Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Utah State Taxes -- Residency Test

The Utah State Tax Commission is proposing a Residency Test for income tax purposes. This test would have three levels:

  1. The state in which the taxpayer's dependents, spouse, or taxpayer is enrolled in public school or state universities.
  2. The address where the taxpayer is registered to vote.
  3. Whether the taxpayer has property in Utah, and is benefiting from the 45% valuation exemption on a primary residence.
I applaud the state's efforts. This has been an issue where the Utah State Tax Commission has repeatedly overstepped its bounds. They have pursued residency in cases as minuscule as the taxpayer having toys (atv's, snowmobiles, etc) licensed in Utah. Clear and reasonable guidance is long overdue.

One problem I see with this rule, and the problems may depend on the final language of the bill that passes the legislature, is the rule establishing residency if the taxpayer of spouse is enrolled in a Utah university or college. For example, if the final law says any of the three establish residency, than someone from Mesquite NV could become an unwitting resident (or recipient of a Utah state tax examination) by virtue of attending the nearest institute of higher education -- Dixie State College.

I think it would be wiser for the residency test to end at the enrollement of the taxpayer and the spouse's children in Utah K-12 schools. That way commuters to Utah institutes of higher education don't need to fear being improperly assessed Utah taxes.

Regardless, this proposed legislation is good step forward in saving taxpayers money in needless litigation and protecting taxpayers from overreaching Utah State Tax Commission auditors.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Governor Herbert still rakes in the dough, but.....

he managed to give a generous 1.4% of the haul to charity. Bravo Gov'na'

There a few who discussed the allegations of shady financial deals against the Governor made by Mayor Corroon. In a show of unrivaled civil political dialogue, master of GOP ethics and quid pro quo payolas, Dave Hansen (you remember, the guy who kept taking 5,000 dollar a month payments from Senator Hatch after he was also hired as Utah GOP chairman) said this:
“They’re not happy with the attacks on the governor. They really aren’t,” Hansen said. “They want somebody to rip Corroon’s head off. They do not like to see this kind of campaigning.”
Fred Lampropoulos, who's company is a party to one of the questionable arrangements that the state made after Governor Herbert received a donation, said:
“(I'm)mad as hell.”

Corroon has questioned whether Merit’s $50,000 contributions played a role in the company receiving $4.4 million in tax incentives if it creates 700 new jobs.

“We did it to help a governor we think has a vision on economic development,” Lampropoulos said.

He said his company has also given money to Corroon’s mayoral campaign and the mayor’s office approved a $12 million economic development incentive at the county three years ago.

Corroon's campaign manager retorted:
Dunn said the county was one of three entities, along with the school district and the city, that had to approve that incentive. And, he said, the donations were not nearly as large or in the same time frame as the approval.
Dave Hansen is a buffoon, and one of the least qualified people to opine on campaign ethics. While working for Hatch, he willingly participated in a employment tax scam by falsely classifying himself as a subcontractor rather than an employee of the Hatch Senate Committee. After he was elected as Utah Republican Party Chairman he continued to take 5,000 dollar a month payments from Hatch for over a year. Quid pro quo should be his middle name.

Fred Lampropoulos' revelation about his donation to Corroon raises reasonable questions. He gave to both candidates, and he also had business dealings with both governments, when is this improper? In the case of Governor, timing has been an issue. Alton Coal made a donation and got a meeting with the Governor in the same day, soon after the company's strip mining permit was approved in an expedited manner. Another issue is the manner that contracts are awarded. In the case of the Provo Corridor project, the contract appears to have been won by Provo River by a slim margin. Coupled with the massive payola to the losing bidder, the state certainly looks guilty of impropriety regarding the Provo Corridor bid process.

I guess the big question, other than did the governor really act in an improper manner, is what is an acceptable campaign finance policy? The governor's policy of giving private meetings to 50,000 dollar+ donors, a policy the governor has continued despite the recent allegations from his challenger, has led outsiders to question whether or not those donations are crossing over the line to bribery especially when those donors end up receiving large state contracts or concessions after making their payouts.

I think Corroon's suggestion to limit campaign contributions to a cap, would be a logical step to avoid the appearance of impropriety at the state level of government.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Governor Herbert v. Mayor Coroon -- An Argument That the Herbert Camp CAN Make

Since the Kern Gardner argument failed, I thought I would mention a point of impropriety from the Corroon camp.
Salt Lake County's spokesman is getting a reprimand for an e-mail he sent from his county e-mail address.

Jim Braden is Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon's communications director and acts as the mayor's spokesman.

Deputy Mayor Nicole Dunn confirms that Braden sent out an e-mail with a list of negative press clippings about Gov. Gary Herbert. Braden used his county e-mail address. Corroon is challenging Herbert for Utah governor.



Herbert's brilliant campaign manager who says Herbert is as "honest as the day is long" (a rather subjective description -- I find that the day is often short. So, in Herbert's case I guess it works regardless) was quoted as follows:

Don Olsen, says he wants Mayor Corroon to publicly stand up and admit what happened in his office. Olsen also wants both Braden and Corroon to be reprimanded.

"It's wrong for an employee who's being funded by the taxpayer to do campaign work, especially on taxpayer-funded equipment and on taxpayer-funded time," Olsen said.
Unfortunately for Olsen, the Corroon campaign has already done just that:
Mayor Corroon quickly responded to Braden's e-mail, saying what Braden did was wrong and telling him not to do it again, Dunn said.
How sad. Herbert's manager Olsen almost had something that he could roast Corroon on, but Corroon took the initiative to own the story before it made the press or (God forbid) he ended up looking like an idiot learning about the email in front of the press at a news conference.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Governor Herbert v. Mayor Corroon -- The Kern Gardner Issue

Since Herbert's botched news conference, there the Herbert camp and some right-wing bloggers have tried to defend the Governor with a logical leap regarding the Mayor's relationship with businessman Kern Gardner:

Corroon is vocal in his support for ethics UEG style, yet he abuses his office as county mayor, says the governor’s mansion is for sale and that contributions of $50,000 should raise red flags, he himself is – wait for it – taking contributions of $50K from a company doing business with the county.

Kem Gardner’s company – Gateway Associates – developed & owns the Gateway as well as residential, commercial and retail in Salt Lake County. Salt Lake County owns property at the gateway including Clark Planetarium. The county pays Gateway Associates, Kern Gardner pays Corroon’s campaign. Nice.

However, there is a difference between the Mayor's receipt of donations from Kern Gardner and his Gateway contract with Salt Lake County. Peter Corroon has been Mayor of SLCo since 2004, Gateway Associates has had active contracts with Salt Lake County since at least -- wait for it -- 2002. That's right, Gardner has a business relationship with the county renting space for Clark Planetarium, however that relationship was initiated prior to Corroon's election as Mayor. Gardner's donations to Corroon and the Gateway contract have no legitimate connection.

There is no problem giving money to a candidate for public office even if the donor has or might in the future have business dealings with the government. However it is improper for a elected official to accept donations and to provide those donors with perks in the form of tax breaks, expedited permit approval, or large contracts.

Sorry Herbert and right-wingers, Herbert is the only one with (possible) dirty hands here. Herbert received a donation from Alton Coal and met with the company on the same day -- coincidentally Alton's permit for strip mining was expedited for approval a short time later. The Guv met with Fred from Merit Medical, received a donation, and Merit received 4.36M in state tax breaks.

Last but not least, Provo River contractors gave Herbert cash and subsequently won one of the largest Utah state contracts in history. To keep the losers quiet, UDOT paid 13M dollars to the losing bidders.

Conversely, Mayor Corroon accepted a donation from a Democrat businessman whom the county has had a contract with for many years and will continue to have a contract with many years after the Mayor has left office. The donation to the Mayor had no (from a reasonable person standard looking from the outside in) bearing on the SLCo - Gateway Associates contract. It requires a logical leap of epic proportions to draw any conclusion to the contrary.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Governor Herbert v. Mayor Coroon -- Governor For Sale

Yikes -- That didn't go well!

When political candidates keep flashing video of people saying how honest and honorable they are I tend to doubt the message. It appears that Governor Herbert isn't going to disappoint us in this regard either.

Yesterday, the governor held a press conference with some cheerleader, who's-who from Utah politics to answer questions from the Corroon camp claiming that the governor may have been taking campaign contributions in a "pay-to-play" fashion. In the course of the conference the head of UDOT disclosed that a losing bid competitor in the infamous Utah County project was paid 13M dollars in a protest settlement -- the winning bid was from a group of contractors who had all made donations to the governor.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Herbert said.
This isn't the first time this has happened -- Corroon called a similar issue into question after the Governor accepted a donation from a coal mining company seeking permits in Southern Utah and the permits were coincidentally fast-tracked. The governor denied impropriety in that event as well.

If there was nothing improper about the Utah county project's bid award as the head of UDOT claims, why did the state settle and pay the losers 13 million dollars? Governor Herbert is either a liar or a terrible manager. Even if the governor didn't have anything to do with the settlement or the award of the bid, payment of such a large sum in settlement reeks of impropriety and corruption.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So Much for the Church being Against Gambling

Wow!

I thought they would opt for exposure through helping the MWC get the BCS AQ status, but I was mistaken.

Seems like BYU and the LDS church are taking a huge gamble. The only big upside is potential revenue. With probable scheduling nuances and other issues, BYU's annual BCS chances are more diminished as an independent, and their chances of being picked up by the PAC-12, Big 12 or some other AQ conference are 50/50 at best.

Anyone want to propose a lottery in Utah again?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Governor Herbert v. Mayor Corroon -- Education

In the past few weeks the Governor has taken a few shots at his competition's ideas for Utah education

Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Peter Corroon announced that, if elected, he would like to see an increase in the credits required to graduate from Utah high schools. He cited states like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico as examples of states that have higher graduation requirements and Utah's increasingly tech-savvy job market as reasons why the state of Utah needs to raise the board.

Governor has responded in a couple of pathetic ways. The first response, was an appeal to the religious centric Mormon majority of the state of Utah. The governor stated:
"I don't know that everybody in Utah is going to think that's a good idea to give up art and seminary release time to have this more rigorous curriculum,"
I understand that Herbert hasn't been in High School for more than a few decades, but it is gross political pandering to the major state religion to monger fear that a Catholic Mayor is trying to Seminary. I graduated just a little over a decade ago, and do you have any idea what my senior year of high school looked like? Electives, electives, and (you guessed it) more electives. Mayor Corroon is right to call the Governor out on his veiled religious swipes. Last year, a senior state legislator and many legislators considered eliminating the senior year of high school altogether. The Governor here is once again proving that he is spineless, idea-less, and a sheep, rather than a shepherd.

The second response was more direct and considered more (possibly) personal by some Corroon proponents:
(Herbert accused) his Democratic challenger, Peter Corroon, of borderline hypocrisy by claiming to champion public education while sending his own three children to a parochial school.

“How can someone who has never had firsthand experience with public education understand how it really works?” the governor asked.


This triggered condemnation from the leader of the Catholic school where Corroon's children are schooled. Madeleine Choir School's pastoral administrator, Gregory Glenn said the following:
"Catholic school parents and leaders resent this cheap shot from Gov. Herbert in support of his own political goals," "Shame on Gov. Herbert for maligning the contribution of Catholic schools in Utah for his own political ends."
Although it is obvious that the Catholic school was reaching in their accusations, the governor didn't miss the opportunity to use it against his opponent:

The governor's campaign spokesman said Monday that Glenn's statement "is a gross distortion," because Herbert never brought up Corroon's religion or made reference to Catholic schools.

"Gov. Herbert believes that the blatant political maneuvering of the Corroon campaign — and the potential community divisiveness that it may cause — is reprehensible and ought to be stopped immediately,"
Let's consider who is improperly using religion on this issue. Governor Herbert, who fully supported the voucher proposal, takes the colossal leap from a plan to make Utah students work harder for their diplomas to the end all of seminary release time when most Utah students and high school graduates will admit that at least one full year of high school is a waste -- the governor knows this assertion is a major stretch, but he is willing to make it because he believes it appeals to the persecution-complex infected majority of this state.

It is also laughable that the governor would piously call the Mayor out as a hypocrite on the issue of private schooling, when a few years ago he fully supported a plan that would have let any Utah parent use state funds to send their children to private schools. The governor is for private schooling on the taxpayers dime, but if someone makes the sacrifice to send their kids to private school on their own dime it is snobbish and it renders someone unable to lead the state's education system.

If the Governor was a leader rather than a politician, he would agree with Mayor Corroon's proposal for increasing Utah's graduation requirements. The state lags behind many of it's neighbors in this regard, and Utah should (per the prevailing religion's own dogma) lead the nation in the quality of our education. However, the governor is a mere politician, and as such good ideas that are not his are a threat and must be crushed by pandering to a far too often paranoid majority rather than embraced for the merit that the opposition's idea possesses.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Take Back Utah" Do We Want More Idiots on ATV's?


I have never been a fan of Federal control over Utah land. The Federal government doesn't pay property tax, and in certain cases the Federal government has used legal doctrines like imminent domain in ways that have truly hosed the Utah economy and Utah ranchers. Having said that, I concede that I am not all that passionate about this issue and have not taken the time to get fully enveloped in all the nuances of the Utah v. Federal land debate.

This week Utah hosted a "Take Back America (or Utah)" rally where a reported 5,000 ATV enthusiasts parade their ATV's up SLC's State Street to the Utah state capital:
"Colorado has already lost all its rights to lands," said Virginia Lynn Robertson, who with her husband, Lynn, ventured to Salt Lake City from Dolores, Colo., for Saturday's event.

"That's why we are here. We belong to an ATV club that has lost all its rights," Robertson said. "Thankfully, it isn't that bad in Utah yet."

Quite a few prominent politicians were also in attendance, warning how the liberal Federal government is trying to deprive Utahn's their rights of land use. I wasn't aware that riding ATV's wherever you want was a right afforded us in the US constitution, but I'm certainly not a conservative constitutional expert.

I think this groups problem is image. If they would have had a bunch of Utah ranchers parading up State Street with some cattle who would undoubtedly shate of the marble steps of the capital, I might be more inclined to listen, empathize, and support this groups opinion against Federal land acquisitions. However the image of 5,000 over-weight rednecks riding loud, annoying, and destructive ATV's makes me much more supportive of Federal land grabs and restrictions of public land use. I'm sure ATVs are fun, but these vehicles are destructive and far too often those who are riding these vehicles are oblivious to the rights of others, designated trails, and the damage they cause to the wilderness they claim a right to enjoy by riding carelessly.

So, if the problem is the Federal government restricting legitimate and beneficial uses of our states land, I am on your side. However, I could care less about your "rights" to scarify public lands with your annoying toys because you are to fat and lazy to track a deer by foot -- I have a right to enjoy mountain areas free from trampled plant life, loud inconsiderate ATV riders, and an extra tax cost for repairing damage caused by ATV riders that refuse to use proper trails.

Take a Hike!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Immigration -- The New Colossus

I have been pretty wrapped up in the immigration debate. Unfortunately, the tone from fellow Utahn's continues to disappoint. So I have decided to end my commentary on this issue with a poem:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

My ancestors are all immigrants. They all came here seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. Most of them came with the benefit of ZERO exclusionary immigration law -- they boarded a ship, sailed across the sea, and disembarked from that vessel. My grandmother was sponsored, met an American and attained permanent status when she got married in what some today may call an "anchor marriage".

Illegals are no different except that they have been given two bad options, one "legal" option that is financially and bureaucratically unfeasible for most people of poorer nations, and one illegal option that is as easy as the founders most likely intended.

I'm done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sandstrom v. Robles

This week Stephen Sandstrom (R-Orem) unveiled his proposed AZ-styled illegal immigration bill. In the days leading up to the unveiling, the Senator claimed to be collaborating with Democratic Senator Luz Robles on a "carrot and stick in front of the horse type proposal" to provide an incentive for would-be illegal immigrants to opt for coming to Utah through legal channels instead of illegal border crossing. However, the Robles contribution is noticeably absent from the "Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act", and her news conference on Monday explained why.

On Monday she blasted the Sandstrom proposed legislation which not only requires police to become unofficial ICE agents, but also deputizes all state governmental agencies and employees to identify and turn in names of suspected illegal immigrants (i.e. the Stowell proposal). She pointed out that the Arizona law has already been challenged and stricken in Federal court and that a Utah law would undoubtedly face a similar fate at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars. Sen. Robles confirmed that she is working on a alternative to Sen. Sandstrom's proposal but that she would not have it ready to be unveiled until next month. She also confirmed that Sandstrom is willing to work for a compromise immigration bill that may be more acceptable to both sides of this issue.

The Sandstrom law is worse than the Arizona law. The Arizona law merely required the police to act in a duel capacity as unofficial ICE agents, but Sandstrom is in effect deputizing the entire Utah state payroll as unofficial immigration enforcement personnel. Theoretically, schools may be bound to send names of suspected illegal immigrant families to law enforcement. This type of "iron fist" enforcement creates so many potential problems, not only constitutionally, but financially, logistically, and bureaucratically that it can make some of the most seasoned policy wonk's heads spin.

Although Robles proposed legislation has yet to be unveiled, I prefer it to the unmitigated crap that Stephen Sandstrom laid at the feet of xenophobic voters who he hopes represent a majority of voters in this state. Is there any doubt that he is posturing as a potential tea party Congressional candidate in 2012?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Immigration -- Steve Urquhart, Ethan Millard and Moving Towards Intelligent Discourse

I have been following a lot of the tweets by Ethan Millard regarding illegal immigration via FB. His commentary has solicited a lot of passionate, heated, and (at times) down right nasty debate on those internet threads. I'll admit that I have engaged in some of this unproductive discourse if for no other reason to burn off my excess road rage. This is something I intend to stop -- uncivil discourse only further entrenches bad ideology in the misinformed.

Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) has taken a positive step in bringing intelligent, reasoned discussion back into the illegal immigration debate. He issued a challenge to Ethan Millard regarding his assertions (or apparent assertions) that all anti-illegal immigrants are racists, Mr. Millard accepted the challenge in the form of a blog post at steveu.com.

I agree with Ethan in that Rep Sandstrom's bill can (which didn't include the alleged incentive program he was collaborating on with Luz Robles) have but one outcome, that outcome is the alienation and intimidation illegal immigrants and their families in some hope that they will leave for their country of origin. Laws like the Sandstrom bill and the AZ law are not the best policy for our nation, not policy that the framers of the constitution ever intended, and it is counter-productive to the growth and prosperity of our nation. Although Sandstrom add a "anti-racial profiling" clause, the nature of the law and the nature of illegal immigration requires racial profiling in order to be successful.

I agree that the rhetoric from the anti-illegal immigrant side has become far too laced with ugly and far too often inaccurate stereotyping that in some cases include fabricated or improperly extrapolated data as evidence to back up the stereotyping. Having said that, I think the rhetoric from the pro-freer immigrant side is becoming too laced with accusations of racism. In too many corners of this debate we have passed the equilibrium between productive civil discourse and fighting for the sake of the fight.

Honestly, I believe policy like our current Federal immigration policy and the new Sandstrom bill are bred from xenophobia, cultural stereotyping, and protectionism. Therefore laws like this can be branded as nothing other than discriminatory policy. Although I don't believe states have the authority to usurp Federal jurisdiction on immigration, Utah would be better served if they used the jurisdiction that Arizona and Sandstrom assert states have to pursue policies like guest worker programs or streamlining visas for legitimately employed migrant workers. However, instead of pursuing freer immigration policies and a secure border, many on the right seem to be interested in US-Mexico Iron Curtain -- this doesn't bode well for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Although my feelings on immigration are passionate and my dislike for the opposition's viewpoint is vehement, I believe it is important for political commentators to bring the discourse above calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist or a liberal. When epithets are loosely thrown around the public debating arena opposing viewpoints are far more likely to cement several meters from the center of compromise and positive public policy change. Conversely, when public discourse is respectful and remains in the bounds of proper decorum there is a much greater likelihood that opposing viewpoints can come together and find optimal solutions to the issues being debated. I pledge to try (it will be hard because the Sandstrom law has such a racially discriminatory nature) and keep racial arguments from my posts from here on.

I look forward to see where Millard v. Urquhart ends up.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sandstrom -- Tries to Sweeten, But Then Throws Excrement on His AZ Style Law

In a DesNews article that is tracking the developments behind Sandstrom's (R-Orem) Arizona style law recently noted three changes to his bill that are of interest. One in particular is fairly positive, and the other is fluff, and the other proposal stinks to high heaven.

First, Sandstorm is now collaborating with Hispanic state senator Luz Robles on providing an incentive for legal migration with streamlined permission for worker visas. Although it is another example of states attempting to usurp Federal jurisdiction, it is a step in a better direction from the "pin a yellow star on them" Nazi-esque policy that Sandstrom was originally pursuing and that Arizona already tried to mandate. It will be interesting to see how, and if, the state of Utah can make guest worker programs a reality without the cooperation and mandate of the Federal government.

The second change is language that specifically outlaws racial profiling:
Second, Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he is trying to take extra measures to ensure that his bill will not allow racial profiling. "It specifically prohibits racial profiling. It's the first time in state law we've actually specifically prohibited racial profiling," he said.
The only problem is in enforcement. I have known more than one Utah police officer that has admitted that they can find cause to pull any motorist over in five minutes. Except for in the most blatant and (quite frankly) ludicrous circumstances, there is no way to enforce racial profiling laws against police officers. The nature of this law requires racial profiling. If a police officer has the urge, that officer will have no problem finding cause to pull over a brown skinned motorist. Although I appreciate the attempt to sweeten the bills overpowering stench, like a pubescent boy, Rep Sandstrom needs to be reminded that Brut Aftershave over BO generally makes for stinkier-musky BO.

The final change is the addition of language introduced by Sen. Dennis Stowell (R-Parowan) that allows state workers to rat out suspected illegal immigrants. Glen Warchol's recent blog post quoted the duo as follows:
Stowell:"We need to set up a process where the employees can go and feel safe. That they're not going to violate any laws."
Sandstrom explained the paranoid-snitch section of his law to ABC 4 News: "If [state workers] suspect that somebody is fraudulently attempting to gain benefits here in our state, they have to turn over those names to law enforcement."
This addition to Sandstrom's bill smells to high heaven. When I first heard of the Stowell proposal, I joked that Sandstrom and Stowell should combine proposed bills and throw in the re-opening of Topaz Internment Camp as a jobs measure. Unfortunately, I can see now that such proposals aren't that far-fetched. Given Herbert's lack of a spine and his pre-session promise to sign the immigration bill that the Lege puts on his desk, Sandstrom and Stowell's proposal may very likely be signed into law this year.

Therefore I recant my last post's jocular position. Don't re-open Topaz Internment Camp!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Immigration -- Stowell Raises Sandstrom's Crazy in the Beehive State

Not to be outdone by Senator Sandstrom or Arizona, Utah state Senator Stowell (R-Parowan) is considering legislation that would allow state employees to rat out illegal immigrants. I'm assuming he received many of the same types of emails that Governor Herbert received after "List-Gate" suggesting that the crusading Utah DWS employees deserved medals rather that firings and possible criminal charges for making the list.

Maybe Senators Stowell and Sandstrom can work on a joint bill and add the reopening of Topaz Mountain Internment Camp, after all they're going to need holding areas when we round up 120,000 people. It could be part of a jobs package and lets not forget that Governor Herbert has already said he'll sign off on an immigration bill next year.

To all people of Mexican or Latin decent -- I apologize for the xenophobic protectionists that are trying to intimidate you from the marble halls of the Utah State Capital.

Update: Sandstrom is throwing the Stowell proposal into his AZ-style law.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Lee -- What's Not to Like About the Guy?

I will not vote for Mike Lee. I'm sure he is a nice fellow. When a candidate tries as hard as Lee has to tie himself to the extreme elements of his party, it is usually a sign that the candidate lacks any individual integrity or character. Here is my list of reasons to keep Lee out of the Senate:

He exploits obscure extreme LDS doctrine.
He panders to xenophobes and racists.
Making clear that illegal aliens will not receive amnesty in any form, and must return to their own countries before applying for a visa; illegal aliens should receive no benefit from having entered the United States illegally, and should not be granted guest-worker visas or the opportunity to “purchase” lawful immigration status.
He has already gotten in bed with Orrin Hatch.
He supports bailing out BP, while deriding the financial bailout through his other face.
He believes in salad bar conservatism.
He wants Congress to check with state legislatures before doing anything.
He has his interpretation of the Constitution (Lionel Hutz-like smile and yes-nod) and there is the Judicial system's interpretation of the Constitution (Lionel Hutz-like frown and no-nod):

He reached this opinion through his reading of a section of the U.S. Constitution known as the “enclave clause,” which he argues requires a state to give up all legal rights to land that would become off-limits to development.

Lee, an attorney, acknowledges the courts don’t support his interpretation. They instead have found that the federal government does not need permission to turn already public lands into protected wilderness.

“It’s not,” Lee said, “how the courts would look at it today.”

He has a Bill Clinton like ability to define his illegal actions within the scope of following the rules.

Granato, come on! Hit him in the throat with this!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

iPods and Kearns High School

Senator McCain and Rooster Coburn are not happy with Kearns High's plan to use stimulus money for iPod's. They identified the KHS plan as one of 100 questionable stimulus projects nationwide.

Kearns is planning on the iPods becoming a valuable classroom tool for use with download-able textbooks, lessons, and online research.

The Granite School District says Kearns is moving toward the future by giving students the iPod Touches.

"We feel like textbooks are really on their way out the door, and we will be utilizing these devices," said district spokesman Ben Horsley.

He said it's also an incentive to get kids to graduate: "Kind of a reward, and keeping them on task toward graduation," Horsley explained. "They don't get to keep it unless they meet graduation requirements."

About the concerns that have been raised, Horsley says the stimulus funds can only be spent on technology in education and could not be used anywhere else.

I think the decision to use funds in this way is innovative on the part of Granite School District. Hand held devices provide a lower cost alternative to printed textbooks, and they have so many applications that can be helpful in providing teachers with powerful tools in the classroom. If they can also provide an incentive for students to keep on track to graduation, then it is a plan that has merit and should be praised.

I don't believe the stimulus as a whole was a wise path for our leaders to pursue. However, using the money to promote and foster the use of technology in the classroom is something that two US Senators should praise, rather than deride, coming from America's less than stellar public school system.

Prop. 8 -- Knocked Down. Judge Walker is Gay

Judge Vaughn Walker ruled California Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional yesterday with the following ruling:
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
This was not a shock, nor does anyone have delusions that this case will settle the issue.

However, this author was surprised to learn is that Judge Walker is a homosexual. Is that an issue? Due to the fact he was hearing a case that was seeking to overturn voter-mandated law that discriminated against the judge personally, I think it probably should have been made a major issue, and will be made an issue in the appeal, by pro-Proposition 8 counsel. In order to help the judge seem more capable of impartiality despite his orientation, the SFGate article mentioned that the judge has his opponents in the gay community in California due to his representation of the US Olympic Committee against the SF Gay Olympics. The SFGate also quoted a gay California state senator as follows:
"It seems curious to me, that when the state Supreme Court heard a challenge to Prop. 8, the justices' sexual orientation was never discussed."
This argument on Walker's behalf suggests that impugning Judge Walker's impartiality due to his sexuality requires that the sexuality of any judge who hears a gay marriage case must likewise be impugned. The problem with his argument is with the target of the law. Someone who is heterosexual (and not involved with anti-gay marriage groups) can look at this issue far more impartially than (I believe) someone who is gay because the decision has no effect on such a heterosexual's personal life or the status of a group for which such a judge would be personally connected. Conversely, a homosexual (or even a Mormon) being the judge in a gay marriage case will impugn, either the judges actual judgment or the validity that others place in the impartiality of that judgment. Judge Walker should have recused himself and by not doing so he has provided ammunition for the appeal.

On the judicial front, this case is destined for a SCOTUS finale. Yesterday, before the expected judgment was released, fellow blogger Tom Grover discussed the problems that the current Supreme Court holds for gay marriage proponents on a Facebook feed. Despite the additions of two liberal female justices (after Kagen is sworn in) the court has one of the most conservative benches in recent history. With such a conservative bench there is a strong likelihood that state's rights may trump anti-discrimination clauses and produce a possibly insurmountable anti-gay marriage precedence. In this regard, the longer this process takes to get to the Supreme Court the better for gay marriage proponents and vice versa for the opposition.

As for the opinion of Green Jello, I believe that civil unions provide the best option for a fair compromise on this issue. Consenting adults are allowed to enter into any number of contractual arrangements. Marital contracts that the law recognizes should be no different, and I do not see how allowing two men or women to enter into such contracts effects my rights.

However, I can see a problem for religious organizations and unions between between gays being defined as marriages. If gay unions are defined as marriage and a religious group refuses to solemnize such contracts there would be possible exposure to anti-discrimination accusations and challenges to such groups tax-exempt status. Due to this issue, marriage may need to be best defined in the law as a wholly religious rite separate from the civil marital contract. This would provide equality in the law without placing undue pressure on religions to recognize and solemnize something that violates such religion's creeds.

I doubt any such compromises will ever be pursued. This case will be decided by the high court in the near future and all side will have to live with that decision. I hope that this debate will follow the course asked for in a recent LDS church statement:
We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution—marriage.

“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of
mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Propaganda, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics -- Blind Belief in Statistics that Support your Bias

I have been dumb-founded by the lack of logic and integrity (or even respect for a legitimate contention of an opponent) at a certain right-wing blog mentioned in a recent similarly titled post. It is clear that many of the anti-immigrants of this state and nation are beyond reason.

When a writer provides statistical data, I have always been taught to approach data with skepticism.

If the writer includes statistical data and has cited sources (other than "I got this from my friend") than the writer has passed the first test of integrity. Next, readers should check the source. If the source comes from groups who are not known to have certain biases (i.e. government agencies, and (although they often fail) educational research universities) then the data overcomes my level of skepticism and I will accept it as factual. I may disagree with the methodology of the calculations or the conclusions of the statistical data, but I no longer question the author's integrity.

Conversely, if a writer uses statistical data and cites no legitimate traceable source, then my skepticism alarm is (at least minority) set off. Next, I ask the writer for there source. If the writer either provides a legitimate and traceable source or admits that they don't have a legitimate source -- I am appeased and I either accept the data as factual or in the least I can stop questioning the author's integrity. However, if the author passes off something official looking that has no relation to the data that the writer provided -- that author is a poor journalist. If the writer insists that the source provided is accurate I check the sources further. If the source cited by the writer shows no discernible connection to the writer's data after thorough review -- the author becomes a fraud.

This other blogger's lack of integrity with her sourcing has reached fraudulent status for me.

Her commentators derided skepticism as liberalism and one mocked my questions with the epithet "FBI Jr. Fact Checker". The same commentator claims that this is what blogs have devolved into. Sadly, I fear he may be right. I guess you can say anything on blogs even if you have no evidence.

You know what -- I drink lots of milk and I don't have cancer. A friend of mine who also drinks milk and also doesn't have cancer therefore is totally engulfed in milk's cancer fighting ability sent me this:

"The CDC reports that people who drink milk are less likely to have cancer"

Since I drink milk and don't have cancer. The CDC information from my "friend" must be true. Therefore milk must prevent cancer.

I think I am going to market milk to oncologists.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Senator Hatch -- Unethical (un ├ęthik'l)


The title is an homage to the Senator's 2006 Campaign Billboards.

Senator Hatch, the Senator that I love to hate, is such a beacon of honesty and integrity from the Beehive state. For example, he wouldn't dream of skirting federal tax laws. I'm sure he would never try and pay off a GOP official to the tune of 5,000 dollars a month after being appointed Utah State GOP chairman.

Oops.

It's true. Mike Lee's idol, the senior senator from Utah who has successfully skirted Federal employment tax laws through his campaign for years -- the same laws that cost small businessmen a 100% penalty if caught disobeying. Senator Hatch has kept paying his former campaign manager Dave Hansen 5,000 dollars a month since he officially resigned as Hatch's campaign manager after being elected Utah GOP chief in 2009 -- although he is paid only as a subcontractor.

Dave Hansen's explanation:

He calls the $60,000 “a bonus” for his past work as Hatch’s campaign manager.

That's right a bonus. Is that what Rangel would call it?

At least Hatch finally appears to (hopefully) have his employee classification correct.

Hatch paid Hansen 10,000 a month from 2004 to 2009. Illegally (at least in my opinion) he claimed and paid Hansen as a subcontractor for employment tax purposes. That position was a major stretch to say the least while Hansen was his campaign manager. Unless Hatch allowed Hansen to moonlight as campaign manager for other campaigns, he was an employee.

Is anyone there?

I took a blog hiatus for a while, and it looks like no one is reading blogs anymore.

Hello!?!

Please feel free to comment. I enjoy comments that are with me or against me. Anyone?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Propaganda, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics -- Reloaded

On the blog Lady Logician, the blogger used a few statistical pieces of evidence that illegals are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime in the US. I am separating this post into two pieces because state Sen. Jon Greiner has graciously provided me with more data regarding the Weber/Morgan Narcotics Strike Force study that was released shortly after the governor's summit several days ago and was quoted by the blogger Lady Logician. I need to spend some time with the report that the Senator provided me so that I can be more objective and fair in my analysis. Don't get me wrong my opinion will be included, but I want to take the time to at least read all available information before opining again on that data.

In the second half of the blog post "The Cost of Illegal Immigration, Pt 1" the lady quotes an alleged 2006 FBI report. She provided no source link, but instead the blogger uses the tried and who knows if it is true "the friend lives near the border, so they are totally engulfed in the story and it must be true" argument. That's right, data coming from someone near the border has zero hidden agendas regarding immigration, right? Here is the data:

The following information is compiled from Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security reports(for 2006 ed):

* 83% of warrants for murder in Phoenix are for illegal aliens.

* 86% of warrants for murder in Albuquerque are for illegal aliens.

* 75% of those on the most wanted list in Los Angeles , Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens.

* 24.9% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals

* 40.1% of all inmates in Arizona detention centers are Mexican nationals

* 48.2% of all inmates in New Mexico detention centers are Mexican nationals

* 29% (630,000) convicted illegal alien felons fill our state and Federal prisons at a cost of $1.6 billion annually

* 53% plus of all investigated burglaries reported in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Texas are perpetrated by illegal aliens.

* 50% plus of all gang members in Los Angeles are illegal aliens

* 71% plus of all apprehended cars stolen in 2005 in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California were stolen by Illegal aliens or "transport coyotes".

* 47% of cited/stopped drivers in California have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 47%, 92% are illegal aliens.

* 63% of cited/stopped drivers in Arizona have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 63%, 97% are illegal aliens

* 66% of cited/stopped drivers in New Mexico have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 66% 98% are illegal aliens.
The blogger got into a tiff with a commentator who asked for the source data, and the writer cited "it was complied from a 2006 FBI/DHS report that is online" as a source. I asked for further clarification like a HTML and she provided this link. She apparently never bothered to look at the link. The link is a FBI state by state analysis of all US crime for 2006 and the list of crimes, ironically, includes no mention of illegal immigration.

I tried Googling the header of the data and I actually found the source. It was on a blog called Free Republic and many commentators asked the same questions I did regarding the authenticity of the alleged FBI report cited by the blog mentioned supra, Lady Logician, and her border-residing friend. One commentator did some digging and this is what was found:

i really need some fact checking on these stats to believe them.

For what it's worth, I took a shot at it. LOL.

I went to the URL linked in Post 1 and it says that these stats were published at PollPundit.com. I went to the web page where these stats were published and the statistics came "from a reader."

Sunday, November 12th, 2006
From a reader, "INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants"

snip statistics

This information was provided by a reader. There are comments in the thread that are questioning the accuracy of this information. Another reader, provided a link for immigration statistical information, HERE.

("HERE" is www.immigrationcounters.com/.)

ImmigrationCounters.com refers you to www.immigrationcounters.com/datasource.html. No INS/FBI report is linked there. Maybe (and I stress maybe) the reader who posted at PoliPundit.com went to all the links listed there and compiled his stats from those different sources.

I searched at Google for "INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants" and came up with three websites. They are:

  1. PoliPundit.com » INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants
    INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants. 2006 (First Quarter) INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants. CRIME STATISTICS ..
    polipundit.com/index.php?p=15968 - 28k - Nov 12, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages rss 2.0

  2. ... (First Quarter) INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants
    CRIME STATISTICS 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens. ...
    polipundit.com/wp-rss2.php - 8k - Nov 12, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages

  3. Slowplay.com » Sports
    INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants. Polipundit - 3 hours ago. Drudge · DRUDGE RADIO LIVE SUNDAY NIGHT 10 PM ET TO 1 AM. ...
    www.slowplay.com/categories/sports/ - 25k - Nov 12, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages
Since the INS doesn't exist anymore, I doubt if there is a report actually titled "INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants". I am no closer to finding a source for this than I was when I started out. Oh well!
Here is a real "smoking gun" example of anti-immigrant pundits extrapolating data to all illegal immigrants that was (as far as this author can tell) invented completely out of whole cloth! More importantly it demonstrates how willing xenophobes are to disregard reason, logic, and even produce fabrications in order to maintain the status quo or pass Nazi-like Arizona laws. Xenophobes are not interested in finding the best solution to immigration, they want people to go back where they came from.

Now is the time to reverse the xenophobic past that has led our immigration system to the embarrassing point it has finally reached. Fabricated, inflated statistics and incendiary rhetoric from the xenophobic, anti-immigrant side is doing nothing to help, as the most recent LDS church statement says:
Find a successful resolution that requires the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God's children.
My parents and wife's parents have discussed some embarrassing moments of racist paranoia that they had to put up with from aged relatives in their adolescence. In one instance one of their relatives publicly whispered in a loud, near yelling volume, "hide my purse, its a black person!" Obviously, this was extremely embarrassing. The fallacious, incendiary rhetoric used (in some cases) with statistics that are (in at least one verified case) pure hearsay are just as embarrassing to the state of Utah and the logically minded, informed citizens of this state.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Law -- Perverse Incentive

Larry Bergen at "One Utah" found this Arizona news report. It highlights the disconnect between anti-immigrant rhetoric and reality in the debate, but it also brings to light a possible conflict of interest for the Governor who signed SB 1070 into law.



I don't know that Pancho Sandstrom has any such connections, but I thought the Governor's evasiveness to the reporters questions were revealing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mike Lee -- Anti-Business Conservatism

In what will be one of many pre-election clashes, the Tribune had an article highlighting the differences between Mike Lee and Sam Granato on the subject of immigration. Officially, Sam Granato supports a proposal by President Obama that requires illegal immigrants to do the following before being granted a path to legal residency and citizenship:

1.) Pay Back Taxes -- This might be simple or quite expensive for some illegals depending on how they have been treated by employers and how the actual legislation is drafted.
2.) Learn English.
3.) Pay a fine.

Given Mike Lee's own interpretation of the criminal seriousness of illegal border crossing, this is the most logical approach for illegals -- speeders don't face exile, and neither should undocumented workers.

However, Mike Lee doesn't support this approach. Mike Lee instead believes that the government needs to step in with a heavy hand and crack down on American businesses that choose to hire undocumented workers. By so doing, he believes that illegals will simply go home because they will be unable to find work. He wants every illegal in the country (I'm not sure if he means by compulsion or "agency") to return home and to come back through existing legal channels.

My question to Mike Lee supporting right-wingers is this: Can Mike Lee represent conservative values when he is opting for increased government intrusion into businesses who are making decisions based on the economic laws that conservatives claim to embrace?

Taking Mike Lee's own beliefs and statements on immigration, the only reason Mexicans cross the border illegally is because they can find better paying jobs in the United States. The US demands cheaper labor than is available from US citizens due to things like minimum wage, Social Security taxes and many other (usually government caused) issues that cause the price for legal American labor to be high. The Mexican laborers supply cheaper labor and see a benefit in more money than they could make in Mexico. Businesses like farmers, manufacturers, and service businesses (many of which have high overhead without even counting labor costs) benefit by having workers at a price they can afford. These businesses demand the cheaper labor because their profit margins are usually low enough that they cannot afford, let alone find, good American labor at imposed American minimum wage price floors.

To me, it seems like Mike Lee is playing into the liberal hands that first passed the minimum wage and American unions -- all of which have decimated American's competitive edge in the global market place. Although impossible at this point, the "one true conservative" Mike Lee should pursue an end to minimum wages so that the laws of supply and demand, the invisible hand, can work to allow American laborers and businesses to reach market equilibrium. By Mike Lee's own arguments he should be fighting government intervention rather than pursuing more government intrusions into the marketplace -- historically bad governmental market interventions are one issue that makes illegal labor attractive to American employers.

The approach of amnesty and legal residency is a far more business friendly path. Undocumented workers who are usually highly valued by those that employ them can keep farmers and smaller less affluent businesses running. Undocumented workers can be put on a path to legally staying in this country. More importantly, illegals (who in many cases have been taxed for social security and medicare without credit) can begin to be legal voters, can openly file taxes, and can contribute to our society in ways that they can't while they are hiding from ICE.

Otherwise law abiding (no drug smugglers, or felons) illegal immigrants should be granted a path to legal residency and (if desired) citizenship. Our current system is founded on the racism and xenophobia of the 19th century. The time has come for us to return to the original intent of the founders and to, once again, embrace the poor and huddled masses that yearn for the prosperity and freedom our nation provides.

True Conservative? Exactly!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mormon Culture -- Pioneer Day & "Welfare Mentality"

I read the Facebook feed of a FB friend, I have never met this individual but I know he is a fellow political junky. This friend had decided to commemorate Pioneer Day by posting the following:
"our pioneer ancestors would be ashamed at our welfare mentality."
This produced some jeering agreement, one commenter mentioning "immorality" in Zion (he is a Mike Lee supporter, so maybe he is referring to those not supporting the one-true conservative, constitutional expert for Senate) and some decent with KVNU and Amicus blogger Tom Grover bringing up the United Order and the law of consecration. Tom's inference that the law of consecration and the United Order are akin to welfare, raised a fair amount of debate and disagreement. Some commentators arguing that the two are completely different, and others argued that tithing is the church portion of the law of consecration and the providing for the poor portion of the law has been replaced by government welfare programs through taxation. One argument made mentioned that millennial consecration will be administered by the government, which was countered by a "actually it will be administered by the church" which should be realized (according to the Mormon canon of scripture) that church and government will be one and the same in the millennium.

This debate spurred this internal question: Do Mormons believe it a sin to seek or receive welfare?

Judging from the pious indignation that some commentators on this feed showed, and some comments I have heard made in the communities of "Zion" where I have lived it would sure seem like it. What does "our welfare mentality" mean anyway? I have always believed that we are to have compassion for the poor and the needy -- isn't that the point of welfare, government or church administered? It can be ceded that the LDS church welfare system has a very wise "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" approach -- while much of Federal welfare remains focused on the giving of the fishes. However, the fact remains that both systems serve the purpose of helping the poor and the indigent.

Although I agree that government welfare is in fact different from the law of consecration (although my unrighteous mind can't quite wrap around the idea that everyone will share everything we have without any compulsion, but I also don't support Mike Lee for Senate and therefore am a stubble candidate). As I mentioned in a earlier post, I think many LDS church members need to examine their compliance to a commandment that Christ identified as the second greatest -- LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF. Members of the LDS church here in Utah (self-included) are quick to become myopic in their view of the gospel focusing on some pet commandments or self-imposed dogma (i.e. the commandment of self-reliance, having the mother not work in a family, or the twelfth article of faith) rather than remembering that our observance of commandments needs to be all encompassing -- even the ones (like loving thy neighbor) that require the flexing of a lot of Christ-like muscle. Like Eve, we need to look to the spirit of the commandments rather than, like Adam tried in vain to, be myopically bound to the letter of the law. It is good to self-reliant, but it is not good to condemn those who are unable to be self-reliant (temporary or permanent) for using welfare that is available. The Church of Jesus Christ recognizes this as they maintain one of the most impressive welfare programs in the world, and members who are overly pious about their self-reliance need to realize this as well.

I choose to commemorate Pioneer Day differently -- I believe our pioneer ancestors would be quite proud of the people of Zion. Welfare is available to all when the need arises, and, as the last couple of years has shown, no one is immune to being needy or wanting at sometime or another in their lives. I'm grateful for welfare, church administered or governmental, because it is there to catch me and any of my neighbors when the floor falls out from under us. Most people in Zion do there best to be self reliant, and our church has become a world leader in providing welfare for the poor by helping provide temporal needs in the short-term and educating the needy for job skills necessary to attain self-reliance long-term.

On the other hand. If you are a LDS church member, needing welfare may likely reveals one sinful aspect of that members life -- not following the admonition of the prophets to have a years worth of food storage. There I admit that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

U Accountant -- $100,000 for 10 Days in Jail

Who ever said that "crime doesn't pay" never met former U of U accountant Jara Jane Wimmer.

Wimmer started defrauding the University's theater department in 2001 with the first of many checks. From then until the U finally caught on in 2009, she fraudulently used professors' University credit cards, paid her husband regular checks from the University coffers, charged plane tickets to Cancun on her University credit card, and enjoyed several thousands of dollars in illegitimate purchases which she covered up by forging invoices, delivery slips, and order requisitions.

What is her punishment?
3rd District Judge William Barrett ordered Wimmer, 33, to serve 10 days in jail, perform 200 hours of community service and pay $123,000 in restitution.
The article states that her theft was 100,000 dollars more that the amount that than the restitution order. So, Ms. Wimmer profited 10,000 dollars per day in jail -- not a bad deal. Sure she has community service and she theoretically "has" to pay 123,000 dollars back. However, Ms. Wimmer and her now deceased hubby lived pretty sweet on a pretty small salary and she gets to keep 45% of her booty -- I wonder if my local college is hiring for bookkeepers?

Internal Controls

There appears to be some basic internal controls that the U theater department was missing all those years -- multiple reviews of department books, duel signatures on department checks, and regular reviews of credit card expense reports. All of these internal controls are taught in lower level accounting courses. Kudos (in a sarcastic way) to Ms. Wimmer for identifying Mack truck-sized flaws in the U of U's internal controls -- if only you had a soul, you would have reported them to management instead of buying purses with taxpayer and donor's funds.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Governor's Photo Op -- I Mean Summit

After being accused of not showing much indignation regarding the infamous DWStapo list, Governor Herbert hosted a "round table discussion" on immigration. He invited 30 state legislature representatives, community activists, religious leaders, and media personalities -- so everyone sees that Governor Herbert is in to giving everyone a fair chance to voice their concerns.

I'm an accountant, and each year I am required to attend 30 hours of continuing education. Inevitably there are always "roundtable discussions" at the events -- I have attended 1 in 6 years. In my experience they are always a waste of time. Governor Herbert didn't disappoint in this regard either.

The discussion started off with the idea of a Utah-ran guest worker program. This program would (somehow) skirt US immigration and allow migrant workers to travel between Utah and their home countries. Utah Farm Bureau supports this idea, citing a tragic incident one farmer endured waiting for Peruvian workers to clear Customs:
“One rancher recently told me about the death of 300 of his lambs while his Peruvian workers were delayed 30 days,”
I guess the thought of offering a little more money to hire locally was a moot point, but I digress. This was ultimately attacked by Rep. and Sen. Wimmer and Waddoups, the former citing that GW programs would bear the appearance of "amnesty" and the latter cited high unemployment as a reason not to be inviting guest workers to our state. Finally it took the rep from the Catholic Diocese to point out that all Utah programs would amount to Band-Aids -- the ultimate solution needs to come from the Fed.

Inevitably the Arizona law was brought up. Wash. Co. Sherriff Smith pointed that the AZ law is pointless unless the suspected undocumented worker is also a felon. However, Happy Valley anti-immigrant Sandstrom pressed the idea of a Utah version of AZ law further claiming:
enabling Utah police to stop suspected undocumented immigrants will give police a way to find those dangerous criminals (because all illegals are here to bring drugs). And even if ICE does let go some immigrants, Sandstrom said, at least there is a record of that person.
That's right. Pull over all the Hispanics so we can have a record of that person -- then rounding them up for the final solution will be so much easier (insert Dr. Evil laugh)

The incumbent governor made sure to place overall blame on the Federal government, and to call on Congress to secure borders -- he's making sure everyone knows he isn't to blame for illegals. He also made sure we knew he is highly involved in investigating the list.

After two hours the meeting ended with no consensus on legislation or policy. However Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged everyone to keep working.

I hope the participants received a free lunch for their time.

Illegal Immigration & the Church

I have been quite wrapped up in the immigration debate -- insanity always intrigues me. The dialogue in this debate has been quite heated, and unfortunately uninformed and xenophobic from some on the extreme right. The really disconcerting part about the right is that much of the really (near-racist) anti-immigration rhetoric is coming from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It needs to be reminded that the anti-immigrant rhetoric hasn't been echoed by the LDS church's leadership which reiterated its position just yesterday:
"Elected officials have the primary responsibility to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions."

The Church is again asking for civil discourse when addressing immigration, noting, "Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God's children."


However we still have openly LDS commentators like former US Senate candidate Eager, Mike Lee, State Rep's Wimmer and Sandstrom, and others who are fanning the flames of xenophobia with arguments like:

"Anchor Baby"
"81 percent of the homicides, when you have a recorded ethnicity, are committed by Hispanics"
"illegals are joining a militant separatist group to take America for Mexico"
"they don't even love our country, because I saw them waving Mexican flags in protest footage on Fox News Channel" (that one came from a family member)

Now, if you are crazy enough, try and tell some of these people they are wrong and watch the accusations of near-heresy fly! Then you may ask, on what grounds do the extreme right use to make such accusations? For Mormons, twelfth Article of Faith:
12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
That's right -- the Hannitized rule of law argument.

Okay, fine. Let's discuss the rule of law and illegal immigration. One of the principle anti-immigration voices is Mike Lee, on his campaign website he advocates the deportation of all illegal immigrants before they can pursue legitimate citizenship (me may mean voluntary, but he means for all of them to go back to their home country before they can be put on a citizenship path). Then the pre-primary Sutherland debate happened. In that debate, Mike Lee was asked how serious he viewed illegal immigration on the criminal spectrum? Mike Lee's answer -- about as serious as a speeding violation. Does that mean, as Ethan Millard pointed out a while back, that police should escort speeders home so they can follow the "rule of law" as they travel? It would seem that ridiculous. Given the "one true conservative constitutional expert's" explanation of illegal immigration's criminal seriousness, let us also consider the hypocrisy in the extreme right's use of "honoring, and sustaining the law."

I live in So. Utah and I travel to SLC once every two to three months, usually for appointments with my doctor or to visit family. On that drive I usually drive 5 to 7 miles over the speed limit, mainly because I have heard police won't pull you over at that speed and I haven't been pulled over at that speed -- so it must be true, right? However, once I reach the Wasatch front 5 to 7 miles over the speed limit is hazardously slow -- the LDS majority on the Wasatch front speeds by more than 5 miles over the limit. So, if illegal immigration is akin to speeding (a crime that a majority of this state commits on a daily basis) in criminal seriousness than the xenophobic extreme right wing of this state need to heed Christ's admonition to "let him who is without sin first caste a stone."

What is more troubling about the immigration debate here in Zion is the lack of compassion towards the Hispanic community. The Hyrum City 4th of July incident is a prime example. During a community gathering before holiday activities began a Hispanic pastor asked permission to say the opening prayer in Spanish. That prayer has led to calls for the resignation of city council members -- it is incredible that a prayer in Spanish can cause so much outrage in a state that claims to be a beacon of Christian values.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has called for civil discourse. Maybe it is time for those who are so invested in the commandment of the 12th Article of Faith to step back and remember the 2nd greatest commandment -- "love thy neighbor as thyself." As the official LDS church statement says,

"Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God's children."
In order for "the best thinking and goodwill" to be available in this debate, xenophobia-inspired fallacious statistics and incendiary rhetoric need to be left by the way side. Once that is done, our elected representatives and government leaders can use the "desire to do what is best for all God's children" to draft logical well-reasoned immigration policy that can reverse the rotten past of US immigration policy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hatch -- A True Frienemy

Hatch, the man Tea Party members claimed to be gunning for after Bob Bennett's ousting, has been practicing major quid pro quo lately with Mike Lee. It turns out that Mike Lee is a life long fan of Hatch and so turning Mike Lee from enemy to lapdog has been quite simple for the Senior Senator (insert Dr. Evil laugh)

Unfortunately there is a paradox for Orrin Hatch, or it would be if Orrin Hatch still had a soul:

Sen. Orrin Hatch is a fan of Sam Granato, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. Granato has a room at his flagship store reserved for the senator, and Hatch’s good buddy “Mr. Mac” Christensen is Granato’s campaign co-chairman.

So, how does Senator Hatch treat his friend:

“Mike is being challenged by Sammy Granato. I really like my little friend Sammy. Sammy has no chance of winning. Even Sammy knows he has no chance of winning. I don’t even think Sammy’s a Democrat, but they just came to him and asked him to run. Either way, Mike knows he needs to run scared and not take anything for granted.”
Now I'd like to insert the Flames on the Side of My Face" bit from Clue:


Seriously, I don't know that I have ever read such a condescending, arrogant load of crap. Come on Sam Granato -- move the Hatch room out to the dumpster for that!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Governor's Response to the Illegal Immigration List

The Utah Amicus posted a press release from Wayne Holland regarding Governor Herbert's less than condemning response to the state's leak of personal information out of Workforce Services. Wayne Holland poses the question, why hasn't he been willing to condemn the list makers?

It's because aggressively migrant-opposed organizations are leading him by the nose so effectively that he won’t even denounce the illegal release of private information.

"Utahns deserve leadership who know where and how to draw the line. Illegal immigration laws need to be strongly enforced, while maintaining an element of humanity. A governor who cannot manage to state a clear answer to such a simple and moralistic issue demonstrates a lack of character and conviction."

I agree with Chariman Holland. Even at the press conference the Governor seemed more concerned with defending his actions rather than condemning such Nazi-esque intimidation tactics. Governor Herbert is the type of Utah Republican that has made me stray from the Republican Party, lacking personal conviction and character, and relying wholly on his membership in the Republican Party to maintain his place in the state's political landscape.

The GOP convention that ousted Bennett would have been wiser to follow the precedent set with the ousting of Olene Walker before he and Huntsman Jr. were elected.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Immigration -- Mr. Boyack.

Conner Boyack has authored an exhaustive piece on immigration. Despite his support of Mike Lee, he supports amnesty for illegal immigrants. His piece was quite long -- too long for a self-employed accountant/Mr. Mom to read in one sitting. There were a few quotes that I found most notable:
Our current immigration situation can be likened to a rotting tree, either in need of being felled or nurtured to good health. If we were to dig up the roots, though, we would see that they are poisoned; the foundation upon which our modern immigration laws rest is evil and wrong. This poison consists of two parts: racism and protectionism........

Both racism and protectionism are evil—nobody has the right to deny another individual, regardless of race, the right to rent or purchase private property (and therefore cannot delegate that authority to the government they have organized), and nobody has the right to mandate through law that their industry be favored through tariffs, salary caps, minimum wage, or anything related.

And yet, these two poisons have produced the rotting tree we now call immigration law; rather than felling it and starting fresh, many people want the tree to grow and extend its branches—all while ignoring the roots.

Mr. Boyack's (although I have only skimmed through it a couple of times so far) is quite refreshing and highly recommended.

My Most Recent Non-US Born Ancestor's Immigration

I was home last week and the discussion of illegal immigration came up with my parents. My mother was in favor of laws like the one enacted in Arizona. My mom is a wonderful woman, but she is as xenophobic as can be. She tried to use the arguments of "rule of law" and "invaders from the south" as justification for her support for laws like that enacted in Arizona, but she later admitted she hates that every time she makes a phone call it asks you whether you want the call in English or Spanish.

This discussion led to a discussion of my grandmother's 1939 immigration to the US. My mother honestly didn't know the specifics of her immigration, so we made a few phone calls. It turns out that her sister, and likely my grandmother were sponsored for visas by President Heber J. Grant. My grandmother's sister worked as a maid for the prophet, and often had early morning conversations with him -- I hope someone can find her journals. My grandmother met my grandfather, a Cache valley native, got married and secured a permanent resident visa.

What's the point of my bringing my grandmother up? Mostly, just because I found it interesting.

Mr. Boyack points out in his essay that illegal immigration didn't exist in the American legal system until passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 -- the rotten roots of our current immigration system. Since then we have strayed further and further away from the intent of the founders desire ( I especially like the Madison quote in Mr. Boyacks essay:
“America was indebted to emigration for [America's] settlement & prosperity”)
for a nation that had open borders and openly let anyone desiring prosperity to come here and do so.

My own grandmother, although coming legally, used the marriage exception to secure permanent residency. There was no fraud involved -- my grandparents were happily married for 50+ years. However, her permanent residency was secured by one of the most despised exceptions to US xenophobes. Her marriage came within months of her arrival, and I have no doubt that many anti-immigrants would question the marriage's speed as being an illegitimate loophole to the "rule of law".

Since the 1930's even, the system's mountainous bureaucracy has become nearly impenetrable for those who attempt to do it legally. It is no wonder that illegal immigration is so popular.

Mr. Boyack is dead on (although I wonder how his sensible views on immigration reconciles to his support of Mike Lee). Amnesty is necessary to allow illegals who are here with legitimate desires to partake of the American dream can do so without fear of lists and being exiled from their new homes for a violation that even Mike Lee admits is less serious than a misdemeanor.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mike Lee & Sen. Hatch

Hattip: Thomas Burr

Senator Hatch, who I suspect is feeling a tad vulnerable after Senator Bennett's ousting, hosted a fundraiser for Mike Lee. During the fundraiser Senator Hatch praised Mike Lee, and Mike Lee returned the favor:
noting for the audience that in high school he had pictures of Hatch and Karl Malone in his bedroom.

Sorry, hold on a moment, I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

What kind of Senator will Mike Lee be? Mike Lee will be Orrin Hatch the man he idolized in high school along with Karl Malone. Lee supporters can believe whatever they want under their tin-foil hats about Mike Lee being the candidate who will rise up and save the US Constitution, but the fact remains that Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch are political twins 30+ years removed.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

DOMA striken in US District Court

In an interesting decision, US District Judge Tauro struck DOMA down with unequivocal language:

Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies
entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it
disapproves. Such a classification, the constitution clearly will not
permit.
So, where will this take the gay marriage debate? I assume we are a major step closer to a SCOTUS battle that will decide the issue once and for all.

For what it is worth, here is my two cents. Judge Tauro is somewhat right -- the purpose of DOMA was to quell gay marriage. While I am not fond of the idea of gay marriage, I realize that oppressing the desires of consenting adults to be lawfully bound in marriage is discrimination.

Due to the sacredness of marriage to many religions, I would prefer the nation adopt and enforce civil unions that are treated as marriages for all legal and governmental purposes.

Honestly, I think the biggest problem of gay marriage for opponents (especially where religions are involved) is the use of the term "marriage." One of the biggest legitimate legal reason (as far I see) for the fear of gay marriage by religions is anti-discrimination laws and IRC Section 501(c)(3) status. One stipulation of 501(c)(3) is that the tax exempt organization doesn't promote hate or discrimination. Gay marriage could quite possibly (and probably) open the flood gates for discrimination complaints against religions that refuse to perform gay marriage -- possibly risking 501(c)(3) status for various religions that don't decide to adjust religious doctrines in order to allow gay marriage.

Anyways, this debate is likely to heat up again in the coming days. It is going to be interesting to see what happens.

Utah County Republicans -- "Those rules weren't meant for us? We're the true political party."

Quelle Surprise! The Republican party is held to a different "completely ignore the rules" standard in the Utah County Freedom Festival. Does this surprise anyone? Isn't the Utah County Freedom Festival about conservative talk show (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck) hosts and the Republican party -- the Utah County Democrats should be grateful they were even allowed to have a parade entry!

Seriously, the Freedom Festival sent rules to the Utah County Democratic Party informing them that they could not let any campaigning at all occur on the parade route -- no campaign stickers, no candidates campaigning on the parade route, no campaign T-shirts, or campaign paraphernalia of any kind. According to the Tribune report and the Utah County Dem chairman, this was followed by the UCDemocratic Party. The Utah County Republican Party apparently got a different memo

Republicans were allowed to identify their candidates, plaster their parade
float with political messages, and have one candidate actually campaign as he
walked the parade route.


In response to these allegation the Freedom Festival organizers said the committee would review the rules and tighten up on some of the parade regulations. However, they also said that Chairman Davis was "making a mountain out of a mole hill." Really, your right -- I doubt this would have gotten it's segment own the Sean Hannity show if the situation was reversed.

The Utah County Republican chairman had the best response to these allegations:

Taylor Oldroyd, Davis’ Republican counterpart, said it was the Democrats who broke rules by having a float that wasn’t self-propelled, as required by the rules, and having someone follow the Republican float to harass them.

“They can’t win at the ballot box, and they can’t win on issues, so this is what they do,” Oldroyd said.

Way to go Mr. Oldroyd! You ignored the parade rules, likely with the Freedom Festival organizers duplicity, and once caught you found a much more egregious error by your rival -- not having a self-propelled float. Quick, someone call the Federal Election Commission!

Now, as icing on the cake, you may be asking who was the candidate that walked the parade route? The walking candidate was none other than Mike "lobbyist's rules don't apply to me because I'm the one true-conservative constitutional expert" Lee. However, we should excuse Mr. Lee because as non-douche bag UT County GOP chairman Taylor Oldroid said:

Lee walked with the float, but he only went to greet family members when he
was told that it was a violation by an unidentified member of the
Democratic party

Apparently, Mike Lee is only responsible for following rules when someone tells him he is breaking one. Mike, when elected, here is a list of a few rules you shouldn't break, taking bribes, when lobbying, not registering as a lobbyist (oops), and I wonder how your tax returns look? (Commenters should feel free to add to this list)