An opinionated look at current events, culture and faith, since 2005 telling you what to think and why to think it about everything that really matters.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Vote to Give Free Wedding to Former Student of SWNID
CCU alumna and respected former SWNID student Chastidy Hahn, with her betrothed Matthew Ronan, is a finalist in Cincinnati's Q102 contest to receive away a free wedding with all the trimmings. We urge all gentle readers to vote for her multiple times.
And this is no mere personal-connection deal. Chastidy has the most remarkable and tragic of circumstances. While Chastidy was still a college student, her mother was brutally murdered. I can't imagine someone for whom a gesture like this one, even if it comes from a commercial radio station, is more fitting.
Follow this link to the web site. Cast multiple votes by using multiple computers. As we blog, Chastidy and Matthew are in second place. You will make them first!
Update: Chastidy and Matthew have fallen into third place. Wake up, world! Get busy, gentle readers! All that is good and right is at stake in this election! Get out the vote! This is not a drill ... repeat ... this is not a drill!
Once Again: Hillary and Ds Are Toast, Rudy Is Least-Reported Candidate
- John McCain and Rudy Giuliani poll evenly among Republicans, each with 30%.
- McCain trounces Hillary head-to-head with all polled, 47% to 37%. This does not take into account the "likely voter" versus "registered voter" effect that tends to overestimate Democrat support by as much as 10%. N.B. also that Republicans and conservatives indicated overwhelming support for McCain versus the Ice Queen: cons enthusiastically prefer a maverick moderate to to the Great She-Satan.
- While respondents indicated more inclination to vote for the D over the R for Congress, the vast majority indicated that they would vote for the best candidate for their locale, not the political party.
Salivating as they are over the prospect of taking Congress in '06 and the Big House in '08, the Ds had better get used to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at Barbara Streisand's as their primary expression of prestige.
Likewise, salivating over the prospect of their anointed candidate John McCain taking the presidency, the MSM had better get used to the idea that Giuliani will overtake their boy in the primaries, beating McCain up with their comparative records on anti-terrorism.
Likewise, salivating over the retributive justice of forcing the former Philanderer-in-Chief to bake cookies and attend conferences boosting adult literacy as First Husband, Hillary should wake up to the reality that her much-expected but never tested campaigning ability will be powerless, if it exists, to overcome this enormous deficit . But will the person responsible for the following, as reported in the Guardian (motto: "Hoping for the resurrection of Neil Kinnock") actually listen to such reason?
Senator Hillary Clinton yesterday accused President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, of "obsessing" about her after the publication of a book quoting him as saying she would win the Democratic nomination but was too "brittle" to win the presidency in 2008.
We ask the Senator (D-Carpetbagging) who is obsessed with whom (hint: the answer involves a reflexive pronoun).
Update: We repent of the final observation above about political obsession. We are now convinced that it is quite odd that the leading Republican political strategist should give significant attention to the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democrat party. Clearly there must be another explanation: Karl Rove is in love!
Grown Up Christians? Two Views
One voice says they've grown up. In USA Today Michael Medved (silenced on the Cincinnati airwaves by a sinister Democrat plot) suggests that evangelical calm in response to Brokeback Mountain and The Da Vinci Code are signs of strength and maturity in the movement. In other words, evangelicals are confident enough of their place in the world to let objectionable movies make their way in the world without the protests that met, say, The Last Temptation of Christ.
True enough, SWNID opines. Those with confidence in their position are much less likely to go postal when a challenge to their position emerges (this, for gentle readers of the Campbellite persuasion, is why Campbellites of my acquaintance, including myself, are much less strident in our rhetoric about baptism than some of our forebears: it's not that we believe it less, we just have enough confidence in the self-evident strength of the position that we don't think we need to beat people with it).
But over at TownHall.com, Jennifer Biddison has noted the recent appearance of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," a call for action to stem global warming signed by a number of evangelical leaders (including the ubiquitous Rick Warren, the irrepressible Brian McLaren, the omni-opinioned Timothy George, and the presidents of the big three evangelical liberal arts colleges Wheaton, Calvin, and Gordon).
The problem with the ECI proposal, of course, is that the costs of "action" on global warming almost certainly outweigh the benefits. The immediately foreseeable coast of a crash program to reduce carbon emissions would be the further impoverishment of the poor; its benefit would be a marginal slowing of a process that has many inputs besides human actions.
In other words, the ECI represents a case where evangelicals have been taken in with an appeal to their purpose-driven commitment to the poor, only to find themselves in support of a position that is economically untenable.
So where are evangelicals? Maturing but not mature might be one assessment. All over the map would be another. Such is always the case with a large group of individuals, we suspect.
The larger problem, of course, is the failure of too many evangelicals to listen with blind devotion to this blogger, who is, by nature, Seldom Wrong. Link this site, gentle readers, so that we can correct this problem.
Monday, February 27, 2006
How Larry Summers's Demise Reflects the Death of the Democratic Party
How can this connection be made? In short, Summers represents the moderate wing of the Democratic Party (motto: "All the smarts, none of the dough"). The faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard represents the hard left of the party (motto: "If you disagree with us, you're stupid, immoral, or both, but even if you aren't, we're richer than you"). Summers would like to take a stand, but the hard left is to entrenched in academe and too important to the party's financing.
Follow the link above to get Taranto's links for more, but don't miss this personal note from Taranto, which we know will be of interest to some gentle readers:
Academia is the left's biggest remaining redoubt, but here too there may be alternatives. During our vacation we paid a call on Ken Starr, dean of the law school at Pepperdine University, and he told us with great enthusiasm of how undergraduates on campus were doing serious work--actually studying great books, no less.
This ought to be perfectly unremarkable. That a university administrator boasts about it tells you something about the state of higher education in America. But it may be that in the coming years schools like Pepperdine will benefit as those like Harvard squander their prestige on left-wing faculty politics.
So, gentle readers at Pepperdine, are they reading great books on the beach at Malibu?
24 Imitates Life, Art
Some real signs of script fatigue crept into tonight's episode of 24 (motto: "Our worst episodes are still the best thing on TV"). Specifically the show relied entirely on connections to other well known narratives. We enumerate:
- In a dreadfully obvious reference to an episode recounted in Henry Kissinger's memoirs, President Logan-Nixon knelt timidly and asked Mike Novik to play Kissinger's role as reluctant co-supplicant. This, by the way, tends to confirm our hypothesis that the show's producers induced actor Gregory Itzin to have his nose surgically altered to resemble Nixon's famous ski jump.
- In a dreadfully obvious but mildly twisted reference to the Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee became paranoid and power hungry from carrying the ring far too long and so was deposed as head of CTU.
One line of the show did provoke an outburst from SWNID. When the remark was made, "The treaty is supposed to make us safe from terrorists," we yelled, "The only treaty that makes you safe from terrorists is the Jack Bauer treaty." You'd think that the characters would know this by now.
So should we hope for better things to come (gentle readers should note that we are not complaining . . . yet) ? Perhaps. The previews of next week's double episode suggests lots of action (we did like the missile and the flamethrower this week) but also lots of reliance on the return of old characters like Tony/Lazarus and Kim/Resident-Blonde-Joke. We could do without the latter. Couldn't Jack find out that Kim is dead instead of Kim finding out that Jack is alive?
Even more impressive was their interview, which was characterized by wit, grace and self-depreciation. Friend of SWNID Wayne Anderson was the most outstanding in these conversational virtues, of course (Interviewer: Does this piece get performed often? Anderson: Not after people look at the music!), but the others were close behind.
And after listening to the rest of the program, what with an interview of a poet who versifies by cutting phrases out of magazines and reassembling them, this segment was an oasis in a desert of public radio cliches.
Who would think that an orchestra's bass section would be the source of so much coolness?
Sunday, February 26, 2006
SWNID Prediction Coming True While MSM Prediction Coming False
The Financial Times (motto: "Our journalism is so good, we aren't ashamed to print it on pink paper") reports that daytime curfews have been lifted everywhere but Baghdad. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley is reported to have summarized the situation tidily: "[Iraqi leaders have] stared into the abyss a bit and I think they’ve all concluded that further violence, further tension between the communities is not in their interest."
Meanwhile, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continues to make nice with the Sunnis while blaming it all on the Americans, something for which all Americans can be grateful. Al-Sadr realizes that the Americans are withdrawing and sees that his best move to political power is to capitalize on shared anti-occupation feeling while serving to unite religious factions. Tomorrow al-Sadr will lead prayer services at damaged Sunni mosques in a show of that unity. Ironically enough, that's in the best interests of the United States. We want what al-Sadr wants: a reasonably unified Iraq that doesn't have 136,000 American troops in it.
The pacification is so clear that even Reuters, they who put quotation marks around the word "terrorist," are forced to write, "pleas for unity and a third day of curfew in the city seemed to dampen sectarian violence that has pitched Iraq toward civil war."
Iraq has not been restored to Edenic bliss by the American-British invasion. But on its worst day, it's a sight better than it was under that crazy guy who keeps shouting silly stuff at his trial.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Program Alert: Hear Friend of SWNID Interviewed
Wayne is a great musician, an amazing father, an exemplary Christian gentleman, an extraordinary humorist, and a fine friend. We urge all gentle readers to listen, as the interview will be great fun for all the reasons noted in the previous sentence.
Don Knotts Dead at 81
We are not as rabid about Mayberry as some, but we will still insist that Knotts's Fife was the funniest character in the history of television.
Our favorite scene was one where Barney and Andy were sitting on the front porch one evening after dinner, and Barney mentions that he bought his parents a new septic tank for their anniversary. Television seldom allows its actors the subtlety of that comic miniature.
Three's Company, Knotts's later vehicle, had no such subtlety. While it paid Knotts's bills at the time, it is best forgotten now. We pledge not to mention it in this blog again.
All's Right with the World: Scotland Defeats England
So we are very pleased to note that the Scotland rugger squad today defeated the Auld Enemy 18-12 in the classic setting of Edinburgh's Murrayfield, under classic rainy conditions. The embarrassingly named Tom English, writing for Scotland on Sunday, summarizes:
THIS was a day to tell your grandchildren about, an 'I was there' moment if ever there was one.
Rugby, which when well played is undoubtedly the team sport most exciting for spectators, deserves better media attention in this country, especially when the Six Nations Tournament brings us the classic confrontation between Scottish Good and English Evil. But don't expect much. With continuous play through both halves, the game gives no opportunity for broadcasters to schedule revenue enhancement breaks.
Iraq Civil War: February 23-25, 2006
Overnight in Iraq Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has made peace with Sunni leaders, with whom he has issued joint statements condemning the bombing as the work of foreigners and calling on all Iraqis to unite, regardless of sect. He has condemned those wearing the uniform of his militia who have perpetrated crimes while calling for all groups that have seized places of worship to turn them back.
In other words, a sectarian leader has decided to boost his position by attempting statecraft. We can expect that this will not only boost al-Sadr but also force him generally to moderate his stance, all for the good.
So when everything is just back to the usual level of chaos in a few more days, will the MSM acknowledge its hysteria? Expect less of a confession than we got after the exaggerations of the chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Update: The immortal William F. Buckley has now concluded that the bombing of the Golden Mosque signals the end of hope in Iraq. This will not be remembered the esteemed Mr. Buckley's finest column. It may be remembered as signaling that it's time for the aged Mr. Buckley to retire altogether from punditry.
Update: The Washington Post notes the following in its edition of Sunday, February 26:
When the Iraqi leaders came out of the meeting for a news conference broadcast on Iraqi television, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari solemnly removed his glasses and announced unequivocally that there would not be a civil war in Iraq. . . .
A U.S. military spokesman disputed the media's account of the crisis to date, saying that 22 mosques had been attacked since the Samarra bombing, a considerably smaller number than the 120 reported by al-Iraqiya television on Friday.
Note also Ramesh Ponnuru notes that Buckley was never a full-throated supporter of the war and is now not calling for immediate withdrawal. Says Ponnuru: "I myself think that Bill's conclusion is premature." N. B. that Ponnuru earns his bread by writing for Mr. Buckley's magazine.
"Inner Core of Awfulness" in Carter's Endangered Values
We urge gentle readers to follow the link, offering the following quotation as an appetizer:
Yet still, with all allowances made and all excuses listed, there is an inner core of awfulness to Jimmy Carter. Our Endangered Values--it is his 20th book--makes this clear.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Civil War in Iraq a Done Deal?
Of course, predictions on such events are always worthless either way. But we'll offer some reasons to think that the civil war, for which some seem almost to hope to prove that the American-British invasion was wrong, is not inevitable.
First, the perpetrators of the bombing haven't yet been identified. If they can be identified, and if they represent a fringe or foreign element, then Sunnis and Shias may well unite in their opposition to them, much as Jordan united against Al Qaida after last year's bombings in Amman. Both sides may realize that their best interests are served in uniting against those who would divide them. Interestingly, in most parts of the world Shias and Sunnis live together peacefully.
Second, the enthusiasm of Iraq for self-determination and democracy, demonstrated in the last year's elections, can't be assumed to have evaporated. Faced with the prospect of supporting sectarian warlords or supporting national unity, many Iraqis may well choose the latter, and may prevail.
Third, we have yet to see whether the government's imposition of a strict curfew will quell the violence until the first two factors can play a role. If it's effective for the short term, then a long-term blood feud may not emerge.
Finally, the Golden Mosque can certainly be rebuilt. The Americans and British have already pledged money for just that. Will the construction of a new-and-improved holy site, financed by the nations that brought self-determination to Iraq, become a symbol of the power of democracy to overcome terror?
We're not confident about any of this. But neither are we ready to pronounce--with the 2400 current news stories with the words "Iraq," "mosque," "bombing" and "civil war--to say that it's all over.
Here's how James S. Robbins puts it at National Review Online:
Despite panicky headlines to the contrary, it is not in any group’s interest to wage full scale civil war in Iraq. The Shiites have power without it; the Sunnis could not win it; and the Kurds will sit it out either way and keep patiently building their homeland. So this senseless act of violence against the final resting place of two of the most respected figures of the Muslim religion only proves to the Islamic world that al Qaeda and its allies are true heretics who care nothing for the faith and are out for power by any means at their disposal. Cartoons about Mohammed pale in comparison to this atrocity. I look forward to the mass demonstrations against al Qaeda throughout the Muslim world — though somehow I doubt we’ll see many.
Celebrating the Return of Python
- The interviews reveal that those guys are really old now. Except for Chapman, of course, who tragically drank and debauched his way to an early death.
- We nominate Eric Idle's best moment as the panel show/quiz show host asking the great figures of Communism questions about English football history.
- We nominate Graham Chapman's best moment as the exchange between Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion about the penguin on the telly.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
A Biblical Cardinal?
Blogger Michael Barber, a Roman Catholic completing a PhD in theology at Fuller Seminary (yes, gentle readers, it is a brave new world), offers this analysis:
Notice here Pope Benedict's clear interest in highlighting the importance of biblical studies. In fact, one of the distinctive elements of Cardinal Ratzinger's work is his
attempt to do BIBLICAL theology. Catholic theolgoy [sic] needs to be bibilcally [sic] based. I'll have more to say about this in the future. Suffice it to say, the appointment of Vanhoye reveals two things. First, it indicates that the Pope has great respect for this biblical scholar. Second, it underscores his interest in fulfilling the Second Vatican Council's call for making the study of the Bible ("the study of the sacred page") the "soul of theology" (Dei Verbum, 24).
We too affirm that Catholic theology needs to be biblically based. What we wonder is whether Benedict and others are willing to allow a biblical theology to critique other voices in the Roman Catholic magisterium.
Since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church has produced an impressive array of biblical scholars. As a Neutestamentler up past his bedtime, I will name only a few American Neutestamentlers as examples: Joseph Fitzmyer, Raymond Brown, Luke Timothy Johnson. Without question, these giants of the academy have made enormous contributions to the understanding of Scripture, to the benefit of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians.
However, it is not at all clear that their scholarship can penetrate a theology that draws from other sources--tradition and the bishops--in significant measure. We recall a most remarkable turn in the impressive commentary on Mark's Gospel by German Roman Catholic scholar Rudolf Pesch. In an excursus on the "brothers" of Jesus in Mark 3:31ff, Pesch reviews in extensive detail the various views set forth historically on these figures. At his conclusion, he asserts that they are best understood as the natural sons of Mary and Joseph, born after Jesus. What then is to be done with the dogma of the Church that Mary was perpetually a virgin? Pesch simply remarks that the teaching of Scripture is one thing and the authoritative teaching of the Church is another.
Well, indeed it is. The question is what to do about it. While Catholicism has been in a state of off-and-on counter-reformation since the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers' justification for breaking free of Rome's control is as clear now as it was for Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. It's tough to see the good news clearly through all that tradition. So here we Protestants stand, critiquing the tradition with Scripture. We cannot do otherwise.
We are happy that these days in some quarters Catholic lay people are discovering the Bible and grounding their personal faith in it. We hope that the same can be true for the Vatican, and that Vanhoye's appointment might presage that. The letter that Vanhoye studies, Hebrews, if read with even a modicum of care, sets forth a christocentric theology that utterly destroys what the Reformers insisted is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church, namely, its promotion of other mediators.
Roman Catholic thinkers are contributing mightily to the intellectual life of our republic these days (N.B. that five Supreme Court justices are Catholic: Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts and Alito; also N.B. that the MSM still treated Alito's Catholicism as a novelty). Can they contribute to the life of their own church?
This raises a constitutional question: if the office of First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) become vacant due to death or disability, does the Vice President's wife become the new FLOTUS?
Does the Mosaic law of levirate marriage apply constitutionally in this way? We need a Hebrew Bible scholar or a lawyer (at least one has read this blog) to weigh in on this question.
Larry Summers Takes a Hint
Check out Alan Dershowitz's Boston Globe op-ed interpreting Summers's move. A noted Harvard law professor, Dershowitz is no conservative, but he is frank about Summers having been forced out by a plurality of one faculty of Harvard's many having cast a vote of no confidence in their president. Their reason, per Dershowitz and most other external observers, was their objection to Summers's expression of opinions at odds with the hard left.
Whenever we feel sorry for ourselves for the difficulties of teaching and administration at Cincinnati Christian University (motto: "100% of faculty, staff and students are certified sinners"), we think of this lesser-known institution near Boston and thank God that we have our little set of problems and not theirs.
We quote Professor Dershowitz's conclusion, offering a prognostication and a challenge about his university:
Now that this plurality of one faculty has succeeded in ousting the president, the most radical elements of Harvard will be emboldened to seek to mold all of Harvard in its image. If they succeed, Harvard will become a less diverse and less interesting institution of learning governed by political-correctness cops of the hard left. This is what happened in many European universities after the violent student protests of the late 1960s. It should not be allowed to happen at Harvard in the wake of the coup d'etat engineered by some in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Crunchy Cons: Next Buzz Book?
What does it mean to be a "crunchy conservative," a la Dreher? It means eschewing the libertine tendencies of liberalism, but also embracing environmentalism, organic farming, the New Urbanism (the movement to fight sprawl and develop communities where people walk places and talk to their neighbors), and other communitarian notions. It is a kind of conservatism that is more committed to humanity than to commercial activity.
Or more precisely, it is a book that takes a strong stand on one side of the conservative movement, the Tory side, as opposed to the dominant one, the libertarian side. As Nash puts it:
It is a reminder of the enduring tension on the right between those for whom the highest social good is freedom--the emancipation of the self from statist restraint and oppressive custom--and those for whom the highest social good is virtue: the formation of character, the cultivation of the soul.
Dreher sees such conservatism as entirely theo-centric. It is a conservatism that is grounded and focused on religious orthodoxy. Nothing else can direct the path to common virtue.
We are intrigued and hope to read said book. We confess skepticism on some points, e.g.:
We have an intuition that organic farming, if carried out on a wide scale, is bad for the environment, as it necessitates more acreage in agriculture, leading to the destruction of habitat and the polluting of waters with organic agricultural runoff.
We have an intuition that environmentalism is often bad for the environment, as the best protectors of the environment tend to be those with a commercial interest in its preservation.
However, the book still looks worthwhile.
And it illustrates what we have said repeatedly on this blog: these days, ideas are coming from conservatives.
Most Definitive Sign of 2nd-Term Fatigue So Far
The Bush Administration has agreed to lease operations of six major ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates.
The Republican governors of New York and Maryland are threatening legal action to block the move. Thank goodness for that.
SWNID insists that demanding perfection from leaders is an uninformed path to constant frustration. So we forgive our President this mistake. But we urge him to correct it faster than he did Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Monday, February 20, 2006
To Be Checked Out Before Tonight's Episode, Or After
One snippet: he refers to President Logan as "President Manilow." We apologize to Mrs. SWNID for finding this amusing.
Can there be a more sublime combination of disparate pop cultural elements than Dave Barry blogging 24?
Sunday, February 19, 2006
"Fungible" in the Funnies
Not only is the analysis sound, but the vocabulary is precise. "Fungible" is a most excellent word, representing a most critical concept, as gentle reader Bruce will no doubt attest.
Logical Proof as to Why Richard Cohen Can't Write
Cohen barely passed algebra in high school.
Writing about the utter uselessness of algebra in protest of a story chronicling a young woman's failure to graduate from high school in Los Angeles because she could not meet a new algebra requirement, Cohen intones that algebra is useless and offers himself as exhibit A.
Of course, Mr. Cohen, the object of much SWNIDish ridicule for his mangling of facts and logic, simply doesn't know what he's missing. Blind to the logic of equations representing variables with letters, he is likewise blind to other logical expressions. So he fails to see the value of algebra, the logic of which he fails to understand, the value of the Iraq War, the logic of which he fails to understand, the conservative worldview, the logic of which he fails to understand, et cetera.
Hence, he sets forth that writing, not algebra, is the great teacher of logic, offering his success as a writer as irrefutable proof. Too bad that his writing generally fails to demonstrate logic. He's proved the opposite of his thesis, but he's the last person to know.
We recall about two years ago listening to a story on the reactionary NPR network that noted extensive research demonstrating that success in algebra is the best indicator of success in college and covering the extensive effort in primary and secondary education to ensure success in algebra among the widest possible range of students. Such efforts are documented in the LA Times story on which Cohen opined, which also documents the district's inadequate staffing to meet its own requirement. It also notes the confident opinions of students who, like Cohen, are failing algebra, that they'll never need the stuff.
Certainly we should expect people who don't understand something to be in the best position to determine its value. We leave it to gentle readers to note and comment on other examples of this remarkable phenomenon of human judgment.
Slogans on Display
Bush spied, terrorists died.
Democrats -- a 40 year war on poverty and still no exit strategy
It takes a conservative to feed a liberal.
Gentle readers will want to join us in perusal of the remainder.
PBS Brings Back Only Reason to Watch PBS
Their programming executives have apparently intoned the immortal words, "And now for something completely different."
Monty Python's Flying Circus, gentle readers, is back.
PBS will air a series of Python "Personal Best" excerpts and interviews in February and March, warming up the audience for the reintroduction of the original shows in April. Gentle readers should note that their tax dollars will buy them email reminders of the airing times on their local affiliates, should they complete the form linked on the page linked above.
How splendid will this spring be? Kiefer Sutherland will be killing terrorists, and John Cleese will be attempting to buy cheese from Michael Palin. Who could ask for more?
Cheney Hunting Accident Discrepancies = Log in Beholder's Eye
- First White House spokesmen put the blame on Harry Whittington for not announcing his approach. Then Cheney, interviewed by Fox News, placed the blame on himself.
- First everyone denied that anyone was drinking. Then Cheney acknowledged that he'd had a beer with lunch five hours before.
- First everyone said that Whittington was fine. Then it seems that he had a heart attack.
- First everyone said that Cheney had all of his hunting licenses. Then it was noted that his license lacked an "upland game bird stamp."
- First it was said that the story was slow in coming out because the VP's office wanted to get the details right. Then it was acknowledged that the owner of the ranch where the hunting was going on asked Cheney's permission to call the local paper.
- First it was stated that the President got news about the accident on Saturday night. Then press spokesman Scott McClellan said that he didn't learn about it personally until the next day.
Of course, none of these points is open to the interpretation that events are open to interpretation. What does it mean not to be drinking? Is having a beer five hours before "drinking" in the present tense? Is a person who has been shot but whose life, limb and overall health are never in danger "fine"? Does anyone outside of Texas government and the conclave of fanatical hunters have any clue that you need an "upland game bird stamp" to shoot quail? Can we give Cheney credit for a bit of graciousness in accepting the responsibility when Whittington himself assumed responsibility in a later public statement?
Clearly reporters need something better to do. The folks who thought that Clinton's hairsplitting of "is" in a legal deposition was acceptable now dispute whether it's right that reporters were not immediately escorted to the hunting party to record Mr. Whittington's medical evacuation for the ages.
Given our profession, SWNID cannot but compare such allegations of "discrepancies" to the chestnuts of popular-level criticism of the Gospels: did Jesus heal the blind man while going into or out of Jericho, did he exorcise one or two demoniacs in the Decapolis, did he say that whoever is not for me is against me or whoever is not against me is for me, did he allow or forbid his disciples to wear sandals on their preaching tour, et cetera ad nauseum. Such non-issues are raised by those who seek to undermine the general credibility of a witness or text by ignoring the nature of the discourse on any particular occasion and suggesting malice or incompetence in the superficial differences between utterances.
For the Gospels, such issues have been discussed for centuries, and thoughtful analyses aplenty have noted the inconsequential differences of rhetoric that they normally involve (we refer gentle readers to that book that we have required many hundreds of students to buy and read, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by the saintly Craig Blomberg, for specifics). It's easy to affirm the integrity of the Gospels' witness in light of such considerations. Yet folks continue to blather on about how many discrepancies the Gospels contain.
So Mr. Cheney, you have good company.
And so does SWNID. As the inimitable Charles Krauthammer put it Friday:
Secrecy? This was hardly an affair of state. And it was hardly going to be kept secret. Arrogance? The media laying these charges are the same media that just last week unilaterally decided that the public's right to know did not extend to seeing cartoons that had aroused half the world, burned a small part of it and deeply affected the American national interest. Having arrogated to themselves the judgment of what a free people should be allowed to see regarding an issue that is literally burning, they then go ballistic over a few hours' delay in revealing an accident with only the most trivial connection to the nation's interest or purpose.
Cheney got a judgment call wrong, for reasons that are entirely comprehensible. The disproportionate, at times hysterical, response to that error is far less comprehensible.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
New Yorker Acknowledges Jack Bauer Phenomenon
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Polarization: Why Rs Win in 08
- Hillary Clinton is extremely popular among Democrats and extremely unpopular among independents. She is therefore the favorite to be her party's nominee and the least favorite to be elected.
- John Kerry and Al Gore don't do much better than Hillary.
- Condi, Rudy and McCain show much better traction with independents than any of these Ds.
- Rudy is the strongest with both the R base and independents.
In other words, Ds polarize, while Rs appeal. And Rudy does it best.
Morris asks whether Rs will vote for Rudy when they find out "that he is pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-affirmative action." We say that Rs are literate and already know. And they know it's not just what you do, but it's the way that you do it.
And so we say again, the next POTUS is Rudy G.
Whigging Continues: Fingerhut Out
Any chance of the Ohio Democratic Party showing the way forward for the national party is now over. Its nominee will be Ted Strickland, a thoroughly liberal politician in all respects but an oddity for the Ds in that he has roots in a rural area. He is Bill Clinton without charm or scandals. Or so the Ds hope. Since the Ds regard conservatives as quaint rubes, they believe that a guy who owns a shotgun and was once a mainline Protestant clergyman will hoodwink the hayseeds into voting for him.
Fingerhut hardly seems to belong in the party whose nomination he seeks. A two-term state senator, he works as director of economic development education and entrepreneurship at Baldwin-Wallace College. Since entrepreneurship hardly fits with the program of socialist victimhood largely promoted by the Ds at the national level, Fingerhut now asserts that he does not "expect to be a candidate again for the foreseeable future."
The Ds will rue this day. Strickland is doomed. The money he has raised will not win the election for him (see Mark Mallory's defeat of David "Richie Rich" Pepper last November), and neither will running mate Lee Fischer's name recognition, established largely by losing the gubernatorial election eight years ago. Ken Blackwell has better name recognition by far than any other candidate. And as Blackwell will rise well above the Rs' scandals, he gives the Ds no traction on the corruption angle. Plus, he destroys their necessary demographic coalition.
Fingerhut would have provided an interesting campaign of ideas against Blackwell, like the one that would have been in 1964 between Goldwater and JFK. Instead we'll have ideas from policy-wonk Blackwell and rhetoric from cardboard-cutout Strickland.
Pity Ohio. Pity the Democrats. Pity the republic.
Democrat Politician Silences Conservative Talk Radio in Cincinnati
Rhodes says that he's done this for the love of the music. But we suspect otherwise. We believe that if someone audits the Democrat auditor, they'll find that George Soros has ponied up the money to fill the airwaves with mindless doo-wop and silence the articulate conservatism of Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt.
Is it just a coincidence that Rhodes himself was dumped from AM 1530 when its format went to the hapless and ratings-less Air America liberal prattle?
Note what this means, conspiracy theorists:
- A station dumps a Democrat politician who plays moldy oldies in favor of Frankenradio.
- That station maintains its liberal talk format despite ratings that lag behind volunteer-staffed WAIF.
- The Democrat politician somehow raises money to lease a station that has had decent success with conservative talk but whose AM signal has all the clarity of two tin cans connected with kite string, and he proposes to play his pet oldies on it.
Well, this much we know. Our drive home in the evening will be poorer without the wit and wisdom of Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. But they can't silence us. We'll listen on satellite, we'll listen on streaming audio, we'll read the blogs, we'll fight them on the beaches. It will be our finest hour.
Monday, February 13, 2006
One More Reason Why The Dems Are Dinosaurs
Under Bush, unemployment among African-Americans has dropped sharply. In January 2006 it stood at 8.9%, sharply down from 10.6% in November, and lower than at any point in the Clinton boom.
The Ds depend on 90% or more of the African-American vote. But employed voters are prosperous voters, and prosperous voters tend to support the status quo and the Rs.
And then there are Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell and Condi Rice and Michael Steele. To quote another SWNID icon, the immortal Sam Cooke:
It's been a long, long time coming,
But I know a change gonna come.
Oh yes it will.
Fitting Tribute to Film's Greatest Comedian
London's National Film Theater is running a festival of Keaton films through February and March, which is almost worth the price of a round trip ticket. But if like us you don't have the discretionary scratch, read Mark Steyn's Keaton encomium. Then go to the public library and borrow some Keaton films to see what you've been missing with the sound turned up.
It seems that in September 2005 Salem traded its two Cincinnati stations, WBOB and WTSJ, plus $6.7 million, in exchange for a high-powered outlet in Detroit, a much larger market. The new owner of the Cincinnati stations is John Yinger of the Christian Broadcasting System. He likes WTSJ for Christian stuff, but apparently doesn't care much for the distinctiveness of WBOB's format.
The Salem talk format on WBOB featured such luminaries as Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. The talk was well informed, civil, thoughtful but still edgy. It was everything that talk radio should be and none of what its opponents caricature it to be.
And now it's gone from this market, unless you've got satellite or are at the computer with streaming audio.
This whole affair reminds us all too much of the sad demise of WNOP. Once the hippest jazz station in any locale, it was sold to Sacred Heart Radio, which now broadcasts Roman Catholic programming on the signal.
Why does this WBOB's death remind us of WNOP's? Because good taste seems to have a short life on Cincinnati's airwaves. Michael Medved is gone, but Jerry Springer will live forever.
Gay Actor Says Hollywood Closed to Gays
SWNID expects that Dennis Rodman will soon remark that it is very hard for African-Americans to make their way in the NBA, especially if they have tattoos, and Wayne Gretzky will claim that the NHL is a tough place for Canadians. Oh, yes, and Sammy Sosa says that Major League Baseball is very closed to Dominicans.
We also hear that politics is very discriminatory towards people with degrees from Harvard and Yale, as reported by George W. Bush, John Kerry and Teddy Kennedy.
We invite gentle readers to note similar remarks as they've heard them--or imagined them.
The Predictable Jokes Begin
In light of this development, we add this question and answer so that we're the first (of which we know) to ask it and to remind the world of what it already knows all too well. We also attempt to remain family friendly, though the subject matter strains anyone's ability to do so:
Q: What is the difference between being accidentally hit by a Cheney misfire and being accidentally hit by a Clinton misfire?
A: A Cheney misfire leaves you with a night in the hospital. A Clinton misfire leaves you with an embarrassing trip to the dry cleaner, should you choose to make it.
UPDATE: The NY Times is running this on the shooting incident as joke fodder. Follow the link for nice renderings from Leno and Stewart.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Why Experience Is Not Always the Best Teacher
Certainly the most reprehensible statement so far comes from James and Sarah Brady. Denizens of the 80s will remember Mr. Brady not as the father of the Brady Bunch (a 70s phenomenon) but as Ronald Reagan's press secretary, tragically shot in the head by would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley. For the last 25 years, Mr. and Mrs. Brady have been the most visible public symbols of greater gun control in the United States.
So it's little surprise that today the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued these statements:
"Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him," said Jim Brady. "I had a friend once who accidentally shot pellets into his dog - and I thought he was an idiot."
"I've thought Cheney was scary for a long time," Sarah Brady said. "Now I know I was right to be nervous."
It's little surprise, and it's little help. The facts of the Cheney accident, per the Chicago Tribune's news service, are as follows:
- Mr. Cheney is an avid and experienced hunter.
- He was shooting quail with a shotgun.
- His companion approached from an unseen angle and did not announce himself.
- Cheney turned to shoot a flushed bird and did not see his companion.
- The man received several pellets in the face, chest and arms, but his life was never in danger.
- The medical team that always accompanies Cheney attended to the victim, rushing him to the hospital.
- He's doing fine.
SWNID is no hunter. Only one male member of our extended family was an avid hunter while we were growing up, and he only avid for small game like squirrels and rabbits. SWNID was invited to accompany said relative on multiple occasions, but fearing that we would not cope well with the specter of death that we had personally inflicted, we declined. Also, we did not care to dine on fried rodents, the inevitable outcome of such excursions.
However, we assert that hunting lies deep in the psyche of many humans, especially of the male persuasion. We also assert that hunters have likely done more to protect wildlife and their habitats than any other group. Certainly the republic's most famous protector of the wilds was also its most famous hunter, the extraordinary Theodore Roosevelt. We are therefore in favor of hunting.
We also assert that whatever the merits of more careful controls on the distribution of firearms, hunters tend to be most careful with their weapons, subject as they all are to being accidentally shot personally.
So we believe that this little episode says nothing about Mr. Cheney, except that such things happen in the dangerous world of hunting.
But it does say something about Mr. and Mrs. Brady. It says that they care less for the facts than the exquisite feeling of taking a moral stand regardless of the facts.
Mr. Cheney is an experienced hunter, but he made a single unfortunate mistake that thankfully did not prove to be tragic. Mr. Brady is an experienced victim, tragically disabled by a bullet intended by a madman to kill someone else, but he has become a doubly tragic figure as he allows himself to be exploited by those whose moral commitments outweigh their honesty. Experience, it seems, is not always the best teacher.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Dems Continue to Whig Out
"A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, but then fail all the more completely because he drinks," George Orwell once observed. This seems to capture nicely the dynamic of the Democrats' shame spiral. Success in politics is measured by winning elections. On this score, Democrats have been failures for a while now. In response, they're getting drunk on a brew of partisanship and Bush-hating.
Where arises a statesman worthy to address this crisis?
It's not Barak Obama. The MSM reports that Obama has now made nice again with John McCain. We say that he officially looks like a fool: ready to play party politics until it's better public relations to play bipartisanship, and then ready to change again as the mood of the moment shifts. This is Clintonesque, and the republic already tried that approach.
SWNID is intrigued by Eric Fingerhut. He's running, probably hopelessly, for the D's nomination for Ohio's governor, and on a most remarkable platform: the elimination of all taxes on businesses in the state of Ohio. We affirm the perspective of Mike Maurer at ThisWeek on this development. Fingerhut is doomed, but perhaps the way that Lincoln was doomed to lose to Douglas for senator from Illinois, or as Maurer makes it out, as Reagan was doomed to lose to Ford in 1976. You can start or restart a party with thinking like Fingerhut's, but it takes a few years.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Paul Beston, Whom We Now Know
We will be on the lookout for Mr. Beston from now on.
That's right: no evidence in this study that getting only 20% of your calories from fat will put you at less risk for heart disease or cancer. As one would expect, the significance of the data is disputed, but the data are there.
So when does Graeter's open today?
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
McCain Writes an Epistle for the Ages
I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again. . . .
I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness.
As we have noted before, SWNID has little use for Senator McCain's ideas of "reform," all of which have in the past yielded a worse result than the situation that they sought to reform. But we tip our hat to his mastery of satiric rhetoric, and to his political savvy. Knowing that Obama may well be number two on the Democrat ticket in 08, the year that McCain will head the Republican ticket or die trying, he has executed a supremely effective preemptive strike against him.
"New Monasticism" = Old Pacifism + Old Socialism?
What is the new monasticism? In sum, it is a "radical" movement among young Christians to serve with sacrifice and abandon among the poor and dispossessed. Claiborne (not surprisingly an Eastern University alum, doubtless under the spell of Tony Campolo) has, among other things, lived with the homeless in Philadelphia, worked with Mother Theresa in Calcutta, and comforted civilians in Iraq during the American invasion.
Beston assesses the New Monasticism as SWNID does; therefore, Beston is right. To wit: there is much to admire in the movement's sacrificial love and much of which to be skeptical in its political and social analysis. Beston notes that Claiborne's assertion of pacifism and socialism are less than thorough or convincing. But we'll go one better, or maybe two:
1. Pacifism actually kills more innocent people than just war theory.
2. Socialism actually impoverishes more people than free markets.
Is there a place for the "new monasticism" that isn't pacifistic and socialist? SWNID says yes, and points to Josh and Chloe Glenn and Jade and Kim Kendall, recent CCU grads living and serving just down the hill in Cincinnati's notorious Lower Price Hill. No pacifism, no socialism, just simple living among the poor with lots of communication, encouragement, outreach, and meaningful assistance. These folks know what it's all about, minus grandstanding, bad politics and bad economics.
The Cartoon Crisis
The bad news is that this distracts the world from the real cartoon crisis: for the last five years, there hasn't been a decent cartoon on TV on Saturday morning.
Seriously, the truth is out there. Whether it's the timing, the location or the very nature of the response itself, it's very clear that Muslim outrage has been manufactured by demagogues and dictators who need a crisis to justify their power and distract from their own issues.
But we will offer one more observation. Why was there no protests of similar magnitude in response to recent, well-publicized art exhibits featuring images that some Christians found offensive (like a crucifix in a vial of urine)? Why did some Christians speak out, a few demonstrate peacefully, but most ignore the issue?
Or to put it differently, why would a newspaper editor be more likely to fear a violent response to an image offensive to Muslims than one offensive to Christians?
We'll put it offensively: for all their faults, many Christians recognize that at the center of their faith is a man who dies on a cross for the sake of people who don't deserve it. So they take that man seriously when he says that one should count oneself blessed when persecuted, that one should pray for one's enemies.
Islam lacks this narrative. There's no cross in the theology of Islam.
When Christians fight, it's an aberration. For the rest of the world, it's business as usual.
Ken Blackwell, The First Amendment, And the Shape of Politics to Come
- Blackwell stands to become the first post-reconstruction African-American governor. And he is Republican. He may share this distinction with Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, another Republican.
- Blackwell has been enormously successful as a political candidate, getting successfully elected at every level of local and state office. He has also been remarkably successful in assuring the defeat of ballot initiatives that he has opposed. He wins elections.
- Blackwell has one of the most efficient public relations operations of any politician in recent memory. He manages to get on the air regularly. His distribution of public-service radio spots highlighting character has enhanced his name recognition and credibility considerably, and at no cost to his campaign.
- Blackwell is the opposite of the Ohio Republican archetype (RINOs like Bob Taft and George Voinovich). He is thoroughly conservative on all points. The party is dominated by the country club. SWNID notes that at 2004 Bush-Cheney events to which we were invited by CCU alum Brent Sanders, Southwest Ohio Campaign Coordinator for Bush-Cheney 2004, we judged ourselves to be the only person in the room who didn't live in Indian Hill.
- Therefore, it is paradoxical but sadly true that the Republican establishment in Ohio, which should recognize it is in deep trouble after Coingate and Golfgate have labeled the party as corrupt, is doing everything it can to defeat Blackwell. Most recently, the party polled voters on their preferences in the primary. The poll revealed that Blackwell had considerably more support than rival Jim Petro, part of the establishment. Yet the party said that the poll also revealed that Petro had a better chance against Democrat Ted Strickland. How that was determined was not reported to the public, however. One senses that the party knows it can't openly oppose Blackwell but would like him to go away.
- And the Republicans aren't the only ones. Democrats have been organizing to stop Blackwell for some time.
- And here's where another issue--First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion--intersects. The so-called Reformation Ohio, an 501 (c) 3 religious organization led by Ohio megachurch ministers Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, has given notable attention to Blackwell's candidacy. And so has arisen a coalition of religious groups demanding that the IRS withdraw RO's tax-exempt status for engaging in partisan politics. This is but one salvo in the left's anti-Blackwell crusade.
So here's what SWNID offers in response. First, the Ohio GOP needs to wise up. In Blackwell, they have a historic winner. He will demolish any Democrat opposition, as he will motivate the party base and cut into the minority voting base of the Ds. Never a part of the party establishment, he also offers a clean start for a corrupt organization. He will prove utterly competent as governor: he understands policy better than most people who study it full time. And his election will continue to loosen the stranglehold that the other party has on minority voters.
Second, the opponents of RO are patently disingenuous. The Toledo Blade offered an editorial differentiating RO's support of Blackwell with legal practice of churches openly inviting candidates to speak to them. SWNID says this is nonsense. Does anyone think that when John Kerry or Al Gore or Ted Strickland speak at an African-American church, they have no implied endorsement? The IRS agrees to play the game of nonpartisanship with religious organizations as long as they avoid explicit endorsement language. But they can go very far in pointing out the congruence of a candidate's positions with the values of the church. So should be the reality for RO. SWIND has little use for its leaders, but we see their opponents as brazenly applying a double standard to squelch free political speech.
Third, this is going to get a lot of attention. Money is coming in from out of state, largely to defeat Blackwell. In Maryland, Michael Steele, a similar candidate, has been pelted with Oreo cookies. Expect a Nabisco assault on Blackwell sometime in October.
But it won't matter. Blackwell is unbeatable. He's the most competent politician in the race. He will win regardless of the money equation, and regardless of the cookies.
There, we said it in advance. And we are Seldom Wrong.