Tag Archives: politics

National Security over all other securities: Get ready Utah.

Utah legislators have made it clear that they will do whatever it takes to keep the Federal Government from dictating the affairs of the state.

That is, except for spying on people.

Utah is about to be descended upon by the National Security Administration (NSA).

The Army has awarded a $1.2 billion contract to a construction consortium to build a spacious new data center in Utah for the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) cybersecurity effort.
 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it awarded the contract to Balfour Beatty/DPR/Big-D to erect a facility in Williams, Utah, that will be used for the NSA’s Comprehensive National Security Initiative, the NSA said in an emailed statement.

You would think that with all the controversy over federal government interference in state affairs by Utah’s legislators, that this would generate a lot of opposition from our state officials.  Not so.
 
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said during his inauguration on Tuesday the state would be vigilant in keeping the federal government from pushing too far into the state. But the lieutenant governor said there is "absolutely no disagreement" that national security is an essential role of the federal government, and that the data center is welcome in Utah.

Back in November Utah Legislators made a big stink about accepting federal monies for education.
 
Just like a little kid stomping its feet, the Utah Legislature approved $101 million in federal money for Utah teachers. In a special session called by Governor Gary Herbert, lawmakers called the bill that created the funding “sinister” and the money itself “crack cocaine.” They also pledged an end to taking federal dollars. Governor Herbert was pleased they approved accepting the money.
(Standard Examiner)

I repeat:

They also pledged an end to taking federal dollars.

Senator Chris Buttars-R, West Jordan said accepting the money “consummates a takeover by the federal government of the legislative process.” Buttars also ripped up a copy of the Utah Constitution during an attempt to introduce a resolution to refuse the funding.

Yet now our state government is happily accepting an invasion of  a federal government agency which is using the "it will create jobs" bait to lure the legislators into believing that this project will be good for our state’s economy.  Never mind that this "job security" will be temporary.  Never mind the fact that NSA is at the forefront of eroding our civil liberties by collecting data without court orders on individuals.  Financial liberties over civil liberties – that’s what this amounts to.
 
Those who claim to oppose big government often love to quote Benjamin Franklin, who once said that “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And yet in a quest for safety from potential unemployment and economic hardship, principles (and liberty) are thrown to the wind for what the Governor also claimed to be a “win, win, win” situation.
(Connor Boyack of Connor’sConundrums)
What would our founding fathers say?
  
Our founding fathers didn’t feel the lack of intestinal fortitude that required a vast security apparatus to see to their safety.
(Tom King, Utah activist)
 
My how times have changed.

As Connor Boyack states:

The NSA’s data center will largely be forgotten once it becomes operational. By then, the “godsend” of the 10,000 temporary construction jobs will be history. But the 1-200 individuals employed at the facility will continue their Orwellian mission of monitoring anybody they desire. Get ready, Utah: Big Brother will be camped out in your backyard.

(Photo taken by Dee in Maryland)

The Guv’s Fiscal 2012 Budget Recommendations

Governor Herbert’s Fiscal 2012 Budget Recommendations can be viewed in their entirety here:

Links to more information, reviews and articles on the Budget Recommendations can be found at this Google Search Engine Page.

I will be posting on select budget items throughout the legislative session.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Using the word “never” in activism

As time passes I realize that using absolutes like "never" or "always" is pretty unrealistic.

A couple of years ago I was faced with having to get an emergency container of formula for my grandson because we forgot to bring it with us.  The only place around was Walmart.  So the decision had to be made:  Do I allow my grandson to go hungry because of my political aversion to this evil corporation?  Or do I (gulp) push my politics aside (which dictated that I never set foot, let alone spend money at, a Walmart) and spend the money on the formula my grandson needs to satisfy his hunger?

The answer was obvious, of course.

For a long time I told myself I would never take prescription drugs over herbal remedies, especially since my health insurance mandates that I order long term prescriptions from a corporate drug warehouse.   After a few years of elevated blood pressure and herbal remedies not working, I found myself no longer being willing to take the increased risk of heart attack by maintaining high blood pressure.  I now take prescription meds and have been able to stay in control of my bp.

Currently I find myself in a situation where I have to gulp again with regards to my political stance on the new airport security procedures of forcing passengers to either pass through a full body scanner and/or succomb to a complete pat down.  My situation:  my aging parents who live 2000 miles away from me.  My employment situation does not allow me the time to drive back and forth.  So I must use my resources to fly back and forth at least twice per year, sometimes 3 or 4.  I know people who say they will never fly as long as this fascist state of affairs is in place in our airports.  How I would love to be able,with conviction, say this also.  But it’s a gamble that I have to take – as to whether or not I will be waved through the regular scanner or have to participate in the heightened police state procedures now in place.  

I am not willing to sacrifice providing for/being with/seeing the loves of my life for my stance on issues.  I would never be able to forgive myself if my priority  was politics over family to the point where my use of absolutes prevented me from ever seeing them or providing for them.  I am not willing to sacrifice my health, safety or well-being or that of my family because of my position on related issues. 

It is unfortunate that our systems currently in place have our hands tied in certain situations.  But this does not equate to "giving in".  It equates to knowing that some circumstances must lend themselves to a willingness to adhere to current practices, policies and procedures (ineffective and unfair and unjust as they may be) which in my view should strengthen one’s resolve to work towards putting measures in place for the change we want to see for our world.

What I will continue to do is to be as vocal and outspoken as possible about the inequities of our political system, our healthcare system, the violation and invasion of our individual and personal rights, the degradation of our civil liberties.  What I will continue to do is to live my life according to  my values as much as possible, realizing that nothing is perfect or absolute and that is is ok to deviate every once in awhile to do what is necessary in my life – and to not feel guilty about it.  

The most important thing for me is that the loves of my life see me practice what I preach regularly and are proud of me for it.  I know I am setting an example and making a difference when this message is conveyed to me.  My son once wrote to me during a very difficult time in our lives:

I am thankful that you are helping us. You are truly a great woman and not just because you help us when we need it, but because everything about you and what you do is great.

You are caring, loving and you generally care about the welfare of others. For this I look up to you; you are a big role model in my life. If I can take even 25% of what you do and who you are to my life, I know I”ll be okay.

I love you very much, Mom.

I keep reminding myself of this whenever I find myself having to engage in even the smallest activity that is out of sync with my beliefs.

The larger issue, then, is the question of using absolutes in our activism.  Is it realistic to say "I will never" or "I will always"?  I don’t think so. Having  the mindset and fortitude to be as strong as possible in our stance on issues  is much more plausible, realizing that there will be times where exceptions have to be made.  The key to practicing what we preach is consistency in that practice (Consistency does not equal "always" or "never" unless sacrifices are willing to be made.)  Being vocal about unfair practices, boycotting businesses and organizations which employ those unfair practices as much as possible, engaging in the political process to effect change (which may include civil resistance/disobedience), living one’s life in accordance to one’s values on a daily basis with as close to 100% consistency as is humanly possible…..these are  things that set the example for others and are part of the larger ripple effect that will travel through generations as it builds momentum toward mass change for the good of our planet.

I will – almost always – remember this.

Not again…..school vouchers

Remember 2007?

Here we go again – the School Voucher debate

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

It’s that time of year again….

I am being inundated with donation solicitations from organizations as a last minute reminder to get those 2010 tax write-offs taken care of.

 

While most of the solicitations I receive are from worthy organizations, here are my top picks, by all means not inclusive of all the great organizations out there doing wonderful things for our communities and our world, along with links to their websites:

 

UTAH:

OUTSIDE OF UTAH

Dee’s top pick for political organization support (NOTE:  Not tax deductible) 

The Status of Electoral Reform in Utah

Today is Green Blog Action Day over at Green Change.  The topic for today is electoral reform, which is addressed  in the Green Party’s platform.   It will be interesting to read from bloggers on Green Change from all over the country on the topic of electoral reform.   My contribution to the Green Blog Action Day today is to provide a summary of electoral issues in Utah, including bills up for adoption during this year’s Legislative Session.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, that resulted in granting corporations the same constitutional rights as people have, has, in essence, made a mockery of campaign finance laws and election laws in general.   We have before us, then, greater challenges than ever before in the world of electoral politics.

One of the biggest issues at the forefront in Utah has been election fraud, an issue that many states have faced.  Voters have found in recent years that their votes haven’t counted or they weren’t even able to vote, or that the electronic voting machines were flawed.  Greens, such as David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate, have been at the forefront of demanding vote recounts in elections where fraud was suspected.  "Either every vote is sacred, or democracy is a sham."~ David Cobb, December 2009

Many readers may remember the Utah election news of 2006 that made national headlines, news that cost one brave Utah Elections Clerk his job.  This video clip says it all:

Election Integrity is the focus of  Utah: Count Votes!, which has a number of documents posted at its site on election laws in Utah.  Created by renowned Mathematician Kathy Dopp (Green who ran for Summit County Elections Clerk in 2006), the site is filled with accounts, facts and evidence of election fraud in Utah’s elections history:

 
Utah must adopt the same measures that California has adopted if Utah wants fair and accurate election outcomes. California source code reviews and red team penetration tests found that "the Diebold software contains vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to install malicious software on voting machines and on its central election management systems, which could cause votes to be recorded incorrectly or to be miscounted" and that "some threats would be difficult, if not impossible, to remedy with election procedures". The Diebold Source Code Review Team found that "both the electronic and paper records of the Diebold TSx direct recording electronic voting machine contain enough information to compromise the secrecy of the ballot". Diebold voting system violates the Utah constitution which requires a secret ballot.

(NOTE:  Kathy Dopp is now in New York pursuing a PhD in political science and has a blog entitled "Election Mathematics").

This year’s lawmakers in Utah will be considering H.B. 95 Certification of Voting Equipment Modifications, which
requires voting equipment to be certified by the United States Election Assistance Commission

The EAC is an independent entity, established by the Help America Vote Act to help ensure election integrity in the United States.  More bills before the Utah Legislature are listed towards the end of this post.

Election integrity issues are not unique to national and state elections in Utah.  The ACLU of Utah reported election irregularities in the Ogden Municpal election of 2007.

The report concludes that while the letter of the law may not have been fully abridged, the spirit of the election was certainly violated by inappropriate actions, including unnecessary voter challenges and poll worker error. The report also details that 146 voters were challenged, 1646 provisional ballots were cast, and of those 478 were rejected. 180 of the 478 rejected votes were not counted because the voter was not registered, but the remaining 298 were discounted due to technical or other error.
As a result of this investigation, the ACLU made these recommendations:
legislative reform, enhanced election oversight and standardized, higher quality training for election officials. The organization also encourages civic groups to participate in the process in order to assure transparency and voter confidence.

The ACLU of Utah continues its efforts to educate constituents on a variety of issues, one being Election Day Registration, eliminating the need for provisional ballots (interestingly, see comment below list of bills before Utah’s lawmakers this year about Utah’s "abandoned bills").

The Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy published a series of recommendations in the areas of campaign finance, voting accessibility, and enforcement presented to the Governor in November 2009:

 

Local public radio station, KCPW, aired a segment on Election Reform in Utah, which can be heard here

2010 could be the year for campaign finance reform in Utah.  The Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy has approved several recommendations that are being turned into bills at the state legislature, including campaign contribution limits and a commission to enforce election laws.  We talk with Commission Chairman Kirk Jowers and State Representative Craig Frank.

There are a number of other bills being addressed on elections and campaigns in Utah, some listed below (click on the link to read the bill).
 

On Voting:
HB0079Valid Voter Identification Amendments
HB0161Voter Registration Amendments
HB0044Referendum Ballot Proposition Amendments
HB0244Provisional Ballot Amendments for Unregistered Voters
HB0245Voter Challenge Amendments
HB0254Voter Identification Amendments
HB0258Voting Precinct Boundaries
HB0358Voting by Mail
SB0053Voter Challenge Revisions

On Elections:
HB0368Election Day Voting Centers
SB0018Election Modifications
SB0119Special Elections Modifications
SB0195Elections, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance Enforcement Commission

On Campaign Finance:

HB0056Amended Campaign Financial Statements
HB0059Campaign Finance Revisions
HB0124 and HB0124S01Campaign Funds Expenditure Restrictions
HB0160Campaign Finance Provisions

It is interesting to note at the bottom of the page on Elections bills, these two bills that were "abandoned" (and therefore have no link to their texts):  "Oversight of Local Elections" and "Same Day Voter Registration"

Utah has interesting and challenging issues before its Legislators at this time.  Democracy is eminently at stake.  It is important that citizens closely monitor election bills, contact /visit their representatives to register their desires on issues, write letters to the editors of their local newspapers, visit the capitol during the legislative session, and attend any opportunities afforded to citizens to learn more about the legislative process.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch, Green Party Watch, and Green Change)

   

 

 
 
 

 

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