Thursday, August 30, 2007

Esteban Batista - My New Favorite NBA Player

Esteban Batista is my new favorite NBA player.

He played the last two years for the Atlanta Hawks, playing sparingly with averages of just 1.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He's now a restricted free agent and is not a sure bet to play in the NBA next season.

So why the love from Magic Valley Mormon? Turns out Esteban is from Uruguay, my second home. As a missionary I played my fair share of basketball on our days off, and it was growing pretty fast there. The kids were playing it a lot, and they had club teams in just about every city. But I had no idea they'd have NBA caliber players already. Well, player anyway.

Esteban also plays for the Uruguay national basketball team, which is currently in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament. They just played the US, with the expected results. USA beat Uruguay 118-79, but my man Esteban scored 20, and had a few nice dunks in the process. Hopefully he'll get signed to play in the NBA again.

Boise St Broncos

Boise St starts their season tonight too.

Did you know they have the best record in college football since 2000? That their running back led the country in touchdowns last year? As a sophomore. That only a little over ten years ago they were still playing I-AA?

Did you know they played, and won, the greatest college football game ever?

Utah Utes

First game of the season is tonight, so here's a few vids to get ready:

Eric Clapton Concert

For your viewing and listening pleasure...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Senator Larry Craig

I met Senator Larry Craig when I was in high school. We had some sort of question and answer session with him my junior or senior year. He did not make a good first impression with me. He seemed creepy. Like a slimy politician. You know, like the ones in the movies that are slick talkers and up to their eyeballs in corruption. But that's pretty much been my entire experience with the Senator, outside of reading news releases and voting records.

Well, Idaho media is insane with activity right now because Senator Craig recently pled guilty to lewd conduct in an airport bathroom.


The back story here is that rumors of homosexuality have dogged Sen. Craig for years, culminating in last year's allegations by a gay activist intent on "outing" the senator. The activist made his claims via blogs, and from there his story was picked up by radio commentators and cable news shows. Through it all, the senator denied everything. Denied it so vehemently, in fact, that a pretty thorough investigation by the Idaho Statesman was shelved, much to the Idaho blogdom's anger, because they couldn't turn up any true evidence that the senator was lying. Now the Statesman apparently feels the bathroom incident is proof enough and they have run their story, much to the glee of Idaho bloggers. Idaho liberal blogs have been salivating over the possibility of Sen. Craig's outing for almost a year, and now all that pent up, repressed anxiety is being released on the internets.

But this is more than just an Idaho story, or even just an Idaho blogging story. The Daily Kos reported on it, as well as many other large national blogs, and a quick googling shows an enormous amount of national news spotlight on the senator.

Senator Craig, of course, denies wrongdoing, saying it was all a misunderstanding and that he only pled guilty in order to deal with it quickly and move on. Unfortunately for him and his family, nobody I have seen is buying that story. In fact, there is a strong movement to ask him to resign his senate seat.

So what now? What's my editorial on the subject? I always cringe at the feeding frenzy these things create. I think it's unseemly, petty, and too often partisan. Everyone suddenly thinks themselves a psychologist, and analyzes the whys and what for's of the story. Republicans will call for his resignation, touting it as proof that they clean house when lawbreaking happens in their party, while Democrats do not. Democrats will say that this is just another name in the long list of evil Republicans. Read the comments on the liberal blogs and you'll see them delight in writing things like, "are there any straight Republicans in Washington?"

It's like it's a big game. Funny stuff.

It's sad that a US Senator was in all likelihood soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. It's sad that anyone is soliciting sex in airport bathrooms. It's sad that it's so much of a problem that the US has undercover police in airport bathrooms.

It's sad that this bit of gossip is passed around the world and commented on by millions of people; not for understanding, or out of any idea of mercy or justice, but because it's juicy gossip- salacious news we can use to drive ratings and score political points.

Because of this, there will be no resolution. There will simply be accusations and denials. Any way you slice it, it's a huge mess. Senator Craig's life and legacy are pretty much shot, regardless of who's telling the truth, and that's a shame.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Twin Falls Temple

The above picture is a rendition of the temple being built in my hometown of Twin Falls Idaho. There are currently 124 temples operating in the world. On there are links to pictures and video of all the temples being built around the world. The link to the Twin Falls temple construction page is found here. There's also a webcam in place, found here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Parable of Scary Mary or Religious Wackos Eat Children

I admit it. Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies. So when I heard about the youtube clip called Scary Mary, I had to watch it. It's classic:

That clip is, of course, harmless fun. In fact, I had been meaning to post it here for some time. What finally made me do it was Geoffrey's post here. He's had a few run-ins with "fundamentalist" Christians lately, so when he saw the following clip, he deemed "these people" scary:

I admit I have no idea who the leader guy on stage is, or if his intentions are evil or not. But this video report does not do anything to solve my ignorance of the matter. It comes across the same way that "Scary Mary" does, full of quick shots of the stage and screaming people, with ominous background music to set the tone. Taken alone, it's quite ridiculous.

Which, of course, is the problem with watching TV. Most of the "news" is ridiculous pandering of this nature. It gets everyone riled up; the people they're portraying get offended and protest, and everyone else thinks those guys are insane child-eaters. Either way, people watch. Which I suppose is the point.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We Are Not Going To Baby-Sit A Civil War

What's the difference?

What's the difference between a civil war fought over old colonial disputes that caused the brutal deaths of 800,000 people in 100 days- just over 11% of the country's population?

What's the difference between an ongoing civil war fought over religious differences that has so far caused the deaths of 420,000 people?

What's the difference between those two civil wars and another war fought for basically the same reasons?

The US has been and continues to be vilified for doing nothing as genocide brutally took the lives of over a million people in Rwanda and Sudan. How could the freest and richest nation in the world stand idly by while such atrocities were occuring? What happened to the "city on a hill", the beacon of virtue that America proposes to be?

Well, now America could be faced with the same situation. As Congress continues to rush towards a pre-emptive withdrawal from Iraq, the elephant in the room is the very likely scenario of Iraq descending into Rwanda-like genocide. Surely America won't stand idly by and allow this to happen again?

Well, there are at least two presidential candidates that will. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have staked their campaign wagon to a "leave Iraq no matter what" policy- even if that results in the death of countless Iraqis. As Senator Clinton stated, "I'm sorry, it's over. We are not going to baby sit a civil war."

What's the difference between Rwanda, Sudan and Iraq?


Friday, August 17, 2007

Mariela & The Book of Mormon

I'd met Mariela over a month before. We had made numerous attempts to contact her since, but were always met with an excuse as to why she couldn't meet with us. This is a problem common with being a missionary in Uruguay- the people are so nice they'll often concoct an array of excuses to meet "in a few days" instead of today. Niceness is generally a good problem to have, but eventually a missionary has to discern if there is true interest or not. Such was the case with Mariela. I had finally determined to give it one last try, but if it didn't work out then we wouldn't go back.

These were the circumstances when we arrived at Mariela's door that afternoon. Then something awesome happened. She invited us in. We sat on the couch across from her and her 9 year old son and introduced the Book of Mormon. We told her it contained answers to important questions that many people have. She then looked us squarely in the eyes and said she wanted to know about life after death. Then she told us why.

She had driven past a cemetery that day, and in Uruguay the dead aren't always treated very well. Bodies are rarely buried; instead they are stored for a time and then taken out and put into a smaller box. This process can be rather gruesome. Worse yet is that the remains are commonly left lying around, and rumor had it that these often become pig food.

Mariela passed by the local cemetery and saw the bones and rags lying around- destined, surely, to become "comida para chanchos": pig food. In that moment it dawned on her that we are all destined to become pig food. Rich or poor, good or bad, everyone will eventually end up in the cemetery.

She told this story with much earnestness, and it was obvious that these thoughts troubled her. She asked, "are we all just comida para chanchos?"

This is where the power of the Book of Mormon came in. The power to teach, the power to feel the Spirit, the power to convert. I turned to Alma chapter 11 verses 42-45 and asked her to read, telling her that here was her answer.

Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.

When she finished verse 45 I fully expected her to have questions. Instead, she just kept reading. And reading. And reading. She didn't stop reading for another 45 minutes. Finally, we had another appointment to go to so we told her to keep reading, marked a few passages that would interest her, and set up an appointment to come back. When we saw her again, she had read all that we had marked and then some.

What happened next in Mariela's life is truly remarkable. She overcame numerous obstacles and was eventually baptised and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That story deserves a post of its own.

But it all started with the Book of Mormon, and an answer to an important question.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


August 14, 1846: Henry David Thoreau is jailed for tax resistance.

August 14, 1935: Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, creating Aid to Dependent Children, unemployment insurance, and pension plans for the elderly.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Western Wildfires

Every year wildfires erupt throughout the western United States. This year, Utah and Idaho both had enormous fires. The size and nature of this year's wildfires has spawned numerous discussions on what is causing them.

In Idaho, the Murphy Complex Fire engulfed over 600,000 acres and is one of the biggest in the state's history. Senator Larry Craig gave a speech on the floor of the Senate, in which he basically blamed the intensity of the fire on land use policy during the 90's. Senator Craig argues that we are no longer allowed to log nearly as much as we used to, which has resulted in an abundance of fuel for these wildfires. According to the Senator, much of this fuel is dead and dry trees that could easily be removed by loggers, which would have prevented the scope of the current fire season.

The Times-News ran an interview with state representative Bert Brackett, who lost cattle and rangeland to the fire. Representative Brackett blamed the fire on the reduction in grazing imposed on ranchers like him over the last 15 years. His argument is similar to Senator Criag's, in that fewer grazing means more dead, dry grass to burn.

Idaho blogger Mountain Goat disagrees. She blames drought conditions of the last 7 years for the preponderance of dead, dry fuel for the massive wildfires. A commenter also seems to argue that grazing is the problem, and that what we need is less, not more, of it.

Steve Urquhart is a state representative in Utah. He also runs a pretty great blog. He has a number of posts concerning wildfires, including one titled, "Western Fires and Extreme Environmentalism." In it he argues that cheat grass is the main culprit for the huge fires in Utah, and that the policies of environmental activist groups actually hinder the government's efforts to eradicate it. He has written fairly extensively about this issue and provides links to his previous posts. One of those posts highlights the actions of environmentalist groups that prevented reseeding efforts; efforts that more than likely would have reduced the scope of this year's fires.

Therein lies the rub. Land users and land managers seem pitted against the various environmental groups. Representative Urquhart makes a strong case that these groups have a deep financial interest not in maintaining healthy lands, but in opposing any management at all.

The last fifteen years has seen a reduction in land use by loggers and ranchers. Yet the land burns hotter than ever before. Mountain Goat argues that the heat is caused by, well, the heat. But it's more than that. Indeed, one of Rep. Urquhart's posts shows how wildfires put a ton of carbon in the atmosphere, thereby perpetuating the very heat that Mountain Goat blames.

Simply removing man from the picture, leaving Mother Nature in charge, will not stop wildfires. We need aggressive measures to eradicate the fuel that makes these fires so uncontrollable.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This Day In History

August 3, 1492: Columbus sets sail from Spain on the first voyage of discovery. Arrives in the West Indies Oct. 12, 1492.

Thursday, August 02, 2007