor of such projects have slightly better arguments. Those arguing for climate change have slightly worse arguments." And while this may not change the world, it could be a start. "The Consensus isn't about getting it perfectly right," says Mr. Lomborg. "It's about getting it slightly less wrong."

Yes, getting things slightly less wrong. Seldom Wrong--a noble and perhaps attainable goal, at least some of the time.

We Venture a Prediction on the World Cup: Italy 1, France 0

Why this prediction, gentle readers ask?

Not because of some lame French joke.

Because Italy hasn't yet allowed a goal, except the own goal to the Yanks. And they have the better keeper.

Defense wins championship matches because everyone's too nervous and too careful to play good offense.

New, Occasional Feature: From the SWNID Files

This evening we institute a new feature of this blog, slated to occur occasionally (i.e. like anything on any blog, whenever the blogger wants to do it). We call this feature "From the SWNID Files."

What is this important addition to the pages of SWNID? Well, as the name implies, we will dig up some chestnut from our extensive files of jokes, anecdotes, old news stories, and such. These are things that we stuffed away because at one time we found them interesting. And now we share them with the world.

Today, we share a joke:

A guy walking in the desert desperately needed a drink. As he followed the dunes, he came upon another man riding a camel. He asked the man if he had something to drink.

The man on the camel said "No, but if you like, I have a nice selection of ties. Would you like to buy one?"

"No!" The first man replied. "Are you crazy? I need something to drink, not a tie!"

So the man on the camel rode on, and the walking man continued his slow and very thirsty trek for several days. Finally he came upon a cantina. He gratefully approached the doorman at the cantina and said "Thank God I made it! Can I get in and get some water?"

The doorman frowned at him. "Not without a tie."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Mexican Election: Why Are Leftists So Much the Same?

So there's something approaching an official result in Mexico's presidential election, and the conservative Calderon is the winner.

Accompanying developments remind us of the famous opening observation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which, our copy not being ready to hand, we will quote from the unholy SparkNotes web site (and not in Russian, as if we could understand Russian): "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Well, the response to Calderon's election by his opponent, Lopez Obrador, suggests that all leftists are unhappy in the same way:

  • Like Al Gore, Lopez Obrador insists that he will fight the electoral outcome, which unlike the situation in the north involves several hundreds of thousands of votes difference instead of a few hundred, in the courts.
  • Like leftists everywhere, Lopez Obrador insists that he and only he stands for "the people."
  • Like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to whom Calderon often compared Lopez Obrador (and for which Calderon was widely accused of dirty campaigning), Lopez Obrador threatens revolution if he does not get his way.

The universal mythology of the left continues to be that a majority of the world's people supports the left because the interests of the majority are patently served only by the left. The universal problem of the left is that many elections don't bear this out. The universal explanation of the left is that the right tells lies, campaigns with dirty tricks, holds down voter participation and steals elections. The universal and sole evidence for these charges is the actual outcome of elections, which are won by the right but should be won by the left if everyone gets to vote and everyone's vote is counted.

The universal problem of the right is trying to govern with all this leftist noise in the background. Calderon, by all reports a smart and decent individual, will have his work cut out for him, not just with Mexico's corrupt government and dysfunctional, crime-ridden economy but now with a neo-socialist quasi-anarchist threatening a "people's revolution."

Mexico and the rest of the world awaits the real revolution that came several years ago to United Kingdom: the rise of a serious, competent, fair-minded and decent party of the center left that formulates thoughtful policy instead of playing Marxist games.

Viva Tony Blair!

Suburban Real Estate Mogul to Cincinnati: Y'all Are Crazy!

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer continues to follow up on Our Fair City's gradually declining population density with a story about burgeoning development at Butler County's Union Centre Boulevard. Our SWNIDish eye was drawn to the following quotation:

"Who is his right mind would live in Cincinnati?" says Charlie Chappell, one of the original landowners of the Union Centre Boulevard area and president of West Chester 75 Inc., a group of investors who put up land for the interchange.

"We have better schools," he said. "We are more civilized. We have less crime."

Being of legally sound mind and residing in Cincinnati, we feel compelled to respond to Mr. Chappell. While not denying the acuity of perception or objectivity of judgment displayed by a person with an obvious financial interest in the commercial and residential development of property outside the city, we respond to his triumvirate of suburban virtues:

  • West Chester's best schools, thanks to their low concentration of poverty-stricken students, are better than Cincinnati's worst. But we note, as we have before, that Cincinnati's best are at least equal to the Twin Lakotas of West Chester. We will add that the SWNIDs are glad that their offspring faced no appreciable social pressure from peers to conform materialistically or behaviorally in their urban educational institutions. We hope for the same for our suburban friends.
  • The higher civilization of Union Centre Boulevard is apparently on display through (a) its clever use of British spelling combined with a French term for the local appellation; (b) the cutting-edge Rave Cinemas, where high-minded teenagers hang out until the sophisticated hours of the early morning. Cincinnati by contrast offers two fine art museums, a major symphony orchestra, a delightful chamber orchestra, a ballet company, an opera company, jazz clubs, a Tony-winning regional theater, various other professional and community theaters, major and minor universities, architectural landmarks, outstanding municipal parks, and breathtaking hilltop vistas.* You are welcome to visit any time. Oh, and Cincinnati has a curfew for its teenagers, something we understand the high civilization of West Chester is also contemplating.
  • Your lower crime rate is temporary. Bad guys have cars, know how to drive on the interstate, and aren't deterred by municipal boundaries. Enterprising drug lords will move their retail operations closer to their suburban customers sooner or later, if they haven't already.

And now to some points not raised by the astute Mr. Chappell:
  • For those like the SWNIDs who live with the genteel privation typical of workers in the faith-based, not-for-profit sector of the economy, Cincinnati offers value. The purchase price of our four-bedroom, 2.5-bath two-story of 1960s vintage in the city would have barely got us into a two-bedroom landominium in the new developments of Butler County.
  • And for that price, we got a neighborhood with abundant, mature trees. Suburbs of the West Chester ilk are built on what was heretofore farmland. West Chester trees are still scrawny and supported by tethers on stakes, except for the ones between subdivisions that survived the farmers' axes and plows.
  • Our six-mile commute to work never forces us into heavy traffic. A generation ago our streets were built to a capacity that supports businesses and residences. The occasional traffic snarl simply redirects us to the multitude of alternate routes, something that would be impossible for the West Chester resident who complained in the print version of the article about impossible congestion on Friday afternoons.
  • Now that gasoline has topped $3 per gallon, we have the option of commuting our six miles by automobile, motor scooter, bicycle, or public omnibus, even with our municipality's disappointing lack of support for alternative modes of transportation. In West Chester, it's drive or stay home, and six miles will barely get you to the next interchange.

So in the end, we stipulate the sanity of every suburban resident. All we ask for in return is similar respect for our crazy choices.

*We'd provide hyperlinks, but who has the time?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Samuelson on Global Warming and Technology: Sounds Like SWNID

Economist and columnist Robert Samuelson this week offers a take on global warming that is remarkably sober-minded. We like two things that he says:

  • That measures like the Kyoto Treaty, trumpeted by the likes of Al Gore, are nothing more than "political grandstanding" with no potential for effect on the problem, especially when "ratified" by American city councils and the like.
  • That the only feasible means of addressing global warming are technological: "The practical conclusion is that, if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology."

Devoted gentle readers who have been following the discussion of technology and the environment between SWNID and JB in CA will find something SWNIDish in Samuelson's latter remark. Not that we would ever draw attention to that, of course.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More on Climate Change and Public Policy

Except for debating the virtues and vices of Cheez Whiz, our gentle readers seem most engaged in the issue of global climate change and ancillary issues of public policy. We therefore point out two interesting pieces in the Sunday press:

  • The Observer of England (national motto: "Using celebrity players to beat itself in the World Cup since 1998") brings us Bjorn Lomborg offering a reminder of the economics of actions to stem global warming. Specifically, he cites a meeting of leading economists in Denmark in 2004 which concluded that of various public-policy initiatives, the ones with the least likelihood of yielding benefits to human beings were related to global warming. Those likely to do the most good were aimed at HIV/AIDS, human nutrition, free trade, and malaria (SWNID's nominee for least-publicized issue of importance).
  • The Wall Street Journal offers MIT climate professor and well-known global-warming skeptic Richard S. Lindzen's objections to the rhetoric of "consensus" in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. His upshot is that global warming data does not correlate well with increases in CO2 and so a causal relationship, let alone a crisis, cannot be inferred, as Earth's climate is demonstrably dynamic and complex. Lindzen criticizes the "lassitude" of his more politically minded scientific colleagues who offer CO2 emissions as the explanation for climate change because they can't think of any other cause. No consensus exists on global warming, Lindzen argues, because we can't yet know enough about the dynamics of climate change.
SWNID, of course, is inclined to agree with these positions. Lindzen has been harshly criticized for his position by the most politicized of environmentalists, but we appreciate the credibility of any scientist who (a) holds tenure at an institution like MIT; (b) addresses his own area of expertise (sorry, Noam Chomsky, you make it on the first point, but this second one puts you out of our circle of credibility except for pronouncements on linguistics); (c) confesses that his discipline can't know something. Lomborg reports matters that fit what strikes us as a common template that proves often true: while the healthy and prosperous worry about disasters that may perchance befall them, they neglect actual disasters that actually befall the unhealthy and poor.

As we enter deep into the political "silly season" (for the uninitiated, the summer vacation period, when politicians go to the beach and the reporters who cover them get silly in the scramble for something to fill their pages and newscasts), it is good to be reminded that the sky may not be falling, but there remains important work to be done in the world.

We Guess You Had to Be There . . . And Stay There

Son of SWNID and SWNID attended our first Cincinnati Reds game of the season on Friday night, June 30. It was a memorable and historic occasion in several respects:

  • Approaching the ticket office, we were offered field-level tickets for $20 each ("drinkin' money," in the words of their owner). Throwing caution to the wind, we upgraded from our usual View-Level Reserved ($12) and enjoyed $72 worth of seats, located in section 122 behind home plate and just in line with the third base line, for $40.
  • Our team played miserably against the unclean Cleveland Indians for seven innings. Then a miracle happened. Behind 7-0 in the eighth, our beloved Reds scored four times, including a three-run tater by pinch-hitter Juan Castro, a normally light-hitting infield utility player. Allowing Cleveland one more run in the ninth, they came back in their half with five runs, capped by Adam Dunn's epic grand-slam with two outs (reportedly since 1936 the first such four-run knock to win the game for the Reds when they were three runs down). Hit down the right field line, Dunn's dinger was the only play of the game of which we had an obstructed view, but the moment was all the finer for us as we had to rely on other fans' reactions to know whether the ball was fair and cleared the fence.
  • The win catapulted our inconsistent home team into a tie for first place in the National League Central Division with the St. Louis Cardinals, historically baseball's second most successful franchise. (That standing was lost today, of course.)
  • After the game we were treated to a delightful fireworks spectacle, planned and executed by the superb Rozzi family and financed by National City Bank.

We cannot begin to describe what a delightful evening it was for all who stayed for the entirety. We guess you had to be there, as the saying goes.

And that's why we can't understand why so many (including our ticket source, for whom the money from the sale bought three beers each for himself and his female companion) left the ballpark before the game was over. Granted, the odds of a comeback were slim. But if baseball is so dreadful to watch on its own terms, why pay the outrageous sums charged for admission to begin with? And since when are free fireworks not worth staying for?

Everyone who stayed saw something that they'll remember for a long time. Everyone who left now feels like a fool, like a child who begged to be excused from the table before dessert so that he could go to bed early.

We remember several years ago reviewing with our SWNIDish spawn the excellent book Chess for Children. Having explained that a player can end a chess game at any point by resigning, the book offered the advice that the developing player should never resign, no matter how hopeless one's position. Why? Because no one ever learned anything about chess by resigning.

Something similar can be said for attending a baseball game. No one ever saw anything amazing at a baseball game by leaving before the last out.

The one who endures to the end will be saved