Monday, August 31, 2009

America's Broken Healthcare System Leads the Way

The Jacksonville (FL) News reports that after a British family evacuated their cancer-stricken child to that city for innovative proton therapy--which happily proved successful--Britain's NHS is inviting its hospitals to bid for their own proton-therapy equipment.

So to where would this young man have fled had the United States had a system like Britain's? And where will the Brits learn about innovation when the US isn't innovating?

Meanwhile, WSJ gives space to two leading doctors, one amazingly also a writer for the far-left New Yorker, who detail various myths about American healthcare. Our fave: WHO's ranking of the US as 37th in quality of care:

The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. No. 1 among all countries in "responsiveness." Responsiveness has two components: respect for persons (including dignity, confidentiality and autonomy of individuals and families to make decisions about their own care), and client orientation (including prompt attention, access to social support networks during care, quality of basic amenities and choice of provider). This is what Americans rightly understand as quality care and worry will be lost in the upheaval of reform. Our country's composite score fell to 37 primarily because we lack universal coverage and care is a financial burden for many citizens.

So the rating has to do with WHO's weighting of specific criteria. Aha! Now the picture begins to make sense.

We say yet again: we are not against healthcare reform. We are against the direction of reform proposed by the present administration and presented by them, in the style of all the President's rhetoric, as the only choice versus the status quo.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted the Feminist

At the risk of overkill in speaking ill of the dead, we note today's NY Post column by Maureen Callahan, ably discussing the disconnect between Ted Kennedy's behavior toward women and his standing with vocal feminists.

Worth noting in this piece is the Senator's documented, ongoing, boorish behavior well after July 1969. Apparently his second marriage finally curtailed such behaviors as trying to pick up underage girls, manhandling waitresses in restaurants, and trysting with lobbyists on banquet room floors.

Someday we'd like a word from the feminists for all the guys who are cherishing their wives and raising their daughters, including the Republicans and Christians who are on the feminists' bad list. But we recognize that those guys don't do what they do to be lauded, especially by self-styled feminists. So on second thought, forget it.

How Not to Get Re-Elected. Please!

A certain Sherman Frederick of the otherwise unremarkable Las Vegas Review-Journal today recounts the following remark made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Sensitivity) to the Review-Journal's director of advertising:

I hope you go out of business.

This, apparently, is Reid's way of showing support for the First Amendment, economic recovery and the welfare of his constituents.

We SWNIDishly believe that political power has the moral power to corrupt anyone who has it. But we do wonder why political power seems so thoroughly and quickly to corrupt individuals like Reid, whose corruption is so deeply rooted that he would make as outrageous a statement as this. Is it because Reid's rise to power has come through his concessions to the left wing of his party, a group with which he has little in common personally but to which he must give fealty to maintain his leadership position? Having already sold his political soul, has he nothing left to stay the nefarious, internal influence of his status?

We can't say that it's merely because Reid is a Democrat, though we are sure he would not accord the same respectful restraint to Republicans were the tables turned.

We will say that the left's view of the world doesn't help them hold power once they achieve it, at least not in a small-d democratic environment. When one believes that the masses are natural leftists whose interests are always served by the left--a variation on the notion that leftward movement is history's inevitable vector, embraced and not resisted by those who brilliantly understand such arcane matters--one naturally has few checks on one's embrace of power having once attained it. Why be careful when you are the product of inevitability with permanent, unassailable majority? You need only be sure that the deceptive, seductive voices of your opponents, who represent retrograde interests of the unrighteous minority cast into the wilderness by your millennial ascent, do not somehow lure your naive, credulous, proletarian constituents back into their former ignorance, which has always been the means of their enslavement.

So you wish for uncooperative newspapers to go out of business.

At any rate, Reid seems destined to use his profoundly inept meanness to cement his current standing in the polls, which show him trailing either of his likely Republican opponents, and trailing by the largest margin the one likely to get the nomination.

It's a long time from now until November 2010, but Reid looks determined to mimic the fate of his predecessor as Democratic Senate Majority Leader, who likewise won the support of his party at the expense of the support of his constituents.

We hope.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guide to Conferencespeak

We thank gentle reader Tom for supplying us with this vital guide to the meaning of remarks made by respondants at academic conferences.

For those not blessed with regular attendance at such events, we explain the context. At an academic conference, scholars read papers about their research. Typically, someone then responds to the paper with comments. Here is a guide to what such comments typically are, and what they actually mean:

  • "You actually have two papers here" = this is crap, but if you were so inclined you could make TWO crappy papers out of it.
  • "I look forward to seeing the next stage of this project" = if you contact me again, I’ll call the university ombudsman.
  • "I'm confident that we'll see this paper in print soon" = if Highlights Magazine starts accepting manuscripts
  • "The results are novel and I hadn't thought it could work this way" = your findings are wrong and your theory is baseless.
  • "There's more literature on this topic" = you didn't cite my paper
  • "I recommend that you all read this paper." = Because if I was forced to read it, I'm going to make you all suffer through it as well.
  • "I really enjoyed reading this paper" = At least it wasn't as long as the others, and only had about half as many typos.
  • "I promise to send you more comments over e-mail" = Never going to happen because I didn't actually read the paper
  • "I would like to see the theory developed" = I skimmed it too quickly and I have no real clue what this is about.
  • "This paper is part of a larger project" = this dissertation chapter does not work as a paper, and the dissertation is probably just more of the same.
  • "The argument is interesting but I was not convinced" = this paper is far better than anything I have ever written, but I am ideologically opposed to the author's perspective.
  • "I liked the paper but have some thoughts about Table 3" = the only thing I did was skim a table and am going to suggest a few anodyne suggestions like "Did you think about squaring, logging, and interacting variable X? That might be really interesting."
  • "I'm going to keep my comments brief so we can take questions from the audience"= I am so hung-over.
  • "This isn't really my area of expertise, but I have a few thoughts..." = you morons are lucky that I even showed up for this [rude expression].
Scholarship is truly universal. This list applies regardless of the academic discipline.

Steyn on the Kennedy Legacy

Canadian Mark Steyn offers an evaluation of the late, semi-mythical Prince of Camelot that says what many Americans are thinking but can't bring themselves to say out loud. Our selections:

We are all flawed, and most of us are weak, and in hellish moments, at a split-second's notice, confronting the choice that will define us ever after, many of us will fail the test. Perhaps Mary Jo could have been saved; perhaps she would have died anyway. What is true is that Edward Kennedy made her death a certainty. When a man (if you'll forgive the expression) confronts the truth of what he has done, what does honor require? Six years before Chappaquiddick, in the wake of Britain's comparatively very minor "Profumo scandal," the eponymous John Profumo, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for War, resigned from the House of Commons and the Queen's Privy Council and disappeared amid the tenements of the East End to do good works washing dishes and helping with children's playgroups, in anonymity, for the last 40 years of his life. With the exception of one newspaper article to mark the centenary of his charitable mission, he never uttered another word in public again.

Ted Kennedy went a different route. He got kitted out with a neck brace and went on TV and announced the invention of the "Kennedy curse," a concept that yoked him to his murdered brothers as a fellow victim – and not, as Mary Jo perhaps realized in those final hours, the perpetrator. He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn't, he made all of us complicit in what he'd done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation. . . .

When a man is capable of what Ted Kennedy did that night in 1969 and in the weeks afterward, what else is he capable of? An NPR listener said the senator's passing marked "the end of civility in the U.S. Congress." Yes, indeed. Who among us does not mourn the lost "civility" of the 1987 Supreme Court hearings? Considering the nomination of Judge Bork, Ted Kennedy rose on the Senate floor and announced that "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit down at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution."

Whoa! "Liberals" (in the debased contemporary American sense of the term) would have reason to find Borkian jurisprudence uncongenial but to suggest the judge and former solicitor-general favored resegregation of lunch counters is a slander not merely vile but so preposterous that, like his explanation for Chappaquiddick, only a Kennedy could get away with it. If you had to identify a single speech that marked "the end of civility" in American politics, that's a shoo-in.

If a towering giant cares so much about humanity in general, why get hung up on his carelessness with humans in particular?

Note to self: humans are always particular, so treat each particular human humanely.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Murdered by the Right Wing"

Gentle readers may follow this link to a brief recording of talk-show personality Mike Mallory commenting on the death of Ted Kennedy. The recording is an excellent demonstration of our axiom that there are kooks on all sides.

It also demonstrates why liberal talk radio has a smaller market share than every other radio format ever devised.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shameless Plug for Business That Overcomes Shame

Loudly as we can, we point gentle readers to today's Enquirer profile of gentle reader Emily Hill and her outstanding new online business Stop Traffick Fashion. The business markets stylish, affordable fashion accessories made by women rescued from prostitution and other human trafficking awfulness.

Here's a link for the business itself, with a reminder that the Christmas shopping season began on July 5.

SWNID Thanks Ted Kennedy

Today everyone has something to thank the late Ted Kennedy for.

If you're a liberal, you can thank him for being the leader of your cause for a generation. Not that in leading it he actually accomplished much, in our view. As it stands, about the same percentage of Americans identify themselves as liberal as did when he was a young Senator who swam better than he drove. And the major liberal causes have in his time arguably been rolled back, as the Republic has gone through rearmament, income and capital-gains tax cuts, and welfare reform. Kennedy's pet project, raising the minimum wage, proved next to impossible through much of his political life. Meanwhile, the holy grail of "universal health care" remains unattained.

If you're a conservative, you can thank him for Ronald Reagan, whom he worked vigorously to elect in 1980.

Our favorite Ted Kennedy moment was when he joined Jimmy Carter on stage on the closing night of the 1980 Democratic Convention. Teddy had challenged the incumbent Jimmy in the Democratic primaries, and he very nearly toppled him. And so at the convention, in what was to be a show of party unity, he joined Carter on stage.

Except he didn't stand with him. Kennedy didn't shake Carter's hand or give him a shoulder-hug or lift his hand in the air. He simply stood on the side of the stage, grim-faced, and waved to the crowd, who responded with their only enthusiastic ovation of the convention.

Carter lost in epic style to Ronald Reagan. He probably would have lost without Kennedy's help, but at least Kennedy ended up on the right side of history in that election.

So who will take Ted's place? Certainly not another Kennedy. The clan's present generation are political dwarfs. But from the looks of things, the party of Reid and Pelosi, Waxman and Frank has plenty of characters who can courageously undermine liberal initiatives and torpedo party unity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Single-Payer Experience

With a grain of salt we recommend the Daily Mail's article detailing present difficulties in the U.K.'s National Health Service, specifically in the delivery of maternity care.

We note this story not merely because it enumerates issues in the capacity of the NHS to deliver health services as a single payer system; that is, not merely because it illustrates what rationing looks like. We note it especially because it deals with maternity services.

In the past, maternity services were among the most efficient in the NHS. We think the reason is obvious: you can put off a gall bladder surgery or even make a cancer patient wait for chemo. But babies come when they come. So no waiting lists for maternity.

Well, so much for that idea. Sooner or later, the government's interest in keeping costs down runs afoul of the public's demand for services. And so new mums whose time has come can't find a hospital that isn't full.

We submit that whenever government works to control costs, it distorts the dynamics of supply and demand that get what's needed to people who need it. Whatever the inefficiencies of markets, and they are legion, they are not fixed by cost controls.

Note well that we recommend a grain of salt in reading this article. Like its cousins, the Daily Mail is a tabloid, addicted to sensationalism. These stories don't characterize every case. They're exceptional. Most Britons have babies with good care.

But we recommend only a grain, not a box, of salt. We have ourselves experienced the travails of the U.K.'s health system. We gladly laud its strengths while acknowledging its obvious and endemic weaknesses. And its weaknesses are readily explained by its economic model, which behaves very much as similarly modeled endeavors always have. This story is a demonstration of the same.

In closing, we decry those who say that the market presently "rations" health care in the United States. This observation makes two mistakes. First, it fails to note the degree to which the US healthcare market is unproductively regulated. Second, it puts a subject with a verb that yields a self-contradictory sentence. Rationing by definition is the distribution of goods and services apart from the market. Both markets and rationing are means of distributing goods and services. A superb way to obfuscate the present debate is to make "ration" an exact synonym for "distribute."

SWNID Off the Leash

We are happy to report that this blog has been unlocked by Big Brother. We assume that the agents of Big Brother who operate as a front for the future One-World Government were overwhelmed by messages from gentle readers insisting that this blog be unflagged.

The Great Tribulation, it appears, has been delayed yet again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Notice to gentle readers: the intrepid folks at Blogger have flagged this vital blog as potentially a spam blog. On your behalf, we've asked a real human being to review this designation and unlock this precious resource of public edification. We hope for uninterrupted service in telling you what to think and why to think it about everything that really matters. But we can't make any promises.

And we are not yet ready to conclude that we've really been flagged by We're SWNIDish, not paranoid.


Snow Job?

Years ago, a much younger family of SWNIDs lived in a community with a very large Baptist church famous for its fleet of buses that brought people to its services each Sunday. While the buses were nationally famous, locally the church was famous for offering various extrinsic motivators for attendance. On various Sundays, visitors could be gifted with various geegaws as an incentive/reward for going to church and being invited to accept Jesus (and for men, get a haircut, but that's another subject).

In our sojourn in that community, this saga came to its climax when a few hundred baby chicken carcasses were found in the dumpster of a Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge not far from the church's building, just a few days after Easter Sunday. The local press asked around and heard a story that the church had offered a free baby chick to every child who rode the bus to church on Easter.

As the selling or giving of baby chickens was forbidden by law in the state where the church was located, an intrepid reporter asked the church for a statement on the event. The church's spokesman (not spokesperson, we note) indicated that he had no knowledge of any contraband chicks. Local police chose not to investigate.

All this is prelude to the story in today's Inside Higher Ed detailing Liberty University's opening of a ski park and lodge for its students, featuring Snowflex, an artificial snow that never melts (eternally secure?). The story notes that the $4 million facility is one of several on the campus founded by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell--pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia--as an incentive for students to enroll and a substitute for the more nefarious recreations common on non-Baptist campuses.

We make the connection between these two events not to suggest that Snowflex is as illegal in Virginia as pet chicks are in other jurisdictions. Rather, we note, as did the alert reporter for Inside Higher Ed, that the educational philosophy of baiting individuals with extrinsic offers is a well-established one among a particular set of Baptists.

SWNID is not down with such extrinsics. Recognizing that college life entails more than study--that a campus must provide sufficiently pleasant housing, food, socialization and recreation for its students mental and physical health and that such can be experiences that enhance educational outcomes--we balk at the point that a recreational facility is seen more as an incentive to recruitment than an aid to purposeful student development.

The latter is always the former: good student life makes it easier to recruit. The line between these two is not drawn with a bold, thick marker. But when the core life of an institution is not the primary means of drawing a student to the institution, the institution takes on a battle for not just the soul of the student but the soul of the institution. Once they've been induced, students have to be kept. If they came for the pet chicks, will they stay for Jesus? What resources will the institution devote to the next offer? For what might those resources have been used otherwise?

Unlike churches, who can extrinsically induce prospects and bear no public responsibility for them if they refuse to return, universities are supposed to retain students who enroll. If they don't, one suspects that the students were induced to enroll under false pretenses and left in disappointment when they discovered the truth. We therefore deem Liberty's strategy a bad one.

We add to this observation a second, that Christian colleges that highlight their difference with secular counterparts as the absence of sex, booze and drugs, are missing an opportunity. Christian campuses, even poorly managed ones, have dramatically less partying than others. But in our view the mission of Christian higher ed ought to be more than the preservation of old-school in loco parentis. There's a world to be changed and a people to be equipped for the changing. Staying sober and chaste is a part of that, but it isn't the only part or even the first. Schools that put that first are aiming low.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Drug, Immigration Crises Solved

Mexico has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin for personal use. This move to our Republic's south has the potential to solve two of our Republic's most pressing problems: drug abuse and immigration.

Here's the deal--and a deal it is, as this must be negotiated with Mexico. The United States will now encourage its drug users to move to Mexico, where they can pursue their drug use freely. In return, the United States will welcome one ambitious, hard-working Mexican immigrant to labor in its recovering economy.

Call the program Addicts to Immigrants, or Workers for Stoners.

Quote of the Week

Already 20,000 overnight hotel stays that had been reserved for the December United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen have been canceled. Either a lot of people are losing interest -- or they're thinking it will just be too cold.

From an Investors Business Daily editorial nicely exposing the emotionalistic non-facutalism of global-warming alarmists. The pro-growth folk at IBD nicely detail public statements from the environmental lobbies, including St. Al of Gore, as to how they routinely overstate dangers to drum up support for a program that aims to stop economic growth in developed countries on the way to establishing economic egalitarianism for all.

As Baroness Thatcher said some years ago.

Cash for Sarcasm?

We thank the many gentle readers who have alertly alerted us that Uncle Sugar has heard our plea.

Yes indeed, boys and girls, the Federal Government, according to the highest and truest vision of the Founding Fathers, looks set to offer you cash to replace your old dishwasher with a brand new, energy-saving one. Same goes for other appliances. White goods are now officially green, as well as red, white and blue. Looks like you might get as much as $300, which could buy you a whole lot of part of an appliance.*

Now, please note that that the $300 is 1% of a citizen's individual share of the Obama budget's deficit over the next ten years. And that's per individual--adults and children included--not per household. So for every dollar that our friends in Washington borrow on our behalf, we'll get back a shiny penny for an appliance. And that's not a percentage of spending that includes tax revenue per citizen, just federal borrowing per citizen. What a deal! It's nearly as good as all those cash-back offers made by credit card companies. Just don't ask for your change.

As part of the brilliantly conceived economic stimulus program, cash for clunkers is creating widespread prosperity where once all humanity stood on the precipice of unending economic depression. Economic indicators show the recession bottoming out. And so far, only a fraction of the stimulus money, equal to about 1% of GDP, has been spent! That's how stimulating government can be when it's in the hands of the Right People.

Attention, Obamanoids: our request for cash for appliance clunkers was yet another example of sarcasm. Kindly stop reading this blog for policy advice until you've studied up on how such discourse functions. Read Swift or Ezekiel or some old Mad magazines while you're relaxing at Martha's Vineyard.

*On the side, Mr. President and fellow Dems, our air conditioner, likely covered by the upcoming appliance-clunker program, is over 25 years old. It clunks. And thanks to a quirk in our house's construction, we actually have two units. Looks like about $6k job to replace the mess. Could you kindly raise the amount offered in your generous program so that we can recover a little more than what we'll get from a coupon in the "Red Plum" packet left on our porch this weekend? Maybe if we go to a town hall meeting and tell a touching story about sweating through the summer without a way to pay?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Spawn of Bush Hatred

We call attention to two momentous stories that reinforce the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Both detail outcomes of the driving ideological force of the American (Golbal?) Left since November 2000, namely Bush Hatred.

Item one is a Gallup poll detailing that self-proclaimed conservatives now outnumber self-proclaimed liberals in all fifty states. DC is now the only province with a liberal plurality. Party identification favors Dems thanks to moderates and conservatives who align with that label, but the percentage of conservatives is on the upswing.

Item two is Joseph Finder's Daily Beast revelation that Obamanoid CIA Director Leon Panetta, famously the CIA director with no experience in intelligence, was self-admittedly wrong when he announced that the CIA had been operating an illegal assassination operation under Bush. Finder details the sordid details of the affair, which ought to be read and digested by those concerned about the stewardship of intelligence gathering under the regime of Pelosi & Co. Evaluation: it's every bit as bad as we feared.

What links these disparate stories is that neither might have arisen had the Left had something other than anti-Bush in its ideological and rhetorical arsenal. Politically, they presently suffer the backlash of a body politic unconvinced by the Manichean worldview that justifies a policy by insisting that it is the opposite of Bush's. Administratively, they have sown chaos with precipitous accusations of wrongdoing made credible by their blaming all the world's ills on the hapless Dubya.

These are examples of the bitter consequences arising when politicians run Against the Man But Without a Plan. Because people love to assign blame, they're happy to vote on such a basis. But it provides nothing for governance.

And so we warn those inclined to employ Obama hatred as their own strategy: articulate something by which you can both win power and effectively exercise it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

False Choice Acknowledged

Steve Benen, of the ever-thoughtful Huffington Post, today explores the impenetrable question as to why anyone would oppose the immaculate proposals on healthcare presently on offer from the immaculate Obama administration. Benen's argument is not difficult to follow or to analyze, but it's Saturday, so we'll attempt the not difficult.

First, Benen asserts that Obamacare is patently in everyone's self interest, including those who oppose it. Obamacare is good because the status quo is bad, including for opponents of Obamacare.

So why do folks oppose it? Benen delineates five categories of opponents. Four serve his purpose. The fifth reveals his fallacious argumentation.

Categories one through four are the Greedy (who profit from the present mess), the Partisans (who won't give their opponents a win), the Tin-Foil Hats (who are paranoid), and the Dupes (who fall for the nonsense from the first three).

Who are the fifth? The Wonks:

The smallest of the groups, The Wonks are conservatives who actually care about substantive policy details, have read the proposals, and believe there are better ways to improve the system. They're looking for a meaningful policy debate, and are slightly embarrassed by their allies' dishonest temper tantrums, but The Greedy, The Partisans, The Tin-Foil Hats, and The Dupes have decided to ignore The Wonks. They don't scream at town-hall meetings and they don't show up for 9/12 strategy sessions.

Oh. So there are good reasons to oppose Obamacare! So this is not a choice simply between a bright future and a bad present. But the views of these Wonks can be dismissed because they are small in number (fewer than the Tin-Foil Hats!) and are as put off by the baddies as are the Immaculate Obamanoids but are nevertheless apparently forever to be ignored because they have common cause with Bad People.

Thanks, Benen, on behalf of all nine of us Wonks Who Actually Care and Read.

John Edwards: Final Chapter

From the inception of SWNID, we have been unrelenting in our contempt for John Edwards, the loquacious, boyish ueber-rich trial lawyer who projected his self-love onto the American body politic in two presidential election cycles. Like many, we smelled a narcissistic rat.

We note in passing today that Edwards now admits to fathering a love child while his beloved wife underwent treatment for a cancer that will kill her. Now his behavior has killed any political future he might have imagined for his Fine Self.

Adieu, Senator!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Children, Don't Throw Your Granola at Mr. Mackey!

On Tuesday, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, offered on the opinion page of WSJ one of the most succinct and clear explanations of what is really needed to reform health care that this blogger has seen.

Today, ABC reports that Whole Foods is now being boycotted by those who disagree. Says one boycottist:

I think a CEO should take care that if he speaks about politics, that his beliefs reflect at least the majority of his clients.

So it's not OK for a CEO to advocate a political position that's simply good for business, unless he does so in conformity with the dogma of the left. I bought your organic oats, now vote my politics! Excellent advice from a faithful advocate of democracy and free thought.

We also are impressed by the mathematical insight of a person who demands conformity to the beliefs of "at least the majority." We suppose there could someday be something greater than the majority, namely unanimity, especially if the political rights of those who disagree are simply denied, as in Cuban presidential elections and such.

We note with sadness that from the left, the debate is ad hominem, about people who simply don't care about those who don't have healthcare and so who lie about obvious truths, while on the right it's a slippery slope, about exaggerated specters of euthanasia. Really, folks, it ought to be about the best way to improve the system, and once again, we say that the answers are utterly obvious.

Once Again: Envy v. Prosperity

Which is better for the poor, that the poor should have more, or that the rich should be less better off than the poor?

Even though the answer is obvious, one pole of political debate operates on the opposite premise. We thank the intrepid Bryan D for this blissful memory of keen political debate:

We vainly hope for the day when such obvious truths won't have to be explained and defended.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pitino Contract Has a "Morals" Clause, Or Boys Will Be Boys

Rick Pitino--celebrated basketball coach, busy motivational speaker, and storied wearer of splendid suits--is also, we now know, a sordid adulterer.

He also has a clause in his contract with the University of Louisville that allows his employer to dismiss him for acts of "moral depravity."

Is having sex with a woman you've met in a bar and then paying her $3k for an abortion a morally depraved act? The Louisville Courier-Journal asks an expert:

While an extramarital affair alone is unlikely to trigger a morals clause, giving money for an abortion and being less than completely forthcoming with the university "might be enough," said Brian Socolow, a New York sports attorney who has written on the subject.

"Coach Pitino may be in some danger," he said.

We're not sure why this all works out this way. After all, abortion is a constitutional right, so by paying for the young lady's abortion, was not Coach Pitino merely preserving human rights in the absence of universal health coverage? And since sex is by common consent a private matter, is it not Coach Pitino's solemn responsibility not to be forthcoming?

Or is the real issue public relations: that while many basketball fans, themselves adulterers or aspiring adulterers who wish they had the public profile that Pitino has to get women, will excuse a drunken hook-up, they are less sanguine about the bloody business of abortion? And is the matter of being less than forthcoming with the university a means of transmogrifying what Pitino and his attorneys would style a "private" matter something that exists in his relationship with his employer? Can we imagine a world in which hooking up and paying for abortions routinely is fine as long as you tell the athletic director, though not necessarily your wife? If no, then if the U of L fires Pitino, will it not simply be because it expects the negative PR will damage ticket sales?

We'll venture this: if Pitino eventually resigns, we expect he'll do at least as well in his severance agreement as the $3.6 million bonus he's slated to receive if he's still the Cardinals' coach on July 1, 2010. That'll cover 1200 abortions at the going rate.

Happy Anniversary to Us

Four years ago today, in a modest office on an obscure campus in a downscale neighborhood in a medium city in an overlooked part of the country, a blog was born. And the rest, as they say, is unnoticed history.

We celebrate the SWNIDish fourth anniversary by reminding gentle readers why and how we blog. As to why, we do it for our own amusement and stimulation. We are, of course, delighted if others are amused and stimulated, but even if Sitemeter and Google Analytics tells us that no one is reading, we'll keep our output going at its present, inconsistent pace. Nevertheless, we are grateful for those who step into this labrynth with us and especially express our thanks to those who tell us they enjoy our logorrheic indulgences.

As to how, we blog according to our view of the world and our preferred mode of communication. As to the view, we say it is Christian, in the tradition of Tory conservatives politically, and contrarian tempermentally. To explicate our view of the world:
  • By Christian, we mean guided by biblical theology as apprehended by the church historically. We think that the world is God's, that humans bear God's image, that they rebel against him inevitably (except for one) but not necessarily, that they are redeemed by the human Jesus who is God incarnate and specifically by his self-giving death and triumphant resurrection that showers them with underserved favor and turns ordinary life upside down, and so are on a mission to reclaim humanity for its Creator and Redeemer, such redemption being accomplished only partly at present but fully at some indeterminate point in the future.
  • By Tory conservative, we mean that we are pessimistic about political solutions to the human dilemma and so only endorse those political programs that fully reckon with the universal weakness of human nature. We love capitalism because it imperfectly harnesses human greed for the common good. Affirming that liberty is the natural and best condition for humans and that the state must both respect and preserve liberty while at the same time restraining the human penchant to harm other humans, we go further than our libertarian friends in affirming that the state must also reinforce those weak impulses toward virtue that continue to manifest themselves among the fallen. Can the government legislate morality? No in the sense that it cannot compel it; yes in the sense that it must encourage it. To do otherwise is immoral.
  • By contrarian, we mean that our natural bent is to disagree with whatever most people think at any given moment. We think the world is both better and worse than people think, that people have more and less potential than most acknowledge, that life is funnier and more tragic than most admit. Our default assessment of just about anything is love/hate, though not with the same outcome, we hope, as Robert Mitchum's immortal character in The Night of the Hunter. Our favored amusement is a playful argument with thoughtful people, something that we do with the utmost seriousness and a wide smile. Attention Daniel Webster, we are the Devil's Advocate, and this time you are going down!
To explicate our mode of communication, we are deliberately verbose, pompous, sardonic, sarcastic and satirical. We first make fun of ourself (N.B. that this ungrammatical pronoun is an example of such, as is our use of an antiquated, Latinate abbreviation to begin this parenthesis), then of everyone and everything else. We strive to be an equal opportunity offender, short of blasphemy.

For a history of such matters, we refer gentle readers to our inaugural posting, which also contains background on the now-iconic name of this blog. One unexpected blessing of our initial direction is that the acronym SWNID was heretofore unappropriated on the internet. Thus, one can use any search engine to find us in as little as five letters. We own that unpronounceable acronym! If in the nascent economic recovery some startup company wants to use those letters for their NASDAQ listing, they'll have a serious lawsuit on their hands.

So . . . if asked on our anniversary, "What is the SWNIDish assessment of life, the universe and everything at present?" we say today, "Pleasantly optimistic." We couldn't be more pleased that our national and global flirtation with the left seems to be coming to a quicker end than most had imagined possible. Such lessons must be relearned, it seems by every generation, perhaps more often as the pace of change quickens and attenion spans and memories shorten. But we think the lesson is being learned rather quickly . . . doubtless with precious little influence from this URL.

So . . . Happy Anniversary to Us! And to our benighted human race, blessings!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SWNIDish Accusations Proved True Again

Part of the "Seldom Wrong" ethos is restraining triumphal declarations of one's rightness after the fact. It is enough to know in one's immaculate heart that one is SW without having to remind others, who are doubtless sensible of such as they observe the world around them in light of our pronouncements.

The restraint is not absolute, however. Occasionally, we allow ourself to crow.

We have called so-called town hall meetings "political theater." We have sardonically remarked that Mr. Obama has indeed "created" jobs as his political allies have hired people to be "grassroots" operatives for his initiative on "healthcare" (now restyled by the President's women and men as a struggle over "health insurance," surely a more accurate description of the issue even if the Obamanauts have rephrased in the attempt to demonize insurance companies as a demagogic political move).*

Hated rightist columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin demonstrates the awful truth of our assertions. Her blog today provides "cast biographies" for yesterday's political theater, noting that the randomly selected citizens who addressed Mr. Obama at his very own "town hall" were nothing less that confirmed Obamanoids of long standing. Ms. Malkin's description is most interesting, raising among other things the question whether members of the Service Employees International Union have the time ever actually to work for their employers.

Having attended a "town hall" event in the 2004 campaign, we note that when such events are planned at the Presidential- or Vice-Presidential-level, participants are inevitably hand-picked, as the metaphor is commonly employed.

With the stipulation that everyone does this, we note that the candidate who declared himself the end of such rank partisanship in fact ranks with the partisan.

*This political season is putting heavy demand on the supply of ironic quotation marks.

Religious Left Gets Active on Healthcare

Reuters reports that leaders of the religious left (somehow Jim Wallis is never mentioned, but he probably vacations in August) are getting active in supporting the President's initiatives on healthcare. The reasons: (a) this issue has a moral dimension; (b) leaders of the religious right are behind a lot of the opposition.

Sisters and brothers of the left, please note that this religious conservative (a) agrees that this issue has a moral dimension; (b) cares as little for leaders of the religious right as you do.

But this religious conservative takes a different view of this issue precisely because we believe that the reasoning and evidence is overwhelming that the proposed reforms will provide worse healthcare, not better, and serve fewer people, not more.

So please: stop posturing morally and engage the issue at the level evidence and reasoning. You can't out-compassion someone just because someone who superficially agrees with that someone is a stupid-sounding televangelist.

More McArdle Wit and Wisdom

We again link the highly insightful Meg McArdle of the Atlantic for more on healthcare reform. Today she offers yet further analysis on the difference between price rationing and government rationing. We'll quote the central substance and let the ambitious among our gentle readers follow the link for the witticisms:

[R]ationing is, first of all, simply worse on a practical level: goods rationed by fiat rather than price have a tendency to disappear, decline in quality, etc. Government tends to prefer queues to prices. This makes most people worse off, since their time is worth much more than the price they would pay for the good. Providers of fiat-rationed goods have little incentive to innovate, or even produce adequate supplies. If other sectors are not controlled, the highest quality providers have a tendency to exit. . . .

But there is also a real difference between having something rationed by a process and having it rationed by a person. That is, in fact, why progressives are so fond of rules. They don't want to tell grandma to take morphine instead of getting a pacemaker. It's much nicer if you create a mathematical formula that makes some doctor tell grandma to take morphine instead of getting a pacemaker. Then the doctor can disclaim responsibility too, because after all, no one really has any agency here--we're all just in the grips of an impersonal force.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

At Last: Obama Creates Jobs

If you have joined us in wondering whether the Obama administration's initiatives can indeed be confirmed to have created or saved any jobs, the answer is on Craigslist, specifically here for New York and here for Los Angeles.

The jobs on offer are for authentic, grassroots activists to work for passage of Obamacare.

We take this opportunity to self-righteously remind gentle readers that this blog receives no monetary support from any source whatsoever, including even Google Ads. That makes us recession-proof.

How Not to Object to Obamacare

Gentle readers will realize that SWNID is not shy in his opposition to the present direction of healthcare reform legislation. So we expect comments to stay on subject as we note the kind of objection that we think is objectionable, or at least off target.

Columnist Chuck Norris, whom we understand is a man of considerable accomplishments, today objects to a clause buried amongst the hundreds of pages of the House bill, namely, to support states in providing home visits to those homes expecting babies or raising young children.

For Norris and his crack staff of ghostwriters, such visits are the decisive step in Big Brother taking over parenting in our former Republic.

Well, Mr. Norris, we know whence this clause cometh, and we are more amused than alarmed.

The much-celebrated National Health Service of Great Britain is famous for its home visits, carried out by well-trained, thoughtful, committed nurses who advise mothers on matters of nutrition, safety and the like. A combination of grandmother-figure, big-sister-figure, health provider, social worker and snoop, home health nurses are among the most cherished institutions of the NHS.

One can argue their efficacy for promoting good health, but one can hardly argue that they've made Britains slaves. The typical home health nurse is about as threatening as a friendly neighbor. In fact, they're best seen as government surrogates for the same. Sometimes friendly neighbors become nosey neighbors, and sometimes they accuse falsely. But most folks would prefer to have a friendly neighbor to an indifferent one.

Should the government be paying for a function otherwise carried out naturally by family and friends? We doubt it, but it's hardly the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, or even the Stamp Act, to suggest that it ought.

As the debate winds its way through the dog days, finally to be forgotten when the NFL gets going, it will be important to keep the main thing in mind. The issue, gentle readers, primarily is not about what gets paid for but who pays for it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Samuelson: Bad Medicine

Newsweek's Robert Samuelson is a distinguished economist and columnist reflecting no particular partisan commitments. So his latest on Obamacare says a lot about where the President's initiative is heading:

One of the bewildering ironies of the health care debate is that President Obama claims to be attacking the status quo when he's actually embracing it. Ever since Congress created Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, health politics has followed a simple logic: Expand benefits and talk about controlling costs. That's the status quo, and Obama faithfully adheres to it. While denouncing skyrocketing health spending, he would increase it by extending government health insurance to millions more Americans.

Who is going to wake the President and tell him?

Media Polymath Boyd Featured in Enquirer

Joe Boyd is a CCU alum who has taken an interesting path through ministry to acting and back again, acquiring along the way the skill set that now enables him to address a media-soaked American culture with media.

As he starts filming a low-budget movie that he's been working on for some time, Boyd is featured in today's Enquirer. We like the piece a lot because we like Boyd a lot.

The Enquirer couldn't resist marring its article with a cheesy title--"Storyteller, Soul-Saver . . . and Filmmaker." But those who get past that bit of kitsch will appreciate the saga of a life that has taken the twists that lives often do when they are really pilgrimages.

Disclaimer: we draw attention to this piece for lots of reasons that don't include the fact that Boyd's blog links our blog, which is the surest sign of his enlightenment.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Compendium on Present Issues and Good Governance

With predictably rambling style, we herein attempt to string together observations from multiple news and opinion sources with the aim of describing comprehensively the political realities of the moment.

It's by now obvious that the Obama administration and the party he "leads" are facing the consequence of their hubristic overreaching since the November elections. The gracious Peggy Noonan notes this well as she details and interprets the Democrats' remarkably awful response to the inevitable resistance to their healthcare reform plans.

Dems in Congress have been organizing "town hall meetings," a form of political theater designed to imitate the storied populist democracy of New England small towns. Such ersatz events are stage managed to the degree that their organizers possess the ability to do so. The purpose of such meetings is to represent the congressperson as concerned about and responsive to constituents, as if such meetings gave the congressperson any better idea of what is happening within the constituency than do polls, emails, phone calls, or the like, or were more influential than lunches and golf games with lobbyists.

The opposition's obvious response to such political theater is more theater. So historically such meetings have periodically been scenes of disruptive behavior whenever such opposition is sufficiently emboldened. Ds have taken to slamming the many noisy opponents who lately show up at these town halls as organized and funded by all the wrong people: insurance companies and drug companies, whose sins are providing products that people buy, and worst of all, Republicans, whose sins are self evident in the Manichean worldview of the left.

With Ms. Noonan, we are not at all pleased by the specter of citizens shouting in public, however they are organized, dressed and placarded. But with her we affirm confidently that no external motivator will alone induce people to behave this way. People are organized because they're mad, not vice versa. Lots of folks don't like what they see of the Democrats now, but the Democrats prefer to believe that November 2008 is a permanent mandate empowering them to bring about what is historically inevitable. Meanwhile, Dems forget that they themselves have always been happy to fight organized political theater with organized political theater, but everyone else remembers just that thing, not least that the present President once was employed as a "community organizer."

One of the worst of these sins is the White House's suggestion that concerned citizens alert the President's women and men to internet sites and emails that circulate what the White House views as distortions of the healthcare issue. The portal for such reporting, gentle readers should know, is Distortions, of course, are what another perspective labels as dissent.

SWNID has taken the proactive step to self-report to Big Brother, having sent the following message last night:

The blog "Seldom Wrong, Never in Doubt" has made repeated statements criticizing the administration's plans for healthcare reform.

The blog's URL is

As the blog's author, I am glad to provide this report.

Best wishes and kindest personal regards, etc.

On the side, we urge gentle readers to send similar messages every time they themselves either post something even remotely critical of the administration's position to a blog or social networking site, forward an email similarly critical, or observe any act of communication that uses internet technology for the same purpose. Politely, obliquely but clearly we urge that gentle readers double-dog dare the administration to respond--and that gentle readers tie up the White House's server in the process. First Amendment and all that.

So what of the particulars of healthcare? Today again we are blessed with the thoughts of one Theodore Darymple, nom du plume for a British physician, who compares the UK's healthcare for humans with its healthcare for dogs. Dogs, he argues from a perspective of personal knowledge, have it better:

As a British dog, you get to choose (through an intermediary, I admit) your veterinarian. If you don’t like him, you can pick up your leash and go elsewhere, that very day if necessary. Any vet will see you straight away, there is no delay in such investigations as you may need, and treatment is immediate. There are no waiting lists for dogs, no operations postponed because something more important has come up, no appalling stories of dogs being made to wait for years because other dogs—or hamsters—come first.

The conditions in which you receive your treatment are much more pleasant than British humans have to endure. For one thing, there is no bureaucracy to be negotiated with the skill of a white-water canoeist; above all, the atmosphere is different. There is no tension, no feeling that one more patient will bring the whole system to the point of collapse, and all the staff go off with nervous breakdowns. In the waiting rooms, a perfect calm reigns; the patients’ relatives are not on the verge of hysteria, and do not suspect that the system is cheating their loved one, for economic reasons, of the treatment which he needs. The relatives are united by their concern for the welfare of each other’s loved one. They are not terrified that someone is getting more out of the system than they.

For those who believe that Mr. Darymple is leaving out significant considerations, we can only urge reading the entire article.

Our point today is that observations like Darymple's are getting traction with the public, which realizes it has more to lose than to gain with the trajectory of so-called reforms. Still, Ds are desperately posturing that any opposition must be coming from the wrong people.

Well, who have they to blame but themselves? The WSJ's editorial board today notes that drug companies initially agreed to certain terms of healthcare reform because Democrats promised them that their initial concessions would be all that was demanded of them. Pelosi, Durbin, et al. now acknowledge such agreements but grandly and nobly assert that they are not bound by them. As players of the classic board game "Diplomacy" know, pols can break their promises at any time. They just can't expect to make deals thereafter.

So when you break your word, make very sure that you're so strong that you can crush your opponents in your final, short series of moves. The Dems falsely imagine that they are ready to crush, an obvious misoverestimation by anyone's estimate but their own.

So, to return near where we began, Ms. Noonan ties this awful reading of the situation not simply to healthcare but to policy in general:

And frankly they ought to think about backing off. The president should call in his troops and his Congress and announce a rethinking. There are too many different bills, they’re all a thousand pages long, no one has time to read them, no one knows what’s going to be in the final one, the public is agitated, the nation’s in crisis, the timing is wrong, we’ll turn to it again—but not now. We’ll take a little longer, ponder every aspect, and make clear every complication.

You know what would happen if he did this? His numbers would go up. Even Congress’s would. Because they’d look responsive, deliberative and even wise. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Obama started with a laundry list of number-one priorities, a move patently foolish and reflecting an unproved self-image of singular political ability that exempts him from the conventional wisdom of leadership and governance. Now we see the consequences. This is the hubris. This is the overreach. This comes of trying to be historic, because "yes, [the royal] we can."

And such consequences are apparent all over. The Gray Lady's David Brooks reviews the soon-to-be-released In Fed We Trust, an early attempt at chronicling and analyzing the government's response to the financial crisis. Brooks's conclusion is that no one in the government really knew what was going on, but efforts succeeded because leaders were willing to adjust quietly what they were doing to get through with minimal damage. Such governance is often (always?) more effective than the ideological crusade to remake the world in a stroke. Such governance is not what Obama aims for, even if some among his administration have managed it. Now, as they move from successfully muddling through a financial crisis to avowedly remaking the economic system, a reality check is in order.

Elsewhere at the Times and concerning other issues, the peripatetic Nicholas Kristoff does an about-face to argue that the NoKos can only be handled roughly, with sanctions backed by military threats to contain their racketeering nuclear proliferation. When such idealists as Kristoff say such, the grim realities of human nature must be evident in the extreme, as are the follies of imagining the present as a unique moment of opportunities presented by an anointed chief executive. At least, they are evident to many other than the chief executive and his loyalest loyalists.

Amidst all this, American unemployment went down in July, not, of course, because jobs were added but because job losses slowed while seasonal workers and others left the employment market. Our buddies at WSJ note that this is a highly likely indicator that the recession is beginning its inevitable leveling-off and recovery. More tellingly, they note that such is happening when only about 10% of "stimulus" funds have been spent. What to do? Call off the rest of the stimulus and take over $600 billion off the federal liabilities table. Doing that would require the Obama administration to view itself as Less Necessary Than Formerly Believed. But it would have the virtue of realism.

So there's the thread in this otherwise incoherent string. What will triumph, realism or that hopey-changey thing? Our sour opinion of human nature leads us to expect that at best, we've got a lot of arguing ahead.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Bad Day for Terrorists, Good Day for Civilization

Pakistan is pretty sure that a CIA drone took out Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Indonesia is pretty sure its police popped Noordin Mohammad Top, mastermind of the recent hotel bombings.

Score two for civilization, and note well that the tactic remains diligence.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

It's So Crazy It Just Might Work

Is there a healthcare reform that SWNID could support? Perhaps.

We are highly intrigued by the so-called Wyden-Bennett bill, authored by two Senators who have devoted considerable time over the years to understanding this thorny issue. As described in their WaPo op-ed, helpfully reproduced by RealClearPolitics, their plan would bring market forces to bear on costs and accessibility by disconnecting tax-advantaged health insurance from employment, removing excessive coverage requirements, and creating insurance cooperatives to provide additional policy alternatives. To make sure that all can be covered, it provides a subsidy for the lowest incomes. To make sure that all are covered and risk is optimally spread, it mandates coverage for all.

We like the looks of this sucker and are ready to consider whether its potential flaws are so significant as to negate its likely virtues.

We understand that the Ds have tabled this bill because it ends the employer-based system, which in fact is the original sin of American health insurance. If so, and if that decision persists, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid will deserve every bit of scorn that the electorate can muster.

An Unexpected Development in the Culture Wars

A celebrated/deplored event in the history of the Culture Wars was the American Psychological Association's removal of homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders a generation ago.

In that light, the development recorded in today's WSJ is just as significant. We quote our favorite news daily:

[I]n a striking departure, the American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical -- and can be beneficial -- for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions. . . .

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.

Against those who argue that this glass is not even half full, we note that for the APA this marks a departure from a trajectory of many decades. We will also say to the dismay of some that we believe that all the APA's disclaimers are true. The boundaries and objectives of therapy named in their statement appear to us to be exactly realistic.

Impressive in this is the legitimacy accorded to religious faith, and here we are concerned with Christian faith. Our colleagues tell us that awhile back the APA affirmed that "spirituality" is a key element of a healthy mental and emotional existence. It seems that the association is living up to that in this startling affirmation.

Now we put people of Christian faith on notice. It is past time to stop stigmatizing those who are attracted sexually to members of the same sex. This is not to endorse behaviors that act on such experiences but to affirm humbly and honestly that we are all deeply flawed humans who struggle against impulses and desires that we understand lead us away from what God wants for us. We hold those who are honest about such matters in the highest esteem, and we note that many of them are people who struggle with exactly the impulses that are most widely stigmatized--like same-sex attraction and alcohol or drug addiction.

Such honesty deserves esteem, not to mention imitation. For more on this subject, we recommend one of our favorite writers.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Iconic Economist: You Get More of What You Pay For

Arthur Laffer is famous as an economist (at least as famous as economists can get) as the deviser of the Laffer curve: the estimate adopted in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan that lower taxes would increase revenue to the federal government because then-current tax rates were a powerful discouragement to economic activity. His prediction proved right, of course, though the rightness of it was not widely acknowledged. Still, Laffer is as responsible as anyone for the economic growth that began in 1983 and continued until relatively recently.

Tomorrow's WSJ runs an opinion piece by Laffer offering as clear a critique and as clear an alternative to Obama's healthcare initiative as one could imagine. Laffer calls attention to the healthcare "wedge," i.e. the difference between what healthcare costs and what the patient pays. When people pay less than something actually costs, they inevitably demand more of it, driving the cost still higher, even if someone else pays the difference. That, Laffer argues, is what drives healthcare inflation: government subsidies insulate patients from real costs and so drive up demand. Thus, Laffer concludes, Obama's plan will simply drive costs still higher.

His alternative? Patient-centered healthcare, which . . .

begins with individual ownership of insurance policies and leverages Health Savings Accounts, a low-premium, high-deductible alternative to traditional insurance that includes a tax-advantaged savings account. It allows people to purchase insurance policies across state lines and reduces the number of mandated benefits insurers are required to cover. It reallocates the majority of Medicaid spending into a simple voucher for low-income individuals to purchase their own insurance. And it reduces the cost of medical procedures by reforming tort liability laws

By empowering patients and doctors to manage health-care decisions, a patient-centered health-care reform will control costs, improve health outcomes, and improve the overall efficiency of the health-care system.

What's wrong with that suggestion? Well, much was proposed by George W. Bush, so it's self-evidently not just wrong but evil. All it has in its favor is everything that we know about human behavior.

Updating an Icon: NPR Achieves Balance

SWNID has been a devoted listener to NPR news programming since the 1980s. We endured countless Thanksgiving recitations of Susan Stamberg's mother-in-law's recipe for cranberry relish, listened to hundreds of pro-Daniel-Ortega pieces extolling the virtues of Nicaraguan socialism during the "Radio Free Sandinista" period, listened to Bob Edwards' tar-and-nicotine baritone through countless mornings, and heard who knows how many puzzlers from Will Shortz.

So we say with some degree of conviction that we have witnessed an impressive transformation in NPR's news coverage over the last decade. NPR is now, we believe, one of the most balanced sources of politically related news in the present market.

For examples we cite two recent stories. One concerned the possible transformation of the United States into a European-style social welfare state. The story centered on a German couple who quite openly celebrated their no-direct-cost birth of their first child, supported with "Kindergeld" payments of 170 Euros per month and the guarantee of 2/3 salary for one year's maternity leave. But then it quite frankly noted the cost: taxes equal to 50% of the wife's salary and discouragements to businesses and new employment that drive business away from the husband's computer industry employer. Nothing was lauded one way or the other; both sides of the economic equation were utterly clear.

The second was NPR's coverage of today's big story: Bill Clinton's visit to North Korea yielding the pardoning of the two American journalists recently sentenced to hard labor by that benighted regime. NPR got straight to the point: this was no fancy move on Clinton's part but a negotiated, orchestrated move that doubtless serves needs of Kim's dictatorship. Acknowledged along the way--from a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, no less--was the moral hazard involved in such transactions: having got what they wanted, the NoKos may well simply arrest more Westerners whenever they find themselves in need. One could have hoped for more consideration of North Korean racketeering-style behavior, but there was hardly a wasted moment in the report--and no ecomium for Clinton, Obama or other actors in the pantomime.*

Yes, we know that NPR keeps Daniel Schorr on its payroll, despite his inability to say anything of insight or anything outside of his 1970s McGovernite templates. Yes, we know that Nina Totenberg is still around, still trying to match her activist journalistic impact in bringing Anita Hill to the public eye. Yes, we know that much NPR secondary programming simply panders to its Subaru-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, Chardonnay-swilling, Gore-worshiping listeners. Much of the old NPR endures. But the substance has largely changed, and for the good.

As so-called "conservative" talk radio becomes increasingly shrill, angry, and even demagogic, thoughtful folk on the right side of issues will wonder where to tune their wireless sets. We recommend Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

*WSJ's opinion piece posted this evening for tomorrow's paper lays out the issues nicely. Kim doesn't trade for free.