Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Headed For Music City

I'm off to Nashville, to try my luck at the music biz.

Okay, I'm actually going on business. So I'll see you Friday.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Friday Furo Questus

Mourn With Those That Mourn
Staff Sgt. Gregson Gourley, 101st Air Assault. Killed in action by an IED while on patrol near Hawijah, Iraq on Feruary 23, 2006. Hometown: Midvale, Utah.

Questus Furore - Divide and Conquer
Events in Iraq after the bombing of in , Iraq, a Shiite shrine, threaten to spiral out of control, although the curfew seems to have clamped down on the violence for the moment. For an idea of the damage done, look here for a before-and-after.

It has long been a goal of Al Qaeda and its affiliated movements to prevent any kind of peace in Iraq. Not that they have anything better in mind - they just want to see the United States fail. They offer no real alternatives, and build nothing.

It is an odd war.

And while riots over cartoons published six months ago in a Danish newspaper continue to roil the Muslim world, there seems to be little protest in those same places over those who deliberately destroy of a Shiite shrine, and try to spark a civil war.

Apparently mockery is a far more serious crime than murder.

Recommended Reading
VDH two-fer: "Standoff in Iraq" and "Why No Nukes For Iran?"

Theodore Dalrymple, "Law Isn't Enough."

For those of you interested in the marriage debate, Stanley Kurtz takes a look at the state of marriage in Sweden and Holland. (And Canada.)

From the Washington Post: "The Failure of the Press."

And from John Donovan, "Editorial Decisions."

Thought of the Week
"Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities."
John F. Kennedy, 1961

Churchill Quote of the Week
"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's a boy !!!

Hi everyone,

We just found out this morning that our baby is a boy. He's due on July 11, but I'm hoping he comes a week early. What do you think Tyler, is July 4th a good birthday?

The Failure of the Press

Almost two weeks ago, I briefly discussed the Danish cartoons that ignited a global firestorm of controversy and rage.

Today, one of the most troubling aspects of the whole cartoon controversy is addressed in an
editorial in the Washington Post: the failure of the American press to truly explain to their readers and viewers the cartoons at the center.

I am going to cherry-pick a couple of choice quotes, but you really should read
the whole article.
Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts.
Indeed, as the recent revelation of yet more Abu Grahib photos (which date to the original incident - in other words, there is nothing new), the press has reveled in printing them.
But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London -- never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles -- included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: "[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."

But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.
It is interesting what vices the press is willing to tolerate, and which it targets, isn't it?
So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty.

While we may disagree among ourselves about whether and when the public interest justifies the disclosure of classified wartime information, our general agreement and understanding of the First Amendment and a free press is informed by the fact -- not opinion but fact -- that without broad freedom, without responsibility for the right to know carried out by courageous writers, editors, political cartoonists and publishers, our democracy would be weaker, if not nonexistent. There should be no group or mob veto of a story that is in the public interest.
But that is exactly what is happening. Only three - three! - major American newspapers have dared republish the twelve original Danish cartoons. Conspiracy theories flourish when so many walk in lockstep with one another, not so much even breaking step, let alone breaking ranks. It does not speak well of the editors that so many of them think so similarly.
When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press -- an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms -- would be among the first to surrender.
Our enemies understand us better than we understand ourselves. The lessons of the 1930s stalk the corridors, but we pay them no heed. Far too many of us are ready and willing to do anything to appease, in the false hope that we might bargain a respite from the gathering storm.

But in this whirlwind, there are no safe harbors. We have been declared an enemy by a significant and motivated group of people, a group which has agitated for our demise for over thirty years now. They have no interest in negotiation - only in subjugation and destruction. They seek power, while claiming to seek the glory of God.

We had best start learning, and listening to what they say. They have only begun to make good on their bloody promises.

Where Is Everybody?

It's quieter in here than when the waiter brings the check after dinner...

Well, you can find my explanatation here.

As for everybody else... well, Jamo is getting ready for his wedding, and ... heck, I don't know.

Anyway, that changes now. Stand by for a new post. Soon. Really.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Frozen Commute

There's nothing that says "paralyzed" like seing State Street bumper-to-bumper, in both directions, between 39th South and 45th South, and extending far beyond those streets.

We're having what feels like our biggest storm of the season today. Nothing dramatic, just steadily dropping snow since early this morning - and the roads icing over during the evening commute. UDOT has done an outstanding job this season until today - I think the commute hurt their ability to get out and plow. With traffic going nowhere, the plows can't make their rounds either.

Apparently it's worse up north, between Ogden and Salt Lake. Stretches of I-15 have been closed off and on as the UHP tries to deal with several bad accidents.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hear, Hear - "Ending The 'Human Rights' Farce"

The editors at National Review have a good one today:
Without meaningful eligibility requirements, any "reform" of the UNCHR is unworthy of the name. The UNCHR's basic problem — which is, come to think of it, also the basic problem of the U.N. — is that it puts liberal democracies side by side with genocidal despotisms as though they were equally legitimate. That's how it happened that six of the 53 current UNCHR members — China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe — are on Freedom House's list of the worst human-rights abusers.
But NRO doesn't just point out the problem - they propose a solution:
The United States should lead efforts to found a new institution devoted to the protection of human rights, and involving eligibility requirements that would limit member states to genuine liberal democracies. Many multilateral organizations exist outside the U.N. structure — NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe come to mind — and they are effective precisely because, unlike the three rings at Turtle Bay, their member states are committed to common values.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore - Cartoonish Anger
You may have heard about the protests and violent riots that have torn throughout the Muslim world as a result of the publication of twelve political cartoons in a Danish newspaper. If not, you may want to check
this site out.

The cartoons have had a long, strange trip. The cartoons originally published can be found
here. In their travels to the Muslim world, they have been added to, specifically three truly outrageous cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed engaged in graphic acts. These last three cartoons were not published by the Danish newpaper - but they are claimed to be.

That these cartoons may have caused offense is not surprising, and is understandable. That the offense was sufficient to justify the burning of embassies and consulates and the murder of at least three people (that we so far know of, not to mention the deaths of at least ten more as a result of rioting) is not understandable.

The solution suggested is the restriction of free speech, a self-imposed censorship by a media frightened by the juvenile tantrums of a strange people. That is not acceptable. Peace cannot be purchased by a surrender of principles. To acquiese now will only buy more trouble later.

These protests have also brought a large part of the global scene into sharper focus. While the protesters undoubtably represent a minority of Muslims, they due represent a large body of people, and the unwillingness or inability of their more moderate co-religionists to restrain them is a cause of great concern. There is a large body of radical Muslims, begging to be manipulated, radicalized, and used to create havoc.

Sadly, this situation has also served to show the thinking of American media decision-makers. When presented with the choice of showing the cartoons in order to clarify what the story is about, CNN and most major American newspapers have chosen not to show the cartoons for fear of offending Muslims. Such consideration was not given when the story was the offense of Christians or Jews. (Remember "Piss Christ"?)
Such deliberation was not needed.

All this is not to say that going about deliberately causing offense is good. But the freedom to question, when such questioning may cause offense, is necessary. If society is to progress, to become better, that freedom is vital. That such freedom is under attack by those who have no stake in it, and who are unable or unwilling to understand it, is something that should concern all those who do.

UPDATE: More on this story at Cox & Forkum, especially here and here.

Recommended Reading
Victor Davis Hanson,
"Losing Civilization."
The latest Islamic outrage over the Danish cartoons represents an erosion in the very notion of Western tolerance. Years ago, the death sentence handed down to Salman Rushdie was the dead canary in the mine. It should have warned us that the Western idea of free and unbridled expression, so difficultly won, can be so easily lost.

Claudia Rosett, "Rage Against the Western Machine."

National Review editorial,
"Culture War."

Diana West,
"Cartoon Rage," Washington Times.
"This is the lesson of Cartoon Rage 2006, a cultural nuke set off by an Islamic chain reaction to those 12 cartoons of Muhammad appearing in a Danish newspaper. We have watched the Muslim meltdown with shocked attention, but there is little recognition that its poisonous fallout is fear. Fear in the State Department, which, like Islam, called the cartoons unacceptable. Fear in Whitehall, which did the same. Fear in the Vatican, which did the same. And fear in the media, which have failed, with few, few exceptions, to reprint or show the images. With only a small roll of brave journals, mainly in Europe, to salute, we have seen the proud Western tradition of a free press bow its head and submit to an Islamic law against depictions of Muhammad. That's dhimmitude. "
Thought(s) of the Week
"In such a performance you may lay the foundation of national happiness only in religion, not by leaving it doubtful "whether morals can exist without it," but by asserting that without religion morals are the effects of causes as purely physical as pleasant breezes and fruitful seasons."
-- Benjamin Rush (letter to John Adams, 20 August 1811)

"The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded."
-— Charles-Louis De Secondat

Churchill Quote of the Week
"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities... because it is the quality which guarantees all others."
Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 09, 2006

U2 and Alison Krauss Clean Up At The Grammys

I'm not a big awards show fan - but I am a U2 fan, so here's a bit of news.

U2 picked up five Grammys last night, winning Album of the Year (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb), Best Rock Album (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb), Song of the Year ("Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"), Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal ("Sometimes You Can't Male It On Your Own"), and Best Rock Song ("City Of Blinding Lights"). (Full list of winners is here.)

Another favorite of mine,
Alison Krauss and Union Station, was the other big winner, picking up three Grammys including Best Country Album (Lonely Runs Both Ways), Best Country Instrumental Performance ("Unionhouse Branch"), and Best Country Performance by a Duo with Vocal or Group (“Restless”).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

NRO just made my S-list.

National Review just made my S-list. As soon as I start seeing ads in an RSS feed, it's time to dump the feed. Sorry National Review, you're out.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

LoveSac Files for Bankruptcy Protection

LoveSac Files for Bankruptcy Protection

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Salt Lake City-based bean bag company LoveSac is filing for bankruptcy.

The company's owner Shawn Nelson has filed for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy to seek protection from creditors.

Just a year ago, he was on top of the world when he won one (M)million dollars on the reality television show "Rebel Billionaire." He beat out 16 other contestants.

That's Gonna Leave A Mark

I'll be honest - I'm not a big fan of Senator McCain. Mainly because he seems to worry more about the national press's view of him than anything else, his recent grandstanding "tortute bill" being a prime example of a bill designed to satisfy no need except that of a media-driven uproar.

But this is too good not to share.

Apparently, Sen. McCain approached Sen. Barak Obama, the Democratic new kid on the black and Democratic rock star, for a bipartisan effort on an ethics panel. Obama appeared to agree, but then toed the Dem party line the next day. Needless to say, Sen. McCain was not amused.

McCain writes Obama:
"When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. ... I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in political to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again."
McCain then closes:
"I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator."
Ouch. You're going to need to put some ice on that, Sen. Obama. And I'd keep away from McCain for a while.

Hat tip to
The Corner.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore - Iran and the IAEA
Gee, the IAEA really cracked down on Iran this time. They have now given Iran another month to comply, before they will refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council. And then the IAEA might whack them with a rolled-up newspaper.

Good grief. When the program is generally considered to be only months away from a functioning nuclear bomb, the IAEA is proposing the drastic step of... giving them more time.

The problem is, time is not on our side. Israel has repeatedly threatened that if the international community will not stop Iran, it will. Israel has done so in the past.

The consequences of such an effort would be generally bad. The best scenario results in a general war between Iran and Israel, with other players yet unknown jumping in as well. The worst is nuclear retaliation, with Israel wiped from the map and the surviving Islamic world hopping mad.

Something needs to be done, and soon. Faster, please.

Questus Cashus - Spending the Surplus
Go here for Jamo's thoughts on spending Utah's budget surplus, and here for mine.

Moving on...

Recommended Reading
Victor Davis Hanson, "Three Pillars of Wisdom."

Did the New York Times break the law when they broke the NSA story? Some say yes. There is more good stuff over at Commentary magazine.

Stanley Kurtz, "Dissolving Marriage." The changing face of marriage in Canada.

Michael Ledeen, "When People Freely Choose Tyranny."

Jack Dunphy, "Arresting a Crime Wave."

Iain Murray, on proposals to impose travel bans - for the best of reasons, of course...

And this story might be why some people worry about border security.

Jonah Goldberg, "Give It Up, Kanye."

Patrolling the Front
Jamo took a look at the state budget surplus.

e.gage shows us winter in Moscow - Moscow, Idaho, that is.

Ah, the joys of business relationships. Also, an update on Mt. Augustine, erupting in Alaska.

Thought of the Week
A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
Gerald R. Ford

Churchill Quote of the Week
A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.
Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Spending Utah's Surplus

...Wherein Tyler is revealed as the evil reactionary bad man we knew he was all along.

Ah, budget surplus. The two words that get certain groups of people all kinds of excited, especially those who see more ways to spend my money. Certain groups of people like editorialists.

But here is the rub - it's a one-year surplus. So here's a proposal - how about limiting, as much as possible, additional growth in annual programs? In other words, dedicate as much as possible to capital expenses (new buildings, new roads, new equipment, other ONE-TIME expenses) as possible, and find money in the current budget (using some now freed-up capital funding) for operations? Hire some new teachers, and pay the current ones more, for the trade-off of building less buildings in the next few years.

If capital funds aren't needed, consider paying off some bonds, protecting our ability to raise capital funds down the road.

(Side note: Is anyone besides me getting annoyed by those UEA "No Excuses" ads? Oh no, Ms. Union Boss. I hateses children. Let 'em play in the street instead. Sheesh.)

But that's just me. I would like to know why we managed to get such a large surplus - obviously the forecasts were overly conservative (and that's good) - but what factors pushed us so far over? Immigration, better economic growth than expected, or we just got lucky?

But since Jamo got this ball rolling, and using this site, here goes. So if I were lord and master, and could get the Legislature to vote my way, here's my breakdown:

Repeal the sales tax on food: $165 million
This is something we should all get behind, as elimnation of this tax will do something to help the working poor - and the rest of us.

Reduce income tax: $60 million
This will reduce the income tax from 7% to 5%. A reduction of the overall tax burden is something I can get behind - as Utah has one of the highest household tax burdens in the country, with the ninth-highest in the nation and the highest in the West - but will we be able to pay for it later? No idea. This is one item where understanding how the surplus happened would be really nice to know.

Public Education: $300 million
Yes, Utah has the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation. Utah also has the fewest tax-payers per student. And unlike some states, Utah doesn't have the land royalties that some states do to get more cash. So something has to give. (A good summary of this is here.)

I'll kick in this much - but spend it on "one-time," capital expenses, and scale down capital expenses in future budgets. That will free up some cash for more annual spending (more teachers, better pay, more supplies), spending that will still be there for years to come.

Higher Education: $150 million
Same as above.

Public Safety/Corrections. $100 million
Here, I break my own rule. Because the state of Utah has a problem here, folks. Our
Crime Lab is underfunded, and as a result is falling behind in its duties.

Public safety is the primary purpose of government. This needs to get fixed. Better lab, hire some more technicians, and pay them well enough to hang on to them. And find a way to make these changes permanent - perhaps by taking some of this money to fund other capital needs, and using that money for permanent additions to the crime lab.

Arts/Culture: $0
Yes, I hate warm fuzzy puppies too. Come on. Ask me for a donation - ask me for a donation on my tax form, if you want - but when we are arguing over education dollars, this is frippery.

Healthcare: $0
No using the surplus for expansion of these programs. If you want to put more money into this, find it elsewhere in the budget. Because these expenses will be here next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and they will only get bigger.

Roads: $70 million
Again, this is chiefly for capital items. Sink as much of this into seismic safety improvements as possible.

Social Programs: $0
Same reason as healthcare.

Economic Development: $0
Go fund your own construction site, developers.

Water Development: $75 million
Again, this is a capital project, and a necessary one. Utah will soon be hitting the limits of its existing water infrastructure, especially along the Wasatch Front. At some point, we will need a pipeline to bring Bear River water to the Wasatch Front - let's start paying for it now.

Rainy Day Fund: $80 million
$80 million here gives Utah a nice round $250 million for bad times. This money would allow the state to react immediately to an emergency - without waiting for federal funds to show up. Any opportunity to build this fund should be taken.

Total = $1,000,000,000

Now, I am 100% certain this will be ignored. But now you know what I think.

The State Surplus: Your Money, Your Choice

The state of Utah has a budget surplus of $1 billion dollars. According to the 2000 census, there are 2,233,169 people in the state. Assuming that the state has increased in population by 10% since then (and it probably hasn't) there are roughly 2,456,485 people in the state. Assuming everyone of those people pays taxes (and they don't) everyone paid roughly $407 too much in state taxes.

From KUER:
How should the state of Utah’s huge budget surplus be used? For schools? For roads? Or should taxes be cut? Here’s the chance for your voice to be heard by legislators and the governor. The Salt Lake Tribune, KUER radio and KUED television have teamed up to create “The State Surplus: Your Money, Your Choice.” It’s a quick-and-easy online menu of how you think the state surplus -- your tax dollars -- should be used. Or, you can voice your opinion by calling our number at 581-6777.

Let your voice be heard: The State Surplus: Your Money, Your Choice

Here's my breakdown of how I'd like to see the money spent and why:
Repeal the sales tax on food: $165 million
Annual taxes bring in $165 million, lets eliminate this tax.

Reduce income tax: $60 million
This will reduce the income tax from 7% to 5%. I like paying less tax on my income.

Public Education: $350 million
Utah has the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation. I think our kids are worth more than that.

Higher Education: $150 million
Again, I believe in the value of education.

Arts/Culture: $50 million

Healthcare: $75 million
A large portion of my taxes go to pay for other people's healthcare. I'd like to see that amount reduced.

Social Programs: $75 million
Same reason as above.

Economic Development: $25 million

Water Development: $25 million

Rainy Day Fund: $25 million
I know this one should be more. But there's just not enough money.

Total = $1,000,000,000

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The State of the Union, 2006

No, I didn't watch it. Other responsibilities called me elsewhere, and to tell the truth, I wasn't that interested.

Reading the analysis & commentaries, it appears that the speech hit the right notes on foreign policy, hit some questionable ones on domestic policy, and was big on thoughts but not on plans. Regarding Iran, the President took the right tone, but did not discuss what to do. Regarding the wiretapping controversy, it sounds like he took a hard stand, with which I agree - Congress has known about it all along. (The Democrat leadership just suffered from selective amnesia when that story broke last December.) But the President announced some initiatives on the domestic front (competitiveness, education, and energy) which are bit weird sounding. I want to hear details. And he didn't score any points on Social Security reform.

As far as his energy proposals go - probably the only thing I am even remotely able to comment on - I'm going to read up on it more before I start talking about it, and maybe do a post on it later.

And, it sounds like the Democrats made fools of themselves during the speech, as did Cindy Sheehan. (No surprise on either score, really.)

But some people did watch, and their commentary can be found here and here.

Some highlights:

National Review:
"Even at his most conciliatory, Bush continues to annoy all the right people."

From the Corner (on the Democratic response given by Gov. Kaine of Virginia):
From a reader, on Kaine's eyebrow: "does The Rock know that Kaine stole his trademark facial expression?"

From QandO.net (Warning - Foul Language):
"'The state of the union is strong.' No president ever starts a SOTU with, 'Dudes, we're f***ed.' Well, except Jimmy Carter."