Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Stroke Of Reality

At least two people associated with popular culture are required to live forever: Bruce Springsteen and Garrison Keillor, who has left the hospital after being treated for a minor stroke. Eat your Honey Nut Cheerios, pal.

Even-Handedness Deficit

Good Tory Andrew Sullivan congratulates Washington's tens of thousands of anti-big government protesters today but wonders where they were when George W. Bush was running deficits:
Here's a test: when you see as many posters lambasting Bush and Cheney and the GOP for getting us into this crisis in the first place, I will take these people seriously as genuine small government non-partisan conservatives and independents. In so far as they can pressure the Congress and president into taking the debt seriously in the future, good for them. In so far as they are proposing no practical solutions, and echo truly disturbing hatred of a president barely eight months in office, facing huge crises on all fronts, they are doing their own cause far more harm than good.

Just Because Songs: "Hard To Handle" (1968)

The Grateful Dead in 1970. Vocals by Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. Two drummers on the stage and nine fingers on Jerry Garcia, who plays an exceptionally lucid solo. I think that's the future CEO of American Express in the audience. Song written by Otis Redding, Al Bell, and Allen Jones.

Back To School Of Rock

The Epidemic hit south Orange County this afternoon -- the #1 as opposed to the H1Ni variety. The band with the excruciatingly timely name is a confident four-piece featuring lead singer Brian Maietta and bassist Mossimo Perricone (St. John's '09).

Appearing exclusively in Rancho Santa Margarita at the St. John's Episcopal School Family Festival, the Epidemic, with their tight set spanning 40 years of rock and roll, demonstrated that St. John's students such as Mossimo (whose parents, Sam and Uma, were watching proudly today) definitely master the fundamentals. They skillfully played the Otis Redding/Black Crowes/Grateful Dead chestnut "Hard To Handle," the Beatles' "Come Together" (in honor of the 09/09/09 release of their remastered greats), and even the Who's "My Generation."

After the set, before he was overwhelmed by well-wishers, I asked Mossimo how he learned John Entwistle's swift, powerful runs. "On-line," he said.

He's been playing bass a year. Hey, kid: Don't forget who taught you religion in fifth grade.

Teaching Follows Beaching

The St. John's campus is ready for the School's annual Family Festival.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

How Easily I Can Be Had

Thanks to his own post today, I learned how Massachusetts prosecutors cut blogger Andrew Sullivan some slack on a minor marijuana rap to keep the conviction and $125 fine from interfering with his application for U.S. citizenship. I was about to write scaldingly about this bald, unjust preference for a bald and usually just cultural elite when I read this in the Boston Globe article to which Sullivan linked:

Jeanne M. Kempthorne, a Salem defense lawyer and former longtime federal prosecutor, said it was “perfectly legitimate’’ for prosecutors to weigh the potential impact of Sullivan’s case on his immigration status.

“Am I offended by the notion that prosecutors take into account collateral circumstances? No,’’ she said. “They should be doing that. That’s humane.’’

As editor of the weekly student paper, the Cynosure, at Abbot Academy, a girls boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, Jeanne invited me to be the managing editor for the spring term of my senior year at neighboring Phillips Academy, which enabled me on production nights to be the only boy in the basement of Draper Hall, the largest Abbot dorm, after hours.

Welcome to America, Andrew!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still An Amazing Sight

Discovery's landing this afternoon at Edwards Air Force Base. With only six shuttle missions remaining, this could be the last California landing.

Striving Hard

"And we will strive now very hard to save as many people as possible and to send a message that the city of New York and the United States of America is much stronger than any group of barbaric terrorists, that our democracy, that our rule of law, that our strength and our willingness to defend ourselves will ultimately prevail."

Mayor Guiliani, at 2:35 p.m., Sepember 11

Two Minutes After The World Changed

Yorba Linda Sky

6:55 p.m. Friday

37th's 26th On The 17th

The Nixon Library chooses an underrated holiday, Constitution Day, to honor the President who signed the constitutional amendment allowing 18-year-olds to vote.

It's Been 43 Years. I'm Almost Over It.

Stop me before I comment on this post about Star Trek films and directors. Okay, okay: The best was last (Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams) and the worst was first (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Robert Wise).

Hat tip to Instapundit

Lake Forest Sky

Lake Forest, California, 5:45 p.m.

Remembering That The Mass Is A Meal

In Ventura County, California, a new community-supported agriculture program, or CSA, has been launched to provide locally grown produce to its subscribers and reintroduce young people to the ancient vocation that built our country and sustains our lives. My colleague the Rev. Julie Morris, married to a fourth-generation farmer, has got the Episcopal Church right in the middle of things with the fruit of the earth aka the sacred bread and wine:

When she started an Episcopal/Lutheran ministry at [California State University] Channel Islands, the group dubbed itself the Abundant Table because its “worship experience is centered around the sacred meal of the Eucharist, the Holy Communion that feeds us,” Morris said. “Plus, it was a reflection of the rich agricultural community all around us.”

Middle March

In the wake of Wednesday's speech, while moderately conservative Obama fan David Brooks doesn't entirely like the health care reform proposal, he thinks that Obama has helped himself by tilting to the supposedly revenue-neutral Senate bill and nodding to malpractice reform. He invokes the magic of the middle:
Best of all for those of us who admire the political craft was the speech’s seductive nature and careful ambiguity. Obama threw out enough rhetorical chum to keep the liberals happy, yet he subtly staked out ground in the center on nearly every substantive issue in order to win over the moderates needed to get anything passed.

Anybody Got Two For This Show?

This year's Kennedy Center honorees have been announced. DeNiro. Brooks. Bumbry. Brubeck. Bruce.

Joe Wilson And Second Manassas

At "Salon," Rich Benjamin says Rep. Wilson's rude outburst was actually the result of generations of pent-up white southern Republican racial nativist fear and resentment. Benjamin doesn't go all the back to the Civil War, but almost. If his critics make him a pin-up boy for everything they despise, and if the right retaliates by turning his '10 re-election bid into a national talk show funding opportunity, even more politicians and pundits will grasp the benefits of venting their civility-destroying self-righteousness.

Appreciating Van Jones

Charles Krauthammer excuses all of departed Obama adviser Van Jones' alleged political sins except his charge that President Bush was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. He even says Jones was right about the racial dynamics of the green movement:
[C]ritics are scandalized that Jones once accused "white environmentalists" of "essentially steering poison into the people of colored communities."

In fact, from a global perspective, Jones is right. Environmentalists -- overwhelmingly white and middle/upper class -- have blocked drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. From where do you think the world gets the missing oil? From the poor, exploited, poisoned people of the Niger Delta, the Amazon Basin and other infinitely less-regulated and infinitely dirtier regions of the Third World.

Affluent enviros are all for wind farms, until one is proposed that might mar the serenity of a sail from the crew-necked precincts near Nantucket Sound. Then it's clean energy for thee, not for me.

Jones' genius as an ideological entrepreneur was to mine white liberal anxiety -- they are quite aware of their own NIMBY hypocrisy -- by selling them the "green jobs" shtick to reconcile class/racial guilt with environmental enthusiasm, thus making them feel better about themselves.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sept. 11 Songs: "Grand Central Station" (2004)

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Catholic Nun Shortage Eased In Maryland

Upset over the Episcopal Church's stance on gay and lesbian people, ten nuns in Baltimore take their wimples and go home to Mother.

Just Eight Years

Monkey Business

I have been tempted to think that the age of terrorism might be coming to an end. Then I read this partisan mush by Gary Hart and was tempted to change my mind.

Suspicious George

When Sen. George McGovern visited the Nixon Library last month, director Tim Naftali gave him copies of recently opened records suggesting strongly that Nixon aides Pat Buchanan and Chuck Colson were behind revelations that McGovern's running mate in his 1972 campaign against President Nixon, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, had been treated for depression. Outraged though McGovern may have been, it's hard to imagine that his campaign wouldn't have used intelligence about, for instance, Vice President Agnew's corruption. Saying that he hadn't known before that the White House was involved, McGovern (mild-mannered and gracious though he is said to be) speculated recklessly to "Vanity Fair" that President Nixon might have been behind the attempt to assassinate Gov. George Wallace:

McGovern pointed out that if you look at elections in a certain way, you could say that Ross Perot elected Bill Clinton and Ralph Nader put George W. Bush over the top. “In 1968, George Wallace had garnered 10 million votes and we figured that, running again in 1972, he might pick up as many as 20 million votes,” McGovern said. The segregationist Alabama governor had been campaigning with the slogan “Send Them a Message,” and it was assumed that his votes would almost all come from Nixon’s base, but on May 15, 1972, an assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed from the waist down and he was forced to withdraw from the race. I was still wondering where McGovern was going with this when he came to a shocking supposition: “You know, Wallace went to his grave thinking Nixon’s people were behind the shooting. I thought at the time, ‘Well, George is a little gaga.’ But now … you have to wonder … ”

Brea Sky

Brea, California, 7:30 p.m.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Just Ask Sen. Sumner

Bill Handel, an LA radio talk show host with a reasonable center-left perspective, could only scare up one caller this afternoon who was willing to criticize Rep. Joe Wilson for calling the President a liar during a joint session of Congress. Everybody praised Wilson because they agree with him on health care reform, don't like President Obama, or some other combination of thoroughly utilitarian arguments. I wonder what Wilson's boosters think about the support Muntather al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who lobbed his loafers at President Bush last year, is still enjoying in the Arab world. Exactly the same argument: The means justified the moccasins. Al-Zaidi will be freed on Monday. Maybe he should run for Wilson's seat.

I can be as partisan as the next person, but a cogent defense of Wilson is impossible, even on the substance of his remarks. I believe the critique of the health care bill's provision denying government-funded coverage to illegal aliens is that it lacks enforcement teeth. What a surprise! How many times have legislatures, no matter which party holds sway, passed spending caps or no-deficit measures they have no means or intention of enforcing? I'll bet Wilson even voted for some of them. Basically, at one time or another, they're all liars (please forgive the fleeting misanthropic indulgence).

Second, unless we want to look foolish to our own people and the world, civility must reign during a joint session of Congress. The American head of state deserves the respect we afford to his or her office. Throw out Congress's carefully tended rules of procedure and civil discourse because you happen to disagree with what the President says, and you help ruin democracy.

Third, Wilson just gave permission to the still-to-be-self-appointed buffoon who will insult the next GOP President. On Handel's show today, I actually heard a guy justify what Wilson did because some of President Bush's critics may have secretly enjoyed the shoe incident. What are we, in kindergarten?

A Facebook reader of this post tells me that Bill Handel, having voted twice for George W. Bush, is center right, not center left. Since I don't listen to him very often, I shouldn't have tried to pigeonhole him. Sept. 12: I just realized that an alliterative flourish of which I was so proud, "the means justified the moccasins," makes no sense. "The purposes justified the pumps" would've been better. Or not. One thing about having almost no readers is that one can err in peace.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wilsonian Principles

The President's health care speech pleases congressional centrists. Meanwhile, on the left and right, the VP and Speaker's head movement language spoke volumes after Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called the President a liar during his speech, which he shouldn't have done, number one, because it was offensive, embarrassing, and demeaning to the dignity of the United States and, number two, because it will be used as an excuse when a Democratic legislator screams at a Republican President (or holds up a sign, wears a rude t-shirt, whatever). In this day and age, civility is all too easily forfeited to the imperative of big egos and mouths. As for Biden and Pelosi, they looked at each other (whaaa?), then joined Obama in glaring in Wilson's direction, then got out what looked like a seating chart like the principal and dean of students at a high school assembly. Perhaps a disadvantageous office reassignment is in Wilson's future.

What Israel Is Banking On

When Israel's recent hint that it would freeze West Bank settlements, followed by the more recent approval of some previously approved residences, is followed by a real freeze (whew!), the U.S. is reportedly finally coming with the goods from the Arab side:
[Obama Middle East envoy George] Mitchell is expected to convey “gestures of normalisation” from a number of moderate Arab states in recognition of Israel’s settlement freeze. These could include the reopening of interest offices and some trade and tourism ties.

For The Misdirected Love Of Mike

That's President Nixon's birthplace on the City of Yorba Linda lapel pin worn by Mike Duvall, who resigned from the California Assembly today after he was caught speaking on a live microphone about affairs with lobbyists. Mike, whom I've known for nearly 20 years, was a cheerful booster of our city's favorite son who has distributed thousands of the Birthplace pins around the world. Since the Yorba Linda city council member was elected to the Assembly in 2006, whenever I ran into him around town he evinced a boyish exuberance about his work in Sacramento, as though he couldn't quite believe he was there. Now he's not. The facts of the sordid story speak for themselves. His gracious wife Susan will be in my prayers, as indeed will Mike and the voters he let down.

Enough Love To Go Around

The youth of St. John's, fresh from their summer occupations and distractions, gathered tonight for their first weekly meeting of the school year under the loving supervision of our chaplain and youth leader, Patti Peebles, and adult volunteers Daphne Berry, Kathleen Driscoll and Eric Sherman, Dina Kubba, and Paul and Paula Reza. (For fear of scaring them off, I'll preserve the anonymity of the wonderful couple we're hoping to recruit to join them.)

Once a month I have the inestimable blessing of presiding at what we call (well, I call) a Yoot Euch -- a service of Holy Eucharist -- using a paten and chalice Patti and the young people made last year during a visit to Color Me Mine. Tonight we talked about the Syrophoenician (or Canaanite or, not to put too fine a point on it, Palestinian) woman, whose plea on behalf of her daughter Jesus first appears to spurn since she's a Gentile rather than a Jew. When she argues that even the dogs under the master's table usually end up cadging some scraps, Jesus relents, impressed not so much by her faith as her irreducible logic. God obviously cares for all his people, does he not? You don't have to ask the St. John's kids twice.

"Why I Love My Bishop": Sermon for 14 Pentecost

The first time I preached at St. John's, five years ago last weekend, I talked about a Pittsburgh man who had given away most of his fortune and decided it was wrong for him to keep his spare kidney as well -- a cautionary tale, perhaps, for a community being asked to entrust itself to a new pastor (and vice versa). But when our Bishop, J. Jon Bruno, decided that St. John's and I were right for each other, I obeyed cheerfully. A few years earlier, when I felt I'd done nothing right and had nothing left to give, he promised that he knew better. His graciousness was a lifesaver and a life teacher. Often we learn more from such moments than the happier ones. Proclaiming a ministry of civility, community, generosity, moderation, and peace is considerably easier when we have experienced (and promoted) the opposite. My Sunday sermon is here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Not For Teacher

How did we get to a place where the President can't talk to schoolchildren without provoking a national crisis? In the days leading up to his speech yesterday, I saw a well-dressed suburban mother weeping at the prospect for the TV cameras. Pundits accused him of distracting principals and district officials from their solemn duties on the first day of school. Talk show hosts mined the speech for ideological meta messages and counted the number of times he referred to himself.

It seems axiomatic that certain privileges come with being President. Riding on Air Force One. Throwing out the first pitch. Getting to say things like this to children:
[A]t the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world -- and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.
How secretly socialist of him. Yes, I know the initial study materials distributed by the White House asked kids to think about what they could do to "help the President" -- which actually doesn't bug me that much, either. I know Congress dogged George H. W. Bush about the cost of his own speech to kids -- which was nothing next to the right's latest Obamaspasm.

What was up? Everyone else has opinion, so here's mine. There were these factors at play:

1) Anxious people. A still-struggling economy, a depressed job market, and parents in an H1N1 A-1 back-to-school tizzy. Congratulations -- we are the richest and most obsessively worried country in human history.

2) Unfamiliar leader. To those who didn't ride the Obama wave, he still may seem aloof and a bit fey. Though I don't always agree with him, I like and admire Obama. But every once in a while, when I see his name or image, I have to pinch myself, only because I didn't know he existed five years ago, he doesn't seem especially familiar yet, but there he is, astride the globe. Over on the fringes with the racists and birthers (and no, I don't equate them), there's a sharp edge that totally creeps me out. Watch this revolting Alan Keyes video and see what I mean about the hard malice of Obama's sternest political foes. Maybe wack job leftists were as scary in the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush eras, but I didn't feel as accountable for them as I do some of those who, more often than not, may actually vote as I do.

3) Overreaching administration: Obama can't do much about 1) and 2). But it was his call to go for ontological change in health care. Perhaps he decided that he shouldn't have to trim his sails because of the errors of his predecessors. Perhaps he felt he had a massive mandate. I never did. Perhaps he felt he could sneak his bold reforms through in the generalized enthusiasm about his election and the seemingly undifferentiated consensus that a new approach to national government was needed. But once mass economic panic faded, and with trillions in new spending and future deficits already out the door, the health care effort was bound to get caught in legislative molasses as senators and representatives started hearing from home. We're still a centrist country, as Bill Clinton learned in the 1994 midterms.

If Obama hadn't done 3), would 1) and 2) still have generated the embarrassing spectacle of a popularly elected and well-meaning President having to defend his decision to tell his nation's children to do their homework? When I discussed this with colleagues over breakfast yesterday, a discerning Obama supporter said he suspected the answer was yes. I agree. Obama may end up wishing he hadn't spent so much capital on health care. But the rest of the American people are responsible for managing their corrosive and somewhat narcissistic anxiety. A little British stiff upper lip (if even they still do that) wouldn't be the end of the world. And conservatives? They had better get the lunatic fringe into line, or moderates may decide to go for a long walk.

Sept. 12 note: A reader points out that the creepy Keyes video -- in which the former Presidential candidate called Obama a radical communist and then looked at the camera and said he must be "stopped" -- has been de-YouTubed. Probably best.

Global Songs: "Stop The World And Let Me Off" (1966)

John Doe and the Sadies, performing the Patsy Cline classic in Toronto in 2009.

Spies In The Skies

CIA mapmakers, at your service. This is up to the minute as of 2008. More here.

Egyptian Elan

How cultural authorities in Cairo work to preserve Egypt's rich Jewish heritage without seeming to be too friendly to Jews.


Hat tip to "Huffington Post"


From San Francisco to Washington, D.C. in four minutes and 35 seconds

Hat tip to the "Daily Dish"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Imagining An Arab Israel

Just back from a visit to the Middle East along with Desmund Tutu, Jimmy Carter says many Palestinians are taking the long view:

"A majority of the Palestinian leaders with whom we met are seriously considering acceptance of one state, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea," Carter wrote in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

"By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbors and then demand equal rights within a democracy," he explained. "In this non-violent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela."

Carter noted that in doing so, Palestinian leaders were taking into consideration current demographic trends.

He said non-Jews were already a slight majority of total citizens in this area, "and within a few years Arabs will constitute a clear majority."

Carter says the two-state solution is still preferable. The full text of his Post op-ed is here.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever