Good Job Senator Hatch

During my 2006 campaign, I criticized Senator Hatch for not having town-hall meetings. In the last year, I received two pathetic “telephone town-hall” calls from Representative Chaffetz and Senator Bennett. I think it takes a lot of courage for our elected public servants to come and “face the music” in front of their constituents who may angrily attack them personally. However, our democracy suffers when they don’t, instead remaining out of touch a couple thousand miles away. I continue to push for the use of the Internet to bring transparency and better communication to the process of government, but it is still refreshing to see someone doing it the old fashioned way, face to face.

Therefore, I congratulate Senator Hatch on holding a real town-hall meeting. Please keep it up Senator. I’ll be the first in line when you do one in Salt Lake County.

David Culp Speaking in Salt Lake City

David Culp, Legislative Representative, Quaker Nuclear Disarmament Program, will be speaking in Salt Lake City on “Utah’s Important Role in Permanently Ending Nuclear Weapons Testing”

SLC Events: A renewed national discussion about the role and future of nuclear weapons is underway in the United States. President Barak Obama, and his administration, along with a distinguished group of national security experts, including former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, believe that the United States should significantly reduce the role of nuclear arms in our national security strategy and work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Congress will be the forum for a number of nuclear weapons policy debates, including whether to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). David will be making three public presentations in Salt Lake City. He will provide some general information about the state of affairs with regard to nuclear weapons – how many exist, who possesses them, and what some of the key policy debates are. These presentations will further explore the role of members of the Utah congressional delegation in these debates, and how and why this is relevant to Utah voters, and how they might get involved.

  • Sunday, Jan. 24, 11:30am, Quaker Meeting House,171 E. 4800 S., SLC
  • Tuesday, Jan. 26, 10:45am, Hinckley Institute Forum, University of Utah
  • Tues., Jan. 26, 6:00pm, United Nations Association of Utah, Apple Spice Junction, 6520 S. 900 E., SLC – ($13 charge for dinner)

Presenter: David has 15 years experience on nuclear arms control and disarmament legislation. He was instrumental in the passage of the nuclear testing moratorium in 1992; the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997; and the defeat of a new nuclear warhead, or nuclear “bunker buster” in 2004. Previously he was a lobbyist at the Indiana legislature for a statewide citizens group. He is one of six registered lobbyists on nuclear disarmament on Capitol Hill. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers) is the oldest religious lobbying group in the country.

Sponsor: The Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN) was formed in early 2007 to educate and involve Utahns in the effort to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. For more information regarding the mission of the organization, please log onto our web site http://utahcan.org.

Contact: Please telephone Deb Sawyer, UCAN Spokesperson, at (801) 364-2971 or email dsawyer@xmission.com if you have any questions about the events or UCAN.

Representative Matheson and the Democratic Party

When I ran for Senate in 2006, Representative Jim Matheson was kind enough to meet with me more than once to offer help and advice. I met with him in both his Salt Lake City office and his Washington D.C. office. In one of those meetings he reflected upon the anger that some of Democratic party have for his conservative votes. He stated to me that he often votes this way to satisfy his conservative base, but when it comes to voting for helping the poor, he has always been there. I don’t know how how his vote against the House healthcare bill fits into that definition, but I won’t try to explain it for him either. Personally I think the healthcare bill is a bloated mess. Instead of 2000+ pages, it really only needs to be two words, “Single Payer”. I blame the Democrats for this failure due to the three “I”s – ignorance, incompetence, and influence. That is another journal entry altogether.

Nevertheless, Representative Matheson had the chance to help write the ACES bill in favor of Western renewable energies, but chose not to do so. His vote against the healthcare bill only exacerbated Democrats who have long hated his middle-of-the-road positions. As a result, a number of people, driven by Tim DeChristopher, have been pushing for me to run against Jim Matheson. Here is why I won’t.

  1. A Democrat who is more to the left than Jim Matheson could probably easily win a primary, maybe even settle this in convention, but in the end would lose the general election. I can think of no other county that exemplifies this more than Carbon County. This was traditionally a Democratic stronghold in Utah, but has gone Republican over the past decade. In 2006, Jim Matheson received 3,658 votes in Carbon County. In spite of canvassing Carbon County extensively and knocking on a few thousand doors, I received 2,255 votes. Conversely, Orrin Hatch rarely visits and received 2,408. I don’t see how deposing Jim Matheson would endear me to 1400+ people who otherwise voted for Senator Hatch.
  2. I don’t live in the 2nd Congressional District. There is is nothing legally preventing me from running to represent a district I don’t live in. Thanks to the Utah Legislature, I can cross all three of Utah’s congressional districts on my morning run, because I live in Salt Lake City. Representative Jason Chaffetz was able to oust Chris Cannon on the Republican side without living in the 3rd district. However for a Democrat, this would be fuel on the fire for the GOP challenger living in the district.
  3. In spite of Matheson’s votes, he is still warming a seat on the Democratic side of the aisle. 2010 is going to be Republicans trying to capitalize against President Obama’s agenda. Although I haven’t ruled out running in 2010, I don’t want to be contributing to the inevitable losses the Democratic party is going to face. If I was running instead of Matheson, the national GOP would pour resources into the race not because they care about Utah, but because they want their majority back.
  4. In 2006, the Deseret News ran a poll on favorability ratings of Utah politicians. Matheson came out #1, higher than then Governor Jon Huntsman. Having him in office is a good thing for other Utah Democrats trying to get elected.
  5. The Matheson family remains committed to Democratic causes and candidates here in Utah. I want to receive their help rather than their scorn when I run again.

One individual who asked me to run wanted my opinion as to whether it is a waste of time to try and oust Matheson. Being concerned and active with your government is never a waste of time. However, I think there are bigger fish to fry for Utah Democrats than one who still claims he is in our party.

NHS Doctors Defend UK Healthcare

Two weeks ago, I sat in on a roundtable with Senator Bennett, sponsored by the Utah Technology Council. Senator Bennett started his discussion on healthcare by assailing England’s National Health System, with the claim that Senator Ted Kennedy would not have received any treatment at all for his cancer if he had lived in the UK. As it turns out, this claim is a load of bollocks.

Alan Turing Apology

Alan TuringAlan Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science. He cracked the German Enigma Codes in World War II, which saved countless lives and is estimated to have ended the war in Europe two years early. His genius with computer processing showed when he wrote software to play chess before there were computers powerful enough to run his software. His “Turing Test” for determining true artificial intelligence is well known by any student of computer science.

Alan Turing was gay. Due to this, he was convicted by a British court in 1952 and given the choice of either going to prison, or taking forced estrogen injections. He chose the latter and committed suicide two years later at the age of 41. Although it was widely known Turing was gay during World War II, he was too valuable to the war effort for them to act upon their anti-homosexual laws until after the war was over.

I have to wonder what contributions were lost due to the unjust treatment of Alan Turing.

The English have long had the tradition of leaving petitions on the step of their Prime Minister’s office at 10 Downing Street. This is a tradition that has been updated to take advantage of the Internet. It would be appropriate if our government institutions followed suit. I’ve never been a fan of online petititions, because I think they are widely ignored. The English model of not only respecting them, but hosting them, gives the idea much more weight.

A 10 Downing Street petition was started demanding an official apology for the treatment of Alan Turing. On Thursday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology. It is worth reading.

Electroregeneration Society CRT Day

Saturday, September 19th, 9:00 AMThe Electroregeneration Society needs your help! Saturday, September 19th, we will be unloading a storage unit previously owned by Computers For Kids, a non-profit with a similar mission to ERGS. There are over 500 CRT monitors there! We will load them on a large 25′ truck and bring them to our warehouse at 555 S 400 W. In addition to moving these monitors, we are going to organize, stack, and store all of our monitors and do some reorganizing of our donated computer equipment. To thank you, you will receive lunch and the PC of your choice from our stock.

Meet at our warehouse, Saturday, September 19th, 9:00AM, 555 S 400 W, and caravan to the storage units at 5937 S 1650 W, or just go to the storage units and wait for our arrival. Bring water, gloves, and clothes that can get torn and dirty.

Ethics Reform Initiative

Utahns for Ethical Government contacted me recently about their proposed ballot initiative for ethics reform in the Utah Legislature. The initiative creates an independent panel that would investigate legislator ethics violations and recommend action back to the legislative leadership. In addition, a “Code of Conduct” is set down by the initiative. Amongst them:

  • Legislators are prohibited from spending campaign funds on non-campaign personal expenses.
  • Legislators are prohibited from contributing to one another’s campaigns with money from their own campaign funds.
  • Legislators cannot be paid lobbyists during their terms of office or for 2 years thereafter.
  • Legislators and their family members cannot accept gifts from paid lobbyists, such as meals, Jazz tickets, and golf fees. Gifts do not include light refreshments of negligible value.
  • Legislators, when in doubt, can ask for a written opinion by the Commission that determines in advance whether an action contemplated by the legislator would violate the Code of Conduct.
  • Legislators are prohibited from making threats, intimidating, or improperly interfering with or obstructing the duties and decisions of the courts and other employees of state government who are exercising the duties of their offices.
  • Legislators are prohibited from accepting donations to their campaigns from corporations, non-profits, partnerships, and unions.
  • Contributions to a legislator’s campaign funds are limited to $2500 per individual and $5000 per PAC in any 2-year election cycle.
  • Money remaining in a legislator’s campaign account that is not spent within 5 years in a subsequent election campaign by the same legislator is transferred to the State School Fund or a Commission-selected-and-approved charitable organization of the legislator’s choice.
  • Legislators must file forms annually (with the Ethics Commission) which disclose financial and business interests that could create potential conflicts of interest. The disclosures will be available to the public. As under current law, legislators must file reports with the Lt. Governor of financial contributions they have received.
  • Legislators cannot be members of corporate boards when their position as a legislator is a contributing factor in their board appointment and they receive compensation for serving.

Not surprisingly, some legislators don’t like the idea. Senator Sheldon Killpack, in a “Did you read the initiative?” moment said that an ethics commission is undemocratic, in spite of the fact that state governments have appointed commissions since the dawn of state governments. Killpack says, “You’re putting a lot of control into one person’s hands…” Were that only true. The five member commission is appointed by the leadership of the legislature, drawn at random from a pool of 20 independent-minded citizens who are chosen by unanimous agreement of the president of the Senate, speaker of the House, and the two minority leaders of the Utah Legislature.

Ironically, Senator Killpack co-chaired the committee that was unable to establish ethics review on their own. The reason being fear that bogus ethics violations could be politically motivated. In other words your neighbors might send over a cleaning and repair team to your house because they are hoping you’ll be evicted for neglect.

I support Utahns for Ethical Government and their ballot initiative. I hope you will too.

The Electroregeneration Society

Some years ago, XMission held a computer parts “recycling” event in cooperation with Salt Lake City. We were permitted use of a parking lot on the corner of State Street and 400 South, near our offices, for people to bring their household electronics for proper disposal. This disposal consisted of cosponsoring the hauling, destruction, and recycling of raw materials through a local company, GRX.

Although GRX recycles the raw materials in an environmentally friendly way, I was dismayed to see the quantity of usable gear head straight for the chipper. There was literally a football field of electronics at the end of the day, and I would guess that 80% of it was still in functional condition. Because I have long used Linux for the majority of my business at XMission, I knew that older PC’s can serve many people’s Internet and computing needs just fine.

An organization in California, the Alameda County Computer Resource Center is a model for what I envision for Utah. Although they have subsisted by taking state sponsorship for recycling, my experience with non-profits makes me believe an organization could be viable with donations. Thusly, I am proud to announce the formation of The Electroregeneration Society. I recently moved into a larger warehouse to support one of my other passions, and in addition to sharing it with the embryonic Computer Graphics Museum, there is space for this project.

Here is the draft mission statement: The Electroregeneration Society is a non-profit dedicated to the reuse and repurpose of household and industrial electronics, primarily computers. Low-income, educational organizations, non-profits, and disabled individuals may receive fully functional computers for free. Hobbyists and enthusiasts may purchase hardware or volunteer their time in exchange. Hardware is received in donation as a write-off from businesses, government, organizations, and individuals.”

Tonight at 6pm there will be an initial meeting. The address is at 555 S 400 W in Salt Lake City. Please consider contributing however you can!

Bill Orton

Bill OrtonIn January of 2005, I had a meeting with Bill Orton. My campaign for U.S. Senate was in the exploratory stage, and I had heard through the grapevine that Bill was considering running. I had never met Bill before, but he worked nearby and came in to talk with me without even knowing what the subject was. We talked for over two hours that afternoon. He detailed how he had tried to negotiate with President Clinton and Bruce Babbitt before Grant Staircase Escalante was declared a National Park. They overrode his concerns and left him out of the process. He exclaimed to me the concern of his constituents, “If you’re a Democrat and your own President doesn’t listen to you, then what good are you?” He said, “And you know, they were right!” Bill Orton was the last Democrat to represent Utah’s third district. If President Clinton had listened to the Democratic congressman from the region in question, and made Utahns stakeholders in the process of creating a National Park, Bill Orton would have continued to be elected every time he ran.

I asked Bill why he considered himself a conservative Democrat instead of running as a Republican. “Because I couldn’t live with myself!” “I couldn’t get out of the shower each morning because I wouldn’t be able to get clean!” he laughed.

Bill told me that he was considering running for U.S. Senate, but the pains due to his back injury were preventing him from doing so. He told me that unless a miracle cure happened, he couldn’t do it. I waited until March before I realized that miracle wasn’t coming.

When it came time for the 2006 Democratic State Convention, it was necessary to select a party member to put forward my nomination. Bill Orton was my first choice and I was deeply humbled when he accepted. In spite of losing his written speech, he gave a fantastic, firey, and fluent oration that had the crowd cheering. He was a hard act to follow.

I ran into Bill a few times after the election. Last year, at the Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair he was especially proud of the work his son Will had done for his entry. It demonstrated the gravitational attraction between bowling balls and was far beyond what standard science fair entries cover. Bill beamed when he told me that a University physics professor had said that the entry was beyond the level of what his graduate students were capable of. It was apparent to me that Bill was a committed and loving father, even if it meant clearing out the garage for a month for a science fair experiment.

Bill Orton died this weekend in an accident at the age of 60. He was the very model of a Utah Democrat — honest, forthright, connected, and capable. He was my mentor and my friend. I will miss him.

Utah Senate and Nuclear Power

Today at 2:00PM, the Utah Senate Public Utilities Committee will consider a joint resolution expressing support for nuclear power in Utah. This is the letter I sent to Public Utilities Committee chair, Steve Urquhart.

Hello Steve, I’d like you to consider a few points in relation to nuclear power in Utah.

1) The Atlas Tailings Pile, left behind by the free market uranium mine, to be cleaned up by taxpayers, still hasn’t been cleaned up in Moab.
2) There isn’t a nuclear plant in operation today that exists without government subsidy. They receive government protection for operation, and according to the residents of Delta I talked to, their local government failed to protect the IPP in a staged attack.

As I see it, Aaron Tilton should be able to do the following before beginning construction of a nuclear power plant in Utah:

1) Pay for it by himself, with no government subsidy or protection forever, with the same rates I pay for water.
2) Guarantee safe waste storage and mine clean-up for 10,000 years with a trust that will last that long.
3) Guarantee safe working conditions, respirators, and lung-cancer treatment for the miners who will mine and refine his “clean” uranium.

It would be nice if he cleaned up Atlas too. Maybe SJR16 should express appreciation to the taxpayers who are going to clean it up.

Best Wishes,

Pete