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My Opinion on Vouchers - Referendum 1

Filed under:PTA, Religion, Politics, Opinion — posted by Tyler on August 26, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

Utahns for Public SchoolsI’ve been meaning to write about my feelings on private school vouchers for quite some time now. This is a hot topic in Utah right now. I don’t want to bother with the history, although the history of the topic plays into the issue quite a bit so if you’d like to educate yourself on the topic, this blog [http://accountabilityfirst.blogspot.com] is a good place to read up on it starting with this post and then read on from there.

My point is to clear up some of the misconceptions that people may have about vouchers. Some misconceptions come from what seem like very reasonable commercials that I originally thought were funded by an organization called “Parents for Choice in Education” or PCE for short. But while researching the commercials for this post I found out that they were produced by Crowell Advertising for a client who wants to remain anonymous.[source: Salt Lake Tribune]

The commercials (I’ve only heard radio spots so far but you’ll no doubt see TV spots as November comes closer) take a single talking point, competition for example, and speak to it in terms of why it will be a good thing to help the students of Utah. I only remember two of the commercials specifically so those are the ones I will speak to, but I hear there were four; now probably just three because one of the spots was pulled, which I was glad to hear.

The first one I heard talked about how vouchers will create competition and competition is a good thing for business, right? Anyone hearing these commercials would naturally agree on the point that competition is good for business so you pretty much get trapped into agreeing with the commercial. Pretty clever. In reality, competition when it comes to public schools in Utah wouldn’t really make them better. They’re already great! Perfect? Of course not…there is always room for improvement. But improvement for our public schools comes not from pumping public money into private schools. How exactly is that going to make our public schools better? One of the biggest complaints I have about our public schools is that our teachers don’t get paid enough for how important their job is. The way this commercial portrays competition just doesn’t apply when it comes to public schools vs. private schools. The ad is misleading.

As I talk to people about vouchers competition is one of the points they bring up the most. Their argument is valid until they start looking at the big picture and realize that it just doesn’t apply in this case. It’s like talking to people about how rain is so good for plants, something we can all agree on, and then trying to apply the argument to pavement. No, I’m not trying to liken public schools unto pavement, but you get the idea. Maybe I’ll come up with a better analogy later.

The other commercial that I remember was one that I was surprised by. It was the one that quoted 3 Nephi 6:12 [lds.org] from the Book of Mormon. I couldn’t believe anyone could get away with that, and apparently they couldn’t because this is the one that they stopped playing. It didn’t seem right for them to use holy scripture for political purposes; something that the LDS church does not condone or allow. Some may have been tricked into thinking that vouchers were the popular opinion among those that believe in or read the Book of Mormon. And why not tailor your propaganda to a large majority of the State of Utah? Another clever and logical, but very sneaky ploy.

The last misconception that I’ll speak to tonight is concerning Charter Schools. It may be news to many of you that Charter Schools are not Private Schools! Yes, that’s right. Charter Schools are in fact Public Schools! So if you thought that parents could apply for a voucher to get their children into the latest Charter School that just opened up down the street, it’s not going to fly. This is a misconception that many people have and if they realized that 96% of Utah children attend public schools they may look at the issue a little different.

I know this is a very controversial subject and I should have left this one up to guest blogger D. Sirmize who has the luxury of posting anonymously on this blog. I don’t have that luxury but I’m the one with the strong opinion on this topic. D. Sirmize is still surmising, but we’ve talked at length on the subject and I welcome his comments.

Certainly my strong involvement in the PTA influences my opinion, but not everyone in the PTA agrees on this issue either, but it is the official stance of PTA that vouchers are not good for ALL of the children of Utah. And how can it be when there isn’t even a private school in all of the counties of Utah?

To set the record straight, I am not against private schools. They’re just not held accountable to the standards of the Utah State Office of Education so in this issue I have to believe that they shouldn’t be getting public tax money since it’s not up to the public as to what is taught. Private schools, especially in the area of Special Education, serve a wonderful role to our children and make a remarkable difference, but that doesn’t mean they deserve our tax dollars in the form of vouchers.

I’m glad the people have the opportunity to decide this issue in November and I hope you’ll join me in voting NO on Referendum 1.

Other informative reading on the subject:

National Education Association
Jeremy’s Jerimiad
The Wall of Separation
Utahns for Public Schools
Singing Bravely

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Rachel's Challenge - Accepted

Filed under:Inspiring, Journal, PTA, Religion, Opinion, Friends, USOE, Family — posted by Tyler on May 19, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

Rachel’s Hands

I’ve been involved with the PTA since my daughter began school in September of last year. I attended my second Leadership Training Convention on Thursday and Friday which happens annually in May. Last year I was inspired by Ronda Rose, Legislative Vice President on the Utah PTA Executive Board. She finished up her term this year and she will be greatly missed because of her ability to speak from her heart, stand up for her convictions, and truly inspire! All the effort I’ve given and all the effort I will continue to give will be, in part, inspired by this amazing woman.

This year I was inspired by the last workshop that I attended; one that I really didn’t have time to attend and one that I had to leave half way through, but the half that I was privileged to listen to proved extremely worthwhile. The workshop was entitled Rachel’s Challenge and was brought about by the tragic events of April 20, 1999 when two students killed 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School. Rachel Scott was the first to die that dreadful day. But little did anyone know, except Rachel herself as she foreshadowed in her diary, that her death would touch millions of hearts.

After her death an essay that she had written for a class was found under her bed. The message of the essay inspired the family to share and challenge people everywhere to take upon themselves Rachel’s “Codes of Life“. There are five of them and they gel nicely with my personal beliefs. But put in perspective of her life and tragic death, they suddenly took on new light and meaning. How this girl of 17 was able to have such vision is a miracle.

I listened eagerly as Dana Scott, Rachel’s sister, shared her story with us. The presentation consisted of heartfelt narration by Dana along with video clips and slide show pictures. It was the best powerpoint presentation I had ever seen. I found myself watching Dana as she watched the video clips and I tried to imagine what she must have felt losing her sister and nearly losing her brother. I watched as her emotions changed from sadness and fear during the news clips that showed the tragedy of that day to pure joy when they showed footage of her as a child, full of joy (incidentally her middle name) and life. I felt myself empathizing, which has only begun to happen in my life as of two years ago.

Several years ago I had a friend who had cancer. I wasn’t being especially empathetic as I talked about the situation with my wife in the car one day. She chastised me for my lack of a Christ-like attitude. At first I didn’t accept that I needed to change. My feeling was that difficulties happen in everyone’s life and that you just accept it and get over it; a complete lack of empathy. But the fact that I recognized that it was not Christ-like to have such an attitude led me to search out that attribute and I began to pray for it.

Several months passed and nothing major had changed despite my prayers. I still had a general sense of disdain for other people’s burdens but continued to search out a change of heart. It was a hot day on the 18th of July, 2005 where Clint (a friend and co-worker) and I found shade under the curved steps of the Salt Lake City Library. Just as we were finishing our 7-11 hot dogs we heard what sounded to me like a skate board hitting the pavement, but much louder. It wasn’t long before we both realized that something terrible had happened. We ran over to where the noise came from and much to our shock we found the body of a woman lying face up on the brick-lain sidewalk. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but suffice it to say, the woman had jumped from the top of the library to her untimely death, despite what paramedics tried to do for her.

I was still unaware how much this event would effect my life. Clint and I tried to deal with it the best we could through humor, but as the days went on it haunted me. I found myself reading her obituary and all of the online comments from the online version on the local newspaper’s website to try and find out who this woman was and why she would do such a thing. Her name was Michelle Marie Macy and she was only 39 years old. She was a pharmacist and married, but had no children. She loved cats. She had family who loved her. I began to recognize feelings of empathy within myself, but the true change of heart came when I found the courage inside to pray for Michelle - a complete stranger. I prayed for her family and those who must be feeling the pain of her untimely passing. I experienced true compassion and charity during that prayer and when I finished I found that I was crying. The change of heart that I had been praying for had finally come!

I hope Michelle’s family will find comfort that her death was not in vain, just as Rachel’s death was not in vain. My life was touched and I learned a lesson that was long overdue. I hope that one day I can give Michelle a hug and tell her that I love her. I don’t know what circumstances she must have been going through to come to that point, but I know that Jesus Christ loves her. I know that her family loves her.

So it was with charity and love that I listened to the message that Rachel’s sister had to share. Her message did not fall on unfertile soil. I will take the message to heart, re-evaluate my life, and strive to improve myself. That is the Purpose of Life - day by day, week by week, year by year.

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Utah Media Blinded By Political Correctness, Paints Salt Lake Mall Shooter as Victim

Filed under:Media, D. Sirmize, Religion, Politics, Opinion — posted by D. Sirmize on February 15, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

Let me give a little disclaimer right out of the chute. My rantings on this blog do not by any means reflect the political and/or philosophical views of this blog’s owner. The title of this blog is Desultory Thoughts (thoughts jumping from one subject to another without any logical connection to each other). Reading through the recent post list, it’s obvious that Tyler and I discuss a myriad of topics- some light-hearted, some very heavy. Unfortunately, my thoughts lately have been anything but desultory as my mind has turned almost indivertibly to the very real threat of radical Islam. It is not my intention to turn this mostly light-hearted forum solely into a discussion about that subject. To those of you aren’t interested into this, I apologize. Second only to my hate for radicalism is my disgust for political correctness.

I’m absolutely amazed at the Utah media’s reaction to Monday’s shooting rampage. To be fair, there have appropriately been many tributes to the off-duty Ogden police officer who led the charge that ended the violence. I believe he was inspired 1) to be there that night, and 2) to have brought his firearm, which he didn’t originally plan to do. Perhaps if Officer Hammond had not been the soul person in that complex with a gun, the fatality count might have even been lower, but that’s a rant for a different post.

In the days following, Utah and national media have attempted to whitewash the incident by ignoring the Muslim connection and painting Sulejman Talovic as a victim.

The LDS-owned Deseret News leads today’s paper with an arguably sympathetic article:

The atrocities of war and “ethnic cleansing,” and the pressures of daily life in a new country after he immigrated to the United States, could have created immense pressure on Talovic, according to Greg Jurkovic, a psychology professor at Georgia State University who has studied Bosnian teenagers in both Atlanta and Sarajevo.

“What we’re finding is that so many of these kids are suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” he said. “What seems to be most important is what they were exposed to, their war exposure.” Jurkovic said it is not being a victim of violence that automatically causes some people to perpetrate it. Instead, he said it is the constant “everyday stressors” — including poverty and the effects of losing ties to family back home in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Now I’m all about getting to the roots of a problem, and I don’t doubt Malovic’s traumatic childhood played a role in his actions Monday. What bothers me about the Deseret News’ reporting is that it borders on rationalizing the rampage. The News follows this article with an editorial (formatted as a news article) decrying anybody even daring to wonder if Malovic’s religion was a factor.

On ultraconservative Web sites like littlegreenfootballs.com, the story of Monday’s shooting rampage at Trolley Square has been reduced to one fact: “Salt Lake City Killer Was a Muslim.”

There is no record that Talovic attended any of the mosques in the Salt Lake area, according to both Tarek Nosseir, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, or Bobby Darvish of Muslim Forum. Nosseir noted that many Bosnian Muslims are more secular than religious.

The authors of the article then utterly destroy their credibility by quoting CAIR, Islamofacism’s PR arm here in the U.S.

“Welcome to my world,” said Ibrahim Hopper (sic), communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., about the angry e-mails. “I get tons of it every day.”

Had the Deseret News not been so eager to dismiss any religious influence on Malovic’s killing spree, they might have discovered that Mr. Hooper is no stranger to radical Islam. They might have also spelled his name correctly in the article.

While I’m sure many reasonable people sent reasonably-worded emails scolding the News for avoiding reporting Malovic’s religion, the authors focus only on the most vitriolic. Nobody reasonable is outright accusing Malovic of killing people under the banner of Islam. But what floors me is the widespread effort to unequivocally deny that his Muslim faith played any role in the motive.

All week, SLPD has claimed they know very little about Malovic. And if SLPD knows very little about him, rest assured the public knows even less. Yet KSL, the Deseret News, and Rocky Anderson know without doubt that Malovic’s religion had nothing to do with it.

To use a Glenn Beckism, blood’s about ready to shoot out of my eyes.

What’s worse is a staggering effort to turn any discussion of Islam into a racist issue. Keith Roderick has an excellent piece in Tuesday’s American Thinker that addresses this point:

“Islamophobia,” coined as a term to describe prejudice and fear against Muslims and Islam, has gained institutional legitimacy. It is now used to fend off criticism of anything negative arising from Muslims or Islam. Less a psychological state of irrational fear, it creates a pseudo-racial classification for Muslims and Islam that allows criticism of, or opposition to it, to be defined as racist.

Understandably, Salt Lake City officials are looking to avoid a backlash against the estimated 10,000 Bosnians living here. But SLPD Chief Chris Burbank’s comments this morning on KNRS AM make Roderick’s point precisely:

“I really hate to see some of the rhetoric that’s going around and the bias and the prejudice and really, outright hatred towards another race, towards another group of people, based solely on an individual’s actions.”

Ok, hold it right there, Chief. I eat, sleep, and breathe Salt Lake City and I haven’t heard so much as a word against Bosnians or their race. But let’s assume for a moment that you really don’t mean to equate suspicions about Malovic’s religion with discrimination against Bosnians. If you are detecting an anti-Muslim prejudice, it’s not based solely on one individual’s actions, sir. Who’s responsible for most mass slayings these days? Sure, “every religion has its extremists.” But then again you don’t read a lot of news stories about scientologists mowing down innocents in crowded marketplaces these days, do you?

Of course it must be noted that Chief Burbank was personally chosen for his position by uber-liberal Mayor Rocky Anderson. While Burbank (and Rocky for that matter) should be praised for SLPD’s flawless response to the incident, the man is drunk with Rocky’s PC Kool-Aid. It’s a bit alarming when the chief of police rules out any religious connection before the evidence comes in.

So who is more unreasonable here- those of us who refuse to rule Islam out as a potential factor until the evidence is in, or those who are already just certain it wasn’t?

I’ll reiterate what I say on a daily basis- the road to America’s downfall is paved with political correctness. Especially as it relates to radical Islam. Political correctness originates in the former Soviet Union, where citizens who dared voice a disagreement with communism were sent away to re-education camps until those views were corrected. In an America where anybody who questions Islam’s “peaceful” role in the world is condemned as a racist bigot, one wonders if our collective ideology is closer to that of Washington’s or Lenin’s.

UPDATE: One more thing about the media’s hypocrisy in not mentioning Malovic’s religion. Newsbusters’ Warner Todd Huston remembers:

Remember how Timothy McVeigh was immediately called a Christian, a White Separatist, or that he was part of a militia, etc.? There was little waiting for facts to emerge with McVeigh.

Yep, but Christianity and Judaism have always been exempt from the graces afforded by political correctness. Sucks to be us, huh?

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Responses to Protester Responses: Let's Talk Some Smack, Shall We?

Filed under:D. Sirmize, Media, Guest, Web Log (Blog), Politics, Religion, Opinion — posted by D. Sirmize on September 5, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

Well, it’s been an eventful week! Our protest coverage generated a variety of responses. Seems we made a lot of people laugh and a lot of people really mad. It’s natural. Politics is a polarizing topic that tends to cause passions to bleed to the surface. A nice political debate is invigorating and good for the soul.

So Today I thought I’d highlight a few of the responses we’ve recieved on the topic of last week’s protests. I will excerpt several notes we’ve recieved and respond to them (some of my responses here will mirror those I’ve posted in the comments section- I apologize for the redundancy). This post is directed to those peace-loving regular every-day folks at the protests last week. Both separate protests, that is. Because heaven knows we wouldn’t ever want to lump Leftists and Israel haters into the same group.

My main argument is that protesting is just plain stupid. There are so many better and more efficient ways of getting your point across than by staging a protest.

Example: You spent time and money making a sign/outfit/bucket, took the day off work (wink, wink), made the pilgrimage to Rocky’s Castle, and spent the day demonstrating. I wrote a 3-paragraph blog on my lunch break. And I pissed off a lot more people than you could have ever dreamed of. Why? Because nobody takes protests seriously. Anybody who gives a rat’s butt what you have to say is already there with you. This includes any kind of protesting, by the way. Conservative protests (though extremely rare) are just as stupid as liberal protests. Please don’t stop though. It’s extremely amusing.

So let’s go down the list. First up is is actually a thoughtful comment from Unbiased Observer, who writes:

I would like to say that some of you seem to have no idea about the atrocities committed by both Muslims and Jews in this region. You seem to have very little awareness of what is going on over there and if you had, you wouldn’t be so glib with the comments you make.

Oh believe me, I am well aware of the atrocities committed by Muslims in this region. What I must be less aware of are those committed by Israel. Pray tell, what atrocious acts has Israel committed against Muslims lately? Sawing people’s heads off? Kidnapping journalists, abusing them, and forcing them to convert to Judaeism at gunpoint? Strapping a bomb to themselves, boarding a crowded bus and blowing everybody to shreds? Hiding weapons caches in civilian homes? Setting up HQ in synagogues?

I didn’t think so. You want glib? Google the Nick Berg beheading or the United Flight 93 cockpit recordings and then come back here and tell me again how evil Israel is.

Seriously, if you can come up with some atrocities committed by Israel that are even in the same ballpark as those committed by their Muslim neighbors, I would love to hear them.

Next up is Tracy, who I must say is the queen of potty smack!

First of all, I love how so many of you right-wing bloggers love to imply that those who were protesting don’t have jobs…the rally was held during lunch and many used their lunch breaks to attend. The place was crawling with business attire and cell phones (Not that you would show your readers pictures of those people, though I have some, if you’d like).

Ok, ok. So some of you have jobs. I guess libraries, Starbucks, and Wild Oats have to get their people from somewhere!

Well Tracy, your lunch break must be longer than mine. I barely had time to pop over and make a few observations. There’s no way I would have had time to don my protest gear, grab my “Bush is a Terrorist” sign, and partcipate in the protest. I’d only be able to chant half a hateful epitaph before I’d have to get back to work. Maybe I should get a job with your employer!

Incidently, The only suits I saw were worn by Rocky Anderson and the paper mache Bush (which, unintentionally I’m sure, actually looks a lot like Rocky Anderson). And quoting Sickboy’s reponse, “The fact that you have a cell phone and own a pair of Dockers does not excluded you from Moonbatism.”

Next up is Elizabeth, who challenges me on my rhetoric:

Where is the “Death to Israel” sign? I don’t see it.

Clever! Since there was no sign at the “Death to Israel” rally that said “Death to Israel,” I shouldn’t be so critical of them. Nice try. If Robert Breeze were to have actually had a sign that read “Death to Israel,” 1) do you think he could have suckered even Utah’s homeless into holding them? 2) Would he not have had the crap kicked out of him?

Do the signs need to say “Death to Israel” to be offensive? Seems to me they were pretty offensive as they were. The permit itself said “Death to Israel.” That’s what the dude wanted his group to be called.

Poking around your blog, I think it’s safe to say you’re not too big a fan of Israel yourself. Too bad you couldn’t have been out here standing with Breeze and his band of bums. It would have definately made things more interesting for Tyler and I.

Rob Banks of guerrillafolkpunx.org chymes in:

hey! i’d just like to say that almost all of us were not with the “death to israel” people. I had no idea that any of that type of thing would be present at this. (I really don’t know much about that whole conflict. I know, I should learn more about current events. I am sorry.)

Yes, you should.

And anybody with half a brain understands that the anti-Bush demonstration you were part of was not affiliated with the lone ranger across the street. I clarified that until I was blue in the face and I’m done.

Your signs were indeed rad. And I think the handkerchief “outlaw” look was very effective. Still not quite sure what you stand for (specifically, how the words ‘anarchy’ and ‘peace’ can be used in the same sentence), but you made an impression. I do have a suggestion for you though- as long as you’re sporting the black outfits, use a different color sidewalk chalk other than pink to scrawl out your messages. Come on, Pink? Black chalk would have been much more effective. Anything but pink!

As a political junkie, I understand the Israel-RestoftheWorld conflict very well. I also understand the reasons behind the anti-Bush protest. Rest assured, I dislike you for the correct reasons;)

Just kidding, man. I checked out your website and while you’re definately jacked up, I’ve seen much worse.

That’s all for this time. We of course welcome any and all comments. For those of you I’ve mentioned today, I would love to hear from you again. If I am wrong on anything, I will happily stand corrected.

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“Death To Israel” Rally in Salt Lake City

Filed under:D. Sirmize, Media, Guest, Web Log (Blog), Religion, Politics — posted by D. Sirmize on August 30, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

[UPDATE: I moved the concluding text of this post to before the Ant-Bush protest photos, so as to better distinguish between the two separate protests.] 

Just back from diversity training at the Salt Lake City anti Bush/Jews/Sanity protests staged to oppose President Bush’s arrival here to speak at the American Legion convention. Angry Left starlet Cindy Sheehan was supposed to be here, but due to a recent surgery she couldn’t make it. Man, am I bummed. Rumor has it they may have her call in and broadcast her message to the crowd. Unfortunately, unlike most of the protesters, I have a job to get back to.

The Salt Lake City/Country Building is Mayor Rocky Anderson’s castle, and leftwing demonstrations there are commonplace. Rocky’s rallies are a dime a dozen, we were more interested in the much publicized “Death to Israel” rally.

Organizer Robert Breeze told the Salt Lake Tribune that the purpose of the rally is to protest “the torture and murder inflicted on Muslims by Israel and the penetration of the U.S. media by Israeli intelligence.” Those barberic Israelis! Excuse me, Mr. Breeze, but last time I checked, it wasn’t Israelis who cut off heads, kidnap journalists, hide amongst human shields, and bash babies’ heads in with rifle butts.

The rally was actually quite a disappointment. The rag-tag group of protesters was set up across the street from the main demonstration. I thought I’d get upset, but I ended up mostly laughing. Breeze himself looks like a creepy grandpa you wouldn’t want to leave your kids with, and his followers look like average street beggars. Tyler snapped some pictures. Breeze is on the right in this shot:

I had a brief conversation with him:

D. Sirmize: What’s your name, sir?

PROTESTER: Robert Breeze- Breeze like the wind.

D. Sirmize: So this is a “Death To Israel” rally. I’m Jewish. Do you want me dead?

BREEZE (LIKE THE WIND): No, no.

2ND PROTESTER: There’s a difference between Zionism and Jews.

D. Sirmize: Well you say “Death to Israel.” I would think that implies death to Jews.

BREEZE (LIKE THE WIND): Well you’d probably be wrong.

D. Sirmize: Probably?

BREEZE (LIKE THE WIND): Do you see “Death to Israel” on any of our signs?

D. Sirmize: I haven’t read any of your signs. But you applied for a demonstration permit under the title “Death to Israel.” It doesn’t need to be on your signs, it’s on your permit!

2ND PROTESTER (to Breeze): You signed us up as “Death To Israel?”

BREEZE (LIKE THE WIND): Look, if I said “Death to Whales,” would you take that to mean I want to kill whales?

D. Sirmize: Uh, yeah.

This lady says she herself is a Jew. Interesting.

I found it amazing that all the local news agencies reported on a “Death to Israel” rally so matter-of-factly. Other than over at Michelle Malkin’s place, no detectable outrage anywhere. When exactly did anti-semitism become culturally acceptable?

Below are some of Tyler’s shots of the main anti-Bush demonstration (not affiliated with the Death to Israel rally):

Notice the nazi thunder/lightening bolts in ‘Bush’

Rocky Anderson: The man of the hour

???

Holy Bucket Brigades

Guys have uteri? I need a checkup!

Just in case you forgot your protest sign

This guy has spoken his peace and he’s blowing this joint.

D. Sirmize

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