Friday, January 20, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Surrogate at Coker College Today

Newt's Surrogate at Coker Today

So, last week we were told that Newt Gingrich was going to speak at Coker today. Last night, we were told that (Ret.) Colonel Michael Steele would speak in his stead. Since I had already canceled my classes, and because I hadn't been to a political rally (Dan Quayle) since the 1980's, I went.

Some observations and quotes:

1. The staffers were all dressed alike. Khaki pants, blue blazers, white or blue oxfords, leather shoes, tastefully-sized Newt nametags. They were all Caucasian, looked about 24-28, and obese to a man. One of them got us started with a very somber call to say the Pledge of Allegiance, which he did sounding like he was at a funeral for the republic that it represents. It was seriously the worst pledge I've ever heard because his mic-ed voice could be heard over ours.

2. Colonel Steele is definitely ex-military. When his mic wasn't working like he wanted, he boomed a barking order into it to have Trevor Robinson, our theater manager fix it by yelling "TREVOR!" in an imperative tone. He then gave an "angry-white-grandpa speech" as one of my colleagues put it. He started out by saying that he was going set aside all of the "rhetoric" of Newt's opponents and speak in a frank apolitical way about issues that he felt were important. He then went on to say this, which I posted to my facebook so I wouldn't forget it, "We've got Ahmadinejad, this little leprechaun [], in Iran trying to block the Straits of Hormuz and restrict the flow of 1/6th of the world's oil supply.

3. He claimed that there are 25-30 nations that pose a trans-national direct threat to the USA and our interests.

4. He talked at length about the border with Mexico. He said, "I bet nobody in here has ever been to Juarez, Mexico" and said that it was "Murder City." He then explained that it is our problem when it's happening on our border because ranchers and students visiting Mexico were getting killed there. He then said that, "Mexico is a clear threat to our national security."

5. He made a list of six important threats to the USA, including Mexico, Iran, Afghanistan, the Taliban, North Korea, and "regulations and the EPA." He then said that these threats to the USA are "enemies" of the USA. Ergo, the EPA is an enemy of the USA.

6. He got really apocalyptic and said that "2012 is our last chance. This is it. We've got one shot, and then we're done." No one asked him to clarify in the Q&A, but he had way too much doomsday in his voice.

7. He mentioned Newt's work on welfare reform with Pres. Clinton, which I actually liked. However, he missed a huge opportunity to note that Pres. Obama issued an executive order overturning those very same reforms.

8. An audience member who serves in the SC House humblebragged his way into a description of his opportunity to address Israel's Knesset and asked him what Newt would do to protect these "God-given lands" for the Israelis, including Gaza and the West Bank, which the audience member said were the "heartland" of Israel. Col. Steele did not contradict anything the man said.

9. A 7th grader repeatedly pressed him about what Newt would do to stop killing "innocent civilians" in countries we invade, including supporting Israeli actions in Gaza. Col. Steele explained the Weinberger Doctrine to the kid, and was able to almost-gently explain to the kid that the subject was too vast to explain to him in a forum like that.

10. When asked what healthcare would look like under Newt, he said, "I guarantee you that it won't look like socialized medicine." He then proceeded to vilify the Canadian system, talking about someone who had died in a Winnipeg ER and was only found 36 hours later when it was her turn. His promise? "I guarantee no one will die waiting in our ERs under Newt." A tall order for a mortal.

11. When asked what Newt would do for a woman and her husband who are self employed and cannot find insurance that covers maternity in this state, he answered, "I can't answer that. Ask me something about threats to this nation." He did however offer her his card and told her to email him and he would get her the answer.

12. He said "shame on" anyone who doesn't vote in tomorrow's primary.

13. He later called out Pres. Obama for canceling a wargames exercise because Iran and that "little dwarf Ahmadinejad" were doing one at the same time.

14. He said that, and I quote, "Afghanistan is just a piece of dirt, not a nation." His justification? They don't all speak the same language and they don't pay taxes.

He never mentioned Black Hawk Down or his membership on the 1980 UGA Football team. I'm glad I went, but it would've been much cooler to hear Newt. I'm voting for Mitt tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A punitive approach to the War on Drugs does not work.

It is a fact, IMHO, that a punitive approach, while remaining constitutional, to the drug problem does not work. We either have to raise the punishment to levels so severe that no one dares break the drug laws, or we have to adopt an approach that isn't punitive. Countless research turns up the same results year over year: restricting access to drugs does not achieve the desired ends.

I worry far less about addiction than I do about the violence that the war on drugs causes. There will always be addicts. It's the generations of fathers and sons lost to the violence and prison, and the ghettoizing of once strong neighborhoods via gang control that are the bitter fruit of Nixon's war.

If we believe that sociologists should strive to only recommend objective policy to politicians, it would seem that the overwhelming consensus of the last 25 years is that a "punitive" approach to drug policy is a failure, and that other avenues should be attempted, especially with regard to marijuana. However, the consensus about the outcomes of that change is not in any way agreed upon, they just agree that a punitive approach carries far more repercussions in society that most believe carry a larger negative impact than increased availability of legalized production, sale, purchase, and consumption.

Here are some links (with quantitative data that talk more about what I'm contending).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The LDS Church needs to invest in our youth

The PTO at my daughter's school is one of the organizations to which I don't mind giving. They provide a detailed accounting of all funds, and if asked, they will answer questions. They could choose not to, but I appreciate it when they take the time to let us know on what projects they choose to spend cash donations.

The Darlington County Habitat for Humanity will, on request, demonstrate how they allocate their receipts. I would still give if they didn't, but I appreciate that they're open about how funds are spent.

I pay a full tithe. I trust the leadership to make righteous decisions about the money over which they have stewardship. I would appreciate knowing the distribution of tithing funds and how they are allocated. I would also enjoy having more funds locally with which to hold activities and events that we can invite the public to like our nativity set showcase (we have about 150 nativities and creches set up). We have a gigantic lot behind the church, big enough for three softball fields. So far my requests to have a pavilion installed with a gas BBQ pit, ceiling fans, and picnic tables have been greeted with buck passing and friendly dissembling from the stake president.

If you go to locally successful churches, you will find "teen centers" and full service kitchens. People come to church activities and truly linger longer. The Episcopal Church here has an amazing professional kitchen, and the parties there are top notch. The teen center at Lakeview Baptist has tons of couches, a stage with a drumset, guitar amps, and a piano. It also has a big TV with an xbox, a dance floor with a disco ball, and an indoor basketball/volleyball gym. Teenagers love to hang out there, and activity night on Wednesday is packed (granted, they also have a full-time paid youth minister to oversee programs).

In these parts, the Methodists have excellent BSA troops with Centennial Quality awards that aren't ephemeral. They have equipment, troop trailers, and out buildings specifically for storage of scouting equipment. Non-Methodists send their kids to the Methodist scout troop because of how well-run and awesome it is.

The Catholic Church here has fish fries all the time. They do rummage sales, chicken bogs, Low Country boils, and other activities. They also maintain a regional food bank and will get infants a no-frills car seat on the recommendation of a physician or ecclesiastical leader.

Just about every denomination in town has a pre-k and kindergarten (at one of their locations) except for the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Methodists founded an honest-to-goodness no-questions-asked soup kitchen M-F that feeds between 60-110 people a day. My ward helps cook twice a month.

Almost all of the Baptist churches contribute to the funding of Upward soccer, basketball, and cheerleading. Great people like Mitch Outlaw volunteer hours upon hours of their lives to make kids have a great time and to enjoy being at church, learning about the Gospel in a fun environment.

The Salvation Army employs mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed people, maintains a food bank, and works with addicted people to get them clean.

I feel like the LDS Church is missing the point outside of Utah. We don't need more proselyting missionaries here; we need service missionaries and members too to have resources sufficient to make a difference in our communities. We've gone from a finding-truth charismatic church led by Joseph Smith to the Corporation of the President with the sure signs following of bureaucracy and an epistemological elite.

The routinization of charisma in our church is essentially complete.