Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Answer to Political Failure

About a week ago, I listened to an impassioned speach by Hillary Rodham Clinton in which she declared that the US soldiers won in Iraq (applauding the troops), but that it was the Iraq government that failed.

Hence we should leave, and leave now.

The speech has been resonating in my mind.

The classical liberalism tradition has an interesting solution for failed a government. It is called an election.

When you really get down to the brass tacks of democracy, the real value of democracy is not that democracy gives people the best possible government. The real value of Democracy is that it gives a people a chance to recover from failure.

In some ways it is fortunate that the government of Nouri al Maliki is seen as ineffective and weak. The most common way for Democracies to fail is that the first government is too strong. The leaders then refuse to leave.

The most critical election in a new democracy is not the first election, but the second and third elections. The real challenge of democratic nation building is in establishing the precedent of peaceful transfer of power.

When Bush chose to invade Iraq, he was committing our nation on a decade long struggle to get Iraq to its second election.

Unfortunately, the Iraq National Assembly has an absurdly long 4 year term. Which means the next election isn't until January 2009!

Anyway the question on the table is what to do after this troop surge. My answer is that we have to have a single minded focus on getting to the second election. The Iraqi election cycle should be our time table for withdrawing the troops.

In some ways it is fortunate for the next US president that the Iraqi election is coming right after the US election. A wise candidate for the US presidency would work this fact. A wise politician wouldn't base their Iraq policy on the large number of failures of the Bush Administration. A wise politician would base Iraq policy on whatever opinions get expressed by the Iraq election.

Conversely, if Bush were wise, the next step in our military adventurism in Iraq would be a single minded focus on this second Iraqi election. Our primary goal in Iraq should simply be to provide security through the second election. In other words, the Iraqi election cycle should be our time table for withdrawl.

Things Change

Reach Upwards has links to an interesting discussion titled "Mormonism and Democratic Politics: Are They Compatible?." The article centers on the strange transformation of the LDS Church from the "most radical" of all groups to the "most Republican" of all groups. The primary speaker at the event is a Richard Bushman who appears to hope that the LDS returns to its radical roots to become a force for "social progress."

There are many groups such as Mormons for Social Equality and Justice that wonder why the modern Mormon church abandonned its socialistic past for its Republican present, and hope to see the group flip flop back into the arms of radicalism.

The early LDS Church was utopian. They established communes. They denied property rights. The group even had a mini sexual revolution in the form of polygamy. Fundamental polygamist cults still cling to these progressive goals. The adherents in the cults have little or no property. Everything is owned by the group. In matters of health care, the members only receive the care the collective grants (this is the ideal of universal care). Even sex is harnessed for the advancement of the collective. Although the polygamists hold to myths of eternal families, in practice one finds that wives and children get re-assigned according to the vagueries of collective politics. Young girls get assigned to old men as a reward for group loyalty.

The only real difference between the various Mormon polygamist cults and modern progressivism is that the cults want to raise the religion to a state, while modern progressive want to raise the state to a religion.

Mormonism v. Classical Liberalism

Bushman tells us the story of how Smith gradually began embracing the classical liberalism of the Republican party. Basically, ss Smith's utopian ventures fell apart and his list of enemies grew, he routinely found protection in the rights granted by the Constitution.

For that matter, a central theme of the Mormon experience is that the Constitution of the United States has protected the right of individual Mormons to think and speak as they will, and it has protected the right of the group to exist.

Mormons today are both extremely patriotic and are among the staunchest supporters of "The Constitution."

Unfortunately, Joseph Smith added a nasty twist to the Mormon view of the Constitution. Smith took the stance that the Constitution was revealed by God. It was revealed by God specifically to protect God's prophet and the new church that would come into existence in the Latter Days.

This notion that the Constitution is a holy document revealed by God is completely at odds with the classical liberal tradition of the Republicans that the Consitution as part of a thought process.

This fundamental difference that cuts to the heart of the Rule of Law. In the classical liberal tradition, the Constitution is the product of a thought process. In order to interpret the Constitution, you need to replicate the thought process.

The view that the Constitution is a product of revelation means that the Constitution must be interpreted through revelation. The idea that Constitution must be seen through revelation leads to the situation where the seer, relevator and prophet can make the Constitution mean whatever he wants.

NOTE, the Mormon view of the Consititution is really not that different from the modern progressive view. The modern view is that the Constitution is a living document. The Constitution is just pile of words whose meanings ebb and flow with political tides. The modern progressive view that the Constitution is a living document leaves the interpretation of the document in the hands of the cultural elite who (linquists, etc.), who change the meanings of words.

The Mormon view that the Constitution is a product of revelation leads to some very strange things. For example, the last session of the Utah legislature saw a Mormon thinker arguing that the 14th Amendment was Unconstitutional. My guess is that he came about this bizarre conclusion because the Amendement was not part of the original revelation. The Classical Liberal tradition would hold that the thought process of the Amending process trumps that of the founders, and would hold that the 14th Amendment is Constitutional.

IMHO, the views that the Constitution is a product of revelation or that the Constitution is a leading document lead to the negative situation where the empowered elite redefine our rights to fit their designs.

In the case of Mormonism, it appears that Smith thought that the protections of the Constitution only applied to him. While Smith found shelter in the protection of speech, he burnt the presses of his exmormon critics.


I strayed from Bushman's article. Bushman concentrated more on the issue of inclusiveness. His theme, after all, is that Mormon thought is a better fit for the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. The ideal of inclusion is fundamental to Democratic thinking.

Bushman notes that the ideal of inclusiveness was built into the Navou Charter. He also notes that Mormonism has gradually become more inclusive with time. For example, we notice that the Mormon Church extended the priesthood to blacks barely a decade after the civil rights movement.

This question of inclusiveness is really central to modern progressive thought. Early utopians such as Sidney Rigdon thought that the social uptopia would come with people splitting off from the corrupt mainstream society, and forming communes. The people living in communes would achieve perfection. The rest would rot or be smited.

Unfortunately, the communes kept falling apart. The obvious reason wss that outside corruptions infiltrated the commune. For the communes to thrive, they had to be exclusive. Everyone in the commune must be part of the collective. The people of the collective should not associate with those outside the collective, lest association lead to corruption.

Bushman's presentation on Mormonism starts with Navou. To get the full picture, I think you need to start with the earlier communes.

IMHO, the Navou experiment is in stark contrast with the devastating failure of the Missouri venture.

It appears that, in the Missouri experiment, Mormons were actively trying to create an area that was exclusively Mormon. This led to a great deal of friction with others pursuing the American Dream of pioneering the frontier. The final collapse of the Missouri experiment came with Sidney Rigdon declaring an extermination war against exmormons and gentiles in the area. The Governor of Missouri responded to the Extermination War with the infamous Extermination Order.

Joseph Smith was not part of the Missouri debacle. I suspect that is was clear to the settlers of the day that the exclusiveness of the Missouri experiment led to the extermination politics that punctuated the failure of the venture.

I applaud the founders of Navou for adding inclusiveness to the Navou charter. Exclusiveness of earlier ventures led to mistrust and eventually to extermination politics.

The question in my mind, however, is if inclusiveness is a primary tenet of Mormonism, or if it is a side issue pushed upon Mormonism by realty.

Bushman suggests that inclusiveness is a fundamental tenet of Mormonism. The history of the LDS Church seems to indicate that it is not. While the Navou Charter made reference to inclusiveness, there seems to have been a great deal of friction between the Mormons, exmormons and gentiles in and near Navou. This friction led to Smith's assassination by an unknown assailant.

It seems to me that the venture in Deseret had the LDS Church waffling between exclusiveness and inclusiveness. The experiment of Deseret saw the slaughtering of a wagon train of gentiles. Brigham Youngs followers came close to an all out war with the US army when they entered the region.

Today, we see that Mormon fundamentalists are often quite exclusive. In some polygamist groups, you see a great deal of intermarriage as they try to keep it within the group.

For these reasons, I would disagree with Bushman's assessment that inclusiveness is a primary tenet of Mormonism. I think it is something that was forced upon Mormons.

Times they are a changin'

The Bushman presentation at the Pew Charitable Trust is interesting in that it shows how a group gradually evolved into its opposite. Early Mormonism was socialistic. The modern Mormon Church seems to have embraced much of the classical liberal viewpoint. It has embraced the free market, it defends the Constitution, etc.. Both Brigham Young and Joseph Smith were progressive to their core. They would be horrified to find out that the progressive institution that they founded is considered as the most Conservative and the most Republican of outfits.

In this same period of time, we saw "liberal" transform referencing someone who supported small government to someone who supported big government.

Between the Republican Contract with America and the Bush administration, we saw the Republicans transform froma party favoring small government to favoring big government with a socially conservative fixation.

Bushman's article is a great read as it shows the way that things change. My comments are tangental to Bushman as I am less interested in the details of change, but in the process of change.

Should change take place through the process of reason, as is held by the classical liberal tradition that led to the creation of the Constitution? Should it take place through the redefinition of terms and material dialectics held by modern progressives, or should it be something more akin to the process of "revelation" as advocated by Joseph Smith?

We are in a day when people are extremely dissatisfied with the politics. IMHO, the question we are really facing isn't simply the details of change but the process of change.

IMHO, the process of revelation creates a world that thrashes from extremes as demonstrated by the Mormon Church becoming the opposite of its utopia foundings. The material dialectics held by Modern Progressives also has a history of thrashing between extremes. I believe that the process of reason that was developed in the Classical Liberal tradition of the Constitution is really the best path forward.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Big T

A Pick Up Game in IraqThe Big T Blog says that former Jazz player and current jazz musician Thurl Bailey is visiting Iraq. The only post so far on the trip was dated June 9.

Mr. Bailey could provide us a bird's eye view of events in Iraq. I just hope he realizes that he stands out in a crowd and stays safe.

The first post was just a comic piece about why he and his 7'6" friend chose to fly first class. ;).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Venturing Outdoors

Climbing WallFor Coco's afternoon walk, I decided to check out the Venture Outdoor Festival in Canyon Rim Park.

The goal of the festival is to encourage people to get active and live a healthy lifestyle. They had nutritional displays along with a variety of sports oriented booths.

Elaborate BoothWe Americans need to spend less time with the blogs, and more time experience life and nature.

I went in the afternoon. A lot of the activities at that time were geared toward kids. I had been hoping to taking the nieces and nephews to the festival. Unfortunately, they were out camping and missed this valuable media message about how you should spend more time venturing outdoors and less time experiencing media messages.

Hmmm, this particular seems to be caught in a paradox. Those most interested in learning about venturing out have ventured out.

I once invested in a company that made enviromentally friendly products to discover that people who are really into environmentally friendly products don't buy as much stuff as other folk.

Anyway, this post is my attempt to encourage people to go to the Venture Outdoor Festival. Since the festival will probably be over by the time people read this. I will dare put forward the idea that you can venture outdoors and get active without permission.

Lindsey GardensSpeaking of being out doors. For yesterday's walk, I decided to check out the off leash area at Lindsey Gardens. The off leash area at Lindsey Gardens was disappointing. The area was covered with trees (making frisbee tossing difficult). The really bad part of the walk is that the ground was covered with pine needles. I would toss the frisbee. Coco would start running. She would hit a pine cone and wipe out. Needles to say, she quickly lost interest in the game.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Really the Right Direction?

In my last post, I broke the boundaries of the politically correct and made a statement that mentioned the race of a group of people. Since I have been branded "conservative" my mentioning race is labeled prejudice.

The prejudicial statement I made is that our immigration policy should favor Latinos. I believe our immigration laws should favor natives of neighboring countries.

While I don't think race should be a consideration in most issues, I believe that, by their nature, immigration laws should take racial, political and economic conditions into account. On the economic front, when two developed nations have similar economic conditions, there is likely to be a parity in migration. In such a case, immigration and worker flow between the nations should be loose.

Politically, we should classify people running from a war torn region as refuges, and not illegal immigrants.

When a racial group identifies itself with an area, laws should take that into account as well.

Finally, we should expect a great deal of cross over between borders. Since our nation borders Mexico, we should be expecting millions of people crossing that border.

Origins are relevant in immigration debates. Since the politically correct climate will not let us talk about this important factor, we find ourselves bumbling along trying to find universals on which to base immigration policy.

I believe our policies should be more open to people from Mexico. For that matter, a temporary worker program is often more attractive to people who want to move between the North and South with the seasons than a full fledged immigration status.

By ignoring origins, we dig ourselves holes. We continually find ourselves falling into absurdities like the accusation that Conservatives demand law and order out of racial hatred.

Quite frankly, the reason that I think we need to be tighter on immigration enforcement is to prevent our nation from being trampled by people coming from distant lands, not from Mexico.

Looking at the demographics of the world, we find that there are over six a half billion people on this crowded planet. Transportation is so easy, a totally open immigration policy would bring upwards to 500 million people into the United States.

Even worse, there are countries eager to shed their excess population and who would shove off its problems onto our overcrowded section of turf. IMHO, the growing Latino population is not the primary danger of the cycle of amnesty. The cycle of amnesty creates a climate where any country seeking more world influence would be wise to shunt off excess population in our direction.

It is the recognition of the world population problem that has me favoring stricter enforcement of immigration laws. The fact that it is politically incorrect to mention people's origins that we are forced to treat Mexicans the way we would treat Iranians who sneak into our country.

In watching the debate over comprehensive immigration fall apart, I can't help but think that our attempt to solve the problem with comprehensive reform is off base.

I do not believe that we can derive a perfect immigration law from the aether. Rather than having a comprehensive system, we would probably be better offer addressing the problem piecemeal.

North South Migration

In previous posts, I brought up the issue of North South migration. I wanted to reword what I was saying.

As you see, I always try to avoid mentioning race. By saying that we should favor north south migration, I mean that our laws should favor migration from North and Central America. Many of the people in these country are identified as Latino.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the immigration debate is so shrill is that people are scared to mention race. In practice, immigration laws must be aware of the immigrants origins and we should give a numeric preference to migration between neighboring countries.

Our migration and temporary guest worker laws should give a strong numeric preference to Latinos. We should be more strict in enforcing immigration laws with people who came from distant lands.

I believe that immigration laws should be aware of origins and race and that migration laws in this country should strongly favor people who are from the American continent. It should be especially aware of indigenous people of the American Continent.

Progressives have been accusing Conservatives of anti-Latino racism when they say they want to give preference to people who are in legal channels.

The Conservatives I know think that there should be a preference for Latinos. They have a hard time wording the sentiment as they feel that even mentioning a person's race is racist.

The truth of the matter is that, by nature, immigration laws must be aware of the origins of the immigrants. In our super PC charged dialog, we are not able to talk about one of the single most important aspects of emigration ... the origin of the people. There should be a large numeric preference for people from neighboring countries.

That means a big numerical preference for Latinos.

I hope that I am not trounced upon for mentioning race and suggestioning that we should have a racial preference in the immigration law.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Memory Grove Park

City Creek CanyonI decided to take a short walk through Memory Grove Park. The park is on City Creek between downtown Salt Lake City and City Creek Canyon. My favorite hike is Salt Lake City is to start at the Trax station at Cottonwood Canyon then to hike past Temple Square then to follow the sidewalk adjacent to City Creek through Memory Grove and into the canyon.

Memory Grove: Meditation ChapelThe ability to walk from downtown into the wilderness of the Wasatch is, in my opinion, the single biggest selling point of the city. This pleasant walk includes a variety of scenery with skyscrapers, church buildings, a ritzy neighborhood, public art followed by a long mountain trail that climbs into one of the most remote regions of the Wasatch Mountains. The road up City Creek Canyon is popular with hikers, joggers and cyclists. Bicycles are allowed only on odd days. Cars are allowed on even days, but I think you have to have additional permission to drive up the canyon. The lower portions of the canyon are a little bit trampled. The upper stretches are remarkably pristine.

Ottinger HallWhile adding labels to the pictures, I discovered that Ottinger Hall is being rennovated by the Salt Lake Rotary as some sort of youth center. I also learned that Salt Lake will be the host of the 2007 Rotary International Convention this upcoming week. See the sites Rocky Mountain Rendezvous or Salt Lake Rotary for more information. Rotary Clubs tend to construct really cool things.

World WarAs for Memory Grove itself, I admit to being inspired by the monuments for the people who gave their lives defending this country. Monuments are important. They are both worth building and preserving. For example the World War monument was constructed in 1932 by people who may have been hoping that they would live in an era of peace, not knowing that worst things lay ahead. I was also impressed with Gold Star Hill which recognizes the pain of the Gold Star Moms who lost a child serving this nation.

Memory Grove ParkIn my book, the efforts to build parks and memorials are quiet important as they provide a valuable perspective of the events that shape the world. Above all, the monuments of the past serve as backdrops for the photos of the present.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Mentally Ill in Prison

It is good that the Paris Hilton soap opera has people thinking of the plight of the mentally ill in prison.

Paris Hilton self medicates and drinks like a fish. I would not be surprised if the partying lifestyle has transformed the heiress from a spoiled brat to a person with real serious mental illness.

The reason I am thinking about the mentally ill in prison is Ms. Hilton's experience in court. The talking heads on TV say Ms. Hilton probably would not have gone to prison except for the facts that she behaved poorly in court, couldn't follow the judge's directions (despite having expensive lawyers). She also kept showing up late for court.

Just by the nature of their disease, people with mental illness will have a harder time dealing with the court.

I would like to ignore the celebrity status of the case and look at the case from an abstract view:

Let's say defendant A committed a crime. The defendant goes to court. If the defendant placates the judge, they will get a slap on the wrist. If they have a hard time dealing with the judge; then they will go to jail.

Thinking about this scenario abstractly, we see that the person is going to jail, not because of their crime, but because of their difficulties dealing with the judge.

Let's jump to the next level of the puzzle. Let's assume the defendant has a real mental illness. Such a person would end up doing the wrong thing in court and end up in jail, while a person who was more sinister but in control would go free.

The current celebrity case is important because it is showing the world that our legal system has several built in traps for the mentally ill.

I've known several people with severe mental illnesses. They all have a long dysfunctional history with the courts. I've known others who have crossed legal lines. They are self composed, but never run afoul of courts.

I've been dismayed at the large number of mentally ill in prison. I thought it was do to socio-economic problems, or the fact that mentally ill do more crimes. However, if it is true that Courts give harsher sentences simply because people are late and have problems following court instructions; then I think we should add the dysfunctional court system to the reason for the travesty of incarcerating so many mentally ill.