Saturday, March 03, 2007

McCain's true colors

(Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)
In 2000, I was so nonplussed about Al Gore and Bill Bradley that I was seriously considering voting for John McCain in 2000. After George W. Bush defeated McCain, it became obvious to me that Gore was my choice.

During the summer of 2001, I was an intern for Congressman Jim Matheson. As part of being an intern on Capital Hill, they have speakers you can attend if you would like. One of these speakers was John McCain [the best one was Jim Trafficant {D-jail}]. That is when my myth of McCain the maverick was shattered. He managed to pander to right-wing Israelis and pretend to care about us "young people" in his standing-room only talk. I have to say, he seemed like the phonyist politician I had ever met during that speech. Then I began to look at how he stood on the issues and almost all of them were opportunistic bait and switches. He would fight like tooth and nail to cut one silly aircraft carrier, but then he would allow 10 similar boondoggles in without so much as batting an eyelash. He would vote against the tax cut when he knew it would pass. He would pass his torture bill and make create noises when he knew Bush would ignore it. He would hug Joe Lieberman and screech about Cap and Trading Carbon emission, comforted that it would never become law.

And now this "Westerner" has placed the last conceivable straw on the camel's back. He claims he is a Goldwater conservative and yet McCain thinks storing nuclear waste out in Nevada is a great idea.

"Oh, you have to travel through states ... I am for Yucca Mountain. I'm for storage facilities. It's a lot better than sitting outside power plants all over America," said McCain, adding, "I don't mean to be sarcastic. I apologize. But I believe we can transport waste safely."

(Photo Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)
After Jon Huntsman endorsed him and held a fancy $150,000 fundraiser for the guy in Deer Valley, this is the thanks Utahns get? That was a big FU to Nevada and Utah, yet he still expects them to vote for him. I know in the general, Utah is a lost cause, but Nevada has an outside chance. I hope some 527 "Nevadans for our future" or some such reminds voters that McCain wants to store high-level nuclear waste for millions of years a 100 miles away from Las Vegas.

Friday, March 02, 2007

the undemocratic branch

no, its not the virtual-life tenured state judiciary, but the Utah state legislature that is undemocratic. Because out-of-state voucher enthusiasts dumped a cool half million on our legislature, we got one of the most expansive voucher bills in the country. But thank goodness someone is going to ask the people what they want:
A coalition of public education advocates on Thursday filed a referendum petition in an attempt to recall Utah's new voucher law, which creates the nation's most comprehensive school voucher program by making vouchers available to all families who do not currently have children in private schools.
The group has 40 days to scrape together nearly 92,000 signatures from all corners of the state to get the issue before voters.
Education coalition members have been discussing how to challenge the voucher law ever since it squeaked through the Utah House by one vote last month. The group is still mulling a legal challenge but focused first on the voter referendum because of its strict deadlines.
The Legislature has purposefully made it difficult to recall a law. Getting a referendum on the ballot takes the signatures of 10 percent of all the votes cast for governor in the last general election, or about 92,000.
And that 10 percent threshold must be reached in 15 of the state's 29 counties.
If the petitioners get enough signatures, Huntsman will set the referendum before voters.
And the state could not issue a voucher until voters decide to keep or reject the law.
Legislators who backed the voucher proposal assume the group will get the issue on a ballot, but say they are not worried about the outcome and promised no retribution in future legislative sessions.

Why worry when you have created ultra-safe districts for yourself and you receive dozens of unreported free meals with lobbyists and lots of out of state money in contributions.

Meanwhile, someone has to sue to overturn the EnergySolution bill:
But Charles Judd says the law is unconstitutional because it helps create and protect a monopoly at the expense of other companies in the same industry.
“It's obvious that this is an unfair piece of legislation,” said Judd, who served as president for the radioactive waste company for several years.
“The truth is, they broke the law, and now they want to change the law to benefit one company.”
[Huntsman's Department of Environmental Quality]has sided with EnergySolutions over the past year, while Judd and other critics challenged the state on its refusal to apply a certain provision of the law to the mile-square disposal site. The provision says if a waste facility wants to grow by 50 percent or more, it must get approval from local elected officials, the Legislature and the governor, as well as regulators.

In other legislative follies, we have the case of the disingenuous "saved by the bell" tactic.
It was close — but a parliamentary snag and time-chewing debate doomed it.
For the third year running, a bill that would have created a felony provision for serious cases of animal torture failed to make it through the Legislature.
But this time it came down to the wire. It wasn't a lack of votes but the ticks of a clock that killed SB190.
After sitting in the House Rules Committee for days, SB190, sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, made it to House floor with just ten minutes left in the session.

This article fails to note that the bill came up with plenty of time but the Republican leadership moved it back towards the end of the calendar to make sure they "just missed" the time needed to pass it. But don't feel bad animal rights people, rabid pro-lifers got similarly hosed:
Early in the legislative session, HB235 was substituted with an outright ban on abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest or extreme medical necessity for the mother. That bill would have set the stage for Utah to lead the way in the challenge against Roe v. Wade, a legal battle estimated to cost upwards of $3 million.
Citing concerns about the cost and timing of the court fight, the House restored the "trigger bill" approach. That's the version the Senate approved late Wednesday, with amendments that stripped the bill of about $1 million in unrelated funding, provided an exception for fatal fetal deformity and made another minor change.
The amendments effectively killed HB235, because they left little time for it to make it back to the House. Still, the Senate would have voted on the bill much earlier in the session, had it been listed as a high-priority item — which it was not.

See? Even in Utah's ultra conservative legislature, this unconstitutional bill is not important to them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Our long statehood neighmare is over...for now

In other words, the legislature is now out of session and can do no more damage until next year. But they shouldn't take all the blame. Huntsman's shameful pocket non-veto of the Energy Solutions bill was a shining star of politics over people:
Huntsman's inaction means the measure will become law, giving EnergySolutions an easier time at winning approval to nearly double the capacity of its landfill about 72 miles west of Salt Lake City.
The company is a generous political donor in Utah and says it doesn't apologize for that. It doled out $189,020 in political donations last year in Utah, including money to 75 of 104 legislators, according to filings at the lieutenant governor's office.

And his wife wasted taxpayer money because lobbyists flattered her:
The day the Legislature approved a lucrative $35 million funding plan for the Real Salt Lake soccer stadium, the Major League team sent Mary Kaye Huntsman 35 roses.
"The truth be told, we would not be standing here without Mary Kaye's insistence that RSL stay here," team owner Dave Checketts said the day the House passed the bill 48-24. In the end, the bill garnered bipartisan support from the majority of the House and the Senate.

One rose for every million dollars they got from state coffers. Those must have been some roses.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


For some reason, I was a moderate Democrat when I lived amongst and worked for liberal Democrats in Massachusetts. I was also fairly moderate when worked for the DLC, although I strongly disagreed with their advocacy for the Iraq war. But living in Utah again has made me much more partisan, although I was pretty partisan from birth.

I think it is because the Republicans in power in this state--with a few exceptions--are really radically reactionary. All of the Congressional Republicans from Utah carry water for the radical presidency of Bush-Cheney, who has claimed an unprecidented [and unconstitutional] amount of executive privilege and power. Some--like Rep. Bishop and Sens. Hatch and Bennett--have placed this duty above those of their constituents. I dislike bootlickers of all stripes, and Clinton appologists are just as annoying to me [and dishonest] as folks like Hatch and Rep. Patrick McHenry.

For its part, the state legislature seeks to outdo their congressional counterparts in unconstitutionality, partisanship, and ideology over constituents. To me, Sen. Buttars takes the cake. Despite his greatest desires, he probably has homosexual constituents. Yet his whole legislative agenda is to do everything possible to make life worse for them from the moment they come out. Well that's not fair, the rest of his agenda is based on legislating his other religious views, such as the world was literally created in 6 days by God.

If there were more Senators like Scott McCoy, who worked hard to do what was right for their constituents, sought to save taxpayers money by arguing against unconstitutional bills, etc. I wouldn't care about their particular beliefs much.

I have many conservative friends and I respect conservatives at all levels of government who try to do the right thing. But when conservatives use underhanded tactics and dishonest arguments to pass bad laws, I react to condemn their party who fails to condemn them.

I am for solutions to big problems and don't really have a set agenda on how to get there. For example, if someone can convince me that Vouchers really do work, I would love to see it. But so far, for every study that says they are good, there are more studies that say the opposite. And the whole church-state thing makes me uneasy, despite what SCOTUS said. I want to reduce the number of abortions, lower health care costs, raise the standard of living world wide, level the playing field, keep America safe, end/reduce wars, stop global warming, etc. If a free-market or social-conservative approach to any of these problems is shown to work empirically better than social-democratic approach, I will support it. However, all I have seen thus far is that abstinence-only doesn't work, forcing marriage doesn't work, privatizing health care doesn't work, voluntary business compliance doesn't work, discrimination lives on without legislation/litigation, preemptive voluntary wars are disastrous, etc.

But as the masthead says: "truth over balance, progress over ideology."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Majority means something

Being in the Majority Jim Matheson can finally do things that that are long overdue--like treating National Guardsmen like the rest of the regular military as far as GI bill benefits go. If we are going to ship them over to Iraq with no real training or equipment, the least we can do is give them benefits in terms of education benefits. Another Democrat is offering a bill that would give them Veteran's health care (which looks pretty bad at Walter Reed these days).
Matheson introduced the bill in 2004, after hearing from Utah members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion Marine Corps Reservists returning from the war. They told him that even though they served 24 months on active duty, they did not qualify for the education assistance they thought they would get because it was not consecutive.

Being in the Majority also allows you to bring great harm and hassle to others:
The tinkering ended Monday with a final compromise among Republicans.
Over the objections of Democrats, the House sent the bill, the desk of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
They faced heavy opposition, even from some Republicans, because of the long list of requirements students would have to meet to start a club.
But in a conference committee, Tilton and Buttars agreed to remove many of the proposed regulations. No longer would students have to submit a club application by Oct. 15 and that application would not have to include a constitution or bylaws. Students would have to state the purpose of the club and its budget, if any.
Tilton and Buttars are pushing the bill for different reasons.
Tilton champions the parental consent portion of the legislation...
Buttars, on the other hand, hopes to give administrators the ability to block clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliance without fearing a massive legal bill.
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, ...fully expects a school to try to block a club and he expects that group to then sue the school.
He said "the hook" is a requirement that clubs could not violate "the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior." The legislation makes no attempt to define the term.

Insert Spiderman quote here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

How 1948 and 2004 are related

In 1948, Strom Thurmond ran under the "Dixiecrat" party uttering the famous lines: "There's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches." Keep in mind, this is 8 years before Brown. And while Strom died in 2003, his legacy of racism, hypocrisy and cowardice lives on.

Rev. Al Sharpton, who was an also ran in 2004 for president as a Democrat, found out yesterday that his ancestors were owned by Strom's. While Rev. Sharpton has no credibility with me on anything after his repeated self-agrandizing kleptomaniac efforts in NYC, he was one of the best speakers of all the candidates last time and is really quick on his feet. So without further ado, let's get to Al's quote:
"It was probably the most shocking thing of my life," Sharpton said of learning the findings, which were requested and published Sunday by the New York Daily News. He called a news conference to respond publicly to the report. "I couldn't describe to you the emotions I have had . . . everything from anger to outrage to reflection to some pride and glory."
The newfound knowledge that his great-grandfather was a slave, Sharpton added, gave him a new perspective on his life.

"You think about the distance that you've come, you think about how brutal it was, you think about how life must have been like for him. And then you start wondering whether or not he would be proud or disappointed in what we have done," Sharpton said, with his eldest daughter, Dominique, 20, at his side.
"In the story of the Thurmonds and the Sharptons is the story of the shame and the glory of America," Sharpton said Sunday.

I agree with that last line. It shows us all how far we have come, and yet how far we have to go.