Saturday, May 26, 2007

voucher confusion made simple

Pro-voucher forces are trying to muddy the waters. Here's why:
Today's Deseret News
An editorial column in Thursday's paper mixed up the two private school voucher bill numbers. HB148, the main voucher bill, is the subject of a citizen referendum vote on Nov. 6. HB174, an amendment bill to HB148, passed the 2007 Legislature by two-thirds vote and by law is not subject to referendum repeal.

The leading story in that newspaper? Another high profile Dan Jones poll:
Republican legislative majorities to do what those leaders don't necessarily want to do.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 64 percent of Utahns would want Huntsman and the Legislature to repeal a second voucher law should voters reject vouchers at the polls Nov. 6.
Even worse for the Republicans, 76 percent of Utahns want Huntsman to call a special session this summer during which legislator's could "fix" the two-voucher bill problem — clearing the way for an unimpeded, simple up-or-down vote Nov. 6 on vouchers.
But even with those overwhelming numbers, Huntsman says he won't call a special session this summer. And it's possible that, should voters reject vouchers, Utah would still have a voucher law and the controversial program would go forward — for GOP legislators could refuse to repeal a second voucher law.
Meanwhile, it's hard to tell where Utahns will side in November. Forty-three percent of 410 Utahns surveyed May 21-24 say they favor vouchers, and 47 percent oppose them. Considering the error margin of plus or minus 5 percent, public opinion is a virtual dead heat, just as it was earlier this year before legislators passed the voucher program.

I really hope voters remember how anti-democratic Utah's state leadership--Gov. Huntsman, Speaker Curtis, Sen. President Valentine--all have been throughout this session in particular, and especially on this issue. Next November, throw as many of those bums out as you can.

Friday, May 25, 2007

we're number 50!

(Photo Credit: Bunch of Losers)
Aren't you proud that Utah beat out Mississippi again?
The Census Bureau analysis of state education funding differs slightly from data from the National Center of Education Statistics released in April. Yet both reports list Utah as last in the nation for spending $5,257 per student in fiscal year 2005. The second-to-last state, Arizona, spent $6,261 per student that year.
The results surprise few policymakers, who've all but given up escaping last place. Members of the Utah State Board of Education, legislators and tax watchdogs say it's nearly impossible for Utah to rival spending in other states. Income taxes from Utah's relatively small and low-paid workforce get stretched paying for the state's large population of school children.

To paraphrase Robert Kennedy/George Bernard Shaw, some see things as they are and ask "why," Utah's education policy makers ask "why bother?"

(as an aside, vouchers will only put the state further behind by definition, but PCE couldn't care less about that)

Here's an example of what this last in the nation standing means for Utah children:
Ogden School District says it's cutting projects to save money.
The school board passed a revised building plan that they say will save $23 million.
Two building projects are being deferred. Those are construction of the district campus elementary school, which should save $11.4 million. And the board voted to hold off on the renovation of Ogden High School's science rooms. That cut another $11.8 million.
Voters approved $95.3 million last June for construction and renovation plans to fix the district's aging school buildings.

That's just buildings, what about arts programs, school trips, books, school supplies, teacher salaries, staff salaries, school buses, etc.?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

thursday round-up

Nothing especially was enough to get a post, so you all get mini-posts within one...enjoy.
  • The best summation I have heard of the legal arguments for and against the DC-Utah bill: "Make no mistake: We are on uncharted territory," Patricia Wald, former chief judge of the U. S. Court Appeals for the District of Columbia, said in testimony submitted to the committee. Still, she added, "In such a landscape, Congress is justified in concluding the balance tilts in favor of recognizing for D.C. residents the most basic right of all democratic societies, the right to vote for one's leaders."

  • More posturing on vouchers:
    Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday he and legislative leaders are putting together a letter pledging to honor whatever decision voters make about private school vouchers at the polls in November — even if Utahns reject the funding program.
    The letter, which Huntsman said may also be signed by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, "will essentially state that whatever the vote is in November will be respected as a vote up or down on vouchers."
    [...]The governor said there wasn't the "political will" to deal with the issue in a special session.
    Last time I checked, Huntsman, you were the one of the most popular governors in the US. Why don't you use some of your political capital to hold a special session and deal with it like a man? Does this mean that if the voters vote vouchers down that BOTH bills will be scrapped? Or will the AG's opinion rule? Or will you just let the courts decide?

  • speaking of which,
    A pro-voucher group will announce legal action this afternoon regarding the two voucher laws on Utah's books. Parents for Choice in Education has scheduled a press conference for 1:45 p.m. today in the lobby of Salt Lake City's Matheson Court House.
    The legislature created this mess by voting for this stupid bill that had no real native grassroots support and now want to have their cake and eat it too. I hope all who voted for it lose their seats in the Legislature.

  • Is there anything that Romney does that the local papers won't cover in a positive light?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Start with the obvious

Once again, the local press plays dumb:
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee seemed to have agreed on a single script: defending the former administration official and denouncing the Democratic-led inquiry.

Have you ever watched any cable news? Compared your interview with a national Republican or local Republican on a national topic with another interview of a Republican on the same topic? I am assuming the answer is no, otherwise, why the "seems"?

At least the reporter remember to include the latest edition of "How has Chris Cannon embarrassed his state today?" in the headline.
Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, was so peeved by the proceedings that he asked no questions during his first five-minute round. Instead, he read a Los Angeles Times editorial berating Democrats on an unrelated matter involving ethics and spending earmarks.

It is well worth pointing out as a law student, that normally Goodling would have never been hired by any prosecutor's office, let alone be the DOJ's White House Liaison. Why, because Regent University College of Law sucks. "Regent Law was ranked in Tier 4 by U.S. News, the lowest ranking and essentially a tie for 136th place out of 170 schools surveyed." "According to statewide and national statistics, Regent's four-year average Virginia bar pass rate is 51.5%, which is 21.5% below the statewide average of 73%, and the lowest in the Commonwealth of Virginia." The school used to be named after Pat Robertson's cable channel: CBN [Christian Broadcasting Network] University. Yet Bush's White House hired 150 Regent grads.

For the record, the SJ Quinney College of Law has crept into the second tier but I fully expect it to be back in the top tier soon. Our bar passage rate is high and about average for state averages (but there are only 2 law school in Utah and the bar passage rate is higher than other states).

Slam of the week

McCain on Romney May 21, 2007:
"In the case of Governor Romney, you know, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes, because it's changed in less than a year from his position before. And maybe his solution will be to get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn. I don't know."

I have to say, the first line was the most effective, the second, a bit obscure and racist and angry. The whole thing to me says that McCain is thinking: "I am losing to this guy?!" And indeed he is in the low double digits with Giuliani in Iowa, either fighting for second without Fred Thompson, McCain's friend, or for third with Thompson included in the polls.

McCain has been running for President for something like 10 years and finds himself in bad shape in the first and most important state. But if he wants to turn it around, he is going to have to tear down Romney and Giuliani and then F. Thompson.

Romney's biggest weakness is his lust to pander so much that he makes switch grass seem constantly still. Giuliani's is that he is corrupt and has liberal social positions. F. Thompson's is that he is a lazy man who never did anything in the Senate. McCain's is his anger, his support of campaign finance reform, and his support of immigration reform...two giant pet issues with the GOP base that are as big as Iraq and Health Care on the Democratic side.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

compare and contrast

Or a tale of two bad articles

Here's Thomas Burr's article about the Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, Jim Matheson, on May 19:
Rep. Jim Matheson, a Utah Democrat and self-described fiscal conservative, spent the largest percentage of his office allowance compared with his congressional colleagues in 2005, a new report shows.
Matheson used 99.97 percent of his congressional office budget that year, leaving only $375 unspent, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which compiled office budget data from published House reports.

Now for today's article by the same reporter, this time on brother of the rival daily newspaper, Rep. Chris Cannon:
Rep. Chris Cannon voted against reauthorizing a federal program to put more cops on the street, saying it's a local responsibility.
Cannon pointed to a recent report in USA Today of an internal audit showing that 3 percent of the COPS grants reviewed found some $277 million was misspent. Additionally, the report says, tens of thousands of jobs funded by the grants were never filled or weren't filled for long.

Now Burr allowed Matheson to explain why he used all but $375 of his budget--his Alabama-size district--but the lede of the article was I repeat "Matheson, a Utah Democrat and self-described fiscal conservative." The Cannon article does not say he is a Republican or call him a "self-described as pro-police."

The article lets others, namely a New York City Democrat (and it does point him out that way), to claim that COPS is a very successful program, but it burries the fact that local municipalities support it and would have more officers if the funding was most assured. And the article fails to mention studies that prove that Bush's defunding of COPS (because it is a Clinton program) has resulted in higher crime rates across the country, TIME magazine did a story on this, using Milwaukee, WI as the example.

JM Bell points out that Cannon's vote happened on May 14th, yet Burr didn't cover Cannon's slap in the face to Utahns until today. "Tommy Burr is one of the best reporters in the country so, what the hell happened? I have a hard time believing that Burr just waited to write it." I think he didn't want to write it until he found his Matheson story to "balance" it with.

Truth over Balance. Progress over ideology.

Monday, May 21, 2007

the house of cards

Republicans believe, since the days of Kennedy's 1960 election by the narrowest of margins, that Democrats use massive voter fraud to win elections. Conversely, Democrats believe that Republicans attempt to intimidate racial and ethnic minorities from voting and that if only more of such groups would vote, Democrats would win.

Both are urban legends, with some truth but mostly falsehood. While some dead people might have voted for Kennedy in Cook County and similar things might still happen today, the margin of such errors is not enough to swing elections. More importantly, it is not based on some plot hatched by liberals in some lair.

Democrats need to turn out more single women of all colors to win elections, not just minorities who might be scared or confused into not voting. Again, no vast conspiracy here there either.

But don't put away your tinfoil hat just yet. It seems that bloggers have stumbled onto a pretty vast conspiracy: the US attorney purge. The purge is indelibly linked to the aforementioned voter fraud myth. Karl Rove and many others believed that in places in swing states like New Mexico, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, massive voter fraud was taking place. And what do you know, they pressured the local US Attorneys in those locals to bring indictments against Democrats for voter fraud. Because there was little to no evidence, the US Attorneys either refused and were sacked, or followed orders only to see their indictments tossed out. In fact, only a tiny percentage of all the voter fraud cases brought by the Bush Justice Department have been successful, despite Rove's push for prosecutions.

Now that the Congress is in Democratic hands and has started asking pesky questions and requesting damaging documents, not only have lots of Justice Department officials resigned, but their outside counterparts have vanished into thin air.
the American Center for Voting Rights, a group that has literally just disappeared as an organization, and for which it seems no replacement group will rise up. With no notice and little comment, ACVR—the only prominent nongovernmental organization claiming that voter fraud is a major problem, a problem warranting strict rules such as voter-ID laws—simply stopped appearing at government panels and conferences. Its Web domain name has suddenly expired, its reports are all gone (except where they have been preserved by its opponents), and its general counsel, Mark "Thor" Hearne, has cleansed his résumé of affiliation with the group. Hearne won't speak to the press about ACVR's demise. No other group has taken up the "voter fraud" mantra.

So who was ACVR? And doesn't it remind you of that scene from "1984" where Winston, working at the Ministry of Truth incinerates photos of handshakes between Eurasia and Oceania "We have always been at war with Eastasia..."?
the group was founded just days before its representatives testified before a congressional committee hearing on election-administration issues chaired by then-Rep. (and now federal inmate) Bob Ney. The group was headed by Hearne, national election counsel to Bush-Cheney '04, and staffed with other Republican operatives, including Jim Dyke, a former RNC communications director.

Consisting of little more than a post-office box and some staffers who wrote reports and gave helpful quotes about the pervasive problems of voter fraud to the press, the group identified Democratic cities as hot spots for voter fraud, then pushed the line that "election integrity" required making it harder for people to vote. The group issued reports (PDF) on areas in the country of special concern, areas that coincidentally tended to be presidential battleground states. In many of these places, it now appears the White House was pressuring U.S. attorneys to bring more voter-fraud prosecutions.

What a coincidence! And their reports ended up as fodder in the WSJ? What are the chances? Let's overlook for a moment that arguing by anecdote is faulty, or that polling-place fraud is way more trouble than it is worth if you are trying to steal an election. The fact that this group is trying to pretend it never existed just as Democrats in Congress start to shine a bright light on the voter-fraud motivated firings of US Attorneys raises eyebrows, to say the least.

Personally, I think these party hacks saw the house of cards begin to fall on the use of the DOJ as political arm of the White House and left like rats fleeing a sinking ship. The name Department of Justice was slowly but surely being turned Orwellian into Winston's employer, the Ministry of Truth.

signs of the times

Today I decided to finally evaluate the many lawn signs that SLC mayoral candidates have sticking in the yards of my neighbors. What follows is not to be viewed as an endorsement of any particular candidate. Rather, the idea is to give them all some advice on graphics and visuals. In no particular order...

Ralph Becker
Having learned from earlier black writing on forest green background lawn signs in earlier state house races, Becker opts for bright contrasting colors. The black silhouette of the city and county building is excellent, especially when one notes that he had the same motif with the state capitol last fall. GRADE: A-

Jenny Wilson

Jenny's sign uses the same schema that her father used when running for Mayor. Jim Matheson used the same color and slogan as his father's for his 2000 congressional race, but it didn't seem dated. Jenny's seems very 1992. Maybe it is the gray star, I don't know. But good for her for having the word "Democrat" on there. GRADE: B-

Dave Buhler
[I will have to take a photo]
Buhler's sign is a enlarged campaign button, round in shape. The top half is white, the bottom is red. The top says "I like Dave," the bottom says "mayor" First off, the shape looks stupid. Secondly, who cares if you like Dave Buhler, it doesn't mean you will vote for him or even support him. "I like Ike" works because the name rhymes and well, Eisenhower was a darned popular ex-general, having saved the world from Hitler etc. "I like Dave" is just lame. GRADE: F [Plus, his website is still not up, really pathetic.]

Keith Christensen

Not bad. I cannot recognize this as the SLC skyline, but then again our skyline is not all that memorable. Maybe it is supposed to say I will be the mayor of downtown and where you live. That's nice too. The colors aren't the greatest and the whole thing is a bit cartoon-y. GRADE: B.

I won't even bother with the rest because either they don't have websites or they have no chance. I saw Nancy Sexton's the other day for the first time and they are pretty lame too. The cursive "Nancy" reminds me of Nancy Reagan, not exactly something you want to evoke in the Democratic strong hold in a super-GOP state. Maybe I will take a photo of that too to show you what I am talking about, since those signs will be even harder to see in person.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

silly establishmentarians

Charlie Cook is an astute non-partisan poll reader whose judgment is without reproach inside the beltway. Not because he is right all the time, but because he has a reputation for being right. Official Washington trusts him.

But why? Especially when he gives out such drivel as a successful Bloomberg-Hagel independent ticket (independent is DC for two moderate Republicans that could never win their party's primary nationally, and maybe even in their own state).

Here's his DC "bipartisan" wet dream:
Most believe it would be exceedingly unlikely that the House would elect an independent president. That being the case, an independent would most likely need to win from 38 percent to 40 percent in a three-way race to reach the tipping point, winning a sufficiently large number of states by small margins.


Initial polling suggests that Bloomberg could make a respectable run as an independent and pull evenly from the two major parties. But getting from respectable to upwards of 40 percent would require cutting into the marrow of at least one, if not both, parties.

This would mean that his candidacy would likely be contingent upon each party nominating either badly flawed or damaged candidates. After all, with his money, Bloomberg wouldn't need to decide until late February, after the nominations are likely to be determined.

The most interesting scenario would be if Bloomberg were to win a plurality of the electoral votes and siphon off enough votes from the left to push the Democratic nominee into third place. Could a Democratic House really pick a third-place finisher to be president, or might they opt for a politically compatible independent who finished first?

Um let's look at those "respectable showing" polls:

Rasmussen Survey of 800 Likely Voters April 2-3, 2007
["If you had a choice between Republican Rudy Giuliani, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Independent Michael Bloomberg, for whom would vote?"] Rudy Giuliani: 37%; Hillary Clinton: 46%; Michael Bloomberg: 9%.

["If you had a choice between Republican John McCain, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Independent Michael Bloomberg, for whom would vote?"]
John McCain: 37%; Hillary Clinton: 46%; Michael Bloomberg: 9%

Nine percent is not respectable, although better than Bill Richardson is doing in the Democratic primary. Nine percent is "I don't know" plus or minus a few people upset with their choices of Hillary or Giuliani or McCain. And nine percent also will not get you the top stop going into the theoretical House election of the president, rather the third place. A Democratically controlled House would have no problem voting for a number one finishing Democrat as would happen in this poll.

More importantly, the last time an election went to the House was 1800...208 years ago and before the 12th amendment tried to avoid that from ever happening again.

There is not a chance that the 2008 presidential election will go down to the House, nor if Romney is nominated, that Republicans will win the presidency. The 3-poll average gap is: Clinton +14.0%, Obama +23.0%, Edwards +27.3%.