Friday, November 28, 2008

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

Being ungrateful to those who have benefitted you is to me one of the greatest inujustices you can engage in as an individual. As an atheist, I don't atrtibute bad things, nor good things to this supernatural hand. But I do recognize that my life has been positively benefitted by many individuals. Gratitude for those individuals should not be a once a year thing, but since it is Thanksgiving (or atleast it was a half hour ago), I feel I should say something about those who have benefitted me during the year.

First of all, I am grateful to be employed. In our current economic environment, being unemployed does not sound like a place I want to be. I'm glad that my employers have looked at my job performance and found me worthy of further service and compensation.

Second, I deeply appreciate my family. I have three wonderful daughters and a wife who is educated and informed. Both my wife and myself have masters degrees and I am grateful for the standard it sets for my daughters. I value education and I wish my daughters to also value it.

Third, I appreciate my country, for rejecting the fear and supernaturalism of the Republican message espoused be John McCain. I also am grateful for the rational, evidence/competence based paradigm our future President espouses.

Fourth, I appreciate those who serve in our military, who have been put in a very difficult situation, fighting a war in mesopotamia that we never should have fought.

Fifth, I appreciate all those who have defended our country in the past. From my ancestor Samuel Boynton who fought the British at Lexington and Concord, to the 2nd Maine at Little Round Top, to the Marines who stormed Fallujah in the second battle for the city, I honor those who have fought and died for our country and express gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

Sixth, I also express gratitude for the many religiously devout members of my old ward who invested their time and energy to make me a better person. Though I have rejected their faith-based beliefs, I have never disavowed the scope of their positive influence upon my life.

Seventh, I express gratitude for the freedom I have to express my opinions, whether they are popular or not. And I appreciate all those who have challenged what I have written for it has made me think better. One of the great diffences between the religious paradigm and the scientific one, is that challenging the status quo in one realm is heresy, while in the other realm, it is an essential part of the dynamic.

Eighth, I appreciate the fact that I am so spoiled with physical comforts and time to think, that I am granted the ability to pontificate upon the ideas that I hold dear.

Ninth, I appreciate that I still have a mind to engage in worthwhile dialogue. My mother died far too early from the effects of alzheimers. It yet still may get me, depending on how the genes and environment things work out. But given her fate, I value every year where I am capable of meaningful dialogue.

Tenth- I value everything I've learned that makes my life interesting and meaningful. Whether it is geologic information that makes rock formations come to life, or biological insights that unite me as a member of a great and diverse family of animals, plants, microbes and other organisms, I appreciate all I've been able to learn and how it has given me perspective.

And to those who occasionally read my blog, I am thankful for you. Your insights and wisdom have been invaluable, even when you have been wrong.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dealing With Bush's Misdeeds

One of my basic concerns, is that the Obama adminstration will engage this subject through the prism of political pragmatism, rather than a sincere belief in the rule of law. The Bush administration has thumbed it's nose at some of the most basic American principles regarding torture, habeas corpus, wiretaps, you name it. Also, this President and his henchmen have solicited legal opinions from their legal counsel from both within their administration as well as the supposedly objective Justice Department that have eviscerated our nation's most basic freedoms.

Personally, I believe David Addington is a man so worthless that he should be spending his golden years cleaning trash along the stretch between Wendover and Lakepoint. John Yoo should be stripped of any licensure with the Bar and should spend the rest of his days making license plates somewhere appropriate. These men prostituted themselves to the worst abuses of executive power and they did so willingly. These men in their own ways are war criminals for their justification for acts that our founders would have shuddered from. These guys are the tip of the iceberg. (Suggested reading, "The Dark Side" by Jane Mayer)

We as a country have lost so much standing to the rest of the world, that it is essential that those responsible, including the decider, moron in cheif, be held accountable for their unlawful acts. To do otherwise is to say that the enforcement of our laws is dependent upon who breaks them. It says that the ideals we have tried to import don't apply to those who would import them. It leaves us with no moral authority in the world.

On the basis of the precedents set by the Nuremberg trials, George W. Bush, Richard Cheney and his legal counsels, including Alberto Gonzalez, David Addington, and John Yoo are in fact war criminals. Will the world consider us hypocrites if we don't treat them as such? I think they should. They may be satisfied with the fact that we've changed course, but ultimately, our message to the world should be that "no one is above the law", not even the President. When a President picks and chooses which laws he will enforce, and subjugates those laws to his own perogative, George W. Bush is not only an incompetent President, but a criminal who abused the power of his position to subvert the law and redefine it in his own terms. And his doing this has created a great constitutional challenge to to our laws. Can the President do this with impugnity?

Admittedly, I have total disregard for George W. Bush. I think he offered the greatest challenge to constitutional government our nation has faced. Any Senate and Congress that understood their role within our constitutional framework would have impeached him and sent a clear message that ultimately, we are governed by laws, not people.

But now, the question is, whether we just move on and consider the Bush experience as an abberation to be buried, or a precedent to be undone through the legitimate legal framework our founders envisioned. As an attorney, I sincerely hope that Barack Obama understands the depth and breadth of what is at stake, and prosecutes those who violated our laws. If he fails to do so, on what basis do we imprison petty thiefs who break into our cars to feed their families, while those who deliberately urinate on our constitution go scott free willingly accepting fellowships at the "American Enterprise Institution."

This may sound strident and shrill to certain ears, but when you get pulled over and ticketed on a technicality, don't cry to me. The laws that apply to you, are only for you and me, not those who work in behalf of the highest levels of the executive branch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Red/Blue Schizofrenia

Ok, I live in a red state but vote decidedly blue. I graduated from a red school and wear red atheistically and would never be caught wearing a blue shirt unless it was a dress shirt or pants. So I wrote this poem in hopes everyone will know where I stand.

The Red and the Blue

I vote for blue and root for red,
I’m sure I will until I’m dead,
A moderate liberal is my creed,
A Utah Man it’s red I bleed,

I take on those who offer myths,
I think of cougar fans as stiffs,
No honor code I drink merlot,
Just like some cougar fans I know,

I hang with people zoobies scorn,
Like liberals, gays and lowly born,
Admit I must I still break bread,
With those in blue instead of red,

My mother, brother, sister too,
Attended school, that school of blue,
And even some have voted red,
Didn’t they hear a word I’ve said?,

And love them still though pity most,
These folk I love amidst such a host,
Long-suffering often's been my fate,
Voting blue in this red state,

But lift my chin cause who’d a guessed,
An Obama win and the BCS,
Have made it spring in this dreary fall,
Destroying the Y- THAT SAYS IT ALL

Congratulations Utes and Obama
You’ve made my year

Utah 48 BYU 24
Obama 365 McCain 173

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Reagan Paradigm Shattered to Pieces

"Government isn't the solution, government is the problem." That was the message Ronald Reaqan gave us, and his followers for three decades have pushed de-regulation and allowing as much freedom as possible in the private sector. And the results? Like an intersection without stop signs or stop lights, we've found ourselves with our critical intersections full of crushed cars, frantic paramedics and economic gridlock resulting from this series of disasters.

And where do the incompetent business people, who for years have decried government intervention into their realm, look for help? The government! OUR GOVERNMENT! Financial institutions make decisions that assume one possible scenario where they can be profitable. When that scenario doesn't pan out, is it the government's responsibility to bail them out? I am on the record as saying no. The candidate I supported, along with his opponent acquiesced and said it was ok to bail them out because the scope of the influence of these incompetents was too sevier to let them go down in flames. I'm swallowing my basic instincts and saying ok, I don't want my opposition to be responsible for our economy go from severely bad, to catastrophic.

Now, enter the people whose incompetence makes AIG executives look like Nobel Laureates. AUTO INDUSTRY EXECS. These first class, high paid, corrupt, incomparably incompetent dufuses now want the government to bail them out because they were dumber than a screen door in a submarine. That evil government, that has prodded the unwilling to save lives with seatbelts, airbags and some basic concerns for fuel efficiency, are now going to be asked to bail them out because government was right about what they should have provided, and because they didn't provide it, they are now bordering and chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Reagan where is thy wisdom, when government is more inspired than the private sector? Why is it that your favored class now comes to those evil bureaucrats seeking favors without condition? Should we impose true market conditions upon you? Or will you just blame the UAW for your faults? Oh yeah, their the guys. For the record, let's compare your salaries/benefits/stock options to those execs who work for Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, etc. Let's truly examine where the disparity exists.

My father, as a patriotic American made a good faith effort through the eighties and nineties to buy American. However, he got really tired of having to buy new transmissions every other year, or have to have fuel pumps fail every 18 months. Getting stranded in Montana in January finally sealed the deal. He's been driving Toyotas ever since.

What sealed the deal for me was when my mother called me at her work because she couldn't figure out how to change a flat tire on her Chevy Suburban. The jack they had assigned to her vehicle would only fit under her vehicle when the tires where inflated. So I took my Toyota Celica jack and raised the suburban high enough to get the suburban jack underneath the vehicle enough so I could change her tire. The carelessness and incompetence of GM made an unmistakable impact upon me regarding the thinking of those who worked in Detroit. Do I want to bail out these idiots? Not until they can demonstrate to me that they deserve to be bailed out. Nothing I have read from Consumer Reports has indicated that they deserve our consideration.

The failures of the auto industry and the financial industry are complex with multiple variables. But government was not the major factor in their failures. Unmitigated capitalism was the failure. This isn't about ideology, but a manifesto for economic realism. The failures of corporate governance as well as government oversight are well documented. But the answer is not to further remove governmental controls, but to make them more rational and meaningful.

The paradigm that set my generation upon a negative view of government accentuated by Reagan, was fatally flawed. Reagan was no prophet in fact he was a false prophet. He was a radical ideologue who had no real understanding of economics. Where we are now, is a repudiation of his shattered legacy. When a liberal like me is a lone individual concerned about government taking equity interests in financial institutions, I can only conclude that conservatism is philosophically incoherent, inconsistent, and ultimately irrelevant.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thoughts on Bi-Partisanship

Admittedly, I have mixed emotions on Barack Obama's tendency to invite Repubblicans into his administration, looking for the best and brightest, emulating both Kennedy and Lincoln in certain aspects of his proposed administration.

It is true, that we want people who are qualified for their jobs who have the expertise necessary to succeed in the objectives that I hope President Obama clearly articulates to his cabinet. Admittedly, many people who worked within both the Bush and Clinton administrations found themselves under different regimes with different guidance. I can relate to that. I also spent my time working in government, and was required to take, and defend actions, that I did not necessarily agree with. That comes with government service. I am hopeful that those who serve President Obama, regardless what misteps they may have been required to defend in the Bush Administration see the light and take a new, and more moral course regarding rights under our constititution.

Chief among these is John Brennan, someone whom I perceive is well-meaning and highly intelligent, who has defended some of Bush's worst offenses. He is now Obama's primary intelligence source. Is this man flawless? Absolutely not. Check out Glenn Greenwald's expose on him at

The question is, is can those who supported the worst of Bush use their experience and skills to acheive Obama's goals and objectives and turn away from the practices of what I would consider to be the worst administration in American history.

Also, consider the possibility of keeping on for a time, Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Admittedly, I endorsed his taking over DOD from Rumsfeld. I have always viewed Gates as a pragmatist and a realist. I am not peacenik, and have always rendered my scorn at Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld for their lack of realism. Pursuing American interests is not the same as unilaterally pissing off our allies to make a statement. Bush and his cadre were hotheads, morons and nincompoops. They misused our military, but having made commitments in Iraq and Afganistan, I was willing to give administrators a certain degree of latitude so long as they gave me evidence they were worthy of that latitude.

I know I sound like I am rambling. There is a part of me that wants to clean house. However, there is a part of me that understands that our President needs fulfill his role as a uniter. Obama has a unique mandate to bring disparate views to government and make decisions based upon serious dialogue rather than strict adherence to an incoherent and inconsistent ideology that was espoused by the neocons.

I'm willing to give Obama a couple of years to see what he will do with his administration. I actually am encouraged that he is willing to put people with disparate opinions in that adminstration of his. So long as he articulates to subordinates that once the decision has been made, they must support and implement those decisions, I'm willing to give him enough rope to either pull us out of the shithole Bush has placed us in, or wrap it around our necks.

But, unlike most Republicans, if I perceive our necks are being constricted, I will speak out. I'm giving a degree of perogative, not a blank check. Most Republicans gave Bush a blank check for essentially six years, with disastorous consequences for our Republic. The Democrats that I believe in believe that government can be effective, if it is rational, transparent, and open to new ideas. Reagan was wrong when he declared that "government is the problem." "Bad government is the problem." Republicans have proven the latter dictum. Bush's incompetent administration of government doesn't mean that government is inherently ineffective, only that government dominated by those who disdain government action usually make governmental actiion in our behalf worthy of disdain.

****Corrected per a good suggestion from David Miller

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Thoughts

Every Veteran's Day, I make it a point at some point to watch "Saving Private Ryan." For some reason to me, the end of the movie, with an elderly James Francis Ryan looking over the grave of Captain Miller, who died trying to preserve Private Ryan's is very moving, as is Captain Miller's last words to Private Ryan, "earn this."

There seems some universality to this message that is hard to lose sight of, and that is that Private Ryan represents all of us Americans. We should seek to earn what our brave soldiers have provided for us by being the best citizens possible. What entails being a good citizen? I suppose alot of things. One thing I don't believe being a good citizen, is being a rubber stamp for any ideology or party. I believe the least we can do, despite our busy schedules is to take seriously our role as the "deciders" when it comes to elections. It means, we have no excuse not to know who our elected officials are and what they are doing. Is it easy? Heck no. But it is a heck of alot easier than dislodging the Wehrmacht's 352nd Division from their stout defences on Omaha beach.

Part of being a good citizen is understanding basic civics and American history. I think a real appreciation for our country, warts and all, comes from understanding where we have been, what mistakes we have made, and what progress we have made correcting those mistakes. When we say we are proud to be an American, there should be some tangible, authentic reason for that pride, not base tribal and national identity like we are just as likely to have to our alma mater's football team.

Part of being a good citizen also entails having the tolerance to find good in imperfect Americans, but the courage to challenge imperfect ideas that may have wide followings among Americans. Courage also applies to a willingness on our part to discard our own ideas when careful scrutiny shows their fatal flaws.

Being a good citizen also entails a sincere attempt at being law abiding. I'm not implying that anyone who has broken the law, from jaywalking through more serious offences cannot be a good citizen. All of us our flawed, but a desire to be law abiding, being honest with our taxes, and helpful to our fellow Americans is something we all should aspire to do.

Now, let me touch the sensitive subject of military service. Admittedly, I come from a long line of civilians, my grandfather barely missing out on World War I, my father barely missing Korea, and I being too young for Vietnam. I have to go back to the American Revolution where my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather Samuel Boynton fought the British to find a direct ancestor. (Of interest, an even farther back ancestor, Edmund Beaufort, was blamed for the loss of the hundred years war in the 1400's). But I've toyed with the idea of some sort of mandatory military or civilian service. One reason for this, has been a propensity of individuals with no personal stake in a war, seeming to promulgate such wars. Most of my close relatives openly supported the Iraq war, but their sons and daughters served LDS missions, not our overstretched military. I like President Obama's idea of providing education assistance for public service.

A few years ago, while visiting the Gettysburgh battlefield, I remember looking down from Little Round Top to the Devil's Den (See picture at top of this blog) and was moved at what transpired there. General Sickles blundered by sending his Corp into a vulnerable salient, that ultimately, and accidentally saved the day on Gettysburgh's second day of battle. The bloody fighting in that salient gave just enough time for other troops to arrive at the spot I was standing upon at Little Round Top and prevent the Confederates from turning the Union left flank. After the battle, Sickle's old Corp., was so battered and weakened, it had to be merged with another corp. The troops in Sickle's corp didn't ask to go into that vulnerable salient and ultimately lose the bulk of their comrades in arms. But they did their duty. Some times we disagree with the decisions made as far as whether to go into battle, or whether the battle should have been fought the way it was. But in the end, we should never lose sight of the sacrifices of the men and women who did their best, regardless of the circumstances.

To the Veterans out there, I salute you all and say thank you. For those who have lost loved ones serving our country, a thank you sounds inadequate. What I can offer you and the loved ones you lost, is my most sincere attempts at being a good citizen who has earned their sacrifice. I may never get there because your loss is too heavy and my own faults too many. But in the end, that is all any of us non-Veteran citizens have to offer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rachel Maddow, One Formidable Talking Head

After watching nearly a decade where the talking heads that dominated our news were people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, along came the liberal answer. Rachel Maddow and Keith Obermann represent formidable answers to the neocon talking points. And their ratings have consistengly increased relative to the Fox News propagandists. Now admittedly, you could argue that Maddow and Olbermann are mere propagandists. However, I find it interesting that both welcome conservative viewpoints. Rachel Maddow's relationship with Pat Buchanon is particularly interesting. But you have to admit, openning up your dialogue to the man who talked openly about the cultural war our nation faced is quite compelling.

Admittedly, I like both of them, but maybe it is because they reinforce things I have been thinking for years. But Maddow in particular seems especially formidable. The "bull shit detection kit" advocated by the venerable Carl Sagan seems to be firmly within her arsenal. And though she uses satire and a touch of sarcasm to make her point, the point is well-spoken and hard to argue with.

There was a day in this country, when liberal voices were muted and isolated. That day is past. The Comedy Central team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, added to the formidable two-some of Olbermann and Maddow on MSNBC makes a liberal viewpoint available to the general public. And if their viewpoints are questionable, go ahead and question. They seem open to the challenge. Do you really think Hannity's and Limbaugh's screeners will allow a liberal viewpoint past them?

I think not.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Nightmare is Over and I See A Vision of Hope

I woke up today with a fright. Somehow, McCain would win, and this election would represent American retrenchment and pessimism. But ultimately, our nation opted for hope, and a sense we still can as a country right the ship. And as I write this, with tears in my eyes that I am incapable of suppressing, I think, what a message we as a nation we sent to the people of the world, that we truly are a United States of America. That a bi-racial fellow with African DNA coursing through his bloodstream, should ascend to the highest office in a nation that once enslaved someone with his level of melanin, shows just how far we have come as a country.

This is a great moment in American history, one that historians 100 years from now will reference with great import. We have been witnesses to this historic moment. We are fortunate to be here at this time, where the greatness of our ideologies aligned with the with our nation's realities. To see white men, white women and minorities all give a plurality to Obama. This is monumental, and though Utah voted for McCain, I stand proud of my two Obama bumperstickers, and the middle fingers I've endured.

One thing I'd like to say about John McCain. The gracious statesman that was John McCain reappeared tonight in his concession speech. The call for unity and support showed McCain as he is, not as what his political consultants wanted him to be. The Rovian disunity campaign showed the ugly underbelly of neocon malice, but it undermined McCain and he stands as a tragic figure, embracing those who destroyed him, to gain the power that eluded him before. I hope McCain will regain his bearings and continue to contribute to our body politic in meaningful ways.

As the dark clouds of our recent cold front descended upon our valleys, I recalled vividly the dark clouds of the paat eight years. I nervously watched the results come in, but in the end, with tears in my eyes, I feel a sense of hope, optimism, and pride in our great nation.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Cross-roads Defining Who We Are

This election truly is a cross-roads. Americans seem to sense it, and I believe that the number of people who vote will be off the charts from what we saw in 2004. One candidate speaks of hope, and opportunity. One candidate talks about fear and guilt by association. One candidate seems to be able to articulate specifics, one rhetoric atleast two decades old. One candidate calls upon Americans to stand up, one calls upon us to retrench to failed philosophies that have led us into the abyss we are in.

I wrote a personal essay after the 1994 election, where I stated, "America hungers for a positive voice, a hopeful voice, and we somehow failed to give it in 94, but what is troubling, is the extent to which Republicans won on such a negative voice." That negative voice dominated our discourse for over a decade, and even created it's own propaganda ministry to further it. It took prolonged warfare, economic collapse, and a new type of Democratic leader to awaken Americans out of the dark, regressive slumber of conservatism.

Barack Obama tries to let conservatives off the hook by going after Bush and his neocon chronies, but never attacking Republicans as a group. I understand the wisdom of doing that if you are to govern effectively as President. But as someone who will not be governing, I'm willing to throw a few grenades into the Republican mindset, and emphatically state, that the problems we have today were your making, not mine. I keep hearing Republicans talk about the need for accountability and personal responsibility, but it was you who gave this incompetent President a blank check, not me. I doubted the wisdom of the Bush doctrine of attacking a country on the basis of what they might do to us in the future. You did not. When I expressed those concerns, my patriotism was questioned by many of you. My love of country was dependent upon slavish agreement with bad policies that you supported blindly.

Ok, enough of my rant. This election will tell us whether we as a nation look forward to address our challenges or look backward to scapegoats. Barack Obama to his credit looks for solutions and keeps an open mind. Myself, I'm still coming around because I see plenty of scapegoats and many of them are my neighbors and people I care about. I'm trying to look forward, but am haunted by failures of policies that I spoke against for the last eight years. Like John McCain, I see scapegoats and am struggling to move beyond them. But it is a different set of scapegoats. I see the Republican party as the scapegoat, and he sees immaterial people who have been effectively out of power as the scapegoat. One of us lives in the real world, and one does not. John McCain is living in a dream world and should not be trusted with the mantle of Presidency of our Republic.

Ok, I feel much better.