Monday, March 31, 2008

Tournament Update

Well the thing that never happens happened. All four number 1 seed made it to the final four. When picking brackets, it is smart to pick upsets in the final four because all four number ones never make it. Of coarse Melissa picked all four to go and so is now beating me. I am sitting in fourth place out of seven, not a good year again, with Melissa in second. One interesting note is that my brother-in-law Doug, who won last year, is in last place. It is not that he dense, to me it is a testimony of how much a crapshoot picking brackets are.

Just a couple quick notes. Way to go Davidson. Curry has been the story of the tournament. What depresses me about Curry is that in all the human interests stories about him they keep repeating how much he wanted to play for Va Tech. Both his parents played at Tech. How good would Va Tech be with Curry? The other note about Curry is that I believe his fame caught up with him. He has been all over TV the past week, and with the last shot on the line he wanted tournament immortality by sinking the last shot. Problem was Kansas knew it too and doubled teamed him. Curry could have made an easy pass to a wide-open player on the 3-point line but instead he tried to be the hero and took a crazy shot and lost. Should have made the pass.

If I could change my picks I would say that UNC will beat Kansas. UNC looked unstoppable, where Kansas only won by 2. In the other game I was proven completely wrong about Memphis. I thought they would loose early one, but the way they dismantled Texas was shocking. Texas is good, but Memphis made them look like a JV team. So my picks are UNC beating Kansas, and Memphis beating UCLA (they get here every year but never finish). In the final game I still have UNC winning. Should be great games.

Would anyone sign a petition if I started one to President Monson asking if in the future we have priesthood secession on a different night than final four Saturday? This always reminds me of two years ago when Pres Hinckley gave his talk about gambling. I was wondering how many men listening to him that night had put money into a bracket. This explains why God inspired someone to invent TEVO.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Advice Can Jefferson Give to Obama and Hilary

I gave a lecture about Thomas Jefferson this week and one of my main themes was how hard it is to be the President you want to be when you first run for that office. I believe this applies to all presidents. It applies to Bush but mostly to Hillary or Obama. Jefferson as the head of the Republican party believed in a few basic ideas of government. First he believed government should be small. Local government was more important because they were closer to the people. One way to curtail the power of the Federal government was by what was called a strict interpretation of the Constitution. In other words, if the Constitution does not explicitly say it, than the government can not do it. He also believed that what would make America great was if we were a country of small yeoman farmers, small farmers where everyone owned their own land. Industry was seen as a curse to Jefferson, Industry created a nation of owners and workers, with the owners having all the power. To Jefferson what made a man free, was land ownership and controlling their own means of production. It was these ideas that made Jefferson popular, and in 1800 when he ran for president, it was these ideas that carried him into the White house.

It is how he won the presidency and what he did once entering the White House that is interesting. In the election of 1800 four men ran for the office of President and none won a majority of the electoral college, so the decision fell to the Congress. Only Jefferson and Aaron Burr’s names (the top two vote getters) were brought to the Congress to vote on. But in Congress neither man could get the votes required for a victory. Maryland was a split state so Jefferson’s men went to work to try to persuade the Maryland delegates to vote for Jefferson, which after some compromise they did and Jefferson won. However, it is the compromise that is important. Jefferson promised the men from the Federalists party that if he won he would not dismantle the economic policies that had been put in place by Alexander Hamilton, namely the national Bank and tariffs. Hamilton as the head of the Federalists party believed in tariffs, because he believed tariffs would help the US become an industrial power. He disagreed with Jefferson, and believed that industry was the way to make the nation great. So Jefferson’s first act as president was to compromise his own views of government.

After Jefferson took office, he continued to make decisions that went against his own way of thinking. The best example is also his greatest achievement, the Louisiana Purchase. When France took control of the Louisiana territory, Jefferson worried that the French might want to re-colonize the Americas and decided instead to send James Madison to see Napoleon and authorized him to spend 10 million to buy New Orleans. When Madison arrived the French (for reasons to long to explain) had decided they did not need Louisiana and offered to sell the entire area to us for 15 million, but they needed the money in cash. Madison did not have the authority to make the purchase, but recognizing the great deal and the importance of the purchase (as a Republican he also believed in the value of yeoman farmers and knew they would need more land) and agreed to the terms. Jefferson approved of Madison’s decision, but now faced the problem of not having the money to pay. What Jefferson decided to do was borrow money but also issue government bonds to raise the money. This was a difficult Constitutional issue for Jefferson, who believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. No where in the Constitution does it give the President the power to acquire new land, or issue bonds to pay for new land. Jefferson, for what he considered the greater good, had to break one the fundamental issues of government that he believed in. He stretched the power of the Federal government when it suited his interest.

Later in his presidency, when Jefferson was having issues with the British he passed a measure called the non-intercourse act (I have to warn my students that this is not as exciting as it sounds). This act basically cut off trade with the British. Later after Americans continued to trade with the British Jefferson passed the Enforcement act, which gave the government power to search any ship suspected of smuggling. This may not seem wrong, people should not break the law, but what Jefferson is doing was creating more government power. He had intended to limit the power of the government when he took over, but instead he made it even bigger. Also by restricting trade with British, he cut off all industrial trade, but since Americans required industrial goods, they had to begin creating industry in America, and without British competition, America launched into the industrial revolution. So the President who believed industrialization was the worst possible path our nation could take is responsible for beginning the industrial revolution.

The election of 1800 is often referred to as the Revolution of 1800, in that the victory of Jefferson was seen as a victory for the little guy. Jefferson’s ideology over Hamilton’s. Yet even though Jefferson won the battle, Hamilton won the war, in that today we are not a country of yeoman farmers, but instead an industrial powerhouse. Was Jefferson a bad President, no of course not. He made decisions that he though was best at the time, even when those decisions went against what he promised when he was running for the office. My point is being the leader of the free world is hard. I truly believe most politicians when they are running for president truly want to help people, there way of doing it I disagree with, but most are genuine. What they learn quickly is things are not as easy, ideology and practicality are not always the same thing. When you listen to politicians speak, we need to understand that know matter how much they call for change, change may not be possible, or even wanted. Even the best of men, Thomas Jefferson, could not carry through what he promised, why might we think lesser men can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Madness Update

I’ve done it again. I took myself out of contention in the opening weekend. I was upset as I watched Duke loose on Saturday, when Melissa asked why; I told her I had them in the final game. Her response to me was why did you do that? Good question and I have no good answer. Once again my loyalty to Duke has let me down, in the last two years they have gone out in the opening weekend. To make it even worst I wanted to pick W. VA (see earlier blog), I knew they had the potential to beat Duke and even get to the final four themselves. I guess I was wrong about the ACC. I grew up a huge ACC fan, and today in Basketball and Football it is my favorite division. I know they are not the greatest football division, but they have always been the best in basketball. However, this year they only got 4 teams in and two of them (Duke and Clemson) are out in the first weekend. I still have faith in UNC, but I have to accept the ACC is not the power they have once been.

The conference that has replaced them is the Big East, which still looks strong. But they too let me down when Pitt was defeated by Michigan. Here again I need to admit my earlier error. I said the Big 10 was weak. I still believe it but yet the Big ten only got 3 teams in and Wisconsin and Michigan St are still standing while Pitt, Georgetown have fallen and out of the 7 Big East teams in the dance only 3 are still standing, Louisville, Nova, and West Virginia.

The Pac 10 has played well. I am surprised to see Wash St. still in but not UCLA. UCLA is still one of the best teams, yet they will have to play better than their second game to win. I still believe they underachieve. UCLA has made the final four several times in recent years, but every year have one the best teams, yet never cut down the nets.

At this point in the tournament, I have lost so I am hoping to see some good games, but mostly I will be rooting for the little guys, especially Davison and Western Kentucky. I have spent some time in W. Kentucky and love the campus and the area and with my connection to Kentucky (my dissertation) I am rooting for W. Kentucky and Louisville. Of course I picked UNC to win, so I still will hope to see that, but still hope a team like W. VA or Xavier do well.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Jake and I went with the scouts camping this weekend and had an enjoyable time. Jake spent most of his time chasing armadillos around camp. There is one in the background of the first picture, but it is small. It turns out he is a natural at capture the flag. He jumped in with the big kids and chased them around all night tagging everyone and asking are you on my team. The boys had fun with him and as always let him play. When we finally went to bed around 11, he was asleep before I got into my sleeping bag. We camped on the Rio Grande River which was interesting. Just accross the river was a Mexicican park with a few thousand people partying and swimming in the river. It was weird, there is nothing to stop them from just swimming across to our side, but why would they want to, they were having quite the party. Their swimming section went half way across the river and they were water skiing and jet skiing as well. Camping where we did made me think of Lonesome Dove. The fictional town was here, and the scenery looks like it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Should President Bush Do?

I heard an interesting comment on the radio yesterday. The caller was upset with President Bush, complaining that he did not listen to the American people, and that as President he needs to do what the people want. I could not disagree more. I know things have changed since the founders created the Constitution, but if you understand the founding of our nation you will see that under republicanism, elected officials are not required to listen to the people. Our government was modeled after the British system of government of our betters. In other words, when we elect an official from our town or district we are not electing an ambassador to speak our will to the Congress. What we are doing is electing someone whose views are the closest to ours and they vote their own conscience. If we are unhappy with the way they vote, then we should vote in someone else when their term comes to an end. Yes it is important to let your congressman know what you think, but they should not make decisions base on tallies of their constituents. The idea was that our betters should know whats better for us than we do. This is known as virtual representation, because our congressmen do not represent us specifically, they represent all Americans.

So when 70% of our nation disagrees with the war in Iraq, according to our founders, the President is not required to pull out. The President needs to do what he thinks is best for us, that’s what we elected him to do. I have never been a blind supporter of the President, but one area where I have great respect for him is that he has not governed based on polls. President Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents in history. He could do things to help his approval ratings, mainly pulling out of Iraq. Yet he has not let public opinion sway his judgments. I am not saying the war is right or wrong, what I am saying is that he thinks it is right, and has followed through with what he believes, and I respect that. It is politicians that cave when things turn bad that I do not respect. This nation was founded to protect the majority from the minority, but was also meant to protect the minority from the majority. Just because the vocal majority wants something, does not make it correct. There was a time in this country when the vocal majority thought segregation was right, that did not make it right.

I know everyone is tired of using 9/11 to justify everything, but I know the President has not forgotten, it happened on his watch. None of us can know how he felt, how it affected him, it is the single most important event that happened in his presidency or even in the 2000s. On Sept 20, 2001 President Bush gave a speech. It is the last thing I read to my class every semester, and every semester I have a hard time finishing it without emotion. I just want to quote a few lines

“Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”

“It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We'll remember the moment the news came -- where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.”

“And I will carry this: It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son. This is my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end.”

The President ended with this, “I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.”

Listen to the political campaigns, the radio talk shows, and the media, He is the only one that has not forgotten. He kept his promise no matter how much it has hurt him, and I believe history will judge him accordingly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Favorite Time of the Year

This is my favorite time of the year, March Madness. Yes, college football is my favorite sport, but there is something about March Madness that excites me. We will be having the third annual Finck Family Challenge this year and I am hoping to pull off a victory. My wife won the first year, yes embarrassing, yet cool, then my brother-in-law Doug won last year. I am a big sports fan, and pay attention to basketball, but picking my brackets has been difficult lately. Over the past 12 years my wife and I have filled out brackets, and she has beaten me more times than I have beaten her, so this year I need a win. One of my biggest problems in picking is getting past my loyalties; I always pick my favorite teams and tell myself it is because they are better. Since high school I have always had the same team making at least the final four, Duke, I have always been a big fan. Many times this has paid off, some time not. There are too many games to mention, but I will mention a few.

I have Arkansas winning their opening game, Woo Pig Souie, but then they come up against UNC. If they could somehow beat UNC, I do not think they will, but Va Tech only lost by 2 on Saturday, they have an easy path to the final four. They would have to beat Tennessee, but they did on Saturday. Staying in the East, I really want to pick Butler over Tennessee. Butler is a great team, and has a real shot. They returned a lot of starters and can really score, but Tennessee seems to be on a role right now and it is too difficult to pick against them, but I will root for Butler. My upset is a repeat of two years ago with George Mason making it to the sweet 16. Not only did I grow up in the shadow of Mason, my wife graduated from there, but they do have a good shot. In the end I have chalk, with UNC playing Tennessee and UNC winning

In the Midwest, in the battle of the talented Frosh, I have Beasley over Mayo. The only high seed I have in the sweet 16 is Kansas St. Not that they are that good, but I think the big ten is that bad. Again here, I know boring, I have chalk with Kansas playing Georgetown. This was a tough choice, I really like G-Town, but Kansas is just too good.

As for the South, I am not going chalk. The hardest first round pick for me was Marquette and Kentucky. I have Kentucky pulling the upset and being the only high seed in the sweet 16. My biggest upset of the tourney is Pittsburg beating Memphis. I realize how good Memphis is, but after watching them a few times this year, they can not hit a free through to save their lives, and they have not been tested the way a good Big East team like Pitt has. Crazy I know, but I needed an upset. So I have Pitt playing Texas with Texas making it to the final four. I think Texas has the easiest path to San Antonio, but in terms of who they play and where they play, Arkansas, Houston and then San Antonio.

Lastly the West. Also not chalk, but I do not have any high seeds making the sweet sixteen. As you may expect if you know me, I have Duke making it to the final four, but they play two games that I could have picked the other way. Their second day they have to play the winner of Arizona and W. VA. I think W. VA will win and they will give Duke a real run. Joe Alexander may be the one of the best players this year. I have watched him play several times and am amazed. Then of coarse my upset of Duke beating UCLA. This is crazy; many have picked UCLA to go all the way. For me I always pick Duke, I am impressed with them, plus it seems like lately the Pac 10 never lives up to its potential. I do not think they are as good a league as others think, and I think the ACC is much better.

These are my picks; I hope everyone enjoys filling out brackets and watching the games. I know I will be wrong on a few, and I hope I am. I love seeing a team like Mason or Butler go far, I would rather see that than win the challenge. Good luck with your picks and enjoy the greatest sporting event ever, March Madness.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Democrats Are Racists

The Democrats are racists. If you are wondering, I did not say this, they did. In case you have been in a cave the last three days, the big political news was Geraldine Farraro saying that Obama’s campaign was based on race. Her comments created a firestorm, with the eventual outcome being the resignation of Farraro and apologies from the Clintons. I find this fascinating. Farraro said they are running a racist campaign and what did Obama do, he proved it by making it an issue and Farraro being fired. Ignore what I said in an earlier post about Obama taking the high road on race, that has all changed. In his speech, Obama trying to sound political, said Farraro did not mean to be a racists. So he called her a racist in a nice way, but still a racist. This is Geraldine Farraro, a spokeswoman for all liberal causes for the past twenty years, including race issues. She was the VP on the most liberal ticket, 1984, that there as been in 30 years. The Clinton’s have even come under condemnation as racists for Bills remarks and for Farraro working for the Clintons. Clintons racists? I can think of many things to call the Clintons, most of which are not good, but not racists. Up to now, Bill Clinton has been considered the greatest champion of black rights in the White House since Lincoln; he has even been called the first black president. Now after years of Democratic propaganda of the Republican being racists have turned on themselves. Elections have always been white on white, and even within the primaries. The Democrats could always claim to the be the party of the minority, and one of the most powerful tools was the race card, but now with Obama running, the Democrats are going back to their old tricks, yet it is hurting them now. Now Democrats like Farraro can see first hand what Republicans have dealt with for thirty years.

This election is about race, not because whites are racists, but because too many blacks want it to be. White America is voting for Obama in large numbers, how can they say white America is racists. But when Clinton points out that black America is voting overwhelming for Obama, suddenly it is a race issue. It is a ploy that has always worked, why would Obama abandon it now. If you really want to understand the race issue, listen to Obama’s minister who gave a speech this week. He said Hillary is not qualified because she does not know what it is like being black and being called a nigger. No she does not, but being the first women running for president, it is hard to say she does not know what it is like to struggle in a white man’s world. By the way his preacher who is stumping for Obama also said God Dam America. Obama’s wife saying she has never been proud to be an American until her black husband is winning. A black women on the radio today said if Hillary some how wins, she and other blacks will not vote. How is all this not race. What will the next four years be like, if when ever the president is criticized, they claim it is racism? The Democrats may be in some trouble. They have created a monster that is now turning against them, and threatening to tear them apart. As I said in an earlier post, race is a problem. It has improved and can still improve. But as long as black leaders use race for their own gain, and attack leaders in their own party, why would average blacks in this country do any different. Nothing will change until we judge men by the content of their heart, not the color of their skin. That starts with the leaders of the Democratic party, but right now they are too busy calling each other racists. One more reason it good to be Republican.

What We Can Learn from Iwo Jima.

It is 5:30 in the morning and Jackson will not sleep, so instead I decided to finish watching Letters from Iwo Jima. I found it an interesting film, it was very long and all in subtitles, yet it taught two important lesions. First a universal theme when it comes to warfare: politicians make war, yet it is regular people who fight and die. In the war I am most familiar with, the Civil War, this concept was expressed as “a rich man’s war, and a poor man’s fight.” This saying came about when both sides allowed the wealthy to pay for substitutes to replace them in the draft. In the Confederacy, for every 20 slaves one white was exempt from fighting, so only those with large amounts of slaves got out of the fight. But this concept is the same for every war and for every people. As seen in the movie, the baker just wanted to go home to his family, he did not understand why he was required to fight and die for an island that they could not hold. This same movie can be made for any army in any time. A movie could be made about average Germans during WWII. Hitler was evil, but the common soldier who was fighting was not much different than the American he was fighting against. Anyone who has read Alls Quite On The Western Front knows that common German soldiers did not always want to fight (WWI Book). However, this is not an anti-war post. I am anti-war, but I do believe there are times when armies must fight. I refuse to use the term pro-war, no one is pro-war, but understand sometimes war is necessary. My cousin is in Iraq right now, and I hope and pray this war can end soon and he can come home, but not if the consequences are negative for the US and the middle east. What this movie shows is something I am sure we all know, war is hell, and we can hate the enemy, but need to know the soldiers are just like us. I understand this is easy for me to say, I have never fought in war and the movie does not show the thousands of Americans who died taking the island, or the tourture Americans endured at the hands of Japaneses soldiers

Having said this, I believe this current war is different. Germans fought for the Fatherland, Japanese for their Emperor, Confederates and Union soldiers both fought for their idea of freedom, and so on. When your nation asks, people have always gone to war. But what are Al Qaeda soldiers fighting for, not for freedom; we are trying to make Iraq free. An Iraq soldier can fall into the same category as the movie, but a terrorist suicide bomber murdering innocent people out of a sick religious concept is something different. I may not agree with what Japanese soldiers fought for, but in some way can respect what they did, but there is no respect for our current enemy, they chose to do what they are doing, not out of loyalty to their nation, or even their religion (most Muslims are not terrorists), this current enemy is choosing to do evil, it is not forced on them. They do not deserve the respect or the rights other enemy soldiers deserve.

The other point the movie helps demonstrate, though I am sure Eastwood did not intend for, is to help justify Truman’s decision to drop the bomb. As Truman’s defenders have always argued, the Japanese sense of honor would not have allowed them to surrender Japan. One of the pro-bomb arguments was that dropping the bomb would save Japanese lives, and I believe the movie backs this. Asshown in the movie, the Japanese would fight till death, even over a lost cause. The last charge in the movie was not about winning, but saving honor and dying. Dropping the two bombs, allowed the Japanese to surrender without shame. It is horrible to to kill so many, but in the end it is justifiable in order to save American lives, and possibly Japanese lives as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nervously Waiting

I am sitting in my office right now waiting for the phone to ring. In a half hour I have a phone interview with a school, Lincoln Memorial University. Of coarse I wanted to get everything ready, so I got here thirty minutes ago, and now I have nothing to do and am already crazy and a bit nervous. I thought I would write to keep my mind focused on something. The last twelve years comes down to getting a tenure track job. I so much want a good job to better take care of my family. The problem I am having is do I take the first job that comes along. There are some good aspects of this job. It is in Harrogate, TN so it is very close to all my research, most places I can hit in a few hours drive. It is also close to most of my conferences. It also offers a major in Civil War history, not many schools do that. They already have a Civil War historian there of some prominence, but he is a military historian, where I am more political; together we could build a stronger program. We will also only be about 7 hours away from Melissa’s Mom. There are a few negatives. We will be three days from the rest of my family. It is also a small town. I enjoy small towns, but this one is very small. If it were just me, I would like it, but I worry about my kids, and their education. I also worry about the Church. They do have a ward close by, but I would very much like my kids to have good church friends. We did not have tons of LDS kids, but I had a few very good ones (Matt, Abe, Larke, Kari, and half of the two-headed monster). I am still waiting to hear back from BYU-Idaho. They said they should know something by mid-March. Assuming LMU likes my interview, I do not want to do too much before hearing from BYU-I. Rexburg so far from my work, but it has so many other things I would enjoy. Its outdoors, my sister lives thirty minutes away, and of coarse the Church. I have never lived (that I can remember) in Mormon country, and am sure it would be different, but I think I would enjoy it. I am just going to have to trust the Lord that he will send me where I am needed. Rexburg does not need me, maybe Tennessee does. Here in south Texas, just last week we were talking about how if just one more good family with kids could move in, we would be well off. I am sure we are not the only ward in the mission field thinking the same thing, yet as much as I understand the need to gospel strength everywhere I worry about my kids as they get older. This is all part of the trust I blogged about earlier. Well I am going to go and sit here and wait before I start rambling even more. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The girl has some brass

So Hillary is back in the news again today, not for winning a primary, in fact she lost over the weekend, but instead for having more gall than any politician I know. She and her minions have begun to reach out to the Obama camp by suggesting that they should team up and creat a power ticket to win the presidency. Yet the best part about Hillary’s proposal is that she will be on top of the ticket. Who does that, excuse me, but even though you are beating me soundly, how would you like to drop out of the race and be my number 2. Why would Obama even give this a thought? By all accounts the Democratic ticket is Obama’s to lose. The only way for Hillary to pull out a victory is to use party schemes, which will only split her own party and prove her opponents correct about her. She needs to capture the super delegates, which basically takes away the democratic process of allowing the people to vote, and allowing the party to determine the winner. Her other option is to get Fl and MI votes let in. Hillary pushing for FL and MI shows her character. She had agreed before the race began that neither state would count since they broke their party rules and moved up their primary. But now that she won, she has changed her stance and wants their votes to count. I love how both Governors are complaining how their people feel disenfranchised, if so why did not the voters of both state exercise their franchise and tell their states not to move up their primary. They knew their votes would not count when they voted, nothing was stolen from them.

Back to Hillary’s proposal. A Clinton/Obama ticket would be a very strong ticket. Hillary has the experience and Obama can bring the popular support and human element Hillary is missing. But again, Obama has a real chance of winning the presidency, why would he bow out to Hillary. Hillary could join his ticket, but I do think she would, and I do not think he would ask. Obama can do much better than Hillary. He needs an expert on foreign policy, but one that is more human , one that is not controversial or well known. The last think Obama wants is press asking Hillary what she thinks, and her possibly undercutting him. She has been famous a lot longer than he has. I also hate to say this, but he might want a man. He has enough to overcome being black, why add to the mountain he has to climb by asking voters to only support the first black president, but the first women vice pres. Baby steps are a good idea. Remember when 1984 when Mondale put Ferraro as his VP. Reagan won in the Electorial Collge 525 to 13. If not for Minnesota, Reagan might have swept. I guess I cannot blame Hillary for her suggestion, why not go for it. She is getting desperate and I does not hurt to ask. Maybe just maybe, the Republican party is not as bad off as I thought, if we are lucky McCain might realize that he does not represent the party and offer either Romney or Huckabee the presidency, but I know, that is unlikely also.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Top Ten best Novels: 1-5

I said I would post the next 5 books on Monday, but I realized today that Monday is Spring Break and I will not be coming into my office so I will post them today. How can you top the top the last five, it was difficult, but I think I have been successful. So here you go the top five most important novels.

5. Charles Dickens. Again I could not come up with just one. When all his works are put together I think he may be the greatest author of all time. Most of his works were a social commentary on life in Victorian England and the greatness of their poverty which tended to lead to crime. His other great importance is his sheer volume of works and how his characters are such a part of everyday life. How many people every Christmas watch some version of the Christmas Carol, from Scrogged to the Muppets Christmas Carol (my personal favorite version). I will just name a few, but there are many more. Many of these have been made into classic plays and films
Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol, Davis Copperfield, Great Expectations, and my personal favorite, Tale of Two Cities.

4. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, 1862. I think I am biased towards the book, not so much because of the book, but because I love the play so much. To me the play is hands down, no comparison, the best Broadway play ever. But the reason the play is so good, yes the music, but other plays like Phantom have just as good of music, but it is the story. Les Miserables dives into the biblical ideas of good v evil. As a religious man, I like how it talks about repentance, and how justice and mercy work together. I look at it as a religious text. For those of you who LDS, you might know Vaughn J. Featherstone. I heard him talk once when he said that Les Mis was the most inspired work after the standard works of the gospel. With that alone it makes my top ten.

3. Last of the Mohicans (also the Deer slayer) James Fennimore Cooper, 1826. These two books are so important because they started America’s greatest gift to the literary and movie world, The Western. Most genres are universal, but not the western, it is uniquely American. By 1826 in Europe there was no wilderness. If you walked into the woods you come to another town or down the road another country. Most of the land was taken. If you lived in England in 1826 and did not own land, then you would never own land. But in America if you started walking west, but the time you reached western NY or PA you were in the sticks, if you kept going you were in the middle of nowhere, the wilderness, the end of civilization. Cooper created the character of the tough loner, who came from the wilderness and without saying much could solve everyone’s problems. His characters of Natty Bumppo and Hawkeye were the first John Wayne, the first cowboy. Take a classic western like Shane. The tough stranger rides out of the wilderness, does not talk much, but has the skills necessary to get the job done. This is the same story just told in a different way than Last of the Mohicans. The Western is Americans most authentic expression and it began with Last of the Mohicans. By the way the 1992 movie based on the book staring Daniel Day Lewis, may just top the list of my favorite movies.

2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852. Most are familiar with this story. It describes the horrors of slavery and was meant to awaken the American people against its evils. There is so much that I can say about the importance of this book, and it could be in the number one slot, but I will give one quote that justifies its high position. When President Lincoln met Stowe for the first time he said to her, so you are the little lady that caused this great war. If that is not power, than what is.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884. Not only is this my favorite book, but I think Twain is the most important American author. No writer has had more insight than Twain, and he expressed it with so much humor. Any major subject during his life time, you can find a quote from Twain. This is not from Huck Finn, but my favorite line comes from Roughing It. Twain said Mormon women were the homeliest women he had every seen, and why a man would want to marry one, let alone two or three, was beyond him. Not important, just funny. As for Huck Finn he takes on several issues, most importantly racial problems in America. This book has been very controversial over the years, today for his use of the word nigger (which today makes the book bad), but traditionally the book had always been seen as pro-black, showing the ignorance of today’s Huck Finn bashers. After Huck ran away with Jim he comes to respect Jim, yet his society tells him Jim is less of a man because of his color, and that even God wants Jim to be a slave. There is a part where Huck renounces God, saying if God wants Jim to be a slave than he (Huck) would rather go to hell. Very powerful. In the day this was the controversial part of the book, a boy renouncing God. Yet when you understand what he is saying, he does not renounce God, just his society’s version of God, so he is renouncing his society, buy seeing Jim as a man. Deep stuff for a kid’s book. This is a story about adventure, innocence, and wrongs of society, and in the end it tells a great story, with an important message.

I hope you agree these are great books. If not tell me what I have missed. What makes lists fun is debating them.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Race Card

If you did not stay up to watch the election on March 4th, you may have missed something interesting that happened in Ohio. The polls were supposed to close at 7, but the Obama camp went to court to get an injunction to keep the polls open to 9. Ohio law is very clear on what it takes to change the closing times for the polls, there needs to be a clear problem stopping voters from making it to polling places. However on the 4th, when Obama’s people asked a judge to hold a few precincts open, he granted it, without any evidence of hardships (proving once again, judges have too much power). The issue was that the Clinton camp was not happy, but they would not make a public stink. The problem for Clinton was that the precincts held open were primarily in black neighborhoods, and so Clinton could not say anything without making it a racial issue. This lies at the very heart of the problem. Obama has played an honorable game (yes I do not agree with him, but I respect what he is trying to do), he has yet to play the race card. There have been a few opportunities where he could have used race and did not. When the Clintons referred to him as a slumlord, had he said as a black man he was offended, that would have hurt the Clinton campaign. I respect him for not doing it. Yet, the race card is still a problem for the Clintons. If a white candidate was trying to keep polls open to help their chances, Hillary would have been all over it, but with a black candidate, she needs to be careful what she says and does. The worst thing you can be called in politics is a racist. Cheat on your wife, pardon rapists, and accept money from crooks, no big deal. Say something racist and you might as well drop out. This is one area where Hillary or any candidate is at a disadvantage.

I know there are will always be race issues in this nation, and living where I do I have become more away of what it is like to be a minority. Everywhere I go here I am a minority, often times being the only white person in a store or wherever. Just the other day I had to go visit someone. I was meeting another guy at her house and was early so I waited for my friend in my car outside her house. I was coming from church so was wearing a white shirt and tie. As I slowly drove down the street looking for her address I noticed how strange all her neighbors were looking at me, not used to see a big white guy looking at their houses. When I stopped in front of her house, I waited for over ten minutes. Every neighbor on the block came out to check up on me. One finally came to my car to see what I was doing. I know back home a black man waiting in his car outside a house in my neighborhood would draw the same attention. What I think needs to happen is for everyone to stop looking for racism. Too many minorities are looking for the chance to accuse others of racism. This primary was a perfect example. The Clinton camp can not come down as hard on Obama on few issues because she can not afford to look racists. To me that is the very definition of racism, treating others different because of their race. The only way to stop it, is to not go around looking for it.

I have been very impressed by Tiger Woods. An announcer said that other golfers should lynch him. The black community has been up in arms, wanting her head. Many have been just as mad at Tiger because he just let it be, he did not take offense. Was the statement wrong, maybe. I say maybe because of her intent. She is close to my age, and using the word lynching does not mean anything to her. She is too young to understand what happened in the 1960s. We want a world without racism, yet villainize girl for talking and not being sensitive of race issues. Is that not what we want, a world where we do not see Tiger as black golfer, but just a golfer and can talk openly without fear. In a way her comment is a good thing, in that we have come so far, that a young girl does not remember a time when blacks were lynched in this country. Yes there is still racism, but we have come a long way. The most popular TV personality in the World is Black (Oprah) and we may have a black man for the President of the United States. Yet as long as Clinton and McCain have to be more careful when debating Obama than they would a white candidate, there will always be racism.

Big Jake

I want to make a quick personal note. My son Jake is such a wonderful kid. On the way to school today he finished reading Green Eggs and Ham. It was the first time he has read a real book all the way by himself. He was so happy and could not wait to tell his teacher. I could not be more pleased with him. He started off a bit behind, being in speech and other special classes, but he has just taken off. I know I was not close to reading a book when I was in Kindergarten. He also gave a talk in church on Sunday. What a great church we belong to that allows six year old the opportunity to speak and begin to develop a testimony of Christ. Lately he has made me laugh, because his answer to everything when I question him is, because were best friends. He knows how to get to me. I have never known a better spirit than Jake, the way he has genuine concern for the wellbeing of Savannah and Jackson warms my heart, I am just glad he is my son.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is Political Change Good? A Historical perspective

Change. What an interesting word, and even a more interesting campaign slogan. Change to what? Does change always mean a change for the better? Obama has made change his entire campaign, his lack of substance may have caught up with him last night. I can not believe I am saying this, but I was happy to see Clinton win last night. For four years everyone knew Clinton would run for president this year, and for four years Republicans have been bracing for the inevitable, and preparing to do anything in our power to stop her. The thought of Hillary as president makes me cringe, but over the past week I have began to feel that of the two Democratic choices she may be the lesser of two evils. I think we have been so focused on the possibility of Hillary winning that we allowed an even greater threat to sneak up on us. Now that Obama has been strongly campaigning in Texas I have been able to listen to him a bit more, including his stop at my campus. His campus stop was all the same, we need change. It was his TV ad that first concerned me. His ad basically said that it is not fair that the rich have money and that the poor do not and that he wants to change that. Democrats have always wanted to level the playing field, but the way Obama talks about it, makes it a distribution of wealth. Now I am not rich, in fact I am on the poor side right now, but anyone who works should see the problem of taking money from the rich because they are rich and giving to those who are not. Leveling the playing field is fine, give the poor a fighting chance is fine, but to punish people because they make money and give it the poor goes against every American principle the founder believed.

I believe Obama constitutes the worst fear of the Founding Fathers, not because of his color (which would have blown their mind), but because of the source of his popularity. When the Founders created our Constitution, there was not a mention of political parties. The Founders hoped to avoid parties, or factions as they called them, and in fact saw the Constitution as the ultimate protection against factions. They Believed the Patriot President was endangered by two things—factionalism and Factionalism’s ugly offspring, the demagogue. Party competition would only lead to un-virtuous men who appeal to popular passion and prejudice. One of the most brilliant political thinkers of his day, Alexander Hamilton, said of the people, , “beset as they are … by the snares of the ambitious, avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it.” Men who posses their confidence more than they deserve it, there is not better line to sum up the Obama campaign. Our system is supposed to weed out those not qualified to run as president, but with the party system, and the party structure, they can push through a candidate who has little qualifications for president (not yet as least) and has run on a platform of no substance. He is popular because he is popular. I see it every day with my students who love him, but do not know why, but mainly because he is popular, that is the demagogue that spawned from the factions the Founders feared.

So what is the Change that Obama promises. In politics everyone promised change, However, change is not always good. History give two extreme example of men who gained unhealthy power from the masses by promising change. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not comparing Obama to these men, but to the idea of change. In 1917 the Czar abdicated his throne during WW I and was replaced by the democratically elected Duma. The Duma hoped to accomplish what the Czar could not, mainly feed and people, but were just as unsuccessful. They also remained in the war against the Germans. To show they were democratic, the Duma released political prisoners and allowed exiled political trouble makers to return to Russia. One of the men who returned home after exile was Vladimir Lenin. Lenin would go on to form the Bolshevik party and gain popular support from the people. He promised them three things, Land, Peace, and Bread. Basically he told them he would get them out of the war and feed them, worthy causes. As most politicians, he ran on a platform of change, and he carried through with his promise of change, but change was not always for the better.

Similar situation happened in Germany. The German Great Depression was much worse than the American one. Not only was their economy crippled, but so was their pride after losing WW I. The desperate situation made Germany ripe for a man like Hitler. He promised the German people everything they wanted to hear. He would fix the depression, he would make them great again, and he gave them a scape goat for losing the war, so they could keep their pride-the Jews and the Weimar government. His movement became very popular, because he promised the people change. Once again he did deliver when his popularity brought him to power. German did get out of the depression, and they did become a strong nation again, but I am sure no one will argue that his change was good.

Now again, I am not saying Obama is like Hitler or Lenin, but I am saying politicians promising change is not always positive. The kind of things Obama is suggesting are changes, but hopefully Americans can see that is kind of change may not be good for our nation. I do not know what last night meant, but Hillary still has a fighting chance. I am still in disbelief and I might rather have Hillary than Obama. But his entire election is disappointing, know matter who is running for president, we will not have a good choice of president.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Random Thoughts

Most of my posts seem to either be political, historical, or cultural, but today I have some personal things I would like to say. First I am very blessed. My little family does have some trials, which seem big to us, for one I would really like to find a tenure track job. Yet in the grand scheme of things, we are doing great. I have two younger sisters, who are two of my best friends. Tami and her husband are struggling right now trying to have kids. Many who read my blog also read hers and know of the difficulty they are having. This past week, their latest procedure has failed. She will have to start a second round of shots and spend time and money trying to get a good sample of eggs to be harvested, which the Dr’s think is a low chance. She would make a great mother, and I hope they will be able to find something that works. My youngest sister, Angie, called yesterday to tell us her newborn is in the hospital with a dangerous virus. Weston seems to be stabilized now, but will have to remain in the hospital for the next week. Next to them, my trials are not so bad. I have three great kids (well someday only two) but they are such a source of joy for me. Nothing makes me happier than to come home and have them all run to meet me (I know Jackson would if he could). I love my job that I am able to spend so much time with them and go on school events with them and be part of their lives.
I also watched an interesting movie over the weekend, Evan Almighty. Not a great movie, way too over the top, but it had a great message. If you have not seen it, God appears to Evan, newly elected congressman from NY who wants to change the world, and commands him to build an ark in his new subdivision. Of coarse Evan thinks either himself or God is crazy, so God has to prove he is God. When Evan finally agrees to build the ark, of coarse everyone thinks he is crazy. Perfect modern day biblical story, I am sure people of Noah’s day harassed him just as much as Evan’s neighbors. One of the people that doubt him is his wife, who takes the kids and moves in with her mother. In the beginning of the movie, she prayed for a stronger family and now believes her family is being torn apart. In one scene, Morgan Freeman (God) is talking to her, not identifying himself. He taught her an important principle, one that I am familiar with, but needed to be reminded. He said if you pray for patience, God will not give you patience, but the opportunity to gain patience. If you pray for a closer family, God will not give you a closer family, but things in your life to develop a close family. I have been asking for more spirituality in my life, and realize I will be given situations to develop my spirituality. For one I will be given the opportunity to learn to rely on the Lord more. I have done everything I can to get a tenure track job, but I must rely on the Lord. I know this, in my life I have been led from school to school, and every time I know I was there for a reason and to learn something new. My challenge now is to figure out what the Lord wants me learn here. I have trials at work and with my calling, but it will only help me develop my spirituality, and I know God will send me to the school where I can help the most and where my family will be happy
Sorry for getting all mooshy, but I just wanted to share some of the thoughts I had yesterday in church. It is my month to conduct sacrament meeting, so I was able to share my testimony, and it made me do some thinking. I hope and pray things will go well for my sisters and would ask for your prayers for them as well.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Top Ten best Novels, 6-10

I enjoyed making my list of Civil War movies so much that I thought I would make my next top ten list. This time the top ten most important novels from a historians point of view (or at least my point of view). These are all fictional novels, so books like Night by Eli Wiesel are not included. These are not my favorite books, but books that made an impact, though some are also my favorite. Because of the length of this post I am going to break it into two parts, so if you are interested in the rest of the list check back next Monday. Without further ado, the list.

10. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, 1937 Pulitzer Prize winner. This book was so popular that in 1939 it was made into an epic movie which made the Civil War movies lists. I alluded to its importance in the Civil War movies list. During the Great Depression, literature moved away from the lost generation of Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, where life was much easier, and they wrote novels that questioned the humanity of life. Mitchell took on a subject as large if not larger than the Depression, the Civil War. As I said before, she described a time when life was even harder, and through her heroin, she showed how people can endure and overcome hardships. It was very popular and is still the 49th largest selling book of all time.

9. Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, 1939. Also from the Depression era and important for the same reason. It showed hardships of workers but also heroism in the face of trial. The line throughout the movie that was so important was they were looking for a better tomorrow. The book sold 430,000 copies. Its popularity also led to the 1940 movie staring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford. This is a movie that would possibly make a top ten movie (I might have to make another list).

8. The Transcendentalists. For number eight, I could not decide on the most famous or best transcendentalist’s writer, so instead I will list the genera instead of a book. The Transcendentalists were very influential and even important in American cultural history. In the early 19th Century Europe was in the midst of the Romantic period, but for the first time Americans would do something different. Since Jamestown Americans had always mimicked Europe. It was Paris and Loudon that had culture, not American hicks. It was the Transcendentalists that first created an American style of art, it was similar to the Romantics, but yet different. The biggest difference was the celebration of nature or more importantly the wilderness, something Europe did not have in 1840. There are two types of Transcendentalist writers, the ones who wrote about individualism and self awarement and then those who wrote about the dark side. I will just mention a few
A. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Probably the most influential and founder of the Hudson River School.
B. Henry David Thoreau. Most famous books were Walden and Civil Disobedience. In Walden he wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to … front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I die, discover that I had not lived.” His most influential work was Civil Disobedience. The ideas taught in this book were a major inspirations for men such as Gandhi, Dr. King, and Caesar Chavez. (yes I know these are not novels, but you cannot talk about Transcendentalists without Thoreau)
C. Walt Whitman. My favorite of the group. His most famous book was Leaves of Grass, started in 1855 but added to until his death. His most famous poems in Leaves of Grass were Song Of Myself and O Captain My Captain about the late President Lincoln

As for the Dark side the three most famous are

A. Nathaniel Hawthorn, Scarlet Letter, 1850. This book condemned less the Puritan’s who condemned her for adultery, then the society that judged her
B. Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851, Very long boring book, the movie is just as long and boring. In the end the whale wins showing one could not shape their own destiny, and nature is too strong.
C. Edgar Allen Poe. The very best of the group. He had a twisted mind and wrote stories that are still scary today. Two classics are Fall of the House of Usher (movie with Vincent Price) and the Tell-Tale Heart. But his best is the Raven. My favorite version of the Raven comes from the Simpsons, I show it in class every year.

7. Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger, 1868. I am sure most have not heard of his book, but it is only one of 135 dime novels written by Alger, most of which have the same theme, in fact he wrote so many that this genre has become known as a Horatio Alger story. They are also known as “rags to riches stories.” His main character in the book, Dick, was a poor boy whose hard work was noticed, and his intellect developed so that he started out selling match books and by the end ran a major company and was very rich. Alger and this genre led to the creation of the American Myth, if you come to America and work hard you can become successful. People in Europe began saying American streets were paved with gold, but what they meant was in American everyone could be someone. That might mean just owning a small store, but it was still their own business. American is the great nation today because of immigrants (legal ones) who believed in books like Ragged Dick and decided to take a chance and worked hard to make their dreams come true

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960. I can not say enough about this book, not only does it historical important, but is one of my personal favorites, and the movie (1962 Academy award winning firm staring Gregory Peck) would be in my top 5 all time favorites. This book has plenty of humor, but also tells the story of rape and racial inequality in the Jim Crow South. A must read and a must watch for everyone. We thought of naming Jackson Atticus, but thought Atticus Finck was too close to the original name Atticus Finch and people would get it confused. If we ever have another daughter I will push to name her Scout.
Just think, there are still five even better. Feel free to add your own, but you might want to wait until next Monday.