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  • Follow Huntsman’s lead and repeal HB 174 in special OR regular session if HB 148 is repealed.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.