Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sen. Howard Stephenson rates himself perfect

Sen. Howard Stephenson's organization, the Utah (Business-)Taxpayers Association, has rated Sen. Howard Stephenson perfect when it comes to (business-friendly) tax issues. According to the trib, Stephenson denied having input into the bills his organization considered in rating legislators, but the employee didn't get the memo, apparently: He said Stephenson did have input into both the bills chosen and the Association's position on them.

Stephenson apparently also decided not to consider other tax expenditures -- he was one of the legislators who went on a taxpayer-funded boondoggle to China last year.

In an unrelated story, Voice of Utah has rated itself as 100% Perfect on the subject of political blogging. "We are honored to receive this award from ourselves," said Voice of Utah spokesperson Voice of Utah. "Other than writing the posts, choosing the posts we wanted to include, and evaluating the posts, we had no involvement in this award."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

For the record, I have the Lady Utes beating Tennessee

Yeah, the University of Utah women's team got royally screwed by the NCAA tournament selection committee. And yeah, most of my upset predictions in the men's tourney haven't come true (curse you, Duke!). But hey, I'm an optimist. Elaine Elliott's Lady Utes have to beat Purdue at home first, and Tennessee is a No. 1 seed, and it's sort of like David's little brother versus Goliath, but if you don't aim high, you don't get high. No, that's not right. I'm sure there's some saying that fits. Go Utes!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hotel internet ripoffs

Why is it that, when I stay in overpriced hotels I have to pay for internet access, but in "cheap" hotels it's free?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's speech (the text) & why he has to do it - UPDATE: Is he on valium?

Fortunately, the Huffington Post posted Obama's speech at 8:15 a.m., the end of the embargo period. I couldn't wait much longer to go into work. Here's the text.

Yesterday, I didn't think there would be any need for this. As I listened to Sean Hannity in the car railing on and on about Jeremiah Wright, I rolled my eyes and thought he was making a mountain out of a mole hill. "No one thinks that Barack Obama hates America," I thought, "and you're misquoting Michelle Obama's 'pride' comment (again)."

But later, at dinner, a lifelong Democrat surprised me by saying, "Obama knew all along about what this guy was saying. He disinvited him from his first campaign announcement; what does that tell you? You can't tell me this guy (Wright) never said any of these things during the hundreds of sermons that Obama attended." Wow, I realized; this thing has traction. Obama realized that sooner, evidently.

This probably needed to be done, anyway, as a rite of passage for the country. As uncomfortable as it is, he will probably look back at this time as an opportunity more than a challenge.

UPDATE: I stayed to watch part of the speech -- what the heck? Where is the passionate, inspirational oratory? Did they tell him to chill out? The text of the speech was good, but this didn't strike me as an Obama delivery.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Should we send our Utah legislators to Tibet?

Protests, oppression, human rights violations. Sounds like a job for the China 14, the intrepid Utah legislators and staffers who risked their own -- well, actually nothing -- on a taxpayer-funded boondoggle to China last summer. In addition to all that trade they would generate for Utah, one justification of the trip was to help foster "world peace." If only they had wandered over to Tibet instead of Liaoning. It's not too late, though. Send them to Tibet! Not permanently, just until a lasting peace is achieved.

P.S. We think it's worth a periodic reminder (between now and, say, November) of which legislators spent our tax money on their Asian vacations, rewarding China for all it does for us and its own people. According to the D-News, they were:

• Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo

• House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara

• Senate Majority Whip Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful

Hey, didn't Eastman just announce his retirement? We want a refund!

• Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City

• Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price

Wait a minute -- didn't Dmitrich just retire, too? Got that China trip in just under the wire, huh?

• Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper

• Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi

• Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley

• Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful

• Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden

• Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville

• Rep. Carl Duckworth, D-Magna

• Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns

Bagpipers downtown -- be careful (one of the funniest jokes of all time)

Saw this at the corner of 400 South and West Temple today . . .

. . . and immediately thought of a joke someone e-mailed us once. It still makes me laugh out loud and can also serve as a word of warning, lest it happen to you:
A man drove downtown one day with a set of bagpipes in the back seat of his car. He parked the car, but as he was walking to his destination, he suddenly realized that he had left the back window rolled down. He raced back to the car, but it was too late--someone had already put another set of bagpipes in the car.
If that whetted your appetite for bagpipe jokes, try this site.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My own brush with real estate fraud

During recent house-hunting adventures, I concluded that a lot of realtors in Utah are, well, hacks. Time and again, I got no return call on a house I was interested in. Other agents seem to think that playing hard to get is a good strategy, especially on and Craigslist. Square footage? Lot size? They don't bother to mention it, and I don't bother to call them.

My weirdest experience, though, involved an empty, pre-foreclosure house on which I made three offers over an eight-month period. Or tried to, anyway. I was mystified. The house needed major work and had been on the market for a year. I was pre-qualified. I could close in two weeks. Yet I never got a counteroffer. I never got a call when the house was relisted over and over. I never got any response to any offers, even the ones that said, "This is not my final offer," and "I may be willing to offer more than the listing price." The seller's agent actually encouraged me to buy another house. What the heck?

Finally, I found out what was going on. The agent was only pursuing offers from buyers that he lined up. He wanted two commissions, one now and one "on the back end": His buddy would buy the house, fix it up, and then re-list it with the same agent. By not forwarding other offers, the agent was deceiving both his client and the bank.

The guy outsmarted himself. The bank, fed up with three failed sales in a row, decided to proceed with foreclosure. Uh oh--the agent would get no commission on an auction. Suddenly, I was his best friend, getting a panicked phone call--I could get the house if I could close in three days and hurry, hurry, hurry! Right; like my lender wouldn't want an appraisal or anything.

The house went to auction. The homeowner now has an unnecessary foreclosure on her record, but at least her greedy agent got nothing. And I'm still in my starter house, which I might not have to leave after all. (Yea for falling-through development projects!)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Utah legislators' next subpoena: the LDS Church?

As we know, the Utah House of Representatives has branched out into criminal investigations, since that wussy Attorney General's office apparently won't do it. 45 House members have demanded SUWA's financial records because an ex-trustee and treasurer of the organization were convicted of fraud.

We are presently compiling a list of other organizations whose finances should be next under this standard. Of course, first on the House's list will have to be the LDS Church. As this morning's D-News pointed out, a lot of fraud in Utah is committed by bishops and other persons in positions of trust within the Church:

"It is very prevalent," said Charlene Barlow, the Utah attorney general's section chief over financial crimes. "I have victims that sit here and they say, 'I can't believe I was so stupid. But you know, he was a church member. He was in my ward. He was my bishop.'"

That investigation may take a while. Let us know when you're through, House Squad; we should have the rest of your list ready by then.

Shoot, we should have bid on the Sandy theater

Darn it! From what Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan was saying, we thought there would be so many people wanting to produce Les Mis in Sandy that the city would have to hire a temp to sift through all the applications. Alas, they didn't end up with quite as many applications (0) as they had anticipated. But heck, since when did Sandy City officials need outsiders to provide good theater?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paul Mero shows a sense of humor (send us your photos!)

In response to this morning's post about the Sutherland Institute, a not-infrequent target of barbs on this blog, director Paul Mero showed some good humor by offering to send us a new photo to use in our future, er, analyses. Yea! We do want to avoid monotony in using the same photo every time we, er, analyze, even if our interpretation of what he is saying varies.

Politicians and other blogworthy subjects, send us your photo! We pledge to feature it prominently on some future occasion. An action photo is best, but we'll take head-and-shoulders. Actually, we'll take any interesting local pic, camera bugs. You never know when it may become integral to a story of the day. Meanwhile, we'll express our appreciation by pilfering a different photo of Mr. Mero from the Amicus:

Gotta give the Sutherland Institute credit (urging SB 81 veto)

The Sutherland Institute is one of our favorite targets subjects on this blog. But, on the theory of credit where credit is due, we have to give them a thumbs up for their position on SB 81, the illegal immigration bill. (Hat tip to Tom's KVNU For the People.)

The Sutherland Institute is urging Gov. Huntsman to veto SB 81 because it is not accompanied by a promised task force, which was supposed to study the bill's impact so that unintended consequences (a specialty of our legislature) could be fixed beforehand. Anyone who heard Doug Wright's show on KSL after the bill passed knows what we mean: That may be the angriest he has ever been on air, venting at House Speaker Greg Curtis and the legislature generally for the task force bait-and-switch.

The Sutherland Institute is rrr... -- wait, we can do this -- is riiii... right in asking the Governor to veto SB 81 because without the task force study, it could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why are Utahns such suckers?

KSL's piece on the latest fraud news out of Utah mentions the propensity of many residents, especially LDS members, to fall for anyone in a suit who promises low risk and high returns. Ironically, we have a state full of gamblers. The same people who would be aghast at shelling out $50 for an evening in Wendover will hand over $10,000, few questions asked, to people like Linda Woolf and David Gengler ("Teach Me to Trade"), or Val Southwick. "Wow, 200 percent return per year with no risk? Sign me up!"

In light of these fraud schemes, the First Presidency of the LDS Church recently passed along a message, which in part reads, "We are concerned that some Church members ignore the oft-repeated direction to prepare and live within a budget, avoid consumer debt, and to save against a time of need." It goes on to recommend members invest with responsible and established financial institutions.

Will it do any good? Hard to say. As the saying goes, "There's a sucker born every minute, and most of them in Utah."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Utah women are under-represented in sex scandals

The Elliot Spitzer prostitute scandal illustrates an ongoing problem here in our own state. Last August, during the Sen. Larry Craig lovefest, we tried to come up with a list of Utah's sex scandals. Some astute readers filled in gaps, but one thing became clear: There is a glass ceiling for women when it comes to sex scandals.

Out of seven Utah politicians involved in hormone-driven scandals, six were men (Congressman Allan Howe, U.S. Senator Arthur Brown, Rep. Mel Brown, Rep. Brent Parker, Rep. Calvin Bird, and ex-Rep. Kelly Atkinson). Only one was a woman (Rep. Katherine Bryson).

How does one measure this scandal gap? If we compare it to pay, women should get about 69-80 percent of men's sex scandals. If we go with demographics, it should be half and half.

The harsh reality: There simply aren't enough female politicians in Utah. Until more women are elected to office, they will continue to be under-represented in the "Well, hello" opportunities. Women deserve a crack at the interns, too; Vote Femme in '08.

Utahns, let's turn in our friends and co-workers

Quite a few of our friends will be participating in a March Madness pool this month. Now that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has reminded us that March Madness pools are illegal in Utah, we feel no choice but to report our friends to law enforcement. After all, it's the rule of law.

We encourage each of you to call the cops on your lawbreaking acquaintances. We will feel righteous satisfaction when Mr. Shurtleff busts the two LDS bishops, the recently returned mission president, the former city council member, the lawyers, the award-winning community activist, and others we know -- not us, of course -- who will be participating in one particular pool.

You know, we really ought to. Can you think of a faster way of getting our silly laws changed than to have hundreds of our state's most prominent citizens hauled into court?

P.S. On an unrelated subject, does anyone else think that Kansas might go out in the first round?

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am proof that the GOP is in big trouble

One of us was deeply touched recently to receive a "special honor" from the National Republican Congressional Committee. That's right; I have been nominated by the Committee to receive the -- wait, I need a moment -- the Congressional Order of Merit. Gosh. You work hard all your life, and then, finally, you get the big payoff, and all it takes is a "special contribution" of $25 or more
to ensure that the NRCC has the maximum funds necessary to regain our Republican House majority and keep the White House in Republican hands.
(Shouldn't that be the minimum funds necessary?)

I won't forget all the little bloggers I met on my way up. But don't just take my word for my wonderfulness; take the Committee's word:
Here at the National Republican Congressional Committee we hold special friends like you in the highest regard.
I thought Amendment 3 did away with "special friends" . . .

Few individuals can match your proven devotion to our country,
Ah, they got my affidavits.
your unfailing commitment to President Bush,
Um . . .
and your dedication to the continued success of the Republican Party.
Really? Few individuals can match me in their dedication to the success of the Republican Party? If that's true, can you say 'landslide'...?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Superdelegates: Popular vote or delegate count?

Heard something interesting this morning on the MSNBC post-mortem:

Exit polling in Ohio and Texas indicated that a majority of Democratic voters there believe that superdelegates should support the candidate who wins the popular vote. Hillary Clinton has a shot at pulling that off, so presumably her camp likes that idea. By contrast, according to one of Obama's superdelegates this morning, Obama's camp wants superdelegates voting in accord with the delegate count, not the popular vote.

It may be moot if Obama goes into the convention with both the popular vote and the delegate count. Otherwise--wow, this could get messy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Horiuchi: time to get benched

Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi says he's "got game," and is running for re-election. Once upon a time, we liked Horiuchi. Not any more. We consider him unduly pro-developer, pro-conflict of interest, and pro-crony, among other things. To quote Ethan Millard, "His lips are always firmly attached to the fattest, richest, most Sandy a$$ in the room."

Horiuchi is making a compelling campaign promise, however, as reported in the D-News: "Horiuchi says he anticipates that if he is re-elected this November, it will be his last term."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buttars' illegal-immigrant/lifestyle ancestors give one pause

When one's genealogy duties aren't going well, a temptation may arise to branch out to someone else's family tree. With the help of a professional genealogist pal (thanks, Upton), we've learned lots of interesting things about Sen. Chris Buttars. Not only were some of his ancestors illegal immigrants but, as the genealogist said, "They could have used a domestic partner registry."

Buttars' great-grandfather, David Buttar, was born in Scotland in 1822. He came over in 1854, but never legalized his status. Although he (or someone) told the census taker in 1910 that Mr. Buttar was naturalized, that's not what federal immigration records indicate.

Now, I know what some of you illegal-coddlers will say: "It was hard for polygamists to get naturalized back then, blahblahblah." Tough. If you can't be here legally, you can't be here. It's called the rule of law. And, of course, the polygamy problem went away in 1890. After that, many of Mr. Buttar's Cache County neighbors were naturalized, but we didn't find one for him.

Meanwhile, illegal immigrant Buttar was getting government benefits that should have gone to Americans. For example, he got free land under a homestead act. He was protected by U. S. soldiers when he moved to an area where Native Americans were already living. And he made the government expend resources on prosecuting him by violating the rule of law with his multi-spouse lifestyle choice.

And that's not all. This scofflaw wasn't legally married, either, even before he delved into polygamy. His second wife was never divorced from her first husband, it appears. (Not to mention that she absconded from England with their child without her husband's consent--typical illegal, already committing crimes before even getting here.)

Doesn't it make your blood boil? This man and woman, living together in sin, yet wanting the same benefits as a real marriage? The nerve! The only thing that could have made this worse would have been if Clarkston, Utah, had a domestic partner registry. Illicit relationships like that shouldn't be encouraged.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The real reason Little Romney isn't taking on Jim Matheson?

We know the real reason Josh Romney decided not to run against Jim Matheson: because it would be like running against his own father. For example, we all know that Willard is a big fan of Guantanamo. In fact, the Mittster likes imprisonment without trial so much that he said he would double Guantanamo. (Take that, wimpy liberals!) Well, Matheson's one step ahead--he already voted for the Torture Bill.

Josh must have realized that there wasn't much more he could do to support the cause than Jim Matheson has already done, so what would be the point?