Friday, May 30, 2003

Christian Hedonism -- looking at the flip side

A few days ago, I posted a discussion on Christian Hedonism or less provocatively, the ideal of enjoying the life that God has given us. Why is that hard to carry forth consistently?

The reality of suffering makes it seem pie in the sky.

Would anyone dispute the reality of suffering described in the lyrics of the first and last tracks of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana?

Denial of suffering would be equally theologically untenable as the denial of the goodness and rightness of enjoyment.

One of my pastor friends who liked the phrase Theology of Play described our life on this earth as being proleptic: the Kingdom of God is here but not fully here; we know in part but later we will experience in full.

Suffering and enjoyment co-exist now. The God of Playful and Joyful Creativity walks the Garden of Genesis. And that same God is here today if we are willing to look.

Well, guess what? That same God is the Suffering Savior of the Cross.

Thus for those who suffer today, God is aquainted intimately with that pain and will aleviated it fully when His Kingdom comes in full.

But what about NOW? We who call ourselves Christians must help bear the burden of our fellow man because that is what Jesus did when He was on this earth. And part of bearing that burden will be to share the enjoyment that God gives to us because that testifies to the reality that enjoyment still exists even in a fallen world and is a pre-echo of what will be when His Kingdom comes in full.

Design and Briggs-Myer

Did my nearly daily visit to Virginia Postrel's site and enjoyed her link to a quiz designed by a student who wants to study aesthetics and personality types.

Isn't personal taste an amazing thing? Everyone has their own sense of style and what they consider beautiful. What marketeers wouldn't pay to figure out what people like. I suppose "taste" comes into play when considerations of quality and price have been taken into account already. But be honest, have you ever decided to buy something based on its "look and feel" regardless of price or quality?

When you think about our modern economy a lot of the "value" of an item is in the intangible aspects of it. The manufacturers and retails who get this will have an edge.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Went to the Blockbuster to see if i could rent The Gods Must Be Crazy. I'm going to Botswana at the end of June and this cult favorite movie was filmed in Botswana. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it in the Blockbuster! They did however have The Gods Must Be Crazy, II. It was hilarious and charming and left me with the warm fuzzies. The story line has the Botswana Bushman from the first film this time looking for his two missing sons. The other line is of a wildlife zoologist and a New York lawyer whose ultra-light plane goes down in bad weather trying to survive. The third line is a local solider slugging it out with a Cuban mercenary. The three story lines eventually merge with amusing consequences.

I recommend the film if you want a light and fun evening of rental movies. I would like to see the original but finding it may be a little difficult. I went to and they only sell it used! Mint condition copies go for over $100! Wow!

Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey's latest movie beat out Matrix in the weekend box office numbers. I haven't seen it but reports have been favorable. Interestingly, the director of the film comes with Christian understanding. A friend sent this page where the director fielded questions from a religious audience.
Here are a few excepts from the Q&A:
I think there are subtle messages all over this movie. And you can take them for what you will, where you are standing in your particular spiritual walk. I accidentally run into them, like with the Father, Son and Holly Ghost analogies. Morgan is three guys in the movie. Morgan is the electrician, the janitor, and the boss. Father, Son, Holy Ghost -- kind of. Many were intentional and many were just coincidental -- which is one of my favorite sayings, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
Question: One of the things I heard, before seeing the film, was “What about this raging against God?” “Isn’t that blasphemous?”

Shadyac: Yes! I answer it with Elijah, Jonah and Job. And I answer it with my understanding of what God seeks in all of us, which is relationship. And relationship demands honesty. I don’t think we are to live in our anger and our rage. But, to express it. Again, (this is) to express a step along the journey. Bruce raged at God. A few weeks later he got to see how silly that was. How self-indulgent that was. How self-involved that was. How un-evolved that was. But, had he not raged, had he not been honest, who knows if that step would have been taken. … God loved him all along. The soil had to soften, become porous so the seed could take root.
Found the dialog honest and thought provoking. I'll have to see the movie myself eventually and post a review!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Africa in NYT Op-ed

Will be going to Botswana with Habitat for Humanity. As such, my ears perk up when I hear news about Africa. Hugh Hewitt linked to an article recently by Nicholas Kristof. Certainly brings some perspective to our comparative lives of luxury here in the USA. NYT does require registration so here are some excerpts below:


While our attention is diverted by Iraq, famine is looming over 40 million people on the continent, West Africa seems caught in an expanding series of civil wars, and much of Central Africa has been a catastrophe for up to a decade.

In Congo, in which I've had a special interest ever since Tutsi rebels chased me through the jungle there for several days in 1997, 3.3 million people have died because of warfare there in the last five years, according to a study by the International Rescue Committee. That's half a Holocaust in a single country.

Our children and grandchildren may fairly ask, "So, what did you do during the African holocaust?"

Some African nations, like Uganda, Mauritius, Ghana and Mozambique, are booming; they show that African countries can thrive. But the failures outnumber the successes: child mortality rose in the 1990's in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia; primary school enrollments dropped in Cameroon, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania; the number of malnourished children is growing across the continent.
There are no simple solutions to Africa's problems, but there are some good ideas around:

*** Western powers could guarantee the security of African governments that commit themselves to democracy. This idea, which would attract more investment for democracies, is detailed in a fine new book, "Africa's Stalled Development."

*** Liberals and conservatives feud over plenty, but they generally agree on the need for widespread debt forgiveness. Africa is asphyxiated by its $217 billion foreign debt.

*** Think trade, more than aid. Incentives to build cheap factories in Senegal or Ethiopia could perhaps replicate Bangladesh's success with clothing exports.

*** We should phase out socialist agricultural policies in Europe and America. Western farm subsidies cost poor countries some $50 billion in lost agricultural exports. The best way for the U.S. to help a struggling democratic country like Mali would be to stop lavishing $2 billion a year in tax dollars on U.S. cotton farmers (whose average net worth is $800,000) so Malian peasants can produce for the world's markets.

Would any of this work? I don't know. But Africa is broken, and it needs high-level attention to help it fix itself. President Bush's $15 billion AIDS initiative was an important step, and it proved surprisingly popular around the United States.

So perhaps there is even a political payoff in compassion for Africa, and this is also an area where we can work with Europe and rebuild trust, beginning at next week's G-8 summit. Mr. Bush's planned trip to Africa this year would be the perfect start for a major U.S.-led effort to help Africa find its footing - and nothing we could do in coming years would save so many millions of lives.  


I hope the $15 billion AIDS package is just the beginning of American involvement with Africa. People here in the US may complain, how much good can we do here in the USA with that $15 billion? True enough. But we need a sense of perspective. Even the poorest in the USA has much more than the typical person in Africa.

I know numbers never tell the true story but consider these numbers. Per capita GDP isn't the end all and be all of statistics about economies but they tell you something. In the USA, it is around $30,000. In Botswana where I'll be going it is $3200. In Benin (in East Africa), it is $380.

Dollars and sense aren't enough. We need to see a transformation of leadership: leaders who see that civil wars results in everybody losing and leaders who root out corruption in their governments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Christian Hedonism

This past Sunday at my church there was an interesting discussion on Christian Hedonism. A term apparently coined or popularized by John Piper.

Hedonism certainly has a lot of baggage as a word. How often have people said that Los Angeles is a hedonistic town with it emphasis on entertainment, good looks and pleasure? For that matter, isn’t one of the biggest beefs the radical Islamists have with the West is that it is hedonistic?

Of course Piper doesn't mean that kind of hedonism! I haven’t read his work but others in our discussion have and I get the feeling what Piper is getting at is recapturing the sense that God wants us to enjoy life and to do so in a way that is not self-destructive.

One statement of the Christian faith puts it this way: the purpose of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Interesting, no?

Humans have a tremendous capacity to enjoy and experience pleasure: the nature lover enraptured by the view of the Lower Falls of Yellowstone; the parent who crawls on hands and knees playing with a toddler; the chef who steals a taste of the concoction on the stove; good friends who can for endless hours talk about anything over coffee in an IHOP; the married couple who share love physically and emotionally; the scientist who at moment of discovery knows what was once unknown; the musician who is delirious with pleasure over hitting all the notes in a complex piece. Fill in what gives you the feeling of joy?

These pleasures are beyond rationality. You don’t think them into existence, they just are. That moment of WOW!! is pure enjoyment.

Thus, any religious faith of total pleasure denial makes no sense. Why would God instill in us this wonderful capacity and declare an ethic that requires its suppression?

Instead, we see a God who does declare in a moment of exultation, it is good, it is very good. Pure joy. Pure delight. Pure happiness. How could God deny us this when He doesn’t deny Himself?

Sullivan on Sorenstam

Here is an extented excerpt from Tuesday, May 27, 2003 Daily Dish:

THE SECRET OF ANNIKA'S POPULARITY: Yes, she's sexy. But the way in which the public rallied behind Annika Sorenstam's pioneering golf game was surely because of something else: she represented an old, pure form of feminism, a message that has been somewhat lost in the politically correct culture wars of the last decade or so. Sorenstam, after all, was not portraying herself as a victim of male oppression. She's a fabulously successful sportswoman, a wealthy celebrity, and happily married. She wasn't asking for special treatment in any way.
And she's refreshingly free of political posturing. She's not aiming to be a feminist icon. She's trying to play golf as best she can against the best competition in the world. She is also not attempting to deny the obvious: that there are significant differences between men and women. The more we learn about the impact of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen and the deeper our understanding of evolutionary psychology, the clearer it is that some differences - in physical strength, subtle mental attributes, emotional temperament - can vary with gender.
She's different but equal. Americans are far more comfortable with this kind of social message - and for a good reason. It's about integration, not separatism. It's about personal achievement, not group grievance. It's about merit, not complaint. It's about golf, not politics.
I think Sullivan is right on here. In listening to sportstalk radio, his view seems most prevalent. Annika knew that making the cut would be tough and she went out there anyway knowing some might have glee at her falling short but in the end, the vast majority marveled at her grace under pressure.

One athletic friend of mine shared her views on Sorenstam and was supportive. She did make an interesting observation that sports are largely competitions where testosterone levels do confer advantage. However, she, the ever diligent sports fan, noted that shooting is one sport where men and women can compete on an even playing field.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

African Restaurant

One of the great pleasures of living in LA is the variety of ethnic food options. Have a hankering for African food? Well, then give Ngoma a try! I discovered it while jogging around my neighborhood. I've enjoyed dining at this cute little place. The Okra Soup is a bit spicy so that experiment was a little too fiery for my tastebuds. But everything else I've had there is wonderful.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Annika's Adventure

She gave it a good try and finished +5 for two rounds missing the cut line by four strokes.

In an earlier post (May 21 -- the perma-links aren't reliable) I thought her goal would be to make the cut or hit around +6. And indeed, I was closer to the mark than the Las Vegas odds makers.

From sports talk radio, I had heard her golf game is accurate hitting and that her weakness was putting. They said this course is longer than the usual LPGA course but not excessively long. So I figured her accuracy would keep her close to par. But as they say, "Drive for show, putt for dough" and so putting might be where she would lose some strokes and indeed that was the case.

By all accounts, she was a crowd favorite and I'm sure she won some grudging respect from the men at the competition.

What a rescue mission for Columbia would look like

The accident investigation has pretty much come to the end. Just like the Challenger, it is a small item that caused the disaster. In Challenger it was the low temperatures turning the rubber O-rings brittle allowing hot gases to escape the solid rocket boosters. In Columbia, it was insulating foam damaging the wing which made it vulnerable to heat damage during re-entry. One question on the minds of many was: if NASA knew the wing was damaged could they have rescued the crew. This AP article on Yahoo! News describes what the rescue mission may have looked like.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Gagne saves another again!

Three wins over Florida, three saves for Gagne. Three wins over Colorado, three saves for Gagne. Unbelievable!!

UPDATE: Tracy says Gagne will not pitch the first game against the Brewers as he needs a break!

Asian-American Viewpoints

Belong to a newsgroup with emphasis on Asian-American Christians and Social Justice. One discussion item that came up was the following whether or not there really is a distinctly Asian-American point of view in Christianity and in Social Justice. I took a crack at it this way....

> How do we develop pan-ethnic Christian unity?

I suppose that would depend on what kind of unity we are looking for. In Revelation, we will eventually reach a point where every tongue, tribe and nation will worship Him. However, on this earth, we still operate under some practical constraints. As long as the USA is open to immigration, there will be a need for churches that minister specifically because of language reasons.

For me, I can only function in English so I sometimes have the "worst of both worlds" ... viewed as insufficiently Chinese by Chinese folks and not accepted as truly American by other groups. I try to be open to building friendships with people of whatever group they belong to. I would love to reach a point where I'm truly color blind. So that is my desire but I recognize I still fall short.

> Is there a distinctive Asian American Christian voice for justice rather than just a Christian one? What are these distinctives?

Yes and no. One Sunday school teacher made an interesting observations about special interest groups in the USA: they are often driven not by a love for their group but a fear of other groups. It is too easy for ethnic/race based groups to engage in a politics of resentment or grivence.

But having said that, there is still occasional outbursts of racism and discrimination against a particular group in which case only a special interest group may have the weight and awareness to make some noise about it.

So the ideal will be a day when justice is truly "color blind" but for now, in our imperfect society, there is still a place for special interest groups to protect their group because they can be overlooked by the majority culture. However, that special interest group has to be careful not to skate into the realm of the politics of fear.

> Is Asian American panethnicity rooted in a Confucian background that excludes certain Asian ethnic groups? If so, how does Confucianism affect our Christianity and our perspective on justice?

That was TOO DEEP for me to tackle! Would love to hear what the readership thinks about that one!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Gagne saves another one

One Dodger gaining a cult following is Eric Gagne the marginal starter turned star closing relief pitcher. I've always wondered what qualifies for a save in baseball. So I asked my sports guru buddy by email and here is her reply...

Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions: (1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and (2) He is not the winning pitcher; and (3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions: (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); or (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

I imagine she got it from a web page devoted to baseball stats. I suppose I could have went to Google and found it myself. But it is easier to bug my friend. 8-)

Go Dodgers!!

Lastest outrage over Robert Scheer

Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer is taken to task by Hugh Hewitt for parroting the BBCs now discredited story calling into question the DODs account of the Saving Private Lynch incident. As an Angelino I only occasionally read Scheer because he is so often wrong headed and gives me a headache. Life it too short for that kind of grief.

I'll be curious to see how well Richard Riordan's Los Angeles Examiner will do.

Stupid tax tricks

So it looks like the dividend tax cut is going through. Postrel and Levy at Volokh Conspiracy think it is stupid. Agree. Taxes are about raising revenue and keeping it simple is the smart way to do things. Suffice to say, that kind of thinking is in short supply in DC.

UPDATE: was watching Nightline and Warren Buffet was telling Koppell that he thinks the cut is not a good idea either. He thinks if the Feds really want to stimulate the economy just declare a paroll tax holiday for a short period of time and everyone gets a bit of money in their pockets to spend.

Abuzz about Annika

I knew there would be some media interest in the Annika Sorenstam playing in the PGA. But who would have thought there would be the feeding frenzy that is going on? To critics of Annika, my take is: let her play and sit down and stop acting like it is the end of the world as we know it and take a chill pill.

There is no getting around the fact that Annika is fiercely competitive and so she wants to see how she would do and if along the way her PR stock goes up more power to her. Now if she goes out there and shoots in the high 80s for two rounds then she will take a big PR hit. But you got to give her credit for going out there and taking that risk.

She will of course say that all she wants to do is play her best. But I would love to be a fly on the wall when she actually puts some numbers on the table of what she wants do out on the course. Is making the cut after 36 holes her goal? Or does she have a specific score she would like to get like say score within 6 strokes of par?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

California Economy

Did you know that California is the FIFTH largest economy in the world? This according to a California government web page.

Got lyrics?

The wonders of the web is access to information. And one great area is finding lyrics to songs. The other day, had the chance to hear some terrific guitarists sit around and play and so that started a lyrics search on my part the next day. My not think Sheryl is so hot in political stuff but her music is soulful and fun to listen to. Here are the lyrics to Soak up the Sun.

Rene(e) isn't a common name in America (I'm told it is very common in France) but it is immortalized in one song.

The last lyric hunt was for the haunting words that went with the lilting sound of Sugar Mountain.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Found on the Web

As music fans will know, there is one famous song with the name Rene(e) in it. So I decided to find out the lyrics for that song and went to the internet and found it at this web page. Needless to say, the domain name caught my eye, and so if you need that smirk wiped off your face or need words for the sadness, then visit where the editors there catagorize and organize lyrics of those sad songs.

Want to know more about Rocky Mountain Oysters? Then read all about it here and here. These sites were found by my road trip buddy who suggested we have some of those delicacies at a restaurant just outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Web page suggested by a friend... for those of us (most of my generation and younger) who grew up with television. Check out this site where you find opinions about the television shows we grew up with and when they "jumped the shark" (the show went downhill). A must read for all who love our shared television heritage. Tha

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Three Words

Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Nuff said?

Anyway, the hot goalie of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks has been a key part of their improbable run to the Stanley Cup!

With the Lake show closed for the season, Los Angeles is now Hockey Town. Go Ducks!

Attention Carnivores!

Had dinner recently at a nice little place in Glendale. Gauchos Village is a Brazilian place with a buffet with a heavy emphasis on various meats. So if you want to tease your vegetarian and vegan buddies, take them here! 8-) The evening we were there, the owner said hello and he told us the restaurant has been open for about 1 1/2 years. He is a Polish immigrant to Brazil immigrant to the USA. Also, that night an Italian Brazilian singer performed tunes to entertain the crowd. She too stopped by our table to chat and we found out she does the gig most Friday nights at the restaurant. She sings at other Brazilian restaurants on other evenings.

Its a small cozy little place and quite busy that Friday night so reservations are advised or be prepared to wait for an open spot.

Bon appetit!

Friday, May 16, 2003

Dining in LA

Went to this hole in the wall fish place. Fish Grill is a Kosher fish place that serves fish straight up on paper plates. They also do fish tacos and pastas. There is a box of Rabbi sermon tapes on the counter if you want to learn about the Torah. Great bargain, good food and the kind of restaurant in the neighborhood you love. It is on Beverly Blvd. just a couple of blocks west of La Brea on the south side of the street.

Only in LA, eh? 8-)

Lunar eclipse

Last night went to see the lunar eclipse at Griffith Park near the Autry Museum. The star party was organized by Griffith Observatory and many local astronomers with the LA Astronomy Society and the Sidewalk Astronomers brought their telescopes and enthusiasm to share with the casual observers like myself. The media was out in force with news vans from all the local television stations. My buddy and I talked with a number of the astronomers but clearly our favorite was the high school girl who built her own telescope. Her 10 inch Newtonian reflector with a Dobbsonian mount gave the clearest images of Jupiter that night. And to top it off, her enthusiaism for astronomy was infectious.

As for the lunar eclipse, it started while the sun was still up and so the moon was hard to see with all the smog and light of the city. But as the night wore on and the moon rose higher, it was a great sight and everyone was enjoying the views with binoculars and telescopes.

Where are the WMDs?

The mystery remains as to where the WMDs are in Iraq? Saw this National Review item that was referenced by Andrew Sullivan.
Money paragraph:
In the event that we do not find the WMD smoking gun this is the only explanation that would make any sense. Saddam wanted the program and was willing to endure crippling sanctions to have it. However, his henchmen were unable to deliver and, unwilling to be on the receiving end of Saddam's zero-defects program, they faked it. In the process of making Saddam believe he had a functioning program they could easily have sucked U.S. intelligence into the deception. In fact, deceiving U.S. intelligence in this way would have been important to them. It would not have been conducive to a long life if the United States had come to Saddam and told him they had discovered he had no WMD program and all of his most trusted advisers were lying.
Hmmm, any history buffs out there? Wonder what Hitler's scientist said to him about the progress of their rocket program (which they got working to some extent with V-1 and V-2) or nuclear program (the program was a flop)? Lacey's explaination would fit the facts as we know it at this point. Hopefully, some of the captured Iraqis will tell us what really happened.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Heard of Hayek?

Was talking with a friend and mentioned that I had heard that Hayek was an influential figure from the 20th Century. All I know was that some of the current economic thinking in ascendancy right now was advocated by Hayek when it was the minority view. Other than that I don't know anything about him. Recently in Postrel's blog, she mentioned a Hayek-centric web page.

Below is an excerpt from the PBS documentry on economics where some of the notibles are profiled.

As World War II progressed, Hayek became increasingly apprehensive about what he saw as the advance of collectivism, central planning, and what would become Keynesian interventionism. In one of his most famous articles, he argued that the problem of knowledge defeats central control of economies: Those at the center can never have enough information to make their decisions. Much better, he argued, was the price system, which, in "its real function" was "a mechanism for communicating information." For Hayek, it was nothing less than "a marvel." He explained, "The marvel is that in a case like that of a scarcity of one raw material, without an order being issued, without more than perhaps a handful of people knowing the cause, tens of thousands of people whose identity could not be ascertained by months of investigation, are made to use the material or its products more sparingly; that is, they move in the right direction."
It was while at Chicago that Hayek wrote what many consider his outstanding work, The Constitution of Liberty, published in 1960. In it, he further developed one of his most important themes: Laissez-faire was not enough. Government did have a clear role: to ensure the development and maintenance of the institutions -- the laws and rules -- that would ensure a competitive economy.
Now, I can see why Postrel, a ardent libertarian would be a fan of Hayek.

The latest West Wing

Last night's season finale to West Wing was as usual a cliff hanger with the President leaving the Oval Office having handed over the Office to the Speaker of the House under the 25th Amendment.

Have to wait to whole summer to find out how they are getting this situation resolved. In the past "cliffhangers" you kind of knew where they would go next. With the track record of the West Wing writers killing off characters (Mark Harmon's secret service agent or the tough love secretary Mrs. Landingham) it isn't assured that Zoey will be rescued.

I wondered why they had the Veep bumped off for a scandal a couple of episodes ago. It would have been dramatic enough for Bartlett to invoke the 25th and turn over the reins to Hoynes. However, with Hoynes out, they turn things over to the opposing party Speaker of the House played by John Goodman. So yeah, more drama I suppose.

Anyway, back to the real world. To see Grolier's summary of the 25th see here and for a list of the order of succession I found one in

The 25th amendment was really a bow to the reality that poor health and assasination plots could disrupt the US government. Wilson was very ill late in his second term. FDR could only work for a few hours a day late in WW2. Eisenhower suffered health set-backs while in office. JFK who at the time portrayed a picture of youth and vigor, we are now discovering was on many medications. Of course, the tragic events of Dallas resulted in LBJ becoming president and leaving the VP spot vacant until 1965 when Hubert Humphrey was sworn in.

It was in this backdrop that the 25th Amendment came to be. The issue of "continuity of government" was a major concern for the above reasons. More drastically was the Cold War where scenarios of the President being killed by the Soviets in prelude to a nuclear surprise attack. 9/11 raised once again question of succession and continuity of government.

Shortly after the 25th Amendment was ratified, it was put to use in the case of Gerald Ford who was elevated from congressman to vice-president to president. Probably only a handful of countries in the world could have that kind of transition of power with minimal questions of legitamacy. As much as we harp on the USA at times, it is rather remarkable that the rule of law actually applies and works out most of the time. And probably the biggest time the rule of law provides stability is when there are transitions of power.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Breaking news -- Saudi bombing maybe Al-Qaeda

Just got an email flash from
-- U.S. official: 'Initial suspicions' are that blasts at three western compounds in Saudi Arabia 'could very well' have been al Qaeda operation.

No surprise there. One of many Al-Qaeda talking points is that the US infidels are in Saudi the home of many holy sites of Islam.

Lakers still afloat

Sure didn't look good after game 2... Lakers down 0-2, George injured and everyone writing them off. And I'll admit it, I was one of the many fans who were giving up. Nevertheless, I still wanted to know if they could pull themselves off the floor Friday night in game 3. George showed up and stood up and delievered! Jack Nicholson got into the act hasseling the refs. And the Lakers won comfortably. Saturday brought the shocking news that Phil Jackson had to have an emergency angioplasty and stent to fix a 90% blocked artery. He was literally a walking heart attack. So game 4 on Sunday arrived with Jackson resting at home from surgury. And at the beginning the Lakers were down and out but somehow they stayed in the game and it turned into an ESPN classic knock down drag out and the Lakers found a way to win.

Kobe and Shaq are the stars of the team but they need at least one or two guys to step up to help them out and they keep finding the strength within to do that ... it could be the scrappy Fisher hitting a few shots, the aging Shaw giving some good minutes, the physical banging around of Madsen, the athletic George fighting through the ankle injury to put in solid minutes, Horry (who hasn't been shooting well) still being wily on defense, even Pargo, Medvedenko and Walker (the three lines scores are mostly zeros) got in a few minutes to rest the other guys.

But it is still an uphill fight as Spurs still have homecourt and are looking for some home cooking in game 5!

Pulitzer Prize

Samatha Powers wins the Pulitzer for general non-fiction. I heard her speak at the UCLA Festival of Books. Her book "Problem from Hell" is about the history of genocide and looks are the history of intervention and non-intervention. I saw her interviewed on Newshour on PBS and she was quite pleased with the award and she recounted how she had a hard time even getting a publisher for her book. She hopes the attention garnered will raise the profile of the issue. Her main point is that there is great political risk to stop genocide (things go wrong during intervention) and almost no political credit gained for doing so; thus, non-intervention is the default response. But hopefully as people become more concerned about human rights then there will be some political cost for inaction.

Losing Bill Bennett's Money

I certainly was disappointed to hear of Bennett's gambling problem. He did nothing illegal but to lose such huge sums of money gambling is troubling.

I think most people don't take an absolute prohibition on gambling. Think about this: if you go to Las Vegas and lose $100 playing various games there and while there you also see a show for $100. Are the two uses of $100 morally equivalent? I think so... they are entertainment expenses. Now if you go there and lose large sums of money... I suppose we will all differ on what is "large sums" ... then that is a different story. Or you go and lose $100 day after day after day then I 'd have a problem there.

Within Christian circles and religious communities there will always be a debate on what is appropriate behavior. Some people might say, no R-rated movies, no dancing, no smoking, no drinking, no gambling, fill in the blank no this or that, etc. etc. etc. And don't get me wrong, there is a place for negatives or prohibitions but sometimes I wonder if in the effort to find "sanctification" or "holiness" or "righteous living" we are drawing the life out of life?

So in regards to Bennett, I don't think gambling per se is always wrong. Afterall, I think most people would consider it harmless to bet a bag of bagels on the outcome of a game or to say, you owe me dinner if my team beats your team. But sometimes quantities matter: if Bennett threw down a few Benjamins on the slots or black jack tables I wouldn't be shocked or offended but he was tossing down a few hundred Benjies and that bothers me.

Classical music in LA

Esa-Pekka Salonen, the current music director of the LA Philharmonic has a strong following in the city. Last Saturday, went to his final conducting at the Dorothy Chandler as the LA Phil will finish up the 2002-2003 season with a few more performances with guest conductors. When Salonen returns with the LA Phil in the Fall, it will be in the brand new Disney Hall

Last Saturdays program was Mahler's Symphony #3. This work has played a role in Salonen's career in that it catapulted him into international promenance when he at the last minute had to substitute for an ailing conductor in London. With a mere few days to learn the piece and work with the orchestra, the 24-year old Salonen led a performance that received critical praise and a star was born. Eventually, the LA Phil hired Salonen to take over the LA Phil and for his first concert at the baton, Maher's #3 was played. Since then, the LA Phil has played it several times and even had a CD made of the massive symphony. And so fittingly, to close out the LA Phil with Salonen at the wand, Mahler's #3 was played to a packed house.

I sat in the last row of the Upper Rear Balcony! There was hardly an empty seat in the house. And to my pleasant surprise, there were lots of young people that night.

The move to Disney Hall is a big one and one wonders if it will lift the LA Phil to new heights in terms of reputation and popularity. If subscription sales are any indication, I think it looks promising. If you visit the subscription page you will find a lot of the options are already sold out!

Bonhoeffer stage play

Recently, saw a stage event at Actors Co-op on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was part of the resistance to Nazi within Germany. He was hanged to death in April 1945 just as the "1000 Year Reich" was collapsing. What is notible about Bonhoeffer was that he started out as a pacifist. His writings on theology and the Christian life are often quoted in sermons and by contemporary religious writers.

A friend who also saw the show sent me some quotes from Bonhoeffer...

A Poem from Prison: "Who Am I?"
'Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell's confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which others tell me, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is it something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.'


Regarding the issue of how he moved from pacifism to actively plotting to assasinate Hitler, my friend sent this:

His participation in the murder plot obviously conflicts with Bonhoeffer's position as a pacifist. His sister-in-law, Emmi Bonhoeffer, cited his reasoning. He told her: "If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."


I've certainly noticed some within the Christian community are pacifists and I understand a reluctance to go to war and to use violence but there is a difference between restraint and abdicating responsibility. We may differ on when the use of forces is necessary but an absolutist position against the use of force doesn't make sense to m.

I wonder how pacifists respond to the thoughts and actions of Bonhoeffer?

I think there is quote attributed to Martin Luther King, if your opponent has a conscience, resist like Ganhdi but if they have no conscience resist like Bonhoeffer.

At the movies

Big ones are rolling off the line... X-Men, Matrix Reloaded, Hulk, T3, and more to come as the summer season approaches.

However, in the meantime, went and saw "Bringing Down the House," the latest vehicle for Steve Martin's zany comedic talents. And in this film ably supported by Queen Latifah who was amazing in Chicago. Anyway, loaded with a lot of racial stereotypes and oh so politically incorrect. But the good guys win at the end and the laughs are good and the sunny side up don't take themselves too seriously attitude helped. Give it a 2 and 1/2 stars out of 4 and a go see at matinee rates or on video.

Went to Yahoo! Movies box office and buzz and found out that "Brining Down the House" has brought in over $128 million dollars!

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

More on affirmative action

Below in an earlier post, I had some thoughts on the affirmative action case before SCOTUS. If I had the chance, I would have to ask college administrators the following question: how well do the students fare who are admitted with the under-represented minority bonus score?

If they do poorly, then the affirmative action plan that got them in actually doing them a dis-service! What is the point of saying our enrollment is a diverse population, hooray; then to look at graduation rates and see that diversity disappear. The mission of the university is educational. A diversity of student body experience is of value in the future job market where globalization will be a major factor. However, that diversity value is lost if those under-representated students wind up dropping out.

On the other hand, if the students admitted under affirmative action actually do okay in school then we are balancing the benefit of diversity with reasonable fairness in admissions. In the abstract, we want as fair an admissions process as possible. But in practice, in the job market, the job interview process is rarely a completely fair system. We can't really expect college admissions to be completely fair either. If a person from an under-represented minority gets in and still does well in school then it may well be worth the price of a small number of over-represented individuals having to take their second choice school.

There clearly are under-represented groups. But what if we make an effort to improve their K-12 educational experience? K-12 education is invariable going to have geographic differences because most kids go to their neighborhood school. When it comes time to apply for college those geographic differences can show up as differences in SATs. GPAs and class ranking can give some indications but are subject to local variables. Someday, we can have good education for all kids so they can all compete on an even footing for college and the notions of under-represented and over-represented will become meaningless.

Certainly, this is a big fight. But let's keep some perspective on the value of a college education. It is an advantage to have a college degree in the job market. Though, the truly brilliant and ambitious will find college not challenging enough i.e. the Bill Gates of the world who are college drop outs and are billionaires! But think of the people you know. Many successful people didn't go to Harvard? Is a degree from BIG University T really any different than SMALL liberal arts college U's degree? Perhaps in some fields of study but in most cases, that HR person looking over resumes isn't going to automatically pick somebody because they went to university W and toss out a resume because they went to college X.

Monday, May 05, 2003

UN General Assembly President Speaks in Los Angeles

Jan Kavan spoke last Thursday to the LA World Affairs Council. I wondered if his speech would be a "rose colored glasses" look at subject since he is leading the lesser known body of the UN. Kofi Annan is the current General Secretary of the Security Council which was where all the diplomatic action was in the run up to the war in Iraq. Kavan joked that he was the warm up act for Annan which drew laughter from the crowd. The dinner program with Kavan cost $41 and was attended by almost 100 people. Annan is scheduled for a much larger LAWAC event later this month where many hundreds are expected and the price of admission will be $300!

I was plesantly surprised at his honesty about the struggles of leading the UN. He started his talk by acknowledging that the UN has had many failures. In the UN Charter, the prevention of war is its primary goal and he said it has been estimated that 127 conflicts have occurred around the globe since the UN was founded.

Nonetheless, he believes its mission of conflict prevention must continue. There were three things that can help prevent wars: democratization, economic development and adherance to international law. The UN can help foster progress in all three areas. The UN provides a forum where diplomatic efforts at least can be attempted.

The second aspect of the UN mission is to manage conflicts if prevention efforts fall short. The traditional role has been to provide peacekeepers to separate the parties in conflict. The UN has had some successes in that role. Additionally, the UN has played important roles in election monitoring and reconstruction efforts. These are essential efforts after conflicts damage a country.

He concluded his talk with a realistic assessment: the UN is only effective if there is a willingness to act from its member states. If there is that willingness than the UN provides a good forum to resolve problems.

He then fielded questions from the floor.

He was asked why Israel has never been on the Security Council. Kavan explained how nations get on the Security Council. There are five permanent members (USA, UK, France, China, Russia) and ten elected members. The elected members are voted in from regional groups. Previously, Israel was in a regional group that would never vote Israel into the security council. Recently, Israel has moved into the regional group called Western Europe plus other nations. Laughter ensued as he explained Canada and Australia is in this regional group. Thus, Israel now has a slim though remote chance of someday being elected to the security council.

A question about UN credibility was raised by the presence of Cuba on the Human Rights Commission. Kavan remarked that as a diplomat and leader of the General Assembly he really can't complain too much. He explained that there are certain rules about how nations get selected for the commissions and so by the book Cuba got in. However, he said at a personal level, he would prefer that Cuba was not on the Commission. His shared briefly about his experience with political repression when Czechoslavia was ruled by the communists and so understood the nature of the Castro regime.

Upon the heels of that challenging question was a question on how Syria got on the security council. Again, he had to acknowledge that the UN has certain rules about how nations get voted onto the security council.

The final question of the night was about the differences between the UN formed after WW2 and the failed League of Nations formed after WW1. He believed there were two key differences. One was that the UN security council, a much smaller body, was given the authority to address issues of conflict. The League of Nations decision making power was vested in too large a body and thus became paralyzed. The second difference was the United States. The US was not a part of the League of Nations and thus immediately hampered from the outset.

Affirmative action and Asian-Americans

A month or so ago, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding affirmative action in law school and undergraduate admissions in Michigan. It was such a big case that SCOTUS actually recorded the session for later broadcast. In my recollection, the only other time they have done that was in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that ended the Presidential Election standoff.

To read the transcripts of oral arguments, check out the PDF files for Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger

I confess I haven't read all 100 + pages but I did skim them over and I heard the session on NPR.

The Asian-Pacific American (APA) community is generally pretty quiet politically. I can't say I"m really in tune with what APA's who are politically active are saying. This issue is particularly difficult to address for APAs because on one hand, APAs remain a definite ethnic minority group in the USA but on the other hand, APAs do not benefit and in some instance are hindered by affirmative action in the context of college admissions which is where the legal action is right now.

The Constitutional issue at hand is how strictly SCOTUS believes the 14th Amendment should be adhered to. A very strict view would strike down any race based admission system hands down because that would violate equal protection. However, as with any law, if there is a compelling interest then strict interpretation can be waived in favor of that other interest. And I suppose equal protection is an ideal but in some cases it may simply be impractical and the burden of trying to enforce it is so burdensome or outright impossible.

What is the 14th Amendment about? Here is the main point, direct quote:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

As I see it, there are 4 possible ways the APA community can look at the issue of using race as a factor in college admissions.
1. Support them to show solidarity with other minority groups in the USA.
2. Oppose them on the simple grounds they hurt APA admissions.
3. Oppose them on the grounds that the ideal for society is total color blindness and that at some point we should reach that state and perhaps the time is now.
4. Support affirmative action provisionally because we haven't reached the ideal yet.

1. Support them to show solidarity with other minority groups in the USA.

In the case before the Court, three ethnic groups got 20 bonus points (out of a max 150) to help them in admissions scoring. APAs are NOT listed as one of the three disadvantaged groups. In California, APAs often lost admissions to thier first choice University of California schools because of such point systems. It is my understanding that in California such explicit scoring is illegal. Nonetheless, some APAs may feel we need to stand with other minority groups because we may need their support on some other issues.

2. Oppose them on the simple grounds they hurt APA admissions.

This is the most straight-forward self-interest arguement that APAs might make to oppose affirmative action. I've always been a little leary of ethnic-based political advocacy groups. On one hand, I do value them as watchdogs to point out to media, the public, elected officials and government when aggregious racism is found. That kind of stuff still happens often enough that minority groups do need an organized voice. However, unfortunately, there are times when advocacy groups claim racism when none is there. Also, some advocacy groups degenerate into a politics of grievance and resentment resulting in some very shrill rabble rousing. I'm thankful that in the USA, our differences haven't descended into the kind of violence that tore up the former Yugoslavia. Nonetheless, at times, there is a terrible Balkanization of our political discourse.

3. Oppose them on the grounds that the ideal for society is total color blindness and that at some point we should reach that state and perhaps the time is now.

Martin Luther King in his famed, "I have a dream" speech wished for the day when his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Ultimately, I hope we can reach a day in our society when a college admissions committee simply tallies up the SAT, GPA and class rank and puts all the qualified applicants in a bin and randomly picks the ones who get admitted to their first choice school.

4. Support affirmative action provisionally because we haven't reached the ideal yet.

I agree we haven't reached that totally color blind world. Poor minority students often wind up with inferior education K-12 and are disadvantaged when applying to college. As a matter of public policy, I believe diversity has a value, in fact, a very specific economic value. In the era of globalization, the ability to understand and relate to people who are different will be an advantage. There are few institutions in American life that allow for the mixing of ethnic groups and of individuals of differing social-ecomic status. The university is one such place although a limited one as not every one can go or desires to go to college.

On the opposite side, I think those who argue that those who lose out on their first choice of college are "damaged" emotionally or economically are definitely overstating their case. Is it that big a difference if you go to Top 10 University X or you go to Top 50 University Y? And of course, one can always cite the various college drop outs who have done well!

But in regards to diversity in American life, at one time, the US had the military draft and that kind of people mixing would occur albeit imperfectly. But, since the draft no longer exists, what institution in our society has the potential and actual diversity that would be beneficial?

Ideally, the Christian church could be one important place. But in practice, the worship hour is unfortunately one of the most segregated hours of the week. Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely a place for immigrant congregations where language is a key factor. However, beyond that, one would think Christians would be in the forefront of encouraging diverse multi-ethnic and social-economic celebration and acceptance.

As for the case before SCOTUS, I think they will strike down the Michigan admissions protocols but their ruling will be casted narrowly. The case has been made that diversity is a compelling interest but that the specific program in question is unconstitutional. Anybody out there can dream up a better admissions scheme? Would love to hear it!


Made it out for my second Dodger game of the season and the first time I've ever watched a game in the rain. When I lived in the East coast, there was a rain delay when a thunderstorm passed through Camden Yard and that delayed the game for about 30 minutes in the late innings. Last Friday night, it rained constantly at Chavez Revine but apparently not heavily enough for the umps to call the game. Dodgers lost but we got our Eric Gange bobblehead dolls!

Dog blog

Got this link from a friend. Amazing but true. See the life and times of a dog.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

"The View from 17th and Euclid" by Colbert King (Washington Post)

I lived in suburban Maryland from 1993 to 1997. However, thorough my involvment with the Chinese Community Church and Greater DC Cares. I got to know a little bit about life in the city and the difficulties there.

Below are some excerpts from Colbert King's article on the mean and deadly streets of DC which I came across in my daily visit to Andrew Sullivan.

"Close" takes on added meaning when it comes to a group of youths in a five-block area north of Florida Avenue. They are bound together by more than their love of hoops. Their lives are crammed into a Northwest Washington community bordered by Columbia and Kalorama roads and 16th and 18th streets. And within that small stretch of land, carefully hidden from direct observation by city motorists, commuters and the occasional presidential motorcade zipping up and down 16th Street, is a chaotic and violent world that produces, as Scripture says, "sighs too deep for tears."

Venture onto that piece of Northwest real estate and you will find a criminal enterprise calling itself "1-7." Yes, America conquered Iraq, and the Republicans control the White House, Congress and all of the government machinery in the nation's capital. But in a neighborhood only a few miles north of the presidential mansion, 1-7 -- named after the corner of 17th and Euclid streets, where its members hang out -- rules the streets after dark and is a menacing presence during the day.

There are 17th-and-Euclids in many neighborhoods of our city east of Rock Creek Park. The mayor and the D.C. Council know that. So does our delegate in Congress. Our civic leadership knows it, too. But when it comes to washing one's hands of a nasty situation, Pontius Pilate has nothing on our political, business and religious leaders. They would rather hyperventilate about getting a baseball team or the Olympics or school vouchers -- even as the city runs over with dropouts from the public school system. Witness the members of 1-7.

were it left up to me, I would cash out half the D.C. government -- and all of the Department of Human Services -- and send the non-D.C.-tax-paying city workers back to their homes in Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Northern Virginia, where Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner could take care of them, and turn over those millions of D.C. tax dollars to city-based community groups, faith-based organizations with proven records and our dedicated police officers who are trying to give our children a fighting chance. And I'd do it in a heartbeat.

One more thing.

Think of all the pistols tucked in waistbands across this city. And all the gunshot victims in wheelchairs, and the murders we rack up by the day. With some of the toughest gun control laws on the books and with gun-packing groups like 1-7 roving D.C. streets with the audacity of the 3rd Infantry Division, Washington has the unmitigated gall to demand that the Palestinian Authority disarm West Bank terrorists. Charity begins at home.

Speaking of sighs too deep for tears.

Poverty and crime in America's cities remain an intractable problem. You can substitute the street names and gang names in another city and you would get the same story. Yet, King sees hope in the community-based and faith-based organizations trying to make a difference. One of the ironies of the political Left has been their resistance to the "compassionate conservatism" emphasis on faith-based community organizations to deliever social services. The Left claims to be the champion of the poor yet they will scream separation of church and state when people want to direct some of the government's social service budget to organizations that have religious affiliations.

The fact of the matter is that people of conscience can't wait for the political system to get its act together. We need to go ahead and donate money, time and energy to groups in the cities that are doing something. I know when I help out I get a glimpse of another world and of course that other world is a mere 15 - 25 minute drive from my trendy Westside neighborhood in LA. It challenges me to rethink how I live my life and how I should try a LOT harder to simplify my life so I can donate more time, money and energy to help others in need.

On the run...

Gonna do some blogging to unwind from my twenty mile training run this morning. Am getting ready for San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon which will hopefully be my third successful marathon. I train on Saturday mornings with the LA Running Club.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Various Items on the Net

Plot to attack US Embassy in Karachi, Pakistan reported by AP in Yahoo! News.
Homeland Security officials say there is no specific evidence about an attack using small aircraft in the United States. But the advisory says al-Qaida could try to use such planes because they are easily available and require less pilot skill than large jets.

Security procedures also are less rigorous for small aircraft, there would be no need to attempt to control a large group of passengers and a credit card could be used to rent such a plane, the advisory said.

By all accounts the various arrests of Al-Qaida have disrupted them. At some point, hopefully, their numbers would be so reduced they give up the fight. Unfortunately, it doesn't take too many people to cause damage and disruption. Remember, the DC area sniper? Two men essentially paralyzed a major metro area.

Got this item in the emailbox from a friend: columnist Horowitz takes on columnist Huffington about the Iraq war.
They argued that the death toll would be prodigious; that Iraq might even be another Vietnam; that costs were so high not even the freedom of 18 million Iraqis was worth it. The military operation would be so difficult and consuming, they warned, that pursuing it would cripple the “other war” on terrorism. This, of course, was disingenuous since they had not notably supported the war on terrorism (with some exceptions). There had been 150 “peace” demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. These demonstrations were organized to protest in advance any armed American response to the attacks. But in the prologue to the Iraq war, the same “anti-war” forces pretended that they had not opposed the retributive (and preventive) war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban and argued instead that a war on Iraq would hinder the efforts to complete that task.
Breathtaking geopolitical ignorance abounds in all of the left’s critiques of the war, but especially in Huffington’s. “Unilateralism” (ill-defined) is invariably bad, for example, no matter what circumstances recommend it. Huffington deplores it not only in so far as the Russians and French are concerned, but the Arabs as well. “Back in 1991, more than half-a-dozen Arab nations were part of our Desert Storm coalition. Operation Iraqi Freedom’s ‘coalition of the willing’ had zero.” Well, not quite zero. Huffington seems not to have noticed that the command headquarters for the war (CENTCOM) was based in Qatar, an Arab state, and the ground war was launched from Kuwait. Worse, she ignores the enormous benefit resulting from the fact that Arab states like Saudia Arabia were not part of the American coalition.

I think Huffington can be pretty hit or miss in her commentaries. She has been big on pointing out corporate corruption and corporate welfare which is right on target. But on other stuff, sometimes she misses the mark. And on the war, she was typical of the anti-war crowd. And so in this article, Horowitz, as bloggers say, gave a "Fisking" to Huffington for many many paragraphs. FYI, I'm told a "Fisking" is to pummel somebody in writing. The term is in honor of Robert Fisk and anti-war colunmist of the UK paper the Guardian. If somebody could tell me more about the origin of this strange phase, I'd love to hear it.

Hugh Hewitt wonders why there has been so little coverage of the recent White House Correspondants Dinner. Usually, this big affair gets a certain amount of buzz. But this year its been strangely quiet.


On Saturday night, President Bush spoke at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He included in his remarks a moving tribute to Michael Kelly, columnist and editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and NBC's David Bloom, both of whom had died in the war in Iraq.

The president quoted Kelly's father and the praises of his colleagues, and held Kelly's intellectual honesty and fearlessness up for the approval of the audience, and the audience clapped.

The president then read from David Bloom's last e-mail home, in which the rising star of NBC wrote to his wife that he cared not much for his professional achievement compared to his love for three things: Jesus, her and their daughters. The audience again expressed approval of the president's tribute.

Moving words by a world leader to a moved audience. But I doubt you saw them on your television or read of them in a prominent place in your paper.
My suspicion is that the news executives who decided not to run it did so out of a personal disapproval of the message, generally, and Bloom's last letter, specifically. I have worked in newsrooms for a dozen years, and the hostility to religious belief within those quarters is intense and widespread. The president's remarks did not get much airtime because they were so powerful, not because they were dull.
A couple of months ago, the National Security Adviser gave a wonderful address at the National Day of Prayer which addressed her faith and its origins. I played the entire speech and again my audience loved it.

I doubt you heard or read a word of it. Producers seem to have agreed that it couldn't be newsworthy because it addressed matters of faith.

Indeed, it is strange how little God shows up in the media (news or entertainment) given how many people in the US believe in God and actively go to church. But sometimes the news can't escape God and faith. Do you remember the live coverage as the news was breaking that the POWs were rescued? The news reporters would visit the parents, friends and family of the POWs when they were rescued to get their reaction. So many talked about prayer and God and the support of the church members. They talked about it naturally because it was an important part of their lives.