Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Group Home Applicant to Sue if Eagle Mountain Doesn't Grant Approval April 7

As discussed here, Eagle Mountain is considering an application for a group home for substance abuse rehabilitation. The application was tabled at the last city council meeting, and is now scheduled to be reviewed again at the meeting on April 7th. In a Daily Herald news article, Gloria Boberg, executive director of The Ark of Eagle Mountain, threatened to sue the city if the application is not approved on that date.

I find the threat quite distasteful. I understand Ms. Boberg's frustration at the delay, particularly since this is not the first city to put numerous obstacles in the way of one of her homes. However, I think our city council is doing a great job of due diligence to ensure that the home will be everything it says it will be, and that any negative impact on the community will be mitigated.

Threats of legal action ahead of the council meeting do nothing to endear Ms. Boberg and her group home to the community. It simply will ensure that more angry residents will be at the April 7th meeting ready to speak out against the home.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stunned by Hopium

John Kass, in the Chicago Tribune:
Obama told Jay Leno he was surprised that those greedy AIG executives who helped lead the country into financial ruin were in line to receive $165 million in bonuses paid for by bailout cash authorized by his administration.

"Stunned, stunned is the word," said Obama.


It turns out that his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—who didn't pay all of his federal taxes but was still deemed worthy by Obama of collecting yours—knew all about the AIG bonuses weeks ago.

That was long before Washington Democrats began shrieking in pretend outrage over the bonuses, as if they didn't vote for them, sort of like Chicago aldermen shrieking about corruption from the 5th Floor.

It's like Mayor Richard Daley saying, "Gee, I dunno" when news breaks that his nephews are in another multimillion-dollar government deal. Or that time that Daley gave $100 million in affirmative action contracts to men he knows well, yet was stunned to learn later that they were white guys, not black females.

These days, the Washington Way is looking just like the Chicago Way. Those of us from Illinois can see it, what with City Hall guys pulling White House strings.

Then again, we're not surprised because we don't get the high-grade Hopium out here in the Midwest. The good stuff must be reserved for the Beltway media establishment, since they're the ones feeling tingles running up their legs.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

President Now Backing Away From Middle Class Tax Cut Campaign Promise

In 1993.

Plan To Reduce Charitable Deduction Will Cost Charities $7 Billion

So argues Martin Feldstein of the Washington Post,
President Obama's proposal to limit the tax deductibility of charitable contributions would effectively transfer more than $7 billion a year from the nation's charitable institutions to the federal government. But the high-income taxpayers affected by the rule change are likely to cut their charitable giving by as much as the increase in their tax bills, which would, ironically, leave their remaining income and personal consumption unchanged.

In effect, the change would be a tax on the charities,
reducing their receipts by a dollar for every dollar of extra revenue the government collects. It is hard to imagine a rationale for taxing schools, hospitals, medical research budgets and arts organizations in this way. I suspect that the administration officials who drafted this proposal did not understand that it would have this perverse effect.

Friday, March 27, 2009

How To Get An Entire Industry To Change Its Tune On Taxes

But the American auto industry, under pressure, has invested heavily in the small-car and hybrid market. So it should probably not be a surprise that auto industry leaders like Alan Mulally of Ford have called for higher gas taxes, an idea Detroit once abhorred.
US automakers got creamed by the media, politicians, and the public last year when gas prices soared to $4 a gallon. Detroit brought it on themselves by not making high mpg vehicles, the saying went. Problem is, besides the fact that mpg had little to do with Detroit's problems, after being "under pressure" to build countless more small, fuel efficient cars, no one is buying them now.

Whereas last summer dealers couldn't keep a Prius on the lot for two days, now they're sitting for an average of 80 days. Not only that, but even though hybrids are always more expensive than their gas powered equivalent, carmakers make zero profit on them.

So why are US automakers pumping them out like crazy? Because the government made them. All that bailout money comes with strings attached. Not to mention the PR motivation brought on by the political grandstanding of last year. So now Detroit is on a quest to be the hybrid capitol of the world, just in time for gas prices to fall under $2 and decimate the artificial stimulus for the consumer to buy them.

Which is where the tax policy lesson comes in.

At the government's urging, Detroit makes tons of expensive cars no one wants to buy. The loss of consumer demand is blamed on low(er) gas prices. Detroit suddenly changes its tune on raising the gas tax.

So after using tax payer money to bail out car companies, we now get to pay higher prices for gasoline...to bail out the car companies.

Class dismissed.

This Is Disturbing

"Because the American taxpayer now owns 80 percent of AIG, they should have full access to anything and everything they own, including their country club memberships, their recreation facilities, their built-in swimming pools"
So said Jeff Meyer, a passerby to the protests outside of an AIG employee's house.

More light reading:

NY Times on “Jackpot Jimmy”:
The words came haltingly. "You have to understand,” he said, “there are kids involved, there have been death threats. ..." His voice trailed off. It looked as if he was fighting back tears.

"I didn’t have anything to do with those credit problems,” said Mr. Haas, 47. “I told Mr. Liddy” — Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G., the insurance giant — “I would rescind my retention contract.”
Wall Street Journal
NY Times: Dear AIG, I Quit
Washington Post

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Should Eagle Mountain Allow A Substance Abuse Treatment Home In Its City?

I went to my city council meeting last week to hear the debate surrounding whether or not to allow a substance abuse group home in Eagle Mountain. The home would be called Ark of Eagle Mountain and would house up to eight people undergoing substance abuse rehabilitation programs in a residential neighborhood of EM. The original application was filed with the city last fall, and this meeting was to hear public comment and put the group home application to a final vote.

The public comment period was filled with neighbors who vehemently oppose the home. There were a few common themes running through their comments, namely:

*The home would devalue property
*EM is not the right place for a home ie. they'd be better off in a city
*Security concerns
*Questions as to motivation - supposedly the homeowners were stuck in an unsellable spec home and this is how they're getting out of it.

After the public comment period ended, the executive director of the home addressed the concerns expressed:

*Residents of the home have chosen rehab - they aren't forced there by drug court etc
*Residents will be professionals - doctors, lawyers, dentists, and some will be war veterans
*There is 24/7 supervision, including cameras, alarms, lockdowns at night
*A similar home they operate in Sandy has never had any security problems - no complaints filed, and the neighbors love them
*It's wrong to fear that the home will bring addicts to EM - they're already here. The only difference is that these addicts have chosen rehabilitation.
*Complaints against this home are just example of NIMBY

Following the Ark's response, the city council members commented, as well as asked questions of the Ark and of the city's legal counsel. None of the council are in favor of allowing the home, but are apparently resigned to the fact that federal law prevents them from disallowing it. Some expressed anger at being in this position, feeling as though the home is being forced on the community by threat of lawsuit.

During this time a representative from the county sheriff's office presented his research that the Ark's home in Sandy has not had any security calls to the home, and a home in EM would not increase our policing costs.

In the end, the council voted to postpone the vote until April 7. They want a landscaping plan submitted, as well as a more thorough report on public safety concerns. The Ark's representatives left visibly irritated at another delay, and after leaving there was a small argument between them and one of the citizens who spoke against the home.

I am actually quite conflicted on this issue. After hearing the public comments, I too thought they sounded like little more than NIMBY. However, when one of the council members remarked that if you polled 100 people none of them would want this home next door to them, I found myself nodding in agreement. However, I feel that the home's operators have answered every question, complied with every request, and, perhaps most significantly, they have a sufficient track record of safety to allay any security concerns the community may have. For these reasons I don't believe the council should stand in the way of the home any longer.

Ark of Sandy
Daily Herald Editorial
Councilman David Lifferth's notes from the meeting
SL Tribune
Daily Herald
Deseret News

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does This Mean Anything?

Investors Business Daily is touting the following economic information as indicators that the economy is on the upswing. I wonder, is it true?

• A broad rally in stocks, confirmed last Thursday, continuing into this week and led by the beaten-down financials.

• A surprising 22% surge in February housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units.

• A back-to-back jump in retail sales ex autos, in both January and February.

• A return to profitability at several major banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan.

• A doubling in the obscure but important Baltic Dry Index, a key indicator of global trade flows.

• An upwardly sloping yield curve, which Fed research suggests all but ensures a rebound by year-end.

• A Housing Affordability Index that has hit an all-time high.

• A two-month improvement in wholesale used-car prices, measured by the Manheim Index.

• A rise in Monster's Employment Index in February, suggesting a turn in the job market may be around the corner.

• A 4 1/2-year high in the dollar against other major currencies, on a trade-weighted basis.

• A sharp increase in the money supply, as measured by M2 and M1. Weekly M2 growth has averaged 10.1% year-over-year since the start of 2009, while M1 has grown at a 14.6% rate.

• A two-month rally in the Index of Leading Indicators.

• A growing body of evidence that the "liquidity crunch" is dead. Data show nearly $14 trillion in liquidity on the sidelines of the markets, ready to boost consumer spending, credit growth or further stock market gains.

This list could go on, but you get the general idea: Below the surface of gloom, there are signs of a new vibrancy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why Mormons Build Temples

Noble Fatherhood

“Brethren, noble fatherhood gives us a glimpse of the divine attributes of our Father in Heaven. A father should be many things. He should magnify his priesthood and be an example of righteousness. In companionship with his wife, he should be the source of stability and strength for the whole family. He should be the protector and the provider and the champion of the members of his family. Much of his love for his children should flow from his example of love, concern, and fidelity for their mother. By his uncompromising example he should instill character into his children.”

James E. Faust, “Them That Honour Me I Will Honour,” Liahona, July 2001,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pure Genius in Print


LDS Humanitarian Efforts

"The scripture passages "As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40) and "Remember in all things the poor and the needy" (D&C 52:40) take on special meaning as we review highlights of humanitarian endeavors.

The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things that you do for others remain as your legacy."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Terresa Carreno Youth Orchestra w/ Gustavo Dudamel

Another great TED Talk:
The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra (Sinfónica Juvenil Teresa Carreño) is the national high school age youth orchestra of El Sistema, Venezuela's groundbreaking, life-changing musical education program.

Here is Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, speaking about the program, accepting his TED prize, and announcing his wish:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Deron Williams is Better Than Chris Paul

Here's why, according to Charlie Rosen:

# He's much stronger than CP3 and should therefore be more resistant to serious injuries.

# Because of his size and strength, Williams can post up smaller opponents (like Paul), and can avoid being posted himself (unlike Paul).

# It should be expected that an injury or Father Time will eventually diminish Paul's amazing speed and quickness — and when speed guards lose a step, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

# Williams is much more versatile, so much so that it's not inconceivable he could make a successful switch to the shooting-guard spot as he ages.

# Williams is a much, much better jump-shooter than CP3.

# Whereas Paul does most of his half-court scoring in conjunction with high screen/rolls, Williams benefits from weak-side screens, staggered screens, and isolations.

# Williams goes left better than Paul.

# In half-court situations, Williams' power makes him a better finisher.

# Paul is a sniper-type defender, while Williams' defense is more fundamental and less chancy.

None of this is meant to suggest that Paul is anything less than the most dangerous speed guard in the league. He's also an incredible passer, and he plays in a system that maximizes his considerable skills.

But, I'll bet your mortgage that Williams will have a better all-around career than Paul.

The LDS Church Statement on Big Love: The Publicity Dilemma


Like other large faith groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes finds itself on the receiving end of attention from Hollywood or Broadway, television series or books, and the news media. Sometimes depictions of the Church and its people are quite accurate. Sometimes the images are false or play to stereotypes. Occasionally, they are in appallingly bad taste.

As Catholics, Jews and Muslims have known for centuries, such attention is inevitable once an institution or faith group reaches a size or prominence sufficient to attract notice. Yet Latter-day Saints – sometimes known as Mormons - still wonder whether and how they should respond when news or entertainment media insensitively trivialize or misrepresent sacred beliefs or practices.

Church members are about to face that question again. Before the first season of the HBO series Big Love aired more than two years ago, the show’s creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn’t be about Mormons. However, Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous. And according to TV Guide, it now seems the show’s writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies.

Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding. Last week some Church members began e-mail chains calling for cancellations of subscriptions to AOL, which, like HBO, is owned by Time Warner. Certainly such a boycott by hundreds of thousands of computer-savvy Latter-day Saints could have an economic impact on the company. Individual Latter-day Saints have the right to take such actions if they choose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series. As Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve Apostles have both said recently, when expressing themselves in the public arena, Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves with dignity and thoughtfulness.

Not only is this the model that Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in his own life, but it also reflects the reality of the strength and maturity of Church members today. As someone recently said, “This isn’t 1830, and there aren’t just six of us anymore.” In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly. The Church’s strength is in its faithful members in 170-plus countries, and there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church.


* During the Mitt Romney election campaign for the presidency of the United States, commentator Lawrence O’Donnell hurled abuse at the Church in a television moment that became known among many Church members as “the O’Donnell rant.” Today, his statements are remembered only as a testament to intolerance and ignorance. They had no effect on the Church that can be measured.
* When the comedy writers for South Park produced a gross portrayal of Church history, individual Church members no doubt felt uncomfortable. But once again it inflicted no perceptible or lasting damage to a church that is growing by at least a quarter of a million new members every year.
* When an independent film company produced a grossly distorted version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre two years ago, the Church ignored it. Perhaps partly as a result of that refusal to engender the controversy that the producers hoped for, the movie flopped at the box office and lost millions.
* In recent months, some gay activists have barraged the media with accusations about “hateful” attitudes of Latter-day Saints in supporting Proposition 8 in California, which maintained the traditional definition of marriage. They even organized a protest march around the Salt Lake Temple. Again, the Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful. Meanwhile, missionary work and Church members in California remain as robust and vibrant as ever, and support for the Church has come from many unexpected quarters — including some former critics and other churches.

Now comes another series of Big Love, and despite earlier assurances from HBO it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show’s fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints.

If the Church allowed critics and opponents to choose the ground on which its battles are fought, it would risk being distracted from the focus and mission it has pursued successfully for nearly 180 years. Instead, the Church itself will determine its own course as it continues to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Eagle Mountain City Councilman on UTA Express Line to Provo

A UTA express bus line is coming to Eagle Mountain this Spring. I discussed the line here and here. I had questions concerning the cost and subsidy the bus line required, particularly since the cost to ride the bus remains pretty high.

Well, on my city councilman's website, someone asked when we were going to get an express line to Provo/Orem. Here is his reply:
The biggest factor will be the number of bus riders on the upcoming express bus route to Salt Lake City from Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain. If that route has a significant number of dailly riders and that bus route comes close to breaking even financially, then more bus routes will be considered. If those 2 express bus routes are not at or near capacity, then it will take a longer time for additional routes to be considered by UTA.

The second factor is funding. This new bus route was jump started with a $200k federal grant to expand bus services. If there is more transporation grant money avialable, then that would increase the likelyhood of expanded bus routes.

The third factor is the sales tax revenue. Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs residents voted to pay a quarter of a percnet more sales tax to subsidize the bus services to our area. If the sales taxes generated from our 2 cities makes up any shortfall that the 2 express bus routes, then we help our chances in getting additional routes.

The 4th is a bit of an unknown. There are efforts available to put all of Utah County into the UTA transportation district. There is legal wrangling about this and I don't know how much support there is county wide to join the transportation district. If we, as a county, join the UTA do join there will be expanded bus routes county-wide and that will also increase our chances of additional bus lines.

The bottom line is that we are in the in a trial/test/pilot/evaluation period to see the success of what we already have. It if works out as a positive thing and capacity and percentage of ridership his high, then we probably get more options. We will have to wait and see.
So after hundreds of thousands of federal dollars, tens of thousands of city tax dollars, plus $160 a month per person to ride the bus, there are concerns that UTA won't break even by driving two buses to Salt Lake City and back five days a week? I don't get it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Employee Free Choice Act

Soon to be up for consideration in Congress is the Employee Free Choice Act. According to the Huffington Post, Big Labor is "very pleased" that President Obama has been more outspoken in his support for the bill.

However, Larry Summers, Secretary of the Treasury under president Bill Clinton, and now head of the White House's National Economic Council for President Barack Obama, once wrote,
"Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization. High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy. Also, those who lose high-wage union jobs are often reluctant to accept alternative low-wage employment."
The "Free Choice" act would make unionizing much easier because among other things it would remove the requirement of secret ballots. According to Harvard economist Greg Mankiw that means, "union organizers would be able to use strong-arm tactics to get workers to say they support a union, even when privately the workers don't."

"Causes long-term unemployment" + "strong-arm tactics" doesn't seem to bode well...

"Generally it means being less productive"

Hold up. You mean to tell me that higher taxes cause less productivity?

Who knew?
"President Barack Obama's tax proposal – which promises to increase taxes for those families with incomes of $250,000 or more -- has some Americans brainstorming ways to decrease their pay.

"I've put thought into how to get under $250,000," said Poczatek. "It would mean working fewer days which means having fewer employees, seeing fewer patients and taking time off."

"Generally it means being less productive," she said.

"The motivation for a lot of people like me – dentists, entrepreneurs, lawyers – is that the more you work the more money you make," said Poczatek. "But if I'm going to be working just to give it back to the government -- it's de-motivating and demoralizing."

Colorado dentist Poczatek says those who support the increase in taxes misunderstand what it means for those who will end up paying more.

"I'd like these people to know that we pay a lot of taxes, and have been paying a lot of taxes through the past administration," said Pcozatek.

"We make a lot of money, it's true, but we also already pay a lot of taxes," she said.

"So maybe we got a little bit successful but we worked very hard," she said. "It's taken us over 30 years and it didn't happen overnight. Every day is a lot of work.

"We're working for it and we're still overtaxed."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama's Change on Iraq

President Obama spoke about the Iraq War recently. There were a few things that caught my eye because of their contrasts to the rhetoric used by the president and the president's party since 2003.
"To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process"
First, this sounds like something President Bush would have said - and been ridiculed for. In fact, it sounds quite similar to what General Petraeus told Congress about the surge two years ago. Statements which of course got him summarily dismissed and ridiculed.

It also stands out in stark contrast to what Candidate Obama said in February 2007,
"We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."
Another point from the president's speech that stands in contrast to the last 8 years is when President Obama called General Petraeus one of "our finest Generals" - forgetting, obviously, Petraeus's real name - "General Betray Us"

Throwing a bone to all the "we want a timetable" screechers of the last eight years, the president said he came "to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end." Which was apparently another example of his forgetfulness - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told us "This War is Lost" two years ago.

President Obama also had many nice things to say about the military in his speech,
"And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
Which must be news to these guys; I doubt they think our soldiers achieved much in Iraq. But who can blame them, since neither did our president during his run for the White House?

The truth is, President Obama is simply following the trajectory set up and made possible by President Bush's last two years in office. There is nothing new or revelatory in this speech or in Obama's policy. The only thing strikingly new and different about it is the change in tone and tenor in the way the president - and by extension, the president's party - talks about Iraq.

After years of doom and gloom, we suddenly see the bright side.

I Wonder If We Could Get Jimmy Buffet...

Las Vegas continues to get pounded because of its image. After an initial refusal to cancel their incentive trip to Vegas, Wells Fargo finally caved to public pressure:
Wells Fargo & Co. abruptly canceled Tuesday a pricey Las Vegas casino junket for employees after a torrent of criticism that it was misusing $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money.

The company initially defended the trip after The Associated Press reported it had booked 12 nights beginning Friday at the Wynn Las Vegas and the Encore Las Vegas. But within hours, investigators and lawmakers on Capitol Hill had scorned the bank, and the company canceled.

The conference is a Wells Fargo tradition. Previous all-expense-paid trips have included helicopter rides, wine tasting, horseback riding in Puerto Rico and a private Jimmy Buffett concert in the Bahamas for more than 1,000 of the company's top employees and guests.
Utah's got to be looking better and better...

The Great Depression as Seen Through the Eyes of a Child

My grandmother sent this to me last week. I've been to Monroe where she grew up, and I've seen the house she writes of here. It truly was a different world they lived in, and what's truly remarkable to me is to think that it wasn't really that long ago.

Great Depression Through Eyes of Child