Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts on the 2010 Mid-Term Elections


For a number of years I loosely associated myself with the Republican party, although never considering myself “a republican.” But around 2004, I officially disclaimed any part of the republican party, on the grounds that I believed the party had become every bit the party of enormous, centralized government that the democratic party was--the party of endless foreign interventions, and constant violations of the constitution. The only difference between the Democratic party and the Republican party became, not whether more unconstitutional federal programs should be created, but which new unconstitutional federal government programs should be created.

Until just recently, I was convinced that government could not be returned to within constitutional limits unless a third party arose. I bounced between the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party, but still maintained that I was an “independent conservative.” And so I still am. The difference is, however, that I see a glimmer of hope that the Republican party just MIGHT still be salvageable through conservative and libertarian activism through the Tea Party.

Now I must say, there are a great number of Tea Party candidates that I did not like. I felt Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell were unqualified. You cannot run on a platform of “constitutional government” but then not understand basic concepts under the Constitution. The obvious example was during the debate between Coons and O’Donnell, where O’Donnell didn’t even know about the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. Really? And you want to defend our constitution? Not that Coons’ understanding of the First Amendment was any better, but at least he cited part of it correctly. Another unqualified Tea Party candidate was Carl Palidino out of New York. I need not say anything much about the man except that I believe he is slightly deranged. Bringing a baseball bat to a concession speech? Is he auditioning for a part in Good Fellas, or is he running for public office? Come on.

But there were other bright spots among Tea Party backed candidates. Major bright spots. My favorite is Rand Paul. Unlike many other candidates running on the Tea Party, small constitutionally limited government platform, it is clear that Rand Paul has put a great amount of work and development into his political philosophy. He’s actually been thinking and studying these matters for years. Other Tea Partiers, by contrast, are new to this way of thinking. For years these people were just mindless lock step republicans, so becoming familiar with the constitution, founding fathers political thought, American history, and sound free market ideas, is a slow process. But we are glad, nonetheless, that “they have awoken to their awful state.”

New Senate members like Rand Paul have already put in the work to obtain the true Tea Party philosophy. Others, like Mike Lee in Utah, have done likewise. They are prepared with a developed political philosophy. I cannot say the same for people like Sarah Palin. She may have the instincts and desire for this philosophy, but she does not have this philosophy developed--she has not put in the work. This is why she cannot be trusted or supported for any reason but to publicize others who are much further along in the development of their political philosophy. This should be her only role.

But, nonetheless there are good signs on the horizon. Our gains have been small, but the fact that a few true small government patriots have made it into the Senate and the House means there is hope for future gains. There is still hope that we can take our government back from the clutches of the all consuming centralization of power into one body—the executive branch. If this mid-term election cycle showed anything, it showed that there is hope. And not the false hope of 2008.

And who would have thought…there is actually hope for the republican party of all places. Perhaps a third party is NOT the answer after all. As long as the Tea Party remains viable and works to produce candidates like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, there is still a chance to work within the republican party and return it to its true principles.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So Long Old Friend


Well, I recently lost a dear friend of mine to old age (and some abuse). No, I am not speaking of old Henry down at the care center; I'm speaking of my dear old acoustic guitar. A crack in the neck of the guitar became a large gap, causing the strings to want to pull away from the fretboard.

For many reasons, I don’t really consider myself a true “guitar player.” First of all, I only know the guitar well enough to play rhythm guitar—and even then, I really only know how to play one type of rhythm really well: Jamaican based rhythms such as ska and reggae. What I know how to play, I can play quite well, but it is quite limited. In addition, I don’t know scales, so I can’t play solos. Also, I don’t know the names of the chords that I play. I play entirely by ear and memory. This was kind of hard for past band members that I worked with, but they got used to my unorthodox ways, and we worked great together.

But if this is all true then why, you ask, do I care that my old acoustic guitar is no more? Well, when I started playing guitar at age 18 (more fully at 21), I did so with the sole intent of writing music. That’s all I wanted out of the guitar originally, was a way to write music and play it, and not to play the guitar for the sake of playing it. In a way the guitar just served a utilitarian purpose. However, somewhere along the way I grew to love my guitar. I grew to love it because it enabled me to do what I love to do—write music and play it.

That guitar has been through a lot with me; I have written songs on it during the best and worst times of my life for the last 10 years, reflecting many aspects of my life. I am proud of some of the songs that I have written—not proud objectively, as in I feel that the songs compare well with the songs of others—but proud subjectively, as in I see some of my music as a personal accomplishment.

The death of my guitar is the end of a chapter. I am now taking over my wife’s old guitar. Hopefully it brings with it the same kind of inspiration that my old guitar seemed to.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on the Tax Day/Tea Party Protests

Yesterday the Tea Party rallies culminated in a countrywide protests surrounding “tax day” in symbolic protest against all things federal government. I must say, my hopes have waxed and waned quite a lot in regards to this movement. On the one hand it has given me hope for the future of American politics, and the republic in general.

When I hear a man say, “five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something like this; but now I feel it is my duty,” I take heart. I certainly have never seen anything like this in my lifetime, where the otherwise “button down” people of America have taken to the streets. And I must also say it has been bitter/sweet watching how begrudgingly the media has covered this. If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear the anguish in their voices.

But what a joke. A few years ago the media followed Cyndy Sheehan and her one-woman crusade around the country like she had her own reality tv show, yet here where there is an actual widespread political movement being undertaken by a part of the population which has never engaged in such activity before, the media is scarce to be found. And when the media does cover it, by and large, the information you are given has been mashed through their giant strainer of editorialization. The media is truly doing their best to do their job of "objective reporting" while not actually doing their job of objective reporting. But we must keep appearances right?

Why is this? Because it’s not a movement they can romanticize like they did with the Civil Rights protests of the 60’s, the Vietnam protests of the 70’s, the anti-nuclear war rallies of the 80’s, the anti war and pro immigration demonstrations of the early 2000’s, and the pro gay marriage rallies in California and other places over the last couple of years. No, because these rallies don’t involve a minority group or a minority cause, they simply aren’t nearly as “news worthy.” But are you telling me that a movement that has managed to pull middle and upper class people away from their career and family obligations, senior citizens out of their retirement, and moms away from children, to do something they would never have dreamed of doing is not "news worthy"? I mean, this is the first such movement that isn't based almost entirely on college aged individuals.

But that the media despises the Tea Party movement gives me hope. When the media refuses to cover something adequately it is usually important. That is a rule of thumb you can take to the bank (wow two clich├ęs in one sentence).

I am also encouraged by the recent “blue print” of the top 10 concerns which were recently voted on by Tea Partiers. First on their list is first on my list: (1) Require each bill to identify its constitutional authorization. There is no more pressing concern than the need to place the “shackles of the constitution”, as Jefferson called them, back on the hands and feet of our government. I would love to see a bill requiring, henceforth, that each piece of legislation proposed by Congress give a introductory statement as to which portion of Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution Congress it is deriving its authority to act. There could be no greater need at this time in our country than a resounding reminder that government may only act, IF AT ALL, if the constitution allows it to do so.

The rest of the Tea party concerns are as follows:

(2) Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care

(3) Demand a balanced budget

(4) End runaway government spending by imposing a statutory cap limiting growth in federal spending

(5) Enact fundamental reform to simplify and lower taxes

(6)Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs

(7) Reject cap-and-trade

(8) Pass an “all of the above” energy policy

(9) Stop the 2011 tax hikes

(10) Stop the pork.

Most of the list is somewhat vague, but then again, the movement is a coalition of varying shades of conservative, and even includes some self avowed liberals. But by and large I believe the list is a good start.

For all of these reasons I have hope in what the Tea Party movement is doing. But I also have my doubts. My greatest fear is still that this movement will simply become co-opted by the Republican Party and that the movement will simply be smothered and destroyed. Why would it be destroyed? Because the Republican Party is nothing more than the slow train to ruin, whereas the Democrats are the fast train to ruin. Both parties have been leading our country down towards a cliff for the better part of 20 years.

My other concerns about the Tea Party is its affiliation with Sarah Palin, who I do not believe possesses a principled platform of ideas or any where near the qualities needed for leadership, let alone the lofty status of statesmanship. Yet with all of this, my current feeling is to support the Tea Party movement and see where it leads to. If it can lead us to the promised land of a rejection and dismantling of big federal government, I am on board. Yet, I will keep my seat near the back of the train and reserve my right to jump off at any time that I feel the movement is loosing its small government roots.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

UNCONSTITUTIONAL: HEALTHCARE REFORM AND YOUR LIBERTY

Before I begin, I would like to encourage any who may be reading this to please read the entire post, even though it is long. The things I will discuss as pertaining to healthcare reform are more important than any of the other issues being discussed.

As many of you know, the President has been pushing for final vote, for the healthcare bill that is currently pending in Congress, by March 18th before he leaves for Indonesia and Australia. In the lead up to this, there has been an extraordinary amount of public debate as to its merits philosophically and politically, and as to whether the reform will or will not fix the status quo of healthcare.

However, what is distinctly absent from these debates is discussion as to the constitutionality of the proposed healthcare bills. This is a travesty. Here we are on the precipice of one of the largest and most expensive expansions of the federal government in American history, and few, if any, have even bothered to consider whether these proposed bills are constitutional, and the debates that I have heard as to its constitutionality are extremely superficial.

There are those who argue that healthcare reform is so important that ends justify the means, and that regardless of whether it is constitutional or not, it should be passed. Anything that requires a violation of the constitution to accomplish is immoral on its face. It is the constitution, and not political parties or political causes, to which we owe our highest moral duty.

This is because the constitution is the only thing standing between us and our government. It is the constitution, not legislative or executive grace that guarantees our liberties. It is not the President, not the Congress, not the military, not the free market— it is the constitution that guarantees us our liberties. Without the constitution any of the above named forces would be glad to rob you of them.

With this in mind, it is now my burden to show how the current proposed healthcare bill pending in Congress violates the Constitution. Because many of you might not be familiar with constitutional law, I will try and make it as simple as possible. But first I will start with the common knowledge approach which we can all be on equal footing with.

Recall in your mind a time in your life when the federal government has ever come to you and required you to buy a certain product or enter into a contract with another party. For instance, has the government ever told you that you must enter into a contract with a developer to buy a certain piece of real property, even if you weren’t in the market to buy land? Has the government ever mandated that you enter into a contract with a particular car dealership to purchase a particular type of car, even if you weren’t in the market for a new car? Can you think of any such instance?

If you thought of car insurance, think again. State governments, not the federal government requires you to purchase car insurance. There are many I have heard who have made this analogy and it is absolutely incorrect. The powers of state governments are wholly separate from the power of the federal government. It scares me that people are in high places are either ignorant of this, or are just being plain deceitful.

The reason you can’t think any examples is because it has never been done. The federal government has never had such power over your life so as to force you to enter into a contract with another person and purchase a good from that person. Yet, that is exactly what the government is trying to do with healthcare. Besides being a violation of your natural rights this is a gross violation of your constitutional rights.

In showing how the current proposed reforms are unconstitutional, I will narrow my remarks strictly to aspect of the healthcare reform proposal that mandates that the American people buy healthcare insurance, which is essentially the crux of healthcare reform. The constitutional issue that is raised here is whether Congress has power under the Commerce Clause of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution to require citizens who lack healthcare insurance, and who are not participating in interstate commerce, to buy healthcare insurance. The answer to the constitutional question is affirmatively, no.

The first thing that must be noted is that if Congress is to have any power to act at all in a particular area, its power must be either expressly or impliedly granted to it under the Constitution to do so. If the power to act is not given by the constitution, Congress may NOT act. Congress is only as powerful as the Constitution allows it to be.

The question then becomes what, if any, part of the constitution is Congress deriving its power to undertake healthcare reform. It has been alleged that Congress is acting under the Commerce Clause of Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution which gives Congress power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes". Hence, many have claimed that Congress has power to force citizens to buy healthcare insurance under its power to “regulate commerce among the several states.”

Okay, so now that we’ve decided that Congress is claiming to be acting on its authority to “regulate commerce among the several states,” it now becomes imperative to find out what the Supreme Court has interpreted this clause to mean. Since the year 1803 in the watershed case of Marbury v. Madison, it has been the Supreme Court’s duty to determine “what the law is.” This means that what the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution to mean is what becomes “constitutional law” or “the law of the land.”

In 1995, in the case of United States v. Lopez, the Court, overlooking the expanse of many cases over many years, outlined the scope of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause to consists of the power to regulate three particular areas:

First, Congress may regulate the “channels of interstate commerce.” These “channels” are things such as highways, ports, airways, railways, etc. Healthcare insurance is not related to any sort of “channel” of interstate commerce whatsoever; therefore, if Congress is to have authority to force individuals to buy healthcare insurance, it may not derive its authority to do so as being a “channel” of interstate commerce.

Second, Congress may regulate “the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and persons and things in interstate commerce.” Health insurance isn’t an “instrumentality” of interstate commerce. It’s not an “instrument” of any sort; it is a service. And healthcare is obviously not a “person or a thing” in interstate commerce—healthcare is a service not a person or a thing. Thus, Congress has no authority to act through this part of the commerce clause test either.

If Congress is to have any authority whatsoever to force citizens to purchase health insurance under the commerce clause, it would have to fall under the last prong of the commerce clause test, which states that Congress has authority “to regulate economic activities that substantially effect interstate commerce.”

This part of the Commerce Clause that the Supreme Court has created is the most controversial, and didn’t exist until after 1937 when FDR tyrannically threatened the then sitting Supreme Court that if they didn’t get on board with the “New Deal” and stop overturning new deal legislation, he would “pack the court” by increasing the number of justices from 9 to 15. Because the Justices did not want their power diluted, they did in fact jump on board with FDR’s new deal. What has followed has been a gradual unraveling of our personal liberties. However, nothing compares to the threat to our personal liberties that the precedent set by this bill will pose.

Let me break this portion of the Commerce Clause jurisprudence down for you as simply as I can. Before 1937, Congress could regulate only those activities which were actually directly involved in interstate commerce, such as shipping logs from one side of the country to another. Then along came the case of Wickard v. Filburn (1942). That case concerned a federal law which told farmers how much wheat a farmer could or could not grow. Well, along came this farmer who decided to grow a little more wheat than was allowed under the statute, not so he could sell the wheat through interstate commerce, but simply to use on his own farm to feed his own family and animals. The farmer was prosecuted for violating the federal statute for growing more wheat than Congress allowed.

The Supreme Court upheld the prosecution and declared a new law as part of the Commerce Clause that has come to be known as "the substantial effects test.” Under this test the farmer’s act of growing wheat for home production, even though he had no plans to sell it in interstate commerce, could be regulated because if the farmer, and other farmers like him, all grew their own extra wheat, there would be less wheat purchased on the national market and that the “cumulative impact” of all the such activities by farmers would affect supply and demand, thus having a “substantially effect” on interstate commerce.

Does this sound just to you? Should Congress be able to tell a man that he can’t grow wheat to feed his own family? I believe this case was wrongly decided, but nonetheless, it is now the law.

Since that decision, the court has narrowed the scope of this part of the Commerce Clause. In United States v. Morrison the court essentially held that if Congress is going to regulate an activity it has to be one of an economic nature. In that case Congress tried to pass a law through the Commerce Clause that would have regulated gender based violence, which Congress argued had a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court shot this law down, holding that even if an activity somehow has a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce, the activity has to be inherently economic. And since gender based violence is not an economic activity, it could not be regulated through the commerce clause.

So where does this put us today? The first question we should raise is whether the act of buying healthcare insurance is an “economic” activity. I would argue that it is not. But there is an even more important issue here. Notice that in all of the law that I have laid out for this third part of the Commerce Clause, the key word is “activity.” The court has held that Congress may regulate economic ACTIVITY that substantially effects interstate commerce.

So the real issue becomes: Is the act of NOT buying healthcare insurance an economic activity? NO! It is an INactivity—the absence of activity. And the Supreme Court has never held that Congress may regulate INactivity.

Do you see what is going on here? Congress is saying here that not only can it prevent you from growing your own wheat to feed your own family, but it can also force you to buy wheat from someone else. The difference here is between Congress being able to tell you what you CAN’T do and Congress being able to tell you what you MUST do.

So let's return to your farmer in the Wickard case. Let's say that after the Court's decision, the farmer was so upset that he decided to give up farming altogether, vowing that he never wanted to see another grain of wheat as long as he lived. Well, Congress then comes knocking at his door again and says that while he may give up farming, he may NOT stop purchasing wheat. Therefore, although the farmer no longer needs or wants the wheat, he must continue to purchase it from the other farmers. Does this sound right to you?

We have come a long way from when the Supreme Court once held that one’s activities could not be regulated by Congress unless they were literally and tangibly involved in interstate commerce, such as shipping and receiving goods across state lines. Now Congress wants to take its Commerce Clause power to even greater heights. Not only does it no longer have to wait for persons and things to move in interstate commerce before it can act, Congress now desires to reach into your home and your life and demand that you yourself become a part of interstate commerce. Unprecedented!

Not even during times of war and national emergency or crisis has Congress taken such carte blanch power over the liberty of the American soul. Congress has simply never had power to force the American people to participate in interstate commerce where that person has chosen not to.

If you are not concerned or frightened by this, what is wrong with you? I am being serious. I’m doing my best to refrain from hyperbole here, but do you really want healthcare, and all of the other things you think you deserve, at the expense of your liberty? Do you really want healthcare at the cost of the Constitution?

If Congress may now regulate economic INactivity, what is left that Congress cannot do? Think about how much of your life centers around what you do and don’t buy. If Congress can force you to buy a certain things as it is doing with healthcare, rest assured, it can do it with other areas.

The government now owns General Motors. Is it not conceivable that Congress could come to you and say: “Citizen, your economic ‘inactivity’ of NOT buying a General Motors car is having a ‘substantial effect’ on our economy. Henceforth all households must have at least one General Motors car.”

Is it not conceivable that Congress could tell you that you must buy a certain amount of “green energy” products, because the carbon foot print you are leaving is having a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce?

I do not relish in the future if this be Congress’ power. If this bill passes and is not shot down by the Supreme Court, it will be only a matter of time before the wrath of man will be exercised through your Congress to arrest your liberty piece by piece. Remember what Jefferson said: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Instead of binding men down by the chains of the Constitution, we are freeing man from the chains of the Constitution. Surely we will pay for this with our liberty. Citizens of the United States, your government is taking your country down a path tread by thousands of tyrants before it—a path not intended by the Fathers of this country and the God that inspired them. Stand up and be heard. Reject the actions of your government as they have rejected your constitution, your traditions, your values, and your liberties. Not only tell them “no”, tell them “HELL NO!"

In closing, I believe that if healthcare reform is to take place, it should take place on the state level, and not on the "one size fits all" federal level. Instituting reform on a state level allows for the various states to act as "laboratories", to test out reform through trial and error, where state programs which have success can be mimicked by other states, and where state programs that fail can be avoided by others states. It also allows those states that don't wish to participate in the reform, not to do so. This is democracy. And it is in sharp contrast to the federal level, where reform is forced upon all of the states, and where there is only one shot to get it right, the consequences of which are to be felt by the entire country, and where the chance for repeal if the program is a failure is extremely slight.

And for what it's worth, if you're wondering how Congress could institute federal healthcare reform constitutionally, Congress might be able to do it simply by raising taxes sky high to pay for it. But because taxes are politically unpopular, and because Congress and the President are too cowardly to do it the constitutional way, they are instead seeking to do it through the unconstitutional method they have chosen, by forcing you to buy your own insurance. Cowards...



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tea Party Pooper

This last weekend Nashville hosted the first national “Tea Party” convention. Admittedly, the activities of the Tea Party movement over the last several months has given me hope that some in our country truly know and feel that our country no longer resembles the country that we all grew up in, much less the country our founding fathers worked so hard to forge. Make no mistake, the Tea Party movement is not merely a rejection of the Obama administration; it is a rejection of national politics since 1990.

Many are finally awakening to the fact that the even their beloved republican party has long since abandoned the principles that created the most superior form of government in world history; Tea Principles such state’s rights, that government should be as local as possible; separation of powers—that each branch of the government has a constitutionally designated role which must not be usurped by, or delegated to another branch of the government; namely, that the legislative branch creates the laws, the executive branch enforces the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws.

Other principles such as a belief in the power of the free market, the primacy of the individual over the state, the primacy of the state over the federal government, the primacy of the United States over “the international community”, the primacy of the rule of law over short term expediency, and the need for a moral and virtuous culture, are but a few of a host of principles that the Tea Partiers see as wholly lacking in our present form of government.

The problem with the Tea Party movement is that it lacks leadership and coherent policy goals. If the Tea Party is going to remain on the "outside of Washington", it needs leadership and views that are "outside of Washington." I was somewhat encouraged that the convention invited Tom Tancredo to speak. I felt he was fairly independent when he ran last election cycle. However, I was very disappointed to see Sarah Palin was asked to be the keynote speaker.

Sarah Palin just got done being a running mate with one of the most progressive, big government republicans ever to run for President. Indeed, I would agree with Tancredo's statement, made at the convention: "Thank God John McCain lost the election." The organizer of the Tea Party convention, Judson Phillips, agreed: "I think a McCain presidency would have been far worse than Bush one or Bush two. I think it would have been a total disaster. I think we would have gotten the worst of what we are getting in the Obama administration and really nothing positive from what would have been allegedly be a conservative party, or allegedly be a conservative leader."

But this begs the question, if the organizer of the Tea Party convention is glad that McCain lost, why did he invite Sarah Palin, who was his running mate, to be the keynote speaker? Does he, and others, really think Sarah Palin is that different from McCain? Actually, the more appropriate question is probably, “what DOES Sarah Palin believe?” I submit to you that she doesn’t really know. Sarah Palin is whatever you want her to be, and that’s the problem.

I have no doubt that Sarah Palin has conservative instincts; but instincts are simply not enough to be a leader for conservatives, and more importantly, the country at large; it takes a fully formed political philosophy which can be employed in developing a coherent platform of policies.

Her lack of a principled political philosophy was apparent by her “keynote” speech; when asked what she felt were the most important areas of policy, Palin had to first look down at her hand where she (or her political advisor) had written them. That Sarah Palin has to speak from her hand instead of her heart and/or mind should be a serious concern for anyone touting her leadership in any national capacity.

This is not a time in America where we need more rhetoric or slogans. We’ve had 20 years of it folks! If the Tea Party movement is serious about making a return to principles of federalism, separation of powers, and small government, Sarah Palin is NOT the kind of leadership that is needed to make that happen.

“But if not Sarah Palin, then who?” the Tea Party convention might have asked. As much as he was derided and rejected by republicans last election cycle, Ron Paul is literally the only national figure that is proved to actually be serious about the ideals that Tea Partiers espouse. Ron Paul has proven throughout his 35 year public service career that he is dedicated to founding era philosophy.

However, my point in writing this is not to endorse Ron Paul to be de facto leader of the Tea Party movement. Rather, I guess I am merely voicing my skepticism that the Tea Party movement will actually lead to any form of a return to founding principles. The republican party is waiting with baited breath to snatch up all of the followers that have disaffected to the Tea Party movement. And believe me, when that happens, that will be the end of the movement. Nothing could be worse for the Tea Party than to be smothered by the feckless, wet blanket of the GOP. And this last weekend when the convention charged $550 a ticket see Sarah Palin leads me to believe that it won’t be long before the Tea Party is ushered back into the republican party.

Some might say that the movement will serve the purpose of pushing the republican party back to the right. But needless to say, I have my doubts. The republicans won’t go nearly as far to the right as the Tea Partiers will be forced to the left. The moral of this story? The time is right for the creation of a third party.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Vacation

After each semester of law school that I have had, I have found that I have the same problem: What to do with the countless hours now turned free until next semester begins and every waking moment becomes occupied again. Well, over the Christmas holidays here’s a few of the things I did to occupy myself:

· Went on a daddy daughter date with Auri to Disney land, and in three hours managed to go on: Small World, the Tea Cups, Pinocchio, Snow White, the Carrousel, Story Land, the Train Ride, and the Boat ride.

· Went to the St. George temple with my wife

· Took Auri to her first movie, the Fantastic Mr. Fox, and spent most of the time giving her treats to try to keep her sitting in her seat and to keep her from singing “Jingle Bells” at the top of her lungs.

· Got caught up on current events

· Engaged in several political discussions with my dad and older brother Jason

· Read the first few chapters of Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage

· Read 30 pages of “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut.

· Finished recording a song, started recording another song, and started writing a new song, all three of which are skinhead reggae. (Skinhead reggae is a more aggressive type of reggae, and has nothing to do with the group a racists that are commonly called "skinheads).

· Made mix cds to give as gifts

· Watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, 500 Days of Summer, the Fantastic Mr. Fox, One Good Man, Serendipity, and Blind Side

· Spent Christmas Eve with Kylee’s family

· Had a fantastic Christmas day watching Auri open all of her presents, most of which were provided by the grandparents (the spoilers).

· Spent a day helping my dad fell a large cotton wood tree in his back yard, dismantled it with a chainsaw, and stacked the wood for a future use which has yet to be determined

· Played old Sega games such as “Golden Axe” and “Streets of Rage” with my brother Nate.

· Got to see spend time with my long time friend Ben and his wife Ashley when they came down to St. George to see us.

· Spent an evening playing a card game with friends Matt and Abbey, but to Matt's frustration, paid more attention to making jokes and telling anecdotes than playing the game

· Spent New Years Eve with friends Dave and Lindsay, eating “Fackrell Balls” and watching Ryan Seacrest on tv. Also lit 30 flowers outside of Dave’s house to ring in the new year, at least 25 of which, upon lighting, Dave threw at me or vice versa.

· Made “Fackrell Balls” (an old family recipe) for two occasions: Fackrell balls are made by melting a cube of butter, a pound of caramels, and a can of sweetened condensed milk in a medium pan, and then dipping marshmellos in the melted goo, and then rolling the goo covered marshmallows in rice crispies. Kylee (My wife) coined the name for the treat, seeing is how we don't know where my grandma got the little recipe, or what they are supposed to be called.

· Learned a series of new gibberish words from Auri; for instance did you know that a “pepper schtock” is “a tiny little toot”?

· Played hide and go seek with Auri about 100 times

· Got to spend a rare two days with my older brother Jackson

· Celebrated my sister-in-law Tiffany’s birthday