Smelling smoke in the air is hardly unusual this summer. It's almost become expected, and the days with clear air are pleasant surprises. There are different kinds of smoky days, from the general haze we've had most of this last week from distant fires, to the stronger smelling smoke from fires closer to home. The fires this summer have been almost too many to keep track of. The fires in Herriman and American Fork sent up plumes that darkened the sky and forced me to close the windows. But the smell of the smoke from the Fox Bay fire was different. Something about that said it was very close.

I had been out for a ride earlier in the day, and had just flopped on the couch for a quick nap when the smell of smoke was strong enough to wake me up. The smell of burning grass was so strong that I went out and looked around the house, and then the neighborhood, fearing the worst. The fire was 20 miles away, but smelled like it was behind the garage.

Quick and effective work from Wasatch County, Park City, and several other fire agencies kept the fire from becoming the disaster it could have been. We've spent the last 30 years building the conditions for a really cataclysmic wildfire here. This looked for all the world like it had the potential to take out a thousand acres of forest and a billion dollars worth of real estate. For the residents of the neighborhood next to the fire, it had to be terrifying. In the end, there was no damage to buildings, and everybody is safe. The fire was kept away from the buildings, didn't jump the freeway into some steep canyons on the other side. They went at it with everything they had, and the wind cooperated. It was an example of some high quality fire fighting. They got it put out just in time to jump on the next fire just a few miles down the road in Daniels Canyon.

We've still got a couple of months to go before the fire danger drops down. Let's not press our luck again.

The Republican National Convention starts on Monday, and things seem to be crashing and burning already. The conventions are really just week long infomercials these days, since the nomination is already determined. With the anemic economy, Obama ought to be vulnerable. Romney & Co. ought to be able to explain what they would do different and build some support. This is not a normal year, and the Republicans are in a state of chaos more typical of the Democrats. They have a candidate they don't really seem to like. But Mitt is the least of their problems.

Instead of opening the convention with a clear economic plan, or laying out an alternative vision of the future, they are going into the convention with the discussion focused firmly on the issue of whether a woman can become pregnant from a "legitimate rape." It's a nightmare of their own making. After years of cynically pandering to the Christian right wing promising them lots with no intention of delivering, the far right has taken over. They say far-right things out loud in public.

Missouri Congressman and senate candidate Todd Akin is running on an anti-abortion platform. He wants to prohibit all abortion, and said there is no need for an exception for rape because a woman can't get pregnant from a "legitimate rape." The response to that has been completely predictable. Republican party leaders have been begging him to withdraw from the campaign, even though his position is official Republican dogma. The official GOP platform contains a total prohibition on abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest. Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has sponsored similar legislation in the House. It's an incendiary issue that just won't go away. Mitt is already missing the good old days when people wanted to talk about his tax returns and Swiss bank accounts.

So at a time when we really need a national conversation about the economy, and finding the appropriate balance between what we want from government by way of services, and what we are willing to pay for, that isn't going to happen. Taxes need to go up (everybody's, including Mitt's), and services need to be significantly modified to get the costs down. The details of what gets cut and how the tax burden gets spread are what this election should be about.  We might even want to talk about the war, and whether we want that to continue without end, or if we want to start another one with Iran.

Instead, it looks like we are going to have an election about abortion. That should solve everything.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.