Thursday, June 23, 2005

What have France, New London and U.S. Eminent Domain law have to do with each other? Or...Why the U.S. is suddenly alot more like Zimbabwe

Lots. Today, the Supreme Court decided that governments may condemn privately owned land and transfer that land to another private party. Basically, you no longer own your own home. Am I being alarmist? Yes. But, then again, the farmers in Zimbabwe who have lost their land and seen their country turned from the brightest economic star in Africa into a pot of decay and poverty were probably seen as alarmist also. Since when is profit-making private re-development a "public use"? Only in Africa...

I plead with you to take action to get your state government to amend its state constitution to prohibit private takings now that the Supreme Court has surrendered the rights to our homes to anyone who can write out enough contribution checks to local government and come up with a fake "public purpose."

What has New London got to do with it? The case name. Kelo v. New London

The Court commented: "Those who govern the city [of New London] were not confronted with the need to remove blight..., but their determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference....Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."

Put in easy to understand language: Since the local government decided it was ok, and even though it wasn't taking the land for government purposes, since they had a good reason to do so, i.e. a private re-developer would bull-doze everything and put up more expense housing which would increase the tax base for the local government deciding it was's ok.

What has France got to do with it?

The principal dissent, by Justice O'Connor, was based around an axiom made popular by the short book "The Law" by Frederick Bastiat. Basically, that when government has power, people will try to seize control of government to get the government's power exercised in their behalf. Madison sought to diffuse this by creating competing factions who would fight and prevent this from happening. Sadly, at the local level, it is often the easiest to bribe/control the local government when you are dealing with a real estate developer with deep pockets.

In her words:

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded–i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public–in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property–and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

Money quote: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. '[T]hat alone is a just government,' wrote James Madison, “which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Pennsylvania Fundraising, and Mormons

So, what is the AZ Governor (Democrat) doing in a PA law firm talking about Mormons?

The answer is simple: Fundraising. Politicians, mainly Democrats, go to law firms for large political contributions. Republicans do the same thing; they just tend to go to groups other than law firms.

Anyway, today my firm hosted the AZ Governor. No clue what her takehome was, but here are a few interesting tidbits from the event:

1. She took a trip to SLC to meet the leaders of the LDS Church. Why? Someone on her staff is LDS, and she recognized that if she was going to be the governor of the State, she needed to understand the Mormons because they are a numerous and politically powerful minority. In her words, "Most of the leaders of the state legislature are Mormons." Hm...why are there no cries that the LDS Church runs AZ politics like there are in Utah? She shared in this in the context of answering how to reach out to "Values Voters." Of course, she then turned around and said she veteod parental consent for abortion laws, etc. Doesn't sound like she learned much in her trip to SLC if the purpose was to gain LDS votes.

Indian Games: Abramoff, Scandal or Business?

Let's talk about Indian (not Reindeer) Games.

Some folks are having a tizzy fit that some Washington Lobbyists charged 7.7 million for their services, and pocketed 6.5 million in profit, having only spent 1.2 million. To this, I say...

So what? Have you got something against the free market? Or are you just trying to smear folks who you think will bring political advantage to your side of the fence? Shame on the New York Times and those trying to make a scandal out of this. The answer lies in the free market, not scandal. You think your lobbyist is too expensive? Get another one. The Choctaws didn't have to hire Abramoff et al. And if the margins are really that great in the lobbying industry (i.e. a 500% return is pretty good after all), then maybe more folks should start lobbying businesses. Or maybe...government should have less power, so that there isn't such a large incentive to try and get the stick of government on your side.

Article exerpt:

In 2001 alone, the Choctaws paid $7.7 million to Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon for lobbying work. But the pair spent just $1.2 million on the designated projects, keeping the remaining $6.5 million for "gimme five" - themselves - according to the e-mail and witnesses.
The tribe ultimately paid Mr. Scanlon as much as $15 million, and he gave Mr. Abramoff $5 million in kickbacks, said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Senate committee. "Mr. Abramoff betrayed a longstanding client, betrayed his colleagues, betrayed his friend," Mr. McCain said.

Lyle's exerpt:

Typical McCain grandstanding. Mr. Abramoff didn't betray a client, he charged alot of money. So what. McCain does the same thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

After Action Review: Following, not crossing, Jordan

So, I guess I've started a trend. I asked for advice re: talks, and now over at BCC, they are trying to get folks to write their talks for them. Go figure.

Anyway, I followed both Jordan and RTs advice. Although, the true failure of the talk is all on me and inadequate preparation.

I didn't talk about fathers; except for holding up a small doll called "the perfect husband," who speaks 6-7 phrases like "We can watch whatever you want honey, here, have the remote." I played 3 of these phrases. Needless to say, my attempt at humor was only caught by a few. I guess sacrament isn't the place for stand-up; oh well.

The main points of the talk were thus:

1. Father's day has been commercialized like Christmas; and we should avoid giving Father's days gifts, esp. when they are purchased on Father's day at some special "sale". To emphasize my point, I even offered to sell copies of my doll after sacrament for those that had forgotten a gift.
2. That parents have a special responsibility to their children, because they are modeling diety to their children, who because of the veil, can't remember what our Heavenly Parents are like.

So, I did talk about Father's some; in the context that they didn't need gifts, I never wanted to get a tie on Father's day, and that parents who fail to provide their children with the right to a loving mother and father like they had in their heavenly home are going to be held accountable; per the PoF. Belated thanks to Kaimi for that point.

the joy of blogging...all can now comment

my thanks to Geoff J & Jonathan S. for helping me get my comments set up so everyone can comment. and i wondered why i had no discussion here. :(

What is a missionary doing on the front page of the NYT???

And is he a 'real' missionary? Not exactly the one I would have chosen to be the public image of the Church. OH well. check it out!!!

Direct link brought to you by Geoff J:

It is a multimedia presentation by the NYT as part of the Tribes of NY series.

Friday, June 17, 2005

What to say this Father's Day: I.e. What do you _NOT_ want to hear in Sacrament Mtg?

I ask because I've been preparing a talk (my wife also), on Fathers, for Father's day. So, what canards, stereotypes, etc. do _NOT_ belong in a Father's day talk?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sudan, Darfur & the U.S.: What's the ICC Got to Do With It? [Apologies to Tina Turner]

What's the ICC Got to Do With it? What's the ICC but a 2nd rate treaty? What's the ICC Got to do with it? What does the United States need with a treaty it hasn't ratified?

Apparently, quiet alot. Some of you know that for several years, I helped litigate a case against the Government of Sudan & Talisman Energy of Canada for human rights abuses. The case is far from dead, although having lost class certification, it will cost Talisman alot less to settle. However, on 13 June, the Southern District of New York gave a base hit to the Plaintiff's team I used to work for. (For a copy of the complaint, see

The issue was whether or not international law, and by extension, U.S. law, will allow a corporation to be held liable for human rights abuses, either directly, or indirectly as an accomplice. The answer? Yes, at least at first blush, i.e. enough to go to trial most likely.

Judge Cote (who previously denied class certification), found that corporate liability can exist, as a matter of law, for human rights violations. Talisman claimed that since no international treaty declared corporations _could_ be liable, then they could not. While I won't try to explain further the legal argument, her analogy in denying Talisman's claim is poetic and pithy:

"Such an argument is akin to claiming that a rule governing the law of the sea has not reached the status of customary international law because a number of landlocked States have not adopted it." Strike one!

Also of interest was Talisman's claim that the International Criminal Tribuanls (for Yugoslavia and Rwanda), along with the International Criminal Court (Treaty of Rome), were not appropriate sources to look for whether an international human rights norm exists.

The Flores court (2nd Cir. case) decided that the European Court of Human Rights could not create new norms of international law because it was a regional body. Talisman argued, by analogy, that the ICTY and ICTR were also regional bodies incapable of norm creation. However, Judge Cote pointed out that they differ from the ECHR because they were created by UN Security Council resolutions; not a regional treaty, and that this was done for the express purpose of interpreting international law. Strike two!

Finally, Judge Cote rejected that the ICC was not a source of international norms. As a treaty that was ratified by two or more states, it provided "some" evidence of the custom and practices of nations; and while "on its own" it was insufficient to prove the existence of a new international law norm, it could be used, in context with other treaties, to prove the existence of such. Strike three!

[Disclosure: Nothing I have discussed here relies upon any inside knowledge of the current litigation; of which I have none, having left the legal team over 1 year ago. ]

The opinion can be found below:

Romney Opposses Gay Marriage & Civil Unions: Go Mitt!

Gov. Mitt Romney will support a state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage & civil unions. Now, this is what I like to LDS politician who serves as a leader on an issue that his church has championed. Let it not be said that LDS politicians are like far too many Catholic politicians; i.e. in open opposition to the religious leaders they claim to follow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Stem Cell Research: My brother's disease and the Opportunity Cost of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

How high is the Opportunity Cost of Embryonic Stem Cell Research? I say it is just too high; and we aren't even going to discuss the ethical problems with destroying human life. My brother was just diagnosed (waiting for 2nd opinion) w/Chron's Disease (Autoimmune disorder). The disorder is characterized by an immune system that attacks the sufferer's digestive system. Embryonic stem cell research holds out hope for him. Adult Stem cell research provides not just hope, but proven results.

Two studies using Adult Stem Cells have shown results already.

First, in one study, a patient, a 22-year-old female who had suffered from it for more than ten years, was treated with her own blood stem cells. Within three months of the operation, her health had dramatically improved, she could eat comfortably, and her acute abdominal discomfort was no longer present. Sherman, Debra, "Adult Stem Cells Hold Hope for Autoimmune Patients," Gene, August 11, 2001. Accessed at:

Second, another clinical study presents the case of two Crohn's patients who received their own hematopoietic (i.e., stem cells derived from bone marrow) adult stem cells. They have been in remission for a year following the transplant. Burt RK et al., "High-dose immune suppression and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in refractory Crohn disease," Blood 101 (March 2003) 2064-2066.

Opportunity cost is an economic term of art. Basically, it represents the road not taken; i.e. if you take the right hand turn, you get the benefits of making that turn...and the loss of having not taken the left hand turn. So, if the Federal Government funds $100 million worth of embryonic stem cell research, that is $100 million that could instead have gone into adult stem cell research.

I ask you, would you invest your own money into research of an unproven technology or one already set up and established? Why throw money into research that has _NO_ guarantee of success, when Adult stem cell research has already produced results. You want to stop human suffering? Avoid the ethics of embryo stem cells and invest in Adult Stem Cell research.

Want a list of recent research along these lines and other Adult Stem cell advances?

I hope that folks will care about the living more than science fiction potential cures for various diseases when there are medically and scientifically viable cures and treatments already available. Frankly, I'm ashamed of the LDS politicians who would turn the Federal Governments back on research that would benefit my brother in favor of research that may not benefit anyone ever [even proponents admit there will be at least an 8-10 year lag time on embryonic stem cell research].

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Last "Laff" & Voodoo Economics: Bush Tax _CUTS_ Produce _MORE_ Revenue

Remember all the whining about Bush's tax cuts? How the Democrats have said we are creating a huge deficit problem, effectively shackling our children into tax slavery? Yes, LOL. Well, the last "laugh" as in the "Laffer Curve." Basically, the Laffer Curve predicts that there is an optimal taxation level to maximize tax revenue; i.e. if you make the tax rate too high, you will create a disincentive for individuals and companies to earn additional revenue. Liberals laughed this to scorn...calling it "voodoo" economics.

However, the 1980s and the economic growth we experienced due to Reagon/Bush (41') tax policies prove this out. Recent results on the Bush (43') tax cuts reinforce this.

Reagan cut the top income tax rate from 70% to 28%. The result? Tax revenue doubled; from $517 to $1,032 billion dollars.

Bush (43') cut reduced dividend and capital gains tax rates to 15%. The result? According to the CBO (mostly non-partisan; and certainly not overly friendly to the Administration):

Federal tax revenues have increased by $187 billion so far this fiscal year alone, a 15.4% increase in federal tax receits vis-a-vis 2004. Individual and corporate tax rates have increased (overall) 30% since the tax cuts went into effect. Net result? Lower tax rates, but _MORE_ tax dollars. You know that something is going well when perpetually bankrupt New York City goes from red ink to $3 billion in the black.

Do we still have a deficit? Yes, because power corrupts and the GOP has gone from being a small government party to the party of Pork; just like the Democrats before them. However, that doesn't cut against the effectiveness of President Bush's tax policies.

Where is your black magic now my lefty friends? It certainly doesn't like in increasing taxes; so please, leave your "progressive" tax increase proposals in fantasyland; cuz they only produce fake monopoly money; not real federal revenue.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How Adam Smith (and maybe Joseph too) would deal with the "Beggar" Question: Thoughts on Working Toward Zion, Pt. I

I'm reading Working Toward ZIon: Principles of the United Order for the Modern World by Lucas & Woodworth (forward by Nibley).
Adam Smith said:
"All the members of the human society stand in need of each other's assistance, and are likewise wexposed to mutual injuries. Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy. All the different members of it are bound together by the agreeable bonds of love and affection, and are, as it were, drawn to one common centre of mutual good offices."
To paraphrase, "By encouraging free human interaction" service affords "more opportunity for people to develop the spirit of sympathy and other virtues." WTZ, 63.

This is a post re: the proverbial question of what to do with the Beggar. However, it isn't begging the question because I think that an individual who has consecrated their time, talents & efforts to building up the Kingdom of God can come up with a better answer than the four stock answers. I suggest that the principal failure of these four is that they allow for only limited, one shot, non-recurring interaction, with the needy individual(s). The four are:

1. Give them money
2. Give them food
3. Give them nothing cuz they are probably just lazy and/or making more money begging that working; and
4. Direct them to a local shelter or just plain ignore them.

Why are these inadequate responses?

1. Giving the beggar money is great; it avoids pre-judging the individual asking for help and is a charitable act. However, it could be self-defeating, i.e. sometimes in our efforts to help folks in the "worst" way, we do exactly that...helping them in _the worst_ way possible.
2. Giving them food is thus probably a better solution, esp. as they sometimes are just asking for food. Except sometimes they don't need food, but money for bus fare, transportation, rent, a night at the local shelter (many of which do charge a small fee), etc.
3. This option was well condemned by King Benjamin. Ignore a prophet at your own risk. Further, don't think that your (hopefully) "generous" fast offering got you off the hook. Sorry, not enough when there is a direct need in front of your face.
4. Ok, directing them to groups that are qualified and dedicated to this is a solution; but...will they do it? You can say that it is their choice...but you are assuming they just don't know about the local helping agencies. Maybe they already do and/or can't get help there for whatever reason. Obviously ignoring has the same problem as #3.

Also, each of these tends to take a short-run solution to an immediate problem. For example, feeding the hungry is dandy; but it doesn't solve the hunger of tomorrow; hence the teach a person to fish story. What is needed is a more comprehensive, long run answer to the beggar/needy person's explicit/implicit request/need.

Where does this leave us? With the solution that so few of us are willing to take. A recent discussion at T&S focused on whether to pick up hitch-hikers. Many said "no," because it wasn't safe to do so. However, for those that feel this is a valid concern, I have a solution "minor" that won't violate their safety ethic so much.

Do you have a "greater desire to give than to take, a stronger desire to share than to receive"? If so, then I hope this appeals to you:

First, introduce yourself to the beggar (or an individual you know needs economic help; this could be a member of your ward or neighborhood you are only slightly acquainted with, but feel safer helping). Do the BRT, get to know them...for real.
Second, determine how you can help them. Do they need a place to stay? food? a job? substance abuse help?
Third, determine how you can be part of the solution. Don't you have a guest bedroom? Food storage/a full fridge? Some yard work you could let the individual do? Perhaps the beggar/needy person has some talents/job skills? Perhaps you own a business and could employ them?

Many of you will object that it isn't safe to bring a homeless person into your home. Fine. While this reminds me alot of Les Miserables, and I'd hate to think a fictional Priest is more Christlike than a living Latter-day Saint, Fine. However, there are less invasive/secure steps you could take; i.e. yard work, taking your (consecrated) time to take the individual to a shelter where they can get help, helping them apply for a job, helping them to find alternative lodging, transporation, etc. Don't make your (absolute) security the enemy of your consecrated efforts to Build Zion.

Zion have one heart and one mind; with no poor among them. Can we perhaps start with our own and one other individual in need? Rather than fulfilling a short term need, or giving into your pride and doing nothing, why not consider a longer-term solution?

While I won't go into details (this isn't about extolling my efforts), I have employed this model with some success in the city of Philadelphia over the last year plus. I hope ye will consider it also.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Church, State & Bill Signing in Texas: A retrospective

Yesterday, the Governor of Texas signed a bill into law requiring parental consent for anyone under the age of 18 to get an abortion.

Yet, the signing wasn't news because of the Abortion Consent bill; but because he "signed" the bill into law in the Gym of the Calvary Christian Academy. One thousand + people celebrated; about 100 outside demonstrated. Sounds like about the right number.

The protestors "denouncing the unusual signing as breaching the constitutional separation between church and state." this so? Was it unusual? Perhaps in the last decade or two, but not in the early days of the country. And it certainly isn't a breach of the separation of Church & State; a widely & hugely misunderstood constitutional doctrine.

First, perhaps those protestors should consider the role of the clergy in winning the War of Independence. Without independence preaching clergymen and their adherents, we wouldn't have won the war. Or perhaps the fact that many government meetings were held in Churches in the early days of the country.

Second, the separation of Church & State, properly understood, only prohibits the _Federal Government_ from _establishing_, i.e. proclaiming, that one Church or many churches are the _Official_ Churches of the country. Any restrictions beyond that are pure judicial activism unfounded by history or intent.

Good on Gov. Perry. I hope he continues to invite people into the political process, and signs bills in other locations. Religion is a part of our society. It shouldn't be discriminated against...anymore that the military, sports, etc.

note: One of the protestors apparently had a sign that said "The Soul Has No Gender." While I have no idea what that has to do with abortion or church-state issues; as a matter of (revealed) fact, it is wrong. The Proclamation on the Family clearly states that the soul has a gender and has had such since our spiritual conception by Heavenly Parents.

An Open Letter to the Editors of the WSJ

Dear Editors:

A discussion at one of the main Mormon [You know, Stephen Covey, John Huntsman, etc] blogs, Times & Seasons, re: photographs, gender & appropriate tasks caused me to wonder if the WSJ has a gender bias. Does it? To see the T&S discussion, the link is here:

Basically, the graphic in Monday's "The Journal Report" on Financial Planners focusing on baby boomer retirment planning, only has 2 women and 7 men. One of the women is sipmly staring forward. Is this the type of image the WSJ has of business? The other woman is in 2nd place, behind a man who is at the very front of the ship of "financial planning." Are you trying to imply that women are genetically risk-adverse and/or always going to be in 2nd place? In todays PC world, you could have put the woman in front and never had to face complaints such as this.

Also, all 9 individuals are wearing glasses? Do you have something against foks with 20/20 vision?


W. Lyle Stamps, Esq.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Last day! My comment to the FEC re: regulating Blogs/political internet activity

Dear FEC:

I support the FEC's proposal to apply a level playing field to all electioneering/campaigning, whether done via the internet or otherwise.

The proposed definition of "public communication" is narrowly tailored to avoid infringing upon the rights of individual citizens to express and share their political views over the internet while assuring that all paid advertising is accounted for, regardless of its ultimate medium of expression. Paid internet advertisements, whether in the form of websites, blogs or email/spam, should carry appropriate disclaimers and self-identifying statements that will allow for correct attribution.

However, I oppose any and all attempts to regulate internet speech undertaken by private citizens where they are not being paid or subsidized by candidates, groups, parties or other entities. Further, and most importantly, under no circumstances should the privately undertaken internet activities of individuals be attributed as a contribution to a party or candidate simply because they promote that candidate or party or attack that candidate's or party's opponents.

W. Lyle Stamps, Esq.
32 Springton Road
Upper Darby, PA 19082

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is China the Next (Holy) Roman Empire?

No, this is not another speculative post regarding when LDS missionaries will be allowed into China. While "those in the know" will tell you that such approval was almost granted until an errant U.S. bomb hit a certain Chinese Embassy...who really knows? Yes, this thread is about religious liberty in China and the possibility that China could become the largest "Christian" nation in the world in the next 10-20 years. We can only hope that LDS missionaries are allowed into China so we can "compete" with Catholics and Protestants for converts. No, I have no inside knowledge (my cousin, former Taipei Mission President Stamps, and I haven’t talked for about a year...about time to call him up again!).

As any newsreader knows, China is becoming an economic superpower. Heck, as any buyer knows...plenty of U.S. purchases are "Made in China," whether we are talking Hong Kong or China (but not Taiwan of course). China has recently bought up portions of companies with oil reserves in Alberta Canada, is working to create an Alberta-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, and bought up Canadian interests in Oil reserves in the Sudan when they became politically too hot for the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy.

But...did you know that China may become a "Christian" superpower? While America has been at the forefront of the Christian missionary movement for years (some of my cousins were Protestant missionaries in China in the pre-WWI days), other countries have begun sending missionaries to the United States (mostly Hispanic speaking missionaries). What if China started sending missionaries into the world rather than the other way around? Sound far fetched? Read on true believer...

In 1950, there were 2.7 million Catholics and 700,000 Protestants in China. In 2004, estimates place those numbers at 5.3 million Catholics and 16 million Protestants...and that is only those attending "State" churches. State Churches, or "Patriotic" Churches, are those run by the Communist government; i.e. they choose who can be the priest/pastor and who will be priest/pastor where. In contrast, there are an estimated 12 million Catholic believers, and as many as 35 million Protestant believers, who attend "street" or "underground" churches which are not under government control.

So, the question is thus:

1. Large growth in Christians in China in the last 50 odd years.
2. Increasing acceptance of religion in public life by the Communist party; as it transitions to a market economy, personal liberties, such as religious liberty, appear to be slowly winning ground.
3. Will this growth continue? While Stark’s wildly optimist LDS projections are not turning out, similar growth in China could result in as many as 100 million Catholics and 500 million Protestants in the China of 2050. Granted, this is only 600 million out of 6 billion (assuming no further Chinese population growth), or 10%...but that is a huge number of believers.
4. Rome used to be a large empire which persecuted Christians as the Chinese now persecute "underground/street" Christians. Could the tables be turned? Could China eventually become a massive Christianizing force in the world? Hm...

Also, whither the LDS faith in China? As an "American" Church...we certainly face an uphill battle. One, as "law abiding" we won’t send in unauthorized/illegal missionaries to set up street churches. Two, because we aren’t about to let China appoint and choose who the Bishops/Stake Presidents would be...we aren’t going to be considered a "Patriotic" church.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

News & Notes at T&S: Kaimi = bored, or doesn't like Matt's abortion link?

Folks, what think ye? Is Kaimi bored? Or did he just dislike Matt Evan's links to posts/news stories contradicting the infamous, and false, Bush-Abortion increase? Hm...maybe he is just going for the record of my consecutive news link postings?

Ultimate Elder's Quorum Teaching: What say ye?

I've been asked to teach Lesson 9 on "Resisting Temptation" in Elder's Quorum in two weeks. So far, my preparation has consisted of: praying for guidance and reading the lesson manual twice. I've a number of ideas; but wanted to throw this open for discussion:

What makes the Ultimate Elder's Quorum Lesson? Is it the teacher? The class? The preparation? Snacks? Video games?

The bloggernacle seems full of threads either praising/complaining about Sunday School; but I haven't seen much on Elder's Quorum. Please provide your thoughts. What say ye?

re: snacks. They are deemed permissible; but then the Quorum has to move to the cultural hall and out of the Sacrament meeting room. Too much disruption?

re: video games. Ok, this was more of a pun to play on Ultimate Fighting than a serious suggestion.

re: preparation. We've been exhorted to read the manual before the lesson. What more should an Elder-participant do?

re: Teaching. The manual says outside resources aren't necessary. Yet, Sunday School complaints seem to be that they are too banal and scripture based. What more, if anything, should the the Elder-teaching do?