Friday, February 29, 2008

Hey, Mark, can I have one of those Homeland Security summonses, too?

There's an interesting article in the Salt Lake Weekly about a nutcase who defamed Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and others via e-mail. She sounds extremely annoying and, if the allegations are true, let's hope she faces stiff consequences.

But the article also says that Shurtleff's office used Department of Homeland Security summonses -- yes, Homeland Security -- to get information about this woman. According to the article,

Shurtleff’s investigators served 10 U.S. Department of Homeland Security summons on various information networks, including Yahoo! and MSN, along with Weber State University. The summons were issued at the end of 2006 and early 2007 to secure the Internet and scholastic records of Guyon and another student suspect later disregarded.

(Don't worry, Other Unnamed Student. Your Constitutional rights may have been disregarded when your private internet records were obtained, but at least you were, too.)

The summonses state they are “to determine the liability for duties, taxes, fines, penalties or forfeitures and/or to ensure compliance with the laws or regulations administered by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” No reference to stalking or e-mail harassment appears. Summons recipients are instructed not to disclose the existence of the demands. Failure to comply with them, they are warned, will result in "proceedings in a U.S. District Court.”

In addition, one of these U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement summons to Qwest Communications also cited “a matter involving the sexual exploitation of a minor.” Several summons for member information faxed to MSN and Excite Network also referred to “Child sexual exploitation investigation.”

Opponents of Homeland Security rules -- which bypass basic Fourth Amendment rights -- have argued for years that they could be abused by law enforcement using them in cases having nothing to do with Homeland Security. If the article is correct, this sounds like Exhibit A. Meanwhile, though, we keep getting Viagra e-mails in spite of our spam filters. Can we borrow a couple of those Homeland Security summonses?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ralph Becker: Work ethic and bloggers

There's a lot to appreciate about Ralph Becker, starting with the fact that Sen. Chris Buttars is mad about his domestic partner registry.

Another thing we like these days: the mayor's treatment of local bloggers. Becker was very blogger-friendly during his campaign. He maintained a blog, included blogs on his media list, invited bloggers to events, etc. This outreach has continued since his election. Each week, Becker e-mails his public schedule to political bloggers along with traditional media. Thanks, Ralph (and Helen).

Which brings us to our other thumbs up: Becker's public schedule. The guy keeps busy. This week, for example, his calendar reads (in addition to a roundtable he added for tomorrow morning):

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

9:00 a.m. Tour of City Fleet Management Department
10:30 a.m. Meeting with Consul General of Israel
11:30 a.m. Meeting with Scott Kerr of the SLC Marathon
1:30 p.m. Executive Staff Meeting
2:30 p.m. Meeting with Ed Sweeney of KCPW
3:00 p.m. Meeting with South Salt Lake Mayor Gray
4:00 p.m. Interview with Utah CEO Magazine
6:30 p.m. City Council Dinner
7:00 p.m. City Council Meeting

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

9:00 a.m. Meeting with Senior Policy Advisor to the Mayor
9:30 a.m. Meeting with Director of Utah Clean Cities Coalition
10:00 a.m. Tour of City Parks Department
11:030 a.m. Meeting with Guadalupe School
12:00 p.m. Lunch with Mayor’s Community Liaisons
1:45 p.m. Salt Lake Solutions Meeting
5:00 p.m. Meeting with Davis County Council of Governments

Thursday, February 21, 2008

8:00 a.m. Airport Master Plan Briefing
11:30 a.m. HAND Federal Grant Application Review
2:30 p.m. Meeting with Rick Bartman, Principal Judge Memorial H.S.
3:30 p.m. Fisher Mansion Partners Team Meeting
6:00 p.m. Keynote Address to the SLCC Delta Epsilon Chi State Career Development Conference

Friday, February 22, 2008

9:00 a.m. Real Property Issues Meeting
10:00 a.m. Legislative Update
1:00 p.m. Meeting at the University of Utah ’s Middle Eastern Center
2:30 p.m. Planning Objectives Meeting
3:00 p.m. Bond Document Signing
4:00 p.m. City Staff Open Door Hour with the Mayor


Some advice for the mayor: During the legislative update, we find it best to put our hands over our ears and go "la la la la la la la la." It reduces stress.

A lifelong Utah Republican comes out of the closet for Obama

It started innocently enough. While getting into a co-worker's car last December, I had to move something covered in a plastic bag off the passenger seat.

"You might be surprised by what that is," he said.

"Hillary's autobiography?" I quipped. Not for this guy, I figured, a lifelong Republican and two-time Bush supporter.

"Close." As I removed the bag, he said, "It's Barack Obama's book." He was intrigued by Obama's message, he said, so he figured he'd read it...

Yesterday, while discussing the election, he said, "This is the most exciting race that I can remember." Then he added happily, "and I think I'm going to vote for Obama."

His perspective was enlightening. No, Obama doesn't have a lot of experience, he conceded, but that is not his number one concern. Divisiveness is. George Bush made no effort to be inclusive, he said disgustedly. "I don't know if anyone can bring this country back together, but someone has to try."

As I write this, I have just finished reading a Washington Post column postulating that Obama is doomed in red states like Utah. Maybe, maybe not.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Personally debunking hypnotism

I've always wondered about hypnotism, but had never seen it in action before. Last week, I learned unequivocally that it's a bunch of hooey.

While out of town on business, some co-workers and I attended a function at which a professional hypnotist had been hired to perform. Ever wonder how a hypnotist gets people to act like they're hypnotized? Easy--by only inviting people on stage who think they're susceptible to it. "Close your eyes," the guy commanded us, "and clasp your hands together. Tighter...tighter...You cannot pry them apart." Those who believed they could not unclasp their hands were told to stand up and their hands would come free. When a dozen people stood up, the hypnotist said, "Everyone standing, come up on stage!" They thought they'd already been hypnotized from long distance; they were ready to swallow anything.

The unequivocal evidence? A woman was asked to draw something from her home with sentimental value. She drew something, tore off the sheet of paper, and folded it. The hypnotist told her to concentrate on this item . . . concentrate . . . concentrate . . . while he read her mind. Suddenly, he started drawing.

He instructed her to unfold her sketch and show the audience. "It's my dog," she said--except that it wasn't. She was a lousy artist. "It's a cat!" we all yelled up at her. It had the pointy ears and whiskers and everything. The hypnotist then showed us his own sketch -- a perfectly drawn cat. Of course, had he really read her mind, he would have seen a dog. By drawing a cat, he proved that he was just re-tracing her sketch. BUSTED!

Ralph Nader runs (and America yawns)

This guy needs to get over himself.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Buttars puzzle (literally)

We're trying something new, a homemade puzzle to test your knowledge of our own Sen. Chris Buttars. Can you solve it? Go to the link, make sure it's maximized, click on the puzzle to activate it, and see how you do. (You can also ask for hints or just hit the Solve button.)

Meanwhile, our daily Appalling Buttars Fact is a letter on official letterhead lambasting a 4th District Court Judge for ruling against a friend of the senator. If that doesn't warrant censure by the Senate, what the heck will it take?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some help for Buttars' next apology

Although Sen. Chris Buttars (R-Pluto) is slowly working his way through racially charged phrases on his own (Brown v. Board of Education "wrong to begin with," "black baby," "lynch mob"), there are still several more that he can use the next time he wants to insult some legislation or express outrage at how he is being oppressed.

Here is a helpful list of ethnic slurs for your use, Senator. You probably don't need it, but in case you don't want to be repetitive, you can use it as a checklist.

Marathon dream: Mission accomplished!

Last March, I announced my goal of running a marathon. Well, after a year of sporadic training, bum knee, strained achilles, and bad attitude, I finally did it!

I now have a nice shiny medal to prove that even an out-of-condition, not-spring-chicken blogger can run 26.2 miles ("run" loosely defined). And I beat my goal by 12 minutes. Of course, my goal was just to finish within the same geologic era, but still.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Barack 'Hussein' Obama? Come on, Utah bloggers

I usually enjoy reading the blogs on the right side of the Bloghive aisle, even when I don't agree with them. Perhaps like the mother of the proverbial ugly baby -- I said ugly baby -- I like to feel that Utah's political blogpool is especially sophisticated and literate. Lately, however, a few of our blogger brethren can't seem to resist the silly Rush Limbaughian tactic of using Barack Obama's middle name (Hussein!!!!!!!!!!!!) as a form of pseudo-condemnation.

There have been others, but today I'm talking to you, Reach Upward. I was interested in your argument about why mandated health care is counterintuitive, but I couldn't get past the head shaking when you led off with Barack Hussein (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Obama. It's hard to read text when your eyes are rolling. "OMG!! Like, can you believe that guy's middle name?!!!! I mean, like, he's totally a terrorist or something!"

This middle name silliness just makes people like me want to vote for Obama even more. Hmm . . . nevermind. Keep doing it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The D-News and Doug Wright turn up the heat on Buttars

In case anyone missed it, this morning's D-News has a blunt editorial suggesting that Senator Chris Buttars -- "Nutter Buttars" -- should not run for re-election, based on his long history of hurtful and inappropriate remarks. Columnist Bob Bernick has a similar column, as did the Trib yesterday.

This morning, popular KSL talk show host Doug Wright said he agrees with those editorials. Wright said that, every time he hears Buttars' name associated with something, he is immediately "leery." He wonders how divisive it is will be, and how much of the 45-day session will be wasted on it.

Even people on his own side of the aisle see that Buttars is a bad guy. Do the right thing, Nutter, and go serve a mission somewhere. We just have one request: When you make the next inevitable racist or homophobic comment, please don't tell them you're from Utah.

'New screening process' at SLC airport? Yeah, right

KSL has an optimistic story tonight about a new screening process that is supposed to make the security process at the Salt Lake City airport less horrible. Having experienced the "new process" this very morning, I'll offer a few observations:

1) 100% of the people went to the shortest line. Granted, it was hard to see the signs, considering that the line extended halfway back to the parking garage. Silly me, thinking that checking in and getting into the security line a whole hour before my flight might avoid having to run at full speed for the gate just as it closed.

2) "Experienced," "families," and "traveling light" categories don't mean much if the luggage examiner is too busy chatting to actually examine the luggage. As we mere passengers stood there watching other lines flow by, our guy apparently had some interesting story to tell, as one coworker after another came over to hear the juicy tale. Heck, if you're going to hold up an entire line to bond with your buddies, you could at least share the story with the people you're inconveniencing. Since you didn't, I decided to guess what it might be, based on all available information. Unfortunately, my guess was obscenity laden and cannot be reprinted here. Suffice it to say that it involved a long-buried family secret and a surprised bride.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

To the guy who hit the cat, and the owner of the cat

To the guy in the SUV who hit a cat on 700 East tonight: I hope people show more compassion to you than you did to this poor creature. You couldn't be bothered to stop? And please don't say you were in a hurry. I was on my way home after three 18-hour days out of state, but I took the time to do your job for you.

To the owner of the cat: I thought you would want to know what happened to your pet, so I took your beautiful long-haired gray cat to a veterinarian's office. He had no microchip, no collar, and no tag. I think chips are about $15. If he had one, you wouldn't wonder why he didn't come home.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Another dog shot to death - Sen. Allen Christensen shrugs

This post is a little harsher than most, but this Henry's Law travesty really has our blood boiling. KSL is reporting that, for the second time in two days, someone's dog has been shot to death. Our GOP legislators don't care, of course. Under SB117, this act wouldn't qualify as a felony, unless the nutjob happened to have been convicted of another animal cruelty offense in the past five years.

The Amicus has an important post about this offensive bill -- which actually lowers protections from existing law -- and what we should do. Helpushelpthem.org also has updates.

Maybe the bill's sponsor, Allen Christensen (R-Ogden), should read his own website. It says: "The Utah Legislature needs level-headed, honest, compassionate leaders who listen to the people they represents [sic]." Most Utahns want meaningful consequences when some sicko puts his girlfriend's dog in an oven, or stabs a neighbor's pet through a fence, or shoots a puppy in its own yard.

Christensen, by the way, is a pediatric dentist. If he really thinks that animal torture is no big deal, please keep him away from our children -- and our pets.

Friday, February 08, 2008

To the rescued: please don't say it was because you prayed

We were thrilled when Kearns couple Tamitha and Tom Garner were found alive, and are enthralled by their resourcefulness and determination. But we feel impelled to comment on one of Mr. Garner's quotes:

"I would definitely say that this has made me a believer in prayer,” said Thomas. “To whomever you pray to. But if you do, and you do it diligently and with sincerity; your prayers will be answered.”
Most people who fear they are going to die would be praying up a storm. So would their families. And that's our concern. When someone says, "if you pray diligently and with sincerity, your prayers will be answered," what does that imply about all the people whose prayers were not answered? Does that mean that Camille Cleverley's family just weren't diligent or sincere enough when they prayed that she would be found alive? Is the same true for Garrett Bardsley and his family? Destiny Norton's family? Samantha Mikewell's?

Of course that isn't what Mr. Garner means. He and his wife seem like nice people. But every time we hear someone say that they were found or rescued because they or their family prayed hard enough or sincerely enough (unlike the others), we cringe a little.

Does anybody like Greg Curtis (besides Dave Checketts)?

House Speaker Greg Curtis's name was taken in vain at a recent right-wing roundtable (would that be wingding?) at the Sutherland Institute, according to this article in Wednesday's Daily Herald:

"There's a huge disconnect between conservative principles and conservative politics," said Enid Greene Mickelsen, a former U.S. congresswoman and former Utah Republican Party chairwoman. Then she got specific: "Greg Curtis is not conservative," she said of Utah's Speaker of the House.
. . .
The soccer stadium deal in Sandy, Curtis's stomping ground, was a favorite target. Local governments didn't want to subsidize the project, but then the state's "conservative" government stepped in and handed over $35 million.

"They weren't breaking even and the taxpayers helped them get over the hump," said Sutherland president Paul Mero, who added that conservative leaders were wearing team jerseys at the news conference and were proud of it.
And what will you actually do about it? Zip. But hey, at least the Sutherland Institute is finding things to occupy itself these days. Those daily pro-voucher studies were a blogger's best friend.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hallelujah! A happy ending for once

I can't tell you how happy it made us to hear this about missing Kearns couple Tamitha and Tom Garner.

Congrats to Barack backers in Utah . . .

. . . for a well-run campaign and backing a quality candidate. To borrow a golf term, Barack's and Hillary's demographics across the Super Tuesday states reinforces our view that a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would pretty much be a "gimme" in the November election.

This morning, Obama was asked whether he was concerned about the fact that the Democrats will be in a protacted battle for the nomination when the Republicans have essentially picked theirs already. No, he said. It might be a concern "if Senator's Clinton's supporters didn't like me, or my supporters didn't like her." But come November, he said, Democrats are going to support the Democratic nominee, whoever it is. It was a nice outreach and, we hope, a true statement.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The D-News spin on Romney (a real headline)

McCain and Huckabee have claimed nearly every state so far, but this is the big news to the D-News:

Buttars, butt out

Utah Senator Chris Buttars (R-Pluto) is once again proving why we can't trust most of our state legislators. During the anti-gay Amendment 3 campaign a few years ago, the Amendment's pushers kept assuring voters that it would not prevent gay couples from receiving partnership benefits, the ability to visit a partner in the hospital, etc. That mattered to some. A close friend of mine, for example, voted for Amendment 3 because he did not want gay men: (1) adopting children, or (2) getting married. "I think they should get benefits and all that," he said. "That's not affected by this Amendment."

That was then. Some of us said Amendment backers were lying about their real aims at the time, and now Chris Buttars has proved us right. We all know that Buttars is obsessed with homosexuality. But now he says that Salt Lake City's new registry is contrary to the "spirit" of Amendment 3. Not the wording, mind you; just the undisclosed -- misrepresented -- intent of backers.

It's none of the legislature's business what Salt Lake City chooses to do for its residents. If this bill passes, we had better not hear one word from this legislature about the federal government imposing its will on the state. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Edwards, Giuliani doing surprisingly well in CNN results



(They did this several times, then hurriedly changed the names between updates.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

SLC ad execs - too easy on the Superbowl ads

Great game, lousy ads. Let's face it; other than Fed Ex's giant pigeons and Budweiser's Clydesdale-in-training, were there any other Superbowl ads that you actually look forward to watching again? Yeah, Salt Lake ad execs who reviewed the ads liked a lot of them, but their criteria are different. I suppose Tide's talking stain ad is memorable, but it's not particularly likeable.

On USAToday.com, you can see the best Superbowl ads from the past 20 years, and a rate-o-meter of how people of different ages, genders, and incomes rated this year's ads as they aired. Compared to prior years, these ads seemed uninspired. Fortunately, Eli Manning was not. The last five minutes of that game--now that I'd like to see again.