Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frustrated, Disappointed, AND Pissed Off

Bob is a much nicer person than me, and has my respect for being so. But I think the comments he made regarding the direction of the Utah Democratic Party (as well as my own) are not only timely and relevant, but the beginnings of a necessary conversation.

Lets take a look at what we're seeing/hearing from party leadership the past few weeks.

Subtract two impressive blog posts from that list, and you have: "Democrats don't win", Donald Dunn, and James Carville. A spineless message, one of the least inspiring former leaders of the party, and a political has-been? This is what we're giving Utahns to chew on? And while I'm sure it was nice for Mr. Dunn to get to rub elbows with The Cajun, the relevancy, especially following a legislative session during which party leadership was all but silent on some of the most ridiculous legislation brewing (Frank's non-binding resolutions, a "card-check" declaration in a right-to-work state, alcohol laws, Chris Buttars, thinly veiled attacks on the PTA and evil video game makers... the list goes on) is completely lost on me. And the legislative session follows one of the longest and most engaging election cycles of my lifetime, during which leadership was also silent.

In summer 2008 I visited the office to pitch an event idea, which I was willing to volunteer my time for, if accepted. I suggested, in a friendly tone, that maybe, just perhaps, as a mere idea to be considered, we don't treat 2008 as just business as usual. Host a few unique events for candidates to interact with the public, get some grassroots fundraising going. I was met with a glare, and a declarative statement that we had the Eleanor Roosevelt event coming up, and that would be the end of the conversation. We're underfunded underdogs, they tell me. True enough. But underfunded underdogs are making gains in Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. What are they doing that we aren't? My guess is they're actually fighting back with more than push polls, attempts to buy moderate Republicans as candidates, disenfranchised candidates who feel ignored by the party, and thinly veiled attempts to co-opt religion for electoral gain. Aren't we supposed to be different from Republicans, not following their lead?

In the spring of 2008, I criticized the lack of creativity going into the party convention, as I watched Mr. Cantrell and volunteers turn the Republican convention into a very impressive online extravaganza -- one which even my fellow Cache Valley politico's could be a part of through streaming video and frequent web updates to a dedicated page. Rob Miller called me out (to his credit) on my criticism, and handed me the video from the Democrat's convention to cut up / upload to youtube. While getting the video, I spoke to Mr. Holland about how behind we were compared to Colorado, and even Idaho's party efforts in using online resources to reach out (a factor I don't think is unrelated to the fact both states saw Democrat gains in 2008, while we lost ground) and engage the public with candidates. Mr. Holland challenged me to pitch him a "business plan" that he could use to "sell" to large donors. I never did. How can you explain to someone the importance of something so vague and unpredictable that you see working in neighboring states -- across the nation, in fact -- if they aren't seeing it themselves. So instead, we got a large donor and "Utah Common Values." Never heard of it? I'm not surprised.

But my criticism isn't so much in what Holland is doing with the party, but what he isn't doing. In the outlets I get my information from (using a process which matches the statistical models of almost every other 18-35 year old out there) Rob Miller and Craig Axford and Todd Taylor come through as the only voice of the party. Rob Miller's leaving, and Craig and Todd are but two people in a state of millions.

I've sat on many opinions, to give them a chance. And I don't claim to have all the answers, or to know every aspect of the nuts and bolts of running a state party. I'm sure there are more subtle successes flying under the radar (House Democrats produced the first joint budget proposal in a decade this session, for example). My understanding is limited, I admit. But what I do understand is that what is happening isn't working. There seems to be no fight. Silence, followed by a quote in the local rag, again, reminding candidates that Democrats don't win in Utah.

The party has no identity, and with all due respect, Mr. Holland, I'm beginning to question your ability to give it one, and lead the Utah Democratic Party forward.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Print Media's Self-Inflicted Wounds

From a column the SF Chronicle by David Sirota that I think eludes the the real reason many newspapers are struggling (and conversely, why our own local papers may fair the storm much better):

First, financially strapped newspapers undermined their comparative advantage by replacing audience-attracting local exclusives with cheaper national content. Then, the providers of that national content diverted resources from tough-to-report investigative journalism that builds loyal readership and into paparazzi-like birdcage liner that unconvincingly portrays politicians, CEOs and their minions as celebrities.

"In place of comprehensive, complex and idiosyncratic coverage, readers of even the most serious newspapers were offered celebrity and scandal, humor and light provocation," says journalist-turned-director David Simon, whose HBO series "The Wire" examined this trend.

The most preventable tragedy was the deterioration of quality. Downsized local publications were all but forced to rely on more national content, but that content didn't have to become so vapid.

Beltway scribes didn't have to miss the Iraq war lies or the predictive signs of the Wall Street meltdown. Election correspondents weren't compelled to devote four times the coverage to the tactical insignifica of campaigns than to candidates' positions and records, as the Project for Excellence in Journalism found. Business reporters didn't need to give corporate spokespeople twice the space in articles as they did workers and unions, as a Center for American Progress report documents. National editors weren't obligated to focus on "elevat(ing) the most banal doings" in the White House to "breaking news," as the New York Times recently noted.

But that's what happened.
Say what you will about our local media, but the two biggest examples -- The Trib, and Cannon's Mormon Times D-News -- have fared much better than equally sized papers in surrounding markets. They have also doubled down on local coverage. I don't think the two are unrelated.

G-Zero-P

With Video. (Mr. Bell also wrapped this one up nicely, with audio).

Hard Lessons for Rep. Morley

When a bill with your name on it pits you, a Utah Republican (que choir) against more responsible conservative legislators, the Attorney General, and even Grover Norquist, something went wrong.

Jack Thompson, who has crusaded nationwide against video game violence, didn't take the news well that Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. pulled the plug on Rep. Michael Morley's video game bill.

Under the bill, which Thompson drafted, stores that sold mature-rated video games to children after advertising they would not (at least the third time the same clerk violates the rule) could be sued for up to $2,000 and attorneys fees.

There was, no question, a massive lobbying campaign, driven by the software industry and gamers, urging Huntsman to veto the bill.

The governor ultimately vetoed the bill, saying it raised constitutional concerns and retailers would simply remove the age guideline labels from the games rather than expose themselves to liability.

Bunk, says Thompson, who says there were no legitimate constitutional concerns. Thompson is a former attorney, although he was disbarred in Florida last year for misconduct. (Hat Tip to Game Politics. )

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff begs to differ with Thompson. He told me last night that his office had expressed its concerns "with several different iterations of the bill" while it was pending before the Legislature.

"Ultimately, we could probably make an argument to defend it, but we will be sued, it will be costly. If we lose we will pay attorneys fees. Wouldn't you rather spend that money educating people about the rating system?" he asked. "The governor apparently decided it wasn't worth the risk."

But Thompson sees something even more nefarious. He alleges that Huntsman was bought off by the industry. His proof? A $500 contribution from the Electronic Software Association the governor received in 2006.

Evidently, the video game industry bought off the governor for about the price of a new Playstation 3 and a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV. A crappy economy leads to some very good bargains, apparently.
No doubt there is a double standard in the state, thanks to the influence of Gayle, LaVar, Sutherland, et al, when it comes to tossing aside self-proclaimed penchants for limited government in exchange for legislated morality, but it's waning as quickly as Gayle's relevance and LaVar's reputation and (apparently) Jack Thompson's sanity.

You were a stooge, Rep. Morley. You join the ranks of Wimmer, Stephenson, Christensen and Dayton in whoring your credibility for the endorsement of the "sacred" culture warriors who's day has (thankfully) come and gone.

CIA: Torture Gave No Leads, Foils No Plots, Led Goose Chases

The Feds are finally releasing more & more information that was hidden under the Republican administration that reveals that torture was not just totally unreliable, but is a waste of valuable resources, sending the CIA on global wild goose chases over & over with little to zero results. In fact other techniques have proven much more reliable.

read more | digg story

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Defamation of "Religion" ...is now a Human Rights Violation?

GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations forum on Thursday passed a resolution condemning "defamation of religion" as a human rights violation, despite wide concerns that it could be used to justify curbs on free speech in Muslim countries.

read more | digg story

Americans See Colbert, Stewart Replacing Traditional News

Young Americans See Colbert, Stewart Replacing Traditional News Outlets: Poll - The Huffington Post

read more | digg story

Friday, March 27, 2009

Swift Boating Health Care Reform

No. Scruples.

Spencer Ackerman on Obama and Afghanistan

Spencer Ackerman, from Washington Independent, is one of the brightest bloggers around when it comes to Iraq, Afghanistan, and our foreign policy in general. His comments in this diavlog are well worth the time, and the debate with Shadow Government's Christian Brose is enlightening. Watch here.

Utah Gay Rights Activists: Service, Not Protest

I've been very frustrated with some of the response to the Prop 8 vote here in Utah. The outrage I understand, especially as it's followed up by complete capitulation by our legislature to the taloned claws of Gayle Ruzicka, and the tiny worlds of LaVar and Sutherland on the issue. But the protests at Sutherland's "Sacred Ground" forum made a spectacle out of activists, overshadowing even LaVar's "legislate for God" mentality.

So this was a welcome report to read:

Instead of pickets and chants, members and supporters of Utah's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community plan to take up garden tools and medical-supply kits for "General Service Weekend" on April 4 and 5.

Some of the hard feelings from the LDS Church's backing of Prop 8 -- the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California -- appear to have dissipated. But LGBT activists remain motivated in their pursuit of marriage equality and other legal protections, said organizer Jacob Whipple.

"We wanted to harness that energy for productive means," he said. "We don't feel that there is a need to protest [the LDS Church] further."

Whipple launched the Salt Lake City protest that drew 3,000 people to Temple Square thee days after the November election.

Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Snyder said Thursday that no permits for protests outside of general conference have been requested -- the deadline to apply is today, although a permit is not required. In recent weeks, a viral e-mail spread false rumors about a massive and violent gay-rights rally planned near the conference, a semiannual event that features speeches from prominent LDS leaders.

Whipple said Thursday he knows of no plans by gay-rights supporters to demonstrate during the conference. Instead, he has arranged several service projects in Ogden and Salt Lake County, including cleanups at Dimple Dell Park and the Jordan River Parkway, gardening for the nonprofit Utah G.A.R.D.E.N.S. and social-work visits to refugee families. He expects 300 to 600 volunteers to participate.
There was a time for street protests and picket signs. Just a few years ago, it was the only way to get yourself or your organization or your movement in the news. Things are very different today, and there are much more effective ways to get your message out. It's nice to see local equality activists making the realization, and pointing their energy in a direction that actually reaches people, rather than simply combating them. Regardless of what you know to be right or fair, progress in the political realm requires acknowledging your surroundings, and who it is you hope to get your message to. Service, not protests, is a good start in this state.

Civil disobedience is necessary at times, and public protest is what our country was built on. But there comes a time when you are turning more away with your indignation and outrage (see Chris Buttars), when you could be winning hearts and minds with outreach.

Congrats, Davis County

Utah Amicus:

Salt Lake City, UT— State Party Vice Chair Rob Miller is announcing that he will be seeking to be elected as the Chair of the Davis County Democratic Party at the Davis County Democratic Party Convention to be held at Centerville Jr. High School located at 625 South Main Street in Centerville, Utah. The convention will be held on Saturday, April 18 beginning at 11:00 AM.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the Utah State Democratic Party for the past four years, and I want to continue to do so in a different capacity as Chair of the Davis County Party,” said Rob Miller. “Local action is where it’s at these days. Democrats are ready to govern and I want the voters in Davis County to know that. Davis County has faced increased property taxes, environmental hazards, overcrowding, transportation and a host of other issues. Our current elected officials have failed us. I want to lead the change to a better way of doing things that is more responsive to our citizens.”
As vice-chair, Rob has been the voice and the face of the Utah Democratic Party, and a huge part of Utah's blogging community for several years now. He'll be missed at the state party level, but Davis county is an opportunity for Democrats, and I'm guessing Rob will not only succeed in his run for county chair, but also at making a name for Democrats there.

From the ground up, as they say. Kudos, Rob, and best of luck.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

House Republicans Release Vague, Numberless, Incomplete Counter Budget Plan

But be assured it has NOT ONE allocation for monitoring volcanoes!

Utah Democratic Party to Candidates: You Won't Win, Why Try

SL Tribune story on Progressive Majority's move to boost Utah Democrats (emphasis mine):

Friday's visit marks the Progressive Majority's first session in Utah.

The organization got its start in 1999 as a federal political action committee and mushroomed to where the political network now staffs offices in Washington D.C. and eight states.

According to www.progressivemajority.org, it backs candidates who stand for economic justice, civil rights, affordable health care, quality public education, protecting the environment and reproductive freedom.

"[Progressive Majority] focused on battleground states in the past," says Utah Democrat Tracy Van Wagoner. "This year they're expanding."

The focus, Van Wagoner says, is to get progress-minded candidates contending for nonpartisan school board and city council slots.

"Of course, we're looking for legislative and state candidates as well," she adds.

Holland cautions that new candidates should view their maiden run for office as an apprenticeship.

Van Wagoner agrees.

"It's the eyes you're opening, even if you don't win," she says, "to tell people they have a choice."

Voters acquired in the first round become a candidate's base for the next run.

This may be a fact, and it may be good advice for potential candidates to keep in mind, but if you're not saying anything else, you're not going to get those potential candidates. This is something to tack on to your message, sure. A message that shows you have a plan (something a bit more than "Common Values" perhaps?). But when voters and those thinking about candidacy -- who have heard nothing from you in months -- read this, you drive them away with the implied lack of vision or plan for the more immediate future. You've got to say more, more often.

Bad form, Mr. Holland/Ms. Van Wagoner. I'm sure Progressive Majority (an organization to be admired) feels their efforts here now are well worth their time and expense.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DRM is Harmful to Consumers

EFF makes their anti-DRM case to the FTC today.

The FTC's desire to understand more about the harms of DRM comes at a particularly important moment. On one hand, the practice of placing digital copy protections on music is receding, because it had no impact on music piracy and has severely hobbled the music industry's efforts to "compete with free" (of course, this was all detailed in the famous "Microsoft Darknet paper" back in 2002). On the other hand, DRM is emerging as the favored way to enforce "lock-in" and crack down on legitimate competition -- see, for example, the technologies used to prohibit you from taking your cell phone to a different wireless service carrier. There's a growing number of examples where incumbents use DRM technologies, backed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and End-User License Agreements (EULAs), to hamper consumers' rights and stifle competition.

You can read our filing for the full comments we filed with the FTC. EFF recommends that the FTC engage in a breadth and depth of study that others generally cannot -- for example, by investigating DRM's effect on competition, examining in particular the activities of inter-industry consortia such as AACS and DVD-CCA. And ultimately, EFF hopes that the FTC publishes a best practices guide and issues a strong statement in support of consumers' rights. While those steps won't quite solve the harms caused by DRM, they will at least put a much-needed limit on the burdens imposed on consumers until greater reforms can be made.

What's With All This Multi-Tasking?

The Party of No Zero can't keep up.

Greetings, Culture Lovers

Muppets. Gotta love em.



(h/t jakeoftheweb)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prop 8, Junior

For some, the ends justify any means.

Hawaii resident Leonor Briscoe was fired up enough over an e-mail exchange with a neighbor that she forwarded copies to her friends, including some Utah residents she believed would be interested in the issue.

The exchange began with an e-mail she got from Frank Lueder, also of Hawaii, that informed her of HB444, a bill before the Hawaii Legislature that "is attempting to once again legalize same-sex marriage but under a new term, 'civil union.' If you wish relay your OPPOSITION to it, you could do so by [calling or e-mailing] your representative. You could access the list of ... House of Representatives from the e-mail address I just gave."

Briscoe, who is LDS, responded: "In the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the Mormon church, there's no way you would be sending out e-mails about HB444 without the implied or expressed sanction of the leaders of the Mormon Church.

"You do not know me and I do not know you, so the only way you could have gotten my e-mail address is through your stake clerk's access to church stake records, which are not supposed to be used for political or commercial purposes."

On Zogby

Washington Independent:

Stacy McCain reports on a new Zogby poll that, according to John Zogby, puts the president’s approval rating at “about 50-50.”

This has got to scare Democrats to death, because the whole point of hitching their wagons to Obama’s star was that Obama was popular.

Alternatively, Democrats might yawn and say two things.

1) Zogby is very good at producing polls that get Drudge links (though none for this poll — yet) and less good at reading the country. Certainly, no Republicans are acting as if the president is no longer popular. Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in a historically Republican seat in upstate New York, is running triangulating ads about how he wants to work with the president while opposing much of his agenda. (Obviously, a Tedisco win will be sold as proof that Obama is faltering.)

2) There’s no Republican who comes close to 50 percent approval—the party’s leadership is mostly unknown, and overall approval of the party in Congress is below 30 percent.

You know -- and this is just a wild idea, here -- if the media stopped talking about Zogby polls as if they meant something, maybe Zogby would be inclined to improve their polling methods and produce a poll that actually does mean something? Just a thought.

Speaking of which, you can register with Zogby's online polling arm here. I've been polling as a supporter of "Hobbits" in their polls for a year now.

No, Chuck

Never.

Chuck Norris Asks The Questions You're Too Smart to Even Imagine

The Populist Outrage That Wasn't

Over the AIG Bonuses.

I was in Michigan last week, where nearly every conversation veers into the economy and jobs and whose kids have moved back in with them and who had to move in with their kids. The subject of AIG bonuses came up exactly...never.

Oh, people are mad. They're really mad. But they don't really distinguish between AIG executives giving themselves bonuses funded by taxpayers and J.P. Morgan spending TARP money on luxury jets and John Thain building himself a fancy schmancy bathroom. They're mad at the whole out-of-control business culture that doesn't even understand why these things might look bad, much less actually be bad. It's the business equivalent of why people often don't get riled up about political corruption. They assume all politicians are corrupt. And right now they assume all business executives are reckless and wasteful.

Why has the media decided this is the breaking point? It's certainly an easy hook to hang a story on. But Joe's also onto something when he posits that bonuses are the one part of this whole banking scandal that most journalists understand. It's a pretty poor way to decide what to focus your coverage on, but there you go.

It's not that the bonuses aren't a "deal," and it's not that people should be okay with it. It's that fixing the financial mess, and perhaps not letting Wall Street dictate the policy are a little more urgent and encompassing challenges when compared to these bonuses. It's a distraction that can be fun, yeah, and deserves a verbal beating, true. Taxing them at 90% doesn't fix anything more than media headlines. Next outrage, please...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rep. Michele Bachmann Wants to Remind You She's An Idiot

In case you had forgotten this, Bachmann provides us with this.

And really now in Washington, I’m a foreign correspondent in enemy lines. And I try to keep everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington. […]

I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.

It's not clever politics. It doesn't incite progress. It doesn't even promote the goals Bachmann subscribes to. It's just stupid. Stupid words from a stupid person. Dumb. Re-elected in November (way to go MN!), but still... Stupid.

The Land of the Midnight Irony

They grow it big, up north.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who has a child with Down Syndrome, today blasted President Obama's attempt at a joke which insulted people with special needs.

Said Palin: "I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics. This was a degrading remark about our world's most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world."

This comes on the same day that Palin refused to accept over 30% of the federal economic stimulus money being offered to Alaska. According to the Anchorage Daily News, "the biggest single chunk of money Palin is turning down is about $170 million for education, including money that would go for programs to help... special needs students."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hackery (Politico) vs. Journalism (Reuters)

It's not often you come across such a stark contrast of hackery versus journalism - outside of a supermarket check-out line anyway, but yesterday's stories from Politico and Reuters offer a case study in the difference between sensationalizing talking points and reporting the facts.

read more | digg story

Alaska school officials react to Palin's stimulus refusal

Colver said the district could end up eliminating as many as 60 of its 1,200 teaching positions next year if they don't get to keep the money.

read more | digg story

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stop-Loss to be phased out

Tribune:

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the military is phasing out its "stop-loss" practice, which has extended the service of about 185,000 military members over the past seven years.

There are likely hundreds of thousands more like Sasso: Who spent nearly a year waiting for word on whether he would be changing into civilian clothes -- or back into combat fatigues.

Ultimately, Sasso -- who was awaiting the birth of his first son and had turned down a promotion to facilitate a timely departure from the Army -- was granted permission to leave the service. But he continued to speak out against the policy, as did his mother, Utah activist Carla Hitz.

Hitz pushed Utah Rep. Jim Matheson to support legislation to end the practice, part of the military's much-criticized "back-door draft" policies.

For many soldiers on the third or even fourth "back door draft" tour, this is going to be welcome news. Now if we can just phase out all the "surging" as well...

NPR Poll: More Voters Think U.S. Is On Right Track

A new NPR poll shows that President Obama's job approval rating is high, and despite the economic crisis, far fewer voters think the U.S. is on the wrong track, compared with pre-election numbers. While the Democratic position on issues is favored across the board among likely voters polled, there's some reason for Republicans to hope.

read more | digg story

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Twitter Protest

Marshall Thompson:

I’m starting what I think will be the first online protest against the war in Iraq on Twitter and Facebook. It coincides with the 6th anniversary of the war. It’s going to be simple and easy, but hopefully very impactful.

On March 20, at 3 p.m. EST, tweet: End the Iraq War. Then go to your Facebook account and update your status to say: protesting the Iraq War.

Please spread the word. Thanks,

Marshall

Twitter: @marshallt

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689429154&ref=profile

Avoid Sen. Stephenson's Tomatoes


The NRC has ruled Energy Solutions is A-Ok to start the importation of foreign radioactive waste, in their opinion.

And just in time for spring! Sen. "Put it in your grow boxes!" Stephenson must be giddy.

Life Without Local Newspapers?

Monkey Cage's John Sides uses two recently published books to imagine what life would be like without the influence of local newspapers.

The second book is even more relevant: Nothing to Read by Jeffery Mondak. Mondak studies the consequences of the 1992 Pittsburgh newspaper strike. The strike, which lasted from May 1992 until January 1993, ensured that Pittsburgh did not have a daily newspaper during the most of the 1992 campaign. Mondak compares then compares Pittsburgh voters to those in a similar city, Cleveland, which did not experience a strike. What did he find?

  • Pittsburgh voters did make recourse to other sources of news. They were less likely than Cleveland voters to get information from local newspapers, but more likely to get it from television, radio, magazines, and national newspapers. Those most likely to read local newspapers — people interested and informed about politics — were more likely to seek other print sources.
  • Pittsburgh and Cleveland voters were no different in how much attention they reported paying to news about the Presidential or Senate campaign. But Pittsburgh voters reported paying less attention to House campaign news.
  • Pittsburgh voters were not less knowledgeable about current events, campaign news, or the presidential candidates’ policy positions — as measured by factual questions.
  • Pittsburgh voters were not less likely to report discussing the Presidential or Senate race, but they were less likely to report discussing the House race.
  • Pittsburgh voters also differed in the kinds of information they drew on in voting for their House representative. They were more likely to depend on the views of their friends, family, and neighbors — those with whom they discussed politics. They were less likely to draw on their presidential vote. That is, there were weaker presidential “coattails” for Pittsburgh voters. Pittsburgh voters seemed to lack the information necessary to connect the House candidates and the presidential candidates.

What conclusions can we draw? Clearly, the elimination of local newspapers does not mean that people will know nothing about politics, or learn nothing about politics. As Mondak notes, some people are intrinsically motivated to follow politics and they will find a way to do so via other media. Perhaps that bodes well for the Post-Intelligencer’s future as an exclusively on-line news source.

However, “other media” may be poorly suited to providing certain kinds of information, and in particular information about local politics.
(emphasis mine)

It seems the loss of a local newspaper does not drive "offline" information getters online, but only into less local forms of print, and thus less education about local issues.

Obviously, the move away from print will happen, but I think Side's article shows that it will be a generational shift, and a sober reminder that no matter how fun this blogging gig is, or how cool the news aggregation sites are, we can't rival print on local coverage/local information.

The Glenn Beck Show Generator

Bat-Shit Crazy made cookie cutter simple.

Open & Welcome: Glenn says hello, thanks everyone for watching and spends a few minutes...

1. Repeatedly asking the director to zoom in on his face while he screams about how the United States is on the "road to socialism."

2. Misappropriating the works of Ayn Rand.

3. Adjusting himself in his seat and creepily stroking his nipples while making faces which would indicate that he's taking no small amount of pleasure in it.

Glenn then welcomes his first guest (who agrees with everything he says):

1. Dennis Miller

2. Art Bell

3. His psychiatrist

Followed by a second guest (who disagrees with everything he says):

1. Dennis Kucinich

2. Al Sharpton

3. Shepard Smith

Glenn points his doughy finger and tells the guest he's/she's...

1. An enemy of the state.

2. A "scumbag."

3. Melting right before his eyes.

Then, apropos of nothing, he compares Barack Obama to...

1. Hitler.

Dog a Blue Dog Today

OurFuture.org: (Matheson waaaaay down the list)

These Democratic senators are aligning themselves with conservative Republicans on Obama's budget.

Evan Bayh
Ind.
(202) 224-5623
Email
Blanche Lincoln
Ark.
(202) 224-4843
Email
Ben Nelson
Neb.
(202) 224-6551
Email
Kent Conrad
N.D.
(202) 224-2043
Email

These "Blue Dog" House Democrats voted against President Obama's economic recovery plan and his mortgage relief bill for homeowners.

Bobby Bright
Ala. (2nd Dist.)
(202) 225-2901
Email
Brad Ellsworth
Ind. (8th Dist.)
(202) 225-4636
Email
Parker Griffith
Ala. (5th Dist.)
(202) 225-4801
Email
Gene Taylor
Miss. (4th Dist.)
(202) 225-5772
Email

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the operator to connect you to one these conservative Democrats in your state:

House
District numbers
in parenthesis.

Alabama
Bobby Bright (2)
Parker Griffith (5)
Arkansas
Marion Berry (1)
Mike Ross (4)
Arizona
Gabrielle Giffords (8)
California
Joe Baca (43)
Dennis Cardoza (18)
Jim Costa (20)
Jane Harman (36)
Loretta Sanchez (47)
Adam Schiff (29)
Mike Thompson (1)
Colorado
John Salazar (3)
Florida
Allen Boyd (2)
Georgia
John Barrow (12)
Sanford Bishop (2)
Jim Marshall (8)
David Scott (13)

Iowa
Leonard Boswell (3)
Indiana
Walt Minnick (1)
Illinois
Melissa Bean (8)
Bill Foster (14)
Indiana
Joe Donnelly (2)
Brad Ellsworth (8)
Baron Hill (9)
Kansas
Dennis Moore (3)
Kentucky
Ben Chandler (6)
Louisiana
Charlie Melancon (3)
Frank Kratovil (1)
Maine
Mike Michaud (2)
Minnesota
Collin Peterson (7)
Misssissippi
Gene Taylor (4)
North Carolina
Mike McIntyre (7)
Heath Shuler (11)
North Dakota
Earl Pomeroy
New York
Mike Arcuri (24)
Ohio
Zack Space (18)
Charlie Wilson (6)
Oklahoma
Dan Boren (2)
Pennsylvania
Christopher Carney (10)
Tim Holden (17)
Patrick Murphy (8)
South Dakota
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
Tennessee
Jim Cooper (5)
Lincoln Davis (4)
Bart Gordon (6)
John Tanner (8)
Utah
Jim Matheson (2)
Senate
Mark Begich (Alaska)
Michael F. Bennet (Colo.)
Robert Byrd (W. Va.)
Thomas Carper (Del.)
Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.)
Kent Conrad (N.D.)
Kay R. Hagan (N.C.)
Herb Kohl (Wis.)
Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)
Joe Lieberman (Conn.)
Claire McCaskill (Mo.)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Mark L. Pryor (Ark.)
Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
Mark Udall (Colo.)
Mark Warner (Va.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thinking Beyond a Military Solution

No time today to look into this more, but this headline/summary on a WaPo news alert is encouraging.

Hundreds of additional U.S. diplomats and civilian officials would be deployed to Afghanistan as part of the new civil-military regional strategy that President Obama’s top national security advisers plan have prepared for his signature next week, according to administration officials.
That's what I call Foreign Policy.

Putting a Face On Stupid

Three faces, in fact.

Since the election, nothing useful, productive, reasonable, sane, or even realistic has come from the pie-holes pictured. And as long as this many microphones are in front of these three faces, the Republican Party fights an uphill battle for relevancy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The "Pay What You Want" Cafe

Is booming.

Cafe owner Sam Lippert has come up with an innovative way to cope with the recession: He's done away with pricing and simply asks customers to pay what they want.

Lippert says sales and customer count has increased markedly since the change, and he's looking at adding more staff.

Watch the whole story at CNN.com.

Veto Session Begins: Show Rep. Morley Your "Crazy"

Video Game Voters, in the inbox:

State Rep. Michael Morley, the sponsor of the video game bill HB 353 that's now on the desk of Gov. Huntsman, recently spoke out in the Deseret News calling hundreds of you who sent letters opposing his bill — a bunch of 'crazies' (feel free to leave a comment).

We know we have asked a lot of you Utah, but now Rep. Morley has made it personal. Please, even if you have already written, write again and ask your friends to join the cause.

Let's Show Morley Some 'Crazy' Opposition — Ask the Governor to Veto His Bill

Morley's bill will expose video game stores to lawsuits if they accidentally sell a game to a minor multiple times. Please ask the Governor that since retailers are enforcing the ratings system 94% of the time, why is Morley's bill even necessary?

If the Governor signs Morley's bill, it could have unintended consequences — video game retailers could be forced to avoid the risk of lawsuits by withdrawing their voluntary endorsement of the ESRB system. This could be a huge step backwards in efforts to educate parents and protect children. One large chain retailer withdrawing their support could have a huge impact on educational efforts nationwide.

Please write the Governor, and urge him to veto HB 353.

House Conservatives Seek Patriot Act Extension

More than a dozen of the GOP’s most conservative members on Thursday introduced a bill to reauthorize controversial Patriot Act provisions (“roving” wiretaps, access to library patron information and expanding FISA) set to expire later this year.

read more | digg story

Monday, March 16, 2009

Economic Showdown

Ezra Klein waxes insightful.

NBC was plugging today's "ECONOMIC SHOWDOWN" on Meet The Press. The combatants? Christina Romer and Eric Cantor. A credentialed macroeconomist and some guy who helps congressional Republicans figure out their messaging. And the pity is that that's actually a pretty accurate depiction of the country's economic debate.
You only need to look back as far as yesterday, and the names on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, and whatever that thing John King is doing to see it. Someone trying to crush complex economic, finance, or foreign policy into 30 second sound bytes between breaks, juxtaposed with Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and Michael Steele shouting crazy bullshit into the microphones.

Which message do you think sticks with viewers most?

Cheney on Bush Economy: "Stuff Happens"

Dick Cheney is a douche bag.

Later in the interview, King put up a chart of "The Bush-Cheney Record," showing that between 2001 and 2008 that had been a leap unemployment from 4.2% to 7.6%, substantial increases in the ranks of the poor and the uninsured, and a shift in the federal budget from a yearly surplus of $128 billion to a deficit of $1.3 trillion.

"There are people, I assume, watching this interview right now," King suggested, "and people in this town who would say, 'Why should we listen to you? ... What did you do when you were in charge?'"

In responding, Cheney chose to ignore the employment figures and focus solely on the budget deficits. "There's something that's more important than the specific numbers you're talking about," he told King. "Eight months after we arrived we had 9/11. We had three thousand Americans killed one morning. ... We immediately had to go into wartime mode. ... We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina. ... All of these things required us to spend money."

"Stuff happens," Cheney summarized," and an administration has to be able to respond to that -- and we did."
Yes, Dick, you did.

YouTomb

Lawsuits and video censoring is on the rise.

MIT geeks decides to track the patterns of video take downs.

Warner Bros. holds the record.

The Future of TV News

TVNewser Summit (h/t Mediabistro).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What Should Government Do?

One I'd missed in reaction to Jindal's response to Obama's joint address.

But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Concern Grows in the U.S. That the Drug War Is Destablizing

Concern about a potential failed state -- not Pakistan, not Somalia, but California's neighbor Mexico - is mounting in Washington as an all-out war involving 45,000 Mexican military personnel fails to quell rising drug violence that is spilling from such Mexican cities as Tijuana into the United States.

read more | digg story

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Bills to Thank a Representative For

Unless your representative voted against, of course.

Planned Parenthood:

HB 132, which would require emergency rooms to inform sexual assault victims about emergency contraception, passed the Senate with no one voting against it! The bill, sponsored by Representative Jackie Biskupski, is now on the way to Governor Huntsman’s desk.

Also on its way to becoming law is HB 17, sponsored by Representative Jen Seelig. This bill takes steps towards curbing the dramatic increase in Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in Utah. The Senate amended the bill to reinforce protections for doctors, passed it with no votes against, and then it went to the House for final passage with only two representatives voting nay!

These bills took a lot of hard work and honest conversations with lawmakers to pass, so take a moment to email your legislators and the sponsors of the bills to thank them for taking positive steps for women’s health and the health of our families.

To find your legislator, visit http://www.le.state.ut.us

HB 17

House Sponsor: Representative Jen Seelig - jseelig@utah.gov
Senate Sponsor: Senator Stephen Urquhart - surquhart@utahsenate.org

HB 132

House Sponsor: Representative Jackie Biskupski - jbiskupski@utah.gov

Senate Sponsor: Senator John Valentine - jvalentine@utahsenate.org

Tax Rates, in Perspective

Moveon in the inbox:

The media has been obsessing about President Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—from 35% to 39.6%—even asking if that makes him a socialist.1

But do you know what tax rate the wealthiest Americans paid on the top portion of their earnings at the end of Ronald Reagan's first term? 50%.

Under Richard Nixon? 70%. Under Dwight Eisenhower? 91%!

>

Worth keeping in mind.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hersh: 'Executive assassination ring' reported to Cheney

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell on Tuesday when he told an audience that the military was running an "executive assassination ring" throughout the Bush years which reported directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney. "It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently," he explained.

read more | digg story

ACLU Releases Comprehensive Report On Patriot Act Abuses

The American Civil Liberties Union released a comprehensive report today examining widespread abuses that have occurred under the USA Patriot Act, a law that was rushed through Congress just 45 days after September 11. Since the passage of the controversial national security law, the Patriot Act has led to egregious government misconduct.

read more | digg story

Eisenhower warns us of the military industrial complex

Dwight D. Eisenhower exit speech on Jan.17,1961.Warning us of the military industrial complex.

read more | digg story

Strange Bedfellows in Opposition to Noel's HB379

Salt Lake Tribune:

Rep. Mike Noel defended his HB379 the other day by saying it would stop green activists and the federal government from using the courts to meddle in the state's business.

But the bill, which requires plaintiffs to post bonds before they can file an appeal or request a stay of environmental actions taken by the state, threatens to mean even more federal control over Utah's environment.

Worried about the proposal backfiring, some of the state's most powerful business groups have joined with environmentalists in opposing Noel's bill.

The Utah Mining Association, the Utah Petroleum Association and the Utah Manufacturers Association worry that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take over state environment programs if the bill passes. They would rather deal with Utah regulators, they say, than with federal bureaucrats in Denver.

"The main concepts of the bill, we agree with," said Lee Peacock, director of the mining group, noting that "frivolous lawsuits" are also a concern to mining companies.

"It's just the unintended consequences we're concerned about," said Tom Bingham, director of the manufacturers association.

As a representative in uber-red Utah, sponsoring legislation that puts the Mining Association, the Petroleum Association, and the Sierra Club in a coalition opposing your efforts tells you you've attempted to draft some very bad legislation.

Legislative bumbles 101, for Rep. Noel, who just wanted to remind everyone how much he hates hippies. He hates them soooooo much!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thoughts on the Blogger Presser and Government 2.0

I wanted to throw a more abject thought into the ring after today's blogger presser at The Senate Site. (Play by play of the presser itself can be found at KVNU For the People and via tweet from Tyler Riggs and Misty Fowler).

What struck me the most about the event was the experience itself. I was watching via live stream, while Jason (with his KVNU hat on today), JM Bell, and others were interacting via conference call or in person (saw Misty and Glen Warchol in the stream). Sitting at my laptop, I was able to watch/listen to the questions and responses from Senators, as well as get a fresh chunk of insight from each of the twitter feeds and live blogs. Not simply a collection of reactions, but also links to other resources that provided a more filled out experience for me.

I haven't been able to follow this session as closely as other here at The SideTrack or elsewhere, but from this one blogger presser and the "extra-curricular" real time input from Twitter feeds, I feel mostly caught up (at least on the bills discussed).

Which brings me to my point (which is actually Ric Cantrell's point, one he made in the post-presser questions directed at him and "Government 2.0" efforts). Quoting Jason's live-blog paraphrase of Mr. Cantrell at For the People:

You live under the laws these representatives create, but most of your neighbors couldn’t tell you how things work up here. If citizens aren’t engaged as a “board of directors” good behavior doesn’t get rewarded, bad behavior doesn’t get punished. Doesn’t take an armed insurrection to take back the government, it just takes a vote. It’s not hard to be educated.
This experience was proof of the truth in those words, for me. Through a combination of "new media" (blogs), "social networking" (twitter) and a handful of willing Senators (with the urging of Mr. Cantrell and team), I learned more about several bills and legislative events than most people probably get throughout the space of an entire legislative session.

This presser alone upped the ante on public engagement in the process, and dissolves 50% of the excuses we all have for not paying attention to what our governing bodies are up to and how laws are being made. Here's to hoping we see more of these pressers, and other venues of interaction from the Capitol in future sessions, and sincere admiration for what's already been achieved.

Give Rep. Carl Wimmer the Credit He Deserves (HJR8)

Cast your vote for Utah's most prominent "won't someone think of the union member!" anti-union representative: Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman).

The wing nuts speaking for Corporate America are getting--well, wing nuttier. Their anti-worker, anti-union lies and distortions about the Employee Free Choice Act have reached just plain bizarre levels.

Now it's your turn to weigh in: Who deserves the Chicken Little Sky Is Falling Bizarre Corporate Panic over Workers' Rights Award? The award will go to the GOP mouthpiece that spews the most outrageous claims about the Employee Free Choice Act--proposed federal legislation that strikes fear in the heart of corporate giants because it would restore workers' freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.

Click here to take the survey.

Want to link to this survey from your own site? Grab the code for this chicken and use it in your blog!

For even more info, check out this same MyDD diarist's post on protecting the freedom to form unions with the federal EFCA bill.

And for a bit of factual representation (no offense Carl... wait...) check out 538.com's Life and Times of the EFCA.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Revisionism on the Iraq Debacle has Begun

Why, you may ask, would I call such a catastrophic situation "victory"? This view is dutifully seconded by ex-McCain flack Michael Goldfarb in The Weekly Standard: "Obama has inherited victory in Iraq.... The victory in Iraq is Obama's to lose."

read more | digg story

Monday, March 9, 2009

Twittering The Alcoh-Conference

Those assembled at the capitol for the alcohol legislation press conference had busy thumbs. The Senate Site has a roundup. Glen Warchol was the funniest, my favorite -

gwarchol: “Modernizing,” not liberalizing Utah’s liquor laws. Hughes is a wordsmith.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

UK Nationalizes Lloyds.

With much less pomp and circumstance. Guardian UK:

The government today confirmed it will take majority control of Lloyds Banking Group, with the taxpayer owning 65% of the voting shares in return for insuring £260bn of the group's toxic assets.

After days of detailed negotiations the terms of the takeover were announced by the Treasury, with Lloyds making a commitment to lend at least £28bn over the next few years.

The government is to insure the bank's riskiest loans and in return the taxpayer will up its ownership of the bank from 43% to 65% – rising to 77% when non-voting shares are included.

Organic and Local is So 2008

Motherjones:

Because Fleming doesn't till his soil, his fields are gradually invaded by weeds, which he controls with "judicious" amounts of Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide that has become an icon of unsustainable agribusiness. Fleming defends his approach: Because his herbicide dosages are small, and because he controls erosion, the total volume of "farm chemistry," as he calls it, that leaches from his fields each year is far less than that from a conventional wheat operation. None­theless, even judicious chemical use means Fleming can't charge the organic price premium or appeal to many of the conscientious shoppers who are supposed to be leading the food revolution. At a recent conference on alternative farming, Fleming says, the organic farmers he met were "polite—but they definitely gave me the cold shoulder."

That a recovering industrial farmer can't get respect from the alternative food crowd may seem trivial, but Fleming's experience cuts to the very heart of the debate over how to fix our food system. Nearly everyone agrees that we need new methods that produce more higher-quality calories using fewer resources, such as water or energy, and accruing fewer "externals," such as pollution or unfair labor practices. Where the consensus fails is over what should replace the bad old industrial system. It's not that we lack enthusiasm—activist foodies represent one of the most potent market forces on the planet. Unfortunately, a lot of that conscientious buying power is directed toward conceptions of sustainable food that may be out of date.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Inviting Iran to the Table

On Afghanistan.

Some will be screaming treason. Ignore them like you do heartburn.

It's a foreign policy move that could actually make a lasting difference without blowing shit up.

Stupid Can Be Expensive

Am I the only one who thinks Carl Wimmer "sticking up" for union workers rights screams "Bad Legislation A-Comin'! Prepare for litigation!" No one else is getting a sense of "hmmmm" when some of the most anti-union organization, and representatives here in one of the most anti-union states in the country are suddenly tripping over themselves to protect the union workers? Consider the story of Wurtland Nursing before you swallow their shtick.

EFCA is a federal law in all likely hood of passage. It does not prohibit secret ballots. The "poll" groups like "Save Our Secret Ballot" are pushing doesn't pit secret ballots against card check, it just says "wouldn't you hate if your vote wasn't secret?" We're also a right to work state (some seem to have forgotten) so passing this amendment here serves absolutely no purpose here. Zero. Zilch. It simply sets us up for a legal battle after EFCA passes the federal hurdles.

Turns out our house reps. qualify as low information voters as well. Amazing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Prop 8 Hearings: Twitter and Live Stream

Challenges to CA's Prop 8 are heard today. Jerry Brown is twittering it, and a live stream from inside the courtroom is available here.

Challenges are to the constitutionality of Prop 8 as a revision of the state constitution, not an amendment to.

Overcoming Thatcherite Ideology

Adding insult to injury here, I know, looking at a froofy European Country as critical example of where today's Republican Party stands, but they probably aren't listening anyway.

First, read James Crabtree's succinct but informative profile of British Conservative Party leader David Cameron from The American Prospect. As Crabtree explains, Cameron's current status as a man well-positioned to become the next Prime Minister of his country brought the Tories back from oblivion through a systematic effort to overcome its attachment to the old right-wing Thatcherite ideology. Sure, the Tories tried just about everything and everybody else before resorting to an ideological sea-change, but finally began to turn the corner under Cameron.

Second, read this post from the popular conservative site RedState. I choose this as suggested reading not because it's extreme, but because it is extremely typical of what grassroots conservatives are saying these days. It not only tells conservative critics of the GOP's stubbornly rigid ideological direction to STFU, but gets pretty hysterical about the very idea that the Right should be "thoughtful" instead of simply howling at the moon with Rush and company. The writer seems to be covering his or her ears and shouting "La la la can't hear you!"

Looks like Republicans are pretty much where the Tories were not that long ago, when they were so out of touch that they were incapable of taking advantage of Tony Blair's mistakes. They should maybe think about that before assuming that they can stick with the old-time religion of the Right and simply pray to an angry God that Obama fails and hands them self-vindication and power.

If that isn't Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Rush, and Steele in a nutshell, huh? For the principled conservatives friends I have out there, I can't say I hope you win any elections anytime soon (not, at least, until we've got this socialist agenda thing locked into place... oh and Fairness Doctrine too... oh oh oh and take away all your guns), but I do hope you get your party back.

Or "a" party, if not this one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Penn And Teller Get Hippies To Sign Water Banning Petition

Hippies are so cute. "No end justifies the means."





read more | digg story

More Warrantless Surveillance

I'd like to personally thank those representatives (and the constituents who backed them) who defended Bush's warrantless wiretapping, and helped grant immunity to the Telco's for playing along. You've opened the door, and they've walked through it.

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area (ACLU-NCA) urged a U.S. appeals court today to reject government claims that federal agents have an unfettered right to install Global Positioning System (GPS) location-tracking devices on anyone's car without a search warrant.

In this case, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car while it was on private property and then used it to track the position of the automobile every ten seconds for a full month, all without securing a warrant. In an amicus brief filed today, EFF and the ACLU-NCA argue that unsupervised use of such tactics would open the door for police to abuse their power and continuously track anyone's physical location for any reason -- never having to go to a judge to prove the surveillance is justified.

"This gives police unbridled discretion to collect location data on everyone, even if there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Investigators could track Americans on a whim -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

At the same time, the cost of GPS tracking is dropping dramatically, while the accuracy keeps improving. This would allow law enforcement to create a massive database of Americans' movements without any judicial oversight whatsoever.

"GPS tracking enables the police to know when you visit your doctor, your lawyer, your church or your lover," said Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCA. "And if many people are tracked, GPS data will show when and where they cross paths. Judicial supervision of this powerful technology is essential if we are to preserve individual liberty."
Read the full amicus brief.

And a nice (short) jab from Berkeley Law Prof Paul Schwartz, here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tax Rates: Socialism Gap or Capitalism Threshold?

Call it what you want, it amounts to about 4%.

The 2010 proposed rate of 39.60% = socialism.
The 2002-2008 rates of 35.00% = capitalist nirvana.
The 39.6% rate of the 1990’s = socialism.
Everything else = down the memory hole.
Quick, everybody panic!

Utah Legislature: "We Don't Need Your Stinkin' Money"

Or at least not all of it, you can keep the parts that you tell them what to spend it on, that part to cover their half billion dollar budget shortfall, they'll take that part. Senator Hillyard, chairman of the appropriations committee has been flogging the stimulus for the past few weeks, citing everything from deficit spending to poor stock market performance to suggest how bad of an idea the stimulus is. He's even taken his dog and pony show to your teevee.

And one more phrase Utah lawmakers don't like is - "strings attached."

Sen. Lyle Hillyard: "If there's much feeling there's strings of any significance, that within my body, I think there will be votes to say don't take it."

The strings attached part is a new twist, making its debut yesterday. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. With Hillyard's grandstanding becoming more and more evident, one begins to wonder, is he hiding something? Is there something he's trying to cover for? Well, yes, yes there is. For starters, spending the stimulus money (and I mean all of it) would be good for the state, how so? Well here we have Bernake, explaining how, for example, the increased unemployment benefits fit into the plan.
Let’s take a moment to recall that Ben Bernanke was appointed to his current position by George W. Bush. He’s not, in other words, a left-wing ideologue hell-bent on Europeanizing the United States. Or whatever. And listen to him about the impact of the stimulus-rejecting governors:

BERNANKE: If unemployment benefits are not distributed to the unemployed, then they won’t spend them and it won’t have that particular element of stimulus.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So if this was done on a wide basis, it would be counterproductive, not productive?

BERNANKE: It would reduce the stimulus effect of the package, yes.
So some of those stimulus items would bring dollars into Utah, and people would spend them, having a stimulating effect on the economy? Right here in Utah?? Strange as it may sound, that's what would happen. Some in the legislature don't see it that way (you can usually spot them by the R next to their name), and they worry about the funding for some of these spending items after uncle sam stops sending them checks. But realistically we'd be in the same situation we were in a few weeks ago (you know, before the federal government bailed the legislature out). And our choices would be the same, cut programs, or increase revenue. If it were me, I'd increase revenue, and I'd start by getting rid of that flat tax. Also if the economy is stimulated revenue will be increased via taxes paid on additional/higher incomes. A rising tide lifts all ships.

In addition to being good for the state, it would also be fair for the state. Utah citizens are paying for the stimulus through their tax dollars. If it's not spent here in Utah then it will be spent somewhere. Now how many of us want our tax dollars that should have been coming back to Utah going somewhere else, benefiting another state's economy? Not many? I didn't think so.

I don't think that it being good for the state, or being fair for their constituents will be likely to sway many in the legislature (it generally doesn't, if they've made up their minds otherwise at least). Thankfully it's not entirely clear that they'll be given the choice on this one. Here we have Chuck Schumer, dashing the hopes of those looking for a stimulus line item pen.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to the White House Tuesday urging the administration to not allow GOP governors to reject certain parts of the $787 economic stimulus package.

The letter to Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, obtained by The Hill, said that governors should not be able to pick and choose funding from the stimulus because that would “undermine the overall stimulative impact of the package.”

“I urge the administration to issue implementation guidance clarifying that while any governor may exercise his or her discretion to accept or reject the federal funds provided in the stimulus, no Governor should have the authority to arbitrarily adopt a select subset of the overall package,” Schumer wrote.

[...]"This was never intended by congress to be an a-la-carte menu," Schumer said. "It's a complete package — they ought to take it or leave it."

In the end, Schumer accused the governors of playing politics with the funding.

“No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice,” he wrote. “The composition of the package was rightly dictated by economic considerations; we should not let the implementation of the package be dictated by political considerations.”

Ah political considerations. Now the real question, what do you do when you're in a Republican controlled legislative body and you've managed to get your state into a half billion dollar budget shortfall and the federal government offers to help out as a part of it's own economic stimulus package? Well, you certainly can't jump for joy, this was the Obama stimulus, passed by Democrats in congress. No you must hide your excitement over the fact that Democrats in DC have just saved you from weeks more of embarrassing budget discussions. You must do this by coming up with every reason you can possibly think of as to why the stimulus won't work, and you need to say this as many times as possible. After all, if you don't do this, or (gasp) if you act excited the Republicans here will know you're not really one of them, and you'll surely be without a part time job after the next election.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rep. Craig Frank: The Pointless Resolution Representative

10 o'clock news tonight tells me that Rep. Craig Frank is submitting a non-binding resolution that (as I understand it) says:

We here in Utah are against federal bailouts. Neener.
I can't shake my head fast enough at this asinine attempt to make a pointless statement. And I'm beginning to think that this whole "non-binding resolution" business is the height of Frank's productivity on the hill. Someone get Mr. Frank a hobby. Please.

Meanwhile, in more adult states, actual problems are being solved with actual solutions.

Sigh.

The Dead Tree Theory: Republican Hypocrisy on Spending

Louisiana has gotten $130 billion in post-Katrina aid. How is it that the stars of the Republican austerity movement come from the states that suck up the most federal money? Taxpayers in New York send way more to Washington than they get back so more can go to places like Alaska and Louisiana. (More...)

read more | digg story