Monday, February 28, 2011

"Constitutional Compound Republic"

What the heck? Can anybody tell me what this means? Compound?? What?!!

The Utah Legislature thinks it can dictate Civic Education? Big Brother, anyone? This would be so silly if it weren't actually so dangerous.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Meek Peacemakers

Our Gospel Doctrine teacher was solid today but he gets a little nervous with comments that take him off his preparation. So, I was quietly going a little deeper in thought on my own into the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5). I had already noted and marked the Temple-War connection there. (OK, to lay it out - "Peacekeepers" should be obvious. The Beatitude just above mentions "pure in heart" which equals "Zion" (D&C 97:21) and "Zion" is the same thing as "Temple." (Jeremiah 50:28) (Jeremiah rather explicitly linking Zion, Temple and War).

And I was trying to figure out the meek inheriting the earth.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The State of Utah Rights

I'm going to try to lay it out as simply as I can. I know the philosophy that small, close-to-home government is supposed to be the best government. However, it doesn't always work. This is where Madison's larger and more diverse republic comes in to diffuse and diminish the power of potentially oppressive majorities. (Federalist 9 & 10).

Utah is the case in point. I don't think the state legislators are anything other than well-intentioned. But the Utah Legislature is overwhelmingly dominated by Anglo, middle-class, LDS, male Republicans. USA Today reports that 57% of Utah residents claim to be LDS. That's a pretty solid majority. Now, I can't find a good report on the religious affiliation of the Utah Legislature (if anybody knows of one, please link it in), but the party dynamic is rather astounding. Of 29 Utah State Senators, 22 are Republican. In the House, there are 58 Republicans to 17 Democrats! Until I find that religious breakdown or somebody proves me wrong, I'm going to assume that most if not all the Republicans are LDS. And I think even some of the Democrats are too, shocking as that may be to some Mormons. This Mormon majority in the legislature is significantly greater than the LDS percentage in the population as a whole.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moderation Conquers Passion

Or maybe I'm just a coward.

Senator Mike "Tea Party" Lee had an open house in his offices two floors below us in the federal building this afternoon. I don't know anyone who went. I wanted to go really bad. Bad being the operative word because every time I started to talk about it with my co-workers, I got a little overly worked up. My colleagues thought they would have to hold me down instead of enjoying senatorial cookies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John C. Calhoun Rises from the Dead!

Senator Mike "Tea Party" Lee addresses the Utah Legislature and says he represents "the sovereign state of Utah" when I thought he was elected to represent the People who live here and are sovereign in establishing the Constitution by "We the People" not "We the States." He preaches anachronistic theories of states' rights doctrine. He wants to repeal a portion of the Fourteenth Amendment. Lincoln is spinning in his grave while Sen. Calhoun is back and apparently advising Sen. Lee ("Lee" that rings some kind of bell - actually, it comes from John D. Lee, not Marse Robert. But people shouldn't be judged by their ancestors).

Maybe that's where I made my mistake. While I did not vote for him, I was hoping that much of Mike Lee's tea party enthusiasm was a pose and that once in office, he would mellow into a more responsible, rational conservative Republican like his father, Rex Lee. So far, no deal.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Prison for Polygamy

President George Q. Cannon, seated center, George C. Wood, my Great-Great-Grandfather behind 
Pres. Cannon over right shoulder next to prison guard James A. Doyle in civilian dress.
Utah Territorial Prison, November 1888.
I've been working on a family history project with a cousin to transcribe the prison diary of our 2nd-Great-Grandfather, George C. Wood.  (My confession, unlikely to lead me to prison, is that I'm way behind on my part of the task. But as I haven't heard from my cousin for some time, she must be too. I'll get on it.)

It is an absolutely amazing story that is difficult to fathom. George C. Wood needs to have a book written about him which I may get to someday if I can get organized besides figuring how to get it past the family censors. It isn't really that scandalous - at least not by Utah family history standards. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The D-News Gets It - Will Senator Mike "Tea Party" Lee?

I was very pleased to see this front page article in the Deseret News this morning. The headline and the graphic on the side of the print edition referenced the "Living Constitution." That struck a chord with me. I hadn't really thought of this idea before and I am fully aware how many strict-constructionists or original-intenters don't like the idea of a living Constitution because they think that makes it too malleable and subject to political whim. But on the other hand, the obvious opposite of "living" is "dead." And I certainly don't want a dead Constitution.

I just can't believe our inspired Founders wanted us forever to interpret our self-governance as they would have. Sure, they provided for Amendment for the big things, but just how to make the process work has to work for our time as well as theirs. To go a little "Mormon" on this idea, we certainly pay a lot more attention to living prophets than we do to dead ones. In fact, that was the problem when the Savior Himself walked the earth. The people didn't recognize Him standing right in front of their eyes because they were so dogmatically stuck on the way they thought the dead prophets had set up the rules.

Bottom line, there is not just one right way to interpret the Constitution. The process is everything.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Limbaugh House, Fruitland, Idaho, probably 1960

So when you see a picture like this, and you're in it, and you know and love those other people, and you can feel what you felt then 50 years later, you can't help but wonder about memory, time, and going on forever. I love you Grandma. You too, Kathleen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Temple & War Updated: "Hosts of the Dead"

Joseph F. Smith

I had a thought come that Doctrine & Covenants Section 138 also connected war with the Temple. It is all about the gospel being preached to the dead and family history and Temple work done on their behalf. The most interesting thing, and what brings me to the connection, is that the revelation was received in October 3, 1918. That was the month before the Great War or World War I ended. It was also the height of the Influenza Epidemic. And that connection with the Great War and so much death is very sobering. There was much to mourn and great need of hope for a more joyful future beyond the grave.

So I did a Google search and came up with an interesting Ensign article by George S. Tate on this same theme providing background for the vision. President Joseph F. Smith died a few weeks after the vision on November 18, 1918. I'm sure that President Smith continued his ministry among the Hosts of the Dead.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Up with the Budget?

The budget for 2012 proposed by the President doesn't seem to make any sense.

(Insert caveat - as a fed employee my comments here do not reflect any official position of the government or my office.  My office may be OK in the proposed budget. Other agencies of the Department will suffer which will increase our workload as they reduce staff and reorganize priorities. And we will likely not be able to backfill as some of our seasoned attorneys go out on retirement. The pay freeze is OK if not great. We expect to get whacked more in the current budget still not enacted but going to Continuing Resolution probably with across-the-board cuts. How much is the only question. And shutdown is still not out of the question.)

The 2012 budget is a milk-toast proposal. Maybe it's an opening position with much more to move as negotiations with the Republican House get tough. Maybe it's the President's dodge to avoid the hard issues of entitlements and defense in preparation for the 2012 campaign. But as I said in my analysis of the State of the Union Address, the Prez may be stepping to the side to allow the House to perform its constitutional duty to initiate spending (or savings).  It could be a cynical political ploy to force the Republicans to start the discussion on cutting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and appear bad before the electorate. There is much criticism among the pontificators, on cable and the net, that he is not taking responsibility as a leader. But once again, my theory of a Con-Law Professor attempting to readjust the modern emphasis on the Executive Branch to place more responsibility on the people's representatives in Congress might just fit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Divinely Inspired Constitution

I really do believe in it, even if I see the Constitution a little differently than a lot of people around me.

I don't believe it was dictated from on high or written on stone by the Lord's own finger. Rather, he inspired a group of men and even some women (Abigail Adams had her indirect influence) to think passionately about and take responsibility for their own government and to learn how to work out their differences as they learned to govern themselves through the principles of compromise.

So, here's a collection of modern-day scripture with direct reference to the Constitution of the United States of America:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

States' Rights Stink!

I admit that isn't very moderate, but it is passionate. And it wasn't me who came up with it.  Here's the quote: 
Moved by Joseph Smith, That every man in the meeting who could wield a pen write an address to his mother country. Carried.
Mayor [Smith] read the Memorial to Congress. The State rights doctrines are what feed mobs. They are a dead carcass --a stink, and they shall ascend up as a stink offering in the nose of the Almighty.

When I wrote my piece on Joseph Smith and States' Rights that was published in the Salt Lake Tribune a few months back, I didn't use the strongest quotes available. Brother Joseph was understandably incensed over the persecutions of the Saints by the State power of Missouri and the failure of the United States to provide any redress. His interpretations of the Constitution were rather strongly worded:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Congressman Bishop and I Agree on Something!

Wow!  Usually I call Congressman Rob Bishop's Office to disagree or complain. And when I see him in parades (4th of July, Pioneer Day, etc.), I just yell at him (if Linda doesn't clamp her hand over my mouth first). Tomorrow, I'm going to call his office and thank him for a vote.

Apparently he joined today with a tea party faction to vote against an extension of certain aspects of the so-called "Patriot Act." This is big. At least it's something on which I think my friends who are Libertarians, Liberals, or true "small-government" Conservatives, and I can all agree.  It's one area where I disagree with our President.

Sadly, I think it may just be a symbolic vote as the the Washington Post explains.  The Republicans apparently can change the rules from a super-majority requirement to a simple majority vote on this which they will likely win.  But still, maybe I won't yell at him at the next parade.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't let the name scare you!

I hope this new title for my blog isn't a turn-off, especially for my non-Mormon friends. Of course, a lot of my Mormon friends and family left me at "moderate."

Anyway, let me explain. First, it's unique (at least according to my Google search). There are a few other "passionate moderate" blogs out there and I wanted to be different. As an aside, I thought of "passionate moderate" on my own. I've been using the term for many years. And I think my college roommate (you know who you are) will vouch for me. So I didn't steal it from anybody.

Second, it's pretty clear to me, and probably to any reader out there (assuming any at all), that my blog focuses on both Politics and Mormonism and sometimes mixes the two. I should repeat my caveats that my political views are certainly influenced by my government employment but they are entirely my own and should never be considered official positions of the US Department of Interior. And that's also why I only blog at night and without the use of any government equipment or confidential information. The other caveat is that my religious views are also entirely my own and should not be interpreted as the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), except when I link to the church's own website and only for what's at the website not what I say about it.(Can ya tell I'm a lawyer?)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

War and Temple

The opposite of War is not Peace but the Temple. But then Peace and Temple are really the same thing.

This thought came to me while studying and pondering the scriptures. It began with D&C 38 where the Lord warns of wars in far countries that are soon to come upon this nation (:29). Then the great counsel that "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear" (:30). And how do we prepare? This is the first section that talks about gathering to a specific place - Ohio - eventually with more specificity as Kirtland.  And for what purpose? "To be endowed with power from on high" (:32). This was accomplished in the Kirtland Temple when there was a great outpouring of the Spirit and manifestations from on high.  (D&C 109 and 110).  And I saw that pattern again in Section 109 linking verses 27 and 28 about the Lord fighting our battles with the annointings and endowments in verse 35.  So I drew a line with a blue pencil connecting those verses.  And I went back to Section 138 and drew the blue line from "war" in verse 29 to "endowed" in verse 32.  Blue being my favorite color besides an appropriate hue for "peace."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plenty of Room in Heaven

I had an interesting thought. I certainly could not claim a vision, but I had an image in my head of Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch in their future mansions on high.  Their palaces are right next to each other. They talk over the fence, the best of friends. They laugh and laugh at the things they thought were so important down here.

I can even see Richard Nixon's place of glory right next to Teddy Kennedy's.  They sit and talk about all the repenting they had to do to get there and are so grateful for an infinite Atonement.

And I don't see how this would in anyway be offensive to official LDS teachings and scripture.

And I remain grateful for passionate moderation and especially for an infinite Atonement.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Henry Clay Was a Friend of Mine!

And Senator Paul, you're no Henry Clay.

Of course he doesn't really want to be much to his and our Nation's loss.

I'm not a big fan of Dana Millbank but he got this one right. Rand Paul gives his first speech in the Senate disparaging Henry Clay of all people. Clay, the Great Compromiser, was the political hero of Abraham Lincoln and one of mine as well.  There is a solid historical argument that Henry Clay, a Union man, did more to save the Union, free the slaves, and preserve our Constitution than anybody except maybe Lincoln himself. He preserved and promoted the Union through COMPROMISE until the Union was able, even if only barely and through a horrific civil war, to survive a rebellion from those who oddly equated individual and states rights with the spread of ownership of other human beings as chattel property.  Now I have good, solid, philosophical AND historical differences with Senator Paul.

Even Lincoln, not at all an abolitionist, was a moderate "compromise" candidate as the only one on whom everyone in the Republican Party of 1860 could agree.  And thank heavens for that!

Henry Clay of Kentucky

Clay in the Senate.  I understand from Millbank that only Senator DeMint was there to hear the end of Senator Paul's speech.  Not like the old days!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Only One Right Way to Read the Constitution?

A friend showed me a good article by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker Magazine.  It is a good opening to consider how the US Constitution has been interpreted differently by so many different people with so many different philosophies. She even broaches the issue of dogmatic rigidity in some of those interpretations.  Her conclusion is:
"The Constitution is ink on parchment. It is forty-four hundred words. And it is, too, the accreted set of meanings that have been made of those words, the amendments, the failed amendments, the struggles, the debates—the course of events—over more than two centuries. It is not easy, but it is everyone’s. It is the rule of law, the opinions of the Court, the stripes on [former slave] William Grimes’s back, a shrine in the National Archives, a sign carried on the Washington Mall, and the noise all of us make when we disagree. If the Constitution is a fiddle, it is also all the music that has ever been played on it. Some of that music is beautiful; much of it is humdrum; some of it sounds like hell."
This brings me to consider the Constitutionality of the PPACA (Health Care Reform some of you know as "Obamacare").  I have read the two federal district court decisions finding it unconstitutional written by activist conservative judges (it goes both ways, people.  The most recent decision actually cites the Boston Tea Party for historical argument - if that isn't pandering political activism, I don't know what is).  I haven't yet read the decisions that find it constitutional.  It is anyone's guess how this will eventually work out in the courts but you can make some predictions.  These decisions will all be appealed to the Circuit Courts and if there is any division in the Circuits, the Supreme Court will then take it up. If the Circuits are all consistent in upholding or striking it down, the Supremes may stay out of it and decide not to review - but its more likely it will get to them eventually.  There is a lot of speculation out there as to how the Justices will decide with their various judicial philosophies and political persuasions.  And it's a pretty safe bet Thomas and maybe Scalia and Alito will strike it down as violative of the Commerce Clause - but even those last two give deference to Congressional enactments and Congress's own determination of what is Constitutional (and they lay it all out in the Act! Sec. 1501).  Ginsburg, Breyer, and probably Kagan and Sotomayor will likely uphold it.  Chief Justice Roberts is on the conservative side but he has an institutional interest in not interfering with the Congress anymore than necessary.  Justice Kennedy is the clear swing vote and looking at some analyses of his decisions on the Commerce Clause, he is likely to uphold Constitutionality.

Jon Huntsman - Republican for President?

Wow!  He really appears to be serious about running.  I have thought all along that he and the President were playing the Chinese to enhance the stature of our Ambassador to get whatever, and I'm not quite sure what, out of the Chinese leaders.  Maybe there is no sophisticated bluff with the Chinese and Huntsman is upset with the Prez for joking around about his presidential ambitions or perhaps there is a more substantial policy rift.  And I sure don't see how he would think he has a chance in the Republican Primaries of 2012 unless the Tea Party movement completely collapses in abject embarrassment (and as much as one might like to see that, political winds don't usually change that way).  He may simply be positioning himself for a stronger run in 2016.  Or maybe he just has it out for Romney.  I dunno.  This will require more thought and attention.

I can tell you that he would certainly be my pick out of the Republican field.  But as the view of a "passionate moderate" I'm not sure that would carry much weight unless the Republican Party suddenly allows moderates back into favor and the Tea Party, well, see above.  More to follow . . . .