Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"It Was A Well-Run Campaign, What With The Midget And All"

The Primary results are in, and it looks like Chris Cannon outlasted John Jacob. This is now the second time in as many elections that the anti-immigration forces mobilized a candidate to try and unseat Cannon and it's the second time they failed. In a lot of respects their last favored candidate, Matt Throckmorton, was far superior even though John Jacob is having a better showing. What are the lessons we should take from this election?
1. Immigration is not the issue that will decide this election. There were many in the Republican party who looked at this race as a bellwether. With Cannon winning, the national party should take notice that this is not the gay marriage of 2006. Why is this the case? I think there are several reasons. One is that even though people are against illegal immigrants, far too often the organized forces against illegal immigration are not just against illegals - they're against all immigrants. The American Dream has been built on the back of immigrants and unless you're a member of an Indian tribe, you're the child of immigrants. It's patently un-American to want to close this country to those who didn't have the same opportunities that our ancestors did. Another is that people aren't ready to give up their inexpensive produce, clothing, and other goods and services. A lot of these things are built on the backs of illegals and without them prices would rise as too few people were chased by too many employers. The upshot? Illegal immigrants are as much a reason for our low-inflation, high-productivity economy as technology is.
2. Substance will always win out over pithy sayings and fluff. Everything I read and saw from John Jacob was something along the lines of "You can't judge a candidate on what he says, only on what he does. John D. Jacob." Did he ever propose anything? Did he ever give any specific proposals? No. He just repeated his maxims, quotes from Ronald Reagan, and jokes about how his name isn't John Jacobs. What did Chris Cannon have? Specific proposals. Answers about why he voted for things like NCLB. Some dodging about immigration. Face it, a lot of what the anti-illegal crowd said about Cannon is true. Will he change his tune? That's a good question. I think he will moderate his views on immigration, but he won't become quite the candidate that Tancredo and Bay Buchannan want him to be.
3. Incumbency is a powerful tool. In Utah if you want to beat an incumbent your best shot is in Convention. If you don't, chances are you won't be able to overcome the name advantage that the incumbent has. Jacob had a lot of money and a lot of support, but it wasn't enough. He still didn't have the recognition that Cannon did. In addition, incumbents usually have the support of the establishment. It really helped Cannon to get the endorsement of President Bush. Of course, Jacob may not have gotten it anyway with his anti-Bush positions. If he had been our Congressman and had been as against the President as he said he was, I would imagine Bush would have supported the challenger.
4. Satan is trying to stop you? Not a good campaign move. If Cannon had said Jacob said that, it would have been the 11th hour dirty trick that would have been credited with his win. As it was Jacob gave himself the dirty trick. How's that for shooting yourself in the foot?
Of course, the election hasn't officially been called yet. Cannon's up 57-43 with 50% of precincts reporting. If Jacob does pull out the win, then this will be my "Dewey Defeats Truman." Somehow I don't see that happening.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Satan Turns Sights from Dell Schanze, Aims For John Jacob

Apparently the hosts of Heaven and Hell care more about the Third Congressional District than they do about Totally Awesome Computers and the everlasting souls of the people of the world combined, because Satan is ruining John Jacob's campaign. From the Salt Lake Tribune article:

"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is." Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.

Honestly, what is he implying here? If Satan is ruining John's business deals, that must mean that Chris Cannon is Satan's candidate, right? Of course, that also means that Jacob is God's candidate. Among other things, that means that Jacob might be the most conceited candidate since General George McClellan. Why would Satan single him out? Is it because Satan wants the Mexicans to overrun the United States? According to LDS theology Mexico is also part of that same promised land - moving them from one part of the promised land to another hardly seems like a Satanic plot. Usually Lucifer tends to be smarter than that. It's this kind of thinking that turns the religious right (who, let's be honest, aren't the staunchest backers of Jacob, even though he's invoking more code words and phrases than Robert Langdon) from a sensible group of people into the laughingstocks of the Elitists on the Coasts.
Of course, John Jacob isn't thinking of the other possible option along this same line of thinking. What if God is on Chris Cannon's side? If that's the case, perhaps He is smiting Jacob for discriminating against Mexicans and turning from his actual beliefs (remember, before Merrill Cook lost in convention, Jacob did believe that there wasn't an immigration problem and that the Anchor Baby interpretation of the constitution was appropriate and accurate) to those of the "Close America First" groups like Team America and the Minutemen. Let's face it, Jacob is an opportunist, just like he accused Tom Tancredo of being. If Tancredo's beliefs and PAC (he's the power behind Team America, along with Bay Buchanan) make him an opportunist, tuning your campaign message to get their money supporting you in Utah makes you doubly so.
Of course there's always the third and most likely option: you're focusing on this race, and that's causing your business to suffer. Therefore you're losing money that you could put in your race, causing you to spend more time on it and letting the vicious cycle continue.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jacob's Ladder

Ah, another John Jacob related post (for the other ones, check here and here). I just can't help it. Jacob is continually making it difficult for me to do anything other than oppose him. Now he's decided to bash President Bush because Bush endorses Chris Cannon. I'm surprised he hasn't also stepped up and beat on Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, John Boehner, Rob Bishop, and the rest of the Republican establishment that supports Cannon. After all, they held a fundraising dinner for Cannon and not Jacob.
This isn't the best way to curry favor nor to gain influence in Washington. What Utah needs in a Congressman isn't an idiot who shoots his mouth off in an attempt to cast himself as an outsider. A Senator can play that game because every state is equal there. In the House, where Utah only has 3 seats, we need Congressmen who will actually work with others instead of playing the outsider card. I understand the need to stand out and differentiate yourself, I do. However, by tossing aside connections with your own party, you risk becoming Jim Jefford - an "independent" who is stuck in no-man's land and isn't a factor. As much as Washington needs fixing up, you can't go in with a billy club and start whacking people over the head. That's the easiest way to get them to not change anything. You need to work with people, win them over to your side, and change them from that perspective. For example, take Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch. I know a lot of people here in Utah bristle at the mere mention of the Kennedy name, but Hatch became good friends with him, and while he isn't exactly Barry Goldwater, he has changed. He's certainly a much better human being than he was in the past, and isn't that the most important thing? Everybody has different beliefs, but that doesn't make them evil. When John Jacob learns that that is the case and that you can't get things done, nor can you fulfil your "Contract with Utah" (if you actually believe he'll step down after his first term if he doesn't meet the requirements, I have some lakefront property in Delta to sell you) without playing nice and working with the party leadership to get things done. Outsiders may be loud, but ultimately they're the most ineffective people in Congress.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Book Review: Manhunt

Genre: US History
Length: 464 pp
Amazon Link
This has been one of the hot non-fiction books of the spring, and it's easy to see why. Swanson has an incredible writing style and the story is an incredible one. What most of us have heard about John Wilkes Booth is that he killed Lincoln, jumped from Lincoln's box at Ford's Theatre, and must have gotten caught because that's pretty much all we know.
The real story is much different. Booth nearly got away with it. He broke his leg in the fall and led the authorities on a chase through Washington, Maryland, and Virginia in a time where Rebel armies were still marching abroad. Sure, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered at Appomattox, but Jefferson Davis was still on the run and the Army of Tennesee and the Army of the West hadn't surrendered yet. The South was still a dangerous place for the Union troops who followed the trail of Booth and the book vividly portrays that. Add in the little known comedy of errors (some errors not very comic) that accompanied his plot to kill Andrew Johnson and William Seward (Secretary of State), and this book is the definitive reference to the 12 days surrounding Lincoln's death. One thing that Swanson brings up that can't be underestimated is that perhaps Lincoln wouldn't be nearly as great of a president if he hadn't been killed. With Booth martyring him, he became untouchable as the first president to be assassinated and who brought the Union back together. If he had been in Andrew Johnson's place instead, it might have been very different for him. I can't recommend this book more highly. It is well written, informative, and crackles along like very few non-fiction books can. If it wasn't demonstratably true, it would sound like something out of a modern day crime novel, and the prose fits that well. Get this book!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Here's Why The Xenophobes Are Wrong

While these are just 2 stories out of 12 million plus, I think these illustrate the follies of those who are saying that we should just pack up the illegals and send them all back. Of course, there are the economic arguments, which I have mentioned before (also here), but more than that are the moral arguments. Take for example the story of the Sahs from today's Salt Lake Tribune. Here's a good hardworking family who has been here in the States for 16 years. They came in legally and then applied for asylum when ethnic tensions in their hometown threatened them if they went back. It took 10 years for the government to reject that claim, and now after all their appeals have been exhausted after 16 years in the country, they're going to be deported. The worst part of all of this is the following exerpt:
"Ken's mistake was that he played by the rules," Lawrence said. "Because he applied for asylum, he got into the immigration process. Once in, there are only two ways out: You get benefits [of residency] or you get deported."
Green River's former mayor, Dale Johnson, sides with the Sahs. "They are good people. I have watched them work their tails off," he said. "They have earned the right to stay." After a decade in Green River, the Sahs have been embraced by the community - and they have done the same. Ken is active in the chamber of commerce, volunteers at the Green River museum and helps lead a volunteer emergency response team.

That's why illegals are still illegal. We do everything we can to ensure that they will be shipped back to Mexico (or wherever) because we're into punishing. I realize that there are a lot of people who are against illegal immigration and aren't xenophobic, but the larger part of that group not only wants to kick the illegals out, they want to make it so that people can't come in. If your problem is really illegal immigration, you shouldn't have a problem with increasing immigration caps (or eliminating them all together). That will allow people to enter legally, satisfying your demands for the rule of law. Likewise, it allows them to pursue the American Dream, which, let's face it, isn't just the American Dream - it's the Human Dream. Who doesn't want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? It not right at all that we should deny somebody that opportunity, even if it means that they come here, just because their name is Klopek.
While we're on this kick, let's talk education. I know more than a few people who are angry about how Utah educates illegals in its public system because there is a law that says we'll do that. However, even if that law didn't exist, they'd still get their education here under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (Plyler v. Doe established that). If you don't like it, repeal the amendment or move to Canada. I for one am glad we have that clause. If we denied them the education that they need, where would they turn? I'll tell you where, they'll turn to gangs and hooliganism, that's where. If we actually educate them and keep them out of trouble, then we have a good chance not only of decreasing the potential crime rate, but also of churning out some superstar students like Dan-el Padilla Peralta. The Wall Street Journal had a front page story about his plight back in April. Here's one of the brightest students that has come along in a long time and we're looking at booting him out of the country. No wonder we are losing brains...it's because we're forcing them out with our immigration laws. Here's the fair use excerpt from the Journal:
The worry about what he would do after graduation -- without a Social Security number or the right to work -- had been hanging over him since he started college. His hope to build a life in the U.S., where he wants to pursue a teaching career, required legal status. The chance to attend Oxford spurred him to act. If he goes to Oxford without resolving his status, he won't be able to return to the U.S. for a decade. He wouldn't be able to visit his mother or brother.
Even if he didn't go to Oxford, he would be unable to obtain any legal employment in the U.S. upon graduating from Princeton or receive admission to a graduate school program because they require paid teaching responsibilities..."It would be a waste to give Dan-el's potential to another country," says Mr. Cowen, who hasn't seen Mr. Padilla since 1999, and only recently learned of his predicament after getting an email from him. "It is education itself that Dan-el used to pull himself out of the ghetto...The future of the U.S. depends on education."
This pulls back to my main thesis that most illegals are indeed good, honest, hardworking people. We hear about the negative examples with gangs, crime, and whatnot, but a lot of that crime is perpetuated by us. We ghettoize an entire sub-nation of immigrants, forcing them to find help from the only people who will help them - criminals. Until we radically reform our immigration process to make it easier to get a visa (i.e. raising or eliminating visa caps) and give exceptions to cases like those above we will continue to have these problems. A wall isn't going to stop this, so we might as well lose that false hope right now. Deporting them all won't solve it either, John Jacob's assurances to the contrary. Mexico may have lost 12 million to the US, but that has happened over 20 years. You can't round up that same 12 million in any kind of short time period and send them back without massive shockwaves hitting the country, affecting every aspect of our lives. We may not want to acknowledge it, but those illegals are one of our hands, and you don't just cut off the hand because a fingernail has gone bad. You fix the nail, and that's what we need to do here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and School Districts' Statistics

An interesting battle is brewing in Orem, one that could shape Utah education for years to come. The traditional approach in Utah has been to allow school districts to grow larger and larger, keeping their historical boundaries intact at the expense of cramming more and more students in already large districts. Utah has 4 of the highest enrollment districts (Jordan, Granite, Davis, and Alpine) in the United States, and those districts tend to wear that size around on their sleeves like a badge of honor. They talk of economies of scale (not mentioning that economies of scale follow a bell curve, and at their size, the economies have probably been lost) and of their heft - heft that they have used to not listen to citizens. As a result, recently there have been groups testing the waters in Jordan and Granite Districts (The Smaller Districts Coalition) and in Orem there is a group that has organized to pull out of the Alpine School District (Friends of Orem School District [FOSD]). I am somewhat familiar with the groups in Salt Lake County, however, FOSD has already caused change in the main issue of contention. Alpine introduced a $250 million bond (this is on top of a $200 million bond that was passed in 2001 that raised taxes throughout the district) and didn't have anything in the bond for Orem. That meant that Orem businesses and citizens would have paid for buildings that they never would have used. After FOSD pressured the Orem City Council, suddenly Alpine started introducing new projects for Orem, including completely rebuilding a high school they just finished renovating for electrical and seismological reasons. Does Orem need any new building projects? No. These are sops given to the citizens so that Alpine can trick them into voting to stay with the district so their tax base can pay for that bond without higher taxes on those who will actually be using the schools.
At least ASD has woken up a little. They still won't listen to parents. They won't acknowledge that the reason for having so many charter schools in the district's boundaries isn't because it's the "newest toy on the block," but because they've done such a lousy job educating the students, with the latest mumbo-jumbo swinging around the block (Investigations Math - where you can't learn things like times tables or basic arithmetic is the most egregious example). Parents don't want their children to end up years behind on such college basics as calculus and they want to have their voices heard by the teachers and administrators. That's why charter schools are successful. That's why Orem is trying to split off of Alpine. That's why Alpine can publish surveys like the one that the Deseret News reported on that use techniques like push polling, small sample sizes, and so forth, and think that nobody will notice that their statistics are misleading. They've come to believe their own press that they are "the best education in Utah" at "the best value in Utah." The fact is that Alpine is a dinosaur of a school district, caught in an evolutional shift that will make it as extinct as the creatures of the Jurassic era that they teach so much about.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's the Sauce that Makes the Boss

If there is one thing that amuses my wife more than anything else I do, it's my obsession with barbeque sauce. She likes a good sauce as much as the next person, but it's not anything like how I do. I wasn't always obsessed with the perfect sauce, but after a trip to Moses White & Sons in Tampa, Florida, I decided that something needed to change. That something was the bland ketchupy sauces that I had purchased in the past (KC Masterpiece, I'm looking at you). Instead I went on a quest. This was a difficult quest, as Utah didn't have any barbeque joints at the time, so I was confined to store-bought concoctions. Fortunately around the same time, the Cheeth turned me on to a sauce called Stubb's. It was a culinary revelation. While Moses White's sauce was still better, here was a store-bought sauce that had a bold body, spicy kick, and smooth aftertaste that are the hallmarks of a fine sauce. For a long time, that was the best there was here. Then a restaurant called the Smoke House came to town and the world was changed forever. Their spicy sauce was an eastern-style sauce instead of the Texas-style that I was accustomed to. The Smoke House's sauce embodied everything that I wanted in a good solid barbeque sauce, with a spicy kick that still lingered in the back of my throat for a good 10 minutes after I was done eating. It's the first sauce that I can actually eat straight. I've tried it on eggs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, sundry meats, and assorted other things, and it hasn't let me down yet. The best thing is that I've been able to buy it direct from the Smoke House, thus completely eliminating my need to grab some Stubb's, as good as it has been to me.
Now there have been some other imitators come to Utah since, notably Goodwood (which has the best name I've ever heard. It's just awesome), but their sauce is a bush league sauce in comparison. Their spicy was the same stuff as their sweet, just in a different bottle. They have done some reformulating, but it still pales in comparison. Then there are the really local places like Lon's Cooking Shack or PaPa's (which has the most ridiculous name and sign that I've ever seen - it's got a little pig and then it says that Weee [haha, the pig noise they say] do what we can to serve you, or something like that). They're all bush league. Anyway, I got on this tangent because of a story in the New York Times about another man's obsession with a fine sauce. I'm tempted to order some of the sauce mentioned in the article myself to be honest! All this leads to the question that I'm sure you're just begging me to answer, what kind of barbeque guy am I? I love using my stainless steal homage to outdoor cooking, but when it comes right down to it, I'm a true saucier (sauce-i-eh, like the French) and find that a good sauce can make anything better.