Monday, October 31, 2005

Life: 1300 babies will be born prematurely today

12% of births are premature in the USA.

That translates to 500,000 babies!

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

March of Dimes was founded to fight polio. Now, their focus is on the health of infants.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

@ the Movies: Little Man

Little Man is an incredible documentary. An intensely personal tale of life, a mother's devotion, medical technology and the complexity of some of the hottest hot button social issues of the day.

At the showing that I saw, the LA premier of the film, was the writer-director Nicole Conn and many of the people involved in the production of the film. Also in attendance were some of the medical personnel shown in the film.

Ms. Conn had originally set out to do a documentary on surrogate mothers. She and her partner enlisted a surrogate mother to carry to term their son the result of using their eggs and donor sperm. Conn was intrigued by the kind of individuals who would participate in such a process.

The story took an unexpected turn when they discovered the surrogate had misrepresented her health status. Compounding the problems was the poor health of the baby growing inside the womb of the surrogate.

Baby Nicholas was born via emergency cesarian section 100 days premature. The chances of survival of a baby that early at 1 pounds 1 ounces was extremely low.

The film followed the turbulent days and weeks that followed in the NICU = neonatal intensive care unit.

I'm not ready to post an extensive debate on the issues raised by the film. Don't know if I ever will be.

But this is one situation where my "micro" reactions and "macro" reactions are completely the opposite.

On a "micro" level, you see this tiny baby fighting for life and all you can do in your heart of hearts is root for him to survive and you can understand employing every tool of medical technology to make it so.

But the hard reality is that medical technology as advanced as it is, can't do everything. In this case, it was able just barely to save Nicholas and can't make Nicholas completely healthy. He will always require various amounts of medical care the rest of his life. And that is the "macro" question: as a matter of public policy, should we spend millions of dollars to save extremely premature babies many of whom die in the attempt and of those who make it out of the NICU require life long medical care to varying degrees the rest of their lives?

When you see him, you say, we have to.

When you cover up the picture and look at the cold hard numbers ...

Amidst the cognitive dissonance, the crystal clear things that brought tears to my eyes and to many in the audience was the incredible devotion of all who care for Nicholas, the blend of competence and compassion of the medical personnel and the fighting spirit of the little man.

To see the film in Southern California, go to the Laemmle Music Hall on Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 274-6869

To understand more about the issues relating to premature births, see the Good Beginnings web page. Good Beginnings is the support group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for premature babies, their parents and for the NICU staff who care for them.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 described a brief moment when three of the disciples were able to catch a glimpse of Jesus unambiguously divine.

In watching him through the various episodes, they saw his power to heal, to calm the waters and to "know" how to evade the wily opponents. These all pointed to his divinity. But here, they (Peter, James and John) had a "Moses and the burning bush" type of moment, where the divinity of Jesus was unveiled. In fact, they even got to see Moses! Elijah was there as well. All of this is described in vv. 2-3.

Then there was a brief moment of Biblical humor for in v. 5 it says that God interrupted Peter who was yammering away. Some of us cower in fear in response and others like Peter have nervous yammering!

Verse 6 said they were terrified and in v. 7 Jesus "touched them" and said "Don't be afraid."

Having an encounter with God is going to have a tremendous impact on mere mortals.

There definitely is fear because God is holy and we are not. Isaiah 6 is one of those classic passages that illustrate this. Isaiah had an encounter with God and said "My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race."

Isaiah, through an angel, was assured that his sins were forgiven and God commissioned him to be a messenger to the people.

I have not had this kind of dramatic encounter with God in my life.

I have had many moments where I've sensed my sinfulness and the relief that God forgives me through Jesus but it was not accompanied with the kind of physical manifestation of God as described in Isaiah 6 or Matthew 17.

I suppose we all long for that kind of "burning bush" moment or a visitation from God and the angels like Isaiah.

Or do we?

Without such a moment, do we feel we can kind of slip away from God without having to be accountable? Maybe we don't want such an unambiguous episode?

I have had moments were I experienced what I call "whispers of grace." These are moments where I believe God is at work. No bright lights, flaming fires, booming voices but just a sense that God is doing something in my life or in some one else's life. I suppose skeptics will dismiss it is an emotional response, wishful thinking or placebo effects.

The fuel of our devotion to God must encompass our whole being. Emotions are part of it. But if we rely on emotions we would be unstable as emotions fluctuate so much. Reason is a part of it. Our prayers engage our rational mind and aren't just incantations that induce some mediative state. Reading the Bible engages our reason as well as emotions thus moving our will to follow Jesus. But in the end, our reason has limits. It is the height of folly to believe finite human minds could unpack the mind of God.

Is our reason, emotion and will enough to follow Jesus?

I suspect not. Without God's initiative into our lives and ongoing walking with us, we would falter.

Some skeptics feel that Christians can act "holier than thou" and thus discount Jesus. That is a failing of us as Christians and not of Jesus. As one of my friends put it, Christians are nothing more than beggars who point the way to food. There is no pride in that but simple gratitude to Jesus and the earnest desire that others receive the same grace from God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus predicts his death

Matthew 16:21-28 I suppose described the "end of the beginning."

It said in v. 21, "From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly ... He would be killed and he would be raised on the third day."

Prior to this, Jesus spoke of "the sign of Jonah" as a way of indicating what his future would hold. Now, he spoke openly of his meeting with destiny at the Cross.

Upon hearing this Peter, brash Peter, in v. 22 took Jesus aside and said, "Heaven forbid, Lord. This will never happen to you!"

Jesus responded forcefully, in v. 23, "Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view and not from God's."

In v. 24, Jesus told them, "shoulder your cross and follow me."

To our modern ears, that doesn't leave much of an impression on us. But for people of that era, that is a HORRIFYING thought!!

If one saw the film, The Passion of the Christ, one gets a sense of how terrible crucifixion is.

The Romans ruled as far as the eye could see in that land. They carried out public executions using crucifixion because it was an exceedingly painful way to die (the word EXCRUCIATING is derived from this) and thus the populace would be cowed with fear.

But Jesus offered them re-assurance, in v. 25, "if you give up your life for me, you will find true life" and in v. 27, "I, the son of man, will come in the glory of my Father with his angels and will judge all people according to their deeds."

I read this passage and feel humbled. How much would I be willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus?

In my 42 years of life, only on a few occasions was I in circumstances where I could have or thought I could have died and none had anything to do with my faith in Jesus. The possibility of death by accident, crime or medical concern is just a fact of life. Nonetheless, each incident left me humbled because I felt afraid.

I don't know how extensive is persecution of Christians today. I'll have to read up about it. But apparently, some Christians are calling for a A Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 13.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Politics: No on prop 78, No on prop 79

The two proposals are intended to make prescription drugs more available to low-income people.

Who can be against that?

BUT, should those kinds of program be created by ballot box?

That just doesn't make sense to me.

And If I'm reading it right, on page 42-43 of the voter guide, it says that people already can get medications through Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, private insurance and soon through Medicare. Seems to me, we have various ways to get them discounted to some degrees already?

It is easy to demonize the drug companies. But since I work in molecular biology research (at a non-profit research institute), I know from first hand experience how slow progress can be. Thus, I don't begrudge a drug company their profits when finally one drug makes it big when so many others turn out to be dead ends.

In the lab, it is one thing to find a compound that can solve a problem in a test tube. Kill a bacteria in a test tube? Great! Now, can you give it to a person without killing the person or causing some other problem?

Package it into a pill ... how big should the dose be? How much gets absorbed once you take it? It takes time and money to figure that out.

How often do you take the pills? You need to figure out how long it lasts in your body before it breaks down and is useless? Trained scientists do these experiments and use all kinds of expensive equipment to make the analysis.

Now you have in your hand a candidate drug.

You have to fund trials to prove effectiveness and safety.

You have to figure out how to mass produce the drug once you determine it will actually work. That means building a factory or modifying an existing one to make the drug. And with manufacturing you have to have quality control tests to make sure what you think you are making is what you are really making.

Drugs don't mysteriously show up in the Walgreens with the morning dew. Each drug you have in your cabinet is the product of many many many human hours of labor.

I say again, I don't begrudge a drug company their profits when finally one drug makes it big when so many others turn out to be dead ends.

We already have programs in place to help low income people get medicines. If we need to improve those programs, let's do that. But to come up with new programs by ballot just doesn't make sense to me.

The Sacramento Bee urges a No vote on both Prop 78 and 79. Excerpt:
Proposition 78 is the pharmaceutical industry's approach... The program would allow families without drug insurance earning up to $58,050 a year to sign up for a drug card for cheaper drugs. If companies didn't voluntarily offer enough discounted drugs, however, the program would die. If the program were locked in place due to this initiative, the Legislature would be hard-pressed to make any necessary changes. For any "voluntary" approach to succeed, the Legislature would have to be in charge, not the drug companies through this initiative.
Proposition 79 seeks to lower drug prices for a broader group of uninsured patients - families earning up to $77,000 - by requiring the state to negotiate on their behalf. Already the state negotiates drug prices for extremely low-income residents who quality for the state/federal Medi-Cal health program. Proposition 79 threatens to make it harder for those Medi-Cal patients to obtain certain drugs if the companies that make the drugs don't lower their prices for the uninsured.
The real winners, most likely, would be lawyers. Proposition 79 would create a new civil action against drug companies that sell products at "an unconscionable price." Of course, unconscionable is not defined. It would be left to lawyers, the lawsuits and the courts to continually define what unconscionable means.

Endless lawsuits would only increase the costs for the drug companies and make the underlying problem even worse.
This blogger recommends a No on prop 78 and a No on prop 79.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times has come out against both prop 78 and prop 79!

Yes on Prop 74

The summary of Prop 74 is on pages 12 to 15 in my voter guide book.

It proposes two changes: (1) extends the probationary period for newly hired teachers from two years to five years (see chart on p. 12, most states set the number at three years) and (2) changes some of the rules for beginning the process of dismissing teachers who have tenure.

In my mind, there are two question: would this harm recruitment and retention of good teachers and help reduce the number of bad teachers?

I think the answer would be NO and MAYBE. Therefore, I recommend a Yes vote on Prop 74.

The LA Times, no friend of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, came out in support of Prop 74. Excerpt:
Everyone on campus - and some people off campus, such as involved parents - knows who the bad teachers are. These teachers stay on in part because many principals have neither the time nor the inclination to go through the complicated procedure necessary to fire a teacher, and in part because school districts prefer to avoid the costs of administrative law hearings to which all fired teachers are entitled.

The helpful part of Proposition 74 addresses a minor part of the problem. It would expand the probationary period for new teachers, who can be fired for any reason, to five years, at which point they would receive tenure. Current law sets probation at two years. That's not enough time.

Teachers unions argue that by reducing job security, a longer probation period would discourage people from entering the profession. We have more faith in teachers than that. Most prospective teachers are intent on succeeding at their work; they don't enter the profession because they know they can fall back on tenure protection if they fail.
UPDATE: Even the SF Chronicle has come out in favor of Prop 74!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Yes on Prop 76

Since the SF Chronicle said, IF THERE is one thing as reckless as ballot-box budgeting, it's ballot-box energy policy, the next proposition I read was Prop 76 which further regulates the state budget. The "analysis of the legislative analyst" runs from p. 22 to 29. Complex, eh?

My instant reaction is to vote NO. Why should the public have to determine budget priorities and limits? That is what the elected officials are for.

However, Tom McClintock, one of the more sensible and straight-shooting politicians in California on budget matters, has come out in support for Prop 76. My guess is that he believes Prop 76 is better than the status quo.

One of the criticism of Prop 76 is the power it gives to the Governor, the SF Chronicle complains:
Schwarzenegger is right in saying that legislators are not making the tough decisions to balance the budget. But the solution is not to put the state budget on a new course of autopilot while shifting power to the governor's office. It's to elect legislators -- and a governor -- who have the fortitude to set priorities and to find a way to fund them.
The governor is constrained by elections and recall. If she or he misuses the powers granted by Prop 76 then the voters could apply for a recall or vote her or him out in the next election cycle.

Is Prop 76 the final answer to California's budget woes?


But in this case, we can't allow the quest for the best solution hinder our willingness to support a flawed measure that is better than the status quo. I was originally leaning NO on Prop 76 but I now recommend a YES vote on Prop 76.

UPDATE: I finally plowed through more carefully the 8-page summary of the measure to see under what circumstances would the governor be handed "extra powers" over the budget. If I'm reading it right, the circumstances are quite constrained. (1) If the budget is late, then the Governor is to set spending levels at the previous year's levels until a new budget is passed. (2) If the governor declares a "fiscal emergency."

The "fiscal emergency" can't be declared on the governor's whim but only under two circumstances: (1) general fund revenues fall 1.5% below estimates or (2) the state reserve would be reduced by half.

Once the emergency is declared, the legislature and the governor have 30 (late budget) or 45 (on-time budget) days to come up with a plan to address the shortfalls. Only after that fails would the governor have powers to reduce spending.

No on Prop 80

Prop 80 attempts to write some new rules for California's electrical utilities. I have some libertarian instincts and the idea of regulating the electrical utilities via ballot initiative strikes me as dubious. My gut reaction is to vote NO on Prop 80. It is nice to know that even a lefty paper like the SF Chronicle agrees. Quote:
IF THERE is one thing as reckless as ballot-box budgeting, it's ballot-box energy policy.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the California Legislature to make even minor changes in Prop. 80. As we have seen too often during budget negotiations, a supermajority requirement is an invitation to gridlock in the Capitol.

The rarely united California Public Utilities Commission was unanimous in recommending an emphatic "no" vote on Proposition 80.

This measure does not belong on the ballot. We urge its defeat.

Yes on Prop 75

Prop 75 requires that public employee unions get permission from union members before they take money from their paychecks for usage in political expenses. The LA Times said this about the measure:
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that union members cannot be forced to finance political activity, and Proposition 75 merely requires that public employee unions get written consent from their members before their dues and fees are used for political purposes. Currently, union members must request specifically that their dues not be spent on politics, and there is some question about how realistic a choice this is in some unions. Shifting the burden to the union to gain the consent of a member - as Washington, Utah and other states now require - does not seem onerous, and may even encourage greater accountability on the part of union leadership.
Therefore, this blogger joins the Los Angeles Times in recommending a YES vote on Prop 75.

Yes on Prop 77

Prop 77 is the redistricting plan. Right now, the districts are incumbent safe and are examples of gerrymandering. This plan will put it into the hand of an independent group. Sounds like an improvement to me. I'm recommending a YES vote on Prop 77. The Sacramento Bee said this of prop 77:
Proposition 77, the governor's redistricting plan, aims to end the conflicts inherent when lawmakers map their own political districts. Because of this gerrymandering, members of Congress tend to keep their jobs for life; legislators keep them as long as term limits allow.

Schwarzenegger's initiative proposes to separate politicians from the maps, which is why party bosses such as Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, and Rep. Howard Berman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, are raising big bucks to kill it.
UPDATE: SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sacramento Bee all agree in their support of Prop 77.

Yes on Prop 73

Prop 73 is the parental notification of abortion by minors. There is a judicial bypass for circumstances where it may be problematic for parents to be notified.

Abortion remains one of the most contentious social issues of our day. What troubles me is that the pro-choice side seems to see no moral difficulty in abortion. They may say, we want abortions to be legal and safe but rare. But anytime any measure is raised that might make abortion even a little bit more difficult they object. Prop 73 provides one more opportunity for re-consideration of abortion. This blogger recommends a YES vote on Prop 73.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Who do you say that I am?

Matthew 16:13-20 described a dialog between Jesus and Simon Peter and the disciples.

Jesus simply asked (v. 13 and 15), who do you think I am?

The disciples gave various answers in v. 14 but Peter in v. 16 said, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (New Living Translation)

Jesus commended the answer.

In some other translations, Christ is used instead of Messiah. It turns out that the two words mean the same thing. Christ is Greek and Messiah is Hebrew for "anointed one."

I ran a search on Biblegateway to see how often the word Christ and Messiah is used in Matthew within the New American Standard Bible translation which is regarded as one of the more literal translations into English.

I was surprised to find out within the book of Matthew, the word Christ only appeared in 13 verses and Messiah in only 4 verses. In some cases, it is Matthew using the terms in his narration. In some cases it comes up in dialog with Jesus. And indeed, in the book of Matthew, Peter's usage is the first time one of the disciples called Jesus the Christ. Thus, Peter's statement is indeed a big deal.

And Jesus tells him so.

Today, when we talk to people about Jesus, who do people say He is?

Most often people will say, He was a great teacher on par with other noted religious figures of history. People who read DaVinci Code will say there is the Jesus invented by religion and there was the real Jesus who was just a mere mortal.

Coming to the conclusion that Jesus was something special... the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One isn't easy. There are intellectual barriers and most importantly, there are volitional barriers.

Rarely does pure reason alone reach faith. People don't make a commitment to a person or an idea on reason alone. Is marriage a purely rational act? Is being a fan of a baseball team a purely rational act?

Don't worry, I'm not equating marriage with being a baseball fan. 8-)

Our deepest beliefs are held with some rational basis but require more than reason. To examine some of the reason aspects of Christian belief, check out Stand to Reason which is a web page with lots of good information for those who have questions about Christian faith.

Some will look at Jesus and say it is all irrational. These folks think all religion is a waste of time. Is it reason alone that leads to this conclusion?

Others may see the movies about Jesus and read the Bible and conclude it is a nice fairy tale, a good bed time story but it is not true in the historic sense and only true in the "it has good morals" sense.

And I understand this response, because if one were to acknowledge it is all true then one would have to follow Jesus and that isn't an easy choice. Human beings are not very willing to concede autonomy. In essence, that was the temptation in the Garden of Eden, who is in control, God or me?

Confronted with Jesus, we ask, who should rule my life, Christ or me?

For a moment assume the Gospel stories are ALL TRUE, what do the Gospel stories tell us about the response?

Some people believed Jesus but a LOT did NOT. People saw the miracles, some experienced the healings or knew family and friends who were healed, many heard the great debates with the religious leaders of the day, they lived through the chaos around the Cross, they heard people talking about the Resurrection ... you would think everyone would believe! But not everyone does.

Who do you say Jesus is?

I hope you will believe and follow Him.

Politics: Waiting for the Miers Hearings

Was just watching a video clip from where Brit Hume interviewed Sen. Sam Brownback. He remains neutral wanting to gather more information and waiting to hear from Miers in the hearings.

I think he is making a lot of sense.

However, I can sympathize with Jonah Goldberg of NRO who was on the fence but now has turned against Miers because of the latest report on her views on quotas.

The steady drip of information that calls her views in question and the sense she isn't ready for prime time isn't just people out to get her. When the Roberts nomination was moving forward there were detractors but the reality is that the charges didn't stick to him because people could tell critics were reaching. In the Miers case, the criticisms are sticking.

National Review has been out against Miers very strongly for some time already. They realize the politics of the situation is really in the hands of a few key Senators. Excerpt:
Conservatives will have long memories about how senators act in this crucial period. Any Senate Republicans who want people to listen when they run for president in 2008 and tell GOP primary voters how seriously they take the task of transforming the Supreme Court — by placing top-notch conservative jurists on it — had better be heard from now. Will Sen. George Allen cross the White House, when it still has the juice to threaten him? Will Sen. Sam Brownback, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, show the leadership his admirers expect? Can Sen. Bill Frist break with the White House on something highly important and controversial besides stem cells? Can Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel be mavericks when it might do their party and one of its most important causes some good?
I'm not quite ready to call for her to withdraw but I'm a lot closer to the ledge than I was a week or two ago.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Thinking with their stomachs

Matthew 16:5-12 is another example of how Jesus used the ordinary stuff of life to make his point.

Once again food was the immediate concern as seen in v. 5 that said, "the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any food."

You can imagine them looking at the crowds of people who were milling around Jesus while he was teaching and healing people and thinking uh-oh, how are we going to feed all these people?

I suppose this might mean that on many occasions they actually do plan ahead and have some food to give to people. But sometimes they worry they may run out or they forgot to bring any at all. Maybe they figure the crowd looked thin today and not real excited so maybe they didn't plan ahead and bring food only to find out their crowd estimate was off.

Jesus knowing their anxiety then says in v. 6, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

The disciples, thinking with their stomachs, think, huh?

I suppose they may have thought Jesus meant that they shouldn't take bread provided by the Pharisees and Sadducees. They know Jesus was always having running verbal battles with them so they may think, don't take food from them.

Of course, sitting here in the 21st Century reading my Bible it is easy for me to remember they had just recently seen the feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21) and the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39). This confusion on the part of the disciples made them look pretty dense! Jesus rebuked them along those lines in vv. 8-11.

They eventually realized that Jesus was using yeast as a metaphor in this case for false teaching (see v. 12).

Yeast are little things. Words are little things. But yeast put into a lump of flour has an effect resulting in bread we can eat. Words are little things but when strung together into words of false teaching they can be damaging. Words are little things but when strung together into words of true teaching they can be a great thing. Jesus had used the yeast metaphor before back in Matthew 13:33-34 to say the kingdom of God is like yeast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: The Sign of Jonah Again

Matthew 16:1-4 seems vaguely familiar ... religious leaders asking Jesus for a sign and Jesus telling them they will get "the sign of the prophet of Jonah."

I flipped back a few pages in my Bible and found it in Matthew 12:38-42. It isn't surprising that the same kind of exchange would take place. It wouldn't surprise me if Jesus had that conversation many other times. In the Matthew 12:38-42 incident Jesus makes more remarks.

In that passage, Jesus explained that the sign of Jonah was a way for Him to forcast His own death and resurrection.

There can be many "signs" to "prove" Christianity. But the big one is this exorbitant claim: Jesus died and rose from the dead.

This is a stumbling block for people. One can praise Christianity for its collection of ethical teachings but the idea of Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life who died and rose from the dead for our sins to restore us to God is just too much for some to take.

One can argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But the bottom line question is what do people do with Christ and the Cross.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Feeding the 4000

In Matthew 15:32-39, Jesus feeds 4000+ people for in v. 38 it says 4000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Perhaps it was more like 8000-12,000? Anyway, lots of people.

The story says that they had seven loaves of bread and a few small fish (v. 34).

How does this small amount feed so many people?

For those who believe in miracles, there are two possibilities: Jesus multiplied what was there so everyone had enough or people were somehow filled by only eating a small amount. For those who don't believe in miracles, the people supplied their own food by reaching into their own backpacks and started sharing because Jesus and the disciples started handing out food. For people who like a "spiritual" interpretation, they say this incident was like Holy Communion and what the people experienced was really a spiritual feeding with the bread representing Jesus.

How do you feel about the four explanations?

The problem with explanation number four is that the text doesn't demand that. Jesus hosted a passover (The Last Supper) just before his death where He explicitly says, "Take it (referring to bread) and eat it, for this is my body." (see Matthew 26:17-30).

As for explanation number three, Matthew 15:32 tells us, They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.

This seems to suggest that whatever food they may have brought along was already consumed.

Thus, only the two miraculous explanations seem to fit the story.

Of course, some skeptics will simply say, that Matthew erred in his recounting of the incident.

But if you assume the text is in error than making any interpretation of the text becomes a futile exercise for their is no core truth to understand. And, of course, if Jesus never performed ANY miracles why would an entire religion form around Him?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wild West Coast Football from the PAC-10

Am a UCLA alum (1986) but as a sports fan have to tip my hat to USC, Leinart, Bush and Carroll for their big win yesterday. has essays from Wojciechowski and Maisel.

Also, must give a shout out to Coach Charlie Weiss and Notre Dame for planning and executing the game plan that left them on the doorstep of victory. As huge underdogs, they did almost everything right to capitalize on their strengths and exploit their opponent's weakness. They were soooooo close to victory but one of the intangibles that makes a team great is the will to win against all odds and USC showed that.

Meanwhile, the Drew and Drew show came through once again to save Bruin fans from heartbreak hotel. When I saw the score at 38-21, I pretty much gave up. But the gutty little Bruins managed to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime where they won it 44-41.

This Bruin team is reminding me of some Toledo era teams: all offense and no defense. The team is 6-0 but easily could be 3-3 as the last three games required dramatic fourth quarter heroics.

Oregon State beat Cal in an ugly game with 9 turnovers. Stanford edged hapless Arizona. Oregon took care of Washington easily.

As a UCLA alum, I want to believe UCLA will be undefeated when they clash with USC on December 3. However, they barely beat 1-5 Washington at home so the likelihood they will lose somewhere between now and then is very high.

But as a fan, I'm hoping!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pray for Iraqi Voting

Tomorrow, the people of Iraq will vote on their constitution.

Engle at isn't too optimistic.

However, there is a cliche that says democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

Here's hoping that the voting goes well with minimal violence.

UPDATE: Voting so far okay.

Give for Pakistan Relief

With the terrible news coming from the earthquake, it is time once again to reach into our pocketbooks to help. Consider giving to World Vision as they help with relief efforts in Pakistan.

If you are able to click to this web page to read this appeal, it is a metaphysical certitude you have more, much more, than those who have suffered from the earthquake.

LA Dining: Taco Hunt - El Loco

My latest entry at is up.

LA is a taco town from catering trucks to small taco stands to fast food chains to sit down restaurants.

El Loco locations:
3309 North Mission Road
Los Angeles, California 90031-3111

845 W. Cypress St.
Covina, CA 91722
(626) 339-6025

437 Glendora Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 814-3474

Devotional Thoughts: Healing body and soul

This morning am taking a look at Matthew 15:29-31.

I've been following the "heading divisions" in the New Living Translation so some sections are longer than others as the divisions are based on the subject matter of the text.

A few quick words about the different types of Bibles you can find at the book store.

The various books of the Bible were written originally in Greek (Christian Scriptures or New Testament) and Hebrew (Jewish Scriptures or Old Testament). Complete Greek NTs have been found as old as the 4th Century and a fragment of the Gospel of John has been dated to the 2nd Century. Complete Hebrew OTs date to the 10th Century. However various parts of the OT have been found in the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and those are from the time of Christ and may even be a century or two older. In both OT and NT, there are multiple copies with remarkable consistency between texts that have been found. After all, if the people who made copies over the centuries believe the texts are "sacred" writings then they would be highly motivated to preserve them as accurately as possible.

Translating the source material into English is a hard job and Bible translators deserve a lot of thanks for their quiet behind the scenes efforts! Rarely do they get called up to the front of the church and given a round of applause for their contributions. So a hearty "Well Done and THANKS!" from this blog!!

There are many translations and they fall within a spectrum of translating philosophies:
"literal" - attempts to make word-by-word translations from the original language - New American Standard Bible, King James Version, New Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version would be to varying degrees toward the literal side.
"dynamic equivalent" - attempts to balance word-by-word and thought-by-thought translations from the original language - New International Version is the most well known of this group. Jerusalem Bible and New Living Translation are also in this category again to varying degrees on the dynamic equivalent side.
"paraphrase" - attempts to "translate" idea-by-idea - In this approach some of the English words chosen will be quite distant from the original Greek or Hebrew in the effort to convey the idea intended. Some times additional words or phrases maybe added to clarify the meaning. Examples of this type are Living Bible and Eugene Peterson's The Message.

So, you say, show me!

Okay ... Matthew 15:29-31 ... I'll use the Bible Gateway and fetch three examples.

First, the New American Standard Bible from the very literal style ...
Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
Next, the New Living Translation which is in the dynamic equivalent style toward the paraphrase side.
Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought him the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others with physical difficulties, and they laid them before Jesus. And he healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn't been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking around, and those who had been blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.
And finally, the paraphrase style of the Message
After Jesus returned, he walked along Lake Galilee and then climbed a mountain and took his place, ready to receive visitors. They came, tons of them, bringing along the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mute--all sorts of people in need--and more or less threw them down at Jesus' feet to see what he would do with them. He healed them. When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them.
See the difference?

Anyway, as I read this passage, it tells me that Jesus very much cares about the people's needs. And, as the people were healed, they acknowledged God!

But what about today?

In the USA, most of us are pretty healthy. I suppose the problem of being overweight is a big one and many of our health issues stem from that. Also, many of the ailments we have are also a result of being able to live a lot longer.

Christians have established hospitals all over the world. Sometimes the Missionary (in the eyes of some a "dirty" word) hospital is the only place in a poor country where people can get health care. The reason why Christians do such stuff is because of the example of Jesus. Yes, we have our eyes on heaven but we absolutely do not ignore the here and now.

But with all our physical well being, how are we really?

As such, in modern day USA life, a lot of what ails us isn't physical. The church needs to be there for that too. Churches are often the meeting places for 12-step groups, credit debt recovery groups and marriage counseling programs. A program getting some attention in the television news (saw it on CNN and Fox News) is Celebrate Recovery. Thus, the church, as it should, is trying to meet these needs. Jesus wants us to do that.

Thus, in addition to medicine, many Christians opt to go into social work and psychology. It grows from the example of Jesus who saw people hurting and He did something about it.

As Christians, we see needs and we must respond in any way possible to help.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More on Miers

Was listening to Laura Ingraham this morning and she has come out against the nomination. On the morning of the nomination, she was disappointed but was willing to wait for more information. I don't listen every morning to her show so I don't know when she made the decision to oppose the Miers nomination. In today's radio program she cited items from the New York Times by David Brooks (his material requires a subscription) and from Wall Street Journal Opinion Online's John Fund.

I'll have to take a closer look at what they have to say. At the moment, I am still a supporter but remain open to new information.

James Dobson on Harriet Miers

James Dobson of Focus on the Family became part of the Supreme Court nominee story because he came out in support of Miers and cited his conversations with White House advisor Karl Rove. Since it was a private conversation he was reluctant to share what was discussed.

Critics of the Bush White House began demanding to know what Dobson was told by Rove. Dobson decided to speak out after gaining permission from Rove to reveal some details of their conversation on Dobson's October 12, 2005 radio broadcast. A transcript can be found here.

Dobson explained that part of the confidentiality was that Rove told him about the nominee, aspects of the nominee's background and some aspects of the selection process prior to official public announcements. Dobson felt he should not comment specifically until those facts were made known by the White House and other official spokespersons of the White House. Excerpts:
....... my conversation with Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, that occurred on October 1st, just a few days ago. And that was the day before President Bush made his decision to nominate White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, to be the next Justice of the Supreme Court.
Yeah, I haven’t been willing to (referring to Dobson's prior silence on what Rove said). The reason is because Karl Rove has now given me permission to go public with our conversation.
But by Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, all this information began to come out and it was no longer sensitive. I didn’t have the right to be the one that revealed it and that’s what I was referring to.
Dobson then went onto describe what Rove told him.
Karl Rove had shared with me her judicial philosophy which was consistent with the promises that President Bush had made when he was campaigning. Now he told the voters last year that he would select people to be on the Court who would interpret the law rather than create it and judges who would not make social policy from the bench. Most of all, the President promised to appoint people who would uphold the Constitution and not use their powers to advance their own political agenda.
Then he suggested that I might want to validate that opinion by talking to people in Texas who knew Miers personally and he gave me the names of some individuals that I could call.
However, the big revelation was that some of the favorites of the conservative movement took themselves off the list. Dobson said:
But we also talked about something else, and I think this is the first time this has been disclosed. Some of the other candidates who had been on that short list, and that many conservatives are now upset about were highly qualified individuals that had been passed over. Well, what Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list and they would not allow their names to be considered, because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter, that they didn’t want to subject themselves or the members of their families to it.
Seems to me there is nothing out of the ordinary here. Will the media and the Senate keep pressing Dobson? I doubt it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Knowing Who to Ask or I want to be a Little Dog in the Kingdom of God

Taking a look at Matthew 15:21-28 tonight.

Here Jesus healed the daughter of a Gentile woman who sought Jesus' help persistently. Jesus commends her for her faith in v. 28, "Your faith is great."

This story is also found in Mark 7:24-30.

Some critics of the Bible point out that in Mark 7:26 the woman is described as a Syrian-Phoenician and in Matthew 15:22 she is called a Canaanite. However, the two terms might actually be interchangeable. The Syrian-Phoenicians were probably Phoenicians who lived in Syria and Phoenicians were derived from the Canaanites.

Another unusual feature of the story was Jesus saying in v. 26, "It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to dogs."

From the context, Jesus seemed to be equating the children with the people of Israel and the Gentiles with dogs!

Sounds harsh!

However, in context, it sounds like these dogs aren't wild dogs but rather family pets. In v. 27, the woman said, "the dogs (little dogs in Young's Literal Translation) eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

This does soften it some but it is still a little jarring to the ears. It may well have been culturally appropriate to use such terms. Thus, Jesus capitalized on it and it allowed the woman to show her great faith and allowed Jesus to show conclusively that His blessings though first offered to the Jews was indeed available to non-Jews too.

Miers Will be Confirmed to the Supreme Court?

The arguments against Miers run along these lines: (1) we really don't know where she stands (2) her resume indicates she isn't up to the job (3) she is a crony.

The crony charge is actually a variation of the second argument. If Michael Luttig (a favorite of the conservative activists) was a personal friend of Bush 43 and was nominated there would be no charges of cronyism.

The questions of her resume really breaks into two issues. (1) She isn't smart enough for the job. (2) She lacks the experience to handle Constitutional Law issues. Some critics will cite both aspects but some say she's smart enough but just not experienced enough.

In the context of neurosurgery, you would hire a surgeon who has the training and experience.

Is the Supreme Court analogous to neurosurgery?

Does the job require that high a level of specialization?

If the answer is no, then her experience in private practice should readily transfer over.

Some critics look down on her Southern Methodist University educational pedigree and say she isn't smart enough.

I think that is unfortunate.

We all know that many of the top billionaires in the USA are college drop-outs and no one would say those people are not smart.

Miers professional successes indicate she has the smarts and the drive to do the job.

As for the charge "we don't know where she stands," that is always going to be a problem with any nominee.

We have hints from their past but no guarantees. Journalists and the Senate Committee should dig up as much information about her and can be found and interview those who know her.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings will be watched carefully. If she comes across confidently and clearly, the opposition will melt away. If she stumbles then she will have to withdraw.

With Roberts there was almost 100% certainty that he would come across well as he had argued before the Supreme Court numerous times.

Miers most recent experiences have been behind the scenes in the West Wing of the White House. One would anticipate that her private practice days of arguing in court would come back to her much like one never forgets how to ride a bicycle.

Barring any unanticipated revelations about her past, I think she will be confirmed. My guess: 80-20. Some of the Democrat senators have to vote no to keep their base happy. A few GOP senators will break ranks but it would only be the few who want to retain their maverick status.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Iraq is a tough situation.

Another tough one is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

I was surfing thorough some PodCasts available for free from iTunes.

There was a news program called: alt.muslim.

I downloaded and listened. It talked about various things going on in the Muslim community. It highlighted some of the charity work being done by Muslims as a result of the displacement of the people of New Orleans. That was very encouraging to listen to.

There was also a discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

What was rather eye-opening to me was the comment from one of the guests: Palestinians believe that the Jews are white-European colonists who took their land just like how the whites set up colonies in Africa a couple of centuries ago.

If this perspective is wildly held, then peace in the region is impossible unless (1) Israel ceases to exist as a nation and the Jews leave or (2) the Palestinians accept the existance of Israel in secure borders.

More Sunnis maybe onboard for Iraq Constitution

The vote on the constitution for Iraq may go better if this item turns out to be true.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A deal struck in last-minute talks Tuesday night between a major Sunni Arab party and the Shiite-Kurd coalition could aid approval of the proposed Iraq constitution this weekend, sources involved in the talks told CNN.

The sources asked to remain anonymous because the sensitive agreement has not been formally made public. An announcement was expected Wednesday.

The deal involves changing the constitution to remove the de-Baathification process -- an effort to eliminate vestiges of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party -- the sources said.

In return, the Iraq Islamic Party indicated it would withdraw its opposition to the document to be voted on Saturday in a nationwide referendum, according to the sources.

Other Sunni politicians, however, indicated they still won't support the proposed document, raising the likelihood of a political division in the Sunni Arab community over the issues.
It isn't going to be a smooth process but it is moving forward.

What is the alternative?

If we pull out, the insurgency either wins outright or the country collapses into civil war.

Sunset in Southern California

Ever have a roll of film sitting around a long time?

In the era of digital cameras that is happening to me less and less.

Anyway, the other day, I got around to developing a roll of film that had been sitting around in the camera awhile.

I think the image is from a couple of weeks ago when I saw it and took it because I thought it beautiful.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Evil starts from the inside

Am reading from Matthew 15:1-20.

We have a picture of Jesus as the friendly figure with a lamb in His arm and the children around Him.

That is a true picture of Jesus for he does reach out to people and love them and accepts them.

But Jesus is also the one who makes it clear what is right and wrong.

His ire is especially strong upon those who are religious leaders who mislead.

In this passage, critics were after Jesus because of "ceremonial hand washing."

Beats me why those critics wanted to be contentious about that!

Jesus thus lit into them citing Isaiah, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God's commands with their own man-made teachings."

He then turned to the crowds and said, "You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do."

Jesus finished off this discussion with the following: For from the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God."

Psalm 26:2 says: Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind ...

Our capacity for self-deception is so great that we need God to help us stay on track. And also, that is why I'm a believer in the church ... that flawed and imperfect institution ... because between God at work in my heart through the Bible and the Holy Spirit and the help of fellow Christians on the journey, I hope to stay on the right path.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Drew and Drew Show

As in Maurice Drew (299 yards by punt return, pass catching and rushing yards and 5 TDs) and Drew Olsen (225 yards, 2 TD passes, 1 rushing TD) doing whatever it took as UCLA wins over the Cal Bears!

Friday, October 07, 2005

A modest proposal: Blawggers should help Senators on Miers questioning

As a somewhat regular reader of Glenn Reynolds a.k.a. Instapundit, Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Bainbridge and Hugh Hewitt, I've been alternately amused and appalled at the sackcloths and ashes over the Miers nomination.

Hugh Hewitt has been gamely trying to find supporters of Miers among his legal blogging buddies and fending off the critics.

As a non-lawyer but political news junkie, I confess I was surprised at the pick. However, I wasn't out on the ledge like many critics of the pick. I remain open to persuasion either way. Maybe it is my generally sunny disposition that leads me to give people a chance. I don't know.

However, if the Blawggers want to provide an invaluable service to the Country and to the Conservative movement they feel is threatened by this nomination then it is time for them to step up to the plate and call their favorite Senator on the judiciary committee and offer their services in providing appropriate Constitutional Law questions for them to use in the hearings.

Call it an oral exam of sorts for Ms. Miers.

If she fields the questions well, then it is time to quit the carping and give her her props.

And if she fumbles the ball, then they have the right to say, I TOLD YOU SO.

So how about it big-time Blawggers?

How about it Hugh Hewitt?

Do you think you will be able to use your influence on the critics of this nomination?

You got the ball rolling on the Roberts document dump. Time to harness the sub-section of the blogosphere on this project?

If the idea has been suggested already, good! Add my voice as one saying it is a good idea.

If it is happening, I'd like to know what the questions are!


Obviously, this post was written in exasperation of the critics of Miers.

At least some critics have the courage of their convictions to call on the President to withdraw the nomination or for Miers to request to be removed from consideration.

The critics who irk me are the ones who criticize her on one hand and then on the other hand won't call for her to stand down and instead just say I'm unhappy, hurumph!

I wonder what the critics will say during the hearings?

If she gives thoughtful answers, will the critics pipe down?

Or will they continue to say her resume on Constitutional matters is too thin?

Critics (on both sides) often say that the Senators often just make speeches in these hearings (true!) and that their staffs don't feed them good questions to ask (often true). I would want to know what kinds of questions these critics want her to answer. If they really believe she is not fit for the job then they owe it to the Country and the Conservative movement to come up with the questions that will reveal her to be the lightweight they think she is!

Or do they feel the hearings are irrelevant and all that counts is the resume?

If she botches her responses in the hearings, I'd be ready to call on her to withdraw or for the Senate to vote her down from this blog.

Will the critics call for her confirmation if she comes across well?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

LA Dining: Kosher Seafood @ Fish Grill

My latest entry at LA.foodblogging is up.

Photos and brief narrative about my dining at Fish Grill can be found.

Fish Grill
7226 Beverly Blvd.
3 blocks west of La Brea
(323) 937-7162

3628 Ventura Blvd.
1/2 block east of Woodman
(818) 788-9896

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus Walks on Water

Am looking at Matthew 14:22-36 today.

Another famous story.

In summary, the disciples were on their boat late at night and the weather went bad. Jesus walked on the water over to them which frightened them even more! Peter impulsively said, let me walk out to you. Jesus said, sure. Peter walked on water too! But he began to sink after he looked around at the waves. Peter offered a three word prayer, save me, Lord! They both climbed into the boat and the wind stopped. The disciples worshipped Jesus and said you really are the son of God. Once the boat docked crowds began showing up bringing their sick to be healed.

I'm a visual type of person so I went to the web to see if there is any information on boats of that era. I came across this item about a boat found in the Sea of Galilee.

The photo on that web page showed the boat all covered up as they were trying to make sure that ancient artifact didn't fall apart. I wonder if the restoration of that boat was completed?

It would seem so as a web search came up with this tour group itinerary where it says:
Day 5 Jordan Valley - Beit She'an - Jericho
Visit Kibbutz Ginossar on the Sea of Galilee to see an excavated boat dating from the time of Jesus, then drive to Cana, site of Jesus' first miracle, and Nazareth, His boyhood home. We drive south via the Jordan Valley to Beit She'an, an extraordinary excavation of an ancient Roman city, and Jericho, the oldest known city in the world. From the Tel we can see Elisha's Fountain and the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus fasted for 40 days. Continue our drive up to Jerusalem, highlight of our tour, arriving in time for dinner and overnight.
I got to go to Israel at least once in my lifetime to walk where Jesus walked!

I clicked onto this web page with some beautiful photos of the Sea of Galilee and there is a photo of a replica boat!

En Gev first century boat model

Image source:

In the minds of many, there are two types of literature: very real stuff and fanciful stuff.

So where does this Bible story fit in?

It is rooted in very real stuff: lakes, boats, weather, people, etc. Yet, the whole walking on water stuff does sound amazing and so people wind up dismissing the whole thing.

I believe Jesus could do remarkable things. The empty tomb tells me he isn't ordinary. If Jesus could die on the Cross for my sins and rise from the dead in victory then walking on water is no biggie.

In religious writings, some of it is about ethics and how to live. Some material is about rituals. Some teachings is about why the world is the way it is. These things are often not tied to any historic moment in time. The Bible has its share of stuff like that.

But the center of Christianity is Christ... makes sense, eh? ... and He is rooted to a moment in time and walked in Israel.

When you read about the life of Jesus and you immerse yourself in the stories, you can feel the dirt under your feet (or water if you were Peter), the wood of boats in your hands and the wind at your face. That is why I love God and the Bible He preserved for us to read today. The God of the Bible is down to earth. Jesus rode on boats. Jesus hung out with fishermen. Jesus drew to himself the ordinary people.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Photos from a San Francisco Wedding

The venue: the Dutch Windmill of Golden Gate Park.

A little Japanese flavor.

Paths of color.

Lovely flowers on the field.

Groom's mom and dad.

Bride's mom escorted.

The flower girl.

Bride escorted by dad.

The bride and groom.

A little Chinese flavor.

The blogger.

Congratulations to the bride (my cousin) and groom! May you both have much happiness in the times ahead!!

Eugene Volokh on What We Think We Want in a Supreme Court Judge

In my previous post below on the Miers nomination I ask: In the abstract, what is the "best" experience base for a judge?

That question is a variant of the question: what qualities are we looking for in a judge?

Not surprisingly, Volokh offers an answer with his usual thoroughness and honesty that he might not have it all figured out.

Volokh's list:



Willingness to consider the possibility that one is wrong.

Ability to work effectively on a multi-member Court.

Ability to set aside one's personal annoyance with or hostility to particular colleagues, lawyers, or litigants, even when the annoyance or hostility is justified.

Understanding of the world and of the likely practical effects of various legal rules.

Clarity and precision of thinking, and ability to write clearly and effectively (or to edit subordinates' work well).

Creativity in thinking up (within the permissible legal boundaries) solutions that accomplish the goals that one is (properly) trying to accomplish, for instance in crafting a common-law rule, or an interpretation of a statute that's consistent with the text yet likely to accomplish the statutory goals.

Willingness to subordinate one's views to the legal commands. (I recognize that there may well be disagreement about the terms of those legal commands -- for instance, how important text or original meaning may be -- but I think most observers would agree that once a judge concludes that some legal rule is binding, the he should comply with it even if he doesn't like the result.)

Willingness to work hard.

Ability to work efficiently.

Good judgment in what to delegate to subordinates.
Its interesting to see how most of the fellow Conspirators are down on the Miers nomination. However, Volokh for the moment is laying low. He did make this post where he compares Miers background with some past Supreme Court Judges. From reading that, he appears to be keeping his up/down opinions on her in his pocket.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Talkin' 'Em Off the Ledge: Miers Nominated

It's Miers!?

My first reaction was surprise. When W picked Roberts, I saw that as a possibility as his name was on many lists though never on the top line. In comparison, Miers was mentioned rarely in lists of supreme speculations.

After hearing the news, went to talk-radio to get immediate reaction of political news junkies. Here in Southern California, that would be the Laura Ingraham show on KRLA 870AM.

The callers were unhappy. They felt there were other choices with a more clear cut history of conservative judicial thought. Laura largely agreed but was willing to wait for a little more information on Miers to come out but she was concerned and disappointed given the higher profile of some of the other nominees.

I visited a few of the obligatory conservative web pages to get their take and most were in the same mood as Laura and her listeners. The only one I found so far that was unambiguously optimistic was Hugh Hewitt who raised the point that Roberts and Miers bring significant executive branch experience to the bench.

Question for SCOTUS trivia buffs: in the history of SCOTUS nominees, how many have had that kind of background? And how did they fare as judges? I wonder!

In the abstract, what is the "best" experience base for a judge?

Do we want individuals who have devoted their whole lives to the law with most of it in the context of being judges? They know how the system works and can hit the ground running. But might they be too insulated from other experiences?

When someone who has legislative experience goes to the judicial branch, what do they carry with them? Will they carry with them a deference to legislative intent? Or will they wind up legislating from the bench?

Now, we may have two new justices with lots of experience with the inner workings of the White House as both worked in the White House Counsel's Office.

Will this mean they will have a narrower and constrained view of the judicial function and respect for the prerogatives of the other two branches? Or will they feel the need to counter the actions and over-reaching by the other branches?

Aside from the fears of the "blank slate" of Miers are the fears that she has too little experience in Supreme Court matters. Limited experience had not prevented other nominees from being confirmed.

Check out the biographies of the current Supreme Court.

Let's compare resumes of Miers with O'Connor whom she may replace if confirmed and Thomas whom many lionize in the conservative political community.

Sandra Day O'Connor's resume:
Deputy County Attorney, 1952-1953
Private practice law in various places, 1954-1960
Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, 1965-1969
Arizona State Senator, 1969-1974
Judge County Superior Court, 1975-1979
Judge Arizona Appeals Court, 1979-1981
Confirmed to SCOTUS, 1981

Clarence Thomas' resume:
Assistant Attorney General of Missouri, 1974-1977
Attorney for Monsanto, 1977-1979
Legislative Assistant for Senator Danforth, 1979-1981
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1981-1982
Chariman of US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, 1982-1990
Judge US Appeals Court DC Circuit, 1990-1991
Confirmed to SCOTUS, 1991

Harriet Miers' resume:
Attorney for private firm, 1972-2000 (became president of that firm in 1996)
President Dallas Bar Association, 1985
Dallas City Council, 1989-1991
President Texas State Bar, 1992-1993
Chair Texas Lottery Commission, 1995-2001
Assistant to the President, 2001-2003
Deputy Chief of Staff, 2003-2004
White House Council, 2004-2005
Nominated to SCOTUS, 2005

As you can see that the three resumes are thin on Constitutional Law matters with the exception of the brief time Thomas was on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The presumption I have on these kinds of high function ambitious individuals is that they are smart and even if they don't have years of legal writings on the Constitution, they would quickly catch onto what the issues are and how the process works.

The media and the Senate committee will comb through Miers' background and any writings and speeches that can be found. Obviously, if some bombshell revelation is found her nomination will be quickly withdrawn. Given how careful the vetting process is these days, it is unlikely that will be the case.

The hearings will be crucial. Since her resume is thin on Con Law matters, she will be quizzed and if she comes across as not up to the task, she will be defeated in committee. In this regard, she does face a tough hearing after Robert's masterful performance. Roberts was a walking-talking case law textbook.

If Miers seems unsure or gets confused during questioning, the Democrats who are for the moment playing nice will turn and attack. Republicans might not be willing to go to the mat for W should this nominee get into trouble. Ironically, the last time a nominee with modest experience ran into trouble was Clarence Thomas whom conservatives now hold out as the type of nominee they want. On that occasion, the Republicans in the Senate went to the mat to get him confirmed.

I would have preferred Bush 43 had gone with a more known quantity. However, I'm not on the ledge with this pick ... yet!