Archive for May, 2007

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

May 16, 2007

The Senate this week made serious efforts to work out a deal on immigration reform. Today, Senator Reid postponed the vote to end the negotiations until Monday.

Immigration is a thorny issue. It is probably wise for congress to take as much time as they need to get things hammered out as best they can. I can’t say that I think the developing bill will be great, but it looks like it will turn out a lot better than what we might expect from some of the more draconian conservatives.

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform have come up with an agenda on immigration reform which is very consistent with my own beliefs on the issue. Lets hope they can work on congress to make sure that our immigration laws are consistent with moral principles—and lets do our part to persuade our legislators to support this vision.

Advertisements

The Utah State Board of Education Takes a Courageous Stand

May 16, 2007

The battle over school vouchers in Utah is just gearing up, and the State Board of Education is beginning to feel the heat. Yesterday more than 1,000 people rallied at the Utah state capitol in protest over the Board’s decision to postpone implementing vouchers at least until some legal clarification comes through, and perhaps until the referendum vote provides some direction.

Angry with the decision, groups favoring the public subsidization of private education are rumbling about court action. Even Senate majority leader Curt Bramble, a leading advocate of subsidization, has suggested that the legislature might sue the School Board.

The School Board, led by Chair (and Davis County resident) Kim Burningham has shown great courage and ethical integrity in refusing to implement the vouchers until certain issues and questions are resolved.

I understand that there are a number of thorny issues regarding the vouchers, what with two bills being passed, one with a challenge-proof majority. But this shouldn’t be about legal technicalities. This should be about the will of the people. If the majority of Utah agrees that subsidization is in the best interest of the public, then the referendum will fail and the program can go forward as planned. Pro-subsidization forces will have ample opportunity and resources, considering their well-documented corporate and out-of-state special-interest funding (see also here), to convince Utahns of the benefits of private school subsidization.

If the majority of Utah doesn’t approve of the idea of increased corporate welfare and the referendum passes, then the program should be revoked, regardless of multiple bills and legislative minutia. Curt Bramble’s threats of a lawsuit are rather petulant. Rather than throw tantrums, they should wait it out. Postponing their pet project a few months won’t hurt anything. And if the vouchers are rejected by Utah, they He and his cohorts need to remember that as legislators, they are public servants. They are there to promote the interests of the people of Utah. They do the people of Utah no service by aggressively pursuing an agenda against the possible will of the public.

Keep Religion out of the Election!

May 15, 2007

I am already sick and tired of people using religion as a cudgel in the 2008 election.

First Reverend Al Sharpton smugly talks about people who “really believe in God” defeating Mitt Romney.

Then evangelical Christian leader Bill Keller warns that “If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!” and “Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!” (thanks to JM Bell for the notice)

This is ludicrous. I wonder if Mo Udall (another proud liberal) and Mitt’s daddy had to face the same divisive religion baiting? The tenor of religion in politics seems to have gotten much more shrill in the past decade or so.

(then again, Kennedy had to give a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to reassure fears about a papist puppet president. Maybe things haven’t changed so much after all…)

Now I’m no fan of Romney. In fact, lets look at the flip side. Are the many within the LDS community who are enthusiastically embracing Romney simply because he is Mormon acting any better? Isn’t that pretty much the same thing in reverse that Sharpton and Keller have done: exclude others based on sectarian affiliation?

Religion shouldn’t be a factor in the presidential election (or any other election, for that matter). We are a secular nation guided by principles which include the separation of Church and State. I could care less whether that candidate is Mormon, conventional Christian, Catholic, Unitarian, Deist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Muslim, Shaman, Wiccan, or Atheist! Really the only things that matter are a candidate’s understanding of the law, their understanding of and belief in the principles upon which this nation was founded, and integrity (and yes, atheists can have just as much integrity and morality as religious folk!).

This is why I so appreciate religious organizations such as the Network of Spiritual Progressives, associations promoting moral and causes among people of all beliefs and faiths—including those who claim no faith but are willing to work for noble causes hand-in-hand with people of faith. That is how the U.S. should work.

I hope all interested parties will stop using religion divisively, and will concentrate instead on what these individuals and platforms represent for the entire nation.

Living Traditions Festival, May 18-20

May 14, 2007

This weekend, Washington Square hosts the annual Living Traditions festival, a celebration of the diverse cultures which are represented in the Salt Lake Valley. Great music, assorted varieties of delicious food, numerous traditional crafts and craftsmen all gathered together in an effort to foster understanding and appreciation for the many different “lineages” around us.

Last year my wife and I enjoyed Basque choriso for lunch, with Sudanese and Swiss cuisine for dinner the next day. We took in Maori, Irish, and Thai dancing, and a number of different folk music styles. And we enjoyed walking and talking with friends both old and freshly made. Having more than a passing interest in the Blues, I’m excited to hear Alabama Slim this Friday. There are some fascinating craft demonstrations, and for those with children, craft booths are set up where children can get some hands-on experience in a foreign craft. There are precious few better ways to spend a spring evening!

Celebrating Mothers Day

May 13, 2007

Breakfast in bed; gifts made with crayon, construction paper, popsicle sticks, and Elmer’s glue; songs sung enthusiastically off-key by the Primary during sacrament meeting; and flowers passed out after the service.

These are the sorts of things we associate with Mother’s Day in the Utah Mormon culture in which I grew up. I was fascinated a few years ago when I learned that originally Mothers Day represented so much more. Mothers and activists such as Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” promoted Mother’s Day as a day to rally Mothers to social activism. They recognized that while husbands and sons traditionally go off to fight and kill for glory, prosperity, or some ostensibly noble cause, it is the mothers (and wives, and daughters) who are left to pick up the pieces after the destruction: holding broken families together, mourning the lost, caring for those injured in body or mind, and carrying on after the smoke clears. They understood that it is the mothers who traditionally share the sorrow for the downtrodden of society as they are used and abused by the powerful elements of society, mothers who seek to support and heal. And they saw that the very essence motherhood, the formation of a human body within their wombs, is a creative, life-giving and -affirming role. Those pioneering mothers of Mother’s Day advocated a day to celebrate and harness the stereotypically maternal values: nurturing, healing, peace, conciliation, cooperation, empathy, humility.

How much better would the world be if we, led by the mothers who have exemplified those values in our lives, were to promote those values more boldly in our communities and nations? What better way to honor motherhood than to organize as activists to implement actions more consistent with those values? I believe that the more we appreciate and honor the traditionally maternal values in our social mores and the deeds of our governments, the world would be far advanced from what it is now, dominated as it is by the masculine values of aggression, competition, and ambition.

I was encouraged to read the words of a prominent woman and mother, Queen Noon of Jordan, calling for mothers—and all those who honor motherhood—to become active in promoting peace and charity once again (Thanks to Steve Olsen of The Utah Amicus). Its worth a read. And while you’re at it, see what Rediscovering Mothers Day is doing take up the banner of maternal values in the world.

It is interesting that there was recently a discussion in the comments of one of my posts on the capability of women to act as leaders of nations. While it was shown that there have been some large few women who have succeeded in that role, all have done so in patriarchal societies, and have had to prove themselves by proving themselves in masculine values. How different might things be if women who stood for the maternal values held the reigns?

I tend to think that the Lord gave men the role of leader within the Church not because men are more suited to the role, but in order that the men, through the responsibilities which the Lord gives his leaders and the Lord’s guidance which he gives them as they seek to fulfill their role as servant-leader in the mold of Christ, might develop those humble, nurturant, supposedly feminine traits which typically come so naturally to our mothers.

It is our mothers—their spirits, values, love, and dedication—that sow the seeds of hope from which decent people, communities, and the Church itself can grow. For all you mothers out there: Happy Mother’s Day!

Richard Warnick: 10,000 Faucets

May 11, 2007

Richard Warnick of OneUtah.org has taken the issue of the Iraq Occupation budget to explore the bigger issue of defense spending. Its a very concise post and a shrewd point.

It reminds me of how frustrated I get when conservatives, the majority of whom tend to be “hawks” and zealous advocates of national security, talk about the virtues of small government. How is it that they fail to understand that defence and national security are among the greatest sources of spending and bureaucracy in the federal government? If they feel it is justified, fine; but don’t make a pretense of supporting small government when you don’t.

Live Green Festival May 12

May 10, 2007

What a bummer! This weekend I have an out-of-state family wedding to attend. Okay, that isn’t the bummer; I’m referring to the fact that I’ll have to miss the Live Green Downtown Festival at Library and Washington Squares. I enjoyed the event last year, and had been looking forward to participating again.

(I’m sure the wedding will be nice too…)

And, according to Green Jenni, it appears that there have been several more green events scheduled for Saturday around town. Check them out and let me know how they go!

Water Week

May 8, 2007

Here in Utah, we live in a desert. And yet Utah has typically had one of the highest water usage rates in the nation. This is quite simply unsustainable. Please don’t misunderstand. Many people assume environmental advocates use the term to mean “unhip” or “tacky.” I mean nothing so trivial. I mean literally unsustainable. In a region experiencing a booming population, the water resources will not continue to be available to maintain current usage rates. Projects to import water will only get more expensive and more controversial as neighboring states in the Southwest fight to accommodate their own growing populations. The time is approaching when it will become an impossible drain on our resources.

As good stewards of the resources of this planet, we should proceed to manage our water in a manner which will best preserve the quality and availability of our resources both for our contemporary brothers and sisters, and for future generations.

In recognition of this, a number of state governmental agencies, NGOs, and businesses have sponsored this week (May 6-11) as Water Week. Brian McInerney, Hydrologist for the National Weather Service, and Stephanie Duer, Water Conservation Coordinator for Salt Lake City, were interviewed on KCPW to introduce Water Week and to explain the issues surrounding this most precious of natural resources and how it relates to our situation here in Utah. Our landscaping in particular plays a critical role in our water consumption, and learning about more responsible landscaping and gardening (such as xeriscaping) can make a big difference.

Want to learn more about water use in Utah and what we can do? Check out some of these.

  • Utah Division of Water Services has some great suggestions and information.
  • Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities: water conservation (its great to hear that Salt Lake City has made great strides in reducing water use!).
  • The horticulture extension of Utah State University (my alma mater!) is a leader in the field within Utah.
  • For those living in Davis County or thereabouts, USU has provided a fantastic option for those interested in learning about better conservation. They established the Utah Botanical Center in Kaysville (just down the street from my home during my teens, as a matter of fact) which provides workshops, classes, and examples—including a display house built on green design principles and landscaped with waterwise and drought-tolerant flora. Go visit, tour the house and grounds, take a class, and see how beautiful careful water stewardship can be!
  • The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District has information, classes, workshops, and a demonstration garden (Thanks Jennifer!)

Should We Impeach Congressional Democrats?

May 6, 2007

Sean Hannity in his showdown with Rocky used so many of the tactics typical to right-wing defenders that I can hardly help but using it as a springboard for addressing issues related to those tactics.

One of his efforts to parry the actual topic of the debate (should President Bush be impeached) was to raise the question whether or not various high-profile Democrats who had initially supported the War in Iraq should themselves be impeached. This point is considered by some (such as this blogger) to be one of the high points in Hannity’s presentation, and the question has been taken up by other bloggers (such as this one).

For those who felt that Rocky’s response was unsatisfactory, I’ll give it a shot.

Congress was not responsible for the use of torture, rendition, suspension of habeas corpus, or unauthorized and illegal wiretaps which Rocky and other liberals (including myself) consider part of the case for the impeachment of President Bush. The President’s administration alone should pay for those crimes.

The one crime for which Congress must share blame is the War on Iraq. Though some brave souls did dissent (Representatives and Senators), the majority in Congress—Democrat and Republican—aided and abetted this administration in entering the U.S. into a war under false pretenses. Some of our legislatures were complicit out of honest fear, sincerely caught up in the paranoia of the time. Others supported the war out of political expediency. Either way, they willingly allowed themselves to be deceived as to the threat Hussein posed. There was abundant evidence disproving the administration’s claims, evidence which concerned citizens like myself were able to find, and which should have been much more available to those with the resources of Congress. But they chose to ignore that evidence. They did indeed become accomplices to the administration in the War on Iraq.

Hannity is incorrect in his assertion that Liberals hold a double-standard, unwilling to criticize “our friends” in the Democratic Party. I myself have frequently denounced the craven complicity of many national Democrats in allowing this administration to abuse its power and pursue destructive policies. I have called for we liberals to unite to pressure the Democratic party to be more diligent in standing for our liberal values. From the time that the Democrats began to gain momentum in the last year or so, I insisted that we should hold their feet to the fire and make them answer for colluding in this disastrous and unethical war.

I can’t speak for Rocky, but I can guarantee that he is no a “friend” of the party establishment. Just ask Jim Matheson. Or consider the fact that Rocky not only attended the 2000 Los Angeles Shadow Convention, an alternative convention for those dissatisfied with the mainstream of the Democratic Party, but gave an address. He is as ready to criticize Democrats when he feels they have betrayed their principles as he is Republicans.

But while I am eager for Democrats to be held accountable for their misdeeds, I have no interest in calling for their impeachment. First of all, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, et al, are not my elected officials. They are accountable to their constituents in Massachusetts, New York, and so forth. I’m concerned with taking action against those who represent me: Hatch, Bennett, Bishop, and President Bush, whose constituency is the entire nation.

But more importantly, we need to recognize the relative nature of the responsibility among the various parties. Yes, the members of Congress aided and abetted this administration in their plans. They allowed themselves to be deceived by the fraudulent justifications for war. But this administration is responsible for that deception of Congress. They plotted to undertake this war virtually from the first day in office. They were determined to fix the evidence in order to connect it to Hussein, pressuring Richard Clark and the CIA to manipulate data to suit the administration’s agenda. They presented misleading testimony to the U.N. Security Council. And when their efforts came to fruition, it was the administration who neglected to adequately prepare for the occupation.

Many prominent Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, and need to answer for that. But it was the Bush administration which hitched up the horses and drove the wagon down this ugly road. The greatest responsibility for the disgraceful affair is theirs to shoulder. From them we should expect the highest price as well.

ReDirect Guide

May 5, 2007

The ReDirect Guide has been a staple by our telephone the last couple of years. Not only a listing of local merchants dedicated to sustainable living, it also lists events and educational materials to help you be more environmentally and socially responsible. The 2007-2008 edition was just released a couple weeks ago.If you are interested in supporting merchants and service-providers who promote values besides just profit, get yourself a free copy. You can have them mailed to you, are displayed at many local businesses, and are readily available at the Downtown Place in the Salt Lake City Public Library—pick one up there then drop by on the third floor and say hello!