Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Is Where The Corazon Is

At center, that's Paul McShane of St. John's Episcopal Church, helping two brothers raise the roof of a house for Raul and Beatrice Rubio Puc and their four children, residents of a neighborhood on the western outskirts of Tijuana. More later about our day in Mexico under the auspices of Corazon, which has been helping the people of northern Baja California for 30 years, supported by the elbow grease of church communities and other people of faith. We're all pretty tired, notwithstanding the smiles on the faces of the Rubio Puc family and the people of St. John's. When we arrived at 7 a.m. this morning, there was a slab; when we left, there was a home. To be honest, the mind boggles. Well done, good and faithful servants!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tasty Repost

Historian and former Nixon Project tapes specialist Maarja Krusten posted my account of Kathy's and my Nixon Library visit yesterday on the message board of the Society of American Archivists, along with some gracious comments. Thanks, MK!

Is That Like Tin Soldiers And Nixon?

Battling in a tough race against GOP candidate Van Tran in Orange County's 47th congressional district, Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) recently said:
The Vietnamese and the Republicans are, with an intensity, (trying) to take this seat...
I was surprised to find this way back on page A-13 of the Orange County Register. Loose talk about "the Mexicans," when one is discussing U.S. taxpayers of Mexican descent, went out of fashion long ago. Do Vietnamese-Americans deserve any less respect? (It turns out OC Weekly broke the story on Monday. Before then, neither the Register nor the Tran campaign had noticed Sanchez's gaffe.)

She went on to call Tran "anti-immigrant" (though he's an immigrant himself) and "anti-Hispanic." Since Sanchez was being interviewed on a Spanish-language station, it looks like she's trying to keep her job by inciting resentment among members of one ethnic group against another -- just the kind of enlightened, responsible leadership America needs these days.

Reporter Doug Irving said Tran, a member of the state assembly, has asked for an apology.

Call Me Crazy

"The New Republic" presents a "comprehensive guide to the craziest statements Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell has made in public" and includes this:
Sex is a covenant between a man and a woman and God. … Your job is to satisfy the other, the giving of oneself to another. Porn turns that around.
Overtly theological, yes. Heterosexist, perhaps. But crazy? I'd say truthful. Covenantal servanthood (or mutuality, if you prefer a secular term) is one of the keys to a joyful human life. It's little evidences such as this of the divide between elites and, if I may, everyday Americans that has me thinking not only that the GOP is going to run the table in November but that Christine O'Donnell's probably going to win in Delaware.

Carter The Conseservative

A Cato Institute (read libertarian) expert writes:

Conservatives condemn Carter's ineffectual foreign policy, but his successful stewardship of the Camp David Accords made him the best presidential friend Israel's ever had. At home, by serially deregulating airlines, trucking and railroads, the man from Plains broke special-interest strangleholds over transportation, helping usher in the dynamic, competitive economy of the '80s.

To tame soaring inflation, Carter appointed tight-money man Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve chairman, and, at great political risk, grit his teeth through the deepening recession.

"Because of Carter's fear of exacerbating inflation," [author Ivan] Eland adds, "he courageously refused to support an expensive proposal by Senator Edward Kennedy to provide federally funded national health insurance for all Americans."

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan

Another Shariah Snuff Film

From the "Clash of Civilizations? What Civilization?" desk, another report from the frontiers of primitive savagery:
Al Aan, a Dubai-based pan-Arab television channel that focuses on women's issues, said it had obtained cellphone footage that it says shows a woman being executed because she was seen out with a man. The killing reportedly took place two months ago and was smuggled out by a Taliban member who attended the stoning...
"Who attended the stoning"? Sounds like he bought a ticket. Maybe he did. I'd have called him "a Taliban member who was an accessory to first-degree murder."

While the video was reportedly shot in Pakistan, ABC's Brian Ross said these murders of women also occur in Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, with two of which we hare cordial diplomatic relations. If they were murdering not women but...Oh, never mind.

Watch where you click. While ABC only shows a brief excerpt, it's gruesome enough.

Purple Plate Special

LA Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce on her new vanity plates:
Yes, I know, that word doesn't exist yet in Spanish. Yet. I believe in changing the world one license plate at a time -- obispa is a feminine form of the word obispo which means BISHOP. Spanish speakers at the Cathedral Center at first shook their heads when they saw it. La Obispo is how they referred to me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Styx And Stones

Rows and rows of carefully numbered and labeled boxes enclose the complex and far-reaching historical legacy of Richard Nixon and his presidency -- and now, finally, they're filling shelves near his birthplace in Yorba Linda, at the federal Nixon library.

The library opened as a nongovernmental institution, without any White House materials, in 1990. Beginning in 1994, the year Nixon died, his last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor, and I spent 13 years trying to get the records home. We worked with the National Archives and Justice Department, scholars who were skeptical of our motives, friendly Nixon family members, hostile ones who shot down our first attempt in 1996-7, Nixon foundation board members and Watergate-era operatives who never understood why we were doing it in the first place, and finally blue-chip lobbyists who got about $1 million to knock the right heads together on Capitol Hill.

The handover finally occurred in May 2007, though the records, which made the journey from College Park, Maryland to California in 12 thundering semis, weren't ensconced in the library's new archives addition until this summer, after Kathy and I had left. So this afternoon the library's director, Tim Naftali, graciously gave us the cook's tour of his gleaming new historical digs.

Tim's steward of about 40 million pages of paper records, half of them processed and ready for researchers (comprising most of the really vital documents). Only the famous White House tapes remain in Washington, though before long, Tim told us, their content will be on line. For now, it was a treat to see five scholars hard at work late in the afternoon in the reading room, studying one of the richest collections in presidential history.

The library also now houses thousands of precious gifts of state. Some of the most beautiful pieces -- paintings, sculpture, jewelry, clothing, and more -- are on display in a world-class exhibit, "Treasures From the Vault," which is open through mid-January.

Our longtime former colleague Olivia Anastasiadis, the library's curator, organized the show -- as she did our mid-1990s exhibit "Rockin' The White House: Four Decades Of Presidents And Popular Music." It included videos of White House performances from the Kennedy to the Clinton administrations, all narrated by MTV's former VJ Kennedy (no relation), who was lined up by my current St. John's School colleague Noah McMahon.

Our "Rockin'" poster featured a photo of Tricia Nixon smiling stiffly as hirsute Mark Volman of the Turtles whispered in her ear. Exhibit and poster designer Eric Guard called it "Barbie goes to hell." Not that he's complaining, but getting the Nixon library launched must sometimes have seemed to be a Stygian slog to Tim Naftali, who's faced challenges that are unprecedented in the history of presidential libraries. And yet as he begins his fifth year as director, we were proud to see all he's accomplished -- so far.

Coffee With The Bishop

In her and Steve's own backyard, Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce this morning welcomed us Episcopal deacons and priests working in south Orange County, California (we call it our Deanery Ten Clericus, to confuse others and occasionally ourselves). Bishop Bruce briefed us on her second House of Bishops' meeting last week in Arizona (which made news for its work on immigration reform and by asking one of its number to resign) and also touched on her passions for multicultural ministry, about which she addressed her fellow bishops last week, and the emergent church.

Seated with her were our dean, Peter Haynes (center) and Vincent Schwahn, interim rector at St. Clement's by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente, where the bishop served until being consecrated and ordained, along with her fellow Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, in May. We're doubly excited by Bruce family ministry at St. John's since the bishop will lead our women's retreat next spring and Steve will do the same for our men next month.

Ice Tea Already

Andrew Sullivan shows how the GOP's new manifesto weenies out on spending.

The Wages Of Sin?

Pastor Terry Jones has a $200,000 bill from the city of Gainesville for security costs it incurred (but, he claims, never told him he'd have to pay) in the buildup to his planned Sept. 11 Koran-burning.

Serves him right, many are probably saying. But let's remember that, in the end, he didn't do it. Some of the damage was done already, especially injuries in demonstrations by Muslims in Afghanistan. But it would've been far worse if he hadn't backed down. Because he did, for whatever reason, a little Christian forgiveness is in order.

As for the security bill, local police had to step up their planning dramatically because of the media frenzy over Jones' plans, which occurred as the result of the controversy over Cordoba House in Manhattan, which was whipped up as part of Republicans' midterm election tactics. So maybe he should send the bill to the GOP.

BBQ Averted By Good Advance Work

To reconnect with the American people, President Obama is having a series of casual backyard chats -- you know, get together with a nice couple from Falls Church, their neighbors, and whomever happens to have been flown in by the White House:
Half the guests were neighbors of the Brayshaws; the other half — who, along with the president, did all the talking — were handpicked by the administration and came from around the country to share exactly the kind of stories the White House wants to tell, personal tales of how the [health care] bill had improved their lives.

A cancer patient who had been uninsured told Mr. Obama she had joined a high-risk pool and now has coverage for her chemotherapy and radiation. A mother told the president that her son, who had a disorder that required repeated eye operations, could now get insurance because the law bars companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions. An elderly woman told Mr. Obama that she paid for her heart medication with a $250 government rebate check.

“That’s a wonderful story,” the president said.

“And I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” the woman replied.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Iran To The Brink

Bill Clinton on the U.S. and Iran:
I think it’s always best to have diplomatic relations with countries with whom we have differences of opinion. America, more than any other country, doesn’t do that. If we have a falling out with a particular faction that’s in authority, we sever all relations with them. I think to constantly threaten Iran with atomic attack is one of the incentives that might lead them to move toward a nuclear arsenal, even if they weren’t otherwise inclined to do so.

They Even Have The "American Beauty" Spot

All Tricia, all the time.

Fidel's A Zionist

Read about Jeffrey Goldberg's fascinating chat in Havana with the Cuban dictator emeritus.

Obama Is The New Cheney

Republicans are lashing out at President Obama for telling Bob Woodward:
We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever … we absorbed it and we are stronger.
And yet as John Dickerson writes, former VP Cheney said:
We have to assume there will be more attacks. And for the first time in our history, we will probably suffer more casualties here at home in America than will our troops overseas.

Spinning Tops

Lewis Whyld's pool photo of ecclesiastical half-brothers the Archbishop of Canterbury and Benedict XVI worshiping in London's Westminster Abbey during the Pope's recent visit. Half-sisters Elizabeth I (the originating Anglican) and Mary Tudor (Roman Catholic to the end) are buried nearby, and side by side (not their idea). Were one or both spinning? If so, it would possibly be because they were powerful and accomplished women who now abide in the light of truth. This New York Times article details the tensions, almost all over gender, between Rome and British Anglicans. Benedict says it's a crime to promote ordaining women as priests, whereas it's actually a crime not to. What do you really think the queens would say?

Grateful For Wikipedia's Discretion

Making my way through el mes de Los Muertos thanks to a friend's gift of an anthology of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia CDs, I went searching for information about the late Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, blues singer and Hammond B-3 player who shines on Dead songs such as "Hard to Handle" and "Turn On Your Lovelight." About his northern California secondary school education, our cloudopedia is circumspect, taking care not to speak ill of a Dead:
In his early teens, McKernan left Palo Alto High School by mutual agreement with the school's principal.

Quel Pretty Pass

Didn't the French used to be fussy about French? From the language blog at the "Economist":
Spotted this morning on an advertising hoarding in the Paris metro: the most extravagant mix of phoneticised French and franglais I have yet come across. It was an ad for Keljob (quel job), a recruitment agency, promising “le speed recrutement” and “des ateliers coaching” (atelier meaning workshop in French).

Poor Returns, And It's Not Even November

On his lively new blog about politics and economic policy, "Slightly Right Of Center," my St. John's brother Rich Straton does the math on the Obama administration's stimulus spending and comes out more than slightly south of zero:
When the stimulus bill was passed, the economy was $14,050 B and it has grown to $14,575 B over a year and a half, a difference of $525 B. Now in the same period of time the Federal Government has spent $512 B of the $787 B in the stimulus bill. So, what can we conclude? The stimulus caused the economy to expand by $13 B beyond the stimulus itself? At 3%, that only covers the first year’s interest on the money borrowed for the stimulus.

Let’s keep [Obama ex-economics guru] Christina Romer’s [predicted] 1.6% expansion in mind. We should have grown by $225B more than the stimulus. But not all of our growth can be attributed to the stimulus. Let’s assume that half of the $525B is the product of our individual private labor and companies. Also, we must give some credit to Ben Bernecke and the Federal Reserve’s expansionary money supply policies. Then we are getting about a 50% return on the dollar from the stimulus.

Annualized we are growing at something like 2% per year when we should be getting 5-6% in the initial phase coming out of a recession. We shouldn’t be threatened with slipping back into a second recession. In Keynesian terms, the multiplier effect of the stimulus is between .5 and 1 when it should be between 2 and 3.

Rickety Center Stage

Amid clashes in Jerusalem as the expiration date nears of Israel's partial moratorium on new West Bank settlements, Israel makes a deft point about the Palestinians' threat to pull out of the talks unless the moratorium is extended:
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded that such talk is evidence of Palestinian insincerity. It has said that the moratorium was a gesture aimed at making it easier for the Palestinians to enter direct talks. Since they waited nine months before taking advantage of it, walking out on the talks now would prove that they were not serious about peace.
The PNA could (and, I'm sure, does) respond that continuing to build homes for Israelis on land that everyone agrees will be part of Palestine is evidence that that Israel isn't serious about peace.

And yet the seriousness and good will of these leaders don't really seem to be the issue. Their political survival is. Netanyahu has to recommence some construction to mollify his right-wing coalition partners, while President Abbas has to make some progress on stopping construction if he is to hold Hamas at bay. Has the responsible center ever been more lonely or vital?

Yorba Linda Sky

7:35 a.m.

Yorba Linda Sky

7 a.m.

Yorba Linda Sky

6:55 a.m.

Yorba Linda Sky

6:50 a.m.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Obama's Way

Who talks to Bob Woodward? Everybody, evidently. Last September, he got the leak of the Pentagon memo that ignited President Obama's agonized reappraisal of his Afghanistan policy. Now his 16th book lays bare the reappraisal itself, including the day Obama passed out his own six-page war strategy memo:

Obama kept asking for "an exit plan" to go along with any further troop commitment, and is shown growing increasingly frustrated with the military hierarchy for not providing one. At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military's open-ended approach.

In the end, Obama essentially designed his own strategy for the 30,000 troops, which some aides considered a compromise between the military command's request for 40,000 and Biden's relentless efforts to limit the escalation to 20,000 as part of a "hybrid option" that he had developed with Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a dramatic scene at the White House on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, Obama summoned the national security team to outline his decision and distribute his six-page terms sheet. He went around the room, one by one, asking each participant whether he or she had any objections - to "say so now," Woodward reports.

You'll get chills reading Obama say how worried he is about a nuclear attack by terrorists.

Joker Of The Week

Criticizing Iran's bozo president's way too easy. His critique of western capitalism doesn't withstand a moment's contemplation of the generations of angry, desperate men twisted toward terrorism by the miserably run and in some cases woman-hating regimes of the Arab and Muslim worlds. And then this:
Ahmadinejad proposed that the United Nations name the coming 10 years "the decade for the joint global governance."
Agreed. We vote no bomb for Iran. Moved, seconded, passed.

Jerry Rigged

Bill Clinton was famous for helping solidify his centrist bona fides by taking what some called the "double death" position -- aggressively pro-abortion and pro-death penalty. A majority of Americans agreed, and Clinton was right there with them. It appears Jerry Brown is serving up the same cocktail in his bid to be elected governor of California:

Brown was a vocal opponent of the death penalty when he served as governor in the 1970s and '80s, once suggesting that banning capital punishment would elevate society to a "higher state of consciousness."

He vetoed the death penalty in 1977, and his chief justice appointee was removed from the bench in the 1980s for her constant overturning of death penalty convictions.

Brown has taken more moderate stances since he ran for attorney general in 2006 and vowed to carry out the laws of the state. His office has been fighting for the resumption of capital punishment and defends death penalty convictions before the state Supreme Court.

Brown remains reliably pro-choice. Clinton's already shown that double-death works politically. What would be interesting if someone, whether Democrat or Republican, ever tried double life: Anti-death penalty and in favor of an aggressive campaign to reduce the number of abortions (without taking away the legal right to choose). It's something you'd expect a principled Jesuit-trained candidate to try -- someone, for instance, like Jerry Brown.

2012 As The New 1972

I once, briefly, thought Sarah Palin could be the new Nixon. As Andrew Sullivan notes, she's more likely to end up as the new McGovern.

Sharron Angle'll Give Her A Run For Her Money

The Washington Post on the Senate majority leader's latest gaffe:
Harry Reid ...took a strange turn in his remarks during a fundraiser for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During his remarks, Reid referred to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) as the Senate's "hottest member."

Gingrich Redeemed

Bill Clinton, out campaigning for President Obama, remembers his own annus horribilis:

He called this year only “partly” a replay of 1994, the first midterm election of his presidential tenure, when Democrats lost their majorities in Congress. “The Republicans are not led as adroitly as they were when Newt Gingrich had a whole plan,” he said.

On the other hand, he said, Mr. Gingrich, who took over as speaker of the House in 1994, was willing to work with the White House post-election. He accused this year’s Republicans of promising gridlock.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Event" Full

"The Event" won't be like "Lost," its creators promise:
Executive producer Evan Katz stated that "everything is designed to answer questions so you're not frustrated or feeling like we're making it up as we go along" and the writers intend to keep the viewers guessing in a "fair way."
Here's what we know after the first episode tonight: Bad people kidnapped Michael (Scott Patterson) and his two daughters and threatened to kill them unless he crashed a plane into the house in Miami where President Eli Martinez (Blair Underwood) was going to hold a press conference featuring an announcement by a mysterious but benign woman named Sophia (which means "wisdom" in Greek and has a Christlike connotation in the Bible). Michael is probably a retired pilot.

Just before the plane hit (since the bad people comprise the bad part of the government, jet fighters were unable to shoot it down owing to coordinated equipment failures), it disappeared into thin air, prompting Sophia (Laura Innes) to tell the mystified president in an oracular fashion, "They saved us...I haven't told you everything."

Martinez had insisted on visiting Sophia and her friends about a year before, after learning that the CIA had secretly jailed her and 96 others in Alaska. The president decided to release the prisoners, which the CIA director, Blake Sterling (Željko Ivanek), and the VP strenuously opposed. After trying one more time to talk the president out of it before the press conference, they left the Miami house in an apparent effort to avoid the plane crash.

The preview of next week's episode seems to show Sterling continuing to advise the president, which means that he must have a pretty good explanation for vamoosing. Also surviving is the show's leading man, Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), who was on a cruise with Michael's elder daughter (Sarah Roemer) and about to propose when she was kidnapped. He'd gotten onto the flight to try to stop Michael. In the preview, we see Sean in a hospital room filled with golden light, suggesting that free health care is provided after a person has been de- and rematerialized.

My guesses: The prisoners are idealistic scientists who figured out some years before how to create clean, limitless, free energy. (The stylized series title, THE EVƎNT, seems to connote electrical plugs.) Learning of the invention, the multinational energy companies told Sterling and the VP (who, fourth from the right in the photo, looks a little like Dick Cheney, which means that a Halliburton-like company will probably be introduced soon) to lock them up and give the key to Sarah Palin.

The conspirators didn't bank on the election of the idealistic young president, to whom the good guys leaked a file about the prisoners. The scientists can also use their energy source to make planes disappear, the bit Sophia hadn't disclosed to the president. (See the Jefferson Airplane song "War Movie" for more on this kind of technology.) The inventors aren't greedy or ambitious. All they wanted, before being shipped to Alaska, was to offer their discovery for the good of humankind, bringing about the abolition of fossil fuels, poverty, money, war, and the Republican Party. Only remaining mystery: Why the president was going to make an historic announcement next to a swimming pool in Miami during what appears to be his son's birthday party.

(While I was writing this post, someone posted a summary of the first episode on Wikipedia which has some details I left out.)

That's Why They Call It Zionism

Speaking with U.S. Jewish leaders, Benyamin Netanyahu says Palestinians' recognition of Israel's Jewish identity is essential:
Netanyahu described Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a key to peace. He said that when Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he’s willing to recognize Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinians and Palestinians can immigrate there, but not to Israel, which is the homeland of the Jews. Netanyahu also said that there was not space inside Israel for sub-homelands, saying Israel's non-Jewish minority (Israel's Arab population) has full equal rights but could no demand national rights of their own.

Appt Word


No Doubtless Not Much Longer

Gwen and the boys, the pride of Anaheim, are back in the studio -- though it's more complicated with kids at home.

Calm Iran

Foreign policy realist Josef Joffe lists all the problems that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians won't solve, beginning with Iran's bomb:
The nuclear program goes back to the Shah. Iran was then Israel’s closest ally in the Middle East, and the last item on Reza Pahlavi’s far-flung agenda, if it was there at all, must have been Palestine. Today, Tehran is reaching for the bomb for the usual reasons: as deterrent, as badge of great-power status, as keystone of regional supremacy. Will the Khomeinists really ditch their nuclear venture once the Israeli oppressors have been driven from the Temple Mount, with its Al Aqsa Mosque? Of course not.
And yet it's refreshing (and reassuring) to read that Iran is rationally promoting its interests rather than engaging in a mad, apocalyptic, unstoppable anti-Jewish jihad. And if that's really the case, then the new Palestinian state would have the same interest as its neighbors in deterring Iranian aggression. If Iran's regime is rational, then it's prudent and helpful to add more coherence and leverage to the world's effort to slow its nuclear program -- which is why a peace deal would help after all.

Not everyone agrees Iran's regime is rational, of course.

Perhaps A Fad Premature

America's last -- or, at least, richest -- moderate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stakes his reputation on good sense:

Mr. Bloomberg described the Tea Party movement as a fad, comparing it to the short-lived burst of support for Ross Perot in 1992. The mayor suggested that the fury it had unleashed was not a foundation for leadership.

“Look, people are angry,” he said. “Their anger is understandable. Washington isn’t working. Government seems to be paralyzed and unable to solve all of our problems.”

“Anger, however, is not a government strategy,” he said. “It’s not a way to govern.”

Mr. Bloomberg said he wanted to see more of the cooperation once displayed by Senators Orrin G. Hatch and Edward M. Kennedy.

He said that he would not have voted for either of them (“one because he’s too liberal for me, one because he’s too conservative for me”), but added, “These two guys who went into the Senate together and were the closest of personal friends for 40 years, they were everything that democracy says a senator should be.”

God Bless Us, Every Party

"The Economist" on how Republicans are on the verge of getting monopoly control over the issues of freedom and liberty, which they don't deserve except to the extent that Democrats aren't battling back. The headline, "The Conservatives Grab the Best Songs," reminded me of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" -- which, as long as you want God to bless other nations, too, and maybe change "men who died" to "people who died," is non-partisan, red-and-blue pitch perfect, even though Ronald Reagan got to it first for his 1984 reelection campaign.

When she was President Nixon's chief of staff in the 1990s, Kathy used to buzz colleagues on the intercom and play the song over their phones.

Their Cultural Loss Is Our Pain

Journalist ("The New Yorker") and screenwriter ("The Siege") Lawrence Wright won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his book about al-Qaeda. When Terry Gross asked him the other day on her NPR program, "Fresh Air," what inspires men to be terrorists, he mentioned political repression, cultural and civic stagnation, and especially the medieval oppression of women:
[I]f you're going to try to pin down a single word about what is it that characterizes the drive into this kind of radical reaction, I think a word might be despair. Because there are many different rivers that lead into despair, you know, there's poverty. There's political repression. There's gender apartheid. You know, there's a sense of a cultural loss. There's religious fanaticism. All of these elements are present in many different Muslim countries in varying degree.

And, you know, the world is full of poor countries that don't produce terrorists. And the world is full of repressive governments that don't have violent insurgencies. But when you start mixing all these different elements together then you get a very combustible combination, and I think that's what you see in so many of these countries....

[E]ach of these countries is entirely different entities, so the mixture is different. In Saudi Arabia, you have practically no civil society at all. You know, there's nothing between the government and the mosque. It's just, you know, it's a very, very diminished sense of what you're - what's available for you to do in life. And certainly, the gender apartheid is a real problem.

You know, these young men are not socialized. They haven't grown up learning how to please girls, which is a lot of what civilization is, in my opinion. And this absence of contact with females is just a profoundly negative influence on the development of young male minds, in my opinion.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Girls

Kathy and I have known Brenna Hayden since she was a baby in the arms of her parents, Bob and Kathe. I photographed them at today's St. John's Homecoming picnic as they participated in fellowship and a little friendly fundraising on behalf of Brenna's brother.

Seed Corn

All these weeks I thought "The Switch" was a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman and also, thanks to the fuss Bill O'Reilly kicked up, a paean to single motherhood. Instead, it's a vehicle for a touching love story between a father and son, Wally (played by Bateman) and Sebastian (the charming Thomas Robinson), who bond over their shared hypochondria and dad's suggestions for dealing with playground bullies.

Wally was abandoned by his own father and so has been unable to take an emotional stand, especially when it comes to admitting to Kassie (Aniston's character) that he loves her. But long before he realizes they're related, he finds Wally impossible to resist. The best scenes feature just the two of them. Sebastian inherited an adult dose of his father's anxiety but none of his timidity. An animal rights advocate, at nine he refuses to blow out the candles on his birthday cake unless a family friend agrees to adopt a three-legged dog from a local kill shelter. Drawn to Sebastian's gutsy little man, Wally finally discovers his inner one.

While Aniston's not incidental by any means, she's stationery. As with her and many of her leading men (such as those in "Along Came Polly," The Breakup," and "Love Happens"), she abides in sunny, grownup charm while Wally seeks after the wisdom and self-awareness to which men must attain in order to adore and serve her.

More or less in the middle of his heart's 13-year travail, he becomes Wally's father by substituting his sperm for Aniston's intended donor's. He obtains it while gazing at a picture of a prominent member of Richard Nixon's White House staff and indulging his imagination. The movie is at its most unrealistic when it begs us to believe that for the first nine years of Wally's life, he doesn't remember doing this. In equally lame scenes, he plants the seed (in the form of an incoherent drunken delusion) with his colleague and best friend, played by Jeff Goldbum, who conveniently helps him recover the memory years later. That's not to say that the gangly, off-beat Goldblum doesn't do a great job. Besides, he's rooting for Aniston the whole time -- and so are we, because that's what we do.

Nixon v. Anderson

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz:
While detailing Nixon's utter obsession with [journalist Jack] Anderson -- to the point that 16 CIA operatives once kept him under surveillance and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy plotted to kill him -- [a new book] makes the case that each side employed equally ruthless methods against the other.