Monday, December 31, 2007

Would you vote for an Atheist?

One of my Christmas gifts was the book, "The God Delusion", by one of my favorite authors Richard Dawkins. His book, "The Ancestors Tale" is admittedly one of my favorite books. A theme in his book(The God Delusion)is the degree to which people give respect for religious belief and make it unaccountable to evidence and the degree to which atheism is disregarded by Americans.

We as Americans have elected someone who has professed strong beliefs in God. Those beliefs have led him to engage in actions that have been counterproductive to our Republic on many levels. The fit some have over Romney's candidacy as a Mormon is interesting on many levels. I've tried unsuccessfully to tie down Mormons who cry persecution at every corner, whether they would vote for an atheist. Is it we atheists who should cry discrimination? Are we the ones who should worry about others judging us unfairly? Admittedly, a rhetorical question. Even so, how do you perceive an openly atheist candidate would fare, even if his platform conformed to yours?

If you wouldn't vote for a well qualified atheist, ask yourself why you are any better than someone who wouldn't vote for a well qualified Mormon?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mitt's Newest Bout With The Truth

The latest problem for Mitt regards statements he made concerning watching his father march with Martin Luther King jr. in a Detroit neighborhood, an allusion that was made in Mitt's "religion" speech. The only problem? It never happened. The neighborhood mentioned had never had MLKjr march through it, nor did the Governor of Michigan join him. Oh, and I forgot, Mitt didn't see the non-existent event either, since it happened when he was 20 years old and was an ocean away from Detroit. Mitt to his credit, is trying to spin it as "he saw" figuratively or metaphorically.

Well, when I read about this, my first reaction was, "well perhaps Joseph Smith jr. only figuratively or metaphorically saw God and Jesus in the sacred grove." Well than it comes out that Mitt when asked what he would do if God asked him to do something contrary to his role as President, he indicated something to the effect that "God hadn't talked to anyone since Moses." Wow, maybe I'm a prophet. If I am, I'm sure an unprofitable one.

The biggest problem I have with Mitt is his credibility. Running for office in a liberal state, Mitt is a gay tolerant, pro-choice liberal Republican. Running for the Republican nomination and trying to appeal to Christian fundie core of the Republican party, he's now a social conservative. Mitt's primary ethic seems to be self-interest, rather than having any bedrock principles upon which to build a campaign or a Presidency. This isn't like building your house in the sand, but in a riverbed. Eventually, the flood will come and in Mitt's case, his house is in a very dangerous place.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mitt's Deal With The Devil

As a Mormon missionary, I learned alot about Mormon doctrine and how it contrasted with mainstream or Nicene Christianity as well as other faiths. I also learned just how sensitive people could be when their beliefs were challenged. A tactic to reduce the tension during a hot theological discussion was to search for some common ground, and take on a common "enemy." When "born-againers" as we called them would challenge me, I'd find common ground tearing into the dogmas of the Jehovah's Witnesses. When dealing with a "jaydub" as we called them, I'd tear into "born-againer's" dogma.

This is what Mitt Romney did in his inexcusable affront to our Republic in his speech yesterday. By tearing into atheists, non-believers and others and calling them members of the "religion of secularism", Mitt sought to gain friends by claiming a common enemy. Mitt has sold his soul to the devil of theocratic Republicanism, a Republicanism that claims that America's birthright is given only to those who believe in God. He has shown that he wishes to use the apparatus and resources of the state to promote religion, atleast as it pertains to the common ground he feels with the Christian right.

Mitt and his fellow Mormons continue to crawl on the cross, claiming persecution and discrimination. Why wouldn't anyone vote for a Mormon? I for the record have said I would vote for a Mormon for President. But after watching Mitt's speech, I can categorically say, if I vote for a Mormon for President, it sure as hell won't be Mitt.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chris Cannon’s Disconnect Between Beliefs and Actions

One of the more entertaining conservative blogs in Utah belongs to congressman Chris Cannon. At the link below, you can observe what Chris Cannon believes, or atleast perceives he believes. In the spirit of “civility in public discourse”, I will address each of his stated beliefs with why there is a disconnect between those stated beliefs and the actions of Rep. Cannon.

I believe...

- The government that governs least, governs best

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am unaware of Congressman Cannon’s efforts to reduce the size of government and roll back laws on the books. I also have seen a total lack of effort on Chris Cannon’s part to inhibit the Bush Administration from eroding the freedoms American’s have traditionally enjoyed. If anything, I would suggest that Chris Cannon believes in “loyalty” to his party and his President. Though not stated in his beliefs, I perceive based upon observing Chris Cannon for over a decade, that belief in loyalty to party is what drives this man.

- That open government, transparency, and reducing the size of government are the only true cures for corruption

Nice words but exactly what has Chris Cannon done to reduce the size of government? Though elected in 1994, Chris Cannon really found himself in a position of influence after the 2000 election, a point where he had some seniority and represents a time which ushered in a Republican President. Since that time, the scope of governmental intrusion in one’s life has increased, the size of government has increased and so has the deficit.

- The Congress should never spend more than it takes in

Let’s talk statistics Rep. Cannon. In 2000, when seniority and a Republican executive came into power, the U.S. had three years of budget surpluses. Since that time, we have had deficits $158 Billion to a whopping $413 Billion. What proposals have we heard from Chris Cannon to address these deficits? Am I the only one hearing crickets chirp?

- Taking the fight to terrorists is the only way to keep America safe

That is all well and good, but what does supporting an unprovoked war in Iraq have to do with taking the fight to terrorists? It certainly was a nice recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. President Bush and enablers like Chris Cannon have done more for Al Qaeda than Osama bin Ladin has. They have turned virtually an entire region and religion against our government and has made the U.S. less safe now than ever before.

- Technology, innovation, and the market are always preferable to government intervention

I can’t really contest that Chris Cannon doesn’t believe this. But I would contend that “always” is an awfully absolute phrase to use. What if the government intervention uses innovation or new technology? The Center for Disease Control uses both of those things. Does that mean we should rely on the private sector to evaluate our nation’s health risks from infectious diseases? Where is the profit motive? This is one example. A blanket statement like Chris Cannon’s sounds more like a sound-bite than a, ahem, prescription.

- Amnesty means being allowed to stay in America without a penalty - I will NEVER support amnesty

It all depends on your definition of amnesty now doesn’t it. I’m allowed to stay in America without a penalty. Does this mean he wants me to leave? Why the need to state such a strong position here? Is it possible because past positions and votes bring into question Cannon’s opposition to “amnesty”? Would this have been on his blog three years ago? I’m guessing not. Just for the record, I’m not opposed to some sort of amnesty provision. I’m just pointing to the peculiarities of Cannon’s statement.

- Civility in our public discourse is a good lesson for our kids and a lost component of our dialogue

Nice to hear that civility is important to such a partisan Congressman. I’ll just let his record speak for itself on this one. On the other hand, perhaps being in the minority has caused Chris to turn over a new leaf (snicker).

- Federalism sometimes requires the federal government NOT to act, no matter how painful

Federalism is usually in the eye of the beholder. Would Chris Cannon support federal legislation that bans gay marriage? How about banning abortion? How about stem cell research? And to take exception to this notion, I would suggest that hiding behind “federalism” may be a shield for the failure of Congress to take some necessary actions. “Oh, we’d like to help, but federalism is so divinely inspired (atleast when We play that card) that it would be inappropriate to take action.”

So what does Chris Cannon believe? I’ve seen the sound-bites, but I’ve also seen him in action for over a decade. All of us fall short of our beliefs at times. Though some of these beliefs I disagree with, the bigger issue is whether we as citizens can rely upon his statements as being genuine and accurate. Let’s just say, I’m not convinced.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Good Bye Old Friend- Sen. Ed Mayne

Sen. Ed Mayne will be missed by many. Eddie was unashamed to stand up for working men and women. He valued those whose hands got dirty and greasy and brought home paycheck and raised a family. If first met Eddie Mayne back in 1984 when he was the head of the AFL-CIO and I was involved in as a political volunteer on several levels. Eddie was a guy who could motivate others to put forward alot of effort on behalf of issues important to them such as worker's rights, benefits, health care and affordable housing. When he entered the Senate in the 1990's, Utah gained a much needed legislative advocate for working people and the issues important to them.

Convention will seem alot more sparse without such an animated and bigger than life character as Sen. Mayne. My heart goes out to Karen and family with sincere condolensces for their loss, and I think I speak for many Utahns that we are grateful that they shared Eddie's time and talents with the rest of us citizens.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Would this type of Academy qualify for public money under vouchers?

Terror high as it is nicknamed by conservative politicians, an Islamic academy which teaches jihad. Would oversight under the publicly rejected voucher law have prevented public funding of such an academy? This was one of the questions I posed during that debate. I still have never been really satisfied. On what basis would you provide vouchers for a Mormon academy and not an Islamic one?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kudos to Utah's Legislature

I generally have been rather critical of Utah's legislature. Most likely, this results from the fact that I have a minority opinion within the State of Utah and many of the actions of Utah's legislature is in disagreement with how I would do things if I were in charge. But, as an old-timer to observing the legislature and reviewing bills of interest, I would like to compliment the increasing transparency that exists with the legislature through their website and the ability to track a bill's status, it's amendments and it's substitutes with an ease that 15 years ago would have seemed preposterous.

The webite, located at: is extremely helpful if you are interested in a bill or would like to a little information on the sponsor(s) of a bill. So often, bills have conflicts of interest to a sponsor that is neither reported by Utah's weak and lazy press, nor acknowledged by the sponsor. This is my first year as a blogger, and I look forward to observing the legislative process and commenting on legislation of interest. We as citizens have far more tools today to hold legislators accountable than at any time in our history as a state, and I fully plan on taking advantage of it. I also compliment those legislators who blog, who open themselves to possible dispute and criticism. I may vehemently disagree with their opinions, but I appreciate them expressing them so I atleast know where they are coming from.

Also, another note about the legislative website. Accessing the Utah Code from that website is quite easy and helpful. Never before has Utah's laws been so accessible to the general public. For all the criticism of government that goes on, I also think it is important to note when government gets it right. The Utah Legislature's website gets it right.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post Voucher-Vote Concerns and Optimism

So the ugly campaign is over. The lies and distortions will hopefully be but a fading memory. What I'm concerned about is retaliation by the legislature against public education and against teachers in particular. Reading Steve Urquhart's blog, I feel atleast some optimism that this issue will not result in a decimation of teacher salaries and benefits and to a decision to take money from schools and redirect them to other priorities.

We as citizens made a statement that I think was pretty loud and clear, that we value our public schools, and don't want our hard-earned tax dollars going to private schools. But I also hope that a concern for public education resonates with the public in general, to be willing to make a commitment to be a partner in the process, not just a bystander.

For those of us in the private sector, we can ask ourselves, does our local schools have needs that we can help meet? Can we partner with schools for mutual benefit? And to the public education establishment, we should also ask hard questions to ensure that we are getting our money's worth out of the heavy tax burden our child/heavy population demands.

The vote on Tuesday shows that to Utahns, public education matters. Let's back that opinion with commitment. Let's back that commitment with respect for the many teachers who deserve it. Let's look as objectively as possible at legislation that seeks to reform public education for the better. But let us also hold legislators accountable if their legislation appears punitive. Our children are too important to be pawns in a political struggle and I for one am committed to let legislators know, that I am watching. But I'm also encouraging as well. We all have a stake in having the best public education possible. We should all commit to help make that happen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Col. Boylan Proving Glenn Greenwald Right

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an inept public relations snafu as what transpired courtesy of Colonel Steven Boylan, a top aide to General Petraeus. Gleen Greenwald on his blog wrote an article discussing the politicization of the U.S. Military under the Bush administration. To prove Greenwald’s point, Glenn gets a sharply worded e-mail from Colonel Steven Boylan. I’ll reprint that below:

From: "Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO"
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 8:15 AM
Subject: The growing link between the U.S. military and right-wing media and blogs

I had hoped to post this in response to your article, but apparently it is closed already.

I am not sending this as anyone's spokesperson, just a straight military Public Affairs Officer, with about 27 months overall time in Iraq who is concerned with accuracy, context and characterization of information and has worked with media of all types since joining the career field in 1991. The issues of accuracy, context, and proper characterization is something that perhaps you could do a little research and would assume you are aware of as a trained lawyer.

I do enjoy reading your diatribes as they provide comic relief here in Iraq. The amount of pure fiction is incredible. Since a great deal of this post is just opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinions, I will not address those even though they are shall we say -- based on few if any facts. That does surprise me with your training as a lawyer, but we will leave those jokes to another day.

You do have one fact in your post -- then Brigadier General Bergner did work at the National Security Council on matters concerning Iraq. Not surprising as he had returned from a year plus deployment to Iraq as the Multi-National Division - North Assistant Division Commander. It would seem reasonable that someone with Iraq experience would work issues at the NSC that was familiar with and had experience in Iraq. All else after that portion in your post about Major General Bergner is just your wishful thinking to support your flawed theory.

The claims about Steve Schmidt being out here on the staff in Iraq are just flat wrong. Pray tell, where do you think he is and how long have you fantasized that he has been here? Based on our records of who is in Iraq, I am really sorry to disappoint you, but he just isn't here. You are either too lazy to do the research on the topics to gain the facts, or you are providing purposeful misinformation -- much like a propagandist.

Schmidt was here, but at the time for the vote on the Iraqi Constitution, October 2005 for 30 days. He was never on the MNF-I staff and for that short period was actually detailed to the Department of State. He hasn't been back since. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a little actual research on your part would have shown that he is actually not here, but that would contradict your conspiracy theory. I am curious as to when you think the media relations or operations changed here in Iraq. I in fact do know exactly the day and time thatit changed and want to see if you are even in the same ballpark as reality.

For the third matter concerning the Beauchamp investigation and the documents that were leaked - it is very unfortunate that they were - but the documents are not secret or classified. So, there is your third major error in fact. Good thing you are not a journalist. The information that was released and it appears that has since been taken off the net is more of a matter concerning the Privacy Act. Since we don't know who released them, we are not able to take the appropriate actions and the media tends not to give up their sources -- good, bad or indifferent...I will not judge. That is our system and we must work with it.

As for working in secret with only certain media is laughable. The wide swatch of media engagements is by far the most diverse it could be. But you might not think it that way since we chose not to do an interview with you. You are not a journalist nor do you have any journalistic ethical standards as we found out from the last time I engaged with you. As we quickly found out, you published our email conversation without asking, without permission -- just another case in point to illustrate your lack of standards and ethics. You may recall that a 30-minute interview was conducted with the program that you claim to be a contributor. So instead of doing the interview with you, we went with the real talent, Alan Colmes.

I also noticed that you fail to mention the amount of material that is leaked to those other publications that I dare you to call right-wing like the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. I do not condone or wish them to happen, but it happens. If you believe they are right-wing, then again, it is nice to live in a fantasy world.

I invite you to come see for yourself and go anywhere in Iraq you want, go see what our forces are doing, go see what the other coalition forces are doing, go hang out with the reporters outside the International Zone since that is where they live and work and see for yourself what ground truth is so that you can be better informed. But that would take something you probably don't have.

Steven A. Boylan
Colonel, US Army
Public Affairs Officer


After reading this, my first reaction was “WOW”. Greenwald to his credit went to great lengths to verify that the e-mail was in fact from Col. Boylan, General Petraeus’s Public Affairs Officer. The e-mail address was the same as the one used in a previous e-mail encounter and Greenwald asked for any experts on IP addresses to verify that the address in question was Col. Boylan’s.

Well enter the denial stage. Col. Boylan, though refusing to engage in dialogue with Greenwald, is responding to e-mails in the published e-mail address from some of Greenwald’s readers who are castigating his behavior. On top of that, he is denying sending the original e-mail. Yep, someone else sent it, despite the fact that the language style used in e-mails to Greenwald’s readers is spot on to the one in the original e-mail. Also, wouldn’t it be a bit troubling that someone other than Col. Boylan, Gen. Petraeus’s public affairs officer could in fact speak for the commanding General of our war in Iraq?

Clearly, Col. Boylan has been caught in a lie, and trying to cover it up is making him look even more stupid and irresponsible. And on top of that, Col. Boylan’s e-mail proved Greenwald’s point about the politicization of the military under George W. Bush. That the public affairs officer for the Commanding General would be sending curt, patronizing e-mails to liberal bloggers is the very thing Greenwald was addressing.

Gen. Petraeus must be thoroughly ticked to have a subordinate behaving in such a way. Totally amazing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

PCE and Huntsman

Like every other Utahn, I witnessed PCE's last gasp in an efforts at making vouchers a reality. You've got Rob Bishop, a Congressman who as a teacher and a legislator undermined public education during his tenure at the capitol using that status as a former teacher coming out for vouchers. Having spent enough time up at the hill, I can guarantee you that Bishop wasn't a teacher legislator, but a legislator teacher looking to get out of the teaching career for higher office. His support for public education was always conditional and tepid at best.

Now, PCE also has an ad using Jon Huntsman jr., calling him a "champion of public education." Listen PCE, let us be the judge of who's a champion of public education, not you. In his tenure as Governor, I can't think of a single innovation regarding public education coming from the Governor's office, nor can I think of a single tangible accomplishment in any realm by his administration. Huntsman's adminstration appears to me to be even more obsessed with image over substance than the high fallutant Leavitt administration, which is saying something. Huntsman's endorsement is irrelevant, because frankly, Huntsman himself is irrelevant as a Governor. Ask Huntsman to give a speech, cut a ribbon or kiss a baby and he's in his element. Ask Huntsman to make a principled and reasoned policy decision and you'd might as well listen to the crickets chirp.

Huntsman's allowing his name to be used by PCE because frankly, he fears the crazies in his own party and is doing so for purely political purposes. In that regard I don't blame him. If I was a Republican Governor in Utah, the only worry I would have politically is a primary challenge. Too many voters in this state would vote for any Republican for Governor because they feel that is their duty. This reality creates alot of power to the fringe element of the Republican party. Gayle Ruzika and her fanatical fringe may make up only 10% of the population, but they represent 35% of the effective political power in Utah due to Utah's single party dominance. That is why PCE has picked Utah as their test case. Utah is to be the guineau pig for this right-wing gambit and our school children are the ones being injected.

Disclaimer: I normally don't like to sound as strident as I do in this post. However, I have to admit, that PCE has a way of getting under my skin. The dark side of the force is indeed strong with them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Okay, I've had enough

Let it be known, from this time foreward, that Obi wan liberali has declared his candidacy for President of the United States. Ok, let's be real, that this is no more than a cyber-presidency. But looking at the candidates on either side of this contest has made believe that I am as well qualified to be President as any of the current candidates. This is not based upon any hubris that I have served in office and have been blessed with the support of powerful lobbyists representing great U.S. manufactueres or retilers. I base this upon a great concern that our Republic is in danger. That we as a nation have thrown off the ideals of the Geneva Conventions, that we have justified spying on our own people (for their own good) and have thrown away the freedoms that Thomas Jefferson fought for us.

When we surrender the freedoms that our founders guaranteed us over fear of terrorism, the terrorists have won. I for one despise the idea that the terrorists will determine our level of freedom. I for one challenge this worthless Bush Adminstration for surrendering our moral authority in the world because of his fear of being outdone by people who believe in a religion a majority of Americans despise.

Listen, I announce my candidacy because I am bewildered by my Democratic leaders and Presidential candidates for their failure to speak against tyranny when that tyranny is so obvious to so many Americans. This is the time for those who truly believe in our Republic to stand against the tyranny that is the Bush Administration. I offer myself as a viable option. I have more relevant business experience than Hillary Clinton and have been involved in Democratic politics since 1970 when I campaigned for Frank Moss (the man that should have defeated the moron we know as Orrin Hatch).

I can say with every fiber in my being, that I have managed more people than Hillary Clinton, that I've read 20 times the books of George W. Bush (admittedly no great feat) and that I may look a little haggard, I can provide more experience and wisdom than Barak Obama.

All I can say, is "Vote Obi".

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Blackwater- The Neo-con Private Army

Welcome to Blackwater. Here is a security contractor under contract with the State Department to provide security. Since the early stages of this conflict, contractors have had a more significant role in the military situation in Iraq than the total “coalition of the willing” minus Great Britain. No one knows for sure how many private contractors are in Iraq, but one thing is for sure, they are making an impact. The first battle of Falluja was fought due to some contractors making a wrong turn and ending up in hostile territory, ultimately getting killed and hung from a bridge. Estimates of the numbers of these contract employees is hard to gauge, but most estimates conclude that there are at least 100,000 of them. Blackwater just happens to be the biggest.

And who is Blackwater? had a story on providing some good background on the company, it’s founder and it’s contacts. From the Salon article:

"Erik Prince, founder and CEO: How did Blackwater go from a small corporation training local SWAT teams to a seemingly inseparable part of U.S. operations in Iraq? Good timing, and the connections of its CEO, may be the answer Prince, who founded Blackwater in 1996 but reportedly took a behind-the-scenes role in the company until after 9/11, has connections to the Republican Party in his blood. His late father, auto-parts magnate Edgar Prince, was instrumental in the creation of the Family Research Council, one of the right-wing Christian groups most influential with the George W. Bush administration. At his funeral in 1995, he was eulogized by two stalwarts of the Christian conservative movement, James Dobson and Gary Bauer. Edgar Prince's widow, Elsa, who remarried after her husband's death, has served on the boards of the FRC and another influential Christian-right organization, Dobson's Focus on the Family. She currently runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, where, according to IRS filings, her son Erik is a vice president. The foundation has given lavishly to some of the marquee names of the Christian right. Between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the FRC and $531,000 to Focus on the Family."

"Both Edgar and Elsa have been affiliated with the Council for National Policy, the ecretive Christian conservative organization whose meeting have been attended by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer, and whose membership is rumored to include Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Dobson. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation gave the CNP $80,000 between July 2003 and July 2006."

"The former Betsy Prince -- Edgar and Elsa's daughter, Erik's sister -- married into the DeVos family, one of the country's biggest donors to Republican and conservative causes. ("I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party," Betsy DeVos wrote in a 1997 Op-Ed in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.) She chaired the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2003 to 2005, and her husband, Dick, ran as the Republican candidate for Michigan governor in 2006."

"Erik Prince himself is no slouch when it comes to giving to Republicans and cultivating relationships with important conservatives. He and his first and second wives have donated roughly $300,000 to Republican candidates and political action committees. Through his Freiheit Foundation, he also gave $500,000 to Prison Fellowship Ministries, run by former Nixon official Charles Colson, in 2000. In the same year, he contributed $30,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. During college, he interned in George H.W. Bush's White House, and also interned for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. Rohrabacher and fellow California Republican Rep. John Doolittle have visited Blackwater's Moyock, N.C., compound, on a trip arranged by the Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm founded by former aides of then House Majority Leader Tom Delay. ASG partner Paul Behrends is a longtime associate of Prince's."

So they are well-connected and making a lot of money in Iraq, something that seems to happen to a lot of well-connected Republicans. And isn’t it reassuring to know that Republicans have their own private army to call upon.

Blackwater got some bad press recently when they allegedly killed 11 unarmed Iraqis on September 16. They also had a situation where one of their employees, while drunk, shot one of the bodyguards of the Iraqi Vice President. As it turns out, contractors have been a great cause of concern for our military in Iraq. These amateur soldiers, not sworn in like the regular military, have more or less operated under their own guidelines, and have often taken a shoot first policy and have been notorious for driving civilians off of Iraqi roads. Just as General Petraeus has tried to reconfigure our strategy in Iraq to a counter-insurgency, working on winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis, time and again, contractors have undermined their efforts.

One of the most significant aspects of this use of contractors, is that the true costs of the war only show up in the bottom line, not in the numbers of actual casualties. Deaths of contract employees affects the insurance claims of the contractor, but are not counted as casualties in the Iraqi war effort. Another issue with contractors, is that they pay more money for their employees than does our military.

And what drives the contractors? Is it to accomplish a peaceful exit out of Iraq? What is their incentive? The war has made millionaires out of contractors in Iraq. Perpetual war is what will gain them future profits. And certainly, among there will be a supply of retired military personnel who will seek to make a fortune playing in this war for profit, rather than democracy.
We as a nation need to be very careful before we start privatizing the functions that have been served by our military. Our military personnel swear an oath to our country to protect us. Contractors sign a “contract” with specifications that may be vague or hard to enforce. And in the end, are we really happy to have a security company with it’s own para-military force that is committed to the Neo-con wing of the Republican party? If the war ever ends, what will be the role of these companies and their employees? I see many scenarios that should send a shiver down your spine if you believe in our Republic.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And the Winner Is?

Iran. The ill-conceived invasion of Iraq has certainly benefitted Iran. The United States not only toppled Iran's most hated enemy, but replaced it with a government friendly to Iran. It has befuddled me for some time why Bush has been so involved in saber-rattling at Iran, when the current government of Iraq is really Iran's best regional ally. Then an article comes out from from Peter Galbraith that really put the pieces together for me and confirmed my befuddlement.

Bush prides himself on being a decider who bases his decisions on instinct. I've had it up to my eyeballs with Bush's instinct. I wish he'd pick up a book or talk to someone in the know instead of basing his policies on ignorance based hubris.

Ok, I feel much better now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Understanding America's 9/11 Response

The events of 9/11/2001 were clearly the most defining of this young century. The United States before and after seem like different countries in subtle ways. Where we stand as a people in our relative trade-offs between liberty and security has been altered and in ways that seem almost unbelievable. Many of the same people who don't trust government to provide public services, have turned over liberties to their government and put increasing power into the executive branch in order to make us feel more secure.

America's response to 9/11 in my opinion was an over-reaction. The losses on this date were traumatic and hard to watch. All Americans will remember watching the towers collapse, knowing that they were watching the sudden oblivion of lives in real time. However, this attack was more symbolic than devastating to a country as large and wealthy as the United States. It is like a bee sting causing an elephant to run off a cliff to it's peril. We as Americans need to understand this, but we must never forget the lessons of leadership, or lack thereof, that influenced this.

To contrast leadership in similar situations, let's evaluate another traumatic event that was in fact more damaging to the United States, namely Pearl Harbor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt displayed all the steely resolve that Americans need to feel from their President, but Roosevelt played upon America's strength to get them through this difficult time. Our current President seems to have preyed upon the fear of Americans. While FDR was saying, "there is nothing to fear, but fear itself", Bush seemed to be saying, "be afraid, be very afraid, and by the way, let's give more emergency powers to the executive branch." FDR used his leadership to inspire Americans to succeed. Bush used the fear Americans felt against them for his own political objectives.

Understanding America's response and miscues after 9/11 define where we are as a nation and explains the challenges we now face in far off places on our globe. The two most influential books I've read on this period are "Fiasco" by Thomas Ricks and "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind.

We as a people must come to grips with what has happened to our country and find ways to retake what we have lost. Failure to do so has allowed Osama bin ladin to influence who we are and what we are about. He is a man not deserving of that honor.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm Moving Down South

Atleast for a week, I will be south of the border in Los Cabos. In a nice combination of business and pleasure, I will attend some meetings, but also attend to the beach, the pool and some site-seeing around the area. Hopefully the area will have recovered from Hurricane Hennriette which crashed right into the town.

While gone, I have no intention of blogging. My laptop may be with me, but my focus will not be on blogging but on enjoying he experience. So until I return, may the farce be with you.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Why I Oppose Vouchers

In this post, I will outline my reasons for opposing the use of publicly funded vouchers for private school education.

1- I am opposed to using public money to promote a religious agenda. When you look who is supporting vouchers and why, it is apparent to me that one of the driving forces behind this movement is to provide public funding to Christian or Mormon schools. Supporters may counter that not allowing vouchers means the government is funding a secular or atheistic agenda. I disagree. Nothing I ever saw in the public schools promoted atheism or secularism. I just don't buy the argument that failure to fund someone's religious agenda is by default a funding of someone else's agenda.

2- Public funding in my view requires that there be public control. Right now, I vote for members of my school board. I have influence over how they prioritize both the placements of schools as well s the curriculum used. The degree to which I or other taxpayers would have control over private schools which receive public funding is questionable and indirect. I also question whether private schools want any degree of oversight. I also question whether or not our state education establishment is prepared to develop auditing programs to ensure that private schools are following public guidelines that should be inherent in public funding.

3- Those who will gain the most immediate benefit from vouchers are those who can already afford to send their kids to private schools. Given Utah's generally regressive tax structure, how can you justify giving out a payout from public funds to those in the highest income brackets from middle to low-income taxpayers? Frankly, you can't.

4- Vouchers will generally only provide people with considerable funds available to consider private schooling as an option. For those in lower income situations, the voucher will never be enough to provide a true choice to send their kids to private schools.

5- Competition between private and public schools is over-rated and has many drawbacks to the public objective of having a well-educated citizenry. Private schools will have several advantages in this "competition" that very well may undermine public education as a whole. Private schools can deny kids on the basis of academics, whereas public schools cannot. Would private schools be required to accept kids with disabilities such as mild autism, ADHD, or kids with other problems? What will this mean for public funding for kids with various disabilities? If public schools find themselves losing the competition, what options will be available to them to make up the difference? Private schools can go to the capital markets to obtain new resources. What if legislators are unwilling to fund the needs of public schools in order to allow them to be competitive?

6- On what basis would a voucher be denied to students who enroll in a school. Example, let's say an Islamic fundamentalist group establishes a private school for their children to teach them jihad against the west, weapons and explosives training, and terrorist tactics? Without proper overshights, have we as a country just funded our own demise?

7- I find it interesting that so many Utahns who find socialism in every government program, fail to see it when there becomes public funding of private enterprise. I think we as a society should always be cautious about providing public funding for private businesses. Competition between the private and public sectors can have good results. FEDEX, UPS and other delivery companies directly compete with the United States Postal Service. However, public funding is not, and should not, be used to fund UPS or FEDEX. The same is true for private schools.

8- Why should public funds go to a private school that may in fact be discriminatory? Getting back to religious schools, is it reasonable to assume that a Mormon school would require some sort of approval process in order for a student to matriculate there? Same with a Christian, Muslim or Jewish school. What if a Christian school right accross the street from an atheist denies a child's application on the basis of the child's parents outspoken belief that Christianity is bogus?

9- My final concern deals with the social consequences of dividing ourselves on the basis of one critieria or another. If Christians only deal with Christians, Mormons with Mormons, the rich with the rich, will we be able to empathize and appreciate others. Public schools bring together a cross-section of kids and place them together. If someone wants to exclude their kids from association with the wider world, that is their prerogative, but I don't believe that exclusion should be publicly funded.

10- Because I believe the most important priority we as a society should be making is ensuring we have as high a quality education as possible that is available to everyone. I believe vouchers have more of a down-side to this objective and it takes away the focus all of us should have on making public schools better. To me it is a punt on second down when we should be devising the right play and the right execution, we are kicking the ball to the opposition and hoping they do something with it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sad Legacy of Alberto Gonzales

The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should not have occured in my opinion. He should have been fired long ago. The fact that it took bi-partisan pressure from Senators who were irritated with his selective and faulty memory, and the fact that he kept changing his story, reflects as much upon President Bush as it does upon his A.G.

Sidney Blumenthal from Salon had a most interesting article on Gonzales and his career and the role he played within the Bush/Rove clique that ultimately acheived ultimate power in our republic. Nick-named "Fredo", his similarities to the pathetically weak son from the Godfather saga is illuminating. Fredo, in the Bush drama, appears to have been a lackey doing the bidding of Bush, Rove and Cheney. If anyone doubts that illegal wire-tapping and the rejection of the Geneva accords came from the top in this administration, take a look at Gonzoles and the role he has played over time with this group and you get a sense that his job, was to come up with a legal justification for things that were inherently un-American and to bring more power to the Executive Branch.

As the Bush Presidency winds down, I am amazed that our Republic still stands, weakened though it is with it's diminished core values. Gonzales may resign, but keep in mind, that he was nothing more than consigliery to a corrupt crime family that weakened our Republic in ways that will be discussed by historians for centuries.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reagbushonomics Essay 3- The Fallacy of the Laffer Curve

Deficits must be paid for one way or another. Some third world countries have the bad habit of simply printing more money, creating inflation. However, debtor nations have wisened up to that tactic and loan in dollars or a more stable currency and require payment back into that currency. The U.S. dollar has for many years been a primary international currency that funds nation-states.

In the United States, the way deficits are handled is to finance them through U.S. treasury bonds and other government issued investment vehicles. This method of finance in fact dismantles the logical fallacy that is the laffer curve. The laffer curve is at the center of the basic philosophy of what Reagan was hoping to accomplish. By lowering taxes, especially taxes in higher income brackets where there is a high degree of investment vrs consumption, the assumption was that there would be an influx of capital into the marketplace, fueling growth that would bring down unemployment and increase tax revenues. However, when you look at the basic calculation behind this logic, it doesn’t make sense.

Let’s say on average, the income tax reduction went to 40% investment and 60% consumption. So for every $10 dollars of income tax relief, $4 went into the capital markets. However, for every dollar of deficit you run up, 100% of that money comes from the capital markets, resulting in a net decrease of $6 from the capital markets. The results of this was a predicament during the Reagan administration, that real interest rates (interest rates less the inflation rate) actually increased. When real interest rates are high, it has a negative affect on the net present value of all future returns on investments ROI. It also requires business to shy away from long-term investments in favor of short term.

The results in the 1980 capital markets was a foregone conclusion. Welcome to the era of junkbonds, and leveraged buyouts. A focus on existing assets rather than investment in future assets hurt the economy of the Reagan years and that lack of investment in plant and material in many industries resulted in a serious decline in the manufacturing sector in the United States and a significant realignment and displacement of the U.S. economy. Luckily for the U.S., we were bailed out by a technological revolution and the creation of many new products. However, the manufacture of U.S. created products began in the Reagan years, and continues today, to be overseas. The day of the good paying manufacturing job was virtually at an end, compliments of “Voodoo Economics.”

In the next essay, I will address some other by-products of Reagbushonomics and how it impacted income distribution in the U.S. and address the unintended Keynesian aspects of Reagbushonomics.

The Troubling Question of Fundamentalist Islam

Admittedly, I am a critic of all religious thinking. The more I’ve learned, the less plausible all religious belief systems appear to me. Maybe my brain is hard-wired for skepticism or perhaps there is some evil satanic force that keeps me from hearing that still small voice, but I don’t think so. However, as I’ve read about religious traditions and practices, I will say that some religions are not as bad as others. This isn’t meant to sound bigoted. I still may regard good people who belong to an especially bad religion with as much respect and love as someone from a more benign one.

However, I’ve come to be very concerned about the worldwide impact of fundamentalist Islam. I’ve always had this concern, but the events of the last decade or so has left me shaking my head wondering how on earth can a civilized world survive the onslaught of this religion. Let me give you a pertinent example. I Obi wan liberali, having been born of Mormon parents and having been born into the covenant, have never the less become an apostate. How do Mormons treat apostates? Generally, ostracism is the norm, sometimes rumors are spread regarding the reasons for the apostasy, usually discussion of possible moral failings of the apostate in question that caused them to “lose the spirit.” Some experience a loss of business, loss of social contacts, loss of friends, associates, even family members may disown them. Life can be hard on an apostate. I think that is why many doubters in Mormonism keep those doubts to themselves, because of the consequences of openly stating your disbelief.

As harsh as that may seem, contrast that with apostasy from Islam. The Koran is very clear what is to happen to apostates. They are to be killed immediately. Not only are they to be killed, but whom-ever might be accused of leading them astray is to be executed as well. Islam has been better to Christians and Jews than it has been to perceived apostates. Jews for example lived in lands controlled by Islamic empires, first under the Arabs and then the Turks. Christian populations also managed to live in Muslim dominated lands, notwithstanding that they faced an apartheid that could be rather severe. Because Christians and Jews believe in some of the same scriptures as Moslems, they were treated better than those who followed idolatrous religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

Now, I don’t just view a religion on the basis of how they treat apostates, I also want to see if there are those whom are persecuted or marginalized and how discipline is meted out against those who don’t follow the letter of the law. Islam in this regard tends to be extremely harsh in it’s treatment of women, homosexuals, and common every day criminals. There is a primitive ruthlessness that makes me wonder how Islam can make it in a civilized society.

Ultimately, that is the question. Can fundamentalist Islam survive in a civilized society, or can a civilized society survive fundamentalist Islam? I’m still looking for answers to this question. Seeking those answers has led me to read books on middle eastern and Islamic history that I never would have read before, and I’m still reading. Can Islam shake off fundamentalism and embrace any sort of compromise with modernity and the values of the European Enlightenment?

We entered into war in Iraq under the assumption that our values have a universal appeal and that Iraqis, once liberated from tyranny, would embrace those values. I have had my doubts all along about those prospects in addition to questioning the wisdom of invading a country on the basis of what they might do to us in the future. But as we sit here in 2007, quickly approaching 2008, the fate of our enterprise is less in our hands as Americans, than it is in the hands of Iraqis. Will Iraqis be able to live together in peaceful coexistence or even as reasonably amicable neighbors? My search for answers has led me to believe that anyone very sure of themselves on this issue must know somethings I've apparently missed, or they are in serious denial.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Reagbushonomics Essay 2: Spending, the Other Half of the Equation

This part in the series will focus on the fiscal policy of the Reagan administration, his priorities and it’s impact upon deficits and the national debt. Ronald Reagan put a great deal of weight into the idea that a major tax cut was necessary. Successfully selling that idea upon a skeptical Democrat-controlled Congress was not easy, but it was passed never the less.

The other half of the equation that got lost was the need to decrease spending at the same time. Reagan’s budget director David Stockman slashed away at certain departmental budgets. However, at the same time that Stockman was proposing massive cuts to certain budgets, he was confronted with another reality. Reagan had been critical of his predecessor in allowing the U.S. military to become weakened and vulnerable during Carter’s administration. Notwithstanding Carter’s development of the Trident Sub program and his failed attempt at his original proposal for an MX Missile system (mobile missiles), conservative think-tanks, many funded by arms manufacturers, had worked on selling the public on the idea that the U.S. was militarily weak relative to the Soviet Union. The result was a massive increase in military spending during the Reagan years. Military spending grew during the 1980’s from $136 billion in 1980 to $282 billion in 1987.

Reagan also was reluctant to do anything with social security or medicare, both large components of the budget. The results were quite predictable. The budget deficits that were so alarming during the Carter administration were exceeded greatly and were now approaching $200 billion by 1983, this during a period of relatively high interest rates. These deficits needed to be funded by the Government issuing bonds, bonds at dangerously high interest rates. As a result, interest expense would increase as a part of the federal budget every year. From 1980 to 1984, interest expense would nearly double going from $64 billion in 1980 to $111 billion in 1984. By 1987, interest expense would be $138 billion.

By the end of the Reagan administration, the national debt as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) had gone from 26.8% to 43.2%. The impacts these deficits upon capital markets and upon the distribution of wealth in the United States will be the subject of Essay 3 of this series.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Reagbushonomics Essay 1

This post is intended to be a first in a series of posts that deal with the economic viability of Reaganomics and it’s 21st century variant, Bushonomics. This first essay will talk a little about definitions and touch on the history behind these economic policies as they’ve been proposed and passed into law.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency and proposed a dramatic shift in the role and size of the federal government. Assuming the presidency during a time of double digit inflation and interest rates, there were also deep-seeded economic rumblings that were occurring in major industries in the United States such as steel, automobiles, and other heavy industries that were capital intensive and burdened with large numbers of relatively well paid working class jobs.

Reagan’s first and foremost objective was to lower taxes. Most of the tax cuts were earmarked for the wealthy. There is no doubt, that marginal rates had become out of control in the higher income brackets. If I remember right, the highest marginal rates were around 80%. The results were, extensive and pervasive tax avoidance strategies among those in the higher brackets. The result of such a high bracket could also be seen as federal redirection of resources. With such high marginal rates, investment and consumption decisions were being based more and more on their tax impacts rather than the NPV (net present value) of expected returns on investments.

Even so, any proposal for a tax cut faced a daunting reality. The last year of the Carter administration, the federal budget deficit increased to $57 billion, at the time a most alarming amount. Republican economists argued that this deficit was driving down the value of the dollar and helping to fuel the inflationary pressures that ultimately did in the Carter administration.

How to resolve that problem came to the heart of an ongoing debate regarding the impacts of tax policy on economic growth. Reagan’s argument was that a dramatic decrease in the tax rate, especially for those in higher tax brackets, would fuel economic growth that would actually raise income tax revenues and bring down the deficits the U.S. experienced during the Carter years. This assumption was derived by Arthur Laffer, and was articulated in what came to be known as the “Laffer Curve.” Ironically, while making this claim during the Republican party’s presidential nominating process, Reagan’s opponent, George H.W. Bush, referred to this philosophy as “voodoo economic.” The second essay in this series will talk about the impacts of the Reagan tax cuts and whether those assumptions panned out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

An Old But True Confession

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then -- just to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.
I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.
I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't help myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau, Muir, Confucius and Kafka. I would return to the office dazed and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"
One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."

This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.

"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors. They didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra , a poster caught my eye, "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked.

You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster.
This is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.
Today I took the final step... I joined the Republican Party.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Chicken-Hawk Debate- my thoughts

My fellow liberals have been effectively using the “chicken hawk” label on those Republicans who support the war in Iraq but whose own personal contribution to that war effort has been relatively non-existent. In the movie Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore made some pretty good hay out of that alfalfa and it is interesting looking at the various military records (or lack thereof) of most Presidential candidates. Is it fair to take into account the lack of a military record when it comes to president? The last president to fight in a war was George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton’s lack of a military service was a source of great contention during his presidency and George W. Bush’s questionable commitment to his military service surfaced in his campaigns for office.

On the Republican side this time around, there is of course John McCain. Without a doubt, McCain served his country honorably. It is interesting that his views on the use of torture diverge from his fellow Republican candidates who never were in harm’s way. Perhaps he realizes that when we justify torture of prisoners, we no longer have the moral high ground to insist others refrain from it. This puts our own soldiers at greater peril.

Particular interest in the chicken hawk debate concerns Utahns and their relative contribution to the war effort. Individually, there have been many who have sacrificed greatly in the Iraqi war. However, collectively Utahns have not made as big of a contribution per capital as the people of most other states. Does this fact influence Utah’s continued support for the war effort? This could be viewed from several directions? Certainly, there may be many Utahns who support the war but have no one close to them risking their lives in this enterprise. However, among those who do have someone close to them engaged in this effort, I’ve noticed a greater likelihood that they would support the war. People support those things for which they’ve made a sacrifice. Often times it is harder to concede that those contributions are in fact, “sunk costs.”

I admit that I often play “devil’s advocate” with my fellow Utahns when they shout the praises of the Bush Administration and the wars the administration have engaged us in. Admittedly, I mostly talk to friends and relatives whose kids aren’t joining the military but are opting for religious service and college. None of my own nephews or nieces have considered the military an option nor have most of their friends. I’ve needled people whose commitments to the war seems to be mere lip service and flag waving. Is the fact that Utah stands as the Bush Administration’s last bastion of support due to risking less in Bush’s wars? I haven’t made my mind up yet on this question. However, if we are going to continue on in this war, I have some proposals that I think should be considered.

1- A draft without deferments for college or religious service
2- Expand the military so the war on terror doesn’t leave us vulnerable on other fronts
3- Refine the training in the military and create more units that specialize in counter-insurgency tactics
4- Raise taxes to pay for re-armament, improved military pay and benefits and a more realistic commitment to reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.
5- Re-commit to the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding torture

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)

The release of the newest National Intelligent Estimate (NIE) by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) articulates what most think tanks had already concluded, that U.S. invasions of Afganistan and Iraq have not had the desired effects of constraining and marginalizing Al Qaeda. The NIE indicates that Al Qaeda has grown both in numbers and in the proficiency of their tactics. Particularly, the invasion of Iraq has mobilized the muslim world and the radical elements within that broad community has grown significantly.

To a great extent, this is disheartening news. Despite the billions spent, the thousands of lives lost, the basic freedoms surrendered, and the dividing of an already divided country, we are probably less safe today than we were when the towers fell.

For the record, I supported the decision to go into Afganistan. However, I opposed the decision to invade Iraq. However, I have also opposed timetables for withdrawal, which is something I believe emboldens the insurgents in Iraq. However, I understand the angst felt among Democrats, who re-took the House and Senate on the basis of the public demanding a new direction in Iraq. The frustrating thing about this war is that the President was given political cover from the "Iraq Study Group" to take a different, more diplomatic approach to the issues in the middle east. However, the surge idea seems to be too little and probably too late to resolve the problems in Iraq.

I believe that the United States and her allies had a window of opportunity after the capture of Bagdad that was ultimately botched by an administration that seemed incapable of reconstructing Iraq and providing the manpower and infrastructure to pull off the successful building of a workable coalition government in Iraq. The day is fast approaching when we will need to consider Iraq a sunk cost. Unfortunately, the damage this will do to the credibility of the United States will be considerable, as will the risks of wider conflicts erupting in the middle east, putting at risk the oil supplies our nation is dependent upon.

Whomever takes up residence in the White House in January of 2009, will have their hands full with some of the most complicated foreign policy challenges our nation has faced in a long time. We'd better choose wisely.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why the Firing of U.S. Attorneys is Disconcerting

Whenever the story of the firing of several U.S. Attorneys by the Bush Administration comes up, Republican apologists always point out that Clinton fired all of the U.S. Attorneys when he took office. Well, that is true, as it is with all new administrations. However when re-elected in 1996, Clinton retained the U.S. Attorneys as has been tradition for past two term U.S. Presidents. Most Presidents have had an understanding of the importance of giving U.S. Attorneys a great deal of prerogative on prosecutorial issues. The reason behind this is to maintain public support for the impartiality of the legal system. If political considerations get in the way of the decision to investigate and/or prosecute, public trust will suffer.

Enter the George W. Bush administration. What is disconcerting about this President is the fact that so many decisions he makes are based upon political considerations. When U.S. Attorneys are fired for “performance” issues and the definition of “performance” is whether the U.S. Attorneys are willing to take direction from the Attorney General and the President’s key advisors on where to focus their attention, and where not to, all Americans should be concerned. Should a U.S. Attorney worry about prosecuting key Republican politicians in this environment? Would lengthy public investigations and prosecutions of Democrats be a means by which a U.S. Attorney gains job security?

Whether it is a Democratic or Republican administration, I believe that the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorneys should do their jobs based upon proper administration of the law, not based upon partisan political considerations. George W. Bush appears to have a different interpretation of their proper role. Americans of all stripes should insist that the truth come out on what considerations resulted in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. Bush’s use of “executive privilege” lends credibility to the impression that Bush has something to hide and has not understood the importance of having independent prosecutorial arm in the federal government.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Does A President's Religion Matter?

As the furor over Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has ramped up, I’ve tried to give some thoughts to what extent religion could or should matter in a race for president of the United States. To some extent, my answer at this point has been a diplomatic one, asserting that “no it shouldn’t.” However, the more I thought about this position, the more I’ve drifted to the position of most economists: “it depends.”

Personally, I’ve voted for tons of Mormons here in Utah. Usually, my choice has been between a Mormon Democrat and a Mormon Republican. I generally have voted for the Democrat, but I’ve also crossed party lines, particularly in local races, where ideology often is and should be trumped by managerial competence.

So, under what circumstances would religion matter? I’ll start with some extreme examples. Say an American Islamic Mullah decides to run for President with his platform of abolishing the constitution, instituting Islamic law and forcefully converting all non-believers to Islam. I can honestly say that I would not support this person for President, nor any other office in government. It isn’t his religion that I am opposed to, it is his application of his religion to his political world view.

Would I vote for a Christian for President? Probably. However, if a candidate is such a strong believer in his interpretation of Christianity that he/she wants to impose his views on the rest of the country, then I have issues with this candidate. There are certainly Bible thumping Christians out there to vote for, but not all of them are willing to amend our laws to comply with the dictates of the Book of Leviticus where the stoning of adulterous women is sanctioned.

Again, what matters is their application of their beliefs and what it would mean from a policy perspective for the citizens of our country. For those Mormons who crawl on their cross with little provocation when Mitt’s religion is brought up, I usually ask them “would you vote for an atheist for president?” They usually concede that “no they wouldn’t.” What I ask of Mormons regarding Mitt, is to not vote for Mitt because he is a Mormon, but because they can truly articulate why he is the best candidate, regardless of religious considerations. Also, if you bristle up at the thought of people dismissing Mitt because of his religion, you should be equally bristled up at yourself discounting someone from consideration because they don’t believe in God.

In my opinion, what we should focus on in evaluating candidates is what are their policy objectives and how they align with our own objectives for our country. We should also evaluate what indications they give that they have the political savvy to accomplish those objectives as far as garnering support from the legislative branch. You also want someone who isn’t easily led or influenced by others. I want a President with a skeptical mind, willing to ask the hard, yet important questions of subordinates that give our Republic the best chance of operating effectively. Religion may influence some of the things I just mentioned, but they may not.

We as citizens who go to the ballot box have a responsibility to be informed and make our decisions on who to vote for on a sound and rational basis. Does religion of the candidate matter? It may, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Introduction and Objectives of this Blog

This is my first post for a blog designed specifically to talk about politics in Utah. Some national and world issues may creep into the discussion, but it is my intent to keep things as local as possible. Utah is a unique state with a significant conservative slant in the populace and the people they elect. My own politics will noticeably be left of center by Utah standards. But I believe Utah needs an alternative voice in this wilderness of unfettered conservative hegemony.

My goal is to be provocative, yet respectful. If the political landscape is to change in Utah, more people must be persuaded away from ideologies that so many people accept out of mere tradition and expectation. At times, the underlying assumptions that drive many Utahns to the positions they hold will be brought under scrutiny on this blog. The intent is not to attack people, but to challenge their beliefs and the paradigms that led to them.

It is also the intent of this blog for me to get appropriate feedback. If my ideas cannot withstand the bright lights of discourse, then they need to be reconsidered. My father once told me "if you are that sure of yourself, you might want to reconsider." Politics subject the human mind to competing interests and competing priorities. As a result, most issues are rarely black or white, but every shade of gray. Recognizing this reality, the goal of my writing is always to articulate what I understand, change it as I digest more information, and try to reach correct conclusions based upon the weight of the evidence.