Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Public Service Announcement: Probable Employment Opportunity

As readers of this blog are likely disproportionately composed of younger adults in the Greater Cincinnati area, we gladly supply the following announcement as a public service for those in this demographic who need a summer job.

Paramount King's Island, soon to be Cedar Fair King's Island, is apparently experiencing an acute shortage of barristas to staff its prosperous Starbucks coffee emporium. We have this on the authority of Son of SWNID, who reports today after his first day back on the job earning precious tuition money at said cafe, that the store has only twelve staff members available.

Gentle readers seeking seasonal employment and possessing an ambition to meet the latte and frappuchino needs of theme park patrons should apply immediately. The position pays better-than-minimum wage (take that, advocates of a higher minimum wage!) and offers paid training, meal benefits, portable seniority with the Global Starbucks Conspiracy, and various free-admission benefits (allowing employees and their friends to enter the park for roughly what it's actually worth).

Employees will also experience the joy of explaining to neophyte patrons the subtle differences among the 3000 or so available beverages and of dealing with the idiosyncrasies of seasoned customers ("I said that I wanted the soy milk steamed to only 135 degrees!"). They can also enjoy the feeling of superiority toward all other park employees in food services, whose jobs frying potatoes and filling sodas do not demand thorough knowledge of the science of caffeinology.

On or Off Base: That Is the Question

Jeff Jacoby (motto: "The Only Republican in Boston Except for Mitt Romney When He's Home") today offers a slice of the conventional wisdom (surprisingly, as Jacoby generally resists the conventional) that the Rs are going down in November because Dubya and Congress have alienated the base.

Meanwhile, David Hill (motto under construction) offers the contrarian but mathematical view that neither party base is ever enough to win an election. Hence, courting the base is a ticket to disaster.

In its characteristically helpful way, RealClearPolitics linked the two articles side by side today. We point them out for our gentle readers' edification.

Of course, we are enamored of most contrarian positions, especially when they have the advantage over their conventional counterparts of adding up. Moreover, we believe that the generally local, candidate-based nature of congressional elections will obtain in 2006, as the Ds show a persistent inability to perform the rare trick of nationalizing a congressional election. Further we think that the Rs will come out in goodly numbers when they get a fresh look at the Woodstock dropouts (Speaker Pelosi? That's a prospect that can nationalize a congressional election!) who will govern if they don't. The many "reforms" and redistricting moves that have protected incumbents won't hurt the Rs either.

But it's a free country, so we urge gentle readers to prognosticate for themselves. After all, we may be wrong, albeit, by definition, seldom.

Profile of Hitchens: Good for Fans and Uninitiated

We have been known to refer to prolific writer Christopher Hitchens as "The World's Smartest Person," if only to prove that we don't always reserve that title for our SWNIDish self. For those who share our judgment, and for those who have no clue who Hitch is, World Magazine has supplied a fine profile, including some helpful attention to the paradox of the self-styled anti-theist's antipathy for all religions and affection for the Bible.

We say in short that Hitch's reasons for unbelief in Christianity are well expressed versions of common post-Christian rationales for rejecting what is in fact a caricature of Christianity. We thank the good editors at World for labeling his description of the gospel as "a rare moment of less-than-astute analysis" and his citation of Augustine and Aquinas as "very underdeveloped human beings" as astounding. We assume that our gentle readers will get the general drift that they and we beg to differ with Mr. H on such points.

But politically, we find Hitch to be about as incisive as anyone writing (on politics and literature by the way), and probably more so. Those who loiter on this blog would be well advised to spend more time with the likes of him.

Another Nomination for the Taranto Time Capsule

We once again urge gentle readers to become daily readers of James Taranto's unparalleled "Best of the Web Today." Otherwise, you'll miss gems like today's compendium of analysis, humor and web oddities.

Included in today's remarkable collection is an analysis of left-wing obsession with Vietnam, a delicious sentence of which reads:

Baby-boomer liberalism, with its smug sense of moral superiority and its impatience with America's imperfections, is today the prevailing worldview among many of our elite institutions, not least the so-called mainstream media.

Then Taranto dishes up a provocative observation about the shape of the abortion debate, a highly amusing snippet from an exchange between Helen Thomas and Tony Snow, a quotation attributing greater negative impact on minorities from the peculiarities of email communication, and a link to a site selling dehydrated water.

We wish we could dish half as much as our hero at the Wall Street Journal.

Cincinnati Casino? Bet with SWNID!

We are most pleased that our bet against casino gambling making it to Broadway Commons looks set to pay off.

Today's Enquirer reports that the Ohio Attorney General's office has rejected a second petition for a ballot initiative on putting slots downtown in Our Fair City. For this, we officially forgive Jim Petro for running against Ken Blackwell and take back all of our nasty remarks about him.

The Enquirer also reports some pretty bitter but utterly predictable battles between Queen City Gaming Entertainment, Louis Beck's outfit seeking to develop Cincinnati slots, and Ohio Learn & Earn (our nomination for most dishonestly-named entity in human history), the outfit that's pushing casinos in dirty, disgusting Cleveland.

We love it when legalized criminals fight to the death!

Another Loss to Cincinnati's Jazz Community

In a city with outstanding jazz musicians far out of proportion to its population, guitarist Kenny Poole was a standout. Today with the rest of Cincinnati's music lovers, we mourn his passing.

Rick Bird at the Cincinnati Post has admirably described Poole's artistry, so gentle readers should follow the link above to learn or be reminded of what it was like to hear Poole play. We will confine ourselves to a personal anecdote.

Poole was booked to play a free concert at the Pleasant Hill Library in College Hill at 7 p.m. on a weeknight in early summer. We, finding the price, time, location and content of the concert perfect for our SWNIDish needs and tastes, made it a point to attend. Poole played an hour-long set, unaccompanied, in a side-room of the library with about 20 people in attendance.

After about 45 minutes of playing jazz standards with impeccable elegance and gentle swing, Poole asked what time it was. We responded immediately with what we freely confess was a self-serving lie: "Five minutes after seven!" After the laughter (which we admit we deliberately provoked for the feeding of our ravenous ego), someone told the truth.

So the evening, which we wanted to go on forever, was near an end. Poole played two more songs, both requests. The last was the Basie standard "Shiny Stockings" (or "Corner Pocket," as it was known before words were added to the tune). Since the Count and his fifteen Kansas City men left the Savoy Ballroom, no one had swung that tune as finely as Poole did that evening all by himself.

If such things exist, it was a perfect moment, a too-brief hour of artistry that we will remember for a long time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Urgent Post: Intervention, Support Needed for Addicted Reader

The indispensable "NeverInDoubtMeter" (always available at the click of a mouse at the bottom of this pages) reveals that one gentle reader has already today spent one hour, sixteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds reading--and perhaps commenting on--this blog.

We fear addictive behavior. Nothing else could explain such a waste of precious time.

We urge other gentle readers to intervene, perhaps to form a support group.

On Public Education: Reduced Sarcasm Quotient Here

Reflection on our most recent post on sealing Cincinnati's borders has prompted us to express ourselves with reduced sarcasm on the question of education in our fair city and its fair suburbs.
The conventional wisdom for many families has been to locate in the suburbs for the sake of their children's education. We understand such a decision and we fully support what motivates it. We would even say that in some instances, it may be the best and only option available to families who care about their children's learning. But we did something different. We would do it again. We recommend it to everyone who asks, as we are doing right now for those who didn't ask.

For those who think that the Cincinnati Public Schools offer inadequate education, we urge a meeting with the SWNID children, educated since the first day of kindergarten until the last day of high school (for the elder SWNID seed) at CPS. We suppose that we could have hoped for better than, say, Son of SWNID's National Merit Scholarship, but we try not to be that greedy. Daughter of SWNID is no slouch, either, for those who wonder, but the big trophies aren't yet awarded at her point of matriculation in the eighth grade. The system has served them well, and we have deliberately ordered our lives to keep them in it.

The SWNID children have been the beneficiaries a remarkably excellent education in the Cincinnati Public School system, specifically at Fairview German Language School and Walnut Hills High School. As to the quality of the latter, it was the highest-ranked school in Ohio in the recent Newsweek rating (for what such exercises are worth). It boasts rabidly committed alumni, an impressive history of educating some of Cincinnati's most famous citizens and former citizens, and a reputation for preparing its graduates for college far above the standard found in most public schools. As to the quality of the former, it prepared both SWNID children to ace everything in sight at Walnut, plus to speak German, play musical instruments and sports, and understand people of differing backgrounds.

For those who think the old CPS buildings perfectly adequate and rebuilding a waste, we urge a tour of the facilities that haven't yet been replaced. At Fairview, our seed were taught in a building constructed in 1880. That is not a misprint. And the 1880 building was in better shape than the 1958 building next to it. Then go to the bathroom at Walnut Hills, and hope that you can find some working plumbing in the old building (attention penny-pinchers: Walnut is only scheduled for updating, not new construction). There's a reason that three of the "Seven Ancient Wonders of Walnut Hills," as enumerated by last year's Walnut valedictorians, were "toilets." At any rate, the bond issue financing the CPS rebuilding program required a referendum, so in the best tradition of our republic, the people voted to tax themselves (property taxes will pay off the bonds, so all you suburban residents working in the city who complain about city income taxation without representation, you are not aggrieved on this point). And the district continues to downsize its plans to match current enrollments.

To those who flee the city for educational reasons (and we say again that we are not unsympathetic), we offer the warning that everyone must sooner or later come to grips with the social problems left behind in the metro core. Troubled families remain concentrated in crumbling neighborhoods after the folks with means move to the newest outer-ring subdivision. Sooner or later, those troubled family's children's social problems will affect the quality of life for suburbanites. The problems move too. Ask any school administrator in West Chester. As any policeman in Anderson Township.

What members of the suburban exodus don't always realize is that when they leave, they may leave behind educational institutions that have over generations built traditions of achievement and acquired experience in addressing problems. In exchange they get institutions with little by way of established patterns, good or bad. Booming suburban districts do well initially, but their achievement depends on their initial influx of families with economic resources and strong commitment to education. Eventually, though, that momentum slows, and the community finds itself with more families lacking that commitment, and hence a declining rate of achievement--and no experience with dealing with either.

Then there's nothing for the committed families to do but stay and make things better, as they could have done in the city, or move again to greener educational pastures in the next ring of suburban development.

Suburbs exist because of cities. Suburbanites, sooner or later, have to pay for what they derive from their metropolitan existence. That includes a share of the burden to educate children from the most dysfunctional of their community's families.

CPS has problems as a whole. Mrs. SWNID, a former substitute teacher in the system, can narrate. But the system--which has also shown remarkable improvements as a whole in the last decade--works for those who understand it and work with it. Meanwhile, a line on a map will not protect children in suburban schools from other children's social problems.

The SWNIDs are blessed to know experienced, committed teachers who stay in the city schools to make a difference. We thank them for their work, which is genuinely idealistic and self-sacrificial. To all those who couldn't fall asleep at night for thinking about the children in their CPS classes, we offer our appreciation.

We also know many families who have stayed in the city schools, and who wouldn't trade their children's education for anything available in the suburbs. They don't see themselves as more noble for staying in city schools; they stay because of informed self-interest. Plus, in the bargain they get great city services like parks, level sidewalks, and street lights, neighborhoods with mature trees, and affordable costs for homes (more than offsetting higher taxes in many instances).

That's our path less taken. We'd be glad for it to be taken more often.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Seal Cincinnati's Borders Against Suburban Scofflaws and Freeloaders

The SWNID family resides in within the city limits of Cincinnati, albeit barely. When relocating about five years ago to be nearer our church, we deliberately chose to remain in the city for the sake of our children's primary and secondary education (more on that contrarian decision in another post sometime). We landed in a spot about two blocks from the border between the City of Cincinnati and an unincorporated township.

Little did we know that we were positioned like San Diego to Tijuana.

We soon learned that when walking the dog after dark, it was safest to stay within the city limits. The city provides street lights in residential neighborhoods. The township does not. The city requires that sidewalks remain level and orders homeowners to repair uneven pavement. The township may do the same, but they don't do it often. Walking outside the city after dark is a dangerous matter.

We also learned that when walking the dog in the daytime in the township, there's no telling whether a street will have sidewalks or not. Township government seems to leave things up in the air as to whether folks should be able to walk down the street safely.

But there's more. Today's Cincinnati Enquirer, in tune with this problem, features a story on the dismal state of parks in the outlying counties of the metro area versus the excellent city and county parks in the central metropolis. It seems that many residents of the outer suburbs regularly travel to the central city to enjoy the outdoor amenities built and maintained by city residents' taxes.

These factors have driven us to a difficult but necessary conclusion: it is time to seal Cincinnati's borders against all the suburban freeloaders who pay no taxes to maintain the excellent services of which they avail themselves. We are tired of people from Green Township walking on our precious lighted sidewalks to which they contribute nothing. We are tired of people from West Chester and Mason using our beautiful parks, paid for with our blood, sweat, tears and property taxes.

But this morning, we had a shocking and bitter experience that showed that the need for a safe Cincinnati border is not just important, it is urgent.

Why? Suburbanites are scofflaws!

This morning, hoping to redress a bit of the economic imbalance of our life on the border, we took our morning run to a township park with a walking/running/biking trail (township residents drive along a street without sidewalks, park their SUVs in the parking lot, and then for exercise walk in circles on said trail, then drive home). Having risked life and limb to run along unsidewalked streets to the park, we entered the track, dutifully noting the markings that order foot traffic to move clockwise on the outside lane of the path.

As we jogged at our comfortable middle-aged pace, we observed dozens of suburban criminals, Golden Retrievers and Boston Terriers in tow, moving opposite the designated flow of foot traffic. They were going counterclockwise, and freely crossing the solid yellow line whether they had the need to pass slower traffic or not. Humph!

Our city cannot afford to remain open to these illegal aliens any longer. Not only are they parasites on our civic services, their flagrant disregard for the law infect our urban life with the virus of antinomian chaos.

So we urge our City Council to do the following, immediately:

  • Protect our borders with a wall. Start by building one between the yellow lines of Vogel Avenue.
  • Demand documentation from every person walking on city sidewalks or using a city or county park. Violators should be herded into paddy wagons and deported to the townships, suburbs and exurbs from which they came.
  • Allow no amnesty or "earned citizenship." Suburban residents must no longer be allowed merely to pay a couple of dollars for a county parks sticker. They need to return to their home counties and apply through the Cincinnati embassy there.
  • Also, "Cincinnatian" needs to become the official language of Cincinnati. People who don't say "Please" when they want something repeated or who pronounce the word "viaduct" in any way other than "vydock" must be denied citizenship until they master the native tongue. As a former immigrant who learned this distinct language after many years, I insist that others show respect for the city whose services they want to use by learning its language.
For those who say that the economy of our city depends on illegal immigrants from the suburbs, or who say that our civic life is enhanced by their visits, we say that's a bunch of hooey! Send them back where they came from. Our city is in crisis. If we don't act now, we'll be taken over by people from Milford and Whitewater Township and Loveland and all those other places where people drive everywhere, pay low taxes, and talk funny.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kagan: Ds Need to Transmogrify to Help Shape Better Foreign Policy

Robert Kagan, occasional columnist for the WaPo and senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, offers a surprisingly insightful analysis of the foreign policy prospects for a Democrat president after the '08 election. In sum: her options won't look much different from the current Republican president's, but a sensible approach from the other side would do much to heal the divisions of the last several years.

Indeed, if only the Ds can nominate someone with a sensible approach. Does such a creature exist?

We also note with interest the following quotation from Kagan's last paragraph:

The Republicans could nominate someone capable of winning broad Democratic support, which would partly address the debilitating national divide on foreign policy.

And who might that be?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Analysis and Tribute for Memorial Day

National Review Online's Victor Davis Hanson provides informed analysis of the Iraq War that segues nicely into a tribute to the US Military, just in time for Memorial Day. We commend the article to gentle readers, and offer a couple of teaser quotations:

Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is uncontestable. Before they came to Iraq, there was a fascist dictatorship. Now, after three elections, there is an indigenous democratic government for the first time in the history of the Middle East. True, thousands of Iraqis have died publicly in the resulting sectarian mess; but thousands were dying silently each year under Saddam--with no hope that their sacrifice would ever result in the first steps that we have already long passed.

Our soldiers also removed a great threat to the United States. Again, the crisis brewing over Iran reminds us of what Iraq would have reemerged as. Like Iran, Saddam reaped petroprofits, sponsored terror, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But unlike Iran, he had already attacked four of his neighbors, gassed thousands of his own, and violated every agreement he had ever signed. There would have been no nascent new democracy in Iran that might some day have undermined Saddam, and, again unlike Iran, no internal dissident movement that might have come to power through a revolution or peaceful evolution. . . .

Reading about Gettysburg, Okinawa, Choisun, Hue, and Mogadishu is often to wonder how such soldiers did what they did. Yet never has America asked its youth to fight under such a cultural, political, and tactical paradox as in Iraq, as bizarre a mission as it is lethal. And never has the American military--especially the U.S. Army and Marines--in this, the supposedly most cynical and affluent age of our nation, performed so well.

We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.

For Indonesian Earthquake Relief, SWNID Recommends IDES

Gentle readers will doubtless want to give to help those affected by today's devastating earthquake in Indonesia. We recommend that such gifts be directed to IDES, the International Disaster Emergency Service, a ministry of the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

IDES boasts an efficient operation with low overhead. All funds go directly to Christian church missionaries on the field and are distributed quickly to those who need help. As it happens, the earthquake is in a region, central Java, where a number of churches have been established and a network of Christians who can act are nearby. As it happens, we have visited the area, having taught at a college in Salatiga in the summer of 2000.

IDES has funded impressive work in the Bandeh Acheh province of Indonesia, devastated by last year's tsunami. A small team sent to that region has been able to build dozens of "temporary" houses (wood structures that should last for 20 years at a minimum) for homeless families, while the British and Danish Red Cross, the agencies authorized by the government to build "permanent" houses in that area, have not yet built a one. In fact, IDES has funded the brick factory from which the Red Cross will purchase brick when it gets around to building its houses.

Disclaimer: we have served on the board of IDES since January 1 of this year. But we joined the board because we believe in this organization's work, not the other way around.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's the Symbol for "Symbologist"?

Answer: 0.

We have just returned from viewing Ron Howard's Waterloo. We fell asleep only once and only began checking our watch after one hour and fifty minutes. The lovely Mrs. SWNID also did not have to physically restrain our urge to laugh out loud at the most absurd lines, but mostly because she thought such laughter entirely appropriate.

We believe that there might have been a good movie to be made from Dan Brown's novelistic dreck. The material could frame questions about warrant for faith rather nicely. On the one hand, traditional Christianity may be the result of a massive conspiracy propagated for crass political purposes. On the other hand, the alternate belief system of the "code" depends on faith in a few obscure relics and documents, arcanely interpreted, and the testimony of people who appear out of nowhere with elaborate stories. Both sides have adherents who have committed awful acts in the name of their belief. Which provides warrant for faith? What else needs to be considered? What is proper warrant for faith?

A good debate on this subject and more ambiguity in the end about which side got it right could have made for some interesting cinema and some interesting post-cinema conversation. Instead, we hear Ian McKellan spout off just about the worst reconstruction of early Christian history ever offered outside of an unprepared undergraduate's final exam essay, and his historical travesty goes unchallenged. And at the end we are left with the unholy image of a jowly Tom Hanks genuflecting at I. M. Pei's incongruous Louvre pyramid, honoring what he infers to be sacred remains which, if such remains actually existed, would be completely inhospitable to any sort of definitive analysis as to their true identity.

Much more could be said about this experience. But we didn't get enough sleep in the movie. We leave it to our gentle readers to offer the rest in the comments.

SWNID to Reuters: Do the Math!

Here's a smallish story about ineptitude amongst the media.

Reuters today carries a story about the 9/10 cent that is charged by gas stations on every gallon sold since before your grandfather can remember. That much is unexceptional: it's the kind of story readers expect as filler around a major holiday weekend.

But the good folks at Reuters have to find a Big Oil Scandal in this:

Tests at several service stations showed that buying exactly 1 gallon of fuel (which was difficult to do because you had to release the pump handle at just the right time) resulted in a price that was always rounded up one-tenth of a penny.

An FTC spokesman said he was not aware of the agency receiving any complaints from consumers about false advertising for fuel prices.

So rounding up from 9/10 cent to one cent is "false advertising"? We thought it was how we were taught to round back in the fourth grade.

If Reuters is serious about this fractional scandal, let them improve their experimental procedure.

First, purchase exactly 10 gallons of gas (if the reporter can operate the pump with sufficient dexterity accurately to do so, given the current measurement of gasoline in hundredths of a gallon). Divide the cost by 10. See if it comes out exactly to the cost as posted, including the tenths of a cent (e.g. $27.99 for 10 gallons of gas means exactly $2.79 and 9/10ths per gallon).

Then, purchase exactly 6 gallons. Divide by six. See if the result shows that the pump rounded down after 5 gallons (as it should, if rounding is done to the nearest whole number; e.g. 6 gallons at $2.79 and 9/10ths should yield $16.79 at the pump, the remaining 4/10 rounded to the consumer's benefit).

But we urge Reuters to do this. We can't afford the experiment.

Will Acknowledgement Be Acknowledged?

For months and months President Bush's political opponents have wrung their hands and expressed their outrage that he has not acknowledged his [many stupid] mistakes in Iraq.

Yesterday, with partner in crime Tony Blair at his side, he did.

Immediately Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi issued gracious acceptance statements and pledged themselves to work closely with the President to continue to improve the American response to the Iraqi insurgency and the new Iraqi government's capacity to address its nation's problems. Congressman John Murtha also admitted to many serious mistakes in his rabid calls for unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, admitting that what he asked for amounted to unconditional surrender from his own country, just when its forces were making progress.

Meanwhile, the Satanic Weather Service reports an unseasonably cold day in the nether regions.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another Boomerang for the Culture of Corruption

Byron York offers sage advice to Ds who want to run on the ruling majority's corruption and return to the WH in 08: don't nominate Hillary.

Why? Is Hillary corrupt?

No, it's Bill.

You don't mean to say that Bill is corrupt? Not that again!

Well, no, not exactly. He's just really, really busy as a speaker, fundraiser, consultant and such. All that's perfectly appropriate for an ex-president. After all, he can't return to office to return favors.

But what if his wife's in office? Hmm.

We doubt that such advice will be heeded by the party of Grover Cleveland. But it's good advice nonetheless.

Al Gore: Warming the World, One Flight at a Time

Matt Drudge breaks the news that a group calling itself the Competitive Enterprise Institute has put together a video detailing filmmaker and erstwhile politician Al Gore's energy use in his quixotic campaign against hydrocarbon usage. The obvious but necessary-to-be-stressed outcome: the globe-trotting Gore is doing more than his share to emit carbon dioxide.

This reminds us of a comment that we recently posted on another blog. A certain Christian speaker whose politics fall far to the left of the center had blogged about his feelings of nausea while flying from the city where he works to the city where he lives after having heard the President speak on the republic's "addiction to oil," which nausea he attributed to his despair that the oilman Bush would do anything about the problem. This posting comes in a blog that detailed the many reasons why it was important for this individual to live in one city, oversee a ministry in another, and fly in between.

Our aphoristic rejoinder: Stop me, Mr. President, before I fly again.

P.S. We recommend the discussion of Gore's film from, of all things, NPR. Maybe journalistic bias can be overcome, at least somewhat.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Memo to SWNIDish Self: Vote for Anyone But Leis

We are late in blogging this, but we can't let it go.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, once the champion of moral values in his headline-grabbing obscenity prosecution of the Robert Maplethorpe exhibit, has decided to sell his soul for a new jail.

Actually, not even a new jail, just for some of the dough to run it.

Leis stood Monday with the feckless advocates of a ballot initiative to bring a casino to Cincinnati's Broadway Commons. WXIX quotes the flip-flopping lawman:

I've been informed that commissioners will announce a funding mechanism for building a new jail within a few weeks. However, operating a large jail costs money and taxes from the casino could help offset that cost.

Or how about crack house, Si? Or a bordello? It would be too honest just to tax people for the money, or to redirect available funds from less important programs, wouldn't it?

By contrast we offer SWNIDish kudos to Phil Heimlich, whose chronic lack of cooperation with other officials makes him not always our favorite local politician, for this remark:

I remember they said if we just pass a state lottery that would take care of our education expenses once and for all. We know what happened there.

Got that right. A teacher spends a whole day teaching children basic skills, reminding them that they need to work hard all their lives using these skills so that they can have money to care for themselves and their families. Then the child goes home, turns on the TV, and is told that the key to wealth and happiness is a $2 scratch-off card sold at the convenience store for the benefit of the state coffers. No child left behind, indeed!

Our experience, sheltered as it has been, is nevertheless littered with the remains of lives destroyed by compulsive gambling. We adamantly refuse to have some spineless politicians refuse to tax us directly for what we need and instead tax the compulsions of gambling addicts and their math-challenged kin, the recreational gambler. If it's our jail, we want to pay for it.

Back to Si. He has the reputation for being Super-Sheriff. But is it deserved? For years we've seen his parade of assault vehicles, all adorned with his large-lettered name, at Cheviot's Harvest Home Fair. But it's time voters asked whether after all these years it's time to elect someone with fresh eyes. And, it would seem, some coherent moral standards.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WaPo on Architect of New Jihad, SWNID on Response

Today's WaPo has an extended article profiling Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, Jihadist intellectual and author of a huge tract laying out a decentralized approach to Islamic terrorism after the fall of Afghanistan. Gentle readers who care about more than the headlines will want to give it a read (how's that for an insulting hook?).

In response, SWNID will observe that a decentralized jihad demands a particular kind of response from the West.

Part of this response is to continue to work to insure that no nation becomes a haven for Islamic terrorists, as Afghanistan was and Iraq could have become. That should be obvious, but it needs to be repeated as the West becomes weary of war.

A second, of course, is to work diligently at intelligence, including not only such things as datamining from phone records (a completely unintrusive measure that should be fully legal: how can anyone seriously think that the US Constitution of 1789 or its Bill of Rights forbids this?) but also--and this is the current weakness--live spies on the ground with the bad guys.

But here's the third that's not so obvious. Decentralized terrorist cells with weak links to each other are much more subject to being co-opted and neutralized by cultural and economic efforts than would be a centralized organization with a safe geographical base, tight communications, and a controlling hierarchy. The Jihadist who lives in, say, Seattle or Toronto or Nice or Lagos should surrounded by a culture that offers dignity, tranquility, and opportunity. These should be places where people can readily make a home, raise a family, enjoy friends, read and write books, listen to and make music, view and create art, and worship God.

In short, the West must continue to allow the human spirit to be human. And it must work to expand such liberty and opportunity to places where it does not exist (sub-Saharan Africa, central, south and southeast Asia).

Will Fariq Al-Carbomb continue to pursue his suicidal objectives when he sees that it's possible to live with liberty and pursue happiness, as Thomas Jefferson might have put it? Some will, of course. But even radical Islamists partake of the common human nature (there is such a thing, we insist). The power of the Jihadist ideal will be diminished to the degree that the West can continue to do what it has historically done: provide a safe haven for the flowering of humanity.

On Bush the WYSIWIG President

Blogger "The Anchoress" has posted a thoughtful, timely analysis of the G. W. Bush presidency, worth reading in full. In sum, she notes that Bush (a) has accomplished an awful lot in 5.5. years; (b) because of personal conviction still stands where he always has on every issue; (c) deserves more credit and support from the right wing of the Republican party, who in an imperfect world should be, as Reagan said, content to have received 75% of what they wanted.

In sum, with Bush, what you see is what you get. And if you look, it's been pretty good.

We continue to expect that the skilled professionals who have led the Bush political operation (yes, Evil Genius Karl Rove and his mutant henchmen) will by November make clear reality of the political situation, bringing out the base and rallying the middle to vote again for their convictions which remain firmly with the Reagan-Thatcher center right. The Anchoress has articulated this reality nicely, and it's only May.

NT Ueber-Scholar Pillories DVC

Hat tip to gentle reader CLK for linking us to the inestimable Larry Hurtado's Slate article on the miserable historical inaccuracies of the DVC. Hurtado, professor at the University of Edinburgh (all-time favorite city of the SWNIDs) summarizes in accessible compass that the novel and movie make a mockery not just of details of early Christian history but the whole scope of it.

All this stuff raises a question for us: What are the essential differences between the DVC and Indiana Jones? We see it this way:

Indiana Jones movies were entertaining (except maybe for the second one) and everyone knew that they were complete fantasy.

The DVC is tedious and so relies on the notion that "it just might be true" in order to gain an audience.

Will Global Warming Lower My Gas Bills?

After spending the weekend retrieving Son of SWNID from the wilds of western Massachusetts and driving through unseasonably cold, hard rain for much of the trip, we find ourselves cold to the hypothesis of a global warming crisis.

So we are glad to see National Review Online supplying a nifty article by Jason Lee Steorts on the problematic assertions of Time magazine, among others, that the polar glaciers are melting. Steorts offers evidence to the contrary: the melting is confined to small areas, while much larger areas are accumulating additional ice.

If there's anything that we learned from our too-brief two semesters of geology for non-geologists and our further reading on the subject, it is that our Favored Planet for its entire history and prehistory has been altering, renewing and developing itself. Small wonder that legions of scientists observing it closely notice changes.

We stipulate that the planet has been getting slightly warmer in recent years, and even that humans' release of carbon into the atmosphere has something to do with it. But we have grave difficulty seeing such a matter as a crisis.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Call a Lawyer: Ds Tied to Corrupt Class Action Firm

Have you ever been the beneficiary of a class action lawsuit? Probably so. Most of us have been, whether we know it or not. The SWNIDs once received a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against an insurance company that sold us a life insurance policy with which we have been totally satisfied (most people probably are satisfied with their life insurance as long as they, like SWNID, remain alive) and which we still own.

Our share of the settlement? The opportunity to purchase at a discount an annuity from the same company. As far as we know, that's all that any members of the class received. Not being at the point of life where we buy annuities and having other, more attractive options for our modest retirement funds, we didn't take up the offer, as was the case with the vast majority of beneficiaries of the settlement.

Except for the lawyers. Their share of the settlement was millions of actual American dollars. They all accepted the terms of their part of the settlement.

That's what makes class action lawyers so admirable: the work so hard for the benefit of . . . (we'd finish the sentence but all endings, straight or sarcastic, are just too obvious).

Well, even among class-action firms, there are those who are more corrupt than the norm. Such is Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman LLP, indicted last week for fraud connected to its filing of various suits.

That's enough to motivate our comment. But here's the kicker: Milberg Weiss has been an extraordinarily generous contributor to political campaigns, disproportionately of the Democrat persuasion.

This on top of the William Jefferson* scandal makes this a very bad day for the Ds, who now have to return all the yard signs that they'd printed with the slogan, "Cast Your Vote Against Corruption."

*Congressman Jefferson, in the best style of his party, is refusing to resign despite the fact that his accepting of $100k in bribes was captured on videotape. Yet we know that a mere audiorecording of a confession to one's wife is sufficient to get federal marshals to arrest the President of the United States. Doesn't Jefferson read history watch the right TV shows?

Adieu, Jack Bauer!

Tonight we bid farewell to another season of 24, looking forward to the season that we expected this season to be. We only wish it was Audrey with a swollen eye on the slow boat to China instead of Jack.

Conversation in the SWNID family room at the conclusion of tonight's final episode:

Daughter of SWNID: Now Jack will have to kill all the Chinese.

SWNID: There are 1.6 billion Chinese.

Daughter of SWNID: I know. It sounds like a fair fight.

Cash in Freezer Means Ds' Issue Has Spoiled

The federales have found $90k in the freezer of Louisiana Democrat Congressman William Jefferson (motto: "Not William Jefferson Clinton"), alleged to be from bribes that the congressman received. The matter remains under investigation.

This is pretty bad news for the Ds, especially those who follow Howard Dean's notion that the party can win in November by running against Republican corruption. It seems that the Democrats have their sinners too, and unhappily for them, the locus of scandal correlates nicely with the hypothesis that the historical corruption and ineptitude of New Orleans and Louisiana politicians mostly explains the poor response to Hurricane Katrina.

And if that's not enough, Michael Barone continues to crunch political numbers with a positive yield for Republicans.

So we urge political conservatives to (a) think positively about the upcoming election; (b) clean out their freezers and refrigerators regularly.

Oh yes! And don't take bribes!

Rumor True: Football at KCU

SWNID can confirm what had heretofore been a rumor circulated by highly reliable sources:

Kentucky Christian University is starting an intercollegiate football program.

Details are available here from KCU and here from the press.

The primary justification for the move seems to be that parallel to larger trends in higher education, KCU has experienced a decline in male enrollment. Football is seen as a means to stem that decline.

With others in Christian higher education SWNID will watch closely this experiment on the part of a sister institution and wish our colleagues at KCU all the best with the pigskin.

Has the Catholic Church Lost Its Punch?

Gentle and devoted reader Rustypants has alerted us to an interesting article in the WaPo giving historical perspective to the Catholic kerfuffle about the DVC. Writer Thomas Doherty briefly chronicles the rise and fall of the National League of Decency, founded by Catholic clergy, which from the thirties to the sixties sought to control the depiction of immorality on the big screen.

Doherty notes that today Catholics are lining up to see the DVC, whereas formerly they would have been ordered to boycott the film.

We agree that the change is significant. But while Doherty sees it as a decline in the power of Catholicism, we tend to see it more as the power of Catholicism being wielded differently. Today the Church of Rome doesn't tell its parishoners what movies to see. But it has five of them sitting on the Supreme Court.

Engagement may work better than boycotts.

Side note: in passing Doherty compares the DVC to the "know nothings" of the nineteenth century, an American social and political fringe movement that stirred up some hysteria among its followers by alleging massive conspiracies on the part of the Vatican and its priests. The best stories are the old stories, and so are the worst.

Nothing More Insufferable Than a Moralizing Scold

John McCain's speech at New School University on Friday met with amusingly predictable derision from the homogeneously leftist student body at that storied institution. Details are available here.

In sum, McCain got a scolding from a student speaker, who announced that she had attained sufficient wisdom in her four years as an undergraduate to lecture a man who has served as a Navy pilot, suffered torture as a prisoner of war, and served three terms in the House of Representatives and is in his fourth in the Senate. And students in the audience did the usual booking, hissing, turning backwards, and holding up of clever signs.

One mass produced sign said, "McCain does not speak for me." We recommend in response that New School assess its students' command of English grammar. It is patently obvious that McCain was not there to speak for the students. Student speakers did that. McCain was there to speak to the students. And if their signs meant that they were choosing to ignore McCain, the signs should have read to.

Or it may be, as the student speaker's address might indicate, that after four years of the radically leftist model of education pursued at New School (motto: "For people who think that Columbia University is conservative, or whose scores weren't good enough to get in there"), the university's graduates may think that education consists not of listening to people with significant experiences and accumulated wisdom but speaking one's own mind and hearing others speak it back. Anyone who speaks must therefore speak for the listener or not speak at all.

At any rate, McCain can use this episode as a conservative bona fide: he's now officially an anti-gay, anti-abortion radical, and he has the videotape to prove it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ellery Publicity Machine Continues to Produce

CCU alums Tasha and Justin Golden, "Ellery" as a musical duo, continue to stay in the news as they tour the republic. Check out the affirming story from the South Bend Tribune.

Who knew that a Bible college with a music program focused on worship leadership could also produce commercially successful performers? With people as fine as the Goldens, it just happens naturally, it seems.

Patrick Henry College: Give Me Liberty or I'll Resign

Gentle readers Scott (see below) and JB in CA have focused the short SWNID attention span to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (available, by some miracle, for free) about the travails of Patrick Henry College.

For those unaware, Patrick Henry is a startup college, Christian and highly politically conservative, catering to home schooled college graduates. It has been in the news not only because of its provocative ideology but also because it has struggled to attain accreditation and has alleged ideological bias from the accreditors.

The short story on the brouhaha is this: PH's president, despite the college's overt commitment to the liberal arts, has squelched faculty members who have required students to interact with the Western philosophical tradition (really out-there stuff like Augustine!), objecting that these thinkers' ideas were not genuinely biblical and questioning the faculty's commitment to a biblical worldview. In response, faculty members are resigning.

Gentle readers should read for themselves, but we offer the following observations based on our deep-and-wide experience of Christian higher education:

  • Some college presidents, especially those of an entrepreneurial bent, don't know when to loosen the reigns. I recently attended a dinner at which a professor at a liberal arts college with a loose connection to the United Church of Christ recalled that their previous president was known far and wide for personally patrolling the parking lots to write parking tickets. Good presidents do what SWNID's president does: facilitate without fine-tuning. Smart, committed people deserve to be left alone and are most effectively led that way.
  • Any institution of higher education with an ideological commitment (on any side, of course: remember this recent story?) will find itself dealing with conflicts over the discussion in the classroom of ideas not fully in accord with institutional ideology. Everyone supports critical thinking until they start to worry that a student, invited to think critically, will reject the reigning ideology of the institution. Then come the cries to protect and indoctrinate. Only those who believe in the vigor of their institution's ideology will be able to remain committed to that ideology and still carry on wide-ranging, critical discussions of all kinds of ideas. Those who insist that certain books not be read or certain ideas not be discussed betray their fear that their ideology will lose in a fair fight.
  • Christian colleges always face the pressure from constituents, especially parents of students, to create a "safe" place for Christian students. Unfortunately, safety is not usually central to institutional mission statements, which to be fulfilled demand engagement with stuff that's threatening. "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." "Of course he's not a tame lion. But he's good."
  • Christian higher education is a pretty mature industry. There's not a lot of room for new institutions in the market, especially as existing institutions, in possession of growing resources, expand their scope and increase their enrollments. We admit to a high degree of skepticism about the need to start any new Christian liberal arts colleges in the United States. Case in point: we count the following Christian liberal arts institutions along I-69 between Indianapolis and the Michigan border: Anderson University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Taylor University (Upland and Ft. Wayne campuses), Huntington College. There may be others that have escaped our memory, but they seem to outnumber Waffle Houses in the same corridor.

DVC Film Killed by Bad Literary Genes

Gentle reader and kamikaze reference librarian Scott some time ago forwarded to the SWNID inbox an article by Kevin Nance of the Chicago Sun-Times detailing Dan Brown's literary sins in The Da Vinci Code.

Could it be that the movie is a turkey because it has a turkey of a book for a parent?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Robertson Update: Tsunami in Seattle

Prolific prophetic pundit Pat Robertson (motto: "Always wrong, never in doubt") has offered his latest.

Storms will lash the coast of the United States!

Maybe even a tsunami! In the Pacific Northwest!

For those who are not sure whether even Mr. Robertson believes his own prognostications, we recommend the following:

Find a way to check out his investments, or the investments of a 501 (c) 3 organization under his control (e.g. Regent University). See if they're still invested in corporations with a major presence in the Pacific Northwest (Microsoft, Starbucks, etc.).

Then draw your own conclusions.

On Schedule, Reds In Toilet Before Memorial Day

It was too good to be true.

Our beloved Cincinnati Reds are, as we blog, trailing the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 in the bottom of the second.

They are on their way to their sixth consecutive loss, and the third in a row to the AAA Pirates.

They're moving out of serious contention before the weather gets warm.

With 24 wrapping up this Monday and the Reds fighting for fourth place, it will be another slow summer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Code Blue for Da Vinci

As nearly predicted previously on this blog, The Da Vinci Code appears to be a turkey. Word from a screening at Cannes is that critics could barely contain laughter at the unintentional humor, while many walked out of the 150-minute slog through endless plot exposition.

The SWNIDs have an upcoming date with friends with whom we constitute a "movie club" to see the DVC. Perhaps we can change plans and rent Cinderella Man instead.

American Enterprise Institute Fellow Reads SWNID, Agrees on Blackwell

American Enterprise Institute fellow and RealClearPolitics columnist Adam B. Schaeffer today details why Ken Blackwell will walk all over Ted Strickland in six months. His reasons conforming to our own, we conclude that Schaeffer, a Cincinnati native, reads SWNID regularly.

But here's another notable note about Schaeffer's column: he is able to make the case for a Blackwell victory without even mentioning that as an African-American Republican, Blackwell will steal votes from the Democrats' base. His column gives some glimmer of hope that the racial impasse in American politics is deteriorating: Blackwell's race is for Schaeffer not significant.

Can Mitt Survive Perverse Press Scrutiny?

Massachusetts Governor and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yesterday got a taste of what the national campaign trail will be like.

His state awash in floodwaters, he announced that the Massachusetts National Guard, that storied group that at the Concord Bridge fired the shot heard 'round the world, would be on patrol to prevent looting in flooded areas.

Critics immediately said that he was politicizing the floods, as no looting was taking place.

Too bad Mitt didn't do what the MSM expects, which is to fail to patrol, allow looting (which creates great video for the MSM), and then blame Bush for the floods created by global warming created by inadequate CAFE standards and failure to ratify Kyoto, and then blame Bush for not having made a sufficient response to the disaster.

What the MSM won't do is contrast the very competent response of a well-governed state like Massachusetts with the chaos in the People's Republic of Huey Long.

It remains to be seen whether this is just an opportunistic shot at Romney or the MSM is determined to undermine any national appeal that this polished, accomplished, conservative Mormon Republican might have by doing this all the time.

We guess the latter. But oddly enough, that might just be what Mitt needs to mount an effective primary campaign. Conservatives love the guy who gets unfairly savaged by the press and keeps smiling. Remember a certain governor of California with that ability?

Essential Snow Video

Fans of Tony Snow, the chief of whom is Mrs. SWNID, should view the video clip of the White House press briefing posted at Hot Air. It epitomizes (a) why Helen Thomas's existence makes an almost-convincing case for euthanasia; (b) why Tony Snow is a very, very cool guy.

The clip is actually two clips, one Tony's patient, measured, reasoned and clear response to Ms. Thomas's nutty question (notice how he speaks more slowly to the aged reporter) and the other his response to a personal question. Make sure that you watch to the end to get the second bit.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cincinnati Casino? We Bet Against!

We have been slow to respond to the latest developments in the never-ending saga of attempts to legalize casino gambling in Cincinnati, largely because the issue seems to us to be so obvious.

However, the Enquirer's recent coverage has been sufficiently revealing that we must draw attention to it. What it shows is that there are people who stand to benefit--big time--from the construction of a casino at Broadway Commons.

It's not the immediate neighborhood. Most casinos suck the economic life out of the immediate neighborhood, drawing dollars away from other restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

It's not the people of Over-the-Rhine. They have enough ways to lose their scarce cash.

It's not the taxpayers of Cincinnati or Hamilton County. The projected revenue, around $20 million per year each, is a fraction of their budgets with a barely noticeable impact.

It's not the tourist industry in Cincinnati. Cities without tourism don't get it when casinos come in. Cities with tourism don't get more tourism with a casino. The money just gets redirected.

It's not even the gaming industry. A new casino in Cincinnati will largely displace gamblers from southeast Indiana. We've been told by a Rising Sun insider that the boat there will be the first to go. One reason for the Ohio ballot initiative that leaves Cincinnati out is that its primary sponsor owns the Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg. A casino in Cincinnati will doubtless draw some to gamble who wouldn't otherwise. But that effect will be marginal compared to the displacement factor.

So who wins? The developer of the property. Louis Beck--restauranteur, hotelier and "progressive" political ally of Jerry Springer--stands to amass millions from his option on the parking lot on Broadway.

So, is Ohio ready to facilitate the destruction of individuals and families so that a millionaire can amass more millions? We think that even in its sorry moral and economic condition, the state's electorate has sufficient gumption to confine legalized gambling to the horse tracks, bingo parlors, and convenience stores, where it belongs.

Monday, May 15, 2006

For Those Who Don't Already, Good Day to Start Reading Taranto

James Taranto's not-quite-a-blog has been a SWNID must-read since the beginning of SWNID. Today's offering is especially tasty:

  • Taranto documents extensive opacity and duplicity in the reporting of the NSA's domestic telephone database as "surveillance" and "eavesdropping."
  • He has a link to an amazing video clip from the Beeb in which a fellow who had gone to the BBC's offices for a job interview was instead ushered into a TV studio as an expert talking head.

We'll treasure the former as an example of how by its sheer sloppiness the fourth estate has become a fifth column, and the latter as an example to students of always being prepared to give an answer about anything.

Sublime Big-Picture Political Analysis from Baron Barone

Son of SWNID has recently referred to political science as "history without the facts."

But what would political science look like with facts? A Michael Barone column.

Today Barone notes with impeccable insight that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher continue to reign over the political landscape, having moved the discussion to the center right for the foreseeable future. The parties of the left in their countries have experienced success only by accepting the definitions provided by the right and articulating near alternatives to center-right policies (see Clinton and Blair), but at the expense of alienating their parties' core. Meanwhile, the media sees the stark analysis and eat-your-vegetables rhetoric of the right as distasteful, while remaining warmly in love with the accommodationist, compromising rhetoric of the center left.

The result? The public gives the center right (Bush, Thatcher and Reagan) low approval ratings. But it refuses to vote for the center left.

Or as Barone so clearly puts it:

When you look back at all these leaders' job ratings in office, you find an interesting thing. The transformational Thatcher and Reagan had negative to neutral job ratings during most of their longer years in power. Thatcher's peaked upward after the Falklands victory; Reagan peaked from his re-election until the Iran-Contra scandal broke two years later. Their divisiveness, the stark alternative they presented with the policies and conventional wisdom of the past -- all these held down their job ratings.

In contrast, Blair and Clinton for most of their years in office had quite high job ratings. Blair's ratings for his first eight years were probably the highest in British history. Clinton, after he got over his lurch to the left in 1993-94, also enjoyed high job ratings, especially when he was threatened with impeachment. The center-left alternative, by accepting most of the Thatcher and Reagan programs, was relatively uncontroversial, determinedly consensus-minded, widely acceptable to the left, center-left and much of the center-right segments of the electorate.

Thus, the crunchy, confrontational right was in its years in power not so widely popular as the soggy, consensus-minded center-left. Yet surely history will regard Thatcher and Reagan as more consequential leaders than Blair and Clinton. Thatcher and Reagan defined the issues and argued that, as Thatcher once famously said, "There is no alternative."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

SWNIDish Wisdom for Embattled Solid Rock Pastoress

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer led the front page with a detailed story about the probate battle between Darlene Bishop, co-pastor with husband Larry Bishop of Greater Cincinnati's Solid Rock Church, and the children of her recently deceased brother, Darryl Wayne Perry, a Nashville songwriter of considerable success.*

We see this story as yet another chapter in the sad saga of families who fight over inheritances. In keeping with a long-standing personal policy, we won't take sides in this domestic battle.

However, the Enquirer notes some significant facts about Mrs. Bishop's ministry that tend to put her in a less than positive light overall, let alone in this dispute. So we therefore will take the risk of sharing some SWNIDish wisdom that, if followed, would put the Reverends Bishop and others similarly situated in a more favorable position for credibility in matters pecuniary and pastoral.

  • Per the Enquirer, the Solid Rock Church possesses the second largest sculpture of Jesus in the United States. This violates two artistic principles: (a) where depictions of Jesus are concerned, bigger is not always better; (b) because in the history of art, churches have displayed far more schlock than masterpieces, odds are good that anything artistic that a church displays will be less than tasteful. Since the sculpture has been widely nicknamed "Hey, Jesus, Watch Out for the Quicksand!" and since it has become the number one point of ridicule against Christians citywide, we recommend that Mrs. Bishop sell the sculpture and distribute the proceeds (after hauling costs) to her nieces and nephews, as a goodwill gesture.
  • We note as well that the church's architectural style is Spanish. We recommend that all church buildings be constructed in a style that is at least remotely native to the location of the building. As the damp, severe climate of Cincinnati is not typical of Spain or most of Latin America, and as Cincinnati has just about the lowest percentage of Hispanic inhabitants of any city in the republic, we believe that the Reverends Bishop should urge the church to pursue more locally suitable styles in the future, to avoid accusations of tackiness.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop in multiple venues, including a book, reported that her brother was completely healed of cancer. Then he died of cancer. We recommend that, life and death being what they are, Mrs. Bishop follow the example of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1, and habitually note that either outcome is blessing for those who know Christ. This practice may lead to fewer speaking engagements and book sales in the short term, but it will also lead to less embarrassment in the long term.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop is accused of having urged her brother not to seek ordinary medical care, instead trusting divine healing. We recommend that in the future she again follow the example of Paul, who urged Timothy to take medicinal wine, not seeing any tension between the natural and supernatural where God's healing work was concerned.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop refers to the allegations against her as "a pack of lies" and says that the only truth in her nieces and nephews' allegations is that she cared for her brother for a year and a half. We recommend that when a legal case is pending, one should avoid accusations of lying against one's opponents, lest testimony and evidence yield a different outcome from judge or jury. If Mrs. Bishop has genuinely taken the high road, including self-sacrificial care for her brother, she need not disparage her accusers' honesty; all will know the truth soon enough. Again as the apostle did, if accused she can appeal to the life that she lives transparently before all as testimony against her accusers.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop and her husband live on a $2.5 million horse ranch (the couple apparently continues their very successful horse-breeding business, Mr. Bishop's source of income prior to starting the church) near the church building. We recommend that those in ministry who can afford such palatial digs should eschew them, using the assets for more charitable ventures. Homes valued at about fifteen times the median home price for the area do not reflect positively on the values and priorities of their pastoral occupants.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop draws a salary of $340,000 per year from Darlene Bishop Ministries, a not-for-profit organization that organizes her speaking and writing. In addition, she enjoys the use of a $76,000 car and a $10,000 expense account. We recommend that persons in ministry who draw salaries ten times the median annual wage for the area and drive cars worth the cost of a modest house should either refuse the salaries and sell the cars or give at a generous level approaching 80%. To do otherwise is to invite criticism for profiteering.
  • Per the Enquirer, Mrs. Bishop's NPO also employs three of her children. Their salaries average $75,000 per year. We recommend that anyone in ministry eschew all forms of nepotism, which hasn't gone well since the time of Samuel. For those who ignore this advice, we strongly urge that the nepotistic decision-maker assure that any salaries paid are modest, notably below average, to avoid the appearance of favoritism.
In sum, everyone knows that Mrs. Bishop has a lot of stuff. And so they suspect that she wants more. Had she lived differently, she might not now face a legal battle with her extended family.

So in sum, we urge Mrs. Bishop for the future to consider Paul the Apostle, who chose to support himself with his own labor rather than create a burden for the churches, who avoided triumphalistic claims about health, who insisted on acting on others' needs rather than his own rights. A couple with a nationally known horse breeding business can surely get by on that much, can't they?

Or if that doesn't work, we urge her to consider Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to use for his own advantage. Et cetera.

*Kudos to the Enquirer for not sensationalizing the religious angle of this story in its headlines or story development.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yet Another Anti-Creation Straw Man

Holden Thorpe, chair of chemistry at the prestigious University of North Carolina, today in the NY Times offers yet another noisy but ill-conceived discussion of the bane of "creationism" in public education.

His first argument is this: "creationism" can't explain the commercially exploitable phenomena that evolution can explain.

Dr. Thorpe is to be forgiven, since as a chemist, he is neither a life scientist nor, more importantly, a philosopher of science. Of course neither is SWNID. But we will carry on nevertheless, not expecting the Newspaper of Record to invite us to opine on subjects like this.

As usual Thorpe argues that what evolution can explain, design cannot. Specifically, bacteria and humans have some of the same strands of DNA. This is consistent with evolution, but not with creation, pontificates Thorpe, as a designer would never have done such a thing.

Why? Because the similarities make it very hard to create medications that will kill the bacteria and not the people whom the bacteria infect.

Well, what to make of such an argument?

This is, of course, no real argument against design. A designer who finds a particular design useful may use that design repeatedly. He may even have specific reasons for binding the whole of his creation together with similar discrete bits of design He may even want it to be difficult to kill bacteria and not harm other creatures.

So in fact what Thorpe offers is the assertion that he doesn't like the design that he sees.

Most anti-design arguments run this way. "That isn't design" means "I prefer a different design."

Thorpe's second and more politically potent argument is that the teaching of creation in some schools will lead to ignorance of real science, even hostility to it, and so an absence of wealth in those areas of the country.

Of course, such would be closer to true if anyone was mandating no teaching of evolution whatsoever. Ideologues like Thorpe apparently believe that the creationist conspiracy is so powerful that if its perverse notions are uttered in a schoolroom, it instantly mesmerizes every student, turning all into bigoted, antiscientific, religious ignoramuses.

But we'd like to turn that argument around. To wit:

If the science establishment continues to wage a social and political war against religion and religious people, people of faith will not pursue careers in the sciences. Many of those people of faith being also people of intelligence, brains will be drained from the sciences, to the impoverishment of the many who would have benefited from the research they could have carried out.

So there it is. Hostility to faith in the science classroom has the potential to make us poorer and sicker in the future.

BC Prof Quits Over Rice

Christian college constituents often have the impression that their institutions are the only ones that have blowups over who gets to speak on campus.

Not so.

Today's Boston Globe (Motto: "We are to the New York Times what the Red Sox would be to the Yankees if the Yankees owned the Red Sox") carries an op ed by a Boston College English professor declaring to his institution's president that he is resigning over the invitation to Condoleezza Rice to speak at the BC commencement.

Really! We are not making this up. An English professor refuses to listen to the Secretary of State and former Provost of Stanford University deliver a commencement address.

His reason? Condi is, in his unerring judgment, an unscrupulous liar. This apparently is more important than any notion of free inquiry or academic freedom. And apparently this professor views his students, even as they graduate, as so many credulous sheep ready to believe and follow whatever they heard most recently.

Not all extremist kooks are writing angry letters to Christian college presidents. Some are secular. And maybe kookier.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cohen Touches Leftist Third Rail

We have enjoyed taking exception to the tendentious rants of Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. But today we offer him the SWNID hand of political fellowship.

Since stating that Stephen Colbert wasn't very funny at the White House correspondents' dinner, he's been inundated with angry emails calling him a toady of election-stealing, WMD-fabricating, fascist-party-leading President Chimpy W. Hitler, per Cohen's column today.

SWNID takes comfort that even people who get paid to offer their opinions in public get shot at from both sides.

And we are reminded that the left's kooks are the kookiest, though in the words of Jacob Neusner, I wouldn't want to trade my kooks for theirs.

CCU's Most Famous Un-Alumnus Back in the News

Back in the day, a young man named Brian Littrell planned to go to Cincinnati Christian University, then known by its previous name, to study music and youth ministry.

But then his cousin formed a band. They were called the Backstreet Boys.

Littrell didn't go to CCU. He got the rich-and-famous contract.

Now as a solo artist he's made the crossover, but in the opposite direction of most. He's in Christian music. And still claiming CCU as his would-have-been college of choice.

We tip the SWNID hat to Brian Littrell, CCU's most famous Un-Alumnus, wish him the best in his new endeavor, and thank him for the free publicity.

Monday, May 08, 2006

24 Unjumps Shark

OK, gentle readers, we have returned to the fold. We are true believers again.

24 is still the best program on TV since Batman.*

Tonight's episode had us believing that the jet would either sheer off its wings and top going through the overpass or manage a daring re-takeoff, only to face an air-to-air missile. So we didn't care that once again, Jack managed to stave off the inevitable.

Tonight we actually cared for Audrey for a few moments, unlike some people.

William Devane may be back for another season. Will he be the next POTUS of 24?

And the scene between President Fishface and First Lady Eyeliner was as good as acting gets on the small screen.

We now hate Miles even more than ever. And next week Aaron Pierce is back, with blood on his noble face.

But we still don't understand why no one has made a copy of that stupid tape.

*We advance the hypothesis that the character of Jack Bauer is based on Batman:

1. He is scarred by the tragic loss of family, for which he feels responsible.
2. He is regarded by some as a criminal but relied on by all faithful and true citizens.
3. He has no super powers but prevails with superior strength, wit, and great gadgets.
4. He has suffered from addiction (several years ago Batman became an alcoholic; Jack was addicted to heroin).
5. He can save others but can never find personal happiness.

Steyn on Darfur: Only Powerful Nation-States Can Help

Mark Steyn is more than devastating on the constant feckless ineptitude of the United Nations to solve problems that the non-genocide that is killing tens of thousands of people in Darfur. Steyn once again reminds us of Baroness Thatcher's great insight: only nation-states have the power to command people's loyalty to do the very difficult, very dangerous tasks of protecting the innocent from the ruthless.

And these days, that seems to mean relying on the industrialized English-speaking countries, as Steyn notes.

And so a sample quotation from the Global Content Provider:

At some point, the Left has to decide whether it stands for anything other than self-congratulatory passivity and the fetishisation of a failed and corrupt transnationalism.

We wish we could write like that.

New Episcopalian Joke in Headlines

It's been a long time since we made fun of the Episcopalians.

But this headline does it for us.

Just when you least expect it!

Slate and SWNID Agree: Ds Too Dumb for '06

John Dickerson, head political honcho at Slate, offers up a tasty analysis of the Democrats' consistent squandering of opportunity. His case in point: Nancy Pelosi's comments about a congressional majority of Ds launching investigations of the Bush administration clear back to his days with the Texas Rangers.*

This, of course, is exactly what the Rs have been saying to motivate their own base.

Obviously the sinister influence of Karl Rove now extends to the leadership of the opposition party.

*Pelosi's actual remarks put the terminus a quo at the beginning of the Bush presidential administration, but this sounds better.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fundamentalism of the Secular Left

Here's something that we've mostly ignored in this blog because it's so obvious. But today's news has a story that so perfectly epitomizes it, we must take note.

The big picture is this: secular leftists have an extraordinarily large and powerful tendency toward their own kind of "fundamentalism."

What is "fundamentalism" in this sense? It is a doctrinaire approach to issues that allows no dissent and reacts harshly to any questioning (as Lucy does with Linus in this classic Peanuts strip). It is a quest for purity that will allow no association with anything or anyone that even remotely represents departure from established orthodoxies. It's the closed-mindedness for which the left routinely condemns the right.

Our timely example is the campaign at New School University in New York to disinvite Senator John McCain as commencement speaker. What is McCain's great sin per New School's leftist fundies? There are two:

  • supporting a gay marriage ban in Arizona
  • speaking at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University

The nerve of some people!

Says one student:

I think the thing that bothers me the most is him speaking at Jerry Falwell's school.

Says another:

In all of our classes we're taught the value of inclusion of all people, and we're taught to question our leaders.

SWNID loves this progressive educational philosophy: "we're taught . . ." like sheep. And be careful which leaders you question, by all means.

We can only compare the moral outrage at McCain's invitation to the outrage at a certain blogger's support for Rudy Giuliani.

Nevertheless, it will certainly burnish McCain's conservative image to be heckled at one of higher education's most notoriously liberal institutions. Don't think that he didn't calculate that when he took dueling invitations at New School and Liberty.

NY Times Follows SWNID, Declares Ohio Tough for Ds in '06

Now the NY Times is getting its ideas from this blog.

Saturday's Newspaper of Record carried a wide-ranging story noting that Democrats are tempering their optimism about making gains in Ohio in the 2006 elections. Defeating Mike Dewine now looks impossible in any case, and Karl Rove + attack ads + Christian conservatives + out-of-state money will make it hard to defeat the likes of Ken Blackwell, Steve Chabot and Deborah Pryce, say Gotham's scribes.

Really! Who would have thought? That is, other than gentle readers of this blog?

The predictable tone of the article is that the poor Democrats won't be able to slake the country's thirst for progressive economic policies because of the welter of anti-democratic (small d) forces that will once again thwart the proper Will of the People. The article makes only passing reference to the problems Ds have with unattractive candidates who take positions at odds with the large majority of voters, let alone the fact that the Rs of Ohio, even accounting for corruption problems, have a very deep bench of in-touch conservative candidates waiting to take over from the Taft-Voinovich crowd.

Hard cheese, Big Apple! The heartland just won't do what you order.

In Memoriam: Oscar Treadwell, 1926-2006

SWNID was sad to learn this weekend of the passing on April 1 of the finest radio personality in the history of the medium, Oscar Treadwell. WVXU, which has broadcast "Jazz with OT" since last August, tonight aired a two-hour tribute before OT's regularly scheduled show.

I find myself saddened by the passing of Oscar Treadwell as I have been by few other public figures' deaths. The fact is that my life has been enriched for years by his artistry.

I can think of no other "disc jockey" who could rightly be termed an artist. But OT's taste in music and poetry, including his own poetry, his gentle delivery, his encyclopedic knowledge of music--all regularly in evidence in his broadcasts--were driven by an artistic passion.

OT played music and read poems because he loved them. I believe he loved them because in them he heard the common expression of humanity that transcends culture, space and time.

His programs taught me and others what it is to be a human being. Being human is being an artist, one who seeks truth, beauty and love.

This quest for meaning is the very essence of our humanity, the core of what it means to have been created in God's image. It's not enough that any of us merely exist. We need something that transcends. The Creator has put that urge in every person, and he has infused our existence with things that stoke our desire for meaning, that fire our searching for what we find ultimately in Him.

In music and poetry Oscar Treadwell's passion for meaning was stoked. Jazz, an art form with roots in an oppressed culture, especially embodied the quest for truth and justice. OT heard that in the music.

All art reflects the quest for beauty, and OT presented the beauty of jazz and poetry in the most beautiful manner, speaking humbly but expertly with a voice that was perfect for radio but completely unaffected by broadcasting commonplaces. When he said that a performance was "just beautiful," listeners knew that he heard something more than just an instrument played expertly. He heard the expression of the soul.

And his love for the music and the musicians and his audience was palpable. "Sweet love" was his signature sign-off phrase, and he said it like he meant it.

WVXU will continue to play OT's programs on Sunday nights. He had several in the can at the time of his death, and the station is beginning to remaster the 6500 or so shows that he had recorded during his career. OT could be on the air for another generation, even beyond.

Does anyone suppose that another radio personality will be broadcast via recording for years after his death? Who will want to hear reruns of Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh or Paul Harvey? OT was one of a kind.

The family has a memorial site here, and the station has its own tribute here. Follow the links to find out more about this artist of the airwaves.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Is This the Reason for Porter Goss's Resignation?

Washington insiders were taken by surprise by Friday's sudden resignation of Porter Goss as head of the CIA. Some cited Goss's struggles to reform the agency as having taken a personal toll as the likely reason; others, his office's loss of influence with the reorganization of US intelligence operations.

Those may be.

But the buzz is all about a report of an FBI investigation of parties at the Watergate hotel involving congressmen and CIA agents that included poker, cigars and, perhaps, prostitutes.

If this story pans out, and if dots connect to Goss, it will reinforce a SWNID topos:

Say what you will about the two parties being the same, but the Rs deal with their sex scandals quickly and decisively.

PJK Enters Rehab, SWNID Gives Promised Commendation, With Question

So today's chapter in the multivolume Kennedy saga has young Patrick Kennedy entering drug rehab. As promised, we commend this decision and his openness about his addictions and his mental health struggles. And we mean that. Really.

So the questions we now have are for the rest of the Kennedy family, particularly patriarch Ted, and for the voters of Rhode Island (or for that matter, the whole Northeast).

To Ted and clan:

If you really care about your son/brother/cousin and understand his condition, why do you continue to support/encourage/push him in a profession with the kind of enormous pressures that can only exacerbate his condition? We note that while your large extended family has more than its share of troubled individuals, those who seem to have made a decent life for themselves have done it outside public office.

If you really care about the country, why do you insist on using your considerable political power nepotistically? Surely there are others in your massive political machine who can hold office without the complications that Patrick has, to the benefit of all, most especially Patrick.

To voters:

What is it about the Kennedy name that induces a mob mentality of blind, unwavering political support? What level of scandal or demonstrable incompetence would it take to get you to vote for anyone else?

If we read the reports correctly, this is at least PJK's third trip to rehab, his second in five months, and his second traffic accident in three weeks.

If Ohio can stop voting for Tafts, can New England stop voting for Kennedys?

And finally

The family of John Adams somehow managed multiple generations of outstanding public service in the 19th century, largely without scandal. A member of the last generation of public Adamses brought the legacy to a fitting end by writing an autobiography that has become a major masterpiece, The Education of Henry Adams, ranked by the Modern Library has the greatest nonfiction work in English of the 20th century.

The only American family with a comparable legacy is the Kennedys (the Harrisons and Tafts fall far short, and the Bushes are just getting started). We don't really expect it to be comparable except in duration.

What a difference a century makes.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Taranto Imitates SWNID

James Taranto (motto: "What SWNID wants to be when he grows up ") today shamelessly mimics this blogger's comments on Patrick Kennedy's late-night escapades. We cite the opening line of Taranto's opening post for today:

Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and when it does, it makes quite a noise.
Of course, there's no way that Taranto would have come up with that phrase except by reading our earlier posting. The comparison is entirely original with us. If we were litigious, we'd sue.

Taranto, who gets paid to do this stuff full-time and so manages both quantity and quality, goes on to elaborate in a way that will clarify for gentle readers without a stomach for public criticism of public figures what is at stake in remaining quiet, posturing mercy and understanding, after such events:

PJK is 38, a year older than his father was when he drove Mary Jo Kopechne to her grave. Since then, Massachusetts voters have returned the elder Kennedy to the Senate six times. If the weird hypnotic power the Kennedys wield against Massachusetts voters extends south to Rhode Island, Patrick Kennedy may have a long political career ahead of him.

Still, you have to wonder why these people don't just hire a driver. Surely they can afford it.

Unless someone says what is obvious to everyone except the voters of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, our republic will continue to contend with the Kennedy legacy.

By the way, if today's extensive reports on this subject are to be believed, it would appear that the younger Kennedy probably before driving did drink some alcohol, not "to excess," but while on two prescription medications which, per standard warnings, should not be mixed with alcohol. Hence, he may not have "had a lot to drink," but he drank in a way that was explicitly not "responsible." And the effect of that is drunkenness.

That doesn't make us less inclined to see him as culpable or to be dissatisfied with his dissembling explanations of the whole affair.

We're just glad that he crashed into a barricade and not off a bridge with a companion.

Maybe the Worst Idea in Human History

It's tough for us to suggest so superlative a category for anything, but this deserves it.

As reported by AFP:

Christian ministers will tackle Muslim imams in a pre-World Cup friendly officiated by a Jewish referee as part of an initiative aimed at increasing understanding among religions, it was announced.

The eight-a-side match presided over by three Jewish officials was organised [sic] by the German Protestant Church and will take place Saturday, just over a month before the big World Cup kick-off on June 9.

To paraphrase Lisa Simpson, this idea is offensive to religious people and sports fans.

Responding to the "Soulforce Equality Ride"

Today's has a terrific piece by David M. Howard, Jr., of Bethel University on that institution's interaction with the "Soulforce Equality Ride," a group of activists for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons who have been touring university campuses with rules about such things.

Howard expresses with impressive eloquence the real state of the situation:

Contrary to the riders' claim, most of the targeted campuses do not "ban" LGBT students. Most are like Bethel, which has a "Covenant for Life Together," derived from the Bible. Among the covenant's affirmations is the following: "We view sexuality as one of God's good gifts. We believe that sexual intercourse and other forms of intensely interpersonal sexual activity are reserved for monogamous, heterosexual marriage." And Bethel is completely up-front about its policies; all members of its community--students, faculty, staff and administration--agree ahead of time to abide by these rules when they come to Bethel.

Our school does not ask applicants about their sexual orientation. Contrary to the implicit claim of the Equality Ride--that these schools do not treat students "equally"--all students at Bethel live under the same restrictions. As Mr. [George] Brushaber [president of Bethel University] explains: "We formulate our principles of ethical conduct as a result of our faith commitments, grounded in the Scriptures, not on the basis of . . . personal preference or dominant cultural themes." Alas, such sentiments are hard to fit on the side of a bus.

More SWNID Professional Deference on the DVC

Today's Cincinnati Post has a hodgepodge chronicle of local ecclesiastical responses to the cinematic debut of The Da Vinci Code. Noted in it is the impending appearance of SWNID colleague Tom Thatcher at First Church of Christ, Burlington KY, to address the subject.

Gentle readers worldwide are urged to attend Dr. Thatcher's lectures, which will be way more thorough than our occasional and tangential remarks.