Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is Reverend Jeremiah Wright a Lunatic?

Barack Obama is distancing himself from his pastor of twenty years. Glenn Beck is warning that "Wright should not be so eager to encourage folks to listen to his message". Others are saying he's on a self-promotion crusade. Well, I watched him on Bill Moyers Journal the other day, and I agreed with a lot of the stuff Jeremiah Wright said. Not everything, by any means, but a lot more than I thought I would.

Is Jeremiah Wright really a lunatic? What do you think?

I thought Wright's statement about Louis Farrakhan being a great American was a bit weird, but then what do I know, except for what the media tell me about Farrakhan?

What about the AIDS claim of Wright, that the US government inflicted the black community with AIDS? Here are some things the US government has done...

(Except I think Malcolm X didn't think he was very great.)

What about the AIDS claim of Wright, that the US government inflicted the black community with AIDS? I haven't seen any evidence given by Wright, but I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility. Here's a couple of things that your government has done:
  • For forty years, the government did experiments on several black men with syphilis, not telling them what disease they had and not helping them to get better.
  • The government conducted open-air testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada in the 1950's.
It looks like there really may be a US Patent for an AIDS cure, by the way.

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post agrees with a lot of things Wright has had to say, but he draws the line when it becomes 'all about Jeremiah'.
It's understandable, given how Wright has been treated, that he would want to attempt to set the record straight.

Given Wright's long silence, I thought he had taken to heart Jesus's admonition to turn the other cheek. Obviously, I was wrong.

I'm through with Wright not because he responded -- in similar circumstances, I certainly couldn't have kept silent -- but because his response was so egocentric. We get it, Rev. Wright: You're ready for your close-up.

Nonetheless, here are some observations Wright made on Bill Moyers' Journal the other day with which I agree.
  • Most religions don't require anything anymore. Wright said,
    "Unfortunately, most churches now are "status quo." And so that, to the extent that they're not trying to feed the poor, they're not trying to hook up jobs and people, they're not concerned about the lowest, the least, the left out. They're not concerned about the youth, they're concerned about 'Let me come here on a Sunday, hear something that tells me I'm ok, and I'm going to back to where I've been going.'"
  • Wright's church attempts to help troubled youth--mostly black, but not all--become who they want to be, whether it be a doctor, a lawyer, or something else.

  • God does not bless everything we think he does.
    God does not bless gang-bangers. God does not bless dope dealers. God does not bless young thugs that hit old women upside the head and snatch their purse. God does not bless that. God does not bless the killing of babies. God does not bless the killing of enemies.
  • Black liberation theology is probably as misunderstood as "Jewish liberation theology".
    I think that the terms "liberation theology" or "black liberation theology" cause more problems and red flags for people who don't understand it.

    These [the Jews] are people who wrote the word of God that we honor and love under Egyptian oppression, Syrian oppression, Babylonian oppression, Persian oppression, Greek oppression, Roman oppression. So that their understanding of what God is saying is very different from the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians. And that's what prophetic theology of the African-American church is.
  • Trust God, but don't always trust government.
    Where governments lie, God does not lie. Where governments change, God does not change. And I'm through now. But let me leave you with one more thing. Governments fail.

    And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains.
  • Enough with the "BARAK HUSSEIN OBAMA" crap! When asked by Moyers why so many Americans still think Obama is a Muslim, he replied:
    What does the media do? "Barack Hussein Obama! Barack Hussein Obama! Barack Hussein. It sounds like Osama, Obama. That Arabic is a language. So that's why many people still think he's a Muslim. He went to a madrasah. What's a madrasah? I don't know, but I know it was one of those Muslim schools that teaches terrorism. The kind of I don't want to think, just tell me what to think mentality is why so many Americans still think that.
One thing I vehemently disagreed with was Wright's interpretation of the "Three-Fifths Clause" of the US Constitution, in that it was a racist denigration of blacks--it was no such thing, but rather an attempt to prevent southern slaveholders to have undeserved representation in Congress.

I think Jeremiah Wright is an impassioned man--not a lunatic. He has some strange beliefs, but who am I to know for sure that he's wrong about them?

I think, though, that Obama is showing his true colors by throwing Wright under the bus. If it didn't translate into votes lost, Obama would stick with his pastor.




Monday, April 28, 2008

Comment Thread for "Amazing Grace: Why Do So Many Mormons Not Get It?"

For some reason, comments are no longer posting correctly to the article "Amazing Grace: Why Do So Many Mormons Not Get It?". In the best way I know how to remedy the situation, I have closed comments for that article, and re-opened them here.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for a stimulating conversation.




Amazing Grace: Why Do So Many Mormons Not Get It?

Note on Comments for This Post: Somehow, blogger is displaying about 3 fewer comments than have actually been entered. I have added 3 comments, so that the last relevant ones will be shown. In addition, I have closed comments on this article. Please click on this link to continue commenting on the original article. Sorry for the inconvenience.

In large part because of the many childish and tyrannical things we do to each other (and to ourselves), life sometimes seems to suck. God, however, did not intend it to be that way. Unfortunately, our worst tormentor is often ourselves. We Mormons mentally flagellate ourselves on a regular basis. God especially did not intend it to be this way. Instead, he hopes that we will look upward and see the Amazing Grace that he gives to us. We're so busy with the seeming enjoyment of miring ourselves in guilt, however, that we seldom even notice that his grace is at our fingertips.

Amazing grace How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see


A lot of Mormons are pretty blind to the grace of God. I confess that I go through phases of such blindness from time to time.

A friend of mine was once a Presbyterian minister. Upon converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he became aware of an interesting contrast. He told me that while Protestant Christians focus inordinately on the grace of God (and not enough on personal works), most Mormons scarcely notice that grace is even available, because we're so busy trying to become perfect without any help.

I've heard that Latter-day Saints take top billing in use of prescription anxiety and depression-fighting drugs. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, it's probably because we're so busy looking down at all of our shortcomings instead of upward at who and what we can become. We can't seem to go a day without magnifying our own shortcomings. We feel guilty because we didn't get our home/visiting teaching done. We feel stupid because we didn't go to that extra meeting. We feel smaller than a worm because we made an excuse to avoid giving a talk in church, or because we haven't been the reason recently that someone got baptized. And how long has it been since you've read your scriptures? You barbarian!!

Enough already!

Maybe we're "borderline psychos" in part because of our stance on movies. Even though the position of the church is no longer movie-ratings based, most of us refuse to watch a movie if it might have one swearword, one baby born out of wedlock, or one act of violence--regardless of whether the movie has an inspiring story or message. Unfortunately, we Mormons often choose our friends in much the same way that we consume our movies--despite the grand story that they could tell, we reject them if they don't subscribe to our homogeneous view of life.

How boring. How un-Christlike. How lacking in self-confidence.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures


Despite our inability to refrain from various levels of dogmatic living, God still loves us, and his grace is right before our noses. I'm not sure whether he smiles or cries a little each time we pull ourselves down by the bootstraps of our own groveling over our previous mistakes.

Why do we so often feel less than adequate? Is it because we can't bear to admit that our lives are less than perfect--much like the movies that we only watch when we think that nobody is watching us? Or is it because we can't bear to admit that less-than-perfect is still okay?

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed


Joseph Smith taught that
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive...
Somehow we're too worried to notice, though, thinking that we are more worthy of one of God's various lightning bolts because we didn't go to the temple last month or some other such heinous sin.

Ironically, we can't accomplish our main goal--eternal life--without the grace of God, yet we slog around in our self-made muck thinking that this achievement entirely up to us.

If we remember that God's grace is really the only thing that can get us where we want to be, that should help us to start noticing that

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace


So buck up, Mormon campers! We're much better off than we think we are! (Except not in the uppity sense of sometimes thinking we're better than people who don't belong to our church.) It's okay if we have inactive, non-member, drug-addicted, or (gasp) homosexual friends. God loves them, so he won't punish us for loving them, too.

God's lightning bolts are the stuff of Greek mythology; the real God wishes we'd ask rather to be struck more often by the teaching power of his spirit. He's more than willing to pour his grace on even the non-praying, non-scripture reading, non-church-going, bird-flipping-in-traffic heathen than we can scarcely imagine.




Sunday, April 27, 2008

With Imperialists Like These, Who Needs Communists?

There is no question that Communism is the greatest scourge the world has ever known, having to its credit the murder of approximately 100 million of its subjects. But since the victor writes the history, very few people are as aware of the suffocating effect that Western imperialism has had on democracy and liberty, particularly in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Whenever it has suited Western governments--including the United States--democracies around the world have been overthrown in favor of brutal, more predictable tyrants. Ironically, an inordinate fear of Communism caused western leaders to squash liberty in the countries whose liberty they feared would be destroyed by Communism.

Those chickens have now come home to roost, to a great extent in the form of radical Islam.

To be sure, there exists no excuse for the killing of innocents in the name of Muslim extremism. On the other hand, the deep-seated resentment of the United States (and other Western countries) because of our exploitation of the world--particularly the Middle East--is justifiable. Liberty and democracy are natural yearnings

In one of the greatest of ironies, an inordinate fear of Communism caused western leaders to squash liberty in the countries whose liberty they feared would be destroyed by Communism.

of peoples around the globe. Many Middle Easterners wonder, therefore, why if it's good enough for America, France, Britain, Spain, etc., is liberty not good enough for for Middle Easterners? When one studies the underhanded way in which Western imperialist powers have lorded over so many Middle Eastern countries, one is compelled to wonder if leaders of Western democracies feel that democracy and liberty are simply irritating obstacles to their establishment of world dominion.

Here are just a few of the examples of Western imperialist destruction of democracy around the Middle East.

Iran. The most ironic of Imperialistic blowback involves the currently greatest avowed enemy of the United States--Iran. Few Americans know either that Iran was once upon a time a democracy, or that the CIA was instrumental in destroying the liberty that Iranians had just begun to enjoy--in favor of a brutal dictator whose politics could be more predictably controlled by the United States and Britain. Iran has been more or less controlled by the West since 1891, when Britain took over the Iranian tobacco industry. Shortly thereafter, Britain weaseled its way into control of the Iranian natural gas and petroleum industries. Operation Ajax, carried out in large part by the CIA, keelhauled a legitimate fledging democracy in Iran and paved the way for the Shah's brutal new security agency, SAVAK, which killed and tortured thousands of Iranians. The 1979 Iranian revolution, led by Ayatollah Rulhollah Khomeini, likely would never have happened had it not been for the duplicity of the United States, propelled by their illegitimate fear of the Soviet menace.

Egypt. In 1866, the vestiges of democracy began to appear in Egypt. Britain, whose economic interests in Egypt were large, quashed the voice of the people, installing their puppet, King Farouk, on the throne. At about the time of World War I, the Wafd party was very popular among the Egpytian people. Each time Wafd won elections, the British declared the elections invalid. The British and French schemed Egypt into great debt, the means of escaping from which became the selling of the Suez Canal to them for a pittance. The Suez was critical in Britain's self-ordained interest in controlling India. Hosni Mubarak, the current dictator of Egypt, rules with the blessing of the West. Elections are seldom fair under the Mubarak regime. Freedom of the press is nearly non-existent. Because of Mubarak's Western-sanctioned crackdown on democracy in Egypt, religious and political extremism has surged, along with hatred of the West.

Iraq. Britain "won" Iraq following World War II. It immediately and stupidly established King Faisal as its puppet ruler, a foreign Sunni in a predominantly Shiite country. What was perceived in 2003 as a new schism of death between Sunni and Shia had actually been acted out on the Iraqi stage several times before. Their hatred of the British overlords at a crescendo, Iraqis exulted when the Baath party took over the government in 1968. When Saddam Hussein took over dictatorial duties in 1979, Iraq's first modern attempt at democracy was officially over. Stung by the Iranian hostage crisis, the United States supplied mountains of materiel to Hussein in his bid to destroy Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran/Iraq war. Because America lost sight once again of its founding principles, it created another monster, whose effects linger to this day and will be nearly impossible to erase.

. . .

How might history have been different if Western imperialists had left various countries to the governance of their own peoples? We'll never really know. But we can hazard a pretty educated guess. All the while that we fought to contain Communism--America and the West forgot about the principles of liberty and democracy that made us great. Because we fought in so many cases against liberty, the world is now far worse off.

Had America stuck to its founding principles, instead of there now being a radical Islamic Monster, we might instead be contending against a radical Islamic Pest. One thing's nearly for sure: we wouldn't being having a nuclear staredown with Iran. And another: we most assuredly wouldn't have gotten mired in Iraq.




Thursday, April 24, 2008

Harry Reid Praises Texas KGB for Outstanding FLDS Abduction

Harry Reid sent a letter yesterday to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking him to use federal resources to put a stop to the abuse that is going on in polygamous communities. I agree--the abuse must stop. And, from my perspective, this has become a federal affair.

If a state legal agency abuses its power to the extent that it destroys a community like Eldorado, the federal government must be called on to put a stop to it.

Unfortunately, that's not

Interestingly, no criminal conduct whatsoever has been proven yet against FLDS members in Texas--and it will be difficult to do so, because Texas arrested everyone except for the ones that supposedly committed all the crimes--the men.

what Senator Reid was talking about. Instead, he was referring to--based on little or no evidence--increasing the size, scope, and control of the Federal government over the religious activities of Americans. Reid is somehow aware of "a broader pattern of serious criminal conduct" in polygamous communities. And
Reid said the raid earlier this month at the Fundamentalist LDS Church ranch in Eldorado, Texas, "illustrates the depth of the problem and the pressing need for federal leadership to combat this problem."

"The recent raid of one polygamist compound in Texas uncovered many of the problems," Reid wrote. "But Texas may be the tip of the iceberg. The existence of such communities elsewhere in the United States is well known."
Then again it may not be the tip of the iceberg. The point is, no one really knows.

Interestingly, no criminal conduct whatsoever has been proven yet against FLDS members in Texas--and it will be difficult to do so, because Texas arrested everyone except for the ones that supposedly committed all the crimes--the men.

Meanwhile, it has been for all intents and purposes proven that the basis for the entire raid on the FLDS community was a fraud.
Even after the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch that led to the removal of 437 children, 16-year-old "Sarah" continued calling for help.

Those calls now appear to be a hoax, as an arrest warrant unsealed in a Colorado Springs court on Wednesday indicated phone numbers used to call the shelters match cell phones belonging to a woman named a "person of interest" in the Texas investigation.

Colorado Springs police have been investigating Rozita Swinton, 33, for a series of hoax calls reporting child abuse...
However:
...the phony calls will not undo the decision to take the children from the YFZ Ranch...
Well, that's good to know! The saga of abuse continues! Mr. Mukasey, have you read Senator Reid's letter yet?

To further bolster their case, Texas authorities are now counting 462 children, because they have reason to believe that as many as 25 of the mothers are under the age of 18. It would be interesting to have a bit more detail as to age breakdowns for the children-mothers, but I have a feeling that wouldn't bolster Texas's case quite so well--maybe about as much as the bed-hair.

The same story reports that Constitutional rights are being faithfully upheld by Texas authorities as well--or something:

Activity at the coliseum started as the sun rose Thursday morning, when it was locked down and dozens of lawmen massed outside the cattle arena. Attorneys for the children have been turned away at the gate.

"Are attorneys not allowed to see their clients?" a guardian ad litem shouted to a Texas state trooper blocking a gate.

"No," the officer said authoritatively.

So yes, Senator Reid, you are correct. There is widespread egregious abuse as it relates to polygamous communities. But I'm afraid you'll need to rewrite your letter to the Attorney General. And put a few more facts in it this time.




Confronting the Radical Islamic Monster: Benazir Bhutto "Got" It

Western imperialism shares a lot of the blame for the turmoil that exists in the Middle East. The United States' hands are not clean in this regard. However, Benazir Bhutto, in her posthumously published book, Reconciliation, warned the West and her fellow Muslims that this is far from the only problem that confronts the Muslim world.

When they realized that she "got it," from the sense of understanding the breadth of the problem, radical Islamists made sure that she "got it" for the final time, as they presided over her murder on December 27, 2007.

In an effort to see both sides of an important issue, Bhutto is not shy to blame Western imperialism for contributing to the Middle Eastern malaise.
The colonial experience has obviously had a major impact on the Muslim psyche. ...No one doubts that the record of the West in majority Islamic nations is not a pretty one.

Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West
, p. 4
I have written about this previously, and ironically that the United States is largely to blame for Benazir Bhutto's death.

Bhutto realizes, though, that to finish by only blaming the West is not a fair assessment of the situation.
There are a rush and an ease to condemn foreigners and colonizers, but there is an equally weighty unwillingness within the Muslim world to look inward...

The Muslim-on-Muslim massacre that took place in Karachi in October [2007] is consistent with the Muslim-on-Muslim fratricidal sectarian violence that is raging in...Iraq... The Talibanization of [parts of] Pakistan highlight[s] my central concern...

Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, p. 15-16
Admittedly, George W. Bush increased

Why is it so easy for many to (correctly) cast blame in Bush's direction, but to ignore (incorrectly) that in the absence of Western imperialism, the radical Islamist problem would still exist?

the complexity of the issue by invading Iraq for no good reason. Nevertheless, why is it so easy for many to (correctly) cast blame in Bush's direction, but to ignore (incorrectly) that in the absence of Western imperialism, the radical Islamist problem would still exist?

Within the Muslim world, there...continues to be a violent confrontation among sects, ideologies, and interpretations of...Islam. This destructive tension has set brother against brother [and] tortured intra-Islamic relations for 1,300 years.
[In] the Muslim world--where sectarianism is rampant--simmers internally, extremists have manipulated Islamic dogma to justify and rationalize a so-called jihad against the West.

One billion Muslims around the world seemed united in their outrage at the war in Iraq... But there has been little if any similar outrage against sectarian civil war, which has led to far more casualties. ...The attacks of September 11, 2001, heralded the vanguard of the caliphate-inspired dreams of bloody confrontation... ...intellectuals are quite comfortable criticizing outsiders for the harm inflicted on fellow Muslims, but there is deadly silence when they are confronted with Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

Reconciliation, p. 2-3
If we ever expect to come to a mutual understanding between nations we must admit that there are two sides to the seemingly never-ending equation of violence and animosity:
  • The West must stop its Imperial interference in the affairs of other countries
  • The radical Islamist monster must be confronted and stopped
If Benazir Bhutto "got it", and paid the ultimate price to one side of the equation of violence for getting it, why can't we get it?




Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Do Liberals Coddle the Radical Islamic Monster?

Many liberals and progressives in the United States and elsewhere support a radical Islamic fundamentalist movement which, if it came to power, would quickly wipe out their liberal progressive ideology. Why then, do so many liberals coddle the monster that would destroy them? The Answer lies in their long-stemmed hatred of Western liberty and free markets.

Dick Morris' new revelation of Hillary Clinton's ties to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism provides an excellent backdrop for me to ask the question that Greg Allen of The Right Balance has been asking for quite some time, to wit:
If many liberals stand for free sexuality, homosexuality, the use of drugs, binge drinking, and other mindless expressions of individuality, why do so many of them also look the other way when it comes to Islamic fundamentalism? Don't they know that Iran has put to death as many as 4,000 homosexuals? Don't they know that if Islamists come to power they will not only make sexual perversion, drinking, and drugs all crimes (some punishable by death) but they will also make liberalism itself a crime?
Not only that, but equal rights for women will be part of a bygone era as well if radical Muslims take control.

Melanie Phillips has an excellent historic answer as to

The left hopes it can pacify the Islamist shark into eating everyone else--without it eating them. The liberals have already left a gigantic trail of blood in radical Islamic waters.

why these strange bedfellows from her book Londonistan. It amounts to the fact that liberals and progressives have an extremely shortsighted view of history, and that they haven't noticed that they are almost in the grasp of an extremely unforgetful monster. Phillips says
There are three issues that bind the unholy alliance together: America, Israel, and the war in Iraq. ...

Much of the reason for this lies in the end of the Cold War. With the collapse of Communism, ...the left alighted upon the Palestinians as the new proletariat whose cause could be championed as a weapon against Western society. Since the left demonizes America and Western capitalism, and lionizes the third world and all liberation movements, the Palestinian Arabs were a natural cause to be championed--victims of American imperialist power through the actions of its proxy, Israel.

...the communist left had always embodied a profound hatred of the Jews and of America as the fount of capitalism, which it saw as a Jewish conspiracy against the masses. ...The Holocaust pushed this prejudice underground, but now it has resurfaced and regrouped around the issue of "Zionism". Far from being repelled by the Muslim view of America and Israel as the Great and the Little Satan, the left has enthusiastically embraced it.

This is all the more remarkable considering that the Islamists stand for precisely the kind of...socially repressive values that the secular left--with its obsessive promotion of sexual freedom and the rights of women and gays--most detests.

...Despite their obvious differences, therefore, the far left and the Islamists have become a marriage made in hell. They have swallowed their profound differences to use each other to fight the west.

Londonistan, pages 118-119
In this case it appears that liberals think they can, in the short term, champion a demonic cause without it, in the long run, coming back to haunt them. Phillips warns:
Yet [the left] says it can put aside its differences with the Islamists simply because they too are against the state.
But only for so long. The left hopes it can pacify the Islamist shark into eating everyone else--without it eating them. How stupid. They'll be the first to feel the crushing jaws and razor-sharp teeth of the monster. The liberals have already left a gigantic trail of blood in radical Islamic waters.




Monday, April 21, 2008

Should Marriott Hotels Sell Pornographic Movies?

When I was a kid, I was somewhat surprised that the local grocer, being Latter-Day Saint like me, had a large assortment of cigarettes for sale behind his counter. After all, smoking is against the Word of Wisdom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But, I told myself, not everyone is LDS, so they should have that choice. Now I am beginning to wonder.

The proprietors of the Marriott Hotel chain are LDS as well. Yet in some of their hotels pornographic movies are sold. I think this is a bit weird--much more weird, actually, than a Mormon selling cigarettes. Do you think Marriott should sell porn?

I attend one or two computer conferences per year, and almost invariably my hotel room has "Adult" movies for sale. Occasionally, I stay in a Marriott hotel room. It surprised me greatly the first time I stayed there, and it still does when I stay in a Marriott room, that Marriott is one of the hoteliers that sells adult pornographic movies in addition to other movies.

The first thing I do when I get to my room is to delete the ability to select anything from the adult movie genre. A pro-family group is now attempting to encourage Marriott to stop selling pornographic fare.
Officials with Marriott International have agreed to meet with pro-family leaders to discuss the hotel giant's policy of selling in-room pornographic movies to consumers at some of its properties.

"We certainly think Mr. Marriott has a heart for children and families," Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association (AFA), told Cybercast News Service.

The AFA is one of 47 pro-family groups to sign an April 3 letter, addressed to Marriott Chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott Jr., asking that the corporation cease offering adult entertainment in its rooms. ...

The letter stressed that pulling the plug on pornography would be in keeping with Marriott's public statement of "promoting the well-being of children and families."
The libertarian in me says that people should be free to choose what they want to see, but the same libertarian side of me thinks that Marriott should also have the choice as to what amenities to offer. I think the AFA is right in trying to persuade Marriott to stop showing pornographic movies.

What do you think? Is the American Family Association sticking its nose where it doesn't belong?



Sunday, April 20, 2008

FLDS Human Rights Violations are Fraud Reminiscient of KGB

In his book The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn talks about how strange it was when he first realized that he was being arrested in a large crowd of people on the most specious of pretexts by the Soviet KGB. His life was instantaneously changed forever for the worse. He had done nothing wrong, yet there was also nothing he could do to preserve his freedom, because if he had cried out, no one in that large crowd would have believed (dared to believe?) his word vs. that of the KGB agents.

The state of Texas has now gone the KGB one step better: 416 children and their mothers have been arrested in a much larger crowd, and you are statistically likely to be part of that crowd of people who think that the FLDS people had it coming.

You are oh so wrong.

Most of us think the FLDS people in that Eldorado "compound" are just too weird--but only because we don't know them very well. However, we also think that just because they're too weird gives Texas law enforcement authorities the excuse to flout the law in attempting to give 416 FLDS children and their mothers what Texas officials think is best for them. Texas is now in full damage-control mode for a heinous abrogation of human rights at Eldorado. The best damage control would be for them to admit that it was all a mistake.

Abductions Based on Fraud. Ironically, the entire Eldorado escapade is based on a fraud. The supposed sixteen year old who called authorities claiming abuse has not been found. However, a woman by the name of Rozita Swinton has been found--with strong evidence that it was she who impersonated the sixteen year-old known as "Sarah".

Not having been able to locate the reason for their search warrant (because Sarah does not exist), the Texas officials should have apologized and left the community, right? Not if you're the Keystone Kops, because these FLDS people are really weird, so we need to set them straight. Ed Firmage at OneUtah has it right on when he says:
And now the Texas judge tells me that “Sarah” is a metaphor? What a ghastly admission of the absolute failure of the Texas system of justice.
Here are some other facts surrounding the fraudulent case.

Dale Barlow as Alleged Abuser. Sarah, aka Rozita Swinton, alleged that Dale Barlow was the man who had abused her. Unfortunately for the case, Dale Barlow had not been to the Eldorado community for several years. Yet the Texas KGB plowed on with its community-building intent anyway.

Eldorado is valuable land. As Firmage rightly points out
”Sarah” v. Texas is a case, like those in Utah and Arizona, where millions of dollars in land are at issue. In a very limited sense, and different by an order of magnitude, this is similar to the Japanese Relocation cases of early World War Two. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans lost their land to greedy folk in California and elsewhere.
The Fundamentalist LDS are not nearly as weird as we might think they are. We watch far more and far stranger people every night of the week on television.

The Myth of Abused FLDS Children. The best "evidence" so far given in the news about alleged abuse at Eldorado is that one of the upper floors of the FLDS temple has beds in it, and in one of the beds was found a human hair. Oh my heck! I'm surprised they haven't called in the FBI for a Branch-Davidian style conflagration yet!

In reality, the FLDS children appear to be more well balanced than most Nintendo-addicted children I know--as well as a host of others. Furthermore, it cannot be disputed that their lives will be torn apart as these 416 children are forced into foster homes, the proprietors of which will, with good but different religious intentions, attempt to fix all of them. Once again, I agree with Firmage, who says
I don’t doubt the Texas ‘judge’s kindly intent. Nor the sadness and the professional care of the police, the Texas Rangers, and surely not the loving kindness of Baptist mothers and fathers who have stepped in to help, as saviors. But kindly intended but ill-informed people can produce havoc and death.
Taking Away their Cell Phones is Supposed to Help What? In an effort to try and further "help" the FLDS children, the Texas authorities have taken away their free choice to communicate with the parents from whom they have been separated. In a shorter opinion piece for the Deseret News, Firmage states:
This atrocity, shocking in its initial sweep, hugely overbroad, of children and their parents, gets worse day by day. Now the pitiful last means of parents to communicate with their children and children with their parents by cell phones has been ended by confiscation of all phones.
No Abuse Has Been Proven, Only Speculated Wildly. It is very unlikely that the FLDS communities abuse their children or wives--if at all--with anything near the frequency of main street America, let alone to mention those, like Britney Spears, who belong to the Hollywood demographic.

. . .

Can't we just leave these people alone? Better yet, can't we get to know them and respect them for who they are? Contrary to what you may believe, they would let us if we tried. I know because I have tried, and the polygamists I have met are fine people.

Most of us are too smugly wrong that we know everything about them, and that they are irreparably weird--so they need to be made normal. So it's somehow okay with a lot of us that Texas law authorities break their own laws in an attempt to fix something that we in our blessed ignorance are 100% certain is broken.

As I've said before, the raid on the FLDS community at Eldorado is a travesty of justice. It reduces both
the inhibition and the proximity for the next such human rights violation against the next religious community to be deemed too weird for our version of normalcy.

Ed Firmage put it best when he wrote
The Fundamentalist Mormons of four or five clans have been frozen in time, to some extent, by being marginalized, like gays, or at an earlier time, marriage between different racial or ethnic groups, sent into the badlands...

If Texas can do that to Fundamentalist Mormons, when will it be your turn?
If you'd rather not ever that it be "your turn", I suggest you begin rallying for liberty and justice for the Eldorado community. Because they aren't getting it now.




Saturday, April 19, 2008

George W. Bush and Jack Bauer--Losing the "War on Terror" from the Get-Go

My brother and I agreed the other night over dinner that George W. Bush will most likely go down as the worst US president in our history. From his misguided "compassionate conservatism" takeover of philanthropy, to his support for a North American Union, to his senseless attack of Iraq, the man has done almost nothing right.

Perhaps the worst trait of this ego-maniac is his seeming desire to emulate Jack Bauer of "24" fame, apparently believing that the protection of America against another 9/11 attack must involve torture of our potential enemies. Early in the War on Terror ballgame, George W Bush decided that any kind of interrogation--including torture--is fair game if it might protect America from further attack, and the "War on Terror" was lost in one fell swoop.

This goes against every American tradition. Such arrogance invites future attacks on America.

Ron Suskind called it the One Percent Doctrine. The people at Guantanamo came to know it as the Jack Bauer doctrine.

In order to stop terrorist attacks on America, the American government decided in early 2002 to unwittingly invite terrorist attacks on America

If we want to win a war against terror, we cannot ourselves use terror.

by using disproven means of "interrogation" of supposed terrorists--i.e. torture. Ironically, it was a Brit who reminded us in The Guardian yesterday that
Principles for the conduct of interrogation, dating back more than a century to President Lincoln's famous instruction of 1863 that "military necessity does not admit of cruelty", were discarded [by the Bush administration]. He approved new and aggressive interrogation techniques that would produce devastating consequences.
Up until early 2002, US Military doctrine followed Field Manual 34-52, whose primary aim was to garner helpful intelligence information by building rapport with prisoners.
Building rapport is the overriding aim of the US Army Field Manual 34-52, the rule book for military interrogators, colloquially referred to as "FM 34-52". Legality was also essential, which meant operating in accordance with the rules set out in the US military's Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law, in particular the four Geneva conventions.

At the heart of them lies "Common Article 3", which expressly prohibits cruel treatment and torture, as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment". [Beginning in 2002] Tactics that had conformed to these principles changed dramatically.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were too impatient (or stupid) to see that this was the only means of interrogation that produced actionable intelligence.

Imagine that an enemy nation has captured you and used the following means of eliciting intelligence from you:
  • yelling
  • deception
  • humiliation
  • sensory deprivation, including stress positions, such as standing for a maximum of four hours
  • isolation
  • deprivation of light and sound
  • hooding
  • removal of religious and all other comfort items
  • removal of clothing
  • forced grooming, such as shaving of facial hair
  • use of individual phobias, such as fear of dogs, to induce stress
  • use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact", such as grabbing, poking and light pushing
  • use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences were imminent for him or his family
  • exposure to cold weather or water
  • use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation also known as water-boarding
How likely would it be that you provided "intelligence" to your captors? How likely would it be that you would rather saw them as monsters to be stopped at all costs? Yet that's exactly what we're doing to these people that we have incorrectly come to see as less than human. And it's all right out of Fox's "24". According to the Guardian article:
[A] character in Fox's hugely popular TV series, 24[, ]Bauer is a fictitious member of the Counter Terrorism Unit in LA who helped to prevent many terror attacks on the US; for him, torture and even killing are justifiable means to achieve the desired result. Just about every episode had a torture scene in which aggressive techniques of interrogations were used to obtain information.

Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, "he gave people lots of ideas." She believed the series contributed to an environment in which those at Guantánamo were encouraged to see themselves as being on the frontline - and to go further than they otherwise might.
I know a few people who love Jack Bauer, and who think he is the quintessential American. I think George W. Bush must be one of Bauer's admirers.

If we want to win a war against terror, we cannot ourselves use terror. If the United States uses terror to get "intelligence", we all lose.

I hope that an overwhelming majority of Americans abhor Jack Bauer. But I'm probably too optimistic. In reality, Jack Bauer is not much different than Joe Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Tse Tung. Neither, apparently, is George W. Bush.




Friday, April 18, 2008

Grand Canyon is Grand, but Zion National Park is Much Grander

I've been on a bit of hiatus recently, having spent the past few days with my family in the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. It was a very cathartic break in my work schedule. All of us, including the kids, had as much enjoyment as we did last year in Arches National Park and Mesa Verde. The Grand Canyon is awe inspiring, but so is Zion National Park, and it seems like it's easier to interact with nature at Zion. That's why I think Zion is the grandest of them all.

Last Saturday we hiked Angel's Landing at Zion. The info board told us it would take 4 hours. We did it in three. But we were exhausted. It's a good thing Sunday was a rest day.

Monday we hiked the rim trail at Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then we hiked halfway down Bright Angel trail. The kids thought it was the most fun they'd ever had, until it was time to turn around and come back up! We had to pick the hottest day of the year, too--which caused our water to run out more quickly than we had expected. So instead of a nine-mile hike, we took the six-mile version.

It had never occurred to me before--but it makes perfect sense--that if it's 80 degrees at the top of the canyon, it's going to be about 100 degrees at the bottom. No wonder it was easier to negotiate the last 1.5 miles coming back up Bright Angel trail (rather than the first 1.5).

Tuesday we hiked a part of the Kaibab Trail, but because the windiest day of the year followed the hottest day of the year, we cut that short as well--for safety reasons.

We hadn't initially planned to, but we decided, since it was on our way home, to go back to Zion for some additional hikes. We stayed in the Zion Lodge Tuesday night, and it was heavenly to wake up to the sun-peaked cliffs of the park. Before breakfast we visited the Emerald pools. Following breakfast we found our favorite hike to be Hidden Canyon, something that we never even knew was there before. I've since spoken with others who agree with us that:
  • They appreciate Zion National Park even more than Grand Canyon
  • Their favorite Zion hike is Hidden Canyon
What's your opinion? Is Zion the best? Grand Canyon? Arches? Or something else?

As for me, the Grand Canyon is gorgeous, but I still think that Utah is the most beautiful place on earth.




Friday, April 11, 2008

Evolution: How Could Earth Have Evolved into Existence?

I've studied a bit about evolution, and:
  • I can see how it is possible that animals evolved (in fact there's ample evidence of that).
  • I wouldn't be too troubled to find out that man evolved from lower hominid forms.
But I guess I'm not smart enough to figure out how solar systems--especially the planets in them capable of sustaining life--could have evolved. In other words, I have a sneaking suspicion that earth and our solar system is quite good evidence that there must be a God out there someplace.

I'm in the middle of reading two very interesting and antithetical books. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is one that I have read before. I am also reading the answer to Dawkins' claims--The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, by David Berlinski. Needless to say, I am immensely intrigued and entertained by my study in contrasts.

In his defense of the claim that truth can emanate from both science and religion (a claim that I agree with), Berlinski quotes Sir Isaac Newton:
...Newton in writing Principia Mathematica [exclaimed] "The most beautiful system of the sun, planet, and comets...could only proceed from the counsel and domination of an intelligent and powerful Being."

The Devil's Delusion
, page 52
Although I'm sure he does not intend to, Dawkins tends to lend credence to the idea of an intelligently created Earth as well. He states rather incuriously that
We exist here on Earth. Therefore Earth must be the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting us.

The God Delusion
, page 135
Dawkins then speaks of "Goldilocks Zones" or orbits of proximity to the right kinds of stars--such as our sun--such that a planet would be able to sustain life. He agrees that these kind of planets would be very rare, but that it's logical to assume there would be more of such planets in the universe than just Earth. I agree with that.

But then Dawkins goes right on talking about how life might have evolved separately on each of these "Earths" (which I have no problem with) without contemplating how this Earth--and potentially others--got into their orbits in the first place.

I agree with Berlinski. I agree with Newton. God did it.

The prophet Alma agrees, too. In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, he explains the evidence to Korihor, the "anti-Christ" who thinks that it evidence is only that which we can see, and that thus, simply, there can be no God.
...what evidence have ye that there is no God..? I say unto you that ye have none save it be your word only

...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Makes a lot of sense to me. Mr. Dawkins, am I missing something?




Thursday, April 10, 2008

FLDS Under Siege: They're Using that "Compound" Word Again

The FBI set the Texas standard for destruction of a religious community with their killing of David Koresh and nearly all of the Branch Davidians in Waco in 1993. Texas law enforcement officials--as well as representatives from child and family services--haven't killed any members of the Fundamentalist LDS community in Eldorado, but their path of destruction is nearly as evident. As evidence of their unsurety of their cause, Texas officials have (once again) gone to using the word "compound".

I can think of a lot better words than "compound" to describe the FLDS community. How about "community" for one? Or we might say "town" or "society". We can even use the word "enclave". But "compound"? The colloquial definition has come to be fraught with images of siege, fences, and razor wire--a prison camp for lunatics. Use of the word compound is a subtle

Texas officials entered Eldorado in search of weapons of mass destruction, but when they had emerged, their mission had changed to one of "compound building".

attempt to cover up the reality that we don't know very much about a certain society we wish to confront--and that we don't much care to know either.

In the past few days, Texas officials entered Eldorado in search of weapons of mass destruction, but when they had emerged, their mission had changed to one of "compound building".

True there was reason to enter the community. A young woman called law authorities and reported that she was being abused "by an adult male to whom she had been 'spiritually married.'" Officials obtained the necessary search warrant for probable cause. When, however, they entered the "compound" their mission changed. Now essentially every woman and child that had lived in the Eldorado community has been forcibly removed. Why didn't Texas officials remove all the men of the community--the alleged perpetrators? Because that wouldn't be conducive to good "compound building".

Ironically,
...Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for Texas' division of child protective services, said "all the children have been safely removed from the ranch."

However, Meisner said she "still cannot confirm that we have the 16-year-old girl."
Three years ago, when former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs predicted apocalypse of one sort or another, county Sheriff David Doran paid the "compound" a visit--except that it wasn't known as a compound then. His perspective at the time was
"That it's business as usual." "Things were quiet out there. It was calm." "They just want to live their lives under their religious beliefs."
I don't much appreciate the odd religious beliefs of the FLDS community. I can't understand how they would acquiesce to Warren Jeffs' usurpation of power outside the normal bounds of FLDS transfer of authority. I am particularly perturbed, as Ken Bingham has already pointed out, that the FLDS have taken on the moniker of "Latter-Day Saints" when almost none of their members have ever had anything to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But just because they're weird doesn't give Texas law enforcement the authority to metamorphose an incident of abuse into a "compound building" experiment.

When a friend of mind seemed smugly satisfied back when the Branch Davidian community received their comeuppance as their property went up in flames, I looked him square in the eye and said, "Richard--you're next."

"Next" has now gotten a lot closer.




Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Federal Reserve Weighs its "Option": Bailout of the Elite

It would be nice if the moneymakers at the Federal Reserve were simply inept.

It was a terrible idea the moment it was hatched nearly one hundred years ago, and I have now had about a gut-full of the freaks at the Federal Reserve. After creating the financial atmosphere where a subprime mortgage meltdown could occur, the Fed now contemplates bailing out the big boys who took it in the shorts--while leaving you in the lurch.

The Mexican Peso Bailout of 1994 wasn't a bailout of the Mexican Peso. It was a bailout of the tycoons who loaned the money to Mexico knowing full well that they would have their spread covered if the deal went south. In a similarly elitist move, the Federal Reserve bailed out Bear Stearns a couple of weeks ago. Why? Because, said Ben Bernanke, we can't afford to let such a big company go under.
Given the exceptional pressures on the global economy and financial system, the damage caused by a default by Bear Stearns could have been severe and extremely difficult to contain," Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee.
So what's the solution? Put the US taxpayers on the hook.
The investment house was purchased by JP Morgan Chase & Co. with assistance from the Fed in the form of a loan backed by $30 billion of Bear Stearns assets. JP Morgan has agreed to absorb the first $1 billion of losses if the value of the assets declines, but taxpayers are at risk for the remaining $29 billion.
Moral hazard is the art of making bad choices because you are reasonably sure that you will be protected from the consequences of those choices. I'm not sure what you call it when the fix is in in advance--moral turpitude?

Ellen Goodman thinks something is rotten in the American halls of financial power, and I agree.

I grant you that moral hazard is not a myth. But most of the sermons railing against the harm of helping others are directed

The Federal Reserve is setting the stage for a global market meltdown almost infinitely greater than if there were a law against the elite bailing out their friends while pissing on you, the little guy.

at the poorer pews.

We don't seem to worry about the moral hazard of, say, protecting a CEO from his failings. Need I remind you that Robert Nardelli got $210 million in severance after he hammered Home Depot? Or that he now resides at the top of Chrysler?

This leads us right into the den of Bear Stearns. Last weekend, while its chief executive was off playing bridge, one of the most aggressive cowboy firms in the mortgage securities business collapsed. The government brokered a deal with J.P. Morgan Chase to buy the firm and guarantee its loans with your tax dollars.

On the Glenn Beck show yesterday, Peter Schiff explained what is afoot:
It's really easy. It boils down to one word. Inflation. That's what they are contemplating, printing money and buying up mortgages. You know, we talk about, you know, the economic collapse. Our economy has to collapse because it was phony.
Inflation is NOT inflation to the people who first get the extra money that the Fed prints. It is a windfall, and the elite always get that first crack at the new infusion of cash. Not until it gets down to you and me have all the prices gone up--and our buying power gone down. Think about that in conjunction with the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

The Federal Reserve is worse than a waste of time. It is a corrupt cartel that plays fast and loose with your money. In the guise of attempting to correct the economy--which it most assuredly cannot do--it is setting the stage for a global market meltdown almost infinitely greater than if there were a law against the elite bailing out their friends while pissing on you, the little guy.

We can do just fine without you, Federal Reserve--thank you. Step aside and let the economy make its own course corrections, before there is no economy left.

And don't let the door hit you in the butt as you make your exit into the oblivion that you deserve.




Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No Boycott, But Don't Hold the 2008 Olympics in China!

The International Olympic Committee is considering abandoning the international portion of the Olympic torch relay for safety reasons. Of course, if they continue just the China portion of the relay then everyone will be safe--except for the current and constant crop of victims of massive human rights violations in China and Tibet.

I think the IOC should go itself one step further. China, the greatest human rights violator in the history of mankind, does not deserve to host the Olympic games. Boycotting is not the answer, because then the athletes are penalized. So let me propose a better solution--let's convene another 2008 Olympics in some other country.

I can hardly expect the United States government to take umbrage with the coming of the Olympics to China in August of 2008; the American Establishment has its fingers way too deep in that pie. Since General George Marshall was shanghaied by Mao and Chao in 1945, the American Establishment has never had as healthy a regard for the Chinese common man as it has for China's other "resources". After Richard Nixon worshiped at the throne of Mao in 1972, it cannot reasonably be expected that the American Establishment would call attention to the historical and current atrocities of the Chinese communists. When the first George Bush administration looked the other way in 1989 as Chinese troops massacred 4,000 innocent civilians, I knew the fix was in.

Hillary Clinton, in nothing more than an effort to boost her campaign ratings, asked President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies to the Chinese games. Her words are mere platitudes. When she was "co-president" from 1993 to 2001, the American relationship with China was no less cozy than it is now.

I think it will be initially difficult to get the athletes to call for a 2008 Olympic venue other than China, especially after many of their reactions to President Jimmy Carter when he declared a boycott of Soviet Olympic games in Moscow in 1980. Perhaps if they come to understand that China's environmental destruction is nearly as vile as its killing, torture, and repression of its peoples, they might change their mind. If they understand that their own health might be at stake, they might welcome the opportunity to compete in London, Los Angeles, or Sydney instead.

Mao Tse Tung prided himself on the destruction of the Chinese people so that he could convey to the outside world that China was economically healthy. In a similar effort, Chinese Communist leaders have evicted 400,000 people from their homes
to make way for stadiums and new highways. Few receive compensation, because in China, most land is “collectivized” and technically belongs to the central government. These injustices have continued to occur despite China’s earlier promises to move towards democracy.
Now, with violent repression of Tibet protests in the news, protests are reaching critical mass. I applaud those who have used the Olympic Torch relay, macabrely billed as the "Journey of Harmony" in London, to make their protests known.

Although I do not think a boycott is the best way to confront the China human rights issue, I otherwise agree with Anthony P. Dedousis of the Harvard Crimson:
The eyes of the world will be upon China, as tourists and television viewers from every country tune in. Hundreds of world leaders, including President Bush, will be in attendance. Medals will be won, records will be broken, and nations will rally around their Olympic heroes. But for democracies worldwide, it will be a moment of shame.
There is ample time, and there are enough alternative venues, that we can still hold the Olypmics--somewhere else.

The Olympics should go on, but not in China.

China can see that our governments are not serious about correcting human rights abuses there. If they see that individual people are serious, then freedom might actually bloom in China.

Until then, holding the Olympics in China would be a travesty.




Saturday, April 05, 2008

DNA: The Book of Life

Christian scripture teaches that I will be judged out of the Book of Life. If this is true, am I the book out of which I am judged? Is there enough information inside me to form a basis for my own judgment relative to the laws of nature and nature's God? Do my behavior and desires help to determine my DNA?

Near the end of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, John writes that
...I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Could it be, metaphorically, that we are the books that John saw being opened? Do our actions in this life make an imprint on our beings? I think so. What about our thoughts and our feelings? Most definitely.

DNA is distinguishing characteristic between living and non-living things. DNA "provides the information necessary to take a bunch of lifeless chemicals and turn them into an ordered, living system".

With these thoughts in mind, I found it interesting to read the following definition of DNA from the book Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding:
The nucleus [of each cell] may be thought of as a library containing hundreds of books (the DNA) with information about the cell, including much of its structural and functional information, that will be passed on to the next generation. ...This recorded history has been stored in the cell's library for thousands of generations, just waiting to be read and comprehended. (p. 103. Emphasis added.)
Charles Darwin taught that life is changed over the eons of time by natural selection, but he also recognized that it can be changed by artificial selection as well. More than any other creature, man can change the course nature will take, by "artificially" selecting or determining

More than any other creature, man can change the course nature will take, by "artificially" selecting or determining the contents of his or her own character. And thus, by our own selection, we determine our own nature.

the contents of his or her own character. And thus, by our own selection, we determine our own nature.

In The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma implies that there exist various "states of nature", and that we create the one that we are most comfortable in.
For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
Along these lines, also in The Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon draws an interesting distinction. Because we have determined our own natures, God will ultimately allow us to enjoy the fruits of that determination.
ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
Because our nature is affected by our desire and our behavior, I wouldn't be surprised if our DNA is affected by them as well. I think this is what Alma meant when he taught his son, Corianton, about the law of Restoration.
Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order.

...is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?

...this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; ...just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually

For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again
Initially, our DNA is handed down to us from all the generations of our ancestors. Each has imprinted in some small way their contributions to our makeups. That's why we look like them, act like them, and have the same physical maladies as them. That's probably why, in many cases, an adopted child takes on the behavioral characteristics of biological parents it never even knew, rather than the opposite characteristics of the parents who reared the child.

Thanks in part to our ancestors, because of the propensity in nature toward mutation, none of us can help but be something of a spiritual and physical mutant. Fortunately, God has the ability to sort all of this out. After all, he gave us the gift of His Only Begotten Son.

Just as important, though, is the fact that we have to "artificially select" for ourselves the nature (or the desire) to appreciate that gift, because God will not force us to accept it. Each of us has the ability to choose, despite our original nature, what will be written in our DNA--our book of life.

When it comes time to be judged, will we have written our book such that our nature is akin to the nature of God? Will our DNA have become imprinted by our "artificial selection"--our desire--to become like him?

That can only be for us--as individuals--to decide.





Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yoani Sanchez Tells What Life Really is Like in Cuba

Books don't capture the moment like blogging does. Armando Valladares, Humberto Fontova, and other authors, have masterfully captured the debauchery, the murderousness, and the torture of the Cuban Communist oligarchy; but history presents the truth in a way that can tempt and trick our minds into dismissing its facts as either exaggerations or occurrences of a bygone era. Blogging, however, puts those facts in your face almost as they happen.

With up-to-the-minute accounts by Yoani Sanchez--and hopefully soon-to-be others--Americans will now be able to get a clearer understanding that the debauchery, the murder, the torture, and the socialist expropriation are going on in Cuba right now.

It's too bad the internet wasn't around when the Cuban revolution of Fidel and Raul castro, along with Che Guevara and other gutter rats, plunged Cuba deep into the dark ages. With the internet, this travesty of freedom may never have been able to happen.

If Che Guevara were still around, he would probably rape her and have her shot. She is the current bane of Fidel and Raul Castro and their dictatorial minions. They have attempted to shut her off from the outside world, but Yoani Sanchez will not be silenced.

It's unfortunate that the American government has not and will not do a better job of describing the heinous living conditions that exist for the rank and file and Cuba. Unfortunately, several Americans and American institutions have given the opposite impression by praising the supposed genius and plenty of the Cuban system. They've only seen the veneer.

Robert Redford visited Havana--at least that part of it into which foreigners are allowed to venture--and pronounced it good. NBC news correspondent Andrea Mitchell became a favorite of Fidel Castro, because she was so trusting that the rest of the country behind the curtain was just like the small portion that The Dictator had allowed her to see. Bob Costas a few years back did a

History presents the truth in a way that can tempt and trick our minds into dismissing its facts as either exaggerations or occurrences of a bygone era. Blogging, however, puts those facts in your face almost as they happen.

comparison of the health care systems of Canada, Cuba, and the United States, wherein he dolefully "admitted" the untruth that Cuba's health care system was on par with the United States.

Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger extraordinaire, has called all of their bluffs.
What has probably unnerved the regime is not so much her attacks on the Castro brothers as her vivid description of daily life — how Cubans register their cows as oxen to avoid having to sell the milk to the government, how people get paid in worthless Cuban pesos but have to obtain "convertible pesos" on the black market in order to buy soap, and how the timid reforms put in practice by Raul Castro so far amount to the legalization of global technology that is beyond his control.
The Cuban dictocracy has made a feeble attempt to silence Ms. Sanchez. She sniffs her nose at them.
"The anonymous censors of our famished blog have tried to lock me up in the room, turn my lights off and prevent my friends from coming in. ... However, the punishment is so useless that it invites pity and so easy to elude that it becomes an incentive."
Liberty cannot be silenced forever. Not even in Cuba.

From time to time Yoani Sanchez's blog may be blocked by the Cuban government, but if not, here it is in English and here it is in Spanish. Other bloggers and news outlets have captured some of her material. For more information, click here, here, and here. "Yoani Sanchez" turns up thousands of hits on internet search engines.




Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Richard Dawkins, Mormonism, and Evolution

Various Christian denominations teach unequivocally that organic evolution is a falsehood. Where do you think The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints stands on this issue? It might surprise you.

Have you ever been taught in an Sunday School class that the theory of evolution is outright falsehood? Have you felt on a high school or college science exam about evolution that you would have to choose between your faith and science?

If you're a Latter-Day Saint, you don't have to worry about these issues. Because your church's doctrine on this subject just might not be what you think it is.

I've been rereading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a book which fascinates me. While I don't think his understanding of early Christian history is anything to write home about, I have been impressed by his explanation of evolution--particularly Natural Selection. During reading, I have found myself--especially when I discovered that Natural Selection and Chance are two completely different things--seeing the plausibility of Dawkins' explanations.

But what if I start to believe it? Does that go against what my church teaches? If I believe in evolution, will I be banned from LDS Church membership? Does a belief in evolution detract from my belief in God?

In a word to answer these three questions--no.

Here, in a nutshell, is the doctrine of the LDS Church on the subject of organic evolution:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.

Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church ... .
In the April 1910 issue of the LDS Improvement Era appeared a statement about Adam and Eve and evolution.
Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection..." or were formed by some other means is "not fully answered in the revealed word of God."
Richard Dawkins said
It's rather like a detective coming on the scene of a crime, obviously after the crime has been committed, and working out what must have happened by looking at the clues that remain. [As evidence] of evolution, the clues are a billionfold.
The more I read Dawkins, the more I agree--it makes some sense. But also from what I've read so far, I don't think Richard Dawkins is so absolutely 100% positive about evolution that he would cling to that certainty if it were proven false. I also think that if he were to be faced with the evidence of God that he would begin believing that God exists.

I believe that God exists. For me that's doctrinal (but not dogmatic). I also believe in the plausibility of natural selection. That, however is a personal belief (but not doctrinal).

I like how Henry Eyring (the late father of LDS Church First Presidency member Henry B. Eyring), who as a scientist had a profound belief in God, felt about it:
[Henry Eyring] enthusiastically studied the possibilities and even the probabilities of evolution. He even published a paper saying that, given the chemistry involved, it would have taken about one billion years for the first life to form from nonliving elements. Yet, notwithstanding the scientifically rigorous speculation, in the end he wouldn't take a stand on how God did it. One of Henry's colleagues, a member of the [LDS] Church, wrote once to thank him for his unequivocally equivocal position on evolution:

When I was in Salt Lake one time, I was discussing some problems of early man with you in your office. I then asked: "Which way do you believe it was?" You replied, "I believe whichever way it turns out to have actually been."
Me, too.

Links to discussion on Mormonism and Evolution