|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
In response to the obscenity featured below, about 100 Christians and Jews rallied outside the Lovingway (sic) Pentacostal Church tonight. Among the speakers was Bill McCartney, founder of PromiseKeepers and former football coach at the University of Colorado. I suspect recruiting practices were a little different then.
9News was reporting that the church had changed the sign to something rather less offensive this evening. Ironically, every major Jewish leadership organization not only failed to support the rally, but put out a press release actively opposing it. This includes the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, responsible for helping to create the mess in the first place. The ADL has been AWOL for years on this stuff. They'd rather protest a movie they haven't seen, which may or may not be a problem, than show up to protest an actual sign that is an actual problem, that everyone can see. In the end, not only did people show up anyway, but the rally got results that a pallid press release from the "Colorado Council of Churches" could only hope to get.
Oy gevalt, as they say.
End-of-quarter projects in school, hours to bill at my day job, and deadline for a day school Purim project. And yet, the dog insists on both being walked and fed. Now I know why Lileks took a month off. But I have something today to post.
The Pentacostal Church on Colorado Blvd. and Mississippi has, in response to a film of current interest, posted a sign saying "The Jews Killed Our Lord Jesus. Settle." Now the sign doesn't say exactly what they're supposed to settle, but my guess is that "scores" and "accounts" are more likely than "differences." I am also informed by reader Dennis Heimbigner that the word wasn't "settle" but "settled," perhaps indicating that this was, in the Pastor's mind, "settled law," or something like that. It certainly changes the tenor, although not the substance, of the accusation. I have no idea what his position on the settlements is.
Jews and Christians have deep, indeed unbridgeable theological differences. This Alliance, including at least one atheist, works because we agree to disagree and not "immanentize the eschaton," as Bill Buckley would put it. The larger conservative tent works for the same reason. A great rabbi of the last generation, Rabbi Soloveitchik, (Solo-vay-chick, for you news anchors out there), understood that Jews and Christians can work together in civil society, but can't really have theological arguments, nor can we seek to excise parts of each others' religions. But it's hard to read this sign as anything other than an incitement to anti-Semitism.
Leaving aside the whole moneylender-moneychanger thing about settling accounts, this is pretty offensive. I was born just after Vatican II, so didn't get to enjoy the experience of being personally blamed for Easter. But there are church windows in Europe, voluminous writings, and millions of graves testifying to the frightening power of this canard over the centuries. Things had moved so far along that deeply religious Christian friends of mine didn't even know this had been taught. A Jewish character on the short-lived "Sportsnight" could go on a riff about how his family had driven the getaway car, and it was funny. Just the other day I was joking about how having a sign outside the JCC saying that "Pilates Is Here" might not be the best timing.
Thing is, this really is part of the past, and one suspects, not the future. There's going to be a rally tonight at the church, attended by Jews and Christians, calling on the Pastor to tear down that sign. Who knows, he might even show up himself, although I'm not sure you give a mike to a man with a sign. Evangelicals may believe that I'm going to convert at the End of Days, but the notion that my recalcitrance on this point is actually delaying God from acting is foreign to them. It's a excellent sign that so many of them now feel the need to defend their own faith from people like this, and from charges of Jew-hatred.
Please note: I'm not criticizing a film I haven't seen yet, but intend to, and in the company of those more qualified than I to understand its faithfulness to the gospels and its likely interpretation by religious Christians. I am, at this moment, completely, er, agnostic, on the subject of Mr. Gibson's film, but think that attacking it before seeing it is more than a little presumptuous. This discussion has nothing to do with "The Passion."
UPDATE:During lunch, I decided to go down to the church and snap a few pictures, lest the good Pastor back down and decide to erase the evidence. Sadly, some third party had already decided to do so, taking down the word "Jews" from both sides of the sign:
Trust me, the letters she had in her truck as she drove away were two each of "J," "E," "W," and "S." Cynthia McKinney's father would have been able to help. This was not the solution I would have voted for. This is the Canadian solution, shutting people up whom you don't like, rather than winning the argument in open debate. It's not exactly the Canadian solution, since she wasn't in a government truck, wielding a badge and threatening the Pastor with jail unless he replaced one "Jews" with "Juifs." But it's close enough.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Q: What's the Plural of Yenta?
Well, the Northern Virginia chapter, anyway.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Heaven forfend! No, I was just pointing out that the worst possible interpretation, the the Kerry Campaign was trying to conduct some sort of pre-election diplomacy, probably wasn't true. Even then, until Sen. Kerry comes up with some better explanation of why he slandered hundreds of thousands of his former comrades in uniform upon his return to the States, when they were still overseas, I wouldn't put anything like that past him. Certainly former Presidents Carter and Clinton have seen fit to conduct foreign policy without a mandate recently, so it's not as big a jump for an aspiring president to do so.
Still, the sins of the email are multiple. Aside from it being easily forseeable that such an email would find its way to the desk of a foreign government news service, it was sent there. While not quite while letting opposition research get its hands on your debate briefing book, it probably shouldn't inspire confidence in a President Kerry's handling of the intelligence services. It proposes the kind of policy that obviously gladdens the hearts of our enemies. It completely fails to understand what provides security for Americans living abroad. It does so by confusing popularity with respect, and by proposing the sort of internationalist submission that would have Saddam still palace-hopping, Libya still bomb-building.
Monday, February 09, 2004
On Thursday, Mr. Matt Hodes of the Carter Center will grace DU with his presence, to tell us about the Geneva Initiative. I'll bet he's for it. I can't promise a report from the scene, since class runs until 1, but we'll see...
According to the announcement, Mr. Hodes "maintain[s] readiness for potential negotiation interventions globally." I shudder to think what a Carter-led "intervention" would look like with respect to Israel. A bunch of Carterites in suits, parachuted in to the negotiations, all saying things like,
"You know you've got to dismantle all the settlements, Sharon."
Just as a test of self-control, I may go.
In more good news, business inventories were up in December. The key numbers:
One of the more misunderstood economic indicators is business inventories. Inventories rise and fall, but the proper interpretation of that number is completely context-dependent. Increasing inventories are good, if they're in response to increasing orders, and represent increasing orders of their own. They're bad if business orders are flat, and warehouses are filling up with unbought product. In this case, the represent rising confidence, so they're good.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Finally saw Big Fish last night. I know this is late, but there's a reason God gave us second-run theaters. The measure of most films is how long you think about them after you leave your seat. Tim Burton usually does this by creating a world you don't want to leave. Big Fish is the story of a son's attempt to find out the story of his dying father's life, a life shared only through tall tales and myths he's told. By the time the tall tales caught up to real time, I didn't want that world, half of Edward's world, to go away. Albert Finney as the old man makes you want them to be real. And when he finally dies, you find yourself believing.
Tom Friedman is at his smarmy worst again. His Feb. 5th column in the NY Times ("A Rude Awakening") betrays his ongoing, perverse sense of reality that is impossible to reconcile with the rather notorious facts on the ground. First, in decrying American abdication of a supposed responsibility to “forge, empower and legitimize a moderate center in . . . Palestine [sic],” he neglects an important distinction: The U.S. recently conquered Afghanistan and Iraq militarily, and is now in total control of the apparatus of state in both countries as a result. That's the most salient reason why the U.S. has a chance now to create a "moderate" counterbalance to the Islamist totalitarians in those countries.
In contrast, the U.S. does not enjoy any such advantage in the West Bank or Gaza. Nor, ironically, does Israel, having acceded much governing authority there to the corrupt, terror-supporting Palestinian Authority. If either the U.S. or Israel is to create a new, sanely moderate Palestinian leadership, the first step must be to roundly depose the old, murderous one: Yasser Arafat, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and their allied groups. Right now, no moderately minded Palestinian would dare come to the fore willingly, lest he be intimidated, exiled, or--what’s more likely--killed. Until the criminal terror leaders are no longer calling the shots—literally—and a pacified environment has been created and is maintained by a superior force, no moderate leadership cadre will be able to emerge.
Second, Friedman would have us believe that Ariel Sharon has a devious lock on Messrs. Bush and Cheney, and that Sharon is the tail wagging the dog of state as a result. Apart from gratuitously feeding old Arab canards about illicit Jewish control of the U.S. government, Friedman disserves us all by demonizing the Israeli leader. Sharon may in fact be proposing withdrawal from Gaza and relocation of settlements precisely because America won't let HIM do what by national right, Biblical mandate, and historical imperative Israel needs to do: Reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza completely, depose Arafat, Yassin, & Co., disband the PA, forcibly dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and disarm the entire Arab populace other than a small, uniformed civil police force. Contrary to Friedman’s slant, it is Sharon’s hands that are tied in dealing with the Palestinians, not Bush’s, given Israel’s profound and chronic reliance on American diplomatic support and largesse.
Friedman’s attempt to paint Sharon as responsible for Hamas ultimately coming to rule in Gaza and the West Bank in the event of an Israeli pullout is even more disingenuous. Amazingly, he accuses Sharon of “fail[ing] to lift a finger to empower more responsible Palestinians-like Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan,” thus “creat[ing] a power vacuum in Gaza and the West Bank, filled by Hamas, the Islamist militant group.” If Sharon has been disabled by American rules from forcibly ending Arafat’s control of the various militias and security agencies, what possibly could he have done to help Abbas and Dahlan assert more authority? How on earth can anyone empower “the moderates” when totalitarians have a protected rule of the roost?
If Friedman is honest about wanting to build a decent, moderate political center in the Gaza and the West Bank, he needs to stop bashing Sharon and start supporting him having a much freer hand. Simply put, the viciously atavistic, oligarchic autocracy now existing the territories has to be ended first--by a military campaign if necessary--before Israel can successfully cultivate Arab leaders who are prepared to develop a truly civil, humane, and democratic polity that will coexist peacefully alongside it.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Colorado Governor Owens was on Hugh Hewitt's show this afternoon, and did a fairly good job, although I think they spent a little too much time on the war, and perhaps not enough on issues closer to a governor's responsibilities. Certainly Governor Owens was happy to plug Colorado's contribution to the war effort.
Given a chance to talk about the rebounding economy, Owens didn't carry that forward to the ongoing debate on state fiscal policy, other than to note that he's a fiscal conservative. When Hugh was in Minnesota, he and Governor Pawlenty discussed at length the governor's support for drug re-importation. Next time, in addition to discussing the illegal immigration issue, I'd like to see Hugh go into that matter as well.
Although probably further depressing for the job market. Productivity increased at a 2.7% rate last quarter, while per unit labor costs declined at a rate of 1.3%. Productivity is probably the single most important determinant in standard of living. Per unit costs had been increasing through the recession, and began decreasing at the start of 2002, contributing to the recovery. Unfortunately, as long as workers are more productive, fewer of them are needed. Fortunately, these adjustments tend to make jobs more secure in the long run, too.
What's really funny are the "consensus" numbers. These numbers, for just about any market-moving stat, are important. The market will have, to some extent, figured these expectations into its prices already. Barron's lists the consensus productivity number at 3.0%, meaning that productivity increased just a little more slowly than expected. Likewise, "economists expected" per unit labor costs to rise at an annual rate of 0.2%, essentially flat. Their decline supposedly surprised the consensus.
But the consensus range is so broad, the analysts may as well have been playing darts in a pitch-black room with blindfolds on. They're lucky they didn't put someone's eye out, but it's hard to see what difference it would make if they had. The "consensus" ranges from 1.9% to 7.0% on productivity, and from -2.0% to 1.5% on labor costs. This is like saying that the Lakers will win the title, unless they don't.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad: 'Were There Not Forgiveness and Democracy in Syria, There Would be Harsher Measures Against the Opposition.'
From Egypt's official government daily. Jimmy Carter's proudest achievement. "We'd be moving towards a final solution," indeed.
Colorado's fiscal problem is a long-term issue that we need to address. Funny then, that the "non-partisan" Bell Policy Center focuses exclusively on the revenue side. Colorado has a board which must approve proposed constitutional changes, making sure that they only address a single issue.
The first proposal lets the legislature raise all kinds of money, as long as they don't call it a "tax," and the second is basically a sop to the public employees' unions. Either one may raise enough money to let the legislature avoid dealing with Amendment 23 and Gallagher altogether.
Yesterday, the city of Denver and the unions also moved to protect its prevailing wage law. applying to all city contracts over $2000:
Must have been that vaunted union efficiency that turned Detroit into a ghost town in the 70s and 80s. I haven't thought this one all the way through, and there may be some good reasons for it, but my first reaction is that it sure looks like a hidden tax.
While the Institute for Supply Managers non-manufacturing survey doesn't carry the weight of their manufacturing report, it still has good news for the month of January, with perhaps a hint of a warning of inflation. Pretty much all the measures of activity are over 50, indicating growth. New orders, employment, backlogs all continued to grow.
But as certain commodities became scarcer, their prices rose, too. Either new factories overseas will have to come on line immediately, given the long shipping times, or prices will rise to the point where domestic production will become profitable again.
George Will notes that the Republican competitiveness in the South, marking the party's emergence as a national party, began to rise with Eisenhower, not Goldwater or Nixon.
The legend is that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, pushed by two Democratic Presidents, finally forced the regnant Dixiecrats out of the party, into supported Wallace and eventually Nixon and Reagan. This is largely based on a possibly apocryphal story about Lyndon Johnson, signing those bills, remarking that he had "doomed the Democratic Party in the South for a generation."
Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia notes that Eisenhower was popular in the South long before the racial turmoil of the 60s.
Sen. Zell Miller knows what he's talking about. If the Democrats want to start winning again in the South, they need to stop chastising people there about "God, guns, and gays."
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
According to "With Eye on Scores, Schools Fight Over Gifted Kids," by Daniel Golden, public schools are competing over the test scores of gifted students. Not all schools have magnet programs for gifted students, so those that do have students passing state exams at higher rates. Those without gifted programs claim that's not fair, and that it puts their schools at a disadvantage. Some districts count the scores toward the school actually attended; some count them toward the students' base schools, although maybe that credit should go to the local water utility. Some just distribute the scores over the whole district.
I suppose the proper, governmental, bureaucratic response, the kind that so ably runs the schools as they are, would be to look at the effects on scores and funding, to answer that the base school class size is reduced, or that the who district pays for the magnet programs, or that the better students really are at the magnet schools, or...
First of all, the requirement is that all students pass. If 95% of gifted students pass, it doesn't change the number of other students who don't. So rather than wasting time arguing over who gets credit for the relatively small number of gifted students, shouldn't these schools be figuring out what to do about the 4th-graders they have who still can't find Colorado on a map?
Secondly, as a homeonwner, I'd like these numbers to be accurate. School quality is one of the biggest factors when choosing a neighborhood for a house. That just makes the case for incentives and markets. These ratings should be part of making the market informed. As a parent, it might be comforting to know that a school has a high pass rate. But what really counts is whether or not my child passes the tests. Then, if he doesn't, I need to have other options. The whole debate on bean-counting isn't serving the interests of helping parents make informed choices, because without uprooting and moving across town, most parents don't have a choice. It's serving a bureaucracy that's trying harder to protect itself than do its job.
Today's Wall Street Journal is just chock full of great stuff. It's all available online for a fee, but right now, I can't seem to connect to the wsj.com server, so I'll have to work from the print edition. As soon as I can connect, I'll post links from each of the postings.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
After 27 years, the trial of an accused abductor and murderer of an American Indian activist is about to get underway in Rapid City, S.D. Caught up the violent world of 70s left-wing radical "politics" and "activism," the woman was abducted from her home in Denver and eventually killed. So Arlo Looking Cloud is now Arlo Looking-At-20-to-Life. His accused accomplice, John Graham, "was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December and is free on bond. He has said he will fight extradition to the United States."
No kidding. I'd fight extradition, too, if the choice were between South Dakota justice and a system that, should you suggest homosexuality is frowned on by the Bible, will speedily remove your job, bank account, and liberty, but lets accused murderers free on bond.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is taking quite a bit of heat for his plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip of settlers. Yoni (for Knesset), on Hugh's show yesterday, said that it would be little short of a military disaster, all but eliminating Israel's ability to patrol Gaza, and inviting rocket attacks on Israel proper.
Certainly, Gaza settlements are seen as the least politically controversial in their own right. Gaza has never been part of historical Israel. According to Michael Oren's superb Six Days of War, Israel only took Gaza reluctantly in the first place, more or less by default as part of the campaign against Egypt. The settlements there have only attracted relatively few members, whereas the villages in the West Bank have been able to draw on a feeling of repopulating our historic homeland.
Polls seem to support the plan. While Yediot Achronot is a fairly left-wing paper, the Dahaf poll shows a 59-37 percent support for Sharon's overall plan. It's unlikely that even a poorly-done poll would be off by more than 5-10 points. The picture that Yoni painted of a country in shock just doesn't ring true, and people have had plenty of time to absorb the implications. Only a quarter said that the plan was an attempt to divert attention from the corruption investigation going on, another scenario posited by Yoni.
What if Sharon pulls back the settlers in order to give the army more flexibility in intervening in Gaza? Without having to defend a vulnerable civilian population, the army won't have to tie troops down defensively in a vulnerable spot, but could maintain a presence there, free to move about at will. There's no reason for the military to redeploy out of Gaza altogether, and no reason why it can't continue to blow up tunnels at Rafah, or move again Palestinian rocket or grenade launchers. On its face, I'm not really sure this is such a bad deal.
What is very disturbing is the notion that Israel is considering trading Israeli Arab land inside the Green Line for Jewish population centers in the West Bank. The Israeli Arabs, complain as they may about Israel and its treatment of them and the Palestinians, have shown no desire to trade democracy for dictatorship. Even floating this kind of proposal further alienates Israeli Arabs and plays into the hands of the very poor leadership they've elected recently.
Again, one wonders if this is actually a political ploy designed to get the Israeli Arabs back on board. Certainly, for Ahmed Tibi, erstwhile advisor to Arafat, even as he served in the Israeli government under Labor, propose that dictatorship is good enough for the West Bank Arabs, but not for him, is at least slightly disingenuous. Still, as large areas of the Galilee are Arab, there's no telling where the line ever gets drawn, and one hopes this is a discussion that stops before it ever gets started.
Monday, February 02, 2004
Nice morning. The kind that sneaks up you from behind with a bit of lead piping. In this case, with a bit of ice.
I'm walking the dog, I step off the curb onto apparently solid earth, and pretty much exactly this happens:
I will say that I'm sore. And I have a new appreciation for rugby.
The Rot at the BBC
Saturday morning, about 4000 BBC employees took out an ad in defense of their deposed former director general, Greg Dyke, chairman Gavyn Davies, and reporter Andrew Gilligan, whose reporting, shoddy at best, malicious at worst, brought about this whole mess.
Over 4000 BBC employees stood behind the decision to run a story that undermined a man's reputation to the point where he killed himself. It deliberately attacked the government's integrity, not just its accuracy, in the run-up to the Iraq War. As evidence dribbled out, the Beeb not only didn't question itself seriously, it became more shrill in defense of Mr. Gilligan. As the war developed, British soldiers and sailors turned off their own national network to watch FoxNews instead, so disgusted were they with the coverage their TV taxes were paying for.
When the Hutton Report convicted the BBC of the grossest violations of journalistic ethics, the Beeb as a whole rises to howl in protest. How the public is served by this deliberate, self-conscious propaganda is a mystery.
Bush Backs Down On Environment
I'm not sure most of these reversals are really that big a deal, but then they should have been defensible in the first place. It looks like the administration is holding the line on the most important common-sense revisions.
The New Source Review enforcement rules Sen. Edwards is so enamored of are probably the worst way to handle place emissions - effectively preventing improvements to old plants while drastically cutting emissions. Emissions permit-trading markets haved worked before, and there's no reason they shouldn't work now. If the administration decides not to make the case for them, they may never get implemented.
Fortunately, it looks like the Kyoto withdrawal has worked, giving sensible critics time to make their case against that misguided treaty. As more and more of the world admits it won't even try to make their targets, that treaty looks more and more dead. Still, never underestimate the "environmental" lobby's ability to turn a hot day (or in Al Gore's case, a record-cold day) into a case for more regulation.
Denver Police inspired by "CHiPS." Let's just be glad they hadn't been watching "Police Squad."
Sunday, February 01, 2004
What Would We Do Without Critics?
Critics: African-American Studies Have Leftist Slant - FoxNews Headline
I particularly like this quote:
Professor Lewis Glinert of Darmouth College writes in the Jerusalem Post of the importance of specfic words, and how particular terms both become politically charged, and then serve to frame the discussion. We've all noted with disgust NPR's reluctance to use the word "terrorist" to describe suicide murderers, and the Beeb's decision to call Saddam a "deposed President" rather than a "former dictator." Mr. Glinert notes that the cumulative effect of these decisions is real and powerful.
Sadly, Mr. Glinert is short on specific suggestions. And as long as the Big Three, as well as Time, Newsweek, and the major papers are given to this sort of Orwellian reworking of the language, it's hard to see how we can reintroduce any level of fairness to mainstream discourse.
Ain't That a Kick in the Head
I remember the Super Bowl as traditionally being a lousy game. And for about 20 years, most of them were. 55-10. 52-16. 38-9. But three of the last five have been terrific games, settled on the last play of the game, all seemingly destined for overtime.
Actually, this one would have gone into overtime if John Fox, a fine coach the whole year, hadn't tried to go for two two-point conversions. The Panthers' two failures cost them two points. And had they just kicked those points, by the time New England scored their last touchdown, the score would have been 27-24, giving them no reason to go for two. At that point, the score would have been 28-24, rather than 29-22. A Panther touchdown, and a New England field goal would have left the game tied, and heading into overtime.
Usually, it's dangerous to project out "what-ifs" because the game situation would have been substantially different. That's why we can't really tell what the effect of the two Vinatieri field goal misses early on would have been. But it seems to me that the game situation after each presumptive 1-point conversion would have been pretty much the same as after each failed two-pointer.
Still, after such a great game, complaining that it didn't go into overtime seems a little petty, doesn't it?