Aug 29 2010

The Forecast: Summer in L.A. for at least one more year.

Category: Baseball,virtueamuzikman @ 8:00 am

It’s no secret the weather in Southern California is great.  It is the reason many people come here, to vacation or to live.  Other than a few days of rain each year the weather is very constant and almost always warm and sunny.  To be a weatherman in LA has to be one really boring job.  I like to joke with my wife each year about the weather on the day of the Rose Parade in Pasadena.  There they are, all those folks surviving freezing weather in other parts of the country, tuning in to the Tournament of Roses Parade –  invariably held on a beautiful warm winter’s day.  It has to make some of them just want to pack up and go west.  I tell my wife we could ease the crowding here in LA if we had just one Rose Parade held during a huge storm…but it never works out that way.

Well in case you haven’t figured it out, there is a very simple reason why LA has enjoyed such a perpetual summer.  It has nothing to do with sun spots, El Nino or trade winds.  You see this great weather began in the year 1958, the year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and brought with them their young red-headed announcer – a man by the name of Vincent Edward Scully.  (But we all know him as Vin or Vinny)  And every year since 1958 Vin Scully has been the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But it has become so much more than that.  To baseball fans in LA, Vin Scully has become the voice of baseball and the voice of summer.  As long as I can remember Vinny has been as much a part of summer as trips to the beach and outdoor barbecues.  The same experience is shared by anyone under the age of 62, for that is how many years this sweet and gentle man has been at the microphone.  Virtually none of us has ever known another voice of the Dodgers.  (Virtually none of us can claim to be at the top of our game after 62 years either).

What an honor and a privilege it has been to share every summer with Vinnie, and believe me – when you hear his voice, it IS summer.  As a child I have vivid memories of going to see the Dodgers and being surrounded by fans with transistor radios and little gray earpieces, so they could listen to Vin while they watched the game.  In fact there were so many that you could still hear his voice even if you didn’t bring your own radio.  If you have never heard Vinnie call a baseball game I pity you.  What a master of ease and comfort, and what a genius at knowing when NOT to speak.  Some of the greatest moments in Dodger baseball are remembered as such because Vin just stopped talking and let the crowd say what needed to be said.  But when he does talk I swear it feels like we’re just like two good friends, sitting together in the bleachers.

The best news here in LA is that Vin Scully has agreed to be the voice of the Dodgers again next year.  That means for at least one more year it will be summer!  As a sports writer recently pointed out, there isn’t a player on the current Dodger roster that would rouse much regret if they were traded away this coming off-season.  But if we lose Vin, we lose summer.  And it has been such a long and glorious summer. I wish it would never end.

If you’d like to hear Vinnie and you never have, may I suggest you rent the Kevin Costner film, “For The Love Of The Game“.  Vinnie is the voice in the film doing the play-by-play for the big game.  If you’d like to get a glimpse of Vinnie out from behind the microphone keep an eye out for a replay of the television special called “Scully & Wooden For The Kids”  It is a live interview benefit done by LA Times sportswriter, T.J. Simers.  It consists of a marvelous chat with Vin and the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.   Sadly the program has only aired twice.  But the very best way to experience Vin Scully is by listening to a Dodger broadcast.  And even in a year like this one, when the Dodgers are not doing well, it’s still bearable thanks to Vin. He is simply the very best at what he does – delivering summer every year, right on time!

Jun 15 2010

The USA’s intrinsic values… sometimes caught, but rarely taught anymore


May 31 2010

Memorial Day

Category: freedom,friendship,God,liberty,love,military,society,virtueharmonicminer @ 8:30 am
I ran across this at Michelle Malkin’s site.
It is a tribute to a single soldier, but I think it stands for them all.

Apr 09 2010

Little White Truths

Category: corruption,Obama,virtueamuzikman @ 7:59 am

When your life and career are predicated on how well you consistently lie to people it is inevitable that the truth will slip out on occasion.  After all, constantly maintaining those lies requires constant vigilance.  Here are three possible recent slips of the tongue that may give pause for one to wonder if they serve to illuminates a lie:

1. As the First Lady spoke to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender delegate back in 2008 before Barack Obama was elected to office, she proved that once again the truth may be right in front of us.

When we took our trip to Africa and visited his home country in Kenya….

Is it just slightly possible the birthers have a point?  Is it slightly possible Barack O. has a reason to spend so much time and money to hide parts of his past?

2. Polls and polling data can be manipulated to provide a desired outcome.  Many polls are simply false, but wrap themselves in a garment of non-partisanship legitimacy in order to sway public opinion, not report it.  I call this a lie.  Here a recent article from The Politico describing a couple of spring special elections for congress and problems for the Democratic party.

According to sources familiar with the effort, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already assembled teams of top party operatives, including veteran pollster John Anzalone and longtime ad man Saul Shorr

So much for pollster neutrality.

3. We were told Obamacare was about providing quality health care to the uninsured.  Now that it is law we find out that maybe we were lied to about the intent of this legislation.  Commenting on issues raised by the Tea Party movement, Reid said,

They want things to be the way they used to be. They will never be the way they used to be.

Is it just possible this so-called health care bill was about much more than helping the uninsured?

Funny how an off-handed truth can slip past the lie like a small dog through a picket fence.  But if you don’t pay attention you might miss it.  That’s what the liars are counting on!

Oct 11 2009

Pity Poor Polanski

Category: character,virtueamuzikman @ 3:38 pm

The L.A. Times reports today that “Roman Polanski is depressed and in an “unsettled state of mind” as he begins his third week in a Zurich jail, his attorney told two Swiss newspapers.”

Gee that’s terrible.  I wonder if Samantha Geimer ever had any bad days after Polanski raped and sodomized her when she was thirteen.

Of course many in the film business have circled the wagons around one of their own.  The list of signatories to the petition “demanding” the release of Polanski is appalling in it’s length.  To think there are this many humans on earth who believe Polanski’s resume’ trumps his despicable actions is simply nauseating.  Perhaps all of those who signed the petition would like to send one of their young children over to meet the “great” director – alone – at Jack Nicholson’s house.  Whoopi Goldberg will be there as acting chaperone, so no parent need worry.  There will be no “rape-rape” while Whoopi is in the house.

But I do wonder if Polanski will actually be extradited…  I wonder if he will serve jail time…  I wonder if he will be sodomized while in jail…

Well, if he is, at least we know it won’t be “rape-rape”.  And if his attacker plays his cards right, a long list of celebrities may sign a petition demanding HIS release!

UPDATE: Dennis Prager has an excellent article on this same subject.

May 07 2009

Deceased Diversity Defenses

In his review of the current state of minority preferences, diversity/affirmative action agendas, merit testing — including very serious, concerted attempts to remove any kind of prejudice from the testing — and the left/right wars in hiring practices at public agencies, John Derbyshire picks as his starting point the utter inability of the New Haven Fire Department to find a way to promote firefighters without being sued.

There is nothing new here, of course. Given the history of this subject, the really surprising thing is that as late as 2003 a fire department was still giving formal examinations for promotions. The New York City Police Department was fighting lawsuits over “discriminatory” test results 30 years ago. Police, fire, and other municipal departments all over the country have been similarly affected across an entire generation.

Attempted solutions have included every kind of rigging and “race norming” of results, the dumbing-down of the tests to a point where well-nigh everyone passes (candidates then being promoted by lottery or straightforward race quotas), the hiring of expensive consultants to devise bias-free tests, and just giving up on tests altogether, as New Haven has now done.

None of it helped, though dumbing down the tests has proved fairly effective for litigation avoidance. (In 1991 the New York City Sanitation Department gave a test on which 23,078 applicants out of 24,000 got perfect scores, try spotting a race gap there!) The careful concocting of scrupulously bias-free tests is now a profitable specialty within the management-consulting field. New Haven hired the Houston firm of Jeanneret & Associates, Inc., who called in a contractor named I/O Solutions to devise firefighter tests, and the city spent over $100,000 in fees to these firms.

It did no good, of course. It never does. The New York Police Department spent ten years trying to write tests for promotion to sergeant that would pass court approval. They brought in minority representatives to help design the 1988 tests, and included video portions. It didn’t help: A quarter of the 12,000 police officers who took the test were minorities, but of the 377 test-based promotions, only 20 went to minorities.

The unhappy fact is that different ethnic groups exhibit different profiles of results on tests. Attempts to devise a test on which this does not happen have all failed, across decades of effort, criticism, and analysis.

Nobody knows why this is so; but the fact that it invariably, repeatedly, and intractably is so, makes testing hazardous, and ultimately pointless, under current employment law. Yet still employees must be selected somehow from applicant pools, and there must be some clear, fair criteria for their subsequent promotion. The state of the law now is that almost anything an organization does in this area will open it to litigation.

Ricci v. DeStefano takes place in a time of general public exhaustion over racial inequalities. We’d really rather just not think about it. Fifty years ago it all seemed cut and dried. Just strike down old unjust laws, give the minority a helping hand, give the non-minority some education about civil rights and past disgraces, and in a few years things will come right.

We coasted along under those assumptions for a generation. When it became obvious that things were not coming right in the matter of test results, scholars and jurists got to work on the problem.

Liberals, with their usual coarse stupidity, naturally assumed it was just a matter of spending more money on schools. This theory was tested to destruction in several places, most sensationally in Kansas City from 1985 to 1997. Under a judge’s order, the school district spent $2 billion over twelve years, pretty much rebuilding the school system, and the actual schools themselves, from the ground up. The new, lavish facilities included “an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal.” The experiment was a complete failure. Drop-out rates rose and test scores fell across the entire twelve years. Here are current test scores for the school that got the Olympic-sized swimming pool. (I could not find any published results for achievement in aquatic sports.)

Conservatives, thoroughly race-whipped by the liberal media elites, preferred to go along with whatever liberals said, except that they made, and still make, mild throat-clearing noises about school vouchers. It has turned out in practice, however, that the only people keen on school vouchers are the striving poor, a small (and dwindling) demographic with no political weight, and whom nobody in the media or academic elites gives a fig about. The non-striving underclass has zero interest in education; middle-class suburbanites like their schools the way they are, thanks all the same; and teachers’ unions see vouchers as threats to the public-education gravy train their members ride to well-padded retirement.

As test gaps persisted and lawsuits multiplied, the scholars retreated into metaphysics. The word “culture” was wafted around a lot. It seemed to denote a sort of phlogiston or luminiferous aether, pervading and determining everything, but via mechanisms nobody could explain. We heard about self-esteem issues, “the burden of ‘acting white,’ ” “stereotype threat,” and a whole raft of other sunbeams-from-cucumbers hypotheses. Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, two distinguished scholars in the field, produced a much-praised book about test-score gaps with a conclusion in which nothing was concluded. “Choice [of where to live] should not be a class-based privilege.” Where, in a free society, has it ever not been? How will you stop people moving, if they can afford to? “Families must help their children to the best of their ability.” Oh. “Vouchers are a matter of basic equity.” See above. “Big-city superintendents and principals operate in a bureacratic and political straitjacket.” True, no doubt; but test-score gaps are in plain sight even out in the ‘burbs. John Ogbu wrote a book about it. Six years ago.

And the test-score gaps just sat there, and sat there, and sat there, grinning back at us impudently.

At last, we just stopped thinking about the whole disagreeable business. Unfortunately, by that time a great body of law had been built on the theories and pseudo-theories of the preceding decades, and couldn’t be wished away. Hence Ricci v. DeStefano.

You can deduce our state of exhaustion from booksellers’ lists. I just spent half an hour trawling through the bibliographies and references in my own modest collection of social-science literature to come up with the following list of 50 published books, most by accredited scholars, relevant to Ricci v. DeStefano and the issues underlying the case. I offer it to the Supremes as a reading list, if they’d like to get up to speed on the necessary sociology.

Derbyshire’s article goes into a very complete recounting of the state of “diversity scholarship” (for lack of a better term).

What he demonstrates, pretty convincingly, is that anyone who has bothered to study all the attempts at “race norming” in testing, at finding ways to make tests “nondiscriminatory,” etc., can’t fail to come away from it believing that it’s essentially impossible to construct a test on which all sectors of society will do equally well, and that includes deliberately TRYING to slant the test in a direction that will be easier for minorities.

What does it mean that we keep on keeping on, pretending that there is any way to make equal outcomes for every sector of society?  Well, it means we’re blind and stupid, maybe.  It means that all cultures are not created equal, will not become equal, and will not produce people of equal ability.  It means that differences between individuals matter HUGELY more than differences between ethnic groups, of whatever description.  It means that our systems of education, certification, hiring and promotion should be “color blind,” and allow excellence to come to the top, from whatever source.  It means that we need to study what is different in the cultures and family lives of the people who succeed more often, of whatever ethnicity, and use that information to teach others how to arrange their lives for the success of their children.

There is a curious phenomena in sociology/global studies departments in universities.  They often have a program of requiring students to spend a semester living in “the inner city” or some minority community so they can get past their “whiteness” and learn how life really is in those communities.  There’s probably nothing wrong with this (absent the inevitable “white bashing”), but imagine the opposite.

What if we had a program for bringing entire minority families into the homes of “typical middle class” families of whatever race, with the stipulation that they will live, for a few months, like the host family lives?  If they came to my house, they’d have to make sure their kids did their homework before anything else.  They’d learn that the parents demand, and the kids give, respect, and that the respect flows both ways.  They’d see TWO parents, working hard to teach their children values that will help them succeed.  (This may seem unfair;  what can a single mother do about it NOW?  Answer:  teach your kids not to repeat your mistakes,  show them what raising kids in a two parent home can be like, and build the ambition in them to seek that stability for their own adult lives.)  They would learn that the parents ALWAYS know where their kids are, who they’re with, what they’re doing, and when they’re coming home.  They’d see kids who actually care what their parents opinions are about matters large and small, at least partly because the parents have respected the kids’ abilities to think and reason.  They would rarely hear a raised voice, or out-of-control expression of negative emotion, from parents or children.

They would see people living within their means, not asking the government for anything much, looking over the shoulders of the teachers and schools, going to church and participating in the church’s life, and taking it seriously at home.  They would see parents seriously discussing current events with their children, explaining issues, giving them books to read on various topics, discussing the values underlying what they see on TV and in movies, etc.  They would see parents seriously discussing the future with their children, suggesting possibilities for the kids, based on realistic appraisals of their ability and personality (not fake “esteem building” that isn’t based on anything real in the child), and they would see parents who make sure their kids have plenty of opportunities to discover things at which they can succeed.

In other words, kids and parents of the hosted family would be learning how to be middle class Americans.

Even if this could be done, if the resources and organization existed to put families together, and the minority families were willing to do it, and even if it could be shown to succeed as a method of teaching successful living strategies and child rearing, objections would be raised, woudn’t they?  Let’s see:

Michelle Obama’s advice.

And, of course, we all recall Jeremiah Wright’s ringing condemnation of “middle class values.”

But what I am advocating is exactly an embrace of “middleclassness” as way of life for people who want to BE in the middle class, with middle class options in education, career, etc.  I’m suggesting that we make “learning to be a member of the middle class,” with all that implies, a goal for our entire approach to helping people get out of poverty.

What we shouldn’t do is create a system of testing, evaluation and rewards that pretends that people have achieved things that they have not.  Yet that this is exactly what we’ve already done, and so our problem is even bigger.

I’m not a dreamer.  I know it’s unlikely that we can get large numbers of those now in poverty to take the trouble to learn how to be “middle class” in the broad sense, which is a whole set of values and orientations that are simply different from typical behavior/attitudes among the chronically poor and “disadvantaged.”  But for way too many of them, their disadvantage is being raised by a single mother (or grandmother!) who did not herself make good life decisions, and is unlikely to be able to help her children do differently.  Learning to “be middle class” would be the best thing that could happen to them all.

We won’t be able to do this effectively, as a society, until we get over the multi-cultural pieties that have made it impossible for enough people to say that one way of life is better than another.

Nov 28 2008

My Personal Thanksgiving

Category: character,virtueamuzikman @ 12:59 am

I am an Eagle Scout.  I say that with no small amount of pride for I consider it to be one of my proudest achievements.  It is the highest award given by The Boy Scouts of America and it represents a great deal of commitment and hard work.  It also means I had some great fun and amazing experiences during my years in Scouting. Thankfully, (so far) the Eagle Scout Award is still recognized as a major milestone in the life of a young man and a positive reflection of leadership and character.   I know much of my character was shaped through Scouting and I will be forever grateful for how it helped my journey to manhood. I will also always hold a debt of gratitude to the wonderful men who gave of their time so selflessly and who willingly shared of themselves to help me and other boys navigate their path to manhood.

It is only now with the passage of years I can look back with clarity and see ways in which my character was forged.  The lessons were simple but profound, sometimes learned through planned activities many times just in the course of having fun in the outdoors.  Scouting taught me self-reliance when I had to cook my own food or go hungry.  I learned perseverance each time I lugged a full backpack to the top of a mountain.  Honesty and integrity were always before me, modeled by the men who guided me and provided opportunity. Responsibility came as I assumed leadership positions and learned to make decisions that affected others. Teamwork was always a priority in challenges and obstacles that could not be overcome alone.  Resourcefulness came as I learned to survive with only what I carried on my back for days at a time.  Through activities ranging from cooking to climbing, fire starting to map reading, mountain climbing to fence building I traveled the path from boyhood to manhood in the special camaraderie that is Scouting.

Time was always taken to consider character and to learn about virtue, often through stories.  Some of the most profound moments of my boyhood took place around a campfire as I listened to tales of Indian warriors, brave soldiers, intrepid explorers, and other heroes, both real and fictional.  Also from my first recitation as a Tenderfoot Scout to this very day I have never forgotten the Scout Oath and Law – noble ideals, the cornerstone of what it means to be a Scout.

One glance at the news headlines shows our country seems to be shedding virtues like a dog’s winter coat in the spring. Our great nation seems to have lost the virtue of self-reliance – we now have bailouts and handouts.  We don’t honor honesty or integrity, we tolerate lies and corruption.  We have no real leaders, only people who will do and say whatever they must to get what they want.  There is no sense of perseverance, instead we are quick to point a finger of blame and demand “justice” at the first sign of difficulty in our lives.

As for me, I want no bailout, no handout, no benefits I have not earned, no redistribution, rebate, or refund, nothing universal and nothing guaranteed.  I just want the freedom to succeed or fail by the sweat of my brow.  I want to live a life of freedom, virtue, character and strength and I want my children to learn to do likewise. Corny? Perhaps.  But the principles of Scouting were never meant to be trendy, they were meant to build leaders.

Our country has been blessed by many men who, as boys embraced Scouting, followed the Eagle trail, and then applied the lessons learned as adults.  In fact the list is pretty impressive. I am proud and thankful to count myself among them.