Friday, March 30, 2007

Iran Uses Commie Manual with British Hostages

Imitating the tactics of failed regimes of the 1970s, Iran is now treating the British sailors in its illegal custody as propaganda pawns. Most egregiously, the one female in the company, whom the Iranians had previously pledged to release, has been forced, in the style of American POWs during the Vietnam War and other hostages of the Stalinist Communists of the previous generation, to issue a letter calling on her country to withdraw from Iraq.

In a disinformation campaign also reminiscent of Stalinist tactics, Iran claims that it has satellite evidence that the Brits were in Iranian waters multiple times. The rest of the world is shocked to learn that Iran has satellites. Satellite TV maybe, but a country that can't refine the oil that it pumps seems to us unlikely to have launched its own surveillance satellites, to monitor its own territory, without someone else in the world noticing.

We are now ready to offer counsel to our esteemed friend Tony Blair and his allies: hang tough and be patient. The longer this goes on, the stupider the Iranians look. It will be hard to resist the urge to act precipitously, either with appeasement or military action, to get these fifteen released, not least when Iran starts show trials and the media interviews their families every night. But the greater good will be served by waiting for the inevitable pressures of world opinion and internal politics to force Iran to back down. In the meantime, continue to use this crisis to motivate other countries to marginalize the Iranian government, thereby impoverishing the regime to the point where it must accede or fall.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Herman on Anti-Insurgency Warfare: Stick with the Surge

Historian Arthur Herman offers one of the best historical analyses to date on the American effort in Iraq. We commend it in its entirety to gentle readers, especially those who haven't followed closely other descriptions of the history and tactics of anti-insurgency operations.

The sobering note is that, like the French anti-insurgency in Algeria of the 1950s, the danger to the American effort is not the insurgency but the faltering political will to see the effort through to its end. Here's an apt pair of paragraphs:

Unlike the French in Algeria, the United States is in Iraq not in order to retain a colony but to help create a free, open and liberal society in a part of the world still mired in autocracy and fanaticism. Will we stay long enough to defeat the jihadists, to engage Iraqis in the process of modern nation-building, and to ease the transition to a free society? Or will we quit before the hard work is done, leaving this vital part of the world to become an al Qaeda sanctuary, bathed in chaos, anarchy, and blood? As the polls suggest, a large constituency at home is waiting to learn the answer to this question, and so is a much larger constituency abroad. But time is running short.

"Act quickly," Gen. Petraeus wrote in January 2006, "because every army of liberation has a half-life." This is true not only in the field but at home. James Thurber once said that the saddest two words in the English language are "too late." Terrible as it is to think that our surge may have come too late, it is much more
terrible to think that feckless politicians, out of whatever calculation, may pull the plug before the new approach is fully tested.

As we have said repeatedly, the only way that the United States doesn't achieve its objectives in this thing is to quit. We're not for that.

Video Tutorial on Human Origins

We recommend the video available here to explain the mysteries of human origins and thank the gentle reader who directed us to it.

Latest Data on Christian Church/Church of Christ IHEs

Folks with an interest in higher education among the Christian churches and churches of Christ will find the latest data helpfully summarized by the good folks at the Christian Standard.

SWNID is happy to report from that data that Campbellite IHEs are doing rather nicely overall. Enrollment and finances are generally robust by historic standards. To the data of the chart we add the report that in February the Association of Biblical Higher Education gave three of its four annual growth awards to "our schools," namely St. Louis Christian College, William Jessup University, and Lincoln Christian College and Seminary. Add to that the nice fact that our own place of employment, Cincinnati Christian University (ABHE growth award recipient in 2006), now has an FTE consistently over 1000, making it "our" largest IHE, and it's a nice picture for a lot of us.

We hasten to add, however, that with maybe one notable exception, CC/CoC IHEs operate with little or no long-term endowment (one of "our schools" has more assets than all others combined, a challenge to the many not to covet what belongs to the few) and little opportunity to tap in to the big money from big foundations and rich alumni that funds most non-religious IHEs. They also charge low tuition that doesn't cover the cost of attendance.

In other words, it remains a hand-to-mouth existence. But there seems to be enough manna on the ground for today.

Archbishop Dobson Excommunicates Thompson, Canonizes Gingrich

Nontitular Evangelical Pope James Dobson is reported to have offered important ecclesial dicta yesterday:

  • Of ex-Senator/TV actor/radio newsreader/possible GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson: "I don't think he's a Christian."
  • Of ex-Speaker of the House/political pundit/serial adulterer/possible GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: "the brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today."
Thompson's people report that he's a baptized member of the Church of Christ, something that will surely pique the interest of many gentle readers. Gingrich's people aren't reporting whether the marital-fidelity-challenged, once-and-future politician has been on the Damascus Road as far as his practice of any particular faith is concerned.

In response, we ask the following:

  • Of Dr. Dobson: please, please, please stick to what you know (i.e. the ideas that made Dare to Discipline a hugely helpful book for parents of young children) and get out of the political arena where your incompetence seems to know no bounds.* Granted that your remarks were prefaced with the caveat that you aren't endorsing anyone and that you said nothing about Gingrich's faith per se, your ability to sound ridiculously inconsistent on these matters is obvious to everyone but, apparently, yourself.
  • Of evangelicals: please, please, please don't listen to Dr. Dobson on any subject except those that he knows, excluding especially politics. See the paragraph above for our reasoning on this subject.


*We also ask Dobson to stay out of discussion of Bible translation, but that's another subject.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not the Usual Post: A SWNID Sermon

Normally on this blog, we post on current events or things that just strike our fancy. Lately we haven't had time to do much of that.

Today we risk an exception.

This is a sermon that we recently delivered at CCU's chapel. It's about as serious and personal as anything that we've done in public. Listen to the recorded audio by following the link above if you don't want to read the text below.


I chose my topic because I hate it. I loathe it. It comes into my life again and again. It wears me down. It makes me sick. It makes my heart ache. It strikes fear in my heart. I want to avoid it, ignore it, pretend that it doesn’t touch me. But it does again and again. And I know that the same is true for you. My topic is death.

I’m tired of going to funerals. I go to a lot of them. I’m of an age where my friends are losing their loved ones one by one. A friend loses his wife to cancer while their four children are still young. A friend loses his daughter, barely a young adult, to a bipolar condition that leads her in despair to take her own life. A friend loses his aged father to Alzheimer’s, a death by agonizingly slow degrees. A friend loses a brother, who is also a husband and father, in a skydiving accident that leaves his body unrecognizable. A friend loses a young son to a rare genetic disorder after months and months of anguish in the hospital. A friend loses a dear cousin, a casualty of the Iraq War. I am haunted by their tears. I imagine the grief in their hearts, and it hurts me so that I want to imagine it no more. I’m tired of being a middle aged man who goes to funerals. Death is horrible. I hate it.

I dread the way that death enters my own life. My father-in-law was a good, godly man, loved by all who knew him. Nineteen years ago he wasted away in just months, sick with a deadly tumor on his pancreas, unable to take nourishment, reduced from a robust, energetic, man who loved life to a frail, wafer-thin invalid, barely clinging to a shadow of life. My grandfather was a vigorous gentleman, advanced in years well beyond threescore and ten, full of warmth and wisdom and proudly independent. He went through the indignity of a debilitating stroke that left him without speech and an intestinal blockage that left him vomiting his own feces. And he died while I was thousands of miles away. My grandmother faced every challenge with a dignity and gentleness that shaped and nurtured me as I grew up. She suffered a final crisis that was mercifully short. But she is gone too, and again I was thousands of miles away when she died, and now I can’t see her and talk to her. I can’t tell her about how my own children have grown, or how I have grown, or listen to her stories about life on the farm with a wood stove in the kitchen and a draft horse to pull the plow. I miss them, and I hate the death that took them away.

I hate the way that death right now is creeping into the lives of the people I love. I look at my own mother, now almost as old as my grandmother was when she died. The woman whom I knew as youthful, strong, energetic and beautiful, who loved to serve others with her skills in the kitchen and the sewing machine is now weak and stooped, debilitated by a dozen different ailments that make her frail, nearly immobile, weak, tired and utterly frustrated. I look at her aged face and I see the shadow of death cast over it. I look at my father, remarkably healthy for a man his age, yes, but still a man in what must be his last days, weaker and slower with the passing of time, burdened beyond what I want to imagine by the dread he feels that my mother, his wife of nearly 67 years, will die before him, leaving him to grieve in whatever time he has left.

And I know that one day I may face the same awful trial myself, of watching my own best friend, my wife, as her life slips away, or of finding her cold in the bed beside me. Or perhaps she will face that trial with my death. I know that I’m nearer death than I have ever been. I know that at least half my days are gone. I am just a few years from the age that my father-in-law reached at his death. I’m years older than my uncle who died when I was a toddler. I know that my heart doesn’t beat as readily as it once did. I am dying, slowly.

I live with the fear that one day before I die a policeman and a police chaplain will knock at my door. They will ask if I am Jon Weatherly and if I have a son named Cale or a daughter named Allison. And my heart will be torn out of me because I know what they will say next.

I dread grief. I have tasted it, not as much as many, not nearly as much as some of you, but I hate it and so I dread tasting it again. I understand what Scottish preacher Arthur John Gossip said in the first sermon he preached after the sudden death of his wife:
I can tell … where death’s sting lies. Ah! it is the constant missing of what used to be always here; the bitter grudging every second of the dear body to the senseless earth, the terrible insecurity, for one is never safe—anything, nothing, and the old overwhelming pain comes rushing back.
I hate death. I can’t simply accept it. I can’t resign myself to it. I hate death because life is so sweet and so good. I love life. I love the people who share my life. I want it to go on forever. I want to walk in the sunshine or the cool rain or even the snow and ice. I want to savor a grapefruit or a slice of roast beef or some of those amazing French fries that they make at Penn Station. I want to play with my dog or cut the grass or even do the dishes. I want to listen to new music and read new stories and play new games. I want to talk and laugh and share homemade ice cream with my friends and family in the shade of the trees in my back yard. Life is so sweet. I don’t ever want it to end. That’s why I hate death. That’s why ancient people saw death as a monster or a demon. That’s why you hate death too.

Why does life end? Why does it get taken away suddenly, or slowly, from old, young or in-between? If it were my world, there would be no death. Why is it appointed to man once to die? Why does God make it so?

Sure, I’d love to live in a world with no death. But in my honest moments, I realize something about myself and the awful specter of death. I realize that in a world without death, I couldn’t trust myself.

Let’s imagine that death-free world that we want for ourselves. Stretching before us are endless years of life with no prospect of an end. What would you do? Would you finish college in four years, or take forty, or four hundred? Would you meet any deadlines? Hey, would you even have a concept of deadline? Would you ever get serious about anything, about your own life or anyone else’s? Would you care what happened to anyone else, since, after all, what could happen to anyone else?

Most important, would you seek God, or even listen to him if he tried to tell you something? That can always wait for tomorrow, can’t it? There’s an unlimited supply of tomorrows in that deathless world of our making.

God told our first parents, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

Here’s the truth that we don’t want to admit to ourselves. First, the world is the way it is with death because of us, not because of God. Adam and Eve listened to the snake, not to God. And we can’t pin the blame on them, because you and I listen to the snake too. Death rules because of sin. I’m a sinner, and I know it. Sooner or later, I get what I deserve.

But God is rich in mercy. Even though I listen to the snake and ask for death, he urgently wants me back so that he can give me life. He didn’t kill Adam and Eve the moment they ate the fruit, and he didn’t kill you either. He is not willing that any should die, but that all should come to repentance, that all should turn back to him.

But will we listen? Not with that endless string of tomorrows stretching before us. But in a world where death lurks and creeps and attacks, where there is no guarantee of tomorrow, maybe I will listen.

There’s the awful truth. This death that I hate has everything to do with me and my stubborn, selfish rebellion. When I look inside, I realize that I wouldn’t give the time of day to God if he didn’t focus my attention with the reality that I only have a little time, a few days. If I didn’t live in a world where people around me get sick or old and die or get hurt in accidents or deliberately by other people and die, would I ever listen to God? I know the answer. I know that I need deadlines.

So, a grieving mother asks, are you saying that God took my child from me just to get my attention? Why didn’t he make me the sick one if that’s what he wanted? No, we can’t say that. We can’t be so glib. It may be tempting, but it’s just too simple and shallow to turn God into a heartless brute who takes our loved ones hostage to extract a ransom of repentance from us who remain. There’s a painful mystery here that we cannot entirely unravel. If we get too specific and precise with this, we’ll be wrong every time. We’re not God, and we can’t guess as if we were God.

But this we know. Sin’s wage is death. And would we care about sin and the God we sin against if it weren’t? Would I know that to live in sin is to live in spiritual death if the horror of physical death were not there? At least we can say this: God has so arranged death that hard as we try, we can’t help thinking about it. In our world made deadly by our deadly rebellion against God, by means of a deadline that God alone knows, God is bidding us to turn to him so that he can give us life.

The ancient saints knew this. God gave Abraham the appalling command to sacrifice his son Isaac. Yet Abraham could say to his servant, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Job had lost all to death, and as he sat and watched his own boil-covered body suffering pre-mortem decay, his wife told him to curse the God who allowed this terror so that he would die as well. But Job’s confession was “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

By the inspiration of God’s Spirit Isaiah warned that Israel would suffer the death of captivity. But beyond the curse, he announced God’s promise that he would bring life to his dead people:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
How could these ancient saints know such a thing, and under such duress? They knew that the God who gave life at the beginning could not be thwarted at the end. They knew that the God who made people to belong to him would not fail. They knew that by his amazing grace God is faithful to all of his people.

We can know it too. Our age loves to dismiss the notion of a gracious and faithful God. We fancy ourselves rationalists, empiricists, materialists who boldly take a stand against such superstition and calmly accept the reality of death as a part of life. But I don’t buy that.

Neither did the great fiction writer John Updike. He wrote a story entitled “Pigeon Feathers” about a boy of about thirteen named David. David is quiet and curious. His father rails sometimes that life is just chemicals in the right combination. Other times he complains that some everyday experience reminds him of death. David’s mother has become frustrated and bitter at her disappointments. His church has taught him that the stories of the Bible are the quaint expressions of a primitive worldview overturned by our advanced knowledge.

One day David’s mother tells him to go to the barn to shoot the pigeons that have roosted there. Nervous and hesitant, he manages to kill only six; the rest fly away. His mother tells him to bury the dead birds. This is how Updike tells the end of his story:

[David] dug the hole, in a spot where there were no strawberry plants, before he studied the pigeons. He had never seen a bird this close before. The feathers were more wonderful than dog’s hair, for each filament was shaped within the shape of the feather, and the feathers in turn were trimmed to fit a pattern that flowed without error across the bird’s body. He lost himself in the geometrical tides as the feathers now broadened and stiffened to make an edge for flight, now softened and constricted to cup warmth around the mute flesh. And across the surface of the infinitely adjusted yet somehow effortless mechanics of the feathers played idle designs of color, no two alike, designs executed, it seemed, in a controlled rapture, with a joy that hung level in the air able and behind him. Yet these birds bred in the millions and were exterminated as pests. Into the fragrant open earth he dropped one broadly banded in slate shads of blue, and on top of it another, mottled all over in
rhythms of lilac and gray. The next was almost wholly white, but for a salmon glaze at its throat. As he fitted the last two, still pliant, on the top, and stood up, crusty coverings were lifted from him, and with a feminine, slipping sensation along his nerves that seemed to give the air hands, he was robed in this certainty: that the God who had lavished such craft upon these worthless birds would not destroy His whole Creation by refusing to let David live forever.
Updike’s character was learning what Jesus taught us: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

We can cling to that. The God who has been so extravagant in bringing life to our world will not let it be snuffed out for us. He loves us at least as much as birds. Every day of our lives,he’s given us better than we deserve. Even facing death, we can trust in God. We can affirm that he is our living redeemer and by his grace we will see him. He’s so good—better than life itself. He gives life. He’s faithful.

But we know more, don’t we? He loves us so much that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And God raised him from the dead, and Christ appeared to Peter and the twelve and more than five hundred at one time, and to James and to all the apostles and last of all to the apostle Paul. Because of Christ, God has given me the supreme reason to trust him. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Christ is the firstborn from the dead, the one who will come for all of his people so that they can be with him forever, so that we don’t grieve like those with no hope, so that we can comfort one another with the assurance that death is not the end, not of our own lives or of our lives together.

So Paul can taunt death: “Where’s your victory, death? Where’s your sting, death?” Christ has defeated our old enemy. It remains active as our enemy still, and we hate death still because of what it takes from us. But from the vantage of eternity what death takes is light and momentary.

Do you remember that great scene near the end of C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair? Eustace and Jill have completed their adventure, but their dear friend Caspian, king of Narnia, has died. They are taken by the great lion Aslan, the Christ figure of the Narnia stories, to the end of the world, where the see Caspian’s dead body lying in the water of a stream. Aslan tells Eustace to pluck and thorn and thrust it into Aslan’s paw. Eustace obeys. And as the blood of the lion splashed over the dead body of Caspian, he becomes young and alive again, more alive than he’s ever been before. With laughter and joy the resurrected Caspian embraces Aslan. Then he approaches Eustace.

Eustace is at first frightened. Here’s how the scene goes:

“Look here! I say,” he stammered. “It’s all very well. But aren’t you?—I mean didn’t you—? … Hasn’t he—er—died?

“Yes,” said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost … as if he were laughing. He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few people who haven’t.”

Christ has gone before us in death. For us he took its sting. To us he gives life, now and forever.
But remember that this means more than a future of bright hope. It means a different kind of present. Christ brings this great gift of life by giving his life for us. That means that the way to real life in the present is giving our lives. So if we want to save our lives, we lose our lives. But if we lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we find our lives.

Before we knew Christ, losing our lives sounded like death. When we know Christ, we know him as the one who died to give life. We know his way as the way of life. We discover that holding our lives is what makes us dead, but giving our lives is what makes us alive.

We can afford to give our lives away. What can take life from us? What can separate us from the love of Christ? Not grief, sickness, accidents, death, anything. We are more than conquerors through him who loves us.

I hate death. But as I draw closer to death, God is teaching me that I find my life when in Christ’s name I give my life for others as he gave his life for me. That’s the life that conquers death, the life that I’m learning to love.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in

West Side Cincinnati Development: A Zero-Sum Game

Good news for the beleaguered West Side of Cincinnati: Target has announced it will demolish the vacant Kroger and MediaPlay stores at Western Hills Plaza to construct a new, giant Target store in it's place.

Bad news for the beleaguered West Side of Cincinnati: Target has announced it will vacate its current outlet in the Glencrossing area when it opens its Western Hills Plaza store.

In other cities, development means moving up. In Cincinnati, it means moving sideways.

Random SWNIDisms on Recent Events

Unable to blog with any consistency but feeling an obligation to inform our gentle readers on what to think and why to think it, we offer several observations on recent events:

On the firing of US attorneys
We agree with the impeccable Charles Krauthammer that Alberto Gonzales should be fired, not for being a dishonest AG but for being so politically incompetent as to have handed the Ds a scandal where none actually exists.

We understand why Bushies connected to this mess are trying not to testify before Congressional committees (or submit to show trials, to be more specific): Patrick Fitzgerald investigated Plamegate for years and did nothing except successfully set a perjury trap for Scooter Libby. Who wants to be the next Scooter?

On Fred Thompson
We think that Fred is a good guy who ought to run for the GOP nomination. We think he's better at politics than as being the next Paul Harvey, compared to whom Thompson sounds wooden. We also think that he won't dent Rudy's lead long term.

On Tony Snow
We pray for the good health of one of our favorite media and political figures. Snow is a good thinker, a fine communicator, a decent and humble human being, and a native of Our Fair City. We want better for him that what he's got right now.

On Hillary
Tom Vilsack endorsed Hillary after Hillary wrote a check to pay off Vilsack's campaign debt. This is not a scandal for the Democrats, who remain the Party of the People in the eyes of the media. Democrats are assumed to operate on the basis of cronyism and thinly veiled bribery. The Washington Times's Tony Blankley aptly summarizes Ms. Clinton's m.o. and prospects today, as we share this:

Personally I find her and her candidacy detestable as the worst form of unprincipled, ruthless, nihilistic, mud-throwing demagogic politics. But for the Democratic Party electorate (and some Independents and soft Republicans) her apparent strengths will become more persuasive. Currently she suffers by the media's focus on her lack of spontaneity, charm or pleasant voice -- particularly when compared with Obama and, to some extent, Edwards.

But charm is not the only path to the American voter. Richard Milhous Nixon won more national elections than any politician in our history (two vice presidents, three presidential nominations and two presidencies -- three if you count the stolen 1960 election against Kennedy). He didn't have any charm -- but he was smart, shrewd, highly political, hard working and ruthless.

On the date for withdrawal from Iraq
We think it's remarkable that the media is trumpeting the passage of a funding bill with a nonbinding date for withdrawal from Iraq as a triumph for Ds. Despite having a majority of seats, the Ds needed two Rs to vote with them because of two completely underreported facts (a) they've got a Senator who can't carry out his duties but who won't resign because doing so would mean the Ds would lose their majority; (b) one of their number, the sublime Joe Lieberman, was the object of scorn for Ds, who campaigned bitterly against him, yet he prevailed and now votes with the Ds for caucus matters but with the Rs on Iraq, just as he always has. Also underreported is the fact that the New England RINOs Susan Collins and Olympia Snow voted with the President.

We think that Bush might well sign the bill as it exists now, even with the deadline. It is, after all, a non-binding deadline. Bush has shown a strong willingness to sign bills while stating what his intention is about carrying them out as the chief executive. There's nothing to keep him from doing the same here, thereby avoiding a silly political battle.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Political Health

Elizabeth Edwards is not the only public figure with health news.

Presidential Press Spokesman Tony Snow, a favorite of SWNID's (and maybe a little too much of a favorite of Mrs. SWNID, if you catch my drift, but we are SWNIDishly secure nevertheless) will have surgery to remove a growth in his lower abdomen.

Snow says that the growth already tests benignly, but as a cancer survivor, he's being "aggressively cautious."

We commend the same response as we did for Mrs. Edwards.

Iran Seizes Brit Marines: Shades of Mayaguez

Breaking news is that Iran has seized a group of UK Marines who were engaged in routine inspection duties in Iraqi waters in the volatile and strategic Persian Gulf.

We see this as a potential replay of the Mayaguez affair of 1975. In that instance, a group of Khmer Rouge forces, newly in power in Cambodia, seized an American ship and its crew. They were subsequently liberated by a contingent of US Marine volunteers, in what was certainly the most successful US military operation of the bleak 1970s.

It would appear that Iran, like its forebears in Cambodia, is seeking to assert its power on the world stage in order to mask the very real problems in domestic governance. We expect that the plucky Brits and their devoted American allies, a much more able force than even the potent group who liberated the Mayaguez, will again prevail if diplomacy proves unfruitful.

It's the Corruption, Stupid!

Ds won Congress last November on a campaign against the Iraq War and Evil Republican Corruption.

Now, USA Today reports:

Three months after promising to curtail spending on pet legislative projects, House Democrats have salted the Iraq emergency spending bill with $3.7 billion for farm interests that make significant donations to Democrats.

That's right, gentle readers. The Ds are funding the Iraq War and a bunch of boodle for their cronies besides. We note in passing that the US government has probably done more damage to the economies of emerging nations through domestic farm subsidies than any other single means.

Meanwhile, they continue their program of show trials. Now that Valerie Plame has had her star turn in a Senate chamber, they have moved on to the firing of eight underperforming US attorneys in a valiant attempt to keep alive the notion that virtue resides only on their side of the aisle.

And we thought that the party of Andrew Jackson would be done with such things.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hanson on 300: Stylized as the Greeks Stylized

As biblical scholars did with The Passion of the Christ, classicists now can do with 300, that is, discuss the merits of the film relative to history. And there's probably none better for that task than classicist-cum-political commentator Victor Davis Hanson, who does so here.

Hanson's column takes on some of the common criticisms of the movie, namely (a) that it is stylized and not historically faithful, and (b) that it vaunts Greek culture at the expense of Persian in a jingoistic way. Hanson's responses, summarized, are (a) the Greeks stylized their own history too; (b) for all its faults Greek culture was better than its neighbors'.

We doubt that we'd care much for the movie, were we to invest in a ticket. But we like Hanson's analysis.

Edwards's News Conference Today: Pray for the Best

Word in the early press is that John Edwards is holding a news conference today, one day after a meeting with his wife's doctors about her condition in recovery from breast cancer.

Obviously, that doesn't sound good.

We don't like Edwards as a politician, but we strongly suspect that in real life Mr. and Mrs. Edwards are fine folk. So we pray for the best for Mrs. Edwards.

We know that we should pray for the same even if the Edwardses aren't fine folk, but their being so makes it easier.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Academic Bracketology: Who Wins on Graduation Rate

In our continuing analysis of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, we note that an enterprising journalist at Inside Higher Ed has calculated the bracket on the basis of comparative graduation rates. If the universities that graduate the greatest proportion of their athletes win each head-to-head matchup, who wins the tournament?

We are pleasantly surprised that such perennial hoops powerhouses as Florida and Michigan State make it to the Final Four under such an arrangement. We are somewhat shocked that respected programs such as Duke don't make it out of the first round.

To find out the National Champion for Graduating Basketball Players, click here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SWNID Bracketology: Look for a Deja Vu Final

SWNID is by definition Seldom Wrong. So we will state what is Often True: we have never picked a remotely accurate NCAA D-I Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket. Never.

However, we believe that the performances of teams in the just-concluded conference tournaments augur well for a hoops rematch of the pigskin championship. And we believe that the outcome will favor the Worthless Nuts of Ohio State over the Cold-Blooded Reptiles of Florida.

We also admit that this post is a shameless attempt to provoke comments from gentle readers who are more inclined to express opinions on the less gravid subjects of this blog.

Kagan: Bluebird of Happiness Appears in Iraq

Carnegie Endowment Associate and WaPo columnist Robert Kagan today notes what gentle readers already know: the surge is working, and fast.

We quote his delightful opening paragraph:

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

We tip a grateful hat to the troops, under the wise leadership of General Petraeus, who are doing what the Angry Left deemed impossible.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

SWNID on Libby: Even WaPo Gets It

We defer expression of our opinion on the conviction of Scooter Libby for perjury to two voices from the organ of political insidership, the Washington Post.

In an editorial from Wednesday, the paper's editors point out pointedly that the whole prosecution by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had no real point. Here's their trenchant summation of the facts of the un-case:

Mr. [Joseph] Wilson was embraced by many because he was early in publicly charging that the Bush administration had "twisted," if not invented, facts in making the case for war against Iraq. In conversations with journalists or in a July 6, 2003, op-ed, he claimed to have debunked evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger; suggested that he had been dispatched by Mr. Cheney to look into the matter; and alleged that his report had circulated at the highest levels of the administration.

A bipartisan investigation by the Senate intelligence committee subsequently established that all of these claims were false -- and that Mr. Wilson was recommended for the Niger trip by Ms. Plame, his wife. When this fact, along with Ms. Plame's name, was disclosed in a column by Robert D. Novak, Mr. Wilson advanced yet another sensational charge: that his wife was a covert CIA operative and that senior White House officials had orchestrated the leak of her name to destroy her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson.

The partisan furor over this allegation led to the appointment of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Yet after two years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald charged no one with a crime for leaking Ms. Plame's name. In fact, he learned early on that Mr. Novak's primary source was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage, an unlikely tool of the White House. The trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame's identity -- and no evidence that she was, in fact, covert.

It would have been sensible for Mr. Fitzgerald to end his investigation after learning about Mr. Armitage. Instead, like many Washington special prosecutors before him, he pressed on, pursuing every tangent in the case.

We decry the editorialists' selective umbrage in what they express elsewhere in this editorial, i.e. that the jailing of journalists trying to protect sources in this case is the most egregious prosecutorial sin, and their implication that Libby and his boss Cheney deserve what Libby got because they were too zealous in trying to discredit the narcissistic blowhard Wilson. The double standard applied to journalists, who by definition cannot sin, and politicians, who by definition sin by their practice of politics, is . . . well . . . a bit inconsistent for our taste.

So we turn to WaPo Sage of Sages Charles Krauthammer, who on Friday (a.k.a. Krauthammer Day) offered these remarks, gleaned from his larger column that should be read in full:

Scooter Libby has just been convicted of four felonies that could theoretically give him 25 years in jail for . . . what? Misstating when he first heard a certain piece of information, namely the identity of Joe Wilson's wife.

Think about that. Can you remember when you first heard the name Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame? Okay, so it is not a preoccupation of yours. But it was a preoccupation of many Washington journalists and government officials called to testify at the Libby trial, and their memories were all over the lot. . . .

Yet special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald chose to make Libby's misstatements about the timing of the receipt of one piece of information -- Mrs. Wilson's identity -- the great white whale of his multimillion-dollar prosecutorial juggernaut.

Why? Because on his essential charge as special prosecutor -- find and punish who had leaked Valerie Plame's name -- he had nothing. No conspiracy, no felony, no crime, not even the claim that she was a covert agent covered by the nondisclosure law. Fitzgerald knew the leaker from the very beginning. It was not Libby but Richard Armitage. He also knew that the "leak" by the State Department's No. 2 official -- a fierce bureaucratic opponent of the White House, especially the vice president's office -- was an innocent offhand disclosure made to explain how the CIA had improbably chosen Wilson for a WMD mission. (He was recommended by his CIA wife.) Everyone agrees that Fitzgerald's perjury case against Libby hung on the testimony of NBC's Tim Russert. Libby said that he heard about Plame from Russert. Russert said he had never discussed it. The jury members who have spoken said they believed Russert.

And why should they not? Russert is a perfectly honest man who would not lie. He was undoubtedly giving his best recollection.

But he is not the pope.

Agreed. Also agreed: Fitzgerald is not the pope.

The necessity for perjury laws is patent. But their prosecution is a matter of discerning the state of mind of a witness. Humans having at best an imperfect means of obtaining such information, their prosecution should be circumspect. This one was not. Fitzgerald--like all special prosecutors, whose "specialness" consists in their lack of supervision that provides limits to their power--fell victim to the corruption of absolute power.

What adds comedy to this drama is that Henry Waxman, D-Show Trials, is planning public hearings asking again whether Plame was illegally outed as a covert spy. Asked and answered, Congressman. Please get back to hearings on pesticides and cigarettes.

Hillary's Selective Reading of History

The NY Post (motto: "The paper for the 20% of New Yorkers who hate Hillary") today calls the Junior Senator from the Empire State (lately from there, at least) on her selective quotation of Democrat patron saint FDR.

Her quotation was from a speech that the lesser Roosevelt delivered two days after Pearl Harbor:
We are now in this war. We are all in it, all the way. Every man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.
This, of course, Hillary offered as the usual Democrat critique of Bush's War on Terrorism. In their book, there has only been one good war in the history of the Republic, the one led by FDR that involved a large-scale draft, conversion of industry to manufacture war materiel, wage and price controls (largely the root of the present crisis in health insurance, by the way) and rationing of every imaginable consumer product. For the party of Nancy and Hillary, that's the way to fight a war, of course, minus maybe the internment of an ethnic group too closely identified with an enemy nation.

Gentle readers my recall the classic moment at the end of The Simpsons Season One episode, "Bart the General" in which Bart, victor in a war against bullies, disclaims that war is bad with the exception of a short list of good wars, including the war of the original Star Wars trilogy. The Ds have apparently sharpened and narrowed Bart's reasoning to make it dogma.

The Post nicely points out that on that occasion cited by Ms. Rodham-Clinton, FDR went on to state the following:

The United States can accept no result save victory, final and complete . . . The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken . . . We're going to fight it with everything we got.
That, of course, is not the program offered by the Pantsuit Party. Instead, they're offering a timetable for withdrawal. There's not commitment to total mobilization here, just a commitment to quit no matter what happens.

So we'll recommend that the Ds drop this lame trope, as even the most uncritical thinkers in the American electorate will be able to sort it out.

We'll recommend further that someone in the media point out that the execution of "total war" is actually quite rare in the history of this Republic or most other nations. Relatively low level conflicts have been more the norm. In fact, a good case can be made that nations like ours find themselves facing total war only when they stubbornly or blindly refuse to deal more proactively, even preemptively, with growing threats, either by force or diplomacy (the latter seldom effective without the serious threat of force).

We'll spell this out for the strategically challenged: the big picture in Iraq was not a war to secure the WMD (always a question mark related to justification before the UN) but a smaller war now to prevent a bigger war later. The choice was between a conflict less deadly and damaging now versus one much more deadly and damaging later.

Since Victory Gardens and scrap metal drives wouldn't help much with Iraq, why does the Hildabeast call for them? And since Petraeus's anti-insurgent campaign is yielding immediate and obvious results, why does she oppose it? Voters can figure out the political doublespeak here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Edwards: Jesus Would Roll Over in his Grave

John Edwards (D-Noxema) has played his religion card. And like most Ds, he appears, to the chagrin of all who pray for a Democratic revival, to have played the card poorly.

We haven't read the whole transcript at Beliefnet, so our remarks are qualified by that caution. But news services report that Edwards said that Jesus would be appalled at America's selfishness and going to war preemptively.

We're not going to dispute what Edwards attributes to Jesus. We draw attention to the mood of his verb.

About 30 years ago, The Wittenburg Door satirized the controversy over inerrancy at Fuller Theological Seminary in the classic comic strip "Brother Biddle." Biddle visits Fuller and hears theology professor Jack Rodgers utter the line, "If Jesus could hear you say that, he'd roll over in his grave."

Politicians and others who want to be taken seriously by believers in Jesus should avoid using the subjunctive mood for his activities in the present. Those who affirm that Jesus rose, ascended and is now enthroned don't think that his current activity should be verbalized with would, as if he weren't currently alive and active.

Note to Edwards' handlers:

State it this way: I think that Jesus is appalled.

Even if we disagree on the content of Jesus reaction, we can at least share a conviction that he is active at present.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Megabus Expands Service!

Our SWNIDish heart rejoices at the news that Megabus--upstart public transportation company providing cheap, reliable intercity service in the heart of the heartland--is expanding its schedule.

In April, Cincinnati will see two daily Megabus departures to Indianapolis and Chicago, plus a route to Columbus.

The SWNID family can now personally testify as to the efficiency and comfort of the Megabus, as can several of our friends. And as word of mouth and word of blog seem to be Megabus's only advertising strategies, we take this testimony very seriously.

And if you're thinking that you can take the Megabus to Indy for the ISI conference, you just might be onto something.

Now, if we can just get the government to allow Megabus to put Amtrack out of business for good . . .

Free Conference of Interest to Many Gentle Readers

Gentle readers who are (a) within an easy drive of Indianapolis; (b) free of other responsibilities on Saturday, April 14; (c) employed as faculty members or students in higher education; (d) convinced that the SWNIDish view of the world is Seldom Wrong, or at least worthy of consideration as such, will want to consider attending the Spring Leadership Conference of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

ISI is an organization that promotes conservative politics on America's campuses, otherwise largely the last holdouts for global socialism, via publications and conferences that it makes available for free to folks connected with higher ed. We get some of their publications, and from time to time we find time to read some of them. They're more than worth what we pay.

The conference is devoted to the thought of Russell Kirk, with William F. Buckley one of the founders of modern American political conservatism. It features, among others, Rod Dreher, author of the recent bestseller, Crunchy Conservatism.

By the way, the conference is free to faculty and students. Though this might appear to be a concession to socialistic tendencies, one should remember that ISI is funded by voluntary donations.

Brite Blogger Slams MSM for Jesus Tomb Circus

We offer our most profound, SWNIDish thanks to Drew Curtis--purveyor of, a website devoted to oddball news stories of no consequence--for his incisive and funny critique of the media's coverage of James Cameron's nondiscovery of the empty box that doesn't contain the bones of Jesus who isn't the Jesus that everyone cares about. Curtis decries the situation in which thousands of stories are written that amount to nothing more than free advertising for a TV program with nothing to say.

A pemmican quotation:

Consider the recent announcement – almost certainly bogus – by movie director James Cameron that he discovered boxes that once contained the bones of Jesus, his alleged wife, Mary, and their alleged boy, Elroy, or whatever his name was. This news item is a combination of two common "not-news" stories slammed together.

1. Headline Contradicted by Actual Article. Headlines of most of the articles about this subject stated that Mr. Cameron had found a box with Jesus' bones in it. However, the actual articles tell us that there were no bones inside after all, and we don't have samples of Jesus' DNA. Headline Contradicted by Actual Article is either an editorial oversight or an intentional misleading of the public to draw attention to an otherwise lame article. In this case, however, the article wasn't just lame, it was inflammatory because of its close relation to our next type of bogus media article.

2. Ad Masquerading as Actual Article. Several hundred publications ran this article, so it's not likely that anyone was paid off for placement. But this isn't a news article – it's a commercial. Most articles tell us that the "startling" claim about Jesus will be examined in-depth in a documentary Cameron produced. And they helpfully remind us what channel it's on and what time to watch. That's an ad in my book. Figuratively and literally. (Sharp readers will see what I just did there.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Surge" Continues Incremental Progress

Since the MSM is mostly ignoring the fact that Baghdad is quieting under the influence of the "surge," we recommend again the on-the-spot testimony of "Iraq the Model." Here's the closing paragraph from yesterday's posting:

The results of Operation “Imposing Law” are not magical. We didn’t expect them to be magical. The commanders didn’t claim they’d be when the Operation began. Still these latest developments are certainly promising. And let’s not forget that what has been achieved so far was achieved while many thousands of the new troops assigned to Baghdad are yet to arrive.

Patience, gentle readers!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Duke Lacrosse Case Revisited: It's Still the Booze-Fueled, Boorish Misogynism

SWNID cites with approval the commentary in Inside Higher Ed by Penn anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sunday on the Duke lacrosse case and the reactions to its legal collapse. Readers should not draw the conclusion that might lie near the surface: that Sunday seeks to convict the Duke lacrosse players because their case bears resemblance to an earlier one that led to multiple convictions. Rather, the point is that, guilty or innocent, the undeniable facts of the episode point to a deplorably misogynistic culture that lies at the heart of far, far too many collegiate athletic teams.

We quote some apt paragraphs, what happen to be the one first and two last paragraphs, in fact:

Roiling the blogosphere with opinion mostly favoring the Duke University lacrosse team players, the aftermath of the now notorious party has shaken up Duke with charges of sexism and racism on one side and outraged declarations calling for campus administrators to support “our students” on the other. The furor has distracted attention from the misogynist sexual culture on display at the party. Regardless of the outcome of the legal case against the indicted players, the question raised by an administrator regarding whether Duke intentionally or unintentionally promotes “a culture of crassness” remain. . . .

It is a shame that the commentary focusing on the legal issues and the alleged ethical violations on the part of the DA has obscured the broader cultural issues such as the impact of alcohol in this case and more broadly on college campuses. It is now well known that there is a high correlation between campus rape and alcohol. The 2004 study by the Harvard School of Public Health involving 119 colleges and 23,000 students establishes this beyond a reasonable doubt. Another important finding of this study indicated that the highest rates of rape are found on campuses with a lax alcohol policy.

In its report the faculty panel charged with reviewing the Duke lacrosse culture stated that “alcohol is the single greatest factor involved in the unacceptable behavior of Duke students in general and members of the lacrosse team specifically, both on-and off campus.” The report indicated also that “the university’s ability to deal fully with the problem of alcohol is undermined by its own ambivalence toward drinking and the conduct it spawns.” The report expressed “deep concern” with this finding saying that by its “lack of leadership in this area” the university is “implicated in the alcohol excesses of lacrosse players and of Duke students more generally.” This kind of honesty provides the sort of moral leadership that can turn the tide on campus from the culture of crassness into the culture of character and gender parity.
Most particularly, we applaud the correlation of character and gender parity. Men of character don't treat women as objects for their own gratification, and we are not pleased with those self-styled "conservatives" who have argued as if this was not the self-evident case.