Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Finally, a possible illegal! (KSL.com heaven)

The past few weeks have been very frustrating. As we all know, nearly all crime in Utah is committed by illegal immigrants. If you don't believe me, just wander over to KSL.com and read the comments. Granted, KSL doesn't always say that a suspect is illegal (what are they hiding?), but come on--like we can't tell? Latin surname? Duh. Brown skin? Illegal until proven otherwise. It's not racist. Assuming that everyone with an Hispanic name or appearance is an illegal crime-committing immigrant from Mexico is just covering the bases.

For the past few weeks, though, KSL has been wasting our time with so-called "crime" stories that don't involve the real problem. Hence, we've been getting pictures like this:

SEND HER HOME! Sorry--instinct. Or we get this:

Van Dyke? Is that German? Send his grandparents home!

What's so interesting about that guy? Or this one:

So the wife of a big-time BYU basketball player is DUI on prescription drugs. Like that's news.

By our count, 21 mug shots in a row were for people who did not appear to be illegal. One of them was named Orozco -- an admission of guilt if ever there was one -- but he turned out to be a legal resident (which some liberal judge probably used as an excuse not to deport him). We were almost giving up hope that KSL would start covering the real story until tonight, when we saw:

SEND HIM BACK TO MEXICO! Is he from Mexico? Well, just look at him! Is he illegal? Just look at him! Unfortunately, by the time I saw the mug shot and rushed over to KSL to urge that he be sent back, I had already been beaten to the punch by other giddy commenters. Oh, well. I'll have more chances. I'll just check back tonight and--

Damn it. Well, some illegal probably put them up to it.

Larry Miller: full frontal nudity for Christmas

Once again, we want to thank Larry H. Miller for keeping his theaters open on December 25. And we want to thank him for offering a Christmas movie with full frontal nudity (male and female), a hero who cheats on his wife with anyone and everyone, including a male band member, and does every kind of drug imaginable. After Miller pulled Brokeback Mountain two years ago, claiming that the lead character's infidelity bothered him, we thought he might have a problem with some of this stuff in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (which is actually quite funny). But hey, Larry is a happenin' kind of guy--as long as two men don't fall in love.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Regulating the D-News' sleazy behavior

In the biggest "Duh" of the season, the Trib reports that "The Utah Judicial Council on Monday approved a draft of a rule prohibiting news photographers from taking courtroom pictures of exhibits or documents that are not part of the official public record."

There shouldn't have to be a rule so basic, but the Deseret Morning News decided to be slimy and photograph a note written by Warren Jeffs at the defense table during his trial. The newspaper should have disciplined the photographer, but instead it enlarged the picture and hired a handwriting expert. Unethical much? What's next, having to issue a rule that the News can't rifle through attorneys' files and snap pictures during breaks in the trial?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New study: Jazz fans smarter than LDS Christmas Concert fans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: A new study reveals that persons who attend Utah Jazz home games are smarter than persons who attend the LDS Christmas Concert. The study, conducted by local blog Voice of Utah, consisted of two separate phases: the first undertaken at the corner of 400 West and South Temple over a 16-year period, and the second completed from a private passenger vehicle over two consecutive evenings this week.

"We didn't go into this with any preconceived notions," the blog said, "but the dumbass-to-nondumbass ratio turned out to be much higher for the Christmas Concert than for Jazz games. For example, Jazz fans show a 198 percent greater capacity to recognize objects such as left-turn signals and crosswalks. Likewise, association of red lights with a cessation of forward movement was 107 percent higher among Jazz fans."

Study results were unequivocal, the bloggers declared. "After eliminating non-dumbasses from our study (Sutherland Institute™), we found that one hundred percent of Christmas Concert goers were dumbasses."

The study bodes well for his city's upcoming soccer stadium, House Speaker Greg Curtis said, but the researchers said their results would not necessarily carry over. "Remember, those people in Sandy will be on their way to a Real Salt Lake game."

Friday, December 14, 2007

At last, some Taser guidelines for Utah

Now we won't have to hold our breath waiting for the Utah Highway Patrol to clarify its Taser policies. This week, our federal appeals court did it for them, issuing a ruling that should help Jared Massey's lawsuit, and put a stop to the use of Tasers as a first resort.

On Monday, the Tenth Circuit issued Edward Casey v. City of Federal Heights. Casey alleged that he was tackled and Tasered in a Colorado parking lot while walking toward a courthouse to return a court file that he had improperly taken out to his car. Applying the Fourth Amendment, the Tenth Circuit first noted that removing the court file was a low-level misdemeanor, "not a severe crime." Nor was it a violent offense. Jared Massey's offense? Speeding, a low-level, non-violent misdemeanor. (Refusing to sign a ticket is not a separate crime; it simply allows an officer to arrest you for the original speeding offense.)

The court then said that the officer did not have reason to believe that Casey posed an immediate threat to anyone's safety. The fact that he was upset and argumentative in court a few minutes earlier was nothing out of the ordinary, and did not suggest dangerousness. Jared Massey being upset and argumentative when stopped for speeding? Nothing out of the ordinary, and not suggestive of violence. Check.

"Officer Sweet grabbed and then tackled Mr. Casey without ever telling him that he was under arrest. Nor did he give Mr. Casey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest. . . . [A] reasonable officer should, at a minimum, have ordered Mr. Casey to submit to an arrest or used minimal force to grab him while informing him that he was under arrest." Trooper McTaser not giving Massey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest, and refusing to provide even a basic explanation? Check.

The court concluded:
"[I]t is excessive to use a Taser to control a target without having any reason to believe that a lesser amount of force — or a verbal command — could not exact compliance."
Use of Taser without reason to believe that he couldn't exact compliance with a lesser amount of force, or a specific verbal command other than just yelling? Check.

Under Casey, before law enforcement hit the zapper for a non-violent misdemeanor, they'll actually have to communicate with people, you know, like tell them that they're under arrest. They'll also have to consider using lesser force or a verbal command first. Hope they remember how to do all that.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Well, of course Mitt's speech didn't make any difference

Gee, Mitt's "faith" speech didn't assuage the Mormon-suspicious contingency of the Republican party? Well, duh. If anything, it probably raised more questions, because it came across as defensive. "Hey, don't vote against me because you think my religion is weird," he said, when -- if he really believes it -- perhaps he should have said, "My religion isn't weird."

People wanted Romney to educate them -- to comfort them -- about basic Mormon beliefs. It's an unfamiliar religion in many parts of the country, so people genuinely want to know what it's all about. And before someone says he shouldn't have to do that, I agree. But Republicans can't argue that a person's religious beliefs should be irrelevant, not with how our current president has played the religion card (and not when Mitt himself says that you have to go to church to be a real American). You can thank George Bush for your current predicament, Mitt.

If a presidential candidate were a Jehovah's Witness or a Scientologist, would LDS voters wonder about his beliefs? Yes. Well, to many outside of Utah, Mormonism is thought of along those lines. Instead, Mitt came across in that speech as if he's embarrassed to be Mormon. How was that supposed to reassure potential voters?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Real Salt Lake topping out? More like topping off

You know when you're at the gas station and the pump clicks to indicate that the tank is full, but some people go ahead and press the handle anyway, wanting to squeeze every drop of gas into that tank? That's what Dave Checketts and Real Salt Lake remind us of.

Yesterday, Real Salt Lake held a "topping out" ceremony, celebrating the placement of the last piece of steel on the Greg J. Curtis Memorial Soccer Stadium. It should have been called a topping off ceremony, though, because Checketts is still trying to squeeze every drop of taxpayer money into his tank.

Salt Lake County has already been forced by the Utah legislature to hand over $35 million in hotel taxes that could have been used to promote tourism and etc. Now Checketts wants it to fork over another $4.6 million in future sales tax. If it won't, RSL will also lose $3 million from Sandy taxpayers and $1.2 million from the public library system. Aw.

"That's a really important part of the stadium financing - it has been from the beginning," Checketts whined yesterday. RSL needs $10 million more in tax dollars to come in "on time" and "on budget." On your budget, you mean. It's not our fault if you counted on money that wasn't guaranteed. Considering the unenthusiasm with which you got the first $35 million, why did you think the County would voluntarily give up another $5 million? Because it's been treated so well by Sandy?

Better tell Curtis to start dialing, Dave; you'll have to make up your budget shortfall somewhere else.

Utahns, now we can run all those naughty searches again

Remember how Utahns are No. 1 in Google searches for words like "pornography," "striptease," "naked girls," "topless," "nude," "strip poker," "lingerie," "blonde" and "brunette"? That could have been a little embarrassing. Fortunately, Ask.com is announcing a feature that allows users to erase their search data, and is pressuring other search engines to follow suit. Utahns, keep your fingers crossed (when you're not using them to type "strip Twister"). Our reputations may soon be restored--as soon as the data isn't.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Miss Utah 2008: not your father's Sharlene Wells

This is Miss Utah 1985 (later Miss America), Sharlene "Not Vanessa Williams" Wells.


This is Miss Utah 2007, Jill "Lock and Load" Stevens, featured yesterday on FoxNews.com. (She's a National Guard medic.) We might actually have to root for this woman, if we can figure out how to do it without having to sit through a Miss America pageant.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wow, Utah Republicans have a sense of humor!

Got this invite from the Salt Lake County Republican Party recently, and it's pretty darn funny. First, the event itself (trust me, it's worth clicking on to read full size):

And then the donor card:

Mitt's Mormon problem: Lee Benson gets it right (but Romney's still a hypocrite)

This morning, Lee Benson has an interesting column titled Weirdness, not religion, real issue. Noting the comparison to John F. Kennedy's speech that Mitt likes to hear, Benson writes:

[F]or the most part they both used their forums to appeal to the good conscience of the American people to not count them out because of the church they belong to.

Still, for all that, in comparing and paralleling himself to Kennedy, Romney did rather dance around the real issue surrounding Mormonism.

His problem is way different than Kennedy's.

His problem is this: 160 years since they drove us out of Nauvoo, people still think Mormons aren't normal.

They think we're weird.
True. In my experience, the most common concern expressed by out-of-staters about Mormons isn't that they're religious, but that they are, well, weird. Spend time with someone who has the slightest clue about Mormon doctrine (or thinks he does), and it doesn't take long for the golden plate / magic underwear / polygamy / Kolob jokes to start in.
This is perplexing to us who are actual Mormons, and not just because it bugs us that our beliefs, rites and rituals attract a great deal of ridicule when other religions can have their chants, creeds and ceremonies and no one seems to look twice.
Again true. Every religion has components that are head scratchers on paper, but Benson is right: If it's a 'strange' Catholic or Methodist belief, no one thinks twice. If it's a 'strange' Mormon belief, it's a cult. I guess that's what happens when one religious demonination outnumbers another.

And, ironically, that's what Romney himself did when he basically declared that a person cannot be a good American unless he goes to Church. That's why I don't feel sorry for Mitt. He seems just as willing to impose his religious view on others as evangelicals are with him. What goes around comes around.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why Mitt supporters don't care about illegal landscapers

Big surprise, Mitt Romney's landscaper still hires illegal immigrants, even after Romney took heat for it last year. It's a fun story, but does it really bother his supporters, or any GOP diehards, for that matter?

I had lunch with a political observer last week who said, "Republicans don't care (about hiring illegal immigrants). They all do it." It sure seems like it. One GOP friend and Mitt supporter flips houses on the side, and the first thing he does is round up illegal immigrants at one of the local gathering places. At least two others -- also Mitt supporters -- have housekeepers they know aren't legal. Another has a nanny who wouldn't be happy to see ICE.

So, are these guys hypocrites, or are fewer Republicans really upset about illegal immigrants than media coverage would have us believe?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pollution from commercial jets? How about those KSL helicopters?

An article in today's Trib raises concern about pollution generated by commercial jets:
In Utah, an analysis based on Federal Aviation Administration numbers found jet fuel consumption in 2005 translated to 2.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, said Brock LeBaron, a technical analysis manager in the Division of Air Quality. That was 4.2 percent of the state's total output of the gases widely blamed from global warming.
Tack on another fraction for the traffic helicopters that buzz around our capital city every afternoon reporting on--traffic! On our roads! Every day, there it is, the KSL newscopter, zipping around, burning hundreds of gallons of fuel, proving to people who are home watching TV that there really is traffic on the highway.

Complain all you want about commercial jets, eco-groups, but leave our beloved newscopters alone. Because how will I know if there's traffic at rush hour if I don't see it with my own eyes?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Marathon dreams: Half-way there!

VoU1 here. Back in March, I announced that I was going to get off my bloggerbutt and train for a marathon. The body was weak but the mind was willing, and this weekend, after nagging knee and achilles injuries, I ran completed a half-marathon.

I'm not very fast...


...but I did make it across the line 45 minutes under goal. (Granted, my goal for the half-marathon was the same as my running partner's goal for the full marathon, but that's beside the point.) Salt Lake Marathon, you will be mine!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Potpourri of Utah politics

Geez, you go out of town and all sorts of things happen back on the farm. Some quick observations about local stories:

Porn task force halts abuse - from clues on computer photos, detective Steve Gamvroulas helped identify a 15-year-old rape victim and catch the perpetrator. Forget consensual stuff (by adults for adults); this is the kind of thing we should focus our anti-pornography efforts on.

Mayne hailed as champion of underprivileged - we're still upset about the death of Ed Mayne. He was friendly, compassionate - just everything. Heck, any man whose own wife runs against him for senate is our kind of guy. It's hard to say this, but I'm going to, because we both had the same thought when we first learned of Ed's lung cancer: the union hall. If you've ever been out there, the smell of cigarette smoke is overwhelming. We're worried that a lot of those guys are at risk. We hope not, but...

New law would let legislators with conflict get out of a vote - How about letting them get out of the committees where they have the conflict?

Utah's home prices looking better than other states' - of course, none of them are selling, but at least they look better.

Use of Taser 'reasonable' - the officer who Tasered the traffic-ticket guy felt "threatened," UHP says. We've seen the video. The driver may have been an idiot, but if that cop really felt threatened, then he's just a big old wimp.

Crunching Byrne - a letter writer notes that Patrick "Give Me Vouchers or Give Me Death" Byrne's Overstock.com has never seen a profit. Here's one summary of why Byrne is legendary in the business industry. Here's another, with actual excerpts from the famous "I'm not a gay cokehead" conference call. (For more, just Google "Sith Lord" and "Patrick Byrne." Seriously.)

3 arrested in stabbings at Halloween party in Sandy - glad to see Sandy City taking time out from writing tickets to, like, arrest someone. I wrote a post making fun of Sandy for not catching the Village Inn shooter (after announcing twice that they were about to), but VoU2 says it's in poor taste, so it hasn't gone up (yet...).

Short-handed Jazz get hot, rout Lakers - missed the game driving 35 mph in a snowstorm, but Jazz win, Lakers lose! Life is good.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The MySpace suicide scandal: would it be a crime in Utah?

Lori Drew. Lori Drew. Lori Drew.

There. Just wanted to do our part in the ongoing effort to ensure that anyone who Googles Lori Drew of O'Fallon, Missouri, will read about a grown woman who used a fake MySpace identity to hound a 13-year-old girl into committing suicide. We also want to encourage the original story to remain online for a very long time, even though the reporter chose not to name the culprit, Mrs. Lori Drew, Lori Drew, Lori Drew, leaving the task to bloggers.

"And just how does this relate to Utah, o local-only blog?" one might ask. Well, after reading that Missouri could not find a crime with which to charge Mrs. Drew, we wondered if Utah prosecutors would fare any better, so we leafed through Title 76 of the Utah Code. We're not criminal lawyers, and might have missed something (we hope), because we couldn't really find much.

Harassment, 76-5-109? No threat of a violent felony. Stalking, 76-5-106.5? No visual/physical proximity or threats. Child abuse, 76-5-109? The Court of Appeals says there doesn't have to be a physical impact, but it still seems like a stretch. Reckless endangerment, 76-5-112 ("under circumstances not amounting to a felony offense, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person")? Hmm. Drew knew that Megan Meier was 13 and on anti-depressants. Maybe...

It would be easier, though, if Utah just had a law criminalizing the impersonation of a minor by an adult for the purpose of harassing a minor. We don't see First Amendment problems with such a narrow statute (and we have the final say on that, of course.) Meanwhile, Lori Drew, Lori Drew, Lori Drew...


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Taser Madness in Utah (two hot videos)

It's hard to keep track of all the tasering these days. Lately, a couple of YouTube examples from our own pretty, great state are making the rounds. One is a former BYU professor getting Tasered in court (because those five bailiffs couldn't possibly have restrained him without a Taser once they had his arms pinned behind his back).

This video reminds me of something that football coach/commentator John Madden said a few years back. In the midst of a Chiefs game, Madden lamented that NFL players these days "have forgotten how to tackle." Yeah. And bailiffs/cops seem to have forgotten how to handle confrontations without reaching for the voltage.

The other hot video is this one, in which a Utah Highway Patrolman tasers a guy who doesn't want to sign a speeding ticket until the officer tells him how fast he was going. The actual tasering is at 2:30, following this exchange: "Turn around and put your hands behind your back. Turn around." The guy scowls at the cop and says, "What the heck's wrong with you?" TAZE. (See the KSL story.)

The most telling part of the video: Afterward, when a colleague asks what happened, the officer lies, claiming that he warned the man, "Turn around right now or I'll Taser you." I figure it this way: If a cop thinks he has to lie to another cop, he knows he done wrong.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finally, something Utah Repubs and Dems can agree on: Ed Mayne

Do not adjust your set: A Toast & Roast next month in honor of Sen. Ed Mayne (D-West Valley) does indeed boast this intriguing lineup:

Co-chairs: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Kem Gardner (Democratic donor/Romney supporter). Hosts: Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem), Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), Sen. Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake), and Sen. Mike Dmitrich (D-Price).

To whoever organized this showing of bipartisanship spirit: Got any ideas for the middle east?

Meanwhile, this billboard we saw in West Valley a while back says it better than we ever could:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Would Utahns watch other Utahns flip houses?

Saw this on KSL.com the other day:

A show about Utahns flipping houses? Does anyone even do that any more? Actually, I take that back. One of us recently bought new kitchen cabinets and countertops from some people who bought a house in Murray to flip (their ninth). The house had sat. And sat. Eventually, someone made an offer--for the original purchase price. Fine, the owners said, then you don't get the improvements. Hence VoU1 crawling around, unscrewing cabinets, prying off granite counter tops, and generally not having a good time.

In spite of the housing slump, reality-estate shows are still hot. We admit to having watched Flip That House, Flipping Out, Property Ladder, Curb Appeal, and Real Estate Pros. Okay, and Sell This House, Designed To Sell, Get It Sold, Desperate Landscapes, Sweat Equity, and every home improvement show ever shown on DIY Network. We're not flippers, but you never know what you might pick up for your own remodel.

Most of these shows are unrealistic. Flip shows don't mention utilities, mortgage payments, commissions, insurance, and other profit eaters. Fix-up shows cite material costs that basically equate to finding them on the side of the road. Flip This House turned out to be a total scam, with fake renovations and buyers.

These shows have a lot of yelling ("You don't know what you're doing!"), stupidity ("Our budget for the whole remodel is $10,000"), and questionable behavior ("Just cover it up; we're not going to live here.") Do we really want to see that from our neighbors? I guess they could try to circulate the show nationally. Because there might be some network somewhere that only has 23 1/2 hours of real estate programming.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ethan, you can do better than that with the Trax pix

Hey, Ethan, if you're going to keep wowing us with Trax pix on your blog, let's jazz 'em up a bit, 'kay? Like this:

2 lawsuit reforms that really are needed (for Rep. Urquhart)

Since Rep. Steve Urquhart is thinking about medical malpractice lawsuit reform ("reform" usually meaning whatever the doctors want lately), we thought we would offer two ideas that legislators ought to love: They will produce lower verdicts in most personal injury lawsuits, and curb some overreaching by plaintiffs' attorneys.

1. Limit medical expense recovery to the amount actually paid, rather than larger "billed" amounts. Idaho and other states already have statutes that do this. Presently, a p.i. plaintiff is entitled to the "reasonable" value of medical expenses, which is usually the full amount billed. Often, however, providers have agreed in advance (through contracts with health insurers, for example) to accept much lower amounts, so the "billed" amount is just an arbitrary figure.

Plaintiffs should be limited to (1) the amount actually accepted as full payment by providers, rather than fictitious, larger "billed" amounts, plus (2) any out-of-pocket amounts, such as co-pays, uninsured expenses, etc. This would cut the medical-expense portion of p.i. claims by as much as 40 percent, without actually costing plaintiffs real money. (The difference between the amount paid and the amount billed is just a windfall for the plaintiff.)

2. Prohibit plaintiffs from asking for punitive damages in their complaint. Again, Idaho is ahead of us on this one. There, a plaintiff cannot plead punitive damages in his initial court filing. Rather, he has to file a separate motion later in the case, laying out his evidence and asking the judge to let him add a punitive damage count. This reduces stress on defendants (punitive damages are usually not covered by insurance), and prevents a plaintiff from trying to get invasive financial information through the discovery process just because they have alleged punitive damages.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 mind bogglers (literally)

Nothing political here, but a co-worker forwarded this to me, then came into my office to make sure that I saw it, so we're calling it "local interest." Both VoU bloggers were fooled by the first one, and amazed by the second.

1. ALZHEIMERS' EYE TEST

Count every ' F ' in the following text:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS...
(SEE BELOW)

HOW MANY ?
WRONG, THERE ARE 6 -- no joke.
READ IT AGAIN !
Really, go Back and Try to find the 6 Fs before you scroll down.

The reasoning behind is further down.
The brain cannot process 'OF'.

Incredible or what? Go back and look again!
Anyone who counts all 6 'F's' on the first go is a genius. Three is normal, four is quite rare.

2. More Brain Stuff . . From Cambridge University

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rgh it pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Matheson: "Timetable? We don't need no stinking timetable"

Once again, our DINO Jim Matheson has voted to stay President Bush's course in Iraq. Last night, Matheson was one of 10 Democrats who voted against the latest war funding bill because it is tied to a withdrawal of our troops by December 2008. (5 other Dems opposed the bill because it didn't cut off finding altogether.)

Polls show that a majority of Utahns finally now oppose this war. We know that Matheson's votes on major issues are all done with one eye -- both eyes, actually -- toward getting himself re-elected, but maybe he should actually check with his constituents before assuming their blind obedience to the president on this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggers: Let's thank Greg Curtis

House Speaker Greg "19-vote" Curtis says voucher opponents should "thank" him, because "we've brought some finality to this issue." Good point. If you ever get sued and spend $100,000 in attorney fees before being vindicated by a jury, be sure and thank the guy who sued you for bringing finality to the issue.

Bloggers, let's thank Curtis in 2008 for all he's done for us:

  • For trying to force Patrick "I.Q." Byrne's personal agenda down our throats

  • For calling the U of U when it issued an objective study on vouchers 10 days before the election

  • For not calling the Sutherland Institute when it issued a pro-voucher "study" 10 days before the election

  • For back-dooring a soccer stadium deal that an even larger majority of voters didn't want



  • For double-dipping as a county employee, getting mileage reimbursement while driving a county car

  • For claiming there's no conflict of interest in legislators testifying before their own committees

  • For making a living suing local cities on behalf of real estate developers, and not seeing any conflicts there, either

  • For receiving 100 percent of his campaign funds last year from lobbyists and special interests

  • For only agreeing to hold off on more vouchers bills for the "next" session. Or maybe he just figures he won't be around after that.

  • Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Huntsman Cancer Institute's ad barrage

    Is the Huntsman Cancer Institute being managed by Mitt Romney's campaign manager? Romney is spending $85,000 per day on TV ads, and it seems as if the Institute is trying to match him.

    At least five Huntsman Cancer Institute ads aired in less than two hours tonight on TNT, the same ads we've seen repeatedly in recent days. We get it, cancer research is great. Just save some money for the research, OK?

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Bluffdale: Safe to go back in the water?

    One changing of the guard that went relatively unnoticed last week was in the city of Bluffdale. You remember Bluffdale, the town whose motto is "At Least We're Not Eagle Mountain," one of several bergs whose city councils stripped their mayors of all powers last year.

    In June, Bluffdale voters let stand the City Council's decision. However, that wasn't the end of it. When the new term rolls around, three of the five members of that same Council also won't be around any more. The first decided not to run again. The second made it through the primary but withdrew his name shortly before the election. The third was ousted by voters.

    So, there's a (mostly) new city council in Bluffdale. We'll see how long it takes them to make headlines again.

    Whittingham's regret (Utes 50, sportsmanship 0)

    According to the D-News, Ute coach Kyle Whittingham says he regrets having his team run an onside kick with a 43-point lead in the third quarter on Saturday. Whittingham says he let his "emotions" get the better of him, apparently unable to control himself because Wyoming's coach ran over his dog. No, that wasn't it. I think he slept with Whittingham's wife. No, that wasn't it, either. Oh, yeah--the coach had told some boosters that he 'guaranteed' a win over Utah.

    Whoop de doo. Yeah, the comment was dumb, but Whittingham managed to trump it. Of the two coaches, who is more embarrassed now?

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Wow - $214,000 for Salt Lake scout leader?

    Hey, Utah boys: Forget becoming Vice President; shoot for Boy Scout executive instead. An in-depth report by the D-News this morning mentions that Great Salt Lake Council Boy Scout executive Paul Moore makes a whopping $214,000 a year, about the same as the Vice President of the United States. The national Boy Scout leader makes about $1 million. Other tidbits include:

    • Boy Scouts both in Utah and nationally tend to pay their top executives significantly more than do other large, nonprofit groups that serve youths.

    • The three Scout councils in Utah tend to have many more executives than average with salaries above $50,000 a year.

    • While pay for top Scout executives in Utah is high compared to salaries for such professions here as doctors and lawyers, those executives still generally receive less than fellow Scout executives elsewhere in similarly sized councils.

    The story includes justifications for the big bucks from BSA executives. I'll be interested to see how they fly with one of my co-workers, who gives up thousands of dollars each year serving as a volunteer scout leader.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Trib and D-News movie reviews: Not enough info?

    We both read the movie reviews by Sean Means and Jeff Vice most Fridays. Often, though, reviews doesn't provide enough information. They summarize the plot, tell us whether it's confusing, well acted, and important stuff like that, but when it comes to sex and violence, they're sometimes vague. For example, this is from today's D-News review of P2:
    "P2" is rated R for strong violence (a beating, stabbings, an animal attack, vehicular and explosive mayhem, and violence against women), graphic blood and gore, strong sexual language (including profanity, vulgar slang terms and other suggestive talk), brief drug content (chloroform), and brief sexual contact and a sexual assault.
    Yikes! If we're going to spend hard earned money on a movie, we would rather it not be one with graphic violence or sex. But sometimes other people's definitions of "mayhem" don't match ours. Is the animal attack a dog jumping on someone who escapes, or does it chew someone's face off? What kind of "sexual assault"? A grope in an elevator, or something worse?

    How do I know whether my sensibilities will be offended by this movie? Well, okay, this one seems pretty obvious. Others aren't, though. Call us prudes, but lately we've been using a 2-prong approach to movie selection: First, we read the Trib/D-News to see if it sounds interesting. Then, we go to Kids In Mind.com. It breaks down instances of sex and violence (and drug use and profanity) for current movies without spoiling the plot. Yes, some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, but they aren't sensationalized, and better to read it than be surprised with it after the ticket has been bought.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Sutherland Institute: "We won!"

    The Sutherland Institute's weekly press releases begging people to vote for vouchers didn't do the trick, but it did earn them a reputation for, um, "new math." Remember the famed "affordable tuition" press release -- the one where it calculated "average" tuition for private schools only after excluding the most expensive ones? Well, they're at it again. To read their latest press release, you would think that vouchers passed resoundingly. Check this out:
    Despite the referendum vote on HB 148
    I believe the technical term is "spanking." Shellacking, stomping, or rejected! are acceptable alternatives.

    school-reform efforts are not going away. The Sutherland Institute is continuing to develop sound policy ideas for education reform in Utah, including how to provide the large population of minority students – who are now not graduating with a diploma – new opportunities to succeed.
    Because a Sutherland Institute study reveals that vouchers were all about helping minority students (*excluding the 94% of voucher supporters who admitted that their goal wasn't to benefit low-income families).

    "Thirty-eight percent of Utahns voted in favor of Referendum 1," said Derek Monson, education policy analyst for Sutherland Institute. "Further, an unknown portion support voucher policy but voted against this bill. That is a significant number of Utahns who are dissatisfied with the state’s educational system and feel it merits substantial change. . . . .
    After eliminating certain votes that we deemed irrelevant and adjusting for potential unknown supporters, Yea! People want vouchers! All our press releases weren't a big waste of time that had no influence on voters! Whew! For a moment there, we thought we were irrelevant.


    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Patrick Byrne and Rocky: two skunks

    On Channel 2, Patrick Byrne (aka Parents For Choice in Education) just said that, although he does not concede the voucher result yet, the preliminary results show that "Utahns just don't care about kids." This guy is certifiable.

    Meanwhile, it looks as though Prop 1 may fail. Anyone who has been in the Public Safety facilities in recent years know that they desperately need revamped. Rocky's last-minute criticism of the proposition as asking too much reminds us of President Bush, flailing around to show that he is still relevant by vetoing SCHIP. Go away, Rocky.

    Wow - not a single county going for vouchers so far

    Attention, legislators:

    http://electionresults.utah.gov/xmlData/30000.html

    Best SL County and statewide results sites

    Faster results than waiting for the TV stations:

    Salt Lake County results

    Statewide voucher results (so far, about 64% against in outlying counties)

    Should Chris Cannon be deployed to Iraq?

    This morning's MittRomneyFanClub links to an interesting column yesterday by Chris Cannon in the conservative Human Events. Cannon says that diplomats who refuse to be deployed to Iraq (President Bush's latest backdoor draft) should be fired. There's no excuse for refusing to serve in Iraq, he writes:
    All diplomats, as a condition of employment, must agree to be deployed anywhere in the world, at any time, for whatever reason.
    Good point, Congressman. It reminded me of the oath that you took when you became a member of the House of Representatives:

    "I, (name of member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
    Well, Congressman, we need you to defend our Constitution against some foreign enemies. They're in Iraq. We know you are prepared to fulfill your oath. Don't worry, though; from some of your writings, it appears that the war is almost over, so you shouldn't be gone too long. Go get 'em, Tiger!

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Find the polling place...

    We're not paranoid, much really. But it does strike us as odd (not to mention annoying) that the two of us, who do not live near each other, have both been assigned brand new polling places. Until tomorrow, I have voted at the same location since at least 1991; VoU2 has voted at the same place since 1990 or so.

    We don't really think that switching our polling places is a nefarious plot by the pro-voucher camp (low turnout being the only, er, prayer that vouchers have), but of all the times to do it....

    Meanwhile, Channel 2 entertained Main Street visitors Sunday evening with a preview of election coverage. We suspect this is as close as the mayoral race is going to get tomorrow:

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    I'm rich! My huge class action settlement

    I'm probably not the only one who received an Important Legal Notice yesterday, informing me that a class action against Sears was being settled, and I'm getting a piece of the action!

    Sears apparently failed for several years to ensure that its contractors installed anti-tip brackets on ovens purchased by suckers like me. Some intrepid advocates brought a class action lawsuit on our behalf, and voila! Under the settlement, we get to take time off work at our own expense for Sears to install the bracket that they should have installed in the first place. The lawyers get 17 million dollars.

    Now if we could just install anti-tip brackets on class action lawyers...

    Vouchers: not really about the poor, and what happens when they lose

    We told ourselves we wouldn't write one more word about the Overstock.Com Voucher Act of 2007, but we couldn't resist after this morning's Trib article, which revealed:
    1. Vouchers are not about the poor. Only 6% of voucher supporters said it was from a desire to help low-income families. Duh. If this law had been limited to low-income families, it would have gone down in flames early as "welfare" or other governmental handout. If the legislature's real aim had been to help low-income families, the obvious step would have been to eliminate subsidies for well-off Utahns, but the pro-voucher faction knew that would never fly with Republicans. Pretending that PCE/Patrick Byrne, the Sutherland Institute, or GOP leaders give one whit about the poor in pushing these vouchers is one of the sillier campaign tactics in recent memory.


    2. GOP leadership endorses vouchers. What?!! This changes everything! Actually, is anyone surprised? Party leaders -- in any party -- are more dogmatic than their constituents, and state Republicans have no incentive to moderate their views because they know that, except in rare instances (Dave Buhler), they will be re-elected no matter what they do.

    3. GOP leadership will retaliate when vouchers fail. This wasn't in the Trib article, probably because it's so well known that it wasn't considered newsworthy. Don't try to reach your GOP legislator after the election; he'll be too busy summoning people to Capitol Hill or writing up bills like the Greg Curtis Public School Teacher Salary Reduction Act of 2008...

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    Did I read this right? The latest hunting accident

    Reading an article in this morning's Trib about the recent accidental shooting of a hunter by his 9-year-old nephew, a couple of things made me scratch my head:
    Finn Gillman said his brother was an experienced hunter. "It's not like he didn't know what he was doing," he said. "It's not like he wasn't safe with a gun. If I had a dollar bill for every shot he's fired, I'd be a millionaire."

    The issue doesn't seem to be whether the elder Gillman was safe with a gun; it's whether a young child was safe with a gun. And yes, I know, it was an accident, and we've recently seen that adults can have accidents with guns, too. To me, that's like letting a 9-year-old drive, and then shrugging off an accident because adults have car accidents, too. It's still a substantial increase in risk. (Note to legislature: this is not a suggestion to let 9 year olds drive.)

    Chad Gillman raised game birds and charged customers to visit his home to shoot pheasants and chukars, Finn Gillman said. He also raised horses and dogs.

    "He's always been an animal lover," Finn Gillman said.

    Umm...

    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    What's happened to Halloween? (and the 2 coolest decorations)

    The VoU1 household had a whopping four sets of trick-or-treaters tonight. VoU2 didn't have any.

    What has happened to this holiday? As a kid, I remember looking forward to it for a month. As an adult, I remember turning on the porch light, putting Monster Mash on continuous play, and worrying about running out of candy. Now I'm worried about eating all the candy that's left over.

    Where have all the pirates and ballerinas and ghosts gone? Have parents gotten too paranoid? Are people too busy? Are they doing that lame "trunk or treat" thing? Are they more spoilsports health conscious?

    At least some people still have the spirit. A lot of the decorations we saw this year were pretty cool. The best one we saw at a residence was on 78th South near 1300 East, which hosted literally dozens of these life-size stuffed zombies:


    The best decorations we saw at a business were in the Fort Union Home Depot, which had do-it-yourself spiders, impaled workers, human-face doors, a mummy, and, in their most creative effort, the Headless Horseman:

    Now that's more like it!

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Trib cartoon crosses the line

    Political cartoonists are supposed to push the envelope, and Pulitzer Prize winner Pat Oliphant is one of the best, but his cartoon in this morning's Trib was more personal attack than social commentary. (For clarity, that's nationally syndicated cartoonist Pat Oliphant, not Trib cartoonist Pat Bagley, whom we also love.)

    We can understand the frustration with President Bush's veto of SCHIP, but this cartoon went too far. In it, Oliphant suggests that "The Bush-Cheney Solution for Child Health Insurance" is for Cheney to use little children for target practice:


    As the most anti-Bush person we know said, "Even I think that's too far."

    He's the most syndicated cartoonist in the world for a reason, but a cartoon like that doesn't add anything to the dialogue, in our view.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Tomorrow in Utah: judicial intemperance day ("mind-warped queers" redux)

    It has been called "the most intemperate judicial opinion of all time." It is cited as an example of what not to do in The Judicial Opinion Writing Handbook. It's one of the most notorious judicial opinions ever issued in this country, it's from Utah, and tomorrow is its 30th Anniversary.

    Salt Lake City v. Piepenburg, 571 P.2d 1299 (Oct. 28, 1977), involved a theater owner convicted of showing an obscene movie. Writing for the Utah Supreme Court, Chief Justice A. H. Ellett acknowledged that the U. S. Supreme Court had set forth a minimum constitutional standard required to find material obscene, i.e., that the material, “when taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Some state courts, "acting the part of sycophants," were actually following that standard, Ellett wrote disgustedly:
    It would appear that such an argument ought only to be advanced by depraved, mentally deficient, mind-warped queers. Judges who seek to find technical excuses to permit such pictures to be shown under the pretense of finding some intrinsic value to it are reminiscent of a dog that returns to his vomit in search of some morsel in the filth which may have some redeeming value to his own taste.
    It wa also OK for the prosecutor to call the bishops of prospective jurors and ask if they went to church regularly, Ellett ruled. "One can be sure that the defense attorney (if he was a good lawyer) would have made inquiry among the pimps, prostitutes, homosexuals, and other members of the pornographic community to see if any prospective jurors might be favorably inclined to protect one accused of showing pornographic films."

    Although the Utah Supreme Court disavowed both the language and rationale of Piepenburg in 1983, Justice Ellett remained proud of his opinion. It's one of several entertaining stories in his autobiography that lend new meaning to the concept of judicial activism.