Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Ravenous Beast

When I pine for limited government, I am often met with challenges as to how government spending could reasonably be cut. To me, this kind of question is utterly ridiculous. The opportunities for cutting spending are so plentiful and manifold (and ever increasingly so), that we could pretty much start anywhere. Some of the best places to start would be those that seldom see the light of public scrutiny.

Of course, those posing the challenge as to how spending could be cut are listening to the cries of the ever ravenous beast that government can be, crying about insufficient funds. It’s like my teenage son that has grown a foot in height and doubled his weight in the past couple of years, saying, “I’m hungry.” This occurs with regularity except for when he is asleep. It is a common refrain often heard even within an hour of consuming a large meal.

Consider Utah’s education industrial complex, for example. I know that some will flame me for daring to even mention this highly sacred cow, but please indulge me. Jesse Harris ably discusses this matter in this post. He notes, “Utah's per-pupil spending ranking has been slipping only because other states are intent on spending everyone else under the table.”

Jesse continues, “We've also watched education spending in our state increase 54% in the last decade while the student population only increased 9%. Despite all this, test scores and teacher salaries stay flat. If you try voicing any opposition to keeping the gravy train coming to town, however, teacher's unions will slap you with an anti-education label you couldn't remove with hydrochloric acid.”

And let’s not forget the fact that we’ve poured copious amounts of cash into the system to address the ever present cry that classrooms are overcrowded. But after a decade of chucking cash at these problems, they are as bad as ever. When the legislature asked educrats where they spent the money intended to solve these problems, they were unable to provide an accounting. That hardly inspires confidence that the half billion Dollars the legislature has decided to throw at education this session will be properly managed.

And education isn’t the only culprit. These kinds of problems exist throughout the width and breadth of state and federal government. The CATO Institute’s Chris Edwards noted in the introduction to a 2004 paper about how to cut federal spending that government funds had been scandalously mismanaged by numerous agencies. He says that this is because the expansive government “has simply become too big for [legislative bodies] to oversee.” I wonder, along with Edwards, why our society has increasingly come to see expanding government as the answer to so many issues, given the fact that its track record is so poor.

Edwards asserts, “All [government] spending displaces private spending, but many [government] programs actively damage the economy, cause social ills, despoil the environment, or restrict liberty as well.” He rejects the trend to centralize power and funding that has resulted in “a complex array of 716 grant programs [that] disgorges more than $400 billion annually to state and local governments, which become strangled in federal regulations.” His 2005 book explores ways to properly cut government spending in more detail.

George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux writes in this post that cutting government spending is so difficult because “nearly all programs currently in operation have a kind of political sacredness. They become almost immediately locked-in; each one becomes very difficult to kill.” He says that this looks an awful lot like a form of addiction.

But the government is us. We are doing this to ourselves. Or at least we are allowing it to happen. If we want government to be properly managed, it needs to be reduced to a manageable size. Unfortunately I don’t see many at the state or federal level that are serious about this. Although some give it lip service, actions show that most of our elected officials from both major parties actually believe quite the opposite. And by extension, that means that most of the electorate believes quite the opposite as well.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Hey Baby, How About Writing a Blog Post for Me?"

Bloggers that post their email addresses occasionally receive solicitations to blog about something specific. Sometimes it’s a common cultural or political concern — kind of like organizing an online protest. Often it’s about a commercial product. In other words, you’re being asked to be a cheap part of someone’s marketing campaign. Occasionally, these solicitations include monetary offers if you will blog about a specific product and/or include a specific link in a post.

Based on the nature of the solicitations I receive, I must conclude that: A) most of these people don’t understand what motivates bloggers, and B) few of these people spend any time reading the blogs of those to whom they send solicitations. It seems to me that they’re taking kind of a throw-the-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach.

Although I have only my own experience to draw on, I can’t imagine that these campaigns are very successful. I suppose they’re relatively cheap, much like sending direct mail to 2,000 recipients in a single zip code is relatively cheap. But if you’re like me (and studies show that 97% of people are), direct mail goes directly from the mailbox to the rubbish bin. And that’s pretty much how I treat blogging solicitations as well.

Citing a couple of studies on what motivates bloggers, Kelly Abbott of Red Door wrote in this October 2005 article, “Bloggers blog for the same reason guitarists rock: they have an urge to be heard and the medium allows them to express themselves like no other.” Well, sort of. Being a guitar player myself and knowing other guitar players, I have to say that different people play guitar for different reasons. Some don’t care to be heard by anyone but themselves.

Similarly, bloggers blog for different reasons. The very nature of the medium means that bloggers intend to put their writings out into the public space. But the same studies cited by Abbott show that for many, blogging is intensely personal. It is therapeutic. They don’t necessarily care that much about what others think of their posts; they do it because they experience some level of fulfillment from writing.

I think I fall into this category. I haven’t installed any of the traffic monitoring tools, because frankly, I don’t care how many people read my posts. I also occasionally compose music and write poetry when I feel driven to it. But I will be the first one to admit that most of what I put together isn’t very good. I expose very little of this stuff to others. I know it’s not that good, but I also know that simply writing it satisfies a psychological need.

Others blog for the value of social interaction or the mental stimulation of debate. Bloggers that stick with it often end up becoming part of an online community, where a certain level of trust is attained, personalities are developed, and where there are expectations, rights, and responsibilities.

The largest portion of blogs are personal blogs. But these are also the most likely to die off. That is, there is an initial flurry of writing, followed by increasingly rare posts. In fact, that is the model for most blogs of any type. The vast majority of blogs are dead or nearly so. Blogs that more or less center on a topic or range of topics are somewhat more likely to remain viable for a longer time. At least, this is what I garner from various studies (see Snurblog, Daniel Drezner, Hugh Hewitt’s book, etc.)

Being a free market kind of guy myself, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with businesses trying to get bloggers to advertise for them. I don’t even see a problem with bloggers advertising, as long as they’re up front about it. Of course, even if they aren’t, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what they’re up to.

But I’m not going to willingly be part of anyone’s marketing campaign. Why? I write about what interests me at a given moment, not about what interests others (which should be obvious from the limited number of comments I receive on some posts). I write for my own satisfaction. Writing something someone else wants me to write about would not fill my psychological need. It would remind me too much of work, or even worse, of grad school.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Never Say Never

With nearly a year to go until the presidential primaries begin and over 20 months to go until the next presidential election, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. My eighth grader asked me the other night if I would vote for Mitt Romney. I gave him a mushy “that depends” answer. This all arose from a social studies class discussion. He then asked me whether I would vote for several other candidates.

First off, I was impressed that my son even had a clue who these people were. I was blissfully unaware about such things when I was that age. Perhaps this is indicative of the celebrity status that politics has achieved since then. For a couple of the candidates my son mentioned, I was able to confidently tell him I would under no circumstances vote for them. But I found that for most of those on his list, I could only give qualified answers.

Part of this is because I have lived long enough to know that things change. Circumstances change. People change. More information becomes available. My perceptions change. And whether I would vote for a particular candidate or not depends greatly on what choices are available to me at the time of the election. Had my son asked me how I would vote if the election were held today, I might have answered differently.

Still, early opinion helps shape the debate and fuels what type of information is gathered and presented. It is possible that my wait-and-see approach fails to contribute much to that debate. There are plenty of people out there weighing in on the various candidates. And I think that’s a healthy thing.

But I must say that I am surprised by the number of conservatives that strongly oppose a given candidate. Every single one of them has provided plenty of fodder for developing a rational opposition. But I am surprised at how strongly some state their opposition. It seems to me that they are failing to allow for the inevitable changes that will occur over the next 20 months.

For example, I have made it no secret that I have some issues with Mitt Romney. And I’m not alone. There are plenty of conservatives that have well founded reservations. But some of them are vehement in their opposition to Mitt. What seems odd to me about this is that if Mitt is the eventual GOP nominee, many of these same people will end up supporting him — some of them enthusiastically. I have issues, but can I say that I would never vote for him? I’m not ready to go there.

Christian conservative commentator James Bopp says in this article that conservatives shouldn’t be so quick to misjudge Mitt’s seemingly recent conservative conversion. But Bopp’s argument that Mitt is just a closet conservative that is now coming out in the open doesn’t inspire much conservative confidence. After all, conservatives admire Ronald Reagan for saying what he meant and sticking to it. They don’t admire Bill Clinton for saying whatever he thought people wanted to hear while harboring other intentions.

But wait. Reagan (St. Ronald to some conservatives) was rather complex himself. He had once been a Democrat. He signed the nation’s most liberal abortion bill when he was governor of California. He had been divorced. And he was famously lax on illegal immigration. But when he said that he had changed his stripes on issues over the years, he came across as both passionate and genuine about it. I’m not sure that Romney scores well on either of these points right now. Eloquent, yes. Maybe even passionate in some instances. But he’s got work to do on genuineness.

Conservative columnist Kathy Lopez makes a valid point in this article, however, when she asserts that Romney is a better fit for the conservative base than GOP frontrunners McCain and Giuliani. Reason and history dictate that both of these candidates will hit a significant rough spot sometime before the primary election cycle is complete. We’ll see then how they continue to rank with conservatives.

And for what it’s worth, I disagree with Jonah Goldberg on his beer test slant. Even he admits it’s not a proven theory, but it goes like this. The candidate with whom the average person could imagine sitting down together with for a beer has a political advantage with voters. Goldberg suggests that McCain and Giuliani probably rank the highest among all of the announced candidates from either party. Mitt is too polished, he says. Goldberg sort of has a point. My guess is that George W. Bush would easily have beaten John Kerry on this score in 2004.

While personal appeal is undeniably important, people aren’t looking for someone they think is just like them. Most voters will admit they would make a lousy president. Rather, voters are looking for someone they can look up to — someone that has leadership qualities they admire. This is where Mitt’s polished shine will likely pay off.

But I think Lopez also strikes a chord with many conservatives when she quotes GOP pollster Robert Moran as saying, “The Republican candidates are good Americans and we shouldn’t diminish their qualifications, but at some point there will be a critical mass of thoughtful conservatives asking ‘Who else do we have?’ I hope that this question doesn’t come too late.”

Moran is talking about second tier candidates. In recent history, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both rose from the second tier to win their party’s presidential nomination and ultimately the presidency. Some argue that the speed of information and the nature of media has changed so much in the last decade or so that it is no longer possible for a second tier candidate to rise up and clinch her/his party’s nomination this ‘late’ in the cycle.

I think that is pure poppycock. Yes, both parties have identified their first tier candidates and many of their lower tier candidates as well. Yes, the first tier candidates have built stronger campaign and fundraising machines earlier in the cycle than ever before. But there is still a lot of time left. There are still many unknowns. Any or all of the frontrunners could completely implode at various points along the line. A single significant domestic or international event or a combination of events could dramatically change the entire chemistry of the situation.

Would it be difficult for a second tier candidate to rise to the first tier in either major party? Sure. But it’s not impossible. In fact, at this point I would argue that it is even likely to happen in at least one of the parties, from a statistical viewpoint, given that the field is more open for both parties than it has been in years.

Is it entirely possible that Mitt could end up being the best choice conservatives have left next year. The conservatives that once vehemently opposed him but have since switched to support him will then be guilty of the same kind of thing they find so distasteful in Mitt today. But this is only one of a broad variety of scenarios that could end up playing out.

My advice to conservatives? Praise what you think is right, speak out about what you think is wrong, keep your options open, and don’t give up hope for something better — at least not yet.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Will the Legislature Get the Tax Cut Done?

Our whole system of government is founded on the principle of compromise. Of course, that’s not the sole principle involved, but it's among the most significant. It chapped my hide last year when our legislature failed to achieve compromise on how to give taxpayers back a paltry 7% of the largest budget surplus in state history (see here).

The legislature did finally come back for a special session in the wake of impending elections to achieve compromise on this issue. Are we in for a repeat of last year at a higher level?

This year we have a much larger budget surplus than we did last year. Going into the legislative session, most legislators agreed that there should be a tax cut, but the House and Senate disagreed broadly about the amount and nature of the cut. It seems that leadership of both bodies has achieved general agreement on the amount, which I calculate to be about 14-15% of the astounding surplus. But there is still disagreement on how to do the cut.

It was widely reported last year that the whole problem of being unable to resolve the tax cut issue boiled down to a battle of egos rather than concern over what was best for the citizens of Utah. Certain leaders came into this session contritely admitting that mistakes had been made and touting a resolve to do better this year.

Maybe they are doing better. And maybe not. One of the chief bones of contention has been the proposed elimination of sales tax on unprepared food. The House is all for it and the Senate is completely opposed to it. According to this D-News article, it seems that some progress has been made toward compromise on this issue. But it’s too early to tell if it will really work out. And this is only one issue. Senate President John Valentine (R-Orem) says that they are going to have to work around the clock to resolve the tax cut issue.

I expressed dismay last year that resolving the tax cut was left to the very end of the session. I felt that it should have been priority #1. Other matters could then be considered after that was resolved. I mean, if you can’t cut taxes when the economy is booming and we have a stunning surplus, when can you cut taxes?

But that’s not how the legislative session works. Tax cuts are among a number of squishy issues that tend to be shaped by how other legislation turns out. That is why the D-News article says that Valentine “described the tax cuts as being on a "parallel track" with budget issues.” The issue only gets firmed up as various budget issues get nailed down. I may not like it much, but that’s the way it works in reality.

So it looks like we’re going to just have to sit tight and see how our legislators handle this matter as the session draws to a close. I only hope that this year they put the ultimate goal ahead of ego and show us that they can actually achieve a useful compromise without having to spend more of our money in a special session to do it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Solving the Newspaper "Crisis"

In today’s Utah Policy Daily, LaVarr Webb wishes, “As a former journalist and lifetime avid newspaper reader, I hope the good old print newspaper never goes away.” He touts the unparalleled quality of a well laid out newspaper in delivering an in-depth story in a way that no other medium achieves. But he can see the writing on the wall. He says, “I recognize that I’m part of a dying breed that still likes printed newspapers. I hardly know any young people who spend time with a printed paper.”

And this is more than simply instinct. Media investing mogul Steven Rattner writes in this Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that across the newspaper industry, “circulation has been dropping for 20 years, and worse, the pace of decline seems to be accelerating.” Rattner notes that this decline began long before there was a media presence on the Internet.

Webb says that the solution is for “newspapers [to] evolve and become the premier information source for young people. And that’s only going to happen on-line.” But that evolution would have to be major, because just shifting from paper to electronic delivery doesn’t address the core problem. Rattner notes that the time the average American spends paying attention to news or doing news analysis from any source has been steadily dropping as well. So Webb is not just imagining things when he opines that the breed that likes to curl up with a good newspaper is disappearing.

Rattner asserts that the problem is as deep as a shift in what Americans consider news. He says that the media’s slide from substantive news to “entertainment, gossip or lifestyle info” merely reflects outlets “providing what their customers are demanding.”

It’s not as if Rattner is oblivious to the effects of diversification. For the true news junkie, he asserts, “quality news … is arguably more available today than ever before….” But when Rattner couples this with the declining percentage of the population that fall into the analyst category, he finds reason for alarm.

I only partially share Rattner’s concern. I think Rattner misjudges breadth of the scope of diversification. Americans are more affluent than ever. The potential outlets for their time have exploded over the past several decades. And these ever-expanding possibilities compete for our finite time resources.

It’s not just that the newspaper and the evening news aren’t the only news games in town any more. It’s that there are so many others ways in which one can spend his/her time. From scrapbooking to online gaming to watching poker on TV, there are more things to do than ever.

I have two teenage sons that create and mix their own music, producing near professional results. This used to be the domain of experts with lots of expensive equipment and a sound studio. But these guys can do it with a keyboard, a PC, and a couple hundred dollars worth of software. And diversification happens in almost every aspect of life. When I was a kid there were three little league sports we could play: football, basketball, and baseball. Today my kids are assailed with seemingly endless sports possibilities.

We value shared experience. It’s how we relate to other people. We talk with each other about our common points of interest. These make up the points that connect us with others in our human relations. There used to be far fewer common contact points. The newspaper and the evening news were among those. With ever broadening choices, we have far more potential contact points. As the average American tries to sample an increasing number of these points, they have less time for depth in any one of them.

The news industry is part of this. Busy Americans today catch a few news snippets here and there. They peruse a few headlines and look for something that they think might apply to them. News is almost always obtained more quickly from sources other than the newspaper. But depth sometimes suffers. Americans seem willing to live with this.

Both Webb and Rattner seem quite nostalgic about traditional newspapers. Unlike these two, I see nothing particularly special about newsprint media. The basic purpose of news can be achieved through other media, even if its format differs. The nostalgic types see the differences in method and delivery as deficiencies, when in fact, they are merely trade-offs that are the common lot of any technological or cultural shift.

I strongly disagree with Rattner’s proposed solution. He seems intent on saving the newspaper industry for the good of society. After exploring the possibilities of privatizing and appealing to philanthropy, he finally floats the trial balloon of shifting to a publicly funded model. He cites the New York subways as a necessary and successful example of this.

For one thing, I am afraid that I do not see newspapers quite in the same light as public transit. For another, I’m not sure that creating an American version of Pravda would be a model of enlightenment and success. Having a print version of NPR — that paragon of publicly funded objectivity (note: sarcasm) — would hardly result in a product that would increase readership, unless we also have bands of brown shirts that run around making everyone read it. I simply cannot generate any excitement for putting government bureaucrats in charge of newspapers.

The fact is that the basic rules of Econ 101 apply here. Demand will ultimately determine supply. Government intervention to support the waning buggy whip industry, regardless of how wonderful it might seem in the eyes of some, is ultimately going to fail and cause all kinds of market mischief along the way. Memo to newspaper companies: Your heyday is over. Get used to the idea. Morph to meet the changing market or dry up and blow away. It’s harsh, but it’s that simple, folks.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Failure to Understand Responsibility Makes Abuse Possible

A 62-year-old former Mormon bishop pleaded guilty in Logan yesterday to lewdness (see here, third item). According to the article, this guy took two 15-year-olds on a nude snowmobile ride and hit the sauna at his cabin in the buff with them. I assume that the two juveniles were male. Otherwise I seriously doubt prosecutors would have only pursued misdemeanor charges.

In his defense, the guy told police that “he didn’t feel that anyone was uncomfortable.” What universe does this man live in? Didn’t this guy learn anything from the MoTab member that skinny dipped with boys and videotaped it (see here)? There is obviously a good reason Mr. Nude Snowmobiler must undergo a mental evaluation. Thank goodness he’s been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with juveniles, even if he’s not in jail.

In our post-modern sexually liberated world, snowmobiling and saunaing bare is OK, right? Perhaps, provided there is adequate privacy. But not with minors. Maybe that’s OK in Scandinavia, but it’s not OK in the USA. It’s called child abuse, folks.

This man’s clueless response to police is actually a very common pattern for child abusers. In their minds they see themselves and their victims as equals. They think they and their victims bear equal responsibility for what occurs in the relationship. They completely discount the tremendous power differential in the relationship.

Can’t this guy see that being four times these kids’ age, being successful (at least successful enough to have snowmobiles and a cabin with a sauna), and having held venerated leadership positions gives him extraordinary influence over these kids? Well, no. Abusers don’t see it like that. They lie to themselves about equality of responsibility and fool their own consciences.

Don’t get me wrong. Every capable individual bears a certain level of responsibility for his/her own actions. But in interpersonal relationships we need to consider the power differential and comprehend appropriate levels of responsibility to have successful and morally appropriate interactions.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Presidential Horse Race

As a follow-up to my Monday post about current 2008 presidential hopefuls, I found this article by historical biographer Noemie Emery to be interesting. Emery explores the topic of how three men (Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney) that all decidedly differ from the standard Republican grassroots profile have become the frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination. Emery calls them “Metro Republicans.”

Although McCain represents Arizona, and Romney has strong ties to both Michigan and Utah, neither of these men fit nicely into the GOP grassroots stereotype. McCain “has recently stopped twisting his thumbs in the eyes of people who might otherwise back him,” but he “tends to play well with a [northeastern] audience.” He has carefully groomed his maverick persona for years, which has made him highly desirable to the MSM cartel, but much less so to Republicans that attend caucus meetings and vote in primaries.

Emery notes that Romney is “[u]rbane and urban,” has been governor of “perhaps the most liberal state in the Union,” and “has quartered his campaign in the North End of Boston, as far from the Sunbelt as is humanly possible.” In light of his well publicized liberal social positions of the past, he is running like a born again conservative that has finally seen the light. A lot of people are waiting to be convinced that his conversion is genuine.

Giuliani doesn’t make any pretense of being like the GOP grassroots base. His liberal social positions are well known. But he also has a tough guy persona that comes across as the real thing. He is the only one of the three gentlemen that is not trying to repackage himself on the campaign trail. He is who he is. Take it or leave it.

Emery spends quite a few column inches of her article in defense of Rudy’s electability, even in the GOP primaries. His supporters see in him somebody that will combat our nation’s enemies without taking any guff from anyone. Emery’s thoughts fit very nicely with Wall Street Journal editorial columnist Brendan Miniter’s take on this issue. Both Miniter and Emery suggest that GOP social conservatives are turning out to be much more nuanced than the MSM and the left make them out to be.

Miniter says that some are seeing Giuliani as a strong ally in the battle “against an intransient political culture that is unresponsive to the demands of the public.” Emery says that unlike past liberal Republican presidential hopefuls, Giuliani is not trying to wage a culture war within the party. He has his personal stances, but he isn’t taking political positions that significantly alienate the base.

Emery suggests that any of these three men would provide an overall good for the GOP, rescuing it from becoming too monolithic and broadening its appeal to average Americans. She cites polls that “show Metro Republicans beating the purer red models” among Republicans in general and even among social conservatives. She also touts the fact that polls show the Metro guys “beating Democrats in all of the head-to-head heats.” But she admits that polls two years out only have so much meaning.

Emery thinks that it’s not a bad thing for a GOP presidential candidate to be complex or to have a liberal past. She cites GOP and conservative saint, Ronald Reagan as being “a complex enough figure … who was divorced and remarried, a former film star and a recovering Democrat, … who signed a liberal abortion bill while governor of California, … and once even backed the New Deal.”

Contrasting the Metro boys with the current field of Democrat candidates, Emery asserts that the Dems are too monolithic and that “few [have] cross-party appeal.”

Hmmm…. Part of me doesn’t like how all of this feels. During the 2004 primaries I often heard Democrat voters say that they were supporting John Kerry, not because they thought he would make a better president than the other candidates, but because they thought he had the best chance of beating George W. Bush. And frankly, it just creeped me out that people would forsake their principles in favor of what seemed like a good bet at the moment. Are Republicans and social conservatives doing the same thing with the three Metro boys?

While it is no sin to consider a candidate’s ultimate electability in a general election, I worry when people make that the primary focus during the party nomination process. Perhaps I am wishing for a utopian situation, but I believe people ought to consider the candidates and then support the one they believe would make the best office holder. I find all of the buzz about the two parties’ frontrunners (as well as tidbits about third-party candidates) interesting, but I’m a long way from having a firm opinion about which candidate I think would make the best president.

I’m not going to jump up and support a candidate simply because he/she might seem to have the best chance of winning. That’s how you bet on horse races, but it’s not a good model for selecting political leaders. You don’t have to rely on the winner of the Kentucky Derby to be the nation’s chief executive for the next four years.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Diller, A Dollar

A Dollar doesn’t buy as much as it used to. If you had put a Dollar bill in a drawer in 1967 and then decided to spend it today, it would be worth less than 17% of its original value. To put it another way, today’s equivalent of a Dollar spent in 1967 is almost $6. That’s inflation. No wonder they don’t have penny candy anymore and dime stores have become Dollar stores.

But money doesn’t grow on trees. That’s certainly true for coins, and it is largely true even for our paper money, which consists of 75% cotton and 25% linen (see here). The point is that it costs money to make money. And I’m not talking about investments here. I mean that it costs money to make the physical objects that we consider money.

A Dollar bill costs about 4.2 Cents to create. The average Dollar bill lasts about 18-22 months. Sure, you see much older bills, but many others only last a few months. Due to the bill’s short life span, its cost is relatively high compared to its value. Apparently this ratio is much worse than it was 40 years ago.

Coins, such as the Sacagawea Dollar, have a substantially longer life span than paper money. In 2000 the GAO estimated that using a Dollar coin instead of a Dollar bill would save about $522.2 million annually (a pittance to the federal government). But we never did that. Just like the Eisenhower Dollar and the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, the Sacagawea Dollar was introduced with no plan to scrap the Dollar bill. Not only did the introduction of all of these coins cost the taxpayers more; the coins merely introduced more complications and inconvenience for shoppers and merchants alike.

Why didn’t we get rid of the Dollar bill? Because it is the most widely understood and accepted money instrument in the entire world. Even though it’s worth only 17¢ in 1967 value, the Dollar bill holds a deep place not only in the psyche of Americans, but in the psyche of people worldwide. Other countries have scrapped their smaller denomination paper money, but Americans simply won’t hear of it. It doesn’t matter if it costs more.

Apparently we have not learned our lesson. On Thursday the U.S. Mint will release yet another Dollar coin (see here). This one will be the same size and use the same components as the Sacagawea Dollar, but it will feature a U.S. President. Starting with George Washington, the Mint will release a new design every three months for the next decade. They are modeling this on the successful 50 State Quarters Program. The main thrust seems to be promotion of coin collecting.

Is this a valid use of taxpayer funds? I can see arguments both ways on that. One thing is for sure; it’s a much better use than some of the other crap for which we spend taxpayer Dollars.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Our Next President Will Be ... Far From Perfect

For politics buffs it seems that we are already very deep in the 2008 presidential race. John Fund reminds us in this brief look at recent history that we are still so far away from November 4, 2008 that almost anything could happen. He looks at several recent presidential elections and discusses what the state of affairs was 21 months out.

Fund’s little exercise is almost comical. He notes, for example, that at this point in 1991, George H. W. Bush’s 91% approval ratings sent some very qualified potential Democrat candidates running for cover. Bill Clinton was still eight months away from announcing his presidential bid. I was under the impression you’d better have a major campaign machine up and running by now or you’re a lost cause. Fund shows that this is a mistaken notion.

It would seem at present that Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is the duly anointed Democratic nominee. But even this assumption is probably too presumptuous at this early stage. The GOP side is far more open; much like the Democrat field was four years ago. Oh, and by the way, Fund notes that four years ago Senator John Kerry (D-MA) lagged some 63% behind Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT).

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial makes the point of how open the GOP field is by discussing the current significant candidates. The would be anointed nominee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has many wonderful qualities, but is having trouble gaining traction with the Republican base, having alienated them with his ‘maverick’ positioning and his sponsorship of the McCain-Feingold incumbency protection act — uh, campaign finance reform.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a proven track record of getting things done, but “is something of an empty policy slate.” The unnamed WSJ author says that Romney has “a thin political skin and perhaps a too malleable policy core.” For all the love some Utahns seem to have for this adopted native son, I’m afraid he comes across too much as being willing to say anything he thinks will help him win an election. Malleable policy core indeed.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani currently ranks in some polls as the GOP front runner because of his strong anti-terror stance and his handling of the Big Apple in the aftermath of 9/11. But he has a baggage train 20 miles long. His personal life is a wreck. And once people understand his staunchly held liberal social positions, his desirability among the GOP base will probably drop. Still, it’s too early to tell.

Many Republicans said during the scandal with Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes that private character matters in public office. But just in the past few days I have heard some that once echoed these words claim that Rudy’s private life issues won’t affect their support for him. Is that what hypocrisy sounds like?

And if you thought Rudy’s baggage was hefty, it’s not as hefty as that of former Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA). I’m afraid that party insiders will never forgive him for screwing up the opportunity the GOP had after the 1994 takeover of Congress, in which he played a significant role. Perhaps his worst sin was coming across as crusty and unsympathetic as he played against Bill Clinton’s charm and rock start status. Does Gingrich have a chance? I’d say it’s a very slim one, but stranger things have happened.

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) is billed by some as the only true conservative in the race. But his recent anti-war position is going to alienate a lot of the GOP grass roots folks. The war may be unpopular even with this group, but seeming insubordination and looking weak on terrorism will likely trump any points Brownback scores from his socially conservative positions. As with Gingrich, it’s impossible to read the tea leaves on Brownback’s chances at this point.

And who knows what might develop or who else might step up and join the fray, even months from now? It’s simply too early to tell. Every Mr. Knowitall that is out there spouting off about what is going to happen in this race will probably be wrong in some major way about what they are prognosticating (unless they are only dealing in generalities).

At this point, I don’t see any particular candidate that aligns well with what I’d like to see. But that’s OK. That’s how our system works. Some dream candidate may step forward, but I seriously doubt it. Eventually I will winnow down my choices to the most acceptable among them and will vote in the primary election for someone that won’t get his/her party’s nomination. And finally I will vote for a candidate that doesn’t meet my criteria very well, but at least seems better to me than any other choice available. That is how a democratic republic works in a pluralistic society.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration

Five years ago Victor Davis Hanson penned an anti illegal immigration article that included “Mexifornia” in the title. He later expanded it into a book. Hanson has now written an article where he considers his predictions from his earlier article and pronounces that matters today are much worse than he had imagined they could become by now.

Hanson says that the divide on illegal immigration used to exist between conservatives and liberals and between those parts of the nation impacted and those parts not impacted. Today, however, everywhere is impacted. The divide, he claims, largely breaks along class lines, with the “majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics” (legal residents) wanting tight borders and elites and higher income folks much more interested in open borders.

Hanson says that this makes sense. “Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.” He says that this is why high end liberals and conservatives line up to support illegal immigration. They see rewards from it, while the lower end does not. In fact, the lower end folks are likely to see their jobs as threatened by illegal immigration.

Hanson has had a career as a college professor, but he has also run his family vineyard in a rural area of California throughout his career. He complains, “Our farmhouse in the Central Valley has been broken into three times. We used to have an open yard; now it is walled, with steel gates on the driveway. Such anecdotes have become common currency in the American Southwest. Ridiculed by elites as evidence of prejudice, these stories, statistical studies now show, reflect hard fact.”

Here are some of the most poignant quotes from Hanson’s article.

“Every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.”

“This [past] spring Americans witnessed millions of illegal aliens who not only were unapologetic about their illegal status but were demanding that their hosts accommodate their own political grievances, from providing driver’s licenses to full amnesty.”

“While politicians and academics assured the public that illegal aliens came here only to work and would quickly assume an American identity, the public’s own ad hoc and empirical observations of vast problems with crime, illiteracy, and illegitimacy have now been confirmed by hard data.”

Hanson discusses our efforts internationally to combat tribalism. He then asks, “Why—when we are spending blood and treasure abroad to encourage the melting pot and national unity—would anyone wish to contribute to tribalism or foster the roots of such ethnic separatism here in the United States?”

“Billions of dollars spent on our own poor will not improve our poverty statistics when 1 million of the world’s poorest cross our border each year.”

Discussing the harm caused by money that illegal workers send back home, Hanson says that “the greatest social tensions [result] in part because of the familial disruption and social chaos that results when adult males flee and depopulated communities consequently become captive to foreign remittances. ... Mexico cannot afford to lose its second-largest source of hard currency and will do almost anything to ensure its continuance.” He adds that “it is not just that Mexico exports its own citizens, but it does so on the expectation that they are serfs of a sort, who, like the helots of old, surrender much of the earnings of their toil to their distant masters.”

“Of course, the ultimate solution to the illegal immigration debacle is for Mexican society to bring itself up to the levels of affluence found in the United States by embracing market reforms of the sort we have seen in South Korea, Taiwan, and China. But rarely do Mexican supporters of such globalization, or their sympathetic counterparts in the United States, see the proliferation of a Wal-Mart or Starbucks down south in such terms. Rather, to them American consumerism and investment in Mexico suggest only an owed reciprocity of sentiment: Why should Americans get mad about Mexican illegals coming north when our own crass culture, with its blaring neon signs in English, spreads southward? In such morally equivalent arguments, it is never mentioned that Americanization occurs legally and brings capital, while Mexicanization comes about by illegal means and is driven by poverty.”

Hanson grapples with these issues first hand every day. He has studied past immigration waves, and says that the current situation is something far different than the tide of Italian immigrants that came a century ago. He sees our current situation as extremely bad and getting worse.

Anytime someone takes a stand like Hanson’s, some on the other side of the debate will hurl accusations of racism. Some will question why anyone would want to keep other people from getting ahead or from getting out of a bad situation in their native country. But if you read Hanson’s entire article (which is long), that’s not at all what he is talking about. He thinks that our current process of dealing with these people is bad both for us as the host country and for the source countries. He wants solutions that improve the situation for all involved.

For all of Hanson’s bluster about the popularity of his cause, it is interesting to note that almost every single politician that ran in November on a strong anti illegal immigration platform lost the election. Could this be due to the fact that elites control the advertising, campaign, and media channels? Where were all of the people Hanson says want tighter borders? Did they not vote, were they duped by the elite, or do they not exist in the numbers Hanson claims they do?

Illegal immigration is a serious issue. We can’t just wear rose colored glasses and pretend that everything is OK or that matters will improve on their own. We must be compassionate. But the issue must be dealt with.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Let's Talk About It

Today, in the depths of a terrible war, on the brink of a decisive battle for Baghdad, let us have a serious debate about where we stand and where we must go in Iraq. That is the debate we should have—but it is not the debate that this resolution would bring. — Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT)

Our Constitution and the process that created it enshrined discourse and debate, especially on the most difficult issues of the day, as a fundamental and essential part of good government. In a broad society fraught with multiple competing interests, it is through this process that our government comes closest to best accomplishing its noblest purposes. In this view, circumventing debate or closing off debate too early leads to bad government. Of course, there comes a time when talk must cease and action must take place in order for good government to actually come about.

Senate supporters of the Warner-Levin resolution that would toothlessly rebuke President Bush for ordering a troop surge in Iraq (an action that follows recommendations made by the great and infallible Iraq Study Group) are in a complete dither over their inability to muster 60 votes to stop debate on the resolution so that it can be brought to a vote.

Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) was positively flummoxed over it on the NewsHour Tuesday night, strangely claiming that the Republican minority were refusing to let them debate and vote on the resolution which “would, in fact, get more than a majority and perhaps more than 60 votes.” Come again, Senator? I you have 60 votes, then get cloture and prove it. Don’t say such stupid things on national television.

Oops. My bad. Politicians do that kind of thing all of the time. And the MSM only calls them on it if they’re on the MSM crap list.

The weird thing about this is that opponents of the Warner-Levin resolution were voting to continue debate, not to close it off. In their view, the matter is not yet ready for a vote. Senate Democrats now understand the frustration senate Republicans felt when they held a slim majority but were unable to muster enough votes to bring legislation to a final vote. And I’ll wager that senate Republicans, now in the minority, are thanking their lucky stars that they didn’t exercise the so-called nuclear option to disallow filibusters on judicial and administrative nominees.

Senator Joe Lieberman, now an Independent Democrat, had some very strong words for the resolution’s supporters in his Monday speech on the senate floor. He said, “It is altogether proper that we debate our policy in Iraq. It should be a debate that is as serious as the situation in Iraq and that reflects the powers the Constitution gives to Congress in matters of war. But that, sadly, is not the debate that the Warner-Levin resolution invites us to have.”

Lieberman called the resolution “an accumulation of ambiguities and inconsistencies.” (Gee, I thought most legislation was like that.) He then went on to rip on his colleagues for pursuing a historically unprecedented and “wrong” action. He said, “I contacted the Library of Congress on this question last week and was told that, never before, when American soldiers have been in harm’s way, fighting and dying in a conflict that Congress had voted to authorize, has Congress turned around and passed a resolution like this, disapproving of a particular battlefield strategy.”

Of course, the resolution (which senate majority leaders have shelved for the time being) was not primarily intended to micromanage the battlefield. It was meant to send a stinging rebuke to President Bush, a man the Left hates as much as the Right used to hate President Clinton. The majority were pandering to their base, rather than offering any kind of help. In doing so, Lieberman claimed, they would actively and negatively alter the state of our affairs in Iraq. Actually, they intended this non-binding resolution to simply open the door for something with far more teeth.

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery says (here) that Congressional Democrats are making a bad political move with their intense focus on embarrassing President Bush via non-binding resolutions. She says they would have been better to express concern but give support. Then if things went badly, they would have come off as prescient. Now, however, if things go well they will share none of the praise. And if things go badly, they will share part of the blame for having helped cause the disaster. They have unwittingly offered President Bush “a partial alibi.”

Emery says that while Congressional Democrats are keyed into “the mood of the moment,” things can quickly change. “[T]he present, intense as it is, is often a poor predictor of what will come next.” Citing historical examples, she warns, “In the long run, those seen as courting defeat are not thought of fondly.” Those in solid districts won’t lose elections, but presidential elections have proven extremely difficult for Democrats to win ever since they “closed down a tedious war against the will of a Republican president.”

Those are pretty dire predictions. I don’t know how things will actually turn out. Democrats held Congress for two decades after they shut down Vietnam, so it doesn’t appear that they suffered the wrath of voters. I suppose it can be construed to seem that the two presidents they have been able to elect since then were anomalies, but I don’t know if that’s the way it really works.

At any rate, I believe that the push to pass resolutions censuring President Bush for his management of Iraq will come back to hurt Democrats in the long run. It comes across as spiteful Bush hatred rather than something that is designed to help the country. Although left politicos won’t see it this way, it comes across to the average guy the same way the Clinton impeachment came across. You can argue all day long that it is the right thing to do, but it smacks of something quite different to the average American.

Bush is not blame free in all of this. He and his administration have worked for the past several years to completely shut down debate about Iraq under the mantra that any debate was tantamount to insubordination. Now that he has finally changed strategies to something that could work; however, the legislative branch is showing that it is tired of being ignored. So tired, in fact, that they are willing to risk actual insubordination. As my mom used to tell me, two wrongs don’t make a right.

The point is that in a pluralistic society, we need open debate about the important issues of the day. We should have a hardy and robust debate about how to deal with Iraq in specific and with radical Islam in general. Decisions should be reached and executed within the framework of each government branch’s constitutionally mandated duties. And the voters should make elected officials accountable for those decisions. It’s not a clean and clear cut process. But it is designed to achieve good government.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Public Funding of Circuses

I’ve kept out of the whole Real Salt Lake stadium debate until now. I don’t live in Salt Lake County, so I didn’t have the same kind of stake in the matter as did the county’s citizens, when the county was considering bankrolling the deal that fell apart when the numbers didn’t add up. I commented little about the whole process. I just sat back and watched.

But yesterday, the Utah Senate voted to support Governor Huntsman’s plan to divert 15% of the hotel tax to help fund a stadium for RSL (see D-News article). Having had a career in accounting, I understand that technically, that’s not money out of my pocket as a taxpayer. But that position is simply an accounting trick. In a representative democracy, government revenues from any source belong to the citizens. The citizens’ representatives determine how those revenues should be managed. This means that instead of reducing the hotel tax or using that 15% for other projects, it will be used to build a venue for a private entertainment business.

This goes against my limited government instincts. Why should state government subsidize a private entertainment venue? I heard SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson on the radio saying, “That’s how these things are always done — with a public-private partnership.” That does not make it right.

I commented on the Senate Site post about this issue and received this very thoughtful response from Alien Wannabe (at 1:06 AM no less).

I have tremendous respect for you. And, I think I understand your position. My roots are also in the conservative wing of our party, so I see you as being a kindred spirit.

In the limited time I have here, I will try to supply an answer to your question:

I am a Republican, not a Libertarian, for a good reason. Just as I do not believe in the "maximum" government of the Socialists and Democrats, I do not believe in the "minimum" government of the Anarchists and Libertarians either. Rather, I believe in the "optimum" government of the Republicans.

For me, that is what the divinely inspired Constitution is all about--finding that right balance. As you remember, the original government of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, was too weak. It didn't work. The founding fathers replaced it with one that gave more power to a central government--they recognized the need for balance, "optimum" rather than "minimum."

Too many of my fellow Conservative Republicans fail to seek this same balance. They start idealizing "minimum" government as if they were Libertarians instead of Republicans.

No one understood the need of limited government more than Thomas Jefferson, but he also understood this principle of balance. He further understood that "limited" is a different concept entirely than "minimum." And, because of that, he was able to act in his country's best interest at a crucial moment in history.

When France offered to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, Jefferson wisely jumped at the opportunity, even though doing so seemed to require that he use authority not explicitly granted to him in the Constitution.

Thank goodness he had the intelligence to do what he did! His actions have proven themselves over time to have been a tremendous blessing to our nation. Indeed, one wonders how dangerously handicapped and stunted our country would have been if he had not the vision and wisdom to do the right thing instead of the simple thing.

Too often we conservative political junkies fall into the trap of being intellectually lazy. We gravitate toward a simple direction, right, instead of toward actually doing the "right" thing.

I have learned in my life that doing the "right" thing requires balance--effort and judgment. Following a simple direction requires no effort and no judgment, we simply turn off our brain and say either "more government programs!" (left), or "less government programs!" (right)

In the past, some who have famously fallen into a similar trap have declared such things as "It is wrong to heal on the Sabbath!" These folks couldn't get past the direction of following the letter of the law, so they failed to understand the balance of the spirit of the law.

The spirit of our national and state constitutions is to provide for the common good. As a conservative Reagan Republican, I believe that often requires government to get off the backs of the people, so that their creative energies can be unleashed. But, sometimes it means that the government needs to step in, as appropriate, to build such things as the Eerie Canal--all for the common good.

For me, Real Salt Lake's stadium falls into this category. I am convinced that it will produce benefits for our state that are just as vital to the common good as schools and highways. That is why I enthusiastically support the state chipping in a small portion to help make it a reality.

I hope this, in some way, does justice to your excellent question.

Now, it’s no secret that I’m not a sports guy. But I’m not opposed to professional sports arenas. I just have concerns about using public money for that purpose. Larry Miller did not get public money to build the arena formerly known as the Delta Center. That would be an exception to Rocky’s statement above. And, although I respect Alien Wannabe’s thoughts on the matter, I simply can’t bring myself to put sports arenas in the same category canals, roads, schools, and libraries. I’m sure that plenty of sports fans would disagree with me on that, but I can’t see how athletic entertainment is as essential as education or transportation.

I’m not a pure libertarian, but that does not mean that all libertarian principles are bad. In fact, I think we need some rabid libertarians to counter the constant push to grow government. I understand the enthusiasm many are expressing for the soccer stadium. Heck, it’s probable I could attend events at that venue someday. But I’m afraid that I cannot bring myself to support public funding for it. Still, it seems that my view on this matter is like a feather in a windstorm.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Race to the Beginning

A few years ago Governor Mike Leavitt pushed hard for Utah and other western states to have more say in presidential politics. It was broadly acknowledged that by the time Utah and the rest of the non-coastal western U.S. got around to their turn in the process, the major political parties’ presidential nominees had already been selected. Consequently, national politicians rarely paid much attention to this region. And that translates to lack of political clout in Washington. Leavitt wanted to change that.

Our nation’s system of caucuses and primaries that determine each major political party’s ultimate presidential nominee was designed in an age before modern communication and travel. Nobody used to know who the eventual nominee would be until the party convention. It didn’t matter that Iowa and New Hampshire were the first states to kick off the process or that other states came along piecemeal in the cycle.

Today, national party conventions are simply symbolic gatherings designed to demonstrate some kind of party pride and unity. It’s been decades since a major party’s presidential nomination wasn’t locked up far in advance of the national convention.

The problems with our system of primaries are well noted, but there is no national consensus on to what to do about it. There is real concern that many of the proposed solutions will only cause other problems without substantially improving the overall situation. So, imperfect as it is, the system continues. And states are left to their own devices as to how to impact the system to their local benefit.

The one thing a state can do is to move its primary election to an earlier point in the cycle. This creates competition for candidates’ resources. As states’ primaries bunch up together, candidates must selectively use their limited resources to campaign where the benefit seems to be greatest.

Under the old paradigm, where primaries were stretched out over many months, candidates were able to have some breathing room along the way to raise funds so they could afford to continue campaigning in various states throughout the cycle. Successes on the road translated to fundraising power. When everything bunches up at the beginning of the cycle, only candidates that have raised a lot of money up front can hope to be competitive. Candidates that are only regionally competitive have no real chance to leverage local successes into successes outside of those regions.

With our current system, states with few electoral votes, such as Utah (currently with five), only become important when a race is very tight. Moving Utah to an earlier point in the cycle can only do so much to mitigate that factor. So Leavitt proposed a plan to neighboring governors to band together to have all of these states’ primaries on the same day. At least then, the reasoning goes, presidential candidates would have to pay attention to the region.

Leavitt’s plan ultimately failed because some of Utah’s neighbors balked at changing their primary dates and at giving up some level of autonomy. Another reason for the failure was that other states moved their primaries to a few days earlier than Utah’s. With far more electoral votes at stake in those 12 states, Utah and the intermountain area were largely ignored anyway.

Another idea is to create agreements between the intermountain states to give the regional winner all of the region’s electoral votes. That would make the region enough of a prize that candidates would have to pay more attention to it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that any candidate will pay more attention to Utah than candidates do today. They would likely spend most of their capital in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. I doubt voters would actually go along with this plan anyway.

Never fear, Governor Huntsman is here! He made a shrewd move very early in the 2008 election cycle to support Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidency. But it seems clear that most of Huntsman’s constituents favor former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at this early stage. This is not as strange as it appears. At least on the GOP side, it means that these two candidates will actually have to spend some political capital in Utah.

Huntsman successfully revived the Western States Primary plan in a new and improved fashion. The primary election will be held on the first Tuesday in February in presidential election years. That puts it a full month prior to Super Tuesday, where a quarter of the nation’s states hold their primaries simultaneously.

However, the intermountain region is not alone in trying to vote earlier in the cycle. Already a number of other states are talking about shifting to earlier in the cycle. New Hampshire and Iowa are furious about the prospect of losing their status as the bellwethers of presidential politics. They will not sit idly by while other states try to usurp their positions, although, these positions serve no logical purpose nationally.

This race to be earlier in the cycle has an obvious destination. It might take some time, but eventually the entire nation will be holding its primaries on New Years Day. New Hampshire will open its polls at 12:01 AM as well lubricated residents throw confetti, sing Auld Lang Syne and slip into voting booths.

In the end, Utah will have no more political clout in the process than before. But we will have spent chunks of money to shift primary dates and to shmooz other states into joining us. We’ve already done it twice. What’s to stop us from doing it again?

And just imagine the outcome. Presidential aspirants will have to be even more aggressive in building their campaign and fundraising machines far in advance of the national primary election. We will all be deluged by presidential politics for months in the run up to the primary. Presidential politics will intrude on Christmas season commercialism every four years. And once the primary is over, it will be nonstop presidential campaigning for over 10 months straight. Now, doesn’t that sound like fun!

And my point is? Well, I don’t know. I doubt there’s anything that can be done to stop this eventuality. I used to be upset that Christmas promotions started the day after Halloween instead of the day after Thanksgiving. Now stores put up Christmas stuff in September. It’s in horribly bad taste. I enjoy Christmas, but I hate being whacked over the head with Christmas for almost four months straight. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. I guess that’s the way our primary election process is going as well.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My Sports-Free Zone

I’m not a sports spectator. The only sporting events I care to watch are ones in which my children are actively playing. Otherwise I largely choose ignorance on the topic. I understand the basic rules of most major sports, and I am usually at least somewhat fuzzily cognizant of which major sports season is underway. But I can’t generally tell you what teams play, let alone tell you anything about the players and coaches. Occasionally, however, society’s general interest is so great that it is impossible to avoid some sports matters.

I used to fool myself into thinking that I enjoyed watching the grand spectacle of the Olympics, but my habits belie the truth. During the two weeks that the Olympics are broadcast I rarely dedicate more than a few fleeting minutes to watching coverage or even paying attention to it through other media outlets. When guys at work talk about “The Game,” I usually don’t have a clue what they’re referring to.

I am told that the Super Bowl was played out yesterday. I have been told who won, who lost, and what the score was, but that information holds so little value for me that I have forgotten it already. For me, yesterday was an average Sunday.

My family has implemented policies and patterns over the years that we hope are designed to help us comply with the Lord’s commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy (Exodus 20:8). Some Sundays we’re more successful at it than other Sundays. We have our downfalls, to be sure, but sports entertainment is not part of our family’s Sundays.

To be honest, since major sports is not important to me or my wife, we have very little temptation to indulge in sports on Sunday (or any other day, for that matter). One of my fellow computer nerds confided in me that he would rather be run over by a hay rake than spend five hours watching football coverage. I concur. My temptations lie in other areas. So while many people are suffering from post-season football withdrawal syndrome, life goes on normally for me.

I’m not lecturing about how you should manage your Sundays. That’s between you and your God. For those of you that are Mormon, you’re probably as aware as I am of the counsel that has repeatedly been given regarding Sabbath worship. I do believe that making an active effort to make the Sabbath a truly sacred day will bring eternally valuable blessings. How do you go about doing that? Give it some thought — and effort. It’ll be worth it.