Live Free (and Die)
Just a few days before Thanksgiving, the Daily Universe reported that some 30 anti-maskers gathered with signs and vitriol outside Brigham Young University President Kevin J. Worthen's house. The question is why Worthen didn't just offer them cookies and hot chocolate. This must be a wily strategic plan to mollify the angry masses—the ones who think it's all about their right to risk not only their health but that of everyone around them. While Gov. Gary Herbert and Governor-elect Spencer Cox continue to pontificate about Utah values and plead with people to "be kind," there has been virtually no debate about rights vs. responsibility. And of course, there is no real consequence to thumbing your nose at the government, because that would be mean. We have overcome these debates before with seat-belt and helmet laws, but those crises hinged more on insurance claims than others' lives. Next time you bring out the cookies and chocolate, be sure to spike them with a bit of altruism.
Speaking of personal choice, how about we just let people pollute, and if they "choose" to breathe, well, they can buy an air purifier. That's pretty much the argument from Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, who's proposing a bill to "allow for customer choice" by prohibiting municipalities from banning access to fossil fuels like natural gas, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah is a friendly state to pollution of all kinds. A troubling application is being considered to import waste to an empty landfill near the Great Salt Lake. The Tribune highlighted past attempts by Promontory Point Resources to bring in waste and apparently cover up their real intent. But the state just loves the idea of filling up the empty lands by the lake, no matter what the cost to water quality, wildlife habitat or the environment.
The Kids Aren't Alright
A recent Salt Lake Tribune report on Red Rock Canyon School looked at the "troubled teen" treatment centers that tend to deflect state supervision. The disturbing report described how Utah's Office of Licensing signed off on complaints that teens were being abused for which it simply issued a warning and "demanded" changes that never came. And that was it—until the kids rioted. Operated by a for-profit company (like some prisons), Red Rock had a financial incentive to keep kids there longer and make sure they spoke glowingly of the program. The lack of strong government oversight, in fact, is a major reason not to privatize such services. The Tribune, struggling through the collapse of local journalism, is lucky to have tapped into the support provided by fellowships such as the one that helped produce this story.