Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Obama Needs to Be Coolidge, Not FDR

The redoubtable revisionist of the Great Depression, Amity Shlaes, in today's WaPo details the failures of FDR to follow a consistent approach to economic revitalization. For those who haven't listened before, she again nicely explains why the Depression didn't end until FDR's mind was on killing fascists.

But the article serves more as a warning: that this isn't the time for the federales to "experiment." Of course, we like what she suggests as a way forward to recovery:

Luckily, we are entering the optimal time for reducing uncertainty: a new president's first hundred days, with a majority to back him on the Hill. Obama might start by rebuilding key institutions: creating a super-Securities and Exchange Commission, a tough regulator with clear plans for overseeing stocks as well as those instruments that had been monitored unpredictably because of vague status. He should also halve corporate tax rates, currently some of the world's highest, and reduce the capital gains rate to 5 percent. Rewriting the Fed law to clarify it will make avoiding an Alan Greenspan bubble easier. Defining his infrastructure program clearly would have the effect of putting up a sign: Open for Business.

Here's to a clear, consistent New Year.

A 2008 Holiday Musical Retrospective

Until the SWNID Superlatives of 2008, here's a way to look back on what's happened this year:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Atheist: Africa Needs Christian Faith

Today's Times (not NY) includes a genuinely exceptional opinion piece by Matthew Parris, whose life experience is in Africa and whose belief is atheism, arguing comprehensively that Africans are better off as Christians and that missionaries effect the effective improvement of the continent.

Too many good passages to quote, too many expectations overturned to note, too many reasons to encourage reading the article to mention.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More on Warren: Politicos Don't Understand Pastors

E. J. Dionne offers a reasonable interpretation of Obama's scandalous invitation to Rick Warren: that Obama wants to reach out to evangelicals and Warren wants to lead them to engagement with a wider set of social issues.

We say that this is certainly true of Obama and probably partly true of Warren. But it almost certainly isn't primary with Warren.

Political animals like Dionne assume that every move made by a public figure is political. But pastors, regardless of their public profile, tend to think like pastors. Or more particularly, like evangelists.

Evangelists take the gospel anywhere they can. Their formative stories include those of people who found themselves in unlikely places, where they got to tell the story that comprises the good news to people in otherwise inaccessible places, whether those places are socially or geographically inaccessible.

So a pastor will go just about anywhere he can, for the chance to tell the story. Even to a Presidential Inauguration. So goes Rick Warren, who isn't nearly as cagey as Dionne imagines.

We assume that Warren is in trouble with those who don't want him associating with pro-abortion types. Such is to be expected: evangelists who go places to tell the story generally get criticized for the company they keep. So good evangelists learn to ignore that criticism.

Bush Myths Dying Slowly

Myth 1: Dubya is an uncurious Philistine. (Source: leftist commentators, reporters, bloggers and conversationalists)

Fact: Dubya devours books. (Source: Karl Rove, with whom Bush has had a friendly competition to see who can read the most books since 2005)*

Myth 2: The last eight years have been an unrelenting series of terrible events made worse by the wicked and incompetent governance of Dubya. (Source: as with Myth 1)

Fact: By most objective measures, the last eight years have been pretty good, and the administration can take credit for at least some of it. (Source: Ed Gillespie, a Republican political operative who gives a list of accomplishments that isn't entirely spun out of imagination or crediting stuff that happens naturally.)

Myth: If Gore had won in 2000 as he really did, we never would have entered the Iraq War.** (Source: as with Myth 1)

Fact: Everything about Gore's record and the circumstances of 2001-03 suggest that he would have faced the same pressures in a similar way. (Source: Frank Harvey of Dalhousie University as reported by Kelly McParland of the National Post)

What matters: Folks should brace themselves for the fact that Obama's election doesn't make things better all at once, and for the likely rhetoric--as much as eight years' worth--that the problems created by the evil Bushies are just too hard even for the slender, erudite Wunderkind to solve.

*Leftist response: Rove is the Evil Genius, and this is a lie. Rejoinder: why should the Evil Genius create such a pointless lie for a Lame Duck?

**Note that this thesis is akin the Oliver Stone's contention that in late 1963 JFK was about to end American involvement in Vietnam, so he was assassinated by everyone in the government, industry and the mafia who wanted Vietnam to happen .

Douthat for Christmas, against Hitchens

Ross Douthat, token evangelical at the Atlantic, yesterday offered a nice summation of the significance of the Incarnation, in contrast to yet another silly remark from that other Seldom Wrong individual, Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens had awhile back offered the usual, "what if historians discovered that Jesus was a fraud" objection, arguing that the problems of human existence would be unchanged regardless. For Hitchens, such is a demonstration that the Christian gospel, or any religious story, is impotent.

Douthat offers this rejoinder:

The Christian story is not, for instance, a theological or philosophical treatise. It's not a set of commands or insights about our moral duties. Nor is it a road map to the good life. It has implications for all of those questions, obviously; certainly, Jesus of Nazareth wasn't exactly silent on "the concept of justice" during his lifetime, and Christians have been deriving theologies, philosophies and codes of conduct from his example ever since. But fundamentally, the Christian story is evidence for a particular idea about the universe: It recounts a series of events that, if real, tells us something profound about the nature of God, and His relationship to His creatures, that we couldn't have been expected to understand or accept in precisely the same way without the Gospel narratives.

Douthat nicely notes that the no-gospel hypothesis makes atheism a lot harder as well:

Consider, for instance, the way in which the dominance of the Christian story has actually sharpened one of the best arrows in the anti-theist's quiver. In Western society, especially, the oft-heard claim that the world is too cruel a place for a good omnipotence to have created derives a great deal of its power, whether implicitly or explicitly, from the person of Christ himself. The God of the New Testament seems more immediate, more personal, and more invested in his creation than He had heretofore revealed Himself to be. But this arguably makes Him seem more culpable for the world's suffering as well. Paradoxically, the God who addresses Job out of the whirlwind is far less vulnerable to complaints about the world's injustice than the God who suffers on the Cross - or the human God who cries in the manger. For many Christians, Christ's suffering provides a partial answer to the problem of theodicy. But for many atheists and agnostics, it only sharpens the question: How can a God who loves mankind enough to die for us allow us to suffer as much as we do?

In another vein, we'll note that Hitchens's hypothetical discovery is fatuous. There's no way that at a 2000-year distance anyone could discover definitive evidence discrediting the Christian gospel. This is not to beg the question of its historical authenticity but to not the impossibility of disproving any well established narrative at a distance of such magnitude. The "what ifs"--what if we discovered that Jesus lied, that the miracle stories were fabrications, or (the one with the biggest consequences) that his body still remains in this or that place--are all imaginings that can't by nature occur in the real world.

Take the big one, the resurrection. If human remains were discovered that by some accompanying inscription were identified as those of Jesus of Nazareth, we could determine with high certainty whether they came from the appropriate time and were interred at the appropriate time and with less certainty whether they had been disturbed since internment. We could not determine whether they were genuine or a hoax. For a real-life example of this issue, note the circulation of all kinds of biblical relics among Christian believers of a certain medieval perspective, none of which can be honestly taken as positive evidence for anything historical.

Same goes for any other angle. In the end, we have the persistent belief, demonstrated in exceptional behavior, of people at the time of the event, versus our justifiable skepticism that such a thing could happen. Good alternative explanations aren't forthcoming for the persistent belief and exceptional behavior, so we find that the rational thing to do is to surrender the skepticism and accept the story.

To be fair, Hitchens's point isn't really about the possible discovery of something discrediting. He's not arguing that the story unhistorical. He assumes that. He argues that the story is inconsequential. We way it's both likely historically and massively consequential existentially.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SWNIDish Christmas Wish: Let Little Choices Add Up

A rough picture of the New Year with the New President ushering in a New Era is now emerging. Call it a split-screen picture.

On the right side of the picture are foreign policy appointments that suggest a decent measure of realism about the world's fallenness, plus economic policy appointments suggesting a commitment to free markets, free trade and fiscal restraint. Embellish those with rhetoric about post-partisanship.

On the left side are appointments in agriculture, labor, health and human services, energy, environment that follow so-called "progressive" tropes that restrain commerce, redistribute wealth, and misidentify threats to human well being. But those are merely the embellishments on the left. The real business is the pledge to spend $1,000,000,000,000, or over $3000 per American citizen, on "stimulus" that is not so incidentally aimed at remaking the American economy.

SWNID agrees that the American economy needs remaking. It always does. Once agrarian, it became industrial, then technological. No one today works the way she worked in 1998 or 1988, even if she is in the same job (no one today uses pronouns the way she did back then either, but that's for another post). Keep jumping backwards a decade, assessing social and economic changes, and one will discover how unchanging the change is.

But the change didn't come because of a transformative administration led by a transformative individual. It came through the accumulation of small, individual choices, some of them profoundly stupid, that eventually led people through the darkness that is their immediate future to a better situation than they had in the past. One can occasionally point to decisions made by Great Individuals, governmental or otherwise, that proved crucial to the outcome, but it's utterly impossible for anyone to guess which of those decisions were crucial before their effects came to be.

So we contemplate the split screen of 2009 and beyond, what can grandly be called the Age of Obama at least until it actually occurs, and divine two possible outcomes. One is that accumulated wisdom will combine with the inherent inertia of the political process to allow only inconsequential, token efforts to transform grandly. The other is that ambition will breed hubris, colored green this time, prolonging and deepening the present distress, in the end merely to prove the bromide that people aren't as smart as they think.

Most implausible at this point is the Obamanoid pledge not to allow its legislative agenda to be decorated with special interest earmarks. Whence cometh this Strange Power to overcome the human will to power?

SWNID affirms that we need a Coolidge. SWNID fears that we elected an FDR. Or an LBJ.

Friday, December 19, 2008

You'd Think It Had Been Scripted by the Gideons

We thank gentle reader Justin for directing us to a monologue from famous atheist Penn Jillette.

We wonder what the world would be like if the only encounters people had with Christians were positive, honest encounters. Our theory is that most folk who express disdain for Christianity (as opposed to indifference or evasiveness) are overcome by experiences with bad manifestations of it. Our reading of the Parable of the Sower tells us not to expect universal conversion, but our experience tells us that dysfunctional, goofed-up versions of the faith tend to block one's view of authentic Christ-following.

The Left: Drunk On Hater-ade

Obama's pick of Rick Warren to lead the inaugural invocation typifies the intellectual bankruptcy of America's left. They're not about ideas anymore. The left is defined by those they hate.

Lefty rhetoric since Obama's election has been all about resentment and retribution. Organs like The Nation have complained that Obama . . .
  • isn't planning punitive taxes on "Big Oil"
  • isn't going forward with higher marginal rates on "the rich"
  • has appointed people like Hillary who didn't initially oppose the Iraq War
  • is holding onto Robert Gates at defense, with a diluted commitment to leaving Iraq
  • has appointed too many Clinton-era veterans, who are tainted by that President's so-called moderation
And now there's Warren, the gentlest of souls relative to the culture of national politics, whose sin is speaking out against same-sex marriage in the debate over California's Proposition 8. Prop 8 was the one blemish on November 4 for the left, the one significant instance where the inevitable movement of history toward the leftist utopia actually moved backward, prompting moralistic scolding and angry protests, some ironically enough tinged with racism.

Yes, we know that there are ideas behind all of this: pacifism, socialism and moral relativism. But the energy of the left is now aimed not at the policies, let alone the outcomes to which they lead. It's at the personalities, the ideological "purity" of those with whom the anointed agents of the left associate and the moral turpitude of those whom they are called to punish. The left knows as much as the rest of us what Obama will do after the inauguration. They know that he's the farthest left candidate they could have hoped to have elected. They know that giving the invocation isn't a policy-making position. But they hate Warren and don't want his cooties on the platform.

Never mind that Warren is the most widely read minister in the United States at present. Never mind that he hosted one of the most widely viewed presidential election forums. Never mind that he represents a new, less politically partisan style of leadership in what is imprecisely labeled the Religious Right. Never mind that he's a nice guy who seems pretty unassuming given his success and influence. He supported Prop 8. So let's get him.

Also never mind that Obama has cut himself off from the left wing of American Protestantism by throwing Jeremiah Wright overboard and doesn't dare re-associate himself with that bunch if he wants a clear path in 2012.

So Rick Warren will pray on Inauguration Day, putting forth the controversial supplication that God bless America. If he invokes the Christian God, he'll spark controversy before returning to Saddleback and his Hawaiian shirts. Hours later, Obama will sign an executive order overturning "don't ask, don't tell." Four years and probably eight years later, there will be no constitutional amendment defining marriage as heterosexual and monogamous. States will still be duking it out on this matter.

But will the left ever forgive Obama for his impurity?

We doubt it. They're addicted to indignation. If you aren't angry, you aren't paying attention, right?

Side note: For another example, note the downfall of Bob Kerry as prez of New School University in NYC. Faculty and students are virulently and even violently calling for his resignation, largely because he fails to enforce strict leftist litmus tests of guilt-by-association. No matters of university life and learning are on the table, anywhere that we can see.

Bush Auto Move Is Classic Political Poker

Dubya's announcement that he's authorizing loans from TARP funds for the Penniless Two of the Big Three will be variously analyzed today and hereafter. We instantly dub it "classic Dubya."

The move is typical of what "compassionate conservatism" came to mean in the Bush administration: put a conservative twist on an actions that the Democrats would otherwise take, per their ideology and special-interest commitments, in an unproductive direction, thereby stealing their political thunder and moderating actions that they would otherwise take..

No Child Left Behind was a previous example. Rather than insist that primary and secondary education be administered locally, the doctrinaire conservative position, Bush conceded a federal role in oversight but infused it with conservative values of accountability and kept the federal price tag lower than his Democratic partners wanted. Hence, the weeping and wailing of "unfunded mandates" in NCLB, pledges from the left to overturn the hated legislation, and the likely reality that the law will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Bush got enforceable standards for public education, which is what he aimed for.

Now we have a scenario in which congressional negotiators were unable to get the UAW to agree to a date certain when they would concede new terms making their workers' wages competitive with the nonunion factories in the US serving so-called foreign manufacturers. UAW prez Ron Gettlefinger doubtless believed that his Obamanoid buds would give him more favorable terms come January.

Enter Bush, who has essentially pre-empted Obama, keeping the price of the bailout reasonable, forcing the unions to come to terms and framing the issue over financial viability (i.e. making cars people will buy at a price that provides a profit to the company), not "building green cars of the future" or some other line that sounds like an "Ask Dr. Science" farce. The bluffs have been called.

Yes, we know that there are lots of ways this might not work. Gettlefinger and the UAW doubtless hope they can somehow get the Big Three to return to Obama in January and get better terms for the union. They may well try that. But Obama faces the formidable task of justifying such a move in the wake of Bush's pre-emption. We don't see how he could sell the notion of bigger loans with lesser concessions. And we doubt he'd be willing to spend his political capital on such a scheme when he has ambitious plans for other "stimulus" legislation.

Politically this approach hasn't won much for Bush. Conservatives are disgruntled with him and the left hates him apocalyptically. In policy terms, he's managed to steer things in a more moderate and productive direction than would otherwise have been possible. In this case, Bush got a plan that forces the issue toward reasonable resolution, or in his words, "an orderly bankruptcy."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Never Underestimate the Potential of a College Freshman

The Times today publishes pictures of Barack Obama taken by a student photographer at Occidental College when the President-elect was a freshman. Obama's technique with a cigarette is not to be missed.

We'll make the observation that Obama, like our current POTUS, clearly had issues to overcome in his earlier life. His present level of near obsession about his fitness (the Times notes this but misses the obvious parallel to Dubya), minus his ongoing nicotine addiction, strike us as characteristic of a person who believes he has a mission to accomplish and must not waste his opportunities to accomplish it.

There's more to say about Obama, Blagojevich, politics, economics, education, Christmas, life, the universe and everything. But it'll wait until after grades are done.

Injury at Crossroads Christmas Program

We just learned that a performer in the Christmas program at Cincinnati's Crossroads Community Church was injured in a fall from a harness from which she was suspended.

Here's a description we received via email:

30 minutes into the show, as the band was playing their version of "We Three Kings," the three actor/dancers who play the Three Wisemen climbed up these trapeze-like ribbons. In dramatic fashion, as the music pounded, these three were swung around (above the crowd) by spotters on the ground as the bright star off in the sky approached them in the auditorium. As the song came to an end, and the spotters stabilized the three acrobats, my mind almost burst into tears at the wonder of it all and how impactful this visual could be for any visitors in attendance.

At that very moment, five seats to my immediate left, I heard a whoosh come flying down ... followed by a loud crack ... as the closest acrobat had somehow come unhooked from the security latch. I believe the actor was a she, and I never heard her make another sound after her head hit the ground so hard. It was at least a 20' drop.
WCPO reports that the woman was conscious when taken to University Hospital. WLWT reports that she is a 23-year-old grad student at Xavier.

We are sure that our gentle readers know what to do in situations like these.

Update: We have learned that the young woman in the accident has passed away. The church's statement on the accident is available here. Tragedy has touched a faith community in Cincinnati in a dramatic way yet again. But we still know what to do.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bailout Plus Stimulus Equals Single-Payer Economy

True to our reactionary roots, we lament that yesterday's news included announcement that (a) the present White House came to an agreement with Congress to give/loan/burn $15-17 billion on the Big Three; (b) the future White House is promising the biggest public-works funding ever.

So . . .
  • Despite the fact that innovative, profitable automobile manufacturers operate in the South and Midwest, Uncle Sugar will subsidize static, unprofitable ones, insisting that they become what they are not by getting federal dough.
  • At the same time that the Big Three are being told to make fuel-efficient cars, fuel prices are falling to historic lows at inflation-adjusted levels, and Uncle Sugar is planning more roads to make it even easier to drive long distances quickly, even though the automobile is allegedly killing all of us.
  • A domestic labor force that needs illegal immigrants to do much of its construction work will get billions of newly-printed dollars to do more construction work as a stimulus to the domestic economy.
  • The Obamanoids will somehow manage, per their promises, both to spend the infrastructure money quickly and to spend it smartly.
  • As always, the one segment of the economy that grows during a recession and doesn't shrinks during an expansion is government work.

The Other Side of Chess Records

As Cadillac Records opens, billed as a "fact-based" account of now-defunct Chess Records, we draw attention to the fact that Chess Records was responsible for more than just fine blues and R&B recordings. The label also produced some classic jazz recordings that ought to be listened to yet today.

Not that they're easy to listen to. The sides are not for sale in stores. But thanks to the closet-indexing function of the internet, one can still purchase (for less than the cost of a ticket at the multiplex, if one is willing to buy the truly used item) the out-of-print compilation Best of Chess Jazz. The CD includes the magnificently ethereal "Poinciana" from Ahmad Jamal, worth any price to own, not to mention Eddie Jefferson's immortal vocalese "Moody's Mood for Love." And there are great cuts from Gene Ammons, Clark Terry, Zoot Sims, Ramsay Lewis, and even Benny Goodman.

We have listened to this recording ever since our nephew exercised his good taste (a family trait) by gifting it to us for a bygone Christmas. We recommend it this Christmas, and 364 other days in most years.

Friday, December 05, 2008

How Bad Is the Recession?

Today's labor statistics for October show the biggest monthly loss of jobs in the US since 1974.

That sounds terrifying until one realizes that the current labor force is around 155 million. In 1974 it was around 92 million.

In other words, the loss of half a million jobs in 1974 meant that a little more than 0.57% of the total workforce became unemployed. Today comparable losses represent less than 0.35%.

Note as well that every time an increase in unemployment is announced, reporters will note that the statistics would have been worse had some folks not left the job market. Such truisms hardly bear repeating, as many such decisions represent people who are nearing retirement or seeking supplemental family income. Of course not all are, but the "discouraged worker" is a trope trotted out by journalists and politicians to inject fear into otherwise ordinary statistical reports.

These are tough times for lots of folks in certain industries and parts of the country. Right now we wouldn't want to be in finance, real estate, construction, automobile manufacturing or any region dependent on those and related industries. But the comparisons to the 70s, let alone the 30s, are still very pale.

Reports of percentage of the workforce unemployed will lag other indicators but still give the best "misery index" available. A scan of this table will show that times right now still aren't as tough as they've been in some people's lifetimes.

Definitely the Wrong Appointment

Though the campaign, some observers assumed that Obama was probably earnest about some of his positions and opportunistic about others.

Of course, that was right. But the outlook is still cloudy.

On the one hand, his foreign policy appointments, with Gates at Defense and Her Majesty at State suggest what we now clearly can expect: a drawdown and redeployment of troops in Iraq at the same pace as McCain (a.k.a. Bush's third term) would have pursued the same.

On the other hand, many of Obama's economic appointments have been sensible as well, sticking with veterans of the Clinton and Carter eras who were fiscally sensible.

So far, it's as good as a thoughtful person could expect.

On the third hand, we now have what is clearly the worst appointment so far to what could otherwise have been a key post: White House Trade Representative. Obama's announcement that he is appointing Xavier Becerra, described by the leftist rag The Nation as "a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who frequently scores 100 percent ratings from the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and other groups that have been at odds with the trade policies of the past several administrations."

Great! As the LA Times observes,

Free trade irks many liberals because it can shift American jobs to other countries, but it almost invariably does more good than harm, lowering prices for goods and creating new jobs to make up for those it displaces. What's more, history shows that the last thing the country should do during an economic downturn is become more protectionist. A year after the market crash of 1929, Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, raising U.S. tariffs dramatically in an attempt to protect jobs. It fueled a global meltdown that greatly worsened the Depression.

We'll watch now for the appointment to Agriculture. Unless Obama makes a bold move toward someone with the will to cut subsidies, we'll assume that he was dead (pun intended) serious about protectionism. And in that case, we think that the present recession may be just the beginning of this new FDR's legacy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

State of the Art on Whence and Whither Conservatism

Of all the "what's wrong with conservatism" articles we've read lately, the best is the one brought to our attention by the exceedingly gentle reader JB in CA, a reflection by Creighton University theology professor R. R. Reno posted at First Things, of which Reno is also features editor.

Reno tags conservatism as a movement that embraces change and the present move to liberalism as retrenchment on the part of those for whom recent change has been mostly positive. Call it selling to consolidate gains. We find his analysis trenchant.

And we still prefer the flux to the siren song of faux stability.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shlaes Versus Krugman

Paul Krugman, he of the Nobel Prize for Economics, is calling for a New New Deal and complaining that FDR didn't go far enough.

Meanwhile the redoubtable Amity Shlaes, scourge of Great Depression Romanticists, is noting the facts: that the New Deal left unemployment at cripplingly high levels. The reason? You can't encourage hiring by raising taxes on business and mandating higher wages.

If there's comfort in all this, it's that while Obama seems intent on imitating the style of FDR, the substance of his economic appointments suggests that he may well abandon his campaign promises in wholesale lots and do the right thing, keeping taxes low and letting people get back to the business of business.

If a President with FDR's style can govern with Coolidge's aplomb, a SWNIDish fantasy will be fulfilled.

More About the "Worst Economy Since"

Black Friday sales were up 3.9% over last year.

But we're still doomed. That's the lowest annual increase in awhile.

"Awhile" is since 2005, literally an eternity ago, when Black Friday sales actually dropped 0.9% from 2004 levels. And you remember what an awful year 2005 was economically.

We are all going to die, except the rich Wall Street plutocrats, who will scavenge our rotting corpses.

Second Most Popular Politician in America

If Barack Obama is the most popular politician in America, who's second?

The answer will make one ask whether the phenomenon is akin to slowing down to look at a car wreck or to something more positive.

Sarah Palin is second, and no one else is close, per Politico. They base their conclusion on internet searches and other media measures.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Reflection in Application Season

As our Republic's high school seniors fill out their college applications, we recommend reflection on the Weekly Standard column by former college prof Joseph Epstein, who opines on the enthusiasm for attending the "best schools" (said enthusiasm fueled by the CVs of Obama's recent appointments):

After teaching at a university for 30 years, I have come to distrust the type I think of as "the good student"--that is, the student who sails through school and is easily admitted into the top colleges and professional schools. The good student is the kid who works hard in high school, piles up lots of activities, and scores high on his SATs, and for his efforts gets into one of the 20 or so schools in the country that ring the gong of success. While there he gets a preponderance of A's. This allows him to move on to the next good, or even slightly better, graduate, business, or professional school, where he will get more A's still, and move onward and ever upward. His perfect résumé in hand, he runs only one risk--that of catching cold from the draft created by all the doors opening for him wherever he goes, as he piles up scads of money, honors, and finally ends up being offered a job at a high level of government. He has, in a sense Spike Lee never intended, done the right thing.

What's wrong with this? Am I describing anything worse than effort and virtue richly rewarded? I believe I am. My sense of the good student is that, while in class, he really has only one pertinent question, which is, What does this guy, his professor at the moment, want? Whatever it is--a good dose of liberalism, libertarianism, feminism, conservatism--he gives it to him, in exchange for another A to slip into his backpack alongside all the others on his long trudge to the Harvard, Yale, Stanford law or business schools, and thence into the empyrean.

Ditto from SWNID. Even in our small corner of the higher-educational gameboard, we are less inclined to embrace the highly touted "gifted" student than the unquenchably curious, perpetually adventurous and consistently virtuous one.

Our advice to everyone is to get over your abilities and achievements and just do something today that's good and right and interesting.

From Up North, Two Dubya Appreciations

Canada's National Post offers opinion from two columnists who, like SWNID, think Dubya a better POTUS than his legion of detractors allow in their perpetual imitation of one another.

Conrad Black, whose conviction on fraud certainly induces contrarian thinking, notes many salient achievements, a couple of which we quote:

The U.S. annual economic growth rate has been 2.2% through this presidency, the highest of any advanced country, and the economy expanded 19% in this time, well ahead of other large economies. The same pattern was replicated in per-capita income and spending, investment of all kinds and unemployment, which ran at half a percent below the average of the Clinton years and three full points below the Eurozone. . . .

Bush’s treaty with India, creating an alliance with that country, is one of the most important diplomatic initiatives in the world since Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. But the chief preoccupation of the Bush administration has been the conflict with terrorists and terrorism-promoting states. All who remember 9/11 will recall the very high concern that, as bin Laden promised in his belligerent videos at the time, there would be imminent and frequent sequels. Yet not so much as a firecracker has gone off in the Americas since then, and President Bush deserves much credit that he has not received for this fact.

Similarly David Frum notes some blessed Bushisms, including such seldom-noted achievements as the training of Indian security forces, significant progress against narco-kleptocracy in Colombia, the immediate and effective discouragement of hate crimes against Muslims in the US after 9/11, and the snuffing out new intifada-style uprisings from Palestinians.

All this gives us occasion to rant out a complaint: we are personally exhausted to the point of despair over all the pronouncements that the present economy is the worst since Herbert Hoover was President. With unemployment still at historically low levels, this recession looks set to be one of the shallowest in a series of increasingly shallow recessions since the early 1980s. When shallow recessions are dubbed worst ever, we think it isn't just the recessions that are shallow.

The Good Guys Won

Whatever the mistakes, the Iraq War has brought the prospect of a better life to a country in a region where such prospects have been mighty dim.

Investor's Business Daily today marks the Iraqi parliament's passage of a security pact with the United States as the best indication yet that the good guys won the war.

Of course, the thing's at a point now where even the candidate who ran in total opposition to American military involvement in Iraq will now see it through to a decent conclusion.

War is always awful. But some things are worse than death, like perpetual enslavement. While it might be better for liberation to come at smaller cost, it came nonetheless.

Once again, we salute those gentle readers who are most personally responsible for this outcome, those noble men and women who wore the uniform and put themselves in danger for the sake of people whom they didn't know.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Attack Coverage

For live coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, we point gentle readers to the video feed from New Delhi Television, and English-language news service from India.

No one ever said this would be easy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama Voters in "Jaywalking" Episode

Here's a video that's sweeping the nation:

Granted that ignorance is not the monopoly of any political party, we still find it pretty funny.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

24: Redemption?

And so the verdict on Jack Bauer is guilty on the following charges:
  • shameless product placement
  • shallow emotional manipulation
  • static plot devices (elaborate conspiracies among government insiders)
  • implausible gunplay
  • inane dialogue
  • continuing preoccupation with torture
So we don't think that 24: Redemption achieved what it so ardently sought, a chance to redeem the series.* We did get a laugh at the impotent UN guy. And we look forward to watching Jon Voigt's impressive acting technique in the series to come, though he can never surpass Dennis Hopper in Season 1.

For portrayal of the brutality of modern warfare in Africa, we prefer the flawed Hotel Rwanda or the disturbingly realized Last King of Scotland. On the awful matter of boys pressed into soldiering, we just finished Ishmael Beah's memoir, A Long Way Gone and hope that somehow someone will turn it into a movie.

We note in passing that one aspect of the show probably epitomizes the shape of things to come. Hyundai is now the obviously-for-promotional-consideration-placed-in-the-teleplay automotive sponsor, supplanting Ford. The future of American automobile manufacturing is in partnership with our South Korean friends and their employees in Montgomery, Alabama, among others.

And only The Office rivals 24 for its in-your-face product placement.

But in the end, we'll still watch the new season. It will divert us until baseball season returns.

And we still recommend Dave Barry's blog on the show.
*Per Wikipedia, the original title for the episode was 24: Exile. We assume that the producers knew that folks would know it's the series, not Jack, that needed redeeming.

CCU Unashamed After First Game with NCAA D-I Opponent

CCU's men's basketball team met the Citadel Saturday night, in what we all assume is CCU's first match against an NCAA D-I opponent.

The 70-55 final score indicates that the CCU men comported themselves with competitive dignity. So does their shooting over 70% from the line and over 45% from behind the arc.

Nice job, men! Now, back to class.

Another Positive Bush Retrospective

We affirm the plainspoken and clear-thinking Michael Barone's NRO column noting the notable successes of the Dubya administration. To summarize Barone's good list without elaboration:

  • educational accountability
  • prescription drug benefits
  • elimination of Saddam
  • establishment of something resembling a functional democracy in a former dictatorship and terror supporter in the Middle East
  • effective programs against AIDS in Africa
  • establishment of an alliance with India
  • continuing good relations with Japan, Australia, Mexico and Brazil
We'd add shepherding the expansion of NATO to include the new democracies of Eastern Europe.

And Barone's catalog of the land that remains unconquered:
  • improvements in China
  • getting Russia in line
  • NoKo
  • nukes in Iran
Still, Barone says, it beats 1941. We say it beats anything in the 1970s or 1980s too.

What we really like is Barone's ignoring of the domestic short term--and Western Europe altogether. His focus is on long-term issues that will affect global living conditions for a generation.

We also note that the non-accomplished issues Barone lists aren't really on the political rader right now. More's the pity.

Another Grim Appointment

Ellen Moran will be Obama's WH Communications Director. Moran currently runs Emily's List, an organization that promotes the election of pro-choice female candidates and the creation of a "progressive America." Mostly they raise and bundle contributions, attempting to do it early enough for their chosen candidates to scare off competition.

We'll assume that this means Obama intends to stay in touch with the left-wing money operation that propelled him to electoral victory. It is not a move that suggests moderation or bipartisanship.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shape of Things to Come: Unionized, Subsidized Workforce

President-Elect Obama's radio speech today will outline in extremely broad terms his plans for a two-year (egad! even the most pessimistic economists say the recession will be well over in less than two years!) economic stimulus package:

We'll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.

We hate to nitpick, but there are too many silly things said here for us to refrain:
  • A two-year "jumpstart" has to be the slowest-motion "jumpstart" ever (Michelle: Where have you been for the last two years? Barack: Jump-starting the car.)
  • "Crumbling roads and bridges" is a phrase used by every Democratic candidate in an election cycle. Yet one is hard pressed to point to roads and bridges on this continent-spanning nation that are both genuinely "crumbling" and without plans for repair or replacement already in motion. Our own Brent Spence Bridge, as an example, is the object of massive planning efforts at present. So what's new in that?
  • The answer to our previous question is more money sooner for unionized construction workers and their politically connected contractors. This is political payback to Big Pavement and Big Iron, with "prevailing wage" as the backdrop.
  • "Moderninzing schools that are failing our children" must refer not to reform of financing or accountability or pedagogy but to construction projects, as it's hard to see how any other education initiative is economic stimulus in the period of two years. So does anyone seriously contend that schools can't educate primarily because they need new buildings, that unready students and unable teachers will be transformed by better bricks and mortar? Call this good money after bad, as revealed by the very way Obama talks about investment in something that's failing (cf. Big Three below). Given that old school buildings are found most often in communities with sharply declining public school enrollment, and one can envision sparkling new, largely empty buildings in which NEA-organized teachers fail their few remaining students.
  • "Wind farms and solar panels" will require massive investments in an electricity grid to send the power where it's needed, the creation of as-yet nonexistent technologies to store the energy until it's needed, and the devotion of thousands of acres of rural land or wilderness for environment-altering technologies that will leave a bigger mark on the landscape than oil-drilling or coal-mining ever have. Is it not obvious that plants don't grow underneath solar panels*? Get set for the biggest NIMBY reaction ever when Big Wind announces where its turbines are going.
  • "Fuel-efficient cars" we have already explained: the quasi-nationalization of the Big Three whereby they will manufacture cars to fit government specifications rather than consumer demand. This is payoff to the UAW and a formula for perpetual public subsidy.
  • "Free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive" works fine as long as oil is at $150 a barrel and up. But now that it's below $50, much closer to the historic price as adjusted for inflation, the numbers don't add up. If the United States commits itself to much more expensive forms of "green" energy (actually not very green), its economy can never be competitive with countries that use more efficient, less expensive "brown" energy.
Missing in that last bit was one obvious way to reduce, if only marginally, dependence on foreign oil: drilling in the United States. Again, we note that such drilling has much less effect on the natural landscape than even a single wind farm of any significant wattage. It takes thousands of wind turbines to equal the energy output of a single productive oil well.

Missing throughout is entrepreneurship. The Obama stimulus will do nothing to put money in the hands of people who innovate to meet consumer demands. It will prop up existing, relatively unproductive areas of the economy represented by big corporations and big unions, enshrining their eclipsed business models under the banner of innovation for the future.

Whatever the price tag of the Obama stimulus, we expect to find ourselves understimulated. But not undertaxed.

*We noted yesterday that a solar power company with an initial public offering of stock earlier this year is now trading at 11% of the price of the IPO. It's not looking good for alternative energy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Something That Can End Global Divisions

Surely everyone can agree that these musical performances range from great (Gerald Levert, "Reach Out") to superb (Ben Harper, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg") to epochal (Joan Osbourne, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"*). Of course, all are made what they are by the breathtaking grooves of the immortal Funk Brothers.

Gentle readers who have never viewed Standing in the Shadows of Motown in its entirety must do so this weekend.

*As the horns stab through the pain, Osbourne moans with lonely agony, and we almost wish we could be broken hearted ourselves.

Trash Fee Headed to Dumpster

City Manager Milton Dohoney has proposed that next year's Cincinnati city budget include a monthly fee for trash pickup.

Of course, this "fee" is nothing more than an additional tax, as trash pickup is not a new service. Currently it's funded out of the city's generous property and income tax revenues.

We think that Dohoney is putting this up as a means of leveraging City Council into action to make difficult cuts necessary to balance the budget. The chance of anyone on Council being reelected after voting in a regressive $200-per-household-per-year tax for an existing service is below zero. We note that Dohoney himself said today that in all his years of government employment, he's never presented a budget that his boss didn't modify. His boss is Council.

We predict that this tax will not come close to enactment. If it does, we predict a very different City Council after next November.

Miracle: Dems Demand Profitability

Democrats sent the Big Three's CEOs back to Detroit without a bailout. They have until December 2 to submit plans to return to profitability if they are to get any cash from DC.

Is this a miracle?

It will be if the plans that are submitted in a little over a week are indeed plans that lead to profitability and not just plans to create cars that run on composted soybean hulls and positive cosmic vibrations.

Just the fact that Democrats said "profitability" warms the SWNIDish heart.

Pritzker Turns Down Commerce: Another Dismal Turn

Penny Pritzker, heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has been an early and effective supporter of Barack Obama. She's also a savvy business operator and classy person.

She will not be Secretary of Commerce.

We don't like how all this is coming down. Obama's efforts are looking directionless and ineffective, except that they tend to reflect his need to placate all segments of his party and his desire to push through health insurance legislation as a first priority. But with Clinton retreads and congressional has-beens, it's not bipartisan or change-oriented, and certainly not moderate.

We think that Obama's lack of experience and shallow political alliances are showing already.

Maybe the Funniest Political Page on the Web

We urge gentle readers wanting a laugh to view this page at The Progressive.

Featured content is whining about how Obama is throwing no cabinet-appointment bones to "progressives," proposing that he name Dennis Kucinich to State and Russ Feingold to Justice.

But the cake is iced with the banner ad at the top. It features famous far-left historian and media talking head Howard Zinn with the following pitch:

The Progressive is one of our most important voices, and yet it is facing an acute cash-flow crisis. I'm hoping you'll make a generous tax-deductible gift right now.

Should Obama relent (and we think that Waxman as chair of Energy and Commerce is plenty for self-styled "progressives"), we anticipate bake sales, 5ks and telethons to fund green energy initiatives and health insurance spending.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bob Novak Reflects has an interview with DC press veteran Bob Novak. There's too much to summarize but everything to recommend. Guys with experience who face death often have important things to say. We think Novak does.

Waxman Advances, Hope Fades

Odds of moderation in a Democratic Washington are diminishing. The worst sign so far is that Henry Waxman's challenge to John Dingell's chairmanship of Energy and Commerce is going forward.

Obama does not appear determined to guide his ship to the center. Others have hands on the tiller. They pull left.

Join these tangible political developments with the very public nostalgia for disastrous New Deal policies (is anyone asking what tangible good the New Deal did to ameliorate the Great Depression?) and behind-the-scenes complaints from left-wing Dems about the appointment of Clinton-era veterans (seen as insufficiently liberal merely by virtue of their association with Dogpatch), and one has a prelude to political disaster.

SWNID tends toward buoyant optimism, but these moves make us dread an unnatural combination of FDR-like interventionism plus Carter-like incompetence.

Thankful for a New Political Era

All real Americans should assume their preferred postures of thanksgiving that the old era of divisive partisanship has been replaced by the new era of peace, love, siblinghood and green energy.

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that leftfully-elected Senator Al Franken insists that the ballot pictured here ought to be challenged as a vote for Norm Coleman and taken as a vote for Al Franken.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holder a Shoulder to Cry On

The old big story on AG nominee Eric Holder is that he vetted Clinton's eleventh-hour pardon of global confidence man Mark Rich.

The new big story is that AG Janet Reno cried on his shoulder after her courageous move to have youthful Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez removed from his relatives' Miami home at gunpoint.

We don't know what this trip down memory lane says about Holder presently. We do think that everyone who criticized the Bushies for immorality and ineptitude owes them an apology for applying to them a different standard than the one applied to the Clintonistas.

For every Katrina, there was a Waco.

Romney on Detroit's Salvific Chapter 11

Mitt Romney, scion of an automotive family, via the Gray Lady offers a real solution to the Big Three's crisis. We won't quote or embellish, just telegraph that it's not a federal bailout.

Reality Check on Nationalized Health Insurance

Remember when Obama accused McCain of wanting to change America's beloved employer-based health insurance system? Obama was going to enhance it and improve it.

If so, listen to the piece from NPR's Day to Day piece today on the pending nomination of Tom Daschele (listen to audio linked on the page) to Health and Human Services. Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor, states flatly that the problem is employer-based health insurance and says that a single-payer plan is the obviously simple solution. Elving sees Daschele's nomination as an indication that Obama intends to move away from employer-based health insurance and toward a single-payer system, albeit less suddenly than the Clintons tried to.

At no point does Elving even mention Obama's specific health care proposals, as it's clear enough to him that whatever specifics Obama offered were so much campaign window-dressing. The real substance will be in the legislative process, in which every Congressperson will be hang her or his special ornament on the Christmas tree of nationalized health insurance.

We appreciate the frankness of this journalist's analysis. And we wonder only why the President-elect is not being accused of having practiced the politics of fear and deception.

But let's make no mistake: both parties recognize that the employer-based provision of health insurance is problematic. One party wants to encourage market-based solutions by removing tax incentives for employer-based insurance. The other wants a government-based solution.

Reality Check on Auto Bailout

We thank Rep. Barney Frank (D-Harvard Yard) for confirming what SWNID has been saying: the main reason to provide a federal "bailout" of the auto industry versus letting chapter 11 do its work is to protect the privileges of the UAW workforce. Here's what he said on Morning Edition today:

You know, those who say, hey, go bankrupt so you can cut back on what the unions have won — the unions have already made some concessions. But, you know, we've had enough anti-union activity, and enough increase in income inequality in this country. I don't want to set a precedent that bankruptcy now is a way in which you undo what gains unions have been able to hold on to.
So in Frank's view, the right thing to do is to tax nonunion auto workers making Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, BMW, Mercedes, or Hyundais so that UAW workers can continue to cost their employers 50% more to employ.

When would this largesse end? Well, never, unless some genius can figure out a way to overcome the inherent competitive disadvantage of spending $1.50 on labor for every $1 your competition spends. Of course, once you find that means, your competition will imitate it, and you're back at your disadvantage. So the federal money must continue indefinitely as the means of offsetting the expense.

Of course, Frank has more. Uncle Sugar will supply "health care" [sic, read "health insurance"]:

Health care, by the way, is also on the agenda. Health care is a real problem, and we have burdened all American industry with a bad health care system that's tied to your employment. One of the things I very much look forward to is working with the new president so we change the health care system. And going forward, if they have to stay with health care the way it is now, yeah, that's bleak. But what I am hoping is that we will get a change in the health care system that will reduce the burden that we put not just on the American auto industry, where it's more expensive to build a car in America than in Canada because of health care.

Um, Congressman Frank, we're talking about a competitive disadvantage with other plants in the United States, where the workers get employer-provided health insurance. So if you get your nationalized health insurance, the Big Three's costs go down, but so do all the other manufacturers', and they're still at a disadvantage. N.B. that everyone's taxes go up too, but we'll count that as a wash as well.

We also call attention to Frank's insistence that an auto bailout be conditioned on Detroit retooling to make green cars. Never mind that there's no market evidence that Americans want to buy green cars. Having companies that sell cars is clearly not the agenda.

So what Frank envisions is automobile manufacturers receiving perpetual subsidies from taxpayers to employ unionized workers at above-market costs to make environmentally acceptable cars that may never be bought by anyone. We rest our case.

Chapter 11, anyone?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

CPS Returns to the Magnet-Signup Circus

Today was magnet signup day for Cincinnati Public Schools. Vigilant parent and Enquirer reporter Jim Plesinger blogged from the line at Fairview-Clifton German Language School. It seems that early campers-in-line got more than a bit testy with latecomers who managed to get forward in the line. But nothing else mattered when the principal came out to announce that the school was adding a kindergarten class for the coming year, and all parents would enroll their children.

CPS has an awful time distributing spaces in its popular magnet programs, even as its other schools continue to struggle. But it has been our experience, not to mention that of other gentle readers, that the confusion of signups is worth it. In the end, a form of sanity generally prevails, and most folks get what they sought.

Or at least we hope they did. Some of our peeps asked us about signup strategies. Our advice, as it is in nearly every situation, was to play it cool. Don't panic, don't prove you're a Parent of Extreme Devotion. Just show up on time, not early.

Plesinger seems to indicate that everyone went home happy. We hope that's really everyone, including the folk who just showed up on time.

Update: One SWNIDish peep reports enrollment success and confirms that some folks got pretty testy about the chaotic process. We await other firsthand reports.

Prepare to Say "I Told You So"

Apart from his lame opening reference to a bygone fashion fad, WSJ's Brett Stephens today puts the left on notice: you've got everything you asked for (a liberal House, Senate and President, all with ideological control of the media and strong public support), so deal the goods or shut up forever.

Since liberalism began, it has operated on the myths that Stephens enumerates and SWNID has constantly reiterated: that genuine liberalism has not yet been tried, that Evil Geniuses of conservatism manage to steal elections and dupe the public, that bad luck (assassinations, poor timing, squandered political resources) have heretofore thwarted liberal efforts.

Meanwhile, in the election just finished, 21% of voters identified themselves as liberal, down from 22% in 2004. Conservatives held steady at 34%. So much for 2008 being a major political shift to the left.

Obama the Second Black President

Obama has named Clintonista Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, seems set for Clintonista Eric Holder as AG, and is famously rumored to be offering State to the Tribal Queen herself.

We thought that the Democrats voted against a return to the Clinton era.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SWNID Unverified

"Acronym Attic" now offers an "unverified" definition of "SWNID" that we find accurate. We are troubled, however, that the definition is unverified. It should not be in doubt.

We urge gentle readers to encourage the verification of the definition by supplying the information to the fine people who maintain this helpful web site.

Wildfire at Westmont

As gentle readers likely know, the wildfires in Santa Barbara destroyed several buildings and faculty homes on the campus of Westmont College, a leading Christian liberal arts institution. No one was injured, thanks to the college's implementation of a plan to keep residential students in the gymnasium on campus rather than risk evacuation in an area surrounded by highly inflammable flora. One can also thank divine providence.

The LA Times story is here. Westmont has posted photos here. They're cleaning up and will reopen December 1.

Relative Qualifications and Complications

It seems that the only thing standing between Hillary and her appointment as Secretary of State is her husband's business dealings with various rich folk, American and non-American, who give him money for speeches, advice and the like.

We note that these matters did not seem to be a concern when Mrs. Clinton was merely a candidate for President. Secretary of State, however, is a job that calls for only the most trustworthy individuals, so careful vetting is of the highest importance.

They Don't Make Personality Cults Like They Used To

November 18, 2008 is the thirtieth anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, when People's Temple founder Jim Jones persuaded more than 900 of his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at the Jonestown settlement in Guyana.

The anniversary provides the backdrop for the upcoming holiday production from Know Theater of Cincinnati, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. The award-winning musical employs a cast of children to explore the story of L. Ron Hubbard and his highly profitable, made-up religion.

Meanwhile, Google shows well over half a million hits for the combination "Barack Obama" and "anitchrist." However, we urge gentle readers to exercise due caution. Many of these hits are from liberal, pro-Obama sites complaining about Republicans feeding rumors about Obama being the antichrist to their gullible evangelical supporters.

After all, we know Obama is not the antichrist. He's not Romanian!* No less an authority than Hal Lindsey,** who has been warning the world of the antichrist's immiment appearance for over a generation, said back in August in the esteemed WorldNet Daily that Obama clearly is not the antichrist but does provide a foretaste of what the antichrist's reception will be like.

*Or is he?

**See also the views of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, who seem pretty sure that no antichrist worthy of the name could be an American.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Headed into the Worst Economy Since the Dawn of Time, we feel obligated to share with gentle readers those opportunities for pecuniary gain that are largely recession-proof. seems to be one: a proven system for getting rich in the growing industry of dog fighting.

We commend this highly informative site to our gentle readers for their thoughtful consideration.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is This the Blithering Idiot We Were Told Was Running for Veep?

Wolf Blitzer's interview with Sarah Palin is unremarkable, a typical interview with a politician. But that makes it exceptional, inasmuch as Palin was judged to be significantly below typical.

Palin, it seems, does have a political future. Her discourse is cliche-ridden but fluent and coherent, about what we've come to expect from national leaders.

Hillary at Foggy Bottom

WaPo reports buzz that Hillary is now on the not-so-short list for Secretary of State.

Apparently the Obamanoids aren't happy with Kerry, Richardson, Hagel, or Nunn as alternatives. They're obviously right on that, except for Nunn. We assume this means that Lugar said no or did something to offend The One.

Hillary would be better than anyone except Nunn on this list, though Nunn would be better for Defense if BO doesn't want Gates to stay. But we think she still belongs as Majority Leader. That keeps her close, but not so close that Bill will lurk nearby.

Bill has no ticket to the Senate. But he does in an executive-branch department. He'll be the unwelcome guest at every event if Hillary runs State. He'll have to stay mostly sidelined if she's in the Senate.

Bush the Brave, SWNID the Digressive

Greg Sheridan, foreign editor for The Australian, offers a fine column praising Dubya's genuine accomplishments.

We find much to affirm in Sheridan's analysis. Right now, political opinion is about as volatile as commodities or securities. Which means it's not at a point of accurate valuation. Saying Bush is a jerk is like saying stocks are worthless. That's just how they're valued at the moment.

Among other points, Sheridan notes that Bush's persona was part of his offense:

His stubbornness, which is courage if you look at it a different way, was amplified for foreign audiences a thousand times by the Texan accent. In rejecting elite American opinion, he too often looked as though he was rejecting international opinion. In dismissing The New York Times, he seemed to dismiss Europe.

Funny, but this reminds us of how we felt about Clinton, who always seemed to us like the guy at the high school football game who wanted to talk to our girlfriend too much. Not that we actually had a girlfriend then. Not that we're still bitter about that. Uh, never mind.

OK, Clinton was like the guy who always turned in his paper late but talked the teacher into giving him full credit anyway. And he manipulated his girlfriend into writing it. And she was the one we really wanted to date. Not that we're still bitter. Uh, never mind again.

Back to the point:

We think a guy who crushed an international terrorist organization and overthrew two brutally totalitarian dictatorships deserves some credit, even if he mangles the language and smirks a lot. We also think that Bush was extremely correct on three massive issues where Congress wouldn't budge--immigration, Social Security and health insurance reform--as we have elaborated SWNIDishly for some three years. We expect future generations to ask why folks didn't do what Bush said.

By the way, we are ready to bet $1 with the first willing gambler that Osama Bin Laden will either be dead of natural causes or still at large in 2012 and again in 2016.

Memo to the President-Elect: Things That There's No Such Thing As

Our President-Elect promised his daughters a dog if he won the election and moved the family to Washington. After the election, he said the dog would have to be "hypoallergenic," as daughter Malia is allergic to dogs.

Well, doctors say there's no such thing, per an AP story today. Some dogs don't shed much, but all dogs provoke allergic reactions in some measure in people who are allergic.

So there's the first campaign promise that is crushed by harsh realities. Too bad it was a promise to the Obama children. "Yes we can!" is now "Subject to reality check."

We invite gentle readers to suggest other things that don't exist, the non-existence of which will impede progress toward the Obamanoid Utopia.

We start with the obvious one:

Free Lunch

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Will Obama Outlaw Bankruptcy?

The SWNIDish view of the coming Big Three Bailout is aptly expressed by the sagacious Holman Jenkins at WSJ. We tantalize with a quotation:

The media have been terrible in explaining how the homegrown car companies landed in their present fix, when other U.S. manufacturers (Boeing, GE, Caterpillar) manage to survive and thrive in global competition. Critics beat up Detroit for building SUVs and pickups (which earn profits) and scrimping on fuel-sippers (which don't). They call for management's head (fine -- but irrelevant).

These pre-mortems miss the point. Critics might more justifiably flay the Big Three for failing long ago to seek a showdown with the UAW to break its labor monopoly. In truth, though, politicians have repeatedly intervened to prevent the crisis that would finally settle matters.

The issue at hand is the future of the UAW, not the future of automobile manufacturing in the United States. Nonunion shops like Honda, Nissan, Toyota, BMW and Daimler (minus Chrysler) are doing fine making and selling cars in the US despite miserable sales.

Once upon a time, businesses facing economic hardship were reorgainzed by the courts in a process known as bankruptcy. Chapter 11 would give GM, Ford and Chrysler the opportunity to void their UAW contracts and compete for labor like everyone else. The Dems will instead seek to keep the courts, normally their preferred forum for political change, far from this issue to protect their Big Labor patrons.

On the side we note and interpret the convergence of two seemingly unrelated elements of all this. One is that Obama leaked to the press (via surrogates, no doubt, but doubtless from him, as he was the only person in the room with Bush) that Bush asked for support for free trade with Colombia in exchange for support for the Big Three Bailout. The other is that Caterpillar is an example of a company that has reorganized under financial difficulty, managed to keep a UAW workforce, and is very profitable in manufacturing. As it happens, Caterpillar is one of the companies that would stand to profit most from free trade with Colombia, along with its UAW workforce.

Will Obama, Pelosi and the UAW do the reasonable thing in all this? The leak suggests not.

Our President-Elect appears to be set to "rule" in precisely the way that his thin but consistent legislative record suggests.

P. J. on the Present Mess

It's not coherent or substantive, but it is a lot of fun. P. J. O'Rourke has sobered up to write a rant on the multiple crises of the moment. Hat tip to Son of SWNID for directing our attention to it.

We remind gentle readers inclined to rant in response that, among other things, the esteemed Mr. O'Rourke still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that any part of the conservative coalition except the libertarian part is legitimately "conservative." Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, George Will and SWNID disagree.

But not as much as we disagree with the ascendant Ruling Party of our shaky Republic.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Expectations, Arrogance, Messianism and All That

Close on the heels of the election results, an anonymous commenter on this blog claimed that the Republic would now be governed rather than ruled.

Yesterday, Valerie Jarrett, an old Obama friend and now co-chair of his transition team, used "rule" as the verb to refer to Obama's upcoming actions as POTUS.

We hope that such minor embarrassments will help the triumphant mute their smug disparagement of the outgoing administration's smugness.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another Unintended Consequence of the Election

We can't resist:

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Coming soon: Obama Win Causes Religious Right to Obsess over Coming Obama-Induced Crises, Onset of Tribulation

Whither the Big Three? And the Prius?

As US automakers seek $50 billion from Uncle Sugar and, because two of them are also European auto makers, a similar pile of Euros from the EU, we consider why they're in a pickle when everyone's car sales are down, including the Japanese, Korean and European manufacturers who don't seem to need a handout.

Many journalists will parrot the party line that Japanese and other manufacturers got ahead of their US competition in the manufacture of fuel-efficient cars. We think the problem lies elsewhere.

First, there's the matter of what the Big Three owe present, future and former employees thanks to two generations of labor contracts negotiated with the UAW. They're on the hook for pensions and health insurance for retirees, aside from current employees' wages and benefits. Labor costs for the Big Three are substantially higher than for Japanese, Korean and European manufacturers who operate stateside.

Second, there's the matter of CAFE standards. These require that the Big Three divide their entire "fleet" of manufactured cars into two groups, domestic and foreign. Their domestic fleet must then meet certain overall standards for fuel efficiency. With their high domestic labor costs, the Big Three can only make money on big, expensive cars if they're made in the US. But they have to make and sell small, cheap cars at a loss to be allowed to sell the ones that are profitable and meet CAFE standards. Worse, if they import cheap, efficient cars from their overseas plants, they don't count against CAFE standards for the domestic fleet. That last bit, by the way, was the demand of the UAW: it has no effect whatsoever on actual, overall fuel efficiency.

We think that the Big Three have made some dumb business decisions along the way also. They have that in common with other businesses. Ford, for instance, built unreliable cars and then muddled their marketing on top of it. But one can easily misunderestimate the degree to which the government from which the Big Three now seek a bailout is responsible for the mess that they're in.

But given the exchange of political parties just completed over the last two years, we expect that whatever proceeds to become an expensive compounding of existing problems. CAFE will get more strict. Discussion will focus on saving "well-paying" jobs, which is to say jobs on terms acceptable to the UAW, whether economically viable or not. CAFE will get stricter. All this will be rhetorically supported with talk about the failure of the Republicans to regulate properly, the Golden Age of American Manufacturing when everyone who worked belonged to an AFL-CIO affiliated union plus the Teamsters and the gap between rich and poor was narrower, and how the executives and their massive salaries and bonuses are the true bad guys.

The question is how long folks will believe that story.

There may be another tale developing that will be revealing. More or less simultaneously, the tax credit for buying a Toyota Prius and other Toyota and Lexus hybrids has run out. It will soon run out on Honda's hybrid too. Meanwhile, gasoline is below $2. The economic incentive for buying such vehicles has officially evaporated and will perhaps leave both manufacturers with a lot of unwanted cars to sell and a lot of manufacturing capacity that needs to be retooled. Such things happen in freer markets. But in more regulated markets, they happen with greater frequency and severity.

Gore: Obama Victory Proves Internet (My Invention) to Be True Messiah

Is Obama the Messiah?

No, says prophet Al Gore. The Internet is.

Gore says that the Obama victory shows that people can work together on the Internet to make "a collectively intelligent decision." And so the next project for collective intelligence is to address climate change, of course.

Um, has anyone told Mr. Gore what the predominant uses of the Internet are? Consider the following list and ask whether these are indications of collective intelligence:

  • celebrity gossip
  • sports fantasy leagues
  • social networking
  • porn
  • gambling
  • blogs like this one
We maintain that the Internet is essentially a new version of AM radio: massive amounts of advertising, some mindless entertainment, and lots of static.

Still, we want to take up Gore's challenge. So here's our contribution to the collectively intelligent decision on climate change.

What should we do about climate change? Adapt!

Oxford Lists Top 10 Irritating Phrases.

At the end of the day, I personally should of absolutely acknowledged that at this moment in time, lots of people, with all due respect, use irritating phrases 24/7, while those who don't are fairly unique. It's not rocket science after all.

Background here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Crouch on Hopefulness

Maybe the best essay we've seen so far on being a Christian in a fiscal crises is Andy Crouch's "Why I Am Hopeful."

A quotation:

And this is why I can't share the sense of satisfaction I sense in some of my "prophetic" friends. I believe the first step in culture making is not creating (let alone condemning, critiquing, or consuming) but cultivating: keeping what is already good in culture, good. American Christians, on the right and the left, have been painfully bad at cultivating. We want to jump to "transformation" and "impact" (words generally used on the right) or to "resistance" and "revolution" (favored words of the left). We often seem incapable of seeing ourselves first as gardeners: people whose first cultural calling is to keep good what is, by the common grace of God, already good. A gardener does not pull out weeds because she hates weeds; she pulls out weeds because she loves the garden, and because (hopefully) there are more vegetables or flowers in it than weeds. This kind of love of the garden—loving our broken, beautiful cultures for what they are at their best—is the precondition, I am coming to believe, for any serious cultural creativity or influence. When weeds infest the garden, the gardener does not take the opportunity to decry the corruption of the garden as a whole. She gets patiently, discerningly, to work keeping the garden good.

But that's not even the heart of the thing. We urge reading the whole essay.

A Barometer for the New Administration

Wal-Mart, not surprisingly, is doing well. Cautious shoppers are looking for bargains. Wal-Mart does well in moderately bad times.

Wal-Mart also does well in good times, as the less well off do better and shop more or move up from Family Dollar.

Meanwhile, the President-Elect and his Congressional Majority (a name for a rock band?) are on record as supporting card check, i.e. allowing unions to organize workplaces with an open petition of employees as opposed to a secret ballot.

If card check passes, Wal-Mart will be the first target for organized labor, and its biggest prize.

If a year from now Wal-Mart is not doing so well, it will mean one of two things: either the economy is so totally in the tank that no one is buying anything or Wal-Mart's workforce has been organized via card check. In the latter case, the economy will be headed to the tank.

We suggest monitoring Wal-Mart's stock price as a means of assessing the economy's prospects and the new administration's success. It closed today at $13.34, up $0.70 or 5.5%, on a day when the market as a whole took another cold bath.

SWNID Predicts: This Will Not Work

MGM has announced that the Farrelly brothers have contracted to make a Three Stooges movie, with yet-to-be-named A-list actors playing the diminutive slapstickers.

We venture the prediction that this movie will not work.

The true, classic Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard) perfected their routines with countless hours of live performance in vaudeville. So in Hollywood studios given miserable scripts and lousy direction, they nevertheless created timeless comedy classics, at least as far as the world's 12-year-old boys are concerned.

No amount of talented writing, clever direction or high-tech special effects can replace the woodshedding that enabled the original Stooges to knock heads and gouge eyes with comic perfection.

We preemptively urge all gentle readers to stay away from this upcoming abomination.

Transition Day One: What Kind of Democrat Will Rule?

One day into the presidential transition, we see two developments that disquiet us.

One is the announcement of Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills [no kidding!]) that he wants to give up his chair of the House Governmental Oversight Committee (a.k.a. the Democrats' show-trial committee) to challenge John Dingell (D-Detroit [again, no kidding: can one imagine a more class-oriented political battle?]) for the chair of the House Energy Committee. Waxman's move is easy to interpret. With the Democrats in control of the government, there will be no show trials (that this obviates the threat of hearings about Bush administration misdeeds is at least mild comfort to a Republic that would like to look forward instead of backward), so Waxman wants another platform. His move to Energy means that he intends to make oil company profits and carbon emissions the subject of his media events for the foreseeable future. If he gets his way, assume that America's energy future will consist of bicycles, rickshaws and composted sewage.

The second development, not a surprise at all, is Obama's invitation to Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff. No one represents the dark side of the present Democratic Party better than Rahm-bo. He's the shrewdest operative among the Clintonistas, a brilliant fundraiser and a ruthless enforcer. The question is whether he will be Obama's Luca Brasi or Pelosi's . . . or both.

The latter is the worst outcome, as it means that Obama will work for his party's left. He doesn't have to, of course. He financed his campaign with grassroots donations, so he can tell MoveOn where to GetOff. Whether he will remains to be seen, and Emanuel's disposition in the matter will be an ambiguous indicator until things really start to roll.

Emanuel is presently ruminating his decision. Publicly he says he will base the decision on his commitment to his family, the constituency that elected him again to Congress, and his commitment to public service. We don't doubt that he's really asking himself which route advances his own bid for power. At which end of Pennsylvania Avenue he judges the balance of power to lie will tell much about the next eight years.

The question that lies before us is whether our future is center-left or just left. So far, the signals are at best ambiguous, like Obama's entire campaign.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Whither GOP?

Thinking about the future of the defeated Republican Party makes the SWNIDish head hurt. But we're trying to do it as a public service.

First, we affirm all that is affirmed by the founder of Crunchy Conservatism, Rod Dreher. His commentary on NPR today says just about all that SWNID would say, with two exceptions.

Exception One: The GOP must also stop doing things that antagonize the growing number of voters who aren't persons of pallor. Hammering on immigration, legal or otherwise, is wrong on many counts, including informed self interest and basic human morality, in our view. But it's also killing the Rs at the ballot box. The same may be said for the kind of subtle racism that still infects Republican rhetoric forty years after Nixon invented the Southern Strategy. No more talk about "real Americans," OK?

Exception Two: Dubya has been a massive drag on the party politically for the last three years. But it's time, or it will be eventually, to recognize him not as an inept president but as a president who presided with an impressive record of successes in extremely difficult times.

We're thinking about this Future of Republicanism thing. We ruminate on expressions like "opportunity," "responsibility," "self-determination," "economic enfranchisement," "environmental realism," "efficiency," "human dignity," "global democracy," and "international vigilance" as objects of hope versus fear. Governor Jindal will need a thoughtful platform and a clear way to speak about it when he runs against President Obama in 2012.