Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

Wrong words

Imagine Reba Cobb's embarrassment. She is the second-ranking administrator of the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-a group opposed to the conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. At the CBF's annual meeting in Fort Worth last month, she preached a sermon titled "The Bent-Over Woman" at a women-in-ministry breakfast. A Southern Baptist journalist hours later confronted her, asking why she had preached a sermon that was almost word-for-word the same as one published in 1979 by United Church of Christ minister David Owen in Colorado. Unknown to her, books containing Rev. Owen's sermon were being sold in exhibit hall booths. Some Southern Baptist observers at the CBF meeting accused her of plagiarism. Ms. Cobb said she had no idea her sermon had been lifted from Rev. Owen. She said she had hired a freelance research assistant to produce a sermon for her. After learning of the problem, she said, she reprimanded the ghostwriter-whom she declined to identify. She also issued an apology. Other CBF leaders rallied to Ms. Cobb's defense. CBF moderator James Baucom, a Virginia pastor, said busy corporate executives commonly use research assistants to draft speeches. Ms. Cobb, he said, simply used the wrong one.

Bushwhacking business

At the root of America's economic problems is an entrepreneurship crisis, contends columnist Paul Craig Roberts. He reports that only an average of eight Initial Public Offerings have launched on the stock market per month over the last 18 months. "Where are the entrepreneurs?" he wonders. "What is holding them back? Are they deserting the United States because of class-action lawsuits, high taxes, regulatory restrictions, and global considerations? Are entrepreneurs stymied by the anti-business climate attributed to accounting scandals?" Mr. Roberts says a capital-gains tax cut is a must, but politicians fear a political backlash. But the issues at stake are too important to take recovery for granted. "An economic crisis would distract the U.S. government, weaken its influence abroad, and create a field day for terrorists, further shattering confidence and setting off a new downward spiral," the economist argues.

Regulating the regulators

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America's eyes may be on Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, but government corruption can be worse. Thomas Bray notes in The Wall Street Journal that an obscure new law may soon bring attention to federal shenanigans. The law, signed by President Clinton during the flurry of his last days in office, places quality controls on data generated by government agencies. Under the Federal Data Quality Act, policies based on false information could be examined or overturned. "Anybody affected by the subsequent regulations or activities of the agency would have the right to inspect the data and demand corrections," Mr. Bray reports. "Moreover, the act applies to the data that agencies already use. The impact could be huge; policy found to rest on inaccurate or misleading data could be suspended or overturned." Mr. Bray writes that the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, which drafted the bill, wants the White House to review an EPA study that claims global warming is caused by human activity.

Man knows not his time

Ted Williams, the last baseball player to hit better than .400 in a season, died this month at the age of 83. "There is no joy in Red Sox nation, aka New England, or in any heart where baseball matters," George Will reports in a column memorializing the star hitter. Mr. Will describes Mr. Williams as "an alloy of innocence and arrogance," an obsessive player who gave the local sports reporters lots to write about. "He used a postal scale to check that humidity had not added an ounce to the weight of his bats," he writes. "Challenged to find from among six bats the one that was half an ounce heavier than the others, he quickly did. He once returned to the maker a batch of his Louisville Sluggers because he sensed that the handles were not quite right. The handles were off by five-thousandths of an inch."

The revolution that wasn't

The Gingrich era continues its quick departure into history. Less than half of the famous "Class of '94" that swept into the house are running for reelection next year, reports Gail Russell Chaddock of The Christian Science Monitor. In 1994, 73 new faces ended decades of Democratic control in the House. But many have left due to term-limit promises, and others drifted away for other reasons. J.C. Watts, perhaps the star of the group, is retiring. "A number of them have become a part of the Washington establishment and no longer have the fervor for making these changes they did in 1994," Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation told the paper.

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