Friday, February 20, 2009

Salt Blog is Dead - Long Live Salt Blog

[Big News] Salt Lake City Weekly has launched an all-new website at CityWeekly.net, replete with its own blog section. The Salt Blog as been reborn as an aggregation of the latest entries from separate News, Food, Music, Movies, TV and more blogs. This BlogSpot will remain for the time being as an archive of our January 2007-February 2009 entries; now, join us at:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Homophobes Wimmer Doesn't Want You to See

In case anybody is curious about those wingers who brought their Proposition 8 placards to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s office last week—and who are so nutty Rep. Carl Wimmer didn't want them at a 'phobe hootenanny last week because "they make a lot of us [homophobes capable of tying our own shoes] look bad"—they have their own 1994-rrific Website, a gift that keeps on giving. Here's a sample of the kind of brainpower that goes into whipping up the 'phobes into a self-righteous fervor:

Do Not Be Fooled By Equality Utah and The Common Ground Initiative They are using intimadation to gain ground and are lying to the public, ALL THEY WANT IS MARRIAGE RIGHTS to valdite their relationship of the same-sex!!! THEY ALREADY HAVE THE RIGHT to Marry, a gay man can marry a gay woman!

(Sic, sic, sic.)

Apparently, the sanctity of marriage is so sacred to them, they recommend making a mockery of it with hopelessly mismatched faux-nuptials. Also, love the Web 1.0 retro site design. Best viewed using Netscape. I'm pretty sure if you look around long enough, you'll find a Dancin' Baby and probably even a Hampster Dance page.

(Brandon Burt)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shades of Green

[Book signing] It seemed auspicious to attend "ecopreneur" Scott Cooney's Feb. 17 book signing at Sam Weller's Books on the same day as Obama's stimulus bill signing. Cooney was in town hawking his book Build a Green Small Business, and the former co-founder of Salt Lake City's ReDirect Guide is living, breathing proof that there is some green to be made riding the green wave. At the very least, there could be a book deal.

Cooney, now living in "green-central" San Francisco, is a soft-spoken personable fellow who seems rather pleased with himself for recognizing early on that having an MBA and a love for the environment are not mutually exclusive. He launched and sold three green business in the past five years and now serves as a consultant for big corporations and even individuals searching for their own environmental niche. He also writes for several green business blogs, including his own at EcopreneursGuide.com.

A bit circumspect when asked how much opportunity would trickle down to small business via the stimulus bill, Cooney did suggest that energy efficiency (i.e., retrofitting buildings to be green) was where it was at, both in terms of a particular skill set and starting a business. He also stressed the importance of networking with other green business owners while the industry is young.

If you'd like to hear more from Cooney, you can catch him here.

Thursday, February 19

7 p.m.: Golden Braid Books, 151 S. 500 East, downtown SLC.

Friday, February 20

7 p.m.: The King’s English, 15th East and 15th South. Informal reception to follow. (Jerre Wroble)

Ken Starr Outlines Obstructionist GOP Strategy to Mormon Lawyers

While Utah Republicans are crowing over their victory in denying hospital-visitation rights to the Gay Menace, the national GOP seems hellbent on making itself as irrelevant as possible.

According to the Mormon Times (via Harper's), Starr told a group of Mormon lawyers that the GOP will likely attempt to thwart President Barack Obama's court nominations—apparently, out of revenge:
"There is one historical factoid of note: [Obama] is the first president of the United States ever in our history to have participated in a Senate filibuster of a judicial nominee. Never before has that happened."
Those who remember how Starr, with the collusion of a GOP-controlled Congress, basically shut down the Clinton government to get to the bottom of an Oval Office blowjob will be happy to note Starr is attempting to bring that same spirit of spitefully irrational bad governance to the Obama era.

If, as Starr says, the Republicans haven't learned their lesson and they're going to pout instead of doing their job, then Obama's good-faith attempts at bipartisanship are doomed, and the Democratic majority will have no choice but to simply ignore the Republicans. (For one thing, aren't Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett getting a little too old to participate in all-night filibusters?)

Ken Starr is also slated on March 5 to swinishly argue in favor of California's Proposition 8, a fact which endears him to members of the fuckwad community.

According to the Mormon Times, Starr is not a Mormon.

(Brandon Burt)

Angry Anglers

(Legislature) Angry angers and kayakers are slated to take over the Capitol rotunda tomorrow to protest a bill that would limit which river sections can be used by the public for fishing and other recreation. House Bill 187, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, was passed Wednesday to the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee for an as yet unscheduled hearing.
The bill is a response to this summer Utah Supreme Court decision granting the public access to play in all river waters, even where rivers run through private property. HB 187 would limit such access to sections of around 14 state rivers and prohibit recreational river use near homes.
Tomorrow’s rally, at 10:30 a.m., should be a scene. The Website of the Utah Rivers Council, one of the groups fighting HB 187, advises, “feel free to bring your waders, rod, boat, paddle, life jacket, whatever...” City Weekly previously wrote about the river battle here and here. (Ted McDonough)

Madrid by Moonlight


[Late Night Snack]  Following last night's Salt Lake Magazine Dining Awards, where once again I was snubbed, we trooped over to Cafe Madrid for a late night snack. I tend to forget how marvelous Madrid is, even though it won the Best SLC Restaurant award in 2006 from Salt Lake Magazine. 

We were greeted by Cafe Madrid's dazzling owner, Gabriella McAfee, who promptly placed plates of entremeses in front of us: Serrano ham, lomo, and chorizo, along with imported Manchego cheese. 

A wine-savvy server named Dominique introduced me to a fabulous Spanish red wine from the Ribera del Duero, called Abadia Retuerta "Rivola." It's a fruit bomb with gorgeous cocoa and chocolate flavors, sort of like a cherry-coated alcoholic malted milk ball. Yummy! 

We munched on tender, tasty shrimp ceviche with red onions and mixed greens while taking in the wonderful artwork of J.C. Pino, Gabriella's talented painter brother, who also works at Cafe Madrid, spreading joy and good vibes wherever he goes. Another young Cafe Madrid server, with the cool name of Skyler, also has the makings of a real restaurant pro. 

Needless to say, I highly recommend dropping in to Cafe Madrid for a long, leisurely dinner or just a light snack. (Ted Scheffler)  

Homophobia and Assholism: Are They Connected?

[Anthropology] I can see why somebody might want to be a homophobe. It's probably fun to have a whole group at your disposal to sneer at and feel morally superior to. Even better if you think you don't personally know any members of that group.

And it's probably best if you can somehow make it a part of your religion. That way, you don't have to take responsibility for your own dislikes and prejudices—just say God hates the same people you do. That way, you're simply doing God's will.

"Them there gay homos are eviller than the Mooslims, hyuck-hyuck!"

What I don't understand is why homophobes can't just sit around feeling all hate-y and morally superior; why do they have to be so swinish? Why are homophobes so often assholes?

It's not enough that they promote constitutional amendments and blindly support even the dumbest laws, as long as they can further restrict the rights of gays and lesbians. (A law making it illegal for gays to buy ice cream? Bring it on; those queers are a threat to our families' ice-cream consumption!)

No, they also have to say cruel, senseless things about me: That I'm a greater "threat" to America than a terrorist is, that I'm liable to harm children, that I'm really, really mean and I have no morals.

Maybe they don't intend to be assholes. Maybe they're just deluded.

Buttars, apparently, even thinks that there's some new perversion sweeping the gay and lesbian community, something that's so bad the ABC 4 Utah Website wouldn't publish it. I can't listen to the recorded interview without throwing office equipment, but my guess is Buttars watched the Family Research Council scare-video from years ago that makes gross and incredible claims about, er, massive coprophilia.

Shows how gullible homophobes are. It isn't the gays who are full of shit.

(Brandon Burt)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jenny Wilson Did It

[Finally, Benefits] Today, the Salt Lake County Council approved benefits for domestic partners of Salt Lake County employees. The plan will cover committed same-sex partners, and other long-term dependents of county employees. The change will cost taxpayers about $300,000.

 Thank you to the sponsor, who kept pushing for three years in a row. Councilwoman Jenny Wilson never gave up. Wilson, by way of the usual disclosure, is my stepdaughter.  Bravo. The council approved Wilson's plan 6-3, including the approval of Councilman Max Burdick, a newcomer who decided to let common sense trump impassioned arguments swirling around about the death of the traditional family.

On the same day the county passed Wilson's measure, the Utah Legislature killed in committee two more bills related to gay rights. A bill allowing for gays and lesbians to foster and adopt children died a quick death, as did a proposal to outlaw employment and housing discrimination against gays and transgender people. Now I know why I'll never leave Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City. It's great to live on an island of growing tolerance toward all. I'm counting on change throughout the state, though. It's going to happen. (Holly Mullen)



Very Special-Needs


From the Trib Website Tuesday afternoon.

Hey, teacher! Leave them (dead) kids alone!

(Brandon Burt)

Dead Port: Week 2

(Bill Frost)

Dead Goat: Week 111

(Bill Frost)

Dead Zephyr: Week 275

(Bill Frost)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wina, We Saw You in the Times

[Utah Sports Go Big] Props to Wina Sturgeon, veteran Utah sports writer and dynamite masters-level ski racer. The New York Times published her weekend story rounding up many of Utah's moneymaking sports events (Dew Tour, extreme skiing, Youth Archery Championships etc.) and the state's amped-up effort to attract more sports and recreation fans to our big, beautiful outdoors. Sturgeon has slugged it out among Utah freelancers for decades, and writes occasionally for City Weekly. Her work shows up regularly in the Times and Sports Illustrated, among other national media.

In her Times piece, Sturgeon (that's her in the photo) quotes our ever-hip Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.:

“There is no question that making Utah the top spot for adventure sports will help the state. Whether young people do these sports or just watch them on television, when they see it coming out of Utah, it plants a seed in their mind that Utah is a hip destination unmatched anywhere else in the world.”

(Holly Mullen)

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Ethics Land Mine

[Legislature] Utah's first standing Ethics Committee met today amid modest fanfare to talk about their new task of cleaning house. The historic moment was ushered in by a pair of proposed bills both by Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace. The first, H.B. 345 is meant to instate a cooling off period between when legislators can become lobbyists after leaving public office.

That's the idea at least.

The bill as it turns out would only instate a one year cooling off period for legislators who want to go to work for a lobbying firm--that is a firm that only does lobbying. If however a legislator leaves office and gets hired by, say, Zion's bank and his only job is to go and do lobbying at the legislature for Zions, then he or she doesn't have to worry about the whole cooling off period. This because "there are a myriad of businesses in Utah with a myriad of problems" explained Dee.

Most committee members quickly recognized this loophole but still conceded the merits of the bill.

"There's no perfect solution and no perfect language in dealing with ethics," said committee member, Rep. Kevin Garn R-Layton. "We'll always have that problem."

The next item was H.B 346 which would do some tinkering with candidate's campaign disclosure filings. One change would keep legislators busy by requiring them to report all contributions they receive within five business days of receiving them instead of one of the five annual filing deadlines.

"The public would like to know now, and not at the next reporting period," Dee said of the language.

Hooray transparency!

But then it was explained how the bill would also make it so that candidates would no longer need to disclose the monetary value of in-kind campaign contributions. These donations refer to services a donor provides a candidate such as website design, mailers, billboards etc... Dee explained the candidate should not be burdened with appraising the values of the services. So the language would require only that a candidate list that they had received an in-kind donation and give a brief description of what it was.

The contributor would still have to list the monetary value of their donation but that would be only listed on their separate report.

Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray also on the committee worried special interests might take advantage of that loophole. "I'm concerned with the amount of interest groups that may just end up funding an entire campaign, free of charge."

Regardless, both bills passed out the committee unanimously, with most committee members sounding off on progress being made. Dee for one picked up on the various committee members latching on to the expression that "the ball has been moved" and sounded off his presentation with this thought:

"We haven't scored a touchdown yet, but we have got a couple of first downs," he said.

That metaphor was a popular one during the meeting, but I think one offered by Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, really summed up the challenges of doing ethics legislation. In regards to H.B. 364's letting candidates get off the hook for not listing the monetary value of in-kind donations, Last said the measure would keep legislators from stepping on ethics "landmines".

"We want the public to know what we're doing," Last said. "But we don't want to place landmines for us [legislators] to have to navigate around."

(Eric S. Peterson)

Survivor: V-Necks Ahoy

[Locals on Reality TV] Survivor: Toncantins premiered on CBS last night, and guess what? The Utah guy isn't the most annoying contestant! (That would be "Coach.") Lindon's Tyson Apostol does, however, have a penchant for V-neck shirts which is either 1. a clever ruse to hide his true he-man abilities, or 2. just plain disturbing. Meet Tyson:





(Bill Frost)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gone Fishing

[Legislature] The worst fears of anglers are coming true on Capitol Hill in the form of a just-filed bill that purports to take away river access recently granted by the Utah Supreme Court.

The “Recreational Use of Public Waters” bill written by Rep. Ben Ferry, R- Corinne, not only undoes this summer’s 5-0 decision granting the public recreational use of state rivers, it would make river access worse than before the ruling. So complain the Utah Rivers Council and the Utah Council of Trout Unlimited, which are gearing up to fight the bill.

“We don’t want the Legislature to take away what the court has given,” says Bob Dibblee, chairman of the Utah state Trout Unlimited chapter. He’s hoping a healthy showing of some of the state’s 400,000 anglers on Capitol Hill will help lawmakers see that House Bill 187 isn’t the compromise between private-property rights and river access Trout Unlimited thought it was negotiating with lawmakers.

HB 187 and a companion bill would rewrite state trespassing law, making fisherman criminals for crossing some lands traditionally used for gaining access to rivers. Many currently-fished river sections would be made inaccessible by that provision alone. The bill also says fishing won’t be allowed on rivers within 500 feet of homes.

The widest restrictions come in a provision of HB 187 that purports to limit public river access to 17 river sections throughout the state. Few river forks or tributaries are included on the list.

Critics argue that undoing the Supreme Court’s decision misses the boat on new money-making tourism opportunities, not to mention the hundreds of millions the state Division of Wildlife Resources estimates anglers already spend each year in Utah. (Ted McDonough)

Lincoln Logs


[Feb. 12] Two hundred years ago today, both Abe Lincoln and Charlie Darwin were born, Lincoln to hard-shell Baptists in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kent., and Darwin to a mostly Unitarian family in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Both ultimately let go of religion, with neither one affiliated with a church when he died.

Their bicentennial birthday parties are low-key affairs here in the Beehive State (except for a few university celebrations, such as the Humanists of Utah's Darwin Day event featured in this week's Five Spot)—not surprising since,
during their time, both either acted or espoused views that rubbed many of the Utah faithful the wrong way.

Both men were also contemporaries of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. And, it should be noted, some Mormons believe with a surety that Lincoln and Smith had occasion to meet in Illinois, which, nowadays, gives rise to many good vibes toward Lincoln. Some draw comparisons between Abe and Jo, suggesting they each had divine missions.

But this latter-day Lincoln love may be misplaced. Lincoln was mostly wary of the Mormons of his time. His Republican Party believed that slavery and polygamy were the "twin relics of barbarism." We know what he did about slavery, and as for the Mormon multi-wife tradition, he did sign an anti-polygamy bill in 1862 and went on to establish Fort Douglas, ordering federal troops to keep an eye on what he once called a "strange, new sect."

Lincoln compared Mormons to the obstinate logs in the fields he remembered from his youth. Sometimes a log was "too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move," so he plowed around it. That was the message he had for the Mormons back in Utah: "You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone," Lincoln conveyed to Thomas B.H. Stenhouse, an LDS representative to Washington, in 1863.

Many Mormons now seem to deify Lincoln, ostensibly for letting them be, never mind him comparing them to unmovable logs. And they're quick to point out that in 1840, while in the Illinois legislature, Lincoln did vote for the Nauvoo Charter.

Before the "log" speech, however, Brigham Young was distrustful of Lincoln (calling him "King Abraham") since, as an Illinois state representative, Lincoln did nothing to help Mormons during their troubles in Nauvoo. And Lincoln went on to send three federal judges to Utah, two of whom were anti-Mormon.

But blood atonement was so 19th century, and all can be forgiven when it comes to dead presidents. According to Lynn Arave in a Mormon Times September 2008 posting,
on the first centennial of Lincoln's birthday, Lincoln was presidentially sealed in the temple, along with his wife and his first girlfriend (yes, even Lincoln can enjoy Big Love in the afterlife!):
On Lincoln's 100th birthday in 1909, former apostle Matthias F. Cowley participated as proxy in a Salt Lake Temple sealing for President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd. Lincoln was then sealed to his former sweetheart, Ann Mayes Rutledge, too. Rutledge's untimely death from a typhoid fever in 1835 at age 22 broke Lincoln's heart.

On a related note, on this day in 1870, women gained the right to vote in the Utah Territory (but not to hold office). So now you have at least three good reasons to head to the bar. (Jerre Wroble)

The Real World: It's Still On

[Locals on Reality TV] Due to the presence of Utahn Chet (who last week found out he couldn't be the next host of TRL, 'cause it was canceled--thanks for that heads-up, MTV), we've tried to keep up on The Real World: Brooklyn ... but gawd is it dull. The Real World After Show is usually more entertaining, thanks to the rapt attention to detail the faux-hawked douchebag of a host and his random panels pay to said dull show. Here, Chet goes into the minutae of whatever the hell happened recently; see how long you can watch ...


(Bill Frost)

Let's Talk About Rape

[Free Community Forum] Bestselling author Alice Sebold ("The Lovely Bones") was raped in May 1981. She was just ending her freshman year at Syracuse University. Nearly 20 years later, Sebold published a harrowing memoir of her rape and of her journey through the legal system. She titled the book "Lucky." This is the first paragraph of the book:

In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this story by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky.

Tonight at 7 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Salt Lake City Main Library, the Rape Recovery Center launches the first of five community forums, built around popular books that have tackled the subject of rape in our society. The series runs through November. The book for discussion tonight is "Lucky." A panel of five experts on sexual violence will talk about their own real-life experiences in the criminal justice system and beyond. Representatives from the Salt Lake City Police Department, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office will be there, as will a rape survivor who now volunteers for the Rape Recovery Center's Hospital Response Team. I will be the moderator.

If you've read Sebold's riveting account of her rape and its incredibly long shelf life in every aspect of her existence, or even if you haven't, please join us. I promise it will be an important and lively discussion. For more details on the entire free-and-open-to-the-public forum series, go here. Or call the RRC at 467-7282. (Holly Mullen)

EAT ME


[V-Day Dine O' Round] Please, no more calls or emails asking where to take your beloved, betrothed, sweetie, honey, ball-and-chain to dine on Valentine's Day. I've tried to avoid the Trib-and Des News-ish obligatory annual roundup (i.e. regurgitation of PR releases) of V-Day options in the paper. But if you still haven't found the perfect table to find lust and love this Valentine's Day, here's a list of eateries I'm aware of doing special Cupid cuisine on Saturday. 

Bambara: a la carte "World of Flavors" menu "designed for sharing." 
Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant: 4-course prix fix menu, $75 pp. 
Fresco Italian Cafe: Special V-Day a la carte menu
Harvest Restaurant at Thanksgiving Point: V-Day dinner-dance $90 per couple
Log Haven: a la carte Valentine's Day menu
Metropolitan: 6-course menu, $75 pp. 
Paris Bistro: 5-course "Magnifique" menu $69.95 + tax + 20% service charge
Tucanos Brazilian Grill: V-day lunch $15.95; dinner $24.95
Zucca Trattoria: 5-course "Romantic Modern Italian" dinner, $45 pp.

I'm sure there are others; these are the places that contacted me. 

(Ted Scheffler) 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

They Eustace snack less in those days ...

[Media] Congratulations are in order for Adam Koford of Farmington, who made it to the winners' circle of the New Yorker's "Your Eustace, 2009" contest.

Koford's rotund "Eustace Tilley XXL" was selected among the top 12 of more than 300 entries. Submissions were based on Rea Irvin's satirical cover illustration from the publication's inaugural issue: the New Yorker's foppish, lepidopterological mascot "Eustace Tilley."

It is careful attention to detail that often spells the difference between accomplished, incisive parody and brutish, sarcastic imitation. This is why Koford's close faithfulness to Irvin's original color scheme seems not born of timidity or slavish literalism. Instead, it draws attention to subtler distinctions between "XXL" and the original--particularly Koford's bolder line, which strikes me as a nod to mid-20th century studio cartooning conventions.

(Brandon Burt)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dead Goat: Week 110

The Dead Goat Saloon, closed December 2006 (as the Crazy Goat Saloon)

(Bill Frost)

Dead Port: Week 1

Port O' Call, closed February 2009

(Bill Frost)

Negatory ... & Buyer's Remorse

[Stimulus Bill] Our visionary delegation in D.C. just can't bring themselves to be for corporate welfare, even though we're well past the stage when such posturing is constructive. Let's face it: Bush's "base" got theirs, sucked the well dry and left the country with anemic 401(k)s and homes no longer worth what we paid for them. OK, own it, Republicans, and let's move on. So, what is going to jump-start this molasses-drenched economic engine?

Our Republican delegation is only too content to sit back and be naysayers, especially in the likely event the $838 billion stimulus bill, which passed the Senate earlier today, does not produce desired results. Re-election is never far from their minds, and they can easily rub "I told you so," in our faces when the time comes.

So, today, Sen. Bob Bennett just said no:
“If Democratic leadership and the president had only been willing to take a little more time and examine the details with more careful scrutiny, we could have produced a bill that would achieve great results without creating long term risks. The economy is desperately in need of careful government action, but this bill does not meet that standard.”
Orrin Hatch is similarly frothing at the mouth about the "The Raw Deal," as he calls the bill:
“It is hard to feel good about such a bad bill. Rather than work together to craft a bipartisan bill that would actually stimulate the economy, as our new president promised, Democrats have ramrodded through the Senate an unbalanced spending bill tinged with far too few effective stimulative provisions.”
All this talk about Democrats being unwilling to work with them suggests to me they were likely in the throes of loading up the bill with their various pork. When told to get their hands out of the cookie jar, they took their toys and went home.

At least Rep. Jim Matheson had the decency to vote with his fellow Democrats, though I'm sure perspiration dripped from his forehead and his finger shook as he pressed the "yea" button, all while visions of his Republican fan club coming after him with pitchforks danced in his head. His buyer's remorse bubbles up in his newsletter:

I voted for the US House's version of the economic recovery package because I feel strongly that efforts to create jobs and cut taxes for thousands of Utahns are the highest priority. There is no easy or guaranteed way to address the severe stress facing our economy. Inaction will make the situation worse. Options must be on the table to lessen the duration of this slump for Utahns. ... I do not agree with all the proposed spending, some of which has already been eliminated. There is no such thing as a perfect answer to this crisis, but on balance it is important that Congress move the process forward.
Then, as in a previous newsletter, Matheson goes on to ask constituents to help solve the crisis, with a series of "duh" questions:
Are infrastructure projects an appropriate way to save jobs and create jobs? Will cutting taxes for small business and for individuals and couples who earn less than $75,000 (individuals) and $150,000 (couples) help your family budget? Do you fear you will lose your job in the next 12 months? What else should Congress be considering as it tries to help the economy recover?
Sadly, there is a dearth of good ideas from Our Men in D.C. They relish the opportunity to shoot holes in Obama's proposals but seem oddly clueless when it comes to inspired thinking of their own. Republicans will let Obama be the fall guy for the shit sandwich he inherited, even though it was Republicans asleep at the switch that allowed the economy tank in the first place. So hey, D.C. dudes, if you know better how to fix things, tell us, already. (Jerre Wroble)

Dead Zephyr: Week 274

(Bill Frost)

Obama Out of the Chute

[Obama and the Press] Not that the guy was under any pressure or anything--his first presidential news conference while he's struggling to push his whopping economic stimulus package past balky congressional Republicans--but Obama did all right last night.

At least that's the way Howard Kurtz, media columnist for the Washington Post, seems to be reading the performance. Some White House reporters were eager to stir the shit, trying to build controversy where there isn't any. Namely, AP's Jennifer Loven, who got the first question and whose story on the news conference ran in today's Salt Lake Tribune. Reading Loven's kinda, sorta news story on the event made me do one of those "were we listening to the same man, at the same time?" headscratchers. Wrote Loven:

In an hourlong press conference Monday, Obama shot back repeatedly with biting, sarcastic asides about GOP lawmakers who say the bill is too big, loaded with pork-barrel spending and won't create jobs.

You know, I was listening on my car radio, so I may have missed facial ticks, frowns and eye rolls--your basic indicators of sarcasm. What I heard was a president who won last fall in a landslide, standing firm on an economic plan he has vetted with his experts and needs desperately to get passed in Congress. Loven and the rest of her pals in the White House press corps have gotten too comfortable writing for each other--a common malady of journalists who never change beats and who never travel farther than 10 miles beyond home base. 

One uplifting sign: Obama called on Sam Stein, reporter for The Huffington Post, the first blogger to be recognized at a presidential news conference. That was very cool. (Holly Mullen)



Monday, February 9, 2009

That Young Gipper-Snubber

Watch out, Gov. Huntsman. Conservatives are watching you, and they don't like what they see.

Feb. 6, 2009 marked the 98th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birthday, and 30 U.S. governors commemorated the occasion by proclaiming it "Ronald Reagan Day." You might think that reddest-of-red-states Utah would be among them, but you'd be wrong. Huntsman opted not to heed the call of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project -- and RRLP chairman Grover Norquist ain't happy.

Of course, how not-happy he is depends on the party affiliation of the governor. In a press release, Norquist said of Huntsman, a Republican, "It is deeply regrettable Governor Jon Huntsman has failed to recognize the great contribution of Ronald Reagan." But when commenting on the same decision as made by Wisconsin Democrat Jim Doyle, Norquist alliterated, "By refusing to honor President Reagan, Gov. Jim Doyle has put pusillanimous petty partisanship above patriotism."

It's good to know that Norquist -- a close associate of Jack Abramoff and a guy who once analogized the estate tax to the Holocaust -- is above such pusillanimous petty partisanship. (Scott Renshaw)

Oscar Nominee-a-Thon


If you take a look at the box-office grosses for this year's four Academy Award Best Picture nominees, it would seem likely that the average American hasn't seen many of them. But now is your chance to catch up before the envelopes are opened on Sunday, Feb. 22.

On Saturday, Feb. 21, the AMC theater chain is offering a nationwide all-day marathon of the five Oscar nominees (Utah's only location is in Layton). Beginning at 10:30 a.m., the theater will show MilkThe ReaderThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonSlumdog Millionaireand Frost/Nixon for one $30 ticket. And you'll get a bottomless bucket of popcorn to carry you through the day.
If you want to do even more prepping for the ceremony -- and get perhaps an unbeatable advantage in your personal for-entertainment-purposes-only Oscar pool -- check out the programs of nominated Live Action and Animated shorts beginning this Friday (Feb. 13) at the Tower Theatre. (Scott Renshaw)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fico You, Experian

[Credit] For those who really care about such things, beginning Feb. 14, Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, will no longer report their scores (which consumers have access to) at myfico.com.

So why care?

Well, traditionally, our FICO scores were hidden from us; they were only available to lenders. Borrowers wouldn't know if they qualified for a mortgage loan, for example, until the mortgage company pulled their credit reports.

All that changed on June 11, 2003, when consumers were able to purchase all three of their credit scores (from the big three bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) through Fair Isaac, the company that conceived of the score known as "FICO." Consumers finally were able to see the same information as lenders see in advance of applying for an auto or mortgage loan or a credit card.

That little bit of knowledge was a wonderful thing, too. It helped us know how to approach lenders and how to cut to the chase more quickly.

On a mortgage loan, for instance, mortgage companies usually look at all three scores. The lender bases its decision on the borrower's “middle” score. If you know ahead of time what your scores are, you can study up on loan programs available to you and not be pressured into a loan program pushed by a finance guy.

Through Feb. 13, you can still buy your FICO scores from all three bureaus here. And beginning Feb. 14, you'll still be able to buy your TransUnion and Equifax scores. But two out of three ain't the whole picture.

Bear in mind how much credit bureaus impact our lives. Lower FICO scores mean higher interest rates (the median FICO score is around 720). To not know what credit bureaus know about us puts us at a huge disadvantage when applying for credit. As such, we shouldn't let Experian off the hook lightly. If you feel like complaining, phone Experian at 714-830-5300 (that's the media relations department where you might actually speak to a living person. If you call the main number, you'll just get a recording.) (Jerre Wroble)

This Morning on TRAX

Overheard on the University Line:


Guy 1:
[speaking of his plans for the morning] I'm gonna go down there under the bridge ...

Guy 2: That's crazy. There's a lotta nuts down there!

Guy 1: Well, I'm a crack addict.


(Brandon "Oh, then you should be just fine" Burt)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Big Liquor Law Flip-Flop


[Liquor Laws, Again] While driving to work this morning, I heard Salt Lake Tribune political reporter Robert Gehrke  on KSL radio's Doug Wright Show. Wright had invited Gehrke to defend his reporting on this story, dated Feb. 3. Why? Because the night before, on KSL's Nightside Project, Senate President Michael Waddoups did a 180-degree reversal on his earlier position supporting a bill to establish a statewide database of information culled from bar patrons' drivers licenses. 

Waddoups told Nightside Project co-host Ethan Millard the notion of scanning bar codes on drivers' licenses and storing personal data on people for law enforcement purposes is something "we're not even talking about yet," and that "no one's even buying into it at this point."

Lie.

It was a complete flip from his comments two days earlier to the Trib's Gehrke. In that interview, Waddoups discussed the possibility of even extending the data base to restaurants--so they could cross-check information with bars and private clubs to help regulate overserving liquor.

When asked about the varying accounts of his position in the Salt Lake media, Waddoups responded: "Let me give you a bit of advice. Don't believe everything you hear in the press."

Today the public learned that both Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Waddoups have dropped their as-yet unwritten proposals on establishing a drinkers' database.

With KSL's Wright, Gehrke stood by his work on the liquor law stories, and said he quoted Waddoups accurately earlier in the week. 

Whew. 

What I like most about all of this chaos in the past few days is that the watchdog role of the press on this issue worked. It worked like a charm. Valentine and Waddoups conjured up a very bad idea for a law. Members of the local press found out about it early enough in the legislative session to write about it and write some more. The idea that government would have private information on where citizens choose to spend their legal, free time on some database gave people the creeps. It enraged them. Because if there's one common thread between the left and the right, it's that government has no right to snoop into people's personal lives while they're behaving legally.

This is exactly how the press is supposed to do its job. The legislators saw this thing for the potential quagmire it is. They flipped. (BTW, Waddoups has a record for doing so on liquor laws.) Thank god it happened early in the session, when citizens could actually express their rage with it all. Otherwise, we'd have the thing crammed down our throats.

One final note: Gehrke is one of the most thorough and professional reporters in this state, and it's quite clear that Waddoups hung him out to dry. (Holly Mullen)






Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Those Poor Bankers

[Economy] An anonymous commenter responded to my post about bankers justifying their big bonus checks only weeks after the industry successfully milked Congress for a huge taxpayer-funded bailout:
What if Larry's firm wasn't bailed out by the government and he made budget? He did his job: Why should he not be compensated as before?

Main Street seems to have a misconception about Wall Street bonuses. Bonuses aren't gifts: they are the major part of the overall compensation package and people work very hard for them. Wall Street traders in general are underpaid on their salaries and the firms use the bonuses as both carrot and stick. When you do well, bonuses are up, and vice versa. That is the contract.
If Anonymous hasn't seen the classic psychodrama Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, I highly recommend it. In one memorable scene, the paraplegic Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) tearfully protests, "You wouldn't be able to do these awful things to me if I weren't still in this chair!"

To which Baby Jane (Bette Davis) Hudsons' wonderfully callous response is: "But cha are, Blanche! Ya are in that chair!"


In this allegory,
Blanche represents the crippled banking industry,
Baby Jane symbolizes the taxpayers,
and Elvira is, oh, let's say, the illegal immigrants.
Whatever. But
nobody can carry off an eye-roll
like Bette Davis can carry off an eye-roll!

Anonymous started out his/her whole post with a big subjunctive "what if." What if Larry's firm hadn't been bailed out? (But it was, Blanche!) What if I, as a taxpayer, weren't faced with paying off a series of multibillion-dollar bailouts for the rest of my life? (But I am, Blanche!)

But, if I weren't, would I still complain about hordes of bank executives cashing bonus checks that dwarf my own annual salary? Well, let me think about it. Even before the bailouts became necessary, I often griped about the widening income gap that separates normal people like us from the few, the proud, the elite superrich.

So let's, for a moment, close our eyes and imagine a world in which the taxpayers hadn't been ... uh, "asked" to step in and bail out a bunch of wealthy fatcats for their hubris, shortsightedness and arrogance in looting the treasury for eight years and crashing the almighty economy. I'm visualizing as we speak. (Om mani padme hum...) The vision is a bit fuzzy, but reception is clearing up by the moment ... better now ... almost there ...

... aaaaand, here it is, crystal clear: that imaginary world where the bailout doesn't exist. And here I am in that world thinking about bloated corporate salaries and bonuses. And, why ... it almost seems ... well, yes! Of course I would complain. After all, they're only a bunch of semiliterate, entitled frat-boy MBAs who regard salaries in the low six figures as "slumming."

Frankly, I was a big fan of democracy while it lasted, so the fact that a small coterie of wealthy elitists were able to take the reins and dispose of the middle class in a few short decades kinda chaps my hide. Yep, sure I'd complain about those bonuses.

But--returning now to reality--there's a whole world of bitterness between that hypothetical kind of complaining and the long and loud, resentful, heartfelt bellyaching of which I find myself capable now that I've been elected to actually foot the bill for those MBAs' bonuses.

Even if, as Anonymous says, the bonuses are really to be considered part of the bankers' and traders' "compensation packages," what of it? If that's the case, then, in effect, I have suddenly assumed responsibility for paying some random corporate suit's cable and gas bills.

It's as if I've suddenly adopted an Ethiopian child, but he's got nicer clothes and a higher standard of living than mine, and he doesn't ever write or send pictures, and I don't even get a hug from Sally Struthers. If we ever were to meet (ah, that subjunctive mood again!), it's doubtful that we'd find anything in common to talk about.

But, if I'm going to have a pet stockbroker, I'd appreciate it if he'd drop by once in awhile--at least to do something useful like scaring mice out of the kitchen or barking at the mail carrier.
Traders are under a lot of pressure to not only do well but to increase production by at least 10% yearly. Perhaps a better model would be to increase the salaries and decrease the bonuses so that there is less drama and more stability on incomes.
Sure, sure, they've got stressful jobs. Don't we all. I'd like to see how my pet trader holds up in a copy editor's slot on a production day prior to publication of a special issue. Then we'll see how he handles "stress." Once he earns my paycheck, he might think twice about appropriating 30 percent of it to fund 15 minutes of his next two-week trip to Tuscany.

To sum it up, Anonymous, many of us working stiffs are willing to believe that these bailouts are necessary. It seems reasonable that, through scrupulous and selective use of this huge infusion of cash, the best minds in the various economic industries could find a way to jumpstart the economy. After all, we want the country, and the world, to get back on good financial footing as soon as possible. That's why we didn't riot in the streets when the Emergency Economic Stimulus Act went through.

But, as long as the bankers and traders and MBAs are in that chair--as long as we're not only suffering from the results of their bad decisions but even cheerfully subsidizing them--they'd best accept our largess with a bit of gratitude, dump that attitude of entitlement and reign in their most conspicuous personal habits for awhile.

(Brandon Burt)

Immigration and the Bush Legacy


[Immigration] You'd think that revelations about Bush era fuck-ups would have started to cap off already, but not after reading this from the NY Times. Apparently the Times found out that a Bush era program aimed at rooting out dangerous criminals who had undocumented status in the USA, by 2006 had become a farce. And instead was rounding up immigrants for deportation who had no criminal background at all. The program heads then used the "jewked stats"--as they say on The Wire--to justify further funding of the program.

This shit tears me up. Especially since looking back I've realized that one of my biggest regrets about the last eight years of trauma, was that ol' dubya didn't push hard enough for comprehensive immigration reform. The guy was at least reasonable about that issue. And while many Bush-loving Utahns may hate to hear it, Bush was famous for having said during the 2000 campaign that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande."

Yet now we find out that not only did Bush fail to make something of his campaign for sensible and compassionate reform, but that his failure to manage his administration's ICE initiatives allowed for the agency to conduct mass roundups of workers with no criminal records and pass them off as dangerous criminals--or worse, he tacitly supported it. As the article notes a study reported that as a result of artificially pumping up these stats, in 2007 ICE's apprehension of actual undocumented fugitives with serious criminal records fell to 9 percent compared to 39 percent in 2004 when the program was legitimately targeting major criminals as opposed to just bringing in bodies. The article raised the argument that the roundups were perhaps the result of a push to assure GOP-immigration hardliners that the Bush administration wasn't soft on them thar' illegals.

Lord knows how this will reflect on a Utah bill covered in an article in this week's paper that would have state law enforcement teaming up with ICE officials in targeting major undocumented immigrant crime. (Eric S. Peterson)

Iraq War Vets and Suicide

[Vet Suicides] Big props to today's Salt Lake Tribune for a story on the shocking increase in Iraq War vet suicides in Utah.

It's certainly not possible to over-cover this issue. But I want to point out that City Weekly's Stephen Dark wrote an in-depth feature on this topic a full two months ago. Dark met regularly with members of Jason Ermer's family--his parents, brothers, widow and people involved in his care at the Salt Lake City VA hospital. He produced a riveting portrait of this young man and the events that helped drive him to taking his own life on New Year's Eve 2007. You'll get a deeper picture than what the Trib offered today, which is one of the best reasons to read this and other alternative publications. It's about depth and context, and with their ongoing financial and editorial constraints, mainstream media can't go much deeper than the immediate headlines these days. Read Stephen's piece here.

(Holly Mullen)



Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If Drinking is Outlawed Will Only Outlaws Drink?


[Drinking + Politics] Blogger Bob Henline made a phenomenal post on his blog on the anti-private club furor being fronted by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving group. In a fair and thorough manner his blog covers the MADD arguments in a devastating blow-by-blow account. You can check out the full MADD position here (via Utah Policy.com), but what's interesting is that Henline picks up on the totally neo-prohibitionist slant that MADD has taken of late.

Namely MADD makes the underlying argument that the availability of alcohol results in alcohol-related public health effects, which would include all the ills associated with alcohol such as DUI deaths, alcoholism, alcohol poisoning etc...

And when I recognized this logic I got one of those weird feelings, where goosebumps ran up my arms and I realized I am seeing an argument made against a liberal camp (drinkers and drinking establishments) from a conservative camp (religious groups, MADD, teetotalers) which is the same argument made against opposite camps regarding another controversial commodity.

Guns.

Yessiree that's right, how often have you heard concerned gun-owners decry liberal activists for fear that they were trying to ban outright firearms?

And certainly the argument resounded that 'Hey back off hippy! Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and certainly responsible gun owners shouldn't be punished for the negligent and criminal behavior of outlaws, right?'

So MADD does not like to see drinks to even be visible in restaurants for fear of showing kids that alcohol is available and therefore cool. I wonder then if MADD would support a Zion's curtain going up in all outdoor retail shops to shield the image of guns from children. Because, hell, if the availability of alcohol has a direct correlation to negative public health effects certainly the same logic applies to the availability of guns, right?

Apples and oranges you say? I'm not so sure. But in comparing the duelling commodities of good American guns and booze, I feel like I might be hatching just now a possible liquor-law reform: How about we get rid private club memberships in lieu of something comparable to a one-time concealed-carry permit class or hunter's safety course, something like a drinkers-safety
class...hmmm, and maybe we could make children wear bright neon vests when they go into Chili's, so the bartenders will be able to spot them more easily and make sure they don't go swiping cocktails from the server's station. Yes! I think I need to contact a legislator! (Eric S. Peterson)

CWMA Videos!

We're so close to entering the 21st century, but you're still going to have to click here to check out video footage from last weekend's City Weekly Music Awards showcases. Share them with your loved ones.
(Jamie Gadette)

Dead Zephyr: Week 273

(Bill Frost)

Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em

...when you take the stage with Vanilla Ice!!! That's right folks, I'm a little late to the news-flash party but a Feb. 27 MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice gig scheduled to go down at the McKay Events Center. I think it's part of the Get My Ass Out Of Debt tour. Local band/Portia Early favorite Love You Long Time is also scheduled to appear. Expected attendees include that kid who sat next to you in 7th grade science and everyone with a soft spot for 80s kitsch, er, serious art.


(Jamie Gadette)

Bonnaroo 2009 Lineup Announced

For those still smarting from news that Bruce Springsteen probably won't be including Salt Lake in his upcoming U.S. tour, take heart. True diehards go the extra mile (or several thousand) to realize their dream of seeing him live. And after that killer Superbowl half-time show, can you really blame them? City Weekly dining critic Ted Scheffler is such a big fan, he bought tickets this week to catch the Boss in Denver. Maybe he'll consider tacking on a trip to Manchester, Tennessee for Bonnaroo, an outdoor music festival long associated with jam bands and hippies. In recent years, the event has expanded its scope, inviting such groups as The Flaming Lips and Gogol Bordello. Organizers released the 2009 lineup today and its similarly eclectic. Featured artists include:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND, PHISH, THE BEASTIE BOYS, NINE INCH NAILS, TV ON THE RADIO, WILCO, AL GREEN, DAVID BYRNE, SNOOP DOGG, MERLE HAGGARD, ERYKAH BADU, MGMT, BON IVER, THE DECEMBERISTS, LUCINDA WILLIAMS AND MORE

Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Feb. 7

(Jamie Gadette)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

America's Financial Failures Justify Their Bloated Bailout Bonuses

[Economics] Creepy suit-and-tie Wall Street elitist cretins say they deserve their huge bonus checks, even in the wake of multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailouts--simply by virtue of their being "high earners." (Apparently, in this vernacular, being a "high earner" is not the same thing as being "rich." "High earners" are those who fully expect to be rich one day--which means that denying great wealth to high earners is just as wrong as denying housing to the poor, or health care to the middle-class.)

Larry Meyers, who is noted for having successfully reached the age of 43, puts it this way: "Say I’m a banker and I created $30 million. I should get a part of that.” This makes some sense, except for the fact that Meyers neglected to mention exactly how he "created" this $30 million or what he means, exactly, by the "creation" of money.

If money is "frozen work"--that is, a symbolic representation of productivity--then we would expect the most productive people in society to earn the most money. Now, of course, sometimes it's hard to gauge relative levels of productivity--if today Peter Potter turns out 13 ceramic vases, five coffeecups and one ashtray by mistake, is he more or less productive than Nancy Nurse, who bandages eight wounds, administers 43 doses of medication and accidentally spreads staph infections to two patients?

Nancy gets paid more than Peter--but if Larry's paycheck is 40 times that of Nancy, does that mean his supposed "creation" of money has the same productivity value as that of somebody who can bandage 320 wounds, administer 1,720 doses and spread 80 staph infections in one day? Or throw more than 520 ceramic vases, 200 coffeecups and 40 ashtrays? What the hell does Larry think he's actually doing all day in that magical office of his? Talking on the phone and typing on a computer, just like the rest of us.

From what I gather, there are folks out there whose sole reading material consists of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, who wouldn't give the time of day to a starving cat in a lifeboat, and who sneer at those of us who would rather spend our money on art, books and music than derivatives, stocks and mutual funds. Do these people have souls? Are they even human?

But, for some reason, they seem to think that all these multibillion-dollar bailouts--the ones that we, along with the youth of America and generations yet unborn, have somehow "agreed" to foot the bill for--are well-spent on their Hummers, summer homes and impromptu jaunts to Europe.

Perhaps I'd feel differently if I were a Hummer dealer, a Hamptons real-estate agent, or a European. But, frankly, I'm not convinced.

—Brandon Burt