Abortion (Again)

Yes, yes, I know. This is the third post on abortion. However, given the renewed interest in the issue (courtesy of Ms. Palin and her fairly extreme views) and Elder Russell M. Nelson's article, Abortion: an Assault on the Defenseless, in the October 2008 Ensign, I thought it would be an appropriate time for a review.

First, Sarah Palin's position is even more conservative than the church's position. Here is the church's official statement on abortion:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
  • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
  • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeapardy, or
  • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare circumstances do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.
Here is Palin's position:
Palin is opposed to abortion, but believes an exception should be made if the health of the mother is in danger. That's the only exception Palin would make, though . . . She doesn't make exception for rape and incest, only for the health of the mother.

So, as a member of the church, who agrees with and supports the church's position, and who is also fairly conservative, where does that leave me with regard to Palin's position? Should I support current laws? Given Elder Nelson's article, I don't think so. He seems to have some scathing statements for current abortion law.

Here are a few:
This war called abortion is a war on the defenseless and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn. This war is being waged globally. Ironically, civilized societies that have generally placed safeguards on human life have now passed laws that sanction this practice . . .

Man-made rules have now legalized that which has been forbidden by God from the dawn of time! Human reasoning has twisted and transformed absolute truth into sound-bite slogans that promote a practice that is consummately wrong . . .

When the controversies about abortion are debated, "individual right of choice" is invoked as though it were the one supreme virtue. That could only be true if but one person were involved. The rights of any one individual do not allow the rights of another individual to be abused. In or out of marriage, abortion is not solely an individual matter. Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman's choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life - and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.

As Latter-Day Saints, we should stand up for choice - the right choice - not simply for choice as a method . . .

Abortion has been legalized by governing entities without regard for God and His commandments. Scriptures state repeatedly that people will prosper only if they obey the commandments of God . . .

I invite you to read the whole article. I think it is quite good, particularly the part about how

a woman is free to choose what she does with her own body . . . But once an action has been taken, we are never free from its consequences . . . So it is with people who choose to embark on a journey that leads to parenthood. They have freedom of choice - to begin or not begin that course. When conceptions does occur, that choice has already been made.

(probably because it sounds almost identical to what I said in my The Value of Human Life post:)

I am pro-choice, too. I believe women have the right to be responsible about their own reproductive choices. When you choose to have sex, you choose to accept the potential consequences, once of which is pregnancy . . . that pregnancy represents a choice that was already made . . .

Anyways, Elder Nelson does not clearly endorse one political party or one political party's platform or candidate. In the article, he does reiterate the church's position on rape and incest when he says

Another concern applies to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. This tragedy is compounded because an innocent woman's freedom of choice was denied. In these circumstances, abortion is sometimes considered adviseable to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother. Abortions for these reasons are also rare.

So, how does this affect our own position in electing candidates and voting for laws? Palin is obviously to the right of the church, but current laws (and Obama in particular) are far left of the church on abortion. In our previous discussions, we've agreed that although we support the church's position, it would be a nightmare to enforce. Does that mean we should leave the laws as they currently stand? Personally, I took the remarks in Elder Nelson's article to mean that our current laws are not adequate in protecting the unborn. We need to do more. What do you think?


Why It's Critical That We Vote Third Party

I've been very intrigued by the articles posted recently by Stephanie and Rick. In a Sunday School class last week, I had many similar observations regarding the state of our Union. It's interesting that people from opposite sides of the political spectrum agree so well on what the problems are that confront us. Stephanie's explanation of moral hazard in the financial industry is spot on. Rick's list of current national problems reads almost exactly like something I would have put together.

The fact that political opposites agree on the malaise indicates to me that it is neither a republican- nor Democrat-caused problem. It is an establishment-caused problem. Neither of the major parties, together with their knights and fair ladies in shining armor, has any idea how (or at least intent) to fix it. That's why it's critical that we vote for someone in a third party for president this year.

Please watch Ron Paul's 10-minute presentation below, and let me know what problems you see with his logic...

I don't see any holes in Congressman Paul's logic, but maybe it's because I'm as blind as the me-too Obama followers and the die-hard McCain fans. (Offense is only intended by that statement if you decide to take it.)

It's as if the Doctrine and Covenants of the LDS Church says this

10 Wherefore, [somewhat] honest men and [partially] wise men should be sought for diligently, and [the lesser of two evils] ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
Fortunately, it doesn't say that at all.

When it comes to solving Stephanie's and Rick's list of current problems--putting a stop to unprovoked military action, stanching economic moral hazard, encouraging alternative energy, getting the media to talk about issues instead of "he said she said", breaking the fascist monopoly among government and the financial, pharmaceutical, and energy sectors, healing apathy, and fixing the education system in America-- McCain and Obama have been nibbling around the edges, and that's all they'll ever do. History has shown us that.

The two major-party candidates do not have any solutions to any of these critical problems that Stephanie and Rick have clearly and correctly identified.

Ron Paul does. Unfortunately, when he was running for President not enough people listened. But it's still not too late.

The only way we can get off of high-center vis-a-vis the same tired, worn-out slate of never-solved problems is to put people in public office whose best interest is NOT in NOT solving them.

This "NOT NOT" test disqualifies both Obama and McCain.

Break the stranglehold.

Vote third party this election.


"Pride Cometh Before the Fall"

I've been trying to figure out how to write what I want to say for a long time. Stephanie's last blog about the Book of Mormon and gaddianton politics got me thinking. I just about put all of this in a response to Stephanie's post, but then I remembered, Hey, I'm a contributor to this blog, so If I have something to say, I might as well just do my own post. In talking with friends and co-workers, and on this site, I've come across a lot of alarming feelings about the USA. I'd like to take a second and take stock of what's going on. I say "we" speaking for the USA.

- We are on the eve of an unprecedented presidential election. The division is incredibly great, and the stakes are very high.
- We are actively involved in an unprovoked military action in the Middle East which has no solution, because it was jumped into without forethought.
- We have an economy that is, many would say, on the verge of collapse.
- We are almost completely dependant on fossil fuels and are paying astronomical prices for them.
- We are dealing with medical care that is ridiculously expensive and not up to par with much of the civilized world.
- We deal with a Media system that is much more interested in what a candidate's fashion sense than it is with the candidate's politics.
- We, as a people, are generally more unhealthy and overweight than the rest of the civilized world because of our diet/and exercise. - Diet-related illness is the chief killer in our country.
- We live in an age of apathy - where all of this stuff is happening, and people basically don't care, as long as it doesn't interrupt with "America's got Talent." or "Dancing With the Stars."
- Our Educational System is fundamentally flawed, and our education standards continue going down in respect to the rest of the world.
- Inner-city Life is intolerable.

I feel I've painted a clear, honest picture - at least how the situation of the US appears to me. But let me add one more.

- Despite all of the above mentioned points, many US citizens, I'd say most, still feel a sense of superiority over the rest of the world Morally, Militarily, Economically, Spiritually, and Culturally. We, as a country live in a state of indulgence, decadence, and degradence. We have built a false sense of security around us by the blanket of pride that we are all smothering in. Somehow we have gotten it into our heads that we are above the rest. That what we have is right, and what everyone else has is wrong. We are militarily enforcing pseudo-democracy onto a nation that isn't ready for it, and we've done this for years - We embrace an economic system that is based on personal acquisition. We are so far removed from actually depending on ourselves, and on God, that we have forgotten the basic tenants of being human - we've forgotten how to cook, how to make a fire, how to sew clothes - because our system assures us that this will all be available to us for next to no money. We have completely bought into the idea that, you can, indeed, buy anything in the world for money. And so our lives are squandered away in the pursuit of stuff.

I'd like to quote Helaman 4:11-12 which Stephanie quoted in her last post:

11)Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter
which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for
their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea,
and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church
of God.
12) And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of
their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression
to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding
their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren
upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred...

The verse goes on with more valid points, but I want to concentrate on what we are told first (usually with ancient text, the first thing in a list is the most important): Pride. And then he describes pride and what does he make of it? that it is "making a mock of that which is sacred." For more talk on pride, I'd like to point out C.S. Lewis' chapter on the subject in Mere Christianity (he calls it the essential vice and the utmost evil), and also Ezra T. Benson's 1989 talk on the subject (I can't remember what conference issue - I think Spring).

I use the term We, and Us, because I recognize quite clearly that I am just as prideful as the rest - that is, my life is concerned with myself - my needs, my wants. Not the needs of others. To quote Peter Pan, my unconscious motto has been, "oh the wonderfulness of Me." In defining pride, C.S.Lewis states, "Pride is essentially competitive. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone."

The Book of Mormon was given to help us in our day. The first thing one learns about the Book of Mormon when studying it in Seminary is, "the pride cycle." The Mormon continually shows us the definition of pride, its cause, and its result. In Helaman 4:11-12, we see one example of the destruction of the Nephites because of Pride. I'd like to hit a few more examples:

Helaman 6:17
17)17 For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches
of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars,
nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon
their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might
be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit
secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get

Remarkable how close to C.S. Lewis' definition this is. Contrast this with 4 Nephi 1:17:

17)There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanits, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ and heirs of the kingdom of God.

What is the difference? They were heirs of the Kingdom of God. The very Kingdom of God preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount - The same Kingdom of God that Enos would call Zion. the difference between the Kingdom of God in 4th Nephi, and the degraded Nephite society in Helaman 12 (and later in 4th Nephi) is "-ites." That is distinction, stratification, wealth, and pride.

The reason for this post wasn't to give a sermon, nor was it to elevate myself - I know I'm very guilty of pride - but it was to show the situation of the US, and beg the question what can be done? Anything? Nothing? I submit that it will never happen on a governmental level. Most countries in the world hate the US for its pride already. And its not going to get any better. But we as individuals can make changes to pull our pride down.

I might suggest one way of pulling down pride, at least on a political level. What if we altered our view point from, "how will this affect me" (a view that continues to make, "me" the most important piece of the equation.) to "how will this affect those who find themselves in circumstances less fortunate than me." I feel that if we altered our view fundamentally in that way, we'd develop compassion for others, and in the process, pull our pride down, just a bit.

What do you think? Can we pull our pride down? Can the US save face? Or, are we destined to fall like all other great world powers because we have placed ourselves squarely in the midst of the pride cycle?


Politics in the Book of Mormon

In Sunday School a few weeks ago, we reviewed the first few chapters of Helaman. As I was doing my personal scripture study to prepare, it all seemed to be about politics to me. Perhaps it is just that politics is on my mind right now, but given that the study guide tells us to "Look for parallels to our day", I thought (from a non-partisan point of view), I would note key scriptures and some of the insight I gained from them. Perhaps others would like to add insight. (And I apologize if this is "old news" to some. We aren't all fluent in church doctrine. [wink])

Helaman 1:3 Now these are their names who did contend for the judgement-seat, who did also cause the people to contend: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni.

This is clearly a Presidential election (or "Chief Judge" as they call it in the Book of Mormon). Three candidates with the population split into parties according to the candidate they support.

Helaman 1:7 [after Pahoran was elected by the voice of the people] But behold, Paanchi, and that part of the people that were desirous that he should be their governor, was exceedingly wroth; therefore, he was about to flatter away those people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren.

Seeing as how divided we are as a nation, and how deep the differences seem to go, is it feasible that instead of accepting the outcome of the election, the "losing" side will rise up in rebellion? I'd like to think that it wouldn't happen in America, but I do believe that the culture war is real and that there are fundamentally different trains of thought. Do we respect our nation enough to accept the outcome of the election, or will we rebel?

Helaman 1:11 And he went unto those that sent him, and they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran.

In all of my readings of the BofM, I had never caught on that the Gadianton robbers had been formed because of politics - because someone from the losing side killed the "President" and they all combined to protect him. Do we have secret combinations at work in our government?

Helaman 1:18 And it came to pass that because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city Zarahemla.

Hmm. Are we too caught up in our political campaigns and disagreements to keep watch on our nation? Are we at risk? Is this what happened with 9-11, or is it waiting to happen?

Helaman 2:5 Therefore he did flatter them, and also Kishkumen, that if they would place him in the judgement-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people; therefore Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman.

Isn't that what it always comes down to? Power? Political favors? How many people out there campaigning for one side or the other actually have the best interests of the American people at heart, and how many are just seeking for power? How many politicians are willing to sell us out just for a little power and authority over us?

Helaman 2:13 And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.

Isn't this the crux of it? The secret combinations are what ultimately destroyed the Nephites, and they got started because of politics. Doesn't that kind of put politics into a whole new perspective? What are our politics doing to us?

Helaman 4:4 But it came to pass in the fifty and sixth year of the reign of the judges, there were dissenters who went up from the Nephites unto the Lamanites; and they succeeded with those others in stirring them up to anger against the Nephites; and they were all that year preparing for war.

In the Book of Mormon, it is always the dissenters who stir up the enemy to anger. Do we have dissenters among us? Who is our enemy? Are our dissenters stirring the enemy up? It seems to me that American leaders who travel to other countries and badmouth our citizens, President, leaders are stirring something up.

Helaman 4:11 tells us that the slaughter among the Nephites was because of "their wickedness and their abominations", even among those who "professed to belong to the church of God". So what were their sins? See if you recognize any of these sins in America today: (Helaman 4:12)
  • And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their
    exceeding riches
  • Yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek
  • Making a mock of that which was sacred
  • Denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation
  • Murdering
  • Plundering, lying, stealing
  • Committing adultery
  • Rising up in great contentions
  • And deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites

Honestly, I can see a lot of sin going on in both parties.

Helaman 4:22 And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted . . .

Are our laws being corrupted?

Helaman 6:8 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire.

I wonder what this means for free trade and open borders?

Helaman 6: 9 And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites; and they did have an exceedingly plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north.

6:11 And behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; and there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich.

Could this be a parallel to the United States and Mexico? Or to North America and South America?

Helaman 6:17 For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to ward, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.

Doesn't this describe the state of the U.S. to a "T"? (or at least before the past few years?)

Helaman 6: 21 But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.

I think this may be one of the verses that scares me the most. So, the secret combination was formed by a political party that lost, and the leader was supported by people who wanted to gain power and authority. Now, we know that most of the Nephites united with the robbers to support each other in murder and stealing. Verses 21-22 say that

they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver. And it came to pass that all these iniquities did come unto them in the space of not many years . . .

Which brings us to the final verse I will cite today:

Helaman 6:39 And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.

So, is this coming? Or has it happened? What are your thoughts?

Part of the reason I love a site where we can combine politics and Mormonism is that the Book of Mormon is relevant to the discussion! As the cornerstone of our religion, it brings us together. What can we learn that will help us as we elect our leaders and vote for propositions? What other parallels do you draw between the Book of Mormon and our day with regard to politics?


The Perfect Storm

Grab your pocketbooks. We are in for it. First the bail out of Bear Stearns earlier this year, then the assumed conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last week, and finally the government is saying "no more" to a bail out of Lehman Brothers. Of course I agree with this decision. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to bail out individuals and companies who make bad decisions. Bush is doing his best to try and maintain confidence in our economy and financial sector, but the cracks are long past beginning to show. So, why isn't the government bailing out Lehman Brothers? I think they realize this is just the beginning.

Even with my limited knowledge as a business student, I predicted this back in 2000. I had to do an analysis of the economy, and what I saw looked pretty dark. Why? Debt. It's that simple. I've been saying for a couple of years now that I won't even bat an eye until the Dow Jones Industrial Average falls below 11,000. It did today.

Let's stop for a brief history lesson. During the roaring 20s, capital was easy to come by. American consumers relied on cheap credit to finance consumer goods, and businesses relied on cheap capital to expand. This fueled strong short-term growth but led to deep debt. Eventually, both individuals and companies had to cut back on spending to cover debt payments. This lowered demand for new goods, which caused companies to cut back or fail, leading to massive layoffs. The unemployment rate shot to 25%. As debtors began to default, some banks began to fail. As banks began to fail, depositors got scared and began to withdraw, causing a "run on the banks". To cover the deposits, banks called loans they couldn't collect. More banks failed. Others stopped lending. This caused the economy to contract and was known as The Great Depression.

Some blame it on the government because the government didn't do "enough" about it after it happened (Greenspan appears to fall into this group). I blame it on the government for not doing enough about it before it happened. Roosevelt felt the same way (yes, I am in agreement with a Democrat, but wait - it gets even better). Part of his New Deal was the Glass-Steagall Act that included reforms designed to protect depositors, control speculation (by separating investment and commercial banking), and, in general, prevent the conditions that would lead to another Great Depression. It worked for about 50 years.

In the 1980's, (under Reagan) congress passed a series of acts to begin deregulating the banking industry. Guess what happened? Well, because Savings & Loans (S&Ls) could now compete on the rates they offered depositors, they made risky investments, including speculative real estate deals they didn't know much about, through brokers. The net result was the Savings & Loan Crisis. A lot of S&Ls started to go under. The government bailed them out. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, which insured S&Ls like the FDIC insures bank accounts, paid all depositors whose money was lost. And who paid the FSLIC? You got it! Taxpayers. (Many other banks failed as well - bailed out by the FDIC).

How did this differ from the Great Depression? Both were caused by an unregulated financial market, but only the Saving & Loan crisis was mitigated by government involvement. Sure, the government involvement may have mitigated the crisis to individuals, but it also set up a "moral hazard".

Moral hazard is the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions . . . Financial bail-outs of lending institutions by governments, central banks or other institutions can encourage risky lending in the future, if those that take the risks come to believe that they will not have to carry the full burden of losses.

So, what did the government do after that? Well, they deregulated again, of course! In 1999, President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that effectively removed all of the regulations left over from the Glass-Steagall Act. What else was going on at this time? The dot com bubble was still growing, growing, growing, sending the stock market soaring until it burst in 2001 (same time that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act became effective). Venture capitalists, day traders, speculators had all poured money into dot coms and now either lost it or needed to put it elsewhere. Conveniently, most lending regulations had been removed, so bankers could start making risky loans again.

Here is the housing bubble in a nutshell (see if it sounds familiar): mortgage brokers act as salesmen to "sell" the loan (developers/builders frequently act as brokers). They are supposed to gather all the information, make sure it is accurate, and give it to the underwriter. They have incentive to fudge the numbers or overlook risks or overextend the borrower because they only make money on the sale - they are not responsible if the loans default.

The underwriter is the actual lender. They assess the information and determine if they want to lend money to the borrower. The information they have is only as good as the information they get from the broker. Although they theoretically assume the risk, most lenders then bundle the mortgages and sell them to investors.

The investor could be an investment firm either here or abroad, or it could be Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (who hold about half of all mortgages in the U.S.). Fannie and Freddie operate on the secondary mortgage market to buy mortgages from banks, savings and loans, mortgage companies, etc. and either hold or repackage them into mortgage-backed securities to sell. This provides liquidity in the mortgage industry. Although there was no actual government guarantee on Fannie and Freddie securities, it was widely assumed that they had an implicit guarantee. In an attempt to give confidence to the world markets, the government has taken conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie to turn an implied guarantee into an actual guarantee. The result is that the federal government is taking on their debt and adding it to the national deficit. Guess who gets to pay for that? Yup, the taxpayers AGAIN.

Not surprisingly, this was all very predictable. In 1999, as deregulation was ending and the dot com bubble was growing, the World Socialist Website (see? I told you it would get better. How is that for shocking?) published an article that said:

Legislation first adopted to save American capitalism from the consequences of the 1929 Wall Street Crash is being abolished just at the point where the conditions are emerging for an even greater speculative financial collapse. The enormous volatility in the stock exchange in recent months has been accompanied by repeated warnings that stocks are grossly overvalued, with some computer and Internet stocks selling at prices 100 times earnings or even greater.

And there is much more recent experience than 1929 to serve as a cautionary tale. A financial deregulation bill was passed in the early 1980s under the Reagan Administration, lifting many restrictions on the activities of savings and loan associations, which had previously been limited primarily to the home-loan market. The result was an orgy of speculation, profiteering, and outright plundering of assets, culminating in collapse and the biggest financial bailout in U.S. history, costing the federal government more than $500 billion. The repetition of such events in the much larger banking and securities market would be beyond the scope of any federal bailout.

Scared yet? When the speculators left the housing market, where did they go? Ding, ding, ding if you guessed oil! Lax regulation over speculation in the oil futures market allowed for manipulation of the market, and it has affected nearly every other industry: airline, shipping, food, etc. The average American is suffering because of this manipulation. After oil, where did speculators move to next? My guess is commodities. Wonder why gold is so high right now?

Look, I have nothing against lending, investing, providing capital for small businesses to grow or mortgages so people can purchase homes. I have nothing against capitalism in general (in fact, I am a big proponent!). Our capitalistic system fosters economic growth and prosperity. In its purest form, speculation allows risk-takers to use their own capital to bet on movements in the market. They stand to lose a lot, or they stand to gain a lot, but if they are playing with their own money, it doesn't bother me. However, it's when they have the ability to manipulate the markets that I have a problem with. Speculation can (and does) cause economic crisis. Is it fair to subject the entire population (world even) to the risk of economic collapse? In my opinion, NO.

The government didn't necessarily "create" this crisis. Average people are in too much debt and took out bigger mortgages then they could afford. Banks made risky investment decisions. Speculators have been moving the markets. However, it has been government's complete laissez-faire approach to the financial sector, along with setting up moral hazard in the 80s, that has allowed this crisis to happen. So what should they do now?

For one, the federal government should NOT bail out banks or individuals. Taxpayers should not be responsible for paying for the irresponsibility of others. We are already going to hurt enough through the crisis as we deal with the economy contracting (far too big of a problem for government to effectively deal with). Please don't tax us anymore.

For two, please, for the love of Pete, REGULATE!!! We are deep into our third cycle. The pattern is the same every time: lax regulation and easy credit lead to overextended borrowers and speculators who drive up prices. When the cracks start to show, lenders pull out, leaving borrowers with assets worth less than they owe. The market contracts, and we are left with economic crisis.

I am pleased that both Obama and McCain agree to no more bailouts. However, I think Obama is misguided in his attacks on McCain over the issue.

"This country cannot afford four more years of this failed philosophy", Obama . . . told a cheering outdoor rally in western Colorado . . . Obama chided McCain for a new commercial that promises "change we need". "Sound familiar?" said Obama, who has made change the central theme of his campaign. "Let me tell you. Instead of borrowing my lines, he needs to borrow some of my ideas. Change isn't about slogans. It's about substance . . . I certainly don't fault Sen. McCain for these problems . . . but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. It's the same philosophy we've had for the past eight years, one that said we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. It's a philosophy that says even common regulations are unnecessary, unwise".

Let's see. Deregulation is what got us into this mess, and Bill Clinton is the one who signed the final bill that went into effect while Bush was in office. What ideas has Obama put forth that McCain should "borrow" that would address this crisis? What failed "philosophy" is Obama referring to? Capitalism? It is true that in theory capitalism rejects "even common regulations", but the U.S. currently operates under a mixed economy. What change of "philosophy" is Obama promising? Socialism? Yeah, we need change, but not that kind of change.

McCain also spoke today. In a statement issued this morning, he said

"I am glad to see that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have said no to using taxpayer money to bailout Lehman Brothers . . . major reform must be made in Washington and on Wall Street. We cannot tolerate a system that handicaps our markets and our banks and places at-risk the savings of hard-working Americans and investors. The McCain-Palin Administration will replace the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street".

At a speech given this morning, McCain promised to "never put America in this position again . . . We believe the time has come and gone where the taxpayers should be viewed as the solution to the problems that are not of their making. We will reform the regulatory bodies of government".

Yeah, that sounds about right to me. So, what's the bottom line? The bottom line is that it is going to get ugly - very, very ugly. The blame goes individuals, corporations, banks, investors, etc. who made stupid decisions AND to politicians on both sides of the aisle who removed necessary regulation from the financial industry. The economy will contract, and there is nothing the government can do to stop it. It is going to hurt. We're going to have to suffer through it this time and put regulations in place to prevent it from happening a fourth time. Sure, Obama wants that (in addition to much more government oversight and interference and taxation that looks an awful lot like socialism), but McCain wants that in the context of maintaining a mixed economy closer to capitalism. And THAT is change I can believe in.


Willard Mitt Romney, will you please go now?

I feel the need to preface this post by pointing out that I'm generally a pretty moderate guy. I primarily like politics from an observational standpoint. I believe the two-party system keeps extremism in check. I expect (and enjoy) scathing rhetoric from both sides.

What I don't care for is rank hypocrisy.

This brings me to Mitt Romney's RNC speech.

More disclaimers - hey, I'm a Democrat, how can I help but try to be as P.C. as possible? :) - I'm sure there were speeches that were equally bad at the DNC. I thought Palin's speech was pitch-perfect, McCain's was rousing, and Obama's didn't live up to the high standard he's set for himself. I haven't watched Biden's yet.

Romney's speech was awful. It totally contradicted McCain's message of reaching across the aisle. It could not have been more unattractive to independents. Mitt is setting himself up for 2012; he has four more years to shore up his shiny, new conservative credentials. After this speech, however, I don't think I could ever vote for him.

Here it is, in all it's glory:

And here's the text, with my thoughts interspersed in italics. You should be able to tell them apart, though (warning - it's Tolstoy length):

"For decades now, the Washington sun has been rising in the east. You see, Washington has been looking to the eastern elites, to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post, and to the broadcasters from the coast.

If America really wants to change, it's time to look for the sun in the west, cause it's about to rise and shine from Arizona and Alaska!

Oh, that’s worth a giggle. Mitt Romney throwing a jab at “eastern elites”? He’s the epitome of that group. Born into wealth and power, Harvard MBA, founded a successful private equity firm, ran for the Senate in and was Governor of which state? MASSACHUSETTS. News for ya, Guv: you don’t get to be a half-billionaire Bostonian and not be an eastern elite.

Last week, the Democratic convention talked about change. But, what do you think, is Washington now liberal or conservative? Let me ask you some questions: is a Supreme Court decision liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitutional rights? It's liberal! Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? -- It's liberal!

Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and John Roberts are conservative judges by nearly every standard, and the swing vote – Anthony Kennedy – is significantly more conservative than Sandra Day O’Connor, whom Alito replaced. Bush has appointed two Supremes. Just because you don’t agree with a decision that hampers a president who believes we should be able to detain people forever without lawyers or trials doesn’t mean you get to call the Court liberal. That’s preposterous. (I don’t know what he’s talking about regarding the teachers union, so I’ll refrain from addressing it.)

Is a Congress liberal or conservative that stops nuclear power plants and off-shore drilling, making us more and more dependent on Middle East tyrants? -- It's liberal!

While I agree that we need nuclear power plants and off-shore drilling, it’s fairly ignorant to believe the drilling will save us from Middle East tyrants. OPEC’s production is always going to dwarf ours. If we start producing, they can reduce their production accordingly, keeping supply and, ostensibly, prices constant. New technology and decreased consumption is the only thing that’s going to save us.

Is government spending – putting aside inflation - liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? -- It's liberal!

Oh, this is HILARIOUS. Just because the Republican party embodies no semblance of true fiscal conservatism doesn’t mean you get to go blame it all on the Democrats! Bill Clinton left office with a SURPLUS; under Bush, the deficit is over $400,000,000,000.

We need change all right - change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington -- throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin!

McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time. But add Palin to the ticket and all of a sudden, he’s grabbing the “Change” platform away from Obama! Utterly brilliant and could possibly win him the election.

It's the same prescription for a stronger economy. I spent 25 years in the private sector. I've done business in many foreign countries. I know why jobs come and why they go away. And I know that liberals don't have a clue.

This is about where the speech stopped being funny. This is a guy who made his money through leveraged buyouts and not caring for a moment what happened to people’s jobs, as long as he could create cash out of them.

They think we have the biggest and strongest economy in the world because of our government. They're wrong. America is strong because of the ingenuity and entrepreneurship and hard work of the American people.

The American people have always been the source of our nation's strength and they always will be!

We strengthen our people and our economy when we preserve and promote opportunity.

Opportunity is what lets hope become reality.

Opportunity expands when there is excellence and choice in education, when taxes are lowered, when every citizen has affordable, portable health insurance, and when constitutional freedoms are preserved.

Opportunity rises when children are raised in homes and schools that are free from pornography, promiscuity and drugs; in homes that are blessed with family values and the presence of a mom and a dad.

America cannot long lead the family of nations if we fail the family here at home!

That’s all pretty good stuff…

You see, liberals would replace opportunity with dependency on government largesse. They grow government and raise taxes to put more people on Medicaid, to take work requirements out of welfare, and to grow the ranks of those who pay no taxes at all. Dependency is death to initiative, to risk-taking and opportunity.

It is time to stop the spread of government dependency and fight it like the poison it is!

That’s the most reasonable argument against liberal social programs. It’s a concern, and a fine line has to be walked – just as, on the other side, there’s a fine line between cutting out waste and failing to help those who can’t help themselves.

You know, it's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!

Oh good, it’s funny again! When I think of Big Brother, I think of the following: Warrantless wiretaps! The PATRIOT Act! FISA! Permanent war! Thought Police! (anyone remember John Ashcroft?)

Our economy is under attack. China is acting like Adam Smith on steroids, buying oil from the world's worst, and selling nuclear technology. Russia and the oil states are siphoning more than 500 billion dollars a year from us in what could become the greatest transfer of economic wealth in the history of the world. This is no time for timid, liberal empty gestures.

Our economy slowed down this year; a lot of people are hurting. What happened? Mortgage money was handed out like candy and speculators bought homes for free. And when this mortgage mania finally broke, it slammed the economy. And stratospheric gas prices made things even worse.


Democrats want to use the slowdown as an excuse to do what their special interests are always begging for: higher taxes, bigger government and less trade with other nations.

…nope! Democrats don’t want to raise taxes; we want to cut taxes on over 95% of American families! Republicans want to spend forever without paying for it because you can’t take rich people’s money!

It's the same path Europe took a few decades ago. It leads to moribund growth and double-digit unemployment.

How’s the euro looking against the dollar these days?

The right course is the one championed by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago, and by John McCain and Sarah Palin today. The right course is to rein in government spending, lower taxes, take a weed-whacker to excessive regulation and mandates, put a stop to tort windfalls, and to stand up to the Tyrannosaurus appetite of government unions!

You lost me at 'rein in government spending'! Your party has no claim to this!

The right course is to pursue every source of energy security, from new efficiencies to renewables, from coal to non-CO2 producing nuclear, and the immediate drilling for more oil off of our shores! And I have one more recommendation for energy conservation -- let's keep Al Gore's private jet on the ground!

And between you and McCain there’s nearly a dozen houses! Let’s deride a whole group of people based on one member’s hypocrisy!

Last week, did you hear any Democrats talk about the threat from radical, violent Jihad? No. You see, Republicans believe that there is good and evil in the world. Ronald Reagan called out the Evil Empire. George Bush labeled the terror-sponsor states exactly what they are: the Axis of Evil.

And at Saddleback, after Barack Obama dodged and ducked every direct question, John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical, violent Islam is evil, and he will defeat it!

You see in this party, in this room tonight, and all over America, people in our party prefer straight talk to politically correct talk!

Ahh, yes. Straight talk - because nuance is for America-haters. AMERICA AMERICA AMERICA PALIN PITBULL MCCAIN P.O.W. P.O.W. VICTORY GODLESS LIBERALS WIN U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.!

Republicans, led by John McCain and Sarah Palin, will fight to preserve the values that have preserved the nation. We’ll strengthen our economy and keep us from being held hostage by Putin, Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

And we will never allow America to retreat in the face of evil extremism!

Just like you, there has never been a day when I was not proud to be an American.

And he smirks and takes in the crowds “ooohs” and “aaahs” as he says it. It’s a jab at Michelle Obama. But don’t forget that families are off-limits, y’all.

Just like you, there has never been a day when I was a drug addict who stole drugs from my own nonprofit medical relief organization.

See, I can throw little jabs at people’s wives when they make mistakes, too!

We Americans inherited the greatest nation in the history of the earth.

It’s our burden and privilege to preserve it, to renew its spirit so that its noble past is prologue to its glorious future.

To this we’re all dedicated and I firmly believe, by the providence of the Almighty, that we will succeed.

President McCain and Vice President Palin will keep America as it has always been -- the hope of the earth. Thank you, and God bless America."


I’m beginning to think he did exactly that, Mitt, when he kept you out of the White House.


George Bush Already Knew the Answer to the Question: 'Why Do They Hate us?'

On September 11, 2001, George Bush asked the question, "Why do they hate us?" Some people claim that Bush is an imbecile. I don't think he is, in part because I think he already knew the answer to his question. The way he answered the question, though, besides being obviously wrong, was a blatant attempt to keep most Americans from thinking about the real reason for the hatred.

While addressing graduating Air Force cadets in 2004, Bush telegraphed his knowingness of the real reason for foreign hatred of the United States:

No act of America explains terrorist violence, and no concession of America could appease it. The terrorists who attacked our country on September the 11th, 2001 were not protesting our policies. They were protesting our existence.
Our foreign policy is entirely the reason that we were attacked. Hundreds of pundits and policy analysts had pointed this out, yet Bush could not be bothered by the warnings. He had his plans to remake the world in his image already drawn up.

It has become de rigeur to brand as a traitor anyone, not who sympathizes with bin Laden, but who simply asks America to look at the valid reasons that Osama bin Laden cataloged as impetus for the 9/11 attacks. In his recent book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, author Chalmers Johnson is not afraid to point out those reasons, as well as to explain why it is paramount that we as Americans listen. Bin Laden protested:
  • Sanctions against Iraq, which had nearly all of their effects (including mass disease and death) on the poor and downtrodden of the country.
  • America's one-sided support of Israel in Palestine.
  • American military occupation of "the land of Muhammad" (Saudi Arabia)
Osama bin Laden is not the only one who is outraged at American imperialist actions. Nor do the ranks of the aggrieved include only radical Muslims (or only Muslims for that matter). Millions of people of all races from several countries, including America, protested the United States' transparently flimsy 'logic' for attacking Iraq--a country that not only had no air force and virtually no massively destructive weapons to speak of, but which also had been decimated by over a decade of sanctions against delivery of such things as medicines, foodstuffs, and parts to rebuild their electric and culinary water systems that had been intentionally destroyed during Operation Desert Storm.

For a few fleeting moments after 9/11, the world was on our side. Most people around the world subscribed to the feeling that "We are All Americans". However, instead of reacting to 9/11 in a way that would retain the world's sympathy, we have reacted in myriad ways that should outrage the moral sense (and do outrage those who have not capitulated to the faux morality of American military might).

Admittedly, it's not all George Bush's fault. Hatred of American imperialism, usually because of our attempts to 'enlighten the little brown people,' has been brewing for about the past 100 years. Our imperialistic squashing of local initiative in such far-flung places as the Philippines, Vietnam, Guatemala, Iran, and Cambodia have earned us the ire of those who wonder: if freedom is good enough for Americans, why is it not good enough for them?

If we don't listen to the rest of the world and start playing by the rules (such as the Geneva Conventions, a treaty, which, by having been ratified by the US Senate, is Constitutionally binding) our chickens will come home to roost.

In Nemesis (page 18), Johnson quotes James Madison
Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded.
In no instance where the US has intervened since 1947 on behalf of democracy has democracy been the actual result. However, a plethora of current and former dictators can thank American foreign policy for their continuance in dominance over their peoples.

Madison went on to say
...war comprises and develops the germ of every other [enemy of liberty]. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. The same malignant aspect...may be traced to the inequality of fortunes, and opportunities for fraud, ...and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Such loss of liberty has been the result in nearly every country in which we have intervened, and the same result is occurring here in America. So does George Bush know why they hate us? I think he does. At any rate, if he does, he's a liar and a megalomaniac. If he doesn't, he's a dunce.

Either way, George Bush is not fit to be president of the United States. I'm glad I never voted for him!

. . .

Frank Staheli served in the US Army National Guard for nearly 25 years, including 2 tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom (one in Iraq). He also writes for SimpleUtahMormonPolitics.com. Please click on the links below for SUMP articles related to the subject of this article.



I'm still reeling mentally from setting my DVR to record "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight, but I'll try and collect my thoughts long enough to post something coherent.

First of all, let me give myself props. I preferred Sarah Palin for McCain in the middle of July. Say what you will about Palin, she has brought the life back into both campaigns. It's interesting to watch again, and hopefully it will remain so until the election.

Here are two important political issues that come immediately to my mind where Obama trumps McCain. I'd like to see some of these discussed in the news IN PLACE of Palin's pregnant teenage daughter, Biden's deceased wife and bedside swearing-in, McCain was a prisoner of war, and Obama doesn't put his hand over his heart:

JUDGES. One of the most important roles of the next President is likely to be appointing judges to the Supreme Court. Arguably the most liberal jurists on the bench are John Paul Stevens, 88, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75. In the event of an Obama election, one or both would almost certainly retire. Obama voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito; McCain has cited both as examples of the kind of judges he would appoint. Obama recently made strong statements against Clarence Thomas; McCain blasted the liberal bloc (Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter).

They are as diametrically opposed on this issue as can be, and it has hugely far-reaching consequences. For example, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and (possibly) Roberts would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark court decision that legalized abortion. A McCain appointee would probably join this group. Obama is fervently pro-choice and his appointee would secure Roe v. Wade. This brings abortion - which I normally term an issue of artificially inflated importance, since Roe v. Wade is, in the words of John Roberts, "settled law" - into the spotlight. Not that it ever left.

Since Sandra Day O'Connor's exit, I would characterize the current makeup of the court as moderately right-leaning. Obama and his Democratic Senate would fix that.

TAXES. I don't think people take the national debt as seriously as they should because it's such an unimaginably vast number as to be inconceivable in terms of real effect - almost $10,000,000,000,000. Think of it this way: over $30,000 per citizen. It has to STOP. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Obama would raise taxes on those making over $603,000 per year, make little to no change for those making between $227,000-$603,000, and decrease taxes for the rest. McCain would lower taxes across the board, with the biggest breaks going to the wealthiest. And Obama's supposed to be the elitist here?

I will grant that McCain is less likely to follow in Bush's footsteps in terms of wildly out-of-control spending than some of his Republican counterparts might have been, but recent history tells us that Democrats are more likely to balance the budget.

These issues aren't ratings-boosters like Bristol Palin's shotgun wedding, but they have actual relevance. It's very possible that the media is about to face a huge backlash over its frenzied coverage of Palin irrelevancies, which she and McCain have jumped all over. I disagree with those who claim a giant liberal bias in the media - I think reality has a liberal bias :) - but if popular opinion forces more coverage of actual politics, I think we'll all win


evolution of the experiment

Click "Read More..." to see some politicaLDS updates; scroll down to read lots of interesting posts about politics.

Hi folks! Just finished reading through all the Proposition 8 and Sarah Palin posts and boy! aren't things hot around here? The site has been successful lately, in that we've had frequent posts, regular, (mostly) civil discussion, and lots of learning. I know I've had my eyes opened on several occasions. A few notes I'd like to make:

Our demographics

Our goal is to be equally stacked on both sides; we are liberal-heavy right now (yes, there are four bloggers on each side, but posting frequency varies highly). I always imagined I'd have the opposite problem and struggle to find crazy liberals such as myself, but who knows? Of course, we need to fix this. If you are a conservative Latter-day Saint and you are interested in being a regular blogger, please e-mail me (mike@politicaLDS.com). I would appreciate it if you would include a snippet (or even a full blog post) of something you've written that illustrates your writing style and political identity. Does this sound like a job application or what? Ridiculous!) Regulars try to post, on average, once every two weeks. There's no pay other than the gratitude of your readers! And it's fun! C'mon, you know you want to!

Offensive comments

Any time I receive a request from a blog author to remove a comment perceived to be appropriate, I will do it, trusting our bloggers to follow the guidelines posted in the blog's initial post:

What this isn't:

* A place for bickering;
* A place for bashing of any religion;
* A place for personal attacks.

If you encounter a comment that you find to be offensive, please notify one of us (our e-mail addresses are on the front page). Please note that there are administrators with comment-deletion capabilities on both sides of the political spectrum to avoid the appearance of evil. :) Also, expect that a regular commenter who gets a little overheated is probably significantly less likely to be deleted than a first-time poster (if that doesn't sit well with you, become a regular commenter!).

Non-member participation

Long story short, there's been lots of it, and I like it. One of the initial purposes of the site was to illustrate to those outside the LDS community that we can be a diverse group, and I think we've proved it and will continue to do so. Some non-members have really been an integral part of this community.

All the blog authors are Latter-day Saints, and so it will remain. As a result, the blogs are going to reflect opinions and concerns pertaining to Latter-day Saints and LDS life, so the comment threads are naturally going to have - at the least - religious overtones. What the site is not, particularly, is a good place for those who are interested in learning about the Church outside the political sphere. Frankly, it's too debatey a place for that. For those investigators, I recommend this official Church site, this site (one of my personal favorites), or any other number of Internet resources. Or e-mail me or other blog author.

Post content

If you have any ideas for issues you'd like to see discussed, or have authored a post you'd like to contribute as a guest (this can include non-members), please e-mail me.

And finally...

If you have any suggestions, comments, or items for discussion about the site and the way we do things, please leave a comment below, or e-mail me. Thanks for reading!