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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Miscellaneous Thoughts

Beautiful music, ramblings about Earth Day, the national basketball championship you didn't hear about, a morsel of good news about property taxes in American Fork, and . . . have we lost our institutional mind?

Today, more obviously than usual, we indulge my inclination to comment on seemingly everything. Let's start with something positive . . .

John Rutter's Mass of the Children: The Timpanogos Chorale, joined by the Utah Children's Choir, some instrumentalists, and a pair of excellent soloists, performed at the Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork one recent Thursday evening, and then repeated the same concert at the Provo Tabernacle the following evening. Over the years I've enjoyed singing much of Rutter's choral music and listening to even more. This was my first encounter with Mass of the Children, the long work of the evening, but I think it's already my favorite among his long works.

I haven't heard all of the Timpanogos Chorale's recent offerings, but this was the best singing I have heard from them. The Utah Children's Choir, which is more familiar (two family members participate) sang beautifully, as usual. Baritone Ryan Taylor and soprano Venicia Wilson excelled, as did organist Larry Blackburn. The Chorale is a community choir, not a professional one, and the performance reflected this, but it was nevertheless quite satisfying and enjoyable.

Miss American Fork emceed the Friday evening performance, which I attended. I suppose that perky emcees in tiaras are an acquired taste which I simply have not yet acquired. Such is life. The previous evening's emcee was MFCC -- wow, that's a lot of m's and c's -- who I suppose must have displayed a decidedly different personal style.

Earth Day: I hope Earth Day went better today for its big fans than that recent Earth Hour, when everyone was supposed to turn off all their lights, etc., but Al Gore's mansion remained brightly lit, . . . and then it got worse. The United Nations headquarters in New York smugly claimed it would save tens of thousands of dollars in that one hour, only to have the local power company say, no, the number was overstated by a factor of 800 or so.

For my part, I used the carpool lane today, as I usually do when I can. Also, my tires are properly inflated. And I have yet to put the snow shovels away -- again -- in case I wake up tomorrow to a foot or so of global warming on my sidewalks, as I did last week.

I did hear a good tribute today. I listen to Rush Limbaugh when opportunity permits, which isn't often. I find him usually entertaining, often insightful, and consistently more patient than I could ever be with most of his callers. Earlier this week, in the ten minutes I spent listening while driving, I found him uncharacteristically shallow and pugilistic (as the Left usually does, even without listening). I probably don't qualify to be a Dittohead.

But today he was thoroughly delightful in paying tribute on Earth Day to those who deserve it, as he says. If you follow this link, you can either read the first half, which is a fun, deliberately inflated rant about the Earth Firsters, or you can -- once you get to the page -- search for the phrase "a solemn tribute" to skip the rant and find the first paragraph of the part I really liked.

Coal miners, inventors, God . . . It was both funny and insightful. And if you keep reading, you get Charlton Heston and Michael Crichton for your trouble.

If a Team Cuts Down a Net, but No One Sees It, Did It Really . . . ?

Folks in these parts probably noticed the American Fork High School girls basketball state championship a few weeks ago. But we seemed to have been in such anguish over both BYU's and Utah's first-round departures from the NCAA men's basketball tournament that failed to notice and celebrate the local team that won a national championship -- and in men's basketball, to be sure.

It was Salt Lake Community College. Let's hear it for the Bruins, who were reportedly "mesmerizing." The role of Mesmerized was played by Midland College of Texas.

Now, a bruin is bear; this we know. But I still wonder, why are there "Lady Cavemen" at American Fork High, instead of "Cavewomen"?

Are You Better Off Than You Were a Year Ago?

If you live in American Fork, the answer is yes, at least in one prospective sense. According to word of mouth -- I haven't had time to check the official minutes -- Mayor Heber Thompson recently reflected in a public meeting, in the context of discussion the next fiscal year's budget, that no one's talking about raising taxes this year in American Fork. That's relatively good news.

After last year's substantial increase, I don't suppose the City has enough credibility to pull off the wisest thing for the long run: Keep tax revenues the same in real dollars, that is, adjusted for inflation. Unfortunately, that's a tax increase according to Utah law, and this is an election year.

"Zero Tolerance" Is a Synonym for "We've Lost All Sense of Proportion"

In my ecclesiastical roles I have worked with porn addicts, abuse victims, and sex offenders of, shall we say, various ages and genders. In the process, I have consulted at length with attorneys, therapists, and assorted government officials, including law enforcement officers. I think I have a fairly clear sense of the terrible long-term damage such behaviors inflict on the victims and the perpetrators. I'm also somewhat familiar, in a secondhand way, with the legal ins and outs of these matters, including situations where minors provide pornography to other minors.

So I'm not happy at all when I hear that fifth graders at an American Fork elementary school computer lab were caught the other day showing pornography to other fifth graders. (I'm not surprised, either, but that's not the point.) To judge by the various news reports, including this one by KSL and this one in the Daily Herald, the school has taken disciplinary action, counseling is under way, and someone somewhere is trying to plug yet another, inevitable hole in an Internet content filter. So far, so good. Very sane -- as is the apparent absence of someone making the stupid argument that pornography is good for children. (Don't laugh. People say that.)

Criminal charges are filed by prosecutors, not police. If KSL's and other reports are correct, it is likely that felony charges will be filed against the two instigators in this case, who are reported to be first offenders. If that happens, the prosecutor who files them should resign or be fired, and his replacement should drop or reduce the charges. I don't love pornography, and I'm not seduced by winking of the "boys will be boys" sort. But we cannot afford to have prosecutors in our criminal justice system who lack all sense of proportion -- whether that lack is induced by excessive moral zeal or an outrageous fondness for publicity.

I'd have to ponder it further, but I'm inclined to believe that justice cannot exist where there is no judgment.

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