Friday, March 30, 2007

BYU trustees and Cheney invitation

I would find it interesting to read discussion about how those signing petitions and demonstrating think their actions reconcile with the initial approval of the Cheney invitation by BYU trustees. After all, “BYU trustees” is just another way of referring to a group of church general authorities, isn’t it?

So, will you also go demonstrate and picket around the Church office building?

This question seems of particular interest to me during this week, when church members gather to hear counsel from general church leaders. Should we feel so inclined, would we also protest the selection of speakers in the conference?

I confess, as a borderline misogynist, I am sometimes mildly offended by the regular inclusion of women speakers in the general conference agenda. But instead of protesting or signing a petition against, I personally find it more than sufficient to nap through their talks.



Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cheney at BYU: In the news, blogs

I seldom find anything to agree with in SLTrib editorials, but this one seems to hold the grasp of one essential idea...

...protests, boycotts, issues brought to the forefront - it's all good. It's all part of the participatory process.
So let Cheney speak. Be appalled, or enthralled. He may posture and prevaricate, but he will be speaking to a class of college graduates who presumably are capable of weighing his words against his record.

I don't find anything else of merit in the thoughts expressed, but at least they got one foundational idea right.

Then there's this article from one of the regular columnists, which hews close to the traditional SLTrib line of enthusiastically misrepresenting and slandering the church and anything related to it.

Actually, the SLTrib did better than DesNews on this. The DN article could only find controversy as the point of discussion.

LDS Blogs are more-or-less dominated by outrage that Cheney is not already caged up in chains. Few seem to recognize that the federal prosecutor labored for more than a year to convict Bush and Cheney and company on all kinds of charges, but failed to deliver. Anyway, sentiments in the Bloggernacle are strikingly similar to something from these days. Typical fare at a couple of representative blogs: Times and Seasons author says Cheney deserves a fair trial, oblivious to the fact that it already happened. Guy Murray's Messenger and Advocate follows the crowd with a rather disappointing anti-war posture that pretty much obscures all reasonable considerations. Others are far less even-handed in their discussion and rhetoric.

More stories in the Deseret News

BYU OKs Cheney protest
LDS Church statement concerning Cheney visit to BYU
LDS Church fires back at criticism over Cheney
Readers on Cheney — with a 'Y'
Protests not new at Y.

And in the Salt Lake Tribune

BYU allows students' Cheney protest
LDS Church responds to Tribune columnist
BYU allows Cheney protest
Chilly for Cheney at BYU?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

R-rated films?

I think the boundary of real standard advocated by Church leaders has never really drawn an arbitrary line at R-rated films, though the criteria of the ratings board probably intersects in most areas of concern. The bar is actually much higher, and this is obvious when we consider the actual words of counsel on this issue. The real standard is driven by the ideals enumerated in Article of Faith 13 -- seeking that which is lovely, or praiseworthy, or of good report. Of course, abjuring the antithesis is clearly implicit here.

Elder Ballard's address of 2003 October conference is a good case in point. (Elder Russell M. Ballard, "Let Our Voices Be Heard")  He asserts unequivocally that the influence of media depictions of evil can be a corrupting influence on families. He counsels the saints to take steps that will help protect our families from this degrading influence. No place in his address does he use the term "R-rated". But in fact, the problems he suggests that we avoid are to be found in many contemporary films with R-ratings, and often even with lesser ratings.

Obviously, just avoiding R-rated films is not sufficient anymore. Anyone who is too smug about their own righteousness because they don't watch films with the "wrong rating" has simply missed the point.

I think perhaps the effectiveness of such a half-measure is somewhat analogous to carefully guarding our doors from the passage of axe-murderers, but allowing the kidnappers and child molesters to enter unimpeded. Or perhaps, more appropriately, we might be said to strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel.

SLTrib articles make me angry...

So, what else is new?

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson continues his ACLU antics...

Rocky rips Bush at "impeachment" rally

Apparently about fifty people showed up to hear the speech. This guy is just a clown and an embarrassment. He is testifying at a sham "impeachment" trial in Washington state -- probably because he would fear assassination if he tried such antics in Utah.

The other editorial article was so full of ironic twisted perversions it still makes me angry just to think of.

School clubs: Gov. Huntsman should veto anti-gay bill

Opens up with traditional slandering of conservative Utah lawmakers.

It is amazing the lengths to which homophobic Utah legislators will go...

This is the standard label for homosexual advocates to use, attempting to discredit those who uphold traditional standards of morality and decency.

Moves right along to...

What we do believe, and hope, is that when Gov. Jon Huntsman reads it, he will have the good sense, the compassion and, yes, the common decency to veto it.

This notwithstanding the fact that the ideals embodied in this editorial reflect the very antithesis of good sense, compassion, and in particular, common decency.

This great example of high-minded critical thinking closes with what amounts to a bit of coarse locker-room humor, which we might expect from dumb football players, but seems out of place in editorials from supposedly responsible journalists. Then again, this is editorial content from the Salt Lake Tribune -- they have a tradition to maintain.

Voting for Nixon

I guess I coulda voted for him, but I missed out. I was serving an LDS mission in Missouri at the time, did not have residence established there, and never found out how to request an absentee ballot.

My mom and dad said they both voted for Nixon, both times. First time he ran against Humphrey and Wallace, second time against McGovern.

I really don't remember the first election, but I do recall in '72 Nixon was re-elected by a "landslide" margin.

As I recall, there was some kind of pre-election scandal regarding the VP running-mate for McGovern which basically poisoned his campaign late in the game, which was why everyone voted Nixon.

Some of Nixon's problems were certainly of his own making, but I think the Vietnam finale was engineered by others. By that time, there were so many people marching around shouting "Hell, no, we won't go!" and burning their bras that anything resembling pro-war sentiments simply got lost in the noise.

Interesting parallels to present-day circumstances. Imagine a country polarized by opinions regarding military involvement in an unpopular war that has gone on for too long. And political leaders suffering from failed support because they have become so entangled in their own excesses that they can no longer hide their sins from constituents. Along with a media troupe that scents scandal like sharks following a blood trail.

Someone else pointed out that the VP candidate who left the ticket did so because it was revealed that he had undergone psychiatric treatment - the nature of his treatment was not widely disclosed (if at all).

Apparently he didn't tell McGovern either.

A story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Global climate prognostication -- getting it right

There's just not enough reading between the lines going on in the global climate debate. It seems plain to me that liberal advocates of drastic measures to prevent "global warming" are simply manifesting a willful
desire to be in control -- of everything. They don't really care specifically about the environment. It's just yet another aspect of existence that they are grasping for control over.

As long as I have been keeping track, social liberals have believed they should be in control of society. They know in their heart of hearts that they are the only ones competent and wise and benevolent enough to manage everything in an equitable fashion. Just give them all your money and property, and your children and pets, just submit to their comprehensive plans and management systems, and everyone will be blissfully happy. And if you don't, there will be disastrous and dire consequences, because nobody else is qualified to do the job.

Now all the fear-mongering regarding global warming is another act in the play for control and power. If you are not smart enough to manage your own carbon budget, the liberals will just have to do it for you. Hillary and Algore are ready to step up and do the job. If you won't stop polluting the earth's environment, wise stewards from the liberal camp will manage your life for you so that you are prevented from further damaging the ecosystem. All the wise choices will be made for you, by those who are smarter and better at understanding "science". Because these all-wise and benevolent folks are in charge of your life, they'll make sure that you no longer have any need to make all those difficult choices.

You might notice that this program has somewhat of a familiar ring to it.

"That's Not Nice"

Timely comments from Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist...

I think the atmosphere of political correctness is now experienced by normal people--not people who speak on TV, but normal people--as so oppressive, so demanding of constant self-policing, that when someone says something in public that is truly not nice, not nice at all, they can't help but feel that they are witnessing a prison break.

As long as political correctness reigns, the more antic among us will try to break out with great streams of Tourette's-like forbidden words and ideas.

We should forbid less and demand more. We should exert less pressure from without and encourage more discipline from within. We should ask people to be dignified, hope they'll be generous, expect them to be fair. When they're not, we should correct them. But we shouldn't beat them to a pulp. Because that's not nice.

Public Ads: For Girls Only

You may have seen this online.

The banner next to the Deseret News column reads, "Encourage girls to see the world through math and science." There's a background picture of a roller coaster, overwritten with a bunch of undecipherable physics notations. It links to a web page entitled, which has since transformed itself into a Girl Scouts program.

Why should that be a message directed specifically at girls? I suppose the world is the same, whether girls or boys are looking. And science is equally applicable from the perspective of either.

Some suggest that the issue is "representation". To me the idea of "representation" seems apropos to political ideals, but how does it apply to academic studies, professions, and career choices? Why should anyone believe that girls or boys are "underrepresented" in anything in particular, or that any kind of parity is even warranted?

I observe that right now, for example, it seems boys are "underrepresented" in every college-level academic discipline, because the girls, for some reason, attend college in disproportionate numbers. Is there anything wrong with that?

We also hear complaints about historic discrimination against women, and the assertion that today's imbalance is simply a correction for past inequity. I don't necessarily find references to what happened "a century ago" to be all that instructive, unless we establish significant parallel to what goes on today. I might as well assert that a century ago, girls were not permitted to ride in an airplane. They were excluded simply because no such opportunity existed for anyone.

In particular, this excuse is frequently offered in the context of higher education opportunities. I don't know anything about who was permitted to take college classes a hundred years ago, but of my fourth and fifth-generation ancestors, I only find a single one, Alexander Neibaur (#20 on my ancestry chart) out of twenty four men and women who received any advanced education of note, between 1860 and 1910.

Perhaps there are some other indicators of superior privilege represented in such data. To me it appears that exclusion from academic careers was nearly universal during that period. Secondary education or academic degrees were vanishingly rare, I suspect more for reasons of practicality than discrimination.

I find it passing strange, as well, that inclusion in academics by "being married to a man in the field" is sometimes looked down on, a distinction to be denigrated. I suspect not a few women of that day partnered with educated spouses to share their husband's interests and skills. Perhaps it was a different way of doing things, but I think not necessarily of lesser merit or effectiveness.

Freedom in Israel

I have had some disagreement of late with a friend who maintains that the nation-state of Israel curtails religious freedom by certain laws and policies which favor Judaism and exclude other religions, particularly Christians, and specifically, proselyting Mormon missionaries.

My observation was that Israel is remarkably progressive in such matters, in light of circumstances.

I admit I'm arguing based on what some Israelis have to say about themselves and their nation. Maybe they are lying.

Excerpted from Freedom of Religion in Israel ...

Israel protects the freedom of Jews and non-Jews alike to engage in their chosen form of religious practice or worship. Likewise, in most cases the application of religious precepts by institutions of the State, such as in the prohibition of work on religious days of rest, does not compel Jews or non-Jews to violate the precepts of their chosen faith. However, freedom of religion is not an absolute right, but rather is subject to limitations and derogation. Thus, freedom of religion must be balanced with other rights and interests, and may be restricted for reasons of public order and security. In practice, however, Israeli authorities have exercised their power with great caution.
 The article further asserts...
The "Basic Law: Human Liberty and Dignity" (the foundational statement of constitutional law in Israel) refers to a "Jewish and democratic State". However, Judaism has not been proclaimed the official religion of Israel. Rather, the law and practice in Israel regarding religious freedom may best be understood as a sort of hybrid between non-intervention in religious affairs, on the one hand, and the inter-involvement of religion and government in several forms on the other, most notably by legislation establishing the jurisdiction of religious courts of the different faiths in specified matters of "personal status" by government funding of authorities which provide religious services to several of the religious communities; and by a series of legal institutions and practices which apply Jewish religious norms to the Jewish population.
On the proselyting issue -- from what I have been able to sort out from the explanations about how such things are regulated in Israel, I understand that certain religious groups have received some level of bureaucratic recognition in Israel, as referenced at the end of the above cite, and these officially recognized groups are granted more latitude that those not afforded such status. Apparently the Greek Orthodox Church is the most prominent among officially recognized Christian sects. The LDS Church is not currently among the recognized groups, and is subject to such restrictions as the Israeli government uniformly imposes on all such groups. I suppose that situation could change at any time. I know that similar impositions have been suddenly and surprisingly removed, in many other countries.

I'd admit that from our perspective it certainly seems like a heavy-handed restriction, but the general policy seems to be nothing specifically directed at the LDS Church.

Firefighting: Public service pandemonium

Tonight I'm listening to the local public service radio channel, the station operated by the county sheriff's office.

Half dozen serious auto accidents with injuries have been reported within the last few minutes. Six ambulances and four sheriff units are in the process of dispatch.

Three fire departments were deployed with multiple rescue and emergency firefighting units. Only one dispatch operator is trying to coordinate all this, and he started getting a bit flustered. One unit complained that they didn't receive a timely call-up on their pagers, to which he replied, "I'll get to it as soon as I have time!"

I can imagine how this whole channel for handling such incidents would be just overwhelmed in a sustained wide-scale event. Sometimes it is a bit frightening to uncover the man behind the curtain, and come to realize that he is as human as us all.

Respect for God

Our respect for Heavenly Father encompasses two aspects. One derives from charity and love, associated with righteousness. The other is the dread and fear that go along with wickedness.

I suspect we all warrant some appropriate balance of both.

I've always been fascinated by the dreadful and apparently violent aspect of so many Old Testament stories, relating the wrathful and vindictive nature of Jehovah, punishing the wicked. Especially in juxtaposition with the New Testament character of Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, despite the seeming disparity, there is no conflict between the two persona's -- just different aspects of the same character.

In my view, it seems entirely appropriate for certain graven images to be overturned and broken, while others are upheld as respected symbols.


I was hiking over the top of the ridge of an evening high above Snail Hollow, and came face to face with this weird animal, bizarre long necked and small headed, tall pointy ears, about as big as a hefty dog but with long slight legs and silky brown fur. We both kinda said "YIKES!" in our own language, and backed off a few startled steps. I hung around for a while, watching him, but he didn't like the looks of me at all, I guess -- wouldn't let me come closer than about ten feet.

He was obviously lost. Wearing a manufactured halter of nylon webbing, but no other distinguishing features. Thought I oughta try taking him outta there, because I figured the coyotes tend to claim such undefended critters pretty quick. I tried entreating with apples, hanks of grass, luring with soft banter and baby talk, sitting down, standing up, sneaking up, quick rushes, head fakes, and everything I could think of, but wily critter managed to keep out of grabbing distance. I sat there for a while in the dark, just keeping company, then gave up and went home.

I went back up next morning with my friend Michael Golden, and he just kind of scooped the animal up in his arms. We carried him off the mountain and put him in my mom's garden.

Mom promptly fell in love with the animal, and decided the animal is named "Dolly". (He turns out to be "she".)   Dolly loves mom's strawberry plants.

Anyway, here it is. What do you do with an alpaca?

Biological basis for sin

What if there is a biological basis for certain behavioral habits we refer to as sinful? Does that make any difference? Why should it?

I've had some fun discussing this elsewhere. It is a controversial idea. Some of the more liberal advocates seem to feel that a biological predisposition in some way cancels out any basis for proscribing certain kinds of behavior. I tend to want to ask if that means anything goes and nothing is ever right or wrong, when I'm compelled by my "biology".

Of course, when I suggest that some anti-social behaviors like murder and theft may just as well have compelling biological components, they get all huffy and accuse me of being a bigot.

The only good answer I've been able to come up with is that there must be a compelling biological component for bigotry. I was born this way, so I can't help but say such things.

Petition: Let Cheney speak at BYU

Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the petition: "Please don't prohibit Dick Cheney from speaking at BYU"

Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and join me in signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. We are trying to reach 1,000 signatures - please sign here.

Once you have signed, you can help even more by asking your friends and family to sign as well.

Thank you!

Jim Cobabe

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vice President Cheney to speak at BYU

Media sources have announced that Dick Cheney will deliver a public address at the BYU Commencement ceremonies in April 2007. Here's a link to a Deseret News article.

Just below the radar is a muttering growl of outrage. Too many people personally project hatred and loathing for President George W. Bush. Cheney gets the benefit of some of the overflow that spills past the edges.

To me, this ferocious mounting antipathy that focuses on Bush and spills over to Cheney is beyond all reason. I cannot fathom why anyone would object to Cheney's speaking engagements. From my experience, Cheney is an accomplished public speaker. The speaking circuit is a common enough occupation for Vice Presidents, has-been and otherwise, honored or infamous.

As to the spewing of pejoratives and unsubstantiated accusations, let those who embrace such vile practices validate their claims in the court of justice. You need to progress somewhere beyond your mock impeachment proceedings and actually do something more than just slander and threaten in hysterical public demonstrations. Otherwise it is just more of the endless unsubstantiated "Bush lied" mantra that amounts to a public propaganda campaign.

Personally, I find far less reason to believe these than Bush and company. Sad to say that the general level of credibility is so compromised by the current tone of public discussion. The only sure premise is that when everyone lies, there is no source of public information that can be trusted.

In fine illustration of this point, a current Deseret News article quotes comments from BYU political science professor Darren Hawkins.

Hawkins believes Cheney has changed in the past four years from a moderate pragmatist to an extremist driven by the Iraq war and has appeared willing to do anything to create his version of a secure country.

Ironically, it is people like Hawkins that are the pivot of change. These fickle people started out as embracing the concept of opposing the sources of global terrorism, and have gradually transformed into caricatures of screaming anti-war protesters of the 60's.

Hawkins goes on to say of Cheney,
"He may be the most unpopular vice president in history and he may be the most unpopular person in America right now, so, yes, where else could he go?" Hawkins said. "It doesn't surprise me the White House called back and wondered if BYU would take him. I seriously doubt he'd be welcome at a lot of other universities."

What does popularity have to do with it? Are we now supposed to begin censoring speakers with unpopular causes?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Boy Scouts -- a great tradition

Fine article in today's Salt Lake Tribune. Boy Scouts collect tons of food results of the annual "Scouting for Food" drive in Utah this weekend.

In spite of occasional efforts to discredit and defame the reputation of the Boy Scouts of America, this organization continues to reflect the strongest belief in teaching high moral values to young people. It has long been plain to me that Scouting fills some of the most vital roles in perpetuating the ideals that make us strong and successful.