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.

Bergdahl: Obama’s Katrina?

“Bergdahl is Obama’s Katrina.”

That was my father’s assessment as I discussed this latest Obama debacle with him this morning. He reminded me that even George W. Bush’s enemies grudgingly admitted that he was a strong leader until his administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina shattered that image forever. His administration never recovered, and, for all practical purposes, the Bush presidency ended in 2005.

Dad thinks, then, that Obama’s veneer of confidence and intelligence has been stripped away by the blithering idiocy of swapping five key Taliban commanders for an alleged America-hating deserter whose betrayal cost the lives of six other soldiers who went to look for him.

Maybe my father is right. Maybe now America notices that their president, however well-meaning he might be, is utterly incompetent.

But I doubt it.

Remember that in his first term we had the failed stimulus.  We had a vastly unpopular healthcare law. And, of course, there was the staggering and unprecedented levels of debt and long-term unemployment.

And then in 2012, a solid majority of Americans went to their voting booths and said “More, please!”

Since then, we’ve had the Benghazi fallout, the botched Obamacare rollout, the IRS scandal, and now the VA mess. The economy shrank by 1% last quarter, which means we’re on the edge of yet another recession. And, finally, on top of all this, we’ve got this Bergdahl debacle. And somehow, Bergdahl is the tipping point that will convince America at large that this president is a colossal failure.

But why? If they didn’t notice this man’s incompetence before, why should they notice it now?

Granted, this is such a boneheaded move that it defies rational explanation. Who on earth could have reviewed the facts in this case and presumed this would be a good idea? Who thought America would cheer the trade of a guy who abandoned his post for five high-level terrorists ready and eager to go back into action? I could have run this whole scenario past my nine-year-old son, and he’d have been able to point out that this was probably the wrong move. So how on earth did Barack Obama, supposedly the smartest president we’ve ever had, blunder into something so transparently dumb as this?

But I get tired of asking that question. It’s a question that could have been – and should have been – asked by the press when it was clear that the Obama White House was lying about the protests at the Benghazi embassy, or when the president repeatedly told Americans they could keep their plans and their doctors when he knew that wasn’t true. And yes, those questions were asked, but the askers were and are dismissed as right-wing cranks at best and racists at worst. And the process has already begun to do the same to those who dare to find fault with this Bergdahl mess.

Witness Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast, who distills the entirety of the Berghdal story down to “right-wing crack.” He also makes the ludicrous assertion that “if a Republican president had swapped five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, all the people howling today would be spinning it positively.” First of all, no Republican president would be imbecilic enough to do something like this. And before you say “George W. Bush,” remember that W. once wore the uniform himself, which means he would have spoken to some of the soldiers who knew Bergdahl’s history and have a far more realistic sense of what the military reaction would be to something this wrong.

Secondly, if George W. Bush had brazenly defied the law by bypassing Congress in releasing five high-level Taliban operatives for one guy that walked out on his unit and got several guys killed, would any spin for right-wing defenders prevent W. from being strung up by his thumbs? The press would be relentless in shredding him to bits, and those talking impeachment wouldn’t be dismissed as crackheads.

But this is Obama, and the Obama administration has two things that Bush’s didn’t have: 1) widespread incompetence, and 2) a free pass for said widespread incompetence.

Bergdahl won’t change #1, but maybe it will change #2. And then maybe Mitt Romney will be appointed president and monkeys will fly out of my butt.

This post means what you want it to mean

As an LDS missionary way back when, I remember a conversation with a man in Thurso, Scotland, who had participated in a discussion that introduced the basic elements of the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the end of this conversation, we invited him to read The Book of Mormon and pray to know whether or not it was true. To assure him that these prayers would be heard and answered, we asked him to read aloud what has come to be known as “Moroni’s promise,” found in Moroni chapter 10, verses 3 through 5, which you can review here.

“Oh, that’s brilliant,” he said afterward. “It’s very clear what that means.”

That was an encouraging thing to hear.  “How would you put it into your own words?” I asked.

“Well, basically, he’s saying that I should do what’s best for me and mine and stay with the church I’ve got.”

Sorry, what?

Moroni 10:3-5 talks about reading the Book of Mormon, pondering it, and praying about it. Moroni says that if you have faith and a sincere heart, the Holy Ghost will let you know that the book is true. But somehow, that became “stick with your old church, toss this book into the trash, and show the Mormons the door.”

Granted, Moroni 10:3-5 says a lot of things, but none of them are that.

This incident was probably the most dramatic and strange example of someone altering scriptures to suit a position they already had, but the phenomenon was evident throughout my mission. It was astonishing to me how easy it was for so many to ignore the plain meaning of simple words and replace any message with one they liked better.

I’ve found that this is a problem among the secular set, too.

I recently read a column by my father in the Deseret News about the economic consequences of implementing “fairness” through the redistribution of wealth. He shows that policies designed to help the poor by sticking it to the rich end up destroying the means to create the wealth they’re eager to redistribute, hurting everybody in the process. He concludes by saying that “the fundamental truth remains – wealth must be created before it can be redistributed.”

That last line is quoted in the comments section by someone who claims to agree. “I think that is the argument,” writes someone named Baron Scarpia in Logan, Utah. Except the argument, when he restates it in his next sentence, comes out like this: “The wealthy keep getting wealthier, but the middle and lower classes seem to be left out of the economic boom they’ve enjoyed.”

Well, okay. That’s an argument, but that’s not the argument, at least not the one that’s made in the column.

But, sadly, Baron isn’t the only one who seems to have read a different column than the one that was written. Another guy seems to think he’s talking about the capital gains tax, and another guy thinks he’s not adequately defending the GOP, and others say that the wealth has already been created, so it’s time to spread it around. But none of these guys address anything that was actually said.

This is par for the course in any global warming discussion. Alarmists use the bogus 97% figure to support any part of any argument they choose. What, you think a carbon tax and/or cap and trade is a bad idea? Well, 97% of scientists disagree with you! You’re not convinced that global warming will destroy life as we know it? Maybe you ought to talk to the 97% who say it will. You think Al Gore is a pompous, hypocritical know-nothing who spreads alarmism he doesn’t understand to fuel an extravagant lifestyle paid for by the fears of the ignorant? Well… yeah, that’s pretty much indisputable. But the 97% agree with me on everything else.

That stupid 97% figure comes from a flawed analysis of tens of thousands of scientific articles about the climate, 97% of which indicate that humans have some impact on the climate.

That’s it. Humans have some impact. Which is, of course, undeniable. I emit all manner of gasses on a daily basis, and those gasses have an impact. So I’m part of that 97%. (The real question is who these wacky 3% are. What, their poop smells like roses? You have an impact, people. Turn on the fan.)

But extrapolated from that statistic is every alarmist viewpoint imaginable, and it gets very tiresome when people decide things mean whatever they want them to mean.

It’s just like when Maya Angelou said ““Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud,” which clearly means “vote Republican.”

Amen.

A FairMormon Rant

I’m a big fan of Fairmormon.org, an LDS apologetics website that confronts some of the thornier issues in Mormon history and theology. So I joined their official Facebook group in the hopes of having some interesting conversations.

Be careful what you wish for.

One of the threads focused on controversy surrounding past Mormon racism.  One member asked a question along these lines:

“In light of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s definitive essay on the subject which states that ‘the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse,’ how do you reconcile that position with Brigham Young’s racist statements about Cain and such?”

I read the responses and felt my stomach turn. All of the answers tried to maintain that Brigham wasn’t necessarily wrong, that the exclusion of black people holding the priesthood wasn’t really racist, and that it is somehow possible to believe Brigham’s racist rants are reconcilable with the church’s current position. In doing so, these people invoked all the same tortured logic and tired arguments that were being tossed around when the ban was in effect.

So I dove in.

“How do you reconcile these statements? You don’t,” I said. “You accept that Brigham Young was wrong, and you move on.”

The outcry was immediate. Wait a minute! Brigham Young was wrong?! Wasn’t he a prophet of God?

Yes on both counts. He was a prophet, and he was wrong. He followed the Lord to the best of his understanding, but he was not free from the prejudices and prevailing cultural attitudes of the day. The theory about the curse of Cain was a common justification for the evils of slavery, and Brigham bought into it, much like most religionists of the time.

You’d think I’d shot somebody in the face based on the responses I got.

But the fact remains that two statements are irreconcilable. When the modern church explicitly states that black skin is not a sign of divine disfavor or curse, and Brigham Young says that black skin is, in fact, a sign of the curse of Cain, you can’t possibly say that both statements are true. For my part, I choose to follow the living prophet over the dead one. Isn’t that the reason we have a living prophet in the first place?

I’m not alone in this, incidentally. “[I]t is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet,” said one observer right after the 1978 revelation that extended priesthood blessings to people of all races. “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation.”  Based on the reaction from my similar statements to that effect, you’d think this was an essay from some virulent critic of the church and not by one of its most scholarly apostles, Elder Bruce R. McConkie.

I passed along this quote, along with Dieter Uchtdorf’s recent conference talk where he admits that sometimes leaders have made mistakes.  I quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said that “[e]xcept in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.”

But I was told, over and over again, that I was missing the point. Sure, Bruce R. McConkie said forget what Brigham Young said about this, but that doesn’t mean what Brigham Young said was wrong. (Um, I’m pretty sure it does. Why forget it if it’s right?) Sure, President Uchtdorf said leaders have made mistakes, but he wasn’t talking about big mistakes. (He wasn’t? Then why say it at all? Little mistakes don’t shake anyone’s faith.) Perhaps the weirdest response was “maybe leaders are fallible, but the church is anything but!” (Yeah, how is that even possible?)

On Facebook, a friend of mine pointed out that the Catholic Church teaches papal infallibility and the Catholics don’t believe it, whereas the Mormons teach that prophets aren’t infallible, and the Mormons don’t believe it.

I tried to continue the discussion and was told I was faithless, that I was bowing to political correctness, and that I was a NOM – a “New Order Mormon,” which is a term I had never heard before.  I think its sectarian equivalent is a “Cafeteria Catholic,” someone who picks and chooses which of their church’s doctrines they will conveniently believe. Apparently, real Mormons believe their leaders are perfect even when the leaders themselves insist they are not. Even Fairmormon.org, the site upon which this group was based, rejects that position, NOMS that they are.

I’ve written extensively about this subject on this blog – see here and here – and I provided links to both of those posts to clarify my position. My posts were deleted on the basis that I was linking to an anti-Mormon website – the very website you find yourself reading right now, you anti-Mormon, you!

I was then summarily booted out of the group and have no idea what happened after that.

So I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell Fairmormon.org that they’re not infallible, either. While their main website is a valuable resource that does admirable work, their Facebook group is filled with misguided zealots who reject living prophets in the name of honoring dead ones.

It is, in short, a pile of dung.

End rant.

 

An Anti-Clinton Rant


I planned to focus this rant focusing on policy, but the news that Monica Lewinsky is resurfacing to air her dirty laundry over at Vanity Fair got the Clinton pathogens in my blood boiling again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t care if you agree with his politics. I don’t care if you think he’s charming. The fact of the matter is that Bill Clinton is a repugnant person, and he should be shunned by decent human beings. He treats women with less dignity than what he scrapes off the bottom of his shoe.

I remember the 1990 Clarence Thomas hearings, wherein the then-nominee for the Supreme Court was accused of making crude remarks about public hair and Coke cans, talking about pornographic movies, and badgering a woman for dates. The single source who made these accusations was countered by a score of women who insisted that Thomas’s behavior was above reproach, and, at the time, opinion polls suggested that the American electorate overwhelmingly believed Thomas and not his accuser.

Democrats were furious.

This outrage led directly to what pundits called “The Year of the Woman,” which resulted in the election of two female senators from California and the election of perhaps the dumbest person, male or female, ever to serve in the U.S. Senate – I speak, of course,  of Patty Murray, Senator from Washington, who thinks Osama bin Laden built day care centers.

dolt
Four years later, I went to work for Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, who, as a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  questioned Anita Hill and poked significant holes in her story, which drew the ire of leftist women across the country. I spoke to many such women when I answered phones in Senator Simpson’s office. The message was that Simpson and other men “just didn’t get it,” and that a woman’s complaint of sexual harassment should be believed over the word of a boor like Clarence Thomas who was clearly just trying to cover his tracks.

The hypocrisy of this position in light of the left’s kamikaze defense of the Clintons is almost physically painful to contemplate.

Suppose, for instance, that everything Anita Hill said about Clarence Thomas was true. What would that mean? It would mean that Thomas spoke about a pornographic movie in a work environment, made a joke about a pubic hair being on a can of Coke, and badgered Anita Hill to go out with him. These are the actions of a boorish oaf. Such boorish oafishness, while certainly offensive, has a long way to go before it approaches Clintonesque behavior.

Clinton was first accused of rape in 1969 by a 19-year old English woman named Eileen Wellstone. Clinton admitted to the sex but said it was consensual, and, apparently, the Anita Hill standard that the woman is to be believed didn’t apply in 1969. Nor did that standard apply in 1972, when an unnamed 22-year-old woman made similar accusations to the Yale University police. These cases never went to court, which isn’t surprising, given the large number of rape cases that go unreported and unprosecuted today, when the legal environment is much more sensitive to the crime of rape than it was four decades ago.

But since then, the accusations have come from all quarters and from independent sources. Arkansas state troopers reported that seven different and unrelated women reported various sexual assaults by Bill Clinton over a period of decades. One of Clinton’s students when he taught at the University of Arkansas claimed that Clinton refused to let her leave the classroom and forcibly shoved his hand down her blouse.  A similar incident was reported by Kathleen Willey, who approached President Clinton in the Oval Office on the day her husband committed suicide, only to have the president forcibly place her hand on his erect penis. Feminist Gloria Steinem then wrote an op-ed piece insisting that Clinton should be praised for his the Willey incident because he stopped his sexual assault after that. (This became known as the “One Free Grope” rule.)

You know the names of some of the more famous Clinton accusers – Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick, who credibly claims Clinton raped her in 1978 – but there are many, many more that you probably don’t know.  The allegations have accumulated over a span of decades. They come from women of every education level and every socioeconomic class, although Clinton minion James Carville dismissed them all. “Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park,” Carville said, “and there’s no telling what you’ll find.”

Just imagine if Alan Simpson had said something like that about Anita Hill – he’d have been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. But Bill Clinton is feted and adored by millions, and none of these accusations have done anything to tarnish his reputation, even after the man lied under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky – which was legally abhorrent, but mild in comparison to the kinds of behaviors that Clinton has been accused of over the years.

“But they’re just accusations,” I can hear a straw man say. “None of them have been proven in a court of law.”

Well, first of all, some of them have. In a tearful 60 Minutes interview with his faithful wife Hillary by his side, Clinton vigorously denied his affair with Gennifer Flowers, even after audio tapes of him and Flowers surfaced. Clinton later acknowledged that affair in his Paula Jones deposition.  His relationship with Lewinsky, about which he perjured himself in both the Jones deposition and his later grand jury testimony, is now a matter of record. And it’s hard to pay off Paula Jones with a high six-figure settlement and then claim that her accusations were a whole lot of nothing.

But, okay, fine. He’s not a convicted rapist. And I’m confident that some of the allegations against him are baseless. But,  Mr. Straw Man,  do really believe that all of them are?

Democrats who once told us that the singular accusation of boorish oafishness against Clarence Thomas was to be taken at face value, and all those who doubted Anita Hill’s story were lowlife scum. But the dozens of accusations against Clinton, who has provably lied under oath about his sexual misbehavior, should all be dismissed, and the man is the keynote speaker of a Democratic National Convention where the theme is that Republicans are engaged in a “war on women.” And the warriors supposedly fighting for women call Clinton’s victims trailer park trash.

The hypocrisy is enough to make you want to gouge your own eyes out with a handful of toothpicks.

As long as the Democratic party hails Bill Clinton as its champion, it has no moral authority on any subject whatsoever. Columnist George Will once said that Clinton was not our worst president, but he was the worst man ever to serve as president. Yet in two years,  he will likely become the worst person, male or female, to ever serve as the president’s spouse.

Heaven help us all.

A Prequel Rant

I’ve neglected this blog. I know I have. I feel just awful about it. Well, not really, but I ought to pretend I do.

I don’t want to abandon this blog. Yes, I write columns and such for the Deseret News, but I can’t let loose there the way I can here, and I don’t want to give this up. So how to get excited about writing here again?

Simple – I need to get a few good rants out of my system. That ought to be fun. (For me, anyway. Not sure if anyone else wants to read them, but you’re here, and no one’s holding a gun to your head. )

In my latest column, I compared “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” to the execrable Star Wars prequels, which I do not consider to be Star Wars movies. I called these films “miserable failure[s]” and dismissed the whole prequel trilogy as a “joyless, plodding mess.”

My column produced several comments, some from those who agreed with me, but also some from prequel apologists.  “Bennett was a little harsh me thinks on the Star Wars movies… All in all they were pretty good… Sure made a lot of money for being failures,” wrote goosehuntr from Tooele, Utah. Someone named vangroovin said “I like all six Star Wars movies. And I still enjoy watching them. I think the prequels were not as fantastic because you already knew the end result.” And Mike Johnson of Stafford, Virginia said “Interesting, a movie (Phantom Menace) makes over half a billion dollars and is called a ‘miserable failure.’”

Boy, those would be great blurbs on movie posters, wouldn’t they? Instead of “two thumbs up!” or “five stars!”, the posters would say “not as fantastic!” or “pretty good!” or “well, they made a lot of money, so, you know, that’s something, right?”

No. No, it isn’t something. They made a lot of money because there is an almost inexhaustible well of good will left over from the original trilogy, and everyone desperately wanted the prequels to be good or at least palatable.  With each new movie, everyone held out hope that the next prequel wouldn’t be as horrid as the last. And each time, those hopes were dashed, and now, in hindsight, it’s clear that there is nothing good about these movies.

I repeat: there is nothing good about the Star Wars prequels. Nothing. Nothing at all.

There are no redeeming features. There is no silver lining. There is nothing but missed opportunity, crushing disappointment, and Jar Jar Binks.

I will now argue with a straw man who disagrees.

“Oh, Stallion, but what about the cool lightsaber battle in Episode I between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon?”

It was bad.

“No, it wasn’t! It was so much cooler than anything in the original trilogy, where they couldn’t do all the flips and kicks and double-bladed saber stuff. ”

You’re right, they couldn’t. The very first lightsaber battle in “Star Wars” – I hate calling it “A New Hope” – featured an aged Alec Guinness up against Darth Vader, and nobody flipped once. In terms of pure gymnastics, it had nothing going on – but it was infinitely more compelling than a cluttered, noisy battle between cipher characters that didn’t matter. When Obi-Wan died, it meant something. When Darth Maul died, it only meant the movie was almost over – which was the best something that “Phantom Menace” had to offer.

“But what about all the cool visuals? The space battles? So much better than the originals, no?”

No.

The original rebel attack run on the Death Star – pre CGI-cluttered Special Edition version – was fairly simple and straightforward, but you cared about the outcome, so you were on the edge of your seat the whole time. Compare that with the Episode III opener, which is a wildly complex, visually oppressive CGI assault on the senses with no other goal than to show how nifty it is. I don’t even remember what was supposed to be going on.

The prequels are nothing but visuals without context in the service of plots that don’t matter.

Allow me to illustrate with an illustration:

AsiaPyramidPoster_Dean
This is an album cover. It’s got all kind of weird images in it. Neat, huh? Well, maybe, if you like that sort of thing. None of these images are connected to any ideas that matter to me, so I don’t really care about them much. Why does the pyramid have eyes? Because it’s supposed to be cool that a pyramid would have eyes. Yeah, whatever.

All the prequel visuals come from the same self-indulgent hubris that produced this album cover. Funky ships and weird landscapes and quirky aliens are supposed to be applauded for their own sake, not because they matter.

Because they don’t matter. And neither do the prequels.

“Oh, but Stallion, you’re just put off because Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen/whoever wasn’t a very good actor.”

Really?

Anakin Skywalker: You are so… beautiful.
Padmé: It’s only because I’m so in love.
Anakin Skywalker: No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.
Padmé: So love has blinded you?
Anakin Skywalker: [laughs] Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.

What pair of actors, living or dead, could make that scene work? Go ahead – I’ll wait. But I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here, everything is soft and smooth.

Fact is, the dialogue in these movies was impervious to talent. Whenever anyone quotes a Star Wars movie, they quote from the original trilogy – unless, like me, they’re trying to mock the prequels.

“Oh, but Stallion, the Clone Wars TV shows/novels/other crap are really good and have enhanced the prequel story.”

No, they haven’t. The plotline of anything connected to the prequels is doomed from the outset. The Clone Wars – the fictional wars in question, not the shows that use that as the title – were all a ploy by the Emperor to grant himself unlimited power. The outcome, then, is completely irrelevant – if either side wins, Palpatine wins regardless.  Battles in a pointless war are pointless themselves.

“But what about…”

Oh, shut up, straw man. I have defeated you utterly, and my defeat of you is even more significant than anything connected to the Star Wars prequels, which are not good and filled with badness. I’d rather breathe the bottled farts of a thousand eskimos than sit through “Attack of the Clones” one more time.

Well, that was fun. Next rant will be political, which may not be as fun.

Dear Hank

(As a reminder to those of you who are not Hank, Hank slammed me pretty hard yesterday. You’ll need to read his comment for this reply to make sense.)

Dear Hank,

I’m pleased to know you don’t hold a grudge, but it leads me to wonder how much nastier you could have been if a grudge were part of the equation.

You call me “useless,” and I can’t deny it. The fact is, my uses are few. The best I can muster is that I’m a competent breakfast cook, a licensed driver, and a nearly-adequate installer of ceramic tile. I don’t even know any card tricks.

As for my being like unto “road kill,” everyone knows that roadkill spurs pity, not contempt. (That poor raccoon!) Perhaps, then, my squashed-mammal presence was a solemn reminder of your own mortality – there but for the grace of Michelin go thou.

Yes, I was obnoxious, loud and rude and mean to everyone, but that you understand.  Apparently I crossed the line when I “took every opportunity to be a douchebag.” Does that mean there are obnoxious, rude, loud teenagers who see an opportunity to be a douchebag and don’t take it? What good is it to be obnoxious, loud, and mean if you turn up your nose at a perfectly serviceable douchebag-being opportunity?

All sarcasm aside, this is why it’s very hard to take your criticism with any degree of seriousness – it’s all snark and no specificity. I can’t think of anything I could have possibly done to you to merit such a Captain Ahab-esque bile screed twenty-eight years after the fact. I assume that in the decades since we last met, worse things have happened to you than being teased by me for a few months in 1986. (If not, then congratulations on your charmed life.)

So when bad things happen to you, do you always lash out like this?

“Triple A was twenty minutes late to jump my car battery -  damn them, their demon spawn, and their douchebag-being livestock!”

I am not surprised, however, to learn that I was “nothing but a ‘negative’ to everyone and everything.”  Truth is, I was shunned both by people and inanimate objects. Not only did I have no friends, but even the furniture hated me.  The silver lining is that Neil Diamond’s complaint in “I Am, I Said” about chairs not listening to him makes more sense.

You lose me when you start going off on my “dubious” writing skills, as people who write “you’re platitudes” when they mean “your platitudes” really don’t hold the literary high ground, as it were.

Incidentally, and also tangentially, how did you find this dubiously written blog in the first place? Why would you seek out someone to whom you’ve given no thought at all who writes like an ape?

I have done you no bodily harm, I don’t owe you any money, and I haven’t published any compromising photographs. (Yet.)  And still your rage endures like a thirty-year-old canker sore.

Fact is, this is now officially your problem, Slick, and not mine.

Please know I don’t hate you. I’m not even mad at you. And I think you have talent! (You were an especially good fencer in “Desdemona,” and I’m sure you’ve only gotten better with age.) I’ve actually gotten something of a kick out of this. Anytime you want to call a truce, I’m in.  I have no interest in extended this animus any further beyond its expiration date.

But the fact remains that while I readily admit I was kind of a jerk thirty years ago, you’ve made it clear to everyone that can read English that you’re kind of a jerk now.

I think I got the better end of that deal.

Toodles!

Jim