Tuesday, December 7, 2010

27% of Pastors Believe Glenn Beck is Christian

A national telephone survey of pastors conducted between October 7-14 reveals that 27% of pastors believe Glenn Beck to be Christian. Glenn shouldn't feel too bad. He did nearly ten points better than the antichrist herself, Oprah (19%).

There are a few ways to read this conclusion, most of them make me laugh. There is the odd chance that pastors don't know of Beck's religion. He doesn't bring up his Mormonism (unless you count his Skousen conspiracy fetish) every show. But I thought it was pretty common knowledge that he was LDS.

Assuming that people generally know of his faith, there are two readings of the data. First, there's a good chance that doctrinaire evangelicals refuse to admit that a man who proclaims to be Christian is Christian because he doesn't believe in an extra-biblical interpretation of God. Second, there is the chance that his ranting and raving, and willingness to compare anyone to the left of Rand Paul with Hitler or accuse them of anti-semitism (even if they are Jewish) has lead people to believe he could not be a true follower of Christ.

I'm going to guess they are the former more than the latter. But either way amuses me.

Trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians

From an interview with Paul McCartney August 24, 1966:

Reporter: I'd like to direct this question to messrs. Lennon and McCartney. In a recent article, Time magazine put down pop music. And they referred to Day Tripper as being about a prostitute.
Paul: Oh yeah.
Reporter: ...and "Norwegian Wood" as being about a lesbian.
Paul: Oh yeah.
Reporter: I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it, and what your feeling is about the Time magazine criticism of the music that is being written today.
Paul: We were just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, that's all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My proposals for net neutrality

Today FCC chairperson Julius Genachowski announced a proposed net neutrality provision. Net neutrality, for the uninitiated, is the proposition that internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast or RoadRunner can't block websites, emails, IMs, etc. that contain messages that they don't like. The Star Tribune is reporting that Comcast is blocking ads from a local ISP which criticizes Comcast's exorbitant rates. This would not be allowed under the net neutrality.

The FCC has tried to run net neutrality before. But was told by courts that it doesn't have specific power granted to it by Congress to do it on its own. So Congress must create a law for Genachowski's proposal to be anything more than nice ideas.

The rhetoric for net neutrality is persuasive. The fears of Comcast blocking emails or ads critical to it are sobering. But there is a fundamental problem with them: Comcast is a private entity.

As much as I hate Comcast and big business in general--and believe me, I do--they are a private "citizen." (or at least a private entity). It's like the government telling the people inside of Abercrombie that they have to allow American Eagle's ads into their stores. I would personally rather shop at Target, but I don't think the government should tell them to advertise for each other.

Net neutrality advocates would argue that there is a difference because you can simply go to another store in the mall, but you can't switch internet providers whenever you want. It takes a lot of time to switch and it's a pain in the butt. I'll agree with this, but I don't think the conclusion you draw is the need to force private actors to say or advertise for things they don't want to. I think there are a couple of things we can do to fight blocking.

First: trustbusting. When telecommunications was taken over by Bell, the FTC went after them. To the extent that there are no other market choices caused by monopolies or collusive behavior the FTC should take them down.

Second: transparency. Make ISPs note which websites they block. Make it public knowledge who they do business with. Much like the nutrition facts on food, this would let consumer know what goes into their net. Furthermore, if an ISP blocks they will be publicly accountable for their bad practices.

Third: public internet. To the extent that cities can provide low-cost internet, ISPs will be forced to compete. If there are good competitors to ISPs than they wont want to lose customers with controversial blocking.

Monday, November 29, 2010

RIP Leslie

Leslie Nielsen, star of the Airplane! films and the Naked Gun franchise, passed away in his sleep yesterday. Nielsen, 86, had been admitted to a hospital for pneumonia. In memory, here are some of his moments.

"Don't call me Shirley."

"We're all counting on you."

The Umpire Scene.

RIP Leslie

PS - for those of you wanting something melodramatic. Check out Airplane! A Melodrama. They have gutted out all the jokes from the film and created quite the thriller.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

Jack Smith, tea part member from Georgia on Obama's Muslim religion:
"He may do that. But I don't care. As long as he doesn't act on it."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The no-need-for-a-bucket-list list

Happy Valley fixture since the first Eisenhower administration, Joe Paterno, has indicated he intends to coach the Penn State Nittany Lions for at least another year. Coach Paterno is pushing 90, but still seems to have it in him. This brings me to a list I like to call the n0-need-for-a-bucket-list list. These are individuals who seem like they will never kick the bucket.

Some of these include:
  • Brett Favre - sure he's having a bad year this year, and may actually retire, but who's to say he wont be back in two years with a recuperated body and a grayer beard.
  • Sarah Palin - so she hasn't really been around that long, and she is still you, but it sure feels like she has been around too long. Time for you to take a bow.
  • Keith Richards - he's looked like skin draped over a skeleton since the mid-80s, in the mean time he has provided the creative impulse for Johnny Depp's captain Jack Sparrow, fallen out of a tree, admitted to snorting a dead man, put out several albums rehashing his bad work from the 70s, and toured the world several times.
  • Harry Reid - Hardini staved off political death, pulling his fractured political career out of a locked vault in the bottom of a lake in the Sierra Nevadas with a convincing win against Madame Maxine, er... Sharron Angle.
  • Paul Hyer - The man's an institution (and allegedly the third Nephite).
  • Lady Gaga - see Sarah Palin.
Those are just a few of those names. Who do you got?

Monday, November 22, 2010

BBC Mundo has got some crazy stories

I've been practicing my espanol skills reading the Spanish version of the BBC, BBC Mundo. And they got some sick stories.

The coolest one so far is of a sixty year-old robot. Straight dope.

Another story that caught my eye was of body fishers on the Yellow River. That's messed up.

And of course, my personal favorite: cheap cars and scooters putting burros out of business in Gaza. (Which includes the great quote "Esa maldita tuk-tuk [cheap car] se está matando nuestro negocio." Run that through Google Translate). Poor burro salesmen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our strengths can become our weaknesses

Just read a talk by Elder Dallin Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become our Weaknesses." It's a pretty good talks. A couple of quotes that I enjoyed (because they strengthened my biases, which is pretty ironic given the talk):
  • "It may be just as dangerous to exceed orthodoxy as it is to fall short of it."
  • "To wrest the words of a prophet to support a private agenda, political or financial or otherwise, is to try to manipulate the prophet, not to follow him." (I'll post more on this later).
Read it. It's good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why the Heat will not likely be the Yankees (and why Chris Bosh has disappeared )

I know that a Heat prediction post was all the rage from July-October and now it's past peak. This prophet has been prophesying their demise all along, but in the hustle of school, work, etc. this oracle hasn't committed his dire predictions to print until now.

Last night the Heat gave up 72 points in the second half and another 12 in overtime in route to coughing up a 22 point lead to the Jazz and suffering their first home loss, leaving the Heat with a surprising 5-3 record. The record comes as a surprise to many who predicted dominance from a team with 2 of the 5 best players in the league. The Heat seemed to be the NBA analog to the NY Yankees, whose all-world saturated lineup has contributed to a string of championships in the late '90s and strong performance throughout this decade.

But the NBA isn't the MLB. In baseball, offensive success is predominately complementary between teammates. But in basketball, touches and shots are competitive. To illustrate, if Derek Jeter leads off with a double, that's one more runner on base for Robinson Cano or Mark Texeira. If Jeter gets three hits in a night, that's enough to get an extra at-bat for the first three batters and more opportunities to pad their stats. There is no limit to the amount of at-bats per game.

In basketball, there are limited touches. The clock is always running on your team. Thus every shot taken by James is a shot not taken by Wade or Bosh. This is why Bosh has struggled so far. He has never had to compete for shots on the Raptors. Now he has become a distant third to James and Wade.

Evidence of a higher education bubble

The NY Times is running a story about for-profit universities (e.g. DeVry, Phoenix, and Kaplan). Recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office revealed that many of these schools promise unreal or blatantly false results. Undercover investigation found recruiters promising jobs with the CIA or FBI at $40,000-$50,000 a year for recent grads of Kaplan. Many former workers at the universities are policies focused on securing federal loans and grants targeting gullible students for degrees which wont pay off.

I really think that there is an education bubble. There are just too many degrees out there that don't get you anything. The article keys in on recruiters focusing on recruiting students with low self-esteem and difficulty living situations. A lot of the ads that I see locally focus on turning your life around. As someone who worked fulltime at a fast-food restaurant before I decided to go to college, I will attest that a degree really can change your standard of living. But you don't see the University of Minnesota ads sandwhiched between two personal injury ads promising cash after your car accident.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

...and I'm a Mormon

Not that that's a surprise to any of you.

My Mormon.org profile is finally up. I initially attempted to post my profile two months ago. I am unsure whether there were problems with the content of the profile--if so, I was never told so--or if it was just an administrative difficulty. Originally, I had selected the above for a profile pic:

I didn't write in every category--strangely, I didn't have enough to say. (When does that happen?). And the posting stalled for a bit.

The other night I got on, changed my profile pic, wrote in all the categories that appeared to be required and changed the tag from the bland "I'm Nate and I'm a Mormon" to "I'm a money-making player and I'm a Mormon."

Apropos of Mormon.org allowing me to use the moneymaker tagline, I assume the Church didn't spend a lot of time censoring the content. They just have heavy administrative burdens.

Anywho, feel free to peruse my profile. Here's the address: http://mormon.org/me/1SQ2-eng/

Monday, November 1, 2010

Poor Mitt...sort of...

Politico is reporting that once they get past Midterm elections--tomorrow--establishment GOP members will take some of their focus off of beheading President Obama and direct it towards the champion of hunters' rights to hunt wolves from a helicopter, Sarah Palin.

For an establishment Republican, this is a sensible move. As Politico reports, Palin's chief flaws--her divisive rhetoric and unscrupulous attention to policy detail (which sunk McCain's '08 bid)--haven't gone away. In fact, they remain. And they're the reason that Tea Partiers love her. However, moderates fed up with partisan rancor are not jumping on board in support of Sarah Barracuda.

That brings me to the title of this blurb: Mitt Romney. The two front runners for the 2012 nomination seem to be Mitt Romney and MN governor Tim Pawlenty. Romney's 2008 run was inhibited by 180-turns on hot button topics such as abortion and gay rights that distanced him from the far-right in the primaries and hesitancy by the religious right to rally around a Mormon candidate. (Huckabee famously capitalized on this fear when he misrepresented Mormon doctrines about Christ's "family members" in a NYT interview). Really, what can you do when conservative southerners can't rally around someone because he believes in a religion that shares all their values politically, but has different doctrine. Poor Mitt.

Mitt's past will likely hurt him again. Although abortion, religion, and value voting will always be strong points for the religious right, this year the party of no has a new universal opponent: full-coverage health care. The Party of No has made a pejorative out of Obamacare. Good luck trying to get around Romneycare, Mitt.

Truth be told, I think Mitt has some arguments on his side. The big issue, with some Conservatives, is about states' rights. Romneycare wasn't a nationalized plan. Point Mitt. But it had an individual mandate. Point opponents. Conservatives want tort reform. They blame high medical bills on malpractice suits. Prior injuries and patient screening mean nothing to them. Romney will probably lose the race on this point.

I doubt an obstructionist party which has spent all their energy rejecting any health care proposal besides tort reforms and generally any domestic policy other than keeping the Bush tax cuts, will be able to accept someone who administered a program so close to the enemy's. Leaving Mitt, once again, a victim of his past and a rigid right.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Putting my beard to good use

Who says good Mormons can't have facial hair. Salt Lake is holding auditions for cast members in LDS productions of famous New Testament stories.
Do you look like the Apostle James? Would that woman at the bank make a great Mary Magdalene? Does your co-worker remind you of a Roman soldier?
There are so many comments that I want to make about this, but I will let the quote speak for itself. The press release requires men to grow a beard. Check. However, it also asks for olive-to-brown coloring. Hello canned tan. All interested should give it a try. No idea when the deadline is. I will keep you posted on my application.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Congratulations Ole' Savior

With 99% of the Primary vote in, I would like to congratulate Ole' Savior, Minnesota's imminent political Messiah, on attracting over 4,000 votes in the Republic primary.

According to his official bio, Savior was inspired by Ronald Regan's campaign, although he is a lifelong DFL-er. He claims to have left the DFL Party recently (check out the 2010 DFL convention podium) on good terms.

Savior ran on a platform that included:
  • suing oil companies for increased gas prices
  • A new Vikings stadium to be financed 25% by the Vikings, 25% by NFL and 50% by "Racino" at Canterbury Downs
  • A balanced budget--but not at the expense of the elderly or existing entitlement programs
  • Opening the State Fair year round--like Disney Land
While criticisms of GOP front-runner Tom Emmer raged that he had not got a strong endorsement of gun-owners or church goers, Savior boasts the endorsements of John Dillion III, Kevin Shultz, and Lee Murphy, who may very well be gun-owning church goers.

No word remains on whether Savior and his Lt. Governor of choice, Todd "Elvis" Anderson, will fight to remain on the ballot in November despite their loss in the primary. Take your time to decide Ole'; as Elvis sang, only fools rush in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mystery Machine on Google Maps

Last night/ early this morning I got a bit impulsive (what are the odds) and started looking for pictures of the Mystery Machine van that used to drive around campus my Freshman year of College. I found two Mystery Machines in the Twin Cities. One (here here and in the warehouse district too) is too new and the wrong van to be the one that I saw around campus. I found another one that I think is it. It looks like the real deal.

There used to be this guy who looked like the 70 year-old ghost of shaggy driving that car. He was skinny, had a shaggy white goatee, and could have passed for a friend of William S. Burroughs. The two times that I saw him were probably the highlights of my Freshman year.

But I found something even better on my Mystery Machine search. Google Maps has captured the Mystery Machine. How sweet is that.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spanish-speaking RMs may save Utah from another SB1070

The Economist is reporting that Spanish-speaking RMs in the Utah Legislature may prevent Utah from going the way of Arizona. Here's to hoping...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dealing with ambiguity in the gospel

I just read a great talk on some of the complexities of discipleship. You should read it too. Simply amazing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An update and some thoughts on Tom Brock

The Associated Press is reporting that Brock will keep his job as a minister. Brock was placed on leave when the article came out but looks to return to his position after an internal investigation.

If Brock is cleared of the allegations, or the church is satisfied with his penitence, the only hurdle that remains is the parishioners' acceptance of him.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Assuming that he is in accordance with the church's rules, the big test will be on how tolerant the parishioners are. (Undoubtedly that will elicit snickers from some of my readers.) Although critics may say that the Christian adages of loving the sinner and hating the sin (or "love the gays, not their conduct") are just that: sayings; I believe that there are some Christians who truly believe. I hope the parishioners live what they believe and support Brock. It would be the Christian thing to do.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In defense of Tom Brock

Minneapolis magazine Lavender outed outspoken Hope Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock of Minneapolis in an expose in this month's issue. Brock is famous for comments he made last year blaming last summer's tornado on the ELCA's decision to allow actively homosexual pastors in a committed gay relationship to act as pastors.

The reporter attended confidential meetings of the gay Catholic equivalent of AA. There is no admission that he faked his way into the Gays Anonymous, but my guess is that he did. He reported on the general conduct of the group as well as Brock's struggles with his homosexuality. I would agree that Brock is somewhat of a hypocrite. But he is a hypocrite in the sense that those who believe Christians are commanded to be perfect, yet they all fall short every day--not in the sense that he lied to those around him for material gain. (His Church acknowledges that he had confessed his homosexuality to them).

Brock deserves some credit. Whether you agree with his belief that homosexuality is a sin, his strident criticisms of it, or not, he was attempting to live according to his beliefs. He didn't drag a wife into the mess. And he wasn't caught with meth. Furthermore, the only reason this got outed was because someone followed him into a confidential meeting in order to expose him. If someone hadn't violated trust and ethical codes, he wouldn't have been outed.

Although I may agree with his moral beliefs. The God-caused-the-tornado vitriol is laughable. However, I have sympathy for a man who seems like he was doing his best to be true to himself and his God.

For the Lavender article here.

For a criticism by an LGBT blog of the of the ethics of outing someone for information in an AA-type meeting here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Isn't it ironic.

It may be ironic that I like this. Meh.

A Point for John Mayer

As you may very well know, I dislike John Mayer. I think he wastes his talent on middle-of-the-road "adult contemporary alternative" shlock. In essence, he's a tool.

But I stumbled upon something that redeems him...a bit.

That beauty of a mug shot is from a 2001 arrest when Georgia police pulled Mr. Mayer over for speeding and driving without a license. The incident went un-reported (because no one cared about him in 2001) until 2009 when Mayer himself offered a reward for the fan who found the picture.

You are a massive tool, John Mayer, but kudos for being able to laugh at yourself.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Lovin'

Amidst classes, work and my intermittent blogging, I set a goal to record some music this summer.

I have probably made similar goals before--which I did not fulfill. Meh.

Really, regardless of whether I end up recording some of my electronic noodlings, I wanted to give a tour of my recording studio: the kitchen and laundry room of my two-bedroom apartment. The tour is replete with pictures of the amp, the three mics that I bought at Guitar Center 8 years ago on one of their weekly "SALE of the Year," and the used mixing board.

Don't you like the axe at the foot of the oven?

There you see the devastating combo of the mixing board and PC on the kitchen table. The laundry room provides a convenient showcase for the 30 Watt's second channel.

If you guys are good to me, maybe I will go through the spoken word and self-improvement records I am scouring for the hot sample of this summer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Religious Conservatives Should Like Elena Kagan

Although Solicitor General Elena Kagan's Senate Confirmation Hearings do not begin for another couple of weeks. The fellows at the Volokh Conspiracy have dug up an interesting memo she wrote in her days in the Clinton White House.

A California landlord had refused to rent to a homosexual citing religious beliefs. The California Court, applying a state nondiscrimination law, said that the Constitution did not provide a religious exception in this instance to the nondiscrimination law. Kagan's memo lambasts the Court's position that the landlord could always be employed in other manners (after she sold the houses!)

Much has been debated about the significance of the conservative professors hired by Harvard Law School during Kagan's tenure as dean. The consensus seems to be that Kagan, although an unabashed liberal, has sympathy for and a willingness to listen to conservative views. How much the sympathy and open ear will translate into conservative votes is uncertain, but this memo is evidence that it may mean more than we think.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Things that make me feel like a dork #47: Allergies

There is nothing that make me feel like more of a dork than having to constantly rub my nose and sneeze.

Sometimes I think that I can pull of being moderately cool, but the rubbing the nose squashes any success during allergy season. Am I alone in feeling the sting of an allergic assault on my hep?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My doppelganger

A year ago I found my doppelganger. His name is Nathaneal Read and he served in the Taibei, Taiwan Mission. Today I friended him and the craziness continued. His brother's name is Andrew! How bizarre. What are the odds! I wonder if Andrew will serve in a Swiss or French mission. That would be really odd.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Proposal for Intstant Replay

Jim Joyce blew it last night. But he had the cajones to admit it.

In what would have been the unprecedented third perfect game pitched this season, Joyce called Jason Donald safe on a close play at first. Donald hit a weak grounder to the right of first baseman Miguel Cabrera with two outs in the ninth. Cabrera fielded the ball and tossed it to the pitcher Armando Galarraga who replays show clearly beat Donald to the base.

Tigers manager Jimmy Leyland was furious. Cabrera gave Joyce a piece of his mind. Surprisingly, the only person not angry was Galarraga. He even laughed about the incident.

While most of the sports world lamented Joyce's call, I was fuming over another questionable call that ended the Twins game 2-1 last night in the 10th.

There should be some way for baseball to maintain the integrity of the game and improve calls. Come October, calls such as Phil Cuzzi's blunder in last year's Twins-Yankees series can change the momentum of the playoffs.

MLB currently allows for review of foul balls that may be home runs. Here are my suggestions for places where baseball should and shouldn't use instant replay.
  • Force outs. Particularly, close plays at first would benefit from instant replay reinforcement.
  • Third outs. Part of the problem with baseball is you can't just replay the down, but third outs the option is either the play continues or the inning is over.
  • Foul balls. These are easy calls to make. There is a line drawn on the ground. If it's out it's out, if it's in it's in.
However, I would not like to see balls and strikes called by a machine. I think any improvements in consistency would come at a heavy cost to the game.

I think there is a lot that can be gained from instant replay. In calls where there is a quick decision, having cameras to assist the umps makes it a game of skill not of chance. However, calls which may require more judgment such as determining whether a catch was made or whether a tag got there in time should be left to the umps. The idea is not to completely change the game, but improve the play.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Honor of P-Funk Coming to Town

The P-Funk and the Mothership Connection arrives at First Ave next Monday. In honor of George Clinton and his musical vision I decided to post one of my favorit Onion articles: Mothership Descends on Hootie Concert.

For those unacquainted with these purveyors of funky music, I would recommend going through the songs on Mothership Connection or any of their singles on Grooveshark or Youtube or whatever way you semi-legally listen to music online.

Tickets are $25 and last I heard the show has yet to sell out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Supreme Court on Twitter

Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court appeared before the House Judiciary Committee talking about tweeting. C-SPAN has the coverage.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fixing/abusing my camera

For almost a year my digital camera's LCD screen would go whitish-grey. This would happen on and off, and only on the photo and video settings--it would still show the Benq company logo when the thing turned on and it allowed me to look through previous photos.

I was mad worried that repairing the camera was going to cost me more than it was worth. I purchased the camera for $100 US in Taiwan five years ago and figured the technology is outdated by now. Tonight I looked online for any possible solution, knowing that I wasn't able to do any major electrical work. But if there was something simple to try at home before forking out the cash to fix it I would.

I stumbled upon a thread on a digital media repair website called "re: it actually worked!". The author of the thread had the same problem as I did. He claimed that he "held the camera in [his] left hand" and then flicked the lens with his right hand. I figured what the heck, it's pretty Office Space but what do I have to lose. So I flicked it. The lens made a clicking noise. And then the camera started working again. Who'd of thunk it.

Nate 1, Technology 0.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

physics is a stinking mind bender

I'm taking a course in electromagnetism because I'm considering practicing patent law. Let me tell you, this course is a mind bender. Learning about the magnetic waves that are all over and how they control everything, I start to get visions of what Howard Hughes felt like when he went through his germophobe phase.

Anyways, there are a lot of concepts that you just have to rap your head around--for example when an electric particle and a magnetic field collide they propel the object in a force that it perpendicular to both forces. WHAT ?!?!? where did you come up with that one Maxwell?

Anyways, I know this is a bit melodramatic and it's really not that bad. But sometimes I like to cry in public.

My thoughts on Obama's nominee

Yesterday it was announced that President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Associate Justice John Paul Stevens' spot on the Supreme Court when he retires after this term. Kagan's nomination comes as no real surprise; she was on the short list of candidates that Obama had reportedly considered and comes with strong credentials.

I had hoped DC Court of Appeals judge and judicial moderate Merrick Garland would be nominated, but Solicitor Kagan will be fine. She has strong academic credentials. She has taught at some of the top law schools in the nation. She clerked for Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. As the Dean of Harvard Law School she scored points with the conservatives by supporting conservative law professors and speaking at a forum of the Federalist Society, a group of mainly conservative and libertarian legal scholars.

There will be accusations at her confirmation hearings that she is part of the Ivory Tower elite and out of touch with reality. People will point that aside from a stint in the Clinton administration and her current position she has never practiced law. Others will point out that she lost the Citizens United case (a recent SCOTUS case which held that corporations have political speech rights) to former Solicitor General Ted Olson. A lot of conservative Senators will spout off about her positions on abortion and not vote for her. But she has not written a lot of controversial articles. There is not too much dirt on her. And ultimately, the Dems rule Congress now and she should be easily nominated.

In the end I don't think that Kagan's nomination will do much to affect the Court. She is generally a liberal who is replacing a liberal. The Court is still the Roberts-Kennedy court, run by the conservative base of the Court. Kennedy will still probably vote for the conservative sides more often then not. If Kagan were to replace a conservative or Kennedy, that would be another story.

Kagan is well-qualified for the job and in most ways is a typical liberal judge. Her track record at HLS shows that she may be more sympathetic to conservative views than some of the other members on the Court, but she will vote liberal more often than not. Because she is a liberal judge replacing another liberal judge, I don't think that her nomination will have a strong immediate effect.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tim James' "Common Sense" Proposal

If I have had the chance to talk to you over the last couple of weeks, odds are that I have shared this dandy of a campaign promise. Yes, I have been smitten with ironic Tim James fever. But can you blame me? The man is a walking, campaigning punch line.

The ad is a liberal's dream come true. James plays into many of the stereotypes that liberals have about southern conservatives. His thick southern drawl, pandering to xenophobic voters, condescending delivery, and emotional appeal to "common business sense" all are stereotypes mocked by liberals and news satire like SNL and the Onion.

But James is tapping into more than just stereotypes about southern Conservatives. In 1990, Alabama voted on a Constitutional amendment establishing English as the only official language of Alabama. The good citizens of Alabama voted overwhelmingly in favor--it received 88% of the vote. However those pesky lawyers intervened and a series of lawsuits ensued culminating in a 1998 US Supreme Court case ruling that only the Alabama Governor could determine whether or not to make languages available in English only.

However, Governor Bob Riley chose not to do this. Concerns over Federal transportation funds conditioned on multi-lingual drivers exams funds derailed the application of the Constitutional amendment.

So it does appear that, if elected, James could easily make the executive decision to use English-only exams. But it would probably cost Alabama Federal funding. As a business man, does that make sense?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Messersmith at the Cedar Cultural Center (file under chamber pop)

I had a chance to see local Jeremy Messermith play a packed show at the Cedar Cultural Center tonight. In case anyone wondered about the influences on Jeremy Messersmith's new album The Reluctant Graveyard, those questions were answered by the replica-McCartney bass and an encore performance of "Nowhere Man."

The new albums contains some of his strongest work. Always the able songsmith, this installment finds him scoring a string quartet and horns as well as the traditional guitar/bass/drums/piano model. The string sounded their finest on "John the Determinist," this album's Elanor Rigby. The live quartet brought out a depth and fullness of sound which I the album didn't fully capture. Other standout performances included "Franklin Ave" and "Lazy Bones."

Messermith seems to have reached a steady following. The crowd nervously sang along to the choruses of fan favorites "Novocaine" and "Great Times" and Jeremy was called back on stage for an encore (the first time that I saw him called for one).

Messermith started the set with "Novocaine." He played material from all three of his LPs and finished the set with an acoustic rendition of "Miracles."

Messersmith kicks off his 12 gig May tour tomorrow in Sioux Falls. If you are interested in his music check out his website. He has listings for his shows, streams all three albums and lets you download them at a price that you choose.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Franky's Back! Twins Win!

The Twins clobbered the Cleveland Indians today, pounding out twenty hits en route to an 8-3 victory this afternoon. Although his three runs raised his ERA to 1.50, Fransisco "Franchiso" Liriano pitched seven strong innings, striking out 9, to get the W.

After sitting out the 2007 season with Tommy Johns surgery and a disappointing years in 2008 and 2009 which saw him splitting time between the majors and AAA, Frankie has returned to the form that made him a contender for the 2006 Cy Young and rookie of the year.

Liriano's high-90s fastball and devastating slider make him the only real power pitcher in the Twins' rotation. He has been the surprise of the Twins starters as Opening Day Starter Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, both sinkerballers, have struggled to keep the ball low at times and have let a lot of pitches end up in the left field bleachers.

Although he shows no signs of waring down, Liriano has never opened thirty games a season. If the Twins are to make it past the first round of the playoffs, they will need Liriano to continue his dominance throughout the summer and down the stretch.

An interesting note of Twins trivia, many of you may know this, Franchiso came to the Twins as a minor-leaguer from the Giants as well as all-world closer Joe Nathan and erstwhile starter Boof Bonser in exchange for half of a season of A.J. Pierzinski's catching and hitting services. This is just part of the Twins' long history of stealing through trades. See generally the demise of Chuck Knoblauch vs. Eric Milton/Christian Guzman or Carlos Gomez vs. J.J. Hardy.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Constitutional challenges to the immigration bill

Several lawsuits have been filed against the Arizona immigration law. two Constitutional claims arise amidst these challenges: a weak equal protection challenge and a stronger preemption challenge. I'll start with the equal protection challenge.

One of the most criticized clause of the bills is the command in Section II that law enforcement officials must verify a person's immigration status when the officer reasonably suspects "that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States." The law bars law enforcement from relying on illegal factors such as race, color, or ethnicity; but how many white guys are they going to pull over trying to thwart massive Canadian invasion of Arizona? Although the law prohibits racial profiling, you wonder unless the individual confesses that they are from another country how they would "reasonably suspect" they were unlawful occupants.

Under current law, a discriminatory effect is not sufficient for an equal protection claim. One must prove that the law has discriminatory intent. This might be tricky. It is hard to say on the face of the law that it is specifically directed towards racial minorities. It does have that provision prohibiting racial profiling. However, the argument can be made that without real guidance on what one should be suspicious of, it tacitly condones racial profiling. Unfortunately, I don't think this is a winning argument. It would strike down an awful lot of immigration laws because most tacitly discriminate against minorities.

The second claim is the preemption claim. The argument is that the Constitution vest all immigration and naturalization rulemaking in the hands of Congress. Due to the Supremacy Clause--that the Constitutional laws are the supreme laws of the land, the federal laws supersede any state laws.

University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor and author of the bill Kris Kobach rejects this argument. He argues that the bill is an enforcement bill--that it doesn't create any new legal standards, the role of Congress, but rather empowers Arizona law officials to enforce Congress' standards. Apparently this strategy has worked with other immigration bills that he has worked on.

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, author of everybody's favorite con law book, contends that there is still a preemption violation with the Executive. Preemption analysis for enforcement of bills generally remains in the federal government unless Congress expressly says otherwise. I am not too familiar with the immigration code, but I have not heard of Congress delegating the responsibilities to the States. Assuming this is so, there is a decent chance that the federal government has a case. Courts never like to strike down laws and a conservative Court may be leery of violating state sovereignty, but that violation is at the root of preemption analysis and at the heart of the our Constitutional government.

Here's to hoping that one of these works!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Howard gets $125 million

Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies signed a 5-year $125 million contract extension today.

I assume that Philly was thinking that in two years, when the extension goes into effect, salaries will have gone up and that this will be under what he could command in two years. He does have an MVP under his belt and wallops homeruns like few other; but he's a below average fielder at a position that's a dime a dozen and he's a strike out machine.

The Phils may have cornered themselves into this when they re-signed him a couple of years ago and agreed to pay him $19 million this; and maybe this is a fair value compared to other players of his status; but he's not a Mauer and he's not a Pujols and I think he'll be laughing to the bank for another 7 years.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's a moderate Republican's Congress, but who will cross party lines ?

After the tragic Massachusetts run-off election, this has become a moderate Republican's Congress. Because the Dems' 59-seat majority falls one vote short of the 60-vote super majority needed to beat a filibuster, an opportunistic moderate could step in and write a lot of the legislation that they like until next January when the mid-term electees are seated. Senator Graham has shown some promise of coming over to the dark side of bi-partisanship.

However, given the Senator McCain's recent trouble with the emerging far-right, having to recant his "maverick" title, it's unlikely that a Senator will take advantage of the chance to play the Anthony Kennedy of the Senate for fear of getting sacked by Palin's ilk in the GOP primaries.

It will be interesting to see how the Tea Party movement influences opportunistic moderates as Congress works on hot button bills for immigration, financial reform, climate change and the nomination of Justice Steven's replacement before the Fall elections.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My long, continuing conversion from Calvanism

A couple of weeks ago I gave the Elders Quorum lesson on the spirit of optimism which runs through the Gospel. I get to teach about once every four months on a topic of my choice. I felt that given the hardships with the economic downturn and the trials that we all inevitably face, it was particularly appropriate.

The gist of my lesson was this: yes it's going to be hard; there will be trials, and shortcomings, and delays; but the message of the gospel is that in the end, if you do your best, the Atonement of Christ is sufficient for all of us and things will work out. I'm not exactly sure if the lesson resonated with anyone else, but I have been impressed by some of the lessons that I learned as the Spirit has testified of some of those truths to me in the following weeks. I call it my continuing conversion from Calvinism.

There are a lot of scriptures which I believe illustrate needs for diligence as well as the Atonement. I like 2 Nephi 25:23, "for it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do."

I tend to focus on the "all that we can do," more than the "by grace," my Calvinist tendencies. There are legitimate reasons to focus on what we can do. We can control what we do. Although Christ is bound when we obey, generally I don't feel that I control how Christ acts. However, focusing solely on my responsibilities is an incomplete accounting of the Heavenly calculus. Atoning grace, ultimately, is what will complete the plan.

This is something that I know. As a missionary I taught these truths ever day of my mission. But it's not always something that I act on or believe. Someone who truly believes that everything will work out should be have an abiding optimism and hope. I'm kind of a cynic.

And not that an optimist can't think critically, but personally it seems like sometimes skepticism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and something that I should avoid.

The other main idea that has been running though my head is the appropriate level of worrying. Again, it's good to be realistic, but if you spend your whole time wondering "can I hack it," chances are the answer is no, because you spent too much time thinking when you should have been acting. So again, the take-home message for me is to stop overthinking and start acting.

It's a long, complex balancing act: balancing the work/faith, diligence/grace calculus. I have been shocked at how often the message of the gospel, albeit it is you must work hard, it is that things will work out and stop freaking out so much. It's been pretty refreshing realizing that.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Denny's and the Tea Party Movent

It's 12:30AM, an hour and a half past my bedtime. But I saw a Denny's ad (video link is forthcoming) set to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and thought about a recent patriotic meeting hosted by the Minneapolis Convention Center. So I figured I would churn out a quickie on the Tea Party.

My thoughts on the Denny's ad: I wonder if they are trying to capitalize on the Tea Party movement. My guess is that they are. There is seasonal reason to tap into patriotic fervor. Presidents Day is past, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are months away. There must be some other reason...(this is where I once again reveal my liberal snobbery).

I think Denny's knows their demographic. I think that they know a lot of the people who go out to Denny's are probably pretty sympathetic to Palin's ilk. The ad portrays some common man finding cheap "American" deals on breakfast meals. It's a complete appeal to Tea Party-style prurience. It has to be.

Speaking of the Tea Party...I'm I the only person who thinks about the Jacobean reign of terror in A Tale of Two Cities every time that I hear about a protest? It's not just the herd/mob-mentality which Dickens portrayed that reminds me of them, but the emphasis on being "patriots." I swear, all I can hear in my head is Madame DeFarge saying "I say, Jacques" or "good day, fellow patriot." Certainly I can't be alone.

And about that Tea Party...I promise this is the last point: I found a favorite Tea Party group: the delightful Anger is Brewing. I had heard a rumor that the Tea Party is going to run a third-party candidate against Harry Reid and whoever the GOP fields. It turns out it is true. A Romanian named Scott Ashjian claims that he will run on the Tea Part platform, much to the chagrin of the populists at Tea Party National). When searching the TP's web page I came across the group.

AIB is a small, Nevada TP group that proclaims there are only two motivations: anger and fear. Fortunately for the TPers, they're not afraid. (Gwahaha.) I know this is probably a fringe group within a "semi"-radical right-wing fringe, but you wonder where the news media might get ideas about violence within the TP movement.

That's enough of my liberal snobbery...for now.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mortgage rates

For the last couple of weeks I have been looking into buying a house. The government is giving away $8,000 for first-time home owners who sign a contract by the end of April and close by the end of June. But I'm not sure how much of a reality that is--the question is can I pay off a mortgage based on student loans. (The answer is probably not now).

Although I was looking to see if I could get something done with the tax-credit, a consumerist article points out that the buyers' market is likely to continue for a while. Many homes that were unable to sell during the tax credit, when many customers were given $8,000 down free of charge, will go down in price as the tax credit expires. So I will continue to look for houses as long as the bull market continues.

I spoke with a representative for a big bank today about securing a mortgage. He quoted me around 4.25% for 15-year and around 5% for a 30-year with closing costs. The rep pressed hiking up my rate to 6% for the 30-year to cover closing costs (about $3,000). That hike would increase my expected mortgage payments by $7,000 every year. They would break even on covering closing costs within six months! What a scam.

Well that's all that I got for now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google and the Emperor, cont'd...

Google has yet to make a decision regard its January 12 announcement that it will no longer self-censor its Chinese search engine Google.cn and the Chinese government has been quiet on its plans.

China, as conditions for allowing Chinese citizens to use its website, required Google and other search engines to self-censor such hot button political topics as Tiananmen or FalunGong.

CNN money reported that it was finally leaked that some government officials had spoken with Google, but they remained hushed about the terms of any talks.

The silence has lead many to believe that China will not negotiate and force Google to either re-neg or pack up its Chinese operations.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

China and Google cont'd

I just ran across a link to a great analysis of Google's political and economic incentives to pull out of China. The article is written by doctoral candidate Rogier Creemers who is writing his dissertation on Chinese media and copyright law. Check it out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Favorite love songs part I

I decided I would post a list of my 50 favorite love songs. My decision was based mainly on how much I liked the ideas they conveyed and how well they conveyed those ideas. What I found is that no one makes being in love sound more fun than the four lads from Liverpool.

Before I get into the countdown, there are some songs that were considered but didn't make the cut.

Got to Get You Into My Life
- Joe Pesci

This Beatles classic (which Sir Paul admits is partially based on his desire to start smoking pot), was murdered by Joe Pesci. It really ruins any kind of feeling that the original had.

Surprisingly with a countdown which is saturated with Beatles tunes, there were several Beatles tracks that didn't make the list:

Here There and Everywhere - it's a sweet song, but it's not one of Harrison's most compelling songs.

I Will - another sweet, simple love song. Compared with the masterpieces on the list by the Fab Four I couldn't justify including it.

Superstar - Sonic Youth

Another cover that takes an original to another realm. Thurston Moore transfers this saccharine 70's AM-radio favorite into an exercise in desperation and despair.

Art School Girl - Stone Temple Pilots

For all those art school girls out there.

Age of Consent
- New Order

Deserves mentioning for it's catchy up-tempo beat and the defiant chorus "I'm not the kind of guy who needs to tell you just what you want me to." My thoughts exactly.

Be My Wife - David Bowie

One of Bowie's quirky love songs allegedly written to persuade his then-wife to stay with him. She didn't, and I'm not sure if I blame her.

Drain You - Nirvana

Cobain's only real attempt at a love song aside from About a Girl.

Loving Cup - the Rolling Stones

Jagger shows his tender side on this Exile cut.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google talks with Chinese government

Google has entered into discussions with China regarding censorship requirements for their Chinese search engine, Google.cn. Google initially agreed in 2006 to allow the Chinese government to censor its searches with the promise that should Chinese restrictions substantially clash with Google's vision of disseminating information, they would reconsider their agreement. On its official blog Google has announced that although China has not increased legal pressure, recent attempts to hack into the Gmail accounts of several prominent Chinese human rights advocates has it reconsidering their policy.

Google reports that hackers recently broke into the Gmail accounts of several Chinese human rights advocates living outside the country. Google believes that the attacks were mainly thwarted, however subject lines and creation dates from a couple of accounts may have been stolen. It also alleges that these hackers targeted other internet sights including finance, Internet, media, and chemical businesses using malware downloaded onto the users' computers.

Google decided that the attempted-hacks compromise their company vision of promoting human rights and will discuss these matters with China.

Google's talks marks only one of many debates about internet censorship in China. This summer China considered requiring the censoring software Green Dam on all computers. After significant controversy and opposition from scholars and intellectuals China changed course.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Invictus and nationalism

Today I went to see Invictus with the fam. My brother is heading back to the Y tomorrow so we went as a family--sans one of my rebellious brothers-- to watch Invictus. Andy, the brother who is leaving, is a big sports fan; so I assume we chose it partly because of his tastes.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I thought Morgan Freeman did a great job portraying Nelson Mandela and the subject--overcoming racism-- is something that is always touching and inspiring. Although at times I thought the music was a bit saccharine and the last ten minutes of the crucial rugby match are all in slow motion. (10 minutes of slow motion grunting and growling gets a bit annoying).

I found my self slipping into collegiate literary analysis mode at times about the nationalistic themes in the film. Nationalism is basically the belief that a nation, whether it be the U.S., South Africa, or China, has some distinct characteristic which it is based upon. Oftentimes you see nationalist sentiment rears its head in the form of ethnic nationalism--e.g. Slavic Yougoslavia-- but it can also appear as civic nationalism such as the belief the Founding Fathers had about a nation where all men are created equal and so forth.

I have conflicted views of nationalism. I see the benefit that it has in establishing higher civic codes like with our Constitution (and Nelson Mandela's nationalism in the film). But I also dislike how often nationalism becomes something that divides us. I happen to think that a person is still a person whether they are born in America or China or even Canadia [sic]; and to create artificial boundaries because of borders is harmful to collaboration between peoples.

In American political discourse, it seems the right uses stronger nationalistic discourse. I am not a huge of fan of the 'Mericah, love it or leave it, statements. I prefer some form of collaboration with the rest of the world. But that is me.

However, (back to my original point), I really enjoyed Mandela's take on nationalism. Here Mandela had been elected as the president of South Africa after apartheid was overturned and blacks finally allowed the vote. Instead of retaliating eye for an eye, he took the higher ground. Inspired by a vision of South Africa where everyone was equal he refused to use political power and to strike back at the white minority who used to rule the black majority.

So in the words of Jesse Jackson (and now Harry Reid), my take home message is "can't we all just get along?"