Friday, December 05, 2008

National Service

There has been talk of a national service program in the Obama administration. I'm very intrigued by the idea. I think of it as a "time tax." Obama's proposal is actually fairly mild. What might a much more expansive requirement look like? Here is the proposal that I thought of before reading Obama's version.

18 months service by age 25. Service can be done in two separate installments of 9 months. It could be satisfied by participating in any of a list of activities approved by Congress. Such a list might include: military service, public works projects, UN relief agency work, religious missionary service, Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, tutoring in K-12 schools. Such work must include 40 hours of labor per week, but need not preclude participation in other activities.

The government would provide some basic stipend to those participating in a subset of the projects that are deemed to be directly beneficial to the country. Other options, such as religious service, would not receive a stipend but would satisfy the requirement.

This isn't really that different from the draft, it just allows more ways for people to serve outside of a military capacity.

Someone like Connor might argue that this program would amount to involuntary servitude which is prohibited by the 13th amendment. I would disagree, however, siding with the Supreme Court which wrote on this subject saying that the 13th amendment,
certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc. The great purpose in view was liberty under the protection of effective government, not the destruction of the latter by depriving it of essential powers.

No, I'm not totally sold on the idea of mandatory national service. And I'm not sure what the penalties should be for violation or whether people ought to be able to pay a fee to escape the service. But I must admit that I am at least intrigued by the idea.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Debt Horizons

Our national government approves budgets year after year with huge deficits. It looks like the next few years will be no exception. Perhaps we should consider a proposal that deficit spending never be permitted without simultaneously proposing partial budgets 10 years into the future which show what programs will be cut or what revenues will be raised which will pay off the debt. There must be a plan to pay off all such debts within the ten year window.

Right now, there is no negative consequence for a congressman to support deficit spending other than the vague statement that they are "spending our grandchildren's inheritance." It is too easy to wave away such nebulous statements. They should be forced to say what, specifically, they are going to take away from the next generation to allow for the present largess.

Think of them as Debt Horizons. A distant point, but a visible one, where we know that the debts will be paid off, and how.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October surprise?

Report: Iranian president has fallen ill
NKorea's Kim Jong Il sick...

That George Bush! He's going to wipe out the axis of evil one way or another. Maybe he sent them "special" fruit baskets as a going-away present. We'll see if the next headline is "Sources: Osama bin Laden, Confined to "Hospital" Cave.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Part II: Chaffetz vs. Spencer, Q&A

I was lucky enough to attend the blogger-only debate between Jason Chaffetz (R) and Bennion Spencer (D), held at the Sutherland Institute on Tuesday morning. I've broken my posts on this event into two parts--my general impressions and thoughts for the first post, and specific questions and answers for the second.

The debate's questions were garnered from various bloggers ahead of time, and given to the candidates in advance. I was very interested in the questions that focused on situations a (very junior) congressman might have some control over. (It's fine to ask them when we should pull the troops out of Iraq, but that is not an issue that our Congressman will have a whole heck of a lot of say in.) (All in my own words, as I did not record the debate.)

Question: Define excess profits/windfall profits and what industry is next after the oil companies?
Chaffetz: Opposed to the windfall profit tax, it is not a solution to our current problems. Transportation decisions should be in the hands of the states, not funded through earmarks and gas taxes. "We don't have a revenue problem in this country, we have a spending problem."
Spencer: Agreed that the windfall profit tax is not the solution, because how much profit is too much? The oil industry has shareholders, who expect the company to grow responsibly. However, these companies get tax breaks to spend money on alternative fuels, and instead gave the money back to their shareholders. We shouldn't tax them more, but we do need to "hold their feet to the fire" to make sure they do what they should.
My response: I dislike the windfall profit tax, so I'm with Chaffetz on this one. Spencer mentions that the oil industry gets tax breaks specifically intended for alternative fuel development, but then gave the money to their shareholders. If this is true, then the oil companies should have to give the tax break back. I'm not sure, however, how you "hold their feet to the fire". Is the threat of a windfall tax an empty one? I don't get that impression.

Question: What steps will you take to lead as an American and not as a Democrat/Republican?
Chaffetz: We need to stop worrying about who gets the credit for a good idea, and support it anyway. He mentioned that he would be happy to be co-sponsor on Jim Matheson's (D-UT) bill against Yucca Mountain and the importation of nuclear waste.
Spencer: He believes that term limits are a good solution to this problem. We need to take a stand even when there is no political benefit, even when it goes against the party. He mentioned the off-shore drilling bill being discussed in Congress right now, and said it was pointless because it is the governors of the various states who get to make that decision, not the federal government.
My response: Well, despite being from Las Vegas, I actually support Yucca Mountain, so I'm against Chaffetz and Matheson on that one. And as far as the off-shore drilling bill goes, it is my understanding that until the federal government lifts the ban, the governors cannot make any decision to drill at all.

Question: What are the biggest threats we face, domestically and internationally?
Spencer: Illegal immigration, the national debt and dollar value, and Russia, Iran, and Pakistan
Chaffetz: Driving down the debt (dollar value again), illegal immigration, and energy policy (giving money to extremists)
My response: Agree, except I think the War on Terror should be in there somewhere.

Question: When does life begin?
Spencer and Chaffetz: At conception. Both anti-abortion.
My response: Ditto

Question: Is health care a constitutional right?
Spencer: It's not in the constitution, but our founders were divinely inspired and moral people. We do have a moral obligation to help our community have a certain standard of living, it's just the right thing to do. Health care is a right--the government provides so many of the services that we can't discriminate.
Chaffetz: No, health care is not a right. This isn't a question for the federal government, it should be more in the hands of the private sector and the state. We can't just stop subsidizing it, though, because we have an obligation to people dependent upon the entitlements. No socialized medicine.
My response: Yes, yes, but what specifically should we do about it? I know that wasn't the question, though.

Question: What should be done about transparency in the government?
Spencer: The Fourth Estate (media) needs to step up. Sen. Obama has suggested that more things be put on C-Span, but Spencer isn't sure how compelling that will be. Press needs to do a better job, the public needs to demand they do so.
Chaffetz: Open up the books so that everyone can see where all the money is coming from--even in small donations. He's done this in his own campaign. Everything should be online--everything. No more blind earmarks (he's signed the pledge) and more daylight on large bills so they can be examined thoroughly.
My response: Spencer has a point, but I'm at a loss at how the government proposes to do anything about it. I definitely (positively, adamantly) don't want the Fairness Doctrine, nor do I want the government to force the press to do anything more than they already have to do. I love the idea of everything online, though...obviously!

Part I: Chaffetz vs. Spencer, Impressions

I was lucky enough to attend the blogger-only debate between Jason Chaffetz (R) and Bennion Spencer (D), held at the Sutherland Institute on Tuesday morning. (I apologize for the delay in getting this posted; my excuse is a sudden, crippling bout of the flu.) I've broken my posts on this event into two parts--my general impressions and thoughts for the first post, and specific questions and answers for the second.

There are numerous policy (and other) differences between the two candidates. The difference that struck me the most? Jason Chaffetz benefited greatly from his hard-fought primary race. Going up against a long-term incumbent (Chris Cannon), as well as another determined opponent (David Leavitt) forced Chaffetz to refine his positions, formulate specific solutions, and practice talking about them. This was very obvious as he spoke about his plans for energy, budgets, earmarks, education, windfall profits...most of the major issues of this election. On the other hand, Bennion Spencer (who did not have to go through the wringer in the same way during his primary run; did he have an opponent?) had far fewer specifics, and more platitudes--long on vision, short on specifics. Vision is great, but in contrast with Chaffetz, Spencer at times seemed that he was just going through the motions, reading off the expected boilerplate.

In his opening remarks, Chaffetz mentioned that he is running a debt-free campaign, an idea that is very attractive to me. I don't, however, expect or demand that everyone do the same--unless EVERY everybody did the same, to level the playing field. You often have to play the game by the current rules to be able to do anything about changing said rules. Likewise, Spencer is firmly in favor of term limits--another idea that I support, but only when everyone does it. Term limiting only yourself in a seniority-favored House doesn't make a lot of sense.

I had more issues with Spencer's remarks than with Chaffetz's--I don't think it was because I agree with Chaffetz's positions, but I will readily admit that bias is hard to identify in yourself. Spencer mentioned that perhaps the Iraqi war could have been avoided if the US had actively supported Akbar Rafsanjani for the Iranian presidency, because he is more pro-US than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Rafsanjani could have prevailed on Iraq to be more reasonable.

I have a hard time crediting this statement. First of all, in my recollection Spencer said we wouldn't have had to invade Iraq if Rafsanjani had been president--but the Ahmadinejad-Rafsanjani presidential race didn't happen until 2005, two years after the invasion. If I misheard, and Spencer said something about things being easier with the war if Rafsanjani were president, I still don't know that I can believe it. Iranians aren't really super-fond of US "meddling", and if we had supported Rafsanjani, couldn't that have hurt him as likely as helping?

When speaking of energy independence in his opening remarks, Spencer said he didn't believe that drilling in ANWR would help our current crisis, because we couldn't guarantee that the oil would stay in the US. In my understanding, this is a non-issue. We don't expect to fill all our oil needs with ANWR. But by having that extra oil on the world market, it would ease prices, and allow the world to have another source that doesn't support radical causes. The actual oil doesn't have to stay in the US for this to happen.

Despite my distrust of a few statements, I came away with good impressions of both men--we are truly lucky that the 3rd Congressional District will have an honorable representative, no matter who wins. It was a good debate--friendly, informative, short (a big plus in my book). Thanks to the Sutherland Institute for sponsoring it, and for inviting me!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Let's go fly a kite...

Just a quick note...This afternoon my three kids and I went to Spanish Fork's 1st Annual Sky Spectacular (or, as my four-year-old calls it, the Kite Festival). (If I was more on top of things, I would have cute pictures to show. Alas, I forgot to take my camera.) We had a marvelous time. If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking it out on Saturday.
  • It's free
  • It's outside (up at the Spanish Fork Reservoir, above the Spanish Oaks Golf Course), and the forecast for tomorrow doesn't even hit 80 degrees! Gorgeous.
  • Several (free) kids' activities--make your own kites, decorate tiles, a new playground by the pavilion, public kite-flying
  • Amazing professional kite-flying (Seriously, this stuff was awesome. HUGE kites, being towed behind jet-skis on the reservoir, doing tricks)
  • Vendors and sponsors tents--many with environmentally-friendly tips and products, candy for the kiddos, and interesting conversations. Plus not-so-terribly-expensive hot dogs and BBQ (or just bring your own food)
For all that this is the first time they've run this festival, it seemed very well put together. Water-dispensers were plentiful, there was a lot of shade areas set up, electric golf carts to ferry people up and down the (very) steep road, plenty of parking. (Bear in mind I went at 2:00 pm Friday afternoon. Maybe it will be a zoo on Saturday...don't blame me if it is!)

Whether or not you agree with our windmills here in Spanish Fork (I happen to like them), I think you'll have a great time if you come to the festival. Enjoy the weather and the weekend!

(This almost sounds like a paid advertisement. It isn't, promise! We just had a great time, and wanted to share.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Glass Ceilings

I just read something that...well, ticked me off. Don't ask me why this of all things set me off, but it did:
It's[the Palin VP pick] a cornucopia of paradox: Her candidacy is somehow supposed to be a glass-ceiling-shattering inspiration, even though she actively opposes feminist causes like equal pay and reproductive choice. (Dana Stevens, Slate's XX Factor blog)
As if the glass ceiling and the excitement of a woman's accomplishment only exists for those who support reproductive "choice" (let's not be cute over what Ms. Stevens means by that, okay?).


Friday, August 29, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin

Talk about getting perspective in unusual ways. Who would have thought that the Republican vice-presidential pick would help me understand of some of the Barack Obama phenomenon?

I've never been able to identify very closely with the personal histories of presidential candidates. I may agree or disagree with their policies, but the biographies have never really moved me to vote one way or another--or even consider it. I've never felt any connection with Hillary Clinton--a woman, a mother--perhaps because she was defined for me during the Clinton presidency, perhaps because she's older than my mother, perhaps because her daughter is older than me.

So I've often looked down on "identity" politics--the idea that because Hillary Clinton is a woman, or Barack Obama is black, then someone would give them a more favorable look in an election. I make my choices based on actual ideas, not superficial things.

Well. John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate has forced me to change my snooty attitude a bit. When I heard it was to be Governor Palin, I got all excited. (I haven't been excited for anything McCain-related for weeks and weeks.) A mom! Someone I can really relate to! Gov. Palin is older than me, but only by a decade or so. She has five children (I have three and three-quarters), her youngest is a baby (ditto me, see also three-quarters), and she is dealing with one child with a disability (ditto me too!). She's not rich (her husband is a commercial fisherman), and she's from a small (population and political) Western state like me (Alaska vs Nevada).

(Of course, she also is the governor, politically savvy, tough-as-nails (apparently), has teenage children, and a son ready to deploy to Iraq. So obviously we are not twins separated at birth.)

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in voting for issues, not for skin color or gender. And I'm voting for the top of the ticket, not the veep. But the excitement I feel over this selection has instructed me, a little, in the way so many have felt (and feel) about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A little humbling, to be sure (I'm not always right? What??), but good to learn.

Go Sarah!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What an awful place to live...

NPR had a portion of "Talk of the Nation" yesterday devoted to callers impressions of the Democratic National Convention. Although I couldn't call in (I didn't listen to it until last night), I thought of what I might say. (Please bear in mind that I (along with most of the country, apparently) have NOT been watching very much of the speeches. Mostly I've been reading and watching news summaries, with video clips of the "greatest hits".)

But my impression of the DNC? America is a terrible place to live! Everyone is worried about putting food on their tables. Stressed about paying for health care. Frightened and horrified by climate change. Concerned they can't pay the mortgage next month, or college for their kids. No one is happy, content, relaxed.

How completely, utterly depressing. And not my experience at all--I might live in Happy Valley, but I live in a lower-middle-class neighborhood where many of my friends do not own the houses in which they live. And most of us are pretty happy with life most of the time.

The Democratic view I'm getting doesn't jive with my reality at all (thank goodness!) I'm telling you, the Republicans better have a more uplifting message next week, or else I'm writing in my father-in-law for president.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Curse of Knowledge

In their book, Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath discuss the "curse of knowledge." We have a hard time explaining things to people if we know too much about the subject. Their example is a tapping game. Try to tap the rhythm of a popular song and see if other people can guess what song it is. You'll be amazed at how easy it will seem to you and how hard it will seem to others. You hear the song in your head; they just hear a bunch of tapping.

This is a principle for teachers to remember!

I saw a great illustration of this in a couple of comments over at Connor Boyack's blog. Cliff Lyon, a non-Mormon, was the first respondent. He started by quoting something Connor had written in the post.

The very fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan.

Thats pretty bad logic.

I am SURE there is NO God, and I’m alive? Are you SURE about that statement?

If you are Mormon, perhaps your first reaction was just to think that Cliff is being cantankerous. Allie, the next commenter responded this way:

Oh come on Cliff! :)

“According to Connor’s religion, the fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan”.

Cliff replied:

Oh Come on Allie.:)

It’s illogical.

Allie replied:

Illogical to you.


You can see by the smilies, that each party seems to believe that the other party is being merely cheeky. They assume that their correspondent has the same information in mind and so they continue to rib each other. It wasn't until Jeff T. posted that everything snapped into focus for me.


Do you realize he is talking about before we are born? In our religion, we believe that no one is born without accepting God’s plan prior to birth, even if they subsequently reject it on earth. Thus, based on this premise (if you believe it to be true), it is perfectly logical to suppose that every person alive accepted God’s plan prior to birth, even if they do not believe it now.

Okay, Mormons. Now go back and read Cliff's original comment and you can see what he was really objecting to. Without that theological premise, Cliff was perfectly right to point our the logical absurdity of Connor's point. Allie was assuming that Cliff already had that information, so she came to the wrong concluion about Cliff's meaning.

Cliff ends this thread in the comments with a simple statement that shows he, too, just fit all the pieces together.

Ah. Got it.
Spotting fun little exchanges like these while reading blogs helps me justify the time I spend doing it since I'll be able to use them in training sessions at work. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama Implictly Defends President Bush's Faith

President Bush has taken a lot of heat in some quarters for his comments that he continually prayed that he would be doing God's will. Ranters complained that Bush was trying to lead a theocracy.

Candidate Obama gave an interview to Newsweek where he discussed his faith. When asked what he prays for, he said, "Forgiveness for my sins and flaws, which are many, the protection of my family, and that I'm carrying out God's will, and not in a grandiose way, but simply that there is an alignment between my actions and what he would want. And then I find myself sometimes praying for people who need a lift, need a hand."

Presumably, a man who believes that God will guide the actions of his personal life also believes that guidance would carry over into every facet of existence. If my presumption is accurate, then Obama would probably also defend President Bush from the spiteful remarks about his faith.

I hope we'll see more of this side of Senator Obama. Odds are that he's going to be our next president and I think our nation needs leaders who will honestly seek to do the right thing under the inspiration of heaven. The humility to ask for help is a great sign.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vitriolic Partisanship Forbidden for Obama Supporters

It occurred to me today that Obama supporters are in a unique situation. They are supporting a candidate who promises to change the tone in Washington. He promises to bridge the partisan divide. Presumably, they support him because of this view, rather than in spite of it.

If he and his followers are to accomplish this goal of increased civility (which I heartily support) they'll have to prove they don't hate people that disagree with them on policy matters. After all, hating someone isn't a great way to build bridges. Some of Obama's most vocal supporters in the blogosphere are going to have a hard time convincing me they've jumped that hurdle.

It was a good reminder for me that I can't get so blinded by Obama's poor choices and policy positions that I start to consider him "the enemy." If he wins the election, I'll support him as the president. I hope that those on the left will extend the same courtesy to Senator McCain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poll Giddy

I always feel so cool when I get called to participate in an opinion poll. There is something so satisfying about a total stranger calling you and asking you about things that you're actually conversant with; as opposed to people asking me sports questions which leave me clueless.

I was asked about the Cannon v. Chaffetz race. I'm currently leaning towards Cannon. I'm not aware of any votes he's taken on major issues that I disagree with. He seems to have a reasonable and thoughtful position on immigration issues.

I don't have anything against Chaffetz, but I don't have any reason to throw Cannon out since I feel he's doing well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Gore Effect

I noticed the weather report for early tomorrow morning, June 12:
A frost advisory remains in effect from 3 am to 8 am MDT Thursday. This advisory is for the Cache Valley... southern Wasatch front... western Uinta Basin... west central and southwest Utah... and the Sanpete and Sevier valleys...
(from NOAA via wunderground)
I wonder if Al Gore is visiting Utah.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chris Cannon and NOPEC

NOPEC (H.R. 6074), a bill passed by the US House on May 21, 2008, is essentially an attempt to sue OPEC for operating a cartel or monopoly. (Official summary: To amend the Sherman Act to make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal and for other purposes.) It passed 324 to 84 (with 26 no-votes).

My feelings about this bill can be summarized by quoting Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Tx): "Americans are facing real economic hardships that cannot be overcome with symbolic legislation. This bill would do little more than create another layer of bureaucracy at the taxpayer's expense."

The Republican leadership (Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) specifically) defended the more than 100 Republicans who voted for this bill by saying the bill was "meaningless" and "They [the "yea" voters] don't want to explain why they didn't." That particular sentiment ticked me off a little. Please treat me like an adult, Congress, and try explaining things to me. There have been a few too many times lately when Republican House members have done things that I disagree with, and occasionally I feel like voting ALL of the "bums" out would maybe send the right message.

Right now we are in a heated primary race (3rd District) between Chris Cannon and Jason Chaffetz, and my research has shown very little different between the two, policy-wise. (I haven't yet decided how I'm voting in the late-June primary.) I'm trying to balance "throw the bums out" with Cannon's seniority in D.C., what little differences the two candidates have, and how they are conducting their campaigns.

So I researched how Chris Cannon voted in the NOPEC bill. Imagine my (pleased) surprise when I discovered that he is one of the 84 who voted "Nay" (scroll down for Utah). Good for you, Rep. Cannon. Thanks for sticking to principles and not treating your constituents as too stupid to understand world energy issues. I still haven't decided whom I'm voting for, but that is a definite point in the Cannon column.

(For other Utah districts, Rob Bishop (1st District) voted "Nay" as well, and Jim Matheson (2nd District) did not cast a vote.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Using 9/11 (Erronously) to Denote Disaster

On NPR's All Things Considered broadcast on May 19th, Robert Siegel and Melissa Block report on the one-week anniversary of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan province in China. With alarms and sirens to mark the time, China is starting three days of mourning of the tragic loss of life (although the death toll will probably continue to rise, right now pegs it at over 40,000). The loss of life is truly mind-boggling, and the amount of rebuilding and resettling will occupy China for years.

In the first 30 seconds of the NPR broadcast linked above, Melissa Block states that "5/12 is now China's 9/11". This is not an unusual comparison, as it has been used numerous times before to denote a nation-altering disaster--usually terrorism related, such as Spain's 3/11 and London's 7/5 bombings. Those events, for those countries, are comparable to 9/11 for the United States. But large natural disasters, however huge the loss of life, aren't necessarily nation-altering. They also don't necessarily sear themselves into the psyche of those who didn't immediately experience them.

An event like the 2004 tsunami was a nation-altering--perhaps in some ways a world-altering--event. It was huge, unexpected, and unusual--something that hasn't happened in generations. An earthquake in the United States that killed over 40,000 people would be a huge, unusual event.

Unfortunately, in China, earthquakes with massive loss of life aren't unusual events. In fact, within living memory, an magnitude 7.5 earthquake in northeastern China had a death toll of over 240,000 people (which is actually a little higher than the official death toll for the tsunami). In 1974, a Chinese earthquake killed 20,000. Farther back, but still less than 100 years ago, an earthquake in 1927 killed more than 40,900 Chinese; an earthquake in 1920 killed more than 200,000 Chinese.

The tragedy of 9/11 was not the loss of life alone--although that was heartrending and horrifying. Rather, it was the fact that the United States had been attacked on our mainland, by an enemy almost completely unknown to the general public, out of a clear blue sky. It radically changed our society, our foreign policy, and our political landscape. We have declared war against terrorism, which is a generational battle if there ever was one. Comparing it to huge natural disasters is like comparing apples and lima beans.

This does not lessen the tragedy of the May 12, 2008 earthquake. But I don't foresee huge changes in Chinese politics or society based on it, if past earthquakes are any indication. Maybe I'm wrong--maybe the global connected age will make a bigger difference in this event than in previous ones. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rep. Chris Cannon, Jason Chaffetz, and Fiscal Responsibility

In my previous post, I mentioned my desire for a more fiscally responsible federal government. Yesterday I was contacted by representatives from Rep. Cannon's and Mr. Chaffetz's organizations. Here are their responses (posted with permission):

From Fred Piccolo, Rep. Cannon's communications director:

I read your post on Hot Blava in regards to the upcoming 3rd District primary. As a fellow fiscal conservative, I wanted to get you some information on Congressman Cannon to counter some of the more disingenuous things that have been said about his record. I only wish we had 434 other members of Congress who voted to protect our money like Chris Cannon does. I hope this helps you make your decision in this year's election and please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.
- Scored a 96% pork-free/taxpayer-friendly voting record according to the Club for Growth. The HIGHEST of any member of Congress from Utah and 67% better than Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
- According to the National Journal - Conservative on Economic Policy calculations, in 2006 Representative Cannon voted more conservative on economic policy issues than 96 percent of the House
- Citizens Against Government Waste, an organization that tracks votes on efforts to cut pork in spending bills gave Congressman Cannon the highest score in the entire Utah delegation, scoring a 77 percent fiscally conservative record
- National Journal, a non-partisan publication, ranked Congressman Cannon as the 17th (out of 435) most conservative member of the House on spending and taxes
- The National Taxpayers Union gave Congressman Cannon an "A" Rating and he was the 2006 Winner of the "Friend of the Taxpayer" award.
- Americans for Tax Reform made Congressman Cannon the only "Hero of the Taxpayer" award winner in the entire Utah delegation for his consistent votes against raising taxes
Some of Chris' latest votes:
- Sponsored the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
- For the Internet Tax Moratorium, preventing taxes on internet access. He was the lead Republican on the moratorium legislation and President Bush invited him to the White House for the signing of his moratorium bill

- For a Constitutional amendment requiring 2/3 majorities of both Houses of Congress to pass any tax increase (H Res. 89)

- For dismantling the IRS (HR 3097)

- For the Bush Tax cuts. Over $1.35 trillion in tax cuts for American families. (HR 1836)
- Against SCHIP expansion

- Against socialized or government-run health care every time it came before Congress
- For giving the President a line-item veto (HR 4890)
- For eliminating the death tax (HR 8)
- For eliminating the Marriage Penalty
- For increasing the Child Tax Credit
- For Welfare Reform

From Deidre Henderson, Utah County Chair for Jason Chaffetz's campaign:

The issue of fiscal discipline is very important to me. Over the last decade I have watched our national debt and national budget double. This has been very dismaying, as the Republicans were in control of both houses of Congress and the White House for the majority of that time period. By the way, the doubled budget only takes into account a tiny fraction of the cost of the War on Terror. The residual cost of the War is maintained through separate appropriations not even included in the annual budget. Even more dismaying is the fact that this burgeoning budget has developed while our own Chris Cannon has been in office.

This is one of the many reasons I am supporting Jason Chaffetz.

A key element in Jason's campaign is Fiscal Responsibility - I know those words seem embedded in every candidate's campaign, but watch the walk and you'll see who practices what is preached.

Jason is dedicated to maintaining a budget for his campaign - and he sticks to it! His philosophy is watch how a candidate runs his campaign, and get a preview of how they will be in office. If a candidate continually runs his campaign in great debt or spends exorbitant amounts of money on staff, meals, cars, offices, and expensive mailers, then that is what you will get in Washington - a lot of your hard earned money spent in meaningless and extravagant ways.

In addition to this important fundamental principle of fiscal discipline are some other critical issues that Jason is concerned about; accountability (both for individuals and those serving in public office), limited government, and national security. I encourage you to call Jason with any questions you may have. Attend a cottage meeting and hear him directly. Get to know the other candidates and compare the substantive areas of debate. I think you will find that Jason is by far the best candidate for our congressional district!

Fiscal responsibility is a dull, dry topic that nonetheless is very important to me. I worry about the tax burden on everyone--even if you don't pay income tax, you (probably) still pay payroll taxes, food taxes, property taxes, etc. (I'm not against taxes, I'm against BIG taxes.) I also worry about the demonization of corporations, "Big" business, and rich people. (I'm not a rich person, but I wouldn't mind being one someday!) I want our Congress to cut back on unnecessary spending (pork barrel projects and bridges to nowhere come to mind), streamline (and cut back) our current programs, and let us keep more of our own money.

All three major candidates for UT-3 agree with me. So what to do? Details help, as from Cannon's and Chaffetz's campaigns. Actions help, as with Rep. Cannon's past actions and Mr. Chaffetz's campaign pledges. Keeping things polite and friendly (I don't mind contrasting positions, but not personalities, please) helps a ton, at least for this voter. Other than that, I'm not sure how I'll decide. Other factors do come into play, as support of the Iraq war, the war on terror, illegal immigration, etc, etc, etc.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Politics--local and VERY local

As Tuesday, March 25th is the date for precinct caucuses here in Utah, I've been reading up on some of our local races. We've actually got quite a bit going on this year, with primary challengers in our house district race (66), our senate district race (13), and our federal congressional race (Utah's Third Congressional District).

It's not a surprise that Chris Cannon has an intra-party challenge again--people haven't been particularly pleased with Congress as a whole, and Rep. Cannon doesn't have the highest approval ratings in the world. This year there are two gentleman running against him for the Republican "nomination"--David Leavitt (our former governor's brother) and Jason Chaffetz (a former Chief of Staff for our current governor).

I believe that all three of these gentlemen are patriots, wishing to serve the country as best they can. I believe that all three want to protect our country from trouble within and without. I believe all three are honorable, upstanding citizens. So in this case, I'll be making my choice based on another criteria--fiscal responsibility. I personally haven't been pleased with Congress in that regard in the past several years, and I am considering voting against Chris Cannon for that reason--message-sending and all that. However, I won't just blindly vote for "anyone-but". According to both the challengers' websites, they are against the type of spending we have seen recently. Specifically, Chaffetz supports presidential line-item veto power over "pork barrel" earmarks. More research and information must be gathered before I am willing to commit to any of the three.

More locally, Senator Mark B. Madsen (senate district 13) has a challenger, J. Lane Henderson. I haven't been able to find much information about Mr. Henderson, but possibly he is (or was) mayor of Salem. I like Senator Madsen, though, and agree with many of his stances (as well as a voter-identification law he sponsored this session), so for now I don't see myself switching away from him.

Even more locally, Rep. Mike Morley (house district 66) has a challenger, Chance Williams. I can find no information about Mr. Williams beyond this quote in the Deseret News:
"I got tired of reading all the articles about (Rep.) Mike Morley (supporting a bill) that would benefit his construction company," said Chance Williams, a Republican candidate in District 66 running against the Republican Morley. "I want to see people working for legislation that would sincerely benefit the people."
I'm not familiar with this objection, and a quick search of the Deseret News archives (search terms Mike Morley and construction) leads to two articles--one which only mentions Rep. Morley in the comments (a forum I'm not inclined to put great trust) and one which discusses possible conflicts of interest and praises Rep. Morley for his "thorough" disclosure form. So, unless I discover more about this situation, I'm pretty comfortable supporting Rep. Morley.

I'm hoping to be a county delegate again this year--I had such a great time doing it for the last two years. Maybe even a state delegate--that would be an amazing experience. We'll see. Even if I don't get that opportunity, I'm really looking forward to the caucus Tuesday.

[Update: Be sure to read the comments--there is a lot of good information there]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rules Are Rules

The Democrats are in a quandary this year. Back in 2000 during the Florida recount debacle, they were arguing that rules weren't really that important. Republicans argued that the rules for vote counting had been set and that it wouldn't be fair to change the rules after the election and institute new counting standards for votes. Democrats believed there was a higher principle at stake and spurned the value rules. They were just too brittle!

Returning to 2008, it seems the Democrats have discovered the good old time religion of rules after all! Each of the leading candidates has their own "rules" argument.

Let's start with Clinton. She argues that we must count the votes in Florida. (Echoes of 2000 there.) A lot of people turned out to vote, and it isn't right to just ignore them. Sure, they broke the party rules, but it was really the nasty Republicans that moved the primary anyway, and the Democratic primary voters have a right to be heard notwithstanding the rules.

For Clinton, it doesn't matter that Obama, the lesser known candidate at the time, didn't get the opportunity to campaign in the state. Tough luck. "I've been on the national stage longer and I deserve the points for my win in this name-recognition competition." That seems to be her argument.

Just like in 2000, Clinton wants to disregard the rules that were set in place before the competition and pick a different outcome that suits her better. Obama is left to argue that "rules are rules." Just like Republicans back in 2000.

On a different front, Obama argues, generally via surrogates, that the "super delegates" must respect (i.e. rubber stamp) the results of the pledged delegate race. After all, if Obama wins more states, gets more total votes, and pledged delegates, he deserves the nomination. The super delegates shouldn't be going against the "will of the people."

The Clinton camp has a ready rebuttal to this line of reasoning: "rules are rules." There isn't any point in having super delegates if they can't make up their own minds. If pledged delegates had to carry the day, then we'd only have pledged delegates. But we don't. We have two types of delegates, each able to vote within different parameters. Those are the rules and they exist for a reason. Furthermore, the popular vote totals are irrelevant. Team Clinton can argue that they would have run a different race if they'd been trying to win over a majority of voters rather than a majority of delegates. You can't change the rules after the game has begun! That argument again sounds a lot like the Republicans back in 2000.

To each candidate, I'd say: rules are rules. If you don't like the rules, work to get them changed within the proper process. Quit trying to change the rules midstream. We need the predictability of a system of rules and laws if we're to have a fair and functioning republic. Let's all agree to play nice and play fair.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Krugman's Dismal View on Racial Intent

The biggest changes in society always seem to take a generation. We sometimes have to wait for the old generation to die off--or at least wane in influence--so that new ideas can get hold. I'm sure you've heard your grandparents say something utterly cringeworthy without a second thought. It doesn't occur to them that they might have said something inappropriate.

Racial relations in America seem to be at such a juncture. With the rise of Obama, older people (and commentators) seem to be fixated on the miracle of a black man rising in prominence. Younger people are simply transfixed by a message that they find inspiring; race is largely irrelevant for them.

I get so annoyed when people focus on race instead of substance. I care what you think and how you act, not what color you are. I think that the mainstream of American thought is with me on this.

I felt that familiar annoyance again as I listened to Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the NY Times, giving a lecture. He was trying to make a case that conservatives use codewords like "welfare" to exploit the racist leanings of their audiences. Huh? Would it be so implausible to believe that people actually mean what they say? I'm including the video that sparked this post so that you can judge for yourself the quality of Krugman's argument about race in politics. See particularly chapter 8 around 22:33.

If I say I'm concerned about welfare, or families, or taxes, or illegal immigration and identity theft, the chances are that I mean exactly that. I'm not trying to secretly push a racist or an ethnic agenda. There are simply issues that resonate with me and that I think are important. I'm not driven by the political battles of a past age that are largely settled.

We're in the clean-up stages of our country's battle against racism. I don't deny the reality of it in the past, and I don't deny that it still occurs today. But we are structurally past it and blatantly racist sentiments are commonly reviled. I'm fully on board with the sentiment expressed so eloquently by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is paraphrased to say that we judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I plead with the older generation to move past the race debates of bygone days. Though there is still work to do and progress to be made, that debate is won.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Amazing Wheelchair Tricks of Aaron Fotheringham (my cousin!)

My 16-year-old cousin Aaron Fotheringham has finally found his niche in life--in a skate park, doing wild and crazy (not to mention dangerous) stunts. This is not unusual for a teenager, but Aaron’s situation is a little different. Born with spina bifida, he is paralyzed from the waist down, and confined to a wheelchair. For the last four years, he has been going to the concrete skate parks and trying all the tricks he can think of--he practices with skateboarders and dirt-bikers. He loves it, and it shows in his attitude toward life.

In July 2006, Aaron made “wheelchair history” by landing the first airborne backflip in a wheelchair. This may even be Guinness Book of World Records stuff! This type of wheelchair-skateboarding (Aaron calls it “hard-core sitting”) is starting to catch on, and, who knows, it may even become an event in the Para-Olympics.

Aaron’s crazy tricks have been featured in many places--he's been on "tour" in Germany, attended exhibitions in Florida, and been invited (but had to turn down) a trip to Asia. The wheelchair company Colours Wheelchair (one of Aaron's earliest sponsors) has a short video of Aaron, including his amazing backflip. (Click on Aaron Fotheringham in the "what's hot" section of the homepage.)

On February 7, 2008, he was on SportsCenter on ESPN. You can watch the feature here. They did an excellent job in capturing the essence of Aaron. Watch out, though. You might find yourself a bit damp-eyed by the end. That's just how awesome Aaron and his family are!

(If you want to read a little more about Aaron, I wrote about him here two summers ago, right after we found out that our baby son also has spina bifida.)

If This Guy Can Find A Job...

I scoffed at this story when I read it, but I'm oddly supportive of this fellow. I'm not thrilled about the direction his entrepreneurial spirit has taken him, but I really like the spark of creativity it shows on top of an incredibly mundane idea. His goal was to hand write the numbers up to a million.

Wilson, 49, began his quest about four years ago, when he decided he wanted to do something that had never been done. He was fascinated by the number 1 million, which he believes holds a special significance in the American psyche....

The quest ended last month as Wilson put the final numbers in his book. The result is four three-ring binders, each containing 250,000 consecutive numbers. Wilson's binders contain a total of 768 pages, with the numbers written in 10 columns on each side.

So, how will he capitalize on his accomplishment?
People can buy certificates with their lucky number for a few bucks. Each bears the image of Wilson's face on a $1 million bill. They are numbered, signed and certified by "Mr. Million" himself.
And the kicker?
Since he started, Wilson has sold about 500 certificates, he said.

Friday, February 08, 2008

McCain-Huckabee Ticket

There has been some speculation about a McCain-Huckabee ticket for this year's presidential election. I practically thought that McCain was going to throw caution and process to the wind and announce Huckabee as his running mate on the spot during his Super Tuesday victory speech, so fawning was he of his opponent. The question naturally arises as to whether that ticket could carry Utah against a Democratic opponent.

I was only mildly surprised to hear (on RadioWest about halfway through the program) that Huckabee loses a theoretical general election race in Utah against Obama. People like to joke that we're the reddest of the red states, but apparently even we have our limits. In the same polling data*, McCain just barely won over Obama (55-45). So, if the McCain-Huckabee ticket should materialize and we're forced to average those poll results somehow, could McCain still carry Utah?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I don't think McCain can win in the general election against either Clinton or Obama. But suppose that it was a cliffhanger: would Utah be in play? I know, it sounds absurd, but suppose it were to actually happen.

Would we, ironically, owe that statewide prominence to Mike Huckabee?

* Quin Monson was citing the survey that was done by his group. He didn't provide the percentage for all the matchups they polled, but here are the results he mentioned. Huckabee beats Clinton 59-41, Obama beats Huckabee, McCain beats Obama 55-45, Romney beats Obama 70ish, McCain beats Hillary 70ish

Friday, January 11, 2008

Parking Lot Owners Should Pay

I heard the story on the news about a the car windows that were smashed during a Jazz game in Salt Lake City.
Audrey Martinez says she was lulled into a false sense of security by a sign claiming 24-7 patrols, but she says she later noticed there were no cameras.

"The attendant that I paid the five dollars to that was supposed to be there during the entire game and after people leave he was not there, nobody was around to help," says Martinez.
Though it isn't in the printed text of the article I linked, the radio report indicated that the parking lot owners reprimanded the attendant who took off early, but are taking no responsibility for the broken windows. They claimed that you "park at your own risk."

I can buy that argument when it comes to door dings or car scratches. But when bandits run through your (un)attended parking lot and smash windows, you're accountable. There really shouldn't be any question here. That's the sort of thing people expect from an attended lot. I hope some of the victims take the lot owners to small claims court and get compensated if the actual perpetrators can't be found.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Irony

Caucuses don't work the same for Democrats and Republicans in Iowa. The Republicans count the votes of each person at their caucus meeting and those votes get aggregated state-wide. Very democratic: one person, one vote.

The Democrats give each precinct a number of delegates, no matter how many people actually show up to caucus. This is a representative system: many people, one vote.

I thought it was funny that the party names seemed exactly opposite for the Iowa caucuses.

I learned this from David Freddoso on the Corner where he summarized it this way:

Republicans around the state are meeting tonight to have a large, statewide straw poll, just like a primary. You could think of it as one big caucus. The importance of each precinct, as in normal elections, will be determined by how many people turn out overall. Although the Republican vote on candidates is totally non-binding, it is the result we'll all be talking about tonight — for practical purposes, it is all that matters (unless we go to a brokered convention, and then it's hopelessly complicated anyway).

On the Democratic side, it is different. Each precinct awards a preset number of candidate delegates proportionally. It doesn't matter whether 100 or 1,000 people show up from your precinct — all that matters is the proportional vote in each individual precinct. The party reports the estimated delegate count to the media — not the number of votes. Each Democratic precinct, then, is a separate battle tonight, with no real relation to the others. If six people show up to a precinct that selects ten delegates, then those six voters have the same power as 600 voters who show up in a precinct of similar population.