Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hospital Number 6

A couple of weeks ago I came across this article online. The BBC is reporting that hospital number 6 in the Ukraine is being accused of killing newborn babies in order to harvest organs, especially stem cells.

An excerpt:

The BBC has spoken to mothers from the city of Kharkiv who say they gave birth to healthy babies, only to have them taken by maternity staff.

In 2003 the authorities agreed to exhume around 30 bodies of foetuses and full-term babies from a cemetery used by maternity hospital number six.

One campaigner was allowed into the autopsy to gather video evidence. She has given that footage to the BBC and Council of Europe.

In its report, the Council describes a general culture of trafficking of children snatched at birth, and a wall of silence from hospital staff upwards over their fate.

The pictures show organs, including brains, have been stripped - and some bodies dismembered.

Here are some other news sources on the topic.

Obviously this is disgusting. It is horrifying to know that there are people in the world willing to kill newborn babies in order to make money on stem cells. However, it does bring up some interesting discussion points. What if stem cell research were more allowed in this country? Would that availability create less of a market, and therefore less incentive to kill, for stem cells? Does that even matter? Should stem cell research be allowed at all?

Friday, December 22, 2006

BYU 38 Oregon 8

BYU wins the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl and ends the year on a 10 game win streak with a 11-2 season record. Quarterback John Beck finishes his career as BYU's second leading passer alltime, and running back Curtis Brown finishes as the career rushing leader and only player with 2 consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo!

“That’s a noise, “grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow …

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN‘T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dave Barry on Christmas

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!' ~Dave Barry, "Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Last year, while still living in Utah, a bill was proposed in the state legislature that would have required a statement to be read in science classes. The statement basically said that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories that attempt to explain the origin of life. The bill created quite a bit of controversy and did not pass.

As I followed the bill during the legislative session I also read quite a bit of the back and forth regarding evolution and intelligent design. The discussions would become quite heated. Often, a court decision in Ohio would be brought up as proof that the bill had no chance of being held up in court. That decision was made by Judge John Jones in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case. Judge Jones wrote that Intelligent Design was not science and therefore should not be taught in science class.

However, there is a new report released by the Discovery Institute claiming that Judge Jones's judicial ruling is basically copied straight from a brief given to the judge by the ACLU one month prior to Judge Jones writing his ruling.

I have not seen this reported anywhere else other than by the Discovery Institute itself, which as a very vocal proponent of Intelligent Design across the country, clearly has something to gain by discrediting Judge Jones's ruling. So I will be following this story to check for its validity.

However, if true, I hope that Judge Jones is reprimanded and that the case is heard again.

UPDATE: Here is another analysis of the plagiarized ruling.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Silent Night

One of the all-time great Christams Carols is Silent Night. I've looked a bit into its origins and it seems that many legends have sprung up surrounding its history. However, for the most part the truth has been discovered. The song was written in Austria by Joseph Mohr in 1816, with the music composed at Mohr's request by Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818. It was originally written with guitar accompaniment and the pair sung it at Midnight Mass that night. Silent Night spread fairly quickly from there, as it was picked up by a travelling family singing troup and eventually was sung for royalty.

Silent night Holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Friday, December 08, 2006

FDR's Pearl Harbor WWII Address

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor-65 Years

Today is the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here are a couple of local newspapers with interviews of local veterans that survived the attack:


Deseret News

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Glorious Time of Year

"This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. It has an attraction to which our hearts are readily drawn. This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas."

Thomas S. Monson, "What Is Christmas?" Ensign, Dec. 1998

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thou Shalt Thank The Lord Thy God In All Things

There are many great sermons on gratitude and giving thanks. The scriptures also can show us examples of gratitude. Once such example is found in the Book of Mormon, with the stories of Nephi and Laman.

1 Nephi 17 begins with Nephi recounting eight years of travel in the wilderness,

1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and awade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our bwomen did bear children in the wilderness.

2 And so great were the ablessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon braw cmeat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.

3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and astrengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did bprovide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, *even eight years in the wilderness.

Nephi looked at his family's hardships and saw blessings. He saw the hand of the Lord in his people's ability to survive and prosper under those conditions.

His brother Laman, on the other hand, saw nothing but hardship,

20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish aimaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.

Two men, both living with the same hardships, having the same experiences, with so very different perspectives. The major difference between them was a sense of gratitude.

Luke 17:12-19 tells the story of the ten lepers healed by the Savior, yet only one returned to give thanks. What of the other nine? While healed of their physical malady, they missed an opportunity for greater happiness and increased personal growth.

Perhaps gratitude has much to do with perspective. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. We have heard their stories, and learned of their tragedies. The inspiration derived from their story comes not only of their perseverance and faith in pressing forward, or of those sent to rescue them, but also, and perhaps most importantly, how they remembered the experience,

“A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.

“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.

“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

“ ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ ” He continues: “ ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“ ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’ ”

President Hinckley has said, "May we live worthy of the glorious endowment of light and understanding and eternal truth which has come to us through all the perils of the past. Somehow, among all who have walked the earth, we have been brought forth in this unique and remarkable season. Be grateful, and above all be faithful."

I echo his sentiments. Let us all be grateful.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Wouldn't the fetus...suffer a demise in seconds anyway?"

The US Supreme Court has begun listening to arguments concerning the partial-birth abortion ban law passed by Congress. Considering the controversial nature of the subject and the current makeup of the Court, this should be an interesting case.

According to Associated Press writer Mark Sherman, the justices had very pointed and graphic questions to ask of the two sides arguing the case. One such question, asked by Justice John Paul Stevens, is the title of this post.

The lines between the two sides have been clearly drawn. Those arguing for the law, including Solicitor General Paul Clement, say that this form of abortion simply goes too far. According to the AP story, 1.25 million abortions are performed each year, of which a few thousand are procedures doctors call "dilation and extraction" or "intact dilation and evacuation". Opponents call these abortions "partial birth" abortions because they are performed during the middle third of pregnancy and involve "partially extracting an intact fetus from the uterus, then cutting or crushing its skull."

Eve Gartner of Planned Parenthood is arguing against the law banning these abortions. Her side argues that this method is sometimes the safest for women. She is quoted by the AP as saying, "What Congress has done here is take away from women the option of what may be the safest procedure for her. This court has never recognized a state interest was sufficient to trump the women's interest in her health."

It seems to me that the sides boil down to the same basic abortion debate: the interest of the fetus versus the interest of the mother. The difference here, though, is the especially graphic nature of this method of abortion.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How I Voted

The following is a list of major candidates and ballot measures that I voted on, as well as the early and in some cases still unofficial results. The candidate or measure I voted for is in bold.

D-Jerry Brady 44%
R-Butch Otter 53%

US Representative Dist 2:
D-Jim Hansen 34%
R-Mike Simpson 62%

Lt. Governor:
D-Larry LaRocco 39%
R-Jim Risch 58%

State Controller:
R-Donna Jones 59%
D-Jacki Groves Twilegar 41%

State Treasurer:
R-Ron Crane 64%
D-Howard Faux 36%

Attorney General:
R-Lawrence Wasden 62%
D-Bob Wallace 38%

Superindendant of Public Instruction:
R-Tom Luna 51%
D-Jana Jones 49%

HJR No2:
Yes 63%
No 37%

SSR 107
Yes 58%
No 42%

Proposition One
Yes 45%
No 55%

Proposition Two
Yes 26%
No 74%

Advisory Note
Yes 72%
No 28%

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hussein Sentenced to Death by Hanging

On Sunday, November 5 2006 Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death stemming from the torture and execution of 148 people in the town of Dujail more than two decades ago. Trials for his other atrocities will continue, including the one I recently posted about. The prosecutors have stated they want an official record of Saddam Hussein's actions, and will carry on the trials even if he is put to death before all of them are done.

Here is how the sentencing is being reported:

Washington Post

NY Times

The NY Times also has an interesting editorial by Anne Applebaum about the validity of the trial. As you read through the previously linked articles you'll notice that they are awash in criticism. I think this editorial explains quite well the purpose and success of Saddam Hussein's trial.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Saddam Hussein's Iraq

Saddam Hussein's trial is not receiving the publicity it deserves. Recently however, Yahoo linked to a couple of articles that covered the trial.

Article One

Article Two

What Saddam Hussein did was murder 180,000 of his own citizens. Here are some excerpts of witness testimony:

It was dark when they brought a group of people (prisoners) in front of the vehicle. The drivers got out of our vehicles and turned on the headlights," he said.

Some prisoners tried to grab an automatic rifle from a guard, but failed because "we were so weak," he said.

Soldiers then opened fire. "I ran and fell into a ditch. It was full of bodies. I fell on a body. It was still alive. It was his last breath," said the witness. "It was really unbelievable, the number of people being killed like this."

Slightly wounded, he stripped off his clothes, thinking he was more likely to blend into the color of the sand if he were naked, the witness said. He then began running again.

"As I was running, I saw many pits, I saw many mounds, and I saw lots of people who had been shot," he said. "The desert was full of mounds that had people buried underneath."

The witness said he took refuge with Kurds living nearby, then traveled north. For the next 15 years he lived in hiding, moving frequently, until Saddam's ouster.

A Kurdish witness — Mutalib Mohammed Salman, 78 — told the court that his wife and 32 relatives disappeared in 1988 after troops overran his village in northern Iraq.

Salman said his wife's body and the remains of two other relatives were found in a mass grave after Saddam's regime was toppled in 2003.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Freedom And Fear At War

From the beginning, our nation's policy in the war on terror has been clear. On September 20, 2001 President Bush stood before Congress and addressed the country. He declared,

"Our war on terror begins with al Queda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."

He then reminded us that the attacks nine days previous were more than an attack on our nation. He said,

"Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time- now depends on us."

A few months later, President Bush again addressed the nation. He spoke of American values of service and freedom; freedom from fear, and freedom to be educated, to practice religion, and to determine one's own destiny. These are the values and rights of mankind. People the world over yearn for these liberties, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

Then President Bush promised,

"America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world, including the Islamic world, because we have a greater objective than eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What Do The Terrorists Want?

This essay was printed in the Times-News Monday, October 9 2006

In this War on Terror it is interesting to note the demands made by the other side. We know what terrorist want because they have consistently stated their demands and grievances in videos, audio tapes, letters, declarations, and websites.

A consistent theme is their demand that the US stop “meddling” in the Middle East, and to end our support for Israel. The United States' consistent support of a free society in Israel and efforts to give liberty to Iraqis, after decades of brutal dictatorship, stands in the way of the terrorist agenda. Liberty and freedom are the enemies of terrorists.

If we were to end our support of these free nations, as the radicals demand, terrorists will use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments.

This terrorist victory, and the control of a nation, will, the radicals believe, enable them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region.

The former terrorist leader in Iraq, Al Zarqawi, vowed, “we will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life.” Fortunately for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world, he achieved only one of his goals.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mormons & Iraq

Let me begin by stating that I do not speak for the LDS Church. This essay is simply the fruit of my attempts to reconcile current events with what my religion teaches. However, there are many who share my faith but will not share the opinions I express. The LDS Church has not made a public statement regarding the “righteousness” of the Iraq War. So it falls to the members of the Church to use reason and faith to come to their own conclusions.

I am not one that believes that war is never justified. I believe the words of the prophets both modern and ancient are clear on the matter, and so I will not address that point here.

That leaves the question of when is war justified, and does the war in Iraq meet those qualifications?

I will use as the basis for this essay a talk given by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 2003 General Conference of the Church. I encourage all to read it. This talk was given shortly after the war started. President Hinckley began by quoting Revelation 12:7-9 about the War in Heaven. He called it a “terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children.” He says that most of the world’s conflicts have been fought for essentially the same reasons.

Later, President Hinckley says, “the question arises, where does the Church stand in all of this?”

The following paragraph is in my opinion incredibly important.

“In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.”

And what is the “overriding responsibility” of which he speaks?

He answers this question in part by remembering a particularly devastating war between the Lamanites and the Nephites recorded in Alma. The Nephites were fighting for “a better cause”, their “homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, for their rites of worship and their church.”

He goes on to say that, “It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

Through much thought I have come to the conclusion that liberty is a God-given right, but there are those that seek to oppress and have succeeded in stealing the liberty of millions of people, and it is our duty and obligation to “fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

This fight does not have to be by the sword, but often it does. Oppressors do not relinquish their ill-gotten power willingly. Saddam Hussein was one of those. Here was a man who mercilessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. He used biological and chemical weapons without remorse. When asked during his trial if he had ordered the massacre of a village’s entire population of men and boys, he said it was his right and privilege as president. He paid thousands of dollars to suicide bombers. He spent the better part of two decades procuring nuclear weapons capabilities with the intent to use them on anyone that stood in his way of world power. He stole the lives and liberty of countless people. It was, and is, our moral obligation to fight and defeat him and all those like him who seek for tyranny.

Gay Marriage and Procreation

There was an interesting letter to the editor in the Times-News yesterday about Idaho's upcoming vote on gay marriage. Even more interesting are the comments that follow at the bottom of the page. They mostly amount to a "gay is evil" vs. "Idahoans are anti-gay, hillbilly trailer trash" debate. However, one comment (the latest comment as of this post) stuck out,

"The arguments for limiting marriage to a man and a woman here all seem based, ultimately, on procreation. However, if marriage is only for the purpose of procreation why are women who have gone through menopause allowed to marry? Why are men who have had a vasectomy allowed to marry? Why aren't men and women tested for fertility before being granted a marriage liscense???"

That's a really good question. I have written about gay marriage here, here and here, but I have not answered the commenter's question. In the comments of my last post about gay marriage I alluded to this question and my intention to address it, but I have yet to do so. There is an answer, and hopefully I'll have time to write about it soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Liberty: A World Beyond Terror

A shortened version of this essay was published in the Times-News Saturday, September 23, 2006

On Tuesday, September 19 President Bush addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. It was billed as a speech directed at Iran's desire for nuclear power, but it turned out to be much more.

President Bush declared, "At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace."

He envisioned a world "beyond terror", a world truly governed by the principles espoused in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world."

President Bush sees a world beyond terror only attainable if the world works together for the liberty of its inhabitants. While directing comments to the people of Iran, he said, "you deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential."

He then warned that the greatest obstacle to achieving this goal is Iranian leadership bent on "using your nation's resources to fund terrorism, fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons."

Is there any doubt that he is right? The greatest threat to terrorism and extremism is liberty and democracy. As our president notes, the past 60 years have seen the European continent emerge from a world war and the evils of communism to become "whole, free, and at peace." Asia also has made great strides in progressing freedom in many of its nations.

Now liberty is making inroads in the Middle East. Afghanistan and Iraq have democratically elected governments and have seen dramatic increases in liberty. Many other Middle Eastern nations are taking steps to ensure and broaden the freedom and liberty of their citizens.

Naturally, as liberty advances, extremists and terrorists feel threatened. Extremists use terror as a weapon to steal the liberty of the citizenry. Moderate, freedom-loving people must stand up against the extremists and win this ideological war. The world must ensure that those who are choosing liberty and freedom are not denied.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Global Warming Letter in Times-News

This letter was printed in the Times-News August 30, 2006

The purpose of the letter is to get some feedback. The points I write about are from "A Long Term Perspective on Global Warming" by Petr Chylek. I found the essay during my "debate" on JuniperWest's blog, of which I recently wrote. As I described in that post, I didn't get any useable information from them, so I thought I'd write this letter in hopes of causing more discussion. If you follow the link above to the online version of the newspaper, scroll down to the bottom and there are reader comments. I have to admit, the moon thing has got me stumped. If I see any response letters in the upcoming days, I'll post links to them as well.

Here's the letter:

People talk about global warming as if it's a new phenomenon. It's not. We have ice core-derived temperature data for the last 420,000 years. This data shows that global warming periods have occurred in the past. Our current warming period started 11,000 years ago. It has made the development of our civilization possible. It truly is a remarkable period of the Earth's existence.

In more recent terms, there have been two distinct warming periods in the last 120 years. The first lasted from 1890-1940. We are currently in the second period, which began in 1970. In between, there was a noticeable cooling period from 1940-1970. The drop in temperature during these decades alarmed many scientists, with some even predicting imminent global catastrophes.

The warming trend that began in 1890 was not caused by CO2. The warm periods that occurred 130, 240, 320, and 420 thousand years ago were not caused by CO2 either.

An important predictor of the future is the past. In the midst of the current global warming period, we should be striving to understand our planet's past warming trends in order to better understand the present and prepare for the future.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

There Is No Global Warming Consensus

I have recently been involved in an online discussion centered around global warming. It started out innocently enough, when in response to a blog post touting the global warming movie "An Inconvenient Truth", I expressed my uncertainty on the subject. I was then asked by another commenter to provide proof of scientists that don't subscribe to the "truth" that global warming is mankind's fault. So I did.

Apparently the blog owner and the commenter didn't appreciate it.

I asked them to critique my initial findings, but instead I was told I was biased and immoral. They accused me of refusing to listen to their mountains of scientific evidence; the only problem with that being they never provided any. I was amazed and dismayed by how quickly they backtracked from discussing science.

I had no idea what a hornet's nest I was uncovering by daring to ask questions. Coincidentally, Reach Upward posted on the subject of the almost religious fanatacism of environmentalists about the same time I was busily swatting hornets. It has been a fascinating experience for me. Here I was, an honest seeker of knowledge, and my very integrity was called into question.

It was not all a loss, however. While I didn't get much pro-global warming info from Juniper West and friends, I did find enormous evidence that a scientific consensus does not exist. In presenting this evidence, I have realized that the global warming community desperately wants to move past actually discussing their theories. They want action, and they want it NOW. This is why they incessantly claim that the "science has spoken", a consensus has been reached, and wo to anyone that stands in their way.

Here are a few dissenting voices for your consideration:

On April 6, 2006 60 scientists signed a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to "examine the scientific foundation of the federal governments climate change plans." They go on to say that, "We appreciate the difficulty any government has formulating sensible science-based policy when the loudest voices always seem to be pushing in the opposite direction. However, by convening open, unbiased consultations, Canadians will be permitted to hear from experts on both sides of the debate in the climate-science community. When the public comes to understand that there is no "consensus" among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change, the government will be in a far better position to develop plans that reflect reality and so benefit both the environment and the economy."

Richard Lindzen is a Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, and also one of the most outspoken critics of the global warming hysterics. On July 2, 2006 his op-ed was printed in the Wall Street Journal. His was a piercing critique of "An Inconvenient Truth."

"A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse. Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended- at least not in terms of the actual science."

Indeed, natural climate variability and our own inability to really understand the compliated and convoluted forces that make up the Earth's climate seems to be a common thread amongst dissenters. A Petr Chylek, Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, worte a fascinating paper entitled, "A Long-Term Perspective on Climate Change." I have been too busy swatting hornets to delve deeper into his claims, but he makes a strong case for our current warm spell being nothing more than natural climate activity, especially when viewed in the context of thousands of years worth of the Earth's temperature. He claims, among other things, that we are currently in one of a few of the warming periods the Earth has experienced over the las 420,000 years. Temperatures have consistently risen and fallen over time, we are simply in a rising period that has been extremely beneficial to humankind, allowing us to live and prosper.

Basically, what many of these scientists seem to be saying is that we don’t understand the weather. Crazy, I know. In fact, the text of the IPCC Working Group I Third Assessment Report reads, “…the accuracy of these estimates continues to be limited by uncertainties in estimates of internal variability, natural and anthropogenic forcing, and the climate response to external forcing.” There are so many factors involved in the earth’s constantly changing weather that great uncertainty remains as to what the major causes may be; or if there even is one major cause.

The scientists I have quoted here are not alone. Lest you think that there are only a few, and that those few are greedily taking Big Oil’s money in return for their dissenting view, I refer you to a petition compiled by the Oregon Petition Project, and signed by over 19,700 scientists since 1998. The petition says, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Claims of a scientific “consensus” are false. It is the product of desperate people desperately seeking to steamroll their agenda over anything and anyone in their way. It is unfortunate that the discussion has come to this. Discussions of public policy choices should be just that: Discussions. Instead, my own foray into the world of environmentalists seems to be the rule and not the exception, even among scientists. Those that dare to speak up and speak out are treated as heretics; rarely is their science even discussed, rather they themselves are attacked and belittled. Unfortunately, in so doing, science and scientists lose sight of what is most interesting and most beneficial about their work: the search for truth.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment Part III: The Social Science Case

The LDS Church, along with 54 other religious leaders, signed a letter which supports the Marriage Protection Amendment. While obviously a plea from the religious side of the aisle, these religious leaders also give evidence of their view that traditional marriage is good and even essential to our society. They call this evidence, “Top 10 Social Scientific Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage.” The ten are as follows:

1. Children hunger for their biological parents
2. Children need fathers
3. Children need mothers
4. Inadequate evidence on same sex couple parenting
5. Children raised in same sex homes experience gender and sexual disorders
6. Vive la difference
7. Sexual fidelity
8. Marriage, procreation, and the fertility implosion
9. For the sake of the children
10. Women and marriage domesticate men

Each point is made using evidence from studies conducted by social scientists hailing from universities such as Yale and Stanford. It is hard, researched, and quite frankly damning evidence. Much of this research was conducted not to discredit gay marriage, but in response to other societal factors working against the traditional family.

Some may scoff that these points advocate a “Leave It To Beaver” family and ignore the reality of an ever-dwindling “family” structure.

Those people would be right.

The "Ten Arguments" do advocate a return to traditional families. That's because science says the traditional family works the best. Science has told us what a family should be, and why it is important.

Consider this statement from Sara McLanahan, a Princeton University sociologist quoted on the Religious Coalition for Marriage website,

“If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would also provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting. The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.”

The two-parent ideal. Two parents biologically connected to their children. This is the best way to provide for children. This is what a “family” should be. All of our efforts should be put towards protecting and reinforcing this ideal.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment Part II: The Religious Case

The LDS perspective on marriage and family, and by extension, homosexual marriage, is clearly stated in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World". The Proclamation was read by Church President Gordon B Hinckley at the General Relief Society Meeting September 23, 1995. It was drafted by prophets and proclaimed to the world as doctrine. It contains many important points pertaining to the gay marriage debate. These include:

-Marriage between man and woman is ordained of God

-Gender is an essential characteristic of our eternal identity and purpose

-God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife

-Marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan

-The first commandment God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife

-The disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

The document concludes by calling upon "responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

In the October 1998 General Conference, President Hinckley answered commonly asked questions. Question 2 was "What is your Church’s attitude toward homosexuality?" President Hinckley answered,

"In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families."

In the May, 1984 Ensign, President Ezra Taft Benson said,

"Do not commit adultery "nor do anything like unto it." (D&C 59:6.) That means petting, fornication, homosexuality, and any other form of immorality."

President Spencer W. Kimball spoke often on the subject of immorality, including homosexuality. One notable instance is found in the June 1971 Ensign article titled, "Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future."

Ancient scripture supports our modern prophets. God soundly rejects homosexuality by condemning Sodom in Gen 19:5, Deut 23:17, Isa 3:9, and Jude 1:7. He further condemns homosexual acts as sin in Rom 1:27, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:10.

Any form of homosexual marriage is in direct conflict with these doctrinal truths. Furthermore, the Proclamation asserts that allowing gay marriages will "bring about the calamities foretold by the prophets". I imagine it is for this reason that we are urged to "strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society". Indeed, in the book Gospel Doctrine: Selection from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, it states,

"After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us,... it is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down. Great causes are not won in a single generation. To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition, when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. Men who possess that diving quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not simply the creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and a divine purpose."

There is not, and there never has been, any ambiguity concerning God’s view of homosexuality.

It is a sin.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Times News Letter on "Spoils of War"

This letter appeared in the Times-News (Twin Falls) this week:

"Why America can win wars and lose the peace:

We don’t accept the rules established long ago in a far off land. You go to war when attacked or when you want or need something others have. When you win in either case, you take the spoils of war. That’s how England, Spain, Germany, Rome, France (under Napoleon) and all other major powers did it. That’s how they became world powers.

You may choose not to accept the concept, but it will change nothing. After the Second World War, we helped Germany and Japan recover. That recovery has caused the international decline in the value of the US dollar, allowed our own economic recovery to suffer to the extent that we import goods that we used to export and we export jobs that put Americans in a position where they can ill afford to buy the goods they used to make.

We went into Iraq, not to keep the world safe for democracy but for the oil. They have it and we need it. If you don’t believe that, I’d like to sell you some waterfront New Orleans property still under water. The problem is if we accepted the rules, we would not =be getting gasoline for 29 cents a gallon.

It isn’t as if we have never known the rules; we took the land from the natives who were here when we came. Oh, it isn’t as if we stole the land, we gave them glass beads, junk jewelry, cholera and smallpox. But we got the land. It’s just in recent times that we’ve lost the vision or the honesty to admit the way things work."

Vaughn Phelps
Twin Falls

Here is my response:

"Vaughn Phelps recently wrote about the “spoils of war”. According to Mr. Phelps, the European “powers” got their power by winning wars and taking the spoils. He wants us to believe that the US should “accept the concept” and do the same. He even goes so far as to blame the declining dollar and the trade deficit on our efforts to reconstruct Germany and Japan after WWII. I guess his thinking is that we should have conquered and enslaved them, at least economically. However, Mr. Phelps’s line of argument fails to remember that Germany was taken as spoils of war after WWI. Historical perspective teaches that Germany’s economic enslavement to the other European powers resulted in a Nazi-Germany caused Holocaust and the continent-wide destruction of WWII. It’s safe to say that the world learned its lesson. Instead of heavy handedness, we extended the hand of forgiveness and showed the axis powers countries a better way. They have in turn rewarded the world with technological advances and competition that has forced US companies to be better. And because their economies have prospered, they have fewer reasons to seek the “spoils” that war offers.

This strategy can work in Iraq as well. Let that nation be a beacon of democracy and free enterprise in a region of oppression and poverty. Let’s help Iraq prosper just as we helped Germany and Japan. If we are successful, the world will be a better place for them and for us. And we won’t even need any “spoils” to make it so."

This letter was printed in the Times-News Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Deseret News Letters on Gay Marriage

This letter appeared in the Deseret News recently:

"It baffles me how blatantly hypocritical the conservative movement and many heterosexuals have been throughout the entire gay marriage debate. If this issue were actually about preserving the sanctity of marriage and family, not just a definition in the dictionary, then I say we ban heterosexuals from being able to marry as well.

After all, who are the ones really responsible for the rotting state of the contemporary family? Don't blame me, a gay man prohibited from even having a family of my own, for the destructive threat to your families. Take a good look in the mirror and realize you only have yourselves to thank. Take a good look at your marriages of convenience and painless, here-today-gone-tomorrow divorces, the rampant, sickening incidence of spousal and child abuse and the never-ending cycle of infidelity and deceit that destroy the lives of your children. Where is the real threat here?"

Russ Adamson

I sent my response today:

"Russ Adamson decries the “blatantly hypocritical conservative movement” regarding gay marriage. Thank you Mr. Adamson for reminding us all to reevaluate the state of marriage in this country. It is indeed weaker than in the past. We have not upheld it as we should have. But with all due respect Mr. Adamson, pointing out another’s faults does not hide your own. Allowing gay marriage will not help to solve the problems we face. It will only add to them. History has shown this to be true. Studies by renowned social scientists from our best universities have shown it to be true.

The family is the fundamental unit of society. The ideal family consists of a father and a mother raising children of their own. This ideal may not be attainable in all cases, but we should be moving towards it, not further from it."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment: Part I

The Marriage Protection Amendment was finally brought to a vote in the Senate. Sort of. The vote was actually just to decide if the Senate was to debate the issue or not. 49 Senators voted yea, 48 voted nay. While a majority of Senators voted to bring the amendment up for debate, they fell short of the 60 votes they needed. So the amendment was shelved for a time. Both of Idaho's senators voted yea. Here is a breakdown of how each senator voted. It was mostly a partisan vote, with all but two Democrats voting nay:

Byrd (D-WV)
Nelson (D-NE)

Most Republicans voted yea, with these exceptions:
Chafee (R-RI)
Collins (R-ME)
Gregg (R-NH)
McCain (R-AZ)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Sununu (R-NH)

Three Senators didn't vote at all:

Dodd (D-CT)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Hagel (R-NE)

The most notable Republican nay voter was Senator Jon McCain. He is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Some believe his nay vote may have hurt his chances for the nomination. Unfortunately for Idaho, we have little to no say in the matter because the nomination is generally locked up by the time we vote on it. But that's a topic for another day.

In any event, the Marriage Protection Amendment is not going away. It has been heavily lobbied for a few years now by groups like the American Family Association, among others. In fact, it may come up again this year.

Needless to say it is a highly charged issue. Which is why I have a hard time respecting the opinion that the vote on the amendment was solely a political move pandering to the religious right within the Republican Party. This is an amendment that has been gaining momentum for a number of years. It has slowly jumped through the bureaucratic hoops required of all amendments. Meanwhile, individual states have been voting on and passing amendments to state constitutions; 20 of them already. Idaho will be voting on its own amendment this fall. 45 of the 50 states have passed some sort of law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. All of this state activity, along with public opinion polls, would suggest that gay marriage is an issue that the public very much wants the Senate to act on. If the Senate's sole motivation is to "pander" to its constituents, then so be it. That's part of what they were elected to do. It is far better than not listening at all. But whether or not the Senate should have voted on the amendment avoids the real issue:

Should marriage be only between a man and a woman? If so, is it important enough to pass an amendment to the US Constitution?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Peculiar People

"We should not allow our personal values to erode, even if others think we are peculiar. "

—President James E. Faust
Ensign, May 1998, 19

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jane Richards and the Iowa Crossing

From "Church History in the Fullness of Times" Institute Manual, pg 319:

Jane Richards made the trek across Iowa late in 1846 without her husband, Franklin D. Richards, who was on his way to England. Franklin D. Richards was a high priest who would be called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles three years later. Jane's little daughter, Wealthy, was ill and died at Cutler Park after weeks of incredible suffering. Sister Richards wrote one incident of the story:
"A few days previously she had asked for some potato soup, the first thing she had shown any desire for for weeks, and as we were then traveling, we came in sight of a potato-field. One of the sisters eagerly asked for a single potato. A rough woman impatiently heard her story through, and putting her hands on her shoulders, marched her out of the house, saying, 'I won't give or sell a thing to one of you damned Mormons.' I turned on my bed and wept, as I heard them trying to comfort my little one in her disappointment. When she was taken from me I only lived because I could not die."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Joseph Fielding Smith: "Acquire Attributes of Godliness"

"We must endure to the end; we must keep the commandments after baptism; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; we must so live as to acquire the attributes of godliness and become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom."—Joseph Fielding Smith (Ensign, November 1971, p. 5.)

"become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom."

To be in God's presence, we must be made clean; "no unclean thing can enter into His kingdom". The way I read this quote from President Smith, it is not only punishment for unrepentant sinning that prevents us from living with God again. It is that if we are unrepentant sinners, we will not want to be in his presence. The unrepentant sinner cannot enjoy the "glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom". The sinner is happier somewhere else.

For that reason it is so important to "choose the right" while on earth. This is our opportunity to make of ourselves what we will. We must "acquire the attributes of godliness". And what are those attributes? How do we "acquire" them?

The Scriptures are a good place to start. After all, they are the Word of God through His prophets to His people. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught what we should do after we have entered into the way through baptism. In 2 Nephi Chapter 32 he said:

"Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

I believe we can come closer to God, and come to know Him, through the scriptures.

Of course, the scriptures aren't the only place to find the words of God. In fact, we can get them straight from the source:

"No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place." —James E. Faust (Ensign, May 2002)

As we pray to our Heavenly Father we will draw nearer to Him. We will feel of His presence and love. We will come to know Him. Through that knowledge we can come to be like Him.

If we are to change ourselves into beings that truly desire to live with God again, we must use our time here wisely. Through consistent study and prayer we can "acquire the attributes of God".

Thursday, May 25, 2006

May 20 Tax Cut Letter

Here is a link to a letter which appeared in the Deseret News recently. I will reprint it here as well:

This week, President Bush signed into law another tax cut — some $70 billion — that ensures that deficit spending will increase, simply because the conservative idea that tax cuts cause spending to dry up is wrong. The strongly anti-government Cato Institute recently reported that, since 1981, every $1 in tax cuts led to 15 cents of extra spending, whereas every $1 of tax hikes reduced spending by 15 cents. The data unequivocally demonstrate that conservatives have it backwards and that their ideas are nonsense.

Robert Hildebrand
Salt Lake City

I sent a reply today:

In his recent letter, Robert Hildebrand stated that according to the "strongly anti-government" Cato Institute, cutting taxes is a bad idea. I have to admit that this caught my attention and piqued my curiosity. So I looked up the Cato Institute and found this quote from their opinion piece at regarding President Bush's first tax cut in 2001:

"The way for taxpayers to protect themselves is to put strict rules on the government’s power to tax and spend. We should require the federal government to balance its budget so we never again run up deficits like those of the 1980s and 1990s. And we should reach that balance by slashing federal spending and closing certain federal departments. Also, we should cut taxes now, by more than the Bush administration proposes."

Mr. Hildebrand was right, we should have listened to the Cato Institute.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kyoto Protocol

The United States is ruining the world's environment. Many other countries, indeed most of the world's countries, have signed an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions thereby reducing global climate change. But the US refuses to do so based solely on economic grounds; it would hurt our nation's pocketbook and so we won't do it. Global warming will continue to worsen because the world's largest polluter doesn't have the guts and fortitude to do what the rest of the world has shown a willingness to do.

Well, actually it's the world's largest polluter's current governing political party that doesn't have the guts and fortitude to do what the rest of the world has done. Republicans have long been known to be anti-environment, and Democrats are pro-environment. President Clinton wanted the United States to enter into the agreement and even sent Vice President Gore to symbolically sign it. However, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution stating they would never pass it into law. Our country's anti-environmental stance is not necessarily our nation's fault as a whole. It is the fault of the Republican party.


The aforementioned agreement is known as the Kyoto Protocol. The meetings to design the agreement began in the early 90's, even before President Clinton took office. It was organized through the United Nations, and many countries were involved. Vice President Gore signed it in November of 1998. However, the signing was merely symbolic as it had to go before Congress to really take effect.

It never officially came to a vote in Congress. Why? Surely it was because the Republicans in Congress blocked it?


On July 25, 1997, which was before Vice President Gore signed the Kyoto Accord, a Democrat sponsored resolution was passed by the Senate on a 95-0 vote barring the United States from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. This resolution gives the Senate's reasons for refusing to sign the agreement. The reasons are:

"Whereas greenhouse gas emissions of Developing Country Parties are rapidly increasing and are expected to surpass emissions of the United States and other OECD countries as early as 2015"

"Whereas the `Berlin Mandate' specifically exempts all Developing Country Parties from any new commitments in such negotiation process for the post-2000 period"

"129 countries, including China, Mexico, India, Brazil, and South Korea, as `Developing Country Parties'"

I might add that the Kyoto Protocol would require the Developed Nations to finance the industrialization of the Developing Nations, without any restrictions on how the funds were to be used.

Perhaps more importantly, according to the United States Senate, Kyoto would allow the "Developing Countries", including China and India, to continue to increase their pollution unabated. So much so that eight years from now their pollution will be greater than that of the Phase I countries'.

Kyoto started as a worldwide pollution control mechanism. It ended up as a free pass to developing countries.

Our Senate, in a bi-partisan 95-0 vote, saved our country from the disaster that would have been further US involvement in the Kyoto Protocol. Hurray for them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Isn't It Awesome

Today in church we were discussing Joshua from the Old Testament. The question was raised as to what he may have thought upon being called as the Prophet. A few people commented that when they were called to leadership positions in the Church they asked, "why me?". The short discussion of this point brought inspiration to my mind. Here is what I wrote down:

"Isn't it awesome how it works? Isn't it awesome how in each little ward community there are so many needs, and we, the ward itself, are the ones that fulfill these needs? Isn't it awesome how Heavenly Father lets us fulfill these needs? He certainly could do it all Himself. He could supply all our needs, heal all our wounds, soothe every hurt. But instead, He has chosen to let us help each other, and help ourselves. There is great wisdom in this."

It is in service that we truly excel as human beings. The Church's leadership structure allows us to serve in many capacities. Each of us will be asked to serve in many diverse callings throughout our lives. I believe this is part of God's plan for us.

As in many other cases, we should follow the Father's blueprint for us with our own children. As parents, we are far more capable of doing things than our children are. But if we constantly butt in and don't allow them to make mistakes, they will never grow to their full potential.

I think this principle could be used outside of the home as well. It has an obvious role in welfare systems. If an institution, whether it be government, church, or some other non-profit organization, consistently does for an individual, it will stunt his growth. He will forever be reliant on others to care for him. The aim of any welfare program should be to fulfill pressing needs and then to instill the ability to provide for oneself.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley- The Best Quote Ever

I jotted this down a number of years ago and it has never left my thoughts:

"We each do the best we can. My best may not be as good as your best, but it's my best. The fact is that we know when we are doing our best and when we are not. If we are not doing our best, it leaves us with a gnawing hunger and frustration. But when we do our level best, we experience a peace."

-Sister Marjorie Hinckley

Sunday, May 14, 2006

PAYGO: DemSpeak for Raise Taxes

PAYGO is often used by Democrats to chest thump "President Clinton's Economy". They blame the repeal of the PAYGO budgetary rule for the current budget deficits, and are now starting to increase calls for its reinstatement.

According to C-Span,

PAYGO means this:

The PAYGO or pay-as-you-go rule compels new spending or tax changes to not add to the federal deficit. New proposals must either be "budget neutral" or offset with savings derived from existing funds.

I read this to mean that under PAYGO rules, any increase in spending or decrease in taxes must be:

Budget Neutral or Offset by Savings.

Budget neutral would mean being offset by either an increase in taxes (in the case of proposed spending increase), or a decrease in spending (in the case of proposed tax cut).

Offset by savings would mean find inefficiencies in other places and use those savings to pay for changes to the budget, whether those changes be tax cuts or spending increases.

During the third 2004 Presidential Debate, Senator John Kerry brought up PAYGO. He told the nation that President Bush's tax cuts were never "paid for". Unfortunately, President Bush responded by calling Senator Kerry a tax and spend liberal, and didn't really address the challenge.

What does it mean to "pay for" tax cuts? Intuitively, it means a cut in spending is required. This is supported by the definition used above.

However, this article reveals the truth behind the Democrats' push for a renewal of the PAYGO rules. See also, here.

Basically, the time had come to vote on renewal of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. If PAYGO were reinstituted, either the tax cuts would have to go or a huge spending cut would have to be made. No politician from either party has shown an inclination to cut spending, so the Dems' grandstanding on the PAYGO issue basically amounts to political machinations which disguised their true desire: Raise Taxes.

Now, the Dems will never admit this. But to the perceptive eye it is altogether obvious.

Take Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, for instance. Representative Pelosi is in line to become Speaker of the House if the Democrats take Congress this fall. She went on Meet the Press recently and outlined the Dems' plans when/if they take over. There was a very interesting and telling exchange during the interview when Tim Russert pressed Rep. Pelosi on how the Dems would pay for their proposals. Here is an excerpt of that exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: So wait a minute. So they’ll be no increase in spending if the Democrats take control of Congress?

REP. PELOSI: No deficit spending. I pledge that to you. No deficit spending, pay as you go. Pay as you go.

MR. RUSSERT: So even if you had to raise taxes to pay for the new program?

REP. PELOSI: Well, you put everything on the table and you decide what are the priorities for the American people.

Possible Future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants to raise your taxes. This is not a solution to the deficit that I can support.

Is it not obvious to all that the solution to deficit spending is to cut the spending? There are countless areas to cut. See here and here for some ideas. The answer is to modify PAYGO so as to affect change on the spending side of the equation.

Iraq- Stay or Go?

This letter appeared in the Deseret News May 12, 2006

Building a Nation Takes Time

Nation building is difficult and takes time. We spent the time and money necessary to rebuild Europe after World War II, and the world is better off for it. We spent the time and money necessary to rebuild Japan, and the world is better off. We did nothing but run away in Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam, and the world is worse because of it.

If we want the world, especially the Middle East, to be better it will require time and money. That is the only historically proven path to follow. Leaving now will result in Iraq falling back into dictatorship and the rest of the Middle East beating their chests at the cowardly Yankees. If we stay it will send a message that America will not be bullied.

Friday, May 05, 2006

When To Marry?

Any debate on "when to marry" boils down to this: individual growth.

What will make us better people, marrying "early" (in our 20's) or waiting until our 30's so that we can pursue individual goals and personal attainment?

Many have and will argue that a person should spend his 20's going to college, traveling the world and "learning who he is". This is one form of individual growth. This idea has been growing in popularity for 50 years or so. Granted, it was done before then, but it was not nearly as prevalent. It certainly seems like a great idea. Doesn't a person need to know who he is before he can give of himself in marriage? Doesn't he have to develop the skills and traits that are essential to a happy and successful marriage? Besides, why rush into it? There is plenty of time for the "hassles" of marriage and family.

I don't agree.

The philosophies of "learning who I am" and "experiencing the world" are like the New York Mets. It looks good on paper, but they always disappoint. (Present conditions notwithstanding)

To understand, you have to think about what kind of people we want to become, and how do we get there?

If "individual growth" means becoming nicer, more considerate of others, firm in your convictions, willing to stand up for what is right, constantly learning, and caring about the well-being of others, I say the best way to get these characteristics is to marry and start a family. Why? Take a look at some of the "best" men the world has known. Their commonality is in their service to others.

"Finding yourself" in Europe is all about yourself. The entire philosophy of waiting to marry is based on ones self.

It is inherently selfish.

Selfishness does not a great man make. Striving for a happy marriage and raising happy children is about giving of ones self. It is about serving others. It takes sacrifice. It requires love and devotion. It means subjugating your own wants and sometimes even your needs so that others are cared for. It's hard. It's not very fun most of the time. But oh is it rewarding. When he gives of himself, a man ends up "finding" himself.

Why I Love Children

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork.

As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."

The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."

Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."

Gospel of Judas

Each day I receive an email from a Christian news source called Agape Press. It contains links to various essays with "Christain" views on world news. Some I read, some I don't. I am posting one essay about the Gospel of Judas that I did read, along with some of my thoughts on the essay as well as the Judas transcript in general:

The Gospel of Judas: A Betrayal of the Truth
By Rev. Mark H. CreechApril 20, 2006
(AgapePress) - It's being hailed as the greatest archaeological find in the last 60 years. Some are saying the "Gospel of Judas," a Gnostic text that dates back to the second century, could force a completely different understanding of Christianity, more specifically of Judas and Jesus. But as Collin Hansen of Christianity Today writes: "This is no Christian text .... This new text tells us nothing more about Jesus' relationship with Judas than does Jesus Christ Superstar."
The text was originally discovered in Egypt during the 1970s, then circulated among antiquities dealers and ultimately found its way to a safe deposit box in Long Island, New York, where it languished and deteriorated for 16 years. Eventually, it was acquired by a Swiss foundation that formed a joint venture with National Geographic to reconstruct, transcribe, and translate it. National Geographic has now acquired the rights to the document and recently unveiled it for the public.
The Gospel of Judas tells an entirely different story than the one recorded in the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In this writing, Judas is the hero and not the betrayer of Christ. Instead, he is depicted as Christ's best friend -- the only one who really understands Jesus -- the one who turns Jesus over to the authorities for crucifixion at His behest -- helping Him shed his fleshly body and return to the spirit world.
The teachings of The Gospel of Judas are Gnostic in origin. The Gnostics were a sect that believed only a select group of people was privy to a secret knowledge. The material world to them was a trap -- something from which to escape to enter into the spirit world. As Hanson notes, the teachings of the "Cainite Gnostics," the group responsible for the Gospel of Judas, were characteristic for "rehabilitating disgraced biblical figures, including Cain, the Sodomites, and Judas." Although Gnostics appeared to be Christian, there is nothing about their teachings that resembled what the apostles actually taught and passed down to the Church.
Despite the fact scholars have always known about the Gospel of Judas and that the early Church rejected it as heresy, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, Jr., notes one of the more significant reasons why many people are making such a big deal of it:
"The resurgence of interest in Gnostic texts such as ... the gospel of Judas is driven by an effort, at least on the part of some figures, to argue that early Christianity had no essential core. Instead, scholars such as Elaine Pagels of Princeton University want to argue that, 'These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse -- and fascinating -- the early Christian movement really was.' What Pagels and many other figures argue is that early Christianity was a cauldron of competing theologies, and that ideological and political factors explain why an 'orthodox' tradition eventually won, suppressing all competing theologies. Accordingly, these same figures argue that today's Christians should be open to these variant teachings that had long been suppressed and hidden from view."
The fact of the matter is, however, that from the earliest times the Church had a functional canon that was authoritative in matters of faith and practice. In his book You Can Trust the Bible, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois, explains how the development of the New Testament Canon actually took place:
Letters from the apostles were written and received in the churches; copies were made and circulated.
A growing group of books developed that were recognized as inspired Scripture. An important question for their acceptance was: Was the book either written by an apostle or by someone who knew the apostles, and thus had the stamp of apostolic authority?
By the end of the first century all 27 books in our present canon were written and received by the churches. Though some of the canonical lists were incomplete, this is not to be interpreted as the rejection of some books but often simply means that some books were unknown in certain areas.
To show both agreement and the widespread acceptance of the New Testament books, we should note that by a generation following the end of the apostolic age, every book of the New Testament had been cited as authoritative by some church father.
Remaining doubts or debates over certain books continued into the fourth century. As far as historians know, the first time the list of our 27 books appears is in an Easter letter written by Athansius, an outstanding leader of the church in A.D. 367. Obviously, the books were regarded by most churches as authoritative more than 200 years prior to that time.
The 27 books of our New Testament were ratified by the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397).
Lutzer rightly adds: "These councils neither added nor subtracted books, but simply approved the list of twenty-seven which had already been recognized by the early church. Given the geographical distances, the limitations of communication, and the diverse backgrounds of the churches, such agreement is remarkable."
Indeed, it was remarkable accord -- quite contrary to the argument that genuine early Christianity was "a cauldron of competing theologies, and that ideological and political factors explain why an 'orthodox' tradition eventually won, suppressing all competing theologies."
This also clearly explains why writings like the Gospel of Judas were never recognized as divinely inspired. Such documents were simply too young to have apostolic authority. Moreover, they were inconsistent with the fundamental teachings of the Christian religion.
It is no coincidence that in the last chapter of the last book of the New Testament there is a dire warning. Although the text was intended primarily to refer to the book of Revelation, it nonetheless has a wider application for the Bible as a whole. It reads: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:18-19).Without question, the canon is closed and all the information needed to know God and live as He requires is contained therein. Those who either promote or embrace some extra-biblical revelation such as the Gospel of Judas betray the truth, even as the real Judas Himself did, and crucify the Son of God afresh.

So this article is really interesting on a number of levels. At first glance it is just a rebuttal of the new Gospel of Judas writings that are making waves right now. But read closely his arguments against the "Gospel" and you will see how relevant it is to Mormon doctrine. The easy one, and the one that first caught my eye and caused me to read the article, is that at the very end he uses Revelation 22:18-19 to say that nothing more can be added to the Bible. All of us bible bashers have heard this one before and know the easy answer to it. In fact, the author appears to know the easy answer too. He says, "Although the text was intended primarily to refer to the book of Revelation...". Exactly. Follow this think for more info: There is more to the article than just differing views on that scripture though. Most of the meat of it deals with what we would call the Apostacy. Apparently many of the proponents of "new" books like the Judas one are looking back into Christian history and seeing how chaotic it was. Read carefully the quote from "Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, Jr", who in turn quotes from "scholars such as Elaine Pagels of Princeton University", who asserts that 'These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse -- and fascinating -- the early Christian movement really was.' Hurray for the so-called "religious scholars". For once. However, the author does give some evidences of early Christians' reliance on the books now found in the New Testament. He paints a picture of complete reliance on only those books proven to be apostolic. Elder James Talmage would disagree (please read his writings, in this case his book "The Great Apostacy"-it's super excelent), and frankly so would the New Testament itself, as Paul prophesied of the coming apostacy. One only needs to read Paul's pleadings with the early Saints to realize that they weren't listening to the Apostles. Most of the non-canonized writings of the time affirm this as well. This isn't to say that the new book of Judas is correct. I don't believe it is. But it is dangerous to assume it isn't solely on the grounds of it not already being included in our current books of scriptrue. God reveals important doctrines to His prophets. Always has, always will. We have been told that we will receive more scripture. Entire books have yet to be found. God has revealed His word to all His people all over the world since the earth was formed and He instructed them to write what they were given. That's how we got the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Doctrine and Covenants is our most modern scripture and has been added to over the years as God has expressed His will to His prophets. The heavens are still open. Don't be afraid to receive His word.

Who's Job Is It?

+Some thoughts I posted at Reach Upward Blog+

I'd like to chime in a bit, simply because this runs parallel to some thinking and discussions I've been having lately, and I would appreciate fresh voices.

Last week there were a rash of news articles on the web remembering the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide a decade ago. I was in high school at that time and paid it no real attention. However, I watched "Hotel Rwanda" a couple of years ago and was horrified. I was physically ill. How could people, human beings!, do this? And then, how could the rest of the world let it happen? It seemed to me that that was the point of the movie. How dare the UN and US allow these horrific acts to take place. I don't know of too many people that after watching that movie or others of its ilk would not affirm that it is our duty to help. We should not have let it happen. I am one of those.

I just feel that everyone has wiped their tears and gone on and forgotten. Again. The same atrocities are happening NOW. Sudan, Iran, North Korea, and others are committing atrocities against their own people. Sometimes it seems as though the entire continent of Africa is one large refugee camp. Rwanda is allowed to happen over and over again.

So who's job is it to intervene? The United States? We certainly have the military strength and funding. The United Nations? That seems a logical choice. They certainly have the resources of the world and would presumably be a joint, world effort. Ok then good, the UN should intervene in these nations.

But then I think of what happened in Rwanda. The UN cut and run at the first sign of danger. They left a million people to die.

Then I think of Iraq. The UN spent a decade dancing around with Saddam Hussein, taking bribes, issuing meaningless resolutions, etc. He played them for the fools they were, and he killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He butchered them just as horribly as anything done in Rwanda. And again the UN did nothing. So finally the US did. And now everyone hates us for it. Some of us even hate ourselves for it. What gives? The US is damned if we do, damned if we don't. We can't go invade and "liberate" every nation bent on killing themselves, can we? But we certainly can't sit idly by and let it happen. Of that I am certain.
So again I ask, what gives?