Things To Act
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
UT-3 Debate

Throckmorten doesn't seem to have abandoned his xenophobia scare tactics, or his opposition to the president on NCLB. Interestingly enough, Cannon is starting to talk about abolishing the Department of Education (do we need any more proof that a primary challenge in UT-3 from the right is highly comical?).

Cannon's use of "freakin' federal government" is moderately amusing or highly frightening. Or perhaps both.

As for the immigration issue, Tyler Cowen's series of posts (see here and here for the last couple) on the subject seem as reasonable as anything else I've read.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
The Baron of Deseret discusses Violent Movies and the Passion, which reminds me of an item I've had on my list of things to wonder about since the last Passion debates.

The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet (which, in my last ward at least, was held up as some sort of universal standard for BYU students as well as youth, though that debate is only of limited relevance for purposes of this post) has the following to say about violence in its "Entertainment and the Media" section:

"Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.


"Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior's message of love for one another."

Most of this is pretty straightforward. However, the budding lawyer in me notices the phrasing of "do not ... participate in entertainment that is ... violent ... in any way. Taken literally, wouldn't this preclude:
*watching fictional vampires get dusted on Buffy
*reading Fool's Fate, which, while not focused solely on violence, has the occasional violent scene (as does most of my reading of choice, come to think of it)
*smacking the Princess with a red shell on Mario Kart
*killing animated monsters by whacking them with a sword in Zelda
*killing animated monsters by swinging a sword in their general direction in some earlier graphics-challenged RPGs
*reading Ender’s Game (interstellar war), Saints (attempted rape), Red Prophet (massacres and mutilations), etc.
*and so on... (we can exclude the war chapters in the BOM or the Armor of God seminary video as being intended for non-entertainment purposes)

Now perhaps all of these things are wrong, and I'm just a gross sinner. But on the other hand, considering how many LDS youth (and adults) do these things, one would thing the message to not do these things would be a bit more strident if they were genuinely wrong in the same way that the vulgar, immoral, and pornographic entertainment decried in that section are. Or one could argue that perhaps the literal meaning is not intended in the above-quoted passage--but past experience has suggested to me that the Brethren do pay careful attention to word choice and literal meanings in Important Publications (the discussions, at least). Or perhaps using violence for entertainment in any way is wrong, but the mild forms aren't very wrong compared to everything else we need to repent of, so they don't get much focus.

This Ensign article from last June discusses violence, but not in a way that seems to resolve the question of where exactly the bright line is drawn (if line-drawing is even possible).

Saturday, May 22, 2004
SSM on the Ballot
This article discusses an interesting factor to watch in the elections this fall--the presence of SSM-related provisions on several state ballots, including in potentially critical states such as Missouri, Oregon, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio. Pundits' first pass at the issue is to suggest that it will help Bush and Republicans, as the conservative religious vote may mobilize to defeat those measures. Since the depression of that vote by the DUI late hit in 2000 seemed to be a factor in the closeness of the 2000 election, that could be important.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Stuff Of Note
Things I've Noticed Recently, But Been Too Lazy To Link To Until Now

Nauvoo has a new look, a new weekly column, and a new rant by OSC (on R-rated movies). They've also finally provided an easy link to the Charter (which hopefully will be followed better). Sadly, no new edition of Vigor yet. has a new Church music site, which looks interesting, though I haven't had time to play around with it yet.

Grasshopper, on the other hand, appears to have far too much free time on his hands, as he is not only keeping up his frantic pace of interesting blogging, but is taking a stint as a guest-blogger on T&S.

Would that I could be that prolific, but alas, I made the horrible mistake of picking up Robin Hobb last week, and still have 2 1/2 books to go to regain my free time.

Monday, May 17, 2004
We Get Results
Twelve days ago, we asked:
"suppose the silly suggestion that McCain would accept a VP slot with Kerry actually came to be, and the Senate did split 50-50. Which way would McCain cast the tiebreaking vote?"

Today Best of the Web asks:
"Suppose the Republicans, who currently have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, were to have a net loss of two Senate seats in November. A Kerry victory would hand one seat back to the GOP, since Massachusetts' Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, would appoint the president-elect's replacement. Result: a 50-50 split, just as after the 2000 election--which means that when the Senate convenes to elect a majority leader, the deciding vote would be cast by Vice President McCain. For whom would he vote, Tom Daschle or Bill Frist?"

It's also worth noting that four days before BOTW called for Kerry to resign, I more or less made the same call.

I wonder if Opinionjournal is hiring.

Thursday, May 13, 2004
Troubling Commentary on Collegiate 'Journalism'

UPDATE: Since I posted this, two different times I've seen someone pull up the webpage, see the story, and express shock/outrage/etc.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Libertarians On The Web has reset their mock strawpoll with only the post-convention candidates, the current leader (winning outright in the first round, with more votes than all other candidates combined) is Richard Mack (L). This seems to say something amusing about either the Mack campaign's strategy (stack the meaningless polls!) or the prevalence of libertarians on the web, or perhaps both.

Monday, May 10, 2004
The Condescension Of Us?
Now instead of moving on to Urban Planning in Zion, which I had put on my List of Things To Think About Later, writing the below post has triggered a different, lower, item on the list.

I've been thinking lately, to a degree, that in one sense our mission to Proclaim the Gospel isn't too different from our mission to Perfect the Saints. PtG, when done right, doesn't consist of shoving a BOM at a nonmember and telling him to read Moroni 10:3-5, read the whole book, and pray. Rather, it seems to consist of honestly evaluating said nonmember's spiritual state and readiness, and inviting him to consider something that will bring him closer to the restored Gospel [regardless of whether or not it brings him into the Church--we are interested in reducing every form of transgression, and in helping all understand as much of the path to happiness as they can handle]. Similarly, our duty to PtS doesn't consist mainly of prodding people until they go to the Temple, but rather of helping people (including ourselves) better understand and live the commandments and find a more enriching relationship with the Divine. Neither exercise consists only of telling someone what to do and leaving him to carry out the whole program; both involve estimating what next step the person can handle, and inviting him to take it. While both processes have quantifiable milestones, neither can be easily captured by the statistical models we use. Our interest is ultimately in conversion, not in numbers. And our actions, when done properly, reflect that higher interest.

Herein lies the problem. It's arrogant (if understandable) in one sense to solemnly proclaim that others need to be baptized, go to the Temple, etc, to be saved. Such arrogance, though, is based on a simple, quantifiable model: X is necessary for salvation. You haven't done X. Therefore, you must do X to be saved. It seems, at the next level, far more arrogant to say: Y is an attribute of perfection. You haven't achieved Y perfectly, or even sufficiently (in my opinion). Therefore, you must improve Y to be perfect.

In a sense, it seems supremely arrogant to go around telling others "You really ought to stop smoking, whether or not you ever join the Church," or "Your idleness is leading you to fritter away time you could spend anxiously engaged in some better cause," or "Your lack of charity is most disappointing and ought to be rectified at the first available opportunity." And indeed, our calling to perfect others is not mainly a call to go around pointing out their sins to them. Others are usually A) perfectly aware of their sins and working on them on their own schedule, or B) not inclined to start viewing certain actions as sins just because I said so.

However, often we aren't aware of our shortcomings, and someone can capture in words a problem we've been struggling with without being able to define (or perhaps simply haven't fixed because we weren't aware of). And often our understanding of proper behavior can be enhanced when others gently let us know why something we do may not be entirely proper (perhaps we've simply never considered it before, or were unaware of how it made others feel, or whatever, but when presented with new understanding, are perfectly willing to change our behavior for the better). So I think we often do have a duty to help those around us become better. I easily recognize my own shortcomings in this department, but cannot abandon the notion because the most Christlike people I've known have seemed to faithfully undertake this duty and help me become better, whether or not they were aware of it.

Perhaps awareness is the key--if those who really have advanced farther are humble enough to not be aware of it, then arrogance isn't a problem. Or perhaps simply remembering that different individuals have different talents is sufficient to remind us that while we can help someone in one area, he can help us in another.

But perhaps the model is better expressed in terms of autonomy. Parents have a duty to teach their children how to seek after righteousness, but once the children become adults, they become the masters of their fate; if as adults they choose to seek out ways to become better, they can, but everyone is forbidden from taking note of their obvious shortcomings and offering to help them overcome them, because we aren't called to point out the faults in others, only ourselves. We simply offer others goodness, and it's up to them to take it.

But this model doesn't seem quite right to me, if only for the problem of knowing which goodness to offer others. Deciding how to act towards others always involves judging what they want to/are prepared to accept. I treat one of my freshman students asking about something differently than I treat a senior in my major discussing the same question. Spiritually, I often find myself making judgments about whether someone is a 'freshman' or 'senior,' and tailoring my response accordingly. And as I expect others to do the same to me, I can't quite abandon the notion that we must use appropriate judgment, or at least discernment, in our dealings with others. And since we are called to help others become better, we are naturally going to have to judge areas in which they need improvement. Which seems awfully condescending.

Perhaps the reason my list of truly Christlike people that I've met is so short is because the balance is exceedingly difficult to pull off properly. But it seems worth attempting [though it's probably better to err on the side of humility, when in doubt].

Our Responsibility for Others' Impressions
Kaimi at T&S posted on a pet peeve of his, when others claim:
that any statement which could be interpreted in a way potentially critical or embarrassing to the church is a violation of the member's Duty to Present the Church in a Favorable Light at All Times, Just in Case a Non-Member Happens to be Listening.

Interestingly enough, this parallels a pet peeve of mine, namely, many members' Obliviousness to the Impressions They Send Off About My Religion. Which is not to say that I don't get annoyed by overly uptight members either--but I think there's something of a tension here, and Kaimi's otherwise excellent post only addresses one side of the equation.

Kaimi's three broad points (which really should be read over at T&S before continuing, if you haven't yet):
First, it seems like a sneaky, backhanded way to foreclose any critical discussion.
...Second, this idea is incredibly condescending towards non-members (as well as members).
...My final complaint is that showing things in a favorable light only tells part of the story.

I think all of these are valid in many circumstances. However, I also think they may not apply in other situations. Foreclosing others' critical discussion simply because one doesn't oneself like critical thinking is silly, of course, But engaging in critical discussion just for the sake of being critical (negative) instead of being critical (analytical) is also silly, and potentially as destructive. For the second point, I think there's a difference between condescension and empathy. It's one thing to think "I can't possibly tell him about X, because he'd never understand." It's something else to think, "he's probably not ready for X yet, at least not without understanding V and W first." As to the final point, sometimes we only should tell part of the story, in keeping with seeking after the virtuous, lovely, &tc.

The example Kaimi uses, of discussing why sacrament meetings can be boring, is enlightening. On the one hand, it's quite liberating the first time one realizes that not every sacrament meeting is necessarily going to be a Wonderfully Uplifting Spiritual Experience, or perhaps that others don't always feel that way [perhaps I'm mistaken on this point, but if Being Bored in SM is a sin, it doesn't outrank on my Repentance List several others that I've been committing left and right lately]. On the other hand, my personality is such that I often allow others' perceptions to influence me, to a degree. If every testimony bearer talks about what a wonderful spirit has hit everyone except me over the head, it doesn't affect me much. But if someone later mentions something specific that he got out of the meeting, it helps me see things in a new light. Thus, I think I function best when those around me focus on the positive, without overdoing it. Which perhaps is the answer to the dilemma. Which is not where this post was originally going, which, I suppose, shows the value of writing this stuff down. Not that it will stop me from continuing with the rest of my scattered thoughts.

There's two other areas in which I think we need to exercise caution in the way we portray the Church, both to members and nonmembers. One deals with our actions, and one deals with the way we handle others' shortcomings.

I look back on some of my mission experiences with horror, looking at how some missionaries behaved. I'm not talking about God's Army level pranks and irreverence. Rather, there were several incidents of missionaries not respecting nonmembers--doing things like browbeating people while tracting, trying to catch people in lies, ignoring investigators' requests for no further contact, ignoring investigators' genuine questions in misguided attempts to stick to the discussion dialog, looking for opportunities to bash, etc. None of those actions seemed particularly Christlike, and all seemed likely to leave people with a negative impression of the Church and its missionaries [not that I was free from my own shortcomings, of course]. These sorts of actions--when we act in obviously unChristlike ways when representing the Church--do violate a member's duty to present the Church in a good way, I think. Other nonmission parallels that come to mind revolve around false doctrine--members saying things that are either wrong or simply misleading about important doctrinal issues. Among the times I've been most horrified at how a member portrays the Church have been when someone has said something particularly misguided or wrong about sensitive topics such as the Temple, polygamy, priesthood and race, same-sex attraction, [insert favorite hot-button topic here]. For every sensible, nuanced answer to a question about those topics is an equally unsensible, wrong, and libelous answer which will likely leave the uninformed with a very wrong impression of what the Church actually teaches. So while I don't think that the Church needs to cultivate an image of its members as being perfect (quite the opposite), I think members do have a duty to present the Church and its teachings faithfully, or, if unable, to make it clear that their words and actions do not represent the Church.

The other point of concern I have deals with the difficulties of discussing those who have wronged us. Two examples: 1) Member A says or does something thoughtless which hurts/offends me. 2) Priesthood Leader B, while exercising authority over me, does something which I feel is very wrong, and which seems to have been done deliberately.

Here, I think, our doctrine imposes barriers to being too free with our discussion. In the first place, we are commanded, when we have a problem with another, to try to resolve it in private with the person. In the second place, we are commanded to forgive regardless of the outcome (and shouting the other person's sins from the housetops has never seemed terribly compatible with the whole forgiveness notion to me, in most cases). And in the third place, we believe (or at least GAs have said that they believe) that certain categories of experiences are sacred enough that they should not be shared casually.

Given these doctrinal constraints, I think there are certain categories of public discussions which are largely off limits (regardless of any duties about presenting the Church in any sort of light). Talking about Member A's shortcomings with others rarely solves the problem, though it often turns into backbiting and gossip. Talking with one or two people in confidence may help one move to a more forgiving mindset, but it seems unlikely if one makes it a practice to discuss the incident with everyone. And finally, while the first two reasons also can apply to the case of Priesthood Leader B, it seems to me (for now, anyway), that this sort of experience may frequently fall into the third category. If God chooses to allow some to experience the sore trials of faith that may come when flawed priesthood leaders make tragically wrong decisions (either through sin or through human frailty, which in many cases we are unequipped to judge), I suspect it is because he wants the individuals involved to have the experiences necessary in working through it themselves--and very few of those experiences are fit for public discussion, just as some of life's most sacred experiences are unfit for public discussion. The experience itself is powerful enough that sharing it too casually diminishes it.

In addition to all of that reasons, I think it's possible to make a compelling case for a Duty To Not Try To Teach Calculus To Those Who Haven't Mastered Addition Yet, and a Duty To Not Have Every Mission Story Involve Some Missionary's Stupidity And/Or Apostasy, Even If It Does Make For Stories More Exciting Than Most of the Work Itself, and perhaps a Duty To Not Spread Lots of Stories For Antis To Collect and Use To Tear Down Others, but those are probably less important duties, and I'll refrain from developing them further at the moment.

Blogger's new stuff
The new interface may take some getting used to, but hasn't managed to completely turn me off yet.

The new block quote feature could come in handy.

The irony of their adding comments right after I started with Haloscan is not lost on me. However, their requirement of logging in before posting comments seems troublesome enough that I'm not inclined to switch just yet. I'll watch Grasshopper's experience with the Blogger comments with interest to see what develops. I'm inclined initially to view any additional barrier to commenting negatively, at least with comments at the level they are now. In a higher traffic environment (or faced with more hostile/spammish comments) I can see the value of registration, though. There's a post brewing somewhere here about the differences between blog communities and internet bulletin board communities, but I don't think I'll develop it tonight.

One lingering political thought: I was somewhat surprised recently to see billboards for three different gubernatorial candidates--Walker, Stephens, and Lampropolous. Given that at the point those billboards were up, only the opinions of the 3500 Republican delegates mattered to any of them, and given how few of those delegates lived in Utah County where they were likely to see said billboards regularly, it seemed like an extravagantly wasteful use of campaign funds (which, admittedly, does describe many aspects of Utah's pre-convention phase). Thus, I was amused to note that none of the three made it out of convention.

Of course, now someone's going to point out some Huntsman or Karras billboard that I didn't see...

Sunday, May 09, 2004
President Samuelson's focus
I just came across this BYU President's Report on, and thought this section in particular was interesting:


Any time change occurs in an organization, questions naturally arise. Some have asked where my attention will be focused. As I consider where I might best focus my discretional energies here at BYU, I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to what I call our soft, or academic, infrastructure. I want it to be as solid as the wonderful physical, or hard, infrastructure of this beautifully appointed, well-equipped campus.

I am not saying that we will not build any new buildings while I am here. We will complete our current building projects, and they will bless us all. Other building projects will develop, which we will undertake with board approval if and when full funds are raised. But the physical infrastructure may be less my initial focus precisely because we are already quite well provisioned for. I want us to be as good as we say we are and as others think we should be.

Saturday, May 08, 2004
Convention analysis has one account, including the IRV totals for the gubernatorial nomination race.

Without spending a lot of time on it, the most interest features of the vote totals seem to be the degree to which candidates received support from defeated candidates. It looks to me like Stephens, Walker, and Lampropolous each came in with a core group of supporters, but didn't do a good job picking up support from defeated candidates (though L did get a big chuck of Stephens' delegates). Huntsman did better, but Karras outperformed him in every round in terms of picking up additional delegates.

Game theorists will be disappointed to note that Huntsman and Karras were 1-2 in the standings as of round 1, and in almost every round thereafter (Lampropolous pulled into second briefly after picking up more of Stephens' delegates, but right after that most of Walker's delegates moved to Karras, and Lampropolous was eliminated). Thus, we don't have any obvious entertaining paradoxes (though if the state party were to publish statistics on all ballots cast, we could determine whether a Condorcet paradox existed, or probably devise a Borda count that would enable one of the eliminated candidates to place in the top 2).

Sometimes I wonder...
The quality of BYU political discourse, though rarely very impressive, is occasionally amusing.

"Elect Kerry 04. Because he is man enough to admit to his war crimes."

Convention Results

Karras v. Huntsman

Bridgewater v. Matheson

Cannon v. Throckmorton

I suspect Huntsman's name ID will be a huge advantage in the primary, though I really prefer Karras.

Bridgewater won in convention again. What do the delegates know that the voters don't?

The Third District results are disappointing, I think. Why force Cannon to spend money fighting off a primary challenger who A) hasn't done a good job articulating why anything's wrong with him, B) won't have Cannon's seniority or experience, and C) is forcing him to spend money that could be donated to races that matter to the party?

Thursday, May 06, 2004
It's Amazing What $0 Will Buy You These Days
Nate Cardon has kindly pointed out to me that HaloScan provides free comments compatible with Blogger's also-free annoying-Google-ad supported accounts. I have no idea how HaloScan makes their money [edit: okay, fine, they also use annoying-Google-ads to justify my shameless exploitation], but I'll take it anyway. At least, assuming people respond, as I suspect that empty comments fields would be even more depressing than empty email inboxes (or an inbox whose spam to content ratio is beginning to climb dangerously). Unless, of course, I assume that my faithful readers are so overawed with my obvious correctness that no further commenting is necessary... Yes, that must be it. [/delusion].

Speaking of which, given that my comment total is, as of right now, approximately 0, I haven't had must experience on long-term comment policies, but I suspect that any obscenity, blasphemy, stupidity, or illiteracy will be deleted. Or at least mocked.

Utah Political Scene Notes II
I've never particularly cared for Swallow. Anyone who can lose a Congressional seat specifically gerrymandered for Republicans in Utah would seem to have serious problems (and his campaign literature is annoying). In looking over the last week's worth of political articles in Utah's "major" papers, I see no reason to change my opinion. Commenting on the RNC's apparent backstabbing of Bridgewater, he says "Maybe I shouldn't say this, but whomever the candidate is who comes out of this race has to have the support of the party this time to fight Jim Matheson." Usually, if you find yourself saying 'maybe I shouldn't say this,' a good place to put the period is after the 'this.' Furthermore, Swallow's excuse for losing in 2002 was that he didn't have national party support. It takes some gall to preemptively accuse his opponent of his own past mistakes, particularly given that Bridgewater apparently has actual ties with national Republicans (whereas Swallow can only boast Club for Growth support, which seems highly likely to transfer to Bridgewater after he wins the nomination).

In addition, the SLTrib runs an article about Swallow's tendency to go negative for a late hit right before an election. Swallow's response? "As far as I'm concerned, 2002 is in the history books. Let's move on to 2004." The only problem is that most of Swallow's campaign, as far as I've seen, has been centered around the notion that he came so close in 2K2 that surely, having learned from his mistakes and being willing to Try Even Harder, he'll someone win. If we wipe the 2002 race from our memory, then his primary justification for being the 'front-runner' goes up in smoke--there's no more reason to nominate him now than there was in 2002 (when he lost in convention).

Meanwhile, sometimes you have to wonder if the reporters are smarter than they let on, as they occasionally come up with something devious like this. In the middle of an otherwise dull article about campaign funding: " Lampropoulos: The gregarious CEO has set a new record in wooing state delegates. He's invited them down to Tuacahn, paid for a concert by Beatles impersonators and arranged for discounted hotel rooms. Most contributions beyond his own come from his partners and officers in Merit Medical and his son Bryan. But even his ex-wife gave him money. I was surprised to see Lampropoulos pulling up in the polls, since I'd written him off as unelectable ever since hearing that he was twice-divorced (not popular in Utah Republican circles). I suspect now that what support he has gathered is insufficient to get him out of convention; if it is, he seems likely to either lose the primary or be quite vulnerable in the general. Matheson (who has been rather bland and unimpressive so far) could have a field day, simply by playing up the 'family' theme.

As far as the rest of the field goes, from my limited observations, I tend to like Karras and Hansen, and to a degree Stephens. All seem to have the experience and credentials to do a good job (and Hansen, at least, would only stick around for one term, which is probably a good idea after the 12 years of one governor). Both Huntsman and Lampropoulos strike me as lightweights depending on money and name recognition rather than substantive experience--if they really wanted to make a difference, why didn't they start with lower offices and work their way up? As for Walker, I'm unimpressed by her decision to wait to announce, and can't see that she's done anything spectacular enough to justify leapfrogging over those who have been campaigning for far longer.

Then there's the Third District, in which we have the unseemly spectacle of xenophobic outside groups trying to convince Utah that Rep. Cannon isn't quite conservative enough. It makes about as much sense as Nader challenging Kerry for being insufficiently liberal, and I do hope the delegates don't allow the xenophobes to carry the day. If either of Cannon's challengers had hoped to earn my respect, they would have needed to forcibly denounce the darker agenda of some of the anti-Cannon groups; their failure to do so, while continuing to only talk about one or two cherry-picked issues, utterly fails to impress me (which reminds me of one amusing note from the LDDinner shindig in February--at least one of Cannon's opponents (as I recall) had a typical campaign flier; Cannon himself had a couple of detailed position papers about issues he was currently working on. A welcome contrast).

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Kerry Senate Seat II
A Weekly Standard piece today on the prospects of a Democratic Senate manages to not answer my earlier question about what Kerry will do with his Senate seat.

"Democrats need to net two seats if President Bush is re-elected or only one if John Kerry wins the White House. Either way, that would flip the current 51-49 Republican advantage to 51-49 for Democrats."

Well, technically, a net of one seat and a Kerry victory would lead to a 50-50 split, with Kerry's Mystery Veep casting the tiebreaking vote. [Amusing aside: suppose the silly suggestion that McCain would accept a VP slot with Kerry actually came to be, and the Senate did split 50-50. Which way would McCain cast the tiebreaking vote?]

But the entire article never assumes that Kerry's seat is in play: "To pull it off--and assuming a two-seat gain is required--Democrats must achieve three goals. First, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle must be re-elected in South Dakota. Second, Democrats have to limit their loss of Senate seats in the South to two. Third, they need to capture all four of the vulnerable Republican seats."

We have discussion of SD, the South, and the vulnerable Republican seats, but not a word about MA. Suppose the Dems do manage to meet the requirements above, and Kerry wins. He must resign his Senate seat, which takes the chamber to 50-50 instead of 51-49 (as Governor Romney would appoint a Republican). This still leaves Democratic control (barely), but means that the Dems need to net two seats regardless of who wins the presidency if they want to control the Senate.

Update: Liberal blog PoliticalWire seems to indicate that this was indeed an error in the WS article.

Utah Political Scene Update (Sort Of)
While I was caught up in end-of-semester activities, Gary Herbert joined Huntsman's ticket as his LG choice. One report suggests that Huntsman didn't seem to be helped by the move, at least in Utah County.

My personal impression (without having looked at the race much lately) is that Herbert probably miscalculated in assuming his support would transfer, given that he'd been hitting the Gary Herbert Is Not Deluded, But Really Can Win, and He Is Not Running For LG theme pretty hard in his campaign. I had some respect for his David vs Goliath image as a country officer with a long track record of success in a less visible office. However, the impression I get now is more an image of Whatever It Takes To Get Higher Office. The press release does little to resolve those concerns.

As an aside, the site is fairly interesting.

At a meeting I attended recently, someone selected an obscure hymn (obscure enough that even I have never browbeat anyone into singing it), and told us we'd enjoy it as it was from the sealed portion of the hymnbook.

Saturday, May 01, 2004
Stats Revisited--Unit Growth
On a Nauvoo discussion of stats, someone suggested looking at the relationship between growth in Church membership and growth in Church units to analyze retention rates. While I agree that the two are related, I think enough other intervening variables complicate things as to undermine any conclusions we could try to make (as a bonus, this position means there's no reason for me to go digging into archives to calculate a bunch more ratios).

In a bit of shameless cross-posting, here's what I replied there:

While the general idea may be on track, I don’t know that we can make too much of it in any given case. Other factors affect the aggregate number of units besides simple straight-line growth. For instance, if two or three small branches are merged into one ward, chances are it would imply good things about the growth of the Church, even though the absolute number of operating units would decrease. Likewise, foreign language units, singles units, etc, can muddy the statistics.

Even more importantly, growth trends for an entire area may influence the numbers. In my mission, my impression was that wards and stakes were divided as quickly as possible, generating units that were far smaller numerically than in America, though they tended to average larger geographically. This made sense to me—while there are costs to having a smallish ward (and there certainly were...), there are also costs to having a geographically large ward (more difficult home teaching, etc). Thus, my impression was that the Church was poised to be able to grow considerably without much change in the number of units—adding another hundred active members per ward would have resulted in the need for very few ward divisions, and probably no stake divisions.

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