By request, this morning I am going to talk about defining terrorism. The first important thing you need to realize is that there is no single widely accepted definition, either in academia or in the policy world. Everyone uses their own. So we’re going to talk about how you can build your own definition of terrorism.
One thing usually missing from discussion on this blog and, from what I have seen, all others, is extended, thoughtful discussion.
Thanks for the introduction and the opportunity, Rosalynde. I feel lucky to have a big sister who precedes, exceeds, but includes me in just about every important thing.
One last post, before my non-philosophical blogging stint is done. One thing I’ve thought of with recent events in the middle east was the parallels to the Book of Mormon. I know that’s not exactly an original point to make, but I think the Book of Mormon has a lot of parallels both regarding our enemies as well as how we act towards our enemies. Dan Peterson has long written about the strong parallels between the Gadianton movement and various guerilla movements and insurgencies. I’ve listened to him describe extensive parallels, for instance, between Mao’s insurgency in China and events in the Book of Mormon.
One nice thing about blogging here is that I can talk about topics I don’t get to on my blog – specifically politics. However what I find interesting is what Mormonism can bring to the political arena. One thing that has long been on my mind are the lessons of our past. The example of Mormon history was often discussed back in the days following Waco and the tragedy there. However what has been little discussed is how the problem of Mormonism and pluralism in places like Illinois, Ohio, or Missouri can help us learn how to deal with the problem of assimilation of Islamic people in many places – especially Europe.
This afternoon, one of my secret contacts on Capitol Hill (secret because he likes his current job and doesn’t want to lose it and return to K street) sent me the following message. I think it speaks for itself:
One of the so-far-untold stories of the election is that Mormon Senator Harry Reid will almost certainly assume leadership of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. Senator Tom Daschle appears to be going down in South Dakota, thus providing an opening for Reid. Of course, the Democrats are a minority in the Senate, but they are far from irrelevant. I assume this makes Reid the most powerful Mormon politician in the United States. (Will he be the most powerful Mormon politician ever?) Ironic, in light of the recent dominance of the Republican Party among Mormons, that our most powerful politician is a Democrat.
Not that anyone needs any more suspense tonight, but I’ll be keeping a curious eye on Utah’s election results.
As many of us know, Sheri Dew was selected to give the invocation at the Republican National Convention. The prayer she gave, as transcribed, was rather simple and probably uncontroversial: Heavenly Father, we come before Thee as citizens who care about this nation to express our gratitude for this land of liberty where we have the freedom to live, vote, and worship as we choose. We are grateful for the evidence of Thy hand in the founding of this nation. We are grateful for every man and woman in uniform, and ask Thee to bless them and their families. We pray for the wisdom to protect and defend all families, for our nation is only as strong as its homes. We are grateful for a Commander in Chief who seeks Thy guidance. Wilt Thou bless him with wisdom and courage. We plead with Thee for peace and continued freedom-not only freedom from those who would terrorize us and encroach upon…
Over at BCC, John Hatch points out an important new change to the church’s political neutrality statement. The statement has an additional new sentence, and it reads: In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems. John gives a detailed breakdown of some of the recent incidents of church legislators invoking church doctrine to justify legislation, and of the numerous statements issued by the church over the last year repudiating those legislators. This change drives home the point the the political neutrality statement is serious. The church doesn’t support Bush. It doesn’t support Kerry. It is neither Democrat nor Republican. And except in certain specific areas where the church has taken an explicit position (such as the ERA, or possibly the gay marriage amendment), it is probably wrong to suggest that church doctrine requires one to follow a particular political ideology. One need not be…
Last Sunday morning, I was just starting to feel comfortable with the presidential election, having carefully completed my “lesser of two evils” analysis to make my decision about which of the two leading Skull and Bones members I wanted for President. And then during sacrament meeting, the bishop got up and read the Church’s political neutrality statement. It said something about not endorsing any party or candidate – sure, I was OK with that – and THEN came the catch: it said we were under a “special obligation” to seek out and uphold “leaders who will act with integrity and are ‘wise,’ ‘good,’ and ‘honest.’” NOOOOO! How can they call that “political neutrality”? And where on earth am I going to find politicians who meet such standards?? I’m back to drawing board, folks. Is there a check box on the ballot for “none of the above”? Or is there some third party candidate that the Church has endorsed — uh,…
Both Dave’s and the Mormon Wasp have noted the recent press accounts about Krakauer (yes, that Krakauer) working to assist the teenage boys who are routinely expelled from the polygamous FLDS community in order to keep the proper male-to-female ratio. The plight of the “Lost Boys” who are expelled from the FLDS is troubling, and it’s nice to see that Krakauer is doing what he can (along with others) to help them make the transition into the real world.
As we move through election season, the polls start coming fast and furious; the pundits punditorate, the politicians spin, the news media pretend not to spin, bloggers blog, and everybody offers the inside scoop as to the outcome of the election. How is one to aggregate all this information into the best possible guess as to who will win the presidential election? One excellent way to do it is to pay people to be right. This is exactly what is done at the Iowa Electronic Markets. If you are sure that John Kerry is going to be the next U.S. President, you can got to the IEM website and buy Kerry stock. Currently, for 46 cents one can buy an option to get $1 if Kerry wins. Bush costs about 54 cents. If you are sure Kerry is the man, this is an easy way to make money, $46 now will get you $100 in just a few months.
I’ve noticed a few interesting statements linking the two states lately. The Boston Globe notes that: In Massachusetts, 16 percent of poll respondents said that they belong to “no religion,” only slightly above the national average of 14 percent (and below Utah’s 17 per cent). (Link via Philocrites). Meanwhile, Danithew notes John Kerry’s recent statement of how Mormonism is mainstream (and how that affects Massachusetts): “I think that over the course of this convention, people are going to see a Massachusetts that’s very much like America,” he said. “It’s interesting: the last four governors of our state have all been Republicans. We now have a Mormon Republican who originally came from Utah. Our state is as mainstream as any.” So the masses of marauding Mormons have made Massacusetts more mainstream? (How’s that, alliteration-haters?). Is this the beginning of a trend? (And did it start with sweet Sunstone symposiasts who schlep in from sunny Swampscott, snickering at silly syllogisms?). Will we…
Great posts (and thanks to Brayden for a genuine LOL comment). Some responses. 1. Danithew is right that 90 days/$5,000 does not begin to approximate the costs of adultery. . .
From the church’s website: The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement today. This is a statement of principle in anticipation of the expected debate over same-gender marriage. It is not an endorsement of any specific amendment. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman.”
Hmm. The direction the responses took to my two points about ethical consistency and abortion remind of my (still unfinished) deck project, which started off simple enough, but soon spun out of control.
You’ve all apparently already had a long conversation on this site on abortion and the ethics (or lack thereof) of a Mormon pro-choice position, so let me just make two brief points with respect to those who brought the issue into their responses to my Mormon Republican Majority post. First, consider the sin of adultery. . . .
Well, it’s not often I get called a sneak and sophist at the same time. :) But I have a thick skin. As to trying to sneak something by anyone–as if that would actually be possible with this group!–I meant only to suggest that one possibility for the almost uniform dislike of President Clinton by Mormon Republicans might be that Mormons consider marital fidelity an indispensable quality of their public servants, because of the Church’s teachings. . . .
Karen Hall has thoughts on yesterday’s Washington Post story. In the mean time, readers are advised to hide the women, children, and livestock (not to mention those invaluable ward rosters!), while we all pray for a flock of Republican-eating seagulls to come miraculously to our aid.
A recent article from the nefariousliberalmedia discusses the recent spike in Senate profanity. I’m proud to see that Utah senator and church member Orrin Hatch is one of the politicians who has been putting blue language to public use. Well I say, it’s about time. There ought to be more profanity in Congress, not less. After all, Senators are important public figures. If they swear, others might start swearing as well, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it? Civility is over-rated. Politeness is for the namby-pamby. Contention may be of the devil, but it gets the votes. And dammit, that’s what matters!
Critics of the Iraq War are quick to argue that because Saddam hadn’t killed Americans and didn’t pose an immediate threat to Americans, the war wasn’t justified. I don’t know of anyone — Howard Dean, Al Gore, Michael Moore — who believes America would have been wrong to overthrow the Baathists had the Iraqi state gassed thousands of American women and children, thrown scores of Americans into plastic shredders, tortured American children in front of their parents, and tyrannically oppressed millions of Americans living in Iraq. In other words, the critics think the Iraq War is immoral because Saddam’s victims were foolish enough to be born to Kurds and Shiites, and not born to Americans who lived in Iraq.
In the comments on a recent thread, Russell suggested that he could be morally culpable because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, he believed that the United States was justified in doing so. He now thinks otherwise. He suggests that his previous beliefs may well have made him complicit in some moral evil. To put words in Russell’s mouth (one of my favorite pass times), he thinks that he was sinning a couple of months ago because of what he was thinking. It is an interesting question.
Our gentle readers may be interested to know that Jim’s post on discussing politics grew partly out of some extended e-mail discussion that has gone on today among the T&S regulars about a perception among readers of a conservative tilt in the comments and discussions here (there were a few e-mail complaints from readers; a few of the regular bloggers–cough, khh, cough–were feeling a little oppressed). After reading and responding to this flurry of e-mail, I checked in just in time to read the exchange on the Elder Packer and Beards thread about how the conservatives are oppressed around here. Perhaps if everyone feels opressed, we’re doing something right? If there’s anyone who doesn’t feel that his or her (or their, Kingsley:)) ox is being well and truly gored, please let us know immediately, and we will do our best to offend you! :)
Why is it that conversations about political and quasi-political topics among Latter-day Saints almost always devolve quickly into posturing and name-calling? And why, in my experience, does it seem that those who are conservative are more likely to head in that direction first? I admit that my perception may be biased by the fact that I’m “liberal” (read “middle-of-the-road” everywhere but among American Latter-day Saints). I may overlook more easily the faults of those who agree with me. Nevertheless, my impression is that because they are the mainstream of the Church, conservatives often tend to be smug about their position, assuming immediately that those who disagree with them are not only wrong (that follows by definition) but stupid, ill-willed, uninformed, and perhaps even evil. One need not respond to them, one need only dismiss them. And this is true even for many people who otherwise are intelligent and quite willing to engage in civil discussion of difficult topics.
As I am sure that we are all aware (or something), today is “A National Day of Prayer,” which has been an official national holiday since Harry Truman lead the pilgrim fathers to our sacred shores (in other words, the early 1950s). This year, The Washington Post breathlessly informs us, President Bush will be attending a ceremony run by “evangelical Christian leaders” (play sinister music here.) The most interesting part of the article, however, comes near the bottom, where The Post interviews those who feel left out of the protestant love fest at the White House. It says: In Salt Lake City, Mormons have complained that they are not allowed to lead prayers during the local observance. No other details are provided. Any idea of who these folks might be? Has the Church PR department come out against “National Prayer Day,” or did Mormons for Equality and Social Justice manage to get themselves in The Post but not get themselves…
I am finding it difficult to get very excited about politics this election year. Given that we are faced with momentus issues of war and peace this is a bit odd. This seems like a time when politics really matters. Part of the problem is that I am considerably less than enthusiastic about either candidate. However, I find that I am increasingly less interested and passionate about politics. In college I played at being a political activist. I worked on campaigns, did voter registration drives, etc. (In retrospect I admit that my political involvement was largely about meeting girls.) After college, I worked in Washington, D.C. because I wanted to be in politics. (And it happened to be where my wife was going to graduate school.) Hence, I am not an inherently apolitical guy. My current political funk leads me — of course — to theo-democracy.
Apparently the huge DC rally for abortion isn’t materializing as planned. The major pro-abortion and feminist groups, plus the ACLU, have been preparing a huge demonstration in Washington to protest the Bush administration’s policies protecting fetal life. I signed up on their mailing list early on and have received impassioned letters pleading for money. One letter said they were organizing the largest march on Washington — ever. Apparently they thought the original title, “March for Choice,” wasn’t getting the emotional response they sought, so it’s now called the “March for Women’s Lives.” (No, not the lives of the 1800 women who are dismembered by abortion every day.) According to LifeNews.com, the planners fear the march won’t meet expectations, and have recruited Hollywood celebs to increase turnout. This got me thinking. Does anyone trust the opinions of egomaniacal multi-millionaires like Sheryl Crow, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera, and Alec Baldwin (who still refuses to keep his promise to leave America),…
Yesterday, John Kerry spoke in a chuch and invoked biblical support for an attack on “our present national leadership.” Kerry alluded to the following passage from James 2:14-17: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Kerry asked rhetorically, “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?”
Aaron Brown has an interesting post (re-cycled from the ldslaw list) on whether or not we can draw inferences about God’s political priorities from institutional church involvement. Although Aaron is (needlessly in my opinion) coy in his post, the bottom line is that he thinks that the disjunction between Church political priorities and what was really important has been so wide that we shouldn’t draw inferences about God’s preferences from Church statements. (See Aaron’s comments here)