American Grown

Post by Ryan -

Lauara Club Fancy wrote about the White House garden, and now we should all go to our favorite independent book store to get a copy of the book that details the garden further.  (My favorite Seattle indy bookstores are: Elliott Bay Books and Third Place Books)

Michelle Obama's new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, is both a book full of pictures of the White House garden and a book of great recipes that match this ongoing theme.  The reviews are plentiful and complimentary, and there are a number of video reports as well, including one on C-SPAN2 / .  Even Sasha and Malia weighed in, calling it "a good book."  And Alex Klein reveals "12 juicy bits" about the book in his Daily Beast review.  Now back to the pictures: they are impressive and colorful, and I cannot look at them without wishing that I could  go outside and weed a garden. (I do not have garden...just a handful of house plants in my apartment to remind me of Costa Rica)

The book is apolitical and should please the "typical" Mormon who strives to build up our food storage by gardening, canning fruit, making homemade jams and (of course, Jell-O).

Finally, I want to thank my own amazing mother who grew up on a hard-working family farm on the other side of the mountains from Seattle. She raised me to appreciate farm life - while living in the suburbs and taking me on big city adventures during my childhood.  So of course, she spoiled me with my very own copy of Michelle Obama's book, and in return I plan to make a few of the recipes for her...and hopefully warm her up to the Obamas one delicious recipe at a time.

An Equal Opportunity Garden

Post by Doctor Lauraclubfancy, your health correspondent

As I anxiously look forward to the delivery of our first summer CSA box this week, I can’t help but think about how inspirational Michelle Obama has been promoting healthy food and living. One aspect of her dedication to health that I’d like to highlight in this post has been the White House Kitchen Garden.

In addition to it just being really cool that there the White House now grows its own food and donates most of it to charity, Michelle Obama uses it as an outreach opportunity to inner city elementary school kids. She worked with local elementary school kids to plant the food garden in March 2009. Urban-living children are invited to the White House each year to plant and harvest the vegetables as a way to learn and get excited about fresh, healthy, local food.

Just a little bit about the garden. The White House Kitchen Garden is 1,500 square feet, and produced over a ton of food in the first two years. The garden is completely organic. It includes special vegetables planted from seeds from Thomas Jefferson’s Montecello. The last time there was a food garden on the White House grounds was the Victory Garden, which was established by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. It started a trend and by the end of the war more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40% of the produce consumed in America. You can watch more about the White House Kitchen Garden here you can also tour the garden.

During last year’s planting season, Michelle Obama went through the different vegetables that they were planting that day like swiss chard, leeks, and beets, and said, “uh-oh, the President doesn’t like beets.  But it’s okay.  We’re an equal opportunity garden.” Many of the kids had never eaten swiss chard or leeks before. Her reply was, “So that’s going to be the fun part, is trying some new things.”

In 2008, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, wrote a letter to President Elect, which was published in the New York Times, called Farmer In Chief.

In his letter, Pollan discusses that whoever the future president is, the focus should be on reforming food in the US. It’s a great article. He recommended all sort of things to the future president, like food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a farmer’s market, creating a federal definition of “Food”, and that WIC should be expanded to include food vouchers to farmer’s markets.

Included in his recommendations was the suggestion to begin a White House food garden. “I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community.”

Wow.  Stewardship, self-reliance, with a focus on family and community is what Michelle Obama is bringing to the White House through this garden and her incredible example.

From Michelle Obama in her speech at the Democratic National Convention:

"And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us--no matter what our age or background or walk of life--each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation."

I’m a Mormon for Michelle Obama.

Mom, Dad... I'm a Democrat...


See article on Politico.

The Gleam in Thine Own Eye

Post by Joseph M-

I was talking to a friend a few months back, before Romney had the Republican nomination locked up, and he relayed a thought he'd had while listening to Romney harshly criticize President Obama during a campaign stop.  He thought to himself, "I hope President Obama doesn't think that all us Mormons are like this..."

I sometimes wonder this myself.  Does President Obama somehow think that Romney is representative of Mormons in America?  Or even more specifically: do the American voters think that Romney is somehow representative of Mormons?  I swear my jokes are better than his, and I would never put a dog on top of my car for a cross-country trip.  Additionally, I have a job.

But in the end, maybe we are okay, and maybe we won't be mistaken for a Mitt-Romney-Mormon.  Let me explain: we all know that Mormons can identify other Mormons by looking at their countenance.  I was reminded of this again today while studying Alma chapter 5 in Sunday School.  Our teacher told a story of how a cashier at a grocery store asked her if she was a member of the Church.  "Yes," was her answer, to which the cashier explained, "I could tell because of your countenance."  (Our Sunday School teacher also explained that this happened at Smith's in Provo, to which I thought, "uh... everyone in Provo is Mormon; this makes it not even a lucky guess, but a statistical certainty.")

That said, even I have seen this countenance principle in action: I was with a friend at a gas station just east of the Cascade Mountain Range, and she approached a man and a woman pumping gas next to us and boldly asked, "are you LDS?"   (Who does that???)

"Yes - we are," came the response.

"I thought so!  You just had this glow about you!"  I am not lying.  This really did happen - and a study exists that backs it up.  Here is a link to it, and here is a blog post about the study.  Mormons can tell other Mormons just by looking at their faces.  We have a glow, a countenance, a halo rather than horns.  We have received his image thereupon, and this isn't just Mormon myth-making or Sunday School speculation.  This is scientific statistical fact (complete with t-tests, r-tests, x-factors, or whatever... I didn't do too well in that class.)  I'm not certain what makes one look Mormon, but this must be a good thing, right?  (I mean, it is definitely better than those pictures of meth-users in Oregon; I mean, everyone can tell what they are by their pictures as well.)  So ultimately, Mormons do have a glow that shines independent of whatever Governor Romney may do to our image.  However, this whole thing is somewhat ironic considering the "I'm a Mormon" campaign was designed at least in part to show that Mormons look just like everyone else.

Well, this complicated puzzle of facial characteristics doesn't end there.  Studies also show that Republicans and Democrats have a certain distinguishing characteristics also, and that they're able to be differentiated in photo line-ups.  Apparently, Republicans seem powerful, and Democrats appear more warm.  Here is the link to a description of the study.  But this really isn't too surprising; think of Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachman - nothing about them denotes warmth, and Newt's greasy forehead cannot be mistaken for a "glow."

But let's not stop there, for all these studies prompt the inevitable follow-up question: if Mormons are identifiable by their countenances and Democrats appear warm, what does that say about a Mormon Democrat?  I've been thinking about this, and clearly we must really have an amazing luster.  I don't know if it's on par with the likes of the transfigured Moses, but maybe Edward from Twilight as he's standing shirtless in the sun?  Just watch the people pull out their sunglasses as you walk by... and when they tell you that they sense something is different about you, or that they are drawn to you somehow, you can explain that this is because you're a Mormon and because you're voting for Obama.

Just think of Harry Reid - the supreme example of Liberal Mormondom - (I have his action figure on my desk at work) - and tell me if he doesn't have a glow like a gleaming lighthouse?  He fights the good fight, shines like a sunbeam, and literally comes from Searchlight, Nevada.  I know what the Primary Hymn instructs, (Trying to be Like Jesus,) but in case that is too high of a bar for me right now, I've decided that at the very least I am trying to be like Harry... and we'll call it good at that.

How I Benefited from the Obama Housing Policy

I am someone who has personally benefited from some of President Obama's economic policies. In addition to getting the temporary payroll (Social Security) tax break, I am now refinancing my underwater home through President Obama's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). My home is now worth about $25K less than I owe due to the collapse of the housing bubble, and in three years I would be facing a significantly increased interest rate from the already high rate I have now if I were not able to refinance. I acquired my home in 2005 with a 10-year fixed rate, which would change to an adjustable rate mortgage at the 10-year maturity, because I did not plan on living there for over 10 years. But the housing crash put me in a difficult situation, as it has done for millions of Americans, and made refinancing pretty much impossible. Of course, selling the home at such a huge loss was not a viable option for me either. As I researched my refinance options, I found that no lender would have granted me a refinance loan for my underwater property on their own volition, even though I have never made a late payment. It's only through HARP that I am now able to refinance and take advantage of some of the lowest interest rates in about half a century, and it didn't cost the American taxpayers a nickel for me to do so. So thank you Mr. Obama, for helping me and millions of other Americans keep our homes with even lower monthly payments.

Liberals in the Midst

Post by Joseph M -

I wish I could see an Excel sheet printout that enumerated all the going-ons during the many Sunday School lessons taught this past Sunday (of which Mosiah 29 was discussed.)  I read a couple of comments on the Mormons for Obama Facebook group and heard a few things from some friends, and apparently this is a nearly impossible lesson to present without it getting political - although from a distance, it is somewhat difficult to see why.  (But then again, from a distance, we all have enough and no one is in need either.)  Mosiah 29 is about righteous government which is something we all can agree on, but invariably someone makes a comment that alienates or isolates another.  Of course, we'd assume that since we are all Mormons we could find common ground, but alas...

I suppose that some of our conservative Mormon brothers and sisters think that Obama is leading the country down to hell (King Noah-style), and some of our liberal LDS friends think that Romney will serve a similar function.  Thus, our Sunday School teachers must pull out the proverbial cattle prod and steer their students in the paths of political neutrality.  (But really we should just stagger the study material by one year.  Why is it that we have to study this chapter during the presidential election cycle?)  Interestingly, while most Mormons tense up when political topics are broached at church, other Christians relish in it. (Jeremiah Wright?)  I read an article once that quoted Larry King, (who sometimes attends church with his LDS wife,) saying that Mormon sacrament meetings were so far-removed from politics and current social issues that they were boring.  Well, maybe he didn't say that exact quotation, but according to this report on the Cougarboard, he became so frustrated during one testimony meeting, he swore and threw his hands up in disapproval.

But ultimately, discussing politics is not the end goal of church attendance; our hope is to learn to be more like our Saviour.  However, in our attempts to be better Mormons, we sometimes forget the importance of being a good Latter-day Saint.  We have received several emails that express appreciation for the site - for the connection people feel in finding other Mormons who share their political beliefs.  I've also read similar comments on the Mormons for Obama Facebook group, and I believe that this comes from a sense of being alone in the (ward) world.  While we should feel a kinship with our fellow saints, sometimes the side comments, questions, and accusations can set us apart.

Here is a part of one email we receieved:  "Before a general priesthood meeting our ward met for a party, and it was tough to hear (one of the leaders in the ward) complain about Obama 'always talking about feeding the poor - feeding the poor!' I just couldn't bring myself to point out the irony of the statement just before we heard Apostles of the Lord tell us that we are our brother's keeper."

Another email said this:  "Most of the time I feel like I'm in hiding about my "true" self in my small (a little blue dot in a red state) town. I feel I can't really be myself without being ostracized for my political beliefs. They're just a few of us in this town, and we've vowed (behind the scenes) to stick together. But mostly in silence...I don't want to fight and bicker and lose friends, so I just keep my mouth shut."

Seriously.  We shouldn't feel alone at church.  And this type of thing is the exact opposite of Alma's invitation to the Nephites to be baptized in the Waters of Mormon (Mosiah 18:8-10).  So I guess the point is something like this: conservative Mormons, don't forget that you have liberal Latter-day Saints in your midst! And liberal Latter-day Saints: let's show love for those Fox-News-watching, Rush-Limbaugh-listening, Ann-Coulter-book-reading, Glen-Beck-loving Mormons on our home and visiting teaching lists!

And of course this is true even amongst Obama supporters; we have some huge differences in our thoughts and interpretations.  This was evident as we tried to address the issues of marriage equality; after reviewing our posts, one reader of the website felt alienated by the articles supporting Obama's position.  So I am trying to remember: regardless of how far apart I might feel from the gun-toting, SUV-driving, Romney-voting Mormon sitting next to me in Elder's Quorum, he is my brother in the gospel, and we have more that knits us together than that which divides.

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

President Obama's recent announcement of his support for gay marriage sparked a firestorm of debate across the country. For Mormon Democrats such as myself, it has put us at odds with Obama on an important social issue.

In Support of Traditional Marriage

As a Latter-Day Saint, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe, as the Proclamation on the Family states, that "marriage between man and woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." I do not support the right to gay marriage or attempts to redefine traditional marriage for society at large. Ultimately, I believe that the only form of marriage recognized beyond the grave is the one that is performed in sacred LDS temples. All other marriages end at death: “ 'till death do us part." In that sense, the religious debate over gay marriage is somewhat moot for Latter-Day Saints. While social conservatives often see the push for gay marriage as a threat to traditional families, I have never felt that my own traditional marriage and family were threatened by the prospect of gay marriage. As an American who cherishes individual liberty, I do not concern myself with the lifestyle arrangements of others.

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Win One For the Flipper

This is the fourth post in a series on Obama's support for gay marriage.

Guest post by JBS -

When Obama announced his support for gay marriage, the conservative talk shows accused him of being political - they said that he only supported gay marriage because it would help him win votes in the election.

And maybe this is true?  According to a Huffington Post article, Obama expressed support for gay marriage back in 1996.  (He was for it before he was against it, and now he's for it again.)  As Joseph M. pointed out in his post, The Theory of Evolution, Obama said that he was now supporting same-sex marriage because his position has evolved.  But I disagree on this point - it seems that Obama is being disingenuous when saying this.  It seems like he has supported gay marriage all along, but in 2008, he said he only supported civil unions because gay marriage was considered unpopular.  Now as the climate changes, is it possible that Obama's support of gay marriage is because popular opinion is shifting?  Even Jon Stewart asked the question, "What happened?" and then proceeded to offer his own answer: "He became a politician."

But in this election, Obama is not usually associated with the flip-flop.  That usually is Mitt Romney.  So what about Governor Romney?  While his stance on gay marriage has been unchanging, his position on gay rights has seemed to shift overtime.  When Romney ran in Massachusetts for the Senate seat against Ted Kennedy, he did an interview with The Bay, a gay newspaper, and expressed support for gay rights.  Now in 2012, while running for president, he is trying to stay quiet on the subject.

However, because of Obama's recent announcement of support and the allegations that Romney participated in gay-bashing as a young man, the subject keeps coming up, and Romney is forced into answering questions about his position.  Check out this website for a review of Romney's positions over-time.  Interestingly, back in Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, the gay marriage issue seemed to nail the coffin shut for the Democrats - although after the election was over, Bush never said anything about the marriage amendment to the constitution again.  But now, only eight years later, support for traditional marriage doesn't seem to be a winning issue for Republicans.  (And we know that Romney doesn't take a pro-position on any issue that isn't "winning.")  However, one cannot be certain that gay marriage is a winning issue for Obama either.  If this was so cut and dry, Obama might have come out in support of gay marriage sooner - before he was pushed into it by Biden's preemptive statement of support.

Well, where does that leave me?  I support Obama because I feel like he is heading in the right direction on all major issues.  I believe he is heading in the right direction on gay marriage as well, regardless if he was for it, then against it, then for it again.  The general direction of his campaign is where I would like to see our country go.  I know that this may be a difficult issue for some Mormons, but ultimately, gay marriage will be decided by the states.  Also, with all the flip-flopping and federal inaction on this issue, why should gay marriage ever majorly factor into someone's vote for president?  Additionally, when looking at the big picture of Obama's last four years as a whole, he has consistently provided excellent leadership and has brought dignity and integrity to his office.  For this reason, he gets my vote in 2012.

Affordable Care Act Focuses on Workers, Removes Perverse Incentives

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not directed at the poorest Americans, who already have Medicaid, but at the working poor. This includes those who work full-time, but cannot afford their own health insurance policy. In addition, low-wage jobs are far less likely to provide health insurance benefits. Thus, typical low-wage earners are left on their own to purchase prohibitively expensive private health care plans. In 2010, the average cost for a private family insurance plan was $7,102. In many locales throughout the U.S., it is mathematically impossible for a low-wage breadwinner to pay for a $7K private insurance plan while paying for all other essential family expenses. What’s worse, before ACA, if one became seriously ill and required extensive treatment and thus could not work for a long period, they would often lose their job, and with it, their health insurance. Some conservatives counter-argue that only those who work hard deserve health insurance and good health care. But this argument is a non-sequitur. Health insurance is generally unaffordable for the working poor and even parts of the working middle class, who as I pointed out in one of my last posts, work more hours on average than the wealthy.

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Universal Health Care Benefits Everyone, Eliminates Free Riders

Positive rights should not just be viewed through the lens of entitlement. Positive rights are similar to public goods in that they provide positive benefits to society as a whole (in economics, this phenomenon is called a positive externality). This is especially true with health care. If everyone has access to good health care, the chance of serious epidemic outbreaks declines. More people are thus eligible to work. American productivity increases because workers require fewer sick days. Healthier people spend more money on other things aside from health care, stimulating the economy. (For good explanations on health care as a public good, click here and here.)

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