Saturday, October 31, 2009

Isn't Jack A Cute One?

Jack Nicholson, Lauren Bacall, and Warren Beatty in 1977. More great photos of '70s Hollywood royalty at

"Come Home, America" Watch, Day 43

Washington Post:
The president appears committed to adding at least 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan in an effort to bolster the training of Afghan army and police officers in the country. Current plans call for the United States to double the size of the Afghan army and police forces to about 400,000 in the hope that they can take over security responsibilities.

Politics In A .PDF

Click to see this in its glory. Thanks to

Your Move, Mahmoud

The U.S. and Israel are now on the same page on West Bank settlements. Time for Palestinian President Abbas to quiet the voices of extremism on his side by coming to the negotiating table.

Cool Head Needed In Hot Seat

As Alaska's rogue quitter governor successfully bullies a moderate Republican out of the race for New York's 23rd congressional district, where's Ed Cox, the state's new moderate Republican chairman?

Perfect Songs: "La Boheme" Love Duet (1896)

The most perfect seven notes ever sung? Kiri Te Kanawa and Richard Graeger.

A Mere Ghost Of A Finding

Creating a laboratory for ghostly phenomena, researchers in London conclude that people either see what's actually there or think they do.

Does The Dried Fruit Constitute A Dirty Trick?

The take for the 2,000 kids who'll trick or treat at the White House, according to the AP:
A box of White House M&Ms with the president's signature imprinted on it, a sweet dough butter cookie made by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses, a National Park Foundation Ranger activity book, and a serving of dried fruit mix made up of cherries, apricots, pears, apples and papayas.
Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Super H?

As worries escalate about the possibility of a third intifada, the Secretary of State heads to Jerusalem for talks with Israel, which has so far hardlined President Obama and the Palestinians on the West Bank settlements. Israel needs concessions from from Arabs as well. Perhaps it's time for some old-fashioned, Henry Kissinger-style shuttle diplomacy -- but before rather than after war breaks out.

The Stake For Conservatives, Till It Hurts

Dan Gerstein on the significance of Barack Obama's abandonment of bipartisanship in health care policy:

For Democrats, this means the official end of Bill Clinton's popular "third way" approach to progressive policymaking, which aimed to synthesize the best ideas of both sides. Obama seemed to go both ways on the third way during the campaign, repudiating it at times to win over the left and embracing it at times to win over the middle. But now it's clear there will be little if any synthesizing or triangulating. The president and his allies on Capitol Hill are betting that the suspicion of government that Reagan cultivated for a generation has ebbed enough to buy their activist policies time to work. If they succeed, the left will have driven a stake into the philosophical heart of conservatism.

Keep Your CPU Out Of My DNA

Every once in a while, an open-minded middle-aged person becomes so exuberant about some new thing and even his own obsolescence that he lapses into sheer nonsense. Daniel Lyons, 50, writing about Apple's rumored new tablet computer, which he actually doesn't know anything about, gushes that, whatever it is, it will be "great and scary":
Great because the techies in Silicon Valley are giving us powerful new tools for telling stories. Scary because the old ways of telling stories are about to become obsolete, and if we cling to them, we'll be washed away. In the past we've all worked in silos. "Print people" had one way of describing the world. "Video people" had another. But the silos are getting crunched together. It's as if for most of your life you could get by speaking only English, but now you need to learn a bunch of other old languages, and, what's more, you must then master a new language that is evolving out of the DNA of all the old ones.
What's scary is when actual journalists surrender so willingly to the notion that improved media technology necessarily entails more advanced values. Actually, I have a friend who does make this case when it comes to medical IT, and I'll stipulate that. My greater concern is for a well-informed public in a complex republic. If it hinges on the Hackosphere as currently constituted, no matter how cool-looking the devices, that we're in big trouble.

The way the most diligent "print people" have of doing their job is called journalism. You interview people in the know, investigate what's going on behind the scenes or under the rug, take your sweet time, and do your best to keep your own ego and preferences our of your copy. "Video people" usually read what print people report, make a few calls of their own, and videotape an interview or two. "Blog people" by and large sit in Starbucks and aggregate and comment on what everyone else is reporting. The shape and size of computer displays don't alter the indispensability of good reporting and well-written, longer-form texts.

A Shot In The Arm For Conservatives

Is it fair to judge the government's ability to run health care by its failure to deliver on time the H1N1 vaccine it promised?

2012 GOP Debacle Watch

Sarah Palin drives the Republican from the race in New York's 23rd congressional district.

The Little Characters!

To better understand how to teach children to be happy and develop "habits of character," Harvard child psychologist Dan Kindlon, author of Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life Of Boys, surveyed teenagers and parents and interviewed kids, parents, teachers, and school administrators. It's important to note that most of the families in the study were middle income and above.

The 12% who made the cut as children of character didn't manifest these "deadly syndromes":
* they did not drink, or smoke cigarettes or marijuana;
* they were not depressed, mean, spoiled, or self-centered;
* they did not suffer from eating problems;
* they said it was wrong for thirteen year olds to have sex; and
* they worked to their intellectual potential in school without being overly driven.
These "family behaviors and expectations" were common to the 12%:
* their families frequently ate dinner together;
* their parents were not divorced or separated;
* they had to keep their rooms clean;
* they did not have a phone in their room; and
* they did community service.
Since that leaves a decisive majority of 88%, it's likely that few children or parents will read those lists without feeling judged, and perhaps inclined to say that there are some things, especially clinical depression, which are beyond the reach of values education. Kindlon's point is not to stigmatize children but inspire parents. The hard and hopeful truth he has revealed is that the grownup outlook and behavior manifested in the last four points tend to give kids the advantages of the first five.

Hat tip to the Newsletter of the National Assn. of Episcopal Schools

The Larger Group In Between

More inconvenient truths from Al Gore's running mate:
"I probably will support some Republican candidates for Congress or Senate in the election in 2010. I'm going to call them as I see them," Lieberman told ABC News. "There's a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans. There's a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them -- and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who's not a Democrat."
Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Her Finest Hour

A female Secretary of State speaks truth to power in Pakistan.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Joe's Show

A federally-run health insurance option didn't make it out of Senate committee, but the leadership inserted it in the proposed Senate bill anyway -- only to have the last moderate in the world, Joe Lieberman, threaten to mount a filibuster if the public option is left in.

Poor Democrats! Angered at his support for the Iraq war, the Connecticut party didn't nominate him for reelection in 2006, only to see him win as an independent. Now a rip-roaring British journalist calls him a "fame whore" for opposing the government-run program and calls on "progressives" to rally against him. But they tried that already, didn't they? And yet there he remains, demonstrating that the center can be the loneliest place in Washington.

Poorly Chosen Words

As Jack Pitney shows, Gov. Schwarzenegger's staff obviously has some time on their hands, the state's fiscal crisis notwithstanding.

Anglicanism's Genius

Adam McCoy, a monk in the Order of the Holy Cross (Episcopal), takes a measured view of the Pope's recent move on the Anglican church:
I have prayed for the visible unity of the Church all my adult life, but on terms which recognize the dignity and validity of the Reformation, of the Anglican Church's heroic and self-sacrificial encounters with the modern world and with forms of thought and culture previously uncontemplated, from the mid 1500's through the centuries, in each succeeding age and on into the future. I think that is part of our genius. It comes wrapped in Anglican chant and Percy Dearmer and coffee hours and sherry and vestries and too many bishops and Trollope and Barbara Pym and Auden and Perry and Vaughan Williams and prayer book wars and are-you-high-or-low-or-broad and a thousand other little cultural artifacts we know and love. But to bring the catholic faith face to face with today's real challenges is our genius, it is the Gift of the Spirit to us, and to betray it would be to betray what has given us life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yorba Linda Sky

5:35 p.m.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

All Sinners

One of Andrew Sullivan's correspondents writes that conservative Anglo-Catholicism (a focal point of theological thinking that tends to favor excluding gay people in open relationships from ordination and the episcopacy) is actually dominated by closeted gay priests. Who's to know if that's actually true? Sullivan says his friend has reason to know. In any event, Sullivan concludes that he longs for:
One day, when all this fearful nonsense is blown away and the church can return to the Gospels and the sacraments, and gay people can be treated as, you know, the sinners that everyone else is as well.

"Come Home, America" Watch, Day 41.5

All or nothing in Afghanistan, says Max Boot.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Department Of The Bleeding Obvious

The American people continue their discernment a year after Barack Obama's election. USA Today's summary of new poll results:
He's seen more as a down-the-line liberal, less as someone who can bridge partisan divides.
Hat tip to Mike Cheever

The Diet Pope And The Openly Female

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Holy Water Under the Bridge - Randall Balmer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorReligion

Stephen Colbert on Pope Benedict's bid to convert conservative Anglicans to Rome. "Nothing brings Christians together," Colbert says puckishly, "like excluding gays and women."

Hat tip to Valerie Taylor

Catching The School Buss

At the St. John's preschool's Fall Festival this morning, the kids enjoyed face painting, games, and comparing notes about Halloween costumes. A highlight for Kayla was grandmother Gloria's kiss.

Banking On National Failure

Studying the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, E. J. Dionne has some advice for the GOP:
Memo to Republicans: Talk a right-wing game in your ideological magazines and at your tea parties if that makes you happy. But to win elections, your candidates had better look like middle-of-the-road problem-solvers.
Of course the right reads that as a call from the left to Republicans to win elections by becoming enablers of the prevailing big government project. Better, the true believers insist, to remain a righteous remnant. Better, as RN said about the Goldwaterites, to be right than President. Better, even, to promote the victory of Democrats over moderate Republicans. Wait in purity and in expectation that economic or foreign policy disaster will once again propel a true believer into power.

Wait, in other words, for Carter and Reagan to come back. Basically Sarah Palin's GOP is banking on bankruptcy.

Why He Doesn't Go To Taco Bell

Rob Paravonian hates Pachelbel's Canon.

Hat tip to Jan Arndt

"Come Home, America" Watch, Day 41

Andrew Bacevich, wondering why we're in Afghanistan at all:
We could convert Afghanistan into a Central Asian version of Disney World and violent Islamic radicalism would persist unabated in various quarters of the world--probably including major cities in the West. The threat is a transnational one and is not subject to elimination no matter how energetically we pursue armed nation-building campaigns in far-off places. Indeed, it's at least as plausible to argue that persisting in the effort to pacify Afghanistan will further incite, rather than reduce, jihadist opposition worldwide.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


In a column last week, Bush ex-speechwriter David Frum implied that Hugh Hewitt opposed a third-party candidacy in the New Jersey gubernatorial race while supporting one in a House race in New York:
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week offered a stern condemnation of this fratricide on his popular program, calling the third-party candidate:

.... a wrecker, a selfish "look at me" poser .... It takes an outsized ego to look at poll after poll that puts you behind not one but two candidates by more than 10 points and still declare yourself in the hunt.

Whoops! Sorry, rewind. Fzzzzwwwwvvvvwwwzzzp. That was an editing error. Hugh Hewitt was not blasting Doug Hoffman, the third-party candidate in New York. In fact, Hoffman is the darling of talk radio and Fox News, which have helped to spread Hoffman Fever for the past few weeks.

No, Hewitt was attacking the third-party candidate in New Jersey's gubernatorial race, an independent named Chris Daggett who has drawn votes from the official Republican standard-bearer, Chris Christie.
When Frum wrote that Hoffman is "the darling of talk radio" after having just quoted Hewitt, he left the reader with the impression that Hewitt was for Hoffman. Why drag him into the column otherwise? When an outraged Hewitt told Frum on his program yesterday that he doesn't support Hoffman, nor spoiler candidacies in general, Frum admitted that he didn't know Hewitt's position on the New York 23rd and hadn't bothered to check.

In a blog post describing the confrontation, Frum said that in retrospect, he should've been more careful. Whoops! Sorry, rewind. Fzzzzwwwwvvvvwwwzzzp. Frum called Hewitt a bully and impugned his manhood.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Rolling Paper

Some things never change at "Rolling Stone," including its devotion to the inalienable lights of stoners. Two generations of sixties-inspired addiction and drug dependence notwithstanding, in the Nov. 12 edition managing editor Will Dana lauds President Obama for bringing President Nixon's war on drugs to an end. Dana also crows:
Drug warriors like to claim that the medical-marijuana movement is just a sneaky way to talk about full-on legalization. The thing is, they are right. And there's nothing they can do about it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Final Poke

When a Facebook friend dies.

No-Bomb Iran

Leon Wieseltier hammers President Obama for his one-world naivete:
People admire Obama, at home and abroad, because his America is like their America; which is to say, they admire Obama because they admire themselves. The beautiful souls gave him a Nobel Prize for being a beautiful soul. We will soon discover that the popularity of an American president is a fact of minor strategic consequence. Anti-Americanism around the world is deep and tough and various. Most of it will not be dispelled by a black face and a Muslim name and a progressive smile. Multiculturalism is not a foreign policy. And enmity is the regular fate of states, and of superpowers, and of democracies.
Criticizing Obama for being too solicitous of Europeans and Muslims is one thing. There's no question he's overdone it. But Wieseltier's only example of Obama's perilous course has to do with Iran:
We have common ground with the Iranian regime, or so Obama insists, in our desire to avert a nuclear catastrophe. And we have common ground with the Iranian resistance, in our desire to promote liberty. In his policy toward Iran, Obama has so far honored one commonality and dishonored the other. His "engagement" with the illegitimate theo-fascist rulers in Iran, even as their show trials proceed, represents a decision to scant ostentatious differences in favor of dubious similarities.
This analysis has two glaring flaws. The Iranian regime is no less legitimate than the communist regimes in Moscow and Beijing when Richard Nixon improved relations to defuse mounting Cold War tensions and try to help end the Vietnam war. If detente with Iran is also in our interests, then the U.S. should by all means pursue it, no matter who's in power there.

Wieseltier's real howler is suggesting that our obligation to promote political freedom in Iran is anywhere near as important as our (and Israel's) interest in preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Neocons and non-neocons may differ about the advisability of additional regime-change adventures. But I'd prefer a non-nuclear tyrant in Tehran to an atomic democrat any day.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

St. John's Sky

6:15 p.m.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

The Palin Birther

Andrew Sullivan wants Oprah to ask Sarah Palin why she refuses to account for her whereabouts on November 22, 1963. Plus whether she and her minor daughter and untold others engaged in a massive coverup of her son Trig's true parentage -- the most effective libel of the 2008 campaign.

Sullivan links to a site that calls him a Palin birther, which you would think he would find embarrassing, but he doesn't. Sure, Palin's behavior in the New York 23rd congressional district race demonstrates that she's becoming toxic when it comes to rebuilding a GOP that can compete at the national level. All hope is gone that she would parlay her political capital into the makings of a mature, party-strengthening 2012 or 2016 candidacy. But rather than implying that other media figures are wrong for failing to indulge the fantasy about Trig, Sullivan should just admit that he erred in giving the false, "Desperate Housewives"-inspired pass-the-baby story a vital boost by repeating it before checking the facts. Nothing Palin could ever do will erase his shame.

St. John's Sky

2:15 p.m., after the 5th graders' religion test

"'Be A Good Boy'": Sermon for 21 Pentecost

During the "woes of October," our month with poor Job, we've learned the virtues of community (when bad things happen to good people, it's a blessing to have other good people around to help), empathy (our own suffering makes us better ministers), and acceptance (when we stop trying to change things that are beyond our power, we often have energy left over to help others heal). While the Book of Job has a tidier ending that the Coen brothers' "A Serious Man," both are about the inestimable ultimate virtue of love -- God's, and ours. My Sunday sermon is here.

Countdown To The GOP's Historic '12 Loss

Pat Buchanan celebrates Sarah Palin's move to defeat a moderate Republican and elect a Democrat in New York.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Their Nature

Sarah Palin and Dick Armey are rallying conservatives to defeat a moderate Republican who could win an open House seat in upstate New York. The New York Times:
Many of the [out-of-district conservative] workers acknowledge that their efforts could deliver the election to the Democratic candidate, but they say it is more important to send a message than to win this race.

St. John's Sky

5:30 p.m.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Your Imamy

Ross Douthat says the aim of Benedict XVI's move on the Anglican church is to forge a united front against Islam. If so, it's a bumbling misstep of historic proportions. Islam's greatest weakness is its marginalization of half the population, namely women. Christendom puts its worst foot forward by proselytizing British Anglo-Catholics who agree with Rome that women shouldn't be bishops or even priests. Hearing that medieval proposition, imams in Malaysia, the Sudan, London, and Brooklyn would no doubt nod their heads in agreement. The infidel has at least got that bit right.

If we think the Christian way is better, then we should proudly rally round the proposition often attributed to that great Episcopal theologian, Robin Williams:
Male and female, God created them; male and female, we ordain them.

Missed Him By That Much

Max Boot was a few miles from Sunday's mass murder in Baghdad. He has not panicked:
Attacks are still down to their lowest level since 2003-2004. Life has returned to a semblance of normality in Baghdad and other areas. A few high-profile attacks — this one or the one in August — do not change the fundamental, day-to-day reality of life getting better.
Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Future Iraq

Awful as they were, Sunday's murderous Baghdad bombings were harbingers of Iraq's future as a fragile young democracy, not evidence of unfinished business for the United States. The Bush-Obama troop withdrawal must continue. Writes the "Economist:"
Iraqis know that political violence will be with them for a long time, even if full civil war can be avoided. The fortunes of insurgent groups wax and wane, their support base shrinking and expanding depending on how vulnerable sectarian groups feel. But an end to the bombings is not in sight.

What Happens When The Center Won't Hold

Sunday's violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was evidently rooted in reliable concerns Muslim leaders had about more visits by ultra-orthodox Jews. Secular Jews are allowed relatively easy access by the Muslim council that administers the site, but those in orthodox garb make the authorities more nervous.

It's important to understand that the end-time theories of some Jews, and some Christians as well, depend on the completely bizarre idea of rebuilding the Jewish temple, animals sacrifices and all, where Islam's holy sites now stand. A non-profit organization is actually at work designing and constructing temple fixtures. Imagine having to write the environmental impact report for the gutters of blood.

Violence such as Sunday's is never desirable or justified (he said ritualistically). But while it's one thing to visit the Temple Mount as a tourist or to pray quietly according to one's beliefs, it's quite another thing if you are seen to be measuring the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock for eventual demolition.

Some Muslims insist there was never a Jewish temple at all. Some Jews are determined to build a new one on Muslim real estate. What's most disheartening is that these zealots may be taking center stage once again now that more responsible Israeli and Arab leaders have so far failed to capitalize on President Obama's risky bid for Middle East peace so early in his term.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Sunday, October 25, 2009

That's Some Hat

Elizabeth and Richard, probably in 1969. I can't place the man in the middle. See the Queen with her ten other Presidents here.

U2 Coming Up Roses

YouCan watch U2 live on YouTube tonight. But...but the Angels and Yankees will still be on! Let's see: Computer with 'phones. TV on mute. As God is my witness, it could work.

Main Line And Hardly Mainstream

A conservative, Anglo-Catholic Episcopal parish near Philadelphia hears Papa's call from Rome.

"Come Home America" Watch, Day 37

Dick Cheney accused President Obama of dithering over Afghanistan. George Will (who, it must be noted, wants our troops out) has fired back. "The Huffington Post":
"A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction," Will said on ABC's "This Week. "For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action."

AP (Or Yahoo) Editors' Call To Prayer

The Yahoo page carrying an Associated Press story about a clash between Muslim demonstrators and Israeli police on the Temple Mount bears this questionable headline:
Violent clashes erupt at Jerusalem's holiest site
The demonstrators were holed up for a while tonight in the al-Aqsa mosque, which together with the neighboring Dome of the Rock (shown here) comprises only the third holiest site in the world among Muslims. As the site of the Second Temple (specious Temple-denying to the contrary), the Temple Mount is unquestionably the holiest site for Jews. Also in Jerusalem, but not on the Temple Mount, is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, by far the holiest site for Christians. However you slice it, you can't write that headline without seeming to play favorites.

The body of the story calls the Temple Mount Jerusalem's most volatile site, about which there's little doubt. Reporter Matti Friedman attributes today's violence to understandable Muslim frustration at the stalled peace talks and unsubstantiated rumors spread by clerics that Jews were planning to disrupt or damage their holy sites. It's been an especially tense place since former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit in 2000. While many fault him for doing so, he said at the time that Jews should feel free to visit, since their temples had stood on the same territory on and off for roughly 1,600 years. With the Muslim conquest of the holy city in the seventh century, the site became what today's Palestinians might call occupied territory. Although under Israeli political and security control, the Temple Mount is administered by an Islamic council.

As noted, it's becoming fashionable in some circles to assert the Jewish temples never existed, which would seem to make it all the more vital for Jews to put in appearances. It's also important for Christians to go, as I did in pilgrim groups in 2007 and again in July. During this year's trip, we were 20 mild-mannered pilgrims with an Arab Anglican guide and a famous Arab Muslim anthropology professor. After we were settled on an empty patch of grass, a Muslim women brought her children to sit near us (as in almost leaning against my right shoulder) and began to talk loudly to another woman, which effectively drowned out our soft-spoken speaker. We learned later that she felt we were sitting in the wrong place, that we should have listened to the professor's talk at a spot closer to the exit. This occurred after a member of our party had been castigated for her allegedly immodest dress.

Perhaps the woman had a legitimate beef against Jews, Christians, or Episcopalians. Sorry to have offended you, my sister. But it's our spiritual home, too. Someplace beneath our feet, a 12-year-old Jesus had sat at the feet of the priests, and the fully grown Messiah had done some Temple-cleansing. It also seemed odd that Temple Mount authorities still weren't permitting non-Muslims to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque or the Dome of the Rock. Why not, exactly? Because Sharon showed up nine years ago?

As for the stalled talks, the Israelis refused to stop West Bank settlements without confidence-building measures from the Arabs, while Arabs refused to make any such gestures until Israel stopped the settlements. Who is to blame? Not one or the other. That's too easy. Neither, or both.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Hostile Witness

The Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakan says the H1N1 vaccine is really designed to kill people.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

241 Sky (Through A Mirror)

7 a.m. That's Yorba Linda under a blanket of fog.

The Afghanistan Syndrome

Joshua Kurlantzick hopes Afghanistan will be another Vietnam. He doesn't mean that he hopes the U.S. will be defeated and humiliated and the people of Afghanistan subjected to a generation of Stalinist oppression, as the people of South Vietnam were after the Watergate Congress of 1973-75 cut off the flow of non-personnel aid to our allies. He means that he hopes that that U.S. and Afghanistan will have constructive relations after the war, as we and Vietnam finally have today.

It's an unhelpful, even weird analogy. But Kurlantzick does the reader the favor of beginning with a statement of President Obama's at a Rose Garden ceremony last week honoring Vietnam veterans:
If that day in the jungle, if that war long ago, teaches us anything, then surely it is this: If we send our men and women in uniform into harm's way, then it must be only when it is absolutely necessary. And when we do, we must back them up with the strategy and the resources and the support they need to get the job done.
I wonder if Obama is saying that the U.S. and its allies could've prevailed in Vietnam if we hadn't lost interest after President Nixon brought our ground forces home in 1973, if Congress hadn't given in to the myth that the defeat of South Vietnam was inevitable. If he does, then he really is putting the corrosive passions of the Vietnam years behind him.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever