• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Monday, March 28, 2005


    All y'all readers have seen my lack of blogging the last week or two. I have the MCAT on April 16th, and for all purposes will stop blogging until then. Wish me luck.

    P.S. I'm sick of the Terri Schiavo case. The law says she dies, let her die. If it's immoral, change the law. I favor introducing a bill that says that if a man or woman has an incapacitated wife or husband (such as Terri) and then enters into another familial relationship with a mistress (and has kids as Michael has) then he has admitted through his actions a lack of desire to continue in a legally binding familial relationship with the infirmed. Purposes of support (child support) would continue, but guardianship would change to an immediate family member who expresses desire to do so. Or everyone could just make a living will.

    P.P.S. I love March Madness, but the referees in this year's NCAA tourney are idiots. I haven't ref'd a game outside of YMCA ball, and I wouldn't have missed that Villanova-UNC call. However, the idiots of the year award goes not to the refs, who do it part time anyway, but to the CBS announcers, who have reminded me why I am glad I didn't eat paint chips when I was a kid. The nadir of their form came in the UNC-Villy game, when they spent the last two minutes of airtime agreeing with the referee who called traveling when Villanova hit that great running jumper in the lane. Lately I've taken to watching the games on mute (and great games they have been).

    P.P.P.S. Boy am I worried about the MCAT. These practice tests tear me up, and trying to juggle studying with writing my senior thesis is kicking my trash. ugh.

    Monday, March 14, 2005


    I take military history from a professor at the US Air War College and soon to be at the US Army War College (teaches all the big wigs). Anyway, we were discussing the US involvement in Korea--the first limited war America fought since the Philippines--and he said Marshal stated the US goal as a free, independent, and democratic Korea.

    Another student asked what the difference was between the Philippines and Korea--why were we successful in the former, but not in the latter (or Vietnam)? He replied that one reason (among many) is that the US army used unmediated violence to subdue Filipino rebels and bring order back to the islands.

    So that made me think: Paradoxically, American limited wars/inteventions for the expressed purpose of protecting inalienable human rights, self-determination, and democratic principles are doomed to failure by the relatively new desire to hold the military to the same moral standards that peacetime civilians follow. Imposing society's moral standards on our military neuters it from protecting those moral standards in other nations around the world.

    Granted, this thought is popping into my head, so I haven't developed it into a full fledged argument, or found the numerous flaws it may contain, but ask yourself this question: Why would you think that someone who's profession is to kill would easily convert back to civilian life or want to do it in an inefficient manner? It's a lifestyle that fosters cold, calculating killers, an uncaring attitude to death, destruction, and suffering. Yet we expect them to behave like christian ministers or Amnesty international volunteers. Perhaps this expectation also puts undue pressure on our soldiers, causing more to "step out of line" than might have done so otherwise.

    As this line of reasoning matures, I will add more.

    The Court

    I've been worried about what I see as the increasing political activism on the US supreme court. It was topped off by justifying a ban on juvenile death sentences based on other countries' laws.

    Now here what Justice Scalia has to say.

    I agree. I think we look to the court to legislate things in our favor, we whine, and then look to them as mommy and daddy, instead of saying "hey, the constitution doesn't really talk about this. It wasn't in the framers' scope. Let's convince our fellow citizens, put it on a ballot, and pass a law." That's the way it should be done.

    Saturday, March 12, 2005

    Memphis Falling

    I don't care what Rick Pitino says, the way Louisville barely beat Memphis and looked shaky against UAB, they are not a #1 seed.

    Not only that, but I think C-USA should get some extra at large bids. UAB and Depaul played great the last week of the season and during the tournament. Memphis...my heart bleeds for you.

    More democracy

    Although the democratization of the middle east is nothing to forget or ignore, we must remember that equally important to the stability of the world, human rights, and American interests is the democratization of Asia. Currently the Communist countries China, Vietnam, and North Korea all have less than stellar marks for human rights violations.

    China especially. And now that Donald Tsang is stuck in such a precarious situation, I can only hope that the USA will take a firm stance in helping Hong Kong. America has turned a blind eye to China's attempt at blocking Taiwan's independence.

    When will we remember the values that have made America great? From 1765-1789 (American Revolution) and 1861-5 (Civil War) Americans fought, bled, and died for the principles that all men are created equal, and have the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. The events leading up to the Civil war should be especially poignant to us. Each slave rebellion (Nat Turner, Gabriel's, Deslonte's, Denmark Vesey) was orchestrated by free blacks or those who were educated and literate. They had tasted freedom, knew what blessings it had, and wanted more (unlike the blind planter class which blinded itself with the argument that blacks were better off under slavery than not, and any free blacks would be content with their station in life).

    It is obvious that the same principles underlie the fight for democracy in Asia. Those who have tasted freedom and liberty in Hong Kong and Taiwan do not want to give it up, and in Hong Kong's case (like the free blacks of antebellum America) they have only partial freedom and chafe at not living totally free.

    Obviously there are economic reasons why America should protect a free Hong Kong and Taiwan, but look past that, into the ideology of America, democracy, and humanity. You will see a crusade not totally unlike that undertaken by our forefathers in the 18th and 19th centuries ready to be tackled. I hope we can rise to the occassion.

    Syrian withdrawl

    call me skeptical, but we'll see. This sounds all nice and good, but my faith in leaders of nations doing what they promise when they promise it is slim (even in America). Too much hot air being blown around.

    It also worries me that want for democracy is split on such religious lines. I hope Lebanon moves democratic, but we can only wait and see if the dust settles how it should.

    Houston Rockets

    go home team! They handed it to the Phoenix Suns yesterday. Yao had 27 pts and 22 boards. T-mac added 38pts. They look to be peaking at almost the right time. If they hold this up into the playoffs, it'll be good for me, and bad for the teams they play.

    Also, I think I'm rooting for Denver. There's just something about Kobe's arrogance that has turned me off lately. I like Garnett alot, but his supporting cast just isn't what it used to be. Those Timberwolves need help. George Karl is help to the Nuggets.

    Low Blow

    I was watching the beginning of the Vermont-Northeastern basketball game this morning when I saw Jose Juan Barea jump onto a pile and throw two punches. As I saw it happen I thought for sure that the refs would throw him out. They didn't. I'm disappointed. Chris Paul is suspended for hitting below the belt (rightfully suspended) and this is twice the pain--two close-fisted shots to the face.

    Barea should be suspended if he plays again this season or hold the suspension over to next season. If he skips to the NBA (which the ESPN analysts say he could do), slap him a fine to remind him bball's a game, just a game, and your morals are your morals--live up to them.

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    Stem Cell Research Bill

    Today I was made aware of a new bill submitted to committee 12 days ago in the Senate. Bill s.471 legislates stem cell research under three circumstances:

    1) cells must be from fertilization clinics and in excess to what was needed
    2) no further use would ever happen and they would be discarded
    3) individuals who gave the embryos sign written consent without monetary inducement

    The bill looks very well written to me. I think it basically comes down to an ethical vote. Do you think embryonic stem cell research is ethical?

    I agree with stem cell research. My own personal beliefs and my microbiological training argues that stem cell research helps the greater good of humanity at the cost of a few cells that are not sentient.

    Opponents who fear this will result in wanton slaying of babies must realize what one geneticist who works with diabetes told my coworker: stem cell research is good, but not widely necessary yet. "Why would I use that when I can inject mice, wait, cut open their spleens and look at them. Later, when we've found something that works, we can find homologs and then stem cells will be of real use."

    Of course, this wouldn't be a debate if everyone agreed with me, but I argue this:

    would you let a real estate agent instruct you on picking out a car? No, he instructs you on picking out houses. Heck, you wouldn't even trust a Ford dealer to instruct you on picking out Toyotas. So why would you listen to someone who's not a doctor (i.e. a real estate agent) on stem cell research (a car)? Heck, you shouldn't even listen to an environmental biologist (Ford dealer) when dealing with genetics (a Toyota).

    Fine Cuisine

    I think Kate & Leopold is a stupid movie. It was on tv a couple weeks ago, and I turned the channel very quickly. Such a thin plot...yes it's a "chick flick," but give the chicks some credit. I'm sure they, like me, would like to view some creative, original movies every once in a while.

    Anyway, that said, I do like one quote from the movie. Leopold eats dinner with Kate for the first time. It's hamburger helper. He's disgusted, and says:

    Please understand, I am used to a
    different sort of preparation. Where
    I come from a proper meal is the
    result of reflection and study. A
    recipe is merely a theme which an
    intelligent cook can plan each time
    with variation.

    Charlie gives Kate a look.

    Several courses are served. Menus
    are often prepared days in advance,
    timed to perfection. It is said,
    without the culinary art, the
    crudeness of reality would make life

    Indeed. Without the culinary art, the crudeness of reality would make life unbearable.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Vova Putin

    I'm incredulous. Nina Kruscheva elucidates why the Russian people would want an autocrat like Putin running their country. It makes sense. I just shake my head. Why can't they see? What can be done to show them the blessings of true democracy? You can have pride in your country without sacrificing individual liberties and possibly life itself to a strong central government and powerful ruler.

    In fact, this causes me to think about democracies in general. The founding fathers must have been inspired by Deity. They came together with a new experiment, a government based on the will of the people, directed by the people. It was the first of its kind since the "old experiment," the all-male democracy of athens, or possibly the Roman Republic.

    Our fathers set up a system of checks and balances. They dreamt of a government that protected the individual liberties of the citizens and evinced their collective desires. It had three branches, a strong executive to lead, a Congress to represent the collective voices of their consituents and check the executive from dictatorial power, and a judicial court that ruled on the legality and morality of moves by both branches (and the public) to keep the government true to the principles it was founded upon.

    Yet other democracies do not follow this plan. Admittedly, I don't understand them thorougly, but I do realize that the head executive is the Prime minister, who is also the head of the parliament. This effectively melds both Congress and the executive into one branch. And while I don't know specifics of this system, I am aware that the penchant for autocracy among democracies in this form is greater than ours. A blended executive and congress seems to give great power to those elected, instead of using the voice of the people as a check.

    Why is it that America, the first democracy, who touts it throughout the world, sets up government systems along the other style? Shouldn't we be proud of our form of government? How the founding fathers drew it up? When we help raise up new democracies in other parts of the world (like Iraq) shouldn't we set it up along our model? Are we implicitly saying our model isn't the best by not using it?

    I am going to look into these alternate forms of government so that I can be more informed. But from what I know, the structure of our government is inspired, it runs well, and it should be propagated as the standard of democracy. Then, maybe, the Russians could have their cake (a strong leader) and eat it too (individual liberties and national pride).

    Value Added Tax

    Similar to a straight consumption tax, many European countries have a Value Added Tax (VAT). The Wall Street Journal has a good op-ed piece describing its effects on the European economy.

    At one point is says,
    But like any tax a VAT removes resources from the dynamic private sector of the economy and places them in government hands. And in Europe it has become a major enabler of the ever-expanding, slow-growth welfare state...

    Having a VAT with a rate between 15% and 25% is now compulsory for membership in the EU. European governments get away with those rates because they generally don't show up on the customer's final receipt. By contrast, none of the U.S. state and local governments that charge an explicit sales tax get away with a combined rate of more than 9% or so...

    VATs may have the perverse effect of actually creating political pressure for other tax increases. Why? Because they place a higher relative burden on lower-income earners who spend a higher percentage of their income on consumption. So VATs have often resulted in calls for income tax rate increases to preserve the overall progressivity of the tax code...

    It seems to me that politicians trying to push the VAT on us are just trying to get a basic consumption tax on top of the income tax we already pay, and push it under the table so we don't see it and realize we're paying it. If added cost burden is a concern for adopting a consumption tax, it's definitely a concern with this.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Death Penalty

    I have a very big problem with the Supreme Court linked its decision on the death penalty for 16 and 17 year olds to the views of foreign countries. And I'm not alone.

    The founding fathers originally invisioned the supreme court as impartial arbitrators of moral decency. The judges lived in private quarters, and had an underground tunnel to the court so that they never needed to step foot outside among the general public and thus be corrupted by politics, bribery, etc.

    Over the last two hundred years the court has moved away from that foundation, and, I would argue, has become increasingly political. Such a move as this shows it clearly. The court took a preemptive step to rule on something that hadn't made its way up to it, and the majority decision was based on the opinions of non-citizens.

    Anyway, I don't know what, if anything, can be done about this, but I hope the court can be "reigned in"--not in its opinions, whether liberal or conservative--but in its basis of law--judiciating on the laws of America based on an impartial and unchanging almighty and the popular views of citizens.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Finally, a good idea

    Finally, a clear head has stepped into the picture. Si.com reports that two companies want to buy the whole NHL for 3.5 Billion dollars.

    Given that the league has lost over $500 million already, and its tv deals were floundering, I say cooler heads should prevail and hear this proposal. No, it won't be easy to divide the spoils, but come on, this league needs some major restructuring anyway or it won't be considered one of the four major sports.

    No, I don't think the deal will happen, but if it did, maybe it would mean brighter days for the NHL.

    Georgia Tech

    Alright, this might insite response, but I feel pretty confident in this statement.

    Assuming Georgia Tech makes the Dance, they are my sleeper pick to go the distance.

    Quote me on it. Not that Georgia tech is the best team in the land--Illinois has the record for that, UNC has the offense, and a couple others might be worthy of 1st seeds in the tourney--but BJ Elder and Jared Jack impress me every time they step on the floor.

    Nobody should forget their run last year, and the cast is the same this year. GT went 4-5 without Elder this season, and are currently 16-10. If he had been there, you could reasonably see GT at 20-6 or 21-5. The WF v GT matchup last night would have been far more pressurized with a #1 seed on the line.

    Anyway, remember GT. They won't be the favorites, but if they make it, I could see this 10-12 seed going the distance.

    Cheney...not the Vice President

    Alright, so Temple's in a little bit of a mess right now. I agree. Nobody likes it when someone gets hurt out on the court. In case you haven't heard, (which only means you haven't read anything about sports over the last week) Temple's coach John Chaney told a player to go in the game against St. Joes and foul hard. Well, foul he did, and ended up breaking another player's arm.

    So Chaney suspended himself a game, then Temple suspended him for more, and now he's voluntarily sitting out the A-10 tournament.

    Why all the big fuss? I think it's because the press needs something to jump on. I grew up playing basketball--many boys do--and I was taught from as young as 6 years old in YMCA ball, that if you're gonna foul, foul hard. You don't want them making the shot and getting a free throw. I've had coaches tell me numerous time (as well as the whole team) "foul him hard. Stop the clock and don't let them score." Or, "foul him hard so he thinks twice about coming into the lane again."

    No, it was not a headhunting licence. No, I was never asked to purposely go into a game and break a guy's arm. But from what I can tell, Chaney didn't say that either. He said to go in and commit hard fouls. If he had the intention of hurting St. Joes players, he will pay for that sin in the next life, but until I see proof that is what he wanted, let's let this hall-of-fame coach live with his guilt, his suspensions, and take him down off the cross.

    Besides, it's not gonna stop the YMCA coaches from teaching hard fouls to our first graders.

    Sales Tax

    MGO has a very interesting peace on the flat tax idea. He links to a great article from the Wall Street Journal.

    I have supported a flat tax (in principle, at least) for many years now. I am not an economist, but maybe that's what I like about it so much. Even though I'm not well versed in the arena, I could grasp a flat tax. Also, with my limited two years of economics classes in college, I understand the basics of supply-demand relationships, etc. It makes logical sense to me that overall people would be more likely to save money (as Greenspan testified before Congress) and have more disposable income to spend. Both of these things would help the economy.

    Specifics about a flat tax can be found at ncpa.org and they have another page highlighting the economic effects of a flat tax (from Barry Sheldon at UT Dallas and Roy Boyd at Ohio U.).

    American's have historically shied away from a flat tax. I think it must seem too communist for us. Nobody wants the poorer sections of society to be charged more, do they? Another option that may be more palatable to Americans is the national sales tax. Today Fed. Chair Alan Greenspan argued that a national sales tax or "consumption tax."

    He said:
    "As you know, many economists believe that a consumption tax would be best from the perspective of promoting economic growth — particularly if one were designing a tax system from scratch — because a consumption tax is likely to encourage saving and capital formation."

    Either way, trying to finish my taxes this year (interesting because my wife is not a citizen and we are trying to do her papers for permanent residency also) has definitely pushed me toward advocating some kind of reform. Judging by the positive growth in Europe after the institution of flat taxes, we should give it a look.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Atomic Bomb

    In class yesterday we debated the morality of the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in WW2. This is always an interesting debate for me, because people seem to have such strong opinions although most know very little about the controversy. The essential question is this:

    Was it morally correct for the United States to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    Essentially the debate has two sides. Either people feel that the only use of an atomic bomb in the history of the world (which killed thousands of civilians along with 10,000 soldiers) was justified because it ended the war and possibly saved the lives of japanese and american soldiers alike, or it was morally reprehensible because we destroyed the lives of thousands of noncombattants in a blatant display of state-sponsored terrorism.

    Here's my take on the situation. War is inherently immoral. Some may say amoral. The disputes or wrongs of one or more parties is solved through wanton bloodshed. Think about it. Lying is dishonest. Spying is national security. Killing is murder. A soldier killing in combat is honorable. Any attempt to place a value sytem or other moral restrictions created from a society in peacetime upon any society in wartime crosses two logical lines. First, what is moral for one society may not be for another, because morals are the product of culture--something unique to every society and sometimes subgroups within those societies. Second, because the status of relationships between people and nations is different in times of peace than war, we cannot apply guidelines unilaterraly to them. Just because you wouldn't steal a loaf of bread now, when you are full and make a decent living, does not mean taking that same loaf of bread is morally wrong when you need it to feed your starving sister and her children (a la Jean Valjean).

    The United States followed Britains lead and began firebombing cities during the European campaign and over Japan. One night, over 84,000 civilians in Tokyo were killed in a firestorm--more than anything in Europe--sparked by US bombs. This destruction was calculated to break the support of the masses and pressure the government into capitulation (terrorism). The atomic bombs did just that. They caused the government to capitulate. They were justified by saying that all citizens are combattants because they make the goods (ball bearings, oil, etc) that makes war possible.

    I say exactly. War is war. We don't like it. That's why we must work our hardest to not get into it. When, however, we are drawn into a conflict, war becomes total. Every person supports the government tacitly or actively. By striking with atomic bombs we did terrorize. We also ended the war without the 1,000,000 american casualties predicted if we had to invade the home islands. Since nations, like people, are inherently self-interested, than it was not immoral for the US to drop the bombs. That action was motivated for the best interest of the US, its people, and ultimately saved lives.

    I'm interested to hear comments.

    Lagging Left

    Last week I was driving to my MCAT review course and I noticed a phenomenon. The light turned green for both sides of the street. Cars moved through, then the lights turned yellow and red. Only then did the green turn arrow light up, and because all cars had already turned, it quickly turned yellow, red, and my side turned green.

    Amazing! I had heard about this before when people in Provo started talking about adopting a new intersection pattern to deal with congestion.

    Now, I must say, traffic in Provo is horrible for its size of town. The intersections were laid out in moronic fashion, and the most dangerous intersections have no protected left turn (endangering drivers and pedestrians since many many students in this college town do not drive).

    Lagging left intersections used to be the norm until WW2. I don't remember why they changed, but they did. Then cities in Arizona like Tucson began experimenting with a different way to make intersections safer and speed up traffic. Lagging left intersections aren't for everyone, but I do recommend that each city council look into them. Provo needs them at more intersections. The ones I've seen them on work great. Less time sitting at intersections equals more time for me, less congestion on the road, and less traffic accidents.

    Also check out this FAQ for Scottsdale, AZ. I especially like the second question. There is an intersection by my house that takes FOREVER, and I'm always contemplating jumping out of my car and hitting the pedestrian button.