Saturday, April 21, 2007

making themselves unaccountable

Instead of calling a special session of the Utah Legislature if the Voucher bill goes forward (like he promised), Gov. Jon Huntsman will simply make the people vote on the referenum (assuming there are enough valid signatures). But instead of having an election relatively soon, as the law currently requires, or during a general election when people are used to voting, Huntsman wants it to be during the presidential primary next February.
House Republicans batted around scenarios during a caucus meeting earlier this week. Logan GOP Rep. Scott Wyatt, who voted for the voucher law, argued against a June 2007 vote.
"I just don't want to see it this summer," he said. "The summer elections bring in such a low number of voters."
With no money allocated, House Majority Leader David Clark, who also supported the bill, said he thinks a June vote "is not physically a possibility."
And Senate President John Valentine isn't inclined to provide any extra money for a special election. He calls a June vote "not acceptable," but would be fine with a referendum election in February, June or November of 2008, during elections that are already funded.
This November's municipal elections are not fully funded because some counties don't have seats up for a vote and others would need to upgrade to electronic machines for a statewide election, said Joe Demma, lieutenant governor's chief of staff.

If you recall, I argued that having our primary on Super Duper Tuesday will mean that no presidential candidate will ever stop by the state (except the big three GOPers, but only to raise money, they know that Mitt has this state wrapped up). More importantly, no one will come to vote in February.

While I agree with Min. Leader Clark that June would be a bad time too, why not 11/07 or 11/08? If you actually care what people have to say about things, you would place it on a date when people can and will vote on it. But we all know what the real agenda is, to save their own butts so that folks like Speaker Curtis don't get voted out of office over the voucher bill and the RSL stadium.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hatch: I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue

[as an aside, "Airplane!" is one of the few movies I own on DVD because it is still funny after watching it for the 20th time]

While Alberto "I do not recall that, Senator" Gonzales was embarrassed himself [by being caught lying multiple times] for 5 straight hours under questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members, ranging in ideology from Feingold and Leahy to Coburn and Graham, two Senators tried to give the embattled hack Attorney General a mini vacation. Three guesses who one of them was, and the first two don't count:
Sen. Orrin Hatch had a burning question: "How many employees do you have at the Department of Justice?"
Not to worry. Hatch, who has been on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 30 years and counting, had a follow-up. "What are the main core functions of the Department of Justice?" he asked. "You overview the FBI?"
Maybe it's because the senator still is recovering from shoulder surgery, but for several minutes Thursday, he lobbed softballs. Not just typical softballs, but questions so wispy a gentle breeze in the committee room would have sent Hatch's inquiries drifting into the ether.

Boy those sure are hard probing questions. Ones that any idiot with an org chart and access to an "about us" web page could answer.

"If you had had more hands on, on this, maybe we wouldn't be in this position today," Hatch said. "On the other hand, with 100,000-plus employees, it's easy to see why something sometimes slips by."

If it is so tough to do the job and forget something like a) offering a secret amendment to a key piece of legislation for the DOJ b) multiple meetings on said amendment and its new powers c) signing off on firing 8 US Attorneys...THEN RESIGN. And if Hatch thinks this is such a tough job where one can forget things, then he seems unqualified for the job either.

Poor Orin was one of the few cheerleaders left for a morally bankrupt national party. Not one, but two of his House colleagues had their homes/businesses raided by the FBI for investigations into corruption this week. Both men blamed the raid on their wife/in-laws, classy. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz not only demanded that the State Department give his paramour a higher paying job than Condi Rice, but he personally urged that said girlfriend got a no-bid contract for Iraq in 2003 from the DoD where he worked at the time.

Once leading Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain "joked" about his would-be foreign policy to the Persians: singing "Bomb Iran" to the tune of "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys. And former HHS secretary and ex-gov. Tommy Thompson "praised" Jews in an audience for their "tradition" of raising money...his state newspaper called on him to drop out of the race.

I could go on, but I won't. I looks like Sen. Hatch picked the wrong week...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

He Who Makes the Rules, Rules the Game

If you ever find yourself elected to a legislative body, and are in the majority party, try to get yourself on the Rules Committee. And you are a staffer, and are also ruthless and creative, Rules is the place for you to be.

The Salt Lake Tribune provides a great example why:
Republicans who used gun rights to derail a plan to give the District of Columbia its first full-voting House member and a fourth congressional seat for Utah won't be able to repeat their tactic today when the bill returns to the floor.
Several Republicans in late March tried to attach language that would have eliminated the district's long-standing handgun ban. Democrats, fearing many of their pro-gun rights members would side with the GOP, pulled the measure from consideration.
The legislation, mainly designed to give the nearly 600,000 residents of the district representation in Congress, will be brought up separately from a provision to pay for the new Utah seat, a move aimed at keeping Republicans from hindering passage with parliamentary procedures.
A spokeswoman for Rep. LaMar Smith, R-Texas, who pushed the handgun ban removal says the GOP won't be able to try the same move again because the Democrats are putting procedural roadblocks in the way of such an attempt.
"That is not going to be germane, so right now we're still weighing our options," said Beth McGinn, a spokeswoman for Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

The article also mentions that given the massacre at Virginia Tech earlier in the week, Rep. Smith's amendment might not seem as attractive as it once was. It might even be a liability to vote for such an amendment so soon after the mass killings. In a weird way, Democratic leadership might be doing pro-gun folks a favor.

As for the Utah-DC bill itself, DC Vote predicts it will pass with 20 Republicans voting in favor.
Even if that happens, the bill still faces hurdles. Many senators fear it could lead to the district pressing for a Senate seat as well. And several members have expressed concerns about the bill's constitutionality.
White House advisers have also said they could counsel President Bush to veto the bill should it pass Congress.
Republicans will attempt another approach today that is not expected to get much support: giving back most of the District of Columbia to Maryland, making residents there part of that state. The Capitol, National Mall, White House and other federal buildings would remain part of the district but the first family would be the only residents.

That too is a fall back poison pill amendment. Maryland does not want to deal with DC, those Marylanders living along the Chesapeake, or in the western regions, don't want Maryland's power base to shift to Washington and the burbs. Aside from the political problems, there is also the issue of DC's crime, prisons, drinking water, schools, city maintenance, that makes Maryland weary of taking ownership of the city.

Getting the bill past the House is the easy part (thanks to the new rule), but the Senate doesn't have the ability to make such rules since pretty much anything is germane in the world of senate amendments. Unanimous consent agreements also make closed rules difficult to get through.

So ends today's parliamentary lesson.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

one last post on this, I promise

Bob and I have been blogging the back and forthin a polite yet spirited debate about BYU's new and improved honor code.

He also makes a good point: "Yes, the Bible contains no references by Jesus to homosexuality. However, Mormons don't rely on the Bible as our only source of scripture [they rely on inter alia the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the Articles of Faith]"

True enough, but my point was that BYU claimed that the honor code is necessary for members of the BYU community (faculty, staff, and students) "to live the 'moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.'" Now again, correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is limited to the gospels according to Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Does the BoM contain any more stories of what Jesus said and taught? My understanding is that the BoM is about the time prior to Jesus and other attesting to/forseeing the Son of Man.

Ergo, if the gospel of Jesus is limited to the Bible, and in said Bible Jesus himself makes no mention of homosexuality [or as Bob suggested, the Mormon additions to the Bible also leave little mention of homosexuality], then BYU has no basis for its discriminatory honor code.

I don't get how Bob's referenced citations have anything to do with a) Jesus' teachings or b) homosexuality as being inherantly sinful. The only thing I can think of is that there is a loophole for future prophets to learn from God that homosexuality is a sin. But again, since it didn't come from Jesus during his ministry, such revelation has no bearing on BYU's purported justification for despirate treatmnet of same-sex couples.

Bob also makes the good point that while Jesus hung out with sinners, he admonished them to sin no longer. But my point is, is it a center for academic learning's place to say what is a sin and punish accordingly?

OK moving correction of the day goes to the Utah Republican Party Morning News: " The U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787. An incorrect year was listed in Tuesday's Education section." Oh the irony!

I am no theologian but...

I am so glad that great bloggers like Bob read my posts and take time to critique them, but I thought I would do some response.

As my friend and BYU alumnae Alisa pointed out in the comment section to the original post, not-married heterosexual couples who hold hands and kiss on BYU campus are not targeted by this "hate the sin, love the sinner" honor code, whereas homosexual couples that did the same thing would fall under its purview.

I didn't say that Jesus never talked about sin, only that he did not say that homosexuality was a sin. He talked about adultery, and divorce, and other stuff, but his main gist about sin was forgiveness. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, in BYU they only would talk to the later. Again, his followers might have said that premarital sex was wrong, like Paul, but Jesus never mentions it as far as I can tell.

Now I am not asking to get into a chapter and verse war, and I am happily educated on the subject. But from what I remember from Sunday School and Confirmation classes (as well as Sunday sermons) I don't recall Jesus really talking about sexual sins.

Most of the sins he talked were sinning against our neighbors by not loving them as ourselves. And most of the times, like when he found the adulterous woman he admonished but forgave. "Sin no more" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." And my all time personal favorite: "Judge not lest ye be judged."

My point is that the vast majority of sexual sins conservative churches tend to focus on were not really directly mentioned by Jesus himself, let alone the focus of his ministry. It seems conservative churches are happy to focus on the Old Testament that went around smiting people and destroying cities like Sodom and Gomorrah but really work at ignoring the beatitudes, especially in the lead up to the Iraq War, this one: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." And for the subject at hand, sexual morality and those who are marginalize and persecuted for their sexuality: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill."

Scholars say that this speech by Jesus is the one thing they are pretty sure he said. The rest, there is debate whether the Son of Man said them, or if they are summaries/parables of general Christian messages.

Now it is true that I don't have to go to BYU (and I won't, I am pretty sure I am done with schooling) and don't have to follow their honor code, so why should I care? Well because when I see disparate treatment and discrimination, I feel discriminated against. To me, when people suffer unjustly, I suffer. This solidarity I feel with my fellow humans is part of the reason why I identify with the Democratic Party, as I don't feel that same level of empathy and passion on the other side of the isle.

It gets me upset that Bob can't wear his beard around campus as well, but I don't think it is as unjust as gay BYU students who can't hold hands around campus. Afterall, Bob can shave off his beard, the gay students cannot shave off their sexual orientation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

dis-honor code

BYU just changed its honor code.
The changes, which condemn behavior rather than sexual orientation, "remove a lot of the Gestapo atmosphere from the campus," said Brett Condron, a BYU freshman.
The new section of the honor code application reads, in part: "Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. . . . One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity."
The honor code is a set of rules students and staff at the school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to follow in order to live the "moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ." The honor code's applications clarify the short set of rules. Students who disregard the code can be put on probation and, in rare situations, suspended.
Prior to the honor code application change, the section on homosexual behavior or advocacy read, in part:
"Brigham Young University will respond to student behavior rather than to feelings or orientation. . . . Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code."

While agree it is an improvement, I still disapprove of the singling out of homosexuals, especially on the basis that "Jesus said it was cool."

Jesus said a whole lot of great stuff, but he never said anything about homosexuality. Most religious anti-gay people point to Leviticus, AKA a book in the Old Testament AKA not something in Jesus' teachings, to say that God believes homosexuality is a sin. The Son of Man certainly talked disapprovingly of divorce, something unfortunately quite frequent in the LDS Church.

But the bulk of his gospel was about social justice: poverty, social castes, the sick, the weak, etc. To blame Jesus for the school's anti-gay policies is dishonoring his legacy and his teachings.

"As more and more members of the LDS Church are coming to know individuals who are gay and finding out that they're human, that these are people just like them, that they're good people, it becomes difficult for them to demonize homosexuality the way the church positions do," said Nick Literski, a former BYU student. "Literski, a gay man who has withdrawn his membership from the church, said his daughter will attend the school this fall." I guess there is hope in us all.

Monday, April 16, 2007

using tragedies and crimes

By now you have heard about the mass murder at Virginia Tech. I don't really have much to add to the words of condolence, sadness, and anger about what happened.

But what does get my ire are op-eds (and pundits) making arguments like the Salt Lake Tribune's:
But we do know that the terrible events in Blacksburg, Va., the most deadly rampage shooting in U.S. history, will reignite the debate over the ready availability of guns in this nation and the price we pay in death for that policy.
There you have it. We said it. A nation awash in guns cannot protect itself from or prevent tragedies like the ones at Trolley Square or Virginia Tech or Columbine. That's the simple truth.
Gun-rights advocates will argue ...
That's an argument that should not be easily dismissed. But on a day like this one, it is not persuasive.
We note, too, that Virginia Tech has a policy that forbids students, faculty and staff from carrying guns on campus, even if they have a concealed-carry permit. That is similar to the policy the University of Utah and other public colleges in this state had until recently, before the Legislature struck it down.
[...] But we can be sure that the arguments from both sides will gain fresh emphasis in the days ahead.
And they should. Because this is a debate that must continue so long as horrors like the one Monday occur.

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of people using events like this as props for their arguments.

Arguments about the proper limitations to the right to bear arms has its place in the United States, but I think that such a debate should be put on hold until at least the bodies of the victims are buried. Standing knee deep in their blood and screaming into the camera to score political points is beyond tasteless.

Personally, I think now is a time to reflect on their lives and then later why this keeps on happening in the US. I don't think it is because of our gun laws or lack thereof, I think it is a cultural issue. So when the dust has settled, I recommend watching Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, to me his second best movie and most provocative. It raises lots of questions, and whether you agree with him about his conclusions or not, it is worth thinking about. Later.


What Would Brigham Do? The city named in its honor is wasting its money on millioniares:
Millions of dollars in taxes and fees collected from airline passengers have paid the bill for improvements at northern Utah's Brigham City airport, which caters to business jets and sees no commercial traffic.
But airport officials say the improvements were long overdue, and the airport was encouraged to apply for the funding by the Federal Aviation Administration.
A review by The Associated Press found the airport in Brigham City, about 50 miles north of Salt Lake City, received $6.2 million in 2005 and $8 million in 2006 from the federal Airport Improvement Program — several times more than any other airport in the state.

Is this a boondoggle that Rep. Bishop got for his friends? Maybe the airport was all run down, but when it is as privatized as this one is, to me it makes no sense that federal tax payers will be paying for it.

In other dumb ideas this week, Lee Benson's tax plan:
If elected I will eliminate the income tax side of the IRS entirely, except for a couple of guys to open the mail and deposit the checks.
My plan is to scrap the current rich people-favoring, receipt-saving, complicated-as-calculus income tax system and replace it with a voluntary flat tax.

Who would willingly pay the 20 percent Benson proposes? Not the rich, who currently spend lots of money on tax attorneys to avoid paying such rates.
There will be no penalty for not paying, for paying late or for paying less than you're supposed to.
But if you don't pay your share you will know about it and have to live with that every time you drive on a highway or call the police or use a fire hydrant or enjoy a city park or watch fireworks on the Fourth of July or send your kids to public school.
That will be your penalty. Knowing you are freeloading off your neighbor.

Good luck with that. By defunding government to this extent, we would have no highways, etc. A flat tax will never work, because it is a poor tax and the poor have less money than the middle class and wealthy.

Just look at the lottery, another voluntary flat tax with a random (microscopic) chance of rebate. The poorer less educated play the lottery, and the middle and upper class folks don't throw their money way.