Saturday, May 9, 2009

We Still Have Money In This Century

Star Trek makes $31 million in a little over 24 hours.

Nancy Can't Pull The Football Away This Time

Congressional leaders got 40 interrogation briefings over seven years.

Holy Dangerous Digging

Israel is probing around and under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for evidence of the rich history that preceded construction of Muslim worship sites, a legitimate and indeed tantalizing effort that is nonetheless fraught with politics.

No Fun With Dick And Nancy

Andrew Sullivan called for the prosecution of former Vice President Cheney because, he says, Cheney broke the laws against torture. Sullivan now says that if congressional leaders, including Speaker Pelosi, knew about the alleged felonies but did nothing, they too should be held accountable. But he hasn't yet written that Pelosi should be indicted and prosecuted as an accessory to a felony.

I'm not accusing Sullivan of hypocrisy, because I don't think he has partisan motives for dogging the Bush administration so relentlessly over torture. But eventually he'll have to confront the preposterousness of prosecuting government officials. We now know that in the wake of Sept. 11, all three branches of government, including leaders from both parties, acted as though the U.S. was facing an existential threat. We're talking not about a lawless administration but a government-wide state of mind, reflecting the mentality and wishes of voters, in the face of a danger that felt and appeared virtually unprecedented in our national experience.

A truth commission to understand what happened and why in order to guide future Presidents, yes. Locking up a former VP and the woman who is second in line to the Presidency, no.

Sneering From Kemp's Grave

A simplistic attack on Sen. Specter in the form of a eulogy for Jack Kemp:
The spirit of Kemp stands for principle over power. The specter of Specter glorifies solely the principle of power.
"Solely?" I don't think Kemp would have agreed.

All Let Down

This New York Times assessment of the inter-generational dynamics of Star Trek is a complete muddle:
[A] scene in which an aged version of Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) converses with his younger self (played by Zachary Quinto) becomes a platform for the regret that the grown-up children of the 1960s feel for letting down the youth of today, just as they might have felt they were let down by their leaders. “It’s kind of a baby boomer apology for where we are,” [movie co-writer Roberto] Orci said. “Not that I’m asking for the baby boomers to apologize.”
Why in the world not?

Two Lives Lived Live

In his 14th year as TV play-by-play announcer for the Anaheim Angels, Steve Physioc, shown speaking to the St. John's men's group this morning, says that when they fail on the field or court, the professional athletes he covers rarely if ever blame other people. How much better our lives and world would be, the New Jersey native and St. John's member said, if we were all equally disinclined to blame our troubles on scapegoats and circumstances. Instead, he counseled us to let our faith guide us to a sense of peace and purpose even in the midst of sadness. Steve's favorite movie line is from "The Natural," spoken to a brilliant ballplayer who's obsessed with his regrets: "I believe we have two lives: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that."

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Friday, May 8, 2009

May STS-400 Never Fly

Why are Atlantic and Endeavour on side-by-side launch pads? Here's why.

Only Obama Could Go To Hollywood

Via Matthew Yglesias, Leonard Nimoy describes his first meeting with Barack Obama a couple of years ago at a private home in LA:
And he came through the house, saw me and immediately put his hand up in the Vulcan gesture. He said, “They told me you were here.” We had a wonderful brief conversation and I said, “It would be logical if you would become president."
If I may strike a bipartisan note, in 1991, I wrote RN a memo telling him breathlessly that his name had come up in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when Spock (played, of course, by Nimoy) said, "There is an old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China."

Speaking Of Air Force One, This Is Cool

Respect Them, Or They'll Kill You

News from the anti-Klingon defamation league.

And Chase Bank Is Now Using One Of His Songs

Those running the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool are raising eyebrows by playing John Lennon's "Imagine" on the carillon, even though the lyrics sound anti-religious. Reminds me of a brief letter to the editor in the Village Voice in 1980, before he was killed: "Imagine John Lennon with no possessions."

The Butcher Test

President Nixon liked to quote William Gladstone, the 19th century British prime minister who said that the first requisite of an effective leader was being a good butcher. RN didn't always pass the test -- but Obama does as he accepts the resignation of the military aide responsible for buzzing Manhattan with a Presidential 747.

Great Cover Songs: "Tracks Of My Tears" (1965)

Linda Ronstadt

Finally, The Kobayashi Maru Test Explained

The new Star Trek movie (the first one actually called Star Trek) has a charming young cast, nonstop action, great effects, even a slavering beast resembling a Venus flytrap that chases James Kirk across the terrain of a desolate ice planet. The Enterprise NCC-1701 -- that's the Enterprise, not one of its alphabetized successors -- gleams in the sun like the gangly Trekkie love object it's been for over 40 years. I first gazed on it in 1966, when I was 12, which is an impressionable age.

And so at five this afternoon, we were mostly people of a certain age sitting in the dark, and from the whispers and knowing laughter you could tell we were watching a home movie revealing secrets about old friends' youthful lives that we'd suspected or guessed all along. There's Scottie as a young man, for instance, just like you'd expect to find him -- marooned at an outpost on a desolate ice planet because nobody believed his theories about mid-warp beaming. Young McCoy, Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu are there, too, along with the exquisitely cast Kirk (Chris Pine, shown here) and Spock (Zackery Quinto), hating each other at first (can you say Kobayashi Maru?) and yet fated for a male bonding clutch-o-rama that will transfigure the universe.

Literally, because the film, brilliantly directed by J.J. Abrams ("Lost," Armageddon, Mission Impossible III), involves a classic mind-numbing Star Trek time travel scenario that, at the end of the movie, has set the core narrative (stay with me here) on a course that is fundamentally different from what unfolded in the original 1966-69 series, the seven movies featuring the original cast, and indeed all the other series and films that sprang from them. One may think that it's all just a setup for a sequel that will enable the Enterprise crew to go forward in time (or back, whatever) and correct the time line. But if they did, then the characters we know and love would have known that all this happened in the past, and talked about it, unless in the sequel, their memories are erased...

Oh, never mind. If Star Trek weren't such a good movie, I might be upset that it's the narrative equivalent of the season of "Dallas" without Bobby Ewing, later explained as a bit of nightmare-inducing mustard on Victoria Principal's cheeseburger. Abrams revamps Star Trek for our times without disrespecting it. Our century's sophisticated, Obamian ethos is a bit too cool for Gene Roddenberry's naively Utopian original vision, hence the altered time line's elements of global catastrophe, genocide, and parental demise. But the core relationships among the characters -- based on the timeless propositions that broken people can create families from strangers, adversity molds character, optimism is a powerful force in the world -- remain intact. Star Trek even improves on the purely human dimensions of the original by movingly envisioning the circumstances of Kirk's birth as well as the young Spock's relationship with his mother and even revealing a love affair between the core characters that you'd never expect -- unless, if the time line is ever restored, they...Oh, never mind.

Newspaper Future

The Kindle DX

The Whats Vs. The Whys Of Torture

Andrew Sullivan skewers former Bush adviser Karl Rove for saying that the Bush administration didn't authorize torture even though he's said that John McCain was tortured in North Vietnam because he was left in a stress position, one of the techniques the Bush administration authorized. Under political and media pressure, the Bush administration itself banned the most controversial technique, waterboarding, which hadn't actually been used since 2003. But as for whether it amounted to torture, the word game that Rove and others are playing is unseemly and dangerous.

While its agents didn't maim and kill its prisoners, the CIA used extreme discomfort and pain to punish people or extract information. Perhaps Rove and other Bush advocates should call it "mild torture," "not the worst kind of torture you can imagine," or "not anything like what our enemies would do and have done to our guys if they got the chance." But they should stop acting as though it wasn't torture at all.

The first reason is that insisting otherwise is an Orwellian misuse of language. Besides that, after all these months the American people have every reason to believe that the fundamental issue in the torture debate is the definition of the word. If President Bush and his advocates are seen as losing the semantic argument, they risk losing the moral one as well. Better to cede the definition and invite the more important and far more complicated debate over how much latitude we are willing to give the government in times of apparent existential challenge. Bush and his advocates will stand taller in that conversation, and rightly so. One risks looking evasive and self-serving by arguing that torture isn't torture. If instead you say, "I might have gone too far to protect the people of the United States, and I have to say that I'd probably do it again," you don't look perfect, but you also don't look small.

Did Bush really go too far? He may have. Did he do so with the best intentions as well as with the knowledge of Democrats and Republicans in Congress? He did. Do future administrations have something to learn from this experience? Undoubtedly. Should the former President and his advisers be prosecuted? Only if we want to weaken the Presidency. Only if we're more interested in political retribution and advantage than in really understanding and learning from what went right and wrong.

Nixon's New American Majority

Republicans need a new Nixon, says Daniel Frick:
In the 1960 presidential election, Nixon had faced a nearly impossible challenge. Forget about the stubble, jowls, and sweaty upper-lip, or the reports of vote fraud in Chicago and Texas. Nixon's real obstacle was the Republican party's inability to capture the imagination and loyalty of mainstream America. Only three out of ten voters identified themselves as Republicans, while nearly five out of ten said they were Democrats. More than anyone else, Richard Nixon worked to alter this dynamic. By soliciting the support of the white working-class, people who had been loyal Democrats since the New Deal, Nixon spoke boldly of crafting a New American Majority. Come election day 1972, Nixon had secured a 61 percent landslide victory, with one exit poll suggesting that he had stripped away at least 36 percent of the Democrats' base of support. In eight short years, Nixon had taken a GOP sourly lecturing that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" and had made it, on the national level at least, a place for Democratic moderates who felt deserted by their party.

Nixon's political groundwork made possible the renaissance conservatives enjoyed beginning in the 1980s. Historian James T. Patterson's description of the key elements of Reagan's winning coalition -- "white blue-collar workers, southern white foes of civil rights, Republicans who had opposed big government, and socially conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants" -- sounds like language that could have been cribbed from Nixon's 1972 campaign strategy memos.

Let A Million Poppies Wither

In Afghanistan, the G-8 nations have committed $4 billion to bolstering anti-Taliban military and police forces as well as to business development and anti-drug efforts. Arthur I. Cyr thinks there's a useful Nixonian precedent:
Three years ago, well before the recent acknowledgement of growing guerrilla strength, journalist Sarah Chase provided a bleak evaluation of developments. A daring adventurer, she runs an agricultural cooperative in southern Afghanistan and has written a book about the country.

In seeking effective policies, useful lessons are provided by that durable duo of international relations, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. During the Nixon administration, Turkey was a principal source of world heroin production. Nixon and Kissinger creatively used product licensing to encourage Turkish farmers to sell crops to pharmaceutical companies for legal medicinal purposes.

Drug lords moved some production to Afghanistan, but the trade route from Turkey to Marseilles, France, and then the U.S. - dramatized in the film "The French Connection" - was disrupted, and our important ally Turkey was strengthened. We should apply this practical approach to Afghanistan.

Detroit Songs: "I'm In The Mood" (1951)

John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt

Come Home, Arlen and Kirsten

On the Hugh Hewitt radio show on Monday, President Nixon's elder grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox, expertly game-planned the GOP's renaissance in New York state -- and if Republicans can make it there, they can make it anywhere. His segment starts about 11 minutes in. Executive summary: If the party were playing its cards right, Sens. Specter and Gillibrand would both be Republicans.

See No More Evil

When the Secretary of State says that ideology in foreign policy is "so yesterday," here's what Leon Wieseltier thinks she means:
I think that she was announcing, or rather acknowledging, the demotion of moral analysis, of high principle, in the articulation of foreign policy by the Obama administration. It appears to be the view of many Democrats that talk about evil is itself evil; that what got us into all our crises abroad was an inordinate infatuation with our values; that there is a correlation between idealism and incompetence.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Daily Travails

Layoffs underway at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Der Alter

OC Weekly picks up my post about my non-former non-friend Jonathan Alter.

A Lifetime Of Spectacles

A peek into the roll-top desk of the LA Times' legendary retired film critic, Charles Champlin, thanks to his photographer granddaughter.

Hat tip to Cindy Drennan

Pelosi Knew

It's official: The Speaker of the House was briefed in 2002 on what President Obama calls torture.

Dan Rather Without Quite Enough To Do

If the veteran newsman had made his way to the famed El Adobe in San Juan Capistrano or Olamendi's in Dana Point, he could've gotten the real scoop on 37's love for Mexican food. Wonder how the folks at "the Daily Show" persuaded him to wear that wig?

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Stanley's Steamin'

Stanley Kutler, a scholar of the Constitution long before becoming a nemesis of Nixon, ridicules those who ridicule the idea of a "living Constitution":
It is a phrase loathed by justice Antonin Scalia - anyone, he said, who believes that is "an idiot." But would the constitution have survived for 222 years on the basis of only 27 amendments? Like it or not, judicial interpretation of our constitution is a fact, and it has been a vital component of our history.
Still, it wouldn't be Stanley without a little Nixon-bashing. Who started the drive to find strict-constructionist judges that he finds so abominable? You guessed it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Frontiers In Newcomer Ministry

Overheard at the clergy conference watering hole: My colleague the Rev. Cn. Diane Jardine Bruce, rector of St. Clement's-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, says there's a parish legend to the effect that someone at the Western White House called St. Clement's one day to say that the 37th President wanted to come worship that Sunday. Diane says the parish secretary replied, "Why? He's not Episcopalian!"

Red Sky At Evening

David Greenberg argues that if the GOP experiences many more defections like Arlen Specter's, it could end up a "fringe party, confined to the Deep South and interior West."
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How They Get Beaches

Adding sand at Cabrillo State Beach, San Pedro, California. Project scheduled for completion in July -- just in time!
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Paula Jones Vs. Osama's Jones

The wheel of retributive political justice goes 'round: Jonathan Chait says Republicans are hypocrites for opposing torture indictments for members of the Bush administration after having impeached President Clinton for perjury. The rule of law applies equally to everyone, he argues.

The varying motives for the alleged crimes notwithstanding (protecting the United States vs. not getting in trouble with the First Lady), Chait overlooks an important event when he says:
This argument [that Bush's decisions on torture should be understood in the light of post-Sept. 11 anxiety] would carry more weight if Republicans had changed their thinking on torture and could be expected to follow the law the next time they won the presidency. Alas, they show little sign of intellectual progress.
As a matter of fact, the Bush administration's thinking changed enough that it decided to stop waterboarding in 2005. So if Chait is really saying that torture would have been understandable immediately after Sept. 11 if ultimately the U.S. learned that it probably shouldn't engage in such practices -- well, it did learn, because it stopped, and under Republicans. The pro-torture arguments Chait describes as being intellectually stunted are part of a political rather than a policy debate, since they're being made by those who are engaging in mortal combat over whether Bush officials should be prosecuted. No matter if their thinking has evolved or not, saying, "Now that you think about it, we really are war criminals" is probably not the best defensive move.

If the actions of the next administration, Republican or Democrat, are Chait's real concern, then an intensive blue ribbon investigation (but not leading to prosecutions) is the best way to go.

The Old Southern Strategy Rises Again

Why aren't there more moderate Republicans like Richard Nixon? According to this analysis -- and it's a mighty stretch -- is all Richard Nixon's fault.

Amazon's Newspaper Industry Recycler

Newspapers will sell you the new, bigger Kindle at a discounted price if you buy a long-term subscription. Bingo!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

San Pedro Marina, Tuesday Evening

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"Mealtime": Sermon For Easter IV

On Good Shepherd Sunday as at all other times, the Christian community looks most familiar within our own sheepfolds, such as the comfortable confines of our church and the altar rail where we come for Holy Communion. As a recent poll shows, as soon as we American sheep stop feeling so comfortable, we start looking for a new flock. Half of us worship in a different religion from the one into which we were born.

But what about the 50,000 indigenous Roman Catholics in orthodox Greece, or the Coptic Christians in Egypt (shown here in an Easter procession in Cairo), for whom leaving a denomination would be like severing a limb? They hear the call of the Good Shepherd across the centuries in their families, their communities, their blood. What about the 16 masses conducted each Sunday for prisoners in LA county's prison system? They too hear the call of the Good Shepherd. The sheepfold look may different -- the altars are set over the guards' stations -- but the prisoners, and the guards who worship at their side, are one body with us.

Even consuming the holy meal in our own comfortable sheepfold, we can be anxious about germs from the common cup, whether we're sippers, full-service dippers, or self-serve dippers. Each entails some risk -- all of which we could evade by staying in bed Sunday morning with the covers over our heads to try to muffle the call of the Good Shepherd. My Sunday sermon is here.

Truth In Positioning

The Today Show just did an item about Carrie Prejean's revealing photographs, saying that these "might not sit well with her conservative supporters." Interesting, however, that they didn't present testimony from any of them. Instead, to plumb the social conservative soul, NBC presented a reporter for E! News, who said:
She can continue to advocate for causes, but I don’t think these causes are going to advocate for her.
We'll see. As the Today Show knows full well, conservatives, sensing another MSM putsch against another of their icons, will probably rally around her all the more. It would have been more honest if NBC had reported, "We anticipate that her apparent hypocrisy on moral issues -- posing for racy photos while preaching against gay marriage -- will discredit her not among true-believing right-wingers but among open-minded people who may not necessarily agree with her views but thought that up until now, she'd been rudely treated." But that might make it look as though the Today Show had an agenda, huh?

Super Starr

Hank Greenberg plans to sell his shares in AIG -- or, rather sell them to his own company. Not me. Hope springs eternal. Onward and upward from $1.25!

Hat tip to Andy Schuh

Skillet Songs: "Down Low" (2009)

An Alabama band, the Dexateens, as featured this week by the good people at No Depression.

Monday, May 4, 2009

White House To Newspapers: Drop Dead

No bailout for print.

Sticking Up For Morality (With A Shotgun)

As he and other clergy lobby Congress for gay rights, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson reveals that his life is still apparently at risk:
[H]e spoke of a scare earlier this year in which a man was arrested while driving with a sawed-off shotgun, a map to his home, and photographs of the bishop and his partner taken from the Internet.

A "Bold New Role For Faith"

President Obama is evidently angling for the theological as well as the political center:

In his first 100 days in office, President Obama has sought a bold new role for faith in the White House, which aides say is aimed largely at dialing down the decades-old culture wars. Without changing his party's liberal stances on social issues like abortion, for example, Obama is nonetheless attempting to reach out to religious conservatives by pledging to work toward reducing demand for abortion. And while acknowledging his party's own secular base—he went out of his way to mention nonbelievers in his inaugural address—Obama has sought to showcase religion's expanded role in his White House, opening his rallies with public prayer.
Hat tip to Cory Trenda

Toasters, Chekhov, And The Mind Of God

Stanley Fish reflects on a new book by British writer Terry Eagleton:
[T]he fact that religion and theology cannot provide a technology for explaining how the material world works should not be held against them, either, for that is not what they do. When Christopher Hitchens declares that given the emergence of “the telescope and the microscope” religion “no longer offers an explanation of anything important,” Eagleton replies, “But Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”
Hat tip to Jim Lusby

Gay Marriage And "Ad Feminem Abuse"

Andrew Sullivan on the attacks against Carrie Prejean:

It's critical, it seems to me, that the marriage movement in no way seem hostile to religious freedom and conscience. We support religious liberty just as we support heterosexual marriage. And the fact is: this change unsettles some people. I understand that, and we need to be more cognizant of it, and sensitive to it, instead of engaging, as some sadly have, in ad feminem abuse. (Yes, I'm talking about Miss California, who may not be terribly smart but whose position is not inherently bigoted and whose qualms can be accommodated without obloquy).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Miniaturization Has Met Its Match

Amazon and other companies are racing to come out with a super-Kindle that really could save newspapers. The New York Times:
Unlike tiny mobile phones and devices like the Kindle that are made to display text from books, these new gadgets, with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, could present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. And they might be a way to get readers to pay for those periodicals — something they have been reluctant to do on the Web.


Monica Crowley on Nixon and Kemp.

How About "The Arlen Specter Party"?

He may be talking himself out of being a Democrat, too.

Swine Through?

The World Health Organization says to keep worrying.

Don't Sell Yourself Short, Mitt!

Gov. Romney taunts Gov. Palin for being included on "Time" magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world (he was not):
But was that the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people? I'm not sure. If it's the most beautiful, I understand. We're not real cute.


Andrew Sullivan can't quite let go of his fascination with the idea that Gov. Palin and her minor daughter engaged in a massive conspiracy to cover up the true parentage of her son Trig -- the most effective libel of the 2008 campaign.

Texas Songs: "Carnival Bum" (2003)

Joe Ely

The Evening Of The Fourth Sunday In Easter

Yorba Linda, about 7:30 p.m.

Adopting The Rooster Took Real Guts

When Debra Richardson (show at left), executive director of Holy Family Adoption & Foster Care, welcomed Kathy and me to the 60-year-old agency's annual garden party in Pasadena on Saturday, she cheerfully noted that Holy Family doesn't get as many referrals (which is to say, adoptable children) from south Orange County as it once did. She offered to come down to St. John's one Sunday and drum up some business.

That's how this dedicated professional promotes life -- one precious starfish at a time. The keynote speaker, a poised, plain-spoken single mother named Michelle, told us she'd already decided to abort her second pregnancy when she found her way back to church and then to Holy Family, which let her study the background of a number of prospective adoptive families. Having briefly worked in a California Highway Patrol office, she know she'd found a home for her child the moment she saw the photo of a young CHP officer and his wife. She had us with that story. Then she said both she and her father had independently fixed on Hope as the baby girl's birth name. Holy Family, Holy Spirit stuff indeed.

As Michelle spoke, J. Jon Bruno, Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles, stood beaming. Holy Family's fundraising tea was taking place in his and Mary Bruno's back yard. Our diocese became the non-profit agency's ecclesiastical partner three years ago after it ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese over whether gay and lesbian parents should be permitted to adopt children. Rome said no; and so Bishop Bruno invited Holy Family to join our diocesan family. Both he and Mary serve on the board, along with several of his priests and deacons, alongside other dedicated volunteers, some of whom have served for 25 years or more. Board chairman is Kathy's and my old friend from his days at Whittier College, Joe Zanetta.

Above right are Bishop and Mary Bruno with Kathy (left) and the Rev. Cn. Ed Sniecienski, the bishop's chaplain and a Holy Family trustee, who says Kathy and I are his favorite Republicans. He keeps equivocating about who's first. Typical Episcopalian.

In visiting the Brunos' gracious home for the first time, Kathy and I hoped to encounter a certain feathered friend. Almost four years ago, Roy Wojahn, husband of my former St. John's colleague the Rev. Karen Ann Wojahn, bought her a ceramic rooster, festively garlanded with hay and a red and white ribbon, at a fundraising rummage sale. He hid it in her office. She hid it in mine. I put it under the altar at St. John's when she was celebrating Holy Eucharist. She put it in my car. I arranged for Roy to wrap it and put it under the Wojahn Christmas tree in 2006. She brought it to a dinner party Kathy and I threw for the first federal director of the Nixon Library, Tim Naftali, and hid it in the guest bathroom.

Before I could think of my next move, Mary Bruno, also among our honored dinner guests, learned of the escalating rooster ruckus and put it to an end by offering to give it a happy home. Typical Episcopalian! She also collects roosters. And on Saturday in Pasadena, there it was, hay, ribbon, and all, in an honored spot in her kitchen.

The Con Law Professor We Elected

Jodi Kantor helps flesh out what President Obama evidently means when he says he'll be looking for a Supreme Court nominee who evinces empathy and a respect for the rule of law:
Former students and colleagues describe Mr. Obama as a minimalist (skeptical of court-led efforts at social change) and a structuralist (interested in how the law metes out power in society). And more than anything else, he is a pragmatist who urged those around him to be more keenly attuned to the real-life impact of decisions. This may be his distinguishing quality as a legal thinker: an unwillingness to deal in abstraction, a constant desire to know how court decisions affect people’s lives.

A Lost "Oasis Of Safety And Sanity"

Sad news about one of Orange County's three Jewish day schools, once a partner with St. John's in deepening Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sixth graders' appreciation of their shared Abrahamic heritage.

Soutering Moderate Republicans Just Fine

Kermit Roosevelt, a former clerk for David Souter, disputes those who say that the retiring associate justice lurched to the left after being appointed by the first President Bush:

Souter's current position on the left wing of the court owes much more to movement by the court and the country than to any lurch on his part. The current court, after all, has seven Republican appointees and has been on a steady rightward drift since the Reagan years. The Republican Party has, too. I think Souter is indeed in many ways a Republican; it's just that his sort of Republican no longer really exists.

Oh, Just 15 More Questions, Please

Ken Connor worries that asking any of these questions may soon be considered poor form or worse. I know what I hope the answers are, because I'm rooting for those, many of them friends and colleagues, who are seeking marriage equity. But do we know all the answers? The first question, especially the "inevitably," is a cheap shot:
Is it in society's interest to jettison the historic heterosexual model for marriage and embrace a new paradigm that includes homosexual unions (and, inevitably, other kinds of unions that are fashioned by other kinds of sexual impulses)? What are the implications for children of such unions? Are moms and dads merely superfluous, or do men and women both provide important role models for children? Will children suffer from gender confusion without heterosexual role models? Will gender have meaning in the future? Is gender identification important in preparing children to take their proper place in society? How will society be reproduced? Will we do it the old fashioned way or will we resort to brave new world technology? How will we regulate such technology? Will increased demand for such technology lead to designer children? Will fathers play a role in the lives of their children or will men be reduced to the status of mere inseminators? Will mothers become an anachronism? Will we embrace a definition of marriage which makes it a simple contractual relationship between two independent adults who are "in love?" If so, can the contract be amended? Will the definition of marriage be further amended?

We Have The Technology

Baseball players' steroids are just one extra small step for artificially assisted humankind, writes Alva Noe:

The problem with this romantic conception of ourselves as islands of self-determination is that it isn't true. We are all technologically enhanced. In a way, we are all cyborg-like monsters. Perhaps you wear contact lenses, consume vitamins and antidepressants, or enjoy the benefits of fancy dental work. But what are these technologies other than tools for enhancing performance in daily life? Even the food we eat is the result of thousands of years of agricultural engineering. The more recent advent of genetically modified crops amplifies this ancient and enduring fact.

The Court Of History

Presidents don't prosecute their predecessors, David Shribman writes.

Fairfax Brass

From his LA Times obit, an insight about Jack Kemp, "bleeding-heart conservative":

Kemp graduated from Fairfax High School in 1953. His classmates included musician Herb Alpert and Larry Sherry, who became a star pitcher with the Dodgers. The school's population was largely Jewish at the time and informed Kemp's views on Israel in his political career.

Goodbye, Jack

A contributing editor for "Rolling Stone," rolling through life having inherited his family's distrust of almost all things Republican, describes his flirtations with heresy:
At the time, Richard Nixon defined the concept of the big, bad Republican to me, being evil and all. This was my first mistake -- my family's very rightful rage about Watergate masking any understanding of Nixon's fascinating complexities and intelligence. Ronald Reagan was the opposite in a way -- the man's charmingly genial personality and communication skills hiding in some ways for me the darker side of his political point of view....

Jack Kemp was always considered another "Good Republican" in my house - and of course it didn't hurt his standing with me that he had been a pretty fine quarterback first. We certainly didn't agree with him on every subject, but Kemp struck me then and now as a very decent man who in his own tax-loathing way truly cared even about people who were never going to vote for him, and for whom being a "Compassionate Conservative" was not just some empty campaign promise and horrible historic punch line.
President Nixon and Jack Kemp struck up a hearty friendship in the 1980s, regularly meeting and corresponding. Though no supply-sider, RN admired Kemp's energy and certitude. His football bona fides didn't hurt, either.

When he came to speak at the Nixon Library several years ago, Kemp couldn't sit still long enough to be introduced or, after his speech, to be given his thank-you gift (an Elvis-Nixon mug). It probably shouldn't have been surprising to Bob Dole that in 1996 Kemp turned out to be one of the most undisciplined Vice Presidential candidates in modern history. His irrepressible, voluble nature and our hyper-poll-sensitive modern politics weren't a good match, nor did some of his open-minded social views fit the modern Republican Party.

Once I had the honor of taking him on a tour of the Library. Within five minutes, he (who, after all, know the material far better than I) was conducting the tour himself, telling his fellow museumgoers that while RN had accomplished much to be proud of, he had committed one egregious, unforgivable error: Taking the U.S. off the gold standard. Eternally youthful, principled and gracious, with a heart for freedom and justice, Jack Kemp was a political and policy supernova. Our civic life is poorer without him.