Monday, March 03, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good News Regarding The News

Via the Dish:

All three cable-news networks are losing younger viewers in droves, with Fox News losing the most. The median viewer age at Fox is 68. 68!!!! 

I think cable-news networks losing the younger viewer is very positive. These viewers are increasingly reading their news on mobile devices. Where they are reading the news still matters. But the fact that fewer people are watching the news is a positive trend.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union

What a masterful speech by Obama. His delivery, as normal, was eloquent and well-timed, but it was the content of his speech and the enthusiasm with which he delivered his fifth SOTU address that was so positive and encouraging. 

He had a wonderful defense of the ACA, pointing out the guest who recently signed up for affordable care and then a few days later had a sharp pain, which led to a surgery that would have bankrupted this particular person the week before. He pointed out that in 2014, gender discrimination, regarding the price of health insurance will end, thanks to the ACA. In Colorado, gender discrimination is already illegal, but in Wyoming, a state near and dear to my heart, but so far behind in many ways, women pay 76 to 100% more than men for health insurance. Wyoming and Arkansas lead the way in this sorry respect and in 2014 they will no longer. 

Obama hit his opponents hard on many issues and, by doing so, everyone watching tonight's address got to see the tepid reaction on the right to: equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, ending the war in Afghanistan, preventing American military intervention in Syria, making a deal with Iran to put an end to their nuclear ambitions, and to this gem, "America must move off a permanent war footing." Beautiful. 

It was an oddly energizing speech. One doesn't expect much from these formalities, but sometimes something promising breaks through. Tonight that happened. Obama was only confrontational because he listed his administration's successes, those his opponents spent so much time and energy resisting without providing thorough solutions themselves.

And yet, the Republican address is given by a woman whose party didn't seem very excited at all about paying females the .23 cents on the dollar they lose to their male counterparts solely because they are female. 

There is still a lot of work to do, but Obama did channel hope and promise tonight and those who stayed in their seats did not come off looking very good.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bridgegate Editorial

I thought this was a good editorial. Bridgegate matters. As did Benghazi and the IRS. But they are not the same thing and if there were a republican in the White House right now, and if Christie were the frontrunner for the democrats, he would be under the same amount of scrutiny. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Deja Disney

$100 to get in? This couldn’t possibly be worth it, could it? Well, we are in Orlando. Why not? It’ll be a recon mission. We will find the answer to the question. Will we ever want to take our kids to this horribly expensive and crowded “happiest” place on Earth?

As we board the ferry to cruise over to the Magic Kingdom, I’m already thinking the answer will probably be no. I feel like an immigrant fleeing Cuba, heading for the sandy shores of Florida. Getting off the ferry even tests our patience. There are people who can walk, but they’re riding in motorized wheelchairs. They are all over the place. They expect you to jump out of the way for them.

Now we are on Main Street. It’s a sea of strollers and rascals. There are odd groups of people walking around. They all have the same shirts on. As I study them throughout the night I realize they are wearing family reunion shirts. Some of the shirts have the dates of the trip on them. Another one read 4 generations, 4 parks, 1 magical Disney vacation. It appears to be a trend to have a family reunion here. I am suddenly so thankful Orlando was never a family reunion destination for my family, my wife’s family, nor will it be for our family 40 years from now.

We are at Magic Kingdom for the nighttime Christmas party. Crowds are apparently thinner during this time of year. It doesn’t feel that way, but the lines are short. Thank God! We ride on every attraction that is remotely interesting to us. We even walk through a giant tree. Decent headroom in that thing. Kate sits out two rides. The Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain coasters. On the latter, I hop in the rollercoaster cars with a mom and her three kids. It’s really awkward. I’m sitting right behind her. Everyone else is talking to each other, naturally, because they know each other. I’m just the silent, extremely huge person sitting right behind you who is thinking he should probably duck a little bit during this ride. Last time I was on these tracks I was a lot shorter.

Peter Pan’s Flight is insanely short. The coolest part for us comes as we fly over a miniature London. It’s beautiful, with little lights darting here and there, mimicking cars. Cars have never moved that fast in the real central London. But then this is Disney, everything is magical, like how the hell did they manage to attract two adults to this park so we could pay nearly $200 to stand in line for 20 minutes to ride this one minute flight?

As we exit another ride I see two adults yelling at a Disney employee. They tell her to get the manager on the phone. I hear her say, Okay, I will, because I haven’t done anything wrong here. It just makes me sad for some reason to see the adults throwing a fit. I’m sure what ever happened wasn’t that big of an issue. You’re at Disney World for crying out loud, get over it! I feel for the employee. Dealing with the American public in a customer service setting like that is poisonous. It can make you a little cynical. Can you tell I’ve been there before?

It’s a whirlwind tour of Magic Kingdom. We pretty much see everything. It’s after 11pm and we are dragging ourselves down Main Street one last time. We aimlessly wander into a few stores, don’t buy anything, and carry on toward the gates. At last, we exit and now I feel more magical than I did while I was in the kingdom. That’s not what Disney intended, I’m sure.

And we have an answer to our question. The recon mission was a success. We both don’t foresee us taking our family here. Certainly, the youngest we would take a kid to Disney World would be five-years-old. Younger than that, and you are spending $1000s on something a kid won’t remember when they are 10. But even with, say, an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, would we travel to Orlando to go to the Disney parks? Maybe not. There are many other places we would want to go with kids instead of here. Going to Kauai with two kids for a week would likely be cheaper than taking them to Disney World. Actually, without a doubt, Kauai would be cheaper and insanely more magical than any Disney park.

I guess right now, we are both people who want to take our kids on really awesome vacations, but we also want those kids to remember those vacations for much of their lives. I don’t expect either one of us to change in this regard. So, as a Disney vacation is one of the most expensive trips we could envision ourselves taking with kids, it will certainly not happen until they can grasp its significance and remember it years down the road.


Even with older kids, a less manufactured weeklong getaway would have a stronger appeal to us. For my wife, that’s because the most memorable family trips for her were to the Oregon coast, where she could explore tide pools with her dad and sisters, where they could return home every evening to a beautiful house they rented for the week and make a wicked family meal. For me, that’s because the most memorable vacations I had when I was growing up were ones of exploration, where there was no admission price, no walls, no massive crowds, just God’s good Earth laid bare in its many beautiful forms, all enticing to a boy who wants to climb, swim, get dirty, and run down a path without having to dodge fat people on rascals.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Best Newspaper Read of the Year

Since Monday, the New York Times has featured a daily article in a series called Invisible Child. The stories, written by Andrea Elliott, chronicle a year in the life of Dasani, one of thousands of homeless children living in New York City. Dasani, along with her six siblings and parents (Chanel and Supreme) occupy a 532 square foot room in one of NYC's worst homeless shelters. Yesterday, in part four, Elliott wrote about Dasani's 12th birthday party. She received no material gifts. However, her mom tried to make the day special for the little girl by presenting Dasani with a beautiful white sheet cake, which Dasani did not know was stolen from a local Pathmark. Later in the evening, a neighborhood teenager, who was flirting with Dasani's uncle, a much older man, gave Dasani a $20. The girl's joy was palpable, even through the written word.

Reading through the articles while vacationing in Orlando, Florida, made Dasani's story especially powerful. Orlando's theme parks, such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World, are teeming with kids who have no clue that children like Dasani exist. While these kids are concerned about getting in line to meet Belle at Disney's Magic Kingdom or line up to ride the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, Dasani closely follows city politics, calculating how much more money the family would have to spend on soda if Mayor Bloomberg's soda-size limiting proposal becomes law. At present, one super-size soda is shared among the entire family, but if the proposal had passed, Dasani's family would have faced a significant increase in the cost of soda for the family.

Throughout the week, the articles have become a bit of a devotional for me. If there is a better time of year to reflect on Dasani's life and the lives of the homeless throughout the country and world, I don't know of it. We are bombarded during this season to narrowly think of our own wants and "needs." Yes, we get excited to give presents, but how much of that excitement is rooted in the knowledge that we will get some gifts in return? Jesus encourages us to give with no thought of reward. He encourages us to be blind to a person's outward appearance or material possessions. He encourages us this season to think of the neediest, to reflect on our own blessings, and then to make a difference. And it is not important if the world thinks you are making a big difference or a little difference. To the recipient, the difference will always be big and that is all that is important.  

I am writing this blog to spread the story of Dasani and her family. It is dreadfully tragic and reading the articles represents a big commitment of time, but I believe they are rewarding. Even if you can't do something about it this Christmas, this Christmas will still be more meaningful if you come face to face with Dasani's struggle and remember her and others like her as you bask in the blessings of this holiday.

You can find part one of the series at this link.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Sochi Olympics Under Putin's Law

Last month's issue of Outside Magazine has an excellent article about the havoc and destruction brought to Sochi by the preparation for this February's Winter Olympics. I'm not surprised that Putin is doing whatever he wants in this supposedly public and protected corner of Russian wilderness, but to read many first-hand accounts of Putin's forces crushing various attempts by citizens to end illegal construction or bring attention to previously protected natural habitats is astonishing. One such mission by these concerned citizens is to investigate an illegal compound (named Moonglade) on or near a Unesco world heritage site. It is rumored that Putin has built one of his palaces there. At the moment, everything and everyone going to this palace is flown in by helicopter. Russia has already been warned by Unesco to stop the construction of one road, but it is reported in Outside's article that another road is under construction, this one coming in from the other side of the property.
It's embarrassing that the Olympic Games are awarded to countries (really their leaders) that are going to permanently destroy homes and natural beauty to put on a sporting event for two weeks. Sochi will never be the same and the people of the region, if they profit at all from this, are eventually going to be left poor with a nice selection of bulldozed-over nature preserves.
Thank you, Outside, for bringing to your readers a better understanding of Putin's dirty methods.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Obama...the smallest government spender

Don't know how I missed this one, but this handy little graph and article is a good way to fight back at the Thanksgiving table when your relatives start talking about how economically irresponsible Obama is and how he is ruining the country by spending more than any other president in the history of the United States. 

Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 60 Minutes Non-Retraction

I also posted this blog over at my IR blog, which exclusively focuses on international relations and related topics.
...
After 60 Minutes announced they would apologize for their Benghazi story on Sunday, I eagerly anticipated a detailed, informative apology at the start of the show. Unfortunately, my expectations weren't realistic. What I got, after sitting through 56 of 60 minutes, was Lara Logan telling me she made a mistake. It was all over in less than two minutes. Logan had previously said the same thing on the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning. Her 60 Minutes apology contained no new information for people who have been following the story.
For example, one would think it would be important to point out that Dylan Davies' book is published by Threshold, "a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster," a subsidiary of, you guessed it, CBS News. And that said book just hit the shelves around the time the 60 Minutes report aired. The Huffington Post gives more detail regarding this point:
Did "60 Minutes" find Davies on its own, or did his book add an irresistible synergistic flavor to the show's Benghazi report? Did it face any internal pressure to help push for Davies' story to get on air?
Speaking on MSNBC last week, New York Times correspondent Bill Carter speculated that "60 Minutes" leapt to embrace the book because it needed a "new angle" for its Benghazi story.
I just don't think Logan's two-minute presentation was enough. It clearly didn't address the connection between 60 Minutes and the Davies' book, nor did it go into detail about how their key witness for their year-long Benghazi investigation was totally outed as a complete liar. This is a guy that started asking Fox News for money when they attempted to interview him. Fox News turned him down after that. On top of all this, it's Benghazi, a now highly politicized scandal, which the Republicans have pounced on as an integral part of their strategy to discredit Hillary Clinton as she moves toward the inevitable--her decision to run for president in 2016.
Benghazi is still a tragedy, even if 60 Minutes had done a full, in-depth retraction. However, I don't want the journalists I occasionally rely on to give me transparent, reliable reporting, to become what they are reporting on.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Never underestimate Hollywood's ability to get a van load of good to great actors to sign on to action movies with the most ridiculous notions. This movie is just the newest example of this phenomenon, in case you forgot that top-tier actors (Morgan Freeman, for one) are not above making turds like Olympus Has Fallen.

The proper start of the movie is when an AC-130 gunship flies over DC, fends off multiple F-22s (multiple F-22s, I said) and circles around the capital's landmarks, indiscriminately laying down bullets the size of Red Bull cans. Meanwhile, the Secret Service just let a North Korean terrorist into the White House with the belief that he was a native South Korean and a member of a diplomat's security detail. The Secret Service and 60 Minutes must have the same background check team.

In addition to the terrorist inside the White House already, 30-50 North Korean terrorists have sidled up to the perimeter of the White House. On cue, one of them blows himself up and the fence leading onto the White House lawn. The terrorists swoop in and within fifteen minutes the president is hostage and, as far as I could tell, every Secret Service agent is dead, except for Gerard Butler, who plays a former agent turned US Treasury security, turned unofficial Secret Service agent when he starts running up on North Korean terrorists and putting bullets in the back of their heads.

Okay, there is no point in explaining the plot minutiae of such a movie because you already know lots of people are going to die and the film will end with an American triumph. Spoiler alert: it does. But what are all these good actors doing to waste an hour or two of your lives? Well, Morgan Freeman becomes acting president while the prez, played by Aaron Eckhart is far below the White House in a bunker. Angela Bassett, Secret Service Director, is sitting around a table with Freeman and Robert Forster, who plays a four-star general. Melissa Leo, a recent Oscar nominee for The Fighter, is in the bunker with the prez. In one particular scene, which encapsulates the over-the-top cheesiness that just oozes from action flicks like this one, Leo is dragged down a hallway to be executed, presumably, and she starts screaming the Pledge of Allegiance, channeling her inner Oscar nominee and failing, miserably.

A little less improbable than a gang of terrorists armed with semi-autos taking over the White House in 15 minutes, is that Gerard Butler single-handedly kills the entire North Korean crew, saves the president's son midway through, falls through two floors of the White House, shrugs it off, and saves the president. Also, a little less probable than a gang of terrorists armed with semi-autos taking over the White House in 15 minutes, is that there is a computer system in the White House bunker that enables the administrator (the president) to blow up every nuclear missile under US command with the click of a button. Luckily, Butler arrives at the computer terminal with 30 seconds before the US becomes a giant mass of radioactive goo. He gets the deactivation code from Freeman and supporting conference table cast and enters it with three seconds to spare.

If you are truly invested in Olympus Has Fallen at this point, you might let out a sigh of relief. If you see right through it, you are probably double-checking the length of the movie to see just how many minutes of your life you cannot get back.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Long Peace

I posted several times yesterday over at IR From Afar. The longer post is about the "long peace" we are experiencing at the moment. The long peace refers to the 68 years that have passed since the last hot war between world powers. The post is adapted from a paper I wrote last year. In the paper, we had to answer the question, do you think the so-called long peace will last? Why or why not? 

As much as I would have liked to answer yes, my gut instinct tells me the peace will eventually broken. Some scholars believe it truly is here to stay, that any conflict between great powers is going to be cold from here on out. I wish I had that much faith in humanity.

My attempt at an answer can be found here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Post about Awlaki

I just put up a long post, adapted from a paper I wrote at DU, on my other blog. I recently watched Dirty Wars, which made me think a lot about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011. So, I thought I'd share a paper I wrote about the subject.