A New Page in US-Cuban and US-Iranian Relations
In recent weeks, the US has seen dramatic changes with two age-old policies as relations have begun normalizing between our nation and Cuba, and the historic nuclear agreement negotiated between the United States and Iran. These two policy changes are monumental achievements for the Obama administration considering the five-decade embargo and travel ban regarding Cuba, and a warming of relations with Iran that have been icy at best for over 30 years.Read more
Three ways our gun violence epidemic represents a failure of the free market
author's note: I want to start this off with the acknowledgement of two things. First, that I stand behind each and every claim I make below. Second, that I am very likely wrong or have the incomplete truth about one or more of the claims I make below. If you catch such an error, please please please let me know in the comments. I mean for this to be the beginning of a discussion, not the end of one.
We've had at least two more mass/school shootings this past week. We have an absurd number of these things. Now I readily acknowledge that overall gun violence is down over the past 20 years. But, mass/school shootings are happening at an alarming rate, and I believe this epidemic represents a huge failure of the free market.
A Mormon on May Day
Written by Ron Madson
MAY DAY! MAY DAY! MAY DAY!
Poverty is an anomaly to the rich, they cannot understand why the poor when hungry do not simply ring the bell. --Walter Bagehot
“May Day” repeated three times has become the internationally recognized distress signal for all vessels (planes, ships, etc) that are in peril. Even though technically the “May Day” phrase originated from the French phrase “venez m’aider”---meaning come help me---I would suggest that the International Workers’ Day held every May 1st in commemoration of the May 4, 1886 Haymarket Strike in Chicago adopt this distress call--- that is to be used only in the most dire of circumstances.Read more
Should the Mozilla CEO have stepped down?
The Mozilla CEO just stepped down. Here's the Economist on what happened:
MOZILLA, the outfit behind the Firefox web browser and other software, has just lost its chief executive, Brendan Eich (pictured), who resigned on April 3rd after spending little more than a week in the job. His departure raises thorny questions about where lines should be drawn between leaders’ personal beliefs and their corporate roles. Mr Eich quit after a controversy blew up about his views on gay marriage.
Mormon Church on Citizenship and Founding Fathers’ Intent
I think it’s safe to say I am very politically active in large part because of my upbringing in the Mormon Faith. My own father, who is a constitutional law professor, probably took as much interest in the Constitution as he did because of the importance placed on the document in our faith.
It is an interesting time for the Mormon Church to speak up about citizenship in a recent statement released to the public. I found the emphasis on religious freedom particularly timely. It’s an issue gripping and dividing our nation as we speak. While the Church takes no position on any individual bill right now, particularly the Arizona Bill vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer, this statement goes to lengths to emphasize the importance of not only religious freedom, but also for the need of the people of this nation to be a religious people to maintain freedom itself. No doubt Ayn Rand would totally disagree… but I digress.
Let they who are not dependent cast the first stone
Being dependent isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's an integral part of life. It's unavoidable, inescapable, and all-around normal. There are associated ailments that are rightly looked down upon, but dependency, in and of itself, shouldn't be. Let me explain by exploring a question: who is dependent?
Thoughts on War, Syria, and 9/11
Today is the one-year anniversary of this website. A year ago today I wrote the first post reflecting on the significance of September 11th for me, both as a Mormon and an American. In it, I noted that as Mormons we're inclined to consider the chronic abuse of the Mormon people when reflecting on the massacre of 9/11/1857. It complicates the situation and grants some understanding to the attackers. I also thought of how things would be if we did the same thing for the attackers of the massacre of 9/11/2001.Read more
Where the Mormon Faith Collides with Conservative Politics
In a way, having a Mormon stake president in Sandy, Utah give a sermon at a stake conference of a political nature has at least the benefit of sparking a public conversation. In case you missed it, here’s the gist:
An LDS stake president in Sandy did something in a speech earlier this month that other Mormon leaders have done many times: He warned that evil is corrupting the world.
Then President Matthew DeVisser did something few LDS leaders ever do over the pulpit: He rattled off a number of Republican talking points, lamenting that voters last year chose "socialism over capitalism, entitlements over free enterprise, redistribution and regulation over self-reliance.
From at least my perception, most Mormons almost to a fault will avoid discussing anything controversial simply to avoid contention. While I don’t plan on being contentious here, I do believe strongly in “standing for something” in life and that often involves speaking out.
First, I can tell you that this stake president was not speaking for the Lord or the Church, but rather from his own personal opinion and human bias. He obviously felt very passionate about it, even evoking the “Holy Ghost” as his authority. I find that disturbing on many levels.
This story has caught the attention of people in circles outside the church, many of whom are close to me here in Nevada. These sorts of stories do not go over well with people outside the Church, at least the ones who don’t agree with this stake president.
I try to explain that the Mormon Church doesn’t have any beliefs about tax policy, Social Security, or mandated purchasing of health insurance. It’s hard to convince them when even Mormons don’t usually/always understand this. The volume of anti-communist/socialist rhetoric from Church leaders of the past don’t make it any easier.
President Heber J. Grant was adamantly opposed to Social Security and FDR’s New Deal in general. Yet I would submit that most Mormons today don’t see Social Security as a ‘corrupt evil’ or ‘a threat to freedom.’ Mormons and their leaders are subject to the attitudes and prejudices of their day. Members should remember this. After all, it wasn’t until nearly 1980 that black members of the Church were allowed to hold the priesthood or women allowed to pray in church.
Church leaders often speak out about things of a political nature. They’ve spoken out against gay marriage, communism and other moral issues. One thing that has always disturbed me is the lack of speaking out during the civil rights era. How about on wars or illegal torture by our government? Unfortunately they’ve been astonishingly silent. My only point is that leaders of the Church are not perfect. They are human, just like all of us.
How about self-reliance? Yes, that is a principle taught by the Church. Of course the Church has its own robust welfare system. So clearly self-reliance isn’t an excuse to leave the less fortunate out in the cold. So what exactly was this stake president talking about when he started comparing redistribution and self reliance? The truth is he doesn’t even know. He didn’t bother to think about it. He was so juiced up by conservative talking points, he couldn’t think for himself.
The truth of the matter is that with the great recession and the decade leading up to it, this nation has seen a transfer of wealth from the people at the bottom to the people at the top. That’s redistribution of wealth in reverse. That probably never occurred to this gentleman and folks of like mind.
We are living in a time of great struggle for people in the bottom 60% of income earners (that’s more than half of us) and yet this stake president is worried about low taxes, deregulation, free enterprise and self-reliance… things known to help the top income earners, not anyone else. It doesn’t trickle down.
When it comes to poor people, conservatives have an attitude about them that says they are “takers,” that they have a “sense of entitlement” brought about by a “culture of dependency.” Most of them believe the poor need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, all 47% of them.
In my estimation, this conservative attitude reflects a regretful level of disdain and judgment towards the poor. The scriptures certainly suggest as much:
“But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2nd Nephi 9:30)
I don’t think there’s any dispute that free market enthusiasts are more concerned for wealth than they are about fighting poverty. As a matter of fact, fighting poverty is never even brought up in conservative circles. They feel that there is ample opportunity in this country, and if you aren’t doing well, it’s probably something you aren’t doing right, or you aren’t trying hard enough. Hmmm, what does that sound like?
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
The Lord has commanded his faithful to take care of the needy. The notion of self-reliance should be taught in example, persuasion, and from a sense of duty, not by means of starvation and deprivation.
If you’ve ever found yourself saying “get a job” or “you reap what you sow” or “poor people poor ways” you should probably strongly reconsider King Benjamin’s sermon. Called it a hand out… or free advice.
Response to WBMW on the "Moral Rape" of the United States
A recent post over at the blog "A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman" caught my eye. The post is titled "Stunning Obama Court Brief: No Morals In Order to Strike Down Prop 8." If you haven't read her post, head on over and check it out and then come back for my thoughts and response.
The author, whom I respect greatly and value as a fellow Mormon as we both try to make our way in the world, begins with a harsh assessment of the Obama Administration's filing of an amicus brief in favor of marriage equality. She says
It is difficult to put into words, without blowing it out of complete proportion . . . what I feel suggests the moral rape of this country, by none other than the President of the United States and in a formal document, no less, to the U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
This "moral rape," she goes on to say, is that "according to the Obama brief, if the Court has no "precedents", they, like society, must rule void of moral judgement." The Obama Administration argued that the Supreme Court should not use moral beliefs as the sole reason for upholding or striking down a law. Personally, I fully agree with this argument. I could imagine a situation where this would work in my favor, actually:
Let's say my family and I live in a town that is predominantly Catholic. And let's say that, because the Catholic Church believes birth control to be sinful, the town votes a law into place stating that birth control is illegal and that anyone found in possession of any form of birth control is to be thrown in jail. For them, this is a moral issue. For me, it is also a moral issue: my Mormon faith teaches me that decisions about birth control are entirely up to a husband and wife. No one else is allowed to intervene in this sacred relationship. And I would certainly hope that the Supreme Court would not rule in the town's favor, forcing me to live by their morals for no other reason than that they're their morals.
And this is precisely what the Obama Administration seems to be arguing: just because a bunch of people hold certain morals doesn't mean that those morals are as legally binding as the Constitution (which many believe was divinely inspired, anyway). There's nothing preventing my Catholic neighbors from living by their morals, and opposition to a Court order commanding me to abide by their morals is not a "moral rape" at all, but a protection of the rule of law. And a protection of the 11th Article of Faith:
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.
Because of this, I am confused when the author of the blog post claims that the "liberal agenda" (her words) is to essentially do the will of Satan on this issue:
How unfortunate indeed, and yet in the scheme of things a perfectly fair move on the part of the Adversary, according to the rules of mortality as laid out in the great Plan of Salvation; featuring... drum roll please.... the agency of man! Ta da!
Of course, we've already covered the issue of politics and agency quite thoroughly and stand by our belief that government legislation simply cannot remove, restrict, or take away anyone's agency. But the larger point deals with the idea that it is morally bankrupt to oppose an enforcement of morals solely on the grounds of morality. There are many many issues I believe are moral issues and yet I do not think should be enforced by law. I believe in the Word of Wisdom, and yet I don't believe we should pass laws banning coffee. I believe in the law of chastity but I don't believe we should pass laws banning fornication. I believe with all my heart in the moral issue of sharing the gospel, but I certainly hope no one ever suggests that missionary work be required by legislation. And does that mean I, and the Mormons who agree with me, have no morals, or that we're fighting on Satan's side?
According to A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, apparently it does.
The Minimum Wage
Written by Daniel
In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $9/hour. There was an uproar from people across the country, including me. I write this to state that I am highly offended by the thought of a minimum wage. I am offended that one group of human beings cares so little about the other humans who they employ, that these owners are willing to pay their workers a wage that makes them so dependent on the government to cover their basic needs, that they would perish otherwise. I am offended that that we still are fighting to legislate slavery away. If you, as a conservative, want to solve the 'problem of entitlements', you need to fix wages. The reason costs for government benefits has increased is because wages have not increased, yet costs have increased significantly over the same period.
I write this to state that I have been a ’wage slave‘ and understand the horrors of it. I worked for a company that paid its workers over the minimum wage, but still below what is recognized as a livable wage, and then claimed tax credits for hiring these workers. However most of whom still relied heavily on the government for subsistence, not because they wanted to but because they had to. When I took help from the government it was embarrassing & degrading. Every time I went to the store to get groceries, I did my best to make sure no one saw that I was using my SNAP benefits (AKA food stamps). Contrary to popular belief, I was not/am not lazy; I worked 50+ hours per week and I do not have a degree that has "no chances of getting people jobs." (I take issue with that statement anyway) as I have a degree in engineering. When a company can pay you so little, and then get a tax credit for it, you can plainly see that the system is severely broken.
I write this as a call to remind us that in the late 1800's & early 1900's the Owners (read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations if you need to understand my reference) paid their workers very little as well. A movement started in the country & after the crash of 1929 many of their goals were realized. We as a nation supported the middle class. We stated that we didn't want kings of old, so we raised the tax rate on the wealthy so that we could avoid aristocracy. We set up social safety nets, as a type of insurance, to allow business to take the reasonable risks. We also stated that we as a nation needed to better manage those risks.
I write this to say that both the Senate & the House of Representatives need to realize that Owners very rarely support the idea of a middle class.
I write this to state I support the middle class, unions, social safety nets, fair wages, and a whole litany of other progressive ideals.
I write this because, as a Mormon, I believe this is my duty.
I write this to state that I stand, because sometimes that's all we can do.