Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Same-sex Marriage vs Religious Freedom

Today in Meridian Magazine I ask the question, how long will it be before advocates force a discussion on which "right" is more important- the right to same-sex marriage or the freedom to exercise religion?

At first glance the question may seem outlandish and extremist to those who have not closely followed the issues. But the truth is, we may be asking that question within the next year.

Normally I do not like to make statements such as, "If we get four more years of Obama we'll never..." But this is an exception to that rule. If President Obama is re-elected, it is very possible that there will be a religion versus sexual orientation debate in the near future.

The Democratic National Committee drafting committee voted unanimously on Sunday to include same-sex marriage on the party platform. Despite the excitement from same-sex marriage supporters, the vote still has to be approved by the full DNC platform committee in two weeks, and then be voted in by convention delegates in Charlotte before the plank officially becomes part of the platform.

“There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it,” committee member Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Washington Blade.

In addition to support for same-sex marriage rights, the proposal included provisions that rebuke the Defense of Marriage Act and affirm the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The specific language remains under wraps.

Needless to say, if Governor Romney wins, these issues will get discussed, but not at the same level as if President Obama wins. Same-sex marriage is not a plank in the Republican platform.

Monday, July 30, 2012

But Who Wore it Best?

From  the Washington Post's Reliable Source column:
Michelle Obama has been criticized for not dressing up enough for Queen Elizabeth II, so she stepped up her game Friday night at an Olympics reception for heads of state at Buckingham Palace. The first lady wore a very fancy J. Mendel capsleeve jacket — “white viscose techno crepe tailored jacket with overlapped side panels and silver embroidery” from the 2013 Resort collection, according to a press release from the company. It’s not in stores yet, but high-end retailer Moda Operandi listed the jacket at a princely $6,800. The White House declined to comment.

From the Washington Post's "She the People" column when Ann Romney wore her shirt:
The very wealthy Mitt and Ann Romney have often been painted as out of touch with average Americans. Ann’s pricey shirt will not help her husband change those perceptions, no matter how many Laundromat photo ops are on the campaign’s daily itinerary.
On Tuesday Ann wore a colorful silk T-shirt with a large bird print by Reed Krakoff during an interview with her and her husband on CBS’s “This Morning.” Fashion blogs quickly tracked down the “The Reed Audubon Silk Shirt” and noted the whopping price tag.
A representative of the fashion house told ABC News that the shirt is off-the-rack and it had not been a gift to Ann Romney from Krakoff...
Some Americans might be thinking that the $1,000 spent on one shirt could help them out with a house payment or buy necessities at Walmart. Others are counting exactly how many T-shirts that amount would buy at Target, where first lady Michelle Obama said she often shops.

Just a little case of media bias maybe??

And could no one have at least mentioned that the $6,800 jacket is not doing Mrs. Obama's back end any favors??

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gun Control (Doesn't Work)

gun control and homicide
Guns and homicide by population (click on image to enlarge)

The topic of gun control has reared its vicious head in American politics yet again. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to explain that much of my professional career has been spent working in the firearms industry. I worked for the National Rifle Association (in an event planning position), and for a firearms manufacturer (in a marketing and events position). That being said, I am very well-informed when it comes to firearms regulations across the country. However, in spite of what my professional background may appear to be, and my political affiliations, I am not a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. I am not passionate about the subject, but I am better informed on both sides of the argument than your average person.

After the topic began to resurface on Saturday after the tragic shooting in Colorado, I saw an internet meme go across Facebook that was just plain and simple wrong. (I didn't think to save it at the time, and the original poster has deleted since then.) It motivated me to dig up the real numbers about gun control around the world. The countries I used were the ones in the original meme.

Comparing the populations, number of homicides, number of guns, number of homicides, and number of guns used in homicides side-by-side is the best way to really understand what the problem in the United States is. It isn't the guns. It is the number of homicides!!!

Look at the differences between Finland, England/Wales, and the US.

In Finland, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is 2.3.
In Finland the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is 0.41.

In the United States, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is 4.6.
In the United States, the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is 2.98.

In England & Wales, the annual rate of homicide by any means per 100,000 population is 1.1.
In England & Wales, the annual rate of firearm homicide per 100,000 population is 0.1.

Do you see the difference? Guns aren't the problem. The problem is that AMERICANS ARE KILLING EACH OTHER!

Look at the chart this way-
guns in homicides rate
Click on image to enlarge

That yellow line is the number of homicides. There are other ways I could make this chart more dramatic, but I like it straight-forward.

If there was ever an argument for the cliched and overused expression, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," it is the facts right here. Other countries have plenty of guns as well. (Even the countries that Americans mistakenly believe don't allow guns, have plenty of guns.)

The problem is with our culture. Other "First World" countries do not have homicide rates close to the United States. The fact that Americans are resolving disputes and conflicts by killing each other is the real problem.  The solution is not to take away the gun (42% of homicides didn't use a gun), but to stop the culture of violence. The death penalty and/or life in prison is not enough of a deterrent to stop the killing. Already strict gun controls have not stopped the killing. The problem is with the culture, and that needs to be addressed.

Source for all facts: GunPolicy.org (a pro-gun control organization)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You didn't build that meme!

Meme: 1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable 

(Etymology : meme : derived from the Greek mimëma, 'something imitated', by Richard Dawkins in 1976)

Pronounced (Meem; rhymes with dream)

Borrowed from UrbanDictionary.com

I'm starting to think this will be the presidential election that was fought [incorrectly] with internet memes.

And why shouldn't it be? 

They are fast, cheap (free), funny, and easy to make happen. If you make a clever enough one, it can spread like wildfire before bedtime. They convey a message (or share a belief really) that is easily remembered and identifiable. A political and PR dream come true.

Now here's the problem. I like to mock some of President Obama's chest-thumping, BFD, credit-taking as much as the next Republican. It really does annoy me. But this week's memes are not just wrong, they are going too far.

And I say this as one who is in the process of starting her own small business, and really would love to do nothing all day but share anti-Obama memes. In fact, why can't I be paid to sit around and do that all day? It sounds like a job I would be well qualified for!

Here's the problem, the meme of the week is a little too wrong. Thanks to Obama's chest-thumping past, everyone (and by everyone, I mean non-Democrats) assume "You didn't build that" meant that the government did it for you. And why shouldn't we think that? No politician ever before has wanted to grow the government and take credit for things like Obama does. But! That's not what he actually said.

Read for yourself:

"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."

In a rather tasteful change of pace, he didn't take the glory for everyone else's success. But the memes sure don't imply that, do they?

I'm going to put myself out there and admit a few things.  And again, I am a Republican, so it does pain me to say it.

I'm *almost* a small business owner. I'm hoping that within the next 3-4 weeks I can really justify saying I'm a small business owner, and not just a freelancer. It has been a lot of hard work for several months to build from an idea I had to an actual business. And trust me, a lot of that hard work was done solely by me. But it wasn't all done by me. Like Obama said, I had good teachers who taught me some invaluable skills. Thanks to the competitive, commercial American capitalist system, there is room out there for a business like mine to enter the market. I'd like to pretend my idea is unique and no one has thought of it before. But that's not true. There are similar businesses out there, but we all want to do it a little bit different. My company will operate entirely online, and employs 5-6 people around the country. As a result, I have multiple ISPs to thank for their part, plus my [patient] employees (not to mention the network of people who gave them their skills), and I suppose the good people at Apple and Acer for their fine products.

A decade or more ago people threw a fit over Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" comments. They wanted to give all the credit to mothers for raising their children. I struggled then like I struggle now. Mothers do deserve most of the credit. But mothers need to thank the village that gave them the tools to raise that child. It isn't that different from this week's hot spot memes. Sure, the business owners deserve a lot of the credit. But they also need to thank the other service providers out there for providing them the tools.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Michele Bachmann Guarantees She Won't be the VP

What is the best way to make sure no one will ever want to be affiliated with you in national politics again? Just ask Michele Bachmann, she seems to be full of ideas lately.
Her current "fundraising idea" to tell her supporters that she's going to smoke the Muslim Brotherhood out of the US government might be her worst move yet.
From what I have gathered in various reports (cited below) she sent out fundraising letters that she claims were  “unfortunately being distorted.”
I can't believe I am actually disappointed that I unsubscribed from her email list 6 months ago. 
Now she says, “The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group’s access to top Obama administration officials.”
In the letters she raised concerns about the State Department’s decision to grant a visa to a member of the Egyptian parliament who, despite his membership in Gamaa Islamiya, a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization, was allowed to attend high-level meetings last month with administration officials. (The State Department is investigating the situation.)
“This is just the latest example of the dangerous national security decisions made by the Obama administration,” she said. “I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
She also claimed that Islamists have infiltrated the highest levels of the federal government.
Result: Lots of angry Congresspeople sending her "shut it, woman!" letters. Even Senator McCain went on CNN to call Bachmann a little ridiculous.
Does Bachmann shut up? Oh no. Instead, she manages to get a couple of other GOPers (I'd really like to know which ones, so that I never support them) to send letters to various agencies demanding investigations of a conspiracy to influence American foreign policy to favor the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist causes.
Bachmann's foreign policy experience is truly a wonder to behold. Remember a few months ago when she "accidentally" applied for dual citizenship with Switzerland? (I think it was Switzerland. Austria? Sweden? I don't know. One of those countries with a lot of descendants in Minnesota. Doesn't matter now. She supposedly "un-did" it.)
Anyone want to guess how many Muslim members of Congress there are? 
Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat. Yes, her own fellow statesman.
It is as if Bachmann doesn't want to have friends in Congress. Like she actually wants to be ridiculed and called a lunatic.
One thing is for sure, she's not on the VP short list, and she sure ain't in the lineup for Secretary of State either. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bigotry in America

Check out my article on "Bigotry in America" for Meridian Magazine.
A recent Businessweek cover has brought out the swift ire of many people.
The article, “How the Mormons Make Money,” by Caroline Winter – is an in-depth look into the business side of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The article focuses on the business aspects of the Church (as is the editorial mission of the publication), including the property and stock holdings, business subsidiaries, and tax benefits.
Overall the article, from a completely business analysis standpoint, is fairly neutral, but at times critical, and at other times fair. However, it is the cover of the magazine that raises questions. It is so blasphemous and bigoted as to stain the stone of the entire article. It is a caricature of the beloved painting of John the Baptist bestowing the Aaronic priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The thought bubble next to John the Baptist reads, “… and thou shalt build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax.” Beside Joseph Smith the thought bubble replies, “Hallelujah.”
The artwork for the article passes the lines of decency and is insulting to all Mormons, if not all religions. It should never be acceptable to mock or belittle the sacred beliefs of any religion. To do so against Mormons is a slap in the face to all churches. However, it is highly unlikely that any other church would ever be so openly mocked. 

Read the rest at Bigotry in America.

Monday, July 16, 2012

National Polls

We've reached that point in the presidential campaign process where it gets harder and harder to find something original to write about. Since I choose not to ever bother reading the mud-slinging reports or reports on the mud-slinging reports, there just isn't much to say.
But it is time to start taking a closer look at the polling data.
To sum it up, President Obama is ahead in the electoral math, but it is too close to call in the general election math. But then again, 40 electoral points isn't that many when you have 136 in the toss up column.
In other words, we're in for a long, nasty campaign ahead of us. It's still anyone's game.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Meet Mitt the Mormon

The uncle I wrote the article about is also the uncle in this picture, taken after we had volunteered in South Carolina. (4 of his 30+ nieces and nephews shown)

Forgive me the silence of the past week. I've been off at Girls Camp, mostly unplugged from the modern world.
I will be back tomorrow with my usual ongoing elections and politics commentary.
Until then, check out the article I edited for Meridian Magazine, "Meet Mitt the Mormon."

Editor's Note: It was 1994 the first time I heard my uncle talk about his friend in Massachusetts who was running for Senate. I remember my first thought at the time was, “My uncle knows a Democrat?” Who else would run for Senate in Massachusetts? I was corrected quickly. A few years later I began to hear about my uncle's old friend and mission associate again when that friend was picked to run the Salt Lake Olympics Committee, and then, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. To hear my uncle speak of him, his friend was impeccable, courageous, and a dynamic leader. We were southern Virginians who watched the political events of Massachusetts closely. I was intrigued. In 2007, I sat quietly by and watched as my uncle and my father tirelessly worked for Mitt Romney's fledgling campaign. And on April 10, 2012, minutes after we received the word that Former Senator Rick Santorum had dropped out of the race, my father called me. “My little brother was right. Mitt Romney is going to be the President of the United States. He's been saying it for years, and he was right.” 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Help Put Good Conservative Values into Mainstream Fiction


When was the last time you read a mainstream book where good people didn't have to compromise their values in order to succeed? Where strong family values played a key role? Where a woman didn't have to change who she is in order to get the man?
If you are ready for a strong female main character who comes from a good family, honors her parents, stands up for what is right, and doesn't compromise what she believes in order to succeed, then this is the book for you! We need funding for a trilogy of books that embraces (not disgraces) conservative principles, family values, good religious morals, and makes you believe in family, friendship, love, and the American Dream.
Tee-totaling, conservative Republican, (and virgin), Haley McAdams has been called a lot of things in her life--naïve, innocent, sheltered, old maid--but none of them are true. After surviving a Congressional investigation into her employer, serving as a rescue worker in Haiti, volunteering at the fire department, and enduring two years of unemployment, she has seen more of the real world than most people. She is anything but naïve, innocent, or sheltered. But at 35 and single, she may very well die an old maid.
One day she literally falls into the path of America's Favorite News Reporter, Camden Morrison, and her life hasn't been the same since. She gets caught up in a political scandal that threatens to ruin a presidency while taking both her career and that of her new boyfriend to new level. Will she succumb to the temptations fame, fortune, and the power of success? Or stay true to the beliefs she was raised with?
Her life may appear to be enviable to outsiders, but she quickly learns dating a famous face isn't easy in the age of social media. Not to mention, it takes hard work to keep her career trajectory going upward. And she doesn't want anyone to think she got there because of her famous boyfriend.
Life isn't easy at the top. The exhaustive demands on her time from her family, best friend, job, her second job, and her boyfriend take their toll on Haley. Suddenly she has to ask herself some very big questions. Can she keep her rich and famous boyfriend happy without sex? How much money is enough money to justify operating in the gray areas if it helps other people? And what if those lessons her parents taught her are old-fashioned? Is it time to move on and leave the past behind?
Haley learns a lot about tough decisions and standing up for what she believes in throughout this journey of love, friendship, and hard work.
The writing of this book has been completed. Funding is needed to assist with the final stages of publishing, including hiring an editor, book cover design, procuring an ISBN, etc. With your assistance it will be available for sale within 2-3 more weeks of the end of this campaign.

No, You Cannot Have it All.

It started with an article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can't Have it All.” It was followed up by hundreds, if not thousands, of blog posts and comments, and most notably a response article by James Joyner in the same magazine, “Men Can't Have it All Either.” Those two articles are primarily about fathers and mothers in the workplace, to which a response has been issued by the singles of the world, “Singles Deserve Work-Life Balance Too.”

I'd like to add my two cents to the ongoing debate and whining. Oh yes, whining. See, I'd like to submit for debate that no one is ever going to have it all. It doesn't actually exist, nor should it.

This concept or idea that we (a category I will define as current-day Americans only. This is not a phenomena that I have seen spread around the world.) should have it all, or that anyone indeed does have it all, is a very modern, recent development. When in history has any other generation expected a “work-life balance?” Or that they should have a nice home, 2 cars, 2.3 children, a designer breed dog, an attentive and responsive spouse, family vacations, “me time,” and applause for their efforts at the end of the day?

Do you think George Washington came home after a busy day of crossing the Delaware River and expected Martha to rub his shoulders just before he disappeared for a long bath and a good book? Or maybe that's too much ancient history. Let's move farther up. Do you think the pioneers crossed the plains, settled their land, and then complained that the grass was greener on the other side of the valley? Or did they work for their green grass, putting in hours of tending the fields, inventing irrigation, and at the end of the day ate what they grew? What about in the 1950's? Did anyone ever have it all in the days of “Leave it to Beaver?” Ward went off to work, and June stayed home and worked. (You know Beaver never kept his room clean.) Did they complain they didn't have it all? Or did they keep working to keep what they had?

There is this sense of entitlement growing across the nation, and sadly, it seems to emanate from my own generation. People believe that “it all” exists. And worse, they believe they deserve to have “it all.” What is “it all” about? Work-life balance- where you work, but you get to play as well. Your personal life is just as important as your professional one. It means we all have equal everything, except not really. We don't really want what everyone else has. We really want everyone else to be status quo, while we have a little bit more. We want to make sure everyone has access to healthcare, but really we want our own healthcare to cost less. We want to be able to work, earn a paycheck, and go home at the end of the day knowing that Acme Company is still running and making money, while we run through the sprinklers.

This is a ridiculous concept. When has this ever worked? Has there ever been a point in history where civilization actually succeeded by not working?

There is no such thing as having it all. There is the perception that others “have it all.” It is the “keeping up with the Joneses” or worse, “keeping up with the Kardashians,” mentality that others have something we want. We think we know what they have, but how do we know we would really be happy with their choices? We perceive that they have something we want, and somehow over the past generation, we have convinced ourselves we are entitled to it.

We are not entitled to anything. If we want something we must work to get it. If our work effort does not earn it, that does not mean we should change the situation until we get what we want. Yes, there are many scenarios where that mentality works (I am not arguing against “out of the box” thinking). But women, men, and singles (and soon I'm sure we'll find articles adding in each individual race, age, sexual preference, occupation, etc.) will never have it all, because it doesn't exist.

Personally, I think this idea that “it all” exists is the result of marketing campaigns over the past 20-40 years. No generation ever before has actually had “it all.” And yet, they survived, they produced, and from what history has told us, they were happy. They didn't rely on pills, therapists, me time, and a work-life balance initiative, in order to succeed. They worked and they were happy.

This new dominant generation, the Me/Pepsi/X/Social Media Generation, will ruin itself with this mentality that they deserve to have it all, or that they will ever achieve it. We must stop ourselves and learn to be happy with what we have. We were raised in the “gimme” age of the 80s, and by the “devil may care” attitudes of our parents from the 60s and 70s. We are both a product of our upbringing, being told we could do anything, achieve anything, and that we deserved trophies when we didn't win, and yet we are also victims of our own greed. We believed the ideas that lingered from the previous decades and didn't stop to think it through. We need to stop now and ask ourselves what is truly possible.

Can we have it all? Does such a thing exist? Has history set such a precedent?

This generation has achieved a great many things. We are living in the dreams of the future. But there are still lessons we should learn from the past, and that includes the rewards and confidence that comes with hard work. We need to learn to depend on ourselves and reap what we sow, rather than expect that any amount of work will give us what we want.

And last but not least, we need to stop thinking in terms of what we “want” to have, and begin to think in terms of what we need to have.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wiliam Bennett on the Supreme Court and ACA ruling

CNN is running a fascinating opinion series by William Bennett on the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court ruling.

Some highlights from today's piece-

William Bennett
The Supreme Court's verdict on Obamacare is in. As a tax, the individual mandate stands; as a Commerce Clause regulation, it fails.
What remains to be seen is whether Chief Justice John Roberts has crafted a masterly constitutional balancing act -- limiting federal authority and respecting the separations of powers -- or if he has engaged in a disappointing and inappropriate usurpation of the legislative function.
There are arguments on both sides. Some say that Roberts, not wanting to uphold the liberal reasoning behind Obamacare and an unprecedented expansion of federal power, concocted an opinion that would be limiting in scope, while still respecting the law and seeming nonpartisan. Others say that Roberts has unlawfully manipulated the mandate into a tax, thereby giving legs to a law that has none...

Chief Roberts writes in the majority opinion, "The mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS."
The dissenters, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, adamantly disagree: "[T]o say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it..."

The dissent is right. Roberts recast the mandate as a tax, a rationale that was not in the law or the government's case. He rewrote the administration's position, baptized it, and then blessed it. Roberts' defenders argue that he did so to avoid a constitutional crisis, but he may have created another by judicially re-legislating policy, a policy paid for and enforced by what could be essentially the largest tax increase in American history.

Roberts could have characterized the mandate as a tax and sent it back to the Congress, whose role is to legislate taxation, to redo.
Furthermore, the Roberts opinion invalidated Obamacare's penalty on states that refuse the massive expansion of Medicaid subscribers. States can opt out of the expansion of Medicaid and not be subject to a loss of funding. This is no doubt a victory for federalism and the 26 states that filed lawsuits against the government.
The verdict, while a serious judicial blow to conservatives, may favor them politically. Mitt Romney and Republican leaders can now campaign relentlessly against a massive, sweeping tax increase that will fall on the shoulders of an already weak economy.

The Supreme Court did not hand conservatives a lifeline. Elections have consequences and this fall's will be monumental.