Friday, June 20, 2008

trying to make news

There are things happening in Utah...really there are. Yet one of the more annoying trends in local news coverage is to take a national story and ask some dude in Utah what he thinks about it. First off, how is this news? A poll might be news, but the way these "man on the street" interviews are picked are not representative, and thus do not tell us anything more than what some dude thinks. And really, if I wanted to know that, I could walk up to the water cooler, or the gym, or the sports bar. At least when "Jay Walking" does the same thing is at least mildly funny/depressing. But it only shows how stupid the people who the Tonight Show editors pick are.
Golf: Locals mixed on Woods' surgery
By Jay Drew
The Salt Lake Tribune
Posted: 9:35 AM- Several recreational golfers making the turn at Salt Lake City's Wingpointe Golf Course late Wednesday morning saw and heard the news for the first time.
"Tiger Woods will undergo season-ending knee surgery" rolled across the bottom of the clubhouse television screen, drawing a gasp or a "I'm not surprised" from almost every golfer who noticed.
I won't quote further since that would infringe on Jay's golf outing that he managed to turn into a "story" by sitting on his duff and letting a bunch of white dudes ramble on while the tape recorder runs.

In fact, by writing this post, I have already put more effort and words into this story than Jay did. And I didn't even get paid. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Judge for yourself

The front page of the Salt Lake Tribune screams "E-mail backs Ellis' claim that Walker offered job to get him out of race" Let's see if we can cobble together the email, since the Trib didn't bother to post the message in its entirety. Carl Empey, vice-president of public finance for Zions Bank, who was the go-between for the purported offer by Rep. Walker to Ellis for a job. Rep. Walker has claimed that there was some confusion of what he said, and that he didn't do anything illegal. Au contrare, wrote Empey to LG Gary Herbert on June 2nd:
"Mr. Walker came up and visited with me on many occasions and discussed the idea, the salary amount and asked me to pass it along to Mr. Ellis for his consideration," Empey wrote.
The current state treasurer, Ed Alter, makes $104,000 a year. The alleged job offer, according to Ellis and Empey, was $160,000.
"It wasn't until March 17 that Mr. Ellis and myself became aware that this activity was improper under state statute," Empey continued in the lengthy e-mail.
"At that point, Mr. Ellis stopped the consideration and discussions and decided to run and not withdraw from the election."
In the e-mail, Empey wrote that he was willing to risk everything, including his job, to defend Ellis' integrity.
[Steve] Hunter[, Walker's campaign manager,] believes his e-mail does the opposite.
"These guys are toast. What it does is incriminate Richard Ellis and Carl Empey," Hunter said. "They were complicit in a job offer and soliciting a job offer - both are illegal under state law."
Wait, let me get this straight, now the Walker campaign's line is that Ellis is just as guilty as Walker in offering and contemplating a higher paying job in exchange for dropping out of a political race? Because I don't get how this logic would allow for Ellis and Empey to be guilty without necessarily implicating Walker. After all, even if Ellis via Empey was guilty of the crime of soliciting a bribe, isn't Walker equally guilty of the crime of offering a bribe to Ellis? Or is Hunter claiming Ellis via Empey asked for a higher paying job for Ellis in exchange for Ellis withdrawing from the primary, and Walker refused? If so, I have yet to see any evidence offered to support that claim. Did Walker submit a self-serving affidavit to the Utah Supreme Court? I would think a contemporaneously written email would be much more reliable...although this email was written two weeks after the purported bribe was made. All in all, this email doesn't do much in the way of bolstering Ellis' case, but it sure doesn't undermine it or incriminate him, nor does it exonerate Walker. What do you make of it?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ethics are coming to Utah's legislature

...whether they like it or not.
A group of legislators — moderate Republicans and Democrats — would like to see lawmakers do something about their own ethics, specifically personal use of campaign funds and taking of lobbyists' gifts.
Two bill files have already been opened for the 2009 Legislature — one by Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, and one by Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay.

"I want transparency, both in campaign spending and gift-taking," said Mascaro, who added he didn't run so-called ethics reform bills the past two years after "certain members of (House GOP) leadership asked me not to."

But after the House moved "back to the same old mind-set — where Republican leaders took over the final weeks of the (2008) Legislature and just did what they wanted" with little concern for other GOP members of the 55-person House Republican caucus, "I decided to go ahead this year" with ethics reform, Mascaro said.
You can either get in ahead of the train, or wait until the train is practically on top of you, because common sense ethics laws are going to come into effect.
Utah has some of the most liberal campaign, conflict-of-interest and lobbyist gift-giving laws in the United States. Legislators and candidates can take any amount of money from anyone, can spend their campaign accounts anyway they wish — even giving themselves cash — can vote on any bill, even those with clear conflicts of interest, and can take any "intangible" gift from a lobbyist.
But over time lobbyists, who now report their own gift-giving, have found creative ways around the by-name legislative reporting. Each year the 104 lawmakers take around $200,000 worth of gifts from lobbyists, reports show. But less than 20 percent of that money comes with a legislator's name attached.
I wouldn't use the word 'liberal' (used here to mean generous) when it comes to ethics laws in Utah, I would use the word 'non-existant.'

According to the article, there may be somewhere between 15 and 20 Republicans in the Utah House who are willing to join up with the 17 Democrats in that body to pass some reforms. 38 votes--and having their bills get out of committee and calendared properly--are required to pass any bill.

And here is my favorite line of the whole article:
"There are some good things that are happening up there (in the Legislature). Not all of us are idiots," said Mascaro.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

making money off racism

First, there was the sock monkey dressed in a suit that was marketed as resembling Obama.

Well, actually before that there was the Curious George t-shirt.
Now there is another...and third.

But now there are buttons that Texas Republican Party Convention goers can buy.

Either these people who make/sell these items are too ignorant to get that this is deeply offensive, or they see another chance to make a buck off racists. Last time I checked though, I didn't hear anything about these folks contemplating donating the profits to the NAACP or anything like that.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Regime change

Sen. Barack Obama noticed early on in this cycle that this was a change election and was able to successfully harness that fact to propel him past Sen. Hillary Clinton and 6 other Democratic candidates. And the theme of CHANGE isn't just working in Democratic primaries, but also in a Republican primary in the most Republican state in one of the most Republican US House districts in the country.
"If we want different results we're going to have to elect different people," [3rd District primary challenger Jason] Chaffetz said. "If you like the status quo, vote for Chris Cannon."
"We agree entirely except the status quo. I am a change factor. I am making a difference in Washington, D.C.," Cannon retorted during the televised debate on KUTV's "Take Two" leading up to the June 24 Republican primary.
Ever notice how when a politican says "I am a change agent" or "the change factor," they usually are anything but? If you really think that Chris Cannon is a guy that has been challenging, rather than part of, the status quo in Washington over the last 12 years, please see here here here here and here.

If Jason manages to win, it will be a sign that voters, even Republican primary voters in Utah County, badly want change in Washington and maybe even on Utah's Capitol Hill. If Rep. Cannon goes down, I bet he isn't the only incumbent who loses that day as well. Although the state party tried its hardest to keep challengers off the primary ballot. So what exactly are "the issues" that Jason disagrees with Chris on?
Chaffetz criticized Cannon for voting in favor of the No Child Left Behind education bill, increased federal spending, the Medicare prescription drug benefit and allowing EnergySolutions to import radioactive waste from Italy - all issues Chaffetz said he opposes.
Cannon said the decision of whether to allow EnergySolutions to import about 20,000 tons of radioactive waste from Italy should be up to the state. About 1,600 tons of waste would ultimately be buried in Utah.
“The state has the right, the authority, the responsibility to govern that, and all I said is we should stay out of that and let the state control its own destiny in that regard,” Cannon said.
State's rights! That is a classic conservative ideology. Sounds reasonable enough...oh wait, the truth wants to say something:
Actually, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering whether to grant EnergySolutions a license to import the radioactive waste.
And guess who voted with EngerySolutions? I will give you a hint, it was everyone in the Utah delegation except Jim Matheson. Cannon, ever the ideological purest, said that if Chaffetz really believes in "changing Congress" he should run against Jim Matheson, even though Chris has been in Congress 4 more years than Jim. Oh that's right, Matheson is a Democrat, and Democrats have been in charge of Congress for two whole years already. And it must be the Democrats' fault that Cannon voted the way he did for the 10 years he was in the majority in the House.

The fight between the two Republicans has already gotten pretty testy. But it is nice to see that they actually are talking about substantive areas of disagreement, including immigration policy, rather than just change for the sake of change...although shaking things up does have its virtues. Just watch out for that shark.