The Controversy over Christmas

The Christmas Grinchs are back again this year, despite all the progress I though I saw last year with people protesting those establishments that attempted to remove "Christmas" from their stores due to a fear over offending a few customers.  It just seems like bad business to me, to remove from your store any references to the one Holiday a year that causes most retail locations to actually be profitable.

"Chase Bank told a Texas businessman to remove the Christmas tree he donated to a local branch because it could offend people. . . to ensure that everyone who visits Chase branches feels welcome and comfortable, the bank's policy is to use only decorations supplied by the company."

"Wachovia Bank has adopted a policy this year banning all Christmas trees from the décor in their local office branches this Christmas. Wachovia’s policy has offended many customers who have accounts with the bank. One woman has already canceled her account and many others are threatening to follow suit."


On a good note, the rest of us have decided to go right ahead and continue to celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ.

“There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ.” —President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS church, recently stated in the December Ensign, "Let us all make this year’s Christmas season a time of rejoicing and celebration, a time when we acknowledge the miracle that our Almighty God sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the world!"

Financial Freedom in 7 steps.

Our entire financial system is based on debt and borrowing.  Mortgages are designed around the expectation that the properties value will always go up (and inflationary practices in governments and financial institutions almost insure this); credit cards are given out and limits increased to keep people at the edge of there ability to re-pay, and everyone will tell you, you have to barrow to buy a car or to get a good education. But what if this is all a big lie perpetrated by our own social ideals of consumptionism, fueled by capitalism, and enslavingly villainised by greed and frivolity.

Rather then listen to the rest of society, and the clever marketing campaigns and product placements we see on TV, perhaps what we should do is avoid the quick and easy "got'a have it now" attitude that leads to indebted slavery and despair, and instead follow the council that Modern Prophets have been giving us over the last century:
"Joseph F. Smith advised . . . 'get out of debt and keep out of debt, and then you will be financially as well as spiritually free' (In Conference Report, Oct. 1903, p. 5) . . . there are certain basic principles that we . . . can apply, such as: 1. Live within your income. 2. Prepare and use short- and long-term budgets. 3. Regularly save a part of your income. 4. Use your credit wisely, if it is necessary to use it at all . . . 5. Preserve and utilize your assets through appropriate tax and estate planning." - Franklin D. Richards, “Personal and Family Financial Preparedness,” Ensign, May 1979, 38
Many times I've been thought in church about living within our means and staying out of debt, but for some reason I never really got it until more recently, and I think my wife is starting to get it too. The biggest reason I think for not getting it is all the generalities presented me on the subject at church and home, but without a real plan of action, it was hard for me to understand how the principles can be put into action.

In an attempt to provide a more specific plan, and hopefully give others a more practical idea on how to apply the principles of thrift and being good stewards of what God has given us while on this earth, I've come up with a plan of my own to achieve financial freedom in 7 steps (the order of these steps is also very important):
  • Step 1: Getting and staying ahead of your income.
Heber J. Grant said, “If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means, and if there is any one thing that is grinding, and discouraging and disheartening it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet” (Relief Society Magazine, May 1932, p. 302).
This mean having a budget, because if you don't know where your money is, where it's coming from, or were it's going, you'll never know if you're getting ahead or further behind.  Your money will essentially control you, instead of you controlling your money.

I don't care what kind of budget you use, as long as it works well for you, and you can do it consistently, at least once every month, and for the rest of your life (Dave Ramsey has a couple of excellent methods for tracking budgets). The first thing I put at the top of my budget is tithing (and a few additional charitable contributions) that get paid at least every month (or what ever regular schedule works for you). As I've done this, I've always had enough to take care of my needs (and many of my wants).

From there, it's really just a simple matter of prioritizing your absolute needs first (and don't forget the tax man), followed by less important needs, then a one or two important wants that make life bearable (but don't forget to pay your insurance), and finally putting as much as you can of whats left over towards paying off dept or building up security for the future.
  • Step 2: Sell and Dispose of Vices
". . . people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary . . . build a modest home . . . pay off the mortgage as quickly as [you can] so that, come what may, there [will] be a roof over the heads of [your] wife and children. I urge you . . . to get free of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day." - Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 72

This step may need to be done before step 1 can be fully implemented, but you likely will not understand what your vices are until you've at least started step 1; in fact it may take a few months or more of working hard at step 1 before you truly understand what needs to be done in step 2 so that step 1 can start working for you.

So what is your vice? For some it's a big expensive house. For others it's a nice car, a boat, or some other expensive item or idolization. Even credit and consumer cards can be vises, or enable other vises such as the ability to shop any time one feels a little down or thinks they "need" that new pair of overly expensive shoes.
If you cannot pay off your credit cards religiously, every month, without fail, (and feel pain every time you use them - knowing it's affecting your bottom line), you need to cut them up. If you do not have the discipline to use credit cards appropriately, they need to be closed; ALL of them. Try using a debit card instead, but if you really have a hard time keeping track of expenditures, you may need to go to an all cash basis. And I don't care if credit cards are "safer", if you can't handle them, they are extremely dangerous to your finances.
  • Step 3: The Rainy Day Fund
This step should be completed as soon as possible; however, it's listed 3rd because it usually requires steps 1 and 2 to be done before one can get a good enough handle on things to be able to complete step 3. Theoretically, the first three steps could be done simultaneously, but its usually best to take things one step at a time.

Setting aside a little for a rainy day can bring more peace to your financial mindedness then anything else. Plus, once you're able to set aside some real money (not extra space on your overdraft protection), you may find that saving money comes much easier, and unexpected trouble is less likely to seek you out.

The amount you should save should be significant enough to cover any insurance deductibles or co-payments and/or unexpected repairs or other expenses that might come your way. However, don't save up so much that it unnecessarily delays moving on to step 4. A thousand or two dollars is probably a good place to start, and I would recommend at least this much, but no more then a half months worth of pay; even if you can save it quickly.

If you end up using this fund, you'll need put it at the top of your budget priority (after the necessities) to replenish it as quickly as possible. Be sure to budge wisely enough that your emergency fund is only used for true emergencies; not something you just forgot to budget for, or think you "needed" but really didn't.
  • Step 4:  Paying Off Dept
Focusing on the highest interest rate or largest loans first, or trying some fancy foot work with your mortgage, is rarely the fastest way to get out of debt for one main reason: minimum required payments usually include at least some principle amount on top of the interest.

Eliminating a required re-occurring payment as quickly as possible, by starting with loans with the smallest balances first, frees up extra money in your budget much faster then any other method out there. This allows the eliminated payment to be re-applied to your next biggest balance to pay it off even quicker, and of course the sooner you pay of a given debt, the less interest you end up paying on it anyway; regardless of what the interest rate was. This also helps you gain quick wins which can be very motivating; especially if you've decided to literally start eating beans and rice for every meal to keep your grocery budget to a minimum.

By the end of this step you may find yourself paying a thousand dollars or more a month on your highest balances, and knock them out faster then you ever thought possible; just add up all your current minimum payment to get an idea of what you have to look forward to.
  • Step 5: The Adult Security Blanket
When many of us were little kids, we had a blanket that as we got older we didn't want to give up. Often called a Security Blanket because it helped you feel safe and gave you a warm comfortable feeling. So how much money would you need saved up to feel safe from a catastrophic event, such as loosing your job? How much do you need to survive for a year?

That's right, how much would you need to pay for basic necessities for an entire year? It may sound like a lot, but if you are out of debt, with no "same as cash" obligations, or other monthly subscriptions/installments you are obligated to, you'll find you can survive off of very little, and very little for an entire year isn't all that much.

Put it in an easily accessible money market or savings account (with a half decent rate of return of course, so you don't have to worry about inflation). Don't expect to have this built up all at once, but if you start saving the same money used to pay of your debt (don't do this until step 4 is fully complete), you'll likely have it faster then you might think just by using your income from you're regular job; with no gimmicks or risky investments needed.

Also, this safety blanket doesn't have to be just money, but it does have to be something that you can use to survive with, such as food storage:
"'. . . Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck . . . Make your storage a part of your budget . . . If you are saving and planning for a second car or a TV set or some item which merely adds to your comfort or pleasure, you may need to change your priorities. We urge you to do this prayerfully and do it now.' (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 33.) . . . One of the important keys of home production and storage is the acquisition of skills. Sometimes we may be able to buy food inexpensively, but the skills and intuitive wisdom gained through gardening and other home production projects are worth more than the time and effort they require. In a sustained emergency, basic gardening, sewing, repair, construction, and production know-how are invaluable. Provident living helps us develop these skills—and build family unity by doing it—before an emergency." - “Catching the Vision of Self-Reliance,” Ensign, May 1986, 89
If you have enough food storage to last a year, then you don't need as much money saved up to last for a year without any income. Some say Gold, sliver and other precious metals are also good insurance against monitory problems (I have some myself); however, keep in mind that gold (or cash) isn't very tasty or nutritious. If I could choose between gold (or cash) and food when both were hard to come by, I'd personally prefer the food.
  • Step 6: Invest Wisely
To truly grow wealth, and ultimately secure your financial freedom, you have to make your money work for you, so that you don't end up working your whole life for your money. Still the best way for anyone to grow wealth is with the income they will earn over their lifetime of hard work; if used and invested wisely. All I can really suggest here is to be wise in your investments, only investing things you fully understand and feel comfortable with, and look for investments with good track records of longevity and stead returns.

I've always thought that saving at least 10% of your income, which shouldn't be hard at this point if you've done all the steps in order, is a good starting point. Certainly the more you can save and invest the more money you will have working hard for you. However, I must give a warning: don't try to save every last penny and turn yourself into Scrooge. Just as being in debt causes you to be a slave to your money, so can wealth if you get too greedy.

Also, try putting some of your savings aside to invest in your kids education. Give a little extra to charities, and even save up for a new car or house (see how much fun it is to pay for these big items with cash) or some other vice that you've had to do without for the few short years it will take a truly dedicated person to get to this point.
  • Step 7: Pay Off the house
It may take a few years to get to this point, depending on how dedicated you are to getting out of debt, but once you are here, it shouldn't be too difficult to complete this step. To truly reach financial freedom, you must eliminate all financial risk, obligations, and financial bondage, including a mortgage payment and poor investments.

You'll hear a lot of people talk about how you "need" to have a mortgage to save on taxes, or to keep a good credit score. These statements have some truth to them, but if you take a closer look at the amount you'll save on taxes you'll likely find it's only a fraction of what you are paying in interest charges each year on the mortgage. If you've gotten to this point, you might find that you really don't need a credit history or score, because you'll have learned to NEVER buy anything with credit again!

Do you think truly rich people care about their credit, when they can simply buy it with cash? Read the Millionaire Next Door if you want to learn more about this perspective. The only problem I've found with this is that some employers want to see a good credit score before they will trust you. (Some businesses do the same when signing up for services with them, but they aren't impossible to avoid). In all reality, it really doesn't take much to keep your credit score looking half way decent, and can be done without compromising your financial freedom; or having a large risky mortgage payment.

Texas House Speaker 2010 candidates

Just when you thought elections were over, another race has heated up in Texas. Current leadership of the Texas House is in a struggle to hold on to its former glory. With a massive wave of new republican representatives, many are saying the previous speaker, Joe Straus, needs to go as he was only previously elected thanks to support from Democrats. His moderate views certainly don't reflect the recent changes that voters had spoken for, loudly and clearly, just a few weeks ago.

Pajamas Media: "There's a battle for power in Austin centered on one question: Who gets to elect the next speaker of the Texas House? The answer to that question determines its outcome."

Dallas Tea Party (Nov. 14th e-mail): "If you pay attention to Texas politics, you know that there is a hard-fought battle being waged for control of the Texas State House. Conservative challengers Warren Chisum (Pampa) and Ken Paxton (Plano) are criticizing Joe Straus' leadership team as being too far to the left for Texas--especially in the wake of the 2010 elections, in which the voters of Texas replaced left-wingers with conservatives across the State of Texas."

Will Lutz : Straus holds lead as Speaker’s race heats up

Star-Telegram : 18 GOP Committee Leaders Rally Behind Straus

Mark Davis : Who's the right Republican to lead Texas House?

Erick Erickson, RedState: "Anyone who says Joe Straus is a conservative is either a fool or a liar."

Jodie Laubenberg announces she will support Representative Ken Paxton for Speaker of the House.

Star-Telegram : Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, allegedly warned a colleague that lawmakers who fail to support Speaker Joe Straus for re-election could face retribution through redistricting.

Obama's Post Mid-term Election Speach


The complete text of the news conference can be found here.

His speech and answers seemed very sincere to me, but also naive. In fact, I'd have to say that the more sincere you believe he was, the more us average Americans, who pay for everything, have to believe that he is completely out of touch with reality; probably because he's unfortunately spent most of his life surrounded by Liberal Socialists.

His trying to blame economic issues on the massive Republican Victories across the nation, only shows that he has no clue how many of us really feel about things like "ObamaCare", Massive Deficit spending (especially when it's used to bail out big business), Corrupt financial personal in bed with government, government officials and CEO's that should be in jail but instead get big bonuses, and the looming threat of massive inflation, among other things.

On the other side of the coin, Republicans have promised a lot, and Tea Party'ers are certainly going to expect it; however, they only control the House while Democrats hang on to a small majority in the Senate, and Obama still maintains a practically un-reproachable veto power.

At this point it looks like the best strategy is going to be to prevent more big government bailouts and power grabs, while maintaining the current momentum to gear up for even more conservative republican victories in 2012.

2010 Collin County Texas election results and the Texas House Speaker

For the most part, as was expected, the votes went to the Republicans:

Straight Party Total Votes
  • Republican 45980 73.82%
  • Democrat 15880 25.49%
  • Libertarian 364 0.58%
  • Green 66 0.11%
Even with non-straight party voters, the Republicans won by large margins. This should come as no surprise in such a heavily conservative county. In fact all of Texas seems to have gone the way of the Republicans to some degree, with the exception of Dallas that actually pick up a couple more elected officials from the Democrats.

US House of Representatives Stayed Republican with Sam Johnson, and the longest tenured Representative, Ralph M. Hall.

Rick Perry is governor for a third term, and if he fulfills the term, he will make history as the longest standing governor of Texas.

David Dewhurst remains as Lt. Governor, along with Attorney General Greg Abbott, and many others.
Click here for a compleate list of election results for Collin County Texas.
The biggest news is the now 99 Republican Texas House members that will give the Republicans nearly complete control over what goes on in Texas government, but only if they can manage to get a new House Speaker.

According to Statesman.com a letter was sent to current and incoming members of the Texas House this week, urging them to replace Republican Speaker Joe Straus. Joe Straus has been elected with help of Democrats, and is considered to be more moderate. Conservatives feel they have spoken loud and clear in this election that a change is in order to more conservative political leaders.

Top races in Collin County Texas Elections, November 2, 2010

This November 2nd (Tuesday) are the "mid-term" elections across the US. In Texas, Straight Party voting includes the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green parties. In Collin County there are a lot of important races that will help determine the future of Texas; a typically strong Republican state, but early voting results suggest the democrats may be gaining momentum.
The following are specific county wide contests. Click here for a complete list of sample ballots and to find your voting location by precinct.
Also check out the Libery Institutes Free Voters Guide.
Gubernatorial Candidates:
Rick Perry – http://www.governor.state.tx.us/ Republican Incumbent
Bill White – Former Mayor of Huston - www.billwhitefortexas.com/ Democrat
Kathie Glass - http://www.kathie4guv.com/ LP
Deb Shafto - http://electdebshafto.org/ Green Party
Write-in Candidate(s)
Lieutenant Governor:
David Dewhurst - http://www.daviddewhurst.com/ Republican incumbent
Linda Chavez-Thompson - http://texansforlinda.com/ Democrat
Scott Jameson - www.scottjameson.org/ LP
Herb Gonzales, Jr. - txgreens.org/herbgonzales/ Green Party
U.S. Representative District 3:
Sam Johnson - http://www.samjohnson.house.gov/ - Republican Incumbent
John Lingenfelder - http://www.lingenfelderforcongress.com/ Democrat
Christopher J. Claytor - http://www.claytorforcongress.org/ LP
Write-in Candidate(s)
U.S. Representative, District 4:
Ralph M. Hall - http://ralphhall.house.gov/ - Republican Incumbent and longest standing U.S. Representative.
VaLinda Hathcox - http://valindahathcoxforcongress.blogspot.com/ Democrat
Jim D. Prindle - www.prindleforcongress.com/ LP
Shane Shepard - http://shaneshepard.net/ independent
Attorney General:
Greg Abbot - https://www.oag.state.tx.us/ - Republican Incumbent
Barbara Ann Radnofsky - http://www.radnofsky.com/ - Democrat
Jon Roland - http://www.jonroland.org/ LP
Comptroller of Public Accounts:
Susan Combs - http://www.window.state.tx.us/ Republican Incumbent
Mary J. Ruwart - www.ruwart.com/Pages/Home/ LP
Edward Lindsay - http://www.newmenu.org/lindsay Green Party
Commissioner of the General Land Office:
Jerry Patterson - http://www.glo.state.tx.us/about/commissioner.html Republican Incumbent
Hector Uribe - http://www.hectoruribe.com/ Democrat
James L. Holdar - http://vote-tx.org/Intro.aspx?State=TX&Id=TXHoldarJamesL Libertarian Party (hard to find information one – wonder how serious he is about this race).
Commissioner of Agriculture:
Todd Staples - http://www.agr.state.tx.us/agr/main_render/0,1968,1848_1944_0_0,00.html?channelId=1944 - Republican Incumbent
Hank Gilbert - hankgilbert.com/ Democrat
Rick Donaldson - http://www.rickdonaldsonfortexasagriculturecommissioner.com/ LP
Railroad Commissioner:
David Porter - www.votedavidporter.com/content/index.cfm Republican Nominee (unseated the incumbent).
Jeff Weems - http://jeffweemsforcommissioner.com/ Democrat
Roger Gary - http://www.austinpost.org/content/roger-gary LP
Art Browning - http://www.newmenu.org/artbrowning LP
Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3:
Debra Lehrmann - http://www.judgedebralehrmann.com/ Republican - appointed June 21, 2010 by Governor Rick Perry to replace Harriet O'Neill
Jim Sharp - http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/court/justice_jsharp.asp , www.txdemocrats.org/sharp/ Democrat
William Bryan Strange, III - http://vote-tx.org/Intro.aspx?State=TX&Id=TXStrangeWilliamBryanIII LP
Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5:
Paul Green - http://www.justicepaulgreen.com/ Republican Incumbent
Bill Moody - www.txdemocrats.org/moody/ Democrat
Tom Oxford - http://vote-tx.org/Intro.aspx?Id=TXOxfordTom LP
Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9:
Eva Guzman - http://www.evaguzman.com/ Republican Incumbent
Blake Bailey - http://baileyforsupremecourt.com/ Democrat
Jack Armstrong - http://www.jack4justice.com/ LP
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2:
Lawrence “Larry” Meyers - http://www.judgelawrencemeyers.org/ Republican Incumbent
J. Randell Stevens - http://vote-tx.org/Intro.aspx?State=TX&Id=TXStevensJRandell LP
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5:
Cheryl Johnson - www.judgecheryljohnson.com/ - Incumbent
Dave Howard - www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=68895 - LP
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6:
Michael E. Keasler - www.judgekeasler.com/ Republican Incumbent
Keith Hampton - www.hamptonforjudge.com/ Democrat
Robert Ravee Virasin - elections.star-telegram.com/VG/VGDisplay.aspx?RaceGroupId=17 LP
Justice 5th Court of Appeals District, Place 4:
Lana Myers - http://www.justicelanamyers.com/ Replication Incumbent
Bonnie Lee Goldstein - bonnieleeforjustice.com/ Democrat
Justice, 5th Court of Appeals District, Place 12, Unexpired Term:
Robert M. (Bob) Fillmore - http://www.justicebobfillmore.com/ Republican Incumbent
Lawrence J. Praeger - http://www.tdwcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/2010AnswersLarryPraeger.pdf Democrat
Criminal District Attorney:
Currently John R. Roach not running for re-election.
Greg Willis - http://www.gregwillis.org/ Republican
Rafael De La Garza II - delagarzaforda.com/default.aspx Democrat
County Judge:
Keith Self - www.keithself.com/
David M. Smith - http://www.dms4collincounty.com/
Judge, County Court at Law Number 3:
Lance S. Baxter - http://www.baxterforjudge.com/BaxterforJudge/Home.html Republican
Sajeel S. Khaleel - www.yidio.com/sajeel-khaleel-for-judge-collin-county-by-raja-zahid-a-kha... Democrat
Justice of the Peace, Precinct No. 3, Place 2:
John E. Payton - www.jpforjp.com/ Republican incumbent
Rey V. Flores - www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAkVyYH6Occ Democrat
District Clerk:
Patricia Crigger - www.votecrigger.com/
Write-in Candidate(s)
Member, State Board of Education, District 9:
Thomas Ratliff - www.thomasratliff.com/ Republican
Jeff McGee - www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=123947 LP
Paul Cardwell - txgreens.org/paulcardwell/ Green Party
State Senator, District 8:
Florence Shapiro - http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members/dist8/dist8.htm Republican Incumbent
Ed Kless - http://electkless.com LP
Texas State Board of Education, District 12:
George Clayton - http://www.georgemclayton.com/ Republican
Amy Parsons - http://www.parsonstx.com LP
There are also a lot of State Representative’s running un-apposed, and other more local candidates. Check ou the Voter guide from the Liberty Institute.
------------------
Who will I vote for?
Probably a mix of Libertarian Party (those who actually have web-site with good information on them), and Republicans. However, for the first time I'm finding myself interested in a Democrat. Bill White... Why? Take a look at Huston; even Glen Becks “An inconvenient Book” talks a lot about some of the positive points for Huston that potentially could be at least partially thanks to Bill White.

LDS Church Leader, Elder Oaks, on U.S. Constitution


Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently stated United States Constitution's fundamental principles must be understood, valued and protected.
Elder Oaks made these remakes as the key note speaker at Utah’s Constitution Day Celebration that took place at in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 17, 2010.

The Fundamental principles he pointed out were:

  1. Popular Sovereignty: "The people are the source of government power; it is they who consented to a constitution that delegates certain powers to the government . . . [and] implies responsibility in the people. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king, on a cabal of military leaders, or on some distant group of wise men, citizens who are sovereign must share a measure of the burdens and responsibilities of governing."
  2. Division of Powers in a Federal System: ". . . divides government powers between the nation and the various states . . . [which] was unprecedented in theory or practice. In a day when it is fashionable to assume that the national government has the power and means to right every perceived injustice, we should remember that the United States Constitution limits the national government to the exercise of powers expressly granted to it. The Tenth Amendment provides: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.”"
  3. Bill of Rights: ". . . came by amendment, but I think almost all Americans look upon these first ten amendments as an essential part of the original Constitution . . . The Bill of Rights begins with what many believe to be the most important guarantee in the United States Constitution . . . “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” . . . religious freedom, is one of the supremely important founding principles in the United States Constitution . . . I maintain that in our nation’s founding and in our constitutional order, religious freedom, and the freedoms of speech and press associated with it in the First Amendment, are the motivating and dominating civil liberties and civil rights."
  4. Separation of Powers: "The concept of separating the executive, legislative, and judicial functions was established in the American colonies in the 1700s . . . If the idea of checks and balances is to work properly, each branch of government must preserve its independence from the others. Moreover, the powers of each of these three branches must be exercised in a good faith effort to serve the interests of the public, rather than to dominate the others or to enhance the personal position of a particular official . . . each branch of government must fulfill its duties fully, and each must refrain from attempting to exercise the functions of the others."
  5. The Judicial Branch’s Role in Separation of Powers: ". . . many believe the courts have a legitimate function in lawmaking when the problem is large and urgent enough and the legislative and executive branches have shown by inaction or ineffective action that they are unable to perform their functions to resolve it. The opposite point of view argues that the courts should stay entirely out of the domain of legislative lawmaking, leaving this function to the popularly elected legislative bodies and the elected chief executives who presumably reflect the will of the people . . .The differences in these approaches will not be resolved. Both will be followed in their time, with the ebb and flow of judicial appointments, politics, and legal thought. But it is important to note that we currently have widespread public dissatisfaction on this subject . . . that if not attended to it will threaten the independence the judicial branch must have to perform its function in our system of separation of powers . . . In my opinion, the judicial lawmaking that has been legitimately criticized as judicial activism concerns the interpretation of state and federal constitutions. This kind of judicial action is not reversible by the popularly elected lawmakers, and cannot even be changed by the sovereign people except in those unusual circumstances in which a constitutional amendment is feasible. If such judicial action sets aside laws enacted or approved by a direct vote of the people, it offends two fundamentals: separation of powers and popular sovereignty."
  6. Citizen Responsibilities: " We have a great Constitution whose fundamental principles many believe to be divinely inspired. Therefore what? I will suggest five responsibilities that I believe are appropriate for all citizens—whatever their religious or philosophical persuasion. Understand the Constitution . . . Support the Law . . . Practice Civic Virtue . . . Maintain Civility in Political Discourse . . . [from] “The Mormon Ethic of Civility.” I quote from that statement: “The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that renders civil discussion impossible. . . . Our democratic system [should] facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.” . . . Promote Patriotism . . . "

LDS Church seeks to “Regularize” Activities in China

From the LDS Church Newsroom: "A series of high-level meetings between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and an official from the People’s Republic of China is expected to lead to “regularized” operations for the Church in China."




“It is important to understand what the term regularizing means, and what it does not mean,” Church spokesman Michael Otterson said. “It does not mean that we anticipate sending missionaries to China. That issue is not even under consideration. 

“The Church deeply appreciates the courtesy of the Chinese leadership in opening up a way to better define how the Church and its members can proceed with daily activities, all in harmony with Chinese law.” 

With China's long history of persecuting Christians - first in 845 with an imperial edict limited all foreign religion, including Christianity - this is should be a welcomed changed of attitude for all Christian denominations as it may be the first time a foreign run Church was allowed to remotely operate in an officially recognized capacity within China.  More recently, the post WWII Communist China had promoted atheism as part of the Marxist ideology of the Chinese Community Party. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), China decided to regulate churches by requiring them to be registered with the government and subjects them to state monitoring and restrictions involving personnel, preaching topics and congregational composition.  This resulted in may Christian Churches starting similar but separate denominations in China.

Although the LDS Church does not currently proselytize in China, they do hold worship services. People living in China on foreign passports are allowed to hold religious meetings, but with restrictions that have kept the LDS Church from operating in China in a more official capacity.  The restrictions for expatriate members in China include no proselyting of any kind, no distribution of religious materials and no invitations to Chinese nationals to join the international branches' meetings or activities.  If the church becomes "Regularized", some of these restrictions may be lifted; hopefully allowing native Chinese people to begin participating.

Proposition 8 hits home

ruling by Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision.  California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree.  Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of society. 

“We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution—marriage.

“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”


Previous post from 5/25/09:

Proposition 8 survived the courts, but new lawsuits have already been filed that may find their way to the U.S. Supreme Court (FRC comments) where a potentially new "empathetic" judge could be waiting.

And the Homosexual agenda is being pushed in other states as well:
"New Hampshire lawmakers unexpectedly rejected a bill on [Wed May 20, 2009] that would have made the state the sixth in the United States to authorize gay marriage.

The state's Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted down the bill in a 188-186 vote, hours after its Senate approved the legislation 14-10 along party lines. An earlier version of the bill passed the lower chamber on March 26."

- Thomson Reuters 2009
What ever happened to what I used to hear a decade or two ago; that they just wanted tolerance? It turned into a plea for so called "equal rights", and is now ending up in a demand that we give them our blessing. It's one thing to tolerate something you find contrary to your core beliefs while having empathy for those who struggle with it, but it's quite different to be required to approve of the behavior.



NARTH released a comprehensive overview of 125 years of scientific literature on this topic: "The evidence overwhelmingly refutes the claims . . . that change is impossible, attempting change is damaging, and there is no reason to change anyway, because homosexuality is harmless."


My previous comments on this issue:


The LDS Church just released a statement that It made no monitory contributions to the "ProtectMarriage.com Coalition", but did file a report showing "in-kind donations totaling $189,903.58".




I grew up in a less then idea family setting. My mother was sick, and wanted nothing to do with my father who wasted all of his savings and our livelihood to help her; only to later have no choice but to end the marriage. My brother and I were deeply affected by it. I went looking for love in all the wrong places, and my brother has had a great deal of struggles in his life; including his choice for a homosexual lifestyle. I can't say for certain if his choice is directly linked to our troubled childhoods, but I can say that he, and I, have had many difficulties in our lives that likely could have been avoided, or at least lessened, if we had been raised in a better home environment.

I've never agreed with my brothers lifestyle choice, but I have always called him my brother, and always wished I could help him in some way. I've even at times wondered if my childish behaviors towards him, when we were younger, were to blame for some of his problems, but he once told me that they didn't. I sometimes wonder if we fully understand how our childhood experiences might have affected us.

My brother has been part of a group that wants our commonly shared church to change its views on same-sex marriage; which is something our church would never do as the very idea goes against some deeply held church doctrines. It's been one of the hardest things for my brother to deal with and certainly one of the biggest areas that we disagree with each other on.

More recently I found out that one of my cousins also struggles with homosexuality, but seems to me to be dealing with it better then my brother has been (not that it's an easy thing for either of them to deal with). My cousin has an interesting statement about the issues surrounding California's Proposition 8:


While I'm certainly a supporter of traditional marriage, I've often wondered what business government has in an institution that I believe should be purely religious in nature; however, I also feel that without the few laws we currently have protecting and supporting traditional families, we would be much worse off then we already are.

In the LDS Church's publication "The Family:A Proclamation to the World" it also warns of problems that come to society when families are destoryed: ". . . we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

It's understandable to me why so many in my own and other churches see homosexuality as a great threat to traditional families and society in general, but I also hope that we don't get so caught up in any of the threats facing all of us today, that we loose sight of how important it is to have a Christ-like attitude towards our fellow men.



Was (s)he born that way? Was it environmental?

I don't know, and I don't believe focusing on those questions helps deal with the real issue. The truth is that we all have struggles in our lives; whether they are caused by environmental issues, physical traits, genetics, or even the personalities and desires of our spirits, we all have them (some more so then others).

I've heard of studies claiming to show that certain genetic traits "cause" people to be one way or another, but is that really an excuse for violent behaviors, serial killers, rapists, or even homosexual behaviors? Certainly it's clear to most of us that these things are big problems to a society trying to promote peace, tranquility, and good family values; however, is homosexuality really a problem and/or detriment to society?

In a secular society that tells us to "do what feels good" to be free and open with our sexuality and express ourselves freely, homosexuality certainly isn't going to be viewed as a problem, any more then fornication or "sleeping around" would be. So what's the problem with all of this, if everyone involved is a consenting adult?

I could argue about how more and more of our younger and younger children are being forced into knowing more and more about sex and so called "safe-sex" practices as they are bombarded by the sexual innuendos of our society as it tell us to "do what feels good", and I could talk about how pornography and disrespect for our bodies promotes many of the other socially destructive behaviors I mentioned before; however, I don't believe these arguments even being to tell the real story of what all this does to destroy our spirituality.

How does homosexuality play into all this? We'll any kind of sex out-side of marriage is called Fornication. It's a sin spelled out in black and white in the bible (see: Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 6:18–20. Also see: Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:27–30, and look up Chastity). So would allowing same-sex marriage fix that aspect of homosexuality so it's no longer a sin?

It might if it weren't for one other very important thing: the nature of Marrage as ordained by God (see: Gen. 2: 24, Matt. 19:4-5, 1 Cor. 11: 11, Eph. 5:31, and D&C 131:2). Marriage is clearly stated through out the bible, and other scriptures, to be between a Man and a Woman, but it's much more then that (or at least it should be). It is a convent that is also made with God. One that can lead to great happiness, not just in this life, but in the life to come. Two men together, or two women together, cannot obtain this level of exaltation. One must have a spouse of the opposite gender to truly enjoy the eternities. Why? Because this is the way families work. They will not endure the eternities in any other way.

In fact, when it really comes down it, it truly is all about family, and not just our families here on this earth, but our larger family that we are all a part of, resided over by our Father in Heaven. A family we were part of before this life as spirits, and one we will continue to be a part of after this life, if we chose so.


- We are not mere mortals trying to have spiritual experiences, rather we are spiritual beings having a mortal experience.

The Problem with Porn - and the real solution

Recently in Church our lesson focused on the dangers of pornography; and just as is typical in many christian churches that believe in abstinence before marriage, the teacher awkwardly stated that he didn't want to get into too much detail, but speak about it in more general terms. I made a comment to my concerns that we often times are not bold enough about this topic; however, with the limited time, and awkward setting, it wasn't possible for me to explain the observations I have made and learned about on the related issues. Perhaps this blog post will be more helpful then my comments were.

In our world today we have so many people who seem oblivious to the dangers of something that just a few decades ago was obvious to most. The degradation of women (and even men) to the level of an object to be desired and used at will is increasingly pervasive throughout societies across the world; further perpetuated by ideas of "If it feels good, do it" while seemingly ignoring or having no regard for the conciseness for one's actions. Even the "safe sex" techniques promoted today ignore the spiritually damaging consequences of pre/extra-marital sexual activities.

The start of the problem for most men is often caused by what I like to call Soft Porn. It has become common place in public view, on billboards, on magazines covers prominently displayed on store shelves for all to see, and even at the beach or swimming pool as women show off as much of there bodies as they can; often wearing less clothing and revealing more then commonly used as underwear would if worn alone. Why is this so acceptable today, when just a few decades ago it would have been considered indecent exposure, and why is it such a big problem for men? It seems the world has forgotten the words of Jesus himself, that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

We are sexual beings; it's a part of who we are, and for good reasons. Sex, and even more so, the idea of sex, can arouse feelings in us at almost any time we allow it to; men and women alike. These feelings help us develop bonds with our spouses, and encourages compliance with another great commandment of Gods: to "multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28, 9:1).  The problem with Soft Port being so pervasive, comes from the fact that men tend to be more visual then their female counter parts when it comes to sexual stimulation. Thus women are less substitutable and cognizant of the constant bombardment of sexual stimulus that men see every day; and this often makes it more difficult for women to understand the real issues that lead to Pornography addition, or even how to help cure an addition to the same.

As soon as a young boy hits puberty, and girls stop being awkward looking, cudie-filled enemies, the problems starts. A bit of stimulus here, and a bit more there, essentially programing the brain to expect the rush of endorphins and other naturally created stimulus hormones on a regular basis. Since our brains are designed to primarily to keep us alive, they tend to revolt when something common place and expected is suddenly stopped. The brain will do everything it can to trick us into getting things back to what it's use to. Just like with drugs, as the body becomes used to them, the brain starts requiring more and more of these hormonal stimulants to achieve the same level of euphoria, thus implanting the seeds of addiction.  As young boys become exposed to more stimulation, and more threats from his society as to what might happen if he slips up, the conflicting messages of the world and his religion are undoubtedly going to trap him into a no-win situation. He can't screw up, but admitting that he's struggling with his bodies strongest natural desire, and seeking help, would only expose him as a disgusting vial little man. Thus without knowing were to go for help to understand what his body is experiencing, he "slips up", get's a huge reward from his bodies natural hormonal response, and the addiction sets in.

What I have personally seen with some people I know, and hear about with increasing frequency, is a common pattern with men who struggle with this increasingly common addiction. They struggle with masturbation and avoiding porn as young men. Doing everything they can to just get by until they reach that one goal that is so predominately preached to them: Marriage. Once they are married, they think, they will finally have an approved outlet for these desires, and everything will be ok; however, what usually happens is quite different. The exposure to pornography, and the unrealistic fantasies it and the world creates for men, simply cannot be satisfied in an appropriate marriage relationship; so when the real life intimate relationship within the appropriate bounds of marriage doesn't fulfill these unrealistic expectations, the addition eventually starts to resurface. The brain is looking for what it was trained to view as normal, and starts to create cravings when it doesn't get what it thinks it needs to keep things "normal".  Eventually the addiction is once again in full force.

In an effort to provide the much needed help, here are the three main areas that should assist with overcoming most addictions, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or even pornography (but keep in mind that I'm not a professional in this area, and anyone struggling with addictions of any kind, needs to seek real help):
  1. Physical - You don't have to be a body builder, or be the healthiest person on the planet, but you do need to get some kind of physical exercise on a regular basis. Work in the yard, go for a walk, play Wii Sports, or what ever works for you.  Just find something you can enjoy doing that you are willing to do at least a few times a week to help you body release some of it's built up energy. Get the right amount of sleep to help not only your body regenerate, but also so your mind can properly process your daily stress; meditation can also help a great deal with this.
  2. Spiritual - Pornography is a killer of spirituality, and how better to combat that then with spirituality. Reading even a few passages of scriptures daily, praying multi-daily, reading good books, listening to or watching something positive and uplifting. All of this is good and helpful, but all to often is the only answer given by churches and religious leaders to those who are struggling in this area; leaving them with an incomplete and unbalanced solution.
  3. Mental - Without a positive, realistic, and appropriate mental view of reality (especially when it comes to appropriate sexual expectations when dealing with porn addiction), one will never be able to compete with the fantasies shown in movies or on the internet; after all that's the goal of those types of media - to provide an escape from reality in favor of something more stimulating. This is were most Christians Churches that teach abstinence most often fall short. Even when they do teach more then just "Don't do it", the message of not doing it becomes dominant, and often what our kids are left with is a sterilized, technical knowledge of what they are not supposed to do. This is were the world comes in, with it's constant bombardment of sexually suggestive innuendos that start to seed the young mans mind with the drug like fantasies that will make Pornography so addictive.  With nothing (or very little) to counter the worlds sensationalized fantasies, the ideas of what sex is all about becomes polluted with unrealistic expectations.

Unlike substance abusers who can learn to avoid putting the drugs into their body, or who can learn to stay away from the bar, the things that make pornography so addictive, are unavoidably a part of who we are.  Our desire to procreate is an important part of how we are designed, and is meant to be there for our benefit.  Thus unlike other addictions, that are often dealt with by behavioral avoidance, sexual addiction requires a real change in one's desired behavior. When our natural sexuality is abused threw thing such as pornography and masturbation, it can create addictions that are impossible to overcome without a great deal of help. It's naive for us to think that if drug addicts and alcoholics need help to recover, why are sexual addictions any different?



If you struggle with this, you need a support system that includes those closest to you. You need someone you can openly talk with about your struggles, such as a spouse, or a psychologist. Bishops or other religious leaders are important to talk to as well - the confession will help with your spiritual recovery - but all to often our religious leaders are not equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to truly help someone with an addiction; it's unfair to them and the addicted to expect a complete solution from them. Hopefully they can be a good starting point towards getting you the help you need, and support groups for porn addiction are even becoming more prevalent; despite the overwhelming potential it has for causing social embarrassment (so much so that even making this blog post could likely cause some to feel embarrassed for me).

For us "Mormons" (or even any abstinence supporting Christians) I would suggest one resource in particular:
http://www.abettermormon.com/

The History of Mormon Pioneers.


Between 1847 through 1869 (and even beyond the 1890s), estimates of 60,000 - 80,000 Mormon pioneers migrated to the Utah mountains on journeys that took months to complete. Today, July 24th, Mormons all around the world celebrate these faithful pioneers who made these treks.  The specific date, commemorates the arrival of the first company of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, who had already abandoned many cities in the relatively short time the church had existed, decided once again to abandon their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, when Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was martyred at Carthage, Illinois, in June 1844. Their move to the West began February 4, 1846 as tensions between the Mormons and other Illinois settlers were continuing go rise.

With the outbreak of the Mexican War, U.S. President James Knox Polk asked the Mormons for a battalion of men. Volunteers were recruited and the Mormon Battalion formed. During their march of 1846-1847 from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California, they blazed a wagon route across the Southwest. Their pay and their later explorations also helped the pioneer settlers.

The historic pioneer journeys are celebrated throughout the Church each year with parades, picnics, dramatic and musical pageants or actual trekking re-creations, young and old, newly baptized and long-term members pause to honor and acknowledge the pioneer heritage of the early Church.  The festivities honor the sacrifice of tens of thousands of pioneers and are a reminder to Mormons of their faith.

In an 1870 article in the Deseret News, President Brigham Young recounted the trek:
“In April 1847 …one hundred and forty-three pioneers took up the line of march with our ox teams, with our cows and with what we could pick up. We made our own roads from day to day and week to week.…When the wagons were in the mud my shoulder was one of the first that ever lifted the wagon wheel; we pulled them out of the mud, sought our camping places, cut our roads through these canyons, and located on this place …”

More than 350 wagon trains and 10 handcart companies delivered early members of the Church to the Utah Territory during that 20-year period before the railroad was completed in 1869. Durring this time, the body of Church members, under the direction of Brigham Young, settled more than 400 communities in the western territories. An online library of stories depicting life on the trail is available through the Church History Department.  The completion of the rail road, however, did not stop immigration of Mormon converts to Utah, though it did require more cash in hand, the trip via steam boat and then train took only a few weeks as apposed to the many months that had previously been required.

One source notes, possible reasons for the decline in immigration and an end to pioneer treks:: In 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act brought an end to the LDS church corporation and threatened the survival of all Mormon institutions. Additionally, women, who had the vote under territorial law, did not have the right to vote by this act. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Immigration and Emigration, p. 675-676 further states,
"After the late 1880s, coinciding with a new wave of emigration from central and southern Europe and with negative publicity and ANTIPOLYGAMY LEGISLATION, LDS immigration was frowned upon by many in the United States. The large number of LDS steamship passengers were still assisted with arrangements by Church personnel, but they were instructed to maintain a low profile and did not function visibly as Mormon emigrant companies. By the 1890s the number of Latter-day Saints in Europe had dwindled, and in view of economic conditions in the United States, Church leaders began to discourage emigration."
Also during this time, in September 1890 Mormon church president Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, and the following year, the Democratic and Republican political parties were organized in Utah. Utah finally was granted statehood in 1896.

Many other L.D.S. Church Record Sources indicate 1890 as the end of the pioneer era. According to "Glen M. Leonard, “Westward the Saints: The Nineteenth-Century Mormon Migration,” Ensign, Jan 1980, 7", in the 1890s new converts and members "were encouraged to postpone migration, and then by the 1920s to stay in their homelands". The Great Depression and two world wars also created temporary barriers to immigration, followed by more effort towards the building up of the church's infrastructure throughout the world to further discourage immigration; especially in the war torn countries of Europe. Still significant immigration continued from Canada and Central America until the 1970s.

Today, more then a century and a half after the first pioneers, with nearly 150 temples world wide, and nearly 14 million members, the church has truly grown to be a world wide organization.  Today's Mormon Pioneers do not trek across the glob, but instead struggle in the small congregations to bring the gospel to there local communities.  In a January 2010 address to young members throughout the world, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles noted, “In many ways you are like the pioneers … except in your journey you face new and challenging circumstances. Each of you has your own personal challenges, and each of you is on the pioneer trail toward eternal life. You must always remember you are not alone. All over the world the youth of the Church are walking the gospel path with you.”

What do Mormon's Truly belive about the purpous of government?

The LDS Church's official doctrine on the purpose of government:

1. Governments should preserve freedom of conscience and worship:
"... governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society . . . government can [only] exist in peace [when] laws . . . secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life. . . all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws [those who] will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign."
1a. People can worship as they please so long as it does not interfere with the rights and liberties of others:
". . . religion is instituted of God . . . men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others . . . human law [cannot] interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion . . . [government] should restrain crime, but never control conscience . . . punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
2. All men should uphold their governments, and owe respect and deference to the law:
". . . all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected . . . all governments have a right to enact [laws] to secure the public interest [while] holding sacred the freedom of conscience . . . every man should be honored in his station . . . to the laws all men show respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker . . . the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense . . . for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment."
3. Religious societies should not exercise civil powers:
"[It is not] just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges . . . all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct . . . provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life . . . they can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship."
4. Men are justified in defending themselves and their property:
". . . men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed . . . all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments . . . where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded. . . it [is] just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world . . ."
4a. Slavery is unjust:
". . . we believe [it] to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.

The 56 Men who Birthed A Nation

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2nd, 1776. On this day, 234 years ago, a small group of men dedicated themselves to a higher purpose, an ideal they believed in so greatly, they signed their name to its expression and in doing so put their very lives at risk.

By signing the Declaration of Independence, 56 men stood in direct defiance of the British government. Today as we all enjoy what freedom is left of what our forefathers tried to guarantee us, think of the extraordinary sacrifice of 56 extraordinary Americans.

Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, and two more had sons captured. Nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War. If you ever feel like your lone voice can never be heard, that the political system isn't set up for "regular" Americans to change the course of history, remember: The signers were flesh and blood, mortal men with a divinely-inspired aim.

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They were well educated, smart enough to know that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrants. They did it anyway, and God bless them for it.

As we enjoy our liberty this Independence Day, or any day this year, we must never take that liberty for granted. Too many have given too much. In the words of the Signers themselves, "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The Signers asked for nothing in return for their pledge, but I say that we show our thanks with a pledge of our own: To remember, to be grateful, and to carry on in their spirit. America is the greatest country this world has ever known, and it will stay that way only so long as "we the people" remember that just like in 1776.

The .22 bullet that traveled over a mile, up hill, both ways.

I remember hearing the tall tell stories our parents you to tell about how they walked up hill to and from school every day; sometimes in freezing buzzards or pelting rain.

We'll it seems the liberal media has resurrected this story, except this time they are using it to make us gun toting crazy red necks thing twice about going to the shooting range.



According to Google Maps it's 1.23 miles from the shooting benches at the Garland range to the back yards behind the church. As for the elevation of the range vs the elevation of the homes that back up to the church, there is a large (tall) landfill in between, and a 75' increase overall from shooting range to backyard.

A Remington 36 Grain golden hollow point has a muzzle velocity of about 1280 feet per second. The maximum range of this round is 1892.6 yards, fired at an angle of 28 degrees from horizontal, or about 1.07 miles.

A much more likely explanation is that someone was in the tree field area behind the houses messing around with their .22 rifle.

Flattening TacoMaria's Pinch Weld.

When putting bigger tires on a Gen1 or 2 Tacoma...


you tend to have issues with the front wheels rubbing on what is commonly referred to as the "Pinch Weld".


It's what holds the fender to the cab, and tends to stick out just a little to far so that when turning while compressing the springs, the tires hit them.

So I cut a bit of plastic off,


And hammered them down. Problem solved.


O, and the Moon was interesting that night as well.


More TacoMaria Information Here

The Truth about VW's $600, 258 MPG car

I received an e-mail recently about Volkswagen starting production on a $600 car that get's 258 MPG.  It seemed to good to be true, and after a little research I discovered that I was right.

The source of this e-mail appeared to come from a few sources:

Trendy Living Examiner, SeriousWheels.com, and Rense.com

Each of these source seem to have some truth in them, but they also seemed to have misleading information that the e-mail I received had somehow compiled all together.

I also found an interesting on-line post about how it looks a lot like the 1953 Messerschmitt KR-175


So what's the truth? First of all, yes this appears to be an actual car that according to some posts I found is going to be produced in China threw contract with Volkswagen. What this really means is that Volkswagen is not producing the car for China, so the Chinese government can control the cost of the car as they do with many other things.

Regardless of if the Chinese actually manufacture the car on their own, the suggestion of many of the above mentioned web-pages saying that RMB 4,000 equaling about US $600, still Ignores the fact that producing the same thing in the US would most certainly cost much more. Add to that the additional regulations and safety requirements cars in the US have today, and the price would increase many times more.

An article from EnergyBoom.com suggest a potentially more realistic price tag:

"The prototype has a single-cylinder diesel engine (though that could change), anti lock brakes, driver's airbag and an electronic stability program. It holds 6.5 liters or 1.72 gallons of gasoline and does, in fact get 258 miles per gallon with a top speed of around 74 miles per hour. . . Volkswagen is calling it the world’s most economical car but the price tag is not going to be $600. Reports say it will be more like $25,900 and that VW will be making a limited number for release in 2010."

GreatChange.org also had an important fact to note about this lightweight vehicle:

"Some points to remember are that many of the construction materials such as magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber require greater energies for their mining and fabrication than the normal materials, and the vehicle itself can require more energy to build than it consumes over its lifetime"

They also cost a great deal more then the more traditional materials used in Automotive manufacturing. Even then, according to Glen Beck's "An Inconvenient book", it may, overall, be more energy efficient and cost effective to continue driving your old gas guzzler then to buy a new more expensive, but somewhat more fuel efficient, vehicle. Google Answers also has some information in this area that seems to somewhat contradict these claims.

The real problem with the $600 VW gas sipping mini car is the fact that there's no way it will end up costing only $600. The second problem is that it's already mid 2010, and I was unable to find any references to it actually being produced, though according to Car and Driver, it will be:

"VW’s biggest news at the Frankfurt auto show was the L1 concept, a prototype that "is close to production" and "will be developed," the company says. Three ingredients were needed to make it happen: a supremely efficient powertrain, great aerodynamics, and lightweight engineering.

As to the powertrain, VW has opted for a two-cylinder, 39-hp turbo-diesel engine combined with a 14-hp electric motor. There is a stop/start system and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The L1 can reach 100 mph, but fuel economy at that speed drops to a shameful 1.38 liters per 100 kilometers, or 170 mpg."