Sunday, December 5, 2010

SCOTUS Takes Up Arizona's Other Immigration Law

It's called the "Legal Arizona Workers Act." It was passed in 2007, and went into effect in 2008. The law authorizes the state to suspend or "sanction" businesses through the state licensing policy, and also mandates business participation in the E-Verify system, contradicting federal rules maintaining E-Verify as a voluntary "experiment."

...the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, commonly called the employer-sanctions law, which was among the first in which a state tried to assume control of what previously had been strictly a federal function. The landmark has withstood challenges in U.S. District Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which have said the law is constitutional.

The act emboldened Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who unlike other sheriffs across the state has used it to conduct 40 raids on businesses accused of employing illegal immigrants. Those busts have resulted in 308 arrests for identity theft and forgery, while two employers have faced civil sanctions.

Supporters and opponents of the law agree the Supreme Court's ruling could have sweeping ramifications. If the law is upheld, other states likely would consider similar legislation. The ruling also could influence the future of Arizona's broader immigration legislation, Senate Bill 1070.
In U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, et al. arguments for the state of Arizona center around a 1986 provision of Congress reinforcing a state's right to define and enforce business licensing as they see fit, and on the mandatory E-Verify aspect of the law, a claim that mandatory involvement of AZ businesses will only help text the effectiveness of E-Verify.

The Chamber of Commerce, joined by several civil rights legal defense organizations argue that the law is unconstitutional as a state level employment standard and mandatory enforcement of immigration law contradictory to federal provisions. SCOTUS Blog:
...the challengers’ brief belittled the notion that Arizona had simply enacted a “licensing” law, so it was protected by the exception Congress wrote into its scheme.  If all that is needed to make a law regulating alien employment a licensing law is that denial or revocation could occur at some point in the process, then, the challengers said,  “a state may regulate work-authorization status in whatever fashion it wishes — so long as, at the end of the day, something labeled a license may be affected.

What Congress meant by the exemption clause, the challengers insisted, was only that “states could rely on federal determinations of compliance with federal immigration laws when issuing business licenses or permits to farm labor contractors.”  The exemption clause, it added, “permits states to tack on certain sanctions in the form of the suspension, revocation or refusal to reissue a license for persons who have been found to have violated the sanctions provisions” that Congress had imposed, not those that a state might seek to impose.
This is going to be an important ruling, preempting the SCOTUS's look into Arizona's SB1070 next year.  The argument made by AZ over the "Legal Arizona Workers Act" amounts to a trial balloon for the argument they will make in defense of SB1070: Since the federal government hasn't acted, state must.  Basically, Arizona is arguing that a lack of action on the federal level regarding immigration law somehow, magically, inexplicably amounts to an automatic transfer of power to the states.

I doubt the SCOTUS will agree, what with that whole Constitution-Not-Hard-To-Read thing.

But due to a conflict of interest, Kagan -- who reviewed the preliminary challenges to the law presented here as Solicitor General -- will be absent in the decision.  That could lead to a 4-4 split, which then defaults back to the circuit court decisions, all of which have at least partially defended Arizona's argument.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Death (Panel) by Budget Cuts

Apparently it's okay as long as we're saving a buck.

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.

“The most difficult discussions are those that involve patients who had been on the donor list for a year or more and now we have to tell them they’re not on the list anymore,” said Dr. Rainer Gruessner, a transplant specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “The frustration is tremendous. It’s more than frustration.”
The "principles" of screaming teabaggers at townhalls, in all their glory. We should be so proud.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Biting Off a Bigger Chunk-o-Blogging

Jerome Armstrong has invited me to write more at MyDD. I've accepted, just for the challenge. This is a chance for me to write for a much larger, national audience -- not to mention an honor, considering almost all of my political blogging heroes cut their national audience teeth at MyDD -- so I'm anxious to see where it goes. Craig and Jeff P may be posting more frequently here than usual, and we'll all double efforts to keep The SideTrack dedicated to state issues, especially as the legislative session begins.

But if things seem a bit dead here for a while, this is why. Hopefully, things won't. It's just a big adjustment, and to be honest, a bit intimidating. Also: uber exciting.

My latest MyDD post, for those interested: Nobody -- but pundits -- gives a rat's ass about bipartisanship.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dayton, Wimmer, Frank Have No Common Sense

Anyone believe a word of this?

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said legislators don’t want the federal government involved in the state’s education decisions.

But Congress wrote the law in such a way that, if the Legislature and governor don’t accept the federal dollars, the money would be sent directly to Utah school districts. That would cut the Legislature entirely out of the decision-making process, Dayton said.

“I’ve got a lot of angst over that whole issue,” she said. “They’re trying to dictate 100 percent of our policy and what do they give us, 8 percent of our budget? It’s just not an appropriate arrangement.”

The $101 million in federal aid is part of a $10 billion package passed by Congress earlier this year, aimed at helping schools avoid laying off teachers.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert expect to use about half of the money to cover a budget shortfall created by tax collections that have been lower than projected. They plan to send the rest to various school districts based on a formula.

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, said the state shouldn’t be forced to take federal funds and sees the issue as a “good opportunity to further push back against the federal government’s intrusion into the state autonomy, and they just continue to do this.”
Go get 'em Rep. Frank (R-Embarrassment)!  But now for the reality:

These 10th-er Hacks aren't pearl clutching over getting this money, and they are devoid of a clue as to what Utah could do instead to keep schools above water.  The "opposition" to "intrusion" is tantamount to a wing-nut temper tantrum, and the truth of their "concern" is that the Feds won't just sign the check over so that they can use it for items other than teachers, schools, etc.  The "strings" they object to are the "strings" that mandate this money as education money, not "back fill the budget to cover for your failed tax policy" money.

Carl Wimmer isn't known to be a big picture thinker (or even a regular picture thinker).  Dayton is a proven reactionary.  And Craig Frank is... well, nobody cares what Craig Frank thinks.  So ignore the pomp and circumstance, and settle your nerves about all the "tyranny" that is "you can't spend this money like morons with a federal check book." 

The reality is even more shrinking of the institutes of education in this state (and as a result, less wiggle room, as today's students become tomorrow's economic foundation), or cashing the check.  And all the hand-ringing over what we'll do when even this money is gone only overshadows the fact that the 10thers, Demagogues, Birchers, and Ideologues on the righty-est fringe of the legislature have absolutely no plan for the future beyond Vouchers 2.0, and the School of Science.

We are going to cash the check.  We have to cash the check.  And Dayton, Wimmer, and Frank are welcome to lose sleep over the "strings."  Smarter folk should not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yes to the "Utah Compact"

The Utah Compact is out, defining five principles for dealing with immigration in Utah.  The approach is conservative, complete with pledges to the free-market and defending "the family," but the political reality is that Utah is a conservative stronghold, and this compact is the first step to sane immigration reform legislation, within that reality.

Add your name.

The pledge has been endorsed by the Sutherland Institute, AG Mark Shurtleff, SLC Mayor Ralph Becker, SL County Mayor Peter Corroon, Sen. Pat Jones... just to name a few.

Add your name now.  Stealing a concise summary from Frank Staheli of what the compact offers:

  • FEDERAL SOLUTIONS — That "Immigration is a federal policy issue..."
  • LAW ENFORCEMENT —  That local law enforcement should "focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code."
  • FAMILIES — That all laws should support and foster strong families and "and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children."
  • ECONOMY —  That we should recognize and respect the significant contributions that all immigrants make to Utah's economy.
  • A FREE SOCIETY — That free societies are inclusive and that we should celebrate all cultures and history, and that "Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill."
The reaction I've heard so far from progressives in Utah has been hesitant and suspicious of the obvious conservative appeal in the pledge.  I understand.  We're jumpy, and with good reason.  But like it or not, Utah is a red state.  The compact offers a stark contrast to the rhetoric of Reps. Sandstrom and Ray and what we're sure to hear from Sen. Howard Stephenson.  A conservative approach to this issue is the only way the tone of this debate will change within a conservative legislature.  It's also a fine setup for legislation I hope we see soon from Sen. Luz Robles regarding immigration in Utah to combat the AZ approach cemented in Rep. Sandstrom's "enforcement only" bill.

The Utah Compact is a chance to ensure that the legislative outcome of this debate is rational, inclusive, and in words of Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero himself: humane.

Sign the compact.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Political Cognitive Dissonance

I've been meaning to post something about the elections for the past week, but really don't find anything that noteworthy to say that hasn't already been said.  So, some of what I think are the best already-been-saids:

Drew Western:

The president and his advisers misinterpreted both the meaning of his election and polls showing that Americans wanted ‘bipartisanship.’ The reality is that people who are out of work couldn’t care less about who is bickering with whom in Washington. They care about what is happening to their lives and families.
Gail Collins:
I spent the election in southern Ohio, which was full of signs telling people to vote against Nancy Pelosi. She made an easy target — San Francisco liberal, first woman, and I will admit that she has a strange, semi-robotic way of talking. But I want to give her a going-out-of-power salute. She stood up for her principles. The health care bill would never, ever have become law if she hadn’t given the alpha males the spine to keep going. I know you’re not crazy about it, but I believe it’s going to be Barack Obama’s great legacy. And although nobody will ever give her credit for it, Pelosi moved a deeply reluctant House forward on ethics issues.
Greg Anrig:
The most reliable finding in political science literature is that voters punish incumbents when elections occur during a period of high unemployment. That conclusion was reaffirmed Tuesday, and it will be again in two years if the president and Congress follow the likely path of fixating on deficit reduction rather than job creation.
Ezra Klein:
One reason I don't like playing the pundit's game of offering strategic advice is that I don't believe anyone really has a handle on what works in American politics. I certainly don't. What we can say is there are certain patterns in American politics -- presidents tend to lose seats in their first midterm election, and the economy seems to drive a lot of votes -- and they tend to afflict lots of different presidents who seemed pretty capable at one point, and in many cases, won the next election and retired as masters of the political game. And since I think policy is a much less uncertain field, if I were in the House, I'd much rather lose my seat after making America a much better place than lose my seat after either failing in my efforts or never trying at all.
 And best of all, Hertzberg:
As for "the American people" themselves, it seems clear enough that their rejection of the Democrats was, above all, an expression of angry anxiety about the ongoing economic firestorm. Though ignited and fanned by an out-of-control financial industry and its (mostly) conservative political and intellectual enablers, the fire has burned hottest since the 2008 Democratic sweep. By the time the flames reached their height, the arsonists had slunk off, and only the firemen were left for people to take out their ire on. The result is a kind of political cognitive dissonance. Frightened by joblessness, "the American people" rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits. Alarmed by a ballooning national debt, they rewarded the party that not only transformed budget surpluses into budget deficits but also proposes to inflate the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the least needy two per cent. Frustrated by what they see as inaction, they rewarded the party that not only fought every effort to mitigate the crisis but also forced the watering down of whatever it couldn't block.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Corroon's Volunteers, In Their Own Words

Back at the Peter Corroon Campaign HQ after visiting 6 staging locations, a Crown Burger, and checking in with the Mayor's friends on Main St. Magna.

The faces here at HQ have changed, but -- surprisingly for 4pm on election day -- the number of empty seats in a very large phone bank area have not.

I talked to several volunteers going on break here and at the various remote locations throughout Salt Lake County, and two themes keep repeating in their answers to my questions:

A genuine excitement over what they are doing here, and a respect for the way the campaign has treated its large volunteer staff.

My favorite comment from a vol who's name I didn't catch: "An architecture has been built here that will have long arms in years to come. The training I've gotten and the experience make me feel a duty to stay involved in this and future campaigns."

Polls are open for another four hours. Find your polling place, and take a few friends.

Thanks to the Corroon Campaign for letting me invade their space today.

Staging Location Five, Labor Hall

Canvassing organization, and calling groups at Labor Hall and Magna Local 392. Too many people coming and going to count.

There's something about Labor offices, and the old timers often staffing them that almost make me feel sorry for anti-union Republicans.

They don't get it. Some Pics:

Staging Location One

Staging location one, Foothill Blvd.

About 75 people here now, at tables lining the walls. Site manager says each person will make between 250-300 calls per shift, and this group is
the first on three shifts.

You do the math.

Election Day

Spending the day stalking the Corroon Campaign, trying to get an inside look at what I'm told is one massive GOTV effort by Utah standards. I'll post updates here as often as possible, also on Teh

Monday, October 25, 2010

Peter Corroon a Better Choice for Box Elder County Jobs

It's been a bad couple of years for Box Elder County.

From the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2010, Box Elder County has experienced a 16.8% drop in employment, currently sits at 8.8% unemployment -- one of the highest numbers in Utah -- and has seen an overall wage drop of 5% since 2009.

In Box Elder less people have work, and those who do are working for much less.

Governor Gary Herberts salvo?  He "saved" 800 jobs at ATK, maybe... in Davis County.

Lost in the discussion over the 800 jobs (maybe) saved (in Davis County) over 20 years is a glaring set of questions regarding Box Elder and Herbert's two years of  leadership:  Why is a county sitting literally on top of both an interstate and a railway hub, less than an hour from an international airport, completely dependent only two large employers who have to shrink their workforce rapidly and repeatedly?

Just 20 minutes NE of Box Elder, in Cache Valley, unemployment is much lower, and wages have shrunk much less.  Why?  Cache Valley benefits from a diversified job market, boosted by both research at Utah State University, a highly educated workforce, and plentiful small, local businesses that have survived despite Gary Herbert's top-heavy economic "strategy" for Utah (County).

Consider a manufacturing facility building, say solar panels -- and all the research employment it brings with it -- employing 1-1.5K.  What better place could such a business be located in Utah than spacious Box Elder County?  And again: right on top of an interstate, a railway hub, minutes from two universities and an international airport. 

Jesse Harris, on Peter Corroon's plan for rural job growth in Utah, writes:
Consider which states have been weathering this economy. Most of them are primarily agriculture-based, but they’ve been making significant investments in both the technology and energy industries. Much of this development is occurring outside of major cities.
And JM Bell, on the "Herbert Effect" in Washington County, said yesterday:
Acting Governor Herbert has a list of things he wants to keep pretty much the same.
Box Elder County deserves a better plan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Let me first say there were a million reasons for NPR to fire Juan Williams... I'm surprised they waited so long.  His comments that he was afraid to fly with Muslims were, sadly, the least of his transgresses against rational thought.  But he's gone, and the world is a better place for it.  Unless you're former Utah GOP Vice-chair, and professional hack Todd Weiler.  Weiler tweeted this morning:

Well thanks for adding that "#notabigot" hashtag,Todd, because otherwise this tweet sounds exactly like something you'd hear from a bigot.  I challenged Weiler's assertion that "everyone" was thinking this by pointing out that really, only morons are thinking this.  Morons, Bill O'Reilly, and Todd Weiler.

The mindlessness of those who espouse this attitude is astounding.  They seem unable to separate the few  involved in the 9/11 attacks with, you know, 1 plus billion inhabitants of the planet (roughly 1/5 of the world's population).  And even more amazing, people who feel this way aren't making it up.  They really harbor these fears.  But consider for a second if there is much difference between someone saying "I get nervous when there is a Muslim on the plane with me" and something like "I kept my hand on my wallet because there was a black guy on the bus today."  Yep, no difference.  And you know what?  Thinking that second example would make you... wait for it... a raging bigot.  Not to mention pretty damn stupid.

Imagine if every stupid act carried out by a Christian became a condemnation of Christianity itself. That would be ludicrous, right?  Unfortunately, these fears espoused by so many are real, and every bit as small minded.

It's simple (and alas, all too human): If you are afraid of all Muslims because of what happened to our country on Sept. 11, 2001, you are practicing a form of bigotry, and as NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said when questioned about firing Williams, probably some issues you should take up with your "psychiatrist and publicist."

RedState Update summed this up best in a satirical video circa the recent childish "controversy" over the NYC Mosque (or multi-denominational cultural center, if you're fond of reality based understanding).  To paraphrase:
Jackie: "You realize that not all Muslims were behind the 9/11 attack?"  Dunlap: "Well, not all conservatives are racists... but because of a few tea parties, now we all have a PR problem."
I've issued a challenge for Mr. Weiler to accept, in an effort to broaden his horizons and expand his understanding that this a really really big world with a lot of different people in it.  I have invited several people I know working (and owning businesses... gasp!) right here in Utah who happen to be Muslim.  I'm now up to 4 takers on an invitation to have lunch with Todd, and calm some of his irrational fears about Muslims, and airplanes.

Encourage Mr. Weiler to accept.  Bigotry is an ugly thing.

UPDATE: Rep. Carl Wimmer joins the Bigot BrigadeEncourage him to accept an educational lunch request as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jimmy McMillan for President!

(h/t Marshall Thompson) NY Gov candidate Jimmy McMillan ("The Rent is Too Damn High" Party). 

update - because the rent is still too damn high

Spending Cuts Will Not Reduce the Deficit, Nor Fix Our Economy

Ezra Klein is quickly becoming one of the best at cutting through the noise -- on many issues, from health care reform, to tax policy and deficits -- generated by demagoguing teabag candidates and partisan gas bags.  In a concise post yesterday, he lays out in easily parsed terms why spending cuts are simply not the route to deficit reduction:
Our problem, put simply, is that our debt is growing faster than our economy. A lot faster. But you can't solve that by cutting spending or raising taxes. Those options will buy you time, but nothing more than that. Think of it this way: If you've got $1 trillion in debt and it's growing at 10 percent a year, you can cut $80 billion -- a huge cut in one year -- and be back to $1 trillion in debt by the next year. What matters is the growth rate, not the number.

That means the best way to solve your deficit problems is simple, at least in theory: Increase how fast your economy is growing. A one percentage point increase in your economy's growth rate is equal to about $2.5 trillion in new revenue over 10 years (not to mention it means you don't need as much social spending, as more people have jobs). To put that more concretely, whether we grow at 2 percent and 3.5 percent over the next 10 years means more to the deficit than whether we extend all of the Bush tax cuts or none of them.

The second best way to solve deficit problems is slow down how fast debt is growing. The big driver there is health-care costs, and so the honest answer on our debt problems is that we either need to wait and see how well the cost controls in health-care reform work, or we need to strengthen those cost controls and then wait and see how they work. We can raise taxes and cut spending to buy ourselves time, but the only sustainable answer is faster economic growth and slower debt growth. But we rarely talk about our debt problem in those terms, which means we rarely talk about it in a way that has any hope of solving it.
I don't expect Mike Lee or Morgan Philpot to change tact, nor that it'd make much difference in the narrative if their opponents challenged their rhetoric with a dose of intelligence.  Lee's campaign has -- obviously -- not been about winning minds, but praying on low-info voters, easily churned into wingnut rage.  But for the record, if nothing else, it's another great example of a simple truth of the 2010 race:

They understand teabagging... but not simple economics.  This isn't a war of ideas, this is Bullshit vs. the Real World.  And the real world, sadly, isn't winning in the Utah Senate race.

For those with more of a clue, early voting has begun.  Go fight Teh Stooped.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rasmussen Polls - Thumbs On The Scales

Let's say you're a pollster and you want to poll an upcoming election. The best way to get public sentiment for the race would be to ask the ballot question first, before any demographic or issue questions. Rasmussen gives an example of this with the Lee v Granato poll.

Questions - Utah Senate - October 13, 2010

Utah State Survey of 500 Likely Voters Conducted October 13, 2010
By Rasmussen Reports

1* If the 2010 election for United States Senate were held today would you vote for Republican Mike Lee or Democrat Sam Granato? (Please note that we split the survey to rotate the order of the candidate names, so while half will hear the Republican candidate first, the other half hears the Democrat mentioned first.)

61% Mike Lee (R)
28% Sam Granato (D)
4% Some other candidate
8% Not sure

2* I’m going to read you a short list of people in the News. For each, please let me know if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable impression.
Now if you're a pollster who wants to sway the topline number a little, you might ask a warm up question or two. Perhaps capitalize on someone unpopular, contrast them with someone you want to prop up, and then ask the ballot question. Rasmussen gives us an example of this with the Corroon v Herbert poll.

Questions - Utah Governor - October 13, 2010

Utah State Survey of 500 Likely Voters Conducted August 23, 2010
By Rasmussen Reports

1* How would you rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as President… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?

2* How do you rate the way that Gary Herbert has been doing as Governor… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?

3* If the 2010 Election for Governor of Utah were held today would you vote for Republican Gary Herbert or Democrat Peter Corroon? (Please note that we split the survey to rotate the order of the candidate names, so while half will hear the Republican candidate first, the other half hears the Democrat mentioned first.)

66% Gary Herbert (R)
29% Peter Corroon (D)
2% Some other candidate
3% Not sure
(note - I'm guessing that ras just didn't update the header of the press release, that's why it says conducted on Aug. 23rd, the title and results match the Oct. 13th poll.)

Now for the poll conspiracy theorists out there (and count me in that group), if you'll notice that each set of interviews took place on October 13th, and that each poll had a set of 500 respondents. Now these phone calls cost money to place, and Rasmussen is in the business of being profitable, so it would stand to reason that they only made one set of phone calls, conducting two interviews on each. Assuming that's the case, and assuming you wanted to really have a thumb on the scales for the second interview, you could prime the interviewee for the second interview with the questions in the first interview.
3. A proposal has been made to repeal the health care bill and stop it from going into effect. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose a proposal to repeal the health care bill?

4* The health care plan passed by Congress requires every American to buy or obtain health insurance. Do you Strongly Favor, Somewhat Favor, Somewhat Oppose, or Strongly Oppose a federal law that requires every American to buy or obtain health insurance?

5* Should individual states have the right to opt out of the entire national health care plan?

6* Do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party Movement?

7* Is The Tea Party movement good for the country or bad for the country?

8* Generally speaking, how would you rate the U.S. economy these days? Excellent, good, fair, or poor?

9* Are economic conditions in the country getting better or worse?

10* Last year, Congress and the president enacted a $787 billion economic stimulus plan. So far, has the economic stimulus plan helped the economy, hurt the economy or had no impact on the economy?

11* In reacting to the nation’s current economic problems, what worries you more….that the federal government will do too much or that the federal government will not do enough?

12* How would you rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as President… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?

13* How do you rate the way that Gary Herbert has been doing as Governor… do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job he’s been doing?
That's the end of the senate poll, but if you were a pollster who wanted to fluff the Herbert numbers, it would be a very convenient way to end the interview that takes place right before the governor race interview wouldn't it?****

Is there anyone left that thinks Rasmussen is a legit pollster merely polling the sentiment of the people?

****No, I don't have any proof, I said it was a conspiracy theory, I'll prove it when they find bigfoot in area 51.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don't Dumb it Down

Conservatives are winning the branding battles with simplistic half-truths that catch on, if not actually telling the real story. Many -- including me, at times -- have argued progressives need to learn to do the same, without the lies. But here's an argument for "keeping it real" even if "full of shit" is winning the frame. The Democratic Strategist:

"What progressives gain in exchange for this sacrifice of the opportunity to pound in a simple message and agenda for decades is pretty important: the chance when in power to promote policies that actually work. And of all the "brands" that are desirable for the party of public-sector activism, competence is surely the best. Indeed, the most ironically perilous thing about the current political environment is that Democrats are paying a high price for the consequences of ideologically-driven incompetence--not to mention very deliberate efforts to destabilize the planet and promote economic inequality and social divisions--attributable to the last era of conservative control of the federal government.

The best news for progressives right now is that conservatives are engaged in another, and even more ideologically-driven, effort to promote their "brand" at the expense of reality. Indeed, one way to understand the Tea Party Movement is as a fierce battle to deny Republicans any leeway from the remorseless logic that will soon lead them to propose deeply unpopular steps to reduce the size and scope of government, while also insisting on policies virtually guaranteed to make today's bad economy even worse, certainly for middle-class Americans. I'm willing to grant conservatives a "branding" advantage and keep my own political family grounded in the messy uncertainties of the real world."


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Health Care Reality Check for Morgan Philpot

Via (again!) Ezra Klein:

Here's the play: Someone somewhere reports that the Affordable Care Act will require some change in the status quo. Maybe it's that insurers can no longer discriminate against sick children, and so some of them are pulling products that were only financially viable so long as they could discriminate against sick children. Maybe it's that McDonald's won't be able to offer miniature health-care "coverage" that caps annual benefits at $2,000, a form of insurance that wouldn't protect anyone from a real illness and that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley once described as "not better than nothing." Maybe it's that 3M is changing its early-retiree health-care plans, for reasons that may or may not be related to the new health-care law. Opponents of the reforms jump on the story. "See!" they say. "This is a catastrophe!" Supporters -- at least some of them -- e-mail me. "This needs a rebuttal, thanks."

But it doesn't need a rebuttal. It needs explanation, and that's what's usually lacking. And when they do explain the particular rule or regulation causing the disruption, the situation often looks very different. The McDonald's plans, for instance, shouldn't continue after 2014, though it looks like the administration is going to give them a waiver to escape the bad press. The point of health-care reform was to get people into real insurance and protect them from illusory plans that run out when they get sick.
Just a few hours spent on the #utpol hashtag, and you'll see some Utah con parlaying this same garbage Klein points to as empirical "proof" that ACA "is ruining the greatest health care system in the world." (Yeah, that guy is running for Congress.)

The health care debate from then to now has always been too driven by anecdotal "evidence," admittedly a lazy tactic employed by both proponents and supporters.  Once you inject more intelligence into the debate than the Utah Young Republicans twitter feed, you begin to understand the real objective of the reform, and the actual -- and beneficial -- challenges it brings to the status quo of our failing health care system.

It's laughable to see anyone defending the status quo, but an intelligent argument isn't the goal for Republicans at this point, if it (DEATH PANELS!) ever was. 

When Morgan Philpot speaks today, remember, it's the McDonald's health care plan -- which isn't much of a plan at all -- that he's defending.  When Shurtleff speaks afterward, remember he's a carpetbagger in search of a spotlight, always.  And when you hear these lazy attacks on the ACA, laugh.

The bill, with all of it's warts, is a start, and will never see a repeal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Utah GOP Throws Herbert Under the Bus

Sometimes, I agree with Republican Lawmakers:

A half-dozen GOP lawmakers, all speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to alienate their party’s sitting governor, expressed disbelief and frustration at how Herbert has dealt with the Corroon challenge.

“I think he’ll have a very legitimate challenger, if not challengers. I think that is becoming more and more the conventional wisdom,” said one Republican lawmaker. “It doesn’t ultimately feel like an open and transparent campaign, and there’s an adage that says if you’re explaining, you’re losing. He’s been doing an awful lot of explaining.”

Said another GOP legislator: “In politics, people look for vulnerability, and he’s shown significant vulnerability this cycle.

“I really think Gary has bought himself a challenge,” he said.

Herbert campaign spokesman Don Olsen said he would “respectfully disagree” that the campaign has been mishandled.
Don Olsen is, of course, paid to say that.

Republicans, understandably, have circled the wagons around Gary, since he's their only option this go-round.  They feign indignant outrage over Corroon's aggressive campaign, asking legitimate and warranted questions, because they know they're legitimate questions.

But Republican lawmakers in Utah rarely, if at all, speak out of turn. That a few "anonymous" lawmakers have gotten themselves quoted throwing Gary under the bus, it's either an intentional warning to Herbert's campaign, or such a majority sentiment on the hill that Gary is incompetent, even the weakest links are being let in on the narrative.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mike Lee vs. The Educated

Several articles circulating my way this weekend from a friend, all various responses throughout this year from economists, academics, and financial experts to the question: What does/should the future of the US Economy look like?  Mulling them over, it struck me how even more ridiculous the teabagger battle cries sound in contrast to an actual intelligent discussion about economic realities and options.

Summarizing arguments made...

Stiglitz (video): Pace of foreclosures higher in 2010.  25% of mortgages underwater.  Commercial real estate underwater.  Long term national debt will be lower if we run a deficit now.  Make up for state revenue shortfall.

Galbraith: Restructure housing markets, encourage retirements.  Spend now to avoid systemic (and more expensive) problems later, long term deficit will be less.  Stimulus worked, but only offset short-sighted action by many states with balanced budget only in mind.  Good start, but time for Stimulus II.

Warren: 2,988 banks stretched, 1/2 of commercial real estate loans headed underwater. Fed approach was top down, honorable, but isn't working.  Middle class has been hollowed out.  Banks prospering won't save the economy in the face of such high foreclosure, joblessness.

Marshall Auerback: Someone should remind teabaggers and deficit hawks that there is nothing more inefficient, expensive, self-defeating and wasteful than long term systemic unemployment. 

... and to bring it all home, our resident teabagger/DeMint lackey, Mike Lee: More outsourcing and balanced budget amendments that make economic response to crisis next to impossible! Also: horseshit.

We should trust the educated.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Opposition Research

Nothing to ad to this, just a rare look into the world (industry?) of opposition research by election committees and campaigns.  Rothenberg Political Report:

In the field, the standard rule is to be discreet.

“Do not engage in any action or conversation that you would not want to read about on the front page of a major newspaper,” according to the “Ten Commandments of Opposition Research” listed on the third page of a “Field Research Guidebook” obtained from one of the committees.

If researching, instead of the research, becomes the story, “it says you’re not good at winning on the issues,” according to one party operative.

Eventually, all the research is compiled into a book, sometimes an actual binder with appropriate tabs, other times an electronic file that is passed on to candidates.

But “the book” is just the first step in the process.

“Just the list of votes does nothing,” according to one Democratic researcher. “The difference between good research and bad research is a comprehensive story.”

The goal is to develop a pattern, similar to what Democrats have tried all cycle to do in Louisiana by attempting to portray Sen. David Vitter (R) as anti-woman.

“If it looks like an isolated incident, then the candidate or committee will get push-back,” the researcher added. “It has to build into the narrative of who they are.”

Whether it’s in the hands of the committees or the candidates, the research is then often tested in polling. What is often construed as “push-polling” is actually just message testing to a small sample of voters. Getting the information out to more voters is another question.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet with the Governor (in 6 Easy Steps)

Facebook invitation in the inbox: Donate $1 to Gov. Herbert and get a meeting!

Apparently, the only way to get a meeting with Gov. Herbert is by donating to his campaign. A $50,000 contribution gets you special treatment by the Gov's Office but, $1 should still do the trick.
Please follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Mail $1.00 to 55 E Broadway Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Step 2: Call the Governor's Office and ask for a meeting. They can be reached at 801-538-1000. You might need to remind them that you're a donor.
Step 3: Meet Gov. Herbert about winning a $1 billion contract or anything else you desire.

Step 4: Invite others. Everyone should have some quality face time with Gov. Herbert.

Step 5: Inform us of your success!

Step 6: Vote.
Emphasis mine.  Because.

The question that many seem to missing in all of this -- and I keep repeating -- is that even if Herbert is being honest about the donations for contracts, and even if he's telling the truth about being out of the loop on the $13 million "hush money" for losing contractors asking questions about what sounds like an unethically conducted bid process, there still remains the question: How could a sitting governor, mid-legislative session, with the budget in the spotlight each and every day, somehow be unaware that a $13 million check was being cut?!

Herbert is either pulling our chain, or incompetent.  Neither is a quality anyone should look for in a Governor.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Herbert's Wash (KUED Debate)

Yesterday, Peter Corroon and Acting-Guv Gary Herbert sat down for a debate.  If you haven't seen it yet, do so here, or catch it on air Monday (KUED's Vote Utah series).

Overall it's what I expected.  Gary all hyperbole , quoting right from the Sutherland Institute newsletters (Government never ever ever creates jobs... except when it does, but ssssssh!), hitting all the buzz words, and on the defensive, Corroon sounding much more the capable executive  .Will Utahn's care?  Is the R all it takes?  We'll see.  But one part worth special note happens at about 20min in, when the two get down to the state economy and breaks for businesses.  It plays out a lil' like this:

Herbert touts a focus on bringing in new jobs, while discounting the tax breaks offered to get them here.

Why that's important?  Well, these businesses haven't brought a marginally significant number of jobs to the state as of yet.  ATK's potential 800 is potentially 800 over two decades, for example.  These "successes" Herbert is holding up for us to pretend are trophies of leadership aren't increasing the tax base on the individual level, and are simple corporate welfare to the companies they draw.  When it comes to their influence on the state's economy they are, at best, breaking even.  It's a wash.  Ta-da!  Leadership!

Corroon responds that the unlevel playing field policies like these create hurts local businesses, who can't compete with the larger companies getting all of the breaks.

Why that's important?  He's right.

The biggest lesson Utah Republican voters can't seem to learn -- and Herbert is selling without question -- is the difference between leaders who are pro-corporation rather than pro-capitalism.  Someone should point out to Gary that that is also something you can find in a Sutherland Institute newsletter.  It's one of the biggest scams in our state: Republicans dancing around in sparkley costumes of limited government only to distract you from their propensity to roll over in a stiff breeze when it comes to a corporate handout.  Free market my left...

Perhaps someone can offer up a campaign contribution to get Gary to change up his talking points?

Also, to hear Gary Herbert talk about fighting radioactive waste, the man should be walking around in a cape.  Which has me wondering how the waste got here...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Words Not Mentioned in the GOP "Pledge"

Republicans rolled out their "Pledge" today, and not surprisingly, it's loaded with over the top teabagger rhetoric, and not so loaded with things like numbers, math, or anything that has even been in the same room with a hint of reality.  Reading through the reactions, it appears unlikely to have much effect on the elections.  It could be a first step to a Rep. Paul Ryan "privatize everything" style budget, but considering how fast the GOP ran away from that paper turd earlier this year, it's doubtful.  Boehner says privatization as a way to pay for the $4 trillion cost of items "pledged" is "on the table".  Good luck with that.

Worth noting though are the items not mentioned in the "pledge."  Via David Corn:

You can read it yourself. Or peruse the reviews: liberal Ezra Klein dissects its internal contradictions; tea partier Erick Erickson decries the "Pledge" as a sell-out of the tea party movement; Republican curmudgeon David Frum finds it retro and short on "modern" and "affirmative" ideas for governing during a recessionary year. But here's a short-cut for you. Below is a list of words and phrases and the number of times they are each mentioned in the 45-page "Pledge."

Wall Street: 0
Bank: 0
Finance: 0
Mortgage crisis: 0
Derivative: 0
Subprime: 0
Lobbying: 0
Lobbyist: 0
K Street: 0
Campaign finance: 0
Campaign contribution: 0
Campaign donation: 0
Disclosure: 0
Climate change: 0
Environment: 1 ("political environment")
Alternative energy: 0
Renewable: 0
Green: 0
Transportation: 0
Infrastructure: 0
Poverty: 0
Food: 0
Food safety: 0
Housing: 0
Internet: 0
Education: 0
College: 0
Reading: 0
Science: 0
Research: 0
Technology: 0
Bush administration: 0

That list is as telling as the actual contents.
If this is what passes as a "plan" for today's Republicans, they'd really better hope they make no electoral gains anytime soon. If someone (cough, Democrats!) were to actually hold them to this in policy discussions going forward, "in the woods" wouldn't begin to describe where voters would send them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mike Lee, Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell... Gary Herbert

The teabagger trifecta, Herbert's "hey look over there!" campaign, and the antics of the GOP nationwide illustrate what appears to be a cancer still eating the Republican Party.  Bob Aagard:

Republicanland must be a great place to live. I want to visit some day.

You see, in Republicanland, saying you opponent is trying to take away Seminary from the religious majority by adding 2 more required high school classes (in a 4-year span) is having a good, clean, issue-based discussion. Yet pointing out that there might be something wrong in accepting cash from and meeting privately with people who are seeking government contracts is wrong is hitting "below the belt."

In Republicanland, having the CEO say he doesn't know what's going on in his company means he can get a huge bonus on his way out the door. If the CEO is a Republican Governor, he's a great leader who deserves to keep his job. Who needs to know who's really running the state? In Republicanland, it doesn't matter.

In Republicanland, when you are running up large deficits, it's OK to sue and get sued by the feds. It's also a great time to give tax breaks to rich people. It's also a great idea to give tax breaks to rich people in times of plenty, too. Even if that puts you in deficits. Any other reason (except for war) for going into deficit spending is a bad idea. Even if it puts people to work or helps them buy food.
Snarky, yeah, but also a fairly accurate summation of the garbage we're hearing from the GOP (both local and national) the last few years, and let's not forget "horseshit" plans for Social Security, stoking the xenophobic fires against Mexicans and Muslims, and rewriting the Constitution for political gain.  Also, generally making things up to carpetbag their way into a lifetime career, at your expense.   And why are people being so mean as to the Acting-Guv, asking all these relevant questions of the practices of the office of CEO of the state?  Sniff.  Poor Lil' Gary!  Someone get him his smellin' salts.

All of this is something Republican voters can find reason to fight for?  You're satisfied with this?  Really?

It's not to say that there is something systematically wrong with Republican voters (the most you can really accuse many of them of is being willing to accept and even defend their party in it's current state, or the tea parties in their removal from reality), but there is definitely something rotten in the Republican Party.  It's worse than "No Ideas," which you can expect from a party shoved into the woods two cycles in a row, now trying to redefine itself.  No, what's really disgusting is the attitude lying at the core of the "voices" of the GOP, from House and RNC leadership, to local party representatives that voters are dumb enough to buy into what they're selling right now.

Here in Utah -- predictably, but still unfortunately -- voters will prove them right in most elections, but nation wide, I hope Republican voters will demand more from their party than they are getting the past decade.

Mike Lee, Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle's successful pandering to the nomination as a Senate candidates can serve as  poster children examples for those conservatives hoping to return the party to a reality based platform.  These two haven't been on speaking terms with the real world in what must be a long long time, yet somehow, they are "the future" the GOP (and tea baggn' delegates) offers conservative voters.  Gary Herbert's indignation (while he denies nothing brought to light of day), pretending to be innocently "unaware," while it seems the opposite is true... conservatives buy this stuff in Utah?  Again: Really?  When did all the various ways a person seeking office or re-election can play off of the gullibility of voters become an example of leadership?

From state to national, you guys aren't exactly demanding 110% from your choices and representatives... to say the least.  And before you get your knickers in a twist, the Democrats have been there.  It's part of the cycle.  But the only way you get out of it is to stop defending it, stop accepting it, and start demanding better.

When I listen to Lee, Angle, et al, I wish the GOP do take back the house this year.  Yeah, it would set our country back (way back) 2 years, but it would give people a chance to see exactly what kind of lunatics the Republicans are sending up. When I see people out defending Herbert in the event of recent weeks, and feigning offense over the questions Corroon has asked, it makes me think all voters in Utah need is an R... any R will do (obviously).  No one should be willing to accept so little from representatives of their state, regardless of party affiliation.

Just today, some fool invited me to a "Draft Carl Wimmer for Congress" page.  Seriously!  At least one person (eleven actually, looking at the "like" count on Facebook) thinks that Rep. Carl Wimmer (this Carl Wimmer) is leadership material.  Unbelievable!  I like Carl.  Nice guy.  But he thinks a lot of snow in his driveway is proof that climate change is a hoax.  This is the brightest bulb the UT GOP has?  Wow.

This crop is just craziness.  Plain and simple.

Friday, September 17, 2010

13 Million Dollar Questions

Evidently coming up with losing road constructions bids is a lucrative business in this state, who knew? It seems more than a little odd that a fiscally strapped state would be willing to offer up a 13 million dollar pay off to the losing bidder, so they must have had a good reason right? UDOT's version of a good reason is something along the lines of a hunch.

Bid records reviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune show the Selection Recommendation Committee, made up of UDOT managers and budget officials, found enough variances to ultimately swing the contract against Flatiron/Skanska/Zachry (FSZ) and in favor of Provo River Constructors by a single point.

In each case, the several variances the selection committee identified broke in favor of Provo River Constructors, which, UDOT Executive Director John Njord acknowledged, “looked bad” and prompted a $13 million settlement with FSZ, the second-place bidder
And I agree, it does "look bad" but does it look 13 million dollars bad? Not even if the state still had a rainy day fund (remember that?). It looks like we won't be getting any answers from the new home of our tax money, as with all good pay offs, it came with a don't tell anyone about this clause, and it sounds like that's really too bad.
Kent Scott, an attorney for Flatiron, said he could not comment on the settlement, due to a confidentiality agreement.

“I’d love to [talk]. … It’s fascinating,” Scott said, but he respected Njord’s request to stay quiet.
As they say in True Romance, something's rotten in Denmark with this one, but Herbert won't let that slow him down, he's holding a high stakes fundraiser this weekend. I suppose the campaign feels like they need some more corporate money to dig themselves out at this point.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Herbert in Two (of his own) Words

"Virtually unaware."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Political Wire:

Marc Ambinder: "Expect an uptick in Democratic enthusiasm and expect several significant races to tighten. People tend to make judgments through the lens of the last major event. If Democrats interpret last night to mean that radical Republicans are threatening to take control, they're going to be more receptive to the basic party message."

"The media is going to help the Democratic Party's national messaging, which is that the GOP is a party full of Christine O'Donnells." 
Pass the popcorn.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EPA to Wyoming Residents Near Drilling Sites: Don't Drink Your Water


EPA scientists began investigating Pavillion's water in 2008 after residents complained about foul smells, illness and discolored water, and after state agencies declined to investigate. Last August the EPA found contaminants in a quarter of samples taken during the first stage of its investigation, and the agency announced it would continue with another round of samples -- the set being disclosed now.

In the meeting Tuesday, the agency shared results from tests of 23 wells, 19 of which supply drinking water to residents. It found low levels of hydrocarbon compounds -- various substances that make up oil -- in 89 percent of the drinking water wells it tested. Methane gas was detected in seven of the wells and was determined to have come from the gas reservoir being tapped for energy. Eleven of the wells contained low levels of the compound 2-butoxyethanol phosphate -- a compound associated with drilling processes but that is also used as a fire retardant and a plasticizer.

The scientists also found extremely high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and other compounds in groundwater samples taken near old drilling disposal pits. Some of the samples were taken less than 200 yards from drinking water sources and scientists expressed concerns that the contaminated water was connected to drinking water wells by an underground aquifer.
The EPA recommended that residents "avoid drinking water" and use house fans and ventilation while showering to "avoid explosion."

Can't wait to see what Carl Wimmer has to say about this one.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sundance Institute Needs Your Help

Support independent film and artists:

From: Keri Putnam
Date: September 3, 2010
To: Jason Williams 
Subject: Take Part with Sundance Institute

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I am happy to let you know that Sundance Institute has been selected by American Express and TakePart for an opportunity to receive $200,000 through the Members Project program. We are competing against other nonprofit organizations to receive the greatest number of votes in the Arts & Culture category during the contest period from August 30th - November 21st.

The competition is steep and we need your help. Please vote for Sundance Institute and help us raise these critical funds for our support of independent artists around the world. You may cast one vote per week. Past winners have cited weekly voting by their supporters as the key to taking home the cash prize.

Whether it's a window into the world of a teenage girl navigating the dangerous social terrain of the Ozark Mountains through Debra Granik's Dramatic Grand Prize winner Winter's Bone, or a journey with the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Trouble the Water, by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, the Institute supports the kind of original storytelling that allows each of us to see the world from new perspectives.

Please help us win by registering on the TakePart website here and voting for Sundance Institute every week. You only need to register once and then log in each week to vote. You can also sign up for our weekly email reminder here to make sure you don't forget.

We would love if you would spread the word to your family and friends through Facebook, Twitter and emails. The link to share for voting is and you can find us in the "Arts & Culture" category.

It will be all of us that make the difference. Many thanks for your votes and for your continued support.


Keri Putnam
Executive Director, Sundance Institute
8530 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor
Beverly Hills CA 90211

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preserve Social Security in one graph

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Greatest Generation vs. The TeaBagger Brigade

The prologue years...

[...] unionism had shrunk, corporate America had blossomed -- at least in the size of individual entities and in the salaries and other benefits of those who sat at the top of them.  In the decade following the war twelve hundred mergers swallowed up more than six thousand previously independent companies [...] some two hundred corporations controlled almost half of all American industry.  The fewer companies, the less competition, the less competition, the less incentive to keep profit margins down -- and federal tax policies took very little of that profit.  As a result, most of the personal wealth in the country resided in the pockets, bank accounts, and stock portfolios of a tiny percentage of the population.

But goods had been produced for the millions, not for the thousands, and the millions, in the end, simply could not afford them.

[...] Then there was the banking system.  [...] the Louisiana Banking Commissioner took a look at the failures in his state and penned an assessment that could have served as an indictment of the entire system.  "[...] poor management, promotion of speculative enterprises, loans without security, too large loans, loans to companies in which officers were interested, were the major causes of bank failure."

[...] It was up to the survivors now to sift through the wreckage to find what they could that would help them build a new world.  There was plenty of wreckage to go around.
These are excerpts from The Great Depression: America in the 1930's by T.H. Watkins.  It doesn't take a lot of imagination to draw a direct comparison to elements of the Bush recession, and see history repeating, not only in the activities encouraged that brought about the current crisis, but also the responses both enacted by one party and suggested as "ideas" by another party.

The parallels in cause and response -- if you consider that aspect of the history as well -- make today's "debate" and policy of timid stimulus, deficit commissions, and lack of unified economic vision pale in comparison to the policies of FDR and the WWII generation.

They were courageous enough to not only address the causes of crisis, but also to build an economic future in the face of those too small-minded and easily frightened to think of anything but austerity.  At the end of the second World War, the debt to GDP ratio was 120%.  They put everything on the line to rebuild from the Great Depression to the end of the war.  The strategy prevailed, and by the time Mr. Trickle-Down-Economics came along to begin undoing what had been achieved, debt to GDP was down to 30%, and the American economy was leading the world.  This didn't happen by magic, and most definitely wasn't the result of "tightening the belt" and "waiting it out" (or as I like to call it: The Utah Legislature's Only Plan, Every Time, Ad Naseum). The activities that increased the debt from depression to the end of the war were responsible for the infrastructure that then brought debt down while at the same time creating economic expansion.  Today's austerity "leaders" offer no such plan (i.e. cutting Social Security may reduce short term costs, but how does it create opportunity or incentivize growth?  Hint: It doesn't.).

It may seem cliche, but when I read passages like the one above it also seems relevant: it's simply the difference between a "can-do" approach to economic policy and future, as opposed to tea-bagging ourselves back into the economic middle-ages.  The real lesson of the era was a bravery to rebuild and remake the country in response to changing demands and economic forces.  To listen to Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, Bachmann, or any member of the TeaBagger Brigade, America of today could not handle such a challenge, and we must downsize opportunity, huddle together in frightened "principled" masses, cowering in Hoovervilles, covering ourselves from the rain with our pocket Constitutions and Eagle Forum fliers.

A Bold Plan vs. Driving out immigrants and Mark Shurtleff's protest rallies.

The Greatest Generation vs. The Generation that Winced.

Ability vs. Limitations.

You decide.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cut Simpson, Not Social Security

AFL-CIO in the inbox:

Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the federal budget deficit commission and proponent of Social Security cuts, sent a vitriolic, rant-filled e-mail to the leader of a prominent women's group fighting to strengthen Social Security. Simpson should resign or be fired, say seniors' and women's organizations.

Call the White House (202-456-1414) and urge President Obama to demand Simpson's resignation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Dumbening

Ed Kilgore:

No one, of course, doubted Ronald Reagan's religiosity even though he never affiliated with a church in Washington. And the famously pious George W. Bush wasn't much seen in churches as president, either. As for playing golf on the Sabbath, I'm reminded again of the time when the wife of "Mr. Republican," Sen. Robert Taft, was asked where her husband worshipped on Sunday mornings. "Burning Tree," she blurted out, referring to the congressional golf course.

In this as in many other respects, Barack Obama is being held to a different standard than most politicians, but I guess that's just his cross to bear. 
The PEW survey showing an increase in those who believe Obama is a Muslim denotes a willing lack of responsibility by Americans to stay informed and believe what they're neighbors send them in chain emails.  The obsession with the topic thereafter displays how petty, childish, and trite our national narrative becomes on a regular basis these days.

Personally, I don't care about the chosen faith of my elected officials.  That's between them and whoever/whatever they believe in.  Every inch of newsprint and broadcast space dedicated to the topic, while possibly answering questions that are important to some out there, is space that could've been used discussing something far more relevant, like policy.  I do understand why it might be important to some (especially those brainless xenophobes who believe all Muslims are terrorists infiltrating our country), and I even acknowledge that there are those out there small minded enough to factor such things as which church an individual frequents above all other considerations for elected office, and that those types of voters would want those types of questions answered.

But the question has been answered time and time again.  Hell, most of the people I hear perpetuating the lie are the same people who think Jeremiah Wright (a Christian) had programmed Obama as a one man sleeper cell set to activate one's the new drapes were in the Oval Office.  There's something bigger (and dumber) going on here.  It's not a credible source issue, and it's not that the President has been vague about his faith.  I think it's a deep dedication of some to see evil in all things either different from them or that they don't bother to learn enough about to understand.  And lost in all of this is another question: At what point did we decide, as a country, that being Muslim was like a scarlet letter?  Even if the President was, are we really that immature?


Ah, for the days of August '09, when all we had to combat to have an adult conversation were teabaggers screaming "Death Panels!"  I thought then that the discussion over direction we were having as a country could not possibly get any dumber.

Those were the days.

Linda Chavez-Thompson

Utah readers here can't vote for her, but they'll wish they could. This is how Democratic state candidates should be talking about immigration. 

From: Linda Chavez-Thompson
Date: August 23, 2010
To: Jason Williams
Subject: Terror babies, ¡por favor!

Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lieutenant Governor


If calling American children "anchor babies" wasn't already fear-mongering, Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle took the debate to a new level of crazy with her theory of "terror babies."

Repeating a second-hand story to CNN's Anderson Copper, Riddle explained a nefarious international conspiracy by immigrants to cross the border illegally, while pregnant, to give birth without insurance, to then cross the border back again, so that 21 years later they can send their child back again to do us harm.

As I explained last Friday in my keynote speech at the Southwest Voter Registration & Education Project gala in San Antonio, I'm left to conclude that Debbie Riddle was either never pregnant … never waited in line to cross the border … or at the very least, never flew on a plane with a toddler.

But in all seriousness, I realize those who share Debbie Riddle's views must simply be scared to death when they look around and see people who look different than them.

As we all try to move up the ladder, the easy thing to do is to separate ourselves from those lower down.

And that brings me to my real point, which isn't about Debbie Riddle at all, but about Willie Velazquez, the founder of Southwest Voter, who chose a more courageous path.

Willie's legacy is a reminder that yes, we are our brother's keeper.

I took advantage of the opportunity with my keynote speech to speak out for the hotel workers there at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio who have faced intimidation in their efforts to join the union UNITE HERE.

I ask you to take a moment to reflect on how you're continuing Willie's legacy.

Today, there are those who have spread fear from the immigration debate to the health care debate to the debate over public school funding.

These times call for courage.  However you choose to keep Willie's legacy alive, I say from the bottom of my heart, "gracias."

Un abrazo,

Linda Chavez-Thompson

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About Those "Gang-Related" Arrests

ICE announced last week they'd made 158 "gang-related" arrests in Utah, illegal immigrants with alleged ties to gang activity.  Yeah Freedom!  Except...

“We’ve gotten five or six of these gang cases in the past week, and I have three clients who have no criminal record,” said Aaron Tarin, an immigration attorney who is representing Salazar-Gomez. “They were not affiliated with gangs or participating in illegal activity, but they are being labeled as gang members because they have tattoos, usually that are completely unrelated to gang membership.”
The Trib reports that 65 of those 158 arrested had no criminal record.  This is a complete contradiction of ICE's stated policy to target the most dangerous offenders first.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're Not Racists!

Followed the immigration discussion and respective demonstrations on the Utah Hill this morning via the Twitter (Our tweeting local journo's rock, btw).  Not much to say about it other than I'd really like to see Sandstrom, Petty, and the mindless chattering tweeters provide some documentation to back up their wildly reactionary claims.

I'll wait...

While they're getting back to me, the rest of you can ponder this.