Thursday, November 27, 2008

White Thanksgiving

Well, if we don't have a white Christmas this year, at least we'll be able to say we had a "white Thanksgiving!" Yes, there is still measurable snow on the ground, though not as much as there was a few days ago. Most of last week we got some sort of snow every day, the heaviest being Monday evening and Tuesday night, but a good amount falling Thursday night and during the day Friday too. While snowfall before Thanksgiving is hardly unprecedented in northeast Ohio, this much is rather unusal. Sure, I've seen snow before Halloween many times, but it's usually of the slushy variety and it doesn't stick around long. This snow was sustained and not just the heavy, wet snow that we usually get this early in the season (or this LATE in the Fall season!). When it was all said and done, we probably had 7 inches of snow on the ground. Most of it melted on Monday when we got rain much of the day, but then we got a few more inches of snow during the day and into Tuesday evening to restore our "white Thanksgiving."

View of the snow in the back yard and on the mail and paper boxes on Nov. 19, 2008. We got a few more inches Thursday and Friday before most of it melted this past Monday.

Most of the snow last week was the result of lake effect. That's where winds blowing from the north or northwest pick up moisture evaportaing from Lake Erie (which is warmer than the land) and when it crosses onto land drops that moisture in the form of snow. We tend to not get that much in the way of lake effect unless, of course, the winds are right. Normally, the winds that cause lake effect snow come out of the northwest. Because of the shape of the land, areas north of here (Ohio's Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula counties in particular) generally get the most snow. That's why they are referred to as the "snow belt." When the winds shift more to the north-northwest, here in Portage County we can get a lot more (we're known as the "secondary snow belt"). That happened several times during this latest snowfall. The typical "snow belt" certainly got the most snow, but it was a lot more spread out due to the shifting winds.

Of course lake effect snow is hardly unique to northeast Ohio, but it certainly makes our weather interesting. I, for one, don't really mind snow all that much. Only by late March am I ready for Spring and don't want to see anymore snow. Right now, this isn't too bad. I'm a native of northeast Ohio, so I'm quite used to snow and I know how to handle and drive in it. Getting home last Monday (November 17th) was the slickest since it was the first heavy, sustained snowfall and the roads weren't cleared much at all. I slipped and slid a few times on the way home from campus, but made it OK even after literally sliding past Powder Mill Road! It is a bit unnerving when you turn your steering wheel to go right and the car keeps going straight...

Views of the front yard on Wednesday morning, Nov. 19, 2008.

Thanksgiving should be pretty tame and standard this year. The nice thing about living in the same town that all of my grandparents do is that the extended family comes here for Thanksgiving and we don't have to go anywhere. On the Ridinger side pretty much everyone lives in or near Kent anyway and on the Derby side everyone but us is too far away to come, so this year it will just be the five of us (Mom, Katie, Me, Grandma, and Grandpa) at Derby's. I don't mind because it's less stress to travel, and at least this year, I have more time to get the last few projects I have to finish before the end of the semester. Hard to believe there is just one more week of classes and then finals. I CANNOT WAIT for this semester to be over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Made the Stater Again!

I found my name in the Daily Kent Stater again this week as I was interviewed in reference to the Church's position on Proposition 8 in California. I was interviewed over the phone last Tuesday (Nov. 18) and the story ran the following day. As is usually the case when anyone gets interviewed, there was paraphrasing and a few facts that maybe aren't entirley accurate, but for the most part this article was OK. What's interesting is for the online version, there are several comments after the article which give you somewhat of an idea of what people here think about it. The only fact I noticed that was blatantly wrong was the line that says "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a strong supporter of the proposition, providing millions of dollars to the campaign." While it was awesome to see the entire church name used (and properly spelled!!) and the Church was a strong supporter, the Church did not "provide millions" to the campaign. In fact the only donation the Church made was just over $2,000 in travel expenses. The "millions" mentioned were donated by members of the Church; not the Church itself. HUUUUGE difference. And as I have said to several people here in the past week, if I were Catholic in California I think I would be grossly offended that the Mormons are getting all the credit for the passage of Prop 8. While Mormons did donate a significant amount of money to the cause, much of that money came from outside California. Catholics donated a fairly large share of money as well and they actually have the numbers to actually affect the vote. Money helps a lot, but in the end, it's the actual voters that make the difference (as a reminder, "No on 8" raised slightly more money than "Yes on 8"). Yes, the LDS Church is a master organizer, but never underestimate the role the Catholic Church played in the passage of this proposition.

Well, here is the link to the article: Hopes dimmed in LGBT community. It ran in the printed version of the Daily Kent Stater in Kent, Ohio on Wednesday, November 19, 2008. Again, I think as members of the Church or for those who simply agree with us on the definition of marriage (there are many of you!), we need to be better at explaining our viewpoints without coming across as exclusive or condescending. In the end, we have two viewpoints here that currently appear to conflict; if one side is happy the other is not. We have to be understanding and respectful of both sides, realizing that understanding and respect does not mean compromising our beliefs or accepting the other side. The characterization of our beliefs as "hate" is simplistic and completely inaccurate, ignoring their basis and background. We must be careful to avoid that rash and inaccurate characterization of the opposing viewpoint in this case as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Now this is cool

OK, I need a break from all the politics and doom-and-gloom economic news we get on a daily basis. There was a news story that absolutely fascinated me the other day as it was one of those "first in history" events. Just a few days ago, astronomers announced the first visual proof of extrasolar planets; i.e. planets not part of our solar system. Up to this point we had all sorts of indirect evidence and confirmation that planets existed around other stars based on measurements of the star's change in brightness or a measured wobble and other things, but we had no pictures of a planet orbiting another star. That all changed this past week when pictures were released which confirm four extrasolar planets: one around the star Fomalhaut (which is in the constellation Piscis Austrinus) and three around the star HR 8799 (in the constellation Pegasus). Now, of course the pictures show little more than pinpoints of light near the parent star, but that is a lot closer than we've ever been in our quest to find life outside of our own planet. Fomalhaut is 25 light-years from Earth and HR 8799 is 129 light-years from Earth.

At this point, estimates place the planets at sizes as big as or bigger than Jupiter as well as being at distances too far to harbor life. The planet around Fomalhaut, named Fomalhaut b, orbits at a distance of an estimated 115 AU (astronomical units, or 115 times as far as the Earth is from the Sun...115 x 93 million miles). Because Fomalhaut is a larger and brighter star than the Sun, Fomalhaut b receives about the same brightness and energy that Neptune in our own solar system receives. The planets around HR 8799, named HR 8799b, c, and d, are about twice the size of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune respectively and because HR 8799 is also a brighter and larger star than the Sun, they are at comparable distances to those three planets in our solar system in terms of brightness and energy received (though they are physically further away).

Now, you may ask, who cares?? Well, I have always had an interest in space. I am fascinated by all the things we are learning about the planets in our own solar system as well as the discoveries being made about other planetary systems. Seriously, the things we've learned and seen in just the past few years are pretty incredible, seeing things that humans have wondered about for centuries. I thought about that a few years ago when the Cassini probe arrived at Saturn (which included several "firsts") and then when the Huygens probe landed on and took the first pictures from the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Titan has been known since 1655, yet only in the last few years have we seen what it actually looks like since it is shielded by a dense atmosphere. In 2015, we will finally get our first up-close look at Pluto when the New Horizons mission arrives. I know a lot of people don't see much point in studying far-off worlds when our own has so many problems. Learning about the universe not only enlightens us for the sake of being enlightened, but it also gives us perspective on our place in the universe. Were it not for discoveries in space, we would still regard ourselves as the center of the solar system or even the universe; the only place that harbors life. Now, while we still have no direct evidence of life outside the planet, the discoveries we have made have allowed us to guess that it is almost certain Earth is not the only planet to harbor life. I think in the end, changes in our perspective and understanding are what is going to help us solve the problems of the world since simply throwing money at them hasn't done much to solve them. Until we collectively understand that we are all part of the same human race that share this planet (and are ultimately all children of God), no amount of money or rhetoric will solve the very things that keep us from progressing as fast as we could if we didn't have to worry about warfare.

Notes on pictures: 1. That is my favorite picture of Earth, which is actually a composite image from 2001. 2. Even though it's so pixelated, this is an amazing picture to me. This is what Earth and the Moon look like from Mars. This picture was taken by the Mars Global Surveyor in 2003.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When "free speech" crosses the line

Much has been made in the days since the election about the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which banned gay marriage and defined it in the California constitution as being between one man and one woman. I'm not really posting this to debate whether or not Prop 8 was right or wrong-- I think I've made it pretty clear about what I feel about it and why-- but moreso to address my thoughts on the aftermath. It is no secret that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormons) wanted this to pass as did several other religious and conservative organizations. The Church had letters from the First Presidency read in congregations not only in California, but around the U.S. urging members to support the measure both in voting (for those in California) and in monetary donations. It is estimated that Mormon contributions accounted for around 50% of the total raised for the "Yes on 8" side, many of them coming from outside California (Utah in particular), despite that fact that Mormons make up around just 2-4% of the voting population in California. Because of the large organizational and funding role the Church played in Prop 8 passing, it has become the target of protests from gay and gay-advocate groups across the country, many saying the Church overstepped the bounds of separation of church and state. Many LDS buildings (as well as other churches and organizations that supported Prop 8) have been targeted for vandalism or picketing, which included a large protest at the Los Angeles temple that resulted in the temple being shut down for a day.

I think the biggest thing that jumps out at me is the absolute anger and hatred that has been directed at the Church from some of these groups, like it's solely the Church's fault this passed. As I already mentioned, Mormons (we prefer to be called Latter-day Saints or LDS with "saint" simply meaning a follower of Christ) account for only a small fraction of California voters, so there were obviously a LOT more people who agreed with us. On top of that, Obama carried California easily, so many of his supportes also supported Prop 8 showing that it wasn't just a conservative vote. An even bigger point I found interesting is the fact that the "No on 8" side raised more money than "Yes on 8" and still lost. I think this is purely an emotional reaction and the Church is the most visible thing to direct anger at. What's ironic about the whole thing is that these groups accuse the Church of promoting "hate" by supporting Prop 8, but they express that belief by promoting hate of the Church, particularly violence. In reality, Mormons don't look at this as taking away rights. Indeed, Mormons don't even regard marriage itself as a "right;" they regard it as one of the highest sacraments. Mormons regard Prop 8 (and the amendments that passed the same day in Arizona and Florida) as a defining of marriage issue, preventing the government from legally changing the definition of an institution that predates the government by thousands of years and an institution Mormons (and most other Christians) believe only God can define (and has defined). The sad irony is that in their quest for tolerance and understanding, too many gay rights activists are not showing either towards Mormon and conservative viewpoints. Sorry, tolerance and understanding is a two-way street. I am happy to see some leaders of the protests finally speaking out against the violence (especially the vandalism of LDS buildings and the mailing of white powder to LDS temples).

As for separation of church and state, this is hardly even close to being outside of the law. Churches are tax-exempt, but are forbidden from promoting candidates or a political party. They are, however, free to support issues, particularly ones that are morally based, such as this one. Although many view Prop 8 purely as a legal issue, most religious conservatives regard it as a moral issue when the definition of marriage is concerned. The Church was hardly the only religious organization to weigh in on Prop 8. It was part of a larger faith-based coalition which supported Prop 8 that also included groups like the Roman Catholic Church (who has far more members in California than Mormons!) and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. On the flip side, several other Jewish groups, Episcopalian bishops, and the United Church of Christ opposed Prop 8. Guess what? That is their constitutional right. If a group is going to go after the LDS Church for crossing the line of church and state, then you have to go after the ones who were on the other side too. The first amendment wasn't designed to keep religious influence totally out of government; it was designed to keep government out of religion and avoid the establishment of a state religion (which is what exists in many European countries, including the United Kingdom). And separation of church and state, which is a phrase that came from Thomas Jefferson and later Supreme Court cases, doesn't mean churches cannot have a say in matters they feel are important.

In the end, there seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding on both sides. This is a case where we all need to step back, take a deep breath, and agree to disagree civily. Protesting and shouting slogans accusing Mormons and other conservative groups of "hate" aren't winning any converts, nor are hard-core conservative approaches like "God hates gays" (a statement I TOTALLY disagree with!) working either. In the end, we have two very deeply-rooted and firm beliefs that conflict.

On a side note, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Daily Kent Stater in relation to Prop 8 and the subsequent reaction. I will post the article when I am made aware of its publication.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


As is typical following an election, we have calls for "unity" and working together. It's always interesting to me to hear the victorious side issue calls for unity when they know and we know that in reality no such unity is really needed for them to accomplish their goals and ideas since they hold the majority. The same was true for Republicans in 2004 and now holds true for Democrats in 2008. So as I read comments from people like Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi telling us how we all need to work together, their cries for unity ring pretty hollow to me since I don't recall them saying such things after their party's defeat four years ago. Really, it's one thing to stress unity when you win, but it's entirely another to call for that when you're on the short end and you realize that you don't have total control over your goals and ideas for the country.

My sister was just watching the Ellen show this afternoon, so I watched the opening. I have always enjoyed Ellen DeGeneres as a comedian and mostly as an actress, but I obviously completely disagree with her politically (though she seems to be a much more pleasant person than Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne Barr, or Susan Sarandon , other people whom I enjoy their work but not their real-life endeavors or ideas). Her talk show is usually pretty funny, though I'm hardly a regular viewer. Well, she said watching the coverage was "exciting" and talked about the "country really coming together." Well, yeah, if you like Obama and the Democrat way of thinking, then yes, it was very exciting, but to say the "whole country" came together is hardly realisitic. Obama did not pull a Nixon 49-state landslide nor did he pull in a super-majority of the popular vote. My point? Just like when Bush won in 2004, the country is still very divided, almost evenly between the left and the right. Right now I see a lot of unbridled idealism, which isn't at all surprising, but a lot of things still have to happen. And seriously, I don't doubt Obama will make a lot of liberals happy during his presidency (though they are a tough group to KEEP happy!), but that doesn't mean everything is wonderful since many things liberals view as "progressive" conservatives view as "regressive" or "oppressive" and the opposite holds true as well.

Really, I don't have the feelings of doom and gloom that many conservatives feel right now, though there are a few things I worry about. There are two potential bills that I worry most about, one being making the "Fairness Doctrine" (which was repealed in 1987 by the FCC) law and another bill, known as the "Employee Free Choice Act," which would essentially make it more difficult for workers to not join unions and eliminate secret ballots for workers among other things. John McCain said the title was "deceptive" and I can't agree more. The bill is supposed to make it easier for employees to start or join unions, but in doing that opens the doors to other problems. By eliminating a secret ballot, you open the door for union coercion and intimidation for anyone who doesn't "fall in line" which hardly equates to employees getting a "free choice." That goes against democracy in my opinion. The Democrats really love this bill and so does Barack Obama, but I hope they see how much this would end up hurting most workers and especially small businesses. The more I have seen of unions, especially larger ones, it seems many have become corrupt and have lost sight of their meaning to promote workers' rights. Like the ACLU, it seems unions started out as a great idea with noble causes, but have morphed into organizations that promote political platforms over serving their originally intended interests.

As for the "Fairness Doctrine," a policy used by the FCC from 1949-1987, it is the idea that radio and television need to be balanced in terms of views presented. In other words, if a radio station runs a three-hour conservative talk show, the Fairness Doctrine would call for it to also run 3 hours of liberal viewpoints. The doctrine was repealed in 1987 because Freedom of Speech couldn't really be guaranteed. While the idea of making this law seems to be popular with Democrats, particularly high-ranking ones, I was happy to at least read that Barack Obama is opposed to making this law since it is anything but fair. In reality, this is an attempt by liberals to try to bring down conservative talk radio which has proven highly popular (whereas liberal talk radio is virtually non-existent and has failed to catch on). Since many smaller radio stations wouldn't be able to "balance" out, many would simply drop the conservative broadcasts than face a fine or being shut down. Funny thing is, you never hear anything about the TV networks being forced to be "fair" and as I previously blogged, independent studies have shown that most of them are anything but "balanced" in their coverage. In other words, it's OK if a station leans left, but if it leans right it's not fair and needs to have more of the "other viewpoint" presented like there is no other place for people to find it. Right. And one senator seriously compared promoting "fairness" on the airwaves to censoring pornography on the airwaves, since it's OK for us to censor those kinds of images it should be OK to censor other things as well (can I get a Heil Hitler?). Yes, conservative talk radio is on an equal level with porn. I sometimes wonder what's inside (or maybe what ISN'T) some of these politicians' heads. So if it's passed does that mean CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC all have to get conservative commentators to "balance out?" Somehow I doubt that would happen even if this ridiculous idea came to fruition.

To close, I do agree we need to come together as Americans and work together, but I am cautious any time I hear a liberal say that since they usually mean "do it my way" (like when they say conservatives need to be "more open minded" meaning they need to be more "open minded" to the liberal point of view, but liberals don't need to be "open minded" to the conservative view). Working together sometimes means making compromises and sometimes it means making sacrifices while other times it means not getting anything done when two sides simply don't see eye-to-eye at all. I hope those in Washington understand what their purpose is, but so far their track record leads me to believe that the next few years won't be anything close to remarkably different than anything we've already seen over the last few decades. I hope I'm wrong for all our sakes. I'm interested in the success of the United States of America; not the success of the Republican or Democratic parties.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election thoughts

So I'm sitting here watching the election results on the AP's cool interactive map which allows you to look at every major race (presidential, governor, senate, house, & voter initiatives) and so I'm seeing an obvious win for Obama and the Democrats. While I'm, of course, disappointed in that outcome for obvious reasons, I do respect democracy and thus, the voters have spoken. It's exactly what I thought in 2006 when voters gave Democrats the majority in both houses of Congress. What I find intriguing is the fact that Congress currently has some of its lowest approval ratings ever, yet voters have decided to increase the majority of the party in power. Hey, I respect the choice even though I think its misguided and shortsighted. Oh well. Come January the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves when things don't work out since they will have the White House and both houses of Congress for at least two years. Somehow I think they'll still manage to place blame elsewhere since that is what politicians do. I imagine every problem the country faces for the next 20 years will still somehow be President Bush's fault, even ones he wasn't president for when they started (like the banking deregulation!). I find it funny too how when gas was over $4 a gallon just a month ago that too was the fault of President Bush, but now that gas is below $2, of course it had nothing to do with him. I saw a graphic the other day that said "before Bush gas was $1.46 a gallon." I had to roll my eyes at what it was implying. What's even more amusing to me is how quickly people seem to forget history when it suits them and how little most Americans know about presidential policies and budgets.

Little history lesson: I don't remember the price of gas when Bush took office, but let's say it was indeed $1.46 in late 2000/early 2001. I recall a time not too long before that (late 1998 or 1999 or so) when gas was 72 cents a gallon. I also remember driving out west and being horrified at the price of gas being $1.20 a gallon since the highest I had seen in Ohio was around 99 cents. In other words, the gas prices were already climbing quite rapidly before Bush even took office, not to mention the fact that when a president takes office, he begins his part of the process of formulating a budget for the following fiscal year (that process has already begun), which begins in October. In other words, the current budget just began for fiscal year 2009 and will be in effect until the end of September 2009. All new presidents inherit the budget of their predecessor for the first 9 months of their presidency as well as the beginnings of a budget plan for the following fiscal year. So, when people blame Bush for the economic hard times and paint Clinton's presidency as some sort of economic dream, they fail to remember that the economy was in a downturn during 2000 as Clinton was leaving office. The events of September 11, for those who don't remember, were the nail in the coffin as far as a recession was concerned then, the airlines in particular, but few seem to remember that. No Bush policies had been implemented by September 2001, nor was his budget in place by then. Not only that, but Clinton inherited a recovering economy in 1993; he didn't just magically turn it around on his own anymore than Bush Senior personally ran it into the ground. I get tired of people blaming or congratulating the president for things he has little control over. While he certainly has a great deal of influence, he is not God.

Anyway, I'm also watching several of the voter initiatives and am really happy so far with the results. Granted, I have no influence on their specific outcomes, but I'm interested in them nonetheless. Three states have marriage definition amendments on the ballot: Florida, Arizona, and of course California. At this point, all three are passing and it looks for sure that Florida's and Arizona's will pass. California's definitely looks hopeful, though I won't assume anything until all the votes are counted. It's been a bit unnerving witnessing the absolute hate that has been directed at the Church in response to their support of Proposition 8, like the Church is somehow solely responsible for it even being on the ballot. I saw a Youtube video this evening that was a commercial in California urging a "No" vote on 8 and it was just pure evil making it look like the Church was out to "take away rights" from poor defenseless gay couples. Sorry, Mormons don't make up anything close to a majority of California residents, so even if every Mormon voted yes, it still wouldn't pass if there weren't others who also believed the same way. I did see a great Youtube video that featured Elder David Bednar (thanks for the links Rochelle!) talking about the effects of Proposition 8 and why the Church believes as they do. He mentioned a concept he called the "tyranny of tolerance," that is basically us being told to "tolerate" homosexual behavior but in turn, they do not have to "tolerate" our views or beliefs. I've never been a huge David A. Bednar fan, but he explains this really well. It can apply to anyone who supports the belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman and is an institution ordained of God.

How sad that those who are opposed to Proposition 8 accuse the Church of "hating" so their way of expressing that is by using hate directed at the Church. Guess those accusing the Church of hating know all about being hateful! I'm hoping it passes not because I have some sort of vendetta against gays or anything of the sort; I simply believe that God has ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman and I believe in modern-day prophets who have reiterated that as well as the will of the Lord.

Another great item my friend Rochelle posted was a talk given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who served in the Quorum of the 12 Apostles until he died a few years ago. Elder Maxwell was an incredibly intelligent and wise man. I always enjoyed hearing him speak, particularly about the "cosmos" which seemed to be a favorite topic. Well, one of the talks he gave not too long ago was about following the First Presidency. For those who aren't familiar, the First Presidency in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is composed of the President and usually 2 counselors. They constitute the leadership of the Church directly under Jesus Christ. Members regard the President of the Church as a living prophet equivalent to Moses or any other Old Testament prophet who speaks with God and acts as his mouthpiece just like in Biblical times. So, when members of the First Presidency, especially the prophet (who is currently Thomas S. Monson) speak, we listen. That doesn't mean we blindly follow, but it does mean we "take heed." Prophets are tools for the Lord to give us counsel, guidance, and general advice. How we apply that counsel is up to us. Well, Elder Maxwell spoke of a time that it would become increasingly more difficult to follow the counsel of the Prophet as the world continues to accept ways and ideas that are inconsistent with scripture, so in following the counsel of the prophet would be less and less popular with those outside the Church. That couldn't be more true today, especially with Proposition 8. I give major "props" (no pun intended!) to all the members and fellow supporters who have had to endure obnoxious chants and harrassment simply because they have a deep-rooted belief in what marriage is and should be and in following the counsel of the prophet. I guess the last days will really "weed" the Church out separating the wheat from the tares. In seeing how Prop 8 has unfolded, I am reminded of the scripture in Isaiah 5:20: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

We still have a long ways to go in learning that to love someone does not mean we condone everything they do. On the flip side, not approving of choices or lifestyles doesn't mean we cannot love someone or be a part of his/her life. And yes, while I don't doubt the feelings are not choices, how we act on our feelings most certainly are choices we make whether those feelings are sexual in nature or not. That said, God loves all his children despite their choices; he does not hate gays. It is certainly possible for all of us to be more loving and understanding without compromising our beliefs.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can I get a huge DUH??

In a "shocking" study, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that the media has been quite slanted in their coverage of this presidential election towards Obama. How? This study simply measured negative vs. positive comments made by news sources towards each campaign from reporters, people interviewed, and anchors. The most slanted? CBS and NBC aired by far the most positive comments for Obama and the fewest for McCain. 73% of CBS's comments were positive for Obama but only 31% positive for McCain while NBC aired 65% positive comments for Obama and just 16% for McCain. ABC was the most balanced of the "free" tv networks with 57% positive comments aired for Obama and 42% for McCain. The most balanced? You got it...Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume which the article said was "equally negative" towards each campaign with 39% positive comments for McCain and 29% for Obama. I find that interesting considering the absolute loathing liberals have for Fox News, accusing it of being biased towards the right. Funny thing is, conservatives basically consider every other network and major newspaper as being biased towards the left and studies like this won't do anything to hurt the beliefs of either side. I am someone who doesn't have cable or satellite (one of the last remaining who still use an old-fashioned antenna...mostly out of necessity mind you!), so my primary news sources tend to be online newspapers, our local printed newspaper, and various news websites and blogs. I came across this article on when I was checking my Yahoo mail. I also frequently read news from the newsfeed that comes on my computer, so from that aspect I get quite a bit of my news from MSNBC just because their articles show up in my news ticker the most. I have been quite disappointed, but hardly all that surprised, in how blatant much of the media is in their support of Obama. And just FYI, this wasn't the only study that found a bias in the media. Another study from The Project for Excellence in Journalism found McCain's coverage has been overwhelmingly negative and Obama's much more mixed since the conventions. All I could do in reading this article was let out a "DUH!"

It's not just broadcast media, it's printed media too. I've been getting the magazine Newsweek for the past few months as a free gift for unused airline miles and have been very disappointed with how slanted it is towards the left. It's not even close to being balanced, and really, I'd much rather have a balanced publication than one slanted to the left or to the right. Basically, if you have a liberal editorial or columnist, you need a conservative one to balance it out. How sad that so many journalists have bought into the idea that it is their job to influence readers rather than to simply present an objective view so the reader can make their own decision. Too often it seems as I've read and heard accounts by reporters their personal opinions injected into the actual reporting. If I wanted your opinion, I'll read the Opinion page or wait for an editorial. Just present me with the facts and leave out personal conjectures. Thanks

In a somewhat related political topic, I found a really interesting blog post from the conservative blogger at, the Akron Beacon-Journal's online version. His most recent post talks about comparing European socialist models to the US and cites a 2004 study from a pair of Swedish economists. As his blog points out, Sweden is one of the countries that liberals point to as a model for the US to follow. The Swedish economists, however, concluded that despite all the socialist aspects present in much of Europe, Europe as a whole continues to lag behind the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product and in how much money its citizens have. Some of the stats I found interesting were: the average living space for "poor" Americans was 1,200 square feet while the average living space for ALL Europeans (rich and poor) was 1,000 square feet; a larger percentage of people in Sweden would be considered living below the poverty line than people in the US despite Sweden's socialist policies; even in the US, a large percentage of "poor" people (45.9%) own their own homes, 72.8% own cars, and a whopping 77% have air conditioning (we don't have AC but again, not by choice!), things still considered luxuries in western Europe. Of course another important point is that the US largely supplies military defense for Europe, so that's a cost they have significantly less than we do, yet despite that we're still ahead economically. Now, bear in mind this study is from 2004 and things have changed, but don't forget that not only is the US in an economic downturn, but Europe is as well.

Another important point the blogger made that I totally agree with is that whenever someone accuses a liberal of having "socialist" ideas, it's taken as a big insult. I guess it's because socialism and communism have become such "bad words" in this country, but at the same time it's amost like those who support socialist policies, even those that lean towards socialism, are afraid to tell it like it is, knowing that any association with "socialism" is a fast-track to failure. I know for me, probably the biggest reason I'm voting for McCain is because Obama's ideas, as I have said, "reek of socialism." Forcing people to give up their income in the name of "spreading the wealth" is a form of socialism. We will never solve the problems of poverty by simply forcing people to give up what is theirs to others. That simply continues, if not exacerbates, the problem because it does not address the root of the problem. Poverty will only be solved when our society accepts the value that having gross excess isn't about "glutting ourselves" (as my mom says) but instead, those who are greatly blessed with material and financial wealth can in turn bless the lives of others. On top of that we have to more equally value the different roles we play in society (meaning entertainment figures like pro-athletes aren't valued way higher than teachers for instance or being a full-time mother is regarded as an actual full-time occupation even though it doesn't bring in a paycheck from an employer). In turn, those who would benefit from that help shouldn't just be given handouts, but aid in being able to sustain their own livelihoods and in turn, help others. Until that becomes voluntary and a core, common value no amount of government-forced "sharing the wealth" will solve poverty or lift the poor out of the gutters as we have seen in countless nations who have tried communism and socialism and even here with our many social welfare programs. And yes, this comes from someone who currently has around $20,000 in loan debt for school and a house that is about to be foreclosed on. I hardly qualify as "wealthy" by ANY financial use of the word (though I consider myself very wealthy in blessings!). The tools available to me, student grants and loans, are a way for me to get an education so I can be an idependent contributor to society. Me paying them back allows others later to enjoy the same opportunities.

My friend Nate (who is also my bishop!) showed me a great verse in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants on Friday and I read it again today during church. We all know the scriptural warnings against the rich, mainly in loving riches over God and our fellow man. These verses address both rich and poor and are found in D&C 56:16-17, a revelation received by Joseph Smith in June 1831 in Kirtland, Ohio:

16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

Of course this verse is pretty standard rhetoric to most Christians; that is that worldy riches won't do us much good in the afterlife and loving riches pulls us away from God. There is nothing evil about being rich; only in loving riches more than God. This next verse, though is what stands out to me.

17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

I added the underlines, but it pretty much sums up my feelings. How often do we see scriptural warnings to poor people? Hardly ever; indeed the next verse is much "nicer" in that the poor shall "see the Kingdom of God" provided they are "poor in spirit" (i.e. humble). Giving our excess to the "poor" isn't about entitlement, it's about helping those that need help so they can have the same opportunities to make their own living and be self-sustaining. For those with great wealth, it falls under "where much is given, much is required" as I mentioned before in terms of being a tool in the hands of God to bless others. For those with little wealth, there is an eternal principle that some type of work is required for blessings, even monetary blessings and again, where much is given, much is required. Really,it would be more correct to say, where anything is given, something is required whether it be some type of service, repayment, or humility.