Wednesday, October 31, 2007

(How) Do You Celebrate Halloween?

Some people celebrate Halloween, while others don't. My family?--we enjoy the heck out of it. (Not quite as much as the people who made the guy in the picture at the right, but...) What's your take on Halloween?

Last year, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke on Halloween at the Tuesday morning BYU devotional. As if to erase any doubt about the LDS church's stance on Halloween, he started out his speech by asking the camera person to zoom in to get a close-up of his jack-o-lantern tie.

Some friends of ours absolutely will not celebrate Halloween. Their kids do not dress up, and they do not go trick-or-treating. Their family actually leaves the house on Halloween night and does something fun together, in part so they won't have to answer the door and hand out candy.

Our kids are going all-out dressing up for school today. They are dressing up as Jack Sparrow, a Civil War hero, a US Army soldier, Cindy-Lou Who, and Sandy-Lou Fifties Who. We need to get better at the outdoor decorations at our house. We talked about having a coffin with a skeleton coming out (pulled by a string) when trick-or-treaters come knocking, but we ran out of time. Next year, though!

A friend of mine and his wife had a strong disagreement about whether to celebrate Halloween. Because of this, and several other things, they are no longer together.

The LDS Church simply teaches people to be responsible Halloweeners. The only thing I am aware of is that the Church discourages the wearing of masks.

What do you think of Halloween? How do you celebrate? Or don't you?

Monday, October 29, 2007

When You Get to the Edge of the Universe, You Run Into a Brick Wall

On several different occasions as a child, I would sit on the living room couch, stare at the wall, and try to imagine what it would be like if nothing existed. I still remember vividly how the walls and doors in the entryway to my boyhood home faded to black in my imagination. And my head hurt.

Later, I began to realize that I really could not imagine nothing, because the blackness that I had imagined was actually something. To this day I can instigate similar pain as I try yet again to comprehend the mortally incomprehensible.

I must not be the only one in the world who thinks this way, because my wife had similar contemplations as a child, and every one of my children has had the same series of thoughts. Occasionally we traverse onto the subject in our Monday night Family Home Evenings, and their heads begin to hurt, too. Especially when put on my evil grin and remind them that their imagined blackness of nothingness is actually something.

But that's just fine to have such thoughts. Because what such thoughts do is convince us that it is not strange to imagine that there has always been something. That's ultimately where all this head-hurting gets us--on the path to knowing that there is something infinitely more.
One of the other limitations of my finite imagination--to this day--is the inability to comprehend that no matter how far I could ever hope to travel into the expanse of the universe, there would always still be more of it. I still imagine that if I were to get out there a gazillion billion light years away from earth, there would be a brick wall at the edge of it. But then how could there be a brick wall all the way around it...

So not only is there something, there is also an infinite amount of it. Owwww....my head hurts.

The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Section 88, teaches, among other things, that:
36 All kingdoms have a law given;
37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
That seems to be telling me that, just as we could (if we knew how) go outward into the universe (greater kingdoms) for infinity, so we could also go inward past the protons and neutrons and quarks (lesser kingdoms) for infinity in the other direction. It makes my head hurt thinking about it, so I must be onto something!

Is there a God? I'm pretty sure there is. Did he create the laws of the universe, or did he just learn how they work? That'll be an interesting question to someday know the answer to, but I think it was likely part of his learning process. That is a good-tasting thought.

Does evolution actually occur? Probably. I think so. Can God and evolution both exist? Sure! In fact, what's so strange about thinking that the person we call God is a perfectly evolved being? That actually doesn't make my head hurt.

I don't know for sure, but something inside me tells me that the universe is infinite and that it's always been here, and that God organized the part of it that we know about, and there can never be such a thing as nothing. Even if it does make my head hurt thinking about it.

But you know what's neat about it? Someday I'll understand it, because someday it'll all make sense. And my head won't hurt anymore. At all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Somebody Forgot to Remind the Government about Daylight Savings

A buddy of mine was spittin' mad this morning. He woke up late and was thus late to some important meetings he had to be to. What happened? He relied on the government to keep his clock running correctly.

I checked my PDA-phone, and it has the correct time. So does my computer. But the government's computers don't.

Back in 2005, the government got all sophisticated-silly and decided it would be a huge payoff to change the date on which we switch to daylight savings time. I was irritated by it then. Now, when the government can't even comply with its own edicts, I'm even more perturbed.

They've had two years to notify everyone of their stupid change--setting our clocks back on the first week in November rather than on the last week in October. And they still can't get it right.

My friend has a clock that is linked to--and gets its time from--a government satellite. Today is October 28th, which would have been the day we set our clocks back an hour for daylight savings, had it not been for government's cockamamie attempt to make itself look valuable by moving the change back a week. So, faithful to its programming, the satellite changed to daylight savings...today, not next week like it should have.

Leave it to government to screw up something so simple, that it had two years to get right.

It's a good thing the private sector took over when Y2K hit. If it had been government's job to fix everything, we'd have probably still been reeling.

And you're still thinking about entrusting government with your health care?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Patrick Byrne's Voucher Comments Were Not Racist

In a recent debate on school vouchers, Patrick Byrne defended vouchers on the basis that they would likely help minority students in Utah in a very dramatic way. Leave it to those who oppose vouchers to contort the meaning of his statements and imply that he is a racist.

Question: What percentage of Utah minorities in public school never graduate from high school?

Answer: 40%. Vouchers can help this problem.

Rebuttal: You are a racist.

Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, and supporter of vouchers, made the point recently that failure to graduate from high school is nearly akin to a death sentence for most students who don't graduate. Here are his words:
Right now, 40 percent of Utah minorities are not graduating from high school. You may as well burn those kids. That's the end of their life. That's the end of their ability to achieve in this society if they do not get a high school education. You might as, just throw the kids away.
My interpretation of this statement is this: if you don't encourage alternative ways for youth to graduate from high school, to include vouchers, then you are in essence encouraging them to throw their lives away.

Being that (1) Byrne is in favor of vouchers, and (2) vouchers are a very likely avenue for graduation from high school for those--including minorities--who currently don't graduate, I'm reasonably confident that this is an accurate interpretation of Byrne's comments.

Byrne did not attempt to disparage minorities, but hopes, through vouchers, to do the opposite. Jeanetta Williams, of the NAACP, sees it differently. Williams seems bent on finding racism under every rock and behind every tree.
Jeanetta Williams, a voucher opponent and president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch, said the videotaped comments shocked her and she believes Byrne meant that minorities who don't graduate should be burned or thrown away.

"Those were his words, not mine," she said.
Yes, but that was Williams' interpretation of those words, not Byrne's. Clearly Williams' interpretation is wrong. Did I mention that Jeanetta Williams is opposed to vouchers? She is.

Real vs Faux Science in the Global Warming Debate

Now that the furor over Nobel Scientist Al Gore has died down, lets look at some of the real science of global warming. How about science from people who have actually investigated the issues? For example, is CO2 related to global warming? Yes, but not nearly in the way that the IPCC shills might have you think.

The US National Science Foundation has further confirmed the scientific observation that increases in carbon dioxide happen years after natural global warming cycles, and that CO2 does not contribute to global warming on near the scale that was once thought.
Its the strongest evidence for the Greenhouse Gas theory of global warming -- that warm periods in the earth's past were typically accompanied by rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide. But that evidence is under serious attack, from new research funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The research team, led by Paleoclimatologist Lowell Stott, demonstrated CO2 levels after the last Ice Age started to rise some 1,300 years after the warming began. According to Stott, earlier researchers had cause and effect reversed -- CO2 increases were the result of warming, and not the original cause. Stott's paper is not the first to show CO2 rises followed warming trends, but it is one of the most detailed and thorough rebuttals of the linkage.

The work comes hot on the heels of other research downgrading CO2's importance in climate change. Earlier this year, the Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute issued a study saying CO2 effects had been "grossly overstated." Dr. Steven Schwartz of Brookhaven National Labs concluded that CO2-based warming had been overstated by some 400%, and a pair of Chinese researchers used mathematical modeling to demonstrate the majority of current warming was natural in origin.

Stott's findings are important for two reasons. First, they directly challenge the correlation between CO2 and warming. As Stott himself points out, CO2 is still likely a contributor to climate change, but its role needs to be reevaluated.
Science can be painful...I mean to those who don't actually perform the observations, but instead sit in their offices and trust their garbage-in-garbage-out computer models.

Take for example the non-scientist Al Gore. There were actually a lot more untruths in his movie than the British High Court pointed out. And Gore new about them, but he worried that if he pointed out the tenuousness of many of the claims, that the authentic scientific community and its fellow travelers (like me) would begin piling on with marked derision. Well, the piling on has begun!
Based on the judge’s ruling, the footage that ought to be excised adds up to about 25 minutes or so out of the 98-minute film. What’s left is largely Gore personal drama and cinematic fluff that has nothing to do with the science of climate change.

It should also be pointed out that Gore makes other notable factual misstatements in the film that don’t help his or his film’s credibility.

He says in the film that polio has been "cured," implying that we can cure "global warming." While a preventative polio vaccine does exist, there is no "cure" for polio.

Gore attempts to smear his critics by likening them to the tobacco industry. In spotlighting a magazine advertisement proclaiming that "more doctors smoke Camel than any other brand," he states that the ad was published after the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on smoking and lung cancer. But the ad is actually from 1947 — 17 years before the report.

Gore also says in the film that 2005 is the hottest year on record. But NASA data actually show that 1934 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. — 2005 is not even in the top 10.

Perhaps worse than the film’s errors is their origin. The BBC reported that Gore knew the film presented incorrect information but took no corrective steps because he didn’t want to spotlight any uncertainties in the scientific data that may fuel opponents of global warming alarmism.
Yesterday the United Nations overstepped itself by stating that because we have failed to tackle the obvious problem of man-made global warming that we have now entered "the sixth mass extinction of life" in the history of earth. Hmmm... Maybe they'll need a few wars to help the UN's thesis along. How about a few wildfires?

It's a good thing that the UN has laid its cards on the table. Maybe now everyone will start noticing that the UN and its Frankenstein Monster--theIPCC--are emperors that have no clothes.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Constitution's Enumerated Powers?

Republican Representative John Shadegg from Arizona has sponsored the Enumerated Powers Act in the United States House of Representatives every year since 2002. It has not yet become law. It would "require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws, and for other purposes." Pretty simple, huh? Ron Paul is one of its co-sponsors. Guess which 2 representatives from Utah are not sponsors? (1 is currently a sponsor)

Here is the ENTIRE text of the bill:
A BILL

To require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Enumerated Powers Act'.

SEC. 2. SPECIFICATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY FOR ENACTMENT OF LAW.

(a) Constitutional Authority for This Act- This Act is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 8, clause 18, of the United States Constitution and the power granted to each House of Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution.

(b) Constitutional Authority Statement Required- Chapter 2 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 102 the following new section:

`Sec. 102a. Constitutional authority clause

`Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.'

(c) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 2 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 102 the following new item:

`102a. Constitutional authority clause.'.
Yet in the last six years, this bill has never made it out of the Rules and Judiciary Committees, over which
in that period Republicans and Democrats alike have presided.

Someone who does not support this legislation is not fit for public office, let alone being a member of the United States Congress. Every SINGLE co-sponsor of the bill is Republican. That doesn't surprise me.

The answer to the question--which 2 Utah representatives are NOT co-sponsors of the bill? Answer: Chris Cannon and Jim Matheson. Rob Bishop supports it.

With Donors Like These, Why Are You Voting for Giuliani or Clinton?

It's interesting to look at where the largest donations are coming from for the top-tier political candidates. It gives you an idea of what favors are going to be expected if a particular candidate becomes president. You might be surprised at who is donating to Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. They can be divided into three categories: (1) employees of the moneyed interests (2) employees of the media interests, and (3) employees of the legal interests. These are the same people who are NOT donating to Ron Paul. Consider what you want your country to look like in four years. If you like it the way it is, continue your support for the establishment candidates. If you don't like what your country is becoming, consider voting for Ron Paul.

It has become more frustrating to me the more I think about it that elections are determined largely by how much money is spent. The money effect has become very evident in the 2008 presidential campaign. I am beginning to wonder if a better solution would be to require the same amounts of money to be spent on all candidates in the race, so that they can't buy their way into office.

Based on largest donations, Rudy and Hillary have a ton of favors to give if they become president. Which is exactly why neither one of them should become president. If you vote for either of them you will wake up one day and consider yourself to have been extremely foolish.

Look at who is donating to Giuliani: the money makers and the lawyers.
RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI (R)
Top Contributors [as of 10/24/07 at 3:20 PM MDT]
Ernst & Young $255,200
Elliott Management $228,400
Credit Suisse Group $166,550
Merrill Lynch $150,275
Bear Stearns $147,866
Lehman Brothers $136,350
Citigroup Inc $135,850
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher $113,625
Morgan Stanley $103,200
Bracewell & Giuliani $101,425
Highland Capital Management $91,350
Station Casinos $88,300
Weil, Gotshal & Manges $87,680
UBS Americas $83,000
Milbank, Tweed et al $79,800
New Breed Inc $78,700
Goldman Sachs $75,150
JP Morgan Chase & Co $71,200
Matlin Patterson Global Advisors $67,900
Aqr Capital Management $66,950
It's pretty similar when you look at Hillary's largest donors:
HILLARY CLINTON (D)
Top Contributors [as of 10/24/07 at 3:20 PM MDT]
DLA Piper $352,835
Goldman Sachs $338,690
Morgan Stanley $326,190
Citigroup Inc $303,865
National Amusements Inc $192,435
Kirkland & Ellis $176,820
JP Morgan Chase & Co $166,890
Skadden, Arps et al $156,060
Greenberg Traurig LLP $150,900
EMILY's List $147,003
Cablevision Systems $129,513
Time Warner $125,870
Bear Stearns $124,865
Merrill Lynch $123,700
Lehman Brothers $123,350
Patton Boggs $117,529
Ernst & Young $107,650
Blank Rome Llp $105,300
Latham & Watkins $100,290
Credit Suisse Group $98,900
Something's fishy. Do you want bankers, Hollywood, and lawyers to influence the direction our country is headed? (Do you like the direction our country is headed?) Or would you rather that you have influence on where our country is headed?

If you aren't a big-time banker, a Hollywood mogul, or a big-time lawyer, you should vote for Ron Paul. It will make a gigantic difference. To you down the road, when you realize you made the right choice. And maybe to the country.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chief Justice John Roberts Gives Impressive Speech at BYU

I'm not sure if it was planned that way, but it was helpful to me to be able to listen to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speak at BYU only a couple weeks after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke. It gives me a much better basis to understand why I disagree with Harry Reid. Both speeches were impressive--no doubt. I came away from Senator Reid's speech knowing that he is a good man, but filled with emotion at how I disagreed with him. But as I sit down to write my review of Chief Justice Roberts' speech, I know that, in addition to he also being a good man, I came away from his speech feeling much more intellectually and spiritually satisfied.

It's a difficult thing for many to accept, but the law is the law, and it doesn't change just because we want it to be changed. The Constitution is law. Chief Justice Roberts accepts this; Senator Reid does not, at least completely.

Justice Roberts reminded listeners of his speech matter of factly that our Federal Government is one that is limited to certain enumerated powers. Only the legislative branch can make the law. It is the judicial branch's responsibility to know what the law is, as it (the Constitution) was intended by the Founders of our country, and as it (on-going law) was intended by the legislators who passed it. Because the Constitution is the "Supreme Law", the judiciary must be qualified to declare any laws which go against the tenor of the Constitution null and void. The Supreme Court can interpret the Constitution, because it is law, but Justices must restrain themselves from the temptation to go beyond that constitutional limit.

Justice Roberts stated that Justices are allowed only to exercise judgment, and not to make political decisions. They need to keep themselves unfettered from outside influence so that they can make correct decisions, according to the Constitution, which decisions sometimes will be wildly unpopular. This is why judges were given lifetime tenure.

Here are some of the other ideas (I paraphrase) that Justice Roberts discussed:
  • There are some things that the Constitution allows the federal government to do exclusively, some things it allows state governments to do exclusively, and other things that it prohibits either from doing.
  • The first building in Washington D.C. was the White House for the President. The second building was the Capitol, to house Congress. The third building was the Patent Office. It was not until 1935 that the Supreme Court had a building constructed for it. This illustrates that the Supreme Court is important, but was seen to have a clearly limited function.
  • It is clear that the regulation of commerce in the Constitution allows for the regulation of air travel, even though the Founders knew nothing of air travel. This does NOT mean, however, that the Constitution can be changed or interpreted on a whim. The Amendment process for the Constitution is very clear, and has been used, successfully and unsuccessfully, many times. This is the only way that the Constitution can be changed.
  • The Founders came from all walks of life, but all were keen as to the importance of civic virtue. One of the greatest of civic virtues is to uphold the law as it was intended by those who made it. If we want to know what the Constitution means, in addition to the Constitution itself, two great places to start are The Federalist Papers and James Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention.
Harry Reid thinks with his heart. That can be a good thing, sometimes, but far from always. When this is done by government, the result is usually a failure to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity." Pure democracy is that government filled with people who think with nothing but their hearts. The United States, on the other hand, is a Republic. Pure democracies have proven that people thinking with their hearts usually cause death and destruction. That is why we must usually temper our heartfelt thinking with logical thinking.

We must remind ourselves that we are a nation that is ruled by law and not by mankind. It is critical that we are represented in government by individuals who understand that thinking with our hearts must be tempered with logical, lawful thinking. Heartfelt thinking may inform our logical thinking that something is wrong with the law. But it is lawful thinking which understands that when the law is incorrect, it must be changed by lawful means. If it is the Constitution, the only lawful means of changing it is the Amendment process.

Chief Justice John Roberts understands this concept well. I am proud to know that he is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Look at Utah Education Vouchers---13 Years Hence

I was pretty sure I had this Utah school voucher thingy figured out. And then something suddenly came up. You know those approximately 17,000 students that are currently in the Utah private schools, and that therefore don't qualify for voucher money? In 13 years, they won't be in the private schools anymore, because they will have grown up and graduated. But the generation of students that will have replaced them will qualify for vouchers, and they will likely number many more than 17,000. That means it's going to cost the state a lot more than I thought to implement vouchers. So does that change my opinion on vouchers? It almost does, but I've thought about it, and my opinion remains the same.

Yesterday I was browsing Utah Bloghive, when I came across this post on Jeremy's Jeremiad. He linked to this post on Green Jello, where Pramahaphil got looking more closely at the cost of vouchers and decided to change his opinion and oppose referendum 1. I was taken aback, because they both made a great point that I had never thought of. The state is likely not going to save nearly as much money on vouchers as I thought, and it may even cost the state money. I respect both Jeremy and Pramahaphil, but I still have decided to support Referendum 1.

Since there are about 17,000 private school students who currently don't qualify for vouchers, but in 13 years from now there will be zero of such students, there is a cost to the state of at least $34 million (17,000 students * $2,000) in just the 13th year for this difference. It will likely actually be closer to $50 million (or 25,000 students) it we assume a 25% population growth over that period. Since the state doesn't pay for the private school population now, this figure has to be considered when discussing the cost of vouchers, because in the future they will.

This calls one of the assumptions that I have held for quite some time into question. I have in the past said that I feel that, if Referendum 1 passes, the State should compensate the public schools in some way for every student who chooses to use a voucher--even those who have never used the public schools. The problem with that logic is that the state does NOT pay that extra $34 million currently.

It's hard to make the cost break-even analysis, because we don't know how fast Utah's population will grow in the next 13 years. But to approximate, for this to not be a net cost to the state, 13 years from now, there will need to be a minimum of 34,100 students in the private schools, a figure that is about 9,100 students more than the current trend (assuming constant 2.8% of students in private schools and 25% population growth rate).

So, I take back some of the things I've said about how cost-effective vouchers will be, but I still support them. Two reasons indicate that now is the best time to start the voucher program: (1) Utah's economy is currently very robust, and (2) Utah's school population has grown at a low rate for the past several years. These two factors will not always be. Which is why now is the time to implement vouchers. And which is why we need to encourage a greater number of students to use more cost-efficient private education. If not, if the economy tanks and when public school population begins again to trend upward, I'm afraid we'd be in for a huge tax hike.

So I'm plugging my nose a bit, but I still support Referendum 1. The cost issue as I thought I understood it before is not so rosy, but it can still be if we exceed the break-even point as we work together to encourage more students to choose vouchers. Besides, as I've discussed here before, there are a plethora of other good reasons to support vouchers.

Vote For Referendum 1 on November 6th.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Blink

Is life really going faster these days? It sure seems like it to me. Is it because we're too busy? Or is a second just not what it used to be? Whatever it is, if you blink it's almost gone.

When I was a kid, the days seemed to go on forever. Not anymore. One of my theories is that since each day becomes an increasingly smaller part of the life we've lived, that each day seems to go by faster. Then again, I have a friend who makes a good case that the earth really is spinning faster.

Well, my oldest is now 16 and driving like a mad woman. And my youngest will turn 8 in about a week. The fact that a lot of my life has passed me by is staring me in the face.

One of the things I like about (some) country songs is that they get you to refocus on the important things in life. A new one by Kenny Chesney is called Don't Blink. It starts like this:
I turned on the evening news
Saw a old man being interviewed
Turning a hundred and two today
Asked him what's the secret to life
He looked up from his old pipe
Laughed and said "All I can say is."

Don't blink
Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you
Wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
Don't blink
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your "better half"
Of fifty years is there in bed
And you're praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don't blink
I feel like I've been blinking too much. So every time I hear Kenny Chesney's song now, it'll remind me. Life may still go as fast as it's always gone, but at least more of it will have been spent doing more important stuff, such as playing ball with the kids before they grow up and move out of the house.
Naw, don't blink
Life Goes Faster Than You Think
Don't Blink...


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

School Vouchers: Helping Many More Utah Students Graduate

Public schools, especially in Utah, are all about leaving no child behind. Yet 16% of Utah public school students do not graduate from high school. It is very likely that an education voucher would be many of these students' tickets to a better education, to include high school graduation.

Public schools are essentially a one-size-fits-all paradigm. Yet one size does not really seem to fit all. Charter schools have significantly remedied this problem, and thousands of Utah public school students are thriving in various charter schools throughout the state. Several thousand more are taking advantage of another choice--home schooling. Until I spent a year in Iraq, my wife and I had home-schooled our children. While I was gone, our children were put into a K-12 charter school. We are very impressed with it, and all of them, continuing in that same charter school, are doing very well in their studies.

Apparently, we need to have additional choices, however. The State of Utah, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, reported that for the most recent reporting period (2006?), only 84% of Utah Public school students graduated as expected. The Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) extrapolates this to mean that about 8,400 public school students per year do not graduate in Utah. This, according to AEE means that:
Dropouts from the class of 2006 cost the state more than $2.2 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes.
• If Utah’s likely dropouts from the class of 2006 graduated instead, the state could save more than $79.1 million in Medicaid and expenditures for uninsured care over the course of those young people’s lifetimes.
• If Utah’s high schools and colleges raise the graduation rates of Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American students to the levels of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $781 million to the state economy.
• Increasing the graduation rate and college matriculation of male students in Utah by only 5 percent could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $39.3 million each year by reducing crime-related costs.
Those are some financial figures that would never be picked up by a Legislative Fiscal Analysis, yet they are compelling--even if only a fraction of the non-graduating students were to graduate with the help of a voucher to a private school.

Don't nitpick the financial numbers. No matter how you slice it, the State of Utah will save money with vouchers. Don't nitpick the politics of subterfuge by Parents for Choice in Education--terrible but not the worst politicking that has ever gone on in Utah by far.

Instead look at the merits of vouchers, including this merit that I had not before understood or contemplated. Here is possibly a hidden diamond in the rough of the school voucher controversy. It is likely that several more students will graduate with high school diplomas if they can use a voucher.

If you didn't have a reason to vote for vouchers in November, now you have at least one.

Vote for Referendum 1 on November 6th.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Social Welfare Programs: A Response to Senator Harry Reid

In his recent BYU address, Harry Reid stated that social welfare programs have been very successful in the United States, and that Social Security " is the most successful social program in the history of the world." During his speech, and in the context of social programs, he quoted King Benjamin from The Book of Mormon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Senator Reid and I share the feeling that it is important to reach out and lend a helping our to each other when we are in need. Our methods of providing this service, however, are diametric opposites.

During his BYU speech, Senator Reid said this:
But never forget the clarion call of King Benjamin: “When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God.” ...

To what then, was King Benjamin referring?

...I suggest that King Benjamin would consider the Peace Corps, Teach for America, work in a non-profit to help the poor or the sick as commendable service. ...

I propose King Benjamin then was referring to public service, running for elective office, serving in an appointed government board or commission.
He said much more than I have included here, as you can tell by the series of ellipses, but this, in light of his comment about social security being a successful program, is that portion of his words that I want to focus on. I may be inferring too much, but what I think Senator Reid was implying is that King Benjamin was sanctioning government control of support for the needy. It his hard for me through my particular "life lens" to come to any other conclusion. And if I'm right about his inferrence, I strongly disagree with Senator Reid.

Just like I am "reading between the lines" of what Senator Reid said, I may also be reading between the lines of what is written about social welfare in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that not only was King Benjamin NOT sanctioning government interference in the charitable aspects of social welfare, there is ample evidence in the Book of Mormon that it teaches exactly the opposite. Part of what King Benjamin said was this:
15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

--Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ--Mosiah 4:15-19
The implication here, I think, is that individuals are morally obligated to God to help their fellow men. When government usurps this responsibility, it snuffs out the instinct in humankind to be of service to their fellow men. Therefore, with the evidence of these developments, it is my opinion, contrary to Senator Reid's expressed feelings, that social security is one of the most unsuccessful social programs in the history of the world, because it has suggested (and largely effected) that government has relieved us of our responsibility to serve our neighbor.

A few years after King Benjamin lived, his Nephite society transformed itself from a monarchical society to one where "judges", or representatives and governors, were chosen by the voice of the people. The first "Chief Judge" was named Alma. Early in his first term of office, Alma encountered a situation wherein there was
great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.

--Book of Mormon--Alma 4:12
It is interesting what Alma, the head of the Nephite government, did about the situation. If he subscribed to the philosophies of Harry Reid, the next verse of scripture might read something like the following:
Therefore Alma, seeing a great need for economic equality in the land, established laws requiring the taxation of the people, in order that the poor would have wherewith to provide for their own subsistence.
But it doesn't say that. The governor of the land knew he had no such authority, so he used a different approach. He encouraged the people to be of service to their fellow men.

Instead of establishing new laws, he turned over, with the consent of the governed, his authority to another, who became chief judge. And Alma turned his efforts toward reminding the people--in his new capacity as a civilian--of their responsibility to God to care for the poor among them.
19 And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people,...to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.

--Book of Mormon--Alma 4:19
I agree with Harry Reid on several things. But I do not agree with him about Social Security and other social welfare programs, which I think were a terrible mistake.

Government generally, and the US government in particular, has the authority to promote the general welfare. It does not have the authority to take from the people their responsibility to care for each other. What Social Security has done, besides taking over that authority, is to denigrate the institution of the family, whose primary function throughout the ages has been to take care of its own and then to reach outward to help its neighbors. That doesn't happen much anymore--because supposedly government can take care of the problem. Government can't. I'm not sure how Harry Reid thinks that King Benjamin thought it could.

It is interesting how two people could come to such diametrically opposite interpretations of scripture. What is your opinion?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

"An Inconveniently Untruthful Assault on Reason" by Al Gore

The news reported today that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize because of his work toward understanding global warming. Ironically, The news also reported today that Al Gore's movie about global warming has been deemed largely fiction by the British High Court. A research organization is now also asking that his Oscar award for his film "An Inconvenient Truth" be withdrawn. How come I can't get that much press?

I have written on SUMP before that I actually appreciated much of what Al Gore wrote in his book "The Assault on Reason". I've also written here that I think he is 'up in the night' about global warming. But as ABC News is reporting, a recent development couldn't have come at a worse time for Al Gore. The British High Court has ruled that
Gore's global warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth," while "broadly accurate," contained nine significant errors.
I'm not sure that the Nobel peace guys and gals are scientists, but their designation of Mr. Gore and the completely impartial, unbiased, honest, and unbeholden Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as recipients of the Nobel peace prize comes at a pretty embarrassing time, too.

By the way, I would like to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize next year for my study of black holes. Here's are the likely results that my study has yielded--if we get sucked into a black hole, the following will likely happen (do they sound familiar?):
1.) The sea level will rise up to 20 feet...

2.) Some low-lying Pacific islands [will have] to evacuate...

3.) [Black holes] will shut down the "ocean conveyor," by which the Gulf Stream moves across the North Atlantic to Western Europe...

4.) There is a direct coincidence between the rise in [black hole forces] and the rise in temperature...

5.) The disappearance of the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro is expressly attributable to [the black hole we got sucked into].

6.) The drying up of Lake Chad is a prime example of a catastrophic result of [us getting sucked into a black hole].

7.) Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans is because of [yes...black holes].

8.) Polar bears are drowning because they have to swim long distances to find [light, due to our having gotten sucked in a black hole.]

9.) Coral reefs all over the world are bleaching because of [black holes] and other factors.
Well, at least if we got sucked into a black hole, I'd be right with my list of nine things. Which is more than can be said for Al Gore.

So, yes, I think we should take away his Oscar. Either that or transfer it to the proper category--the one the British High Court placed it in--science fiction.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ron Paul and the Theory of Two Speeding Cars

If two speeding cars are heading toward a cliff, and one is going 100 miles per hour, but the other is only going 70, if neither makes a course correction, they will both ultimately crash and burn into several little pieces when they hit the bottom. One will get there sooner, but other than that, there's not much difference between the two results. America is approaching that cliff, and the two cars are labelled Republican and Democrat. Which one is going faster? You decide. But it doesn't really matter.

Unless you vote for Ron Paul that is.

I told my friends the theory of two speeding cars when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore in 2000. I voted for neither. I told my friends this theory again when GW ran against John Kerry in 2004. I voted for neither. In both cases I feel completely vindicated. It wasn't hard BEFORE THE FACT to see that neither driver of either car put forward by their party would correct their respective suicide courses.

So why the heck did everyone vote for them? Because they were the only ones who had a chance to win? That's a stupid reason.

If you made that mistake, are you man or woman enough to admit it? I want you to take a vow. Say it with me...like a mantra...I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR AN ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATE AGAIN.

There is precisely ONE CANDIDATE in either mainstream party who fits this description. There is only who can get in that car and steer it away from the impending cliff.

Ron Paul is that candidate. It is becoming more likely and more realistic that Ron Paul will become the driver of the Republican car next February. If you haven't caught the Ron Paul fever yet, there is no better time than now.

If you haven't donated to the Ron Paul campaign yet, do it now. Even if it's only 5 dollars. That how Ron is raising his millions--from people like me and you, not from his corporate groupies like everyone else.

If you haven't registered Republican so that you can vote for Ron Paul, plug your nose and DO IT NOW.

You no longer have the excuse of not voting for him, because now, Ron Paul can win. If good people like you jump on the Ron Paul train, he will win.

Do in your heart what you are beginning to see is the best choice for America, and DO IT NOW.

Ron Paul is Hope for America.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Glenn Beck's Ron Paul Obsession

It's not often that a political party gangs up to destroy one of its own. But the attempt is in full swing against Ron Paul. Now and again Glenn Beck gets in on the act. He acts like he hates Ron Paul, when he actually seems to agree with him in most of his show monologues. What's propelling Glenn into apoplexy? Any ideas? I've got one...

The establishment is getting vewy vewy newvous. Ron Paul is changing the Republican presidential dynamic; several other candidates are becoming stealth me-too candidates. Maybe the establishment got this ball rolling a bit too early. Ron is getting up a head of steam, and he may shoot into the limelight come February. He raised a crapload of money during the past quarter, and now his goal is to raise $12 million by the end of the year-$4 million per month. And he's already got $500k in the first few days of October.

Mike Huckabee is raising FAR LESS than Ron Paul, yet somehow he is registering higher in the polls than Ron Paul. How can this be? A caller called into the Glenn Beck program today with a very likely reason--it may very well be that pollsters are calling likely-to-vote Republicans, and many Ron Paul voters are not on those calling lists.

The caller himself had not been a likely-to-vote Republican--until recently. But he changed to the Republican party so that he could vote for Ron Paul. There are very likely THOUSANDS of people who are like this caller, judging by the sheer number of donations Ron Paul has received so far.

After this excellent analysis of the polling numbers, Glenn Beck blew a gasket. He did his best (and it was a masterful) impersonation of Bill O'Reilly. The caller might as well have shut-up, but he did a courageous job of trying to get a word in edgewise. Mr. Beck guffawed and accused the man of setting him up and talked and talked and finally dropped the call down the memory hole so that a very valid point about Ron Paul could not be made on his show.

What's up, Glenn? Do you hate Ron Paul, really? Or are you afraid of someone who expects you to be. C'mon, Mr. Beck. Stop being a pansy.

Harry Reid Gives Impressive Speech at BYU

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to BYU today. There was a fairly large turnout to hear him speak at the Marriott Center. No, he didn't say anything about Rush Limbaugh. But he did have some pretty interesting things to say. I didn't agree with all of them, but I now have a much more firm basis to respect him as both a person and a politician.

Update 10/10/2007: Senator Reid subsequently says some very unimpressive things about "right-wing" members of the LDS Church.

Many people would rather listen to entertainers like Rush Limbaugh to get their information about what kind of person Senator Reid is. That would be a dire mistake. I decided to go to the source, and I am glad I did. I enjoyed what I discovered. Senator Reid said in his speech that "I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon," and not the other way around. I found his sincerity about his political beliefs genuine. I agree with him that people of various political parties can be true to their religious faith.

Harry Reid was born in Searchlight, Nevada to poor parents. There were no worship services of any kind in the town; instead there were 13 brothels. He was one of 6 eighth graders to graduate in his elementary school class. Franklin D. Roosevelt was to the Reid family something of an icon.

For high school he boarded with an aunt and uncle in Henderson, 50 miles away, and on some weekends he would hitchhike home to Searchlight. His aunt was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and she gave him his first knowledge of Jesus Christ and his gospel. His wife was Jewish, and was nearly disowned by her parents when she and Harry got married. Soon after marriage, they attended Utah State University, where their landlord interested them more in the gospel, and they were soon baptized into the LDS Church.

Here are some of the political issues he discussed, my paraphrasal of his comments in italics, and my comments in regular text.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt fought for the working man. Because of him and his successes at relief and restoration, Senator Reid believes that government can be our friend when it comes to helping us get back on our feet. Social Security has been the most successful support program ever. I've mentioned recently on this site that I think FDR made some terrible mistakes. Although government can in rare circumstances be of help in such times of need, local government should take care of those problems. I believe that the time for paying the piper that FDR hired is fast approaching.
  • Unions have been responsible for many positive developments. I didn't used to agree with this, but now I do. Capitalism can indeed be oppressive, and unions can be a good counter to the uncharitable task master. But I also believe that individuals have a 'right to work' without being in a union.
  • Global warming exists, and the free market can't deal with it. It is not a cyclical phenomenon. We should be looking for alternative energy sources. I agree that global warming exists, and I agree that we should be looking for alternate energy sources, but I disagree with both of Senator Reid's other statements listed here. The free market can deal with any issue if left unfettered by government, but global warming is not a crisis, because it is cyclical.
  • "Iraq was the greatest US Foreign Policy blunder ever." Those, if not his exact words, are very close. This is one statement for which a more than moderate smattering applause could be heard in the Marriott Center. After he said that some people believe the Iraq invasion was a good thing, a smaller smattering of counter-applause occurred. I don't think it was the worst foreign policy blunder ever, because I think it is the continuation and result of the greatest blunder in the history of US Policy--that is US foreign policy in general. So, essentially, I agree with Harry Reid on this issue.
  • "I am pro-life." Other Democrats are pro-life. I agree.
  • Mitt Romney's campaign success should be determined by his policies, not his religion. This statement got the largest ovation. I completely agree. When Mitt's father ran for public office several years ago, his religion hardly entered into the discussion. Now Mitt's detractors seem to use his religion as a bludgeon. That being said, I will not vote for Mitt Romney, because I don't like his policies. I think Senator Reid would agree.
  • King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon said that when you serve your fellow men, you serve your God. Public service is an excellent way to serve your fellow men. Various LDS leaders have given public service in politics. Mormon missionaries are generally good public servants because they live among the people, the are clean, and they learn the language and culture of their host nation. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Although I disagree with Harry Reid on certain political issues (particularly the efficacy of social welfare programs), I did feel the power of his testimony, and the Holy Spirit bore witness to me that Harry Reid is a great and respectable man, and that he does have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ.

I'm glad I didn't rely on some entertainment-politico to tell me 'what I needed to know' about Harry Reid, because I would have never learned these important things about an important individual.

Update 10/10/2007: Normally following BYU Forums, there is a question and answer session with those interested in attending. This time there wasn't. I thought it was because the Senator was pressed for time. In actuality, Senator Reid had a press conference following his speech, in which he said some very rude things about former LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson. Maybe he didn't think they were rude, but they were.
In remarks to the media following his address, Reid said that, "In the past years we've had some very prominent members of the church, like Ezra Taft Benson, who are really right-wing people.
"Members of the church are obedient and followers in the true sense of the word, but these people have taken members of the church down the path that is the wrong path," he said.
However, Reid says he doesn't have to answer to those who question his faith in the LDS Church.
"I have to go get my [temple] recommend, and they're not present," he quipped.
Okay, so now I'm not so impressed. Why didn't he say that to the BYU audience if he was being sincere about it?

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Parents for Choice in Education Advocates Against School Vouchers

Parents for Choice in Education seems to me to be a seamy, mysterious organization. Yet they are here in Utah advocating on behalf of school vouchers. Wouldn't it be interesting if, at some time in the future, it were revealed that PCE actually was working to see vouchers defeated in Utah? Based on some of their tactics thus far, you would have to color me not surprised at all.

There are several good reasons to support school vouchers in Utah. But it is important to remember that good people are on both sides of this issue. Parents for Choice in Education, a national group, interjected itself somewhat mysteriously into the voucher debate in Utah, inflaming it into a controversy. I wrote previously on SUMP, that my greatest fear about education vouchers in Utah is that
...when the smoke clears, the activities of the voucher battlefield will have inspired an even more vitriolic baseline for the future of our political warfare.
It now seems that Parents for Choice in Education has created that battlefield and is in the process of perfecting it.

Push Polling
First there was the push poll, discussed (among other places) here and here, wherein PCE asked a polling question along the lines of 'if you knew voucher opponents also supported gay marriage would you be more likely to vote for vouchers?'

It would be interesting to run this push poll question: Based on what you've learned or heard from Parents For Choice in Education, are you more or less likely to vote for vouchers in the November referendum.? If the info from PCE was the only information I had I would indicate "Much Less Likely" as my answer to the poll question.

Ad Campaigns
Here's a pretty tame one. While not mentioning that PCE has spent probably more money in Utah, this ad uses propaganda to pit Utah parents against "liberal Washington special interests" and the National Education Association. Hat tip: Green Jello.



I've cringed as I've heard far worse versions of this ad on local radio stations.

Cavorting with Known Spam Artists and Political 'Hitmen'
It's been shown here, here, and here (among several other sources) that PCE likely solicited the aid from muckraker and spam/spin artist extraordinaire, Mark Towner, to decieve those in the public schools who are opposed to vouchers, almost getting them to think that UtahnsForPublicSchool.com was a public school organization that supported vouchers. Towner allegedly received $5,000 for his perfidy. It's hard to imagine that PCE didn't know about Mark Towner's reputation, which it should have steered miles clear of if PCE intended to be looked upon as an organization of noble repute.

This is merely a summary of the evidence against perhaps the most successful school voucher opponent in Utah. PCE is not from Utah, and I'm not sure how they got here. Maybe PCE should leave. If someone could (a) point out any errors in my deduction herein, or (b) provide me more information on where PCE came from, I would be appreciative.

We don't need help like this from proverbial "friends like these". It would be far better to lose the voucher referendum than to win with the mistruths and hate campaigns that have been a large part of the arsenal of the group that calls itself Parents for Choice in Education.

Christian Burridge's Scriptural Interpretation Misses the Mark

It has essentially always been the stock in trade of Republicans to quote scripture when it suits their purposes or when they can find an interpretation of it that so suits. It's now becoming more de rigueur among Democrats to quote scripture.

Although his containing article brought up a good point, a recent attempt at scriptural interpretation by Salt Lake County Democrat Party Chairman Christian Burridge flew wildly wide of its mark.

Mr. Burridge was frustrated by the fact that President Bush vetoed--and several members of Utah's delegation had voted against--increasing the amount of federal funding for health care for children in poverty. Here's what he had to say in a letter to the Deseret News that appeared a few days ago:
I was astounded to hear that members of Utah's congressional delegation voted against SCHIP. Shame on President Bush for vetoing the same bill. Again, these GOP actions reveal that Cannon, Bishop and Bennett value perverse ideological priorities — based on esoteric economic theories that favor the rich — at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our republic. The scriptures should remind our representatives that "whoso shall offend one of these little ones ... it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matt. 18: 6)

Instead, these stiff-necked GOP philosophies should be cast to the bottom of the sea and offend our children no more.

I agree and disagree.

Agree: Heavy-Handed Rich People in High Places

I actually agree with part of his sentiments. There are policies in place in America today that do allow members of the establishment, large corporations, and other ultra-rich people to get get even richer on the backs of everyday Americans. The party--and the administration--of George W. Bush is largely to blame for this. But this is a problem that has been ongoing for several years.

Multi-national corporations have for some time benefited greatly from US policies that allow them to move their operations offshore to profit handsomely from 'slave labor' in such places as Asia. The lack of government desire to stop illegal immigration is only a feigned concern for allowing immigrants to perform jobs that ordinary Americans won't do. This is an allegation similar to the one made by white plantation owners in the antebellum south as justification for continuing to own and abuse black slaves.

This is a problem created by government, and which must be solved by government. Real free trade is fair, and what we have now is not fair, but oppressive--both to the majority of Americans and to those who provide multi-national slave labor around the globe. It may require a substantial cleaning out of our currently elected officials before we garner the national willingness to fix this calamitous problem. Restoring the balance of fair trade--and thus fair wages--would go a long way toward financially empowering families to be able to afford health care for themselves and their children.

Disagree: The Federal Government is NOT the Solution to the Children's Health Care Problems

The second problem Mr. Burridge writes of is one which the federal government not only can't solve, but which it has caused in the first place. Any apparent solving of the problem by government, as FDR's socialist policies are clearly beginning to show, are only temporary and only cause worse problems in the long run. Burridges interpretation of the scripture that he uses is, therefore, very inaccurate.

It is heinous to offend a little child, yes, but Christ was not talking primarily about economics. He was talking about spiritual matters. The greatest offense we can cause to children is to abuse them emotionally and spiritually, with such devices as pornography, as well as verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

In some cases today, families who don't take care of their children's health fail to do so because they are abusive parents. But in most cases, families unable to take care of their children's health are unable to do so because the federal government has gotten in their way and fostered unfair advantages for the rich.

I would like to provide a different interpretation, in a general sense, of the scripture that Mr. Burridge quoted.

I shall raise my voice as long as God gives me sound or ability, against the communistic idea that the government will take care of of us all, and that everything belongs to the government...

It is wrong! No wonder, in trying to perpetuate that idea, that men become anti-Christ, because those teachings strike directly at the doctrines of the Savior.

No government owes you a living. You get it yourself by your own acts--never by trespassing upon the rights of your neighbor, never by cheating him. You put a blemish upon your character the moment you do.

--David O. Mckay, March 14, 1953 as quoted in Prophets, Principles, and National Survival p. 347)
So on one thing we agree: government is providing an unfair living to the super-rich. This must be stopped. But where our opinions diverge is that I think government can only solve the health care problem by otherwise getting out of the way. It is likely within the purview of the state governments to solve these problems, but the feds have proven woefully and consistently inept at finding such solutions.

I am concerned about our children much like Mr. Burridge is. I will concede that perhaps he is more concerned about them and actively engaged in solutions than I am. But his means of solving the problem is the wrong means and will only cause greater problems than the ones he is intending to solve, not to mention that it will not, unless temporarily, solve the actual problem at hand.

If we are quoting scripture, we should do it correctly. We should not use it to further socialist aims, which take away the very foundation of our liberty that is behind every one of Christ's teachings. If we teach them that they can solve their own problems, they will learn how important it is to help other people when they fall into indigent circumstances. If we don't, it would be better that a millstone were hanged about our neck and we were thrown into the depths of the sea.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Illegal Music Downloading: Guilt or Innocence?

I remember when I was a kid, I used to record music off the radio all the time onto my 8-track tapes. It supposedly was illegal, but I didn't think much of it. Is it any different today in the world of MP3s?


Jammie Thomas decided that she wasn't going to settle with the recording industry for the tunes she had downloaded illegally. So the case went to court. Today, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a boatload of money.
The recording industry won a key fight Thursday against illegal music downloading when a federal jury ordered a Minnesota woman to pay $222,000 for sharing copyrighted music online.

The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 30, to pay the six record companies that sued her $9,250 for each of 24 songs they focused on in the case. They had alleged she shared 1,702 songs online in violation of their copyrights.

"She was in tears. She's devastated," Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder, told The Associated Press. "This is a girl that lives from paycheck to paycheck, and now all of a sudden she could get a quarter of her paycheck garnished for the rest of her life."
I think she should be punished, but then again we should all probably be punished as well.

I've spent hundreds of dollars in the past few years buying music. The only music I have downloaded 'for free' is music that I couldn't find on any of the pay-for music sites. But for all intents and purposes, I'm guilty as well.

Actually, I think there is a better solution. Removal of Digital Rights Management (copy protection). A lot of sites are now doing this. This will encourage people to buy music rather than to pirate it. I expect revenues to go up as a result of this compromise.

As well, I think Jammie Thomas' sentence was much too harsh.

What's your opinion?


Who Would You Vote For If You Had A Gun To Your Head?

It's getting pretty sad if the prospects for President of the United States are so bad that we have to play a game called "Who would you vote for if you had a gun to your head?" I don't need a gun to my head, because there is clearly one candidate that is an easy choice for President. Ron Paul.

Yesterday on the Glenn Beck show, Glenn and his staff played the "gun to your head game". It's too bad that they feel so anxious about their choices for President that they would play such a game.

Several of them chose Rudi Giuliani. There are several Democrat candidates that I would vote for before I voted for him. Some others wanted Mitt Romney. A better choice, but still not the best one. Everyone is talking about the strangeness of the Mormon faith in conjunction with Romney. I rather think it's important to point out the strangeness of Mitt Romney's apologies for the Mormon faith and his backing away from some fundamental issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, and redemption.

I don't need a gun to my head to decide who to vote for for president. The choice is clear. Of all the candidates--Democrat and Republican--Ron Paul is the clear winner.

I talked to a friend last night who repeated the mantra "I would vote for Ron Paul, but I just don't think he had a chance." I repeated to her my counter-mantra, "If everyone who wanted to vote for Ron Paul (but didn't plan to because 'he doesn't have a chance') voted for Ron Paul, he would win.

So, Americans, take the gun away from your head and relax. Voting for president doesn't have to taste like cod liver oil in your mouth. Not if you vote for Ron Paul.