Friday, March 11, 2011
You saw it here first (unless you visited "The New Yorker"s blog before I did): Filmmakers Penny Lane and Brian Frye are making a Nixon documentary based on the home movies of the late H. R. "Bob" Haldeman and his operatives. Since they're now in control of Nixon's foundation, maybe this will end up being the new orientation film at the Nixon library.
Commentary: An Announcement from the Publisher | The National Interest
Mar 11, 2011 ... On March 8, 2011, the Center announced its new name, Center ...nationalinterest.org/commentary/announcement-the-publisher-5015 -
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Soviet-era dissidents have said and written that among the things that sustained them was that their heads were filled with the ideas drawn from America's freedoms.And yet note that we didn't send in troops.
Hat tip to John Bode
Photo: Afternoon sky on Monday over the Episcopal Church of the Angels in Pasadena
In reply to the Post's question, the Center said that it "felt strongly that the new name conveyed what we were about." But if Nixon's name was making the Center's work more difficult, it hasn't said so. If the Center has now adopted a policy perspective that differs from his, its recent statements say otherwise.
Though the Center implied earlier this week that the name change was an automatic consequence of the Center's independence from Nixon's Yorba Linda foundation, I know that to be untrue, and the Center's Post comments about its choice of a new name confirm it.
That leaves the possible and possibly related factors of money (the Center itself has mentioned its "new resources") and the hostility of the former White House operatives now controlling Nixon's foundation.
The Center also says this: "We believe that our new name unifies our existing 'brands' while avoiding confusion with the other two entities." It pains me that my former colleagues, thoughtful experts when it comes to matters of global significance, have been reduced to channeling "Mad Men" and George Orwell. Whatever's going on here, I'm definitely not feeling the unification. As for brand confusion, it doesn't seem to be vexing the proprietors of the many institutions and landmarks bearing Ronald Reagan's name. What the Center Formerly Known As Nixon has done is burn out its brand, and the aroma's not very pleasant.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
White House counsel Oliver Babish (Oliver Platt) is questioning First Lady Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing) about her participation in the cover-up of her husband's MS. When she offers to make a deal with congressional investigators, but takes a surprising line:
You broke some laws, Abbey, and quite frankly you should be ashamed of yourself, but this investigation isn't about that. It's about the criminalization of politics, an attempt to do in the hearing room what they couldn't do at the ballot box.
This is a horrible story, and not because this silly man from NPR kept on chewing while his fake donors told him they represented an organization founded by Muslim Brothers, or that he seemed to agree with the anti-Zionist invective they spewed. What is horrible about this is that an NPR executive has lost his job (and his next job, apparently) after falling victim to a truly pernicious sting operation run by a morally-deranged individual. Schiller is being punished (everyone at NPR named Schiller is being punished, in fact) for saying a couple of dumbass things in private, and nodding in agreement to another set of dumbass statements. How about we turn this story around, and assert that these types of sting operations are what is morally egregious here; that humans often say stupid things; and that a person's life should not be destroyed for making the sort of statements made in the Schiller entrapment.
To those on the left, Jasser wants to deliver a wake-up message that danger is afoot. To those on the right, Jasser wants to say that Islam is perfectly compatible with modernity and mainstream American life. In short, he wants to stress that Islamism is a more serious threat than we think and a less serious threat than we think. Not surprisingly, the nuances of such a message come through with less than perfect clarity on Glenn Beck.
The end result is that Jasser is unpopular with basically everyone. Many Muslims reject his message, and so do most Americans on the left. On the right, those on the extremes are equally unfriendly. The virulently anti-Muslim commentator Debbie Schlussel, for instance, accuses Jasser of “saying the usual bullcrap, i.e., that Islam is a peaceful religion.”
Amid such warring camps, it’s hard to say anything useful. Jasser, for his part, believes that both his country and his fellow Muslims are better off for his efforts. I doubt it. There’s a balance between reaching out to skeptics and allowing oneself to be coopted, and Jasser seems to have negotiated this balance unsuccessfully. Still, while the path he has chosen is lonely and perhaps all wrong, it takes undeniable courage to walk it.
The University of Utah Singers. Morten Lauridsen, I read, was born in the state of Washington and teaches composition at USC. I learned about this sublime piece today from my St. John's buddy Buddy Lang, who performed in a brass-only version at a recent memorial service for his fellow trumpeter Mark Garrabrant. The words in English (from the Matins for Christmas):
- O great mystery,
- and wonderful sacrament,
- that animals should see the new-born Lord,
- lying in a manger!
- Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
- was worthy to bear
- Christ the Lord.
One can scan the list of leading appointments (including Mr. Obama's two chiefs of staff, one a former congressman and the other a former Clinton cabinet officer) without finding a single example—not one—of the sort of wild-eyed, revolutionary intellectual frequently cited by right-wing critics. Yes, a record of business leadership in the private sector is sorely lacking within the Obama team, but so is any history of militant socialist scheming.Republicans need not despair that President Obama fails to conform to the hackneyed (if groundless) charges of radicalism. They will find the president easier to beat when they re-adjust their attacks to portray him as typical rather than radical.
[T]hey overlooked the initials of the interviewee on the last page. I redacted it myself and informed NARA of the oversight. I’m probably one of the few, perhaps the only, recipient of FOIA released material who went in and further redacted the item.
Narcotics agents raiding a Hemet pot house made a surprise finding amid dozens of plants and seedlings: A 50-pound alligator.
The 4-foot-long gator had been living inside the home, where the owner had set up a cement tub with water so the reptile could get wet.
"He wasn't aggressive at all. ... This guy was just very, very mellow," said Joel Almquist, who was summoned Monday night by authorities to take the alligator to his animal sanctuary.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The seizure of Bishop [Suheil] Dawani’s travel documents means not only that he cannot visit the Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It also means he cannot minister to the Christian communities located minutes from St. George’s Cathedral: the brewmasters of Taybeh, the schoolchildren of Bethlehem, the unemployed and elderly of Jericho. And it means he cannot bring essential medical supplies and alms — as well as hope — to the patients at Ah Ahli hospital in Gaza. That’s right: One of the few hospitals ministering to 1.5 million residents of the Gaza strip — one of the poorest and saddest parts of the Middle East — is owned and supported by Episcopalians around the world.
It's one thing to say that the Nixon Center always planned to be independent of the Nixon foundation one day. I know it did, because I helped devise the plan. We wanted to make sure that the Center would be protected if someone ever seized control of the foundation who didn't understand or support the Center's mission or who had a vendetta against its staff or volunteers.
But it was never Nixon's or anyone else's plan to jettison his name in favor of something as blandly generic as "Center for the National Interest." For reasons perhaps not yet disclosed, the Center Formerly Known As Nixon has just broken one of its ex-namesake's cardinal political rules: It's always better to be controversial than to be dull.
The story of a great music teacher named Justin Zamm and an 11-year-old* guitar and drums prodigy named Kedrious Thomas whom you will hear from again. It all goes down in a classroom and church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town most famous as a musical landmark (at least before Kedrious arrived) thanks to the legendary Robert Johnson. Watch until the closing titles, and you'll hear the young people performing Johnson's "Cross Road Blues." And here, from my office wall, is a photo of the crossroad in question.
Hat tip to Colleen and Andy Guilford
*The original post had Kedrious's age wrong.
While generous with his own funds, he refused to raise library money beyond appearing at a few fat cat events and the grand opening in July 1990. Even then, he would dematerialize a few minutes before Bill Simon or Maury Stans, his cabinet members-turned-Nixon library volunteers, made the pitch. One time after another, I was the guy who got to tell Simon, Stans, and others that when it came to the library, Nixon was unable to add anything to his schedule. They'd sometimes wonder why they were raising $23 million for a disgraced president who actually made them feel a little dirty for even mentioning it.
Getting him to focus on architecture and exhibits was rough sledding, too. He realized that any ex-president could get his rich friends to build a museum for him, hold reunions and cocktail parties for his family members and operatives, and say whatever they wanted about the ups and downs of his presidency (such as, in his case, Watergate). As a lifelong reader, Nixon understood that his historical reputation would reside not between museum walls but book covers. That's why, after I became director of the newly opened library in 1990, he reluctantly acquiesced in my plan for an archive of his pre-presidential records. It's also why his last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor, and I devoted so much energy to getting his White House records home to Yorba Linda by making the private library part of the National Archives, a mission we completed in 2007. We did so despite considerable resistance from Nixon family members and factotums alike.
What would Nixon have thought about the federal library? His feelings would have been mixed, of course. His love of history notwithstanding, he didn't especially love historians. What did he love? Being relevant. Making a difference. His eyes only began to sparkle in conversations about his library when George Argyros (later foundation chairman and U.S. ambassador to Spain), Soviet expert Dimitri Simes, and I asked him to bless our plans for a affiliated foreign policy center that would apply his principles of enlightened national interest to America's challenges in the post-Cold War world.
He agreed immediately. That work, he told us, was worth doing. That work, he said, would have an impact on the course of events. When we were planning the Nixon library, it was hard to get him to drive 50 blocks to midtown Manhattan to attend a meeting. He came all the way from New Jersey to Yorba Linda to announce the creation of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom in January 1994, on the 25th anniversary of his first Inaugural.
When he died that April, some questioned whether a brand-new Nixon organization in Washington could succeed without him. The momentum his enthusiasm had given us helped us persevere, and in November 1994 the Nixon Center (its shortened name, eventually) opened its doors. In the years since, with Simes at the helm, its experts did exactly what we promised Nixon they'd do: Analyze current events through a Nixonian prism. As recently as last year, when Nixon's White House tapes reminded a new generation of Americans of the less worthy aspects of his legacy and temperament and the Nixon White House operatives now controlling his foundation waxed silent in response, the Nixon Center called attention to the continued relevance of his robust, carefully shaken mixture of Wilsonian idealism and Kissingerian realpolitik.
Nixon would have been proud of its work. Too bad the Nixon Center apparently isn't proud of him. In fact, it just threw its first and greatest patron over the side. At a fundraiser last night, it announced that it was in receipt of "new resources" and also proclaimed its new name: "Nixon Who?", aka "The Center for the National Interest." The National Interest is a foreign policy journal founded in the 1980s by neocon godfather Irving Kristol. Ironically, the Center Formerly Known As Nixon acquired it several years ago and turned it into the voice of principled, Nixonian realism. His kind of thinking became unfashionable in the Republican Party years ago. Who would've thought the foreign policy establishment, not to mention his friends, would finally abandon Nixon as well?
Photos: Nixon in Moscow in 1989 with Dimitri Simes (John H. Taylor photo) and in his suburban New Jersey study
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.Of course that's exactly the way Sen. Joe McCarthy talked about his little list of secret communists who'd infiltrated the the government. Asked about Gabriel's rhetoric, sober think-tankers recoil:
Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”You also expose all followers of one of the three great Abrahamic religions to harassment or worse. It happened in Yorba Linda on Feb. 13, when a rally (shown here) that was ostensibly called to protest a non-profit organization's invitation to two radical speakers turned into a broad denunciation of Mohammad, Islam, and the U.S. citizens arriving at the event who happened to be Muslims. If anyone was carrying a sign saying, "Islam is a religion of love which these speakers misrepresent," I didn't see it. If anyone was chanting it, their voices were drowned out -- here in the self-described "land of gracious living" -- by people screaming "Go home!" and "Mohammad was a child molester." Thus did Richard Nixon's birthplace town earn the international reputation of being a hate zone.
After Sept. 11, people used to ask why Muslim moderates seemed to temper their criticism of terrorists. I'm wondering when legitimate critics of Islamic terrorism will convincingly denounce those who insist on lumping in all Muslims.
My mother, Jean, gave me the leather-bound book, with its golf-leaf, onionskin pages, when I was confirmed in 1967. The crosses were pressed in the front, where she’d written her dedication. I’d finger them when I got the book down from the shelf to check an old prayer or service. They were dry but not as brittle as you might think, as though I’d put them there last year rather than during the Johnson administration.
Seeing them always made me think of going with my mother and grandparents to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Woodward Ave. On the way, we’d drive by the Vernor's ginger ale plant. Afterward we’d go to a diner for silver-dollar pancakes or the Art Institute for an egg salad sandwich and a peek at the famed Diego Rivera murals and an Egyptian mummy that was on display.
Every year at St. John’s Church, repeating the Altar Guild’s call to bring in last year’s crosses so we could burn them for Ash Wednesday, I’d feel a little guilty about my hoard of keepsakes.
But this year, driving to church on the morning of the last Sunday after the Epiphany, I thought about an Altar Guild member who was so eager to light the mighty pyre that she was coming to church in the throes of her recovery from surgery. I thought of my children or grandchildren finding the crosses on some occasion (far in the future, I trust) and wondering what to do with them. I realized that my memories were alive in my heart and spirit and that in any event my precious crosses, lent but not given, were a half-century overdue.
So I added my ancient crosses to our congregants' newer ones, to be formed into fateful black marks on a thousand foreheads Wednesday during four services at our Orange County Episcopal church and school. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
If anyone says he's thirsty after Ash Wednesday service, I'll recommend he try a Vernor's.
Monday, March 7, 2011
There are many reasons I oppose a Western military intervention in Libya: the bitter experience of Iraq; the importance of these Arab liberation movements being homegrown; the ease of going in and difficulty of getting out; the accusations of Western pursuit of oil that will poison the terrain; the fact that two Western wars in Muslim countries are enough.
But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world. Arabs have no need of U.S. or European soldiers as they seek the freedom that America and the European Union were content to deny them. Qaddafi can be undermined without Western military intervention. He cannot prevail: Some officer will eventually make that plain.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I think what was most striking about that video is that the presence of small children didn't give these anti-Muslim protesters even momentary pause; they just continued screeching their ugly invective while staring at 4-year-olds walking with their parents. People like that are so overflowing with hatred and resentments that the place where their humanity -- their soul -- is supposed to be has been drowned.
Organizers of the Feb. 13 rally outside a Muslim-sponsored charity event claimed their message was that two featured speakers weren't welcome in Yorba Linda because they were too radical. According to this al-Jazeera report by Rob Reynolds, some Muslim American citizens at the event, including children, got the impression that they weren't welcome in the U.S.