Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Circle Game

Ethan Bronner explores a discouraging reality: That Israel has done a better job using force than diplomacy to achieve its goals. As a result:
Some Palestinians are talking again about armed struggle.

His Victim's Voice

This Los Angeles Times recap of the case against Roman Polanski is devastating. For mature readers only.

Just Raitt Songs: "Pride And Joy" (1983)

Bonnie Raitt. Song by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

241 Sky

6:30 p.m.

Reading And Believing In The Light Of History

When faithful people read the Bible, are they allowed to take into account the social and historical circumstances of the time (or times) it was written or edited when deciding which teachings still apply in our own time? The question of how literally we take the Bible has vast implications for the way people lead their lives and run their churches. For Christians, the roles and rights of women and gay and lesbian people are the two most pressing examples.

Theologians, Bible scholars, preachers, and even Presidents have been performing historical criticism since the 19th century, though it's still alien territory for many Christians and Jews. As is so often the case, younger people may be forcing the issue, according to a survey conducted by the Barna Group:
David Kinnaman, the Barna Group president who oversaw the research over multiple surveys between 2006 and 2009, said that Mosaics’ [readers aged 18-25] reliance on social networking and interpersonal relationships is an indication future generations will distance themselves further from the Bible if their societal interpretations are discounted.

“The central theme of young people’s approach to the Bible is skepticism,” Kinnaman said. “They question the Bible’s history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life. This mindset certainly has its challenges, but it also raises the possibility of using their skepticism as an entry point to teaching and exploring the content of the Bible in new ways.”

Awakening Hope For Text

Andrew Sullivan on the deep, not-techie roots of the word kindle, shrewdly chosen by Amazon for its revolutionary reading device. While we're at it, there's this, from the Book of Common Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past. Be our companion in the Way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope that we may know you as you are revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love.

Perfect Songs: "Hallelujah" (1984)

This Leonard Cohen song has been recorded by nearly 200 artists. Certainly none does it better than Sheryl Crow.

The Coming Yankee Crackup?

As the Angels head to the Bronx for (we trust) two straight wins en route to the World Series, we know that, at least so far in this playoff series, it probably hasn't been our mighty bats that have caused cracks in the pedestrian walkways of the brand new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium. Instead, reports the New York Times, it's an only-in-New-York type problem:
The ramps were built by a company accused of having links to the mob, and the concrete mix was designed and tested by a company under indictment on charges that it failed to perform some tests and falsified the results of others.

Politics And Religion

In the New York Times letters section, a range of reaction to the Pope's bid for conservative Anglicans.

A New Voice

Journalist Noberto Santana, who left the Orange County Register this summer after he felt pressured by his editors to go easier on the sheriff (the new, honest one), is about to launch an investigative journalism website called The Voice of OC. Read about his odyssey (and the promise and pitfalls of non-profit journalism) here.


Bill O'Reilly's day as White House chief of staff.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Come Home America" Watch, Day 35

The Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration is moving toward a hybrid strategy in Afghanistan that would combine elements of both the troop-heavy approach sought by its top military commander and a narrower option backed by Vice President Joe Biden, a decision that could pave the way for thousands of new U.S. forces.

Brother, Who Art Thou?

Having preached three consecutive sermons on the Book of Job, while preparing the climactic fourth I'd hoped to glean some fundamental insight about the meaning and purpose of suffering from the Coen brothers' Job-like tale, "A Serious Man." Instead-- No, that's not the right word. I'll say it this way: What I got was an ancient, perhaps ghostly rabbi named Marshak quoting a Jefferson Airplane song and even listing the members of the band (though he hesitated before saying Jorma Kaukonen):

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies

The rabbi shrugs and adds, "Then vat?" You'd think the character Marshak was interviewing would be the Job of the movie, math professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), but Larry, in spite of his proliferating troubles, can never get an appointment with the great man. He's actually talking to Larry's son, who's just been bar mitzvahed. Marshak's answer to the dilemma of suffering, as enunciated by songwriter Darby Slick (brother-in-law of Airplane lead vocalist Grace Slick)? "Be a good boy."

Loosely based on the writer-directors' Minnesota boyhoods, "A Serious Man" begins as Larry's life begins to fall apart. His wife leaves him, his wacky, suppurating brother is arrested on a morals charge, a student and his father blackmail him to get an F erased, and his own son gets him in dutch with the Columbia Record Club. You remember the gimmick. You got 12 free LPs for a dollar, after which monthly selections arrived unless frequently stoned '60s teenagers remembered to mail in the stop-order postcards.

That's the dilemma of suffering in a world God purports to love, aka theodicy. You don't do anything, and a bad thing happens anyway. Just as Job was visited by three know-it-all friends -- who tell him his suffering must be his fault, because he'd somehow offended God -- Larry seeks out three rabbis to help him understand why everything he'd thought was true has turned to ashes. The first and youngest spouts pat seminary formulas, while the second tells a inconclusive story about a dentist who found a message from God carved in a non-Jew's teeth. "What happened to the goy?" asks the exasperated Larry. "Who cares?" says the rabbi.

You already known about rabbi #3, Marshak. As it turns out, Larry doesn't need his advice. He already knows how to be a good boy. His one ethical lapse, which has to do with an unearned sum of money, occurs because he needs it to help his brother. If the movie's about anything, it's helping our brother, whether we're related to him or not. After all, as Larry says about school as well as life, "Even if you don't know what's going on, it will be on the midterm."

Yorba Linda Sky

6:05 p.m.

The Dropout's Unnumbered Diplomas

"There goes the dropout." A teenager named Ernest Sillers heard those harsh words one day in 1929 as he walked past the manager's office at the Pasadena Bank of America branch where he was working as a clerk. After making a minor grammatical error on a form, Ern had confessed to his boss that he'd left high school in Nova Scotia after his freshman year. A two-week visit to his sister in sunny California had turned into a seemingly indefinite stay -- until he heard the tone in the manager's voice and decided to go home and back to school.

As Lisa Merryman writes in Ernest Sillers: Story of a Visionary, Ern got more constructive and no less fateful advice during the final leg of his long trip home to Nova Scotia. The well-dressed stranger who invited him to sit at his table in the crowded dining car turned out to be the Very Rev. John P. Derwent Llywd, dean of the Anglican cathedral in Halifax. By the next morning, Derwent Llywd had persuaded Ern to dedicate his life to God and his church.

At Fr. Ern's funeral service this morning at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in San Juan Capistrano, one of his eulogists, longtime friend John Milam, told this story to help hundreds of us mourners understand why his daily prayer is "God Bless Dean John."

Canon Sillers' life was an ecclesiastical triptych -- six years as a Baptist minister, then an Episcopal parish priest until retiring (so to speak) at 70, and finally a third career as school builder and church planter. Merryman writes that Sillers, renowned for his gifts as preacher, teacher, and fundraiser, convened the first planning meeting for St. Margaret's Church and School in 1979 at El Adobe near Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of President Nixon's favorite restaurants (thus do my worlds persist in conjoining). He launched three other southern California institutions, including our own St. John's Episcopal Church and School in Rancho Santa Margarita, where a number of his initial collaborators are still joyously at work, including business manager Chris Connally, director of admissions Noreen Cohen, elementary school principal Melissa Christian, and superintendent of buildings and grounds Fernando Pedraza, whose father once worked at St. Margaret's. Fernando (who now reports to St. John's Headmaster James Lusby, in his 13th year at the helm) was tapped this morning to be a pallbearer.

As St. John's Church's new vicar several years ago, I had the pleasure of a long lunch with our founding headmaster, who used the opportunity to sketch out his latest project, a teacher's college, on a napkin and asked me to let him know when ("if" was not an Ern word) the names of any potential capital contributors occurred to me. He was then 95. He died on Oct. 15, a fortnight after his 99th birthday and a couple of days after Joan Haneishi, a member of our church and a former colleague of Fr. Ern at St. Mary and All Angels School in Aliso Viejo, which he also founded, had visited him in the hospital. Joan told me that she squeezed both his hands and, beginning with a quotation from Jesus, told the great man, "'I am the vine, and you are the branches,' and these branches have borne much fruit."

At today's funeral, during which the Rt. Rev. Sergio Carranza, assisting bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles, was celebrant, no one was willing to guess the number of tender branches into which Fr. Ern had settled diplomas over the years, the number of boys and girls who have gotten academically rigorous, theologically expansive, and values-intensive Episcopal educations thanks to one faithful man's vision and energy. Certainly the 40 children in the four-school choir this morning, including these four from St. John's, will someday have good cause to say their own prayers of thanksgiving for Fr. Ern.

As for some of the grownup ministers of Fr. Ern's funeral service, Bishop Carranza is shown above with the Rev. Elizabeth Habecker, rector of St. Mark's Church in Downey, California (where Sillers also established a school) and the Rev. Doran Tregarthen, who said in a brief, powerful eulogy that Fr. Ern, on gaining heaven, had no doubt gone looking for God, his beloved wife of 70 years, Aldine, who died in 2004, and a school to found, although Fr. Doran was not entirely sure in which order these actions would have occurred.

Incense-Filled Rooms

Benedict XVI has the body of Christ thinking about tactics and power politics once again. In this "Economist" article about the Pope's move to attract married, conservative Anglican priests to join in a new category of Roman Catholic priesthood, "liberal Anglicanism" means reformed, liturgically-minded Christians in England who can't for the life of them figure out where the Bible says that God and Jesus Christ don't want women to say mass, pronounce God's absolution, and serve as bishops:

Hitherto, an uneasy alliance of low-church evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics has struggled to resist liberal Anglicanism. “This will change the balance in the Church of England in favour of the liberals,” says Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia, a think-tank. “The evangelicals won’t go to Rome and they may now be abandoned by their Anglo-Catholic allies.” Some think (or fear) that as many as one in seven Church of England priests could convert.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Cutting Off The News At The Pass

The White House says it doesn't like the liberal-bashing commentary on Fox News nor the way the network's bias influences its news coverage. But what really seemed to worry Obama aides, according to the New York Times, was newspapers admitting that they should've done a better job covering stories that Fox reporters had stressed:
White House officials said, they noticed a column by Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The Times, in which Jill Abramson, one of the paper’s two managing editors, described her newsroom’s “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” The Washington Post’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, had already expressed similar concerns about his newsroom.White House officials said comments like those had focused them on a need to make their case that Fox had an ideological bent undercutting its legitimacy as a news organization.

"Come Home America" Watch, Day 34

After Dick Cheney accused President Obama of dithering over Afghanistan, Cheney's fellow Republican, former Gov. Lamar Alexander, spoke wisely:
I think President Obama is entitled to take sufficient time to decide what our long-term role ought to be in Afghanistan. Then I think he should come to Congress and say to the American people what that plan is and see if he can persuade us and all of the American people of the rightness of it because he needs to have support all the way through to the end of that mission, so I want him to take the time to get it right.
Hat tip to the "Daily Dish"

Keeping The Fox In The Pool

While today's media-White House wars aren't as fierce as in RN's day, Charles Krauthammer makes the important point that Fox News, its partisanship notwithstanding, has pushed legitimate stories that the mainstream media have neglected. And yet good for the MSM:
[T]he administration tried to make them complicit in an actual boycott of Fox. The Treasury Department made available Ken Feinberg, the executive pay czar, for interviews with the White House "pool" news organizations -- except Fox. The other networks admirably refused, saying they would not interview Feinberg unless Fox was permitted to as well. The administration backed down.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Odd to have Nixon administration and campaign veterans such as Lamar Alexander and Karl Rove calling Obama Nixonian. As a matter of fact, the charge manages to disserve both Presidents.

As MK notes in a comment here, President Nixon's media strategy was more discerning than most remember. That being said, as Joe Conason reminds us, RN's aides John Dean and Chuck Colson accumulated the names of his administration's critics for what became known as the enemies list. Dirty tricks were never justified. But Conason doesn't point out that President Nixon had inherited a war that was much more complex and costly than Afghanistan while trying to govern in a far more hostile global, political, and media environment. While Nixon critics like to say that his abuses of power were sui generis, so too was the poisonous temperament of his times. Obama's party controls Congress. Nixon's did not. Obama has Fox overtly against him. Nixon had most reporters and editors voting against him and some, at least, subtly prosecuting political agendas. Obama has tea parties. Nixon had firebombings, riots, efforts to shut down Washington, and Kent State. In his book In the Arena, Nixon took responsibility for inculcating a corrosive us-vs.-them mentality in the White House. Few if any of his often vicious ideological critics ever did the same.

By the same token, Conason is right that Obama's public posturing against Fox News isn't comparable to the Nixon administration's behind-the-scenes efforts to punish media adversaries for their perceived bias. In at least one sense, though, nothing has changed. Some who were put on the enemies list are still bragging about it. In the same spirit, most Fox personalities are cheerfully brazen about promoting Obama's demise. They make an incredibly tempting target, and now that Obama and his aides have aimed and fired, Fox couldn't be happier as it totes up its bolstered ratings.

Anderson Cooper probably compared Obama to Nixon to avoid the charge that CNN wasn't being fair and balanced. I don't think he believes it for a second. The media don't have it anywhere near as bad as they did under Nixon, and Obama doesn't have it anywhere near as bad as Nixon did.

Yorba Linda Sky

6:50 p.m.

Wish-I'd-Known Songs: "You're The One"

Steve Kimock and Crazy Engine, performing in April 2009

I have no idea about the song, nor, I'm ashamed to say, had I been aware of the artist, nor his deep links at all levels of the Grateful Dead community, until my music buddy Boom Baker suggested we see Kimock at the Bearsville Theater in Bearsville, New York during our upcoming pilgrimage to Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble (about which much more later).

They're Not Visiting Here, That's For Sure!

When The New Media Were Still Weird

Remember that time when Josh went on a web site and got in trouble with CJ?

Big Love

One of three murals depicting the cycle of life at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles, where St. John's member Larry Seigel, beloved husband of Pam and father of Brian and Andrea, was interred this morning

"I Want To Get Married" Wins The Argument

Ross Douthat, the influential young conservative blogger who is now a columnist for the New York Times, when asked about gay marriage on Wednesday during a panel discussion about neoconservatives:

At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: "I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public."

Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.

He added that the conservative opposition to gay marriage is "a losing argument," and asked rhetorically if committed homosexual relationships ought to be denied the legal recognition accorded without hesitation to the fleeting enthusiasms of Britney Spears and Newt Gingrich.

After the panel, Mr. Douthat told the Observer: "If I were putting money on the future of gay marriage, I would bet on it."

He added: "The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren't just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don't find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,' you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.' Who wins that debate? You win that debate."

Hat tip to the "Daily Dish"

"Come Home America" Watch, Day 33

Two New York University professors warn Barack Obama that since the public permits Democratic Presidents relatively little margin of error when it comes to foreign policy, he should take care to frame his Afghanistan decision, whatever it turns out to be, in just the right way. Their "New Republic" article continues with this bit of poll-based advice:
Current survey data show that Americans are much more enthusiastic about our military presence in Afghanistan--to the tune of 30 percentage points--if it is framed as an attempt to weaken terrorists' ability to attack the United States, rather than an attempt to build a stable democracy. Obama should repeat the first of these rationales over and over again. He should never mention the second one in a speech to the American people.
I'm sure the professors don't mean to suggest that if Obama's goals still include nation-building, he should cover it it up for political purposes. As a matter of fact, President Bush made exactly the same mistake in Iraq. Although he and his neoconservative advisers envisioned a war aimed at replacing Saddam Hussein with the Middle East's second democracy, they presented it to the American people, who are wisely averse to nation-building efforts, as a step to protect our national security against Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction. When it became clear that there had been no immediate threat, Bush insisted that the Iraqi people and the world were still better off without Saddam Hussein. They undoubtedly were, but that wasn't a good enough reason by itself to go to war.

That's why the fundamental question for Obama in Afghanistan (irrespective of what his speech says when he announces his policy) remains whether the threat to our interests posed by terrorist forces and enablers in the country is sufficient to justify a large presence of ground troops.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Obama's "Thuggery"

Tough talk from the mild-mannered Michael Barone, who says President Obama has brought to his administration's media relations the brawling moves he learned from Chicago politics:

The same treatment is being given to Fox News, which according to White House spokesmen, "is not a news organization." "Other news organizations, like yours," Obama consigliere David Axelrod told ABC News, "ought not to treat them that way."

In other words, when Fox breaks the news that the White House green czar is a self-proclaimed "Communist" or that operatives of pro-Obama ACORN have been aiding and abetting child prostitution, other news outlets should spike the story. Or risk being demoted from great friend to bad apple.

Last February, Obama told Fox News (to which I am a contributor), "I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lockstep here."

Now we are. Maybe Obama thought everyone in Washington would be his great friend. Having encountered un-Chicago-like dissent and disagreement, he has responded with classic Chicago brass knuckles. We'll see how far this kind of thuggery gets him.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doing His Wild Thing

Maurice Sendak, in response to questions about parents who think "Where The Wild Things Are" is too scary for younger children:
"I would tell them to go to hell," Sendak said. And if children can't handle the story, they should "go home," he added. "Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it's not a question that can be answered."
And while he's at it:

Sendak also criticised Disney, saying it was "terrible" for children. As a child himself, he'd loved Mickey Mouse as "the emblem of happiness and funniness", and at the cinema he would stand on the chair screaming "My hero! My hero!" at the mouse – who at that point still had teeth. "He was more dangerous," the author told Newsweek. "He did things to Minnie that were not nice. I think what happened was that he became so popular – this is my own theory – they gave his cruelty and his toughness to Donald Duck. And they made Mickey a fat nothing. He's too important for products. They want him to be placid and nice and adorable. He turned into a schmaltzer. I despised him after a point."

Quick In His Red Slippers

Andrew Sullivan on the Pope's bid for Anglicans:

[I]t seems an almost baldly political move, made at a pace more reminiscent of modern politics and public relations than the traditional ecclesiastical creaking of the wheels. That is troubling to me. Churches are supposed to be about eternal truths and freedom of conscience, not what amounts to an unfriendly take-over bid for a franchise.

And it does not seem to have occurred because of some deep resolution of the theological disputes between Anglicans and Catholics, but merely by a shared abhorrence of women priests and openly gay ones. If you want to switch churches, prejudice seems a pretty poor reason for doing so.

Uptown Songs: "Wild Women" (ca. 1920)

Francine Reed, performing with Lyle Lovett's Large Band. Song by Ida Cox.

Hat tip to the Rev. Kay Sylvester

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Islamification Of Christianity

In an audacious act of shepherd stealing, the Pope has just made it easier for Anglicans, including married priests, to join the Roman Catholic church without having to abandon their beloved liturgical practices. Predictably, in their coverage of Benedict XVI's startling move the media are focusing on the rifts in the Anglican Communion over the role of gay and lesbian people in the church. But the Pope's not exploiting angst about the status of homosexuals as much as he's wooing those who still can't accept the absolute equality of women in Christ, which as far as I'm concerned is really at the root of the church's sexuality crisis. As the New York Times reports:
The move could have the deepest impact in England, where large numbers of traditionalist Anglicans have protested the Church of England’s embrace of liberal theological reforms like consecrating female bishops.
[T]he Rev. Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform, a traditionalist Anglican group [in England], said, “I think it will be a trickle of people, not a flood.”

But he said that a flood could in fact develop if the Church of England did not allow traditionalists to opt out of a recent church decision that women could be consecrated as bishops.
There's even more evidence that the Pope's initial play, at least, is to redeem wayward Christians whose 16th century forebears committed the original sin of breaking away from Rome under Henry VIII and Elizabeth the Great. Many U.S. schismatics have already aligned with the "Anglican Church in North America," which prohibits female bishops just as the Catholics do. So while its leaders applauded the Vatican's announcement as evidence of the depth of the Anglican Communion's crisis, there's no immediate evidence that they're planning to run home to Papa themselves. Says one former Episcopal bishop, Martyn Minns:
I don’t want to be a Roman Catholic...There was a Reformation, you remember.
I don't know enough about Bishop Minns to speculate about his attitude toward the Roman Catholic church. But many American Protestants retain an almost visceral anti-Catholicism. Growing up in the Episcopal church in Detroit, I never even heard the word "priest" used to describe ordained people. We always called them "ministers." Besides, with the Catholic church you get all that stuff about birth control, abortion, banning the death penalty, and world peace, about which at least some conservative Anglicans are as divided as everyone else. So for the time being, it appears the action in this latest episode in the English Reformation will unfold where it all started, with the Vatican hoping to swell its ranks with those who just can't abide a woman in a miter.

As for women in the rectory, for eight centuries the Catholic church insisted that priestly celibacy was a salvation issue, but evidently no longer, since the new rules are expected to increase the number of married Catholic priests (aka married former Anglicans). It doesn't seem fair that the priests who played by the rules all along will be the last to get somebody to cuddle up with on a cold winter's night. At least they may not have to wait for long. Knowledgeable Catholic friends have told me for years that in the teeth of the priest shortage, the celibacy requirement wouldn't last more than a decade into the 21st century.

What the mother church will never abide, my friends say, is Mothers instead of Fathers behind the altar. So here's Benedict's vision: Straight, sexually active male clerics, with women and gays continuing as second-class citizens. Call it the Islamification of Christianity.

Besides That, We're Cool

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) doesn't want to vilify President Obama. He just says that he has a Marxist background and that his involvement in Chicago politics may have resulted in impeachable offenses.

St. John's Sky

2:50 p.m.

"One Finger": Sermon for 20 Pentecost

As Job learns, and we all know from our own lives, acceptance is the hardest part of suffering, especially if we're dealing with an injustice, an illness, or a broken relationship for which there's no immediate remedy, or no remedy at all. And yet when acceptance comes, so does the capacity for ministry. When I went to see a St. John's member who was losing a ten-year struggle against cancer and told him how sorry I was, Larry raised his weakened arms from the bed, shrugged, and whispered, "What are you going to do?" He quickly added, "So how's it going with you?" Acceptance, then ministry -- just like Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewky. My Sunday sermon is here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mistake Songs: "My Favorite Mistake" (1998)

Sheryl Crow, performing with Eric Clapton. Song by Crow and Jeff Trott.

Truckin' Through Genesis

Robert Alter reviews '60s comic artist R. Crumb's illustrated version of Genesis. I can't wait to get my copy from Amazon, though I don't think it will quite work for my 5th grade religion students at St. John's. Like Torah's first book, Crumb's illustrations are rated R. That's Abraham at left, about to sacrifice Isaac.

A Young Girl In Amsterdam

The only known film footage of Anne Frank. That's she, leaning out the window about nine seconds in. Details here.

We Could Get Used To This!

Historic first dinner party at 24-year-old daughter's house. (No photographic evidence exists of two equally gracious luncheons at 21-year-old daughter's Long Beach apartment.)

The Latest From Dan Brown?

The Episconinjas. Perhaps related to the Episconixonians?

Hat tip to Mark Shier

John Come Lately

Jeffrey Goldberg says Stephen M. Walt, whose convoluted reasoning I just discovered today, "makes his living scapegoating Jews." Guy teaches at Harvard. Whoa.

Yorba Linda Sky

5:20 p.m.

Grey Lady's Deathbed

The New York Times is slashing newsroom jobs again -- 8% this time.

"Come Home, America" Watch, Day 30

Afghanistan doves have argued that the threat to fundamental U.S. interests there is de minimis because the country's al-Qaeda cohort has shrunk to almost nothing. Au contraire, writes Peter Berger. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are now essentially one in the same:
Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism--and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.
Responds Matthew Yglesias:
To my mind, Bergen’s account of the situation largely begged the question—he says we’re fighting the Taliban because the Taliban is working so closely with al-Qaeda, but arguably the Taliban is working closely with al-Qaeda largely because we’re fighting them.

In general in these foreign occupation scenarios it’s difficult to disentangle cause and effect. If 70,000 Taliban fighters showed up in the United States for any purpose whatsoever, I take it that Americans would all band together to fight them off. But our unity of purpose and anti-Taliban resolve in the face of foreign invasion wouldn’t tell you very much about our post-invasion behavior.

Hanging With Bruce Songs: "Sherry Darling" (1980)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, performing his happiest song ever at a concert I attended in Nassau Coliseum on New Year's Eve in 1980

Newspaperpeople's Inky Hearts Beat Faster... the Washington Post's print edition's redesign goes retro.

Rhetoric In The Name Of Realism

Stephen M. Walt identifies himself as "a realist in an ideological age." Any conception of authentic foreign policy realism requires terminological precision. And yet in an article about Turkey's dismay at Israel's actions during the Gaza War last December and January, Walt refers to "Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza," even though Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Realism also entails the willingness to appreciate several sides of a question simultaneously. Walt falls short of that measure as well. His terminology in a related blog post today is different; he says Israel is "controlling" Gaza. That it is, but only because Gaza is now occupied by a faction of the Palestinian movement which is dedicated to Israel's destruction and which provoked December's Israeli invasion by launching rocket attacks. Israel's response to the attacks was disproportionate. It was wrong and also tactically unwise for the Palestinian National Authority and the U.S. to have briefly colluded in trying to squelch a report about alleged Israeli excesses. But Walt's calling the Gazans "defenseless" begs the question of why they fired rockets at Israel. His own answer is also convoluted:
[B]ecause Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza and refuses to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own, it faces continued resistance from groups like Hamas, including the firing of rockets at Israeli towns.
If Hamas ceased its aggression and acknowledged Israel's right to exist, the momentum leading to a Palestinian state would be irresistible. In other words, Walt has it exactly backwards. The purpose of Hamas' resistance and attacks is to perpetuate Israel's occupation of the West Bank and prevent a comprehensive peace. What exactly is the point of pretending otherwise in the name of realism?

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Montana Rancher Imagines The Kingdom Of God

Hat tip to Tim Arendt

Obsessed With Obama

The Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, told his Spanish counterpart that the U.S. and Israel have "solved the matter" of West Bank settlements. As for PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, they must've been serving Kool-Aid when he visited the White House last week:
He said he was obsessed with Obama, and that there will never be another chance where a man who professes values such as his will be president, and everyone must help him realize his vision.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Come Home, America" Watch, Day 29

The White House chief of staff wonders aloud whether Afghanistan's government is a credible partner for our troops.

Three Sundays, They've Been! Dare We Hope?

Sometimes a family just chooses the church closest to their home. The Obamas went to St. John's Episcopal Church, across from the White House, for a third Sunday.

One For Lindsay

Hat tip to

Andrew's Balloon Boy, Trig

Andrew Sullivan has never admitted that he erred in lending early credibility to the most effective libel of the 2008 campaign: The fabricated story that Gov. Palin and her minor daughter, Bristol, and countless others in Alaska government and private life, had entered into a massive conspiracy to trick the public into thinking that she rather than Bristol was Trig Palin's mother.

Even six-year-old Piper Palin would have had to have been in on the coverup, subject to such ruthless family discipline that Sarah could let her go on national TV without risking that she'd tell what she knew about Trig's real mommy and when she knew it.

Here's how the balloon boy, same age as Trig, went on TV and blew the buttons off a real hoax:
[The Fort Collins, Colorado sheriff] said the "a-ha moment" came when the 6-year-old boy, Falcon Heene, said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he thought "we did this for a show."

McNamara, Again

In his last extensive interview, offered to the Washington Post in August 2007, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who died in July, lashes out at President Johnson for failing to listen to his advice about Vietnam. It was too early for the Post to apply McNamara's insights about Vietnam to President Obama's agonized reappraisal of the Afghanistan war, though the reporters, Bob Woodward and Gordon M. Goldstein, sum up as follows:

The debate now unfolding -- in the White House, in Congress and in the public square -- about the way ahead in Afghanistan is one that McNamara and Bundy, given their efforts late in life to come to terms with Vietnam, would have no doubt followed with keen interest. In his final interview, McNamara was asked how a country truly learns from its mistakes. "I think you break" from replicating history, he said, "by writing thoughtful retrospective reviews of what we've done in the past that may apply to the current situation or the future."

Fair enough. But I wish I read as much about what Democratic congressional leaders could have done in 1973-75 to save South Vietnam as I do ritualistic flagellations of Johnson and McNamara for what they did in escalating the war. The war wasn't lost until it was lost, after the Watergate Congress systematically set about to deprive our allies of bullets. As a matter of fact, there's a lesson in that for Obama, too.

Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

We First

Daniel Levin summarizes Muslim ideologues' claims that there was never a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, part and parcel of some Palestinians' refusal to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state.

You and I both know the temple was there. But politics has its own imperatives. If the Muslim revisionists are serious about proving their point, the obvious solution is internationally supervised archaeological digs under the Temple Mount, but it's hard to imagine them being authorized by the custodians of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Dome of the Rock, and other more recent (aka 1300 years old) arrivals to the neighborhood. They should dig up or shut up.

Ironic that Palestinians are playing me-first just as we learn that most of them have Jewish ancestors. Besides, the more elegant argument is the one we St. John's pilgrims heard from a Palestinian scholar during our August pilgrimage: That Palestine's indigenous people, the Canaanites, were worshiping in Jerusalem long before Jews arrived and built their temples. None of which helps Israel and Palestinians live in peace today.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Actually, We Feel Your Pain

Sunni terrorists murder 42 Iranians, including five Revolutionary Guard officers, and the Tehran regime blames the U.S.

Forgive Me, Father, For We Have Blogged

Focus groups interviewed by Democracy Corps, founded by Clinton ex-staffers James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, show that the mainstream media err in assuming that conservative Republicans are motivated by something so prosaic as racial bias:
[T]hese conservative Republican voters believe Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives. They view this effort in sweeping terms, and cast a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years.
And yet reading the data, Andrew Sullivan insists that these conservative voters think Obama's rise "has something to do with black community organizations and Jewish money." Sullivan calls it "the return of Coughlinism," a reference to the anti-Semitic radio preacher, Fr. Charles Coughlin. Interesting that Carville and Greenberg minimize racism as a factor:
[T]he press and elites continue to look for a racial element that drives these voters’ beliefs – but they need to get over it.
Only to have Sullivan drag bigotry back in, and with an incendiary reference to Fr. Coughlin, just because one Republican with an active imagination mentioned ACORN and George Soros. That overreaching aside, I think Sullivan is right that the harshness of the conservatives' critique risks driving fiscally conservative but less paranoid independents into the Democrats' camp. I also agree that if the angriest, most frightened voters continue to dominate the party, Gov. Palin will be the 2012 nominee. The hope for a saner GOP: That she really loses big.

America, Like A Ring In A Bell

U2's Bono says that President Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize because of his promise (which we can be sure the dedicated citizen-rocker will do his best to make sure Obama keeps) to put the U.S. foreign policy establishment firmly behind the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Bono agrees with his pal the President's national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, who says, "Stability = Security + Development." Riffing in the New York Times this morning, Bono sounds a characteristically constructive note:
In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it’s resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.
Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

The Soldier's Way

A general's son, John Eisenhower, believes it is meet and right that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been "gently chastised" for speaking out on Afghanistan.