Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So Much for the Church being Against Gambling


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.”