Friday, December 15, 2006

Profanity Waning?

For those who wonder whether our culture's adolescent fascination with forbidden words will ever end, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has some interesting observations today. Per Henninger, some comedians are declaring excessive profanity and obscenity (which trend in comedy Henninger traces to Eddy Murphy's 1987 filmed standup act Raw) to be absolute in entertainment.

Henninger points out that not long ago, HBO's dramatic series were averaging well over one f-bomb per minute.* That may have pushed even the most calloused cursers over their point of tolerance.

Or maybe the question is utility. Once profanity is used that often, it loses its power to shock. Once it no longer shocks, it becomes superfluous. And no, gentle readers, that doesn't mean that everyone will find something even more shocking. No social pattern moves consistently in a straight line, not least this one.

At any rate, we welcome any trend toward less of it.

*We'd estimate that rate at roughly 1/3 that of the Scottish teenagers who stood outside the SWNID bathroom, adjacent to the local fish-and-chips emporium, when the SWNIDs lived in the Auld Country.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Powers: Hypersexualized Dolls for '06 Christmas

Former Clinton (!) appointee and current Fox News political analyst Kirsten Powers in todays NY Post lambasts toymakers for their marketing of super-sexy dolls clearly modeled on the party-girl image of MTV and similar entertainment figures.

Though the SWNID household has been untouched by the deliterious image of womanhood promoted by Brittany, Paris, MTV dancers and their ilk, we nevertheless add our voice in outcry against this expansion of the tramp franchise.

Here's a passage from Powers (after reading, join us in saying "Amen"):

Feminists used to complain that Barbie sold girls an unrealistic body image. Modern dolls make Barbie look like what she was meant to be: child's play. There were no bustiers and garters for Barbie when I was growing up, nor did she sell a particular lifestyle. She could be a stay-at-home mom or a working woman, depending on who was dressing her.

The new dolls have gone beyond selling a body image and now sell a materialistic, hyper-sexualized, party lifestyle. Where Barbie had no real-life counterpart, the newer dolls are clear rip-offs and reinforcements of what's already being sold 24/7 to girls through movies, reality TV, music performers, MTV and glossy magazines.

Doo-Wop Christmas Greetings from SWNID

We offer this classic flash animation as our Christmas greeting to all of our gentle readers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Harvard Excommunicates Proposed Religion Requirement

The Boston Globe (motto: "Same ownership as the NY Times, but with even more pronounced leftist bias") reports that Harvard University will not go forward with its radical proposal to require all students to take a course in religion.

Instead, students must take a course from a cluster of disciplines that explore what it means to be a human being. The cluster will include art, literature, philosophy, evolutionary biology and cognitive science as well as religion.

This move can be interpreted various ways. One is as a cave-in to those who have criticized the proposed religion requirement as too narrow. Another is as yet another expression of anti-religion bias at Harvard and other universities in the higher-education establishment.

We'll agree with both of those assessments and add a third: it is likely a response to pressure from various academic departments at Harvard who want to be sure that their turf is covered in the new requirements. No one wants to be in the department that doesn't have courses that meet core requirements. The consequence of such exclusion is lowered enrollment in the department, fewer chances to snag students into the departmental major, and less funding from the university over the long term. Such considerations drive most discussions of curriculum at most universities, where there's hardly an issue that isn't driven by the preservation and expansion of someone's institutional domain.

We'll also decry the obvious balkanization of this proposed, high-minded exploration of human meaning. We doubt very much that a Harvard course in, say, cognitive science or evolutionary biology is likely to be taught with inclusion of significant critique of the reductionistic tendencies of the use of such scientific disciplines to explain human experience. Such critique would largely come from religious circles, of course, and the assumption of the behaviorial and life sciences is that their mandate is to explain all religious notions within their disciplines, not to consider critique of their own discipline from religious thought.

There is an exception in the Harvard curriculum, of course. Those who watched the magisterial PBS series The Question of God know that for years Harvard psychiatrist (!) Dr. Armand Nicholi has taught a course exploring the rationale for belief in God via the exploration of the contrasting lives of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. It's that kind of breadth of thinking, embracing psychology, literature, religion, philosophy and the full palette of human experience, that is missing generally in higher education.

But even in the Harvard desert, there is the occasional oasis. That's why Armand Nicholi is one of our heroes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Military and Seminary: Coincidence?

James Taranto today is running five comments from military personnel and their families offering reaction to the recent remarks by John Kerry and Charles Rangel that have suggested that military enlistees are mostly down-on-their-luck unfortunates who didn't do well in school.

What we find interesting is that two of these missives mention seminary. One is from a military doctor, who also possesses a seminary degree, and the other is from a military mom who says that her son would have gone to seminary had he not gone on active duty. In any event, that's 40% of a small sample.

What is it that makes some people see ministry and military as their prime career options? Desire to change the world? To do something audacious and meaningful with their one-and-only life on earth? Succumbing to the propaganda of the deceptive religious and military establishments? Being too stupid to see that religious faith and patriotic conviction are meaningless?

We think it's one or both of the first two, and we totally discount the last two.

Crouch: Women Can Change Destructive Hip-Hop Culture

Stanley Crouch offers an exceptional dose of Crouchism today.

The greatest living fan of Louis Armstrong once again decries the degrading effect of hip-hop thug culture. There's nothing new there, but it's a tasty serving of Crouch's vigorous prose. We quote one passage strictly on style points:

Added to this low-lying mix are the supposedly sympathetic white liberals, who are more than happy to submit gutlessly to the black middle class. These white liberals have been intellectually hustled into believing that the inarticulate thug and the freelance slut are young black people in their natural state.

The black middle class, terrified of being defined as a group that kowtows to "white values," does not tend to have the nerve to stand up to this crabbed vision of life or ethnic "authenticity."

But, at the end of the ride, the ones losing and left holding the bag are neither white liberals nor the black middle class. The tragic losers are those black kids who believe that their true identity is achieved through illiteracy, thuggish behavior, dropping out of school and psychologically ingesting the subterranean attitudes toward women that are espoused by pimps. They are sloughing through a spiritual sewer, incapable of knowing just how much it stinks.

That's enough for one column, in our SWNIDish judgment. But Crouch adds an additional and most telling observation: thug posturing has become the key to the affections of many young women. Consequently,

The solution may have to come from the women, who have been known to get men to act right when they have gotten tired of them acting like animals.

Does feminine realignment have the power to overcome the vast commercial interest that underwrites the thuggification of much of America?

Save the Planet: Drive to the Vegan Market

Today's Independent reports the latest on global warming from that always informative international organization, the UN.

To wit: cows, not cars, are heating the planet to the boiling point.

The calculation is made by considering the effect of all aspects of cattle production, from fertilizer manufacture to transportation of feed and livestock to clearing of forests to runoff from feedlots to methane and ammonia excreted by cows.

Eliminating this scourge is clearly a global priority, as the damage done will double by 2050.

And if it all sounds a bit outrageous to you, well, we beg to differ. Cincinnati has already been terrorized by two runaway cows in recent years, only to be rescued by dedicated environmentalist and aged hippie artist Peter Max. Such disruptions to the social fabric haven't even been considered by the august UN.

We've decided to do all we can to reduce this plague. Our personal commitment is to eat all the beef that we can in the coming months, to get it out of circulation and so discourage others from participating in this unholy practice of animal slavery and murder that is damaging our arteries, our planet and our very souls.

Encouraging News from West Asia: Students Heckle Ahmadinejad

From totalitarian states, Muslim or otherwise, one seldom hears reports of dissent. Such a report comes today from what is probably the most dangerous totalitarian state currently: Iran.

University students heckled Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For those who think that this event is insignificant, we insist that it is for the following reasons.

First, it was reported at all. As we note, totalitarian states don't have much truck with dissent. When it happens, they tend to crush it and silence the reporting of it.

Second, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was started by students.

None of this is to say that another revolution, this one leading to peace and democracy, is near. It is to say that the Iranians have a very complicated political situation themselves, perhaps made no easier by the presence of about 140,000 Americans to their immediate west.

What this calls for on the United States' part--in our SWNIDish, typically contrarian but otherwise uninformed opinion--is (a) encouraging and enabling friendly Muslim states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, the Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia, even Libya--it's actually an encouragingly long list) to encourage the development and empowerment of this student-led dissent; (b) being very, very patient in Iraq, so that we don't squander the advantages that our military presence in that region brings to the larger picture.

Pandemic Flu Update

Of all the crises facing the world, the one that has the most potential to kill lots of people is pandemic flu. This is no mere fearmongering in some larger cause (cf. global warming) but a lesson of tangible science (viruses mutate) and history (the Spanish flu of 1918 killed considerably more people than WWI).

So wassup with the much balleyhooed bird flu? We haven't heard much about it lately. The AP explains why. It's out there, but it's hard to track, and this isn't the season. But, and this is the significant point, it may not ever become the starting point of the next human pandemic. There's a certain randomness to all this that can't be predicted at all.

Such events as these are reminders that (a) much of what we fear never occurs; (b) much of what occurs we can't control. These are both good reasons to focus instead on that on which by definition one can actually depend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Classic on YouTube

Yet another intrepid soul has posted last year's classic "A CCU Christmas" on YouTube.

Now all the world can enjoy the foibles of the professors at East Price Hill's finest university. Kudos to all who produced this little delight.

To Correct His Sanctimony, Carter Serves Up More Sanctimony

Ex-President and Current National Embarrassment Jimmy Carter today defends his much-maligned book on Israel and the Palestinians in the LA Times. Which is to say he once again claims to be the only person in America doing the moral thing.

We are particularly irritated by Carter's implication there's no real debate in the United States on this subject and that he is breaking the silence by setting forth a vision of "Israelis and Palestinians living side by side within their own internationally recognized boundaries." Apparently the only debates that Carter knows about are the ones that play out between the voices in his head. The two-state solution has been debated in this country for years, so much so that it goes by that shorthand expression. As we recall, the current President is the first in that office to have explicitly endorsed it, and he did it at the beginning of his first term.

We are not just irritated but amazed that Carter describes Professor Kenneth Stein's criticism of the book as coming from "a former Carter Center fellow" who "took issue." Well, he became a "former" fellow because of his objection to the book. He resigned in protest. And he didn't just take issue. He said that the book is full of factual lies.

If a history of ex-Presidents is ever written, it will have to note the irony that the shamed Richard Nixon, after his years of exile, with his occasional articles and few books contributed tremendously more to public life in retirement than Carter did with all his self-righteous blather.

State: Releasing North a Mistake. Public: Duh!

Terry Collins, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, admitted yesterday that releasing Fernando Lee North was a mistake.

Immediately after his statement, the exclamation "Duh!" was collectively uttered by all citizens of southwest Ohio.

Of course, corrections officials say that there will be changes because of this. We hope so, but history doesn't give us much basis for optimism.

Hoops Haven't Been as Much Fun . . .

. . . since this guy retired from making the ball do impossible things.

Larry Bird is 50. How did that happen?

Thanks to Son of SWNID for the link.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lawson Gives State of the Movement Message

Gentle readers who align as Campbellites will certainly know that when LeRoy Lawson offers an article entitled, "The Restoration Movement: Its Vitality, Quirks, and Needs in the 21st Century," that article should be read. We affirm it as the clearest assessment that we've read in awhile, and we commend the good editor and staff of the Christian Standard for inviting Roy to write it.

Here's a tantalizing quotation, which is how the artful Lawson ends:

FORGET about respectability—We have attained it. Now we can forget about it. More important than reputation is relevance—not relevance to the religious world, because that is one of our attainments, but relevance to the nonreligious, the pre-Christian, multicultural world to which we have been sent. That means judging our progress or lack of it not by our standing among Christians, but by our reception among those who have not yet heard and heeded the Word.

SWNID Prophecy Fulfilled: Liberal Talk Dies on Cincinnati Airwaves

We thank gentle reader Scott for the heads-up that ClearChannel is taking Cincinnati's liberal talk radio off life support.

Reasons cited are Jerry Springer's departure for the proverbial "other oppportunities" and content-provider Air America's bankruptcy.

The corporation will use the 1360 frequency for consumer-oriented talk (home improvement, gardening) and some self-help chatter like Dr. Laura.

N.B. that despite the Enquirer's spin that liberal talk is a tough sell in a "red state," the truth is different. First, Ohio is a purple state. Second, Cincinnati proper is predominantly Democrat, and while the county and region may be a Republican stronghold, there are a lot of liberals in any major metro. Third, this format is dying everywhere, as the alleged "cause" of its demise in Cincinnati--Air America's failure--so aptly illustrates.

Liberal talk radio is almost uniformly humorless, bitter, angry, mean and repetitive--remarkably like the worst conservative talk radio (cf. Bill Cunningham). We don't think that any entertainment medium can survive for long on that set of characteristics.

Another Classic Video Spoof

This video is a classic from 2000, obviously produced by a CCU student. We are gratified to see it whenever we please, as a reminder of pleasant times past.

Celebrated Christian Satire Available in Quicktime

We are pleased to discover that some intrepid soul has posted the classic "Doctrine of Hairology by Dr. G. I. Barber" in Quicktime format.

We first enjoyed this clever spoof in the 1980s when we heard a primitive cassette recording in circulation among the postgraduate students of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. Ever since, on arising every morning we have combed our hair to restore our fellowship with the Lord. We commend it for your edification and instruction.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On Global Distribution of Wealth

Today's Financial Times (motto: World's Favorite Pink Newspaper) neatly summarizes the latest statistics on the distribution of wealth worldwide. Here's the lead: weath is distributed very unevenly.

We expect these new statistics to become fodder for more calls for more even distribution of wealth in the United States and globally. But we continue to confess ourselves to be more interested in other questions. Rather than asking how evenly distributed the world's wealth is, we'd prefer to know what percentage of the world has access to clean water, adequate nutrition, functional housing, basic health care, decent education, and political and religious freedom.

If pressed, we would confess ourselves also to be interested in the growth of institutions that lead to the growth of prosperity. Banks and capital markets, with the fairly enforced laws that assure their honesty, create opportunities for individuals to maximize their creativity and productivity and so to acquire assets that provide more of the kinds of things described above.

But why should it matter that the top 1% has scads more stuff than anyone else? The rich are at best only marginally better off in experiential terms than those who have access to all the stuff noted above. Perhaps we all need that reminder now and then.

Prof to Carter: Even Ex-Presidents Shouldn't Lie

The Ueber-bloggers at Powerline have performed a major public service by printing Emory University Professor Kenneth Stein's letter of resignation as a fellow of the [Jimmy] Carter Center at Emory. His reason for resigning is his objection to Carter's new book on the Middle East, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid (that is not a joke, by the way).

We quote the most telling paragraph:

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

Once again, Carter, still America's most embarrassing political figure, demonstrates that sanctimony is no substitute for actual morality.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Worst Consequence of D Congress: Bolton Quits

United States Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who did nothing but improve the general tone of Turtle Bay while advancing US interests there to the degree possible in that moribund and irrelevant organization, will not seek permanent appointment to the job.

The obvious reason is that the Democrats who control the Senate will lose their rich leftist patrons if they dare admit that the demonized-by-Democrats Bolton has been a striking success.

But don't take our word for it. Check out the nice laundry list of Bolton's achievements compiled by Anne Bayefsky at NRO Online.

History on Partition: Bad, But Is Un-Partition Worse?

Over at the Atlantic Monthly one Zaina Arafat has posted a review of past articles on the outcomes of various partitions of territories in the last century. Her conclusion is that partitions in India, Afghanistan, and Palestine have led to ongoing conflicts. Hence, partition in Iraq is not a good idea.

We find this overly simplistic. Our differently simplistic version is that in each of these areas, particularly India/Pakistan, partition dampened rampant violence and confined the ongoing conflict to a smaller region with fewer deleterious effects on the population as a whole.

Hence, we will challenge the parallel posting by Atlantic senior editor James Fallows. Fallows, who has been an unrelenting critic of the war in contrast to other Atlantic staffers like Robert Kaplan, essentially proclaims that all that is left to do in Iraq is for America to withdraw with as much face-saving public-relations management as possible, followed by a lingering consciousness of how much the war has screwed up the world.

We continue to disagree with Fallows, for reasons noted before. First, the danger posed by a dictator with Saddam’s demonstrable ambitions, means and ruthlessness was considerable, and the fact that he was not an overtly active danger in 2003 doesn’t change that calculation. Second, the Iraqi Kurds are notably well on their way to establishing a better life for themselves. Third, whatever future mischief occurs in what is now Iraq will be considerably less than it might have been had the country remained under a single strongman capable of marshaling its resources, overtly or surreptitiously, against other parts of the world, especially our part.

Hence the value of partition. It preserves the Kurdish progress, formally divides resources among factions that will remain at odds with each other more than with the West, and potentially confines genuine hostility to the West to one segment of the country.

The danger is realignment of one third of the country with Iran and another with Syria. However, that threat appears to be less than it might seem. There remains considerable animosity between Iraqi and Iranian Shiites, and it’s not at all clear that Syria plus the Iraqi Sunni minority constitutes a big enough sum to increase the threat of Syrian terrorism or military aggression.

So to Fallows and Arafat, we say that partition remains an excellent consideration. It’s not ideal, but nothing in this world, not least that part of it, ever is.

Quinnipiac: Breck Girl in 2008

Our opinion of John Edwards as a political irrelevancy may have to change. Peter Brown of the august Quinnipiac University Polling Institute today notes that the youthful, earnest and undistinguished former trial lawyer is (a) from the South; and (b) less likeable than Obama but just as likeable as Hillary but with fewer negatives.

So if Obama melts down and Hillary runs true to form, Edwards might have the privilege of losing to Giuliani or McCain, both of whom trounce all Ds in likeability as well as other categories in all polling.

John Edwards: A Walter Mondale for Our Time.

Harmless Monday Fun

For those like daughter of SWNID who love dogs and videos in the style of America's Funniest Home Videos, we link to a YouTube video addressing both tastes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

SWNID to American Thinker: Mind Our Trademark!

Today's American Thinker posts a clever bit of doggerel by one G. W. George, presumably a pseudonym, lampooning the Big Liberal. We like it.

Except for this: it appropriates the phrase "never in doubt" and sarcastically applies it to someone politically at odds with our SWNIDish self.

As we have noted before, this phrase constitutes half of an incantation that we claim as our trademark and intellectual property, indeed as part of our family legacy.

Watch out, American Thinker and Mr. "George." Don't tread on me!

Latest Lefty Style: No Wedding Until Gays Can Marry

Today's Gray Lady chronicles the latest coolness among the stylish denizens of the political left: heterosexual cohabiting couples who pledge not to marry until "everyone can," meaning until same-sex marriage is legal in all fifty states plus Puerto Rico and Guam.

SWNID is struck by the failure of the left to respond meaningfully one of the most frequent observations of the right, namely, that leftists act as if ineffective personal gestures toward an issue are somehow significant. Or to put it more succinctly, the left demonstrates daily that it favors style over substance.

The grim reality is that every one of the chronicled couples already in every way lives as if married. We observe further that each was cohabiting exactly as they are now before coming to the conviction that a no-wedding protest was in order. As every one appears to be a savvy member of the upper-middle class or beyond, we'll assume further that most have availed themselves of alternative means that provide nearly all the legal benefits that marriage would afford automatically.*

There is, of course, no way in this life or the next that anyone who will vote to ban so-called gay marriage will relent in that conviction because of the brave example of movie actresses, museum exhibition designers, graduate students of sociology, and United Church of Christ ministers who continue to live with their opposite-sex "partners" instead of plopping down $50k for a champagne-soaked dinner-dance preceded by a procession of balding men in rented morning coats and thirtysomething women in strapless taffeta, presided over by a Buddhist hospital chaplain and accompanied by new-age ballads of mutual respect and free-verse vows that pledge no actual behavioral commitment but that remind their older relatives of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

We rank this trend with Al Gore's incessant moving about, entourage in tow, in private jet planes and really big automobiles to warn the world of the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions.

*As far as we know, there's no way for cohabiting couples to obtain the tax advantages of joint filing, but as it is an article of faith of the left that its upper-middle-class members are undertaxed, this too should be a badge of honor.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Trinity Seminary of Newburgh, Indiana Drops Bid for Regional Accreditation

Exchanges, the e-newsletter of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, this week announced the following:

Although the Board took no formal action, it received notice that Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary (IN) resigned its candidacy status with the Commission.

Trinity Seminary (not to be confused with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a SWNIDish alma mater) is probably the best known and most successful unconventionally accredited institution of theological education in the United States. Operating unconventionally and almost entirely on a distance-learning basis, it has never had a standard form of accreditation. Recently it had made much of its candidacy status with the HLC. Now, that's over.

One can only conclude that the good folks at Trinity realized that regional accreditation would mean a serious change in the way they do business, one that would threaten their viability.

We feel bad for all the folks who signed on for classes on the assumption that the institution would be accredited by the time they finished. Like a lot of longshots, it didn't pay off.

For those who wonder, this higher educator insists that while accreditation may not assure everything about the quality of education that one might want, lack of accreditation is a reliable indicator that the student is getting less than what the degree normally signifies. Diligent students can learn a lot in an unconventionally accredited institution. But they can always learn more in a joint with external quality assurance.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraqi Leadership and "Civil War"

From where we sit, we find ourselves compelled by the insightful analysis in today's WSJ "Review and Outlook." With several MSM outlets affirming "civil war" in Iraq, we'll go with the more nuanced and comprehensive view of the situation epitomized in this closing paragraph:

The next Iraqi or American official to be asked about "civil war" might want to reply by asking the journalist who, precisely, is fighting whom, and why Iraqi security officers of all backgrounds continue to risk their lives for the elected Baghdad government. The truth is that the enemies of Mr. Maliki's government are terrorists and thugs. Mr. Bush could help give Mr. Maliki the confidence he needs for the tough fight ahead -- first against the Sunni terrorists, then against the Shiite revenge killers -- by assuring him that U.S. policy will be based on this fact.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CPS Board Does What It Always Does, Accedes to Parents in High-Achieving Schools

Last night's Cincinnati Public Schools board meeting was a replay of the drama seen about every two years in the district. The plot goes this way:

1. The district identifies cuts that need to be made to balance the budget and serve current enrollment.

2. Parents in CPS's highest-achieving schools object loudly to cuts at their schools.

3. The board accedes to the noisy parents, knowing that these middle-class and upper-middle-class families have the means of leaving the system.

4. Cuts are concentrated in schools with quiet parents, who are mostly themselves poorly educated and so economically poor.

So Walnut Hills and the Montessoris will not get any cuts, but more neighborhood schools will get the ax.

As we've noted for Walnut Hills, this leaves open the question as to whether the school, already enrolled below its capacity, can continue to enroll students who meet its entrance standards in numbers near its capacity while the overall CPS student population declines.

To say that all students will do better at a school like Walnut is like saying that anyone will play baseball better if he plays for the New York Yankees. The truth is, Walnut does a great job with bright, well-prepared, motivated students, but it has little capacity to help those who are less than that.

Now, here's the question for five years from now: what will the noisy parents of means do when their schools have excess capacity and the district wants to move poor kids into them because there isn't room elsewhere?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Schweder: Enlightenment on the Ropes?

Today's Gray Lady offers a too-brief piece by Richard Schweder, Professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, on the spate of pro-atheism books recently published. In sum, Schweder diagnoses that the anti-religious heirs of the Enlightenment realize that history is not going the way it was supposed to.

We wish the piece contained more on why the religious impulse persists, but we think that many gentle readers can fill in the empty spaces that the essay leaves.

Walnut Alum: Don't Cut Great School; SWNID: Can It Remain Great at Present Size?

Yesterday's Enquirer featured an opinion piece by a 1970s vintage Walnut Hills High School alumnus noting the schools accomplishments and insisting that CPS not cut funds for its most outstanding school.

While the column read a little too much like a valedictory address at a high school graduation, it made sense.

Except for this: if the student population in CPS is declining, can WHHS maintain its standards with the same number of students it has presently?

We're not convinced that a district that will soon have half the students it once had can fill a selective, college-preparatory high school with the same number of students who are adequately prepared for its rigorous curriculum.

In primary and secondary education, learning is accomplished with the cooperation of teachers, students and parents (in higher ed., it's the same, but the parents start playing a smaller role). It takes all three to make it happen. CPS can only supply the first ingredient in the formula for WHHS. If the second and third are lacking, there's not going to be the same kind of learning.

It's math, something that the writer of the Enquirer opinion piece seems to understand well, but something that he hasn't taken into account in writing his defense of the present size of WHHS.

Bronson on Bad News: CCU Keeps Faith

Having recently visited the CCU campus at the president's invitation for a general introduction, Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson discusses the situation on the hill with eloquence and sensitivity that SWNID appreciates.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lileks on Edwards's Wal-Mart Hypocrisy

We've enjoyed a bit of sparring in the past regarding the present and future of one John Edwards, multi-millionaire retired tort lawyer, former Breck Shampoo spokesmodel and, if memory serves, maybe once a political figure. Gentle readers might know, if they bother with such arcane details, that Mr. Edwards campaigns actively against the Evil Wal-Mart Corporation, enemy of The People and all-around destroyer of all that is right and good about the Workers' Paradise that was the United States before January 2001. They may know further that one of Mr. Edwards's staffers recently dropped Mr. Edwards's name at a Wal-Mart retail outlet, hoping thereby to score a coveted video-game system for the boss's family.

We delight in the ever-clever James Lileks's take on the whole affair.

We add only that we don't really think that Edwards was entirely hypocritical on this matter. Truth is, his attempt to use political influence, impotent as it was, to manipulate the free market is of a piece with his entire economic view. That is, the smart and rich (i.e. Edwards and associates) should be free to manipulate capitalism (e.g. by raising the "minimum wage") for the benefit of the poor and downtrodden. That one of the poor and downtrodden happens to be one of the Edwards family moppets, so often trotted out on campaign events to spin the image of Edwards as a reliable, white, Southern papa, only complicates matters a little from the Edwards POV.

VDH on Past and Future History for US in Middle East

As news of sectarian violence in Iraq gets worse, reminding us less of a civil war than a gang war (yes, it's The Godfather again), we turn to the ever-wise Victor Davis Hanson, who again, for those with short memories, discusses both the history of the Iraq invasion and the American policy options for the future in the Middle East.

Our tease-quote comes from the close of the column:

And long after the present furor over Iraq dies down, the idea of trying to help democratic reformers fight terrorists, and to distance America from failed regimes that are antithetical to our values, simply will not go away.

That tough idealism will stay - because in the end it is the only right and smart thing to do.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Berlinerblau on SBL: Make It Mine

As we blog, the mighty Society of Biblical Literature is holding its annual meeting for pointy-headed biblical scholars. In keeping with a pattern of five years' standing, we are not attending, thanks to other, more pressing travel obligations of an academic-administrative kind that keep us away from the classroom enough already. So we feel a little bit left out of the biblical studies party.

But we are intrigued nevertheless that last week's Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article by one Jacques Berlinerblau of Georgetown University critiquing the work of the august scholarly society (link will work fully only for paid subscribers).

What intriuges us is that Berlinerblau is in part concerned with what bugs us about the SBL, but in part he seems to object to what makes it possible to have such a society.

In sum, he complains that the society does little to address people who actually read the Bible outside the academic context. We agree.

But he also complains that the society is dominated by people who read the Bible from a faith perspective. We agree that it is so dominated, but we doubt that Berlinerblau's complaint can ever be addressed to his satisfaction. He wants more scholars of no particular confessional identity engaged in the study of the Bible for the sake more objectively informing its use in public discourse. But we aver that (a) people without a faith perspective are generally not interested in doing this at all; (b) those who are aren't so much nonreligious as antireligious, militantly opposed to faith and lacking in objectivity at least as much as religious people.

In particular, we are amused by Berlinerblau's desire that the SBL discover whether the rumors are true that the society is dominated by conservative Christians. As one of them, I can tell the world that such a study is unnecessary. There are lots of such folks who attend the SBL, but they probably don't constitute anything close to a dominating majority of attendees, and not even a coherent minority, not least when one considers the array of confessional perspectives that constitute what Berlinerblau would call "conservative." Further, the SBL's meeting and publication program is so much not dominated by conservatives that they continue to operate separate meetings (the Evangelical Theological Society and the Institute for Biblical Research) to do what they care about. And in addition to these other, big societies, there are lots of little groups holding what are called "additional meetings," meaning privately arranged meetings during the main society meeting, to get done what they really care about. That there are multiple groups holding such side meetings, and that many SBL members openly confess that they attend the annual meeting entirely for such side meetings and the book discounts available in the display area, illustrates perfectly that there's no way on earth that a conservative group can now or would ever control proceedings.

Once upon a time, the SBL was an elite organization composed of the most prominent biblical scholars at the oldest, best endowed mainline Protestant seminaries and university divinity schools in the United States. Some of the oldsters who remember those days still pine for them. Berlinerblau wants something else, mostly more room for folks like him.

We don't object to folks like him. We just don't believe that there's enough interest in what he imagines should be done to carry the day.

In our not-so-humble opinion, mostly what ails the SBL is what ails biblical scholarship. That's not the confessional perspectives of the scholars. Wish as we might, that situation isn't going to change. It's the minutiae with which too many scholars concern themselves in their quest to find something original to put in the dissertations that earn their degrees and the publications that earn their tenure and promotions.

Scholars' worthwhile ideas about the Bible almost always find their way into scholarly discourse. Some of them manage to filter down to where some members of the public hear about them. But they don't generally need the intentional support of the SBL for that. And the filtering-down will always take place in confessional contexts, i.e. churches and their ilk, to the chagrin of Berlinerblau's ilk.

Krauthammer: Iraq's Failed Leadership

The Even-More-Seldom-Wrong Charles Krauthammer today explicates the SWNIDish perspective that the mess in Iraq is largely a consequence of failed leadership.

Sir Charles suggests that the solution would be a new ruling coalition of moderate Shiites with Kurds and Sunnis. We hope he's right. But we think it's a longshot, for the very causes that Krauthammer cites for the present situation: the political inability to compromise one's sectarian loyalties for the good of all.

The messier but likelier solution is partition. Sadly, events in Iraq seem to be preparing the way for partition, much as they have in earlier partition situations. That is, people who live as part of a cultural minority in an Iraqi neighborhood or region are leaving to join their fellows in a region where they predominate. The same happened in India a couple of generations ago, and it is a process in part forestalled and in part ongoing in the Balkans.

Kuo: Evangelicals Back to Basics

Everybody's telling SWNID to blog on former Bush staffer David Kuo's NY Times op-ed noting that in this election evangelicals didn't so much go over to the Democrats as they cooled to politics in general.

And we should blog on it. But there's nothing to add.

Kuo is right. If we understand the gospel, we care deeply about the present state of the world (focusing entirely on life after death is a denial of the central gospel message that God raised Jesus from the dead in space and time on this earth). Politics affects the present state of the world pretty deeply, but most of what we ought care is not primarily political.

That includes such issues as abortion and gay marriage as well as care for the poor and loving one's enemies. On all matters, what needs doing most is changing the thoughts and feelings of people, not legislation.

We still remain committed to the notion that the Republic's laws can articulate and reinforce key moral principles, though the case for such moral principles must of necessity be made in secular terms . But we remain committed more to the idea that what ails the world is not its politics but the people who do its politics.

We said that there was nothing to add, and then we added something.

Murtha Crushed, Republic Safe

Thoughtful Americans are again breathing at normal rate today, as Democrats decided not to align their party with the "values" of Rep. John Murtha (D-Featherbedding).

We are most amused by the picture of Democrat unity (that most celebrated of oxymorons) that heads this Gray Lady article, not least because Rahm Emanuel glowers to the side, looking every bit like Peter Lorre.

I guess both parties have their Evil Geniuses.

Update on Bad News

For those wondering about developments in the tragic case involving two CCU students, the latest is reported here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More on Cincinnati's Budget: Curbside Recycling Is Bad for Everyone

Our previous post that connects to one part of Milton Dohoney's proposed 2007 Cincinnati city budget prompts us to make a controversial statement.

Dohoney proposes reducing curbside recycling to twice per month to save dollars. We think that's an excellent move, both environmentally and fiscally. In fact, we call for the courageous elimination of curbside recycling.

Why, gentle readers ask? Is SWIND a rapacious Republican who sees Planet Earth as his repository of wealth to be extracted and storehouse for waste to be dumped? Hardly. We just think, with many environmentalists, that curbside recycling makes little sense.

The reasons for this are simple:
  • The materials typically recycled are not in short supply. Aluminum is among the most abundant minerals on earth. Glass is made from sand. We're unlikely to run short of petroleum extracts, a byproduct of refining used to make plastics, any time soon. Recycling paper does save trees, but at what expense (see below)? And if we ever did run short of these items, we could mine the landfills for them.
  • In some cases, we understand, the energy used to recycle exceeds energy used to produce new products. And since energy usage is among the most critical environmental issues, the unnecessary expenditure of energy should be avoided.
  • Curbside recycling doubles the number of heavy trucks on the road each week to collect our waste. Their exhausts more than offset any positive environmental impact of recycling.
  • Landfills don't fill as quickly when people recycle, but the overall impact is fractional. Further, the landfill "crisis" seems to have been overblown. Well managed landfills have some negative environmental impact, but the issue is largely one of management. Further, the specter of a planet covered in trash is, of course, a mathematical impossibility, as a bit of reflection will show (we're not creating more matter when we throw something away, only moving something that we had previously extracted).

For those interested in an extended discussion, here's a place: an article from the New York Times Magazine (!) of about ten years' vintage.

So when the city is facing a tight budget and clear crime and safety issues, this is a no brainer. End the pointless, mildly destructive practice of curbside recycling, hire cops, and maybe even build a jail!

Has Price Hill's Renaissance Begun?

Our local paper of record reports that the Price Hill Civic Club is crowing.

This engine of neighborhood redevelopment yesterday announced that the vacant lot left after the demolition of a problematic apartment building will soon be the site of a pizza parlor, a bank, and maybe one other business.

Meanwhile, City Manager Milton Dohoney has announced that the demolition of derelict properties in East Price Hill will be a priority in the city's lean 2007 budget.

Price Hill is not going to turn into Mount Adams anytime soon. It remains filled with substandard housing stubbornly in the hands of people who enjoy the profit of renting decaying properties to people without alternatives. Hence, it will have a concentration of folks with social problems for awhile.

But for those who think that everything moves inexorably in a single direction, in this case downward, these developments suggest that nothing is as simple as it seems.

More Murtha: Could the Ds Be More Cynical?

John Fund at OpinionJournal offers a timely reminder that John Murtha is more than just "cut and run." He's also "take and cover up." The man for whom "redeployment" means a retreat of 5000 miles also believes that "ethics" means immunity from prosecution.

Specifically, Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1970s Abscam probe. He escaped prosecution because he delayed the acceptance of the bribe offered by undercover FBI agents and because he threatened to carry the probe into House Speaker Tip O'Neill.

Murtha is also well known for his shameless use of "earmarks" in House bills to bring federal spending to his district without careful scrutiny.

In other words, Murtha is the epitome of the "culture of corruption" against which his party ran this year. Further if he is elected to House leadership, it will be through the hardball tactics of his patron, Nancy Pelosi, who has proclaimed a new era of openness and ethics in Congress.

We have previously characterized Murtha as a sort of union boss in relation to the military. This reminder of his past reinforces that notion. For Murtha, the federal government is a huge engine of self-aggrandizement and the military a grand dispenser of money and benefits.

Today on NPR, Juan Williams stated that Murtha doesn't have the votes to be elected House Majority Leader. Let's hope he's right. If not, the Republic will get what it should have known that it voted for.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Knew: The Best Vocal Chops and Best Taste, Plus Theology

We thank the intrepid Mrs. SWNID for drawing our attention to the most stunning of artistic and cultural revelations in our recent experience, from none other than the august but sometimes predictable pages of Christianity Today.

Extraordinary jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, of whom we have known thanks to his winning many Downbeat polls but whom we've heard far too little, is a former divinity student who is managing a thoughtful, informed and honest approach to his music.

Elling has amazing chops as a singer. He covers five octaves and zero to one hundred decibels. His voice is supple, flexible and edgy. He also has uncanny taste, whether he's singing vocal standards, adaptations of instrumental standards, reworkings of pop tunes, or originals. His singing demands attention, and it rewards it. He puts his soul out there, not just his technique.

And now we see that this is more than talent. It really is his soul that's out there, and he knows it.

Why has this been a big secret for so long?

We urge the reading of the CT review by Mark Gauvreau Judge. We also note that we just added "more Kurt Elling recordings" to our SWNIDish Christmas wish list.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dems Elected as Trumanites, To Govern as McGovernites

We all hoped that the Democrats would realize that what they won last week was with candidates who stuck to the middle. This blog questioned the party's commitment to that middle.

Now we see what happens when you trust the middle to a party in a muddle for forty years.

Nancy Pelosi has issued a ringing endorsement for John Murtha to become House Majority Leader, the second in command for the House Ds. Murtha, styled by the media as pro-military but in about the same way as a union boss is pro-business (everything for the workers/soldiers, who should do no actual working/soldiering), is the leading voice in calling for the unconditional withdrawal (his Orwellian styling of it has been "redeployment," to spots as far away as the Philippines) of American troops.

Murtha is, in other words, a McGovern for our times.

If the Ds elect a more moderate candidate, one dedicated to fixing Iraq instead of leaving it in a fix, we'll know that there's hope for our two-party system. If they follow the leader, we'll know that nothing has changed.

A different way to frame this question is whether the Ds will try to govern with the voters or their donors in mind. Never mind the good of the country or the world, for that matter.

And if they make such moves as Murtha, will St. Joe Lieberman start caucusing with the Rs? He seems to be leaving the door open. That, of course, would switch the Senate to the Rs. Will the MSM cover such a move as expressing or subverting the Will of the People?

It only gets more interesting, and more serious.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bad News Today

Our campus is devastated today by the news that is reported here.

We thank everyone for their prayers for the students who were victimized by this crime, for their families and for their fellow students who share their sense of pain. We are happy that they are physically well and with their strong, loving families. We are also glad that the police have arrested a suspect.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

News You Won't Find Elsewhere

Here's a report that comes to us from a dear friend who ministers the gospel in India:

By the grace of God ministry is doing good and growing. I believe the ministry grows more when there are oppositions and problems. I think we preachers depend on God when oppositions and problems come in our ministry.

Anyway God is really blessing our ministry. On October 24th we baptized 39 people in [name of village] church. On November 7th we baptized 18 people in [name of another village] church. On November 8th (yesterday) we baptized 13 people in [name of another village] church. There were more people ready to be baptized; some of them couldn't make it for the baptism service. We are going to have baptism service for people from [name of town] church on Nov 11th. I have the great honor to baptize all these people. "O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures for ever."

How true it is, I am experiencing this everyday. Tomorrow (Nov 10th) we are going to have a prayer meeting on the hill in [village]. Believers in that church want to have the prayer meeting on the top of a big hill. It reminds me of Jesus teaching on the mountain (Matthew chapter 5). I have the honor to preach there also. God is working through us in a mighty way. Lot of new opportunities is coming for us to reach out to new areas for God. People are asking us to come and start bible study and prayer meeting. We are not able to do that now. We are praying so that God will open the door for us to start prayer meetings in those new villages. So we ask your
prayers for this. It is the time in India to reach ONE MORE FOR GOD who is in their sins and darkness. I am exited about the opportunity to do the ministry among the Hindu people in India.

The other day I attended the fasting prayer meeting in [name of city] church. We had over 130 people in that meeting. We had testimony time during that time. Tears of joy came from my eyes as I sat the life changing experiences these Christians shared. They shared their experiences with God and all the blessings they are receiving from god. On Nov 3rd one of our Christian asked to come to their house for prayer. It was a thanksgiving prayer. It was the 1st time I visited that house. The house was one room 8' X 8'. She gave her testimony there. She said her husband left her for another woman. He was an alcoholic and very abusive. She has 3 children. She became a Christian 2 years ago. She started to share about her experiences with God. There was not a single dry eye. She started to praise and thank God for all the peace and joy and happiness she has now since she became a Christian. I live in LUXURY when I compare to her life. I am a billionaire when I compare to her. But when I compare my spiritual experiences I am very poor and she is a billionaire. I Just shared this with you so that you can see the power of God, which transforms a sinner from darkness to light. This is the life changing experiences. And you are a big part in changing the life of her and thousands of other people like her. I wish she could speak English or you could understand Kannada so that I can tape it and send it to you. Is there joy in serving God among the poor and neglected people in India? You bet there is a great joy and reward in serving God especially among the poor and needy Hindus. I like to be known as the preacher to the poor and rejected and unwanted people in India.

That is what I do and I enjoy it. So I give thanks to my God because He is good and Merciful.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rummy Retires: SWNID Glad to Be Wrong

Word of Donald Rumsfeld's retirement does damage to our Seldom-Wrong reputation, having earlier today opined that the Democrat majority made his resignation less likely.

But we're glad at any rate. Defense needs fresh leadership with fresh ideas.

Bush shows himself to have more flexibility in this than we expected. The time for Rummy to go had clearly come, but he seemed mired in his personal loyalty.

Of course, the first sign that a person is about to lose a cabinet post is the President's announcement of his confidence in the person, which announcement Bush made last week.

I Promise, This Is the Last One

For some reason, listening to Nancy Pelosi today reminds us of this story, recently reported.

Can't Resist: One More Thing

The defeats of Blackwell, Swann, and Steele prove that Rs can't break the D coalition merely by running African-American candidates. As Jack Kemp observed many years ago, the party of Lincoln must not pander to the African-American community, as has the party of Jefferson. Rather, it must address the concerns of that community in a direct, fresh and honest way that better reflects the values that the community holds and better promises results that the community wants.

The defeat of Ford shows that to appeal sufficiently to be elected, any candidate must inspire personal confidence. We think that Ford lost not because he is black, and not because he was a Democrat (he ran on a very moderate platform) but because as a single man who went to the Playboy party at the Superbowl, he doesn't appear dependable. The damage done in that famous "call me" ad was not that the woman was white (anyone who would vote against Ford because he might date white women would vote against Ford, period) but because she was a floozy. Even immoral people like their politicians solid and dependable (with the exception of the State of Louisiana, of course).

Obama has a wife and two kids. A winner, he illustrates Ford's problem.

Random Observations on the Midterms

Wanting to blog but needing to educate, we will confine ourselves to a disorganized bullet list of observations, unencumbered by helpful hyperlinks to relevant stories:

  • This reminds us more of 1992 than 1994. Democrats will have difficulty claiming much of a mandate because they didn't run on much, a la Clinton. It's more of a repudiation of The Republicans Who Make Life Hard than an affirmation of anything in particular.
  • Democrats who think that they have a mandate against the war should look closely to Lieberman's trouncing of Lamont. What voters want, short of a miracle, is better management of Iraq, not an unconditional withdrawal.
  • Those most political on the Religious Right are also the least likely to help their candidates. Blackwell got beat like a fresh egg, thanks to alienating most independents and many Republicans with his too-friendly association with Reformation Ohio, a Christian group so out there that even our SWNIDish self was repulsed, though not enough to support the clueless Strickland. Yet today, we heard Russell Johnson, renegade Campbellite and co-organizer of the Gang that Shot Its Own Candidate, saying that as a Christian, he was used to crucifixions on Friday but knows that there's a resurrection on Sunday. Sorry, Russell, but much as we want to see everything in life as cruciform, in our book you just blasphemed.
  • In some, both parties need to continue to move to the middle. If they don't, they'll lose.
  • Strickland will have a tough time governing with two chambers of the legislature still in the control of the Rs. But Rs won't rule entirely, as they won't be able to override a Strickland veto without a few Ds on their side, and there's no chance of that. So expect either sensible compromise or absolutely nothing from Columbus.
  • "Mallory" is still a magic name in Our Fair City. Despite his every misstep over the last six months, Dale Mallory carried two-thirds of his Ohio House race against Kim Hale.
  • Indiana took two more steps toward becoming the New Jersey of the Midwest. First, it sent three more Ds to the House (we knew it was over in the House when Chocola lost Indiana-2 early). Second, Ohioans preserved the income of all the tour bus operators and gave the Rising Sun Grand Victoria Casino a new lease on life by voting down slots. That establishes it as a Democrat stronghold and firms it up as a gaming haven for nearby states. Add that it's become a bedroom state for Cincinnati (compare Philly) and Chicago (compare NYC) and that it has a big stretch of smelly industry on the lake, and you've got Newer Jersey.
  • Ohioans have voted stagflation (high unemployment and high inflation, for those too young to remember the 1970s) into their state constitution. Issue 3 will not only raise the minimum wage in Ohio by over 30% this year, but it will raise it for inflation every year thereafter. I can't think of a better way to take us back to the Nixon-Ford-Carter bleakness except to nationalize this, which seems to be what the Ds in Congress might do. For those who think it appropriate that low-wage workers be guaranteed by law what no one else is guaranteed, we note that the law does not forbid the elimination of low wage jobs as the wages push higher, making the jobs pay more than they're worth to the employer.
  • Steve Chabot's victory and Phil Heimlich's defeat show that Cincinnati likes their conservatives nice. Jean Schmidt doesn't prove the opposite. She proves that Cincinnati likes their representatives conservative. Had the Ds run a moderate like Cranley in Ohio 2, they'd have one more Congressman.
  • By voting against the jail tax and the slot parlors, Hamilton County proved that it doesn't do everything that Si Leis says.
  • 2008 will be fought in the middle. The Republican standard bearer will be one of three moderates: Giuliani, McCain or Romney. The Democrat will be Hillary. Both sides will stress moderation, competence, problem-solving and values. Appeals to religion will be largely off limits, as each side will concede the other's godliness (and thoughtful people of faith will dismiss the likelihood that either side is genuinely godly). For those who insist on an overtly and purely Christian candidate, the alternatives will be to stay home or vote for a fringe party loser, thereby casting half a vote for the greater of two evils.
  • It's less likely that Rumsfeld will retire than if the Rs had carried at least one chamber. Bush won't want to look like he's caving to pressure or abandoning his buddy. Too bad.
  • We wish Benny06 well in his new job in the Strickland administration as Undersecretary for Business Unfriendliness.

For Solace, We Turn to Scott Ott

There's little more to say this morning that what has been said by Scott Ott, a.k.a. "Scrappleface," who offers "Bush's Top Ten Positive Outcomes of Election."

We won't spoil the fun by even offering a quote. Follow the link.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

CBS Makes Valiant Attempt to Fix Exit Polls

Upon exiting the polls at our local, Roman-Catholic-Church-accommodated precinct in our leafy, city neighborhood, Mrs. SWNID was asked to participate in a CBS exit poll. And her experience suggests that the folks with the Eye on America are trying to avert their eyes for better polling.

In 2004, the word was that exit pollsters were predominantly female grad students, and the people whom they polled, proving that Samoans aren't the only ones who tell Margaret Mead what she wants to hear, tended to tell the pollster falsely that they voted for St. John Kerry of Beacon Hill.

This exit pollster is described as "a dad in a ballcap" who handed the lovely and gracious Mrs. SWNID a machine where she could record her preference secretly. Sounds pretty innocuous. Of course, the pollster could be a female grad student in disguise.

Still, word is that the exit polls will be jealously guarded in a room to which only two people have access (two in case one dies?) and in which there is no electronic access to the outside world at all.

Voting in the Rain, Watching the Returns

Rain on election day is normally taken as good for Rs and bad for Ds, as it's assumed that Democrat voters are less likely to brave the elements. And it's raining right now in Cincinnati.

But this year, rain is to the advantage of Democrats. You see, Evil Genius Karl Rove and Prince of Darkness Dick Cheney have stationed snipers at polling places, and any member of America's Working Families who manages to get through the ring of land mines around the precinct will be shot. But rain spoils the aim of these Republican snipers, so it's likely that some gay, disabled veterans of color will get through to vote. Not that it should matter, as they won't have the 42 kinds of government-issued ID that the Rascally Republicans are requiring this year for citizens to exercise their franchise.

But still somehow, it's going to be a Democrat blowout. By sheer numbers, like an ant colony or the Borg on Star Trek, the People will prevail against every Republican plot to steal yet another election. Expect peace and prosperity for all, by February at the latest.

For those with a serious interest in following the results, we recommend John Fund's guide to significant races (print and consult during the reports of returns tonight).

For those who, like the SWNID household, refuse to pay for television, there aren't a lot of options for viewing results and punditry. NBC will have brief updates on the hour at 8 and 9 p.m., but otherwise, it's great TV like Dancing with the Stars until 10 p.m. We wish that Fox's broadcast division would field the same team that they did in 2004, with the immortal Michael Barone reviewing district-by-district returns and divining their significance. But it appears that Antichrist Rupert Murdoch is acceding to the Will of the People and maintaining normal programming.

So we recommend the internet for results. Start with RealClearPolitics. But don't neglect local returns. Hamilton County is posting "real time" results here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

MacDonald on Haggard: For the Ages

Gordon MacDonald's Christianity Today blog entry on the Haggard mess is definitive. We defer to his wisdom, born of bitter experience and decades of reflection.

In particular, he gives eloquent voice to our little observation about the intersection of sex and power.

Haggard Parsed, at Least Approximately

The reports of Ted Haggard's written confession and apology to his church underline the tragedy of his situation. We will make a few observations about the nature of the case as revealed, to whatever degree anything is revealed, by his letter.

First, Haggard's accuser, Mike Jones, says that he wanted to expose Haggard's hypocrisy, as Haggard supported a ban on gay marriages. We think that's imprecise. Haggard's hypocrisy was in concealing his actions that he believed and preached were wrong. That's classic hypocrisy, and it's different from the politicized view of hypocrisy asserted by the gay-rights crowd.

For Jones and others, hypocrisy is experiencing same-sex attraction and not supporting moral equivalency for gay sex ("Jones told CNN he went public with his allegations because of Haggard's support for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that is on the ballot this Tuesday in Colorado"). Per them, if you want to have sex with a person of the same sex, you should not only act on the desire, you should believe that such action is right and good. If you feel this compulsion, you are gay, and to be true to your gayness, you must be in political solidarity with the gay political movement. Jones and company dismiss the possibility that one might feel something and believe that to act on the feeling is wrong.

Haggard is the kind of person that the gay rights movement doesn't want to allow to exist. We take him to be speaking honestly when he says that he regards this matter as "repulsive and dark." What he wants to do, he doesn't; what he doesn't want to do, he does.

He's no hypocrite for thinking that his desires are for something immoral. The fact is, everyone but the sociopath (we welcome members of the psychological community to sharpen our categories here) thinks that he has impulses that must be restrained. What the so-called gay-rights community advocates is that gay sex be viewed as the moral equivalent of straight sex. Hence, if you're of the persuasion that sex belongs in marriage, there should be gay marriage. If you're of the persuasion that sex belongs between consenting adults, regardless of marriage, then gays should have all the consenting, "safe" sex partners they want.

Haggard, a Christian who now confesses to a powerful sexual attraction to people of the same sex, instead believes that his impulses take him to something that is morally wrong. He, like many weak, sinful humans, chose to act on the impulses and conceal his actions, not just because others would condemn him but because he was himself rationally and consistently ashamed of them. And now, like many, his sins have gone public. And he's admitted to them, asking for forgiveness.

That ends his hypocrisy, in our view. For gay-rights advocates, his hypocrisy will end only when he endorses the moral equivalency of gay sex (for some, it may end only when he leaves his forgiving wife and five children and "lives as a gay man," but we'll ignore that for now).

Second, we acknowledge that Haggard's confession doesn't end the matter for him and those near him. But we hope and pray that it does mark a beginning of the kind of transparency and support that all sinners need in the community of Jesus Christ.

"Accountability" is a term used so much in so many contexts these days that we avoid it in our own conversation. But it can embody what everyone needs to mortify sinful selfishness. Without those who know us and are honest and gracious but firm with us, we have less reason to resist our impulses toward those things that are inconsistent with our identity as God's people. Those who fill that role incarnate God's own actions, as God knows all our secrets, instructs and corrects us, forgiving us while calling us to live in a way that genuinely reflects who we were created and recreated to be.

We pray that more Christians will find themselves able to confess before their brothers and sisters the temptations with which they struggle, and that those spiritual siblings can respond with the grace and love that does not condemn but forgives and challenges. It's not a panacea, but we've seen it help a lot.

Third, let's be clear about this. What Haggard did was no different from what various other Christian leaders have done with members of the opposite sex. He believes that sex is for permanent, monogamous, heterosexual marriage, but he hasn't lived up to that. If he had done what he did with a woman, the outcome would be the same.

But the solution is not to allow Haggard to marry a man, any more than the solution to Jimmy Swaggart's problem would have been to add multiple female concubines to his staff. We don't make our lives better by finding social accommodations or rationalizations for our sinfulness. The reign of God that Jesus brings means that we continually conform ourselves to the purpose for which God created us, not by attempting to revise what that purpose is. It's a hard task, but so was hanging on a cross.

Finally, the link between sex and power remains strong. Not all who misbehave sexually have power, but the occurrence of sexual misbehavior among the powerful is too frequent to ignore. The kingdom of God belongs to the weak. Those who count themselves in the kingdom do well to remind themselves of that, especially when they wield what the world calls strength.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pew Research: Momentum with Rs

Expect a really late night on Tuesday, or go to bed early and get up extremely early on Wednesday. It's going to be very close, and it may just surprise the MSM, minus Michael Barone.

Pew Research is reporting a significant gain for Republicans in the generic congressional poll, and a concomitant dive for Ds. October 17-22 the Rs pulled 39% among likelies. This weekend, they poll 43%. By contrast, Ds have dropped from 50% to 47% in the same period.

Worse still, the Ds do worse among likelies than among registereds, while the Rs do better. This pattern holds true in polls most years, but Ds have been counting on their voters being mad enough at Bush to come out in bigger numbers to vote for low-name-recognition challengers against Republican congressional incumbents. Looks like their engine is running out of steam.

Let's remember the pledge of James Carville that the Democrats will need to rethink the whole idea of their party if they lose in 2006. And let's see if that's yet another political promise that goes unfulfilled.

Don’t Doubt, Vote Right: The SWNID Voter’s Guide

For the comforting of our friends and the confounding of our enemies, we here offer our SWNIDish advice on ballot casting for Tuesday. Gentle readers registered to vote in Ohio should click the permalink for this post, print it, and carry it proudly to the polls.

And of course, we offer not just our recommendations but our Seldom Wrong rationale for each.

By the way, we are noting only those candidates on the ballot in our precinct. If you’re in another part of the world, we’d like to tell you who the SWNID candidates are down the ballot, but we just can’t manage all that. But you can generate a sample ballot and some information on the candidates here, thanks to the venerable League of Women Voters.

Governor of Ohio: Ken Blackwell
Blackwell has run the most miserable campaign in history, perhaps justifying at least some of the rotten things said about him in Strickland’s ads. But the fact remains that Ohio’s economic situation will not be improved by the kind of high-tax, pro-public-employee environment that Strickland will perpetuate. Nor will its education system be improved by more toadying to the AFT and NEA. Blackwell’s principles are strong, even if his political ability has faltered.

Attorney General of Ohio: Betty Montgomery
Montgomery has been tarred unfairly with the coingate scandal. An effective legal officer, she will serve well in the AG’s office. Marc Dann, her opponent, lacks her experience in statewide office.

Auditor of State: Mary Taylor
Taylor is an accomplished state legislator and a CPA. Her opponent, Barbara Sykes, is part of the pro-union cabal of northeast Ohio Democrats, the folks who have brought us the kind of state economy that is dragging. And she has no accounting experience.

Secretary of State, State of Ohio: Greg Hartmann
Hartmann has served with remarkable effectiveness in Hamilton County government, streamlining the Clerk of Courts office and vastly improving customer service. He has also pledged not to chair anyone’s campaign while he is in office regulating elections, a welcome, voluntary move. We have met him and find him impressively energetic and more than a little amusing.

Treasurer of State, State of Ohio: Richard Cordray
We’ve decided that it’s time that Ohio had someone in statewide office who is not a Republican. Cordray is pick of the Democrat litter, and a worthwhile candidate even in a year that doesn't require a bit of housecleaning. Holding the MA in economics from Oxford University (the real Oxford, not that fake Oxford in Ohio with a newer university in it) and a JD from the University of Chicago, he’s easily the best educated person on anyone’s ballot this year. He’s done a creditable job in Franklin County as treasurer. And since the real Republican scandal has been with the treasurer’s office, this is the place to make the move.

US Representative, District 1: Steve Chabot
We think that John Cranley is a decent guy, pretty smart, and moderate for a Democrat. We’ve voted for him for city council. But Chabot is too good to throw out just because we’re tired of Republicans. He’s honest, plainspoken, and thoroughly conservative, just like SWNID. He's done good work as a Congressman, and he needs to stay for awhile.

United States Senate: Mike DeWine
DeWine proved himself right in joining the gang of fourteen that negotiated an end of the judicial wars, and we’ll admit that our misgivings about that deal were just maybe a little bit wrong. More than that, he’s a voice of decency and wisdom in the Senate, and a strong voice for human life. Meanwhile, Sherrod Brown is a recast William Jennings Bryan, whose so-called populism is really protectionism and support for closed shop arrangements that would shackle American economic growth. We urge gentle readers to prove the polls wrong on this race.

State Representative, District 32: Kimberly Hale
This is a tough one. On one side is Dale Mallory, member of the Mallory clan, and supporter of the development of a new social service center in the West End. We like Dale and we like his family, who have served Cincinnati with distinction for two generations. But he completely mishandled the whole West End social service center deal, misadvising the center’s sponsors in a way that is proving fatal to the project and probably fatal to his own political career, as he is also under criminal investigation for mishandling community council funds. On the other side is Kimberly Hale, who has run a vigorous campaign for a Republican in the city. She doesn’t have any big and bright ideas, but of late Mallory has looked pretty ham-handed as a politician, to put it mildly. So we’ll say yes to Kim Hale and wish her the best.

State Senator, District 9: Eric Kearney
Kearney is a thoughtful, decent, honest, experienced and well-connected individual, committed to civil rights and economic development. His opponent is a political neophyte. We go with Kearney for the personal qualities. If you're keeping a tally, that's two Democrats we're endorsing.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Terrence O’Donnell
O’Donnell, an incumbent member of the court’s slight majority of conservatives, has stated flatly that he doesn’t believe that the Supreme Court of Ohio can order the legislature, an equal branch of state government, to do something. His opponent, William O’Neill, states that the legislature can be found in contempt of court if it doesn’t obey the orders of the Supreme Court of Ohio. We know whose judicial philosophy is most in tune with the history of our Republic.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Robert R. Cupp
Neither candidate in this Supreme Court race is an incumbent. But again, you can tell what’s up by what each says about the court’s power over the legislature. For Cupp, the Supreme Court interprets Ohio law, but it is a co-equal member of government. For his opponent, Ben Espy, the court can enforce its rulings by holding individual members of the legislature in contempt.

Judge, Ohio State Court of Appeals, District 1: Patrick Dinkelacker
Dinkelacker, the incumbent, is a former prosecutor. His opponent is a law professor. The problem in Ohio doesn’t seem to be a lack of understanding of the law but a lack of will to jail the bad guys. We go with the prosecutor.

Other Judicial Races
In all other judicial races, the candidates are unopposed. N.B. that William Mallory and Dennis Helmick are both listed for the Court of Common Pleas, but two judges are to be elected in that category.

Member, State Board of Education, District 4: John Hritz
Don’t miss this one. G. R. Schloemer is the incumbent and is campaigning on a platform to keep discussion of alternatives to evolution out of the classroom Hritz sees it otherwise. We have declared our undying support for the interdisciplinary public school classroom, the same in science as in English and history. It’s an offense against nature that there even is a state school board, but since we’ve got it, we need thoughtful people on it, not reactionaries.

County Commissioner: Phil Heimlich
Phil is a divider, not a uniter. But he manages to save money and get stuff done. Most recently, he got the jail on the ballot. David Pepper’s list of accomplishments on Cincinnati City Council is short. He styles himself a moderate, but who can tell with his lack of any real activity? This is his last chance politically, and we wish him well in the private sector.

County Auditor: Dusty Rhodes
Dusty is unopposed again, proving that Democrats can get elected in Hamilton County if they do a good job. He’s been a responsive and responsible auditor, and I will forgive him for taking conservative talk off of AM 1160 in favor of oldies.

State Issue 1: No Vote
This has been removed by the courts, though it appears on the ballot. Vote yes, no, or leave it blank, but it won't become law.

State Issue 2: Constitutional Amendment to Raise the Minimum Wage: AGAINST
This is a bad idea, as raising the minimum wage will help few of the people it’s aimed at helping while hurting the businesses that give them jobs. It’s also a bad way to do it, as the state constitution is hardly the place to set the minimum wage. Really, this is a ruse to get liberals to the polls. Tell them that you’re no fool.

State Issue 3: Gambling and College Scholarships: AGAINST

Promoted in probably the most deceptive campaign waged since the Marlboro Man, this constitutional amendment will open Ohio to slot parlors. A sliver of the money gambled will go for scholarships for students in the top 5% of their high school graduating classes, hardly denting Ohio’s high public university tuition. Other money will go back to local governments to spend with their usual frugality and common sense. One percent will be devoted to developing recovery programs for gambling addicts. We insist that it is fundamentally immoral to appeal to people’s greed as a means of raising public revenue, period.

State Issue 4: Constitutional Amendment to Reduce Smoking: AGAINST
This is the pro-smoking move made by Big Tobacco, masked as an anti-smoking measure. It would actually eliminate the ability of local governments to restrict smoking to the degree that many already have.

State Issue 5: Proposed Law to Limit Smoking: FOR
This is the bill that passed the legislature and is now up for review by the voters. It will eliminate smoking in all public places, thereby ending the victimization of people forced to work around secondhand smoke. Remember, SWNID is a moral conservative, not a libertarian. We believe in limited government, but we believe that government can encourage virtue. Cigarettes and slot machines aren’t virtuous.

Issue 12: Proposed Sales and Use Tax—Hamilton County: FOR
This is the additional quarter percent sales tax for ten years to finance law enforcement. The county commissioners have pledged this to build a jail. We’re in favor of putting people who commit crimes in places where they can’t commit more crimes.

Issue 13: Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal)—Hamilton County: FOR
This goes for children’s services, and it’s not an increase. We’re for children!

Issue 14: Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal and Decrease)—Hamilton County: FOR
This is for health and hospitalization. By most standards, our local indigent care is pretty good. We’re for maintaining the local public health clinics and the public hospital services at University Hospital.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Army Times: Rummy Must Go; SWNID: We Agree

Today's well-publicized Army Times editorial calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense prompts our reluctant agreement.

We affirm that Rumsfeld is an honorable and diligent man of exceptional ability. We furthermore deny that anyone can know that the war would have gone better had it been prosecuted with more soldiers. It's easier to know how it has gone wrong than to say how it would have gone right.

But calling for Rumsfeld's resignation is the only rational response to a situation where his credibility with the uniformed military is so seriously in question. Even if that were not the case, he has still served over five difficult years, and the situation that the military faces could use a fresh set of eyes at the top.

As far as his subordinates are concerned, Bush is, as we have said before, the loyalest of loyalists. He demands loyalty, and he gives it in return. Often that is an asset. If he does not relent on this issue, it will be a liability.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Haggard: Elmer Gantry Redux?

The allegation that National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard has consorted regularly with a male prostitute and taken methamphetamine is starting to look like so many other scandals that have hit media-prominent Christian preachers. The accusation comes at a time when the leader's influence is socially or politically significant, it's made by an unsavory character on the fringe of society, it produces a combined denial and admission from the leader, it prompts a series of supporting statements from members of the leader's flock, and it prompts others in the leader's organization to launch an investigation.

Of course, readers of Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry know this story all too well. Readers of 2 Samuel know it too.

Reports are that Haggard admitted that some of Mike Jones's allegations are true. From reports of the saved voicemails that Jones has produced, it appears that Haggard may be admitting to drug use, to which the voicemails allude. So Haggard's line of defense may become, Yes, I used drugs, but no, I didn't have sex with a man.

In either case, however, Haggard is probably finished. Jimmy Swaggart's recovery to markedly lesser prominence depended on his powerful Pentecostal persona, something that Haggard cannot claim. Further, the Colorado Springs evangelicals whom he leads aren't as likely to allow his continued leadership as were Swaggart's television diaspora.

We make one broad observation. Haggard is married, the father of five, the pastor of a huge church, and the president of a huge organization. He risked all that for something that he wanted to keep secret from all those people. Now that it is not a secret, he is ruined. Sin is powerful.

Update: The independent board of overseers for Haggard's church has stated that they find him guilty of sexual misconduct and have acted to remove him from his position with the church. There's nothing to be happy about here.