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Guy's Blog

Just one Guy's personal blog of thoughts & sense--common, non, and otherwise--of the world in which we live.

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Location: Nipomo, Central Coast, California, United States

I also blog over at Nipomo News, Messenger and Advocate and Bloggernacle Times

Friday, November 18, 2005

Saints and Soldiers To Air On History Channel

Saints and Soldiers, the award winning WWII drama, premiers on the History Channel this weekend. It plays Saturday, 11/19/05, at 8:00 p.m. and 12:00. Eastern Time. Looks like a decent movie weekend after all. Here's Netfix reviews.

BYU vs. U of U Rivalry

It's that time of year again, when all the big school football rivalries play out. It's no different for BYU and Utah. I'm, of course, a BYU graduate. For those uninformed on the subject, it's also known as "The Lord's University". On the other hand, if you're a Ute (sorry NCAA) fan, your retort is that you attend the School that Brigham Young actually founded, rather than the one that bears his name.

Anyway, today's Salt Lake Tribune (that's the heathen liberal Newspaper in Salt Lake City--not Church owned) has a pretty funny article on the rivalry between the two biggest letters in all of Utah, the "Y" and the "U". You can read it here.

Some of the funniest parts:

The Urban Dictionary, a Web site at urbandictionary.com where readers submit their own definitions for people, places or things, has this definition, obviously submitted by a BYU fan:

University of Utah: A taxpayer-supported university located in Salt Lake City for people who don't have the grades or the test scores to get into BYU; want to major in smoking pot, getting laid, drinking beer . . . or journalism; want to study Marxism; are non-Mormon or Jack Mormon

Not to be outdone:

Meanwhile, the Utahania blog reported that an enterprising Ute fan put a picture of BYU's mascot for sale on eBay, noting Cosmo has had all his shots and has been neutered. The bid reached $26 Thursday.

The rest of the article then points out some observations on the differences between the Y and the U:
Several of the Ute players are so young they still don't shave. They will compete with 30-year-old, 400-pound linemen, quarterbacks with five kids, and receivers already vested in their employers' retirement plans.

BYU players have a prayer before every game. Ute players have performed ritualistic lamentations following many of their games.

Utah fans strip down and paint themselves for cold November games because they're drunk. BYU fans do it because they're stupid.

Ute fans don't boo the other team. They've been too busy this year booing their own. BYU fans don't boo at all. Instead, they proudly boast their colors, yelling in unison: Bluuuuuuuuuue. Bluuuuuuue. Bluuuuuuuue.

BYU fans still follow the life and activities of their beloved legendary coach, LaVell Edwards. Ute fans are following closely the fortunes of the Florida Gators, and are secretly hoping they lose.

Ute fans drink their caffeine hot. BYU fans drink their caffeine cold.

To BYU fans, the screwdriver on game day remains in the drawer in the garage
with the other unused tools while the game is being played. To Ute fans, the screwdriver on game day is breakfast.

For BYU fans, the forward pass is a common topic of discussion during Sunday School lessons. For Ute fans this year, the forward pass has led to many silent prayers, followed by many sinful profanities.

Many Ute co-eds like the Britney Spears bare-midriff look. Many BYU co-eds prefer the Marie Osmond look, as do many of the male BYU students.

BYU students have been known to jump out of the stands and tackle Ute cheerleaders as they parade along the sidelines. Ute cheerleaders have been known to beat the crap out of the BYU fans who tackle them.

Many Ute fans voted for Rocky Anderson. Many BYU fans still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Many Ute fans went into withdrawal when Tom Barberi was taken off the air and were all atwitter when the guy who coined the phrase, "Utah by five," came back on the air. Many BYU fans need their daily Sean Hannity fix, which is why they still believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Utah is known for its leadership in medical research, bio-engineering and for launching Karl Rove. BYU is a leader in producing quarterbacks, TV anchors, beauty queens and white collar criminals.

Looking forward to Saturday's game! (Go Blue!)

Another Voice Of Reason

The Washington Post reports today, that Representative, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran has called for the Bush Administration to withdraw American Forces from Viet . . .I mean Iraq:
"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency," Murtha said in a Capitol news conference that left him in tears. Islamic insurgents "are united against U.S. forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence," he said. ". . . It's time to bring them home."
As expected, the Bush sleaze machine went into overdrive! Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) immediately returned fire:

"Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the president is on foreign soil."
Dick Cheney also chimed in claiming that Rep. Murtha was essentially waiving the white flag of surrender. Cheney also accused war critics:

Cheney called Democrats “opportunists” who were peddling “cynical and pernicious falsehoods” to gain political advantage while U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.

“Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein,” Cheney told the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative policy group.

Well, I can see how one would draw that conclusion. Representative Murtha is a retired full bird Colonel from the United States Marine Corps. A sampling of his military background from his own website:

Congressman Murtha is so well-respected for his first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues that he has been a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties on military and defense issues and is one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in the country. He is ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, a Vietnam combat veteran and a retired Marine Corps colonel with 37 years of service, a rare combination of experience that enables him to understand defense and military operations from every perspective.

He learned about military service from the bottom up, beginning as a raw recruit when he left Washington and Jefferson College in 1952 to join the Marines out of a growing sense of obligation to his country during the Korean War. There he earned the American Spirit Honor Medal, awarded to fewer than one in 10,000 recruits. He rose through the ranks to become a drill instructor at Parris Island and was selected for Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. He then was assigned to the Second Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In 1959, Captain Murtha took command of the 34th Special Infantry Company, Marine Corps Reserves, in Johnstown. He remained in the Reserves after his discharge from active duty until he volunteered for Vietnam in 1966-67, receiving the Bronze Star with Combat "V", two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He remained in the Reserves until his retirement. This first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues has made him a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties and one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in Washington. At the request of Presidents and Speakers of the House, he served as chairman of delegations monitoring elections in the Philippines, El Salvador, Panama and Bosnia.

He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by the Marine Corps Commandant when he retired from the Marines.

Yep . . . pretty much sounds to me like this Murtha guy is most definitely one of those left wing peace activist nuts. I can see how a guy like this is waiving the flag of surrender--clearly an opportunist--a cut and run kinda guy.

Of course Dennis Hastert and Dick Cheney haven't served a single day in uniform in America's or any other armed services. And, Mr. Cheney as we know, who had an opportunity to serve his country, elected to hide behind five deferments when his country called.

I don't think Americans are fooled by the nonsense coming out of the Bush administration. Yet, there is something shameful the way people who dare speak a different point of view about the Iraq war are demeaned by those least in any position to engage in any rock throwing. Rather than smear great American heros like Rep. Murtha, they are to be commended.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they are the children of God.

Not bad company, in contrast to the Bush boys.

Semper Fi Rep. Murtha. Your voice is not alone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Now Here's a Bloggernacle Map

Well, ok not really Bloggernacle per se . . .but still impressive. A friend forwarded me this wmv clip which purports to show growth of the Church by Stakes throughout the world from 1847 to 2004. It's about 10 MB and takes a couple of minutes to open up, or download, so be patient, even with high speed connections. I thought it was pretty cool.

And speaking of the Bloggernacle . . . it appears that it is now on the map, or at least on "the fringes of English" I didn't know it was being considered as a word on the fringe. Go check it out, and give them some definition possibilities here!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rough Review Trolling

I just read Larry McMurtry’s review of Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. You can find it in the New York Review of Books. Unfortunately it is a pay only service, so unless you already subscribe it will cost you $3.00 just to look at the review for a week, which of course you can download and save forever if you were so inclined. Personally I thought it was overpriced.

To say the least, McMurty’s review is unfavorable. To begin, he acknowledges two anti-Mormon books to which he looked as sources in helping him write his review: No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie, and Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. Brodie’s problem, of course is that she candidly acknowledges her anti-Mormon bent in her book (which is quite evident anyway). So, Brodie has little if any credibility on Joseph Smith. Krakauer, is a mountain climber turned recent historian in his book Under the Banner, which deals not so much with the LDS Church as the extreme splinter groups which are more on a par with radical Islam than they are with mainstream LDS thought and/or practice. Alas, I’m at a loss about why McMurty needed to rely on any other sources in reviewing Professor Bushman’s work, let alone anti-Mormon sources.

McMurty doesn’t make it past the first paragraph of his review without making his first serious error. He confuses Ishmael of the Old Testament, with the Ishmael of the Book of Mormon, claiming them to be the same person, who helped Nephi and his family escape from Jerusalem:
In the Book of Mormon, the biblical Ishmael, son of Abraham, soon appears and helps the questing Nephi out of a spot of trouble with the locals —just the kind of trouble, with just the same kind of locals, that real Mormons, in the 1830s and 1840s, constantly found themselves in.
One doesn’t have to be a believing Mormon to know that Ishmael of the Old Testament, even if a fictional character lived at least several thousand years before Christ was born. Ishmael in the Book of Mormon died approximately 592 B.C.

McMurty then quotes one of Joseph’s more famous (McMurty’s characterization) quotes, from which Brodie takes the title of her work:

You don't know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it; I shall never undertake it. I don't blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.
A few paragraphs later, McMurty’s sloppiness is manifest again:

About three weeks later (April 27, 1844), Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were gunned down by vigilantes in their jail cells in Carthage, Illinois, where they were held mainly for being Mormons. Joseph had intended to flee across the nearby Mississippi River into the west, but Hyrum thought they might be able to work things out with the local militia in Illinois. The Prophet, who seldom welcomed advice from anyone, took some from his brother, although he knew it probably meant death, producing yet another enigma in a life that was rich in enigma.

While I’d agree with his assertion for the reasons why the Prophet and Hyrum were held in Carthage, his date is two months off. I’ve checked Bushman’s book, and sure enough, on page 551 he has the correct date of June 27, 1844. Did McMurty really read Bushman’s book, or is he just guessing on critical details like the Prophet’s Martyrdom? It’s a bit like asking where were you when JFK was shot on September 22, 1963?

McMurty spends an inordinate amount of time on polygamy, given the amount of time Bushman gives it in his 740 page text. But, of course polygamy is all about sex right? And, of course we know that sex sells. So why not use it to hype your book review?

Certainly polygamy is part of the Prophet’s history, and should be discussed; however, McMurty seems to dwell on it so that it takes a more prominent part of Joseph’s life, than everything else he did, said, or believed.

McMurty also seemed to go off on unrelated tangents during his review. Just after discussing Joseph’s polygamous tendencies, he strays off and talks about Fawn Brodie’s excommunication:

In 1946 Fawn Brodie was excommunicated for heresy from the Mormon Church. Richard Bushman suggests that she was on her way out of Mormonism when she published No Man Knows My History. This may be true; but both her father and her uncle held high positions in the church, so her exit was probably not all that easy. On the day she was to have faced her judges she went, instead, to a hospital and gave birth to a son.
Exactly what Ms. Brodie’s excommunication contributes to a review of Bushman’s book on the Prophet is lost, at least on me. But, again, there is that juicy detail about her relationship to the Prophet David O’ Mckay–a very critical bit of information in helping us understand more about Joseph Smith.

Of course, what would a book review of Joseph Smith be without some mention of the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Never mind that the massacre occurred in 1857, 13 years after the Prophet had been martyred. In the same breath and paragraph, McMurty then tars the Church with the sins of fundamentalist offshoots of the original Church, as outlined in the classic story of Under the Banner of Heaven. He drones on and on about the plight of teen aged males supposedly expelled from their communities, leaving more teenaged girls for the leaders of these cult religions. Exactly how this ties into Joseph Smith, is again a mystery to me. The Banner of Heaven events of course took place well over a century after the Prophet’s martyrdom and almost a century after the LDS Church officially renounced polygamy. But, again, polygamy is all about sex, and sex sells.

McMurty also reviews the Prophet’s history with treasure seeking, money digging, folk magic and seer stones. All of these are a matter of historical record; however, I like Bushman’s treatment of these issues in his book, which you can read in a different post here.

The golden plates are difficult for McMurty to digest. It is clear he is sympathetic to Brodie’s view of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and is rather dismissive of Professor Bushman, just because he is a believing Mormon:

The history of early Mormonism clearly has two phases, the Establishing phase and the Exodus phase. In the former, it is when we come to the rather baroque business of the golden plates and their translation that the fact that Professor Bushman is a believing Mormon becomes a shoe that begins to pinch a little. This is the second of his books to deal with early Mormonism—the first, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, was published in 1984. What is difficult to determine is where biography ends and apologetics begins. Where does this scrupulous scholar stand on the main points, which he knows must seem incredible to most readers? Does he believe in the angel? Does he think the golden plates were real? Does he read the Book of Mormon as literature or as revelation? At one point he says, "Incredible as the plates are, hunting for deception can be a distraction."
A distraction? The golden plates? Surely their existence and Joseph Smith's ability to translate them must be one of the central elements of Mormon belief. Either Joseph Smith was the mouthpiece of God or he was just a clever young man who babbled out a kind of trance-written novel.
Apparently McMurty is the only one able to discern just where biography ends and apologetics begins. If you actually read the Bushman book, it clearly is not apologetic. From what I have read thus far, he presents the Prophet warts and all. If McMurty is seeking apologetics for his attack, he’s looking in all the wrong places.

In dismissing the plates McMurty also dismisses the written testimony of 11 witnesses who actually saw and handled the plates, as well as the witness of Emma Smith who felt and handled the plates regularly:

Somehow, by about 1827, these plates, covered with diverse and curious characters, were transported to the Smith household, where they seem to have been kept either in a box or under the table or plunked on the table and covered with a cloth. Joseph Smith was very loath to let anyone, including his wife, Emma, see the plates. Nearly a dozen men, some of them Joseph's scribes, claimed to have seen the plates, but their claims inspire no confidence. It's not really clear that anyone except Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni really saw the plates, if there were plates—a big if.
McMurty offers no evidence in his review why the testimony of the 11 witnesses inspire no confidence. Perhaps McMurty is again just lazy, or possibly ignorant. Oliver Cowdrey, and Martin Harris, both two major witnesses, never recanted their testimony about seeing the Golden Plates. Yet, both these men for several years were formally excommunicated from the Church Joseph founded. Why on earth would they have remained faithful to that testimony after having parted ways with the Prophet? Martin Harris, in fact lost $3,000.00 he put up for the printing of the original edition of the Book of Mormon. If anyone had reason to recant their prior witness of seeing the plates, both Martin and Oliver would have been likely candidates.

In short, I thought McMurty’s review of Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling was somewhat shallow. It had some legitimate complaints; however, after reading the first few paragraphs it is abundantly clear he is hostile to the Prophetic claims and mission of Joseph Smith. To paraphrase Hugh Nibley, No Sir, that’s not a book review. Here, however, is an excellent book review by a non LDS reviewer. Hat tip to Clark Goble of Mormon Metaphysics.

God Continues to Speak to Man

Over at Mormanity, Jeff Lindsay has an interesting post here, about the concept of continuing revelation from God to man. He quotes from an address given by LDS Apostle Hugh B. Brown in October 1967 General Conference. A good analysis.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

More Thoughts From Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling

I was reading in Rough Stone Rolling, still on the Translation chapter, and came across a thought by Bushman, I had never considered, or even knew for that matter. He has just covered the period where Joseph has let Martin Harris take the first 116 pages of transcript, and lost them. Bushman points out that 1828 was a pivotal year for the Prophet Joseph. It was the year he began, and at the same time lost the ability to translate, as well as 116 pages of translation itself. He also lost a new born Son, Alvin, named after his own late older brother. He was severely chastised for his role in allowing Martin Harris to take, and then lose the transcript.

Yet, in that time, the Prophet began to find his prophetic calling, as Bushman points out, when Joseph received his chastisement revelation. Bushman notes:
His true history began with his search for a church and his plea for forgiveness. These led to the revelation of the Father and the Son and the visit of Moroni, the cardinal events of his boyhood. After 1828, Joseph could no longer see that magic might have prepared him to believe in a revelation of gold plates and translation with a stone. It did not occur to him that without magic his family might have scoffed at his story of Moroni, as did the minister who rejected the First Vision. Magic had played its part and now could be cast aside.
See Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 69.

The irony lies, of course, in the anti-Mormon crowd usually beating the Prophet Joseph over the head with his prior dabbling in money digging and the occult. Bushman's thesis, arguably correct is that earlier activities by Joseph, while not the best uses of his Divine gift, were nonetheless preparatory for his eventual Prophetic calling. I like this analysis, and was again something I had never really before considered. It shows the human side of the Prophet, which clearly he was. Yet it also shows his growth and progress as he learned from his past mistakes.

UPDATE: Note that M* has a great inteview with Prof. Bushman the author of this book, which you can read here. It is a good interview, and I'm sure will generate some interesting comments. They note that Prof. Bushman may pop in and out of that discussion to answer further questions and comments.

Dutch Oven Cooking

One of my hobbies is dutch oven cooking. On Saturday, a friend of mine, went north to Paso Robles country to demonstrate a new Camp Chef product, the Ulitmate Turkey Roaster (photo left). It is essentially an oversized dutch oven. For those who are unfamiliar with dutch oven cooking, here are some of my favorite dutch oven links here, here, here, here, here, and here. There are lots more; but, these are the ones I frequent the most.

I've posted a series of photos I took at our little cookout here. Feel free to stop by and take a look. You can see how we cooked a 19 pound turkey in about two hours using the turkey roaster and a one burner stove, both Camp Chef products. I don't work for Camp Chef, but I do like their dutch ovens. The store where we demonstrated our turkey cooking carries these and other products. You can find them at Delta Liquid Energy in Paso Robles, located at 1960 Ramada Drive, Paso Robles, CA, (805) 239-0616.

The turkey turned out quite well--you can see the photos at the link above. It was very moist, not too brown--but certainly well done and tasty.

For other dutch oven creations, here's a photo of a chicken and dumplings dish we did on a recent scout camp out at the beach. This was all cooked with charcoal heat in a traditional dutch oven, and took about an hour, possibly a little more. It too was very, very good.

And, for dessert, on other occasions I have made a chocolate cake to die for. This one is a photo of the finished product, in the lid of the dutch oven after cooking and frosting. This hobby is lots of fun, and results in lots of great food!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bill O'Reilly Invites Al Qaeda To Kill In San Francisco

Mr. Family Values, hero of the "regular folks" Bill (Bombastic) O'Reilly has come out with another winner, I'm sure you've heard by now. He has invited Al Qaeda terrorist activity, including bombings and murder to take place in the City by the Bay, San Francisco. More and more his comments make reason stare. Then, I remember this self-proclaimed guardian of virture of the right wing has some pretty shaddy dealings in his own past--sexually harassing the hired help. It always seems the good journalists are in the wrong places at the wrong time. And the Bill O'Reilly's of the world just keep demonstrating their lunacy.

Wrestling With History

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on Donald Rumsfeld in an article dated 11/13/05. It's long but worth the time investment, and discusses a great deal of Rumsfeld's different wars, including the one against Collin Powell, reorganization of the Pentagon, Iraq, a future war with China, and himself to a degree. One of the most memorable lines from the story, dealing with this wrestle with history reads:

Robots, computers, missile shields and orbiting lasers address threats that no longer seem as pressing. The someday menace of enemy missiles has faded compared with today's car bombs, suicide vests and that medieval remnant, beheadings.

One of Rumsfeld's favorite maxims, one he supposedly included in a memo to George Bush before the Iraq invasion:

"it is easier to get into something than to get out of it."

If only they both had given it greater weight when it mattered . . . some interesting insights into Rumsfeld, and the war.

Tort Reform Hypocrisy

I've posted about "tort reform" before over on my legal blog, NipomoBlawg, here, and here. It's time for an update; however, since it's more political than legal, I'm going to post here, and link from my other blog. ABC News is reporting that Senator Rick Santorum has some explaining to do! You see, the junior senator from Pennsylvania is an ardent tort reformer. This means he doesn't believe people should have full access to the judicial system, and let a jury as guaranteed by the Constitution's Seventh Amendment, decide the case based on the evidence, without any outside artificial constraints.

Senator Santorum's website sets for his position on tort reform as:

Liability Reform

Legal reform is an important issue that I place high on the agenda in the 109th Congress, as it is crucial to curb lawsuit abuse. Patients across America are being denied critical health care as doctors and hospitals are closing their doors due to skyrocketing liability costs. We must focus our efforts on protecting access to emergency rooms and OB-GYNs, as well as passing medical liability legislation that will protect doctors and promote accessible and affordable health care in our communities.

Additionally, we must pass class-action reform legislation. Injured plaintiffs are suffering due to weak state court oversight of class-action lawsuits. On too many occasions plaintiffs receive little or no settlement and, in some instances, lose money after paying attorneys' fees.
As you can see, this has a "high" priority on the senator's agenda for this congress; however, it appears it is only high on the agenda long after his own wife, Karen Santorum took full advantage of the judical system and prosecuted her own case against a medical provider for malpractice.

On December 11, 1999, The Pittsburg Post Gazette reported in part:

A Virginia jury last night awarded the wife of Sen. Rick Santorum $350,000 in damages after she charged in a lawsuit that a Virginia chiropracter's negligence caused her permanent back pain.

Deliberating more then six hours after a four-day trial in which Santorum, R-Pa., testified, the Fairfax County Circuit Court jury unanimously ruled for Karen Santorum. She had sought $500,000 against Dr. David Dolberg of Virginia, because of pain from his 1996 treatment of her.

"Mrs. Santorum has been vindicated," said her Pittsburgh attorney Heather Heidelbaugh. "She was injured permanently through the actions of a chiropractor who acted negligently."

Heidelbaugh, with the Pittsburgh law firm of Burns, White & Hickton, said Mrs. Santorum has "permanent back pain" and "permanent numbness" in one leg.
Given the senator's tort reform views it is understandable he didn't much want to talk to the press about his wife's judicial victory:

Throughout the trial, Santorum aides declined to provide details. Yesterday, they issued a brief statement from the senator saying: "The court proceedings are a personal family matter. I will not be offering any further public comments, other than that I am not a party to the suit. But I am fully supportive of my wife."

The ABC report is even more enlightening:

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., says that the No. 1 health care crisis in his state is medical lawsuit abuse and in the past he's called for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards or awards for pain and suffering. "We need to do something now to fix the medical liability problem in this country," he declared at a rally in Washington D.C., this past spring.

But Santorum's wife sued a doctor for $500,000 in 1999. She claimed that a botched spinal manipulation by her chiropractor led to back surgery, pain and suffering, and sued for twice the amount of a cap Santorum has supported.

One has to wonder how the senator found religion from verdict time in 1999 up to now. And, one has to wonder the extent of the conversion from then to now. When the ABC reporters asked the senator about the hypocrisy of his push for damage caps and his own wife suing for twice the amount of those caps, he responded:

"I guess I could answer that in two ways," he said. "Number one is that I've supported caps. I've been very clear that I am not wedded at all to a $250,000 cap and I've said publicly repeatedly, and I think probably that is somewhat low, and that we need to look at what I think is a cap that is a little bit higher than that."

'Of Course I'm Going to Support My Wife'

But the fact is that Santorum has sponsored or co-sponsored a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages two times — even though he testified in his wife's case against the doctor.

"Of course I'm going to support my wife in her endeavors," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything that she does."

But Santorum agreed enough to tell the jury that he had to carry the laundry upstairs for his wife and that, because she suffered humiliation from weight gain, she no longer had the confidence to help him on the campaign trail. The jury was so moved it voted to award Karen Santorum $350,000.

"That's where again you're misled is that a lot of, there was cumulative damages," he said. "The medical bills, lost income, all those other things that were out there."

Those medical bills totaled $18,800, yet she sued for $500,000. And lost income? The judge made no mention of that when he slashed the jury's award in half, saying it was excessive.

The judge noted that the remaining damages "awarded amounted to something in the neighborhood of $330,000 or so for injuries sustained and the effect upon Mrs. Santorum's health, her past and future pain and suffering and inconvenience."

Wow! What? How convenient! Sounds to me like tort reform's the most important item facing the country on the campaign trail. But, at home, it's "support the wife" all the way. Unfortunately, it's at the expense of ordinary Americans and their constitutional right to a jury trial.

The Washington D.C. Newspaper Roll Call, in December 1999 covered this trial and specifically the senators testimony, which he gave subject to the penalty of perjury. Roll Call reported that the senator testified in part:

“Karen Santorum, he said, ‘likes to be fit,’ but has had trouble losing weight since the birth of their two youngest children - Sarah Maria, who was born two years ago this month, and Peter, who is 2 months old – because she can’t exercise as easily as she once could.

“While Santorum described his wife as an exercise fanatic who used to engage in everything from step aerobics to jogging to lose weight after the birth of each of their first three children, the herniated disk changed all that.

“‘We have to go out and do a lot of public things. She wants to look nice, so it’s really difficult,’ Santorum told the jury.

“The Senator also said he fears his wife will be unable to help him out much with his upcoming re-election campaign because of her physical limitations and the poor self-image she has developed since her back problems changed her life and her daily routine.

“‘She has always been intricately involved in my campaigns,’ Santorum said, explaining that he and his wife ‘knocked on 20,000 doors together’ during his previous campaign.

“Now, he says, she ‘does not have the confidence to do that.’”
I'm going to attempt to obtain trial transcripts; however, that may prove impossible. If I do, I will post verbatim from the senator's testimony on this blog.

Some points worth considering. Like many plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits, Ms. Santorum did not compile a hugh amount of medical expenses. From the press accounts she incurred nearly $19,000 is medical bills. Yet her prayer for relief in the lawsuit apparently sought $500,000 in total relief.

I'm not able to judge whether her case actually had that value; however, a jury, sworn, and sitting on her trial after listenting to the evidence decided that the case did have that value. So, from where did all that value come? Most likely in what we call general damages, i.e., pain and suffering. For many people this is the most difficult concept: awarding money damages for a person's subjective pain and suffering. Based on the trial excerpts above, Senator Santorum's testimony, under oath at trial focused on his wife's general pain and suffering damages. The same damages, the senator (at least in everyone's elses lawsuit) thinks are just phoney.

Of course, I make a living as a trial lawyer. I try these types of cases, i.e., personal injury. I have asked juries to award these types of damages. I have also defended personal injury cases, and have asked juries to be responsible in awarding damages, or not to award them at all. The fact is that we have a good tort system. George Bush wouldn't know a tort if it fell out the sky and landed on his head. He and other tort reformers like Senator Santorum use the issue as a political club for their own political advantage. This is confirmed by the facts in the Santorum case.

There is nothing wrong with allowing a sworn jury to do their job in coming to verdicts on a case by case basis. We don't need artifical constraints on the amount of money or damages juries should award. There are built in safeguards in this system, one of which we saw in the Santorum case. The judge can, and often the do, reduce the jury awards if in fact they are not supported by the evidence, or if justice so requires.

I reality I don't think the Santorums case is unique. When you need and want a lawyer to plead you case, you don't want that lawyer to be hampered by the artifical constraints of tort reform. You want your opportunity at justice as afforded by both state and federal constitutions. But, is it too much to ask to be consistent, and not a hypocrite when your ox is in the mire? Well, Senator, I say get off your tort reform political agenda, and afford every American the same legal rights you testified under oath for in your own wife's medical malpractice case.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush's Faulty Intelligence Arguments

The Washington Post has another must read story on Bush's recent attempts to justify his Iraqi invasion and the continuing deaths of American men and women in the armed services. The Post points out that while Congress saw some of the same intelligence before the war, that the Mr. Bush saw, Mr. Bush had access to much more intelligence, that he did not share with Congress. Furthermore, the bipartisan commission Mr. Bush touts in his defense, was not authorized to determine whether the Bush Administration lied or distorted the intelligence conclusions:

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

The Post also points out that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hasn't completed its inquiry about whether or not the Bush Administration cooked the intelligence books:

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Mr. Bush, it appears is the one guilty of the irresponsible act of re-writing the history of how the Iraq war began, as I mentioned in my previous post. He conveniently ignores the fact that he as the commander in chief has the most complete intelligence available. Intelligence that he does not, and did not completely share with Congress. Furthermore, it appears not everyone in the Bush Administration viewed Saddam as the threat Mr. Bush and Cheney painted him to be:

Even within the Bush administration, not everybody consistently viewed Iraq as what Hadley called "an enormous threat." In a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said of the economic sanctions against Hussein's Iraq: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."
In his most blatant (and irresponsible) attempt at rewriting the history of how the Iraq war began, Mr. Bush distorted the October 2002 joint resolution authorizing him to utilize force if necessary. Bush claimed Congress went along with his decision to remove Saddam, when in fact the resolution never mentioned removing Sadam:

Bush, in his speech Friday, said that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." But in trying to set the record straight, he asserted: "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."

The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power.

The resolution voiced support for diplomatic efforts to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

We should pressure our congressional representatives to move the inquiry in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence along with all due speed!

Veteran's Day Besmirched by George Bush

Happy Veteran's Day to all the Honorable Veterans of this great and noble country. Veteran's day had its origins shortly after the end of World War I. On Monday, November 11, 1918 the Germans signed the the Armistice. An order then followed ending the hostilities in the war to end all wars.

In November, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued an Armistice Day proclamation, which in relevant part stated:
To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nation.
In 1938 Congress proclaimed each November 11 to be Armistice Day. For 16 years the United States observed the holiday, including observances at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At 11:00 a.m, the hour reflecting the original signing of the Armistice (truce) traffic stopped, in tribute to the dead. Volleys fired and taps sounded also in honor of a greatful nation to its war dead.

After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veteran's Day by an Act of Congress on May 24, 1954. President Eisenhower referred to the name change as an honor for the service of all America's armed forces in all of America's wars. (Source Veterans' Day Homepage).

Today, George Bush rather than honor America's sacred dead, rather than unifying a nation in solemn rememberance of her dead, he injected the hateful politics for which he is infamous. He used this Veteran's Day to berate those who dare disagree with him on his failed Iraq war policies. The Washington Post notes:

"It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," Bush said as he used a Veterans Day address here to lash out at critics. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." Democrats retaliated with a barrage of statements accusing the president of skewing the facts, just as they maintain he did in the run-up to the invasion of March 2003.

Although the two sides have long skirmished over the war, the sharp tenor Friday resembled an election-year campaign more than a policy disagreement. In a rare move, Bush in his speech took a direct swipe at last year's opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), while the White House issued an unusual campaign-style memo attacking Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman followed with a speech blistering 10 Democrats for "political doublespeak."

From their campaign-style war rooms, the Democrats and allied liberal interest groups churned out "fact sheets" dissecting Bush's comments and comparing them with past statements and investigation findings in an effort to undercut his arguments. Kerry accused Bush of "playing the politics of fear and smear on Veterans Day."
The one re-writing the history of how the Iraq was began is George Bush. And, he is right: It is deeply irresponsible. His policies in Iraq, from the war's inception, to its prosecution, and the aftermath have been, and are irresponsible. What's more, most American's seem to know it:

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of how Bush is handling the war and 60 percent believe it was not worth fighting -- in both cases, the worst numbers for the president since the invasion. The perjury indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who resigned as chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, has revived the issue of the administration's truthfulness in building the case for war, and nearly 3 in 5 voters in the Post-ABC poll do not consider Bush honest.

Mr. Bush is now resigned to fighting political battles, over a year old when he continues his criticism of Senator John Kerry over Iraq:

Taking aim at Kerry, who recently announced his support for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Bush quoted the senator's statement in voting in 2002 for a congressional resolution authorizing use of force against Saddam Hussein. At the time, Bush noted, Kerry said that "a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our country." Bush added that other Democrats "who had access to the same intelligence" voted for the resolution.

Kerry later fired back. "This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition," he said. "That's why Scooter Libby has been indicted."

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush had "resorted to his old playbook of discredited rhetoric" and was "attacking those patriotic Americans who have raised serious questions about the case the Bush administration made to take our country to war."

It's clear to me, Mr. Bush has nothing new to say. He has no vision for our Country on what to do in Iraq, rather than pursue the same failed policies that have created the morass in which we now find ourselves, and will continue to find ourselves until we change direction.

Nipomo's Newest Golf Course

Great news for local central coast golfers. Please see my latest post over at the Central Coast News Mission Blog for the latest information. See you on the links!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thoughts From Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd be starting the new biography of Joseph Smith entitled Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard Lyman Bushman. As I read through the book, I thought I'd share a few of the passages I enjoyed the most, and give a few comments as well. I'm not a book reviewer or an historian, so all these thoughts are clearly of a lay person.

I've just started Chapter 3: Translation. As the title notes it deals with Joseph's translation of The Book of Mormon. It begins with a quote from Emma Smith, Joseph's wife, who in part stated:

J.S. could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon.

Emma Smith Bidamon, Notes of Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879.
Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling p. 57.

I liked this particular quote. Emma knew Joseph since their early 20's, when they were first married. She was present for a great deal of the translation, and was in fact an eye witness to the entire translation process as the rest of this quote reveals:
I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it and dictating hour after hour, with nothing between us. He had neither mss nor book to read from. If he had had anything of the Kind he could not have concealed it from me. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I felt of the plates, as they lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metalic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. O[liver] and JS wrote in the room where I was at work.

Emma Smith Bidamon, Ibid.
Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling, Ibid.

The interview from which this passage came was one her son, Joseph Smith, III conducted in 1879, just before her death, and some 35 years after The Prophet was martyred at Carthage Jail. Three years after The Prophet's death, Emma remarried to Lewis Bidamon, a non-Mormon. Emma never associated with the Utah branch of the Church, the main sect which traveled across the plains to Salt Lake City in 1846 to 1847.

Emma was also opposed to Joseph's practice and introduction of polygamy. She tolerated the practice while he was alive, but eventually denied the Prophet ever practiced the doctrine. Of course, this view is inconsistent with the historical record.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that Emma Smith suffered greatly during her mortal life, lost her first husband, The Prophet, in the prime of their lives, and became estranged to the Utah Mormons in later years, she continued firm in her testimony that Joseph was who he claimed to be; that in fact Joseph translated The Book of Mormon by the Gift and Power of God; that she knew of the physical reality of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; that she physically felt the plates; that she physically wrote for the Prophet as he dictated; that she personally and physically witnessed the translation process unfold; that in fact her husband, The Prophet Joseph, translated the Book of Mormon by the Gift and Power of God.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Crew & Troop 432 Camp Out

Our Crew and Troop went to the Oceano Dunes this weekend for our monthly camp out. I'm testing my new Flickr account, that allows me to post photos directly to my blog. So, check out our photos. If you reside somewhere like Fargo, North Dakota keep in mind we can actually camp out on the beach in November on California's Central Coast. You can see all the photos I posted of our camp out here. And, I just can't resist posting these two below of our incredible Central Coast beaches.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Religious Bigotry Evangelical Style

The Eleventh Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Mormons, or LDS Church) states:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God, according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship, how, where or what they may.
Every six months, The Church, hosts either an annual (April), or semi-annual conference (October) in downtown Salt Lake City. At that conference Mormons from the world over flock to Salt Lake City to hear the leaders of their Church, whom they consider to be living prophets, seers, and revelators.

We attend conference to receive religious and practical instruction from these leaders. We attend for spiritual renewal and rebirth. As we attend, we exercise our rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, affording us the free exercise of our religious beliefs.

Before the conference attendees are able to partake of their spiritual feast, they are verbally assaulted and abused for their religious beliefs on the very conference center steps. Each conference scores of "protesters" line the designated areas outside the LDS Conference Center to shout their religious bigotry and hate at those attending conference.

Who are these religious bigots? For the most part they appear to be on the fringe of the Evangelical movement. They are members of a group called the Street Preacher Fellowship, and have links to Baptists in Pennsylvania. Here's another Christian web site for these folks.
This past October, was no exception. The fine folks over at FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, have documented in good detail some of these obnoxious displays. You can see some of them here, and other links here. Some of the more egregious I'm reposting here, with thanks to Scott Gordon at FAIR for his permission to republish.

This Book of Mormon was defaced by our Evangelical brothers, and waved at Mormons as they arrived outside the conference center. Can you imagine the the defacement of the Koran outside an Islamic Mosque? Who would do this? Why would you do this?

Another favorite tactic of our Christian Evangelical brothers is to wave what Mormons consider to be sacred clothing, in their faces as they enter the Conference Center. From the photo, and the original post at FAIR it appears the Street Preacher in the photo is waiving the temple garment, which if you are interested you can read about here.

Again, I ask, can you imagine defacing a yarmulke by using it as a frisbee outside a Jewish synagogue, because you didn't agree with Jewish religious beliefs and traditions?

As a practicing and believing Latter-day Saint, I am appalled by this "Christian" conduct by our Evangelical brothers. It is reminiscent of the mob mentality of the early 1800's resulting in murder and mayhem toward many early Latter-day Saints on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices. This same mob mentality culminated in the Prophet Joseph's murder in Carthage Jail in 1844.

Questionable Evangelical behavior is not limited to April and October General Conferences. Dave, over at Dave's Mormon Inquiry has two excellent posts on this theme here, and here; however, what prompted my post was yesterday's post over at FAIR with the publication of the newest round of Street Preacher photographs. Evangelical ridicule toward Latter-day Saints began with the Prophet Joseph's First Vision. It remains unabated to this day.

Even more troubling is the recent political clout of the far religious right. With the ascendency of George Bush to the Presidency, the Evangelical movement has unprecedented political power. The most recent manifestation of which is the recent withdrawal of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Before Harriet was the Terri Schiavo fiasco, in which the Evangelical right was up to its eyeballs.

To my Evangelical brothers who are so fond of Biblical citations, I refer you to John 13:34-35, Love one another . . .

To those not ecclesiastically inclined, I quote Joni Mitchell:

Lord, there's danger in this land
You get witch-hunts and wars
When church and state hold hands