Saturday, March 21, 2009
In a tribute to Janis Joplin at the 2005 Grammys, Joss Stone and, in one of the most exciting entrances and performances in televised rock and roll history, Melissa Etheridge
It makes me regret every unkind thing I ever wrote or said. You have to wonder about the affect it has on those who do it for a living. Also, "MSN Entertainment" isn't much of a byline. You want to trash someone, you should at least attach your name to it.
During President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the China in 1972, Mao Zedung apparently couldn't believe that U.S. policymakers had taken his "anti-imperialist" propaganda to heart. Henry Kissinger writes: "[Mao] laughed uproariously at the implication that anyone might be taking seriously a slogan which had been scrawled for decades on placards and on the walls of public buildings all over China." In Iran, the cult of anti-Americanism has inspired government-sanctioned murals that depict the United States as a wretched country, and the phrase "death to America" ("marg bar emrika") is still something of a national political slogan.Interesting. Unless, of course, Iran really means it.
Once upon a time, American liberals loved to hate foreign-policy realists. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger - the uber-realists of their day - were the betes noires of the left. In the liberal view, stability and Realpolitik were the source of everything wrong with U.S. foreign policy.Why would Holmes think RN would be upset by this development? After all, it was he who went to China, dramatically improved relations with the Soviet Union, ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and balanced our unstinting support for Israel with a new acceptance of the legitimate interests of its neighbors. If RN were rolling over in his grave because President Obama is being tempted to make friendly gestures toward our current antagonists such as Iran, it would presumably be because Holmes and the Heritage Foundation feel that tough old 37 would think 44 was too soft. That's ironic, since at the time, the Goldwater/Reaganites who would soon found Heritage -- as well as their own tactical partners, the nascent neocons -- all feared that it was the vigilantly anti-communist Nixon who had gone soft. Pentagon hawks were so worried that they were actually spying on him.
No more. In an ideological shift that should make Mr. Nixon turn over in his grave, liberal internationalism is making peace with its erstwhile intellectual enemy, the tradition of realism in U.S. foreign policy. Liberals and realists are joining hands to forge a new vision of American leadership that President Obama may be tempted to embrace.
Holmes sees a coalition forming between liberals (who would've been interventionists in the Kennedy era but now think America's world-changing days are behind her) and Brent Scowcroft-style realists intent on making sure the U.S. doesn't overextend itself on moralistic or otherwise misguided adventures such as Iraq.
Holmes is hopeful that Obama will find a Nixonian middle way:
He seems to sense a need to impose some limits on the inherent pessimism of the new liberal-realist fusion. A vision of America riding off into the sunset of geopolitical decline does not square with his message of hope and change. Americans may not want the U.S. to be the world's policeman, but they also still believe their country has a transformative role to play in the world.Of course that was precisely Richard Nixon's view and legacy. It is good that the heirs of his often mistrustful conservative friends have come to appreciate it.
On the president and her wardrobe:“He’s always asking: ‘Is that new? I haven’t seen that before.’ It’s like, Why don’t you mind your own business? Solve world hunger. Get out of my closet.”
It is not clear whether the spasm of anger set off by news of the bonuses paid to A.I.G. executives was a one-week affair or a sign of a larger political shift driven by a sense that American-style capitalism in the last several decades has become fundamentally unfair.What is reporter Jeff Zeleny getting at? If "the last several decades" means three or four, then he's suggesting that the fundamental unfairness of capitalism had been rampant since 1) 1969, when the stock market was in the doldrums or 2) 1979, when American capitalism was languishing at the end of the Carter administration.
Or maybe his "several" stands for "two or three," thus bracketing in the Reagan era, when income disparities between the rich and poor became more pronounced and Oliver Stone provided Gordon Gecko as a convenient archetype for rapacious business practices. If so, beyond the fact that everyone just kind of knows and thinks that about the Reagan and Clinton years, does Zeleny have anything more to go on? At the same time, more and more Americans got their own stake on Wall Street through pension funds and individual investing. Millions are reeling now from the loss of value in portfolios that they might not have owned several decades ago. Is that part of the fundamental unfairness, too?
What about Zeleny's "it is not clear"? Does it mean he had an authoritative source who injected the possibility of a sea change in people's attitudes about their economic system into a conversation but asked not to be quoted or described? Does it mean that he really tried to see if there's any polling on shifting attitudes toward capitalism but couldn't track anything down in time? Does it mean that he didn't try but definitely thinks there's something in the wind based on what his family, friends, and colleagues say and stuff like that? Or does it mean, "I sure hope so, so let me see if I can shoehorn it into this story"?
Friday, March 20, 2009
[T]he dangers of leaving Afghanistan altogether are great. With Pakistan pushing militants across the border into Afghanistan, security conditions in Afghanistan declining dramatically, and predictions for rising violence in 2009, it is naive to think simply because there are competing priorities on the world's stage that the United States can turn its attention and resources from this strategically critical region.
President Obama has seemingly embraced the Af-Pak struggle as "his" war, much like the Iraq War was President Bush's main foreign policy focus. Now is no time to turn our heads from the conflict, just as the United States appears poised to devote the resources to the country that the Bush administration should have.
And so while it is important...to insist on cost estimates and a strategic rationale, we cannot risk allowing the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven to return to Afghanistan and Pakistan's wild border regions.
Emanuel started the [Obama stimulus] bill not with an our-way-or-the-highway proposal but with broad outlines and a dollar figure -- letting Congress take ownership of the details.Would that include details such as the AIG bonuses? So now we know that neither the White House nor members of Congress read the bill. Talk about blinkered leadership.
Gooch lays out the evidence from O'Connor's letters and essays for her belief that [deeply troubled novel protagonists] Motes and Tarwater were truly touched by God, but he also cites the opinion of the novelist John Hawkes, a friend and correspondent of O'Connor's, "that hers was a 'black,' even 'diabolical,' authorial voice." O'Connor assured Hawkes it wasn't so, but, dubious as it may be to question the word of a virtual saint, the books appear lit by a fire from below that bespeaks not the terrible speed of mercy but the terrible slowness with which the tormented soul is consumed. O'Connor died at 39. To judge from her fiction, she had likely had all she could take.
The pattern of manufacturing and trade ominously recalls how the financial crisis of 1929 grew into the Great Depression: tightening credit and consumer fear reduced demand for manufactured goods in one country after another, creating a downward spiral that reduced global trade.
[In Taiwan. the] United States has retained a valuable ally in a key geo-strategic part of the world. Taiwan may lack broad diplomatic recognition but nonetheless plays an important economic -- and thus political -- role internationally. And the PRC has been able to maintain its claim of sovereignty over this large island that it never conquered, while at the same time having the advantage of trade and investment.
All the ire surrounding AIG right now is about the bonuses. But frankly I’m more worried about the $1.6 TRILLION of assets that AIG needs to liquidate from their financial products division. Mismanagement there could easily cost the taxpayers $100 billion or more. And I am worried about their formerly profitable property and casualty as well as life insurance divisions. Taxpayers have invested $80 billion in AIG. We will never get it all back. And we will almost certainly put in more. But any hope of getting any of it back requires the sale of those “good” divisions. But they are sinking fast.
Hat tip to John Barr
Americans are justifiably furious about the $165 million in bonuses paid at AIG. But what if, instead of subsidizing only incompetence, AIG had also sent billions of your tax dollars to people who'd laundered money for terrorist states, helped Americans cheat on their taxes and banked for the Nazis?
Well, it did. Earlier this week, AIG revealed that it had paid $5 billion of its bailout money to the Swiss bank UBS.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Nixon's "Six Crises" similarly stopped short of Watergate by only covering events until 1960.Six Crises stopped short of Watergate because it was published in 1962. It also stopped short of Vietnam and the breakup of the Beatles. Watergate got a third of the space in RN's post-Presidential memoir.
I could just stand up here and say "Let's just get everybody together, let's get unified." Maybe I've just lived a little long, but I have no illusions at how hard this is going to be."That was Secretary of State Clinton during the 2008 campaign.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The bishops' pastoral letter called the church to repentance for failure to address the sorry state of national and international economic and environmental crises.
The letter cited "unparalleled corporate greed and irresponsibility, predatory lending practices, and rampant consumerism (that) have amplified domestic and global economic justice" and raised a specter of fear in the United States and the world. It also took to task a tendency "to ignore the Gospel imperative of self-sacrifice and generosity, as we scramble for self-preservation in a culture of scarcity."
"We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest and that of our Communion—to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad," the letter continued. Examples of that suffering included ongoing wars and human and natural disasters that destroy the land.
Bishops also chided the church for failures "to speak a compelling word of commitment to economic justice. We have often failed to speak truth to power, to name the greed and consumerism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values."
Around a quarter of the world's population speaks just three languages: Mandarin, English and Spanish. But out of the 6,700 of the world's identified languages, nearly 2,500 are deemed at risk according to UNESCO, the UN's cultural body.
Having a church next door is good.
During our all-school Holy Eucharist service this morning, celebrated in thanksgiving for Cyril of Jerusalem, who in the 4th century stood up courageously for the orthodox faith in spite of people's lies and self-dealing, 800 students, faculty, and staff nearly raised the roof with their energy. That's the St. John's middle school choir under the direction of Lori Speciale, rehearsing my favorite hymn ("Come Down, O Love Divine") before the service.
By 10:30, the students were back in class and the altar cleared, enabling silence to gather again. Our church is less than six years old. While that's a lot of praying, proclaiming, and singing so far, the space still feels new. During the week on this busy campus, when morning chapels are over, it calls out to be visited and used. The candles and prie-diex, recently installed in the Chrysostom Chapel by our Altar Guild, are a considerable blessing. It's easier being in an empty church when there's something to do -- light a candle, kneel, say a prayer, or read a little scripture, such as this bit from Isaiah, appointed by the church for use at midday, when the sun is high and unblinking, the tensions of the day perhaps at their greatest:
O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. [26:3; 30:15]
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
PRESIDENTIAL VOTE 2000: Gore 53-42 2008: Obama 61-37
U.S. SENATE 2005: 2D 2009: 2D
U.S. HOUSE 2005: 33D-20 2009: 34D-19
STATE HOUSE 2005: 48D-32 2009: 51D-29
STATE SENATE 2005: 25D-15 2009: 26D-14
In the state that has always the nation's leading indicator of social trends, recent Democratic dominance has been based on the same coalition of urban liberals, suburban social moderates, and minorities that elected Barack Obama last fall. After a few wipeouts, the GOP learned how to survive in that environment and nominated Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose politics would make him a Democrat in most non-coastal states. With the voting population getting less white by the day, there's probably no turning back for California Republicans, though conservatives keep trying. The decision by six GOP lawmakers to side with the Democratic majority in the state Legislature and pass a state budget containing tax increases brought demands for censure from the party's conservative base. State chairman Ron Nehring urged conservatives to cool off and concentrate on growing the party instead. In 2010, when Arnold is termed out, expect eBay exec Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- both suburban, business-oriented, moderate millionaires -- to fight for the Republican gubernatorial nod.
Memorable quote: "We have to get out of the doldrums from the November election. We need to rally people." -- State GOP vice chairman Tom Del Beccaro
What sort of men became Holy Cross Benedictines? Well, there are the obvious qualifications: male, between 25 and 50 more or less, in good physical and psychological health, free of family and other relational obligations, out of debt, a practicing Anglican or in communion with us, finished with your education to your satisfaction (i.e., if you want to go to seminary and get ordained, it would be better to do that first!). Those are the objective qualifiers. The subjective ones are more nebulous. The three most important are: wanting to be united with God through Jesus Christ; wanting to be a monk in some realistic way (do you love prayer, silence, the Scriptures, praying the Daily Office, good honest and sometimes hard work, obeying someone else when you don't especially want to, etc?); and able to live constructively in community with others, which has a LOT of subheadings.
The...Court has refused to hear an appeal of an earlier court ruling that St. John's Church in Fallbrook could not disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of San Diego and continue to control church property.
That, at least, was journalist and Nixon biographer Elizabeth Drew's assessment, which Bernstein embraced during a restaurant chat with buddies. Drew actually called director Ron Howard "dishonorable." Specifically, Bernstein wishes filmmakers had included RN's denial of an illegal coverup of the Watergate burglary.
If that's a sin (and we may discuss it if you wish), then it's a sin of omission. Neither Bernstein nor anyone else (besides The New Nixon's Robert Nedelkoff and us other true believers) acts offended about another transgression, namely the film's contention that RN's famous "it's not illegal" comment was made about Watergate rather than a controversial plan for cracking down on dissenters during wartime. The demerits of the never-implemented Huston Plan notwithstanding, Howard and playwright-screenwriter Peter Morgan may have worried that, in the age of terrorism, some moviegoers would nod their heads at a President saying that extra steps to combat violent groups such as the Weather Underground were justified.
So what's worse, Carl: Leaving something out, or rearranging the narrative to avoid burdening the audience with ambiguity?
There's just something about Lent.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats--
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
By Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.
We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely--magnificent, that "surely"--
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life, my life, forever.
For years, moderate and undecided Protestants could say that since marriage was a civil contract, whether to permit gay marriage was entirely up to the state. All the church had to figure out was whether to permit its ministers to bless same-sex unions. The California Supreme Court deprived the church of its copout last year by legalizing gay marriage. As a result, with all ministers now having the legal authority to marry same-gender couples, the church's argument about blessings automatically became a much more contentious argument about marriage.
Fence-sitters breathed a secret sigh of relief when Prop. 8 passed in November, again making the to-marry-or-not question a civil rather than an ecclesiastical one. Michael A. Lindenberger now explores whether the same copout will work for government. In those states that permit civil unions for gays and lesbians, the government would go one step further and say nobody gets a civil marriage:
[G]ive gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.Not likely, of course, as Lindenberger notes himself. Heterosexual couples won't want to give up their right to civil marriages. Churches run into the same problem, even though the idea of separating the civil contract from the marriage blessing has significant historical warrant, at least for Protestants. During and after the Reformation, some churches told couples to take care of the legal contract at city hall (or on the church steps) and then come before the altar for a blessing. Churches that adopted this policy today would theoretically avoid the corrosive debate about marrying gay and lesbian people, since they'd only be performing blessings. After all, we bless Bibles, prayer books, and crucifixes, and bless animals on St. Francis Day. In practical terms, though, it doesn't work, for the same reason Lindenberger identifies: Heterosexuals wouldn't want to give up their big church marriages for the sake of solving a minority's problem.
So no copouts allowed. The great cultural debate of our time continues.
Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan
The clear statement made at a plenary session by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that 3 million girls are still undergoing female genital mutilation each year requires urgent further action by all concerned. Multiple presentations highlighted the association of this, other acts of violence against women and girls, and the spread of HIV. The lack of sexual and reproductive rights and education puts women and girls at increased risk of HIV and in some areas of the world married women are at highest risk. Innovative prevention measures are desperately needed. The vulnerability of women and girls in areas of armed conflict and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is an area of deep alarm. The delegates also recognize the challenges faced by migrant and indigenous women and girls; work is required throughout the world to support and empower them.
It is evident that gender stereotyping is a major hindrance in moving ahead and now needs to be addressed by clear action throughout the world. Work must be done with men and boys as well as women and girls to address harmful societal norms and practices. We ask churches across the Anglican Communion to examine how they can champion the equality of men and boys, and women and girls particularly with regard to caregiving.
[Jim] Cramer assailed Obama for "destroying the profits in health care companies (one of the few areas still robust in the economy)." The United States has the most expensive, least efficient health care sector in the advanced world. The flipside of that inefficiency is massive profits in the health care sector. Anything that reduces waste necessarily reduces that profit. Cramer naturally sees this as a disaster. But why should the rest of us care?
Sunday, March 15, 2009
"Goldberg," named, perhaps, for its first performer, comprises a beginning and ending aria, or song, and 30 variations. A 2002 reissue of the 1955 record included a lengthy studio outtake, complete with banter between the eccentric Gould and his producer. I didn't pay much attention to the outtake cut until this week, when I found a couple of treasures. At one point, Gould, who always insisted on a special, low-slung chair while recording, says that he wanted to play one variation sitting on an upside-down wastebasket. Then, when the producer calls for a second take of the final variation, No. 30, Gould significantly digresses (I added the punctuation, since Gould spoke without it):
You know what this piece is, don't you, this Quodlibet? It's a combination of German popular songs of Bach's time.... That's why it's called Quodlibet. Apparently it was a fashion that the family sat around their living rooms trying to harmonize popular tunes together, within the same harmonic framework, you see. The two tunes in this are...I've forgotten the names of the songs in German, but they're both very dirty songs. [He plays the tunes.]"That's terrific," says the patient producer. Gould then says he's ready to begin the second take of No. 30, but the producer says he has to change the tape. All that yakking about the supertonic. Wikipedia reveals that two of the popular songs Bach used for No. 30 were titled Ich bin solang nicht bei dir g'west, ruck her, ruck her ("I have so long been away from you, come closer, come closer") and Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben, hätt mein' Mutter Fleisch gekocht, wär ich länger blieben ("Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, had my mother cooked meat, I'd have opted to stay").
By the way, I have a Quodlibet of my own; it came to me in the bathtub the other night. One of these times, I'm going to be invited to give a concert on the Fourth of July, I'm sure, and when I do, I've figured out that by leaving out the repeats in the "Star Spangled Banner" and starting your entry at the 13th bar of "God Save the King," and then playing "God Save The King" over again, and altering the harmony in the second half of "The King" to modulate to the supertonic region, it has the most marvelous effect. Listen to this [Gould plays it.]...Unfortunately, we have parallel octaves at the end, but it works beautifully otherwise.
At iTunes you have to buy the whole 1955 reissue to get the outtakes. Here's Gould playing variation No. 6 in 1981. Listen for his humming, which he claimed was unconscious. He died in 1982 after suffering a stroke at age 50.
And yet four month later, as nearly 200 families grapple with the consequences of losing their homes, the Santa Ana River basin is coming alive again. This afternoon, Kathy and I parked in a neighborhood along La Palma Avenue and walked east, in the opposite direction as the fire. Wildflowers, vines, and ferns embrace and envelop desiccated trees and cactus, sometimes rooting in the charred branches themselves. The basin is home to several acres of orange groves, one of the few places left in Orange County where you can smell orange blossoms in March. A few of the trees were destroyed, but not many. Either the fire maneuvered around them, or firefighters maneuvered the fire.
With all the winter rain and snow in the mountains this year, the river was running strong, a lure for five teenagers we saw carrying a canoe across the railroad tracks that run along the north side of the riverbed. Kathy said that she wondered how the kids' parents felt about them crossing the busy tracks. I wondered what they thought about the kids riding in a canoe in the Santa Ana River.
We were soon distracted by child's play of our own. The trains run past the Green River golf course, where the big hitters on the northernmost holes litter the tracks with Titleist, Top Flight, Maxfli, Nike, and Callaway balls, plus one with the logo of ULCA women's softball. We collected 15 in all. We don't play golf, and we didn't have any way to carry them back, but how do you find 15 golf balls and not keep them? Finally, because we're sober, middle-aged people, we left them behind, except, of course, two -- one shimmering white Nike and the UCLA ball. We carried them back through the mud and wildflowers and burnt trees, amazed by nature's regenerative, Resurrection power.
I'd just like to say to the American people is that I have every confidence that this economy will recover, and recover in a strong and sustained way. The American people are among the most productive in the world. We have the best technologies. We have great universities. We have entrepreneurs. I just have every confidence that as we get through this crisis, that our economy will begin to grow again, and it will remain the most powerful and dynamic economy in the world.Scott Simon said he'd been trying to bag Bernanke for a year. No Fed chairman had ever done a TV interview before. I wonder if the second most powerful economic actor in the U.S. broke precedent and spoke up because he felt, until last week, No. 1 had been talking the economy down.