Mathematics is now “sick” and “gross”

I’m right-brained by nature, so math was never my forte. But one professor at the University of Utah changed my whole perspective.

“Mathematics,” he said, “is not a matter of opinion. Rather, the study of mathematics is nothing less than the study of truth itself.”

I found this revelatory not only because it is accurate, but also because it recognizes the reality that truth is not relative or negotiable. It exists independent of interpretation, and it is not subject to change via majority vote. All the protests in the world cannot make two plus two equal five.

I’ve been thinking about that old math professor all day as I’ve watched the madness unfold in Ferguson in the wake of the grand jury’s decision. Many view the violence as a righteous reaction to what they perceive as a system where racist cops delight in slaughtering unarmed black teens, and where a grand jury of Klansmen turned a blind eye to this horror so they could protect one of their own.
But none of that is objectively true.

Ferguson attracted so much attention largely because it is so unusual. White cops do not routinely gun down unarmed black teenagers. As Rudy Giuliani noted on Meet the Press, 93 percent of black people who are murdered are killed by other blacks. And for that true observation, Giuliani was branded a racist and a hater by those who think their feelings of outrage trump that which is objectively true.

As for the specifics of the case, very little of the information that emerged from the initial media reports turned out to be reliable. The cowardly cop shot Michael Brown in the back! (Oops. No, he didn’t.) Michael Brown didn’t attack the cop! (Oops! Yes, he did. And all eyewitnesses who said he did were African-Americans.) These initial accusations were the subject of hours of breathless reporting and stoked the fires of rage and fury. In the weeks that followed, the true details trickled in quietly with little fanfare, as they got in the way of the “AmeriKKKa” narrative.

As for the grand jury’s decision, consider this true account from the Wall Street Journal:

A jury of a dozen average citizens, chosen long before this case came before them and including three black Americans, looked at 70 hours of testimony, heard 60 witnesses and deliberated for two days. The public statements of some witnesses proved to be false upon examination of the physical evidence, Mr. McCulloch said, including the claims broadcast on TV that Brown was shot in the back. Brown resembled a suspect identified in a local theft and there was evidence that he reached into Mr. Wilson’s car to punch him.

The jurors were presented with five potential criminal counts, including involuntary manslaughter, and rejected each one. The evidence was released to the public after Mr. McCulloch’s press conference, so others will be able to sift through the file and make their own judgment.

But the rioters aren’t going to sift through anything with facts in it to make their judgment. They’ve already made their judgment, and their verdict of chaos, violence, and destruction promises to devastate their local economy, hurt or even kill their own neighbors, and further widen the gulf between black and white.

The media, for their part, or doing everything they can to make the situation worse. Saying “This is revolting,” Salon.com posted a link on Facebook titled “Right-wing’s sick Twitter celebration: Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent, Brit Hume battle for grossest Darren Wilson tweet.” Looking for something sick and gross, I clicked through reviewed their entries and saw these instead:

“Hardcore leftists’ don’t really give a rip abt facts. Goal is and has always been to undermine civil society, stoke unrest, chaos.” – Laura Ingraham

“Dear Liberal Media, You are the problem. Again.” – Melissa Clouthier (who I’ve never heard of, along with many other examples Salon used.)

“Might say they’re anti science MT “‪@RichLowry: Liberals pride selves on their supposed adherence to facts, but can’t accept them in Ferguson” – Brit Hume

“All of the witnesses who testified that Brown charged Wilson were African American.” – Jonah Goldberg

Ted Nugent’s tweet – “DarrenWilson did good MichaelBrown did bad justice is served” – was the only one that was remotely celebratory. The rest were appeals to fact and reason, which are apparently now “sick” and “gross” in an era where truth is less important than feelings. By that template, the haters are the Rudy Giulianis and other “sick” conservatives who point out facts that people don’t like, not the rioters burning down their neighbor’s homes and businesses.

In this new Orwellian nightmare, mathematics, which is “nothing less than the study of truth itself,” must also be seen as “sick” and “gross,” too.  I can live with that. But the rest of this is more depressing than I can express.

Consistency and Bill Cosby

As the accusations against Bill Cosby continue to pour in, society at large has chosen to abandon him. TV Land yanked its planned “Cosby Show” Thanksgiving marathon, and NBC axed its in-development sitcom that would have marked Cosby’s return to prime time. As more and more venues where he was scheduled to perform withdraw their invitations, Cosby looks to spend his golden years in a permanent state of pariah-hood.

It is unlikely, however, that any of these accusations will be proven in a court of law. The alleged assaults took place decades ago, and assembling a legal case against him is all but impossible. Yet the accusers are credible, and collusion among them is very unlikely. In light of these realities, Cosby’s defenders are few and far between. (My Esteemed Colleague thinks this may be a white supremacist plot, but he’s the only one I’ve seen who has even come close to providing a defense.) Public opinion’s judgment is unanimous, and it is not contingent on the findings of a jury.

The masses have spoken, and they, now and forever, will view Bill Cosby as a rapist.

Make no mistake – I am not writing this to appeal the public’s verdict. I also find the accusations persuasive, and the pattern of behavior is too consistent to ignore. I had tremendous respect for Bill Cosby prior to this scandal, but my opinion of him has now been forever changed. Barring some dramatic revelation that invalidates the testimonies of his multitude of accusers, I will regard this man as someone beneath contempt.

You know, the same way I regard Bill Clinton.

Clinton has been accused of rape and sexual assault by just as many women as Cosby has, and the women who have come forward against him are just as credible as Cosby’s accusers. Unlike Cosby, Clinton has been proven to have repeatedly lied about his sexual behavior, and the pattern of abuse is far more readily established in his case.

Yet while Cosby is a pariah, Clinton is the Democratic Party’s patron saint.

Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was the killing stroke that effectively ended Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Polls show Clinton is the most popular political figure in the country, and his wife is the prohibitive front runner to become the first woman president, due largely to residual affection for her husband’s administration.

So can anyone explain why Cosby should be shunned but Clinton should be revered?

Proof that I’m not Glen A. Larson

I haven’t posted here since the passing of “Battlestar Galactica” creator Glen A. Larson, which might serve as circumstantial confirmation to my arch-nemesis Languatron that the good Mr. Larson and I are one and the same person. He has made that accusation countless times and in countless forums, and I wondered what he would think when the sad day came that Mr. Larson was no longer with us.

Well, with apologies to Languatron, I’m still here. And this article I wrote, published today by the Deseret News, proves it.

_________

So Glen A. Larson has passed away.

If that name means nothing to you, then you weren’t a kid in the ’70s and ’80s. But it just so happens that I was such a kid, and during my childhood, it was impossible to turn on the television and not see Glen Larson’s name on just about every TV show that mattered to me.

But there was one occasion when I got to see some of Mr. Larson’s work live and in person.

I grew up in sunny southern California, and back in the day, our Cub Scout pack took a field trip to the special effects studio doing work for Larson’s series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” This was the pre-CGI era, so all we saw was some tedious stop motion photography. But the real excitement came when one of the technicians took us to a storage room where the models for the canceled series “Battlestar Galactica” had been mothballed. He cracked open one very large crate, and all of us got a good look at the Galactica herself.

That may well have been the greatest moment of my pre-pubescent life.

“Battlestar Galactica” — the original, not the nihilistic, joyless reboot of the series that aired on the SyFy Network around the turn of the century — wasn’t Larson’s most successful series, but it was arguably the most personal to him. It was launched in the wake of “Star Wars” mania, and it spurred a lawsuit from George Lucas for copyright infringement. Lucas lost that battle, and rightly so. Yes, there are superficial similarities between the two space operas, but “Galactica” offered a premise that was actually something much deeper and richer than the “Star Wars” universe.

“Battlestar Galactica,” in essence, was Mormons in space.

Glen Larson, himself a Latter-day Saint, had infused his series mythology with too many Mormon references to ignore. His Twelve Colonies of Man were essentially the Lost Tribes of Israel whose history began at Kobol, an obvious anagram for Kolob, which, in Mormon theology, is the star nearest to the throne of God. The colonies were led by a “Quorum of 12,” and marriages were referred to as “sealings” that extended beyond mortality and “through all the eternities.” The show never shied away from religious themes, and, at one point, the characters encounter a group of angels who paraphrase LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow.

“As you are, we once were,” the angels tell the Galactica crew. “As we are, you may become.”

Sound familiar? It certainly did to me.

I was thrilled to see Mormon themes woven into pop culture, but not everyone shared my enthusiasm. My mother thought it was a light-minded approach to sacred things, and I have to concede that time has provided some evidence for that point of view. Critics of my faith take Mormon precepts and present them with a Galactica-esque spin to make them sound kooky and bizarre. An anti-Mormon film in the 1980s sneeringly referred to the LDS concept of heaven as “Starbase Kolob,” and during the so-called “Mormon Moment,” I sensed “Galactica’s” influence in the media reports about Mormons “getting their own planet” after they die.

So if “Battlestar Galactica” is your only context for what Mormons believe, you can be forgiven for thinking that we Mormons are a whole lot less boring than we really are.

But I don’t think Larson’s intent was to mock things he held sacred. I think he was trying to make them accessible to a wider audience. Those kinds of themes were missing from 1970s television, and they’re still missing from much of television today. In a medium celebrated for its vapidity, Glen A. Larson dared to produce something profound.

He will be sorely missed.

 

Partisan Promise Disparity

This is the first election in living memory where I couldn’t care less about the outcome.  Yes, I think Republicans will take the Senate. Big whoop. What will this mean in terms of its practical impact on the nation at large?

Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Every piece of significant legislation that might reverse the damage Obama has done will be summarily vetoed. And, conversely, every attempt by Obama to advance his agenda will be nipped in the bud. There will be a flurry of partisan activity and a marked increase in rhetorical volume, but no actual lawmaking will take place.

That’s actually just fine with me, as I find government inaction to be a preferable default position to well-intentioned, expensive, and ultimately destructive social engineering. But there is action government needs to take to avoid the fiscal implosion of the entire nation – entitlement reform, anyone? – and neither party will take it. A Republican Senate will not stop or even slow our inevitable collapse.

So forgive me if I’m not giddy with partisan glee.

My exile from the GOP has given me a different perspective on the party that was once my home. It occurs to me that the Republicans will always be at a disadvantage, because we can never out-promise the Democrats. The Left believes that government is the primary – indeed, the only – vehicle for positive social change, and that all the ailments of humankind can be attributed to an inadequate amount of government. Poverty, violence, disease, despair, the global thermostat – all these can ostensibly be managed and controlled for the betterment of humanity if we just send the feds enough money.

Of course, none of that is true.

That’s not really a matter of opinion. For decades, we’ve been dumping truckloads of taxpayer cash on these problems, and, if anything, they’re worse, not better. Our fifty-year “War on Poverty” has cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and has created a permanent underclass with no intergenerational memory of self-sufficiency. Those governments that go whole hog and abolish private ownership produce tyranny, corruption, and crushing poverty – but at least everyone is equally miserable.

But real-world, empirically verifiable results don’t get in the way of Democrats who continue to dangle the promise of taxpayer-funded paradise in front of voters. Just keep writing checks, and, sooner or later, the government will get it right, even though they’ve gotten everything terribly, horribly, miserably wrong up until now.

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t offer anything nearly as exciting. Vote for us, they say, and we’ll minimize the damage government does. Of course, there will still be poverty and inequality and misery and pain, but at least it won’t be as bad as it will be if the Democrats add huge new gobs of government into the mix.

So the Democratic promise is “Vote for us and the government will create a paradise!” Whereas the Republican promise is “Vote for us and everything will still suck, but it might suck a little bit less.”

Which one of those rallying cries is more likely to stir the soul?

I think government is a necessary evil, and it has a critical role to play in establishing boundaries within which freedom can flourish. But freedom also admits the possibility of failure, and government cannot remedy the pain and affliction that is fundamental to the mortal experience. Only Jesus can do that. And when He comes back as King of Kings, that’s when I’ll get excited about government again.

Until then, it’s “meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”

Confessions of Languatron’s Bane

“Star Wars: Episode VII” recently resumed production after taking a two-week hiatus to allow Harrison Ford to heal. Rumor has it that the Han Solo actor broke his leg when a hydraulic door of the Millennium Falcon was dropped on it. But other rumors say it wasn’t the Millennium Falcon’s door but, rather, the door of another spaceship altogether, the identity of which would likely constitute a spoiler for the much-anticipated sequel.

The Internet has no shortage of similar Star Wars spoilers. If you believe everything you read, you can piece together a workable plot of the film, despite director J.J. Abrams’s notorious penchant for on-set secrecy. (There’s a poster in his production offices that says “Loose Lips Sink Starships.”) Tight security notwithstanding, you can, with just a few Google searches, find out where Luke Skywalker has been for the thirty years since “Return of the Jedi,” as well as who this trilogy’s bad guy is and what he looks like. You can even see what Han Solo will be wearing in hot and cold weather.

That’s all presuming, of course, that these rumors are all true. And they’re not.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of them are wrong. The Han Solo costume designs look particularly legit, and surely there are some nuggets of truth amidst the gossipy dross. But big genre movies like these tend to bring out the Internet trolls, many of whom spread disinformation just for the cheap thrill of getting away with it.

Trust me. I speak from experience.

The year was 2008, and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was getting ready to hit theaters. That meant that a bunch of movie sites were publishing “advance reviews” that warned that the movie was going to be awful. There were dozens of them, many of which were poorly written, and I started asking how so many illiterate nobodies were given access to what was the most hotly anticipated film of many a year. I concluded that most of these reviews were bogus, and I wondered what it would take to write such a thing and get one of the sites to pick it up.

You can see where this is going.

Yep. You heard it here first. For no good reason, I churned out a piece of nonsense that was essentially a “greatest hits” melange of all the tidbits I had found in other articles. I submitted it to AintItCoolNews.com using the silly pseudonym “Languatron’s Bane,” and I waited to see if they would take the bait.

They did.

“A more positive, yet far more damning, review of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL comes in…” the headline screamed. The piece was peppered with such bon mots as “that’s not to say it’s a bad movie. It’s just an unnecessary one,” and “This is the “Free as a Bird” of Indiana Jones movies.” Despite the fact that I got a crucial detail wrong – I claimed that the movie included the line “It’s not the mileage; it’s the years,” and it didn’t – my error wasn’t enough to expose the fraud. Indeed, my review was quoted by a number of other publications, including the UK Telegraph. That’s right – my piece of hooey made it across the pond! I should have been ashamed of myself, and I probably would have been if I could have kept myself from giggling every time someone else fell for it.

There’s a lesson here. Writing fake reviews and making up phony information about movies isn’t something people ought to do, but people still do it, because it’s fun and because they can. Be wary. And look for my exclusive advance review of the next James Bond movie in my next post.

Our Tribal Future

“And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.”
– The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 7:2

The late Professor Daniel H. Ludlow was fond of noting that The Book of Mormon not only provides counsel written by ancient prophets for our day, but that it also serves as a metaphor for modernity. The Nephites and Lamanites were people who were preparing for the first coming of Christ, and we can expect to see parallels in their society to what the world will be like as we approach the Savior’s Second Coming.

It is in that spirit that I read 3 Nephi 7:2 as more than just a product of its time.

I am now going to give you entry to some of my more bizarre political musings, many of which wander afoul of common sense and veer into mild lunacy. But that said, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the nation state, as a concept, is on its way out.

This isn’t a variation on John Lennon’s “Imagine there’s no countries.” Most who decry the nation state yearn for a borderless Utopia where nobody fights, nobody ever says a cross word, and everyone hugs a lot. That might be nice, I guess, but that’s not where we’re going. Divisions will still be a large part of our future, but those divisions will be increasingly tribalistic, not nationalistic. There was a time when tribalism and nationalism were the same thing, but that’s not the case anymore.

Granted, the nation state itself was born as an extension of the tribe. Most people spent their entire lives in direct contact only with those in relative proximity, and borders sprang up to add definition to an already existing reality. But as travel and communication opportunities have increased, the strength of both physical and cultural borders have eroded, and tribal loyalties can now easily transcend geography. I feel more kinship, for instance, with a Mormon living on the other side of the world than I do with a Muslim who lives just down the street. My tribal loyalties are no longer bound by borders.

Of course, those borders still figure in to my personal tribal calculus. I’m an American, after all, and my American-ness is very much a part of my identity. But I’m a Mormon before I’m an American, and I’m a husband and father before I’m a Mormon. My primary tribal loyalties are to my family and my faith. My loyalty to country, while significant, will never ascend to the top of that list.

And what happens when country fails?

I don’t mean who wins or loses elections. Increasingly, the partisan bickering in every country is over small and relatively silly things. The ship of state is increasingly looking like the Titanic, and the relatively small shifts to the left and right that dominate current politics aren’t going to be enough to escape the iceberg. Within the next decade, the demographics of the modern welfare state will require huge austerity measures and massive benefit cuts in both America and the EU if governments don’t take action now. Well, no one is going to take action now. So we’re all going to follow Japan down the toilet, and people who turn to the state for help will eventually discover that no help is forthcoming.

So where to turn? Simple. We’ll turn to our tribes.

When the state can longer keep its promises, it will also lose its power to govern. That has happened in Iraq, where tribal identities have nothing to do with nationalism. No one in Iraq thinks of themselves as an Iraqi – they think of themselves as Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds. The state there is failing because it bears no relationship to the tribes it supposedly represents.

It will take longer for the state to fail in Europe, where common ethnicities and languages and centuries of shared history have shaped the culture for all of recorded history. But the EU is an artificial construct that can’t survive the coming economic implosion. Does a Frenchman think of himself as an EU citizen, or as a Frenchman? Certainly when the EU implodes, no one will cling to their EU citizenship as their tribal identity. And when France can’t keep its commitments, how big a deal will it be to identify as a Frenchman? People cling to tribes because there is strength and protection in them. When countries can’t provide such things, then their citizens will, of necessity, turn to something else.

I’m not saying the nation/state will dissolve in a puff of smoke, or that the shift to tribes over nations will necessarily be apocalyptic. I think the tribal future will have its good points, too.

For example, Mormons are of the opinion that Jesus can’t come back until the Restored Gospel is preached to every nation, kindred, and tongue. The assumption is that this process will require legal recognition in every country on earth, and young men on bicycles will pedal their way through Saudi Arabia before the end finally arrives. But is this really necessary to fulfill the prophecy?

There was a time when a nation state could control the information that flowed to its citizens. That era has long since passed, despite North Korea’s best efforts to stem the tide. Missionary work is shifting from bicycles to wireless connections, mainly because that’s where the conversation is. A Muslim living outside of Mecca is far, far more likely to come into contact with the Book of Mormon through a Google search than through two Mormon kids in the desert knocking on their door. When the nations stop mattering as much, the kindreds and tongues will take over, and the gospel will spread online to anyone who seeks it. When Isaiah said that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea,” (Isaiah 11:9) he was likely anticipating the universal reach of the World Wide Web. Borders are floodgates, and once they’re opened, the knowledge of the truth will pour into every corner of the globe.

I recognize that erosion is usually a slow process, and that the Grand Canyon wasn’t born in a day. But the nation state is definitely eroding, and the collapse of the unsustainable welfare state concept will likely break a large hole in the dam. I don’t think nations will disappear altogether, but I do think the nation state will collapse into irrelevance far faster than anyone currently anticipates.

This is why I find myself increasingly uninterested in the political enterprises of great pitch and moment whose currents will soon turn awry. Both Democrats and Republicans are going down with this ship. It’s time we all started to look to the tribal lifeboats.

The Languatron Party

I have a political metaphor for you today that involves our old pal Languatron, but it occurs to me that some of you Johnny-Come-Latelys to this blog may not even know who Languatron is.

Oh, how I envy you.

To educate yourself about the Internet’s most prolific and brain-dead troll, you can peruse my own Languatron Chronicles, which begin here. To summarize for those of you too lazy to read the unexpurgated version, Languatron was a supposedly ardent fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, but his over-the-top lunacy alienated him from those who would otherwise support his position. He lashed out at everyone who didn’t agree with his every word, labeling them corporate spies on the payroll of Universal Studios. (He also hated gays, Jews, Mormons, and “Mormon Jews,” whoever they are.) The net result was that he made his allies look like idiots, which ended up damaging the case he was supposedly trying to advance.

I thought of this as our old pal Moisture Farmer, who is quite a skilled Languatron opponent in his own right, wrote some comments to my last post that referenced RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – and took me to task for my distaste for the Tea Party. I have apparently begun a “fundamental transformation into one of the collectivist pod people” because I’m “attempting to ingratiate” myself to a “clique of shallow mental adolescents.”

He ends by saying “Snap out of it. We need you.”

To which I replied, “Well, if you need me, then it might be nice to stop insulting me.”

I’d like to expand on that premise, if I may.

The demonization of one’s ideological opponents is the modus operandi of both parties, but the hard truth is that one party needs converts, and the other party doesn’t. Democrats begin every presidential election with at least 246 out of 270 electoral votes in the bag, and Republicans have to run the table of everything else. The fact that the Dems demonize Republicans just as viciously as the GOP demonizes them back is of no practical value.

Democrats can afford alienate those outside their party. Republicans can’t.

One of my primary problems with Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, and the uncompromising, perpetually aggrieved self-righteous patriots who would prefer reading the Constitution to the nation’s problems to actually solving them is that there is nothing they are doing that would attract new converts to the fold. They are nasty, condescending, and arrogant beyond measure. They ridicule not only Democrats but Republicans – i.e. RINOs – under the assumption that those who disagree with them are “pod people” and “shallow mental adolescents,” not decent people who happen to disagree on matters of policy. Public Enemy #2 for the Tea Party – Obama is #1 – is “Establishment” Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who beat a Tea Party primary challenger because he had the gall to reach out to black voters that the Tea Party deem illegitimate.

Not a winning strategy, folks. If the Tea Party are going to continue to savage the Republican Party alongside the Democrats, how are they ever going to get 270 electoral votes?

They won’t. They can’t. The Tea Party has become the Languatron Party, because they are an embarrassment to those who should be their allies. The GOP frontrunners right now – Cruz, Perry, and Paul – don’t even appeal to everyone in their own party. There’s no way on earth they’ll appeal to independents, let alone Democrats. They’re doomed to go down to a Barry Goldwater-style defeat. Goldwater, like the Tea Party, valued a narrow definition of ideological purity over electoral victory.

I say this dispassionately, as I have come to the conclusion that America is careening toward collapse, and it will get there within the next decade or two regardless of whether the person in the White House has an R or a D next to their name. (Spoiler: it will be a Democrat for the rest of my lifetime.) So I put my faith in God and my community, not in a nation that refuses to fix itself. I therefore feel no loyalty to either party, and as I fatalistically watch the Languatronization of the party that used to matter to me, I feel a mix of resignation and freedom, as I no longer feel duty bound to defend the GOP when it errs, which it does with increasing frequency.

Have a nice day.

Mitt won’t run

I went all in for Mitt in an embarrassing way last time around, and I would vote for him if he ran again. But he isn’t going to run.

I don’t say that as a rhetorical device, or as a tease, or as a temporary sort of condition. (“He’s not running now, but who knows?”) This is a done deal. Mitt Romney will not run for president again.

Period. Full stop.

Yes, there is significant Romney buzz, mainly because the Republicans have no one else. And I confess that, on occasion, I found myself thinking that Mitt could be persuaded. My assessment, until recently, has been that Mitt actually wants to run, but that Ann doesn’t, and so Mitt won’t run in deference to his family. Then I had a conversation with someone who actually knows Mitt and is close enough to understand his thinking.

“The thing you’re missing,” this guy told me, “is how much Mitt hates to lose.”

Apparently, his 1994 Senate loss to Ted Kennedy was absolutely devastating to him. He thought he was going to win, and he came up short. It was the first time in Mitt’s life that he had failed at anything, and he did so publicly in a way that was personally devastating to him. He didn’t dip his toe back into the electoral waters until nearly a decade later when he successfully ran for governor of Massachusetts. And he did that against a weak opponent and with every confidence that he wouldn’t have to lose again.

Then he ran in 2008 and lost. And, once again, it was devastating. On that occasion, it was Ann who persuaded him to pick himself up and get back in the ring again. The thinking was that he had made enough mistakes that he was sure to win in 2012. And he ran that campaign with the full expectation of victory. His pollsters told him he was going to win. His family told him he was going to win. And, of course, I told him he was going to win, which, clearly, was the most important endorsement of all.

And up until election night, he thought he was going to win.

Think about that for a moment. When I doubled down on a Romney victory and dared to defy the wisdom of Nate Silver, everyone told me I was nuts or just plain deluded. And I probably was. But so was Mitt. In spite of it all, he went into Election Day 2012 with the full expectation that he would go to sleep that night as President-Elect of the United States.  And then he lost. And he lost big.  He isn’t willing to expose himself to that again, nor should he.

Because if he runs again, he will assuredly lose.

The Electoral College landscape now makes it next to impossible for any Republican to win the White House, and one that has run and lost isn’t going to be able to leap that impossibly high demographic hurdle. Plus Tea Party types still distrust him, and the Mormon thing is still a lead weight around his shoulders. He has too much baggage to even attempt the leap.

And he knows that now, which is why he won’t run.

People are therefore misinterpreting his ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail now. Mitt wants to be useful, and, to be cynical about it, he doesn’t really have anything else to do. So he has been crowned the kingmaker/elder statesman/great guru of the GOP, and, as my insider friend told me, “that’s not a position he can be fired from.” I’m sure Mitt appreciates the good will and good press as he’s proven right, and he probably enjoys the attention that comes with being entreated.

But if he runs, he will lose. And he hates to lose, so he won’t run.

This message brought to you by the Jacques Cousteau 2016 Campaign Committee.

What It Doesn’t Mean

So Kate Kelly, leader of Ordain Women, has been excommunicated.  If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, this is a critical turning point in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It apparently represents the stifling of all future dissent, the permanent second-class citizenship of all Mormon women, and very possibly the collapse of the creaky, falling-apart-at-the seams Mormon patriarchy, which resembles the old Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall fell.

But here’s the thing. My Facebook feed isn’t representative of anything, because this doesn’t mean any of those things. Indeed, other than its impact on Kate Kelly herself and her family and friends, it doesn’t mean much of anything at all.

That may be very difficult for some to believe, but this episode is hardly a watershed moment. It has been preceded by similar supposedly watershed moments that most have forgotten. The history of the church is replete with examples of members with a grievance who insisted the church needed to change, and the members were excommunicated, and the church continued unchanged. If Oliver Cowdery didn’t derail the church by leaving, then neither will Kate Kelly.

Please understand my purpose here. I am not rearguing – or even initially arguing – for or against what happened with regard to Kelly’s disciplinary council. There are plenty of other blogs where you can find passionate essays on both sides. I am saying that those who think the church can’t possibly survive this need to take several steps back.

For my part, my steps back were taken as I drove from my home in Sandy, Utah, up to the Pacific Northwest where my in-laws live. I am writing this post safely ensconced in Port Angeles, Washington, far removed from the Wasatch Front echo chamber. When news of Kelly’s fate came online, I said aloud, “So it looks like Kate Kelly has been excommunicated.”

My mother-in-law then asked, “Who’s Kate Kelly?”

As I filled her in, she recalled hearing in passing about Ordain Women’s march on the Conference Center and their attempt to gain admission to the priesthood session. But she had no real opinion on the matter, and she shrugged off the news without a second thought.

Now I recognize I’m being anecdotal here, and it’s silly of me to suggest that somehow my Facebook friends are entirely unrepresentative where my mother-in-law is somehow emblematic of the church at large. But the reality is that most members don’t comb the Bloggernacle on a daily basis and don’t weigh in on Salt Lake Tribune comment threads. (And thank goodness! Trib comment threads on Mormon subjects contain more bile per byte than any other form of online communication.)  Yes, this has gotten some national media attention, but Mitt Romney isn’t running for president anymore, and the news cycle will quickly move on to something else.

This will frustrate and disappoint many, but likely far fewer than Kelly and her closest allies would have you believe. And the vast majority of church members will take little or no notice, and the work will progress. And persecutions may rage, a few mobs may combine, and maybe even some armies may assemble, and more calumny may defame, but the truth of God will still go forth boldly, nobly, and independently until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear and the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I paraphrased that last bit.

But the fact is you either believe that or you don’t. And if you believe that, you’re not going to panic when the expected mobs arrive and the predicted calumny does its defaming. You may be bent out of shape by the fact that fallible people have been tasked with doing the work of the Lord, and that this fallibility comes into focus at times like these. But this work is bigger than you, me, or Kate Kelly. And it will continue with or without us.

Carry on.

Ordain Women: A Royalist’s Perspective

As the Mormon Bloggernacle continues to ponder the fate of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women, I am pleased to report that I am more important than other Mormons commenting this subject.

For you see, I am Mormon royalty.

“What?” I hear you virtually scoff. “Mormon royalty? Just who does this guy think he is?”

First of all, it’s not wise to scoff at royalty, even virtually. And secondly, my regal status has been affirmed by no less an authority than Kate Kelly herself.

It all began over at timesandseasons.org, one of the more prominent Mormon group blogs that opines on all LDS subjects without fear of reprisal and even, at one point, had its own Languatron infestation. My brother-in-law Nate Oman is a contributor to that particular blog and so happened to have the occasion to write a brilliant piece with a rather provocative title:

“Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement”

Even if you are the most ardent of OW supporters, Nate’s piece is worth your time, as most of Nate’s pieces are. He does not take issue with anyone in OW personally or belittle their objectives, but rather details why lobbying efforts directed at the church tend to be counterproductive. (I said essentially the same thing in my last post, only not as well and without all the messy research.)

Nate’s post generated 166 comments and a direct response from Kate Kelly over at feministmormonhousewives.org. Titled “Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Male Mormon Privilege,” Kelly’s post cleverly mimics the structure of Nate’s initial essay to provide a lengthy ad hominem attack on Nate himself for being too frickin’ male to be allowed to have an opinion on the subject.

The considerable substance of Nate’s piece was not addressed at all. Instead, Kelly reveals that Nate Oman is “oblivious and pejorative,” “insulting,” and “dismissive,” and he is quick to “spout unemotional, scorched-earth critiques while somehow ironically and simultaneously being completely blind to and fueled by [his] own male privilege.” He also rides a “high horse of unearned authority,” which, when ridden during what Kelly describes as a “a hazed-out binge of [his] own male privilege,” is likely to cause considerable chafing.

The first wave of responses are largely sycophantic, but down the line, one commenter refuses to pile on:

Rosalynde Welch writes:

Just wanted to put in a word for Nate, who can certainly defend himself without my help. But I think you’ve pegged him very wrongly, and done it in an unnecessarily nasty way. Nate is *exactly* the kind of Mormon man who is most likely to materially aid your efforts in the future, and I regret that you’ve reacted in this way to his piece. I think it reflects poorly on your efforts, and it certainly has alienated me.

But Kate Kelly is having none of it.

Kate Kelly writes:

Rosalynde, I would have to respectfully disagree that a man who writes a post entitled “Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement” is “most likely to materially aid [our] efforts in the future.”

But then another Oman supporter chimes in:

RMM (Random Mormon Mommy) writes:

I agree with Rosalynde. If you see Nate as the enemy, you might not be familiar enough with the influential members of the online Mormon community, and you may want to remedy that ASAP.

Which allows Nate Oman himself to finally jump into the fray:

Nate Oman writes:

I deny that I am an influential member of ANY community.

“Oh, dear,” then writes someone named hkobeal. And the game is on.

Nate Oman writes:

Regardless, I have to admit, that “hazed-out binge of their own male privilege” is a great turn of phrase.

For what it’s worth, I am not sure exactly which of the claims that I made in the post you believe to be mistaken or wrong. I’m willing to concede that the title and first and last sentence were meant to be a bit flippant and provocative. I certainly seemed to have succeeded on the provoking front.

Kate Kelly writes:

Nate, it’s actually not your intentionally titillating and “provocative” title to which I am responding, it’s the fact that, apparently, you can’t see that the fact you have the luxury to be so flippant as to intentionally provoke for sport is direct evidence of your hurtful use of male privilege.

Nate Oman writes:

Got it. So it’s not that I said false things, but that I said perhaps true things or perhaps false things but I said them flippantly without apologizing or noting the luxury of speaking flippantly in the first place.

Kate Kelly writes:

As many have, successfully in my opinion, argued in the comments section of your OP, Nate, history and contemporary happenings (see in re: http://www.mormonsandgays.org) do not support your “it’s only well after the media storm has passed that the Brethren can ever feel ok inside about making any changes” type argument.

However, you have also completely (willfully?) misinterpreted our goals and dreams.

Is it possible for you to see that the success of our movement is not measured by what the Brethren do or don’t do?

We trust in the Lord that our prayers will be answered, and women will be one day ordained… But if not… we have been transformed in the process.

Nate Oman writes:

Kate: I am not sure that it’s entirely unreasonable to think that success for an organization called “Ordain Women” might consist in…well…the ordination of women.

Ouch.

Others jump in here, including some defending Nate, and one who says that Kelly has pegged Nate wrongly, and that he is precisely the kind of person who could build bridges between OW and priesthood leaders. But Kelly is not at all convinced.

Kate Kelly writes:

Men should start groups for men about how to not be sexist and how to purge themselves of harmful paradigms and behaviors that being raised in a patriarchy has imbued them with. I live 2 hours and 22 minutes from Nate & would be happy to be an in-person guest speaker at his newly formed “Mormon Male Allies” group, should he choose to form one.

Nate responds to this in the only reasonable way possible:

Nate Oman writes:

I find it slightly bizarre and perhaps just a little creepy that you know within minutes exactly how long it would take you to drive to my home.

That pretty much ends the exchange between Kelly and Oman. But then comes the Coronation!

Kate Kelly writes:

I don’t give a rat’s rump if Oman is well-connected, married to Mormon royalty or a generally swell chap.

And there it is!

Nate Oman, you see, is married to my sister. And my sister, according to Kate Kelly, is Mormon royalty. And if she’s a royal, then I, her older brother, am ahead of her in the Mormon royalty succession.

Here’s my sister’s royal response:

Heather O. writes:

SWEET! I’m Mormon royalty!?!! YES! I expect some minions to order about and some drinks with little umbrellas in them IMMEDIATELY, as befitting my Mormon Royalty Status!

(On a more serious note, Kate Kelly–did you seriously just call me that? I don’t…I can’t…I just…wow.)

Wow indeed.

Kneel before Stallion, Mormon peasants!

That is all. Dismissed.