Thursday, December 14, 2017

Words on Liberty

I was looking through the quote file, to see what I’d been adding lately. There were quite a number of quotes about freedom, the Constitution, and how those are both gifts from God. I get quotes from all over, but these I'm going to share, with a few exceptions, are from leaders of my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s a worldwide church, with more members living outside the US than in it. But the words apply to all people anywhere in the world who wish to live free and happy lives. Religion has to speak up, because it takes a good people to choose to live freely. And the evidence is that God wants us all to move away from tyranny, poverty, and savagery, so we can enjoy freedom, prosperity,and civilization.

[Satan] plans to destroy liberty and freedom—economic, political, and religious, and to set up in place thereof the greatest, most widespread, and most complete tyranny that has ever oppressed men. He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods.—Heber J. Grant, General Conference, October 1942

There has been a tendency among some Latter-day Saints, even when the Constitution is mentioned, to say, “There he goes talking politics.” I am not talking politics. I am quoting the words of the Lord. Certainly, it is not meet that we should bring politics into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but just as certainly, it is meet that every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take the doctrine of Christ into his politics, and that he evaluate every candidate and every platform under any and every political banner in the terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ. —Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1946

If we are content to let others do the work of replenishing and defending liberty while we consume the benefits, we will someday run out of other people’s willingness to sacrifice—or even out of courageous people willing to make the sacrifice.—Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices. I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.—Gordon B. Hinckley, “In Opposition to Evil,” Ensign, September 2004

What goes unappreciated is just why America's leftists' movement attacks the Founders. If they can delegitimize the Founders themselves, it goes a long way toward their agenda of delegitimizing the founding principles of our nation. If the leftists can convince the nation that men such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were good-for-nothing slave-owning racists, then their ideas can be more easily trashed.—Walter Williams, 10-28-2017, “Undermining America”

The Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments.—George Albert Smith, General Conference, April 1948.

Unless we members of the Church do all we can to preserve the freedoms we have, within the bounds of the laws of God, we will be held accountable.—Joseph Smith, Principles of the Gospel, pp. 135-136, pp. 146-147, published 1991

Unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God of losing our exaltation.—Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, April 1976

The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.—Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.—Anne Frank, Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.—Alexis de Tocqueville

If we are content to let others do the work of replenishing and defending liberty while we consume the benefits, we will someday run out of other people’s willingness to sacrifice—or even out of courageous people willing to make the sacrifice.—Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.—C. S. Lewis

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pivot Point

We’re at a pivot point in the culture. I don’t know how hopeful to be, but I am hopeful that this can move us northward, using Spherical Model language, on the social sphere—up toward civilization, away from savagery.
The Social Sphere of the Spherical Model

I’m referring to the sudden awareness of sexual harassment and molestation.

These are not new things. The phrase “casting couch” has been around my whole life. People know what it means. It didn’t come out of nowhere. So it shouldn’t suddenly be surprising now.

At least now people are being called out for hostile, demeaning, and sometimes terrifying behavior that no civilized person should find acceptable. The wonder is that it stayed acceptable—albeit swept under a rug—for so long.

Those of us who were adults during the Clinton years remember the scenario. Bill Clinton denies: “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Hillary Clinton arranges for character assassination of accusers. And there were multiple accusers, credible, with corroborating witnesses at the time. From exposure to Paula Jones, to rape allegations of Juanita Broaddrick. Media insisted all along it was all a political attack. Mrs. Clinton called it a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

And then six months later, when positive proof from Monica Lewinsky made it undeniable, and Clinton lost his law license for lying under oath about Paula Jones, his supporters and the media (redundant) started saying, “It’s just his private life.”

But his private life, as a married president of the United States, should not include using his power to obtain sexual favors from a 21-year-old intern, in the oval office, reckless behavior that could set a person up for blackmail.

While Clinton’s behavior was disgusting, he followed rumors about JFK and Senator Ted Kennedy and many unnamed politicians who did stuff like that. It's hard not to be cynical when things like that are dismissed with a shoulder shrug and nothing more.

Those who are outraged now, about so many recent allegations, what were they saying then? Because some of us were outraged then, and we were shut down and silenced—ironically while being told we were waging a war on women.

Even as recent as a year ago, people were outraged at now-Vice-President Mike Pence for refusing to dine alone with women other than his wife. How dare he discriminate? they shouted. But today he looks wise. It wasn’t just about not putting himself in a possible temptation situation; it was about protecting himself from accusations. It’s why we don’t have women suddenly showing up and making accusations about him. such allegations wouldn’t fly, because everybody knows he doesn’t allow the situations to arise.

That’s why you didn’t get those accusations against Mitt Romney either. Consistent, scrupulous moral behavior pays off at times like this. And anytime.

I don’t know how to judge our current president. He made claims, on audio, that were locker room talk. They were skanky enough that, in addition to his foul treatment of Ted Cruz and other candidates (remember the claim that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in JFK’s murder?) I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him. (Didn't vote for sexual-predator-enabler Hillary either.) But I don’t know whether he actually did sexual assault, or just talked that way.

If he did those things, then later political success still doesn’t excuse him. I will say that some of what he’s accomplishing as President I can approve of—treatment of Israel, lower taxes. Maybe we’ll get rid of Obamacare yet. And his wife, Melania, has behaved as an exemplary first lady. Nor are there women coming out of the woodwork to accuse him of sexual exploitation. Maybe talking is the worst thing he does.

As for Roy Moore, I’m not in Alabama, so I haven’t felt compelled to determine what is true. If he is guilty of sexual assault against a 14-year-old, he shouldn’t be a senator. But if he’s guilty of nothing more than dating women younger than himself, followed by marrying and living faithfully with one wife for 40 years, then, while it may make us squeamish, it’s hardly disqualifying. And at this point we don’t even know whether that’s true. I’ve said before, I hope the truth comes out. The timing stinks, and if the women are lying, they are doing a serious disservice to women everywhere.

What I fear is that the sudden coming to morals is more political than real. Al Franken should never have been in the Senate; what were Minnesota voters thinking? (Well, there were some sketchy things about voter fraud, so maybe they said they didn’t want him but weren’t heard. Not sure.) I’m glad to see him leave. But if he’s being sacrificed just so the Democrats can claim the moral high ground, that would be unfortunate. Any other senators or congressmen being called out after years of getting away with sexual assault ought to get out of town too.

The situations in the news these days are power related. I heard an interview with Enid Greene the other morning on BYU Radio online; she was in politics in Utah for some time. She was talking about the issue in relation to power, and power is real. She said, when she had power, if someone crossed her, she had access to media and could have made that person’s life miserable, or ruined a career. It takes character not to misuse power.

People in politics, news, and entertainment media who use their power for selfish indulgence do not deserve the power.

For so long, people were afraid to speak up—because their chances to meet their personal goals would be thwarted, and nothing was likely to change just by their coming forth. So it’s a pivotal moment now, when suddenly people are willing to speak up, and people are listening, and perpetrators are actually losing their power. Which is as it should have been all along.

Let’s hope this is a real cultural shift—away from power makes it right to only the right character deserves power.

There are rules for civilization, which we list at the Spherical Model. As I’ve said,

The way to develop character in a population is to have a vast majority of children raised by their married mother and father, and taught to honor God as well as family, life, freedom, property, and truth.
And, because family, as the basic unit of society, is the way to perpetrate those values, we need strong families.

A rule that savage societies bristle against is that sex outside of marriage is always wrong. But it remains true, over the millennia. If people believe that, and live it, then you don’t have anyone getting away with “casting couches” in entertainment or anywhere else. 

We might not be all the way into the civilization zone, where we need to be, with the recent pivotal change. But it points us in the right direction, away from savagery, and toward civilization, where a lot less misery happens, because we don’t let it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Not Enough Babies

I’m immersed in enjoying a new grandbaby right now. And this past week a niece and nephew both had their first babies, so there’s a sudden rise in little second cousins.

New granddaughter, Little Social Sphere II

In contrast, someone shared an article with me about the rather sudden drop in fertility rates here in the US. I’ve written about this issue before, but it has been a while. Principles are still true, but there’s updated data since I wrote these:

·         Demographic Winter,[i] June 16, 2011
·         Why Civilizations Die, parts I, II, III, beginning February 3, 2012
·         Death of Marriage, in three parts, but particularly part II, July 1, 2011   
If you’re new to the idea that declining birthrates are a bad thing, let me repeat this scenario on Greece that I refer to in “Demographic Winter.” This is from a 2010 United Families International article, using Greece’s 2008 population of 11,237.074.

If you consider that a generation is about 27 years, and you have a fertility rate of 1.4 (Greece’s is actually 1.37), then you’ll lose a third of the population every generation: 

Generation 1                 11,237,094 – 3,745,698 = 7.491,396

Generation 2                   7,491,396 – 2,497,132 = 4,994,264

Generation 3                   4,994,264 – 1,664,755 – 3, 329,509 

As I explained in “Demographic Winter,”

In a little over half a century the population is likely to decline to under 30% of its current population. Without disease or war. Voluntarily. 

The cutoff seems to be a fertility rate of 1.4. In the history of the world, no population has ever recovered once hitting that level. Right now the following are at, near, or below that level: 

United Kingdom             1.66
Portugal                        1.49
Austria                          1.42
Russia                          1.34
Spain                            1.31
Japan                           1.27
Czech Rep.                   1.24
South Korea                  1.21
Hong Kong                   0.97 
OK, so we’ve established that decline is looking bad mathematically. For the social and economic impact, read that whole piece.

In the piece I read this week, “The Great Baby Bust of 2017,” blogger on demographics Lyman Stone talks about a sudden drop in US fertility rates. For many years, while other countries declined, we held steady at replacement levels. However, a closer look showed that immigrants had been bumping up our fertility data. US-born citizens have been a little over 1.7, which isn’t as bad as much of Europe, but it’s sure not good. But now even the immigrant rates can’t pull us up to replacement.

Screen shot of chart in Stone's article

Stone uses the latest data, along with some extrapolation:

If you google “USA Total Fertility Rate,” you will see a graph from the World Bank, with the most recent data showing 2015 TFR of 1.84. As such, many people wrongly believe that U.S. TFR is 1.84.
I’m here to tell you that U.S. TFR is actually 1.77, and falling with alarming speed.
We have provisional-but-complete fertility data for 2016 showing a total fertility rate of about 1.82, so slightly below the 2015 level. However, since then, fertility has fallen still further. We have monthly birth data through June of 2017 which allows us to estimate total fertility over the previous 12 months. Remember, total fertility is demographically-controlled, so it is not impacted by the age composition of the population, simply showing age-controlled birth rates….
Fertility has fallen sharply over the last 6 months or so, even as the economy has picked up steam. The most plausible forecast for 2017 calendar-year total fertility is 1.77; which, by the way, I’m not the only person who thinks that; professional demographic consultancy firms independently arrive at the same conclusions.
To be clear, in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. had replacement-rate fertility. Since then, we’ve fallen to about 0.3 kids below replacement.
Stone uses a helpful illustration of what this means.

Here’s an example of what their fertility might look like in 2008 vs. 2017:
Screen shot of chart in Stone's article
In 2008, your friends Emma-thru-Emily all would have had about 2 kids if their lifetime fertility followed 2008 age-specific birth rates. Harper and her husband, however, decided to go for a 3rd, because they wanted to have the best of three children and name him Lyman, named for the demographer who inspired them to do society a favor and have a third child.
But in 2017, things have changed. Emma ended up breaking up with the guy she thought she might marry because he turned out to be kind of a deadbeat, so she didn’t have that kid she hoped to have in her 20s. Olivia got a great job… which has really long hours, and she really loves the job and she loves how comfortable it has made her and her husband’s life, but there’s no way she and Bob can care for a kid right now: life is just too busy. And Harper? Well, Harper and her husband were enticed to take a few extra vacations by generous credit card rewards programs and super-low mistake fares online, so they used up their vacation time and their disposable income, and so a third kid just isn’t in the cards anymore.
The important thing to understand here is these are big changes in your friends’ lives, and they happened really fast. This is not some gradual easing into lower fertility, but a pretty speedy change.
Something else caught my attention in Lyman’s piece. He uses a graphic showing rates in all 50 states:

Screen shot of chart in Stone's article

This chart is messy, I know, and there are no labels, but the point is to see that there are lots of “down” trends in 2016 and 2017. And by the way, that highest line that declined a lot… that’s Utah.
It’s even happening to the Mormons.
That’s my people. We love families. We love children. We value children. But something cultural is happening. I’m hypothesizing that it has to do with a combination of reasons: less value of marriage in society, less value of children in society, less confidence in being able to afford children, and maybe less willingness to sacrifice comfort and financial stability for more children when a couple already has one or two.

The decisions of Stone’s Emma-to-Harper example is pretty realistic. The economy is a big factor when it has been so uncertain for so long. Add in the societal pressure defining children as a burden instead of the character-building joy that they are, and people weigh having another child against having a better home or car or travel experiences for them and the child or two that they do have.

I’m wondering whether a consistent improvement in the economy will bring back the confidence to have more children. But I think we need more cultural shift than economic.

In “Why Civilizations Die” I refer to David P. Goldman’s book How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too). Goldman proposes that loss of faith is the underlying cause of fertility decline:

“The truth is that humankind cannot survive without faith, specifically faith that our lives have meaning beyond the mere span of our years. Civilizations that lose their faith also lose their desire to continue and fail to reproduce themselves” (p. 16).
Goldman saw the US and Israel as exceptional, because they are countries of faith. And faith is tied in with seeing ourselves as covenant people—with inalienable rights granted by God. Cultures that see government or the collective as the giver of rights, in general, see themselves as being owed, rather than purposely connecting themselves to a future. As I summarize in “Why Civilizations Die,”

Our children pay a rising portion of their wages to the government, which doles out elderly care as it sees fit. So there is a disconnect between the number of children an individual has and the amount of care he receives in old age.
The disconnect means there is no incentive to personally have more children. We look at the quarter million dollars it costs to raise a child, and think about whether we would prefer to spend that income on ourselves instead. The only social reason to have children who contribute to collective elderly care is altruism; there is incentive to freeload.
Those who have a “faith” reason for having children, however, still have them. On the individual and national/cultural level, people who believe only in themselves fail to find something worth caring enough about to reach into the future.

We need more babies. 

More important, we need more faith so we will grasp the life-affirming choice and civilizational need to have more babies.

[1] The title “Demographic Winter” refers to a documentary by that name, which I link in the blog post about it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Light in a Dark World

It’s Christmas season, which officially is only a single day several weeks from now, it’s really a season. Parts of it (music—because it takes time to learn and prepare) start months ahead of time. I plan my Christmas card photo pretty far in advance too. This year I’m featuring my new grandbaby and her big brother in the nativity scene. This photo isn’t one I’m using, but here’s the little newborn.

Christmas reminds us of family, goodwill, giving, kindness—all things the Savior whose birth we celebrate would want us to remember. So it’s bigger than one day will hold. And we can sure use more of those good things for a longer time. Maybe long enough to become a habit, which some say takes at least three solid, consistent weeks.

If you want to enjoy the whole season—in ways totally separate from hustle, bustle, shopping, and pressure—then maybe you’ll want to join me in a celebration called #LightTheWorld. This is an initiative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it’s for everyone. 

We did this last year too.

The idea is that each day you do something, small or large—but more likely small—that is a good deed, or kindness, or something that will make things better for others.
LightTheWorld Calendar

You can share your light in any way you want, but there’s a calendar with ideas for each day, if you’d like to follow that, with a scripture theme, a one-minute video, and ideas of things to do for each day. You can get all of this in any of 30 languages, so it really is meant for the whole world.

Here’s the video for Day 1:

You can see what other people have been doing. And you can share what you’ve done, if you want to. And if you use the hashtag #LightTheWorld on social media, then it’s searchable in ways hashtags are (a mystery to me).

I don’t know how we’ll measure the additional light after the 25 days. But I believe that we’ll each have a sense of greater light in and around us as we do this.

It’s an experiment, and experience, worth doing.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Defining Net Neutrality

This past week net neutrality made its way into headlines—and panicked Facebook posts. It is because the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump, has decided to undo the net neutrality rules Obama instigated in 2015.
internet cyber cabling, image from here

From the panic, you would think the return to what the internet always was before the recent interference was going to deprive all Americans of the freedom to google.

So I thought maybe we should review what’s going on, to lower the panic level.

As I’ve written before (even about this very topic), there’s a Spherical Model axiom:

If the government wants to implement something beyond the proper role of government, not only will government fail to achieve the stated goal; it will likely do exactly opposite of the stated goal.
So, if the government is trying to make the internet neutral, you can be pretty sure it will not make the internet neutral, if that ever was the problem. It will interfere, and the interference is likely to favor some and disadvantage others.

The panic seems to be saying that we can’t possibly live without government regulation of the internet—even though the internet flourished unhindered, with innovation after innovation, for it’s first several decades, up until Obama's year or so in office.

I don’t really understand the reason for the panic (other than media fear mongering). But I can be pretty certain that turning over something to five government officials is not a good way to decide what any free person or company can be permitted to do on the internet. Remember, the administration that imposed net neutrality is the same administration that weaponized the IRS against non-profits that promoted ideas it didn’t approve of. 

To repeat something I’ve said before (again, about this very topic), regulation is one of those words that government has stretched beyond recognition:

In dictionary world, like the one our founders live in, the word “regulation” means to make regular—to make sure something can happen regularly, without blocks or interference. That’s what the founders meant by regulation interstate commerce.
But in today’s government, regulation means something else: governmental power to decide when, how, and whether something can happen. It’s arguable that all government regulation prevents, rather than provides, regularity of something happening.
About net neutrality, Senator Cruz has long spoken up. I believe it was during the presidential campaign that he said this:

"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the internet; the internet should not operate at the speed of government.
Just as the so-called Affordable Care Act leads to less care at greater costs, you can be sure so-called net neutrality leads to less internet freedom, not more of the freedom we expect of our free-market internet.

The supposed problem has to do with various internet service providers providing streaming services. The net neutrality requires them to be neutral about providing services at the same rates and speeds, no matter how much bandwidth is required. They are not allowed to provide greater speeds for a higher price to those willing to pay for the better service.

Instead, those five regulators sitting in faraway Washington decide that the greater service must be provided at the same cost, regardless of how illogical or impossible it is to do so.

The end result is that the market is not allowed to work out the issues, and that means there is no profit incentive to improve service or options in areas where little choice is currently available.
This Being Libertarian piece gives some explanation:

So why be skeptical of something we’re told is meant to keep the internet free?
Well, for starters, most plans aimed at freeing a market don’t include the FCC placing 400 pages of new regulations on that market. Likewise, it’s always a safe bet that whatever a bill is sold to the public as, it will undoubtedly do the opposite. Much like we’ve seen with our very ‘Affordable’ Care Act, or the invasive Freedom Act that culminated from the Patriot Act, net neutrality is anything but ‘neutral.’ Instead, it vilified ISPs, claiming that in its absence they would be able to restrict internet access to their customers at a whim. Although they couldn’t recall a single instance of this happening, or provide any reason that ISPs would have for doing that, the FCC shifted the control from the providers over to the government in order to save us from this preposterous threat.
Just like that, net neutrality became another political tool, used to reward select groups at the expense of others.
Senator Ted Cruz
Image from Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo, found here
As Senator Cruz and Michael O'Rielly explained this week:

The internet has changed how we communicate, engage in commerce and live our lives. It not only provides a platform that can be used to promote free speech, but serves as a great equalizer when it comes to jobs and opportunity by dramatically reducing the barriers of entry for anyone with a new idea and broadband connection.
Unfortunately, because the nature of government power is to control, tax and regulate, there will always be government officials who will seek to implement policies to increase these inherent powers. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Obama administration made the decision to set aside decades of bipartisan agreement and enact a radical proposal that reclassified the internet as a regulated public utility. The Obama-era regulations give federal bureaucrats new authority to regulate pricing and terms of service and eventually even collect billions in new taxes.
This policy not only threatens investment across the United States but seeks to force companies of all sizes to ask the government for prior approval of business decisions. The end result is less broadband, less innovation and less freedom for the American consumer.
Thankfully, relief will soon be on the way, as the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai seeks to repeal the so-called Open Internet Order and return the internet to its original classification as an information service, which allowed the internet to flourish.
The repeal of the order is simple enough to accomplish. But the panic may lead to additional interference. Senator Cruz further explains the next challenge:

But, the restoration of internet freedom may be short-lived, as there are already scores of politicians and state and local regulators who have indicated an interest in replicating the Obama administration’s fatally flawed rules at the state and local level. As harmful as the FCC’s rules have been for broadband investment and innovation, replacing such rules with a patchwork of state and local requirements would have an even more detrimental effect on the internet.
Allowing the Obama administration’s dangerous policy to infest the internet through state and local government mandates serves no purpose other than to stifle America’s entrepreneurial spirit, frustrate innovation, and block economic opportunity.
The internet has been a great example of how freedom and free market lead to thriving. Government regulation didn’t lead to all the innovation and online information and marketing; staying out of the way except to protect life, liberty, and property allowed that.

Let’s quickly get back to this digital experiment in freedom and prosperity.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Yields Happiness

There’s an axiom about God’s commandments: He commands us to do exactly what will lead to our greatest happiness. One commandment is to give thanks in all things. It is mentioned a lot.

Here’s one:

Psalm 107:1
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
And another:

Mosiah 26:39 (Book of Mormon)
… being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.
And another:

Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Earlier this week, Dennis Prager put out a new Prager U video on the connection between gratitude and happiness. Worth watching, this week while we’re purposely thinking about being gratitude.

As for me, I’m especially grateful for a new grandbaby. We were traveling on the day she was born, but she waited until just after we arrived at our hotel for the night, so we got to tune in with video chat (we used Duo) in the nick of time for her grand arrival. And there she was, right on our tablet screen. I’m grateful for technology that can make that possible.

It was another full day’s drive, and then the following day before we got to meet her in person, just an hour before coming home from the hospital.

So, this week of Thanksgiving, I’m writing less. Sitting around holding a baby. Doing a lot of cooking, and playing with her big brother (almost 3 years old). And taking lots of photos. We have plans for a Christmas card photo with the littles playing the main roles.

Here’s a quick glimpse of this new, perfect, little blessing.

Little Social Sphere 2, 4 days old

5 days old, still sleeping a lot

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It's a Culture Problem

There has been a lot of ugly stuff in the news lately that I haven’t commented on. For lots of reasons: it’s unpleasant to think about; we already knew the problem existed, and the surprising thing is how it is suddenly unacceptable to people who generally think there’s a right to sex under practically any circumstances.

Sunlight is a great disinfectant. So, even though it’s unpleasant, it is likely a good thing that these things are coming to light. There has been something of an avalanche since the Harvey Weinstein news of some weeks ago, with more coming out almost daily about yet another public person.

Some of the discussion is swirling around Roy Moore, who is running for the US Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who was tagged for the Attorney General job. These allegations include a range of things—all from some forty years ago—ranging from dating teenagers with their parents’ permission, to kissing and touching through underwear underage girls, to statutory rape of a 14-year-old. 
Judge Roy Moore, candidate for Senate
photo from here

I don’t know how to evaluate the information we know. It all comes from mainstream media, which we know we cannot typically trust. It comes at a time—many decades into the public life of this judge—that is so soon before a scheduled election that, even if he is totally exonerated in a couple of months, the damage is done. 

One of the frustrations of life is not always knowing whether people are telling the truth. If the allegations are false, then the accusers are not victims worthy of our sympathy and our efforts to bring about justice; they are instead the most vile of humans, lying with the purpose of ruining a man’s life. On the other hand, if the most serious charge is true, he certainly shouldn’t be in a powerful position like the US Senate. It looks like this case is either one or the other. I hope we learn what is true very soon.

Senator Al Franken
photo from here
Today another allegation came out—with photo proof—about Senator Al Franken

A couple of days ago there were claims of Congressmen sexually harassing female Congresswomen.

Rep. Jackie Spier
photo from here

I’m reminded of a Book of Mormon scripture passage, referring to our day, in 2 Nephi 28:22:

22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
The leader of darkness convinces the self-indulgent human that he deserves special treatment, free of the demands of justice—until that human is trapped in lies. And then the devil abandons him, and, I imagine, sits back laughing while misery rains down.

If this new awareness that these previously hidden behaviors are immoral and unacceptable in civilized society moves people to change, then that is a good thing. I hope that is what we are seeing. Cynicism that this is common and “everybody does it” will not lead toward civilization. But if we can encourage people to stand up and speak the truth, holding the guilty accountable, that will take us in the right direction.

In response to the Congressional accusations, House Speaker Paul Ryan has suggested sexual harassment training.

So, in response to this whole situation, Facebook friend Shawn Rogers offers this:

Sorry, Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell, but this is not a training problem, it's a culture problem. You don't solve problems of harassment through training. It's not a case of awareness or not knowing what actions constitute harassment.
You don't fix a culture of harassment by mandating training. You solve it by applying disciplinary actions to those who commit acts of harassment, and by holding leaders accountable for allowing it to happen on their watch. You create a culture non-retaliation for speaking up. You foster a culture where complaints will be fairly investigated and disciplinary action will be taken when violations have occurred.
He’s right. It’s not a lack of training; it’s a culture that accepts lasciviousness.

In lieu of some classroom training, for government and Hollywood, Rogers also offers this comprehensive training:

Dear Hollywood and Government. Here's your anti-harassment training in under one minute.
Ready? Go!
1. Keep your hands (and any/all other bodily appendages) to yourself. (From here on out to be known as the "Franken Rule." See article and photo…..)
2. Don't ask for sexual favors.
3. Be faithful to your spouse or significant other.
4. You're in a position of power. Don't abuse it by pressuring subordinates to satisfy your lust. It's against policy, it's unethical, and might be illegal.
5. Keep your pants on. Don't show somebody something they didn't ask or want to see (in person or electronically).
6. Make hiring and promotion decisions based on skills and qualifications, not on what the person will do for you (or to you, or with you) personally.
7. Practice your religion and share your religion on your own time, not on work time. (Oh, and political or social causes as well.)
8. Don't hang stuff up in your office that you wouldn't want your mother to see.
9. Control your temper.
10. Be nice.
There, you've been trained on how not to harass someone, sexually or otherwise.
I'll send you my bill.

That’s it. That’s all that’s needed. Stop being deplorable human beings and start being civilized.