Monday, December 31, 2012

Milking the Price of Milk for Food Stamps

The milk price scare we just went through cannot be what my first glance gave it to be. News stories suggested the price of milk might double if the government did not renew its program.

Hey, if you are saying government pays for half the price of every one's milk, that is a whopping bill. Here we are $16 trillion in debt and we are paying half the price for every gallon of milk on every table in America? Off the top, it seems like that would rank milk subsidies right up there with defense spending and federal health-care expenditures. So, this cannot be right.

I did a little quick arithmetic. What, $18 billion for milk? What is the annual deficit? About $900 billion? That wouldn't put milk up there with national defense and government health care, but it would still be a place to do some carving on the deficit.

Then, I found a link suggesting all dairy subsidies combined, marching all the way from 1995 to 2011 combined for no more than $4.9 billion. Whatever the truth to the price of milk doubling, then, it wouldn't be due to farmers losing their subsidies, and therefore having to double their prices to make up the difference. Not at all and not even close.

Then, I found some other figures. Food Stamps make up 80 percent of the half-trillion-dollar Farm Act expenditures across five years. So, while doubling the price of milk is the news angle, renewing the Farm Act is really much more about Food Stamps.

Another link put the cost of the 2008 Farm Act at $300 billion, only 67 percent of which was for Food Stamps and only 15 percent for subsidies of not just milk, but of all commodities combined. 

I never did figure out why the price of milk would supposedly jump possibly to as high as $8 a gallon. A little spin doctoring going on, or fear mongering? I don't know. But, I go to bed assured milk is not costing the American public as much as the national defense, after all.

No, and Uncle Sam cannot be offering a two-for-the-price-of-one deal. He is not paying half the price of every bottle of milk slapped down on the kitchen table.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two New Year's Resolutions Before I Head for Bed

Okay, I blog today, after all, but it must be a quick one. And, although I have come to blog on religious topics on Sunday, and while this will be as much, it will be more personal than most any other blog.

I give you my two New Year's resolutions.

One, to make my daily scripture reading more meaningfully. I am among those, you see, who typically pick up the scriptures, and read without not paying enough attention to what I'm reading. I want to take a chapter a day, probably making it from the Book of Mormon, and know what I've read when I finish and also at the end of the day.

Not asking for much, that might seem, but actually it will be a great thing, if I can achieve it.

Two, I want to remember the Lord more throughout the day. I want to remember Him in everything I do, and have a prayer in my heart at all times. Of a truth, I have come to feel the Lord is with me when I do this. He supports me, helps me, watches over me. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Too Much Gun Ownership Comes from Leaps of Logic

Could we have avoided all this mess of having too many guns if the nation just knew what a non-sequitur was?  A non-sequitur, you know, is a fallacy of logic. It is reaching a conclusion by making a connection that really isn't there. In this case, it's using as cause for doing something (buying guns) a reason (the Second Amendment) that doesn't necessarily apply.

Yes, the Constitution does say the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon. Now, how does that mean that everyone should go out and buy a gun? Just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean you should. When a new constitutional amendment came along in 1933 giving people the right to buy alcohol, did that mean everyone was suppose to start consuming the stuff?

I don't know of anyone who considers him or herself a patriot because they throw back a Bud Light every day, but I do believe a whopping lot of Americans buy their guns because they think it the patriotic thing to do. 

To be fair to them, we need to cite the whole of the Second Amendment, for that might give them a little more justification -- or will it? It says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bar Arms, shall not be infringed."

Actually, they do yet more reading of something into the Constitution that isn't quite there. Yes, it does say that the reason the Founding Fathers were granting this right was that having an army was important, or at least having a "well regulated militia" was considered necessary. But, people take that a step further, assuming that "a well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State" means (A) that they, the people, are to be that militia, not the government's army, and (B) that if we don't have enough guns,  the government will go unchecked and become tyrannical.

Perhaps they quite like the checks and balances thing, seeing it elsewhere in the Constitution, so they read it right into the Second Amendment.

Now, what, half  the world's guns are in the United States? Maybe after we all read the Second Amendment but before we all went out and bought so many guns, we should have read a dictionary. "Non-sequitur: A conclusion or inference which does not follow from the premises."

 We also call it jumping to a conclusion, and making a leap of logic.

Friday, December 28, 2012

To Buy a Gun is to Opt for Temptation
   For all those of you who say a gun is just a piece of metal, unable to do a thing on it's own, I come to you with a thought.
   That inanimate object might have more influence on you than you would at first consider, and, I'm talking an influence that is . . .  not good.
   Any of a man's toys influence who he becomes. Whatever he partakes of -- whether it be food, hobbies or whatever -- it influences him.
   So, why wouldn't a gun?
   A gun can sit on the shelf (or in a locked safe), waiting for it's moment to protect you, and do you no harm at all. Very possible.
   But, a gun has uses. It can be used for hunting, for skeet shooting, . . . and for harming other people. It is from this list of possible uses, that possible influences come. 
   And, we know the possible things that can be done with a gun are not all good.
   One of its abilities is the the ability to intimidate. Place that gun in someone's face, and they are going to do whatever you tell them. So, let's say you and a family member are arguing about what ought to be done and you're feeling really strongly about it, and you remember you have that gun. How easy will it be to pull that gun out and suggest to the other person that they do precisely what you tell them?
   From all the things that can be achieved with a gun, we can choose the things we will do with it. Each of them can become a temptation. Not everyone is tempted equally, of course, and many yield to the negative temptations not at all, not even getting so close as to even consider that those things are temptations.
   But, tell me, with such a large segment of our population owning guns, that they do not influence for evil many, many people. By the nature of the beast -- by the nature of the things a gun can do -- this will happen.
   Freedom includes the freedom to limit our own temptations. A man doesn't need to go to a strip joint to see if he is capable of keeping his eyes closed during the show. We might be placed on earth to experience all temptations, but that doesn't mean you trot down to the bar to test whether you will be able to resist a beer.
   The wise man exercises his freedom not just by resisting temptation, but by choosing to not even put himself in the path of temptation.
   So, a gun being the tool by which so much evil can be done, if you don't need it, why would you ever want one around?

Excedrin and Guns to the Rescue
   Let me give you a bottle of Excedrin. It has been proven to stop migraines. I will ask that you take three pills every four hours, but if you want to take more, I'm cool with that. Whatever, as long as you take these pills every day -- and many times during every day -- because I don't ever want you to have a headache again.
   Oh, you might think that is overkill. You might think you can hold off taking the Excedrin every day, and just take it when you need it.
   But, I'm here to tell you, it's like a gun. You don't just need it when you need it. You need it all the day. Everyone should own a gun, because every home could be subject to a burglary, and I'm not just talking a simple home break-in. I'm talking somebody packing heat coming at you to take away your property, your health, or maybe even your life. I don't ever want that to happen to you.
   And, everyone should take a gun with them everywhere they go, because you just never know when you are going to need it. You don't know when you are going to be attacked and you don't know where. You just have to be prepared. 
   Now, headaches happen more often than armed assaults, so I'm thinking you should be more worried about them. Never, ever leave home without your Excedrin. You might be worried about taking too much, or about side effects, or about them no longer being effective if you take them too often, but don't do that. Don't worry about those things, because the bottom line is, headaches hurt and you'll get one if you are not thoroughly vigilant.
   It's like that gun. People could worry about having too many guns. They might say that if we have too many guns lying around, someone is bound to steal a few, maybe even 600,000 a year. They might try to trick you by pointing to the high percentage of crimes committed with stolen weapons. I'm saying, don't listen to that, because if a criminal ever comes calling and you have a gun, you'll be ready for him.
   Excedrin and guns are the same. If you go without them, sooner or later you are going to have a big, big headache. And, believe me, being robbed at gunpoint is a big headache. Yes, Excedrin and guns are the same. You cannot have too much of either one of them. I'm here to tell you: when your safety is involved, you don't overdoes, and you don't over do, you just be prepared.
   What? You think our nation has overdosed on guns?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More Thoughts on the Piers Morgan Thing

In America, no one is free to spill another person's blood, but everyone is free to boil it. Piers did that.

Some have suggested he was just plain wrong for Piers to say what he did. I say, though, in America, you have the right to be wrong. We don't deport you because your opinion doesn't fall in line the way we think it should. Those favoring deporting Piers Morgan felt he assaulted the Second Amendment. Fine, what are we saying by deporting him, "What you have said is illegal for you to say, Mr. Morgan, and we will now punish you"?

They Seriously Would Deport This Piers Morgan
   So, you've heard of the petition to deport CNN's Piers Morgan? Not an American, but a Brit, he called a guest on his show -- a gun advocate -- "an unbelievably stupid man."
   Those who want him tossed out of the country view the total of his remarks as an affront to the Second Amendment, so, Begone with him! they cry. (A second petition is coming from the Brits, saying they don't want him back.)
   Might be a good time to think of the expression, "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight for your right to say it. Since, when, in America, do we deport people simply because they don't agree with us. Morgan has a First Amendment right, and the right to free speech is an inalienable right. Government doesn't grant it, so saying Piers is not an American citizen doesn't cut it. When I first heard of the petition to deport him, I thought maybe people were just having good-natured fun, and didn't seriously think he should be deported. Turns out, they do. Wow. Something like 80,000 people have signed the petition. 

It's long, but for those who want to watch it, here's the Piers Morgan show:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Often, the only way a bad guy gets a gun is from a good guy

As easy as 1-2-3, it would seem, we should be able to see that having so many guns is causing (or at least facilitating) a lot of crime. 

One, with only 5 percent of the population, America has 50 percent of all the guns in the world. We do have a proliferation, undeniably.

Two, one estimate has it that 600,000 guns are stolen every year. Even if that estimate were wrong, and only half that number were stolen, it would still represent a whopping lot. By definition, anyone stealing a gun is a criminal, and that means hundreds of thousands of guns are falling into the hands of criminals every year. While the NRA's Wayne LaPierre might be correct in saying the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, it also is true that often the only way a bad guy gets a gun is from a good guy.

Three, a large share of our violent crimes are committed with stolen weapons, perhaps even most of them.

It has been said guns don't kill, people do, but with the number of guns that have flooded across America, the very availability of them is a factor. Guns themselves -- or at least the proliferation of them -- do kill. Without so many guns, it does seem violent crime should decrease.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Today We Honor the God Who Lived Among Us

Today honors the greatest, most wonderful and most influential person the earth has known. No other person comes anywhere near to being as great as Him, for He was a God, the only God ever to be born to earth. We honor Him so highly, that He is the only person for whom we uppercase not just His name, but pronouns referring to Him.

Our calendar -- our count of years, that is -- wraps back to the year we suppose He was born. Also, we divide our calendar into weeks, and many of us set aside one of those days to worship Him. And, the biggest holiday on the calendar is Christmas, His day.

The most-read book in the world, and the most-read book in history, is the Bible, the book that tells of His gospel. It was written over a span of 16 centuries.

He was the greatest teacher in history, and the greatest healer in history. We call him King of Kings, yet He sat not so much as a moment in a throne, but rather lived with the common man. Perhaps the only time He ever set foot in a palace was as a prisoner.

But, all that I've said so far does not do Him justice. For He died for the world, for every person who has even been on this earth. His death and resurrection brought not only eternal life to all, but the opportunity for happiness to all. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Out of Their Mouths Came The Wisdom that Jesus was Son of David
   Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 8:2) promised that one day children would praise Jesus Christ when they saw Him in the Temple.
   And, they did, you know, praise and adore Him when they saw Him in the temple that day. It was the day Jesus cast out the money changers, and healed the blind and the lame in the holy edifice. Children were there, we are told, and they cried, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David."
   Now, when the chief priests and scribes saw the things Jesus did in the temple, and saw the children praising Him, they were not happy, at all, and they asked Jesus if He did not hear what the children were saying.
   "Yea," answered the Savior. "have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"
   The babes in the temple did praise Him, and recognized perfectly in their Praise who this Jesus was -- the Son of David -- much to the chagrin of the chief priests and scribes. 
   Today, we often quote "out of the mouth of babes" to apply to all the profound thoughts and wisdom that comes out of children's mouths. That is appropriate, for out of the mouths of the babes in the temple came wisdom that even the learned scribes and chief priests were unable to see, that this man walking with them in the temple was the very Son of David long prophesied. He was the Christ.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

If You, Uncle Sam, Won't Pay Up, We, the People, Will
  Now, what if these Americans were soooo responsible that they said, "Listen, Congress, regardless how much you spend we, the citizens, are going to pay up. We may not like all the spending you do -- we don't -- but we, the citizens, have been taught that you pay your bills. So we're going to see that they get paid."
   Then, the Americans went out en mass and placed checks in the mail to the federal government.
   We're talking a form of protest here. We're talking people rising up in protest, saying, "No, this not paying of our bills isn't right. They are going to get paid whether you balance your budget or not. We're the people, and we're responsible. If you won't do it, we will. We might not be able to keep you from spending, but we do have the power to pay the bills -- and we're going to."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Too many guns, but not enough where they are needed
   Perhaps it would be good if we as a nation had fewer guns. The accessibility of them has led to some of our mass murders, including the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
   But, the need of someone to be there to shoot the shooter also also been seen. Perhaps we should have someone with a gun at most every point where we have large bodies of populace.
   At malls, at schools, at -- well, if churches don't want them, leave them out.
   Somewhere, I believe it has been suggested the National Guard perform this function. I don't know but what they might not be the answer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

 It shouldn't have taken a Sandy Hook to get our attention
   Should it have taken a Sandy Hook to snap us to attention?
   Should not we have seen that if we were so devoted to guns as to adopt state guns, just like we adopt state flowers and state flags, something was amiss?
   Should not we have considered that if we as Americans own half the guns in all the world, something was wrong? And, if we had twenty times -- twenty times! -- the gun-related murder rate of the average developed nation, something was very much awry? I will grant there might be room for which nations are included as "developed," but not much. Being 20 times worse than the other nations should shock us, embarrass us, and cause to drift thru our minds the notion we might be doing something a little off kilter.
   Sandy Hook is the hook that got our attention, but it should not have taken this.
Should We Ban Violent Video Games? 
  So, if violent video games trained up a mass murderer in Newtown, Connecticut, shall we outlaw them, in the name of protecting society?
   Venzuala has outlawed them. Brazil has outlawed many of them, making it illegal to possess, own, import, or sell them.
   Should America follow suit?
   In June 2011, a California ban on selling violent video games to children was yet to take effect when the Supreme Court stepped in and ruled, in the name of free speech, that the ban was illegal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

That Military Personnel Not Trusted to Carry Guns Speaks Volumes
   Like Sandy Hook, the mass killing at Fort Hood speaks to both sides of the gun argument. The gunman killed 13 and wounded 29 others at the military base in Killeen, Texas, in 2009.
   The only people carrying guns on the base were the civilian police, and it was one of them who shot the gunman, U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
So, without someone bearing a weapon, the killing would have continued. Clearly, allowing people to bear arms can stop criminals and save lives.
   But, on the other hand, what of the fact that weapons are not allowed on military bases? If we can see it is dangerous for trained military personnel to carry weapons around on a military base, why ever would we think it safe for the general populace to carry them around on our city streets?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

 A Mass Murder from Video Gaming was Bound to Happen
  It seems an obvious enough conclusion: If a person plays violent video game a lot, that is going to affect him (or her). And, in a world of video killing, sooner or later one of them is going to take what was practiced to the streets -- and carry out a mass murder.
   Enter Adam Lanza and Sandy Hook.
   Sooner or later, it was bound to happen, America. There is truth to the thought that you always reap just what you sow.
Sandy Hook Provides Argument on Both Sides of Gun Debate
   And, along to the gun debate comes Sandy Hook. And what happened in Sandy Hook argues not just to one, but to both sides of the gun argument. 
   If the principal had had a gun, she would not have simply tried to tackle Adam Lanza, she would have shot him. Guns do save lives, says this argument. They are a deterrent to crime, 
   Then, there is the other side of Sandy Hook, the side that asks, where did these guns come from? They came from the stash of a gun activist. If the mother didn't own the guns, there is reason to believe the mass murder would never have taken place. The availability and proliferation of guns through our society does lead to mass murders, says this argument. 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Today's Election for U.S. President was both Secret and Fixed

Did you know there was a secret election in the United States today? What was the election for? you ask. For president. The Electoral College cast its ballots this day, and since hardly anybody knew about it, you could say it was a secret election, just to be funnin'.

Oh, and it was a fixed election, too. What else would you call it if the winner was predetermined?

Guns are not the answer

   Today, a guest blog from my sister Susan. Thanks for the good thoughts on the matter, Susan. Her blog:

   Whenever there is a shooting that results in the death of several souls, the gun control debate is aired. There are those who argue for more gun control and those who suggest we liberalize the current laws on bearing arms. One of my friends from high school posted a question on Facebook that maybe we arm the principals and teachers with guns along with giving them training. While it is a good question, I am not convinced it would have made a difference in the Sandy Hook School shooting. Would lives been spared or would the carnage been worse?
   When the shooting occurred in Aurora CO this summer, a man suggested that if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons, the attacker would have been dealt with. I thought the carnage would have been worse. What if Joe Citizen had missed the shooter (who mostly would have been a moving target) and shot another innocent person? Joe Citizen hasn't received the training that a police or law enforcement officer has. When the shootings at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City happen years ago, an off duty police officer happened to dining there. He knew what he was doing when he took action; he had the training and was able to stop further carnage that evening. The officer probably accessed the situation before he shot the young man who was killing others. 
   A few days after the shooting in Aurora CO, a former Utahan reported that her boyfriend had saved her life. He had been either a former or current member of the armed forces. He might have been a military police officer. His first thought had not been to go after the shooter, but to protect his girlfriend. He covered her body as he took a bullet that ended his life. I am thinking that is what school officials would do the same if confronted by a crazed person with a gun. Their first thoughts would be to protect the students that are trusted in their care.
   When I read Ether 15:15-17 in the Book of Mormon and Doctrinal Commentary by Robert l. Millet, Brent L. Top & Joseph Fielding McConkie on December 14th, I was struck by the words. The residents of this ancient nation were engaged in a civil war that brought their ultimate destruction. Every man, woman and child was armed with weapons of destruction. Even mothers who were nursing. Bearing arms did not save their lives. It was their selfish mean spirited attitudes that brought their extinction. 
   I believe there is a deeper issue involved when shootings in public places occur. When the Colombine shootings happened, Jodee Blanco saw past the gun control issues and thought of the issue of bullying. She suspected the young men who committed the crimes had been bullied and she decided to write a book (Please Stop Laughing At Me) about her experiences of being bullied while growing up. She had the hope that her book would put a dent in school violence.
   In the shooting that occurred in Newtown CT, mental illness has been brought up. The 20 year old in Newtown was known to have had a personality disorder. I have an older brother who owns guns and has an undiagnosed mental illness. He carries his gun (or guns) in his pocket at all times. For years, I dreaded going home because I didn't know if I would be greeted by a gun. When any of my siblings or I visit, we must first call ahead to let him know we are coming. I've been ask why we didn't have him committed and I am sure the slain mother of the 20 year old shooter was asked the same question. It isn't that simple to commit a person who suffers from mental illness. For one they are adults and have rights. One usually can not commit a mentally ill person without their consent.
   Stricter laws may help curb the violence. Gun advocates reason that the laws don't stop criminals obtaining guns and they are right. But could a waiting period prevent a senior citizen from sticking a gun to her head? Could a thorough background check give a gun shop owner time to warn law enforcement of possible threat? Does the J.Q. Public really need an AK-47?
One can argue the gun control issue until the cows come home. But in the end, shootings will continue. What we need to ask is what we can do to prepare and possibly prevent public shootings. Because when it gets down to it, it is people killing people and that is where the issues lie. What is causing mass killings? It isn't the weapons. 

This day marks 150th anniversary of day of infamy for America
   Today, the 150th anniversary, then, of one of the darkest moments in American history. For, it was Dec. 17, 1862, that Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order 11, calling for the expulsion of Jews from Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, the territory he was over as a general in the Civil War.
   President Lincoln, as quick as the outrage reached him, ordered that the order be overturned. So, you might not think to make much of this. Still, the order was issued. And stood for the better part of a month. And we as a country of free people stood for that short time as a nation that was driving the Jews to and fro and persecuting them.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Of Mormon 8:31 and mass murders 
   Let me share the scripture the Sunday School teacher cried over today (well, she got emotional, but I wasn't close enough to see if a tear actually came to her eye) as she made a connection to the Connecticut murders. 
   It says that the Lord would bring these "these things" (meaning the Book of Mormon and the gospel) forth in a day in which there would be "works of darkness." Then, in verse 31, it says, "Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations."

   As I watched the teacher get close to tears, I wondered if the Spirit was touching her, saying, This might be just one incident -- Sandy Hook -- but it is, indeed, part of the the wickedness the prophet Mormon saw coming.
  And, after class, I wondered at a more specific connection between Sandy Hook and Mormon 8:31. In all the years since the gun was invented -- what would that be, 1450? -- has there ever been a day when guns have brought forth so many mass murders? Further, have mass murders using other kinds of weapons been very common in any other age? I am not speaking of wars, nor of genocides, but of private citizens killing each other just for the sport of killing, whether the killing is with the guns or with cleavers. 
   I came away wondering if mass killings were sparse before our day. They existed, but they were not so common, and they might be a mark upon our time. It would seem possible, if nothing else, that the ease of killing a mass of people increased when guns were invented that did not need to be reloaded by hand after each shot.
   If this is the case, of all murders that might take place, perhaps it is the mass murders, as much as any, that show the fulfillment of Mormon 8:31. It is a day of wickedness, and that is enough for there to be fulfillment of Mormon 8:31. Whether mass murders are a mark of our day, as it might seem to me, we would not know without a deeper study.
   I would be interested to know.
   (This post was updated Dec. 23.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Searching for Solution, We Must Consider the Mentally Unstable

Bless the person with mental instabilities, as we as a nation discuss them in light of the Connecticut mass murders. A stigma is upon them. Is it fair? What does a massacre all the way across the country in Connecticut have to do with me? they would ask.

But, I read how of the 62 mass murders in the past three decades, 38 were by gunmen with mental issues. If we are to scurry around (and justifiably we are) trying to figure out how to stop these crimes, and mental instability is one of the largest common denominators (if not the largest), then we would be foolish not to look at what we can do to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable.

Are we, as family members, to be required to rip the weapons out of their hands?

Should we have laws requiring everyone who gets a gun to pass a psych evaluation?

Or, do we simply need to step up our counseling of these people? 

Or is love enough? Do we simply need to step up our love of them, reducing the odds of them becoming so frustrated as to take the life of another person?

Our Love of Guns Equal to Some of the Trouble They Get Us Into

President Obama has called for us as a nation to take "meaningful action" in response to the mass shootings.

That means gun control will be considered. But, if we look at all our mass shootings, and what is helping bring on many of them, is it the lack of gun control? I don't know whether that is the case. Rather, it is our love of guns that perhaps is the problem, the need we see for everyone to own a gun. Gun enthusiasts abound. People view guns as a protection of freedom (and perhaps they are). They read the Second Amendment, and say, "Well, then, I should go out and buy a gun." They look to guns to save them both from warriors invading America, and from the criminals already here in America.

What would be beneficial is not gun control, but self control of our love of guns. If we changed our attitude on guns, it would be well. Yes, the Constitution is a wonderful document. But just because it says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon does not mean everyone should go out and buy a gun. Our patriotism is not equal to how many guns we own.

Two days ago, I wrote this, but didn't publish it. I meant to publish it the next day, but didn't:

"Our nation is running a gun up the flag pole, it seems. We are not just patronizing the ownership of guns, but patriotizing it."

If I had published it as I intended to, it would have been online very early in the morning before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Only 47 Percent of Detroit Adults can Read

From the can-this-be-true file, only 47 percent of the adults in Detroit are literate. And, apparently the up-and-coming generation is no better. Only 43 percent of eighth graders have basic reading skills, and only 7 percent are considered proficient at reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Does Fear of Socialism Keep Us from Giving Folks Work?

Does the fear of being a socialistic nation keep us from giving everyone a job? Roughly half of all Americans receive some sort of government assistance. Now, some government programs are not complete handouts. With Social Security, the money given correlates with how many years we have worked.

Still, much of the money given to the 49 percent is as free as the blowing wind.

It would be an easy thing to say, "No, we are not going to give you a free handout. You can work. You work, and we'll help you in return."

'Cept that if we make folks work, and if it is the government giving them the work, then . . . well, that is socialism.

Which is better, then, giving people free handouts, or giving them work? Why, then, do we not give them work? Sometimes I wonder if it is because to do so is socialism, and we don't want to do anything socialistic, not even if, in reality, this brand of socialism would serve us much better than the alternative, giving money to people gratis.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Love of Guns May be Equal to Some of the Trouble They Get Us Into

President Obama has called for us as a nation to take "meaningful action" in response to the mass shootings.

That means will be considered. But, if we look at all our mass shootings, and what is helping bring on many of them, is it the lack of gun control? One of the biggest factors I see is that we as nation are in love with our guns. Gun enthusiasts abound. People view guns as a protection of freedom (and perhaps they are). They read the Second Amendment, and say, "Well, then, I should go out and buy a gun." They look to guns to save them both from warriors invading America, and from criminals already here in America.

What would be beneficial is not gun control, but self control of our love of guns. If we changed our attitude on guns, it would be well. Yes, the Constitution is a wonderful document. But just because it says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon does not mean everyone should go out and buy a gun. Our patriotism is not equal to how many guns we own.

Two days ago, I wrote this, but didn't publish it. I meant to publish it the next day, but didn't:

"Our nation is running a gun up the flag pole, it seems. We are not just patronizing the ownership of guns, but patriotizing it." 
The Glorification of Guns Comes with a Price

The Second Amendment is not a license to kill. When I say that, I say it not to the by-and-large peaceful millions of gun owners, but to the slim number who occasionally come up with the idea of taking their weapons to Washington and straightening the politicians out.

And, more than to them, I speak to those who use guns in more traditional acts of violence. I cannot help but wonder how many of them are big Second Amendment fans. I think of the news story I read this morning about the man who took off all his clothes while at a nude art exhibit. Yes, of the 65,000 people who had seen the exhibit, he was the only one who stripped.

But, even so it is with guns. It is not whether the majority turn to violence because they own guns, but it is whether even a fair share of those who do commit violence came there by way of the love of guns that we engender in our society.

It would be an interesting study, to go to the prisons and try to determine what prompted the inmates to buy the guns in the first place, including how many bought them for self-defense.  

This is not an argument for the regulation of weapons, but an argument against our glorification of guns. It is an argument against teaching each other that everyone should go out and buy a Colt and carry it around with them.
Turn to the Rich for Job Creation

You read two post down that I say we should just give everyone a job, and you probably respond by saying, Easier said than done. How is it, John, that you would go about getting everyone into a job?

It all brings up the question of socialism, doesn't it? Would the government provide everyone a job?

Why not this?: Why not ask private enterprise to provide the jobs? Approach the Warren Buffets and Bill Gateses and ask them if they would not be willing to create companies just for the purpose of employing those in need of employment, fully understanding those companies might operate at a loss.

Yes, I think they would provide the jobs. There are thousands of rich people in America with giving hearts, who love America and who want to help others. Yes, they would provide jobs. In many cases, these are the people who already are employers, who know how to start companies, and know how to run them. Why would we not, when we find a need to create jobs, turn to them for help? Why would they not be the very first place we look for that help?
Shall We Squeeze the Rich or Quit Helping the Poor?

Shall we squeeze the rich or quit helping the poor?  'Tis the question of our day.

We can bring on more taxes, especially socking it to the top 2 percent, or whatever share of the rich we may want, or we can slim down on our entitlements.

Which will it be?

In a nation crippled by partisanship, every issue is divided so it fits neatly into two camps. So, 'tis no surprise that to many, either taxing the rich is the answer, or slashing spending is the solve-it-all. They want it their way, and not a little of both ways -- because the other way is the way of the enemy.

So, which will it be? Shall we squeeze the rich or quit helping the poor? America is divided. If a president were elected, he might conclude the populace gave him a mandate to go about it one way. And, members of Congress might conclude deep moral convictions require them to pursue the opposite thing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Creating Jobs by Paying Those without Jobs 
is a Strange Strategy

Create 300,000 jobs by keeping 2.1 million people on unemployment benefits? That's the strategy America is considering.

The rationale is that those receiving the unemployment benefits will be spending the money, thus creating the jobs. Problems with the argument? First, unless you are adding new benefits -- not just extending old ones -- you aren't creating jobs, but just preserving them. Second, would the 300,000 jobs actually fall out of the economy, or just be be paid less? 

It cannot be doubted, though, that extending the unemployment benefits does result in some stimulus to the economy, just as injecting any money does. But, is it all inflationary spending? Are the unemployed creating any products, any services, or are they, themselves, doing anything but spending printed money?

The extension of the unemployment benefits will end Dec. 29, unless Congress acts, leaving many needy people without the income during the holiday season. Some would suggest this would make Uncle Sam into a Christmas Grinch.

I suggest, though, this is not the way to expand the economy. If it is such a great solution, surely we can search through our homeless population, and our working-but-underpaid populace, and come up with many more, add them to our welfare rolls, and really grow our economy.

Of course, I realize the real need in extending benefits is not to grow the economy, but to care for those who are not employed. But, when will it ever cross our noggin that the way to solve unemployment is to provide employment? For all these many decades, now, our solution for unemployment has been to pay people to be unemployed. You might argue that it is not to pay them to be unemployed, but to pay them because they are unemployed and cannot find employment, but I would say that, still, the better solution is to give them jobs.

It's the old story of, if you give a hungry person a fish, he will eat it and be back hungry the next morning. But, if you teach him to fish, he will be out getting his own fish that very next day. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

All Nations Seem Against Israel in Matter of West Bank Settlements

One day after Palestine was recognized as a state by the United Nations, Israel announced it would construct another 3,000 homes in the West Bank portion of Palestine.

International reaction was swift. Denmark, France, Spain and Sweden all condemned the Israelis. Even Germany -- considered Israel's strongest European ally, and which had abstained in the UN statehood recognition vote -- voiced displeasure with the proposed settlement.

Britain had also abstained in the UN vote, but condemned the new settlement. The U.S. was one of the few nations that opposed Palestinian statehood in the UN vote, but it turned against Israel on the question of the new settlement. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed displeasure with the settlement.

All in all, I wonder if any nation at all backs the Israeli move to open new settlements. While Israel still has many international friends, in the case of the West Bank settlements, it seems to be traveling alone.

Those words in Zechariah 12:3 that "all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" have yet to be fulfilled, but perhaps they have a portending in the situation of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Principle Three Among Most Important in Avoiding Fiscal Cliff

Lest we plunge over the Fiscal Cliff, this is the one of the most important rules of all.

And, it is hardly being discussed at all.

The rule is this: Matters being conducted by the federal government that can be conducted instead by private enterprise, should. If we are to going to cut spending, we must do so cognizant of the fact that spending stimulates an economy. So, rather than cutting a service entirely, let us transfer that service to the private sector, thus allowing the money being injected into the economy to continue being infused.

Charities will need to step up, if this is to be successful. Still, this is something that must be done. The government is overspending, and cuts must be made, and, if they are made, not only is it good that the spending be maintained, but it is also imperative that many of the services be not lost.

Do Biblical Prophecies Give West Bank to Jews?

Doesn't the biblical prophecy saying the Jews will return to the Holy Land include that they will return to the West Bank, the very land the the UN, by some measurements, gave to Israel's enemies a few days ago? 

Perhaps. After all, when the Tribes of Israel were allotted land back in Old Testament times, a fair share of the land given to the Tribe of Judah was in what today is the West Bank. The West Bank includes area that has been called the cradle of the Jewish people, the birthplace of Jewish history. If the prophecies are that the Jews will return to the land they were given, how do we suppose that does not include the area where their history began?

Another touch is that Bethlehem is in the West Bank, a touch that might be more significant to Christians than Jews, since Jews believe in Jesus only as a prophet, not as the Messiah. but, is Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Savior, not to even be included in the nation of Israel?

Perhaps the restoration of the Jews to their lands does, indeed, not include their having parts of the West Bank. But, to me, it does seem otherwise. It seems parts of the West Bank are part of the land promised them in the Bible.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Second Principle for Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff

Our dilemma, my fellow Americans, is how are we ever going to reign in our debt without reducing how much money we spent. You see, we can't just quit spending, for if we cut how much money is circulating in the economy, then we do quite the opposite thing from a stimulus.

And, lest it go unnoticed, a lot of the foreign aid money does not circulate here in America.

True, we must consider humanitarian needs. Some of them we might not be able to afford, but certainly whatever funds are saving lives must not be cut.

And, some foreign aid money might be justified, that which, indeed, does return to the U.S. We help fund Israel's military, but much of that money returns as Israel buys weapons from U.S. contractors.

What percentage of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid? Maybe 1 or 1.5 percent? And, without looking at each item, we don't know how much of that we will even be able to cut. Still, albeit a small start, cutting a budget must begin somewhere. This, then, is the beginning point.

Letting Jews Settle in West Bank is a Basic Human Right

International opinion exploded against Israel when that nation announced last week that it will build 3,000 more homes in the West Bank.

This is a criticism of Israel I do not agree with. At all. To say that Israel should not built there is to deny a basic human right, the right to move about as you please, to move from one home in order to take another, and to choose wherever you will to live.

To me, this is -- or ought to be -- a basic human right.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The First Principle in Dealing With Our Government's Economy

Perhaps there are simple principles to follow in getting this nation out of its fiscal crisis. If so, pay heed and follow them. I am and am going to post just the first one tonight.

Principle 1. If the economy teeters, that is not the time to be pulling money out of it. The principle of injecting money into a faltering economy is so accepted that seldom a crisis arises without stimulus money being infused into the economy. We must not be blind, then, to the danger of yanking money being spent out of the economy. I speak of government welfare and entitlements. I speak of military funding. I speak of every form of government spending, every expenditure that circulates money here in America. In other words, every dollar that isn't going overseas or to some corner domestically where its circulation stops and it is horded instead of being spent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Time to For Israel to Throw Party for Palestinians

Now would be a good time for Israel to throw a party for its Arab neighbors, and I mean it.

The missile war with Gaza added to the hatred between the Palestinians and Israelis. And, the UN vote recognizing Palestine as its own state was a stinging defeat. 

So, as they say, make love, not war.

Or, as the Bible says, agree with thine adversary quickly, bless them that curse you, and do good to them that hate you.

Those are political principles, or should be. How nations treat each other is not outside the rules Jesus set forth on conduct towards each other. Jesus was a great prophet to the Jews, so let them apply his teachings.

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," Jesus said. And, I think of the Israelis tearing down the mosque in the West Bank shortly after the UN vote. "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil."

Love them that hate you, then. It would be wonderful if Israel responded to the UN vote with a show of love toward Palestine. Invite them all to community dinners, held simultaneously throughout Palestine. Send out a public decree, saying something like, "Hey, we want to be friends with you. We love you. We respect you. You are welcome here in the West Bank with us. We come not to chase you off, but to share this land with you."
And, mean it. Whether Israel retains control over so much of Palestine or not, let them allow the Palestinians to be there. Befriend them and care for them and treat them with love.

For that is what Jesus taught. 

Take the Stress Out, and Education Will be Better

Free the student, and change the world.

We must look at Finland, and wonder why their students do so well. They spend less than us, yet their students outperform ours.

They start them in school at a later age. They test them less. They give them longer recesses. They have less homework. They don't test and evaluate them so much, so they feel less pressure to perform.

They don't break them into remedial and advanced classes, creating a stigma on the ones who are dragging behind and a pressure on the rest who feel a need to make the advanced class.

Their teachers put in fewer classroom hours. Their teachers have to deal with fewer students per classroom. Their teachers do not have merit pay, so they feel less stress to compete with each other. The teachers are given a broad curriculum, so they feel less restricted in what they teach.

And, so, the Finnish student is a more finished product. Why? Perhaps it is because their system is more relaxed.  They take the stress out, and put the fun in. They make it all more comfortable and inviting and peaceful. 

There might be a lesson to be learned here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Israel Stumbles by Destroying Mosque

I open my morning newspaper -- make that my afternoon Internet -- and what do I find? Israel has demolished a mosque, the only mosque in Mafqarra Village. Oh, my friend, the Jew, do not do this thing, I cry. Then, I read on, learning the mosque was built without a permit. The Arabs were thumbing their noses at Israel, then, and the Israelis simply said, No, everyone has to have a permit, you included.

But, tearing the mosque altogether down somehow seems a little much. Did they give warning? Did they do everything they could to get the Arabs to get a permit? Could they have perhaps locked off access to the building, until a permit was applied for? Couldn't something been done less harsh than tearing the whole building down?

There are two reasons Israel should not have torn down the mosque. One, that is not the way to treat another people. Two, this isn't going to gain you favor in the eyes of the world. Destroying a mosque? No, that won't go over well.

Not that Israel was not within its rights. The Oslo Peace Accords do grant administrative control of Area C (the accords divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C) to the Israelis.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Freedom is not so Much a Matter of Regulation, but of Opportunity

Is freedom to be measured only by whether we are allowed to do something, or required to do it?

Education can be viewed as a freedom, even when it is required. If a child cherishes the opportunity to go to school, and  if a parent is grateful his child has the opportunity to go, then, to them, it is a freedom. Freedom can be judged not only by whether something is required, but by whether doing it is considered an opportunity.

If someone loves playing basketball, and the state steps in and requires him to play, does he view it as a loss of freedom? Being required to do the things you like is not a loss of freedom, but an extension of freedom, because it reinforces your opportunity to do those things. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Word Use of a Prophet Confirmed in This Week's Ruling
   Coming to a television or magazine near you -- I kid you not -- an ad from the tobacco companies saying something like, "We deliberately deceived you, the American public, into thinking tobacco is not nearly as harmful as it really is. Tobacco kills. Smoking kills. It kills more people than murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol -- combined. It kills 1,200 people -- daily. Second-hand smoke, alone, kills more than 3,000 people a year."
   Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the tobacco companies must publish such an ad. 
   This will be a complete back stroke for the cigarette makers. In the past, their ads have been luring and alluring. Some have suggested their ads have been the "evils and designs . . . of conspiring men in the last days" spoken of in a prophecy given about 180 years ago by Joseph Smith.
   Conspiring men, did he say? 
   This court case confirms the use of that term, stamping it upon the tobacco companies -- for the case was brought up through a law called the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970. Those who have been saying Joseph Smith was referring to the tobacco companies, and to their ads, and to the tobacco companies being conspiring men, now have this court case to point to. In that it was brought forth through the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, that does indicate evil, designing, and conspiring men.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

UN Move Issues 'Birth Certificate' to Palestine
   The UN this week issued a birth certificate to Palestine. That is how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas characterized the UN's upgrading of Palestine status to nonmember state.
   "Nonmember state" might not sound like much, but the significance of the UN's 138-9 vote is that Palestine is now recognized as a sovereign government in the eyes of  that body. Israel controls the West Bank and East Jerusalem (parts of Palestine), a control that is now at odds with the UN's recognition.
   The date of this decision prompts me to lift an eye. It came Thursday, Nov. 29 -- 65 years to the day after the UN voted to partition the area that was all then called Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and the other for the Arabs. In his passionate plea to the UN Thursday, Abbas said the ruling was a last chance to save the two-state solution set forth 65 years ago. 

   Bethlehem, birthplace of the Savior, is in the West Bank. The West Bank is also the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.
   Israel responded quickly to the UN move, the next day announcing it will build 3,000 more homes for Jews in the West Bank. The news story I saw on that had a picture of a sign put up by the Palestinians, saying, "Warning: This is illegally occupied land, State of Palestine, 29/11/12." I had never thought of it till then, but when the Arabs refer to Palestine as being occupied by Israel, they may be referring as much to the Jewish settlements as they do to Israel's control.
   I do not consider the Jews moving to Palestine to be a form of "occupation," at least, certainly not a ruling occupation. Nor do I think it should be considered illegal for the Jews to immigrate there. Perhaps I am wrong, though, and this is not part of what the Palestinians mean when they say they are suffering under an occupation.
   The Jewish settlements, though, remind me a little of another group of people considered as Israelites by some, who immigrate to a chosen land (the U.S.), only to be told they are illegal invaders. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Let the West Bank Be an Arab Nation

If I had my way with the West Bank, I would not do the thing I would want to do.

I would like the West Bank to be part of Israel. After all, it includes Bethlehem, and I'm told it also is the historical birthplace of the Jewish people.

But, alas, 75 percent of the people in the West Bank are Muslims. I say, let a people be part of what nation they want to be part of. If they were given a chance to vote, they would vote for sovereignty, perhaps with Gaza, rather than choosing to be part of Israel.

Let them, then. Self-determination, we call it, and we believe in it, don't we?

But, I also say immigration there should not be restricted. The right of a person to move and locate where they want is a human right, to me. Let the Jews move there, even after a Palestinian state there is free from Israeli presence.

And, should the point ever be reached that the West Bank is populated more by Jews than by Arabs, take another vote and let it become part of Israel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

America is not Most Barbaric Society in History, but . . .

The 55 million abortions since Roe v. Wade probably represents the largest loss of lives any society in history has ever inflicted on its own. More, it is perhaps the largest loss of lives any society has caused, period, whether upon its own people or upon another. 

I do not think it follows that America is the most barbaric society in history, but can see how someone might justify the claim. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Let's Not Overlook One of Greatest of Our Freedoms

We all believe in freedom. But just what are the freedoms we believe in? Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom to bear arms, the right to a fair trial, protection from searches and seizures, the right to vote, the right to own property? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

You're missing one, if you only came up with all those. The Bill of Rights actually doesn't mention the one I'm thinking of, yet it is one of the greatest of all our rights, one of the most vital of all freedoms.

I just think it interesting that we might enumerate all the freedoms we can think of, and yet skip over this one.

The right to better our lot in life.

We speak of America as being the land of opportunity. Well, it wouldn't be if we didn't have the freedom to better ourselves and our position in life. This is a freedom of degree. Most nations allow their people some degree of being able to make their lives better. The countries that provide this freedom the most are the ones that make it most likely for you to go from being a pauper to being a millionaire. 

I've always thought of that as being America. Hope it is so.

This is a freedom that comes not so much by decree, as by having mechanisms in place so people can succeed. Being able to become educated, is part of it. Having the time and resources to invent, is part of it. Being able to pick a job instead of being assigned to one, is part of it. Being able to participate in competitive sports, being able to express our talents in arts, and crafts and music, is part of it.

Indeed, the country that provides you the best shot at becoming a rock star or a sports star or a screen star, is the country providing this freedom the most. I like to think that is America.

If America is the land of opportunity, if chasing our dreams is so wonderful, and if the pursuit of happiness means more than just the right to have a smile on our face, then the freedom to better our lot in life is one of the most precious freedoms of all. It is a freedom central to being an American, yet we might not think of it if asked to enumerate our freedoms.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We can Accept it, or Change it; Which Will it be?
   "Thomas McDahley, he's a lobbyist with the National Pharmaceutical Institute. He would like to see you Tuesday."
   Rep. Huey V. Dibble jumped at the news. This was not an election year, but he could not help but thinking of how the NPI could be a campaign contributor in 2014.
   Now, me, I've never sat in a congressperson's office, as requests for meetings come in, to know if some get accepted or rejected just based on whether they are potential campaign contributors. But, it sure seems there could be a natural tendency for that.
   It seems the congressperson might have more incentive to sponsor legislation if it occurs to him or her that a potential contributor might be involved
   You already knew this. No great revelation at all. But sometimes we have to have a picture drawn for us before we stop to reflect on what is going on. This is America we live in, considered as noble a nation as ever there was. Somehow, it sure seems if there is a way keep such influence out of our government, we should. Are these improprieties? Of course they are. Do we say that is the way it is, and leave it at that, or do we find a solution and correct the problem? For it is a problem.
   Truth be told, this is something we can see is wrong, yet there is not movement, no groundswell, nothing much being done to change it. As a nation, we are accepting it, and not changing it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Utah Redistricting Should be Done Without Waiting
  Brandon Mills, it is, who makes a point in a letter to the editor in the Salt Lake Tribune: Now is the time to change our way of redistricting in Utah. Change the system now. If having the legislators draw their own lines isn't as fair as having an independent commission draw the lines, then switch to an independent commission -- now.
   And, Sterling Bascom, writing in the online comments to the letter, suggests we should not wait until 2020 to change the boundaries, themselves.
   I must agree. If the lines were drawn to the benefit of the politicians, and not to benefit the voters, they were drawn wrongly. If they were drawn to the detriment of any party, or candidate, then they were drawn with malice, and not impartially.
   If injustice has been done, what do we do, wait nine years? That's nine long years. Do we wait nine long years for justice? No, if the process is flawed, correct it now. Now is the time to change the way we redistrict, so when the 2020 census is conducted, we already have in place a new system for reapportioning, one that is fair. 
   And, if we want to be fair, why wait until then do the actual redistricting? There are four elections between now and then. Why not reapportion now and have fair districting in place for each of them? If the redistricting was unfair, why suffer for four elections when it should be corrected now?
   Yes, it will take a state constitutional amendment, but if that is what it takes to right a wrong, let's do it. Let's not put off for nine years righting a wrong. If something is wrong, and you can change it before more damage is done, you should.