Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Italian Gardener

Thanks to James Ritchie for sharing - it's an oldie, but still a goodie:

An old Italian gentleman lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: 

Dear Vincent, 
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days. 

A few days later he received a letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. 

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances. 
Love you, 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Speechless. . . and Clueless

I don't know how many people have noticed, but I'm getting this question a lot recently: "Why haven't you been writing about this election?" A close second in popularity is: "Who are you voting for?" Forgive my rant, but I will lay it all out.

In answer to the first, my response has been, "This election leaves me speechless." And it's true. What do you say that hasn't already been said? The two major political parties have been through a bruising primary season, eventually settling for their respective nominees on the two candidates with the highest negatives in terms of popularity in modern history. Right now, I am conflicted.

Which leads me to the answer to the second question. Ask me in November who I'm voting for, because right now I haven't got a clue. The electorate is woefully fragmented. The hashtags #nevertrump, #neverhillary are everywhere. As never before, this election looms as a vote AGAINST someone, rather than FOR someone. I talk to people every day who say they will NEVER vote for Trump and NEVER vote for Hillary. One thing is clear - they are both loathed in record numbers, and apparently loved by enough to grab their respective parties' nominations. Mind-numbing, right?

You Be The Judge, Make Your Choice - November Looms

On the one hand, we have a serial adulterer, working on wife number three, the owner of hotels, golf courses, casinos, escort services, a multi-billionaire with really bad hair who has built an empire on the foundation of his father's fortune, and a newcomer to the political scene who changes policy positions like you and I change our socks in the morning.

His demise has been predicted repeatedly for over a year because he has violated every pundit's political playbook of rules multiple times.

He's managed to offend nearly every ethnic group in America on a "platform" of building a wall on the Southern border, excluding Muslims from immigrating to America, and then touting a long list of populist conservative agenda items sufficient to win over Sean Hannity, among others. And by the way, Fox News is nearly unwatchable now. He played "bimbo" Megyn Kelly like a fiddle.

He personally attacked each Republican candidate along the way. His rhetoric against them was over the top. And everyone ate up his politics of personal destruction. Apparently, while we denounce bullies publicly, we embrace a "tough guy" with our votes. In the Utah primary, I voted for loser John Kasich, the obvious "protest" vote I could find against Trump and Cruz.

Despite the deep divisions within the party, Trump went on to secure the requisite number of delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot at the upcoming Republican convention.

Give him this - he has succeeded in a tough New York real estate business where few do. Were there ethics violations involved? Probably. Were bankruptcies the result in some cases? Who cares?

Despite Mitt Romney's protestations to attempt to wreck his chances, he has survived even the most blistering attacks from inside his own party. Romney called him "a fraud," "a con man," and worse. It  didn't matter in the least. Take a principled stand against Trump and he gains strength.

His reckless abandon in making his spontaneous and seemingly irresponsible comments is somehow appealing to the voters who have stoutly supported him and rejected every one of his opponents from among what appeared at the outset to be the strongest field ever assembled on the Republican side. Now as they coalesce around him, it seems beating Hillary is enough to unite the majority at any cost.

On the other side, we have a serial politician, dishonest lawyer, driven by power, greed and amassing a fortune based upon trading influence for contributions to a specious "foundation." The list of donors and their contributions to the Clinton Foundation and the favors obtained in exchange will be fully documented before November. Who cares?

She's the wife of an inveterate and skilled politician who enabled her husband's sexual exploits, then mercilessly berated and publicly humiliated all his accusers. Some voters in this election cycle are simply too young to remember. They will get a list of particulars from her opponent, no doubt. But will anyone really care?

The list of her political scandals is as long as a career criminal's rap sheet, spanning a period of well over forty years. She makes Ronald Reagan's "Teflon" moniker laughable. Reagan was around when character mattered, and his character was so well-documented nothing seemed to stick that was critical. These days nothing critical seems to stick to the Clintons, even suspected criminal activity. In that sense she and Trump have a lot in common.

Her record is clear, and her self-inflicted e-mail server debacle of handling sensitive classified documents while she was serving as Secretary of State under the Obama administration is only the latest in that long line of scandals. Is she guilty of felonies? Who knows? What she is guilty of is poor judgment on a host of issues. And setting all that aside, this qualifies her to serve? Go figure.

Somehow, her supporters have looked the other way in their enthusiasm for her candidacy. When pressed to name even one substantive accomplishment of this woman, those who are interviewed are routinely stumped by the question.

She has been opposed by only one seemingly weak candidate - an over-the-hill and underwhelming self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist whose honesty creds are at least legit, who prolonged the primary contests to the very last voter, even longer than it took Trump to vanquish the large Republican field. And what has been his platform? That Hillary Clinton wasn't liberal enough, not socialist enough, not progressive enough.

And finally, after setting aside his bruising and prolonged opposition, Clinton has enough votes for delegates, "super" or otherwise, to become the first woman from a major party to win her party's nomination. Being the first woman in politics may be her only achievement, but it is sufficient, it seems, in the minds of many.

And, Trump-like, that accomplishment in a tough game of politics may in fact be an achievement. If an upstart Senator from Illinois can win two terms in the White House, why not her? Why not Trump? There are many who love the narrative of the first black POTUS followed by the first woman POTUS, qualifications for the job notwithstanding. Elections have turned on less. Whose resume was thinner than Obama's?

Morality, it would seem, has taken a permanent holiday in American politics. If making America great again were to include a return to morality, I would be on board with it. However, the American psyche, it would seem, now favors looking for a departure from the politics of the past at almost any price. Bernie Sanders has made outrageous proposals for socialism on steroids. Give him points for sincerity and honesty. You can judge for yourself if he's credible. However, the fuzzy math associated with how to pay for it all is mind-boggling, and yet his appeal even here in redder-than-red Utah is stunning. He turned out BY FAR the largest crowds for his rallies of any and all competitors in Utah.

One has to suspend all reason and all rational thought to suppose that his foolishness in American politics is sustainable to any degree. We are living on borrowed money, and yet there is no serious debate any more about a balanced budget. Both political parties are spending us into oblivion. Does anyone believe either Trump or Clinton will curb the spending? They aren't even talking about it. The military leaders are warning that our national debt is our biggest security threat. Oh really? You don't hear politicians echoing that warning at all. They can't even agree on whether the attack last week in Orlando on defenseless gays and lesbians that killed 49 innocents in a bar was carried out by a "radical Islam" adherent or a "deranged madman." Are we at war with the Islamic State that has sworn to destroy America, or is what happened in Orlando merely a police matter?

The sad reality for me is that we have brought our current state upon ourselves, and we have no one else to blame.

Both Sanders and Trump have struck a raw nerve of discontent that has overthrown all the conventional wisdom traditionally ascribed to politics. All the enthusiasm in this cycle has been for Trump and Sanders. Trump logged more votes in the Republican primary season than anyone in history! No small feat. He claims that's because he's added Independents and Reagan Democrats to the mix. How or if that will translate into a win in November remains to be seen.

If I take my cues from the prophetic Book of Mormon, I would not be remiss in sizing up this election as unfathomable. Likening the years preceding the coming of our resurrected Lord among the Nephites on this continent to our day, there are ample precedents to suggest things are going to get a lot worse than better. Begin your reading in Helaman 1 through 3 Nephi 9. Consider these chilling insights:

. . . they did destroy the government of the land. . .  and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan. And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combinations of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets. (3 Nephi 7:2; 5-6).

There are many ways to murder the prophets without killing them outright. One of the most effective is to simply ignore their warnings. Few people I know outside the Church care much about the contents of the Book of Mormon, nor the prophets, ancient and modern, who have given specific counsel about the days in which we live.

I've abandoned all hope of coming up with a palatable scenario to my liking at this point, and remain simply speechless and clueless about how all this turns out in November.