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Monday, August 10, 2009
Three Utahans: The Nominee, the Religious Bigot, and the Racist

Thoughts on three Utahans who made the news last week in unrelated stories.

Lieutenant Governor Nominee Greg Bell

Here's a lengthy Deseret News article about Greg Bell, whom new Utah Governor Gary Herbert is nominating as his lieutenant governor. I don't know anyone on the short list, but Bell seems to be considered a more moderate choice than some of the others. That's probably a very good thing where a short list of Utah Republicans is concerned; if the list is a reasonable cross-section of the state party, it's almost certain to contain at least one wing nut. Wing nuts belong in the "Letters to the Editor" section, not in high political office. (See below.)

Most recently the Assistant Majority Whip in the Utah Senate, Bell could become the next governor. New US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr., is the second among the last three Utah governors to resign midterm to accept a federal appointment. In any case, it's not likely that the Utah Senate will have any serious qualms about confirming him later this month.

A Double Standard for Bigots Is not News

Speaking of wing nuts on the editorial page, Mr. Casey Jones is a member of the Salt Lake Tribune's editorial board. He stirred up a furor last week with a Tribune opinion column aimed at Mormons, their enthusiasm for reproducing the species, and the real impact large families have on schools and school budgets. (If you're going to read it yourself, do it soon, before they break the link.) The column was either poorly-executed humor -- there are signs of that -- or sincere vitriol. An announcement later in the week, which is already unavailable, that he was kidding, and that those who took him seriously are rubes, came rather too late and too rudely to be fully convincing. Its plea of innocent-by-reason-of-sarcasm might be true, but I'm not sure it helps.

Whether it was poor-quality humor or bitter sincerity, if he'd written similar things about Jews, African-Americans, or possibly even Catholics, he would now be unemployed and possibly also unemployable. But tolerance is a one-way street in contemporary American society, and there are certain groups -- mostly Christians of one stripe or another -- toward whom one can feel and express bigotry without actually being a bigot in the eyes of the beautiful people.

There are some good lines in the piece, including this one:

[The state's nation-leading fertility rate is] not a bad thing. Large families have led to all sorts of useful inventions -- hand-me-downs, minivans, the wide-angle camera lens.

So much for the wheat. Here's the chaff, what Jones suggested we do about the education problem:

All we have to do is get the folks who are breeding like bunny rabbits to exercise a little restraint.

But how? We can round them up and sterilize them. We can ship them off to Wyoming and tell them not to come back until their kids are grown. Or, we can do the sensible thing for the sake of our schools, and our planet, and establish a cap and trade program on kids.

You get two children free. But if you want a third, it's going to cost you. You'll have to buy a child credit and show your proof of purchase at the delivery room door.

Of course, even among those who practice family planning and use contraceptives, accidents do happen. For example, my wife and I have two children, Accident No. 1 and Accident No. 2. So people will have to buy third-baby insurance: "Allstate -- the hands that rock the cradle."

There is one other option. We can start teaching our kids the new math, the socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible, not to mention carbon neutral, math -- 1 adult + 1 adult = 2 children. That way we can carry on the species without straining our schools and the planet. After all, the Bible tells us to "replenish" the Earth, not overwhelm it.

For my part, I enjoy reading the Salt Lake Tribune. I read it as much as I read the Deseret News. I'm disappointed that a member of the editorial board has such limited skills and judgment and such fondness for drinking whatever designer Kool-aid is within reach. A person in Jones' position really ought to know:

  • The public school spending-per-student numbers which trouble him so are cooked for rhetorical purposes. The massive costs of infrastructure are excluded in order to provide material for ventriloquists' dummies like Jones.
  • There is no hard-and-fast connection between per-pupil spending and educational quality, at least not within the range of actual spending. Otherwise, Washington, DC, would have the best educational outcomes in the nation.
  • For a population to remain stable, families must average more like 2.3 or 2.4 children, not the 2.0 Jones advocates, because not all of those children will live to reproduce.
  • Then there's the overpopulation Kool-aid. The world really doesn't need another weak-minded Malthus disciple. Besides, if Malthus had been right, I wouldn't be writing this, and you wouldn't be reading it. Yet here we are. (Thanks for reading!)
  • Global warming cycled back to global cooling more than a decade ago, so those who really believe that human-caused carbon emissions have the power to overpower the sun's vagaries should now be advocating higher emissions, not trying to limit them.
  • Last but not least, the biblical commandment to Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth. What if they had had only two children, and what if those two were Cain and Abel? Even without the First Murder, I wouldn't be writing this, and you wouldn't be reading this. (Thanks again.)

I know, I know. Some of those insights are too much to hope for just now. More's the pity.

Whether the Jones editorial was bad humor or bad seriousness, I am comforted by the thought that, if my four children and his two "accidents" are any indication, people who can think for themselves, do real math, and think critically will soon outnumber his Kool-aid swilling ilk.

By the way, and apropos of nothing, one of my favorite columnists at the Salt Lake Tribune is Robert Kirby. He's good at humor, and good at using humor to communicate an intelligent insight in an unbigoted manner. Here's a recent example.

Utah Latino Leader Calls Most of His People Racists

According to a Deseret News story last week,

Tony Yapias of Proyecto Latino de Utah . . . voiced strong support of [Supreme Court nominee Sonia] Sotomayor and warned that [Senators] Bennett and Hatch's opposition would not serve to build ties between the GOP and the more than 300,000 Utahns of Hispanic descent.

"We're disappointed with their vote," Yapias said. "I have tremendous respect for both of our senators . . . but this would have been a great opportunity to reach out . . . instead they're going after the ultra-conservative white vote."

Let me see if I understand the thinking here. Yapias is disappointed that Senators Hatch and Bennett did not assume that Utah Hispanics are racists, who judge a person primarily by skin color. He wanted them to be racists, too, and base their votes on her skin color.

Who's the racist in this picture?

For the record, the Hispanics I know in Utah tend to be hard-working, family-oriented people who are capable of independent thought. They deserve better than being condescended to by a bigot who styles himself their spokesman.

David Rodeback comments (8/11/09):

Here's another column by Casey Jones, this time about responses to the column discussed above. He's in better form in this one. 

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