Sunday, October 30, 2005

Immersionists, Please Be Careful, Or at Least Quiet

AP reports that a Baptist pastor in Waco, Texas died this morning of electrocution. It seems he grabbed the microphone while standing in the baptistery.

SWNID recommends that all readers check the safety of their sound system arrangements near their baptisteries right away. We add that since this is not a place for making speeches, and what is said is normally more or less the same every time, microphones may not be all that important.

Maybe the act can speak for itself.

Lincoln's Melancholy and Leading the Wrong Way

SWNID is anxiously awaiting an opportunity to read Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy. A summary of the book was featured a month ago in the indispensable Atlantic Monthly, and that much at least should be read by all gentle readers. Or at the very least gentle readers disinclined to read should listen to the NPR interview with Shenk and then maybe consent to read the excerpt from the book on the NPR web site.

Lincoln is forever a fascinating and challenging figure. But the frequency of clinical depression in all cultures and generations and the potential strength that those who have overcome it can bring to others are so great that they make Lincoln even more fascinating and challenging, not to mention worth thinking about more.

As we look to the buoyant, decisive, confident (or arrogant, as SWNID looks inward) and gregarious to lead us, we should ask where we might go if we looked more to the sensitive and burdened. Lincoln may have been all these, but today he would never be considered for significant leadership because he is the latter as well as the former.

And then there's another book to be read, The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership by University of Spoiled Children President Steven B. Sample, who is also a serious-minded Christian. Recently reviewed in Leadership magazine, this book, per SWNID's contacts, takes leadership out of Donald Trump's office and puts it back in the intellectual's study.

Just as soon as I get my desk cleared ...

Can Honest People Get the Job Done?

SWNID, Mrs. SWNID and Daughter of SWNID just returned from a weekend trip to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts to visit Williams College freshman Son of SWNID. The entire time was a delight to all.

Most entertaining was a debate between two members of the mathematics faculty on the question of the most important number, e or pi. I sincerely hope that the college puts the video of this lecture on its web site, as it is perhaps the funniest thing that the SWNID family has witnessed live and in person.

But the more interesting matter was the extemporaneous address to the parents by Williams president Morton Shapiro. His gutsy, nothing-to-hide honesty was just about the last thing that we expected from the president of what is arguably the number one "little ivy." From admitting that the student center had been pretty miserable for a long time to confessing that the problem of student drinking keeps him up at night to implying that the college had inappropriately surrendered some of its in loco parentis responsibilities to admitting that while 80% of students at other elite institutions say that their academic advising was poor, 85% say that at Williams, Shapiro spoke without notes and without guile. If his address had a theme, it was: we'll never get everything right, but we're trying to identify some areas for improvement and we're trying to make some measurable improvement over time.

In other words, Shapiro is able at Williams to be the president that Larry Summers has tried to be at Harvard. Summers, of course, was summarily neutered by the Harvard faculty. Shapiro, by contrast, seems to be in possession of all his faculties.

Also noteworthy were Shapiro's repeated references to his teaching, both in the past and present tenses. He refers to himself as a member of the faculty. Not once did he mention any of his own activities other than teaching. Not raising money, not making decisions, not "casting vision."

This raises an interesting question. Can presidents of Christian colleges be as frank as Dr. Shapiro?

This is not to imply that any are dishonest, only that their public discourses may tend toward marketing rhetoric rather than soul-baring honesty about what everyone in the room already knows to be true. When Christian college presidents (and lesser lights, for that matter) speak about their institutions, listeners know that their institutions are underfunded relative to most other institutions of higher learning, and that they offer narrower options for students and less prestige for graduates. Everyone also knows that many students violate behavioral standards and many graduates do not live out Christian ideals that they were taught or pursue the church-related vocations for which they were trained.

Of course, many do fulfill the institutional mission, and any institution is entitled and expected to talk about its successes, not its failures. And the fact that Christian colleges get anything done with the money they have is testimony to the power of God.

But some of us felt a fresh wind for about 45 minutes in Chapin Hall on Saturday morning. And we wonder whether the same breeze can blow in other places.

Why Scooter Isn't a Perjurer

So Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Scooter Libby on Friday, as was widely predicted on Thursday. But he didn't indict Karl Rove. And the indictment wasn't for "outing" Arlington soccer mom Valerie Plame but for perjury and obstruction. The lie he told? He said under oath he learned Plame's role from a reporter, but his notes show that he learned it from Dick Cheney.

This can't stand scrutiny in a court of law. Scooter's defense, already announced (because it was so obvious, as it's obvious on third and long that the QB is going to throw a pass), is that he didn't recall exactly when he testified. And that's patently obvious.

Here's why: if he had intended to deceive, he would have seen to it that all his notes were destroyed. Or he would have reviewed them to find some way to explain them. A degree of calculation would have served a lie well. But he didn't calculate that way.

Scooter is a big-time lawyer. Let's assume that he understands how prosecutors work and that he would have taken a few steps to protect himself if he intended to deceive.

But he didn't. So I say that he's a busy guy, that this was a little matter for Libby's memory and so an easy thing to forget.

Fitzgerald himself now has to admit that he was given a mandate to investigate an action in which no direct crime was committed. If Plame's "outing" was a crime, we'd expect several to have been charged for it. But the fact is that she wasn't a covert agent and so this was never a crime.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean, Harry Reid and the Ds are representing this as a smoking gun that points to the "big lie" about WMD in Iraq. That's the real embarrassment: that the opposition party has only two stories, Vietnam and Watergate, and they keep trying to repeat them.

We'd like to link to David Brooks column in the NY Times, but one has to pay to read the Times op-ed columnists now, so we won't. We read part of it over the shoulder of the lady seated in front of us on the plane home this afternoon, so we're saying in that special, no-charge, SWNID way what you would have to pay money to read David Brooks say in his way.

As we've said often, it's not that the Rs are always perfectly right or moral, it's that the Ds right now haven't a clue.

Or as Mark Steyn puts it:

But, as I've said before, one reason the Democratic Party is such a bunch of losers is because they're all tactics and no strategy. . . .

The Dems' big immoveable obstacle remains their inability to articulate a set of ideas that connects with the electorate. James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are said to be working on a Democrat version of Newt's Contract with America, but Greenberg's a pollster and Carville's an attack dog. Whatever their charms, these aren't the ideas guys.

Or as the Louisville Courier-Journal's Nick Anderson puts it:

And Now, SWNID Opines on Ohio Issues 1-5

Never have so many issues so deserving of utter defeat been put before the voters of the State of Ohio in a single election as in 2005. Ohio Issues 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 all are utterly awful ideas.

Issue 1 gives the state a load of money via bond issues to fix stuff that needs fixing and to invest in so-called high tech projects that will supposedly create jobs. The voters need to send a message to Bob Taft on this one: this Keynesian approach has been completely discredited in all cases except deflationary depressions, which we definitely aren't in right now.

Issues 2-5 would revise Ohio election laws to make it easier for the left to win in Ohio. Or so the left thinks. Actually, they'd still lose, but Ohio would experience higher rates of voter fraud, more influence on public debate by unions and big money from PACs and political dot-orgs and have no means of influencing the governing of elections by elections.

We'd say more, but Peter Bronson has said it all. Read it and vote your conscience. If you want your conscience to be clear, vote with Bronson and SWNID.

Enquirer Blows Mayoral Endorsement

Having predicted that the Cincinnati Enquirer would endorse Mark Mallory for mayor, SWNID is forced to admit that we were wrong, though not in doubt. However, we were wrong because the Enquirer is wrong. Unable to follow the lead of its own reporters or the drift of its own guest columnists, the Queen City's leading newspaper today endorsed David Pepper.

Why? Here's the answer:
Pepper's more direct and detailed approach gives him the edge. He has a plan and is ready to implement it. Mallory does not.

So it's the much-vaunted Pepper "plan." Well, we have some things to say about the Pepper plan.

First, as a college instructor, we know the difference between substance and padding. Pepper's plan is the latter. There's little in the plan besides the usual list of unfunded initiatives, spelled out not in detail but with rhetorical flourishes to convince those with the patience to wade through the blather that their special interest is the special interest of David Pepper.

Second, where has Pepper's plan been during his terms in City Council? The most that could be said about Pepper's years on council by Nathaniel Jones in his endorsement of pepper was that Pepper passed rules governing civility in council meetings. So right before the campaign somebody smacked Pepper on the noggin, and out sprang the Pepper plan?

Third, it has been said that no battle plan survives the first engagement with the enemy. The same goes with political plans. They don't survive the first moment of debate in a city council, legislature or congress. Pepper's plan won't mean a thing if it ain't got that support from five council members. And so far Pepper hasn't managed to put together any significant coalitions on the council.

Now, here's the rub, and as Mallory has said, it all has to do with being a council insider versus a council outsider. If Councilman David Pepper is elected mayor four years after a popular incumbent was elected, effectively ousting the incumbent, his election will tell all nine members of council, and most particularly whoever gets the most votes for council, that he or she can undermine Pepper for four years and then challenge him, and probably win. Council will devolve into nine members chasing TV cameras to campaign for 2009. Which is to say it will continue as it is now.

But if Mallory is elected, every council member will be put on notice that someone from the outside can be elected and will hold them to public account for their actions.

So it doesn't matter whether Pepper has a plan or not. He won't be able to get five votes for anything. Mallory, on the other hand, will have the political clout to assemble coalitions. If he wants to, he can implement the Pepper plan.

Choosing leaders isn't about figuring out who has the best ideas before they get on the job. It's about figuring out who has the best philosophy to formulate ideas and the best skills to carry them out. Mallory and Pepper are ideologically indistinguishable. But their skill set is way different. Pepper excels in raising funds from his father's tony friends. Mallory excels in the fine art of politics.

So there you go, Enquirer. You guys are pathetic. It's just a good thing that no one reads the paper anymore, or your endorsement might make a difference in the election.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

World Series: Restoring Confidence in the "World"

What the Chicago White Sox's four-game sweep of the Houston Astros lacked in suspense, it more than made up in sheer brilliance. The Pale Hose impressed SWNID as the most fundamentally sound and balanced baseball team in recent memory. This is team that plays the game the way that Abner Doubleday intended. Their 11-1 record against impressive opposition in the postseason is testimony enough to that.

We expect that gentle readers noticed that the World Series is indeed a world event now. Not only is it followed around the world, but the teams are genuinely international. And with the way that the Sox's League of Nations hits, runs, catches and throws, we have greater confidence in the world.

SWNID also affirms the rightness of the choice of Jermaine Dye as Series MVP. Dye hit the ball with surgical precision and alarming frequency, and he was slick with the leather too. However, we want to say a word of awe-filled appreciation for the skills of third baseman Joe Crede. Not since Brooks Robinson spoiled the Reds' party in 1970 has the hot corner been played with such quickness and agility, and with similar results.

Our baseball mantra is that we like watching the sport because we enjoy seeing millionaires make mistakes. But the truth is, not many mistakes were made in this series. Sort of makes you proud to be a citizen of the world.

Mallory Shines, Pepper Whines

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer features duelling endorsements from two celebrated figures of local public life. Judge Nathaniel Jones, icon of the civil rights movement, endorses David Pepper, while Stanley Aronoff, former president of the Ohio Senate, endorses Mark Mallory.

So both candidates have heavyweights in their corner. But for different reasons. And the differences matter.

Jones notes that Pepper served as his law clerk. And he notes that Pepper authored rules for the Cincinnati City Council that require civility. And he notes that Pepper is white, and that Jones, who is black, believes that block-voting by racial groups is bad. He also offers that the scion of the corporate chairman and product of prep schools and the Ivy League is bright.

(SWNID asks gentle readers to explain the point of Jones's next-to-last paragraph, if there is one. We can find in it no hint of relevance to the endorsement of Pepper for mayor, but we see lots of celebrities' names in it. It might lead some to believe that one of Cincinnati's brightest lights has dimmed with age.)

Aronoff, by contrast, offers the litany of reasons to vote for Mallory that SWNID first published early in September. The man is a moderate, humane manager, a skillful politician, respected by the widest range of public figures imaginable in this age of extreme partisanship.

Well, you know where we stand on this. But the obviousness of the choice is becoming embarrassing. If this is the best that Pepper can do, this race won't even be as close as we predicted it won't be.

Harriet Miers, 2005-2005

With consideration for the political fortunes of her boss that has been the hallmark of her public service, Harriet Miers withdrew from consideration as Supreme Court Justice. Kudos to Charles Krauthammer for predicting the very grounds of her withdrawal.

What this means is that Campbellites worldwide have now fallen from the pseudo-Episcopalian, Brahmin heights to which Miers had taken them and are back in the muddled middle class that is their true caste. Now Christian church members around the country can stop buying Brooks Brothers suits and joining country clubs and get back to selling insurance, teaching school, driving the kids to karate lessons, and serving up Hamburger Helper. Ah, the sweet anonymity of worldly inconsequence!

George W. Bush's Very Busy Week

The MSM is aflame with passionate expectation about this most awful of political weeks for President Bush. Intones the NY Times:
George W. Bush has been in the White House for 248 weeks, through a terrorist attack, two wars and a bruising re-election. But it seems safe to say that he has never had a worse political week than this one - and it is not over yet.

Why, ask the Newspaper of Record's astonished readers? Because America lost its 2000th soldier in Iraq, Harriet Miers withdrew, and the Plamegate indictments will come down tomorrow.

Well, yes, that's a lot worse politically than a couple of thousand civilians being killed by airplanes, or mounting a huge invasion of a country one third of the way around the world, or even getting hit with a hurricane. Can our republic survive?

Not to question the Times, since it does decide how the rest of the MSM will cover every story, but let's review:
  • Before that 2000th soldier lost his (or her?) life--and we hasten to add that every war casualty is a human tragedy--there was that little matter of the Iraqi constitution's approval. The Country Formerly Known as a Saddam's Killing Field is now officially a constitutionally governed democracy. And then there are all the Iraqi soldiers who are now killing their own bad guys.
  • There are, as yet, no indictments from Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury, and the grand jury's term expires tomorrow. Let's wait and see on that one. For a review of why Plamegate doesn't constitute a crime but is yet another example of the left's criminalization of policy differences and the overzealousness of independent prosecutors, see SWNID's compendium of wisdom posted previously. If there are indictments, and not just a Lawrence-Walsh-style "report," we should remember that every recent administration has had those as well.
  • Yes, Miers withdrew. We'll say more about this in another post. But let us not forget that every president in recent memory has had key nominees withdraw from consideration for various reasons, and it's hardly had an impact beyond the weekend pundit shows. Conservative jurisprudence has a bench deeper than the Chicago White Sox: James Taranto lists Edith Jones, Janice Rogers Brown, Michael Luttig, J. Harvie Wilkinson, Michael McConnell, Viet Dinh, and Christopher Cox while apologizing to all the highly qualified conservative judges that he didn't name. Already the left is wailing about Miers's withdrawal, as she's about as moderate a nominee as they could expect to get, which is to say that she isn't too moderate.

So Bush is still doing nicely, thank you. And let's add some of the following to the nice week that conservatives have had politically:

  • The Volcker Commission is now stating that the UN-Iraq oil-for-food debacle involved $1.8 billion in illegally diverted payments to Saddam's regime. Among the companies involved were DaimlerChrysler, Volvo, and Siemens. Whatever sins the right has committed are dwarfed by the enormous scandal at the Future One-World Government.
  • The President and Congress seem to be getting in sync on budget cuts that will reduce the federal deficit and in the long term wean the country, if ever so slightly, from the federal wet nurse.
  • Syria, the last bastion of Baathism, is now under close scrutiny by the global community, with the United States and France (yes, you read that correctly) drafting a UN resolution threatening sanctions if Syria does not cooperate with the investigation of its involvement in the murder of Rafiq Hariri. Such resolutions are so much blather, of course, but thoughtful readers will recall that Saddam's downfall began with a similar Kabuki drama in Turtle Bay.
  • And then there are the spokespeople for the left: John Kerry, Diane Feinstein, and Michael Moore. All have had interesting weeks. Kerry managed to say that we have too many troops in Iraq, except that we have too few. Feinstein found a way to whine that Miers was dissed because she's a miss. And Moore is the subject of a book that reveals that he trades stocks in companies that he condemns and refuses to hire minorities or union workers. Does anyone take the opposition party seriously anymore?

So sleep well tonight, gentle readers. Our republic is safe.

America to Kerry: The Election Is Over, Dude!

SWNID once again gratefully acknowledges James Taranto for pointing his Best of the Web Today readers to John Kerry's speech at Georgetown University yesterday, in which Kerry actually made both of these remarks (emphasis inserted):

When they [the Bush administration] could have listened to General Shinseki and put in enough troops to maintain order, they chose not to. They were wrong.

General George Casey, our top military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence "feeds the notion of occupation" and "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant." . . . It is essential to acknowledge that the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down.

Will someone please tell the Junior Senator from Massachusetts that (a) the election is over; (b) and he lost; (c) because a majority of voters were not impressed with this kind of "reasoning"; (d) as it gave the lie to the notion that Bush was the stupid candidate in the race.

Or as Taranto puts it: "Apparently Kerry was for more troops before he was against it."

Meanwhile 115 battalions of Iraqi troops are fit to fight in in anti-insurgency operations in Iraq, with one third in the lead and two thirds side-by-side with Americans. Hmm. Is the senator listening to his intelligence briefings?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Absolute Last Word on Hurricane Survival

We thank one of our gentlest of readers for the following example of disaster preparedness:

Redneck Hurricane Survival Kit
Toilet Paper: check
Bud Light: check
Keystone Ice: check
Budweiser: check
Red Dog: check
Misc. other bottles of alcohol: check
Piece of plywood to float your chick and booze on: check

Next time let's all be more prepared.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Public Radio Finds Evangelicals Interesting

American Public Media's Speaking of Faith devoted its most recent program to "Evangelicals Out of the Box," that is, evangelicals who don't fit the stereotype of evangelicals. Featured were Nancey Murphy, Fuller Seminary philosopher who works on the intersection of science and faith, and James K. A. Smith, Calvin College philospher and doppelganger to a SWNID colleague.

The link goes to a page with a RealAudio file of the program and additional files for portions of the interviews that were cut from the final program. From these, don't miss Smith's discussion of "fundamentalism of the left."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Two More Victims of Racism

Our title refers to thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede, otherwise known as "Prussian Blue," a singing duo who record and perform anthems of white supremacy. ABC News is covering their role in the ever-present, ever-weirder world of organized racism.

Gentle readers interested in the not-so-gentle story might want to check out material on this white supremacist website or the group's own website.

These girls, of course, are pawns of their parents. Both mother and father, who apparently no longer live at the same address, are devotees of the racist mythology of the Nazis and their forebears. Had they more conventional stage parents, they'd be appearing on a WB sitcom or recording puppy-love ballads for airing between shows on the Disney Channel.

On the subject of the Nazis and their forebears, the girls opine that their primary social concern is that white girls with good eugenics aren't having enough children to replace the race. This they have in common not only with the National Socialist Party of Germany's Third Reich but also with Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. But don't look for them to appear at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser soon.

So many aspects of this story are disturbing, but we turn from them to the one truth about all such phenomena: the modern concept of race is a social construct without scientific basis. The truth is that all humans are enormously similar genetically, that genetic differences are more pronounced for selected populations within "races" than general differences across "races," and that so-called "racial purity" has never existed at any point in human history. It is mathematically certain that everyone in the world has multiple ancestors from all "racial" groups as we identify them today. Everyone reading this blog, for example, is statistically almost certainly a descendant of Confucius, Nefertiti and Mohammed, not to mention Charlemange.

SWNID wishes we could quote Stanley Crouch exactly on this point, but we will paraphrase: It is highly ironic that a nation that prides itself on its scientific precision classifies people as "black" or "white" when it is patently obvious that no humans exist in either of those colors.

Anne Rice's Interview with God Incarnate

Meanwhile, back in the world of celebrity religion, it seems that Mistress of the Dead Anne Rice has, through many genuine tribulations, returned to her Roman Catholic roots and is now publishing the first of three novelizations of the life of Jesus.

Newsweek is reporting that the first is a first-person narration from the POV of the seven-year-old Jesus (born in 11 BC, an early though not altogether impossible date). Among other things, Jesus will study with Philo of Alexandria and report internal experiences confirming his divine status.

SWNID says this is swell. Not because there will be any significant religious or historical value to what Rice does, but because it will keep Jesus on the media's front burner. We area all for confrontations between lazy secularists and that second-temple Jewish prophet who was crucified and by all accounts rose from the tomb. This book will reopen the discussion in coffee houses, break rooms and dormitories all over the global village.

And Rice's book is almost certainly good news compared to the most recent Jesus media extravaganza, the abysmal Da Vinci Code. That one got people thinking about how not to think about Jesus, and in the most irresponsible way possible. The only honest word in the book was the shelving instruction on the back cover: "Fiction."

We also note that Newsweek makes no effort to explore Ms. Rice's religious transformation. Too bad they didn't put the inimitable Kenneth Woodward on the story. Then we'd really have something to read.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Horn Silenced

We break a few days' silence to memorialize the passing of Shirley Horn. In a world of celebrity singers who rise to stardom at 21 and are washed up by 24, Horn was an exception. She had her greatest success as she moved from middle age to senior status.

There's nothing more subtle or, dare we say it, more romantic than Shirley Horn singing one of her signature standards. If you haven't heard her before, buy, beg or borrow some tracks.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why We All Should Thank an Engineer

A gentle reader sends along a link to a most amazing Rube Goldberg contraption devised by Honda. It has been forwarded to us with the following message (disclaimer: don't believe everything you see on the internet):
There are NO computer graphics or digital tricks in the film you are about to see. Everything you see really happened in real time, exactly as you see it. The film required 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work. They would then have to set the whole thing up again. The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. By the time it was over, they were ready to change professions. The film cost 6 million dollars and took three months to complete, including a full engineering of the sequence. In addition, it's two minutes long so every time Honda airs the film on British television, they're shelling out enough dough to keep any one of us in clover for a lifetime. However, it is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history.

For non-technical, impatient types like SWNID, this simply prompts me to say thank you to all engineers, who make life easier for everyone.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Steyn Versus Cohen: Even in a Bad Week, Bush Is Doing Well

Be alert, gentle readers. We're going to cover a lot of territory.

We note with amazement that Washington Post bloviator Richard Cohen is calling for an end to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Valerie Plame un-scandal. Cohen is right: this is no crime, and special prosecutors are always overzealous. However, it simply couldn't be the case that Cohen would speak so kindly of the fate of a Republican. He goes on to imply that the real scandal is that the President took us to war on a false premise.

Next we note that Iraq has something rare in the Middle East: a constitution approved by referendum.

Further we note that for Cohen, this matters less than the fact that we did not find in Iraq the WMD that every major intelligence agency expected to find there. We did find mothballed WMD development programs awaiting restart at the lifting of UN sanctions, plus a genocidal apparatus for enforcing the will of the dictator, plus consistent harboring of international terrorists, plus misappropriation of UN oil-for-food funds to line the pockets of the dictator's cronies while starving the populace. But no poison gas. Well, really, we did find some, but not very much.

And so we note Mark Steyn. Sorry, gentle readers, but we have no link for this one, as we refer to a remark on the radio with Hugh Hewitt. Steyn, in his weekly appearance on the conservative Californian's stimulating show, noted: "Free Afghanistan: done! Free Iraq: done! The liberals put 'Free Tibet' stickers on their Volvos back in 1962, and it's no freer now than it was then!"

In the battle of significant opinions, Steyn clobbers Cohen in this round. Surely there's something for all humans to celebrate in the Iraqi election today. Surely there's something noteworthy in the fact that it came off without any major violence (who said that the Iraqi forces were incompetent or that the Bush administration lacks an "exit strategy"?). Surely this matters more than whether every detail of prewar intelligence was correct.

SWNID recalls that the American Manhattan project to build an atomic bomb during World War II was largely spurred by a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt warning that the Nazis were at work on a bomb. However, after the war it was learned that resistance effort had stymied German bomb research. So did FDR and Truman fight the war by mistake?

This has been a pretty miserable political week for the Bushies. How is it that all the while they're managing to do what many thought could not be done?

Enquirer Poised to Follow SWNID in Mayoral Endorsement

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer includes an excellent two-page spread on mayoral finalists Mark Mallory and David Pepper. Despite the fact that the stories run in "Forum," the Sunday opinion section, they are presented as straightforward reporting rather than opinion.

However, it won't take readers long to see where the paper's sentiments lie. Pepper is treated respectfully but with due note that many City Council members and local activists don't believe that he's been particularly effective. Mallory, on the other hand, is presented with nary a negative comment, except for the predicatably negative Tom Brinkman.

The candidates' lists of endorsements is notable as well. Pepper boasts the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, who, in light of their announcement of the endorsement, have apparently extracted a promise from Pepper to hire more policemen. FOP President Keith Fangman whined that the number of Cincinnati police has declined since the 1970s, ignoring that the city's population has declined even more sharply.

Meanwhile, Mallory boasts the endorsement of Hamilton County's delegation to the Ohio Statehouse, including such Republican luminaries as Bill Seitz.

SWNID notes that these stories clearly are a prelude to an endorsement, and we are glad that the Enquirer is going to endorse the right candidate.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Meanwhile, Back in New Orleans

Gentle readers with attention spans longer than SWNID's have redirected our attention to the Big Easy's plight and destiny.

First, "jb in ca" points out John Leo's excellent summary of the hysterical hyperbole in reporting during the worst of New Orleans's crisis. The problem as Leo sees it was the willingness of reporters, urged on by the likes of the NY Times, to ignore fundamental journalistic practices like not believing everything you're told in order to report the "emotion" of the crisis. With hindsight, the whole matter feels like the rumor-mongering that led to long lines and price gouging at gas stations on September 11, 2001.

Second, "Raymond," the last reader of the Cincinnati Post, sends us a link to a nostalgic but tough-minded story by a NO native, former policeman and retired Cincinnati Post reporter (is there any other kind?). His take on his hometown is pretty clear. We quote a bit:

Since Katrina, reporters and columnists have described New Orleans as a fantasy land, as if the entire city is the French Quarter and the Garden District. They talked of the wonderful jazz and the bawdiness in the Quarter. There is a little jazz, particularly at the famed Preservation Hall, but much of Bourbon Street is T-shirt shops and second-class restaurants offering poor food at exorbitant prices. The only bawdiness comes from young tourists who leave their social restraints at home and feel free to expose their breasts. New Orleans citizens rarely, if ever, go on Bourbon Street.

So what should they do with the neighborhoods, especially the Ninth Ward, left uninhabitable by Katrina?

A few neighborhoods that are not so sodden with crime and poverty maybe should be rebuilt as they were. What I believe should be done with the Ninth Ward will never happen politically: they should plow under the neighborhood, truck out the debris and drastically redesign the ward and its culture.

Meanwhile, our sources tell us that the real heroes of the recovery will be businesses.

Friend of SWNID Roger G, like many Cincinnatians a dedicated P&G employee, has been deeply involved in the reopening of the Folger's Coffee plant near New Orleans. Without FEMA, P&G has brought in the housing, water, power and workers they need to get the plant in operation.

Similarly, the omnipresent voice of AM radio, Roger Oreck, has interrupted his spots proclaiming the greatness of his vacuum cleaners to proclaim the greatness of his company, which likewise has reopened its plant near the Gulf that was shut down by Katrina. Oreck is donating a vac to a hurricane victim for each one purchased for awhile.

So we still hope that sense will prevail over sentiment. We'll assume that businesses will think carefully about what is worthwhile investment in the Gulf, New Orleans included. Government should help people get on with their lives, but that doesn't mean resettling the un- and under-employed back in their pathological neighborhoods.

While MSM and Ds Drool, Let's Review Facts

The MSM's template for the last several weeks has been that the Bush Administration is going down. Joined by the Ds, media elites are rapt with anticipation of Karl Rove's impending indictment.

There is a problem, of course. First, Rove has not been informed that he is a target of the investigation, per his lawyer.

Second, the whole story is not a tale of White House manipulation and mendacity, as the MSM would have it. The Weekly Standard summarizes the whole "Plame Affair" very nicely, albeit in considerable detail. Here's SWNID's summary of the summary:

  • Sourcing for the allegation that Saddam was seeking yellowcake from Niger was multiple, though like all intelligence, questionable.
  • The CIA acknowledged that it was not certain that Saddam tried to by yellowcake from Niger.
  • The CIA approved Bush Administration statements about Saddam seeking nukes, including the yellowcake allegation.
  • Joe Wilson (Mr. Valerie Plame) was but one investigator of the allegation.
  • Wilson was suggested to the CIA as an investigator by Plame.
  • Wilson's investigation was superficial. (a quote: "As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors--they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government--and were probably forged." As if the forgeries hadn't been part of an attempt to get yellowcake through Niger's system and into the hands of a country under UN sanctions!)
  • His finding was not that sales or attempted sales had not occurred but that he could not confirm the reliability of the evidence of such sales.
  • Wilson began to contact reporters in Washington on his own to insist that his findings of no yellowcake sales were definitive.
  • Wilson accelerated his campaign as time went on, and claimed that his wife had nothing to do with his trip.
  • That Wilson is Plame's wife was well known and well published.
  • That Plame worked for the CIA was known to anyone who followed her car as she drove to work at Langley in the mornings.
  • A mother of young children, Plame hadn't been a covert CIA operative in years, and for a crime to have been committed by the revelation of her identity, she had to have been currently active as a covert agent.
  • Lewis Libby and Karl Rove "outed" Plame not as retribution, like some crazy terrorist would kill her on the expressway to Langley, but to show how insignificant Wilson was in the whole chain of intelligence about Iraqi nukes.

The piece notes that the NY Times recently published what appears to be an exhaustive timeline of the case. But the Standard notes this about the Times:

But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

Truth is, this isn't a very interesting story. It involves no great intrigue, just a lot of bureaucracy, the problem of proof, and the ambitions of a minor government official (remember than until the truthfulness of his story tanked, Wilson was being touted as a likely senior State Department official in the Kerry Administration, appeared regularly on news shows and was featured in the appropriately named Vanity Fair).

But the template is that Bush is going down, and Rove, his evil genius, is the first to go.

Well, we'll see.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Robertson's Embarrassing Moments Matter

Hugo Chavez and his band of Castroites this week announced that they were expelling from Venezuela missionaries from New Tribes Mission, accusing them of operating for the CIA. For those who wonder why this is happening now, we need look no farther than The Most Embarrassing Christian Ever, Pat Robertson. Both New Tribes and SWNID's contacts in Venezuela firmly believe that Robertson's remarks prompted this move.

The retribution is not likely to end with New Tribes. Our friends tell us that in August, the Venezuelan government was briefly denying visas to missionaries. It looks like Christian missionaries in Venezuela are likely to continue to suffer unnecessarily for Robertson's nutty comments.

Of course, Robertson apologized for his call to "take out" Chavez. But he then accused Chavez of sending money to bin Laden. It just proves that you can't keep a good man down.

Anyway, SWNID knows that gentle readers understand and will make the appropriate response to the potential persecution of brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. We would ask especially for such a response on behalf of a Venezuelan national enrolled at CCU who as we speak is in Washington, DC to update his passport at the Venezuelan embassy. Let's ask that he get what he needs plus some extra time to see the sights.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

For Those Without Cable: How to Rock the Vote

Son of SWNID sends a link to Matt Labash's droll summary of celebrity-driven efforts at encouraging voter turnout. For those, like the SWNID household, without the social demon of cable or satellite TV, and hence no access to MTV's Rock the Vote and similar escapades, Labash chronicles what we haven't seen but already knew: that ignorant, apathetic celebrities who try to get ignorant, apathetic viewers of music videos to vote look ... well ... ignorant and apathetic.

SWNID asserts that part of the left's mythology is that low voter turnout is what keeps the left from gaining absolute power, their historic destiny. Hence, we are browbeaten by P. Diddy and Drew Barrymore about our failure to turn out for elections, as if ignorance and indifference were things that can be expressed in a voting booth to the benefit of the republic.

Additional note: Son of SWNID came across this article because it was assigned in his poli sci class at his swanky New England liberal arts college. So there may be hope for higher education after all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Steyn: Evangelical Christianity Bad, Islam OK?

Global content provider Mark Steyn writes deliciously in the Telegraph about the ridiculous ends to which the British left wing will go to ridicule George Bush's Christian faith while at the same time supporting almost any measure deemed to show sensitivity to Muslims.

To wit: both the Independent (which isn't very independent anymore) and the Guardian made a big deal of the so-called Palestinian Foreign Minister's claim that President Bush claimed divine guidance for the invasion of Iraq. The story proved to be utterly without merit, but that didn't prevent those papers from running it as their lead, with big headlines.

Meanwhile, a town council in the UK is banning children's literature character Piglet from public display, as it may offend Muslims.

If you're looking for the paradox of religious identity these days, you'll find it nicely described here. But remember that Christianity has always been atop the standings for most controversial religion.

Best You'll See in the Cincinnati Enquirer

Friend of SWNID and now-and-then adjunct instructor at CCU Keith Crutcher has about as fine an opinion column as one could imagine in yesterday's Cincinnati Enquirer.

Keith is a brain researcher. That's right. He's that smart. He's also as thoughtful, serious and informed a Christian as one will meet.

His column takes on the utilitarian assumptions of the advocates of embryonic stem-cell research. It rocks.

We won't gild the lilly by commenting on the column. But we want gentle readers to understand the price that Keith will pay for expressing this view.

Biomedical research is a totalitarian society. Its subjects must subjugate individual rights for the good of "research," which means boosting any and every opportunity to get public money to keep the lab going. So there can be no moral objections to any potential line of research. Morals get in the way of grant applications.

Keith is a dissident. He thinks that there's no moral justification for embryonic stem cell research. And now he's said it.

He will certainly be subject to criticism and perhaps be shunned by his scientist peers. He can expect labels like "religious fanatic" or "right-wing nut job" in return for articulating honest reservations about the party line.

The next time you hear someone say that there are no Christian biologists, just remember that there are plenty. They just dare not open their mouths.

So much for open inquiry.

SWNID Recommends Booker Prize Loser

The Booker Prize, Britain's biggest literary award, has been given to John Banville's The Sea.

SWNID recommends that gentle readers gently read a Booker Prize loser, Kazuro Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. We have no dispute with the prize committee, because this is the only nominated book that we've read. But we think it needs to be read by more folks.

NLMG is an impressive exercise in human imagination that draws the reader into close consideration of exactly what it is to be human. Set in a Britain exactly like today's but with one significant social difference, it puts in stark relief how a person shapes meaning in a situation bereft of it. This is not dark science-fiction but poignant social-fiction.

What would life be like without family, without a future? What is a society like without God? NLMG shows us that we can't live that way, even if we are forced to.

Read it, gentle readers.

Reel Life and Real Life: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

We turn this morning to the arts.

SWNID and Daughter of SWNID attended a free screening of Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit last week. We give the claymation spectacular two enthusiastic thumbs up and five stars each (that's a total of twelve objects of endorsement). It retains the charm, outrageous humor and thorough Englishness of the original shorts. Grommit is the most expressive silent character since Chaplin's little tramp.

While mostly a family-friendly movie, the film does have a couple of mild but not-so-subtle double entendres developed out of its pervasive vegetable theme, one involving melons and another nuts. These gags, hardly the most creative elements of the film, appear in the tradition of the English pantomime.

For our gentle readers of the colonial persuasion, in the sense used here a pantomime is not an annoying silent performance by a man in white makeup, a horizontally striped shirt and tight, black trousers but a holiday season stage performance of some souped-up fairy-tale script, staged with an older man in drag and a younger woman in trousers, intended to allow English children to emerge from their hiding places and attend the theater with their parents while consuming pounds of chocs. Pantos have loose plots filled with slapstick, bad jokes, sentimental songs, and, to keep the parents interested while they stuff the little monsters with sweets, a few double entendre gags.

The expectation is that the parents will laugh while the kids miss the whole point and remain uncorrupted. And indeed, that's what the producers of W&G certainly expected with their sly produce references.

But it seems that today's young audience comes to the cinema pre-corrupted. At the screening attended by the aforementioned SWNID and Daughter of SWNID, much juvenile laughter ensued after each obvious anatomical joke.

Innocence has been lost. Nothing goes over the heads of today's pre-teen, who can quote every catchphrase from the ouvre of Adam Sandler.

But to the item in the news: Aardman Animations, producers of W&G, burned to the ground yesterday. All the figures and props used to produce their stop-action wonders were destroyed.

So we live in a world where moth and rust corrupt, both material possessions and senses of humor. Sigh!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Real Science Versus Environmentalism, With Real Humans in the Balance

Over at the Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby sends up a timely and contrarian word on the safety and value of DDT, the world's most unfairly maligned chemical. As Mallaby notes, DDT has been treated as the pestilential pesticide since the hyped publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Meanwhile, people in Africa are dying of malaria, when the spraying of their homes with the inexpensive chemical almost certainly would save most of them.

Mallaby wants to frame the issue as the Europeans being even less interested in science than the Bush administration, as the EU, against all evidence and informed opinion, is threatening Uganda with sanctions if it allows DDT spraying. SWNID, tired of all the Bush bashing and Europe mongering, wants to frame it differently. Life is not all politics, you know.

Here goes. The Western world chooses carefully what to hate. Among diseases, it hates STDs, especially those associated with gay Westerners. So it hates AIDS. It spends bazillions on a cure. To observe a modicum of global consistency, it insists that AIDS be eradicated even among sub-Saharan African heterosexuals.

However, the Western world doesn't care much about diseases that more or less exclusively affect people of color in far-away places, especially if they are transmitted by parasites. So malaria, which is rampant in Africa, kills many more than AIDS. But nobody is investing in a cure, and nobody is willing to sacrifice their sacred anti-DDT dogma from St. Rachel of the Bird's Nest in order to get close to a cheap, practical and immediate near-cure.

Sorry, Ms. Carson, but besides inflicting your mediocre prose on two generations of high school students, you've also left a legacy of miserably unempirical and inhumane thinking. A lot of prematurely dead Africans would have preferred a bit of unproved risk with the local avian population over what you've left us.

Let's hope that we can get some sense on this issue. But in light of the near-universal environmental sentimentalism evinced in the way that we all reflexively put out our recycling bins every week despite the demonstrably negative impact of curbside recycling on the environment (it takes more energy and creates more pollution to recycle than to mine and mill, and we recycle materials that are renewable [paper] or in plentiful supply [glass, made from sand, and aluminum, one of the most abundant of metals, and plastic, made from petroleum residues left over in refining], and the idea that landfills are full is nonsense, and even if we started to run out of these things, we could always mine the landfills, so there's no good reason at all to have curbside recycling except to make people feel good about their environmental stewardship), SWNID (who confesses to recycling each week, to our shame) doubts that the sense will come soon.

[N.B. that the previous sentence is by far the longest in SWNID history.]

DDT is demonstrably more effective against malaria than condoms are against AIDS, and likely just about as harmless in purely physical terms. But there's no pro-DDT lobby. And now you know why.

Robertson Scores Again in Most Embarrassing Christian Competition

Televangelist and erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson has scored again in the competition to be named Most embarrassing Christian ever.

Noting the recent spate of earthquakes and hurricanes, Robertson said on CNN's late edition, "These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity."

Robertson could not say whether hurricanes and earthquakes have been irregular in the past.

Continuing, he opined,
If you read back in the Bible, the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonia [sic], he said that in the latter days before the end of the age that the Earth would be caught up in what he called the birth pangs of a new order. And for anybody who knows what it's like to have a wife going into labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit. I don't have any special word that says this is that, but it could be suspiciously like that.

Such a text does not exist in the "the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonia," that is, in either letter to the church in Thessalonica. Robertson was apparently trying to recall the statement of Jesus in Matthew 24:7-8 and parallels, actually quoted in the article linked above, though not by Robertson. He further assumes that Jesus' statement is about increased frequency or more regular occurrence of such disasters, even though the text says nothing of any increase, rather than simply their ongoing occurrence despite the coming of God's kingdom, an idea that coheres with the context of Jesus' remarks.

Robertson denied himself additional points in the Most Embarrassing standings by not claiming oracular powers of interpretation in this instance. WorldNet Daily notes:

When asked if the world was approaching that [final] moment, Robertson said, "It's possible. I don't have any special revelation [emphasis inserted] to say it is but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be."

Robertson was awarded some additional points for this statement, which, while not claiming divine revelation to interpret the Bible in this instance, does indicate that he expects such revelation occasionally and is willing to claim it publicly. Misnaming a biblical book and mis-citing a text while at the same time claiming oracular interpretation would constitute an embarrassment trifecta seldom achieved in international Christian Embarrassment competition.

Robertson also received a few points for chauvinism with the clause "for anybody who knows what it's like to have a wife going into labor." Alert judges noted that this selection of words implies that men with wives who have experienced labor can understand a text about the onset of labor pains while women who have actually experienced labor are excluded.

Robertson's remark has prompted some observers of the Most Embarrassing Christian competition to call for a quick end to it. "Robertson is so far ahead, it's impossible to see how anyone could ever pass him," offered one informed fan. "Finding someone in bed with a live boy or a dead girl wouldn't be enough to pass Robertson now, as Jimmy Swaggert proved twenty years ago." But backers of Jerry Falwell insist that he may still have a bon mot left that can bring him back within striking distance.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Why Complaints About Iraq Have Become So Vague

National Review gnome Victor Davis Hanson offers a nice survey of why no one is really agitating for a major change in the approach to the Iraq war right now. In short, all the reasons for going to war--with the exception of actually stockpiles of WMD, always a legal fig leaf to energize the flaccid UN--are proving valid, and all the outcomes of the war are proving beneficial to the region and to Western interests.

We are, in short, winning a war that we needed to fight, in a position to reduce American troop presence in the not-too-distant future, and safer in a potentially better world as a result.

Gentle readers are urged to ignore poll numbers, which will have no effect whatsoever on our lame duck President and little influence on the next round of elections. Informed opinion, even among Ds, all points in the same direction: finish what we're doing, fine tune our approaches to Islamofascism, commit ourselves afresh to the struggle, and stay active on the side of global democracy. These points are no longer subject to debate.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Barone on Bush's Speech: We're Winning, And Need To

For those like SWNID who haven't had the chance, what with work and ransoming chickens and all, to pay much attention to the extra-important speech on Iraq that President Bush made yesterday, Michael Barone has summed it up quite nicely.

Barone notes that Bush cites specific reasons to see what the MSM and the left don't want to talk about: very specific, definite progress in the war effort and very important consequences for the country for the war's outcome.

SWNID will put it another way: in 2000 who would've thunk that a democracy would take hold in Iraq in 2005?

Krauthammer: Wrong, But Brilliantly So

Charles Krauthammer, Friday's child for conservatives, today weighs in heavily against Harriet Miers.

SWNID disagrees. That means Dr. K is likely wrong, because SWNID is by definition seldom wrong. We think that a Supreme Court needs both some legal brilliance, which John Roberts brings but which Scalia already had, and some behind-the-scenes, quietly-making-things-work expertise, which Miers brings. It's high time the court stopped writing three, four or five opinions on every case. Somebody needs to make these boys and girls play together nicely. Harriet the Whirlybird sponsor and head of the 450-parter law firm and president of the Texas Bar Association and White House Counsel is our woman.

But Dr. K has such thrilling hutzpah, such aridly dry wit, that it's hard not to bow in obeisance as one reads his column.

AP Reads SWNID, Breaks Miers Campbellite Angle

SWNID welcomes AP reporter Rachel Zoll, first MSM journalist to discuss the un-denomination to which Harriet Miers belongs, as a gentle reader. Zoll must have been reading this blog, as she has mined some of the identity of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement to get a handle on Miers's views.

Gentle readers should follow the link to see the relatively evenhanded way that Zoll treats the independent Christian churches and churches of Christ. We note, however, that her representation of recent events at Valley View may not be entirely accurate.

Zoll is especially to be commended for contacting the erudite Doug Foster of Abilene Christian University for his analysis of the movement. Doug's a great scholar and a cool guy.

The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

OK, gentle readers. We can tell you the whole story.

Yesterday afternoon, having been gone from our office for several minutes for consultation with other high-powered academic administrators, we discovered the following note:

Follow the instructions and your chickens will not be hurt

Leave $73 in unmarked bills in the garbage can west of the bookstore on the bottom floor of Presidents Hall.

Next: Fire the heretics Dyke, Read and Derico

When this has been completed, post a message on your blog with the Title: “The Chickens Have Flown the Coop”

Leave whatever message you want underneath that.

Do NOT indicate that your precious chickens have been kidnapped. To do so will result in the breaking of one chicken head an hour until the $73 has been recovered.

Don’t test me on this. Just do it.

Your chickens will be returned at the end of Fall Break upon completion of necessary tasks.

Naturally, we sought to fulfill every condition of the ransom demands. We delivered the ransom money in exact change using the bill pictured on the left, emailed the colleagues in question that they were "fired," even though they weren't, and posted the specified message on the blog.

And now we are pleased to announce that all of our chickens have been restored to our office.

Well, actually, they never left. They were hidden inside the cabinet where SWNID keeps tea, cereal, mugs, bowls and flatware. Which is to say, they were hidden in plain sight.

Hats off to gentle reader Rustypants and his accomplice The Godfather of Soul for pulling off this most humorous and delightful of pranks.

And to colleagues and brothers Dyke, Read and Derico, you have your jobs back.

And They Say that There's No More Great Religious Art

"Christians" of exceptional taste and breeding will delight in the many religious renderings available here.

If this site proves anything, it's that the LDS are messed up not just theologically and socially but also aesthetically.

The Chickens Have Flown the Coop

The Trumpish message has been delivered to the heretics.

You'll find your package taped to the underside of the rim of the specified receptacle.

I have done the necessary tasks. I have not tested you.

In the name of all that is decent and humane, my friend (above) and I urge you to do the right thing.

Christians: Misunderstood Since AD 30

This morning's obligatory NPR story on Harriet Miers (click here maybe to find the audio link: NPR has its stories mislabeled as we blog, but may correct things later, using some of that $100 million they received last year) is tasteful, balanced, fair (nice sound bites, apparently taken with respect to the context, from Ron Key and Nathan Hecht) and mildly ignorant.

The folks at Radio Sandinista obviously haven't been reading this blog, or they'd correct the ignorant bit. We offer two observations.

Observation one: Reporter Barbara Bradley-Hagerty, regarding Ms. Miers's conversion, notes that Nathan Hecht "canÂ’t quite remember if they actually prayed to accept Jesus." SWNID responds that the "sinner's prayer" plays at best an incidental role in most conversion experiences among Campbellites. For us, baptism is the sinner's prayer, as it was for Peter and the rest of the early church. You can read about it here or here. Ms. Bradley-Hagerty says nothing about immersion in her story, which is just as well, as it likely would have created more misunderstanding.

Observation two: One Rena Peterson, a friend of Miers, states that it "nettles" her that people are referring to Miers as an "evangelical" (which shegracefullyypronouncess with a short e in the first syllable), "as if she were some kind of Bible-thumper." Again, we assert that Campbellites are the rational evangelicals. We don't thump; we think. We're nice. We drink Maxwell House, brewed weakly, and eat baked ham with scalloped potatoes and green beans. We go to bed early. We talk about Jesus quietly but in clear terms because we still believe, with our Lockean forebears, that conversion is essentially rational.

So NPR and Ms. Bradley-Hagerty don't get it yet. But that's OK. People haven't got it for a long time.

First-Rate Management Resource

At last there is a place on the web that expresses everything that SWNID believes about leadership, management, and getting things done through other people. You'll find it here. Make sure that the speakers are on.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Apologies and Revisions

We hope that our gentle readers will note the revision to an earlier post on the Harriet Miers saga (note also that we have corrected our repeated misstating of Ms. Miers Christian name).

With this revision comes that rarest of events for SWNID: an apology.

In our brief and breezy chronicle of the recent problems at Valley View, we left one gentle reader with a very close connection to that church with an impression that we were assessing fault. This was not our intention, but on rereading our post in that light, it was certainly not an unfair conclusion for that gentle reader or any gentle reader to draw.

We repeat: assessing blame or assigning guilt was in no way our intention. SWNID has no dog in this fight. We've been there ourselves (not to Valley View, but in divisive situations in churches), from an early age, actually, and know that there are twelve sides to all such stories, that all involved are sinners, that all are saved by grace and most display that grace through such circumstances, albeit imperfectly.

For those actually involved in this situation, it's no joking matter, and we joked. We're sorry. We harbored no malice and meant no harm, but we created it anyway.

We've revised the posting to try to alleviate any sense of blaming. We will gladly revise further or remove the posting altogether if this first attempt at revision is insufficient or if all possible revisions are seen as subject to the same problems. Gentle readers who are not involved personally are asked not to post comments defending SWNID, as that is not the point of this exercise. Gentle readers with sensitivity are invited to comment, email, phone or speak to the blogger personally offering further suggestions or urging the postings' utter and final disappearance.

Humor, we are reminded continually, is dangerous. Those of us who go in for this kind of thing actually express and relieve our sense of tragedy by joking. But most rational and sensitive Christians have the sense to restrain themselves about this. We confess ourselves to have a penchant for recklessness in this regard. We never gave the first thought to the idea that anyone close to the situation would ever read our posting. That was foolish.

Again, SWNID was WRONG. We apologize.

Spy in the White House, Or Really Blair House

ABC News is reporting the arrest of a Marine, assigned to the staffs of VPs Gore and Cheney, on espionage charges. Seems the Philippino-American was emailing classified documents about the President of the Philippines to opposition leaders planning a coup.

Expect this story to replace Harriet Miers Whirlybird experience on the front pages for awhile.

Miers and the Republican Coalition

Over at Slate, John Dickerson offers trenchant analysis of the rift among Rs on Miers. Simply put, Miers divides the evangelicals from the secularists in the party of Lincoln. Call it elitism, because it is, but more particularly it is a secularist elitism.

Dickerson is right, not to mention clever in the way he expresses his insight. Truth is, the secular right is about as distrustful of the religious right as the secular left is, even though the expression "secular left" is 98% redundant these days.

As always, SWNID has something to add. Some, either hopefully or fearfully, predict a split among the Rs along this very line. While SWNID doubts the split will ever happen, we nevertheless warn our Christian siblings about the possibility.

What makes it a possibility is the accelerating self-immolation of the Ds, chronicled on this page repeatedly. We are virtually a one-party state at the federal level. Under such circumstances, the first law of politics takes hold: politicians must have someone to disagree with. Hence, a second party will divide from the Rs if the Ds really do become the 21st century Whigs. And one way they can split is along the fault line of faith.

However, we think that the split, if it comes, will be elsewhere, probably between libertarians and social conservatives. The latter group includes most in the religious right, but it also includes many seculars, like the "Tory" George Will and other readers of Edmund Burke. That's the more obvious ideological division among Rs. It took a political genius like Reagan to bring the two groups together, and it's a testament to his skill that they barely realized their differences at the time. But they've been together for awhile now, and they've figured out who's who.

The caution to the faithful is what Stephen Carter observes in his underappreciated God's Name in Vain. His argument: when religious people (i.e. Christians, but Carter is trying to be inclusive) get involved in partisan politics, they inevitably compromise their principles and endanger their prophetic voice.

As usual, Carter is right. If there ever were in this country a serious political party that defined itself by religious faith, we'd be in trouble, not because the church had breached the wall of separation and invaded the state but because the church had breached the wall of separation and invited the state, or more particularly electoral politics, to take it over.

Politics matters, but it's not a savior.

What to Make of All Those Kerry-Edwards Stickers, Or Why Literature Matters

Over at USA Today Robert M. Knight offers a superb analysis of all those Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers that remain affixed to Volvos all over America eleven months after Kerry's concession speech, comparing them to Dickens's creepy Miss Havisham of Great Expectations.

Since the core USA Today audience has never read a book half as long as a Dickens novel, SWNID's gentle readers need to follow the link and appreciate this fine bit of literate political analysis. Who says we don't need literature classes?

SWNID adds this: not only do Miss Havisham Democrats refuse to admit that the 2004 election is over, they also refuse to admit that the 2008 election is over too.

Baptist Press Covers Miers

A Baptist Press story continues to probe Harriet Miers's church involvement, leaving some doubt as to which group from Valley View will be her home.

More significantly for SWNID, BP is the first media outlet to close the circle into our little world. Quoting Valley View minister Barry McCarty extensively, the story identifies him as having previously been president of Cincinnati Christian University.

This officially gives SWNID only three degrees of separation from the President. We tingle with delight.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"America Agrees with SWNID on Giuliani"--Fox News

It's over, folks. Schedule the Giuliani inauguration for January 2009. The American electorate clearly has read this blog and followed its advice.

Fox News reports that Rudy clobbers everybody in their presidential preference poll taken September 27-28. He ranks above all candidates, R and D, on leadership and understanding needs of ordinary Americans. He is chosen by 50% or more in every head-to-head pairing. He has much stronger R support than nearest R rival John McCain, who does almost as well head-to-head with Ds only because he draws some D support.

Unless Rudy gets sick again, or decides for some strange reason not to run, or does something uncharacteristically stupid, he's going to be the next president. Maybe if every Islamo-Fascist became a Quaker between now and November 2008, we'd see some change in the public's assessment. Otherwise, he'll annihilate McCain in the primaries and waltz to election over Hillary, stealing New York and maybe California from the Ds. He might carry 50 states, leaving just DC to the Ds.

Sure, we're not even to the midterm elections. But who fits the bill better than Rudy, and who else is out there who could even begin to challenge him?

What's really dismal for the Ds is that none of their candidates poll above any of the Rs on leadership. It's not much better on understanding the needs of Mr. and Mrs. America. On that perceived quality Hillary is the only D who manages to poll above an R, and that R is Secretary of State and avowed noncandidate Condi Rice. We say again, the Ds fecklessness has left this a one-party republic.

National electoral politics will be very dull for the next few years. We will blog something else, I suppose. Anybody got some tips on preventing black spot on roses?

Classic Moment in Developmental Psychology

One of the great insights into human behavior is the developmental pattern of young adults in higher education regarding critical thinking. Research suggests that college students pass through four stages of development with critical thinking. Or at least, college students who learn something pass through these stages. They are:
  1. Students think that learning consists of memorizing what books or professors say and repeating it. They haven't considered that there may be differing points of view on issues. They are deferential to authority.
  2. Students realize that there are differences of opinion even among authorities. They conclude that everyone is entitled to an opinion, including students, and that all opinions are equally valid.
  3. Students discover that there is a thing called critical thinking, but they assume that it's a game played by professors and other authorities. So they try to play the game to get approval and good grades.
  4. Students realize that critical thinking is the only means of sorting out differing opinions, and come to believe that sorting out opinions is worthwhile. So they buy into the process.

Those are the stages. Here is the story. SWNID was yesterday explaining to the young sophomores (Motto: "Etymology tells you all that you need to know about us") in BEX 200 01 Hermeneutics (note to gentle readers: the term refers to the art and science of interpretation) the broad outlines of their upcoming midterm exam. Having just informed them that half of the exam would be applied hermeneutics, requiring them to write about the interpretation of specific texts of the Bible, a student said with some consternation, "So you're going to grade us on our opinions?"

Our gentle reply was, "Yes."

We did make some effort to point out to the student that figuring out which opinions about the biblical text are warranted and which are unwarranted is what this class is all about. But we did so gently, at least for SWNID, knowing that this fine young person has not yet passed from stage two to stage three. But we suspect that the midterm will prompt this very move.

So This Makes Her a Real Campbellite, Or an Episcopalian Wannabe

The religious identity of Harriet Miers is getting more solid, or more fluid, depending on how you look at it.

Both the Washington Times (Motto: "Try to forget that we're owned by Sun Myung Moon") and the New York Times (Motto: "We're so out of touch, we honestly expect that people will pay to read Maureen Dowd online") are reporting that Valley View Christian Church has experienced what is unfortunate, painful, certainly unintended by all parties involved but nevertheless all-too-common occurence in the last few weeks, namely, a congregational division. It appears further that Ms. Miers, though not in the Dallas area much, is identifying with the group that is meeting at a site away from the building.

Circumstances are as follows, from what SWNID has learned both from the newspaper pieces and from a personal sources familiar with the church. A senior minister of long tenure remained with the church while a new minister was brought in as the primary preacher. The arrangement, despite the goodwill of all parties, proved unable to survive. The elders' firing of the long-tenured minister prompted a group of about 150 to meet offsite. That group prevailed upon the fired minister to preach for them, though he had no hand in their leaving. The papers report that the specific matter of disagreement was the use of traditional versus contemporary music in worship.

SWNID, having lived through such circumstances more than once in our ecclesiastical experience, reiterates that all such occasions are painful for all involved. We affirm the goodwill and grace of all involved, and seek to assess no blame. As we sit far from this situation, we are struck simply by the delicious irony of the circumstances for those with no personal stake in the matter. Our observations are prompted by the press's attention to Ms. Miers, nothing more.

What this means for Harriet Miers is that she is really and truly a hard-core Campbellite. She's been through a church division involving the style of worship and the fate of the former senior minister. In independent Christian church identity, being involved in a a mess like this is right behind baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.

One other fun detail: Ms. Miers "Sunday school" teaching was actually in the Sunday evening "Whirlybird" program in the late 70s and early 80s, reports the NY Times. Longtime Campbellite communicants of the center branch will warmly remember Standard Publishing's venerable youth programming material. Whirlybirds was for early elementary kids, graduating to Jet Cadets for pre-teens. Remember the beanies in Whirlybirds? And we'll give bonus points to the gentle reader who can supply the words to the Jet Cadets theme song. I believe it started with the word "zoom" repeated eight times, and then the immortal line, "We are Jet Cadets for Jesus."

The papers also report that Ms. Miers attends some Episcopalian churches in Washington and occasionally in Dallas. SWNID concludes that powerful people are drawn to Episcopalian churches like moths to a flame. Apparently Ms. Miers is also curious about what it feels like to be an Episcopalian. However, we suspect that she would be more the kind of Episcopalian who reads Jan Karon's Mitford books than the kind who after high communion lunches at the country club.

By the way, a Google search for "Episcopalian Jokes" doesn't quickly lead to a major compendium of Anglican humor. We ask gentle readers with more patience and time than SWNID has to carry on the search and share the results in the comments. But we did quickly glean the following:

Q: How can you tell that you're in a high church in West Virginia?
A: TWO snakes.

Q: What's the difference between a Southern Baptist and an Episcopalian?
A: The Episcopalian speaks to you when he sees you at a liquor store.

Scene at an Episcopalian church:
Priest: There's something wrong with this microphone.
Congregation: And also with you.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More on Miers the Campbellite

President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers has provoked all kinds of consternation from conservatives. Typical is William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who complains that Miers is a weak choice, lacking a strong pedigree as a legal theorist and a strong record as a strict constructionist.

The counter-argument, well represented by Marvin Olasky, generally depends on the President's own experience. Bush knows Miers well, it is argued, as she's worked for him for years. He has no desire to repeat the mistake of his father, who on John Sununu's advice appointed David Souter, who, it has been said, Bush senior could not have picked out of a lineup. Souter, of course, turned out to be one of the most liberal justices on the court. But by contrast Bush the younger knows this appointee very well, better than any possible female appointee. He can trust her judicial philosophy.

It has likewise been argued that in Miers, Bush seeks an appointee like John Roberts: capable, reliably conservative, but also by temperament humble, and so seeking a Supreme Court of modest reach and authority, restrained in its judgments.

SWNID agrees with this analysis and offers more support. As we've noted, Miers is a member of an independent Christian church that uses the instrument in worship. In Dallas, where the Campbellite landscape is dominated by the noninstrumental churches and still in the shadow of Texas Christian University, membership in such a church is a conscious decision. Further, in Texas, which like most of the South is dominated by Baptist churches, with strong elements of Methodism, Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism, joining Valley View Christian Church looks extremely conscious and deliberate. It's hard to believe that Ms. Miers did this solely because she liked the worship band, and since she's unmarried and has no children, we know it wasn't for the youth program. She probably liked the theology at the place, amazingly enough.

And what is the theology of the center branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement? It is, first of all, "strict constructionist" about the Bible. As the saying goes, "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." We can distinguish that stance from the other branches of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Among noninstrumental churches (the right, if you will), the motto may be the same, but the practice is more toward taking silence as prohibition. Among the Disciples (the left), the Bible may speak, but one can evaluate and reject on the basis of reason and experience. Those guys are the "living constitutionalists" of biblical interpretation.

Second, the theology of the center of the Stone-Campbell Movement is relatively nonideological. Independent Christian churches in general eschew debate over theological systems, seeking to articulate a clearly biblical message apart from "speculation." That's easier said than done, and the stance often hides a lot of theologizing behind claims to simple biblicism. But in this Christian's experience, there's a lot less theological partisanship in these moderate Campbellite circles than in most others. You expect at a Baptist church to find a group of hard-shell Calvinists, a group of diehard dispensationalists, and the like. Presbyterians will have their hard-shells and their hot-blooded Barthians. At an independent Christian church, you're more likely to find someone who really, really likes John Maxwell.

Third, in the Stone-Campbell center, one finds theological modesty. There's plenty of allowance for opinion, as long as the focus stays with the central message. We're not much for making sure that everyone thinks the same thing all the time. We don't think that it can be done. In fact, we think it's a distraction.

Now, let's assume that Ms. Miers goes to this church because it matches her ideals. Let's assume further that her theological ideals are roughly congruent with her legal ideals. If so, we can expect her to be a justice who will interpret the constitution thoughtfully and carefully on its own terms according to the intentions of the framers, who will freely state what the constitution does and doesn't say, who will give due allowance to the other branches of government to exercise their own powers in areas of constitutional "silence," and who will not seek to overreach with her legal reasoning to fill in the gaps. She will be conservative, but no conservative activist.

In other words, like John Roberts she'll want to restore the court to its proper balance with the other branches.

I like that. I'm sure Bush wants it. Heaven know, we could use it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Miers Nomination: A Personal Reflection

Harriet Miers, a member of a church belonging to a fellowship of churches to which SWNID's church belongs, has been nominated to the Supreme Court.

So this is what it feels like to be an Episcopalian!

Pope Declares Campbellites "Evangelical"

A longstanding controversy was settled this evening as Evangelical Pope Dr. James Dobson spoke authoritatively on the subject.

Speaking ex cathedra (i.e., on the radio, the sacred and authoritative chair of the Evangelical Pope) in an interview with blogdaddy Hugh Hewitt, the Bishop of All Evangelicalism declared that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is a member of an "evangelical church." Ms. Miers, as noted previously by SWNID, is a member of the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas, and is therefore a Campbellite.

So the longstanding controversy, concerning which SWNID has contributed an article in the definitive book on the subject, is now settled. Sorry, all you heirs of Dean Walker's legacy at Milligan College and Emmanuel School of Religion. Looks like we're evangelicals whether we like it or not.

SWNID confesses that he agrees entirely with Pope Dobson's pronouncement and notes that Dobson in this instance uses the term "evangelical" in its most common and straightforward way: to refer to churches and Christians who believe whatever they find the Bible to teach, who teach that personal faith in Jesus is the condition of salvation, and who don't seek to withdraw from the "world" on the basis of culturally relative issues (differentiating evangelical from fundamentalists, who do withdraw on such issues).

SWNID just wishes that Dr. Dobson would stick to matters like this, and leave issues like Bible translation to people who actually know something about it, like, of course, SWNID.

"Tolerance" = Approval = Moral Equivalence

Gentle reader jb in ca sends to SWNID a provocative link to the always provocative John Leo of US News and World Report (Motto: "Our rankings rule higher education!"). Leo chronicles the struggle of one family in the People's Republic of Lexington, Massachusetts, to deal with the "diversity" program that seeks to inculcate the acceptability of the gay lifestlyle and its moral equivalency to heterosexuality in kindergarten.

What Leo's piece illustrates is that most gay activism is not aimed at tolerance. The fact is that homosexuals are widely tolerated. So-called hate crimes against gays are remarkably few in number, while gays make significantly more money and have higher net worth than their straight counterparts. What the activists seek is the stifling of speech and opinion that there is any moral or social difference made in one's choice of sexual partner.

The issue of so-called gay marriage is a perfect illustration. Benefits accruing to gay couples through marriage are at best marginal. Most advocates cite issues like hospital visitation or inheritance of property, all of which can be simply addressed in the absence of marriage by filling out basic legal documentation, probably downloaded from the internet. No one would bother with this were it not for the fact that the normalizing of gay marriage makes homosexuality the moral equivalent of heterosexuality.

For whatever reason, moral approval or disapproval from society matters to many people. SWNID will only assert that no one is getting the coveted SWNID seal of approval for same-sex relationships, period.

So there!

Miers a Campbellite! With Improved Hair!

The Christian Standard, venerable publication of record for the Christian churches and churches of Christ, reports that Harriet Miers is a very active member of the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, she has been active in the church's missions and children's ministries.

Valley View preaching minister and friend of SWNID Barry McCarty, himself no stranger to the corridors of political power, has much to say about Ms. Miers in the Standard posting.

SWNID observes that as a Campbellite, Miers will be tarred by some on the left as a member of the religious right. However, the consciously and historically nonpartisan and nonpolitical stance of the Stone-Campbell Movement should help Miers to navigate those shoals. She should fare better than the a capella brother Ken Starr, whose branch looks a bit looney to outsiders. Further, the predominant ethos of the center branch of the movement--largely middle class, suburban, and family friendly, i.e. socially conservative Republican--should assure the fire-breathers on the right that Miers will not be much for waffling on social issues.

Still, in Miers many will find much to which to object, or nothing to which to object, prompting much of which to be suspicious.

Except, that is, for her hair. Clearly Ms. Miers has updated her hairstyle since the file pictures were taken that wire services used earlier this morning. Given the rather obvious appearance of John Roberts's comb-over, her new do will be a relief to all who watch the confirmation hearings.

Miers to the Supremes

So President Bush is nominating Harriet Miers, his White House counsel, to the Supremes. For those, like SWNID, who haven't a clue about her, here's a recent Washington Post profile (hat tip:

This nomination will get Bush hammered for "cronyism." The usual suspects will complain that Miers has no judicial experience or, worse, no judicial record for them to parse and cross-examine. The right is pre-emptively upset, since Miers has no special record in right-to-life causes.

SWNID will offer only this. We have previously referred to Bush as "the loyalest of loyalists." That's the characteristic that leads to nominations like this one.

Some will call that a significant weakness on Bush's part. They'll say that the Supremes should be the nine brightest judges in the land, regardless of personal association. SWNID says that's bunk.

First, how do we determine who the nine smartest are? Administer the LSAT again?

Second, the idea that the smartest is the best in the job is demonstrable nonsense. Any job requires a certain level of ability to be done. Exceeding that level is not necessarily an advantage. Other qualities, like interest in the job or commitment to the outcome, matter more. Having a PhD is no advantage in, say, operating a cash register.

So that means that any notably bright lawyer should be able to manage on the Supremes. Miers appears to be all that.

Which leads us to a second observation. Since Bush presumably had a large set of suitable candidates, we can expect that he narrowed his choice based on his own confidence about the individuals' potential for performance. I imagine him saying, There's Harriet, Bob, Marsha, Bill and Anne. They're all just fine. But I know Harriet well, and she's always simply the best of the best. Plus, she'll represent my administration well on the bench.

What some call cronyism is really just dealing with known quantities. The world is a big place, and people are complicated. Sometimes leaders need to make personnel choices about which they can have confidence. That confidence requires long-term experience with the individual.

Here's a variation on an aphorism from Father of SWNID that sums this up: You have to nominate your friends because your enemies won't work for you.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Baseball Playoffs: More Predictable Than Dow 30 Industrials

So today ends the drama of the baseball regular season, if there was any real drama to begin with. The eight playoff teams are set. They include such surprises as the Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Angels. The Astros, perennial playoff losers, are back, and the White Sox have finally realized their potential after a long drought. Then there are the Padres, distinguished by their making the playoffs with a losing record.

If it all seems to familiar, it is. A couple of the characters are new; the rest, all too familiar. We all know that throughout October and into November we'll hear "God Bless America" nightly from Yankee Stadium, renditions alternating between the Hispanic cop's and the Irish guy's. We know that we'll hear that annoying tomahawk chop wail. We know we'll see Roger Clemens get mad when his Astros give him insufficient run support. Now that the Red Sox have lifted the curse, we don't know whether they might have a chance, but we don't really care anymore.

Baseball is losing its luster thanks to a lack of competitiveness. SWNID testifies that we are a natural baseball fan. We played baseball constantly in warm and not-so-warm weather from age eight to age eighteen. We played softball in the forbidding climate of Scotland's Northeast. We have never wavered in our loyalty to the Cincinnati Red Stockings, even through their fourteen years as a super-triple-A farm club for the monied franchises.

But we are tired of seeing the same teams in October, year after year. We are driven to consider heresy: that the NFL is actually more interesting because, well, even though the Patriots are making a play for a dynasty, you never really know who will win from week to week.

Used to be that the Dow 30 Industrials were seemingly set in stone. Companies like US Steel were the bedrock of the economy. Then the economy changed, and McDonald's was added to the index. Now McDonald's looks to be in the early stages of economic Alzheimer's. A Dow with Subway? It could happen, and probably long before the Pirates make the postseason.

Seems to SWNID that the Braves have been in the playoffs longer than companies have been in the current Dow. So maybe this autumn we'll tune in to the Nightly Business Report instead of baseball.