Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sports Betting Legalized? Well, Non-Illegalized, actually.

from Jeff Darcy,  Nailed it! 

         The Supreme Court ruled that sports betting is legal.  Or to be more precise, it is not up to the Federal government to prevent states from having it if they want. 
    There are different ways to look at it.  In general I'm personally against gambling, because I think it is proven that a certain percentage of people can get addicted to it. But the issue of whether or not you or I favor sports gambling is not the same issue as who should decide the policy.
    There are a lot of activities and products that you or I may not like but others might hold the opposite value. I'm not crazy about drugs, alcohol, motorcycles without helmets, cars without seatbelts, junk food, guns, and any number of unhealthy products and behaviors.  But in a free society if a majority or even sizeable minority really want to use these things, having been apprised of the downside, I don't think it should be the role of the Federal government to pass laws that are against the will of the people.  In the case of sports betting millions of Americans play fantasy sports or have an office pool on the Super Bowl and March madness.  So, are we going to put 100 million people in jail for these transgressions?  I don't think so. 
     Moreover, in many cases, the Constitution of the United States stipulates what things are going to be done by the President, what things are done by the Legislature and what things are left for individual states to form a policy for.  On any one issue, it is possible that, say, the US Senate and House might provide a bill that agrees with yours or my opinion.  But that doesn't mean that the Senate and House should be granted  the right to regulate it for all time.    
      Many forms of sports betting are currently legal in Nevada, because the Federal government passed special laws to that effect.   Well, okay, that's nice I suppose.  But now they have something they can hold over the Nevada legislators. Perhaps some future Senate Majority might demand,  "You either vote for my issue, or I'm taking away Federal permission for gambling in Nevada."   No doubt this threat has already been used in the past, to some degree or another.   Are we okay with that?  Or is that giving too much power to the Federal government?         One of the strengths of the American government  is that it has many checks and balances that prevent any one person from getting too powerful.  In recent years, however, the trend has been to give more power to the Federal Government, and especially to the President. The party in power seems to figure, "Who needs checks and balances?  Just give the power over to the Senate and House, or better yet, to the President."   
     If you're on the political left and think that giving more peer to Congress and the President is a great idea, Senator McConnell and President Trump are glad to have your support.   
       I would probably not want to have my state pass a flurry fo laws enabling expansion of the already problematic gambling industry in Ohio.  But overall it is probably better for each state to decide its own future.  I think there has to be some form of sports betting given the fact that so many Americans participate in it. 
       So, what are the odds of Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame?  

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Reverend Daryl versus Reverend Darryl in Dayton

I don't know if I can recall a recent election in which I liked both candidates.  But I don't like the candidates for Dayton City Commission, I LOVE the candidates for Dayton City Commission. I'm just glad that I am no longer a resident of Montgomery County because it would be very hard to vote against either of them.  In the fullness of time, hopefully both Darryl Fairchild and Daryl Ward will find their way to serve in the City commission.  

Darryl Fairchild was my classmate at United Theological Seminary in Dayton (now Trotwood) in the mid-1980s.  I met so many wonderful people there and diligent scholars, including John Allen, Matt Thomas, Jeff Barkley, Margaret Mallory, just to name a few.  Darryl was one of the most thoughtful and studious young people at the Seminary.  Many of us were working professionals studying at night.   Darryl, if memory serves, was in his early 20s when he came to United.  While he was there, he had an accident which left him partially paralyzed.   Did that stop him?  No, he went on to graduate from Seminary and is now the Children's Pastor at Children's Medical Center in Dayton.  In addition, he organized the Greater Dayton Interfaith forum, and is a respected community leader and  political 

There couldn't be anyone with better character than Reverend Darryl Fairchild.  

Vanessa and Daryl Ward.  Daryl is an Attorney, Minister, Professor, Dean and one of the greatest people I have ever met.  
Now what can I say about Reverend Daryl Ward?  Reverend Ward was the Dean at United Theological Seminary when Darryl Fairchild and I were students there.  Wow!   What a small world.  What you need to know about Reverend Ward is that he was an attorney, a graduate of Georgetown University law school, but then gave up a life as a successful lawyer to attend to Seminary and enter the ministry via Colgate Rochester Divinity School. At United, he was enormously effective at increasing enrollment and initiated a mind blowing African American Studies program.   I don't know how to describe it, other than to say that was one of the greatest privileges of my life to be part of that program. 

But here's where it gets crazy.  While at the Seminary, he started a part-time ministry at Omega Baptist Church, meeting initially at Roth Middle School.  The church grew at a phenomenal rate, and moved to a Jewish Synagogue in West Dayton.  The day they moved in to the new building, they were able to pay off the mortgage, if you can believe that.  They are now 4000 strong.  The best thing I can say about Reverend Ward is that he really does what other people talk about, and for that reason I regard him as one of the greatest people I have ever met.   Namely, he has always been about building the community via education and jobs training.  Really he is not very good at complaining, but he is good at inspiring young people to apply themselves in school and achieve high goals and in the process, obtain the jobs they want to have. He's really about getting people from different backgrounds to work together and build a community. My guess is that he would be the type of community leader that would gain the confidence of the business leaders, rather than chase them away.   Among many other duties, 
Reverend Ward is on the Board of Directors of the University of Dayton.

I should also mention that another of my classmates was Vanessa Ward, who happened to be the wife of the Dean.  She is also an absolutely wonderful person, also very accomplished. 

Who to vote for?  That's a tough call, but since I don't live in Montgomery County I'm going to stay officially neutral, however I hope that ultimately both of the two Reverends will find their way to serve together. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Avengers Infinity Wars: Exciting, but Plot Sucks.

The Avengers are running away from terrible scriptwriters, but were unsucessful.  

Spoiler Alert!   Avengers Infinity Wars is not a movie, it is a trailer for the sequel, much like Star Wars 2 (Empire Strikes Back) left the bad guys pretty much in control, awaiting something great to happen in Star Wars 3.  

This movie also assumes that a complex plot is a good plot.  Doc Strange establishes that there are millions of parallel universes, plus the possibility of time travel, so whatever complicated terrible thing happens in Avengers 4, it can be undone in Avengers 5.  So I don't give a rat who they kill off in Avengers 4, and neither should you.

The action scenes are great however.  I watched this one in 3D and it is very exciting, even if I don't always know who is fighting or what side they are on.  Even here we have problems that bothered me however:

1.  When attacked by a horde of super powered aliens, it doesn't make sense to counter them by having Black Widow and Captain America wading in practicing kung fu. A machine gun is a better idea, although here it's surprising that ordinary bullets can work against these creatures. Conversely, a squadron of A-10s would definitely rid the earth of these pesky aliens. 

2.  Since the 3 Musketeers, good guys love to make wisecracks and exhibit a subtle sense of humor during battle.   However, you can't have the superheros make jokes while civilians are dying in the background. 

Honestly, my advice is to not see this movie.  Just wait for Avengers 5, and at that time read an online summary of Avengers 4 (which you will have to do anyway, given the plot is extremely complicated and difficult to follow).  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Why We Raise Our Hands in Divine Praise

  Why do we raise our hands in worship (or even better, isn't it okay for me to just sit stoically and intellectually absorb the worship service?  Do I have to "get down" like a Baptist?  Oh puh-lease.....

I was stunned by a recent experience at a Chris Tomlin concert, in which Rev Darren Whitehead presented a very clear biblically-based explanation for why we praise the way we do.  Whitehead comes from a non-demonstrative tradition but was persuaded that that is not the best way to worship.  

My mistake is in thinking that worshipers are trying to cast a spell of sorts.  I figured, that by raising their hands, they think God is going to be specially impressed and give special blessings to the good little worshipers who do this.  "Bad" worshiper who just sit there are not going to get as much of a blessing.

Well, that's not it at all.  Whitehead goes back into the scriptures to learn how the ancient Israelites worshiped.  Psalm   Not that you should do everything that ancient Israelites did, but let's start there.   The Psalms tell us several times, that worship is to be musical. 

Psalm 98.5:    "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King."

It doesn't say to sit there stoically and intellectualize.  

Psalm 145:  
"Praise God with drum and dance!  Praise God with strings and pipe!  Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals!  Let every living thing praise the Lord!"

More to the point, there are another bazillion passages that clearly indicate that the Israelites worships by raising their arms:

Psalm 134.2:  "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord."  
Psalm 63:4
"So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name."
Psalm 119:48
"And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love."
Psalm 28:2
"Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary."
Psalm 141:2
"May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering."

You see, it's not just the Baptists.  The ancients had been doing this for thousands of years.  It's not about appeasing some whim of God's.  But it is about making a decision to follow in a tradition of worship that is thousands of years old.  And, if you are at a concert like I was, it's the time to remind your self, as well as your spouse and children that you have chosen to follow in the footsteps of this religious community.  For me it was an affirmation that this was not only the path of the ancients, but also my path, and that I am a member of the community represented in the concert arena.  
All this comes straight from Darren's message.  When it sunk into my thick skull, I looked around, a little tearfully.  And I raised both of my arms and sang as loud as I could.  


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Do Democrats Love President Trump?

   Do Democrats love President Trump?
    Yes.  This thought has occurred to me more than once, but it was brought home the other day when I was talking to my Dad, who at age 92 is a staunch Democrat who loves to watch left-leaning MSNBC which day after day expresses outrage at President Trump and the various impending cataclysms that he will likely cause.  The TV is blaring all the time about the latest Trump scandal, and my Dad is all psyched to find  the latest foible that might propel the President out of office. Conflict of interest!  Lying!  Collusion! Disgrace!  Sex crimes! Racism!
    So, I mentioned to my Dad that I was seriously thinking about volunteering for Governor Kasich's 2020 Presidential campaign, and what do you suppose he said?  He was peeved with me.  "Well, you know he's rather conservative." 
    What?  You mean you're pretty much okay with sex crimes, lying, collusion, disgrace, racism and conflict of interest, so that the opportunity to replace him with a "rather conservative" person doesn't appeal to you? 
     It's not just my Dad.   I don't know how many times I've suggested to my liberal friends, "Well, you know if 19 Republican Senators are willing to vote him out, he can be impeached and replaced with Mike Pence."  Pence of course, is very far right, but one who respects the Constitutional process, and one who has been willing to take on the Republican establishment. The answer is almost always, "Oh my God!  Pence would be worse!" 
    How can he be worse?  You mean being a staunch conservative is so bad, you can tolerate President Trump's antics rather than have him be replaced by someone politically further right?  At least until now, I had never heard Mike Pence's patriotism called into account, nor his desirable to do what he believes is morally correct and honorable.  Now however, many of my friends just spew cuss words when asked to compare Pence and Trump.  Wow.  
    In fact, as an experiment I googled some verbatim phrases.  This perhaps is not very scientific, but nevertheless I think it is an indicator of what people are saying on the internet.  Here are the phrases I tried:

   "Pence would be worse than Trump." 11300 hits
   "Pence would be better than Trump." 1650 hits
   "Pence would not be worse than Trump" 741 hits
     Using  Google as a crude yardstick it appears that Donald Trump is preferred over Mike Pence by something like 7 to 1 or higher.   How can this be?

     Perhaps just as Conservatives were addicted to blaming all problems on President Obama, President Trump is beloved by the left, but in a dysfunctional way.  In fact at least one fellow blogger points out that the Trump defense takes a similar form to that used by violent spouses:  excusing one's own actual dysfunctional behavior by comparing it to some other worse but hypothetical  behavior.

One of the best predictors of future elections may be the Las Vegas oddsmakers because of the great incentives for getting it right.  They currently show Donald Trump way out in front, with 1 chance out of 3.  That sounds low, but the next highest candidate, Elizabeth Warren, is rated at about 1 in 8, and it gets worse from there. 
    One of my reasons for predicting that Trump would win the election (which I first committed to writing in early 2016, but which I had believed since earlier than that), was that he was so effective on TV with his hit show The Apprentice.  Trump understands better than anyone else how to cultivate a brand.  FDR once berated his staff on his desire for news.  I don't remember the exact quote but it was on the order of "I want headlines!  I don't care if they are good or bad headlines, just get me headlines."  Like FDR, Trump realizes the importance of media exposure, and moreover generates huge revenues for American news media companies. The news media needs Trump in order to maintain their standard of living 
     The President has realized the importance of being "Entertainer in Chief."  Like everyone else, the Democrats are thoroughly entertained and excited by the President.  I believe they are addicted to the emotional rush they get by criticizing him.  My guess is that the addiction will win out, and somehow the Democrats will work out a formula to ensure that they will keep the President in office, and also blow the 2020 election. 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Black Panther is All That

Black Panther is a stunning visual spectacle.  

  Black Panther is thrilling, beautiful, fascinating....everything that the critics have been saying.  The only question is why it took so long to make this movie.  Hollywood has been in a rut lately, seemingly fearful of Afrocentric films.  Though some progress has been made, face it, this move has turned Hollywood upside down by brilliantly shattering stereotypes. 
   If this movie had only been about the natural beauty of Africa, it would be a good movie.  The nature scenes are gorgeously shot, the colors and composition are beautiful.  In fact if you could invest in a travel agency that specializes in tours in African countries, it might be a good investment now.
    If this movie had only been about fictional tribes in Africa, it would be a good movie.  For at least two hours (far too short), you can get a feeling about what it's like being a member of King T'Challa's tribe, and how it differs from nine other tribes in the area. It's not intended to be authentic, but nevertheless you get a feeling about what it might be like in an African society.  And we are allowed to see the tribe members not as a faceless monolith, but as individuals with different personalities and individual points of views.  Hey, if you can identify with green skinned aliens in sci-fi movies, then the Wakandan society should be equally sympathetic. Rituals are cool.
    If this movie had only been about ethnically inspired fashion it would be a success. The hairstyles and costumes are fantastically colorful, beautiful and so obviously inspired by African designs.  Now please don't get carried away by the Dora Milajae, who are the all-women royal guards, with shaved heads.  They are not real, okay?   But they are strong and gorgeous and, well, we're just not in Kansas anymore.  But perhaps the most important thing is that they are far from one dimensional.  You can understand their emotions and motivations and a little about what makes them tick. General Okoye is a particularly interesting character.  In fact there could very well be a movie simply about her.  Initially it was kind of jarring, but by the end of the movie I had totally accepted the style choices for the Dora Milajae. If you liked the Amazons in Wonder Woman, you'll be just fine with the Droa Milajae.  

King T'Challa's elite all-female guards, the Dora Milajae led by General Okoye are worth getting to know. Honest.  But don't mess with them.    

  The superhero scenes are very exciting, totally up to spec with Marvel's best.  That alone could have carried the movie.      There is a diverse cast of bad guys, good guys and in-between guys.  They are all very interesting characters.   The only thing you can count on is unpredictability.
    Marvel did a fantastic job handling the ethnic diversity issue, and in fact clobbering it, at least in this reviewer's humble opinion.  Maybe someday there will be a superhero who is Korean-American.  Do you suppose? 😊

   The best thing I can say about any movie is that I've never seen anything like it before.  As for the Black Panther, I've never seen anything like it before.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Darkest Hour: Great Acting, Story Line Pathetic

   The Darkest Hour is not a documentary.  It is a historical drama, meaning that the writer and director are allowed to imagine events that might have happened, though there might not be evidence that it in fact did happen. I enjoyed it very much because of the cast, which is a five star case.  Gary Oldman is very convincing as  Winston Churchill despite being hampered by a weak script. Oldman channels the Prime Minister's powerful personality, although the script portrays him as a bumbling fool.  Like Donald Trump, Churchill lives in an alternative reality, disbelieving that the Germans have actually invaded France.  
     In reality Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at the outbreak of the war and had held several cabinet positions.  He had consistently warned of the warlike intentions of Hitler, and the need to bolster the nation's defenses.  It is inconceivable that Churchill would have been in denial of the reality of the German invasion as portrayed in the movie.  But Gary Oldman's portrayal is so outstanding that it overcomes the pathetic attempts of the scriptwriters and directors to make Churchill into an unsympathetic character.    I think Oldman might contend for an Oscar.
         Kristin Scott Thomas is outstanding as Clementine Churchill.  She is behind the scenes, but there is no doubt that she is vastly more intelligent, wise and emotionally balanced than her husband.  It is she who provides her bumbling husband with guidance while receiving no credit for having done so.  

Clementine Churchill is much more sophisticated, intelligent and wise that her blustering husband.  Crusty old Winston, on the other hand, has the IQ of a grapefruit.  He definitely married over his head.  

      In addition, Ben Mendelsohn is very convincing as King George VI. You can easily believe that you've been transported via time machine to meet the real King, and you can share his concerns and motivations.  Both Ronald Pickup, a doppelganger for Neville Chamberlain, and Stephen Dillane  are much more sympathetic and rational characters than Churchill. It is easy to believe the Appeasement policy was the more rational policy compared to Churchill's hard headedness and emotional decisions.  
    Darkest Hour attempts to portray Winston Churchill in the most unflattering light possible.  Though good at writing speeches and giving them, at his core he is an untalented, unintelligent man who becomes Prime Minister more or less by accident.  He makes snap decisions that affect the future of the world based on emotions.  Were it not for the counsel of his wife, and does not appear to be capable of much independent thought.  I asked my 15 year old daughter, who is not terribly familiar with the Prime Minister, what her opinion of him was, based on the movie.  She said, "His primary characteristic is that he is insane."  
    Well, okay, the purpose of the film's creators is to tear down the legend.  French diplomats rolling their eyes and shake their heads at how disconnected he is from reality.  The problem is that when Churchill reads the actual speeches from 1940, Gary Oldman's portrayal is so strong that it overcomes the intention of the scriptwriter to tear him down.  These speeches simply can not have been given by the tempermental madman that Oldman seems to have been tasked to portray. 
     Similarly, in the movie, Franklin Dr. Roosevelt snickers at Churchill's plea for help, citing the Neutrality Act as the reason for inaction. Roosevelt muses that it might be legal to delivering plane to the Canadian border and having them pulled over the border by horses.  Churchill doesn't take him seriously. The implication was that the US was not going to deliver aircraft purchased by the United Kingdom  (again, I asked my daughter whether she felt that the President intended to assist Churchill at all, and she thought the answer was clearly "no") But in fact they really did use overland transport of aircraft to Canda, as a way to get around legislative restrictions. Such sales had actually begun in February 1940, or BEFORE the German invasion.  In reality the Neutrality Act was significantly modified in November 1939 as a consequence of the Polish invasion. The invasion woke up--at least partially--the global community to the menace of Nazism.   
     The US had been feverishly supplying the Western powers with weapons, and in fact were starting to ship a new high octane aviation fuel (courtesy of the Houdry Catalytic Cracking process) that helped British Spitfires outfly the German Messerschmidts in the Battle of Britain two months later.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  
      Again, it's a historical drama, not a documentary.  So if in this movie the characters behave differently than the historical record shows, that's probably within the purview of the writers and directors.
     By the way, the costumes and sets are absolutely wonderful and make the movie worth seeing just for that.  You can believe that you are actually in 1940 and you are seeing the real Winston Churchill (drunken buffoon or not, Oldman's portrayal is captivating). 

    My conclusion is: yes, see this movie. If you are into the craft of movie making and you enjoy great acting performances, it is excellent. But if you are hoping for historical accuracy, you may be disappointed, as many of the events are fictional.