Friday, October 31, 2008

Is it OK to vote for McCain?

The professor that taught me ecology at BYU has a very funny post about why it's okay for Mormons to vote for McCain.
In other news, the science journal Nature, for the very first time, has endorsed a political candidate. As have a huge number of Nobel Laureates.
Click on this link to find out if it's OK to vote for McCain...


Sarah Palin needs to talk to people who understand science before she rushes off to condemn studies done on fruit flies.
An article here:
Anyone who knows much about biology knows that there are three types of animals that are great for research. Chimpanzees, because they're more like humans than any other animal, and thus help us understand ourselves better. Mice, because, like us, they're mammals, but they're also cheap and they reproduce quickly. And fruit flies, because they're extremely cheap, and they reproduce extremely quick.
Studying these animals leads us to a better understanding of biology and medicine. This type of research is extremely important, and the fact that she makes fun of it is troubling.
I would say she just alienated a whole lot of scientists, but in all reality, I think most scientists have already been alienated.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Orson Scott Card admits to forwarding false emails

Given the prestige which a couple of my friends have given Orson Scott Card lately, I thought this admission, found here, pretty funny.
Here are the pertinent parts:

I have received many forwards tied to this election season, as I bet you have, too. Some of them are downright fraudulent. Some of them began as truth but have since been corrected or are now outdated.
For instance, there was a link I got to an article about lawsuits pending against Obama, demanding that he produce his birth certificate to show he was a natural-born American citizen. I dismissed this immediately as nonsense, because his mother was an American citizen, and I thought that no matter where he was born, he was eligible for the presidency.
But then the friend who sent me the first link sent me a newer one that explained why he might not have been. Apparently there was a law that applied during the era when Obama was born that said that if you were born outside the U.S., and your father was foreign, then your American-citizen mother had to have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years, five of which had to be after the age of 16.
I thought, "What a stupid law. That means that a child born to a foreign father and an American mother who had lived all her life in the U.S. except the day the child was born could not be a citizen unless Mom was 21 or over." And, with a comment to that effect, I passed the link along to a few people as an example of a really stupid law.
Only when my son emailed me the link to did I realize that the article was fundamentally flatulent. The Obama campaign had already provided the Honolulu birth certificate, so the whole question was moot; the lawsuit is a frivolous one that claims the certificate was a forgery.
I have learned the hard and embarrassing way to check everything that purports to be factual at

I appreciate his honesty of his past gullibility. is a great resource. And "fundamentally flatulent" is a great phrase.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why do we fight?

I've been studying about war in my Constitution class. Some really interesting stuff there--like why we call captured enemy "enemy combatants" instead of "prisoners of war" and why we hold them at Guantanamo Bay instead of in the US.
All that's good and interesting, and I hope everyone who wants to have an educated opinion about war would look into those matters.
But I want to discuss something else: what's our motivation for going to war?
With the war in Afghanistan, it's pretty obvious. They were harboring the people who caused 9/11.
With Iraq, it's more complicated.
Democrats say it's because they have oil, or it's because powerful Republicans have connections with the companies that are doing major work there (see Dick Cheney, previous Vice President of Halliburton).
Republicans say it's because of nuclear weapons (now known to be non-existent) or to free people from a dictatorship, or because of links to 9/11 (also known to be non-existent).
Both views are way too simple.
Individuals may have simple reasons for going to war. But the war in Iraq is being fought for many reasons.
It's obviously not just fought because of dangerous nuclear weapons, or to free an oppressed a free people. If that were the case, we'd be in North Korea right now. Unlike Iraq, we know that North Korea has nuclear weapons. They tested one! And conditions in North Korea are horrible. They do a much better job of keeping reporters out, and they do a much better job of keeping their people oppressed, than Hussein ever did in Iraq.
So obviously, something more is going on. There are other reasons for why we're in Iraq (although the fear of nuclear weapons and freeing an oppressed people may have been part of the equation). We ignore these other reasons at our own peril.
So what are the other reasons? I mentioned a few other possibilities (and indeed, Alan Greenspan agrees with the "we're there for the oil" bit).
Why are we in Iraq, and not in North Korea?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Negative coverage of the candidates

There's been a lot of talk about media coverage of the presidential candidates lately. Obama gets more coverage than McCain, Palin gets considerably more than Biden, Obama's tends to be more positive (if you stick to newspapers and don't consider talk radio).
I'd like to discuss character attacks. I've talked about Dirty Politics before, but I'd like to do it again, focusing on what dirt is true about the candidates, and what's actually said.
We'll start with Obama:
A relative told me he's Arab and Muslim. Fact: his father was Muslim. He's Christian (but not the "I'm saved" type Christian). His father didn't do much to raise him--in fact, Obama was primarily raised by his grandmother. Obama was born and, for the most part, raised in the US. He's 100% American and 100% Christian.
Another relative told me he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance and he's unpatriotic. Also not true.
Certain people (cough cough Sarah Palin cough cough) have said that he's been "pallin' around with terrorists." This comment is an obvious attempt to tie him to 9/11 (since many people believe he's Arab, Muslim, and unpatriotic), and judging from what some of my relatives believe, the attempt will be successful with some people. An acquaintance of his was at one time involved with domestic terrorism, but has now become a prominent, well-respected member of his community. Once a terrorist, always a terrorist? Or can people change? And does acquaintance equal "pallin' around"?
From what I've seen, people don't discuss Obama's former drug use much. Sounds like he wasn't the best-behaved teenager.
Obama's campaign shows a bit more respect towards McCain--they don't imply he's a terrorist--but they also try to put him in a negative light, and they try to show him as out-of-touch with the middle-class. However, for some reason, they've restrained from attacks on his personal life--they don't bring up his first marriage or his affairs very often. They also don't talk about where Cindy McCain gets her money--from alcohol. The alcohol lobby happens to be very powerful.
The media is very quiet about Biden. Seriously, he gets very little attention.
Palin, like Obama, gets a ton of attention. Why? Like Obama, she's a polarizing figure. Early on, there were some distasteful rumors about her baby actually being her grandchild (obviously false). There were also rumors about her belonging to an organization whose main goal was to have an Alaska vote for secession (sounds pretty un-American to me...) The last time that happened, we had a civil war. In any case, she was not a member of the group, but her husband was, and she had spoken at some of their meetings. Question--how much have you heard about her association with this group? Now think back to when Obama's pastor was in the news. How much coverage did his anti-American sentiment get? I really don't think the media's favoring Obama here.
My take is this. The media's goal is to make money. They get more money talking about Obama's pastor than Mr. Palin's organization, because, frankly, it's more interesting.
My other take--for some reason, when it comes to believing lies about a candidate, the lies about Obama are much worse than the lies about McCain. Obama may have more positive coverage, but very little of the coverage on McCain is as filthy as the talk radio coverage or the mass email coverage that's about Obama.
Do you agree or disagree with my take on it?
Why does Obama get more positive media coverage?
And why do the lies about Obama tend to be so much worse?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell

Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, is endorsing Obama.
I don't think there's a more influential endorsement out there.
I'd heard rumors that he might be supporting Obama, but I didn't believe them. Go look up his reasons for doing so.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Church debt and Saracuda

Two brief topics here.
First, a cool article from the Salt Lake Tribune. "Every church in America is up to its eyeballs in debt...Only Mormons, Muslims, Amish and a few other groups are not financed this way...In fact, Mormons can't build anything without having the money in hand."
Very cool. And maybe a good example for its members.

The other totally unrelated topic which I found hilarious (and I apologize if I offend any Palin supporters, but here goes...)
Palin has a nickname--Sarah Barracuda. I'm not sure if her fans still call her that, but they did for a while.
When I first heard it, I immediately thought of the Heart song. So I wasn't surprised when the McCain campaign started playing that song (I also wasn't surprised when the Wilson sisters, who front Heart, told them to stop playing it.)
Like many rock songs, the lyrics are difficult to understand, so I'll post them here:

So this ain't the end -
I saw you again today
I had to turn my heart away
Smiled like the sun -
Kisses for real
And tales - it never fails!

You lying so low in the weeds
I bet you gonna ambush me
You'd have me down down down down on my knees
Now wouldn't you, barracuda?

Back over time we were all
Trying for free
You met the porpoise and me
No right no wrong, selling a song-
A name, whisper game.

If the real thing don't do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick
Ooooooh, barracuda?

Sell me sell you the porpoise said
Dive down deep down to save my head
You...I think you got the blues too.

All that night and all the next
Swam without looking back
Made for the western pools - silly fools!

If the real thing don't do the trick
No, you better make up something quick
You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick
Ooooooohhhh, barra barracuda.

What does it mean? I don't know. But here's a picture:

So, why this nickname? And why this as an (unauthorized) theme song? Any ideas?

Pictures on another site

Click here for some pictures of us in Cincinnati.
It's mostly April's blog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Song of the week

I've decided to sometimes (and not necessarily on a weekly basis) do a song of the week. This one is my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. In a world where modern poetry is usually nothing more than stream-of-thought garbage, a few brave souls, who still know how to rhyme, fight back. This is from Neil Peart, world-class drummer and lyricist of Rush:


Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

Subdivisions ---
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Subdivisions ---
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights...

Don't get me wrong. I grew up in a suburb (although not a generic cookie-cutter one, and my backyard was a wetland). But these lyrics bring up some good points. The video for this, if you can find it, is also quite good. Envision a helicopter shot of a regular suburban city--each house exactly the same, and spread out for miles. No individuality. 100% conformity. Minimal creativity. Lacking the excitement of the city and lacking the peace of the country.
For a classic picture very close to where I grew up, click here.
Why do people seek this?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why vote for Obama

No candidate for political office is perfect. But I want to give a quick list of reasons why I like Obama without attacking McCain or McCain's VP pick.
1. He's intelligent. I realize people like to vote for candidates they can relate to, and sometimes smarter candidates are hard to relate to. But I want a candidate that's smarter than me (and one that could beat me on an IQ test).
2. He's level-headed. He thinks carefully before he acts, he doesn't lose his temper, and I can trust him to not make rash decisions.
3. He understands the world. He's lived in various states and foreign countries. He's worked with poor people and gone to school with rich people.
4. He has a deep knowledge of the Constitution. He taught Constitutional Law and understands how the laws of the country work.
5. He will appoint Supreme Court justices that will balance out the Supreme Court. Right now, 7 of the 9 justices were appointed by Republican presidents. Most of the justices are level-headed and fairly moderate, but they definitely lean towards the right, and a few more left-leaning justices would balance the court more evenly.
6. He is well-spoken. He has a good control of the English language, and can be persuasive. The president represents the US to the rest of the world, and so this is an important skill.
7. He's a good family man.
8. He has hope, and he has the ability to spread that hope to others. Hope alone doesn't get you anywhere, but it's the first step towards making things better.
9. He doesn't pretend that changing things for the better will be easy. In the Saddleback Forum, he tells us that it won't be easy; that the problems we have will take effort to fix. This kind of honesty is refreshing in a politician.
10. He grew up middle class. He doesn't have rich or powerful family, and he's risen due to his own efforts. His wife also comes from a similar background. They were never given a free pass because of family connections. Contrast this with the Clinton and Bush dynasties.

Comments are welcome. Especially welcome are reasons why you like a specific candidate (instead of reasons you dislike the other one). I'll accept negative comments, but positive ones are preferred.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Spotted on Deseret News website

If you're kid komes hear, she'll spel as good as us!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

It's a boy!

April had an ultrasound yesterday.
It's a boy! We got a couple of good pictures, leaving no doubt as to the gender.
April's due February 14th, five days after her birthday.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Supreme Court decisions I disagree with

So today my Constitutional Law professor what Supreme Court decision we disagreed with. I thought for a couple of seconds...and came up with two. Roe v. Wade, and Morrison.
Everyone knows about the first. The second is a famous case, but only for those who follow Supreme Court decisions.
So I was surprised when, this afternoon, I listened to both Palin and Biden answer interview questions about Supreme Court decisions they disagree with.
Of course Palin answered with Roe v. Wade, and then went on to call herself a Federalist (and so she disagrees with non-Federalist cases). Biden spoke about the Morrison case.
Biden spent a good deal of time and effort on a violence against women law. He collected a ton of information about how damaging gender-based crime (rape, etc.) harms people and the economy in general. Part of the study done to pass this law included the fact that women were being treated unfairly at the local level, and states, on an individual basis, were not doing enough to protect women against rape. The federal law would improve conditions for victims of rape. Congress passed the law.
The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Constitutional scholars were surprised--I'm not going to try to explain Constitutional Law in one blog post, but their decision was unexpected.
The name of the Supreme Court case is United States v. Morrison.
Look it up for the ugly details.
In any case, I was surprised to hear that Biden had been deeply involved in getting this law passed.
By the way, the Republican party controls the Supreme Court right now--7 of the 9 judges were put there by Republican presidents. Just in case you were wondering.
Now the question you should be asking is this--if 7 of the 9 are Republican, why is Roe v. Wade still law?
Something to think about.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What do you read?

Sarah Palin previously explained that she got her knowledge of the world not from traveling, but from reading.
Which makes the following all that more interesting.
Eric Snider (formerly of BYU) says it best: