Poll: Most Utahns want police to wear body cameras

policecarFollowing the recent violence in Ferguson, Mo., and shootings by police in Utah, the website Utah Policy commissioned a Dan Jones poll on how Utahns feel about related issues. Utah Policy’s report says,

More than 8 out of 10 Utahns think police officers should be required to wear body cameras or other recording devices, but they’re split over whether cops are too quick to use deadly or excessive force.

Utah police agencies are already adding body cameras. In fact, the officer who shot and killed a man Aug. 11 in a 7-Eleven parking lot was wearing one, so that footage is part of the investigation. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, some officers want to wear a body cam enough that they are buying them with their own money.

So apparently the use of “cop cams” appeals to both the public and the police in Utah, though perhaps for varying reasons: documentation that protects the public, and documentation that backs up police actions.

Possible drawbacks to the body cameras include privacy issues and cost to taxpayers. But even the ACLU supports use of the cameras (although with strict privacy rules): “We’re against pervasive government surveillance, but when cameras primarily serve the function of allowing public monitoring of the government instead of the other way around, we generally regard that as a good thing.”

Click here to read about the poll at UtahPolicy.com.

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From HB 477 to the Utah Legislature winning the Online Democracy Award

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Nailed it.

This week, Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser accepted the Online Democracy Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)  on behalf of the Utah Legislature. NCSL recognized the Utah legislative website, le.utah.gov, as Best in the Nation. You know what? They deserve it. The site really is awesome and it makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to get more information about sausage making legislation and the Utah Legislature than they could possibly consume.

After the cachinnations in the press over HB477 died down, the Utah Legislature–led by Lockhart and Niederhauser (and their staffs)–buckled down and showed they were earnest in wanting to give Utahns access to their government. Transparency is an ongoing effort, but this recognition shows we’re moving in the right direction. Follow how legislation is made and what those scoundrels up at the legislature are up to more on social media, blogs, and their website below:

Utah Legislature: http://le.utah.gov/

Senate Cloud: http://senatecloud.com/

House Twitter: https://twitter.com/UtahReps

Senate Twitter: https://twitter.com/utahsenate

House Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UtahReps

Senate Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/utahsenate

Senate YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/UtahSenateChannel

House YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/UtahReps

Legislative Blog Sites:

Originally posted here at Utah.Politico.Hub.



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Whether by fire or blade, ‘green’ energy is killing birds – Sutherland Perspective, 8/26/14

Flying_birds_at_Sacramento_National_Wildlife_RefugeThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

My grandpa had an old saying: “Nothing’s free, and nothing’s priceless.” That sounds a little cynical, but it’s true. Everything has a cost, even if that cost can’t always be measured in dollars and cents.

That old saw came to mind as I read a recent article about birds being incinerated at a solar power plant in California. The article said that as many as 28,000 of our fine feathered friends, from hummingbirds to pelicans, may go down in flames each year as they navigate sunbeams concentrated by a field of mirrors. Turns out the sun’s power isn’t free if you’re a bird caught in man’s efforts to harness the sun.

“Free” wind power isn’t free to birds, either. A quick search finds estimates of 888,000 to at least a million birds being hacked to the ground each year by windmills generating less than 5 percent of our nation’s energy, and creating huge eyesores on some otherwise beautiful vistas in the process.

Here’s a simple mathematical fact: Wind and solar energy are not going to replace coal, gas and nuclear power in the foreseeable future. Together, wind and solar make up less than 5 percent of U.S. electricity output today, and even rosy scenarios have them making up barely 13 percent of the grid over the next 20 years. There are technological reasons for this which may be overcome through, well, technology. But the real reason is real estate. Fossil and nuclear power require less than 5 square kilometers per gigawatt while wind and solar require 20 to 150 square kilometers to produce the same amount of power, and that only happens when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. Continue reading

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Paul Mero steps down as Sutherland Institute president

Sutherland Institute and Paul Mero are parting ways. After 14 years at the helm, Mero has been asked to step down as president by the Institute’s board. The decision is effective immediately, and the search for a new president will begin soon. Stanford Swim, chairman of the board, will serve as acting CEO until a new president is selected.

“Paul has served faithfully and effectively as he has led Sutherland Institute from its infancy to becoming the most influential conservative voice in Utah,” Swim said. “While the board feels this change is necessary as we move into the future, we are grateful for his dedicated service. We will continue to be guided by our seven governing principles that allow faith, family and freedom to flourish in Utah.”

Sutherland’s founder, Gaylord Swim, hired Mero in 2000, and Mero oversaw the growth of the Institute’s broad influence throughout the state. Previously, he worked for 10 years in Congress and was the founding executive vice president at The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. Mero has been instrumental in nurturing the World Congress of Families coalition and secured Salt Lake City to host its ninth gathering next year. He will continue to serve on the executive committee for World Congress of Families IX.

“Disagreements often arise between a CEO and board, and this is what happened here,” Mero said. “While disappointing, it became necessary. I have enjoyed every success and learned from every failure. Utah is a better place to live, work and raise a family because of Sutherland Institute.”

Heading into the 2015 legislative session, Sutherland is working with elected officials and policy colleagues on issues that have a significant impact on Utahns. These include:

  • Alcohol policy
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Dependence on federal funds
  • Environmental regulations
  • Marriage and family policy
  • Medicaid reform
  • Religious freedom
  • Public lands
  • State budget policy
  • Utah economic policy

Sutherland Institute is a nonpartisan, independent public policy organization located in Salt Lake City. As a state-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, its mission is to protect the cause of freedom, constructively influence Utah’s decision-makers, and promote responsible citizenship. Sutherland Institute is recognized as the leading conservative think tank in the state of Utah.

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Utah, where careful planning makes the sun shine

sunshinestate2013This report by the State Data Lab, a project of the nonpartisan Truth in Accounting, finds that Utah is one of only nine “sunshine states” – meaning the state governments have enough financial assets to cover their financial liabilities (debt).

Click here for more details about Utah’s financial position.

(Or create your own graphs for any of the states.)

There is a caveat: The report notes at the bottom of the page that, unfortunately, each of the nine states has “hidden retirement debt,” or commitments to current employees’ retirement benefits that aren’t counted as traditional financial liabilities or debt.

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Getting your money’s worth: Which states are best?

Maps published by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation offer a concise depiction of the cost of living in Utah compared with other states. Or as the foundation puts it: “Which states offer the biggest bang for your buck?”

Utah lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to purchasing power. The states or areas where your money buys the least are urban and coastal: Washington D.C., Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and California. The states that offer the most for your dollar are in the Midwest and South: Mississippi,
Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and South Dakota.


An accompanying map compares purchasing power at the more detailed level of metro areas:

Metro Price Parity_0

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‘Liberal fascism’ and economic albatrosses – Mero Moment, 8/19/14

Benito_Mussolini_in_1937This post, which was adapted from a piece at Utah Citizen Network, is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

In public discourse, fascism is often associated with the far right wing; with nationalism, racism, and an abundance of dangerous patriotism. And indeed, in the nations where fascism rose to power, those factors did exist and played a prominent role in creating the conditions conducive to political revolutions in places like Italy and Germany.

However, though reliant upon populist nationalism to ascend to power, fascism in practice is an economic system. And as such, it’s really just a sibling to socialism.

Italy’s Benito Mussolini is generally regarded as the father of fascism. He was a well-known socialist who decided socialism didn’t quite get it right and so created a new system.

Mussolini distilled fascism down for us when he wrote,

The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone.

Fascism clearly resembles socialism in its desire to “organize the nation” at the expense of personal freedom. Freedom, it argues, is often useless and possibly dangerous, and so individuals must be freed from liberty. Which liberties are dangerous is decided by “the State alone.” You can see how with enough populist fervor a fascist government could quickly become a dictatorial one, where despite its rhetoric about leaving some “margin of liberty to the individual,” the state ends up directing just about everything.

Where fascism differs from socialism is that under socialism the government owns business whereas under fascism government merely “directs” it. In practice this is really a distinction without a difference, but by keeping a nominally privately owned economy, fascism gets to kill capitalism while pretending it’s still running things. It’s socialism in capitalist clothing. Continue reading

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A possible Supreme Court twist in Utah’s marriage case

800px-United_states_supreme_court_buildingLast week, Utah asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that Utah’s marriage amendment (approved by the Legislature and two-thirds of voters in 2004) is unconstitutional because the 14th Amendment (ratified in 1868) requires all states to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit plan to support the request.

If all goes as intended, the Supreme Court would consider the request (and similar ones from Oklahoma and Virginia) at the outset of its October term.

Much of the press and activist commentaries are treating a judicial redefinition of marriage for all 50 states as a foregone conclusion, but that analysis misses a very interesting twist in the legal arguments the court will hear that could dramatically impact the result.

In last summer’s Supreme Court decision (United States v. Windsor) invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the court characterized that law as unique in that it involved a federal definition of marriage in contrast to the typical pattern of federal laws deferring to state definitions in the realm of domestic relations. Given that, and the court’s belief that the law was motivated by “animus” on the part of members of Congress, the 2013 decision may be an anomaly.

Why? Because the cases currently being considered by the court are quite different.

For example, the 10th Circuit decision on Utah’s marriage law finds the law was not motivated by animus. The panel was even more emphatic in rejecting the claim in the Oklahoma case, with a long concurring opinion addressed to the accusation. The 4th Circuit does mention animus only in passing in describing another court decision. Continue reading

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UtahPolicy.com poll: Most Utahns oppose same-sex marriage

Wedding ringsA new Dan Jones/UtahPolicy.com poll shows that a majority of Utahns are “completely opposed” to same-sex marriage – and “completely support” Utah’s legal defense of Amendment 3:

A new Zions Bank/UtahPolicy.com poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates finds 53% of Utahns say they “completely oppose” same-sex marriage while another 8% say they are “somewhat opposed.” Just 24% say they “completely support” same-sex unions while another 5% say they are “somewhat supportive.”

This is not a surprise. Although those in favor of “gay marriage” often seem omnipresent in their unbending demands, Sutherland has maintained that there is a large silent majority of people who not only support traditional marriage but outright oppose same-sex unions. They are underrepresented in the media. And they don’t want to be “Eiched” for their views.

See the full story here on UtahPolicy.com.

Click here to sign a petition supporting Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes in their defense of Utah’s marriage law! The petition will be hand-delivered to the governor.

Posted in Marriage | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Human rights court: Civil unions are good enough

Wedding ringsThe European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a case involving a Finnish transsexual that there is no legal right to “gay marriage” and that a civil union is sufficient for same-sex couples. From the LifeSite website:

The European court was unequivocal. It not only said that European human rights law does not contemplate same-sex marriage, it said that civil unions are good enough for same-sex couples.

The court confirmed that the protection of the traditional institution of marriage is a valid state interest—implicitly endorsing the view that relations between persons of the same sex are not identical to marriage between a man and a woman, and may be treated differently in law.

The judgment says that European human rights law recognizes the “fundamental right of a man and woman to marry and to found a family” and “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Utah’s case and come to a similar conclusion.

The full ruling from the European Court of Human Rights may be read here.

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Border security isn’t the problem – Mero Moment, 8/12/14

People cross the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park in Texas.

People cross the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park in Texas.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

James O’Keefe is known for his short films exposing liberal hypocrisy and corruption. His most famous film was an undercover recording of corruption inside the offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). O’Keefe’s revealing video footage resulted in ACORN shutting down its operations.

His latest video shows O’Keefe crossing the U.S./Mexico border unmolested by U.S. border patrol. He did it twice – the second time dressed in Army fatigues and wearing a Halloween mask of Osama bin Laden. His point was to show how unprotected our southern border really is.

The border between the United States and Mexico runs nearly 2,000 miles. Picture standing on the shores of Imperial Beach, California, and walking east/southeast 2,000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Most undocumented immigrants enter the United States at population rich spots – like the border at Tijuana. Understandably, U.S. border patrol is concentrated in those areas. Not so much in the desert areas.

But there’s James O’Keefe – I’m sure a very well-meaning fellow – standing in the middle of nowhere, on the Mexican side of the border, videotaping how he can saunter across the shallow river about 20 feet to the Land of the Free on the other side. He looks into the camera and says, “There’s not a border agent around for miles.” Continue reading

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Poll: 82% of Utahns support right to work


nefwRoughly 4 out of every 5 Utah adults support allowing union employees to leave their union without force or penalty, a concept generally referred to as right to work. That’s the finding of a new poll, released today by Sutherland Institute as part of National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW). NEFW is a grassroots campaign of 81 organizations in 45 states dedicated to helping union employees learn about their right to leave their unions. This poll headlines the activities of NEFW, which runs from August 10 to 16.

The poll was conducted by Google Consumer Surveys between July 11 and July 31, 2014, and has a margin of error of 3.76 percent. The poll surveyed 500 adult Utah residents with the following question: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?”

The coalition also released a poll showing 82.9 percent of Americans nationwide support the right-to-work principle. Currently 24 states have passed right-to-work laws which allow workers to leave their union with penalty or having to pay dues to an organization they choose not to belong to. To find out more about Utah’s specific right-to-work policies, you can read the “Utah Right To Work Law.” Continue reading

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Another angle on natural law

Nature's_SymmetryIn our writings at Sutherland Institute we occasionally use the term “natural law,” referring to the common foundations of justice and fairness innate to each of us.

An article in the Intercollegiate Review (excerpted from The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode by R.J. Snell) has an interesting angle on natural law:

[I]t might appear quite unreasonable to maintain belief in natural law or natural right, for the intellectual substructure is, as Alasdair MacIntyre put it, echoed by David Bentley Hart, “unacceptable by the dominant standards of modernity.” Yet the cultural and scientific developments noted by Strauss have not resulted in the withering away of either natural right or natural law but instead contributed to a renewed vitality as some thinkers deepen the commonplaces of the tradition while others develop or stretch the tradition in new directions. This is to be expected, for challenges to a tradition cause crisis, irrational and wooden traditions either capitulating or refusing to engage while more supple and reasonable traditions ask new questions, pose new answers, transpose old answers, and articulate themselves in new and productive directions.

This is not the first time that natural law has developed in response to a crisis presented by some theoretical or social challenge, so we should not be surprised to find it developing previously. And in each of these moments of challenge, I suggest, the crisis has been occasioned by the meaning of “nature.” What is so natural about the natural law; what is nature?

Click here to read more of “The Meaning(s) of Natural Law” at the Intercollegiate Review.

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Make marriage easy to break, and guess what? – Mero Moment, 8/5/14

Leopold_Pilichowski_-_The_broken_jugThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

If you make something easy to break, it gets broken. This is self-evident. It’s why poorly made toys break more often and poorly made clothes shrink, tear and wear out more easily. The principle applies in the business world, too. Why do you think cell phone companies make it so hard and costly for you to break your cell phone contract? Because the harder it is to do, the fewer cell phone customers will do it.

Why, then, as a society, have we decided to make marriage, one of our most fundamental structures, so easy to break through no-fault divorce?

First, some background. The concept of no-fault divorce originated in the 1960s with a group of California lawyers who were tired of the bitterness of the combative divorce process.

Legislatures considering bills that dramatically shifted their marriage policies treated the issue as a “routine policy refinement, rather than controversial social reform.” As Maggie Gallagher puts it: “It was not an anguished public, chained by marriage vows, that demanded divorce as a right. The revolution was made by the determined whine of lawyers, judges, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, academics, and goo-goo-eyed reformers who objected to, of all things, the amount of hypocrisy contained in the law.” Thus, “[i]n a single generation, marriage ha[d] been demoted from a covenant, to a contract, to a private wish in which caveat emptor is the prevailing legal rule.”

Utah, unfortunately, is no exception to the general trend toward weakening the legal status of marriage. Continue reading

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What is marriage – and why is it a matter of public policy?


I’m not going to say anything about morality, anything about theology or anything about tradition. There are some people who talk about marriage and talk about the same-sex marriage debate in terms of a moral argument, a theological argument or a traditional argument. A Burkean conservative might say, ‘Because marriage has been this way, this is how it ought to be.’ None of those arguments will be ones that I’ll be making.

With these words, Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson began his presentation on the pressing topic “What is Marriage?” in remarks delivered at the “Communicating Values: Marriage, Family and the Media” conference hosted by the Stanford Anscombe Society at Stanford University in California.

Anderson continued,

I’ll be making a philosophical argument with some appeal to social science largely to get at a public-policy purpose of marriage. The question I want to ask and then answer is, ‘What is marriage from a policy perspective? What is the state’s interest in marriage? How does the state define marriage? How should the state define marriage and why?’

Now I would imagine that everyone in this room is in favor of marriage equality. The other side uses that slogan, and it’s a great slogan. It’s a wonderful piece of advertising. It fits on a bumper sticker. You can put an “equals” sign up as your Facebook icon and yet it’s completely vacuous. Everyone in this room is for marriage equality; we all want to treat all marriage equally. What we may disagree with each other about is “What sort of relationship is a marriage?” because that’s the question you have to answer before you can then get to considerations of equality. Because even those who want to redefine marriage to include a same-sex couple will draw certain lines between what sort of relationship is a marriage; what sort of relationship is not a marriage. And if we’re going to draw a line based on principle, if we’re going to draw lines that reflect the truth, we have to know what sort of relationship is a marriage and what sort of other consenting-adult relationships are non-marital.  …

I’ll place a challenge…when we get to the Q&A, I invite you to give an answer to these questions: If you want to redefine marriage to include the same-sex couple, why would marriage – how you understand it – require that that relationship be permanent, monogamous and exclusive, and be the type of relationship a government takes interest in? … Because on this account of marriage, where marriage is an intense emotional union of consenting adults, that’s something that can be formed by more than two people. There’s nothing about intense emotional union, just as such, that says it has to be between two and only two. Threesomes and foursomes can just as easily form an intense emotional and an intense romantic and intense care-giving relationship. There is nothing in principle that would require twos.

In his incisive prepared message and in the extended Q-and-A interaction with conference participants, Anderson presented cogent arguments. As importantly, he did so with an attitude of civility and respect that elevated the dialogue in this very challenging contemporary issue to levels essential for sound decision-making by citizens, policy leaders, elected officials and all public servants.

Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J. He also co-authored What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (2012), with Princeton Professor Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis. Justice Samuel Alito cited the book two times in his dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case about the Defense of Marriage Act.

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