Pollution Revisited

Have you heard about the plan China has been using to lower its air pollution prior to the Olympic games?

They have been implementing restricted driving, allowing people with plates whose last number is even to drive one day, people whose last number is odd to drive the next. In addition, they've curtailed some factory production to cut pollution.

While I am ecstatic that the officials in China are doing this in an attempt to lower air pollution so that the number of athletes competing while wearing face masks is at a minimum, I'm also a bit astounded they haven't been doing this all along. I mean, as terrible as it is to see a bunch of athletes developing asthma because they're competing in an area with dirty air, its also terrible that there are MILLIONS of people who breathe in this air year round, when both even and odd licence plates are allowed to drive on the roads.

While I'm not the biggest fanatic about global warming and I have room for improvement when it comes to sorting garbage from recycling, I do believe pollution is something that everyone should be wary of and do something to limit. Even if you can't do everything that is recommended you can do something, and something is better than nothing.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world, both in size and population. Many believe it will emerge as the new global powerhouse in #?# years. I'm glad that America is pushing the stop pollution/littering agenda with its own citizens, but China and India are huge contributors to global pollution as well, and it is discouraging to see what little is being done there.

Well, I mentioned littering. I have heard that the big cities in China are immaculately clean, so I have to give them credence for that. I have heard that there are little old men on bicycles that go up and down the streets, and as soon as they see some litter they sweep it into a bin on the back of their bikes. San Francisco could DEFINITELY learn from that example. So go China for that. Not only are your streets clean, but you've created jobs and pushed back the retirement age. Go you.

On the other hand though, the sheer number of inhabitants, many of whom smoke and drive and probably use aerosol hair spray is enormous. I think China has some responsibility to set a global example here and implement some pollution cut-back policies for the sake of its citizens. I'm not sure what they can do without losing money for decreased production of Made in China stickers, but even if it is only to continue the even/odd driving days...well, at least that is something.


Parental Rights

Last week, I read this story about a Canadian woman who lost custody of her children over her racist beliefs. She sent her 7 year old daughter to school with a swastika drawn on her arm. The second time it happened, Child and Family Services came to her home, saw Neo-Nazi symbols and flags, and took the children. That was four months ago, and the state still has custody of the children.

Now, I am not a racist. I definitely DO NOT agree with this woman's "politics, [her] beliefs", as she calls them. However, I also find it hard to believe that her children could be taken away from her FOR her beliefs.

We also saw this in the FLDS case. The children were taken away because the sheriff in the town was looking for an excuse to raid the compound. Texas Child Protective Services got what they thought was an excuse, took all of the children away for a few months, and then had to give them back because they couldn't prove the children were in imminent danger. According to the ruling of the Texas Court of Appeals,

Nor did the Department offer any evidence that any of Relator's pubescent female children were in physical danger other than that those children live at the ranch among a group of people who have a "pervasive system of belief" that condones polygamous marriage and underage females having children. The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the Department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger.
Essentially, the children were taken away because of their parents' beliefs. And some people think the state should still have custody of the children!

All of this frightens me. Of course I don't have any weird or hateful beliefs, but a lot of uninformed people think weird things about Mormon beliefs. Who decides what beliefs are acceptable and what beliefs are not?

In 2002, the Swedish parliament included references to sexual orientation in a list of groups protected against persecution in the form of threat or disdain. In 2003, Pentecostal Christian Pastor Ake Green delivered a sermon on homosexuality. As a result, a local member of an LGBT equal rights organization reported him to the police, and he was sentenced to one month in jail under Sweden's law against "hate speech" (he was later acquitted).

Lesser known is another case in Sweden in 2005 where Leif Liljestrom, administrator of a Christian website called Bibeltemplet (The Bible Temple) was sentenced to two months in prison for holding and expressing critical views of homosexuality. He was recently acquitted of all charges.

In 2006, Christian Vanneste, a member of the French Parliament was fined the equivalent of US$4000 under France's "hate speech" law for remarks opposing homosexuality.

Canada, Sweden and France are among the most "progressive" countries in the world.

U.S. Lawmakers are considering H.R. 1592, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity as federally protected groups under hate crimes legislation. Given the "progressive" trends in America, is the following scenario feasible?

A church (LDS?) teaches that homosexual activity is a sin. A member of that church (me?) teaches my own children the same thing in my home. Someone else who disagrees with me and this belief reports my teachings to Child Protective Services, who take away my children because of my "hateful" beliefs - maybe not permanantly, but just long enough to "send a message" to other parents who are considering teaching the same thing to their children.

Is it possible? And if so, would you find it acceptable?


veep stakes, part 2

Here, in all their glory, are Rogan's Rankings for Barack Obama's vice-presidential options. (Note - I disabled comments for this post, let's put the discussion for both candidates together in the prior comment thread)

Barack Obama

Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana
This guy is kind of angling for the job. He has executive experience as governor, where he had a reputation for doing good work with the state budget. I dunno. I guess he'd be ok. He's from Indiana. He kinda bores me and I don't really have anything to say about him, but I also know he's on the short list... anyone know anything about this guy? B

Wesley Clark, retired U.S. General
This guy shores up Obama's perceived weakness on national security with experience that is basically beyond reproach. But, wait... what? "I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president," he said. That's not Obama-style politics. Plus he has had NO success as a campaigner. B-

Hillary Clinton, senator from New York
She has supporters - a lot of them, some of whom will vote McCain if Obama doesn't pick her. So we have our big group of Hillary supporters and our big group of undecided swing voters. If Obama doesn't pick Clinton, I figure the Hillary supporters still go for him 70+%, especially if he picks someone palatable to them, and the undecideds - let's say 50-50 with McCain. If Obama does pick Clinton, then your Hillary supporters go for him en masse - and your undecideds go largely to McCain. She is not well-liked outside of her rabid base, enough so that I imagine Obama would actually lose some Dems who just can't stand her. Long story short, she's a net voter loss waiting to happen. D

John Edwards, former senator from North Carolina
Like Lieberman, has a previous VP strikeout, but I blame that largely on the great blah-ness that is John Kerry (how did that ever happen, by the way?). He's likable, passionate, from the South, and fits well with Obama's change message. If not VP, then a great choice for Attorney General. A-

Chuck Hagel, senator from Nebraska
There's been a lot of talk about this possibility, since what screams "change" more than a Republican VP under a Democratic president? And if the war was the only issue (Hagel's been a very vocal critic), I'd say let's go for it. But there are a whole lot more issues out there, and not a lot of agreement between Obama and Hagel. While he'd certainly help the ticket pick up swing voters, he'd be a great risk to alienate Obama's liberal core. How about Secretary of Defense, Chuck? Let's limit him to the issues he's right about. C

Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia
Ooh, Virginia, shiny... Obama wants it, and Kaine could deliver it. He was one of the earliest national pols to declare for Obama, he's young, popular, a smart campaigner, and perhaps most importantly, popular with white rural voters. On the other hand, he doesn't do anything to shore up Obama's experience issues, he's not strong on the economy, and he's not going to make abortion-rights advocates happy. B-

Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona
Well, she certainly puts Arizona in play! (And New Mexico, and Colorado...) Napolitano is certainly popular around here, although some recent budget problems may have tarnished that. Her gender is an asset, she has great executive experience, excellent work on immigration and education issues, and her demeanor would lend a needed practicality to the lofty words and ideas of the Obama campaign. I'm biased, because I like her, but I'm not seeing many cons. A-

Sam Nunn, former senator from Georgia
Experience - yeah, he's got experience, the guy's 70 and was a senator for 20+ years. He brings strong national security credentials, as well as popularity in the South. He's also quite a bit more moderate than Obama - and, as we all know, candidates head for the fringes during primary season and speed for the center as the election approaches. He's been out of the Senate for some time, but keeping busy. One problem is that he's not popular with the gay community ("don't ask, don't tell" is his baby), but I can't envision a gay exodus to McCain. I think this is the guy we need... A

Bill Richardson, governor from New Mexico
...unless this is the guy we need. Obama has a Hispanic problem, and picking Richardson would go a good long way towards bridging the gap. He has a lot of national experience, including a run as Secretary of Energy, and a lot of foreign policy experience, especially with hostile governments. He's a very popular governor, and with good reason. I actually preferred Richardson to Obama for the presidential nomination, and don't see how Obama could go wrong with this pick. A

Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas
She's been a serious reformer in Kansas who has accomplished a lot of good things for their government and economy. She got some national exposure by doing the Democratic response to the State of the Union (which I enjoyed, though many found it dull). Obama has expressed serious admiration for her. As a Dem governor in a red state, she's developed a reputation for reaching across the aisle. But Kansas? Besides the gender card, she doesn't bring much by way of electoral votes. B+

Honorable mention: Russ Feingold! I wish!

To sum up: I hate that I have to spend so much time talking about these candidates' race and gender, but that's the reality of our current political culture. I think Obama's race gives him an advantage, at least as far as the appearance of "out-with-the-old", that McCain may feel obligated to counteract with Palin or Jindal (note - I mean like the old guard, not the old-age McCain!). Long story short, I think McCain has a lot of ground to make up if he's going to beat Obama. A number of these candidates provide a very tough-to-beat ticket, with Obama/Nunn and Obama/Richardson being the best. McCain/Palin, I think, is his best bet. The wildcards - the ones that are hardest to really "rank" - are Obama/Clinton and McCain/Romney. I have my opinions, but I'm not sure I really trust my predictions about how the electorate would respond to these tickets. If I had to guess who they're picking, I think McCain will go with Crist or Giuliani and Obama will go with Richardson or Kaine.

Comment on this post


veep stakes

While the polls seem to indicate Obama with a decent lead in the polls, I've talked to a number of people who are on the fence, waiting to see who the nominees choose as their running mates - who knows, it could make or break a candidacy this year. So today, let me share Rogan's Rankings of the top twenty VP possibilities - starting with the Republicans.

John McCain

Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi
He's got the real conservative credentials that McCain lacks, so he might energize the base, but he wouldn't particularly appeal to independents and undecided. Plus, Mississippi's already going for the Republican. However, he served as RNC chair from '93-'97, when the Republicans captured the House and the Senate, and gained national attention for his masterly handling of Hurricane Katrina. C+

Charlie Crist, governor of Florida
Crist delivered the Florida primary for McCain, so many think that Mac "owes him one". Of course, the one could be an attorney generalship or something. Florida is such a key state, and Crist's popularity there could be a big help. I hate to see someone so obviously pandering for the job, though. B

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City
Nationally well-known, and moderate enough on social issues to attract a number of swing voters. His biggest weakness in the primaries was the management of his campaign, which would no longer be a problem. The biggest problem is that his greatest strength, national security, matches McCain, but you could make the argument that national security is McCain's only ticket to the White House. B+

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas
BLECH. Brings zero swing voters, brings only states that are in the bag for Mac, only popular with the evangelical portion of the conservative base, and just leaves a foul taste in the mouth. F

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
At age 36, brings much-needed youth to the ticket. He's also the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history. Like Barbour, Jindal has serious conservative credentials. He may not want to hitch his wagon to the McCain train, though, since he's got the potential to be the Barack Obama of the 2012 or 2016 Republican party. But if McCain could get him... A-

Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut
Well, "Joe-mentum" already has experience running for VPOTUS - failed experience. He's a Democrat, sort of, and he's Jewish, and he's got the whole "maverick" thing kinda working for him. On the other hand, like Giuliani, he's really only strong on foreign policy. Unlike Rudy, he's not particularly popular. B-

Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska
Quite a few disgruntled Hillary supporters have the potential to go over to McCain, and Palin could seriously help in that regard. Immensely popular in her home state, she's young, a strong conservative who has truly lived her pro-life credentials (she has a child with Down's syndrome). Her one problem that I see is her relative inexperience (she's only been governor since 2006) but who's going to call her on that? Barack Obama? Pssh. A

Colin Powell, former Secretary of State
Would have been the best choice in 2000, but he's a little aged now, plus he's got Bush tarnish on him, and again, he's all national security. On the other hand, he's always been intensely popular, and he's a strong moderate who appeals to the swing vote. B

Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State
Quite popular with conservatives, got the minority/female thing all covered, but she has even more Bush tarnish on her than Powell does. McCain has got to run, run, run away from all things W. She's strong on national security but I don't really know much about her other policies. Plus she's always indicated her disinterest in running for elected office. B-

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts
"It's the economy, stupid." Whether or not you agree with his policies, Romney brings the strongest economic credentials to the table, which, as things get worse, could actually give him some swing voter appeal - he's definitely lacking in that area. I didn't think his Mormonism particulary hurt him in the primaries, and wouldn't be a general election factor. Sure seemed like he and McCain hated each other in the primaries, though, and if McCain can't get it done in '08, Romney is in prime position for '12, when regardless of presidential policies, the economy may well still be struggling. By then his flip-flopper reputation may have waned a bit if he sticks to his new conservative guns. B+

Honorable mention: Tim Pawlenty, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn

I'll do Obama's tonight or tomorrow.



Race and ethnicity are funny things. Not funny in the comical sense, of course.

Some people who refer to themselves are "mixies" might identify with their father's race, or their mother's race but not both. Other people refuse to check the box stating Caucasian, pacific-islander, Asian, Native American, whathaveyou because they say that they are not simply one race and there isn't a box available to check Euro-Caucasian-Asian-Caribbean-African-American.

Personally, I don't blame them.

I think it is interesting how certain races are stereotyped to the point of exhaustion, yet nothing is really being done to end this. For example, if you're a black american there is a huge chance that people will look at you and assume you're better at basketball than a white kid the same age. Obviously there are enough people who happen to be African American or Caribbean American who are extremely talented at basketball to see where this stereotype comes from. But every single kid? C'mon. And yet many people make this common assumption. Conversely, there are a lot of black Americans who see a black man make a successful life doing business or law and they assume that this person has sold out to White Culture. What??

On a related note, did you know that Jin and Sun's relationship in LOST is the first time that an Asian couple's relationship has been explored on American television and the show has been popular? Why is this? Aren't Asians an integral part of American community? Why aren't there more television shows with Asian families starring as the core subject? I was talking to one of my good friends who happens to be American Chinese, and we were talking about this subject. Her entire attitude caught me by surprise. I said something about how I thought it would be interesting to see all the Asian innuendos on tv and how it would be interesting to see an Asian become prominent in politics, say President or VP someday. She said "Are you kidding me? There is no way there will ever be an Asian president of America." I asked why not. She said "Asians might be good at music and math and some are good at business, but no one would take an Asian politician seriously. No one would vote for him. Asians wouldn't vote for him. Look around---how many Asians do you see in politics right now? How many Asian sitcoms are there? There is usually one Asian and one Latino to make all the white and black people look politically correct."

Also, I get tired of people being scared of Muslims and anyone from the middle east. One of my favorite college professors here in California is Iranian, and he is awesome. Such a cute old man. Yet he even admitted to me at the end of the semester that he doesn't like to tell people he is Iranian until he knows they won't judge him because after 9/11 he feels like anyone who is Persian gets evil looks from fellow Americans. Sorry if you don't agree with me, but this is wrong. I've met so many people from Turkey, Iran, and Iraq who all happen to be Muslim and they are some of the best people I know. And, something else to consider, there is a reason why so many people left the Middle East when the ruling regimes changed hands 30-40 years ago. Do your homework before you call names, throw things, and make life generally difficult for another human being.

Now obviously we don't live in a perfect world yet, but I do think that a lot of strides in the right direction have been taken, especially in the last fifty years. The fact that our nation is seriously considering electing someone who identifies as black is a good indicator of this. But we still have a ways to go.

This is America. Discrimination, and reverse discrimination, are things we need to continue to rise above. Men are created equal, so in my mind that tells me that as long as someone is a hard worker and doesn't give up they should be able to accomplish anything, including get elected as a prominent politician.

So, please. Just because someone looks a certain way, or has a certain cultural heritage, don't judge. Everyone is an individual. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and I believe that if you are willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt you are enabling them to reach more potential simply by acknowledging it is a possibility.


It's 3:00 A.M....

...and I think it's worth revisiting Hillary Clinton's infamous television advertisement now that the Democratic primary season is past and the general election is upon us.

On the surface, Barack Obama appears no match for John McCain on national security issues. McCain is a bona-fide war hero, a former fighter pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam. He is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and has been a leader on issues of national security for much of his Senate career. I certainly respect McCain's service and record, but if we frame the "3 AM" question slightly differently, I begin to think a bit differently:

It's October 15, 1962, and photographs taken by a U2 spy plane have just revealed that mobile missile bases are being erected in Cuba, capable of launching nuclear strikes against any location in the continental United States.

The United States emerged unscathed from the Cuban Missile Crisis, without a doubt the closest we have ever come to nuclear war, because cooler heads prevailed. Yes, we had to secretly surrender our position in Turkey, but it was a major political victory for President Kennedy, the entire country, and democracy in general. There were major factions, notably military men, in both the American and Soviet governments that were pushing for war. We owe the peaceful resolution of the crisis to men like John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Adlai Stevenson that put passions aside and found the better way.

I want a Commander in Chief that is calm and collected in the heat of the moment, and I just don't see that in John McCain. He is prone to emotional fits of anger on the Senate floor, for example recently dropping the f-bomb on fellow Senator John Cornyn during open debate on an immigration bill.

In 2000, Newsweek published the following:

Why can't McCain win the votes of his own colleagues? To explain, a Republican senator tells this story: at a GOP meeting last fall, McCain erupted out of the blue at the respected Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, saying, "Only an a--hole would put together a budget like this." Offended, Domenici stood up and gave a dignified, restrained speech about how in all his years in the Senate, through many heated debates, no one had ever called him that. Another senator might have taken the moment to check his temper. But McCain went on: "I wouldn't call you an a--hole unless you really were an a--hole." The Republican senator witnessing the scene had considered supporting McCain for president, but changed his mind. "I decided," the senator told NEWSWEEK, "I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger."

McCain's support among military leadership is also tenuous. Here are several examples:

"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor. I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."
-retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton

"I studied leadership for a long time during 32 years in the military. It is all about character. Who can motivate willing followers? Who has the vision? Who can inspire people?" Gration asked. "I have tremendous respect for John McCain, but I would not follow him."
-retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a one-time Republican who is supporting Obama

"One of the things the senior military would like to see when they go visit the president is a kind of consistency, a kind of reliability. [Obama] is not that up when he is up and not that down when he is down. He is kind of a steady Eddie. This is a very important feature. McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile."
-retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Republican now supporting Obama, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former fighter pilot who flew 285 combat missions

"A little volatile" is not what we need in these times. If we want cooler heads to prevail the next time we have a serious threat, nuclear or otherwise, John McCain better not be our next President. So question Barack Obama's lack of foreign policy experience if you must - it's a legitimate concern. Obama correctly stood up against the Iraq invasion at a time when it was unpopular to do so, pushing for a diplomatic solution. Without question I'd rather it be his inexperienced-yet-cool head be pressed against that red phone as opposed to McCain's hot head.


The Elephant in the Room

The Bloggernacle is abuzz over this letter sent from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to church leaders to be read to all congregations in California last Sunday. The letter asks church members to

do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.
I have read a variety of comments on the matter, but comments focused on the idea that the church should stay out of politics (to maintain tax-exempt status, because church and state should be separate, etc.) are what got me wondering: what is the church's position on political neutrality?

It can be found here.

The church's mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.

The church does not:

  • Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates, or platforms
  • Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes
  • Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader

The church does:

  • Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections
  • Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters
  • Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the church
  • Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the church

The church is very clear that it is not involved in partisan politics. The proposed amendment to the California state constitution has nothing to do with political parties. It is, however, an "issue that [the church] believes [has] significant community or moral consequences or that directly affects the interests of the church". Therefore, I find no inconsistency between the church's position on political neutrality and its involvement in the California state amendment issue.

Further, The Family: A Proclamation to the World says

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Since the Proclamation was given, our church leaders continue to encourage us to be involved in protecting the family.

We call upon government and political leaders to put the needs of children and parents first and to think in terms of family impact in all legislation and policy making.

I was greatly saddened to read an (opinion) article that says the pro-family movement in America appears to be dying.

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the only openly lesbian Member of Congress, is predicting passage of hate crimes legislation and repeal of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in the next Congress regardless of who is elected President.

In 2000, the people of California voted yes to Proposition 22 that defined marriage as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman , to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. In March of this year, the California Supreme Court voted 4-3 to legalize homosexual marriage.

This fall, the people of California will again have the opportunity to make their voices heard with the vote on the constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. In 2000, 64.1% voted "yes" on the issue. This isn't even as high as many other states that have voted on the same issue. Currently, 40 states have DOMAs or constitutional amendments defining marriage as one woman and one man. I suspect that the tide has turned, and this time around, CA will not pass the traditional marriage amendment.

What would this mean for the pro-family movement? Is it really dead? The article referenced above says:

Unless and until the pro-family groups again are able to go on the offense they are likely to lose ground. As unfortunate as that may be, it is reality. To return to the offense the pro-family forces would need more members of Congress. At this stage it appears they will be dealing next year with fewer, not more, in sympathy with their agenda. More members, it seems to me, must be that community's first priority if it expects to be successful.

I agree with the author - I think that the percentage of congress members sympathetic to family causes will decline come November. I can't help but place at least partial blame on Bush and his administration. He is a pro-family man. He ran as a strong conservative and helped Republicans win great victories sweeping both houses of congress in 2002. We had a chance to make things happen and improve things for the better. Instead, he screwed up so heavily in areas like the Iraq war and immigration so that now people are so angry at the "Republicans" that they'll vote any Democrat into office just to get rid of the Republicans. The result is fewer and fewer "pro-family" members of congress.

The Proclamation on the Family is clear about a lot of things. One is this:

[W]e warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

Do you believe that? Do you see a connection between the dying pro-family movement and the disintegration of the family? Do you believe that we will see "calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets"?

I do. I believe we are already seeing them, and I believe it will get worse. Time to get my food storage in order.