Saturday, February 05, 2005

Postcards from different worlds

Last night, my fiancee and I went to Bountiful. This town is pretty homogeneous: over 95% white and probably at least as high percentage belong to the LDS faith.

We went up North to participate in student group that is designed primarily for spouses/partners who would like to get out and talk to adults everyonce in a while (read: stay-at-home moms). The ones there were 3Ls and gave us a snapshot of where we would be in two years. We talked, ate pizza and other snacks, played games and had a good time with nice people.

This are very conservative people. We played a comparison game called Apples-to-Apples. The word was "Trustworthy" and you were to choose among your cards of nouns which word you thought the judge would deem the most apt. Someone choose "Republicans," and my fiancee and I held back our shock and laughter given the record of lies by George W. Bush's administration and the homegrown version ex-SL Co. Mayor Nancy Workman, who is currently on trial for defrauding the county of money to pay her daughter for a do-nothing job.

The other one was a word somewhere between "evil" and "untrustworthy" (I can't remember the exact word) and someone chose "Hillary Rodham Clinton" as there card. Now some time HRC bothers me, but other than being ambitious and cut-throat, I can't think of many negative things about her...She had bad hair styles at times but she was hyperscrutinized. She is brilliant (probably smarter than Bill, and that is saying something), a good senator (in terms of getting stuff done and working with GOPers etc.), shying away from the spotlight that follows her around, and passionate about her causes.

This morning was completely the opposite politcally. Wellesley Professor (emeritus) Alan Schechter was speaking at an alumnae's house near us. Schechter was Hillary's mentor and got appointed to the Fulbright committee by Clinton. The man is from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" but his wife was even more of an activist. Yet I had Wesley Clark in common with them. They had campaigned in Portsmouth while I was Derry last winter. We reminisced about how cold it was and talked about gearing up for Clark '08. In the crowd we had my contracts professor (class of '67), the dean of the law school/ Democratic gubenatorial candidate/husband of '76 alumna Robyn Matheson, lawyers, artists, PhD candidates and more prominant alumnae. A very powerful group of women assembled around Schechter and the muffins we bought from Costco.

Schechter talked about how we got to where we are today. His synopsis: we are in a backlash that started in the 1960s and 1970s where LBJ and the Warren/Marshall court changed the cultural landscape: allowing blacks to vote, women equal protection, abortion, banning the death penalty (and recently allowing gay marriage in places like SF and MA).

The Democratic majority from the '30s until '94 in Congress was a false, corrupt bargain between the "Solid South," filled with conservative (and racist) members/senators and the emerging coastal liberals. It was the Civil Rights act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 (combined with the court rulings) that sealed the eventual fate of that Democratic party. Almost all of these same conservatives slowly, but surely joined the GOP starting with Goldwater, then Reagan and eventually Bush 43.

While Reagan played lipservice to the evangelicals, Bush 43 actually is a born-again, as is many in his staff. Schechter sees no hope of the GOP's strange marriage between Wall-Street Republicans and evangelicals because they are mutually dependent on each other to achieve their goals.

The White House, he said, is up for grabs, but the Congress is out of reach for the foreseeable future. He believes Hillary is susceptible to a Draft movement like Clark was and both have the same view of running for the presidency: that they would run if their country called them.

Like me, Schechter knew Kerry was a loser from the get-go because a) his lack of person magnetism needed to win over marginal voters b) his Vietnam history c) his ability to make every position seem two-faced and flip-floppy, even if he was consistent d) the fact that he was a senator for 20 years, and finally e) the fact that he represented Massachusetts. Thus, he liked Clark because he a) he charismatic (more than the the other candidates save Sharpton and Edwards) b) his clear pro-Vietnam history c) is lack of track record d) not a senator e) the fact that he was from flippable Arkansas. The idea was, with no voting history, Clark could be consistent and make up his positions as he went along. Of course, it didn't work out that way (see "Help, Mary!").

Clark learned from his mistakes, I believe, like Schetcher thinks that Dean learned from his. Schechter thinks that Dean will watch his mouth more and not try to change the party ideologically. But hopefully structurally Howard.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The church's fingers

Today there is a story in the Salt Tribune which I doubt has a corresponding article in the Deseret News, which is owned by the LDS church (along with a couple radio stations and a local NBC affilate, which has correspondingly opted out of showing Saturday Night Live).

The Mormon church is the most powerful and influencial lobbyist on Salt Lake's Capital Hill. While that is not a shocking statement, the level of their power is unlike any other church in any other state. Bills are routinely nixed or boosted by the church's support and they are in many areas a de facto branch of state government, who's veto power kills stuff before they even get a committee vote.

This case revolves around charter schools, which I am mixed about. As with anything in education, it seem ideology drive the research and it is difficult to tell if progress is actually being made or if there is regressions.

The Salt Lake Arts Academy right now resides in the old main branch of the SL Library, but their lease is up this summer to make way for a cool new perminant exhibit called Leonardo. Academy officials and city representatives (city councilmembers, the mayor, state representatives and senators) want them to stay downtown so students would "take TRAX, use the city library and mix with the business crowd." The problem? "[S]tate law prohibits alcohol establishments from opening within 600 feet of parks, libraries or schools for kindergartners through 12th-graders...If local zoning allows, there's no state law against a school opening near a bar. But if the city, which does not allow schools downtown, were to change its zoning to allow them, it would prevent new bars and restaurants from opening - running counter to redevelopment efforts."

State Senator and democratic LG candidate (in 2000 and 2004) Karen Hale (who's also LDS) proposed a bill to exempt charter schools to get around such laws and let more than one bar exist on a block. But then word got out that the church didn't like it (and MADD too). And then Hale dropped it, but she wouldn't say that it was the church that made her do it, or MADD, but the writing is on the wall.

Constroversal mayor Rocky Anderson was pissed: "The church, like anybody else, certainly has a right to make its views known," Anderson said Thursday, but added: "It's the only organization, I think, that seems to automatically get its way among most elected officials."

Just two days ago, the mayor "held his last public forum on bridging the divide among Mormons and others and one theme was the alienation some non-Mormons feel when they believe Mormon values run the state. To heal, Anderson said it is 'crucial' to move away public officials allowing the church to 'control' public policy."

Some times it seems that church has too much power. Any group, when it has total control in an area tends to get tryannical, just look at the Democratic party in Massachusetts.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Gonzales round-up

After an exciting and agressive debate on my comment board regarding the Torture Memo, we finially heard from people who had a say in the matter, our 100 US Senators. Armando and Kos have a nice handy sheet of Democrats who voted yea or nay or abstained.

I disagree with some of their conclusions and will make some of mine. First, lets go to the "yea" votes for Gonzales by Democrats (GOPers are irrelevant because they all voted with their president, even people like Linc Chafee who supposidly didn't even vote for Bush).

(1) Senator Ken Salazar (CO). His excuse? The "he's hispanic" argument/"American Dream" argument. Dick Durbin (IL) had a great rebuttal to the "American Dream" part:
I respect and admire Alberto Gonzales for his inspiring life story and the many obstacles he has overcome. Some of my colleagues suggested his life story embodies the American dream. But there is more to the American dream than overcoming difficult circumstances to obtain prominence and prosperity. We also must honor Fred Korematsu's dream that our country be true to the fundamental principle upon which it was founded: the rule of law...I cannot in good conscience vote to reward a man who ignored the rule of law and the demands of human decency and created the permissive environment that made Abu Ghraib possible....When the history of these times are recorded, I believe that Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo will join the names of infamous Japanese-American internment camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, and Tule Lake where Fred Korematsu and over thousands of others were detained. I cannot in good conscience vote to make the author of such a terrible mistake the chief law enforcement officer of our great Nation and the guardian of our God-given and most cherished rights.
As for the "he's hispanic and I'm hispanic" argument, I would hope this country has come far enough that you don't have to vote for someone just because you share their race/ethnicity if you are a minority Member/Senator. I think that is insulting to all Hispanics out there that people can't tell the difference between a Cuban-American who will do whatever this President wants him to do and a guy like Caesar Chavez.

(2) Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT).OK well Joe is like George Kastanza and always manages to stick his finger in the air, and feel it blowing the wrong way. He is after all, the sole member of the "loyal JOE-position." Sorry, couldn't resist another Joe joke, he brought this on himself.

(3) Senator Ben Nelson (NE). He is running for reelection in a hyper-Red state. His biggest competition (the Governor) is now the new Secretary of Agriculture. But then again, Martinez was Bush's HUD secretary and that didn't stop him from running for FL's open senate seat. Just what we need another Bush puppet in the senate. I feel bad for Ben Nelson because some other dude with the same last name is now also a senator (see below) and it must be really annoying, but it is no excuse to vote for torture.

(4) Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) I hear her kids are real brats and she won't control them on airplanes. So I guess she is really into torturing mild-mannered law-abiding citizens on their way from Washington DC to New Orleans, so why not Iraqis Afghans and various other Arabs?

(5) Senator Pryor (AR) He will be up for a tough bout in 2008, the only reason he won last time was the guy he ran against was a holier-than-thou type who was porking his staffer and then dumped his wife for the staffer (who was like 20 years younger than him too). Nevertheless, Pryor also won because people liked his Daddy and might have thought they were voting for him.

(6) Senator Bill Nelson (FL) Bill, the other senator named Nelson. Wasn't there a band named Nelson, with long WWE hair? Oh right, they sucked. He too is up for reelection like his twin from Nebraska. Florida has seemingly gone Red on us since 2000, and Nelson is the only statewide Democratic elected offical (the legislature and the House delegation has been nicely gerrymandered to ensure a GOP majority for the next decade). Translation: he is taking a dump in his pants, and doesn't want to seem like a wuss against those terrorists to people in Pensacola. on to the Nay or Abstained, with particular focus on our Red state Democratic senators.

Evan Bayh (D-IN) Running for President in 2008...good luck.
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) one of those guys who nobody really knows what he does in the Senate, until now.
Robert Byrd (D-WV) the old man rules despite being ex-KKK.
Byron Dorgan (D-ND) He's got senority
Tom Harkin (D-IA) The last liberal of "the Heartland"
Tim Johnson (D-SD)it takes guts when you won by a few hundred votes...and your benefactor just lost by a few hundred.
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) you go girl!
Harry Reid (D-NV) Minority Leader with cajoines
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Yes, that Rockefeller. The last of the Rockefeller Democrats.

Not present (fighting off Bush misinformation in their home states)
Max Baucus (D-MT) His wife hit someone over a bag of soil once, caused quite a stir in Washington society.
Kent Conrad (D-ND) I think I had an LSAT class with his daughter, she was nice to me.

And there you have it. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

A better way to spend SOTU night

Instead of watching a series of illogical reasoning for bad policies, deceptive use of numbers, and outright lies (along with mandatory juvenile boos and cheers), I went to CostCo last night. The workers there are always so happy, genuinely so, unlike the creeped out feeling you get at a Wal-Mart (where they speaking to you in code that they want out of this miserable existence).

After that, we went searching for dinner, as the hot dogs and pizza didn't seem like our cup of tea last night. In search of something "healthy" we went to Wild Oats, the blue state grocery store. And who did we see but local celebrity Bill Gephardt (not to be confused with Dick Gephardt, two time presidential loser and unemployed Cardinals fan.), the local TV channel's "consumer reports investigator." He looked pretty grumpy and tired gathering some food for the checkout counter, so I didn't bother him with some scam that had been pulled on me.

Ironically (not Atlantis Morrisette Ironic), we ended up eating at Taco Bell and Burger King. And although I regretted the feeling in my stomach while I tossed and turned, it was still better than watching the Bush's weltanshauung.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The most depressing thing I've

That great title is owned by a Newsweek article entitled Dream On America.

The basic gist of the article is that America is in decline. We have lost our moral compass, and the world no longer looks to us as a beacon of freedom. Our economy is not doing as well as the EU, our health care system ranks 37th best in the world (according to WHO), "behind Colombia (22nd) and Saudi Arabia (26th), and on a par with Cuba." The gulf between the rich and the poor in the US has widened faster than in EU countries. "In Sweden, you are three times more likely to rise out of the economic class into which you were born than you are in the U.S."

When the soviets withdrew from Central Europe, U.S. constitutional experts rushed in. They got a polite hearing, and were sent home. Jiri Pehe, adviser to former president Vaclav Havel, recalls the Czechs' firm decision to adopt a European-style parliamentary system with strict limits on campaigning. "For Europeans, money talks too much in American democracy. It's very prone to certain kinds of corruption, or at least influence from powerful lobbies," he says. "Europeans would not want to follow that route." They also sought to limit the dominance of television, unlike in American campaigns where, Pehe says, "TV debates and photogenic looks govern election victories."

The same thing happened in South Africa, Kosovo, other African countries, and South America. They all prefer a European-style constitution over a American-style one.

Much in American law and society troubles the world these days. Nearly all countries reject the United States' right to bear arms as a quirky and dangerous anachronism. They abhor the death penalty and demand broader privacy protections. Above all, once most foreign systems reach a reasonable level of affluence, they follow the Europeans in treating the provision of adequate social welfare is a basic right. All this, says Bruce Ackerman at Yale University Law School, contributes to the growing sense that American law, once the world standard, has become "provincial." The United States' refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to certain terrorist suspects, to ratify global human-rights treaties such as the innocuous Convention on the Rights of the Child or to endorse the International Criminal Court (coupled with the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) only reinforces the conviction that America's Constitution and legal system are out of step with the rest of the world.

The rest of the world is hating us more and more, and not just President Bush. "A plurality of voters (the average is 70 percent) in each of the 21 countries surveyed by the BBC oppose sending any troops to Iraq, including those in most of the countries that have done so. Only one third, disproportionately in the poorest and most dictatorial countries, would like to see American values spread in their country."

One of the main reasons I supported Wesley Clark and opposed George Bush this last election was that Clark understood the worldview, and Bush couldn't care less. Now I am not saying the UN or the EU or whatever gets to have "veto power" over US policy, but I am saying there are lots of good things that come out of listening to ones Allies seriously beyond good will: increased trading, more foreigners studying in our colleges and universities (they are now going to Europe more instead), increased military support for missions around the world, increased influence on the world stage, moral authority to push American Ideals and our version of Democracy. I am afraid that if we continue down this road of Bush-ism, in my lifetime we will see the US surpassed by China or the EU.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I am so happy that the voting went off with nary a hitch this weekend. Too bad it will be a while before we know who won and at some will doubt the authenticity of the outcome given the low participation by Sunnis. The real winner will be Sistani in my boat, he will be the power broker not too far from the glare of the flashbulbs.

It is also unfortunate that we had to spend over $150 billion so that 26 million people would have the chance to vote. Is that really why we invaded the country, spent blood and treasure? I wonder if people really are aware of how much history repeats itself with the second Nixon Administration...I mean the second Bush Administration.

"United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam[Iraq]'s presidential election despite a Vietcong [insurgent] terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting."
-- New York Times, September 4, 1967. Here's the PDF of the original article. Courtesy of Political Wire and DailyKos

Monday, January 31, 2005

site of the day

Hot or Not for US Senators!
via Political Wire

I don't know where these photos were dug up but they are hilarious and extremely unflatering for just about everyone of them.

Go ahead see how your senator ranks.

much to do about nothing

Senator Hillary Clinton's speech over abortion have been labeled "triangulation" and an attempt to position herself for 2008.

In reality, this is the same position on reproductive choice that she's held since those halycon days of "It Takes a Village." Abortion, Clinton said, is "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," said Clinton. Then she went further: "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."

The new twist, according to Slate's William Saletan is the idea of never.

Once you embrace that truth—that the ideal number of abortions is zero—voters open their ears. They listen when you point out, as Clinton did, that the abortion rate fell drastically during her husband's presidency but has risen in more states than it has fallen under George W. Bush. I'm sure these trends have more to do with economics than morals, but that's the point. Once we agree that the goal is zero, we can stop asking which party yaps more about fighting abortion and start asking which party gets results.

My favorite quote of his? "Many profound things are at stake in the abortion debate. Afternoon delight isn't high on the list."

Anyway, this is the same old same old. Hand it to Hillary to have her "Sistah Soldier" moment in 2005 in front of the pro-choice crowd instead of in 2007 or 2008, if she really is running for president, which I doubt.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

don't fear the national ID

I don't get the liberatian fear of a national ID card. The ACLU has another one of their scare campaigns on the subject. Ellen from BOPNews and the Draft Clark movement is concerned about the issue.

Even if we were to make smart cards like PPI folks like Shane Ham want, I doubt we would ever get close to the ACLU 1984-esque ad. It makes sense to have one uniform ID across the US, instead of 50 different systems with varying degrees of security. It was find in the old days when people were just making fake IDs to buy beer before they turned 21 or work if they were illegal immigrants. But now terrorists could pick on a state were the standards are lax and make lots of IDs that won't be immediately recognizable. Futher, more security would help prevent identity theft, a rapidly growing crime in the information age.

Sure, at first the costs would be high to retool ever state, but the savings would be great. One swipe, and the bar tendor could know you are old enough to drink and who you say your are. We don't want criminals evading the law via changing IDs either. The government is too incompetant to compile that much data on the man in the ALCU pizza ad, nor would any Congress ever let them.

Companies already sell each other what magazines you read, what catalogues you order from what stuff you buy online to each other. So far, none of their targeted messaging has been effective on me. Maybe they base too much on the fact that I bought one philosophy book for college freshman year.

Just think, in nearly every other big, industrialized country, they have a national ID system and has anyone heard of the government listening in on people in those countries that don't have such a strong liberitarian past? Such fears are misplaced and while pure in motive, wasted in effort.