Friday, July 30, 2004

Sen. Kerry speech

As for his speech on Thursday night, it felt long. It felt like it was written by committee as it seemed all over the place. I was looking for the national defense angle of the speech and there were a few obligatory lines about it but it simply didn't inspire me to trust him with that issue.

No doubt, the Bush administration has made errors on the Iraq situation. However, I'm not hearing what would be materially different under a Kerry administration. And what I am hearing actually makes me think they will make it worse by not taking it seriously.

Edwards in Wednesday night's speech had a very strong line: And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.

Where was that kind of resolve in the Kerry speech?

I don't like being a one-issue voter but that is what it has come down to for me.

Yes, I wish the Bushies and the GOP took more seriously the whole fiscal mess in DC and restrain spending. I wish they were more sophisticated in their "PR" with the other nations of the world and here in the USA.

But the bottom line is this: there are people out there who if given less than 1/2 a chance would kill as many Americans as possible. And if what is happening in Iraq says anything, Americans aren't the only targets.

Kerry war re-enactment story?

You do have to give credit to Sen. Kerry for serving in Vietnam. He was there. He could have been injured or killed in an accident or in combat. For that willingness to go, all fairness says, thank you for your service.

What are we to make of this story?

It says that Kerry filmed his exploits in Vietnam and sometimes would return to the scene of the action to re-enact it.

Is this true? Is there some confirmation of this story?

If true, it paints Kerry as a very unseemly ambitious person with an inflated sense of his own destiny.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Politics as preaching

I was very tired on Monday night so when I got home and turned on the tv to view the Democratic Convention, I soon was asleep. I had the tv on briefly on Tuesday night before dashing off to meet a friend for dinner. I caught most of the Obama speech.

He definitely has a great American story and charismatic speaking style. The post-speech pundits gushed that we have just seen a star blaze across the political scene. I have to say that Sullivan makes some good points but I also have to say, it would seem that he has "drank the Kool-Aide" the last couple of days.

Obama has the rhythm and cadence of revival style preaching down. As I listened, my goodness, if he gave that speech in the Republican Convention it would go over well. Heck, for that matter, if he gave that at a church, the audience would be shouting, amen, preach it.

In the end, his speech seemed more about life in general rather than any specific political viewpoint. I mean, how could anyone object to what he was saying?

Friday, July 23, 2004

UPDATE: 14 Syrians on the plane were musicians

A few days back I heard about and blogged the story of the Jacobsen's and their observing 14 Syrians on their flight.

The mystery has been mostly resolved.

Excerpts:
The Syrian "musicians" really were musicians, and though their behavior was odd, reporter Clint Taylor, who got to the bottom of a story that baffled the New York Times, observes:

Nour Mehana's band might have acted like jerks on the plane, but it appears safe to say they were not casing Northwest Airlines for a suicidal assault, and we can quit worrying about this being a "dry run" or an aborted attack. And if Jacobsen was wondering why one man in a dark suit and sunglasses sat in first class while everyone else flew coach, well, it seems pretty clear that this was the Big Mehana himself.
......
Evidently no one even engaged these guys in a conversation, and no one, not the flight crew, and not the air marshals, challenged their egregious violations of protocols about congregating near restrooms or standing up in unison as the plane started its descent. Nothing was done to alleviate the terror Jacobsen, and probably a lot of the other passengers, felt.
Not surprisingly, the just released 9/11 report is become a political football. It was inevitable that that would be the case given the timing of the work just prior to the election. Hopefully, the useful parts will get implemented and the political thunder and lightening will be over soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hollywood Bowl Pictures

During the offseason from last year, they fixed up the shell and made a bunch of other technical upgrades.

Finally went to the newly renovated Hollywood Bowl to see the event last Sunday night. The Joffrey Ballet did Nutcracker Act 2 (costumes were lovely and I am always amazed at the blend of grace and strength in ballet) and Pictures of the Exhibition with fireworks was the closing number. The audience was treated to two encores: Sabre Dance and Sleigh Ride.

Don't just tell me, show me!

I aim to please!!





Teens: they are doing better but I still worry about them

Went to Instapundit and saw this post where Reynolds links to an article he wrote over at TCS where there is a discussion on how teens are doing. Stats are showing good trends: reduction in teen crime, teen drug use and teen pregnancy and (gasp!) higher regard for family and their parents. Here are some excerpts:
The question is, why are teens doing better? I think there are two answers. First, people noticed problems, and tried a lot of different approaches. Private organizations, church groups, schools, and -- especially -- parents started taking a greater role in educating teenagers and encouraging better behavior. As with teen pregnancy, no single policy solved the problem, but multiple approaches tended to make it better until something seen as insoluble just a few years ago began to look, well, solved.
........
The other reason for the improvement is simple learning. Parents -- who in the 1960s and 1970s thought they could pursue self-centered lifestyles without harming their kids -- learned that parenting isn't to be taken for granted. Likewise, teenagers gradually noticed things that were easy to miss when the culture of drugs and adolescent rebellion was new. However they look at age 17, the "cool" rebels tend to do worse later in life, and the geeks tend to do better. Just as smelly, desperate crackheads were the best anti-drug advertisement ever presented in the inner cities (far more persuasive than frying-egg commercials on television), so did unemployed loser guys and unwed welfare moms provide visible good reasons to stay in school, make good grades, and be careful about pregnancy.
In his post Reynolds linked to his fellow writer at TCS, Glassman who writes:
Extra! Extra! The big news of the past decade in America has been largely overlooked, and you'll find it shocking. Young people have become aggressively normal.

Violence, drug use and teen sex have declined. Kids are becoming more conservative politically and socially. They want to get married and have large families. And, get this, they adore their parents.

The Mood of American Youth Survey found that more than 80 percent of teenagers report no family problems -- up from about 40 percent a quarter-century ago. In another poll, two-thirds of daughters said they would "give Mom an 'A.'

"In the history of polling, we've never seen tweens and teens get along with their parents this well," says William Strauss, referring to kids born since 1982. Strauss is author, with Neil Howe, of "Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation."
I'm heartened by all this good news. Since these studies were done in the 90s, I hope the trend continues into the 00s!

I am a volunteer with the junior high youth group at my church and so I'm looking at the generation after the one described in these essays.

When I'm with them, I do have a sense of hope for them. I have to say, these kids do have some advantages: they have one or two parents who are taking them to church and most are doing well in school.

As any reader of this blog knows, I believe in the virtue of organized religion, in my case Christianity. It provides a way at looking at life, it provides ethics, there is hope and there is a community. Organized religion, of course, is imperfect and critiques of religion will always say that. But what is the alternative? Are kids better off without it? Are we better off without it?

When done right, religion is a positive force in the lives of people and society.

But back to the teens I hang out with. I am hopeful for them that they will make good choices in life. Yet, it is still scary because they are exposed to a lot of stuff I wasn't when I was their age. It is easy to worry about them and to some extent we should. But what can we do but try our best to share with them and model the values that will help them be happy and succeed in life? But what can we do but love and accept them for all the ups and downs that are inevitable during the teen years?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Natural theology

Have recently been introduced to a concept called Natural Theology.

Regular Theology I guess would be derived from texts considered divine revelation like the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) or the Christian Scriptures (Old plus New Testaments). I figure the other major religions have theologies based on their revered texts.

Anyway, Natural Theology would be ideas about god apart from divine texts.

For instance, the existence of god in sacred texts is dogma and assumed and need not be argued for.

But can one argue for god apart from religious revelation?

In steps, Natural Theology.

It sounds like there are five notible arguments for god. I suppose there may be more.

Cosmological argument says the universe exists; thus, there is a creator = god.

Teleological argument says there is design in the universe; thus, there is a designer = god.

Ontological argument says that all cultures have a god concept; thus, there is some god that must exist for such a concept to be universal.

Moral argument says that the existance of the concept of good and evil within the human mind suggests a being who defines good and evil, i.e. god. Without god, good and evil is just personal preference.

Religious experience argument says in human history people have claimed to have interacted with god. Since these individuals were not deemed psychologically disturbed there maybe some validity to their experience.

Obviously, none of these things "prove" god's existence but they do make the god inference plausible. Also, none of these arguments make a particular religion's god more likely than another. Anyway, I thought it was fascinating that there is a whole field of philosophy that explores what we can know about god apart from divine revelation.

The interesting thing about Christianity and Judaism is that both have highly developed theologies and they have strong and necessary claims of historicity. The Jews have the Exodus as their pivotal moment of history. If the Exodus were to ever be proved to be a fabrication, the whole religion would collapse. Likewise, Christianity rests entirely on Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. If that were to ever be shown to be false, Christianity would cease.

All religions have ethics, doctrine and ritual. Interestingly, Judaism and Christianity also have key elements of historicity to their foundation. I'm not certain that other religions do?

In light of this, it makes sense that over the eons, the identity of Jesus would be the subject of controversy. If Christianity has any claim to being "true" then those who oppose Christianity would attack its foundation, Jesus. In this regard, the Di Vinci Code phenomena would be just the latest flavor of the month.

Without videotape evidence of Jesus' existence, I don't know if one can say that his claims are "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, it seems to me that between the testimony of the Christian Scriptures and the history of the church there is at least "probable cause" to support the claims of Jesus.

Just because you are paranoid...

doesn't mean they aren't out to get you...

Or so goes the old cliche.

I heard on the radio last night about the Jacobsens. I've been busy so haven't been making the usual rounds in the news web pages nor the blogs but did come across the item cited by Reynolds in the above link.

The radio report was that the Jacobsens saw 14 (?) Middle-Easterners on a plane moving about as if they were "casing" out the plane. Some are concerned that the terrorists are planning to use planes again. However, since 9/11, the terrorists know the passengers will resist; thus, larger numbers of terrorists would be needed to take control of the plane.

After the Jacobsen's went public with their story, the radio report said other members of the flying public confirm their observations and reports are coming in that on other flights such odd activities are occuring.

I don't know how much of this is paranoia and how much is real but it is a concern which I hope the TSA is looking into.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Is this song politically incorrect?

I'm not nearly as musical as some of my friends. Some of them can spontaneously burst into song. Others can recite lyrics off the top of their head.

Yet, for some odd reason, some random bits of musical memory has bubbled its way into my consciousness.

The song on my mind is from the musical, Flower Drum Song which I saw a couple of years ago on Broadway. Lyrics if you please:
http://www.libretto.musicals.ru/text.php?textid=115&language=1

I Enjoy Being a Girl

I'm a girl, and by me that's only great!
I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
That I walk with a sweet and girlish gait
With my hips kind of swivelly and swervy.

I adore being dressed in something frilly
When my date comes to get me at my place.
Out I go with my Joe or John or Billy,
Like a filly who is ready for the race!

When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curl,
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a girl!

When men say I'm cute and funny
And my teeth aren't teeth, but pearl,
I just lap it up like honey
I enjoy being a girl!

I flip when a fellow sends me flowers,
I drool over dresses made of lace,
I talk on the telephone for hours
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy having a girl... like... me.

When men say I'm sweet as candy
As around in a dance we whirl,
It goes to my head like brandy,
I enjoy being a girl!

When someone with eyes that smoulder
Says he loves ev'ry silken curl
That falls on my iv'ry shoulder,
I enjoy being a girl!

When I hear the compliment'ry whistle
That greets my bikini by the sea,
I turn and I glower and I bristle,
But I happy to know the whistle's meant for me!

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy having a girl... like... me.
By the way, I'm a guy!!! And I have no confusion about that!

I like to quote Tony Campolo who I heard once say, paraphrasing, look, if you aren't turned on by a beautiful woman, it isn't because you are spiritual, it is because you're dead!

Anyway, I think the song may have entered my brain due to the heat wave hitting Los Angeles right now and the corresponding change in attire of the better looking half of the population.

So my sociological question is this: is this song politically incorrect?

It is a song in a Rogers and Hammerstein musical from the late 1950s.

In today's era of political correctness and feminism, this song does sound slightly off key.

Yet, despite being perhaps politically incorrect, might there be some correctness in its description of the fairer sex?

Afterall, take a look at the magazines at the supermarket checkout counter. Seems to me all those cover stories echo the sentiments of this old number from the 2nd tier of the R&H canon.

By the way, as a guy, I certainly have no objection to today's modern independent woman (as long as she doesn't dissolve into male bashing) but I'll also confess to saying I do very much appreciate a woman who is quite comfortable being a woman too!

Which leads me to recommend this article by a fine independent woman writer.

around the internet: forwarded email

Have you seen this one? I've edited it down a bit...

My friend wrote the following...

I'm Confused! I'm trying to get all this political stuff straightened out in my head so I'll know how to vote come November. Right now, we have one guy saying one thing. Then the other guy says something else. Who to believe. Lemme see, have I got this straight?

Clinton awards Halliburton no-bid contract in Yugoslavia - good...
Bush awards Halliburton no-bid contract in Iraq - bad...

Clinton spends 77 billion on war in Serbia - good...
Bush spends 87 billion in Iraq - bad...

Clinton imposes regime change in Serbia - good...
Bush imposes regime change in Iraq - bad...

Clinton bombs Christian Serbs on behalf of Muslim Albanian terrorists - good...
Bush liberates 25 million from a genocidal dictator - bad...

Clinton says mass graves in Serbia - good...
Bush says mass graves in Iraq - bad...

Clinton says Saddam has nukes - good...
Bush says Saddam has nukes - bad...

Clinton refuses to take custody of Bin Laden - good...
World Trade Centers fall under Bush - bad...

Clinton calls for regime change in Iraq - good...
Bush imposes regime change in Iraq - bad...

Terrorist training in Afghanistan under Clinton - good...
Bush destroys Terrorist training camps in Afghanistan - bad...

Milosevic not yet convicted - good...
Saddam turned over for trial - bad...

Ah, it's so confusing!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

@ the movies: I, Robot

Saw it Thursday night at a pre-release marketing event with the local ESPN station here in Los Angeles, KSPN-710.

Rottentomatoes.com's round-up has more positives than negatives. Yahoo! Movie's round-up has the critics less than impressed.
Our audience was overwhelmingly positive. However, given that it wasn an ESPN radio demographic, that might not be so surprising.

I'm giving it 3 stars out of 4!!

I've only read Asimov's Foundation series. In those (an initial trilogy which got two additional books decades later) books, the topic of robots did appear and his famous Three Laws of Robotics were discussed. The Three Laws are probably so well known that non-readers of his books have probably been exposed to the concepts.

And so the logic of the Three Laws seems to insure that things would go fine. Of course, Will Smith's character soon finds out that things are going wrong and he has to figure out what happened. He has to convince robotics engineer played by Bridget Moynahan to help him solve the mystery.

Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan in 20th Century Fox's I, Robot
The two stars in a production still. Image source: http://us.ent4.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/twentieth_century_fox/i__robot/_group_photos/bridget_moynahan6.jpg

Will Smith does have a certain type of character he often plays and indeed he is that here. And certainly the action set pieces are sort of obligatory in a summer action flick. The action sequences are quite well done and draw stylistically upon other films. Thus, there is a certain visual familiarity to the scenes but they feel they belong and are not so overwrought as to become boring.

Most importantly, the story line unfolds nicely and intelligently. The film applies the logic of Asimov's concepts quite well to the extent I understand Asimov's robotic notions. I found myself following along trying to figure out what was next. The humor in the form of some amusing banter between Will Smith and co-stars is pretty good. We aren't talking rolling in the aisle type of humor but its snappy enough for my tastes.

A big thumbs up. GO SEE!!!

Go Dodgers!

Dodgers at the All-Star Break are atop the NL West but huge questions remain. Right now the starting rotation is Weaver, Ishii, Jackson, Lima and Alvarez. Not exactly what the managment had in mind at the beginning of the season.

As for the offense, Cora and Izturis have been pleasant surprises. Beltre is having a breakout year but injury lurks in the wings for him. Lo Duca and Roberts have been solid as hoped for. I had hoped for bigger numbers from Bradley and Encarnacion. Green has really struggled.

Will DePodesta pull off a trade for pitching and hitting or will he only go for some pitching?

I don't know how much would he be willing to part with to bring in Randy Johnson.

Stay tuned as LA may turn into Dodgertown with the likely collapse of the Laker dynasty.

Best guess: Kobe leaves the Lakers

It is 11:20AM and the town is rife with speculation about what is the next shoe to drop in the Laker saga.

First it was Jackson out as coach. Second it was Shaq being traded. And now we wait for Kobe's choice of where he wants to play.

My best guess: he is leaving. There is just too much damage from the crazy season just past.

UPDDATE: I was wrong. Kobe has decided to stay as he signed a $136 million over 7 years.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Edwards Pick

As a on-again-off-again mostly on-again political blog, I haven't chimed in yet on the Edwards pick.

My post a while back didn't include Edwards in the mix.

My view at the time was that the 2004 race will be close and that it will come down to flipping a few states i.e. the whole Red-state versus Blue-state thing. Hence, my thinking was that Kerry would have picked someone who could help win a specific state or make ground in a region and have enough heft to be taken seriously as a President in waiting. In my calculation, Gephardt was the best bet with perhaps a mid-western Governor as another option and finally a Florida politico. I thought there was a slim possibility that Kerry might go for a demographic pick to energize the party and sway indies. I had California Senator Feinstein as that option instead of Senator Clinton who would have fill that slot though with more controversy and baggage. I felt Edwards would have been in that catagory of pick but bring less buzz than either notible female senator.

If the media were hostile to the Kerry campaign they would be writing Edwards as Dan Quayle articles citing Edward's thin resume as a Senator. But since the media is anti-Bush, Edwards is being lauded as a great choice.

So if the first criteria of a VP pick is do no harm, than Kerry has done that.

And if the second criteria is produce some positive buzz, than Kerry has done that.

Let the campaign begin ... err go on!

Scheherazade's Gift

As any regular reader knows, I tend to draw upon political blogs. But I do sometimes read diaristic blogs and one of my favorites is Scheherazade's "Stay of Execution". Sherry, as she is sometimes called, lives in Maine and is a lawyer.

Some of us have a certain picture of the legal profession and it is easy enough to think ill of them. The antidote to this of course is to actually know some lawyers which I do from my brief four years in the Washington DC area. So I've found myself thinking, okay, I may like individual lawyers I meet and be skeptical of the profession!

Anyway, reading Sherry's writing shows me that wisdom once again. She has many fans in the blogosphere because she gives "inside baseball" and she gives us snapshots of her life that are honest and uplifting.

Just happen to catch her latest post where she gives a toast to a newlywed couple. Of the bride she said:
You have always, always been fun. And your fun is a special kind of fun. It is a creative, silly, joyous, social fun. You are always laughing, and we laugh with you. It is an intelligent, self-deprecating, nimble, romping warm fun. It springs from a deep love and wonder of the world, an utter lack of pretense or self-consciousness, and an energy and enthusiasm that few possess.
Of the groom she said:
You have a rare presence. You seek to know the world deeply, and your quiet curiosity, your unassuming but articulate voice makes us understand better why we, too, love the things we do. You connect the past and the present and the future, you see meaning and patterns and this special vision is a gift to us all.
And of the couple she said:
If Autumn is a fire, Tony, you are the hearth, made from deep Montana stone. The two of you together create a glow that has brought us here, to be warmed and lit up by our love for you, and by your love for each other. Thank you.
Wow! I don't know these people and I'm move to tears.

I suppose maybe my mood is in a certain way right now. See yesterday's post and perhaps that is why reading Sherry's latest hit me so deeply.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

What the world needs now

There is an old song that says, "what the world needs now is love sweet love..." and indeed it is so.

As human beings we live in our own little worlds and there are few things as powerful as feeling a bond and connection to another human being in the journey of life.

How comforting is it to know when we share our sorrows there is someone to hear it and bear it with us?

How much pleasure is there when we are happy about something and to see someone else smile too?

How re-assuring is it when we know we have failed and yet we look up from the ground and are in wonder and awe and say, "You are still here?"

In Sunday school hour, with the junior high students, we were talking about how when we are together swapping stories, how do we know we are talking about stuff God would be pleased with? How do we know if it is things Satan would be cheering on?

Does it build us up? Does it build others up? Does it make us happy? Does it help us feel a greater connection with each other?

Indeed, some good criteria to go by.

So many movies and things we talk about cater to the worst in us as humans! We sometimes are looking for the bad stuff.

One student chimed in with a Bible verse which turned out to be just the right one to end our time together:
Philippians 4:8 -- Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Amen, little sister!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Left, right and center

There is always talk about media bias. If you listen to conservative talkradio, they will be citing examples of the media favoring the left. If you listen to Bob Scheer of KCRW's Left, Right and Center, you will think the right owns the media and they are all shills for President Bush.

I saw this item over at Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) who cites this column by Linda Seebach of Rocky Mountain News who gives her summary of this Yale report on media political leanings.

The premise of the report is to measure the media's use of think tank reports and compare it with how politicians use think tank reports. Since politicians are rated by a self-described liberal advocacy group called ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), one can then rate the media outlet by extension of how closely they match the politician who have ADA numbers calculated for them.

Seebach writes:
People trying to persuade others to adopt their views are very likely to cite think-tank experts who agree with them. And the liberal lobbying group Americans for Democratic Action (their description of themselves) regularly grades politicians from 0 to 100 based on their votes on selected issues, with the most liberal members of Congress earning 100.
.................
The media outlets were The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the three network news shows, Fox News' Special Report and The Drudge Report (the paper is online at www.yale.edu/isps/seminars/american_pol/groseclose.pdf).

"Our results show a very significant liberal bias," they write. "One of our measures found that The Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News' Special Report is the most centrist." And all three papers, plus NBC and CBS, "were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives." Fair and balanced, anyone? To use a simplified example, they say, suppose there were only two think tanks, and The New York Times cited the liberal one twice as often as the conservative one. Then the newspaper's ADA score would be the same as that of a member of Congress who did the same.

The estimated ADA score for Fox, based on citations, was 35.6. That puts it in the company of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and a few points below the House median, 39.0. The two highest were The New York Times, at 67.6, and CBS Evening News, at 70.0. The average Republican in Congress has an ADA score of 11.2, and the average Democrat 74.1.
Interesting, no?

Instapundit has this motto: If you've got a modem, I've got an opinion!

Well, suffice to say, bloggers are generally pretty opinionated and I'm a typical blogger and I don't claim to be an unbiased media outlet.