Friday, January 04, 2008

Free exercise

No, I am not talking about a promotion for the local gym. I am referring to the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Paul Rolly takes us in the way back machine to 1997, shortly after the last Democrat was elected statewide, Attorney General Jan Graham.
Graham inquired about the apparently steroid-enhanced book to be used for the oath of office. Fox explained that it wasn't just any old Bible. It was a "Quadruple." He said it included the Bible, and three LDS scriptures: the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants.
Graham, an Episcopalian, said she was uncomfortable swearing on the LDS Scriptures and preferred a regular Bible. Inauguration staff seemed miffed, but they let her have her Bible.
The next day, at the inauguration, the four Republicans put their hands on a huge book to take their oath. The lone Democrat had her hand on what appeared to be a relatively skimpy Bible, perhaps a symbolic gesture of the party's status in Utah.
Rolly's wrong here. I think it is a emblematic of the problems that can stem from swearing an oath on a religious text-- it tends to tell everyone what your religion is--especially when yours if different than the majority.

US Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democratic Congressman from Minnesota, happens to be the first Muslim ever elected to national office. The official oath of office requires just a raising of the hand in the chamber, but when he asked to place his hand on the Koran for the ceremonial/photo-op swearing, all hell broke loose. Religious conservatives in America became especially upset. To his credit, Rep. Ellison shrugged off people's bigoted remarks and checked out Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Koran from the Library of Congress.

I say, the Constitution requires in two separate places (see Article VI) that folks like Graham and Ellison get to swear on whatever they want to as long as they affirm an oath to obey the constitution.

Can anyone tell me if this book is a Quadruple? If it isn't why isn't Leavitt swearing into the EPA on the same type of holy book as he did for Governor? Especially after we just learned that he held seminary meetings in the governor's mansion with staff.

P.S. I hope you got that free exercise title also had to do with the "relatively skinny bible" line. If not, now you do.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

prediction meets reality

OK so let's see how I did. First the order of finish. Prediction
1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton
That brings me to percentages. You can see the real results here are my estimates: "Obama . . . : 35-39%" "Edwards . . . : 30-33% " "Clinton . . . : 27-32%"
Biden hangs around until he finds out that he isn't allowed in the New Hampshire debate, protests, then withdraws and endorses Hillary. Richardson hangs around until Nevada, and when he gets fourth place, he drops out, endorses Obama (hoping for a VP slot) Dodd also drops out shortly after Iowa and maybe even before New Hampshire.

Reality: Biden and Dodd dropped out tonight, as did Gravel. I thought he would stick it out until the bitter end. I guess he finally got his meds. Biden and Dodd ran honorable campaigns, but voters just aren't looking for experience this time around, they want populist change.

Oh and congratulations to the Obama people, especially for truely increasing the number of caucus goers tonight from 124,000 in 2004 to 236,000 in 2008...amazing, especially getting college students to turn out during winter break.

Maybe this TIME cover will be right:

On to the Republicans, which I got more wrong.
1. Romney
2. Huckabee
3. McCain
4. Paul

Huckabee 34%
Romney 25%
Thompson 13%
McCain 13%
Paul 10%
Giuliani 4%
Hunter 0%
Wow, I knew the polls had Huckabee back up, but I thought Mitt had righted the ship and that his professionals would out organize Huckabee's volunteers and outside groups. Clearly I was wrong. And Thompson came back from the dead with 13%, but I thought his advisors leaked that he would exit unless he got 15% or higher. McCain and the media are going to claim he was tied for 3rd place. Paul was respectable, Giuliani looked like a fool on CNN trying to spin his embarrassing showing. Wolf could bearly hold back the laughter.

Congrats to Mike Huckabee...and Chuck Norris! My wife, a Hillary supporter, really loved Huckabee's speech. I thought it was good too. There wasn't much policy substance in there, short of hints about taxes. Most of it was about feeling us vs. them. Us was the little people who were tired of being told what to do by people in DC and New York. And listening to Barack Obama's speech later in the evening, I was struck by how similar the two were.

Both talked about working with the other side, about the little guy, about DC powerbrokers, and the establishment, and how "they" were wrong and underestimated them. Both spoke in positive hopeful, and unifying terms. Obama talked about health care, education, and the war. Both spoke like ministers. Huckabee is actually an ordained Baptist minister, Obama just sounds like one. It was very effective.

I am off to bed, but boy what an exciting night for this political junkie.

Iowa Caucus prediction thread

At 7 PM Central time, the doors will close in schools, churches, and rec centers and 200,000 to 300,000 Iowans will start to pick the presidential nominees for each major political party. The ultimate victor will lead the most powerful military and economy in the world. Without further puffery, I will tell you my predictions for order of finish and why (please tell me yours).

1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton

With word that Kucinich and Richardson will tell their people to walk over to the Obama camp if their group doesn't reach 15% in a particular precinct, and with the Des Moines Register poll showing lots of Independents and first time caucus-goers turning out for Obama, I have to say he wins this: 35-39%

John Edwards is a great closer, just ask all those attorneys for insurance companies who heard his closing arguments and watched their clients' money disappear. His organization is tested and familiar with the process: 30-33% [He hangs in the race until South Carolina]

Never count the Clinton's out, even with this disappointing 3rd place finish. Many new women voters showed up, but has Hillary herself argued, the format of the caucuses (where you have to stand up and explain/convince others why to side with your candidate) puts her core supporters at a disadvantage, even with Biden's caucus-goers being instructed to side with Hillary: 27-32% The loss is narrow, leading Bill to say they tied for second place and for Mark Penn to be fired.

The rest of the Democrats: Biden hangs around until he finds out that he isn't allowed in the New Hampshire debate, protests, then withdraws and endorses Hillary. Richardson hangs around until Nevada, and when he gets fourth place, he drops out, endorses Obama (hoping for a VP slot) Dodd also drops out shortly after Iowa and maybe even before New Hampshire. Kucinich and Gravel continue to "campaign" even though they are banned from the debates and kept off some states ballots (Kucinich refuses to unconditionally pledge to support the Democratic nominee so he is not on the ballot in Texas).


1. Romney
2. Huckabee
3. McCain
4. Paul

The Mittster's organization is second to none in Iowa and it comes through for him in a narrow win over the Huckster: 29-33%. Romney's people spin this as an amazing comeback, but all the media care about is McCain. Why? Because his bus was always loaded with free booze and McCain would allow them to talk to him all the time on that stupid bus. New Hampshire becomes a real battle against McCain who is sinking now with Obama's Iowa win that Indies will vote for the BHO.

Huckabee will utilize his evangelical email list, church vans and other outside groups to get his people to the polls. The lack of money and control over these outside groups leads to a narrow loss: 27-30%. He stays on until Florida, hoping that with the other Southerners out, he will retake control of the nomination from Romney or McCain. With the media and public's loses interest, he quickly fades back to obscurity.

McCain uses the Des Moines Register's endorsement and the lackluster nature of the other candidates to cantapult into a third place victory without even really campaigning there: 15-17%. Obama's strategy of expanding the universe of caucus-goers and getting the lower tier candidates to send their troops to his side of the room will dash McCain's chances of easy New Hamsphire victory.

Ron Paul's army of enthusiastic misanthropes, and all their cold hard cash propel Paul into fourth place in Iowa, slaying Giulliani, Thompson and the other losers: 10-15%. He gets moderate media buzz for doing so, but mostly about his supporters.

Giuliani gets 5th place and becomes a laughing stock by the beltway and New York media due to his stupid Florida strategy. His campaign continues to implode, with staffers leaking their tiffs to the press, and then leaving for Romney or McCain's camp: 8-12%

Thompson gets 6th place and has the greatest moment on the campaign trail when he gives a great concession speech, then flies up to New Hampshire and endorses McCain.

Duncan Hunter and whoever else is still there either drops out over even political junkies like myself forget they exist.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Utah's growing problem

With a growing population, comes more problems, but I didn't expect this to happen so fast. And the worst part is this last sentence of the article I quote.
There had been five killings involving more than one victim over the previous four years, according to records kept by The Salt Lake Tribune.
In all, The Tribune recorded 65 Utah homicides in 2007 - the most since 2001. One-third were victims of child abuse or domestic violence.

What is going on?
"Q.S." was one of 12 Utah children who died of abuse. Seven women and three men died in domestic violence.
Salt Lake City took the largest brunt of the homicide spike. The city recorded 16 homicides last year after having eight in 2006.

The article doesn't give any guesses as to why this is happening. More gangs? More drug use?

A more radical suggestion would be that since the number of abortions in Utah has remained flat while the population has boomed, the increased number of unwanted children has lead to an increase in crime. It is a very controversial thesis, and one that rests on a number of assumptions. The biggest problem with this thesis is that there is no real way to prove or disprove it.

But murder isn't the only negative impact of more people in Utah. We also get high rents and mortgages, more traffic, more air pollution, less open space, and more.

Don't mistake me for a grumpy old nostalgist though. I loved Salt Lake during the Olympics with all the crowds and interesting people. The city felt alive like never before. Our goal should be to recapture that magical two weeks with the coming growth. If we don't we have worse years than 2007 to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day

Happy 2008 everyone. Let us start with the song of the day, "New Year's Day" by U2.
All is quiet on new year’s day,
A world in white gets underway,
And I want to be with you,
Be with you night and day.
Nothing changes on new year’s day.
I think this last sentence is mostly right. We always hope and plan to make the next year better for ourselves, and some succeed. But the difference between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is really nothing other than the calendar. My boss and I were discussing this holiday and why we even have it. He said he didn't get why this was a holiday and really didn't feel special. At first, I said it probably is a practical holiday; employers know that their employees will not show up for work or would be unproductive due to hang overs (even in Utah). Then I thought about why people make such a big deal out of this changing of the year.

I told my boss that it really has replaced the pagan holiday of winter solstice...that people need something to celebrate and look forward to in the dark and cold of this time of year. But that does not explain the holiday's popularity in the southern hemisphere, where it is summer. So my revised answer is that people need to feel hopeful and in control of their lives, while at the same time able to blame the bad things on external forces.

An artificial delineation between now and the future is a perfect chance for people to feel they can start over, or improve themselves, or improve their circumstances. How things will change or get better is some times left vague on purpose other times they latch onto something bigger than themselves to explain away their path.

For some, it is a politician who will deliver them from salvation, others it is God himself. I won't begin to attempt to say which is the right way or what is the appropriate feeling for a day like today. But somehow for me, every New Year's I wake up and see the sun brilliantly shining over all that snow and ice and cold. And I feel like good things will happen to me this year, that I can make myself and my lot in life better.

I had a great year last year, and I feel this year will be even better. One of the friends we have over for dinner last night said her resolution was to not get so emotionally involved in this year's election. I hope I can do that too, it is so straining on me to follow the results, even with the euphoria of 2006 and 2007 for me. We have the same Myers-Briggs personality letters and it is amazing when things like that are so similar. We both have trouble watching comedies like "the Office" and "Seinfeld" because we empathize too much with the characters. Anyway, my resolution was to get myself back into shape. I really let myself go in law school and especially this last fall where I enjoyed too much cream in my coffee (and too much coffee).

But I think my other resolution is to know myself well enough to try to counteract the problematic aspects of myself and take advantage of my skills. What is your resolution? Do you really need to do one now, other than the handy changing of the year? What do you expect in the year to come for you and the world?

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 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?