Friday, December 22, 2006

Back January 2

Holidays and a road trip coming up, so I'm taking a short break from posting.

Check back January 2 for more notes.

In the meantime I'll be adding pics to my Flickr site so you can have a look throughout the brief hiatus.

Some takes coming up in the new year:

• A Series on Making Capitalism Work for the Poor

• Porno and Other Idealisms

• The Radical Religious Middle

Hope you have a great next week and a half.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Got buried in a blizzard here in Denver on Andrew’s birthday yesterday. By this morning we had about 32 inches of snow on the ground in our neighborhood. Winds were swirling from every direction and snow blowing sideways at about 30 miles an hour so you’re talking near whiteout conditions.

We went downtown yesterday to celebrate anyway. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day squall :^) Andrew's been waiting for a 'snow day' off from school since we moved here and he finally got it on his birthday.

Had a great time at grungy, one of a kind music shops and bookstores where Andrew picked out some of his own birthday presents. Lunch at a favorite hangout and then on to see a sword and sorcery flick which we missed because the theatre shut down early due to the weather. By 3 pm the whole metro area of 2 million people was basically closed including the airport.

Conditions like this create a wonderland. Brilliant icicles poised above your head. Layered snow cornices overhanging rooflines by as much as three feet. Cars slipping and sliding all over the place. Fun. Beautiful.

More blizzard pics here. And hopefully, even more pics when the sun finally comes out and we dig out from under.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Freedom

Best word I’ve seen recently on the whole Put Christ Back in Christmas and America is a Christian Nation stuff.

The Old Testament is a phone book length take on the failure of theocracy.

The New Testament is a blog length take on true religion as a counter-cultural force that challenges power, money and violence.

The old take led to the new take. Experience made all the difference. Certain kinds of Christian types who read their bibles closely think God might have had just that progression in mind from the start.

I’ve been following a new traditional media effort called On Faith which tosses out important religious and political questions and gets it going. Not bad for the corrupt conventional media :^) Worth a look.

Introducing Your Denver Thuggets

Iverson’s on his way to the Rockies. Tats and corn rows in the champagne snow.

We’re real deal contenders overnight.

Can’t double Iverson and Melo at the same time. One of these guys will now get one on ones as a matter of course. They were one and two in the league in scoring while facing double and triple teams. Might be some unusual Mile High fireworks in store. Fun.

The west over east balance of power just got even more unbalanced.

And the Thuggets are the new bad boys of the NBA.

Iverson and Melo and Kenyon Martin on the same team? George Karl in charge?

It’s 50 Cent meets PMS on the hardwood.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Inmates In Charge of the Asylum

Paul Kagan, the neo-conservative military strategist who wants to send a big new 'surge' of troops into Iraq, has apparently won over Bush. McCain is pushing for upping the troop levels too. My guess is Bush's 'new strategy' will involve more troops and more firepower, even though most of the military folks seem to doubt the long term effectiveness of that approach.

McCain is a relatively sane guy, so I won't dismiss his ideas out of hand.

As for Kagan and the neo-cons, though, why is anybody still listening to these people? They were right that the Middle East would be better off with democracy, though it's hard to imagine a more obvious insight. Beyond that original thought, they've been wrong about virtually everything else at the cost of around 150,000 lives with 30-40,000 more dying each year as this drags on.

Great article by Paul Campos on the Alice in Wonderland fact that these jokers still have influence and that none of them paid a significant price for their deadly lack of humility. I especially liked the way he describes "an incompetence so grotesque that it is as a practical matter difficult to distinguish from treason...."

Democrats are loving every minute of this. I'm starting to wonder if Bush and some of the conservatives are more than inflexible and rigid. Maybe marytdom has its fans on both sides of the war on terror.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Quien Es Mas Macho?

Havana (AP)

Cuban officials told a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers that Fidel Castro does not have cancer or a terminal illness, the head of the delegation said Sunday.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said Castro “suffers from sexual exhaustion.”

"All the officials told us that his illness is not cancer, nor is it terminal, and he will be back," Flake told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Fidel is recovering his strength, if you know what I mean. I hope I’ve got half his huevos when I’m his age,” the winking congressman added.

Castro's medical condition has been a state secret since late July. He has not been seen publicly since July 26.

Newly elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cautioned against counting out his friend and mentor. “Like myself, Fidel packs truly Bolivarian revolutionary proportions. Women and the masses love him. He doesn’t even need elections to stay in power. Que grande!”

Cuban state television has begun round the clock broadcasts of a new docu-drama dedicated to Castro entitled Quien Es Mas Macho?

Quien Es Mas Macho? producer Raul Grandemiembro explained the plot of the hit show.

“George Boosh es mas macho? No! Every time that pendejo opens his mouth another Latin American government moves to the left!”

“Fidel has been doing it to the Cuban people for fifty years. Viva Fidel!”

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Not Especially Intelligent Design

More odd stuff that might shed light on the evolution vs. intelligent design debate :^)

• Nasty Back Hair

Some men tend to grow swaths of unsightly hair on their backs. It can ruin a perfectly good view at the beach. What was God thinking?

• Toe Jam

How does it help my genes into the next generation?

• Wisdom Teeth

Why add something that’s gonna get yanked right back out?

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Mix

** Why Americans (and Brits) are about to lose the language wars even though we speak the world’s most useful tongue. The rise of decaffeinated “Globish.”

** Another sign of the impending Apocalypse

** Sounds like my Denver Nuggets may trade for Allen Iverson as soon as today. Word here in town is that the Nugs will do the deal without having to trade either Marcus Camby or Nene because the Sixers are just looking to create salary cap room. If we get AI without losing Nene you've got a starting 5 with Marcus Camby, Nene, Melo, AI and Andre Miller. You’d have arguably the best rebounding and defensive center in the league, the current number one and two scorers in the league, a top five league assist leader at the point and one of the best up and coming big men in the league. Would be the most talented team Iverson's ever played on and instant contenders. That'd shake it up in the Rockies.

** The Dems got a big scare yesterday with the brain surgery on Democratic South Dakota senator Tim Johnson. Could've lost control of the Senate if he went down permanently.Not to be paranoid or conspiratorial or anything, but could Karl Rove have been inspired by the KGB’s recent poisoning and murder of the Russian dissident in London? I’d check out the Senator’s office, staff and family for traces of Polonium-210 just to be sure.... :^)

** A Conan O’Brien sampler for those of you who don’t stay up late....

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Catching a Break

My nephew Shane caught a rare break today.

He was on trial for sexual harassment and the judge dismissed all charges.

Shane’s one of those people with a heavier load to carry than most of us.

His mom—Jan’s younger sister Julie--struggled with mental illness and drug addiction throughout Shane’s childhood and his dad was absent. Shane never quite made it in school and at 19 he already has a long arrest record.

We had a little celebration for him tonight.

The charges against him in this case were silly from the start. But trouble finds some people cuz the path is well worn.

Our son Andrew is Shane’s half-brother. Julie got pregnant with Andrew on a one night stand when she was on a cocaine jag. We have no clue who the father is and we adopted Andrew because Julie decided not to get an abortion. One of the few good decisions she’s made :^)

So Shane got one path and Andrew another.

I sometimes wonder if the biblical teaching about predestination didn’t come right out of real life family experiencies like these back in the Bronze Age.

“Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.”

Brothers on different trajectories. No matter what the 'pull up your bootstraps' types claim, some folks do just have a lot tougher path to walk.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ten Percent

According to a new CNN poll lots of Americans believe racism is still a big problem in the US.

Only about 10% of the sample identified themselves as racists, though. Seems like the problem is with everybody else. Fair enough :^)

Here’s the take from academia:

University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years, estimates up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even recognize.

"We've reached a point that racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don't recognize," Dovidio said.
He added that 21st-century racism is different from that of the past.

"Contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways," he said.

I’m trying my best to be sympathetic to the full-on racialist point of view.

But when 90% of the country says they don’t harbor racial prejudice, and when the leftist race doctors tell us that the concept of race is so impotent that it doesn’t even rise to the level of dislike, I’ve gotta wonder what all the racialist hubbub is about.

Could class be the primary prejudicial factor we’re trying to put a discerning finger on?

I lost confidence a long time ago that racism was a primary explanation for most of the unfairness in the US.

Still, you’ve gotta wonder about the honesty of all those folks who think race is no big deal except for their neighbor.

In any case, I’d love to meet the ten percent.

Gotta appreciate their honesty no matter what form it might take.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Night Owls of the World Unite

I stay up late even when I’ve gotta get up early. Messing around doing whatever late at night means more to me than a few extra hours of sleep. At midnight I’m usually in the middle of writing a post or catching up on Conan O’Brien’s shtick or reading a book. Anything but sleeping.

Even so, I’m sympathetic to ‘morning people’ (like my wife) who get up at 5 am even when they don’t have to. Researchers have shown that being a ‘morning person’--just like being a night owl--is determined at least in part by our genes.

So even though I’ve never understood the thrill of getting out of bed while it’s still dark outside, or the allure of eating your Wheaties silently with nothing constructive to do because the morning newspaper hasn’t even shown up yet, I have no hard feelings for morning people. I know they mostly can’t help it.

Of course, morning types are almost never as tolerant of night owls as we late night types tend to be toward the break-of-dawn brigade.

Night owls have to listen endlessly to moralistic proverbs like ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

We received that gem of wisdom from Benjamin Franklin who it turns out was trapped in the closet and living a lie his whole life. I’ve read some biographies of the guy and he was much more likely to party all night and sleep till noon than he was to get up and milk the cows at 4 am. What a phony. :^)

One of my early mentors told me, ‘Nothing good happens after 11 pm.”

Nothing like an open mind, eh? I was tempted to reply that “Nothing of any kind happens before 6 am” but like most night owls I’m too generous a soul to make those kinds of self-righteous judgments.

Science—as it so often does in these kinds of situations—has ridden to the rescue. Turns out night owls are not only less judgmental, we’re also more creative.

I’m sure further research will discover that night owls are also more charming and more likely to pay their bills on time.

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man conventional, dull, and devoid of surprise?” :^)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Long Beach Fire: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

You can stick this one under the X Files.

I read today about an unusually destructive inner city apartment building fire in Long Beach, CA @ the LA Times Online.

I was an LA guy for many years before moving here to Colorado and I read the Times online religiously. My family and I also lived in some inner city neighborhoods in SoCal over the years as a part of my work, so I chalked up the story as just another example of slum lords running dangerous and code illegal buildings. Free markets and capitalism at their worst.

Gotta make an important confession at this point. I was a slum lord at one time. Owned a multiple unit property in a poor neighborhood in LA. I did my best to create a good situation for my tenants but I worried a lot about a fire or something unforeseeable.

I also got to know a lot of other slum lords during those years. Let’s just say you’ve got some legit folks amongst those owners. And then you’ve got the rest :^).

A couple of hours after reading the story I checked my email.

I had two emails, both dated Saturday, December 9th.

One came from a friend and colleague at my NGO, Dave Palmer. Dave wrote about the terrible fire at his inner city apartment complex in Long Beach. He asked for prayers and support since his family now had no place to live.

Another one came from a wonderful guy, Dan Lundmark, who I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. Dan runs his own media management firm but lives in the inner city with his wife in order to do Christian ministry. I’ve been working with Dan to revise the website and media tools for my NGO. Dan wrote that his apartment complex in Long Beach had been destroyed by a terrible fire and that he and his family were now refugees looking for a place to live (Dan’s My Space page detailing the destruction).

As I read the two emails and thought back to the story in the Times, I realized that they had both lived in that same ill-fated apartment complex that went up in flames. What are the odds?

I had no idea they were neighbors. As far as I know, I don’t think they knew either. I’m guessing they’ll find out by reading this blog post :^) Or I guess I should say, were neighbors.

How crazy is it that I’d read a story about a fire in the LA Times on Sunday, then check my email and find messages from two friends and colleagues who both were made homeless by that fire, and then realize that they were neighbors who didn’t know they were neighbors?

OK, time to cue the Twilight Zone music….:^)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Mix

• My daughter Rebecca flew in today. She’s taking a year off from school at Stanford to work on an internship with Stanford Med School. Great to have her home.

• Saw the new Bond film. Can't figure out how it got a PG-13 rather than an R. I liked it. I read most of the Bond books when I was a kid and this is the closest thing to the original take I’ve seen. Bond comes away from his violent encounters thrashed, trashed and hospitalized. Survival of the fittest without a lot of idealistic cover. The more realism about violence--even in a Bond movie--the better right now.

• UCLA hoops coach Ben Howland knows what's what. The Bruins are ranked number one in the country. The program Howland built before he came to UCLA, Pittsburgh, is ranked number two.

• Bill Maher on hip hop.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lost in Oregon

Pretty moved by
the story of James Kim who died trying to rescue his family in back country Oregon.

He set out courageously to find help after a week stranded with his family in freezing temps and dwindling supplies.

But from the standpoint of folks with more experience in the wilderness, he didn’t have a strong chance to survive when he left his family to go it alone.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the back country and had some personal experience with hypothermia.

One time after coming down off Longs Peak here in Colorado I was so disoriented from mid-stage hypothermia that I couldn’t find my Jeep in the trailhead parking lot.

When your core temperature drops too low you lose it.

I stumbled around for a while and then finally ended up in a ranger’s cabin complaining that my car had been towed :^) The rangers covered me with blankets and gave me tea and coffee with big sugar until I warmed up and got enough glucose to get a grip. Turned out my Jeep was sitting in the middle of the parking lot.

Kim was wearing cotton clothing which absorbs moisture and gives no protection against the cold when wet. Instead of staying on the road he tried to bushwhack through extreme terrain. Doesn’t look like he attempted to build shelter for himself. Bad situation and poor choices. I'd guess halfway through his trek he was losing touch.

Yet in spite of a lack of wilderness survival training he made it ten miles through remote terrain before he succumbed. Remarkable. Love for your family can give you strength you didn't know you had.

Unfortunately, in the wilderness love isn't enough. Every time I head out into the back country alone I remind myself of the old climbers adage: the mountains don't care.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Report: Spanking "The Decider"

The Iraq Study Group report takes Bush and his gang to the woodshed.

Drop your drawers fellas. Daddy’s got the oak switch and he’s ready to tan some hides!

The ISG repudiates the neo-cons and Bush’s diplomatic and military policy in the Middle East. From the excerpts and summaries, looks like they systematically demonstrate the kind of unrealistic thinking and incompetence that produced the really nasty scenario in Iraq.

Surprise, surprise. :^)

The folks on the panel aren’t exactly Daily Kos or Mother Jones style radicals. Not when guys like Ed Meese and Alan Simpson are doin’ the spankin’. Yet they ended up describing the situation in Iraq in almost the same terms as the most strident opponents of the war have been doing for a few years.

I know the kinds of folks who read P&P will look at the report excerpts and summaries, so I won’t go into details on their description of a war that the report says could cost the US 2 trillion dollars.

I was struck by two items, though, that I thought sort of summarized the whole Iraq fiasco and the Bush presidency in general:

• Only 6 people in the 1000 person US Embassy in Baghdad can speak Arabic fluently

• The ISG recounted how the military counted 93 acts of violence on a particular day in July. The group re-examined the data and found that 1100 acts of violence had actually been committed that day.

They summarized Bush’s approach by dryly noting that “Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes discrepancy with policy goals.”

Two quick summary comments:

• Not sure how you can look at a report like this and still think Condi Rice has been a competent public servant as NSA and Secretary of State.

• In some polls, President Bush is still pulling down popularity ratings as high as 39%. My only question is, “who are these people?” Can’t be the Religious Right cuz only folks smoking substances could approve of the President at this juncture :^) So the mystery remains....

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Religious Freedom and Islam

Saw this short but fascinating article
on the Pope’s recent visit to Turkey. Benedict spent a lot of his time there promoting religious freedom in Turkey and throughout the Islamic world.

Clearly, the rights of Christians and other religious groups are severely limited in most of the Muslim world, so the issue couldn’t be more current.

As a result, lots of folks in the west are beginning to demand ‘reciprocity’ in religious freedom: basically, because Muslims are free to pursue their faith in the west, they argue, Christians and other religious groups should be free to pursue their faith without repression or harassment in the Muslim world.

That raises at least two questions for me:

1. Who should bring that message to the Muslim world?
2. Can Islam remain Islam and allow western style religious freedom?

It’s not clear to me that Popes or preachers or western politicians can carry that message successfully. Too much negative history and distrust for that. In a lot of the Islamic world I’ve experienced, true religious freedom would be seen as a way for Christians from the west to subvert cultures and regimes by manipulating a kind of ‘fifth column’ local Christian community. And in parts of the Islamic world that are less paranoid, the leadership simply doesn’t want to deal with the religious conflict and social upheaval that might develop if Christian groups—or other religious groups—grew strong and more influential.

The article suggests that Muslims living in the west may be the best folks to carry the message of religious freedom to the Islamic world. That’s a pretty fascinating idea. Wonder what would happen if Muslims in the west created think tanks and foundations aimed at influencing Islamic governments toward greater religious freedom? Certainly worth a try.

But even with efforts like that, I wonder how much to expect. I’m not trying to be a complete pessimist :^), but it seems to me that theocracy and a religious monopoly are intrinsic to authentic Islam in a way they are not, for example, to Christian faith and practice. Muslims may live under a secular government but if they take their Islam seriously they must always hope for a religiously dominated government. And while Islamic governments in the past famously made a place for ‘People of the Book’ (Christians and Jews), in fact those minority religious groups were treated as second class citizens and oppressed by any modern standard.

That all makes me wonder if Islam has to be thoroughly reinterpreted and/or politically restricted (as it is in Turkey) if we’re ever going to see real religious freedom in much of the world.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


"Efficiency and Value After Death"

The Afterlife (AP)

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman challenged the ‘communalist’ and ‘irrational’ process of salvation in his first press conference from The Afterlife.

Many observers believe Professor Friedman was the most influential economist of the last 50 years. He was a great champion of individual freedom and free markets and his thinking helped inspire the rapid expanse of economic globalization.

Friedman described his transition from this world to the next.

“It was pretty much what you'd expect.”

“I hovered above my own dying, economically unproductive carcass for a while in the upper right hand corner of the hospital room and then gathered myself for the heroic push towards upward spiritual mobility.”

“After that I moved into an inefficient, poorly designed spiritual tunnel most likely built by pork barrel political funding and socialistic unions.”

“In spite of unneccesary delays and the siren song of sloth and irresponsibility I pulled myself up by my bootstraps toward the bright white light at the end of the tunnel."

“Following all that morally productive effort I found myself in a large entrance hall of heaven that looked depressingly like the Department of Motor Vehicles."

“I was forced to take a number, sit down on a worn out couch, and read a tattered, two year old copy of Readers Digest while I waited hours for my turn.”

“Eventually I got an interview with an insolent guy on the public dime who should have been working the counter at Burger King. He was using a ten year old computer, for Christ's sake. Hard to make yourself understood in that kind of situation. I eventually got to talk to a supervisor who got me through into the heavenly places. Thank God.”

"I'll be speaking to the authorities here about the whole thing. I think it's time we privatized the transition into the Great Beyond," said the noted economist.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bad Translations

English is a tough language to learn, so I’m sympathetic to the often misguided attempts foreigners make to translate signs and movie and tv captions from their own language into English.

For some reason, the transition from Chinese to English seems to be the toughest of all. I’ve seen a lot of really funny translations in China, but my favorite was a memorial plaque at a Roman Catholic church in Beijing to Matthew Ricci, a real deal Jesuit dude during the European imperial era who even the Chinese celebrate.

After a long and flowery introduction, the bronze plaque stated that all Chinese Christians owed a debt of gratitude to Ricci for “hardly working to propagate the gospel.”

I think the term they were looking for was ‘hardily’ :^)

Ran across these badly translated English captions from some Hong Kong movie industry flicks. Made me laugh cuz I’ve seen so many signs and captions just like this in China and around the world. We may be in the midst of a shrinking globe but I think we've still got a ways to go....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

UCLA Shwack


Didn't see that one coming. Especially the final score. Nine points for SC and two of 'em on a safety?

I enjoyed it as a lifelong UCLA fan. We've been smacked every which way but loose for a lot of years. Maybe the program is on the shwing. If Cal can do it UCLA can.

As an LA guy and a PAC 10 fan, though, I'm disappointed. I would have loved to see SC in the BCS title game.

Nothing flukey.

UCLA was better.

This particular SC team just never seemed to have the fire on a regular basis. They only seemed to play well when they were behind and then for a few key games after the Oregon St. loss woke em up. They looked today like they did for the month before Oregon St.--basically, sleep walking through games. UCLA had the clear emotional edge.

Gotta go with a Michigan/Ohio St. rematch. Still, you've gotta feel for Ohio St. If the BCS system does put Michigan in the BCS game OSU will have to beat Michigan twice in one season to win the national title. Something not quite right about that.

For real deal SC fans, though, you've got a silver lining. SC will return almost everybody next year. I'd guess they'll be more motivated. Could be scary.

60 Is The New 40?

This time of year I always pick up a copy of one of the national college hoops previews and read it cover to cover.

Most of those guides are crammed with the kinds of obscure trivia that only folks with a full-on basketball jones would appreciate. In order to jam in as much entertaining and useless trivia as possible the print is tiny and the paragraphs are packed in tight.

This year, for the first time, I struggled to read the fine print. Actually, I struggled to read the normal print. Ah, let’s be honest and say I struggled to read anything but the pictures at anything less than arm’s length :^)

They say that 50 is the new 40.

I guess better nutrition, health care and exercise made my gen the first to delay the customary physical nosedive of middle age.

Not sure what role better nutrition played in my case unless you consider Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms to be health foods. Of course, nutritionists claim that the more colorful the food the better it is for you, so maybe I ate better than I thought.

In spite of it all my generational advantages, middle age is finally catching up.

The ghost of my greatest gen Dad would haunt me and taunt me playfully if I ever considered Grecian formula. What would John Wayne do? So I’m a man without a color.

I’ve always thought that you can’t take joint cartilage with you and I’ve had a great time abusing it over the years, so I’m probably getting what I deserve. But man, when I get up in the morning I can usually tell you exactly where most of my joints are located. In my worst moments I can see where all this is going. Little electric cart and Clapper device, here I come....

The memory is starting to go too. Two weeks ago I got behind the wheel of my Jeep and drove about 6 blocks away before I realized that I had no idea why I was driving in the first place. Took me about ten seconds to recover the original errand out of the databanks. Yikes. If you see my picture on the back of a milk carton you’ll know what happened :^)

Maybe I’m just getting spooked with 50 on the horizon.

When I was turning 40 I thought the “50 is the new 40” slogan was cool and prophetic.

Now that I’m pushing 50 I’m looking for a second opinion.

Anyone for “60 is the new 40?” :^)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Most Extreme Missionaries

OK, last post of 2006 at the expense of Mormons or other self-respecting religious cults. No guarantees about 2007, though.
During this past week at P&P I've been resolving my issues about Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on my damn door before 9 am on weekends wielding the friggin' Watchtower. :^)

This one’s for all my friends trying to do some extreme good in the hood.

Really funny Ozy named John Safran did the vid. Got onto him after watching his Borat-like guerilla satire on door to door 'atheist missionaries' going out on their bikes in twos trying to convert the good folk of Salt Lake City to Darwin and evolution. I guess turnabout's fair play....