Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Anderson Cooper covers Katrina two years later -- Keeping them Honest


Anderson Cooper’s 360 program on CNN had a one hour segment, played several times, called “Katrina: Two Years Later: Keeping them Honest.”

There was a lot of attention to the volunteer efforts in New Orleans by Americorps and Habitat for Humanity. Cooper interviewed a young man from Silver Spring, MD (about 1000 miles away) in charge of a group of Americorps volunteers with considerable esprit de corps. Habitat for Humanity has rebuilt only about 70 homes in New Orleans itself (128 more are under construction), although 49000 volunteers have worked. Habitat blames lack of attention to sewage, power and other infrastructure. CNN pushed Habitat International for its accounting, and much of the money went to other areas. Many residents will have to wait at least another year for homes to be built by HH.

There would always be a question about the commitment to rebuild areas below sea level, as noted in the previous entry. Could some homes be relocated above sea level, even in adjoining parishes or wards? Couldn’t manufactured housing be a much more efficient way to replace housing than volunteer labor? As noted, some volunteers have not been allowed inside flooded homes because of mold, but there would not be a problem with working on new houses.

The show also presented the issue of the City’s condemning homes without notifying residents properly.

Cooper replayed some of the horrifying footage of exactly two years ago (the levees started breaking or getting overtopped two years ago today), including rowing in the Ninth Ward, and showing the area today.

The loss of professionals, of hospitals, and extreme problems with violent crime were also presented.

There was also coverage of the destruction in Waveland, MS.

I visited New Orleans and the Bay Saint Louis, MS area in February 2006.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

CNBC: Against the Tide: The Battle for New Orleans (also 60 Min)


Tonight (Sunday Aug. 26) CNBC featured a program “Against the Tide: The Battle for New Orleans” that would cover the controversies over the slow recovery in New Orleans. The overriding concept is that the administration really does not believe that below-sea-level areas (sinking more) should be resettled. Otherwise, the report says, President Bush could have jawboned Fortune 500 business executives into setting up an enormous reconstruction fund. Without that kind of commitment, companies and insurers will not be comfortable taking the initiative to rebuild. Two thirds of former residents have returned. But only 7% of the lower Ninth Ward residents have returned.

The enormous problems in rebuilding the levees to where they could take a Category 4 or 5 were covered. The “weakest link” problem was demonstrated by a professor. It was not the hurricane itself that destroyed New Orleans, but the levee failures in the hours right after the hurricane left.

A project called The Road Home was supposed to help 120000 homeowners, but the need is for 180000 homeowners. In the Ninth Ward and other lowest elevations, rebuilding has been spotty. Sometimes rebuilding money has been available, but not the ability to build on stilts.

Habitat for Humanity did help rebuild a Musicians Village. But without more commitment, volunteers are wondering if it is worth it to go down and work, when they are not even allowed to enter some homes because of mold.

Only Shell Oil (of all major companies) seems to be committed to New Orleans, and Shell’s helpfulness to its employees was covered. The rebuilding of the Superdome, as well as the fate of the Saints football team, was discussed.

The willingness to commit to rebuilding is a balance of emotional and rational factors. Couldn’t it be cheaper to provide premanufactured housing on higher ground? But the unwillingness to insure in hurricane-prone areas (especially when overbuilt or sinking) parallels other risks that may occur in a post 9/11 world with other issues, but that may not have occurred yet in practice. (Brush fires and earthquakes in other parts of the country (even the lower Midwest for earthquakes) are obvious issues; even cyberspace has the potential to pose tremendous issues). Other remote possibilities include tsunamis (one scenario warns that one could spread from the Azores to the East Coast were there to be a landslide).

Check the story (Outlook, The Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2007, p B1) by Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, “Reckless Abandonment: It’s Been Two Years: Is Washington Letting New Orleans Die on the Vine? Link:

Also, tonight, 60 Minutes had a harrowing story of a New Orleans physician wrongfully accused of euthanasia in the wake of the Hurricane at the ruined hospital; it followed with a story about Iraqis who quit working for American military intelligence because their families are threatened, in a world where blood loyalty is mandatory. Negroponte’s
one laptop per child, covered on this blog May 21, was updated. Link.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

ABC 20:20 John Stossel on charitable giving and volunteerism


Last night, Friday Aug. 24, John Stossel (and Gena Binkley) hosted an ABC 20/20 show “Cheap in America” about giving and volunteerism. (“Cheap? Or Charitable?” The US is, relatively speaking, 20th in foreign aid as a government, but privately some Americans are much more generous. The poor and the wealthy may be more generous than the middle class, but Americans are very generous through their own organizations, especially churches.

Stossel pointed out that private charities sometimes do a much better job with public spaces than government. Stossel himself heads a foundation to beautify Central Park in New York City, which has become quite a showplace in the past ten years, compared to how it was in the 70s. The effectiveness of private giving instead of government has long been noted by libertarians. Here is the link.

Stossel also presented “rich kids” like Fabian Basabe, who live the good life, but many of them discover the value for work for its own sake, of work as self-expression or a mission. Blogs, after all, take work.

His report ventured into volunteer labor. One charity that helps men with drug rehabilitation employs them cleaning sidewalks in New York City, and they do the jobs with gusto, in blue uniforms. Remember “The Street News”? http://www.streetnewsservice.org/

He also talked about volunteer labor. There was a study that showed enormous medical and psychological benefits from volunteering. There are questions, however. Many salaried jobs and careers demand so much unpaid overtime that there is no time for volunteering. Today, there are increasing demands to work with kids as mentors and tutors. For older gay men, this presents a problem, as society, after Stonewall, quasi-forced us into urban exile for a few decades. Now many people (because of stereotypes and old prejudices -- many of them consequences of religion or of unequal treatment by government laws) don’t want us around kids, but say they desperately need (our) help educating and tutoring their kids. And I (in this day of Internet openness) for one am unwilling to work or volunteer where I think 40% or so of parents don’t want me around.

Stossel presented some teens working on home construction (it wasn't Habitat for Humanity but another charity), saying that "volunteer" work helped their academic concentration and grades despite the time it takes. He also said that "volunteering" was a misnomer here, because the particular school system (I think it was in Maryland) required community service as a prerequisite to graduation. This fits in to the "everyone serves" and mandatory national service debate (I think Stossel, a centrist libertarian, would oppose the "mandatory").

And volunteerism needs to be thought through. People have gone down to New Orleans to help rebuild homes and (especially if under 18) found themselves not allowed in the homes by health regulations because of mold.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CNN: Chistiane Amanpour's God's Warriors


CNN's Christiane Amanpour tonight hosted the first of three two-hour documentaries (Aug. 21 through Aug. 23, 2007) on "God's Warriors" -- (link) those who want to impose their religious world view on everyone in their region, and let religion govern secular law.

Tues. Aug. 21


Tonight's segment was about Jewish warriors. The show covered the history of Israel since 1948, with particular emphasis on the high points like the land grab of the 1967 war, then the Yom Kippur war in 1973, the Begin-Sadat conference in 1978 (Jimmy Carter hosted it at Camp David, and it was very strenuous as I recall), the more recent agreement at the beginning of the Clinton administration in 1993, the breakdown of 1999, the second fatwa, and the battle between Jewish settlers and the Israeli government in 2003.

One of the most striking parts of the documentary concerns the Temple Mount, where Jews may not worship in the 35 acres on the summit. Any conflict there takes on tremendous importance.

The other striking part was the controversy when the Israeli government, in enforcing agreements, forces settlers in Palestinian territories to give up their home and cede the land back. But of course Israel has taken land from Palestinians by force, a development that gives them a sense of personal shame and explains much of what goes on.

People in this part of the world live for the religious goals handed down to them by their families and backgrounds. They do not accept the tenets of individualism more common in the West.

Wed. Aug 22 -- Muslims

This report was livelier and more dramatic than the first one. The film did not spend a lot of time on history (such as Muhammad himself when Islam was born). It focused on the mechanisms of radical Islam, starting with a Brit who had been radicalized as a teen and then dropped out; it ended with an American with a similar experience, who turned against radical Islam when going to NYU Law School and helped the FBI. A young woman in the United States decides to practice Islam and follows the rules and headscarf. A significant part of the film dealt with Shiite Islam in Iran and showed snippets of Iranian drama and dance, where men beat their chests. Visually, much of the Islamic world is very colorful. A female member of the Iranian parliament is interviewed, and she rationalizes her feeling that women are well off with the restrictions on them to allow the psychological needs of men (in their social system) to be met.

At the end Amanpour reiterates her thesis that much of the Muslim world feels that the modern world tramples on its belief system. However, many of the "wrongs" have a specific historical context.

Thurs. Aug. 23 -- fundamentalist Christians

The third report, on Christian warriors, was the closest to home. She starts with Jerry Falwell at Liberty University in Lynchburg VA, interviewing him a week before he died. Then she interviews CNN's legal reporter Jeffrey Toobin, who warns that if a Republican wins in 2008 and replaces two more Supreme Court justices with cultural conservatives, we could see Roe v. Wade overturned and prayer in public schools. (I wondered about Lawrence v. Texas and even COPA). She moves on. Early, one pastor made the interesting point that hate crimes laws could make it illegal to cite Biblical passages that purport to condemn homosexuality. She covered Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd, whose congregation flipped as he interpreted conservative social values in an unusual way. Richard Cizik spoke that the Bible really does demand that we become stewards of the planet and protect the environment. However, his detractors claim that he is appealing to logic and science and not "the Bible." He says that evangelicalism is a scriptural term, not economic or political. She shows a Virginia family homeschooling its five children, and protecting them for ideas or subject matter they are not ready for. The family makes a moral point of saying that it wants even more children, apparently just for the sake of transmitting life. Finally, she covers Ron Luce and his group "Battle Cry" which stages huge rallies of Christian teens in San Francisco, confronting the liberal population. Luce says that we have to get away from a culture when anything is OK. He talks about it in religious terms, but the practical reason is that the culture makes it harder for less competitive people to function in marriage.

I'm still left with the impression that many people sell out logical thinking and rationality in order to experience the emotion of faith. After all, being "born again" is to surrender and change into someone else. It seems that many people experience religion as a repudiation that one individual should know too much, perhaps because knowledge seems to keep people away not so much from God but from feeling that they need to take care of each other. I don't think that I agree with that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

CNN previews Amanpour's "God's Warriors" on LKL and with Roland Martin


Tonight CNN had its prequel to Christiane Amanpour’s series “God’s Warriors” that airs Tues Wed Thurs Aug 21-23 two hours each night, 9 PM EDT. You could call the whole presentation “Is America that Bad?”

Tonight Larry King Live interviewed Amanpour, whose central thought is that fundamentalists of all three major Abrahamaic faiths want their religious moral principles to become accepted in the seat of power and affect how all people must live. King presented Maher Hathout (Muslim), Marvin Hier (Jewish) and John MacArthur (Evangelical Christian) to discuss Amanpour’s thesis.

One hour earlier, Roland Martin had hosted a one hour preview “God, Sex & Greed” with several sets of brief interviews. Thomas Sykes, a hedge fund investor, reiterated the Michael Douglas line from the 1987 movie “Wall Street” that “greed is good.” But Sykes understand greed is something that drives someone to produce real wealth, not just manipulate the system to skim profits off the top.

Moderate “feminist” Muslim author Irshad Manji was there, as well as Rabbi Shmuley Boteash. The rabbi focused on the idea of religious morality as steering someone toward intimacy, vulnerability and emotional connection in marriage, leading to responsiveness to other people, first through the family and then the larger community. It’s that connectedness that the hyper-individualism of modern American society misses, he thinks.

Martin did present a brief report on Liberty University Law School (associated with Jerry Falwell) and interviewed law school professor Matthew Staver. He also presented Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The panelists on LKL agreed that the preoccupation with abortion and homosexuality of fundamentalism misses the entire point of faith. The need to give marriage a monopoly on sexuality seems to have psychological as well as religious roots, as a way of socializing as many people as possible into the family (and the religious structure) in order to “take care of everyone.” In certain communities, like the Mormon Church, this kind of operation “appears” to work. But what about freedom and pluralism?

Friday, August 17, 2007

ABC 20-20: Urban Legends(?); Disney: High School Musical 2


Tonight ABC 20-20 had a show "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity" and it covered a few interesting myths (and maybe urban legends). The most interesting to me was that only children are spoiled. There are reports that this is the case in China with the one child per family policy and the "little emperors." But the experts debunked the myth. Some only kids were interviewed. Only children do seem to perform better on test scores. Moralists like to see them forced to share and compete like normal children.

Another myth was about cats landing on their feet. Well, they do, and a cat has survived a 42 story fall in New York. Because their bodies are like "universal joints" they relax and get into position as they fall. Dogs don't do as well.

Dogs can apparently detect cancer in humans by smell, and based on nursing home reports it is likely that cats can detect impending death too.

The show also covered the inadequacy of some home burglar alarm systems, especially when homeowners don't post enough motion detectors.

The Disney Channel aired the long awaited High School Musical 2 tonight, directed by Kenny Ortega (the "Man of the Week" on ABC World News Tonight today on Aug 17; ABC actually worried about conflict of interest in making the designation). The story was stronger, with a lot about moral values, when to focus on oneself and one's plans and when to focus on others and the group. Zac Efron (Cameron Bale on Summerland) is said to be one of America's wealthiest teens (soon to be 20 -- perhaps, like Shia La Beouf, he'll have a 21st birthday party on Jay Leno with grown-up things to do), in the company of Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint in Britain. He was a good student in high school, and it seems that kids who perform publicly at anything (in music or drama) develop more rapidly. But I wondered why the film was shown full screen (4:3) and I still think the HSM films should have been theatrical releases from Walt Disney Pictures / Buena Vista in full anamorphic 2.35: 1. The colors and New Mexico scenery were spectacular.

Will Zac get to host Saturday Night Live (as did Shia)?

Sunday Aug 19:

CBS 60 Minutes update on global warming with Scott Pelley; rebroadcast from April 1, 2007, updated Aug. 14. Patagonia and Antarctica were shown, with the depletion of penguins because krill disappear with the ice. Link here
. CNN has depicted the intensification of tropical storm Erin over land (Oklahoma) as unprecedented and evidence of global warming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Days has fun with heterosexual marriage: men have to support other men's children


Well, NBC-Corday's Days or our Lives is determined to make as much fun of the way heterosexuals destroy the institution of marriage as possible. (Obviously it doesn't take gay marriage to "define marriage out of existence".)

Today, Tuesday Aug. 14, 2007, an African American woman "China Lee" approached Nickie Fallon in a Salem (Ohio??) restaurant as he was with Chelsea, and confronted him with a video of his "marriage" to China in Las Vegas while he was stunned by the concussion from the "accident" at Sami's apartment. She showed the "I do" with the LV Justice of the Peace, and blackmailed him for $25000 to back out of the marriage, otherwise she would sue for spousal support and support of his two step-children. Now I supposed that the video would be posted on YouTube and easily found by search engines, including Nick's future employers (I think that the ISA should hire him to hack and bust Stefano).

I wonder if these scams really happen in Las Vegas. All states have family codes requiring spousal support and child support. But presumably Nickie could go after the original father for child support. If he couldn't find the deadbeat dad, would he really be responsible? Someone could comment on this.

Now, back in the 1970s and 1980s conservative author George Gilder ("Sexual Suicide"; "Men and Marriage") had argued that women will naturally try to find men to support their children, other men if their efforts to tame men into stable marriages fail. Now Nickie Fallon Carraway has been blackmailed three times now (Willow, who was pregnant by Shawn but needed to find a "man"; Kate (Katrina) who makes a career out of switching embryos; and now China).

Nickie, despite losing the lab job over the hairbrush, had won $50000 in Vegas but has already given it away to Chelsea covertly through Katrina. (I don't know how he can afford to unless the ISA has hired hum secretly to hack.) China wants the money that already went to Chelsea. How will he explain this?

But the idea that men can be cajoled into supporting other people's children (as an extension of "family values") isn't so new. In fact, if Nick hadn't come clean, Lucas would think he was going to support EJ's kids.

On Thursday, Aug. 16 the ante was upped. China has camped in Nick's Las Vegas room and, in front of Chelsea, has her two little boys embrace Nick as his "dad." The race card is played, and the scene is rather offensive -- to use kids that way, in a scam to entrap men who have not fathered children into support. But the offensiveness is perhaps necessary to make a strong social and political point. It continued on Fri Aug 17 as a security guard returns China's kids to "Daddy" Nick in the hotel room. In the same episode, Sami got to rub and "save" Lucas's "extremities."

The theme of involuntary family responsibility has occurred before. TheWB "Summerland" show has a single fashion designer inheriting her sister's three kids after an accident. The movie "Raising Helen" had a similar premise.

Another way that a man can become responsible indirectly for someone else's children is by letting a mortgage be assumed without qualification.

I can imagine how filial responsibility laws could be worked into a soap opera plot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

NBC Today Show on Reputation Defense


On Sunday August 12, 2007 the NBC Today show had a brief presentation of the issue of online “reputation defense.” Ben Popken, (link here) ) from consumerist.com, appeared and criticized Reputation Defender and similar companies as compromising free speech. Sometimes webmasters have been asked to remove references to people’s names that had been printed in association with negative events in regular media and fact-checked in a regular way by the media. The theory seems to be that bloggers are “amplifying” the dangers to reputation to others because of the free entry into blogging, beyond what would have happened in the days that there was only print and television.

The broadcast also gave some tips. Major search engines offer “/alerts” that will send anyone an email whenever his name is indexed in a new search engine reference on the Internet. The broadcast suggested that persons be wary of things written about others with the same name as them. Many people have the same names (even same legal names with middle initial or muddle name) so it is easy for a “background checker” to mix up names. The risk is reduced or eliminated if bloggers and web authors document every reference to someone's name with a specific source in the regular media, one that could be fact-checked (by a background investigator) to verify identity.

As I have noted, it’s important for the Human Resources world and for colleges and grad schools to sit down and develop “best practices” if they feel that they need to gumshoe about applicants or employees on the Internet. Obviously much of what they find is wrong or can be about the wrong person, and there is a possibility of jobs being lost because of information about another person (but note the fact-checking step above). The ethics of this as an employment or admissions practice should be considered carefully. It’s rather shocking to me that any reputable employers would fall for this. Some industries and employers and some positions are much more sensitive to public or customer perception of individual employees than others; bloggers who work in areas not requiring contact with the public could affect the careers of people who do work in sensitive areas.

The broadcast also suggested that one can improve one’s reputation by creating a simple profile about oneself in one’s legal name and putting the resume or information that he or she wants seen. Most search engines will display this first. Many employers or others would then get the “right” and desire sartorial impression.

Companies have set themselves up to write and manage online profiles for professionals. Some employers may be starting to expect executives, managers and visible employees or agents to use these services.

It would have been desirable to have some members of the "reputation defense" industry on the program to comment.

This issue could be particularly serious for members of the Armed Forces because of “don’t ask don’t tell.” The effect could spill over into other sensitive areas like teaching.

Earlier postings on this problem were made at this blog on Nov. 30, 2006 and March 11, 2007, and especially March 7.

I do report facts from published and fact-checked stories. I do use discretion in reporting the names of people suspected of wrongdoing but not convicted of crimes. Sometimes the amount of material on a controversial individual will already be overwhelming so there seems to be no harm. I do not report strictly personal incidents (and the names of people associated with them) that have no newsworthiness or that would normally be confidential in a business or personal sense. I don’t take pictures of people in bars, dance floors, etc. just to publicize them. I do see a lot of cell phone photography (by others) going on at disco floors, however. Call it citizen paparazzi.

Friday, August 10, 2007

ABC Nightline on The 11th Hour and foreclosures


ABC Nightline tonight had a couple of sobering stories. One was about the “foreclosure” boom in southern California, with a foreclosure reverse-flipper showing a house that the departing owners had torn to shreds (in San Diego). There had occurred a severe real estate recession in Texas in the late 1980s, after dropping oil prices and overbuilding, and land flipping. Homeowners who walk sometimes get sued for deficiencies (this got to be big business in the early 90s), and this can even happen to original owners with unqualified subject-to assumptions. An important book on this is Wiedener, James. A Homeowner's Guide to Foreclosure. Dearborn, Dearborn Financial Press, 1992.

The second piece was a pre-announcement of Leonardo Di Caprio’s new film, “The 11th Hour,” directed by Nadia Connors and Lelia Conners Petersen, to be distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. Even in comparison to Gore’s film, the emphasis is on how the clock is running out. It opens in New York and LA on Aug. 17. DiCaprio had helped make “The Great Warming” which showed in a few theaters in 2006.

There was a short piece about singer-guitarist John Mayer, and a short piece about Mitt Romney.

For something alarming (on a day that there was a breaking news story about this in New York City on ABC stations) go see imdb.com ‘s write up on “Right at your Door” due this fall from Lions Gate and Roadside Attractions. I saw the previews tonight at an AMC theater (when I saw "Interview") and the images reminded me of last season's "24" on Fox.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Passions to DirectTV; tats on Days; ET on McLaughlin


Well, the 300 year old witch Tabitha Lenox (Juliet Mills) has her sweet pea mute granddaughter Andorra (like the name of the country nestled in the Basque Pyrennes) bring Luis back to life from the lethal injection chamber, and righteous Ethan doesn’t understand how it can happen. So they try to execution all over again. Luis says he is innocent. Can someone be executed twice for the same offense?

Passions (with all its imaginary crossover links to Days), however, is apparently moving to Direct-TV only on Sept. 17, 2007. Link. This is the first time that I heard of where a major network show is no longer available except on satellite. I have not wanted to deal with The Dish (satellite) because of storms and apparent service problems. Maybe I’m wrong. In many apartments they aren’t allowed.

On Days, Nick Fallen aka Nick Carroway is On the Beach (in Ohio no less, according to the script, on some lake, not so far from major artery route 13 up through Mansfield – did anybody know that the Irish Mafia rules the “red” Buckeye State) with Chelsea and Blake Berris lets us see the ankle tats. At least they’re nothing like Dustin’s. (Go to soapoperafan.com, Days, and click on “About Dustin”). Having grown up in the 50s, I came to see body art as disfiguring. But all of it is a matter of taste. Some people see personal profiles on Myspace or blogs as disfiguring to “reputations.” Chelsea admits that she blew away the value of Nick’s education. (Is any girt worth that?) Predict that the ISA hires Nick to become a computer spy.

On Sunday, August 5, 2007. the McLaughlin Group interviewed Princeton’s astrophysics professor Christopher Chyba about the search for extraterrestrial life. It was a pretty level headed and objective discussion. They could have covered the Drake Equation, predicting the number of habitable civilizations in a galaxy. There is some talk that the Sun is a ring in the Milky Way more favorable for stable yellow main sequence stars. Here is the Wikipedia article. There is a picture of Gilese 581 c, which looks a bit like “Earth 2”, the sci-fi series in the early 1990s starring Antonio Sabato, in his pre-buff days.

I'm still waiting for an Imax movie about Titan.

On Aug 9, 2007 Logo network sponsored a Democratic presidential candidate debate ("Invisible Vote 08: A Presidential Forum"), link to blog on it here. Why is Logo not available on Comcast in DC? Thanks to WJLA Channel 7 (ABC) in Washington for advising viewers of this debate on the 5 PM local news.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fallen on ABC Family


Fallen started out as a Walt Disney TV movie in 2006 about a high school student, when approaching graduation on his 18th birthday, learns quickly that he is an angel. In 2007, ABC Family added two more two-hour episodes to the 2006 film (now “The Beginning”) on Aug 4 and 5: The Journey, and The Destiny. The book and series are based on a novel by Tom Sniegoski, with the screenplay adaptation by Sara Cooper. The website is here.

The Beginning started out as if it could really be a subtle family drama, in the spirit of the Smallville Pilot in 2001. Once Aaron Corbet (Paul Wesley) starts sprouting wings and waving wands of fire and flying through the air to battle other fallen angels, the story loses its grip.

In the 2007 episodes, we do learn the theology. Aaron is a nephilim, which is a child of a human mother and angelic father. But he is the Redeemer, with the ability to return any fallen angel, including his father Lucifer, to Heaven.

Since the film event is based on a novel, the impression that I get of it as television is somewhat muted. Nevertheless, it seems that studio executives feel more comfortable with a story about “angels” if it tracks back more of less to Revelations. This guarantees a certain audience with Evangelical Christians, many of whom will like this movie. The character Aaron is genuinely wholesome (like Clark Kent as long as he is stays away from red kryptonite, or like Kyle XY), someone anyone would be proud of as a son.

There are a couple of exchanges between Aaron and Lucifer in the final episode that do track to practical societal moral problems.

One of them is simply the fact that Aaron had been orphaned because after his mother gave birth, she died, as a natural result of being born as a nephilim. The idea that a mother is sacrificed in childbirth used to be well known in earlier times, as childbirth was dangerous, and the idea that a single child can consume so many resources creates interesting moral problems.

As a nephilim and Redeemer, Aaron has the "power" to send fallen angels back to Heaven. He can "sense" those who in need of "salvation" but often resents being expected to "save" them, against his own personal moral judgment. Is Salvation really by Grace alone, or does one have to atone for sins (karma) first?

Then, Lucifer asks Aaron to “save” him. Aaron is in a position of being asked to do something he is wrong to secure his own destiny with God. Aaron says, he would spend eternity in Hell himself to keep Lucifer from getting back to Heaven. That is, Aaron is saying he can protect “good” by sacrificing his own eternal life. In a sense that sounds like a conceited thing to say, that Aaron himself can decide good and evil for everyone else.

The talking dog Gabriel was great. The film could have used a cat, too.

I have a 2006 review of the first film here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ABC Nightline: Minneapolis Bridge collapse on I 35W across Mississippi River today


Today the bridge carrying both directions of I 35W, which crosses the Mississippi River about one mile east of the heart of downtown Minneapolis, collapsed suddenly at 6:05 PM CDT today, during the evening rush hour.

ABC "Nightline" covered this story in detail (along with coverage of Barack Obama's promise to step in for Pakistan in the border areas).

I lived in the Churchill Apartments, the 33 story apartment building on First and Marquette, across from the orange post office building, from 1997-2003. From the swimming pool and gym room on the top floor, I could see the River with all of the dams and spillways and bridges, and many freight trains. It would have been a great platform to film from. Except during my last two months there, I walked to work on the Skyway most of the time that I lived there. When I drove home from my job near MSP airport just before moving, I did not have to cross the bridge. The bridge was about one mile from my apartment. When coming home from north of the City (like Roseville on 36, or any point on 35W) I usually got off on Washington St. just before crossing the river.

The total destruction shown on television is quite shocking, with the central portion in the river, and large areas of collapse on the approach. The collapse has occurred in mid summer, with a temperature in the 80s. The theoretical risk might have been greater at cold temperatures and refreezing in winter. However, after a dry period, there were torrential rains a few weeks ago and some minor flooding. (Minneapolis had major flooding in July 1997, just before I moved there.)

CNN (Anderson Cooper) points to a University of Minnesota engineering study that described inadequate redundancy on the bridge construction.