Monday, April 30, 2007

VT Campus Minister Gives Another Update

This update from Virginia Tech Campus Minister Steve Wilkin is from last week, but it's still fairly timely. You'll know what to do when you read it. We particularly appreciate Steve's insights on the nature of "answers."

Sorry it's been so long since I've gotten an update out. Still don't have time for a thorough one, but prayer is needed, so here are some requests:

1. Monday night we spent some of the gifts we've been receiving to buy pizza for all the CCVTers for supper. Of course, this was their first day back in classes and our first opportunity to get everyone back together so we planned this to let everybody get back in touch. Turn out was good, but more bad news was in store because there I found out that another one of the girls who just started coming several weeks ago had lost two friends in the shooting also. Her name is Kara. Kara knew Ryan Clark and Rachael Hill. Kara lives in the dorm where the first set of shootings took place (AJ), so of course that's one thing that makes this all hit close to home for her. She had talked to Ryan many times, and Rachael was on Kara's floor. Ryan is the Resident Assistant that was shot during the first shooting. Rachael had heard about the shooting in AJ but, as you know, no one was told not to go to class so she went and was shot there. Bitter irony.

2. Next prayer request is for Paula. Paula had a pace maker put in yesterday. I just got off the phone with her uncle who I know well and he said that he was at the hospital yesterday during the procedure and that it went well and she is doing well. Pray that she heals rapidly and that the pace maker does exactly what it is supposed to do and solves her health problems. She is expected to be discharged from the hospital today. Then she'll go to her parents' house. I don't know how long she plans to spend there.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a lot of sympathy for Paula in this situation. First of all, how many 22 year olds have to get a pace maker? Second, Paula is graduating and also getting married in May. It has got to be stressful to deal with this right before your graduation and wedding. Third, because of the tragedy at VT, a lot of the sympathy and support she would otherwise have gotten is not really there because people's attention and energy is focused elsewhere. Paula has been an important part of CCVT for a whole 5 years! (She already got her Bachelors degree and is now getting her Masters.) Please pray for this long time member of CCVT.

3. Tonight CCVT is gathering for our weekly worship meeting called "Oasis." We don't usually eat together before the meeting but one of the home groups of a local church, Belmont Christian Church, offered to make a homemade meal for the students. We decided to have this tonight before Oasis and have the students invite all their friends to a free homemade dinner and then hopefully to stay for Oasis. Pray that God will bless this time including giving me wisdom what to say and what not to say during the lesson about this tragedy. This will be my biggest opportunity yet to proclaim the gospel with reference to this tragedy. Pray that I will proclaim it clearly and boldly as I should. But this truth must be spoken with love and gentleness.

I have heard many, many Christians these last several days say that they "don't have any answers, but...." I think the Bible does teach answers to all the questions people are asking in the wake of this tragedy. Maybe the Christians who say they don't have any answers are just being modest, or maybe they need to study more, or maybe they are just expressing the difficulty of expressing the answers the Bible offers in a way that people in agony will accept. I believe the answers are intellectually satisfying, but that doesn't mean they take all the pain away. I think the inability to take all the pain away is often what Christians are really referring to when they say they don't have any answers. But I think we would do better to state that more carefully lest we leave people with the impression that our faith is not well founded and we are merely Existentialists rebelling against meaninglessness through the vehicle of an ancient religious tradition.

If you have said something like this to me, don't worry about it. I know what you meant. But please pray for me that I will say what needs to be said to the particular audience that gathers tonight, the composition of which I cannot possibly know in advance as I write this to you. Some will be CCVTers who were not greatly affected and are already recovering. Some will be CCVTers who are still hurting deeply. Some will be Christians from outside CCVT. Some will be non-Christians. Some will be drawing closer to God because of this tragedy. Some may be angry at God for allowing this to happen. I have ideas what I would say to any one of those groups. But how do you speak to them all at the same time and say what needs to be said, without alienating at least some of them? God will provide, through your prayers.

4. Thursday is the International Bible Study Stacey leads. Pray for them again.

5. Thursday night Stacey leads the Girls' Gel Group (small group Bible study, basically). So that's two groups to lead in one day. This is a challenge every week, but especially now. Pray for Stacey, especially.

6. Pray for our camping trip this weekend. This was in the works months ago, and I thought when this happened it would be canceled, but the students still want to go. Well, if they want to go, I think it will be good for them. They will get away from campus and spend lots of good quality time with each other, talking and taking care of each other. Plus, some of the newest students in our group are coming, so this will help integrate them into the group.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and gifts. They are really helping.

Steve Wilkin

Gray Lady Settles Debts with Southeast CC

Yesterday's New York Times included a remarkably evenhanded piece on the growth of debt counseling and financial instruction offered by churches. The article focused mostly on programs offered by Southeast Christian Church as a prime example.

We applaud the Gray Lady for her intrepid foray out of the usual corridors of power and out of the usual antireligious stereotypes.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Boston Legal Masterpiece of the Moment

We break our predictable end-of-semester near-silence to link gentle readers to a brilliant clip from a TV-favorite of Father of SWNID, a scene from Boston Legal that makes delicious fun of just about everything in the political and social sphere, including especially the stereotypical political conservative.

Aye, aye, Captain Kirk!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

VT Campus Minister Gives Update

CCU alum and Virginia Tech campus minister Steve Wilkins, also a favorite former student of SWNID's, has posted his perspective on what's happening on his campus. A quotation:

It is difficult even to minister to my own flock, let alone those students who have no hope because they don't know Christ, or who have lost loved ones, because my flock and everyone else has been scattered since they have canceled classes for the week. Ministry in this situation is a moving target. The situation is fluid. Things seem to be developing at a blinding speed from our perspective.

We thank the good folks at Christian Standard for making this available in so timely a manner.

Enquirer Quotes Best Sources on Christian Music

SWNIDish colleague Ken Read is quoted in today's Enquirer on the subject of Christian music, in an article on the same. We love this remark, a brilliant summation of things:

To more traditional churches, if you don't have easy answers then you don't have answers at all. And if you don't have answers, then you don't have the Gospel. And if you don't have the Gospel, you're in danger of hell. But this music doesn't have all the answers. And the traditional churches don't know what to do with this. It doesn't fit their model.

The article could easily be titled, "CCU Leads Local Christian Music Scene," as it refers to more than one who has graced our halls.

We do ask, however, that the reporter not align Jesus Christ Superstar with the development of Christian music, as that was decidedly not a Christian production in any respect.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Holocaust Survivor Dies to Save VA Tech Students

The Jerusalem Post reports that a professor of engineering at Virginia Tech, Liviu Librescu, threw himself in front of Cho Seung-Hui as he attempted to enter Librescu's classroom. Librescu was killed, but the students in his class survived because he effectively blocked the doorway, allowing them time to jump out of windows.

The great irony--or perhaps the great explanation--of this is that Librescu was a Holocaust survivor. And yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

VA Tech Massacre: Time for More Second-Guessing

As a parent of a college student and a college professor and administrator, SWNID imagines the grief of the Virginia Tech community, and we offer our sympathy.

We observe briefly that this awful event has already become the object of what has become a favorite American preoccupation: second-guessing the decisions of people with executive power.

By the afternoon of the day of the shooting, Fox News was reporting that some parents were calling for the ouster of VA Tech's president and the police chief of Blacksburg. One parent is quoted as follows:

My God, if someone shoots somebody there should be an immediate lockdown of the campus. They totally blew it. The president blew it, campus police blew it. . . .

I hold this president completely accountable. They are cowards. They can’t come out and say they made a mistake.

Today's WaPo contains similar sentiments, more tastefully muted:

More particularly, what more, if anything, could the authorities at Virginia Tech have done to prevent yesterday's carnage? Were possible warning signs, such as bomb threats in the weeks before the incident, adequately investigated? And between the first shootings around 7 a.m., when two people were killed in a dormitory, and the second ones two hours later, when 31 died at a classroom building, did the city and campus police take all possible steps to lock down the university and scour it for the shooter? On a sprawling campus of 2,600 acres and almost 22,000 students, given imperfect communications, is it even feasible to lock every door and bolt every window on short notice?

The good editorialists at the capital's paper seem to answer their own question by the end of the paragraph.

SWNID says (a) humans are bad at predicting the future; (b) evil is ubiquitous and adaptive; (c) the world can't be perfected, even by smart people. We are therefore tired of indignant armchair quarterbacks who rant about "holding people accountable," a phrase we nominate for most irresponsibly and self-righteously employed cliche in current usage, when bad things happen to good people.

People who have to make decisions aren't omniscient. There isn't a "best practices" manual on how to identify and deal with a crazed killer on a major university campus. All who call for a "lockdown" with every incident that might presage some act of violence should recognize the potential that such a policy has for enticing people to act simply to induce a dramatic, expensive, disruptive lockdown on a campus bigger than many towns.

The world is unsafe. More college students will die this year from alcohol abuse than in this incident. College administrators can only do so much about either problem.

Update: St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas seems to be the first to experience the impact of a hoax threat in the wake of Virginia Tech. There will be others as administrators rightly exercise concern about copycats and sadly accede to the pressure to act as if they are omniscient of all threats and omnipotent against them.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Important New Personality Test: Which Church Father Are You?

SWNID strongly recommends that all gentle readers take the brilliant new personality test, doubtless thoroughly vetted and validated, that determines which church father the test-taker is.

For those who wonder, we are proud to report that we are St. Jerome, whose portrait adorns our SWNIDish workspace.

Jesus Tomb Now Officially Dead

We thank a highly alert gentle reader who sits on the editorial board of this blog for his directing us to the Jerusalem Post story that surely spells the end of the Jesus Tomb scam.

In sum, several scholars who were presented as experts supporting the documentary's claim are now denying or recanting any conclusions that the tomb is that of Jesus and his family.

For those who would like to read our previous SWNIDish posts on this topic, you'll find them here (note that the last post that will appear is an interesting but unrelated entry).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SWNID Promotes and Improves New Religious Classification

Last week's Cincinnati Enquirer offered to its readers a helpful neologism to refer to those many people who attend church services on the Christmas and Easter holidays. On Easter past, SWNID promoted the term at his own congregation, using it as a starting point for a brief discourse on the Lord's Supper.

But we didn't realize until today that we had actually improved the term.

The Enquirer reports the term as "cheaster," defined, per above, as one who goes to church only on Christmas and Easter. SWNID reported the term as "chreaster." We reported from memory, and did not remember what the article actually said.

Our pronounciation is obviously superior. After all, the holiday is Christmas--with a hard, aspirated palatal consonant followed by a palatal liquid, not Chistmas--with a soft aspirated palatal consonant alone. On said holiday, Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, not Chistians Chist. The latter would be pronounced in a way more reminiscent of a mineral than a messiah.

Gentle readers should not that this was not a mistake on SWNID's part, by definition something in our world possible but rare, but an unconscious improvement of an otherwise useful but etymologically inconsistent expression.

We acknowledge in advance the thanks of the religious and irreligious communities for this important service that we accidentally but helpfully rendered.

SWNID Inspires Cohen; Hence, SWNID Agrees with Cohen

SWNID has previously disparaged the judgment and opinions of WaPo columnist Richard Cohen. Today we give him props for his rightminded complaint that special prosecutors are making a mockery of our justice system.

Specifically, he argues that Monica Goodling, an assistant to AG Gonzales, has taken the fifth regarding testimony before a Senate committee precisely because the atmosphere of suspicion created by the specter of special prosecutors means that anyone in Washington who makes any statement under oath is asking for a perjury trial. That's a brilliant point.

But where have we heard it before?

Oh, yes. SWNID said it about two weeks ago.

We congratulate Cohen on his discovery of a source for improved ideas for his column. Mr. Cohen, we are honored to be your muse.

Fred Thompson: I Have Cancer

Fred Thompson's presidential prospects may fall as quickly as they rose a few weeks ago. The esteemed former Senator and current radio and TV personality has revealed that he has cancer.

Of course, Rudy has been successfully treated for prostate cancer, and McCain is just old. But the perception of ill health will certainly damage Mr. Thompson's bid to become the alternative to the favorites. He looks more and more like the guys to whom he is supposed to be the alternative.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Imus Listeners Agree to Two Weeks of Listening to NPR

As penance for encouraging and supporting the offensive bad taste of radio personality Don Imus, large numbers of Imus's listeners have signed a pledge to listen to nothing but NPR for two weeks.

In place of Imus's misogynistic and racist remarks, washed down with inappropriately loud laughter from sidekicks, his audience will be treated to news and public affairs shows, jazz, classical and folk music, and, in smaller markets, college students as local announcers.

"I hear that Mara Liason and Carl Castle can really get rude on 'Morning Edition,'" said one Imus fan.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What Bugs Us About Pelosi

Bush-41 veteran Jed Babbin tells enough of the telltale details to explain why thoughtful people of every political persuasion are put off by the Imperial Ms. Pelosi's presumptuous passage to Syria. To wit: Democrat rhetoric makes clear the party's intention to pursue an alternative foreign policy, embodying the most radical notions of its extreme left wing, without having won a presidential election.

Babbin's column is full of good stuff, but here's a pemmican passage:

On March 30, Pelosi’s spokesman issued a statement that said, “As recommended by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan delegation led by Speaker Pelosi intends to discuss a wide range of security issues affecting the United States and the Middle East with representatives of governments in the region, including Syria.” Which is a curious statement given that the ISG recommended that the United States conduct such discussions and Pelosi has no authority to decide whether those talks would occur or represent the United States in them. (Pelosi should read, or have someone read to her, Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution which empowers the president to make treaties, appoint ambassadors and otherwise conduct foreign policy.)

Meanwhile, we rejoice that the (saner-than-Pelosi?) chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-United Auto Workers), has announced that his party, contrary to its titular leaders Pelosi and Harry Reid, will not seek to restrict funds for the successful completion of the campaign in Iraq. Ms. Pelosi, it seems, needs to do some diplomacy among her own party members on Capitol Hill.

Another Sign of Impending Apocalypse: Bedbugs

As if the awful spring weather, a consequence of global warming induced by industrialized humans' disregard for Mother Nature, were not enough, we now face a 50-state infestation of bed bugs.

Residents of Rine Hall, you are not alone.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Shine Is Off Giuliani's Apple

Rudy did something stupid. He said he favors some public funding of abortion.

We agree with Philip Klein at the American Spectator. This isn't just a revelation that will anger conservatives (as a patient conservative, we aren't angry . . . yet). It's a revelation of an undisciplined approach to campaigning.

Rudy, you are still our man. But it's time to get serious. There are two guys named Thompson whom we like, another named Romney who looks OK, and that McCain fellow whom we can tolerate. And last we checked, Dr. Rice doesn't have anything on her calendar for 2008 yet either. So don't take us for granted, and don't act like your presidency is inevitable, even if we have SWNIDishly said that it is.

Where You'd Least Expect to Find It: Instone-Brewer on Divorce in NT

SWNID acquaintance David Instone-Brewer is doubtless the world's leading expert on divorce in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament. His books Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Eerdmans, 2002) and Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (IVP, 2003) have proved to be as cogent and influential as anything ever written on the subject.

Today he can be found on the Wall Street Journal's "OpinionJournal" web site, explaining how it is that American evangelicals are able to support divorced presidential candidates. But it's as good a summary of his first-rate work on the biblical material as one can find. Here's an apt quotation that summarizes most of what we expect gentle readers to care about:

As it happens, new scholarship supports a slightly less strict biblical understanding of divorce than the traditional one. Scrolls found near the Dead Sea, which confirm indications found in ancient Jewish authors like Philo and Josephus, show that the key phrase "any cause" was actually the formal name of a type of divorce. That is, Jesus did not reject divorce for any cause but rather, he rejected the "Any Cause" divorce.

Rabbis at the time disagreed on the validity of "Any Cause" divorce, but thanks to marriage contracts found near the Dead Sea, we know that most allowed divorce based on Exodus 21:10-11. That is, they allowed men and women to divorce partners for physical or emotional neglect, including abuse and abandonment. Jesus said nothing against this, and in First Corinthians 7:15, Paul tells those who are abandoned by their partners that they are "no longer bound."

There is now a growing scholarly consensus among evangelicals on this issue. Even evangelical professors like Craig Keener of Duke University and William Heth at Taylor University, who have each previously published books with more traditional interpretations, now teach differently. Drawing on my own work, "Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible" (Eerdmans, 2002), they conclude that Jesus and Paul would have rejected no-fault divorce and that they would have permitted a wronged partner to initiate a divorce based on the Old Testament grounds of adultery or neglect.

We wholeheartedly commend Dr. Instone-Brewer and WSJ for giving him a platform.

"Omar" Gives Worm's-Eye View of the Surge

The intrepid blogger Omar of "Iraq the Model" provides a narrative of his home being searched by American security forces in Baghdad. It's a remarkable tale, full of the humanity and tension inherent in trying to live in what is still a war zone.

We commend Omar, who responded to the difficult situation with grace and understanding, and the American soldiers, who carried out their difficult duty with grace and understanding.

Shopping for the Perfect Church

National Review Online posts a must-read from Jennifer Graham on the subject of church shopping. It is at once confessional ("If church shopping were a felony, I’d no longer be able to vote"), exotic (Graham, like many Christian conservative writers and thinkers, is a Roman Catholic, an experience not shared by SWNID or, we expect, a majority of our gentle readers), amusing and enlightening.

Many will say "amen" to Graham's plaintive call for more discipline, focus and respect from participants in worship services. We will join in the amen, but we will also offer a sanctified "hmm" as well.

We SWNIDishly assert that church shoppers will never find what they are shopping for. We church-shoppers fancy ourselves looking for a church with members whose devotion to Christ will mirror our own exceptional devotion, not to mention our own impeccable tastes. But we forget that churches are full of sinners, of whom we are chief.

We recommend that Ms. Graham and her family stay put for awhile, go out of their way to establish some meaningful relationships with the jeans-wearing, Gameboy-playing, genuflection-impaired parishioners in the next pew, and begin in mutual confession to walk together in cross-bearing, by-fits-and-starts growing discipleship. And don't blame the priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, college of cardinals or pope for what you see. And don't blame the Bible college, if you happen to be a Campbellite. Logs and specks, you know.

There's more wrong with any church than what people wear or how much they sing. No amount of returning to a Latin mass or an old hymnal or a longer pastoral prayer will change all that. If you want to deal with the problem, start with yourself and really get to know those other people for whom Christ died while you're at it.

SD Union Tribune: Open Windows, Toss McCain-Feingold

The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune today give eloquent voice to an opinion long held by SWNID.

On the negative, they note that the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act has done nothing to limit the influence of big money on politics. If there's one thing to be learned from the fact that about $150 million has been raised so far by candidates for the 2008 presidential election, that's it. The fact that the Union-Tribune originally supported McCain-Feingold makes this admission all the more powerful.

On the positive, they conclude what we've concluded for a long time: the only way to address the issue of money in politics is to make it transparent. Let individuals, families, unions and corporations (which are, after all, merely people differently aggregated) give what they please, but require the candidates to publish the information quickly, accurately and thoroughly, and put lots of auditors in place to check compliance. Then let the voters decide if they want to vote for Hillary if her funding comes mostly from Stan Chesley, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, the Gambini Family, and Lesbian Yogis for US Disarmament and a Hydrogen-Based Economy.*

Now that's democracy!

*Notice we said if.

On Bearing Crosses

As it is Good Friday, Media outlets are predictably covering what is predictably happening in San Pedro Cutud, Philippines, where predictably a few men allowed themselves to be antiseptically nailed to crosses. Others merely beat themselves. Dog bites man, but the MSM needs a Good Friday story.

This bizarre spectacle, an annual event in the Philippines, reminds us of what matters in the crucifixion that inspires it. What made Jesus' death exceptional is not that he suffered but that he suffered for others. He didn't deserve the death, and they didn't deserve the gift.

We SWNIDishly assert that Christian ascetics suffer for themselves, for the attention they gain by their spectacle, not for others. Let's not talk about the marvelous example that ascetics provide. Real examples of take-up-your-cross-and-follow-me suffering emerge when people give their lives in service to others, even when those others don't deserve it.

Few will serve with reckless abandon because of these ascetics. Many others will because of the humble servants who have walked with them in the name of Jesus.

Queen Nancy to Saudis: The Best Man for the Job Is a Woman

House Speaker and Armani Spokesmodel Nancy Pelosi arrived yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, latest stop on her Freebooting Mideast Diplomacy Tour, and apparently wasted no time getting down to the most important issues. Specifically, Ms. Pelosi related to reporters that she had questioned the Saudis on the absence of women in their most senior government positions.

We remind Ms. Pelosi that Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive places on earth for humans of the female persuasion, and so we wonder why she chose this moment to address an outcome that would be nearer the end of a process of liberation than the beginning. Let's skip all that stuff about not going to universities, wearing giant, black robes and veils, never leaving the house without a man, polygamy, and other quaint expressions of culture. The real issue is that Saudi Arabia doesn't have a female Speaker of the House.

But it seems that in Queen Nancy's narcissistic world, what's happening in the room occupied by Queen Nancy ("Wait a minute! Where are all the bright, stylishly dressed women like me who should be running things in this country?") is more important than anything outside her serene gaze ("You mean that in this country women are virtual prisoners in their own homes?").

We note that some gentle readers take our pique at Ms. Pelosi to be related to her gender. It is not. We approve of powerful women in politics. Many of our most favorite qualify, namely Baroness Thatcher and Dr. Rice. We castigate Speaker Pelosi specifically for her unconstitutional operation of a foreign policy separate from the executive branch's and broadly for her naive isolationist philosophy that at once both condescends to other nations and overestimates human goodness.

Waters Muddied: Did Blair Wimp Out Too?

Today's Financial Times reports that an Iranian official is claiming that Tony Blair wrote a letter of apology that sprung the British sailors and marines. Blairs denial was phrased evasively, though an underling offered a categorical "no." Still, no Iranian has produced a letter.

SWNID thinks that if Blair didn't issue a letter, his own denial should be as ringing as Bill Clinton's denial of his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. If he did, we take back all the nice things we've said about Tony Blair.

Certain gentle readers, suddenly transformed into zealous commenters, have suggested that negotiations with heads of state who sponsor terrorism bestows on said leaders the legitimacy that they covet, thereby ameliorating their alienation, lessening tensions and reducing the potential and need for conflict. We confess our puzzlement that a thoughtful person would hold such a view when we lack examples in history that demonstrate its plausibility. Of course, it's been tried--remember Jimmy Carter? But it's been found wanting--remember Jimmy Carter?

It would be a shame if Tony Blair retires with the label "the English Jimmy Carter."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Anti-Insurgency in Anbar, Go West

WSJ this evening provides a most informative report by Atlantic reporter Bing West and his son Owen West, himself a veteran of the Iraqi campaign, on the progress of anti-insurgency efforts in Anbar province. Their thesis: the real "civil war" in Anbar is between the Sunni tribal leaders and Al Qaida in Iraq.

The Wests say that Anbar is the Wild West, and Gary Cooper is just starting to clean up the town. We recommend a careful reading of the article to capture some of the details. A quotation:

But to put the state of the province in perspective, six months ago the head of Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, told the Congress that "Anbar was not under control." Last week the U.S. commander in Anbar, Maj. Gen. Walt Gaskin, said he was "very, very optimistic."

Still, American efforts are doomed, per most of what one reads these days. Might as well quit trying, go home, seal the borders and listen to emo until they come to kill us all.

Cato Institute Gremlins: Universal Health Insurance Doesn't Equal Universal Health Care

SWNID has lived a portion of our life in a highly civilized, prosperous nation that provides universal health insurance. We have lived most of our life in a less civilized but more prosperous nation that does not provide universal health insurance. With a few exceptions, we find the latter situation preferable as far as health care is concerned.

Why that paradoxical conclusion should be utterly and undeniably true even for those who haven't experienced both is made clear in a delightful piece by Cato Institute scholars Michael Tanner and Michael Cannon (who apparently prove that all young Americans of a certain age are named Michael) in the LA Times of all places.

As usual, we tantalize with a quotation, one that speaks volumes of economic, medical and political sense:

Simply saying that people have health insurance is meaningless. Many countries provide universal insurance but deny critical procedures to patients who need them. Britain's Department of Health reported in 2006 that at any given time, nearly 900,000 Britons are waiting for admission to National Health Service hospitals, and shortages force the cancellation of more than 50,000 operations each year. In Sweden, the wait for heart surgery can be as long as 25 weeks, and the average wait for hip replacement surgery is more than a year. Many of these individuals suffer chronic pain, and judging by the numbers, some will probably die awaiting treatment. In a 2005 ruling of the Canadian Supreme Court, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote that "access to a waiting list is not access to healthcare."

Supporters of universal coverage fear that people without health insurance will be denied the healthcare they need. Of course, all Americans already have access to at least emergency care. Hospitals are legally obligated to provide care regardless of ability to pay, and although physicians do not face the same legal requirements, we do not hear of many who are willing to deny treatment because a patient lacks insurance.

We offer a brief and vague personal testimony: had our SWNIDish self persisted under universal health coverage, what was treated quickly and simply outside that "universal" system would perhaps, thanks to an outrageous waiting list for such a simple procedure, literally have turned deadly (and we use "literally" in its literal sense). This argument is not an abstraction.

Ahmadinejad Wimps Out

Ahmadinejad's return of hostage British sailors as a "present" for the Easter holiday to the "British people" demonstrates two irrefutable truths: (a) Blair was right not to give in on a single point; (b) Ahmadinejad is utterly inept and is flailing about, trying to find some means to gain prestige abroad and legitimacy at home.

Our only regret is that the intrepid Brits were also the polite Brits on departure. Their consent to the smiling, waving photo op seen here, apparently after a quick trip to the suit department of the Tehran Sears and Roebuck, speaks volumes about the polite folkways of their culture but nothing about the creepy reality of the situation. Iran remains a country ruled by wing-nuts, and incompetent ones at that.
So let's keep up our staring contest with them. A blinking wing-nut is safer than an unblinking one. And sooner or later, the internal contradictions of the "Islamic State" will lead to Iran's collapse as a threat, no less than the same happened for the Marxist Soviet Union.

Mrs. Mallory, Can Mark Come Out and Play Catch?

No, he's got too much homework from city council.

That, we'd guess, is the answer that the charming and friendly Fanny Mallory would give if SWNID were to knock on our esteemed neighbors' door and ask this question.

With last night's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, during which Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory again managed to throw a baseball hopelessly awry before getting a weak toss approximately on trajectory when given a Mulligan by the show's affable host, the Mayor of Our Fair City proved that it's been a long time since he had any leisure time to play catch. The way he handles the glove and ball indicates that he surely played the game as a boy, but it's clear that the only things he's thrown recently are wadded-up memos from Leslie Ghiz, tossed into the wastebasket.

Still, it's nice to see Mr. Mallory on national TV in his signature white, French-cuffed shirts and gray, worsted-wool slacks, the same clothes he wears to rake leaves in his front yard.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fitzgerald's Own Coverup

Mr. Clean Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, fresh from his conviction of Scooter Libby for perjurously forgetting details about a non-crime, is now engaged in a coverup of his own.

Fitzgerald jailed a reporter for the Gray Lady for 85 days so that she would reveal her sources for the so-called "leak" of the nearly-public knowledge that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. It seems, however, that when he did, he already knew the source of the leak. So he used contempt proceedings to compel testimony from a reporter, whose first-amendment rights were at least debatable, whose testimony he already knew would be inaccurate and, as no crime was actually committed, pointless.

So the coverup is this: Fitzgerald has sealed his records on this point, making it impossible for other members of the Fourth Estate, let alone the Congress that is considering legislation on reporters' protection of their sources. The purpose of his doing so can be nothing other than protecting his own reputation, as far as we can see.

Power corrupts. Our federal government's generation-long flirtation with special prosecutors who work without restraint has proved as much, even with a high-minded idealist--so called--like Fitzgerald.

Queen Nancy's State Visit to a Terrorist State

With her visit to Syria, Nancy Pelosi continues to impress SWNID with her inability to perceive how her actions give off an air of regal hubris unfitting her role as Speaker of the Lower Chamber. She admits that the visit will produce nothing of diplomatic import.

It produces plenty for Assad, of course, namely, plenty of legitimacy for his oppressed domestic constituency, not unlike the effect for Ahmadinejad of seizing his British hostages.

And it does the same for Queen Nancy. She can now be hailed by her left-wing netroots base as the Alt-President they believe her to be.

Such are the schemes of those whose claim to power lacks legal and constitutional legitimacy.

UPDATE: On 04/07 the WaPo's editorial board pastes Queen Nancy without mercy for her faux shuttle diplomacy. It seems she "carried a message" from Israeli PM Olmert that he immediately denied having given. Even the MSM must now admit that its hopes for a New Day with the Dems have been dashed. Wake up, Madam Speaker. You're not in the Bay Area any more.

Word on the Surge: Baghdad Better Off Than Many Christian Campuses

The Washington Times (motto: "Expecting Owner Sun Myung Moon to Die Any Day Now") reports that as a consequence of the surge, now regularly characterized as ineffective by the opposition party, Baghdad's curfew has been pushed back two hours.

Living among a people who see any curfew as the epitome of repression, we are sure that this represents a step in the right direction.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Christians Getting Matthew 5:10-12 Treatment in India

SWNID has received several reports about growing problems of violent persecution of Christians in India. Under the cover of anti-conversion laws, Christians in several Indian states have been targeted by gangs of Hindu nationalists. Many Christians have been beaten and hospitalized, and we've heard of at least one death.

We hesitate to quote reports that come to us from personal sources, as these might compromise work in some areas. However, here's a link to a recent report posted by International Christian Concern.

It says something, we think, about the growth of Christianity in the changing social and economic environment of the subcontinent, that all this is going on now. It should say something about Christians if they respond with grace and forgiveness, undergirded by prayer, in these trials.

So, gentle readers, we know what to do, don't we?

USA Today: 24 on Life Support

McNewspaper's Robert Bianco today complains that 24 has this season lost its way. Plots are outlandish, characters are wasted, and the fun is gone.

We agree, but want to sharpen the complaint. The problem is not that the plot is outlandish (Wayne Palmer from flatline to frontline in the time it takes to advertise Fords). We've had outlandish plots before (Jack is twice resurrected, after all). It's that these are the same outlandish plots.

Characters have been wasted, namely disgraced ex-president Logan and his nutty ex-wife. But that doubtless is a consequence of the show's success: the superb duo of Itzin and Smart could likely only be contracted for an episode or two, given what their agents demanded and star/executive producer Kiefer Sutherland is probably dragging away from the show.

The fun is gone because of the first two phenomena. Writers are out of ideas and resources, so humor, they fear, will look like self-parody.

Bianca says that viewers are watching out of a sense of duty. We wouldn't call it duty, per se. We'd call it hope. I now watch 24 for the same reason that I watch baseball. I've seen it all before, but every once in awhile I see something that I've never seen before. Maybe just once more this season we'll see something that will remind us of Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland, nostrils mutually flared, staring each other down, a moment of such dangerous intensity that it makes the pulse race and the palms sweat.

Atheist Denominations: The Beast Battles the False Prophet

The AP's Jay Lindsay over the weekend reported on growing tensions between competing groups of atheists. On the one hand, old-line atheists want simply to make room for unbelief alongside belief. On the other hand, so-called New Atheists are deliberately attacking religion, which is to say attacking Christianity, which is to say attacking their own caricature of bad forms of Christianity.

Belonging to the former camp are folks like Harvard University's Humanist Chaplain (a position endowed by the well-endowed university for a generation) Greg Epstein (don't you wonder who goes to his "services"?). On the other side, predictably, are atheist firebrands Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who with their acolytes are already challenging the world's record for overuse of vitriolic rhetoric.

We will make three SWNIDish observations:
  • First, the expectations of the "New Atheists" that they are on the threshold of a major expansion of religious unbelief is very likely not true. If history demonstrates anything, it is the persistence of religious belief, which has been challenged in every generation. Dawkins, Harris and company simply exaggerate their own personal importance to think otherwise.
  • Second, religious people--or more specifically Christians who read and believe the Bible--have a tidy explanation for the events chronicled by the AP's intrepid reporter. Namely, they know that human hubris that says, "Let us build a tower and make a name for ourselves" ends in fractious tribalism. It is to the church's shame that she has experienced such atheistic hubris within her own boundaries. But it is not to the church's surprise that she sees the same--faster and harder--among the unbelievers.
  • Thirdly, the principals in this affair have a significant stake in its outcome. Old atheists like Epstein have made a comfortable living with the stance that they offer a distinct but equal alternative to religion that should be socially and fiscally enshrined in much the same way as religion. New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris are making a lot of scratch from their shrill denunciations of all things religious, especially things Christian. "Follow the money" remains good advice on all human affairs, including the affairs of those who claim to be sober, high-minded rationalists on a crusade to save the world from salvation.