Saturday, August 18, 2007

direct mail diagnosis

Yesterday, I got a few interesting pieces of mail, mailers from Keith Christensen and Ralph Becker (as well as my diploma). What a contrast in styles.

Both were the same size (~10x5)when they arrived, but Ralph's was thin colored paper that was actually folded in half. Keith went for the heavier card stock with half the surface area as Becker's.

Ralph's front page headline "Salt Lake City Democrats like Christine Johnson & Scott McCoy support Ralph Becker for Mayor" (with photos of both standing shoulder to shoulder with Ralph. This is a great way to say "Democrat" as soon as possible without sounding too strained (i.e. not "Democrats like Christine Johnson and Scott McCoy...") It is a not to subtle hint that Becker is also a Democrat.

Keith opts for another I-can-ride-a-nice-bicycle-in-my-campaign-jersey motif. This time with what I assume is his family also riding near by. The tag line? "Fighting crime starts at the street level." Get it, he is riding on the street so he must somehow be fighting crime by wearing that cool jersey and expensive road bike. In smaller print, his campaign "explains" that "Solid leadership and vision can be deterrents to crime." Really? I thought strict enforcement, harsh penalties, strong communities, and good economic conditions deter crime. I have trouble imagining a would be criminal saying/thinking "I would rob that bank, but Mayor Christensen's strong leadership and vision make me think twice."

While neither mailing has any real policy stuff on it, Keith is pretending to give policy-based reasons for voting for him. Ralph opts for the more crass (but possibly more effective) "Ralph Becker is a Democrat. Other big-name Democrats and liberals support him, so you should too."

So let's go to Keith's backside and Ralph's inside (I will get to Ralph's back in a bit). Keith will keep us SLCers safe by "insit[ing] that our police and fire fighters have the tools, technology and facilities needed to protect all our citizens." Who except Dennis Kucinich wouldn't do that as mayor? His campaign promised me details, so here goes. "Keith knows we can only attract the highest quality [first responders] to serve our community by offering them competitive salaries, improved training opportunities, and the most cutting-edge technology." But guess what? Firefighter's (via their local union) have endorsed Jenny Wilson.

What kind of technology? Haz-Mat suits? Computer programs to get at fire risk? Compstat-style software to target crime-ridden neighborhoods? What kind of training opportunities don't our police fire and EMTs not have currently?

Public safety will be his top budget priority, and apparently the City's budget is $660M...that is about all I learned here. For a "I would be a good wonky mayor" he doesn't have much specifics, nor does he point to where one might find specifics.

On Ralph's inside, we see more of the same "These Salt Lake Democrats are voting for Ralph Becker because they know he'll stand up and fight for Salt Lake City values." And there is a list of all his endorsements and a brief bio. I dislike this sentence. It plays into the right-wing use of the word "values" as in LaVar Christensen's claim that a vote for Jim Matheson was a vote for "San Francisco values." And also, I am really sick of the word "fight" in Democratic sloganeering. It is straight out of the Bob Schrum playbook, who is 0-8 in presidential campaigns. "[S]tand up" is good, but I would prefer to connote the idea of being tough and sticking up for our city. How about "...they know he won't back down against anyone who want to harm our city." And then you can talk about leading the fight against vouchers, and for ethics, and for making and keeping SLC "green."

Ralph has a fake clipboard which gives a rundown of the bullet point vagaries of his plans for the city, but then points readers to the details on his website and gives people a number (if they are old and afraid of the InterTubes). It even includes a friendly reminder about when election day is.

Now for the back of the mailer. It has a still from the cartoon "Blueprint man" that Ralph's campaign put on YouTube and even has the temerity to ask for money, a lawn sign placement, or volunteers.

Overall, here are my grades: Keith's second mailer: C+(still too vague if you are running on competence and policy-know-how), Ralph's: B+ (maybe too much stuff on there to distract, but good use endorsements by the only gay and lesbian legislators to show how liberal of a Democrat you are).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday round-up

its that time of the week again...
  • Bob Murray belongs in jail, not on TV.
    A catastrophic failure deep inside central Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine killed three rescue workers and cast grave doubt on whether a rescue mission to find six trapped miners should resume.
    Those killed and the six others injured Thursday night were part of a perilous operation to find the missing miners, who were caught in a similar failure 12 days ago.
    Among those injured were Crandall Canyon employees and two MSHA managers who were involved in the rescue effort in the mine, which has been unstable for months.

  • In other news of desperation,
    Parents for Choice in Education, which promotes vouchers in Utah, is sponsoring a telephone survey that links voucher opponents with advocates of same-sex unions.
    But Parents for Choice defends the survey, one of several public opinion polls the group has done. The connection between teachers' groups and same-sex unions is already there, said Elisa Clements, the group's executive director. As with any survey, the group is trying to gauge public opinion.
    "Many Utahns would be shocked to know the policies and positions promoted by the National Education Association, the parent organization of the UEA," she said, referencing the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, which opposes vouchers.
    That is not a "opinion poll," Julia Lyon, it is a push poll. They are smearing the other side assuming that Utah's homophobia will overwhelm its desire for good public schools.

  • Utah's legislators are nuts and corrupt, part #234
    tour buses pulled over at the gate to the Chevron refinery and four of their colleagues dramatically filed off to unholster concealed guns.
    The four dug out their handguns (one from an ankle holster) and turned them over to National Rifle Association lobbyist Clark Aposhian, who stored them in his car until they finished the tour of the refinery.
    [Rep. Curt] Oda, [R-Clearfield,] who regularly sponsors guns-rights legislation, acknowledged that the pre-arranged stop to stow their handguns was meant to make a point: "If we have to find ways to carry our guns, we'll find them," he said.

    Question #1, why do you need your concealed weapon with you when you are touring an oil refinery and Hill Air Force Base? Question #2, why is an NRA lobbyist going with you on said tour? Question #3, what is the point you were trying to make with your stunt?

  • In the era of Barry Bonds, it is nice to know some sports records are being broken the hard way:
    The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.
    (H/T ThinkProgress)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chris Buttars thinks you're stupid

The West Jordan Republican is co-chairman of the Judicial Retention Election Task Force. And Sen. Buttars wants to revamp the voter packet on judges because it is too complex for their pea-brains to understand.
voters he's talked to can barely figure out the survey results, let alone understand the questions in the survey. [said Buttars]

During the task force meeting Tuesday, one legislative staffer admitted he and his wife studied the profiles of a few of the 62 judges up for retention election last year. After some intense study, the staff member said he and his wife found one judge whose performance appeared sub-par, but once at the voting booth his wife admitted to him that she forgot which judge it was.

Short of having a law degree or a degree in statistics, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said the pamphlet is just too confusing for the average voter and that a "Simpsons approach" should be taken to simplify the information.

"I don't think the public has a clue" who judges are or how they are evaluated, Buttars said.

Funny, but didn't Judge Lewis get kicked to the curb just last due to a YouTube video?

It seems when people know something about the judge they don't like, they will vote them out. If they don't hear anything bad about them, the judge remains in office. Isn't that the whole point of the system?

This is a classic case of a solution to a non-existent problem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the fourth estate has failed us

There is only one part of our Constitution which incontrovertibly protects an industry.
Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...

As such, the press has a great responsibility to be a bulwark against government when the government's actions harm the people. That's why Thomas Jefferson said "If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter."

But what do you do when newspapers are either merely mouthpieces of the government, or when they help perpetrate a fraud on the court, or when they aide in criminal behavior? The Brown Alumni Magazine gives us a good litany of our press gone wild.
In 2001, for example, a planned FBI raid on an Islamic charity called the Global Relief Foundation was stymied when New York Times reporters Philip Shenon ’81 and Judith Miller, who’d learned of the raid, called foundation officials for comment beforehand. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who would later become well-known for his prosecution of vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, ordered the journalists to turn over their telephone records so he could determine who’d leaked them news of the upcoming raid. (The case remains unresolved.)
...Relying on leaked information, [New York Times reporter James] Risen [’77] reported on March 8, 1999, that Lee had been fired that day and was "the prime suspect in a nearly three-year investigation of reports of Beijing’s theft of nuclear technology." Lee was eventually cleared of all spying charges and agreed to a plea bargain that included admitting to the felony of downloading restricted data. Lee then accused the government of violating the Privacy Act by leaking information about him to the press and asked a judge to subpoena reporters to prove his case. The reporters refused to respond in court. (Their news organizations eventually agreed to contribute $750,000 toward a $1.6 million settlement between Lee and the federal government.)
....In [the Scooter Libby] case,reporters were compelled not simply to reveal their sources, but to testify against them—to name them as leakers in a court of law. Ultimately, Miller spent eighty-five days behind bars for refusing to disclose her source for the Plame leak. (Libby, by contrast, was convicted of lying and obstructing a leak investigation, but served no jail time, thanks to a commutation ordered by President Bush.) More troublesome was the fact that of the nineteen witnesses in the trial, ten were members of the press called in to discuss the leak, "a spectacle that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago," wrote legal reporter Adam Liptak in the Times.
Although [San Francisco Chronicle reporters] Williams ['72] and Fainaru-Wade won't confirm that he was the leaker, BALCO attorney Troy Ellerman admitted that twice in 2004 he’d allowed Fainaru-Wada to take verbatim notes in his office of the grand jury testimony. Yet Ellerman is the same defense lawyer who’d earlier decried the leaks, telling the New York Times that "the jury pool has been infected and our right to fair trial has been jeopardized." He had even filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

If Ellerman is telling the truth, Fainaru-Wada returned to the attorney’s office at least once after Ellerman had filed his motion to dismiss, putting him and Williams in an ethically tenuous position: Ellerman was simultaneously leaking information, pretending he was outraged at the leak, and then using his feigned outrage to his legal advantage. The reporters knew it, and used the information anyway.

As Atrios would say, time to convene a blogger ethics panel. So has Williams learned from his unethical and probably criminal behavior? No
Williams argues that it isn't a reporter's job to police a source's motivations, only to confirm whether the information is true and worth sharing. "To me, the question is always, 'Do we have true info?'" he says. "I don't have a problem talking to a person who has true information, granting them anonymity. The issue for the paper, and for the reporter, is: is it interesting enough to use?"

Actually no, the question is "is this source using me for a nefarious purpose?" If your source is leaking to you so that he can cite your article on Meet the Timmeh the next morning for credibility, or leaking to you so he can get his client's case dismissed, or leaking to you so you can flush the evidence down the proverbial toilet, or leaking to you to start a war on false shouldn't grant them anonymity.

Because the First Amendment requires media self-policing, reporters must only grant anonymity to true whistle blowers, like Risen's source on NSA wiretapping, not Miller's 'Curveball' for her Iraq stories. When the media is too afraid to do anything but cheer lead us into a disastrous war, we have crisis in the media.

When they refuse to admit their mistake and continue to coddle the same sources and people that play them like a drum, the error is compounded. No original critics of the war can get on the TV, but those who lead the charge and want to start another war still get prime time. Or anonymity.

Just remember in a few weeks when "General Petraeus'" report comes out saying what an unmitigated success this escalation of this war has been. And the media sit back and repeat the Administration's talking points for them. Thanks Liberal Media Elites.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the truth about the tribune's op-ed

Tom Spencer , vice chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association, got prime Op-Ed real estate on the Salt Lake Tribune even though he hails from Coral Gables, Florida (where the Enron execs built massive homes to shelter their assets from angry employees, shareholders, and prosecutors).

Not surprisingly, his Op-Ed is filled with lies.
Recent investigations should silence critics who say that election fraud is non-existent or a bogeyman for those intent on vote suppression.

Really? You mean the sham show-trials that Karl Rove demanded as part of the purging of US Attorneys? Ones that were overturned on appeal because they were so spurious, like the one in Wisconsin he alludes to?

What does Election law expert Prof. Richard L. Hasen think about all this?
the idea of massive polling-place fraud (through the use of inflated voter rolls) is inherently incredible. Suppose I want to swing the Missouri election for my preferred presidential candidate. I would have to figure out who the fake, dead, or missing people on the registration rolls are, and then pay a lot of other individuals to go to the polling place and claim to be Mary Poppins or Old Dead Bob, without any return guarantee—thanks to the secret ballot—that any of them will cast a vote for my preferred candidate. Those who do show up at the polls run the risk of being detected ("You're not my neighbor Bob who passed away last year!") and charged with a felony. And for what—$10? As someone who's thought about this a lot, if I really wanted to buy votes in an enforceable and safe way, I'd find eligible voters who would allow me to watch as they cast their absentee ballots for the candidate of my choice. Then, I would pay them. ... Or, I might find an election official to change the votes. Polling-place fraud, in short, makes no sense.

What about "John Fund['s]...carefully researched book "Stealing Elections," [in which he] documented the many methods used by groups to tilt elections unlawfully and rob the voters' franchise"?

Someone (Lorraine Minnite of Barnard College) actually looked into his "careful research" and found them to be anecdotes without any merit whatsoever.

Indeed, despite Rove and Alberto Gonzales' five-year hunt for election fraud, the Bush Administration's Justice Department found "virtually no evidence" of any real fraud taking place. This is why Mr. Spencer continues to trot out the same old discredited "evidence" of voter fraud.

But why do Republican hacks like Spencer, Rove, and Gonzales care about this non-existent problem? Josh Green of the Atlantic Monthly explains:
Voicing concerns about fraud often paves the way for intimidation tactics like poll watching that depress turnout, especially among minorities and less educated voters who tend to vote Democratic.

In other words, it is the same old story since the VRA passed. Scare blacks, the poor, non-Cuban Hispanics, etc. into not voting since they vote Democratic overwhelmingly.

The larger the percentage of whites that vote in elections, Rove Republicans figure, the greater the likelihood that their people will win. This is why the US Attorney purge is a big deal: the intent was to use the Justice Department to ensure Rove's permanent Republican majority. Not only does that speak very poorly in your ability to win fairly, it also speaks poorly on your ethics and legality.

Monday, August 13, 2007

poll smoker

Dave Buhler will be sure to dance on this poll:

But there is also good news here for Becker as well as bad for Christensen. Becker's numbers have increased and the large movement towards Buhler seems to have come at the expense of Christensen. Maybe Republican voters have solidified behind Buhler, who seems to have more of a fighting chance.
"It's very encouraging," he said. "Our campaign is starting to catch fire."
He captured the largest chunk of Republican voters (49 percent) and LDS voters (40 percent).

Still 24% are undecided which means that either these folks won't vote, or that things could change dramatically in the next few weeks. But the worst news of all is for Rocky Anderson
When asked if they would vote for the mayor - if he had sought a third term - or one of the other candidates, 61 percent of respondents said they would opt for a challenger.

According to the "experts," Becker has to get at least half of those undecideds to get the second spot. But the same problem remains "Becker, a Democratic leader in the Legislature, was the least known of the major candidates in the survey."

My advice to Christensen and Becker? Attack Buhler HARD (with his record). You both are more progressive than him, and Becker the most progressive. No more kumbaya sessions at the "forums" or "debates," point out his REPUBLICAN and CONSERVATIVE record. Every chance you get, hit Buhler with his voting record and point out the hollowness of his rhetoric. People who support Buhler because of his sham moderate messaging will soon peal off to undecided or your camp. Even if they go to Jenny, that's one less vote you need to get to get to second place.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Romney, the great unknown

This is a response to the conversation I am having with a friend and conservative Romney supporter, Alienated Wannabe. He makes some good points and as always, I like to engage with people I disagree with not shout them down/out.

"Like it or not, the reality is that all electable politicians somehow find a way to tell to enough people 'what they want to hear.' " This is true, every candidate panders to their base to some extent in the primaries. The ones that anti-pander (Joe Lieberman) don't do well. However, the extent and extremes to which Romney has changed his beliefs on core issues for Republican faithful leaves many suspecting him, not just liberal Democrats.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, his rival in the primaries points out that even though, (like you AW) he believes that Romney's changes in position on things like Abortion are genuine, he will be vulnerable to attacks from Democrats saying he is a liberal (so vote Huckabee).

An issue like Abortion and its related fields (stem cells) are one of the few issues that is truly black and white. Either you think it is murder, or you don't. We can all agree there should be less abortions over all, and less destruction of blastocysts for research but we may have different means to those goals. I say teach age appropriate sex education starting early (like telling 6 year olds it is not OK for people to touch you "there" and whom to tell if someone is) and giving people access to contraceptives. AW, you may prefer abstinence-only education, even though empirical evidence shows it doesn't work and is such a waste of money that states are declining federal funding for it. As for stem cells, I say start with all those frozen blastocycsts that are sitting in lockers since the couple has either given up on IVF or succeeded. Also develop IVF so less blastocycsts are wasted...

Anyway, my point is John Kerry pretended to be both pro- and anti-war in 2004 but never said his vote for the war was a mistake. While Romney has explained why he has changed his mind on abortion and stem cell research there are important issues where he has flip flopped and pretended nothing has happened. Like immigration or gun control. Folks like Kerry and Romney (what is it with Massachusetts?) would have a lot more power over their positions if they said here's why my position changed and I was wrong before.

Please go to Romney's issues sections of his website and then compare that to the many YouTube videos from 1994, 2002-2004 and 2006-07. He is all over the place more than any candidate I have ever seen (except maybe Bill Richardson's "I'm a Red Sox AND Yankees fan" routine). And frankly, I just don't think he is trustworthy to hold the highest office in the land.

Romney is not a moderate or a centrist, he was a Conservative in sheep's clothing at least on some issues in Massachusetts. So we know where he stands on the poor (cut their programs), gays (don't let them marry), unions (blame them for everything), taxes (hide them as "fees" so that poor people pay, not my rich friends). I worked in the Massachusetts State House 2003-04, so I know what he is really like as a governor.

We don't know what he will do on foreign policy or immigration or gun control in DC (there is a big supreme court case on this in the fall). We know he says he will "double Guantanamo" and really crack down on immigration, but reality may be very different. If we take him at his word, I think both are horrible ideas.

Amnesty alone, I agree with you, won't work. Reagan tought us that. However, cracking down alone won't solve the problem either. The Senate bill had major flaws but the basic premise of tougher enforcement plus a earned path to citizenship was good. More importantly, we need to help Mexico and other Meso- and South American countries build up their economies such that people won't come need to across our boarder.

Today the Mittster bought a hallow victory at the Ames straw poll. He got 31%, but spent maybe millions to do it (and his poor sons risked their lives driving an RV across Iowa) and two Christian conservatives running against him as a flip flopper and as a Mormon (Huckabee and Brownback) with no money got more than him combined. Rudy and Fred and John McCain didn't even try (McCain got 2nd to last place against a pretend candidate). Most importantly, turnout was extremely low compared to 1999.

"I support Mitt Romney because I sincerely believe that he is the best candidate in the race, not just because his family has history with my Church. I know this is true, because there have been other well-connected Mormons whom I have not supported in their run for office. Please give me the benefit of the doubt"

I am sorry if you thought that I was insinuating that your support for him was solely religiously based. That was not my intent. What I meant to convey is that many in Utah and LDS folks elsewhere feel compelled to support Romney because of not only his religion but also how powerful his family was/is within the Church heirarchy. My message was to those faithful Mormons who felt they should support him, it was that they don't have to, because he poorly represents your faith due to his flop floppery.

I know liberal and conservative Mormons, each of whom are steadfaith in their belief in the Book of Mormon etc. I don't think, that President Faust or Wayne Owens were any less of a Mormon than say your Bishop is.

All I am saying is the first Mormon president should not be person whose only conviction is to get elected.