Saturday, November 27, 2010

Those Pesky In-Laws Again

Robert Anthony Schuller was supposed to succeed his father in the pulpit at the Crystal Cathedral, but family politics kept him out:
Robert Anthony took over as the lead pastor, the role he had been groomed for. But he made it clear he wanted a shift in the church's culture: He proposed fewer family members and in-laws on the board for more transparency.

But before any changes were made, a July 2008 board meeting took away many of his duties. With a swift vote, the board created a three-person Office of the President, consisting of Fred Southard, the chief financial officer, and two of Robert A.'s in-laws.

"That was a single pivotal point," said Jim Case, a former board member who is now a congregant at [Schuller grandson] Bobby's church.

Soon after the July meeting, church leadership told Robert Anthony that his sermons weren't "anointed." Then, he couldn't preach on Sunday mornings. In November 2008, he resigned.
The church is now bankrupt.

Great Crimes Vs. Great Things For God

In Toronto, Christopher Hitchens (suffering from cancer) and Tony Blair (suffering from Middle East diplomacy) debate the role of the faithful in history:

Hitchens fueled the debate by criticizing religion for blocking peace in the Middle East, perpetuating poverty by subjugating women as inferior and causing numerous conflicts including the genocide in Rwanda – a country he says "is the most Christian country in the world, and one which many of the people who committed the crimes are now hiding in the pulpit."

Blair acknowledged that religion has been used to lead people to commit indescribable acts, but it has also led people to commit acts of goodness.

"Health care in Africa has been delivered by those motivated by their religion ... The abolition of slavery was achieved by combined secularism and non-secularism. At least accept that there are people who are doing great things because of their faith," he said.

One Woman, One Vote, No Ordination

Big news at the New York Times: Florida's senator-elect, Marco Rubio, attends Roman Catholic mass and an evangelical church affiliated with the Southern Baptists. Mark Oppenheimer plumbs the theological contradictions:
Southern Baptists practice adult rather than infant baptism, for example. They do not recognize the authority of the pope. And the Christ Fellowship statement of beliefs says the bread and wine of communion are merely “symbolic,” thus do not become Christ’s body and blood, as Catholics believe.
Some think he's currying favor with both the Catholic and Protestant communities. Not news at the New York Times: Both his churches ban half of all registered voters from ordained ministry.

"It's A Mess/Meets The Test"

Thanks to the good people at "Paste," whose print edition is struggling along with almost everyone else's, ten songs about print journalism, including a snippet of "The Newspaperman" as performed by Pete Seeger.

While he's at it, playlist compiler and journalist Mark Kemp sings this discouraging tune:
Today, journalism is a skeleton of its once-authoritative self. Newspapers have laid off all but a few copy-pushers and overworked editors who want complex information reduced to concise (and don’t forget, entertaining!) capsules. And the “reading” public doesn’t ask for more than that. Americans seem blissfully content getting their information from the pundits—those TV talking heads who shout angry diatribes and smirk out witty one-liners in lieu of facts—or from Internet pseudo-journalists who offer up wild conspiracy fantasies on websites run by potential Unibombers.

Palin's Rhetoric: Tastes Good But Less Filling

Speaking to Laura Ingraham the day before Thanksgiving, Sarah Palin took on the first lady's campaign against childhood obesity:
Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. And I know I'm going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.
Except that if Obama was really saying that some parents can't be trusted to make good decisions about their kids' eating, she'd be right, since they've been filling them up with french fries and chicken stars. As a result, in Alaska, for instance, 12% of high school students are obese, according to the CDC. As for getting kids onto the right track, it must be the beaten track to the vending machines, because 54% of Alaska's high schoolers don't even get weekly PE.

I'll bet I could go on line and fine someone who manages to blame big teenagers on big government. Just go to the mall some time. Are we a rounder people than 20 years ago? Fifty? You know that we are. Is government plotting to super-size us so we'll be easier for al-Qaeda to find? Did Barack Obama really make you eat that orange-flavored chicken?

Sure, if you check out what the White House has in mind, it's a typical regulatory bulk-up. That's what government does, especially when people seem to be unable to take care of themselves. In response, Palin might've said this:
There's no question that we've got a problem with overeating in our country, and it's hurting our kids most of all. But while I agree with the first lady's assessment of the problem, I sure don't care for her solutions. If we don't start following some common sense rules about nutrition and exercise, you can bet that there's a team of bureaucrats back in Washington that's already trying to figure out how to get a warning label and fatty tax onto your Krispy-Kreme. Unless we want that to happen, I want all my mama grizzlies to pack an apple in their little cubs' lunch this morning instead of a juice box.

Tie Tech

An archivist at the Huntington Library in San Marino is consulting with LA's journalistic old-timers in her effort to identify people in photos from the collection of the late LA Times columnist Jack Smith, my mother's colleague for many years. In this photo, Smith is the only one besides Richard Nixon who isn't circled. (Someplace I have an autographed copy of one of his ten books, God And Mr. Gomez, about his experiences building a house in Baja California.) On the Times blog, while Larry Harnisch can't identify the mystery four at a Nixon press conference, he does figure out how to tie the image to an approximate date.

A Mixed Blessing For Times Readers

Hugh Hewitt on a New York Times article that couldn't back up its headline.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Drugs Don't Cure People. People Cure People.

Most of the way through "Love And Other Drugs," Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) and Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) reenact a classic scene for which Charles Dickens provides perhaps the most timeless rendition in A Christmas Carol. Having been seduced by the mean old world, young Ebenezer Scrooge is released from their engagement by his impoverished fiancee. Every time, you want him to fight for her, but he never does.

The lucre tempting Jamie isn't money (he never comes off as greedy) but the freedom of perpetual adolescence. Maggie, who has stage one Parkinson's Disease, knows that Jamie's ambivalent about being with someone with a wasting illness. We see a lot of these attractive young people. The movie definitely earns its R rating. But Maggie's body is already failing her, and Jamie's far too fixated on a miracle cure. So she makes him leave.

Set in the late 1990s, just before Pfizer rolls out Viagra, the movie's good enough that you understand why he does as she asks. What's a little odd is the confined narrative laboratory in which he finally grows up. If we were told where he and Maggie live, I missed it. The underachieving, unappreciated son of an overachieving doctor, he gets a job as a traveling drug salesman but hardly seems to travel. The wonderful Oliver Platt brackets the movie as a Tums-popping colleague who tantalizes Jamie with a shot at the promised land of Pfizer's Chicago corporate offices if he can get enough doctors to switch from Prozac to Zoloft. Jamie appears to confine his efforts to the same medical plaza and is constantly interacting (in the office, parking lot, and local saloons) with the same clients and competitors.

All we learn about Maggie's background is that she was taking Ritalin at age ten. Floating around her funky, "Singles"-era apartment, she makes collages of her photographs, smokes medical marijuana, and listens to Liz Phair. She appears to support herself by taking cash-strapped senior citizens to Canada to buy drugs. There's plenty of preaching about things medical in the movie, but it's inconsistent. Targets are drug companies, corrupt doctors, and predatory malpractice firms and insurance companies that victimize doctors. Although for sheer comic relief we get TMI about an over-four-hours episode, the little blue pill turns out to be the only thing anyone can really count on, besides, eventually, Jason's emotional potency.

If God Had Wanted Us To Be Suspended 4000 Feet Over The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon And 70 Feet Out From The Rim, He Would've Given Us Longer Toes

The investigative team at The Episconixonian has just learned of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, at Eagle Point. We were neither briefed nor consulted. Last I'd heard, the National Park Service was drastically limiting the number of cars permitted along the South Rim. This massive embellishment seems inconsistent with the idea of limiting humankind's footprint on a peerless natural wonder.

Memo To The GOP: It Worked

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, last year's stimulus bill meant that at least 1.4 million people, and as many as 3.6 million, were working in the third quarter of 2010 who otherwise wouldn't have been. More here.

Block That Elbow!

Ever seen a president through a White House family quarters window? Well, here you go: Barack Obama, holding an ice pack to his mouth, watching the national Christmas tree arrive this afternoon. As we know, he got a bloody lip playing basketball and ended up with 12 stitches.

I'm sorry he got hurt, of course. But there was a little payoff for your curious blogger. On Wednesday the Washington Post ran this review of a documentary about presidential photographers. All it has to say about Richard Nixon is that he was grumpy with Ollie Atkins on the last night of his presidency, which you perhaps can understand. By and large Nixon was gracious to the people he worked with, and he had a great relationship with Atkins.

Atkins' most famous picture showed Nixon with Elvis. What I was curious about was Obama's favorite picture -- which, according to his official chief lensman, Pete Souza, shows him in a more masterly moment on the court, blocking a shot by his regular basketball buddy and body man, Reggie Love. Of course, I wanted to see it, and thanks to today's mishap, MSNBC ran it. May I also note that it was taken, in September 2009, in the gym of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City?

It's Terrifying Being Green

According to my St. John's friend Tom Tierney, authority on all things aeronautical, who provided this arresting photo, as this 747 operated by Taiwan-based EVA Air took off from Amsterdam, the photographer was 475 feet from the fence. You can guess how close the plane was.

Substance Still Sells, Sarah

Writing about Sarah Palin's bizarre Thanksgiving Day defense of her North Korea gaffe, Andrew Sullivan makes the same point people used to make about Richard Nixon after his rocking, socking congressional and senatorial campaigns and especially the Alger Hiss case:
There is a meanness, a disrespect, a vicious partisanship that, if allowed to gain more power, would split this country more deeply and more rancorously than at any time in recent years. And that's saying something.
Ironic, yes. Determinative, no. Though he was a divisive, highly partisan figure whom a significant number of Americans always loathed, Nixon was elected president twice. I bet Palin won't even get nominated. Sullivan's right that her Facebook note helps us understand why. But there's an element he doesn't mention. Yes, her rant, a pastiche of Barack Obama's gaffes, is disrespectful. But that won't lose her any points with most Republicans, I'm sorry to say.

Beyond that, I thought Palin's "Thanksgiving Message To All 57 States" was disrespectful of a solemn, 389-year-old American tradition. That doesn't make her unpatriotic. It just proves that she's irredeemably trivial.

For two weeks I've been marinating in the Thanksgiving statements and proclamations by presidents and many others that my St. John's friend Buddy Lang assembled for his premiere performance of "In God We Trust" at our church. The holiday offers a platform for a thoughtful public figure's reflections on the challenges, opportunities, and bedrock principles of the greatest nation in the world. On this day of family and national communion, Palin's message to her fellow Americans had all the poise and maturity of a high school senior who gets a chance to scrawl something in a rival's yearbook while the principal gives a speech about good manners.

Worse than that, it was all about her. With Palin, it's always all about her. Here she again departs from the new Nixon playbook. From his earliest years in public life, Nixon was fashioning a template for the west's conduct of the Cold War. It began with anti-communism, and about this the ambitious Nixon was utterly ruthless. But Nixon's vision also had a carefully considered and completely internalized second element that had to do with what was best about America being the best way to combat her enemies.

With Palin, all I can discern is her resentment, sense of entitlement, and, yes, Nixonian understanding for how these resonate with certain Americans who have concluded that they're disenfranchised or that Obama represents a unique threat. But what comes next? Specifically, when she's on a stage with other GOP candidates, how will she stack up? What will she have to say about tax policy to Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, about how to run a state government in a partisan atmosphere (and doing so without quitting) to Chris Christie?

Her victim game won't play, because they've all had to contend with the gosh-darn MSM, too. Unless she brings something else to the table, her support will melt away fast. Before the midterm election, the tea party creed was that criticism of lightweights and wack jobs like Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino would only make them stronger. We now know that, far right or far left, substance still sells. In the 2012 round, look for the rise of the Whiggish wonk, the Republican Obama. If Palin believed there was any advantage to doing some policy homework, we'd have seen evidence by now. As a candidate for national office, her high water mark was 2008.

The Hidden Ideological Debate

Republicans are being unfairly accused of conspiring to tank the economy to weaken the president further, Michael Gerson writes:
They must assert that the case for liberal policies is so self-evident that all opposition is malevolent. But given the recent record of liberal economics, policies that seem self-evident to them now seem questionable to many. Objective conditions call for alternatives. And Republicans are advocating the conservative alternatives - monetary restraint, lower spending, lower taxes - they have embraced for 30 years.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two-Tweet Solution

Arianna Huffington thinks social media will contribute to Middle East peace:
[T]hough, as we've seen, technology can be used to terrorize and divide, social media, by its nature, tilts toward bringing down barriers and connecting people. Which is what is starting to happen in the Middle East -- a powerful tool in the crucial battle for hearts and minds being waged between the terrorists and the moderates.

No longer is our best hope for change in the region the far-too-often failed process of our government pressuring their governments. If fundamental change happens, it's going to come from the bottom up -- with social media fueling the transformation.

Between The Wall And A Hard Place

Bibi says the Palestinian report denying any Jewish connection with the the Western Wall is "reprehensible and scandalous."

27,000 Views Since Reblogging In August

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

Obama Is The New Washington

My former Nixon Center colleague Steve Clemons on 1:
I know it sounds really corny, but this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful that George Washington was our first President -- and that Barack Obama who like GW can be austere and seemingly distant from common folks but yet is smart and chameleon-like in his ability to forge compromises can still get a great deal right in his presidency.

Benighted Nations

The UN general assembly sticks up for murdering gay and lesbian people.

"Wreck," The Bittersweets

Performing in a Charlottesville, Virginia radio station in September 2008


The Washington Post's Sally Quinn says she and her husband (that would be retired Watergate-era executive director Ben Bradlee) are "'DWTS' fanatics." This round, Quinn's voting as often as she legally can for Jennifer Grey -- five times on each of her seven phone lines. As Bristol Palin continues to win, Quinn has discerned the work of sinister forces -- a conservative blog that's teaching people how to vote for Palin using fake e-mail addresses:
Polls have shown that the majority of tea party members are conservative Christians. Are these Christians who are voting 300 times and not using valid email addresses? Doesn't it offend their sense of fairness, if not ethics and morals?

Are these the same people who voted for Sarah Palin, for many of the candidates she endorsed this past election, and will be voting for her candidates in 2012? They may well be voting for her for president.

I wondered what I would do if I were Sarah Palin and my daughter were in this situation. Bristol is clearly getting votes she would never have gotten had she not been Sarah Palin's daughter. Those who think they are doing the right thing by doing wrong are only hurting her. They are putting her in a vulnerable position to be vilified by her mother's enemies.

Heck yes. Our whole system is based on the principle of one woman, 35 votes.

Holy Pepperoni Wafers!

Remains of the St. John's Church Thanksgiving eve pizza feast

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blog Cabin

Courtesy of the blog of the Archivist of the United States, a facsimile of the first lines of Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation in October 1864. Click the link above and read it page by page:
It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with his guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their campus, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our working-men in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.
Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

No More Afghanistans

Robert Wright argues that Afghanistan is worse than Vietnam because our involvement actually manufactures new enemies, whereas non-interventionist tactics in combating terrorism would have resulted in al-Qaeda just fading away:
Al Qaeda’s ideology offers nothing that many of the world’s Muslims actually want — except, perhaps, when they feel threatened by the West, a feeling that isn’t exactly dulled by the presence of American troops in Muslim countries.

The Puritans' "Ethics Of Love"

The Puritans have gotten a bad rap, David D. Hall writes:
Contrary to [Nathaniel] Hawthorne’s assertions of self-righteousness, the colonists hungered to recreate the ethics of love and mutual obligation spelled out in the New Testament. Church members pledged to respect the common good and to care for one another. Celebrating the liberty they had gained by coming to the New World, they echoed St. Paul’s assertion that true liberty was inseparable from the obligation to serve others.

Apple Of Our Ear

One of iTunes' great new Beatles spots. Remember the first time you heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand"? I was nine years old, and I was with my grandmother, Lily, in a Rexall drug store in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. In just a week, Apple customers downloaded 450,000 albums and eight million individual tracks.

A Casting Choice For The Ages

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. Whoa.

Light At Noon

We're having a Holy Eucharist service at St. John's at 6:30 tonight, Thanksgiving Eve, and we expect a pretty good turnout for the holy meal and the pepperoni wafers at a pizza feast afterward. For that reason, and no doubt because of people's holiday errands and travels, no one came to our regular Wednesday noon service.

I had a little homily in my head, inspired by stray dogs and Dickens, that came down to a reflection on the hole we sometimes recognize in our hearts that people, pets, and pizza can't always fill.

A few minutes after noon, realizing I was on my own, I decided to light a candle and say noonday prayers.

When we installed the votive candles and kneeling bench a couple of years ago, some St. John's members donated an icon depicting Mary and her child. As I looked at it, the baby's face was ablaze, his dark eyes fixed on me. I looked harder, and the child's ruddy features seemed to glow even more.

I knelt, said my prayers with what I would describe as renewed intensity, and then looked again. A gracious, circular light, falling through one of the windows in our transept chapel, was migrating south along the wall. Five minutes later, it looked like this, and a moment or two after that, as clouds blocked the sun, it was, for the time being, gone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Each Out Of Three

Three moderately entertaining movies show you can hide iffy plots behind good pairings: In "RED," the bad guys think Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) knows something prejudicial about the vice president. The arrival of a wet team that surgically demolishes his house follows charming scenes in which Moses, a retired CIA assassin, pretends his pension check hasn't arrived so he can flirt over the phone with government clerk Sarah Moses (Mary-Louise Parker). Moses getting the same clerk every time is the first of a million unlikely things in the movie, but Parker and Willis make a great couple...In 1987's "Broadcast News," Holly Hunter's scrupulous network producer won't run off with William Hurt's anchorman because he doesn't come up to her journalistic standards and she's afraid he represents the wave of the future. In "Morning Glory," producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) saves her network morning show by putting the weatherman on a roller coaster so he'll say the f-word on the air and spends most of the movie trying to convince award-winning journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to abase himself for ratings. So Holly was right. TV news has definitely become a sad joke. But thanks to McAdams and Ford, the movie's a joyful romp...Who doesn't love cross-country buddy movies "Midnight Run" and "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"? "Due Date," manacling Robert Downey Jr. (anger-prone architect) and Zach Galifianakis (goofy, gross actor) together from Atlanta to LA, owes a lot to both movies and improves on neither. The best moment is when they've inadvertently been served coffee made from several ounces of Zach's father's ashes and Downey comforts him as he tries to get the rest of dad back in the can (male bonding fuzzy). I didn't think "The Hangover," also directed by Todd Phillips, was that good, either, at least the first time through. Must be a generational thing.

Two Icons Passing In the Night

Forty years ago next month, the most requested photo in the National Archives of two men who couldn't have understand one another less

A Tale Of Two Smuffys

Kathy and I were faithful stewards of this dog for three hours. Our pet proficiency is such that we don't know what breed she was (though, as you can tell, we did establish gender).

"I've got a friend in the car," Kathy said, calling me paws-free as she drove home from a meeting in Santa Ana this afternoon. She'd found her in a residential neighborhood in Orange, darting in and out of the street. She didn't have a collar, and after looking around for someone who was looking around for a dog, Kathy put her in the Honda.

Meanwhile I went to Vons and learned that, since the last time I shopped for a dog about a third of a century ago, Newman's Own has gotten into the dog food business, and you can spend 35 bucks on a leash. I bought three cans of Priority Total Pet Care and a leash (low end) and collar, brush, and dog dish.

Kathy was home by the time I got back, whereupon the dog ate about half a pound of Priority Total Pet Care and began to explore the house. Kathy called her Fluffy, her nickname for her late father. I called her Smuffy, the name of my last pet, a stray cat I adopted in my apartment complex in Brea when I was single about 13 years ago. I got him his shots and got my lease changed to make him legal, only to have him die under my bed after about three weeks.

The logic of the situation seemed inescapable. Since the animal shelter was not an option, we had to try to find her owner. While Kathy lay on the bedroom floor with Fluffy-Smuffy, who was presenting as the most congenial of animals, I made signs with her picture, and we headed back to the corner of La Veta and Shaffer as she sat panting quietly in Kathy's lap.

My heart was full as I taped the signs to utility poles. I felt that we were doing the right thing, we wouldn't succeed, and we were going to be dog owners. Kathy had put Fluffy's new blue collar and leash on her and had wandered down La Veta. Then I looked across the street and saw a mother and two boys leave their house and head for their car in the driveway. I asked if they recognized the the dog. They did. They'd found her on the street themselves and given her to the mother's in-laws. Three days before, she'd escaped through a hole in their backyard fence. They'd searched and searched.

She sniffed around the boys' feet, happy to see them. We said that the dog had been to Yorba Linda and back, but they seemed distracted by their half of Smuffy's story. "Can we keep her?" one of the boys, Emiliano, asked his mother.

We smiled and handed him the leash. I took the signs down. We were sad and quiet driving home. Would they be more careful this time? Should we have left our number in case they changed their minds? We arrived to a house that seemed a little emptier, two cans of Priority Total Pet Care notwithstanding.

With A Homeland, Palestinian Hearts Will Follow

Evelyn Gordon at "Commentary" wants to call off Middle East peace talks in view of a poll revealing that 60% of Palestinians (regardless of whether they support a two-state solution, which a clear majority does) think it will be a mere stepping stone to "one Palestinian state," aka the end of Israel.

Based on a different poll, she also says most Palestinians wouldn't support the peace deal that Israel and the U.S. are likely to favor because it would probably entail too many compromises on issues Palestinians hold dear. Another reason to call the diplomats home, Gordon says. And yet the Israel Project survey she features in her post makes abundantly clear that Palestinians are optimistic about a peace breakthrough.

Do a majority of Palestinians really have to accept Israel in their hearts before any agreement is possible? That's Gordon's contention. And yet the pollsters themselves tell a different story:
This quantitative research, and the qualitative focus groups that preceded it, indicate that gaining majority support for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is possible – when it is combined with two other conditions and developments. First, movement toward building an independent Palestinian state, and second, there must be concrete discussion of borders. While that may seem intuitive, the public discussion from both sides is murky on these issues at best starting at the end and then trying to communicate the pieces from there.
The first condition makes perfect sense. When Palestinians have a state of their own, the more prosperous and free the better, then hostility to Israel should decline. Those who say it won't may be giving in to the temptation of thinking that Palestinians nurse a unique hatred of Israel that can't be staunched, whereas my bias is that they will behave rationally, just like everyone else. As for "concrete discussion of borders," over to you, Bibi.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

Sitting In With The Episcopalians

Thanks to a comment from singer and guitarist Emmet Faulk, on the staff of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio, I learned that the trombonist who busted out a solo with Emmet's Come As You Are Worship Band at last week's Episcopal schools convention was the internationally noted Ron Wilkins. The band, which feature's Emmet's wife, Renee, on vocals, flute, and keyboards, is featured at St. Mark's every Sunday at 11:11 a.m. for what I can guarantee is an awesome-sounding contemporary worship service.

That's So Gay, You Moron

An Andrew Sullivan correspondent says it's lame to let ourselves be offended by "language change."

More Palestinian Wallowing

Unconstructive Jewish temple denial by Palestinians, who've issued a new report claiming that Jerusalem's Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa mosque and not a remnant of Herod the Great's expansion of the Second Temple. According to the Jerusalem Post, the official who wrote the report says "that the Jews had never used the site for worship until the Balfour Declaration of 1917."

The argument doesn't wash. Excavations in and around the Old City have revealed many other Herodian structures, including further remnants of his wall. Besides, as we read in Wikipedia:
It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries, the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century.
That would be at least 200 years before Muhammad and Islam.

Some Palestinian experts confine themselves to the more elegant and also scripturally sound argument that their forebears the Canaanites were probably worshiping in the Jebusite city now known as Jerusalem long before the Jews even got there. As for proving Jewish provenance on the Temple Mount, all we have to do is excavate beneath it, which I doubt the Muslim authorities would countenance.

Ode To The Sixties

Additional evidence that President Obama has lost his allure: This Bob Herbert column saying how much we need an inspiring leader such as John F. Kennedy.

Mass Exodus

A third of U.S. Catholics have left the church.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"He Wants To Be The Man Who Makes Peace"

One veteran Israeli politician on an evolving one, as reported by Ethan Bronner:

Shimon Peres, Israel’s president and a longtime two-state advocate, said he sought to serve as Mr. Netanyahu’s sounding board and occasional guide. He said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to cut a deal with the Palestinians but was worried about his political base.

“Calling for a two-state solution was an ideological breakthrough,” Mr. Peres said of Mr. Netanyahu. “He wants to be the man that makes the peace. He is not sure about the cost of it. He wouldn’t like to find himself in a situation where he makes peace and discovers in the morning that he doesn’t have a majority for it. That’s his dilemma.”

The Blank And Light That Follow Death

From the last pages of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, faithful reflections on death and Resurrection:
Oh! it is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach, but let no man reject it, for it is one that all must learn, and is a mighty, universal Truth. When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world, and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer's steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven.
And on the grieving of Nell's unnamed grandfather, who is thought to have experienced something of what Dickens himself did on the death of his beloved sister-in-law a few years before he wrote the novel:
If there be any who have never known the blank that follows death -- the weary void -- the sense of desolation that will come upon the strongest minds, when something familiar and beloved is missed at every turn -- the connection between inanimate and senseless things, and the object of recollection, when every household god becomes a monument and every room a grave -- if there be any who have not known this, and proved it by their own experience, they can never faintly guess how, for many days, the old man pined and moped away the time, and wandered here and there as seeking something, and had no comfort. Whatever power of thought or memory he retained, was all bound up in her.

Forbidding Left Turns Would Save Lives, Too

Willing to do without the new airport security procedures? Fair enough. Without them, there may be a terrorist attack or two -- but hey, they'll kill way fewer people per year than auto accidents, writes Paul R. Pillar:
[H]ere's the best way to make sense of what TSA is doing, and of how and why the public is reacting the way it is. The brouhaha reflects our insistence on achieving absolute security against terrorist attacks, our quickness in spewing recriminations when absolute security is not achieved, and our refusal to face up to the difficult decisions of how much security to seek and at what cost.

All Aboard In Yorba Linda

The Nixon library's holiday card, with news of its current exhibits: Priceless Nixon-era gifts of state and Lego trains

Steath Bomber

From an airplane aficionado via my St. John's friend Tom Tierney (ditto), an image of a B-52 prototype (wrapped in canvas tarps for security's sake) outside Boeing's Plant II in Seattle in 1952.

A Mandatory Retirement Problem

The states have promised retired public employees $1 trillion more in pensions and health care than they have set aside to pay for them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sullivan Still Trying To Evade The Trigonometry

Responding to Matt Labash at "The Weekly Standard," Andrew Sullivan denies that "I have 'advance[d] conspiracy theories that [Sarah Palin] is not the biological mother of Trig.' I would ask Labash to explain what conspiracy theory I have advanced."

That's easy: Right here. Does he really think no one remembers? In August 2008 a blog that evidently got the idea from an episode of "Desperate Housewives" claimed that Palin wasn't really the mother of her son Trig. Without checking the facts, Sullivan used his Atlantic Monthly Group-published blog to advance, or, rather, catapult the story into national prominence.

The originating site retracted the story almost immediately, but it was too late. By conferring respectability on the lie, Sullivan single-handedly made it the most effective libel of the 2008 campaign. His continuing demand that Palin provide proof that she is the mother of her child is the moral equivalent of the absurd, harassing demands of the Obama birthers. His flagrant journalistic lapse will mar his reputation forever.

+Will.I.Ams Really Conflicted

Opportunistically and entrepreneurially, the Pope is reaching into the heart of the English Reformation -- a kind of ecclesiastical Tet Offensive -- to steal shepherds and sheep who can't abide a woman in a miter. By joining an outfit called the English Ordinariate, laity, priests, and bishops will be allowed to continue to preserve elements of Anglican worship. The body-of-Christ count so far, according to the London Telegraph:
About 30 groups from across the country are believed to have registered an interest in joining the Ordinariate. This would mean an estimated 500-600 Anglicans, including about 50 priests, will be in the first wave of converts to join the Ordinariate when it is established in the first half of next year.
Just so you can fully appreciate the irony of the positions being taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury (shown here during a visit to the Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana in the summer of 2009), he's gently harrumphing as Benedict XVI moves on his right flank and yet simultaneously supporting efforts to relegate U.S. Episcopalians to the second table of the Anglican Communion because of their insistence on the sacramental equality of gays and lesbians. So it's yes on women but no on homosexuals? Poor Archbishop Rowan: It's never been tougher to be stuck in the middle.

Her Christian District Rejoices

Renee Ellmers, who said the residents of her North Carolina district were "Christian people" and denounced the lower Manhattan Islamic cultural center as a "victory mosque," is going to Congress after a recount.

"Detroit" In Arabic

When we St. John's pilgrims visit the Holy Land in January, one of the questions we'll explore is where all the Arab Christians have gone, since they now comprise under 2% of the population of Israel and the West Bank. One of the answers: Southeastern Michigan, where, in my home town of Detroit and its suburbs and beyond, at least 200,000 Arab-Americans live, according to "Time." But rest easy, Newt -- they're not all Muslims!
The story of Arab Detroit is more complex than the caricatures. Middle Eastern immigrants didn't arrive just yesterday, or from just one place. The community has been a long time coming into its own version of the promised land. Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemenis and others from the splinters of the Ottoman empire to Dearborn to work in his giant River Rouge complex, giving Middle Easterners their first foothold in the area. Not all were Arab. And in contrast to the stereotype, the majority of local Middle Easterners are not Muslim but Christian, led by an early wave of Iraqi Catholics known as Chaldeans, some of whom fled Muslim persecution. Others were Christians and Druze from Lebanon. More recent times have brought an increase in Muslim immigrants displaced by war and seeking education and economic opportunity.

We Wins

Brooke Grogan (far right), a member of St. John's Church and an alumna of St. John's Middle School, is the youngest daughter of Sheryll and Tim Grogan. That's Sheryll with her parents, Haydie and Tom Tello.

Brooke's also a champion high school volleyball player. She and her teammates at St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano won the CIF-SS Division 4-AA title on Saturday by sweeping the valiant girls of Brethren Christian in Huntington Beach, 3-0.

Stay tuned, because the St. Margaret's Tartans, coached by Susie Maga, are expected to be a southern California Division 4 pick for the state championships. For now, a lesson from Miss Grogan in media relations. Her quote in the Orange County Register is below. Note the prevalence of "we" and the absence of "I." Note the authentic humility of early-season expectations. Note to whom she gives credit for the win (and the Tartans' 18-3 season record):

"We were definitely not expecting anything this year, but halfway through the season we thought maybe we could do this," Grogan said. "It feels amazing. We couldn't have done it without every girl."

Go Tartans! Go (St. John's) Cardinals! Go Grogans! Go Brooke!