Wednesday, March 31, 2004

2004 Pacific Division Champions

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
  You know you're in LA when...
Last week we were in Los Angeles for the weekend (for my brother's wedding). As usual, we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic from the edge of the valley to Long Beach (what is normally a 40 minute drive took us 2.5 hours). Naturally, we tuned into the traffic only to find out that there really wasn't anything to blame for this backup.

Besides the inevitable traffic jam, we knew we were in southern California by the traffic report:

Example: "The 405 southbound is backed up beyond the 10, with stop and go traffic past LAX and onto the 105. The 5 is a mess, with the backup now affecting traffic on the eastbound 10."

The 405, the 5, the 10. After 6 years in San Diego, it took me about two years to stop referring to freeways as "THE XXX". Didn't really notice it when I was living there, but I sure notice it now.

  Out of control gas prices?
We've all heard a lot about the rising gas prices lately... while I understand that gasoline prices have a profound effect on the daily lives of people outside of their cars, one has to ask: are prices really that high?

Yesterday I paid $2.09 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas. I'm in a region where our prices regularly exceed the national average by $.25 - .50. Fifteen years ago, when I was in high school, we paid about $.95/gallon. Given inflation and the historical prices of gas, are we really paying that much more today? Especially considering the incredible increase in average salaries since that time? Just throwing that out there...

Friday, March 26, 2004
  March Madness
This month has been pretty hectic, mostly where work is concerned. Can't believe March is almost over. So much happening, but the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is turn on the computer, so blogging has been pushed off. When the computer is turned on, it's to do taxes and read email. Beyond that, it's off, and I have just lurked on other blogs, leaving my usual verbose comments.

The problem is that so much has been happening in the world. So much to say, where to begin? Oh, like there's any question...

Yassin is dead. Blown to bits, deservedly so. The outrage around the world is just pathetic. I wish we had a outrage-o-meter, kind of like the applause-o-meters they have at hockey games. When Israel takes out a terrorist, the needle usually hits the red line. When a terrorist strikes Israelis, the needle barely quivers. A bus full of families blows up and the world cries out, in unison, "Israel must shoe restraint!" The UN is silent. The founder of one of the most deadly terrorist organizations is killed, and the moral outrage is deafening. The UN condemns, condemns, condemns.

Considering the pictures and videos that come out the Palestinian areas, with masked gunmen, kids used as tools with Hamas headbands and "toy" guns, candy handouts after the death of some Jooos, etc., you'd think that people would have some insight into the mentality of that group of people. I guess not. It'll always be Israel's problem to solve, no matter what.

Naomi Ragen is back online and just sent an email to her list. She wrote something that answers to the "hornet's nest" reaction to Yassin's knock-out:

As for all the remarks on how "now-you've-made-them-mad. Now-you've- made-them-really-really- mad", please. I have always felt that our enemies will kill us as long as they can, and they'll stop when they can't. May all those who mourn the passing of Yassin soon follow in his footsteps. After all, didn't Yassin say that the day of his martyrdom would be the happiest day in his life? I wish all of his mourners many, many such happy days in their lives.


Yesterday morning on the radio I heard an advertisement for the upcoming Prince show. I've always wanted to see him live, and this tour is being billed as the "last time" (why do we always hear those two little words?) he will play his hits. So we got tickets.

Last night I was talking to a friend about the total lack of musicians I really care to see live, and mentioned that I regret not catching a Van Halen (w/Sammy Hagar and/or DLR) show while I could.


Van Halen Ends Feud with Former Singer, Sets Tour

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One of pop music's messiest feuds has come to an end with the return of vocalist Sammy Hagar (news) to rock band Van Halen after an eight-year absence, the veteran group said on Friday.

Additionally, Van Halen will return to the road this summer for the first time in nearly six years, launching a tour of indoor North American arenas in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 11.

With Prince and Madonna (news - web sites) also preparing concert tours and promising to play their golden oldies, nostalgic fans will soon have plenty of opportunities to party like it's the eighties.


Now, this is the typical reunion born of selfish motives, no doubt. Hagar's solo career was never at the level of his career with VH, and Van Halen has face-planted post-Hagar. So why not take a stab at making some money off of folks like myself who never got to see them? Whether or not I'll actually go is up in the air, but it sure is tempting...

Thursday, March 25, 2004
  One nation under God
Some people believe that the Religious Right is on a mission to curtail our freedoms. The FCC's crackdown on "indecency", following the Janet Jackson incident at the Superbowl, is blamed by many on the Religious Right. Howard Stern has been on a tiresome tirade for the past few weeks, like a paranoid baby. Why do so many believe in this mythical power of the "Religious Right"? If this were true, Judge Moore would not have been ordered to remove his Ten Commandments from his courthouse courtyard. If the Religious Right had a stranglehold on this country, as many might have you believe, the Texas sodomy case would not have been heard by the Supreme Court, much less decided the way it was.

Truth is, some people believe that our rights are being crushed by these mythical, bible-thumping henchmen of the bible-thumping President (I don't think he's a bible-thumper, but some people do.) My rights are in tact. The FCC's crackdown probably won't go much further than it has. Howard Stern is crying for ratings-- he's been saying he's going off the air for years, like every time his contract comes up for negotiation. Our checks and balances are doing well, and the majority of the US population would not stand for the things that some are so fearful of.

Then we have the Pledge of Allegiance, and the controversy over "under God" currently in the hands of the SCOTUS. I see this as an assault on the foundation of this country. The VAST majority of US citizens belong to a monotheistic religion. This country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles, and this idea is repeated in the documents of our foundation. But the worst part of this, really, is this man's use of his daughter to advance his own beliefs. He is an atheist, and I respect that. However, in a classroom of 30 students, how many are really offended by the Pledge? This an attempted smackdown on a majority by a very loud minority. You don't want your kids to say it? Teach them that they can stand by their convictions and skip those two words. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to put my kids in a Catholic school. If it's taken out of the pledge, you can bet I'll teach my kids the current version and tell them they can recite it that way. This is a free country, after all, and the separation of church and state is meant to protect the church from the state, not vice versa.

Senator Tom McClintock ran for Governor of California in our recent recall election. He was the most coherent, consistent and all-around brightest candidate in the bunch. Most conservatives were afraid that a vote for him would have been a vote for Cruz Bustamante, who we all know would have been 10x worse for this state than Davis. He wrote this article, and I got it today via his mailing list. I think he hits the nail on the head. Hard.

Why the Pledge of Allegiance Matters

A Column by Senator McClintock

There is a great principle at the heart of the movement to strike the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance – and from our national customs, our currency, and our public ceremonies. It has very little to do with atheism. It has a great deal to do with authoritarianism.

The philosophy of the American founding is unique among the nations of the world because of a bedrock principle that was given expression with words in the Declaration of Independence that are old and familiar, and yet not often pondered these days.

In the American view, there is a certain group of rights that are accorded absolutely and equally to every individual and that cannot be alienated. The existence of these rights is beyond debate – “self-evident” in the words of the Founders. And their source is supreme - “the Creator.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

What are these rights? They are rights that exist as a condition of human life itself. If an individual were alone in the world, the rights he has are those rights the Founders traced to “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In their words, “…that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The right to the fruit of our own labor, the right to express our own sentiments, the right to defend ourselves, the right to live our lives according to our own best lights – in a word, freedom..

But how do we secure these rights in a world where others seek to violate them? We form a government servient to these God-given rights – or more precisely, a government under God. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…” In the American view, the only legitimate exercise of force by one individual over another, or by a government over its people, is in the defense of these natural rights.

This concept is the foundation of American liberty. And because it defines limits to the powers of government, it is supremely offensive to the radicals of the left. They abhor the words “under God” because these words stand in the way of an all-powerful state.

The French and American revolutions were waged on precisely the same declared rights of liberty and equality. One was a ghastly failure that ended in the reign of terror; the other, a magnificent success. Why?

In the philosophy of the French Revolution, the rights of man were defined by a governmental committee and extended at the sufferance of that government. In the American view, these rights come from God, their existence is preeminent and their preservation is the principal object of government.

If the source of our fundamental rights is not God, then the source becomes man – or more precisely, a government of men. And rights that can be extended by government may also be withdrawn by government.

Words matter. Ideas matter. And symbols matter. The case now before the Supreme Court over the Pledge of Allegiance must not be devalued as a mere defense of harmless deistic references and quaint old customs. The principle at stake is central to the very foundation of the American nation and the very survival of its freedoms.