HB150 to the Senate EDUCATION Committee

What I don’t know about the sausage-making on capitol hill could fill a book, but if you were to ask me where a bill regarding law enforcement powers would be heard in the Utah Senate, it would be a Judicial Committee, just like when it was first heard in the Utah House. However, this bill is instead headed for the Senate Education committee. I’m sure there is a perfectly understandable reason as to why this might be. Maybe the Judicial Committee has more believers in Fourth Amendment protections than the Education Committee.

In any case, it will be heard tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM in 415 State Capitol.

Call and write the committee members now.

Senator Curtis S. Bramble Cell: (801) 361-5802
Senator Margaret Dayton Home: (801) 221-0623
Senator Brent Goodfellow Cell: (801) 556-4871
Senator Lyle Hillyard Office: (435) 752-2610
Senator Scott Jenkins Office: (801) 621-5412
Senator Howard Stephenson Office: (801) 972-8814

HB150 Passes House

Today the bill that extended warrantless demands for customer information from Internet Service Providers, HB150, was brought back as a substitute bill. It narrowed its scope to two crimes, child kidnapping and cyberstalking and threw some dogfood to ISPs who are afraid they might actually be held responsible for their actions.

It still remained a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, discriminatory against small ISPs, and filled with potential for abuse. All you need to be investigated for is cyberstalking before you are exposed on the Internet in Utah. Whistle blower? Political dissident? Afraid of discrimination? Pray your enemies don’t claim you are a cyberstalker in Utah, for the bill passed out of the House today, 48 – 20.

A representative who voted for the bill stated, “Crimes against kids that are happening through the Internet are not easy to combat because we can’t find who has these Web sites.” “All we’re asking for is the information so we can find out who we’re investigating — then we can pursue warrants.” Where does getting a warrant fail in getting information about ownership of websites? I can tell you one way, when it isn’t in the United States, otherwise a warrant works just fine. How about a minor’s identity on the Internet? Should that be open to any law-enforcement agent who can fill out a form? Is law-enforcement prescient about who is and who is not a minor on the Internet? Is that otherwise not worth protecting? Is it entirely possible that “information” about website ownership could harm a law-abiding citizen? This information is worth protecting, and it is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

This bill now goes to the senate. It will come before the Judiciary Committee, but I do not know when. I will post that here when I know. It also wouldn’t hurt to give your senator a heads-up on this bill and how you feel about it.

I extend my thanks to the courageous representatives who resisted the attorney general’s fear mongering and remembered that getting a warrant for information from anyone is an essential protection of our U.S. Constitution. You should thank them too: Trisha Beck, Laura Black, Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Stephen Clark, Tim Cosgrove, Susan Duckworth, James Dunnigan, Neil Hansen, Wayne Harper, Lynn Hemingway, Brian King, Todd Kiser, John Mathis, Marie Poulson, Stephen Sandstrom, Jay Seegmiller, Mark Wheatley, Larry Wiley, and Carl Wimmer.

As for the rest, mail them a copy of this and keep them in your memory around election time.

ISP Immunity for Violating Your Privacy!

HB150 is back on the floor in the form of a substitute. As far as I can see, the primary difference aside from including the modifications and amendments is this text:

113        (7) There is no cause of action against any provider or wire or electronic
114 communication service, or its officers, employees, agents, or other specified persons, for
115 providing information, facilities, or assistance in accordance with the terms of the
116 administrative subpoena issued under this section or statutory authorization.

Which essentially means they won’t hold the ISP liable for violating your privacy without a warrant. How sweet of them. However, this was not in any of my original concerns. It remains unconstitutional and should not be passed.

Get A Warrant

HB150 was defeated yesterday, but its originators are not taking “Fourth Amendment” for an answer. A representative wrote me today with this information:

“Brad Daw and the AG’s office spoke to me late in the afternoon about their desire to bring HB 150 back in a slimmed down version that they believe will get the votes to pass. Instead of expanding the scope of the investigative activities to all felonies, they want to include two specific crimes above and beyond what the current statute includes: kidnapping of a child and cyberstalking.”

My response is, “Fine, get a warrant.” What part of the Fourth Amendment do Representative Daw and Attorney General Shurtleff not understand? These crimes are surely heinous, but do not preclude the need for a warrant. Judges are available 24/7 to sign warrants for information. Why are they insistent on sidestepping the Constitution to get information from Internet Service Providers?

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.

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.

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.