Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Only in Utah: The Red State Blues

With the Utah Legislature in session it seems that every day our daily newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune, has more of the nefarious, silly and downright comical acts of our legislators.

For one, choosing a Commemorative Gun for 2015. This tradition has been going on without apology for several years. This year’s honor goes to the AR-15. They even got a special deal. The weapon cost them only $650! There was no mention as to whether those were taxpayer dollars.

As one commenter to this picture of Rep. Keven Stratton holding the gun noted wryly: “He looks like he has just given birth.”

Only in Utah.

Photo by Chris Detrick. Copyright © 2015 The Salt Lake Tribune

At the same time as legislators were getting their jollies with the AR-15 the Trib ran another article, headlined: “The oath: Utah first, feds second,” another legislator proposed a new oath for elected officials. Right now it reads “[I] swear to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this state.” One clueless legislator wants to switch “this state” with “the State of Utah,” putting it ahead of the Constitution of the United States. As another, much smarter legislator put it, “[the U.S. Constitution is] the supreme law of the land.” A state constitution cannot be above the U.S. Constitution. (From a story bylined Robert Gehrke).

Only in Utah.

Paul Rolly is a Tribune columnist who likes to hold Republican feet to the fire. He is critical of most of their shenanigans and points them out as often as possible. He wrote about Rep. Lavar Christensen, who a few years ago drafted the bill that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. It became law, but then it was challenged and Utah became one of those states where a federal judge declared such a law in violation of the 14th Amendment. Rolly asked, by drafting that law did Christensen in fact become the LGBT community’s best friend? His law paved the way for a federal judge to become involved. (What we mean when we mention the Law of Unintended Consequences.)

 Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Christensen, who is a Latter-day Saint, also used a “the Lord told me to” card against a legislator who had filled his seat when he resigned to run for higher office. When he lost his bid for U.S. Congress, he wanted his legislative seat back. He told his successor he wanted her to give up her seat, according to Rolly, because “the Lord had told him that he needed to be back in the Legislature.” Well, Lavar Christensen is back, so did the Lord arrange for him to get back there? My question would be, why didn’t the Lord just tell Lavar’s successor to quit, rather than have Christensen deliver the news? It certainly sounds self-serving. Christensen denies ever having said such a thing, but he wouldn’t be the first LDS elected official to claim he had God speaking to him.

Only in Utah.

This editorial cartoon by the Tribune’s Pat Bagley, is about Utah’s desire to switch the method of execution at the State Prison. The chemicals to kill someone on death row might become hard to get, or might not even work. Our lawmakers think it would be a swell idea to go back to execution by firing squad. Yep, it worked for our Utah ancestors for over a hundred years, so why not bring it back?

Copyright © 2015 The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah is a state that believes in capital punishment. Many other states do, also, but Utah was somewhat infamous for years (and the answer to a trivia question) by giving the condemned a choice: hanging or firing squad. Some chose hanging, most chose the firing squad. You might remember Gary Gilmore, who was the first prisoner executed in the United States after a hiatus of a few years in the seventies. Gilmore was shot through the heart at the Utah State Penitentiary in January, 1977. Norman Mailer did a book about him called The Executioner’s Song, and his story was even featured as a two-part TV movie with Tommy Lee Jones as Gilmore.

What people in Utah have apparently forgotten is that there was a third choice of execution, and that was beheading. No one ever chose that way to meet his maker. It makes the Bagley cartoon all the more ironic.

An editorial asked if it wasn’t time to put all of this behind us and eliminate the death penalty once and for all. I could practically feel the breeze from the legislature, as representative after representative in unison briskly shook their heads “no.”

Only in Utah.

Finally, Trib editorial writer George Pyle recently wrote about why people in Utah don’t vote. We have the lowest voter turnout in the nation. He surmised, and I believe correctly, that people are turned off by elections because Republicans always win. We live in a state where almost every elected official is a Republican. Osama bin Laden would have won in Utah had he run for office as a Republican.

My natural contrariness to establishment and herd mentality comes in here. I vote in every election, city, county, state and national. Even though my candidates usually lose I win for myself by casting a ballot. My wife is the same way. If our fellow Democrats felt like we did then the red state of Utah might be a little bluer.

We aren’t because our Democrats are intimidated by Republicans. By not voting the defeat of their candidates is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Only in Utah.

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