Saturday, March 17, 2007

Purge scandal hits home

I know other local bloggers have covered the US Attorney purge scandal in regards to the current US Attorney for Utah, but another juicy email came out about his predecessor, Paul Warner.
"I suspect that when push comes to shove, home-state senators likely would resist wholesale (or even piecemeal) replacement of U.S. attorneys they recommend (see Senator Hatch and the Utah U.S. attorney)," [Kyle] Sampson wrote.
[Paul] Warner had been re-confirmed to another four-year term as U.S. attorney in August 2003. He announced he was leaving the office in January 2006 and was nominated as a federal magistrate.
When Warner stepped aside, Sampson had lined up support so he could take the job, including the backing of the attorney general.
Hatch, however, chose to back Brett Tolman, an assistant U.S. attorney in Utah who had been working for the Senate Judiciary Committee, first for Hatch, then for new Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
After several months, the White House nominated Tolman in June.
"I'm just going to be honest with you. Yeah, Kyle Sampson wanted my job. That's not nearly as Machiavellian as it sounds because lots of people wanted my job," Warner said. At one point, Sampson told Warner directly he was interested in the post.

Dude, Kyle, if you want to do something illegal, first rule is don't do it via something recordable. His inbox is a series of indictments/impeachments/resignations waiting to happen.

Kyle wanted Warner's job. As Gonzales' and Rove's toady, he thought he had it made. And with the new provision in the PATRIOT Act reautorization, he thought he had an in. But he forgot how much pull Senator Hatch has with local appointments.

This purse scandal widens by the day and everyone has to ask their local US Attorney's who serve or served during the Bush administration if they were pressured to leave, or to file bogus charges against political enemies, or to not file charges/be lienant on political allies. Because it seems that pressure was brought to bear on dozens of US Attorneys, from Guam to Arkansas to New Mexico, to San Diego...and it goes all the way to the very top.

Friday, March 16, 2007

how to bribe...I mean lobby...a Utah legislator

Conveniently, the office of legal counsel to the Utah State Legislature provided this handy-dandy guide [PDF] of the do's and don'ts of trying to curry a legislator's favor via gifts.

For example, the new law "do not include [disclosure requirements on]:a food or refreshment item not part of a meal that is $5 or less; a publicly presented
award that is $50 or less." However "reimbursement expenses for all travel, lodging, or meals are reportable expenditures." This means if a lobbyist were to buy a huge amount of [let's say] pizza for the entire appropriations staff and leadership staff [including the Representatives and/or Senators] while they are putting the final touches on the budget, I don't have to report it because if I assume everyone gets a slice or two, each person only got >$5 worth of food.

Conversely, if I am a legislator, I have to report the "cost of admission to
professional or collegiate sporting event, regardless of cost; tangible personal
property greater than $10; food or beverage greater than $50; all gifts given in one day, if the total gifts in the day are greater than $50." Ironically, this bill requires lobbyists to be more ethical in their disclosure than legislators. A lobbyists, who "just so happens" to have been the legislator's high school/college/grad school friend or co-worker can treat them to $49.95 worth of food and beverage and no disclosure is required. And since most legislators don't drink alcohol, this means they could dine out a places like the New Yorker and never have to report a thing.

Finally, the bill "Remove[d] a reference to legislators under the Utah Public Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act related to restrictions on receiving a gift unless it is reported." Nice to know other state government employees have to be more ethical than their elected legislators.

Without disclosure, how will voters ever know how "on the take" their Representatives and Senators are?

STDs spike in Davis Co.

Last night my wife and I watched "Kinsey." While the man contributed a lot to science and the ensuing sexual revolution, his personal life was...well let's just say he had an affair with a male assistant researcher, then told his wife, then that assistant researcher propositioned Mrs. Kinsey, and both Kinsey's thought that would be a great idea. Anyway, one part of the movie Dr. Kinsey noted that despite (rather because of) abstinence-only education, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (then called venereal diseases) were rapidly rising.

Utah, home to some of the most conservative sexual education in the country, the kind that Kinsey campaigned against in the 1950s, has the same problem as Indiana U. kids during his early days.
Cases of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia jumped 17 percent in Davis County last year.
That is the finding of a study released this week by the Davis County Health Department.
Chlamydia tops the county's list of communicable diseases with 510 reported cases in 2006.
Health experts say chlamydia's relatively mild symptoms allow it often to go undetected and untreated, spreading the infection and causing infertility.
County health officials also reported a rise in gonorrhea, logging 55 cases in 2006.
Of communicable diseases identified in Davis County in 2006, some 44 percent were STDs. Most cases were adults between ages 20 and 29, and 64 percent of all STD cases were women, the report said.

I just hope no one is really surprised by these reports.

Utah 4th: GOP edition

The White House, known for their dubious constitutional arguments (see John Woo's "unitary executive" memo vs. Justice O'Connor's Hamdan...the 4th circuit's rulings on so-called 'enemy combatants'), is opposing the DC-Utah house seat bill because Bush believes it is unconstitutional.
The news was not well received on the Hill.
"They'll officially base it on the same half-baked and disingenuous constitutional concerns some other opponents have raised," said a senior Republican congressional staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Why is it disingenuous? Because they wouldn't support a constitutional amendment, either. It's just cover for blatant partisanship. Shocker - another opportunity missed by the administration."

Meanwhile, Sen. Hatch a Senate 'supporter' of the bill isn't exactly busting his hump to get Utah more representation "I haven't done a head count. I don't even know if it's going to be brought up." Orin said. There were more Republican shenanigans to thwart the voting rights of DC residents that failed:
Republicans made numerous attempts to amend the bill, although all failed, including one by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.
Cannon wanted to change the at-large portion of the bill, giving the state of Utah the option to use a new four-district map approved at the end of last year and whatever else it would decide to do.
An amendment offered by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would have required the state to use a map approved last year instead of the at-large seat but it also failed. Sensenbrenner was chairman of the committee last year and put the bill on hold until the map was drawn. Congress adjourned before it could pass the bill.
Other failed amendments would have kept the changes from taking effect until the 112th or 113th session, pushing it years beyond the current 110th session, while others would have made a congressional district out of every military base.

While the bill is expected to pass the House, the group DC Vote notes that it doesn't have 60 votes yet in the Senate, which is filled with White House toadies who might be inclined to filibuster for King President George W. Bush.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

constitutional interpretations by congress

nowadays it is very rare that Congress interprets the constitution, and when it does, blatantly unconstitutional laws like Terri Schiavo's is created. Some times, however, they do a great job. The 1982 amendments to the VRA is one of the few recent bright spots in Congressional interpretation of the Constitution, where both sides had good points and struggled long and hard with tough questions and important issues.
Currently, there is another one: The DC-Utah House vote bill. The Washington Post reports:
Both sides can point to legal scholars to back them up. Several weeks ago, a constitutional expert at the Congressional Research Service produced a report saying that the bill was probably unconstitutional.
On the other side are the American Bar Association and former top government lawyers such as Viet Dinh, an author of the Patriot Act. Appearing at the hearing yesterday, Dinh said the legislation would probably survive a court challenge because judges usually uphold Congress's actions taken under the District Clause.
Reflecting such concerns, Republican legislators [in particular Rep. LaMar Smith of Texas, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee] are expected to propose an amendment in today's hearing calling for expedited judicial review of the bill. That would clear the way for the case to go directly to the Supreme Court on appeal after a lower court ruled.

I wouldn’t oppose this in general, but it seems like they are trying to bypass the DC Circuit, which has extreme liberals and extreme conservatives in its Court of Appeals. Depending on the draw, one panel will follow Hamdan and another will follow the Anti-Habeas Corpus act of 2006…I mean the Military Commission Act.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said ultimately a court will decide whether Congress has the authority to grant the district and Utah seats and it is worth the battle to try. "The time for action has long passed," he said.

DC voters were eloquent in their advocacy for a voting member of the House. "We are not the constituents of any of you, and therefore can command the full devotion of none of you," said Bruce P. Spiva of the advocacy group DC Vote, in his opening remarks
residents stood up silently but en masse as Spiva said there were "teachers, firefighters, veterans and students" who make up the city's population.
"We fight for democracy abroad and are denied it here at home," Spiva said. "We pay federal and local taxes. We serve on federal juries. We have fulfilled every responsibility of American citizenship, and yet we have no say in the passage of our nation's laws and do not even have ultimate authority over our own local laws and institutions."
Spiva said Congress certainly has the right to fix this "and it must change now."

Here, here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday round-up

  • Last night's blogger reception with Mayoral candidate Ralph Becker was a roaring success. It was great to meet all the fantastic local bloggers and discover that they are as smart and funny in real life as they are online. My only regret was that I couldn't have arrived on time and gotten a chance to chat with folks more. The bus system is what made me late to the event, but luckily we brought up transportation issues up with Min. Leader Becker and he seemed to agree.

    I think many were encouraged by Ralph's responses to our questions and suggestions and he did himself a great service by engaging the blogosphere in a constructive fashion. Better to have a friend than an enemy. I just wish other candidates would do the same. Again, I am still undecided, but must admit that he impressed me last night

  • Atrios (Duncan Black) has labeled Democratic strategist Bob Shrum as a "wanker of the day" for admitting what we already knew: that he convinced Edwards to vote for the war. Digby points out that Kerry too was talked into voting for the war by the same breed of perennially losing DC Democratic strategists. Digby and Atrios let the blame fall of the beltway boys rather than the Senators turned presidential candidates (and running mates). This to me makes no sense. When one votes for a candidate for president and vice-president, you are doing so on your assessment of their judgment (as well as stances on the issues).

    Both Kerry and Edwards (as well as Clinton, Dodd, and Biden) voted for the Iraq war out of purely political reasons--their fear of seeming weak on national defense. Kerry in particular was afraid to vote against the war given that he had voted against the 1991 Gulf war, which was a mistake. So instead, he was wrong both times. If these Senators made wrong but politically expedient at the time votes in 2002, what confidence should I have as a voter that they will make the tough calls in the Oval Office? Sure the DC pundits have horrible advice, but the Senators running in 2004 (and in 2008) didn't have to listen to them. If you will recall, Edwards and Kerry were fighting over who got to have Shrum as their advisor.

    As much as I think Bob Shrum and Democracy Corps should be blacklisted for consulting, the onus falls on those who sought out and took their advice: the candidates.

  • The coverage of the Trolley Square shooting as finally come up with an interesting angle: the shooter's girlfriend:
    On the night of Feb. 11, Talovic talked to his girlfriend, Monika, for hours on the phone. '' 'Something is going to happen tomorrow that you'll never be able to forgive me about,' '' the 17-year-old remembers Talovic saying. ''He said it was supposed to be the happiest day of his life and that it could only happen once in a lifetime.''
    Monika pressed for details. "It involves everyone and everything," he said, except for her - he loved her too much. "I would never in the world want something like that to happen to you."
    Two days later, Talovic killed five people wounded five more critically, and was killed by the police. Talovic and his girlfriend had another thing in common (besides ethnicity): trouble at school...
    Both had dropped out of school, Talovic from Horizonte High School in Salt Lake City, Monika from Cap Rock High School in Amarillo. She is now being home schooled and expects to receive her diploma in November.
    My conjecture that the war caused some of this still holds water:
    Talovic was about 5 years old in the early 1990s, when Serbian forces overran Talovici.
    Monika said Talovic described hiding in the woods over a period of three years, lying face down in the dirt to avoid watching as Serbs decapitated countrymen nearby. He told Monika of seeing people shot in the head or stomach. He did witness killings, his aunt said.
    Talovic recalled his hunger pains, surviving on wild mushrooms and droplets of water that collected on leaves, Monika said.
    "He was mad because when he didn't have a place of their own, they had to live in the forest. He used to be mad when he was a little kid, but said he got over that," she said.
    Talovic once spoke of a clinic in their village where the wounded and dead were taken, Smajlovic said. He "remembered there was a little ambulance there," Smajlovic said. The aunt recalls hiding with the Talovic family in the woods. Eventually, the family left, walking hundreds of miles toward a free zone in Tuzla. On the way, they slept on the floor of schoolhouses without blankets. Talovic's grandfather was fatally shot. An infant brother and sister died.
    "They didn't have food, they didn't have shelter, it was every man for his own," said Smajlovic. "It was horrible. They spent their time looking for food, a piece of bread. There was no time to talk about anything nice."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bloggers meet the mayoral candidate TONIGHT

Meet a mayoral candidate TODAY Tuesday the 13th at 5:30 PM in SLC. Food and drink provided, you ask the questions. Feel free to bring friends and family. If you are interested, show up at 145 S. 400 E. (across from Crown Burgers and Freewheeler Pizza).

Utah's 4th and the internets

Speaker Pelosi's blog "The Gavel" has a post today about the DC-UT voting bill, and has links to streaming video of the committee markup as well as the full text (PDF) of the bill.

All three are worth checking out.

UPDATE: "The bill ultimately passed the committee 24-5; the House Judiciary Committee plans a hearing tomorrow on the bill and a vote Thursday. Advocates expect the bill to pass the House by the end of this month."

Good thing Republicans aren't being partisan about this--
But Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., tried to amend the bill to say that the whole measure would be tossed out should Utah elect a Democrat for the new seat, a move that didn't sit well with Oversight and Government Reform Committee members.
"Aren't you saying the voters would have to live up to our assumptions," questioned Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who called the amendment "presumptuous and unconstitutional." Westmoreland's attempt failed, as did another to cede the nonfederal lands in the District of Columbia and its nearly 600,000 residents back to the state of Maryland, which gave up the area originally to form the nation's capital. District residents pay taxes and can vote in presidential elections but have no full vote in Congress, which oversees the city's budget and laws.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Utah's unrepresentative government

It's time for another installment of Utah Republican leaders working for the lobbyists not the people.
  1. we all know that the Voucher bill was bought and paid for by out of state interests, but now we are all sure that the public doesn't support vouchers (after a proper poll explained it to them).

  2. If that ideological boondoggle weren't enough, we have taxpayer money being thrown at a 3rd tier pro-sporting event that won't create real economic growth. Oh and the public doesn't support that either.

  3. This is [also] the Place [to waste taxpayer money on failed quasi-religious things]. Oh and "many neighbors remain skeptical that commercially developing 12 acres of the 60-acre restored pioneer village is the best way to financially stabilize the park that celebrates the Mormon pioneers' arrival in the valley in the mid-19th century."
    Republican leaders, without a public hearing, handed over the $2 million, but demanded the foundation be reorganized, and home developer and one-time county mayor candidate Ellis Ivory be put in charge.
    Ivory has been pushing his solution to the park's long-term stability that includes commercial development and the construction of a large reception center in the park. Even with approval of the lease deal, the park would be less than halfway to covering its annual $3 million expenses, he said.
    Cronyism at its finest.
  4. .

I am sure more will come up as more people ask questions.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Utah's 4th up next week

It seems like the bill that would give Utah a 4th seat in exchange for a seat for DC will be up and pass the House next week.
The legislation - co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's only Democrat in Congress - would make the new Utah seat one that is elected statewide, a change from a previous version of the bill that had the seat carved into a specific district.
Congressional aides said last month that tweak was needed to pacify concerns that Utah's current members would have to run for re-election again this year if the bill passes and Matheson's district would change dramatically.
The House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Management Committee are scheduled to vote on the bill this week.

When you have Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and local member of the majority party all in support of something in the House, usually it goes through.

The only question is if someone will vote no out of constitutional concerns, or if the law will be challenged in court. I urge everyone in the US to call their representatives and urge them to vote for the bill. Especially urge Judiciary Committee members, like Rep. Cannon and Chairman Conyers, to get the bill out of committee. This bill is good for Utah and the District.