Monday, March 28, 2016

Is America Irreparable?



Over the weekend I was privileged to hear Buzz Aldrin speak at Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX.  In that speech he said that the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing would not have been possible without thousands of people working together toward one goal. And I believe this to be true, that cooperation is absolutely essential in everything from space flight to dinner on Wednesday night.

Last week, I posted a story about my first experience caucusing as an independent in Utah, and advocated for free and open primary elections in this state.  Would you believe that I actually got flak for that?

When, in the history of the United States, would you ever hear that Free and Open elections would be frowned upon?  Amazing.

As I type this, almost a week later, I still can’t believe the arguments I engaged in on social media.  I made the decision to link that post to my facebook account, and a Republican “friend” of mine, (actually a nice enough guy, whom I haven't seen since High School, and we were never really friends back then anyway, but I digress), argued that the Republicans shouldn’t ever have open elections because the Democrats might send over spies to subvert the process. (Those are my words, not his, but that’s the gist of his comments.)

Now I understand that the political parties are private organizations, and private organizations have the right to choose their leadership. (I think that I said this once before, but it bears repeating).
If Snobby-Woods Country Club wants to elect Percy VonSnootypants the chairman of the Greens Committee, well, that doesn’t affect my life very much now does it?
But when a political party sets down a set of party platforms (Ideas on how the country should be run. Ideas that they hope to force upon me and mine in the form of legislation), and then set bunch of candidates before us, who are all vying for the chance to enforce aspects of that platform on us, without giving us a chance to vote on the one that we see as the least crazy. That is Tyranny.
I, as a citizen of this country, upon whom this platform is going to be thrust, should have a chance to say which of the candidates I agree (or disagree) with the most, whether I am registered with said party or not.
I hope that makes sense, because I'm tired of repeating myself, but I will tout this message until someone decides to listen.

In a perfect world, I’d like to see this:
On primary day, I walk into a single polling place, step up to a voting machine, which says:

Screen One:
“Which Democratic candidate would you like to see on the November ballot?” And then a list of candidates. I choose one, and then hit the “Next” button.

Screen Two:
“Which Republican candidate would you like to see on the November ballot?” And then a list of candidates. I choose one, and then hit the “Next” button.

Screen Three:
“Which of the Green Party candidates…”

So on and so forth.  That way, every American has a say as to who will be on the November ballot. We all have a say.  Indivisible, just like it says in the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Heck, maybe if something like this happened, I’d start believing in the USA again and start pledging my allegiance once again.

But no, we’ve forgotten how to work together as a country.  We’ve forgotten what it means to be united.  We are so busy trying to one up each other, trying to shout down other opinions, trying to tell everyone else why their wrong, that we have forgotten how to listen.  I’m guilty of this too.  I engage when I should be holding still.
So, I’m listening for any viable idea on how to change this country for the better.  How to have open dialogue. How to listen, instead of shout. How to repair the rift that is quite literally tearing this country apart. Or is this country doomed to suffer the fate of the other great republic that disappeared about 2000 years ago, because it seems to be heading in that direction.
I long to know, that I am not a lone voice shouting into the void.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thoughts After My First Caucus

Last Month, a letter was read to LDS (Mormon) congregations in Utah.  The letter was written by a member of the First Presidency, and signed by all three of its members.
It read (in part):
"We are concerned that citizen participation rates in Utah are among the lowest in the nation, and we urge greater involvement by members of the church in the 2016 election cycle...
Our communities and our state are best served when Utah citizens fully engage in the political process through caucus meetings, primaries and other political mechanisms...
It is important to remember that engaging in the election process is both a privilege and a significant responsibility regardless of one's political inclinations…
and that principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties."
I sat in Sacrament meeting as Bishop McGee read this letter to us, and heard it once again as he read it in Priesthood meeting, and urged us as priesthood brethren to heed the Prophet’s words and to participate in the upcoming caucuses.
“But I'm an Independent, and I am excluded from doing so,” is all that I kept thinking in my head.
If you don’t know me, let me explain something to you.
I don’t salute the flag.
I don’t repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.
I don’t honor our country on the 4th of July.
I don’t do these things because in doing so, I feel that I would be honoring an institution that has turned its back on the citizens that keep it running. And, I believe, that part of the problem in this country can be laid squarely at the feet of the two parties (the R’s and the D’s) who are so concerned with keeping their power and influence that they fail to see the needs of the people that they are supposed to represent.
So here I am at a quandary.  The leaders of the Church, the leaders that I sustain, literally, as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators have asked that I participate in the caucuses even though I am an Independent, and registered as such.
A few years ago, there was a citizen’s initiative called “Count my Vote” that would have done away with the caucus system in Utah and replaced it with an open primary.  Well, then the Utah legislature swooped in to save the caucus system by issuing an alternative to “Count my Vote” in S.B.54.
Now, I’m sort of okay with S.B.54 because even though it preserved the caucus system, it did have language requiring all parties to open their caucuses to all registered voters, regardless of which party they declare themselves to be.
The Democrats agreed, probably because the Republicans disagreed with the bill.  And the Republicans disagreed so much, that they took the bill to court, and there it stands.
So, as of last night, any registered voter could caucus with the Democrats and the Republicans required participants to register with their party, in violation of the law, I might add, since S.B.54 is the law of the land.
So, being a good Mormon, who sustains my leaders, I went to the Democratic caucus and stood in line for 2-1/2 hours.
A lot of people have told me, go to the Republican caucus, change your affiliation there, you can do that, and then change it back next week.
I could have done that, because I really wanted to vote for anyone other than Trump or Cruz in their caucus.  But to me, registering as a Republican just to vote in a caucus that they don’t want me at, and then to change my registration back to Independent later felt disingenuous.  Not, authentic, as it were.
The Republicans have proven themselves as an exclusionary party time and again with their lawsuits and bills intended to quash voter’s rights in this state and others.  Voter I.D. laws and the like are meant to do just that, no matter what they argue about their attempts to protect the vote.
The Utah Republicans argue that they are a private institution and no law should require them, as a private institution, to open their “member’s only” voting to outsiders.
I could agree with that, if they were a men’s club, or a country club, or a sewing group, or any other kind of club that didn’t affect the lives of those outside their exclusive group. But they are a political party, whose platforms and policies affect all of us as a country, and therefore they should be, and are, required by law to open their voting to any registered voter who walks through their door.
Others have told me that I shouldn’t sweat the caucuses because the November election is open to all, and I can vote there.
You know what?  That kind of statement really pisses me off.
At the end of 2014, there was a protest in Hong Kong.  It’s sometimes referred to as the Umbrella Revolt.  Up until that point Hong Kong was essentially a democracy.  Candidates could declare, and be elected by the people in an open election.  Well, in 2014 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decided that they would be picking the candidates from now on, and that the people could then decide which of the two puppets they would want as their leader.  The people of Hong Kong flipped out and revolted.
So when people tell me that, essentially, as an Independent, I just have to live with whoever other people send to the ballot in November, and be happy about it, well, you can just imagine how I feel about that person.
So, Last night, I followed the Prophet, and went to the Democratic caucus.  My first caucus ever, and the Democrats were just as nice as they could be.  I stood in line, a lot.  I talked with some very nice people, and I voted for one of the two Democratic candidates, who I thought would do the best job for our country, if they get into the White House.
God Bless America.  So it goes...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Utah Caucus Night

The Utah Caucuses are today, as if it really matters.  I guess it does this year because the races are so close, but the caucus system here is broken.  Utah has one of the lowest caucus participation rates in the nation, which really surprises people because our general election turnout rates are about average for the nation.  The thing is, I know why we don’t turn out on caucus night. People have been questioning why, and I know why.
In the past, you have had to be registered with a party in order to participate in that party’s caucus.  As people have increasingly become disillusioned with the two major parties they have been turning to 3rd parties or become independent, which would then exclude them from being able to participate in the caucuses even if they wanted to.
It’s a simple conform or shut up.
A few years ago, a citizens referendum was proposed called “Count My Vote” which, had it not been circumvented by the State Legislature, would have done away with the Utah Caucus system and replaced it with a mandatory primary election.  The history and deal making that went on between Count my Vote and S.B. 54 is pretty convoluted, but in the end “Count my Vote” was dead and S.B. 54 became the law of the land.
S.B. 54 kept the Caucus system intact, but provided a way for candidates to get on the ballot by circumventing the Caucuses and allowed for unaffiliated people to participate in the caucuses.  The Democrats embraced it and the Republicans are fighting it in court.
The outcome is that we still have the caucuses, if you want to attend a Republican caucus, you must register as a Republican while anyone can attend the Democrat caucus.
What a mess!I don’t know what it is about the Republicans lately, but they really seem to be wanting to exclude people from voting.  Voter I.D. laws, mandatory registration for primaries and caucuses, etc., make me wonder, what are the republicans afraid of?
I got an unsolicited email yesterday from some joker named Jonathan Johnson who wants to run for Governor against Gary Herbert.  The email was full of garbage about preserving the Caucus system in Utah.  The email didn’t have a “contact me” button, but it did have a facebook page link, which is just as good.  So I sent him a PM:

Murph:  I just received your unsolicited email about preserving this exclusionary system of governance that we call the "Caucus System." Since I'm not a Republican nor a Democrat, you believe that I should not have a voice in who should run our country.  Is that what you're saying Mr. Johnson? Fortunately, the Dems are not as exclusionary as you are and will let me caucus with them. What, exactly, are the Republicans afraid of? Because I think that you guys would be happy to see only a select few with the honor of voting.

Johnson: SB 54 makes a ballot spot for sale in Utah. That is not how we should do it. I believe the caucus-convention system could be improved to promote more participation, but SB 54 was not the right solution. BTW, I'm not afraid of any open debate of ideas. Please don't lump me in with career politicians like Herbert.

Murph: You can stop right there. The people, not the party elitists should be picking the candidates. SB54 was used to supplant a Citizens Initiative to replace the outdated and exclusionary caucus system. In effect SB54 killed Count my Vote. And who did this? Oh, that would be a Republican controlled legislature. The system is broken, and you and your ilk want to keep it that way.

Johnson never countered back.

Granted, I was in a pissy mood when I sent that PM, and I did have a few of my facts wrong, but hey, he just rolled over.  That’s ok, Jonathan Johnson has about as much chance as Super Dell in getting the Republican nomination for Governor of this state, and tomorrow morning, he’ll be another bitter “also ran.”  I do hope that he sees that open participation in governance is the only true and fair way to run this country.  It kind of bothered me that he said, “the caucus-convention system COULD be improved to promote more participation.” (emphasis added by me) that “could” tells me that he doesn’t really believe that the caucus system is broken.
As in: It COULD be changed, but it’s just fine the way it is.
I hear this kind of thing at work all the time when I have an idea for my department. “Ya, Murph, we COULD do that, but wouldn’t it be better if we did this?”

Patronizing, that’s all that “Could” was.  It was a subtle “Go away, Kid, Ya bother me.”

Here is my dream, that some day, on Primary Voting Day, the 4th Tuesday of March, all people, regardless of their affiliation would be able to walk into a polling site, walk up to a voting machine, pick a party, and pick a candidate.  Or even better yet.  Walk up to the voting machine and have it say “Here are the Republican Candidates, who would you like to see on the November Ballot? Pick One.” Next Screen, “Here are the Democratic Candidates, who would you like to see on the November Ballot? Pick One.” Next Screen, “Here are the Green Party Candidates…”  

That would be the most fair and accurate way of choosing the final candidates for the November election.  But that would never happen in this country because the parties would be afraid that the people of the opposition party would try to submarine them by picking the weakest candidate.  Absolutely, that would happen.  That happens now.  And so what, that’s how the game is played.

Look, If I were an unethical person, I could change my registration to Republican right now, or even do it at the caucus location, vote for who I think is the weakest Republican candidate (Trump, in my opinion) and then change my registration back tomorrow morning.

So, here’s the point.  Go to the Caucuses.  If you’re registered as a Republican, well, God bless you. Enjoy meeting with your like minded people.

If you are and Independent, like me, join me with the Democrats.  They seem to be open to all comers.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Donald Trump? America, What Are You Smoking?

"F*** You, America! You're Fired!"

Super Tuesday is behind us and “The Donald” seems to have the Republican nomination all, but, wrapped up.  That is, unless the Republican National Committee figures out a way to take the nomination from him.

I have no doubt that they will find a way to rip the nomination away from him.
For now, they are content to run anti-Trump adds, to hit the news outlets with a full on smear campaign, and to pull out the heavy guns vis-a-vie Mitt Romney.

But I have to ask, as clownish as Trump is, with the absolute lunacy that spews, daily, from his face, why are Republicans voting for him?

Now granted, I am no lover of our current government, or of the status quo.  (Because the status is not quo! as Dr. Horrible would say). But I am not willing to put a total and utter clown into the white house, no matter how much “outsider” cred he says he has.

We’ll skip right over his support of David Duke and the KKK.  Or maybe, to be fair.  His, not quite, denying of their support and then returning to not deny support, but to blame a faulty earpiece that everyone seemed to take as a denial.  Did that make sense?  Do you get that he did not deny and then didn’t deny, by denying the denial due to a faulty piece of tech?  Ya, that was a masterful piece of denial.

So Glad I skipped over that.  Aren't you?

Onward and downward.

He’s going to build a wall, and he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it.
Has he ever said how he’s going to get that to happen.
Estimates vary depending on the source, but something between 20 billion and 50 billion US dollars are sent, every year, by undocumented workers to their families in Mexico.  Even on the low side, $20,000,000,000 is a tremendous amount of money.  $20 Billion is more than the gross national product of some countries.  Should I say it again?

Twenty Billion Dollars.

Why would Mexico agree to shut down such a tremendous part of their economy?  What country on the planet would willingly shut down a $20 Billion industry, and pay to do it? Answer: None!

Mr. Trump, you are smoking dope.

Also, a border wall really isn’t going to do anything.  According to Pew Research, the number of undocumented workers from Mexico is on the decline.  Their numbers show that the population of undocumented workers peaked at about 6.9 million in 2007 and was on a steady decline through to 2014, where the population was somewhere around 5.6 in 2014.  I can’t find numbers after that.  But maybe the Undocumented immigrants are going back to Mexico because we are even more screwed up than their government is.

Here’s one of my favorites.  When referring to the Affordable Care Act, Trump said, “You have no options… you can’t get competitive bidding.”
Such a lie!  Now I do have to admit, that in some places, there is only one company to go to because there is only one insurance company operating in that location, and that company may only have a couple of plans to choose from.  But this is usually in areas with low populations where it is not cost effective for more than one company to operate.  But that fact is, that even in those areas, you still have options.
You know, it’s funny.  When I ask conservatives why they don’t like “Obama Care” no many can give me a good answer.  In fact they usually just get mad at me.  When I break down the benefits of the AFA (Obama Care) part by part, they all seem to like that parts.  Trump is just jumping on this “Hate Obama Care” bandwagon.

This was a good one.  After the New Hampshire Primary, Trump said, “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment.  The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35.  In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

Really Mr. Trump?  Half of all Americans are out of work?  And you all are still voting for him.  It boggles the mind.
Politifact gave him a “Pants on Fire” rating for that little gem.
At the height of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate in the US only reached an estimated 25%.  A quarter of the nation’s workforce was out of a job and there were soup lines, shanty towns, food riots, and all manner of problems.  Think about that.  an unemployment rate of only 25% did that, and Mr. Trump want’s us to believe that the US is in a depression that is almost TWICE as bad as the Great Depression?  And yet, he’s still getting votes.

Maybe it is true.  Maybe Trump really does love the Under-Educated.

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