Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How Wide the Divide: Will Catholics Become Protestant? Wither the Mormons...

On an interesting NPR program the other day, two "dissident"/reform-minded Catholics from "Voice of the Faithful," a Philadelphia group of upset Catholics, suggested that:

1. Since the laity provided over 90% of the Catholic Church's operating income, they should have a say on how the Church is run; and
2. Since the U.S. has a "democratic bent," in the population, that the Catholic Church in the U.S. should be more open to letting the laity make decisions.

The biggest complaints seem to be that folks are angry about cover-ing up abuse allegations in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and that funds are often used to build new churches, gymnasiums, schools, etc. rather than to help the poor.

So, my question: If the Catholic church bowed to these types of "reform" demands...would they be much more than uber-Protestants?

Wither the Mormons?

I also laughed because similar arguments have been made about the LDS Church, i.e. that we should be more democratic, should open the finance books of the church to auditing, etc.

To which I say:

I'm Mormon, not Catholic or Protestant. When God wants the books open...they'll be opened. When he wants the laity, as opposed to his chosen Servants making more decisions...the changes will be made. Until then...I'm happy that crazy arguments about who provides the money and "corporate" reform don't have traction in our religious culture.

Justice Withdrawn: Who bowed out???

It now appears that Bush was going to nominate someone other than Miers, but that the intended nominee withdrew their name from consideration. WOW!!! Now this is a bombshell. Bush caught with his pants down, so he went with Miers, because he didn't have the time to go with anyone else. Hm...

From the Dobson confession re: his chat with Rove:

"But we also talked about something else, and I think this is the first time this has been disclosed. Some of the other candidates who had been on that short list, and that many conservatives are now upset about were highly qualified individuals that had been passed over. Well, what Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list and they would not allow their names to be considered, because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter, that they didn't want to subject themselves or the members of their families to it."

And from an email sent to (Oct 11 "What did Andy do Entry"):

Those who mentioned Roberts praised Miers handling of Roberts and commented that Miers went to bat for Roberts right out of the gate with a game plan in place, but no one was there to do the same for Miers. An independent source tells me that Miers begged for more time, but the White House demanded that Monday be the day. Interestingly, there is a credible rumor out there that the White House insisted on Monday because the intended nominee to be announced backed out over the weekend. Yes, it is a very credible rumor.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Advertising for the Adversary: Google Ads in the Bloggernacle

So, without naming names, I ran across the following in a google ad in a prominent bloggernacle site:

Out of MormonismTools for reaching LDS (Mormons) with the true Christian

Now, I have no idea whether bloggers are making any cash out of the ads, and some folks feel that being an equal opportunity advertiser is a good thing (i.e. no discrimination _against_ pro-Mormon sites), I don't agree. If I did do ads, I certainly wouldn't deal with a site that requires all ads to be accepted. The one above is just simply wrong (nor is it the only one, I'm just providing a sampling).

How does one feel about advertising wolves to the flock?
My guess is that folks don't care and feel that "their" readers are more sophisticated and can deal with such. Maybe so, but it certainly doesn't look right.

Soft on White Collar Crime: Why punish physical, and not economic, violence?

Today, two former executives of Tyco were found guilt of 2/3 of the 33 criminal charges against them, ranging from outright theft, to deception, to manipulating securities prices. They were sentenced to serve between 8 to 25 years in state prison and are eligible for parole. Together, they stole $150 MILLION from Tyco and inflated the stock value by over $400 million.

Yet...apparently even some prosecuters think that this sentence is too harsh; as "violent" criminals often get shorter sentences. Wow...what a non sequitor.

Is there something special about "violent" crimes that makes them more worthy of punishment? Frankly, the _violence_ done to Tyco investors and the company is far more appalling to me than if the two had killed a few members of the board of directors in order to get the money they stole. When grandma & grandpa's retirement fund gets wiped out by Corporate Criminals...why do we want to soft-pedal the culprits merely because they didn't _physically_ hurt anyone?

The truth is, they did physically hurt people. Think of the folks who lost their jobs, or didn't get jobs because Tyco didn't hire more, due to the monetary theft and stock drop after the theft and manipulation became public. Isn't causing people to lack money, who then often resort to violence, a physical hurt?

Sum: Monetary violence is just as much, if not more, damaging to society than physical violence. Spreading out the pain among thousands, rather than concentrating it on a few, doesn't make the criminals any less worthy of being locked up...permanently.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Impeach Nagin!

Yes, that's right. Impeach Nagin. The man has proved he is incompetent to lead a U.S. city, let alone a fairly populous one.

Let's start with facts:

1. The New Orleans disaster plan was a complete failure.
2. Nagin knew the poor wouldn't/couldn't leave.
3. Nagin knew it was his responsibility to get his constituents out of the city.
4. Nagin only made the evactuation "manadatory" after a phone call from Blanco; who herself only made the call after Pres. Bush got on her case.
5. Nagin had enough buses to evacute everyone; and didn't.
6. His police department fell apart on his watch. Wow.

The man has failed. Kick him out before it gets worse. If only he the decency to resign and let someone with some real management skills take over; rather than throwing a tantrum and blaming others to cover his own rear.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Is your Home Open to Katrina's Homeless? The Church isn't doing this Churchwide, so Contact Your Stake Pres. to Offer your home

Will you open your home to Katrina's homeless? I'm going to see if I can't get ahold of a stake president down in Louisiana or someone so that they can offer folks down there the empty rooms in my home. You can also do so via Craigslist: where some have already done so.

Donating money is great. Donating your living space is better.

Higher Gas Prices: The Silver Lining of Horrid Disaster

So, folks are freaking out about higher gas prices. However, this isn't a bad thing. Gas prices are currently about $3/gallon on average. However, this is distorted by $4-5 prices in areas with serious shortages; i.e. Atlanta, LA, MS, etc.

Frankly, higher gas prices are a good thing. Consumers respond to prices for the most part, not ideology. Higher prices will mean lower consumption and other "substitute" moves to compensate for the price increases. These will include:

1. Buying a vehicle with better mileage;
2. Increased car-pooling;
3. Increased use of public transportation; etc.

We also hear alot about "price gouging" and lots of political attention to this. Frankly, I ask why? It seems like officials in NJ will be wasting alot of time & tax dollars by "inspecting" pump prices. Gasoline is a commodity product; and folks should have to pay based on supply & demand just like any other product. There is no such thing as price gouging. If the price is too high; folks won't buy it. There is no "right" to gasoline. Sorry.

HS Kids Need Sex Ed? In what world?

So, some absurd # of HS students in this HS are pregnant. Towards the end of the article is a gratuitous swipe at the Bush Administration for supporting Abstinence only (i.e. ABC, Abstinence first, Condoms last) sex education.

Let's get real. Kids don't need sex ed classes. They get all the sex ed they need by the time they are 12 from movies, TV, their friends, etc; or at least enough to know what a condom is and how to use it.

If kids get pregnant, its a choice. Not lack of education. Get real. Maybe in Africa, but not in America does this type of claim make any sense.

The real debate is about whether we should condone/promote sexual activity amongst unmarried teenagers or support sex only after marriage. Only one of these options ensures kids get a two parent family with parents who don't have STDs/AIDS. To me, that ends the debate.

Clueless Dean & Gas Prices: Redux

Who do you trust to run your country? Well, not Democrats, at least not today. DNC Chairman Dean suggested that "Big Oil" companies should stop "gouging" Americans at the gas pumps. Sr. Dean doesn't seem to understand how gasoline is sold in this country. Sr. Dean seems to think that Oil Companies "own" the gas stations simply because they happen to have the same name as the oil company. Sr. Dean is ignorant of the fact that most of these gas stations are leased from the oil company in question and are de facto independent dealers who make profits on the gas they sell. True, the wholesale price is often dictated to them by the oil company in question, but it isn't as if Chevron or Shell could simply say "OK, we are only going to sell gas at $2/gallon at all our branded stations for the next month." They simply don't have the power to do so. Earth calling Dean. Go take your medicial continuing education classes and go back to being a doctor.

Asked in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" if U.S. oil companies should forfeit profits during the crisis, Bush said instead American corporations should contribute cash to hurricane relief funds.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, seized on that comment. He said that while Bush was "asking ordinary Americans to do more, he ought to show some real leadership, and call on his friends in Big Oil to join in the sacrifice and stop gouging American families at the gas pump."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

CAFE, Hybrids & Gas: Economic Sins Against the Poor always suffer most?

Sum: Minimum "efficiency" regulations act like a minimum wage and hurt those that are the most vulnerable in our society. Efficiency regulations should be abandoned, letting those that care and can afford higher efficiency to pay for such on the market without government interference.

No, CAFE is not a new hip type of Coffee; nor place to imbibe such. However, it is an acronym for the gas mileage regulations car makers must abide by. Given RTs recent post, along with the recent spike in gas costs, and a recent NYT article about the increasing role economists play amongst environmental groups, I thought a short article was in order. Disclaimer: I'm not an economist and I'm sure my reasoning has been written about, with better evidence and detail, in other places.

CAFE requires cars and "light trucks" (i.e. vans, SUVs, non-18 wheeler trucks) to meet certain minimum mile per gallon gas requirements. Great idea, right? Save the environment, right? Well...maybe, although it certainly doesn't help the poor. Why?

Rich folks can afford more expensive gas and/or more expensive vehicles that get better gas mileage much more effectively than poor people can. CAFE standards effectively increase the overall price of a given vehicle by a set amount [Note: following numbers are representative only, not meant to be realistic]. This is an upfront cost that most poor folks are least well equipped to deal with. If Car A would cost 10k w/o CAFE regulations, and get 25mpg, it would cost (for example) 12k in order to meet the 30mpg cost. Poor man Joe will find it much easier to pay the extra cost for gas on a monthly basis than paying an increased amount to buy outright, or borrow, for the car upfront. In an unregulated world, those that care about MPG can also choose to buy Car B, which costs 25k and gets 50mpg (my Toyota Prius).

Theoretically, the government could set a car CAFE level of 50mpg. This would effectively force all car makers to license Toyota hybrid technology and force all car buyers to pay 25k (instead of 10-12k, for example) for vehicles. Again, the poor get the short end of a very heavy stick.

This was recently highlight by the NYT, where they talk of how a "green" group convinced Congress to require higher energy efficiency standards in air conditioners. The increased cost per unit? $300. However, consumers would save slightly over $300 over the life of the air conditioner (at current prices). Congress of course bought it. Sad. Frankly, the folks in my congregation who are poor would probably much rather pay a few extra dollars a month in air conditioning costs in the summer than pay $300 extra up front.

When will Congress learn to let the market make these decisions rather than imposing harsh de jure taxes on the poor?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Whose Killing Whom?: Rejoinding Gilliam

Mssr. Gilliam wrote:

"Who's life and liberty are we protecting? The Iraqiis who we are taking over and killing? That's
an interesting perspective."

The answer to his question is found in today's NYT:

1. We aren't taking over anything. These folks are creating their own constitution and government.
2. We aren't killing Iraqi civilians. Most of the killing going on is that of those who have chosen to be terrorists, killing their own countrymen and innocent civilians, in order to make a power grab.

The U.S. is abdicating power. Terrorists seek for it. Interesting Perspective indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Soldiers are the last line of Liberty's defense: Defending Cpt. Moroni

Recently, Ronan has questioned Cpt. Moroni's righteousness and propensity towards anger, violence and capital punishment.

While the debate is fairly well hashed out, today's WSJ and the anti-troops behavior of Ms. Sheehan have brought new insight to the discussion I believe.

In today's world, U.S. soldiers function as "the last line of defense for the rights of life and liberty" who are "morally obliged" to use lethal force to defend the innocent.

While anachronistic, I don't have a problem projecting this description of our troops onto Cpt. Moroni, his "troops" and the actions he took in putting down the Kingman revolt.

Killing another (is/should be) the most shocking act that one member of God's family can do to another. When it isn't justified, God calls it murder; an unforgivable sin. Since God condones killing, apparently there are some situations (but haven't we been warned against situational ethics? Hm...) where justified. Nephi carried out a justified killing, obeying a 'lawful order' from God.

What about Cpt. Moroni? He has the death of 4,000 Kingman dissenters to answer for. Was he justified? Absolutely, because "killing is morally acceptable when the enemy poses a threat to values worth fighting for, such as life or liberty, and there are no nonlethal options to avoid the threat." We can kibbutz about whether there were nonlethal options available to Cpt. Moroni, but given that _the_ Prophet that God choose to edit the BoM records, Mormon, named his son after the man/general/inspired leader and possibly prophet, I give him the benefit of any doubt that might exist.

Viva Cpt. Moroni. Viva the U.S. Soldiers, fighting for liberty. Shame on those that would seek to throw guilt upon them by claiming their actions were wrong or unjustified.

How Anti-War Protestors (Mothers or Not) Harm Soldiers: The "BS" behind "supporting the troops"

Part I: Anti-War Protestors Harm Soldiers

Ms. Sheehan: Go home. Your grief is causing grief and harm to your son's battle buddies. You are failing them when your son didn't. Don't dishonor his memory.

Recently, there has been a public discussion about the Iraqi war due to the actions of a mother of a soldier who died. Today, I saw a sign by a soldier's brother asking Pres. Bush to bring his brother back home. Anti-war activists are strident in stating that they "support the troops." However, the evidence is clear that they actually harm the troops. What evidence?

Namely, a nice story in todays WSJ; along with several pieces in the MSM that talk about how so many soldiers coming home are having trouble adjusting/need mental health counseling.

Why do they need counseling? Why do they have post-traumatic stress syndrome?

The answer is also fairly simple: Killing or witnessing killing is _the_ most traumatic event that can occur during life. There is a reason that _murder_ is the unforgivable sin after all. Murder consists of taking away the agency of another of God's children from them.

Soldiers kill. But do they murder? Absolutely not. However, anti-war protestors, such as Ms. Sheehan, et al., claim to support the troops while simulataneously undermining the reasons why the Iraqi War is just.

Bush lied people died. Ok, maybe so. However, when you say that, you need to accept responsibility for creating a climate of guilt for returning soldiers who have killed and witnessed killings. While we lack "scientific" studies to this effect, returning troops from Iraq verify that it is very troubling, psychologically, to see holes in bodies and body parts blown off of bodies.

Soldiers who have witnessed deaths, or killed, are more prone to develop Post-traumatic stress syndrome than those that did not while in a "war zone". To paraphrase Maj. Kilner, who is the subject of the WSJ story:

[We, society, the media, the American people] need to help soldiers who are carrying otu lawful orders know that feelings of guilt after combat are natural, are not "a sign of moral culpability or mental weakness" and that there actions were justified.

Sum: Soldiers aren't murderers, and telling them that the war isn't justified only increases their latent guilt for having to take human life in order to: obey orders, save their own, save the lives of Iraqi civilians, and protect the fragile Iraqi democracy.