Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Middle Eastern Humans, Twice as Old?

An archaeological find in Israel suggests that modern humans may have been in the Middle East before Africa, and twice as long ago as previously believed. And they traded and made tools to boot.

Read all about it at the Daily Mail.

We caution enthusiasts against aligning the levantine provenance of the find with biblical teaching, as if the Bible definitively says that humans arose in the Middle East. We're simply not sure that's the case, not least because the location of the primeval narrative seems deliberately and consciously obscure (two of the rivers of paradise are well known and two aren't known at all) and because the readers are, after all, from the Middle East, suggesting that the story is written for their perspective and not to put a point on a then-nonexistent map to satisfy the curiosity of then-nonexistent paleoanthropologists.

That is not to mention that the significance of this finding will certainly be revised as it is scrutinized, which is not to mention that it could be displaced entirely by yet another discovery.

None of which will keep people from using the find for their own ends, like crowing that all humans aren't Africans after all--or that the must be still somehow. Better to draw small conclusions than big ones, given the ridiculously fragmentary nature of our knowledge. It's a tooth, for goodness' sake!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Something to Consider While Shoveling "Climate Change"

So there's this British dude, Piers Corbyn, who has been more right about long-term weather forecasting in the UK than the Queen's meteorologists. Seems he does it by studying the sun.

Seems the sun might have a lot to do with how warm it is on earth. Who knew?

Seems he is predicting the possibility of a mini ice age by mid-century, or maybe even a real one.

Is it time to burn more coal?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Polarized Sociology of the Sciences and Religion

Apparently there's more to the University of Kentucky than basketball.

WaPo reports that the fabled flagship university of the Commonwealth is being sued by Dr. Martin Gaskell, an accomplished astronomer turned down as director of UK's student observatory because, he alleges, the university's faculty demonstrated prejudice against his religious views.

Dr. Martin is a Christian, not a young-earther but one who is willing to discuss publicly various views of scientific and Christian cosmology. Holding the best CV of applicants for the UK job, Martin was turned down, he alleges, because faculty from various university departments of the sciences campaigned against him, alleging that he would be something akin to Ken Ham. This despite the fact that he is a member in good standing of the astronomy faculty of a certain largish state university in Austin, Texas.

The article suggests that Dr. Martin has no relish for the legal process but believes that universities must be held to account for anti-religious prejudices. Good for him.

The only aspect of this story that will surprise most readers is the revelation that UK has a student observatory that apparently doesn't train its telescope on the floor of Rupp Arena. It's no shock that academics are tribal and petty, that those trained to use evidence rigorously in their academic disciplines are often completely uncritically swept up by gossip and slander, that folks who routinely examine the deaths of whole worlds in our galaxy won't hesitate to use apocalyptic language to describe their fear of social chaos if this or that person becomes part of their little club.

Once upon a time SWNID worked with a state agency to get approval for his IHE to offer a certain professional license issued by the state government. At the beginning of the process, an honest and open-minded functionary of the state agency said to us, "I have been the object of prejudice, and I don't think you should be." At the end of the process, a functionary who had been won over as a friend said to us, "At the beginning of this, someone in our office said, 'They can't get authorization! If students from that school became teachers, they'd want to faith-heal kids every time they got hurt on the playground!'"

Life is complex. Time is short. Stereotypes are efficient. Like "all Christians are young-earth creationists," "all scientists are militant atheists," "evolution and biblical Christianity are incompatible," and "UK is only about hoops."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Is Enough Enough?

Do the rich already have enough money that they should be glad to share it with the government?

Does government already have enough money that it ought to be able to fund genuinely necessary public purposes?

How rich is "rich"? How necessary is "necessary"?

WSJ's Daniel Henninger touches on these perennial questions by asking matters differently. Traditionally, per Henninger, we've asked whether we have taxed ourselves enough to support good government. Henninger asks whether we can sustain global competitiveness if we continue to tax and spend.

Good question. Somehow we suspect that sustaining investment in Our Republic is threatened more by the prospect of rising taxes than the prospect that the Affordable Health Care Act might be repealed or high-speed rail might not connect Des Moines and Chicago.

So Who Got the Best Deal from the Bush Cuts? Answer: Not the Wealthy

The reality checks just keep coming.

Cliff Asness at Forbes today points out what SWNID has experienced personally, along with most gentle readers who pay taxes to Our Republic and do arithmetic: the Bush tax cuts benefited everyone who pays federal income taxes, but especially the middle class. We won't repeat his argument; we'll simply say that it has to do with the effective rate of tax that people actually pay at various incomes, rather than marginal rates alone. In sum, federal income taxes were more progressive after the Bush cuts than before.

If one adds to the equation such middle-class-friendly measures the increased deductions for dependents, added deductions for children, and deductions for tuition, then it comes as no surprise that after the Bush cuts, many middle-class households found themselves paying no federal income tax, while the percentage of federal tax revenues from the wealthy went up sharply. We remember fondly the year that every penny paid by the SWNIDs in federal income taxes was refunded. Sadly, the same could not be said for the insidious 15.3% tax that calls itself "payroll," "FICA," "self-employment" or "Social Security and Medicare." Throw that one into Boston Harbor.

Poll: Donks Like Compromise, 'Phants Don't

The latest WSJ/NBC poll shows that voters like it when BHO compromises with Rs.

In particular, Dems like it when their party's leader compromises with the other party. Since their party's Congressional delegation manifestly does not like it, we understand that the Party of the People is out of touch with The People.

The GOP rank-and-file, on the other hand, is at best ambivalent about compromise. Roughly equal numbers of Rs don't care for the idea of compromising with Democrats presently.

We think this can be interpreted two ways.
  • Democrats are pragmatists; Republicans are ideologues.
  • Both rank-and-file Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans distrust the Democratic leadership.
The first interpretation is the one that media pundits will offer. The second requires explanation, not because it involves complex reasoning but because it runs counter to the conventional wisdom.

So, why should ordinary Democrats favor compromise with Republicans while ordinary Republicans don't favor compromise with Democrats? Lunchbucket Dems want compromise because they think their party's leaders have extreme positions that ought to be moderated by compromise. Lunchbucket Republicans don't want compromise because it means compromising with a party whose leaders have extreme positions.

In other words, Dems wish they were Republicans, and Republicans are thankful that they're not Dems. For now.

This position is more serious that it appears, by the way. The Republican brand has been seriously damaged by a decade of war and anti-Bush, class-warfare rhetorical hysteria. But 24 months of Democratic governance has created a bipartisan consensus that the Democrats who lead in Washington simply can't be trusted.

Foreign Language in College? Depends on the Outcomes

In today's WSJ Curmudgeon Jim Sollisch argues against foreign language requirements: students don't learn to function in their languages, and other courses are more commercially valuable.

How does SWNID respond? That Sollisch has a point about the way that most colleges teach and most students learn foreign languages, which argues for something different from both than what he proposes. We suggest, in other words, a tertium quid.

Sollisch says his daughter studied French but can barely read a menu. Probably so. Her college French teachers likely had as little interest in teaching conversational French as she had in learning it. The profs' real interest was French literature and teaching the same to grad students and advanced undergrads. Like most humans, college language profs want to create others in their own image.

Sollisch says that his son took Swahili as an easy way to knock out his undergrad requirement (which makes us inclined to guess where Sollisch Junior went to college, but that's a matter for Northwestern University to take up). So he made a bad choice because he reflected daddy's indifference. No surprise there.

We think there's a more excellent way than simply indulging Sollisch's cynicism. There's Drake University's approach.

Note quite a decade ago, Drake dismantled its foreign language department after honestly concluding that its students were learning about what Sollisch says they learn. But they didn't stop trying to teach students to speak other languages. Now Drake has a department of World Languages and Cultures. Students who study languages meet in very small groups led by native speakers, mostly foreign students at Drake, supervised by profs who do instruction on language acquisition, culture and such. Examinations are oral. The program ruthlessly pursues a single outcome: ability to speak the language and understand it when it is spoken.

Obviously there's no sitting back and slipping by in such a program. So much the worse for indifferent students like Sollisch's son, who work hard not to learn. But students sign on for college so that someone will force them to learn what they wouldn't otherwise, ci?

Somehow we think that such a program will be at least as valuable as a course in web design or some other commercial skill du jour. So much for your Weltschmerz, Mr. Sollisch.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Krugerrands from Heaven

Why does the earth's crust contain an unexpectedly large amount of elements like gold and platinum when those metals should have followed iron to the earth's core as the planet formed and cooled?

Because in the early stages of its development, the earth was pummeled by large space objects containing the metals, leaving them where we can get at them.

Such observations as these fit nicely into the cosmology that we old-earth Christians are coming to appreciate. We live on a planet replete with resources for our thoughtful use or our pernicious exploitation, shaped over a period of time staggering to our imagination but inconsequential to our beneficent and almighty Creator.

And when one adds the observation that such elements forged by quantum furnaces left by ancient, collapsed stars, one appreciates that it may well take a universe of temporal and spatial magnitude of the one we observe to support even one planet exactly like ours. Perhaps there are more--that is certainly the prospect held out by every press release related to astronomy these days, in hopes of keeping a tired public's interest in funding basic astronomical science. But there is one, magnificently shaped by billions and billions of events large and small to be a home for people like us.

But he could have done it in an instant! Indeed. Of course, ours is not to critique how he did it, but to observe what we can and draw what conclusions we are able from our observations. When we do, awe is the result.

God bombed earth with gold. Cool.

Lost in Narnia?

As Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens at your local multiplex, SWNID expects to learn that yet again, Hollywood has forced a Christian narrative onto the Procrustean bed of broad cinematic appeal.

Peripatetic commentator on religion Terry Mattingly anticipates as much noting that the movie looks set to disappoint the Lewis faithful in ways that Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy deliberately did not. Meanwhile, the Christian-right World magazine's reviewer, who has actually screened the film lauds the first third and notes that latter portions are bruised but not broken by filmmakers' accretions. At least we can be comforted that the books most lapidary episode, Eustace's redemption from dragon to boy, has made it through mostly unscathed, though one wonders what use there is in a climactic struggle with an non-Lewisian sea dragon.

Elsewhere, The Stone Water Jar argues that Lewis can never be successfully rendered cinematically. Perhaps so. For us, any film adaptations of Narnia are successful because they warmly remind us of reading the books, not because they add anything to the experience of reading.

So if Dawn Treader finally kills the enterprise, we will be satisfied to know that the books will live on, as will Tom Baker's masterfully understated rendering of Puddleglum.


Not since the celebrated Richard Nixon was forced to release his surreptitiously recorded Oval Office tapes has such statesmanship been on display in Our Republic's capital as it was when the Democratic Party Congressional Caucus met to review its party leader's framework for fiscal compromise.

So now we know: if the Republicans are the party of "no," the Democrats are the party of a word that will not be repeated on a family blog.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Waiter: Here's Your Reality Check Sir

For those who shall remain nameless whose comments seem to indicate the belief that BHO's popularity funk is the consequence of progressives' disappointment with the man, we offer Mark Mellman's analysis of the 2010 midterms from The Hill.

Mellman notes well that compared to the 2006 midterms--not the 2008 presidentials, an invalid comparison--all the indicators show that the party of the left lost because voters who voted D in 2006 voted R in 2010.

The dramatic shift to the GOP happened in all demographic categories except African-Americans (whose political isolation is thereby indicated, but that's another topic). The only group with under-par turnout was union members, who still voted in numbers disproportionate to their percentage of the population at large but didn't respond to their leaders' marching orders with the same esprit de corps demonstrated in 2006. And if the term "Reagan Democrat" means anything these days, it has to suggest that at least as many who wear the union label were stay-at-homes because they were angry with the leftward direction taken by their patronage party as were disappointed that the Internationale is not yet the national anthem of the People's Republic of Lands Unfairly Taken.

BHO is in trouble along with his party because they really can't believe that this is an intrinsically center-right country. They believe all the fantasies that the Common Folk should Rise Up when they encounter the properly gifted and enlightened Beneficent Leader. And they get really prickly when the Common Folk don't do what they're supposed to do when given the chance.

Leave that waiter a good tip.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Reason for Previous Post?

By coincidence, SWNID heard a live radio broadcast of BHO's brief announcement that he and the leaders of the GOP Congressional delegation had reached an agreement on a "framework" for a compromise sparing Our Republic a tax increase in 2010.

Listening to the President announce this compromise, really the first of his presidency, with the opposition party now empowered by a midterm landslide, we wondered whether anyone will ever apply the adjectives "statesmanlike," "generous-spirited," "noble," "conciliatory," or "gracious" to any of his political rhetoric. Essentially, the speech amounted to a tirade in which he petulantly complained that he was only allowing a tax break for the wealthy because the Republicans, who are utterly wrong on the issue, would hold America hostage if he didn't.

Since the tax deal will be for two years, it will be the centerpiece of the 2012 campaign. The GOP and BHO now are both wagering that they can win an election on their respective tax policies.

That, finally, explains what makes Obama Obama. He really, really believes that he's right about needing to redistribute wealth through the tax system and government programs. It's what's best for poor saps like SWNID, mired in the middle class.

Tonight we know why Dubya is now officially more popular than Obama. And unless something big and different happens, we'll know why Republicans will control all elected branches of the federal government in 2013.

America Sings "Big Yellow Taxi"

Per Politico, Americans presently have a more favorable view of Dubya's job performance than BHO's. By a one-percent plurality, citizens of Our Republic rue the day that a big yellow taxi took away their Old Man, as they now know what they got because it's gone.

Having spent much of our blogging defending Mr. Bush against his rabid detractors, we feel our labors were not entirely in vain.

Definitive: Why Sarah Palin Can Never Be President

Camping on TV with "Kate Plus Eight" is equivalent to lifetime membership in the Communist Party.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Ken Ham's Ark Adventure

A group called "Ark Encounter" is now officially in partnership with Answers in Genesis and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to construct a Noah's-Ark-based theme park somewhere in Northern Kentucky.

We'll venture the guess that somewhere on the Internet, someone is commenting on the good taste involved in a project like this. We lack the interest to research fully the relationship between Ark Encounter LLC and AIG and Mr. Ham personally. We note that on the Ark Encounter web site one first encounters a scale to indicate the capital needed to launch the project as compared to the money raised. As we blog, the money raised amounts to 1/2 of 1% of the need.

We note also the answer to the FAQ, "Why are you building an ark?" which we quote in its glorious entirety:

Through the construction of a massive full-scale Noah’s Ark, the Ark Encounter will present America and other nations with a reminder about the Bible’s account of the Ark.

Many of the same talented team members that built the successful, high-tech Creation Museum are returning for the Ark Encounter. This new project is positioned to become an attraction that will capture the world's attention.

So, as described by its initiators, this is a global publicity stunt. Noted.

The SWNIDish curiosity now wonders what the future will hold. Will the project succeed? Will it never go forward? Or will it be initiated and prove to be a drag on the ongoing existence of AIG, perhaps even the cause of its demise?

Theme parks nationally are not doing so well. This one sounds lame to us, though we are admittedly no fan of Mr. Ham and his not-for-profit exploits and no longer of an age so much to enjoy such experiences even when they aren't lame.

But the cycle of organizational development that reaches a point of over-expansion and threatens ultimate collapse is very well known. Despite its claim to Christian orthodoxy, we judge the operations of Answers in Genesis to be built on sand, especially in terms of biblical interpretation but also in terms of mission and business model. So when the rains come, we wonder whether the Ark will sink AIG.

Wilson-Plame Fulfills Its Manifest Destiny

What do evil human beings (note the redundancy) want most of all? The answer, of course, is power, with wealth and fame as its adjuncts.

Therefore, people are sorely tempted if something offers both wealth and fame simultaneously.

So it was for Beltway functionaries Joseph Wilson and his current bride, Valerie Plame, when a set of bureaucratic circumstances put them in the middle of the controversy about the Iraq War. Wilson smelled the opportunity to gain fame and eventually wealth by cooperating with the partisan sensationalizing of his inconsequential role in Iraq intelligence, thereby pimping his wife's inconsequential job with Central Intelligence on the way to an illogical, counter-empirical and ultimately inconsequential savaging of the Dubya's motives and actions in calling for war against Saddam.

All that is the stuff of ancient posts on this blog.


The good folks at WaPo have set the record straight as far as the unintentionally humorously titled Fair Game, the cinematic misportrayal of the Wilson-Plame self-promotion partnership, is concerned (flashback to their cover story in Vanity Fair and ask whether anyone who reads the contemporary magazine knows that its title is lifted from a classic of social satire). The movie, like most "historical" films, is fictional, point out the journalists who cover our capital, but fictional in a despicably self-serving way that continues to poison political debate. Fair Game does not just dramatize imaginatively. It distorts tendentiously.

Meanwhile, we are sure that Wilson and Plame can console themselves with royalties for rights to what purports to be their story, not to mention B-list invitations to soirees filled with the near famous but thoroughly politically correct.

Postscript: Fair Game was produced by Airplane's Jerry Zucker and directed by the Bourne franchise's Doug Liman. Satire or thriller? You decide!

Only in America . . .

Wikileaks to Expose Area 51!

SWNID has little to say about the Wikileaks revelations, inasmuch as they simply tell us what we've always known to be true: that world leaders speak poorly of each other in private, that Foggy Bottom is always trying but seldom succeeding in the influencing of global events, that people are untrustworthy, and all that fallen-human-nature, limits-of-power stuff.

But we think it's time to characterize the antiheroic Julian Assange not just as an alleged international sex criminal but as a kook. To wit: the Daily Mail quotes Assange as asserting that he will soon dump docs about UFOs.

Wikileaks has been a sort of journalistic abstract painting: the viewer sees what the viewer wants to see. Assange, on the other hand, has all along been a maladjusted, manipulative, narcissistic nut-job. Let us now therefore ridicule him, which doubtless is the one thing that will frustrate him most in his quest for notoriety.

Parents, this is why, if you get rich, you want to leave your fortune to charity. Otherwise, your progeny might spend their legacy on public fecklessness like Wikileaks.

The Event Is Tonight, The Story Will Continue

SWNIDish friend Dale Mikes tonight will be feted at a benefit by fellow Hamilton County Deputy Sheriffs. But his story will go on, told in this local news video.

Pulsating Universe Cycles Back

Gentle readers are likely aware that the present state of knowledge in physics accords well with biblical cosmology: the Big Bang works out to something strongly reminiscent of Genesis 1:1.

But dissent is not just a religious phenomenon. It is even more a scientific one.

Enter Oxford's Roger Penrose, who posits that certain circles of uniformity in the cosmic background radiation are vestiges of black holes in the previous universe. That is to say, the universe cycles around: starts with a bang, ends with a collapse, and then starts again.

We, of course, are unqualified to discuss the physics of the hypothesis--hopelessly so. We'll simply note what any thoughtful person can note.

First, both Penrose's hypothesis and the prevailing one involve leaps of logic yet unproved experimentally. Everyone would do well to remember that science is always provisional, even if it tends over time to describe reality with increasing accuracy.

Second, apologists of the great Eastern religions and related worldviews are just as anxious to cite Penrose apologetically as Christians are to cite the Big Bang. Check out the comments on the Economist article linked above. The Marxists and Hindus have already declared intellectual victory on this one, novel hypothesis. For the public, science is only interesting if it makes for cool gadgets or revises our story of ourselves.

Third, we imagine that the outcome on this issue will not settle the religious and philosophical questions of cosmology. A pulsating universe need not pulsate eternally, for example, any more than a Big Bang universe need not be the only universe that exists. Behind every empirical observation and its explanation lie other possibilities than can alter its significance.

None of this is to say that Big Bang cosmology is irrelevant to Christian thinking. The fact that the universe seems once not to have existed and then to have begun to exist, culminating in the existence of bloggers, is still potentially significant as the hypothesis that best explains what we observe presently. But those of us who understand it in accord with the good news of Jesus do so because that good news also explains a host of other experiences, all of which contribute to the reason (a word deliberately chosen) for our belief. The Big Bang is not the keystone of our apologetics but a strand in the web.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Quotable on "Social Justice"

The phrase “social justice,” when invoked by members of the Catholic left, is a euphemism for the agenda of the Democratic Party. “Social justice” refers not to objective principles of justice but to specific policies of Democrats on health care, labor, welfare, and other matters.

That from George Neumayr of Catholic World Report. Substitute "Christian" for "Catholic" and you've got a more comprehensive statement, no less true.

We also enjoy this one:

Voters were in no mood to hear about “social justice” from Catholic Democrats whose party during its time in power has presided over increasing poverty and unemployment.

And this one:

The Catholic left’s monopolistic claims about the “common good” and “social justice” now meet with appropriate skepticism, and its equation of “Catholic concerns” with amnesty, carbon taxes, government-run health care, and so on, is seen as insultingly specious.

Let us not forget that economic growth, enabled by liberty and the rule of law, have lifted more people out of poverty than all redistributive and protectionist policies put together. If you want to help the poor, you can't do it with socialism. Cornel West is famous for distinguishing "justice" from "charity." How about distinguishing a specially pleaded definition of "justice" from "opportunity"?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Four Cs of Presidential Politics: A GOP 2012 Primer

We hereby designate the following four categories as necessary to the success of any presidential candidate, if success is defined as getting elected and governing with reasonable responsibility. All begin with the letter c. For those who look forward to 2012 as the moment when the Grand Old Party regains rightful control of the Executive Branch, the model will be crucial (make that a fifth "c") to their backing of the proper candidate.

To succeed, a presidential candidate must excel in each of the following:
  • Communication. It's always been the case that leaders communicate with their followers with exceptional clarity and impact. It is a commonplace to assert that such is all the more the case in the digital age.
  • Cool. At least since JFK but probably always, the cooler candidate, if any candidate is indeed cool, always (we'll allow the absolute) prevails. Sometimes there is no cool candidate (Bush v. Gore, Ditto v. Kerry). But when there is (TR, Coolidge [it's hip to be square], FDR, Ike, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, BHO), coolness wins.
  • Correctness. Policy may seem secondary in the battle of negative political advertising, but the truth is that many people vote for what they think is the better policy position. When there's a consensus, you'd better fall in line. Nixon may have been a miserable communicator and entirely uncool, but McGovern was wrong on the issues, and so he never came close. In 2012 the correct position will be fiscally conservative. BHO will struggle mightily as a consequence, and any successful GOP candidate will need unassailable credentials in thrift.
  • Competency. You've got to be able to run something, and not into the ground. As the present administration demonstrates, that something needs to be more than a campaign. A record of administrative success is always helpful. In 2012, after four years of an administration headed by someone who had never run anything except a campaign, voters will doubtless expect proven ability to accomplish goals in running something real. Obama's election may have shown that competency isn't necessary for victory, but his administration has reminded voters that it ought to be from now on. Look for this category to matter a lot.
Really, none of this is worthy of SWNIDish attention. Except for the tidy alliteration, these categories are routinely cited by all pundits at all times. But presently they are more than pedestrian observations, thanks to a singular personage on the political stage: one Sarah Palin.

Mrs. Palin is certainly not yet the presumptive GOP nominee for 2012, but presently she is the most visible person who will run in 2012. No one garners the attention that she does, either from devoted followers or from the media preoccupied with her. No one has so shamelessly exploited media as she, not least with her daughter's epic run on Dancing with the Stars (SWNIDish interpretation of the title: two absolute reasons not to watch) and her own program about the state whose governorship she resigned.

Mrs. Palin is unarguably a considerable candidate--because she excels in communication (gaffes aside, she delivers speeches that mesmerize the faithful), cool (sure she's goofy, but she's prettier than any politician except for Mitt Romney, and her family creates a narrative that people like), and most of all correctness (she says everything that conservatives want to hear, and in a way that they want to hear over and over). Granted, in all these things she's as divisive as anyone since Nixon. But in all areas she's considerable despite her divisiveness, and in a way that might suggest that she'll compete for her party's nomination even if she can't appeal to a wider electorate.

But note well the missing fourth c. Mrs. Palin has not demonstrated competency. She resigned as governor of Alaska after only two years, offering a rationale that was barely coherent at the time and now is revealed by her behavior to have been a fig leaf. Mrs. Palin resigned to make money, to run the Palin celebrity franchise, a job for which she is obviously well suited.

But that's not running something real. And voters, we think, will know it, especially the GOP base, which may like to listen to Miss Congeniality but won't need to think much about being led by her.

So SWNID has no expectation of a Palin nomination, though we fully expect her to run. Voters may be stupid, but we seriously doubt that they'll be that stupid in that particular way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

McArdle Rails Against High-Speed Rail

Atlantic's Meg McArdle joins the chorus of common sense decrying the lust for American high-speed rail. Making salient comparisons to China, she notes that the very much less dense population of Our Republic, the very much more dense existing infrastructure of Our Republic, and the very much greater respect for personal property and individual rights in Our Republic all mean that super-fast passenger trains won't be needed soon in Our Republic.

We hasten to add that this makes us sad. We like the notion of riding around America as if it were a giant Disneyland. Truth is not always fun. But it beats falsehood, which is vastly more expensive and can't deliver a ride to anywhere.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gore Repents! A Little

Al Gore now admits that corn ethanol is a political boondoggle. Nice.

Next up: the "local food movement." So what if your food traveled far, if it can be grown more plentifully on fewer acres somewhere far from your home? The biggest impact of food on the environment is not transportation but the act of farming itself. Think, people!

If truth can penetrate the oily pate of the orotund former VPOTUS, perhaps there is hope for Our Republic after all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sober Truth: The Book Is Dead, The E-Reader Ascendant

We are converted to the view that our print libraries are on the verge of slow obsolescence. And we have seen no finer exposition of this truth than from the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente.

It's e-reader Christmas this year, gentle readers. If you buy someone a print book, it'll be like buying a buggy whip in 1921.

Loud Call That Needs to Be Heard

When SWNID wholeheartedly agrees with Bob Herbert, something significant is afoot.

What's significant is Herbert's Gray Lady column today, a powerful call for the African-American community to rise up to address the crisis of the black male and the crisis of the black family, which Herbert rightly sees as utterly knit together.

We urge reading of this excellent column, which echoes the historic summons of W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Here's the conclusion as an appetizer:

Black children can’t wait for Washington to get its act together. They don’t have time to wait for the economy to improve. They need mom and dad and the larger community to act now, to do the right thing without delay.

This is not a fight only for blacks. All allies are welcome. But the cultural imperative lies overwhelmingly with the black community itself.

Mr. Herbert, count us as an ally.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Greyhound Reads SWNID, Adopts Megabus Model

Legacy-carrier Greyhound is responding to the competition. At last.

The hoary bus company of legend and infamy will offer inexpensive express service between Chicago and various Midwestern cities, eschewing its own dismal terminals to meet passengers curbside, with tickets booked online and fares as low as a dollar. The buses will be new and clean, with WiFi, plug-ins and wider seats.

Where'd they ever get that idea?

Of course, their upstart competitors say that they welcome the competition, as should passengers. As Megabus fills up (as witnessed by the SWNIDs this weekend), Greyhound can pick up slack and drive down prices. Demand and supply in their never-ending dance of non-equilibrium, and we're mostly better off for it.

And that, gentle readers, is why we really, really don't need intercity rail boondoggles.

Our Over-Stimulated Economy

Today in the SWNIDmobile, we were treated to a roundtable of ostensibly objective journalists insisting that there simply hasn't been enough stimulus in the economy to make it work, that tax cuts for the rich are less stimulative than extended unemployment benefits, and all that.

Meanwhile, lurking on the opinion pages is, once again, the estimable Robert Samuelson, who points out with due sobriety that Japan's long slide through the economic doldrums has not been ameliorated by extensive credit-based stimulus.

The very metaphor of economic "stimulus" is enough to explain the issue. Otherwise stimulating things can be utterly unstimulating when there's a deeper issue. Caffeine may keep one awake under normal circumstances, but one can be so sleep-deprived that no amount of caffeine will ward off sleep. The aroma of delicious food cooking may stimulate the appetite, but if one has a digestive malady, aromas nauseate when they normally stimulate.

So, says Samuelson, is the story of economic stimulus in Japan's sated economy. And so it appears to be in the United States:

So Japan's economy is trapped: a high yen penalizes exports; low births and sclerotic firms hurt domestic growth. The lesson for us is that massive budget deficits and cheap credit are at best necessary stopgaps. They're narcotics whose effects soon fade. They can't correct underlying economic deficiencies. It's time to move on from the debate over "stimulus."

Economic success ultimately depends on private firms. The American economy is more resilient and flexible than Japan's. But that's a low standard. Neither the White House nor Congress seems to understand that growing regulatory burdens and policy uncertainties undermine business confidence and the willingness to expand. Unless that changes, our mediocre recovery may mimic Japan's.

Attention, gentle readers and all others: borrowing to stimulate consumer demand only works when the economic problem is consumer demand. If it's something else, like a history of mal-investment and a business climate made fearful by the threat of taxes and regulations, then the cure needs to fit the disease.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Counting Noses on the Deficit Commission

Two reasons to affirm SWNIDish views on the Deficit Commission's proposals:

1. The WSJ's immaculate editorial board affirms the potent wisdom of their recommendations, albeit with proper scorn for the static scoring of tax matters (for the uninitiated, the commission assumes the same economic growth regardless of tax rates and so doesn't factor economic growth as a way of adding tax revenue, even though historically it's the best [only?] way to get more real dough to DC).

2. Paul Krugman, who is currently engaged in a performance-art parody of an unhinged celebrity academic, hates the commission's recommendations, like most lefties, it seems.

The right people like. The wrong people hate. There it is: a cooly rational case for a political decision.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deficit Panel Update

As predicted, both sides have issues with the deficit panel's starting point, but Ds have the worst of it. Here's the indefatigable champion of the little person, Dick Durbin (D-Patronage):

There are things in there that I hate like the devil hates holy water!

Senator, you said it, not we.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Actually Discuss This!

Amazingly, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has made an actual recommendation for reducing the federal deficit, and it seems to make some sense.

It means:
  • Raising the retirement age, though not drastically.
  • Reducing income tax rates rather substantially.
  • Eliminating income tax deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable donation deduction.
What does SWNID say to this? Let's talk about this formual, and let's move in this very direction!

First, on raising the retirement age. People live longer, healthier lives than they did before. Why shouldn't they work longer? Work is good. Work is fulfilling. It can even be fun. It beats watching Judge Judy. Let's put America's seniors to work! And we say that as a junior senior.

Second, on reducing income tax rates, hallelujah! Let's stop punishing productivity. Call this "making work pay." Oh, that name was taken already. So let's try, "It's your money, actually."

Third, on eliminating deductions, we will surprise some gentle readers by saying, This is a great thing for housing, philanthropy, education and other areas of the economy presently subsidized by tax deductions. This means moving toward letting markets set values, not tax policy. And while this threatens on the edges some of what Americans hold, it's for the good of all those things.

So, over time I [not the SWNIDish we, for we speak of the hypothetical American taxpayer in the first person] no longer get a tax deduction for my mortgage. That means I buy a more modest house and aim to pay it off more quickly. I no longer fret over how I'll lower my taxes as I amortize my mortgage. It's strictly a matter of economic consideration unencumbered by tax implications.

And over time, I give donations to those doers of good who in my view merit support. Never again will I decide to donate a sum primarily to lower my taxes, and then conduct a forced search for someplace nonprofit to park my swag away from the tax man.

Same goes for education. Presently families get a tax break for college tuition. So what they can afford goes up, and institutions raise their rates to reflect that ability to pay. Phase that out and consumers of education will choose cheaper alternatives, forcing institutions to find economies and bringing efficiency to the educational marketplace.

Note well that this proposal runs counter to what one might expect from a mortgage-paying minister-cum-professor/dean. But we believe the following truths to be nearly self-evident:
  • that the benefits of owning a house are independent of the tax deduction
  • that most charitable donations are given not for the tax deduction but for the perceived value of the charity
  • that the best students find a way to finance their education regardless of the tax system
Churches and charities and colleges worth their salt won't be affected negatively by such an economic revolution. If anything, they stand to gain by learning to stand on their own two feet.

And if no one ever again had an incentive to create a fake church as a tax dodge, the world will have taken a small step toward sanity.

But here's the political reality: both parties will have to knock it off if they want to do something like this. We actually think it'll be hardest for Ds, who even in their most conservative moments believe that tax policy must be targeted at social engineering.

Let's join in a big "phooey" on that. Democrats, let the people decide! It's their money, actually.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Reviewing the Bush Memoir

Gentle readers who are looking for helpful reviews of Decision Points, the Dubya memoir released today, will do well to access two.

On the substance of the book, we recommend the formidable Daniel Henninger of the WSJ editorial board.

On the man that the book reveals, Bush staffer Mark McKinnon offers a touching, humane portrait.

Much as his political opponents hate to admit it, the consistent testimony about Bush, his book and his career are that he is a singularly humble, loyal individual, much more willing to owe up to his mistakes than people realize.

All this makes the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader wish that another living ex-president would learn something from Mr. Bush about the dignity of being an ex-president. And his name is not Bush or Clinton. Got that figured out?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Off the Rails? One Can Hope!

Will John Kasich, who has already announced that high-speed rail in Ohio is dead, also manage to kill Cincinnati's Streetcar Named Expire?

Mayor Mallory says that the project is already funded except for "a few dollars," and that state money is "already committed."

We hope that the few dollars are enough to scuttle the whole thing, that the commitment can be uncommitted, and that thereby the citizenry can save billions. Otherwise we will spend outrageous sums to run people to the same destinations that buses serve presently, thinking that such an "investment" in "infrastructure" will somehow spur development in an area that has been in steady decline for two generations. This is magical superstition.

The estimable Robert Samuelson reminds us why. Rail hasn't paid for itself anywhere (two exceptions: Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon, in the whole world) in the last half century. It's 19th century technology that's inordinately expensive and inflexible. It's as green as pork. It's irrational romanticism with lots of zeroes.

CAUTION: Per Samuelson, figuring this issue out requires the ability to do fourth grade math.

Hopeful Sign?

BHO, who has never been ashamed to play the faux populist card of protectionism, today embraces free trade with the world's largest democracy as a means of creating jobs in Our Republic.

Will this kind of thing last? One can hope. We doubt.

Channeling Nana Nancy's Martyr Complex

WaPo and Brookings Institution and NPR partisan hack E. J. Dionne does it.

They persecuted me because I'm effective, intones our stylish Great Godmother. (Also why the donks persecuted Dubya, we are forced to conclude.)

So don't give the Rs the satisfaction of removing me from party leadership! Let me join such political luminaries as William Jennings Bryan, Adlai Stevenson, and Harold Stassen, zombie candidates who came back from every kind of death imaginable to stand again and again for the same electoral hopelessness.

Which raises the question: how many electoral cycles does it take to convince a narcissist patroness that she's wrong? Answer: take the numeral 8 and rotate 90 degrees in either direction.

Too Delicious to Pass Up

In days like these, there's too much self-contradictory political analysis to point out. But here's one in which we will indulge

Guardian columnist Elizabeth Wurtzel entitles her contrib "America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid!" Among her amazing statements is this:

For the first time in American history, then, social mobility has been replaced with class struggle.

For the first time! It's never happened before that the poor, untalented, ugly people that super-talented-and-beautiful Wurtzel and her intellectual class stand up for have had nothing to do but press their noses against the windows of elitist prosperity and get angry about BHO's birth certificate because someone in China is working away in a factory doing what the hapless Epsilon minuses of Our Republic would've done in the past. Never before have the working classes had to struggle against the economic friction that makes it hard to move up the ladder. Nothing left to look forward to but Coors Light, country music, and hunting season. They voted against the Revolution! The "Internationale" has been replaced by Lee Greenwood's signature anthem of ignorant, ironic self-loathing. We told you that the Constitution means what we say it means, but you refused to listen.

Thanks, Ms. Wurtzel, as you proudly parade your CV in your column (Ivy League [sic] degree! have read Das Kapital!]), for self-referentially demonstrating so aptly column's thesis. While we disagree with your stupidity, we will defend to the death your right to be stupid.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Obama the Day After: No Lessons Learned

The transcript of BHO's Wednesday press conference is depressingly predictable:

As I've said before, no person, no party, has a monopoly on wisdom. And that's why I'm eager to hear good ideas wherever they come from, whoever proposes them.

We've heard that before. It's follow later by, (a) If the Republicans have a better solution, let them bring it forward; and (b) The Republicans don't have any solutions; they just say no to everything.

And with so much at stake, what the American people don't want from us, especially here in Washington, is to spend the next two years refighting the political battles of the last two.

Um, Mr. President, more people want ObamaCare changed or repealed than kept in place. We're not litigating; we're legislating.

I do believe there is hope for civility.

Again with the notion that what people want is for politicians to make nice. Sure, it's aesthetically unpleasing to be subjected to negative political ads. But with negativity on both sides, we don't see how people voted for your opponents as a way of cooling the discourse.

Our nomination for most telling remark is this one:

You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term.

Now we get to the real difference in views. For BHO, a public servant is an elected official who does favors for the little guys who need favors done for them. For the GOP, anyone who does something useful is a ture "public servant": the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and all their useful kin. So incumbents who lose re-election are for the GOP not losses to public service but potential gains to the productive economy . . . assuming they don't all get patronage jobs in the government or K Street lobbyist positions. Which they will.

This sickening bit of sentimentality simply reflects BHO's notion that the world is a worse place without The One and others like him.

Here's our nomination for most distressing remark. Asked whether he had any proposals for improving business confidence, the President essentially said that he needs to study that question further. Inasmuch as we've got unprecedented money sloshing around the globe, the fact that it isn't stimulating anything is the clearest indication one can have that there's friction in the system. And given the utter uncertainty created by BHO's legislative agenda of higher income taxes, new energy taxes, value-added taxes, programs to keep defaulted loans in limbo indefinitely, and regulations on this that and the other, one doesn't have to puzzle over the source of the friction.

And finally, our nomination for the most narcissistic remark. Asked whether the election showed that he had lost touch with the people, BHO averred that living in the White House gave the appearance that one had lost touch. They liked me on the campaign trail, he insisted. They need to see me among them.

How noble!

Keynes v. Hayek

Why did it take us so long to discover this?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More Stuff to Watch For, Plus SWNIDish Guesses

Will Nancy Pelosi decide that it's time to spend more time with her family, will she lead her party's delegation in the minority, or will she serve faithfully on the backbenches?

Will Dems return Harry Reid as Majority Leader or turn to Chuck Schumer in frustration?

In his 1 p.m. press conference Wednesday, will BHO owe up to failure as a communicator of the value of his policies or owe up to failure as a formulator of policies?

For each of the choices above, we think the first alternative will obtain. For the first question, this is clearly best for the Pelosi family and for the family of humanity. For the second question, those who would celebrate Reid's shameful defeat should consider that Schumer is demonstrably a bigger irritant than the present Majority Leader. For the third, there's really no doubt about what the President will do, given what he's done.

But we can also expect him to blame the dirty money that undermined the aura of his awesomeness, plus the refusal of Rs to say anything but no.

In other words, this dismal campaign season will continue indefinitely, but without Nana Nancy.

On Prognostication

We'll owe up to our lapses of predictive accuracy in an upcoming post. For now we note that our guesses were better than Vice President Biden's.

What the Future Holds?

Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press will trot out alibis and rationalizations, blaming the result on ignorance, selfishness or racism. But voters this year were better informed about the intentions of the Obama Democrats than they were in 2008, and no more racist than the electorate that gave Obama 53 percent of the popular vote, more than any other Democratic nominee in history except Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

Thus saith Michael Barone. The odd thing is that donks seem actually to believe what they're about to say about their defeat. So convinced that they know what's best for everyone, they refuse to listen when everyone says they'd prefer to decide what's best for themselves.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

More to Watch For

The First Lady identifies her husband's problem as the slow pace of change.

We grimly assume that this trope will be the main one to which The One retreats following today's recall election. We don't expect realistic compromise. We expect digging in on the self-righteous left.

This likely lessens the odds that BHO will face a primary challenge in 2012, which can only come from the left. It heightens the odds that BHO will go down as a quixotically principled one-termer.

Meanwhile, GOP leaders hint that tomorrow they're launching a two-year campaign of lecturing the body politic on the virtues of thrift. Because our recreational reading has of late been the biography of Winston Churchill, we see this rather like Churchill's famous-but-tragic back-bench warnings of the 1930s that the Germans were preparing to prevail in a cruel war of totalitarian imperialism. That's all a person can do when he's both well informed and out of power. The truth of their lectures is in no way negated by fact that on the subject at hand, the GOP leaders, like Churchill, have a less-than-perfect record.

What to Watch Between 11/03/2010 and 01/03/2011

Those who believe that elections end the careers of career politicians ought to watch diligently for Presidential appointments to various government agencies, commissions, boards and such, keeping score on the number of former Congresspersons who somehow are desperately and urgently needed in executive-branch positions, just at the time their legislative services are terminated.

Ambitious gentle readers may bookmark this post and in weeks to come provide comments alerting the SWNIDish community of such appointments as they happen.

Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 NIV: Nicely Improved Version

We haven't read the whole thing, just a key chapter suggested by a colleague. But that by itself suggests that the 2010 revision of the New International Version is a significant improvement on its influential predecessor.

By all accounts, the most theologically objectionable feature of the old NIV was its habitual translation of sarx ("flesh") in Paul's letters as "sinful nature" when the term is used in its nuanced, distinctively Pauline sense. Many, including SWNID, objected that this attempt to avoid the un-Pauline impression that evil resides in physicality instead suggested a very specific--and to the SWNIDish mind utterly unbiblical--dogma of innate human depravity.

Well, the 2010 NIV restores the complex Pauline metaphor to its rightful standing. It's "flesh" consistently. Three cheers for that!

On a lesser matter, we offer three cheers for the rendering of Romans 8:16: "The Spirit himself testifies with [emphasis inserted] our spirit that we are God’s children. " The old NIV, with most English versions, assumed the sense of synmartureo with the dative as indicating an indirect object; hence the prior translation "testifies to." Compelling evidence indicates, however, that the dative comes under the influence of the verb's prepositional prefix.* So now readers can make sense of this text. The Spirit doesn't tell us that we are God's children; rather, the Spirit agrees with us in telling God that we're his.

We hope that such improvements will ameliorate the rage of those who think that "brothers and sisters" as a rendering for adelphoi is somehow dangerous, which it isn't.

So, six cheers--three loud and three moderate--for the 2010 NIV. We'll offer more observations as we have opportunity.

*We'd like to think that the unpublished paper we wrote on this subject in 1983, using an early version of GRAMCORD, influenced this happy outcome. But we are realistic enough to realize that others simply arrived at our conclusion independently.

Scorecard for Tuesday's Watershed

If you want to score the election with SWNID, then follow the handy guide provided by the Washington Examiner here. Hour by hour, you'll know how to read the tea leaves, if you pardon the expression.

Here It Is: The Official SWNID Voters' Guide for November 2010

By now gentle readers should know how to vote in the upcoming election. The need of the hour is to send an unequivocal message to every part of the government that we will be clients no more but free, responsible citizens. Since one party of our two-party system has at least temporarily committed itself to the opposite notion, one can only vote against the GOP with the utmost caution in any race, no matter how far down the ticket.

But to be specific, we here offer our citizen-centered advice for all races on the ballot at the SWNIDish precinct. Those not blessed to vote at Little Flower's Parish Hall will have to transfer the counsel to their own electoral situations.

Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Ohio: John Kasich and Mary Taylor
Donks have tried to play the class-warfare card on Kasich, accusing him of being a denizen of "Wall Street" as a former partner with Lehman Brothers. We say, better Wall Street than the public employees unions. Kasich earned a reputation in the House as a budget hawk with sensibilities toward business development. Both are needed presently.

Strickland, by contrast, has proved utterly overmatched by his job. Ostensibly committed to reforming Ohio, he lacks the courage to stand up to his party's entrenched special interests, most particularly the public employees labor unions. Thanks for trying, Ted, but we need someone with moxie.

Attorney General of Ohio: Mike Dewine
Many Tea Party types dislike Dewine, whom they label as a "big government" Republican. We say, no one is big government like a Democrat. Our experience of Dewine as Senator affirms that he has sound judgment and administrative skill of the kind that can start to restore confidence in the integrity of Ohio's hapless state administration.

Auditor of State of Ohio: David Yost
The argument has been made that Yost is the Weakest Link on the Ohio GOP ticket. If so, he still compares favorably to David Pepper. Pepper's rise in the Ohio Democratic Party is based on an unearned reputation as a fiscal conservative and a complete absence of accomplishments as a Cincinnati City Councilman and Hamilton County Commissioner. His distinguished father, retired as CEO of Procter & Gamble, doubtless lies awake at night wondering whether his son will find himself before he outlives his trust fund.

Secretary of State of Ohio: John Husted
Husted is an accomplished individual with potential for greater things. His opponent is part of the Strickland apparatus that has squandered four years of governance in maintaining the status quo.

Treasurer of Ohio: Josh Mandel
A Marine veteran on the rise, Mandel offers a fresh start to Ohio's dismal finances. His incumbent opponent has done nothing to suggest that another four years will be better than the previous four.

US Representative, District 1: Steve Chabot
On the left is Steve Driehaus, who owes his political life to the Democratic Party leadership. On the right is Steve Chabot, who in fourteen years in Congress earned the highest rating given by Citizens Against Government Waste. This is the easiest choice on the ballot, and arguably the most important. Driehaus is proof that the "Conservative Democrats" is a null set.

United States Senate: Rob Portman
Portman has been a principled star in every office he's held. If we're looking for responsible leadership with solid political philosophy, he's the exemplar. Lee Fisher, by contrast, has dutifully carried water for his party and is now owed a shot at something big. As a Senator, he would be a reliable vote for his party's leadership. Ohio has sent some miserable people to the Senate in the SWNIDish lifetime, but Portman is sure to be the exception.

State Representative, District 32: Eric Nebergall
Mallory may be a magic name in Cincinnati, one even capable of inducing SWNID to vote for Jackson's party. But Dale Mallory is an embarrassment, as illustrated by his recent nonappearance at a scheduled TV debate. Mallory is in politics because it's the family business and he has no marketable skills. Eric Nebergall, by contrast, is a decent, honest guy who believes in an ideal called "public service." He makes an honest living and now wants to help make Ohio an honest state. This one is important too, and hard. Mallory will get votes because of name recognition. Make it a point to turn the tide of turnout for Nebergall.

State Senator: Deborah McKinney
SWNID finds incumbent Eric Kearney a good guy. SWNID also finds him a reliable vote for the public employees unions who presently control the perspectives of the Democratic Party on state governance. McKinney is another decent citizen who wants to spend enough time in Columbus to reclaim the state budget for the state's citizens, not its employees. This one is probably hopeless, but it's certainly hopeless if we don't vote for change.

Chief Justice, Ohio Supreme Court: Maureen O'Connor
Ohio's Supreme Court has been embroiled in a misadventure on state tax policy in relation to education. Truth is, Ohio has a system that its voters want. Republican justices have in the main affirmed the responsibility of the legislature, not the judiciary, to set tax policy. Incumbent O'Connor will be pilloried as part of the Taft administration, but she had nothing to do with the nastiness then, and she's all about the solutions now.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Judith Ann Lanzinger
Lanzinger stands with the GOP on limiting the power of the judiciary to ruling on the law. Now is not the time to indulge in romanticism about reforming the world through the courts.

Judge, Ohio Court of Appeals, District 1: Sylvia Sieve Hendon
Another advocate of judicial restraint, Hendon has a strong judicial record. Her opponent boasts a record of employment in dress for success.

Judge, Ohio Court of Appeals, District 1: Pat Fischer
Opposed by William Mallory, possessor of a magic name who isn't the family's embarrassment, Fischer is nevertheless the SWNIDish pick. A near miss for Cincinnati City Council three years ago, Fischer is a knowledgeable attorney with a solid record of professional accomplishment. If the Revolution is to start now, then it has to be thorough. Mallory is a decent judge, but Fischer will be at least his equal.

Judge, Court of Common Pleas: Megan E. Shanahan
Incumbent Nadine Allen is a fixture in Hamilton County politics. Megan Shanahan has a successful record as an assistant prosecutor under Joe Deters. Twenty-four years is enough for Judge Allen. Vote Shanahan.

Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division: John M. Williams
Another prosecutor, Williams promises to bring to the bench the seriousness that the work demands. Opponent Tracie Hunter seems a decent and qualified person who lacks Williams' experience.

Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division: John Sieve
Despite being the scion of a family involved in automobile retailing, SWNID finds Sieve the superior candidate. He's got a decent record on the bench, so let's let him have this thankless job.

Member, State Board of Education, District 4: John Spohn or Mary Welsh Schlueter
Spohn is pledged to protect school choice initiatives. Little can or should be done by the state school board, an abominable political entity that simply complicates the relationship of the state legislature to local school boards. But here's one issue worth protecting through this hapless entity. Schlueter is dedicated to the kind of reform that public education needs. A near-miss on Cincinnati's School Board, she deserves a place at the table. Take your pick.

Hamilton County Commissioner: Chris Monzel
Monzel prefers not to spend other people's money. Opponent Jim Tarbell is a local legend who made his name running a psychedelic-era rock venue and an historic bar. Tarbell has never displayed anything remotely resembling a philosophy of governance. Monzel simply refuses to spend money unnecessarily. Vote Monzel, and invite Tarbell to return to the entertainment industry, where he's a natural.

Hamilton County Auditor: Tom Brinkman
This is a tough choice. Legendary County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has governed like a Republican. But lately, that's been like a corrupt, Ohio Republican. Since the revelation that skinflint Rhodes had applied for a government pension so that he could "double dip" from the public coffers, he's been backpedaling, insisting that he intended to donate the additional money to charity. Thanks for the generosity, Dusty, but we taxpayers will make our own choices about what charities to support.

Tom Brinkman, on the other hand, is that all-too-familiar archetype this election cycle: the anti-tax conservative extremist. Brinkman heads an organization that is dedicated to opposing every tax levy ever, regardless of the merits. But in the auditor's office, he can at least attempt to offer citizens fair and accurate evaluation of their property values so that they pay their fair share of taxes that they levy on themselves. And this is the year to give Dusty Rhodes a real retirement, since he seems to want one.

Supplement: Clermont County Commissioner: Robert Scott Croswell
Normally we don't provide a guide to local elections outside our own little world, but this is a big deal. We are directing all gentle readers, by the mercies of God, to defeat Archie Wilson in his bid to unseat incumbent Robert Scott Croswell as Clermont County Commissioner. Wilson has infamously accused Croswell of being part of an elaborate plot to cover up the sexual molestation and murder of the infant child of Brenda Slaby, who in fact died tragically some three years ago when accidentally left in a minivan on a hot summer day. Because Wilson's statements are utterly outrageous and without foundation, the Slabys are suing Wilson for defamation, represented in their suit by Stan Chesley with the support of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Clermont County Prosecutor Don White. Somehow, our Republican neighbors to the east endorsed the genuine nut-job Wilson over the experienced, reliable Croswell. All Americans should be embarrassed if Wilson gets a number of votes greater than the number of his relatives who are registered to vote in Clermont County.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Invitation to Condescend

Do Democrats think that Americans are stupid?

That has been the upshot of the rhetoric lately emanating from Obama, Biden, Kerry and Clinton. And since there are no more senior leaders of the donks than these, one might well think that Democrats do think Americans are stupid. So notes Jeff Jacoby this Sunday before the midterms.

We think Ds are more cynical than that, however. We don't think that they think that we're stupid. We think that they think that we want to be as condescending as they are. Their dumb-voters trope is nothing more than a shameless invitation to arrogance, to join the smart folks in scorning the idiots. Don't be one of those stupid people who don't know what's best for them, namely us. Join us, the folks who know what's smart!

Well, two can play at that game. We say, scorn the scorners; condescend to the condescending; show the people who call you stupid how stupid they are. The cool kids aren't cool anymore.

Final Word on So-Called Stimulus?

What does it take to summarize everything SWNID has been arguing about economics since the ascent of BHO to executive power?

It takes a paper by a Harvard University economist.

Jeffrey Miron, in fully documented PDF format, argues with plain speech, common sense and empirical data that the best stimulus is entirely different from what BHO enacted. The Obama stimulus functions poorly because it empowers politicians to make economic decisions, inevitably for political rather than economic reasons, and acts far too slowly to address the lack of demand during a recession. Further, Obama's so-called green-energy initiatives are impotent because they again operate on a political rather than an economic basis and because they simply re-employ employed workers in government-funded employment. Then there's the way that stimulus spending tends to become permanent, tends to reward cronies, and all that.

What does Miron suggest as superior? Well, get ready for it.

He wants corporate taxes not just reduced but eliminated. Corporate taxes retard investment and employment, thereby retarding productivity.

He wants entitlement taxes disconnected from entitlement spending. That is, no more payroll taxes, which retard employment and perpetuate that myth that we've paid for the benefits of these programs through our lifetimes.

He wants "green" programs replaced with energy taxes, offset with lower taxes in other areas to offset their drag on the overall economy.

Note well that the Obamanoids can't ever do this stuff. They live by the myth that corporations are evil, that government is the Great Patron and Protector of the Working Person. They do favors in exchange for votes from people who don't realize that the favors are no favor.

Rs aren't going to do enough of this stuff, either. But that hardly excuses a vote for the status quo, or a wasted vote for a third-party that supposedly is pure, or refusal to vote because it make no difference at all.

Preaching Versus Lecturing

For those who do either or both or listen to either or both, this review of Arthur Hunt's The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590-1640, contains more than a few fun remarks.

Here's one of our faves:

So we underestimate how powerful these occasions could be - and how contentious. He has a powerful argument that it was almost a logical impossibility to preach a sermon that no one found offensive. Some people certainly snoozed through sermons (then and now); others sat and nursed hair-trigger sensitivities to any real or imagined slights.

On Those Awful Political Ads

We thank honorary co-blogger JB in CA for this gem:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Honor of JB in CA . . .

We post this David Zucker minor masterpiece for all of our gentle readers on the Left Coast.

Definitive Advice on Church Planting

Are you the only Christ-follower in America not presently planting a new church? Then here's the expert advice you've been looking for!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SWNIDish Must-Reads

This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order.

So says the inimitable P. J. O'Rourke, stating with his usual acerbic hyperbole that the Donks are "drunk on power." P. J. knows about being drunk, so we take his analogy seriously. Read between the lines and you'll see O'Rourke, like a manic, modern-day Thomas Paine, warning citizens that they're being turned into clients.

More soberly, Amity Shlaes offers another precis of her celebrated history of the Great Depression and its relevance to the Great Recession. Then as now, no one will play a game when a single player--the federal government--can dominate all the others by setting new rules. Forgive the PDF file from the impassioned conservatives at Hillsdale College, for this is an essay worthy of reflection.

Is there a common thread here, aside from SWNIDish endorsement? Yes. It is that we have agreed to elect people who insist they're so much smarter than we, they need to tell us what to do all the time. Well, we insist otherwise, and not just because we know that "we," not "us," is correct following "than" in the previous sentence. We insist because of the self-evident truth articulated by St. Milton of Chicago: No one takes better care of your stuff than you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coolidge Love Keeps Growing

Cato Institute blogger Daniel J. Mitchell has jumped on the Coolidge bandwagon, under the benevolent influence of Coolidge biographer Amity Shlaes. Mitchell goes so far as to suggest that Coolidge was the greatest President of the 20th century, no empty boast, in our view.

And Mitchell notes the timeliness of this artifact, the first-ever sound film made of an American President:

Adjust for scale and you have today's political debate and its clear resolution.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Timelessness of Gilbert and Sullivan

Even our gentle readers who are pleased with our President's performance in office will agree that here is an even finer performance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dems Concede OH-1 to Chabot

The Gray Lady reports that Democrats are giving up on OH-1 and Steve Driehaus.

That is to say, the Driehaus campaign will receive less than its promised allotment of party money for advertising. This is part of the Dems' rear-guard effort to redirect money to districts that might remain competitive.

We figured Chabot as a likely returnee to the House in 2010, once the district voted without Obama on the ticket. But as this election turns to a rout, Dems are having a harder time finding places to spend their trade union/George Soros dough.

Now the question is whether the White House can find enough cushy executive-branch jobs for all the ousted incumbent Democrats they'll owe favors to in 2011.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mitch Daniels: Coolidge Redivivus?

The estimable Michael Barone today asks the question that dare not speak its name (for fear of being accused of being financed by foreigners*):

Could nerdy Mitch Daniels displace ueber-cool Barack Obama as POTUS?

We certainly hope so!

*Full, voluntary disclosure: SWNID has no foreign funding. SWNID has no funding, period. That doesn't make us more objective; it does make us poorer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Campaign Finance, The "Big Lie," and Ad Hominem Fallaciousness

When the Supremes overturned most campaign-finance laws on the basis of free-speech rights, many on the left declared the end of American democracy. Who knew that the prophecy would be self-fulfilling?

Presently the so-called Leader of the Free World is stumping with the hopeful trope that Republicans are getting secret advertising money from foreigners, oil companies, banks and other forces of darkness.

On the foreigners, BHO and his minions point especially to the Chamber of Commerce as financed by aliens. The protectors of political uprightness admit they have no evidence against the Chamber, whose leaders insist that they sequester foreign funds outside their political accounts. But the Obamanoids insist that the allegations are "serious" and so must be disproved by those against whom they make them.

Barack and his buds also show no interest in the similar financial arrangements of their patrons, such as the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club. Not that anyone should care: just being directly associated with these groups is a political liability at present.

This stratagem so warmly embraced by The One We've Been Waiting For is well known as the "big lie": say an unproved allegation often enough and people will take it for granted. Or so it is thought. We think otherwise.

Once willing to require of all political advertising only that the source of its financing be revealed, we now believe that there's no reason whatsoever to require even that. Disclosure of donors is pointless regulation that will do nothing to protect the integrity of our political processes.

And so gentle readers exclaim, How can you say such an outrageously counter-intuitive thing, SWNID? Has your long neglect of blogging atrophied your common sense?

Well, SWNID relies on uncommon sense, but that's not the point.

The point is twofold: the source of a message neither validates nor invalidates the message, and influence buying can only be stopped at the next election anyway.

To the former: we assert that it's an utterly settled principle of logic that an idea can't be invalidated because it comes from a suspicious source. If Genghis Khan says the sky is blue, the fact that he is a murderous tyrant does not invalidate his assertion. So why should the electorate care whence cometh the money that sponsors this or that ad? Let voters judge the message on its merits. Perhaps if they have only the message's merits on which to decide, they'll think about something other than the messenger for a change.

To the latter: prior to overturning campaign finance laws, previous Supremes argued that such laws were needed to avoid the appearance of influence-buying that unlimited campaign contributions can constitute. But we reason as follows: the presence of a big donation does not necessarily indicate that influence has been bought, and the absence of such donations does not assure that it exists. A corrupt politician can be bought with all kinds of things, including the promise of a sweet deal after he leaves office (ever wonder why politicians retire richer than when they entered office?). An honest politician can accept all kinds of gifts and never be influenced at all. But in any case, voters simply review the incumbent's record and decide whether he's been bought or not--or even if they approve of the way he's been bought.

Note well, gentle readers: we, so pessimistic about the capacities of our fellow humans, nevertheless believe that voters are the best people to sort these matters out. Let them decide whether they like this or that candidate's message or record, not whether they like who pays that candidate's bills. Voters may be stupid, but campaign finance regulations are stupider, let alone those who write and enforce them.

We figure that most folks already see through the unsubstantiated allegations that BHO is passing out this round in place of his signature hopium. They know what it's like to be called upon to prove they're honest, even when there's no evidence of their dishonesty. They remember what it was like to get detention in school because they were in a class where one person did a dastardly deed and so all were accused as accessories after the fact. They are unlikely to be comfortable with folks who resemble an enraged PE teacher running the Justice Department and such.

When America votes GOP in November, it won't be because their votes were bought, but because ideas and records matter.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Did They Expect?

So Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Oblivion) invited Stephen Colbert to testify before the esteemed House Judiciary Committee, the very body that once brought historic articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

And Steny Hoyer (D-Whatever Nancy Says) exclaims that Colbert embarrassed himself.

Our Congresspersons expected what from the erudite Mr. Colbert?

Of course, these same folks said that ObamaCare would make health insurance cheaper and reduce the deficit. We hear that they also expect to retain their congressional majority in the 2010 elections.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Science v. "Religion" Again

The Times Higher Education Supplement is running a fine, lengthy review article on the relationship between science and faith, definitely worth reading for all with an interest in the subject (and if you bother with this blog, you're doubtless interested).

We simply add that in this article, "religion" is once again a euphemism for Christianity. None of this debate would exist were it not for the highly offensive, missionary faith in the incarnation of Israel's God.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Christie to the Rescue

Chris Christie's confrontations at public forums are becoming legendary. He's now traveling to the left coast to boost Meg Whitman's campaign, and to intervene when the damsel is in distress.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

High School Can Actually Matter

Widely believed to be the four most widely wasted years in human history, American high school can apparently make a difference.

ACT reports that recent research shows:

The best way to prepare underrepresented racial/ethnic minority and lower-income students for postsecondary success is through a rigorous high school core curriculum that focuses on the essential knowledge and skills for college and career readiness.

So it really is time to end "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Carter's Humility Also Superior

More Carter!

Promoting his latest book (honest question: who buys these books?), blessedly ex-President Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying the following:

I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents. Primarily because of the activism and the injection of working at the Carter Center and in international affairs, and to some degree, domestic affairs, on energy conservation, on environment and things of that kind.

Is this how Miss Lillian raised her boy to talk?

Can we imagine a more blatant way that Carter could confirm the miserable impression that most people presently have of him?

Rs About to Address Significant Substantive Objection to Rs

The current GOP has been widely criticized for basing its 2010 election strategy on anti-Obama-ism.

Now the party leadership has announced that a 20-point legislative program is set to be unveiled Thursday. Objection addressed.

The Republic may be talked off the ledge with this. When the Rs control both houses, they'll have a point from which to triangulate with the exiled executive branch and its emasculated Congressional caucus.

Mondale: BHO = Carter

It is a curious day for our Republic when the only man to have lost statewide elections in all fifty states agrees with SWNID.

Walter Mondale says that BHO's administration is a lot like Jimmy Carter's. Of course, that's not BHO's fault, per Mondale, just as it wasn't Carter's. The problems just can't be solved, darn it!

Oh, by the way, Reagan was "already losing it" in 1984.

We note that Carter's first big problem ended minutes after Reagan's inauguration, when the hostages got on planes for home.

We note that Carter's second big problem ended when the macroeconomic effects of Reagan's tax cuts were felt throughout the land.

Hence, "Morning in America," with Reagan reelected by every state except MN (yes, MA voted for four more years of the Reagan Revolution). If Reagan was "losing it," he was still marvelously more able than his political rivals, yes?

To explain our earlier note, Mondale went on to lose statewide in Minnesota's 2002 Senate election.

To those who object factually to the "every state except" remark above, we provide a brief civics lesson that constitutionally DC is not a state.

To wrap up the thread of this post, we affirm that no one should be able to recognize a failed politician quite so well as can Walter Mondale.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carter the Self-Aware

Jimmy Carter is at it again, though with an exceptional-for-him grasp of the truth. AP is reporting on the undistinguished ex-POTUS's recent pronouncements and forthcoming book that condenses his personal diaries from the White House years. Our take is that Carter manages some fractional truths of self-awareness, an exceptional achievement given his dismal record.

We will note his pronouncements and offer SWNIDisms in response:

Carter: The Tea Party is like the insurgent, outsider Carter campaign of 1976, but the Tea Party will not have lasting political influence.

SWNID: If that prognostication proves true, then the Tea Party will be exactly like the Carter.

Carter: As President, Carter overburdened Congress with too ambitious an agenda.

SWNID: That's true but less than half the point. Carter left Congress without ground for compromise, claiming perfect virtue for all of his positions. Six months into his term, every D on Capitol Hill was praying to Moloch for his demise.

Carter: Carter was a bad leader of the Democratic Party.

SWNID: Not that it's had a good leader in a couple of generations, but he was probably the worst, for reasons noted above. Carter thought himself too good for politics, making him too bad for politics.

Carter: If not for Ted Kennedy's campaign and the Iran Hostage Crisis, Carter would've won.

SWNID: And if not for the defection of Neocon Democrats like Jeanne Kirkpatrick because of Carter's utterly naive approach to Communism and foreign affairs. And if not for ruinous stagflation (not really his fault). And if not for the alienation of his own party that preceded the Kennedy campaign, which was more a symptom than a cause. And if not for the feckless approach to Iran that inflamed Iranian anti-Shah opinion and hardened it into anti-American opinion, propelling the radicals into leadership of the opposition, there would not have been a hostage crisis.

Truth is, except for calling for fiscal restraint, though not achieving it thanks to his poor management of Congress, appointing Paul Volcker as Fed chair, and starting a re-armament program to continue the Cold War after the humiliation of Vietnam, there's not much good to say about Mr. Carter. Now even Mr. Carter is beginning to admit that, if only a little.

Postscript Question: Has there ever been an ex-President as persistent in grabbing the microphone as The Man from Plains?