Thursday, January 31, 2008

"The Doofies:" Top 10 Doofiest Things that Utah Cities Did in 2007

We're finally getting around to awarding our 1st Annual Doofies: The Top 10 Doofiest Things that Utah City Officials did in 2007. Better late than never, right? We undoubtedly forgot some, but the 2007 Doofies go to:

10. Lehi, for trying to squelch the public's right to inspect public documents by raising its search fees to up to $50 per hour. Real subtle.

9. Ruby's Inn, for incorporating itself into a city. Yes, our legislature allowed it, but come on--don't get us on The Colbert Report, Dude.

8. Sandy, for spending taxpayer money on what may be the worst radio PR campaign ad in history. ("Golly, yuk, yuk, come on down and milk the cows down here in adorable ol' Sandy...")

7. Bluffdale, for turning City Council-Mayor disputes into an Olympic event, at least til they got a new council last November.

6. Provo, for flying the city flag at half mast upon BYU student Camille Cleverley's death. We all hoped for the best, we were all saddened by the outcome, but what about other Provoans who have met tragic fates?

5. Draper, for demonstrating a complete inability to regulate, control, or protect its residents from, shady developers.

4. Orem, for assigning a cop -- an actual police officer -- to spend time enforcing lawn watering. Not to mention what happened next.

3. Eagle Mountain--enough said.

2. Sandy, for promising Dave Checketts and Real Salt Lake yet another $10 million in taxpayer money that depended on Salt Lake County paying $6 million of it -- and then actually having the nerve to ask the County for it.

1. Tooele, for going door to door to take away people's extra pets, regardless of whether anyone had complained. Don't you have some lawns to monitor?

Rep. Sumsion's adoption bill - will it increase abortions?

Rep. Kenneth Sumsion wants adoptees and birth parents to be able to make contact when the adoptee is 30. They already can. Utah has a Voluntary Adoption Registry in which birth parents and adoptees can register. Raising awareness of this service seems a better way to handle the situation than Sumsion's bill.

Instead of a voluntary system, Sumsion wants the government to force contact on biological parents. It may not be the adoptee ringing the bell, but it will be a court-appointed official suddenly appearing on the doorstep 30 years later (in this version. There's nothing to prevent later legislatures from lowering the age.) Some parents may be delighted, but some will be horrified. What if a birth father did not tell his friends or family about his decision at the time? What if a birth mother has not disclosed it to her present boyfriend or husband? Those decisions are intensely personal, and the government has no business interfering.

The rep is supposed to make "discreet" contact, but we cannot think of any way to contact a birth parent that does not pose some risk. It may be someone overhearing a conversation, or it might be forcing the parent to hide something important from loved ones.

One former adoption lawyer opines that this law would lead some birth mothers to choose abortion instead of adoption. He feels that some women, when told that a child would have the right to seek contact with her later in life, will choose abortion instead. We don't know if it's true. But if that is a possibility, why risk it?

In sum: This bill seems unnecessary, invasive, and risky. That probably means it will pass.

The HOV lane and license plates

A Trib article this morning about the HOV lane began with a weird statement: "It won't be so simple to buy your way into the carpool lane solo with a cleaner-burning car later this year, after Utah retools its rules to match federal standards."

Buy your way into the lane with a cleaner-burning car? Yep, that's why I got my hybrid, to buy my way into the HOV lane with it. But then, I'm not actually allowed into that lane. My car qualifies but, unlike the elite folk who pay a monthly fee to zip into the lane -- and then out again, dotted lines be damned -- I can't buy a sticker to save me from a ticket. If you own a hybrid and want to drive in the HOV lane, you have to buy a whole new license plate. There is a good explanation, though, as I learned from a helpful state employee: "Because that's the way it is."

Now, if I had one of those new Idaho plates, I'd be happy to give it up, but you'll have to pry my Arches plate from my slow lane hands.

Meanwhile, I won't be able to feel superior by driving past the little people in the regular-person lanes. I'll have to settle for feeling superior for driving a hybrid.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Poor Fox News

We try to stick to local stuff, but occasionally an article is just too fun. For those of us who consider Fox "News" an abomination and/or contradiction in terms, this article brings a smile to our faces. (Actually, I guess it could have local application: It does shows the influence that bloggers can have through concerted efforts, at least on a national level. There's no reason we can't accomplish the same kind of thing at the local level. Greg Curtis, anyone?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A political conversation on Trax

Yesterday as I sat on Trax, I still had my Trib with me. The man sitting across from me, who would fit the statistical bill if I had to stereotype an LDS Republican, glimpsed a headline and said, "I'm a little surprised that Obama would come to Utah."

What did that mean? "Why?"

"It's pretty much a Republican state."

Living in our own private Idaho, are we? "Well, there's a Democratic primary, too." Surprise!

"Oh, yeah."

An African American gentleman sitting next to me spoke up. "Obama's coming here?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "On Saturday."

"Where's he gonna be?"

"At the University, isn't it?" Republican guy said.

"I think that's Clinton's daughter," I said. "I think she's going to be up at the U." Pointing at the newspaper, "This article says the details on Obama aren't known yet. But I assume we'll know within a day or two."

Demonstrating some awareness of Democratic activities, Republican guy said, "Didn't President Clinton come here, too?"

"Bill Clinton? He spoke at the U, I think."

He then said, "I'm still surprised that Obama's coming here."

"Well, you know, I was originally opposed to these primaries, but it has brought attention to the state," I admitted. "At least by the Democrats. We know that Romney has the Republican vote sewn up."

"Do you think Obama can really win here?"

Why wouldn't he? "The last poll I saw showed Clinton only up by about 10 points here," I replied. "Maybe a personal visit closes the gap. I don't really know how these things work."

A pause, then GOP Guy piped up again. "I'm not sure who I would vote for at this point."

"It's nice to have choices, isn't it?"

"Romney seems to have potential." Ah, I wondered when he would get around to it.

"I do think he's the smartest of the Republican candidates," I replied.

He explored a little further. "I thought he did a good job running the Olympics."

"I did, too."

"And he ran a successful business."

A shrug. "I guess. He sliced a lot of jobs to do it. It was probably a smart thing to do, but it's easier to downsize than to keep jobs, I guess."

Sorry, Guy, no sale here. It's Hillary or Obama for this blogger. However, unlike a lot of the folks in D.C., we can still be polite. As we neared our stop, I said, "This is the most exciting race that I can remember, on both sides. It's fun."

Yeah, it is, he agreed, and we wished each other the proverbial nice day as we stepped off the train. I know that "How 'bout them Jazz?" is the usual icebreaker for strangers, but it's nice to know that politics can do the trick, too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

President Hinckley - a few thoughts

We've both been trying to think of how to describe President Hinckley, and we settled on gracious. When you met him, he made you feel as though he was the one looking forward to meeting you. He had a good sense of humor. He teased some of the General Authorities, once about one of them wearing brown shoes. Other people wrote his speeches, but he always required some humor in them, no matter the subject. He was a leader who could, and did, engender the respect of non-members and others whose views differed from his. We just hope they tell some jokes at his services; he would have appreciated that.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Daniel Thompson's new business: CleanPorn flix?

Every once in a while, you hear something on the radio that blows your mind. This afternoon, it was the news that Daniel Thompson of CleanFlix fame -- you know, the guy who edited movies so that minors wouldn't be exposed to bad things, then started selling "family films" -- has been arrested for having sex with 14-year-old girls in his video store, and that a large stash of pornography had been found on the premises.

I'm sure the girls looked 30. And he thought the $20 he gave them was for Girl Scout cookies. And we shouldn't jump to conclusions about the porn, either. Maybe he's launching a new business: CleanPorn Flix, editing sex scenes out of X-rated movies. Soon, Utah County families might be able to sit down and enjoy Frisky Business and Great Sexpectations together, wondering where the script will lead them:

"Hello, Doctor, I'm here for my . . . examination."

"I'll examine you, all right."


"Doctor, could you use another pair of hands?"

"Why, yes, Nurse, come right in..."


"Would you like to schedule your next physical, Mrs. Lusty?"

"Yes. Does he have any openings tomorrow?"


You get more for your money, too, because 68 CleanPorn flicks can be condensed onto one DVD. Gotta give that Daniel Thompson credit; he thinks outside the box.

Rep. Craig Frank's protectionist bill

You know that County rec facility or senior center where your Grandpa goes to keep his reflexes -- you know, like his driving skills -- sharp? Well, kiss that goodbye if Rep. Craig Frank gets his way. Gramps will have to drive down to a Gold's Gym somewhere and enjoy the shriek of bad '80s music with people half his age if he wants to try to stay healthy. So what if the Gold's doesn't offer senior-only classes? That's a small price to pay to insulate private businesses from competition, apparently. (Funny how some legislators like to talk about "free-market competition" but then try to squelch competition...)

How many services are there these days that can't theoretically be provided by a private enterprise? Heck, even our wars are being fought by corporations. A bigger problem? Frank's bill does not even require that government and private services be equivalent before barring the government from offering them. Pertinent language from H.B. 76:
[A] state entity may not engage in a commercial activity: (a) to provide a good or service for: (i) its own use; (ii) the use of another government entity; or (iii) use by the public; and (b) if a good or service with respect to the commercial activity can be obtained from a private enterprise through the use of an ordinary business channel.
Note the wording. It doesn't have to be the same good or service, just "a" good or service with respect to the activity. So, if Gold's Gym doesn't have a pool for water aerobics -- you know, to reduce the risk of breaking a hip in a fall -- tough crap, Grandma. You can get "a" service from them. Ever try spinning?
Under Frank's bill, a governmental entity can beg for permission to provide services to its constituents. A commission -- a majority of which are to be private business owners -- can allow it if it finds that:
(A) a private enterprise is not able to provide a good or service with respect to the commercial activity; (B) use of a private enterprise causes an unacceptable delay or disruption of an activity that is essential; (C) the commercial activity is inherently related to the defense of the state or the state entity[.]
Note that the governmental entity has to prove that a commercial enterprise can't provide "a" good or service, rather than requiring the business to prove that it can. There are more provisions -- you should see the paperwork to even ask permission -- but the migraine is already pounding. Oh, but the bill does make one exception: If the good or service is equivalent and cheaper, it can still be provided--to other governmental entities only. Us mere mortals? Sit and spin, Grandma.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The case of the missing x-rays

VoU2 underwent an unnecessary CT-scan yesterday. Why unnecessary? Because it could have been avoided if VoU2's x-rays -- if all the clinic's x-rays -- hadn't disappeared.

After a hard fall down the stairs, VoU2 was sent for a shoulder x-ray, and an astute radiologist noticed something amiss. The conversation with VoU2's regular physician then went something like this:

"You have spots on your lung."

"I know. They've been there for years. I had TB as a child."

"These spots aren't consistent with TB."

"Can't you compare them to the chest x-ray I had a couple of years ago? Then we would know if they're the same-old, or something new."

"Well, er..."

Funny thing: When this clinic switched medical record providers a while back, patients' x-rays disappeared. All of them. Want to compare your 2008 lungs to your 2006 lungs? Tough luck.

This is a large clinic. If I recall correctly, Utah law requires x-rays to be retained for several years after a patient's last care. There are good reasons for that. For you money types, it avoids unnecessary expense. For you compassionate types, it avoids unnecessary stress. We could have had the answer days ago, but for now, we wait.

Are Barack/Hillary backers fighting in Utah, too?

A co-worker strolled into the lunchroom the other day and asked who I supported in the presidential campaign. Except for a slight nod to John McCain, we agreed that there isn't a palatable GOP option this time around. Turning to the Democrats, I shrugged. "I'm leaning toward Hillary," I said, "but I'd be happy with any of the three of them." My friend likes Edwards' focus on poverty, but thinks Obama might be a, er, uniter. (Funny how our president has turned certain words into jokes, like that one and "mission accomplished.")

We both have minor concerns about each candidate, but figure that any of the Dems would be better than anyone on the GOP slate. In fact, the fantasy of a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket practically makes our heads explode.

But over on Huffington Post and other national sites, Hillary and Obama backers are at each others' throats. It's weird. They practically foam at the mouth, declaring that they would never vote for not-their candidate, which is a head scratcher. What are they going to do, not vote, increasing the chances that a Republican will stay in office in a close election? Vote for a third-party candidate, with the same risk? (Ralph Nader, anyone?) Vote for a Republican? Other than McCain, that thought makes me queasy this time. Back in 2000, I actually said out loud, "Gore, Bush, I don't think it really matters." Lesson learned.

Are Hillary and Obama backers in Utah spitting at each other, too? If so, I'm glad I haven't made it to any local campaign events. I'd rather remain blissfully ignorant, happy that, for once, we have an embarrassment of riches on the Democratic ticket.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The dumbest Dan Jones poll ever?

This morning's D-News has some breaking news: According to a Dan Jones poll -- yes, the News actually paid someone to do this -- 62% of Utahns still think Mitt Romney is in the presidential race. Okay . . . and?

Heck, I think Romney's still in the race, too, especially if The Daily Kos's plot to have Michigan Dems cross over for him works. Should CNN break in with my opinion? This just in: People in Utah with no inside knowledge still consider Romney viable candidate! There was other exciting news, too: Most Utahns think his faith played a role in Romney's loss. And the source of their knowledge? Well, uh . . . And another biggie: Who do Utahns think will be elected president? The highest number (1/3) said: Don't know. Wow.

Usually, the News's polls are quite interesting. Today's had "Desperately Seeking New Angle on Romney" written all over it.

Edited: Great minds . . . I see that Bob Aagard feels the same.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sen. Pat Jones: "Do as I say . . ."

Did you hear the one about the Democratic senator who proposed a ban on gifts from lobbyists, then accepted $388 worth of Billy Joel tickets from a lobbyist?

Ba-da-boom. We got a million of 'em, folks! Well, actually, KSL does. And the D-News. Thank you, Senator Pat Jones. You've reminded us that the hypocrisy bug bites Democrats, too. (By the way, you were right the first time: The public does perceive that money buys influence.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

SL Weekly's "Piggy" awards

Well, the Golden Globes may have been canceled, but Salt Lake Weekly has come out with its "Piggy" awards, honoring "the most self-serving, double-dealing, conflicted Utah legislators on the Hill." Nah, not our legislators...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What does this say about Utah drivers?

Got a good laugh out out of this modified sign the other day in one of the Church's parking structures. Do we really need the visual aid?

But then later I saw this in the same area:

Well, at least they kept left...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How the D-News will cover Mitt's 2nd loss (our prediction)

Greg Curtis's $330,000

For anyone who has not yet formed the opinion that House Speaker Greg Curtis is corrupt, check out this D-News article. According to the News, Curtis has amassed $330,000 in his campaign fund. $330,000? For a part-time state House seat? In one laugh-out-loud line, the News says:
In addition, nearly all the incumbents raised most, if not all, of their money from special-interest groups who may well want something from the 2008 Legislature, which meets in its annual general session in just two weeks.

Shouldn't that read "who damn well want something"? Last year, Curtis did not raise a single dollar from his own constituents. But then, he barely raised votes from them either, so maybe that makes sense.
[A] review of the submitted reports by the Deseret Morning News late Monday showed that many legislators are carrying huge cash surpluses — money that can be used for anything, including legislators giving it to themselves.

So the special interests giving to Curtis (the ones we know about, anyway) know that Curtis can do whatever he wants with the money they give him. Two words I never want to hear from Greg Curtis: "Pay raise."
Even though Curtis only won re-election by 20 votes in 2006, in 2007 he was actively raising funds for his 2008 re-election — and maybe bigger races down the road.

What do you mean, "even though"? Curtis was humiliated in 2006 with a nail-biter against a complete unknown, and since then he has behaved even more badly. Of course he's going to do whatever he can to stomp his 2008 opponent. House Bill 001: Property tax increase for persons running against Speakers of the House. H.B. 002: Bill to make public names of Utahns who voted against vouchers (for purely educational purposes). H.B. 003: Mandatory taxpayer-funded trip to Paris for state legislators. H.B. 004: Tax incentive for attendance at professional sporting events in Sandy involving the kicking of round white balls. Yep, it'll be another busy session for Curtis.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ruzicka will be glad her son's overdose was reported

Gayle Ruzicka may have asked the Trib not to report that her son died of a drug overdose last year, but in the long run, she will be glad they did. Yes, some readers will use the information to attack her, as commenters on the Trib story have done. But some day, someone will walk up to Gayle Ruzicka and tell her that the story was a wake up call. Parents who previously assumed that heroin users came from "other" kinds of families may pay more attention to what is happening in their own Happy Valley homes.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mitt's "tort" b.s.: the Utah experience

At the end of tonight's GOP debate, candidates were asked about energy independence. Mitt Romney got the last word. He started off reasonably, noting that we need to invest a lot more money in the cause. Then, apparently realizing that he had not yet emitted all the GOP buzz words, he swerved into tort reform. American corporations spend more in "defending tort suits than in research and development," he said disgustedly.

How many things are misleading about Mitt's statement? Let us count the ways:
  • Far, far more commercial lawsuits -- businesses suing each other or suing individuals -- are filed than personal injury lawsuits. Consider Utah, for example. Last month, more than 300 lawsuits were filed in Salt Lake courts (state and federal). Of those, about 16 percent were personal injury. The rest were all contract / commercial. Does Mitt support a restriction on lawsuits by corporations? That would sure unclog our court system.

  • Most commercial lawsuits cost far more to litigate than personal injury suits. For example, attorney fees on both sides of an intellectual property lawsuit ("you stole my trade secrets") often exceed $1 million dollars. Fees to defend most personal injury suits are less than 10 percent of that.

  • Notice that Mitt did not say "personal injury." He said "tort." Guess what "tort" lawsuits include? Investment fraud, conversion (theft) of trade secrets, interference with economic relations, etc. That's right--"tort" suits includes businesses suing each other. Slick, Mitt.
We realize that most people listening to the debate, including local and national media, won't look beyond the torttorttort battle cry, but what the heck; just thought we'd mention it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The dumbest thing to do with a gun

The annual body count may not reach that of hunters who mistake their friends for deer, but there is still one thing that gun owners do that is dumber than accidentally shooting each other: Firing guns to celebrate a holiday.

VoU2's neighborhood is treated to a cacophony of shotguns and whatnot every New Year, and sometimes Independence Day. Granted, the "no guns" warnings don't seem to be as prominent as the "no-fireworks" warnings are in summer, but should you have to tell someone not to be stupid? As a woman and girl in Colorado and an 11-year-old boy in Florida are no longer here to tell us, what goes up -- like, say, a bullet -- must come down. As for VoU2: stay away from the windows.