Saturday, October 20, 2007

another poll, another lopsided loss for vouchers

Give up already, the people don't want your crazy experiment. From the Deseret News:
The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University released the results of its Utah Voter Poll, a survey of 417 voters earlier this month.

Sixty-one percent of those polled indicated they would vote against vouchers, while 39 percent said they would vote in favor of the program.

Moreover, 90 percent said they were very certain of their vote.
Voucher pusher Speaker Greg Curtis said that "polls are just polls," let's see you say that to when you lose your job next November.

Friday, October 19, 2007

voucher debate next Tuesday

Mark your calendars! Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 PM, the SJ Quinney College of Law will be hosting a debate on vouchers. KUED's Ken Verdoia, who moderated the Rocky Anderson v. Sean Hanity debate, will repeat his role for the voucher debate.

On the Yes side will be Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper) and Patrick Byrne ( CEO and major PCE donor). On the No side will be Allan Smith (Utahns for Public Schools' attorney) and Vik Arnold (UEA Dir. of Gov. Relations and Political Action). The debate is sponsored by the Federalist Society and my old group, the Public Interest Law Organization.

I wish I could be there. It should be filled with actual arguments and not just Oreo cookie-style rhetoric. Park at the Rice-Eccles stadium lot or take TRAX.

the conservative case against vouchers

(Photo Credit: Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News)
(Republicans Representatives Sheryl Allen (displaying the charts), Kay McIff (left), and Steve Mascaro)

With PCE claiming that somehow the ACLU, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and the gays are behind opposition to vouchers, it is helpful to remember that the only reason Referendum 1 is possible is thanks to a few courageous Republicans who disobeyed their leadership's wishes. Utahns appreciate it.
"I respectfully disagree with my Republican colleagues who support the flawed voucher law," said Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful. "Utah voters, especially Republican voters, need to hear from Republican lawmakers that this law has too many flaws and will cost too much money — money that could be spent in our public schools."
" the program is phased in, the costs far exceed any savings associated with the program," Allen said. "Over a 13-year period, Referendum 1 would cost the state $429 million, which is hundreds of millions of dollars more than even the most optimistic estimate of savings."
"We have funded education in the state through our entire history, through the Depression and thick and thin," said Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield. "Now we find ourselves with the fewest numbers of kids per family and the strongest economy in our state's history and they are saying, 'We can't afford to fund our kids' education'... Citizens should know that we will continue to educate our kids in the state (in a system) that gives us the biggest bang for our buck."

Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, also said he wanted to dispel the myth that vouchers will lower Utah's large class sizes.

"If you reduce the number of students in a school, then you reduce the number of teachers as well. ... Vouchers will not change that," Mascaro said.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates a reduction of three students, at most, per school per year, he said.
Three students? For those of you who never took or forgot basic economics, fixed costs-- school buses, salaries (teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, school support staff, district administration), maintenance, etc.--will all not be reduced by vouchers, especially if the 3 students number bares out. So where are the savings supposed to come from? [crickets]

I don't want government programs for the sake of government programs, so if the private sector can do something better, then let them do it instead. But when there is a market failure, the government should step in for moral reasons. For example, private charity has failed to keep the elderly and the poor from getting health care...thus, we have Medicare and Medicaid.

Likewise, private education in the early republic failed to adequately educate a sufficient number of our citizens. And for over 200 years, we have provided free public education for our children until secondary school. Now other countries are doing a better job of educating their children, and none of them have vouchers. Rather, they have nationalized education. If you want to talk about savings, how about nationalizing education? Why not use the bargaining tactics and power that Walmart uses for toilet paper to buy supplies for schools, including textbooks, buses, building materials, playgrounds etc.?

Instead, the Republican leadership in the legislature prefer gimmicks like vouchers that by design cannot and will not give enough parents "school choice" to see if the idea would really work.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cannon and Bishop don't want children to have health insurance

Not a single Republican switched their vote, including Chris Cannon and Bob Bishop, who chose President Bush and HMOs over children.

Sad really.

something to remember

Next year, when Governor Huntsman asks for 4 more years. Remember that he signed the voucher bill, and is voting for the bill to become law. You, the people, have the power to make sure it doesn't become a law. Vote NO on Referendum 1.

While we are having to debate whether it is a good idea to try to waste millions of dollars on a voucher program that no one can afford, no schools will participate in, with no oversight, and no positive outcomes, our city's police and fire department need help.
For about two hours early Wednesday, all of the department's computers and radios went out, including all 911 services. The culprit: rain and a leaky roof.

About 1:30 a.m., the power source to the electronic equipment at the police department, on the corner of 200 South and 300 East, went out "because water leaked through the ceiling and fried the mother board," said Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Bedard. The power source is in a building next to the police station's parking structure, which already is partially closed because of deterioration.
Vote to issue to the bond if you live in Salt Lake City.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

legislature's own auditors say schools lack oversight

In the wake of Federal and State embezzlement charges against officials in Davis and Weber Counties' School Districts, Utah's legislature wisely (lap that up because I won't use those words again in a while) asked the Office of the Utah Legislative Auditor General to audit and report on all school districts' controls to prevent such crimes in the future. For Davis County, the Auditor General's report found
  • Inadequate separation of duties

  • Centralized order and delivery for Title I purchases

  • Inadequate approval and review of vendors

We are also concerned that important monitoring controls at Davis were ineffective or not implemented.
These problems are similar to that of D.C.'s voucher school program and to what is a lack of oversight built into Utah's voucher bill.

Now, to be fair, the Auditor General's report also says that Davis and Weber's problems are getting fixed (at least partially) and that they have problems worse than other Utah school districts. But when school district officials are siphoning off millions of dollars for personal use, that is hard to top.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

vouchers supporters are ignoring rural Utah

The graphic of the day (graphics love to The Salt Lake Tribune, H/T Accountability First):
To me, this looks like a map of the Wasatch Front, not the state of Utah. Since state taxpayer dollars are going to this ideological pet project, shouldn't everyone in the state be able to use the vouchers? And if it is such a great and wondrous thing that will magically fix our public schools and lower costs (since the invisible hand of the market gave us Enron, WorldCom, Tyco,...), why can't the kids in Kanab or Hurricane enjoy their vouchers?

Its the same reason $24 Million of your tax dollars are going to a useless soccer stadium in Sandy, Speaker Curtis' home town: because Republicans in the legislature can and don't care about actual public policy outcomes. They just want pork for their district or a nice pork tenderloin paid for by a lobbyist.

Chris Cannon: corrupt and in trouble

Maybe Marshall is right and Rep. Chris Cannon is a lost cause on S-CHIP. If that is the case, I might has well point out other horrible things Cannon is doing.

First, Cannon is going to bat for telecommunications companies. His brother edits the piece that tells us...
Cannon, along with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., proposed a bill that would reduce taxes paid by satellite television subscribers to be the same as those who use cable.

"Quality of service, variety and cost to consumers should be the deciding factor in choosing a television service," Cannon said. "When the government favors one service over another, using the tax code, consumers and taxpayers always lose. Instead of playing favorites, we should level the playing field and let businesses compete for subscribers."

Six states have sales taxes on satellite television service, so DISH Network or DIRECTV customers pay higher taxes than cable customers, according to DIRECTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp., which support the bill.
When you say the same as, it really is a government subsidy to support satelite TV companies. I am sure it has nothing to do with the $417,772 he has raised over his career by Telecommunications and Electronics companies and their employees.

And then there's his fundraising numbers. Let's compare the Deseret Morning News who's managing editor is Chris' brother, and Salt Lake Tribune, shall we?

Campaign coffers swell for Cannon, his election rivals
By Suzanne Struglinski
Deseret Morning News
Published: Oct. 16, 2007 12:37 a.m. MDT

Cannon trails challenger Leavitt in race for campaign funds
By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/16/2007 06:56:08 AM MDT
Which one is telling the more accurate story and which one has an inherent conflict of interest which they never mention in any Chris Cannon story? (Oh by the way, here are the actual Q3 numbers: David Leavitt raised $110,005, $95,000 cash-on-hand; Chris Cannon raised $53,087, $40,026 cash on hand; Jason Chaffetz raised $45,100, $35,000 cash on hand).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chris Cannon picks mercenaries over children

This Thursday, the US House will vote to override President Bush's veto of the State-run Children's Health Insurance Program or S-CHIP. To refresh your memory, Reps. Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop voted against health care for poor-to-middle-class children. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, this program and its compromised expansion has been championed and authored by Sens. Kennedy and Hatch. Governors love the program because it gives them flexibility to implement the coverage and eases state coffers. It is funded by the only politically tenable form of taxation out there (thanks to Conservative Activist Grover Norquist): cigarettes.

Guess what else Cannon is against? Making sure Private companies that kill Iraqi civilians while attempting to protect U.S. governmental officials are accountable under U.S. law. "What's next? Supplying Moqtada al-Sadr with a taxpayer-funded trial lawyer?" Cannon, a Republican from Utah, wrote in piece published last week in the conservative newsletter Human Events. This just shows how stupid Chris Cannon really is. al-Sadr is a Iraqi cleric, and last time I checked, wasn't being paid to protect the U.S. embassy and State Department officials like Blackwater USA is. Furthermore, making a company who merely fires an employee who gets drunk and kills people accountable under U.S. criminal laws is a long as you have some sort of brain apparently. Since his first line of "reasoning" amounts to an apples-to-bowling-balls comparison, he tried this nugget out next:
Under current U.S. and Iraqi laws, contractors have what amounts to immunity.
And Cannon thinks they should. He says success in Iraq hinges on diplomatic efforts. No diplomat has died under Blackwater protection, but if those contractors had to worry about being prosecuted for their actions, they may hesitate.
"If diplomats start being killed because of it, then we are set back," he said.
The diplomatic effort that needs to occur is among Iraqis (especially between Sunnis and Shi'a leaders and militias), and while hopefully the State Department can facilitate that, I don't see the two as linked like Cannon does. A dead American diplomat is the same as a dead American soldier, or a dead Iraqi civilian, or a dead Iraqi moderate...they are all bad for peace and all equally valuable human lives.

Cannon thinks they need to act with impunity because they get results like these:
During the ensuing week, as Crocker and Petraeus told Congress that the surge of more U.S. troops to Iraq was beginning to work and President Bush gave a televised address in which he said "ordinary life was beginning to return" to Baghdad , Blackwater security guards shot at least 43 people on crowded Baghdad streets. At least 16 of those people died.

Two Blackwater guards died in one of the incidents, which was triggered when a roadside bomb struck a Blackwater vehicle.

Still, it was an astounding amount of violence attributed to Blackwater. In the same eight-day period, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers , other acts of violence across the embattled capital claimed the lives of 32 people and left 87 injured, not including unidentified bodies found dumped on Baghdad's streets.

The best known of that week's incidents took place the following Sunday, Sept. 16 , when Blackwater guards killed 11 and wounded 12 at the busy al Nisour traffic circle in central Baghdad .

Iraqi officials said the guards were unprovoked when they opened fire on a white car carrying three people, including a baby. All died. The security guards then fired at other nearby vehicles, including a minibus loaded with passengers, killing a mother of eight. An Iraqi soldier also died.
Is there any thing that Bush could do that Cannon wouldn't support?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

quote of the day

"I'm sure I am neither as virile nor as handsome as Chris Cannon," said Rep. Chris Cannon. "I don't know if I have ever seen the guy, but I suspect that for whatever parts are attractive in those kind of movies, I probably don't compete." --on the Chris Cannon who has stared in such films as "Booty Bangers" and "Reform School Girls."

On his campaign website:
Pornography is a national problem that needs to be curtailed. The solicitation and distribution of pornography in its many forms is an issue that Congress needs to address. Determining the long-term effects that pornography has on individuals is the first step in fighting the pervasive filth that has unfortunately become a staple of American culture. It is my hope that during the 109th Congress, major steps will be taken to address this important issue.

cutting the crap

Buhler is claiming he is an environmentalist and that Becker is not. I will pause for the laughter to die down.
"He has been with us 100 percent of the time," Scott Daniels, chairman of the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club said about Becker, whom the group has endorsed. "The environmental community feels very comfortable with him."
Any politican can use a locale as a prop and make promises. Remember that prison that Governor Huntsman was going to build? I am sure the people of Daggett County remember that too.

So next time Buhler attacks Becker and holds a press conference in some place to make his point (the capitol, a water treatment plant) remember to ask the people who really care about a given issue, who they support. That way, you can cut through the crap--by looking at records, not plans--and know who you should vote for if the given issue is important to you.