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.