Category: Presidential Politics

Family, Fathers, Community . . . and Church?

By , December 6, 2013 11:16 am

You don’t have to be a believer to have a good family. And some families manage to get by without a father, whether because of divorce, death, or abandonment. Others seem all right and do okay without the interaction inherent in a vibrant community. But can I tell you how thankful I am for my membership in a church that stresses the importance of all three, not only stresses their importance but fosters their development?

Last night, for example, I sat in the basement of my bishop’s home with 12 or 13 other men and women–leaders of the various organizations in my church or ward–calendaring for the upcoming year. As we discussed in-service training for teachers, next year’s 4th of July breakfast, and a possible international night in the cultural hall of our chapel (food and festivities from a variety of nations and ethnicities), we also discussed the needs of people within our ward’s boundaries* and how we could help them.

Every year, we have a “Ward Salmon Fry” in early September. This year we changed the name to “Neighborhood Salmon Fry,” so people in our neighborhood of other faiths might feel more welcome to that annual gathering. In the early morning of virtually every holiday–Memorial Day, for example–the young men and women of our ward place flags on the lawns of any and all in our neighborhood. That evening, they return to retrieve the flags. And on and on.

In the end, these efforts build community. In the end, such activities strengthen families and let people know they are not alone. And in the end, our little corner of the United States is a little stronger, perhaps a little safer, and possibly a better place to live. The efforts of other churches in our area to do similar things that increase that sense of community and belonging.

Then comes Sunday, and I get to sit in a pew and be reminded of my responsibilities as a husband and father. Once or twice a month, someone at church will ask whether I’ve done my home teaching (Mormon men and woman are assigned to visit members in their homes at least once a month to visit and to simply check up on their well being). Of course, the corollary is that my wife and I receive such visits into our home at least once a month. (One of the beauties of this “Home Teaching” or “Visiting Teaching” program is that we are assigned people to visit or be visited by. We don’t get to choose. Thus, I often spend time with people I might otherwise not associate with. The benefits of that should be obvious.)

I should mention that I live in a middle class and certainly not wealthy neighborhood. I’d be surprised if the average home price exceeded $180,000. It’s about as racially mixed as Utah gets, with a fair number of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, all of whom I know on a first name basis, many of whom have been in my home. I should also mention that I’ve seen and felt the same kind of support in wards in inner-city Lansing, Michigan and in some of the poorest parts of Brazil.

I was reminded of the importance of all this when I read a piece today by Walter Russell Mead, titled Obama Flub’s Inequality Message. The title is unfortunate because I not writing this to take pot shots at President Obama, though I agree with Mead that he and others need to focus more on the following:

. . . there’s plenty of evidence that unwed childbearing, father absence and fraying kinship and community networks exacerbate the problems of low-income people and make it incredibly hard for them to gain a foothold in the middle class. These are thorny problems that aren’t easily solved by the kinds of government measures Obama champions.

I often wish the President of the United States (all of them) would more often use the bully pulpit much like speakers in my church use the church’s pulpit. Use it to speak to the themes of family, fathers, and community; to tell (shame?) absentee fathers into shouldering their responsibilities; to plead with young men and women to marry first, have children later; to encourage young and old to get more involved in their communities. In church, we refer to this as a call to repentance, which is just another word for change. All of this would ultimately strengthen the family (families of all types) and thereby strengthen the community.

Yes, economics are important, but without a firm foundation of family, fathers**, and community, all that economic help is apt to trickle into a sink hole rather than help anybody.

*In the Mormon church, local congregations are called “wards,” each of which have defined boundaries. Approximately 10 wards make up a “stake.” Wards typically have around 250-300 members.

**To the women reading this, I speak of fathers not because they are more important than mothers but because to my knowledge, we don’t have an epidemic of absentee mothers.

Are Angels Watching, or Is the NSA?

By , November 6, 2013 11:51 am

Madison said it best,

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Alex Tabarrok rifs on that theme at Marginal Revolution when he asks Did Obama Spy on Romney? He answers his own question:

No. Some people claim that President Obama didn’t even know about the full extent of NSA spying. Indeed, I imagine that President Obama was almost as surprised as the rest of us when he first discovered that we live in a mass surveillance state in which billions of emails, phone calls, facebook metadata and other data are being collected.

Who knows? As Tabrrok reminds us, the NSA listened in on Angela Merkel’s phone calls. What if Romney called her during his 2012 campaign? In any case, he’s certainly right when he says that “Men are not angels.” Nevertheless, Tabarrok doesn’t think the NSA forwarded any tapes on to the Obama campaign. Still, “Men are not angels,” right?

Did the NSA use the information they gathered on Mitt Romney and other political candidates for political purposes? Probably not. Will the next president or the one after that be so virtuous so as to not use this kind of power? I have grave doubts. Men are not angels.

The Nixon administration plumbers broke into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in order to gather information to discredit him. They busted into a single file cabinet (pictured). What a bunch of amateurs.
The NSA has broken into millions of file cabinets around the world.

Nixon resigned in disgrace. Who will pay for the NSA break-ins? (Emphasis added)

Well, This was Inevitable

By , November 1, 2013 4:01 pm

The New Yorker has its say on the Affordable Care rollout.

Obama Cover_TNY_11_11_13_580

Bearing Children and Building Websites . . . aka The Law of the Harvest

By , October 22, 2013 2:05 pm

Third, we are doing everything we can possibly do to get the websites working better, faster, sooner. We got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address the problems. Experts from some of America’s top private-sector tech companies, who’ve, by the way, have seen things like this happen before, they want it to work.

They’re reaching out. They’re offering to send help. We’ve had some of the best IT talent in the entire country join the team. And we’re well into a tech surge to fix the problem. And we are confident that we will get all the problems fixed.

President Obama, yesterday in the Rose Garden.

Yeah, but . . .

The second fallacious thought mode is expressed in the very unit of effort used in estimating and scheduling [a programming job]: the man-month. Cost does indeed vary as the product of the number of men and the number of months. Progress does not. Hence the man-month as a unit for measuring the size of a job is a dangerous and deceptive myth. It implies that men and months are interchangeable.

When a [programming] task cannot be partitioned because of sequential constraints, the application of more effort has no effect on the schedule. The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. Many software tasks have this characteristic because of the sequential nature of debugging.

Frederick P. Brooks, “The Mythical Man-Month.”

And for good measure.

Another Headline that Doesn’t Deliver

By , September 4, 2013 11:26 am

I am not an Obama fan. Never have been. But neither am I a fan of headlines and taunts that promise one thing and deliver another. Case in point, the headline at this link and the text beneath it. Compare them with what the President says in the video at the same link.

Note how he even refers to the press conference in which he originally talked about the red line: “When I said, in a press conference, that my calculus about what’s happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons . . . ”

Only someone who willfully tries to misunderstand what Obama is saying in that video–the press conference in Sweden–could write the headline and accompanying text. In short, the claims at the link are bald face lies.

Folks, we’re in serious times. We’re at the brink of possible war. Lives are at stake. So, sure, hold the President accountable for what he says and does about Syria, but don’t make stuff up. Now is not the time to score political points based on a willful misunderstanding (aka misrepresentation) of what your political opponent says.

And yes, I’m fully aware that the current occupant of the White House and his sycophants in the media have done similar things to his opponents. Shame on all of them, red and blue.

Saul Alinsky Hell, Someone’s Been Reading Robert Caro

By , July 9, 2013 12:53 pm

Another two thumbs up for Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. It easily ranks among the top 5 books I’ve ever read, a mesmerizing study of power in the hands of one man, the New York state and City parks commissioner. A parks commissioner!

This passage caught my attention today:

If a commissioner [of another department resisted his attempts to circumvent the law], Moses used the public rather than the private smear. “Mr. Moses told me . . . that he was able to control the press of New York City, so as to hold me up to such obloquy that I would not be able to stand it,” W. Kingsland Macy had testified a decade before. The smear technique that had been used then was used now–frequently.

In the hands of a man for whom the press acted as a gigantic sounding board, repeating and amplifying his words, the smear was a terrible weapon–particularly when those words were as caustic and cutting as Moses’. . . . (469)

How bad was it? How deep in Moses’ pocket were the press? This deep:

Mrs. Sulzberger [daughter of the founder of the New York Times, wife of the publisher in the 1930s] believed that Moses came “close to our ideal of what a Park Commissioner should be”; the Times evidently believed so, too. Its reporters and editors may never have been directly ordered to give Moses special treatment but, during the Thirties as during the Twenties, they were not so insensitive as not to know what was expected of them. Moses’ press releases were treated with respect, being given prominent treatment and often being printed in full. There were no investigating of the “facts” presented in those press releases, no attempt at detailed analysis of his theories of recreation and transportation, no probing of the assumption on which the city was building and maintaining recreational facilities and roads. The Times ran more than one hundred editorials on Moses and his programs during the twelve-year La Guardia administration–overwhelmingly favorable editorials. (461)

Just imagine what it would be like if a president of the United States had so much power and such a compliant press?

Emily Litella: Act IV — Treasury Nominee Jack Lew’s Cayman Island Account

By , February 12, 2013 9:07 am

Just imagine if Treasury Nominee Jack Lew were a Republican named Mitt Romney.

. . . Faint Praise

By , February 7, 2013 8:16 am

A Connecticut Congressman is upset because the movie Lincoln portrays the state’s senators voting against the proposed 13th Amendment to abolish slavery when in fact they voted for it. That’s interesting, but even more so–to me anyway–is the following quote from historian Christian McWhirter, a researcher with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln:

Lincoln is an exceptionally good Hollywood historical film, so I think we have to have a certain amount of tolerance for certain amount of error. (Emphasis and italics supplied)

To put a face on the obvious (and to rework the quote a bit), Mr. McWhirter could have said what he said this way:

For Hollywood, that wasn’t a bad historical movie–if you ignore all the errors.

Oh, and then there’s this, lest we forget:

Going through the movie script vote by vote, CNN found that the important details are correct. By the narrowest of margins, after a breathless and unpredictable roll call, the amendment passes, with most Republicans in favor but many Democrats opposed. (Emphasis supplied)

By the way, I enjoyed the movie.

What Happens in Las Vegas May Stay in Las Vegas . . .

By , January 21, 2013 5:26 pm

But if it happens elsewhere in the United States, expect it to make the front pages worldwide.

Barack Obama and Manti Te’o share the front page of Brazil’s Exame.com.

Manti_2013-01-21_1721

Obama_Brazil_2013-01-21_1722

As Inauguration Speeches Go, That Was a Pretty Good State of the Union Speech

By , January 21, 2013 1:46 pm

Here’s the last good one, delivered by another guy from Illinois:

Note the Teleprompter (1.0).

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