Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trying to get into Law School

I really want to go to law school. It's been a goal of mine for several years now - including the entirety of my college career. I really want to get a law degree so that I can be involved in the creation of legislation. I want to draft bills, then propose them to representatives, and then help guide them through the legislative system. I think it would be super cool to be a total policy wonk. I think this means that I want to work for either a think-tank or a lobbying firm (but I don't want to work for an evil think thank or lobbying firm).

So I finished school with a 3.9 GPA and I got a 167 on the LSAT. I've also applied at ten law schools. My dream schools (where I'm likely to not be accepted) are Stanford, Berkeley, G-town, Penn, and Michigan. My target schools (where I am likely to be accepted) are BYU, George Washington, Colorado, and Georgia. My safety school (where I'm basically guaranteed admittance) is the U of U.

I'm crazy anxious and find myself checking my e-mail several times a day for updates from law school. I hope I get to go somewhere good - and hopefully with some cash assistance.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Driving with Ku

It’s 4:10 AM on a Monday morning. In one week I am getting married, and life will suddenly become incredibly hectic, but right now, outside Ku's apartment, the world is calm. My breath comes out in puffs of smoke in the dark chilly air. The truck that drove me to this door now sits idling in the parking lot behind me and in the distance the snow-capped mountains are purple in the pre-dawn light. I call Ku’s cell phone. A minute later he’s smiling at the door. He’s twenty-eight years old, but like many Karenni people, he is remarkably youthful, so when I see him I can’t help but be reminded of my little brother on his first day of school. His excitement is infectious. Today is Ku’s first day on the job in the United States.

Ku has limited transportation options; so, I’m getting up early, during the frenzied week before my wedding, to drive him to work. I’m not about to let Ku miss out on a good job opportunity, so I’m determined to find a solution to his transportation needs.

It’s 4:30 AM. Ku’s new supervisor at Easton Technical Products is a gentle, softspoken man with square glasses, perched precariously at the bottom of his nose – I assume, so that he can look over the top them of as he talks to you with his chin nestled snuggly in his neck. He tells me that the HR Director has spoken with him about Ku’s transportation situation, and he sympathizes, but he hasn’t had any luck finding someone to take Ku to work. I’m disappointed, but I thank him for his effort.

I met Ku while working as a job developer at a not-for-profit organization. Convincing employers to hire refugees – who tend to have little work experience and even less English speaking ability – has been difficult, particularly in a downturned economy. I’ve had to learn to be patient, persistent, and to consistently deliver on commitments in order to ensure our clients’ success on the job. Employers have come to appreciate the reliability of my clients and, therefore, continue to hire from my clientele.

Ku has had a difficult journey – His father was murdered by Burmese soldiers and he was forced to flee his village at five-years of age. Yet he considers himself lucky, because very few Karenni refugees are afforded the opportunity to resettle in the United States. His graciousness in spite of adversity has been a great source of inspiration for me. Furthermore, Ku is particularly grateful for something that I’ve always taken for granted – his state issued ID card. He told me that In Thailand he had no ID. The Thai government did not recognize Ku's existence, except so far as to place an armed guard around his camp to ensure that he never be allowed to assimilate into Thai society. This undignified state of existence is an example of what Giorgio Agamben has termed “bare life.”

Bare life is, according to Agamben, “human life… included in the juridical order solely in the form of exclusion.”[1] Life is thus reduced to its biological function and is stripped of its socio-political significance. This reduction is a form of ontological violence. Because of the deeply social and symbolic nature of human beings, being relegated to bare life is like being turned into a social zombie – biologically alive, but excluded from the realm of the living. Therefore, I am not surprised that Ku values his Utah ID.

The ID card is part of a huge bulwark of law in the United States that facilitates the smooth interaction of people in a remarkably stable way. Having an ID means having the legal right to travel, work and participate in civic dialogue. Ku has proudly joined a network of ID cardholders, thereby, injecting his life with social significance.

The US has a rich reputation for receiving weary immigrants from countries all over the world, and successfully integrating them into our legal, secular and even cultural institutions. I want to contribute to this effort.

For instance, Ku struggled to keep his job at Easton. For the two months that Ku worked there, he was never able to convince any of his co-workers to share a ride with him to work.

So, now it’s 6:00 PM, a few weeks after I started driving Ku to work. I’m in a meeting with the Secretary of the newly elected Karenni Community Organization. His name is Bel. Bel works an early morning shift at a FedEx, which is near the company where Ku is now working. After I explain Ku's predicament, Bel says, “Yes, Zach, I can take Ku to work.” Ku now has a ride to work. He can keep his job!

I really love my refugee friends and I love what Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature,” which have given birth to our incredibly diverse, yet incredibly inter-connected, United States of America. I feel that law – and ID cards – can help sustain these better angels. My experience with helping refugees has been so good that I don’t mind getting up at 3:30 AM on a cold morning the week before my wedding. Hooray for the United States of the World.

[1] Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ., 1998. p. 10. Print.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nietzsche on The Spirit

I've been reading Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and I'd like to write some concepts down to see if I'm understanding what I'm reading.

The spirit is for Nietzsche the totalizing impulse inside of us. It seeks to incorporate everything into itself and thereby create a smooth whole within us. The spirit's strength is in bringing things together, creating meaning out of chaos, and giving us a feeling of completeness. The spirit's weakness is that it ignores difference and information that would complicate the purity of it's seamless vision.

The yang to the spirit's ying is the "internal No" or "the seeker after knowledge." The "internal No" rebels against the smooth consistency of the spirit and denies the spirit rest. Similarly, "the seeker after knowledge" betrays the spirit by closely investigating details and differentiating between this and that. The seeker after knowledge delights in multiplicity and inconsistency. This is a destructive force within us that tears down our assumptions and damages our sense of security.

I think Nietzsche is really on to something here. Particularly the designation of "spirit" to the unifying force makes a lot sense - is not all spiritual activity an attempt to find an underlying whole in the chaos of the universe. Spirituality is the search for meaning in spite of the mess. Yet without skepticism spirituality loses it's energy and becomes monolithic and lifeless.

Both of these forces within each person are essential to creativity. The spirit brings phenomenon together and tries to make sense of them. In turn the destructive force, the internal No, breaks apart the spirit's unifying story and forces a spiritual reanalysis and re-synthesis.

Nietzsche's philisophical project is to elevate and reinvigorate the destructive force: the internal No, the self-destructive betrayal of the spirit. He wants to push our investigations deeper and push us into a continuous "downgoing" ala Zarathustra. I'm also a big fan of this idea in Nietzsche's philosophy - intellectual masochism just makes sense. Without it, philosophy, and life, become stale. Nietzsche's work is thus to breathe fresh air into the dusty annals of philosophy.

Nietszche fans, am I getting this right?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An enlightening experience

In February of this year I was arrested for retail theft. I pocketed seven packs of trading cards at a Shopko in Taylorsville, Utah. Upon exiting the store I was immediately confronted by a loss-prevention employee and an off-duty police officer. I did not immediately realize that an officer was confronting me, so I attempted to walk away. The officer physically restrained me, pushed me to the floor and pressed my face into the cement.

Being arrested was humiliating. Sitting on a fold-up chair with my hands uncomfortably restrained behind my back, I felt that my life had come to an end. The loss-prevention specialist hurled invectives at me. “You f*ing idiot. You are such an f*ing idiot.” This rather pathetic man seemed to feed on my own powerlessness like a drug. Despite my silence, he became increasingly belligerent until the on-duty officer (separate to the original plain-clothes) arrived to take control of the situation.

Nietzsche warned us to be careful fighting monsters, lest we become monsters ourselves. Both parties in my shoplifting drama are guilty of the central human weakness against which Nietzsche philosophized –ressentiment. For instance, was this aggressive security guard yelling at me, or was the real source of his frustrations elsewhere? Perhaps he’s dissatisfied with his ignoble position as a powerless rent-a-cop? He only mimics and never actually participates in the authority of the state. How thrilling it must have been to act with an officer possessing actual authority. To restrain! To shout and rail against the criminal element! I possibly gave this man a great gift. Yet, his excitement at capturing such a weak criminal ultimately reveals that this man was truly weak and pitiably impotent.

Similarly, the retail theft, which I perceived as a daring act of violence against a faceless corporate conglomerate, was in fact a cowardly and immature gesture. My justification for the theft reveals the impotence of the act: “It doesn’t matter if I steal, because the corporation will have already factored the effect of this shrinkage into their bottom-line,” I told myself. Therefore, my act would have no effect on the company – and certainly no effect on the overall system of economic organization. Ghandi said, “Become the change you wish to see in others.” I was becoming cheap and undisciplined; thereby, counteracting my wish of social magnanimity and solidarity. If anything I was merely facilitating the commodification of desire, which I claimed to hate, and internalizing expectations of quick and easy satisfaction.

I now realize the extent of my mistake when I shoplifted. This episode was extremely difficult and painful. However, I greatly appreciate the officers, justices and counselors who have confronted my mistakes in a frank and direct manner. I learned a great deal because they did their job. I have arisen a wiser person with newfound perspective on personal and general human frailty. I will never steal again, not because I love Shopko, but because I hate weakness within myself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Me and Mike's discussion continued

Mike: On the aesthetics of revolution debate: while certainly kind of nifty, Zizek's arguments are non-responsive - regardless of how potentially liberating and sublime the experience of revolution is, Zizek would intentionally expose people to s...tructural violence to create the conditions for revolution. This is bad for a couple of specific reasons: first, his methodology, in and of itself, is dehumanizing. I'm cross-applying your analysis here: structural violence may not be throwing someone in an oven but it's still dehumanizing and Zizek will throw people under the bus in order to have his revolution, i.e. some people are not worth preserving in order to achieve the greater good. What about the people who, while on the road to revolution, will die because they can't afford chemotherapy or food, etc.? For Zizek, their deaths don't really count for some reason; why are they denied the experience of the "sublime" heroic death in revolution - they literally die because they aren't worth preserving - the revolution is what matters. THAT is the essence of dehumanization. The only way to combat dehumanization is a new aesthetic where anyone and everyone is worth preserving at any cost - even the revolution itself. Dehumanizing people to stop other instances dehumanization isn't exactly the route I feel comfortable taking. While Zizek places a high value on human life, it's not high enough.

On the "alternative": Zizek's critique isn't micropolitical - he's arguing that the Targeted Asset Relief Fund, etc. all should not have happened - that's a fiat-level argument if I've ever seen one. I offered an alternative at each level of the debate: macro and micro. At the macro level, yeah I think the Supreme Court should rule the constitution unconstitutional; I think that would expose the farcical nature of law and allow for a reconceptualization of how progressive politics are possible in this country. Absent the constraints of the founding myth, maybe we could find a way to provide truly universal healthcare. And nationalize the oil and gas industries. And elect Crawford the new premier/chairman/czar. At least that way, I'm not actively letting people die. I mean, while I have my hands on the levers of power I think I do everything I just mentioned.

At this point, I think it's important to throw in a little impact analysis: the chances of Zizek's revolution don't look too good - you never responded to my arguments as to why people are radically defending property rights even as the private sector fucks them over. I think this pretty much makes the probability of revolution zero, that is, if it doesn't make people even more radically conservative as the present situation seems to indicate. However, the probability of dehumanizing people a long the way is 100% - people must literally die via structural violence even to create the conditions for the possibility of revolution; I think Zizek's flat out of luck.

On the micro level, yeah I'm still going for CLS: sure, criticism won't do much on the streets of Los Angeles but it can shake shit up in the institutions that produce lawyers, judges and politicians. And we can continue to help each other survive and patch up the glaring holes in the system. At least we wouldn't be letting our friends die. As I see it, you don't propose any micropolitical action - if you're not advocating Zizek, then I'm not sure what you're saying. I think CLS is a realistic way to go about doing stuff right now.

I'm not copping out on revolution - I'm flat out opposing it. I'm not precluding the possibility of revolutionary politics but what I am saying is that when Zizek goes all "whirling Dervish" on the beauty of the aesthetics of revolution, he sends people to die and for no reason. Given that the rev itself is dehumanizing, shouldn't we care even a little bit what we wake up to? Maybe that makes for some really hot poetry but I think this is why kid's don't run Zizek as their alts anymore - he literally doesn't have any. I think the world has a lot at stake the morning after - I mean, not everyone gets the sublime experience of martyrdom, so what happens to them? They just start doing Dadaist jigs in the streets or do they start over? Obviously something is going to happen and I think the world deserves to know that the likely outcome of the revolution is going to be. Is it going to be Maoism? Stalinism? National Socialism? God, I hope not.

So what's your micro-political event - taking the family van to Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity"?

Ok. I'm not advocating a revolution for the very reasons you mention - our lives would become disrupted and it would suck. However, people are already dying due to structural violence - especially in the third world - so obviously something... should be done. In your last post you even suggested that when people are dying due to structural violence we're on the eve of revolution. Are you therefore advocating revolution? Is that the threshold? Aren't deaths resulting from a potentially emancipatory Revolution preferable to deaths due to the ongoing march of the cold machinery of capitalism?

However, I'm still not advocating Revolution. My argument is simply that in order for CLS to make an impact that would have to be some radical re-organization of society, some kind of Event in the Zizekian sense that completely re-orients social forces and opens up space for the CLS critique. We're talking like French Revolution - or ideally the Haitian revolution which is Zizek's personal favorite. Jon Stewart's (lowercase) event doesn't qualify as an (uppercase) Event.

CLS simply can not change anything, and is going to be permanently relegated to the margins without such a radical restructuring. I mean seriously if CLS could make a difference merely by circulating around academic circles, it should have already done so. CLS was hot in the 70's and 80's but people sort of lost enthusiasm for it and it fizzled out without making that much of an impact - at least no revolutionary proclamations from SCOTUS resulted.

Likewise, you’re hand on the lever thing would be OK if either of us ever had a chance to be in power, but I kind of doubt that ever happening. I don’t think either of us have the ambition to ever be in a particularly powerful position of influence. People, especially those in power, just don’t like CLS because it undermines the edifice that their power is built on. There’s no way SCOTUS will ever rule the Constitution Unconstitutional because that would expose the empty seat of power and render them completely useless - and once one has attained that level of power being useless just isn't an option anymore.

So this brings us to the micro-political level, which is the only level that we'll ever work from. I feel we can do much more to slowly change things via less radical critiques, which don’t undermine the entire legal edifice the way CLS does. This is less radical (and therefore less dependent on revolution) and has the best chance of at least softening the impact of structural violence, so I’m winning you’re impact analysis regarding dehumanization. Again, CLS is pretty much certain to do nothing to influence the legal/political powers-that-be. Instead more limited academic pursuits are much more likely to resonate and make themselves felt in ways that will actually make a difference in decisions rendered by SCOTUS. For instance, Brown and Roe – arguably about as radical as SCOTUS gets – are probably indebted somewhat to the work by radical legal theorists, but they still conform to the regular legal systems internal mechanisms. Thurgood Marshall's method of practical adjudication has done more to change things and help people than Duncan Kennedy's radical interrogations will ever do from his ivory tower at Harvard. I’m afraid we’re stuck working within the system of (at least superficially) textual legal reasoning if we’re going to make any difference at the micro-political level in minimizing dehumanization without resorting to revolutionary violence.

I'm somewhat surprised to find myself advocating this position, but this discussion was too much fun for me to just agree with you like usual.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Conservatives should hate Citizens United - or Why Those Gosh-Darn Activist Judges is Ruinin' the Country

First off, for all I know Conservatives already do hate SCOTUS's decision in Citizens United vs. FEC. If you're a conservative and you disagree with the court on this one, then congrats, you're in good company.

If there is such a thing as Judicial Activism (judges overstepping the bounds of their authority in order to change the law with far reaching political and social consequences) then this is a clear-cut case. So if you're that guy, who is always harping on how judicial activism is ruining the country, then this decision had better loom large in your view of mistakes made by the US Supreme Court.

You see the way the Supreme Court was designed - as an appellate system - limits the scope and power of Supreme Court decisions, insofar as the Supreme Court can only exercise their power if a question of constitutionality is brought before them by another party. This important check on the Judiciary which is built into our constitutional system serves to help prevent so-called "activist" judges from interfering too often in the process of law-making. Unlike Congress, the judiciary doesn't have general law-making power and can't just change the law whenever they choose. Regardless of the constitutionality of any law or set of law, SCOTUS can only change law through judicial review if the problem is large enough to percolate all the way up the appellate process without fizzling out in one of the many appellate courts. If a constitutional question never reaches them, then no big deal, the popular will expressed through the US Legislature holds. This system seems to work pretty well for the most part.

This is why the decision rendered in Citizens United, which ruled that large portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act are unconstitutional, is so problematic. The question of the facial constitutionality of the controlling provisions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was never raised by the claimants before the court. The question that Citizens United brought to the court was merely whether their instance of Video on Demand electioneering, funded 99% by non-corporate donors, should be subject to the same regulation as TV and radio electioneering, payed for directly by corporations. A decision which could have been decided quite easily and modestly without having to resort to overturning nearly two-hundred years of case law in clear violation of the logic of stare decisis.

However, the court didn't like being limited to this rather small role, merely determining how Video on Demand, the latest in an ongoing wave of new media formats, fits in with years of First Amendment jurisprudence. Apparently, they had an itch to exercise some power; Maybe a bone to pick with McCain/Feingold. So instead of accepting their proscribed role in rendering a decision, they went out of their way to invite the claimants back to the court in order to argue the question of the Acts unconstitutionality on face. Such invitations by the court are rare and this was a bold move on the part of the Roberts court in clear violation of the conservative ideal of judicial constraint. Therefore, Roberts = activist judge.

In his dissent Justice Stevens explains:

"It is 'only in the most exceptional cases' that we will consider issues outside the questions presented, Stone v. Powell , 428 U. S. 465, 481, n. 15 (1976)... Setting the case for reargument was a constructive step, but it did not cure this fundamental problem. Essentially, five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law."

So for the record, if you are "that guy", harping on activist judges, it ain't just the "liberals" you've got to blame. In fact the original judicial activists were free-market conservatives who severely undermined the intended meaning of the civil rights amendments in the slaughter-house cases at the turn of twentieth century; by re-interpreting "privileges and immunities" guaranteed to citizens, the sweeping and far-reaching post-cataclysmic amendments intended as memorial to the sacrifice of Lincoln, and millions of slaves and soldiers, as only having application to travel visas and port policy. These are the sorry predecessors to the modern day Roberts' Court - who have now made into law the ridiculous claim that a corporation is a person with the same constitutional protections as you or me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Citizens United - It sucks, but what do we do about it...?

Alright this is a facebook discussion with my buddy mike about Citizens United and the proper methodology for challenging the decision. Should we use the logic of textualism and stare decisis to oppose the decision on traditional grounds – like the video that spawned this discussion – or make a radical departure from the entire system of jurisprudential logic and critique the system for allowing such a horrible decision to enjoy the privilege of law in the first place. I think we’ve got a pretty cool dialogue going so far.

Mike: I think [the video] needs to go farther by problematizing the particular jurisprudential logic that created the legal environment for Citizens United vs. FCC in the first place. Enter Critical Legal Studies: the decision itself is consistent with SC...OTUS precedent on First Amendment issues--any examination of the decision, on face, reveals that the court's decision (from the standpoint of being a neutral arbiter of the law) makes sense and is difficult to repudiate. But the fact remains that something is horribly amiss with the decision and I think that feeling has its origin in the things that the decision itself justifies, i.e. rolling back fifty years of campaign finance law. I think the CLS critique of law in general is really apt at explaining the "real" problem of Citizens United--that law itself is not objective but, rather, a political tool that usually ends up "protecting" (destroying) private space by diminishing and disempowering (if that's a word) public space. Whoever the monoliths are in the world of the Private end up benefiting the most from law. And the rest of us (even mini-Private entities) suffer.

Jon: Agreed, Mike. I don't object to Citizens United vs. FCC on legal grounds, but utilitarian ones.

PS: I love having smart friends like you two.

Me: I'll join the lovefest. i agree with mike. conceptualizing the law as static is just silly; however, the law's effect is to freeze the social and has the effect of creating stasis in power dynamics - protecting the privileged over the masses. however, i would still contest Citizens United on legal grounds. i would contest Citizens United on any grounds available including the CLS angle. i think there's plenty of room to attack Citizens United, using the albeit fatally imperfect, tools of the law, and at least 4 members of SCOTUS agree with me. or maybe we should take the zizekian approach and not pretend that the law, founded on a broken system, can ever reach the right answer; rather force the united states to take the hardline on private property that is built into the founding ideology; thereby creating misery and fomenting revolutionary potential resulting in an eventual explosion of the popular without "the People". But what to do the morning after...? I'm still not ready to accept the disruption that revolution creates, and no one seems to have a great strategy for dealing with excesses of revolutionary terror, which is why i keep thinking we should just patch things up where we can - the band-aid approach - and learn to live the best we can despite the inherent contradictions in our political and social lives.
Please contradict me Mike.

Mike: Yeah, Zizek's methodology seems really problematic to me. First, how do we go about forcing the U.S. to take the "hardline" on private property and expose the "true" end of the logic? Do we just sit around and let shit happen or do we don t...he Tea Party wig and clamor for an end to all social programming? Either way, Zizek uses the end to justify the means, i.e. purposely inducing (or not preventing) suffering so as to foster a spirit of revolution in the American people. That reeks of bullshit. I mean if the ends can be used that way, then the Iraq war all of a sudden makes a lot more sense, so do camps delta and X-ray at Guantanamo Bay. In debate, I'd say he's failing to articulate a few very important internal links, like, "what's the threshold for the erosion of the public sector that will lead to an actual revolution" and "why are people increasingly defending property rights even as the private sector continues to screw them over?" I can think of a few possible explanations for the latter but, either way, Zizek's argument sounds like a disad run by a novice in high school--"passing plan reduces suffering which is bad because then people won't revolt." It even evokes Malthusian style arguments: "stopping is war is bad because then fewer people will die and there are too many people on the planet and then we'll all be sad." Granted, I've not read the particular Zizek book you're referencing but, from what it sounds like, I don't think his position is very defensible.

I haven't read the dissenting justices' opinions but I'd be curious as to how they (and you) would contest Citizens United on legal grounds. After taking Strickler's class on constitutional interpretation, I've been pretty convinced that the logic of precedent, etc. is pretty solid (hence my renewed interest in CLS).

What do we do to "patch" things up? I guess the CLS methodology might entail revolution but I tend to think just a radical interrogation of legal methodology in general can result in the kind of deconstruction that will move the courts in the direction of Ginsberg and Sotomayor. I think those of the "anti-activist" persuasion will always have the upperhand if we play on their turf, i.e. continue to operate within the parameters of prevailing "legal" discourse--it will always make more "sense" to people to follow precedent and abide by the "principles" of the founders then to do the right thing for people. The "logic" itself must be radically opposed, and not by toeing the line and trying to find some textual basis for an interpretation. Rather, we should just say "fuck ya'll" and rule that the Constitution is unconstitutional. Now that would be a radical gesture, ala good 'ol Zizek.

Me: I think Zizek avoids being a novice disad, or a borderline Malthusian, because he does place a high value on human life. His calculations are the opposite of ends based utilitarian analysis, which simply counts up the number of bodies. He even says in Defense of Lost Causes that by relying on utilitarian ends based analysis, the Allies’ actions resulting in the killings of innocent Germans is equivalent to the Nazi crime of systematically killing Jews – More Germans were killed than Jews, so the allies actions were worse? No. The Nazis were worse. But in order to arrive at this conclusion you must go beyond the merely ontic and look at the violence at the ontological level. The shear terror of the Nazi camps denied the captives their humanity; their lives (and deaths) were denied the significance of heroic martyrs; instead, turning them into the raw material for a horrific circus of a regimented, wholesale machinated death. For this reason Zizek says all portrayals of the holocaust – in movies, TV, books – are comedies, not tragedies, in that the aspect of heroic struggle is absent. It’s farcical the absolutely meaninglessness of all those killings! Why? We still fail to comprehend, Why? Nazi’s reduced the body of the Jew through this process to bare life, homo sacer. Thus, the Nazi atrocities are infinitely worse than soldiers dyeing on a battlefield.

Zizek would save the soul of humanity and considers the ontological as well as the merely ontic impacts of his politics (ala Heidegger). Revolution is violent, but the suffering of the revolutionary is sublime. As opposed to the slow death of the humanity via capitalist commodification – even humanist concerns such as health and psychological well-being are appropriated by the capitalist machinery, insofar as they allow capitalists to maker workers more productive. People/Workers have become commodities to be invested and divested according to cold hard rules of profitability. Nowadays when you talk to an economist (our wise-men) about the value of human life, they mean just that the value that can be extracted packaged and sold from human lives. Millions of people are systematically denied their dignity in the globalized economic behemoth that is our contemporary world. While life at the top is for us vacuous and devoid of meaning. This kind of calculation also reduces the subject to a kind of bare life, yes? Zizek’s not being utilitarian, there is no big Other or ideal universe born the morning after the revolution; revolution is an end unto itself; for Zizek – and I think for Nietzsche too – the misery and suffering that precede and proceed from the revolution are part of this beautiful struggle which catches everything and everyone up in a de-subjectivizing frenzy (ala Foucault) and simultaneously elevates life and humanity to heroic proportions (ala Nietszche).

So if I understand you correctly the solution to Citizens United is for us – on a micro political level – to critique the crap out of the legal system using the tools of CLS. This culminates for us not in revolution, but in an impotent “fuck ya’ll”? Isn’t this ultimately just a withdrawal from politics and an admission of powerlessness? Robespierre accused his detractors of wanting “revolution without revolution.” I’m afraid your argument falls into this category. Without some kind of EVENT to re-orient the socio-political landscape and open up space for such radical departures, I don’t think there is any hope of changing the legal system, except piecemeal from within the system.

I know I’m not answering all you’re internal links presses, but I’m not advocating for Zizek. I just think without revolutionary potential (and without revolution!) nothing revolutionary happens. Therefore, you’re stuck working within the system, trying to use the legal systems internal logic to disrupt dehumanization as much as possible.

But maybe Robespierre is wrong. Can you have “Revolution without a Revolution”?

I think you're winning that SCOTUS should make a radical intellectual break from textualism. But will any amount of kritiking at the micro-political level ever have the chance of creating the kind of intellectual pressure necessary for such a radical departure?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I gave a talk in church. Topic: Holy Ghost

Mood Gorning Sothers and Bristers, I mean Good Morning Brothers and Sisters. Aubry and I really like first-letter transpositions so I thought I’d try one to see if anyone else finds them funny. Anyway, I’ve been assigned to talk to you today about the Goly Host. So here goes…

I’d like to begin my talk with a salutation. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians ends by saying: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen.” Paul’s goodbye offers insight into the unique roles and characteristics of the three members of the eternal Godhead. First, Christ who made intercession with the father and without who’s grace we are doomed. Likewise, it was thanks to God’s love for us that he sent his only begotten to die for us. And finally while both Christ and God kept are from us by a veil, the Holy Ghost has been sent to the Earth to be in communion with man. This is the unique role of the Holy Ghost.

However, I think we sometimes forget that the Holy Ghost is a God like Jesus Christ and God the Father. So when we talk about the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost we are talking about the constant presence of a God – one of the three most powerful beings in the Universe can be your best friend. This is a pretty far-out concept. In Sunday school I’ve heard the Holy Ghost compared to Jimminy Cricket; and this is a cute analogy; but the reality is the Holy Ghost is no cricket – He is like the most awesome force in the Universe. This is why it is so desirable to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. You and I want (or at least should want) this awesome powerful presence guiding our decisions here on Earth. However there is a price to pay to hang with this guy (the Holy ‘G’ if you will): The Spirit will not bear an unclean vessel. This is why we strive to keep the covenants we have made with God the Father. Keeping the commandments can secure you the power to draw insight from the Holy Spirits deep celestial aquifer.

The knowledge of the Holy Ghost is not of man. In fact, in his talk entitled the Cloven Tongues of Fire, Boyd K Packer says that the “supernal”, or supernatural, insight of the Holy Ghost is often “obscured” by our Earthly, human activity and “meetings”. Therefore, in order to receive other-wordly knowledge, we must set aside time for meditation and communion with the Holy Spirit of truth. Moments of quiet repose are critical to keeping open and receiving the vital lines of communication from the Third member of the Godhead.

Not only is the Holy Ghost great to have around, but the witness of the Holy Spirit is also absolutely crucial to our entire system of belief. Let’s face it, if we are honest, I think most of us would admit that the Gospel is not altogether rational. The plan of salvation isn’t something you’d simply arrive at logically by studying the creatures of the Earth and the motion of the stars. The Churches contemporary publication True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference confirms that the Holy Ghost works outside the normal rational modus operandi. It says, “His communication to our spirit carries far more certainty than any communication we can receive through our natural senses.” The communication from the Holy Ghost is not a phenomena of this Earth, it is spiritual and beyond our powers of observation and ratiocination. I would argue that anyone who tries to encompass the entirety of the Gospel into an objective, pseudo-scientific analysis with known logically derived boundaries, is necessarily a charlatan because they deny the importance of faith in God’s plan. This also points to the fact, though, that without the witness of the Holy Ghost our belief system is rather dubious. Otherwise, it would be silly to believe something so fantastic as the story of the First Vision or Christ’s atonement for mankind. There’s certainly no scientific explanation for what Joseph saw in that grove of trees. Therefore, I’m afraid if you’re testimony isn’t based on the transcendent witness of the Holy Ghost, then you’re standing on metaphysically shaky ground. I therefore beseech anyone who has not sought the confirmation of the spirit to pray mightily unto the Lord for that fiery witness from beyond the veil. There is no hope to convince anyone of the truth of the Gospel without relying heavily on the testimony of the Holy Ghost. This is why pseudo-logic Bible-bashing is such wasteful enterprise. In Doctrine and Covenants chapter 42 verse 14 it says, “And the spirit shall be given you by the prayer of faith, and if you receive not the spirit ye shall not teach.” The Holy Ghost must be present to teach the things of God. So hopefully the spirit will bear a portion of my words to you. Otherwise, I’m not teaching.

In Matthew Chapter 3 verse 11 the testimony that comes through the Spirit is described as a “baptism by fire”. Like a fire, it burns a place in one’s being. “Once you have felt it, you can never forget it,” says Glenn L. Pace of the Quorum of the Seventy. This sensation has been described as both rapturous and sublime, both of which point to something beyond the words themselves. It is something Other. In Doctrine and Covenants chapter 121 verse 26 it is described as an “unspeakable gift”; Meaning it cannot be described. The sublime sensation of God’s infinite Love and infinite wisdom is an irrational sensation, in the sense that it is simply beyond rational discussion – it is awe-some in the original sense of the word – as in that which causes an eye-popping, jaw dropping feeling of awe. The absolute Otherness and Other-worldlyness of the Holy Spirit helps explain why many people find it difficult to describe those moments when the windows of heaven are opened and things are seen with the spiritual eye.

Now, we know from Christ that one of the reasons he left the Earth was for us to have a chance to exercise our faith; to grow and progress. In John Chapter 16 verses 7 and 8 Christ says, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…. ” So according to Christ the Holy Ghost was always a necessary component of his plan. He had to leave so people could learn to follow the Spirit without him. I imagine it would be difficult to progress very much while in Christ’s immediate presence. Being around the perfect source of goodness and light would likely make sin seem incredibly unappealing. So Christ had to leave so that we could be tempted, and for a guide through this tempestuous sojourn he sent the still small voice of the Holy Ghost. It recently occurred to me that this makes good sense, because if Christ sent the Holy Ghost as a loud, obvious voice we wouldn’t have as much opportunity to make mistakes and learn to actively seek spiritual guidance.

Therefore the Holy Ghost was sent to be a still small voice and a teacher while Christ is gone, to “reprove” us of our sins, so that we can learn what we must do to return to God the Father. So if you’re interested in going to the Celestial Kingdom – anybody here interested in going there? – the personage Christ sent to help you get there is the Holy Ghost. Train yourself to listen to what He says and you’re journey home will be much easier.

To return home, each person will receive specific, tailored instruction as to what course is best for him or her. The personal nature of our relationship with the Holy Ghost gets a lot of emphasis in this Church. Personal revelation is a gift that all members are entitled to and expected to earnestly seek. So I challenge you that are here today to pray for personal and specific guidance from the Holy Ghost this week, and then act on the promptings you receive.

Along with the obvious advantages of personally tailored instruction from the Holy Ghost the principle of personal revelation also creates a wonderful dynamic in the Church between orthodoxy and personal, subjective understandings of the Gospel. We do have the orthodox interpretation of certain scriptures; given to us by the Prophets – and the Holy Spirit will bear witness of the truth of their words – but the Brethren are not the only source of divine revelation and Gospel truths.

For instance, A common story goes like this: I had a question or a problem that was really bothering me a lot. I thought about it and prayed about it for several days. Then one day while reading my scriptures a particular passage struck my attention and suddenly took on meaning that I had never seen before. I applied this scripture to my specific contemporary situation, according to the new insight I received from the scriptures and have felt blessed as a result.

For LDS people the scriptures are saturated with meaning. Any one scripture can mean hundreds of things, depending on the person and the timing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are very much alive. Through the Spirit they can be a constantly evolving story that lends itself to new and more interesting perspectives the more they are read. This openness in the Gospel allows for a variety of perspectives and leaves room for a variety of people in the Church who working together can enrich each other’s overall understanding of God’s plan. For this reason salvation through the Holy Ghost is a communal process. Or else my giving this talk is futile because everyone in this room already understands the Gospel the exact same way I do and there is really no reason for us to talk about it.

Finally, a quote from Boyd K Packer:
“We need not live in fear of the future. We have every reason to rejoice and little reason to fear. If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be safe, whatever the future holds. We will be shown what to do.” There seems to be a general sense that the sky is falling in the United States today, but a Prophet of the Lord has told us that we need not fear. Everything will be fine so long as we just keep doing what we’re supposed to and follow the Spirit.

I’d like to tear my bestimony… Ha Ha just kidding. Honestly, I’d like to bear my testimony that Christ lives. He sent the Holy Ghost to Earth to testify of Him and the truth of his Gospel. I have personally felt the fiery witness that comes from the Holy Spirit of the truth of God’s existence and the truth of the Book of Mormon, which is the cornerstone of His Church. Despite feeling at times that a belief in God cannot be rationally defended, I nonetheless cannot deny the witness of the Holy Ghost. I cannot deny the impact on my life the presence of the spirit has made and I cannot justify my existence without appeal to a higher authority. I love this Church and its prophets and I love the emphasis they place on personal revelation. I love the richness of the Gospel and the never-ending potential for new insight and deeper understanding of Gospel concepts and stories. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. And I’ll leave you with the salutation of Paul: May “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why Mormons should accept an expansive view of the meaning of the US Constitution

The US Constitution holds a special importance among members of the LDS faith. President Benson has said in an official church publication that not only was the Constitution "inspired" by the spirit of God, but that it is in fact a "holy document." This elevates the US Constitution to the level of scripture in the Mormon faith. However, for some reason LDS people don't seem to treat the US Constitution the same way they treat other scripture. For some reason, while the general LDS cannon is considered very open to deeply subjective readings, which can be applied to specific contemporary situations; the US constitution is considered thoroughly decided and unopen to new interpretations or insights based on changing circumstances.

I often hear my LDS peers talking about the openness and expansiveness of scriptures that speak to them in new ways according to their circumstances. A common story goes like this: I had a question or a problem that was really bothering me a lot. I thought about it and prayed about it for several days. Then one day while reading my scriptures a particular passage struck my attention and suddenly took on meaning that I had never seen before. I applied this scripture to my specific contemporary situation according to this new insight that I received.

For LDS people the scriptures are saturated with meaning. Any one scripture can mean hundreds of things, depending on the person and the timing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Study of the scriptures is not limited to the bare text, either, but is very holistic process involving synthesis with outside sources of inspiration as well as introspection into the intention of the words beyond the simplest most bare meaning of the words. However this wealth of meaning is not very well transcribed to the Constitution. For many Mormons the Constitution is a closed document whose meaning is fully understood; and is therefore, not open to the same kind of new and personal spiritually guided interpretations.

This contradiction has recently troubled me after reading, Yale Law Professor, Akhil Reed Amar's book The Constitution: A Biography, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the saturation of meaning in the words of the constitution. While reading his book, it was impressed upon me that the most important inspiration contained in the Constitution is the Democratic idea of openness and flexibility in the face of changing circumstances.

The Constitution was a deeply democratic document - meaning that among its authors and contributors we can include, not only Washington and Jefferson, but also the entire corpus of the fledgling United States' people (or at the very least the men). Be the legal legitimacy of the US Constitution is based on popular sovereignty (the idea that the people as a whole should choose the government), each and every individual interpretation of every person then living in the United States is a legitimate interpretation (because they are all authorities on the meaning of the founding text for which they voted). This creates a huge patch-work quilt of meaning! Every sensible interpretation of the document is a legitimate, because there are an infinite number of ways that it may have been understood at the time.

Furthermore, we know from the documents that have survived from this period that there was a litany of disagreements as to what specifically the constitution permitted and prescribed and as to how to implement it into a functioning government. All this amounts to a lot of built in flexibility when interpreting this document, which goes a long way in explaining why the Constitution has been able to last for 200 years despite massive changes in society.

Likewise, the Founders had the beautifully democratic insight to leave the document open in a very literal sense. The US Constitution is unfinished. It is open in the sense that it is still being written. The original founders devoted a rather large section of the document that has become fundamental law to describe the process of amending - or adding onto – the unfinished Constitution. This means that they left it up to us to find out for ourselves what the Constitution should say and how it should be applied. In a beautiful gesture of trust from one generation to the succeeding generations they asked us to take up the mantle where they left off and finish the work they began. We should continue to write their story as progress and democracy marches forward.

This openness and potential for new insight, is what Mormons should focus on when designating the Constitution as scripture. Otherwise you're stuck defending some of the uglier aspects of the original document - such as the designation of black slaves as counting for 3/5's a person for the purpose of the census, and other passages explicitly defending the institution of slavery. The spiritual significance of the US Constitution may be great, but those who voted for its passage in the spirit of progressing the vision of Democracy made a deal with the devil by compromising with the dominant power brokers in the South - the slavocracy. This compromise on justice and democracy came at an excruciating cost, and was ultimately paid for in blood and almost led to the undoing of the US Constitution. The original Constitution failed to deliver the promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to the quarter of US people who were held in bondage in the South. Furthermore the original constitution failed to hold together a "more perfect Union" and was no longer operative during the period of Civil War between North and South.

However, to a great extent the spirit of Democracy has continued to lead the writing of this Document. Among the authorities of the US Constitution we can therefore also include Lincoln, who insisted on a "new birth of freedom" in the United States. The amendments to the Constitution are as important to the original document and contain new and dynamic insights that do not necessarily perfectly jive with the words of Madison, Jefferson and Franklin. Only by including the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th ammendments do we see the fullfilling of the democratic promise of universal suffrage. These words should be given the weight they deserve as scripture, and not disregarded from our understanding of the Constitution of the United States.

Future generations have continued to add to the Supreme Law of the Land. As LDS people, an open reading of the Constitution and search for new and possible additions to the document should make perfect sense - as it mirrors our search for personal revelation and continual inspiration. We don’t believe that the Lord has been silenced in regard to prophetic revelation – likewise I think the Lord still has something to tell us about Democracy and how to manage power in an increasingly large and diverse society. A closed and limited version of the constitution is an interpretation devoid of the spirit of inspiration. Likewise, it is silly to complain about the lack of spirituality in government, if mormons are not willing to take the possibility of contemporary political inspiration seriously. This is why I think mormons should adopt an open, and expansive, interpretive lens as to the understanding of the US Constitution as scripture.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Andrew Breitbart is despicable

I just read the transcript of Breitbart's conversation with Hannity on Fox News. This is an after the fact interview - it had already been shown that Shirley Shaddron's remarks were not racist, but actually quite the opposite, so Brietbart should be looking apologetic, yes? He posted a purposely misleading video that got a woman fired.

However, Andrew is completely unapologetic throughout the interview. The closes Breitbart and Hannity get to apologizing is when they keep saying that the edited-video he released is "not about" Shirley Sherrod. But I don't how the video can be perceived as not about Shirley - she's the one in the video! Furthermore, she's the one who's been affected by Brietbart's deception and race baiting. She's the one who lost her job and was personally accused of being a racist by her peers.

Rather than apologize, however, Brietbart excuses his actions by saying that the same thing is being done to the Tea Party. However, the personal harrasment Shirley endured is not comparable or even remotely close to the very general and reasonable NAACP resolution saying that the Tea Party as a group - and particularly its leaders - should reign in racism among its corpus. And furthermore, there is rather conclusive evidence of racism among Tea Party activists.

So lame excuse Brietbart.

The tragic irony is that Brietbart will prolly become a regular on Fox News - advancing his own career by sabotoging an honest woman's job. His lies will endear him to the extreme Right who want reasons to hate - while Shirley Sherrod (who was attempting to fight racism by honestly discussing her own inner struggle with prejudice) gets thrown under the bus by the Left, who - as it has now been proven - will not even tolerate the appearance of racism.

This Breitbart makes me sick.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A response to Jon's Criticism

I think you're correct in asserting that both Liberals and Conservatives have a pretty bad track record in not delivering assistance to most African nations when it has been needed. (As another aside it also bugs me in cards book that Africa is uniformly an awful, god-forsaken place which ignores the fact that there are many areas in Africa which are really quite stable politically and pleasant to live.)

You're also winning that Bush was one of the best Presidents for Africa ever - however its not something that I often hear Conservatives touting, usually its the Liberals who will give Bush some conciliatory Kudos for this. Furthermore, I don't think you're going to win that aid to Africa is an area consistently pushed by Conservatives and their politicians. Finally, in the book everyone is happy with dropping aid into the quarantined continent, so government aid is not necessarily the main conflict - rather the conflict is over direct assistance in the forms of boots on the ground which goes against the governments quarantine of the African continent.

Now, You are winning that christian conservatives - hopefully a great many - would be interested in going to Africa and helping people in the case of a massive epidemic. However, I find it insulting that it is only Christian Conservatives that are advocating this policy. Card clues us in to the fact that its a conservative thing - and not just a Christian thing - by having Fox News as the only compassionate network willing to fairly air and discuss the wholly Christian demonstrators. I feel strongly that both secular and non-secular Democrats should be represented among the compassionate protectors seeking to bring further aid to Africa. Liberals are probably more likely to be rallying outside the Whitehouse to protest a cruel international policy. Honestly, when have conservatives ever rallied to protest against any US foreign policy? High levels of state security (which in the book is the President's justification for the quarantine that prevents direct assistance) is not something that you typically hear conservatives railing against.

Furthermore, while conservatives do donate more money to charities the strongest correlation for charitable donations isn't along the conservative liberal access - instead it's along the lines of religious, non-religious.

So more charitable donations by conservatives really translates to more church donations. Now, while churches do a lot of good things in the world, concern for sick and dying people is not necessarily the reason people donate - motives such as feelings of piety and social status in the church community probably figure more prominently.

So ya, I still think it's lame for Card to make-out the Left to be so completely apathetic in the face of a cruel international policy toward the continent of Africa. I know Chomsky would be against it - and all us psuedo-intellectual lefties are gonna follow what Chomsky writes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Card is not even subtle in his support of Conservative ideology

Card is not even subtle in his support of Conservative ideology
Okay. So I'm reading Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card and I am constantly oscillating between really enjoying the plot and being totally pissed-off at Card's obvious political biases in the telling of his story.

First of all, Fox News is the brave network whose reports most accurately reflect reality, in his ridiculously rendered political landscape. Hopefully, I needn't spend any time explaining how silly (more likely insulting to the reader's intelligence) this idea is. Bashing on the media is unsurprising (And there are some really good criticisms to be made about the media's failure to properly educate the public; privatized media will never do anything as boring as explain complicated sociopolitical and socio-economic realities; although there is room for misinformation and wild supposition; hence the success of Beck's pseudo-educational talk-show); However, elevating Fox as bastion of truth in his story is so wantonly irresponsible it makes me sick to my stomach.

Then, when a massive plague of airborne Ebola starts eradicating 50% of Africa the response from the Christian Right is to send Aid, while the Left idly sits by and accepts the deaths of entire continent. As much as I'd like to think that Christian sentiments of charity ruled the right, their track record has left much to be desired. Not that the Left is perfect, but when you think of epidemics in Africa you don't need to look to far for examples of how the political ideologies will align themselves on the issue - AIDS.

The AIDS epidemic is one of the most politicized natural developments I could imagine. Both sides rushed in with their own solutions to try to prevent and treat the disease. However, if anyone didn't give a hoot about people dyeing from AIDS it was fundamentalist Christians in the US who saw HIV as the 'gay disease,' The manifestation of God's wrath against sinners - sodomists, fornicators and adulterers caught AIDS, not good Christians, as per Jerry Falwell.

Fortunately thanks to the efforts of doctors, educators and community organizers - predominantly people who might be called those with a Leftist agenda - we now understand that anybody can fall subject to HIV and that transmission occurs largely intravenously through needles. One would look very stupid indeed to suggest that we should not assist African nations in slowing the spread of the virus.

To reiterate; while I applaud the idea in Card's book that the predominantly Christian Right would rush to the aid of African nations in case of an epidemic, because it is - ultimately - the Christ-like thing to do; I find it appalling that the Left is portrayed as a bunch of apathetic sociopaths who would let African people rot; when in reality the Left has a track record of reacting more quickly and with greater empathy to epidemics in Africa than the Right does.

So ya, Card's understanding of American politics is bonkers. This book is billed as being an allegory of the dangers of political extremism, but Card so obviously favors the Right in such an unbelievable and silly way that he completely undermines his credibility in political moderation. I'm afraid Card is wearing the same political blinders that he is supposed be subverting with this book. A blind man isn't going to be much help leading another blind man. I liked Card's science fiction better when he kept his writing a healthy distance away from contemporary society. He's obviously better at creating imaginary universes than representing our current reality.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Response to the Israeli attack on a Humanitarian Aid Vessel

I've been reading the comments on the recent and utterly unjustifiable Israeli attack on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Several people commented adamantly on 'Israel's right to defend itself,' but this begs the question: What about Palestinians right to defend themselves against Israel. I think we should be clear that in this conflict it is Israel that is steadily encroaching on Palestinian land. Israel is the aggressor in this conflict. How would Americans feel if Russian contractors began building developments on the Alaskan coast, completely ignoring settled borders. Israel is an invading force and Hamas has been remarkably restrained in response to this threat.

Israel's security policy is akin to the Romans: To feel safe, they must expand.

Along with Palestine's right to defend itself, what about the Palestinian people's basic right to food and water? The constant injustices against the Palestinian people add up to a protracted genocide.

Finally for those who decry the legitimacy of Hamas. When America was occupied by the British we engaged in guerrilla tactics in an attempt to regain rights. Hamas is Palestine's legitimate and democratically elected ruling party - especially in Gaza. Hamas, is for instance even more legitimate than the US's revolutionary-era provisional government - both are militant groups with a willingness to resort to violence to try to create an independent state - however, unlike America's Revolutionaries, Hamas has won a majority of seats in elections observed by third-party moderators.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The significance of Peter Corroon's pick for Lt. Governor

Democratic candidate Peter Corroon has selected Sheryl Allen, a moderate Republican, to be his running mate. (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_15016836)

Utah has long been a one-party state. Stick the letter R in front of your name and you're probably going to win an election in Utah. However, this year makes the traditional wisdom - of red beats blue - a truism. This year a Republican is guaranteed to be a winner in the Gubernatorial race. Utah politics has become so skewed to the right that there is no party of the left. This gubernatorial election is far right versus center right. The "Democratic" candidate is running on a platform of helping small business owners, cutting taxes and practicing fiscal responsibility. In fact the Democrat, Corroon may be a better fiscal conservative than his Republican adversary: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/peter-roff/2010/04/06/tax-hikes-hurt-republicans--just-ask-utah-governor-gary-herbert.html

While this does signal that Utah's political system is severely imbalanced, it also has a surprising ray of sunshine. If you're a fan of bipartisanship and pragmatic politicians than you've got the best option Utah has ever created. You can vote for a literally bipartisan ticket and rest assured that Corroon is going to tow the moderate line, because if he strays an inch from the careful middle line he's walking Utah's overwhelmingly conservative majority will throw him out of office. When Corroon promises responsibility in government, it's a promise you can expect him to keep.

However, the real significance of Corroon's running mate Sheryl Allen may not be that of a Utah Democrat is trying to curry favor with conservatives - Jim Matheson has been demonstrating this trend for years. What may be truly significant is that Allen is a former school teacher and expert in education policy. Corroon picked the perfect advisor to help him improve Utah's education system - which is a priority of his campaign. If there is one area where Utah is falling behind it is in the education of our children. Gary Herbert and the Republican controlled state legislature did not spare schools when they slashed Utah's budget. When asked what issue she wants to champion Allen mentioned Davis school District which is facing a budget reduction of $31 million this year.

As the workforce becomes more globalized and the job market increasingly competitive the focus of Corroon's campaign is in the right place. Educating our children is the most effective way to ensure Utah's future economic prosperity and should never be sacrificed for political or fiscal expediency. Corroon is much more likely to make the tough choices which will prioritize education and see us through the economic downturn.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Refugee

1. Fast labor — we pre-screen candidates for you to ensure that they have proper work documentation and are qualified to begin working immediately.

2. Skilled workers without hassle and at less expense.

3. Increased productivity. Refugees have an outstanding work ethic.

4. Save time. No need to pay for advertising, simply call us with your labor needs.

5. Cultural diversity.

6. AAU will be happy to complete all new-hire paperwork and photocopy all necessary documentation

7. Safety and Confidence – Refugees routinely pass all criminal background checks and drug/alcohol tests

8. Translators. We will provide a translator, if necessary, for initial training and orientation.

9. Tax credits for employers.

10. Loyal employees. With the investment of a little training, refugees will likely become your most devoted personnel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Myth that Obama Democrats are Extremists

Obama Democrats have been remarkably fair-minded and pragmatic.

I think Obama and Congressional Democrats have made every effort to appease Republicans - e.g. The Health Care Reform: 1. there's no public option despite the fact that a majority of Americans favor it, 2. the Health Care Bill is actually considered a step back according to many pro-Choice advocates, and 3. The Bill hurts several Labor Unions by taxing "cadillac" Health Plans. If anything Obama Democrats have abandoned the Left in order to try to curry favor with the Right. They've been acting very pragmatically, though, compromising on ideological purity in order to at least get a few beneficial reforms through.

(For the far lefts view on the Health Care reform look here: http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article10.php?id=1341. They don't like it, because it's too moderate.)

However, Congressional Republicans are playing to the base and have effectively excluded themselves from the governance of the country by refusing to include themselves in reform discussion.

Look at what happened to Bob Bennet: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14870122

The Healthy Americans Act which he sponsored during the Bush years is so is incredibly similar to the Health Care Reform it's crazy! But when Obama Democrats propose the plan in a slightly different form he starts acting like the whole idea is pure lunacy - why?!!! It's so frustrating to see him have to abandon what he truly believes to satisfy the ideology of the Right Wing. He's also an expert in Health Policy and could have been helpful in the drafting process, but instead he decided he could score more points with the "Kill the Bill" crowd.

There is no pragmatism to what the Right is doing. The Republican stalling strategy is to sabotage the nations success to make Democrats look bad. It's nearsighted, hostile and despicable.

Democrats are at least trying to fix past policy errors and help the nation progress. Democrats are ignoring the extremists on their side while Republicans are touting the line for Right Wingers - e.g. Palin, Teaparties, Glen Beck, etc.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Refugee Resume Fillers

Job qualifications list for easier resume writing


Provide fast, courteous, efficient service to ensure customer satisfaction. Strong customer service skills and the ability to sell products and services. Possess good communication, telephone and basic register/cash-handling skills. Process customer sales to include accepting payment, packing merchandise and issuing receipts and change. Maintains the appearance of store including stocking and performing general housekeeping duties. Maintains a safe work area for customers and coworkers. Ability to process transactions accurately. Ability to handle multiple tasks. Ability to communicate in a professional and tactful manner. Accurate listening skills. Ability to independently handle problems and facilitate successful outcomes.


Work quickly and efficiently. Detail oriented and love cleanliness. Take pride in performing repetitive tasks well. Knowledge of food safety and public health protection. Wash dishes, pots, pans, kitchen utensils and other equipment used in making meals. Maintain the kitchen area in a neat, clean and orderly manner. Have or be able to obtain food handlers permit.

Food Service

Assists customers in finding products, making selections and purchasing items. Deal with people in a manner which shows sensitivity, tact, and professionalism. Knowledge of food safety and public health protection, applicable laws, rules, regulations and/or policies and procedures. Professional in grooming and uniform standards. Able to stand for long periods of time. Prepares special orders for customer when possible. Prepares hot and cold foods according to instructions. Maintains clean and sanitary work area. Wipes counters, washes utensils, etc. Stocks meats, cheeses, lettuce, rolls, bread and other foods as necessary. Sweeps and mops floor around deli area. Assists in stocking shelves. Rings up food items on cash register and accurately handles cash.


Works safely even in hazardous environments. Solves problems quickly and efficiently. Make decisions, takes responsibility, and works with minimal supervision. Follow directions with exactness. Ability to climb ladders, work in heights and confined spaces, use and maintain a variety of hand tools, and wear respiratory equipment. Mow, rake, water and fertilize lawn. Plant, transplant, water, fertilize, and trim flowers and shrubs. Control weeds, remove litter. Performs manual labor such as digging, shoveling, planting, trimming, painting, etc. Maintains building(s) and/or facilities in a clean and orderly condition and/or removes snow from sidewalks and doorways, etc. Assist with general maintenance of sprinkler systems and preventive maintenance of lawnmowers, snow blowers and other small grounds keeping equipment. Ability to work in severe heat and cold conditions. Knowledge of use and effects of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and/or fertilizers.

Janitor, Commercial

Take pride in your work, and have high standards of cleanliness. Pays superb attention to detail to determine tasks to be accomplished. Responsible for ordering additional supplies as needed to ensure the smooth flow of day to day operations. Ability to work with minimal supervision. Trustworthy, punctual and task oriented. Works well with others to accomplish team goals.

Janitor, Medical

Perform housekeeping tasks, according to detailed instructions, to maintain area in a sanitary, clean and attractive condition. Ability to properly dispose of infectious waste and trash. Ability to communicate clearly, and to follow written and verbal directions. Effectively coordinate efforts with staff members. Ability to work around patients, visitors and staff without causing disruptions. Ability to use cleaning chemicals properly. - Must have the ability to properly clean walls, and carpets, with appropriate chemicals. Ability to keep up assigned area, making independent judgments on needed activities and projects. Ability to work with patient care units and other departments with specialized cleaning needs and hazards. Knowledge of appropriate responses to chemical spills. Cleans, mops, scrubs and dust floors. Cleans toilets, basins, showers, bathtubs, patient beds. Cleans and vacuums furniture, fixtures, doors and related furnishings by using appropriate cleaning supplies. Operates and maintains electric floor machines, snow blowers, industrial vacuums, carpet shampooing equipment and upholstery shampooing equipment. Cleans patient rooms, beds, waiting areas and examination tables. Labels and removes infectious waste bags and containers. Transports custodial supplies and equipment to and from storage and work areas. Replaces sharp containers, transports trash and refuse, removes empty boxes and organizes closets.

Janitor, Construction

Safely remove construction debris and garbage. Efficiently stack and organize jobsite construction materials. Clean tools and equipment. Ability to lift and carry heavy objects up to 70 lbs. Able to endure long periods of standing. Assist the foreman and helpers with the assigned task. Work in tight and confined spaces and quarters. Maintain a productive pace of work while unsupervised. Assist several people at a time. Willing to change task as often as required, due to job site circumstances

Laborer, plumbing

Hard worker, dependable, always shows up on time or before. Willing to go the extra mile, complete tasks given, and strong common sense. Physically capable. Safety-first attitude.

Laundry Worker

Responsible for the gathering, sorting, washing, drying, folding and delivering of linens and clothing to closets and rooms in a nursing home.


Adaptable: ability to rotate through the assembly line, learn different tasks, and adjust quickly to new responsibilities. Ability to meet line rate expectations. Ability to perform a variety of assembly tasks requiring dexterity and fine motor skills. Ability to visually check work performed and identify whether a product has been assembled correctly according to quality criteria. Ability to follow instructions in performing repetitive tasks. Dependability in coming to work on time and meet company attendance guidelines. Attentiveness in performing tasks. Pride in performing repetitive tasks well. Good eye-hand coordination. Works closely with co-workers to create and promote high quality, teamwork, increased throughput and low scrap rate. Actively seeks to keep areas and equipment clean and organized to maintain a professional shop appearance. Basic math and computer skills. Have a company first outlook. Be a role model while having a positive attitude. Ensure the building of the highest quality product possible. Goals are met on a daily basis. Understand Standard Operating Procedures. Participate in resolving any area problems/concerns with team. Effective communication skills both verbal/non-verbal and listening skills. Physical work, standing for 8 hrs, repetitive bending, twisting lifting 25+ lbs. Able to communicate and read work orders, great attitude and work ethic, team player; able to work over time if necessary. Excellent attendance and punctuality. Work well in a fast paced environment with high noise level around mechanical and electrical equipment.

Vehicle Service Agent

Transport cars from service center to ready line, clean interior and exterior of vehicles, check all fluid levels, inspect vehicles for damage, drive cars through car wash to staging area. High energy level and willingness to work in a fast-paced team environment. Clean driving and criminal record.

Warehouse, Material Handler

Takes pride in work, able to multi-task and detail-oriented. Ablility to work independently with minimal supervision. Efficiently move and stock product. Accurately pull orders and packaging product. Accurate use of scale for weighing product. Use scanner and printer to label product. Ability to learn and perform multiple tasks in a team environment. Good communication skills. Work independently in a fast paced environment. Compliant with safety regulations. Possess computer skills and aptitude. Ab;e to lift, slide and lower packages that weigh up to 75lbs. Basic math skills.