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.

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.


Aside from my previous endorsement of Senator Obama for President, there is one other prime endorsement I want to get out before election day.

When I received the invitation to serve on the Tracy Aviary board a few years ago, I warmly accepted because it had long been one of my favorite places in Salt Lake county. My mother brought me there frequently as a child to teach me about the natural habitat of birds. As an adult board member, I am fully aware of the struggles Tracy Aviary continues to face. As one of the two oldest aviaries in the country, much of the facility is in disrepair and in desperate need of an update. Proposition 1 on the Salt Lake County ballot will grant much needed funds to Tracy Aviary so it can continue its mission of ecological education. Please “Save the Aviary” by voting “YES” on Proposition 1.

There are some great state and county officials on the ballot this year. There are even a handful of Republicans who I have much respect for. However, with the super-majority GOP legislature ramming through such winners as school vouchers and the Omnibus Education Bill, along with overriding Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon on the Soccer Stadium, my endorsements go to only the Democrats this year. If you have time to spare today and on Tuesday, please consider helping local Democratic candidates and the Obama campaign.

Three to One

This last Sunday, Senator Hatch had yet another opinion piece published attempting to define his energy policy. This comes a few weeks after his rebuttal to what I wrote. There is so much spinning going on in Hatch’s office these days, it should be considered an alternative energy source on its own.

I wrote a response to Senator Hatch’s first rebuttal, but the Tribune chose not to publish it. Here it is.

Mike Strizki is the future of energy production in the United States. His entire energy consumption, whether it be electricity for his big-screen TV, heat and cooling for his sizable house with swimming pool and hot-tub, or fuel for his car sources entirely from the sun that falls on his garage. What southern paradise does he live in to make this possible? Why New Jersey of course.

Mr. Strizki’s solar and hydrogen farm wasn’t cheap, at $500,000 it doesn’t make economic sense for the average American to do the same thing, but at one time, the “horseless carriage” was only for the affluent. Tax breaks, federal incentives, and loosing regulation on the oil industry has made it choice number one for transportation and energy in America. Although Senator Hatch claims he has sought a “balanced” energy policy, the attention he and congress has given oil over the past 30 years has dwarfed any viable alternative. Legislative lip-service to alternatives has made 50% of our trade deficit oil-based. Final proof is in the pudding we pour into our cars at $4.00 a gallon.

Hatch deemed President Carter’s proposed tariffs against imported oil as disastrous for the market, but who is to blame for the greatest exportation of wealth in American history? What motivation does congress have for continuing to enrich the greatest tyrannies on this planet? Robotic dinosaurs roaming artificial islands in Dubai are pretty neat, but wouldn’t you rather have excellent schools and advanced infrastructure right here at home?

Solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels are treated as science fiction by their critics. Yet other countries are using these realities to become entirely self sufficient. America is unable to duplicate these feats because our leadership sees alternatives to oil in the same way whalers viewed the light-bulb. It is always a matter of hauling in more whales rather than utilizing better technologies.

Senator Hatch recently declared that cars, trains, and airplanes can only run on oil. Is he completely ignorant of electric, hybrid, biodiesel and natural-gas cars? Most European and Asian trains run on electricity because it is more efficient and powerful than diesel. Granted, airplane fuel alternatives are in the experimental stage, but if we offset gasoline consumption on the road and rails, wouldn’t there be plenty left over for flight?

Entrepreneurs have been trying to squeeze oil from shale for the past century. Although President Carter had oil shale on the table, it has never displayed any financial or environmental success. Other schemes for oil or coal expansion do nothing to make our air safer to breath, our food safer to eat, or cut our imports by any significant amount.

If Hatch’s favored nuclear power is to come into play again, let the investors buy water at market rates, pay for the clean-up of of the waste and the mining, insure against lawsuits, and hire their own private guard and air-force for plant protection. Nuclear energy companies can start by cleaning up the billion-dollar pile of uranium tailings left behind by industry in Moab.

Oil shale and nuclear power are considered the primary domestic alternatives to imported oil by Senator Hatch and our Republican delegation. Unfortunately, history shows these are failed alternatives.

Congressional efforts for clean, domestic, renewable energy are appreciated. Yet they need to be exponentially increased if they are ever going to match historic support for oil. True American freedom and independence exists in technologies that Mike Strizki is using today. A colossal lack of imagination is responsible for the failure of so-called “balanced” energy policy this country has had since 1976.

iProvo Sale and RFP

Over a year ago, Provo City put out an RFP titled, “Request for Proposals for Partnership Opportunities with Telecommunication Service Providers on the iProvo Network”. This was a public invitation to companies like XMission to provide services to the citizens of Provo over the fiber network installed by the city. You can read the full text of the RFP on the Provo city website.

XMission was excited to respond to Provo’s request. This was in fact, the first time we had been invited to participate at all. The process that Provo originally engaged in to select their disastrous first Internet provider, HomeNet, and then subsequent providers was never extended to XMission. This in spite of the consistent calls from Provo residents to iProvo to allow us to participate on their network.

After responding to Provo’s request, XMission had a number of meetings with iProvo which were welcoming and positive. The last meeting we had with them was in December when we were told that we were on track to be a participant and some wholesale pricing was reworked. Yesterday, iProvo held a press conference where they announced the sale of the network to a company named Broadweave.

I attended the press conference and asked a simple question of the mayor, “Do you think the sale of a public asset should be done through a public process?” His response was that it was done in a public fashion and that I only needed to read the RFP to understand that the network sale was a possibility. The RFP title states, “Partnership Opportunities with Telecommunication Service Providers on the iProvo Network” with the keyword being “on”. Later in the document the “goals and design for the Network Project” are laid out, with the first being, “To provide the citizens of Provo a full range of competitive choices for telecommunications services and applications.” How exactly does selling the network to a business which will lock out out all other businesses meet this goal of the RFP? As recent as two weeks ago, Mayor Billings was claiming there were offers, but “due diligence” had prevented a sale. If this is the same “due diligence” that selected HomeNet, an out-of-state company which used forged documents to prop up its financials, then it would have been enlightening to see how Broadweave was selected.

Unfortunately, none of the proceedings in selecting Broadweave are public. Provo officials have handled the public trust much like a private entity in signing “non-disclosure agreements” and not being fully clear that iProvo indeed was for sale. Although the claim is made that Broadweave is paying $40 million for the network, they are simply assuming the bond debt, which will fall back to Provo City if they can’t sustain their business model and Sorenson Capitol backs out of the transaction.

I wish Provo the best success in their efforts, others have been more critical. Some have claimed my comments to the press are so much “sour grapes”. Let me be clear, my interest in iProvo since its inception was being a provider on an open-competition network. I believe there is a very good reason private interests worldwide are not building ubiquitous fiber networks — the payback is beyond 20 years. There is no doubt in my mind that if Qwest, Comcast, and all data service providers were restricted to providing service over one municipal fiber network, it would not only succeed, the public would see cheaper rates and superior service. The lack of proper RFP for the sale of iProvo hands the network over to a single private interest that will control rates and service.

I have been told that there were other national and international companies who expressed interest in purchasing iProvo. Would they have kept the network open to service provider competition? Would there have been a better deal instead of just assuming the bond debt? Without a proper RFP process in place for the sale, the public will never know.

Since the beginning of iProvo, XMission has wanted to help the network succeed. Instead, we have been inexplicably stonewalled and blocked at every turn. What is certain now is that there will be no open competition on the iProvo network. Eventually this country will realize that fiber infrastructure is not a luxury that can be sustained by a business model, but a necessary investment in our economy. Sadly, it is going to take another decade of mismanagement and lost promises by the private sector before that is realized.