Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Racial profiling by Utah Highway Patrol? Maybe, but...

From a hospital bed (in true blogger spirit), VOU2 pointed out a story about Sherida Felders alleging racial profiling when a Utah Highway Patrol officer not only ticketed her for speeding, but had her get out of the car, asked her about drugs, made her wait for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive, and took a screwdriver to parts of her car, all for naught.

Was she profiled? Probably. Was it racial? Hard to say. We suspect it may have been a DUM stop - Driving while Unlike Me. One of us has a relative who supplements his regular income by transporting cars cross country. He is white, but has a pony tail. Not surprisingly for someone who drives 50,000+ miles a year, he sometimes gets stopped for speeding.

More often than not, he gets the same treatment as Ms. Felders: First, he is asked about drugs. Then he is asked for permission to search the car. Because these are other people's cars with unknown histories, he was advised by an attorney years ago not to consent to searches. Sometimes the cops, knowing they have nothing other than "pony-tail probable cause," begrudgingly let him go. Sometimes they make him wait for a drug dog. One time he was handcuffed and locked in the back of a cop car for hours while they waited. Nothing has ever been found.

He's not African American, but is he being profiled? Oh, yeah. One of us has been pulled over for speeding a few times, including the same drug alley where Ms. Felders was stopped, and has been sent off with nary a question about drugs or having to wait for Scooby Doober. Imagine that . . . .

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zions, please kill the Boozer ad

How does it go? "Something, something, determination, something. Zions - We haven't forgotten who keeps us in business." Who? 'cause it ain't Carlos Boozer.

News flash: Carlos is going to have surgery and sit on his behind a few more months. What a shock. I admit it; I hopped on the "dump Boozer" wagon a while back. I listened to my brother call him "Wusser," "[----]er," "Loozer," and "that lazy --------------." I learned that Paul "double double" Millsap was the lowest-paid player on the team. I answered the phone when my mother called mid-game to say, "The Jazz shouldn't let Carlos do color commentary. He doesn't even pretend that he wants to play."

I heard the jokes about the Zions Bank commercial: "They used still photos because Boozer couldn't make it all the way through a layup." "Slow mo? That's live action." "They couldn't show the whole film; Boozer signed with Wells Fargo before they were done making it." Etc.

I have struggled with the Jazz-ticket concept for years. Each year (except for a Brokeback Mountain boycott), I signed up for shared tickets, but would feel a twinge as I walked past a homeless individual or realized what the Humane Society or the Red Cross could do with the ridiculous sums of money I was forking over. Unfortunately, I love the Jazz. I tape games. I rewatch close ones (when we win). I time my jogging so I can do it while watching a game or listening to Hot Rod. I went to Sloan's first game while recovering from surgery.

But I am sick of the "Oh, I stubbed my toe, I'd better sit out for six weeks" vibe we get from even our own players now. As someone who watched John Stockton and Karl Malone play through dislocations and everything else, I have a hard time when Andre Kirilenko rides the pine because of a sprained finger tip. It's the same trainer that Karl and John had -- what could be the difference? You say advice from agents; I say wussiness.

What does this have to do with Utah politics? OK, nothing. But I feel better.

Does this mean Oprah won't like my new heartwarming memoir?

I am hoping that the revelation that Oprah has been fooled multiple times by really cool books that turn out to be really bogus won't cause her to pass up other classic stories waiting to be told. For example, I have just finished my memoirs, revealing for the first time the true story of how I met my true love during a true weekend moon mission many years ago.

An excerpt:
Our eyes met. "Glurp," it said. I looked around, to be sure that no one would see us.

Of course, I could not speak its language, but I had to try. "Do you want some soup?" I gestured with my hands. "I have some Campbell Extra Chunky Vegetarian."
Yeah, I hear those NASA whiners. "There has never been a private lunar launch from Utah, nor could there be, because [scientific mumbo jumbo deleted]." "It is physically, geometrically, logistically, and scientifically impossible to get to the moon and back in one weekend, even if there is a holiday in there." "This seems nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to procure sponsorship of a major soup manufacturer," blah blah.

First of all, who made NASA the know-all of space travel? Jealous much? Second, I resent the implication that I am just trying to make money off an important subject like space travel. However, this is not the final draft, and my memory is starting to become clearer, Campbell. As I think more about it, it may have been a Pepsi . . .

The Matheson - Salt Lake Weekly feud makes Politico

Checking out Politico this morning, I see that they've picked up on Rep. Jim Matheson (R-Utah)'s 3-year boycott of the Salt Lake City Weekly. Having read the original Holly Mullen column and the comments -- whew, some bitter feelings there -- I have a few thoughts:

It seems silly for a Congressman to boycott an entire newspaper (and yes, I do consider the Weekly legitimate media) for three years for something that occurred before the new editor. But then I've been known to try previously disappointing businesses again when I see an "Under New Management" sign.

Mullen should have gone into more detail about what originally sparked the boycott. Midway through the comments, she provided a link to what she says is the tsk tsk article, but since the whole column was accusing Matheson of overreacting, she should have explored the cause of the alleged overreaction more.

Finally, Hey, Matheson, vote for any torture-indefinite-confinement bills lately?

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Ashley Sparks murder - both sides of the story

Two women were murdered in Salt Lake and Davis counties in the past few days. One was white, the other of Latin heritage. It didn't take long for a few of the nutties to declare Ashley Sparks' death a tragedy, and Noemi Rodriguez's death basically what she gets for having a boyfriend who was undoubtedly Mexican and (therefore) illegal.

It's not the fact that people make assumptions that amazes us (we all do that); it's that their assumptions are so blatantly racist. Neither woman deserved what happened to her, and we hope the perpetrators are caught and severely punished. But how about making assumptions based on something other than whether a victim is wearing a cute Santa hat in her photo?

From a reliable source, we know that a few months ago, Sparks and two others stole a car and went to a county rec facility. Pretending to be a patron, Sparks went into the locker room, where a group of senior women in a swimming class had changed clothes. Sparks changed clothes, but instead of working out, she instead went through all the purses and bags that she could find. Finding a set of electronic car keys, Sparks walked out with them, located the car via the flashing lights, and she and her companions stole the car. Sparks then changed clothes again and went to a bank, where she attempted to cash an $800 check on the senior's account. Fortunately, the victim had already called the bank, and Sparks was arrested. She also had drugs on her.

This wasn't Sparks' first rodeo. What happened to her was horrible, but please, KSL.commenters, no more "From her picture, she seems so innocent" comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Utah vegetarians, beware the "egg-free" flu shot

Recently, a full-page ad in the Tribune offered free no-egg flu shots to Utahns as part of a test program. To a vegetarian, it sounded great. Presently, flu shots are grown in fertilized eggs, which is incompatible with some Utahns' personal beliefs. If you are one of those vegetarians, just an fyi: The free shot does not contain egg, but it does contain monkey cells. Hmm...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The latest failed adoption in Utah

It seems as though every month we read about some adoption that has gone awry. The latest is a couple who has to return a 6-month-old child to his Native American tribe.

I'm sure the prospective parents are distraught, but I would be surprised if this result was really a surprise. There is a relatively clear, 30-year-old federal law: You have to have consent of the tribe to adopt a Native American child. This issue is usually not a close call, unlike, for example, the more complicated issue of whether an out-of-state biological father has met the statutory requirements for challenging an adoption.

While many adoption-related problems are created by adoption agencies who cut corners, lazy lawyers, and Johnny-come-lately biological fathers, some adoptive parents are also willing to subject a child to months or even years of fighting when they know they are likely to lose. (I'm not saying that these parents fall within that category; I have no idea what they were told or when.) Perhaps it is making lemonade out of a lemon, but at least this dispute was resolved in a matter of months, rather than years.

Note: Once again, the "law is the law" contingent on are demonstrating that they don't really mean it. Yeah, it's a clear federal law. Yeah, it's been on the books since 1978. So what? We don't like this law; ergo, it need not be enforced.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Utah political humor: the Constitutional Convention's greatest hits

For anyone who likes political humor, you can't beat Utah's own state constitutional framers. Thanks to Ric Cantrell, who pointed us to the online 1895 Constitutional Convention proceedings, I spent some time this evening enjoying clever and passionate dialogue about pressing issues of the day. Tonight, I want to share some of the funniest bits.

* * * * * *

First, they addressed procedural issues, such as beginning each session with roll call and prayer:

Mr. VARIAN. Don't you mean “prayer and roll call?” Transpose that.

Mr. WHITNEY. No; I think the roll call should be first, because until the roll call, we do not know whether there is a quorum present.

Mr. VARIAN. The minority needs the prayer as much as the quorum.

Mr. CANNON. I would suggest that the prayer usually comes first.

Mr. WHITNEY. My impression is, the roll call should come first.

Mr. EVANS (Weber). Suppose we should have divine exercises and after that the roll were called and there was found not to be a quorum present, the question would be, would the prayer avail anything? [Laughter.]

* * * * * * *

More shenanigans ensued as they discussed the proposed state militia, defined as male citizens aged 18-45:

Mr. MACKINTOSH. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike out the word “male” in the section. [Laughter.]

Mr. CHIDESTER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the gentleman a question, who makes that motion? I want to ask if you belong to the militia?

Mr. MACKINTOSH. Now? Oh, no. I am exempt by the color of my hair.

Mr. CHIDESTER. I am going to say that if he did, for the purpose of improving the militia, I would support his motion. [Laughter.]

* * * * * *

While most participants favored giving women the right to vote, Brigham H. Roberts was a staunch and persistent opponent. In truth, most of his humor appeared to be inadvertent, but this one was intentional:

Mr. ROBERTS. . . . I hold to the doctrine that each man who is married, in the exercise of his privilege of suffrage, is the representative in that act, not only of himself, but of the little group with which he is connected. He acts for his family, and gentlemen must not be carried away with the idea that they act independently of the influence of the wife in that case either. It may suit the fancy of man, it may be accorded by the shrewdness of woman to let him think that that is the case, but as a matter of fact, it is not the case. I think before I get through I shall be able to show you that women already have an influence in politics, and though indirect, it is none the less real, and that when a man who is married casts his vote, it is the expression of the mentality of the group with whom he is connected. The hobo and the bachelor may each for himself cast his ballot with no other consideration than how it affects him; but, gentlemen, the man who is a head of the family does not do it and he cannot do it, because there stands by his side a counsellor and he cannot escape hearing her. [Laughter.]

* * * * * *

So was this witty rebuttal to Roberts' lengthy oratory against suffrage:

Mr. WHITNEY. . . . While he was speaking my mind scanned the pages of history in quest of some hero with whom to compare him. I thought of Horatius at the Roman bridge, standing single-handed and alone, beating back the Tuscan legions advancing to attack the Eternal City; and I fain would have compared my friend to that hero of antiquity. But I could not; because Horatius was fighting for freedom, and in my opinion my eloquent but mistaken friend was fighting against it. [Applause].

I went back farther into the past. I thought of Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans, defending the pass of Thermopylae against the overwhelming hordes of Persians, sweeping down like an avalanche upon his native land. I wanted to compare him to that hero_one of the noblest in history_but again I was met by the reflection that Leonidas fought and fell in a battle for liberty, and I was convinced that my friend from Davis County was taking part in no such engagement. [Applause.]

Then I remembered a little anecdote, one that is doubtless trite and common-place to you all. A bull was feeding in a pasture through which a railway track extended, along which an express train was advancing at lightning speed. The bull got upon the track and tried to prevent the train from passing. He did not seem to know what was coming, and “preferring his free thought to a throne” [laughter], planted himself squarely in the way of the invincible power that came rushing and roaring on. The bull, I say, did not seem to know what was coming, but the farmer, his owner, did [laughter], and with a gasp of astonishment, mingled with admiration he exclaimed: “Well I admire your courage, but d--n your judgment.” [Laughter and applause.]

But I did not like to compare my friend to a dumb animal; he had given convincing proof that he was not dumb; and though there was once an animal that spake [laughter], the property of one Balaam [renewed laughter], it spake by inspiration from on high, so that I could not compare it to the gentleman from Davis County. [Laughter and applause.]

* * * * * *

And this one was just funny:

Mr. GOODWIN. May I ask the gentleman a question? If your amendment passes, suppose an emergency should arise in the Territory that the farmers throughout the Territory would need fifty thousand dollars to buy seed, wheat, and food, to carry them over until another harvest, how could they get the money if your amendment passes?

Mr. HALLIDAY. Get it out of the Tithing Office. [Laughter.]

Why do fire trucks show up when there's no fire?

The other day I was driving down 500 South when I saw a large fire truck and an ambulance at the corner of 300 West. I wondered if the Alberto's was on fire, but as I approached the red light, I saw that they were attending to a guy lying on the ground. I don't know if he was the victim of Car v. Pedestrian, heart attack, .28 BAC, or what.

I wondered why a full-blown fire truck had been summoned, and later mentioned it to an acquaintance, who said that one time years ago, she had passed out at a bus stop in the downtown area due to a temporary medical condition. A huge fire truck along with multiple ambulances had arrived on the scene then, too. "I think they just have to show X number of runs to justify their budget," she speculated.

This morning's D-News mentioned that South Salt Lake is considering buying its own ambulances, rather than contracting with Gold Cross. The fire truck question arose again when I read: "Councilman John Weaver has said that having both paramedics and firefighters responding to emergency scenes will mean that all personnel are trained in both jobs."

Does he mean all emergency scenes? Do they not have adequate equipment in other vehicles for a guy lying on the ground? If it's a good use of taxpayer money, that's fine; inquiring minds just want to know.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This Layton guy gets the Best Mugshot Award

This pizza parlor proprietor from Layton is a tax cheat who was just sentenced to 90 days in jail and restitution. But doesn't he look like a nice guy?

Utah's economy: It's Rep. Carol Spackman Moss's fault for not going to China

A year and a half ago, Utah House majority leader Dave Clark (R-Santa Clara) told Utahns it was essential to Utah's economy that he and 13 other legislator-types spend taxpayer money gallivanting around China. His argument was so persuasive that we lambasted Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-SLC) for deciding not to go just because she couldn't think of a legitimate reason to go:

Now we are really ticked at ex-teacher Carol Spackman Moss, who decided that the whole thing was a bunch of hooey and that she could not in good conscience go. "If I couldn't justify it to myself or my friends, then it wasn't worth it," Moss said in the Tribune article. Not everything is about you and your conscience, Rep. Moss. If Utah's economy goes straight to the toilet, we'll be pointing a finger at you and that empty seat on the China Fun Bus.

We warned you, Moss. If you had just done your boondoggling duty, we wouldn't be in this mess. That must be the reason why all that China business isn't flowing in yet. Otherwise, one might think those "It'll bring business to Utah" claims in '07 were indeed a pile of hooey.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Utah's schizophrenic legislative openness (& a request to Ric Cantrell)

In some ways, public access to our state legislative process is remarkable. In just the past few years, we have been able to follow our legislature much more closely. Utahns have gone from "What are the SOBs doing?" to "What are those SOBs doing?!"

The state website has searchable bills, agendas, audio of public hearings and now, as of yesterday, house bills from 1896. It is a legislature/history geek's heaven. (One request to Ric Cantrell, whose (in)famous Senate Site provides more information from GOP senators' perspective, but who we hope is all-powerful: Any chance you can get them to post the 2-volume proceedings of the 1895 Constitutional Convention online? If you can, we pledge to forego "Chris Buttars is _______" posts for an entire week.)

After all that, though, the most important legislative work -- the one in which the real legislating occurs -- remains totally secret: GOP caucus meetings. Come on, guys; you were doing so well! You don't like it when courts don't follow your intent, but you don't tell them what your real intent is. Come on, now, open up . . .

Blackwater guards: Utahns won't mind a little babykilling

I find it interesting that five Blackwater guards accused of improperly killing 17 Iraqi civilians have surrendered in Utah in the hope of being tried here. The Department of Justice can't complaint about forum shopping - it did the same thing a few years ago, choosing Utah as its favorite porn-prosecution venue. Are Utahns really that predictable? What am I saying? Of course we are (although apparently someone yelled "babykiller" at the guards as they surrendered; hence the subject line).

These Blackwater guards may not get their wish, but judging by initial comments on the D-News story, it's worth a try. The same people who usually assume that all charges brought against anyone must be true are taking the opposite approach here: Aw, shucks, the shooters were just doing their jobs, and these charges are just "Monday morning quarterbacking." (Yes, someone actually compared alleged civilian massacre to a sporting event.)

Wherever held, this will be an interesting trial. Unlike people we have imprisoned at Guantanamo, these men will actually have a right to defend themselves in a court of law. Of course, there is a difference: Those guys at Guantanamo are all guilty. They must be, right? Because our government says they are. Or is that just a bit of Monday-morning quarterbacking?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sen. Buttars, please do something about the LDS Family History Library

Yesterday, patrons of the LDS Family History Library were slapped in the face repeatedly as the Church repeatedly refused to recognize Christmas as the only legitimate Decemberish holiday. "It totally ruined genealogy for me," said Voice of Utah 2. "I could barely force myself to eat the free cookies and cocoa up on the third floor."

Every hour at the :45, a non-Christian-loving announcer came on with her indoctrinating voice and said, "As part of our holiday celebration, the Library will hold a class at 2 p.m. on Tongan holiday traditions," or Mexican "holiday" traditions, or English "holiday" traditions.

Patrons were enraged. "I've lost him after the 1820 census but I know he didn't die until 1834," declared one genealogist in response to the barrage of anti-Christian announcements.

"Have you tried tax lists?" another agreed.

Clearly, something must be done. Sen. Buttars, there is time to rewrite your nationally renowned resolution telling business owners to quit ruining the Christmas holiday by using the word holiday. Could you please include the Church in that?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sen. John Valentine: I didn't want a position, I just had a temper tantrum

I used to think that Sen. John Valentine (R-Utah County) was one of the better ones, and that I might actually support him if I ever lived in his district (in other words, if he ran for statewide office). But then he completely sold out on the Hilder / Court of Appeals issue. As a lawyer, he knew that Hilder was qualified for the position, but he still joined 15 torch-carrying colleagues in voting No. This morning, four senators have a totally persuasive letter in the Trib insisting that no one -- naught one, I tell you! -- voted against Hilder in exchange for committee positions.

That's right. According to Sen. Lyle Hillyard, Valentine actually voted against Hilder because Valentine was in a snit, or, as my mother would have said, having a maddy. In a recent Senate Site post, Hillyard said that Valentine was going to vote for Hilder, but then Hilder went and ticked him off.

So Valentine would have voted for the qualified guy, except that he was insulted? That's the best he can come up with? "I didn't do it for power, I was just pouting." That's even worse than saying he did it to curry favor with the gun nuts. It reminds me of something a lawyer friend once said: "If the best your client can argue is 'I didn't do it intentionally, I was just stupid,' you've got problems."

Nutter Buttars: "Happy Hanukkah" or else

A few years ago, while chatting with an acquaintance, I asked if her company had a Sub-for-Santa program. Yes, she said, but "We call it something else. Two of our partners are Jewish." Oh, yeah. There is more than one religion in Utah. I forget sometimes.

So does Sen. Chris Buttars (R-Outer Space), who feels it is a worthy use of taxpayer time and money to have the State of Utah tell private retailers how to word their ads. (Forget about Church and State, how about separation of Private Business and State?) "I'm sick of this "Merry Christmas" stuff," Buttars said. "Not everyone is Christian. I insist that retailers say 'Happy Hanukkah,' at least every fifth time or so, or face the wrath of the Legislature. Also, I don't like '2-for-1.' Retailers should say 'half-off.' In fact, just fax me your proposed ad copy."

I may be confused about the details, but as a non-Jew, I just don't see why I should be forced to run ads that say "Happy Hanukkah." Where's the respect for my faith?

More fundamentally, don't our state legislators have better things to do than doofy message bills? Oh, wait--I forgot who we were talking about.