A Conservative Case for Amnesty

Today, everybody’s talking about the Supreme Court’s universal health care ruling.  However, here are some thoughts I’ve been putting together since their ruling on Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law a few days ago:

Regardless of whatever details or variations are appended to either, the fact is that the only two options here for ending the debate over illegal immigration are amnesty or deportation.  When the dust finally settles, either the millions of Hispanics in this country illegally will generally stay here, or they will generally leave.

In that light, the choice should be obvious.  Amnesty may well have some advantages that conservatives have overlooked, and deportation is simply untenable.

Mass deportation is a Utopian fantasy.  The first rule of conservatism is to approach reality as it is, not as we wish it would be.

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The Decline and Fall of FARMS?

In short, it seems that a bureaucrat at BYU has railroaded out a whole generation of scholars from their formerly-fine Book of Mormon studies publications.  The era of faithful apologetics at BYU may be over, replaced by some vague desire to go in an as-yet undefined direction.

Daniel Peterson, a great advocate of the Book of Mormon, has been unceremoniously given the boot, apparently along with a host of other scholars. I don’t want to rehash the whole sordid affair here, but here’s a brief intro from a longer and excellent summary:

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Mr. Kettle, Meet President Super Pot

By far my favorite ad in the presidential campaign so far has been this recent Obama commercial.  It’s hilarious.  It slams Romney for, allegedly, racking up a lot of debt and failing to create jobs.

So, um…is the Obama camp saying that if someone doesn’t create jobs and especially if they run up a ton of debt, that person is unfit to be president?  Because…yeah.

Math Game

Here’s a fun and mildly neurotic game to occupy your mind while stuck at red lights and such:

The car in front of you probably has some numbers in the license plate.  Try to use them in functions such that you can reach each number 1-10.  My rules: you don’t have to use every number in each function, and you can rearrange them, but you can only use the numbers as often as they appear, not more times.

Example: you see a plate that includes the numbers 2, 3, and 8.  Here’s what I would do:











There are lots of places where such minor diversions can handily be had: prices on items while you wait in line at the store.  Prices on signs or other license plates while pumping gas.  Hymn numbers posted at church.  Numbers on screen–or anywhere you can see–during commercials.  (“$3.75 for gas!  Outrageous!  Oh well.  3-(7-5)=1, 5-3=2…”)


How to Prune a Library

For years, I’ve subscribed to a pretty Spartan philosophy about buying books.  A few weeks ago, as part of a larger effort to declutter, I decided to apply these rules to my existing library retrospectively.

Thus, I showed up to work one morning with a few cardboard boxes filled with about 150 books, which I gave away to my students.  (God bless the little bookworms where I work; every last book was gone by the end of the day.)

I only buy a book if it meets one of these conditions: Continue reading

Serendipity Strikes

I’ve been in the mood for some foreign film lately, so I decided that today I would watch a couple.  I picked the Vietnamese film, The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000), and the American-made but French-language film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

Strangely, both movies featured the same American rock song: 1969’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” by the Velvet Underground.

What are the odds of that?  That two non-English movies would use the same old American song in their soundtrack?  That I would pick both of those movies to watch?  That I would watch both of those movies on the same day?  That I would be familiar with the song and recognize it in both films?

And yet, here we are.

Below is the opening scene of Vertical Ray.  YouTube doesn’t have a clip for the Diving Bell scene–that one was just instrumental anyway.  Then here it is with lyrics.





Desert Dusk

We’ve long since reached that point where the days are so long that the sun no longer rises in the east and sets in the west; it rises in the north and sets in the north.  Daylight Saving Time notwithstanding, I spend the last month or so of each school year driving to work in daylight so bright it might as well be high noon.

Las Vegas in the summer can be frightful.  Nothing illustrates the parched environment here better than the summer sky.  It isn’t blue.  It’s white.  The parts of the sky farthest from the sun–the horizon, for most of the day–are a pale, robin’s egg blue, but most of the sky is a dead albino.

You know how a sign or book left in the sun for months or years will get all the color sucked away, leaving a washed out shell of what it was?  The sky itself gets like that here.

But then the sun sets.  And life gets amazing.  The temperature instantly drops ten degrees.  Color returns to a world blinded by too much light.  A landscape that has been holding its breath all day gets to relax.

For that one hour that starts right after the sun goes down, the world is a milder, dimmer, calmer place.  It’s still hot, and it’s still bright, but within reason–the insanity of the last fifteen hours is over.

People often say that everybody seems nicer during the holiday season; that as they Christmas shop, strangers are more likely to nod your way and smile.  Summer dusk is like that.  There’s a camaraderie.  We made it through another day, together.

It’s worth enduring the day to enjoy the twilight.

Reviewed: Maphead, by Ken Jennings

On page 113 of his 2011 book Maphead, Ken Jennings casually mentions that he and Brandon Sanderson were roommates in college.

Woah, woah, woah.  Back the fun bus up.  Did that just say what I think it did?  The guy who won 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy! and the guy who finished writing Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series shared a living space?  Dude, this dorm room is holy ground.  It should be consecrated as a nerd shrine.  All the geek faithful must be required to make a pilgrimage to worship there.

And this isn’t even the best part of Maphead, a book where Jennings channels his childhood love of maps into an exhaustive exploration of all things geographical in our world.

Jennings is just as creative in his field research here as he was in Brainiac, and he has a genuine gift for telling stories.  Continue reading

A Response to Salon’s “But I’m a Good Mormon Wife” Article

UPDATE 9.14.15: This post periodically blows up online. Today it got three times more hits than the whole blog gets on an average day. People keep bringing it up on social media, apparently.

I’ve looked over some of those comments, and the biggest thing they tend to say is that I’m being judgmental. I’d like to address this with three points:

  1. I didn’t judge her value as a person. In fact, I diplomatically phrased much of this essay to specifically avoid the false appearance of condemnation. Sadly, it seems that some will see moral judgment, even in its obvious absence, no matter what someone actually says. To castigate me for an imagined insult shows not just a lack of charity, it shows a lack of reading comprehension.
  2. I wasn’t criticizing her as a person; I was analyzing her essay. Written documents, publicly published, are all fair game for discussion. That’s how discourse works. There are no privileged texts, immune to analysis. To suggest such is to create a caste of secular scripture, and to demonize someone who dares to analyze such a text is to practice an intellectual inquisition.
  3. Where I speculate about the author’s possible (possible!) motives and background, it is always in light of what’s explicitly or implicitly in her text. Criticize my analysis, and do so with better evidence and reasoning, but there’s nothing here to warrant an attack. Certainly, I have yet to see a substantial criticism of this post that uses actual citations and clear reasoning–nothing more, in fact, than simple invective. Anyone who wants to engage in civil dialogue is always welcome to, though.


This article made me sad.  Not because it mischaracterizes my church, which it does, and not because I think Maren Stephenson, the author, is an awful person, which I don’t, but because I think she totally misunderstands what she rejects and needlessly misses out on something wonderful because of it, even though she must have been so close to it.

The author writes about how her husband, and then she herself, became intellectually disillusioned with the LDS Church, and became happier after leaving it.

For someone who calls herself a “scholar” in her own article, she doesn’t seem to know the difference between doctrine and urban legends, and she seems ignorant of some obvious facts that contradict her new worldview.  It isn’t the factual errors that are heartbreaking, though–it’s the personal drama that accompanies (and perhaps fuels) the skepticism, which seems to lead her to a badly warped view of the LDS Church:

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