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 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.


Count every ' F ' in the following text:


WRONG, THERE ARE 6 -- no joke.
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 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:

    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.