Saturday, January 20, 2007

The 4th seat mutates

So the Utah-DC exchange bill is introduced in the 110th, but with a new twist:
[this year's bill contains] a provision that would bar [Utah's Republican-controlled legislature] from redrawing congressional districts until 2012. Some Democrats in Congress fear [they would] gerrymander the state's only Democratic congressman, Jim Matheson, out of office.
State lawmakers already met in a special session last year to finalize a four-seat map.
[Utah Republican Congressman Chris]Cannon says the redistricting moratorium is "a slam down on our Legislature." He said state lawmakers wouldn't want to redraw the map, but Congress shouldn't be telling them they can't.

I think this is a reasonable restriction, since it forces Utah Republicans to go with the December 2006 map (see HR 328 IH sec. 6(a)(1)).

The DC vote folks want this bill to happen on or before April 15th, when their whole taxation without representation will have the most symbolic power.

quote of the day (Buttars edition)

As usual, St. Sen. Chris Buttars tops the list in terms of stupid statements: “The state has become hostile to religion.” Really? If anything the culture in this state is hostel to those who are atheists. Just look at Bountiful, Utah. While it probably still is the one of if not the most LDS city in Utah, there are lots of churches of other religions in that city. I suspect that those who are not LDS and live in Bountiful feel compelled to prove that they are just as religious as their LDS neighbors. There are churches every other block there from my experience. Even in "secular" Salt Lake City and Park City, there are are no shortage of people attending church without any "hostility." If you ever try to get any chores done on a Sunday in Utah, you can forget it. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, save grocery stores, Chinese restaurants, some coffee shops, convenience stores, some smoke shops, and some 'private clubs.' Utah has some of the strictest anti-smoking and drinking laws in the country, and have had them 20 years before the smoke-free restaurants movement of the late 1990s.

AG Mark Shurtleff, a conservative, LDS Republican that actually knows the law (unlike lawmaker Butters) knows that the West Valley Republican's bill will cost the state lots of money in pointless lawsuits:
"What it will guarantee is it opens up the need for more litigation in state courts," he said, just as there have been in federal court. ...The Republican attorney general said the bill would protect "every strange permutation" of religious expression, including a child who defends wearing a Satanic T-shirt to school by claiming to worship Satan.
Did I call that one about that Satan Tees or what? The Tribune chimes in with more doubters:
“Can we solve this problem by working with the school boards instead of passing legislation and opening up a can of worms?” asked Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City.
“This is a sledgehammer,” said McCoy, an attorney. “I don't know that we need a sledgehammer.”
The bill also drew opposition from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Utah Higher Education officials.
“There will certainly be a number of state court challenges because of this law,” Shurtleff said.

I guess every work place has to have it's Chris Buttars.

"I have a feeling it is going to be very interesting."

That is the closing line on Sen. Hillary Clinton's announcement video on her website. And this is one thing everyone should be able to agree on. Right now, there are about 7 Democrats in the race for the party's nomination, but only 4 real shots (HRC, Obama, Edwards, and Richardson) and the last one, Richardson, is on the outside looking in on the 3-way race. By contrast, the Republican side is McCain versus the anti-McCain, whoever wins that prize.

Both primaries look to be wide open. McCain probably will win the nomination, since there is no good consensus "true conservative" to challenge him...but he is looking pretty weak right now. But who knows, maybe the religious right will rally around Romney (unlikely because of the SBC's hatred of Mormons) or Gingrich (he seems to be Giullini's man) or Brownback (too dumb to be president after GWB). I predict a McCain/Gingrich ticket at this point, but its is way too early.

Democrats will squabble and might not know who their nominee is until after Super Tuesday, especially if it narrows to a Clinton v. Obama race. Hillary has sworn off taking any public money either in the primaries (like Kerry and Dean and Bush) or in the general, a first. Edwards and Obama are holding simultaneous fundraisers in NYC early February not just because it is Hillary's "home turf" but because there is a lot of money in that city. Richardson may be running for VP and even that race is tough, with Warner and Clark and Bayh as possible contenders.

AFSCME is holding a cattle call in a few WEEKS, so if Clark wants to even have a chance, he better announce before then. He is my first choice, but if he doesn't run, then I would say Obama, then Richardson, then Edwards, and then Hillary (in that order). I think Hillary has done a great job as Senator and should stay there, where her talents and shortcomings are best matched.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Utah Republican legislators: too righteous to be ethical

In the U.S. Senate, after a failed attempt (45-55) to fillabuster the Finegold-Obama ethics bill by the GOP leadership, the bill passed albeit without key provisions thanks to Utah's senators. Sen. Bennett introduced an amendment that would allow astroturf non-profits like those used by Jack Abramboff to continue to lobby Senators sans reporting. And horribly enough, it passed. Worse yet, the bill was weakened substantially by ethically lacking senators who didn't want an independent Office of Public Integrity like other countries have and preferred the current self-regulating system that worked so well that the 109th Congress lost 3 members to felony charges (2 convicted and sentenced) and another resigned because of what would be felony charges. Others lost who should have been investigated, indicted, and convicted. Even this watered down version was too much for Sen. Hatch, who was one of two senators to vote against the ethics bill.

And if you think that's terrible, at least they are letting it come up for consideration (although I bet Hatch and Bennett filibustered like good GOPers), unlike their state level colleagues.
But Legislative leaders have issues with outright banning meals, because food is often paired with lunchtime meetings during the session. In addition, lawmakers say they're not about to be pressured into passing new laws based solely on what the Governor does.

Rep. Greg Curtis, House Speaker: "He chose to do this in the state of the state, in a very public forum. To my knowledge, I haven't been able to obtain a copy of the executive order. And it seems to have been done for a very public purpose."

Every year St. Rep. Ralph Becker has introduced ethics reforms, and every year the GOP majority have kept his bill from coming to a vote. According to the non-partisan center for public integrity, Utah ranks 47th in "Legislator Personal Financial Disclosure," garnering a grade of "F." This means that legislators rarely, if ever report conflicts of interests (i.e. and vote on a bill/amendment that effect them personally). I remember a friend of my parents was a state senator in the early 1990s, and when a bill came up on taxing small aircraft, he announced that he could not vote on the matter since his family owned one. They all look at him in shock and horror, and not because his family was wealthy enough to afford a private jet, but that he disclosed it.

In prior years, when ethics bills have come before the state legislature, Legislators took the bills as a personal affront to their morality. They assumed that the sponsor was accusing them. One even cried during his speech, babbling something about his wife. I wish I could find the test of that, I can't remember what was said, but I remember it was rich.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

feeling like a young parent

My wife and I don't have children yet. We want to start a family soon, and need the financial stability of me being employed full-time before we make that leap. But as avid readers know, we did get a dog "for Christmas."

The miniature/toy poodle, who named himself Poe, [we went through a list of authors and he responded to Edgar Allen's last name] is now a full member of the family. And just like an infant, he has trouble sleeping through the night and wakes us up with his antics. So as a result, I haven't been sleeping through the night either.

Plus, like a child, we have been dressing him in snow coats [because of the cold (10 degrees at 11 PM) and his lack of fur (the rescue society gave him a mighty buss)]. We go home at lunch to take him out on walks and he is sad to see us go every time, trying a sit-down strike on our laps to keep us from returning to work/class.

Unlike my classmates with lots of real children, mine will never grow up and learn how to talk to us and so on. Instead we rely on gestures like pawing the dish for
hunger, weird behavior and pawing the door for urgent bathroom breaks, and tail wagging for happiness.

So I know we are not experiencing nearly the same thing as our friends with infants and young children, but for right now, it is the closest we are going to get.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

better late than never

Obama on the McCain Doctrine:
“I cannot in good conscience support this plan. As I first said two months ago, we should not be sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, we should begin redeploying them to let the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever and to pressure the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds to finally reach a political settlement.

“Escalation is a failed policy opposed by generals, Democrats and Republicans, and now even the Iraqis themselves, and the fact that the President is already moving ahead with this idea is a terrible consequence of the decision to give him the broad, open-ended authority to wage this war in 2002.

“It now falls on Congress to find a way to support our troops in the field while still preventing the President from multiplying his previous mistakes. That is why I not only favor capping the number U.S. troops in Iraq, but believe it’s imperative that we begin the phased redeployment I called for two months ago, and intend to introduce legislation that does just that.”

So I take it the Senator is in favor of a rhetorical empty gesture, a symbolic non-binding resolution. The Levin resolution.

Obama believes that symbols mean a lot, and they do. But actually doing something is always better than great speeches and gestures.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Romney can only dream of being the next Gore

That is, best case scenerio, he will win the popular vote, but lose his "home" state.
A Nov. 17 poll by Survey USA and WBZ-TV found that 65 percent of residents disapproved of Romney's performance, a figure that dropped to 59 percent a month later in Romney's waning days in office. The Globe and WBZ reported 54 percent of those surveyed in October viewed Romney's performance as unfavorable.

In reality, Romney is a lying opportunist. I would tell my conservative friends who are worried about Romney's fidelity to conservative ideals that he is a long as that will get him the nomination.

Romney played liberal Republican in 1994 and 2002 and governed conservative to please the national party people from 2003 until 2007. In truth, he has no principles and just wants to get power. He probably is conservative socially, more so than Giulliani for sure, and maybe more than McCain on things like tax cuts and illegal immigration.

Nevertheless, he will never be president.

so much for Oprah

Folks had speculated that Barrack would announce he was running for president on Oprah because the website had a TBA for one of the days of the week. However, Obama is trying to be all high-tech and announce via a streaming video on his website. Here's the text (HT to Hotline)
"As many of you know, over the last few months I have been thinking hard about my plans for 2008. Running for the presidency is a profound decision - a decision no one should make on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone - and so before I committed myself and my family to this race, I wanted to be sure that this was right for us and, more importantly, right for the country"

"I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. But as I've spoken to many of you in my travels across the states these past months; as I've read your emails and read your letters; I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics."

"So I've spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need. The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place. Our economy is changing rapidly, and that means profound changes for working people. Many of you have shared with me your stories about skyrocketing health care bills, the pensions you've lost and your struggles to pay for college for your kids. Our continued dependence on oil has put our security and our very planet at risk. And we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged."

But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.

And that's what we have to change first.

We have to change our politics, and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans.

This won't happen by itself. A change in our politics can only come from you; from people across our country who believe there's a better way and are willing to work for it.

Years ago, as a community organizer in Chicago, I learned that meaningful change always begins at the grassroots, and that engaged citizens working together can accomplish extraordinary things.

So even in the midst of the enormous challenges we face today, I have great faith and hope about the future - because I believe in you.

And that's why I wanted to tell you first that I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee. For the next several weeks, I am going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us, and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together. And on February 10th, at the end of these decisions and in my home state of Illinois, I'll share my plans with my friends, neighbors and fellow Americans.

In the meantime, I want to thank all of you for your time, your suggestions, your encouragement and your prayers. And I look forward to continuing our conversation in the weeks and months to come.

And if that doesn't work out, there's always getting reelected in 2010.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

the undemocratic, dogmatic branch

Which branch am I referring to? Why its the Utah State Legislature of course. Its members routinely give the metaphoric finger (because swearing and fingering in reality would be "rude" and "sinful") to Utahns by adopting unneeded legislation and ignoring the people's priorities.
Utahns want lawmakers to spend a projected $1.6 billion surplus first on public education. A tax cut is lower on their list of priorities. Much lower.
But legislators are poised to give Utahns a tax cut ranging from $100 million to $300 million anyway - whether they want it or not.

And that's not all. Utahns don't want school vouchers, but screw 'em we will do it anyway.

But wait, there's more:
If someone directly challenges Roe v. Wade . . .
And if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses more than 30 years of legal precedent . . .
State Rep. Paul Ray wants Utah to be ready.
Ray's bill is modeled on similar legislation South Dakota voters rejected earlier this year. That law was meant to test the 1973 Supreme Court decision that granted women the right to legally end a pregnancy. But South Dakota's bill did not include exceptions for incest, rape and the health of the mother.
"I would have issues if we didn't consider those exceptions," said Ray.

So now the legislature will most certainly pass a litmus test bill on a theoretical problem. Why not wait until Roe is overturned and then pass the bill? Someone in Utah just might get an abortion in under some freak scenerio I guess. While there are 4 solid anti-abortion votes on the high court, it is fairly uncertain that Justice Anthony Kennedy could be convinced to reverse on Roe. Rather, the anti-abortion plurality will have more success if they keep finding areas to chip away at ones ability to have an abortion...although there aren't too many exceptions left to find. There already are 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent for minors (from both parents with a judicial escape clause if the girl claims Daddy is the father), the prohibition on dilation and extraction procedures (so called "partial birth abortions") unless the health/life of the mother is in jeopardy, forbidding people from traveling state lines to have an abortion in another state were the laws are laxer, unfunding clinics, making it dangerous and unprofitable to become a doctor performing such procedures etc. [the last few are extra-legal ones that occur]

And really is this an urgent problem? Are the number of abortions skyrocketing in Utah despite the 75% anti-Roe gut reaction of LDS-dominated Utah? No
Abortions in Utah

Abortions remained fairly flat even as Utah's population grew by 300,000.
Abortions by year:
* 2000: 3,279
* 2001: 3,372
* 2002: 3,300
* 2003: 3,338
* 2004: 3,379
* 2005: 3,279
* 2000: 2.25 million
* 2005: 2.55 million

Why won't the legislature work on making our K-12 schools better, our college more affordable, better health coverage for the poor, etc. Why not do things that will actually improve the lives of Utahns rather than posture for lower taxes for the rich and a fake abortion bill?