Friday, December 21, 2007

Automated Candidate Selection

I tried two different automated candidate selectors for the '08 presidential race. First was one from USA Today that they put together a while ago. Here are my results from that one:
  1. Mitt Romney
  2. Rudy Giuliani
  3. Mike Huckabee
Not surprising results.

I then took the quiz from American Public Media hosted at KCPW. I didn't like that quiz as much since I had a hard time finding answers I liked, or several answers were very similar, but I think a candidate only got points if you chose their exact answer. Here are those results:
  1. Duncan Hunter
  2. John McCain
  3. Fred Thompson
Thank goodness for automated candidate selection! At least it let me know that I'm a Republican.

My wife took the tests too. In USA Today she should be for Romney, Hunter, Thompson. In the KCPW survey she should be for Tancredo, Huckabee, Hunter.

To take the USA Today poll and compare your answers against mine, click here. For the KCPW poll, click here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Morley's Worker's Comp Bill

The Trib is reporting on a bill that Mike Morley is going to put forward in the upcoming session. The bill will cut off worker's comp payments for people who go to jail or who are illegal immigrants. (Anybody got a link to the actual proposed bill?)

I'm awfully torn on this issue and I'd be interested to hear some other perspectives on this. Let me try to sum up the arguments on both sides of the debate. First, in favor of the bill: If you are hurt and getting compensation payments to make up for the fact that you can't work, and then you get thrown in jail, why would you still receive compensation payments? You can't work in jail either! The bill stops people from getting paid while they are in jail.

Likewise, if you were illegally working in the country, got hurt, got on worker's comp, and then got deported, you aren't able to work in the US anymore. Even if you don't get deported, you shouldn't be working here anyway. Since you are unable to work because of your own choices and actions (rather than merely those of your employer), we're not going to give you worker's comp.

I find the arguments in favor of the legislation quite compelling. The arguments against it also have a lot of bite. If we pass a bill like this, we give employers with higher incidences of worker's comp claims an incentive to hire illegal immigrants since they will likely be able to weasel out of making the payments. This backwards incentive encourages exploitation of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The argument against the bill continues: If I get hurt on the job, you're going to pay workers comp not just to replace the income I'll lose because I can't work, but also as a sort of punitive measure against employers who don't have sufficiently safe work environments. This is a very capitalist motivator for employers to make their workplaces as safe as reasonably possible to minimize comp claims. Just because I'm in jail doesn't mean the employer should be spared the punitive effect of the comp claim.

Does that sound like a fair summary of the pro and con positions? Do you find it hard to pick a side here? I'd say we ought to end the payments to guys who end up in jail. I'm less convinced that we ought to end the payments for illegal immigrants.

I should note that a couple of arguments were mentioned in the article that I found to be totally bogus. One person noted that "the people who would be hurt by the bill would be family members of a worker who gets arrested for drunken driving or drug use." Let's be clear: the person penalizing the wife and children was the jerk who chose to drive drunk. Injured or not, you're responsible for your own actions. Naturally, I don't want to see innocent women and children being hurt, but they were going to be hurt just the same by the person getting thrown in jail if there was no comp claim involved.

The other bogus argument was "that
the measure discriminates against injured workers who don't speak English, primarily Latinos and Asians." C'mon! We're not cutting off a comp claim because you don't speak English. We're cutting off the claim because of something you DID not something you ARE. Pulling the race card or the language card is just silly in this instance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

COL Takashi on Global Warming

COL Takashi has an interesting post up about global warming. I don't think he's saying anything new, but he sure makes an articulate argument and pulls together current information in a compelling way.

Some of the more interesting or amusing points:

Sea level rise? Only 10 inches by 2100, versus the same rise during the 20th Century. If your beachfront house can't cope with one inch a decade, how do you cope with the storm surges of 10, 15 and 20 feet that are normal? Indeed, wouldn't it be simpler to put your beach house on stilts than make the rest of us go without heating and air conditioning and cars and beef?

The most important point is this: The US could shut down its economy, and CO2 buildup would continue, because China is determined to become the world's superpower, it is building a new major coal-fired power plant like the ones in central Utah EVERY WEEK, and it has told the Europeans that it is not going to worry about warming. China's output is going to overwhelm anything the US does. All we will accomplish by following Al Gore is send all industry to China, and impoverish the US.

Additionally, the CO2 in the atmosphere already, according to the UN IPCC, is enough to keep warming going indefinitely, so we won't even see warming slow down until 50 years in the future! Basically, Al Gore wants us to kill our economy and make us all poor and hungry so that summer air conditioning bills will be 5% lower in 2050 (although our winter heating bills will be higher).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bloghive Board Announced

The results are in! A new Bloghive Advisory Board has been elected. It was interesting to watch the results shift as the week of voting went on. If I didn't want people to learn how the voting system worked, I would have hidden the results until the end of the election to keep people from gaming the results. Having said that, I do trust that the results of this election are a good representation of the opinion of the users of the site.

The winners, in order of election:

Rob Miller (Utah Amicus)
JM Bell (JM Bell)
Tom Grover (KVNU's For the People)
Jesse Harris (Coolest Family Ever)
pramahaphil (Green Jello)

If you want to review how the ballots were distributed, view the detailed results page.

Congratulations to the winners! I'm looking forward to working with you on this project. Will each of you please send an email to with the email address you want to use for our communications as a board. Perhaps the thing I'm most excited about is being able to finally figure out how to pronounce pramahaphil--or figure out what it means. :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Explaining the Vote

There have been a few questions about how a preference choice election works. As you know, we are using a preference choice voting system for our Bloghive Advisory Board election that closes tonight. I'm such a fan of the voting system that I was glad to have an opportunity to let others try it out firsthand.

I created a video clip to explain how the voting system works. The biggest mistake people have made in interpreting the results of the election was to only look at the "first round" and assume the top five vote getters were the five winners. You've got to scroll all the way to the last round of the results page to see who the winners are.

Here are the current results for the election. Starting tomorrow, you'll be able to cast ballots in the poll without affecting the outcome, just to see how your vote would be counted. It is a really fun exercise. The video is below. Click this to see a slightly larger version.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advisory Board Election

It is time to cast your votes (one ballot per person please!) for the Utah Bloghive Advisory Board. Five of the following candidates will be elected to serve on the board. Anyone is welcome to vote. (After all, how could I stop them?) My hope is that the board will represent a diversity of opinions. Toward that end, I've put together a poll that allows you to rank these candidates in the order of your preference. It is an example of "Instant Runoff Voting" or "Preference Voting". I'm a big fan of the principle.

To vote, visit the following link and rank the candidates. I really encourage you to check out the link at the bottom of the poll to understand how it works.

Here is a recap of the final candidates you're voting on and their blogs. Their names are in alphabetical order below and in randomized order on the ballot. (The poll doesn't have links to the blogs, so I provide them here for convenience.)

The polls are open through Monday, December 3, 2007. I'll announce the winners on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bloghive Advisory Board

If there is sufficient interest, I'd like to form a Bloghive Advisory Board. Here is the vision. We'll form a five member board that votes on administrative issues for the bloghive site. When new sites are recommended for the bloghive, the board will vote to decide on inclusion. The board will also decide the categorization of each new blog.

Being on the board won't be very time consuming; it is mostly just an email list. I'd like the board to be composed of bloggers currently on the site from across the spectrum. The site should continue to aggregate political content from the broad diversity of opinions represented in our state. I want to continue to have the site focus on political commentary rather than on personal or entertainment commentary.

If you would like to nominate a blogger to serve on the board, send an email to I'll collect nominations for one week and then I'll put up an online poll for one week to allow people to vote. You're welcome to nominate yourself or other bloggers you like to read. I'll get permission from the blogger before I include them in the election. Assuming I can contact all the candidates, we'll post the poll the Monday after Thanksgiving.

What are you waiting for? Send your nominations!

Comment below or send me an email to accept your nomination, or else I'll try to track you down later. Names with a * have accepted the nomination.

* Bob Aagard (The World According To Me)
* Craig Limesand (KVNU's For the People)
* David Miller (Pursuit of Liberty)
* Ethan Millard (SLC Spin)
* Frank Staheli (Simple Utah Mormon Politics)
* Jesse Harris (Coolest Family Ever)
* JM Bell (um... JM Bell)
* pramahaphil (Green Jello)
* Ric Cantrell (The Senate Site)
* Rob Miller (Utah Amicus)
* Scott Hinrichs (Reach Upward)
* Steve Urquhart (Steve Urquhart)
* Tom Grover (KVNU's For the People)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Voucher Redux, Or What a Waste

Well, the Utah school voucher referendum has likely failed. Now we can all settle down and get back to loving our neighbors and eating green Jello with carrot shavings (or orange Jello with celery bits). Next time we bring this issue up, can we all play nice and respect others' opinions? Perhaps try to tell the truth, not mislead, and not paint our opponents as the devil (after all, we know he's at the convention)?

And maybe not spend so much money next time, too. According to the New York Sun, more than $8 million have been spent in Utah on the voucher issue (more than spent in the last gubernatorial race). I understand the need to saturate the "market" with billboards, signs, print, television, and radio ads, mass mailings, and telephone calls, but the deluge reached Biblical proportions at our house this week. In one week's time, we received at least eight glossy, full-color, unique pamphlets in the mail (addressed to various combinations of our names, plus the ubiquitous "Resident"). And the telephone calls! Yesterday I received four automated calls, each extorting me to vote "Yes" on Referendum 1. Today I received four more--one was automated, three were real live people, somewhere in the world, asking me to go to the polls and vote for the voucher program. All of these calls were paid for by "Parents for Choice in Education".

I understand the need to "get out the vote". I support the voucher program (sometimes in spite of Parents for Choice in Education). And here's the weird thing--Parents for Choice in Education should have known this. They called me two weeks ago and asked if I was willing to put a sign in my yard. I told them yes, but they never got back to me, so my yard is, sadly, signless. So somewhere in their many lists of numbers, they should have known that I was already converted. And perhaps--just perhaps, they could have saved a little money and limited the telephone calls to my home, at least, to maybe one or two a day.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why I Support Vouchers for Rich People

I posted earlier about the lame mailer from Utahns for Public Schools. I want to expand a bit on why that seemed so lame, and why I think vouchers for rich people are a great thing and why I think they'll help everyone--even especially the public schools.

It's all about Oreo cookies. :) According to Steve U., if we have a switch rate over 1%, we'll save money with the voucher system. Money saved means more money available to allocate to public schools. But suppose that we DON'T see a greater than 1% switch rate. In this case the voucher program will "lose money." I have to put that in quotes, because I don't think paying for education is losing money.

You see, ANY switch rate, no matter how small, will mean fewer children in public schools and more resources available per student. (That's true even if we end up spending more money from the general fund on this voucher experiment.) It is in our best interest to encourage people to take children out of the public schools if they are able to bear that burden. It really can benefit all the children who remain. Anybody chanting the chorus of "smaller class size" should concur with this argument.

It may be true that vouchers won't help poor kids get into private schools. Many budgets are just too tight to spend extra money for things that could be had for free in the public system. But suppose the voucher is the needed incentive to get 1% of rich people currently in public schools to switch to private schools. Voila! We will then reach the point where the vouchers are a net financial gain for the public school system. At that point, we're actually helping ALL the public school kids, poor or rich.

We do lots of things with taxes to create incentives for businesses. We do this not because we want to subsidize the business, but because we want to incentivize behaviors we like. We want businesses to server people in poor areas. We want businesses to build in struggling parts of the city. None of these incentives are inappropriate for a local government in my view.

The argument that we shouldn't give vouchers to rich kids--even when doing so will help poor kids--is to cut off our nose to spite our face. I'll be voting in favor of referendum 1.

Spiteful: Utahns for Public Schools Ad

I received an incredibly petty ad in the mail from Utahns for Public Schools. Perhaps you did too. Since it illustrates a point that been bugging me about the voucher debate for a while, I decided to address it--not because I believe anyone reading this is available to be swayed in the voucher debate (we've become pretty well informed here in the bloghive), but because I want to make a broader economic point.

In summary, the ad says, "Since every kid can't make use of a voucher, nobody should get a voucher." This is spiteful.

Should we insist that because every adult can't get a Pell Grant (they are only for people below a certain income), nobody should get one? Should we say that because every company can't compete for government aerospace contracts (you have to be a big enough company--and in the aerospace business--to get one), that no company should get government aerospace contracts? Would we insist that no one can use cell phones at home because some people live too far from a cell phone tower to get reception?

If I'm not harmed because you get a benefit, I should rejoice in your opportunity. Utahns for Public Schools does the opposite. This is spite. The ad preys on this worst base emotion that is truly counter-productive. It is the emotion that says, "If I can't finish first, no one else can finish."

[Note: I tried to find a link to this ad on the UTPS website, but I only saw their video ads linked there. If you've got a link, I'd love to add it.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chief Justice John Roberts at BYU

I got the opportunity to attend the forum lecture by Chief Justice John Roberts at Brigham Young University today. The forum was well-attended; from my vantage point it looked as if almost all the regular seats were taken, with very little spill-over to the bleacher seats. When the Chief Justice entered, everyone stood--not an honor given to most forum speakers, at least in my memory. During the preliminary business, one thing stood out to me--Justice Roberts sang along with the opening hymn "Praise to the Lord". I thought that was a nice touch.

Justice Roberts began his talk by referencing President and Sister Samuelson's beginning-of-the-year devotional talks. In his address, President Samuelson asked BYU students to read a book about the Constitution of the United States. Justice Roberts "assigned" more reading--the Constitution itself. The bulk of his address focused on the Constitution and the intent of the founders in mandating the separation of powers. The founders knew it would inefficient to have federal powers held in three separate groupings (the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary), but they preferred it that way, anyway, seeing the separation as a check against the kind of tyranny they had rebelled against.

Even for all that, the judiciary does not have the type of power the other two branches of the government have (neither "the power of the purse nor the power of the sword" he quoted during the Q&A following the forum). Justice Roberts told a humorous story about how the first federal building built in Washington DC, was the White House (executive). Then the Capitol Building was completed (legislature). And the third building...was the Patent Office. The Supreme Court didn't get their own building until 1935--before that, they met in the basement of the Capitol.

Justice Roberts spoke about the United States Constitution has endured for 220 years. Although it has grand words and lofty ideals, that alone does not make it important. Without an independent judiciary to enforce those grand words, Roberts said (he may have been quoting), they are nothing but a cruel joke. The court case of Marbury v Madison established that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and that the Supreme Court interprets that law. This power underscores the need for an judiciary that is unafraid to make unpopular decisions, without fear or favor.

According to Justice Roberts, our country is unusual in that we only have ONE Supreme Court. Other countries may have a Constitutional Court in addition to other courts which settle tax, civil, and other types of cases. Justice Roberts sees that as a definite advantage, in that the justices don't spend all their time contemplating lofty notions and esoteric ideals. Many of the cases they decide have real-time consequences, and this keeps them grounded.

He finished his address by encouraging the audience to read unbiased histories of our country. Praising James Madison, fourth president of the United States and key framer of the Constitution, Justice Roberts recommended the Federalist Papers as a good place to start reading up on the Constitution.

As an example of a modern counterpoint to James Madison, Justice Roberts praised Rex Lee, Supreme Court litigator and past president of BYU. Rex Lee "balanced family, church, and private and public service". Justice Roberts told a story about a case he argued before the Supreme Court against President Lee. When he told his client that the ruling was unanimously against them, the client asked "Why did we lose 9-0?". Justice Roberts replied, "Because there are only nine justices."

Justice Roberts' remarks were interesting, informative, and amusing. He mentioned Utah, BYU, or Mormon pioneer history several times, giving his address a local flavor that was enjoyable. The audience gave him a standing ovation, and the applause lasted several minutes (the Chief Justice seemed a little embarrassed by this, but it was well-deserved.) This was one of the best forums I've attended.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hiram Bertoch: Utah Voucher Flyer In My Mail

A blogger who doesn't normally comment on politics has put up a reaction to a flyer he received in the mail from Parents for Choice in Education.

Utah Voucher Flyer In My Mail

It doesn't appear that Hiram allows comments on his blog (which looks bad in Firefox, BTW), so you're welcome to comment here if you like.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Feeling Like a Mormon Democrat: Yet Another Voucher Post

I'm not a Democrat, but being a voucher supporter in Utah may be the closest I'm going to get to feeling like a Mormon Democrat. You're embarrassed to be on the same team with certain other people on your side of the issues, but you stay because that's where your convictions lie.

Honestly, I haven't read many positive things about Parents for Choice in Education. They don't seem to be running a clean campaign. Yet they are on the right side of the issue. I'll pull the lever for vouchers because they are a good idea, not because I'm pleased with the way they've been marketed.

Even if vouchers end up costing the state more money, that would be more money spent towards educating kids and I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. (Aren't people always saying we should be spending more on education?) However, I suspect that vouchers will save money for the state and that that savings can be used to increase per-pupil spending in the public schools.

To be honest, I don't understand why public school teachers don't like the idea. Surely, the student population in Utah will continue to grow, meaning that the vouchers will only slow the growth. I don't think there is even a remote possibility that vouchers will cause a public school to close or shrink due to lack of enrollment.

After having looked carefully at the issue (as a non-lawyer), I have absolutely no worries about the constitutionality of the voucher measure. It is clearly legal under the Utah constitution. A reading of the Utah constitution that would prohibit vouchers would also prohibit payment of salaries to government workers who would pay tithing on that money. COL Takashi put a terrific analysis of the issue in a comment on a blog and now I can't find it. But I was thoroughly persuaded.

Anti-voucher arguments about government subsidies are also totally bogus. We've made a decision as a society to entirely subsidize the education of children. That ship has sailed. With vouchers, we're letting some people volunteer to chip in some extra money toward the education of their own children rather than having the state pay the whole bill. I support vouchers because they addresses the unfairness in our current system that some parents pay for the education of their children twice. Rich or not, that isn't fair. Let's fix it with vouchers.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Harry Reid at BYU

I just returned from watching Harry Reid present a forum address at BYU. I really liked his presentation. In the introduction by President Samuelson, we got the usual rundown on life history and previous church callings. I was surprised to hear that Senator Reid's church callings included only High Priest Group Instructor and Home Teacher. Either lots of callings were left unmentioned, or Senator Reid's public service has limited his opportunities for church service. I don't mention that by way of laud or jeer, but only to say it was interesting.

Gerrit Gong, an official at the university, spoke in a devotional a while back and related the following story that I was reminded of today.
We have all had experiences where we tried to be helpful and weren’t. I once arrived early for priesthood meeting. Thinking I could help ready our classroom, I erased the blackboard dense with writing. As he began our lesson, our dedicated instructor said, with surprise but without criticism, “I came early and put our lesson on the board, but somehow it’s been erased.” The class turned out fine, but I remember the forbearance of our priesthood teacher who, incidentally, is today’s U.S. Senate majority leader.
Harry Reid had taken a lot of heat among conservatives for his comments about losing the Iraq war at the time that Brother Gong made his remarks. It served as a reminder then that even when we disagree with someone, they rarely wear a hat that is all black. Today's address by Senator Reid served as a similar reminder.

Brother Reid talked about the challenging moral conditions that surrounded him as he grew up and the near reverence that his non-religious family had for FDR. After relating some touching stories from his life, including how he eloped with his wife and gained the love of his Jewish parents-in-law, he turned to the "Mormon Democrat" question. He provided a simple and familiar list of reasons he believes the ideals of the Democratic party are in line with Mormon beliefs. His first applause line came when he referred to the Iraq war as a foreign policy blunder. He received his second applause line when he acknowledged that some people view it differently.

The crowd was very respectful as I had hoped. He enjoyed a hearty welcoming applause when he stood up, and a small percentage of the audience gave him a standing ovation as he finished. Thanks to Brother Reid for spending some time with us. If you would like to view the address, you can catch it on BYU-TV for the next two weeks or so. (You have to skip in about five minutes on that link to get to the actual forum assembly.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Campaign Finance Folly

I'm steamed about campaign finance laws that limit the amount of money people can contribute to political parties or politicians. They are an affront to the constitutional protection of speech. (I fully support mandatory disclosure of donor names and amounts.) People trying to get around the artificial limits on campaign contributions have resulted in a host of undesirable effects.

John Fund passed along a report that renewed my frustration. People feel the need to concoct all sorts of shenanigans to circumvent the absurd campaign finance laws.
Mr. Hsu later became one of Mrs. Clinton's top bundlers--powerbrokers who collect many small donations for delivery to candidates. He brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to her and other Democratic causes. The Wall Street Journal reports that many of the contributions came from "people who had no prior history of political giving or obvious means for paying."

Take the Paw family of Daly City, Calif., which is headed by a mail carrier who makes $49,000 a year. Members of the family have given almost $300,000 to politicians, including Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, since 2004, often on or about the same days that Mr. Hsu gave money. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether any Hsu donors were illegally reimbursed for their contributions.
I regret that we've created a market for people like Hsu. Reports are now coming in that Clinton will return all the money associated with Hsu. She shouldn't have to, but she really has no choice.

Of course, John McCain is a mastermind behind this reform. It will give me pause in supporting him if he is the GOP candidate.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Baptizing Illegal Immigrants

I was quite surprised to read the following in an extended draft[1] of a biography of President Spencer W. Kimball.
For Spencer to express an opinion baldly and expect compliance was rare, but years later Francis Gibbons remembered such an incident because it was so unusual. In a joint meeting of the First Presidency and the Twelve to consider whether illegal aliens should be baptized, some of the brethren supported the position of not baptizing illegal aliens. After hearing all the views and the reasoning behind them, President Kimball said, “I think they should be baptized.” That ended the discussion.
I think I would have been among those arguing the opposite position, but an essential part of my faith is seeking to recognize and follow those whose spiritual vision may exceed my own. President Kimball was unquestionably such a man.

[1] Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft) by Edward L. Kimball, chapter 4 page 3. This version of the book is available on the CD that accompanies the printed version of the book and was also distributed to BYU Studies subscribers.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Shifting Views on Education?

I just read, in the online magazine Slate, a fascinating article about teachers and the slowly changing perception the public has about them:
High-pressured and punishing—of such macho qualities is social cachet often built in the world of work. Nowhere in Tyler Heights or Stuyvesant, in Perlstein's and Klein's portrayals, do you hear anyone touting the familiar (female- and family-friendly) perks of the profession: the long summer months off, the seasonal breaks, the 3 o'clock dismissals, the heartwarming kids. Teachers' unions never get mentioned, nor do bonuses. The scene is more reminiscent of, say, the Union army, beset by struggles and squabbles within the ranks, yet striving to make slow headway on divisive home ground.

It is precisely the draining rigors of the job that are intrinsic to teaching's appeal, helping it shed its schoolmarmish taint, suggests Fortune in an article about TFA's popularity. "The program has been likened to a domestic Peace Corps, with long work hours and much emotional demand, so it's not for the faint of heart."
Read the whole thing--it's fascinating, and indicates that the exhausting, draining, but hopefully rewarding reality of teaching may actually start getting a little respect in the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Relieved Reaction to the Sen. Craig Story

Today at work I saw the breaking news headline splashed across the top of the website. "Sen. Larry Craig is stepping down from his committee assignments amid calls for his resignation from the Senate." I started frothing at the mouth in annoyance because I assumed that the partisan environment in Washington was driving these calls for Craig's head.

"How dare those Democrats who excused Bill Clinton's behavior peep a word about Senator Craig?"

I clicked on the first story, and to my immense relief, found that it was Republican senators--not Democrats as I initially assumed--calling Craig on the carpet. There is nothing in politics that bugs me more than excusing your own team's failings while condemning the same failings in your opponents. What a relief to see, at least in this instance, a departure from the usual partisan blinders.

Note: I don't know anything about Sen. Craig. I am making no defense of him here.

Smart Aleck Aside: I'll be waiting for those on the social left to be coming to Craig's defense with demands for tolerance of his alternative lifestyle. After all, who are the rest of us to tell a man it is wrong to cheat on his wife?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Giuliani Dilemma

If Rudy Giuliani were the GOP nominee, I would have a difficult time pulling the lever for him. I'm totally creeped out by his personal life. There are those who would argue that the personal and the public are totally separate. I'd disagree with them.

Or maybe not. I've been watching the documentary "Liberty: The American Revolution" and I must admit that I'm not totally comfortable with all the things the patriots did and said. Benjamin Franklin is on our money, but fathered several illegitimate children. Would I vote for Ben Franklin if he were running today? I honestly don't know. I'm not sure where that leaves me with Giuliani either. I'll be watching and pondering.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

KSL's confusing story about Israeli and Muslim Scouts

The headline: Israeli Scouts Don't Attend Planned Meeting with Muslim Scouts

A well-written headline--all the pertinent information present, right? There was a meeting planned, the Muslim Scouts showed up, the Israeli Scouts didn't.

The actual story under the headline is somewhat less well-written. Actually, it's rather confusing:
A very unique scouting event took place in Salt Lake this evening, but what was supposed to happen afterwards, didn't. Israeli Jewish scouts and Utah Muslim scouts did not meet.

Utah scout leaders had wanted the young people from Israel to meet a Salt Lake Valley troop of Muslims, but only their leaders came.

Utah Scouting stepped into international relations when members of the Friendship Caravan from Israel performed. The young men and women are Israeli scouts who tour the U.S. every summer.

These performances were supposed to take on interfaith importance, but they didn't. Apparently, this show of patriotism was a bit too much for the Muslims.

The Mulsim (sic) scout leaders, Palestinians, said it was nice to meet the Israeli scouts, but did not bring their young people.(emphasis added)

So, the style and construction of the headline seem to imply the Israelis didn't show. The second paragraph is just ambiguous. The last sentence makes it sound like it was the Muslim scouts that didn't show up. I'm still unclear on what happened, but apparently one scout group stood up another one.

Or something.

(I really don't care whether the Israelis or the Muslims were the no-shows--I have no comment about the religious/political subtext that probably underlies the event. All I know is the scout troops could have been Shakers and Wiccans, and it would still be a poorly written story.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hatch and Bennett on Immigration Bill Cloture

Tomorrow the U.S. Senate will revisit the immigration bill by voting on a cloture motion. If 60 senators vote "yes", then debate will resume and the bill comes ever closer to passing--a very bad idea in my opinion. The bill is long on rewards for illegal behavior and short on enforcement of current laws.

At any rate, Utah's senators haven't decided how they are going to vote in tomorrow's motion (as of Monday morning, when I spoke to their Washington office staff). If you are interested in this motion either passing or failing, you should consider giving them a call (or sending them an email) to register your opinion.

Senator Hatch: (202) 224-5251 email

Senator Bennett: (202) 224-5444 email

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trousers and Self-Deception

There is a judge suing a dry cleaner over a lost pair of pants. I'm sure you've heard about his $54 million suit against the dry cleaners. A blogger was interviewed on Olberman's show and MSN put up the video of the interview. He explained that the aggrieved party actually got emotional recounting his turmoil over the past two years, going so far as to ask for a recess whereupon he left the room with tears in his eyes.

Obviously, the emotions this man is feeling about his lost pants are real. But what is their root cause? I'm rereading C. Terry Warner's book Bonds That Make Us Free. It is one of those seminal works for me that changed the way I view the world and myself.

Warner teaches us that a lot of the feelings of anger and resentment that we have are evidence that we've deceived ourselves and are treating others inhumanely. As I listened to the blogger talk about watching this angry man in court talking about his pants, I couldn't help but conclude that he is trapped in negative emotions that he has unwittingly caused himself.

Early in the book (p. 23), Warner explains self-justifying stories.

We cannot betray ourselves without setting in motion all manner of emotional trouble. This is demonstrated by the experience of a businessman named Marty, in his early thirties, who told the following story:

The other night about 2:00 A.M. I awoke to hear the baby crying. At that moment I had a fleeting feeling, a feeling that if I got up quickly I might be able to see what was wrong before Carolyn would be awakened. It was a feeling that this was something I really ought to do. But I didn't get up to check on the baby.
The matter did not end there. Marty didn't quickly forget about this small episode. He couldn't have simply forgotten about it. Here he was, a man expecting himself to get up, thinking that his wife would benefit from his doing so, and knowing in his heart that it was the right thing for him to do. And yet not doing it. He had to deal with this dishonorable situation somehow. But how? How could someone like Marty get away with not doing what he knew he should do?

The answer to this question is very important to understand. Somehow, Marty had to minimize the obligation he was placing upon himself, or in some other way make it seem right not to do what he felt summoned to do. He had to find some other way to rationalize his self-betrayal.

Marty continued his story:
It bugged me that Carolyn wasn't waking up. I kept thinking it was her job to take care of the baby. She has her work and I have mine, and mine is hard. It starts early in the morning. She can sleep in. On top of that, I never know how to handle the baby anyway.

I wondered if Carolyn was lying there waiting for me to get up. Why did I have to feel so guilty that I couldn't sleep? The only think I wanted was to get to work fresh enough to do a good job. What was selfish about that?
From the instant he decided not to get up, Marty began to make it seem as if what he was doing wasn't his fault. ...He noticed irritating or difficult elements of his circumstances, such as Carolyn's failure to wake up. Maybe she was only pretending to be asleep, he thought, waiting for him to get up and take care of the problem. Such matters hadn't even crossed his mind before the self-betrayal. But now he suddenly could think of nothing else. He remembered things he would otherwise have forgotten entirely, such as Carolyn's not having changed the baby just before putting her to bed.

So here is the mental situation he created for himself: Just seconds before, as he had awakened to his infant daughter's crying, he had focused on the baby's need and , if only fleetingly, on the possibility of saving Carolyn from the inconvenience of having to get up. But now he focused on himself.
The feelings of frustration and anger that we feel are real, that's for sure. The surprise is that we are the cause of those feelings. The lie is that others are forcing us to feel that way. There are times when people abuse us, it is true. But we heap injury upon ourselves when we react in an accusing way. We only hurt ourselves more by hating!

I suspect the man suing over pants to the tune of $54 million is "stuck" in negative feelings and he probably doesn't know how to escape. If you talk to him, mention this book, would you?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Congressional Car Selection and Fuel Economy

Dana Milbank, in a Washington Post column last year, zinged several lawmakers for driving gas guzzling cars to events within easy walking distance of their offices. With gas prices back in the news this summer, I thought the article was worth digging up again.

Here are a few of the cars listed that Senators and Representatives had for trips across the street or a block away.
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chrysler LHS (18 mpg)
  • House Republicans caucusing about gas prices, 8 Chevy Suburbans (14 mpg) idling outside the meeting
  • Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), GMC Yukon (14 mpg)
  • Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Nissan Pathfinder (15 mpg)
  • Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Ford Explorer (14 mpg)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lincoln Town Car (17 mpg)
  • Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Chrysler minivan (18 mpg)
  • Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Toyota Prius (60 mpg)
  • Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Dodge Durango V8 (14 mpg)
There are lots more in the article, and Milbank has a lot of fun spinning them together.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Michael Moore Takes the High Road

I read that Michael Moore gave $12,000 to one of his biggest detractors. He even tried to do it anonymously. It was a really good reminder to me that we're all people with feelings and generous impulses--even on the internet where sometimes things get a little too mean.

Thanks, Michael Moore, for showing some class. No one's hat is totally black or white and that's always worth remembering.

NY Times: Democrats Cause Global Warming!

According to a Saturday editorial in the New York Times, Democrats are causing global warming! Who'd have thought? According to the Times, "Energy-gluttonous cities account for three-fourths of greenhouse gas emissions the world over." Hmmm. Which party is it that controls and populates most of the big cities...

But seriously, I wonder if the Times meant to say "three-fourths of man made greenhouse gas emissions." I don't know if we have hard numbers, but I've read that the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gases are naturally produced. (Even water vapor is a greenhouse gas.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Who will fact check FactCheck?

I usually appreciate's work in looking at the claims political candidates make. However, their latest report on the 2nd GOP presidential debate left me unsatisfied. It seemed to be sprinkled with an underlying viewpoint. Here are the two items in particular that bugged me.
Global Warming

During the debate Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado claimed that scientific studies were equally split on the existence of global warming and whether humans are responsible:
Tancredo: Okay. First of all, the whole issue of global warming, for every single scientist that tells you it's happening and that it's our fault — and they'll stack up to here in this reports — I can stack up another group of reports that say just the opposite.
Actually, we find that an overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that global warming is taking place and that human activity is predominantly to blame. Most recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), overseen jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, released a report representing the work of 600 authors from 40 countries and 113 government representatives, saying:
IPCC: The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution.
Also, the National Research Council, chief adviser to the U.S. government on science and technology, issued its own report as far back as 2001 that reads:
NRC: Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.
It's true that there are dissenters to this consensus view. Among them are the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, chief editor of the World Climate Report Blog, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. But the split is by no means 50-50 as Tancredo claimed.
It appears that has put words into Tancredo's mouth. The "50-50" split was not part of Tancredo's answer. He simply said their was a stack of reports that took a different view. He made no claim about the relative size or number of those reports.

Furthermore, the studies that have shown that the majority of scientists agree with human-caused global warming have been cast in serious doubt. (I wish I could find the link where I read about the flaws in that study. Perhaps you know where it is.) I get the sense that most measurements support the thesis that the globe is warming but that there is little to no evidence that points to the origin of that warming. I think people are making educated guesses.

I read one scientist who was on the IPCC. He disagreed with the way the work was proceeding and so he quit, yet his name still appears on the report. How many others of the "600 authors" don't agree with all or part of the resulting IPCC report?

Ron Bailey, a reporter and CATO scholar, has documented a lot of popular environmental "disasters" of the past that never actually materialized. Reid Bryson, who predicted the existence of the jet stream before it was discovered and is regarded as a father of climate science in the United States, has expressed his doubts about the human origins of global warming.

Yes, it seems that most scientists do believe that humans play a major role in global warming, but that is not the same as saying that most of the science supports the same thesis. Yes, there are reports that argue the anthropogenic nature of global warming. But there are also reports that argue the opposite, just as Tancredo asserted.

Sorry FactCheck, you missed this one. In so doing, you seemed to be pressing an agenda rather than merely checking the facts.

Giuliani Misquotes Giuliani

Giuliani claimed questioner Chris Wallace had misquoted him as saying some moderate Republicans were being "fundamentally irresponsible" for demanding progress in Iraq by September:
Wallace: Mayor Giuliani, in our interview the other day you said that congressional Republicans who say they must see progress by September are, quote, "fundamentally irresponsible," and that in effect they are giving a timetable for retreat to our enemies.

Is your commitment to winning in Iraq open-ended?

Giuliani: First of all, that isn't exactly what I said. I was talking about the timetable for retreat that the Democrats passed in Congress, in which they did something extraordinary and that I've never heard of in the history of war, which is to give your enemy a schedule of how a retreating army is going to retreat. That was irresponsible, highly irresponsible.
But what Giuliani actually said, in his May 13 interview on "Fox News Sunday," was this:
Wallace (May 13): Now you hear some Republicans saying September. We've got to know by then. So, what would you say to those people?

Giuliani: Anybody proposing giving the enemy a timetable of our retreat is proposing something that is fundamentally irresponsible.
The record is clear: Giuliani's use of the phrase "fundamentally irresponsible" was in response to a question about Republicans, not Democrats. He also criticized Democrats for proposing a 'timetable for retreat" in other portions of the May 13 interview, but not here.

This feels like an intentional misreading of Giuliani's original statement, which was precise. He said that "anybody" proposing timetables was irresponsible. His later paraphrase in the debate in plausibly in line with his first quote. If FactCheck can't read Giuliani's mind, then they have no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt.

There is no factual blunder here unless you can show that Giuliani was talking about Republicans in his first quote. That would imply he was strictly answering the question he was asked by a reporter. We all know how rarely that happens. It seems more likely he was using that question to make a broader point about his foes, which is a common tactic used by politicians when they are interviewed by the press.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Smoke the Ratings

My eye rolling muscles are working overtime as I contemplate the new decision by the MPAA to push movies with smoking toward an R rating. As if the ratings weren't already useless enough, now we're going to slap an R rating on a movie when it features something that my kids see their friendly neighbor doing on his front porch? Oh, brother.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tornadoes and the Guard

There has been much hand wringing about the shortage of equipment available in Kansas after the recent tornado because the national guard is "missing in action." Take Bob Aagard, a local blogger, for example.

However, the National Guard hasn't been involved in helping with some of the tornados in the midwest as they usually are.

It's because the troops and their equipment are in Iraq.

This is factually inaccurate based on the news reporting I heard on NPR, but it is an understandable misconception based on the way this natural disaster has been covered.

A head guy for the Kansas National Guard interviewed on NPR said that they have enough equipment for the current disaster. They are concerned about their capacity if they have another disaster. This is a legitimate concern, but is has clearly been misrepresented in the news.

The governor of Kansas came on in a subsequent interview and clarified that only 10% of Kansas guardsmen are overseas. 50% of their equipment is overseas. That is a lot of stuff that they are missing, but again, not as bad as we've been led to believe.

I heard a lot of complaints that Bush had failed to ask US citizens to sacrifice anything in the war against the terrorists. Why is that we must now complain when part of our sacrifice is made evident?

On a totally different point, I heard a few great personal stories from tornado survivors who recounted their blessings during the disaster. I'm so grateful for the good people of our country. We are so blessed.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Concerns about "Alternative Commencement"

I'll admit that I'm of two minds about the concept of an alternative commencement like the one recently staged for BYU grads. I'm in support of diverse opinions being expressed and I supported in spirit the students who wanted to protest against Vice President Cheney. I disagreed with them in substance, but I appreciated the fact that discussions were spurred that otherwise might not have happened.

I'm also pleased to see people taking initiative to organize events and make things happen. The student organizers were able to line up a slate of speakers that was swooned over by the some on the left.

My problem with the event was the presumptuousness of it. I read in one account that people were wearing caps and gowns. If that report is accurate, they were literally staging a fake commencement. There can be no "alternate" that is not sanctioned by the university because students don't have the power to grant themselves degrees. Nor do they have power to honor themselves. So in that sense, any alternative commencement is a sham and a fraud.

Of course, commencements mean less these days than they used to. I know that the commencement is not the place where you actually pick up your diploma. There is a separate event for that for each college within the university. Many students forgo commencement altogether; I did. I'm told that it used to be relatively mandatory. Knowing that times have changed, maybe the "fraudulentness" of an alternative commencement is less severe now that it was in the past. Even so, I wish the event had been framed as a commencement enhancement rather than an alternate.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Satan at the Convention

I'm a county delegate for my Republican precinct, and it's convention season--the Utah County Republican Convention is this Saturday April 28. In the mail today I got the information about the convention--when to be there, what's on the agenda, the proposed changes to the county platform, etc. Included in the envelope was a proposed resolution to be debated ("10 minutes total") and voted on at the convention. The title at the top fairly demanded that the entire resolution be read (the full text of the resolution is at the bottom of the post):
Resolution opposing Satan's plan to destroy the U.S. by stealth invasion
Well! I'm definitely against Satan destroying the United States. (I imagine most people feel the same way.) But how is Satan scheming to invade the country?
Whereas, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9)

Whereas, in order for Satan to establish his “New World Order” and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. There are ways to destroy a nation other than with bombs or bullets. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nation the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness.
I don't like illegal immigration. I think it is dangerous for both the immigrants (not only the dangerous passage past our borders, but the exploitation by unscrupulous businesses, among other things) and the country (at a minimum, having an influx of people here because they broke the law is bad for the "rule of law"). I really doubt the illegal immigration problem will be helped, however, by attributing to Satan the actions of (mostly) well-meaning people looking for a better way of life.

The addition of the biblical scripture is disconcerting as well. The Book of Revelation is full of imagery, allusion, and poetic metaphor (dragons, anyone?) that I would be careful making dogmatic statements concerning it in a church class, much less a political venue.
Whereas, it is obvious that most promoters of massive immigration and open borders do not like the ideas of patriotism, national identity, sovereignty, our Christian culture and freedom. Many consider themselves cosmopolitans or world citizens. Their religion is atheistic humanism. They are found primarily among the elite of foundations, universities, big business, left-wing politicians, Hollywood, ACLU (Anti-Christian Lawyers Union), CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), the American power elite and the liberal media. They prefer a world without borders ruled by a one world tyrannical government.
I don't think that it is helpful to generalize all opponents to a tougher immigration standard to people who "do not like the ideas of patriotism, national identity," etc. Lumping those same people in with Satan and his minions is even more distasteful. Although I'm fairly right-leaning on the immigration issue, I can actually understand the perspective of those on the other side. I truly believe that most on the "amnesty, open-border" side truly want to help. We just have different ideas of what, exactly, will help the most. And, although I have to admit the "Anti-Christian Lawyers Union" jab made me chuckle, such name-calling in a public, political document to be endorsed by the delegates is inappropriate.
Now therefore, because we support the “Rule of Law,” the Constitution and the principals [sic] that made America the greatest and freest nation in history, the Utah County Republican Party supports the closing of our national borders to illegal immigration to prevent the destruction of the U.S. by stealth invasion.

Submitted by: Don Larsen, District 65 Chairman
I support better enforcement of our immigration laws. But there is no way I can vote for this resolution. I think the inflammatory language, the rhetoric, and the over-the-top discussion of the devil are, in the least, inappropriate in a political document and, at the worst, a dangerous precedent to follow in our political system.

(full text of resolution below)
Resolution opposing Satan’s plan to destroy the U.S. by stealth invasion

Whereas, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9)
Whereas, in order for Satan to establish his “New World Order” and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. There are ways to destroy a nation other than with bombs or bullets. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nation the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness.
Whereas, Americans will have to make a choice: either close our borders to illegal immigration, which is now vastly greater than any time in the past, or witness the passing country [sic]. The proof of this statement is the record of history. It is a history littered with the gravestones of great nations and civilizations which allowed invaders to overrun them. If we fail to learn from the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them.
Whereas, all polls show that the American people overwhelmingly want limited immigration, reform and control of our borders as mandated by the Constitution. But many do not realize the extent of the dangers ahead because of the lack of accurate media coverage and public debate. An important reason for the lack of understanding is that the powerful commercial, political, ethnic, and the godless globalist elites who control the major media do not want the issues of illegal immigration to come to national attention.
Whereas, it is obvious that most promoters of massive immigration and open borders do not like the ideas of patriotism, national identity, sovereignty, our Christian culture and freedom. Many consider themselves cosmopolitans or world citizens. Their religion is atheistic humanism. They are found primarily among the elite of foundations, universities, big business, left-wing politicians, Hollywood, ACLU (Anti-Christian Lawyers Union [sic]), CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), the American power elite and the liberal media. They prefer a world without borders ruled by a one world tyrannical government.
Whereas, we cannot benefit the world by eliminating our borders and sovereignty as advocated by Satan’s “axis of evil”, if we do, the world will pull us down to its lowest common level and we will have committed national suicide. In that case, the U.S. will no longer be a free and prosperous land or light of liberty for all nations. Once he has destroyed the U.S., Satan will be able to establish his “Satanic New World Order” and destroy the freedom of all people.
Whereas, the national security and the future of the nation and the American people depends upon how well we do our job and defend our borders. We must control our borders to illegal immigration, have a well regulated temporary worker program, as needed, or face extinction. The destruction of the U.S. by the forces of evil is a top priority of Satan.
Now therefore, we (delegates) are obligated to support the Utah State and Utah County Republicans Platforms regarding the mandates to support the “Rule of Law” and the Constitutional mandate to protect and secure our national borders.
Now therefore, because we support the “Rule of Law,” the Constitution and the principals that made America the greatest and freest nation in history, the Utah County Republican Party supports the closing of our national borders to illegal immigration to prevent the destruction of the U.S. by stealth invasion.

Submitted by: Don Larsen, District 65 Chairman

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Go Gwen!

Gwen Ifill was a guest on Meet the Press this week. The reporters' roundtable was supposed to cover three different topics, but the first topic, the Don Imus firing, occupied the entire time. As I watched the show, I could almost see the fire dancing behind Gwen's eyes, even while she maintained her graceful and professional composure.

Tim Russert was hosting the show as usual. His guests were David Brooks, Gwen Ifill, John Harwood, and Eugene Robinson.

Ifill has apparently had enough of the hypocrisy of people condemning Imus now who once appeared on his show--a show where Imus has always made the same sorts of incendiary remarks. She specifically calls out two of her fellow panelists.
There’s been radio silence from a lot of people who’ve done this program who could’ve spoken up and said, “I find this offensive” or “I didn’t know.” These people didn’t speak up.

Tim, we didn’t hear that much from you.

David, we didn’t hear from you.

What was missing in this debate was someone saying, “You know, I understand that this is offensive.” ...people will say, “I didn’t know,” or people will say, “I wasn’t listening.” A lot of people did know, and a lot of people were listening, and they just decided it was OK. They decided this culture of meanness was fine until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and, and a lot of the debate in the society is not that people are sorry that they say these things. They’re sorry that someone catches them.

...David’s right, about the culture of meanness, about the culture of racial complaint, about the internal culture in our community, about the way we talk to one another. But this week, just this week, it was finally saying “Enough.”
Ifill is a lady in every way. No shouting or demeaning. She just pointed out that her colleagues have tried to play both sides. They appear on Imus's show and then try to distance themselves from the things that go on immediately before and immediately after their appearance.

I concur with Gwen Ifill. A heck of a lot of people had an opportunity to ignore Imus. They failed to insist on a culture of civility and kindness. They are complicit in his public offenses.

I don't endorse a culture that polices thought that speech with external forces. (I am soooooo grateful for the 1st amendment protections we enjoy in this country.) I endorse a culture that encourages self control. I hope for a culture that refuses to support hateful speech. We can allow people to saw those things, but we don't have to support or subsidize them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Join in the national healing"?

At the top of this afternoon, a blue banner read: "Watch Now>>Virginia Tech convocation. Join in the national healing."

I hope I can explain why this rubbed me the wrong way without offending anyone touched by this tragedy. Make no mistake, this is a terrible tragedy. I feel shocked and sickened just thinking about it.

But my life isn't changed in any measurable way by these events. I don't think I need healing.

The "nation" certainly does need "healing". However, I'm pretty sure that healing will not be brought about by the small measure of comfort afforded by mourning with those that mourn. The healing our nation needs will come about through changes in the individual, not by passively listening in on a memorial.

In a way, it seems to me that this attitude broadens the grief surrounding the killings so much as to almost dispel it. To compare the tinge of sadness felt by Holly Housewife in Spanish Fork, Utah to the gaping hole of wrenching grief felt by those who truly NEED healing--victims, families, students, alumni--is just wrong.

Allowing the general public to watch the Virginia Tech memorial for free is a wonderful thing for CNN to have done. Calling it a "national healing", however, is a bit much.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hatch for AG; Urquhart for Senate

There has been chatter that Orrin Hatch might be appointed to replace Gonzales as Attorney General if Gonzales resigns. While I doubt a Hatch appointment is in the offing, I can see a really cool side effect. Steve Urquhart could be appointed to fill Hatch's seat in the United States Senate. I was disappointed when Steve dropped out of the running for that seat and I ended up voting for Ashdown.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

This Makes Me Want to Quit the GOP

Pete du Pont writes for

In the Bush years, the Republican Congress has spent like liberals. Federal spending is now $23,000 per household, a $7,000 increase in the past five years. There has been an annual 7.7% increase in nondefense discretionary spending, and the number of earmarks is up 57%.

In the past two years there have been four Republican congressional scandals (DeLay, Cunningham, Ney and Foley), and only one Democratic one (William Jefferson). So by last fall the national approval rating of the Republican Congress had fallen to 30%, resulting in a loss of six Senate and 27 House seats on Election Day, costing Republicans control of both Houses of Congress.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that 23,000 number. That doesn't leave much room for anyone to argue that the rich and businesses aren't paying their fair share, does it? There's no way my household is putting anywhere close that much into the federal government.

We need preference choice voting so that we can vote for less popular candidates that reflect our views without casting a de facto vote for the person we like the least.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hyper-partisanship Comes Back to Bite Global Warming Alarmists

People who care about global warming should start an immediate campaign to end hyper-partisanship in national politics and encourage civil debate. A culture has been fostered that encourages the demonizing of one's political opponents. If an "evil" person makes a valid point, many are still loathe to recognize it as such for fear of granting credibility to an enemy.

If you believe that global warming is a man-made disaster that will destroy our planet and way of life, you have an obligation to cease and desist from hyper-partisanship. The old saying is true that you attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar.

Tim Thorstenson recently commented about the problem with accepting or rejecting alleged facts about climate because they are moral or immoral. Facts, he argues, have no moral component. We use our moral lens to help us interpret and act on facts, not to determine the verity of a factual assertion.

If global warming is a problem that we have power to address (which I doubt), then we should makes laws to address the problem. If the good of arresting global warming outweighs the bad caused to people in the developing world (which I doubt), then we should act.

If you treat me as the spawn of Satan for contesting your assertions, you lose the ability to persuade me. And if you think global warming is a looming Armageddon, it is in your best interest to persuade me rather than demean me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ken Burns at BYU

I attended the BYU Forum address (and the following Q&A session) by famed documentarian Ken Burns yesterday. He exceeded every expectation. BYU was not, unfortunately, able to broadcast the forum because Burns showed clips from an upcoming documentary on WWII that will not be released until this fall. I'm bummed, because I was hoping to link to some video clips of the event here. Maybe in September.

He told us how he had actively resisted efforts over the years to get him to do another war documentary after the smashing success of his Civil War film. He talked to us about the emotional difficulty of spending years involved in the study of something so terrible as war. But he finally felt compelled to approach this topic because he recognized that it would be criminal to let the thousands of veterans die before their story could be told.

In the Q&A session, Burns clarified his point a bit. It wasn't that there were not enough documentaries on WWII. He seemed to indicate a distaste for the History Channel's approach to the war. Too many swastikas everywhere you turned and not enough of the human story of the war. Burns set out to make a "bottom up" documentary that focused on the lives of the people rather than the affairs of the generals and presidents.

Burns claimed that WWII was not "the good war" but "the necessary war."

This is the point that seems to escape so many people who oppose our contemporary military conflicts. They see war not as a necessary evil, but as an absolute evil. In my view, war is a yucky, horrible thing. I look forward to the reign of the Prince of Peace when all war will end. But until that time comes, it simply will not do to allow evil men to rampage unmolested simply because we demand "peace." Peace at any price is not peace, but prison.

Burns told us that there is a sizable portion of the graduating high school seniors in our country that believe that we fought in WWII alongside the Germans against the Soviets. Many people are going to see films like "Saving Private Ryan" and are feeling the powerful emotion of the event without understanding the greater significance. Why were they landing on that beach? What was the strategy? What were the goals? Did it work?

He acknowledged that it is impossible to tell a story without any bias. He hopes that as he tells a story that he paints a fair picture that conveys the emotion he feels about the subject. I can tell you that the clips of the documentary that he showed certainly conveyed powerful emotions. It will be interesting to see how he lives up to his stated goal of also placing the events in the larger picture while being true to his bottom-up approach.

One person raised the question during the Q&A session about the exclusion of Latinos in the upcoming documentary. The question was asked in respect and Burns responded in kind. He didn't duck the issue at all, but provided a very compelling answer that I probably can't do justice in summary. In essence, he explained that he was trying to tell individual stories rather than provide a "phone book" treatment of the war. They chose, essentially at random, four cities and put out the call to veterans. They didn't seek out individuals, but put out the word that they were in town and took all comers. They did hundreds of on-camera interviews, only a fraction of which could be used in the film. They obviously couldn't use footage of people who didn't show up. He pointed out that other important segments were also underrepresented in the film, like sailors, submariners, and so forth. He decided that he must be doing a good job if he can make a 14 hour movie and still get complaints it isn't long enough. :)

Interestingly, there are about 100 other documentaries in production that are meant to springboard off the release of Burns's film. They will be aired in local markets and focus on the local population of WWII veterans. In this aspect, it looks like the film will succeed in creating a lot of dialog rather than being a soliloquy. Burns also hopes these other, local films will help fill in the gaps in coverage that people have already noted about his upcoming film.

I hope that you will watch the new documentary when it comes out on PBS this fall. In the meantime, you might check out two podcasts from the San Francisco Chronicle which feature an interview with Burns. I haven't listened to them myself yet, but they are now on my list!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Leisure Redistribution?

An article by Steven E Landsburg on Slate Magazine looks at the gap in number of leisure hours between the rich and the poor. Poorly paid workers have far more leisure hours than highly paid workers. While this is an interesting concept, the final paragraph really caught my attention:
Second, a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing—usually through some form of redistributive taxation. Applying the same philosophy to leisure, you could conclude that something must be done to reverse the trends of the past 40 years—say, by rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their "less fortunate" neighbors. If you think it's OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what—if anything—is the fundamental difference.
Forcing people to pay more in taxes is one thing, but forcing people to work for free (slave labor?) is quite another. Or is it? By taking away a percentage of the money the marketplace is willing to pay someone for their work--higher taxes for higher salaries--aren't we essentially forcing them to work some number of hours for free? Is it really that different?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Help the Kids at Primary Children's

Yesterday and today is the KSL Radiothon to raise money for Primary Children's Medical Center. I hope that you will consider making a donation to this wonderful facility.

My little boy, now two and a half months old, was born with spina bifida. He is doing great thanks to a generous Heavenly Father and His helpers on earth: the doctors, nurses, and staff at Primary Children's Medical Center and the University of Utah Hospital. The people at both hospitals were truly wonderful to us. It is hard to imagine how difficult it must be to deal with so many people at the most distressing times of their lives. Yet they treated my boy with compassion and competence.

In our visits to the hospital, a quick survey of the waiting room makes it fairly obvious that we're not dealing with lots of affluent people. Good medical help isn't cheap. But no one is turned away. It sounds like generous contributions from the community make this possible. I hope you can join in to help those kids without the means to help themselves.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Better Way to Vote

A post over at Utah Amicus, repeating a Trib editorial by Rep. Roz McGee, talks about her beef with the current districting process in Utah. I wrote the following comment as a follow up to that post.
I agree with the district boundary principles you have set forth here. However, if the 42% of voters who prefer Democrats were evenly distributed throughout the state, our current system of winner-take-all voting would not allow ANY seats for Democrats.

I think we should improve the process of creating voting districts. We should also look at other solutions such as instant-runoff elections that can elect multiple people in proportion to the preferences of the people. There is a site dedicated to the principle at

I've written about Instant Runoff Voting before on this blog. For a succinct and convincing explanation of how IRV can eliminate the "spoiler effect" in elections and give a greater voice to third parties, check out this short animation from the folks at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My Contribution to "Blog for Choice"

Let's take a small glimpse into an alternate universe.

In this place, the struggle for a balance of power between the sexes has been ongoing for a great many years. Women, who are naturally much stronger than men, have been traditionally dominant in this society--though men have historically benefited greatly from laws protecting them. However, a couple of decades ago, the balance of power shifted. A court ruled that a woman could kill her husband if he proved to be incapable of repairing large appliances.

The court ruling ignited a firestorm. The women explained what a burden it was for them to live in a home without a working refrigerator. Sure, they could try to keep their food fresh by placing it in on a coat hanger in a shady spot in the back yard or in a dark alley, but the steady stream of food poisonings was ample evidence that this strategy just wasn't working. The only solution, they passionately exclaimed, was to continue to allow them to kill their non-handy husbands, freeing them to find a better one.

Many of the men, and not a few women, argued that divorce would be a much more humane option. Wouldn't it be okay to just borrow some space in a neighbor's fridge until you could get yours repaired? Yes, it would be terribly inconvenient, but certainly preferable to killing a person, right?

Oh no, persist the women. Don't lecture us or tell us to just "bear it." You don't know what it is like. You can't judge us. This is our choice and our homes and our appliances and our husbands. Don't you know what a painful decision it is for a woman to kill her husband? Don't lecture me about pain until you've had to stay up at nights in a cold sweat thinking about the husband you had to extinguish. You have to respect our choice.

The men respond that their lives ought to count for something in this equation. Sure, if your husband is threatening your life, you could kill in self defense, they say. We don't question that. But it's barbaric to kill him just because he has become inconvenient.

A militant woman becomes bitter that anyone should question the choice she makes to kill her husband. "It wasn't an easy choice!" she screams, shouting down her opposition. "It's about trusting women."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How is this different than Jim Crow?

The Politico has an article titled "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". An excerpt:
As a white liberal running in a majority African American district, Tennessee Democrat Stephen I. Cohen made a novel pledge on the campaign trail last year: If elected, he would seek to become the first white member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Now that he's a freshman in Congress, Cohen has changed his plans. He said he has dropped his bid after several current and former caucus members made it clear to him that whites need not apply.


Cohen said he became convinced that joining the caucus would be "a social faux pas" after seeing news reports that former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, had circulated a memo telling members it was "critical" that the group remain "exclusively African-American."

Other members, including the new chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and Clay's son, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., agreed.

"Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. ... It's time to move on," the younger Clay said. "It's an unwritten rule. It's understood. It's clear."

The bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership...

It's not clear to me how this is different than a "Whites Only" drinking fountain. Rep. Cohen is barred from joining this group solely on the basis of his skin color.

What is the point of the Congressional Black Caucus? To advance the causes of black people. Do you have to be black to be interested in this goal?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Bloghive is Born

The word has started leaking out already, so it is time for my official announcement of the Utah Bloghive. I've been beta testing the site for a while and I think it is ready for prime time.

I'm hoping the site can become a hub for the Utah political blogging community. A place where we keep track of the things our friends our writing about and where we discover new voices. A place to keep tabs on the political issues that matter to Utahns.

You can read more about the effort on the site itself. I hope you'll find the site as useful as I already have. It is so cool to instantly see how many bloggers are talking about the State of the State address. As hot topics come up in the legislative session, I'm sure we'll see lots of headlines there too.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about the site is the Google search on the top right corner of the page. It will search only the sites that are listed in the bloghive. It makes it so much easier to find a post you read last month that you want to link in a comment or a post! Hopefully you will find it to be a great tool.

What are you waiting for? Head over to and start reading!