Friday, May 16, 2008

code language

Here's the number one story in today's Salt Lake Tribune--A-1, top of the fold all that--"Utah Dems hunt for GOP converts" and features pictures of "moderate" Republicans targeted by the state Democratic Party. Notice the word "converts?" They could have used the word "switch," but instead a religiously loaded term was chosen.

It not so subtly implies
  1. Democrats aren't LDS
  2. Republicans are LDS
  3. These targets are potentially corruptable souls
  4. It is your job, dear reader, to keep those Democrats from bribing these Republicans from switching sides

And this article isn't in the Deseret News, whose Editor-in-Chief is the former GOP state party chair. Anyone who calls the local media liberal just isn't paying attention.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

gay marriage ruling, the sequal?

So you probably have read that the California Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is a protected right under the California state constitution. Since I worked at for a Massachusetts legislator when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made a similar ruling and helped my boss when there was Constitutional Convention regarding the issue, I wanted to clear up some confusions people might have.
  1. Like the SJC, the California supremes based their ruling on their state constitution. This means that even if all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices think it was a terrible opinion and disagree, they can't do anything about it. State courts are the final arbiters of their own state constitutions, and while the U.S. Supreme Court can declare a state constitutional provision to be in violation of the Federal constitution, if a state constitution grants the people more rights than the federal constitution (for example, many states have a constitutional right to quality education), that's that state's business. It's called federalism.

  2. And since the ruling is based solely on state case law and the state constitution, it will have zero effect on other states or the federal government. Now, I am sure this case will have some persuasive effect on other liberal states' justices, just as Goodridge had on the California justices. But DOMA is still the law of the land until some gay couple from California or Massachusetts moves to another state and seeks recognition of their marriage under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. [I doubt anyone will challenge DOMA until the ideological makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court becomes at least 5-4 liberal]

  3. Unlike federal judges and Massachusetts' justices, California's are popularly elected. If Californians don't like how these justices rule, they can vote against those justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage when their terms are up. And they might even be able to recall them like they did to Gov. Gray Davis.

  4. Also unlike Massachusetts, the California legislature twice passed bills granting Californians same-sex marriages. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the bills twice, in 2005 and 2007. In Massachusetts, the legislature essentially sat on its hands during the years that the SJC considered Goodridge. Arguably, had MA legislators passed a civil union bill, Goodridge might have turned out differently.

  5. In Massachusetts, in order to amend the state constitution, the legislature must meet in Constitutional Convention (state House and Senate together) and vote for the same amendment in two successive sessions. That still is yet to happen since Goodridge came down. California, by contrast, allows any yahoo who collects enough signatures (and these days has a lot of money to get said signatures)to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot. In fact, there is already a initiative in the works to overturn the CA Supreme Court's decision, an initiative that Schwarzenegger supports. So does John McCain

  6. In California, the court overturned a proposition that enacted a state law banning gay marriage. In Utah, the people voted for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This means that even if the Utah Supreme Court agreed with the reasoning of California's supremes, they couldn't strike down Amendment 3.
  7. Barrack Obama's support of civil unions and support of the California court's decision are not inconsistent. Although the court said that civil unions would subject same-sex couples to "second class citizenship," Obama is supporting the rights of states to decide the gay marriage issue for themselves. Obama's federalist argument is something Bob Barr, author of DOMA and now presumptive Libertarian Party candidate, agrees with even though he himself is opposed to even civil unions.

  8. This will not help the GOP in November. Bush already milked gay marriage for all it was worth to conservatives in in 2004, especially in swing states like Ohio and Missouri. Those states can't have another constitutional amendment on the ballot this year to say the same thing. And California won't be in play for Republicans any time soon, no matter how much John McCain wishes it so.

  9. Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey allow for civil unions for same sex couples (Hawaii used to as well); only Massachusetts and California (as well as Canada, Great Britian, South Africa, and few other countries) have legalized gay marriage.

  10. After San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom tried to marry same sex couples in early 2004, the California Supreme Court struck him down, but now they reversed course. Why? Well, George W. Bush appointed the California version of Clarence Thomas--Janice Rogers Brown--to the D.C. Circuit (which is considered the stepping stone court for those judges to become U.S. Supreme Court justices). I can't imagine getting an arch conservative off the CA court wouldn't change the vibe, let alone the ideological make up. Just look what happened after Chief Justice Warren came on board, Brown v. Board became a unanimous reversal (when before it was narrow affirmance). So arguably, if you wanted to blame anyone for this decision, the fault would lie with Bush and Senate Republicans, who went to the mat for this nomination despite repeated filibuster.

I hope that clears things up. Any questions?

adding insult to injury

As you probably have heard, there were two major natural disasters in Southeast Asia this week: the massive earthquake in China and the massive cyclone in Myanmar. While China's oppressive government has won praise for its handling of the earthquake--immediately sending thousands of aid workers, tons of equipment, and the Premier himself to the epicenter (apparantly learning from George W. Bush's mistakes)--Burma's military junta has not. Perhaps one can understand their reluctance to allow U.S. military aircraft to drop things over their country, but the world is hard pressed to understand junta's prevention of NGOs from being able to distribute their own aid as they see fit. But now comes the icing on the proverbial cake.
Myanmar announced Thursday that a constitution won massive support in a referendum -- a claim slammed by a leading rights group as an insult to the country's people.

The document, which critics say will cement nearly four decades of military rule, was approved by 92.4 percent of the 22 million eligible voters last Saturday, said Aung Toe, head of the Referendum Holding Committee on state radio. He put voter turnout at more than 99 percent.
While the junta is content to have hundreds of thousands of people to die needlessly because of their paranoia, they hold a sham election (reporters saw military "officials telling voters outside polling places, 'Don't forget to put the tick, the right mark,'" on their ballots....and "[v]oting officials also would sometimes pull aside the curtains protecting the privacy of the voting booths.") to justify their iron grip on the country. And while we are at it, let's look at the particulars of this "popularly enacted" constitution.
The constitution would bar Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the country's pro-democracy movement, from public office. The military refused to honor the results of the 1990 general election won by her National League for Democracy party.
These people really have no sense of shame whatsoever. And obviously they aren't Buddists, because Karma really is a b!tch.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

crackdown at the speakeasy

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) is punishing liquor serving establishments harder than during the Olympics, where there was a rash of drunk driving deaths and violent crime...oh wait, never mind about that last part.

So, how are they getting so many citations? Trickery and entrapment say critics.
State undercover liquor-control agents made lewd propositions to a waitress, then waved a $5 bill at a boisterous woman in a Clearfield club, daring her to expose herself in what they later explained were tactics to fit in with the crowd.
At an American Fork restaurant, agents badgered a waiter into bringing them a round of beers, then ticketed the eatery for serving alcohol without a required meal.
And in a Salt Lake City pub, three agents ordered shots, two purposefully left the table, then they cited the server for delivering too many drinks.
Sam Granato is a Salt Lake restaurateur who also is board chairman of the DABC, whose staff prosecutes liquor violations uncovered in stings. He calls the tactics described above as "devious," but says he has no control over them because the agents are under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety.
It seems he is not alone in feeling powerless. For the past several years, state undercover agents have had uneven oversight and little training.
Only two agents on the 15-member team have been on the liquor squad for more than a year. And although the state of Utah generally sends agents to annual liquor-control workshops conducted nationally, no team members have received that training because of the high rate of turnover.
This seems to be an easy fix if there is anything suspect going on: give DABC control of their investigative agents, hold those agents accountable, and train them.
As for some of the tactics used by agents, Scott Duncan, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said changes are in store.
"Something went terribly wrong," said Duncan, who is Michaud's top boss and has been in the job since July 2006. "There are rogue cops out there, but I've been around long enough to know that [agents] do what their supervisors expect them to do."
But it isn't just bar owners fighting back against the perceived underhanded tactics of DABC agents.
But citing "ticky tacky" prosecutions, Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, recently sponsored a bill that would have transferred prosecution powers from the DABC to the Utah Attorney General's Office. Oda withdrew the bill after DABC board Chairman Granato pledged more cooperation with businesses.
In April, for the first time in memory, board members agreed (4-to-1) to impose a fine of $1,200 as penalty for serving alcohol to underage decoys. In the past, such violations brought a five-day suspension. Granato said because servers already are being criminally charged for providing alcohol to minors, he doesn't favor closing down establishments and taking away the livelihood of all employees.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

irony or poetic justice?

It seems the radical presidency of George W. Bush has had some drastic effects that he would regret:
National membership in the [ACLU], which fights for freedom of speech and religion, equal protection, due process and privacy, has doubled since Bush took office in 2001 - an extraordinary spurt of growth for the 88-year-old institution. [...]
The ACLU counted about 250,000 members in the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Today, the organization has about 500,000 card-carriers, 2,500 of them in Utah.
Fundraising has increased in kind. According the IRS, the nonprofit had about $44 million in annual revenues in the 2000 fiscal year. In the fiscal year ending in March of 2007, it collected more than $80 million.
By the end of Clinton's second term, Utah's ACLU chapter had only 1,300 members.

To its credit, the ACLU has stayed extremely ideological but definately not partisan. Both parties have found its positions annoying and objectionable. It is considering helping the polygamists in Texas, is against voter ID laws but for eliminating campaign finance regulation (save disclosure laws), against the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegence, against the public displays of the Ten Commandments, against torture, against warrantless wiretapping, against "extrodinary rendition," for same sex marriage, and for Rep. William "$90,000 in his House office freezer" Jefferson (D-LA) [he declined their offer of help]. Its members include likely Libertarian Party presidential nominee ex-Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who lead the impeachment battle against Bill Clinton .

Their role as Gadfly and legal harrasser of the Bush Administration will ensure that future Administrations will think twice before attempting to expand their powers, let alone exercise those claimed by Bush during his 8 years....especially with all of those new members and new donors.

Monday, May 12, 2008

fun with scripture

Trust me, this will be a good quote, but I have to lay some background first. So yesterday was Pentecost, the day were the apostles were able, thanks to the Holy Spirit, to speak the native languages of all of the Jews assembled in First Century Jerusalem, telling the listeners about all of the cool stuff God had done. Some witnesses believed this "speaking in tongues" to be a miracle, others, that the speakers were merely inebriated.

So it was up to (Simon) Peter to set the doubters straight: "You are wrong to think that these people are drunk. After all, it is only nine o'clock in the morning.">(Acts 2:15)

They can't be drunk because it is too early in the morning? We all should try lame arguments out like that on people. Of course, Peter went on to talk about how this all was prophesized in the book of Joel. But when I heard this reading yesterday at church, I had a hard time not laughing out loud.