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.