All posts by blain

Useful Distinction: “Mistake” v “Bad Choice”

This is the first of what is intended to be a series of posts about useful distinctions I make between some common words and phrases that others use interchangeably.

When I hear “I made a mistake!  Everybody makes mistakes!” it usually tells me that someone has been caught doing something wrong that they can’t hide or get away from anymore, and they intend to minimize away what that something was.  When I have a chance, I talk about the difference between a mistake and a bad choice. Continue reading Useful Distinction: “Mistake” v “Bad Choice”

Religion and Science

Richard Dawkins, who nominally started this whole conversation, and whose picture is here to allow me to post this to Pinterest.

This is a collection of excerpts from a conversation I took part in with some other uncorrelated Mormons on Facebook  (some with 5+ scores on the Dawkins Scale), in response to an article pointing out how Richard Dawkins had “admitted” that he wasn’t totally certain of the nonexistence of God (which was determined by several in the thread to be neither news nor as significant as the person posting the link seemed to think).

My part began quite innocently, in response to the person who originated the thread saying “I think it is foolish to believe that we can see, or have access, to everything that is.”  I said:

It’s also unscientific. Science is limited to things we can see or have access to. It has nothing of value to say about anything beyond that, [n]or can it predict how long or far we will be able to mine the pile of things we can see or have access to to bring us further understanding or technical progress.
Continue reading Religion and Science

Adventures in Food

I’ve been experimenting with food lately, and learning as I go.  It all started when I joined Pinterest, and saw tons of food links posted, especially for preparing freezer/crock-pot meals.  I looked them over, and found some ideas I thought I could use.  Due to odd food aversions (tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers) intolerances (lactose, eggs) and diabetes (carbohydrates other than fiber), food has been problematic for me for a long time.  I spent some time years back and developed a cooking repertoire that was fun and useful when the kids were around — pretty good at cooking up beef, chicken and pork roasts and making gravy from the drippings, for instance — but those tend to be a bit overkill when cooking for one or two, so I’ve steered away from food that I need to prepare much, as it tends to become something I throw away because I never quite got the oomph to get started on it.
Continue reading Adventures in Food

Romney as (Perhaps) Most Liberal Candidate

A follow-up on yesterday’s post about Romney, written in response to a friend who said he considered Romney and Huntsman the most liberal candidates still running.

I don’t think the position of the candidate on the conservative scale is what matters the most. I think it’s important to know where a candidate’s heart is, basically, but trying to determine relative conservatism is mostly guesswork. Even if we had a reliable calculus for measuring such a thing, I don’t think picking the candidate who has the most of it is going to give you the best candidate.

I think the ability to get the job done is a bigger concern, and a good candidate will be one who has that ability and who is on the conservative side of the issues. And nobody on the stage has a resume that can match Mitt when it comes to the ability to get the job done. Not even close. He and Huntsman are the only ones standing who have executive experience, and he has more experience in the business world than any of them. The history of candidates who only have legislative experience being elected president is not long — our current president being the exception that supports the rule — and most presidents in my lifetime have been governors (or vice presidents).

I recognize that many folks just want the vision guy who talks the most conservative platitudes and makes them feel good, and Mitt is not that guy. When elected, the constraints of the office are going to grind off any range on the conservatism spectrum the available candidates have, and what will be left is their ability to do the job. To bring together the interested parties and find a plan that can be implemented and make it happen. As much as I like the other candidates (and I do like all the non-symbolic candidates), they haven’t shown the ability to do that well. Newt did good work with the Contract for America, but recall that the only commitment made on the Contract was that all of the elements of it be brought before the Congress for an up or down vote in the first 100 days. That happened. And it was useful in electing Republicans to the Congress. But few of the bills actually passed. They were feel-good pieces that made no fundamental change in how government did its business.

I don’t expect my reasoning to prevail. But I do want to be on record asking people to stop seeking the perfect candidate — there never will be one, and there never has been. Letting the (imaginary) perfect be the enemy of the (real) good is unwise.

Making Peace with Mitt

I’m making peace with the idea of voting for Mitt. I think we need to pick a candidate based on his competence, not every nuance of his positions. Mitt isn’t a vision guy, and I think folks want a vision guy, because they inspire you and make you feel good. Reagan was a vision guy — saw the big picture and understood it well enough that he could bring you along and help make it happen. Mitt is a technician — he knows how to make the process work to bring out the optimal possible outcome. This is what is causing him so much trouble in the primary — he made the best of a number of bad situations, and some of them couldn’t be that good. I think he’s got a bit of knight-in-shining-armor going on, and that makes him a sucker for a lost cause, and nobody can fix them all all the time.

He’s not an ideologue, and ideologues will hate him because he seems to have no principles. He has principles, but he understands that the policy world is about where you can find agreement — the best possible deal that can be made is better than the perfect deal that can’t. So he accepted deals in Massachusetts that gave him half a loaf, because this was Massachusetts, and he had to fight to get any loaf at all. The last Republican technician president was Bush 41, and ideologues hated him too. But Bush 41 tied together an improbable international coalition that was able to militarily dominate Ba’athist Iraq — totally dominate it — without making the whole region explode — even kept Israel from retaliating when the Scuds hit. That’s really an amazing thing to have done — arguably tougher than getting Churchill and Stalin into an alliance. But he lost badly his re-election because people didn’t like him, just as they don’t like Mitt, and for the same reasons.

The reality is that president’s have a limited impact on policy decisions. They have to deal with the Congress, and congresscritters live relatively anonymously when compared to the attention the president gets, and most folks expect the president to just force his way through them. But presidents can’t do that very often, so the Congress is a real restraint on the available options. And, also, events outside the President’s control can limit those options further. This is why Pres. Obama’s foreign policy actions (not his speeches) have been very similar to those of his predecessor – they were the best available option, and the price of doing those things the way he had promised during the campaign proved to be too high. John McCain would have made most of those same decisions the same way.

So I have made peace with voting for Mitt when the time comes. I may choose another candidate in the primary if he’s got the nomination locked before we caucus. I don’t know. I won’t be excited voting for Mitt, and I may not enjoy his presidency very much. But if there was ever a time for a knight-in-shining-armor who wants to save a potentially losing cause in the form of our economy, I’d say this is it. He’s not sexy. He won’t make a thrill run down your leg (probably). But I believe he’ll do the job well, and I can’t really say that about anybody else in the race.

About the Mormon thing (because I’m sure it’s on some people’s minds, due to my own Mormon status), I don’t really care about it.  It has nothing to do with this making of peace, or my subsequent voting.  If you think he’s going to try to steer the country toward Mormonism through anything other than his own example, or that he’s going to be controlled by the Church leadership, or any of the other conspiracies floating around of that nature, then I’m afraid you really don’t know what you’re talking about.  Nobody has brought forward evidence of him trying to steer Massachusetts in a way to favor Mormons, or that he was controlled by the Church leadership then — I’ve never even heard any rumors of that nature.  I’m find with people not liking Mitt, and not voting for him because they don’t like his hair-cut, the sound of his voice, or because they don’t like what they know of his business or government record.  I’m not okay with people who oppose him due to anti-Mormon bigotry.  The people who are doing so know who they are, and my finger is not pointed.

Some truth about depression.

It’s not wrong to feel bad. The pain will fade in time, and there will be good and bad both. This pain tells you that there is more to know than what you already knew. In time, more will be revealed. Now is not forever. It only feels like it.

You will live. And the day will come that you will be glad that you did. And that will be good.

My Depression Speaks

I sit here at the keyboard and I don’t really know where to start.  The title is “My Depression Speaks” and my depression doesn’t want to talk to you.  It doesn’t want me to talk to you.  But I’m going to.  I might do this more than once.  Or I might delete this whole thing before posting it.  I don’t know.  But I’m going to write down what my depression is saying to me:

Nobody cares what I’m telling you.  Nobody wants to hear it.  People have their own problems.  They don’t need to hear about yours.  They’ll just think you’re a loser.  They already think you’re a loser, but this will make it worse.  Someone will probably unfriend you if they even bother to see it now (or hide you) so they don’t have to see any more of your whiny nonsense anymore.

You’re not going to make it.  You’re not ready.  You can’t do it.  You can’t do anything.  You can’t finish anything.  Anything you do finish isn’t good enough anyhow.  I don’t see why you even bother to try.  All your ideas are dumb, anyway.  You’re just a loser doing a job nobody wants, nobody wants to look at, and you’re probably going to lose that anyhow.  And then you’ll be stuck — nowhere to go.  You can’t even get by on what you get from it.  And there’s no use trying to find anything more or better — money is too tight everywhere, and you don’t fit anybody’s idea of who they want to hire.  Nobody wants to hear your ideas or your solutions — they wouldn’t work, and nobody would go along with them anyway.

What a waste of space and time.  Nobody can rely on you — you always flake out and let them down if it really matters.

So, now you’re wallowing in self-pity.  Anything, as long as it doesn’t matter.

It goes on from there, and it gets meaner.  It trashes you as well, since you’re reading this.  Sorry.  I’m done with this for now.

Constructively Responding to Child Molesters

This is a response to a friend’s discussion thread on the merits of executing child molesters on the grounds that this is a crime that, once proven, the molester is never forgiven for it by society, giving them an effective life sentence, and that execution is more honest and humane than this.  Having pointed to problems with this as a matter of policy, I was asked what my solution would be to the problem of molesters.  This is what I said:

Solutions — It is a wicked and adulterous generation that thinks it can find solutions for every problem.  Hubristic as well.  We have found solutions for practically no criminal behavior which prevent them from happening, but we are supposed to be able to solve one of the most repugnant crimes perfectly without taking the time to really understand it?  Let me rain on that little parade here and now — it won’t happen.  No matter what we do with the law, we can not stop people from choosing to do wrong in whatever way they decide to preemptively.  It is a power God has not chosen to exercise, so why we think we can escapes me completely.
Continue reading Constructively Responding to Child Molesters

Homosexuality and Mormons

This is something I just submitted to my profile, but which has not yet been approved.

What is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ attitude regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage?

The Church teaches that sexual morality is very important, and does not teach of any context in which homosexual sex is moral. The Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, and does not approve of any sexual behavior with anyone other than one’s heterosexual spouse. I’m not aware of any equivocation on these questions from any official source.

That having been said, the Church also teaches that we are to love everyone, which does not have an exception for anyone based on their sexual orientation. Priesthood leaders have the responsibility for determining the worthiness of an individual to join the Church, to receive the Priesthood, to hold a calling or enter the Temples. Individual members do not have the duty to judge others’ worthiness, nor are they authorized to do so. Whatever the nature of our struggles in life, and the difficult paths we have to walk, we are all children of God; brothers and sisters who need to serve each other and receive service from each other.

Jesus taught we should love our enemies. If so, we should *also* love our children, brothers and sisters who are gay, and ought not be their enemies. We need not fear that sexual orientation is so plastic that exposure to the idea of homosexuality will make otherwise straight people gay. Most straight people have been exposed to this idea while remaining straight. Letting go of our fears with regard to this and the controversy surrounding it will help us show forth the love we are commanded to.

Don’t get caught by the slight-of-hand.

Presidential politics is to the political process what the pretty assistant to a stage magician is — something that draws your eye so you don’t notice what’s really going on.  Do you know how little your individual opinion means when it comes to the selection of a nominee?  If you spend more than an hour deciding who you will support for president, you’ve wasted your time — your vote there will be so diluted that it’s only slightly better than not voting at all.  Pay more attention to the races where your vote is worth more — Congressional races, legislative races, State and local races.