Friday, August 24, 2007

the perfect job for Scott Jr.

(Photo Credit: © 2007 Rick Egan/Salt Lake Tribune)

I am sure Scott M. Matheson Jr. wishes he was in the governor's mansion as Governor, but I think the set up is actually best for both men. The son of the last Democratic governor, my friend and former Dean of my law school is best suited to be the head of this state mine safety commission. He is a brilliant thinker and able to argue and reason with others behind closed doors to come out with some great policy. That's his strength.

It is not giving speeches or shaking hands or being a physically commanding presence in a situation. It seems Jon Huntsman Jr. is better at that. So while Huntsman will get all the glory for taking leadership after sitting back and watching the Feds and Murray Energy's incompetence cost at least 3 miners their lives, Matheson will do the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

Matheson will skillfully find positions that pro-industry/mining region politicians (like Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price), mining union officials, and experienced hands from the Sego mine disaster all agree on. The irony that Matheson would be the best at the real work of being a governor, but is bad at running for governor. Meanwhile, Huntsman is good at being the public face of the governor. I hope these two team up more for the sake of our state.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

this post writes itself

(AP Photo/Courtesy of Robert Murray)

Mine owners like Bob "Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss" Murray are going to have a much less regulatory worries if the Bush Administration has its way
The Bush administration wants to quit requiring coal operators to prove that their surface mining will not damage streams, fish and wildlife.
Under proposed new regulations that it will put out Friday for public comment, strip mine operators would have to show only that they intend "to prevent, to the extent possible using the best technology currently available," such damage.
Interior officials have said that complying with that buffer zone requirement is impossible in "mountaintop removal mining," which involves shearing off the tops of ridges to expose a coal seam. Dirt and rock are pushed below, often into stream beds, a practice known as valley fill.

Meanwhile, Bob Murray has really been great to those families of the trapped miners
In an unsigned, written statement released Wednesday, the family of one trapped miner lashed out at Murray. The family members asked the Deseret Morning News not to use their names out of fear of recrimination.

"He very aggressively told the families to give up," the statement said.

After the Aug. 16 deadly collapse that killed three rescuers and injured six others, the statement said, Murray placed the blame on the families.

"He said to us that 'We are a team, all of us, to include you family members. We have made all of these decisions together. But last week I, no, let me correct that, we killed three people,"' the statement said.

But wait there is more
"I do think the way the families have been treated is unconscionable," [Gov. Jon] Huntsman [Jr.] said.
"I didn't desert anybody," Murray told The Associated Press. "I've been living on this mountain every day, living in a little trailer."

He said he rushed into the mine in his street clothes and began digging out the men, buried under 5 feet of coal, with his bare hands. "I never hesitated to go in there. I was the first man in and the last man out," he said.

Just like Rudy! was a 9/11 rescue worker because he spent a whole 28 hours at Ground Zero giving tours to big shots (Giuliani spent more time at Yankees games that fall). The brave Republican authoritarians.

At the beginning, Murray said that "not leave this mine until those men are rescued, dead or alive." but now he says the mine is going to be sealed and closed. "I can tell you right now, we are not going back into that mountain," he added. Which is it?

And why were they mining in this depleted mountain anyway?
Prices for coal are up, and more revenue came out of Utah's coal mines this year than any time in the past decade, according to the state's "Annual Review and Forecast of Utah Coal: Production." Production grew, along with the number of jobs in the mines, the report said.
New safety precautions may thin the line between the price Utah's hard-to-mine coal can fetch and what operators spend to mine it, the report also suggests.
And speaking of money
At a funeral Tuesday for one of the rescue workers who died, a friend of one of the trapped miners confronted Murray and accused him of skimping on the rescue efforts. He then handed Murray a dollar bill.

"This is just to help you out so you don't kill him," the man said.

Murray's head snapped back as if slapped. When the man wouldn't take back the bill, Murray threw the money on the ground. "I'll tell you what, son, you need to find out about the Lord," Murray said.
Murray isn't the only person to come out of this catastrophe with a PR mess on his hands
"Richard Stickler is a very competent MSHA official," Sen. Orrin Hatch said. "He has done his best to see that the job is done right. He cares greatly about these miners."
President Bush tapped the then-retired Stickler last year to head MSHA, but several senators balked, including [Ted] Kennedy [D-MA]- who charged that when Stickler was a senior manager at a mine in West Virginia, the injury rate was three times the national average.
Kennedy also argued that when Stickler ran the Marianna mine, the injury rate climbed "dramatically" and that mines he managed before heading the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mining had a total of 3,000 safety violations.
MSHA and Stickler's supporters dispute those statistics. Stickler also said current laws were "adequate" when asked about changing regulations with the MINER Act, a sweeping overhaul of mine laws that passed overwhelmingly last year.
The Senate twice sent Stickler's nomination back to Bush.
But when Congress left town last October for a break, Bush used his power to temporarily put Stickler in charge of MSHA. His recess appointment ends this year.
The only one looking good hear is the Governor.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. asked the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration today to immediately inspect two additional mines owned by Murray Energy Corp. in Carbon County...
Huntsman also is preparing to appoint an independent investigation committee to make recommendations to ensure safety in Utah mines, his office said.
"These additional inspections are only the beginning of a larger investigation that needs to be conducted in Utah's deep mines to secure safety for our miners," Huntsman said in the release. "We must do all we can, at every level, to be prepared for a catastrophe like this one. This is the least we can do to ensure that the lives lost have not been in vain."

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. today named his former political opponent, Scott Matheson Jr., to lead the newly formed Utah Mine Safety Commission that will consider what the state's role should be in protecting coal miners.
Utah ceded mine safety to the federal government in 1977, a decision that the governor said may be reconsidered.
During the taping of the governor's monthly news conference broadcast on KUED Channel 7, Huntsman said he's "not sure anyone cares what (Murray) has to say right now."

The more you read about all this, the worse you feel, but you have to keep reading...and praying.

(Thanks to Katie Halper for all the great Murray quotes)

Romney sweeps up the crumbs

(Photo Credit: Chris Glass © 2004)

After several trips to Utah to raise money from big donors, Mitt is coming back to take small contributions from the little people. Shows his priorities doesn't it?
His visit is part of a nationwide "Rally for Romney" effort announced Wednesday. Events are being held in more than 40 cities in 20 states through September. The Utah rally is set for Sept. 28 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, from 2 to 8 p.m.

Participants will be asked to call family and friends for smaller contributions, money that Romney told the Deseret Morning News is key to his campaign.

"I'll tell you, to raise the money you need to run for president, you've got to get donors who will write $100 checks or $50 checks to be part of your campaign," Romney said in a recent interview.
...This year, Romney has collected big checks in Salt Lake City, St. George, Logan and Deer Valley.

But the problem with big-money donors, Romney said, is that "you run out of them. So I've got to broaden the base of my supporters to people who haven't given before and who are willing to write what to some are small checks but to them are large checks."

The problem with big-money donors isn't just that there are fewer of them, but that it distorts your policies towards them. And Romney's big money first hasn't been so successful.

Sure he has raised the most money ($44M)...among Republicans, but he has been spending it hand over fist to get the Ames straw poll victory he needed, as well as leads in IA and NH. Obama has the most cash on hand ($36.2M) of any candidate And he did it my getting near 260,000 donors. "$9.7 million of the $33 million he raised in the second quarter of 2007 came in increments of less than $200"...that's right a third of all his money last quarter.

The campaign ad Utah Republican Party press release Deseret News article ends with this information: "Utahns can sign up to attend the rally by calling 801-961-4070. For more information, go to the Internet at" Go to the Internet at? That is even worse than "Log on to"... how hard is it to say "visit" or "go to" without saying the Internet or Online. If you see www. or .com, people who would go to that website know it is on the Internet.

I wonder if I would get kicked out if I brought a sign for someone like Obama or just wore a anti-Bush T-shirt. I also look forward to the local press inflating Romney's crowd numbers. Let's see if he can get more than Obama did with his last minute roadside rally. I have a feeling it will be underwhelming.

After all, this is the map that Chris Bowers made culling all the recent state by state polling from three different polling firms on a Romney vs. Clinton matchup:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Republicans for puppy torture

There really is no other valid explanation for the fact that twice now Republicans in the Utah legislature have used their majority to impose procedural blocks on a popular bill to make animal abuse a third degree felony... But let's look at their excuses:

During the regular session, it was the old "saved by the bell" excuse (aka oh look at the time, we will have to vote on that next session, they promised), which Gov. Huntsman called them on. This special session, they have a new one
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, argued that the bill could potentially ruin the life of someone "who does a one-time stupid thing," and proposed an alternative that would make animal torture a felony on a second offense committed within five years.
Sen. Jon Greiner, a Republican who is Ogden's police chief, said the Legislature may be making it a crime to drop an animal off near a shelter if the shelter happens to be closed.
He also noted other crimes - child abuse, sexual abuse of a minor, assault of a police officer, and assault of a school employee - that are Class A misdemeanors under Utah law.
"How do we get to a third degree felony [for animal torture] when we don't have enough respect for human life, sexually abused children, that we don't have a higher standard of care for them?" asked Greiner.
The argument didn't wash with [Rhonda] Kamper [who's small black terrier-Chihuahua mix Henry lost an eye when her now-ex-husband chased the dog with a leaf blower, stuffed him in an oven and cooked him for five minutes at 200 degrees].
"They're the lawmakers. If they have a problem with child abuse being a Class A misdemeanor, then change the law," she said.
Greiner suggested jettisoning the bill until January, and the Senate approved the motion 18-11.

As JM Bell pointed out, Michael Vick is a first time offender and will be pleading guilty to federal felony charges on Monday (and faces state felony charges as well). So would Sen. Christensen advocate giving Vick a second chance to hang, drown, and electrocute dogs?

And seriously, what's up with Ogden Republicans? They all love torturing animals? Commenters, please give me any good reason to vote against Henry's law.

SLC mayor's race ad watch

First there's Ralph Becker's who was up first on TV and whose I saw first on TV.

My wife really disliked the ending. She said, "that [Blueprint man cartoon] really ruined the whole thing." It has low production values, just a series of photos and voice over, but it again hones the message that all of Ralph's ad money (be it for mailings or TV) goes for: I AM A DEMOCRAT!!! (and big name Democrats support me) My wife noted the big names and was impressed. She might think the ending is hokey, but the endorsement's stuck with her.

Speaking of hokey, have you seen Dave Buhler's ads? Man he has a lot of them. I have seen two different ones, but there are tons more on YouTube, if you can bear it.

First off, what is the deal with the Dave Letterman T-shirt? Letterman was sort of cool in maybe 1994! And old men with pot bellies don't look good in Ts, shorts and Tevas. He looks a little silly even before you notice the puppet squirrel on his shoulder. Plus, these ads talk about all the things he did on the city council, failing to note his other experience, as a state senator in the REPUBLICAN leadership. Gee, I wonder why.

Here's the next one. And I am glad he is wearing a suit this time, but the shades, please. And in general, I guess they are going for an homage to the Apple ads, but it doesn't really work if there aren't two people bantering back and forth. The small print lines are clever and a bit corny but I am a corny guy.

But the thing that troubles me is the misappropriation of the line that launched arch-conservative Ben Stein's acting career.

It is a good way for people to remember Dave's name, but it might violate IP law. Stein is an attorney I think, so I hope pointing this out will apprise him of what's going on. I don't think he has made claims like the "let's get ready to rumble" guy but I haven't exactly followed Stein's career closely.

OK back on topic. Final grades: Becker B, Buhler C+. Buhler's ad have more content of what he did on the city council than Christensen and suffer from none of the sloganeering, but is very dorky. Becker's is pretty clear cut in its messaging, but the Blueprint man ending is a bit jarring.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why do Leavitt and Bush hate children?

ex-Gov. Leavitt is doing the bidding of his overlord president, George W. Bush, and fighting the "good fight"
The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were aimed at returning the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said today that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children by imposing standards that could not be met.

Sure, children will get health care, but what about the poor suffering health insurance companies? FDL has the horrible details of the Bush-Leavitt plan.

If you are not angry now, how about his tale?
An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her U.S.-born son has been deported to Mexico, the church’s pastor said.
Her 8-year-old son, Saul, is now living with Coleman’s family. During a news conference in Los Angeles after Arellano’s arrest, the boy hid behind the pastor’s wife and wiped away tears.

The boy will be separated from his mother because he was born in the US and per the 14th Amendment, he is a US citizen. This is the consequences of "enforcement" and conservative-nativist "family values." (H/T as always, FDL)

Monday, August 20, 2007

How Republicans plan to win in 08

Quick, what's the number one issue on Americans minds now? Iraq right? Well if Republicans have their way:
"I think the defining issue in '08 is going to be Hillary Clinton."

-- Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell, Louisville Courier-Journal, 8/5

That's right the same McConnell that is getting blasted at home about the war with ads, protesters, and sinking popularity rankings.

At first I thought this was a GOP fantasy, but then I realized it was a real strategy.
On conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh's show Wednesday, Rove predicted the New York Democrat would win her party's nomination but said she was "fatally flawed" and would ultimately lose the race for the White House.

"There is no frontrunner who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has in the history of modern polling," said Rove

For her part, Hillary spun this as Rove is "obsessed with" her because she and her husband are the only ones who have been able to beat "these guys."

Here's Rove's plan in a nutshell: keep the story on Hillary and keep her negatives up. Sadly, the media will happily play along with stories about the Clinton's sex lives, the 1990's "scandals," Hillary's sealed WH records (when Bush sr.'s and Reagan's are still sealed thanks to George W.), and even her clothing/hair choices.

The idea doesn't sound that unreasonable when you consider that is exactly what Rove did to Al Gore and John Kerry. The races became about those men's supposed flaws rather than George W. Bush's.

Sen. Clinton is right to say that the Right Wing Attack Machine will do the same thing to whomever the nominee is. But the question is, who has more built-in fodder?

It is true that Hillary/Bill drives conservatives as nuts as Karl Rove/George W. Bush drives liberals nuts. But that doesn't mean that a base election will mean either a 2004 type GOP victory or 2006 type Democratic one.

Personally, I am tired of my party nominating the same old candidate who checks off all the boxes for the party's interest groups but doesn't really excite anyone. Gore and Kerry were exactly those types. Hillary to me looks to be the same type. Granted, professional woman really are excited about her and will rally towards her when she is inevitably attacked.

Nevertheless, the dramatic change that someone like Obama represents (whether or not he would actually change things) seems like just what the country needs right now. His negatives are, according to right wing groups: his middle name, his attendance at a school in a Muslim country when he was 3-6 years old, his willingness to talk to America-hating dictators like Kim Jung-Il, his willingness to take nukes off the table, (and that is half-black).

The first two have tried and failed miserably. The last one is a covert attack line that must be used very carefully since racism isn't very hip these days. The middle two are ones that Hillary and other Washington establishment types seem to think are a big deal, but I bet polling would say that these are mainstream American positions.

Generally, it will be much harder for Republicans to make the election about Barrack Obama than it will be for them to make it about Hillary Clinton or John Edwards' hair.