Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama lack of support in Kentucky: racism or liberalism/elitism?

An excellent point from a letter to the editor by Gregg Wagner to LEO...

following up on some stuff I'd written on Kentucky and voting by race...

Why was it that when George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry all lost the rural vote and income bracket under $60,000 in Kentucky, it was because these candidates where out of touch with rural Kentuckians? Now that Barack Obama loses the same rural vote, Kentucky is labeled uneducated and racist. Could it be that Obama is simply out of touch with rural Kentuckians the same way that McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry were?

And then, another nice point that's obvious but wasn't talked about much if at all...

Could it be that Clinton, her husband and daughter all campaigned harder in Kentucky for votes, and Obama made only one visit to Louisville? Many times if you fail to ask people for their vote, you will not get it. Kentucky is much more than Louisville.

trying to make a case for Hillary...

An increasingly familiar argument from a Clinton insider-- but still interesting to read-- from Lanny Davis in today's WSJ....

After the votes are in from Puerto Rico tomorrow and South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will be able to make a facts-based case that they represent a significant majority of grass-roots Democrats.

Chances are Sens. Obama and Clinton will virtually split the more than 4,400 delegates – including Florida and Michigan – elected by more than 34 million people over the past five months....[I]f Sen. Clinton wins a substantial victory in Puerto Rico tomorrow – with an expected record turnout exceeding two million voters – she could well end up with more popular votes than Sen. Obama, even if Michigan's primary votes are excluded.

Worst case, she could come out with a 2% deficit in elected pledged delegates. But that gap can be made up, if most of the remaining 200 or so unpledged superdelegates decide to support Sen. Clinton as the strongest candidate against John McCain – or if others committed to Sen. Obama decide to change their minds for the same reason....

The final argument for Hillary comes down to three points – with points one and two leading to the third.

First, Sen. Clinton is more experienced and qualified to be president than is Sen. Obama. This is not to say Sen. Obama cannot be a good, even great, president. I believe he can. But Sen. Clinton spent eight years in the White House. She was not a traditional first lady. She was involved in policy and debate on virtually every major domestic and foreign policy decision of the Clinton presidency, both "in" and "outside" the room with her husband. She has been a U.S. senator for eight years and has a record of legislative accomplishments, including as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With no disrespect or criticism intended, Sen. Obama has been an Illinois state senator for eight years and a U.S. senator for just four years. He has, understandably, fewer legislative accomplishments than Sen. Clinton. That's just a fact....

Second, Sen. Clinton's position on health care gives her an advantage over Sen. McCain. Her proposal for universally mandated health care based primarily on private insurance and individual choices is a stark contrast to Sen. McCain's total reliance on private market insurance, HMOs or emergency rooms for the 45 million or more uninsured. Sen. Obama's position, while laudable in its objective, does not mandate universal care and, arguably, won't challenge Sen. McCain as effectively as will Sen. Clinton's plan.

Despite the fact that Sen. Obama's campaign made the Iraq war a crucial issue in the Iowa caucuses and early primaries, there has never been a significant difference between his position and Sen. Clinton's....While he served in the Senate, he voted 84 out of 85 times the same as Sen. Clinton on Iraq-war related votes. The only exception is when he supported President Bush's position on the promotion of a general that Sen. Clinton opposed.

I see his first point, but don't see the second points (on health care or the war). I don't see her position on health care as a net advantage politically. And for better or worse, he's just wrong about people's perception of Obama vs. Clinton on foreign policy. Both Dems and Reps see significant differences between the two on Iraq, Iran, and a general approach to foreign affairs.

Third and finally, there is recent hard data showing that, at least at the present time, Sen. Clinton is a significantly stronger candidate against Sen. McCain among the general electorate (as distinguished from the more liberal Democratic primary and caucus electorate).

According to Gallup's May 12-25 tracking polling of 11,000 registered voters in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Sen. Clinton is running stronger against Sen. McCain in the 20 states where she can claim popular-vote victory in the primaries and caucuses. In contrast, Sen. Obama runs no better against Sen. McCain than does Sen. Clinton in the 28 states plus D.C. where he has prevailed. "On this basis," Gallup concludes: "Clinton appears to have the stronger chance of capitalizing on her primary strengths in the general election."

The 20 states, Gallup points out, not only encompass more than 60% of the nation's voters, but "represent more than 300 Electoral College votes while Obama's 28 states and the District of Columbia represent only 224 Electoral College votes." Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain in these 20 states by seven points (50%-43%), while Sens. Obama and McCain are pretty much tied. But in the 26 states plus D.C. that Sen. Obama carried in the primaries/caucuses, he and Sen. Clinton are both statistically tied with Sen. McCain (Clinton 45%-McCain 47%; Obama 45%-McCain 46%).

Gallup's state-by-state polling in seven key battleground "purple" states also shows Sen. Clinton winning cumulatively in these states by a six-point margin (49%-43%) over Sen. McCain, while Sen. Obama loses to Sen. McCain by three points – a net advantage of 9% for Sen. Clinton. These key seven states – constituting 105 electoral votes – are Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Arkansas, Florida and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama holds about an equal advantage over Sen. McCain in six important swing states that he carried in the primaries and caucuses – Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri. But these constitute less than half – 54 – of the electoral votes of the larger states in which Sen. Clinton is leading....

Finally, one unfortunate argument is making the rounds lately to convince superdelegates to go for Sen. Obama. That is the prediction that if Sen. Obama is not the nominee, African-American and other passionate Obama supporters will conclude that the nomination had been "stolen" and will walk out of the convention or stay at home. On the other side are the many women and others strongly committed to Sen. Clinton promising that if she is denied the nomination, they will refuse to vote for Sen. Obama.

That's been the Catch-22 for Democrats since this became a two-horse race, right? There's an interesting conflict here-- between the significant subset of African-Americans who are quite conspiratorial in their outlook (e.g., the one-third who believe the govt created AIDS to mess with blacks) vs. the self-imposed political bondage of most African-Americans to the Democratic party. If Obama does not come away with the nomination, it will be interesting to see how those two factors play out.

more on the GOP falling apart...

From Senator Tom Coburn-- one of the few fiscal conservatives in the Congress-- in the WSJ...

As congressional Republicans contemplate the prospect of an electoral disaster this November, much is being written about the supposed soul-searching in the Republican Party. A more accurate description of our state is paralysis and denial.

Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets. But the burning bush, so to speak, is delivering a blindingly simple message: Behave like Republicans.

Coburn is (surprisingly and sadly) wrong about one thing here. (And if he doesn't understand this, the future of the party is a shade darker than I thought.) The Republicans need to behave like "conservatives" (of one type or another)-- or better yet, like libertarians. More broadly, they need to have or act as if they have principles.

Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn't good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.

Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project and "compassionate conservatism." If the goal of the K Street Project was to earmark and fund raise our way to a filibuster-proof "governing" majority, the goal of "compassionate conservatism" was to spend our way to a governing majority.

The fruit of these efforts is not the hoped-for Republican governing majority, but the real prospect of a filibuster-proof Democrat majority in 2009. While the K Street Project decimated our brand as the party of reform and limited government, compassionate conservatism convinced the American people to elect the party that was truly skilled at activist government: the Democrats....

Regaining our brand is not about "messaging." It's about action. It's about courage. It's about priorities. Most of all, it's about being willing to give up our political careers so our grandkids don't have to grow up in a debtor's prison, or a world in which other nations can tell a weakened and bankrupt America where we can and can't defend liberty, pursue terrorists, or show compassion.


John McCain, for all his faults, is the one Republican candidate who can lead us through our wilderness. Mr. McCain is not running on a messianic platform or as a great healer of dysfunctional Republicans who refuse to help themselves. His humility is one of his great strengths. In his heart, he's a soldier who sees one more hill to charge, one more mission to complete.

Wow...I just don't see that. Here, Coburn is either amazingly prophetic or somehow confused or selling out by shilling for yet another mediocre big-government Republican.

you go, girl!

An inspiring and depressing story about politics, idealism, and civility-- from Katherine Rosman in the WSJ...

When Monica Conyers, president pro tem of Detroit's City Council, called the council president "Shrek" during an angry exchange at a hearing in April, one city resident found the remark immature.

"That's something a second-grader would do," says 13-year-old Keiara Bell.

During a panel discussion Ms. Conyers had with local schoolchildren two weeks after making the remark, Miss Bell admonished the 43-year-old Ms. Conyers for her behavior. The eighth-grader didn't back down when the councilwoman engaged her in debate.

Ms. Conyers was peppered with questions by Miss Bell, who said, "You're an adult. We have to look up to you. We're looking on TV and we're like, 'This is an adult calling another adult a Shrek?'"

Ms. Conyers is the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary. She declined to comment for this story, but her chief of staff, Linda Bernard, says Ms. Conyers believes she is "being targeted by the press" because "her husband was recently in New York City and is considering having hearings about police brutality."

In Miss Bell, Motown has found an unlikely folk hero: a child demanding that politicians exercise civility and restraint. Her parents, Marsha and Harry Bell, say they are proud of their daughter's poise and grit. "That's my baby," says Mrs. Bell in an interview. The mother of four sells candy in Detroit neighborhoods from the trunk of an old gray Cadillac.

The Detroit News, which convened the panel, posted video of the discussion online, and it has been viewed more than 107,000 times on YouTube....

Her battle cry comes as some of the city's most powerful officials are entangled in scandal. On March 24, Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick was indicted on charges of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice after text-message interchanges with an aide allegedly suggested he had lied under oath in a lawsuit against him and the city. The Detroit City Council voted last week to begin proceedings to remove the mayor from office. Chris Garrett, a spokesman for Mr. Kilpatrick's legal team, says the mayor "is confident that the full airing of all the facts in this case will result in his full and complete vindication."

Miss Bell, too, believes the mayor should go. "He refuses to stand up and be a man and apologize," she says....

A few weeks later, a Detroit News employee who is the daughter of a Courtis teacher contacted principal Walter Stokely about getting a panel of students to ask Ms. Conyers questions. The principal and a teacher took the students through a mock discussion to prepare. "I played Monica Conyers," says Mr. Stokely.

According to a video of the actual discussion, Ms. Conyers told Miss Bell that she found Mr. Cockrel's behavior disrespectful. Miss Bell said, "But you didn't have to call him a name."

"But now you're telling me what I should have and should not have done," said Ms. Conyers.

"You're an adult. You have that choice," said Miss Bell.

"I'm what?" said Ms. Conyers.

"You're an adult," said Miss Bell. "You had that choice....Sometimes people need to think before they act."...

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm honored...

From the LPIN...

Schansberg Wins National Recognition in Denver

DENVER, CO - Dr. Eric Schansberg, LPIN activist and candidate for the 9th District U.S. Congressional seat, was awarded the prestigious Thomas Paine Award at the Libertarian National Convention last weekend. The recognition is awarded to the person viewed as the nation's top libertarian communicator. Schansberg, an economics professor, is an author, guest columnist for Indiana Policy Review and oft-quoted presence in both Louisville regional press as well as national media. Past recipients of the award include popular libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne and motivational speaker Michael Cloud.

From Mark Rutherford's blog...

Schansberg Receives Thomas Paine Award

Last Saturday afternoon, at lunch during the Libertarian National Convention, it was announced that Eric Schansberg of Jeffersonville, Indiana is a recipient of the 2008 Thomas Paine Award. The award is presented to the Libertarian Party member who has been an outstanding communicator of Libertarian ideas, principles and values through written, published or spoken communications.

That's a heady crowd to join-- and this is a great honor!

Thanks to Mark for nominating me-- and to all those who have helped me in my efforts, most notably my campaign team (Melanie, John and Martina), the LPIN'ers (to name a few, Mark, Dan, and Todd), and Craig Ladwig with IPR.

Hopefully, we'll become even more effective at communicating Libertarian principles-- in my congressional campaign and beyond.

Kubby and Ruwart on Barr

What will the left-Libs do with the Barr candidacy?

An interesting question, given the divide in the Libertarian party and the nomination of Bob Barr at the national convention last weekend.

Kenn Gividen has already weighed in with his comments/concerns about Ruwart.

Whatever Ruwart decides, there's good news on this front from Steve Kubby.

Dear Friends, Activists and Fellow Libertarians,

I've just returned from the Libertarian National Convention, held this past week in Denver. I know a lot of people are stunned and some are still angry that Bob Barr won. Although I am exhausted, I wanted to get a message out about where we go from here.

Anti-Barr literature, buttons and posters were highly visible throughout the entire convention. Those who were opposed to Barr made it painfully clear to him how much they disliked him.

For my part, I have taken Barr to task on several occasions. I've blasted Barr for violating his oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution by shutting down the DC vote on medical marijuana -- a vote that the ACLU later found out through court action was a whopping 69% in support.

In fact, when I first met Barr, one of the first things I said to him was, "What should I tell all my friends and fellow activists who have suffered so terribly because of the laws you helped to write and fund?"

His response? "Tell them my conversion is sincere."

I've attacked Root as well, slamming him over his past comments about the threat of "Islamo-Fascism" and his promoting himself as "W.A.R."

Fortunately, I've had several opportunities to engage both men privately and to ask the tough questions, one on one. Their responses, their concerns and their integrity impressed me.

That's not to say that we still don't have our differences, but I can tell you that Barr and Root are sincere and effective spokesmen for reigning in the government, restoring our constitutional rights, allowing states to determine their own laws regarding drugs and for the full legalization of medical marijuana.

Although my good friend and long time party activist, Tom Knapp has been highly critical of Root, I have found Wayne to be one of the nicest, smartest, and honest human being I've ever known. After nearly two years of campaigning, we have developed enormous respect for each other and intend to be friends for life. I am just as impressed with his wonderful wife and family. In particular, I was blown away by the nomination speech, delivered live to a national audience, by his beautiful, brilliant, home-schooled, 16-year-old daughter, Dakota Root.

After their victory, the Barr campaign could have told their opponents not to let the door hit them in the ass on their way out and saved themselves a lot of future grief. Instead, we have seen a concerted effort by Barr and Root to unify the party.

More importantly, I now believe Barr and Root are the strongest pro-freedom ticket we've ever had and that, with your support, we can have an enormous impact this November. These men are smart, media savvy and determined to win. Considering that we are already in a perfect storm politically, with a record level of voter discontent, anything is possible. At the very least, John McCain is already being discussed in MSM as a likely loser in November, now that Barr has won the Libertarian Party's nomination.

Bob Barr and Wayne Root won their nomination fair and square. Now they are ready to carry the banner of liberty across the country and to provide a wide spectrum of voters with a clear choice this November. They deserve every ounce of support we can muster.

Let freedom grow,

Steve Kubby

Hill steps in it to commemorate Memorial Day

From the AP's Emily Veach, complaints about Baron Hill politicizing a Memorial Day event.

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill’s comments to a Memorial Day ceremony in southern Indiana’s Dubois County have upset members of a veterans group who feel they were too political.

Hill, a Democrat, told the Dubois County Veterans Council’s Memorial Day ceremony that President Bush planned to veto a GI Bill approved by Congress. He encouraged the crowd to ask the president to let the bill become law.

“I don’t want to make this political, but the president has said that he is going to veto this bill. For the life of me I don’t understand why,” Hill said in his speech. “And I hope that you’ll take the time, in honor of our veterans, to write to the president of the United States and ask him to change his mind.”

As the famous saying goes, "I don't want to do X, but..." usually means "I want to do X".

Ken Schuetter, secretary of the veteran’s council, said he was infuriated by Hill’s comments at the program in the city about 40 miles northeast of Evansville.

“It was not a political event. He made it political,” Schuetter said....

Schuetter said Hill’s staff asked for him to speak at the ceremony and that the group was considering a ban on politicians speaking at its events.

I can sympathize (at least in part) with Hill crossing a (perceived) line. When speaking in non-political settings, as a politician, it's not completely clear what's allowable, reasonable, or optimal in terms of political content.

That said, I would have been quite reluctant to speak on anything specific in a "memorial" setting. And it looks especially bad, since Hill invited himself to speak at the event.

Finally, I'm confused that Baron has enough time to politicize Memorial Day events, but not enough time to debate gas prices-- something he thought was so vital in May 2006 (when gas prices were $2.60/gallon).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Barry Welsh & Blue Indiana taking pokes at Baron Hill?!

In trying to take Mike Pence to task in gas prices, Blue Indiana and Barry Welsh are implicitly slamming Baron Hill for similar antics. Welcome aboard!

Baron Hill repeatedly demanded a debate on gas prices in May 2006 when they were about $2.60/gallon. Now, Baron wants no part of a debate on gas prices!

Bush III, Carter II, Nader, or Barr

Again, the title is not original but is worth passing along-- and in the case of the major party candidates, what a Catch-22 for voters! (Feel free to debate the two comparisons in the comments.)

Anyway, that seems to be the choice in November-- at least so far. The prospects for an "independent" candidate emerging seems increasingly remote.

Congratulations to Bob Barr on his victory at the National Libertarian convention last weekend-- and his entrance into the Presidential race!

There is a relatively fierce debate within the Party on the extent to which Barr deviates from Libertarian principles. Given his earlier political life as a "far right wing" Republican, he was more likely to become Libertarian on some issues (economic) while less so on others (social). I haven't studied his views-- past or present-- enough to contribute anything useful to this debate.

I would observe that there are Libertarian-left and Libertarian-right wings of the Party. To generalize, there are two major differences: 1.) pro-life vs. pro-choice (depending on "when life begins", one will be adamantly one or the other); and 2.) tendencies to see a somewhat more active role for the federal government in terms of national security and illegal immigration.

I would imagine that members of these wings hold different worldviews (e.g., relatively libertine or not in their own personal lives) and perhaps baggage from earlier political lives.

I'm going to take a bit of risk (given my lack of knowledge on this) and give my impressions of the major candidates who emerged in Denver. Gravel--Lib-left and Barr--Lib-right. Ruwart and Root seemed more centrist with the former leaning Lib-left and the latter leaning Lib-right.

Libs, as the most principled party which also attracts most-principled members, tend to go for "purer" candidates. Ruwart is a stalwart in the Party and has been amazing in her efforts to educate. As such, she should have won the race. And looking at the results and the campaign, she would have won-- except for publicity about two paragraphs on a controversial issue in one of her books.

Outside of that (what would have been a devastating perception), Ruwart would have been an excellent, winsome and persuasive candidate-- who probably would have had a relatively limited audience. Whatever Barr's philosophical limitations, and for better or worse, he will probably bring more exposure to the Party and more voters into the fold. Whether that will be a short-term or long-term impact, it's too early to tell.

One more reason that Campaign 2008 is so interesting!

two thoughts on the environment

These are not original but worth passing along...

A good bit of whatever global warming we've experienced is probably originating in Congress.

If we were to establish a wind farm in Congress, we could reduce our 34% dependence on imported energy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hill's hypocrisy on gas prices

From Daniel Suddeath's lead story in Saturday's (Jeff-NA) News-Tribune...

Schansberg challenges Hill to debate on gas prices

Gasoline prices nearing $4 a gallon in Southern Indiana are a big issue for Eric Schansberg, the Libertarian candidate for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Schansberg would like Democratic Party Rep. Baron Hill to address the prices is his bid for reelection, and he feels there is no better way to do it than in a debate.

“Voters deserve an explanation from Congressman Hill,” Schansberg said. “Baron thought this was an important issue in 2006. Surely he will want to address it now.”

Schansberg referred to the 2006 campaign when Hill challenged then incumbent Mike Sodrel, the Republican candidate for the 9th District seat, to a similar debate.

Schansberg said that like Sodrel in 2006, Hill apparently isn’t interested.

To add appropriate flavor to this, one should remember that Hill repeatedly demanded a debate from Sodrel in May 2006.

“He still has not returned our calls,” Schansberg said.

In a release from Katie Moreau, campaign spokeswoman for Hill, she stated the congressman is worried about acting on the problems, not debating them.

“There will be plenty of time for open and honest debates in the months to come. Right now, Baron is focused on legislative priorities, such as lowering the people of Southern Indiana’s property taxes and the price they are paying at the pump for gasoline,” Moreau said.

Talking with us through the press instead of returning our calls? Classy, huh? And again, in May 2006, Hill thought that debating was more important than acting. Why the change?

Schansberg does not expect the debate to take place, saying the gesture was more to show that Hill was being hypocritical on the issue.

“Two years ago he demanded a debate from Sodrel on this issue and now that the shoe’s on the other foot, he’s not going to want any part of this,” he said.

Why won't Hill debate me on this?
a.) his party supports a range of policies that reduce supply and thus, increase prices
b.) he supports profligate spending and debt, weakening the dollar, and driving up the price of imports including oil and gas
c.) he's a hypocrite
d.) it's the smart thing to do politically-- as an incumbent who has little to offer on this issue
e.) why would a politician want to debate an economist on an economics issue?
f.) all of the above

The correct answer: F. (Ironically, this is Hill's grade on fiscal conservatism from the NTU, CAGW, and Club for Growth.)

Sodrel’s campaign has been contacted about the debate and Schansberg said there has been some dialogue between the two camps, which was confirmed by a spokesman for Sodrel’s campaign.

Sodrel said he’s not sure how much good a forum just on gas prices would be.

“When Congressman Hill challenged me, I said a single-issue debate is not very useful and I still feel that way,” Sodrel said. “Would I participate? Sure. But I just think we ought to have a serious debate (on several issues).”

I appreciate Sodrel's consistency, although he missed an opportunity to expose Hill's hypocrisy.

In a release, Schansberg stated gas prices have increased 68 percent since Hill returned to Congress in November 2006.

“As an economist, I know that gas prices are determined by the market, and we all know that Democrats support a range of policies that restrict the supply of oil and gas, and thus keep prices higher,” Schansberg said.

On May 14, a bill co-sponsored by Hill to temporarily suspend filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the remainder of 2008 passed in the House. The Senate also passed the bill, and President George Bush announced Monday he would sign it into legislation, temporarily suspending filling the reserve for the next six months.

“People are really hurting,” Hill stated in a release. “Although this is certainly not the long-term answer to lowering gasoline prices, we should help people in the short term if we can. I believe we ought to be offering relief to folks.”

Reducing the SPR is fine, but it's exceptionally modest compared to other policies.

Sodrel said the key is to develop other sources of energy, but added that even if developed, Americans would not be able to rely on the additional sources for at least a generation.

In the meantime, Sodrel suggests capitalizing on existing U.S. oil sources.

“We’re also going to have to develop our natural gas and our crude oil sources in environmentally conscious ways,” he said.

Amen, brother...Preach it!

join me in reading Willard this summer?

After our DC graduation each summer, the Men's Ministry at Southeast offers a number of sections that discuss Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy. It is a thick book, but excellent and especially effective as an exit course from DC.

I'll be leading three sections, starting the week of June 2 for eight weeks:
-Monday AM, 6:15-7:30
-Monday PM, 7:00-8:15
-Wednesday AM, 6:15-7:30 (in Southern Indiana-- at the SE office behind Famous Dave's)
-Kurt will be leading one group at SE: Thursday AM, 6:15-7:30

Just show up with the book. We'd love to have you join us!

We're also offering two sections of a course I put together awhile back-- An Intro to Spiritual Disciplines. Those two start this week-- one on Tuesday evening (6:30-8:00) and one on Saturday morning (7:00-8:30)-- and go for 13 weeks. In there, you'll read Richard Foster's Celebration of the Disciplines (the classic how-to book), Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines (on why one does the disciplines), and John Ortberg's light overview, The Life You've Always Wanted.

That is, again, an excellent course-- and what we recommend as a warm-up course to enter DC.

We hope to see you there!

Kyle on Heaven

Southeast will have a special Wednesday night service at 7:00, with Kyle preaching on Heaven.

This will be used to set up wide range of small group studies based on Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. The women's ministry will be totally devoted to Alcorn's book. The men's ministry will offer a few classes on it (including a section where you would read the entire book)-- in addition to other "upper-level" courses (more in the next blog entry).

Alcorn's book is excellent. After reading it, my notes on Revelation 21-22 (the primary passage on Heaven) went from two weeks to five weeks of material.

If you've never visited Southeast &/or heard Kyle preach, this would an excellent opportunity (with less traffic)!

Vertigo's vivid music

From Jack Sullivan in the WSJ-- on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Hitchcock's classic movie, Vertigo...

[Vertigo photo]

The music for Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," which turned 50 this week, is widely regarded as the cinema's greatest score. The film itself, which tells the story of detective Scottie Ferguson's fear of heights and its terrible consequence in the deaths of a colleague and a woman who passionately loves him, was a dismal flop when it was released. But "Vertigo" has steadily gained in stature and is now heralded as a singular masterpiece, a daring meditation on obsession and loss. How important is its music? As Martin Scorsese says in the foreword to Dan Auilier's "Vertigo: The Making of a Classic" (St. Martin's, 1998), the "tragically beautiful score by Bernard Herrmann is absolutely essential to the spirit, the functioning, and the power of 'Vertigo.'"

Indeed, it is difficult to recall any movie more dependent on the seductiveness of its score. From the moment that Herrmann's three-note motif begins spiraling in the main title, plunging the listener into the cinema's most elegant nightmare, Scottie's obsession becomes ours. The violent sections alone -- the traumatic "vertigo" chord, the gruesome dissonance hurling James Stewart's Scottie into an open grave -- are shattering, but the sensuous lyricism of the love music is even more memorable. The hallmark of the score is Herrmann's ability to create spellbinding mystery through harmonic ambiguity -- the meandering cha-cha as Scottie drives after Kim Novak's Madeleine through San Francisco's twisting streets, the exquisite Spanish dance in the art museum, the eerie tone clusters in the sequoia forest. This is the closest that movie music comes to hypnosis, repealing forever the cliché that a movie score should stay discreetly in the background....

Before their explosive breakup over the score for 1966's "Torn Curtain," the collaboration of Hitchcock and Herrmann was the most fruitful in cinema history. Their personalities were strikingly different -- Hitchcock regal and controlling, Herrmann notoriously volatile and prone to tantrums. Nonetheless, the two had much in common: a dark vision of human relationships, an uncompromising professionalism, and a contempt for the Hollywood establishment matched by a longing for its approval.

By "Vertigo," their fourth collaboration, their working relationship had a productive give-and-take that transcended each man's stubborn independence. Hitchcock expressed strong ideas about the basic musical emotion for a given picture, then got out of the way. He invited Herrmann onto the set before shooting, asking which scenes should have music and adjusting timings accordingly (as in the terrifying rooftop opening). But he also provided detailed music and sound notes in advance, down to the precise clang of a bell at the conclusion of "Vertigo"'s graveyard scene.

In the first restaurant scene, where Scottie sees Madeleine for the first time and instantly falls for her, Hitchcock made clear in his notes that he preferred "a moment of silence, when Scottie feels the proximity of Madeleine." But Hitchcock finally went with Herrmann's decision to use "Madeleine's Theme," a piece of melancholy eroticism that haunts the rest of the picture. In Madeleine's long dressing scene, Hitchcock took out all sound save for the score and told Herrmann, "We'll just have the camera and you," allowing him 10 minutes of trembling lyricism unlike anything in cinema. From "Citizen Kane" through "Cape Fear" to "Taxi Driver," Herrmann dealt in romantic fantasy, loss, and the treachery of nostalgia, but only with Hitchcock was he given latitude to develop these themes with such Wagnerian intensity.

As with many risky masterpieces, this score almost didn't happen. Herrmann was given 10 weeks to complete this epic masterwork, which has enough musical ideas for three movies. Because of a musician's strike, he was kicked off the Hollywood podium at the last minute, and Hitchcock was forced to go to London to record the score. After completing the main title and 11 other sequences, the London players walked out in support of their American colleagues, and Hitchcock had to pack off to Vienna and deal with two more orchestras, the Vienna Film Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. Through all the multinational scurrying and legal wrangling, conductor Muir Mathieson, Herrmann's Scottish replacement, managed to lead unified, passionate readings with three different ensembles.

Too dark for the '50s, "Vertigo" was a box-office failure. No one wanted to see Jimmy Stewart break down and land in an asylum, and no one wanted to see Kim Novak, the love of his life, plummet twice to her death. Hitchcock yanked the movie out of circulation, but the music was popular from the beginning, keeping "Vertigo" alive even when it vanished from sight until the 1980s. I remember seeing the film when it opened in 1958 and being riveted by the Herrmann score, even though I was too young to really grasp the convoluted story; "North by Northwest" and "Psycho" followed in the next two years, and I was hooked on Hitchcock and Herrmann for life....

the best way to deal with Nigerian spammers

From Wired, a brief review of Delete This at your Peril: One Man's Hilarious Exchanges with Internet Spammers...

Author Bob Servant found a new way to deal with spam: write back, stringing the schemers along with financial promises in exchange for outlandish requests. From demanding that Nigerian 419 spammers provide compensation in the form of diamonds and live lions to courting a fake Russian bride with a real emu, Servant's communiqués may inspire you to come up with your own creative responses.


an astounding and ironic lack of freedom at the Jefferson Memorial

From Michael Ruane in the Washington Post (hat tip: Mark Rutherford)...

It is just before midnight at the Jefferson Memorial, and as the celebrants dance in honor of the founding father's birthday, wind whips across the Tidal Basin and spotlights gleam off the towering bronze statue in the echoing sanctum of the monument.

Suddenly, in a video and audio recording of the event, a shadow looms and a voice commands: "You gotta go. Leave. You're acting disorderly." (Here's the dancing and then, the arrest. Warning: salty language.)

"Why?" a voice asks. There is a commotion. Protest. Cursing. A woman, a former ambassador's daughter, is handcuffed, arrested and taken away. And within moments, an event that participants say was a simple libertarian celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday turns into a tense encounter between police and the public.

This was Saturday, and the face-off between the celebrants and the U.S. Park Police and private security guards has splashed across YouTube and the blogosphere. It has also prompted complaints about what some say is a trampling of the individual rights that Jefferson championed....

"They were dancing and just generally making a distraction, and the chamber is posted that you are to remain quiet so you don't disturb other visitors," said Sgt. Robert Lachance, a Park Police spokesman. "The chamber of the Jefferson Memorial is a restricted area for demonstrations or causing any kind of activity that could distract other visitors . . . [in order] to preserve a spirit of tranquility and reverence."

Jason Talley, 33, of Crystal City, whose recording of the incident quickly landed on YouTube, denied that the group was being disorderly. He said the late hour was picked to avoid disturbing others: "We were there to celebrate Thomas Jefferson and his ideas. We were not prepared for a police action."

The arrested woman was identified as Mary Oberwetter, 28, of the District, the daughter of James C. Oberwetter, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a longtime friend of the Bush family's. She was charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with agency functions and released....

Talley said the group gathered at the memorial just before midnight. His video shows the inner chamber of the memorial with about 20 people dancing and talking with each other. A security guard soon appears, insisting that the group leave....

the science (and business) of enhancing beauty

From the AP's Dan Sewell (hat tip: C-J)...

Jim Schwartz remembers feeling a little bewildered when he started his job developing beauty care products at Procter & Gamble Co.

Schwartz, fresh off earning his doctorate in chemistry, wondered about the scores of researchers working on Ivory soap:

"I thought, what in the world are all these people doing here? It's a bar of soap, for crying out loud!"

Two decades later, he explains: Researchers must decide the right mix of materials that go into a new beauty product; make sure it feels, smells, looks right and has added personal benefits without ill effects; and determine whether it can be made affordably on a huge scale.

"That deceptively simple product sitting on store shelves has years and years and thousands of person-hours that went into making it work well," Schwartz said.

In an increasingly competitive business, a growing army of scientists focuses on years-long projects to study the hows and whys of human hair, faces and skin, and what nutrients, moisturizers and even genetics affect them. Their results can mean the next big thing to meet growing demand for products that can help people look better and younger.

P&G has nearly doubled its beauty research staff, to 2,000, in the last seven years. Beauty sales, which include such brands as Pantene and Head & Shoulders shampoos and Olay skin care, more than doubled this decade, to $23 billion last year....

diminished returns (to a college education)

As an investment, college is over-rated in one sense and under-rated in another.

College education is under-rated in that its typical rate-of-return is quite high. But it is over-rated in that it is often pursued haphazardly (as one of the premier middle-class reflexes) or by imagining that a college education, in and of itself, will guarantee greater success. This is a none-too-surprising result of govt subsidies for college tuition; if something is subsidized, it will be used "too much"/inefficiently.

Two recent articles shed some related light on this topic: from Marty Nemko in the Chronicle of Higher Education (hat tip: Melanie Hughes) and from Janie Cheaney in World...

First, from Nemko...

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education....

Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.

Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years.

Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections....

This is what Labor economists refer to as the signal value of education-- in helping the market distinguish between those who can and cannot jump through the hoop of a college education. This is still valuable for employers and employees, but taken to an extreme, it would imply that education serves no purpose in building up "human capital".

College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it. It's crucial that they evenhandedly weigh the pros and cons of college versus the aforementioned alternatives. The quality of their lives may depend on that choice.

Then, from Cheaney...

Two cycles converge this spring: the quadrennial general election campaign and the annual college rush. Desperate high-school seniors are pulling together last-minute applications or anxiously awaiting the letter that opens the pearly gates to the institution of their choice; meanwhile candidates are promising more funds to help more young people realize their higher-education dreams. And more funds are necessary. Average costs (tuition, room and board) at nonprofit private colleges have risen 81 percent since 1994 (to well over $30,000 per year). The costs at public universities are a much lower investment—around $6,000—but still a healthy chunk of change.

The vast majority of students receive some kind of aid: scholarships, grants, work-study, even laptop computers. Still it may be worthwhile, before constructing this particular tower (see Luke 14:28) to count the cost. Is graduating with a $100,000 student loan a promising way to start a career—especially if entry-level jobs in your field are paying $30,000 per year? And if your fiancée carries a similar burden with prospects little better?

Charles Miller, an investment strategist and former chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents, is one of many who are airing their doubts in public. In a letter to the College Board last April, Miller challenges the common assertion that "college is worth a million dollars" over the years in individual earning power. That claim, he says, is based on flawed assumptions, such as failing to adjust for inflation, factoring in advanced degrees, and assuming that students finish a four-year degree in only four years (when less than half actually do). The College Board naturally disagrees with Miller; for one thing, its periodically updated "Education Pays" report doesn't tout that million-dollar figure. But yes, they insist: In time, an individual's earning power rises with every year of college completed....

There are, or should be, good reasons for going to college—like preparation for life and a professional career. But many young people without professional goals could get their life preparation elsewhere, like travel, apprenticeship, or volunteer work. As a mere rite of passage, or a way station between adolescence and responsibility, college is probably not the best use of one's money.

None of this is meant to discourage young people from their dreams. But the once-solid link between higher education and higher income is rusting away while nontraditional opportunities are blossoming. It might be wise to give alternatives a second look.

taxpayers bailing out bad investments

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

You may not know it, dear reader, but Congress is playing you for a sap. During the housing mania, you didn't lend money at teaser rates to borrowers who couldn't pay, or buy a bigger house than you could afford. You paid your bills on time. As a reward for that good judgment and restraint, Barney Frank is now going to let you bail out the least responsible bankers and borrowers.

The Massachusetts Democrat's housing bill passed the House Thursday, and it makes us wish we had splurged like so many others. In the name of helping strapped home buyers, Mr. Frank is giving lenders a chance to pass their worst paper onto Uncle Sugar. If both borrower and lender agree to participate, lenders can accept 85% of the current appraised mortgage value and in return get to dump up to $300 billion of those loans on the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Guess which loans they are likely to dump?

Looking at the details in Mr. Frank's 45-page first draft of this bill, FIS Applied Analytics estimated that taxpayer losses could reach as high as $27 billion, more than four times Mr. Frank's estimate. The next draft, clocking in at 72 pages when it passed Mr. Frank's committee, was miraculously scored by the Congressional Budget Office at "only" a $2.7 billion cost to taxpayers.

CBO lowballed it in part because it assumed that most people eligible for this assistance will not apply for it. It is true that some lenders may be wary of taking a 15% haircut off the top, but watch out if bankers and borrowers do take the taxpayers up on Mr. Frank's offer. This is especially likely because at the same time that Mr. Frank touts the lowball estimate, he is also making mortgage servicers an offer they can't refuse....

In a sop to builders, Mr. Frank also expands the low-income housing tax credit, and he creates a new refundable credit for certain home buyers....

Then there is the $230 million for housing counseling to be distributed by the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. You might think that all of this money will simply be disbursed to left-wing activists in the nonprofit world. But at least $35 million is specifically earmarked for lawyers, who can then pursue foreclosure-related litigation. Now there's a way to help housing markets clear....

We can only imagine what else is buried in this tome, which deserves a Presidential veto. But the worst problem remains its invitation for bankers to dump their biggest losers on taxpayers. The Frank plan appears to take care of everyone in the housing market, except the renters and homeowners who lived within their means.

more from Arthur Brooks

Excerpts from a book review in the WSJ by Dave Shiflett (hat tip: Linda Christiansen) and Susan Olasky's interview with Brooks in World-- of Brooks' new book, Gross National Happiness.

I had already excerpted a review of his earlier book from Books & Culture (Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism) and an article based on this newer book in the WSJ--

First, the book review...

The advice will sound familiar: Get a job, get married, go to church and don't listen to wild-eyed utopians. In such a way, it is said, you will find your portion of happiness. To this list of imperatives Arthur C. Brooks would add one other: Avoid this summer's Democratic National Convention.

In "Gross National Happiness," Mr. Brooks has assembled an array of statistics to measure the mood of America's citizens and to discover the reasons they feel as they do. Most often he cites polls that ask for self-described happiness levels, matching up the answers with various beliefs, habits, life choices or experiences....

At the end of the day, Mr. Brooks notes, "political conservatives take the happiness prize hands down." Those who identify themselves as conservative or very conservative, he says, are twice as likely to say that they're very happy as those who identify themselves as liberal or very liberal. What explains the rightists' relative bliss? It seems that a conservative political disposition exists alongside other happy habits of being.

Mr. Brooks points especially to Holy Matrimony, with an emphasis on the Holy. Citing 2004 data, he writes that conservatives are twice as likely to go to church or temple once a week than liberals and that "two-thirds of conservatives are married versus only a third of liberals." Married conservatives, he says, are "more than three times likely to say they're very happy than single liberals to say they are very happy."

And though conservative religious people are often regarded as sexless puritans, they turn out to have 80% more kids than secular liberals, and their children tend to be religious, meaning that they'll probably further populate the Earth with more religious, right-leaning monogamists. This kind of news tends to cause secularists to feel very unhappy and increasingly outnumbered....

And what about Mr. Brooks himself? Is he one of those sunny, hymn-singing types who are so hard to take at neighborhood picnics? He tells us that he is a Roman Catholic, though not of the ultramontane variety; he generally considers himself to be an "ebullient grouch." He says that he doesn't know whether faith produces happiness or happiness makes people want to practice their faith. The categories are "mutually reinforcing."...

He challenges those partial to tales about long-suffering Wal-Mart workers and surly burger flippers to rethink their victimology creed. The woe is not nearly as widespread as rumored: 89% of Americans who work more than 10 hours a week are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs while only 11% are not very satisfied or not at all satisfied. Most surprisingly, Mr. Brooks writes, there "is no difference at all in job satisfaction between those with below-average and above-average incomes."...

"Gross National Happiness" ends with a list of policy suggestions: Government should aim for economic opportunity, not income equality; it should not penalize marriage with tax policies; and it should resist excessive security measures (think of the screening process at airports), which inhibit freedom and increase unhappiness....

Now, here's the interview...

WORLD: Your book is full of fascinating poll data about whether people rate themselves as "very happy," "very unhappy," or somewhere in between—but why should we take such self-analysis seriously? Don't we lie to ourselves?

BROOKS: Amazing as it sounds, this kind of survey data is accurate and reliable. Researchers have compared anonymous self-assessments of happiness with other kinds of tests, from interviewing family members to asking people other types of questions that tend to be correlated with happiness. For example, I might ask your wife whether you are as happy as you say, and also see whether it is easier for you to think up happy words or sad words. Some researchers even look at the brain activity of people who say they are happy. What researchers find is that most people answer happiness questions about themselves honestly, and we assess it in ourselves in more or less the same way.

WORLD: OK—assuming the right definition of happiness and informative stats, what tends to make Americans happy?

BROOKS: There are three basic things that make people happy: meaning in their lives, control over their environment, and success in creating value in the world. And the way people get these things is not with money or power or fame—it is with their values....

WORLD: You examine "the politics of happiness" in chapter 1 and come to some conclusions about liberals and conservatives that would surprise our academic colleagues who stereotype conservatives as emotionally rigid, insecure, and angry.

BROOKS: I look at strange data results all day, but the evidence on liberals and conservatives surprised even me. People who say they are conservative or very conservative are nearly twice as likely to say they are "very happy," than are people who call themselves liberal or very liberal. Conservatives are much less likely to say they are dissatisfied with themselves, that they are inclined to feel like a failure, or to be pessimistic about their futures. A 2007 survey even found that 58 percent of Republicans rated their mental health as "excellent," versus just 38 percent of Democrats.

WORLD: The title of chapter 2, which concerns religion, is "Happiness is a gift from above." What do you mean by that?

BROOKS: Faith is an incredible predictor—and cause—of happiness. Religious people of all faiths are much, much happier than secularists, on average. In 2004, 43 percent of those who attended a house of worship at least once a week said they were "very happy" with their lives, versus 23 percent of those who attended seldom or never. The connection between faith and happiness holds regardless of one's particular religion. One major 2000 survey revealed that observant Christians and Jews, along with members of a great many other religious traditions were all far more likely than secularists to say they were happy.

WORLD: Later you ask, "Does money buy happiness?" and arrive at some conclusions based on U.S. data but also comparisons between people in France and Mexico.

BROOKS: It probably isn't too surprising to learn that money does not buy happiness. This is true as long as people are above the level of basic subsistence, which is true of virtually 100 percent of Americans. That's one reason why America's astounding economic prosperity, which is a wonderful thing and something I believe we should be deeply grateful for, hasn't raised our happiness levels much over the past decades, on average. It also explains why a country like Mexico, which is a lot poorer than, say, France, can also be happier: In Mexico, 63 percent of adults said they were very happy or completely happy. In France, only 35 percent gave one of these responses.

WORLD: What is the relationship between economic inequality and unhappiness?

BROOKS: We hear from a lot of politicians these days that income inequality makes us unhappy. This is not correct. What makes people unhappy is the belief that they do not have opportunities to get ahead in life. What they often complain about, however, is income inequality....

WORLD: According to your chapter on "the secret to buying happiness," is it better to give or receive?

BROOKS: As a researcher, I always go where the data lead me. But I will confess to rejoicing a little every time I find that the data back up the Scriptures. Such is the case for charity. It is abundantly clear that when people give to others, they get happier, healthier, and even more financially prosperous. The scientific evidence detailed in the book is quite incredible, showing that people can create miraculous changes in their lives when they give....

WORLD: Theologian Francis Schaeffer criticized Christians who make "personal peace and affluence" their goal. Keeping in mind the lives of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul, what kind of happiness should be our goal?

BROOKS: I can't stress enough that according to all the evidence, shooting for affluence or material comforts as a source of happiness is an error. As we see in the life and teachings of Christ and the prophets, happiness comes from an exercise of our good values, including a focus on service to others. Proper values are what bring a happy, well-ordered life. These things also bring prosperity. But to try to get personal happiness from material affluence is like trying to build a tall skyscraper by starting with the top floor.

McD's is "lovin' it"-- their profits, that is...

From The American, news that Morgan Spurlock's nightmare continues apace...

Four years after the release of “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock’s popular anti-McDonald’s film, the fast food giant is going gangbusters. In January, CEO Jim Skinner affirmed that McDonald’s plans to return between $15 billion and $17 billion to its shareholders from 2007 to 2009. That same month, as Reuters reported, CFO Pete Bensen “reiterated the company’s forecast for capital spending of about $2 billion in 2008.” Its first quarter sales were strong across the globe.

Ironically, in the years immediately before “Super Size Me,” McDonald’s appeared to be in bad shape. In January 2003 it posted its first quarterly loss since becoming a publicly traded company. But over the past half decade McDonald’s has rebounded tremendously, thanks to its breakfast offerings, menu innovations, savvy marketing, and longer hours.

And then, a very cool point:

From a business perspective, we’d suggest that critics of the Golden Arches remember a point made recently by columnist George Will: “McDonald’s exemplifies the role of small businesses in Americans’ upward mobility. The company is largely a confederation of small businesses: 85 percent of its U.S. restaurants—average annual sales, $2.2 million—are owned by franchisees. McDonald’s has made more millionaires, and especially black and Hispanic millionaires, than any other economic entity ever, anywhere.”

jousting over Islamophobia within Islam

In their March issue, Harpers had blurbed excerpts from Mark Steyn's book, America Alone, as they had appeared in Maclean's Magazine.

Steyn had a terrific (and funny/sad) response in the most recent issue by illustrating where the potentially offensive quotes had come from within Islam.

He opens with this: "Alas, because careless statements about Islam can be injurious to one's life expectancy, I wondered if you might publish the following clarifications..."

liking Obama and respecting McCain

A seemingly useful insight from Paul Bedard in U.S. News & World Report...

This election is starting to look like a tragic play, one where the heart fights the brain. Polls show that voters are passionate about Sen. Barack Obama. Even 23-year-old Meghan McCain thinks he's "cute." But when they consider where the candidates stand on the political spectrum, voters find themselves closer to Sen. John McCain. The latest evidence comes to us from the Winston Group, which just asked voters where they stand ideologically compared with Obama, the Democrat, and Republican McCain.

Winston Group Senior Vice President Myra Miller says most voters see themselves as center-right. On a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being very liberal, 5 moderate, and 9 very conservative, the average voter is at 5.85. Miller says voters put McCain just to their right, at 5.94. And Obama is off to the left at 4.1.

So is it a lock for McCain? Well, yes, no—and maybe. "Because they are ideologically closer to McCain, voters will be more inclined to hear what he has to say and be open to his ideas, presenting McCain with a structural advantage toward building a center-right majority coalition," says Miller. However, she adds, "it is not a given that voters will vote for a candidate that they are closer to ideologically. Voters still want to hear ideas and what a candidate is going to do, especially in this environment." So keep on talking, guys.

Florida Democrats for school choice

From the WSJ editorialists, the title of their piece on Florida's Democrats new-found religion on school choice...

When Florida passed a law in 2001 creating the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program for underprivileged students, all but one Democrat in the state legislature voted against it. Earlier this month, lawmakers extended the program – this time with the help of a full third of Democrats in the Legislature, including 13 of 25 members of the state's black caucus and every member of the Hispanic caucus. What changed?

Our guess is that low-income parents in Florida have gotten a taste of the same school choice privileges that middle- and upper-income families have always enjoyed. And they've found they like this new educational freedom. Under the scholarship program, which is means-tested, companies get a 100% tax credit for donations to state-approved nonprofits that provide private-school vouchers for low-income families.

The program already serves some 20,000 students. The expansion will allow it to assist an additional 6,000. It's no surprise that poor families would embrace educational options, given that their government-assigned schools are clearly failing their children. The high school graduation rate for black students in Florida is 45% overall, 38% for black males. The 52% graduation rate for Hispanics is also nothing to brag about.

What's encouraging is that these parents have managed to convey their pro-choice sentiments to their representatives, who are responding even though voucher programs infuriate powerful liberal special interest groups like the teachers unions. Given that 70% of the program participants are black or Hispanic, you'd think Democrats would be taking the lead on a measure that mostly benefits their traditional constituency. Apparently they needed a little prodding, but we're glad to see they did the right thing.

Philosophically, Democrats are the most natural vessel for such reforms-- if they can get beyond their allegiance to teachers unions.

Practically, Democrats have led many of the reform efforts-- starting with Polly Williams and Mayor John Norquist with the initial voucher case in Milwaukee.

Unfortunately, that's not nearly always the case-- and ironically, wealthy Democratic politicians practice choice for their own kids while denying it to others.

Maybe things will continue to improve, politically, in this vital area.

improving on Dilbert?

From Susan Olasky in World...

Dilbert comic strip creator
Scott Adams is inviting readers to make up their own punch lines to his cartoons. Here's how Adams explained the new feature on his blog: "Write your own punch lines for Dilbert strips—just type them right into the panel—and email them to friends! . . . Starting today, mocking the idiots in your workplace is a competitive sport! This is going to be fun.

the right to "discriminate"

From World...

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that an evangelical-owned wedding photography business violated state discrimination laws when its co-owner declined to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple. The commission ordered Elane Photography to pay $6,600 to cover the legal fees the same-sex couple incurred in filing its complaint.

Though the sum may be small, the principle at stake is large enough to draw an appeal from the Alliance Defense Fund, which will challenge the ruling in state district court. ADF senior counsel Jordan Lorence told WORLD that the current ruling ignores First Amendment protections for religious practice and free speech: "This is compelled speech. You cannot use non-discrimination laws to force private groups or individuals to support a message they don't agree with."

the age of accountability (or not)

From Dave Coverley in Speed Bump...

weiner philosophy of life

From Dave Coverley in Speed Bump...

conservatives, liberals, and dynamic analysis of both Iraq and tax rates

OK, that's a mouthful of a blog entry title, but I couldn't think of anything clever.

An observation:

Conservatives are (correctly) quick to criticize a static analysis of tax cuts. For example, if taxable activity is $100 billion and the tax rate drops from 15% to 10%, a static analysis would predict a decrease in govt revenues from $15 billion to $10 billion.

But any budding young economist (or anyone with a lick of sense) knows that the incentives have changed. Since the activity is being taxed at a lower rate, the incentive to engage in the activity increases. Depending on the activity's "elasticity", behavior will increase modestly, moderately, or quite a bit. So, decent analysis would take the dynamic reaction into account-- and if possible, provide a solid estimate of the behavioral changes one would expect from a change in policy.

But when it comes to Iraq, some conservatives are loathe to do dynamic analysis-- particularly with respect to the probability that opposition in general and suicide terrorism in particular will increase in response to our on-going efforts in Iraq. They assume a (largely) fixed number of terrorists who we happen to be fighting in Iraq-- with little or no concern about our ability to create new terrorists.

Robert Pape explores this theory-- and in studying the data, finds a significant dynamic impact.

Ignoring dynamics is bad analysis and can easily lead to bad policy-- whether in our tax code or our foreign policy.

welfare for Iraqi mercenaries and American farmers

This month's Harpers reports that 91,600 Iraqis were paid NOT to fight by the American government. (They cite Multi-National Force-- the official website of Operation Iraqi Freedom-- although I cannot find it there.)

Is that better or worse or just different than the EWG data which tells us that the American government paid 517K farmers NOT to farm in 2005 (a total of $1.8 billion).

Your taxpayer dollars at work......uhhh, or not at work.

a few thoughts on the coverage of Obama, Kentucky and race

While I have no doubt that there are racists and even bigots in Kentucky (of various races), I've been dismayed at the reduction of class and race issues to race only-- and the exclusive focus on whites rather than a broader focus on whites and blacks.

To note...

-Obama made things more difficult-- both for himself and any attempt to answer "the racial question"-- with his class-based comments about (implicitly white) rural folk clinging to their guns and religion. Imagine if Clinton were to make comments about urban folk who cling to their gospel music and AIDS conspiracy theories.

-Especially after those comments, there are clearly class-based reasons to oppose Obama-- in addition to whatever racism motivated voters. Beyond this, there are good policy, experience, and character reasons to oppose Obama-- even among only Democratic voters.

-In a sense, it goes without saying, but the overwhelming African-American support for Obama seems to be race-based and yet, it is a non-issue.

-In a word, to conflate class and race is unnecessary and unfortunate.

This reminds me of a story. Tonia and I were in a Christian trans-racial discussion group. And there was an African-American college student who was really attracted to racial explanations of various social phenomena. I asked her whether she could relate more easily to an African-American from the hood or a white college student. She didn't want to answer. But when I came back to the same question, she hesitated and then said the latter. The bottom line-- for her and, I think, for many people-- is that class differences are more important than race differences.

In any case, I'm glad that the "race question" allows the media to shine the light on some forms of racism. But to focus on one type of racism and to conflate race and class is unfortunate.

go Mull and Lewis!

From the Ben Zion Hershberg in the C-J, news that Jeremy Mull and David Lewis will be competing with two others to replace Judge Daniel Donahue as a Clark County Circuit Judge.

The other two may well be fine candidates, but I have personal experience with Mull and Lewis and am excited that they're both in the field.

Jeremy was in our Sunday night Bible study years ago-- and you can gain a sense of his character by looking at his current job. If it's the same David Lewis, he was the lawyer who finalized our two adoptions in Clark Co. court.

As Clark County Circuit Court held a retirement party yesterday for Judge Daniel Donahue, Gov. Mitch Daniels' office was considering which of two young Republican lawyers to appoint to serve the rest of Donahue's term.

At least two Democratic candidates also were making plans for a party caucus next month that will nominate a candidate to run against the governor's appointee in November.

"An appointment is expected next week," said Jane Jankowski, Daniels' press secretary.

Floyd County Deputy Prosecutor Abe Navarro, 36, and Jeremy Mull, 34, a former Clark County deputy prosecutor now working in Afghanistan for a State Department contractor, have applied for the job, Jankowski said, and Daniels is expected to choose one of them.

Donahue will depart next Thursday after more than two decades on the bench.

David Buskill, the Clark County Republican chairman, said he has been contacted by the governor's office about the opening and recommended Navarro, who was a coordinator of Daniels' 2004 campaign in Floyd County and helped in Clark County.

Buskill said he admires Navarro's broad legal knowledge and warm personality. "He's a really good candidate," Buskill said.

He said he doesn't know Mull. But those who do think highly of him.

"I would recommend him for any position in the law," said Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart, a Democrat who employed Mull as a deputy prosecutor for 7½ years.

Mull has a good legal mind and the temperament to be a judge, said Stewart, who recalled that Mull completed law school at Indiana University in Bloomington in only two years rather than the customary three.

Donahue also thinks highly of Mull, saying during a brief interview at his retirement party that he "is an excellent young attorney."

Donahue said he doesn't know Navarro that well.

Navarro said becoming a judge "has been a goal of mine since law school, even before."

He has worked 5½ years as a deputy for Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, a Republican. He received his law degree from the Vermont School of Law in 2001, served as an intern one summer with the Vermont Supreme Court and was a law clerk for Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne for the 2001-2002 term.

Navarro, a native of the Philippines, said he moved to Indianapolis in 1972, where he grew up. He lives in Jeffersonville with his wife and stepdaughter.

Mull couldn't be reached for comment. According to information he submitted to the governor's office, he is the State Department's police-prosecution coordinator for Afghanistan in Kabul.

Buskill said he expects the county Republican Party to name the governor's appointee as its nominee for the general election.

Rod Pate, the Clark County Democratic chairman, said lawyers David Lewis and Dan Moore have told him they will run at the party's June 17 caucus for the nomination.

Lewis, 57, is a former county commissioner and ran for circuit judge 22 years ago, losing to Donahue. Lewis said he believes his broad legal experience has prepared him for the post.

Moore, 55, the Clark County attorney, came in fourth in the May 6 Democratic primary for judge of Superior Court 2. He said he has ideas for improving court efficiency and access, including Saturday and night hours, and consolidating cases involving one defendant.

the literary character formerly known as Prince (Caspian)

From Megan Basham in World, an interesting article on the latest movie from the Narnia series and decisions by the director to make changes to the story as he crafted the movie.

When producer Mark Johnson, director Andrew Adamson, and the rest of the team responsible for bringing C.S. Lewis' classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia, to the big screen last met with journalists, talk centered mostly on how closely the film version of the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, mirrored the book. Anxious to assure the novel's legions of fans that Disney's version of that story would not include any of the strange interpretations other studios had considered over the years, the filmmakers maintained an insistent, if sincere talking point in front of the press: We have remained as faithful as possible to the original.

The biggest reason they gave for their fealty to Lewis' work was pure affection for it. And certainly it's impossible to believe that anyone familiar with the adventures of Narnia wouldn't love them. But it probably also helped that two other major fantasy franchises—The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter—had made a mint by sticking painstakingly close to their source material.

By following their lead Disney went on to reap similar rewards. Fans turned out, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe grossed $745 million in its worldwide theatrical release. Given these kinds of earnings, few would expect Johnson, Adamson, and company to alter their game plan for the rest of the books.

And yet, at the May 3 prescreening for Prince Caspian, the filmmakers weren't highlighting how well this movie duplicates Lewis' novel as much as explaining why it departs from it.

"With The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe we were really careful about not making any changes," says Johnson. "Because it was so revered by so many people, you sort of got the sense that if you tampered with it you would be putting it at great risk. And I think that we kept the integrity of the book so much that the number one thing people would say to me about it was, 'I loved the fact that it was so close to the book.'"

However, when it came to adapting Caspian, which opens in theaters nationwide May 16, Johnson says that kind of scene-for-scene adaptation was impossible: "When we first went back and read this book, we all thought it was going to be really tough. Not that it wasn't filmable, but we did wonder, 'How are we going to tackle this one?' We weren't even sure if there was a complete movie there and we toyed with the idea of combining Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader like the BBC did a few years back."

Eventually they abandoned that idea and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, along with director Andrew Adamson, were tasked with finding a way to overcome the greatest hurdle the novel presented—its retrospective format.

Explains McFeely: "Structurally the book does not lend itself to becoming a movie, so we couldn't just transcribe it. Essentially the novel goes like this: The four Pevensie siblings return to Narnia, and they meet a dwarf named Trumpkin who tells them a 50-page flashback they're not involved in about a kid they've never met or heard of named Prince Caspian. And then when Trumpkin's finished telling the story they go, 'Oh it sounds like he's in trouble. We ought to go and help.' Well that just wouldn't work visually. So one of the first things we did when we started working on the script was agree that the action would have to start much earlier."

Not only does the action start earlier, but it occurs much more often than it did in the book. Battle plans that were only considered in the novel are carried out in the film, leading many critics, and McFeely himself, to note that Caspian presents a somewhat "darker" Narnia. Darker, yet also more emotionally moving.

But the differences between Lewis' Caspian and Disney's go far beyond reordering events, amping up the action, or trimming the story to fit it into a two-hour format. Entirely new plot lines are introduced and two primary characters are significantly altered. One of these alterations could actually make the story more meaningful to Christian audiences. The other will likely have some fans questioning whether the filmmakers respect Lewis' vision as much as they claim.

Readers may remember that when eldest sister Susan Pevensie was given her gift of bow and arrows by Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she was instructed not to use them for battle. The pronouncement wasn't an anti-war sentiment, but rather one of gender defining—the old bearded man went on to tell Susan that war is an ugly thing when women are involved. In Lewis' world, queens were not meant for combat.

In the first film Adamson neatly sidestepped this issue by having Father Christmas tell Susan not to use her bow in combat because all war is ugly. In Caspian, the line between the Susan of the book and that of the movie is a bit more stark. Whereas she was "Susan the gentle" in print, on screen she is a warrior princess, leading the charge and commanding men (or at least male Narnians) on the battlefield.

Asked about his decision to deviate from Lewis' description, Adamson doesn't equivocate: "When the issue of Susan not participating in the fight for Narnia was introduced in the first film, I rejected it then. I was like, 'Well, if she's just gonna make sandwiches then give her a plate and a knife.' It's something that I don't agree with so I wasn't going to make a movie like that."

But Adamson doesn't necessarily feel that his depiction of Susan does Lewis' work a disservice. "You have to remember," he argues, "these books were written in a different time and place by somebody who I think evolved in his views over the years. By the time he wrote The Horse and His Boy, he had a very strong female character. But in the beginning of his stories, although Lucy was strong as a character, the women didn't tend to be assertive."

Adamson said he had long discussions with Doug Gresham (Lewis' stepson and one of the film's co-producers) about it: "Because when you start going away from an author's viewpoint, you do wonder, 'Is this the correct thing to do?' And the way I justified it to him was that I think C.S. Lewis evolved after meeting his mother, and that's why you start to see stronger female characters in his later books."

Markus adds that he believes Anna Popplewell's strength as a performer would have made a Susan who sits on the sidelines feel inauthentic: "In Anna you have an actress with such authority, that person is not sitting back and going, OK, you guys fight."

Whether they meant to or not, the filmmakers' other major shift away from Lewis' depiction of a character could cause many Christian moviegoers to find stronger spiritual connections with the film. Rather than happily arriving in Narnia and turning over his kingship to Prince Caspian, Peter Pevensie struggles with his own pride and control. His unwillingness to yield to Aslan's plan for his life results in dire consequences for loved ones around him.

Peter's internal struggle isn't part of the novel, but Adamson says his idea for it grew out of the situation Lewis created for Peter. "One of the things I wondered about when I read the book initially was how Peter would respond to being a king and then having to go back and do homework. He's not going to adjust well to that," laughs Adamson. "So I thought that Peter coming back to Narnia might mean a chance to prove himself, to reassert himself again. He wouldn't really want Aslan's help because that would mean that he needed help. And he wanted to prove that he was the High King."

While working on the script, Christopher Markus saw the same potential for conflict with Peter. "I don't know about theological themes," he says, "but I know that as a character Peter would be dealing with pride. He'd be asking himself, who am I and how do I prove it? And that raises a huge failing on his part. And we really wanted to give him a failing because he can come across [in the books] as sort of stiffly heroic. So we really wanted to test his mettle and break him a little bit so that we could build him back up into a real person."

The themes resonated strongly enough that William Mosely, the young actor playing Peter, seemed to pick up on them readily. "I think my character learns a very important lesson about humility," Mosely says. "He learns that leadership at the end of the day is about serving other people—serving a place or a country and not serving yourself. And Peter had to reinstate his trust in Aslan to learn that lesson."

In fact, Johnson feels that changing the character of Peter allowed them to stay more true to the heart and spirit of the novels than if they had filmed the oldest brother as written. "Much more so than an event or dialogue, the themes are the most important thing to maintain," Johnson says, "so we had to continually ask: What is this movie about? If the first one was about discovering faith, then this one was about losing faith and regaining it. And with the character of Peter and what his hubris does, I think we captured that."

About how Lewis' millions of fans—particularly his Christian fans—will react to the other differences between the film and the book, Johnson says he isn't worried. "I don't think we necessarily have the same strengths we did in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I think we make up for that with other characters."

He also says that while he hasn't worried about offending Lewis fans, he does want to make sure their expectations are met: "We've been very aware of the readership. And I hope that now the audience trusts us a little more. I think with the first one it was like, 'OK show me—will you be true to what I remember with these books?' And I think people by and large emphatically said yes. So I think that's why we felt a little comfortable with making some changes. But we are very much aware of what these books have meant to so many people and we want to stay true to each one of them."