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