Leave Newtown in peace for anniversary of shooting

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A house in Newtown, Conn.

The residents of Newtown, Conn.  – whose lives were violently disrupted by a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary last year on Dec. 14 – have asked media to leave them alone this year. No breathless “one year ago today!” stories while standing right where it happened, no interviewing any residents about their grieving process, no emotion-laden features with haunting music. Nobody in this country needs any treacly, heart-wrenching reminders of what they will never forget … and if you absolutely must produce them, there’s no need to go to Newtown to do it.

Reporters, editors and TV producers: Please, out of human decency, respect the townspeople’s wishes. There is no news in Newtown you need to go there to find. I can practically write the predictable one-year-shooting-anniversary stories myself without interviewing anybody. “This Newtown native is still trying to forget, or at least leave in the past, what happened a year ago today, just two blocks from her house. Reminders of the deadly massacre crop up every time she leaves her home. In a town where everyone knows each other, grief rears its dark head every day.”

If you must, take pictures of any “media go away” signs, and then turn your cars around and go find a different story.

Happily, CNN, USA Today and several local TV stations have said they won’t send reporters to Newtown. Let’s hope other media outlets, large or small, have the courage to stay away too.

Equity, not equality, should be the goal

Mind_the_income_gapWhat’s so great about being equal? If we all lived equally but in medieval conditions, would that be better than some of us stuck in, say, 1950s living conditions but others living the 21st-century dream? Wouldn’t we all be better off if each of us were better off, even if not by equal amounts?

And how do we objectively measure equality in a subjective world? My definitions of success, happiness and fulfillment are bound to be different than yours. We have different economic, career, family, and spiritual goals and aspirations. How can someone arbitrarily take just our relative wealth and income to define whether we’re equally happy or successful? Study after study has shown that trust fund babies and lottery winners are some of the unhappiest people in the world. Do we want everyone equal to them?

And what about our different talents and abilities? I’ll never be a child actor or NBA All-Star because I, thankfully, didn’t have Honey Boo Boo’s mom and couldn’t sink a bucket in a barrel of water. Have I been treated unequally because of those outcomes?

So let’s put aside this idea that we can all be equal and agree instead that what we have is a right to equity. We have a right to be treated equally under a fair and consistent set of rules, but not a right to equal outcomes.

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‘Fruitful fields and healthful skies’

Giving_ThanksDuring this Thanksgiving season, particular thanks should be extended to Sarah J. Hale, “editress” (as she called herself) of the Lady’s Book and the reason we have a national day of thanksgiving today.

Hale worked for 15 years placing “papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories — also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen — and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval.”

Yet she felt a national statement from President Lincoln would greatly aid and accelerate “the great Union Festival of America.” So, in late September of 1863, Hale wrote to Lincoln to request he make what had become a regional celebration into a national day of thanksgiving, to be held, as she suggested, annually on the fourth Thursday of November.

A week later, Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (see the original three-page document here, here and here).

Written by William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, and approved by Lincoln, the proclamation is particularly notable for its gratitude and praise to the “Most High God” for the country’s blessings. Below is the entire proclamation, with the original grammar, but divided into paragraphs for ease of reading.

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

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Another death on Nov. 22, 1963: Remembering C.S. Lewis

Photo: Bob Embleton

Plaque at the Unicorn Inn, Malvern, England. Photo by Bob Embleton.

Many remember well where we were on that day draped in melancholy memory when the terrible news radiated out of Dallas. Followed by nonstop news coverage: Dealey Plaza, horrific footage, the killer murdered on Sunday-morning live television, a bereaved widow and family, lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, funeral, horse-drawn caisson, bagpipes, taps. Tragic for many reasons, not least the cutting short of a life with potential to be truly exceptional in terms of constructive influence on the lives of others.

In contrast, the mortal life of C.S. Lewis – though it ended that same morning – continues to illuminate and edify the lives of readers of his brilliant writing.

Classic snippets include:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.

Among personal favorite C.S. Lewis quotes and the one for which I most frequently see relevance and application:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

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Gettysburg Address: not so silly after all

Lincoln_recolouredThe Patriot-News, a newspaper in central Pennsylvania, printed an amusing retraction of its ancestor’s original, uncomplimentary, review of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.” …

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,” deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

Or perhaps the paper mistook quantity for quality, as oratory of mind-numbing length was apparently par for the course at the time. (Edward Everett, who was the featured orator at the Gettysburg dedication, spoke for two hours, followed by Lincoln, who spoke for about two minutes.)

The Gettysburg Address has stood the test of time – 150 years today, to be exact. Here it is, in its complete (and brief) majesty:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

Finally, candor from both S.L. newspapers

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Salt_Lake_TribuneIn one of his first editorials since taking the helm at The Salt Lake Tribune, Terry Orme sets his leadership with a piece titled “Tribune is the independent source for news of LDS Church.”

He begins his editorial thusly,

The Salt Lake Tribune was founded by excommunicated converts to the Mormon church. … Over 147 years, The Tribune has evolved from a newspaper that could be rabidly anti-Mormon to a reliable and respected source of news about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I met the former editor only once but got to know another editor, Vern Anderson, a bit better – I like them both and am grateful that Vern was always open to running anything I wrote. Frankly, we knew my stuff provided good copy for the Tribune faithful. For my part, I’m a war-time general and need enemies and the Tribune faithful are pretty much the stereotype enemy – secular, liberal, rabidly anti-Mormon and irrational supporters of Big Government. And even if they’re none of those things at any given point in time, they’ve always been whatever I’m not (for good and bad).

I appreciate the new editor’s candor in revealing his motives even if I can challenge the virtue of his cause. Yes, the Tribune always has been anti-Mormon but, no, I don’t think it’s a “respected source” for much anything Mormon. On the one hand, I feel sincerely sorry for so many people in the Tribune camp who are disaffected and disillusioned former Latter-day Saints. Heaven knows any community of faith, comprised of fallen human beings, are prone to show weaknesses as much as strengths and there are more than enough opportunities to offend.

But, on the other hand, some folks simply choose to be offended. When you’re looking for an excuse, any excuse will do. Though natural and unsurprising for the Tribune, I still take umbrage that a corporation, and one that claims to be home to real journalists, coalesces around institutional bitterness. The Tribune is filled with great people and good journalists. It’s too bad that a news group “intent on giving voice to the minority of nonmembers” often must do so at the expense of the majority.

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Big shoes to fill, for sure – and capable new feet

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Spencer J. Cox

Concluding speculation about who Governor Gary Herbert would choose to replace Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, on Tuesday, the governor introduced Spencer J. Cox as his choice. Currently serving as a member of the Utah House, Mr. Cox was elected in 2012 to represent citizens living in Sanpete and Juab Counties. Well-respected by his colleagues in the Legislature, Rep. Cox was described by Gov. Herbert as fulfilling criteria he had established for those he would consider for the position:

  • Experience and success in elective office
  • Ability to work with the Legislature
  • Integrity demonstrated in a variety of settings
  • Involvement in the private sector that equips with the understanding of what is required to create jobs; that the government’s role is somewhat limited
  • Fresh perspectives that complement the governor’s own views and characteristics
  • A good “team fit” to function well in the governor’s office
  • Solid work ethic

Rep. Cox impressively satisfies these particulars.

Notwithstanding Rep. Cox’s relatively brief term of service as a freshman member of the Utah House, he brings a notable record of public service to this new role – the significance and constructive impact of which has been underscored by the outstanding service of departing Lt. Gov. Bell.

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Let’s have a dialogue about unreliable climate change models

darkcloudsThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

One of the things we try to do at Sutherland Institute is encourage an honest dialogue. Opinions are often a part of that dialogue, but as Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, while we can each have our own opinions, we can’t have our own set of facts. Watching the latest news from the global warming debate reminds me of that as we continue to see people passing opinion off as fact and ignoring facts when they’re inconvenient to their opinions.

Those facts don’t seem to be going the global warmist way right now. Here are a few examples: The Arctic ice cap, which was predicted as late as 2007 to be melted by now, already increased in size by 60 percent this year – and that’s before the winter freeze sets in. Also, as the summer comes to a close, the U.S. has experienced the fewest 100-plus degree days in a century. And to cap it off, even the most ardent global warming alarmists now have to admit that, despite the unanimously dire predictions of their models, the earth’s temperatures have not risen a lick in the past 16 years. Which brings up the real question: Why does anyone still believe those models?

Look, I’m not a climate scientist so I’m not going to declare that I know with 100 percent certainty that anthropogenic global warming theories are merely a way for those with a central planning bent to get their hooks into our wallets and their ideas into our policy decisions. But I can tell you that their predictions are not coming true, and so their arguments, and the science upon which those arguments are made, merit questioning in an honest dialogue. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Global warming alarmists are playing a different riff on that tune by doing the same thing over and over and ignoring the results.

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Win BYU, Utah, Utah St. and Weber St. football tickets!

University of Utah stadiumIt’s a “Freedom and Football Frenzy”!

Sutherland Institute’s Utah Citizen Network is giving away 16 tickets to eight college football games featuring BYU, Utah, Utah State and Weber State.

This week’s giveaway is a pair of tickets to see Utah State at the University of Utah on Aug. 29. To enter, click here and follow the instructions.

Good luck and stay tuned as we give more tickets away over the next couple months!

Models of climate-change costs are ‘completely made up,’ MIT economist says

Sun_in_X-RayDon’t just be skeptical of climate change models. Be skeptical of the predicted costs of climate change, too.

Recently, I wrote a post arguing that observed temperature data support skepticism of the climate change models that many on the left use to prophecy an impending climate Armageddon.

Evidently, that same scientific skepticism should be applied to models that claim to estimate the economic and social costs of climate change, as well.

The National Bureau of Economic Research recently published an analysis of these models by an economist at MIT. In short, the paper eviscerated the various models to estimate the social and economic damage of climate change, arguing that “these models have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis.”

The author further finds the models’ descriptions of climate change impacts have “no theoretical or empirical foundation” and points out that they “tell us nothing about the most important driver” of social costs of climate change, which is the likelihood of a catastrophic climate outcome (in terms of social impact, not temperature change).

He concludes that these models “create a perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading.”

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