Time to Cut the Pork

“… if Alaska doesn’t want all that money, they can send it our way to other states,” said E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post when discussing Lisa Murkowski’s defeat. How can the pundits not get what the people are saying when they vote out pork candidates? Let me spell it out for you: we don’t want senators who think that there’s a limitless fund to compete over. Stop printing money. Stop thinking we can borrow from our children forever. Clue in already.

How Transparency Has Changed Us

The Internet has really unleashed a fury of information. We don’t think twice about how to learn a fact, we just Google it. No thought about when to stop at the library or to call your nerdiest friend. But in this age of ubiquitous information, I’m surprised by how few organizations understand the mighty power of transparency. Businesses who would rather stick their heads in the sand than respond to public issues don’t realize that publicly available conversations are happening — joining it is really the only option. Piggybacking off some other blogs I’ve read recently, I’m surprised it’s not obvious to everyone.

Business

Dell learned the hard way with what’s been referred to as ‘Dell Hell’ — a time when their batteries were catching fire and users were trying to get service but Dell was blowing them off. Just before the whole company went up in flames, Dell jumped into the social media foray. But they reacted so well that they lead their industry in social media awareness and interaction. According to a recent interview by Emergence Technologies, the “incident gave them no choice but to jump full force into embracing the social on a large scale.”

Francois goes on to say,

Companies that successfully embrace the social are those, like Dell, that make it part of the fabric or DNA of everything they do — it cannot just be managed as bolt-on programs to existing strategies. It is also interesting to note how companies like Dell and IBM, which have managed to totally transform themselves, were able to do so only after “near death” experiences (and those are my words/observations, not Dell’s). Dell truly rebuilt itself with the customer at the core of everything they do — how they sell, how they market, how they service and support, how they communicate, and how they design new products.

If the customer isn’t at the center of everything a company does, then what is? Companies who focus more on revenue than on filling a market need won’t last. Do you innovate to make money or do you innovate because you want to solve a problem? Richard St. John talks about what happens after people (or businesses) become successful. He says sometimes they forget to endure — they begin to focus how to spend their money and not so much on how to take care of their clients. “Clients didn’t call. ‘Cuz they could see I was no longer serving them, I was only serving myself. So they took their money and their projects to others who would serve them better.”

When businesses forget to put their customers first, it’s almost like the customer has a sixth sense for it. It becomes even more apparent when there are complaints logged on the Web — maybe about how the business has failed them or how the product doesn’t do what it said it would — and the business doesn’t do anything about it.

Government

Information and the ability to control it has been a tool of power for millennia. In an age when investigative journalism is no longer well-funded, we’re left to the devices of a dichotomy of amateurs and large, mainstream media. We can get our news from ‘fair and balanced’ sources like FoxNews or other neutral sources like NPR.

Our country and its allies are fighting a War on Terror. What is a War on Terror? Is that like a War on Hate? A War on Fear? Sounds like a great, achievable objective. When is it over? When nobody wants to terrorize? When war goes back to army vs. army rather than army vs. ‘freedom fighter’? It’s not going to happen. The only enemies left are underfunded. I’m not siding with the terrorists by any means but by selling citizens on the need to wage war on terror (rather than revenge for 9/11), there is no end in sight.

Salon.com recently wrote about the federal government and Pentagon’s efforts to shut down WikiLeaks.org. WikiLeaks is a site that allows people to anonymously post secret or insider information. While I don’t agree entirely with some of WikiLeaks’ past decisions (such as publishing copyrighted church material), they serve a valuable purpose in an age of information control. According to the article, the New York Times has reported that the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks to its list of enemies. The content exposed on WikiLeaks this week shows that the CIA is working to persuade the public in Europe to continue to support the War on Terror. Glenn Greenfield of Salon.com says, “It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars.”

Does the federal government really think it can manipulate opinions without recourse? Probably. But it’s too easy for the truth to get out, whether it’s a site like WikiLeaks or some other means, we live in an age when people don’t put up with being tricked, and they find out all to easily. A great example is from another breaking story: apparently Sean Hannity and Oliver North have a charity they haven’t been completely honest about. These men who are considered socially conservative and take pride in their righteousness are now alleged to have spent charity money on non-charity events. For the sake of social conservatives who truly do have integrity (and for the sake of the donors), I hope these allegations are false. But you can’t fool people anymore.

We are really at the beginning of a new age. The information age may be moving forward with full force but our ability to understand and deal with limitless sources is still immature. I’m optimistic for the future. A free market system and an age of accountability that’s never been possible is coming to fruition. Transparency will expose hypocrisy and bring to light organizations’ true colors. Bring it on.

Changing the Definition of Marriage

A friend sent me a long but very thorough article on the effects of changing social norms. It was interesting because it started with this, “Unlike most libertarians, I don’t have an opinion on gay marriage, and I’m not going to have an opinion no matter how much you bait me.” But, she went on to give various reasons why this decision goes much further than whether or not we’re discriminating. She discusses the changes to welfare, social security, and divorce law. I found it very helpful to see through the flawed arguments on both sides. Towards the end she says, “My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes.” Humble? What’s that?

Religious Discrimination?

I recently read an interesting comment about Proposition 8 apparently from a gay man:

As a gay man….none of my rights are being violated or taken away by prop.8! I already have “domestic partnership” rights! I do believe, however, that the rights of parents, and religion as a whole, are about to be disrupted and violated in a very profound way. The moral fabric of our society has been slowing eroded by liberal views over the years. If prop 8 fails to pass, in order to protect civil rights we will likely be forced to return to the courts for additional protections of religious rights. It’s not unreasonable to assume that failing to pass prop 8 presents real possibility for restrictions on religious freedoms. Same-sex marriage could lead to more widespread social acceptance of homosexuality that would create a polemic tension with religious groups whose negative attitudes towards homosexual behavior derives from faith in the divine inspiration of church leaders or traditional scripture. Their doctrines and institutions could more and more find themselves under the label of bigotry. And since members of religious institutions behaviors, practices, and even perceptions are framed within these doctrines, individuals will find their very conscience under siege. We may very well find ourselves in a situation where we must choose whether we would prefer religious discrimination over orientation discrimination!

When those who say that gay rights are a civil matter and not a religious one, they forget that most of our laws are based on morality. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a Utah Supreme Court Justice and U of Chicago Law professor, said the following when addressing BYU students in 1999, “[Some say] we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.”

I’m sad to see the world change so drastically in the last few years. The protests against LDS members in California are disheartening to say the least, but we have to remember that a vote is an opportunity to give your opinion, and everyone is entitled to one. Comparing lifestyle and behavior to skin color is disrespectful to those who’ve suffered centuries of hatred and bigotry simply because of their family tree. The experience of this LA Detective is insightful.

The Economy is all Bush’s Fault! I Think?

Let me first say I don’t enjoy defending Bush. But it’s important that people understand where problems begin. Plenty of problems have been caused by this administration and I believe most of them can be categorized under an umbrella of hubris and all its fruits, including the loss of hegemony . But to say that the economy is the result of Republican leadership is frustrating. I’ve always understood that it takes time to see the effects of legislation that influences the economy. I came across this insightful article on how Clinton pushed for mortgages to be made available to people with poor credit. There are so many elements to the credit crisis I don’t think any educated person would dare place blame on any one person or factor.

There Were Only Free Men and Slaves

In the middle of a crazy war where everyone has an opinion about its validity, I found some insight from the words of Michael Shaara in his book, The Killer Angels, about the battle at Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s thoughts according to Shaara (p. 27):

This was the first place on earth where the man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and it would spread eventually over all the earth. But it had begun here. The fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean earth was appalling, but more even than that was the horror of old Europe, the curse of nobility, which the South was transplanting to new soil. They were forming a new aristocracy, a new breed of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it. But he was fighting for the dignity of man and in that way he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all these former Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as foreigner; there were only free men and slaves. And so it was not even patriotism but a new faith. The Frenchman may fight for France, but the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land.

In an era when people forget that freedom started in America, it’s important to remember the blood spilled for us. That courageous blood was spilled not just for a free America, but for a “new faith” that spread throughout the world.

Religious Nutjobs

It’s increasingly difficult to vote for those with conservative values when there are very few people who represent them well. I read a NY Post article, Why Our Elites Fear Faith, about Washington’s problem with Sarah Palin’s faith:

Such a woman wouldn’t fit in Washington (nor would a man of equal faith). In the DC area (where I live), plenty of government-affiliated men and women regularly attend a church or synagogue. But their appearances are perfunctory and well-mannered. Passionate faith is regarded as an embarrassment.

So, even though Sarah Palin isn’t someone I would choose to vote for (it always seems to be the lesser of the evils), I find myself increasingly astonished at how out of touch America is with those of us who are still religious. An example of that is found in this article by Matt Taibbi in the Rolling Stone where he talks about how Huckabee is a cool guy, but still a “nutjob”: “The troubling thing about Huckabee’s God rhetoric is that a man who is glad that Christians will “win” at Armageddon must be happy about the rest of us losing.”

Speaking from the perspective of a Christian who still believes in Armageddon, I don’t think anyone will be happy when others lose. A true Christian wants everyone to be happy, but knows that happiness only comes through righteous living. We urge others to choose good over evil but we don’t force anyone. And, despite what other people might say, we don’t even force our opinion on people. If you don’t want to read what I write, click away. If I’m saying something you’re not interested in, change the subject. Mormons may be guilty of a lot of things, but you’ll never find a time in our history when we’ve attempted to force our faith on others. Elder Maxwell explains that well in his talk on Patience.

My brothers and sisters, the longer I examine the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I understand that the Lord’s commitment to free agency is very deep—indeed, much deeper than is our own. The more I live, the more I also sense how exquisite is His perfect love of us. It is, in fact, the very interplay of God’s everlasting commitment to free agency and His everlasting and perfect love for us which inevitably places a high premium upon the virtue of patience. There is simply no other way for true growth to occur.

So while I may want to force others to see my perspective, to feel what I feel, or to hope the same future I hope for, that would be exactly contrary to what I believe God’s plan is all about. My salvation will be worked out through obedience and faith in Jesus Christ despite what others choose, what others say about me, and what direction the world is headed. I know in the end God will win and greed, violence, hatred, terror, selfishness, and all other evils will lose. Since the world embodies these traits, James tells us, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

According to my view of religion, I am commanded to love my neighbor. I don’t choose who to love, either, because Christ tells us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40). The difference between the fanatics who are blowing up buildings and the passionate faithful who are choosing to follow the teachings of Christ is whether they think they can decide who should be loved and who should be killed. That’s the very reason why the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were so un-Christian.

So, call me a nutjob but don’t confuse with me the nutjobs who will kill people. As I said in a forum on wired.com:

And thus the faith (irrationality) vs. science (rationality) argument lives on.

You go on calling me irrational until one day, you become the extremist who wants to rid the world of all those who might possibly become an extremist by believing in something beyond what can be proven. By wanting to remove the threat, you become the threat.

The only Christian who becomes an extremist is one who, as George Sanayana put it (paraphrased), redoubles their effort when they forget their aim.

The aim of any Christian is to love God and their neighbor. I may not agree with you, but I don’t hate you. I also won’t accuse you of not using your brain. I appreciate the challenge to have faith in something beyond.

So, if Washington doesn’t appreciate the passionately faithful, they must think of religion more as a philosophy. And, if it’s a philosophy, then the government is accountable for carrying out good. Government can replace religion. Indeed, in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Gustav, Obama said:

All across America there are quiet storms taking place. There are lives of quiet desperation. People who need just a little bit of help. Now, Americans are a self-reliant people, we’re an independent people. We don’t like asking somebody else to do what we can do ourselves but you know what we understand is that every once in a while somebody’s going to get knocked down. Every once in a while somebody’s going to go through some hard times. When we least expect it tragedy may strike. And what has always made this country great is the understanding that we rise and fall as one nation, that values and family, community and neighborhood, they have to express themselves in our government. Those are national values. Those are values that we all subscribe to. And so that the spirit that we extend today and in the days to come as we monitor what happens on the Gulf that’s the spirit that we’ve got to carry with us each and every day. That’s the spirit that we need in our own homes and it’s the spirit that we need in the White House. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America.

Because if there’s a poor child out there, that’s my child. If there’s a senior that’s having trouble, that’s my grandparent. If there’s a guy who’s lost his job, that’s my brother. If there’s a woman out there without healthcare, that’s my sister. Those are the values that built this country. Those are the values we are fighting for.

Obama’s comments are very appealing. It’s almost Christ-like. I want a president who views the American people as brothers and sisters and cares for us. However, with socialism as with communism, government is the new God. That’s why I am turned off by Obama. The more candidates push government to replace God, the more wary I become. In fact, if government declares that a woman without healthcare is my sister and forces me to support her through (coercive) redistribution of wealth, then government is taking away freedom of choice. I believe in the words of the prophet Nephi, that men are free to choose liberty (helping others) or death (selfishness). Please don’t take away my liberty to serve and support others. I have no desire to take away people’s liberty to call me a nutjob.