Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Cautious, And Experienced, Than Obama

Colin Powell, speaking before the attacks on Libya
Hat tip to "The Daily Dish"

If So, Why Didn't Obama Say It Yesterday?

So it is regime change? MSNBC:
A coalition of American and European forces launched a military campaign Saturday to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power...

Semifinal Five

Filling out his brackets on behalf of thinking and probably overly optimistic center-right conservatives everywhere, my Nixon brother Hugh Hewitt picks five 2012 GOP frontrunners without including a placeholder for the likes of Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, whose prospects seem to have improved now that they've coyly arched their eyebrows in the direction of the Obama birthers. Perhaps Hugh thinks that he's got the fringe covered by including Newt Gingrich, whose love gift is of the Muslims-as-Nazis variety.

And where's Sarah Palin in Hugh's morning line? Maybe if no one mentions her, she'll go away.

Con law professor Hewitt even has a talking point for the leader of the pack (Hugh's pick in 2008 as well):
[Mitt] Romney remains the front runner, with strength in staff and fundraising and the experience of having been around this track once before. The "MassCare is Obamacare" trope is old already, though it will be used by his GOP competitors and by the president again and again. The best response remains the true one: An attack on an experiment in Massachusetts is an attack on federalism -- dangerous in the era of the Tea Party -- and that which is allowed to the states -- individual mandates -- is not constitutional when attempted by the federal government.

Watching The Necons

The Democracy in America blog at the "Economist" gives Libya warmongers the Boot:
Now that I've taken a second to think about it, to calculate even, it seems plausible that weakness and vacillation [in Libya] will do us no harm whatsoever. Indeed, prudent inaction may not be weakness and vacillation at all!

Friday, March 18, 2011

These Women Are From Mars

This New York Times analysis goes out of its way to make clear that, in Libya, Obama's top women were the interventionists.

How Not To Do More Than We Should In Libya

Former Pentagon official Dov Zakheim (whose name I used to mispronounce while MCing Nixon Center dinners in the old days; it does not, he finally told me genially, rhyme with l'chiam) describes how the Europeans and Arab League maneuvered the Obama administration into joining the anti-Qaddafi military coalition. Looking ahead:
Calling for Arab participation in military action is not enough; it will not get the U.S. off the military hook. The administration should make it clear that America's role will be limited to providing logistical and intelligence support, and enforcing a no-fly zone, while its allies attack Qaddafi's troops on the ground. The Arabs could do this, or the British, or the French, or some combination of all three and of others who wish to join in. At most, the U.S. should take out Libya's air defenses, which stand in the way of an effective no-fly zone. Even that operation could be conducted by the NATO allies.

Unless the administration specifies exactly what it is prepared to do, and not prepared to do, it will get called upon to do more than it should.
Zak-Heim is above left. Why do I include a photo of me in a rented tux at one of the last events I attended at the Center Formerly Known As Nixon? Because I can! On that occasion, and every day since the Nixon Center opened its doors in November 1994, the foreign policy institution which Nixon founded and to which he personally had lent his name -- housing experts with names like Kissinger, Schlesinger, Zacheim, Simes, Kemp, Saunders, and Rodman -- had something to say about vital events of the day such as the Libya intervention.

But on this historic day, Nixon's legacy is silent. His own center threw him over the side, and the lower-echelon, non-policy Nixon-Haldeman operatives now controlling Nixon's foundation -- also parties to the mysterious transaction that neutered Nixon's center -- have nothing to say about Libya.

Then What?

At The National Interest, Justin Logan shows how we get drawn deeper into a Libyan war:

President Obama, in his speech today, says that the UN resolution centers on “an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing, to include the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya.” But then he also says that he wants “to be clear about what we will not be doing: the United States is not going to be deploying ground troops into Libya.” Logically, then, if the measures authorized by the UNSC resolution fail to stop the killing, what next? Either you’re moving away from your demand that the killing stop—imagine the Washington Post editorials!—or else you’re looking at introducing ground troops.

Five Presidents and Henry

In his next book, Bob Woodward will probably tell us everything we need to know about the deliberations leading to the U.S. intervention in Libya that President Obama announced this morning. I have no insider sources. I do get the feeling that he's been dancing in the corner since the Arab revolution became a global story in January and that he decided this week that Muammar Qaddafi had finally rung the bell.

I'm sure it's not that he's been itching to go to war. No president in his right mind has such impulses. But unlike the risings in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya offers the opportunity for what may seem to Obama to be a relatively low-risk move in a region where the U.S. has profound interests and therefore historic obligations.

I actually heard five presidents during his forceful if awkwardly written statement this morning. George H.W. Bush must admire Obama's stress on acting as the leading member of a broad coalition and on the basis of the UN Security Council's authorization. One can imagine the intense diplomacy -- conducted while Sean Hannity joked that Obama was wasting his time playing golf and filling out his brackets -- by which Russia and China were persuaded to abstain rather than exercise their vetoes.

Obama echoed Bush 43's freedom agenda when he said he feared "the democratic values we stand for would be overrun" unless Qaddafi was stopped. Where and when our values have ever stood tall in Libya, Obama didn't say.

His stress on protecting civilians, which defined the limited scope of intervention, also made me think of Bill Clinton's regret that he didn't try to stop the Rwandan genocide.

Then there was Obama's own doctrine, putting his action in the larger context of the year's unprecedented uprisings against authoritarian Arab regimes. After two months in which the U.S. stood by while historic events unfolded, we've finally got a chance to throw our weight behind the good guys (whoever they are). As for outcomes, Obama said, they're "the right and responsibility" of Arabs, not us.

The weakest part of Obama's statement was its claim that Qaddafi threatens "global peace and security." He doesn't. Some talking heads said they heard no reference from Obama to U.S.-driven regime change, but I did, when he spoke of holding Qaddafi's regime "accountable" for its brutality.

That's the kind of language Henry Kissinger (and maybe Richard Nixon) might've suggested leaving out. In a phoner with Fox News' Megyn Kelly a half-hour before Obama spoke, Kissinger warned against trying to bring down Qaddafi. "If you engage in regime change," Kissinger said, "you then assume some responsibility for the successor regime and how to bring it about." Obama promised to keep U.S. troops out. But one thing that doesn't change, no matter the president, is the law of unintended consequences during military interventions, especially when the dynamics and personalities are as murky as in tribal Libya. Good first round for Obama against the ruthless and wily veteran of the north African desert. Eleven to go.

"Stoking The Fringes" In Yorba Linda

Escalating interfaith tension in Orange County thanks to hate rhetoric during the Feb. 13 battle of Yorba Linda? The on-line news agency Voice of OC raises the possibility in coverage of a statement by the county's Human Relations Commission:

Most of the controversy has centered on comments made by Deborah Pauly, who is a Villa Park councilwoman and the first vice chair of the Orange County Republican Central Committee. Pauly says in the video: "I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."

Before the [commission] statement was released, Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Human Relations Commission, said community leaders should be careful not to use rhetoric that could stoke the "fringes of our society" into committing hate crimes against people for their ethnic or religious backgrounds.

The protest could have already inspired at least one such hate crime. A few days after the video went viral, Kennedy said, a Muslim woman shopping at a grocery store in Anaheim Hills went back to her car and found a page of the Koran taped to her windshield. The letters "F U" were scrawled on the page. Her car was also keyed.

Muslim War III

I'm a little stunned by the UN Security Council vote and haven't sorted it all out yet. For now, my gut's with Andrew Sullivan:

This strikes me as the worst decision by Obama since he ramped up forces in Afghanistan. If he thinks it makes him look stronger, he's nuts. He looks weak and led around by Cameron and Sarkozy and Clinton. If he's doing it purely for humanitarian reasons (and since there are no vital interests involved, he must be, right), why have we not stopped the slaughter in the Congo? Why have we not intervened in Zimbabwe? Why are we not instituting no-fly zones in Burma?

None of this makes any sense. And the cost? $300 million a week - or $15 billion a year. Where is that coming from? Or have we really re-elected another Bush? More war paid for by more borrowing - with no leadership on the longterm fiscal crisis.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two Timesers

I pay $20 a month to get the New York Times on my Kindle, but that won't be good enough to get me unlimited access to its web site. The sad, inexplicable truth is buried in the FAQ:
23. I have a subscription to The New York Times on my Kindle, Nook or other e-reader. Does this give me access to

No. At this time, we're not able to connect your e-reader subscription to an subscription. Each must be purchased separately.

We plan to enhance our e-reader subscription options in the near future. Please make sure your e-mail address is up-to-date so you can receive the latest site news and announcements from
"In the near future"? How incredibly bush league. What's so complicated about working with Amazon, which sells plenty of Times subscriptions, and figuring this out now?

President Nixon And Gen. Chang

When they were working together on Richard Nixon's secretly recorded White House tapes in the 1980s, Fred Graboske and Maarja Krusten had a Star Trek thing going on. Now a government historian, Krusten is shown here in Vulcan makeup during her NARA days.

As Nixon's chief of staff from 1984-90, I wasn't a Trekkie, but I was definitely Trek friendly. That might've been the basis for some dialog with Fred, Maarja, and their colleagues. But as I reflected tonight, in a comment on a Krusten post about the tension between Nixon and the archivists, I'm not sure we would've been interested in detente:

I’m sure we all remember the old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.

And yet I fear we Nixonians failed the test Kirk ultimately passed in “The Undiscovered Country.” (I labored for a while over a Gorkon vs. Chang paragraph but, you’ll be relieved to to read, abandoned it.) The idea that two Nixon voters (at least) were laboring, without any guidance from agency lawyers, to do the best they could to apply the law and regs to the unique reality of the Nixon records would have been completely alien (think Romulan!) to us on Nixon’s team. I obviously can’t say to what extent the NARA side appreciated Nixon’s overpowering frustration at being a class of one when it came to the processing of a collection over which he and his family had had no oversight whatsoever before the countdown to massive and potentially humiliating openings began.

What I do know (with the useless wisdom of hindsight) is that if we’d all sat down in a room together, we at least could’ve understood one another better — though NARA’s legal and regulatory strictures might not have enabled much of a change in the release schedule. And that might be the rub. Maybe the Nixon side didn’t want understanding. We wanted our shot at the timing of a donor library, and we could only get that by unleashing Gen. Chang and Shakespeare’s dogs of war, which is to say legal maneuvers and political pressure.

The empathetic hearing we got from NARA management beginning in 1989 came as as big a surprise to us as to you. I especially regret the impact on individual careers and lives. As I’ve discussed with Maarja off-line, Kathy O’Connor (Nixon’s last chief of staff; she was holding his hand when he died) and I now have a personal understanding of how painful it can be to be pawns on a hidden chessboard (three-dimensional!).

When "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" was released in 1991, I faxed Nixon a memo from the Nixon library, which I was then running, telling him that he'd been mentioned, and by Mr. Spock, no less. I don't believe he was any more impressed by this news than by my report on "Nixon In China" a few years before.

The Bible And The Patience Of God

From Kristin M. Swenson, a great primer on modern scholarship's understanding of the Bible and its sources, ending with a reassurance about the sheer mystery of faith:
[T]his information about the Bible is compatible with belief in it. A person can simultaneously accept these truths about the Bible and the Bible as the Word of God. Doing so may require recalibrating assumptions, though, to allow for the possibility that God patiently works through people and time, enjoys a good debate and prefers inviting conversation over issuing absolutes.

Tolerance Of All People

Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller has repudiated the "anti-gay covenant" promulgated by his successors, including his daughter, the current senior pastor. LA Times (relying, oddly enough, on a quote obtained by the Orange County Register):
On Wednesday, church founder Robert H. Schuller said he strongly disapproved of the covenant because it goes against what he has built his church upon.

"I have a reputation worldwide of being tolerant of all people and their views," he told the Orange County Register. "I'm too well-educated to criticize a certain religion or group of people for what they believe in. It's called freedom."

Kindled Kuriosity

Starting March 28, The New York Times will charge frequent visitors to its web site. That's good, since well-reported journalism can't survive in the post-print era without people paying for content. Print subscribers will get unlimited access. What's unclear is whether we Kindle subscribers (who pay $20 a month for daily downloads to our e-readers) will get the same benefits as dead tree readers. Today's announcement just says this:
All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
Which doesn't answer the question. This is the second time the Times has tried to charge web users. I hope it succeeds. Too bad it overlooked this detail.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Fukushima 50

Risking all for their country.

A Serious Mississippian

Looks like Haley Barbour will be bringing the heat to the snows of New Hampshire.

Too Bad I'm Giving Up 25 Pounds For Lent

St. Patrick's cupcakes in the St. John's School staff lunchroom today

I'm Looking For My Library Card!

I see Syracuse University is looking for someone to work with the papers of the late Bill Safire, Nixon aide and New York Times columnist. When the records are opened, I look forward to learning what they may reveal about his vendetta against Nixon Center president Dimitri Simes and me as well as the architecture of a Times article (published nine years ago today) in which reporter James Sterngold (who has since left the paper) seemed to take special pains to accommodate the views and interests of two of Safire's fellow former Nixon White House staffers, certain Nixon family members, and a scholar who had good cause to be hostile to us stingy Nixon foundation chiefs.

Nixon Made Everything So Complicated

In the late 1980s, after professionals at the National Archives had painstakingly prepared the Nixon White House records and tapes to be opened to the public, they began to get the distinct impression that 37 was exerting influence through their superiors to slow the process down.

Nixon's argument (I know it well, because as his chief of staff in New Jersey, I was helping make it) was that he should be treated the same as his predecessors when it came to the disclosure of sensitive documents and especially secretly-recorded tapes. Other presidents, incumbent and former, may have come to the conclusion that it would also be in their interests to to slow down the Nixon records express.

But as far as the Nixon archivists were concerned, the law of the land, and the regulations the agency has derived from it, were perfectly clear. Former Nixon tapes archivist Maarja Krusten tells the story in a detailed post at NixoNARA that should be required reading for federal employees at all presidential libraries, especially wealthy ones where the former president, his family, or his operatives bring financial or political influence to bear on archival or curatorial questions.

Krusten's conclusion:

I just don’t know all the reasons why those of us who argued for greater sunshine in the Nixon records release process lost our fight in 1989. That NARA later struggled to tell this story does suggest that perhaps there were some powerful forces at play, inside and outside government. But this simply may have reflected a phrase those of us at the Nixon project heard increasingly during 1989—”the presidential libraries way of doing things.”

Open government is a noble goal but not always easy to achieve when former presidents face disclosures from their records. And let’s face it, most of us probably would not find it easy to throw open for public display the candid deliberations we once took part in on the job. Would we find it easy, on top of that, to let the public know about our concerns about planned archival disclosures, even if regulations required it? My archival cohort argued for transparency in 1989. Others in government evidently saw it differently. Laws and regulations often posit a pristine environment for resolving such issues. But my experiences suggest that often, when it comes to sunshine, it really does ”get complicated.”

Bum Rush

Taunting the Japanese? No class, Limbaugh.

Haley Mary

As his potential rivals for the 2012 GOP nomination, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, jockey for advantage by playing nudge-nudge-wink-wink with the Obama birthers, Gov. Haley Barbour commands the attention of serious people by asking tough questions about Afghanistan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"A Man's Man"

Rep. Dan Lungren describes a rare moment of sheer grace in politics. Already on the defensive for pardoning former President Nixon in September 1974, Gerald Ford visited his stricken predecessor at Long Beach Memorial Hospital in November, four days before a midterm election in which the GOP would suffer historic losses. Why did Ford do it? Because Pat Nixon and Nixon's doctors told Ford that a visit would be good for 37's spirits.

Across The Grand Old Divide

What do young GOP staffers do when they disagree with their bosses or candidates about gay rights? Shut up, at least for now.

Great Job, Except For The Vast Influence

Rich Lowry writes:
Pres. Barack Obama has belatedly joined the ranks of presidential fatalists. The job isn’t too complex necessarily; it’s too damn influential. According to the New York Times, Obama has been telling aides that it’d be easier to be president of China. No one hangs on Hu Jintao’s every word, or expects global leadership from a grasping, one-party state that has never been a beacon to the world.
Lowry spends the rest of his post hammering Obama for whining. While all presidents have frustrating days, I do wish he appeared to enjoy the job more.

Breaking Some More Crystal

As a theological proposition, troubling; as a marketing move, disastrous. The already-troubled Crystal Cathedral demands that choir members sign an "anti-gay covenant."
Hat tip to Rick Whittaker

G.E. Brings Troubling Things To Light

Tom Zeller Jr., writing in the New York Times:

[T]he type of containment vessel and pressure suppression system used in the failing reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant — and in 23 American reactors at 16 plants — is physically less robust [than most reactors in the world], and it has long been thought to be more susceptible to failure in an emergency than competing designs.

G.E. began making the Mark 1 boiling water reactors in the 1960s, marketing them as cheaper and easier to build — in part because they used a comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure.

American regulators began identifying weaknesses very early on.

It Feels Drafty

My cousin and fellow Episcopalian and blogger, Bebe Bahnsen, believes it's time for rich and poor to share the burden of defending our country. For one thing, she thinks we'd all pay more attention to decisions about where, when, and how military force is used:

And I believe it should be a universal draft—men and women. The new draft I envision would require one or two years of service from all young Americans. Many would probably be in the military but there might be other ways to perform required service—teaching or assisting in substandard schools where children are destined for failure without special attention, for instance. Or volunteering in crime prevention programs in high-crime areas. Spending a year or two helping to rebuild this country’s crumbling infrastructure might be a possibility.

It might be necessary to stipulate a certain number of draftees for military service. In that case, the draft would have to be a system such as the lottery during the Vietnam War.

Budget Balancing By Other Means

While Matthew Yglesias's scrappy comment-writers differ about the reliability of the information he presents, it does appear that, since there aren't that many rich people, means testing for Social Security and even Medicare wouldn't save much money.

Conservative Devolution

Andrew Sullivan presents evidence of the U.S. right's intellectual decline. 1) Defending Sarah Palin's gaffes and refusal to deal in substance, her adherents proclaim that people used to say the same thing about Ronald Reagan. 2) Compared to Palin, Reagan sounded like Socrates.

Pray, Help, And Pray

Photo from "HuffPo." The work in Japan of Episcopal Relief and Development is described here.

The GOP's Birther Millstone

The latest likely GOP candidates to take steps to burnish their credibility with the Obama birthers? Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee. They're also now the candidates with the strongest "positive intensity" among Republican voters.

Bibi Or Barack

David Renmick says Bibi's no Nixon:
For years, Israeli and American commentators have been waiting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave behind the right-wing Revisionist ideology of his father, Benzion, a historian of the Spanish Inquisition, and, like Nixon leaving for China, end the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Just as Nixon set aside decades of Cold War ideology and Red-baiting in the interests of practical global politics, Netanyahu would transcend his own history, and his party’s, to end the suffering of a dispossessed people and regain Israel’s moral standing.

This waiting game is a delusion. The stubborn ideological legacy that, in part, blocks such a transformation runs deep....

Now in his second term and ruling in a coalition government that includes anti-democratic, even proto-fascistic ministers, such as Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal. In the midst of a revolution in the Arab world, Netanyahu seems lost, defensive, and unable or unwilling to recognize the changing circumstances in which he finds himself.

If not Netanyahu, Renmick continues, then Obama:
The President has made mistakes on this issue: it was a mistake not to follow his historic speech in Cairo, in 2009, with a trip to Jerusalem. When it comes to domestic politics in Israel, he is in a complicated spot. For some Israelis on the right, his race and, more, his middle name make him a source of everlasting suspicion. Yet he is also a communicator of enormous gifts, capable both of assuring Israeli progressives and of reaching out to the anxious center. A visit to Israel, coupled with the presentation of a peace plan, would also help structure international support and clarify American interests.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Loving Music, Loving Guitars

Tom Russell, America's greatest living folksinger, on how he got started:
I was the kid in the room with heroes tacked up over my head. Pictures ripped from magazines. Grandma’s paintings. At first the walls were covered with athletes. As I became a teenager, the athletes were given over to folksingers. First the Kingston Trio, then the real stuff: Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Ian and Sylvia, Tim Hardin, Peter LaFarge, Fred Neil and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Oh, those lived-in faces. Beautiful beat-up guitars. Brazilian rosewood with scratches and wounds; cigarette burns; bullet holes. Guitars absorb every situation they work in. These dream photos depicted my legends and heroes. Icons of the Minstrel Trade. I wanted that life, but didn’t have the guts and heart for it, until I’d been to West Africa and seen war, and also the miseries of life in an academic setting.

In a pawn shop in San Luis Obispo I picked up a 1946 Martin D-18 guitar and went search of the folk crusade, not knowing it would take forty years and a lifetime to arrive at a watering hole where you could sit down and rest your camel, re-string your guitar, and contemplate whether you were a troubadour.

Photo: Willie Nelson's guitar

"Like A Rolling Stone," Jimi Hendrix

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

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

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

Hat tip to the late David Ware, PA '72

Reposted from February 20, 2009

'Scuse Me While I Pick This Guy

Jimi Hendrix in guitar picks, by Ed Chapman

Turn Up Your Radio

NPR is failing politically but succeeding journalistically.

All-Of-The-Above Minus One?

It seems ironic in the wake of the crisis in Japan that nuclear power is part of the Obama administration's strategy for greener energy:

Mr. Obama has been as supportive of nuclear power as any recent president as he has tried to devise a political and technical strategy for ensuring energy supplies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power, along with expanded offshore oil drilling, “clean coal” development and extensive support for renewable energy, are part of his “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” an approach and terminology borrowed from Republicans. But his support for coal and oil as part of a grand compromise on energy were set back by last year’s mining and drilling disasters, and today’s problems with nuclear in Japan cannot help.

Concerns about earthquakes and nuclear power have been around for a long time; new questions might also be raised now about tsunamis and coastal reactors.

Roger That

Roger Ailes advised Richard Nixon successfully when it came to his 1968 media strategy, Sarah Palin unsuccessfully when it came to her poorly conceived video after the Tuscon massacre. But why was a TV news executive giving advice to a likely presidential candidate to begin with?

"These Are Enemies Of America"

More reverberations from the battle of Yorba Linda.

You're Still Doing Fine, Mayor

Again the common-sense wisdom of Ed Koch:

What is occurring in Libya is not like Burundi or Rwanda, where nearly one million or more innocent men, women and children were slaughtered and the world stood by outraged but not intervening. It is not comparable to the Congo, where hundreds of civilians have been killed or raped, some reportedly by the very UN soldiers sent to protect them. It is not akin to Bosnia where Serbian generals were conducting a war of genocide against a Muslim population.

No, this is a civil war and the deservedly unpopular government of Qaddafi (unpopular with the U.S. and NATO) is currently winning that war with the rebels who, so far as I know, have not yet established that they are any better in their philosophy of government.

If a no-fly zone is desired, why don't the 22 states of the Arab League provide the military force to enforce it? Why should our young men and women be put at risk?

Nixonian Only For Now

The promised statement by "The National Interest," the foreign policy journal owned by the Center Formerly Known As Nixon, is finally available at its web site. It promises that Richard Nixon's aging colleagues and loyalists will help the Center remain true to his principles of enlightened pragmatism in helping chart the U.S.'s course in the world. But whether that work can continue very long into the future is doubtful in view of that same group's unwise decision to remove Nixon's name from the door.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nukes Melting Down But Not Out

Matthew Yglesias doesn't use the Japan emergencies to pile on nuclear power:
[W]hile nuclear looks bad on safety grounds versus clean energy or efficiency, I don’t see any particular reason to see these safety concerns as more pressing than concerns around the fossil fuels that provide the majority of our energy.


The water coming at street level is like nothing you've ever seen.
Hat tip to "The Daily Dish"

The Bloody Wheel Goes Around

The LA Times reports on unspeakable events not far from Jacob's Well in Nablus, where the Samaritan woman met Jesus and we St. John's pilgrims visited in January:

The brutal killings Friday night of five Jewish settlers in the tightly guarded compound of Itamar, southeast of the West Bank city of Nablus, sent shockwaves through Israel, sparking worries of renewed violence in the Palestinian territories and heightening fears of retaliation from the Israel Defense Forces or angry settlers.

Israeli authorities suspect that the killings, the deadliest attack inside a settlement in several years, were either a strike by Palestinian militants or a revenge attack by residents of the West Bank village of Awarta, where two Palestinian teenagers were shot to death a year ago as they collected garbage near Itamar.

Photo: Jerusalem's Temple Mount, viewed from the Mount of Olives

Another Reason I Love My Country

The doctors attending the heroic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords are (right to left) Imoigele Aisiku, Dong Kim, and Gerard Francisco. Notice anything?

How To Save America

Teachers as at-will employees -- no contracts, no tenure. Because the principal fired most of his administrators to afford his reforms, the teachers run the school. Here's the catch: He pays them $125,000 a year. Look at the kids' faces and tell me it's a bad idea.

Manchester Tea Party

Michele Bachmann rewrites the Revolutionary War.

Wolfie's Overture

Maureen Dowd ridicules ex-Bush official Paul Wolfowitz's suggestion that the U.S. make it a three-fer:

Even now, with our deficit and military groaning from two wars in Muslim countries, interventionists on the left and the right insist it’s our duty to join the battle in a third Muslim country.

“It is both morally right and in America’s strategic interest to enable the Libyans to fight for themselves,” Wolfowitz wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture. But the neo-con naif has no shame.

After all, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates told West Point cadets last month, “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it."

Adjust This

In "The Adjustment Bureau," the better angels of our nature are a bunch of busybodies who are so overworked that they're not always thinking straight. Starring the winning Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as a meant-for-each-other politician and choreographer, the movie proposes that a Godhead called the Chairman has decided he can't trust us with free will, since look what he gets whenever he tries -- the dark ages, world wars, and "Jersey Shore." So waxing Calvinist, the Chairman sends men in hats to follow us around.

They monitor our step-by-step life plans on their version 3475.0 Kindles and nudge us back on course when we stray, whereupon the story briefly though not fatally swerves into a narrative ditch. The Chairman, who has high hopes for the principled young congressman from Brooklyn, doesn't want Damon's character to marry Blunt's, because true love will stifle his ambition by filling the hole in his heart left by the deaths of his parents and brother. And yet you'd think that if the Chairman wanted a better world, he'd put well-balanced people in power.

There's a hint of an earlier presidential project. According to the story, which opens on the night in November 2006 when Damon's character loses his first senatorial race, the cherubim cum chapeaux had last revealed their existence to someone code-named Taurus 40 years before. The politician beginning his fabled comeback in 1966 was Richard Nixon. While my wife, Kathy, his last chief of staff, asked him about UFOs once, we never saw any middle-aged angels in suits lurking around -- unless they were impersonating Secret Service agents. No hats, but they did wear earplugs and talk into their sleeves. So much for the inevitable Nixon angle, but what about the placeholder for Jesus Christ? Easy, since a ranking deputy angel reveals that the Chairman had decided to trust humanity with free will "at the height of the Roman Empire."

Written (based on a Philip K. Dick short story) and directed by George Nolfi, the movie's delightfully watchable and suspenseful from its first moments. An affable, intelligent script, well-executed cameos by Jon Stewart, Carville-Matalin, and Michael Bloomberg, and Damon's believability as an up-from-the-streets politician lend the story just enough credibility to withstand the sci-fi preposterousness. Damon himself poses the key theodical question when he taunts one of the angels for not doing a better job easing the world's injustice and suffering. "You're still here, aren't you?" the seraph says sullenly.

Damon has better chemistry with his charming co-star, who must've been practicing modern dance at the same time Natalie Portman was strapping on her toe shoes. All their scenes are spot on. I hope someone casts them together again. Only near the end, after Damon had to put on one of those goofy hats and he and Blunt were getting the big reveal, did I have the impression that she was having trouble keeping a straight face.

Where Is God?

Hat tip to "The Daily Dish" for this astonishing graphic as well a reflection on theodicy in the wake of the disaster in Japan