An Act with a Vision for the Future

Even prior to its enactment, there has been much heated opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a.k.a. President Obama's economic stimulus plan. Opponents have tried to smear it as a bill laden with earmarks (which is not true) that wasted money on pointless projects. Opponents have also (correctly) pointed out that it is mostly paid with borrowed money (I'll come to that later). However, the Recovery Act has gone further than any prior piece of legislation in the past half century in revolutionizing antiquated areas of our economy. And it truly has kept the economy from the brink of depression.

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"Ground Zero" Mosque

The Eleventh Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints states, "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." [emphasis added]

It is frankly shocking and disappointing that about 70 percent of Americans apparently oppose the building of an Islamic center that will include a mosque in Lower Manhattan, according to a new poll. This opposition is rooted in bigotry and in ignorance. First a few facts - the proposed Islamic center is to be built on private property located a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site. It is not going to be built on the World Trade Center site. There are two other mosques located in Lower Manhattan very close to the WTC site. They have been there for decades and have not caused any controversy.

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Climate Change is Happening

Last February, I experienced "snowmageddon" on the East Coast. I recall during that time reading a news article about some conservative politicians' gleeful mocking of former Vice President Al Gore and the concept of global warming; they claimed that the blizzards and record snowfalls were evidence that global warming does not exist. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and his family built an igloo on the Washington Mall and placed in front of it a cardboard sign that read, "Al Gore's new home," and "honk if you [heart] global warming." Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina tweeted that day, "it's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries 'uncle.'" However, ignorance must truly be bliss for these senators. As Think Progress pointed out, "scientists have been warning for decades that global warming would increase the severity of winter storms." These Republican senators' actions further demonstrate their myopia in their focus on a single weather event (or 2 weather events) and slightly colder than normal temperatures over a short period for a very small geographic area (compared to the entire planet).

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Illegals Offer Their Jobs Back to Real Americans

I'm sure we've all heard conservatives lament about how illegal immigrants are stealing American jobs. Well here is an incredible opportunity for real Americans to take back the jobs illegals have taken from us. According to United Farm Workers, a labor union for agricultural laborers, over 50% of farm laborers in the US are undocumented (a.k.a. illegal) immigrants. The UFA has created a website devoted to helping legal Americans find work in the agriculture sector as laborers. So please tell all of your unemployed family members and friends to visit this website so they can take back an American job from an illegal immigrant.

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Pregnant Rape Victims Should Turn Lemons into Lemonade- Sharron Angle

Tea Party extraordinaire and Nevada Republican candidate for US Senate Sharron Angle recently told a reporter that she thinks teenage rape victims should make "a lemon situation into lemonade" by carrying their pregnancies to term. This radical does not think that there should be a legal abortion exception for rape or incest. Instead, she thinks these situations should be left solely to Divine Providence.

Questioner: What do you say then to a young girl... when a young girl is raped by her father, let's say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don't make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.
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"No Matter What Happens to Obama...There's the Perfect Bush Screw Up for the Occasion"

Over the past 16 months, I have thoroughly enjoyed conservatives' attempts to pin every one of our country's problems on President Barack Obama. Of late, they've been calling the BP gulf oil spill "Obama's Katrina." This is such a non-sequitur that I can't help letting out a little laugh each time I hear it. Oh yeah, because providing timely emergency response to a natural disaster threatening thousands of human lives, which IS the government's duty (think FEMA and the numerous major hurricanes that our government has promptly responded to prior to Katrina), is so very much like plugging a deep sea oil well leak, which the government has no expertise in. Can anyone say 'Apples to Oranges'? However, this spill should certainly cause any reasonable person to ponder the wisdom of doing more off-shore drilling and the adequacy of the current deep-sea drilling regulations regime.

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Stem Cell Research is Pro-Life

Embryonic stem cell research is one of the hotly contested issues of the contemporary culture wars. Even within the Republican Party, a division exists over this issue. Prominent Republicans such as Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research while others, such as former President George W. Bush and former Governor Mitt Romney, oppose embryonic stem cell research on ethical grounds. Before exploring the ethics of embryonic stem cell research, it is important to define it and highlight some of its potential and remarkable benefits. A great deal of misinformation exists about stem cell research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a stem cell information Web page that provides extensive information on this type of research. The following are some excerpts from the NIH Web page:

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A Renewed Call for Civility from LDS Church Leadership

During the most recent LDS General Conference, we heard yet another call for civility in our public dialogue. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. Violence and vandalism are not the answer to our disagreements.

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Responding to Facebook Post

I was asked to critique why  Barack Obama's Speech on Race was good/great - March 18, 2008

Where we should start is the assumption that this speech is good/great. I guess the issue I have always had comes not with the content (I think the content is remarkable) but the timing. I remember quite clearly the context that drove these remarks (and even more problematic for Obama were the comments that came after). This entire speech was a deflection and a political maneuver around Rev. Wright’s salacious comments. Does the context then taint the content?

In this speech, Obama is masterful at playing both sides of the race argument, from society's grind on minorities, to reverse discrimination found in programs like affirmative action. He is amazing at positioning himself somewhere in the middle as you would expect a pragmatist would. His speech intends to unify, not divide, and he delivers the remarks from a vantage point where one would not question his experiences or his positioning.

With that being said he touches very little on the new race that divides our nation, and he focuses on areas that are safe. He ventures very little on the new Brown vs. Board of Education or the segregation developing in politics. The greatest divide we currently face in this nation, is not color or creed, but political affiliation. It’s hard to deny that Obama is a beneficiary of race, or his personal story places him in the persuasive middle of the color argument. This is why the race subject is safe for him. But the destructive forces of political posturing are overcoming this nation and dividing us from within.

Why have we come this far? Why does Obama’s name create sudden divide in the masses? Why do we venture to the point of routing for failure just to be right? Why do we fill the pockets of the egocentric individuals whose sole purpose is to divide this great nation? When will we arrive back to the point in time when compromise was the end solution and not a “my way or the highway” mentality? Obama starts his speech with an illustration concerning the Framers of our Constitution. He elicited memories of the first signing of the Constitution by individuals who were no more philosophically divided then the people are today. The difference? Compromise was sought in all matters. The original patriots were able to lock themselves in a room and work together to arrive at a common outcome. No 24 hour CSPAN to record what today would be perceived as weakness. No media filtration to paint a picture supporting their viewer’s perceptions. No posturing that would not be called out for what it really is. Obama has often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But selective sunlight creates flawed arguments and black marks on political discussions.

We all agree that healthcare needs to be fixed. We all agree that illegal immigration is a problem. We all agree that terrorism threatens our moral standards. We all agree that poverty can be corrected. And we agree that greed is overcoming our capitalistic roots. What we disagree on is government’s role regarding solutions to these issues. But disagreement is not foreign to our political dialogue. Do you think the conservative right was aligned with Reagan’s decision to provide amnesty to four million illegal immigrants? Or the liberal left was aligned to Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act? With 300+ million citizens disagreements will come. The problem we now face is our tolerance with reaching across the aisle to come to a unified agreement.

Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech details very little of this national crisis. Part of me believes that he was naive or miscalculated the political divide we now face. He misjudged the alarming influence the media has on steering opinions instead of presenting facts. Case in point: Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do while on the campaign trail. He passed a stimulus bill. He passed healthcare reform. He passed cap and trade legislation. He increased troops to Afghanistan. Yet his popularity has never been lower.

We as Americans have disingenuous dialogue based on differences not similarities. We seek opposition not unification. We are color coded, not by skin color, but by geography and ideology. We seek to stereotype, not by pedigree, but by affiliation.

The hard reality is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. We do not demand the serious conversation needed to repair the divide. We cater to entertainment instead of enlightenment. Our sources of information are limited to 45 second sound bites; hardly enough information needed for compromising and identifying. In Obama’s speech I remember distinctly his awareness of the success this great country afforded him. He stated that no other country could have vaulted a man from his background to the levels he has now ascertained. As fear and anger creep into our discussions I wonder if ideology becomes the new skin color, and party becomes the new religion. If there is one overarching theme I share with Obama’s speech, it’s that reality needs to drive our perceptions, not perceptions driving our reality.

(My favorite speech Obama has ever delivered was right after he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton)

LDS Church Going Green

Lest one thinks being environmentally-conscious is only a "liberal" idea, the Church recently announced a pilot program where the roofs of new chapels are fitted with solar panels. In announcing the program, Bishop H. David Burton of the Presiding Bishopric stated, “for decades we have looked for innovative ways to use natural resources in our meetinghouses that reflect our commitment as wise stewards of God’s creations.” Furthermore, the Church has indicated their estimation that this program will save money in the long run, proving that being environmentally conscious is also in our economic interest. In addition to the solar panels, the new earth-friendly design includes, "high efficiency heating and cooling system that can interface with the solar power equipment, landscaping designs and plumbing fixtures that cut water use by more than 50 percent, and Low-E Solarban 70 windows that block 78 percent of the sun’s heat energy. "

I've always felt that being good stewards of the environment was a Christian duty, and particularly an LDS duty. I recall one particular conservative friend from BYU who would always point to Doctrine and Covenants Section 59, verses 18-20 as evidence that humans could do whatever they wanted to the earth and to support his belief that environmental protection laws were not appropriate. The funny thing is that verse 20 states that our use of the earth must be done "with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion," a point my conservative friend conveniently glossed over.

In speaking about our stewardship over our planet, President Gordon B. Hinckley once stated, "This earth is [God's] creation. When we make it ugly, we offend Him."

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