Saturday, February 26, 2011

Advice on Foolishness

Occasionally we find an essay that prompts the thought, "Wish SWNID had written that!"

Here is one.

Fuller Theological Seminary's Christopher Hays advises on the proverbial folly of answering fools. Read this piece by the journalist-turned-OT-prof for such gems as:

A thought experiment: Imagine if every Christian leader who was invited to comment on the next Dan Brown book simply said, "Why are you calling about this? You know his books are fictional, they're boring to anyone informed, and they're kind of poorly written." No facts, no offense taken—no story.


Another thought experiment: Imagine if a journalist called a Christian leader to ask about Brown's latest Rome-based conspiracy theory, and the leader said, "That's a pretty tame theory. The Bible's own conspiracy theory is much wilder. It says that God is plotting to overthrow every worldly power and establish his own rule once and for all. And the entire Christian church is in on it."

Sound advice, that. The scorn of indifference is powerful, almost as much as confidence in one's own message.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin? Ohio? Simple!

Goaded by gentle readers, we at last opine on the epic confrontation between sense and nonsense in Madison and other Midwestern state capitals where governors and legislatures dare to threaten the client-patron relationship between labor unions and the party of LBJ.

We have little need to offer anything of substance, as the issues are so clear and have been so widely discussed by conservative media pundits. But offer we will, at least in telegraphic style.

Item: the class-conflict model of economics has been so widely and deeply refuted that it is comical to see it used by so-called serious-minded people. Unions are needed to offset corporate influence on economics and politics? Really! We thought that the 1980s were enough to show that businesses and their employees share common interests.

Item: The notion of collective bargaining for government employees has always been ludicrous. Employees are also voters, and elected officials want their votes. So they give them what they want. The unions effectively sit on both sides of the table. The rest of the voters are the ones not represented in the negotiations. This not only further undermines the class-conflict model noted above, it evacuates the notion of conflict in the entire relationship.

Item: Wisconsin and other states are merely moving to a situation that is still rather less stringent against government-employee unions than what is presently the case for federal workers, who can bargain collectively neither for wages nor for benefits but only for work rules. How oppressive! Wisconsin state employees will have more collective bargaining rights than federal workers! Awful!

Item: Son of SWNID happens to be an employee of the Great State of Wisconsin. Possessing a BA with nearly a math major, he is able to calculate what other organized state employees seem to ignore: increased heath insurance costs minus union dues equals approximately zero. Which illustrates what this is all about: state employee unions keeping their hands on the payments made to them directly as dues and indirectly as health insurance providers.

Conclusion: the doomsday rhetoric of pro-union forces is laughable. The fact that some seem to listen is pathetic.

Exhortation: Workers of the world, throw off the chains of patronage! Your skills, not your collective voices, are your best and only assurance of economic prosperity and job security.

Party of Adults Acts Like It, Rejects Palin

Mainstream media is finally noticing the obvious: that Sarah Palin's celebrity does not translate into the GOP presidential nomination.

Here's a link to a McClatchy story detailing the tepid view of Palin at the conservative grassroots. Reasons: she quit as governor, she just repeats what others say, she doesn't understand government, etc.


Mitch: Formidable!

For a purely political piece that moves beyond the usual horse-race handicapping, we recommend Erin McPike's reminiscence about Mitch Daniels' virtuoso performances in interviews during the waning years of the Reagan administration. These, offers McPike, demonstrate that Daniels has been a skillful political communicator for a generation already.

Add to that evidently natural ability, now honed over the years, both Daniels' command of policy issues and his exceptional level of honesty (judged in relative terms for a politician and, we believe, absolute terms also), and you have a candidate who makes the oratorically gifted (if rhetorically limited) but politically naive Barack Obama look insignificant.

McPike closes with this observation:

That Daniels has been so active in the media and politically deft under pressure underscores what has been missing from the discussions about his potential presidential candidacy.

Layered beneath the buzz that he has the most abundant economic record of any potential candidate in the Republican field but may lack charisma is his storied career as a political operative that included his stint in the White House, as well as a campaign manager for Indiana GOP Sen. Richard Lugar and executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Dolan put it this way: "This notion that Mitch is just a policy wonk is preposterous. He's a very skillful polemicist."

And for that reason, he noted, "That's why Mitch's presence in the televised debates will be galvanizing."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mitch Speaks Sense to CPAC Weirdness

The annual Conservative Political Action Committee meeting seems the best place to get a sense of how far people can take a good thing. For the second time in our memory, the meeting's straw poll yielded Ron Paul (R-Seriously?) as its plurality's choice for POTUS.

More significantly, Our Man Mitch delivered a serious and realistic message on fiscal probity and political unity. We like the following snippets from the Des Moines Register's report:

We will need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean. Who surf past C-SPAN to get to SportsCenter. Who, if they’d ever heard of CPAC, would assume it was a cruise ship accessory. . . .

Medicare 2.0 should restore to the next generation the dignity of making their own decisions, by delivering its dollars directly to the individual, based on financial and medical need, entrusting and empowering citizens to choose their own insurance and, inevitably, pay for more of their routine care like the discerning, autonomous consumers we know them to be. . . .

With apologies for the banality, I would submit that as we ask Americans to join us on such a boldly different course, it would help if they liked us just a bit.

America, elect this man!

Monday, February 07, 2011

From Our Global Correspondents: Egypt Update

An Egyptian on the ground in Egypt shares with us his perspective on recent events:

The Situation in the last two weeks was foggy and unclear but we see that the opinions are divided into four or five groups. The group who started the movement is huge in number and mainly young in age in their twenties and their main demands are: jobs with reasonable salaries, major political changes heading to real democracy and they are against Mubarak and want him to leave right now.

The second group which is also a very big group are faithful to Mubarak because they see him as a War hero, and an accomplisher of stability in spite of all the instability that is in the Arab World and Africa.

The third group who are Politicians and leaders of the small political parties and the brethren Muslims who are trying to take advantage of what is happening and push the ruling party away saying that they must step down “now” . The last group is the ruling party who agreed about 95% of the requests of the first party except the stepping down of Mubarak.

It is difficult to see the end of the tunnel now, it is even difficult to know what will happen tomorrow. People all over Cairo have been very unsecure for more than two weeks now so they made defense groups to protect their homes round the clock . The police could not handle the protests from the beginning so they disappeared to try to regain the trust of the people again.

Cairo has been under curfew for 18 hours daily but it is beginning to decrease from today. Markets and banks did not work for 12 days. The Military controls everything. Thirty thousand prisoners escaped from 8 prisons and spread all over the country. More than 3000 were arrested and many gave themselves up.

So Let's Stop Saying "Social Justice"

In a just world, SWNID would have time to post timely thoughts in a timely manner. But the world is not just.

And the concept of "social justice" is vacuous. That's the point made trenchantly by Robert Royal of the delightfully named The Catholic Thing. We quote for our gentle readers' stimulation, with emphasis inserted:

This whole question matters a lot because, besides the obvious urgency of supporting the poor, Catholics have been told for a half century that “social justice” is an equal part – alongside pro-life activities – of protecting all human life. And we should vote accordingly (almost always to the detriment of pro-life candidates). The problem is, it’s relatively easy to figure out how to protect babies in the womb: don’t abort them. How to help the poor is much less clear, especially in political terms.

Royal's point is that it does little good to hector people about embracing "social justice," since there's no consensus about how to achieve it, just a lot of unproved political ideology that gets slipped into the conversation without acknowledgment when people start throwing the phrase around.

We say it's about time to admit this, and not just in Roman Catholic circles. We spent some valuable SWNIDish time recently attending a most helpful workshop that still managed to waste a portion of the experience on useless exhortations to "become part of changing the system." Like voting for a higher minimum wage would make it all better.