Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Governing without Government

That is the basic cognitive dissonance I have been sensing among many Republican politicians for the last couple of decades. How do you expect to govern if you think government is the problem? I blame President Reagan for separating the people from their government with his crass "government is the problem" mantra. (Well, we did have Nixon and Johnson attempting to separate the government from the people with unnecessary wars and criminal conspiracies).

There are some few Democrats in the Utah Legislature. Three of them, Jim Dabakis (SLC), Susan Duckworth ( Magna), and Larry Wiley (West Valley), just made my hero list for calling the bluff on Republican grandstanding by Republican Representatives on the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee in the Utah House. I was particularly pleased that they got ol' Roger Barrus, my own Representative - (even if I never voted for him and likely never will). You can read the article here at Utah Political Capitol.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And the Next Prize for Cliff-Walking Goes to. . .

I'm afraid it's the Republicans again, specifically Speaker Boehner who can't win because the majority of his majority will not allow it any other way. The President is still holding all the cards. Boehner is thrashing about trying to blame someone else - the Senate, the President, Seth Macfarlane - but the Constitution along with tradition says its the responsibility of the House to initiate bills to raise revenues and appropriate funds (Cons. Art. I, sec. 7 requires revenues in the House, appropriations traditionally - and theoretically - go with revenues and originate in the lower house. See this Republican source.)

The Sequester comes Friday. (Did I mention that "sequestrar" in Portuguese means "kidnapping"?) But it will be a slowly painful fiscal crisis unlike a government default or shutdown. Personally, and remember all my caveats that I do not speak in my official capacity on this blog, our DC office has informed us that we will be receiving furlough notices soon (probably Friday as law already requires 30-day notice and Congress hasn't gotten rid of that yet). And by imposing a hiring freeze, cutting travel and training, we can probably get by with just three days of furlough assuming this even goes to next October 1 when a new fiscal year supposedly begins. "I only regret that I have but three days to lose for my dysfunctional country!" (sorry, Nathan Hale).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Men's Hearts Shall Fail Them

For a long time in my life, I interpreted this portion of the prophecies of the end times to mean an increase in heart attacks. As we have conquered so many diseases, there has been a rise in coronary disease - which is also preventable to some extent if we stop eating french fries. OK. Sometimes I can be a literalist too, but I'm not getting to my point here.

We have posted on some rather difficult issues recently. I want to share with you what I now think the Lord meant by "Men's hearts shall fail them." We first see it in Luke 21:26, clearly related to the Lord's Second Coming to the earth. And in Luke, there's a clear connection to fear. Some say that fear leads to anger, hate, suffering, and even the dark side (according to Yoda. And he was technically a Muppet when he said that, so I think he's trustworthy).

Friday, February 22, 2013

What's the Matter with Sandy?

From Anonymous D:

I’m sure you’ve seen this: [Report on purported talk in Stake Conference by a Stake President in Sandy, Utah. I have no idea if the notes of the talk are accurate or the talk itself even happened as reported. But there have been no denials. And I have certainly heard these same sentiments expressed by LDS Church members in less formal settings and certainly all over the internet.].

This is a great example, a Mormon example of what Thomas Frank in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas” calls the Plen-T-Plaint. Here is his definition:
…Everything seems to [anger] conservatives , and they react by documenting and cataloging their disgust.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bullies and Heroes

Scout-posted flag for Presidents Day, 2013
Washington's Birthday (and Lincoln's) on a Monday
Something is happening here. And with apologies to Buffalo Springfield, what it is ain't exactly clear.

I already committed to fight bullying in Scouting. There's not much I've done directly, but I try to influence boys for the good when I can. I'm now Troop Committee Chair so I do get involved in Boards of Review, Courts of Honor, and I help out when I can like with the flags on holidays.

My wife is working on BSA National Council committees to rewrite some handbooks and adult training curricula. She also teaches Science in Jr. High. We often talk about kids and bullying and maybe my influence is through her as she has so much more clout in these things. Although she hardly needs me to do the right thing to address bullying.

And then this seems to tie right back to the whole Scouting and Gay policy thing and the current review of the recent review that is now going on. I've stated my position that the BSA ought to at least accept the current official LDS Church position that same-sex attraction is not  wrong and to be concerned only with the behavioral aspects. There have always been Gays in Scouting, there are now, and always will be. I see no problem in acknowledging it and keeping proper behavioral standards. I mean, Scouting isn't supposed to be about any kind of sexual activity. And it shouldn't be about denying reality either. But I won't speculate further as to what the LDS Church or Scouting may do with this. I've made my views known to the local council leadership.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Les Misérables - My Review

Finally had a chance to take my wife to a matinee showing yesterday on the federal holiday. It was good. I admit I can enjoy a musical. Those who aren't so inclined can skip this posting. It was a good adaption of musical theater.

It even inspired me to man the barricades at Costco in defense of the People's Constitution!

I had a talk with my wife afterwards, idealist that I am, explaining that I would never be good in a war or revolution. In the first place, it would have to be for a noble cause which are few and far between even if most people can fool themselves into one fairly easily. But once in a noble cause, I would be the guy up there on the barricade when all was lost just so I could die for the cause. Otherwise, war is just a long, boring, bureaucratic tedium of squalor with love and glory generally far beyond a dream. (See, Esmé)

I don't suppose there is any point in worrying about spoilers this late in the game, so I'll dive right in. Anne Hathaway stole the show. She even convinced us she could sing - not so much by the singing but the acting like she could even in the depths of the most squalid depravity. (There was a lot of depraved squalor in this movie.) Her descent into an earthly and undeserved hell and death was riveting and powerful more than simply emotional.

Monday, February 18, 2013

We the People Are Not a Machine

It didn't go well at Costco today. I was scouting out the free samples while my wife was getting some photos printed. There was a guy selling his book on the Constitution. As I listened in for a minute, he was telling a woman that it was just the basic documents and not any interpretation. I picked it up and thumbed through it. [Rough transcription from memory follows]:

 "You mean it's just the Constitution itself and not your interpretation?"

"No. Just statements from the founders about what the Constitution means."

I put the book back on the table. "Then it has interpretation!"

"Social Justice" at Church

Yes, I rabble-roused again in High Priests Group yesterday. I was not teaching, but listening patiently to the lesson on life-long conversion (Lesson 3 in Lorenzo Snow, Presidents of the Church Manual) and the discussion was on being responsible for your own testimony. Which was fine. But then one of my buddies pipes up with "So, no 'Social Justice' here with equal results for everybody."

It required response. As diplomatically and soft-spoken as I could, I said, "I detect a slight political message in my friend ____'s comment. Can I just say that "Social Justice" does not mean equal results, it means EQUAL OPPORTUNITY!" (I didn't use caps or yell in the class, that's just for the benefit of the readers here. I went on using my Jedi lawyer tricks (and hoping for the Spirit) to work this back into the lesson and on subject with a discussion of how we of course had to be responsible for our own testimony, but we can't do it alone. We are a community of believers to support each other and we need this community to take the message out to those who have never had an opportunity to hear the message to have their own testimony.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dad, What Do You Do at Work?

Bison by Ernest Thompson Seaton
(not an official Interior Buffalo as I am not in official capacity at present)
Well, as my kids have occasionally asked that question and been bored to tears with my explanations, I though I would share that joy with you all. As I have explained ad naseum, I have to be careful about my blogging because I am a federal employee, an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior. I am entitled to my freedom of expression, but can't use government resources or time for political speech, and I have to keep attorney/client confidences (I do my part, but it's not like the government can ever keep a secret. Hence, my distrust of conspiracy theories.) So I don't talk about my job much. Most of it is rather boring but there are a few interesting things out there in the public domain (a few more if you have a Westlaw or Lexis subscription).

Doing another one of those Google searches to see what's out there in my internet footprint, I find the blog all over the place. And there are also a few published decisions from federal courts but mostly in administrative proceedings with my name on them. Litigation is actually a small part of my work. Most of it is advising (wrangling) client agencies to figure out how to accomplish things legally, because no federal employee can do anything for the government that is not authorized by the laws of Congress. So if you have any problems with us, go complain to Congress and I'm sure they'll fix it (heh, heh, -little joke there).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

There Are No Words. . . .

So I'm going to leave it to the Majikat.

Yes, this is a Valentine's Day posting, so fair warning. But let me explain my heartache at first hearing the Foreigner Suite performed live on national TV. I was sixteen and longed so much for the kind of love the Cat was singing about - it physically hurt. I had no idea that I would find it, and only a short six years later, but that seemed like an eternity to me. Now my eternity of love has gone on some thirty plus years which is equally nothing to eternity. So my hope and prayer is that everyone will find love. "And maybe some day, we'll all die in love" and go on to the eternities in love.

Cat Stevens - Foreigner Suite - ABC In Concert, Nov. 10, 1973

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Even Better GIF from Last Night's SOTU

President and Senator Kirk (R. Ill.) Fist Bump
Remember when FOX News suggested Obama's fist bumping just might possibly mean something sinister? Well, here's proof positive that it doesn't. Initiated by Senator Kirk, Republican of Illinois, this was a friendly greeting on the floor of the House just before the President's SOTU message.

The President even broke through the Joint Chiefs to go out of his way to first shake hands with the Senator as you can see in this slightly longer clip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SOTU Live-Blogging: New and Improved with Rubio's Water Break

While the rogue LAPD Officer may be burning in a cabin in the mountains of California, the Nation is getting ready for the President's 1st SOTU of the 2nd Term. Gun violence not always factually linked to reform proposals, but the emotional tending to political will sure is.

I'm not taking notes tonight, but I will try to hit highlights. And I have a CNN web-stream on to see if Anonymous is successful in shutting it down as threatened. CNN is on the TV screen and those bozos have the newt on as a commentator? Come on!

Glenn Beck Creates Own Moon: Better than Original?!

Used for satirical purpose as part of a legitimate review of  upcoming event
(providing free publicity to boot:
Anonymous D provides us with this piece of Glenn Beck's latest self-promotion:
One wonders what the real psychological diagnosis of Glenn Beck would be. The kicker is the description of the event written and approved by Glenn Beck himself. I mean you can’t have some hack ghost writing for, how was it put, oh, yeah, “America’s premiere storyteller”…wait he did that with at least his last novel. I just can’t decided if Beck takes himself seriously or if he is just putting you on. I tend to believe that he is the worst of both worlds a true believer and a huckster all at the same time. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Grandpa George and his Great-Grand-Pappy Bybee

George Ellis Vaughn (1910-1997) with his Great-Granddaughter, my first born.
(1988 by GLV)
With roots in Utah's Dixie, I wanted to make some comment on the excellent guest piece by Amy over at disputing an article in the SL Trib that Utah's Dixie was full of rabble-rousing rebel slave-holders from the states of the southern confederacy. Trying to add something unique, I thought of my Grandfather who lived out his retirement years in St. George and is buried in the Santa Clara Cemetery. He once took us to the beautifully located ghost town of Grafton, Utah, and showed us the grave of one of his (and my) ancestors. He then proceeded to gleefully jump on the grave for no apparent reason than that he seemed proud to be jumping on the grave of his great-grandpappy. He was boisterous in that way. He was also a life-long Democrat, so he has that going for him (and some few of his descendants).

Thursday, February 7, 2013


(Devastation or ravaging).

Llanthony Priory, Vale of Ewyas, Black Mountains, Wales, August 19, 2010 by GLV
It's Book Report night again! I got the second volume of the out-of-print but excellent historical fiction of the Black Mountains of Wales by social critic Raymond Williams, People of the Black Mountains 2: The Eggs of the Eagle (Paladin, HarperCollins, London 1992) (Paperback edition). Similar to Volume 1, it tells the history of southeast Wales through a series of fictional vignettes but from Roman times to 1415. While still relying extensively on archaeology, anthropology, and geography, Williams is able to rely more on historical events and people as he weaves his stories mostly from the perspective of the lower castes of people.

The Eagle in the subtitle refers of course to Rome. The eggs are from a mythical prophecy. There are three: the first is full of blood and fighting men; the second is a dead eagle with a live fish in its claws (that one should be fairly easy to interpret - dead civilization brings something living represented by a fish? car magnets? Anyone?; the third egg is full of yellow smoke. I won't reveal any more spoilers here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Likening Freemen and Kingmen unto US

The doctrinal and missionary chapters of the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon are just great! But I have to admit I just don't have the same love for the war chapters. I'm not a big war guy anyway. And I've seen a lot of interpretations "likening the war scriptures unto us" especially for the defense of the youth of Zion which isn't so bad. And occasionally, usually someone like Anonymous D, will point out that in the war chapters the good guys always stand for defensive, never aggressive war - and only when God approves. I get really annoyed, though, at the use of those scriptures to promote political ideologies, particularly from the far right (Skousen's Freeman Institute comes to mind).

So I thought I would do a little "likening" of my own. Please do not consider this as pure doctrine. It's just some of my own little thoughts that may offend some. But if the right wing can do it, so can I.

My text is Alma 51:2-8 with slight "likening." You can compare the original here.
2 Nevertheless, they did not long maintain an entire peace in the land, for there began to be a contention among the people concerning President Obama; for behold, there were a part of the people who desired that a few particular points of the Obamacare and Stimulus laws should be altered or repealed in their entirety.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Guest Post: A5 Is Going to Japan!

We welcome this Guest post from my son, A3. A little explaining upfront may help. All our children's names begin with the letter 'A.' The first two were by coincidence. By the time we got to A3, we thought we'd try another 'A' name. After that, the kids demanded it down through A6. Their mother began referring to them numerically A1-A6, especially when they were in trouble.

As another bit of explanation, A5 did go to "special school." A wonderful pre-school in Santa Fe where he practiced speaking skills. He understood everything and there were no other developmental difficulties. He was just a reluctant talker until he was four years old. I understand this can be a sign of a strong intellect as in Albert Einstein. While probably no Einstein, A5 is on academic scholarship at the Y and already has a declared major in Physics with an Acoustics emphasis - just hired by the Physics Department to do some student work in this area (as a Freshman!).

Anyway, here's goes this wonderful Guest Post by his many-talented big brother, A3:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thomas Jefferson Said . . . . (!?#*)

Credit to my buddy Phil at The Liberty Tree
(And Tom didn't really say that!)
It happened again! This time a comment on one of my blog pieces about guns. (So far, I'm getting a lot of interesting material from gun advocates but not a lot that makes much sense). There was another one of those made up quotes attributed to one of the Founders. This time, Thomas Jefferson:
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."