Saturday, December 30, 2006

Madame President and 'The Glass Ceiling'

I get really irritated for some reason when I hear about women and the Glass Ceiling. It really irks me when the term is used in conjunction with becoming President of the United States. May the best woman or man win!

A ceiling seems to me to be a symbol of a barrier that cannot be broken through. A glass ceiling seems to be symbolic of being able to see the goal, but not being able to break through.

In this vein today, the Deseret News editorial staff published a piece entitled "Awaiting Madame President". The staff opinion begins thusly:

India had Indira Gandhi, England had Margaret Thatcher. Israel had Golda Meir. Today, Chile has Michelle Bachelet. Even Spain once had Isabela. But the United States, a nation that prides itself on being ahead of the curve, lags behind in having a female chief executive. Other countries have dismantled the glass ceiling, but women in the United States continue to bump their heads.
I think it is excellent that these great women have been leaders of their countries. It is because they were very qualified to do so. America has the same caliber of women, but very few have come forward to run for president as of yet.

Because it doesn't matter to me what sex someone is--if they're the most qualified, they should get the job--it really irks me that DesNews would perpetuate the idea of a glass ceiling in, of all places, the quest for the President of the United States.

There have been 46 different presidents of the United States, 55 presidential elections, and who knows how many total candidates. In all these elections, there have been 21 women candidates, and 12 of those candidates ran in 1996. Male candidates run all the time who are not considered serious contenders. Similarly, only about 6 of the women candidates for president could be considered serious contenders.

Women have run for president in only 10 of 55 presidential elections. Therefore, a very tiny statistical probability exists that a woman would have been elected president.

The same case can be made for minorities. There has never been a black president of the United States. And when a serious contender, Alan Keyes, ran in 2000, he was marginalized by the press.

Perhaps the most sloppy portion of DesNews' opinion is their final statement:

Undoubtedly the United States will one day have a woman president. And when that day arrives, undoubtedly — as when Jackie Robinson broke the color line in baseball and Rosa Parks broke it in bus riding — Americans will slap their foreheads and say, "What were we thinking? We should have taken this step years ago."

Yes, we will have a woman president, but no, we won't say 'What were we thinking?'. Only when more high-quality women candidates for President come forward. It is not a matter of a glass ceiling. It is a matter of desire.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

C'mon Putin-You Can Do Better Than That!!

Normally the KGB isn't that stupid. So maybe I'm missing something when the Putin Administration blames someone with nothing to gain for the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko.

Vladimr Putin has recently started a campaign of "sovereign democracy". It sounds very lofty--perhaps meaning to some at first glance that Russia will make its own decisions unimpeded by the pressures of other nations. What is becoming more clear, however, is that "sovereign democracy" has become the mantra behind ensuring that Putin and his cabal will make their own decisions unimpeded by the pressures of the Russian people, whom he is supposed to be serving.

Several months ago, because he was becoming too much of a vocal critic of the Putin administration, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, CEO of Yukos Oil, was arrested for supposed income tax evasion. He is still in prison. Putin's government controls Yukos oil now. Today word is out that a partner of Khodorkovsky, Leonid B. Nevzlin is being charged with the assassination by radiation poisoning of former KGB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko. Nice job Nevzlin! You sure did an excellent job of making it look like Putin's people did it!! I'm glad Putin set me straight.

Litvinenko often told those willing to listen about the escapades of the KGB, by whom he had previously been employed.

The bombing of four Russian apartment buildings in 1999 that left hundreds dead; the Moscow theater siege that killed 129 people; the 2004 explosion on the Moscow metro that killed dozens of commuters -- all the work of one of the KGB's post-Soviet successors, the Federal Security Service (FSB), according to Litvinenko.

Litvinenko has been marginalized by some in the Soviet Union as a quack and a conspiracy theorist. But then why the lame attempt by the Kremlin at ascribing his death to someone who had no reason to kill him?

Litvinenko also claimed that the recent killing on Anna Politkovskaya was on the orders of the Kremlin as well. Based on her strong criticism of President Putin for his involvement in such things as the war in Chechnya, it is clear that the Kremlin would have a motive for the killing.

On December 29, Moscow news reported that closed-circuit television is being analyzed for possible clues to the man who flew from Moscow to London at about the same time traces of Polonium-210 were discovered on airplanes of recent British Airways flights.

Leonid B. Nevzlin has lived in Israel since 2003 and was recently on holiday in New Jersey. The Kremlin has for quite some time been attempting to extradite Nevzlin from Israel on other specious charges.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Utah Should Come by its House Seat the Right Way

A lot of scuttle has been made lately about Utah gaining a fourth seat in the US House of Representatives. This would be a great boon to Utah, but only if it is done the correct way.

Updated December 28, 2006.

Utah governor John Huntsman Jr. has been very interested in drawing up plans for a fourth district for the United States House of Representatives. He has been so aggressive that it has caught some Utah legislators by surprise.

A plan actually already exists. In 2001, following the 2000 US census wherein Utah narrowly missed getting that 4th seat, and in anticipation of winning a subsequent appeal at the Supreme Court (Utah missionaries living out of country were not counted in the census) that plan was drawn up. Utah Senate President John Valentine says the 2001 plan "is the official four-seat plan."

It is interesting to note why there is currently a new push for a 4th Utah seat in the House, considering that the 2010 census is about 4 years away. In conjunction with giving Utah a 4th seat, the District of Columbia would get its first-ever seat. Currently the District's non-voting representative can vote in committee only.

Recently I posted on this site about what does and does not constitute Constitutional. Well, in light of my opinion, let's turn directly to the Constitution. Article I, Section 2 of that document begins by saying:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

This paragraph leaves a little bit to speculation as to whether a Representative in the United States House must be elected from a particular state. Combined with the next paragraph, however, any confusion on the issue is put to rest.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Not only is it a requirement that the person elected to the House of Representatives be an Inhabitant of the state for which he is being elected; it is also a requirement that the electors of that state participate in the election. The District of Columbia is not a state.

But we wouldn't want an insignificant little detail such as that to get in Utah's way of getting its 4th seat, would we? Actually, yes we would.

Some Constitutional issues are vague as to their interpretation. This one is not. If Utah waits until the 2010 census, we will very likely get our 4th seat in a fair and credible way. If we show our impatience now, Utah will live with the ignominy of being the first state to participate in the violation of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution.

Update: December 28, 2006 - Former Utah Congressman James Hansen agreed in a Deseret News opinion with much of the information in this post, and warned that a House seat would not be the only thing demanded by DC--they would logically want 2 Senate seats as well. And then Guam, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa would clamber for representation as well. It's too bad he retired instead of a couple of our sitting Senators.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get...Propagandized

It is not a bad thing that people become wealthy, unless they achieve their wealth at the expense of others. Politicians and others with ulterior motives want you to believe the rich become rich at the expense of the poor much more often than this actually occurs.

During the Christmas season, as always, it is important for us not only to be thankful for the things that we have, but also to be aware of those around us who are in destitute circumstances. Often, through no fault of their own, families fall on hard times. Politicians and pundits often point to a widening gap between the proverbial rich and the proverbial poor to claim that, not only is the incidence of poor people in America increasing, but that somehow it is the fault of the rich, as though the rich steal an ever greater slice of a static pie.

When a rich person acquires money by ill-gotten means, such as--ironically--by using government to expropriate property from lifelong home owners, he is guilty of theft and should be punished. But claiming that the nebulous group of 'the rich' are to blame for the plight of the nebulous group of 'the poor' is a gross oversimplification that overlooks more than one important fact. But the poor-mongers continue to harp on their emotionally charged but unprovable theses.

Thomas Sowell, the author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy, highlights one of these facts:

Although...the rich and the poor...may be discussed as if they different classes of people, often they are the very same people at different stages of their lives.

It is not uncommon for most of the people in the top 5 percent of income-earners to be 45 years old and up.

Remember when you were young and making close to the minimum wage, and how as time went on you developed skills and you now make a lot more money? That happened to me. I used to be in the class of poor, but I never thought of myself that way. But as I have gotten older and married and realized I had a responsibility to take care of a family, my desire to produce increase--with a commensurate increase in income.

The scariest thought that comes to mind when people claim that the rich are taking more of the pie than they should is their solution to what they see as a problem:

Lofty talk about "social justice" or "fairness" boils down to greatly expanded powers for politicians, since those pretty words have no concrete definition. They are a blank check for creating disparities in power that dwarf disparities in income -- and are far more dangerous.

Thomas Sowell recently struck again when he explained that if people don't even know what it takes to make a pencil, how should they know why someone is making a lot more money than something else? Interestingly enough, when these people complain about CEOs making $50 million a year, why don't they complain about Hoolywood stars and starlets who make even more?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Look at Hamas

How would you define Hamas? A sponsor of suicide bombings against Israel? A charitable organization that is highly respected by international organizations as taking good care of its own? If you answered yes, you are correct.

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Considering that Hamas sponsors suicide bombers who have succeeded in killing several Israelis seems to make that designation appropriate.

But what about the other side of Hamas? Is there one? Yes.

In the Gaza, many people have a great deal of love and respect for Hamas. Those whose loved ones have died in the conflict with Israel received an approximate $200 per month stipend. Their children are each given another $30 for food and clothing, and receive a free education.

This year, however, tourism is way down
. After Hamas took over the Palestinian Authority Parliament, and after more recent clashes with rival group Fatah, the hope of a year ago that 2006 would be somewhat of a return to normalcy has faded.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Religion Healthy for Families

Religion is dangerous to society, right? Well, it depends on whether there is freedom of religion. Evidence is clear that freely religious families benefit in nearly every way over those who are less religious. Why don't we tout that more regularly in public life?

There is a great misnomer in the world today--the claim that religion is detrimental to society. After all, religion has been behind nearly all of the wars in history, right? Well, With the exception of current Islamic Fundamentalists, in distant history, despots who have hijacked religion have caused a lot of problems, but in more recent memory, the furthest things from religion--Communism and Nazism--caused more deaths than probably all previous wars combined.

Evidence today is clear that among those nations where freedom of religious practice is the norm, religion is of great benefit to society. Even where certain forms of religion are prescribed, such as in the Middle East, it has an overall benefit.

A recent study on the effects of religion
indicated, among other things, the following:

  • Religious couples are much more likely to stay together
  • Religious fathers are much more praising of the skills and traits of their sons and daughters
  • Religious mothers have much more enduring and mature relationships with their children
  • Religious people have a much greater sense of well-being and purpose
  • Religious husbands are much less likely to commit domestic violence
Religion often gets a bad rap. Sometimes religious people either are or appear a bit pompous. But the truth is, religion is a great benefit to society. It would be hard for even non-religious people to counteract the evidence.

NCAA Persecution of Mormons!!!

BYU always comes up short in statistics regarding those who graduate in a timely manner. Recently it almost caused problems for the football program. But the statistics are unfair to a predominantly Mormon university, from which a LOT of students interrupt their studies to serve missions.

I have to admit, I gave the post its title in hopes that it would generate a lot of search engine hits. But the truth of the matter is, it wouldn't take much for the NCAA to make a sensible program that takes into account that BYU has a lot of missionaries who leave the team for three years.

The Deseret News recently posted an article claiming that BYU avoided NCAA sanctions by the skin of their teeth. On a 1,000-point scale, BYU scored 3 points above the minimum of 925 on the NCAA graduation statistics scale. A major factor in the scale deals with how many athletes graduate in 5 years.

Do the sanctions mean anything, or does the NCAA not really hand out sanctions? I hope so, but it doesn't seem like it. BYU has made its case for years and years, and no one at the NCAA seems to see the unfairness. But if the statistics were tabulated correctly, BYU would be at or near the top of the list for graduation.

I'm a database programmer for a living, and I could in less than 4 hours write a program that takes into account the two years that many BYU athletes take away from school and athletics to serve a mission for the LDS Church. The beginning and ending dates of every mission are common knowledge among BYU administrators, so it wouldn't even take pop-gun science to figure out which semesters a student-missionary missed from school. Then add those semesters to the NCAA baseline of 5 years, and that's how many years a BYU athlete/missionary would have to 'make the cut'. Purty easy, huh? So it can't be the prohibitive cost that the NCAA would undergo to update their programs.

I was just kidding about the persecution thing. But the lazy thing? I think the NCAA's got that going big time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tithing and Bankruptcy

I don't know much about bankruptcy, but it seems that someone who is in bankruptcy should be required to pay off his creditors before he contributes to his church.

Following a recent court case in which the judge declared that a person in bankruptcy could not continue to pay tithing to his church, Senators Orrin Hatch and Barrack Obama sponsored a bill that would allow such payment of tithing to continue. The bill was recently also passed by the House of Representatives.

Congress has the authority, under Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution, to set the laws governing bankruptcy. Hatch and Obama's bill was inititated, because, according to Obama, "in a country where 37 million citizens live in poverty, we should be encouraging charitable giving, not limiting it."

I'm glad that Congress is in this case performing a clearly delineated role, but I'm not sure if I agree with the outcome.

From what I understand about bankruptcy, the bankrupt party is allowed by the court to exempt certain of his assets, but the remainder are to go to pay off creditors. I think, therefore, the solution should be that the bankrupt party should be able to pay tithing on that portion of his income that has been declared exempt by the court.

But I think that the debtor should not be able to pay tithing on the rest of his "non-exempt" assets, including income, because, since the go directly to pay off debts, they should not be considered as income.

This compromise view leaves some ability of the debtor to pay tithing, but in addition the encumbered debts are payed off in as expeditious a manner as possible. A hopefully sooner rather than later the debtor can return to full financial status and will then be able to pay tithing on all of his income assets.

Like the title says, mine are Simple Utah Mormon Politics, so there may be flaws with this argument. After all I don't know much about bankruptcy. So what do you think? Will my idea work?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Republican Candidates for President in 2008

Initial polling data are out for the upcoming presidential election. Do you have any idea who you are going to vote for? Does religion play any role in the potential vote you will cast?

It's interesting that polling is already begun for president in 2008. A recent poll on asked the following question:

Q: In this early stage of the presidential campaign for 2008, which republican candidate would you prefer?

Answer Percent
Mitt Romney
Condoleezza Rice
Rudy Giuliani
John McCain
Bill Frist

It's even more interesting, considering all the negative press that Mitt Romney took for being a Mormon, that he is leading in this poll.

Will I vote for him because I'm also a Mormon? Not necessarily. There are much more important reasons to support a political candidate than just because you share the same religion.

But I'm this point, would you be able to support any of these candidates? Why or why not?