Saturday, June 14, 2014

Declaration of Apostasy

Recently there has been an uproar of sorts over the possible (probable, actually) excommunication from the LDS Church of John Dehlin and Kate Kelly, two people who apparently have websites and use those websites to disseminate their opinions about stuff. Church headquarters seems to have an issue with this kind of activity, and for obvious reasons. I mean, talking about stuff and having opinions and saying stuff—that's bad. So you can see where they're coming from down there in Salt Lake. But isn't excommunication a pretty serious deal? I always thought that was reserved for worst-case scenarios, things like becoming a polygamist, becoming a polygamist without your wife knowing about it, using church buildings on Monday after 6PM, or not being an Eagle Scout. Apostasy and other "crimes involving moral turpitude" also make the list (according to Bruce McConkie in Mormon Doctrine).

So what is apostasy? A total desertion of or departure from one's religion, principles, party, cause, etc, that's what. So really, someone who gets excommunicated from The Church for apostasy shouldn't care, because they've already deserted or departed from it, right? Congratulations all around for a big accomplishment, getting rid of someone who is already gone! But according to Dehlin and Kelly, they haven't left The Church and don't want to, although Dehlin has stated the he loves The Church but doesn't believe some of the doctrines associated with the restoration. To me, that doesn't make him apostate as much as it makes him an idiot. Seriously, he'll keep the hellishly boring three hour block on Sunday, the Pharisaical culture that measures the sleeves on girls' prom dresses and assigns social standing based on the results, and assumes grievous sin if guys show up to church in a non-white shirt, but he's willing to abandon doctrines that clarify Christianity and the nature of God? He's exactly backwards as far as I can tell. But whatever. If that's what he likes, fine. So how is Church headquarters defining apostasy if Dehlin and Kelly are apostate? And why did Rock Waterman, a blogger who had definitely not deserted or departed from his "religion, principles, party, cause, etc," get notice of a disciplinary hearing that will likely lead to his excommunication? Is disagreeing with a certain level of the Church hierarchy the new definition of apostasy? Are these guys infallible and not to be questioned ever on anything? Before we pick a favorite baseball team should we wait to see what President Tomassissmonson (Uchtdorf pronunciation) says is his favorite team? Because that would be important, no? If that's the new definition—disagreeing with anything anyone at Church headquarters says or does or decides—then I suppose I'm apostate for wondering why there exists a committee dedicated solely to collecting information on members and using that information against them should the opportunity arise. That's the Strengthening Church Members Committee, and why in the world does it exist? There must be something better to do. Maybe hometeaching, maybe printing up bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts, maybe almost anything else. That's a real committee, sadly, and that's how Dehlin, Kelly, Waterman, and many others, including the already exed Denver Snuffer, have come to the attention of Church headquarters. There is a network of people who tattle on those who might have an opinion that puts them outside of what the rat perceives as normal. That sounds like a great organization, and exactly what Jesus would do. Are they getting rid of these people because it's bad PR? Guess what, it's worse PR than letting them have their causes and just simply ignoring them. How's this article on Daily Beast for PR? Good luck in the LDS press room guys. You're probably winning!

Well, time for a list of apostate opinions. Let's see if if I can be declared Officially Apostate.
·The presiding high priest, colloquially known as The Prophet (even though there is no such office), should not be dedicating banks and malls as if they are temples. What would Abinidi do? Not that, I hope.
·Speaking of malls, City Creek Mall is a multi-billion dollar embarrassment of a boondoggle. Why a Church related corporation is involved in wasting so much money is beyond me. O Baylon, O Babylon.
·Church is boring. I blame this on the correlated curriculum, and the tradition of guilting people into speaking when they have no desire to speak at all. And also on the fact that Sunday school seems to be mistaken for a babysitting operation.
·Scouts is not an inspired program. If I wanted to send my kids to military school I would do that. I didn't. So The Prophet (there it is again) chose it to be the de facto Young Men's program in 1492 or whatever. So what. That doesn't mean six years of nationalist brainwashing is inspired, and anyway, church units DON'T EVEN DO SCOUTING THE WAY SCOUTING SAYS TO DO IT. So it's inspired, but not enough that we'll actually follow the program. I see.
·Everything every General Authority says is not scripture/doctrine/gospel truth. This is just a matter of logic, because any point can be reinforced by a quote from someone at some point in history. Pro-war, anti-war, pro-Coke, anti-Coke, racist, non-racist, etc forever. To prove my point, here's a quote from Harold B Lee:
"It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don't care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, "Well, that is his own idea!" And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them "standard"—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it."
·Also on that note, I disagree with this talk  from Gordon Hinckley. I disagree with nearly everything in it, but especially this statement: "I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do." I am also disturbed that someone who claimed to be a seer and revelator would defer to national intelligence agencies on the matter of what was true and what was not. "Gosh, I don't know. We should ask someone… who should we ask… I know, the CIA! They'll tell the truth!"
·And then there's this one from Thomas Monson in 1991. Yikes. Count me out.
·I didn't vote for Mitt Romney. Hey, if you want to investigate someone who is publicly departing from doctrine, there's your guy. What an embarrassment. And everyone was saying what great publicity it would be for The Church. Yeah, if being used as a patsy pawn in a joke of an election is good publicity, then it was great. Did anyone even look at his platform? Holy cow, excommunicate him.
·The existence of the Strengthening the Members of the Church Committee is disturbing. Why do we have a snitch network? Why do we have dossiers on members, even if they are rabble rousers? The best thing to do with attention seekers is ignore them if you don't like them. That's pretty basic. Or at least I thought. But a committee like this is straight out of Stalin's playbook. What's next, disappearing undesirables and erasing them from pictures? Oh, wait, that already happened. Original. Stalinized version. Let this soak in: The LDS Church has a secret committee dedicated to collecting information on member who may be dissenting on some issue.
·The New Coolest Thing is to be gay. Suddenly society is ultra-tolerant, to the point that it has become intolerant to any opinion other than the prevailing one. So Church HQ makes a website, mormonsandgays.com, to make sure everyone knows we're not intolerant. Fine. And then when a few members have an opinion about it, they're on the chopping block. Seems contradictory to me, and bad PR as well.
·I don't like the primary song Follow the Prophet. It's annoying.
·White shirts and ties are not doctrinally mandated attire. There. I said it.

Have I totally departed from or deserted my religion, principles, party, cause, etc? Or have I merely formed my own opinions? If Rock Waterman is apostate, then I'm apostate too. So what?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Essence of Politics

My kids like to watch youtube videos—never unsupervised, of course. Sometimes we watch videos of cats doing funny things, for the younger kids. Sometimes we watch videos of Barry Sanders or Walter Payton. Fortunately, youtube is not without opportunities for education. The best videos are educational and funny. This is one of those.


She likes Obama just because she got a phone. Some people! I mean, these welfare types are out of control, right? But whoever this woman is, she did an amazing thing, despite the condescending tone of the guy behind the camera. In twenty-five seconds she exposes the foundation of our whole political process, and that's something that most people who claim to be knowledgeable about politics couldn't accurately describe if you gave them an hour to do it. Thanks to this brief youtube video my kids know it.

The thing that caught my attention was her honesty. Obama gives me stuff, so I like him. Simple. And that's really what politics is all about. A politician tells one group of people that he will take the property of another group to give to the first group. This is how he (or she, to be fair) wins. You can't prove otherwise unless you use Ron Paul as an example. HL Mencken put it this way: "The state, or, to make matters more concrete, the government, consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting "A" to satisfy "B". In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods." So this woman in Cleveland is simply more honest than, well, probably you. Most people think they're voting for an ideology, or for someone who will Do The Right Thing, or maybe even for the Lesser Of Two Evils, but probably they're just voting for the guy who says he will get more of the things he and people like him think are right, and the people who are wrong will get less, and also pay for the things that are right. Although, of course, we must all Do Our Part and Pay Our Fair Share. There's really no getting around that.

After a few views I noticed something else. Her critique of Romney was hilarious and also accurate, but it was also typical of most political dialogue. "He sucks—bad!" That sums it up from both sides. Because no one could come right out and be honest about their motivations—we like the warfare state! We like the welfare state!—the whole world was stuck with two years of vapid, vacuous, verbosity that got us nowhere but the same place as always. For two years there were endless speeches about who would spend the most money in the worst way, or about who would invade which countries, or whose nonexistent plan was better, or who spent more on a haircut, or who bullied someone back in the day, or who didn't have the requisite experience to do any of the above mentioned things. And then everyone took sides, but didn't really know why. Here's this lady who says Obama gave her a phone and Romney sucks, and you think you can do better? Do you really think that voting for Romney because "He's a Mormon!" or "He's a conservative!" or "He's a good businessman!" is better? Guess what, you're on Cleveland Lady's level. Those aren't arguments or rational thoughts, those are emotions, and that's all you had, because Romney never had a plan for anything. Tell me what it was. Yeah, that's what I thought. No plan, just saying the right words, tailored just for you, the target audience. He never had anything better than "Obama sucks—bad!" and neither did you.

The only real sway any politician has comes from what he has promised to take from someone else to give to you, whether it's a phone or a fleet of new (yet nearly obsolete) airplanes and bombs to go with them, or maybe a whole stack of new debt to fund the "cleanup project" you're "working" on, or maybe even those green jobs we've been hearing so much about for so long. You might as well be honest and get a new phone.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Deadliest Pool

Sometime last winter I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I ended up as the general manager of the private pool we belong to. That part of the story isn't really the point here.

Skip forward to the summer of 2012. Teenage lifeguards, on break from public schools where the main objective is to teach children to dutifully submit to state-approved authority, are surprised by a visit from the local Environmental Health Technician* (this title should have your Orwell sensors lighting up). According to the list written up by the inspector, the pool was just barely on the safe side of being shut down. The list included lethal items such as missing skimmer covers (we didn't have any missing, by the way) and no separate filter shut off thingy for the small pool (the reason for that is because the water in the big pool and the water in the small pool is the same water. Very observant, Inspector Clouseau!). A former manager informed me that the list was just a list of recommendations, and there was no threat of the pool being shut down, despite the inspector's notice that the items should be fixed within 24 hours or else. For the remainder of the summer we suffered exactly zero drownings, zero illnesses from contaminated water, zero limbs amputated by missing skimmer covers, and zero injuries unrelated to the idiocy of the injured person.

The other day I got a letter from the county health department concerning the pool. My pool, a private pool for members of the pool on private property, run by members of the pool privately for their own private use, and also not open to the public under any circumstances. I'm quoting now: "This letter is a follow up on the routine inspections of the above referenced facility's pool performed during the 2012 season." I'm flattered! Continuing: "During these inspections the following item was discussed and must be corrected to maintain compliance with WAC 246-260 prior to opening your facility in 2013." Egads, bold letters! The words "must" and "compliance" were used, this must be seriously official! But it gets better, and then it gets even better after that. The item to be corrected is the obtaining of a chlorine test kit, which can be found by any blind moron in the pump room of the above referenced pool. We have a test kit, which is how the lifeguards tested the water multiple times everyday for the entire summer. But it seems that our beloved inspector deemed our kit inadequate. Whatever shall we do?

Here's the even better part. Quoting the, uh, technician again: "Please note this item is a central component of a safe and healthy facility. It is your responsibility to ensure that your facility remains as safe as possible. It is important to fix this item prior to opening in 2013, as failure will result in closure of your facility until corrections have been implemented." This small group of sentences really made my day. There's so much there. Failure will result in closure. We must recognize the stringent standards set forth by the state. Failure is not an option. These people run a tight ship, and there is no room for sloppy or inaccurate water testing. Yes, the state demands success, no failure allowed. Those with a bad attitude toward authority might point out that the state itself is the source of more failure than any other single source, and that the state fails at everything it ever attempts to do, aside from fleecing the general population and creating an endless and metastasizing labyrinth of bureaucracies. But I'll refrain from that. The other thing I noticed was the very clear assignment of responsibility. "It is your responsibility…" Well, if it's my responsibility, then why have I been sent a letter about this problem? Why not mind your own business, county health department? By your own admission, it is none of your business, because it's my responsibility. Wherefore do you concern yourself with my pool, Inspector/Technician? It is not your responsibility, after all.

At this point some may be wondering what purpose the county health department serves at all, what with no responsibility whatsoever to oversee the correct testing of pool water. Well, plenty of purposes, that's what. It even says it on the letterhead: "Always working [sic] for a safer and healthier community." See? That's gotta be a purpose, right? So while they're out working [sic] to save the community from the community's own dumb non-self-preservational self, I'll be responsible for the safe operation of the pool, even though I didn't need them to tell me I needed to do that in the first place. Maybe the department will be in your kitchen next, testing your knives to make sure they're clean before you cut vegetables with them, or maybe making sure there are no dangerous tree branches in your back yard. And did you flush the toilet? Inspector, where are you when we need you? Community safety first!

So I'll close with some words from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an invitation to the technicians and inspectors down at the county health department, and personal pledge to never deserve what happened afterward: "And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward."

*This guy could be different from the actual field inspector. I don't know, but does it really matter?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Defeating Terror, Part 1

While some may say that the US government's War on Terror is a ruse, and you can't declare war on a tactic, the truth is this: a lot of people—terrorists—living in remote regions of Central Asia, the Middle East, and the continental United Sates, are so insanely jealous of the obscene amount of freedom we have here that they have vowed to spend their lives to destroy those very freedoms.

One example is written about by Claudia Rosett, although she has kind of a bad attitude about it. As you will be able to see after reading that, our Freedom Defenders in DC have taken a bold step toward keeping us safe from terror. Because really, if the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, and we keep removing freedoms, then they will have no reason to hate us, which means they won't need to attack us as they are now constantly doing. So, voila, we are free from terror. Thusly, freedom must be destroyed in order that we may be free. QED.

So don't complain when you can't buy 100 watt bulbs starting in January. Don't see it as an invasion of your home buy meddling bureaucrats in the indirect employ of fascist corporations which have purchased Our Dear Congress in order that their products may be purchased even though the marketplace has rejected them. See it as safety. Someone get George Bush to strut around in a flight suit so that we can recognize the fact that the mission has once again been partially accomplished.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Is Why

When—if—parents and other responsible adults begin to fight back against paramilitary bullies like Frank Gordo, it will be things like this that cause it. Because…

"And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more — we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward." Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Sooner or late the cursed machine will grind to a halt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Yin-Yang Heart of Elspeth Gilmore

Laurence Vance just informed me (not personally, of course, but that's the great thing about the internet) about Elspeth Gilmore. He calls her "the dumbest of the 1%," referring to the now ubiquitous and probably mythical division of wealth in American society, the 99 and the 1,made popular by Occupy Wall Street. Mr Vance calls Elspeth Gilmore dumb because she apparently can't see the massive, glaring flaw in the logic she so proudly espouses in a recent commentary on NPR. Vance is correct in that the flaw is there—anyone can see that. Gilmore is begging—demanding, even—that the government help her give away more of her money. It does seem pretty dumb at first, but maybe she should get the benefit of the doubt until some further research can be done.

Here is Elspeth's plea from her sign at Occupy Wall Street: I inherited money at 21. I have had health and dental insurance my whole life. I want to live in a world where we all have enough. I have more than enough. Tax me! Rich kid for redistribution! I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%.

There are numerous questions that could be asked here, such as what health and dental insurance have to do with social justice, or what enough is, and what it is enough for. But the question I want to ask is whether or not Elspeth Gilmore is dumb. Isn't it possible that she just has a kind heart, and that when she sees a poor child with crooked teeth her heart breaks because it isn't fair for a child to go through life with crooked teeth? It could be that she is so selfless that she can't stand to see so many go without basic needs: "adequate infrastructure and roads, well-funded school systems, clean water systems, innovative transportation and health care for all." Way too nebulous, but well-intentioned, I'm sure, although I'm not sure that those are basic needs, let alone needs ("why are you crying little child?" "Because I don't have any innovative transportation!"). To provide for those needs she wants to close "loopholes for corporations" and "increase millionaire taxes." She wants to use her money to help others. How very nice of her. Her heart seems to be in the right place.

This apparent kindness is the yang side of her heart. Yang eventually turns into yin. Instead of choosing on her own how her money can help others (which is why Vance calls her dumb, in case you haven't figured it out yet), Gilmore wants her money to be forcibly removed by federal officials so they can decide how to help poor folks (note to Elspeth: shooting missiles and dropping bombs on poor people in foreign countries—which is what Uncle Sam would do with it—doesn't count as helping). It doesn't end there. She wants this choice to be made for everyone in her situation. Everyone with "more than enough" must be separated from a large portion of their wealth until they just have "enough." And then, apparently, everyone will have enough! The stupidity rears it head once again. Just in case you think the state doesn't forcibly take property, watch this hilarious video of Harry Reid in denial of that fact. So Elspeth wants people with guns to show up at the country club and threaten violence to raise a little revenue from the well-to-do. It only seems fair to her. They have more than enough!

Not realizing she can give her own money away is dumb. Not realizing that the state's only tool is violence is ignorance. Foisting this ignorance on the world in the name of fairness and equality is evil. The kindness of Elspeth's heart is also the darkness of her heart. I don't think she gets this. I can help her.

Last year the insurance company that we bought our dental insurance from decided not to cover orthodontia anymore. We had already agreed to the terms of contract, and we had already begun the process of installing braces. We had paid our portion of the cost. The insurance company had not paid their portion, and told the orthodontist that they didn't plan to pay it either. So we had to pay it. My wife was angry. Fortunately, Washington has an insurance commissioner's office to protect unsuspecting consumers from being victimized. This is what taxes are for, right? To pay for scads of lawyers to defend us from corrupt corporate predators, right? After weeks of waiting, an attorney from the commissioner's office informed us that the insurance company had canceled that portion of their service, and so obviously they couldn't be expected to pay for a service they didn't offer. This wise attorney also informed us that he had closed the case, which I assume is one of those extra mile services that can only be offered by a state-run institution. If it weren't for the insurance commissioner's office, we would be out $3500! Oh, wait, we were out $3500, despite all the efforts of the beneficent and magnanimous state to save us from that end. Huh. As an extra benefit, the insurance commissioner of Washington also protected us from similar dental plans because he had not personally approved them for our area of the state. You cannot imagine how protected I felt at that moment. I don't know if this is what Elspeth wants, but this is what her method would produce. Listen closely Elspeth—it was the very existence of this government agency that allowed the insurance company to act this way. Their corruption was protected by the state. It's a very simple process: the state violently takes money; the state violently entrenches agencies that promote a monopoly on services; the state violently enforces it's monopolistic policies; the state violently prevents individuals from breaking the monopoly; the state protects it's monopoly with violence. As an alternative, let's pretend there is some measure of freedom involved in the process. We buy orthodontic insurance. Our kids get braces as per the contract. So simple! Here's another one. We want to buy orthodontic insurance, or we want one of our kids to get braces. There is too much money involved. Elspeth sees this, and writes a check for the required amount. Simple yet again! No violence, no crony protectionist rackets, no fury. In the third scenario, three parties benefit. The orthodontist (or his wife) is able to continue spending large amounts of money on whatever, our kids gets straight teeth, and Elspeth feels good about using her inherited money to help the 99%. In the first scenario there is only violence.

If Elspeth Gilmore and other one-percenters really want to help the lowly ninety-nine percenters, they can start by not demanding that violence be done to us in the name of equality. We don't need more violence, we need more liberty. And people like her need more economic common sense.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chris Sullivan on The Lesser of Two Evils

How can you not be interested in a post that features the statement, "A Vote For Jesus Is A Vote For Lucifer," really?