Saturday, February 21, 2009

Women Aren't The Problem

Thomas C. Fox, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, is bemused as the Vatican announces that it will study women religious (that is, nuns) in the U.S. with an eye to understanding why their numbers are dwindling. In his Feb. 20 Editor's Note, he writes that when the Roman Catholic church mounted an effort in the late 1980s to understand more about the role of women in the church, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister said:
Women aren't the problem...patriarchy is the problem, sexism is the problem, male chauvinism is the problem, a skewed, distorted and enslaved theology of God is the problem. Write papers about those, indeed, but don't write one about women.

Slumdog/Nixon Is Not A Winning Choice

Nationally renowned real estate trainer Duane Gomer, who worships at St. John's with DJ and Sophia, has prizes galore for your winning Oscar picks.

Stanley Yes, Patricia No, Says Times Editor

At the New York Times, public editor Clark Hoyt's rebuke of reporter Patricia Cohen is stinging:
I asked [former National Archives supervisory tapes archivist Frederick J.] Graboske how he was certain Kutler mixed the two tapes on purpose. To have done it, he said, “would have been the height of sloppiness, and Stanley is a sloppy researcher or he did it deliberately.” That is a different answer than he gave Cohen. If plain error was a possibility, I do not think The Times should have printed the charge without strong evidence. Journalistic balance, giving both sides, did not produce fairness here.

Cuba Policy "At Odds With National Interest"

Steve Clemons, founding executive director of the Nixon Center, provides an early glimpse at a Senate report honchoed by Nixonian realist and GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, who says the 47-year U.S. economic embargo of Cuba hasn't worked:
I call it the "slippery slope strategy" in which Lugar is shining a big spotlight on the inadequacy and failure of US-Cuba policy that for too long has been held in place by domestic constituencies who were working at odds with the American national interest. Lugar is pushing buttons and nudging Obama's team into put itself forward constructively -- and with these steps, it becomes easier to see the broader embargo as a serious anachronism and a mistake that needs remedy.
President Nixon would be pleased.

It Wasn't Fit To Print (At Least On Page One)

The supreme and all-powerful in-house arbiter of journalistic practice and ethics at the New York Times, the paper's "public editor," has issued his report on its recent story about Professor Stanley Kutler, former White House counsel John Dean, and the Watergate tapes. While copies of the full text are bouncing around the Internet, the History News Network offers this excerpt pending the article's publication in tomorrow's editions:
I think The Times blew the dispute out of proportion with front-page play, allowed an attack on a respected historian’s integrity without evidence to support it and left readers to wonder if there was anything here that would change our understanding of the scandal that ended Nixon’s presidency.
Clark Hoyt, author of the critique, believes that while Kutler's published transcripts of March 1973 Watergate conversations contained errors, there's no reason to believe they were intentional.

I raised some concerns of my own about the way Kutler edited a July 1972 conversation that I am certain are being studied carefully not only at the Times but in newsrooms around the world.

Own Your Feelings, Mr. President

In China and throughout Asia on the 37th anniversary of 37's historic visit to Beijing, the Secretary of State is getting rave reviews. In the end, that could be bad for her. Early this morning somewhere in the White House or Old Executive Office Building, someone read this in the New York Times and muttered, "Well isn't that special! We're stuck back here saving Joe the Plumber's mortgage, and she's turning the world on with her smile":
Mrs. Clinton is exploiting both her megawatt celebrity and her training during the presidential campaign. On Friday, nearly 3,000 female students packed an auditorium at Ewha Womans University in Seoul to hear Mrs. Clinton deliver a speech that ranged from North Korea’s nuclear threat to the challenge women face in balancing work and family.

A standing-room-only crowd at the University of Tokyo listened to Mrs. Clinton discuss how the United States should rebuild its ties to the Muslim world. Toward the end, a nervous young woman, who said she played on a baseball team, asked Mrs. Clinton how to become as strong as she was.

“Well, I played a lot of baseball, and I played with a lot of boys,” she replied, to peals of laughter.

Mrs. Clinton said she was skeptical that these appearances alone would lead to changes in the policies of foreign governments. But by connecting with people on a personal level, she said, she believes she can help mold public opinion, which, in turn, can influence governments.

President Obama has an extraordinary capacity to do that because of the really positive feelings that he personally engenders,” she said. “To a lesser degree, I have some of the same capacity.”
The Times also notes, "Henry Kissinger, this isn't," perhaps failing to grasp the irony. It wasn't lost on RN when the media fawned over HAK while reviling his superior. I wonder how Obama will react to having unleashed a superstar of his own. Clinton's purported political perfect pitch evaded her when she said that she shared the President's charismatic gifts, albeit "to a lesser degree." Good thing she said that last bit. To extend her own sports metaphor, while she "played with a lot of boys," she definitely doesn't want to call out Obama for a game of one on one.

As Print Dies, So May Comic Books

Looks like kryptonite isn't the only foe for Superman.

The popularity of the iPhone/iPod, and the growing popularity of's e-book Kindle, may mean the end of the line for comic books.

"If 10% of the readers migrate to an e-device, that is gonna throw off the economics for 60% of the (comic) books that are published in this country," DC Comics exec John Cunningham told a panel in New York.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Let It Go, Pinch!

A month later, and the New York Times is still investigating Caroline Kennedy not being named senator.

Meeting In The Middle

If true, and if they live it out, this is the best news of the week. New York Times:
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader chosen Friday to form Israel’s next government, likes to tell a story about his meeting last summer in Jerusalem with President Obama, who was then still the Democratic candidate.

As it was ending Mr. Obama pulled Mr. Netanyahu aside from their aides to a corner of the room in the King David Hotel.

“You and I have a lot in common,” Mr. Obama said, according to Mr. Netanyahu’s account. “I started on the left and moved to the center. You started on the right and moved to the center. We are both pragmatists who like to get things done.”

Perfectest Songs: "Like A Rolling Stone" (1965)

By the greatest rock guitarist, the greatest cover of what is generally acknowledged to be the greatest rock and roll song of all time.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. When Hendrix says, "That's [Dylan's] grandmother over there," he's probably looking at bassist Noel Redding. As other nostalgic boomers know from the old Warner Reprise album (which the JHE shared with Otis Redding), just before he pounds out the song's majestic I-IV-V opening progression, Jimi says what a nice evening it is, adding, "No buttons to push." I always felt I knew just what he meant.

Listen for his deft rephrasing of Dylan's then two-year-old original (BD: "Napoleon in rags and the language that he used"; JH: "Napoleon in rags and the sweet talk that he used"). And that guitar! How could there possibly be just one of him? On the original, Dylan used bluesman Michael Bloomfield but warned him not to play any blues licks. So the Dylan cut has Roger McGuinn/Peter Buck-style jangling, which Hendrix gently re-appropriates and literally turns upside down.

Hat tip to the late David Ware, PA '72

No, Probably Not

On NPR, a revealing exchange between Rep. Walter Minnick of Idaho, one of seven House Democrats who voted against the President's stimulus bill, and reporter Steve Inskeep:
Minnick: I think the energy, education, and health care provisions should have been considered as a secondary process after we created jobs in a tax-efficient way.

Inskeep: Although while given the deficit and debt situations, if you did consider those within the framework of trying to balance the budget or even move in that direction, you wouldn't do any of this stuff.

Are You Going To Finish Strong?

Nick Vujicic; check him out on YouTube if you want to see more, including his testimony.

Hat tip to Mick Guilford

No Awkwardness, Please; We're British

At the "Spectator" in London, Mary Killen, in her "Ask Mary" column, helps readers escape awkward situations without giving offense, an English cultural imperative. Several years ago, an Anglican from the north of England wrote in complaining that when she went to church in London, the liturgy included the opportunity to greet those sitting nearby between the ministry of the Word and Holy Eucharist. Churches call this passing the peace. She said that since she greeted people before and after the service, she saw no reason to do so in the middle. In the U.S., we'd smile or grimace, shake our heads, and say no thank you. Mary advised the reader to go to church with her right arm in a sling and gesture at it apologetically to escape being grasped or hugged.

Here's a more recent example:
Q. My 12-year-old son and I braved the snow last week to keep an appointment for him to look at a school. On the much delayed journey back to Paddington I was walking through to the buffet car when I saw two friends of a friend who kindly suggested I fetch my son and come and join them. Having said I would, I immediately regretted it because it meant my son (who boards) and I would not be able to chat together alone. I could not think of a way to backtrack and dragged him through to both of our regrets. How could I have explained that I had changed my mind without causing offense, Mary?

J.N., London W12

A. You could have made a show of going to your son’s carriage and then returning to announce that since he had fallen asleep you had better not leave him to wake up and wonder where on earth you were.

Bruce In The Arena

Bruce's new video for his Golden Globe-winning song "The Wrestler"; and a story about the time the Boss met the Boss.

All Fall Down

Paul Volcker says that because of the uniformity and speed of the global decline, the current crisis may be worse than the Depression.

Paying By The Pixel

On-line readers and media consumers aren't willing to pay for content? Au contraire, says Jack Shafer. Success stories include Consumer Reports, Major League Baseball, Nexis, Bloomberg, and Apple's iTunes. Newspapers had better learn how to ape them before it's too late.

Just A Third-Rate Column

Columnist George Will allegedly played fast and loose with accepted verities about climate change and now-discredited theories about global cooling in the 1970s. The Washington Post wouldn't repudiate him. So Matthew Yglesias, resorting to a guilt-by-publication variation on the Otter Defense, overheatedly proclaims that everything done by anyone at the Post is now in bad odor.

Send Lawyers, Canons, and Prayer Books

How Elizabeth I defeated the Spanish Armada and saved the Church of England:
Marine archaeologist Mensun Bound from Oxford University [says]: "Elizabeth's navy created the first ever set of uniform cannon, capable of firing the same size shot in a deadly barrage.

"[Her] navy made a giant leap forward in the way men fought at sea, years ahead of England's enemies, and which was still being used to devastating effect by Nelson 200 years later."

Ann's Wild Ride

Sitting in for Larry King, Joy Behar asked Ann Coulter if she's ever dated a liberal. Ann's reply:
I tried, but I couldn't take the dinky little electric car.

Putin Up With It

In Russia, no justice yet for a murdered journalist.

Getting Richard Right

Ann Hornady gets it wrong in the Washington Post:
In "Frost/Nixon," Frank Langella didn't really look or sound like Richard Nixon. If he had, his performance as the disgraced former president would have had little more artistic heft than an old Rich Little bit on "The Tonight Show." Instead, he developed an outsize, almost Shakespearean physical and vocal persona, giving Nixon a brooding, bearlike physicality and a growling baritone completely at odds with Nixon's actual cadences. The reason it succeeds is that it's a full characterization, grounded in Langella's own preparation for the role and defined by every single choice he makes, from where he focuses his eyes to the way he walks across a room.
Perhaps Hornady knew President Nixon and had the opportunity to watch him interact with family members, friends, and aides. I doubt it, because if she had, I believe she would have been unnerved by how effectively, and recognizably, Langella (shown studying RN's own Frost interview notes in my old Nixon Foundation office) portrayed him. My guess is that Hornady only knows the public Nixon, from his speeches and press conferences.

Those who experienced the public and private man, as I and many others did, couldn't help but discern the difference between the two which I've always attributed to his introverted temperament. The public Nixon was studied and sometimes unsure, the private Nixon avuncular, attentive, inquisitive, dryly funny, lightly self-deprecating, almost exactly like Langella's performance. As Langella himself has made clear, he recognized something of his own nature and personal history in the President, hence the synergy. Mr. Nixon's voice deepened in his seventies, so Langella even gets the baritone growl right. As for the actor's greater size, it helped him communicate the gravitas Nixon projected from five-foot-ten. When he entered a room, people noticed, because of who he was, and because he had wielded great power.

Those Crazy Nixonian German Socialists

At AEI, Steven F. Hayward wishes he had seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's Nixon-like sellout of conservative orthodoxy coming five years ago:
In his prime-time speech to the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, he went where no Republican has dared to go for the last generation: He offered enthusiastic praise for Richard Nixon. Newly arrived in the U.S. in 1968 as an aspiring bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger said, he found Nixon's views more compelling than Hubert Humphrey's "socialism" because Nixon "was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes, and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air." It was Nixon, never mistaken for a girly-man, who made him a Republican.

At the time I admired Arnold's moxie in embracing Nixon, whom most other Republicans have shoved down the same memory hole as Herbert Hoover. But perhaps we should have seen this as a portent of trouble ahead. After all, it was Nixon who proclaimed, "I am a Keynesian in economics" before slapping on wage and price controls and letting domestic social spending shoot up faster than it had under Lyndon Johnson. Like Nixon (and George W. Bush), in fiscal matters Arnold has governed more like a Keynesian than a Friedmanite; in regulatory affairs, he governs more like a German socialist than an Austrian-school liberal.

The Right Will Have To Govern Again

American Tory Andrew Sullivan, while welcoming some temporary federal intervention in the staggering economy, worries about the unanticipated consequences of government's growth and expresses his hopes for a reinvigorated conservative movement:
At some point the right will have to govern again; and reminding people of the dangers of excessive government, excessive debt, and printing money will be necessary. The groundwork needs to start now. And it needs to be free of partisan cant and ideological posturing.

Government Is "A Jewel Of Human Association"

Leon Wieseltier at the "New Republic" is discouraged by President Obama's pragmatism and refusal to enunciate fundamental truths, including that conservatives only promote their stale, self-serving, hypocritical doctrines, whereas:
I want the president to tell the American people that, contrary to what they have been taught for many years, government is a jewel of human association and an heirloom of human reason; that government, though it may do ill, does good; that a lot of the good that government does only it can do; that the size of government must be fitted to the size of its tasks, and so, for a polity such as ours, big government is the only government; that strong government comports well with strong freedom...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Come Home, America?

Predicting that President Obama will oversee a massive retreat from the overcommitment of U.S. forces under President Bush, isolationist Nixonian Pat Buchanan admiringly quotes an article published by the realist Nixonians at the Nixon Center's foreign policy quarterly:
As Robert Pape of the University of Chicago writes in The National Interest: "America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back at the Bush administration years as the death knell of American hegemony."

Clinton Teaches Obama How To Be Reaganesque

Even the husband of the secretary of state thinks President Obama has been sounding too gloomy:
"I just want the American people to know that he's confident that we are gonna get out of this and he feels good about the long run."

[President] Clinton thinks Obama should talk to the public in greater depth about the economy.

"I like trying to educate the American people about the dimensions and scope of this economic crisis," Clinton said. "I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this."

Conservatives Are Annoying

Refreshingly, no insincere lip service about bipartisanship from Nixonland author Rick Perlstein:

[C]onservatives will always be with us. I admit it. They'll always be annoying, and always will be standing in the way of genuine reforms that can make the world a more stable, predictable, prudent, and moral place... The point is just to keep them as far from the levers of power as possible.

Echo Park, Los Angeles, At Dusk

Accustoming Boys To Obey

From 1837 until his death in 1871, my seminary-trained great-great-grandfather, Samuel Harvey Taylor, was principal of Phillips Academy, a boys prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. In later years, it had a headmaster; these days, it has a head of school, Barbara Landis Chase. These successors of Dr. Taylor are lucky that Andover, which Humphrey Bogart, Jack Lemmon, and the Presidents Bush all attended, survived him. While a lot about secondary education changed between the Presidential administrations of Gens. Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant, Samuel Harvey Taylor did not. He discouraged the study and even reading of literary fiction, for instance, preferring a curriculum focused on Latin and Greek and maybe a little mathematics.

He died of a massive stroke one Sunday on the chapel steps. His massive gravestone says that students and faculty "made great lamentations" as a result. His son and grandson taught at or attended Andover, but my late father, Harvey Hileman Taylor, could not. He always dreamed that John Harvey Taylor would attend, and even after they had divorced, my mother struggled to make it possible. I probably wouldn't have gotten in without the family connection (I lived for three years in the shadow of Taylor Hall). Like Flounder in "Animal House," they had to take me. An indication of the quality of my academic work is that when I wrote a paper for Dr. Frederick Allis's History of Andover class about my own relative Dr. Taylor, I could only manage a C.

Ironic, then, that I should begin full-time work this week as the vicar of an Episcopal school in south Orange County. The blessing is that my work is primarily pastoral. We have a visionary headmaster with a third of a century's experience in independent and Episcopal education, Jim Lusby, who skillfully runs St. John's. While Mr. Lusby considers values education as important as academic success, we can be grateful he doesn't adhere to Dr. Taylor's specific doctrines, described by Professor Edward A. Park in an address contained in a memorial volume which was published by the principal's last class in 1871:
[Dr. Taylor] believed that one of the dangers to which this democratic land lies exposed is a disrespect for law: he therefore believed that he was performing an act of kindness to his pupils when he was accustoming them to obey. He believed that, if they would yield their wills to the authority of a school, they would more easily yield their individual interests to the civil government, and would be more apt to prostrate themselves before the Infinite Ruler and Sovereign.
Less so by the time I arrived in 1969, which turned out to be the last year of coats and ties and mandatory chapel. That same autumn, students successfully pressured the administration to cancel classes for a day so we could learn more about the National Liberation Front in Vietnam. The following year, "Time" magazine wrote about students smoking dope in the on-campus bird sanctuary and having sex with girls they had smuggled into the dorms. These were the last years of headmaster John Mason Kemper (who colorfully describes Uncle Sam's reign of fear here) and the first years of Theodore Sizer, a leading independent educator. Especially after it became coeducational in the fall of 1973, the year I was graduated, Dr. Taylor probably wouldn't have recognized the place, and yet it turned out to be a blessed experience for his great-great-grandson. I discovered my love of my parents' vocation of journalism and began to learn to live on my own. Thank you, Uncle Sam!

Ads On My Kindle? If That's What It Takes!

A Washington Post letter writer definitely gets the pixel:
A vision for the newspaper's future involves large-screen, lightweight, Kindle-like devices that receive each edition wirelessly; the accompanying ads would be tailored to each subscriber's preferences and designed for easy, touch-screen online ordering.

RN's Crimes Now Include Use Of Third Person

The owners of a home in a Dana Point neighborhood reveal why it was chosen as the set for the real-life (as opposed to the Ron Howard-staged) interviews between President Nixon and David Frost: Quiet toilet. Orange County Register reporter Vik Jolly also takes the time to disparage the tone and syntax of the inscription 37 left in the owners' guest book when the interviews were done:
In it, on April 20, 1977, using a distanced, third-person reference, Nixon wrote: "To Martha and Harold Smith with appreciation for their hospitality during the week I stayed in their beautiful home."
For the life of me I can't figure out what Jolly thinks the former President should've written to avoid using the third person: "Hey, you -- thanks for the hang. Dick"?

Enjoyed Along With My Morning Joe

A gracious comment about this blog. Thank you, friend!

Death Of Newspapers, Death Of Democracy?

In the "New Republic," Paul Starr on the frightening decline of print journalism:
News coverage is not all that newspapers have given us. They have lent the public a powerful means of leverage over the state, and this leverage is now at risk. If we take seriously the notion of newspapers as a fourth estate or a fourth branch of government, the end of the age of newspapers implies a change in our political system itself. Newspapers have helped to control corrupt tendencies in both government and business. If we are to avoid a new era of corruption, we are going to have to summon that power in other ways. Our new technologies do not retire our old responsibilities.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Perfect Songs: "If I Should Fall Behind" (1992)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Love God=End Poverty

A college chaplain, Lisa Ho, says serving the poor is as important as converting people to Christianity:

I now understand the mandate given to me in the scriptures to love and serve the poor. The greatest commandment, to love God and love your neighbor, is as important as the great commission! The two are intertwined. Because this has become so real to me, I want to help others make the connection. That is why I am working to bring a delegation to The Mobilization to End Poverty event in April. The Mobilization will provide the perfect environment to inspire, equip, and send Christians to love God, love others, and work toward justice.

That's Our Boy!

Headmaster Jim Lusby dropped by my office this afternoon to say proudly that Robert Ward, the USC senior who won $165,000 by sinking a basket from half court during the Lakers game last night, is a St. John's School alumnus.

Holder: U.S. Is A "Nation Of Cowards"

More upbeat, affirming rhetoric from the Obama administration:

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Roland Burris: "I Have Nothing To Hide"

Well, not any more.

Christendom Writ Small

The House speaker praises the pope for the Vatican's stance on climate change. The pope scolds her for being pro-abortion.

With More Troops In Afghanistan, Remember

Via Andrew Sullivan, more gassing about the Vietnam war, but nothing about the decisive 1973-75 period, when South Vietnam fought bravely and well without U.S. troops at its side, and the U.S. Congress let it run out of bullets.

Our Secret Plan For Lily

OC Weekly's Matt Coker quotes me and then wonders:
"I was even blessed to meet the youngest Nixonian, Lily Feith, daughter of former Docent Guild president Steve Feith and his wife, Danielle," writes Taylor, before joking, "Indoctrination begins early at the Nixon Library, so we should have Lily conversant on the Hiss case by age five."

He was joking, right?
Hmm. You'll have to check back in five years and see, Matt!

Left/Nice vs. Right/Wrong

I'm guardedly supportive of the Obama stimulus law as well as the idea that we need some tax increases to deal with the budget crisis in California. But my moderate's heart is offended by the drumbeat of media and Democratic criticism of Republican obstructionists for being ideological. Insisting on tax cuts and holding the line on taxes are indeed ideological positions; but so is insisting on tax increases and on stimulus spending for health care and clean energy. And so were the easy-credit policies of the Carter and Clinton administrations of which we are once again reminded by Thomas Sowell:

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 directed federal regulatory agencies to "encourage" banks and other lending institutions "to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions."

That sounds pretty innocent and, in fact, it had little effect for more than a decade. However, its premise was that bureaucrats and politicians know where loans should go, better than people who are in the business of making loans.

This big-hearted initiative was as much to blame for the condition of the financial and banking sectors as any anti-regulatory move under Presidents Reagan or George W. Bush. Just because it sounds nice doesn't mean it's not ideological (or wrong).

No More Afghanistans

"The Economist" covers President Obama's decision to deploy 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan without using the word "Vietnam," which usually comes up on those rare occasions when the U.S. deepens its involvement in land wars in Asia. I wonder why?

Katharine Jefferts Schori Talks To Sally Quinn

Hat tip to Mark Shier

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perfect Songs: "When The Stars Go Blue" (2001)

Ryan Adams

VE Day? Gettysburg Address? Nah.

Being reminded how much President Obama's most devoted supporters have invested in him helps explain why they consider it irresponsible and even unpatriotic of Republicans to vote against anything he wants or asks for. Nancy Franklin in the Feb. 2 "New Yorker," writing about the inauguration:
Whether or not this was the greatest day in American history -- and it may have been -- it was what happened that night that made Americans take the First Family to their hearts...Dancing to the very grownup, sexy song "At Last," the Obamas were both hot and cool, as attractive in their affection as a couple can possibly be.

"Online Journalism Is Parasitic"

Gary Kamiya:

What is really threatened by the decline of newspapers and the related rise of online media is reporting -- on-the-ground reporting by trained journalists who know the subject, have developed sources on all sides, strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts, steer them in the right direction and are a further check against unwarranted assumptions, sloppy thinking and reporting, and conscious or unconscious bias.

If newspapers die, so does reporting. That's because the majority of reporting originates at newspapers. Online journalism is essentially parasitic. Like most TV news, it derives or follows up on stories that first appeared in print. Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll has estimated that 80 percent of all online news originates in print. As a longtime editor of an online journal who has taken part in hundreds of editorial meetings in which story ideas are generated from pieces that appeared in print, that figure strikes me as low.

Banking On The Truth

So far it's only being discussed in conservative circles. Was there a $550 billion electronic run on U.S. banks last September? If so, who was behind it?

Threatening The Prince Of Peace

The Chinese government threatens to use "coercive measures" to shut down a conference of Christian pastors in Shanghai.

I'm Not Doing Well, Thank You Very Much

Meghan O'Rourke on our society's discomfort about grieving:

Since my mother's death, I have been in grief. I walk down the street; I answer my phone; I brush my hair; I manage, at times, to look like a normal person, but I don't feel normal. I am not surprised to find that it is a lonely life: After all, the person who brought me into the world is gone. But it is more than that. I feel not just that I am but that the world around me is deeply unprepared to deal with grief. Nearly every day I get e-mails from people who write: "I hope you're doing well." It's a kind sentiment, and yet sometimes it angers me. I am not OK. Nor do I find much relief in the well-meant refrain that at least my mother is "no longer suffering." Mainly, I feel one thing: My mother is dead, and I want her back. I really want her back—sometimes so intensely that I don't even want to heal. At least, not yet.

A Pretty Kyber Pass

President Obama's progressive friends, such as Matthew Yglesias, go on the record in favor of the Afghanistan escalation.

St. John's Flagpoles At Dusk

The Secret Plan Is Working

The Nixon Library said to be brainwashing the nation's scholars.

Barack W. Obama

Listening on the radio to about 10 minutes of President Obama's speech in Denver today, I wondered what happened to the great orator of the 2008 campaign. His delivery was rushed and bumbling, reminiscent of George W. Bush in his last two years. I wondered if he'd even looked at the text first. He hesitated so long before venturing Mayor Hickenlooper's name that I also wondered if his staffers had given him a phonetic spelling -- but then again, probably not, since it would just have been HICKENLOOPER.

My Usual LORD's Table By The Window, Please

Hat tip to Lisa Fahey

Pastor Karen's Doing, Marvelous In Our Eyes

My St. John's colleague Sue Cook invited me to submit a message to our weekly parent, faculty, and staff newsletter, the BUZZ:
Greetings from your full-time vicar!

Since coming to St. John’s in the fall of 2004, I’ve had one foot in the Tigris and the other in the Euphrates, spending half my time at our wonderful church and school and the other half as executive director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation.

As with almost everything in life, having two jobs had advantages and disadvantages. The greatest disadvantage was that I couldn’t spend as much time on campus as I would’ve liked.

Finally, this week – on Presidents Day, appropriately enough, which President Nixon proclaimed into being in 1970 – I ended my work at the Nixon Foundation so I could finally plant both feet firmly in the Jordan River here at St. John’s.

Just to show the indirect way God sometimes works when he calls us – and call to each of us, God definitely does – my employment decision was actually made for me, by our beloved Pastor Karen Ann Wojahn. [She is pictured above, talking to God, as I try to listen in.] Both she and I had been working half time at St. John’s. When her four-year ministry came to an end in December, I had two choices: Find another half-time priest as capable as Pastor Karen (which would have been impossible) or heed the call of our Bishop, Jon Bruno, to give serious consideration to beginning full-time ministry myself.

My work for the 37th President and his family and legacy was, like my priesthood, a vocation, a calling. It began in 1979, when he hired me as a research assistant, even though I had no background in politics. That moment (which had an element of the miraculous about it) ended up pointing to a life’s work. I was his chief of staff in New York City and New Jersey from 1984-90 and came to the Nixon Library soon after it opened in 1990.

That’s right: 30 years serving 37. To be honest, I’m already feeling a little nostalgic. But my stronger feelings this Tuesday morning (as a hail storm has given way to brilliant sunshine flooding our School courtyard) are thanksgiving and curiosity. Thanksgiving that God is enabling me to spend more time in ministry with you, your children, and my St. John’s parishioners and colleagues. Curiosity about what God has in store for us all.

Please stop by if you need me or anyone in the church office. Consider joining us Wednesdays at noon at our healing service in the Chrysostom Chapel, or join us for worship Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m.

Most important of all, ask yourself this question every morning: What is God’s call to me today? If we really listen, we’ll be astonished at what we hear.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Today, The Edward Nixon Library

Go here for the Orange County Register's coverage of Presidents Day at the Nixon, including wonderful photography of Edward Nixon and our other guests by H. Lorren Au, Jr.

I'd Rather Be A Ball Park Wiener

I posted this at The New Nixon on July 3, 2008. Since it was recently exhumed by my cousin and fellow Episcopalian Caroline Taylor Webb, I thought I'd re-post it here.

One of our tiny family's big stories is that my late father, Harvey Hileman Taylor (shown above), named the Ball Park Frank. Enfolded today and yesterday in my wife Kathy's much larger family of voluble New Yorkers as they bade farewell to her dad, Jim Hannigan, who died Monday at 83, I tossed my tale on the griddle again to see if it would plump up. It's the sort of story you tell during wakes and at long, leisurely dinners after funerals. To paraphrase Dr. Kissinger, the exploits of picturesque loved ones don't necessarily have to have the additional advantage of being true.

The story goes that my dad, who in the 1940s and '50s was a music critic and columnist and eventually the entertainment editor of the Detroit Times, was hired by a local ad firm during one of that Big Labor city's legendary newspaper strikes. Harvey Taylor wasn't a company man. He was a drink martinis with a twist at the Detroit Press Club until last call man. You would not have found him at his desk at 9:30 writing ad copy nor in the building much before after lunch. Nor would he have been great in a meeting, since, although charming and funny, he had a debilitating stutter.

And yet my newspapering mother, Jean, has always insisted that -- as a conference room discussion swirled ineffectually about what to name a new line of hot dogs being launched by one of the firm's clients -- my father piped up, "It c-c-couldn't p-p-possibly b-b-be more o-o-obvious. If you're naming a hot d-d-dog, you should name it the B-B-Ball P-P-Park F-F-Frank."

There's also the one about my father standing in the threshold of the reading room of the Detroit Athletic Club after lunch and startling members dozing in red patent leather chairs by calling out, "Gentlemen, K-K-Khartoum has fallen."

Only tonight did it occur to me that this is just the kind of project for which President Nixon invented the Internet.

First things first. You bet there's a Wikipedia entry for Ball Park Franks, which, sure enough, discloses:
A Detroit, MI meat-packing company called Hygrade Food Products won a competition in 1959 to be the exclusive supplier of hot dogs to the Detroit Tigers stadium. It was from this venue that Ball Park Franks gained notoriety and became a mainstay in American pop-culture.
Whoever dubbed the dog, it happened in Motown, and for the greater glory of old Briggs Field, the House Al Kaline Built.

But was there a newspaper strike in Detroit in 1959? Hot dog: "Time" helpfully reproduces this 1964 article:
Until 1955, Detroit had never had a newspaper strike. Since then, the city's papers have been struck so regularly that by 1959 newspaper readers were dryly referring to "Detroit's Fourth Annual Newspaper Strike." That year, in fact, there were two walkouts—after which Hearst's morning Times, weakened by the high cost of labor warfare, sold out to the evening News, and was discontinued.
So maybe my favorite shaggy hot dog story is at least in the ballpark. Our great American wiener, by the way, is now cooked up by Sara Lee.

Calling some of those strikes (and thus maybe sending my dad into the hot dog-naming business) was his friend and my beloved late godfather, Louis Cook, a critic and columnist who served for many years as president of Detroit's chapter of the Newspaper Guild, the union representing reporters and photographers. Ironically enough, as "Time" noted, the 1959 walkouts spelled the end of my dad's paper. He worked at my mother's and Louis's paper, the Detroit Free Press, until his death in 1975.

I didn't know him especially well -- my parents separated when I was two -- but I'll always remember him as the gentlest of souls. And yet he evidently could be a tough critic. In 1949, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was going through a rough patch creatively. Again, "Time" (all blessings to its on-line archivist for preserving all this Great Lakes arcana) reported,
Wrote the Detroit Times after a concert last week: "A morass of spotty mediocrity . . . the low point of the season."...Seven [musicians] called Times Critic Harvey Taylor and told him, he reported, that they had signed a paper under virtual coercion demanding that Taylor himself be barred from all future concerts. The Times front-paged the whole story.
There's also a family story about DSO members getting harmonious revenge. Someone persuaded my father to perform a piano recital as orchestra members sat in the audience and then collaborated on a review published the next day that was none too flattering. I'll research that one at the next family funeral, I guess -- and may that sad day be far, far away.

The Happiest Library In The World

In 1938, in the midst of the real Great Depression, Richard Nixon, then working as an attorney in Whittier and La Habra, California, bought a stripped-down black two-door Oldsmobile (no heater or radio) and saved a little more money by picking it up at the factory in Michigan. He decided to take along his eight-year-old brother Edward. They hopped a train to Detroit, picked up the car, and then started home to Whittier. Ed said, "Dick handed me a map and said, 'We're going to Los Angeles, and we're taking Route 66. If you can find a stretch of road that's long and straight enough, I'l let you drive.' He let me drive plenty, as it turned out."

Will Rogers had died three years before, and so the brothers stopped off in Claremore, Oklahoma to see the Rogers Memorial, which had just opened. Richard pointed to a bronze plaque at the base of Rogers' statue and asked his little brother to read out the humorist and commentator's most famous quotation: "I never yet met a man that I didn't like."

As Ed tells it, "Dick said, 'What do you think that means?' I replied, 'I guess it means he hasn't met everyone yet'."

The vignette is about two born introverts teaching one another to trust but verify when it came to strangers. Richard and Edward actually shared the same gentle heart, probably better suited to the latter's chosen and relatively solitary career choice of geology. The rock-ribbed Nixon and sole survivor among Hannah and Frank's five boys was in Yorba Linda today to talk about his new book, The Nixons: A Family Portrait, to a crowd of 800, many of whom waited in line for two hours after his talk to have him sign their copies. The crowd was full of Nixons, Milhouses, and Marshburns, representatives of a sturdy and diverse family that should get a deserved moment in the sun thanks to Ed's colorful memoir (whose working title was once "The Rest Of Us").

It was also my last day at the Nixon Foundation before beginning full-time ministry at St. John's. I'm with Mr. Rogers: In 18 years, I never met a man or woman I didn't like at the Nixon Library. I got to say goodbye to about 30 of our Docent volunteers, summoned by our event master, Sandy Quinn, to help with our 2,000 Presidents Day visitors. Our Docents are renowned throughout the Presidential library system for their hospitality and expertise. Entertaining and educating our audience as usual was Paula Burton's corps of school-age Celebration USA Singers. Representatives of American Legion Richard Nixon Post #679 were in full force, selling poppies and telling visitors about our chapter's growing membership. Only at the strictly bipartisan Nixon Library will you find Abraham Lincoln and Harry S Truman giving lessons in Presidential history to young and old alike. My successor, former RN chief of staff Kathy O'Connor, cheerfully worked the crowd. Legendary former Orange County GOP chairmen Tom Fuentes (complete with his new liver) and Lois Lundberg were in their accustomed places of honor. Clara Jane Nixon, widow of Richard and Edward's brother Donald, and Bob Meador (shown above left) were honored as founding members of the Nixon Birthplace Foundation, which preserved the President's birthplace and its furnishings to be enjoyed by 150,000 Library visitors each year.

President Nixon's friend and White House aide Bruce Herschensohn (who wants to tell you all about his iPhone, whose apps include the full text of Anna Karenina and "Where's My Car?") and my devoted and beloved assistant of nearly 17 years, Cheryl Saremi, seemed to concur that the Library would persist without me (though I have trouble imagining the world without them, shown above). I was even blessed to meet the youngest Nixonian, Lily Feith, daughter of former Docent Guild president Steve Feith and his wife, Danielle. Indoctrination begins early at the Nixon Library, so we should have Lily conversant on the Hiss case by age five. For now, Godspeed, my friends and colleagues. You know where to find me.

Worry Or Trust?

In the early church, after Holy Eucharist (or Communion), worshipers would share the leftovers with those who were hungry in their communities. This weekend at Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Warren distributed 10,000 grocery bags to his congregation with instructions to bring them back full so the church could increase its support for local food banks. Says Warren in the Orange County Register:

The No. 1 way that God tests your faith? Money. God wants to know: Are you going to worry, or are you going to trust me? … When I meet others' needs, God takes care of mine.

On The Road With RN and JFK

The first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy occurred two years after the end of World War II. Afterward, they had a hamburger at a diner and talked baseball. Read more here.

They're Blaming This On Him, Too

RN faulted for confusion about Presidents -- or is it President's? -- Day.

What If You Gave A Fatwa In A Crowded Theater?

When it comes to discourse about Islam in societies that prize freedom of expression, there's a place where prudence and civility end and fearful self-censorship begins. "The Economist" attempts to discern it here.

None Of Us Likes Being Dropped Or Poked

In "Taken," a riveting thriller with poor values, a daughter tells her ex-spy father to stop worrying. "You might as well tell water not to be wet," he says. I can relate. Except for a couple of years after my ordination as a priest, I usually wake up worried. This fascinating "Newsweek" article is about good stress (which helps make us creative) and bad stress (which can make us ill).

Here's one way I make the distinction. Sometimes a person is on my mind as I awaken -- someone who needs a phone call or whom I realize I haven't seen for a while. These impulses, signs from God or the subconscious or both, are actionable intelligence. Other times, I experience the worry without knowing what I'm worrying about, like a torpedo that hasn't found a target. That's the stress I could do without and that is the focus of my spiritual discipline.

In "Newsweek," reporter Mary Carmichael tells this story about the father of modern stress research, Hans Seyle, and his work in the 1930s:
Selye had virtually no lab technique, and, as it turned out, that was fortunate. As a young researcher, he set out to study what happened when he injected rats with endocrine extracts. He was a klutz, dropping his animals and chasing them around the lab with a broom. Almost all his rats—even the ones he shot up with presumably harmless saline—developed ulcers, overgrown adrenal glands and immune dysfunction. To his credit, Selye didn't regard this finding as evidence he had failed.Instead, he decided he was onto something.

Selye's rats weren't responding to the chemicals he was injecting. They were responding to his clumsiness with the needle. They didn't like being dropped and poked and bothered. He was stressing them out. Selye called the rats' condition "general adaptation syndrome," a telling term that reflected the reason the stress response had evolved in the first place: in life-or-death situations, it was helpful.

Yoga And The Islamic Reformation

In Malaysia, where religious authorities recently issued a fatwa against yoga, Muslim women from 47 countries gather to grapple with the Islamic dimension of timeless theological questions about how to live modern lives in the light of scripture. While Muslim reformers have some catching up to do, similar questions among Christians are hardly settled:
The repression comes not from the Koran, the women argue, but from the human interpretation of it, in the form of Islamic law, which has ossified over the centuries while their globalized lives have galloped ahead. So they are going back to the original text, arguing that its emphasis on justice makes the case for equality.

“Feminist Islamic scholarship is trying to unearth the facts that were there,” Ms. Mir-Hosseini told a room of eager activists Sunday. “We can’t be afraid to look at legal tradition critically.”

She referred to the work of Muslim intellectuals, like Nasr Abu Zayd of Egypt and Abdolkarim Soroush of Iran, reformers who argue that the Koran must be read in a historical context, and that laws derived from it can change with the times. Their ideas are controversial, and both are in exile in the West.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

37 Is 27th

In C-SPAN's ranking of Presidents, RN comes in a little below the middle, at #27. Jimmy Carter is ranked 25th, Gerald Ford 22nd, Calvin Coolidge 26th, Herbert Hoover 34th, and George W. Bush 36th. In foreign policy, President Nixon ranks 11th, with Woodrow Wilson ranking 10th and John F. Kennedy 13th.

$840 Billion Didn't Rescue Japan

Veronique de Rugy:
Obama is right to cite the example of Japan. That nation's collapsed housing and stock markets in the 1990s are very relevant to today's recession. Between 1992 and 1999, Japan passed eight stimulus packages, totaling roughly $840 billion in today's dollars. During that time, the debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio skyrocketed, the country was rocked by massive corruption scandals, and the economy never recovered. All Japan had to show for it was a mountain of debt and some public works projects that look suspiciously like bridges to nowhere.

Winning, Not Ending, The Culture Wars

Rod Dreher:
Obama's conciliation is largely a matter of style. Substantively, he's solidly on the cultural left. As writer Ross Douthat astutely observed, "In reality, what makes Obama promising to liberals isn't his potential to 'end' culture-war battles; it's his potential ability to win them, by dressing up the policies that Planned Parenthood or the Human Rights Campaign of the ACLU or whomever would like to see in the kind of religious language and fuzzy talk about consensus that swing voters like to hear."

A Fine Distinction

President Obama on the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in the next phases of economic recovery:
"You know, I am an eternal optimist," he said. "That doesn't mean I'm a sap."

Perfect Songs: "Gimme Shelter" (1969)

The Rolling Stones

Four Naullses

Lisa Naulls (second from right), a gifted mezzo soprano who sings in the St. John's Choir, was joined at lunch today in Rancho Santa Margarita by her parents, Willie and Dr. Ann Naulls. Pastor Willie Naulls played for UCLA, the Knicks, and the Celtics (where he won consecutive NBA championships in 1964-66). He's holding Lisa's son, Jonathan.

Not Our Fault this Time!

The History News Network asked historian and former Nixon Project tapes archivist Maarja Krusten to explore why all the Nixon White House tapes haven't yet been opened. Though the reasons for the delay remain murky, her analysis makes clear that she doesn't believe the cause is the Nixon family, estate, or Foundation. She concludes:

After 2003, it should have taken 3 to 3-1/2 years to re-screen the remaining chronological segments. I had expected NARA to finish tape releases by the end of 2007 (or by the mid- to late 1990s, had it proceeded with plans formulated by officials in the 1980s). Instead, 32 years after I packed up tape reels in the White House, historians still await access to conversations from 1973.

Join the CIA And Get A Clue

What would a father do to save his daughter? What would a spy do to prevent a terrorist attack? While the second question doesn't come up in "Taken," it was the first thing I thought of watching retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) torture and kill the Albanian flesh merchant who had kidnapped his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan even shoots a perfectly innocent woman in the arm to get the attention of her husband, a corrupt French police official who may have information about Kim. "It's a flesh wound," he says reassuringly as she writhes in agony on the dining room floor. I lost track of the number of people Bryan killed on the way to saving his daughter. It's movie magic and manipulation, I realize, but as a father, I was rooting for him all the way. I imagine a majority of members of the Supreme Court would have been as well. I'm glad movie audiences don't rule on the legality of torture and rendition.

Neeson's character has quit the CIA to be a more attentive father to 17-year-old Kim, who colludes with her mother Leonore (Famke Janssen) to trick him into permitting her to accompany a friend to Paris, where she and a friend secretly plan to follow U2 on their European tour. This is egregious; 17-year-olds don't much like U2, in my experience. The girls are kidnapped on their first afternoon. What is it with these movies about how dangerous Europe is for American teenagers? While I've never been able to watch it all the way through, "Hostel" promoted the same view. In the case of "Taken," the bad guys are Albanian and French. There's also an old-fashioned perverted Arab sheik, plus a Paris-based American flesh merchant who plays the role of protecting the filmmakers from the charge that they're picking on foreigners. Still, in "Taken," only America is safe. Highly capable CIA agents know how dangerous and corrupt the world really is. Everyone else, especially women, is clueless.

If They're Hybrid Choppers, Use Stimulus Funds

President Obama is deciding whether to pay $11.2 billion to Lockheed Martin and its European partners for 28 helicopters for the White House fleet. Gene Boyer, who was President Nixon's chopper pilot, says it's a boondoggle. Other critics say the government should re-up with Connecticut's Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which built most of the current fleet as well as the VH-3D Sea King now on display at the Nixon Library (which was good enough for Frank Langella during the filming of "Frost/Nixon").

And 80% Are Experiencing Recessions

The BBC reports:
There could be one hundred billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, a US conference has heard.

Dr Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Science said many of these worlds could be inhabited by simple lifeforms.