Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Did They Expect?

So Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Oblivion) invited Stephen Colbert to testify before the esteemed House Judiciary Committee, the very body that once brought historic articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

And Steny Hoyer (D-Whatever Nancy Says) exclaims that Colbert embarrassed himself.

Our Congresspersons expected what from the erudite Mr. Colbert?

Of course, these same folks said that ObamaCare would make health insurance cheaper and reduce the deficit. We hear that they also expect to retain their congressional majority in the 2010 elections.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Science v. "Religion" Again

The Times Higher Education Supplement is running a fine, lengthy review article on the relationship between science and faith, definitely worth reading for all with an interest in the subject (and if you bother with this blog, you're doubtless interested).

We simply add that in this article, "religion" is once again a euphemism for Christianity. None of this debate would exist were it not for the highly offensive, missionary faith in the incarnation of Israel's God.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Christie to the Rescue

Chris Christie's confrontations at public forums are becoming legendary. He's now traveling to the left coast to boost Meg Whitman's campaign, and to intervene when the damsel is in distress.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

High School Can Actually Matter

Widely believed to be the four most widely wasted years in human history, American high school can apparently make a difference.

ACT reports that recent research shows:

The best way to prepare underrepresented racial/ethnic minority and lower-income students for postsecondary success is through a rigorous high school core curriculum that focuses on the essential knowledge and skills for college and career readiness.

So it really is time to end "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Carter's Humility Also Superior

More Carter!

Promoting his latest book (honest question: who buys these books?), blessedly ex-President Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying the following:

I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents. Primarily because of the activism and the injection of working at the Carter Center and in international affairs, and to some degree, domestic affairs, on energy conservation, on environment and things of that kind.

Is this how Miss Lillian raised her boy to talk?

Can we imagine a more blatant way that Carter could confirm the miserable impression that most people presently have of him?

Rs About to Address Significant Substantive Objection to Rs

The current GOP has been widely criticized for basing its 2010 election strategy on anti-Obama-ism.

Now the party leadership has announced that a 20-point legislative program is set to be unveiled Thursday. Objection addressed.

The Republic may be talked off the ledge with this. When the Rs control both houses, they'll have a point from which to triangulate with the exiled executive branch and its emasculated Congressional caucus.

Mondale: BHO = Carter

It is a curious day for our Republic when the only man to have lost statewide elections in all fifty states agrees with SWNID.

Walter Mondale says that BHO's administration is a lot like Jimmy Carter's. Of course, that's not BHO's fault, per Mondale, just as it wasn't Carter's. The problems just can't be solved, darn it!

Oh, by the way, Reagan was "already losing it" in 1984.

We note that Carter's first big problem ended minutes after Reagan's inauguration, when the hostages got on planes for home.

We note that Carter's second big problem ended when the macroeconomic effects of Reagan's tax cuts were felt throughout the land.

Hence, "Morning in America," with Reagan reelected by every state except MN (yes, MA voted for four more years of the Reagan Revolution). If Reagan was "losing it," he was still marvelously more able than his political rivals, yes?

To explain our earlier note, Mondale went on to lose statewide in Minnesota's 2002 Senate election.

To those who object factually to the "every state except" remark above, we provide a brief civics lesson that constitutionally DC is not a state.

To wrap up the thread of this post, we affirm that no one should be able to recognize a failed politician quite so well as can Walter Mondale.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carter the Self-Aware

Jimmy Carter is at it again, though with an exceptional-for-him grasp of the truth. AP is reporting on the undistinguished ex-POTUS's recent pronouncements and forthcoming book that condenses his personal diaries from the White House years. Our take is that Carter manages some fractional truths of self-awareness, an exceptional achievement given his dismal record.

We will note his pronouncements and offer SWNIDisms in response:

Carter: The Tea Party is like the insurgent, outsider Carter campaign of 1976, but the Tea Party will not have lasting political influence.

SWNID: If that prognostication proves true, then the Tea Party will be exactly like the Carter.

Carter: As President, Carter overburdened Congress with too ambitious an agenda.

SWNID: That's true but less than half the point. Carter left Congress without ground for compromise, claiming perfect virtue for all of his positions. Six months into his term, every D on Capitol Hill was praying to Moloch for his demise.

Carter: Carter was a bad leader of the Democratic Party.

SWNID: Not that it's had a good leader in a couple of generations, but he was probably the worst, for reasons noted above. Carter thought himself too good for politics, making him too bad for politics.

Carter: If not for Ted Kennedy's campaign and the Iran Hostage Crisis, Carter would've won.

SWNID: And if not for the defection of Neocon Democrats like Jeanne Kirkpatrick because of Carter's utterly naive approach to Communism and foreign affairs. And if not for ruinous stagflation (not really his fault). And if not for the alienation of his own party that preceded the Kennedy campaign, which was more a symptom than a cause. And if not for the feckless approach to Iran that inflamed Iranian anti-Shah opinion and hardened it into anti-American opinion, propelling the radicals into leadership of the opposition, there would not have been a hostage crisis.

Truth is, except for calling for fiscal restraint, though not achieving it thanks to his poor management of Congress, appointing Paul Volcker as Fed chair, and starting a re-armament program to continue the Cold War after the humiliation of Vietnam, there's not much good to say about Mr. Carter. Now even Mr. Carter is beginning to admit that, if only a little.

Postscript Question: Has there ever been an ex-President as persistent in grabbing the microphone as The Man from Plains?

Friday, September 17, 2010

As Ohio Goes . . .

Quinnipiac has Portman up on Fisher by 20%.

Just about every poll has Kasich over 50% in his race against incumbent Strickland, with a lead of about 10%.

If Ohio is the bellwether state, what you've heard about the Ds' fortunes in November looks to be extremely true.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Crazy Can Republicans Get?

Christine O'Donnell's victory in the Republican Party primary for Delaware's Senate seat has anti-Republicans rejoicing, or so we're told. The story is that O'Donnell is a wing-nut who will discredit the entire GOP and allow the Ds to retain their Congressional majorities for more enlightened governmental effectiveness.

We know little of O'Donnell except that she worked for the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization that promotes conservative politics on college campuses, and had some kind of legal dust-up involving her allegation of sexual harassment. Since we don't vote in Delaware, we aren't going to confirm whether she is indeed a wing-nut.

We will not, however, that throughout our life as a voter, we've heard Republicans called wing-nuts.

Our first Presidential election as a voter was 1980, our birthday in late November having spared us the ignominy of voting for Carter in 1976, the year we turned 18. What we recall most in that year, aside from our visceral disgust at the prospects of four more years of the sanctimoniously impotent Carter, was Carter's savaging of Ronald Reagan as the kind of nut who would blow up the world.

Carter was merely taking a page from LBJ's playbook. While in our youthful political enthusiasm we were making campaign placards for Johnson out of 3" x 5" index cards, pencils and cellophane tape to carry to the polls (like many, we were liberal when young and became conservative when we were old; unlike many we were politically liberal at age six and conservative by age 20), Johnson was running a TV ad depicting a little girl picking wildflowers, followed by the image of a hydrogen-bomb's mushroom cloud, with voice-over intoning a message that never said directly but clearly implied that Johnson would never do what Goldwater might do--start a nuclear war.

Since Johnson, the wing-nut accusation has been the favorite of Ds, even displacing the Herbert Hoover trope.

So for at least 46 years, Republicans have been nuts.

For over half of those years, a Republican has been President.

And somehow, we're still here.

But now Christine O'Donnell is going to change all that. That's how nuts she is and the GOP is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tax Cuts v. Deficit Reduction

Even as they hammer Democrats for running up record budget deficits, Senate Republicans are rolling out a plan to permanently extend an array of expiring tax breaks that would deprive the Treasury of more than $4 trillion over the next decade, nearly doubling projected deficits over that period unless dramatic spending cuts are made.

So intones WaPo staff writer Lori Montgomery in what is not presented as an opinion piece. Revised headline: Beltway Reporter Uncovers Hypocrisy Among Politicians.

We hear this kind of thing all the time: Rs hammer Ds on raising taxes, but Rs won't cut spending.

We will leave aside the historically demonstrated dynamic nature of tax cuts, as illustrated in the fabled and derided Laffer Curve. Instead, we will say to critics of the GOP, "True enough!"

But many of us who favor Rs do not do so because we imagine them angels. We do so because the other alternative is so much worse. Witness the fabulous rise in federal spending as a percentage of GDP and of federal debt as a percentage of GDP as we've had the party of Jackson in charge of late.

And we've seen it lately. Rs in charge may cut taxes and not reduce spending, but Ds in charge raise taxes fast and raise spending still faster. Given our electorates inability to do anything except vote themselves more goodies, we'll take those whose proffered goodies are relatively less spendthrift because they start with limited tax revenue.

Pre-emptively we repeat: Bush spent more than he took in, Reagan spent more than he took in, but Obama makes them look like amateurs. And don't tell us about Clintonian virtues: that brief moment in fiscal history was forced by a deal with midterm-empowered Rs and facilitated by the peace dividend and tech revolution of the 1990s, not by principled politicians.

So until the Ideal Political Party arises, we find it better to have some restraint on government spending from deliberately limited revenue.

By the way, we find Montgomery's use of "deprive" to be especially artful. Poor, deprived Federal Government, begging for a handout like a Dickensian orphan!

Dowd Tilts Against BHO Windmills

Whatever the merits of D'Souza's interpretation of BHO, Maureen Dowd can't find boundaries for its denunciation.

She abandons her trademark snark to scream bloody murder in every ad hominem frequency as she responds to the always-opportunistic Newt Gingrich's endorsement of D'Souza's notion. The descriptor "unhinged" works nicely to characterize her rant.

What makes this line of thinking so foul to Dowd, we wonder.

BHO Windmills Redux

Looks like Dinesh D'Souza has some competition.

At American Thinker, one Jack Cashill, author of the forthcoming Deconstructing Obama, argues that D'Souza's anti-colonial hypothesis missed the real influence in Dreams from My Father, which was not Obama, Sr. but Bill Ayers.

So the father-influenced Obama is merely a creation of Ayers' recasting Obama's story along the lines of the Homeric Telemachus. And Obama is much more the product of standard-issue leftist radicalism, with Ayers as his enabler, than merely anti-colonialism.

Either way, we're not comforted. Lincoln was formed by the hardships of poverty and the encouragement of a stepmother. TR was formed by the struggle to overcome his childhood illnesses. FDR was formed by the struggle to overcome disability. Obama was formed by some combination of his parents' radical political views, supplemented by their friends and nourished by his mother's doting hyper-indulgence of young Barry.

Not comforting at all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

ObamaCare and the First Amendment

HHR Sec Kathleen Sebelius has publicly warned health insurance companies justifying their rate increases by citing ObamaCare's additional burdens that they're treading on dangerous ground.

Michael Barone, hardly the most excitable of pundits, today notes how far from the traditions of free speech such warnings are. Not one for colorful language, he refers to such tactics as typical of "gangsters."

We thought it was George W. Bush who was a threat to civil liberties. Well, we guess it's one thing to be a suspect terrorist and another to be engaging in commerce, like health insurance.

Or maybe powerful people are all corrupt to one degree or another. And maybe when they panic, powerful people tend to abuse their power.

Of course it's very unjustifiable to panic over global terrorism, but very excusable to do so over politically damaging statements.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Anti-Colonial Windmills of BHO's Mind

The estimable Dinesh D'Souza--Reagan biographer, Christian apologist, college president, public intellectual--offers as compelling an explanation as we've seen for what makes the present POTUS tick.

Drawing on Obama's campaign autobiography, Dreams from My Father, D'Souza argues that the President is animated by anti-colonialism.

We find the hypothesis intriguing if rather too tidy. Certainly D'Souza, himself the child of anti-colonialism who has consciously chosen to affirm American exceptionalism, has a distinct personal knowledge of the outlook.

The lengthy-by-present-journalistic-standards article is worth reading in its entirety.

Megabus Tragedy: Nothing Is Certain

An early morning crash near Syracuse, NY left four Megabus passengers dead yesterday. Apparently, the driver missed his turn to the scheduled stop and ended up on a road with exceptionally low clearances--ten feet, nine inches--far too low for the double-decker bus.

We've already seen comments implying that the company's famously low fares mean that their drivers are incompetent and equipment inappropriate. We figure otherwise: people make mistakes, and sometimes the results are tragic.

We'll keep riding Megabus, as we did twice last week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sung Heroes, Edition One

We hereby inaugurate a new feature of our blog. Departing from our usual themes of social, political, cultural and religious commentary, we instead offer what we henceforth call

[drum roll!]

Sung Heroes!*

[cymbal clash, fanfare, huzzahs!]

What is a SWNIDish Sung Hero?

Such a personage is a businessperson offering exceptionally honest and valuable service to her or his customers. Such individuals demonstrate the happy outcomes set in motion when an individual lives to make others' lives better, coincidentally making a living in the process.

We intend to use our massive global influence (over fifty hits a day!) occasionally to name such individuals, describing their helpful commercial pursuits and urging others to multiply global happiness by engaging them in similar commerce. If Angie can have a list, why can't SWNID?

And who is the first SWNIDish Sung Hero?

None other than Mr. Terry Neal, proprietor of Terry Neal Home Improvement of Oxford, Ohio. Mr. Neal does home improvement work of all kinds, bringing skill, thrift, pride and love to his craft. He advertises not a smidgeon, not even in the so-called Yellow Pages, relying entirely on word-of-mouth referral.

The SWNIDs can testify that his work is done right at the right price. We've engaged in considerable economic stimulus through Mr. Neal's refurbishment of the SWNIDish domicile's exterior this summer, and the outcome has been highly satisfactory. If we had more stimulus money, we'd have him refurbish our interior too.

For those who believe that the only alternatives for work on one's home are either big companies with bloated advertising budgets and bloated prices or "Chuck with a truck" who shiftily bids low and works lower, Mr. Neal offers a highly pleasant alternative.

Based in Oxford, Mr. Neal works all over the Greater Cincinnati region. Those who want this Sung Hero to bid on their work may contact the blogger privately to get his contact information.

*This phrase has been lodged in the SWNIDish memory ever since hearing commentator Edwin Newman remark on the existence of negative phrases for which there is no positive. We recall but cannot confirm Newman remarking that while there can be an "unsung hero" a "sung hero" sounds like an Italian sandwich in a Chinese restaurant.

Business Climate, Viewed from a Lofty Height

Here are a couple of quotes regarding the present business climate from a report on a meeting of extremely wealthy individuals convened by the Blackstone Group, as reported by CNBC's John Melloy:

"They saw the United States in a long-term slow growth environment with the near-term risk of recession quite real," said [Byron] Wien, in a commentary to Blackstone clients. "The Obama administration was viewed as hostile to business and that discouraged both hiring and investment. Companies and entrepreneurs were reluctant to add workers because they didn’t know what their healthcare costs or taxes were going to be." . . .

"The economic pessimism expressed by the wealthy is completely understandable," said Jim Iuorio, a trader with TJM Institutional Services. "From the start of the campaign that led up to the ‘08 election, the wealthy have been depicted as villains by the Democratic party. Even though the political tide seems to be turning, real change is months or years away."

This situation is not without its precedents, as the sublime Amity Shlaes pointed out recently and yet again in response to the ridiculous Paul Krugman's monotonous drumbeat for fabulous federal spending increases. In sum, FDR's war on business prolonged the Great Depression, and ending it ended the Great Depression.

Remembering that one of FDR's most counterproductive moves was enacting a tax on undistributed corporate profits--to force "greedy" corporations to spend the money that they were holding against the uncertainties created by his own policies and rhetoric--gives one pause today.

ObamaCare's Broken Promises

We've been noting these ad hoc. Reason's Peter Sunderman notes them all at once. Here is a digest of his list of promises of ObamaCare that already prove counterfactual:

  • If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.
  • It will put Medicare on a better fiscal footing.
  • It will cost around $900 billion.
  • It won't cut Medicare benefits.
  • It will be paid for "mostly" by shifting around money that we're already spending.
  • It will give consumers more access and greater choice.
  • It will bring down the price of insurance.
This might not be so bad had the opponents of ObamaCare not pointed out prior to its passage that all such claims were demonstrably counterfactual.

"We told you so" should now be the basis of repeal.

Judd Gregg: Freeze the Spending or Get Obama's European-Style VAT

Now that BHO himself is talking about letting tax rates stay where they are, we turn our fiscal attention from the urgent to the important, namely, federal spending. And on that subject Senator Judd Gregg speaks truth:

Note well Gregg's repeated reference to the massive rising of federal spending as a percentage of GDP. We note that the repeated cries that "Republicans do it too" are at least debatable factually (even as big a spender as Dubya didn't spend like this) and an irrelevant ad hominem that ineffectively dodges the issue. The question is whether citizens are willing to try to make it on their own, at least a little bit.

Gregg's closing is hard to argue against: that BHO's huge leap in federal spending presages the introduction of new taxes to close that gap. For those who would like unemployment to remain high indefinitely, the White House has an excellent plan.

If citizens are ready to separate themselves from the federal patron-client relationship, they have the opportunity to indicate as much in November.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Definition of Insanity

Today, one American client-citizen is a little bit happy: Paul Krugman. The rest are flummoxed.

Because the previous stimulus worked so well, BHO today proposed more: $50 billion (that's $50 thousand million, or about $160 per American client-citizen) of additional "infrastructure" spending. More with the roads and bridges stuff.

Even BHO's foot soldiers admit that this spending won't help anything until 2011. Krugman, we figure, is rejoicing, even while he's hedging his bets with the pronouncement that to be effective the figure would need to be bigger by a couple of orders of magnitude, like $5 trillion.

Two recessions in the SWNIDish lifetime were ended with lasting cuts to marginal tax rates. With business confidence in the cellar, the best way for government to act would be to remove its own contribution to the uncertainty by pledging not to enact a carbon tax, extending the Bush personal income tax rates and capital gains rates indefinitely, and reducing the world-beating corporate tax rate to something. Then announce a plan to phase back federal spending to a baseline before 2008 and we'd have a formula for reducing deficit spending and stimulating business confidence.

None of this will happen with the present administration or Congressional leadership, of course. But we say it now to put the lie to the assertion that no one in opposition to the presently-in-power philosopher-kings has any suggestions.

Obama's "Mission Accomplished" Moment

All American "combat troops" in Iraq have been withdrawn.

Yesterday, American troops fought a fierce gun battle in Baghdad to defend an Iraqi military headquarters.

The present administration has offered simplistic statements to placate its pacificist constituency, not much different from Bush's or McCain's calls for the pursuit of "victory," an elusive concept in a situation as complex as the Islamic Middle East. For the future, we can only hope and insist that actual policy not concede to political rhetoric by eviscerating the necessary and ongoing military support of Iraqi democracy, as a war-weary Congress did to Vietnam in the 1970s but wiser leaders did not do to Europe in the 1940s through 1980s or to Korea in the 1950s to the present.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Get on the Coolidge Bandwagon!

The publication of a collection of essays on Calvin Coolidge prompts Voice of America to offer this little vignette:

Timely Words from "Silent" Cal

We again venerate Calvin Coolidge by offering a quotation from his 1925 inaugural address, in its articulation of a philosophy of taxation perhaps more timely today than when it was first delivered. In so doing we thank Coolidge scholars Amity Shlaes and Joe Thorndyke for providing this gem on their blog,

The time is arriving when we can have further tax reduction, when, unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we must have tax reform. The method of raising revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong. We can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions, through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be successful. The verdict of the country has been given on this question. That verdict stands. We shall do well to heed it.

How Bad Versions of Christianity Produce Unfaith

Today's WSJ features a story about a US Marine chaplain and his atheist assistant. For SWNID, it predictably illustrates yet another SWNIDish maxim: the Christianity that many people reject is bad Christianity.

The two players in the drama are Chaplain Terry Moran and Religious Programs Specialist Second Class Philip Chute. Moran is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Chute is an atheist who grew up among Baptists.

We read between the lines of the story to infer that Moran is an adherent to a version of Christianity that makes a dog's breakfast of Scripture with a mixture of dogmatically driven, selectively "literal" readings. Chute, as a young man in youthful rebellion, found the unchallenged readings of the Bible--only somewhat less dogmatically, selectively "literal" than Moran's--in his insulated, southern (whether upper or lower case) Baptist culture to be vulnerable to what in his nascent stage of intellectual development appears to be refutation.

When the two come together, they find little ground for dialogue. Instead, each easily regards the other as a personal challenge. So each tends to become more entrenched in the distinctives of his view, and the result is a contest of wills and personalities, not ideas. The mystic Moran stupefies the rationalist Chute, while the cynical Chute frustrates the idealistic Moran.

Would the outcome be different if Moran and Chute decided to listen more and talk less? Would it be different if Moran were committed to a more historic and rightly critical version of Christianity, one for starters open to different readings of Genesis and Revelation than those foisted on us by the ersatz "literalists"? Would it be different if Chute's Christian upbringing had nurtured better answers to his rebellious impulses? Maybe. There is limited predictability in the equation "Seed + Soil = Outcome."

Our frustration that stories like this one abound is ameliorated when we hear other stories of those who discover that biblical Christianity is something other than young-earth creationism and apocalyptic millenarianism.

Willimon, Invoking Jesus, Exposes Moral Bankruptcy of Pacificism

It's presently only in print, not online, but CT's "Village Green" feature for September 2010 is as apt a representation of the vacuity of Christian pacifism that we can imagine.

The question for the symposium-style column is, "Should the US stay militarily involved in Afghanistan?" The contributors are Jean Bethke Elshtain, ethicist from the University of Chicago; Chris Seiple, president of the Institute of Global Engagement; and fabled Methodist pulpiteer and bishop Will Willimon.

Elshtain and Seiple both argue eloquently for the inevitability and moral necessity of ongoing military engagement. Their moral reasoning is clear: not to be engaged is to consign Afghanistan's people and perhaps others to brutal oppression. The victims who would suffer most are those least powerful and most vulnerable.

Willimon, like his Duke Divinity buddies famously influenced by Anabaptists, argues for disengagement, or at least seems to. Asking, "how should American Christians think about this war?" he answers with an anecdote about the late Jerry Falwell, then invokes Jesus, and finally accuses some ill-defined object of having greater loyalty to Caesar than to Christ.

We take his answer to the actual question asked as, "No, because Jesus was a pacifist." We infer that answer from his insistence that we ask "What would Jesus say about this war?"

That we take as a question baiting us to offer a dominical saying as a proof-text that Jesus' disciples can go to war. Surely, Willimon prods tacitly, the Jesus who urged love for enemies and turning the other cheek cannot be invoked to justify all the killing in Afghanistan.

Well, we rise to the challenge. Here, Bishop Willimon, is our proof: Jesus told us to love our neighbors, love our enemies, and serve at the cost of our own lives.

It is not love to let my neighbor suffer oppression, whether my neighbor is the family next door whose home is invaded by brigands or a wife abused by her husband or a nation across the world terrorized by totalitarians with a perverse ideology. The fact that I haven't acted until the danger threatens me only heightens my own fallenness; it does not obviate my responsibility. The fact that in trying to do good I may do some harm, even much harm, does not excuse me from making the best effort I can. Choosing not to act--excusing passivity by saying I can't impose my views on others because I am not perfect, despairing of action because I cannot bring about an ideal outcome by acting--does not make me righteous. It does not love my neighbor to turn the other cheek when my neighbor is being victimized.

It isn't even love for my enemy to let him brutalize someone. My shameful recognition of my own fallenness tempers my view of my actions, so I aim as best I can to put a stop to the immediate evil and bring a modicum of peace to the victims, not to satisfy my viscerally distorted view of retribution (though the retributive element always remains in the act of intervention). I intervene with a mournful sense of grim necessity, not a triumphant sense of self-righteousness. But I still intervene, mindful that letting evil operate unchecked does not demonstrate love, even for those who do the evil. They need to be stopped, even with force if force alone will stop them. One did not show love for Pol Pot by letting him massacre fellow Cambodians.

Further, I act knowing full well that it is not the coercive power of "the good" that will transform the evil enemy. Force can only restrain evil. Something else, the self-sacrificial power of the Incarnate Son of God, transforms. Still, I cannot sit by if I have some limited power to liberate, however imperfectly, with the sword that Jesus' apostle Paul spoke of more directly than did the Lord himself.

Bishop Willimon, what do I say to those in my pastoral care who have volunteered to bear arms to liberate Afghanistan? Do I call them dupes of the corrupt, Christless military-industrial complex? Failures in Christian discipleship who have traded their birthright for a mess of patriotic pottage? Or do I affirm what their understanding of the gospel has led them to: that in playing a dangerous part in ending oppression, they are loving their neighbors and their enemies and so should proceed with caution, thought, care--indeed with reluctance and sorrow--but with determination to see the thing through to the best outcome that lies within the power entrusted to them in a fallen world still awaiting the arrival of the New Jerusalem?

Pacificism kills. It doesn't make me pure. Choosing not to act is not the action of love.

Do Only Some People Stubbornly Believe Themselves to Be Right?

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht would be a figure of no interest outside of Brussels had he not said the following:

There is, indeed, a religion, I can hardly describe it differently, among most Jews that they are right. So it is not easy to have a rational discussion with a moderate Jew about what is happening in the Middle East. It is a very emotional issue.

Naturally, he's apologized since then. That's what you do when you say what you're thinking and wish later you'd kept your mouth shut. We've done it a lot in a lifetime that is characterized by seldom being wrong, so we are sure others do it way more than we.

We won't comment on de Gucht's antisemitism or note how his outlook remains a nasty part of European culture. We prefer instead to comment on the widespread habit of accusing other people of thinking that they're right and being stubborn about it.

This blog, of course, is titled with a parody of such attitudes. We ridicule this point precisely because it is universal.

As was famously pointed out in Episode 1 of the celebrated television drama House, it is impossible to operate on the premise that one is mistaken. We assume we're right all the time, and when we believe we're wrong, we change our view and then think we're right again.

Well, our un-SWNIDish interlocutor counters, a person ought to be humble about it--open-minded, not stubborn. Sure, we agree. We ask, just who is it who determines the open-mindedness of others, and by what standard? In our experience, urgent moral exhortations to open one's mind are generally poorly veiled calls to abandon one's conclusions and adopt the point of view of the speaker, whose conclusions are themselves the demonstration of open-mindedness. Presumably, merely by changing one's mind, especially from a position aligned with one's social class or upbringing, one demonstrates the elusive "open mind," not a credulity, gullibility, weak will, the desire to please people, or even, depending on circumstances, an inclination to sacrifice principle for self-indulgence.

Further, is it humility to use one's humility as an ad hominem recommendation of one's views, or is it a cravenly passive-aggressive ploy to subvert other argumentation?

So back to our Belgian friend, do a lot of Jews think themselves right, and hold to their views stubbornly? We think this truth is self evident. Substitute any human individual or group for "Jews" in the previous sentence, and the truth value is the same. All de Gucht really said was, We European bureaucrats are right, and Jews ought to agree with us.

So, our rejoinder to de Gucht:

There is, indeed, a religion, I can hardly describe it differently, among most EU officials that they are right. So it is not easy to have a rational discussion with a moderate EU offical about what is happening in the Middle East. It is a very emotional issue.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hawking: No Unmoved Mover, No First Cause, Only Infinite Regression

Celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking continues to deny that the universe began to exist.

Of course, he affirms that this current universe began to exist, at the mighty Big Bang. But he denies that something outside the universe caused it. Per a smidgen of a report in the Guardian (free, we think, of that paper's signature typos), Hawking in his latest book says that "the law of gravity" explains the origin of the universe.

Really, what Hawking hopes is that string theory or other attempts at a unified theory of physics will explain all this. Calling it gravity makes it more accessible to us proles.

In other words, Hawking continues to insist that somehow the laws of physics, unobservable and untestable outside this present universe, can explain how universes arise spontaneously.

Thoughtful readers will realize that cosmology presents two major alternatives, regardless of the time and place in which one does one's cosmology. Either the universe exists without a beginning (variant likely affirmed by Hawking: an infinite series of discrete universes without beginning, prompted by an eternally existing scientific law) or it exists with a beginning.

And if it begins once and once only, it needs a creator, as has been widely understood since people first started writing down their thoughts on the issue.

Hawking is not offering a scientific judgment in this regard. He is offering the opinion of a scientist who surmises that because science has told us a lot of stuff about the universe we live in, it can tell us about stuff that lies beyond the universe we live in as well. We offer him SWNIDish kudos for making a faith statement, urging simply that he reconsider the object of his faith.