Friday, February 27, 2009

Buttars-Palooza Pre-Show

Video from Lee Toll of Buttars Watch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Radioactive Day in Court

According to a national "Today in Court" newsletter I receive, a federal judge, this morning, heard arguments on Energy Solutions challenge to state authority over the importation of radioactive waste and promised a quick ruling.

Energy Solutions goal in all of this (beyond sheer profit and purchasing a legislature and a congressman, of course) is to skirt the Northwest Interstate Compact.

After all, that radioactive waste our legislators can't wait to roll in ain't going to get here by carrier pigeon.

Bramble Drops Anti-PTA Bill

Press release from Utah PTA, via Tyler @ KVNU's For the People:

Utah PTA President and President-Elect, Marilyn Simister and Ilene Mecham and Legislative Vice President Cheryl Phipps met with Senator Bramble on Tuesday afternoon to work out a compromise bill with him and other parties. On Wednesday Afternoon , the Legislative Action Committee of Utah PTA voted to support the new substituted bill. The new bill removes the language about dues collecting parent organizations. Several other minor, but significant, changes resulted in a compromise bill. We will talk about the bill at PTA Day at the Capitol on Friday.

We are grateful that we have all, again, seen democracy working at its best. The hundreds of e-mails and calls gving input was listened to and Senator Bramble was willing to compromise. We appreciate that willingness by many legislators to listen to the parents of the state. SB 199 1st Substitute is circled at the top of the 2nd Reading Calendar and will be considered by the Senate shortly. You can read the text of the bill at this link:

For all my criticism of Bramble for even submitting the original bill, I commend him for being open to a dialog and compromise discussions with PTA supporters. I still contend the original bill was an attempt at petty revenge (one of many going around) targeted at those who undermined his Voucher Empire plans, but being open to compromise shows there is still legitimacy in the process of lawmaking, which is what this should all be about.

Good form, Senator.

Sex Education Dialog - Thank a Legislator

PPAC, in the inbox:

Yesterday, in an unprecedented move, the House Health and Human Services Committee held HB 189-Instruction in Health Amendments over to the interim session this summer. This allows the dialogue about the need for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in Utah’s schools to continue.

If you haven’t already, sign our petition in favor of comprehensive sex education by visiting By signing the petition you are sending a clear message that you believe that all teens in Utah deserve information to keep themselves healthy and safe.

Please take a moment and thank the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Lynn Hemingway for being willing to take on this controversial issue. You can email him at

Write an email today to thank the Health and Human Services Committee for being willing to discuss this issue further during the interim session, don’t forget to let them know why this is so important to you and make sure they know which legislative district you live in.

Rep. Phil Riesen

Rep. Trisha Beck

Rep. Paul Ray

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom

Rep. Ronda Menlove

Rep. Evan Vickers

Rep. Brad Daw

Thank you for your support of PPAC and many thanks to these legislators who recognize the need to give comprehensive sex education the serious consideration that it deserves.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More From the Man of Steele

This has gone from "good for a chuckle" to full on "guffaw." The title of a second email from RNC Chair Michael Steele (today was a two-fer!):

Republicans Fighting Back Against Bigger Government Spending
Again: We have no plan, we have no solutions, but the spending, we hates it. If we just keeping saying "freedom" and "you" often enough, as Jindal did last night, things are sure to take a turn for the better.

Michael Steele: A Man with a Plan

Well, not really a plan, but he's got your email address, and that's a start. RNC email from the inbox, promoting (seriously, proudly even) Jindal's creepfest last night:

To strengthen our economy, Republicans believe we must keep energy prices down, improve education, and promote confidence in America by ensuring we have the most ethical and transparent system in the world.
The details of how to do that we're a bit vague on still, but we know for certain it doesn't include Democrats. We hates them we do. Please give us money now.

Chaffetz Track Record So Far

Accomplishments: 0

Asinine Yet Funny Tweets: 1.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wednesday, Sex Ed On the Hill

Planned Parenthood, in the inbox.

Tomorrow afternoon – Wednesday, February 25 – HB189 will be heard before the House Health and Human Services Committee!

Thanks to your support, comprehensive sex education has been moved out of the Rules Committee and will get the public hearing it deserves. Speak up now! and let the members of the House Health and Human Services Committee know that you, their constituents, support HB189.

Email the House Health and Human Services Committee today at the addresses below (or click here to send one email to them all) and let them know you support comprehensive sex education in Utah’s public schools.

Rep. Paul Ray (Chair), District 13 –

Rep. Ronda Menlove (Vice-chair), Dist. 1 –

Rep. Brad Daw, Dist. 60 –

Rep. Steven Sandstrom, Dist. 58 –

Rep. Evan Vickers, Dist. 72 –

Rep. Trisha Beck, Dist. 48 –

Rep. Phil Riesen, Dist. 36 –

Let committee members know how it will help prevent unintended pregnancies among teenagers and tell them how it will help stem the rising tide of dangerous sexually-transmitted diseases in our communities. Most importantly, tell them personally why you, as a member of their community, believe this is an important issue.

Be sure to tell them where in Utah you’re from and, if applicable, that you are one of their constituents (click here for maps of the districts).

Attending a committee hearing in person is also extremely effective, so if at all possible plan to come to the hearing tomorrow afternoon. It starts at 4:10pm and will be held in Room 30, House Building at the State Capitol Complex.

Jindal's Sweet Sixteen

Tonight is his night. Check out his custom invitation.

Montana's Gov. Schweitzer: "We Are Not an Island"

Something I wish our own representatives would acknowledge.

via TPMtv:

The guy is just cool.

The Hubris of Overusing the Word Hubris

Conservative talk radio telling me this morning that the stimulus bill is purely "Democrat Hubris."

I disagree. Democratic Hubris would be wrapping the free condoms at Planned Parenthood in $100 bills and Rahm Emanuel shouting "Elections have consequences, bitches!" in every C-Span interview.

The stimulus isn't hubris, it's a plan. I understand the concern of conservatives. After not having a plan for so long now suddenly faced with the possibility of a successful progressive plan, they are worried about their long term political future.

What would help is that rather than making shit up with this "hubris" meme, they realized that making shit up is half the reason they lost the elections. Bitches.

"Religious Right" Seeks New Name, Image

Fundamentalist (No. 68):

When an article appeared in Christianity Today last week positing that the religious right didn't want to be called the religious right anymore because the term had become too pejorative, the response was an electronic titter.

"Cry me a fricking river," wrote Street Prophet's Dan Schultz. "Sometimes the truth hurts," tweeted Pam Spaulding. "If the phrase 'Religious Right' has negative connotations, it probably stems primarily from the fact that the people who have traditionally represented the Religious Right have caused it to, you know, have negative connotations," noted Right Wing Watch.

But then again, why bother giving it a new name? The end is near, anyway.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wait a Minute...

Radioactive's Troy Williams writes about his encounter with ever so pleasant Gayle Ruzicka. (hat tip, JM Bell)

Details of the exchange are worth the click, and this is the best reaction to the entire Senator Pig Sex affair I've read yet.

I think defiance and outrage is good. Buttars, Ruzicka, Christiansen and Mero are all on notice. The gay community is no longer going to cower and sit quiet. We will no longer allow them to disparage our community with lies. We will no longer be silent, timid or afraid. It’s a brand new day for queers across the country. It’s a bold new day in Utah. The old power guard is shifting. Even the LDS Church wants to distance itself from Buttars. Governor Huntsman supports the Common Grounds Initiative.

After I left Gayle I walked down with my friend Scotty to talk to the Brazilian gay haters. They are the ones who ran the hate ad last week in the Tribune. I walked up to them and thanked them for their ad. I told them that I never wanted them to be silent. And that I hoped they would place more ads in the paper. And I told them the picture of those two guys kissing was “way hot!”

The more Gayle, Buttars and those Brazilians keep up their hate rhetoric, the better it is for all of us. I don’t want Buttars removed from power. I want him right where he is. We could not have asked for a greater blessing. As long as he keeps opening his mouth we benefit! The more he spreads his toxic bile, the more mainstream Utah will say, “wait a minute. This is not how I feel.”
Not just the gay community, Troy. Normally a cynic, I can acknowledge that on this issue the majority of Utahn's I know are better people than what Gayle & Crew seem to say about our state.

Eventually (and with a continued campaign to reach people with fact, rather than Buttars-esque bigotry and dehumanization) the notion will show in our voting habits.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jindal's Meaningless Refusal of Recovery Funds

Everyone (including progressives) has been quick to lend legitimacy to Bobby Jindal's refusal of stimulus money for Louisiana, but the transparency (not the good kind) of his principled stand should be obvious. TPM:

As you can see in our feature story about Louisiana Gov. Jindal refusing $98 million of the stimulus money headed for his state, that amounts to under 2% of the total money Louisiana will be receiving. So not exactly going out on a limb. We were all set to have that be our headline. But what's less clear is how much of the total $7.68 billion his state is getting he's in a position to turn down. A lot of it doesn't go through him in the first place. So we felt compelled to leave it implicitly clear that Jindal had apparently found the ideal number that would give him some shred of credibility with the neo-Hooverite right while also allowing him to get through his term as governor without getting impeached.
What you have is a fella' who knows 2012 is his next career progression grandstanding as a conservative, while knowing full well that what he is refusing, while a large sum, is a tiny fraction of what he will not oppose, and who is refusing with confidence that the state legislature will override his refusal once the media bores of the story. Louisiana will get and spend every cent the recovery plan has alloted them. Jindal will remind us in 3 1/2 years that he "stood strong" against the spending. No one will remember to check the state ledgers and see that this was little more than pomp and circumstance and a good show for those watching on TeeVee.

The most useful thing to come of Jindal's performance so far has been this reaction from the Governator, which was hilariously honest.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Maybe It's Not the Gerrymandering

The Monkey Cage challenges conventional wisdom most of us in Utah are more than familiar with.

I can’t disagree with Cohen’s first sentence above, but I part company with him after that. When Gary and I looked at the data, we found that redistricting (“gerrymandering”) was not associated with a decline in competitiveness of Congress or state legislatures. Legislative elections have been gradually becoming less competitive, but they are typically more competitive after redistricting.

I’m not saying that “gerrymandering” is a good thing—I’d prefer bipartisan redistricting or some sort of impartial system—but the data do not support the idea that redistricting is some sort of incumbent protection plan or exacerbator of partisan division.

In addition, political scientists have frequently noted that Democrats and Republicans have become increasingly polarized in the Senate as well as in the House, even though Senate seats are not redistricted.
Winning hearts and minds, not district boundaries? The role of demographics shouldn't be marginalized, but it shouldn't be considered more than the message you send to voters, and the campaigns you run. If you're losing local elections, you're not reaching voters.


Ron Paul: Legalize It, Tax It

Ron Paul goes after the "drug war" via Real Time with Bill Maher.

Speaking live from Clute, Texas, the libertarian-leaning Republican did what few other members of Congress will and openly called for the United States' War on Drugs to be abolished.

"What about when FDR came to office in '33," asked Maher. "One of the first things he did was repeal prohibition. He said we can't afford this anymore. Well, we have prohibition in this country. ... When he was making radical changes he said look, we're serious now. We're going to make serious changes and people like liquor."

"Well, in this country, people like pot," said Maher to a wave of cheers and applause. "If we ended that prohibition, that would be a giant pooling of money."
Another reason I wish Ron Paul wasn't crazy on so many other levels. When he's not talking about the IRS or the Fed, he makes a lot of sense.

Utah's Pro-Choice Republican Legislators

When Curt Bramble sponsors a bill that offers parents "choice," be wary.



Who's the big Republican winner emerging from the gop's decisive defeat in November? It's not Sarah Palin (future as a presidential contender highly doubtful), Mitt Romney (now a political nonentity), or the party's point men in Congress (smaller, weaker caucuses). Amid the wreckage, the guy standing tallest in gop-land is a fallen powerbroker whom some had written off as a has-been: Newt Gingrich. Yes, the silver-haired conservative whom liberals loved to hate—the bomb-throwing backbencher whose Contract With America helped him gain a Republican majority and the House speakership in 1994—is back as a (if not the) Grand Old Man of the party. "Newt," says his former aide Rich Galen, "is the Republican intellect in chief."
This should be fun.

Friday, February 20, 2009

He is Functioning Differently (and Goodbye Senate Pres. Waddoups)

Misty @ Saintless has a nice recap of the post handslap-we-don't-really-disagree-with-the-bigot-but-CNN-is-watching presser events, complete with confrontation between Gayle Ruzicka and Troy Williams.

Also, I thought this from the D-News article was interesting:

Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, lives just a few blocks from Buttars.

"I've know him for 20 years. Something has happened to Chris" in the last few years. I worry about his physical health — and I don't know if (health problems) have affected how he sees things," said Mascaro. "He is functioning differently" than the man he knew before.

"He has always been up front, even confrontational on the issues he feels strongly about.

"But these latest comments — there is a caustic level to them I haven't seen before.

"I worry about all that is happening, how it is impacting his health, his family. There can be great pressures up here. And as important as our work is, it isn't worth destroying your health."
He is functioning differently.

Can you catch "bigot" like a virus?

Also, I'd like to issue a formal apology for making so much fun of Waddoups when he called Chilli's a bar. While that was a ridiculous thing for him to say, I feel bad for taunting him, knowing now he's going the route of John Valentine, removed from authority for condemning everyone's favorite village idiot, Sen. Pig Sex. If this were a Godfather movie, I'd already be sending my condolences, but since we live in a somewhat lawful land, I only have to say Goodbye, Sen. President "Won't-Someone-Think-of-the-Children". In a strange way, I'll miss you in a leadership role next time around.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

UT-GOP, Turn Down the Stimulus Money.

For all the Utah state Republicans about to "reluctantly" spend stimulus funds appropriated by a bill your federal brethren vehemently (with flare even!) opposed, I bring good news,

You can reject the stimulus funds!

Go ahead. Walk away from the GIGANTIC flat tax induced budget hole Utah is facing with nothing but the shirt on your back and your principals of (convenient) fiscal responsibility.

I dare you.

Thank You Senator Pig Sex

Mr. Buttars, thank you.

I never thought you'd one-up LaVar.

With your words and your misdirection and your making the issue of equality one of irrational intolerance toward the gay men and women of Utah, you have opened the door for every comparison available to those who seek equality between you and your historical predecessors -- Helms, Wallace, Thurmond -- who also sought to equate equality with the undermining of the "fabric" of society.

They said ending racial segregation was communism and would bring America to it's knees.

They said embrace Hayek and warned that reforming public institutions in the name of equality would lead to the "great unraveling."

Now you tell us that "The Gays" pose the next greatest threat. You'll forgive me my suspicion of your conclusions, considering the similarities.

Senator, you are afraid, and I understand. Change and what is different from ourselves can sometimes be frightening. But your fear causes you to hate and your hate causes you to say and do stupid things. It's very sad to see. And creepy, especially when you play the martyr.

But I try not to judge your for your own morality, Chris. I even understand that you have the best of intentions, defending what you really feel is best for our state and our society. But the bigots who's footsteps you walk and who's words and methods you repeat to defend your positions were doing the same.

"Slippery Slopers," defenders of "tradition," meet your spokesperson. Equal rights advocates, meet your greatest ally.

Everytime he opens his yap, a gay angel gets it's wings.

Congressional Democrats Feel the Sting of Transparency Too

I like Murtha (he owned the war-funding debate in 2006, though no one listened to him), but a little "house cleaning" is never a bad thing. CQ Politics.

Murtha, who used to boast that his middle initial stands for “power,” carved out $38.1 million for PMA clients in the fiscal 2008 defense spending law, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Indiana Rep. Peter J. Visclosky , who serves on Murtha’s subcommittee and additionally is chairman of the subcommittee that allocates money for the Pentagon’s nuclear programs, earmarked $23.8 million for PMA clients in the fiscal 2008 defense spending bill.

His former chief of staff, Richard Kaelin, lobbies for PMA, as does Melissa Koloszar, a former top aide to defense appropriator James P. Moran , D-Va.

Moran sponsored $10.8 million for PMA clients, and Rep. Norm Dicks , D-Wash., another member of the subcommittee, sponsored $12.1 million.
I'm not opposed to earmarks. Like "bipartisan" they only see scrutiny during campaigns. To see them so inappropriately traded for campaign money, though, is infuriating. Still, The party that learns to embrace the transparency, even if it means taking an occasional punch for those who don't stay above the low hanging fruit of campaign contributions, will be better set to maintain a majority.

And remembering that they are exposed by the rules Democrats themselves have put into place is encouraging.

Standing Up for Zygote Rights

ND House, amazingly, making Carl Wimmer look reasonable.

BISMARCK, N.D. – A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion. Ruby has introduced bills in previous sessions of the Legislature to prohibit abortion in North Dakota.

Keep an eye out on this becoming a very, very expensive bit of legislation for the people of North Dakota. The consequences of theocracy, if you will.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UT-03's Congressman: Get It While It's Hot!

Yep, this is your guy.

Freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz addressed the Utah Legislature today, ripping the new $787 billion stimulus package that President Obama signed in Denver -- calling it a product of "legislative malpractice."

He says in trying to jolt the American economy out of its coma, the bill goes about it all wrong. It grows government, not jobs.

So, a Democratic state senator asked him, if the bill is so horrible, why doesn't Utah just pass up the ill-gotten gains coming its way from the stimulus?

"Absolutely, we're going to take the money!" Chaffetz said, explaining that we're all paying for it, so we should get it while it's hot.
All. Yours.

Utah Leg Twitter Humor

From Sausagegrinder:

Lawmakers mistake UofU student for immigration attorney. An outbreak of smug, condescending questions sweeps the room.

The Crazies are Eating the Gas-bags

Douche-bag fight!

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson denounced talk show host Rush Limbaugh for saying he wants President Obama to fail.

"So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?" asked interviewer Dan Gilgoff.

"That was a terrible thing to say," Robertson responded. "I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally."
Next week, Sarah Palin will wrestle Michele Bachmann.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just So We're All Clear

About what's happening here. Republicans have been complaining about the size of the stimulus endlessly for the last few weeks. Now the 'conservative' state legislature, comprised mainly of Republicans are going to use the stimulus money to cover themselves.

"I guess we're happy they weren't worse," said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. He said that, by tapping federal stimulus money and cutting programs, Utah lawmakers will be able to balance the budget without raising taxes, a step he added "could have been devastating."
Some even directly say they are disappointed by the lack of a stock market bounce from the stimulus (as though that is somehow relevant), while getting ready to spend it to cover their own budget.

It would be hard for a Republican in Utah to complain about the stimulus package now, since it is covering them for their hole in the flat tax (oops, we didn't make enough money, even though everyone seems to be complaining about how much they're paying this year compared to last, long live regressive taxes, or something like that). But some are still trying, because they're conservative, or at least try to act like it.

Now that this "money stuff" is out of the way they can get back to the real important work of making sure gays can't legally do anything and all alcohol is behind no less than four curtains and a six inch concrete wall, because after all, these people have to get reelected on something, and it's probably not going to be the economy.

Monday, February 16, 2009


John Cole finds some graphs (take a look) that put the sudden fiscal-conservative-big-tent revival of Congressional Republicans in a more reality driven perspective. Shorter Cole: They never were.

And none of these graphs include the violence done to the budget in the last year of the Bush administration. Long story short- even during the years of Republican Jesus Ronald Reagan, Republicans were never “fiscal conservatives.”

And just because I am full of spite and like to rub things in, let me point to this:

I find it amazing that the Republicans who doubled the debt of the country in eight years and produced no new jobs doing it, gave us an economic record that was totally bereft of any productive result are now criticizing him for spending money. You know, I’m a fiscal conservative, I balanced the budget, I ran surpluses.

That was Bill Clinton, aka the Clenis. That should leave a mark. The Republican response to their utter failure? To run around hollering “porkulus” and releasing Aerosmith videos.

It's like the playground in 3rd grade out there some days. Again: Huge deficit without job growth. Now it's necessary to further grow the deficit to create those jobs. And do you know what would offset the cost of this stimulus? The money we would save not being in Iraq.

It seems too simple. Because it is.

Utah Leg: Ethics?

We don't need no stinkin' ethics!

George Will's Imaginary Wonderland

It's not just his hair that's fake.

Activist Profiles: The Bus Project

From The Nation's activist profiles series (or what I call the "I wish I had thought of that" episodes):

Welcome to politics Bus Project style, where costumes are encouraged and successful activism is measured in both efficacy and, well, fun. Launched in 2001, the Bus Project is a nonprofit organization focused on involving young people in politics. Thousands of volunteers have gotten on the bus, literally--a refurbished forty-seven-seater--and traveled around Oregon, knocking on doors and registering new voters. Their volunteer-driven, pound-the-pavement style has proven remarkably successful as well as popular among young organizers. In 2006 the Bus Project registered 20,000 voters, by some estimates increasing the young Oregon electorate by six percent. Twenty-six-year-old Aronson, now the Bus Project's youth vote director, single-handedly registered 2,000 young citizens. "It was crazy," he says. "I became a pretty good guru with the clipboard. I could do, like, seven at a time." The group also sponsors a political boot camp for young activists itching to test their leadership skills, and stages zany forums to teach serious stuff about candidates and issues.
More activist profiles here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Senate Blocks Whistleblower Protection in Stimulus Bill

A real (as in John Boehner's are not) complaint about the final Stimulus bill. Can someone please explain to me why the Senate always does this?

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) reportedly cut whistleblower protections out of the stimulus bill. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) If you’re going to blow the whistle on mismanagement of projects funded by the new $787 billion stimulus package, you’d better not work for the federal government.

Government oversight groups praised Congress for including at least some provisions that would protect workers who speak up about problems at companies and state or local agencies that receive money as part of the stimulus. But they were disappointed that the same protections did not apply to federal employees.

The original House and Senate bills also did not include protections for employees of the federal government.

But the House did pass a later amendment (pdf) from Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Platts (R-PA) that would have extended the whistleblower protections to federal workers. Senate conference members rejected the provision.
I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the Senate has a horrible track record on whistleblower protection, or any kind of oversight in any form. If we learned anything in the past 8 years (domestic surveillance, breach prone data hubs), sometimes those whistleblowers are the only checks of power we can rely on.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Gift for Republican Friends

Happy Valentine's Day from The SideTrack.

Love and Kisses,
Jason, Craig, and Jeff


I did some scoping around today, just as a matter of comparison, and I was not able to find anything from any other western state that compared to the Legislature coverage online here in Utah.

Blogger pressers. Blogging Senators. Bloggers on the inside. Bill tracking (with insight). Humor (with insight). Twitter runs.

The exchange of information and ideas here is just impressive, and most of it is coming from outside the legislative body itself.

Pretty exciting.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I subscribe because it makes me laugh. Today's Newsmax headlines:

Morris: Obama Isolates Hillary at State Dept.

Kessler: Rep. Ryan Warns Porkfest Will Crush Economy

Special: Get the Emergency Radio Free, Just Pay Shipping

Special: Sarah Palin's Hot New Calendar, Just Pay Shipping

Special: Doctor Says Alzheimer's Can Be Prevented, Act Now

Money: Wilbur Ross Says Bad Loans Hard to Buy

The Great Vitamin Hoax, What You Need to Know

Dick Morris' New Book, Autographed, Free Offer

Three fact-challenged editorials and some astro-turf.

Educated voting is a constant uphill battle.

Our Real Addiction Problem: Fake Outrage


America is a place where you can destroy millions of lives as a Wall Street executive and still get invited for photo-ops at the White House; a land where the everyman icon - Joe Sixpack - is named for his love of shotgunning two quarts of beer at holiday gatherings; a "shining city on a hill" where presidential candidates' previous abuse of alcohol and cocaine is portrayed as positive proof of grittiness and character. And yet, somehow, Phelps is the evildoer of the hour because he went to a party and took a hit off someone's bong.

As with most explosions of fake outrage, the Phelps affair asks us to feign anger at something we know is commonplace. A nation of tabloid readers is apoplectic that Brad and Jen divorced, even though one out of every two American marriages ends the same way. A country fetishizing "family values" goes ballistic over the immorality of Paris Hilton's sex tape ... and then keeps spending billions on pornography. And now we're expected to be indignant about a 23-year-old kid smoking weed, even though studies show that roughly half of us have done the same thing; most of us think pot should be legal in some form; and many of us regularly devour far more toxic substances than marijuana (nicotine, alcohol, reality TV, etc.).

So, in the interest of a little taboo candor, I'm just going to throw editorial caution to the wind and write what lots of us thought - but were afraid to say - when we heard about Phelps. Ready? Here goes: America's drug policy is idiotic.

House GOP Chair Joins "Birth Certificate" Suit

Aptly labeled the "lawsuit from Mars" by congressional Democrats.

Despite the fact that the Court rejected an effort to contest President Barack Obama's citizenship in a case earlier this year, four Tennessee lawmakers are still pushing a legal action to force the president to turn over his birth certificate and other documents to prove his citizenship.

It also comes after Obama posted a copy of his birth certificate on his campaign website.

Tennessee Republican congressmembers Eric Swafford, Stacey Campfield, Glen Casada and Frank Niceley have agreed to join a Russian immigrant in California's case against Obama -- which contends he's not eligible to be president, the Tennessean's Theo Emery reported Friday. Casada is the chairman of the House Republican caucus.

Ironically, the House chairman said his action was intended to quell discussion on the issue.
In fear of Obama, you know, actually being a good President, the GOP crazy seems to be snowballing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rob Miller Responds

To The Sutherland Institute's "nice vs. right" campaign. With flair.

On Monday, February 9, 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Governor Huntsman, through his spokesperson, had expressed his support for the “Common Ground Initiative” and said he was in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples.

In response, Sutherland Institute issued the following statement: “We’re not surprised. Public relations, not policy, is his strong suit. He had to be dragged to the altar of Amendment 3, and everyone has known, since then, that Governor Huntsman would rather be nice than right.”

Responsible citizens wishing to express their disappointment to the Sutherland Institute’s position on this issue may contact their office at 801-355-1272 or you can simply leave a comment for them at

The Sutherland Institute needs to know it’s important to be right on this issue, and nice.


Your Friend
Rob Miller
The Utah Amicus

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lawmaker Restraining Order

You must stay 100 feet from unethical behavior.

With little discussion and just a bit of tweaking, a proposed rule that would limit lawmakers' communication with judges and administrative law judges sailed through a legislative committee on Wednesday.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, has said that the need for the rule was illustrated, in part, by a scolding letter written by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, to a judge who had ruled against Buttars' friend.

On Wednesday before the Senate Government Operations Committee, Valentine referred to the Buttars incident as a "very noteworthy" case, but not the only case where a lawmaker would have benefited from having some guidelines.

Senate Joint Rules Resolution 6 prohibits any communication with a judge or administrative law judge about a particular case until the case is concluded. The rule states that inquiries of a technical or logistical nature should be made to court administrators or clerks, rather than judges.

Also, legislators should praise or criticize a judge's judicial decision "only in an open, public forum," the rule says.

While I applaud the new rule, I'm disappointed by it's necessary. These people aren't children, right? They should know better.

Tools for Combating Political Spin

From the inbox: Cognitive Policy Works.

A major issue in politics today is the problem of trust. In our media saturated world, we are constantly bombarded with misleading information that undermines our confidence in democratic institutions. We need new tools to address this problem - tools that complement the excellent work of media watchdogs, bloggers, and advocates with relevant expertise who call out the inconsistencies and forgeries of the mainstream media.

Our contributions will be shaped by insights into the concerns that motivate different groups of people, the worldviews that filter our perceptions of the world, and the lived experiences that shape how people make sense of the information around them. Over the next few months, we will start to share our insights in the form of trainings, educational materials, and web media.

You can help shape this process.

Jump into the discussion here.

Afghans: US, Not Taliban to Blame for Violence

We're still losing the "war on terror."

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A nationwide survey of Afghans out Monday shows plummeting support for US and NATO/ISAF forces in Afghanistan, and a rise in the number who believe attacks on those troops are acceptable.

The poll of 1,500 people in Afghanistan's 34 provinces, conducted by three Western broadcast networks -- ABC News, the BBC and Germany's ARD -- also shows lower support for President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan central government.

Forty percent of Afghans surveyed say their country is heading in the right direction, down 77 percent from 2005, according to the poll.

Afghan opinion of the United States has nosedived: 47 percent had a favorable opinion, down from 83 percent in 2005. US favorability plunged 18 percent in 2008 alone, according to the survey.
Considering Afghanistan is where we stand to gain actual ground against terrorism and what motivates those who support it, this is not good news. And while it's encouraging to hear reports that Obama is demanding a clear strategy -- complete with exit plan -- before committing more troops, I think it's time we realize, as we should have before even going into Iraq, that this is not a problem with a military solution. Never has been.

Out of Touch

The Steele led GOP continues it's march into irrelevancy, one cable news interview at a time, leaving millions of thinking conservatives hanging without a party or a plan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

National Conversation

I'm normally not one for speeches, even from a politician I am personally fond of. I can't stop thinking, as they speak, "well I wouldn't expect you to say anything else." Same for White House press conferences (though Bush made it an art form, he was hardly the first to stage them in his favor). But this one last night impressed me.

Not rushed or overly scripted, parts of it seemed almost like a conversation.

Maybe it just stands out in contrast to the past 8 years. Either way, I found it refreshing.

Notes from the Blogger Briefing

Sitting in on the first blogger briefing offered by The Senate Site. Some names/faces I recognize in the live stream: Matt Piccolo (Sutherland/Just and Holy Principles), Bob Aagard (The World According to Me), David Miller (Pursuit of Liberty), and Holly (Holly on the Hill), and Ethan Millard (SLCSpin), and JMBell.

Topic is SB0208 and the creation of a search-able website for legal notice from cities and other entities, providing a faster, cheaper means of publishing legal notices with a lower "pass through" through fee through a web portal. Steve U: Government alone spends hundreds of thousands on legal notices, ad private expenses and you're talking millions.

Steve U: With all bills up here, we're trying to do the right thing. There is a perception that we're trying to be little dictators. Our citizens are simply being charged too much for legal notice. Better notice, lower cost. Question: Are other states doing this? Answer: We're researching that. Implementation dates: a year and a couple of months, so there is plenty of time for people to say let's go back in and tweak this. Question: Is this an anti-media bill? Steve U: No, it's pro-consumer.

Question from JMBell: "Ethan is not really a blogger, how come he gets to hog all the questions?" The question is delegated to Ethan for response on SLCSpin. Real question: Will the storage be permanent? Answer: The goal would be permanent storage.

Reactions to the “bloggerpresser” info here and here. (Thanks to The Senate Site for putting this together)

Poke in the Eye

Silver puts polls, approval, and party ID together -- with his trademark mathematical wit -- into a final farewell to the "bipartisan" bullshit:

Basically, I think Obama needn't spend a great deal of time worrying about his approval ratings among Republicans, and particularly among conservative Republicans. In the first place, it is probably inevitable that he will lose their support -- no matter how "bipartisan" his behavior. In the second, because there are so few Republican voters left, he doesn't really require the support of very many of them to maintain an impressive electoral coalition.

Now, that doesn't mean that Obama should poke needles in the Republicans' eyes at every opportunity -- and he certainly can't afford to lose the support of substantial numbers of independents and conservative Democrats. Nor should he assume -- as I think certain liberal blogs are making the mistake of assuming -- that there has been some sort of paradigm shift in the American electorate. We know that most Americans are sick and tired of Republican ideas and are eager to pursue some different ones. But we don't know whether this shift is permanent or temporary, nor how robust it will be in the face of the trials and tribulations that the new president will inevitably face.
Okay, just a few needles.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Giving Up Control of the Message

Maybe it's just a breather after nearly two years of being engaged in a very tight, well structured campaign for the majority, but Tibbitts is right. Vocal progressives activists in the spotlight for the first time in years dropped the ball on the stimulus message.

It is harder for progressives to admit that their own complacency is a big part of why the economic stimulus bill has not already passed and will not be better for putting Americans back to work and building the green infrastructure we need for tomorrow’s economy. Too many progressives failed to notice that after the elections in November the House is more progressive than the Senate. By failing to notice this important fact these progressives, including Krugman, spent much of the past two weeks complaining about what was wrong with the House bill instead of working to get it passed, unchanged, in the Senate . This failure to unite in support of the House bill allowed the Republicans, led by Rush Limbaugh, to lead the public discussion about the House bill before a bill was introduced in the Senate. A discussion led by Rush is not going to be a progressive conversation.
Obama seems to have taken the lesson to heart, launching a more aggressive media campaign to sell the plan, but progressives Democrats and activists need to realize our own failure to capitalize on opportunities.

I dislike the idea of an all consuming "perpetual campaign" like that of the Bush administration, but it's just politically short sighted to not influence the debate inside the Congress with the bully pulpit of the White House and public approval.

Setting ourselves up with the "bipartisan" traps helps nothing. The debate over economic stability and job creation is a partisan and ideological battle with very real life applications. If we don't own it, they will.

Can We Stimulate Without Spending?

Where do they find these people?

There's a trope that you often see in corporate media discussions of the stimulus plan: Yeah, but do you really want to spend money on that? It may have started with the misrepresented contraceptive plan--which seemed to be grounded in a traditional media fascination/embarrassment at anything involving sex--but now it's moved on to anything that...well, it's hard to say exactly what's objectionable about some of the programs media are objecting to.

Take this confused passage from an L.A. Times editorial (2/2/09):

But too many of the items have little apparent connection with economic growth--witness the nearly $5 billion for prevention, wellness, "comparative effectiveness research" and training in the health field, the $2.1 billion for Head Start and the $300 million to improve teacher quality, just to name a few examples from the 647-page House bill. Other provisions, such as the $64 billion for preventing layoffs at schools, colleges and "high priority" state programs, are about saving jobs, not creating them. In the short term, there may be no difference between preventing job cuts and increasing payrolls--one prevents a bad situation from worsening, the other makes a good situation better. But an investment this large should pay long-term dividends by increasing productivity, and that's hard to do when so much of the money is going toward maintaining the status quo.

Let me just say that if you don't see the connection between improving education and increasing productivity, than you really shouldn't be writing editorials about the economy.

(emphasis mine)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ding! Change


PRESIDENT Barack Obama has demanded that American defence chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge.

There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy.
Adults in charge again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

When A Slippery Slope Isn't A Slippery Slope

The argument coming from the Sutherland/Eagle Forum/Utah Constitutional Defense of Marriage Alliance super trifecta is that any granting of rights to same sex marriage is the first step in what would eventually become gay marriage. We would be on the same slippery slope that the state of California found themselves on, and we all know how that turned out.

There is quite a large hole in that argument though. Consider what prop 8 did in California.

Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition in the November 4, 2008, general election. It changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples' right to marry, thereby overriding portions of the ruling of In re Marriage Cases. The measure added a new section (7.5) to Article I, which reads: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
So in response to the state's court ruling that same sex marriage must be legal, California amended it's constitution to prevent it. The reason for this is because the California Supreme Court ruled that it must be legal based on the then current version of the state constitution, so the only way to overturn that was to amend the constitution, which gave us prop 8.

Now the Utah constitution already has it's own amendment.
Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 is an amendment to the Utah state constitution that defines marriage as a union exlcusively (sic) between a man and woman. It passed in the November 2, 2004 election, as did similar amendments in ten other states.

The amendment reads as follows:

1. Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
2. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.
So the remedy to the 'slippery slope' in California was a constitutional amendment. In Utah we already have the amendment, so what threat can a slippery slope pose? Unless amendment 3 is repealed, which can only be done by another amendment of the constitution, then there is no slippery slope. Same sex couples can have every right that is currently being considered by the state legislature, but they still can't slipperyily slide into marriage because of the constitutional firewall that's been in place for over four years.

Why then is our super trifecta continuing to bring up the slippery slope when it seems that the slope doesn't exist. It almost looks like they just don't like teh gays having teh rights doesn't it?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Geek Input Needed

The Senate Site is upping the ante (again) on the intersection of technology and citizen engagement.


If we hand-crafted a press conference for bloggers -- what would it look like?

Brainstorming . . . a high-speed wireless connection, six or seven chairs in a circle. Livestreaming video. Podcast?
Help 'em out, if you can.

Considerable Return

But remember... fighting climate change will kill the world economy.

But he said China and the United States, the world's two biggest polluters, could profitably work together and set a lead for the international community leading up to December's climate meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen.

"China and the United States have many shared interests and extensive areas for cooperation on energy and climate change," he said at a Brookings Institution forum.

The United States should offer its "advanced technologies and a rich experience in energy efficiency and clean energy" to boost China's own plan, the ambassador said.

"Cooperation between our two countries on energy and environmental issues will enable China to respond to energy and climate change issues more effectively while at the same time offering enormous business opportunities and considerable return to American investors."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Simple Economic Truths

From the master of political brevity.

High Tech, High Speed Education

Genius meets curious.

Starting this summer, some of the world's leading thinkers in exponentially growing technologies will be gathering annually at NASA Ames Research Center, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for 10 weeks of discussions on how to change the future. And you could join them.

The gatherings will be part of what is known as Singularity University, a brand-new academic institution co-founded by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, X Prize chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, and former Yahoo Brickhouse head Salim Ismail, and anyone can apply.

Singularity University is less a traditional university and more an institution that will feature intensive 10-week, 10-day, or 3-day programs examining a set of 10 technologies and disciplines, such as future studies and forecasting; biotechnology and bioinformatics; nanotechnology; AI, robotics, and cognitive computing; and finance and entrepreneurship.

I love the idea, but I gotta wonder how effective a 3 hour class on Artificial Intelligence could really be in today's rapidly changing workplace...


Derek the Abstinence Clown

This video has quite a story. Incidentally, it was 100% funded by a federal "abstinence only education" grant.

The Bush Legacy lingers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Backfilling the General Funds (or Utah Anti-Tax Myth #774)

Considering the number of Republican legislators, county representatives, party leaders, and even federal delegates who have regaled me over the years with their yarns of low taxes, tax cuts, hate for taxes, concern for the work-a-day man, and -- did I say hate for taxes yet? -- I'm still surprised at the sheer contradiction of existence our representatives make when it's spelled out so plainly as this:

The Republicans in Utah have put tax increases on cigarettes, gas, internet purchases, services and a whole host of other fees on the table. These targeted fees and taxes that disproportionally hit certain segments of the population are really being used to "backfill" general funding needs. We should at least ask ourselves if small increases in broad revenue programs that ask each of us to share the burden is more responsible and grown up.
All true. And yet google the campaign platforms of each and every one of them, and you'll see the discrepancy. I'm not anti-tax myself, but I am anti-people getting elected pretending to be anti-tax when in effect no such candidate exists (nor really should) outside of Ron Paul's Magic Kingdom.


Making the Case for a Bush/Cheney Trial

Rep. John Conyers, via HuffPo:

The Obama era began in earnest last week, with bold action such as closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and promising to end torture. In its very first days, the new administration has begun to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding executive branch operations, and has made great strides forward on fundamental challenges such as energy and the environment, and above all the national economic crisis left in the wake of the Bush Presidency. While great challenges and much hard work remain, the way forward is bright and clear.

As we proceed, however, the question remains how best to respond to the severe challenge posed to our constitutional structure, and to our national honor, by the Bush administration's actions, and in particular its national security programs. Faced with a record of widespread warrantless surveillance inside the United States, brutal interrogation policies condemned by the administration's own head of the Guantanamo Bay military commissions as torture, and flawed rendition practices that resulted in innocent men being abducted and handed to other countries to face barbaric abuse, what actions will we take to meet our commitment to the rule of law and reclaim our standing as a moral leader among nations?

To this point, I've sided with Obama's notion that we should just "move forward." It's not that I wouldn't love seeing Bush's "security" policies flayed before the public eye, believe me, I'd enjoy that. But it seems like there is a lot to do right now, and I'd much prefer 8 years of an Obama administration than risking it by "getting even." I believe with little doubt that such a Bush/Cheney trial would overshadow the positive effects of the Obama stimulus, or any advances made toward an open government. It would preclude the first two years of the new administration's achievments in the public mind. But what Conyers writes in this op-ed is convincing.

His strongest argument is that Bush and Yoo and Cheney didn't commit these acts or enact this policy, we did. America. And an independent review would not only bring to light facts of policy formation that are probably still well hidden from the light of day, it would also send a message to the rest of the world (and arguably our own psyche) that this is not what we are about, and though we lost sight of it, we haven't completely forgotten the Rule of Law. His second most valid point is that while many are worried about a "cycle of timidity" in the intelligence community, should a trial begin, few -- if any -- are making the case against a more realistic possibility: A cycle of aggression.

No revenge. No vindictive atonement. Just a reaffirmation of what we stand for, exampled by an independent review of how certain (still surprising) policies became a part of our nation's history, and hopefully a lesson as to why it should not -- and hopefully will not -- happen again.

The Dynamics of Strategic "Three-Choice" Voting

Probability theory and politics.

I'd just mangle it if I tried to recap the article. (pdf)

Well worth the time, though.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Media Circus

Journalist Hack asks Obama inane question, and Journalist's Hack's network mangles the transcript of the President's response.

Right wing blogosphere (and Time's Karen Tumulty!) shit in pants.

Journalist Hack's network issues correction to transcript.

Right wing blogosphere accuses network of bias in "defending" Obama.

These people are hilarious.

No one thought to watch the video before commenting?

Rep. Barney Frank Goes There. . .

Republicans want to talk about spending, well how about that war of CHOICE we are all stuck with right now?

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