Wednesday, December 31, 2008

what a year

Can you believe it is the end of 2008 already? The year has gone by slowly and quickly at times, but I guess since I am getting older, time moves more quickly in relative terms. In the last few years, I have been countercyclical in the sense that I started to law school when George W. Bush got his second term, I got two great jobs as everyone else seemingly began to lose theirs. Part of me feels guilty for this fact, that I am somehow causing it. Like those sports fans who insist that if they don't watch a game just so, their team will lose.

There are so many good stories nationally and locally to follow but of late, I have dropped the ball given my new employment. Currently, I am in the eye of the storm and so I can peek out and say hello to whomever still reads my ramblings.

I am still bubbling with things to say about all of these topics de jour and maybe some day I will have time to spill them out on to this blog. Until then, enjoy celebrating an arbitrary ending to an arbitrary year where so much changed for better and for worse. Stay safe and let's hope and pray and work to make 2009 much better for those suffering from the effects of years past.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas Eve

I saw this snowman and his snowdog (complete with twine leash) while walking my own dog last night.

Drive carefully and best of luck on your travels.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

backup quarterback

I know, I know tired old sports analogy, coming right up.

So have you noticed that Senate Republicans appear to be gearing up to get a scalp in January, namely Eric Holder, Obama's nominee for Attorney General? As much as I am sure the nation would love to watch a political "scandal" version of "I love the 90s," I think Obama has other plans.

Namely, his old Harvard Law School buddy Rep. Arthur Davis (D-AL) is waiting the wings to be his disignee instead of Holder. Why else would Obama have asked for the FBI to do a background check on Davis, and why else would Davis agree to do it? There isn't another appointment left open that Davis would be willing to trade a safe House seat for other than to be A.G.?

I think Obama's people are considering weather to cut Holder loose and go with Davis, and whether the risks of having a nasty confirmation fight outweigh the risk of changing nominees.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ever to true to Brown

Since my boss is stuck in Twin Falls or some place and the office shut down at 4, I decided to head home early and read the backlog of magazines.

I started to read about Thomas Tamm, one of the whistle blowers on the NSA's illegal wiretapping that eventually hit the New York Times and three things jumped out at me:
  1. I have walked by the payphone Tamm used to call the Times many times, and I hope in the future it will become as famous as the Watergate landmarks of Washington, or the Hilton where Reagan was shot.

  2. While the FBI may be terrible at stopping terrorist attacks, or finding the anthrax mailer, they are terrific at making your life miserable in hopes that you will confess and they can be done with it.

  3. Tamm himself, after graduating from Brown University in 1974 and Georgetown Law three years later, chose a different path in law enforcement.
    I am proud to say I am a fellow alumnus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Spiting his face

Can you believe that we are half way through December? It seems there is not enough time in the day to do all of the things I need to do, at work and at home. And the things I used to do, like post to this blog, have unfortunately fallen by the wayside. So while I haven't as much time as I would like to digest the day's news and commentary, one thing I read recently struck me:

Jason Chaffetz is determined to continue the legacy of Chris Cannon by being as overly partisan and embarrassing to his state and constituents as Cannon was. Case in point: Utah's mythical 4th seat.

[Caffetz] is breaking with the rest of the state's delegation by saying he opposes a plan that would give Utah a fourth seat in the House and add a seat for the District of Columbia.

Republican Jason Chaffetz says he's opposed to the bill because he believes giving Washington, D.C. full voting rights in the House is unconstitutional.
Jason cares more about continuing to disenfranchise overwhelmingly Democratic and not coincidentally overwhelmingly African-American D.C. than he cares about increasing his state's power in the House. Is he worried that Jim Matheson would take one seat and a Becker/Corroon-type would take the lean-Dem seat?

We all know the constitutionality argument is a smokescreen for something else. Jason's ideological peers are the same congress-critters that voted to intervene in a lawsuit between the husband and parents of a brain-dead woman, the same ones that voted for the Military Commissions Act (which stripped detainees of the writ of Habeas Corpus without a state of civil war or invasion), the same ones that looked the other way or promoted bills that would condone or allow the U.S. government to torture people (in clear violation of signed treaties, which have equal force as the constitution itself).

So why cut off another seat to spite your state? To me, no other explanation makes sense besides the partisan one: if D.C. gets a seat, that is one more liberal Democrat in the House. He probably figures that Utah will get that seat in 4 years anyway, so why give up a seat to D.C.? How about because now the Democrats can give D.C. its seat without giving Utah one? Or making D.C. a state, and therefore also creating 2 more Democratic senators?

The news out of Minnesota sounds like Al Franken has a pretty good chance of pulling out a narrow victory, making 59 members of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate (including Lieberman and Sanders). All you need therefore is one scared GOP senator to vote with you to overcome cloture and the Dems could pass it even with a filibuster threat.

And there are plenty of those. Specter looks like he will get serious challenges from the left and right, if he decides to stick around (he has stage 4 Hodgkins's Disease)...and Pennslyvannia has gone Democratic since 1992. There are numerous other senators in bluing states that could be picked off on an issue by issue basis.

Jason, in short, is a freshman GOP House member during worst time to be a conservative partisan-hack back bencher. But he seems determined to stay as clueless as Cannon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

all over but the constitutional amendments

Over half the states in the union (29) have articles in their state constitutions banning gay marriage, including, most recently, California. Arizona was the only state in which such an amendment actually failed any time it proposed, but then it passed this year. Only two states allow actual marriages (Connecticut and Massachusetts) and a handful more allow civil unions for same-sex couples. So why are gay rights advocates feeling positive? Time, in short, is on their side.
The GLAAD poll -- conducted the week after voters outlawed gay marriage in California, Arizona and Florida -- shows that majorities of U.S. adults support expanding hate-crime laws to include gay people (63 percent), offering some type of legal recognition to same-sex couples (75 percent) and extending rights to fair housing and employment to gay and transgender people (51 percent). Nearly 70 percent oppose laws -- Utah has one -- that prevent gay and lesbian couples from adopting children.
GLAAD's [poll also found] that 47 percent of U.S. adults back gay marriage -- with 49 percent opposed (within the poll's 2 percent margin of error).
So that means that people alive today are becoming more and more tolerant of gay rights in general, but gay marriage itself is still off on the horizon.
Results, drawn from the Big Ten Battleground Poll, indicate that support for gay marriage will get a notable boost if the state's high court rules in favor of it. And, a majority of Iowa voters under age 30 are already in favor of gay marriage, suggesting that support for it could grow as time goes on.

Battleground polls were conducted Oct. 19-22[, 2008] in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, home to the 11 universities in the Big Ten Conference. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
I remember seeing similar polling in Massachusetts in 2003 after Goodridge came down. The majority of younger voters supported gay marriage, their parents' generation was split, and their grandparents' generation was overwhelmingly opposed.

In sum, the culture wars are for all practical purposes over and those dirty hippies have won. While supporters of the mythical 1950s style Ozzie and Harriet family values might score victories now, their supporters are shrinking--both the number of evangelicals are shrinking as well as those left of the Greatest Generation. This is why supporters of such bans seek constitutional amendments and not legislation, not because they fear the courts (which they could pack via political victories in legislative and gubernatorial races), but because constitutional amendments are, in theory, more permanent and more difficult to undo.

But I fully expect that in coming years all this will rapidly change in favor of gay rights, including the right to marry. When this tipping point will occur, I cannot say, but anywhere from 5-20 years from now, I predict that gay people will be marrying everywhere...yes, even in Utah.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No shame

There's a joke I heard recently: two LDS missioniaries go in for a visit with a family. After a while, the hostess remarks that the
rumors aren't true, Mormons don't have horns. "No, we just saw them down," says Elder Smith. "Go ahead, feel," he says, leaning his head towards her. "I don't feel nothin'," she remarks. "Not even a little embarressed?" Asks Elder Smith.

OK that was a long windup to the point of this post: the shameless hipocrisy of ex-Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz Mickelson. Enid came out of hiding to denounce Obama's AG designate Eric Holder as a "lawbreaking opportunist". This from a woman who violated FEC regulations by dumping over a million dollars of illegal funds to get elected, only to blame her husband and cry on national TV when she got caught (and prosecuted by Holder). "Ms. Kettle, may I introduce you to Mr. Pott? ... Oh I see you've met already."

"I think [Holder] has absolutely no moral or ethical integrity and shouldn't be attorney general," Enid told the Tribune's Ed board. She has to oblivious, right? No, she is anything but dumb, which is why the whole Joe-did-this-behind-my-back-he-tricked-me defense is remains laughable today. I mean, even Republican hack Hatch supports Holders nomination.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I had to share this

So I am taking a break from work (that's right, I have worked several hours EVERY DAY this week and I know that will also include tomorrow) to eat dinner and watch some TV. One of my favorite shows is Ace of Cakes and during the commercials I saw this gem:


Yes, you too can look like a Druid for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Do people really get deathly cold when they want to use the phone AND be under a blanket? Call me crazy, but to me, a "blanket with sleeves" is really just a robe that opens in the back like a nightgown. And seriously, what is up with commercials and the use of black and white as parade of horribles?

It has become so cliche now and I wonder why people think it is so effective. Aren't black and white TV shows and movies supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Then why are people always wrenching their backs, shaking their heads, and having trouble opening jars in black and white? Just asking.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Word

"In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." --John 1:1

This is arguably the most famous opening lines ever, and for ranks above the lines for "A tale of two cities." Why?

For since its inception, humans have revered their most brilliant invention: writing. The written word is so powerful that Jesus used it to thwart the devil himself in his battle against Satan. The phrase "for it is written" is one of the most oft occurring phrase in the bible for a reason. The word is the basis of differentiation between us and other animals.

The U.S. was founded on the power of the written word. The Founders placed their new government in the hands of a piece of parchment they wrote on, not a royal family, or army as every person had before then. If you haven't yet, go visit the National Archives the next time you visit D.C. The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights are placed on a secular alter for all to worship and view behind protective "glass."

The rule of law is not just a concept but a possibility due to the written word. It is reason I have been able to learn from those who came a millennium before me and become an attorney. It is the reason I work so hard and conversely why I am able to provide for my family despite my inability to repair or build almost anything physical. I owe my life, livelihood, and this blog to the written word.

So while you might not see many new words on this blog in the foreseeable future, the Word remains with God and the Word is God. Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

politcal capital at the capitol

I am not surprised that Chris Buttars and the NRA can sink anything in the legislature out of ignorant vindictiveness. But here's what surprises me: Gov. Jon Huntsman is very weak.

In case you forgot, two weeks ago Huntsman won by the biggest margin of any governor up for election this year. He should have clout with the legislature like President-elect Obama supposedly has with Congress. Then again, Obama is not spending any of it on things like punishing Joe Lieberman for disparaging him for two years (and campaigning against him and a number of other Senate Democrats). So did Huntsman let Hilder let his Court of Appeals nominee twist in the wind? Did he see the writing on the wall?

Attorneys of all ideological stripes supported Hilder because he is a good, ethical judge and not anti-gun or whatever crap his detractors claimed he was. I have had occasion to go before him, hear him at CLE events, and talk to him on a personal level and you could have added me to the list of supporters.

Hilder was a pawn in a political show of force by the intransigent legislature heck-bent (this is Utah after all) in stymieing the will of the people. This time it was the NRA, next time it could be the culture warriors or any other member of the parade of horribles that make up their the lobbyist and wingnut base of supporters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Missing in action

So where have I been? I started my new job on Monday. And while
people are super nice, helpfull and patient with me, I feel totally
overwelmed and lost.

As for my thoughts on the day's news, the LDS Church is turning into
the fall guy for the blowback on the passage of prop 8. Yet this
won't earn them any respect with Evangelicals or conservative

And Obama's choices thus far as underwhelming as his pick of Biden.
Change will be gradual, it seems.

Sent from my mobile device

Friday, November 14, 2008

why lawyers should dominate the legislature

...and why they don't.

The Odgen Standard-Examiner published a letter to the editor that uses his irrational fear to write a letter that is out of touch with reality:
Most of us know that a one-party system is not in the best interests of the claimed democracy. But, we also know that one profession, Utah's legal profession, has played the dominate rule in two branches of our government. Article 5 of the Utah Constitution pays heed to the domination of two branches at the same time.

All judges are lawyers, all prosecutors are lawyers, all public defenders are lawyers.

If we start counting the lawyers in the Legislature, we will see another domination. Not a one-political party, but certainly a one-profession legislative and judicial system.
While the majority of the founders of the U.S. Constitution were lawyers, less than ten percent of legislators are attorneys. That's less than Democrats.

Time and time again, the legislature passes a bill that is so poorly written that the result is contrary to the intent. Folks like Sen. Chris Buttars, who expresses a clear disdain for judges that do anything against his personal interests (and not just his ideology). While there are staff attorneys and some attorneys in the legislature, it appears they are often ignored. I can't tell you how many times I would listen to a legislative history where someone like Sen. Scott McCoy is trying to warn his colleagues of the possible unintended consequences of what they are about to pass. Or where the legislature completely fails to discuss some ambgibous passage that might help those trying to interpret it.

Lawyers are not all ambulance chasers like Siegfried & Jensen. They are trained not to be hacks (contrary to popular belief) but to be capable of both seeing both sides of an issue and being able to persuade others that their suggestion is the better course of action. Shouldn't that be the description of a legislator?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

still up to their old ways

I was hopeful that the loss of Speaker Curtis would be a wake up call to Utah Legislators, not only to pursue serious ethics reform in a state that is rated at the bottom of by watchdog groups, but also to change the overall bully mentality that the legislative branch has towards potential political rivals, not just the Rocky Andersons but also the Jon Huntsmans.

On the plus side,ethics reform seems like it will actually happen next February, but of course, the devil can sneak into the details. However I was disheartened to read this:
Some local government officials are alarmed over newly proposed legislation that would block or severely restrict agencies with appointed boards from raising property taxes.
Sam Dickson, manager with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, said one version of the bill would essentially wipe out the district's ability to exist. That version would halt a non-elected board's ability to levy taxes for any new projects after 2010.
He also worried about an alternate version that would require a public vote for any tax increase.
"We're a forgotten entity in November," Dickson said. "If you have an election in July, it might help. But we don't have a lot of cheerleaders - we don't have the cute little animals the zoo can put out there."
The bill, unveiled Wednesday during a meeting of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee, is aimed at increasing transparency in property-tax issues and holding officials accountable, said panel chairman Sen. Wayne Niederhauser.
"I would like to see us craft something in legislation that would bring the accountability but yet not hurt the long-term issues that come with special districts," Niederhauser said.
Richard Bay, the general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, said that taxpayers could end up paying more for services such as water if special districts lose their ability to increase taxes.
While the buzzwords are there (transparency, accountability), the overall aim is to take power away from local governmental entities and concentrate power in the hands of the legislature so that they get to decide who wins and loses. Or in this case, who gets West Nile Virus or clean water. Frankly, I just don't trust anyone from the Utah County or Sandy machines to do the right thing in terms of looking at the bigger picture and looking out for more than just their friends.

Nor should all Utahns have to dole out their hard earned tax dollars for things better left to the decisionmaking process of local governments (cough RSL stadium cough cough). And sure, these taxing decisions should be made by elected officials who will have to face the music from voters if they go too far, but those officials should be those closest to the issue at hand, and not those insulated from the will of the voters ala the legislature.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

this week's sign

One of my favorite bits by Sports Illustrated was the "This week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us" ... while generally it was an athlete doing/saying something mindbogglingly stupid, it was consistently a good read.

Anyway, that is what popped into my head (into my head and out into my blog dear readers) when I read this:
Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley, have made it clear that there is an open invitation to the girls [Sasha and Malia Obama] to appear as guests [on "Hannah Montana"] whenever they would like. The two Obama girls have expressed interest in entering showbiz one day, and Cyrus has said that they are "kind of like me before I started my own career. You are kind of put in it because [of] their dad and because of my dad."
Yes, because the Obama girls make hundreds of millions selling jammies at Target with their likenesses on them made by children in China. Thier dad becoming the first black president is just like your dad being a one hit wonder. And of course, Miley Cyrus has Secret Service protection because people want to kidnap her and hold her ransom, and other violent acts including kill her. ... OK well that last one might be true.

Michelle and Barack, please put your feet down on this one. I can't think of a single pre-teen girl that wouldn't want to do this, but if you want them to "keep it real" and for it all to "not go to their heads," I think shooting this one down tops the list.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

trying to return the hype

Two commenters took issue with my contention in the previous post that a) Congressman Chaffetz thinks Obama is a socialist and b) that Chaffetz would be wrong to think so if he so believed.

Arc first states that there is a difference between declaring oneself to being a bulwark against socialist tendencies and believing the President-elect (or his party which controls congress) has socialist tendencies. But why would one feel the need to make such a declaration on election night if they weren't concerned about such tendencies (or believed that his constituents were so concerned)? Arc also gave me some sort of definition of socialism that seems more like the Social Democracies of Europe. But when McCain-Palin talked about "socialism," they also talked about "spreading the wealth" and "Marxism." Clearly, this means that they were talking about socialism in the sense of Marx-Engels, not Angela Merkel. Wikipedia defines socialism as "a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society."

To answer Trenton's comment as to why I don't think Obama is socialist, it is because there is no evidence in his proposals that he wants to collective own or administer anything the government doesn't already own/administer. Even arguably the most "socialist" policy proposal of Barack Obama, his health care plan is pretty minimal in terms of even social democracies. His proposed legislation (which won't be enacted into law because Congress will certainly change it significantly) would mandate health care for children, and give all adult Americans and their employers the ability to buy into the federal employee health care plan. There is also a bunch of stuff for reducing health care costs and ridding the insurance companies the power to exclude/deny coverage for folks with "pre-existing conditions."

It seems that George W. Bush and the 110th Congress are much more "socialist" when they passed a bill that went about buying stocks in financial companies under the $700 billion bailout package. And before that, when Bush had a Republican Congress to work with, Dubya expanded the government more any other president in history, yes even more that those great "socialist" presidents FDR and LBJ. You had prescription drug coverage, as well as a new federal agency that was corrupt and incompetent (the Department of Homeland Security). And like real communist countries from the 20th century, the Bush Administration featured jobs for incompetent party loyalists, torture, secret prisons, law enforcement agencies that were used political tools, and intelligence agencies used to spy on its own citizens.

The purpose of all governments is to use tax dollars and other revenues to make the lives better for people living in that jurisdiction. That means that some people will "get back" more spending towards things that help them than they gave to the government, but that is the price we pay for a civilized society that cares about those otherwise under-priviledged in their city/county/state/country. A rising tide should lift all boats, even if that means the yachts have to pull the dingies along. To quote that commie Adam Smith:
The subject of every State ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State. The expense of government of a great nation is like the expense of management of to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate.
In short, if Obama is a socialist, then so is the father of capitalism.

Monday, November 10, 2008

buying the hype

Towards the end, even John McCain admitted he didn't think Obama was a Socialist. Apparently, our BYU kicker turned Congressman didn't get the memo.
"As he [Obama] tries to bring us closer to socialism," Chaffetz warned, "I will be a strong voice in opposition."
I guess my question "Chaffetz couldn't be any dumber than Chris Cannon, right?" has already been answered. Sad really. Either that or he thinks constituents are rubes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We believed in change

And without Utah's help, Obama won by as much as 7 percent nationally (there are 3 million outstanding ballots in California alone, which could change the outcome in a congressional race and the gay marriage proposition) as well as an overwhelming majority of the electoral college.

My impressions of last night:
  1. When Obama was projected as the winner, and we saw shot after shot of people partying in the streets, beaming faces, teary happy faces, to me it looked like New Year's Eve parties in Times Square, and not an election. The country is ready for a change and eager to have Obama start.

  2. Every network rounded up their black correspondents and random black preachers, put them in front of the TV and asked them what Obama's victory meant for them and their family. Ironically, doing this was a wee bit racist ("You're black, right Frank? You must be proud!"). Some moments were moving though.

  3. In the end, the 1999-2002 McCain showed up to give his concession speech. It was a classy way to end his campaign that was so un-classy (especially his supporters who booed when McCain mentioned Obama's name). He genuinely seemed to want to help Obama be as legitimate a leader as possible and it almost appeared that he was contemplating caucusing with the Dems. The McCain redemption tour started last night 11:00 Eastern

  4. Joe Biden is damned lucky Obama picked him. Really, it wouldn't have mattered who Obama picked among the safe bets--AKA not a Sarah Palin equivalent--for his VP. Biden tried his hardest to screw it up for Obama by saying trademarked dumb things.

  5. If you thought your election watching party was lame, George W. Bush holled himself up in the White House to watch. That must have been less fun than a funeral.
I am going to try to get some sleep one these days, but boy that was fun to watch for a change.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

change begins with us

Mitt Romney said it about Republicans but think it applies to all Americans in all 50 states. Something like 80 percent of us think the country is on the wrong track. The promise of America and the idea of America have been sullied the last 8 years.

The reason millions of Americans are waiting in lines to vote today is because of that. This is the poem that popped into my head that really seems to fit the day:
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
--Langston Hughes

(Photo Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo for The New York Times)
"Voters lined up before dawn in Nottaway Park in Vienna, Va., to cast their ballots."

Monday, November 03, 2008

voting Dem will INCREASE Utah's clout

I know it sounds counter intuitive. One of the most Republican states in the union would be aided by Democrats gaining more votes in Congress (and the White House). But the scenario goes like this:
"The Democrats will be looking for a series of things they can do really quickly," says Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, the measure's biggest proponent. Party leaders will want to pass popular legislation that barely missed approval in the last Congress, he says.
"We've been trying to make the case that D.C. voting rights qualify across the board," says Zherka.
House leadership isn't ready to outline its agenda for the new Congress just yet, but House Leader Steny Hoyer's office says voting rights for the district are still a priority for Hoyer and he's in discussions on how best to proceed with the bill.
House passage seems a given since that body approved the legislation in 2007 by a large margin. The bill fell short on its way toward final passage by three votes in the Senate, but it is expected to gain supporters in the next session.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation on the DC Voting Rights Act and supported the bill in the Senate. Despite earlier indications of his support, Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted against the bill.
Most estimates are that Democrats will pick up 7-8 seats in the Senate (and 9 if Georgia goes into a runoff and somehow Jim Martin pulls it out in December with the help of a President-elect Obama), and somewhere between 25 and 30 seats in the House. And since Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill, whereas McCain (in one of the few votes he showed up for) voted against it, it seems safe to assume that Obama would sign such a bill into law, while McCain would veto it.

To refresh your memory, the bill would give Utah a 4th seat and DC a vote in the House. Come 2012, Utah would keep its seat (and maybe pick up another one depending on the demographic trends). The Utah legislature has already voted on a map that would unite West Valley with Park City to create as safe a Democratic seat as possible in Utah. If I was advising Jim Matheson, I would suggest he let an up and comer take that seat and go for the jugular and run against Chaffetz (or Bishop) in 2010. With 4 seats, especially if two are held by Democrats--the party that looks to be in control for the foreseeable future, Utah will have more power in DC to get things done that the state wants (light rail funding for instance) as it rapidly grows in the next decade.

Only one more day until the election. I voted early and did NOT vote straight ticket, voting for the first time in my life for candidates from another party. There were some candidates that did not earn my vote and so I either voted for the other candidate or chose to abstain from that race. No matter who you support or where you live, make your voice be heard and VOTE. Then make sure your friends and family vote. In 2004, a guy raced around town shuttling his mom and sister to the polls to vote in Ohio, just getting mom in before the polls closed. While it didn't effect the outcome of federal races, a local judge won because of one guy's efforts. Your vote does count. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Change IS coming to Utah, part drei

Can you feel it in the air? No it is not the freakish, man-made-climate-changed weather that I am talking about, but rather change.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune shows that 66 percent of likely voters had concerns about ethics violations on Utah's Capitol Hill. The same percentage said they support outlawing abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother's life or bodily function.
That's right serious ethics reform is as popular as banning abortion in this pro-life state. This statistic is yet another data point in support of my thesis that incumbents will fall on Tuesday in Utah.

Now I can't or won't predict which one it will be (Speaker Curtis? Senator Walker? Senator Buttars? Rep. Hughes? Rep. Monsen?) But there sure are ones that won't be missed.
Rendell, who is challenging Sen. Chris Buttars, tried to beat back a whisper campaign he said suggested the husband of 25 years and father is a stooge of the gay-rights crowd and might be gay himself.
"That's what he says I'm saying," said Buttars, who insists it's not true. "I do believe he has the total support of the gay community."
Seriously, Buttars has so many paranoid delusions that it is hard to keep track. Now for the party hacks predictions (totally non-biased I am sure):
Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, is predicting an eight-seat pickup in the Utah Legislature this year - the Senate seats held by Buttars and Sen. Carlene Walker, and six or more in the House, including the seats held by House Speaker Greg Curtis and Rep. Greg Hughes, head of the Conservative Caucus.
"We think it's a good year, between what's going on nationally and the local issues that have popped up," Taylor said. "I think it has to do mostly with the nature of the Republicans who are representing those areas [who] are arrogant and out of touch with Utah voters."
Utah Republican Party Chairman Stan Lockhart says he's confident Republicans represent the values of Utah voters and the GOP will do well at the ballot box.
You remember Mr. Lockhart? He's the guy who broke party rules to get his daughter seated as a delegate\. Of course, those two ideas pedaled in the article are not mutually exclusive. Given the number of races, the Dems could pick up 8 seats and the GOP would still obviously still do very well overall.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Deconstructing O-TV

Like 21.7 percent of American households, I watched Obama's 30 minute infomercial (in 1996, Perot's prime time commercial was seen by 16.8% of households). Unlike others though, I was not that jazzed.

There were moments, like when he talked about his mother's battle with cancer AND the insurance companies, where I was moved. But the rest was a bit over produced for my taste. We got 3 families from three swing states of three ethnicities (white, black and Hispanic) all talking about the economy, health care, and education. We got a live shot of the last 4 minutes of a rally in Florida featuring "That One" and the Big Dog himself. Some commenters said his office scenes reminded them of the oval office or tried not to be too oval office-y. I thought they looked like faux-Camp David, not faux-Oval.

I was hoping the 30 minutes would be more exciting, more risky. I miss those old Perot charts and call-in shows. Obama is also lucky that there was no 2008 version of Perot to worry about.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

repackaging Romney for a third time

From 1994 until 2003, Mitt Romney portrayed himself as a moderate Republican. From 2003 until now, he has portrayed himself as a conservative Republican. What's next?
"Republicans will be looking for people who are not Palin, who are not McCain in the next election cycle, and I think [Romney] can be repackaged in effective ways as a different kind of Republican: one who is good with the economy, one who has executive experience, one who doesn't play to the most extreme elements of the party."
Romney told reporters at a breakfast for Utah Republicans during their party's national convention that he wasn't interested in a 2012 run.
But since dropping out of the 2008 race in February, Romney has stayed visible in the media spotlight and has crisscrossed the nation to help boost McCain and down-ticket Republicans running for Congress or local races. He launched a political-action committee, the Free and Strong America PAC, to raise money and distribute it to GOP contenders in tough races.
Utahns are pouring money into that PAC right now. Romney is already using his ex-staffers inside McCain-Palin to take down Palin, a likely 2012 primary foe.

But will the economy still be in bad shape and people still be hungry for a GOP daddy to fix it for them in 2012 when Romney 3.0 is unveiled? It is always an error to fight the last political battle and not look towards the future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hatch not a good judge of character

Next time Orin Hatch lectures us on morals or endorses someone, people should recall this:
The man Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch recently called a "legend" of the Senate now is a felon.
A jury convicted Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an Alaskan oil-services contractor.
Hatch was one of Stevens' character witnesses during the trial in a Washington, D.C., federal court.
During his brief testimony Oct. 14, Hatch called Stevens a hero, and "a very, very solid, fine, decent, honorable man."
After Monday's conviction, Hatch released this statement: "It is very disappointing to see this verdict today. In my dealings with Sen. Ted Stevens, I have always found him to be very honest and straightforward. My prayers are with the senator and his wife and family at this difficult time."
"I know Ted Stevens about as well as anyone in the United States Senate," Hatch told the jury. "I love the guy."
S=Uncle Ted is just the fifth sitting Senator since the 19th Century to be convicted of a crime. Stevens had an oil company add a floor to his house as well as furniture, which he attempted to conceal. That same company did more direct birbery on Ted's son Ben along with other AK legislators who named themselves the Corrupt Bastards Club. What did this company get in exchange? Some of the Stevens pork stream

Sen. Hatch has been in Washington so long that can't distinguish corrupt politicians from pubic servants.

operation fake candor

Like Sen. Obama, Sen. Bennett released his earmark requests today. And good for him. Obama did it last year because he was planning on running for president as a "change/reform" candidate, whereas Bennett got confused:
But what instigated the public disclosure had much more to do with a miscommunication than any change of heart.
A member of the powerful appropriations committee that oversees earmarks, Bennett declined repeated requests for an interview, deciding instead to speak through his spokeswoman Tara Hendershott.
She said Bennett released the names because he was told by defense subcommittee staffers that they also were going to make the information public.
"Sen. Bennett's office policy has always been to follow the practices of the subcommittee," Hendershott said.
But then the subcommittee staff didn't follow through, reverting to the standard practice of leaving the decision up to each senator.
About half the senators release the intended recipients of earmarks and half do not. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch does name names in his releases, as does Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
House members don't have a choice. By rule, they must disclose the company names.
Why Senators get to hide who they are giving our tax dollars to, I don't know. Maybe I should ask former Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ted Stevens, but he is a bit busy awaiting the jury verdict on his criminal trial.

This, and the rule that only Senators can disclose their campaign contributions in paper form so that they are not searchable until weeks after the filing deadline are rules that need to change to clean up the Senate next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

the ad man cometh

The Utah Democratic Party is starting its last minute push to win some seats in the state legislature, by using all of the scandals by Republican members to paint all Republican legislators as part of the problem:
"Bribery, intimidation and corruption," the stern-voiced narrator says, backed by menacing music. "These are the words of spy novels. Now they're being used by the local media to describe Utah's legislative leaders."
It cites the Legislature's failure to enact campaign finance reform, restrict gifts and consider a bill establishing an independent ethics commission.
"It makes you wonder, are Utah's legislative leaders simply out of touch or do they have something to hide?" the ad says to the sound of a door slamming. It then says Democrats are an alternative.
The party's pollster said that support for ethics reform among Utah voters is the highest the pollster has seen anywhere in the country, [Party Chair Wayne] Holland said.
As usual, SL County GOP Chair James "Pay-Day Lender" Evans is spinning furiously, calling the ads (Dems have flyers and TV targeted at other seats too) "laughable." Evans, the same guy who tried to take down now-Sheriff Winder by using a highly edited collection of "gaffes"--which were actually Winder describing what not to do--should know about laughable campaign tactics.
The ads come after two prosecutors recommended a grand jury inquiry into the conduct of former Rep. Mark Walker and state treasurer candidate Richard Ellis and the House Ethics Committee dismissed dueling complaints against Republican Rep. Greg Hughes and Democratic Rep. Phil Riesen.
These prosecutors consist one Dem and one Repub, and don't hail from places where Ellis or Walker have their political power base. This makes me believe that maybe there really is something to the charges of ethics violations against Hughes and Curtis and Bramble and...well you get the idea. The Dems are using the media and the ethics process to go after this pols, but given the past evidence of ethical misconduct by these pols' peers, shouldn't the Dems do this?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

failing to achieve false equivalance

State Rep. Greg Hughes, who may not be holding onto his seat come November, filed a retaliatory ethics complaint against the guy who leaked the story Hughes' ethics troubles to the news media. The idea was to discredit one of his critics (he has also claimed that the former state rep. who testified that he offered her campaign contributions in exchange for voting for the voucher bill is making it up to get back into politics). So far, so bad for Hughes.
A complaint of ethical misconduct against Rep. Phil Riesen was dismissed Wednesday, as the House Ethics Committee determined the complaint did not allege a violation worth considering.
The vote to not proceed and hear testimony on the complaint came down on a 4-to-4 vote, with the four Democrats on the committee voting not to hear testimony.
And if Hughes got a slap on the wrist for what he might have done, why should Reisen face a stiffer penalty? For tattling on his colleague? That's what the Republican members of the committee were mad about, and it shows how out of touch they are with reality.

Hughes is threatening to sue Reisen civilly for defamation. The trouble for him is that public figures can be slandered and defamed for lots of things with little or no basis in fact, unless the speaker acts with "actual malice" - knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of the truth - is alleged and proved by the public figure. So good luck with that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin 2012

No, I am not endorsing. Rather, I noticed that Palin has decided to start running for the GOP nomination for president now. She is actively disagreeing with John McCain on Gay Marriage and overall campaign tactics. John Edwards vented his strategy disagreement more quietly--as a source in a news story for instance--while Palin is happy voice her suggested alternatives to the media while the cameras are "rolling" so to speak.

It is almost as if she positioning herself to run next time already, believing McCain will lose badly. But I don't think GOP primary voters are dumb enough to nominate her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Change IS coming to Utah, part deux

In 2006, the Democratic wave lapped at the Wasatch Mountains. This year, the wave of voter enthusiasm is back...and it isn't because people are excited to pull the lever for McCain/Palin or any of the legislators up on Utah's Capitol Hill.
Would-be voters arrived by the thousands, filling out registrations in their front seats while the Clerk's Office moved its operation outdoors to accommodate the last-day crush.
"We have always known it was going to be a high-turnout year," Deputy Clerk Jason Yocom said as prospective voters
Darren Dufield of Salt Lake City fills out a voter's registration form on his motorcycle as he joins the long line of people seeking to sign up to vote Monday at the Salt Lake County Government Center. (Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune)
jammed roads in and around the government complex near 2100 South and State Street.
Salt Lake County is bracing for big numbers at the polls. The Clerk's Office has registered more than 35,500 new voters since last November, pushing the election rolls past 517,000 people. And that's not counting Monday's registrations.
Similar trends have cropped up elsewhere along the Wasatch Front.
Close to 2,000 people clogged the Utah County Clerk's Office on Monday - so many that phones went unanswered and voice mail maxed out, even with 30 temporary workers on hand.
The county had 181,000 registered voters in February and likely will reach 250,000 after Monday's forms are processed, according to Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson. That's a jump of 69,000 voters.
What's striking, Thompson added, is the number of new voters between 18 and 24 years old. Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University turned in a combined 4,600 registrations from campus campaigns.
And, in Davis County, the clerk reports 25,000 more registered voters this year than Election Day 2004.
"We've got lines in the hallway," said Clerk-Auditor Steve Rawlings. "We've never had this much interest in an election in the [18] years that I've been with the county."
Bumper-to-bumper registrations continued through the day in Salt Lake County, where the Clerk's Office projected more than 5,000 voter registrations Monday alone - a single-day surge that officials handled in fast-food fashion with a parking lot drive-through.
I am not saying that Obama has a shot at Utah or that Dems will make big pick ups this year state-wide. But there should be some surprises. One of the most interesting vote locally for me will be the Sevier County coal plant, which the Utah Supreme Court just allowed by striking down a law as unconstitutional.

Will the good people of Sevier County vote with their pocketbooks to create jobs building and operating the coal-fired electricity plant? Or will they vote with their lungs?

Don't get too cocky Utah Democrats

When I saw this bit of news, I wondered who decided this would be a good idea?
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is coming to Utah to campaign for the Democratic Party. The New York Democrat, who made a run for the party's presidential nomination, is scheduled to appear Saturday at a pre-election rally in West Valley City.
Sure, it is in West Valley, a Democratic strong hold, and sure the crowd should be one that loves HRC--but this is really tempting fate.

There is a reason Obama won the state's primary, and it isn't just because he had staff and good volunteers in the state. It is because Utahns never really liked the Clintons. Bill came in third place Utah in 1992, and the confirmation of his philandering in 1998 didn't help him or Hillary here, unlike in other states.

My first year of law school, I went to a student social event held in someone's condo rec center in Bountiful and we played Apples to Apples, a fun game that I recommend.

Anyway, the game has one person put down an adjective and the other players but down nouns they think "best fit" that adjective in the mind of the person who put down the adjective. Someone put down "evil," and a student chose "Hillary Clinton" as the best fit for this party game. Everyone but my Wellesley alum wife and I agreed that it was a pretty good choice (we bit our tongues of course).

The point is, Dems in Utah have the chance at a pretty good year. There are a number of legislative seats that could go their way, partly because of vouchers/ethics and partly because Obama looks lose by a much smaller margin than Kerry did. Don't blow it by inviting a national Democrat which certain segments of Utah's population loathe unconditionally. Of all the national Democratic figures to invite to Utah, she would be the last one I would suggest. Is Chris Dodd, with his Utahn wife, too busy?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

political phrases that need to die

After watching the (thankfully) last presidential debate between Obama and McCain, we heard some old tropes and some new ones that deserve a quick axe from our political discourse. In no particular order they are:
  1. Litmus test As in, I will not use Roe as a litmus test for my appointees to the US Supreme Court. Both candidates lie about this, and it is only due to the Georgetown Cocktail circuit that they have to maintain this fiction that Democrats won't appoint pro-Choice judges and Republicans won't appoint pro-Life judges. Give me a break. This is especially disheartening since there is an article about John McCain privately pledging to social conservatives that he would do just that the last time he ran for president (when he was running much more as a moderate Republican). I think the American people can handle the truth on this one.

  2. "How are you going to pay for that?" This is another Beltway Bloviator hang up. The Sunday talk show hosts and their wannabes still believe it is 1990 or something when the Concord Coalition had a point about balancing budgets and fiscal conservatism. But here in 2008, we are on the brink of a global recession with our financial systems in as bad a shape as they were in 1929. And in order to prevent it from becoming the Second Great Depression, we need to listen to the economist who helped get us all out of the last one: Maynard Keynes. FDR taxed the rich heavily, engaged in deficit spending on infrastructure in the 1930s and tanks bombs and airplanes in the 1940s and as a result, we came out of World War II with a global economic boom and with America as the number one economic power. Obama hinted at his support of Keynesian economics last night, but had to be oblique because the gasbags are obsessed with the gotcha question of balancing the budget and squaring a campaign's plans with basic math. All of us who know the basics of the legislative process know that whatever passes out of the 111th Congress will be drastically different than Obama's campaign literature. So get over yourselves moderators, that was the second time that question was asked, and the second time the candidates chose not to answer it.

  3. Main Street The linguist Geoffrey Nunberg shows that even when the term first debuted (1928), the phrase was nostalgic to a time long gone. America is an overwhelming urban and suburban country. Most people do not live in small towns/cities. The idea of "Main Street" is evocative of 19th Century America, a time when women couldn't vote (but could be raped by their husbands), blacks were enslaved, Native Americans were slaughtered, and children worked in factories. Personally, it is not a time I look back at with much fondness.

  4. Joe the Plumber/Soccer Mom/Hockey Mom/Joe Six-pack/NASCAR Dad I could really write a bit on each one of these, but they all are essentially the same thing: making voters into demographicial stereotypes. You never hear politicians or pundits say, "I'm a middle aged upper income male." Or "my policies make sense to unmarried women." But somehow it is OK tell suburbities they are just cliches. Last night's repeated reference to "Joe the Plumber" was annoying even to the pundits. Turns out too, that the real Joe is a tax deadbeat and might be related to John McCain's old friend Charles Keating. So much for your average blue collar small businessman.

  5. Kitchen table as family budgetary HQ They are called Kitchen Table Issues, Joe Biden talks about families sitting around their kitchen table discussing how they are going to make ends meet. I don't know about you, but I pay bills online/at a desk, and discuss my family's finances with my wife any place and time. In fact, the only place we haven't done budgetary stuff is at the kitchen table. That's reserved for EATING FOOD.

  6. Thanking the moderator and the venue for hosting a debate in opening and closing statements Is this just buying time to remember your talking points? Why waste a minute or two thanking this folks publicly when you only have about 45 minutes at best to describe all of your policies each time? I am sure the host and moderator appreciate it, but it would be no less polite and gracious to thank them privately before and after the debate. Americans don't need to hear you thanking them, they need to hear what you will do as president, governor, senator, congressman, etc. This thanking ritual is an invitation for viewers to tune out the rest of your statement. Someone please have the guts to drop it next time.

  7. strict constructionists and legislating from the bench These phrases are code ones for conservatives to mean "overturn Roe v. Wade" and "put them gays in their place." When the Supreme Court reads into an amendment designed to prevent former Confederate states from excluding newly-freed blacks from basic civil rights to mean that giant corporations--such State Farm and Exxon--cannot get punitive damages assessed against them in excess of a 9:1 ratio, these so-called strict constructionists don't say a peep. If your policy ideas are so great, you should not need to hide behind euphemisms that only your followers understand.

Oh, and this freeze frame to me summed up last night's debate:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

my generation is talkin' to your generation

(The "You talkin' to me?' scene from Taxi Driver)

Zach Exley, an "original cast member" of who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2003 at a Kerry Meetup in DC, has a must-read piece about the nature of Obama's ground game. It really is mind-blowing, and explains why even if McCain does well in tonight's debate, it won't be enough for him to turn it around in several swing states. A) Obama has votes in the bank, tens of thousands of them (right now he is leading in early voting in places like Georgia, for instance) B) He has more people more excited and ready to go to the mat for him than McCain.

The energy comes most strongly from Teens to Thirty-somethings--the age group that supports Obama the strongest. Not only are they organizing their campuses, co-workers, and neighborhoods, but they also using their powers of persuasion to go after their parents and grandparents who might otherwise be reluctant to vote for Obama. For example, swing state Sens. Klobuchar (MN), Casey (PA), and McCaskill (MO) all endorsed Obama in the primaries over their colleague Sen. Clinton at their children's urging.

This isn't something new for the general election, although it is much more intensive. For example, this Columbus Day Weekend, young Jews traveled (or should I say schlepped?) to Florida to convince their grandparents to support Obama. Sarah Silverman's now viral video was a bit dirty, but funny way to galvanize the effort.

Go to the site and watch the CNN and CBS stories on two young Jewish men who talked their grandparents (and some of their friends in the complex) into supporting Obama...sometimes, they had to resort to the "I'll marry a nice Jewish girl if do" card. The videos are hilarious, it is hard to believe there are some elderly people in Florida that really do seem to fit the stereotype. Another is a campaign from parodying the anti-drugs ads to urge my generation to talk their parents out of voting for McCain.

While both use humor to accomplish the goal, this is the generation whose primary news program is the Daily Show and Colbert Report. The Obama-Biden effort however, is deadly serious about changing minds and it is scaring the crap out of young conservative activists.

Even my son has gotten into the act of trying to convince his parents (thanks to loyal reader Jamie):

Monday, October 13, 2008


[Rep. Sheryl] Allen, R-Bountiful, has called [Rep. Greg] Hughes' offer to former Rep. Susan Lawrence, R-Holladay, a bribe, but did not join in filing an ethics complaint against Hughes.
Isn't a bribe something that requires an ethics investigation?

Here's another thing I don't get:
Hughes has filed a complaint against [Rep. Phil] Riesen [R-Holiday], claiming he abused his official position by leaking the ethics complaint to the news media.
Yeah it is abuse of power to inform the public that one of your colleagues allegedly attempted to bribe another colleague in exchange for voting in favor of a bill. Given how the ethics committee has operated in the past (even the Treasurer's race investigation this year was slow walked), forcing the issue by leaking to the media wasn't a bad idea.

Hughes has a good attorney representing him and the entire Utah GOP party establishment behind him. The public, however, might be another story. Where is a poll on his reelection when we need it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

protect the integrity of the election

If you are an attorney, a law student, a paralegal and you want to make sure nefarious individuals are not able to subvert this election, you can volunteer and not take sides.

The nonpartisan Election Protection 2008 coalition is seeking legal volunteers to staff Election Protection Hotlines and to work as mobile volunteers on the ground across the country. Call 1-866-Our-Vote or go to Those with legal training can volunteer here. Those without can volunteer by clicking here. Fill out the forms and help out. This election is too important to leave it to people leaving flyers that you can vote on the wrong day, voting machines hackers, tire slashers, sign stealers, and those who bribe homeless people with cigarettes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bill Who? sends me mail

Bill Who? Dew sent me a piece of campaign advertising (great targeting of mail Bill, I am sure the Avenues is a voter rich target for culturally based attacks) that pretended to be a newspaper "Congressional Times" it called New York Times style font. The "cover story" was that a month ago, Mitt Romney endorsed Dew. There's a shocker. Too bad Mttt's kid was too chicken to run against Matheson, then we might have had a real news story when he endorsed his own son.

Anyway on the back there are a series of votes where Dew claims Matheson voted against "Utah Values" and that were Dew in Congress, he would have voted the other way.
A review by The Salt Lake Tribune of the votes Dew cites, though, show the Republican's allegations are in many ways misleading.
Dew's mailer - which cites the wrong dates for two congressional votes - uses several protest votes offered by House Republicans to cast Matheson as against "Utah values."
When cornered with this fact, Dew spokeswoman has a retort on the ready.
"Just because a vote is procedural doesn't mean it is inconsequential," said campaign spokeswoman Tiffany Gunnerson. "These votes tied the hands of the House Republicans trying to bring tax cuts and energy drilling to the floor by any means possible. Voters deserve to know that Bill Dew would have helped these efforts while Jim Matheson did not."
In other words, voter should know that a Republican would vote with his party on procedural party gimmick moves, while a Democrat didn't.

The mailer could have been a lot shorter if he had just had his face next to an equals sign next to a GOP logo and Matheson's face next to a equals sign next to a Democrats logo. Because that is all he is saying, not how Matheson stands on the issues. Afterall, Matheson voted the way Dew claims he wishes Jim had on things like drilling.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

a monologue about gay marriage

As you might have learned from the comments on my previous post, the Sutherland Institute is hosting an event to scare the crap out of social conservatives and guilt them into phone banking, donating, or door knocking in California on behalf of their ill-fated Prop 8 to ban now-existing gay marriages in the Golden State. This proposition has nothing to do with Utah as we already passed our anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment four years ago, unless you hate gays so much that you are a-feared that them gays will have their California marriages recognized in Utah. Which somehow will lead Utah's divorce rate even higher.

The speakers are all those in favor of Prop 8, although they are sure than a few anti-Prop 8 audience members will try to shout rhetorical questions at them. Kind of like how Sean Hanity shows are really informative and provide equal platform to those who disagree with Mr. Hanity.

Back when I first started law school, my student group hosted a debate about Utah's gay marriage ban, which was I believe at the time on the ballot. We managed to get the guy who argued in favor of the scoutmaster in the Supreme Court case of gay scoutmaster versus the Boy Scouts of America. On the other side, we got some clown from the Sutherland Institute. I say clown because he was not even in the same league as the gay scoutmaster attorney. To be fair, he was taking up the reins for some BYU professor that chickened out at the last minute. Nevertheless, I started to feel sorry for the guy, even though I totally disagreed with his "arguments." As hosts of the event, we felt bad that we couldn't get a fair debate going because the pro-gay marriage side was apparently intimidated by this super lawyer.

It seems the Sutherland Institute learned the wrong lesson from our event and is content to present their same case but in a completely one-sided fashion. But if you want to hear what you believe or shout at the Sutherland Institute folks and get some Avenues hippies to clap with you, feel free to attend.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

moderate the moderators

So I watched the debate, and my overall impression was that Tom Brokaw got in the way and the candidates played it safe (but again, Obama won). Another thing that I noticed was McCain's odd body language.

The debate was supposed to a "town hall meeting." The normal definition is that the people get to ask whatever questions they want, but the candidates get to call on them. There will be crazy people and booing and cheering. Here, Brokaw got to pick out the questions that the voters had writen, they didn't get to ask follow ups. But Brokaw got to ask "follow ups."

Rather than hone in on the candidate's non-answers, he asked whatever the heck he wanted that was vaguely related to the question that he picked from. Brokaw would complain that the candidates were not keeping to the time limits, but his questions themselves took at least half that much time, including stupid name dropping. Go back into retirement Tom. I used to love Brokaw, and his was the nightly news program I would watch. Now, I can't stand him.

Moderators need to move the discussion, get the candidates to answer the questions and engage with the issues. Jim Lehrer did that. Brokaw covered no new ground, and spent most of his time oscillating between complaining about the rules which he himself ignored and bloviating in his questions.

There is a lot of really bad things happening at the same time...the stock market is collapsing, we are losing two wars, health care costs are exploding, the climate is radically changing, food prices are exploding. And the candidates want to talk about sternly worded letters they wrote to some administrative official. They are both Senators and leaders of the their party. Why aren't they taking any bold stances on anything? One of these Senators will be president in 3 months, when are they going to step up to the plate?

Back to the debate, though. John McCain looked really old when standing near Obama and he got a little too close for comfort for those in the audience. You could see how awkward the guy felt whom McCain touched. After the debate was over, Obama stayed in the hall and talked to voters. McCain bugged out. Obama tried to shake hands with McCain, but John instead had Cindy shake Obama's hand for him. Odd behavior, and as weird as his referring to Obama as "that one." It seems pretty obvious that McCain has a personal dislike of Obama...but it shouldn't be. One of these days, I have to write a post about how incompetent the McCain campaign team has been. It really is quite stunning. Anyway, have a good night.

why i love the fall

If you are a long-time reader, you have read my complaints about the summer, and I love this Slate article about how terrible August is.

But for the same reasons that I dislike the summer and especially August, I love the fall. Let me count the ways:
  1. Cool temps=great clothing options and no worries about sweating too much or sunburns.

  2. School's back. Yes, I really am a nerd at heart. I miss going to school now, it is my second straight fall without school and fourth fall in my life without school since age 7. Should I get another degree?

  3. Campaigns are in full swing. Lawn signs abound, the public finally starts paying attention to the election. Door knocking, literature drops, and GOTV begin in earnest. With my current job, I will miss out on being involved by a week. But still, it is fun to watch.

  4. Harvest time! Is there a better time to eat fruits and veggies in the Northern Hempisphere? I think not. My favorite fall dish: butternut squash soup. I puree it myself and add some kick to it.

  5. Great Holidays. Christmas is nice and all, but Thanksgiving is hands-down the best American holiday. There is no real commercialization other than the sales the day after, which are really "hey your relatives are in town, ask them what they want for Christmas and get it now" sales. Oh and good movies come out that weekend. Other than the annoying travel stresses, it is great. Who can top a holiday about family, friends, and neighborliness, which is combined with lots of great food and football?

  6. Which brings me to sports. The baseball playoffs are in full swing (I am a member of the Red Sox Nation since 1998, but have always disliked the Yankees), NFL football and college football has started, basketball starts (as does Hockey) and it is still warm enough to sit outside and watch the game without fear of frostbite.

  7. The foliage. Even though I turn 30 on Easter next year, I still love to kick up my feet when piles of leaves have fallen onto the sidewalks. Raking isn't that bad, and I remember jumping into the piles of leaves and stomping on the bags of leaves (to help pack more in) was a blast. I am sure my little one will enjoy that as well in the years to come. Also, before they fall, the leaves are pretty to look at. While New England still has the best ones to enjoy (which is partly why I went out there for college), you can drive up the canyons right now and see some leaves changing colors.

All in all, fall is great. Enjoy tonight's townhall-style debate (as close to the real thing as a "mexican-style" restaurant is) with this bingo game. If you chose to turn it into a drinking game, drink responsibly.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

how to lose a debate and alienate people, part deux

So, now that a few days have passed (and the SNL skit has run), we can better digest the VP debate and predict what to expect from the second McCain-Obama debate on Tuesday. Let's go back to my criteria, and then I will add two more that I recalled during the debate.
  1. Jargon: For Joe Biden, it was a struggle not to sound like the chairman of the foreign relations committee. For Sarah Palin, the goal was to sound like some one who knew what the foreign relations committee did. For the most part, Biden sounded like a normal, educated person. Palin, in an effort to sound educated, rattled off the names of people she met at the UN the other day and those that were on her cue cards. It was a rare time that her sentences had a coherent thought. Biden spent his time explaining (without condescension) the 2005 Bankruptcy bill, the 2005 Engery Bil, how McCain's vote and Obama's vote were equally "against the troops" and how McCain is no maverick/different than Bush. Advantage: Biden

  2. Talking about unpopular things: Palin went back to the old "But the Surge is working!!" crap, but did not dwell on it as long as McCain did, showing that it is his obsession, not the Republican Party's. Biden had to spent time explaining how his position on the war was different from McCain's and the same as Obama's. Advantage: Palin.

  3. Look them in the eye and tell them that they were wrong: Palin had her "oh no Joe, there you go again!" line and a couple factually inaccurate ways of attacking Obama and Biden. Biden smartly (more on this later) did not directly attack Palin, rather he praised her when she "supported" something McCain opposed, like a windfall profits tax on oil companies or same-sex couple property rights. Instead, he looked into the camera and attacked McCain, which is a VP candidate's job. Given that Biden's attacks were crisper and more factually based, Advantage: Biden.

  4. Gimmickry: Calling yourself a "Maverick" and referring to middle class voters as "Soccer Moms" and "Joe Sick-Pack" makes people wonder how regular-guy/gal you really are. Given her dearth of knowledge of public policy and current events (despite her claim that she reads all of the world's newspapers) might make her seem average, but then her ability to drop G's like they were dollar bills and other repeated folksyisms lend an aire of phoniness. My contrast, Biden gets a softball thanks to Palin (who must not have been briefed on Joe's personal tragedy) to choke up and talk about being a single dad worried about his children surviving. Her response to this signature moment? Recite her drinking game words. Advantage: Biden

  5. Moderator's pet peeves: At least ten times, Palin opted to explicitly not answer the Gwen Iffil's question and to go to her talking points. While Ifill was powerless (given the debate format) to call Palin on it, she sure was pissed. “Blew me off i think is the technical term,” Ifill said today on Meet the Press. Answering questions is not an odd pet peeve, it is the point of the debate. Otherwise, it is just a cue card recall competition...oh wait. Advantage: Biden

  6. Hold your tongue judiciously: Joe Biden's preppers proudest moment, I learned today, was when Palin confused the name of the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan with the worst Civil War general for the union. Why? Because you could tell that this error irked Joe, but said nothing about it. The old Biden would have given a 10 minute lecture about the subject and come off like a blowhard know-it-all. Thursday night's Biden let Palin hang herself with her own rope. Advantage: Biden

  7. Treat her like a lady: [New point number 1] When a male politician debates a female one, it is a rare moment of a double standard in favor of the female. Instead of worrying about what the woman is wearing, viewers worry about the aggressive body language of the male towards the female. Rep. Rick Lazio blew his shot at an open senate seat by (among other things violating Hillary Clinton's personal space during a debate. While males can call each other by their first names to convey collegiality--like Biden or Obama and McCain--but to not call a female politician by her title is seen as condescending/demeaning given the history of males doing just that with a malicious intent. Especially for Joe Biden, a man known for his gaffes and arrogant reputation, he had to call Sarah Palin "Governor Palin" and not Sarah, while she could call him "Joe." Only once did I hear Biden not call her Governor Palin, and then he immediately corrected himself. Advantage: Biden

  8. win the SNL primary: In 2000, Al Gore was mocked for his excessively loud sighing in the first debate, then for his overly mellow behavior in the second (they joked he was on horse tranquilizers). In the meantime, George W. Bush got close enough to "win" the electoral college. John McCain didn't pick Sarah Palin because or despite the fact she looks like Tina Fey, but this similarity has resulted in a lasting caricature of her as an idiot who is has trouble even parroting her lines. Fey's latest take down of the debate showed how empty the word "maverick" has become. They made fun of Obama for being a Chicago politician (and therefore must want to help his corrupt friends back home), and Biden for his love of John McCain but their mockery of McCain and Palin has been much harsher. These days, it is impossible to separate Fey's impression of Palin from Palin herself. Her actual debate performance actually dragged down the ticket among undecideds, even if Republicans were less depressed after the debate. This shows that my analysis is not as biased as you might think: Biden did much better than Palin did.Advanatage: Biden

This leads me to my point about the principals as well, McCain might be boxed in by SNL as Gore was in 2000. It will be interesting to see how McCain will adjust after an 0-2 performance from the ticket thus far in the debates and Obama being up by about 8.5 points (with significant leads in OH, FL, VA, and within striking distance in NC and MO). Will be be less aggressive/more friendly, seeing how people reacted to his "What Senator Obama doesn't understand..."? Will he be even more aggressive, given his campaign (and therefore Palin) has decided to talk about William Ayers? Will Obama bring up Charles Keating like he went tit for tat against Hillary Clinton during the primaries? I will get the popcorn ready, you bring the butter.