Friday, July 21, 2006

Leavitt takes a page from Abramoff

Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist would approve of ex-Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt's (current Bush secretary of HHS) sham charity. After all, its what they used to funnel money to their favorite cause: themselves.
The Leavitts used nearly $9 million of their assets to set up the foundation in 2000 under an obscure provision of the federal tax code. In 2002, 2003 and 2004, the Leavitt organization donated less than 1 percent of its assets.
While Mike Leavitt alone has claimed about $1.2 million in tax write-offs since 2000, the foundation gave away only $49,000 in 2002 and $52,000 the next year, according to tax returns and other documents filed by the foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation's assets have been used for a $332,000 loan to Leavitt Land and Investment Inc., in which the secretary owns a significant stake, and other secured loans for insurance and real estate deals, said Alan Jones, a trustee of the organization.
Leavitt Land and Investment, in turn, extended an interest-free loan to Leavitt in 2002 valued at more than $250,001, according to a recent financial disclosure.

Oh millioniare's and their tax loopholes. This is why I can never be a tax attorney. You have to figure out ways to make the rich even more rich while knowning that what you are doing directly hurts the poorest of the poor who get health care and other vital services from the government.

As glad as I am that this partisan hack millioniare is no longer my governor, it is too bad that we have a partisan hack billioniare as our current governor. I am sure even if Scott M. Matheson, Jr. had this kind of money, which he doesn't, he wouldn't do this kind of thing. Nor would Scott push for a tax cut for the rich and push the tax burden onto the middle class of Utah. Because that's the kind of guy he is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

photo of the day

Courtesy of BAG News Notes

This in a nutshell, or bombshell, is the war in the land of Canaan/Phoenica. Look at the propraganization of the youth by Israel, and then compare it to the school books in surrounding Arab countries, and you will see that the powers that be don't want this mutual hatred ever end. They are prepping the next generation to join in the conflict whether by being members of the Israeli army or that of Jahadi's.

This image is so emotionally charged that it would make Karl Rove and Goebels blush. But it just makes me sick. Our photo of the day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Utah still in the race to the bottom

Governor and billioniare John Huntsman Jr. is reviving his "tax reform" proposal that creates a "flater tax" designed to appeal to the uber-Rich, to entice them to move to Utah. That is why the rule against perpetuities has been basically abolished (estates can keep divvying up the dead man's money 1,000 years after he's gone by will).

Utah's Republican leadership still believe in the economic fallisy that if you give away enough to the rich and/or corporations, they will want to move here and spend their money/create jobs in this state. This is what I call joining the race to the bottom. Because other cities and states are playing the same game, all trying to out bid another by stripping out their tax revenue, giving away land, giving favorable loans, etc. The result is that all of these states lose. The best way to create economic growth that will aid the state coffers and make live better is to create an environment that employees not employers, find appealing.

Attract the smartest, most tallented, creative types, and you get the high paying jobs that contribute back to your community. How do you do it? Create great schools, safe neighborhoods, clean livable streets, nice shoping centers, walkable downtowns, a nightlife, and lower cost of living by lowering or eliminating taxes on groceries, clothing, etc. Utah already has a great advantage over other states. We have great weather, great outdoor activities, a relatively low crime rate, cheep housing, friendly people, and relatively light traffic.

But our public schools are a mess, and traffic/crime are getting worse without any leadership from Johnny on either. Didn't Huntsman run primarily on education, and moving the prison out of Draper? Funny where his focus ended up being: on the ultra-rich and mega-corporations. You shouldn't have to bribe companies (or sports teams) to move to your state. It is better for everyone if they move because they want be in the ideopolis.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Was tuen Sie denn?"

Our photo of the day:

Can Bush stop embaressing himself and the U.S. during the G8 conference? First he talked with is mouthful to British PM Tony Blair as if he really was his lapdog (then they both talked about a different Middle East than the one that exists), before that actually was the pig roast, and now "the grope"

Appearantly Bush is just like those bosses that touch you in uncomfortable ways at awkward times. Just because she is a 'conservative' woman doesn't mean you get to give her an unasked-for backrub. Bush has shown off the worst sides of his personality: his boorish and imature behavior, his lack of knowledge (and lack of interest) in important world affairs, and his general inability to do any policy (foreign or domestic) right.

["Was tuen Sie denn?" Means "What are you {formal} doing?" in German]

Matheson is cruising

Today, the local papers finally got around to covering the Matheson/Christensen race, such as it is. The general assesment is right: Jim will have an easy time and part of that is because he is an encumbent, part because he worked so hard to develop his reputation with conservative voters.

I must take issue with this line, however: "Utah's lone Democratic representative in Congress has commandeered traditionally conservative values like fiscal responsibility, multiple use of public lands and protecting children from violence." These are not conservative values, these are DLC/Blue Dog values, and really fiscal responsibility has become a mainstream Democratic value since about 1993. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and other New Dems triumphed these values and ideas for decades. Everyone wants to protect their children from violence, some just don't see the harm in violent video games and movies. Others find sex in video games and movies more troubling than violence (Christian Conservatives).

As far as the St. George land deal goes, I don't know the specifics and haven't talked to any knowledgable environmental friends of mine about it, so I can't comment on the propriety of the Matheson-Bennett bill on a policy level. But on a political level, it is a no brainer. Jim has surely shown that he is not beholdant to the environmental wing of the party and given Washington County voters another reason to vote for him.

After learning he was being redistricted into Southern Utah, Jim made it his goal to deliver for Washington County, especially since it nearly cost him his seat in 2002. So Jim got a nice airport for St. George, and this land-deal would help development which would be key for swingish voters in the area. Smart moves all.

The payraise move Jim makes every year gets him editorial mentions around the nation and is also good politics. But it also good policy. Why should Congress give itself a raise when it won't raise the minimum wage or reign in spending on boondoogles?

Christensen's slam is to call Jim's legislative career as "representation by press release. Hopefully, he can find one bill that can pass. That would be great." It would be great if he could pass a bill, but guess how many House Democrats get their bills passed in a GOP controlled House, especially ones from potential GOP pick-up seats? I am guessing a handfull at best, and all of those are probabbly much more senior than Jim. So it is a nice line, but has no real substance behind it. Then again, this is the same guy that said "Tolerance is the religion of people who no longer believe in anything."

That has to be the most bigoted and hate-filled statement I have heard in a while. Even if Christensen was running against a pol as disgusting as Joe Biden or Joe Lieberman, I would still vote against LaVar. I have no tolerance for such intolerance.

Monday, July 17, 2006

VRA now a tool of GOP majorities

Don't get me wrong, I think the Voting Rights Act is one of the best pieces of legislation ever divised by Congress. But thanks to the Supreme Court's unwillingness to step in and create clear, bright-line rules about redistricting (and deciding this year to allow re-redistricting) and advances in software, the GOP is able to use the VRA to ensure they stay in power. How? By using majority-minority districts to their advantage:

The Republicans are more than happy to cede 40 or so majority-minority Democratic big-city districts, carved to the specifications of the Voting Rights Act, in exchange for a lock on the far more numerous [white,] suburban districts.

One of surest ways to make seats more Democratic leaning is to spread the black vote around several districts, such that there is a sizable minority (20-40%) but not an overwhelming presence (so that the rest can be divvyed up in other districts. But this could violate the VRA, which prohibits diluting the votes of minorities. New York Magazine has the goods:

"It seems clear that the VRA doesn’t serve us well," says a Democratic congressman who’s tried to push the issue with colleagues. "But a weird, self-interested math comes into play. Black Democrats don’t want to appear retrograde; whites don’t have the courage to stand up and try to fix it without blacks standing alongside them; and Republicans like the outcome that they’re getting, which enables them to have perpetually lily-white suburban southern districts. And then there’s so much animus—not between the parties, but between white Democrats and black Democrats, in lots of parts of the South. So any effort to ‘fix’ the thing is a nonstarter. But I’d be a better congressman if my district were more diverse, and Democrats would have better chances of winning if there were more ‘swing’ districts."

Such swing districts would be more progressive and ultimately more favorable to the interests of African-Americans. But not necessarily Black politicans. I hope that by 2006, a district without a majority of minorities could elect a minority to represent them. Of course, I am not so naive not to recognize that people vote against minorities all the time just because they are minorities and folks like Barrack Obama are the exception rather than the rule.

Still CBC members should look beyond their own selfish interests into what is best for their constituents-- having a Democrat-controlled House-- and not what is best for them personally.