Saturday, March 28, 2009

An arrogant judge, the EPA, and a shoot-out

Expect a variation of this one to show up on a Law and Order type TV show sometime soon...
A man's arrested in Utah for some EPA violations (illegally dumping chemicals). He has a bunch of weapons on him and talks about wanting to go down "in a blaze of glory." He goes to court, the prosecutor tells the judge that the man needs to be locked up until trial because he's dangerous. The judge basically laughs at the prosecutor. "He was arrested for an EPA violation! He's not dangerous!" The prosecutor asked again. The judge actually threatened the prosecutor with disciplinary action--twice--because the prosecutor was so insistent. Even the defense attorney felt that the judge treated the prosecutor unfairly. Finally, the judge released the man until the trial date, and ordered that his guns be taken from him.
The man doesn't show up for his trial. He's disappeared. He goes on the EPA's most-wanted list. The EPA receives a tip that he's in Florida. They find him as he pulls an automatic weapon. The EPA officers, not exactly the most gun-ready types (this was the first time any EPA officer has been forced to shoot in the line of duty), manage to shoot him first. He's injured badly, and taken to the hospital. Inside his truck and trailer? 3000 rounds of ammo, much of it illegal (as was his automatic .308), along with additional guns.
Yeah. He's not dangerous.
I hope that a certain judge is feeling like an idiot right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A better article on missionaries and immigration

This is from Deseret News, so it's more reliable than earlier links I've posted. I'm guessing, from the content of the article, that the church doesn't have a problem sending out missionaries that aren't legally here (keep in mind that most of them in this category were raised in the US, are in the US through no fault of their own, and have no other home).
Of course, I don't have access to the handbooks, so I don't know what the official policy is. All I can find are hints like this one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free card game

Go to this website to get a free deck of "Magic: The Gathering" cards, while there are still some left.
There is such a thing as a game.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Finally found it

Sometimes google searches are a bit of a pain...but if you keep trying, you eventually find what you need.
The Mormon church arranged for a Utah senator to write a law to shield churches from prosecution for knowingly allowing illegal aliens to be ministers or do volunteer missionary work for them. Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a statement saying the church asked Sen Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, to sponsor the provision, which she called a "narrow exception to the immigration act."

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), today criticized a loophole in U.S. immigration law that was quietly created by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) in 2005. The "Bennett Loophole" created a broad exemption that allows religious organizations to knowingly transport, aid, abet and harbor illegal aliens....The Senator claims he authorized the far-reaching provision to assist the Mormon church in utilizing illegal alien missionaries and volunteers.

A Salt Lake Tribune link I found unfortunately no longer worked.

So yes, apparently, the church wants to give undocumented immigrants, raised in the US, the chance to serve inside the US without the church getting punished for it; and apparently the church has been successful in convincing Congress to pass a bill that allows the church to do that. Unless anyone interprets these articles differently than I do...or unless the articles are false.
I'd need the leadership handbook to be certain, but it certainly seems like the church doesn't discriminate based on citizenship when sending out missionaries.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good books, crappy actors

Two movies based on excellent books have come out recently: Race to Witch Mountain (I loved the books as a kid) and Inkheart (juvenile fiction, but also some of the best fantasy out there). The problem with the movies (neither of which I've seen): they both star crappy actors.
Witch Mountain stars Dwayne Johnson (also known as "The Rock"). Inkheart starts Brendan Fraser (the guy from The Mummy). With so many quality actors out there, why do they pick these guys?
Oh well. I'll probably end up watching these movies eventually. But instead of seeing them in the theater, I'll borrow a copy from the nearby library. And I'll go read the third book of the Inkheart series. (Did I mention that I really like Inkheart--the book?)
Also, new baby pictures at the other blog, if you're interested.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why modern tea parties FAIL

Recently, people who disagree with the stimulus package that's been proposed to get our country out of this recession have organized what they call "Tea Parties," named after the Boston Tea Party. It's great when people get involved in political matters. But the association with the Boston Tea Party fails on several levels.
First, the Boston Tea Party was an act of civil disobedience that required a great deal of courage. Had the men that participated in it gotten caught, they would've been punished. The modern tea parties require no real courage, just a willingness to get together for a cause.
Second, the Boston Tea Party was performed by men that were very unpatriotic. Remember, this was before the US government was organized. These men were unpatriotic to their government--which was the British Empire. I hardly think the participants in the modern tea parties would want to be seen as unpatriotic...but they give that impression by calling their gatherings tea parties.
Third, and most importantly, the purpose of the Boston Tea Party was to protest taxation without representation. There is a single area on the continental US that has a right to protest taxation without representation. That's Washington DC. There's no doubt that the DC representatives would vote for the stimulus, not against it. Everyone else is represented. The purpose of these modern tea parties is to protest decisions made by politicians that already represent the people--the people, after all, voted for them just a few months ago.
It's great that people are getting together for a political cause. But to call these tea parties, and to compare them to the original Boston Tea Party?

Monday, March 09, 2009

New desktop

So, we've been putting up with an old computer I bought 5 years ago for something like $200, used.
Our phone is hooked up to our internet (Magic Jack--I recommend it if your internet and computer are reliable--it's super cheap, and gives you free long distance). The old computer meant we weren't just having problems with the internet moving quickly--we were also having problems with the phone.
So I finally caved in and updated. I bought a Dell Vostro (it's the same line as my laptop) with a new monitor (the old monitor was super bulky and quite small). And I can now confidently say the following:
The problems we were having with our phone were not related to the phone itself, the internet, or the Magic Jack--they resulted from the old, slow computer.
The slow internet was not due to our internet provider (Current, which I recommend if you happen to be in their range). It was due to the slow computer.
8 USB ports are better than 2.

It's not by any means a high-end computer, but I'm very happy with how fast it is. And I figure that, when it comes down to it, it's cheaper than getting a one-year $40/month cell phone plan.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Illegal immigrants as missionaries

My understanding of church policy is that the church sends out worth missionaries whether they be legally here in the US or not.
I know that immigration status is no barrier to baptism, temple worthiness, etc.
We have a couple of Hispanic Elders in our ward right now; two missionaries in our ward our spanish-speaking.
I was a ward missionary in our ward, and so I had a chance to speak with one of the elders. He's from Mexico, although he attended school in Utah (Riverton High School, actually). His English is great, he played sports and took AP classes in high school. He's an effective missionary, he works hard, and I've been entirely impressed by him since he transferred into our ward (he's been here about as long as we have--since July).
And I started wondering--is he here legally or not?
And then--does it matter? The xenophobes will have you believe that illegal immigrants are bad guys, that they broke laws and must be punished, that they don't deserve to be here. They've become the scapegoat for all of our problems. Immigrants have never been especially liked, regardless of whether they were Asians, Irish, etc. But the new rant of "but they're illegal" adds a new dimension to the xenophobia.
The church hasn't taken a strong official stand on the issue...but it's certainly illegal-immigrant friendly, at least in practice. The church has also stated that we need to show compassion on the issue.
Do church members follow the church's example on this point?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Republicans and cigarettes

State politicians in Utah get good money from big tobacco. In fact, big tobacco traditionally supports Republican candidates.
But Utahns themselves don't particularly like cigarettes.
We all know who state politicians really listen to when they refuse to raise cigarette taxes in Utah--and it's not the voters.
Raising cigarette taxes significantly affects smoking rates, especially in teenagers. This article in the Deseret News discusses it in more detail.
If you live in Utah, think about voting against politicians who take tobacco money.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mutated lizards

A very cool example of mutation and natural selection at work--in just the last few decades. Basically, a small group of lizards got transferred to a new island (by scientists) and were then totally ignored for 30 years. Their new island was a bit different than their old one. The lizards had survived on an omnivorous diet, but had eaten mostly meat, on their old island. On the new one, meat was rare, and they had to eat more plants to get by.
Head size changed a bit because of the diet change--but that wasn't all that changed. The lizards had evolved new structures in their digestive tract to help them digest plants. These structures are rare in lizards, and entirely unknown in this species of lizard...until now.
This is an example of evolution at its finest. A new environment with less available meat. The lizards are getting by, surviving but not thriving, and the lizards with larger heads tend to survive better and reproduce more (they have an easier time chewing plants), so eventually only large-headed lizards are left. And then, a mutation in the digestive tract--a mutation (or possibly a number of mutations) that are a big advantage to lizards, but only if they're eating lots of plants. The mutation wouldn't have been an advantage on the old island, where they ate mainly meat, but here on the new island, the mutation allows the lizard to better digest food, and with that comes a longer life, more offspring, etc. Lizards without this mutation can't compete and eventually die out, and so the lizards on this island are now very different from the lizard on the old island.
A beautiful, real-life demonstration of natural selection.