Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rebel Rebel - The Juanita System

And though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall
-Paul Simon, "Kodachrome"
Juanita High School, Kirkland, Washington about 1972 (photo credits below*)
The secret of life is to attend several high schools. At each transfer they give you the benefit of the doubt as to your credits and fulfillment of graduation requirements. You can graduate high school without learning much at all. Actually, I learned a great deal in this process. Just not much Math. An out-of-the-box experiment in two big boxes was my initial high school experience in which I began my career in not learning Math.

Erroneously assumed to be the computer
that ran our academic life
There is a good history online of the Juanita High experience. I even learned some things about my own experience such as- the computer was actually in Iowa and the big plastic box with the flashing lights and whirling tapes that we affectionately called "Hal" was only the audio/video source for the remote stations where we occasionally studied.
A Media Carrel. The push-buttons were new.
Remember, it's 1971.
This was that era's iPod along with the computer to the right

The concept was revolutionary. Hence, the Rebel mascot. (It was clearly a Revolutionary War Rebel, not Confederate. This was the Pacific Northwest even if oddly with a Spanish-named bay on Lake Washington.) And it was uniquely the "Juanita System" even if open-concept schools were the new thing in education making their way around the country.

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Let Us Have Peace"


Yes, those are the words of U.S. Grant from his first Inaugural Address. General Grant and the Fourteenth Amendment may be vindicated as so far, Utah Governor Herbert has not ordered state troops to fire on Ft. Douglas that overlooks Salt Lake City from the Wasatch foothills to the East. As Grant won a bloody war to secure the United States and establish Constitutional protections of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all the people of the United States, we now face a Constitutional crisis that our nation will endure without resort to civil war.

I'm highly suspicious that Judge Shelby of the U.S. District Court, District of Utah, planned ahead to issue his decision on same-sex marriage for the week before Christmas. He may have hoped that the spirit of the season would temper any adverse reaction to the ruling. It's not over yet as a legal question until the Supreme Court eventually decides the issue as it certainly will. But as even most of the opponents of same-sex marriage believe that it will eventually happen, I wish it would happen sooner rather than later so that we can stop arguing and all calm down to deal with the inevitable and get over it. It is not worth civil war and it is not worth tearing families apart, least of all at this season of the year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

NOT The End of the World

Last night I dreamed a dream. I sat in an LDS cultural hall - that's the basketball/banquet court behind the chapel. I was with some familiar, church friends not just from my present ward. It was some sort of symposium on the new history presented by the church (for examples, see polygamy and race and the priesthood in Gospel Topics). After a speech, there was an open mike for people to ask questions or make comments. There were quite a few people lined up. They were friendly enough, but not members or friends of the church. They spoke as outsiders. I commented to my friends that someone should speak up for the church. I got up and got in line. I came to the mike. I was alone . . . .

No recollection remains of what I said. So, what the heck, I'll say it here (not in an official capacity for the church!)

This has been an amazing and challenging time with the federal courts of Utah on matters relating to sacred principles of marriage in which the church has played a substantial historical role. One recent ruling decriminalized polygamy as practiced by certain groups based on Mormon tradition (not the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more like reality TV). The other ruling, of just yesterday, struck down Utah's laws and a recent voter-approved state constitutional amendment as violating principles of freedom and liberty for same-sex marriage partners protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Christ's Nativity

The Birth of Christ, Peter Paul Ruebens (1634)
Another Christmas poem from our cousin Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Faith & Evidence

The Coma Galaxy Cluster , NASA photo
Without coming to any definitive resolution, I engaged in an interesting discussion of Faith & Evidence with a good friend and my oldest daughter. The friend is close in age to my daughter and they are mutual friends. I'm glad I can call my daughter my friend as well - and my friend is like a son. That's what happens when you're bishop.

The discussion resulted from the last post on the Book of  Mormon and a book that may or may not have influenced Joseph. The participants have granted me permission to share the dialogue here:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Torpedoes of Curious Workmanship

My apologies for the apologetics. But I've seen hints here and there for some grand, new source for the Book of Mormon in a book about the War of 1812 providing the battle information with similar words and events including 2,000 stripling warriors and the liahona and such. I don't want to be rude, but if you don't want to believe the Book of Mormon is not what it or its witnesses say it is, fine. But don't come telling me this new discovery proves anything because it doesn't.

The problem with apologetics and the works that provoke them is the temptation to strain at gnats and swallow camels. There is a good example of this in the comments to what appears to be a very sophisticated and reasonable response by a believer to this new scientifically statistical evidence by non-believers. The discussion can be summed up rather simply. If you believe the Book of Mormon is divine scripture, you will keep having experiences and finding evidences to support that belief. If you don't believe the Book of Mormon is divine scripture, you will keep having experiences and finding evidences to support that non-belief. The choice is up to you.

The book is quite interesting. It's The Late War between the United States from June, 1812 to February, 1815. In the Scriptural Style, G.J. Hunt (New York, 1819). You can find it on Google Books for free, the copyright having long expired. I read several chapters en skimmed the rest.I searched for some particular events of the war and and the specific things supposedly connecting it to the Book of Mormon. Amazingly, things "came to pass" in places and books other than the Book of Mormon and there are words like "stripling" in the English language that are in both books!

Here are some of the examples and you can make your own judgments.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Yes, Megyn Kelly, There Is a Black Santa Claus!

Don't let that mean lady tell you I'm not real!

It was Christmas 1962 or '63. My dad was taking my brother and me down to his office in the Central District of Seattle. Rainier Avenue South ran through the neighborhood where most of the African-Americans lived. My dad referred to them as Negroes in those days. I never heard him say the other "N" word. As we passed a corner storefront, we saw Santa Claus with red suit, white beard, and . . . dark skin. 

"Dad!" I don't remember what else we said. I do remember my dad explaining that it was one of Santa's helpers. That made sense. It was the same line we got when we saw different Santas in different stores even if they all tended to look like us (skin-tone-wise, that is). Dad may or may not have explained more but my little brain understood that it made perfect sense for Santa's helper to be a Negro where all the Negro kids lived (1963).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Two Munchkins Grow Up

Two Graduates of the Lollipop Guild
My sincere congratulations to Paul Ryan and John Boehner! Ryan has compromised on an agreement with Senator Patty Murray (D. Wash.) for the budget to go forward for the next little while. It's not a great deal, but it's a deal. And that's enough to send the tea-partiers into a frenzy. They don't like it, so it must be OK.

Ryan must have got a message through his head to abandon the tea-party extremism and become a leader of his party. That is a typical opportunity for a failed VP candidate (Palin the exception that proves the rule.) He is also claiming his love for Ayn Rand is all an urban legend and I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Was Not A Cartoonist

Going through some old, personal files with bitter-sweet nostalgia (sigh), I came across some remnants of my failed career as a cartoonist. It was 1974 and my Mom had something to do with the ward newsletter. That was the Rock Springs Second Ward (We might have still been in the Green River Stake but then we were Rock Springs, Wyoming, before I left on my mission - my freshman year at BYU was my first escape).  And to prove I am not a total Grinch, the last is a pleasant Christmas celebration.

Enjoy! (or just click somewhere else):

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Was Not A Hippie

Me in '73
As I rarely get fan requests for blog pieces, I ought to respect them. While discussing the quixotic, hippie film Brother Son, Sister Moon, on the inspiring life of St. Francis of Assisi, music by Donovan, a friend ask me to explain whether I had been a hippie. As a tail-end baby boomer, I had not. The story takes a while to explain.

The extremes of the 60's frightened me even if the quiet, suburban life outside of Seattle was rarely touched by the turmoil of those years. At least my parents were suspicious of the Birchers as well as excitement on the Left. And there were hippies in the neighborhood. My definition should be understood. I saw hippies as youthful rebels against what was supposed to be the norms of middle-class, suburban life.

The Establishment scared us in Junior High with films about LSD. I saw the after school specials about asking Alice and running away with hippies. My parents lived and taught the prohibitions on smoking, drinking, and illicit drugs from our religious Word of Wisdom. Call it a repressed childhood if you must, but I wanted to be safer than sorrier. Then my 15-year-old hormones got the better of me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

News of the Church

There have been several things percolating that compel me to blog. I should start with the LDS Church's response to the death of Nelson Mandela in stark contrast to my post of yesterday concerning the followers of Senator Mike Lee. It is worthy of a cut-and-paste right in here:

First Presidency Expresses Condolences at Nelson Mandela's Passing

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement today in regards to the passing of Nelson Mandela:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Senator Lee & his Friends

I had to cut and paste Senator Mike Lee's really good statement of respect at the death of Nelson Mandela. Also included are a few of the many comments of Senator Lee's "friends."

My work is done here.

Is the Pope Capitalist?

Apparently not.

A humble Pope Francis honors the poor and ill.
It has been entertaining to see the right-wing go after the Pope, of all people. I mean, if Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are all against the guy for his views on Capitalism and the Social Gospel, almost they persuade me to become a Catholic! Except that if anyone really reads the Book of Mormon, the revelations of Joseph Smith, or teachings of Brigham Young, they wouldn't be a Capitalist either. It's only the Anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon who preach that each man prospers according to his own genius!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Armor of Light Against Darkness

Last night while playing family games, I looked around and sensed my opportunity. While my wife secretly starts listening to Christmas music about Halloween, I generally try to hold off on Christmas decorations and themes as long as possible. But with all those good kids of mine, I figured today would be December Eve and a great day to do the Christmas lights on the house and the tree up in the living room. They were helpful to a point. I took it all calmly enough with the usual jitters of my height anxiety. The end result is lookin' good!


Whether it's preparation for the solstice, the Hannakuh celebration of ights, family fun festivities, or the Christmas Spirit, there is something about the glory of light when the world turns dark and cold.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I'm Not Leaving the Church

This is my manifesto so my friends and family can understand and come to accept my decision. I would hope my numerous blog pieces here exposing my poor soul would have been enough. But I am still caught by surprise now and then by some who declare their intentions towards the Church.

When I was young, I went to church happily, most of the time. (I really did hate that song, "Oh What Do You Do in the Sumertime?" I never did any of those things. It rained all the time. But I was a good frog-catcher.) I was raised by parents who believed and practiced Faith. They certainly had their problems. But one thing they did right was to love us. My mom is always best when she has a project to concentrate on and the three of us kids turned out pretty well, all things considered.

I was of a curious mind. My wife notes about some of my stories from when I was very young how extraordinarily attentive to adults I must have been. And I think that's a good assessment. There was a driving compulsion to figure them out - and myself. I'm still working on that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Did Harry Reid just save the Constitution?!

Pretty much. I'm just glad I already declared him my hero a couple of weeks back. And my wife even called it a year and a half ago!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada (note the halo above his head)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Order in All Things

Cottage at Heol-y-gaer by the lane heading west towards Glasbury.
© Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
It was a very late night as I was excited to find two documents each relating to two people in our family history. And they helped confirm the location of where one of our ancestors lived in a home that still appears to still exists in Glasbury, Wales.

This morning, we went to the Bountiful Temple after late arising and parked near the opening to the underground lot so we could get in easily in the snowfall. My wife had a couple of family names for initiatory and I went to work at the veil. It's not hard work. It is interesting that with all the "priestly class," men and women performing ordinances in the temple, there is no monetary pay. We do pay the custodians as well as the cafeteria and laundry workers. That's how the whole world should work.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's More American?

Flags whisking by during the program opening
We went to the Veterans Day Program tonight at the school where my daughter is teaching third grade. It was so well done and not just because my daughter was involved. There was a theme going that restores some hope for the good ole US of A!

I was a little worried with the emphasis on the idea that our military veterans give us our freedoms. No, I believe they come from God or Nature and it is dangerous to go with the notion that the military is the grantor of freedom and rights. (Just ask South America.)

So I started thinking that maybe the nearly universal honoring of Veterans in this country is the last link we have to the concept of a shared belief in our freedom and unique culture, most of which is still good. In the old days, it seemed that there was more respect for representative democracy, our governmental institutions, the President, and Congress. Even the Postman used to get more respect. I could go on about the "government is the problem" problem, but I've covered that ground sufficiently in other posts.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Priestcraftin' Palin & the Jew Who Saved Christmas

Holidays for Sale
'Tis the season to be grumpy about imaginary wars! So we're going to contrast two stories here which we hope will be picked up for a "Holiday" special on the Hallmark Channel. Both of these stories are true. Names have been changed to protect the innocent which only pertains to one of the stories.

The first is a sad, sad, story about all the evil liberals who believe that people should be free to celebrate whatever religious holiday they chose and that government should have nothing to do with it. Wait. That's not such a sad story! So why are so many people hurling the cheery words "Merry Christmas" with such anger? I for one don't like to be hit over the head with a manger as we Fall into cold and dark Winter every year. As a practicing Christian myself, I much prefer to celebrate by spending too much, eating too much, giving never enough, and doing it all with my friends and family!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Objectivism vs. Communitarianism

"Angels Who Have Pruned on High!"
As part of our LDS Ward Fall Clean-up, our Bishop and others help take down a threatening tree limb before it falls.
I mostly worked on the leaf-raking crews as I have few heavy-equipment or chain-saw skills.
More philosophical than political today, although I'm far from being an intellectual philosopher. And for today we will just leave aside the devil's purpose regarding free agency (you can see my view here). And I relate personal experience only to say that I attempt to walk the communitarian walk.

Yesterday, I went out to help the neighborhood in our Fall clean-up project. Most of it was yard cleaning for widows and the elderly. Our Priesthood and Women's Relief Society under the direction of our bishopric prepared a list of people to visit with the needs they had. As we went around, we hit a few other homes that needed some work - those of new move-ins, less-active members of the church, even non-members. The best part of all is that some of the less-actives and a great new move-in family came out to help and then went along with us to other houses.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cherokee Nation Will Return

Clicking away to firm up my ancestry.com family tree, I came across a picture I hadn't seen before.


That is my 3rd Great Grandmother, Peninah Shropshire Cotten Wood (1827-1879). She was the mother of George C. Wood (1864-1923), and the grandmother of Addie May Wood (1880-1909). My mom has long taken pride in a claim to Native-American ancestry. Not wanting to judge by someone's looks as in the picture above, I can't help but think my mom is probably right.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fundamentals without Fundamentalism

In a recent e-mail discussion with Anonymous D, he sent me a message to which I responded: "That is so going on the blog!"

From D:

Yeah, I have a problem with the fundamentalist thing. I don’t know how to define it. By some accounts I’d be one. I mean, I believe in God and Christ as literal. I believe the Book of Mormon to be scripture and that there are such things as Angels and spiritual gifts. I believe the miracles of Jesus and those in our day. I’ve seen a few. On a certain scale I’d be thought of as a fundamentalist.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Knockout Punch by Harry Reid

Cross-posted from MormonDems:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Consults with President Obama
We congratulate the team of Democrat Leaders negotiating the successful end to the government shutdown. We supported their efforts and have a special passion for Senator Reid's masterful legislative skill as Majority Leader. Throughout the ordeal Reid refused to give in to any of the changing demands from Republicans. He also won support from several Republicans in the Senate and eventually prevailed with a bill that was ratified by the House. 

Throughout the standoff Republicans continued talking about "negotiation" and "compromise" but their actions reminded voters that a significant portion of their party does not believe in either. Many Republicans took an extreme stance regarding government's role, pushing the mantra "government is the problem" to new heights. Some, like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, even celebrated the shutdown. Harry Reid recognized their gleeful posturing and understood the improbability of governing those who maintained ideological divides around the role of government. 
Sister & Brother Reid as he checks his scriptures
on his smartphone during Sunday School

We here at MormonDems are proud to call Senator Harry Reid, "Brother". Senator Reid is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He attends church on a regular basis in a local Mormon congregation as an active participant in Sunday school classes. As a convert to the LDS Church, Harry Reid's religious commitment is an exemplary personal choice. For many of our readers this is surprising, but Senator Reid does not leverage his religious practice into a media event. Former Republican US Senator Bob Bennett (who was relieved by the Tea Party giving way to Mike Lee) recently spoke at BYU Idaho about politics and noted what a good member of the church his friend Brother Reid is.

In a church where members are held together by common beliefs and uniformed practices we are surprised by the extreme animosity directed at Senator Reid by fellow members. Throughout the 2012 presidential election the authors on this site took care when disagreeing with Governor Romney, as not to be disagreeable. Even though there were wide divides in our positions, we never would cower to the level of personal attacks because Romney didn't share our political preferences.

We all acknowledge that as an individual and politician, Senator Reid has flaws. Who doesn't? Some imagine him to be weak because of his soft-spoken demeanor. Others find him to be abrupt or even ruthless when challenging political opponents or leading to a resolve. Many do not understand Senator Reid's personal history, a great American story of a young man from a small corner of our country that was able to rise to his current influence. Regardless of understanding, Senator Reid has been a very effective political leader; one who promotes the same values the Framers aspired while writing the Constitution.

Senator Reid was a talented boxer in his youth setting him up well for his battles in politics. His pugilistic tendencies to fight for what he believes may be part of his internal nature.

We're just glad he's on our side. Go, Harry!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Glitch at the End of the World

When I got back in my office after the shutdown, there was a urgent message (one of many) from the Homeland Security folks that my government ID would expire on November 2, 2013. It gave me a link to the site I use every few years for my ID renewals. I went there and of course had no idea what my password was so after clicking the "forgot" button and creating a new one, I went in to make an appointment on their user-friendly calendar. It's at this place down on 21st South and Redwood Road so I have to arrange to go with someone with a car or skip the bus that day and drive in. Guess what? The first available appointment was December 2, 2013. Instant Catch-22 gonna get ya!

Gratefully, there was an email later that day from one of my work associates who had learned that the Bureau of Reclamation in our building had been given authority to designate an employee relations specialist to renew the ID cards. As we do work for that agency (who d'ya think did the title work for the land we flooded to fill Jordanelle?), they graciously let us go up there to renew. I went up with our Paralegal who had an appointment and they allowed me to squeeze in after her. I did run downstairs to see if I had written my password in my secret place (oops. You're not supposed to do that! But I have a couple of dozen or so just for work!) And it was not there. So thinking through it carefully and meeting the requirements they gave me to log in to activate the chip on my card, I came up with it! Yeah! And that only took about 15 minutes.

So I got to thinking about the rest of our government IT system.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sorry, Disney. Wrong Princess

It's always exciting to get a package in the mail! Today especially so, because I could see the return address was from Disneyland! Well, we did leave those slips when we were looking for our lost items. My grandson lost his baseball cap and my granddaughter lost one of her Minnie Mouse slippers, left foot - cloth, not glass.

It could have been the baseball cap. The nice lady at the booth asked us to describe it. I said it was an Angels' cap. "Well, what color was it?" My daughter-in-law and I shared a puzzled glance as we were in Anaheim, California, home of the Angels! But we proceeded to describe it as red with a big white A that had a halo. We thought they might have a few as it was Anaheim, California! So I also described the Velcro fastener in back that was attached at a diagonal slant to fit my grandson's head. Well, the package didn't have an Angels' cap.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let's All Repent & Be Humble

A little harsh, perhaps, but let's all repent and do better. From Anonymous D:

After the lesson on self-reliance last Sunday I’ve come to recognize just how much the average Latter-Day Saint despises the poor.  The occasion was nothing more than an opportunity for the resident businessmen and bankers to moralize about the incredible laziness of the less fortunate and potential employees.  Even those who themselves have been out of work got in on the act.  My reaction was not anger but an overwhelming sadness.  It’s come to this. We actually despise the poor and the needy.  I could, as I sat there, hear the words of Moroni ringing in my ears.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Raw, Executive Power


Still trying to synthesize my basic political thoughts into bumper-sticker phrases or at least Twitter-length, I was mulling over something along the lines of:
You can't negotiate with someone who challenges your legitimacy as President
Yes, bumper-size fail. But it is congealing into the big picture.

The President it on the verge of a major political, personal, and even progressive victory. He will finally be the President of the United States.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 7

Civil War? Anyone?

I certainly hope not! And it won't be me who starts the shooting. Lincoln, after all, let all the allegedly seceding states go peaceably in seizing federal property until South Carolina actually fired on Fort Sumter. The confederate rebels blamed Lincoln, of course, because they thought they had every right to destroy the federal Union and argued that Lincoln provoked violence by calling up troops to defend the United States. South Carolina's firing on Fort Sumter was "justified" because Lincoln attempted to resupply the Fort ignoring South Carolina's claim to it.

We will let our "erring sisters" go in peace to a point. I'm sure the "exempt" Park Rangers left behind to secure the Parks for safety and protection will not fight it out when the County Sheriffs show up to re-open the National Parks. But, by what authority?

Southern Utah counties have called a state of emergency because of the economic effects of the closure of the National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Lake Powell - and that's just the big ones.) The Governor of Utah has "offered" (threatened) to take over the National Parks during the shutdown. People are shouting, "Open the PARKS!" Many promote the simple notion of, "Hey, why not? States have parks. They should be running them anyway, states rights and all, ya know."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shutdown 2014 Update No. 6

I have avoided blogging since we were thrown out of our offices because this whole thing is personally exasperating beyond words. As I said, I don't mind a few days off work with or without pay as I'm financially comfortable and I have a lot of other things to do. I've been concentrating on family history, visits to the Temple, and taking care of things with the family at home. Those aren't bad.

What I can't get my mind around is the House action to approve a measure that they will provide back-pay to the federal employees affected by the shutdown regardless of whether they were called in for life-and-property functions or deemed "non-essential" as is yours truly. The Administration has attempted to avoid using that word "non-essential," but actions speak louder than words. And what the House did speaks volumes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Live-blogging LDS General Conference Sunday P.M.

Well, we just about lost the start here in the excitement of swatting a wasp in our family room. My Ute son has been for allergy testing and stings are a great risk to him. As my 16-year-old was waiving around the newspaper (D-News, of course), his older brother was yelling, "Don't anger it!" But it was successfully swatted.

President Eyring conducting.

Live-blogging LDS General Conference - Sunday A.M.

Here we are. I was at a high school marching band competition yesterday, so my apologies for not being able to live-blog. In other words, I spent a week in Herriman yesterday. Or maybe it was a whole winter because it was cold! And I had to give my jacket to my boy who was in shorts and t-shirt when he took off his band uniform. This is a serious conference distraction (as it was yesterday), but you can see the video I put up on YouTube:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Not Quite Live-blogging Saturday, LDS General Conference

Sorry, I have an important family matter to attend to today and I will not be able to live-blog the Saturday general sessions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Conference. You can catch it at LDS.org.

I will, however, live-blog the General Priesthood Session tonight for the first time ever! While they still encourage fathers & sons to attend a satellite broadcast together in a local chapel, it will be freely available on live-broadcast on BYU TV (I think) and on the itnernet. As my only son left at home has other business tonight, I'll just sit here in my comfy chair and blog.

And I won't be commenting on any protest, etc. I'm sure there will be plenty of coverage in other places.

____________
Some time later . . . .

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Lincoln Analogy

Obamacare pales in comparison to the importance of freeing the Slaves. And shutting down the government is nothing at all like Civil War. But the principles are exactly the same.

President Obama came in inexperienced and made mistakes - so did Lincoln. But there was an overriding principle of promoting Constitutional government of, by, and for the People - all of us People - not any particular faction, party, or philosophy, except for this: The Constitution is not some stale, old parchment perpetually framed in the National Archives and in the context of the 1700s. No, the principles that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" and that all our individual ideals and aspirations have value as we learn to work together within the framework for government that our Founders were inspired to construct should last the eternities.

Check those words again, all men are created equal. Well, for one thing, it now includes women, too - and children. The 'all' also has a bit more meaning than it did originally. It's not just white male property owners anymore. Go find those words in the Constitution! (spoiler - they're not there!) No, those words come from the brain and pen of Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence (in committee with Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston). The concept has always been important to the American Spirit, but those words were not in the Constitution. There needed to be a phase-out of the concept of State Power as opposed to the rights, protections, and even responsibilities of individuals.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bumper Sticker Time!

Sitting at home with my thoughts percolating into little blips for tweeting, I am able to express what I've long been believin':
You Can't Govern with those Who Think Government Is the Problem.
You Can't Compromise with those Who Believe Compromise Is the Problem. 
Compromise Is Not a Dirty Word 
Federal Employees are People Too!
Federal Employees Have Families

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 5

Well, I'm cheered up a bit more. Getting dressed, I found a symbolically purple shirt, a tad more blue than purple. Then I dug in my top drawer for the box that had my 20-year and 10-year Interior service pins. Together they make 30 which I have on the calendar, but not on service computation date until March 4 coming up. Then I snapped my government ID onto my lanyard and draped it over my head. That's something I rarely do because I so easily catch it and choke myself. Today I wanted to look the part of a federal employee.

As I came in the federal building, I showed my ID then saluted the photos of the President and Vice President and then saluted the Constitution up on the wall as I said to the guard, "That's some good stuff in there." (I know, you think I'm looney tunes. But that's just the way I am.)

Senator Lee's Staff - Chips Off the Ol' Blockhead

There will be a Shutdown 2013 Update No. 5, but this part of the story is just too good not to tell it separately. I took a trip down to Munchkinland today.

Senator Mike Lee's Staff
When I signed my furlough notice, I wrote a little note on the top:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 4

About two hours to go! I was feeling up all weekend with the prospect of a few days away from work, but this has to have been the most depressing day of work in my 30 years. I don't know which was worse, the concern on the face of those with families worried about possible loss or delay of pay, or those who were going on like nothing was happening - planning, scheduling, setting things up for the week and the new month. Yikes!

For my part, I arrived to find a rather urgent matter that I prepared for briefing DC and passed it on, only to have it apparently lost in the shutdown preparations - how much time and money has already been wasted and will continue to be wasted! Something is certainly wrong here. Well, enough of my woes. Here's the latest (redacted) shutdown info:

The Address

Something along these lines is what I would like to hear from the President tonight. But, hey! If John Boehner wants to give it, fine by me!
One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln linked the concept of our nation’s founding with the structure of the Constitution asserting that this nation was conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great political war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are eternally grateful that this nation has passed far beyond a resort to violence and bloodshed disputing the rights and responsibilities of free men and women of all races and creeds. Yet we still are tempted by willful political whim, rather than the rule of constitutionally tested law and the results of broad-based elections.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daniel's Stone

The Book of Mormon in many languages
The Book of Mormon has been translated from English into 106 languages! Nobody's seen the original Reformed Egyptian for a while, but at least twelve did (one + three + eight = 12. An interesting number).

This struck me yesterday when I went to the local Distribution Center, blessedly, just a couple of blocks away right here in Centerville. My wife asked me to pick up a paperback, standard blue copy of the Book of Mormon for my grandson's baptism. In the old days (about 3 years ago), it was traditional to buy a nice set of scriptures for an eight-year-old being baptized. But now in this digital age, my wife was trying to make a point about marking scriptures by having me show them on my smartphone while our grandson marked them in a more traditional way in the blue paperback.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 3

It is now a 99.99% chance that we will shutdown Tuesday morning. There are only two ways for it to be avoided, as I see it.

1. The House could reject its own bill just passed today that includes a one-year delay of the ACA and the removal of the medical devices tax, and pass a clean CR that the Senate would approve by unanimous consent (I think the Senate can do that).

2. The Senate by unanimous consent could pass the House Bill passed today. Any amendments or even debate would take us well beyond Tuesday.

Friday, September 27, 2013

We're Still Arguing Obamacare?

Sigh.

Let me start with this confession and observation that we humans tend to decide things in our hearts and then justify them in our heads. So, it is often difficult to meet the standard of objective, reasonable and rational discussion. Usually we just fall back on who is more like hitler. Of course it's always the other side. (Check out Jon Stewart's critique of Cruz's competing show the other night).

A really good friend on FB, somebody I truly admire, put out a basic argument about why Obamacare was so bad. I've heard this from other Republicans just this week. (I don't think that particular friend reads the blog, but I still won't further identify the person. I don't want this in any way to be a personal attack).

The argument goes something like - "Obamacare wasn't really a compromise because a dictatorial majority rammed it through like bullies in the middle of the night with it too long to even read."

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 2

It was gratifying to see a couple of pundits (Ezra Klein of WaPo & Politico's Ben White) agreeing with my analysis on the likelihood of a shutdown with very similar reasoning. I have co-workers who will vouch that I figured this out a few days back before I ever typed it in here.

While I have to be real careful here because I don't want to reveal any internal processes or names unnecessarily, we got additional instructions from our office on shutting down (I wasn't there late Thurs. evening when this email came). Redacted version:
Here are the highlights of today's (September 26) senior staff call, with some slight tweaking to account for more recent information:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 1

My boss called me in today. He's a really good guy. He tried so hard to soften the message. "Well, I, uh, -sit down. I regret this, but I need to let you know that, well, you have been officially designated as 'non-essential.'"

My response: "Ha! No problem! I've been 'non-essential' for 30 years! I was shutdown by Reagan and Tip O'Neill!" He is too, of course.

We also found out, and I'm not supposed to say much about this, but certain persons, while still "non-essential," are paid out of different sources of funds. And as their salaries are already paid, they have to work. Of course that also means they will have no worries about being paid. When we get furloughed, we are legally prohibited from performing any work. And we have no expectation of being paid.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Live-blogging Shutdown 2013

Yes, I may have a lot more time on my hands next week for blogging so I'll get started a little early. I do not see a way to avoid the government shutdown. This is not a stand-off between the Republicans and the Democrats or the Republicans and the President. This is a stand-off between the tea-party extremists and the main-stream conservatives of the Republican Party. And I don't see a way out.

So, here goes from a work perspective. First, an email from our DC office this morning:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why I Continue My Fight

Time for a little open-heart reflection and explanation why I continue my fight against Senators Cruz, Lee, & Paul along with the tea-party Representatives and the political entertainers Beck & Limbaugh.

I've read a little history and seen enough old news reels to wish somebody had stood up to Senator Joe McCarthy earlier. I also wish more people had stood up to Cleon Skousen too. Even Ernie Wilkinson could have used a bit more of a kick in the rear when he imposed his anti-communist spy-ring on my alma mater. So I'm standing up to the demagogues now in hopes of saving them and their followers from worse abuses like those we've known in the past in this very country. And they've mostly come from the extreme Right.
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Bottom line, what I fight against is the demagoguery that pulls in some very good friends and family that I care about.

Open Letter to Senator Mike Lee

Dear Senator Lee:

Let my start by stating that I am an American Citizen of legal residence in the State of Utah. That makes you one of my two U.S. Senators even though I did not vote for you. But I am your constituent and I write this to offer a little advice.

I understand that you had a little talking-to from your Minority Leader today. It's really too bad you didn't pay more attention to my blog, or your old Home Teacher - Brother Reid, or even your Dad. I knew your Dad. I realize that you must have known him much better. And I can't understand how you came away from such a good man and a conservative of solid credentials to promote the ideas about government and the U.S. Constitution that you do.

There is help that I offer in the form of a publication that one of Senator Hatch's Aides gave me up there on the 8th Floor of the Federal Building in SLC. I went to get some of those copies of the U.S. Constitution that Senators give away so I could pass them out to Boy Scouts working on their First Class Badge. I used to go down to Senator Bennett's office because I liked him best of all, but he seems to be gone. You can also get the book on-line at this place you can click at. Anyway, the booklet is called "Our American Government." Here's a picture in case you haven't seen it:

It's a really cool guide to the U.S. Constitution and our wonderful system of Government. It was printed by the Government Printing Office and produced by a Concurrent Resolution of the One Hundred Eighth Congress of the United States of America. H. Con. Res. 108-139 (so you can have a staffer look it up to check!) That was the Congress elected in 2002 right when President Bush was rallying us all for our patriotic fight in Iraq! Those guys (and a few gals) must have been real patriots! I mean, even the President said that those who weren't with us were against us so I know the Congress went along with him!

Anyway, there's some really good stuff in there about how our Government works with three branches, checks & balances, and all the stuff about how to make laws! That part might really be good since you're now one of those guys with that job!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Big Lie of "Socialism!"

I got a little snarky on a FB post of a friend with whom I share some political views. In his attempts to promote a little Social Justice from solid, Mormon History, he was met with all the usual screed about the evils of "Socialism." My best comment was:
"Socialism. You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it does."
My point here is to try and explain that when tea-partiers on the Right talk about "Socialism" they are not using the classic, dictionary definition of an economic system in which the state owns and controls the means of production.

(By the way, I am not a Socialist. I believe in property rights and open markets regulated by representative democracy. Sigh!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beck Is Either Stupid or Dishonest (Maybe Both!)

The latest from Nazi-memorabilia collector Glenn Beck is his call to impeach the President for "treason." Because he (the President, not Beck) is sending some aid to international groups and "vetted" Syrian rebels. Politico reports today:
“We did not get into bed with Hitler to defeat Japan. We did not do it,” Beck said. “It’s the height of insanity. But I also believe it is impeachable. I believe it is treason.”
Well, he's sorta right. We did not sleep with Hitler to defeat Japan. No, we had another Ally that admittedly came in late against Japan but was pretty heavily involved in our defeat of Hitler.
Soviet Flag on top of the Reichstag at the Capture of Berlin, May 1945

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Booze Doesn't Cause Drunk Driving!

Absolutely true!

Booze doesn't kill, people who drink too much and drive kill. I think that's pretty obvious.

Let me tell you a little story. Back in the 1990s we lived in New Mexico. A political issue arose about drive-up liquor stores. As an odd side note, the campaign to close drive-up liquor informed that there were only four states in the U.S. that still allowed unrestricted drive-up liquor sales.* I realized that I had lived in three of the four! Wyoming, Maryland, and New Mexico! The fourth was Louisiana.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria - The Way to Enter (or Not Enter) a War

Do I personally want the U.S to go to war in Syria? No. Do I want anyone to be gassed by their own government's chemical weapons? No. And I don't think the President wants either of these as well. He just said that he has requested that congressional leaders postpone any vote on the use of force for the US to pursue a diplomatic solution, particularly the one supported by Russia that Iraq declare its chemical weapons and place them under international supervision. I'm just fine with that.

A war in Syria right now does not meet my predetermined standards for going to war. There is no UN authorization, and with Russia, China, and now the UK opposed and on the Security Counsel that is not going to happen. Arguably, there is a legal way to go which would be to consider the Syrian incursions across the border or even the disruption caused by numerous refugees to be an attack on Turkey. As a NATO member, an attack on one is an attack on all. And while the UN acknowledges collective security in these regional organizations, only notice, not pre-approval, is all that is required under the UN Charter (still preserving each nation's sovereignty so no nation actually has to do anything). Yes, I'm overly legalistic as I look to the idealism of international law to structure war and peace. The UN has a messy history, but we're still here instead of flying through the universe as glowing atoms.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Racist Rush & Nazi-Collector Beck

I'm calling it. The great, big intellect of conservative thought said on this radio show today that President Obama's policy on Syria is not "shock and awe," but "shuck and jive" This is from Politico, a right of center source (although they are clearly mainstream Republican right, so they are not inclined to be big fans of Rush).

Rush is a racist - no question about it. If you think what he said is funny or you don't understand how it could possibly be racist*, then you are a racist too. Just because you are a racist doesn't mean that you are all bad. And you can always repent, change, learn, and grow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blog Hiatus

We're not shutting down. We're just taking an indefinite break. My life bounces from obsession to obsession and right now it's family history reflected in the new blog, John & Elinor Vaughan Descendants. While obsessions get me going, its great when they're on the positive, rather than the negative side of life. And don't get me wrong, I'm not obsessive to a fault - or illness. I still do my job, love my wife, go to church, etc.

And right now after the little diatribe coming up, I need a break from political commentary because it's just the same, old, inane garbage going on. Our Munchkin Senator is still trying to destroy Obamacare or at least the whole government. Pay freezes, continuing resolutions, and sequester still going. And all because we have a good President that a significant minority of the country just can't stand. Most of the stuff they complain about is absolutely and totally false, stupid, or ridiculous.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One More Clue

Cross-posted from the NEW Family History Blog at johnelinorvaughan.blogspot.com! That doesn't mean I'm abandoning this one!

In the continuing search to find Elinor's grave (and at least we're on the right continent now), we find one more tantalizing clue in the Springfield City Cemetery, Utah County, Utah:


This is the grave marker for another of the plural wives of Charles Hulet in the Springville Cemetery that you can see here. So what is there of interest in this one above?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dreamers

Went to a great concert the other night with some very good friends. It was Christopher Cross, Orleans, Firefall, Player, Robbie Dupree, and the Dream Weaver himself - Gary Wright. It was a late 70s into 80s nostalgia overdose. And loads of fun!

Just before it began there were still two empty seats to my right. As on an airplane, there was some sense of relief that an obnoxious walrus wasn't going to sit beside me. Then, this tall, blonde girl comes down the row and it was one of my favorite Cousins!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Great Expectations?

With so much family history and Scouting activities recently, I haven't had time to get too political. Well, how 'bout if we pine for the good old days in Britain before Labour governments destroyed the free enterprise system? Having stumbled into Dickensian coincidence with my own ancestors, I discover that I'm not a Thatcherite.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Last Day on the Trail

Leaving Philmont, we went north up I-25 and across Wyoming on I-80. It's longer, but at mostly freeway speeds it at least seems faster. We did take the Ft. Collins to Laramie cut-off, so that was some help. I was compelled to travel Wyoming again. I still can't get over the discovery of our Eleanor (Elinor) Vaughan walking across the plains with a handcart at 68 years of age!

With our grandson with us, it wasn't the day to go up to Ft. Laramie and Casper and follow the whole trail across Wyoming. But I was glad to see Granger after Little America where the Mormon Trail comes up from the Green then skirts Church Butte crossing I-80 into the Bridger Valley.

Attempting to liken the pioneer experience unto us, I offer the following:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Progressive Scouting

Feminism lives at Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico
No one would ever say "Liberal" Scouting. The Boy Scouts of America is a solidly conservative organization based on middle-class values transported from Victorian England (Lord Baden Powell, ¿no?) I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. In fact, most of it is quite good. My purpose here is to point out some important, if sometimes glacially slow, movement that Scouting has made in a good, progressive direction, IMHO.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Villa Philmonte - Photographic Tour

The original drive up to Villa Philmonte, Cimarron, New Mexico

So I'm not the best photographer, or architectural or interior-design expert. One hardly needs to be to photograph or comment on the marvelous Villa Philmonte, Waite and Genevieve Phillips's "summer home" outside of Cimarron, New Mexico. Owned by the Boy Scouts thanks to the Phillips's generosity, anyone can visit by signing up for a free tour at the nearby Seton Museum.

The Phillips family was very practical in their generosity. They reserved only the right for family members to come back to visit whenever they wanted. And they provided endowments for less-advantaged youth to come to Philmont and for the upkeep of the Villa so that the BSA would not be stuck with an expensive relic they could not maintain.

Let's start on the outside walkways. There are custom-designed tiles representing the family interspersed throughout the otherwise red tiles - livestock, game animals, Cowboys, Indian, New Mexicans, even the architect got one in for himself. Waite wanted a "W" for his personal brand, but the brand inspector informed that it had already been taken. Being the practical guy he was, he simply chose a "double U" with a bar.

Seton Museum & Seton's Utah

Seton Library, Philmont, Cimarron, New Mexico
Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946)
Perhaps my second favorite place at Philmont, after Rayado, is the Seton Museum. I've certainly spent a lot of hours there. It's a great museum of Philmont and Scouting History, along with Southwestern Art, wonderful books, posters, art, and Southwestern Indian jewelry and pots, etc. Seton was one of the founders of Scouting in America.

The great and somewhat eccentric Seton was most renowned as a Naturalist. In those days, conservation was a little bit different than today as he was an avid hunter and dissector. But Michelangelo couldn't have created his masterpieces without cutting up a few cadavers. Getting the other criticism out of the way, Seton's most famous book "Wild Animals I have Known," was trashed by one reviewer who entitled it "Wild Animals Nobody Knows" because Seton anthropomorphized his subjects ascribing human thought and sentiments. But his actual drawings and studies were incomparable - and the stories are highly entertaining.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Valhalla of Scouting

The Tooth of Time - an old landmark on the Santa Fe Trail.
The vertical, white rock center is Grizzly Tooth up Urraca Canyon. Trail Peak is to the left,
Black Mountain, and Mt. Phillips just left and past the Tooth of Time. (All places I've hiked)
"The Valhalla of Scouting," That's what one friend called it under some odd circumstances a few years back. And it seems appropriate this year, the 75th Anniversary of Philmont.

Our friend was the Director of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony in which our son participated. He was an Israeli Citizen and far from any family. The Scout Troop in the neighboring LDS Ward had invited him to go on a river rafting trip. The Musician had injured his shin on a rock and his foot then became infected. The Youth Symphony Member in the other Troop had a dad along who was a doctor. Our Symphony Director was treated well, but ended up in the hospital. When released, the doctor's family was leaving out of town and the Scout's mom called my wife to nurse the injured Musician back to health. He spent nights at his own place, but was propped up on pillows on our couch during the day while my wife fed him cookies.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"¡Muerte a los Tejanos!"

My favorite thing about Kit Carson. That was the battle cry of the New Mexican Volunteer Regiment he organized in the Civil War. Let us remember there were Spanish-speaking people in the American Southwest long before there were any African-American or European "Texans." Like 200 years or so. The Tejano guys came by invitation of a new Mexican Republic and then they proceeded to break all the rules, most egregiously, slavery. One of the first things the Republic of Mexico did was free the slaves. The Texans were a bit more difficult to convince.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Multi-Religious Scout Sunday

Sunday, we went to the LDS services at Philmont with the nice, little, roofed chapel. A large trek group from Illinois was there along with the few from the Training Center (PTC) and the usual smattering of staff members who were not otherwise assigned Sunday morning.

The meeting is always interesting with heavy emphasis on the Scouts going out or coming in from the backcountry mountain treks. I did that myself as a 14-year-old and again as an adult leader. The most fascinating is to watch the Aaronic Priesthood boys called up out of the miscellaneous attendees and instinctively know what to do to administer the emblems of the Sacrament to the body of the Lord’s Church. And looking over the Scouts above the stand is the blue-tinged window with the flor-de-lis and rather muscular Savior. He did have His mountain treks after all.



The Enchanted Walmart


I'm not usually a big fan of Walmart. This not a post for the negatives. This is about the most magical Walmart on the face of the earth! Trinidad, Colorado. Just the name of the otherwise odd, little, red-bricked town is magic - or spiritual. TRIN-uh-dad is how we say it in English. I can't help but go to the Portuguese, much more poetic than Spanish - Treen-ee-DAH-djee. In any language it bounces off the tongue.

Trinidad, Colorado. Where the Rockies break to the Great Plains.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Zion Bound on the Enoch Train

You can't make this stuff up! The name of the ship was the Enoch Train!

The Enoch Train, Boston
And I can't remember the date I was baptized. Sometimes I have to think real hard to remember how old I am.

OK. Sure. I can walk over to my file cabinet and pull out my baptism certificate. And with a split second of cogitation I can remember that I'm 56 years old. But if I was about 70(!!), walking across the plains with a handcart, a long way from home - not to mention a long way from the strange, new home I was walking to, I think I might have a harder time remembering dates with exactness. Besides, my wife just quizzed me on the date of my youngest son's baptism and I hadn't a clue even if I could eventually approximate it.

And it doesn't help that so many people were named Elinor on the Welsh border country. Jenkins and Vaughan are pretty common too. But how can it be possible that my ancestress Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, baptized on 17 December 1841 according to Elder Needham's Missionary Journal, is not the same person as the Eleanor Jenkins Vaughan who went across the ocean in 1856 and was a member of the very first handcart company to cross the plains?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gone to Zion

Winter Quarters just got a bit more real for me.

Winter Quarters, Nebraska Territory. Winter of 1846-47.
The LDS Branch established by Elder John Needham in Llanfoist, Monmouthshire, just couldn't have ended in failure! Well, my ancestors joined the church forty years later up in Durham after the example of their grandmother, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, baptized in Llanfoist in 1841.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Something in the "Code Blue" Muse

Layton-Kaysville's "Code Blue" performing for our Ward Party last night at Trump's Field. Anon-D on right.
Brother Love was good enough to paint his trailer bed with that great non-skid surface after we asked to use it for a stage at the ward party last night. It worked perfectly!

So did the band. I promised them a good blog review for all of you two dozen or so readers out there. They really are really good for a suburban, old-guys, garage band. Well, there is one young guy - the son of the lead singer - who had all the teen (and pre-teen) girls enthralled with his cajon drum (electronic drum box with various sounds). Or maybe it was his "dangerous" RM-rock persona.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back When the Future Was Orange!

Call me old-fashioned, but I really liked the LDS Provo Temple when it had an orange spire.


In 1976 from my room in the LTM (MTC), the whole Temple seemed to glow orange at night. Yes, some had their architectural-critiquing  fun with the flaming candle in the center of the birthday cake. But it was cool! The reason I liked it was because of the architectural style known as Googie. Yes, Googie. Which is pretty odd especially since I only just discovered the term "Googling" around for "Orange Provo Temple" and, of course, "Space Needle." Googie style came out of (where else?) a drive-in restaurant in Southern California.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ross Perot? Who? What?

And you thought President Obama had funny ears.
"United We Stand America" was Perot's big movement. We need an episode of "Where are they now?" or something. I still say the tea-party/Randian element of the Republican Party will soon be as forgotten as Ross Perot and his crowd - which did have its effect helping to tip two elections to Bill Clinton. Of course I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of Ross's folks ended up in the tea party. They just forgot their graphs and charts.

Forbes Magazine on-line, of all places, just published an article on the theme that President Obama may be one of the best, perhaps the best, president for the economy in history! (h/t Phil). Imagine that! Of course, he inherited a mess that gave opportunity to improve and any improvement would look good compared with the economic disaster W Bush left us from the surplus budget he inherited. And remember this - it's called the Great Recession not the Great Depression II. Somebody did something right.