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?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Overpopluation Myth

A couple of weeks ago there was a letter to the editor in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) that really bugged me. So I wrote a reply.,1249,635202055,00.html

Here's the letter that really bugged me:
Overpopulation affects all

Though enlightened observers are increasingly drawing the conclusion that global climate change really is a moral issue — which it is — a larger moral issue remains sacrosanct. At the heart of this problem is the issue of overpopulation. Directly or indirectly, this touchy subject affects everything we do. The capacity of Earth is rapidly hitting the full-tilt, boogie stage of the game. Global warming, pollution, pandemic disease, endangered species, illegal immigration and war are all by-products of too many humans chasing limited and dwindling natural resources. With our proclivity toward developing every square inch and consuming goods, we have lost sight of our larger problem: man's ego and his desire to spread his seed far and wide.

Horst Holstein
Salt Lake City
What a load of bunk! Incidentally, the D News didn't print everything I wrote, so here is the letter in its entirety:
With apologies to “enlightened observers” like Horst Holstein, overpopulation is an insidious myth. According to a United Nations press release from February 2005, about half the world lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility. The population of 51 countries or areas, including Germany, Italy, Japan and most of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, is expected to be lower in 2050 than in 2005.

Is this good?

Not according to research. It is widely believed that there will be an underpopulation crisis in Japan by 2014. Underpopulation is also believed to be the root cause of the possible future failure of the United States Social Security system. Population levels of the US and Europe have only sustained themselves because of immigration, which Horst lists as an evil by-product of overpopulation. However, the US Census Bureau predicts the level of fertility for the world as a whole will drop below replacement level before 2050. A major consequence of fertility decline is population ageing. Our world is and will continue to become older. Today, 20% of developed nations’ population is 60 years old or over. By 2050 the proportion will be 32%. Who will be at work? Who will keep the world’s economies growing and vibrant? Who will take care of you Horst, when you can no longer take care of yourself? You see Horst, according to all empirical evidence, there is no such thing as overpopulation”.

Therefore, the world’s problems cannot be attributed to there being too many people, as the “enlightened observers” suggest. In fact, according to research, the world’s problems will only get worse as a direct result of “enlightened” people refusing to have children.
The original is a bit more long winded, but I think it's better.

I have not see any rebuttal to my letter since then, but I did find a letter similar to Horst's in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Breeding poverty

In 1986 the “last ever” amnesty made citizens of about 3 million illegal immigrants. The 2006 amnesty will do that for about 11 million illegal immigrants. The next amnesty in about 20 more years will probably include 40 million-50 million new illegal immigrants. Neither proponents nor opponents of these amnesties seem to be concerned about the size of the U.S. population. If we grant the 2006 amnesty, with the promise to stop illegal immigration, that promise will probably be about as effective as the 1986 promise to stop illegal immigration. In 1986 the world population was about 4 billion. Now it is about 6 billion. In 20 years it will be about 8 billion. The number of poor people in the world is large enough and growing fast enough that if we allow them all to come and live in the U.S. then our population will double every few decades. That will hasten the day when our government will have to institute the same stringent birth control measures on our sons and daughters that China does now, recognizing that unlimited population growth is the road to a much worse disaster than government-imposed birth control. Fortunately free immigration is self-limiting. Free markets work. When the billions of new immigrants have made the USA as poor a country as the countries they come from, they will stop coming.

Noel de Nevers
Salt Lake City

I agree that the current immigration debate has its foundations in population levels. However, the crisis is not that illegal immigration will over-populate the US. In fact, the current illegal immigration "crisis" was in fact caused by the overpopulation myth. If Americans had not heeded the "enlightened observers" call to limit family size, there simply would not have been work for the immigrants to take. It is simply supply and demand.