Friday, August 10, 2007

Getting spun

A short while ago, I pointed out that school voucher supporters were going to the LDS well to hint that Joseph Smith would have supported vouchers, or something. I was assuming they would stop short of that, and would just allude to "values" but alas, my worst fears have come true.
The Angel Moroni might want you to support vouchers, but he needs to brush up on Utah election laws.
I mentioned in Monday's column a series of ads that have been running on Utah radio stations extolling the virtues of tax credits through vouchers for parents who put their children in private schools.
One of the 30-second spots quoted the Book of Mormon: "And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning, yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches."
But the people behind the ads might have run afoul of the law. Anyone who collects and spends money to promote an issue for the purpose of influencing an election must register with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office as a Political Issues Committee. The people who paid for these political ads have not registered.
The day my column item ran, officials at the Lieutenant Governor's Office talked to agents at Crowell Advertising, which placed the ads for a client who remains anonymous.
Elections official Joe Demma said Crowell agents promised to register by Wednesday. But by Thursday they still hadn't.
Demma says the office will send a letter to Crowell giving them 14 days to comply with the law, then it will be turned over to the Attorney General's Office for possible prosecution.

I love Paul Rolly's columns by the way. Not only does this violate state election law but also it doesn't set out to prove what it hopes to prove. The issue is whether vouchers will make our children better off, not whether or not it is a good thing that some children have a better education that others. I mean who thinks it is a good thing that not every child can go to great schools, except the Malfoys?

If we are going to have an honest debate about the merits of vouchers, which I think State Rep. Steve Urquhart sincerely desires, then we can't resort to claiming the dominant religion of the state supports vouchers when it most certainly does not. However, I am not going to hold my breath waiting for Steve, PCE, or the Church to denounce the ad or the tactics in general.

a Fair Deal

Americans have been been betrayed by its so-called leaders in the past decade. Whether it be Barry Bonds' sham HR record, corporate officers using their companies as personal piggy banks, an NBA ref betting on his own games, the President lying his way into an unnecessary and disastrous war, cowardly Democrats and Republicans in Congress voting against oversight and the Fourth Amendment so they can go on vacation and raise money, a Congressman taking $45,000 in contributions one night and the next day sneaking in a $10M earmark after the bill had passed both chambers for that contributor, another caught with $90,000 worth of bribes in his freezer, it seems people in power have decided they can use the system to their advantage and not worry about the little people they illegally harm along the way.

It is time Americans stand up and say "NO" to such behavior from our athletes, politicians, and businessmen. It is time we take back the idea of America from those who seek to corrupt it.

Before our leaders stole, cheated, lied, and took bribes, America was a place where anyone with enough guts and good enough ideas could succeed. It wasn't supposed to matter who your parents were, what color your skin was, or how much money you had. America was about progress. Sure, it took us far too long to realize the words of the Declaration of Independence and we still have not achieved full equality for blacks, women, immigrants, and homosexuals to name a few. But we kept moving forward, even if the pace was too slow.

Right now, America has been moving backwards and changing beyond recognition. We must stop these "leaders" before they make it worse. America had become the beacon of international law and human rights. We fought wars to prevent ethnic cleansing, to uphold international law and yet now we flaunt international law openly and torture people because we are afraid.

No enemy is too great for America to beat, we need not be afraid. When we 13 disparate colonies, we beat the largest imperial army on the planet. Then we beat them again a few decades later. We beat Germany twice when they had control of a large part of Europe. We were victorious the Japanese when they had taken over most of the Pacific, although we used nuclear weapons to finish it. We took on the Soviet Union and the thousands of nuclear weapons they pointed at our heads.

And now we are afraid of a rag-tag group of extremists? So scared we have to toss out not only our constitution, but 500 years worth the rule of law?

Are we also so unable to pay attention that our athletes need to inject themselves full of drugs to entertain us? Are we so entranced with the latest car or electronic gadget that we look the other way when others lie and cheat and steal to get them?

This is not the America we all know and love. And we need to get back to that idea of America, and make it real again. During the Great Depression, Americans got a New Deal: the government would become more involved in our lives so that extreme poverty of our seniors would be eliminated.

Today, all Americans want is a Fair Deal, one where the playing field won't be tilted in favor of the elites who have the right family name, or the right bank account, or the right connections.

It is time our government and our society looked out for those who work hard and do everything right. We can't let the Big Insurance companies and Big Pharmaceuticals and the Big Oil companies cheat us out of good health care for everyone, lower carbon emissions and clean air and water. We can't let CEOs cheat their employees and stockholders out of millions, nor can we let jocks juice their way to the podium.

It is time for all of us to look each other in the eye and say "Enough is enough, I want America back!"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Facism and Flip-Flopping Fun

Your modern Republican Party:
"Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

No, that wasn't from one of those two guys down below, it was from "America's Mayor" Rudy Giulliani today.

This line reminded me of a great song by a woman who got her start playing on the streets of Harvard Square.
Why do the babies starve
There's enough food to feed the world
Why when there're so many of us
Are there people still alone
Why are the missiles called peace keepers
When they're aimed to kill
Why is a woman still not safe
When she's in her home

Love is hate
War is peace
No is yes
And we're all free
--Tracy Chapman, Why

The time, Tracy, is coming soon. Soon will will be rid of these power-hungry maniacs who will stop at nothing to become President.

"He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly," Romney adviser Mike Murphy told the National Review in 2006.

(H/T AmericaBlog)

I could go on about Romney's flip-flops on Immigration (the subject of his latest Iowa ad), but I think I will save my "breath."

When your top two leading candidates for President are a quasi-facist and an unprincipled liar, you have got a serious problem.

irony of the day

I use google reader to read all the newspapers and blogs that have RSS feeds nearly everyday. I go through hundreds of posts a day and try to bring you ones that catch my eye. Here's a great example:
Welcome to the new 8:30 AM (55 minutes ago)
from - Local News
We have redesigned our Web site, adding more features, such as weather, traffic and reader comments, to better provide you with the news and information you want and need.

That's right, go ahead and click on it to see the amazing new ... Yeah, I am waiting too. It seems the link to the story about how wonderful the new Deseret News website is is down, along with the rest of their site.

Maybe next time, don't put out the story until after the site is fully operational. Otherwise, they should go back to this:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

final thoughts on the forum

I talked to Becker's campaign manager immediately afterwards and the first thing he said to me before I could even reach him was "Still awake?" He then told me that this was pretty typical for all the "debates" they have been holding thus far, in fact, this one was one of the more lively ones. How glad am I to not have sat through those.

The trouble is, there are too many people on the stage, and too many unimportant people. A guy who thinks $50,000 is a lot of money to have spent on a mayoral race for a city of nearly 200,000 is a joke. Candidates who do little more than pay the filing fee should not get a seat at the table with people who have raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and more importantly have real support (at least 10%).

Good news, Dave tells me, is that from hear on out the "big four" will only be invited to the next debates. Finally, we can get into some meat and distinguish candidates and not just let people hide behind platitudes.

Speaking of which, after I left the auditorium, a Christensen supporter tried to give me literature. Then he realized that only this morning I was insulting his campaigns mailings so he said something like "Don't you want to have to this for analysis, 3rd Ave?" Thanks but no thanks. Don't waste any more of your paper on me Keith. Remember you are claiming to be an environmentalist.

live blogging from the forum

[UPDATE 10] JP Hughes just is reading statements. If you are an ultra marginal candidate, don't read, speak from your heart and say something shocking.

Man alive I need something to wake me up. It seems the candidates kind of phoned it in by not making it lively. I guess this was a wonk fest, but still.

[UPDATE 9] The end is near, I might as well stay. Ringing endorsement I know... I am having a tough time finding a "winner" Jenny started out akward, but has come on strong as time has gone by. Keith was pretty good in talking about buses in a common sense fashion. But when a question became vaguely ideological, he got pretty defensive. The other two guys, who cares.

[UPDATE 8] Wow I am starting to fade fast in this "debate" it is really getting bored. Fun fact, I am sitting near US Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, who uses Yahoo! and is subitting fun questions as well as others.

Oh and Jenny drops in again that she was Rep. Bill Orton's chief of staff...impressive.

[UPDATE 7] Jenny reveals that she went to DC to get money and get labor and EMILY's list endorsement. In fact, EMILY's list now has a staffer planted in her office. Keith is defensive about his warchest and went to NYC to get the developer side of the issue and sided with the skybridge. Sounds like money talks for Keith.

Next beef for Politic 2.0, don't have people respond to candidate specific questions unless it really calls for it.

[UPDATE 6] Keith wants to manage the city like it is his own mean your own feifdom? I guess he is trying to be the Michael Bloomberg of SLC. You know a rich guy who used to be of one party and switched for political convinence. By the way he is really not being bold AT ALL.

Renteria is getting mad about how screwed over the west side is. JP Hughes wants to end homelessness. An actual answer to our question, amazing.

[UPDATE 5] Jenny seems to be answering the question on both sides by saying what a possible counter argument is and then attacking it. I don't know why she needs to be debate herself when this is not really a debate.

Keith says the constitution does not grant consealed weapon. But he is not especially gun control friendly.

[UPDATE 4] Ralph gets a jab into Keith by saying it is so terrible how expensive it is to run for mayor while staring at him. Jenny gets a jab in at Ralph because she said "I actually passed a gift ban" since Ralph could not as the Minority Leader in the state House. Then she talks about the bill. Since she wrote it, you go girl.

Keith gives a long boring answer to the money in politics...and references his role as Gov. Leavitt's Olympic trustee. Yet didn't Bush and Rumsfeld etc. get cushy seats?

[UPDATE 3] Vouchers Jenny is clear and talks about how the school district split is a "distraction" she wants the focus to be smaller class sizes etc. Ralph echos her comments and talked about what he did in the legislature and his efforts to get it on the ballot.

JP Hughes calls it a "wedge issue" and talks about the book Freakonomics and about special education...which has nothing really to do with vouchers. So even if he weren't a throw away vote, now I am really won't support him.

Keith "I wish we weren't dealing with this issue" I am sure you do because you hate reminding people that you are a Republican.

[UPDATE 2] Keith C. goes left for gay rights, comparing them to Rosa Parks. Maybe it because gay men vote at about 95% and lesbians in the high 80%s

Jenny W. tells stories, talks about legislation she has offered/passed.

Ralph praises Rocky and points to his plans on his website: civil partnership, hate crimes, etc.

[UPDATE] Keith C. seems to be answering the "Mo" question very defensively...but he is articulate.

Jenny is giving a great answer, and we learn she was raised LDS but has let go of the rod so to speak. She said she would challenge the Church when necessary.

Ralph says he separation of church and state. Him and Jenny are trying to create space between Keith and themselves.

JP Hughes proudly touts his Mo-cred and all his love for it and knowledge blah blah blah. You ain't gonna win.

my question was asked first... and despite my wishes, they asked the question to all of the candidates, including the also rans.

Jenny Wilson had a bit of tongue troubles, but all candidates kind of used my question to be their proxy opening statement. Then again, that was sort of the point.

One major beef with this forum format is that they have no time limits which makes the also rans tempted to blab. I am glad to learn that Renteria is not crazy nor is JP Hughes.

Ms. Wilson seems a bit nervous which is odd since this crowd is super small and she already ran a really tough race in 2004.

see you at the forum?

Last night, I watched Harry Potter rather than the AFL-CIO forum, but tonight I am going back into political form.
The mayoral forum will be at the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, but can be watched live at
Before and during the forum, residents can register at the Web site, submit questions for one or all the candidates and vote on which questions should be asked.
During and after the event, viewers in the auditorium and online will be able to comment on the event and evaluate the candidates' responses, and the candidates can review the responses and comments of the public.
Candidates Ralph Becker, Keith Christensen, J.P. Hughes and Jenny Wilson all plan to attend the forum. Candidate Dave Buhler had a scheduling conflict with another campaign event.

I hear that last night MSNBC uninvited ex-Senator Mike Gravel and good for them. It seems Politic 2.0 refuses to invite any of the joke candidates except J.P. Hughes. I guess he is like Dennis Kucinich.

See you online or at 7:45 at the library.

In other mayoral news, I got a mailer from Keith Christensen, who appearantly is spending money on bicycle jerseys with his logo on it now. The new slogan is "He wins. We all win." The entire mailer is devoid of information other than the fact that Rocky and Spence Eccles like him. and that he was a city councilman chair twice. It just has a list of buzz words like leadership, know-how, experience, business owner, etc. And then it "addresses" the issues Through this paragraph (I kid you not)
Crime. Education. Jobs. Keith will make Salt Lake City more livable by being tough on crime, supporting the education of our children and promoting economic development along with the Wasatch Front.

And who wouldn't do any of those things? How does he plan to "get tough on crime" or support education or promote economic development?

Politicians need to learn that they have to at least allude to what they want to do, rather than just blabbing feel-good, meaningless rhetoric. The man is pretending to be "progressive" when he voted pretty conservatively in the City Council and offers nothing in the way of policy. What a sham(e).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Where the ideological rubber meets the road

(Photo Credit: The Oregonian)

I didn't want to comment on the bridge collapse for a while so that it didn't seem like I was playing off emotions (ditto for those 6 minors in central Utah) and because I wanted to make sure my family out there was alright. I have grandparents and an uncle who live in Minneapolis and my uncle Rob regularly commuted across it (my grandparents can see the bridge outside their dinning room window).

But it occurred to me that how one viewed the bridge collapse depended to some extend on one's political belief system. Liberals saw it as the symptom of the folly of tax cuts. Conservatives saw it as a symptom of the folly of government spending and programs.

[Republican] Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs.
Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.

That is why the federal government spent half a billion dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with less than 100 people on it yet declines to spend money on actual maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure.

During the 1930s, FDR put millions of people to work through public works projects which including the building of bridges. This is the liberal approach to economic stimulus, as even today, folks like John Edwards propose similar efforts to rebuild places like New Orleans. The conservative approach can be seen through the pandering GOP presidential wannabes. Giulliani suggested that cutting taxes would pay for bridge repair via the economic stimulus that it "inevitably brings."

True, the WPA program was ruled unconstitutional and didn't get the US out of the Great Depression (massive government spending for WWII did and Eisenhower did build all those freeways) but the Laffer curve that conservatives since Reagan have fallen in love with hasn't worked out that well either.

So what to do? Well obviously, the immediate solution is to find out how and why the 35W bridge collapsed and build a better one near there. The longer term solution however, is a lot less politically sexy. Renovating our nation's infrastructure is hard to show off if you are a Congressman but is deadly necessary. And I believe it is a good form of economic stimulus.

We don't have to limit ourselves to fixing bridges and worn out roads. We can update our nation's electrical grid, which is dangerously at its limits. We can build a nation-wide wireless internet/telecommunications network to ensure that our country continues to lead the world in innovative technology. We can update our air control towers to use modern radar/GPS/etc, not the green-screen 50's radar of today that is bound to cause an accident eventually.

Tax cuts and credits, when directed at the low and middle class, are extremely effective in stimulating the economy. Sales and payroll tax holidays/relief are good policy. Bush style tax cuts and rebates are not.

If we are wise with our money, not only will deaths like those on 35W be avoided, but our economy can go strong. But if we only look to our immediate self-interest, both suffer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Becker's guerrilla marketing

First, there was the YouTube campaign commercial (H/T Jen's Green Journal)

Next, there was the Facebook entry. The profile is complete with a photo album, interests, bio, and logo:

Campaign Manager Dave Everitt, who turns another year older in two days, is really launching a viral guerrilla marketing campaign to generate buzz for his boss Ralph Becker. I like the innovation, and Dave, maybe you should work in advertising, not law or politics.

Something's happening here

(Photo Credit: Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News)

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
-Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

By the time the Democratic presidential hopeful spoke just after noon, more than 500 onlookers had filled the parking lot next to the Utah Olympic Park visitor center. Cars were parked half a mile up the road leading to the 2002 Olympic ski jump.
"This was supposed to be a 15-minute stop with about 20 people," said the Illinois senator, dressed in slacks and shirt sleeves. "Somehow this grew a little bit."

Now I regret not reading all those emails from the Utah for Obama people. They were talking about driving to Elko or standing near the fundraiser and waiving. But 500 people in Utah? If it was Obama vs. Romney, it is possible that Romney would tie Mondale but instead of taking Massachusetts, he would take Utah. And speaking of Mormons
Americans must look out for one another, Obama said, an "idea that has to express itself not just through our religious bodies, not just through our families, it's got to express itself through our government."
Obama attracted 450 people to his Park City fund-raiser. Some paid as much as $2,300 to have their photograph taken with the candidate. The minimum contribution was $500 except for select volunteers, public officials and a few Olympic athletes. The event was expected to raise around $250,000.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said the donors couldn't get enough of Obama. "It took a good half-hour just getting him 50 yards from the backyard podium to the living room to meet with public officials," he said. "Usually this is a group that's not star-struck."

About 1000 people in Utah went out of their way to see a first term Democratic U.S. Senator who espouses things such as "health care for all Americans, better pay for teachers and, of course, [ending] the war in Iraq."

(Photo Credit: Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)

One thing we can all agree on that Obama said is this: "The country is ready for change," he said. "People want to turn the page and start a new chapter in history." This is why Republicans are having such trouble in their race for the White House. Folks like Romney, Giulliani, F. Thompson, and the rest all have to defend Bush's horrific policies to some degree to win their nomination.

If Obama can round up 1000 people in Utah on the spur of the moment, something very dramatic will happen next November.

Keith Christensen spends like Howard Dean

Republican city councilman turned ex-Republican city councilman Keith Christensen has been spending his campaign contributions like a drunken sailor Howard Dean.

In January 2004, Howard Dean switched (at least) his New Hampshire signs from blue with yellow writing to yellow with blue writing.

Keith too has changed his white background signs to ones with green and blue backgrounds and white writing. Why?

Because both candidates had too much money too soon and didn't know how to manage it. Howard Dean had something like $50M in 2003. He spent money on those "perfect storm" orange hats and tote bags for supporters to door knock in Iowa (which flopped), late night paid programming in Madison, WI (where he lost), and to change the color scheme of his signs in New Hampshire (where he got second place).

Keith Christensen raised over $500K to date. Yet with half of his money gone, he is right about where he was when the last poll was taken. Why? Well he isn't exactly progressive. And he has spent money on billboards for a mid-sized city race and he has changed color schemas for his lawn signs.

This means that he had to have people go around and replace old lawn signs by asking current supporters to swap signs. This takes time effort and risks people saying why don't you just take the old one and don't give me the new one. It is also a sign of desperation.

In 2004, when I saw this in New Hamsphire, I knew HoHo wasn't going to win. The move is designed to catch your attention and seem like a sudden growth of support, when in reality, it is the same number (or less) of supporters. So when I saw the new signs cropping up on my dog walks, I knew Keith isn't going to be left standing on September 12.