Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let the Mud Slinging Begin

I figured the presidential candidates would wait until after Christmas to start flinging the poo.

I was wrong.

Huckabee asks if Mormons believe Jesus and the devil are brothers.

Romney campaign releases a negative ad against Huckabee.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt Romney on Faith in America -- Commentary

This morning, Mitt Romney delivered his "Faith in America" speech at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

But most of you knew that, already.

I didn't get to hear it as it was being broadcast, but I have finally read the transcript.

It's interesting.

I'm not sure what it's going to do for him, but it's interesting.

Overall I think it was a pretty powerful speech. The views he conveys, when it comes to religion in America, are very close to my own.

That's probably why I liked it.

He knows his American history, too.

The quotes and references to our nation's founding fathers struck strong chords with me. I felt that swelling of pride and patriotism that I'm sure Mitt intended.

As I read through the speech, though, there were a few things that struck me.

  • I'm not sure that this is going to convince anyone who's already made up their mind about him. In fact, I doubt it will.
  • It was a great piece of political theatre. There were strong elements in the speech that I think should be preserved as political history, but we'll just have to see.
  • If there were any of the group that are seeking freedom "from" religion, as opposed to freedom "for" religion, that were "sitting on the fence" wondering whether to vote for him or not, this speech will galvanize them against him.
  • My hope is that if there are any people of faith who were "sitting on the fence" because of his faith, that they will open their hearts to him.

Let's not pretend this speech isn't a politically motivated speech, though. His word choices were incredibly well calculated, as any good politician will do.

Let me give you a few highlights, and some commentary.

"Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my presidency, if I were elected.

"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'"

This is bold. He's distancing himself from the current Bush administration (very bold considering where he delivered the speech), and bolding claiming religious liberty as a foundational principle of our country. He backs it up with a quote from one of the more fiery members of the Founding Fathers.

"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."

If you missed that fact that he's referencing John Kennedy, you've been sleeping. It's interesting to me that he can do this, as a Republican, and get away with it. It makes me wonder what the Democrats, and especially Senator Ted Kennedy, think about this situation.

"As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America's 'political religion' - the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God."

Oh, oh. My own religious red flags ran right up their poles on this one. I don't think he meant to say that he would supplant the oaths he's already taken, as a card carrying member of the LDS church, but it could be interpreted that way. This may be what some in the religious right are wondering about. How can he have a higher oath than the one he's already made to his God? And what does that say about his character? Can we trust what he says, at all?

"Americans do not respect believers of convenience."

I hope not. The trouble is, I find way too many common voters to be 'believers of convenience.' They change their minds at just the whisper of an idea about nearly anything, no matter how much it may fly in the face of common sense and experience.

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."

Nice Shakespeare reference, Mitt. Nice.

"Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."

He is so dead on, here, but I've met way too many people who fall into that. They think that as long as you believe what they believe, they'll be tolerant of you. If you don't share their beliefs, well, you're just a fool and the rules of courtesy and respect don't apply to you. As Orson Scott Card once said, "Doctrine is that which I believe. Dogma is that which you believe that conflicts with my Doctrine."

"No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."

No kidding. The trouble is that anyone who actually practices their faith comes under the microscope of intolerance, presidential candidates included. Of course, that's why he's giving this speech.

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter - on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

Wow. This is soooo interesting to me, coming from a Republican. These causes have traditionally been fought by the Democrats. Another reason the far right may be having trouble with Romney. His political history allows for more liberal thought, when it comes to the word of law, than his religion does. Do we finally have a moderate Republican candidate?

"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."

Go get' em Mitt!

Oh ... erm ... sorry about that. I'm trying to distance my own feeling, here.

It's not working.

"My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency."

Nice. A very subtle jab at the other Republican candidates who have all suffered from divorce, extra-marital affairs, or other indiscretions.

"Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

What an elegant description. "Symphony of Faith." As a musician I'm going to have to steal that one.

Now for the closing, patriotic rallying cry:

"Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot. And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God, they founded this great nation.

"In that spirit, let us give thanks to the divine author of liberty. And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed with freedom's holy light."

Amen, Brother Romney. Amen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mitt Romney's Faith in America Speech

As many of you know (and may have blogged about), Mitt Romney is going to give an address on Faith in America this Thursday. Unless you've been living under a rock, you also know that Romney is a Mormon - a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

All of this has come about because of a fumbled answer on the Bible during a presidential debate in Iowa, and the rising of Mike Huckabee in some polls.

Just out of curiosity, where is the ACLU in protest to that question? They were all over ranting about the LDS Church buying a very small section of main street in Salt Lake City just a couple of years ago. All in the name of "separation of church and state," of course, but I digress.

Getting back to Romney, let's ignore the fact that most polls show Mitt still in the lead of the Republican pack. Let's ignore the fact that the AP poll in Iowa shows them neck and neck. Only one poll I'm aware of that was mentioned on TV (and I can't even find where it came from to verify it) showed Mike Huckabee in the lead in Iowa.

I understand the problem all too well. I'm a Mormon and I was persecuted for it nearly every day when I lived in North Carolina.

The is has less to do with theology than with theocracy. I can understand, and agree with, the anti-theocracy line. I don't want a U.S. president acting as a puppet for his (or her) religion's leaders - even my own.

I don't think this is a real issue, just a percieved one.. The LDS Church has gotten politically involved in far less causes than many other churches have. They never promote one candidate over another in any election. At least during my lifetime.

I know many of you will find that hard to believe, given how red the state of Utah is, but trust me. The Church has never said, "Vote Republican." Instead, they encourage their members to vote their conscience.

So let me ask, when you consider the idea a Mormon in the Whitehouse (or a Catholic, or a Jew, or a Jehova's Witness, or a Wiccan, or a Buddhist, or ...), what do think? Do you worry about their faith, or their politics?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Say No to Revisionist Thanksgiving

I'm not sure what's happening, but for some reason my kid's schools want to ignore American history. Or at least part of it.

You see, I've always grown up with this weird notion that the first Thanksgiving Day celebrations in America started in 1619 in Berkeley, Virginia. It's located about 20 miles upriver of Jamestown, and was the first permanent settlement in the Virginia colony.

The Berkeley Charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a "day of thanksgiving" to God:

"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god."

It wasn't until 1621 that the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts (the 'Pilgrims') celebrated Thanksgiving - a story is familiar to most us.

In 1789 President George Washington issued a National Thanksgiving Proclamation. He wrote:

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks-for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country...for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed...and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually...To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us-and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

Now, 218 years after Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, our schools want to pretend it never happened.

Or at least my daughter's schools do.

I think it has to do with all of this "God" stuff. From what I gather, it's become a non-event for the schools. Instead of calling the two days off from school the kids get the "Thanksgiving Holiday Break," the schools are referring to it as the "Fall Break." In class, they've not discussed the fact that this commemorates major events in this country's pre-history. The only reason my kids even thought about it is because we talked to them about Thanksgiving in our home.

What gives?

Oh, yeah. I forgot. The fact that the reasons this continent was even settled had to do with finding religious freedom, and we can't talk about religion these days in schools. Forget the fact that the founding father's gave thanks to God for their successes. Forget the fact that these architects of our country, government, and way of life, ever believed in God. Forget the fact that religious freedom is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

It doesn’t matter, it seems.

Apparently Americans don't want to talk about anything that mentions God in public school, these days. Public education isn't concerned with historical facts. It's concerned with upsetting anyone by mentioning God. We must be so careful of these poor atheists, sensitive souls that they are.

Funny. I don't remember exactly where in the Constitution it says that we have the right to not ever be offended. In many ways, our freedom of speech guarantees that we will be offended from time to time.

At the risk of offending some of you poor, sensitive souls, I'm celebrating Thanksgiving. I'm going to pray to God and thank Him for the wonderful freedoms we enjoy. I'm even going to thank Him for bringing you into my life. After all, we are fellow Americans, even if we may not share the same views on Diety, and I value that connection.

It's okay. Get upset if you want to. I don't care. The Constitution guarantees you the right to be offended. It even guarantees you the right to offend me with your own speech. Please do. I take comfort in the fact that, as long as others are exercising their rights to free speech, I can continue to exercise mine.

Oh yea. With regard to the 'free speech' issue, isn't it interesting that it's in the same Constitutional amendment that guarantees freedom of religion? Hmmm ...

I’ll bet there are some of you that hate that fact, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Environmental Disaster in Gunnison

It amazes me how little press this has gotten. Then again, it's taken me quite some time to blog about it, as well. It shouldn't surprise me, though. This is happening in a small town in central Utah.

I shouldn't pontificate too hard, though. The only reason it caught my eye is because my father grew up there.

Gunnison is the site of the largest gasoline leak in Utah's history. It's estimated that around 10,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from the faulty tanks of a Top Stop filling station into the ground. The gas has travels through different channels down Main Street. The fumes have started seeping into various stores and residences forcing closures and evacuations.

All of this started back in July, and barely anyone noticed.

Now, at least, the company is doing something about it. They've hired Wasatch Environmental to clean up the mess, but sucking out the gas fumes isn't a perfect solution.

When will the gas be gone? When will the citizen's of Gunnison get to return to their normal lives? It's anyone's guess, at this point. Not knowing much about the impact of this kind of environmental disaster, I wonder if they ever will be able to.

Here's some links to help fill you in on the situation.

Unsafe Levels of Fumes Discovered in Gunnison

Huge Gas Leak Threatens Downtown Gunnison

Neighbors Look for Answers in Gas Leak

Why Did It Take Months to Discover?

Comments about the problem at KSL

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lest We Forget

Happy Veteran's Day

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

School Vouchers are Dead, but We're Brand New

Just a couple of quick notes today.

First, the Utah School Voucher Program (Referendum 1) was overturned to the surprise of nearly no one. What did surprise me was the spread. It was a near landslide opposition. That put me, once again, on the other side of the majority.

No surprises for me there, either. I just thought it would be a closer contest than it was.

Second, I wanted to bring your attention to my new masthead and (slight) site rework. What do you think? I kind of like it.

Let me know what you think, though, will you? I'm emotionally needy, like that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Haloween Link Karma

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick post today, I'm afraid. I've been very busy with my day job, and not been able to blog about some of the things I've wanted to.

With that in mind, let me give you this "link karma round-up" of things I've been finding about the ongoing saga of the Utah School Vouchers:

One more thing.

Next week, November 8, is voting day. It's going to include more than just the voucher issue. Get out and vote, people! Make your voice heard!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why are Utah Mormon's So Angry at Harry Reid?

A couple of days ago, Senator Harry Reid (D - Nevada) spoke at Brigham Young University (BYU) about the importance of public service. Since then, he's been the subject of scorn and ridicule on a few local and national talk shows. Not always by the talk show hosts, to be sure, but certainly by many of those who called in.

Some of them are screaming about how he's deserted his faith. Some even want his temple recommend revoked (as if they were his Bishop, for heaven's sake).

I don't get it.

I'm LDS (Mormon). I've read the transcript. He sounds like a Mormon, and a Democrat, talking to a group of students at a university owned and operated by the LDS Church, and mostly attended by Mormons.

What's the problem here? He hasn't disparaged any of the leaders of the Church, at least not beyond simple disagreement on political, not religious, issues. He even cited the exemplary public service records of many of the current Church leaders.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't agree with Senator Reid on many political issues. So what? That doesn't make a bit of difference to my understanding of his position within the Church. And let's face it. I'm not in a position to even determine what his church standing is or should be. I'm just a fellow member. I'm happy to refer to him as "Brother Reid" as much as call him Senator.

Are we really so embroiled in the whole "left wind vs. right wing" thing that we can't see beyond that? Are we really so entrenched in partisan politics that we can't see our common ground?

Are we really so worried about politics that we can't separate them from religion?

Come on, Utah. Aren't we better than that?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

President Bush Says CHIP is Too Expensive

Most of you know by now that President Bush has vetoed the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP created a bridge between Medicare and standard health insurance programs. It was designed (by a Republican dominated congress when it first went into effect, BTW), to help those people who were making more money that was allowed to get medical help through Medicare, but didn't make enough money that they could really afford the health insurance offered through their employers, or were working for employers who didn't offer health insurance.

Bush said he vetoed the bill because it was a step toward "federalizing" medicine and that this bill expanded the program beyond its main focus on helping poor children.

The reactions have been mostly unsurprising. The Democrats quickly condemned the veto and several Republicans upheld it. What was a surprise was that several Republicans, including my own Utah State Senator Orrin Hatch, joined the democrats in their disdain for the veto. "It's unfortunate that the president has chosen to be on what, to me, is clearly the wrong side of this issue," he said.

While I understand at least some of the undercurrents against this bill, such as expanding care to the children of illegal immigrants and the increase in the amount of money going to fund it, I do not agree with them. I don't think we should penalize a child for the illegal activities of its parents. Out of pure humanitarian concern, we should help these kids. I also think there are plenty of places we could cut the budget so we could afford to pay for something so important.

Because this was a bi-partisan bill, I hope it can be overturned. It looks very possible in the Senate, but not so much in the House. They need 15 Republicans in Congress to change their minds before it goes back to a vote. Fortunately, the House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), said he won't bring it up for a vote until next week. That just might give them time to get the needed votes.

Things like this make me happy there are so many checks and balances built into our system of government.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What's with Utah School Vouchers?

In case you don’t live in Utah, don’t follow national news, and/or live under a rock, you’re probably aware of the Utah school voucher program that’s being voted on for repeal – otherwise known as Referendum One.

Basically, the voucher law created a program where people can apply for assistance, in the form of a tuition reimbursement, to send their K-12 kids to a private school. Depending on financial need, it can be anywhere from $500 to $3,000. If I remember right, the money comes from a special fund, not the state’s general education fund. I could be wrong on this point. There were a couple of different proposals that got voted on.

SoYouWanna.com has posted quite a nice series of articles laying out the arguments, and the rebuttals, for both sides of the school voucher argument, and it’s worth the read.

This state law has received a lot of national attention from groups both pro-voucher, and con. It’s interesting to see just where the money for each side’s campaign is coming from, which Utah legislator received financial support from which group, and which way they voted.

Except for the amount of money and interest, there are no surprises as to the results. Pro-public school money went to the Democrats, who voted against the voucher bill, and the pro-voucher money went to the Republicans, who voted for it.

What was surprising to me was that the pro-voucher side actually got more money than the no-voucher side. Maybe that’s why it initially passed by a very tight margin – only one vote.

Most likely, I’ll be voting for referendum one. Overall I think it’s a good idea. The argument that is takes money away from public schools is bogus. Yes, this has been funded to the tune of $500 million, and that money could go to public schools. It could just have easily gone to public transportation, health care, or any number of projects.

Here’s some other interesting numbers for you. Utahans pay $7,500 dollars a year for each child in public school. We will only pay up to $3,000 a year for a child using the vouchers. That’s a net savings of $4,500+ per child to the tax payer.

'm not above spending more money on education, I just want to make sure that it's being used to teach children, not line the pockets of school administrators. From my perspective, Utah's schools haven't done a good job of using the money they've been given. For too long they’ve held a virtual monopoly on education, and I believe that has made them complacent, and bloated. There are far more administrators per teacher today than there were twenty years ago, and far less teachers per student. Administrators make more money and provide less direct impact on the students than a teacher does. Why do we need so darned many? I’m suspicious that we don’t.

One of the downsides to the voucher law is that it doesn’t help everyone. Yes, it’s targeted to the poor, but most private schools charge more for tuition per year than this bill allows for. That’s still more money out of pocket for the parents. That alone will keep most people from being able to use it. I see the middle class as benefiting the most from this bill.

There is room for contesting this in the courts, as well. It can be considered as government money going to fund religious institutions when it comes to religious schools. This is what struck down the previous voucher bill in Florida. Utah doesn’t have such a law, but the U.S. does. While I might argue the interpretation, personally, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld similar interpretations of the First Amendment.

What I’m hoping this bill will do is force our public school systems to rise up and improve their services. If they know they’ll be competing with private schools for students, they’ll need to deliver a better product.

Wherever you stand on the issue, I suspect the public vote on Referendum One will be a close one. Even though I’m in favor of the bill passing, I’m just fine with the idea that this got yanked from the legislature and put into the hands of the general public.

That’s where the choice belongs, anyway.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Price, Charity?

Recently my friend Mark Hansen blogged a bit about service

'Twice, now, in as many weeks, I've been face-to face with beggars. For some reason, I always feel funny. A big part of me always wants to go over and give some money. I usually do. At the same time, a big part of me is conscious of a lot of social pressure not to.

'We're not really helping them, we're told. We should give to organizations and shelters, not to beggars. They'll just use the money unwisely. And this is not just the external society I'm hearing. These are people in the church talking this way.

'But the scriptures continuously tell us to "turn not the beggar away", and Mosiah tells us "we are all beggars" before God.

'So, why am I embarrassed to walk over and hand them my spare change?'

It's a good question. When and where is giving appropriate? There are various organizations and shelters. Some of them are better than others. Some are down right awful.

Some people are afraid of the shelters or can't get help because they didn't show up early enough to get anything, before the supplies ran out. Others simply don't know where they are.

What I always remember when considering when to give is Acts 3:6

"Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: ..."

I don't carry a lot of cash. I don't always have spare change. I don't always approach. But I will never shy away. A handshake and a friendly word may not be much, but if it is "such as I have to give" I will give it.

Here's the deal. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I've been taught some important truths, not the least of which is that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all the spirit children of God. These are not lazy bums that we need to turn away from. These are our brothers and sisters. They are destitute. They have been wounded, emotionally and spiritually, not just financially. I've even helped some who were physically wounded because others chose to try and steal from them, as if they had anything to steal!

I don't know what got the people to the point they are. I'm ashamed to admit that there have been times in my life when I've wondered how much more it would take for me and my family to join their ranks. The only person who does know is God, and he's not given me the insight to judge whether or not they are 'worthy' of my help. He's just commanded me to help. He's commanded me to show charity.

In light of that, all the other social arguments can go to hell.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Apology to Anyone Who Cares

Sorry I've not updated the blog for a while. I've been incredibly busy at work, and I've just not had time to write much beyond what I do for my day job.

It doesn't look like it's going to end in the near future, either. I've got at least a couple more weeks of darkness and insanity to wade through before I'll actually get to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

So, it looks like I'm going on temporary hiatus for a while. If anyone wants to 'guest blog' in the meantime I'd be happy to entertain them.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Letter to God

Dear God,

How are you? I’ve been meaning to contact you because, from what I hear, things just aren’t all that good right now. Your children are tramping all over this world you’ve created for us, killing each other, both in secret and in plain sight. They’re hurting each other, old and young. They’re acting in deprived ways, wounding each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They justify their hurtful behavior in the name of self-fulfillment. Some of these misguided souls even try to justify this brutality by invoking your name.

Others of us aren’t taking care of the things you've given us very well. We’re tearing down these lovely trees you’ve made for us faster than you can grow them back. We’re burning up the wonderful resources you gave us at rates faster than you intended. The oceans and very air we breathe bear the stain of our over-indulgence.

If current trends are to be believed, it’s getting awfully warm as well. It’s like the global air conditioner just isn’t working. I know you didn’t break it, so it must have been us.

For most of us, I don’t think it’s even conscious. We’re just so caught up in our own affairs that we haven’t looked around much to see the damage our obsessions, self-interests and ambivalences are causing. It’s not just in big global ways, either. Neighbors and family members are turning on each other, shouting, screaming, hurting, and, in extreme cases, murdering. We’re all behaving very selfishly.

I don’t think we’re all bad, though. Many have just lost site of how all of us are connected through you. Others may be hurt so badly, that it’s hard for them to think and act in good and charitable ways.

Everything we do, every act or thought, good or ill, creates ripples that spread out and affect everyone else. Many of us have forgotten that. We’ve been so concerned with our own survival, under trying conditions of our own manufacture, that we’ve forgotten that it doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to keep fighting and killing and polluting. We don’t have to keep screaming, and yelling, and hating. We can choose to love. You tried to teach us love, didn’t you? Even then some of us got angry and spiteful. We even nailed your Son to a tree in order to stop him from showing us a better way.

How stupid are we?

I’m sorry, God. I’m so very sorry. I want to apologize for all the times I’ve looked away from the truth of love and the importance of taking care of my brothers and sisters, my family, my children (who are also your children). I also want to apologize for all the others, even those who don’t want me to.

Unfortunately, I know that we’ll continue to screw up in the future. You know it, too. We’re imperfect creatures, after all. Of course that was the whole point, wasn’t it? To learn to get along with each other? To learn that people matter much more than things? I hope you can forgive us for not learning that lesson very well. I hope you can forgive me.

I also want to say thank you for giving us this chance to fix things. You’ve always been merciful like that, though, haven’t you? I just hope, and pray, that we can change our behaviors in time. There’s a part of me that can’t help wondering if, in some ways, we’re already too late.

In any case, I’m still here. I’m still behind you. I don’t always understand it all, but I’m trying. I love you. Help me to love your children as much as you do.

Your child,


Monday, July 16, 2007

14 Things that Make Me Mad

Fourteen things that make me mad, in no particular order:

1. Mean people.
2. Stupid people (often they're the same people).
3. People who don't respect their neighbor's privacy / property / person.
4. People who don't tip their waiter/waitresses.
5. Hypocrites.
6. Employers who value money more than the welfare of their employees and customers.
7. American's who don't vote because it's "a waste of time."
8. People who are disloyal to their friends and family.
9. Journalists and politicians that spout platitudes of "truth and righteousness" that can't be bothered to check the facts with those who really do know.
10. People who use the term, "Everybody knows ..."
11. People who think that it's okay to "screw" their neighbor.
12. People who use deception in the name of fighting deceptive people (intelligence operations and national politics not included).
13. Corporations screwing the consumer just to make more money for themselves. (When is enough money, enough money people?)
14. People who whine more than they act.
15. People who can't count.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Acting as an American

In the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson mentions five key elements that the then British Colonies wanted in establishing a new nation: Justice, Domestic Tranquility, a Common Defense, the General Welfare, and Liberty.

As we get ready to celebrate the founding or our great nation, I wonder about how well, in my own life, I am pursuing and promoting these ideals. I'm not thinking about this in national terms. That's a whole issue unto itself. What I'm wondering is how am I doing in my personal life, on a day to day basis. Would Thomas Jefferson approve of my day-to-day actions as an American?

Justice, taken from the perspective of the victim is easy to understand. It's a revenge mentality, pure and simple. When taken from the inner perspective of judging my own behavior, it's an entirely different matter. Am I dealing justly with my neighbors? Do I take actions based on unjust assumptions of a situation, curing and ranting all the while, or do I seek to understand what may lie behind a given event?

What about domestic tranquility? Am I providing that for my wife and children? Does my behavior in the household foster a sense of peace, or do I just get mad and start yelling when things don't go the way I expect? Doesn't that destroy the tranquility of the home? In many ways, that kind of thing also ties into the question of whether or not I deal justly with my family.

What about a common defense? Do I provide enough physical security for my home? Do my children feel safe in it? Do they feel safe around me? What about my friends? Do I strive to defend them when they aren't around? If others speak badly of them, am I loyal? Do I defend them, or join in the gossip in their absence?

What about the general welfare? I'm certainly trying to provide for the physical needs of my family. What about the community at large? I do give regularly to the charities of my church. It there more I can do?

Do I foster liberty? Do I grant my children their liberties, or do I unjustly stop them from exercising their right to makes mistakes because I don't want to be bothered? Do I grant others in my life their liberty? Do I accept that the guy in the lane next to me has just as much of a right to be on the highway as I do, or do I enter into a competition with him, curing him for not “getting off of my road?” What about my wife? Do I help her explore her own freedoms, to grow as a person? Do I honor her right to visit with family and friends and to pursue a life outside of the home, or do I impose too much on her in an effort to skirt my own need to help raise and care for our home and children?

I'd like to think that I'm doing all of these things well but, I also think it's useful to revisit them, and measure just how well I am doing. In some of my measurements I find that I'm doing much better than I ever have before. Other measures come up terribly short, and I know I have a long way to go.

Why all this talk about family and home on Independence Day? I think that being an American is more than just living within its border and obeying its laws. I think it’s participating, voting, and acting on a common ideal - the quest for more justice, more tranquility, more loyalty, more equality, and more liberty.

How are you measuring up?

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Three-Step Insta-Blog

From the Basement's Three-Step Insta-Blog:

Step 1: Insert recent national or local political concern here.

Step 2: Make fun of it.

Step 3: Pat self on back for creating the illusion that you are politically active.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Griping Father's Day

There is an inequality in our country when it comes to Mother's Day vs. Father's Day. We just need to look to our popular media to see it. When Mother's day rolls around, we get ads talking about giving Mother flowers, or bath beads, or trips to the day spa. On Father's day we talk about giving Dad tools, and barbequing.

Let me get this straight. On Mother's Day, Mom should be honored by pampering and gifts of love. On Father's Day, we're going to make the old man go out in the heat, fix the car, the house and, on top of it, cook for everyone.

Somehow, the equality escapes me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Gas Price Drama

In spite of having at least two oil refineries in northern Utah, and gas prices dropping two cents a gallon nation wide, Utah's gas prices shot up four more cents.

There's lots of continuing debate as to why this is happening. We get this from one KSL report:

. . . . there's a simple reason behind the price: "There's a price control that's in operation that we just simply don't know about."

Yes we do. It's a price control called greed. The oil companies know that Utahans rely on our cars to get us to work, and many of us travel several miles to do it. I, myself, travel 40 miles each way, putting 80+ miles a day on my car. I don’t have much choice, either. It’s my livelihood at stake.

Talk about a captive customer base.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Google Earth, Security and JFK

The latest news, about the recently foiled terrorist plot to blow up some major fuel cells at JFK airport, is about how Google Earth was allegedly used by the terrorists to gain aerial intelligence about the airport.

In its defense, Google is right in saying that such information is hardly limited to just Google Earth. There are several commercial sites that offer detailed aerial photography of this kind. The difference is that Google Earth, and other free sites, make obtaining the information much easier, more anonymous, and in some cases even offer tools that let you measure distances between objects. This is exactly the kind of information you would need when planning an attack of this kind.

It brings up some interesting questions about our access to technology, and the obvious question, "What do we really want to use it for?"

With sites like Windows Live Local coming into play, the issues of privacy and security become even more personal. You'll be able to get street level images of major cities, including the people walking by, and whatever happens to be in the windows.

How private can our lives be if even our homes can be invaded by cameras, and the images posted to the web, where others can access them for free, and without our consent? Technology is cool, but I think the law of "unintended consequences" is in full swing here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gas Tax Insanity

It seems that the Utah Taxpayers association has gone insane. They've proposed a gas tax hike to help improve roads and public transportation in Utah. I'm all for better public transportation. Lord knows we need it. What I'm not in favor of is paying insanely high gas prices.

The proposed increase is 25 cents per gallon. If we add that to what I'm already paying for a gallon of gas in Tooele, I'd end up paying $3.40 a gallon for regular gasoline, and my car really should be given mid-grade or better.

It would also give Utah the highest gas prices in the nation. Sure, we'd be able to raise quite a bit of money, but it would also hurt tourism - something that also brings a large some of money into our state coffers. People aren't going to want to drive through Zion's Canyon or Bryce Canyon to see the sights if it's going to cost them an arm and a leg.

It will also hurt people who live in outlying areas (like myself) who commute into the larger cities for work. Sure, we chose to live where we do, but many of us (like myself) live where we do because it's where we could afford to live. Housing prices in Utah, let alone Salt Lake City, aren't exactly cheap.

In some cases, it may actually force people to quit there jobs. This will ultimately drain our total state tax dollars, not increase them, and it will do so on the backs of those who can least afford it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What State Do I Live In, Again?

The world turned upside down for me today. I'm not sure what state I'm living in anymore.

How weird is this:

Al Sharpton visits Utah to have a friendly visit with some of the top leaders of the LDS Church, and broadcasts his radio show from KSL, a Bonneville Media station. (Boneville Media is own and operated by the LDS Church).

Two state governers, Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) and Jon Huntsman (Ut) pledge to fight global warming. They're both Republicans. When did the Republicans start getting serious about the environment?

Maybe I'm dreaming, but it seems like it was a good day for Utah.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Death of Privacy

I used to laugh at the old guys wearing signs that said "the end of the world is near" but thanks to the FDA, Applied Digital Systems, and the VeriChip, I just quit laughing.

According to this 2002 Wired magazine article (by way of CAM Law):

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that an implantable microchip used for ID purposes is not a regulated device, paving the way for the chip's immediate sale in the United States....
They inquired about the use of the product for non-medical, identification purposes," said FDA spokeswoman Sharon Snider. "If it's a non-medical use, the FDA doesn't regulate it."

This is the worst idea I've seen in decades come to life. The ramifications scare me to death. I can't believe it took me 5 years to find out about it.

In the United States, the VeriChip has been marketed as a medical aid which would allow hospital workers to access patients' health records with a simple wave of the wand, or reader. While the FDA has not approved storing medical information on the chip, the device's ID could be cross-referenced with a computer database holding the patient's records.

And because it uses RFID technology, anyone with the wherewithal to cobble together a reader can get it at a distance. Forget the potential security issues we're going to be facing with the new passports. If its use becomes ubiquitous, we can ditch the passport altogether. Want to know who's coming into, or leaving the nation? Just walk them through an RFID reader.

Think I'm being paranoid? Read this from the company's website. It goes right along with this idea. It's all about tracking people. Where they are, where they've been, where they're going.

The supporters say it's all about saving lives. Okay. I admit I can see those benefits, but can you see the problems? What if you're in the vicinity of a criminal act? The police will know you were there. You've just become a suspect of the investigation whether you witnessed it or not. The police will start digging through the GPS records to see where else you went. They don't even have to notify you. They just need to get a judge to sign off on it.

Wow. Look at this. You drive by a lot of elementary schools. Three times a day you hang out at the same elementary school for a couple of hours a day. Does this make you a pedophile? Now the police have further evidence that you might be a criminal. Maybe they need to investigate you further.

None of this will show, however, that the reason you go and hang out a school three times a day is because you're crossing guard at the school. Eventually they may find that out, but until then, they've got an open ticket to look into every aspect of your life, good or bad, and your privacy just died. You've not been formally charged with anything, yet. You're just part of an "ongoing investigation." What's that flying out the window? Hmmm. It looks like the Constitution.

Want to get into further abuses? Police have already been prosecuted for the misuse of public cameras. They were aiming them in peoples windows to watch young women exercise and undress.

What happens when the police become the stalkers? "She's really cute, and her VeriChip shows that she just entered her bedroom." You're a smart person. You can figure out the rest.

Even worse, what happens when the bad guys can get that information?
Maybe I am being paranoid, but are you beginning to see why privacy isn't just a problem for criminals?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sadness and Hope

My father has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As bad as that is, it didn't come as a surprise. He's been losing his memory, and ability to stay focused, for a while. Some days he's more lucid that others. The bottom line is he's going down hill.

Watching my father's health fail reminds me of just how fragile our lives really are. Every week I continue to steel myself for the time when I will finally get the call that he has passed away.

My father has always led an active life. He enjoys the outdoors: hunting, fishing, camping, and so on. He's a retired carpenter, building hundreds of homes for families to live in, for most of his adult life. As he got older, he couldn't keep up with the younger carpenters, and eventually had to retire. I don't think he liked the idea.

Because of his age, he's not able to do many of these things like he used to. He still goes fishing once in a while, but then only when one of his friends takes him with. Mostly he sleeps, reads, or watches old westerns on TV.

It’s sad to me that he can't participate in life more fully, and his ultimate demise cannot be denied. I understand, however, that his death will not be the end. I believe in an afterlife. When my father dies, he won't be burdened any longer by pain, a failing body, and a failing mind. He'll be able to go to the spirit world and participate fully in the activities there. I think they’ll put him to work.

I also believe that, some time after Christ returns to the earth, all who have died will be resurrected, the spirit joined once again to a physical body. This new body will be perfect. It won't be subject to the thousands of problems that time is now ravaging on my father. He'll be whole, once again.

I'm not looking forward to day my father dies. It's going to be hardest on my mother, who isn't getting any younger, either. But I take comfort in knowing that, while his family will miss him terribly for a time, we'll be together again at a future time, whole, healthy, and complete.

How do I know this truth? My Dad taught it to me. Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Daughter, My Hero

toy knightMy oldest daughter, Violin Girl, has been facing a bit of social injustice lately. She's being teased at school for being a good person. You see, she's been sticking up for the underdogs in her 6th grade class. The "popular kids" don't like being called on the carpet for being mean, so to prove their point, they've started being mean to Violin Girl.

Here's one example. The other day Violin Girl was standing in line, waiting to get her lunch. One of her friends, Miss Popular, was standing with her. Another girl, Miss Ostracized, was standing in front of them. The line got jostled by boy in her class, a brute I'll call Sick-Bully, and Ostracized gets shoved backwards into Popular.

To hear my daughter tell it, Popular stepped backwards, made a face like she'd tasted something really vile, and started saying, "Ooh, ooh! Ick! Get away from me!"

Violin Girl took Popular aside and said, "That's not cool."

"What's not cool?" Popular replied.

"Acting like that. Teasing Ostracized like that." Violin Girl said.

"But she's gross!" Popular defended. "She's got cooties."

"No she's not, and no she doesn't." Violin Girl persisted.

"Yeah, but she stinks." Popular said.

"Look. Everybody stinks." Violin Girl said.

"No they don't."

"Yeah, they do."

This last bit made Miss Popular very upset. She actually started to cry because Violin Girl wasn't backing her up on being mean to Ostracized. It got Violin Girl in trouble. Not much trouble, once it was explained, but still in trouble.

Now the other kids are being mean to Violin Girl, as well. Sick-Bully has been to worst of all. At 12 years old he's actually been making sexually explicit comments, designed to embarrass and hurt my daughter. We've talked to her teacher, and she's done what she can to minimize the damage, but it's still happening. Violin Girl is being attacked because she defends those who can't, or won't, defend themselves. All of this has really put Violin Girl into an emotional tail spin. She's only 12 years old, after all.

The bullies think she's weird. She frightens them because she's her own person, and not a mindless plebe. Because she frightens them, they make her a target for their scorn and bigotry in order to try and make her afraid. They want her to comply with their vile version of "the group" and stay down in the depths of mediocrity where they are, instead of rising above the rabble and reaching for greatness of spirit.

I have a very different view of Violin Girl. I think she's absolutely courageous. I think she's a hero.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Congressional Criminals

I'm having a rough time getting excited about anything going on in Washington D.C. these days. I'm just fed up with all of the political maneuvering, name calling, and revisions to recent history by the pundits. It's getting so bad, I'm starting to shut down emotionally and intellectually.

The Republican and Democratic Party leaders seem to be at each other's throats more than they are trying to improve the lot of our country. They're after the sound bite that makes them seem more holy and just than their counterparts, rather than actually getting anything important done.

It's not "government for the people." It's "government for politicians."

Congress is the worst offender, in my opinion. We've got people that were elected to represent the populations of their states trying to be "arm-chair" generals. They've wasted valuable time (and money) passing meaningless resolutions that will not make a bit of difference when dealing with the war in Iraq, instead of working on important issues like the economy, health care, and the environment. By focusing on Iraq, they allow stupid laws to get passed that may actually hurt us. Nancy Pelosi keeps acting like she thinks she's the President of the country, instead of the Speaker of the House.

Now they've got the Senate doing it, too. It's like every house of government has decided to quit their jobs and enter into a giant pissing match.

One of the latest fiascos is passing bills that tell our enemies when we're leaving Iraq, whether the job has been done or not, and then telling the President, "If you veto this bill, we'll cut funding for the troops. It will be your fault that the troops don't get the resources they need." That's like a criminal pulling a gun on you and saying "give me your money, or I'll shoot you. It'll be your fault if I have to pull this trigger."

It reminds me of a situation during the revolutionary war. Congress wouldn't send the funds and resources to General Washington that he needed, so he threatened to march on Congress.

How would that be today? A military coup occurring in the middle of the U.S. and placing it under martial law until our representatives pull their heads from their nether regions. Of course I don't like the idea, and I don't think it will happen, but the situation the troops were facing then is similar the threat they are facing now. They are being asked to do a job, and are now being threatened that they won't get the tools to do the job.

I feel like I'm back in elementary school. Our representatives are acting like children, not leaders.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Violence at Trolley Square

We had quite a bit of random violence inflicting itself upon Salt Lake City the other day. A man walked through the Trolley Square mall shooting random people with a shot gun. Several people were killed. Even more were seriously hurt. This has been a real tragedy for us, here. It's sobering when the violence we see other places on the news comes home.

My prayers go out to the families of the victims.

Kudos go out to the brave shopkeepers that are reopening their stores and restaurants today, as well. Violence and fear should never be allowed to triumph.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Perspective Changes

Frannie, a blogger I'm rather fond of has a posting at one of her sites that you should read. It's about some of the economic, societal, and resource management difficulties we're facing right now, and offers some in-your-face solutions that deserve more than just thought.

The irony is that I'm just passing on the information 3rd hand. She's actually referencing another blogger, James Kunstler. In any case, this portion of the original article really hit me. Hard.

If you're depressed, change your focus. Quit wishing and start doing. The best way to feel hopeful about the future is to get off your ass and demonstrate to yourself that you are a capable, competent individual resolutely able to face new circumstances.

It reminds me of a catchphrase that became the motto for Spenser W. Kimball, former president of the LDS Church. It became a byword for the Church at that time:

"Do it."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Child Porn at Sundance?

Right now, as I blog, the Sundance Film Festival is going on in Park City, Utah. Sundance is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the nation, if not the world, and it's going on right here in Park City, with some shows in Salt Lake City as well.

Sundance is no stranger to controversy. This year, though, there's one movie that's getting some buzz. If half of what I'm hearing is true, I can't believe the movie even got made. The movie is called "Hounddog" and part of its story line involves the rape of the main character, a 12 year old girl. Child star Dakota Fanning plays the girl, and apparently the filmmakers didn't leave as much to the imagination as they should have. In fact, some of the reports I've heard say the scene was rather graphic, and may border on child pornography.

If you understood what I just wrote, you understand that mean that a minor child, Dakota Fanning, was allowed by her parents and her agent, to film a graphic child rape scene.

Tell me, please. How is this okay?

Guess what. It's not. I don't care what excuse you try and give me. Any excuse you can make to say that this kind of thing is okay is a lie and you know it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've not seen the movie. If this is the subject matter, I don't want to. If it's anything like this article says it is, I have to agree with this section from it:

Kiera McCaffery, Spokesperson, Catholic League of America: "Nobody is denying that this girl filmed the graphic rape scene. What we are saying is that we'd like the government to look at it."

McCaffery says the League's concern is over child stars who may be too young to make wise career decisions.

Kiera McCaffery, Spokesperson, Catholic League of America: "What we are saying is yes, this girl's mother and her social worker may have been with her, but we don't care that they gave consent. If anything this troubles us even more that these people are saying it's ok to film this for a twelve year old because she may win an Oscar."
Now, no one from the League has even seen the film yet. But McCaffery says she doesn't need to see it to know it's wrong.

Kiera McCaffery, Spokesperson, Catholic League of America: "I think that anyone that would argue that you need to see a child act as if she is getting raped to know that it is disgusting...that's absurd."

Absurd it putting it mildly.

On a lighter note, there's a bit of irony surrounding Utah's film industry. The book, "The Monkey Wrench Gang" is going to be made into a movie. It's a somewhat famous story of environmentalist saboteurs in Utah. The story prominently features specific Utah locations.

Guess what? It's going to be filmed in New Mexico.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

State of Utah

Last night, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman delivered his yearly "State of the State" address. I think my state's governor is on to something. I can only hope that he's going to be able to put through the things he's talking about. Let me give you a preview.

As for education:

These fine teachers, and thousands of their colleagues, deserve our sincere appreciation. To show this gratitude my budget calls for 18.2% in new education funding. This includes $25 million for a one-time bonus for Utah teachers in the classroom. But we must continue to do more. Much more. For these reasons, my complete education proposal - which includes a 9% increase in compensation - represents the largest total public education budget in our State's history.

I think that's a good idea. A 9% increase in teacher's salaries will help, that's for sure. He's got a lot better chance of getting support for it because all the school administrators (which there are too many of) will be getting a raise, as well. I think another fiscally sound solution to getting more money into the places it needs to would be to fire a bunch of these administrative "middle men."

By fundamentals, I mean helping Utah children receive adequate healthcare. It is an irony that we live in a country which mandates insurance for our cars, but not for our children's health. For too long the lament over the large number of those without health insurance has been fragmented and unproductive. We must stop seeing this crisis as a one dimensional social issue. The large number of those without health insurance nationally and in our own State highlights a dilemma in defining the proper role of government and a critical challenge to the exercise of individual responsibility. I am recommending more than $4 million to lift the cap on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which will allow more than 14,000 additional Utah children access to the health care they so desperately need.

In addition to the children, there are hundreds of thousands of uninsured adults. We must stop kidding ourselves that those who are uninsured are simply not receiving health care. They are receiving care, but they are receiving too little, too late - and typically in settings such as emergency rooms where the care is much more expensive than if it had been provided elsewhere. And who is paying for this care? In rare cases it is the uninsured themselves, but in the overwhelming number of cases it is government - which, of course, means taxpayers - and, the hospitals - which, of course, means the business community - in the form of higher and higher and higher premiums for those who are buying and providing health insurance.

Wow. Maybe he's been reading my blogs.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Health Care in Utah

Health Care may be coming up in the next Utah legislative session. It seems we have a budget surplus of over 1 billion dollars in the state. Now everyone wants a piece of the pie. I'm not against given it to some of them, as long as they handle it well. It looks like one Utah State Senator (D), Scott McCoy, wants to got beyond deciding what to do with the surplus and create a Utah state constitutional amendment that declares health care a human right.

This is a rough one for me. While I claim to be a capitalist, when it comes to issues like health care, I'm borderline socialist. There are two alternatives when it comes to issues surrounding the uninsured, and the under-insured. We either take care of them, or we let them die.

While our Republican legislative leaders are promising to fund various health care issues, they are also the first ones to talk about the amount of money the uninsured and the under-insured cost us each year.

My personal opinion is that the programs we have in place, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are rewarding the wrong things. Many times a patient's basic care won't be covered, but life threatening conditions will. What happens, then, is that the basic diseases and syndromes get worse, and contribute to the development of long-term life-threatening issues. It's the treatments for these life-threatening issues that cost so much. A better solution, in my mind, would be to fund the best of the basic interventions and preventions. I believe that investing in simple preventative treatments will help halt the development of the life-threatening ones, saving us money in the long run.

Maybe we should try and stop people from getting terribly sick in the first place, instead of enacting a constitutional amendment that may, or may not, actually do anything.