Friday, January 26, 2007

Rudy's Resume Online

For those who still aren't ready to support the Theodore Roosevelt of the 21st Century, we point to the compendium of Rudy Giuliani's achievements assembled by City Journal's Steven Malanga. Yes, we can live with McCain. Yes, Romney may be ready. Yes, Richardson is an acceptable Democrat, which is probably to say a Democrat never to be nominated by his party.

But what Rudy has done outshines every other list of political achievements in his generation. Read and learn.

SWNIDish Advice for Comments

SWNID welcomes comments on our seldom-wrong posts. But as in all areas, SWNID has advice for commenters for means of improving comments.

We urge that these not be taken as discouragements from posting comments. We welcome all comments, even bad ones. But for the sake of gentle readers who lack the time to read through comments that are less than the commenter's best, we suggest the following:

  • Avoid anything that sounds like a slogan or pat phrase. That's what soundbites in the mainstream media are for. We've heard all that today on our radios and TVs. Folks read blogs like this for fresh expression of a fresh point of view. Freshen up!
  • Distinguish between evidence and logical argument from evidence on the one hand and repeated assertions of opinion on the other. Saying the same thing over and over doesn't make us agree with you, even if in your head the words are louder each time you repeat them.
  • Is a viewpoint more convincing because it's expressed in a rhetorical question? So why bother?
  • We'd guess that many gentle readers would appreciate your using the comments to share links to related web sites that you find stimulating on the subject at hand. Do that. And if you just can't find anything interesting that isn't already linked by SWNID, you need to get around the Internet more.
  • Insults are fun, but be deft, light and witty, like Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill, not heavy and boorish like Bill Maher or anyone who worked for Bill Clinton. If you needle someone, consider it a success if the person needled would consider it an honor to have been the object of such wit and style.
  • And remember the house rules: insults on this blog can be aimed only at public figures or SWNID.

Please America, Don't Elect This Candidate

Why does SWNID feel so warm to so many presidential candidates these days? We still think Rudy is The Man, but we're more comfortable with McCain, intrigued by Romney, and would be content to see Bill Richardson if a D must prevail. But why so many?

Because of who we don't want in the White House. And Gerald Baker, a subject of Queen Elizabeth II, expresses our view in today's Times of London:

As you consider her career this past 15 years or so in the public spotlight, it is impossible not to be struck, and even impressed, by the sheer ruthless, unapologetic, unshameable way in which she has pursued this ambition, and confirmed that there is literally nothing she will not do, say, think or feel to achieve it. Here, finally, is someone who has taken the black arts of the politician’s trade, the dissembling, the trimming, the pandering, all the way to their logical conclusion.

Fifteen years ago there was once a principled, if somewhat rebarbative and unelectable politician called Hillary Rodham Clinton. A woman who aggressively preached abortion on demand and the right of children to sue their own parents, a committed believer in the power of government who tried to create a healthcare system of such bureaucratic complexity it would have made the Soviets blush; a militant feminist who scorned mothers who take time out from work to rear their children as “women who stay home and bake cookies”.

Today we have a different Hillary Rodham Clinton, all soft focus and expensively coiffed, exuding moderation and tolerance. . . .

All politicians, sadly, lie. We can often forgive the lies as the necessary price paid to win popularity for a noble cause. But the Clinton candidacy is a Grand Deceit, an entirely artificial construct built around a person who, stripped bare of the cynicism, manipulation and calculation, is nothing more than an enormous, overpowering and rather terrifying ego.

Best Kept Secret of Yesterday: Iraqi Parliament Supports Bush Plan

If you read today's Boston Globe, you'd conclude that Bush's Iraq plan has all but destroyed Iraq's parliament. Here's the lead:

Iraq's Shi'ite prime minister exchanged heated words with a Sunni Arab lawmaker yesterday over the country's new security plan, leading Parliament to temporarily suspend a raucous debate and Iraqi television to abort its coverage.

And here's what the "objective" reporter from the Globe left out, reported--believe it or not--by Ann Garrels of NPR (emphasis inserted):

In a speech to the Iraqi parliament, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes an emotional appeal for support for his Baghdad security plan, vowing that it will
target all armed militants regardless of sect or political affiliation. After angry exchanges, parliament voted to support the prime minister's plan.
Garrels's report (audio link available by following the link above) notes that this vote represents a dramatic shift for fringe elements of the Iraqi parliament on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite feud. It appears that both sides understand that there will be no overlooking or accommodating their death squads and extremists. So al-Sadr and others are talking about cooperation, disarmament, and other things that earlier this week were impossible, per the Democrat response to the SOTU by the Junior Senator from the State of Pomposity Jim Webb.

SWNID hereby calls for the retirement of the slogan, apparently coined by the Ds but now adopted by some jelly-spined Rs like Chuck Hagel, "Iraq needs a political solution, not a military solution." "War," said Karl von Clausewitz, author of a celebrated work on the subject, "is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means." When differing factions won't agree to a political solution, as has been the case in Iraq, the threat of violence may tend to focus their attention on heretofore unnoticed shared interests with opponents--like, say, avoiding death.

It's much to early to take this action as a sign that Bush's plan will succeed. This could be his "Harry Truman moment." For everyone's sake, mostly those in Iraq and those in the US military and their families and friends, we hope so. But for sure, it's now utterly irresponsible for the Senate to continue to debate a non-binding resolution objecting to the "surge." Just the threat of it has shown the potential to move things along.

But the debate continues, it seems. And so the Iraqi parliament may end up more supportive of the American military than the US Senate.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big, Empty Boxes = Church Planting Opportunities

Today's Enquirer gives extensive coverage to the large number of large retail properties currently vacant in Our Fair City and its Fair Suburbs. Big-box retailers, it seems, keep getting bigger, leaving not-quite-as-big spaces behind.

Municipalities struggle to get those properties reoccupied. But we wonder whether they're looking in the wrong direction. What the big boxes may best accommodate is not more retail but more not-for-profit. Specifically, these sites are ripe for churches.

To grow in most of American culture, churches need lots of space and lots of parking. That's what the big, empty boxes provide. And it's been done successfully, as Cincinnati's current "hot" church, Crossroads Community, has amply demonstrated.

We challenge gentle readers to go into all the city and sign leases to make disciples.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Clear and Hold, Then Spread the Inkblot

The Beeb is reporting on military action in Baghdad that appears to be an early wave of the new anti-insurgent strategy in Iraq. In sum, the good guys take the neighborhood, clear the neighborhood of bad guys and then stay there to keep them from coming back. In classic anti-insurgency style, this activity moves outward from key points, like a spreading inkblot on a piece of paper.

For those who said that a surge is not a new strategy, here's the proof otherwise. For those who said it should have happened long ago, well, they may be right, but it's too late to do it long ago.

And let's hope that if this initiative meets with a measure of success, Bush's opponents will show enough sense not to insist that troops be withdrawn willy-nilly despite the success.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Will on Down Syndrome and Abortion

Senior Conservative Pundit and Bow-Tie-Wearer George Will is always articulate. But he is never more so than on those occasions, like this week, when he reflects on what his son Jon's life should mean for the practice of abortion in this country. Jon Will, born a year before Roe v. Wade, is a citizen with Down syndrome (the Wills object to the phrase "suffers from Down syndrome," because they don't think that Jon's condition causes him to suffer), the kind of person for whom legalized abortion means deadly peril. We are glad to share one of our many names with him.

We urge the reading of Will's column, not least because it reflects the kind of principled compassion for which conservatives should be known, but also because it's simply well written.

We quote from the conclusion:

Jon has a disability, but he also has some things most men would like to have--season tickets for Nationals and Orioles baseball, Redskins football, Capitals hockey and Georgetown University basketball. He gets to and from games (and to his work three days a week for the Nationals at RFK Stadium) by himself, taking public transportation to and from his apartment.

Jon experiences life's three elemental enjoyments--loving, being loved and ESPN. For Jon, as for most normal American males, the rest of life is details.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Updates on Two Recent SWNIDisms: New Developments, Nothing New

We note today that Libertarian Uebermench Paul Hackett will not be charged for tracking down non-deadly criminals with deadly force. No surprise here, as a prosecution of a prominent Democrat for an alleged vigilante-style gun crime (note to NRA types: we didn't say he committed a gun crime or that what he did even should be illegal if it is, so chill) would have been political suicide for Republican prosecutor Joe Deters.

We note also that the promised increase in the federal minimum wage is now a matter of internal dispute among the Ds and so is unlikely to be passed anytime soon. Senate Ds, needing support from Rs and probably from their own moderates, not to mention something to give the President so he doesn't veto the bill, want to add to the bill some tax breaks for small businesses, ostensibly to offset the additional costs of the wage increase, though the offset would hardly correspond to any particular business's wage expenses. House Ds, trying to remain as true to their image as champions of the proletariat against the capitalists, are insisting that the Senate pass the bill as it stands without any evil tax breaks for the fat cats.

The result will be that the Senate will either never debate the bill, or a no-tax-cut version will never get cloture and a vote, or a with-tax-cuts version will pass and a final bill will never emerge from the House-Senate conference. Any way it goes, though, it will be the Republicans' fault that America doesn't get a raise.

Why would the Ds let this happen? Because they'd rather have the minimum wage as an issue to run on than actually raise the minimum wage. They know that a minimum wage increase is bad social policy and bad economics. But for Ds it's good politics if it never happens. So there's no surprise here, either.

Richardson for POTUS = Hope for Our Republic

New Mexico Governor and former Clintonista Bill Richardson is launching an exploratory presidential bid, per AP.

Naturally the MSM, unaware of the way that the Obama campaign has exposed the complexity and irrationality of the idea of "race" in politics and elsewhere, will trumpet a Richardson campaign as a move to become the nation's first Hispanic president. What they will ignore is that among all possible Democrats, Richardson would bring broad experience in government, including especially executive experience, and a relatively moderate record.

In other words, he looks like a guy who could govern without a clown suit.

If '08 becomes Richardson versus Rudy, McCain or Mitt, we can all trade opinions and vote our consciences but also maintain normal heart rate, secure in the knowledge that a steady hand will hold the tiller in January of '09.

Can Richardson win? He immediately becomes the proverbial dark horse. He lacks the media impact of Hillary or Obama. But besides gravitas, he also has the luxury of having been sidelined, as a governor with no voice on national security, during the Iraq war. Hence, he has no pro-war baggage with his party's left, though he probably has little appeal with it, either. And he has no anti-war baggage with the independent electorate that isn't comfortable with cut-and-run "redeployment." He can, if he so chooses, offer a plan that makes both sides shut up and listen while not sounding like a triangulator.

If Hillary's castor-oil charm takes full effect and Obama's lack of experience starts to show, we could see the Ds coalesce* around a guy who brings to the stump some ethnicity and some memories of Clintonite glory, plus some wisdom. And that would be Bill Richardson.

That is, Richardson could prevail if anyone can withstand the Clinton shredding machine. Reports originating with the Washington Times are suggesting that Hillary's special forces are behind a move to hit Obama with his alleged study as a child at a madrassa, or Muslim seminary (for fun, check out how the "progressive" Media Matters--an organization that is "dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media"--is spinning this spin: anything reported by conservatives about reports coming from Hillary are wrong because they come from conservatives).

Among the skills that the Clintons learned as admirers of JFK was how to destroy opponents. We saw how it worked with Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones. Obama (also this week revealed to be a smoker) is probably next. Will Richardson follow?
*Or is congeal the proper word for what Democrats do around their candidate?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Memoir of a False Prophecy, T-Shirt Style

CCU alumnus Tony Thomas has a fun reminiscence in his local paper. It ties in nicely with recent merchandising misadventures featuring the Ohio State Buckeyes as NCAA Football Champions of the Universe.

We read it to great delight.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SWNID Endorses Cincinnati Streetcar Initiative

SWNID recently visited New York City on important ecclesiological business. We look forward to another such visit soon, and we hope to be accompanied by the ever-lovely Mrs. SWNID and some close friends. SWNID also looks forward to an upcoming trip to Chicago on important educational business. Mrs. SWNID likewise looks forward to her own upcoming trip to Chicago for important show business. Daughter of SWNID is also looking forward to her own upcoming visits to New York for important musical business and to Chicago for important educational business.

SWNID also has an upcoming trip for important educational business to Orlando. We aren't so much looking forward to that one.

Why, you ask?

New York and Chicago both have marvelously functional public transportation systems that make the entire city accessible to anyone with an easily procured pass and the ability to read a map. The cities in their entirety become veritable theme parks that one can explore at one's leisure, with no hassles for parking or traffic.

Orlando, on the other hand, is probably the most car-dependent and certainly the least pedestrian friendly city in America (its highest-in-the-nation rate of pedestrian deaths has been amply documented). While its balmy climate is appealing, its endless wasteland of highways and parking lots interrupted by chain restaurants, chain hotels and souvenir shops, imprisons visitors unwilling to pony up the money needed to rent a car. It is probably no accident that Orlando is most famous for an attraction that features an ersatz Main Street that doesn't remotely resemble any actual street in the city and is filled with various shared conveyances, operating in patterns that return the riders to the point where they started. We expect to wait out our time in Orlando by spending whatever free time we have catching up on grading. Magical!

We believe that one measure of any great city is how easily its occupants can get from one interesting point to another. So we utterly applaud the news that Our Fair City is considering the development of a streetcar line to connect the Riverfront, Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and perhaps the University/Uptown districts. It's no Metropolitan Transit Authority or Chicago Transit Authority system, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Boot: Bush Boost Best

SWNID has been waiting for the superbly named Max Boot, global affairs pundit extraordinaire, to weigh in on Bush's plan to add troops in Bagdhad and Anbar Province. And now he has.

His judgment: the plan is not sure fire, but it is certainly the best plan available, more realistic and less risky than any of the Democrats' sketched-on-the-back-of-an-envelope "plans."

We offer the requisite tease quote:

As called for under a plan formulated by military historian Frederick Kagan and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, the five newly arriving brigades should be deployed alongside Iraqi units to live in Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. This is a classic counterinsurgency approach focused on securing the populace, and it has never really been tried before in the capital. It could work, especially if the surge is long lasting and if it's coupled with other vital steps — such as increasing the number of American advisors in the Iraqi security forces, instituting a biometric identity card to make it easier to detain terrorism suspects and enhancing the capacity of the Iraqi legal system to incarcerate more violent offenders.

If everything goes right, large swathes of Baghdad could gradually be brought under control. Then American and Iraqi units could pursue a "spreading inkblot" strategy--another classic counterinsurgency concept--to increase the pacified zone outward.

Boot's reference to Kagan and Keane is most instructive. In December, before Bush's speech, Messrs. Kagan and Keane presented their plan at a major media event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. A second event presented the plan more briefly outlining the plan with accompanying statements from Senators John McCain (R-Gaining SWNIDish Respect Lately) and Joe Lieberman (D-Currently Ignored by MSM). For those who repeat Democrat talking points like, "Just sending 21,000 more troops is not a plan," we say that such truths are self-evident but are not relevant as that isn't "just" what Bush is doing.* Just watch the AEI video.

*We draw attention again in passing to the perniciously illogical effect of interjecting "just" into statements about most significant matters.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama Runs, But Who Supports Him?

The political world is aflutter with Barack Obama's announcement of a presidential campaign exploratory committee, the first step in today's highly regulated (to no discernible effect) political campaigns.

We note two ancillary phenomena.

First, as noted by Jim Geraghty of National Review Online's "Hillary Spot," his blog covering all matters of Democrat Party presidential politics, Obama managed to announce his exploratory candidacy without once mentioning either major party. It seems that the enemy of Obama is not the Wascally Wepublicans, at least not yet. It's partisanship itself.

Second, as noted by the indispensable James Taranto, prominent African-American political leaders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Harry Belafonte have been remarkably cool to Obama's candidacy.

Of the first, we note that Obama has rightly judged that the country is not ready to embrace or demonize either party. So he takes a swipe at the practice of politics itself. He will run as the un-politician. That's very clever, until one actually has to take a stand on something.

Of the second, we will dispute Taranto's explanation. He says that Jackson and Company resent the popularity that Obama, a man of color, has among pallid Americans, as his popularity proves that America is not as racist as Jackson and Company allow. We think it's more subtle than that.

We think that the issue is that Obama is the first prominent African-American figure in Democrat politics who did not come up through the ranks of the civil rights movement and its aftermath. He has essentially bypassed the history and institutions of blacks in contemporary politics, including its gatekeepers like Jackson, just as he bypassed the experience of most African-Americans as the son of a Kenyan professor and a white American mother, raised in a predominantly white environment without his father's involvement.

Whether such matters matter to African-Americans at large remains to be seen. So, of course, does Obama's staying power as a candidate. We venture the judgment that he is untested on a national stage. As tonight's American Idol premiere will undoubtedly remind us again, it's not easy to pick the winner in the first round.

"The Lesson of 24"

For an interesting, insightful but not altogether satisfying read about three of our SWNIDish obsessions--partisan and global politics, the ethics of warfare, and Jack Bauer--one can turn today to Time magazine (motto: Our circulation is so bad, we pandered to what audience we had left by making every reader "Person of the Year"). James Poniewozik there offers "The Evolution of Jack Bauer."

The article asks whether 24, so beloved by notable conservatives is in fact conservative political propaganda. Poniewozik notes that some leading 24's production are avowedly conservative, while others are not. More than that, he notes that some plot lines are problematic if viewed as political propaganda, notably Jack's evolution from torturer to tortured.

But we'll argue that Poniewozik commits the sin against which he rails as he ends his review with this remark:
That may be the biggest lesson of 24 in the Iraq era: don't stubbornly hang on to your preconceptions when the facts on the ground change.

We'll say differently. The biggest lesson of 24 in the Iraq era is to remember that 24, like every other popular TV drama and movie, is fiction. The producers are trying to tell a good story and keep viewers coming back. If they make what seems to be a political point, it's only a means to that end. The fact that it's embedded in narrative makes it no more valid than if it's argued inductively.

When fiction contains lessons, it's only because it mimics reality. When we try to parse fiction to prove political positions, we really beg the question of the narrative's connection to anything real. That adds one more layer to the problem of interpretation, which is hard enough as it is.

So we adjure all to stop making political hay out of 24 or The West Wing or Syriana or any other fictional narrative that captures the imagination. Just eat some snacks and watch the show.

Still More on Despots: Why Saddam's Execution Matters

The immaculate Victor Davis Hanson, with a classicist's eye for the patterns of history, dissects utterly current discussion on the fates of the world's murdering dictators. Saddam, he notes, is the only one of late to have been tried, allowed to cross-examine witnesses, convicted and executed, however imperfectly.

And so we quote from Hanson's bitter conclusion--emphasis, hardly needed, inserted by us:

But there is an even more disturbing paradox--the very moral contradictions of contemporary international justice itself. In today's leisured world it is apparently better to be inactively perfect than actively good.

When the world conveniently doesn't save the millions of innocents who are collectively butchered by a Bokassa, Amin, Pol Pot, Karadzic, Mladic, Milosevic, the Hutu thugs, or those now in Darfur, the paralyzed international community often feels downright bad. But never quite bad enough to have risked blood and treasure to hunt them down, to enter into the messy arena of a publicized trial, and to endure sanctimonious criticism to ensure them a fair enough, but never quite flawless, justice. To paraphrase Aristotle, most find it instead far easier to be ethical in their sleep.

To reconcile this embarrassing divide between theoretical justice and messy action, the new global moral majority on the sidelines feels better by harping at the rare others who attempt what they, the ashamed, don't dare.

So last month, the infant and imperfect Iraqi democracy that tried--not the horrendous old Saddam Hussein who murdered--found itself on trial.

More Bad Days for Despots: Castro Approaching Room Temperature

The last few weeks have been most unfortunate for the world's tyrants, what with Saddam and his cronies passing from this life and Ahmadinejad hitting some snags in his plan to unite all people in their hatred of the United States.

But now there's some really awful news for the strongmen. Fidel Castro, world's longest serving totalitarian dictator, appears to be slipping from this mortal sphere. Or so a Spanish newspaper reports.

Castro's rule has been a disaster for Cuba and the world. Turning his island from an exporter of sugar to an exporter of Communism, Castro has impoverished his people--at least the ones whom he didn't imprison or kill--while sustaining minor revolutions in various other countries with similar results all around. Meanwhile, he became one of the world's wealthiest individuals and most prominent media figures. Moreover, he became the archetype of the anti-American dictator, modeling how anyone with the right blend of charisma, cruelty and ruthlessness can grab and hold power in a small country simply by posturing against Yankee imperialism.

We are hopeful that Castro's demise will lead to some positive change in Cuba's governance. It's hard to imagine a sudden burst of liberal democracy, but it's just as hard to imagine anyone but Castro sustaining the obstinacy that has kept Cuba constantly on the brink of total collapse.

Next up: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New 24 with Anne Rice as Consultant

We will save our SWNIDish opinions about the emerging 24(6), save to remind gentle readers that the incomparable Dave Barry blogs voluminously about the show. Since we can't top Our Greatest Living Humorist, we'll be content to link to him.

Gilbreath: Racial Reconciliation Is Long, Hard, Far from Done

Christian journalist Edward Gilbreath provides a most sobering, challenging and honest evaluation of evangelicals' efforts at racial reconciliation in his recent book on the Christianity Today web site. A precis of his recent book Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity, Gilbreath chronicles the frustrating experience of being an African-American trying to work within the structures of white-dominated evangelical organizations.

We urge, as always, reading of the entire piece, with the following provocative questions as a sample:

White Christian, you have people of color on your staff, but are you seeking their ideas and perspectives? Does your corporate culture reflect sensitivity to the feelings and concerns of nonwhite individuals? You've spoken to the black people who attend your church, but have you had them over to watch the game after service? Have you invited them to join your small group? . . .

White Christian, you hugged and apologized to that nameless black person at an out-of-town conference, but have you made any new friends across racial lines since you've returned home? Are you now more attuned to the subtle ways society treats whites differently from blacks?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bend It Like an LA Galaxy Player

The world is abuzz with the news that soccer glamourpuss David Beckham is leaving Real Madrid for the LA Galaxy of MLS.

While this looks like a Big Deal for American professional soccer, one should keep in mind that at 31, Beckham's best days as a player are behind him. Certainly his performance in the World Cup suggested as much. We suspect that his celebrity status is the main attraction that he has for the LA club, and that LA is the major attraction for Beckham.

SWNID is old enough to remember the first advent of professional soccer in the USA in the 1970s. The immortal Pele played for a bit with an American team. He lent class to the whole operation, but he was old enough--much older than Beckham--that his contribution on the field was marginal.

Good Times for Bush's Iraq Shift

Our SWNIDish response to President Bush's speech last night is to recommend today's editorial from the Times of London (motto: "We were the Times before there was a New York"). The piece is sober, broadly informed, realistic, and eschews the journalistic bandwagon.

In sum, it notes that there is no reasonable alternative to the general direction that Bush is taking.

Urging the reading of the whole piece, we tantalize with a quotation:
In reality, there is no credible alternative. The Iraq Study Group proved rather better at setting out the many problems that exist in Iraq than in offering precise solutions. Its recommendation that the White House co-opt Iran and Syria as its allies in Iraq does not look remotely plausible. The idea that suddenly withdrawing American soldiers from the country would convince Shia and Sunni hardliners to be more charitable to one another is equally improbable. Mr Bush’s domestic foes, notably Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives (who has a minimal record in foreign policy) and the increasingly surreal Edward Kennedy, would simply abandon Iraq and be done with it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hackett Shows True, Libertarian Colors

Paul Hackett burst on the scene in 2004 as a telegenic Iraq veteran and trial lawyer who was willing to take the Howard-Dean-Democrat-Party line against the war to run against Jean Schmidt in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District.

Now we know what he really is: a libertarian vigilante.

It seems that awhile back, at about 4:30 a.m. some gentlemen drove their vehicle into the fence around the Hackett property in the tony Indian Hill neighborhood. Hacket grabbed his AR-15 rifle, jumped in his pickup, chased the men down, ordered them out of their car and prone on the ground, and waited for the police to pick them up.

NRA types will laud Hackett's action. Democrats anxious to pretend that their party is in sympathy with NRA types will laud him as well.

SWNID won't. Hackett bugs us. We assert that Hackett's action reveal what he thinks himself to be: a Nietzschean Superman, one to whom normal laws don't apply. Why should he call the police? He's a rich, Indian Hill lawyer and a marine!

Investing egotists like Hackett with political power is not the way to preserve the integrity of our Republic. We say this confidently--and more confidently than we say many things. We know something about egotism, after all.

SWNID also is happy to live safely and quietly within the city limits of Cincinnati, and not the Wild West of the insensitively named Indian Hill where nuts like Hackett drive around in pickups carrying semiautomatics.

Assignment for Tonight: Ignatius

David Ignatius of WaPo today offers what is in our SWNIDish experience the best short piece to read before the President's speech tonight. Ignatius bothered to read the Army's counterinsurgency manual, written by General David Petraeus, who now commands US forces in Iraq. And to our benefit, he offers a precis.

In sum, Petraeus's manual presses the idea that gaining the confidence of the general population is crucial, and that doing this requires more responsibility be taken by the Iraqis. Over the long term, that will mean accepting a certain level of messiness in what happens.

It will also require political commitment and patience in the United States, something not much in evidence for the last generation or two.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Former CCU Prez Geary to Run for KY Governor?

Could former CCU President Ron Geary be the Democratic Party's candidate for governor in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 2007?

The former nursing home executive and current gambling entrepreneur appears to be leaving the door wide open.

The Henderson, KY Gleaner reports that Geary won't exclude a run but would prefer to back a candidate who would support a green light on casino gambling at Kentucky's horse tracks. He also claims to be getting lots of encouragement to run from retired KY governors. The story likewise notes rumors that Geary has paid for some polling and got his financial house in order for a run.

The deadline for candidates to file is January 31, so we'll know soon enough.

SWNID notes that Geary's advocacy for legalized gambling puts him on the opposite side of the one political issue on which the religious right and left are in full agreement: that gambling is bad for everyone. Geary, however, has always been a "businessman," it seems, and will certainly campaign as such, not as a former Christian college president, if he decides to run.

Place your bets!

How Do People with Similar Starting Points Arrive at Different Conclusions

Here's an exercise for gentle readers. Two film critics, both theo-conservatives, view the same movie, Little Miss Sunshine. The first, Michael Medved, ranks it the best of 2006:

Hysterically funny, deeply touching, occasionally shocking, this wildly original ensemble comedy highlights film’s amazing ability to create an on-screen family that seems as demented, demanding and endearing as your own eccentric relatives in real life. Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette take this seven-year-old daughter (the amazing, Oscar worthy Abigail Breslin) on an ill-fated road trip to participate in a tacky kiddie beauty pageant. Along the way, Collette’s suicidal gay brother (Steve Carell) and teenaged, vow-of-silence son (Paul Dano), interact with the porn-and-drug addicted grandpa (Alan Arkin). Despite salty elements that make the film appropriate only for adults, “Miss Sunshine” conveys an unmistakable pro-family message: the members of your clan may count as maddening and dysfunctional, but you ultimately need and love each other as irreplaceable, essential and life-giving. The vivid, vibrant characterizations provide enough fully-realized, expertly rendered individual portraits to populate a half-dozen excellent movies: concentrated in this spell-binding, laugh-out-loud adventure, there’s an overflow of rewards and abundant “Sunshine” (through some tears).

The second, Steven Isaac of Focus on the Family's Plugged In, sees it as deplorable:

There's no denying that life is sad and ugly and funny, sometimes all at once. So it's not my task here to debate Carell's and Berger's statements. What is my task is dealing with whether such truthfulness should be used as an excuse to fill up a film with better than 50 profanities and obscenities. And depictions of illegal drug abuse. And exhortations for teens to have as much sex as they possibly can. Because those things, along with the heartbreaking sight of a 7-year-old putting on a sex show, are exactly what happens here.

Tears welled up in my eyes when the Hoovers banded together and finally bonded in the minutes before the credits. I felt for them. I understood them at that moment. And I was rooting wholeheartedly for them to come out on the other side as better people and as a more intact family. But I couldn't stand the fact that their journey toward maturity and selflessness came at Olive's expense. To make a compelling, artistic, emotional, funny movie, screenwriter Michael Arndt didn't have to make the climax revolve around a child imitating a striptease. He didn't have to include a grandfather who in real life, and with all due consideration to family unity, should have long ago been separated from the lives of his grandchildren because of his incredibly immoral and dangerous behavior and influence. And he didn't have to punctuate every point with an f-word.

Call this, then, the Little Miss Indie Film That Hates Sunshine. "Without all the things we loved about it—the raunchy language, the outrageous behavior—it would have been the perfect family comedy," says its co-director Valerie Faris. "But we wanted to make a film not about family values, but about the value of family."

It shouldn't be so easy to separate the two.
Your task, gentle readers: to figure out how to writers ostensibly starting at a similar point can end up at such wildly different destinations. Your comments are welcome.

Notable Theological Educator Recovering from Surgery

Gentle readers may not know that Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently underwent an unexpected surgery and has experienced some serious issues in his initial recovery. Latest reports are that he's doing better.

Back to Iraq: What to Expect Next Week

President Bush having said that he will make his promised speech on strategy in Iraq next week, the newly powerful Democrat majority has already said that it's too late to send more troops. More soberly, some Republicans have said that more troops should not be sent without a strategy.

Well, gentle readers, here is a strategy, and per Megapundit William Kristol, likely the one that Bush will follow. We quote in full the executive summary of a paper by Former Army Vice Chief of Staff General Jack Keane and military expert Frederick Kagan offering a specific way forward:
Victory is still an option in Iraq. America, a country of 300 million people with a GDP of $12 trillion and more than 1 million soldiers and Marines, has the resources to stabilize Iraq, a state the size of California with a population of 25 million and a GDP under $100 billion. America must use its resources skillfully and decisively to help build a successful democratically elected, sovereign government in Iraq.

Victory in Iraq is vital to America’s security. Defeat will likely lead to regional conflict, humanitarian catastrophe, and increased global terrorism.

Iraq has reached a critical point. The strategy of relying on a political process to eliminate the insurgency has failed. Rising sectarian violence threatens to break America’s will to fight. This violence will destroy the Iraqi government, armed forces, and people if it is not rapidly controlled.

Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively.

We must act now to restore security and stability to Baghdad. We and the enemy have identified it as the decisive point.

There is a way to do this.

  • We must balance our focus on training Iraqi soldiers with a determined effort to secure the Iraqi population and contain the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
  • We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations that begin in the spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient to improve security and set conditions for economic development, political development, reconciliation, and the development of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to provide permanent security.
  • American forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear high-violence Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
  • After those neighborhoods are cleared, U.S. soldiers and Marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security, reconstitute police forces, and integrate police and Iraqi Army efforts to maintain the population’s security.
  • As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life, bolster employment, and, working through Iraqi officials, strengthen Iraqi local government.
  • Securing the population strengthens the ability of Iraq’s central government to exercise its sovereign powers.

This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:

  • The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
  • Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active-duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
  • The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds.
  • The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.
  • The president and his representatives in Iraq must forge unity of effort with the Iraqi government.

Other courses of action have been proposed. All will fail.

  • Withdraw immediately. This approach will lead to immediate defeat. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are entirely dependent upon American support to survive and function. If U.S. forces withdraw now, the Iraqi forces will collapse. Iraq will descend into total civil war that will rapidly spread throughout the Middle East.
  • Engage Iraq’s neighbors. This approach will fail. The basic causes of violence and sources of manpower and resources for the warring sides come from within Iraq. Iraq’s neighbors are encouraging the violence, but they cannot stop it.
  • Increase embedded trainers dramatically. This approach cannot succeed rapidly enough to prevent defeat. Removing U.S. forces from patrolling neighborhoods to embed them as trainers will lead to an immediate rise in violence. This rise in violence will destroy America’s remaining will to fight and escalate the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq beyond anything an Iraqi army could bring under control.

Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances.

Committing to victory now will demonstrate America’s strength to our friends and enemies around the world.

Kristol dryly characterizes the prepackaged response to this approach:
There has been some sniping at the Keane-Kagan plan. But what is striking is that so few of the critics actually go to the trouble of analyzing it--or proposing a substitute. Instead, Keane and Kagan are treated with annoyance and disdain. Don't they know that we're losing in Iraq and that it's time to leave? What's all this talk about staying and fighting and winning? Didn't anyone tell them that the Bush Administration's errors have been so grievous that success is hopeless?
We dryly note that those Democrats who have been complaining that Bush hasn't called for any sacrifice from the American people, like those of the FDR-led noble war of 1941-45, are about to have their wish fulfilled. This will start to feel like a national mobilization.

And for those who wonder whether the folks who support such a decision are prepared to make a sacrifice, we note that Kristol has a son who is a Marine officer in training, as we recall.

And for those who wonder whether anything that US forces do in Iraq can succeed, we recommend giving a listen to NPR's Michele Norris's interview with Marine Col. Brian Beaudreault, who boldly claims military success for his 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the awful Anbar provice: "In the less than two months that the 15th MEU has been on deck, we've suppressed the insurgency, we've stemmed the flow of foreign fighters, we've now created the conditions in working with the people of Rupah [sp?] to help bring some sense of security into their city."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Will: Set Minimum Wage at $0

Now that a federal minimum wage increase is a fait accompli, senior pundit George Will has assembled everything that anyone needs to know about it. In sum, if you want to create greater economic inequality among states, discourage the completion of high school, ignore the majority of the "working poor," and put more money in the hands of middle-class teenagers, all while summoning the moral high ground of the depression-prolonging New Deal of the 1930s, you should raise the federal minimum wage.

Will, who earns more than the federal minimum wage, supplies facts, figures, historical perspective, and lean erudition. We, who blog for free, commend him to gentle readers.

SWNID Proposes Kook Exchange

Today's news includes two stories that prompt us to offer an innovative proposal.

First, on the national scene, the Washington Times reports that self-styled "peace activist" Cindy Sheehan--apparently independently wealthy enough to spend all her time annoying people, unless "peace activist" is actually a paying profession--disrupted one of many Democrat events annoucing the agenda for Nancy Pelosi's first 100 hours as National Nanny (or is it House Speaker?).* Democrats had to leave the room, unable to stand up to a symbol of their core support on the loony left.

Second, on the local scene, today's Enquirer chronicles the progress, if it can be called that, of Mason School Board member and self-styled "Christian conservative" Jennifer Miller. It seems that Ms. Miller has managed to accomplish nothing in her first year on the board, except to polarize the community, alienate other board members, blast the schools with unsubstantiated charges of waste, and raise the specter of similarly ineffective political wannabes running and winning in local elections. As far as her "agenda" is concerned, she's done nothing, as she can't even get a second for her motions in board meetings.

Sheehan and Miller are both, of course, embarrassments to their most natural political constituencies. Neither understands that political change comes with listening, thought, careful speech, and incremental change. Both appear to glory in their self-proclaimed radicalness. It just feels so good to yell out loud that everyone else is corrupt and doomed.

And in the meantime, the folks who are actually getting it done have to endure the opprobrium that such self-righteous kookiness engenders. SWNID has known "Christian conservatives" who hold school board positions and other local government posts. They don't need to posture their principles. Instead, they use sweet reason to build consensus across lines of ideology and self-interest. They are irritated that what they do with wisdom and discretion gets blown up by the nutty combativeness of Miller's ilk. We expect that the same is true for people who feel some sort of affinity with Sheehan, though we simply can't empathize enough to comment further.

But we do have our own radical proposal to offer as a solution: a Kook Exchange. We'll trade Miller for Sheehan. Each will become ward of the other side: Miller of the leftist peacenicks, Sheehan of the noisy Christian conservatives. Their guardians will monitor their behavior, keep them mostly indoors and out of sight, and forbid any public pronouncements or headline grabbing.

And if the left says that Miller isn't a big enough personage to exchange for Sheehan, we'll gladly throw in Pat Robertson.
*Gingrich's takeover of the House was marked by a 100-day legislative program. We look forward to future Speakers pledging governmental turnarounds in 100 minutes, then seconds. (Gentle readers may recall Igor Stravinsky's remark about composer John Cage's "Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds," a piece of that exact length in which a pianist sits at a piano and plays nothing: "I look forward to Mr. Cage attempting similar works of major length.") More seriously, we remind Ms. Pelosi that Jack Bauer and 24 are fantasy, not to be taken as models of real-life behavior.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Suspense Over: SWNID Superlatives for 2006

What happened to SWNID? Are we alive? Are we well? Are we atop Mt. Sinai? Did the vast left-wing conspiracy finally get us out of the way? Are we angry with gentle readers?*

Regardless, we're back after a blogging sabbatical. And so we offer our traditional years-in-transition feature, our reflection on the year gone by and estimate of the year to come, our SWNIDish judgments on the -ests of the once and future years, presented in no particular order . . . the SWNID Superlatives for 2006.

Cincinnati Public Figures Most on the Bubble: Mayor Mark Mallory and Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis. We continue to esteem these estimable gentlemen most highly. But the year-end performance of each raises for us a cloud of concern the size of a man's hand.

For Mallory, it's the city budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney presented a budget long on fiscal responsibility and crime-fighting and short on social-services featherbedding. Mallory, whose chief sin is a passion to please everybody, preferred to advocate so-called full funding of social services. What that meant was continuing to fund agencies that a committee appointed by City Council to study such things has consistently recommended be unfunded. Then the mayor gave support to the city's joining a class-action suit against paint manufacturers, ostensibly for the noble purpose of raise money to abate lead from paint.

Neither of these moves strike us as demonstrating the kind of principled leadership that the city needs. Funding civil improvements with class-action settlements benefits one group only: class-action lawyers. If one asks why the paint manufacturers, who profited from the sale of lead-based paints, are being sued and not the landlords who profit from lead-painted buildings, the answer has to do with the amount of blood available in a turnip or the relative depth of pockets, depending on which cliche one prefers. And preserving the funding (meaning the salaries) of nearly all of eighty-five social service agencies in the city budget simply because they can rally employees and sympathizers to show up in large numbers at public hearings is less than statesmanlike or purposeful.

As to Marvin, In Whom We Trust, the disappointment of the Bengals up-and-down season, by the end of which every play seemed to be yet another squandered opportunity, has raised significant questions as to whether he can take the team not just from embarrassment to respectability but from underachievement to championship contention. Our Fair City has demanded as much from its teams ever since it was spoiled in the glorious 1970s by the incomparable Big Red Machine.

So what will it take for the bubble to recede and not burst for Mark and Marvin? For the mayor, some progress on the awful record of violent crime for 2006 plus some movement on the Banks and Fountain Square. For Marvin, a playoff berth. If those eventualities don't eventuate, we anticipate some angry words flying their way.

Cincinnatian Most Missed but Still Most Enjoyed: Oscar Treadwell. The dean of jazzology passed from this life in 2006, but the tasty folks at WVXU continue to play his tapes, of which exists a massive archive, every Sunday night at 9 p.m.

Best Economic News for Cincinnati: The survival of Delta Airlines. If, as appears probable, Delta emerges from bankruptcy without a US Airways takeover, the Cincinnati hub is secure. And while that probably means higher-than-average fares for the near term, it means better access and so better prospects for economic development for the long term. Besides, cheapskates like SWNID can still take some extra time to drive to Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville and Lexington for some opportunistic fare-shopping.

Cincinnati Institution Most on the Ropes: Conservative talk radio. Yes, Air America is gone from local airwaves, as it soon will be nationwide. But so is Salem's incomparable lineup. Limbaugh is becoming a self-caricature, already the fate of windbag Sean Hannity. Bill Cunningham is officially public enemy number one for his ever rude, ever crude logorrhea. And the new entry in town at 96.5 FM (!) sounds like a bunch of morning-drive yuckmeisters trying to be cute about politics. We note, however, that Mike McConnell seems to be raising his tone and his game to achieve success with national syndication, and for that we wish him well.

Most Inconsequential Group of Retired Politicians:
replacing the 9/11 Commission, the Iraq Study Group. Offering seventy-five points of action and then insisting that every one must be implemented for the plan to work has proved even to its most bitter detractors that the Bush Administration is certainly not the most inept assemblage in government.

Interestingly, both the 9/11 Commission and the ISG were co-led by retired Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Midwestern Solemnity). We therefore nominate him as Most Overrated Senior Statesman. Hamilton made his reputation as a quiet committee leader when the House was an unshakable Democrat haven. His performance on these commissions proves that compromising for legislation is nothing like formulating executive policy.

Event Most Likely to Reduce Voter Turnout in 2008: the performance of the Democrat majority in Congress in 2007-08. Voters came out in record numbers to get the Bad Guys out and the Good Guys in. The next two years will remind them that everyone is a Bad Guy. So many will despair of politics. We will insist that the scoundrel who has the more rational political philosophy is to be preferred over the rascal who has the less rational political philosophy.

Political Story That Ended With the Appropriate Whimper: Plamegate. Now that the truth is out that the leak came from a State-Department source unsympathetic to the Iraq invasion, the glamorous Joe Wilson and his royal consort Valerie Plame look more and more like a couple of overdone yuppies with a yen for the spotlight. Meanwhile, Scooter Libby remains under an indictment that serves only to enrich still more lawyers.

Political Story That Disappeared Most Unexpectedly: the uproar over so-called warrantless wiretapping. You'd think that as soon as the Ds took over the House and Senate, the rights of all mankind were permanently secured. The media nary a tickle on this issue since the first Tuesday of November.

Least Effective Political Stratagem: running as a Christian and a political leftist. True, the religious left made a big publicity splash in 2006. And true, the Ds are in control of Congress. But a quick census will show that the Ds elected in swing districts ran as conservatives, deliberately recruited and packaged as such by Clinton alum Rahm Emmanuel. We continue to insist that the left can't co-opt the religious identity of the right simply by claiming sole possession of compassion. Except for the social-Darwinist, libertarian conservatives, the political right is committed to its social and economic agenda in large part because evidence suggests that such policies benefit the weak and poor. So all that the religious left does when it hollers "compassion" is insult the very people it tries to win over. And as John Kerry proves repeatedly, insulting people is a tough way to win elections.

Second Least Effective Political Stratagem: Republicans trying to get more votes from African-American voters by running African-American candidates. It didn't work in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Maryland. Jack Kemp was right: to overcome the divisive legacy Nixonian "Southern Strategy" and recapture the initiative created by Lincoln and nurtured by TR, the GOP must make its case patiently with ideas, not by pandering.

Democrat the Democrats Would Most Like to Forget: John Murtha (D-Boodle). The one styled a valiant veteran with principled and realistic objections to the way Bush led the war has proved to be the opportunistic, publicity-seeking machine politician with a dirty past and an inability to make sense in public.

Most Aptly Memorialized Deaths:
challenging the semantics of "superlative," we nominate three who died at year's end: Gerald Ford, James Brown, and Saddam Hussein.

The retired POTUS has this week been honored fondly and appropriately, with Presidential pomp seasoned with just the right amount of simplicity. We wonder why his California Episcopalian pastor used his National Cathedral funeral homily to invoke Ford's support for an Episcopal church that tolerates gay sex, except that we've known so many fellow preachers who think that church politics are all that anyone cares about. But the memorials were on the whole apt and even inspiring.

The Godfather of Soul got his Apollo Theater sendoff in fitting musical style. He also got his current "wife's" picture in all the papers, as his attorneys locked up his home to her because she was apparently not legally divorced from her previous husband and so not legally married to Mr. Brown. Brown's life, with multiple prison sentences and more multiple personal complications, was epitomized in this last complication of love and law.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government wasted no time in executing Saddam, and Iraqis celebrated. We applaud nearly every aspect of this decisive action. No other outcome could represent the government's commitment, if indeed it has one, to ending tyranny in Mesopotamia than to put a period at the end of this tyrant's awful life. And no single act in the short term could do more to dampen the chaos that Iraq has become. Alive, Saddam remained a potent symbol to those who benefited from his Baathist terror. Dead, he could only spark some reprisals. And as the level of violence seems no worse after his execution than before, it actually exposes the apparent reality that the Baathist branch of the insurgency is pretty much at its limits.

Worst-Faring Politicians of 2006: No, it's not the Republicans, not even in Ohio. It's Muslim dictators. Saddam had a necktie party. Amadinejad's party lost big time in local elections in Iran, his spooks got exposed in Iraq, and the moderates and reformers look set to send the Holocaust-denying head-case to the dustbin of history. And the intrepid (or opportunistic? either way, they did the right thing) Ethiopians joined with the UN-endorsed government of Somalia to run the Islamist crazies out of Mogadishu. We'd rather be any Republican than any one of those guys.

Terrorists are right behind, by the way. Osama is in a cave. Al-Zarqawi died in an American assault. Allied forces continue to catch bad guys in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been no successful terror strikes in the US, and in Europe we're doing pretty well too. Indonesia has been quieter of late, despite the release of the ideological spearhead of the Bali nightclub bombing. Iraq remains the flypaper.

Biggest Forgotten Development of 2006: Bush's rapprochement with India. The world's biggest economy is now in partnership with the world's biggest democracy. We absolutely love the idea that a billion people will in the next generation become healthier, better fed, better housed, better educated, and freer--and all to the benefit of the rest of the world, especially their partners. That's all that politics and diplomacy can hope to achieve.

Most Ill-Defined Term of 2006:
"Civil War in Iraq." For much of the media, this term simply means that Iraqis are killing each other in wholesale numbers. We certainly stipulate the fact, but we dispute the definition. We think that "civil war" is apt only when one or more distinct groups is specifically waging war to overthrow the existing government and install their own. What we see in Iraq looks to us like "Gang War," a struggle to get more control over more swag. If this is Civil War, then it is even less so than what went on for thirty-plus years in Northern Ireland, and we don't recall the term being applied to that awful situation very often.

Quickest-Disappearing Political Term: "Neo-conservative." As the pacification of Iraq failed to materialize, the Evil Neo-Cons became the villains. We always preferred "muscular Wilsonianism" anyway: it's catchier.

Most Missed Point of 2006:
That the Duke lacrosse story was about not just the now-apparent overzealous prosecution of rich white kids but the intoxicated sexuality and violence that pervades many varsity and club athletic teams on university campuses.

Most Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing:
attempts by gay-rights advocates to embarrass evangelical Christians into approving of gay sex. The nostalgic Soulforce Equality Ride changed zero policies on Christian college campuses. John Rumple's post facto accusations against Johnson Bible College were forgotten as quickly as his highly competent replacement was hired. And attempts to capitalize on the Ted Haggard debacle were ignored even by the MSM. Whatever happens to the issue of gay marriage and civil unions in the body politic, evangelicals realize that they have an overwhelming case in both biblical and natural theology to affirm the moral rightness of sexual activity in permanent, monogamous, heterosexual marriage and its moral wrongness in every other context.

Biggest Change in MSM's Coverage of Christianity:
media controversy on Jesus and the Gospels is mostly focused now on Gnostic Gospels (Gospel of Judas) and their spawn (The Da Vinci Code) instead of revisionist views of Jesus grounded in the form critical tradition (The Jesus Seminar). As this year's Christmas coverage demonstrates, other formulae for "news" stories on Christianity remain utterly unchanged. Insider Note: this may provoke a change in a time-honored SWNID syllabus at CCU: time in Intro to Gospels formerly spent on the Jesus Seminar may now be devoted to the Gnostic Revival.

Still the Most Embarrassing Christian Ever:
The Reverend Pat Robertson. He told us that Sharon's stroke was the stroke of God for withdrawing from Gaza. He told us that a tsunami would hit the Pacific Northwest. As the year turns, he prophesies a major terrorist strike in 2007. It's high time the media invoked Deuteronomy 18 on this guy and started ignoring him. Maybe Christians could set the example by ridiculing him, a sort of a metaphorical stoning of the one who speaks for God presumptuously.

Still the Most Embarrassing Ex-President Ever: Jimmy Carter. The Moralist in Chief (wait! that's SWNID's job!) has, it is alleged, written a book with fudged maps, stats and sources to throw gasoline on the flames of Israel's never-ending war with the Palestinian militants. And he takes umbrage against all who call him to account. The world has perhaps not seen such hubris in the West since De Gaulle uttered the infamous, Le republique? C'est moi. And this was Carter's second book of the year, the first offering only slightly less smugness in its title and contents. A burning question: who has the lack of self respect to ghostwrite these dungpiles?

Most Welcome Political Outcomes of 2006:
the resounding defeat taken by Big Tobacco and Big Gambling in Ohio. Now, what would it take to shut down the Ohio Lottery? Or to outlaw men without shirts in public?

Most Hoped-For Political Outcome of 2007:
That like Lyndon Johnson and Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirkson did on the Civil Rights Act, Bush and Harry Reid can make common cause on immigration reform that will make hardworking guest laborers legal, to the benefit of people on both sides of our borders.

Best Professional Columnists of 2006:
We lack the decisiveness to choose among the following, our Superlative Triumvirate of Opinion-Writing:

  • for moral courage despite his rampantly atheistic, leftist worldview: Christopher Hitchens
  • for statistical empiricism and historical perspective on the horserace of politics: Michael Barone
  • for contrarian brilliance on all matters of current events, arts and letters: Stanley Crouch

Blog Topic of 2006 Least Expected to Garner Attention That Did Garner Attention: using laptops in class, which got us linked on Slate. For the record, we believe now more than ever that classroom laptops are largely unhelpful, providing too many easy distractions, distorting the most apt forms of notetaking, and focusing the mind on transcription instead of analysis.

Most Welcome New Trend on This Blog:
The absence in the comments of moralizing complaints about tone and fairness. Apparently all gentle readers have caught on that we employ sarcasm here (italics as a reminder to those who still don't get it). Perhaps this is a consequence of our policy, enacted during the year, of not arguing back with commenters. At any rate, we aren't getting nearly the quantity of scorn at first received from gentle readers who fancy themselves gentler than our SWNIDish self.
*ANSWERS: (1) End-of-semester fatigue, the holidays, rare lack of opinions, temporary boredom with blogging, Mrs. SWNID's heavy use of the home computer for business purposes; (2) Yes; (3) Yes; (4) No, Mt. Airy; (5) They wish! (6) Impossible!