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


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.


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%


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.