Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beta-Blockers Fail to Cause Belief in God

We think this headline is a suitable rejoinder to this article entitled "Religion Fails to Reduce High Blood Pressure."

Then again, if people reduced their frequency of nonsensical claims for their faith, maybe everyone's blood pressure would go down.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Got the Mitch Itch?

We do! And here's just the thing to scratch it.

RealClearPolitics reporter Erin Pike offers trenchant analysis and insider opinion that Mitch Daniels is in fact cagily poised to make a strong entrance into the moribund race for the Republican nomination.

We surely hope so. He's got the right views, no discernible political weaknesses, and a lot of support from the middle of the spectrum.

And with BHO's policies in tatters and prospects dim, it's no time for Republicans to snip at each other about their candidates' conservative bona fides, thereby nominating a dud and handing the Oval Office back to Carter II.

Keynes v. Hayek, Round 2

For those who loved round 1, here's round 2 of the epic, hip-hop showdown between John Maynard Keynes and Freidrich Hayek (see round 1 here if you missed it).

We'll say it loud, though not as loud as Professor Hayek: the sooner we can get governance enacting the notion that individual decisions add up to prosperity, the sooner we'll get out of stagnant economic malaise that infects our Republic.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seminaries: Get Real

Forbes blogger Jerry Bowyer offers an incendiary, hyperbolic, borderline-prophetic analysis of seminary education in the United States. Conclusion: the prevailing model is doomed.

We quote the opening paragraph from this Molotov cocktail of an essay:

Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school. Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no resemblance to the job in question, and that the pay for graduates is far lower than other professions. You have just imagined the relationship between the Christian Church and her seminaries.

SWNID and his ilk are attempting to navigate the shoals of ecclesial expectations while eschewing the brokenness of the prevailing model. 'Tain't easy, but it's doubtless necessary. And we're trying to figure out the how to improve the approach to eschewing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Political Compromise Yields Decent Outcome

Who says that politics never works.

Cincinnati Public Schools have been struggling for years to manage enrollment in their most popular magnet programs. Famously, parents of prospective students will camp out at the school for days to assure themselves of a spot at the four most popular magnet elementaries. Meanwhile, school officials and public activists worry that under-resourced families are frozen out because they can't camp out, and so they advocate a lottery to assign places. Meanwhile, parents in the schools worry that under a lottery there won't be a place for the highly motivated families that they imagine they are. Meanwhile, people wanting to recruit workers to Our Fair City recognize that if the best schools are accessible only by lottery, parents won't bet their kids futures on a life on Our Fair City.

But last night, a compromise was reached. Seventy percent of available spaces will be granted to folks who line up. Thirty percent will be assigned by lottery to families living in neighborhoods with demonstrably bad schools.

This passes the SWNID Smell Test. We can still warmly endorse city residency for families with young children, knowing that avenues of quality public education will be available to them. And other goals that the district has are being served nicely by this means too, maybe better than if there were just a lottery alone.

The Cincinnati Public School Board has been the object of a lot of criticism. So has the administration. We think they deserve an A- for this.

USDE = Emily Litella

For the last several weeks, higher ed circles have been spinning wildly because of a "Dear Colleague" letter delivered to IHEs by the United States Department of Education, which through its Title IV funds provides life support to nearly all of American higher ed.

The upshot of the letter was to remind institutions that under the recent Higher Education Act, IHEs eligible for Title IV funds must be fully in compliance with state laws in all states where they operate. To stay eligible for those funds (Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and all the rest), IHEs must show good-faith effort to comply with all state regulations to which they are subject by 1 July 2011.

No biggie, right? Well, the USDE specifically warned that such compliance must extend to distance education.

And inasmuch as most state regulations were devised before the internet, some are difficult and expensive for distance ed and can even apply if a single student happens to reside within the state's sovereign borders.

So, IHE went into overdrive, simultaneously complaining from government interference in interstate commerce (students of politics take note of the extreme ironies) and consulting any and every expert for a way to avoid compiling endless documents and paying endless fees.

As a denizen of higher ed, SWNID has been a part of the frenzy.

Until today. When another "Dear Colleague" letter arrived. And now the deadline to show good-faith compliance is 1 July 2014.

That is not a misprint. We now have three years to get legal, not three months.

All of which reminds us of . . .

Only in America!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Ryan Plan: Radical or Capitulatory

Without doubt the funniest thing we've read on deficit politics is Holman Jenkins' piece in today's WSJ.

Read it carefully, so that you don't miss the point of view it adopts. And note how it indicts those who accuse the Ryan plan of radicalism. Compared to a full-force conservative plan that would privatize government entitlements, it's more like a capitulation to the permanent welfare state.


Several legit commenters' comments have of late been trapped by the intrepid Blogger Spam Filter, the existence of which we have only this evening learned.

We have liberated these unfairly profiled comments without discrimination. We'll troll the trap from time to time to make sure that others don't suffer so long in commenter-purgatory.

Apologies to those of you whose insights were stifled by this cruel act of technology.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Folks Call It "Adaptin'"

We note the way that BHO adopts a Texas-style dropping of gs in this interview with an antagonistic reporter from Dallas.

PS: Mr. President, maybe you're unpopular in Texas because of the way you've blamed everything on Texas's favorite son.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thought Questions

Paul Ryan's "radical" proposal on Medicare is to (a) make it a subsidy for private insurance; (b) means test for the size of the benefit.

As to the former, present Medicare recipients must either pay for many costs out of pocket or buy supplemental insurance. In 2500 words or less, explain the qualitative difference between the status quo and Ryan's alternative that makes sense of the claim that Ryan is selling out the most vulnerable.

As to the latter, explain in 2500 words or less how means-testing benefits so that the poor get more and the rich get less will victimize the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

For both, explain how phasing this plan in for those under the age of 55 is an egregious breaking of America's social covenant. Use as many words as the issue deserves.

Bonus: explain why it is better for everyone to tax the rich rather than limiting their entitlement payments. Use as many words as were actually read by those who voted for the ObamaCare bill.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Persistence of Bad Ideas

In 1984, facing what seemed to him and others like massive federal deficits as far as the eye could see, Walter Mondale declared it a patent necessity that federal taxes be raised. He went on to lose the election in 49 of the 50 states, carrying only Minnesota, his home state.

Later, running for the Senate, he lost in Minnesota, making him the only person in US history to lose statewide elections in all fifty states.

Today he writes in the WaPo that tax increases are again a necessity. And he says that the political risk is for those who don't raise taxes, because Americans want taxes raised.

We figure he's an expert in what works politically, given his record.

Ah, but he says the record favors his view. Really?

Mondale says that the record of American presidents shows that tax increases are necessary to balance the budget. Hmm. We recall that a certain Calvin Coolidge managed both to cut taxes and balance the budget.

Mondale complains that tax revenues are at their lowest percentage of GDP in 40 years. True enough. He says that tax rates are the lowest in decades. We think that's a falsehood, as they aren't as low as they were before Clinton raised them, the Bush cuts notwithstanding.

Still, let's ask about cause an effect. Are tax revenues low as a share of GDP because of low rates or because of low economic activity? The history of tax revenues in the industrial era is a history of rising revenues when the economy is strong and sinking revenues when it's weak. It's also a history of permanent cuts in tax rates stimulating economic activity in ways that raise tax revenues.

Mondale wisely does not say that higher rates on the wealthy will generate the money to bring the federal fisc into balance. He does say that it's necessary for fairness when many people are suffering. Apparently the tax code exists to make everyone miserable.

In the end, we couldn't bring ourselves to finish Mondale's whiny, self-important, factually challenged article. Which is most certainly why Mr. Mondale is the losingest politician in the history of the world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

CCU Community Service Day Reflections

Today was CCU Community Service Day. We expect later to be able to post some local news video, as the local stations dependably sent their crews out to capture images of our wholesome-looking student body doing their service thing in their matching tee-shirts that proclaimed "Not Wild. Urban."

It was a beautious day to be outside, probably the best we can remember. And it's always enjoyable to be with students who simply take it as natural that they should embrace the opportunity to do something for the community and not worry about attention or thanks.

This year most of our crews worked with the local police district to clean litter from an area of our neighborhood that is targeted for special attention. This is in keeping with the experience of a number of urban areas: when there's less litter and other "blight," people tend to behave more respectfully toward their own and other people's property. It's not exactly the beginning of a social revolution, but it's not a bad idea.

So today, with some young friends, we picked up a lot of trash on the street. And here's what we learned:
  • Most trash is related to habit-forming or addictive products. While we found carpet, diapers, underwear, and such, mostly we found packaging for things that people buy and consume habitually.
  • And the most popular of these habit-forming products--by a very wide margin--is sugar.
Here's an hypothesis for some enterprising student of public health to explore. As tobacco consumption has declined, obesity has risen. Nicotine suppresses the appetite. Nicotine is a stimulant. Eating sugary stuff seems to make a person want more sugary stuff while at the same time creating lethargy.

So as our addictions have changed, so have our waistlines.

What Obama's Nasty Budget Speech Really Means

Like many thoughtful Americans, SWNID didn't care for BHO's paean to higher taxes, delivered yesterday. If the immoderately moderate Clive Crook can call it "a waste of breath," it hardly deserves comment for its contribution to policy.

But one can understand easily its contribution to electoral politics. Obama's move to the center since November has been greeted by his political base with frustration and even anger. Poll numbers show that the most dependable Democratic voters are not as inclined to feel hope-y and change-y as they were in 2008. Their man is not as messianic as they'd hoped, not the True Believer in the Cause that they believed they'd finally brought to permanent power.

This speech was aimed squarely at restoring the base's confidence. Obama, Plouffe and Company are smart enough to know that the super-rich don't have enough wealth to tax the budget back into balance. They know that no matter what you do to the tax code, you can't squeeze more than about 19% of GDP from the citizens' bank accounts. They know that the problem is not revenue but spending. They can read the numbers as well as the rest of us.

But they know that their best--and probably only--ticket to re-election is class warfare. Ignoring questions of what happens macro-economically when the government takes a bigger chunk out of the economy, ignoring the historic truth that reducing tax rates tends to increase tax revenue, they play the "fairness" card to stir up the impressionable masses--those who without such stirring up cling to their guns and religion--to vote against the fat cats and for the patrons of the middle class.

So never mind that means testing some federal entitlements would actually de-fund welfare for the rich. Thou shalt not turn Medicare into a sliding-scale subsidy for private insurance, even though presently it's only poor seniors who don't supplement Medicare's torpid benefits with supplemental insurance. Thou shalt not even discuss Social Security, even though without means testing it's nothing more than a transfer of wealth from young, less-well-off workers to older, more-well off former workers.

Three years out, it's still all George W. Bush's fault, which is why BHO in the end supported extending the so-called Bush tax cuts, we suppose.

But this is all that Jackson's party has to give to its base. With a bankrupt ideology and a bankrupt fisc, you tell the fairy tale one more time.

By the way, judging by the enthusiasm that this speech without substance has elicited from the most dependably partisan of Democratic pundits, it probably succeeded in doing what it aimed to do.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Budget Deal: Winners and Losers

If there's a political assessment to be made of the just-passed budget deal, it seems to be a consensus assessment: the Rs won, the Ds lost, and BHO lost most.

WaPo's Jennifer Rubin sums it up nicely: Boehner kept his party together and kept getting more from the Dems, while the White House stayed on the sidelines. Paul Ryan's unveiling the Big Picture was timed to make the present squabble look like peanuts, which elephants like, of course.

Worse, as WSJ notes (no link, gentle readers, as it's behind a pay wall), BHO angered his own caucus by entering the negotiations late, without a negotiating position or a bargaining chip, and all the while posturing as the only adult in Washington, labeling Congressional Dems as children along with the usual slander of Republicans. And Biden nearly spoiled the deal by talking to the press while things were still in motion. It's kinda Carteresque. Kinda, indeed!

Moreover, polls show what anyone who follows the media would expect: the public would've blamed Rs more than Ds if the government "shut down." That's the lingering effect of two generations' characterization of the GOP as mean. It'll take more than a SWNIDish lifetime for such default settings to be altered, if they ever are.

For all the beating that Boehner took when he ascended to the Speaker's chair, he's off to a very nice start. Meanwhile, his predecessor continues to posture as if she runs the show. And the President continues to make the 2012 election look competitive.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Consolidating WI

Despite early reports of electoral closeness, the crucial Wisconsin Supreme Court election is clearly in the conservative column. A clerical error had led to significant underreporting of votes for the incumbent Justice Prosser from conservative Waukesha. The good guy now leads by several thousands.

It'll be delicious if organized labor spent a fortune to beat this guy and then lost, especially since they won't be able to collect their protection money through the force of government in WI and OH to recoup their losses.

It's the end of an era, gentle readers.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The GOP isn't serious about tackling the budget. They're just nibbling on the edges, like Public Broadcasting, to keep their base stirred up.

So we've heard it said. But it ought not be said any more.

The intrepid and indefatigable Paul Ryan has introduced for public consumption a budget that directly addresses the most essential problem of present governance. It's not just that it'll save $4-5 trillion (explanation: the number after which, we hope, Obama doesn't know what comes) in a decade-ish period. It's because of what even David Brooks says:

The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.

Since the late 1970s SWNID has been waiting for the triumph of Jack-Kemp conservatism. In Kemp's protege Paul Ryan, we may begin to see it take shape. At last, opportunity for all, help for the helpless, and at an affordable price!

Not that this is the parousia or something. But it's a sight better than what we've had since 1929.

Note well: as a citizen under the magic age of 55, SWNID has much to "lose" personally in this gambit. We say, bring it on! We're more than ready to trade our client relationship with the Federal Godfather for some responsible liberty, where people can live within their means and not use the ballot to beg for favors.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Once Again, The Silly Season Is Upon Us

In the UK, journalists refer to August as the "silly season." The reason is that European decision-makers vacation in August--along with all other Europeans except for junior staffers at the newspapers. Desperate for copy when no news is happening and no experienced writers are on duty, editors run anything they can to occupy space amongst the advertisements.

In religious journalism, however, the Easter/Passover season have become silly season. Desperate for stories with an angle on ancient Christianity and Judaism, they'll believe anything that an enterprising and compromising archaeologist will tell them.

Hence, in years past we've had the St. James ossuary, the Gospel of Judas, and the Jesus tomb all announced in this season, to much hoopla followed by deep disappointment. To wit: the ossuary is now widely viewed as a hoax, GJudas is widely viewed as useless for knowing the historical Jesus, and the Jesus tomb is widely viewed as a trick that a group of scholars played on themselves for a brief moment of notoriety.

This year, its the Lead Codex. Supposedly a very early Christian artifact, it was announced recently--even though it's apparently been in some "responsible" person's hands for awhile--though still not released for examination by the academic community. And though someone supposedly affirmed that its age was consistent with a first-century AD provenance, there's also plenty of reason to think it's a hoax.

To the observations noted in the article linked above, we'll add that there's no discernible reason why anyone would have taken the time to create the hodgepodge of stuff that's apparently in this thing--a mixture of sacred images and brief texts. It's not easy to create lead books, we assume, so why would an ancient have done so for no apparent reason except to cobble together some religious stuff for someone to dig up, which is not what an ancient would do but might be what a non-ancient would do.

Even if this sucker is something, it's not much. Near as one can tell from the partial and inflammatory descriptions in the press, all that this thing might indicate is that in the early years of the church, many Jews were followers of Jesus, and followers of Jesus believed that he died and arose in Jerusalem. Revolutionary stuff.

Moral: real scholars don't time their announcements for maximum press exposure or limit access to their materials. Corollary: individual archaeological discoveries don't overturn well established views of history.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sympathy for the Person We Call the Devil

Thoughtful Christian (how we wish that adjective could become redundant!) blogger Ed Stetzer is these days offering advice on Christians on how to criticize Christians. We think that the advice is critical.

Part 2 is what we recommend today, International Atheists Day. Stetzer sagely suggests that Christians ought to understand others' statements with sympathy, from their own point of view, before launching critique that is based on what a person's words could mean or might lead to or seem to suggest or such.

We are struck with the irony of all this. Christians rightly insist that to be understood, the Bible must be read sympathetically. We can't expect to understand it if we're looking for something to ridicule or reject at every turn. The effective reader has to enter into sympathy with the thing she's reading, suspending disbelief and all its adjuncts (indignity, anger, fear, ridicule, exaggeration, etc.) to have a shot at understanding what's being said.

But the same Christians who insist on that with a book that they regard as divinely inspired will apply a very different standard to a speaker or writer who no one regards as divinely inspired. So a quotation, excerpt, snippet, title, or some such thing, often passed along to them without a context, is enough to convict. This is, of course, a project destined to one and only one possible ending: a conclusion that condemns the person whose statement is read without the reader's suspending hostility and adopting sympathy--if only for the sake of argument.

In other words, we've got to stop interpreting other Christians like atheists interpret the Bible--jerking things out of context to find something to condemn.

Well, why do people do such things? We think they're afraid. Christians who do this are afraid that a false view might prove so persuasive that people will abandon their faith. So they erect great walls of condemnation to protect people whom they imagine are less thoughtful than themselves.

Atheists fear God--in an ironically twisted way.

Brothers and sisters, stop imitating fools.