Senator Orrin Hatch is Disgusting

First, let me get my prejudices out of the way.  I’m a liberal Democrat.

Recent events have not treated Senator Orrin Hatch well.  First, he praises President Trump as the “greatest President that he has served under.”  Someone had to remind him that the legislative branch is separate from the executive branch, and that he technically does not “serve” Trump (although he really does).

Next, Hatch joined Trump in support of Roy Moore, an alleged child molester, in his bid to be an Alabama senator.  His excuse:  The senate needs individuals who will support the current Republican (read Trump) agenda in Congress.  So no matter how disgusting Moore may be, Alabamans need to elect the Republican candidate.  For most thinking Americans, this logic doesn’t work.

On Monday, a fawning Hatch, acting as the President’s minion and frontman, came with Trump to Utah.  While in Utah, Trump endorsed Hatch’s potential re-election efforts.  Of course, POTUS had a good reason for doing so.  He is afraid of a Mitt Romney in the Senate.  Romney has been openly critical of Trump, both before and after the election, and particularly critical of candidate Moore.

Things really turned ugly for Hatch, when his Alabama buddies (and Trump surrogates) turned on Romney and the LDS Church declaring:

You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.

This left Mormon Hatch in a bind.  Of course, he had to defend his Church and Romney.  He called the attack “disappointing.”  Wow, that’s really telling them Senator.

The above chain of events, caused a former Hatch staffer to make the following observation about her former boss:

Hatch is right to feel uncomfortable about what his allies said. But he shouldn’t be surprised. When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

And I’m not even including Hatch’s close ties to the drug and supplement industries.  A connection that has made him personally very wealthy.  Or his recent glowing support of the recent tax cut for the rich.  Hatch has represented himself a lot better than he has represented Utah.

It is time for Hatch to retire back to Pennsylvania.  In fact, he should have moved back years ago.  He has embarrassed Utah and the LDS Church enough.

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Joseph Paul Vorst Exhibit at the LDS Church History Museum

The current exhibit at the LDS Church History Museum needs to be supported.  It presents the works of Joseph Paul Vorst (1897-1947):

Vorst presented sharecroppers, black laborers and farm families as destitute and downtrodden, but also ennobled by faith and resilience. In paint, ink and pencil, he depicted catastrophic mid-1930s flooding along the Mississippi, the Dust Bowl, the unemployed and the homeless of his time.

“Drought” by Joseph Paul Vorst

Vorst was a Mormon artist who created masterpieces and not an artist who created Mormon art, although his art does have a very distinct spiritual quality.

He was born in Germany, the seventh of 10 children. because he was born into poverty, he identified with the poor.  While Vorst’s works seldom were overtly religious, they consistently called upon Christian values, charity in particular.

However, social justice themes fell out of favor with the Nazis.  As Hitler consolidated power in Germany, Vorst, who had converted to Mormonism, fled to America in the 1930s.

For more about Joseph Paul Vorst read here.

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Misplaced Concern Over Playground Safety

The recently ran a headline that read:  “About 1,700 Utah elementary students injured yearly on school playgrounds, study says:  Over 3 years, enough students were injured annually to fill 24 school buses.”

Nothing in life is 100 percent safe.  And playgrounds perform a valuable function.  They provide students with important experiences in socialization and the physical activity is important to emotional and physical development.

If anything, I would argue that United States is perhaps making its playgrounds too safe.  School children need challenges.  They need to push themselves.

According to the Tribune article:

Most common activities leading to injuries were playing on bars, 26.5 percent; running, 23.5 percent; and walking, at 6 percent.

Really, running and walking constituted almost 30 percent of the injuries?  These would happen with or without playgrounds.

Old-time Slide and Swing Set

School playground equipment provides a valuable service for our elementary school students.  The Tribune should know better than try and sensationalize the issue of injuries.

Read more on the issue here.

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Homage to Allegedly “Dangerous” Playgrounds

According to website

If it seems like today’s kids have gotten “softer” compared to the kids decades ago, perhaps it’s because playgrounds have gotten softer as well.  Thanks to state laws and personal injury lawyers, the landscape of the typical playground has changed a lot over the years, making it a safer and more “educationally interactive” environment.  On the other hand, maybe those rough-and-tumble recreation areas of yesteryear served as an early life lesson that the world was a harsh and unforgiving place.

Old-fashioned Playground

According to a New York Times article, some researchers question the value of safety-first playgrounds.  Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries–and the evidence for that is debatable–the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.  “Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground”, said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway.  “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great.  As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with height and high speed.

15′-high Swing Set at Frenchglenn School Playground in Oregon

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Tribute to Primatologist Jane Goodall

By Ann Patchett (Time magazine genius issue)[1]

What if genius is knowing the thing you are meant to do in life, and then doing it without regard for the time it will take?  When Jane Goodall was a child in England, she knew she was meant for animals, for Africa.  She traveled to Kenya, met famed anthropologist Louis Leakey and was soon chosen to study the chimpanzees in Gombe.  Without a university education, or fear, she headed into the jungle with a notebook, sat atop a grassy knoll or climbed a tree, and waited.

Genius built on the ability to wait seems particularly female:  curiosity dovetailed with patience.  The chimps had rarely been studied long term in the wild; she gave them her limitless attention.  Much of her work was filmed, and when we see chimpanzees finally go to her with their own shy curiosity, it feels as if the walls between the wild and the tamed have fallen.

Having raised awareness to the essential task of conservation, the woman patient enough to be accepted by wild chimpanzees has now turned her gaze to the planet.  If anyone could save us, it would be her.


[1]  Time, Nov 27/Dec 6, 2017, p. 64

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Crazy Old-time Playground Climber (with Ladders)

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Largest Aspen “Clone” Ever Identified Is in Central Utah

A couple of years ago, my daughter, her children, and I visited a large aspen grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest.  According to Erin Alberty writing for

For 106 acres on the southwest bank of Fish Lake in Sevier County, a single root system unites this forest. Pando is the biggest aspen “clone” ever identified, the single most massive living organism known on Earth. Though little known in Utah, Pando has gained fame as a tourist destination and as a symbol of sustainability and interconnectedness. It is being researched, photographed, talked about.

My Grandchildren in the Pando Aspen Grove

So my family and I are not the only ones interested in the aspen grove; it has become somewhat of an international celebrity, with visitors from around the world making pilgrimages to central Utah.

Some feel that the aspen grove is an important religious symbol.  Episcopal priest Ed Bacon likes the aspen-human metaphor:

What we see appears to be a massive grove of thousands of individual trees, but what it is, in fact, is one single tree, genetically the same, sharing a single root system … and when any part of that organism needs nourishment, the other parts come to its aid.

My friends, in a Pando understanding of life … we are members of one another. We are all Pando. We are interdependent, interrelated members of the whole, with a capital W, who can never say, I have no need of you.”

Celebrated Process Theologian John B. Cobb Jr., as part of group visit organized by Pando Populus, traveled to Utah to walk the grove, meet locals and learn how to best save their beloved icon.

A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence Alfred North Whitehead describes as “”world-loyalty.”

For Cobb, Utah’s aspen grove exemplifies “ecological interdependence.”

Utah Aspen Grove in Fall Colors

Unfortunately, Pando is in trouble largely because of mule deer, elk, and cows nibbling on the young shoots:

The main culprit is mule deer. About 50 live in and near Pando and are ravenous by the time new shoots appear in June, says Jim Lamb, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

The clone’s mature and growing trees put energy into their massive, shared root system to form new sprouts. As old trees die and are not replaced, the canopy becomes more sparse, and the entire clone becomes less able to reproduce and thrive.

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