David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Accumulated Thoughts

On the Importance of Being Trivial. Things We'll Never Read. Doubly Cool. Watch Massachusetts on Tuesday. Thinking Democrats. What Do the Numbers Mean?

On the Importance of Being Trivial

On an arbitrary scale from zero to five, where 0 is American Idol and 0.5 is the National Hockey League, and 5.0 is God, family, and the basic survival and freedom of my country, I rate the intrinsic importance of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's foolish, race-related statements about (now-) President Barack Obama during last year's campaign at about 1.0 -- about the same as Washington's hand-wringing over the BCS. Its political significance may prove to be greater -- which is more a measure of perception than intrinsic reality -- but I'd just as soon we debated the real damage Reid and his partisans are doing to our economy, our freedom, and some other essential things, by virtue of their offices. Let's start with soaring debts and deficits, assuming control of large sectors of the economy, legislating in the dark, packing important bills full of pork even in lean times, and making our political discourse more Orwellian by the day. In that context, a careless, offhanded comment during the campaign barely twitches the needle on the importance meter.

Things We'll Never Read

One problem with most stories like the probably-manufactured scandal which threw Highland's 2009 mayoral election (see this Deseret News article for a relatively recent account) is that there will never be an serious, relatively objective, non-partisan investigation, followed by a detailed, public revelation of the truth. We will never know who did and didn't do what; how much of it was actually wrong, legally or morally; and what was just spin, either by opponents or the media. I'm not sure that's a problem with politics. It may be a problem with journalism, which seems content to report what everyone says, usually without doing the research and mustering the courage necessary to evaluate the truth and falsehood of what people are saying.

I'm not suggesting that all accusations or scandals are manufactured, but some of them are. One wonders how many potentially great leaders simply want nothing to do with our political process because in many cases both campaigning and serving in office leave oneself and one's family partially defenseless forevermore against people whose agenda elevates something else above truth.

Doubly Cool

I would not insist that record cold and snowfalls across the nation are evidence that global warming is simply not happening. (Besides that, the important question is whether climate change is principally anthropogenic -- human-caused -- not whether it's happening.) A fine scientist I know once observed that anecdote is not the singular form of data. In that spirit, one hard winter is more of an anecdote. But this winter's exceptional weather still warms my political heart even while it chills everything else. And this just in: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is warning of global cooling.

Think about it. If we're cooling now, as actual data since 1998 seem to suggest, and if carbon dioxide is the powerful agent of climate change that partisans claim it is, don't we now need more carbon emissions, not less? I hope you're not invested heavily in carbon credits.

Watch Massachusetts on Tuesday

Next Tuesday is a big day. A very interesting special election is brewing in Massachusetts to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. (An appointed Democrat has filled the seat in the interim.) Democrats outnumber Republicans three-to-one, but the polls say this one's too close to call. Here Jeff Jacoby describes the close race between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown. If Brown wins -- and unless and until another Senate Republican jumps ship -- the Democrats' filibuster-proof Senate majority will be broken. That will be good for the country. At least, it had better be. By itself, the fact that this race is even competitive in Massachusetts, of all places, should encourage those of us who are somewhere to the right of the Left.

Thinking Democrats

A person in any political party who brings to bear more gray matter than adrenaline, animal cunning, or tribal loyalty is an asset to be treasured by us all. Here are two of them, both Democrats with a radical idea: Instead of embracing the destructive spin on Sarah Palin, try actually reading her book. Orson Scott Card doesn't agree with her views in every respect, but doesn't find to her be an airhead, either. And he refers us to a New York Times review by Stanley Fish, who also cuts admirably through the hype to reach the substance.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

You have probably heard the news stories lately about that study which found Mormons to be the most politically conservative religious group in America. I'm not suggesting you should be surprised. But if you just caught the story on the radio or television news, it may have left you with the same question it left me: Does this mean that more Mormons are conservative, or that Mormons are more conservative? See the difference?

According to Gallup's own story, the answer is: both of the above. When people self-identify as liberal, moderate, or conservative, 59 percent of Mormons choose conservative (by far the highest), and 8 percent choose liberal (the lowest). On a broader spectrum, which adds "very conservative" and "very liberal," Mormons have the highest "very conservative number, 16 percent, and the lowest "very liberal" number, 1 percent.

What the study doesn't do for us is separate Protestant churchs. It's entirely possible that if Baptists were measured separately from Lutherans and Episcopalians, for example, the results would be different.

Gallup offers two additional points of interest. The numbers are nearly identical for Mormons in and out of Utah. And "lapsed" Mormons track very closely with the general public in these matters; the clear differences are in the "active" Mormons.

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