October 31, 2014

Dan Liljenquist is Right

GOV_dan-liljenquist-1There’s been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about Dan Liljenquist’s op-ed in the Deseret News along the lines of “how dare Dan do this, Mike Lee is a patriot!” or “Senators Cruz, Lee, and Paul are right.” What gets lost in all of this talk is one simple little truth:

Dan Liljenquist agrees with you.

How could that be? He said that Senator Lee was wrong. What got lost in the message is that he didn’t say that Senator Lee had the wrong content, just the wrong tone. Instead of working to advance his goals via negotiations, via using his influence to build relationships and then persuading people to come over to his side (to repurpose a metaphor in the article), he doused the middle ground in gasoline and set it on fire. His tone was so strident, so unyielding, and so virulent that no Democrat in his right mind would support him. In other words, because his tone was so combative, he didn’t have any opportunity to actually influence the debate in a positive direction.

Official portrait of United States Senator Mik...

Official portrait of United States Senator Mike Lee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve heard Senator Lee compared to Senator Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts Republican who was beaten with a cane on the Senate floor for his support for abolitionism. What’s more amazing is that this comparison has been made in the vein of “he’s amazing, he’s just like Sen. Sumner, willing to fall on his petard for his convictions.” That’s all well and good, and I appreciate him having those convictions. At the same time, is that how Senator Lee should be remembered – as a footnote in the history books? As the answer to a trivia question in 2140? Wouldn’t it be better if he was remembered not as a footnote, but as someone who actually helped fix our constitutional issues, instead of the guy who stood up there waving his US Constitution on bow of a sinking ship (to mix my metaphors).

What’s lost in the Sumner comparison is that Sumner didn’t help free the slaves. He didn’t do one thing to solve that particular problem. He’s not Lincoln’s forbearer, he’s not someone who made the US stronger. On the contrary. He’s a Senator who went in to the Senate and helped polarize the nation enough that not only was he beaten half to death on the Senate floor, but who also helped contribute to the deaths of 750,000 Americans in the Civil War.

Would the Civil War have happened if Sumner had been more of a uniter instead of a divider, to borrow a Bush-like turn of phrase? Nobody knows, and it’s not necessarily ideal to armchair quarterback the issue from 150 years in the future. What I do know is he certainly drove his own personal wedge in an already divided nation. That’s what Senator Lee has done, is staked his position and driven his wedge.

What he should have done is thrown his wedge away and worked as much as possible with the other side to stop the ACA (Obamacare). Perhaps he could have pulled out a one year delay in its implementation. That’s something that even strident progressives like Jon Stewart support. Perhaps he could have then used that time to work on his fellow Republicans to work with their colleagues and friends on the other side to mitigate, further delay, or stop all or part of the ACA from happening. At the end, we will never know because he chose to do his part in driving the Senate apart.

It’s my opinion that there is no honor in being the lone voice in the wilderness driving people away with an uncompromising, unlistening voice. What there is honor in is being that voice of sanity and of reason and bringing others over to your side, thereby actually causing change instead of just screaming at the top of your lungs that people should change. That is ultimately what I think Dan Liljenquist was saying, and I agree with him.

 

 

Just Another Government Shutdown Rant

President Obama Delivers A Statement On The Budget - DCEveryone else is sounding off on the government shutdown today, so I might as well chime in before real information becomes available and all the bloviating and pontificating and ranting and raving becomes just so much dross and drivel and we find out what the effect of the shutdown really is.


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First off, I doubt the shutdown will be as bad as the hype. There’s no doubt that there will be real world effects, but consider the motivations of the naysayers. Democrats benefit from making the Republicans look bad (and Republicans will look bad), news media benefits from a crisis because it’s the only time people watch, and the Republicans who are forcing the shutdown are raising gobs of money from the activists who support their actions.  But will the world stop?

No. Government shutdown has happened before (seventeen times, including eight times during the Reagan Administration) and we’ve survived.

But there’s a saying out there–“never let a crises go to waste“–and few politically savvy people are letting this one pass them by.

Second, Republicans are going to get the blame. In spite of this, few Congressional Republicans will see the effects at the ballot box. While Congress regularly receives low marks in polling, individual Members of Congress tend to poll well with their constituents…which means Congressional approval ratings are largely pointless (and so, in a somewhat-ancillary-to-this-shutdown-rant, I wish the news and associated bloviators would stop pushing those particular statistics). We don’t vote nationally on retaining Congress as a whole but locally on retaining individual Representatives. Ergo, the only polls that matter are for each individual member of Congress.

And they’re not going to be significantly harmed by like-minded majorities in their districts. I’ve heard it said that the United States Congress has a higher incumbency rate than the Peoples Republican of Korea (North Korea). I doubt it’s true, but it is telling.

US Senators, on the other hand, beholden to statewide constituencies that cannot be redistricted into more favorable mixes of voters (as House districts are), may face more push back at the ballot box to the extent that voters recall the government shutdown of 2013. If voters remember, and see their Senator as connected, then some Senators may feel the pinch.

(On the other hand, after watching half a dozen Senators take to the floor to express their “outrage” at the shutdown in the same terms that I would use to talk about the weather with a random stranger on the street, maybe it would be good for them to feel a pinch of emotion every now and then).

closedlincoln.banner.AP.jpgLast, while individual Republicans and Democrats will get reelected in districts favorably drawn to their best advantage, and even Senators might survive reelection battles, Republicans will be impacted by the battle on the national stage, especially in the Presidential campaign. While the Presidential election is still three years away, Republicans will find the failure by both parties to work out a compromise as an albatross they must explain, especially since many of the GOP frontrunners are currently in the national legislature.  Democrats will repeatedly beat them on why they chose to attack a healthcare law that had been passed, upheld by the Supreme Court, and as yet not fully implemented, rather than just tweak the law to repair problems. People may hate “Obamacare,” but they are more equivocal about the actual benefits promised by the Affordable Care Act.

Instead of finding resolution to immigration–either in one package or piece meal ala Senator Lee– or ending the National Security Agencies domestic spying programs or working on our relationship with Iran and Syria or any number of public policy areas, Republicans have opposed the implementation of Obamacare in a series of moves that create the visual effect of obstinacy, not diplomacy and leadership.  A “filibuster” (which really wasn’t a filibuster) on the floor of the Senate plays great for the base, but doesn’t win fans among your opponents or the middle voter.

Or, as it might be said, you win more friends with honey than with vinegar.  Filibuster and government shutdown is more vinegar than honey. As much as I may agree on policy grounds with House Republicans, I cannot see how the optics of the actions does anything to change or reform the Affordable Care Act, let alone stop its implementation.

Because even as the government shutdown, the healthcare exchanges still went into effect today.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and a place to stand and fight.  However, the way this fight is playing out can only reflect poorly on Republicans. They deserve credit for holding their ground, but they are falling short in their efforts to pin the blame on President Obama and Democrats for the lack of compromise. As such, whether it is reality or not, anger and frustration for the government shutdown is going to fall on the Republicans.

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To filibuster or not to filibuster…

Paul Rand filibuster

When is a filibuster an effective tool to raise public awareness? And when is it the anti-democratic tool of the minority to stop legislation it opposes?


A couple weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took to the Senate floor to speak against the nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA because Paul opposed the Obama Administration’s drone policy, largely crafted by Brennan. Previous to Paul’s filibuster, Gallup found that only 26% of Americans opposed using drones to kill Americans abroad. After, that number swung dramatically, doubling to 52% opposed.

With the shift in public opinion to bolster him, Paul called the filibuster a victory (though some question whether he overstates his success). The same Gallup poll also noted that less than half of Americans are following the news about drones “closely.”

In other words, we’re busy people, and the Obama Administration’s drone policy is just one more thing to follow. Hence, the success of Rand’s filibuster. It raised an otherwise marginal issue to the level of our attention.

Could it work again?

(Left to Right): Senator Rand Paul, Senator Michael Lee, and Senator Ted Cruz

(Left to Right): Senator Rand Paul, Senator Michael Lee, and Senator Ted Cruz

Senators Michael Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, and, of course, Paul, have indicated that while they are not going to the Senate floor to talk about the Second Amendment in another speaking filibuster, they will, in a “silent” filibuster require a sixty-vote majority to move any gun regulation to a vote. In a statement this morning, Lee warned that any attempts by the administration to push gun controls through Congress will see another speaking filibuster from the Senate floor.

[T]his debate is about more than magazine clips and pistol grips. It is about the purpose of the Second Amendment and why our constitutionally protected right to self-defense is an essential part of self-government. Any legislation that would restrict our basic right to self-defense deserves robust and open debate.  Requiring a 60-vote threshold helps ensure that we have that debate rather than skipping directly to the back room deals, horse trading, and business-as-usual politics that typifies the way Congress passes legislation today.

The White House does not relish the prospect of having legislation, even legislation that probably won’t pass, not receive a vote on the floor. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that

“Filibusters of efforts to move forward with common-sense measures to reduce gun violence would be unfortunate. We have worked with Congress, with the Senate, to try to advance the elements of the president’s plan that require legislative action and these again are common-sense measures.”

Calling it ‘unfortunate’ is , as Kyle Becker put it, akin to “how a guy who owes a loan shark ten grand falls down a flight of stairs and that is ‘unfortunate.’”

While I agree with Lee that the debate on the Second Amendment needs to happen prior to the passage of any gun control bill, I don’t know that a procedural filibuster, by itself, pushes the debate onto the public sphere the way he seems to want. Speaking filibusters, like Paul’s earlier this month, occur with enough infrequency that their impact is more significant.

On the other hand, procedural filibusters happen frequently enough that many from both parties have considered doing away with them. It’s a procedural move that allows a minority to block majority action without a three-fifths majority override.  In contrast to the speaking filibuster that lays out the arguments dramatically for the world to watch and consider, the silent filibuster might do more damage than good because it appears to be anti-democratic and does not provide any argument for the public to consider.

In any respect, the debate on how we regulate guns is important and should occur. The President’s bully pulpit wields a disproportionate impact on public opinion, and a speaking filibuster as a means of communicating to the American public may be just what is necessary to return the Senate to its place as an effect check on the power of the presidency.

An exclusive with Senator Marco Rubio

Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee meet with the press on Thursday morning.

Of all the adventures we’ve had here in Tampa, this morning’s opportunity to ask two questions of Senator Marco Rubio–exclusive among Utah’s press–will be a highlight.

Unlike yesterday when a miscommunication in the Utah GOP resulted in closing an intimate Chris Christie event to the press, today we had an exclusive opportunity to ask high-profile Senator and conservative favorite Marco Rubio two questions after his meeting with the Utah delegation. (We spoke to the RNC folks tasked with helping the surrogates and they expressed surprise we were kept out of the Christie event. The event was designed to promote Romney and they had expected it to be open. Rumors swirled that it was due to various parties, but the reason remains unclear)

After speaking to the Utah delegation, winning them with stories about corralling his children by “zone defense,” the Utah delegation quickly stepped through a photo line. As soon as the last left the room, the doors closed, and we we’re given the nod to ask away.

I started with a softball. Click on the link to listen:  Exclusive with Marco Rubio.

 

Freedom Path’s “Outsourcing” Attack on Liljenquist Distorts Business Record

The latest mailer from Freedom Path falsifies Dan Liljenquist‘s business record. The shadowy group, organized legally as a political action committee, is running fast and loose with terms and smears Liljenquist with shoddy research, obscure sources, and false information. Frankly, it’s just dishonest.

Last week, I looked at the “Two Scoops” mailer sent out by the Freedom Path PAC (it’s also been called the “Double Dip” mailer). In that post, I found that the mailer was dishonest on all relevant facts, including flipping Dan Liljenquist and Chris Herrod’s record completely backward. Instead of noting that Liljenquist had passed groundbreaking pension reforms that made Utah a model for the nation, and that Herrod had supported and voted for those reforms, the mailer made it sound like Liljenquist and Herrod had tried to soften the reform.

Please check the post for the details, and please share it with those who may have received the mailers.

Today, we’re looking another mailer that attacks Liljenquist specifically. We could call it the “Outsourcing” mailer since it accuses Liljenquist of sending jobs to the Philippines at a time when the economy was at its lowest.

I found the mailer to be dishonest and to use several terms incorrectly.

Claims:

  1. Did Liljenquist “outsource” jobs overseas? Answer: No.The first claim the mailer makes is that Liljenquist is outsourcing American jobs. According to Wikipedia, “outsourcing” is the process of “contracting a business function to someone else.” For example, when I decide I don’t want to hire an in-house lawyer because the cost is too high, I call up Brown Law  and contract a lawyer to do the work. It costs me less because I don’t need to support the attorney on my payroll once the job is done, and it gets me a person who can do the job right. Businesses do this for printing (Kinkos, anyone?), deliveries (FedEx), data and office software (Google apps), and food (catering from any number of restaurants), just to name a few.  It’s a very common practice.  It saves company money, does not cut jobs from the economy, and allows specialized companies to provide services at a higher level of quality.In fact, Dan Liljenquist’s former business–Focus Services–was an outsourcing company. It was the company that other companies called when they wanted to hire call center to receive calls from customers. It saved American companies money and provided jobs here in Utah, as well as in other states. It was, and is, a successful company, by all reports, and is one of the top 100 privately held companies in America.

  2. Did Liljenquist’s company conduct “offshoring?  Answer: Not really.Wikipedia also  notes that “outsourcing” is often confused with “off-shoring,”  “though a function may be outsourced without offshoring or vice versa.” The “outsourcing mailer” seems to indicate that Liljenquist sent jobs abroad.  I tried to check the sources cited by Freedom Path. The sources were so obscure as to be  impossible to find online, if they exist at all.  One quote they use in the mailer is taken so completely out of context as to mean something different than what it was used for in the article.

    So I called Liljenquist’s campaign to ask.

    “Does Dan Liljenquist’s companyoutsource or offshore jobs to the Philippines,” I asked.“No,” came the answer when I spoke with a top campaign official.

    While Focus Services does employ people abroad–specifically in the Philippines, they are not a replacement for positions here in the US. Rather, they are in addition to them. Because Focus Services is an international company and has international clients, the company needs to have call centers that can answer calls twenty-four hours a day. Got a client that has customer calling during day light hours in North America? They route to the North American call centers in Roy and Ogden, Utah, or  Dubuque or Clinton, Iowa. One of Focus Services 1,300 employees answers the phone. But if the client has customers in India? Or Japan? Saudi Arabia? Moscow? With days that start long before the sun comes up over the east coast of North America, the company needed someone to answer the calls of customers not in sync with North America. To that end, the company hired an additional  two hundred employees in the Philippines.

    Let me be clear: this is not outsourcing because Focus Services is not hiring an outside company to do what it could do itself. Nor is it off-shoring because it is not sending jobs abroad–Focus Services did not decrease the jobs when hiring in the Philippines, but rather expanded to compensate for the needs of international customers.

Should we be attacking a successful businessman for being a successful businessman?

At this point, I can’t help but ask: do we really want to support the message that a businessman should be limited from growing his company if it benefits people who don’t live in the United States? Are we so narrow and shortsighted that we cannot see that an American company that serves customers internationally is going to create more wealth and jobs  in the United States, as well?

I’m not the only one asking the question. Check this from a letter from Alan Mortensen of Bountiful that he wrote to the Standard-Examiner:

Focus Services ranks 23 on the top 100 private companies in Utah by the Utah Business Magazine. I have had the opportunity to visit Focus Services’ international headquarters in Roy, Utah, where Focus provides jobs to hundreds of Utahns, and encourages them to better themselves through education and community service.

I have been to Dan’s facility in Rock Falls, Illinois and met with several of the families his company employees in a town whose steel industry long ago disappeared. They are proud to work for Focus. I have met his manager in the Dubuque, Iowa, facility, who fought back tears because his family had health insurance through Focus when his wife gave birth to a premature baby.

Dan Liljenquist’s company gives hope to many Utah and American families, and his company has made the ultimate sacrifice when four Focus Service employees, all U.S. citizens, were killed in a business-sponsored service trip to Guatemala to build a school for the poor. Dan Liljenquist survived that crash with horrible orthopedic injuries, and yet he continues to give hope to those American families who lost their loved ones. Attacking Dan for having an international company is akin to attacking the Utah based LDS Church for being an international church with a presence in the Philippines.

Powerful stuff.

Conclusion: Freedom Path is lying…again.

If it’s not clear from what I’ve already said, let me say it again: the “outsourcing” mailer is flat-out lying that Liljenquist is outsourcing or off-shoring American jobs.

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In case you didn’t know…now you do: How laws are made.

Utah Legislature Watch: a few bills I’m following

Conservative, moderate or liberal: there have been a few bills that bug me this session of the Utah Legislature, and there have been a few that I liked that just aren’t making it. Here are four that sample both.

  • One I liked: As biker, I liked Senator Niederhauser’s bill that would have allowed bikers at a stop sign to just slow down and not come to a full stop. I do that already, but it would have been nice to do it without looking for a police car. On a vote of 11-11, the Senate killed the bill. Arguing against the bill, Sen. Van Tassell from Vernal (do people ride bikes around in Vernal?) compared bikes to semi-trucks…? You know, because of the size similarities and how much bikers and semi-trucks are alike when it comes to the ability to hurt others.  Regardless, the bill is dead, and bikers will keep doing what they did before; slowing, then continuing through stop signs.
  • One I disliked: As a human being, I have not been impressed with the bills that Stephen Sandstrom has proposed to deal with immigration. I agree that the US immigration system is complicated, that a ton of people move here without going through the system (i.e. by way of the”the Southern Border Triathlon” consisting of run, climb, or swim), and I think that it needs to be fixed. However, it has become a source for demagogues to grandstand, and I think Sandstrom’s bill does little to help the problem. In fact, it uses standards that are very likely discriminatory, expensive, and likely unconstitutional.  Fortunately, Senate President Michael Waddups recognizes questionable language when he sees it, especially when it leads to racial profiling: “It did matter,” Waddoups said. “Everyone associates that as dealing with racial profiling. We don’t want to have that in there.” Besides, I’m not really convinced that the state’s have any business enforcing immigration in the first place without cooperation of the federal government.
  • One I am unsure about: HB477 makes changes to Utah’s GRAMA law. Proposed by Rep. John Dougall, who Speaker Lockhart called “an idea guy.” I’ve met him, listened to him pontificate on his ideas, and he is a smart and articulate guy. He does his homework. The intent of the law is to keep open records requests reasonable so the already slow workings of government can’t be overwhelmed by responding to the requests, usually by the press. It’s laudable. However, so is the reason we have the law in the first place–to make sure government and politicians are accountable. It’s a balancing act, and I am not sure which way the HB477 changes will tip the balance. And that’s why I’m unsure about it. (Also, check out this piece of “gotcha” journalism when a bored reporter chased down the Governor on this bill)
  • One more I like: Statewide Online Education Program sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill allows access to school materials anywhere in the state, but withholds most of the payment until most of the course is finished, to ensure completion. Some on the left have complained that it takes money from public schools–I’m ok with that, since the people using it aren’t getting any benefit from the public schools, anyway. This bill just appears to redistribute to them the value they would have received if they were in the school.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but a sampling. There are lots of bills still floating around the marbled halls of the Utah Capitol, and I do mean lots. Which are you following?