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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
August 30, 2012

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.

Republicans, Circumcision, Navaho Cuisine

After Ann Romney's speech at the Republican convention, commentators fell all over themselves with awe at both its content and presentation.

She's not an experienced speaker like her politician husband, they said. How did she know how to give this good a speech, this well?

My wife just had to laugh. "Not an experienced speaker?" she said. And I laughed, too. Because Ann Romney is a Mormon woman, and with only a few self-chosen exceptions, Mormon women give speeches -- powerful, emotional speeches -- all the time.

Outsiders sometimes criticize the Mormon Church because women don't have the priesthood. What they don't understand is that Mormon women, like Mormon men, are all ministers and teachers, rotating in and out of various offices, in which they are expected to give ten- or fifteen-minute talks in front of large groups, or forty-minute lessons to smaller ones.

Every week of the year, Mormon women are giving speeches. And they're not the same speech over and over, the way politicians pound their stump speech during campaigns. Every single talk or lesson is different.

They write their talks themselves. Then they adapt their speeches on the fly, depending on the response of the audience or what comes to mind in the moment.

Ann Romney has probably written and given more different talks in her life than the entire U.S. Senate combined.

Yet experience is not why her talk was so powerful. She blew the audience away because she meant it. Every word she said was true, and the audience knew it. Yes, she calculated her speech for maximum impact -- she's no stranger to the art of rhetoric.

But she wasn't trying to build a fake image or play to what the polls told her people wanted to hear.

Unlike Barack Obama, who hasn't had a real conversation with a regular working person in a decade, Ann Romney meets ordinary people all the time, and talks to them heart to heart, and listens when they talk to her -- because that's what Mormon ministers (i.e., all of us) do.

So when Ann Romney wanted to give a talk that spoke to the concerns of ordinary people in America, she wasn't sucking up to strangers she usually sneers at for turning to "guns and religion," the way Barack Obama does.

Her family's money hasn't shielded her from ever meeting people who are middle class or even poor; Mormon congregations are geographical, not self-selected by social class. So she deals with people of every social class on Sundays -- and any other day of the week when someone needs her help.

She has worked side by side with people of every educational level and every income level and every social background; the only thing bringing them together was shared faith and a willingness to serve.

So we Mormons who listened to her speech were proud of her, yes -- but we were not surprised that she could speak that well and that powerfully.

Mormon women are giving talks like that all the time, in congregations around the world. She rehearsed hers a little more, no doubt, because it was such a special occasion. And it's likely that professional speechwriters helped her reshape a phrase or two.

But maybe not. Because I've heard talks every bit as polished and well-phrased from Mormon pulpits or the front of Mormon classrooms, by women -- and men -- with less education and far less money than Ann Romney. She did a good job. But she has spent her whole life learning how to do it.


I'm not a Republican, and there were lots of things in the Republican Convention that reminded me why I became a Democrat in 1976.

But in this year of continuing economic decline -- a decline that at this point is almost entirely caused by government "remedies," just like the Depression of the 1930s -- the contrast between the candidates could not be more clear.

Romney and Ryan stand for making the tough, grown-up choices and fixing broken government programs, so that the safety net will actually be there when today's young people need it -- without taking it away from those now depending on it.

They stand for creating a climate in which people can -- by their own choices and their own work -- raise themselves and their families to ever-higher levels of achievement.

Obama stands for keeping certain groups in permanent victimhood, so they will always feel entitled to take what they "deserve" from others.

Here's the choice: Let's say you make ten thousand dollars a year less than your family really needs. Life is a constant scramble of trying to find extra work, of doing without things, shopping for bargains, borrowing and scrimping. You don't know how you'll be able to get your kids through high school, let alone get them into college.

Here come Romney and Ryan, and they promise that they'll create an economic climate in which you have a decent chance to get a better job, or at least earn the extra money you need; you'll get raises, and in three years you'll have that additional ten thousand a year.

But other people will probably make fantastically more money than you. You'll get enough, more than enough -- but a few other people will get ridiculously rich.

Next, Obama and Biden show up and, from their track record, you know that in three more years, you'll probably be making a little less than you are now -- but at least you can chop those rich people down to size, so that nobody is making enough.

In fact, that's why you can't make more money -- because the economy is shrinking as "excess" money is taken away from the "greedy" people whose "selfish" spending fuels the whole economic jalopy.

Your life will be even harder -- but at least the rich won't be so rich, either. (Unless they happen to be really good friends with Obama or his buddies, but the press won't tell you about them.)

In other words, Romney and Ryan promise you the Politics of Prosperity -- as long as you work hard to try to improve your own situation.

While Obama and Biden promise you the Politics of Spite -- you won't prosper, but at least the people who have more than you do will be cut down to size.

Which would you rather have in the Olympics of life? A decent chance to run your own race? Or the "satisfaction" of seeing the people who are ahead of you in the race get tripped up or shoved out of bounds?

Prosperity or Spite -- that's the choice this November.

Unfortunately, a Republican victory will bring a lot of other Republican nonsense into play as well. But we've had the Democratic nonsense for the past three-and-a-half years, and frankly, I'm not impressed.


You may not be aware of this, but in the ongoing Stupid War over Circumcision (whether to circumcise or leave "natural" the penises of babies), a German judge declared -- without any serious legal justification -- that it was cruel and illegal for parents to perform such a surgery on babies who could not choose for themselves.

The "justification" was that, based on the propaganda of the anti-circumcisers, circumcision is certainly unbeneficial and quite possibly harmful. No religious exception for Jews and Muslims was allowed for.

Already a rabbi in Bavaria (southern Germany) has been arrested for performing the ceremony of circumcision at eight days of age (brit milah), and several European hospitals refuse to perform the surgery at all.

This takes place in a climate of vicious anti-Semitism throughout Europe, with hatred of Jews running rampant -- even ahead of hatred of Muslims, despite the fact that Jews have carried out no acts of terrorism against civilians.

Even in America, as the Stupid War goes on, Medicaid programs in several states have stopped paying for the routine circumcision of infants. And in San Francisco, the epicenter of American "liberal" anti-religious hate, there was a serious attempt to get a ban on circumcision on the ballot last year.

As if in reply to this, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced last Monday that new research indicates that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.

This is not decisive -- circumcision should not be mandatory, any more than it should be forbidden. It's up to the family, as it should always be in a free country.

Circumcision is a matter of religious faith and practice for Jews and Muslims, but, unlike so-called "female circumcision," which confers no benefits whatever and causes severe damage to quality of life in every case, male circumcision can also be recommended for health reasons.

And hygiene, too. We circumcised males can go our whole lives without ever having to learn what smegma is, let alone how to wash it away.

Studies in Africa have shown that circumcision is also related to protecting heterosexual men against HIV, which is a grave health problem among heterosexual and homosexual populations in Africa.

"Intact America," the anti-circumcision group, likes to liken the male foreskin to the female parts that are removed in the barbaric "female circumcision." But the foreskin is not linked to sexual pleasure, and removing it causes no detectable harm or loss. That's why I call it a "stupid war." Absolutely nothing is at stake -- except individual and family choices.

Why do the procedure with babies? Because babies don't remember the pain of the surgery -- which, you'll remember, was performed for thousands of years without any kind of anesthesia or antisepsis.

In fact, you can regard that as proof of the utter harmlessness of the procedure: Even before antiseptics, Jews and Muslims were not losing their boy babies to infections from circumcision.

Enough, already. The pediatricians, looking at the actual science (unlike so many ideological "scientists" today, who utterly ignore actual data), made it clear that there should be no war over such a complete non-issue. Benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, but not by so much that it should be mandatory. And to ban it on supposed medical grounds is absurd.

Which leaves the anti-circumcision forces in Europe exposed for the anti-semites that they are. And it's time for Intact America to tone down their inflammatory and false rhetoric -- male circumcision has no similarities to female circumcision. The latter should be illegal everywhere, period. The former is a matter for people to decide without the law taking sides at all.


The other night, my wife and I had supper at Black Sheep, a restaurant in downtown Provo, Utah, specializing in Navaho Tacos.

The tacos are made, not on tortillas, but on Navaho fry bread, which is delicious. Use a knife and fork -- no way you can pick these up and eat them by hand.

The tacos come in three flavors: Navaho taco, which is pinto beans and other vegetables; Red Chili Beef and Green Chili Pork (their menu spells it "Chile," like the country, but I corrected it to "chili," the vegetable). All three are very good, though my wife and I both liked the pork best.

What blew us away, though, were the sides and appetizers. "Bleu-Fire shrimp," served on blue corn polenta, may be the best treatment of shrimp I've ever had. And I normally hate polenta -- but this was great. (Why they give "blue" a French spelling on the menu is beyond me. Is there a French/Navaho fusion going on here?)

I also hate squash -- but loved the way they spiced and cooked their grilled squash side dish. The sweet potato fries were the best I've had, anywhere, ever. And the "southwestern street corn" is the best-seasoned corn-on-the-cob I've had.

Not only is the food truly amazing, but the staff are all true believers. They're actually enthusiastic about the quality of the food they serve; they're eager to bring it to you.

The result is one of the best restaurant experiences you can get -- great service, great food, unusual one-of-a-kind experiences.

I'm not telling you that Black Sheep alone is worth the cost of a flight to Utah. But if for some reason you find yourself in Salt Lake City, it's worth driving the 45 miles to Provo (19 North University Avenue) to have an amazing lunch or dinner that you can't get anywhere else in the world.

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