Mormons for Obama on Facebook: (A Super PAC)
But these two internet entities are in no way collaborating with each other, nor are they communicating! They are completely and totally and 100% free of all and any type of coordination! (To understand why this even matters, please read Jen's post on Super PACs, and watch Steve Colbert's and Jon Stewart's explanation as well.
So please join Mormons for Obama on Facebook to interact with like-minded supporters of the president. You will find updates from this website, plus postings of events, other web links, and civil discussion of the 2012 election! Tom is in charge over there, and I don't even know if that is his real name, that is how uncoordinated we are.
Join Mormons for Obama on Facebook by clicking here!
Offended (Part II)
Post by Joseph -
Super Tuesday is over, Santorum took Kansas yesterday, and Romney got Wyoming (and Guam and the Virgin Islands); he continues to inch closer to Republican nomination - line upon line, precept upon precept. And in order that I might contradict my last post, I offer up this post script:
While it might seem less likely that I'll have the opportunity to be offended by the Republicans for picking Santorum over Romney, ultimately I wish that the Romney candidacy was done or that it had never happened altogether. This Mormon moment is going on for an eternity, and I feel a tremor in the Force.
Mostly, I don't like the scrutiny. With Romney in the spotlight, the news media is looking to report on anything and everything about the Church; seriously, if there is anything sensational, ugly, or that will make a good report or newsworthy (or not) they seek after these things. Check out Friday's op-ed piece in the Huffington Post that asks, "Is Mormonism a Cult?" The good old days of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics are gone, back when the Church had published ideas for stories on Mormons for the media to use when reporting about the Church. Now the talking points have given way to the Mormonism: Getting it Right feature, and Mormonism 101 which includes a FAQ section that addresses many of the queries about Mormonism, (i.e., "Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will 'get their own planet?'") Personally, I would prefer directions from the brethren that sounded something like "duck and cover!" "drop and roll!" "hold on tight!" or other words of wisdom from a Tornado Survival Guide.
This oversaturation of Mormon stories in the news and popular culture leaves me feeling defined, boxed-in, stereotyped, and judged. My discomfort is increasing with each new online article or blog post, and I am patiently awaiting the day when I become desensitized to it all (or just give up and grow horns). I acknowledge again that Mormons make a tempting target. The policies of apparent discrimination makes it so; but seriously, The Book of Mormon Musical? (And I have it on good authority that it contains catchy tunes, colorful sets, and profanity throughout.) Of course, the South Park guys are equal-opportunity offenders, and Mitt Romney's campaign can't be blamed for The Book of Mormon Musical, only thanked. But it feels a little bit much right now.
A couple of media storms have arisen in the past few weeks that illustrate my point; these concern baptisms for the dead, and the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood.
Baptisms for the dead have continued to be a problem in the Church due to the continued overzealousness of some genealogically-minded Latter-day Saints that feel inclined to submit the names of people such as of Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, Elie Wiesel's parents and other Holocaust victims for proxy baptisms. See my previous post. And before I even heard the Church leaders' letter that was to be read in Sacrament meetings today, I first heard a report about it on NPR.
And then my former mission president (and BYU professor), Randy Bott, offered an explanation to a Washington Post reporter about the Church's ban on blacks receiving the priesthood. The Church immediately condemned it in an issued statement. Well, I don't feel I need to say much about the ban or the 1978 reversal; here is the link to the original Washington Post article, and this is the Church's response as reported in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. Additionally, some Mormon bloggers at By Common Consent have already thoroughly examined the issue and posted their many comments, condemnations, and analyses on their website; they lined up like members of a Utah firing squad, uncertain who had the real bullet in their barrel, but took aim President Bott and fired their guns anyway. Their posts can be found here and here and here and here and here and here. I especially liked what this guy had to say - he's southern, and I can relate.
But my point is that a lot of this news coverage seems to miss who we really are as Latter-day Saints. For example, I enjoy explaining proxy baptisms for the dead. To me, this rite and all the research that goes into it, shows a deep compassion for one's ancestors and a commitment to them in a real tangible way. I am reminded of some branches of Buddhist practice that call for the male relatives of a deceased person to become monks and spend time in the monastery so that they can obtain merit vicariously for the departed. This merit is then transferred in a ceremony in hopes that it will improve the station of the loved one in their next life. Therefore, I realize I could take the opportunity to correct the misperceptions, but with so much information on the Church and its doctrines suddently available, why would someone even feel the need to ask a Mormon for clarifications at this point? (And why would someone feel the need to talk to LDS missionaries if they just heard them singing on Broadway for three hours?)
Additionally, all of the criticism of President Bott does not represent him in the way that I experienced him as a mission leader. I love this man; I loved his enthusiasm, compassion, and insight. He did away with "junior-senior companions," (we needed to learn to share responsibilities equally); he never talked about baptismal statistics, (this obscured the real purpose of missionary service); and he consistently followed Joseph Smith's declaration, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." As an instructor, he was incredible. He gave us the parable of the devil tree, his retelling of the David and Goliath story, and a clearer existential understanding of life and death. I remember going to him as a struggling "green" missionary, feeling somewhat alone and isolated, and he saw to the heart of my concerns almost instantly. His counsel was right on the mark, and I remember it almost word for word. I don't feel I should forget this, regardless of the Post article and the assertion by some that President Bott has taught these ideas for years at BYU.
Thus, I refuse to define my former mission president by this public relations debacle. I know that I don't wish for a lone action on my part to solely characterize me. President Bott does not equal his statement made to the Post reporter, just like the Church is not just the pre-1978 ban on blacks receiving the priesthood. But I realize that this happens often in life and popular media; we define people by their most provocative action or a prominent occurrence, and all else becomes insignificant: Kitty Genovese was defined by her murder, Richard Jewell by doing his job, and Thomas B. Marsh by cream off the top of the milk.
I miss the days of my youth in the south when nobody really knew the Mormons; I could be the one to tell them who we are and be the first point of contact. Then I had control of how I was defined and understood. So let it be over quickly. Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations have pulled Mormonism into the 21st-century spotlight like a handcart across the plains of America, and I am feeling pretty tired. Not even a hit Broadway musical could have ever done it this well.
No More Oil Subsidies!
I smile every time a pundit tries to link escalating gas prices to our president. Not because I am satisfied with the erroneous connection, but out of amused exasperation at the hypocrisy that continually plagues polarizing talking heads. Gas pricing is a function of market dynamics, meaning that it is driven by supply, demand, and speculation. Any action by President Obama to influence pricing would be governmental regulation, which opposes conservatives’ fundamental advocacy of smaller government. The only organizations that can truly impact pricing are the oil companies whom our tax dollars continue to subsidize. Domestic oil companies are set to rake in windfall profits as pricing continues to rise. It’s time to ask for those subsidies back.
Most Americans do not understand that half the oil consumed by the United States is produced within its borders. The United States consumes almost 18 million barrels daily (MBD), of which 9.1 MBD comes from our own drills. We are the largest oil consumer in the world, using 22 percent of total global production. We are also the third largest producer of oil, just behind Russia (9.9) and Saudi Arabia (9.7). The other half of U.S.-consumed oil is imported from several nations. The largest exporter of oil to the U.S. is Canada, which accounts for 2.3 MBD. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria are all next in line, with each exporting roughly 1 MBD. Surprisingly, and despite all the rhetoric, Iraq ships just 400,000 barrels a day, a mere 2 percent of our total oil consumption. In total, the United states only receives 10 percent of its total oil supply from the Middle East.
So if the U.S. consumes oil almost exclusively from North America, how does the Middle East impact pricing? What consumers need to understand is that the largest global producer of oil has the greatest control on pricing. Even though the United States receives only 10 percent of its imported oil from the Middle East, that region of the world accounts for 30 MBD, or 34% of global oil production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel of participating countries that unify production and pricing to maintain greater control of supply and demand. OPEC supplies the majority of oil to the world’s Eastern Nations (China, Japan, India, etc).
So why are gas prices rising? Bordering Iran is the world’s greatest natural choke hold of oil transportation. Almost 17 MBD pass through The Straits of Hormuz on their way to consuming nations. Iran has threatened to close the Strait, which would result in incremental increases in cost to transport oil out of the region. Since OPEC nations control the largest collective supply, any price increase due to their control will impact the worldwide marketplace.
American oil companies do not have to raise prices as no incremental production costs are being reflected, as in the Middle East. The problem is increased market demand for cheaper U.S. oil can drive prices up (i.e. China would prefer to buy our cheaper oil instead of OPEC’s more expensive offering). U.S. companies understand competition, and would much rather raise pricing with OPEC than undercut competition in the short term. Why? Oil is highly inelastic and consumers will pay for gas regardless of price. Over the next several months, as oil prices stay high, U.S.-based oil companies will deliver some of the most profitable quarters for their shareholders, taking full advantage of Middle East instability.
There is no better time to withdraw the subsidies our government pays to domestic oil companies. Each year domestic oil companies take $4 billion of taxpayer dollars and add it to their bottom line. As noted previously, subsidies have no impact on domestic oil prices, nor does increasing U.S. production through additional drilling. Any incremental oil production will be sold at the market prices, regardless of those subsidies, unless companies are willing to break away from OPEC direction. As gas prices continue to climb at the pump, understand that capitalism is in full swing. Oil company shareholders could not be happier, and they should thank both Iran and the American taxpayer.
Prioritizing Immigration Reform
Last year I lived in Arizona for the polarizing discussion around SB1070, a law that requires immigrants to carry proper documentation at all times. The reaction from across the nation was mixed; the anti-illegal immigration crowd championed the legislation as a win for citizens, and the civil rights movement charged Arizona with racism. Although the true motivation for the law was purely political (Governor Jan Brewer used the legislation to win support from her base), it drove substantial misinformation around immigration. Diving into the data reveals some very interesting statistics. Not only is the cost to taxpayers negligible but undocumented workers drive down wages for employers, makes goods cheaper for consumers, and is one of the main sources of unskilled labor in the US.
Money drives decisions in Washington. Any legislation that has a positive dollar payout is bumped to the front of the congressional docket. This is precisely the reason why wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage are leveraged in the campaign season, but never legislated once government is in session. Regulating undocumented workers is bad for business, the economy, and price chasing consumers. Politicians understand immigration emotion with voters and leverage talking points as ammunition. Once elected, immigration is tossed to the back of the bus with all other wedge issues, ready to resurrect once election season returns.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, America's employs around eight million undocumented workers, roughly 5.3% of the total workforce. Undocumented Workers only make up 3.7% of the nation’s population, and that number has been declining with the economic stresses facing the US. In Arizona, there were 150,000 less undocumented workers in 2010 than 2007, and Florida's population also decreased by 230,000 in the same time period. Across the US there has been a decline of one million undocumented workers from 2007 to 2010. Of the total number of undocumented immigrants in the US, only 58% originate from Mexico. Undocumented immigrants make up a small part of the population, disproportionate percentage of the workforce, and shrinks as national unemployment rises.
The two biggest issues cited when discussing immigration is cost to taxpayers and crime. Cost to taxpayers comes in the form of healthcare resources stemmed from emergency room visits. Recent studies place the liability of medical care around $5 billion annually, much less than the $50 billion incurred annually by uninsured Americans. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare, food stamps, social security, Medicare, or Medicaid. About five million undocumented workers are employed by taxpaying companies, who in turn provide payroll and income taxes on behalf of these individuals. These unclaimed tax payments to the government create a windfall of $8-$10 billion annually which more than covers the emergency room costs. Undocumented immigrants also pay sales tax, and as renters indirectly pay property tax. Crime rates are disproportionately lower for undocumented immigrants. The vast majority of incarcerations are violations of immigration laws, not violent crime. California is the largest undocumented immigrant state comprising approximately 35% of the state's population. Immigrants, however, represent 17% of the prison population.
Now, to be clear, I am not advocating undocumented immigrants be given the same workers rights as US citizens, or for wide open borders. This would disrupt the value equation provided by cheap labor and immigrants capacity to flow to the work. Undocumented workers should come and go as the market dictates. When jobs are not available the immigrant population shrinks, and the opposite as more companies expand. 50% of all produce workers are undocumented workers, as well as vast amounts of service workers in hotels, kitchens, and landscaping companies. Immigrants have a substantial impact on keeping cost cheap, which is then passed to the consumer. Wal-Mart is the retail king through low pricing. Many of these low price products are created by the hands of undocumented workers. Tougher immigration laws are bad for labor markets and business and will dry up campaign donations faster than Tim Pawlenty's run for president.
Also might want to read "Imagine a Day Without a Mexican"
For Republicans, Self-Reflection as “Weakness”
You have probably heard quite a bit by now about a recent incident in Afghanastan in which several Qurans were burnt by US military personnel at Bagram air base. Apparently the Qurans had notes written in them by prisoners, and upon discovery were confiscated, mistakenly added to other garbage at the base and at least partially incinerated before being noticed by Afghani staff.
In the wake of the incident radical elements of Islamic extremists used the situation to foment anti-American sentiment, which ultimately culminated in riots that killed more than 30 people, several of them American service members.
As the controversy began to heat up President Obama wrote a letter of apology to Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Secretary of State Clinton and the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, also issued apologies for the incident.
It was these apologies, and particularly the President’s, that set off its own controversy generated by the Right-wing media machine here in the U.S. Media Matters recently compiled an astounding set of clips from FoxNews on this story. (http://mediamatters.org/research/201202280001).
A few highlights:
- Liz Cheney (daughter of the Dark Lord, and qualified political commentator?) calling Obama “The Apologist”, and stating that his “default position” is to “apologize for America”
- FoxNews contributor Mike Gallagher saying that it was “outrageous” for President Obama “to go crawling to Karzai”
- And of course Carl “ham” Rove (Colbert reference), stating that rather then do any good, President Obama’s apology actually “made [the situation] worse by showing weakness”
[caption id="attachment_618" align="alignright" width="300"] A political cartoon by Gary Varvel criticizing Obama's apology[/caption]
Why should we apologize to terrorists who blow up civilians, throw acid in the face of schoolgirls and kill people over a burned book when they don’t apologize to us? As another Fox contributor, Charles Krauthamer, put it, “when I hear that [apology from their side] I'll expect my president to start issuing an apology.”
So, from what I have gathered, a good portion of the Republican electorate thinks that President Obama’s apology was insulting to America and its troops, pathetic, weak and harmful. Leaving the efficacy of the apology aside for the moment, I’d like to reflect on the substance of the Right’s inane reactions.
The reality is that the war that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan is not a ‘traditional war’, but rather a culture war. There are fundamentally differing views about the world on the two sides, views that cannot be softened with the help of shared history, customs, language or faith. A more amicable America is not Al Qaeda’s goal any more than a more democratic Afghan terror cell network is the goal of the U.S. We will never ‘agree to disagree.'
Because we are engaged in a culture war, the opinion of the vast majority of Muslims across the world whose minds and support are being fought over are very important to our goals. We will never win those minds and support if Muslims believe we don’t respect their beliefs. To ignore public opinion of Afghanis and other Muslims is not only idiotic, but also deadly. It should be noted that there actually are some conservative political minds that understand this, and so support Obama’s decision to apologize, in addition to a number of military minds as well. (See the Media Matters link).
As one observer pointed out, Hamid Karzai is a weak president struggling to maintain his tenuous grip on power. Whether we like him or not, he is our guy right now, and we need him to succeed for stability in Afghanistan to even be a possibility. What Obama did with his written apology was to give Karzai a tool to use as he worked to confront this mini-crisis at home. Karzai actually read the letter to the Afghani Parliament in the aftermath, using what he had to get what he could.
These common sense reasons to apologize were even obvious to George W. Bush, who apologized not once, but twice, to foreign nations for desecration that occurred to the Quran on his watch.
But beyond the common sense reasons to be culturally sensitive to the Muslim faith that is followed by millions across the globe, there is another reason, an even better reason, for being thoughtful. That reason, of course, is because it is the right thing to do. Rather than subscribing to Krauthamer’s ‘only do good unto others when they have done good unto you’ worldview, I am more inclined to go with another philosophy, something more like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Now who was it that said that? Maybe the Right believes that this only applies when it’s easy.
Because I am a Mormon, I am sensitive to how the outside world treats my faith. Beyond the history of forced dislocation, assassinations and open hostility that the early Mormons endured, I have personally had to defend my faith in public arenas, classrooms and in conversation. I know this is not unique to me, but is a common experience for many members of our church. As Mormons, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [*] Of course this does not mean we sit idly by while minority fanatics attack us in the name of their God, but it does mean that we should show Muslims the same degree of respect that we believe our faith deserves.
Leave it to the Right-wing to call Obama’s common sense response to the situation “irresponsible and unnecessary”, an olive branch as “outrageous”, likening it to groveling before a foreign power. And who would you expect but Rove and his ilk to see what others might recognize as self-reflection and honesty as “weakness”. Is theirs a world you want to live in? Me neither.
[*] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ 11th Article of Faith.
Offended Might Be Too Strong of a Word
Romney won Michigan and Arizona, and Washington's Republican caucuses liked him too; now he has to make it through Super Tuesday - the real test of sorts.
And seriously, I'd be somewhat offended if Mitt Romney lost the Republican Presidential nomination to the likes of Rick Santorum. I realize this is a strange thing to voice on a website entitled "Mormons for Obama," or when I have no plans to vote for Romney, or when I really don't even like that Romney is in the presidential contest altogether. However, as a Latter-day Saint, I can't help but wonder if much of the dislike of Romney can be attributed to his Mormonism more than to his flip-flopping. Clearly all the fervor in the news media over Mormonism this past week (the baptism for the dead letter read in church, racist remarks by my former mission president, Randy Bott,) would be much quieted or even nonexistent if Romney wasn't in the race.
And according to polls, many potential voters reported an unwillingness to vote for a Mormon for president (and this was before all the recent media scrutiny). Admittedly, many of these are liberals, but a large number of these folks are also from the far right. See one poll here. And a more recent article reported much of the same thing:
This is when I get offended, although that might be too strong of a word. As a Mormon Democrat, I consider Rick Santorum to be pretty "out there." His comments on everything from contraceptives to African-Americans does not move us forward, and I am half a key stroke away from calling him crazy, (but that is against our own submission rules for this website.) I am frustrated with "the us vs. them" mentality that exists in Congress currently, and I feel inclined to put a larger portion of the blame on the far right of the Republican Party. So when someone like Santorum starts getting votes, and he appears to be extremely partisan and divisive, I have to sit back and wonder: why isn't Romney good enough for the Republicans? Is he really so bad that they want a Santorum to represent them in the 2012 election?
Republicans have demanded an "anybody-but-Mitt" alternative since the beginning - before the creation of the world. They flirted with everyone from Herman Cain (!?!) to Rick Perry (!?!) to Michelle Bachman (!?!) The list is reminiscent of a casting call for a Christopher Guest film. (Imagine Rick Santorum holding a Shih Tzu, and you'll get the idea.) And so Santorum gets their votes because he is the last man standing, and a Mormon in the White House is not an acceptable proposition. (Click on the picture to the right to purchase Hugh Hewitt's book.)
I guess I'm revealing my victim-mentality here. These potentially imagined slights and the real historical persecutions such as Carthage, Haun's Mill, and the forced exodus west, are indeed "stamped into the Latter-day Saints' collective memory," as Jon Krakauer pointed out in his not-so-unbiased account of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven, A Story of Violent Faith. But for me personally, after living in the South during my formative years, I experienced a certain amount of discrimination from other Christians. (Additionally, a Big Gulp flying at me from a car window while pedaling a missionary bicycle down the streets of Modesto CA also comes to mind.)
Unfortunately, discrimination based on religious affiliation is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice. I've seen it from both sides in regard to Mormonism, (meaning that conservatives and liberals discriminate against Mormons for very different reasons.) In the end, I am more comfortable with the dislike of my faith that I feel from the Christian Right than what I experience from the Progressive Left.
Let me explain: In the Southern Bible belt, Mormons are perceived as weird, cultish and believing in "another Jesus." While I was in Sunday School learning about the Army of Helaman or watching LDS films like "I'll Build You a Rainbow," the Baptists and Methodists were showing their children "The God Makers," a film that informs young minds that Mormons believe in a very badly animated Jesus. And the following Monday, these same little children would go to school and inform me that I was brainwashed and that I worship Joseph Smith. However, the accusation that Mormons aren't Christian is easy for me to deal with. ("Blessed are they which are persecuted for my righteousness' sake...") In fact, this is what Mormons have experienced all along. But now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I find opposition to my faith based on completely different reasons: the dislike of Mormons is due to the perceived intolerance of blacks, women, and sexual minorities. Ultimately, I find it easier to be portrayed as a religion that believes in another Jesus than a religion that oppresses others.
But back to my point, (because I'm not planning on moving back home just so I can be discriminated against differently): I don't believe that the far right of the Republican party should cast too many stones at us Mormons or our faith; one or two small pebbles might suffice. For indeed, we do proselytize to other Christian denominations, and we do believe that God has a body. But in the end, we are believers. And for every God Makers movie about us, there is a Jesus Camp about you. So give us Romney this time, and maybe next time you can have your Michelle Bachman.
But just so I'm perfectly clear: in the end it really doesn't matter. I am voting for Obama, and you might consider doing the same.
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Common Sense Gun Laws
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
There is probably no other section of our Constitution that is currently more controversial than this one. In my own opinion, the amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms only in the context of a well-regulated militia. I invite any old English grammar experts to render an honest opinion on the literal meaning of that sentence. I am not one, but I cannot interpret it in any way that does not link the right of the people to "keep and bear Arms" to a "well regulated Militia." Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number 29, "If a well regulated militia be the most natural defence of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security." Of course, the body he was referring to was the Executive Branch.Read more
The "Official" Mormons for Obama Bumper Sticker
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