Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bush Was The Food Stamp President

Attacking Juan Williams, Newt Gingrich's statements were false.

Elite Media Kegger In Newt's Honor

Newt, Newt, Why Are You Persecuting Saul?

Ira Stoll on Professor Gingrich's seeming ignorance:
Mr. Gingrich mentioned Alinsky's name at least twice, again echoing a theme raised here in an October 18, 2011 post on Obama and Alinsky. But the way Mr. Gingrich set it up, as a juxtaposition between American exceptionalism as represented by the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers and the "radicalism of Saul Alinsky," makes me wonder if Mr. Gingrich has actually read Alinsky. In fact Alinsky, like Mr. Gingrich, wrapped his own cause in the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes:"To us the Declaration of Independence is a glorious document and an affirmation of human rights." In the same book, Alinsky calls Samuel Adams an "organizational genius." Alinsky's Reveille for Radicals begins with a quote from Thomas Paine and contains this passage: "Where are America's radicals? They were with Patrick Henry in the Virginia Hall of Burgesses; they were with Sam Adams in Boston; they were with that peer of all American radicals, Tom Paine, from the distribution of Common Sense through those dark days of the American Revolution...The American radicals were in the colonies grimly forcing the addition of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution. They stood at the side of Tom Jefferson..."

The Power Of Hate

How Newt won.

Chris Christie For President

My Nixon brother Hugh Hewitt, who says the GOP nomination will be decided by the Florida primary, puts the best face on the South Carolina debacle:

Newt’s greatest contribution to the race has been to demonstrate that the style of political argument that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan debuted in the last couple of years actually is not a luxury but a necessity to win hearts and minds in the GOP. The 2012 election will not be won because of Mitt Romney’s tax returns or his years at Bain, or because of Newt’s past marriages or the payments from Freddie.

Fair enough, Hugh, when it comes to Gingrich's ADD policy motor mouth. But never have I heard Gov. Christie or Rep. Ryan say that the president of the United States takes his inspiration from socialist Saul Alinsky instead of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Our country could be wounded by Gingrich's demagoguery. Is it too late for a Christie candidacy?

Newt McCarthy

Andrew Sullivan perfectly captures the ruthless demagoguery of Newt Gingrich's speech tonight. He said the president believes in the organizing principles of socialist Saul Alinsky (how foreign that name sounds, doesn't it? Gingrich keeps using it) instead of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Is he saying the president is unpatriotic? Mr. Gingrich, do you believe Barack Obama is a loyal American or not? A sad day for South Carolina and a desperate moment for the Republican Party. What's your plan, Mitt? If you can't stop him, then the abyss.

They're Laughing. But He's Preaching.

Louis CK. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan

Having A Very Good Time At The GOP's Expense

Democratic operative James Carville addresses the Republican establishment, whatever it is:
[Romney] was your guy -- he was methodical, meticulous, married once. He has completely blown himself up over an issue that everyone knew was coming. Have you had a chance to look at John McCain's research operation on Mitt? Wow. And let me assure you, that thing has been supplemented, expanded, and annotated. God only knows about the Obama people -- they've got a billion dollars! And how about my friends over at American Bridge (the Democrat-leaning political action committee)? Clearly Mitt is merely in the beginning of this tax-return, financial-disclosure, Cayman Island (and God only knows what else) fiasco.

Your new front-runner is one of your old front runners, Newt Gingrich. I would like to take a moment to revel: I cannot personally tell you how pleased I am to see old Newt rise to the top after listening to all of your nauseating, sickening lectures on the evils of government and the importance of family values.

Now, you guys have to deal with a $1.6 million Freddie Mac consultant (who says he wasn't a lobbyist) who has been married three times. Hope you, at least, enjoy the Super Bowl. It could be your last hurrah for a while.

7 Out Of 498

According to the LA Times, the condition of political liberalism (in its classical meaning) is poor in Egypt in the wake of elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists won 75% of the seats in parliament:
The elections were a sobering lesson for young activists whose nascent parties were no match for the grassroots networks and entwined religious and political message of the Islamists. The liberal activists helped ignite the revolution that brought down Mubarak but, winning only seven seats, they have been surpassed by more formidable political powers.
Photo : All rights reserved by theseoduke

Although Stranger Things Have Happened

A welcome reassurance from the right:
It is hard to make clear-cut statements about the mercurial and often contradictory Gingrich, but one thing we can say with absolute certainty: he will never be President of the United States.

Obama Goes Green

It's heating up in South Carolina. On Thursday evening, the president was keeping it cool.

Jay Wack

On Friday night Jay Leno agreed with Newt Gingrich that the media were driving decent people out of politics:
That's why we have people like Newt Gingrich in politics.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Does Newtonian Chaos Really Loom?

His surging polls notwithstanding, I'm stunned by the idea that Newt Gingrich might win the South Carolina primary. Until just recently, electability has been the GOP watchword. Tilting to Gingrich would be sheer masochism. His ethical lapses are legion. His own people drove him from the House speakership. In national polls, his negatives are astonishingly high. If he really cared about his party, the decent thing would've been not to run at all. Gingrich's mentor Richard Nixon stayed away from every GOP convention after his 1974 resignation until his death 20 years later. He didn't want to make his unpopularity the story. He didn't want it to be all about him.

Gingrich has no such scruples. He's been acting out since Mitt Romney thrashed him in the Iowa caucuses, though impotently at first as his rage got the better of him. His super-PAC erred by producing an inaccurate hard-left critique of Romney's business practices. While history teacher Gingrich knows all about the power of the big lie, this first outing backfired. He had been in much better form preparing to run in 2010, when he cunningly appealed to some Americans' worst instincts by comparing Muslims to Nazis. His former colleague Joe Scarborough called it hate speech. He never apologized for that rhetorical atrocity and issued a tepid disavowal of the Romney attack only after party elites and even rival Rick Santorum made him look silly for having a PAC that was feeding ammunition to President Obama.

Gingrich got his mojo back once his self-righteousness cooled and hardened. He stood on a stage in South Carolina and attacked a black journalist for asking him in all reasonableness to defend calling a black commander-in-chief the food stamp president. This week he attacked another journalist to deflect a legitimate question about his poor behavior toward one of the two women he'd pledged to love in health but abandoned in sickness. What makes Gingrich's personal life relevant in a presidential debate is that it helps illuminate the kind of man he is -- egotistical, undifferentiated, vengeful, and selfish, all poor indicators of an effective executive and especially presidential temperament. You only have to listen to what he says to appreciate the dangerous extent of his self-adoration.

He has spent the last two and a half weeks doing to his party exactly what he does to his women. Party leaders are now trying desparately to forestall the catastrophe of his coming within reach of being nominated. But these nutty elections of ours are decided by voters, not elites. If South Carolina Republicans are seduced into codependency by his dulcet tones and corrosive narcissism, if Florida follows where they lead, and if their nomination process is plunged into Newtonian chaos as a result, then their party deserves to lose. If he's nominated, it had better.

A $140 Billion Question For The Next GOP Debate

Anthony H. Cordesman says no one, neither President Obama nor the GOP candidates, is talking about what it will cost to keep Afghanistan from descending into chaos after control of military operations is transferred to the Afghans in 2014, as Obama has promised they will be:

It may be fair to argue that the last thing the nation needs at the start of an election year is yet another budget crisis and another decade of war. Yet this is the path the United States appears to be taking in Afghanistan. U.S. officials are talking about removing all American troops from Afghanistan and about massive cuts in military spending as part of the “transition” to Afghan control of combat and civil governance operations in 2014. Given the lead times involved in funding and implementing such massive changes within two to three years, Washington really has only a few months in which to decide whether we will take on the burden of funding the Afghan government through 2014 and beyond, and whether we will provide most of the funds, advisers and partners that Afghan forces will need until 2020 and beyond.

He Wants To Shift The Entire Planet

Hugh Hewitt reproduces Mitt Romney's list of Newt Gingrich's pronouncements about himself:

Gingrich on Gingrich:

  • “I Think I Am A Transformational Figure.” (, 12/2/11)
  • “I Am Essentially A Revolutionary.” (Adam Clymer, “House Revolutionary,” The New York Times, 8/23/92)
  • “Philosophically, I Am Very Different From Normal Politicians … We Have Big Ideas.” (Andrew Ferguson, “What Does Newt Gingrich Know?” The New York Times, 6/29/11)
  • “I Have An Enormous Personal Ambition. I Want To Shift The Entire Planet. And I’m Doing It. … I Represent Real Power.” (Lois Romano, “Newt Gingrich, Maverick On The Hill,” The Washington Post, 1/3/85)
  • “I First Talked About [Saving Civilization] In August Of 1958.” (Robert Draper, “He's Baaack!” GQ, 8/05)
  • “Over My Years In Public Life, I Have Become Known As An ‘Ideas Man.’” (Andrew Ferguson, “What Does Newt Gingrich Know?” The New York Times, 6/29/11)
  • “I Am The Longest Serving Teacher In The Senior Military, 23 Years Teaching One And Two-Star Generals And Admirals The Art Of War.” (GOP Presidential Candidates Debate, 12/15/11)

"We Take Care Of Our Own"

The first single from Bruce Springsteen's new album, "Wrecking Ball." Details here. Hat tip to Lisa Golden.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Sensitive Man," Nick Lowe

What's so funny 'bout sensitivity? Hat tip to No Depression.

From Nuts Into The Soup

During his Montreal bed-in with Yoko Ono in May 1969, John Lennon disclosed that he wanted to get some acorns to Richard Nixon. PASTE publishes the first transcript of the interview:

[Journalist Howard] Smith: Somebody told me about these acorns you’re sending around. What is that all about?

Lennon: Well the acorns started off as a piece of sculpture at a sculptor exhibition with all the Henry Moore’s and the Barbra Hepworth and all showing their big pieces of stone and brick and all that and we came up with the idea to put acorns in as a living sculpture you know. And from then on it sort of developed and we thought we’d send a living sculpture to everyone. Every head of state and then we came up with the idea instead of sending we thought we could take them and offer them as a token of peace and that’s all it is.

Smith: Have you done that yet?

Lennon: Well, we wanted to start with American you know so, that’s all we’re hoping to do you know.

Smith: Do you think you’ll be able to get to Nixon? What do you think?

Lennon: I don’t know you know, I really don’t know. We just hope we can and if not we’ll just post them to him or do something you know. We’re finding out the more we sort of say, “we’re coming to do this,” more fear or reaction happens before we even, you know some sort of strange vibe sort of sets in. So I’m shutting up a bit about acorns and Mr. Nixon and all that bit. You know, I just want to get in.

Lennon and Ono got their visas, but I don't think Nixon ever got his acorns. Soon the couple were hanging out with antiwar activists, the FBI was trailing them, and the INS was trying to deport them.

Not That Newt Ever Actually Mentions Him

Zack C. Smith writes that Newt Gingrich's mentor was not Ronald Reagan but Richard Nixon, who inspired him to create the Conservative Opportunity Society. It's true: Whenever Nixon visited Washington in the late 1980s, he'd make time to huddle with Gingrich at 37's D.C. headquarters, One Washington Circle Hotel.

Rage As Performance Art

Will Newt Gingrich's slashing populist attack on the allegedly anti-conservative U.S. news media deflect criticism of his checkered personal life and allay concerns about his obvious temperamental unsuitability for the White House? It would probably help if other conservatives joined in, but they didn't.

Ron Fournier on tonight's GOP debate:
The first question from CNN moderator John King was posed to Gingrich: Would he like to respond to his ex-wife?

"No," Gingrich replied. "But I will." While the partisan audience applauded in support, Gingrich glared at King and blamed the messenger. "I'm appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that," he said.

In hindsight, perhaps Gingrich had been preparing for the moment for months by leading the attack against the media at nearly every debate. Partisan audiences, especially Republican crowds, generally believe the media are slanted against them. Journalists are easy targets.

"Every person in here knows pain. Every person in here has someone close to them going through painful things," Gingrich said. It was a brash bit of political theater: A thrice-married man who has admitted to cheating on two wives ducked his ex-wife's charges and dismissed his infidelity as merely "painful things."

Despicable? Trash? Those are not words he used to describe his actions. Rather, Gingrich called ABC's decision to broadcast the ex-wife's story two days before the South Carolina primary as "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

He denounced CNN for taking "trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate."

Gingrich described King's question as an example of an elite media attack against Republicans designed to help Barack Obama. But when King asked the other candidates if they thought Gingrich's personal life was a legitimate issue, the GOP voted 2-1 in favor of CNN's editorial judgement. Rick Santorum said he was thankful for God's forgiveness but added, "Issues of character are for people to consider...for everyone in this audience to look at." (Later in the debate, he accused Gingrich of grandiosity, "worrisome" behavior, and political cowardice and reminded the audience of Gingrich's policy ADD and the GOP coup that ousted him from the House speakership.) Ron Paul said, "Setting standards is very important" and mentioned his wife of 52 years. Only frontrunner Romney urged King to get to the real issues, though he'd already pointedly introduced himself as an implicitly faithful husband and the father and grandfather of multitudes.

My Nixon buddy Hugh Hewitt, no booster of the MSM, hasn't blogged about tonight's debate yet, but he wrote this morning that the Marianne Gingrich interview was "devastating." At NRO, Jonah Goldberg wrote:

Newt’s opening answer was very strong and will be replayed a lot. But I thought it was overstated and, as he kept going, it became clear he was trying to squelch the issue rather than express his true rage. When he was all lovey-dovey with John King after the debate, it underscored that it was as much performance as anything else.

Republicans are lucky to have such an entertaining performer to enliven their debates. But they won't nominate him to run for president.

Don't Mind The Gap

Eighteen-and-a-half has a powerful resonance for Americans who are at least two score and 18, since it's the length, in minutes, of a mysterious deletion in a Nixon White House tape that became part of the Watergate story. The volunteer sound technician at St. John's Episcopal Church, Dale Griffith, tells me my sermons average about that length -- a bit long for a highly liturgical service such as ours. While their political affiliations are naturally varied, the people of God at St. John's are gracious about my Nixon antecedents. But they probably sometimes wish that I would perform a deliberate erasure of a portion of these long, one-sided conversations, and do it beforehand.

The magic number came up again this week when historian and former Nixon archivist Maarja Krusten, a member of the National Archives foundation, attended an event at NARA in Washington featuring historical novelist Max Byrd and Cokie Roberts, the ABC News commentator who gave a talk about First Of Hearts: Selected Letters Of Mrs. Henry Adams, for which she wrote the introduction. As Krusten wrote at her blog NixoNARA:
As Bruce Guthrie’s photo shows, I was thrilled at the chance to tell Ms. Roberts that I was a member of the Foundation and how much I enjoyed and appreciated the wonderful work it does in partnership with the National Archives. Max Byrd and I exchanged some joking comments. When I told him I was a former NARA archivist who once worked with the Nixon tapes, he asked if he should tear out 18-1/2 pages from the book. I laughed and said, “No, no, we at the National Archives are all about preservation and disclosure. Gotta have the whole book!”

The Hardly Believing Two Billion

The Economist blithely equates the claims of Mormonism (14 million adherents) with those of orthodox Christianity (two billion):

Like most religions, Mormonism has other issues that invite derision, such as its history of polygamy and institutional racism. But its greatest vulnerability may simply be that it is relatively young, so has not yet become established in America's religious pantheon, and that it came of being at a time when good records were kept, which means we are better able to scrutinize its origins. Nevertheless, the divinely-inspired events of two centuries ago are hardly less believable (or unbelievable) than those that preceded them by some two millennia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Putting Juan Williams In His Place

Newt Gingrich should be so proud. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Gingrich was feted by the crowd [in Mount Pleasant, S.C.] for his Monday debate performance, particularly his face-off with the Fox News moderator Juan Williams, who is black and who asked Mr. Gingrich whether his calling Mr. Obama a “food stamp president” was not insulting to African-Americans. Referring to Mr. Gingrich’s resounding “no,” a woman in the crowd said, “I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place.”

Middle Eastern Medievalism

Surveying the struggle over women's rights between Israel's ultra-orthodox Jews and secularists, Benny Morris writes that on this issue, Israel has more in common with its Arab neighbors than you might think:

Israeli Jewish society continues to advance, paradoxically, in two contrary directions: The majority is moving toward a more open, secular, Western lifestyle and polity; and the (growing) minority is moving backward, toward a medieval, obscurantist life, attentive to what are perceived as God's wishes and commands. This ambivalence mirrors the development of the region's Arab societies—except, of course, that in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and the rest—in which it is the backward-looking fundamentalists who are in the majority and increasingly in the saddle.

The photo shows a woman standing the area reserved for men at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in January 2011.

More Than A Shaggy Dog Story?

Democratic operatives Lanny Davis and Susan Estrich on the peculiar story of 36-year-old Mitt Romney's Irish Setter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Drudged This Up, Too

Another Episconixonian link.

John Dean Was Not A Football Fan

Okay, I admit it. I Googled my name and Mr. Nixon's. And I found this letter that the New York Times published on April 23, 1995:
That the famous White House "enemies list" was kept not by football fan Richard Nixon, as Robert Lipsyte suggested, but by his accuser, John Dean, ought to have been abundantly clear from Joe Namath's being listed incorrectly as a Giant. If the President had laid eyes on the list even once, can anyone imagine that error surviving?

Director, the Richard Nixon Library
Yorba Linda, Calif.

Jerusalem, Israel. Period.

Nathan Diament writes that it would be practically impossible to divide Jerusalem between an Israeli west and Palestinian east. His argument isn't easily summarized. Its nub is that the Muslim claim on the Old City (which would also be divided between east and west) is actually weak -- though one may quibble over his use of the phrase "national capital" instead of spiritual capital, since Jews lost all sovereignty over Jerusalem between A.D. 70 and 1948:
The search for a "split the difference" compromise...ignores the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem has been the national capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years and is Judaism's holiest site, while it is Mecca that plays that role for Muslims. The international community would never expect the Islamic world to cede sovereignty over Mecca; the Jewish people ought to be accorded no less respect with regard to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Milhous And Son

In his first outing as a regular Rolling Stone columnist, Nixonland author Rick Perlstein writes about lessons he thinks Mitt Romney learned from his father, George, and from the way Richard Nixon defeated him in the 1968 GOP primaries. Father and son are shown above in 1964. Perlstein describes the elder Romney as a paragon of progressive Republican rectitude whose critique of the Vietnam war was misunderstood and unfairly devalued. In 1968,

[Nixon ran] what you might call a robotic campaign, just [BSing] about Vietnam, hinting he had a secret plan to end it. The truth was a dull weapon to take into a knife fight with Richard Nixon – who kicked [George] Romney's ass with 79 percent of the vote. When people call his son the "Rombot," think about that: Mitt learned at an impressionable age that in politics, authenticity kills. Heeding the lesson of his father's fall, he became a virtual parody of an inauthentic politician. In 1994 he ran for senate to Ted Kennedy's left on gay rights; as governor, of course, he installed the dreaded individual mandate into Massachusetts' healthcare system. Then he raced to the right to run for president.

Nixon's famous for promoting the truism that Republicans should run to the right in primaries and the center in the general. Perlstein makes some intriguing points. But if the main one is that Mitt Romney's following Nixon's advice, he's hardly the first, and he won't be the last as long as the nomination process is so heavily influenced by social conservatives. I'm not arguing in favor of inauthenticity as a leading political virtue. But the fact is that no one admitting to the mortal sin of being a moderate can be nominated in today's GOP, leaving the candidate who may still believe in the broad-gauge, non-ideological party of Lincoln, Rockefeller, and Nixon the choices of not running, changing parties, or playing hide the pragmatist.

Perlstein believes that Romney, if he's nominated, will stay right during the general election. "[T]he party won't have it any other way," he writes. But Romney's outfoxed the party so far, evading one conservative challenger after another in the GOP fire swamp (though he was singed last night in South Carolina). What activists will expect from him in return for their eventual grudging support is something he'll have to take into account. Nixon's advice the day after the convention would be: "You owe them nothing." By the same token, some on the right may decide that a Romney loss would be better in the long run. If a few conservatives end up staying home, so be it, because with or without them, only the Massachusetts moderate has a chance against Barack Obama.

It Took Two Steves To Make An Apple

"Lone geniuses are out," Susan Cain writes. "Collaboration is in." Companies, schools, and even churches are relentlessly trying to get people to work together even when they'd rather work, play, and pray alone. Many of us, and especially introverts, do our most creative thinking by ourselves, and with the warrant of Picasso himself, who said, "Without great solitude, no serious work is possible." Cain, who has a book coming out called Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, suggests we acknowledge and harness both aspects of our social temperament:
[M]ost humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.

Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Thunder Road"

Bruce Springsteen and Melissa Etheridge. I post this every year or so because it's one of the best things in the world. Watch for the line he lets her sing.

On Tax Returns, Romney Isn't The New Nixon

New York Times editorial:

Barack Obama released his tax records when he ran for president in 2008. So did Richard Nixon in 1968. In fact, so did George Romney in that same campaign.

But, in 2012, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and onetime chief executive of a private equity firm is still hedging about whether he will do so.

Every Life About This Time

Dave Alvin, co-founder of the Blasters, briefly guitarist for X, and all-American, all-Los Angeleno troubadour, raised the roof and a few ghosts during his set Sunday night at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. During "Run Conejo Run," a tribute to fallen bandmate Chris Gaffney, he glanced over his shoulder at the stairs leading up to the dressing room as though his friend were about to step in with his accordion. "Black Rose Of Texas," from his new album Eleven Eleven, was for another lost musician friend, Amy Farris. Introducing his first encore, his classic "Fourth Of July," he bonded with audience members over Foxy's Restaurant on Paramount Blvd. in his native Downey and Pup 'N' Taco, a born- and died-in-LA chain. And he opened with "Ash Grove," a boogie about the legendary LA folk club that he used to sneak into as a boy to hear blues legends who have died long since. The closing verses deserve to be quoted at length:
Well I can’t say I been all sinner
Can’t say I been all saint
I’ve done some good deeds and I’ve made big mistakes
I been in and out of love
Said words I regret
I been drunk, been sober
Smoked too many cigarettes
And I’m out on this highway travelin’ town to town
And the news on the radio just brings me down
Intolerance and fear
Ignorance and lies
It’s the same old same old I heard a million times
And I’m thinkin’ of friends and lovers
And how they come and go
Like look-alike houses on the side of the road
Full of everyday people tryin’ to get ahead
Tryin’ to find a reason just to get out of bed
‘Cause we all need somethin’ just to get us through
Well I’m gonna play the blues tonight man
‘Cause that’s what I do
If you've been 56 (like Alvin) or 57 (like me) and the vast ocean of loss is shimmering on the horizon, you feel that way sometimes. Kathy, while no blues hound, enjoyed the show and said it was a blessed thing when someone can make a living doing what he loves. As for me, I rely on the canon of my aging songwriters almost as much as my prayer book and NRSV -- Springsteen, Tom Russell (with whom Alvin wrote "California Snow," which he performed Sunday), John Hiatt, Robert Earl Keen. Alvin's the only one in the pantheon who sings anywhere near as low as I do. I was following the capo up and down the fretboard of his pretty cutaway Martin and staring at his fingers, trying to learn the chord shapes.

With such a prolific and eloquent songwriter and poet, one is also curious about the shape of his life. While Alvin interacts graciously with his audience, he's reticent about personal matters beyond mentioning menthol cigarettes a couple of times and sipping self-consciously from the half-finished Bud Light he carried on stage. His voice is so mellow and supple that you want to tell him to keep on medicating it however he wants. He's written songs that ache with desire, regret, and tormenting jealousy, probably bits of narrative peeking between what Mark Knopfler called the bars of a rhyme. If you want to hear social commentary, check out the powerful medley of his song "Jubilee Train" with Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" and Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," all the peril and promise of living in America packed into a seven hard-rocking minutes.

Alvin performed 15 songs Sunday night and could've done a hundred. I'll be back again hoping to hear "Every Night About This Time," "Out In California," and the achingly beautiful new song, "Manzanita," which I mean to essay with the St. John's folk circle. He played acoustic guitar the whole time, with longtime collaborator Chris Miller filling in on electric. And what a treat when his elder brother, Dr. Phil Alvin (mathematics, UCLA, shown at left above at an earlier gig), joined him for three, including "Marie Marie," which Dave wrote for Phil to sing in their band the Blasters, and "What's Up With Your Brother?", in which they work out some sibling rivalry. On the album version, Dave acknowledges that he likes to have his privacy respected. "Loose lips sink ships, mi hermano," he says. Fair enough. But we do get the picture from the songs, and it does help.

Ants In His Pants For The Motherland

Martin Horat is a genuine weather prophet, according to the Swiss tourism office. And this is a genuine ad promoting tourism. Hat tip to copyranter.

Reeding South Carolina Evangelicals' Minds

Ralph Reed, the evangelical Christian Republican consultant, minimizes anti-Mormonism when it comes to Mitt Romney. LA Times:
His campaign has mailed brochures to South Carolina voters that feature a color photo of a prayerful Romney in coat and tie, his head bowed and eyes closed, along with a signed pledge to be true to "my faith" as president. The brochure notes that he has belonged to the same church "his entire life." But it does not mention his Mormon faith, a barrier for some Protestant evangelicals who don't consider Mormons to be Christians.

Reed...said that Mormonism was less of a factor this year.

In Iowa, exit polls showed 61% of caucus-going Protestant evangelicals voted for either a Mormon (Romney) or a Catholic (Santorum or Gingrich). Reed said Christian fundamentalists were voting on "electability, likability, who shares their values" and the economy, especially in this hard-hit state.

"The sort of lazy narrative is that they're driven by identity politics, and all you have to do is come in here and say, 'Praise the Lord' and quote scripture, and they're going to vote for you. It's not true," Reed said.

A Tory For Obama, Again

Andrew Sullivan makes the case for Barack Obama's re-election. Since the election's likely to be (or had better be) decided on the basis of which candidate has the better chance of boosting GNP growth and getting Americans back to work, here's Sullivan's argument on the economy:
When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course.

But Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion.

All these decisions deserve scrutiny. And in retrospect, they were far more successful than anyone has yet fully given Obama the credit for. The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) To listen to current Republican rhetoric about Obama’s big-government socialist ways, you would imagine that the reverse was true. It isn’t.

The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9. Remove that statistical miscalculation (made by government and private-sector economists alike) and the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression.

Romney, Reform, Or Re-Reagan?

Was Jon Huntsman, who ended his campaign today and endorsed Mitt Romney, not ready for the Republican Party, or the other way around? "BuzzFeed":
The party Huntsman imagined -- modernizing, reforming, and youthful -- could still be born. That might be the reaction to a second smashing defeat at Obama's hands, or that might be where President Romney takes his re-election campaign. But it's now hard to see Huntsman leading that change. He bet, too early, on a fantasy, and ran for the nomination of a party that doesn't exist, at least not yet. His decision tonight to drop out just marks his recognition of that fact.
The second hypothetical, in which a President Romney maneuvers the party toward the center, is the worst nightmare of tea party and social conservatives. As president, Romney would likely marginalize the right with business-friendly, relatively moderate policies appealing to a congressional coalition of center-right Republicans and centrist Democrats. If you add anti-Mormon evangelicals to the mix, some predict that Romney's nomination would portend one of those fabled general elections when conservatives stay home.

"BuzzFeed" thinks an Obama win might trigger a Republican Reformation. But conservative bigwigs who may choose to give Romney faint support in 2012 would be aiming not to reform but re-Reagan. If Romney lost, they would continue to militate for someone more worthy to wear the pompadour in 2016. Four years ago, prominent strategist Ed Rollins hinted that a John McCain loss would at least give the GOP the advantage of returning to its Goldwater-Reagan roots. I have no doubt that this magical thinking will persist indefinitely among conservatives even though Americans elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 strictly because he wasn't Jimmy Carter. A far-right Republican won't ever win an election because she's far right, only because the country's in a ditch and she happens to be on the scene with a tow truck.

Calculating politicos are one thing. Would substantial numbers of actual right-wing voters spurn Romney in hopes of making sure that a Manchurian moderate doesn't become the de facto king of conservatism? Like most second terms, Obama's would be uneventful on the domestic policy front while he grappled with the coming storm over Iran and pushed for progress on Palestine. The tactical voter might construe this as the perfect opportunity to repair to the lab to work some more on Reaganstein. I just don't know very many people who actually think that way when they vote. Do you? Part of being an American is letting the parties do their best or worst and then pulling the lever in November, holding your nose if necessary.

That would make Romney's nomination an historic event in itself. From the tea party to Fox News, conservatives have never been as vocal or well organized, and yet they're on the verge of a massive failure. We may debate about who the real Romney is. I believe he's a diligent and relatively enlightened guy who fudged what he believes about abortion, gay rights, and the role of government in order to survive the Republican fire swamp. His alternatives were not running and switching parties. In any event, neither he nor Obama will be able to evade his record in the general election. Dare we hope for a substantive national conservation between serious people?

The GOP, Nixon, And "The Whole People"

Writing in the Jan. 23 New Yorker about the state of the GOP, Jeffrey Frank raises the ghost of the last winning Republican to endorse moderation for moderation's sake:
In 1959, Vice President Nixon, speaking to members of California’s Commonwealth Club, was asked if he’d like to see the parties undergo an ideological realignment—the sort that has since taken place—and he replied, “I think it would be a great tragedy . . . if we had our two major political parties divide on what we would call a conservative-liberal line.” He continued, “I think one of the attributes of our political system has been that we have avoided generally violent swings in Administrations from one extreme to the other. And the reason we have avoided that is that in both parties there has been room for a broad spectrum of opinion.” Therefore, “when your Administrations come to power, they will represent the whole people rather than just one segment of the people.” Ten months before the general election, the increasingly angry, suspicious, and divided party of Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry seems ever more immersed in its current orthodoxies. None of the candidates, though, seem the least bit interested in even addressing how they, or their party, might actually govern the “whole people” of a fractious nation.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Second To The Last Unanswered Question

I was thinking about the fetal position this morning, because I realized I was in it while stealing an extra five minutes in bed. My knees were pressed together and tucked up and my wrists crossed against my chest. I wondered if my 57-year-old body actually remembered being in my mother's womb. I briefly considered working this into my sermon and then thought better of it. But I remained curious.

On-line, I learned this:
A whopping 41% of participants [in a survey] sleep in this curled-up manner. Women are twice as likely to rest like this and it is listed as the most common position. These sleepers are said to have a tough exterior but are still sensitive and may appear to be shy but warm up quickly.
And this (at a great website, 1000 Awesome Things):
The fetal position is the best way to keep warm if you find yourself tentless in Nunavut or crashing on a pal’s basement floor without copious blanketing. It literally warms the heart (liver, lungs, and kidneys). And hey, isn’t the fetal position just one more way to turn back the clock? After all, your body knows the fetal position, [and] your body lived the fetal position...
Plus this:
The fetal position has been observed in drug addicts, who enter the position when experiencing withdrawal. Sufferers of anxiety are also known to assume the fetal position during panic attacks.
But type this question into Google, with quotation marks, and you get no hits: "Do our bodies remember being in the fetal position?"*

*This statement is now inoperative, because if you enter the sentence, you will now be referred to The Episconixonian. We also star in this search: "Aunt Edna's Prayer".

A California Moderate

David Stockman, President Reagan's first budget director, said the so-called Reagan revolution never happened. He increased taxes and the size of the federal government. Experts quoted in this NPR piece wonder if today's GOP would nominate him. Imagine what conservatives vying to be top non-Ron would say about a California moderate (by today's measure) with a skeleton like this waiting to be let out of the closet:
In 1978, Reagan campaigned against a referendum in California called Proposition 6 that would have banned gays and lesbians, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights, from working in the state's public schools.

The bill was supported by the Christian right and sponsored by state legislator John Briggs. The measure failed, and Briggs later said it was solely because of Reagan.

You Think?

"Sinking Cruise Ship Raises Safety Questions" -- headline at Five are reported dead and 17 missing.

"Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory"

The peroration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech, on April 3, 1968 in Memphis

NOAA? Right.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for linking to my post about Obama dissing Nixon.