Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Good Case Story About Recycling

Given the current discussion about recycling in Woods Cross and Bountiful, I was happy to hear this story on NPR's Day to Day today. It makes some very good points about how recycling does work (a lot of people do it in her area), why it does not work (people don't always understand what is recyclable), and why it makes sense (despite what others may believe). Let's work to ensure Bountiful follows the Woods Cross City Council's lead in approving curbside recycling next year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another example of Urq's Idiocy

WTF? Global storming?
Another example of the stupidity in our legislature. Let the rest of the world burn as long as I am right and I get another few grand from realtors, road builders, and petroleum companies.
And yes, I do agree with the first anonymous commenter on Urquhart's blog. Urquhart and others are using global warming skepticism, in spite of overwhelming evidence in favor of reality, to justify inaction on any sort of real energy and transportation reform, Utah and nationally. While the first commenter was too blind to his own cowardice in commenting anonymously, his point is valid. I agree "we will continue to be dependent on middle east oil and foreign energy in general because we have gutless cowards for politicians" and would add that many more brave American servicemen and women will die in wars, along with the rest of us who will suffer and die from pollution-related disease, because of their cowardice.
I believe most Utahns, and most Americans, would like to see America stop using foreign oil, stop paying for gasoline when renewable resources are available, and get all of our energy from renewable sources (not including NON-renewable nuclear fission, which I am also sure Urq will be in favor of given his contribution history). However, Utahns need to wake up and elect leaders to act with courage.

Friday, August 31, 2007

What I've Been Saying All Along

Eric Jacobson gives more PROOF to what I have been writing about since January: vouchers have not been proven to do anything. Of course, peer-reviewed, repeatedly proven, intelligently written, multiple and uniform methodologies, statistically-significant studies mean nothing when economic ideology is at risk.
h/t Education in Utah (thanks Natalie!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vouchers Will NOT Equal Mormon Private Schools

For anyone laboring under the delusion that if Utah adopts school vouchers, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will institute a Catholic-like system of private schools, I offer the following evidence.

Mormons admit closure of Church College [of New Zealand] will be a loss

“The only Mormon school in New Zealand is closing because leaders say the church's resources could be better used elsewhere…

“United States-based Elder Paul Johnson told the Herald it was decided to close the school because New Zealand's education system was "one of the strongest in the world".

“Church resources would be better directed into teaching programmes in other regions, such as Africa and developing Europe.

“Elder Johnson and Elder Rolfe Kerr are visiting New Zealand this week, and last night broke the news to parents, staff and pupils.

It is Mormon policy to close schools in areas where there is quality local education, Elder Kerr said.”

If the Church is closing their private schools in New Zealand, why would they take tithing to build expensive private schools in Utah?

Friday, August 17, 2007

SHOCKING!!! or Vouchers: When You Have No Proof, Just Lie

I have written before about how voucher supporters, through their officially organized PAC, Parent for Choice in Education, used polling techniques verging on push polling to make the false case that Utahns wanted their tax dollars going to private schools. If I was at home at the time I am writing this, I would post the poll they posted on their website earlier this year that accompanied this press release; I will try and post it tomorrow. I thought that was a biased poll then.
Now, to my complete surprise and shock (sadly blogging doesn't convey sarcasm easily), we hear of PCE admitting to push polling. I guess when have no proof that vouchers work, the majority of Utahns don't want them, and you have enough money, you can lie, gay-bait, liberal-bait, etc. in the hope that you can dupe (and dupe is the word) into voting for vouchers. I have learned in politics to avoid superlatives, but I hope that the tide is changing and Utahns are rejecting homophobes and liars in politics.

Here's Accountability, Adam, Bob, Oldenberg, Derek, and Jeremy's takes on the dirty tricks. A quick Google Blogsearch couldn't turn up anybody defending this despicable tactic; that's even more shocking.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Davis County Tax Cut: You Get What You Vote For

Reading this editorial in the Standard Examiner (h/t Davis County Watch), I cannot help but grimace. As a Democrat in Davis County, I have watched the populace get all worked up over the delusion that a County Commission totally composed of Republicans would not blink at raising taxes, raising fees, and otherwise screwing the public. I have watched the populace get all worked up over a county full of Republican legislators enacting unfunded mandates upon school districts while whining about unfunded mandates from the Federal government (which the Republicans at the Federal level all voted for, also). I have also watched the majority of this same populace labor under the totally unfounded delusion that simply replacing one Republican at convention will change things. So far this public is 0-3 commissioners, and definitely down in the count when it comes to legislators.
What makes me upset is the fact that Democratic candidates have been the ones who have pledged to not raise county taxes, have wanted to have commission meetings during the evening instead of one fruitless sounding board hearing (I would include a link to Chris Martinez' statement about this, but it must have been in his brochure and not on his website), and who have opposed unfunded mandates on the state and federal level. I will keep fighting to change those attitudes, to get people to wake up from this hallucination, and get some diversity of opinion in county government. Until then, county voters have no one to blame but themselves.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Another reason to oppose vouchers, if I have left any out

ClipperWatch: No Real News for You!

Long break from blogging, but I needed to write about a recent news item. It was this front page, above the fold, banner headline story in the most recent Davis County Clipper:

It was rather disgusting to read this story, but I could not pull away. Forget deeper investigations on the county's tax hike! Bountiful is considering adopting a recycling program, you say? Let's give them a little blurb. But one self-righteous douchebag gets uppity about ONE band practice on ONE Sunday when HE chose to live near a junior high with a large, open practice field! And that band wore swimsuits when it was only 97 degrees outside! Why should they make any attempt to stay cool! What nerve! What an outrage! The public must know every idiotic detail!

Is anyone else completely sickened by the complete joke the entire Clipper has become? It seems like they don't even try to get real news. My home has received two readership survey phone calls from the Clipper, but of course nothing changes. I am looking for any reason to keep subscribing; if anyone has one, let me know.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Local Blogger Does Good

I am going to have to get my Tivo ready, because I have two blogger friends on major media. In addition to Jeff's gig on Nightside tonight, apparently Steve Petersen is going to be one of the YouTube questioners at tonight's CNN Democratic debate. Though he has stopped blogging since he moved from Dammeron Valley to Washington, DC, Obiter Dicta was one of the better, smarter blogs in Utah of the past couple years. Steve has also been on the BBC, KCSG, KCPW several times, and now CNN. I am going to have to find out how he self-promotes so well. Wish it was easy to find his video on YouTube, though.

BYU Grad Part of Tonight's YouTube Debate

Doing anything my radio advised....

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keep Calm and Carry On

Monday, the idiocy and insanity spouted from people like Sen. Lieberman and neo-conservative think tanks seeped into Utah's bloghive. Mark Towner, long known for his foolishness, repeated the ill-informed idea that we MUST attack/invade Iran.

When I first heard about the American move to war in Iraq in 2002, I was shocked. As a missionary at the time, even I knew that Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda terrorism or 9/11, and that they posed no threat to the US. When I asked people to confirm this, I usually asked them if they were confusing Iran, which did support terrorism, that does not like the US, and was right next to Afghanistan and would have been a tactically better choice to attack.

Since then, I have learned more about how badly we have screwed up in Iran, mostly thanks to our involvement in Iraq. Those mistakes will certainly not be undone by attacking Iran; for many reasons, it will exacerbate them.

First, is the double standard. As referenced on tonight's Daily Show, Saudi Arabia has been funding the Sunni insurgents in Iraq for most of the war, but we don't hear much about that, strangely enough.

Second is the belief we cannot solve problems diplomatically. I believe the only official meeting between US and Iranian governments since 1979 was earlier this month on this issue. We have not had official relations with Iran since the hostage crisis. I can sympathize with the boycott and the three main reasons for it: they did not respect the sovereignty of our embassy; they do sponsor terror; and they have not abandoned nuclear weapons research. However, the latter two are directly because Iran fears of American attack. If we would consider talking and negotiating with Iran (probably not on Iranian soil), perhaps we would find that we could easily work some things out.

Also, Mr. Towner mistakenly believes that an attack can only help our situation in the region. In fact, it will make in interminably worse. First, we would vindicate the Iranian leadership, who for 30 years have told their people to fear the US because an attack could be just around the corner. Thankfully, a good deal of Iranians, most of them too young to remember the Revolution, are starting to disbelieve most things their leadership says. That all changes with one US bullet or bomb; like the Iraqis who were not ready to change the regime, Iranians would support their theocratic government before letting Americans attack.

Finally, Mr. Towner dramatically underestimates the fighting spirit of the Iranians. His memory does not serve him well about Iranian tactics/mindset during the Iran-Iraq war. While the Iraqis did use chemical weapons, the Iranians used boys on bicycles as minesweeping martyrs when they ran out of military men and resources. They had a fountain of blood in Tehran dedicated to the memory of martyrs.

My message is that no one should think it is easy to wage war against Iran, and that no one should believe we cannot engage in diplomacy to solve our problems.

As a side note to Mark: please don't misuse the words of Kipling's Recessional. They were meant as a warning against the kind of jingoism you wish upon us, which can only lead to destruction. If you had visited the monuments that use this phrase, such as Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, perhaps you would use the words more carefully.

Hat-tips: The Sidetrack, Boing-Boing

Monday, June 18, 2007

Utah Media: Mitt Romney IS the only Presidential Candidate

Back in February, I noted how the Utah media was being fairly balanced in their coverage of the Presidential race. It now appears KSL, though, has been taken over by LaVarr Webb. It seems like they cover Romney more than anyone else. I wanted to test this theory, so I searched for all the candidates and was not surprised by the results.

Candidate Hits
John McCain 347
Mitt Romney 238
Hillary Clinton 173
Barack Obama 165
John Edwards 128
Tommy Thompson 114
Bill Richardson 98
Mike Huckabee 67
Rudy Giuliani 57
Duncan Hunter 43
Dennis Kucinich 31
Fred Thompson 26
Chris Dodd 17
Joe Biden 2
Mike Gravel 2
Sam Brownback 2
Jim Gilmore 1
Others 0

Predictably, the front-runners got the highest number of hits. I was initially surprised by the number of McCain hits, but given his vociferousness on the two biggest issues in the past few months (Iraq and immigration), I can accept it. However, it appears that Romney is getting inordinate coverage. This was confirmed when I looked at the other six news sources and their search engines (KSTU has a crappy search engine).
Deseret Morning News
Candidate Archive Hits
Mitt Romney 395
John McCain 368
John Edwards 320
Hillary Clinton 296
Barack Obama 264
Rudy Giuliani 218
Ron Paul 114
Bill Richardson 88
Fred Thompson 49
Sam Brownback 47
Mike Huckabee 39
Joe Biden 39
Chris Dodd 38
Duncan Hunter 32
Dennis Kucinich 29
Tommy Thompson 28
Tom Tancredo 17
Mike Gravel 14
Jim Gilmore 13

Candidate Archive Hits
Mitt Romney 1266
John McCain 538
Hillary Clinton 351
Rudy Giuliani 281
John Edwards 168
Barack Obama 126
Bill Richardson 120
Tommy Thompson 77
Fred Thompson 65
Jim Gilmore 45
Sam Brownback 39
Joe Biden 28
Dennis Kucinich 27
Tom Tancredo 27
Mike Huckabee 26
Duncan Hunter 22
Ron Paul 16
Chris Dodd 16
Mike Gravel 3

Candidate "Local News Hits"
Mitt Romney 30
John McCain 13
Rudy Giuliani 9
John Edwards 4
Hillary Clinton 3
Barack Obama 3
Ron Paul 2
Duncan Hunter 2
Tommy Thompson 1
Sam Brownback 1
Mike Huckabee 1
Jim Gilmore 1
Bill Richardson 1

Candidate Hits
Mitt Romney 24
John McCain 14
Hillary Clinton 14
Barack Obama 10
John Edwards 9
Fred Thompson 8
Duncan Hunter 6
Bill Richardson 4
Mike Gravel 4
Sam Brownback 4
Ron Paul 3
Dennis Kucinich 3
Joe Biden 3
Mike Huckabee 2
Rudy Giuliani 1
Tom Tancredo 1

Candidate Archive Hits
Mitt Romney 17
John McCain 16
John Edwards 2
Hillary Clinton 2
Rudy Giuliani 2
Barack Obama 1
Bill Richardson 1
Others 0

All of these news sources seem to have fallen into the fallacy that Utahns only care about their Mitt. They may defend their over-exposure of Romney by saying that Utahns want stories about how Mitt Romney is doing because of his connections to Mormonism and the Olympics. That may explain a few stories, but not when they reach into the hundreds. That excuse also does not excuse the fact that national news sources are also able to cover those issues, as NBC Nightly News did as I was writing this post. Similarly, the fact that they have overcovered Romney compared to the other candidates that have visited or will visit Utah is very disconcerting. Note that many (the Tribune and DNews only as far as I can tell, and in short, inside stories) have not covered the fact that we have TWO Democratic presidential candidates coming to Utah, perhaps for the first time ever. Sad to see this kind of bias in Utah's news, but not entirely unexpected.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Endgame: No Public Schools

No one should delude themselves: LA Times columnist Jonah Goldberg tells us the end game for voucher supporters. His column, entitled “Do away with public schools,” also has the subtitle: “Government is inept at running schools.” I ask those in favor of vouchers: is that true in Utah? If you say yes, then you are doing two things. First, you accept that over three decades of Republican dominance in Utah government has run our schools into the ground. Second, you also deny the numerous accolades that Utah’s public schools have achieved. From today’s headlines about high graduation rates, to West High’s continual rankings in Newsweek’s best High schools ratings (despite mainly serving what Goldberg calls “needy students”), Utah schools appear to be fairly well run and produce students ready to work or study at a higher level. Furthermore, while I believe they could do a better job if they were given more funding, and I believe that would be easier with more Democrats in office, it appears the Utah public education system has allowed some Republicans to learn the value of wisely investing in thus public good.

The rest Goldberg’s column is the same old, tired, fallacious arguments against public education and for vouchers that have no basis in fact. It also ignores that all 50 states have, in their constitutions, some sort of requirement for free, public education available to every child in their state. It is obvious that some accept his arguments if not his conclusions, such as Tyler at Davis County Watch, and Ethan at SLC Spin. I initially wanted to reply to Tyler’s latest post on the subject on his blog, but I had little more to say and wanted to say it better than my original comment.

I must start with an angry, loud, all-caps statement. HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY THAT THERE IS NO PROOF THAT PRIVATE SCHOOLS OR VOUCHERS ACTUALLY IMPROVE EDUCATION! Please provide one source, one study, one report that backs up your claim. I have repeatedly noted studies from the US Dept. of Education, the General Accounting Office, and other peer-reviewed studies showing there is NO proof that private schools work or that vouchers help. Why? Because there is no way to compare private schools that don't teach the same things, don't give the same tests, and don't take the same students that public schools are required to do.

Now I am not saying that private schools do not work at all or for some children or that they should be abolished either. I believe in school choice, and that parents should choose where their children go to school. However, when that choice is not financially viable, parents should be able to depend on the public system to provide for their children’s education. If it is not, we should consider changing who runs our schools through the electoral process, becoming more engaged in their children’s education, or consider applying for a private school scholarship (which is privately-funded). That is why I believe in words living up to their definitions. I abhor the “Clear Skies Initiative” because it pollutes our air more. I opposed vouchers because private schools should remain private and not become another tier of our government, subject to increasing government regulation until they are eventually absorbed entirely.

Also, it is false that it costs less per pupil to educate a child with a voucher. The per pupil number that groups such as the Utah Taxpayers Association give includes bonded, capital expenditures that are not included when the legislature appropriates funds for public education. In fact, it costs less to educate a child in public school than private, especially if you consider that the voucher only covers tuition, not the costs public education does cover, like transportation and food. The voucher does not cover these costs if they are included in tuition.

Finally, you are deluding yourself if you believe two things: that the voucher $ will always come from the general fund and not from the education fund; and that elimination of public education is not the ultimate goal of the major voucher proponents (not everyone, just the ones that give millions of dollars annually to influence elections and government for their favor, which is their right). Ask your legislator, whether they voted yes or no on the issue, if they expect to see the day that voucher funding will come from the education fund. It will happen, just like when they pushed higher ed funding from the education fund, and changed the constitution to change which taxes go into which fund. The big voucher supporters are not going to stop with Utah, but will try to achieve the same results nationally, until public ed does not exist.

Hat-tip: Crooks and Liars, Davis County Watch

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Time for Candidates to Step Up

(Cross posted to Daily Kos Diary--please recommend; maybe they will pay attention to Utah one day.)

As noted below, Utah's Attorney-General, Mark Shurtleff, has demoted two State Office of Education lawyers because they did not follow lock-step with his support for vouchers no matter what the people of Utah want.

With today's purge, the time has come for candidates to step up to the plate and challenge Governor Huntsman and Attorney-General Shurtleff. Governor Huntsman has shown the incompetence, weakness, cowardice, and waffling which I knew would happen since 2004. He silently allowed an unproven and unwanted voucher program to go into law. He then tried to have it both ways when the referendum petition drive started, saying he would respect the voice of the people. Then he backed off; then he felt a blowback and reversed himself again. He threw out trial balloons on special sessions, but decided again to submit to the legislature and be a weak, cowardly governor who believes he has no power. It is now time for a candidate, at least a Democrat but maybe a Republican, who will have the courage to stand up for what he or she believes in and stays consistent. We need candidates who will fight this plague of gubernatorial shallowness and lead our state the way most Utahns want.

As for Shurtleff, his actions today demonstrate he has no judicial intelligence, tolerance for legal diversity, or even plain ethics to extricate himself from a situation where his interests are dangerously and clearly conflicted. The Utah Attorney General's office used to be a place where legal reasoning and diversity were welcomed and political feelings were put aside in the name of justice. Today, it is clear Shurtleff's office is only for political hacks, and he is emulating his federal superior. There must be some candidates out there who have the fortitude and anger to run. Democrats should obviously have some one out there, and there has got to a Republican lawyer who is angry at him for any number of issues (his pro-amnesty immigration stance, Parker Jensen nanny state ideas, faux polygamy enforcement, anyone?)

It is obvious that the road is hard for both of these opposition candidates. KSL has apparently dropped its contract with SurveyUSA, so they don't even give us monthly Governor approval ratings anymore. I haven't seen a local poll (Dan Jones, Valley Research, etc) on either Huntsman or Shurtleff in months either. It appears the media has given in to the Republican inevitability syndrome, not even caring to report on how people feel about their current office holders. Mind you, Democrats have done little considering we don't have any candidates already.

However, now we must have people stand up and start fighting against these juggernauts. I would suggest they stay low-key until after the referendum and let the Governor and AG continue to not act and act dictatorially, respectively. They should stand up immediately after the referendum, which I hope they support, and push for political action at the next general election.

SLCSpin: Exclusive: Carol Lear Letter Of Termination

Exclusive: Jean Hill Letter Of Termination

Salt Lake Tribune: Shurtleff revokes 'special assistant AG' status of attorneys advising state education office

Deseret Morning News: Shurtleff tells state education office attorneys to halt legal advice

KSL: Shurtleff Terminates Status of Two Attorneys Over School Voucher Issue

Third Avenue: Shurtleff fires special DAGs for disagreeing

The Utah Amicus: News Release: Democratic lawmakers reach across the aisle to resolve voucher mess

Utah State Democratic Party: Arrogance and Abuse of Power

JM Bell: SLCspin Broke it first! - A.G. Mark “First Amendment should be conditional” Shurtleff fires Carol Lear and Jean Hill

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mormon on Politics: aka Moron Outside Reality

I have on my Sage reader a bookmark for a blog called Mormon on Politics. I don't know why I ever knew about him. I guess he somehow remarked about the US Senate race in 2006 and I found him in a blog search. In any event, he has to be the worst blogger in the Utah blogosphere. I challenge anyone to read his blog and wonder what kind of reality he lives in. Take his recent post for example, which compared Nancy Pelosi and the DNC to Venezuela and Chavez' decision to clampdown on opposition media. He cites a press release from the Venezuelan Embassy as evidence that Pelosi agrees with Chavez. However, if he would have actually read Speaker Pelosi's actual press release on the issue, he would have found that she does not.
If you wish to know what idiocy truly is, read a few of his posts that I have commented on. Then perhaps read his complete flip-flop on Mitt Romney (after condemning Romney for flip-flopping).
After a night of thinking about this, I have to say my feelings have not changed. I don't really like to call out bloggers for no reason, and I have made mistakes. However, I think it is clear that MOP is operating in talking-points land, relying on zero factual evidence, and sometimes lies. Not good for someone who labels himself as a Mormon. I am not all that good, either, but for other reasons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Urquhart’s Crazy, Illegal Ideas

Rep. Urquhart made a feeble attempt to appear democratic in his latest post on the voucher saga. It seemed fairly disingenuous. My response follows:

Unfortunately, that cannot happen. You should read Title 20A, Chapter 7 of the code before writing about this; it is pretty clear. HB 148 essentially does not exist until the people vote that it does. The Legislature cannot touch it.

Secondly, if the legislature did this it would not be a referendum; it would be constitutional amendment ratification. The legislature does not submit issues to the voters in any other way. The people can submit laws to the legislature, but the legislature cannot submit simple laws to the people, only constitutional amendments.

Here are some basic ideas:

  • Follow Huntsman’s lead and repeal HB 174 in special OR regular session if HB 148 is repealed.
  • Stop bugging the School Board to do anything until HB 148 is approved by voters, if that happens.
  • Stop participating in lawsuits to stop the democratic process (like the one you are party to now).

    I just wondered: if voucher proponents cared so much about parents being able to afford private schools, maybe they should spend more money on private scholarships instead of political action. I am not saying they do not have a right to such opinion and political action, but it would seem more genuine.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    One of My Reasons Against Vouchers, From the Book of Mormon

    3 Nephi 6

    12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their ariches and their chances for learning; yea, some were bignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great clearning because of their riches.
    13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and apersecution and all manner of bafflictions, and would not turn and crevile again, but were humble and penitent before God.
    14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the *thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and athey would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all bdiligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
    This is one of those times where it just comes together nicely. My opposition to vouchers is based almost entirely on the previously outlined on this blog: the fact they have not been proven to work; the fact that public schools are proven to work; the fact that school choice exists, etc. This scripture just reiterates some of the reasoning behind not setting up a two-tier system. For a better argument, read what someone smarter and more experienced than I wrote.

    Why I Think Game 1 Wasn't That Bad

    I think the Jazz learned a lot of lessons in Game 1, and could do better in Game 2 onward. That doesn't mean I think they will win the series; my prediction is that the Spurs win 4-1, 4-2 at best. The Spurs are a fairly complete team, with every player complementing each other and stepping up where others sometimes fail. You can't just cover Duncan because that leaves Parker open; when Ginobli comes off the bench, problems increase several fold. Even down the bench to Jacque Vaughn, Oberto, and others can step it up.
    The Jazz are almost there, but they are all less inexperienced, and a few players are fairly useless. I am hopeful based on just one surprising performance yesterday: Araujo. I thought he performed fairly well against Duncan, and only made the stupid blocking foul against Ginobli. If the Jazz prepare him better for Tuesday's game, he could be the difference-maker that Boozer, Okur, Collins, and others cannot be. Now the Jazz just need better match-ups against everyone else on the Spurs.

    Carter: One of the Best Ex-Presidents

    In response to this nonsensical post on KVNU’s blog For the People, I provided this rebuttal.

    Craig, who was right in 1976? Carter, who promoted alternative energies like solar, wind, nuclear, etc and proposed an energy independence plan? Or people like Orrin Hatch who opposed him? I think around 3200 dead soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors would rather we had followed Carter’s plans instead of 30 more years of dependence on foreign oil. That doesn’t count the millions around the world that are dead because we (the US) failed to take the lead to get off non-renewable energy and now suffer under tons of pollution (without a doubt about that) and global warming (you can argue amongst yourself about that, but you are part of a shrinking minority). We had a choice during the Carter presidency; and we chose to not allow our nation to move forward in research, development, and implementation of renewable energy. Now we are paying for it, in $3 gas, in American health, in potentially more prosperity, and the lives of our military.

    I will admit that Carter made mistakes. It is obvious he failed to heed his own advice in helping the corrupt Shah, and that led to the Islamic revolution and hostage crisis in Iran. However, you make claims in your article about the Carter Center’s work, but most of them are logically flawed. You submit simply because Carter negotiated the 1994 North Korean deal, that it was doomed to fail. When in fact that led to a softening of relations among North Korea, its neighbors, and the US (remember the unified Korean Olympic team in 2000? Madeline Albright’s visit? the South Korean President getting the Nobel Peace Prize because of their peace-making efforts). Also, one of the reasons the Agreed Framework broke down is the Republican Congress refused to fund essential portions of it. Finally, it was the Bush Administration inexplicably putting NK in the “axis of evil” that put the final nails in the coffin and scared the paranoid NK regime out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It should be noted that Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, is who both the US and NK turn to now to get things done.

    As to the Carter Center’s work, can you hold out the possibility that perhaps they know what they are doing and the Venezuelan people actually dislike American influence so much that they would vote for Chavez? But hey, it’s not like we could have less an obtrusive influence there if we had stopped being so concerned with their oil, like if we had stopped around 1977 or so?

    For Cuba, all I can say is at least he is trying where a 40 year embargo has clearly failed.

    I have not read his book, but I would expect such a response given the power of the American-Israeli lobby. Perhaps if we had gotten off foreign oil, say in 1977 or even now, we would care less about what happens in the Middle East.

    Finally, I think you have intentionally taken the quote out of context. If you read the entire quote, you would be hard pressed to find any nation on earth that likes Bush, and therefore has a lesser opinion of the nation that elected and re-elected him. If you could provide a nation that thinks well of Bush, in terms of public opinion polling, please provide evidence of that.

    I would say that Bush is the worst president, for the simple reason he has ignored every lesson of history about wars won and lost in the 20th Century (Spanish-American, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam), hence we are stuck in the Iraq quagmire.

    Leaving the main part of my comment about energy untouched, he focused instead on specious arguments about Carter’s post-presidential work. He alleged Carter’s work in North Korea was “freelance;” President Carter disputes this claim. He then alleges that “whenever Carter monitors an election, the dictator wins.” Looking over a list of elections the Carter Center has observed or certified (which are two different things), you can see that Craig’s statement is flatly false. Probably the best example was in 1999 in East Timor, when the dictatorial Indonesian regime lost to the East Timorese people’s wishes for independence. How about the election of Vicente Fox in Mexico in 2000? Was he a dictator? What about the Cherokee nation’s elections in 1999? Did they elect a dictator? Do you think that would even be possible?

    He dismisses worldwide public opinion polls, including the BBC-University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes polls, showing the US is increasingly looked upon as a negative influence on the world. For example, you can see in the 2007 edition of their detailed study that we are reaching a new low in terms of world opinion of the US. Craig cites close relations with leaders of some nations as evidence of world support. As one who has actually lived in Australia, I can tell you that their increasingly flagging support of John Howard has nothing to do with his relationship with Bush. They have little or no tolerance for him Down Under. Australia, as with the UK, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and the other nations in the BBC-PIPA poll, thinks, almost always in strong majorities: the US is having a mainly negative influence in the world; disapproves how the US has handled the situations in Iraq; Iran; Israel/Lebanon/Hezbollah; North Korea; the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo; global warming; and that the US military presences in the Middle East provokes more conflicts than it prevents. Japan was not polled in this study, but I suspect they are just fine with America as long as we keep buying their cars and ignore their high protectionist tariffs. He then makes the increasingly strained comparison between Bush and Reagan, saying the world hated Reagan. I would like to see some citation of that fact; I know many around the world, in the US, and even in Utah (including the LDS Church) were alarmed by Reagan’s affinity for nuclear weapons and the theory of limited nuclear war, a.k.a. nuclear utilization theory, a.k.a. NUTs. The main difference is that Reagan softened his rhetoric toward the USSR in his second term (as Gorbachev reciprocated), and that allowed the peace process to bloom and the Cold War to end.

    He then dismisses the American Israeli lobby’s influence on US politics, alleging Carter “accepts millions of dollars from the Saudis.” Again, I have not read the book, but just looking at their official lobbying arm, AIPAC, you can see they have a lot of power on both sides of the aisle. I would also like Craig to cite the Saudi’s payments, because I have not found such a connection. However, I doubt he reaches the point of anti-semitism, though it is clear a lot of people are upset about his book. This leads me to wonder: Craig, have you read his book? Or are you just judging it by its cover?

    David James alleges that there have been great advances in alternative energy over the past 30 years, almost entirely in the private sector. That was my exact point; in the absence of any governmental leadership in the energy arena, the private sector was left to its own devices. Imagine where we would be today if, instead of one building at the U of U devoted to coal gasification, a nuclear reactor, and other energy research, we could have ten? What if Dr. Farrell Edwards at USU had funding from the Department of Energy and not Homeland Security to work on his fusion research? I would like Mr. James to cite how much money we “threw away” and what “no results” means, especially considering the horrible situation we are in today. I am not arguing for the evil “government intervention” that he warns about, but the kind of research, development, and implementation that could have truly opened up the world energy market beyond just oil. Instead, we are still stuck using fossil fuels for 85% of our total US energy consumption in 2005, with petroleum increasing as the main US energy consumption source since the 70s but other forms of energy have barely risen.

    I have neglected to reject the response that Carter has been a bad ex-president, but compared to the recent history of past presidents, he has probably done the best job, frankly. Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, and Reagan barely did anything (or had the capability to do anything) after their presidencies, beyond politics; Nixon wrote books and tried to defend himself; Ford did well to help his wife’s causes and other activities; GHW Bush and Clinton have worked on charitable projects, but both have been concerned with their dynasties. Only Carter has dedicated himself almost wholeheartedly to humanitarian and peace-making projects (though he has definitely remained politically active).

    Finally, in response to Tom Grover’s remarks, which I concede are cogent. Carter did not use the traditional chief-of-staff model of organization; it seems his desire to be in-the-know more than his scandal-tainted predecessors overwhelmed him. Furthermore, his speeches reached for how Lincoln connected morals and policy, but obviously failed. Finally, his Congressional relations were very bad, but some would say he was better than Bush is now. Those poor relations, especially with those in his own party, cost him and led to the failure of his energy package.

    Finally, I would not say at all that Carter was the greatest President ever; I would rank him in the mid-range of 20th Century presidents. He was better than McKinley, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover; a toss up among Wilson, Truman, Ford, GHW Bush, Clinton; but worse than TR, Wilson, FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. The reason I think GWB is so bad, is because he has the blessing of learning from American history, but has spurned those blessings and that has cost our nation dearly.

    I have vented enough and will hopefully not engage in a flame war on this, but I just wanted to get this off my chest.

    Saturday, May 5, 2007

    Why I Don't Care About Rocky v. Hannity

    I did not watch or listen to the “debate” last night. Everything about the whole event seemed contrived and pointless. Instead I chose to watch an old movie that pretty much summarized/prophesied what modern politics has turned into, though I had never seen the movie before. In John Ford's The Last Hurrah, Spencer Tracy's character makes a prescient statement, asking his sports columnist nephew a question:

    Now tell me this. What would you consider the greatest spectator sport in the country today? Would you say it was baseball, basketball, football?... It’s politics. That’s right, politics. Millions and millions of people following it every day in the newspapers, over the TV and the radio. Now mind you, they wouldn’t get mixed up in this themselves for all the tea in China, but they know the names and numbers of all the players. And what they can’t tell the coaches about strategy. Oh, you should see some of the letters I get.

    That is what I was afraid of last night: a spectator sport, not a political dialogue. I suspect there were more cogent arguments at last night's Blaze game; however, I bet attendance was higher at the debate than at the Delta Center.

    While some see the Internet as a hope for greater political involvement, where individuals can make the kind impact not seen in earlier generations, I am pessimistic. I feel that until people stop seeing politics as that spectator sport and more as something they can participate in (i.e. run for office themselves), we won't evolve beyond Rocky v. Hannity. I have a friend who worked on the Ashdown campaign who is running for SLC mayor, but is so low in the polls and campaign funds now that no one pays attention to him. At least he is jumping out of the stands and on to the playing field, though.

    Thursday, May 3, 2007

    The Mormons Part II--but about Part I

    I finally saw the first half of The Mormons and it pretty much sucked. I could not believe how badly it portrayed the history of the Church while doing so well with the present-day aspects. Inaccuracies plagued the two hours, for example: during the extremely brief synopsis of the contents of the Book of Mormon, it made the statement that Christ visited the Americas during the three days between his crucifixion and resurrection. This is not Church doctrine; it is true that Christ's voice was heard in the darkness that covered the New World immediately after the death of Christ. Some time passed; in Jesus the Christ, Elder James E. Talmage wrote that it was “[a]bout six weeks or more” after the darkness cleared.

    Then there was the dreary music and horrid paintings that at times scared me. It is not that the paintings were bad, but poorly used. I am thinking particularly of the triple portrait of Joseph Smith, and the reddish Christ. I concur with Holly Mullen's bewilderment of using mostly Southern Utah scenery shots for the pioneer era; my ancestors were sent to Davis County, Idaho, Montana, and other places without red rocks, but still just as picturesque. Furthermore, I found the whole historical presentation poor; the talking head historians were just not interesting. Ms. Whitney's historical storytelling style was boring compared to the documentaries of Stephen Ives, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, Ken Verdoia, and others. Another problem was the disjointed presentation through “acts,” where each topic required throwbacks to previous events, interrupting the flow. I would have preferred a clean chronology where we could see how each event and person contributed to the development of the Church as it related to each other. It was wrong to try and cut away the sense of persecution from the Mountain Meadows; impossible to separate polygamy from discussions about doctrinal development and revelation.

    Then I was greatly disappointed that nearly an entire hour was spent on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy. I really do not see why they needed to spend time on Mountain Meadows at all in this documentary. Unlike polygamy, I was never asked about Mountain Meadows when I was a missionary in Australia; and it is a relatively little known event in Western history. I was interested to see how the event would be covered, but I was disappointed at how tersely it was covered, without the drama that other presentations conveyed (namely Stephen Ives' treatment in his documentary The West).

    As to polygamy, I just feel too much was dedicated to the modern-day polygamist culture while giving relatively short shrift to the officially-sanctioned practice in the past. If I was not a member of Church and was watching it, I would wonder whether the polygamous families were still members of the Church, despite the video clips from President Hinckley. I found the portrayals of the Short Creek raids not as sympathetic as perhaps they were intended to be, and found myself wondering if the kind of abuses present in enclosed polygamist today were under the rug then.

    In the final analysis, I would only recommend the second half of the program to people who would like to know more about the Church and its people. If someone wanted an accurate and balanced historical account of the Church, I would recommend they watch a few different programs: Lee Groberg's American Prophet, Trail of Hope, Sacred Stone, and Sweetwater Rescue; Stephen Ives The West, Ken Verdoia's Utah: the Struggle for Statehood, Brigham Young, and A Matter of Principle: Polygamy in the Mountain West.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2007

    The Mormons: Good Show, Bad Website

    It has been a somewhat busy month since I last posted here, and I feel really stupid about not writing. I have wanted to write on many issues, but felt I did not make the time to write substantively on the issues I care about. However, I wanted to get out something that I want to express. Perhaps I will write more about this and other things in the future.

    Tonight I watched the second half of The Mormons on PBS. I have not yet seen the first part because my tivo was split between 24, Heroes, the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report and had to wait until later tonight to even record the first half. I will probably get to that tomorrow. I was impressed by the second half; it was about what I expected in terms of non-Mormon/dissident feelings, official Church line, and scholarly discussion. I was greatly surprised, though, by the dramatic telling of the stories. I felt the juxtaposition of that generally sterile discussion with personal interviews of individuals who have been impacted by the operation of the Church was incredibly powerful. While I could easily identify with the member families and individuals, I also could sympathize with the experiences of Margaret Toscano and Trevor Southey (Tal Bachman, not so much; he is always annoying). I also liked how the program started and ended with sunset panoramas of the Bountiful temple. I strongly contend both that Bountiful sunsets are the best on earth and that the Bountiful temple is the best one yet built.

    I was excited to see the program's website because PBS usually has great web resources. I have often depended on Frontline or American Experience websites for research. However, I was greatly disappointed by the dearth of further resources now there. Specifically, the fact that only 13 interviews from the series online, and even then they are excerpted and not complete interview transcripts. I would have liked to have seen more from other interviewees like Sen. Bennett (I kind of would like to see how he screwed up) or Harold Bloom. I would also like to read or watch more from Betty Stevenson, Bryan Horn, and others whose personal experiences I liked so much. I hope they improve the website, as it is relatively easy to do, compared with adding new sections to the documentary itself.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007

    Best Day of the Year

    My World Series Hope (Not Necessarily a Prediction)

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Pro-Petition Response Part II: HB 174 Cannot Be Challenged by Referendum

    First of all, I apologize for the formatting problems with the previous post. I hope that it is still readable.

    My next response is to the idea that the petition referendum is wrong-headed because it did not challenge both HB 148 and HB 174. Surely the answer to this question is: if they could have, they would have, but legally they cannot.

    There are many major legal provisions that proponents of this view are not aware of (most likely), are willfully ignorant about, or are intentionally deceitful (least likely).

    The first is in the Utah Constitution, Article VI, Section 1, which states:

    “(2) (a) (i) The legal voters of the State of Utah, in the numbers, under the conditions, in the manner, and within the time provided by statute, may:…

    (B) require any law passed by the Legislature, except those laws passed by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house of the Legislature, to be submitted to the voters of the State, as provided by statute, before the law may take effect.”

    The second is in Utah Code 20A-7-102:

    “By following the procedures and requirements of this chapter, Utah voters may, subject to the restrictions of Article VI, Sec. 1, Utah Constitution and this chapter:…

    “(2) require any law passed by the Legislature, except those laws passed by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house of the Legislature, to be referred to the voters for their approval or rejection before the law takes effect;…”

    HB 174 was passed by votes of 54-11 in the House (72%) and 23-5-1 in the Senate (73%). That clearly makes it ineligible for referral to the voters.

    Utahns for Public Schools has also claimed that they could not challenge HB 174 because it was not signed by the Governor until March 6, six calendar days after the session ended. Utah Code 20A-7-302 clearly states:

    (1) Persons wishing to circulate a referendum petition shall file an application with the lieutenant governor within five calendar days after the end of the legislative session at which the law passed.

    To understand the importance of this, let us see the definition of what a law is, according to Utah law. Article VII, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution declares the duties of the governor, detailing:

    “(1) Each bill passed by the Legislature, before it becomes a law, shall be presented to the governor. If the bill is approved, the governor shall sign it, and thereupon it shall become a law.”

    So therefore, HB 174 was not a law before Governor Huntsman signed it on March 6, and was not eligible for challenge on that basis either.

    Does this mean HB 174 is bullet-proof? Absolutely not! Without the major provisions contained in HB 148, especially the religious neutrality provision, it is even more likely to be struck down by the courts if some state agency attempts to implement it.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Pro-petition Response Part I: A dead (or static) HB 148 could kill vouchers.

    There has been plenty of discussion on vouchers on a lot of Utah blogs, some of whom I have listed below. While there has been plenty hyberbole on the pro-petition side, there has been a lot of disinformation on the anti-petition side. I respect everyone’s views and have no reason to believe any blogger is writing out of any ulterior motive. However, that does not mean that some are wrong.

    For those of you who want to see what I think about vouchers in general, I urge you to read my series of blog posts in January and February about vouchers:

    School Choices: Questions About State Educational Policy in America--Part I

    School Choices: Questions About State Educational Policy in America: Part II

    School Choices: Part III Problems

    School Choices: Part IV Problems for Government

    School Choices: Part V A Preferred Policy Solution: School Choice?

    School Choices VI: A Brief History of Choice

    School Choices VII: Implementation and Outcomes

    No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: An Unproven Risky Scheme

    No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: Constitutional Issues

    No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: Unrealistic Finances

    No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: The Wholesale Purchase of the Legislation by Purchase of the Legislators

    No on HB 148, No to Vouchers: Conclusion

    I want to address this issue in several posts, and will start with the differences between HB 148 and HB 174. In doing so, I recognize that I am not a lawyer, but I am simply making some reasoned arguments in comparing the two bills.

    174 does not have any amendments to six of 148’s sections. I believe the following could be implicated based on the absence of the following sections, should the petitions qualify for ballot access and 148 not be enforced until a referendum:

    • 53A-1a-801, Utah Code Annotated 1953—I will leave it up to a lawyer to decide whether a code section without a title means anything. I don’t know.
    • 53A-1a-802, Utah Code Annotated 1953—There are major problems with the program without the findings. Perhaps most importantly, and Rep. Urquhart made pains to state this in his committee testimonies, the religious neutrality clause is stripped away.
    • 53A-1a-803, Utah Code Annotated 1953—Without definitions, there are major problems enforcing a law. Especially when there is no specific agency assigned to enforce it.
    • 53A-1a-807, Utah Code Annotated 1953—Mitigation monies were some of the major justifications for passage, and many legislators cited it as a reason for voting for this bill instead of previous attempts. Without these monies, public schools will be punished. Because each school will have no idea who will receive a voucher or not, schools and districts will not be able to carefully plan budgets for submission to auditors.
    • 53A-1a-809, Utah Code Annotated 1953—HB 148 was already short on accountability provisions; without enforcement power, whatever agency in charge of administering the program will effectively be giving tax dollars away without any way of stopping. If the agency chooses to stop funding a scholarship, the recipient school could sue that their due process rights were abridged, because there is no due process written in the code to terminate funding.
    • 53A-1a-810, Utah Code Annotated 1953—In an alternate line of reasoning, without the prohibition against regulation, Rep. Aagard’s fear that a voucher program could unnecessarily regulate private enterprise could come true. (I am not certain it was Aagard that said this during floor debate, but it was one of the no votes from Northern Davis County).

    Also missing from 174: a fiscal note for funding the scholarships, meaning if spending for the voucher program does not jive with the overall budget, it could cause major problems for fiscal analysts and down the line (to the taxpayer who may be over-taxed).

    The two bills have exactly the same text in the other five sections, with five exceptions which I have bolded:

    In 53A-1a-804. “Scholarship program created -- Qualifications – Application,” adds

    “(4)(b) Upon acceptance of the scholarship, the parent assumes full financial responsibility for the education of the scholarship student for the period in which the student receives the scholarship, including costs associated with transportation.”

    In section 53A-1a-805. “Eligible private schools,” adds

    “(1)(g) employ or contract with teachers who have completed a criminal background check that complies with the requirements of Section 53A-3-410 and:…”

    “(3) The following are not eligible to enroll scholarship students:…

    (c) a school that encourages illegal conduct; or…”

    Adds another $100,000 for the School Board to administer the program next fiscal year (2007-08)

    Also adds: “Section 7. Coordinating H.B. 174 with H.B. 148 -- Substantively superseding amendments.

    “If this H.B. 174 and H.B. 148, Education Vouchers, both pass, it is the intent of the Legislature that the amendments to the sections in this bill supersede the amendments to the same numbered sections in H.B. 148 when the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel prepares the Utah Code database for publication.”

    What are the implications of these changes for our purposes? Well, it could mean that vouchers could be instituted, but with major legal problems evident. Therefore, it would be up to the courts to determine if, either between ballot access and referendum and/or the referendum is successful, HB 174 amendments would be legal without a code to amend them to.

    As I said, this is a series and I will address further arguments in further posts. But if you have a question on this analysis, feel free to ask.

    Blogs for voucher petition:

    Utah Amicus

    Jeremy’s Jeremiad

    Utah State Democratic Party

    The World According to Me, Bob

    Centerville Citizen

    Third Avenue

    Democracy for Utah

    Utah Senate Democrats

    Education in Utah

    Blogs against voucher petition:

    Coolest Family Ever

    Davis County Watch


    Utah Conservative

    Senate Site

    Utah House Majority