Saturday, May 05, 2007

please don't tell me the news

a funny thing is happening these days: newspapers in general are losing circulation. That is, large national ones that cover the important news of the day, like Bush's signing statements, "extraordinary rendition," CIA "black sites," the Pat Tilman/Jessica Lynch fabrication, etc.

But local papers, especially the ones that focus on local news, are actually going up. Please like to hear about local sports, deaths, marriages, events, etc. When the world seems to be spiraling down the drain, maybe the local stories are easier to focus on. Moreover it is particularly easier for the papers to do as well, not because it isn't easier to put in wire stories that they didn't write, but because it is their solemn duty.
"I'm so frustrated with seeing local stories on the front page! Particularly 'special interest' ones that could be printed anytime (i.e. international adoptions). They don't belong there, they really don't, and every editor in the world knows that. Local news shouldn't be on the front page unless the news is so huge, it is of national importance."
Almost all those medium-circulation dailies (we are one) put local news on the front page because readers buy local newspapers to get local news. People can get world and national news 24-7 now on broadcast TV and cable news networks. News that reflects what goes on in Utah, what trends are hot here, what's funny, what's unusual and what will cause tax bills to jump belongs on the front page so that readers can find the local news they want - whether they buy the paper from the rack or have it delivered to their homes.

So there, don't tell me how to do our jobs, silly people who pay my salary. Oh the arrogance never leaves the newspaper business.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Is Utah's referendum law constitutional?

"Utah Const. art. VI, § 1. Article VI, section 1 is not merely a grant of the right to directly legislate, but reserves and guarantees the initiative power to the people." Gallivan v. Walker, 2002 UT 89, p23, 54 P.3d 1069 (citations omitted). "The power of the legislature and the power of the people to legislate through initiative and referenda are coequal, coextensive, and concurrent and share 'equal dignity.' " Id. (citations omitted).

Brad Swedlund, who lead the anti-RSL stadium referendum signature gathering effort, said the law doesn't match up to Gallivan's rhetoric, "The way the requirements are currently written, the Utah Legislature is more interested in 'absolute power' for themselves than empowering the people to occasionally challenge decisions made."

Gallivan overturned a version of the statute that mandated the 10 percent threshold in 20 of Utah's 25 counties. The current version is 15 counties. It is still too high. Why are rural voter's signatures worth many times more than urban voter's signatures? Isn't that what Reynold v. Sims was about?

In theory, rural voters should be madder about the RSL giveaway more than urban voters, since people along the Wasatch front could actually attend a RSL game in the new stadium, while people from Bullfrog, UT probably won't be able to.

"Although state legislators passed the bill, the issue is certainly not a statewide issue," Swedlund wrote. "That, in fact, was one of the reasons we initiated the referendum process. We believe a county's decisions about its tax base should be left to the county, unless it specifically conflicts with state or federal legislation."

Requiring 15 counties means rising the cost of getting something on the ballot only to pre-existing, well-funded interest groups and not spur of the moment grassroots efforts like Get Real Utah.

This is bad for democracy. While I want to see some level of support for referenda before they make our ballots as long as California's, I think the 15 county method is a disingenuous means to achieve that goal.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

like shooting fish in a barrell

I just couldn't resist pointing out the latest embarressing quote from Rep. Chris Cannon. (H/T TPM Muckraker)
Cannon said, that after "thousands and thousands of documents" have been turned over to Congress and "over more than half a dozen interviews" has been shown to be "a fairly thoughtful, competent process." So what's all the hullabaloo about? Cannon just wants us to "get beyond this."

Should I even bother with the facts that pretty much everyone besides George W. Bush, his Press Secretary, and Senator Hatch think the US Attorney purge was handled horrifically badly? Or that several conservative Republican Senators have called for Gonzales' resignation? Or maybe just objective reality? Nah. I will just let Rep. Cannon hang himself with his own noose.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

getting serious about climate change

all the Democratic candidates for president, and John McCain (who will be virtually out of the race if he can't raise some serious--$20M--money by the second quarter, talk about climate change and ways they will go green. They all talk about some vague "Appolo Project" type effort to reduce our dependance on foreign oil.

Here are some ideas on how to get there for real, and not just take little feel good steps. These are things the next President and next Congress can do that are feasible, not overregulatory, and as market-based as possible.
  1. Adopt a solar energy bill that will pay Americans who produce such energy a garunteed set rate of a long period of time above the current market rate for electricity in their area. Within this bill, add in massive R&D funding into battery technology (to store the excess daytime energy), and solar panels itself.
    Germany adopted something like this a while back and not only are they well on their way to making solar power a third of their total electricity portfollio, but also they have created thousands of jobs designing, producing, and installing solar panels. If you give folks a set profit, they can go to banks and get loans to put up solar panels on their rooves and vacant property. Creating your own solar panel is concrete step towards true energy independence and gives people a realistic thing they can do that is in their immediate interest.

  2. Adopt high (45-50 MPG) CAFE standard for vehicles, and give consumers (including businesses) tax credits for every MPG over the CAFE standard their entire fleet is. This will give car makers the push to build more effecient vehicles, and car buyers incentives to scrap older vehicles for newer, more effecient ones.
    The Federal government can lead by example. As every car in the federal fleet expires, it would be replaced by a plug-in hydrid. The purchasing power of the federal government will also bring down the costs of such vehicles and further help create a market for them. (The later idea is Sen. Boxer's)

  3. Currently, the US is third in wind energy production, Germany and the Netherlands, which are tiny by comparision, generate more. We should be far and away the biggest producer of wind energy. Again, inventivize consumers (via tax credits) and producers (by giving them interest free loans to build the turbines) to beef up the wind energy market.

  4. Give up on Ethanol. I know the caucus goers in Iowa will be upset, but politicans have to stop sucking up to them by trying to make corn into fuel. It isn't effecient, and the air quality is worse than conventional gasoline.

  5. Move trucks from desiel to biodesiel to plug in hybrids as much as possible, and try to make rail shipping more affordable than trucks.

  6. shut down previously grand fathered in dirty coal plants in places like Texas and California. Replace them at least with new CCT (clean coal technology) plants at least. Better yet, try to supplant them with solar and wind.

  7. At least try a cap and trade carbon emission system. Matt Stoller says it hasn't worked in the EU, but if our market and theirs were merged, things might change. A carbon tax is a last resort. Try to incentivize, rather than regulate people into finding ways to reduce their carbon output and sequestering the carbon they have to produce.

Some candidates talk about some of these items, but I have yet to hear any of them push for Germany's solar laws. The whole package would make a huge impact, at least, a lot more than just switching out one light bulb for a CFL. I have put in 3 for this year's Earth Day, and my wife hates them so much--because of the dimness and light quality--I may find them all switched back when I am not looking.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

a gentleman's agreement gone awry

Yesterday I pointed out that lame-duck UT GOP chair Enid "Joe tricked me" Greene was shoved out the door unceremoniously the other day because a "gentlemen's agreement."

The best part is, today news came that in one of her last acts of power, Enid canned the guy who was quoted as saying the "gentleman's agreement" line--Executive Director Jeff Hartley. Watch the fur fly:
"Jeff went substantially further into debt than I would feel comfortable with," Greene said. "That is the source with my disagreement."
Hartley doesn't buy it.
"This isn't about the debt," he said. "This is just personal, petty and vindictive."
Greene said she wanted to fire Hartley a few months ago. She held off because the governor's office asked her to. The governor and the state's two U.S. senators routinely take turns backing a candidate for party chairman. This year is Huntsman's turn. He wanted Fred Lampropoulos to lead the state party and Lampropoulos wanted Hartley to stay on as executive director.
But in the past week, Lampropoulos has backed out of the race, removing Hartley's protection.
"I was not going to have on my conscience passing someone along whom I don't think is right for the job," Greene said.

Ouch! Of course, we all know Enid is lying, she has a reputation for flibbing from the last time she got caught and blamed criminal activities on her ex-husband and campaign treasurer Joe Waldholtz.

Still, it is fun to see two horrible people beating each other up. It is the only time you can really get pleasure out of such a thing without feeling the slighest bit guilty.

Tuesday round-up

  • Congrats to voucher opponents and supporters of direct democracy (and accountability) everywhere "For the first time in more than 30 years, Utah residents will get to decide whether to repeal a new law." And for those who argued that this was just big city teacher's unions gone wild, check this out: "Support for the voucher referendum was weakest in San Juan, Summit, Washington and Weber counties. Juab, Kane, Millard, Rich, Sevier and Wayne counties showed the strongest support, with petitioners collecting more than twice as many signatures as needed. Beaver County boasted nearly three times the number of required signatures."

  • Sadly, the stadium decision was apparently not nearly as unpopular as the voucher one. "Of the 91,966 signatures needed, only 12,343 were certified. In addition, only one county — Daggett County — submitted enough petitions to meet one of the state requirements." This was an organic no-budget attempt to hold the legislature, the governor, and Sandy's mayor accountable.

  • Two members of Utah's delegation to DC won't vote for a bill that would give Utah a fourth seat--and they are both republicans.
    The bill passed the House last month — without the support of Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah — but still faces constitutional concerns from some lawmakers and a potential veto threat from the White House.
    Bishop supports Utah getting a fourth seat but did not like the way the bill has changed since it was first introduced. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, also supports a fourth seat for Utah but will study the Senate bill once it's introduced, according to his office.
    "Study" is code for vote against.

Monday, April 30, 2007

unsurprising news

As I predicted, Enid Greene announced she would not run for a full term as UT GOP chair after Joe Cannon gave her the post so he could turn the Deseret News into the Washington Times of Salt Lake.
Greene — divorced from convicted felon Joe Waldholtz for more than a decade — is planning to remarry this summer. And she said she wants to give her time to personal pursuits.
"We're selling houses and building a house and blending families and I have much to do," said Greene. She's not closing the door to any future political campaign, just this one. "I want to see the party in good hands. There's a bit of a vacuum in leadership. I believe we will find a good chairman; it just won't be me."

Remember Enid, when you sell a house, you can't funnel it into a political committee, no matter what "your ex-husband told you." But the best quote of all is this unintentially revealing comment "It was never a backroom kind of an agreement," said Jeff Hartley, state GOP executive director. "It was a gentleman's agreement so we wouldn't get into the position of the governor backing one (chairman) candidate, and the two U.S. senators backing others and so on." That's right all the gentlemen agreed, so Enid had to go get remarried and have babies. After all, politics are for men, right Utah GOP?