Oklahoma beats out Texas

My Sooners edged Texas in the BCS rankings to win the Big 12 South. They will play Missouri on Saturday for the conference championship and a likely spot in the national championship playoff game. The irony is that Texas dealt Oklahoma its one loss, though the Sooners are playing so well now that they crushed the one team that beat the Longhorns; namely, Texas Tech.

The Sooners won the computer calculations thanks to a 20-point win over nationally-ranked Oklahoma State. That was a hair-raising game and much closer than the score indicates. I admit this only after the BCS votes are in, just in case a BCS voter is reading. Last week I didn’t believe in computer rankings. This week I do.

If it’s any consolation to Texas, if Oklahoma loses to Missouri, the Longhorns could find themselves in the national championship game after all, despite having lost their conference.

Terrorists are back

At least two Americans–from here in Virginia–are among the 145 people killed in India by terrorists. In the attacks, which began just after 9:00 p.m. local time (the day before Thanksgiving for us), dozens of young men strode through the city firing their automatic weapons at crowds and then rendezvoused at hotels at the local Jewish center, where they took hostages. They sought specifically Americans and Britons. Indian commandos are still battling the terrorists.

Americans were killed because of their country. Those Virginians did nothing to those terrorists. Just being an American is enough to get you killed these days. We mourn all those killed, most of whom were Indians. The war on terrorism must continue.

UPDATE: Now that the dust has cleared and order has been restored, it turns out that there were nine gunmen who killed 172 people, six of them Americans.

We now have a Political Economy

Charles Krauthammer observes that we have shifted from a market-driven economy to a political-driven economy:

Today’s extreme stock market volatility is not just a symptom of fear — fear cannot account for days of wild market swings upward — but a reaction to meta-economic events: political decisions that have vast economic effects.

As economist Irwin Stelzer argues, we have gone from a market-driven economy to a politically driven economy. Consider seven days in November. On Tuesday, Nov. 18, Paulson broadly implies that he’s using only half the $700 billion bailout money. Having already spent most of his $350 billion, he’s going to leave the rest to his successor. The message received on Wall Street — I’m done, I’m gone.

Facing the prospect of two months of political limbo, the market craters. Led by the banks (whose balance sheets did not change between Tuesday and Wednesday), the market sees the largest two-day drop in the S&P since 1933, not a very good year.

The next day (Friday) at 3 p.m., word leaks of Timothy Geithner’s impending nomination as Treasury secretary. The mere suggestion of continuity — and continued authoritative intervention during the interregnum by the guy who’d been working hand in glove with Paulson all along — sends the Dow up 500 points in one hour.

Monday sees a 400-point increase, the biggest two-day (percentage) rise since 1987. Why? Three political events: Paulson’s weekend Citigroup bailout; the official rollout of Barack Obama’s economic team, Geithner and Larry Summers; and Paulson quietly walking back from his earlier de facto resignation by indicating that he would be ready to use the remaining $350 billion (with Team Obama input) over the next two months.

That undid the market swoon — and dramatically demonstrated how politically driven the economy has become.

Recalling the Monroe Doctrine

Russia is trying to rebuild its connections with left-leaning governments. Thus we have the visit of Russian President Medvedev and a Russian naval flotilla to the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. I wonder if the Russians are aware of The Monroe Doctrine, which forbids nations outside the Western hemisphere from starting colonies and establishing spheres of influence here. Or if the Russians are testing whether our new government will enforce that doctrine.

Special Thanksgiving edition

Have a grateful Thanksgiving! Usually, this blog takes major holidays off, but I am feeling unusually thankful this year and I have to express it. Our whole family is here. This is the FIRST time the clan with all of its members is all in one place, since it now includes a new member, the granddaughter who is only three months old. Not to mention yet another member who is here, but not born. We will also have some other guests: my Australian son-in-law’s mother visiting from down under, and my other daughter’s good friend who has just moved to the area. So I offer a special Thanksgiving edition of this blog.

I’m thankful for “Australia”

The negative reviews of the movie “Australia” are right. It is corny, idealized, and way over the top. But the positive reviews are also right. It is epic, shows magnificent scenery well photographed, and communicates some fascinating history. Even the negative reviews concede that it is quite entertaining.

If you insist on irony, complexity, and gritty realism, looking down on anything else, this movie is not for you. But if you want retro-Hollywood, magical realism, and an unusually satisfying cinematic experience, this movie is for you.

It was a movie for me, and not just because I’m an Australiaphile. It is an interesting combination of genres and conventions: the western, the epic, the romance, and the war movie. I got a big kick out of it, including the outlandish parts.

We watched the movie in two shifts so that the grandchildren could always be watched by a blood relative, and with each group accompanied by an actual Australian.

I’m thankful for Barack Obama. . .

that, judged from his actions as president elect and his appointments, that he may not be the radical leftist I feared him to be. I’m thankful that he is setting aside many of his campaign promises. That he is going to keep the Bush tax cuts after all. That he is going to keep Bush’s Secretary of Defense–who is doing such a good job waging the Iraq and Afghanistan wars–as part of his own cabinet. That his economics experts are all mainline establishment figures (though aren’t they to blame for the current mess?). I know Obama hasn’t even taken office yet, but I’m thinking maybe FW is right, that he is actually a conservative! That we are looking at Bush’s third term, though a Bush with good press and with public support!

I am thankful for other people’s vocations

Remember the part of the doctrine of vocation that stresses how God is present in vocation. That means that when people serve us, in the course of everyday life and everyday economics, God is serving us through them. We should be grateful to those–in farms and factories and stores and in the family kitchen–who make our Thanksgiving feast. And we should be grateful to God who is providing for us through them and for giving them to us. And God looms behind all of the other people and institutions that bless us.

Argument from thankfulness

I think philosophers should work out an argument for the existence of God based on thankfulness: that the feeling of gratitude for existence implies that there is Someone to feel grateful to.

One problem may be that many people today do NOT feel grateful for existence. They believe, quite illogically, that they are entitled to existence. Still. . .

Public prayer in Jesus name declared legal

A federal district court ruled that government officials in a government context can legally pray in the name of Jesus. Judge Richard Story, referring to the county situation at issue, made a useful distinction:

To be sure, many of these speakers, in offering their invocations, identify the deity to whom they direct their prayer. In that respect, they surely convey their alignment with one religious creed to the exclusion of others. But viewed cumulatively, given the diversity in the denominations and faiths represented, it is difficult to extrapolate from any one speaker’s affiliation a preference on the part of the Cobb County government.