An Introspective Look on Sporadic Blogging

It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since my last post.  In that time – how the world (and my personal circumstances) have changed!  Any mention of Osama bin Laden or Anthony Weiner has been relegated to “old news” and anything incredibly new probably won’t be blogged by me until the eleventh hour (if at all).  I can’t say that I’ve missed blogging, although to a certain extent I have.  I’m still finding my way.  I realize my strengths are in outdoor running (and run-on sentences) rather than sharpening this blog as a significant tool to affect or shed light to policy changes.  So, I’ll continue to write and offer my thoughts of subjects that merit enough attention to memorialize, if only by me and if only by this blog.  I grin in thinking that this blog, well-intentioned as it is, is still dilettante-ish.  Imagine if I decided to “get in shape” by running once a month – or doing anything once a month.  For better (or worse, for that matter), sporadic activities may be enjoying, but they will never rise to the level of greatness.  Like volunteerism, the content of ExDeserto, is enough to stay active and maintain that feel-good attitude of advocating and investing time into one’s belief.  To that end, while these blogging endeavors of mine may never rise to the level of self-sustainability (financially at least), they do provide an outlet to release and solidify my thoughts and beliefs.

One of the the difficulties I often encounter is the inability to voraciously publish posts as often more prolific bloggers I know.  Ironically, I’m told that the best way to develop this skill is to pound away daily until it come naturally.  I suppose that’s true with many things; if we just take the time and develop the discipline, nearly anyone can develop a niche or skill in any area.  I suppose that’s the joy of the American dream – each of us have the ability to shape our own destinies.  That blessing cuts both ways – that lack of motivation can let the beauty of human potential descend into apathy.

It makes no sense for me to complain about my blogging abilities if I am unwilling to take steps to change it.  If repetitive blogging is the way to do it, repetitive blogging is what needs to be done.  The fact of the matter is though, writing is important, and I enjoy doing it; I just don’t enjoy the amount of time that it takes.  Generally, our days are zero-sum.  If I spend one hour writing, I spend one less hour doing something else.  I won’t lie though, giving up that “something else” in favor of writing probably isn’t anything I would miss anyway.  It’s not like I am working eighty-hour weeks, or running 100 mile weeks that there is no “give” in my schedule.  The big question, is whether I am willing to commit to writing every day to bring this blog from monthly posts into a behemoth in the online world.  The short answer is “no.”  Blogging is an activity I enjoy, but not so much that I want to slavishly pour in hours upon hours of my time.

I remember that at my peak of busyness in my schedule, I was running insane amounts, working, and taking thirty credit hours in a semester.  Yes, thirty.  And I completely rocked at it all.  Somehow, I feel that I had to balance social events too (and did that quite well too, despite having to sleep at like 9PM on Fridays if I had a 5:30 AM Saturday workout).  The point is, I’m a firm believer that almost anything is possible with enough practice or commitment.

Certainly, influences exist which may help shape our lives.  Had I started running much younger, or spent a year in Kenya, my athletic abilities, limited as they are, may have reached new heights (and maybe I wouldn’t have pursued law as a career if running was a realistic option.  Regardless, it’s quite difficult to make the the big bucks in running, so, I probably wouldn’t have pursued that option even if were more viable).  But influences are precisely that – they help shape one’s path; but they do not dictate that path.

At the end of the day, we each have 1,440 minutes in the day to utilize, develop, or waste.  We each have the opportunity to shape ourselves into what we will become in the future.  We are the sum of our decisions.  Trite, but true.  And we each reap the rewards and consequences for that which we sow.  At the end of the day, the challenge for each of us is to live our lives in a way such that we maximize our abilities.  It’s not easy; it requires a steely discipline that each of us possess foster to various degrees of success.

Some undertakings are amateur, much like playing on a weekend softball league, or blogging sporadically about politics.  Other undertakings are more demanding and require greater care and investment – as what we do with out lives.  Everyone has the ability to create the American dream.

So what are our limits?  What are the limits that preclude us from attaining the goals we desire?  More importantly, what steps are needed to take us from where we are to where we want to be?  Finally, are we willing to take those steps or make those sacrifices?

A Philosophical Look At Opposite-Sex Roommates

I never really expected to revisit the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student that committed suicide off the George Washington bridge after his dormmate videotaped Clementi in an amorous tryst with a fellow male student.  Indeed, I hoped that his death would serve as an awakening toward the importance of sex within the confines of the marital institution rather than a rallying point for the LGBQT community to twist this tragedy to advance its social awareness agenda. 

Beginning this August, Rutgers University will offer opposite-sex living arrangements to its freshman students.  Parents wary of this program may certainly be concerned; the parent cannot override the wishes of the student.  With the goal of creating an “inclusive community”, the ability to select opposite sex dormmates is being heralded as a breakthrough in gender-awareness at the university.  Purportedly, the response is overwhelmingly positive. 

Rutgers’ decision to facilitate co-ed living arrangements likely had its inception long before Clementi’s death.  And with the weight of public support and advocacy groups, it seems unlikely the university will reverse course anytime soon.  Like many social issues, homosexuality and its identity in society is still hotly contested.  Were it as simple as providing studies showing the effect of homosexuality within the college environment and its effect on society, an institution would either ratify or reject the proposal allowing close-quarters opposite-sex living arrangements.  Many political, social, and educational think tanks have conducted such studies – but the results are scattered across the social gambit.  Black is white and white is black.  Consider the entire debate in California regarding same-sex marriages and Proposition 8.  One side presented evidence on the virtues (or lack of detriment) of homosexual marriages, while the other attacked the findings of such “evidence.”  All else being equal, the judge merely considered the argument he judged “more right.”

In that respect, Rutgers has chosen the position it considers “more right.”  Its own studies linked with popular opinion legitimize its decision.

Whether we agree or disagree, a fundamental question underlies the entire debate: is there any one, right answer?   Or does humanity live in a world of gray where black and white are but theories in an otherwise pragmatic world? 

The tendency, I feel, is to ignore the fundamental question and instead look to the practical benefits and consequences.   Rutgers University examined a problem – homosexual exclusion – and fashioned a remedy designed to both fix the problem and serve as a beneficial template for others. 

Most of humanity reasons as such: what is right?  As much as we try to consider the consequences of any one action, we are often left with conflicting studies and opinions such that the end result is either throwing up ones hands in exasperation or recognizing that any true answer is elusive and therefore unknowable.  Likely humanity’s failing lies in its perception that we cannot fully know truth and so, with limited information, we make decisions as rational – and sometimes irrational – human beings.

Were it possible for Rutgers to see the full implications of its decision toward homosexual inclusion in housing, it’s quite possible that it would reject what it currently accepts.

How To Win My Vote

I’m not an enigma to unravel – at least not a difficult one politically.  When it comes to securing my vote, my beliefs are not unique either.  In fact, ExDeserto was birthed from the ashes of a particularly difficult political season.  Democrats had made large political gains and Barack Obama rode into the White House on a donkey.  In the months following a group of law students from the East and the West banded together to raise an alternative voice to the liberal agenda.  While ExDeserto’s authors have come, and gone, and graduated, I still maintain the blog and the mission of ExDeserto remains the same: fostering political discussion, debating the status quo and promoting conservative ideals.  Republicans stand poised to make significant gains in the mid-term elections, but they still haven’t managed to channel the conservative energy from the tea party movement.

The tea party movement, well-intentioned as it is, still faces significant obstacles – namely being able to formulate to coherent direction with a simple message.  Democrats, to their credit have been quite effective at painting Republicans as the “Party of No.”  Members of the tea party movement, while leaning Republican, do not necessarily agree with the Republican agenda – especially if that agenda consists of deficit spending or a keep-things-as-they-are attitude.  The tea partiers have been seen almost as the unwanted step-child of the G.O.P: they are related, but they are also a bit extreme.  They can almost be likened to the Minute Men along the Arizona border; both groups lack a definite direction and an outspoken leader.  The difference though lies (among other things) in the size and support of the conservative movement.    The tea party movement is much larger though and its current has rippled throughout the nation.

I haven’t been active enough to label myself as a tea-party goer, but I am conservative, and thoroughly so.  The summer after my first year of law school, I interned at pro-life organization in Austin.  I donate to organizations that advance particular conservative and religious causes – I’m not completely an arm-chair political pundit.   Sure I can become more involved (as some have), but as I just graduated from law school, the past three years have sidelined any entertainment of these ambitions.

Still, like most individuals, I have opinions, and I fully intend to exercise those opinions at the voting booth.  To win my vote, the ideal candidate has absolutely understand that spending must be kept under control.  I’ve posted on this before, and I am increasingly concerned with the almost magical ability federal and state governments can spend non-existent money.  We simply cannot control our spending.  It is out of control.  You want my vote?  Get spending under control.  Budget is not a four letter word.  And it’s not particularly a hard concept to grasp.  My brother actually puts money into envelopes: once the envelope is empty, he can’t spend any more.
Now, fiscal responsibility isn’t the only issue about which I am passionate.  If I may be so bold, fiscal irresponsibility is merely a symptom of larger social issues.   And yes, there are other issues that do trump my out-of-control spending concerns. But when both parties embark on a lemmings’ mission to bankrupt the government while bankrolling and bailing out vital sectors and businesses, I do become upset and I do look for a candidate whose conservative credentials do not change according to the economic winds.  So if you want to win my vote, prove to me that at least the candidate is able to balance a budget.  Encourage me to rally behind a candidate that at least understands the basics of accounting – and who maybe even uses the envelope system.  Basic arithmetic isn’t that hard.   If that basic principle is understood, you’re on the way to gaining my vote.

Nobel Prize Committee Defends Obama’s Award

The running joke is that President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for one reason: he wasn’t George W. Bush.

But even more humorous, the Nobel Prize Committee defended its award claiming that Barrack Obama’s accomplishments merited it.

Let’s give the award some context though. The Nobel Peace Prize is meant to be awarded for recognition of accomplishments made “during the preceding year.” Nominations for the Prize end on February 1 at which point the candidates are vetted, names are whittled down until a handful remain, and then one is chosen.

So, let’s fill in the blanks. What did Obama do prior to February 1? Let’s see… He ascended to the Presidency two weeks earlier. Before that he was a junior senator from Illinois. Does that about cover it?

The Norwegian Nobel Peace committee apparently saw it differently:

To those who say a Nobel is too much too soon in Obama’s young presidency, “We simply disagree … He got the prize for what he has done,” committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told The Associated Press by telephone from Strasbourg, France, where he was attending meetings of the Council of Europe.

Jagland singled out Obama’s efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

“All these things have contributed to — I wouldn’t say a safer world — but a world with less tension,” he said.

Read that last sentence again. Okay, never mind that the world is not safer – there is less tension. Currently America is engaged in Iraq and 13,000 more troops are being deployed to Afghanistan. North Korea is developing nuclear capabilities and Honduras is in its own little world. Less tension? For relaxing a Bush policy?

I’m not sure what was in the Committee’s happy-juice:

“Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should go to the person who has contributed most to the development of peace in the previous year,” Jagland said.

“Who has done more for that than Barack Obama?”

Good question Mr. Jagland. Maybe you should have reviewed the other candidates on your list first.

No Surprise Here: U of Arizona’s Political Science Department Lacks Diversity

Although I rarely read the student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat, I glanced at it today and was bemused to read that that the University has zero Republican professors. While I dislike conflating the labels “Republican” and “Democrat” with “conservative” and “liberal”, political party is a rough indicator of probable social, moral, and economic values. With a whopping zero Republican instructors, I find it hard to think that any significant counter-balance exists to the liberal truths expounded from mouths of the left-leaning professors; but maybe the university simply cannot find any.

But that presumption is probably far too generous. Yes, conservative ideas are often at odds with liberal principles. Yes, a staunch conservative would be viewed as radical to bleeding heart liberal. Yes, it might seem outrageous to believe that the Constitution does not provide a general right of privacy. But if the University was looking for a token professor with unconventional beliefs, they found it in Bill Mishler.

Political science professor Bill Mishler said he hasn’t “committed voting” since roughly 1980. He called voting a waste of time and said anyone who doesn’t believe in the luck of roulette shouldn’t believe his or her vote makes a difference.

Mishler was the head of the Political Science Department from 1997-2004.

The political science department accepts these students, teaches them, and sends them into the “real world” a bit more “educated.” Let’s not forget that many of these students are only 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old – still relatively fresh from high school. Fill them up in the “facts” of a particular course; sprinkle in some snide political comments and soon these students become talking mouthpieces for the professors themselves. (Maybe Mishler is a reason the younger generation suffers from voter apathy). Even those with a inkling of conservative ideas are susceptible to these liberal leanings. And once those students are “educated”, it can be difficult to remain conservative.

Still, the solution is not through instituting quotas based on political affiliation. Rather, one answer resides within erudite students or blossoming professors to seek positions within institutions of higher education. Those students having withstood being boiled in the cauldron of liberalism should seek professorships and fellowships and to replace those fanning the flames of left-wing indoctrination.

The next time the University seeks a professor with unconventional beliefs more “radical” than Mishler’s non-voting conviction, it could do well to search among the conservative ranks.

Feeding the White Elephant: Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

With the onset of the new president-elect Barack Obama accelerating toward the driver’s seat of democratically controlled Congress, conservatives cannot help but brace themselves for the sweeping reversal of many of Bush’s policies – particularly in regard to stem cell research. Parties on both sides of the aisle expect Obama to issue an executive order ending the government federal funding ban on embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.

With as much progress stem cell research has achieved, applying the brakes to this Bush policy will detrimentally alter forthcoming advancements. Moral issues aside, ESC research has been spinning in a rut since its inception. Fueling its “development” with federal funding will merely exacerbate the problem.

After nearly a decade, human ESC research is much like the wizard in Dorothy’s Oz: facially powerful, substantively empty. With the promise being a virtual panacea, consider the results: there have been zero treatments and zero clinical trials. Total cost: billions. The continuous mantra chanted by its advocates still sounds, “more time.” California committed $3 billion in tax-payer monies over 10 years with the goal of developing a single treatment. Connecticut and Maryland have invested millions as well. They still have virtually nothing to show.

Consider the alternative: adult stem cells have treated over 80 diseases with over 1,300 clinical trials. Advancements in cord blood banking, and induced pluripotent stem cells are leading the way in medical breakthroughs. Recently, European physicians completed the first successful transplant of a human windpipe using (you guessed it) adult stem cells. Plenty more could be said of treatments for leukemia, diabetes, sickle-cell anemia and heart disease.

The government should support what works; it makes common financial sense: invest in known, proven, un-problematic means to advance medicine for a guaranteed rate of return. But channeling that money into decade-long speculation without proven results serves to limit development in medical pioneering. It is essentially pork barrel spending.

ESC research is by no means limited as a “moral” issue. An executive order subsidizing this research merely feeds the white elephant.