Sunday, August 22, 2010

The 'Mormon Mosque' flap wasn't just in 1903

This morning's Tribune has a piece about how fear-driven religious prejudice of the short aimed at Muslims these days was also aimed at Mormons back in 1903.

While the article is interesting, if it implies that LDS Temples haven't been subjected to protests since then, it's behind the times. Ask anyone associated with the building of new Temples for the Church - many, if not most, are protested. I remember hearing of one a few years back that eventually had to be relocated, local resistance was so strong.

Any Utah Mormons inclined to be prejudiced toward New York Muslims (or Tennessee Muslims, etc.) should spend some time out of state first. It's not just in the South that Mormons are viewed are still viewed with distrust by a significant portion of the public. Thank goodness for America's long history of religious tolerance, which makes this whole 2-Blocks-From-Ground-Zero-Mosque flap a sad day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The "gender bias" Utah legal profession survey

We read yesterday's article in the Tribune titled Gender bias taints Utah legal profession, which gave us a chance to raise a few questions. Months ago, while the blog was on hiatus, one of us received an e-mail that included the questions from this survey, which seem a bit . . . problematic.

We know someone who started to fill out the survey, but discovered to her dismay that the "anonymous" survey requested enough information that it would not have been difficult to identify her. Years out, position in firm, number of attorneys in firm -- when you're talking female attorneys in a state with relatively few firms, that pretty much narrows it down.

The survey also asked questions that were literally impossible for her to answer. Are you satisifed with the nature of your "assignments," it asked. Assignments? At her firm at least, partners' work is self-generated and/or voluntarily accepted; the question could only be appropriate for a junior attorney.

The survey was further weighted because -- for reasons not identified in the article -- it was limited to attorneys who have been out 25 years or less. Often, with seniority comes power and autonomy, and we suspect that answers would have reflected that. How recent were the anecdotes about discrimination? This particular attorney has some lulus from early in her career, but nothing recent. Times (may) have changed.

We'll reserve judgment until we see the final report, if it ends upposted somewhere. To be continued...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Where's Utah's money from the China 14 "trade" trip?

Quickpost today: It's been three years now since Utah tax dollars sent some 14 legislators and staff on a controversial vacation trade trip to China, including some legislators who had already announced their retirement (Mike Dmitri, Dan Eastman), and Sen. Howard "Utah Taxpayers-For-My-China-Trip Association" Stephenson.

This trip was essential for our economy, House leader David Clark assured taxpayers. It would generate contracts, trade deals, etc. We hope it panned out. Did it? We've wondered. How about a list of those contracts we've scored, Sen. Bramble?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"Highlights" of Sen. Hatch's Town Hall Meeting last night

Many moons ago, my mother called me while watching the Iran-Contra hearings on TV. "You should see this," she reported. "Hatch is sounding reasonable." At times last night, I could have returned the call. At others, not so much.

Hatch continued to appeal -- try to, anyway -- to the Tea Party /Convention crowd, filling long answers with lots of commiseration about how "they" have ruined everything, "they" are in cahoots with mainsteam media ("Thank goodness for Fox News"), "they" are would-be socialists, etc. Rather patent pandering, I thought.

But I have to give him credit: He didn't kowtow on everything. He defended his TARP vote. He defended the DREAM Act and didn't use the term "illegals," as many questioners did (he said "persons who are here illegally as undocumented workers"). He suggested that reaching across the aisle can be appropriate. He praised adversaries before stating that he simply disagrees with them. He expressed regret that Bob Bennett is out.

In short, except for one yelling match that seemed a bit staged (but effective), he was civil. When the rather rabid crowd attempted to drown out a Democrat's question about health care, he pointed out that she has a right to express her views. He didn't point out the inconsistencies of demanding no more "charity" spending while simultaneously requesting better benefits under Medicare, more spending on Utah projects, etc.

Several questioners thanked Hatch for his service, but said it's time for him to go. And perhaps he sealed his fate when he disagreed with the owner of a transportation company who demanded dramatically that President Obama be impeached (to much hooting and hollering from the 'out-there' crowd). Then again, he did win some attendees over, and voters have short memories. Either way, it's great theater.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Utah conservatives, repeal the car dealer blue law

Yesterday, as I drove past a car dealership, I saw a couple of prospective buyers navigate the barrier to check out a car. Of course, they couldn't buy the car, thanks to our all-wise legislature.

We are often told by the conservative wing of our legislature that the government should not unduly interfere with private business, let the market decide, etc. I will never believe this is a sincere view unless our legislature repeals the un-conservative law it passed several years ago barring car dealerships from being open on Sunday. Oh, technically the dealership must be closed on Saturday or Sunday, but realistically, which one are 99.9% of dealers going to choose? The statute (Utah Code sect. 41-3-210) reads:
(11) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (11)(c) [trade shows], or in cases of undue hardship or emergency as provided by rule by the division, a dealer or salesperson licensed under this chapter may not, on consecutive days of Saturday and Sunday, sell, offer for sale, lease, or offer for lease a motor vehicle.
That's right; you can't even offer to sell a car - so much for that free speech thing. At the time, I asked a senator what in the world was going on, and received the candid response that the legislator pushing the law - a Democrat, if I recall - had done so as a favor to Larry H. Miller. Good grief.

That was then, this is now. Car dealers should be able to decide for themselves whether to be open 7 days a week. What's next - movie theaters can't show movies on consecutive Saturday-Sundays? Realtors can't show houses on Saturday and Sunday?

This is a bad law. Conservative up, Legislature, and get rid of it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

UHP's illegal-fireworks checks shows how Arizona's law could allow racial profiling

KSL had a rather illuminating story yesterday on how our tax dollars are spent busting Utahns who bring illegal fireworks back from that fireworks-coddling Wyoming. Perhaps most enlightening was the way that the UHP cop blithely seemed to admit making pretext stops in order to check for fireworks.

"Between the 4th and the 24th of July you could almost patrol the entire month and you're going to find something," the trooper was quoted.

According to the ride-along reporter, his first stop was for "a tailgating infraction." Seriously? The next stop was "suspected drowsy driving." (Apparently he wasn't driving poorly enough to suspect drunk driving.) No fireworks found, darn it. Finally, the trooper lucked out with a speeder who, for reasons unknown, fessed up information about his fireworks stash that he had no obligation to volunteer.

This is what I believe opponents of Arizona's new immigration law fear. Under the law (which I have read, including the House amendment), there does have to be an initial unrelated stop, but it can be for anything, including infractions and violation of local ordinances. As we can see from these fireworks busters, that leaves a lot of room for "unrelated" stops.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Can Utah's leaders bring back civility?

It's been discouraging to see political "dialogue" become so divisive and, yes, even hateful on both sides. I always believe that pendulums swing back, but I was wondering what it would take to bring back basic civility.

I see things happening in Utah:

Gov. Herbert has announced that he wants a meeting on immigration in which participants speak in a "respectful" fashion.

Doug Wright on KSL is polite to callers with whom he disagrees. Wright also influences others - for example, when Wright was covering the primaries with Enid Greene and Ethan Millard, we noticed that Greene was a little more respectful of Democrats than usual (even using the correct term "Democratic party," for example). KSL, meanwhile, is removing The Screecher from its lineup.

The Church issued a mission statement this year which declared Church principles to include "integrity, civility, morality and respect for all people”.

The Utah Supreme Court has adopted guidelines for civility for the practice of law in Utah.

So, something can be done. It won't be by people like Sen. Hatch, who is (in our perception) nervously catering to the uncivil crowd, but by entrenched leaders who aren't worried about getting out of an upcoming convention. It will also require ignoring the people who have no desire for a return to politeness. It can be done.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Zero tolerance" for white-collar crime in Utah?

Poor Gov. Herbert, sometimes he's like doddering Grandpa Gary, who says things that are kind of out there, and we just pat his arm and say, "Sure, Gramps, That's right."

Yesterday, we read an article on how the sky is blue and grass is green and Utahns lost more than $1 billion to fraudulent schemes last year. The state has "zero tolerance" for white-collar crime, the article quoted Gov. Herbert. Oh, boy - where to start?

Also in the news yesterday: A man named Terry Wayne Brown used affiliation fraud to steal $35,000 from an Orem woman. He got 90 days in jail and restitution. A woman named Michelle Kittredge stole more than $500,000 from her employer, and got 6 months in jail followed by home confinement. In Weber County, a man named Bart Andersen who embezzled more than $250,000 from his employer at least got 1-3 years in jail, but with work release. And those are people who actually got charged by local prosecutors, those who haven't, say, had breakfast with a legislator...

Utahns don't want to pay more taxes to build more prisons, so maybe we can't complain about all this wrist slapping for white-collar crime. No tolerance for it? It's a nice thought.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Those darned competent day laborers

In an hour, I will head out to exercise my legal right to pick up a couple of independent contractors to help me mulch. I don't know of any law against this in Utah, and I could do it under Arizona's new law, too, because the places I go have cutouts. (Arizona's law -- which I have actually read -- prohibits picking up day laborers only "if the motor vehicle blocks or impedes the normal movement of traffic.")

I hadn't considered picking up guys off the street until a conservative GOP friend suggested it, and told me where to go. Before doing so, I tried:
  • asking co-workers for teenagers wanting to earn good $ through manual labor. Perhaps we have all grown too old together, because I no longer get Yeas on that. (Unfortunately, my own former source of labor had the nerve to grow up.)
  • using a professional labor service. For one job, they sent a guy who didn't want to do lifting and a scrawny guy, both in spite of my "heavy-lifting" warning. So long, beautiful kitchen island.
  • using a landscape service. For one job, I asked for 10 workers, and got 2. Oh, 10 guys showed up, but most took long smoke breaks every hour, or stood yakking even as I dragged piles of dead tree limbs past them.
  • placing KSL ads. My first yielded a former landscaper laid off for months, currently relying on Church assistance. Score! But after showing up a few times, he just faded away. I got no response to my next ads.

Finally, I drove, somewhat nervously, to a place suggested by my friend. "They surround the car," he warned, but just be firm. A Kentuckian named Louis was the first to my car, and as he helped me move some salvaged bricks, he didn't stop for smoke breaks, or stand around, and at times he ran even with fully-loaded tongs.

My next few experiences were the same: guys who wanted to work hard, well, and efficiently, and whom I had to urge to take occasional water and lunch breaks.

Were the first stream of helpers American citizens? I think so. Were the latest? I haven't asked, and they haven't told. (Unlike many KSL.commenters, I do not assume illegality from the mere fact of a person's race or name.) If they are not, all I can say is: I pay the same high hourly wage to everyone, I have insurance if anyone gets injured, and I work right along side them. Based on my own experience, can I say these men took jobs that Americans did not want to do? No, but they took jobs that Americans did not want to do well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back from the quasi-dead

Geez, you go away for a while, and next thing you know it's been a year, not that anyone necessarily would have noticed. Voice of Utah is back now, and scared anxious to become immersed in Utah politics again...