Monday, December 31, 2007

last post of 2007

Here's a deep thought for you: The economy could still be headed towards a slow-down or even a recession, even if the stock market has done well this year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I have converted

...to Mac.  My lovely wife gave me one for Christmas and I am still figuring out all the tricks.  In fact, I am writing this post on a desktop widget.  

Soon 2007 will be over, what are your goals, hopes and dreams for 2008?  I wonder which will last longer, the presidential primaries or the NFL playoffs?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Panic-stan

By now, I am sure you have heard about the death of Benazir Bhutto and maybe even the assassination attempt on another opposition party leader (ex-PM Narwaz Sharif) that same day in the same city-- Rawalpindi.

Rawalpindi hosts a large garrison for the Pakistani army, which used to be lead by Pres. Musharraf. This isn't to say Musharraf or Musharraf's government is directly responsible. After all, much of the military was barely under his control when he went into Waziristan. But the security for Bhutto and Sharif was like JFK driving around in a convertible with the top down in Dallas.

Pakistan is holding (or was going to hold) its parliamentary elections on the same day as the New Hampshire primaries--January 8th. It seems as if someone or some groups didn't want either former PM to became the next democratically elected leader of Pakistan. Musharraf has called for several days of mourning over Bhutto, which is basically a stalling tactic to decide what to do and essentially suspend any political campaigning against him.

Also remember that this is a country with nuclear weapons pointed at the world's largest democracy (India) with radicial Islamic groups not only in western Pakisan--including Ossama bin Laben Tailban forces--but also infiltrated into the military. This is a country that already was in the midst of a quasi civil war with an on again off again war with India over Kashmir. Musharraf has also seen his share of attacks against his life...and that was before these bombings happened.

If I had a vote in their elections, I would choose Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, National Law Journal's lawyer of the year. He stood up to "Busharraf," and told him he couldn't suspend the constitution just to stay in power longer. As a result, Musharraf fired him and jailed him, along with lots of other lawyers who protested. In fact, the one glimmer of hope in that country is the lawyers movement, who have become leaders in a grassroots effort to restore democracy to Pakistan. American lawyers (via the ABA) have linked arms with this attorney in support of the rule of law and democracy. It makes me proud to be a lawyer.

But the facts on the ground don't look good. Things appear to be on the verge of complete chaos. Somehow, despite billions of dollars and high level intervention--we have two more failed states in the world since 2002: Iraq and Pakistan. (Afghanistan has basically remained a failed state, but changed management)

All in all, it is hard to feel optimistic about the immediate future of Pakistan and the region as a whole.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

thought of the day

Could we please dispense with the notion that any of these presidential candidates' "plans" will actually become law? The news media and rival campaigns like to dig into the numbers of various "plans" on health care, taxes, etc. and claim they don't add up. Of course they don't.

These schemes are cooked up by a bunch of wonks who don't have access to real budgetary numbers. And even those real numbers are always just estimates. Every campaign waves a magic wand to find savings via efficiency in their plans...to make for a nice even number for a total cost of some policy proposal.

In the law, there is concept known as a "legal fiction"--something that everyone knows isn't true, but all these smart lawyers look the other way because it is much for convenient to assume that fiction for one reason or another. For example, everyone knows a corporation isn't a person, but under the law, corporations are treated (for the most part) as a person.

Do we really need the political fiction that any of these plans are going to be passed as is in the first hundred days of the next president's term? For example, maybe it is a terrible policy/political idea that Obama's health care plan doesn't mandate coverage, either by employers or by individuals, but wouldn't his plan have to go through Congress first? And wouldn't Congress consist of House Members and Senators interested in health care like Hillary Clinton, who could change the Obama bill to include a mandate?

Even in 2001, with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress (and Democrats with 50 senators), Bush's tax cut was altered to expire in 2011 and reduce the overall number slightly.

I can't think of a single policy proposal offered by a successful presidential candidate since FDR (and maybe LBJ) that was passed as proposed by Congress.

So we all should think of the candidates various plans on the important issues of the day as wish lists, ones that will be tweaked even during the transition period, let alone after consults with Congressional leaders. These wish lists tell us something about what kind of president a candidate will be, but won't tell us how they will compromise and negotiate their plans with Congress.

So could the national media and rival campaigns please stop pretending like they know nothing about how the legislative process works (or doesn't)? Because such posturing really is contributing to the public's ignorance of civics.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the legislators are coming

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, Happy Kawanzaa, etc. That big storm on Christmas Eve tweaked my Christmas plans and led to family tensions, but I guess that is part of the holidays too.

Anyway, on to the subject of this post. Every January and February, the legislature arrives from all 6 corners of the state to pass new laws and budgets. Now that the renovation of the capitol building is nearly complete, they are ready to tackle some big and small topics.

Even in Utah, Mark Twain is right that "In the West, whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting."
HB51 would give municipalities and public water suppliers the ability to keep unused water rights for up to three decades.
Doing so would raise the ire of farmers and ranchers, who have to fight to keep their unused water rights every five years. Why, they ask, shouldn't cities and water districts be held to the same standard?
Under current law, if any water right has not been tapped for five years, it must be forfeited and put to good use. Those holding those rights, whether they be cities, districts or individuals, generally can keep them - if they periodically apply to the state water engineer.
City officials and water suppliers want to hold on to those rights for at least 30 years.
That way, they can plan for future growth without taking a chance that their five-year applications could be denied - particularly if water supplies decline.
Farmers, in the proposed bill, would be required to reapply more often - every seven years.
This bill should be an interesting one to watch, as it will pit rural Utahns against their formerly rural brethren in places like St. George. Even if I wasn't in a strictly non-political job, I wouldn't touch this debate with a ten foot pole.

Next up, the small: a culture war issue.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, is drafting a bill that would require the display of the American flag and a copy of the Declaration of Independence in every public school classroom in Utah.

"This started off because a friend of mind did a little bit of research on college campuses and he couldn't find anybody who could tell him what the Constitution was, let alone what was in it — and these were college students," Christensen said.

[...]

The bill does not require the Constitution be displayed in classrooms, but Christensen said he might add that provision, and maybe the Bill of Rights, to the bill's requirements.

[...]

Many schools have a "freedom shrine" of historically significant documents. State law requires elementary students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, though parents can excuse children from the exercise. Secondary schools are encouraged to do so weekly; the Granite Board of Education, for one, requires as much.

State law also requires schools to post the national motto, "In God We Trust." Several school districts received donations to buy framed depictions of the phrase; Christensen believes a similar outpouring would follow his bill.

The state core curriculum also includes flag education for elementary students and U.S. history and civics for older children.
Does putting up the U.S. Constitution (and the Bill of Rights), "In God We Trust," the pledge of allegiance, and U.S. flag provide civics lessons? Personally, I think if Sen. Christensen's goal is to create a more educated and civic-minded generation of Utahns, he would be better off requiring more civics in lesson plans at the primary and secondary education levels.

When I taught law at East High last spring, most of the kids had no idea about their 4th Amendment rights (let alone their article 1, section 14 rights), nor what the 1st Amendment meant for them. They all knew some basics about the branches of government, but didn't know about committees (especially the Rules Committee), amendments, and conference committee. Now I don't remember a "In God We Trust," a constitution, or a flag in the room, but there are plenty of flags all over the school and on every big building near East High, and I really doubt either would have been of that much help. My co-teacher (a fellow law student who was once my boss when I interned for Jim Matheson) and I handed out constitutions for everyone, but I doubt they read those. And those constitutions had a much better chance of being glanced at than one mounted on the wall.

Now the legislature has blunt instruments to implement solutions to complex problems like "why don't our kids are about democracy anymore?" But like I said, curriculum-based civics is going to be much more effective than display-based civics.

On a final note, as a Jazz fan, I say who cares and good riddance to whiny baby Gordan Giricek. This guy loved being a star on a barely make the playoffs team, and hates it that he is now a bench player due to all of the new talent on the Jazz in the last few years. Suck it up and try to win the 6th Man of the Year award, don't just sulk.

Friday, December 21, 2007

rhetoric versus reality

Resently, there has been much hemming and hawing my front-pagers on the big national liberal blogs about Obama. On the one hand, they like some of his policy positions (on things like net neutrality, open government, ethics reform etc) but on the other, they hate his linguistic approach to the campaign--by saying he wants Republicans in his cabinet and talking about bipartisanship and coming together.

These same folks for the most part were clear supporters of Dean four years ago. Howard Dean was a New Democrat during his days as governor. And even when he gave his most famous speeches (such as "What I want to know" at the CA convention), he really never abandoned most of the policy perscriptions of the DLC...only the rhetorical and tactical approaches of the DLC.

The silly thing is, the DLC freaked out about Howard Dean, and Dean happily played off the DLC to help him in the primaries with activists. And if I remember correctly, Howard Dean only won his home state of Vermont in the end.

By contrast, Barack Obama was listed as one of the 100 to watch by the DLC in 2003, well after his "dumb wars" speech in 2002. In the profiles, which I was in charge of putting up on the website at the time, there were a few standard questions and then a "fun" question at the end. Here's a couple of them, and they still ring true in 2007 for Barack:
Top Issue: A fiscally sound and efficient program to deliver universal health care to all Americans and a high quality education, from pre-school to college, for all of America's children.

#1 Rule of Politics: You can compromise on strategy and tactics, but not on principles.
The strategy and tactics that Obama is compromising on, is to sound like a Beltway columnist's dream. He rhetorically calls for going beyond partisanship and working together across party lines.

The liberal blogosphere is founded on the premise that Republicans in power (and to a lesser extent Democrats in power) are not bargaining in good faith, and that change must be foisted upon them by the people. And if one reads Obama's speeches and statements literally, these bloggers foresee a naive President Obama that will compromise with Republicans Senators who's idea of compromise is to give them everything they want.

There are other ways of looking at Obama's rhetoric however. One is to see it as a cynical tactic to get the national media on his side, which is something neither Al Gore nor John Kerry would say they had in the last two presidential cycles. Having the media on your side against every Republican candidate except McCain (who appears to be coming back off political life support) would be a huge asset in the general election and in the first 100 days, assuming victory.

The other way to view Obama's talk is to see it as a gambit--by taking a Republican Senator seriously when they offer a critique to a policy and offer them a seat at the table, you are forcing said Republican Senator to offer up a real solution or admit their oposition to a policy is merely political.

A third view--which is mine--is that Obama views reforming the machinery of Democracy is more imparitive than and essential to getting important policy goals (like universal health care) accomplished. By "machinery of democracy," I mean campaign finanicing, election laws, government transparancy, government ethics reform, restricting lobbying, reforming various executive branch commissions and committees that have so much power (like the FCC and FEC), etc. In short, Obama appears to believe that if you create an environment where everyone knows who is attempting to legally bribe who in order to exact policy X, policy X will be less likely to be corrupted by monied interests. And therefore policy X will be a better policy.

And remember, by looking at Obama's actual voting record and previous jobs--community organizer, civil rights attorney, U Chicago law professor, Joyce Foundation Board Member, Executive Director of Illinios Project Vote in 1992--all point to a much more liberal politican than Howard Dean ever was.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

question of the day


[Photo Credit: Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune. Caption: Rita Woodward holds lone survivor, Precious]

Who stuffs 14 puppies into a sack and then decides to toss said puppies into a dumpster to die?

Anyone with information on the litter should call Riverdale police at 801-394-6616. Animal abandonment is a class B misdemeanor, according to the Humane Society of Utah, which is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Of course, they still can't be charged with a felony because the Legislature "ran out of time" last session. I guess you could charge the perpetrator with 13 class A misdemeanors, which if sentenced consecutively would mean almost 13 years in prison. And in my book, they would deserve it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

adding to the dialogue

Some candidates run for president with the real expectation and goal of winning, others have other motivations. A third category exists of those who had a real expectation of winning but then realize they cannot win, and convert their campaign into a cause.


In 2004, US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) ran thinking he would be the anti-war candidate. Too bad for him, Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) decided to switch his campaign's emphasis from health care and balanced budgets to the Iraq war and the problems of the Democratic Party. Both lost badly, although there was a moment there where all the other candidates realistically though Dean would be the nominee. However, neither man's effort was in vain. The war went from popular from unpopular, and the party eventually rallied together (as much as Democrats can) against the war. Moreover, Dean's complaints about the Democratic Party struck such a cord with state party activists that he was able to convert his campaign into a successful race for DNC chair.

In 2008, it is happening on the Republican side now as well. The issue is illegal immigration. In this week's New Yorker, Ryan Lizza explains why the GOP candidates have veered right on immigration: US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO). When he first got to the House about 10 years ago, Tancredo could hardly interest his Republican colleagues on the issue. Now, it is a topic that is discussed in every GOP debate and the subject of attack ads between all the candidates. The issue even tripped up Rep. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and with her arguably Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NYC). Unlike Kucinich or Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), Tancredo openly admits he knows he will never be president. But his goal--putting the issue out there and having people agree with his views--has been achieved to a large extent in the GOP primary. Granted, he is the only one who advocated for "bombing Mecca" but even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)--the author of most of the compromise immigration bills--has reversed course on "amnesty," all thanks to Tancredo.

On the Democratic side this cycle, it has been argued that Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is pushing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Clinton to propose much more ambitious health care and energy Independence proposals. Edwards forced Clinton to say she wasn't going to apologize for voting for the Iraq War after he asked Americans for forgiveness. Now Edwards has a real chance still of winning the nomination, which is why the other top contenders have had to address his policy proposals seriously. Still I still can't figure out how he planning on winning New Hampshire or any February 5th state on anything other than momentum.

Other Democratic candidates have similarly impacted the debate. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)--with help from national bloggers like Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers--have made beef with the 'no residual forces' gabit, forcing the top three to first say they would have troops in Iraq until 2013, and now making statements like Obama's pledge to get all American troops out of Iraq by the end of his first year.

Dodd's FISA fight is another example of this. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) knew he really had no chance of becoming president. His initial first goal of running was to rehabilitate his father's reputation. Why else make your campaign book about letters your dad wrote sixty some years ago? But the lack of Senate leadership on constitutional issues like torture, habeas corpus, and wiretapping gave Dodd an opening. He could safely "sacrifice his campaign" by fillibustering bills and offering his own, while calling out Clinton and Obama for never showing up while they campaign.

Some candidates really add nothing to the dialogue. For example, did you know US Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was running for president? He's running on keeping gays out of the military and building a boarder fence. Those two topics are pretty much covered by the other candidates.

Likewise, Kucinich again is running on the war, this time with added bonus of impeaching Cheney and shaming Congress for lack of action to stop the war. With all of the candidates on the Democratic side against the war, and with no hope of actually impeaching Cheney, he really has nowhere to go. His anti-corporate rhetoric has been overwhelmed by Edwards' populist message too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

annoying Christmas songs

Here is one of my biggest pet peeves about Christmas--there are only like 20 good Christmas songs, yet they have stations that play only Christmas music non-stop for over a month. The result, pressure for more Christmas songs, the vast majority of which are terrible.

The ones I dislike the most are ones that really have absolutely nothing to do with the idea that Christmas is Jesus' birthday observed. Or even the sentiment about thinking of others etc. Instead, they are a) capable of getting stuck in your head b) while talking about "Santa" or other creations by corporations [Coca-Cola created him to boost sales of their flavored sugar water during the winter]. The exemplars of this horrific-style are "Santa Baby" and "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree." The only time using songs like these is appropriate is for ironic purposes--such as in a Christmas comedy like "Bad Santa"-- or if you are having a party that mocks the worst parts of commericalized Christmas (complete with blinking lights and sweaters). Otherwise, these songs really should be put out of their misery.

It is fine if kids want to sing songs like "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty the Snowman," but please don't make me hear it on the radio.

What are your most hated Christmas songs?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When stupid rules meet stupid people


Image courtesy of Anarchyware.com. T-shirts are available at CafePress.com (Kip Hawley is TSA Administrator, and is credited with the liquid rule)

BERLIN - A man nearly died from alcohol poisoning after quaffing a liter (two pints) of vodka at an airport security check instead of handing it over to comply with new carry-on rules, police said Wednesday.
Quaffing is guess is a nice way of saying chugging.

Do you remember why we have to take off our shoes? Richard Reid attempted to light a fuse on his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami. Yet when you fly into the US, you don't need to take off your shoes. So this rule wouldn't have prevented Richard Reid at the time. So why do we check still, when a terrorist would likely try something else?

Or why must passengers show government issued photo IDs before and after the metal detectors (but not at the gate)? 5 of the 9/11 hijackers had government issued photo IDs. [Another reason why a photo ID requirement for voting is dumb too]

But anyway, remember why we need to bring only small amounts of liquids or gels on board a plane?
"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.
[...]
Once the fluids have been extracted, the process of mixing them produces significant amounts of heat and vile fumes. "The resulting liquid then needs some hours at room temperature for the white crystals that are the explosive to develop." The whole process, which can take between 12 and 36 hours, is "very dangerous, even in a lab, and can lead to premature detonation," said Lt. Col. Wylde.
So unless you are flying from New York to New Dehli, I don't think you have to worry about this one.

Obviously, the man who downed a liter of vodka was incredibly dumb to drink that much alcohol that quickly. This is the danger of having equally dumb and pointless "security measures" which might make us feel safer without actually making us any safer at all.

state of the presidential race

With the holidays rapidly approaching, campaigns are scrambling to get their attacks in on their opponents before Iowans and New Hampshirites really get cheesed off by the negativity. Which is why Huckabee, the only candidate with a theology degree, recently "asked" if Latter-Day Saints believe that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. This is also why Billy Shaheen, NH chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign said he was "concerned" that Republicans would attack Obama on his experimentation with drugs while he was in high school.

Both apologized after the attacked party expressed outrage, but the message was sent like a Christmas card with pictures of children who you don't know who it is from. Please, if you send a photo card for Christmas, include either a) your full name (not just "the Robinsons") b) a current picture of yourself, not just your grandkids. OK, pet peeve rant over.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that every campaign save the two Iowa surgers--Huckabee and Obama--are worried that the race will freeze over Christmas and New Year's, which means they will have 2-3 days to change momentum in their favor. A nearly impossible task.

So what happens if this CW is right and Huckabee and Obama hold on to win the caucuses?

On the Dem side, Obama is basically tied in New Hampshire and South Carolina and so he would win those states should he win Iowa. Michigan, Florida and Nevada, however, still seem solidly on Hillary's side, even if two of them aren't supposed to get delegates under DNC rules (which is why Obama isn't even on the Michigan ballot). But a win is a win, and the way the media portrays the race ("Obama and Clinton as neck and neck after the first round of early states") matters more than the delegate count or anything else. This means that the February 5th states--including Utah--might actually matter. It will be very interesting to see how those states go; my impression is that Utah is ripe territory for Obama. This could be a nasty fight all the way to Denver.

On the Republican side, it is much harder to tell. A Huckabee win will really hurt Romney, but his leads in New Hampshire and Michigan seem insurmountable. Then again, so did his lead in Iowa. Like in 2004 for the Democrats, Republicans in 2008 are tired of losing after only one cycle (Democrats are much more patient, waiting 12 years to get back Congress) and want to pick a winner to beat the Democratic nominee. Such feelings will intensify if Hillary manages to pull out a win in Iowa and sows up the nomination then and there. Giuliani stands to lose as much as Romney does from the combo of a Huckabee surge and a Obama string of victories. Conservatives support Giuliani because they see him as tough--against terrorists, radical Muslims, mobsters, the Clintons, etc.--but if Clinton isn't there to beat, the purpose of his candidacy is lessened. Huckabee is a true social conservative, Romney is a true economic conservative. Usually social conservatism take a back seat to economic conservatism in the GOP but this year it may be the opposite. If Huckabee wins Iowa big, I see him winning in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Florida still goes for Giuliani and Michigan stays with Romney. After that, your guess is as good as mine.

For political junkies like me, this is going to be a fun race to watch. And unlike last cycle, I don't have an emotional stake in any of the candidates, so I can be more rational and reasonable about what is going on. Maybe it is because of the candidates, or maybe it is because I have grown older and more cynical. Or maybe I am just in denial, thinking I am detached. Feel free to psychoanalyze me in the comments below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

presented without comment

Draw your own conclusions.

From today's Deseret News:
In an article to be published Sunday in The New York Times, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

Romney, vying to become the first Mormon elected president, declined to answer that question during an interview Wednesday, saying church leaders in Salt Lake City had already addressed the topic.

"But I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far. It's just not the American way, and I think people will reject that," Romney told NBC's "Today" show.

Asked if he believed Huckabee was speaking in a coded language to evangelicals, Romney praised his rival as a "good man trying to do the best he can," but he added, "I don't believe that the people of this country are going to choose a person based on their faith and what church they go to."

From Romney's "Faith in America" Speech:
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
As with yesterday's post, this post is not intended as an effort to support or oppose either Huckabee or Romney (or both). I am merely highlighting passages in articles that struck me, since I believe you might be struck similarly.

While I will not comment on the contrast between the two passages I selected for your reading pleasure, I welcome your comments in the thread below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What changed

"What changed was I'm running for president."

-- Mike Huckabee, on why he changed his position on Cuba, "Hannity & Colmes," FNC, 12/10.

While you might not agree with this policy position change, at least Huckabee is being honest about it. How refreshing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carbon footprint Christmas

Thanks to Noble Peace Prize Winner-Al Gore and his lovely slide show, I have been thinking a lot more this year about the impact of Christmas festivities on the Earth's atmosphere.

While I switched to another CFL bulb (we have 6 now), my local Smith's was all out of LED lights for the Christmas tree. Using 80% less energy AND looking better than incandescent bulbs? You can't beat that. I will have to plan ahead next year.

Its cold outside and people want to feel cozy, so they light fires, usually with wood this time of year. More CO2 out the chimny. I have one of those long burning logs, which I hope is better than a real log.

Friends of mine have a plastic tree and are quite "green." I asked them, is it better to own a fake tree or to chop down a real one year after year? No one knew, but clearly the ratio was not 1:1, meaning, you would have to stick with your plastic tree for a number of years before it would be worth it. Does anyone out there know?

And don't forget all of the presents and wrapping paper. I try to reuse boxes and paper bags when gifting. The main reason I do so is that I can't wrap a cube nicely to save my life, the other is the waste. Presents themselves are flown in from China or further away, along with all of the plastic packaging.

Then of course, there is all the driving around mailing and buying gifts...and then returning many of them after Christmas. Even if you aren't Christian, you still get sucked into this consumption bonaza.

Some carbon impacts I am very happy about. My sister and her boyfriend are coming home for Christmas, and we have many family festivities to attend. I wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas (religious or secular) and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's not the wierdness

It seems I need to correct ,Deseret News Columnist Lee Benson on his version of history.
Still, for all that, in comparing and paralleling himself to Kennedy, Romney did rather dance around the real issue surrounding Mormonism.

His problem is way different than Kennedy's.

His problem is this: 160 years since they drove us out of Nauvoo, people still think Mormons aren't normal.

They think we're weird.

[...]
Kennedy didn't have to fight not being mainstream; on the contrary, as a member of by far the world's largest religious group, he had to fight being too mainstream.

Romney's problem is just the opposite.
If you didn't notice the "we" and "they" and find it problematic, then it is not worth discussing (and if you did find it problematic, I don't need to tell you why it is).

But anyway, let's get to my main criticism of the article. Anti-Catholicism has a much longer and stronger history than anti-Mormonism in America.

It even pre-dates the 13 colonies themselves. England was rife with fears that the Catholic Church would tell them what to do ever since Henry VII wanted to divorce another wife (kill her) and marry another in search of a male heir. It lead to "Bloody" Queen Mary who tried to change the country back to Catholicism, and the "Glorious Revolution" of William and Mary who pledged Protestantism in exchange for the crown.

These fears of Catholics traveled with the Puritans to Plymouth and the Jamestown Settlers. Maryland was set up by the Earl of Baltimore (upon permission of the Queen)as a Haven for Catholics because of their persecution in the other colonies. One of our Founding Fathers, John Jay, President of the Continental Congress, author of some of the Federalist papers, and the First Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court "urged the New York legislature [in 1788] to require officeholders to renounce foreign authorities 'in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil.'" A clear reference to Catholics.

Hatred of Catholics was also tied to racism against the predominantly Catholic Irish, which also hearkened back to the British Isles. Irish were lampooned in cartoons as monkeys and mocked for their large families. They were considered stupid, in part because of their "blind fealty" to the Pope.

Around the time that Joseph Smith was murdered and the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed, there was a whole movement against Catholics, which like Mormons in Missouri, resulted in angry, violent mobs that burned Catholic property, and killed Catholics. This political movement was nativist and especially anti-Irish, whom protestants blamed for taking away their jobs and ruining their culture (sounds familiar doesn't it). Remember, John F. Kennedy was not just a Catholic, but an Irish Catholic.

While my ancestor and his friends were settling into the Salt Lake Valley, a nativist party called the Know-Knowings ran against Catholics (and blacks) featuring ex-president Millard Fillmore as its presidential candidate in 1856. Six years earlier, Fillmore, Utah was named the official capitol of Utah territory and proclaimed neutrality over slavery.

The KKK, founded by a Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was not just a racist anti-black organization, but also a anti-Catholic one.

My point is that if we are going to get into a pissing contest as to which religious group was/is the most despised for the longest time in America, Catholicism beats Mormonism in a landslide. Not such a contest has any worth or import.

Pretty much any ethnic group can tell you of their group's persecution and victimization, whether it happened in the Middle Ages or during World War II. It is part of a natural human tendency to feel special and build solidarity within a group by pitting members against an Other who persecuted them.

While we can never forget or apologize for the wrongdoings one group did to another, we also cannot let this aspect of a group's shared past become their defining characteristic.

Otherwise, you end up with places like the Balkans and Iraq and Israel/Palistine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

stereotypes

I am sure you have heard about the survey on bias against Mormons, especially the part where 50% claim they don't know a mormon or that Romney is LDS. Riiiight, just like how nobody knows a gay man or lesbian.

Anyway, this part of the article struck me. Why would the Deseret News a paper owned by the Church, allow this part of the article to stay as is?
When respondents are provided information that stereotypes Mormons, i.e., "Mormons are part of a non-Christian cult" or "Mormons are polygamist," they react negatively to Romney's candidacy.

Participants react favorably to messages that dispel negative stereotypes, i.e., "about 100 years ago the Mormon Church banned polygamy," or "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stresses traditional family values." Simple appeals for religious tolerance do not win support for Romney.

Random House Dictionary defines stereotype as
ster·e·o·type [ster-ee-uh-tahyp, steer-] a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group: The cowboy and Indian are American stereotypes.
I think they need to work on their diction. The proper word is prejudice or bigotry (maybe ignorance if you are feeling particularly generous).


Racial stereotypes are called for what they are--racism. Same with sexual stereotypes. Why aren't religious stereotypes called bigotry, especially in the Deseret News?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Right again?

Chris Bowers today writes:
On the Republican side, the Iowa average currently stands at Huckabee 26.6% to 25.8% for Romney, with everyone else at less than half those totals. In New Hampshire, the average is Romey 34.2%, Giuliani 17.8%, McCain 16.2%, and Huckabee 10.0%. While I don't think there is any way that either Giuliani or McCain stays ahead of Huckabee after Iowa, I also think that a 24.2% lead is enough for Romney to hold onto New Hampshire even if he loses Iowa to Huckabee. So, after Romney and Huckabee finish 1-2 in both Iowa and New Hampshire, I imagine they will duke it out in those same positions all the way to the end, with other candidates dropping off quickly.

Wow, Romney versus Huckabee. How many people called that one eight months ago?


On January 31st of this year I said:
To me, the biggest threat to Democrats wanting the White House is no longer John McCain, but ex-AR Gov. Mike Huckabee. He really sounded great on the Daily Show. My wife remarked that she had no idea that he was a GOPer until the label appeared. His anti-fat campaign is something that many Americans can get behind. After all, there are lots of overweight people in America. His story of losing hundreds of pounds is about as inspiring as Obama's to some.

On December 5, 2006, I said
On the Veepstakes, I see Romney, Giuliani, and Huckabee for the GOP and Warner, Obama, Clark, Vilsack, and Richardson for the Democrats.

Now I might not be 100% right all the time, but I totaly saw the Huckabee boomlet happening many moons ago.

As we get closer to Iowa, I will do my best to project who I think will win that and future contests on both sides.

DEMS

Right now it looks like Obama has momentum from the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner a couple weeks ago. Polls show he is narrowly in first place (inside the margin of error). But the better indicator is that Hillary Clinton is going after him hard. She wouldn't do that unless she was worried he might win Iowa.

People say it is a dumb idea on her part because it might cost her 1st or even 2nd in Iowa. But she would rather have John Edwards win than Obama win Iowa because of the money factor.

Odds of winning the nomination: HRC=50% Obama=35% Edwards=15%

GOP

Huckabee might win Iowa. If so, Romney is done. Huckabee is surging fast nationally, in Iowa, and even in New Hampshire. The Republican field is so soft that who ever looks like a winner will win everything, just like the Dems in 2004. Romney needs to put Huckabee away in Iowa (no close 2nds for Huckabee either). If he wins big in Iowa, his New Hampshire edge will hold or expand, and even if South Carolina doesn't go his way, I can't imagine he doesn't roll up the next set of races and ultimately the nomination. That's why Giulliani (and McCain and Thompson)'s people must be trying to figure out ways to help Huckabee in Iowa.

Odds: Romney=40% Huckabee=35% Giulliani=15% McCain and Thompson=5%

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why a voter ID law is a bad idea

The US Supreme Court will hear a case about an Indiana voter ID law in a month or so. Already, Secretaries of State around the country with weaker versions of this law have come out against voter ID laws.
"The reason I joined this lawsuit is that I don't want Ohio's (voter ID) law to be anymore restrictive than it already is," [Ohio Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner] said.

Joining Brunner in the filing were secretaries of state Robin Carnahan of Missouri and Deborah Markowitz of Vermont; and former secretaries of state Cathy Cox of Georgia and John Willis of Maryland.

The group argued that their cumulative professional experience has seen "virtually no evidence of polling place voter impersonation fraud, the stated reason for enactment of the Indiana law at issue here."

In the amicus brief filed Nov. 13, the group agreed with those who filed the lawsuit that the law will disenfranchise some voter groups disproportionately, including minority, female and elderly voters, the disabled, and the poor.

It will do so, they wrote, "while doing nothing to prevent polling place voter impersonation fraud."
The group I interned for in the fall wrote an amicus brief on behalf of historians to show that like the Poll tax and previous voter suppression methods in the past, voter ID laws seem to have a legitimate purpose but has a disproportionate impact on minorities and the poor.

Here's a home grown example from Utah.
In just a few minutes on Monday, John Garman was issued a Utah identification card. It may not seem like much, but for Garman it symbolizes what he hopes is the end of nearly a decade of struggling to establish citizenship.
[...]
Garman hopes it's the end of an era of living in the shadows like an undocumented immigrant, which started when as a young adult he found out he didn't qualify for a Social Security number after serving time in California for a felony burglary conviction.

When he was adopted as a child by American parents, Garman's place of birth was listed as Tijuana, but that was never verified, according to the Merced County Human Services agency. And, even though he automatically became a permanent resident when he was adopted, his conviction nullified that, making him unable to establish legal status.
[...]
A court order recently changed his place of birth from Tijuana to Livingston, Calif. And Garman hopes that will make all the difference. He used that document to get his temporary ID on Monday and is anxious for the ID card to arrive in the mail.

But while Garman is hopeful, he's not out of the woods. He used a Social Security number that was issued but later rescinded, apparently after Garman was found to be ineligible. Garman went back to the Social Security Administration last week with his new birth certificate.
In Indiana, he would not be allowed to vote. Nor would I. My driver's license has my parents address on it, not my current address. I never bothered to change the address from when I first got it when I turned 16. After all, I went to college, worked on the East Coast for two years, and then went back home for law school. When I first got back, I didn't know where I would be living and I didn't want to have to change it again after I moved out of an apartment. It costs money to change it, and time and hassle.

But Republicans in Indiana (no Democrats voted for or signed this bill) believe that that is enough reason to deny people like Garman and I the right to vote. Last time I checked, the constitution didn't require anything other than being 18 and an American citizen to vote. Shouldn't we want voting to be easier, not harder?

What are those Republicans in Indiana so afraid of? The defendants in this case offered ZERO instances of in place voter fraud in Indiana to support the purported purpose of the bill. Texas passed a similar bill in 2005, but in the past years have only 13 people were accused of voter fraud despite a whole unit of the Texas AG's office being devoted to the crime. From the brief (footnotes omitted)
Of these 13 persons, 4 were accused of having committed fraud before 2006, and the remaining 9 in 2006. (A total of 4.4 million Texans voted in the general elections for governor or U.S. Senator that year, in addition to those who voted in primaries.) To date, 6 of the 13 persons prosecuted have not yet been found guilty. Moreover, of the 7 found guilty and the 6 remaining under indictment, none of the types of fraud they have been charged with would have been prevented by the photo ID requirement advocated by Texas Republicans in the 2007 legislative session.

These data do not appear to be anomalous. A survey of the director or deputy director of all 88 Ohio boards of election in June 2005 found that a total of only 4 votes cast in the state’s general elections in 2002 and 2004 (in which over 9 million votes were cast) were judged ineligible and thus likely constituted actual voter fraud. A similar pattern nationwide has been reported.
I hope the Sumpreme Court listens to the historians and Secretaries of State. This a solution in search of a problem.

Monday, December 03, 2007

it's not just you

Does it seem like nothing ever gets done in Washington? Here's part of the reason why:
The filibuster may be well established in the popular consciousness — think of long-winded senators speechifying for days. But because modern Senate rules allow lawmakers to avoid the spectacle of pontificating by merely threatening the act, filibusters and the efforts to overcome them are being used more frequently, and on more issues, than at any other point in history.

So far in this first year of the 110th Congress, there have been 72 motions to stop filibusters, most on the Iraq war but also on routine issues like reauthorizing Amtrak funding. There were 68 such motions in the full two years of the previous Congress, 53 in 1987-88 and 23 in 1977-78. In 1967-68, there were 5 such votes, one of them on a plan to amend cloture itself, which failed.

A record breaking year of obstructing the House by the Senate.

Now, I am sure readers have differing opinions on whether or not this is a good thing. It seems Sen. Mitch McConnell is taking the founders' idea to new extremes.
Upon his return [from France], Jefferson visited Washington and asked why the Convention delegates had created a Senate. "Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" asked Washington. "To cool it," said Jefferson. "Even so," responded Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."


Oh and congratulations to a friend of mine who used to work for Gov. Walker: she made it on the Oprah show! She's famous now.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

another great idea by me



So I am huge fan of the TV show Mythbusters. The show has robot/movie special effects builders scientifically testing myths like "Is it easy to shoot fish in a barrel?" I bought tickets when the hosts Adam and Jaime came to talk at the U. I wrote them a letter the next day or so, suggesting they do a show on MacGyver. My idea was that the two main hosts could compete against each other in MacGyver like escapes.



Then last night I am watching several episodes of the show on my Comcast DVR (I am switching to DirecTV [thanks to Bob's advice regarding land lines] and need to purge my old DVR). Anyway, I saw a teaser for a MacGuyver-themed episode! Seems like they listened to my idea, even if they will never give me credit.





Happy December and happy snow day everyone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the votes are in

Many of you have expressed what I was thinking: that "private" isn't every really private when you are posting to the internet. In my thousands of posts, I have said things that were wrong or inaccurate based on faulty information or overly optimistic expectations, and I appologize for those. But I don't seek forgiveness for my opinions or analysis as I believe I have been proven correct much more of the time than people who get paid to blabber on TV or in a newspaper column.

I do this for fun. Or really because I love to share my view with you dear readers. But I don't know how to continue my previous style while not being involved in politics. I can't give money, or support a candidate in any outward way (even a lawn sign). And that's a good thing in the long term. The branches should be separate and the one I work for should be beyond reproach.

In the short term, I am going to have to find another outlet. Any suggestions are welcome and keep me on your list for events where I can continue our conversation offline.

That isn't to say that this blog will be a ghost town for a year, but it does mean that if you though I had been guarded this month, it is going to get even more toned down.

I have enjoyed the last five years of blogging. But what I have enjoyed the most is not the writing, but the sharing with and getting to know other people that I would have never encountered but for the blogosphere. I am confident that the next five will be even better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

going private?

Dear Readers,

After some careful thought and reexamination of old posts, I think it may be wise to take this blog to the invite-only relm. Not because I crave exclusivity, but because I fear that some of my recent posts might be misconstrued as favoring one party or candidate or elected official over another. What I am intenting is to point out stories in the news where I think the reporter failed to provide additional context that I feel is necessary to understand what is going on.

That is, my goal is more news analysis and media critique than bashing a politican. What bugs me is not when politicians say dumb or misleading things, but when the reporters covering the story fail to call the politican on said things. Of course, I get more upset when I see such errors on topics where my personal opinion differ from the speaker, but that is mainly due to the fact that I am more sensitive to such arguments.

At any rate, I wanted to survey you, the reader, to see what you think of the prospect of going private. The upside would be a more frank writing style, the downside would be a narrower audience and by request that you not disseminate things that I write.

If you strongly believe this blog should remain public (and my hope is to make this private era a brief one), you must counter that with the prospect that my posts will not discuss the burning issues of the day in nearly the same fashion.

Please vote in the comments. If we decide to go private, I will have a separate open thread for people who would like to be invited.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Huntsman's theory of relativity

Jon Huntsman Jr. comes back from Iraq and says everything is hunk dory...sort of.
The governor said security is better in Iraq after the troop surge, describing what he saw as a "sharp improvement" over his previous visits. Still, he said while the daily death toll from bombings and other violence is down, there are still problems.

"These things don't go from bad to good. They go from bad to less bad," Huntsman said.
[...]
It was the governor's third trip to Iraq since taking office in 2005, and his second with McCain. Unlike most Utahns, Huntsman is backing McCain for president and has repeatedly hit the campaign trail for him.

Huntsman said McCain asked him to come because of both their friendship and the perspective he could offer. Governors serve as commanders in chief of the National Guard, many of the troops being deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East.

He first traveled to the region in March 2006 with another delegation led by McCain and then again in November of that year with other governors at the invitation of the U.S. Defense Department.

The rest of the delegation on this trip, which began last Wednesday and ended Saturday, were Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
I am glad that group was so diverse in its membership with every single elected official invited on the trip still supporting the Iraq War. In fact, two of these invitees want to go war with Iran too. Because everything is going so well.

McCain's assessment of the situation in Iraq is "coincidentially" exactly the same as Huntsman's. "If there is no political progress over the next three months or so," McCain said, "some very tough calls would have to be made." So I guess are supposed to give McCain and Huntsman another half-Friedman.

Do these war supporters really expect us to take them seriously when they say essentially the same thing over and over again, moving the field goals every Friedman or so? And if your judgment is so off on such an important issue (whether or not to go to war, whether or not to continue with the occupation, etc.) why should the voters give you a promotion to the Presidency in the case of McCain or a cabinet post in the case of Huntsman.

And I was planning on writing a post about how great it was that Huntsman did those global warming ads with Montana's and California's governors.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jay-Z teaches us search and siezure law


I know this is a relatively old song and nothing new, but the song finally came up on my iPod's shuffle and I thought I would share this concise lesson on what to do when you get pulled over by the police, set to a rhythm:
So I...pull over to the side of the road
I heard "Son do you know why I'm stoppin' you for?"
Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low?
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don't know
Am I under arrest or should I gas em up?
"Well you was doin fifty-five in a fifty-fo' "
"Liscense and registration and step out of the car"
"Are you carryin' a weapon on you I know a lot of you are"
I ain't steppin out of sh!t all my paper's legit
"Well, do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?"
Well my glove compartment is locked so are the trunk in the back
And I know my rights so you gon' need a warrant for that
"Aren't you sharp as a tack, you some type of lawyer or something'?"
"Or somebody important or somethin'?"
Nah, I ain't pass the bar but i know a little bit
Enough that you won't illegally search my sh!t
"We'll see how smart you are when the K9 come"
I got 99 problems but a b!tch ain't one
From the song "99 Problems" on "the Black Album" by Jay-Z. Sorry about the swearing and derogatory language towards women, but I wanted to say true to the lyrics.

Here's the music video. Have a lovely Sunday and get home safely.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

thankful

I have not posted this week so far because I am on vacation. But I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. This year I feel especially blessed and appreciative of my live.

My list is long but the big highlights include: graduating from law school, passing the bar, getting a great legal job in Utah, having a terrific internship in DC, meeting helpful and smart attorneys in Washington, having a week off to visit with my in-laws in Virginia, and receiving great health insurance through the state government.

So hopefully you are not reading this today but if you want a break from family, put in the comments what you are thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

why the judiciary must be kept separate

Or, why State Senator Chris Buttars has no idea what he is talking about...again

Well to be fair, one of the two bad ideas I am going to discuss here is proposed by AG Mark Shurtleff, but it is something Buttars supports I am sure. So let's go first into Buttars' "idea"
It's a job that has been overseen solely by the courts for two decades.
But now a task force headed by Sen. Chris Buttars wants a new, independent commission to evaluate how Utah's judges are performing and let voters know about it.
"I don't think judges should judge the judges," Buttars said Friday.
Members of a proposed, politically neutral 13-member commission would be equally chosen by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Sitting judges and legislators would not be eligible.
So we will have a state commission, made up of (most likely) ex-legislators like Greg Curtis (I expect that he will be gone next year, either by his choice or by the voters' choice) ENDORSING judges? That would lead to cronyism, with judicial candidates being working to stick closer to the panel wishes than to the dictates of the LAW. We already have a electorally moribund branch--its called the legislature. We don't need another group who allegiances are questionable.

The original purpose of Buttars' task force that came up with this cockamamie scheme was, according to Stephen Hunt "was supposed to study how to improve an information pamphlet sent to voters asked to keep or reject judges appointed by the governor." The packet currently shows what proportion of attorneys approve of a judge. Sure, the information could be more helpful. It could break down the voting by criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, insurance company defense attorneys, personal injury attorneys, etc. That way, an average voter could see which side finds a judge more favorable to their clients. Rather than endorsing a judge, such a system would truly provide the voter with more information. And when say both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that a judge was bad--like Leslie Lewis--the voters would dismiss such a judge. But what the pamphlet has to do with creating a governmental endorsement system I don't know.

And the proposal for the panel will lead to uninformed and ideologically based recommendations take a look at what the make up would be and the grading system.
Currently, judges must score at least 70 percent on 75 percent of the survey questions for a favorable rating.
The task force is considering a 1-to-5 scale for survey questions pertaining to a judge's abilities, and a yes/no question as to whether a respondent recommends that the judge be retained.
The task force has also suggested litigants be asked to participate in surveys about the judge on their case, in addition to witnesses who have testified in cases before a judge and court staff who have worked with a judge.
[...]
* Four members appointed by the chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court.
* Four by the governor.
* Two each by the president of the Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.
* The executive director of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
* No more than half can be from the same political party or attorneys by profession.
So we have 8 picks made by conservative Republicans, 4 by the Chief Justice, and a pro-prosecution executive director. Do we have any doubt that the number of judges willing to throw out some prosecutor's cases will go down?

It is not politically popular to defend those accused of crimes, but the more their rights decrease the more the rest of our rights and protections decrease. Which brings me to politically driven suggested legal change number two.
The Utah Constitution description of individuals' rights against unreasonable searches and seizures is almost identical to the wording of the Fourth Amendment, but federal and state judicial interpretation over the reason evidence can be excluded from trial differ. Exclusionary rules, also different at the state and federal levels, allow defense attorneys to argue to block evidence from being used in court if there is proof the evidence was improperly collected.

Shurtleff's proposal, discussed by the Constitutional Revision Commission Thursday, would add language to the state constitution saying an individual's rights related to search and seizure would follow the interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court and that evidence gathered in violation of an individual's rights shall only be excluded in a state proceeding if it would be excluded based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Essentially, Shurtleff wants to get rid of Utah's search and seizure provision of its constitution (Article 1 section 14). Before I go into why this is not a good idea, let's discuss why the is a separate set of analysis for the Utah Constitution and that has given more protections to Utahns than the federal constitution has been interpreted.

During the Territorial/Pioneer days of the state, Utahns were besieged by raids by federal marshals. The Deseret News at the time called these home invasions as "outrages," "carried out without even a warrant giving the perpetrators the authority [to search]." Tracey E. Panek, Search and Seizure in Utah: Recounting the Antipolygamy Raids, 62 Utah Historical Quarterly 316, 327 (1994). State v. DeBooy, 2000 UT 32, 996 P.2d 546, also went into this history when the court prohibited Utah police from conducting certain types of roadblocks where they questioned and searched drivers under the Utah Constitution.
This state's early settlers were themselves no strangers to the abuses of general warrants. Underlying the abuse of the general warrant was the perversion of the prosecutorial function from investigating known crimes to investigating individuals for the purpose of finding criminal behavior. A free society cannot tolerate such a practice.
Id. at P26.

Did you know, for example, that your bank records are exempt from the Fourth Amendment and are considered public information to the police? But not under Art. I Sec. 14, Utah's constitution deems those to be protected unless the police get a warrant. But Shurtleff and soon to be ex-Federal District Court Judge Paul G. Cassell want you to focus on the drug dealers who benefit from these additional privacy protections. Or say that it is hard on police officers to know what the Utah courts will do next, and confusing to them to hear one thing from the US Supreme Court and Utah Supreme Court. But guess what? Police officers aren't that stupid, and there are plenty of good attorneys that can help explain what they can and cannot do in the wake of a landmark decision.

Here's what former Chief Justice Michael Zimmerman thinks of Shurtleff's proposal:
if the intent is to remove the exclusionary rule it would be better to remove search and seizure language from the state constitution altogether than to add language. "That will do what the proposal attempts to do, but the proposal is not well written," he said. "Be honest about it. You're turning all of these issues over to the federal courts."
And who sits on the federal courts? Conservatives who have sought to chip away at the 4th Amendment. Color me unsurprised.

What people like Chris Buttars doesn't understand is that some day, the shoe could be on the other foot. Every "law and order" person has to realize that they too could become like Larry Craig, caught up with police and the criminal justice system...their private life made very public. And by that time, Article 1 Section 14 won't be there to protect them. Even worse, they have protections legally, but the hack judges the panel endorsed go after them to appease the types that sit on the panel.

This is why like religion, the judiciary should be kept separate from the political branches of the government. I guess they just don't teach civics anymore (or folks like Buttars doesn't care for civics).

Friday, November 16, 2007

the planted debate

I watched the Democratic debate last night, and after a week or so of discussion about an apparantly planted question for Hillary at a town hall meeting, I got the distinct feeling that this whole CNN debate was staged.

Biden knew that he was going to get to answer a question about Pakistan and Iran. Since Biden answered those questions, he had to include mentions that he talked to Bhuto and Mushariff personally before Bush did and that he told Bush in the White House that if Bush went to war with Iran, Biden would urge impeachment. Joe Biden needs to retire from the senate and be an envoy, host a late night talk show, or simply be the host of the most killer DC party every year. But not president. He had some good points, but do we really need a habitual name-dropper as president?

Obama knew a question about Social Security and Medicare was going to him. He did the right thing and dropped the word crisis on Social Security (since as Matt Stoller and others amptly point out, there is no crisis). Obama seems to be strattling the line between reality--which I think is actual policy would be aimed at--and appeasing the beltway media to show that he is "serious" about the "crisis" and Hillary is not.

Hillary knew there was going to be a "gender card" question. She really knocked it out of the park.

Richardson knew he was going to get a question on immigration and driver's licenses. He also did a great job by saying three words, "I've done it."

There were several times during the debate that I felt deja vu with the question and then knowing who would get first or second crack at the question.

Now maybe it is because there was so little substance covered in this and other debates. Or because I have been following this race much closer than even a primary goer in an early state. But newsflash, so have the candidates and their staffs.

The whole thing seemed to be Kabuki theater, designed to elicit a story line--this time, it was "mean Edwards (and Obama) attack Hillary, but she bounces back." We had a preordained gaffe or two (Richardson saying human rights is more important than security and Obama appearing to waffle on driver's licenses) a couple of preordained winning lines--Obama saying Wolf Blitzer was a pessimist and he was hopeful, Hillary saying know they are attacking me not because I am a woman but because I am ahead, etc.

In the end, who watches these things other than the junkies like me or those who already support their candidate? Do you really think that one debate will determine the votes of even those undecided Nevadans who were sitting up front? I doubt it.

Last week, I was excited that the race seemed (even if it was completely artifically) to be getting closer. Which ever candidate wins Iowa will likely win the Democratic nomination (unless somehow Richardson wins Iowa). But if Huckabee wins Iowa, that's all you will hear about and even if Clinton gets third place in Iowa, she might be able to come back thanks to Huckabee.

I had fun watching it last night, but let's get real, every single player in the debate seemed to know (for the most part) what was going to happen before it happened. And as a result, nothing really happened.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

my great-great-great grandfather is in the news




If you have read my profile, you would notice that I am very proud to be a sixth-generation Utahn. My family's first Utahn was John Varah Long. Born in Yorkshire, England in 1826, he was one of the first English converts and became a bit of a mucky muck in England before he set sail for America with his wife. Two children died on the boat passage. He made is way to Utah and became (among other things), a regent for the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah), an editor for the Deseret News, one of fifteen scribes/personal secretaries for Brigham Young, a lawyer, a state legislator, a businessman, and even a dentist for a short while. One of his wives, Sarah (he had 5) was a famous artist in her day as well. Her most famous painting was “Brigham Young and His Friends,” which hangs in the Church Family History office [pictured in the painting is also Mr. Long]. She was also friends with Eliza R. Snow, dubbed "Zion's poetess." By the early to mid 1860s however, John V. Long had a falling out with Church officials (in particular Brigham himself). He--and his family--were excommunicated in 1866 for "associating with the Young Men’s Social Club and other conduct unbecoming of a Latter-day Saint" as accused of "associating with Gentiles that would seek to shed Mormon blood." Sadly, he and Sarah largely disappeared from society as a result.

In 1869, John V Long was found dead in a irrigation ditch between North and West Temple. Sixty some-odd years after the fact, his daughter claimed that that fateful night John V. Long was last seen walking down North Temple with Bill Hickman, an erstwhile "destroying angel" (who boasted that he had killed many men on behalf Church leaders). The legend was that John V. Long knew too much about Mountain Meadows or the Utah Wars and after he started blabbing, he was first excommunicated, then assassinated.

Why should you care, other than the fact that it is a really interesting story about the Territorial/Pioneer days? My Great Aunt Irma recently gave a treasure trove of John V. and Sarah Long's papers to Ken Sanders to sell. The most valuable piece in the collection are two undiscovered poems by Eliza R. Snow, written in her own hand. The could be worth millions.

(Photo Credit: ABC 4 News)

There are also 11 diaries written in an archaic shorthand known as Pitman remaining out of the 115 John V. Long refers to in his diaries. Also in the collection are documents signed by Brigham Young, sermon transcripts by Young and other early Church leaders. These missing diaries include the 1857-58 period of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Utah Wars that so intrigues historians and would clarify once and for all if the legend is based in anything other than lore.

On KUER's RadioWest, host Doug Fabrizio devoted one of their hour long programs to the papers and John V. Long, featuring a heated debate between Ken Sanders, Will Bagley and official Church historian Ron Barney.

Will we ever know exactly why John V. Long was excommunicated (no one seems to know what the Young Men's Social Club was), if Hickman killed him and why? These papers probably won't ever tell us anything on those scores. Long could have been killed by Hickman on behalf of Union Pacific, since Hickman had become a free lance killer and Long was representing plaintiffs suing the railroad. Or Long could have just fallen down drunk into the irrigation ditch, as Barney seemed to suggest.

My dad has placed calls in with Bagley and Sanders to find out more about the papers and his great great grandfather after hearing the radio show. No matter how important or unimportant who John V. Long ends up really being after deciphering all of those papers, it is so wonderful to know more about our family. (Included in the papers are genealogical records of my family going back to England to the 1700s)

I learned that John V. Long's house was on 100 South and 200 East, where the parking lot of Questar Gas' parking lot now stands in its place. That house that sands next to it, was his neighbor. The house itself was what started the falling out with the Church. A major general commandeered the Long house and Brigham Young wrote Long a very unfriendly letter demanding he pay thousands of dollars, which in the 1860s in Utah Territory was a lot of money, Long owed to stay in favor with the Church.

Now more than ever, I feel great ties to Utah and Salt Lake. I can walk around Temple Square and imagine what it must have looked like that night in 1869. My parents have a painting of John V. Long in their study (complete with enormous bow tie, beard, and pen) and now I want to see if Sarah painted it.

Another family story is that someone sold their land in Bingham Canyon so that the daughters could go to college. Of course, now the mountains of the Canyon is the world's largest hole in the ground (one of the few man made things you can see from space) and literally billions of dollars of copper have been extracted. Its doubtful that some documents on that issue magically appear and make news. I have to say though, I am proud of all of my ancestors even if I could have been a Rockefeller of Utah.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the politicization of crime budgets

Just yesterday I was happy that the DA's office got more money ($1.3 million more to be exact) to hire attorneys and support staff necessary to reduce the case load on current prosecutors. Republican DA Lohra Miller's plea was heard by a 5-4 Republican Democratic split. That was unfortuneate. Now comes worse news.
The Salt Lake County Council won't put a penny into the languishing lockup next year despite first-year Democratic Sheriff Jim Winder's insistence that the county soon will need it to relieve the population squeeze on the nearby maximum-security Adult Detention Center (ADC).
"I'm extremely frustrated," Winder said Tuesday. "The county is not taking into consideration our external partners - the cities, the judiciary - in making this decision."
The Republican-led council slammed the door on the deteriorating South Salt Lake jail Tuesday, denying the $5.9 million Winder sought to reopen the facility and the $610,000 that Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon had recommended for upgrades and repairs.
Democratic Councilman Randy Horiuchi urged his conservative colleagues - who opposed Oxbow funding on a 5-4 partisan vote - to keep the jail "battle ready."
But Republicans balked, saying a criminal-justice master plan should come first.
[...]
But the loss of Oxbow has the sheriff steamed.
"To say we are going to hold off and formulate another plan," Winder said, "does not address what is a critical need today."
We can argue about what causes more crime, plea agreements to lesser charges (meaning less time in jail/prision) or having the jail so full that it releases people picked up on warrants. I think you know where I stand on the debate.

But what is sad is that it shouldn't matter that Sherrif Winder is a Democrat or DA Miller is a Republican. The entire criminal justice system should be funded and planed in a thoughtful consistant manner. While budgeting is a zero sum game at the local level (because they cannot borrow outside of narrow bond issues), the math should not depend on what party you belong to. Shame on you County Council.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The war to end all wars

Today is Veteran's Day in the U.S. but really its origins stem from the end of the First World War, known as the Great War, or the War to End All Wars-- it was called Armistance Day (in Great Britian it is still called Rememberance Day). The end of the war was occurred as arbitrarily as it began. Europeans liked the idea of ending on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month because they believed that the piece they achieved was saving the world from itself at the last possible moment.

Of course this war to end all wars was really the war that began all wars since that day in 1918. The people in Paris drew the maps of the middle east, leading to Iraq's civil war, the lack of a Kurdish state, Israel/Palestine, and dictators throughout the middle east. (those kings were installed by the Brits) The Treaty of Paris lead to Vietnam's civil war and American involvement (Ho Chi Mehn was a dishwasher at the conference and tried to get audience with the Big Three, but they ignored him). The drew up Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, one turned out horrific and the other split relatively amicibly. They drew up Poland and humilated Germany. They divvied up Africa at a later conference in Berlin, creating the idiotic borders we know today.

I could go on but I also want to focus on the more immediate impact of that war. Architecture and Art were destroyed, cities leveled. Hundreds of thousands died for no territorial gain among the leading countries. Among them were brilliant poets, writers, and artists. Many brilliant ideas that could have been died in Flanders Fields. An entire generation was erased, only to see the next one perish a few decades later.

Even the so-called Good War, World War II, has been shown to have been in reality merely a necessary war, thanks to Ken Burns. Each war is filled with its incompetant greedy military leaders, idiotic domestic leadership, the suffering of millions.

By now I think we can all agree that the current war in Iraq was not necessary but was a war of choice. And the longer we remain in that the country, the worse the mistake becomes. America cannot afford to have Iraq be as chaotic as it is today, but thanks to this Administration we can no longer serve any positive purpose in that country. Equally sadly, few nations are willing to step in when we inevitably leave.

Today is a day to remember the sacrifices of those who have served our country, who have been "rewarded" with death, dismemberment, brain injury, disabilities, pyschological traumas, and homelessness. But it also remains a day to remember the aweful cost of war and the need to avoid it.

So rather than merely hoisting a flag, giving a speech in a smoky VFW hall, or shaking a vet's hand, we need leaders who will think about this horid past and present towards thinking up a future were peace will become not just the pause between wars but era that last generations.

Friday, November 09, 2007

non-partisan political roundup

My latest thinking on how this blog will stay interesting without violating any ethics rules is to serve as a blog version of those political scientists that get quoted in stories. That is, what I think the impact of a news event or statement by a candidate etc. will mean to X election. I am always cognizant of my leans and so I will be extra cautious to say that something will really help this candidate or party, but sometimes it will just seem obvious to me. And I am sure I will be proven wrong once in a while.

  • Vouchers were probably a main reason why so many progressives/liberals are in SLC government after the election. Normally, off-year elections are pretty tame affairs and people don't get that excited about voting for mayor. However, the openness of this race (at least initially) and the presence of vouchers contributed to piqued interest and turn out.

    Buhler was one of the better conservatives to campaign for mayor in a while, but he got traunced by the biggest margin yet. Why? SLC voters tapped the screen 75-25 against vouchers. In some places in SL County, voters were in line for HOURS trying to vote. You never see that during a presidential year in Utah, let alone an odd-year election. This ballot issue was important to Utahns. I hope the legislature gets the message after the thumping vouchers took at the voting booth.

  • Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) seemed like a long shot for the GOP nomination, and still does. However, he seems to have tapped into something (more than just millions of dollars online) that could lead him to getting a good 20 something percent nationally if he were to run as a third-party candidate. And I think he will do surprisingly well in Utah during the GOP primary. I am predicting a 2nd or third place finish. Here's why:(Photo Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret Morning News)
    Supporters of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul served state officials, including Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., with a complaint Wednesday as part of a national effort seeking to require paper ballots in the upcoming presidential elections.
    Ron Paul does best in areas where teh federal government owns lots of land. And Utah has one of the largest percentage of the state owned by the feds. While this state is socially conservative, it is above all very libertarian on all matters not associated with social issues and very distrustful of the federal government in general. This is basically Ron Paul's ideology. Around town, the only Republican candidate I have seen any outward signs of support for (other than Romney) has been Ron Paul. His people were there at the anti-war rallys. They have signs on freeway overpasses on I-15, etc. Since Ron Paul was the Libertain Party's candidate before, and since he raised nearly $10M in the last couple of months, if I were a Republican Party leader, I would be nicer to him.

  • Here's something interesting to discuss that I won't touch with a ten foot pole:
    Past editions of that page say all of the people chronicled in the book "were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." The new introduction reads much the same but says the Lamanites "are among the ancestors of the American Indians."
    [...]
    Last year's change "takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known," according to church spokesman Mark Tuttle. "The change will be included in the next edition of the Book of Mormon printed by the church."

    He said the introduction page in current LDS-produced books "was not part of the original text translated by Joseph Smith Jr.," adding it was written and published in 1981. The church declined comment on who wrote that version of the page.

    Andrew Corbin, a senior editor at Doubleday, said the one-word change was specifically requested by the church for the second edition, published in October 2006.
    As all lawyers know, one word change really can make a big difference.

  • In my last semester in law school, I took a class on state and local government law. One of our guest speakers was Summer Pugh, a Draper resident mad at the proposed TRAX route that would go close to her backyard. Her group "Citizens for Responsible Transportation" or "CRT" tried to challenege the route decision, seaking move the route "out of low-density neighborhoods and closer to business-heavy State Street - or even farther west.". Her case challenging the rulings that the decision was not petition-able is now before the Utah Supreme Court. This election, CRT supported some candidates for Draper city council seats. The results were not pretty.
    Incumbent Bill Colbert, who won another term despite CRT's efforts, thanked the group for not endorsing him.
    "CRT didn't have the impact they wanted - but they had an impact," Colbert said. "They tried to hijack the race, and it backfired on their butts."
    Candidate Scott Tanner, one of the three defeated CRT-backed candidates, agrees the endorsement played a part in his defeat.
    "I wish that we weren't lumped together that easily," he lamented. "The candidates didn't want to make TRAX the issue."
    [...]
    "This was an election about the 70 percent tax increase and the lack of ballparks for our kids," Pugh said. "TRAX . . . was not heavily debated."
    She added that her group simply backed a slate of candidates so its supporters would know who was open to their cause. Pugh added that CRT got its candidates through the primary election, even in the midst of a long list of 13 candidates.
    That, she said, was a sign that people want to move TRAX away from east-side neighborhoods.
    This sounds like spin to me. Anyone from Draper who can weigh in on this matter?

  • Here's a common sense piece of legislation everyone should support:
    Sen. Bob Bennett has reintroduced legislation that would prohibit nuclear testing without the approval of Congress and require extensive review before such tests could go forward.
    [...]
    Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is sponsoring similar legislation in the House, though neither bill is as yet scheduled for a committee hearing.
    The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says the White House must get permission from Congress before resuming nuclear detonations at the Nevada Test Site or elsewhere, though Bennett notes there have been no proposals to restart such tests.
    [...]
    Bennett's bill says that if the administration asks and Congress approves renewed testing, the secretary of the Energy Department must provide public notice of the test, shall notify the public if any radiation is released and shall hold a town hall meeting in southern Utah after each explosion.
    It also establishes a nine-member commission - with three of the members coming from Utah - to oversee the safety, health and air quality concerns at the Nevada Test Site. And it requires the National Academy of Sciences to study the health and safety precautions currently at the Nevada Test Site.
    I hope Reps. Cannon and Bishop will co-sponsor this as well.

  • Romney's doing a fullcourt press on religious conservatives:
    Parents who home school their children should get a tax credit to help offset the expense of teaching, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday.
    "I also believe parents who are teaching their kids at home, homeschoolers, deserve a break, and I've asked for a tax credit to help parents in their homes with the cost of being an at-home teacher," he said.
    Romney supports giving parents more educational options, through charter schools or vouchers, but he said legislation should be done on a state level.
    While homeschooled children make up a tiny fraction of the over all number of children (like 1-2%), the vast majority (97%) of them are homeschooled on religious/moral grounds.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

political joke of the day

I got this from an email someone forwarded me. Note that I am not saying that anyone group is like this or that, it is only playing off stereotypes for humoric effect. That is, it is a joke people, get over yourselves.

Now that's out of the way, on with the forward:
The Pope took a couple of days off to visit the Rugged Mountains of Alaska for some sightseeing. He was cruising along the campground in the Popemobile when there was a frantic commotion just at the edge of the woods.

A helpless Democrat, wearing sandals, shorts, a "Save the Whales" hat, and a "To Hell with Bush" T-shirt, was screaming while struggling frantically and thrashing around trying to free himself from the grasp of a 10-foot grizzly.

As the Pope watched in horror, a group of Republican loggers came racing up.

One quickly fired a 44 magnum into the bear's chest. The other two reached up and pulled the bleeding, semiconscious Democrat from the bear's grasp.

Then using long clubs, the three loggers finished off the bear and two of them threw it onto the bed of their truck while the other tenderly placed the injured Democrat in the back seat.

As they prepared to leave, the Pope summoned them to come over. "I give you my blessing for your brave actions!" he told them. "I heard there was a bitter hatred between Republican loggers and Democratic Environmental activists but now I've seen with my own eyes that this is not true."

As the Pope drove off, one of the loggers asked his buddies "Who was that guy?"

"It was the Pope," another replied. "He's in direct contact with Heaven and has access to all wisdom."

"Well," the logger said, "he may have access to all wisdom but he sure doesn't know anything about Grizzly bear hunting! By the way, is the bait holding up, or do we need to go back to Massachusetts and get another one?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

a new beginning

Rep. Steve Urqhart (R-St. George) wrote a half congratulations/half insult to my post on swearing into the Utah Bar. Since I am having a particularly good couple weeks, maybe I won't rub it in that his voucher bill lost in every single county in Utah...nah.

Rather than gloating or congratulating (Mayor Becker has a nice ring to it), I write today about how this blog will have to change during the next year. And why.

Two hours before my swearing into the bar, I had a job interview for a judge. When I landed in D.C. and turned on my cell phone, I had a message from said judge telling me I was hired and he needed me out here ASAP. So I ended my internship two weeks early (thanks to my awesome boss at the Campaign Legal Center), packed up all my belongings, and paid through the nose to fly back to SLC two days ago.

As a staffer for the judicial branch, I cannot comment anymore on things that might come before the court or be partisan in general. Had vouchers passed for instance, there was a very good chance that my boss would be ruling on whether or not the bill violated the Utah Constitution.

Thus, I may focus on the horse race or policy aspects of the 2008 elections, but I will (hopefully) refrain from supporting one side or the other. It won't be as much fun, but this job is important to me.

As far as standing for something, Rep. Urquhart, I stand for the Utah and United States Constitution. Great minds can differ about many aspects of interpreting this august documents, but we all can agree that it is they who are to be exhaulted in our system of government, not particular persons or factions.

My career goals are to help as many people as possible as much as possible to make their lives better. Oh and make enough money to support my family. In that order. To me, that can be through the courts (on the inside or outside), or the legislative process (again from within or externally), or the executive branch (local, state or federal), or though NGOs/non-profits.

So if you have thoughts on how to make things better in Salt Lake, in Utah, in America, in the world, drop them into the comments section.