Sunday, December 24, 2006

Gingrich Defends the Clinton Impeachment

Whatever you think about Newt Gingrich, you have to admit he is a powerful orator. I wish I had the ability to speak so powerfully and concisely. In his appearance on Meet the Press last week, I was impressed and persuaded by his defense of how he pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton. You can see the full video of the program or watch the small clip below. Also included is the transcript of the question and answer.

MR. RUSSERT: But do you, do you regret pressing the impeachment of President Clinton so hard?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: President—you know, I’m—I’ve been divorced twice.

Both times I’ve been deposed. Both times I was told, “Perjury is a felony. You should tell the truth under deposition.” President Clinton lied under oath as a lawyer in front of a sitting federal judge in a civil rights case. This was not about his personal behavior in the Oval Office. That’s a matter of judgment, and people can render judgment. The question is, do you want to go down the road of Nigeria and corruption and have a country in which, as long as he’s popular, he can break the law? And if Clinton gets to commit perjury on this topic, then what does the next president get to commit perjury on, and then what does the next president get to commit perjury on? This was entirely about something I knew personally. We have an obligation as citizens to tell the truth to a federal judge under oath. The president failed that.

It is interesting to note that in this same interview, Gingrich also talks about how the the time for super-partisanship (regardless of whether it was ever right in the past) is behind us. The country faces serious problems and we need to get together and tackle them. His call to candidates is to share a positive message rather than simply maligning your opponent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

NPR Mentions Utah Buses

While driving today, I heard a bit of a story about the ways cities are trying to get people, particularly business people, to ride the bus. They mentioned Utah and the current experiment with putting wi-fi internet access on some routes up north. You can listen to the story from this page.

I try to take the bus to work most days and it works great for me. I use it as time to read something that I normally don't get a chance to read. Not driving myself doesn't save me time, but it has definite advantages.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More Data in Support of UTOPIA

The New York Times has a report about the squabbles between equipment installers for phone and cable companies. They seem to be perpetually damaging each other's equipment as they switch customers from one service to the other.

One of the strongest arguments for a municipal broadband infrastructure is avoiding the waste and hassles of maintaining several infrastructures. Would we want UPS and FedEx to maintain separate road systems for their package delivery? A shared road system is the only viable option. And a shared community fiber optic network also makes a lot of sense.

...Qwest said that since 2004 its technicians had been dispatched more than 7,900 times to fix equipment damaged by Cox, repairs that cost nearly half a million dollars.
...Verizon had made thousands of cuts in Comcast’s cables, generating $1.4 million in damages.

The telephone boxes he visited had a few exposed wires, small unsealed holes and what Mr. Pappas said was improper grounding of Cox electrical wires to Qwest equipment.

... In San Antonio, for instance, AT&T says it found instances where Time Warner Cable installers cut phone company wires when trying to install their own voice service.

In fact, a city might take this argument one step further and refuse to grant any new rights-of-way for utility lines and decline to renew any previous right-of-ways for communications cabling. Perhaps that is a bit too extreme...

One poster over on Slashdot has already commented about UTOPIA. He writes, "Now, instead of getting crazy plans with no upload and bad ping times, I have my choice of four different providers for data, three (soon to be four) for voice, and three for video. All running on the same set of community fiber."

Maybe someday Spanish Fork, where I live, will jump on the UTOPIA bandwagon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Understanding the Argument for Compassionate Conservatism

Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President Bush, gives a great summary of what it was Bush was selling on the campaign stump 6 years ago.

In Mr. Gerson's view, "compassionate conservatism is the theory that the government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself." It was, in effect, a conservative twofer: limiting the scope of government and empowering faith-based institutions by entrusting to the latter services that had traditionally been performed by the former.

Some don't feel we've done very well on that score, but the theory still sounds really solid to me. I'm surprised this idea and rhetoric hasn't gained more traction in political philosophy.

Aren't we seeing that Bush is very close to the ideals of the Democratic party? He wants many of the same social safety nets that Democrats advocate. He just doesn't think they should all be run by the government. Why did liberals hate Bush so much right from the get-go? I have always found it puzzling. We have many conservatives who are frustrated by Bush these days because he does so many things that are more in line with the Democrats' agenda. But then he doesn't get any love from the left. Strange.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sowell's Call for Civility

Thomas Sowell has it exactly right. There is a viciousness in politics that is destroying our ability to move forward in a constructive way. Some people in Utah and many conservatives around the country smeared Orrin Hatch for befriending Ted Kennedy. As if to say that because people disagree they must be personal enemies. Here is a bit from Sowell.

When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died early in the Second World War that his own blunders brought on and nearly lost, Winston Churchill delivered the eulogy — even though Churchill had more reason than anyone else to be bitter at Chamberlain, who had turned a deaf ear to all Churchill’s warnings for years.

“Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity,” Churchill said. How many people would say that today about a political opponent on an issue as explosive as war and peace?

Churchill said more, that “we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations,” but that “however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor” when we have done our best.

I'm very sad that Rick Santorum lost his Senate race. Not only because I happen to agree with him politically, but because he seems to be one of the most sincere politicians I've ever seen. (I only say "seems" because the ability to judge a person's heart is beyond my abilities.)

Kathryn Jean Lopez passed along a quote from Rick Santorum after his defeat.

In a farewell letter to his supporters, Santorum said, “People have asked me why I talked about unpopular things like the war ... in this campaign. They asked, why didn’t you just talk about the projects you delivered or the things that you accomplished? ... My answer is that those are the things in the past, and what leaders are supposed to do is to talk about things that our country confronts in the future ... And I did, and I’m very proud of that. I do not rescind a word because those words are words that this country was not receptive to hear. ... They are going to continue to hear those words from me.”
One of the reasons that I voted for Pete Ashdown in his race against Orrin Hatch for the US Senate was because I get a similar feeling of sincerity from him.

Those who have left comments on this blog have been very civil for the most part. For that, I thank you. Even if you disagree with us, your opinion is valuable. It is very easy to get mentally lazy when we never hear opposing points of view.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Racially based scholarships

This article on got me a trifle perturbed: "Whites Only Scholarship Creates Outrage". In summary, the Boston University College Republicans are offering a $250 scholarship--to apply you have to have a certain GPA, write a couple of essays, and be at least one-quarter Caucasian. The president of the BU College Republicans freely admits he wants to start a dialogue about racial preference. Of course this has created a mini-firestorm in the PC universe. Here's my reaction to a few paragraphs from the story:
"It's a poor way to talk about affirmative action," said David Coreas, the 21-year-old senior who is president of the Latino fraternity Phi Iota Alpha at BU.
Maybe it is a poor way to talk about affirmative action, but notice the speaker's position: he is the president of the Latino fraternity. Do you really think a fraternity that labeled itself "the Caucasian fraternity of such-and-thus" would even survive in today's culture? Why is it okay for Latinos and not Caucasians?
"We have to look at the situation honestly," he [Coreas] said. "Caucasians tend to have a higher per capita income than Latinos and other minorities. We have to have scholarships to survive."
OH! So it has to do with poverty, not race! Okay, then, I have no argument with the idea of helping lower-income families send their children to college--let's base the formally racial scholarships on need rather than race. But if that's the best argument he's got for having racially-based scholarships...

Our society has laws against racial discrimination--we obviously need them, as we are pretty bad at policing ourselves sometimes. But either the laws apply to everyone or the laws should apply to no-one. If someone can offer a scholarship to only those with Latino roots (or African-American roots, or Asian roots, or whatever), then it should be entirely unexceptional that someone else could offer a scholarship only to those with Caucasian roots.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Timeshare: Buyer Beware

Keryn and I had our own experience with the timeshare sales industry. We had been married for less than a year. We responded to a phone call promising a free weekend in Las Vegas. We thought that might be a fun way to visit Keryn's parents in Vegas, so we agreed to attend the sales pitch from Trendwest.

I must say the that the presentation was very persuasive. The presenters showed what good financial condition their company was in and how nice the properties were. They explained how a timeshare was a valuable asset that you could pass along to your children and would encourage you to go different places with your family on vacations.

It sounded really cool. And really expensive. But not to worry, they offer financing!

We were very hesitant. We'd agreed before we went that we would not purchase anything that day, but we also felt that we needed be be honest in hearing about the deal and give it a fair chance.

The salesman sat down with us and reviewed many of the great things we'd heard in the presentation. He explained an elaborate system of points and programs which we could take advantage of... but only if we made the purchase decision before we left the room.

This high pressure sales tactic left me cold, but I was very wrapped up in the possibility of a high value "investment" that could provide a lot of fun for my family. We agreed to spend about $500 for a week stay at one of several resorts. By making the purchase, we got to keep the option to get the "great deal." (This option was only made available to us after we told them we weren't going to buy.)

We felt that it was a good price for a week in a fancy place and so we made a honeymoon trip of it. We stayed for a week in a hotel near St. George. It was a lot of fun and a very nice place.

We ultimately decided not to pursue the offer any further. And we never did take that Vegas weekend. And with only a tiny amount of hindsight, I'm very grateful that we didn't.

The Deseret News is running a three day series on the timeshare sales business. So far, that portrait isn't very flattering. It turns out that people are paying 5 or 10 times the actual market value for a timeshare and doing so with exorbitant interest rates. If you're considering purchasing a timeshare, the advice is to do so in the open market rather than directly from one of the companies that builds the resorts. Buyer beware.

If you read the piece from the Deseret News, this link is to the main story. Check out the left sidebar for all the related stories with the actual meat of the investigation.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've Been Labeled. Now What?

I made a comment on a post over at One Utah. Cliff thought enough of the comment to top post it and invite rebuttals. Cool. Then my wife pointed out the categories Cliff used for the post. I'll admit to being more than a bit perplexed.

This entry was posted Thursday, November 16th, 2006 at 8:23 am and is filed under Republicans, Utah Politics, Religion, Conservative Sell-Outs, Bigotry, Homophobia.

Does this mean Cliff likes me? At least he isn't questioning my patriotism. :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Minimum Wage

Nancy Pelosi, the woman expected to take over as Speaker of the House, promises to propose legislation to raise the minimum wage. Cliff Lyon, the proprietor of One Utah will be thrilled since he has advocated (without providing supporting citations) for the minimum wage to go up in comments on this blog.

Meanwhile, some economists continue to point out that raising the minimum wage doesn't really do a good job at helping poor people. Frank McIntyre, an economist at BYU, wrote about the issue recently in Times and Seasons. He writes that the minimum wage, "Is very poorly targeted towards the poor we are most interested in helping. In fact, the benefits are essentially randomly distributed across the income distribution."

He proposes an alternative solution involving the Earned Income Tax Credit. From what I can gather, it is sort of a negative tax that shows up in your weekly paycheck.
So what would this look like? Well, take everyone below say $9/hour and pay them a subsidy of 20% (or whatever) of the difference between their current wage and $9. They still have a good incentive to fight for better wages, because they get 80% of it. And they still have the incentive to work lots of hours, because they don’t hit a benefit takeaway like exists in the current EITC from $15,000-30,000.
Employers receive the money from the government and it goes directly into the paycheck of the worker. (I don't follow the 80% part of Frank's argument.)

Times and Seasons also put up a side link to a post citing economic research (and a graph!) that shows the minimum wage doesn't actually cause an increase in unemployment. This may or not be true, though the graph in that post is less than compelling, because so few people actually work at the minimum wage.

A couple of comments on Frank's post were particularly insightful. One commenter, "sr", wrote the following in opposition to replacing the minimum wage with a government wage subsidy.
There is a real sense of dignity that comes from having your salary paid by the people you serve (instead of the government). This is something conservatives should be able to understand. My impression is that poor people consistently indicate that they prefer minimum wage increases over other forms of poverty assistance. If my impression is correct, then as an economist, you must place some value on their preferences.
A very valid point to my mind. DHofmann, another commenter responded by saying, "I’m sure they do. You can’t pay the cable or satellite TV bill with food stamps." That link goes to a really eye opening report about how many luxuries many (not all) "poor" people in America have.

Frank responded with the following in two separate comments.
Minimum wages are not actually good for poor people. They are good for a few poor people and bad for the rest of them (ie, for the vast majority of them). They spur unemployment and raise the prices for everyone, and precious little of that money actually goes back to the poor. The program I discuss here helps poor people using the income tax system, which means that it is paid for overwhelmingly by the rich. It also does not encourage unemployment, rather it encourages employment.
Certainly there is an issue of diginity here. But, as you may have noticed, this is not a welfare handout. This program would come through their paycheck, just like the minimum wage. The main difference is that now the government reimburses the employer for the higher wage he is providing. In fact, perhaps that would be the way to make you happy, just have the money go to the business as a tax credit for hiring these workers. The market result is that the money gets passed to the worker just the same. This solves the preference argument, although let me point out that the preference you mention is almost surely saying that people prefer wage bonuses to welfare style handouts like food stamps. The program I proposed oringinally is no such thing– show me that they prefer wages coming through line A on their paycheck as opposed to line B and then you’ll have an argument! Then you would want to consider the preference effect on people who were disemployed because of the minimum wage.
It looks to be almost certain that the minimum wage will be raised. I'll admit that I am somewhat uncomfortable with the minimum wage--though I'm also uncomfortable with exploitive wages. (This is one reason I'm opposed to undocumented workers: they get no protection!)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Obama and Lott

If you called for the ouster of Trent Lott from his leadership role in the Senate after his joke about Strom Thurmond, I'd think you are morally bound to demand the ouster of Barack Obama. Cries for Obama's immediate demotion have been strangely absent. It seems the Democrats are willing to tolerate racism, just so long as it is within their own ranks.

You'll recall that Trent Lott fawned over the 100 year old Thurmond by saying that if we'd elected the Dixiecrat presidential candidate Thurmond, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

The furor following the remark was astonishing. People accused Lott of being racist for saying anything nice about someone else who had once been a racist.

But wasn't Lott just making the kind of hyperbolic comment so typical in a funeral or 100 year birthday party? We flatter people at such events. It is human nature.

Obama (who happens to be black) essentially asked voters (who happened to be black) to vote for Harold Ford (who also happens to be black) because "I'm feeling lonely in Washington." Sure, you could argue that he didn't mean something racist by his comment. There are several ways to interpret it so that Obama didn't come out and say he feels lonely surrounded by white people.

But that's what he said, isn't it?

(The amusing aside noted by James Taranto is that, only two days before, the AP reported that Obama "urged hundreds of blacks not to vote along racial lines" in a race where the Democrat was white and the Republican was black.)

If you believed that Lott should have been thrown out for his "racist" remark, do you think the same of Obama?

Incidentally, I think both Lott and Obama made harmless jokes. I'm just mad at the double standard.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Iraq War Justification

A lot of people who once supported our military action in Iraq are now opposing the war. I think I can understand their feelings, since I share some of them from time to time. Victor Davis Hanson has an article up on National Review where he looks at what really got us into Iraq.
The U.S. Senate and House voted for war in Iraq, not merely because they were deluded about the shared intelligence reports on WMD (though deluded they surely were), but also because of the 22 legitimate casus belli they added just in case. And despite the recent meae culpae, those charges remain as valid today as they were when they were approved: Saddam did try to kill a former American president; the U.N. embargo was violated, as were its inspection protocols; the 1991 accords were often ignored; the genocide of brave Kurds did happen; suicide bombers were being given bounties; terrorists, including those involved into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were given sanctuary by Saddam; and on and on.
He points out what remarkable success we had as we started the war.
Long forgotten is the inspired campaign that removed a vicious dictator in three weeks. Nor is much credit given to the idealistic efforts to foster democracy rather than just ignoring the chaos that follows war — as we did after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, or following our precipitous departure from Lebanon and Somalia. And we do not appreciate anymore that Syria was forced to vacate Lebanon; that Libya gave up its WMD arsenal; that Pakistan came clean about Dr. Khan; and that there have been the faint beginnings of local elections in the Gulf monarchies.
He notes the irony that those who are currently opposed to the battle in Iraq ("Where are the WMDs? You had no good reason to bring us in here!") were sometimes the same people who thought we were (or are) immoral for not intervening duriung other human rights crises around the globe.
Not long ago, abdication — from Rwanda or Haiti, or from the Balkans for a decade — not intervention, was the supposed sin. There were dozens of Darfurs in the 1990s, when charges flew of moral indifference. The supposition then — as now — was that those who called for boots on the ground to stop a genocide would not unlikely be the
first to abdicate responsibility once the coffins came home and the military was left fighting an orphaned war.
I don't like the picures I see coming back from Iraq. But I'm bound to suspect we'd see similar things from any war. I expect that if our current media situation had been in place during WWII, I'd be speaking German right now.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Any Old Old Person Can Vote

In Utah County, we're humming along with early voting. To vote early, you must present voter identification, unless you are 65 or older. Weird. Here is the scoop from the Utah County web site. Emphasis in original.

In order to be eligible to participate in Early Voting, voters must be registered to vote at least 30 days prior to the election and provide valid voter identification. Valid voter identification means:

  • 1. a form of identification that bears the name and photograph of the voter;
  • or
  • 2. two forms of identification that bear the name of the voter and provide evidence that the voter resides in the voting precinct.

NOTE: Identification is not required for those who are 65 or older or disabled.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Iraq versus California

A piece by Victor Davis Hanson is making the rounds today, in spite of being written back in April. If you haven't read it, it will probably knock your socks off. Here is a taste.
War-torn Iraq has about 26 million residents, a peaceful California perhaps now 35 million....

As a fifth-generation Californian, I deeply love this state, but still imagine what the reaction would be if the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California — yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day. I wonder if the headlines would scream about “Nearly 200 poor Californians butchered again this month!”How about a monthly media dose of “600 women raped in February alone!” Or try, “Over 600 violent robberies and assaults in March, with no end in sight!”

Friday, October 27, 2006

Judge Leslie Lewis, Overreactor

As the mother of two toddlers, I'm rather used to overreactions to events. Mercy barely touches Ezra, he falls down and says, "Don't push me, Mercy!"--that sort of thing. Comes with the territory of raising little kids.

It doesn't usually come with the territory of being a judge. Not dealing with the overreactions of others (although I'm sure there is a lot of that), but actually being the one doing the overreacting.

From the Deseret News:
The hunting-community controversy stems from a February hearing on a third-degree felony count of wanton destruction of protected wildlife filed against Michael Jacobson. In the hearing, Lewis was recusing herself from the case because of her personal bias against deer hunting. While expressing her views, Lewis confronted Jacobson with questions of how he feels while shooting a deer. Jacobson's brother, Kent Jacobson, stood up to leave the courtroom. Lewis ordered a bailiff to bring him back into the courtroom.
"Now, why did you feel the need to make such an explosive and clear indication of your displeasure or boredom at being here?" Lewis asked.
Kent Jacobson responded: "OK, it's not just the displeasure of being bored here. The problem is, is we have just as much rights of going out and shooting deer as you have the right ..." He was then cut off by Lewis.
"What are you talking about?" she injected, and then ordered that he be arrested and sent to a holding cell.
Court records show Lewis recused herself and sent the case to Judge Dino Himonas, who ordered Michael Jacobson to pay $2,500 in restitution and to give up his hunting rights for two years.

If you watch the video (posted on YouTube), Kent Jacobson was extremely respectful and very cordial. At no time did he lose his temper--although according to a SL Tribune article (no link, sorry), he left because he didn't want to make a scene.

I agree that judges should keep order in their courtroom, but, to me, she clearly overreacted and overreached her authority. Perhaps this is a one-off--maybe she was just having a really bad day. Still, when someone is in a position of authority, of public trust, this kind of thing is clearly inappropriate. We need to decide if we can trust her to never do this kind of thing again--or else I don't think that she should be retained.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

BYU sues...

BYU is suing Pfizer, claiming over $1B in losses over the development of Celebrex, an NSAID drug that was immensely popular before it was revealed that it can cause heart damage. There has been much written about this in the Bloggernacle (here in particular), but the most informative thing I've read about the issues behind intellectual property and universities was by Jeff Lindsay at Mormanity. Brother Lindsay has quite a bit experience in this particular area, and his explanation is both informative and easy to understand.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Lamentable Loss of the Baseline Facts

It is not always easy to find honest and objective political discourse. One trend of recent years that especially concerns me is the loss of an accepted set of baseline facts. Charges are repeated over and over again even when they have been demonstrated to be false. Commentators have adopted an us-against-them mentality, villifying "them" without good cause.

I wish we could disagree without being vile or hateful. We should be able to trust in the good intentions of the opposing faction even if we disagree with their conclusions.

The puzzling thing that we see, is that this polarized atmosphere encourages people to be less than straight with the facts. I hope for the continued success and increased output of, a group devoted to debunking fallacious claims made in political campaigns. We need more reliable places to find the facts.

Monday, October 09, 2006

BYU Forum by Indonesian Leader

From a BYU press release:
Brigham Young University will host an Indonesian political leader, author and leading Islamic scholar at a forum Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.

Alwi Shihab will speak on "Building Bridges to Harmony through Understanding."

Shihab has been minister of foreign affairs (equivalent to the U.S. secretary of state), coordinating minister for people's welfare and president of the National Awakening Party. He is also an adviser to the Indonesian president and special envoy to the Middle East and all Islamic countries.
It is not clear if this forum will be shown on BYU-TV or not. It will be broadcast to an auditorium on the other side of BYU campus from the Marriott Center, but they aren't always allowed to put these forums on public television.

I'm planning on attending this event. It sounds like Shihab served with Gus Dur, the first democratically elected president of Indonesia. I was sort of surprised to learn that Indonesia is actually the largest Muslim country by population.

I plan to put up a post on PonderIt about the forum, and hopefully I will get up a post before the forum about Gus Dur and his experiences with Mormons. I'll update this post with links when appropriate.

UPDATE: The PonderIt story on Gus Dur.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

California Court on Gay Marriage

Guy Murray has posted a summary and analysis of a recent decision of the California Appellate Court on the subject of gay marriage. Here is a snippet that Guy quoted from the Court's synopsis of the decision.
All can agree that California has not deprived its gay and lesbian citizens of a right they previously enjoyed; same-sex couples have never before had the right to enter a civil marriage. It is also beyond dispute that our society has historically understood “marriage” to refer to the union of a man and a woman. These facts do not mean the opposite-sex nature of marriage can never change, or should never change, but they do limit our ability as a court to effect such change. The respondents in these appeals are asking this court to recognize a new right. Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage.

I think the court has nailed my exact view on this subject.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley Scandal Reeks

Congressman Mark Foley did some yucky stuff, according to news reports. I've avoided seeking out any details on the content of the messages he sent to a teenage boy we worked with. His actions have put a stink on him, his party, and the congress.

From what I can tell, the House Leadership acted appropriately with the information they received. If their story holds up, they are morally in the clear.

Investor's Business Daily has an editorial (ht Drudge) that asks why Democrats are sqealing so loudly now as compared to their reactions to previous Democrats caught in similar moral failings.

In 1983, then-Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was caught in a similar situation. In his case, Studds had sex with a male teenage page -- something Foley hasn't been charged with.

Did Studds express contrition? Resign? Quite the contrary. He rejected Congress' censure of him and continued to represent his district until his retirement in 1996.

They point out other issues for Rep. Barney Frank, President Bill Clinton, and Rep. Mel Reynolds. These were men caught in moral scandals that kept their jobs or, in the case of Reynolds, received a pardon from the consequenses of their misdeeds.

Why can't we all rejoice together that we've got Foley out of the House? Let's not play hypocritical games with our government.

"Is this a prank call?"

Two physicists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on the Big Bang. The most amusing part of the story was this line:
Smoot told Reuters the Nobel committee called him at 2:45 a.m. Pacific Time after first dialing the wrong number.
So... the Nobel Committee isn't aware of time zones? I'd sure love to hear the recording of the first person they called.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out Michael Reagan

I sometimes hear Michael Reagan on the radio in the evening. I think his popularity stems primarily from the fact that he is Ronald Reagan's son. Well, now that the Gipper is gone, you should be aware of a relative of our current president: me.

Yes, you read that right. I'm related to the president of the United States. Feel free to send Christmas cards with cash to try to get in my good graces so I can put in a good word for you with the Commander-in-Chief.

Thanks to the Relationship Finder (ht), I now know that I am the 11th cousin of George W. Bush, twice removed. Yet another item add to my ever-growing list of claims to fame.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Of Matters Personal and Public

Bill Clinton's outburst on Fox News Sunday one week ago has opened the doors of conversation about his legacy as a president and about his role in our nation's failure to prevent the attacks on 9/11.

Clinton's moral failings sapped his reserves of "political capital" and distracted him and a nation from more important matters, such as the threat from Islamic terrorists. No person is free to choose the reaction others may have to their own actions. If only life were so arranged! So, in analyzing the culpability of our past president, we should view his actions seperately from the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the responses of his political adversaries.

It seems clear that one lesson of the Clinton presidency is that it won't do for a politician to argue that his or her personal life is strictly personal. Indeed, Clinton seems to be the most glaring example in recent memory that this just can't be so. Until politicians can act in a vacuum, their personal reputations will affect their ability to get things done. I wish it weren't that way, but reality dictates otherwise.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Political Gotcha Runs Both Ways

Hillary Clinton:

"I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team."

My reaction to the title of that memo was a big yawn. Of COURSE he was planning attacks. He had openly declared it on previous occasions. It was no surprise. To pretend that the title of this memo should have set off alarm bells is silly and disingenuous.

To add fuel to the fire, James Taranto reports that

...the 9/11 commission reported that on Dec. 4, 1998, President Clinton received a Presidential Daily Briefing titled "Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Ultimate Renewal Resource

Children's energy!

This is an awesome idea. They hook a children's merry-go-round toy to a water well system, and the energy from that pumps the water out of the ground. It's wonderful for developing countries because it provides a safe place to play and (presumably) safe water to drink. And the moms don't have to use their precious energy to get it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bill Clinton Defends His Record on Fighting Terror

This video clip on YouTube taken from Fox News Sunday is Bill Clinton defending his record on fighting bin Laden and terrorism. For all the beating Clinton takes from the right-wing talk shows, it is useful to hear Clinton's side of the story. We've hammered Clinton for not taking certain actions. Clinton asserts that he wanted to take some of those actions but was unable to do them because he didn't have the support he needed to pull it off.

So many times issues are oversimplified to make people look like white hats or black hats. Just because I may think Bill Clinton has done some sleezy things, it doesn't mean he doesn't genuinely care about the safety of the people of this country. Just because I don't like things Clinton has done doesn't mean he wears a black hat.

Byron York has a well reasoned rebuttal to some of Clinton's arguments.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Orwell's Korea

While working late one evening, I flipped on the television as I was doing some manual labor. The show playing was a documentary "Welcome to North Korea." I was only half paying attention as I moved computer equipment and cables around the room. But the more I heard and the more I watched, the less important my labor became and the more I was pulled into the documentary.

What I saw, if accurate, was grotesque and scary. There is no other place I know of that so closely parallels George Orwell's world of "1984." We saw tourist attractions with no tourists; only tour guides pre-approved by the government that give tours filled with honorific references to the late leader Kim Il Sung. Streets are devoid of old or handicapped people; they have been sent to outlying areas to live. War museums explain the atrocities of the Americans during the Korean war and we feel the genuine hate for America that still boils in the blood of the military men that were interviewed on camera.

We heard from a North Korean defector who now lives in South Korea. He used to be a "reporter" in the propoganda department. He told of the time he was sent to report on a story where thousands of birds had spontaneously gathered to "bow their heads to Kim Il Sung." When he arrived, he was greeted by party officials who explained that the birds had just left but that it had been an amazing sight. The reporter later asked a farmer if he had noticed anything out of the ordinary. No, was the reply. I assume he returned home and wrote up the story about the birds and their honor for the Beloved Leader.

We heard about the attempts by North Korean officials to create a mythology about Kim Jong Il, the current leader of North Korea and son of Kim Il Sung. For example, the story was told that Kim Il Sung was born in a mountain cottage. Soldiers nearby felt that something very special was occuring and carved an inscription in a tree to commemorate the event. The site became a tourist attraction where Koreans could come learn to adore their new leader. One day, a Japanese botanist was touring the site. Upon hearing the story of the carving in the tree, he noted that the story was impossible given that the tree didn't exist when Kim Il Sung was born. The tree was cut down and the site was closed.

The video footage we saw of the people in genuine anguish at the death of Kim Il Sung was painful to watch. If only these people understood the pain he had caused for them!

North Korea is a sad commentary on socialism and communism. The desire to make everyone equal, while seemingly noble, has worked to grind the faces of this people into the ground. What is astonishing is that they don't recognize it but instead venerate the very villians that have crushed them. This people, stripped of ambition, have submitted to a monstrous regime. I pray for their eventual deliverance.

One thing that was never mentioned in the documentary, but everywhere visible, was the beautiful Korean culture. The dances were intricate and beautiful. The North Korean people are a beautiful and worthwhile folk. They deserve better than the devastation that is being heaped upon them.

Here is another review of the film. I can't find a place to purchase it online, so you may have to wait until it is shown on public television again if you want to see it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on the Electoral College

Keryn wrote recently about the Electoral College. She read me another piece that is also worth linking to on the subject. This was was from Pete du Pont on Opinion Journal.

Du Pont points out that direct election of presidents would probably lead to candidates focusing only on large cities and the issues important to city dwellers. This would strike at the heart of the compromise forged by the Founders that led to the bicameral legislature. Small states and large states get equal representation in the Senate while representation in the house is aportioned by population.

The other convincing argument from du Pont's piece was the probability of weaker presidents elected by a smaller percentage of the population. Without an electoral college with a winner-take-all system, you'd have more candidates running for a slice of the pie. There is no such thing as a run-off election (which would require a change in the constitution), so a candidate could become president by only winning 15% of the vote in a crowded field of hopefuls. Such a president would lack a mandate that comes from majority votes.

(Incidentally, I tend to favor a proportional allocation of electors as mentioned by gsbbyu in this comment.)

Reach Upward said it well in his recent comment, "Our Founders constantly turn out to have done a pretty fine job." Amen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wild West Air

I have a proposal for a new airline. We could call it "Libertarian Air" or "Wild West Air." Passengers would undergo no security screenings. There would be no banned substances. Liquids? Fine. Knife? Ok. Gun? Go ahead. Electronic device in use during takeoff and landing? Have fun.

Seats would sell like hotcakes. It would be a real test for the 2nd amendment boosters. Passengers on the planes would be extra paranoid, so pulling off a terror plot would be practically impossible. Heck, maybe we can pull one of these airlines out of bankruptcy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Yes on the Electoral College?

This is the best argument I've heard for keeping the electoral college around:
One of the great virtues of the electoral-college system is that it minimizes the problem of fraud: the incentives, the opportunities, and the consequences. In general it is easiest to steal votes where one party is overwhelmingly dominant — but there is no need to steal votes in those states.
Read the whole thing. It's very persuasive.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Terrible Silence

I have Google Alerts that notify when my city, Spanish Fork, comes up in the news. Many of them are related to Kiplyn Davis, a high school girl that was murdered over ten years ago. Recently, we've seen a lot of reports of people testifying that they knew something about the case. This is a case that sat unsolved for over a decade. How could so many people not come forward with what they knew?! Holly Mullen in the Salt Lake Tribune apparently made the same observation. She wrote today:
But how to make sense of the parade of witnesses who have so far testified for the prosecution in Olsen's perjury trial? One after another they offered information that, if given up when they first heard it as far back as 11 years ago, might have led authorities to Kiplyn.

One person's timely tip might have saved years of fruitless searching or prevented detectives' trails from turning ice cold. Not to mention the unspeakable anguish Kiplyn's parents, Richard and Tamara Davis, have lived with since their red-haired daughter with a zest for life disappeared from Spanish Fork High School on May 2, 1995.

Last week, they sat in the front row of the federal courtroom, listening to every detail from witnesses who might have put a halt to this long ago.

More than a dozen of Olsen's Utah County friends testified that, between 1995 and 1999, they had heard either innuendo or detailed boasts from him regarding his part in Kiplyn's disappearance. Some related chilling claims that Olsen blurted out at parties - admissions of beating, raping and killing Kiplyn, then disposing of her body.

How can we convince people to come forward? We've long been able to tip the police anonymously, but even that didn't happen in this case. So strange. It says so many sad things about the culture surrounding the kids that remained silent--a culture that "accepts people as they are" and doesn't try to lift others up or hold them accountable.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Palestine's Woes

For religious reasons, I love the Holy Land. For political reasons, it makes me want to gag. During a semester spent studying in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to hear from passionate voices with a personal stake in both sides of the debate.

I heard from Palestinians who explained how their families had been displaced when the state of Israel was created and Jews took over governing Jerusalem. I heard from Jewish settlers who had had their homes attacked and their families terrorized.

I had a Palestinian professor and a Jewish professor. Both of them made excellent arguments for the rightness of their side in the enduring controversy. I appreciated the fundamental elements of the arguments on both sides and wished I had an easy answer. But stronger still was the disgust for the wicked actions that had been taken by participants on both sides of the dispute. Neither has totally clean hands.

I'm not sure I would have supported the creation of Isreal all those years ago by international fiat. I think I understand why it happened, but I'm not sure if I could have gotten behind it.

Even so, I can't deny the facts on the ground now. The Arab neighbors of Israel have continually denied her right to exist. Failing to prevent her creation through diplimatic means, they have, on multiple occasions, waged war against Israel to destroy her by physical force. They forsook the path of diplomacy and took the path of violence. They made their choice.

Each time they have lost. How can it be fitting that the losers in a war demand concessions from the winner? Yet that is exactly what we continue to see from the Palestinians. Each time they resort to violence their options become less and less attractive and their possible borders shrink. The Palestinian leaders have betrayed their people and robbed them of what might have been theirs.

I find myself in agreement with the words of Youssef Ibrahim.

Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. Struggle means less land and more misery and utter loneliness.
The war is over. Why not let a new future begin?
Long have champions for the Palestinians cried that if only Israel would end the occupation of Palestinian territory there could be peace. Charles Krauthammer reminds us of the folly in believing that assertion; we have seen a unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the Gaza strip that did not result in peace.

The Palestinians have made their bed. They opted for violence. They lost. Now they must lie in it.

An Opposing View on the Minimum Wage

In response to my last post, Internet Esquire commented with a link back to another really good discussion of the minimum wage. I'll admit that the issue is certainly tricky and I don't pretend to be an economist who fully understands the ramifications of any choice we could make. I do tend to think minimum wage increases are not very helpful, but I always appreciate hearing other views and I thank Internet Esquire for the link.

Would Molly Ivins Live In Zimbabwe?

Molly Ivins is angry at Congress for refusing to raise the minimum wage.
I don't get it. What's the percentage in keeping the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour? After nine years? This is such an unnecessary and nasty Republican move. Congress has voted seven times to raise its own wages since last the minimum wage budged. Of course, Congress always raises its own salary in the dark of night, hoping no one will notice. But now it does the same with the minimum wage, quietly killing it.
Her point is essentially that the goverment is heartless because they don't force higher wages for workers. Of course it sounds kind to give other people more money. But Zimbabwe seems to be learning the hard way that monetary policy isn't so simple.

Douglas Rogers writes about his home country of Zimbabwe. He explains that 1 US dollar is worth 450,000 Zimbabwe dollars. Their money is halving in value every four months.
How did Zimbabwe get to this point? It began in the late 1990s when, in order to pay for a costly military incursion into civil war-torn Congo, President Robert Mugabe ordered the printing of vast amounts of money, and inflation climbed steeply.
This is a situation I learned about in my high school economics class. When there is an increased supply of money prices always go up.

Opponents of the minimum wage argue that it causes the same effect we see in Zimbabwe, albeit on a much smaller scale. As more people have more money to spend, suppliers are able to charge more for their products. So any gains for workers in the minimum wage are quickly erased by inflation.

Advocates of the minimum wage then argue we need to regularly increase the minimum wage with inflation. But this seems akin to the problem the leaders in Zimbabwe have. They keep printing more money. It is a short term fix with devastating long term costs.

If opponents of the minumum wage are right, then raising the wage only hurts the people it was intended to help. Seen in that light it doesn't seem fair to call opponents heartless or "nasty."

Near the end of her column Ivins writes, "It seems to me that we've seen
enough evidence over the years that the capitalist system ... will be
destroyed by its own internal greed. Greed is the greatest danger as we
develop an increasingly winner-take-all system."

Ivins sees greed as the great problem of capitalism. But self-interest is the greatest strength of the system. In Zimbabwe, Rogers explains, 4000 white farmers were kicked off land they owned. Much of the land is now lying fallow and the government is falsely claiming a drought to explain the food shortages.

Unsurprisingly, nobody wants to invest is a country where the government is willing to seize private property. If people can't enjoy the fruit of their labors (or see the return on investment), why should they risk? They won't, and the disaster in Zimbabwe is the result.

Economic policy shouldn't be guided by short term interests but by long term benefits.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tolerance as Religion

Lavar Christensen has gotten a bit of a beating over a remark he made. "Tolerance is the religion of people who no longer believe in anything."

I don't know Mr. Christensen. I'm only examining the phrase he is reported to have uttered. I think that the phrase, rightly examined, seems perfectly reasonable. I suppose that what everyone is attacking is what they suppose the phrase says rather than what it actually says. (How's that for mind reading?)

Here is what he didn't say:
"Tolerance is dumb."
"Tolerance is for people who don't believe anything."
"People who have beliefs shouldn't be tolerant."

None of those are in the quote.

His point, I believe, was that tolerance becomes the primary virtue for someone without a bedrock set of principles they believe to be undeviatingly correct. (I'm guessing the the part of the quote "no longer believe in anything" is hyperbole, which I find to be an acceptable rhetorical device.)

Imagine a bakery has just been robbed. The owner is filing a report with the police. Now imagine an onlooker who doesn't believe in property rights. Our onlooker sneers at the bakery owner, "You intolerant jerk. You know that nobody would steal from a bakery if they weren't hungry." Because he doesn't value property, tolerance can become his chief virtue--his religion, if you will.

We see this same confusion over the term "choice." I think choice is a wonderful thing. My theology as a Mormon hinges on my free will. Without choice, my life would be meaningless! But I also believe in consequences. If you believe in choice instead of consequences, then you've made choice your "religion" where I have not. Even though choice is fundamental and essential to my religion, it is not the only virtue.

So it is with Tolerance. I believe in it. I advocate it. But I won't be tolerant of the rights of terrorists to blow up buildings. In other words, I believe in other things more than I believe in tolerance. Don't you?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Take Health Care and Child Care Out of Schools

Right now we have a few students in our school system that consume a lot of resources. Children with profound mental handicaps that won't ever have the ability to read or write or make a sandwich.

Taking care of these children and lifting the heavy burden their parents bear is a very important resonsibility of our society. They shouldn't be left alone. A compassionate society can and should help, but the public schools are the wrong place to do it.

We can't have a clear view of what it costs to educate students if we are wrapping up a whole raft of health care costs in that sum.

Let's seperate the funding for these two services. Then we can honestly evaluate how each is doing independent of the other. There is not significant harm in allowing them to share facilities, possibly having one rent space from the other, for the obvious efficiencies that can create. But we shouldn't call the health care expenses "education."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Utah County Commission Seat A

The Citizen's Resource event at UVSC featured speeches from the two candidates for the Utah County Commission. Gary Anderson spoke in person while Jerry Grover (the incumbent) was unable to attend and has his brother read a statement.

Grover's speech was... dry. It was like listening to someone read a resume consisting primarily of bullet points.

Anderson had the obvious advantage of speaking for himself. He was dynamic and articulate and offered a focused message. He is very concerned about the huge transportation problem we have in the county and sees that as a priority for the commission.

Anderson used to serve on the commission years ago and has felt they needed his experience and focused direction again. I agree. I'll be voting for Gary Anderson in tomorrow's election.

Commercial Ads in Political Campaign Email

I just received a last minute email from the John Jacob campaign. It was a letter from his wife. The email had a graphical banner at the top. The banner was the campaign logo and a picture of Mrs. Jacob.

If you click the banner, you end up at the website for the company that sent the email rather than the Jacob campaign. There is no link to the campaign website at all in the email.

My email reader hides images in email messages by default. The "alt" text is "The Ginormous MailChimp Sale." So, instead of a picture of Jacob's wife, I'm treated to an ad for MailChimp.

If I were on the Jacob campaign I would be furious. I'd also be looking for a new email company.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Charlotte Ducos Explains Jacob/Cannon Immigration Debate

I received an email inviting me to post an essay by Charlotte Ducos of Eagle Mountain, the same place John Jacob is from. You can read her entire report which is available as PDF. She concludes her report with her own conclusions about the immigration problem, bringing in her views as the wife of a recently naturalized citizen. She is very persuasive.
We cannot afford to send someone who is starting from scratch in Washington to participate in this debate. At this point I feel a need to also give credit to Mr. Jacob. He does have some good ideas. He took a great deal of time with me to explain his position. He does have well-formed opinions, they are just not opinions I feel I can endorse. I can honestly say that I have studied this issue, and our two candidatesÂ’ stances on the issue very thoroughly, and I give my opinion, without reservation, that Representative Cannon has the strongest position on immigration. Examine the issue, decide for yourself, and then donÂ’t forget to vote Tuesday, June 27.
A few other snippets from the article:
[Jacob] seems to feel, in a nutshell, that the only reason there is an immigration problem in this country is because employers want cheap labor, immigrants will do it cheap, the jobs are there for them, and so they come. His solution is to deport all of the workers, thus forcing employers to raise wages to compete with other industries and then American workers will do the work the immigrants have been doing—problem solved. In fairness, Mr. Jacob does believe in strengthening the borders, but philosophically, he seems to feel that if we remove the jobs, the illegal worker problem will take care of itself.
[Cannon] does not believe it is necessary to deport those who are here illegally in order to penalize them. Our government pays the cost of those deportations, and because of the long lines to enter the country through other existing visas, the most likely path for those who are deported is to sneak back in again illegally. If we instead give them a program that allows them to come out of hiding, to become documented, to pay the penalty for being here illegally and to gain—not citizenship or residency—just the right to work, we can begin to clean up the system.
She asserts,
There are some jobs that most Americans just donÂ’t want to do. This is unfortunate, and could be the subject of a story of its own, but it is a reality. I have a neighbor that owns a landscape company. He raised his wages to attract American workers, but could not get any to come. My father tried very hard to hire local teens and unemployed, but with few exceptions, they would rather go without work than do the jobs he was asking them to do.
It is worth reading her entire essay. The document also includes a completed questionnaire from both candidates on the subject of immigration. Reading the candidates answers on the questionnaire was more useful than the discussions in the debates I've heard.

Video of recent Cannon-Jacob debate

Citizens' Resource, a non-profit group dedicated to helping educate Utah County voters, has put together many excellent events in the last several months. They sent out an email this evening with the following information:
Our appreciation to those interested voters who came from both ends of the valley (as well as in-between) to attend the 2006 Primary Candidate Expo, our recent series of candidate debates & speeches at UVSC -- where all candidates in all races for the fast-approaching local Primaries were represented.

We feel the event was a success with good attendance and coverage by the local and national press (CNN’s political unit sent a crew from D.C. for the 3rd Congressional debate).

We’re also pleased to announce that thanks to UVSC Studios and Engineering and Orem City Community Channel, video coverage of the 2006 Primary Candidate Expo will be broadcast daily at 12 NOON & 7 PM on local cable television during this final week before PRIMARY ELECTIONS, 8 AM – 8 PM, NEXT TUESDAY, JUNE 27TH. This same coverage may also be viewed on demand via Google Video at our website,
I recommend to anyone interested in these races--especially if, like me, you are still undecided about the 3rd Congressional candidates--to watch this video. It is well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Foot in Mouth: Cannon vs. Jacob

In last week's debate between Chris Cannon and John Jacob, both candidates made a few verbal gaffes. How fun that we can point them out!

Cannon: Cannon made the silly comment that he only accepts campaign contributions from people he agrees with. This opens him to the easy but fallacious charges of guilt by association. Jacob pointed out that Cannon had received and returned contributions from (now) convicted felon Jack Abramoff. Cannon responded by saying that, "Jack Abramoff is a great guy!" He immediately realized what a stupid thing he had said and corrected it to say, "He was a great guy, but he got bent." Nice. Even if true, not such a wise thing to say.

Jacob: When pointing out the folly of trying forcibly deport 12 million illegal immigrants, Cannon jokingly used the phrase "throw the bums out." (It didn't sound as weird in context as it sounds here in print.) Jacob responded by saying (roughly), "Right now I'm working on throwing one bum out." The audience reaction to this low blow was quick and somewhat mixed. Jacob immediately added, "It was meant to be sarcastic." Sarcastic. Okay...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chris Cannon interview on KCPW

Chris Cannon had an interview on KCPW. I really like to hear candidates in this sort of setting. It is a great way to figure them out. Cannon is aware of the anti-incumbent feeling in the air around the country. I'm definitely feeling it! I don't know as much about Cannon's voting record in particular as I know I'm disappointed in the results we've gotten from the current Republican congress.

The thing I like about Cannon is the realistic viewpoint he has. He recognizes that building a wall on the border won't solve all our problems (because of visa overstays, etc.). He knows the players in Washington and has connections that will help him work the system. I'm not sure how rapidly Jacob will be able to set up those networks. Cannon has a lot of the nuance I like to see in a good thinker.

He doesn't sound very apologetic about the massive spending increases and the giant deficits.

Tomorrow morning will be a debate between the candidates. I may not catch it live, but I'll definitely be listening.

John Jacob Interview on KCPW

I enjoyed listening to John Jacob on KCPW. I was more persuaded by Jacob in this setting than I was in the debate on June 10th. He said a few weird things (like he seems to think that foreign spying is equivalant to domestic spying) but overall was pretty articulate. He pointed out some of the things that are at the root of my frustration with Cannon and the Republican Congress in general. It might be worth voting for Jacob if for no other reason than to send a message. Let's stop spending like crazy and growing the government!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Tale of Two Flyers: Cannon vs. Jacob

I attended last Saturday's debate between Congressman Chris Cannon and his primary challenger John Jacob. Frankly, I'm not thrilled with either candidate. I'd like to share a few thoughts, both pro and con, about the two candidates in the next few posts.

I suspect a lot of thought goes into the campaign literature that is handed out at events such as this. I suppose that it says something about the candidate to see what he or she chooses to put out.

Chris Cannon's flyer was an 8 inch square glossy trifold. 270 words, 1 possible typo. The flyer was devoted to quotes from four or five people attesting to different aspects of Cannon's character.

John Jacob's flyer was a simple 8.5x11 piece of white paper, printed on one side with a fuzzy printed signature on the bottom. 398 words. It was a "letter of intent" stating core principles for Jacob's campaign.

Which candidate made better use of funds?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

No Copyright For DRM'd Works

A commenter on Slashdot just made the most interesting argument. He argues that copyright is granted with the expectation that the work will eventually enter the public domain. Accordingly, he argues, works that can't enter the public domain because of Digital Rights Management restrictions shouldn't be granted copyright protections.

I think the key concept in intellectual property laws should be that the creations *must* enter public domain at some time, and remain in the public domain [forever] after that. Therefore, the law should provide no protection at all to anything that's protected by anything other than the law itself, or for that which isn't fully disclosed.

No copyrights for anything distributed with any sort of DRM, no copyrights for anything distributed under proprietary standards, no protection for any software distributed without source code.

I think this view is a bit extreme, but it certainly raises a valid concern about DRM.

Utah Blogger Conference

My wife and I won't be able to attend because of previous commitments, but it appears that a bunch of Utah bloggers are going to get together on Tuesday, Jun. 13th, 2006 up in Sandy. Pete Ashdown is going to be there along with some other well known Utah personalities in the business community.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Love Immigration

Most companies are not well served to have the same CEO forever. Fresh blood, fresh ideas, and fresh perspectives are vital in a world full of imperfect people. That is one reason I think a flow of people between the different countries of the world is a good thing.

On the flip side, every culture has been concerned about being eliminated or marginalized. Look at the resistance and opposition there has been to the United States around the world. People of other countries don't want us to impose our culture on them. I suspect that most people in the US have similar feelings about outside cultural influences. We are comfortable in our familiar culture and we don't want to be forced to change because of a rapid influx of immigrants.

So we allow and encourage emmigration and immigration to facilitate the flow of ideas and information around the globe, but we do so with numerical limits to prevent any culture from being overwhelmed by fresh blood, thus killing the old blood.

Deciding on the right number of immigrants is not an easy task. I think we need to loosen up the current restrictions a bit and make it easier for people to immigrate the right way.

I also want to come out in opposition to a group called "Americans for Better Immigration." This group seemed to be pushing for some of the same things that I want, but after reviewing their website I concluded that they really want only a very small amount of immigration. To them, less is more. I see their view as unworkable and selfish. This is a wonderful country and I want to welcome in as many people as we can reasonably support. As we lift these immigrants up, we help the whole world with the rising tide.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

National Guard: Heroes of Katrina

I remember hearing some very dire reports during hurricane Katrina. People shooting at helicopters, mass rapings and murders in the Superdome, and rescues delayed for days after the disaster. All, I now learn, totally and completely wrong. Lou Dolinar has written an amazingly informative piece for Real Clear Politics, "Katrina: What the Media Missed."

The upshot is this: The National Guard performed like champs and saved tens of thousands of lives. In most places in the world, Katrina would have killed the tens of thousands that everyone was predicting. Instead, the whole state of LA incurred about 1500 deaths. That is on par with the deaths that have been caused by recent heat waves.

Dolinar awknowledges that FEMA and others were ineffective but that National Guard units from Louisiana and surrounding states, in conjunction with the Coast Guard, were able to handle the rescue. Their command center was in the Superdome. That bit of information alone should have been enough to cast a huge shadow of doubt on the horror stories that were being "reported" about the conditions in the Superdome.

If you're like me, you probably won't go read the article, but it is information packed and very readable and I highly recommend it. Here are a couple of other tidbits that I found interesting outside the summary I've provided above.
Besides rescuers and local first responders, another big story at the
Dome was the medical center. Like a Chinook helicopter landing on your
roof, that sure was hard to miss. Fifteen doctors and a total of 65
medical personnel set up at the New Orleans Arena, within spitting
distance of the Dome. It was primarily for survivors brought in by air
and boat, but also for people in the Superdome with medical problems.
There was never any shortage of medical care, Dressler and Bush both

The success of the makeshift medical center was such that there were just six deaths at the entire Superdome complex: four of natural causes, one drug overdose, and one suicide during the week of supposedly rampant anarchy and death.

They weren't happy campers. Besides the smelly but safe Superdome, which was not a pleasant place, many had been dropped off on the nearest high ground, primarily Interstate overpasses, in the rush to clear rooftops and attics. There were genuine shortages of food and water at these locations, especially at the Convention Center, another drop-off point. They were stuck, as search and rescue and lifesaving continued.

Governor Kathleen Blanco, meanwhile, had a direct pipeline to the command center and clearly knew what was going on, which might explain why she maintained her authority over the Guard and resisted calls from the President to federalize it. It also explains her apparent callousness to those stuck in the Dome - she knew the real situation was not as bad as the media was reporting. At the very least, she deserves credit for standing up to the national media and following the advice of the junior officers on the scene.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Net Neutrality

The concept of "net neutrality" has been in a news a lot recently. Basically, the concern has been that Qwest or Comcast or other ISPs could de-prioritize internet traffic that competes with their other business interests. For example, Comcast could make video traffic from a video-on-demand provider very slow so that online video rentals wouldn't compete with Comcast pay-per-view. Or Qwest could make your Vonage or Lingo service run slowly so that you can't get good voice quality through an internet phone line and you'll have to continue to get a land line from Qwest for your telephone service.

Mind you, neither vendor has proposed these changes, but that is the fear that is driving "net neutrality" legislation before Congress.

Pete Ashdown, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, happens to be a technology expert. He runs the large Utah ISP, XMission. He has a take on the net neutrality issue on his campaign wiki. Ashdown's technical smarts give him an important weapon in his fight against Orrin Hatch. Many Republicans have come out in support of Ashdown for exactly this reason.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

College Isn't For Everyone

John Edwards, former presidential and vice presidential candidate, is championing a new program called "College for Everyone." I think the title of the program is a slap in the face to people who don't want or need a college education. If we really needed everyone to go to college, we would just put it in with the K-12 education system and make it free. But we don't do that because the fact is that most people don't really need a college education.

Most people? I think that a college education is beneficial for making you into a well rounded person, but in most cases it is not essential for the work that you will spend the rest of your life doing. Why would we want to make decent people feel like they are failures because they didn't go to college? It is a noble pursuit, but so are a lot of other things that don't require a college education.

Half Sigma has had some thought provoking posts on this subject over the past year that have really persuaded me.

Where Should Guest Workers Come From?

From an article at (ht Drudge):
"If 60 percent of our illegal immigration comes from a single country, and another 20 percent comes through that country, logic would say the vast majority of visas should go to the country of origin," [Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank] said. "The last thing you would do is create a global temporary worker program, as if somehow we should need Bangladeshis or Russians to pick our fruits and vegetables."
The argument, which is quite persuasive, is that we need to focus on making Mexico strong. Their stability is more important to us than most any other nation on earth because we share a border with them. Things aren't so dicey with Canada because they are already wealthy and stable.

The economies of the United States and Mexico are so interwoven that their success is very important to our continued success. The article also points out an important factor in the continuing stabilization of Mexico.
Last year, Mexico received a record $20 billion in remittances from migrant workers. That is equal to Mexico's 2004 income from oil exports and dwarfing tourism revenue.

Arriving in small monthly transfers of $100 and $200, remittances have formed a vast river of "migra-dollars" that now exceeds lending by multilateral development agencies and foreign direct investment combined, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world, said Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and former head of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

"Where are we going to come up with $20 billion?" to ensure stability in Mexico, Valenzuela asked at a recent conference. "Has anybody in the raging immigration debate over the last few weeks thought, could it be good for the fundamental interests of the United States ... to serve as something of a safety valve for those that can't be employed in Mexico?"

Obviously whatever policies we implement to control illegal immigration from Mexico, we'll have to consider the economic effect that will have on Mexico and whether the US can afford the fallout of that effect.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

John Jacob Isn't Clear on Definition of GOP Convention

According to the Deseret Morning News, John Jacob made a goofy comment after getting a higher percentage of the delgate vote than incumbent Chris Cannon at the state GOP convention.
"The delegates sent a message to Washington that they will replace a
Republican with another Republican if they don't get the job done."
Did Jacob think they were going to nominate a Democrat in the Repubican Convention?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Immigration Rhetoric

Recently I heard the following on a clip from The John and Ken radio show from LA, broadcast on May 1, 2006 (starts at the 8:45 mark, but the whole ten minutes is very interesting):

Tony Valdez (Fox 11 News reporter): “…There is a group in Los Angeles that’s called Culture Clash, and they do some very interesting things, satirically and with comedy, and one of the things they say is, ‘We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.’ What I would suggest that these gentlemen [John and Ken] and everyone else who is watching do, is look at your own history, 1846, and see how the United States invaded the country of Mexico…”

Whoa. That is some fiery rhetoric you’re spouting there, Mr. Valdez.

Consider what he is saying: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Oh, really? So you (or even your family) have been living here in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico since 1846? When the border truly did move? Since I doubt there are any illegal immigrants that fit those criteria, this statement is invalid--both legally and morally.

Tony Valdez: “…Remember the last [indistinguishable] you took this country, you killed people in order to take this country for yourself.” (at the 10:03 mark)

Interesting choice of pronouns: “you” and “yourself”. Is Mr. Valdez 100% pure indigenous American Indian? If not, his ancestors, at some time, be they Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, British, etc, did the exact same thing--killing people to take the country for themselves. Is his argument based on how long ago it happened? So anything that happened 160 years ago is fair game, but anything that happened 300 years ago isn’t? That’s pretty darn arbitrary, and pretty darn indefensible.

We have to do something about our immigration problem here in the US. Reasoned debate is useful and has helped inform me of different points of view. Impassioned, illogical, inflammatory rhetoric like Mr. Valdez’s does nothing to further the debate. In fact, it alienates those he is trying to convince.

(Hat tip to Ryan at Blogger of Jared for pointing me to the audio clip--he discusses another part of the same reporter's rhetoric here.)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mike Ridgway... Hmm...

While I'm not thrilled with Orrin Hatch, I am decidedly less impressed with Mike Ridgway. There seems to be very little chance that he has the social skills to serve as a United States Senator. It takes a certain amount of finesse to deal with the many different types of personalities one will encounter in D.C.

How can I say this? I have never met Ridgway and I've read very little about him. But I did read a couple of entries on his blog. That was enough for me to realize that I won't be voting for him. He just sounds bitter about everything. It is hard to picture him working effectively with other members of the Senate or their staffs.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Undocumented Immigrant" is a misleading term

The battle over language is an important piece of any policy debate. Everybody tries to frame their side of the debate in positive terms. Thus, people are not anti-abortion. They are pro-life. They are not pro-death, but pro-choice.

The clever term in the immigration debate is "undocumented immigrant" or "undocumented worker." I dislike these terms because, while technically true, they are not the most accurate terms because they have the wrong connotation. (I realize changing the connotation is the whole reason that people use it.)

If I have a shirt in my possession that I stole from K-Mart, I could called it an "undocumented credit card purchase."

But the honest term is "stolen."

An immigrant who has snuck into the country is not merely "undocumented." A closer term would be trespassing.

This debate is made all the more difficult because the illegal immigrants I've known (or at least that I suspected of being such given their comments and behavior) have been deeply good people and very hard workers. But even good people can make bad choices, especially when they are trying to help their family.

It is immoral for us to continue to use illegal immigrants in our workforce. They are being denied the protections of laws that our country wants to be able to grant. The current system allows the workers and their families to be abused. It shouldn't be like that.

We need much more generous immigration quotas. The people are coming, and there is demand for their services. We need to bring them in and make them fully part of our society, with full access to our legal system and our legal protections.

But I do not favor amnesty. Too many people have worked too hard to do it the right way. We slap them in the face when we reward the people that have done it the wrong way. We need to make a path to citizenship for those that have come illegally, but it needs to be difficult and it ought to be at least as expensive as what we've made every legal immigrant go through.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Utah County Republican Convention Summary

The Utah County Republican Convention was both what I expected and not what I expected. For a first-time delegate, at first it was fairly confusing, and there were some things that might have been explained better. (I'm planning to write a letter to the convention planners, both to thank them and to make a few suggestions. I'll probably post the letter here also.) It was fun to "live-blog" it, also, with the help of my indispensable husband and my cell phone.

When I received my credentials, I was given a packet with my ballots (quarter-sized pieces of paper for each race, with two each for the three races with three candidates) and a schedule. I noted on the schedule that our Senate District caucus was scheduled to start in fifteen minutes, but as our district doesn't have a race this election cycle, I didn't figure it was going to be a crowded meeting. As Brad noted earlier, boy, was I wrong. The room was packed, and there was no way for me to get in, or even hear anything. So I gave up and went into the cafeteria to meet and talk with more candidates (and to get food! My goodness, there was a lot of sugar in that room. Almost every table had some kind of food--from candies to rolls from Magleby's to Krispy Kreme donuts. And lots of water bottles with candidates' information stuck on them. These came in very handy later in the very hot auditorium).

Our legislative caucus was much less crowded. I was able to spend a little time talking with our state representative (Mike Morley), and the leg (pronounced "ledge") chair totally recognized me and remembered that I live "right across from the park". That was cool. Other than that, though, the meeting was pretty boilerplate political speech, and I have to admit I got a little bored. And then it was time to go to the main meeting.

Of the 1205 county delegates elected at precinct meetings, only 61 were absent, meaning there was 96% attendance. We were packed into the auditorium, and just as I feared, it got pretty hot in there. Every seat, and then some, was filled. It was pretty exciting to be in a room with so many other political junkies--usually it's just me and my husband! Before the nominating session opened, I chatted with my seat-mates--it turned out we were all first-time delegates, and we had a good (and useful) time talking about why we favored one candidate over another. One of the women I spoke to works for the county, and she shared with me her concerns about some of the commissioners. I didn't end up changing my mind over anything she said, but it was good to get more information.

Once the opening ceremonies and introductions were over, the formal nomination process began. Each candidate had a friend or two come up to the microphone with him, and the friends would nominate and second the nomination. Then the candidate spoke briefly. By briefly, I mean really briefly. The whole process (from nomination to candidate speech) was allotted exactly three minutes. This was greatly appreciated by the crowd. Of course, less than three minutes doesn't allow much time to get to know the candidate. But hopefully most of the delegates had done that before the convention!

For myself, I am incredibly grateful for the Delegate Education Expo sponsored by Citizens' Resource. This afternoon-long event, held on April 8th, featured debates, questions and answer sessions, and meet-the-candidate time. Although I have received reams of election mail and many, many emails, I learned the most about the candidates and formed my main opinions from this event. It was a great idea, and one that I hope will be continued in the future.

The first ballot included both County Commission Seats (A & B) and County Attorney. These have been the most acrimonious races, at least at the county-wide level. After the ballots were taken out of the room to be counted, the nominations for Clerk/Auditor and Treasurer began. We voted on those, and while those ballots were taken out of the room, we were treated to a musical number by Cory Sorensen. It was a great song, but one where you wanted to clap along, but your hands were still stinging from all the other clapping you had done earlier. Oh well. Then the first results were announced:
County Commission Seat A
  • Howard Stone 4%
  • Jerry Grover 46%
  • Gary J. Anderson 50%
Because no candidate got more than 60%, another ballot was called for.

County Commission Seat B
  • Shirrel R. Young 2%
  • Bill Ellis 36%
  • Steve White 62%
Because Commissioner White polled more than 60%, there is no primary and he becomes the Republican party candidate for the general election.

County Attorney
  • Curtis Larson 19%
  • Kay Bryson 12%
  • Jeff Buhman 69%
When Kay Bryson's numbers were announced, there were cheers, boos, and clapping. Emotion has run pretty high over Kay Bryson this election season, and it was apparent not only in the numbers, but in the reaction.

While we were waiting for the rest of the election results, we were able to hear from our federal candidates--although we wouldn't be voting on these, many of the county delegates are state delegates as well. We heard from Orrin Hatch and one of his opponents, Brian Jenkins. We also heard from the 3rd and 2nd Congressional District candidates. There was also a bit of party constitutional business (pretty boring). And then, just before the meeting adjourned, the final results were announced:

County Commission Seat A
  • Jerry Grover 44%
  • Gary J Anderson 56%
Because neither polled 60% on the second round, this race will have a primary.

County Clerk/Auditor
  • Cary McConnell 42%
  • Bryan Thompson 58%
Because there are only two candidates, and neither polled 60%, we will have a primary in this race.

County Treasurer
  • Kim Jackson 28.5%
  • Robert Kirk 71.5%
Robert Kirk will be the Republican candidate for County Treasurer. (There's not a Democratic candidate, so basically he's the next treasurer.)

Thanks should be given to Payson High School, for letting us use their school as well as treating us to a performance of the Payson HS Pipe Band--wow, they were amazing! I love bagpipe music, and they played very well indeed. The national anthem was sung by a member of the high school Trouveres (I can't remember her name), and she did a wonderful job.

I am so incredibly glad I was able to be a part of this. It was amazing to see how our government works (at this level), and it was a fun and diverting morning.

County Convention Update 6: More Voting

11:07 AM: I voted for Anderson, Ellis, Buhman.

11:31 AM: Voted for McConnell and Kirk. Lt. Gov speaks.

12:09 PM: Yes! County Commission seat B, White wins. [Steve White was running against Bill Ellis and Shirrel Robinson.] Bryson loses big to Buhman [for county attorney].

12:10 PM: County Commissioner seat A goes to 2nd ballot.

[Candidate list can be found here at the time of posting:]

Keryn will post a summary of her experience shortly.

County Convention Update 5: The Main Session

Keryn couldn't phone me during the main session. Here are the text messages from her as they arrived. My comments are in square brackets [].

9:47 AM: OK. In auditorium. Gonna be hot in here.

9:50 AM: We spent the time before talking about who we are voting for. [I think they were supposed to start the main session at 9:30, so it looks like the main session is already a bit behind schedule. So much for the earlier punctuality!]

9:58 AM: Wow. Payson High School Pipe Band is amazing.

10:06 AM: Attending, 1119. 94%

10:13 AM: Oooh. Hellewell lost! The nasty anon letter backlash got him. [More info. Someone started an anonymous note saying things about Margaret Dayton, one of Hellewell's opponent. It is too bad for Hellewell that something he probably had no part in had to end up biting him. But perhaps it will be a lesson to those who think they can help a candidate by sliming his opponent.]

County Convention Update 4: The Rookie dilemma

Keryn asked Gary Anderson, who is running for one of two seats on the County Commission, if there was a downside to electing two rookies to the commission at the same time. He responded that he wouldn't be a total rookie since he had served on the commission 20 years ago. So he has the experience to do the job and the distance to have a fresh perspective. Interesting argument.

I mentioned to Keryn that it is also useful to remember that the Commission probably has a semi-permanent staff that will understand the day-to-day working of the office.

I heard a similar concern from a prospective temple president for an LDS temple. Having never run a temple, he was nervous about the assignment. But he didn't need to be worried. Each temple has a "recorder" that is there on the long term that worries about the day to day operations while the temple president can see to the spiritual leadership.

So being a rookie shouldn't be too much of a problem as long as there are institutional supports to make it work.

County Convention Update 3: The Sqeeze

Keryn just tried to get into the senate district caucus meeting. There is no race in our district, so she figured it would be pretty empty. Wrong. The classroom was so full that people were pouring out the door. She could hear anything, so she won't be participating in that meeting.

Sounds like the planners didn't do a good job anticipating the needs in the various venues in this case. First of all, for any gathering of more than 40 people there should probably be some sort of amplification provided. Second, venues should be large enough to accomodate a large crowd without getting in trouble with the fire marshall.

We've seen this on a smaller scale with some of the local caucus meetings. When we lived in Orem for the community caucus meeting two years ago, they had the same thing where way too many people were crowded into a high school classroom.

County Convention Update 2

Keryn checks in on the cell phone again. She has her credentials. There could have been better signage pointing to the location of the sign-in, but fortunately there were lots of friendly people around.

Keryn just spoke to some police officers who are anxious to see some new blood in the county attorny's office. They want Kay Bryson out and Jeff Buhman in.

County Convention Update 1

Keryn just called from her cell phone on her way to the GOP Utah county convention. She is a little more than 20 minutes early and she feels late. There is hardly any parking at Payson High School where the convention is being held.

There were other meetings at earlier hours that weren't for all the delegates (as near as we could tell) but it is hard to believe that all of those cars would belong to the few people involved in those meetings. It looks like politically active Utahns are punctual!