Friday, May 09, 2008

the second wave?

In 2006, voters' dissatisfaction with Bush, and the economy, the war, etc. lead to the Democrats regaining control in both chambers of Congress after a dozen years in exile (notwithstanding the brief period that Dems pretended to have control in the Jeffords 50-49-1 Senate). It was a wave of discontentment that swept incumbent Republicans out of office (and nearly cost a dozen more their jobs) all over the country...except in Utah. That wave seems to have lapped up against the Wasatch Mountains, the Green and Colorado Rivers and western desert.

Amazingly, things look even worse for the Republican Party this year nationally. At best, they will only lose 3 more Senate seats and two dozen House seats. At worst, Democrats could have a filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate. Even more incredibly, Utah Republicans are getting concerned about their prospects.
Perhaps worried that President Bush's poor approval ratings and a dragging economy could harm GOP candidates in November, the Utah Republican Party is starting a public campaign showing what is right about Republicanism and how GOP officeholders have brought prosperity, freedom and well-managed government to Utahns.
The new program comes as Republicans meet in their state convention Saturday in Orem. There, thousands of state delegates will talk about immigration and other political issues, as well as cast ballots for intra-party contests in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts.
Meanwhile, state party bosses want to remind Utahns why they've voted Republican for years.

Party leaders have faced criticism this election season as a number of GOP candidates and their supporters claim the party bosses favored incumbent Republicans, especially in a number of intra-party legislative races.
GOP state party chairman Stan Lockhart will submit a resolution before state delegates Saturday that outlines "what Republicans believe." It echoes what he told the Salt Lake County GOP convention last Saturday, that "it is not by accident" that Utah is one of the best managed states in the nation and that a number of Utah communities are rated as fine places to live and raise a family.

"We are going to get out our message — we have the best economy in the nation, we are the best managed state, most livable, best for the family, best place to start a business. Republicans helped create this atmosphere."
So what is the Utah Republican party's quasi-platform?
It quotes passages from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But it also makes statements of principles that are not found in those documents, as well. Among the principles:
  • A belief in God and a government based on "moral foundation with honesty, integrity, morality and accountability."

  • "Individual religious expression, including prayer, in public and private."

  • Individuals, families and charities should help the needy, but "support a government safety net if all else fails."

  • There should be public, private and homeschooling education, with competitive excellence in education.

  • Simplified tax code with elimination of the estate tax and a broad-based tax rate.

  • Environment, air, water and land are the heart of existence and must be protected "through balanced management."

  • Oppose abortion except to "preserve the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest."

  • Traditional family is the fundamental unit of society, with parents responsible for bringing up their children.
I wonder what the party's leadership expects to achieve with this document and what they plan to do to tout it? Or will they simply try to contrast it with the Utah Democratic Party's platform?

The phrase "competitive excellence in education" will likely be construed by Democrats (and perhaps Republican challengers) as official party support for vouchers, which the voters resoundingly rejected last fall all over the state.

Similarly, "honesty, integrity, morality and accountability" can be used as a bludgeon to compare certain incumbents ethical lapses, and more importantly the lack of ethics enforcement by the legislature's own or by the Attorney General.

Does this mean I think that the GOP in Utah will lose control of the legislature or any statewide offices? Extremely doubtful. But I do think that in this political climate, (additional) incumbents will fall in November.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

superD's in Utah

The local papers today discuss what's the hold up with superdelegates, in particular why haven't Utah's decided whom they'll vote for. In particular, they go after Utah's lone Democratic Congressman, Jim Matheson, who last cycle didn't even attend the convention in Boston. But I would rather focus on the other supers, because it is more interesting.
Both candidates have support among Utah's superdelegates. Utah Democratic Chairman Wayne Holland and former U.S. Rep. Bill Orton have endorsed Obama, citing his big win in the state primary and his ability to energize new voters. Obama will also have the support of an as-yet-unnamed superdelegate that Holland will select at the state convention on Saturday.
Clinton has the backing of Utah Democratic Committeewoman Helen Langan and former state Sen. Karen Hale, although they have said they are giving Obama's campaign a second look after his victory in the state primary in early February. Langan said Wednesday that she is remaining a Clinton supporter.
"If I say anything different, it will be after the primaries," Langan said.
Local readers know that Misty Fowler is probably going to be the "as-yet-unnamed [Obama supporting] superdelegate that Holland will select" a pledged delegate for Obama because Sen. Obama asked for her to be nammed his superdelegate. A well deserved trip to Denver for Misty, who worked her butt off (and represents the hundreds of others from Utah who also toiled for Obama) for over a year to get the Beehive State to go for Obama. (I hope Bob gets it as well)

So next we have Bill Orton, the former congressman from Odgen who ran for governor in 2000. My State Senator, Scott McCoy (who I am proud to has read this blog) is mounting a campaign to kick Orton off. And Orton's fighting back:
McCoy sent an email to hundreds of state delegates, informing them that [...] "Because Bill Orton endorsed my Republican opponent in my [2006] Senate race, I don't think he deserves to be our Democratic National Committeeman any longer. On this, I hope you will agree too," McCoy wrote in his e-mail.
Orton said Jarvis is a longtime family friend and volunteered on his gubernatorial campaign in 2000.
"My endorsement of my friend . . . didn't cost Scott McCoy any votes. But if I had abandoned my friend after he had asked me to help him out, I very well could have lost a close friend," Orton said.
"I'm very proud of that record I have in helping the party and helping Democrats," Orton said.
Orton also points out that McCoy backed a member of the gay Log Cabin Republicans in a Salt Lake City Council race. The council races are officially non-partisan.
Now that's interesting and I will be curious to see what happens.

But let's get back to our two Hillary supporting superdelegates: Helen Langan and Karen Hale. Both now work for Ralph Becker. And Becker is backing Obama. Obviously, Hale and Langan are entitled to their own opinions, and Becker isn't the kind of guy that would demand that they vote in lock-step with him. But Hale's waivering statement, combined with Langan's "call me in June" statement seem to mean that they too will vote for Obama in August.

So where does that leave Jim Matheson? Well, maybe Obama himself cornered Jim just off the House floor after the presumptive nominee made a surprise visit to the House today. The House is a treasure trove of superdelegates (235, more than were at stake on Tueday), 66 of whom are "undecided," with lots more that could flip Obama's way. There are many districts which Obama carried where the Member hasn't voiced their opinion. And many others, especially in the leadership (cough Pelosi cough) who are all-but-in-name for Obama.

Who knows what Obama's negatives will be like in late August, but I doubt they will be a bad as they were for John Kerry in 2004 and Denver is certainly not Boston in terms of optics. If I were to bet, I would expect Jim to show up to Denver and cast his vote for Obama along with the rest of the Utah delegation (save those Hillary pledged delegates).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

why the nomination battle is now over

Jason The and Chris Bowers (along with many others) have rightfully wondered why in the world last night's results in Indiana and North Carolina were somehow definitive even though nothing fundamentally changed. I offer you this theory: TV pundits are wedded to polling.

Right before New Hampshire, polls showed Obama winning by double digits, as did the exit polls. But Clinton pulled out a narrow popular vote victory (the two ended up with the same number of delegates from the Granite State). This shocked and rocked the media's world. It enabled her to further "shock the world" in Nevada (with a nine-point popular vote win but tie in delegates) and in turn be shocked by Obama's giant win in South Carolina, where it was his turn to vastly out perform the polling. Obama didn't get a bounce out of Super Tuesday, because lots of polls had him barely winning or more narrowly losing states like California, even though he netted about 100 more delegates than Clinton did due to his small state strategy.

After Obama's 11-state romp (which also surprised the media to a degree), he promptly lost Texas and Ohio by more than expected from the polls. Ditto in Pennsylvania. This, coupled with Rev. Wright's sad exploitation of his 15-minutes of fame led to a media narrative that Obama was in serious trouble.

But then, Obama's victory in North Carolina was akin to those during his late February winning streak (and more importantly, bigger than the polling projected by about 6 points). The real mind melter, however, was the fact that Obama only lost Indiana by about 22,000, despite being projected to lose it by about 5-10%.

Obama has in particular the mayor of Gary and Lake County party officials to thank for delaying reporting their results so that Obama could dramatically "come from behind" when all the votes had been cast hours beforehand.

So to sum up, it is the psychosis of the punditry that was masterfully manipulated by Obama and his supporters that made this end. And it was the masterful manipulation by the Clintons and their supporters (and a function of the calendar) that enabled this race to last two more months past its mathematical conclusion.

And since media narratives drive the polling questions, and in turn, their perception of the public, look for national polls (which are irrelevant because over 95 of those polled will have had their chance to vote already) to show Obama with a big lead over Clinton and McCain (which is also irrelevant because Obama and the Dems haven't even begun to lay into Mccain--or McCain and the GOP into Obama) now.

[Oh and FYI: 1.25M+ Hoosiers voted yesterday for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In 2004, John Kerry received 969,000 the state of the general election. Meanwhile, John McCain only mustered 77% of the vote in Indiana]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

FLDS keeping tabs on their polygs

As the legal battle between the erstwhile Republic of Texas and the FLDS begins, there was an interesting disclosure by the prosecution:
A review of the "Father's Family Information" sheets shows a handful of 16-year-old wives, 13 young monogamous couples and 24 men with multiple wives - including one man with 21 wives and 36 children.
The pages were recently released by the court. Sgt. Danny Crawford said the sheets were found April 5 in an office at the ranch, home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Texas authorities raided the ranch on April 3 after receiving reports of an abused 16-year-old, calls now being investigated as a possible hoax.
Authorities have said, however, they found evidence of a polygamous lifestyle and underage marriage practices at the ranch that supported removing 464 children.
The bishop's record sheets helped them make that case.
The sheets were filled out between March and August of 2007 and list names of husbands, wife or wives, children and current residence.
Most are shown as living at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, but some are listed as being in Short Creek - the historic name of the twin towns now known as Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Others are described as living in Idaho, "elsewhere" or in the "house of hiding." Among the documents is a sheet showing who was living at each home, duplex and trailer at the ranch.
It is one thing to give your address out to your religion so you can get the church bulletin, it is quite another for them to know that you are in a "house of hiding."

The state's case seems to be focused on child "marriages" and sexual contact with minors. The trouble is, Texas only recently (2005) raised the age of marriage from 14 to 16. Yet they are looking into marriages all the way back to 1993.

But is also interesting to see that not all of the members of the FLDS compound were practicing "plural marriage," in fact there was a decent number (13 out of 37) of monogamous couples. The picture appears to be much more complex than first impression. However, when the results of the DNA testing comes back, we will finally know who fathered/mothered whom. I wonder if they will ever be able to tell the age of some of these women.

Monday, May 05, 2008

fun with frontrunner

(Photo Credit: KUTV

On Saturday, my wife and I rode Utah's newest commuter rail up to Clearfield and back. It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend those of you who have to commute from the northern suburbs to SLC to take it or Rapid Bus Transit. We started out our trip by eating brunch at Hong Kong Tea House, which had a high-quality Dim Sum. We prefer Dim Sum via carts, because we know lots of dishes by sight rather than by name (either English translation or Chinese), and because it makes it more fun. But has you might have guessed, the place has pretty good tea. And it is a stone's thrown away from one of the new TRAX stops and about half way between the Gateway and the Intermodal hub.

The hub building is very nice and clean and much larger than a similar building in Providence that I am all too familiar with. I particularly enjoyed the (LEED certified) architecture, and tablets explaining Salt Lake's former ethnic neighborhoods. You get the feeling that the neighborhood between the Gateway and the Hub are going to explode with development, but those "towns" (Greek, Japan, etc.) are not coming back.

The commuter trains themselves are clean and quiet, both inside and out. The ceilings inside are about 6'5" as it felt a bit tight to me and I am 6'3" 1/2. There are two levels on the cars, the top deck features small card tables perfect for laptops and, of course, card games. We saw lots of young families and groups of friends young and old and actual ethnic diversity (for Utah). At $5, it is about as much or less than the amount of gas you would spend driving and takes about the same time on a Saturday (on a weekday at rush hour, I bet it is much faster). Plus, you get to enjoy the scenery, play with your children, talk to your friend/spouse.

The onboard WiFi was acting up for us--we were "connected" but not able to send or receive--but assuming those kinks get worked out, then you can even get some work/play done on your way to and from work. If I was a parent traveling with young children (which I will be in a few months), I would much prefer the train to driving. It is safer than having to look back to see why the baby is crying, what your kids are fighting about, etc. And troubles are likely to be quelled much sooner if you sitting right next to them without having to worry about driving. Everyone on the train was remarking about how this will "save gas," but I also think it will reduce stress, which will only help quality of life, marriages etc.

Soon, TRAX will go to the airport, to Draper, and to "the Jordans." A trolley line will go up east along 21st South from 3rd West up to Sugarhouse. Frontrunner itself will go all the way North to Brigham City and about the same time South to Provo. By about 2025, Utah will have more commuter rail lines than anywhere but places like New York City. How cool is that?

How did this all come to pass? First, our local Congressmen (Jim Matheson and Republicans before him, as well as our GOP Senators) secured 80-20 federal funding for mass transit using the Olympics as a hook. Next, once taxpayers saw how great TRAX was, they voted repeatedly to increase their own taxes to pay for expansions. Now communities like Bringham City and South Jordan are voting to raise tax revenues to pay for TRAX/FrontRunner to come to their neighborhoods. Third, environmentalists sued to block the Legacy Highway. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but here's how it went:

The suit first stalled the highway from being build for years. Then, instead of settling for a moved highway, the attorneys representing the environmentalist worked into the settlement "funding the environmental review of light rail and bus plans." The studies showed what the environmentalists had been claiming for years--that we can't build enough roads to fix our traffic troubles, and that our air quality will only get worse if we take that route. As a result, Bus Rapid Transit lines and FrontRunner were built. The U and LDS Church helped a lot by getting their employees to use mass transit and to promote mass transit in commercials. Everyone who rides the trains to Jazz games and the like also deserve credit and praise.