Thursday, February 28, 2013

Utah's Supermajority Posse Challenges Feds

by Michael Orton
via ImageProviders


Utah's conservative politicians are mounting a posse with their taxpayers' dollars to challenge the supremacy of their federal government and to assert their state's "sovereignty." Additionally, they will soon introduce into their bi-cameral state government system an effort (via HB131) to create a commission on "Federalism," their way of managing a federal government they feel has overreached its own authority.

This reoccurring theme is at the heart of their effort to secure public lands for Utah's own use, and to reverse extraction royalty calculations placing the state's share of oil, gas and mining revenues into the first and larger position. Additionally, recent efforts to place permanent development restrictions on scenic and watershed lands would be determined directly by the state and not with potential presidential fiat. Since Utah (unlike states like Texas) contains more than 20 million acres of land presently under the authority of the federal Bureau of Land Management, this trail rhetoric gets as pervasive as cheat grass and just as invasive within public discourse.

Some Utahns believe that the effort is misguided and a waste of their money. In Rep Spencer Cox's (R- Sanpete) district 58 in central, rural Utah, many families have maintained continuous ownership of their land originally homesteaded when Grover Cleveland signed their titles. In Uinta County, commissioner Mike McKee reported in November of last year that Anadarko Petroleum, his county's largest taxpayer, tendered a check for $14 million in property taxes, with 57% distributed to the schools.

Before leaving office at the beginning of President Obama's second term, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Utah to praise Utah's efforts in finding solutions to help the administration reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Months before, a unique coalition of stakeholders was able to agree on how best to use the geography and geology of the Uinta basin for the development of significant energy reserves located there. Those involved allowed for drilling while agreeing to preserve prime outdoor recreation areas and wildlife habitat above the natural gas. Regarding the unprecedented success of that effort, Secretary Salazar said, "The world today should simply stand back and say, 'Wow!'"

Interior Secretary KEN SALAZAR in Utah, May 2012

Rep Mike Noel (R-Kanab) the self-styled leader of his own "cowboy caucus," believes that the attorneys in his posse are hot on the trail of a new sagebrush rebellion against the feds. They may be sustained by the effort being advanced in HB 142, sponsored by Rep Roger Barrus (R-Centerville). Barrus' bill calls for the study of fiscal impacts and inventories of federal lands that they intend to transfer to state ownership. Other bills call for the nullification of federal laws pertaining to jurisdiction of firearms controls.

It may become a long and dusty trail. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Robert Blake Redux


Charged in 2002 with the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, he made headlines around the world with his eventual acquittal and subsequent "wrongful death" civil judgement which bankrupted him.

Actor Robert Blake recently appeared on PBS' Tavis Smiley Show, to let us all understand that he's okay with "the boss," that he sleeps well, and that he has been "at the edge of that address," many times. It is a fascinating interview with a man who began a show business career as a child on Hal Roach's "Our Gang; Little Rascals" comedies, a feature film actor, then as an Emmy award winner on television's "Baretta" in the 1970's. A veteran of Hollywood, many film dévotées recall his riveting, 1967 portrayal of Perry Smith, the convicted killer of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. (Capote did extensive research with the actual killers to write what would be his last novel. In 2008, In Cold Blood was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".). 

Besides chronicling a life where art attempted to foreshadow life, perhaps the reason why this interview seems so compelling is beyond the personal history of the man on camera with Tavis, and beyond the fact that Blake made so many films at the studio where this interview takes place, ("It's like I came out of the La Brea Tar Pits as the ghost of Lot 3...") but it is also compelling in the vivid, street-level brush strokes Blake uses to paint his self-portrait during his own third act.

ROBERT BLAKE, interviewed by Tavis Smiley – video courtesy PBS

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bill Gates on Direct Examination

Microsoft attorney Jim Jardine speaks to KSL-TV's JOHN DALY and Fox13's BEN WINSLOW
photo ©2011 Michael Orton for ImageProviders - All Rights Reserved

via ImageProviders
story and photo ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON 
– all rights reserved

Salt Lake City –

On the witness stand in federal court, Bill Gates presented the picture of a focused and competent CEO commander responding to direct examination with precise recollection. Email correspondence presented during today's portion of the civil trial of Utah's Novell v. Gates' Microsoft Corporation were more than fifteen years old. The suit alleges that Microsoft conspired to manipulate the development of its Windows 95 operating system shell in such a manner that Novell's position in the personal computer software marketplace would be compromised, allowing Microsoft's products an unfair advantage. Litigation between the two companies, in various forms, has been underway since the turn of the century and from all accounts, both Gates and his attorneys have become quite comfortable with it.

Presently, Baltimore's Judge Frederick Motz from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland is hearing the arguments and overseeing witness examination in Judge Dee Benson's federal courtroom in Salt Lake City. There, a jury of seven women and five men have been empaneled since October to listen to the evidence provided by attorneys representing both companies. Even with one of the world's richest men on the witness stand, the computer visionary who has been called "the Thomas Edison of our time," jurors seemed marginally engaged in what Gates had to say.

Dressed conservatively in a light grey suit, white shirt and gold tie, Gates described his executive management decisions while being questioned about email traffic as old as 1994 between his upper level managers and himself. The emails were generated during the Windows 95 operating system "shell" development and involved programming teams in Houston, Chicago and Seattle.  There was pressure to get the software published, Gates said, because the industry believed that "hardware would get better as companies thought [Win95] would help them sell more personal computers."

His legal team was attempting to evoke Gates' testimony about the nature of the operating system and the decisions that went into its rollout. When asked if, in his 32 years as Microsoft's CEO, he felt there were management "tradeoffs" to be considered during his company's software development and subsequent publication, Gates said, "There's a 'constant tension' between the idea that 'good programmers ship,' as opposed to programmers who continually revise their efforts."  Did they plan multimedia in their design? "No." Television? "We did not." Browser capabilities within Win95? "Not at all," said Gates, "We were making tradeoffs all along."

When it came to his testimony of the email interface characteristics of Microsoft's Win95 operating system, Gates addressed the jury directly. At least two appeared disinterested and were not looking at him at all. "Were you afraid of Novell's competition?" asked Microsoft's attorney during direct examination. "No," Gates flatly and firmly replied.

Gates' testimony in Salt Lake City is expected to continue tomorrow morning, including cross-examination by Novell's attorneys. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion dollars in damages alleged by Novell. When it merged with WordPerfect and purchased Quattro Pro from Borland in 1994, Novell's valuation was near $1 billion. Less than two years later, Novell sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel for approximately $170 million.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Utah's Reapportionment Blues

Story and Video ©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved


Sure, everyone knows that Utah is a red state. SO RED, that the current president of the United States didn't even bother to campaign there in 2008. With the most recent census allowing Utah another seat in congress, (a feeble attempt to do that earlier, in exchange for their congressional delegation's support for D.C. statehood, failed miserably) the state's reapportionment committee held several weeks worth of meetings to solicit public input and place the process on display for the voters to witness and attempt to understand. Utah has enough democrats to send a congressman from their party to Washington more than once in the recent past, but their ability to do so in 2012 has likely perished now that the playing fields have been redefined to favor those with rabidly conservative, republican-only, views.

When it all came down to a special session of the state's legislature to adopt the four new congressional district boundaries, the minority leaders claimed it was only for a privileged few to decide without any compromise or credible opposition. Sophisticated computer analysis using census tract information, demographics and psychographics allowed districts to be drawn privately. This insured the votes required to send four conservative republicans from the Beehive State to congress with insufficient challenge, the democrats charged. Many claim that these "red meat" conservatives will go to congress praising the Tea Party – Don't Tread on Me platform for their constituents too lazy or underinformed to understand that taxation without representation is not even the precedent. (Do these pols even know there was a "Whiskey Rebellion?")

State Representative Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) rose on the evening of the final adoption to declare that the evil federal government was taking dollars away from the state's schools via the designation of public lands as wilderness areas; so by his logic, Utah just had to send four conservatives back to congress to straighten everything out and save the children. He could have been speaking Japanese to the democrats who claim that public education is not a priority with their loyal opposition. (Indeed, their overwhelmingly republican legislature approved more funding for highways than education during the last lawmaking session, and several of the GOP are attempting to divert public monies to charter school organizations).

One of the few democrats on the reapportionment committee was state Senator Ben McAdams. He spoke to some of his constituents with an insider's view of just how gerrymandering works in a state where the dominant culture reveres virtuous principles like fairness and honesty and where this month, traditionally democratic Salt Lake County was carved and served up for the U.S. congress just the way the republicans wanted it to be. VIDEO:   

Utah State Senator BEN McADAMS on Reapportionment - Oct. 14, 2011
Video ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved

McAdams explained that at one point, the process stalemated for almost 48 hours even with a plurality on the republican side of the aisle. The problem, he said, was that the republican caucus didn't anticipate that so many egos in the Utah House of Representatives would want to run for congress – the big show. At that point it became a private, intramural skirmish while the democratic minority, along with the public, waited. Majority leaders are quick to point out that this is the way that the voters of their state want it. The seats don't belong to any party, they say. The seats belong "to the best candidates." Left in a district without any hope of re-election, Utah's lone democratic congressman, Jim Matheson, now ponders a run for U.S. Senate or even the governorship.

In the end, more than a million taxpayer dollars and several weeks effort came down to a last-minute designation that was unveiled only a few days before it was adopted without public input, created by party bosses, behind closed doors. With minority objections, one of the reddest states got even more red.

Especially in Utah, more might makes more right.


Then, more Utah reapportionment insight, including the republican view, here:

and here:

and more committee video here:

Friday, October 7, 2011

OccupySLC in the Rain

Video and story by Michael Orton

Some wore suits with neckties and wingtips. Some wore mountain gear. They had a late start compared to their counterparts in New York, where the movement had grown to more than ten thousand by this day. At Utah's capitol, approximately 250 people showed up even though the National Weather Service had warned that they'd be in the area's first big storm of the season. They came anyway. Unions, political parties, minority representatives as well as moms and pops who were just tired of what they called, "corporate greed."

The citizens' drumbeat was constant.

Video of OccupySLC – ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders. All Rights Reserved

So they assembled in the cold morning rain, and by the time they marched to the city's Pioneer Park more than a mile away, the mountains of northern Utah were showing their first blanket of snow. The placards got soggy, but the resolve remained undiluted because, like many others, they were concerned about the disparity of wealth in the nation. A couple of days before, Nick Kristoff of the New York Times had said that, "in effect, the banks have succeeded in socializing risk while privatizing profits."

These people agreed.

And nearby, lobbyists at the statehouse were requesting privileges at the capitol health club (presumably to be closer to the legislators) and to begin valet parking service there. Utah lawmakers had scheduled meetings on the following day to determine how a fourth congressional district would be defined, fueling rumours that the state's democratic party would be gerrymandered out of existence.

In Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park, the Utah demonstrators were pitching tents to stay awhile, to let people know that they meant business, too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Herbert to Obama: "Give Me LESS Money!"

text and video by Michael Orton
©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved

Among the western states, perhaps nowhere is the Tea Party's state's rights song sung louder than in Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert recently hosted the National Governor's Association annual conference in July. Reporting on his state's record, he spoke of an exchange he had with Pres. Barack Obama were he made a case for helping Mr. Obama balance the federal budget.

Utah Governor GARY HERBERT on his state's relationship with federal monies
Video Running Time 1:27 – copyright 2011 ImageProviders

"I've talked with President Obama personally. I said I will take less [federal] money, I'll help you balance your budget. You give me lessmoney... but just take the darn strings off the money," pleaded Herbert. "Give me flexibility. We will find innovative ways to in fact make those dollars stretch. We'll do more with less. We've proven the state, we'll help you with your budget problems and we'll have a 'win-win' that's good for the taxpayers."

That assertion will make many Utahns proud, even if it proves to be a stumbling block to their understanding of why there are regulatory agencies organized at the federal level and why Utah is reliant on federal tax monies returning to their state. Since Utah's demographics reflect a "large family" orientation, education funding there has come under scrutiny for per-pupil spending.

The "strings" that most often are assailed by Herbert's republican legislature, among other ultra-conservatives and tea party advocates, are those imposed by federal agencies responsible for setting standards and regulations which some say benefit the entire nation and beyond. Earlier in the year, automakers in several states praised the EPA codification of vehicle emission standards because the manufacturers were not interested in having to respond to a salad of differing emissions and efficiency regulations imposed by individual state governments.

Utahns concerned about under-regulated oil and gas operations and pollution in their state may have been a minority there who helped to elect the nation's 44th president, and few believe that a republican elected to the White House in 2012 will be able to reverse actions taken to phase-out archaic methods of electricity production where more coal is mined than in Appalachia. Utah has a lot of coal to sell, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has said that the Obama administration is not opposed to using it to generate electricity, but that as a nation "we should do it more wisely." This may assure Utah's conservatives and a legislature used to extraction royalties coming from public lands, even if they continue the republican criticism of environmental protection from the federal government. The greater Salt Lake City area, known as "the Wasatch Front," has been dealing with non-attainment status on air quality targets for several years.

Herbert admits that even with an unemployment rate 2 points below the nation's average, there are still too many out of work in his state, which adopted a one-word motto from its inception: "Industry." Describing the example his state has tried to set in areas of fiscal prudence and legislative responsibility, "I would say it this way," offers Herbert, "Utah is an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos."

"Because," says the governor, "of the dysfunctionality" in Washington, D.C., "There are areas where D.C. and other states have fallen away;" using parlance that describes apostasy in Utah on any Sunday, "They have lost their way from good principles."

"Congress is good at doing two things," Herbert asserted, "One: Doing nothing. That's the 'kick it down the road' attitude we've heard, and Two: Overreacting." His solution? In Utah, the governor cites political leadership bent on their own understanding of "fiscal prudence," which to many, including the governor, creates "certainty in the marketplace."

"So that [investment] capital says, 'Hey, that's a good place to go.'"

Governor Herbert will present his budget for 2012 to his legislature in December, and said "I expect it will be a good blueprint of correct prioritization. We'll put the amount of money that we ought to be putting into transportation that will be appropriate. We'll put the amount of money that needs to go into education and the growth pressures we feel to fund the growth in education, to make sure that's a priority." He went on to describe budget priorities for "Health and human services, the 'safety net' aspects, as well as our beautiful vistas and venues that we call our state parks." On the latter funding for his state's parks, he deferred some of the solution to private interest capital and foundation money.

This coming December, many eyes will be on the budget proposals Governor Herbert specifies, especially the funding amounts contributed by federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Transportation, whose director personally brought funds to the Beehive State that were allocated for ongoing light rail and mass transit projects earlier in the year. Excluding several million dollars in education funding and the unique situation Utah enjoys with their Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, there are many federal dollars coming into the state from the USDA, the NSA and other agencies which will likely not be acknowledged in the governor's budget or the minds of the arch conservatives in his bi-cameral, monocultured state house.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Living the Future Today

Content developed by ImageProviders
Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Closely linked to the future of journalism, the regulation and development of the worldwide web is of serious interest to those who seek truth and communicate it. Educators, researchers, elected officials and journalists all should have some kind of situational awareness as we proceed along the timeline now well into the 21st century. Some say that private industry should provide the answer, but as has been shown before, often that leads to "natural monopolies" which can avoid the interests of the public and make only a few players wealthy beyond anyone's imagination.

Welcome to Gig.U, and Internet2 and the next iteration of the internet. Once the world's first packet switching network developed as the ARPANET by the Department of Defense, the web is now emerging as a super-broadband infrastructure among research universities. (Are you listening, @UUtah and @uscannenberg ?) ImageProviders asked Elise Kohn (formerly assigned to the FCC as policy advisor) to comment on the latest effort at Gig.U. Not one to use words when a thousand pictures will do, we came up with the following material that explains the current thinking on the development of a new, worldwide web.

You're welcome.