Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Once You Go Barack, You Can't Go Back!" Obama Scares Me, Too

Over a year ago, I read Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. I was nearly taken in by his rhetoric. As I've come to know more about the man, I've determined that he associates with some pretty shady characters, that he has no experience, that his policies would be devastating, and that America could have done much better in their nomination of the first black American to run for President.

A good friend of mine is a cancer survivor, although he is still on a regimen against its recurrence, and he regularly visits

Once you go Barack, you can't go back!

with his doctor to ensure his good health. Painted on the tailgate of his pickup truck is this statement:
"I am a cancer survivor. Obama scares me."
You know what? My friend is right to be scared. I've never had cancer, but the more I come to know about Barack Obama, the more scared I am that there are so many people who think Obama is the solution to America's malaise.

You should know, before you read much further, that I don't in any way support Republican John McCain for president either, despite the fact that he chose small-town Idaho-girl-turned-governor Sarah Palin for is vice presidential running mate. I will vote for Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin for president. It still surprises

Unfortunately, this election cycle we have not become "an aroused citizenry". We have become merely a titillated one.

me that we arrived at the point where the three worst possible candidates for president (McCain, Clinton, and Obama) were carefully marshalled through the election cycle, and that two of those worst candidates are now receiving 90% of pledged election-day support.

I've written about my McCain fears in these pages before, so now I will now express my concerns about Barack Obama.

The Hypnotism of a "Perpetual Beatles Concert". Just like the young ladies swooned in the 60's to the Beatles, millions of Americans think that in Barack Obama they have found political nirvana. Unwittingly a few days ago, the Utah Amicus illustrated what the Obama Campaign is largely about--a cult of personality. "Once you go Barack, you can't go back!" the poster said regarding a convention party to be sponsored by the Young Democrats of Utah. I hope they didn't mean it, but the Utah Amicus apparently thought it was a pretty cool slogan and didn't notice its dangerous double entendre.

It is apparently true that millions of Americans have gotten so caught up in hatred of our current government that they haven't noticed that Obama is little more than words, while other candidates like Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and Ralph Nader actually have substance. Charles Krauthammer put it this way:
Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.
He went on to point out the strikingly obvious to those who haven't been hypnotized by the Obama spell:
Eerily missing at the Democratic convention this year were people of stature who were seriously involved at some point in Obama's life standing up to say: I know Barack Obama. I've been with Barack Obama. We've toiled/endured together. You can trust him. I do.

Instead, nothing.
It will probably come back in future years to embarrass both Democrats and blacks to have nominated this nothingness as their 2008 presidential candidate.

Government Spending.
Even if we reduce the size of the U.S. military--which has grown far too large--it will not save enough money to

It will probably come back in future years to embarrass both Democrats and blacks to have nominated this nothingness as their 2008 presidential candidate.

offset the colossal amount of social spending that Obama will advocate as president. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a national health care plan will hammer the nails in the 50-trillion-dollar coffin of American economic bankruptcy. These problems do need to be solved, but not in the Obama way. If we listen to the pied piper, we will eventually have to pay the real one.

Is There Anyone Left for Obama to Distance Himself From? Try this exercise: type the phrase "Obama distances himself" into your favorite search engine in your web browser. Here are some of the more well-known distancings.

(1) Obama involved Tony Rezko in the purchase of his Chicago home, yet Obama saw no sense of impropriety in Rezko's business dealings?

(2) In April 2008, Obama determined to sever a decades-long relationship with Jeremiah Wright, his pastor and good friend

If we listen to the pied piper, we will eventually have to pay the real one.

for 20 years, because of inflammatory words spoken by the reverend. "The person I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago," Obama stated. I wonder when he noticed that "the person" began to change? Was it before he began his presidential campaign?

(3) After a critical mass of potential voters discovered the racism of Louis Farrakhan and his associations with Jeremiah Wright, Obama distanced himself from the leader of the nation of Islam.

Who has Obama not distanced himself from? Try typing in the following Google search
"obama distances himself" ayres
Obama, besides beginning his political career in the home of this anti-American terrorist, has never distanced himself from friend and associate William Ayres.

In your search, make sure you select all dates. How many hits did you get? You can even take the quotes out if you want--that gives you about 5 hits. The American issues project asks "why"?



I kind of wondered that myself.

Have Democrats painted themselves into another corner? They really thought that John Kerry was a bit of a dope 4 years ago, but they put him in anyway.

Howard Zinn may or may not support Obama for President, but nonetheless in his book A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, Zinn makes an important point
It is easy to be overwhelmed or intimidated by the realization that the [Establishment has] enourmous power. But some historical perspective can be useful, because it tells us that at certain points in histsory governments find that all their powere is futile against the power of an aroused citizenry.
Unfortunately, this election cycle we have not become "an aroused citizenry". We have become merely a titillated one. And we shall get what most of us deserve.

Update 9/1/2008: I'm happy to see that the Young Democrats changed the name of their convention. I can respect that!



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What the Utah Legislature Could Learn About Math from Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University is, unfortunately, a unique institution. While morality is a primary focus of education at BYU, not very many other educational institutions understand just how conducive morality is to a great education. The Utah Legislature might consider this as they determine how best to encourage an improvement in students' mathematics skills and scores in the State of Utah.

Singapore has a very different way

Learning does not occur at its highest level if it is not accompanied by morality.

of teaching math than does the United States. Utah legislators are suggesting that improve Utah students' math scores, we need to emulate Singapore.
It's a new twist on an old meme that is drawing serious attention from lawmakers, education administrators and mathematicians who are concerned that Utahns are not prepared for the high-paying jobs of the future. After failing to get a task force funded during the 2008 legislative session, Sens. Margaret Dayton and Howard Stephenson instead put together a loose-knit group to figure out a formula to escape the death spiral of math grades. While they're still a couple of months from taking their suggestions public, the hope is that Utah will become a destination for employers in need of employees with high-level math skills.

David Wright is a BYU professor of mathematics who has long led the charge for reform. He says the American way of learning, at least in the early years, has become cumbersome. He contrasts current elementary text books with the lauded system used in Singapore. The American book is 600 pages and contains images of basketball stars and sports cars in an attempt to relate to students. Math problems are often "real life" problems.

The Singapore books (two of them at 125 pages each) focus mostly on algorithms and practice problems without the extraneous language and scenarios.
I think Professor Wright and the Legislators are onto something. They see the fluff in U.S. math books, and they realize that it's counterproductive. It is--but in more ways than they might think.

Learning does not occur at its highest

Our definition of "real life" in the United States has become very adulterated. "Reality television shows" incorporate minute fractions of the population doing almost nothing that the rest of us would ever think of doing, while the rest of us look on as voyeurs. This is immoral. I'll bet Singapore children don't spend much time watching reality shows.

level if it is not accompanied by morality. Yesterday, when speaking to BYU employees, family, and friends at the annual University Conference, President Cecil O. Samuelson stated that personal morality enhances our ability to learn.

Brigham Young University is rather unique in this regard. While BYU focuses on issues of morality, such as self-restraint, sexual purity, respect for values and the rule of law, and love of cultural heterogeneity, most schools teach that if it feels right, you should do it, that "I" receive fulfillment by placing "my" values above anyone else's, and that American culture trumps all others. What nearly all schools teach that use that use "images of basketball stars and sports cars" is a disregard for everyday morality.

President Samuelson also stated that learning and creativity are linked to morality causally, not casually.

According to Samuelson, BYU also teaches that
  • We don't have to believe what isn't true, meaning that we should prove to ourselves whether something is or is not true.
  • Reason and revelation reinforce each other. While we can learn a great deal by using reason and logic, we won't learn as much if we exclude the promptings and infusions of knowledge from a Higher Power.
  • Students should be exhilarated by their ability to inquire, create, and research.
  • Everyone should learn to love to learn.
Our definition of "real life" in the United States has become very adulterated. "Reality television shows" incorporate minute fractions of the population doing almost nothing that the rest of us would ever think of doing, while the rest of us look on as voyeurs. This is immoral. I'll bet Singapore children don't spend much time watching reality shows.

Advocates of parenthood planning and "if it feels good do it" belittle every scientific study that indicates that abstinence-based education does reduce sexual promisuity, heartbreak, and disease. This is immoral.

An attendee of to the National Democratic Convention claimed on the Liberty Roundtable Radio program yesterday that it's okay to worship Barack Obama, because millions already worship football players, sports car drivers, and rock stars. All of these are immoral.

So yes, let's change Utah's math curriculum. It's going to cause a great deal of blowback, because most school children have learned to enjoy being entertained, including (as much as possible) by their school assignments. A change of curriculum, however, to one more akin to the Singapore model, will help them improve their learning in two ways: (1) it will encourage students to focus on the tools of mathematics, and (2) it will discourage them from salivating at the immoral prospect of the (not so) "real life", complete with fast cars and celebrity. We do need more intellectual rigor in our studies, but I think we need more moral rigor as well.

Far more important than BYU's athletic successes are its successes in other areas. BYU is highly recognized in the scientific, political, religious, legal, and business fields. This recognition comes in great part because of individual and collective adherence by BYU employees and students to the principles of morality.

That's what Utah's school children need--a legislature, parents, and a state office of education that teach that morality is paramount. Perhaps they need this more than they need a new math curriculum.




Monday, August 25, 2008

America: Demolishing Liberty in Exchange for Tyrants We Can Do Business With

The most embarrassing blight on America is our foreign policy democracy hypocrisy. While Americans claim to have--and in large part do have--many liberties associated with democracy, such cannot be said of the citizens of most of the nations with which the United States government "does business". U.S government actions indicate that our leaders do not understand a basic, easily observable premise: that the principles of liberty are valid for any people, regardless of religion, race, color, gender, creed, or nearly any other category. Yet the imperialism of the United States for the last 100 years has spit in the face of those principles--all in the name of control.

Immediately after the attacks of 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush asked, "Why do they hate us?" Ironically, he was ostensibly speaking on behalf of the American people in general, whom the rest of the world actually does not hate. Had Bush been speaking of the United States government in particular (but he wasn't), he would have been accurate that they do hate

The first principle of liberty is simple. It is that most people around the world want it.

this facet of America. It's not difficult to discern the reasons why.

Natan Sharansky, a former prisoner of the Soviet gulags, wrote the book The Case for Democracy in 2004. He had a simple explanation of why foreigners often hate the government of the United States. It has almost everything to do with U.S. foreign policy.
...the most anti-American regimes in the Middle East have the most pro-American populations. This is not despite those regimes' anti-American propaganda, but because of it... If America is seen as supporting that regime, as in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the people hate America. If America is seen as opposing the regime, as in Iran, the people admire it.

Even those who genuinely do hate America do not necessarily hate free societies. Rather, part of their hatred is due to the perception that by supporting the nondemocratic regimes that are oppressing them, America is betraying the values it claims to uphold.

The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, p. 60
Not long after Ronald Reagan successfully asked Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall", Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush, and the American foreign policy establishment began having second thoughts. Natan Sharansky was able at that time to speak with the first President Bush on the subject of Jewish emigration from Russia. He says:
When I asked him why America wanted to prevent the breakup of the USSR, he explained that Gorbachev was a man with whomthe United States "could do business." Bush argued that it was better to have the Soviet's nuclear arsenal in the hands of a leader America could rely on than under the control of unproven heads of state, even ones who democratically elected.

The Case for Democracy, p. 67
Even considering the backlash against America's overweening attempts to control the rest of the world, Bush's statement is pure, short-term interested bunk. The American establishment, with the potential fall of the Soviet Union, was thrust outside its comfort zone. After listening to the logic of Sharansky's argument, Bush's first overture to a former Soviet-bloc country (in 1991) was to go against Sharansky and tell the Ukraine that it shouldn't attempt to achieve liberty, because that would be too dangerous. The utterly shocked Ukrainians, once they had regained their wits, gave Bush the proverbial finger, and a new hatred of American government was formed.

Noah Feldman, in his book After Jihad, written in 2003, notes where such wishy-washiness on principles has gotten the American Establishment.
In the United States, the idea that promoting democracy abroad serves American values and interests was never considered applicable to the Muslim world... The...fear that...democracy might lead to Islamist politics has become a convenient partner to the cautious preference for stable autocracy and the flow of cheap oil. ...it has led the United States and Europe to ignore the possibility that Muslims might want freedom as much as anybody else. It has led Western governments that pride themselves on their own democratic character to embrace dictators for reasons of short-term self-interest, forgetting that in the long run, the support of autocracy undermines their own democratic values and makes enemies [to democracy] of the people who are being oppressed with Western complicity.

After Jihad: America and the struggle for Islamic Democracy, pp. 9-11
In other words, the

Most of the rest of the world is justified in hating the United States government--and us, too, unless we can soon convince the rest of the world that we don't think like our Establishment leaders.

If we really don't think like them, then let's stop voting for them.

people of the Middle East and other third world countries can't understand that if freedom is okay for Americans, why isn't it for them? Answer: because then the American Imperialists can't control you.

Feldman reminds us, though, that
European countries have criticized America's heavy-handedness in the Muslim world, but they...are just as satisfied to deal with autocrats as the U.S. has been.

After Jihad, p. 11
Long before Donald Rumsfeld shook Saddam Hussein's hand in Iraq, the United States had already decided that Saddam was someone that we could and should develop a positive relationship with. Barry Lando, in his book Web of Deceit shows how this relationship came about:
...the Americans [began having] second thoughts about the Iraqi tyrant. He may have been a brutal dictator and the patron of some nasty people, but he also seemed to be a very down-to-earth leader who had brought a measure of stability to a traditionally chaotic land.

Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, p. 36
In 1975, while meeting with Iraq's foreign minister, Henry Kissinger kissed up to the Iraqis.
He admitted [to the foreign minister] that the U.S. had been backing the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq "because we thought you were a Soviet satellite." But the U.S.'s views had now changed. "We think you are a friend of the Soviet Union, but you act on your own principles."

Web of Deceit, p. 37
And with that, the Americans entered into the Iraq-weapons-supplier sweepstakes.

The Communist bogeyman has often been used as an excuse for American interference in world affairs from Latin America to the Middle East. Despite the fact that western interests, including some in America, bankrolled and otherwise supported the rise of Communism, in many instances the United States provoked the Communists into a rage. Lando gives an early example of such chicanery:
..after the 1963 coup in Iraq, U.S. and Baath officials met in Baghdad to formalize their ongoing relationship. One of the points agreed upon was the common desire to contain communism throughout the region.

Following the coup, doors that had been closed to the West, and particularly the Americans, suddenly reopened. ...Major American corporations like Parsons, Bechtel, and Mobil landed lucrative contracts... Iraq's new leaders performed another very useful service to the CIA, handing over Russian built Mig-21's, T-54 tanks, and Sam missiles for the United States to examine.

Web of Deceit, p. 30
The first principle of liberty is simple. It is that most people around the world want it. The only complication arises when buffoons with lots of money and with power brokers behind the scenes bamboozle their fellow citizens in their whorish rise to dominance.

Most of the rest of the world is justified in hating the United States government. But it won't be long until they'll feel justified in hating the rest of America--you and I. By supporting dictators, including Communists, American governments have made a bed of scorpions. Everyday Americans will have to lie in that bed unless we can soon convince the rest of the world that we don't think like our Establishment leaders, and that we believe that everyone--not just the West--deserves to be free.

If we really don't think like our leaders, then let's stop voting for them.




Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mitt Romney, Stan Lockhart, and the "Unbinding" of the Utah Republican Power Machine

What do you do when the rules say that you have to do something, but you don't want to anymore, because the rules don't make sense? Most of us might think that we could amend the rules in case the issue arises in the future. For Stan Lockhart, Mark Shurtleff, and others, the answer is that you meet in a secret caucus and ignore them.

Utah Republican Senator Curt Bramble recently accosted a Pizza delivery girl who would not accept a personal check for the pizza she had delivered, because it was against company rules to do so.

Not a big deal? Well...what rule will the Utah Republican Power Machine think it's okay to break next time?

Why should she make a special exception? Because everyone knows Curt Bramble!! He's the Majority Leader of the Utah Senate, so why should he have to follow the rules?

Showing that the laurels it has rested on for so long have become moldy and decayed, the Utah Republican Party Power Machine flaunted its power in a similar way today, by going against the wishes of 90 percent of the Republican primary voters. The Utah Republican Party Platform is unambiguous regarding who its state delegates to the Republican National Convention must vote for as the presidential nominee:
7.0 CONVENTIONS AND ELECTIONS

...

B. Allocation and Binding of National Delegation. All National Convention delegates and alternates shall be allocated to the candidate receiving the most votes of the statewide vote in the Republican Presidential Primary. On the first ballot, the national delegation shall be bound to vote for the candidate who has received the most votes in the Republican Presidential Primary, but the delegation shall not be bound on any subsequent ballots.
The candidate who received the most votes in the Utah Primary was Mitt Romney. Romney subsequently dropped out of the race. In late February 2008, Romney sent a letter to the Utah Republican Party asking that his delegates be unbound--that they could vote on the first ballot at the national convention for the nominated candidate. According to the bylaw quoted above, that is not legal.

In an effort to correct the problem, the issue was brought up for discussion at the Utah Republican State convention earlier this year--not the fixing of the bylaw, mind you, but the breaking of the existing one. The State Delegates would hear nothing of the unbinding. Feeling beholden to the people who had actually voted for Romney, they tabled the motion to ignore the bylaw.

Recently, Stan Lockhart notified members of the State Central Committee how they needed to fix the "problem", so as to avoid embarrassment. They solved it alright.

The Utah Republican Party Central Machine voted earlier today to ignore the wishes of Utah voters and to flaunt its own bylaws, by a vote of 70-12, by unbinding the votes of 264,956 Utahns who had voted for Romney. Don Guymon, who voted in the minority on the issue, said
"The state delegates overwhelmingly wanted our Utah delegation to vote for Romney. It was pretty clear," said Don Guymon, a delegate to the national convention. "So my intent was to follow the will of Utah voters and the will of the Utah state delegates."
To many, it may seem like a small thing. To me, it isn't. As a reader named "arc" commented on a Salt Lake Tribune article when the issue first became known, and when State Party Chair Stan Lockhart determined how he was going to handle the situation:
It is real simple:

"Utah Congratulates Senator John McCain for the National party nomination for the Next President of the United States. Based on State Party Rules and according to the results of State Primary, the Delegates Of Utah support Mitt Romney for president. Gov. Mitt Romney has asked that these votes be counted toward Senator John McCain for any future voting. We agree."
It's a pretty simple solution, for sure. The bylaw clearly has a problem. But it is a bylaw. It needs to be fixed, but it's too late to fix it for this particular situation. So...we follow the rules. How tough is that. Rather than being embarrassed, the Utah Republican delegates to the National Convention would have been seen to have political integrity.

But not now. The Utah Republican Party Bosses had to make this a much more complicated situation than it should be. It's now just another indication of how powerful the Republican old-timers think they have become.

Not a big deal? Well...what rule will they think it's okay to break next time?




Wednesday, August 20, 2008

America: Agent Provocateur For Russia's Attack on Georgia

Recently the United States began training together with military personnel in the Republic of Georgia. A few weeks later a war broke out. How coincidental...? No. We've been taunting Russia for quite some time now. Can those who orchestrate US foreign policy really not see how the actions of the United States provoke the actions of Russia against the Republic of Georgia?

For our safety, the motto of the next U.S. presidential administration should be "It's the foreign policy, stupid."

An agent provocateur, as defined by dictionary.com is
a secret agent hired to incite suspected persons to some illegal action, outbreak, etc., that will make them liable to punishment.
A lot of America's incitement of Russia to illegal action is not so secret, but it is incitement just the same. Encouraging the nation of Georgia to become a member of NATO is a pretty big slap in Russia's face, although that's just one way we've incited them. Installing missile batteries in former Warsaw Pact countries is yet another taunt. More recently, joint military

Condoleeza Rice was apparently oblivious to the monumental irony of her recent statement that Russia uses its military to deliver messages too often.

operations with Georgia
and other former Soviet Bloc countries raised the ire of the Russians to a higher pitch. Perhaps the worst provocation, however, was the waltzing of the United States into Iraq to oust our erstwhile friend Saddam on the most specious of pretexts.

In 2002, as the war drums were beating ever louder in the United States against Saddam Hussein, Ron Paul predicted that our unconstitutional actions would eventually lead to something like...Russia invading Georgia.



Recently, Condoleeza Rice, apparently oblivious to the monumental irony of her statement, had this to say about Russia's actions in Georgia:
Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.
Imagine that Russia's foreign policy was one of setting up military bases across North and Central America. How would you feel? Paul Craig Roberts gives us a good idea of how we should feel:
It is obvious that American foreign policy, with its goal of ringing Russia with US military bases, is leading directly to nuclear war. Every American needs to realize this fact. The US government's insane hegemonic foreign policy is a direct threat to life on the planet.
US News notes that
America contributed to the war in Georgia in two important ways. First, together with its European allies, Washington established two precedents: use of force without approval of the United Nations Security Council and the division of a sovereign nation without U.N. consent.
TruthDig points

NATO...committed us...to an automatic tripwire war with any state (read, the Soviet Union) that attacked any NATO member-state. The American Constitution [forbids this].

--Ed Firmage

out that John McCain's current senior foreign policy adviser has also been an adviser to the Republic of Georgia. Truthdig reveals and opines that
Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, an invasion that clearly was expected to produce a Russian counterreaction? It is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back.
In this morning's Deseret News, Ed Firmage reminds us that we could have avoided such problems if we'd simply adhered to the tenets of the United States Constitution:
As we observe the fighting in Georgia...we might remember just what NATO was all about. It committed us...to an automatic tripwire war with any state (read, the Soviet Union) that attacked any NATO member-state. The American Constitution gives the war power to the U.S. Congress. The only exception is an attack on the United States. Then and only then could our president respond, as commander in chief, even before Congress declared war. This automatic delegation of the war power to NATO was why J. Reuben Clark Jr., formerly the U.S. representative to all the arms limitation negotiations between World Wars I and II legal adviser to the Department of State and later in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, was totally opposed to NATO, even as he was a staunch opponent of communism...

Clark was called an isolationist.

He wasn't.

He simply believed that the U.S. Constitution means what it says.
And in case the Bush (or a future) Administration decides that Iran is not as plum a target as we once thought (and that Russia looks like more of a pushover), Firmage warns us that:
War should only be decided upon by the deliberation of the Congress of the United States. By no stretch of the imagination should a border dispute between a former state within the former Soviet Union and Russia be considered as if it were an attack on the United States. The Constitution forbids such foolishness.
A few days ago, MSNBC reported:
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia's pro-American president that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States," Cheney's office reported Sunday. Asked to explain Cheney's phrase "must not go unanswered," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "It means it must not stand."
Such a statement unavoidably compels us to wonder whether Russia (and other nations) have ever stated that "[United States] aggression must not go unanswered."

Probably so.





Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is War Ever Justified?

Yes, it is--but not nearly as often as we been taught here in the 21st century. On the subject of when it's morally permissible to go to war, George W. Bush and many of his predecessors could learn a great lesson from an ancient American military commander.

We shouldn't talk about political issues in Sunday School class, but I've got to get some things off my chest...so I'll talk about them here instead.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, although it is politically neutral, encourages its members to be politically active. However, that political activism is prohibited from occurring in

In modern-day parlance, "just war" means that even a half-baked idea is reason enough for the world's only superpower to dominate yet another nation, because the United States only wants what's best for everyone else.

So did Stalin. So did Hitler.

LDS meetinghouses. You may imagine, then, how difficult it was for me to bite my tongue to prevent it from saying political words during our Sunday School class today, in which we discussed the subject of war.

When the question was posed in class this morning: "When is it justifiable to go to war?" I leaned over and asked my wife if it would be appropriate to respond, "When another country is controlling the oil that we need." She smiled a don't-you-dare look and then almost slapped me.

Captain Moroni was a beloved commander of the Nephite peoples; his story is told in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Moroni abhorred war, but realized that it was sometimes not only permissible, but imperative, to enter a war against one's enemies.

Considered a local situation: is it okay for us to go to war with our enemies when we are defending ourselves or our families? I'm sure you'd agree that if another person began beating up on your wife or child, you would feel justified in fighting back against her aggressor.

The same metric can be applied to nations. We go to war in self-defense and for not much else. Moroni understood this concept well
9 And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their awives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their brights and their privileges, yea, and also their cliberty, that they might worship God according to their desires.
10 For they knew that if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites, that whosoever should aworship God in bspirit and in truth, the true and the living God, the Lamanites would cdestroy.
Early on in the so-called War on Terror, George W. Bush pretended that America was attacking Afghanistan and then Iraq for the very reason of protecting our liberty. When, after a very short amount of time, it became obvious that this had never been the case, the claim was that we had been about building democracy in these countries all along. In and of itself, this pared-down claim is a desecration of those who died on September 11, 2001.

And now, the sabers are rattling against Iran in nearly the same way that they were rattling against Iraq six years ago. Are we smart enough to recognize propaganda and non-just war when we see them this time around?

Probably not. Because members of the intellectual community have invented a much lower threshold, which they have given the unfortunate misnomer of "just war". In modern-day parlance, just war means that even a half-baked idea is reason enough for the world's only superpower to dominate yet another nation, because the United States only wants what's best for everyone else. So did Stalin. So did Hitler.

If we are truly just, we don't go to war when oil is at stake--instead, we find alternative sources of energy. We don't go to war simply because American corporate interests are at stake--instead, we champion through our example the benefits of liberty. We don't go to war when one of our allies attacks one of our enemies--rather, we avoid entangling alliances in the first place. And we for sure don't use the vitriol of false propaganda to stir up the people to call for and sanction illegal wars.

Moroni didn't do any of these things. In a remarkable display of character, while abhoring the act of war, Captain Moroni never entered war with anger or malice for his enemy. When the Lamanite chief Zarahemna was captured, Moroni magnanimously offered a covenant with Zarahemna and his people that if they would lay down their weapons and commit to never come to battle against the Nephites again, he would let them leave in peace.

Sometimes I wish it were okay to talk politics in Sunday School. There are a few people in my Sunday School class who understand the basic concept of when it's morally permissible to enter a war, but there are some that don't. Some that understand the concept don't still don't see, though, how it is applicable to our day. Even worse, outside of my Sunday School class, there are a plethora of Americans who, having voted for George W. Bush twice, still don't seem to have a clue as to what a just war is.

George W. Bush, you are no Captain Moroni.

Do you think there are government leaders out there today who have the courage and integrity of a Captain Moroni? Yes, there are. But we have this really bad habit of, in nearly all cases, ignoring them or being afraid to vote for them out of deference to the "Lesser of Two Evils" doctrine. That's gotta change!




Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Origin of Life: Intelligent Design?...Probiotic Soup?...or No Origin at All?

I've read a couple of times The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Now, as I read The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel, I find myself going back and forth between Strobel's and Dawkins's books to see how they disagree. As you can imagine, the subject of the origin of life is something these men have virtually no agreement on. Interestingly, I think they are both a little bit wrong. Joseph Smith had a better idea.

The Case for a Creator makes a pretty compelling case that for DNA and the various proteins of a single cell to work together in their complexity, an intelligent designer must have been involved. Dr. Stephen C. Meyer tells Strobel in an interview that
...to have reproduction, there has to be cell division. And that presupposes the existence of information-rich DNA and proteins. But that's the problem--those are the very things they're trying to explain.

The Case for a Creator, p. 231
Meyer goes on to explain the quandary as equivalent to a man falling into a deep hole, then climbing out and running home to get a ladder, then putting the ladder back in the hole so he can climb out for the first time.

Dawkins, obviously, has a different perspective. He looks at the statistical probability that life could have occurred from a "probiotic soup". It is estimated that more than a billion billion

Meyer goes on to explain the Darwinist origin-of-life quandary as equivalent to a man falling into a deep hole, then climbing out and running home to get a ladder, then putting the ladder back in the hole so he can climb out for the first time.

planets exist in the universe, and for life to begin, it had to only originate on one of these planets. I actually like those odds. Dawkins also asks that if someone designed all of this...who designed the Designer? This is the kind of thought pattern that gives me headaches.

One thing I appreciate from Dawkins's discussion of probability is that life is likely to exist in a multitude of other places

The belief in any one of these ideas requires an immense amount of faith, (1) in a creator arising out of nothing (ex nihilo), (2) in a probability that life could have spontaneously generated from a bunch of chemicals, or (3) that the universe and the intelligence in it is infinite and has always existed.

I'll go with number three, taking insights from the other two.

throughout the universe--something that I believe, but which Strobel and the Intelligent-Design advocates that he interviews are much less ready to accept.

Joseph Smith, the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is not normally thought of as a scientist, but he was. If science is the proof of theories by the accumulation of evidence, Smith was one of the greatest scientists ever. Claiming to have visited on various occasions with (one of the) Master Scientist(s) of the universe, Smith taught us this insight:
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
In addition, Smith taught
Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits...

I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. ...if it had a beginning, it will have an end.

...God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself [because]...intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.

The first principles of man are self-existent with God.
Then he went on to explain the purpose of it all. If we exist, it makes sense that there is a purpose, don't you think?
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.

This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, ...and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life.
So I think, in a nutshell, that Strobel is somewhat correct--there is an Intelligent Designer. But Dawkins also has a point, because there is also a sort of probiotic soup (or, rather "intelligence soup"), which has always co-existed with the universe (I never did like that Big-Bang thing).

Joseph Smith's ideas raise a lot of questions, but then whose ideas on this subject don't raise a lot of questions? Similarly, the belief in any one of these ideas requires an immense amount of faith, (1) in a creator arising out of nothing (ex nihilo), (2) in a probability that life could have spontaneously generated from a bunch of chemicals, or (3) that the universe and the intelligence in it is infinite and has always existed. I'll go with number three, taking insights from the other two.

That truth tastes good to me. And while I am intrigued by the writings of Dawkins and Strobel, their ideas don't have near as much tastiness to me than those of Joseph Smith, who claims to have gotten his ideas from the Source.

I'm glad for scholars like Dawkins and Strobel, and I'll keep studying their ideas, but my money is on Joseph Smith. However, regardless of what the actual truth is, I can't wait to find out!!




Thursday, August 14, 2008

Noam Chomsky Says I Hate School Children and Retirees

I agree with Noam Chomsky on certain things, such as the lunacy of the Iraq War, but I think he's off his rocker when it comes to social programs. He indirectly accuses me of believing things that just aren't true.

We got a way cool gift subscription to NetFlix recently (which we'll probably extend when it expires), which allows us to watch certain movies instantly. I've already watched No End in Sight, a movie about the futility of the Iraq War (about which more in a later post.) Now I'm watching Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without a Pause. It's great stuff. I agree with half of it, but I disagree with the other half.

I think he's right on when it comes to the Iraq War. The Bush Administration has unduly scared the crap out of a lot of Americans and run us economically into the ground with it propagandizing for and prosecuting of the Iraq War.

What surprises me, though, is that Chomsky says that anyone who is against federal government funding of education does not care whether children are educated, and that those who are against Social Security don't care about the old lady down the street.

Bunk!

I support local government and private funding of education. I support privatization of retirement savings accounts (and government--read Federal Reserve--meddling in my 401k is pissing me off royally lately) and family and community support of our elderly.

Public education is very important. But public education in the early years of our Republic was not funded by the federal and state governments. It was funded privately. Literacy percentage then rates were in the high 90's. It was not until Horace Mann and his fellow gangsters came along and thought state and federal governments could do better than what was already occurring that the literacy rate declined.

I wonder whether Noam Chomsky is religious. He apparently has no faith in an sort of charity but the faux charity of government. America is the most charitable country in the world. America showed early on that it is perfectly capable of providing for the education of its young and the caring for its indigent. If we hadn't been "unlearned" of how to take care of ourselves by our own government, we'd still be taking care of ourselves, and we'd be much more kind and courteous to each other nowadays.

So while I respect Noam Chomsky for his mild-mannered defense of the issues that he holds dear, I disagree with at least half of them. Both public education and taking care of our retired and indigent would work much better if government had never gotten involved in the first place.






Tuesday, August 12, 2008

American Energy Independence: I Support "All of the Above"

Of course it will take several years to develop new domestic petroleum production. But it will take a lot longer to develop a lot of other alternative energy sources. I would LOVE to not have to rely on oil for anything, but that's a ways off. That's why I support the latest legislation in Congress that supports "All of the Above"--developing all energy sources, including oil, so that we can be energy independent.

It really drives me nuts when people say we shouldn't develop domestic oil production because it won't be productive for 7-10 years. That would be a workable argument if we could have enough alternative energy by that time that we wouldn't need oil. I don't think, though, that anybody believes that.

In congress recently, legislation was introduced to do encourage the development of all forms of energy. HR 6656, also known as "All of the Above", will solve that problem, but apparently Nancy Pelosi thinks that at least two thirds of the American public are way out of touch with Congress on this issue. A quick search on any search engine indicates that the media is not on that bandwagon either.

Congressman Bob Latta recently

To use the excuse that it's going to take a while to develop oil production so we shouldn't do it is like saying that we might as well not develop any energy sources. Because developing anything will take time.

traveled to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado where, apparently, we are doing something about our energy and environmental problems. (The latest news reports, however, indicate that President George W. Bush has no inkling of the Laboratory's existence.)

Latta said the laboratory in Colorado was working on several different types of alternate energy applications. To Latta, alternate does not mean 'instead of,' but means 'in addition to' what America already has. The alternatives, it was confirmed to him, are still years away from wide application or major impact.

The laboratory is working on solar energy with solar panels the size of typical roof shingles, hydrogen engines, coal gasification, wind turbines, ethanol and electric vehicles. Latta drove an electric vehicle with a range of 60 miles per charge. Ethanol was being made from switch grass-not a normal agricultural plant-instead of corn.

"These alternatives are a good many years off," Latta said. "They are not going to solve the problems we have today."

To use the excuse that it's going to take a while to develop oil production so we shouldn't do it is like saying that we might as well not develop any energy sources. Because developing anything will take time. That's a dark and dreary idea.

It will take a while to develop domestic oil sources, as it will take a while to develop refining capacity. But the reason we're so far behind where we need to be in this regard is because environmental overlords in Congress and elsewhere have been gumming up the works with their stories of acid rain, climate devastation, and ozone holes the size of Mt. Everest at the South Pole. This issue is, actually, where Congress needs to 'get out of the way.'

The United States is researching and developing more environmentally friendly sources of energy than oil, but that's going to take a while, too. So I am for "All of the Above". I hope you are, too.




Monday, August 11, 2008

I Never Thought Business Could Be This Bad...

The dollar crisis is getting worse than I thought. The Dairy Queen on Canyon Road in Provo, Utah is proof positive that the American economy is going through some exceptionally difficult times. I'm not sure if this is happening chain-wide, but --as you can see in the picture at right--at least here in Provo, an indefinite hiring freeze has been implemented.

Based on what I encountered when I looked at the other side of their sign, though, I'm guessing it probably has something to do with their promotional practices as well.

Ostensibly, because of their fear that the dollar will continue to lose value, Dairy Queen of Provo has taken to giving away free ice cream cones. Well, sort of.

The only way that you can get your supposedly "free" ice cream cone is by bringing in one of your used combs. I don't have any combs left, so I'll have to go elsewhere to get my ice cream.

At least at my grocery store I can still get "free" dog food when I turn in an old pair of stinky socks. I have tons of those!! And they really are worth more than a dollar these days.







Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Government: The Great Unequalizer

If somewhere you see an increasing disparity between rich and poor, you can be sure that government is involved.

Somewhere, somehow the myth grew up and has become far to often believed that capitalism, or the free market, causes a growing disparity between rich and poor. Perhaps this

Members of free societies are more equal in material things than those who live in non-free societies. This should surprise no one who has been properly educated in both economics and history.

grew out of the lie that the market caused the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent economic collapse. A careful study of history will reveal, however, that Federal Reserve policies caused the crash, and that socialist government policies made the economic malaise far worse.

In his book, Free to Choose, Milton Friedman states
Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor wider, nowhere are the rich richer and the poor poorer, than in those societies that do not permit the free market to operate. That is true of feudal societies... It is equally true of centrally planned societies, like Russia or China.
Conservative economists pooh-pooh the fact that now in the United States the disparity between rich and poor is growing.

The biggest problem connected to the fraud of man-made global warming is an economic impact that does not need to be.

They shouldn't. There's a rotten reason for the widening chasm--government is handing out special favors to lobbyists, ethanol growers, pharmaceutical companies, companies with foreign operations, and large farming operations, and many more.

When government controls the economy, the populations of rich and poor may change slightly due to who knows whom, but the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is bound to increase dramatically. It's unfortunate that this simple and repeatably provable lesson of history is grasped by so few.

When force is enshrined into law, two things happen. First, people's values come into conflict with the clearly unnatural law, and respect for the law breaks down. Because the law has become unnatural, more and more people decide that the only way to keep up with the law is to get a handout before someone else does. Second, those who enjoy employing that force begin gravitating towards government. Not so surprisingly, those who apply the force know how to get around the laws, applying them only to everyone else. While the masses of new serfs get their pittance, those at the top of the power chain become fat at the trough of government.

Milton Friedman continues
...all of the great wonders of the modern era have meant relatively little to the wealthy. ...the great achievements of Western capitalism have redounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person.
The biggest problem connected to the fraud of man-made global warming is an economic impact that does not need to be. If the policies succeed of those who claim that this chimera is truth, and who therefore want more government control over the environment, millions of third-world inhabitants will be consigned to a forever of poverty.

It is no accident that the members of free

How is it that Americans have become accustomed to expect government to solve problems of economic inequality, when in historical reality government's meddling control always makes such things worse?

societies are more equal in material things than those who live in non-free societies. This should surprise no one who has been properly educated in both economics and history. Societies governed by freedom not only allow individuals to benefit society as a whole by using their own energies to pursue their own objectives, but also prevents monopolists or other government agents from arbitrarily suppressing the freedom of others.

Monopolies are nearly always established through the help of government. In a free society, monopolies fade away. How is it then, that Americans have become accustomed to expect government to solve problems of economic inequality, when in historical reality government's meddling control always makes such things worse?




Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Humane Welfare System--One That Won't Bankrupt America

Since the calculated stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent blaming of capitalism for the failure of the US economy, a myriad of "welfare" programs have sprung up--most of them like a cancer on the social and economic fabric of America.

While it is important that we take care of our poor, a governmental approach--which is often much more complicated than it needs to be--seldom works. Here's an approach, however, that will work.

In an era when presidential campaign finalists attempt to outdo each other in promises to provide for the medical and economic welfare of all Americans, it would do us well to take note of a few realities.
  1. Nearly all current government welfare programs are destructive of the family, teach indolence and dependence rather than thrift, and steal human dignity.
  2. Government intrusion into the medical arena is the primary reason for skyrocketing health care costs and declining medical care in America.
  3. The United States has a current and future debt obligation of between $50 trillion and $80 trillion.
It is not possible for us to continue our current national spending course and not expect to experience national economic suicide.

It is much easier for us not only to spend other people's money, but to spend it with much less thrift than if it were our own. This is

There exists in America a plethora of entrenched interests which couldn't care less whether our welfare system is humane. Such people only care about themselves.

why bureaucrats find it so easy to raise their own salaries. This is why lobbyists are so often among the upper crust of the rich. This is why the rich profit from government handout schemes with much greater success than the poor. This is why advocates for various industries agitate for government welfare schemes.

We need to put an end to the fattest of the cows taking most of the funds from the public trough. This can be accomplished with a simplification of the welfare system, so that those who really need it can get access to it, and so that America can continue to support our most indigent for years into the future. Here's what we need to do.

Step 1 - Phase Out Social Security. Social Security, since its inception, has been nearly the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme. If we don't soon phase out this wasteful fraud, we won't be able to provide economic security for anyone. The height of political and economic irony is for us to refer to a "Social Security Trust Fund" which does not exist.

While it is morally imperative for us to support those who have grown old expecting Social Security to augment their income, not phasing out Social Security will result in economic disaster. Even at my current age of 45, I would be glad to forfeit ALL of my Social Security "earnings" if I were able to begin to invest both mine and my employer's "contributions" to my Social Security. Everyone should be given than option. Without the monkeying of the Federal Reserve (a tall order, for sure), everyone would be better off.

Step 2 - A Negative Income Tax. A better solution would be to have no income tax at all, but the Negative Income Tax is a healthy first step. Milton Friedman explained this idea in his 1979 book Free to Choose. It sounds to me very similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit. For it to work, however, all other welfare programs would have to be abolished. With a Negative Income Tax, those who don't earn any income would be subsidized to a subsistence level and no more.

Unlike current welfare schemes, this plan would encourage hard work and thrift, as subsidies would be phased out gradually rather than being wiped out by income earned by honest labor. This program would require all Americans to file a tax return. It would also allow private charitable organizations

A simpler solution is much more efficient--and much more humane.

to coordinate assistance for the indigent. There's no getting around the fact, however, that thousands of government employees, as well as lobbyists, would be worse off in the short run, as they would be temporarily out of jobs.

But that--in the long run--would be a huge productivity bonus.

Friedman writes
Most of the present welfare programs should never have been enacted. If they had not been, many of the people now dependent on them would have become self-reliant individuals instead of wards of the state. In the short run that might have appeared cruel for some, leaving them no option to low-paying, unattractive work. But in the long run it would have been far more humane.

Free to Choose, pg. 119
There exists a plethora of entrenched interests which couldn't care less whether our welfare system is humane, even while they claim falsely that it is humane. We can do much better than subsidizing those who grind upon the face of the poor for their personal aggrandizement. We need to get rid of this kind of entrenched bureaucrat. If the leader of a flock of geese looks back and finds that its V is no longer behind it, it'll either move to get back in line, or the geese will get a new leader.

If we don't move our V, this flock of geese is headed toward American financial insolvency. Besides, a simpler solution is much more efficient--and much more humane.