Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Cathedral Not Built

I'll bet I'm the last Episcopalian in the galaxy to see "The Bishop's Wife," Henry Koster's affectionate 1947 portrait of a bishop in New York whose family is crumbling around him while he builds his cathedral. All hail Netflex, which delivered this quintessential Christmas movie to our house just in time for the Sixth Sunday in Epiphany.

Cathedrals are great metaphors. In Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, a diligent monk's medieval cathedral project stands for civilization and and a just social order. When Cardinal Roger Mahoney opened his Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles in 2002, as glorious as it was in many respects, it was hard not to view it as an extravagant distraction in the light of the burgeoning scandal in the LA archdiocese over the cover-up of priests' sexual misconduct. Other Los Angelenos would have agreed with arch doyen Mrs. Hamilton in "The Bishop's Wife," who finally decides to give her $1 million to the poor.

By that time, the fictional New York cathedral is history, which means that the work of Dudley the angel (Cary Grant, who lobbied hard to get the part) is nearly done. That's Dudley above, in one of the movie's last scenes. He's effected a reconciliation between Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) and his wife, Julia (Loretta Young). He's inspired radical Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley) to start writing his history of the Roman Empire and go back to church. In a beautiful scene, Dudley conducts a boy's choir in a rough part of town with an expression of absolute transcendence on his face. Most of the boys were late showing up, but there's something about Dudley, and by the time they're done, they're singing like angels (which the young actors really did, as the Mitchell Boys Choir out of St. Brendan's Parish in LA; see their performance below).

Dudley even helped with my vicar's book corner at St. John's tomorrow morning. We're reading Rabbi Harold Kushner's The Lord Is My Shepherd, about the 23rd Psalm. In the movie, Dudley tells the Broughams' daughter Debby (Karolyn Grimes) the story of David, a young shepherd and poet whom an angel showed how to find a lost sheep and defeat a ravenous lion. So inspired was the future king by his busy and productive day, Dudley tells Debby, that he wrote a new song beginning, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Not exactly the way the Oxford Bible Commentary tells the story, but a great way to start a Sunday morning class nonetheless.

Perfect Songs: "Easy From Now On" (1978)

Emmylou Harris; song by Susanna Clark and Carlene (Carter) Routh

Take Our Money -- Please

The London Times gets it:

Kindle seems to have found absolution for what US newspaper guru Alan Mutter calls news media’s “original sin” of giving content away. At a time when newspapers are suffering from falling readerships and a depressed ad market, Kindle readers are signing up to pay for newspapers and magazines to be sent wirelessly to their e-book readers.

One Night They All Look Happy

Go here for a nice selection of photos of recent Presidents and First Ladies at their inaugurations, including the Nixons in 1973.

Same Issue, Different Denomination

Presbyterians in Charlotte, North Carolina meet to decide whether gay and lesbian people should be ministers.

Nowhere To Hide: 50 Million Jobless Worldwide?

New York Times:

Worldwide job losses from the recession that started in the United States in December 2007 could hit a staggering 50 million by the end of 2009, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. The slowdown has already claimed 3.6 million American jobs.

High unemployment rates, especially among young workers, have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.

Last month, the government of Iceland, whose economy is expected to contract 10 percent this year, collapsed and the prime minister moved up national elections after weeks of protests by Icelanders angered by soaring unemployment and rising prices.

Just last week, the new United States director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told Congress that instability caused by the global economic crisis had become the biggest security threat facing the United States, outpacing terrorism.

One Person's Myth Is Another's Mission

If you have iTunes, download this conversation between "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross and Will Bunch, who argues in a new book, Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, that Reagan's tax cuts didn't end the 1981-83 recession and that his tough policies vis a vis the Soviet Union didn't end the Cold War.

On the tax cuts, scholars and politicians differ. As for bringing down the Soviets without a nuclear war, a long line of postwar Presidents share the credit, with Richard Nixon perhaps due more than most. But Reagan's hard line just as Moscow was going broke didn't hurt. I won't pre-judge Bunch's arguments, because I haven't read them. Nor did I hear about them on "Fresh Air," because Gross, usually a pretty penetrating interviewer, accepted them as axioms and spent most of her time asking how today's GOP politicians use their manufactured view of the Reagan legacy to further their nefarious goals. For the high crime of wanting to cut our income taxes, Gross and Bunch single out Grover Norquist for special opprobrium as an example of "a new, aggressive breed of conservative." Somebody get out the Lysol!

Ever the pro, Gross rectified the imbalance by inviting historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited the Reagan diaries and thinks 40 was one of the top Presidents of the 20th century, to address Bunch's theories. Said Brinkley:
I don't think it's so much as a myth. I think Presidents have legacies, and they get advocates. There's people that believe Theodore Roosevelt was great, or FDR was great, or Kennedy, or Reagan. And it's...reasonable to think that people want to admire Ronald Reagan. I think the distortion comes when people leave the history books and try to create saints out of people. Ronald Reagan was not a saint. He was a good President for his times. He was good because there was a kind of malaise in the country due to double-digit inflation, due to the hostages in Iran, due to the excesses of the Great Society, or at least the misappropriation of funds going on for government programs. Taxes were being raised left and right. So we were naturally going to find a force in this country to try to bring us back in the right direction. Reagan was that. Even Barack Obama, during the campaign trail, had nice things to say about Ronald Reagan....
Brinkley went on to advise Obama, whom he characterized as a TR-style progressive, to resist the lure of the middle way and live out his destiny, just as Reagan lived out his.

Just The One Job Now -- And An Amazing One

The Orange County Register covers my departure from the Nixon Foundation. Thanks for the cake, Cheryl!

From My Valentine's Day Present

My wife Kathy has an 1886 prayer book that belonged to her mother's father, Thomas Gorman. It contains this prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila in the 16th century:
Let nothing trouble you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away.
God only is immutable.
Patience overcomes all difficulties.
Those who possess God want nothing.
God alone suffices.

Tending Towards Statism

During the Oct. 15 Presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer confronted Sens. McCain and Obama with a harsh reality. At least to him, it didn't look like the snowballing financial crisis would permit any big spending. Here's how I liveblogged the exchange:
Question on deficits; aren’t both sides ignoring reality? What from your $200 billion+ proposals will you cut back? Obama doesn’t answer. McCain doesn’t either, at first. Pushes mortgage plan and energy independence. Then: Across-the-board spending freeze. Will cut subsidies for ethanol as well as tariffs on sugar-cane imports. Finally an answer, followed by an attack on Obama as a pork-barrel beneficiary. Prof. Obama explains why across-the-board freezes don’t work (Washington insiders don’t let them work is why; he doesn’t say this, however). Ritualistic attack on McCain for voting for four out of five Bush budgets.
Perhap when Obama wasn't answering, he was thinking, "Cut back $200 billion? Heck, Bob, I'll spend four times that by President's Day, and even then my progressive friends will be heaping hot coals on Republicans for nickel-and-dimeing me out of the last $100 billion. Within four months of tonight, the House appropriations committee will have dusted off a generation's worth of its Democratic members' thwarted dreams, and I will have stuffed the whole package down the country's throat by promising catastrophe if they don't go along with me. Not only will I not pare back my promises, Bob, I'm going to use this crisis to devise a structural increase in the size of the federal budget to the tune of 15-20% with even less debate than the last round of salary increases for federal judges."

Schieffer's question was a naive, Herbert Hoover kind of thing, suggesting that fiscal discipline would be the main way out of our troubles. The candidates played along, McCain by endorsing spending freezes and Obama by criticizing George W. Bush's deficits. How times have changed. Obama's deficits will dwarf Bush's, and liberals once again reckon deficits as righteousness, just as Bush did (and critics didn't) when they were undertaken in the name of national security and the Iraq war.

If Obama had offered a glimpse of his plans, then today I'd agree with all those who say that he had a mandate for the stimulus package and the massive increase in the size and role of government it portends. I might even agree with critics of the GOP such as Andrew Sullivan who say that refusing to give the measure bipartisan support was irresponsible during such a severe crisis.

But Obama didn't, and so I don't. Since McCain was probably doomed after the Lehman Bros. collapse in mid-September, Obama's victory wasn't a mandate dramatically to re-envision the role of government in the name of recession recovery. To be fair and balanced, Ronald Reagan's critics said the same about his 1981 tax increases. Some economists argue that the tax cuts didn't drive the mid-1980s recovery, just as Obama's critics will say that the business cycle had more to do with the recovery (assuming it comes) than the stimulus.

Since historians and journalists still debate the effectiveness of the New Deal, one assumes these partisan and ideological debates about the relative merits of tax cuts, social spending, public works projects, and frugality will persist forever. As President Nixon once told me, it's always about right vs. left. Perhaps there's even some comfort in that, especially for those of us who think the right answer is usually somewhere in the middle. But Reagan was right as well: The federal budget never shrinks. The arc of the fiscal universe is long, and it tends toward statism.

Newspapers And Internet Pundits

Eduardo Porter in the New York Times:
[R]ather than a citizen reporter, the Internet has given us the citizen pundit, who comments on: newspaper articles. Reporting the news in far-flung countries, spending weeks on investigations of uncertain payoff, fighting for freedom of information in court — is expensive. Virtually the only entities still doing it on the necessary scale are newspapers. Letting them go on the expectation that the Internet will enable a better-informed citizenry seems like a risky bet.

Happy To Pay

The "Economist" editorializes about the Kindle, whose users are willing to pay for editorial content:
[T]he Kindle and other e-readers could be a boon to newspapers. With rare exceptions, newspapers have accustomed their readers to expect digital editions to be free. As circulation revenue has declined, this made them dependent on advertising, just as the recession hit. On the Kindle, by contrast, the news has no ads. Instead, readers seem happy to pay for it—just as they pay for services in any other industry that offers something worthwhile.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Perfect Songs: "One Of These Days" (1976)

Emmylou Harris (song written by Earl Montgomery)

It Was A Bad Day In Bedford Falls

A chilling post at "Body Parts":
According to Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D. Pennsylvania, 11th District,in a TV interview, on September 15, 2008, Thursday, late in the morning, an electronic run on the banks began and was noticed by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve was unable to stop it with emergency loans to banks; the run went up to $550 billion in almost two hours. To stop it, the Fed guaranteed depositor accounts up to $250,000; that at least apparently stopped it. Paulson went to Congress and said, if the run had not been stopped, that up to $3 trillion would have been withdrawn by the end of the day and the US banking system would have collapsed. Kanjorski heard him say it. If the banking system had collapsed, the economy and hence the political system would have collapsed (Kanjorski stated, not indicating whether it was his own, or Paulson's, inference from the situation).

Who was making an electronic run on the banks? To say that a $250k guarantee stopped the run, implies that the run was by small depositors and not large depositors and, probably, not foreign depositors. Was that the case? Or was the run some other kind of financial transaction rather than withdrawal of cash from accounts? The Fed knows. The Treasurery knows. The Bush and Obama administrations know. Congress knows. But we don't know. Why don't we know?

Addicted To Speed

In "Fortune," a couple of stimulus skeptics, including the smart John Taylor:
Are there unforeseen consequences to this rush to expand the federal government's presence in a free- market economy? "I know of no evidence that more speed is the answer," says Stanford economist John B. Taylor, author of a forthcoming book critical of past government interventions. "Just last year the government acted as speedily as possible with a big stimulus package sending $115 billion worth of checks to people. It did no good. So the idea that 'all we need is speed' should be questioned based even on very recent experience."

Vincent Reinhart, former director of monetary affairs at the Fed and now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, warns against the lasting effects of hasty actions. "We have limited resources," he says. "Everything we spend has to be financed and the interest paid. A dollar spent inefficiently is a dollar too much. Changes to entitlements tend to stick. A bridge can be built in the wrong place. These are long-term decisions that affect the budget baseline for years to come."

Only Bibi Can Go To Ramallah?

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist, argues that Israel's leaders appear to fail the Nixon test:
The only hope now for resuming negotiations is the old "only Nixon could open up China" argument, meaning that only a truly hard-right Israeli leader would have the credibility to make peace with the Palestinians. But it is now clear to historians that Richard Nixon was determined to make his overture to China from the moment he began his presidency. Sadly, the signs that any of Israel's potential prime ministers are truly prepared to take so bold a step are few.

For Obama, First Halloween, Then Christmas

The first and last sentences of a long "Economist" article about the U.S. economy and the stimulus package sum up the political advantages for President Obama:
For a man whose bumper stickers promised “Hope not Fear”, Barack Obama knows how to scare people....When the economy recovers, which it surely will, he will get the credit.

Prophet Of Republican Diversity

At the "New Majority," Geoffrey Kabaservice profiles one of the most successful GOP vote-getters in the 1970s, Ohio Rep. Charles Whalen, who showed that a principled pragmatist could be a winner:
Whalen believed it was in the best interests of the GOP to leave room for moderates and liberals. He thought that ideological diversity within Republican ranks was “beneficial in that it provides the Party not only with the vitality necessary to keep astride of current political tides, but also the restraint that is helpful in making far-reaching decisions.” He opposed too much uniformity, whether within parties or in government as a whole. When one party had total control of government, he thought, there was a loss of perspective and balance.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vanity Fair Game

In this "Vanity Fair" excerpt from his upcoming book about Reagan and Gorbachev, veteran journalist James Mann, a former LA Times columnist, quotes from a memo former President Nixon wrote to his own file about his April 1987 meeting with President Reagan in the White House family quarters. I called Mann this morning and asked (graciously, I hope) whether a copy of RN's memcon had somehow ended up in a public archive somewhere, since as far as we know, it's still in non-deeded post-Presidential files at the Nixon Library. Mann graciously declined to tell me where he'd seen it.

The 1987 memcon isn't quite as big a scoop as Mann makes out in his article (nor indeed I in my post). See the comments on the New Nixon version of this post.

Barack W. Obama

Andrew Sullivan comes right out and accuses Republicans of wanting to sabotage not only President Obama but the U.S. economy. He's not an especially enthusiastic supporter of the stimulus bill, so it's hard to imagine he finds it impossible to accept that congressional Republicans, including ex-Commerce Secretary-designate Judd Gregg, are sincere in their opposition to this hastily assembled, impossible to comprehend, unprecedentedly expensive, soon-to-be-signed mess. Instead, Sullivan and other Obama boosters seem to be appalled that all Washington refuses to embrace their bracing post-partisan vision and march lockstep behind the President whether it agrees with him or not.

Perhaps one reason Republicans don't do so is that, so far, Obama doesn't lead very effectively. As a matter of fact, he's beginning to remind me of George W. Bush, whose conception of Presidential persuasion was to state what he took to be obvious about the war on terror and the evildoers and then act weary and vaguely peeved when people didn't see the world the same way he did. Over the last week, Obama has sounded so harsh and pedantic that Sullivan may be barking up the wrong end of Pennsylvania Ave. looking for the politicians whose actions and statements may actually be hurting the economy.

Now that he's got his bill, I'd like the President to begin talking up the productive and recuperative power of the American people and encouraging me to spend it if I have it. Just a word from you, Mr. President, and I'll even order a Kindle 2.0.

It Definitely Goes To China, Too

Worst metaphor in the history of journalism?:
In many ways, Windows Vista has become the Richard Nixon of operating systems: controversial, scandalous, perhaps unfairly vilified at times, but ultimately reviled by many.

A Polky Recovery

Nixonian irregular Bucky Fox at "Investor's Business Daily" shows that RN might well have honed his comeback chops by studying James Polk.

Sacred Science

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori offers a scientist's take on the issues dividing the Episcopal Church:

Jefferts Schori said science informs everything from how she interprets the Bible to her views on homosexuality—two subjects that now embroil her church and the larger Anglican Communion.

“I think it’s pretty clear from scientific studies that homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, has got a significant component that is determined before birth,” she said. “It is, at least from a theological perspective, part of the created order. ... It’s the church’s job to help people live holy lives however they’ve been created, and sexuality is part of our creation.”

But conservatives argue that her progressive views stray far from traditional Christianity. Since her election, four Episcopal dioceses and dozens of parishes—still angry over the 2003 election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire—have seceded.

“She’s continued the trajectory that was already established,” said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who led his diocese to leave the Episcopal Church last October. “The Episcopal Church has moved progressively away from classical Christianity and mainstream Anglicanism.”

The Faith Of Evolution?

Writing in "Discover" to mark the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, Karen Wright says belief in God gives a body a distinct advantage in the natural selection derby. Besides:
Harnessed to a supernatural dimension, the belief in evolution could itself evolve into a kind of religion. Witness the case of one Michael Dowd, an itinerant minister who calls himself an "evolutionary evangelist" and preaches the "holy trajectory" of evolution. "I thank God for the entire 14-billion-year epic of cosmic, biological, and human emergence," he notes on his web site. "Ironically, evolution gives us a more intimate and personal relationship with God because God is no longer far off, unnatural, and impotent..."

Do JFK Tape Gaps Add Up To 18.5 Minutes?

From Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life, his 2003 biography of President Kennedy, Dallek describes the taping system Kennedy ordered the Secret Service to install in July 1992:
Three tapes, [authors Philip] Zelikow and [Ernest] May add, may have been "cut and spliced, for two of these tapes...concerned intelligence issues and may have involved discussion of covert efforts to assassinate Castro." It is also possible that embarrassing passages involving Marilyn Monroe and Judith Campbell Exner were removed. In addition, a small number of tapes may have been destroyed or lost. There are, for example, unopened transcripts at the Kennedy Library for four missing tapes, which may contain embarrassing revelations or national security secrets.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Russia With Respect

Sending Henry Kissinger to Moscow, Barack Obama exhibits a realist's instincts.

Perfect Songs: "Grand Central Station" (2004)

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Left Battles Right, And Center Wins

"Everything comes down to left vs. right," President Nixon told me one morning in the late 1980s. "Everything." I don't remember the subject, just the way he clinched his fist and set his jaw as he spoke. I'd wondered lately if he was wrong. If the political culture wars as decried by Rick Perlstein and Andrew Sullivan were finally over. If we'd entered a new, post-partisan era. Evidently not, as the New York Times reports:

In cobbling together a plan that could get through both the House and the Senate, Mr. Obama prevailed, but not in the way he had hoped. His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence, a reminder that his high-minded calls for change in the practice of governance had been ground up in a matter of weeks by entrenched forces of partisanship and deep, principled differences between left and right.

While the media theme of the week has been party-line Republican opposition to the bill, I've been more struck by the intensity of the ideological pressure from the left. Many obviously hope the economic crisis will form the pretext for a permanent 20-25% increase in the size and scope of the federal government. For promoting tax cuts instead of social and infrastructure spending, Republicans were accused of defying the will of voters as expressed at the polls in November, opposing the creation of 600,000 (Paul Krugman) or even 4 million jobs, and refusing to work with the dashing young President. Besides, argues Will Bunch, the Reagan tax cuts didn't even work:
In the case of Reagan's massive 1981 tax cut, it did start the great divergence of wealth between the very affluent and the middle class in this country, but it didn't save the American economy, which actually slid into a deep recession the next 15 months.
The success of the 1981 tax cuts by themselves appears to be an article of faith. Others argue that the cruel 1982 recession ended thanks to low interest rates and massive deficit spending (which, after all, is the flip side of tax cuts not accompanied by spending cuts). Those factors, low interest and high deficits, we've definitely got again -- along with both massive Keynesian spending and tax cuts designed to spur consumer spending and business investment. I'm as happy with the bill as it's possible to be about spending nearly $800 billion of taxpayers' money. Better a hodgepodge reflecting a broad range of ideas than a package dominated by left or right.

Rt. Rev. Ma'ams

For British Anglicans, an important step in the direction of the perfect equality of women with men in Christ:
The long and arduous road towards accepting women bishops in the Church of England became an inch shorter February 11 as the General Synod passed a motion to send a draft measure on the matter to a revision committee that will spend the next 12 months reworking the legislation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Got Reformation?

Pope Benedict accelerates the offering of indulgences, the ecclesiastical equivalent of paying a little extra to go to the head of the line at Disneyland.

Not Yet A Different Rendition

Maybe the President has been more startled than he expected by his intelligence briefings. The New York Times:
In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.

Still Scary After All These Years?

I hope OC Weekly will miss me!

I Swore To Obey My Bishop!

News of my departure from the Nixon Foundation here.

Prager: Williamson Is "An Ahmadinejad"

Denis Prager, though Jewish, is an outspoken friend of the Roman Catholic Church. But he has no use for Richard Williamson, nor for Pope Benedict's equivocal stance on the British bishop's denial of humankind's greatest sin:
A man who denies the Holocaust is either a liar on a magnitude difficult for most mortals to comprehend, or a manifestly sick human being for whom the difference between truth and lie is not discernible, or profoundly anti-Semitic.

Such a person shouldn’t be asked to “distance himself from his positions on the Shoah.” He should be shunned by the man Catholics believe to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth and by his church. If Williamson is ever to be a Catholic in good standing, he needs to repent from evil, not adopt another “position” on the Holocaust. There are no “positions” on whether the Holocaust took place any more than there are “positions” on whether slavery took place or whether there was a French Revolution.

And if he does repent, we will know. That repentance will take the form of doing work for the victims of the Holocaust that he once said never occurred.

In the meantime, there should be no place for an Ahmadinejad in the Catholic Church.

For Pat, Smoot-Hawley's Moot

Pat Buchanan bangs the drum for a trade war:
We are about to decide, perhaps for all time, whether we believe in a deepening interdependence leading to one world government, or we restore the independence won for us by the men on Mount Rushmore: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

All four were economic nationalists. All would today be decried as protectionists. For all believed that the nation's independence and prosperity hung upon its ability to stand alone in the world, and that foreign goods should never enjoy as privileged access to America's markets as American goods made in the U.S.A....

Those who prattle about the perils of protectionism need to be asked: What has free trade produced, but a bankrupt America that must go hat-in-hand to Beijing to borrow the money to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? Are we also to use Chinese iron, steel and cement because they, with their Third World wages, will work for less than our fellow Americans?

As for Europe's threat of a trade war, bring it on!

We would eat their lunch.

It Was Bad For Frank Nixon's Lemons, Too

There was frost on the mighty Saturn in my Yorba Linda driveway this morning, but not a window scraper in sight. They're illegal in southern California.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red Sky At Night?

A Collect for Aid against Perils
Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

Imperfect Songs: "MacArthur Park" (1968)

My "New Nixon" colleague Frank Gannon posts a wonderful feature each Sunday: A look back at the popular music of 1968, the year Richard Nixon was elected President. This week's installment is all about the heart-strung songwriting of Jimmy Webb ("By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman" for Glenn Campbell, "Up, Up And Away" for the Fifth Dimension, and so on). And then:

Frank's background on that immortal cut:
[Webb] wrote a song called “MacArthur Park” as a component of a three-part cantata for the popular softcore sunshine rock group The Association. They rejected it, but broody bad boy Irish actor Richard Harris —the Colin Farrell of back in the day— included it on his album "A Tramp Shining."

'MacArthur Park' broke all the rules — it was more than twice as long as the maximum allowed for radio play, its lyrics were nonsensical, and its singer, not to put too fine a point on it, had a limited range. Webb finally gave up after many futile attempts to correct Harris’ mistaken rendering of the song’s title as MacArthur’s Park.
Nonsensical or no -- well, okay, nonsensical -- that's how I rock and rolled in the late 1960s.

It hadn't always been that way. The music of the epoch won me forever when I heard "I Saw Her Standing There" (which Sir Paul is singing right now on the Grammys) in a Rexall drug store in Grosse Pointe in 1964. Born in Detroit, I had the Four Tops (also Grammy-featured) and Supremes in my blood.

In the summer of 1967, we headed for Phoenix, where my mother was starting a new job at the Arizona Republic. The aforementioned Association's "Windy" was in heavy AM rotation as we made our soggy way across the country in mom's white '67 Karmann Ghia and godfather Louis's grey '65 Mustang. By the time we got to Phoenix, the organ intro to the Doors' "Light My Fire" was snaking through the air. "The Beatles" (that's the white album to you and me, kids) was a Christmas gift in 1968. Back east at prep school in 1969-73, somebody introduced me to the blues and Led Zeppelin.

But in 1967, when I was 13, something was going on, and you know just what it was, Mr. Jones, that had turned my musical sensibilities to mush. The vaguely ironic sentimentality of songwriters such as Jimmy Webb and Neil Diamond (there he is at Staples, too) felt grown up, as did the mysterious insinuations in songs like "Lady Willpower" (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap) and "Angel of the Morning" (Marrilee Rush).

The Singer store at the mall on Central Ave. had a wall rack of .45s costing maybe 50 cents. I had about 30, which I labeled, alphabetized, and played on a record player my mother got me at Sear's. "MacArthur Park" was my favorite song for a while. When we returned to Detroit on vacation the following summer, I took my collection along. Our former upstairs neighbor, Peter Johnson, was a church organist who said pop music was an unqualified abomination. I thought I could win him over with "MacArthur Park," however, because it had strings, time signature changes, unfathomable literary pretensions, and some famous British (sic) guy. Peter sat on the floor and listened with me, roaring with with joyful derision when Harris sang:
After all the loves of my life
I'll be thinking of you
And wondering why
Peter, of course, is an Episcopalian (besides being a literary critic). The Nixon angle? A friend and biographer of the late President, Jonathan Aitken, is now married to the former Elizabeth Harris, ex-wife of old Dumbledore himself.

Let's Spend The $800 Billion Anyway, Just In Case

The Congressional Budget Office says the recession will end this year without a stimulus bill.

San Clemente Jane

When a smirking Sean Hannity plugged Jane Fonda's new blog tonight, it occurred to me that he assumed that Fox viewers would flood it with negative comments thanks to residual anger over her support for communist North Vietnam and Viet Cong. If so, that's pretty adolescent, Sean.

It's an interesting, revealing site. I'm starstruck enough to be impressed by a movie star (or musician) offering personal observations and details in real time, especially when they type them out themselves. Most of Fonda's current entries concern rehearsals for her new Broadway play, "33 Variations."

In one entry, she acknowledges people's continued fascination with her "Hanoi Jane" days:
I intend to answer these questions. I would like nothing better than to put these lies and myths to rest once and for all. I will try to do this as soon as possible.
Her blog even includes a local angle: A photo showing her demonstrating outside the Western White House in April 1973 as South Vietnam's President Thieu paid a visit to President Nixon. Fonda (center left, carrying a sign) and her colleagues were arguing (incorrectly) that the Viet Cong were the legitimate government of South Vietnam.

GOP Needs Bigger Bats Vs. The Blue Monster

David Broder:
In an important article in a recent National Journal, Brownstein notes that there are now 18 states and the District of Columbia that have voted Democratic at least five times in a row, supporting Democrats from Bill Clinton through Barack Obama. Those states -- concentrated in the Northeast, the upper Midwest and on the Pacific Coast -- provide 248 electoral votes, 29 more than the old Republican lock and more than 90 percent of the Electoral College majority.

Of Lincoln And Darwin, One Was Indispensable

In an essay about Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln -- we'll mark the 200th anniversaries of their births on Monday -- George Will manages a slap at the Endangered Species Act. He also writes:
[R]emember that Lincoln mattered more. Without Darwin, other scientists would have discerned natural selection. Indeed, Darwin's friend Alfred Wallace already had. Without Lincoln, the United States probably would have been sundered into at least two nations. Probably into more: Southerners, a fractious tribe, would not have played nicely together in the Confederacy for very long.