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Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Elections: Will Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman make things interesting?

The 2012 presidential election has seen various candidates surge to the top of the polls only to tumble shortly thereafter. As Mitt Romney holds relatively steady, Newt Gingrich has powered his way to the top. But could Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman shake things up just enough to make the GOP race a little more interesting?

Paul is unlikely to win the nomination, although there is a great deal of speculation he could run as an Independent or third-party candidate and serve as a spoiler in 2012. However, his popularity continues to rise in Iowa. A victory on Jan. 3, 2012 would be less than ideal for the other GOP candidates, especially Gingrich and Romney.

Huntsman seems to be following the strategy of Rudy Giuliani in 2008, only instead of putting on his marbles on Florida, Huntsman is gunning for a victory in New Hampshire. And he is slowly but surely climbing in the polls. A win in New Hampshire is unlikely as of today - but certainly not outside the realm of plausibility.

If Huntsman were to take New Hampshire a week after Paul was to take Iowa, those who grumble the GOP presidential race is uninteresting will find their complaints are no longer relevant.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Forthcoming series on Supreme Court and health care law (addendum)

In my forthcoming series on the Supreme Court and health care reform, I would ideally like to address three variables - although I do have enough material to only address two if needs be.

I have identified two variables and am in search of a third which would be of interest to the readers. Suggestions are welcome.

The two variables I have nailed down thus far:
  1. The impact on the 2012 elections
  2. The impact on the cost of health care

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflections on Lex de Azevedo's 'Gloria'

A music professor once told me, "The only thing more powerful than truth is truth set to music."  

I don't know whether I agree with her assessment or not, but I do believe that truth set to music - certain kinds of music - can touch the human soul in a very unique way.

A few months ago, I received a phone call from Lex De Azevedo. I had sung for his Millennium Choral Society in the past, and he was calling to ask if I would sing with the choir again for a special performance of "Gloria, The Life of Christ," in the tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah (home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). 

Lex De Azevedo at the piano
The opportunity to sing in the tabernacle would have represented the fulfillment of a dream I had entertained since I was a teenager, but I didn't know if I had any room in my schedule. I told him I needed to think about it and that I would get back with him the next week.

Ultimately, I decided even though I very much wanted to participate, I simply had too much going on. However, before I had a chance to call him back and say I wouldn't be able to help, a woman in a Ford Mustang ran a red light at 40-50mph and ran into my now-deceased car. 

I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I received the good news my neck had not been broken - along with some not-so-good news relative to a litany of other injuries. For weeks, I did my best to keep up with family, work, school, and church responsibilities. 

Several weeks later, I was walking through Temple Square with my eight-year-old daughter and I remembered the phone call I had received from Lex - and that I had neglected to call him back. I told her about the invitation and was surprised by the look of wonder in her eyes and the sound of excitement in her voice. She wanted me to do it.

And so I called Lex back. I got his voice mail and left a message. A few minutes later, he called me back and asked if I would cut his hair. I knew a certain amount of eccentricity runs through the music industry, so I assumed I was being introduced to a level of humor too deep to be comprehended by a relative musical amateur like myself.

I told him, "I'd be happy to cut it for you, but I don't think you'd like the result. Perhaps you'd be more satisfied with an extra baritone for the Gloria concert."

What followed was an amusingly awkward silence. Apparently he had been referred to someone named Kurt for a haircut. Combined with the fact that I was returning his phone call a couple of months later than anticipated, he assumed I was his barber-to-be. 

After we got things straightened out (I would be the baritone, not the barber), I looked at the calendar and realized I would have approximately one week to practice the music on my own before joining with the choir for a week of rehearsals culminating with the concert on Nov. 26, 2011. 

The next two weeks touched my soul in a way that was powerful and soothing all at once. At the end of each day, I would sit in a rocking chair in my room and sing through the musical work. At first, I felt intimated by the complexity of a few of the pieces. I was exhausted from the length of the days and the pains from the accident, and worried I didn't have the mental capacity to perform at the level expected of me. But something happened as I worked through the music. I began to feel immersed in feelings of peace and calm and fulfillment.

George Dyer rehearsing as "Gabriel"
It was a wonderful week, and the week that followed was even better. I got to know some really good people in the choir. I reveled in the beauty of the music when all of the parts sang together. I closed my eyes during a track sung entirely by the women in the choir and felt as if their harmony would lift me off the ground. 

Two weeks of practice culminated in rehearsals with the soloists. It was an honor to backup the likes of George Dyer, Melinda Lockwood DeBirk, Catherine Stambaugh, and Greg Pearson. But it also caused some problems. 

Melissa Lockwood DeBirk rehearsing as "Mary"
By this stage of the game, the music was coming together so wonderfully I found myself drifting off, pondering the story of the birth of the Savior. From a spiritual standpoint, I was provided with new insights for which I will be forever grateful. But from a choral standpoint, I became so involved in the story and my own emotions I occasionally missed a vocal entrance. 

And although Gloria and the audience deserved vocal perfection from each of the performers - myself included - I somehow feel as if the mistakes induced by the music itself are a testament to just how powerful a work Lex has produced. When a piece of a music has the power to transport people back in time and make them feel as if they are present for the very events being portrayed (all of the words in Gloria are taken from the scriptures), something magical takes place. 

I still don't know if my music professor was right about truth set to music being more powerful than truth alone. But I do know that through Lex De Azevedo's Gloria, I came to a more intimate understanding of certain verities as true today as they were 2,000 years ago.

2012 GOP candidates pledge to repeal 'ObamaCare'

Each of the candidates left in the GOP presidential race have expressed their intention to work towards repeal of health care reform legislation if elected. I have included below links to some of the statements made by the candidates in this regard.

The list is by no means comprehensive of the numerous statements made by the candidates, but I thought it might be helpful to have in one place a short list of links to one or two relevant statements made by each of the GOP presidential candidates:

Mitt Romney
In an Op-Ed in USAToday, Romney stated: "If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare."  

Newt Gingrich
As part of Gingrich's "21st Century Contract with America," the first item in the Executive Summary of Part I reads: "Repeal Obamacare and pass a replacement that saves lives and money by empowering patients and doctors, not bureaucrats and politicians.
"I signed the Obamacare Repeal Pledge, sponsored by the Independent Women’s Voice and American Majority Action."

Ron Paul
Paul's campaign website includes the following pledge:
"He will work with Congress to:... Repeal ObamaCare and end its unconstitutional mandate that all Americans must carry only government-approved health insurance or answer to the IRS."

Michele Bachmann

In an interview with ABC News, Bachmann stated: "I'm committed to the full scale repeal of Obama Care because it's gonna hurt a lotta people's lives.  And I wanna turn that around."

Rick Perry
Perry's campaign website states: "If elected, Perry will repeal Obamacare – a misguided, unconstitutional and unsustainable government takeover of our health care that will undermine patient quality, increase red tape and send costs skyrocketing for taxpayers, patients and healthcare providers."

Jon Huntsman
Huntsman's campaign website states in relation to the Affordable Care Act, "Rather than analyzing each piece of red tape, Gov. Huntsman supports a full repeal." 

Rick Santorum
Santorum signed the ObamaCare Repeal Pledge
During the Oct. 11 debate, Santorum stated: "We need to repeal [Obamacare] by doing it through a reconciliation process. And since I have experience and know how to do that, we’ll take care of it…"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New research highlights importance of family dinner

Norman Rockwell

New research emphasizes several benefits of eating together as a family - and warns of the consequences for children in families that do not regularly eat together. I address a few of these in this article for

For those interested in more information, I have included below a list of some of the most recent research on the topic:


Califano, J. A., Jr. (2008). Parent power: The price young people pay for parental pessimism and nonchalance is high. In H. T. Wilson (Ed.), Drugs, Society, and Behavior (Twenty-Second ed., Vol. 07/08, pp. 208-209). Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill.

Fulkerson, J. A., Pasch, K. E., Stigler, M. H., Farbakhsh, K., Perry, C. L., & Komro, K. A. (2010). Longitudinal associations between family dinner and adolescent perceptions of parent–child communication among racially diverse urban youth. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 261-270. doi: 10.1037/a0019311

Fruh, S. M. (2011). The surprising benefits of the family meal. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 7.1, 18-22.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2011). Adolescent Substance Use: America's #1 Public Health Problem: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2011). The importance of family dinners VII.

Piko, B. F., Kovacs, E., & Fitzpatrick, K. M. (2009). What makes a difference? Understanding the role of protective factors in Hungarian adolescents’ depressive symptomatology. [Article]. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 18(10), 617-624. doi: 10.1007/s00787-009-0022-y

Sen, B. (2010). The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics. [Feature Article]. Journal of Adolescence, 33(1), 187-196. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.03.011