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HB 477 Utah

The HB477 Disaster

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

HB477 passed in about as much time as it took Charlie Sheen to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most followers on Twitter in the least amount of time — and before the public knew what hit them, they just got a heaping load of Sheen-style nuttiness in the Utah legislature.

HB477 is a borderline crazy bill — if you believe in open democracy, anyway. I cannot figure out why people in both mainstream parties or anybody of any political ideology for that matter is not completely outraged by this bill. I think we can all agree that transparency in government is an essential part of democracy, maybe a few national security issues aside.

The bill can be summed up like this: it restricts public access to government records. It paves the way for corruption and conflict of interest. In other words, it gives Utah legislators a way to communicate with each other and with rogue power players in secret. It vaguely allows the Utah government to charge an unrestricted amount of money for access to their records, putting the burden on the public and on the media (rather than on the government) to disclose information about the Utah legislature as they see fit.

Andy Williams 1

Interview with Real Salt Lake’s Andy Williams

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Real Salt Lake begins meaningful play on February 22. The team is coming off its most successful season, in which they broke a number of MLS records, including least amount of goals allowed and longest streak of unbeaten matches at home.

Midfielder Andy Williams has been with the club since its founding and remains a fan favorite. He graciously agreed to participate in a recent email interview with Rhombus. You can read the full interview below:

Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal

Being on the Wrong Side of the Arc of History

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

The arc of history does not bend toward justice as promptly as I and many others would like, but with the repealing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell we have witnessed an event that people will refer back to far into the future as a moment when things changed for the better. The repealing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst toward greater acceptance and equality in other areas. Hopefully it has much the same effect that desegregating the military had in 1948.

There were, however, 31 senators and many others who did not want this repeal to happen. You could even go so far as saying they were on the wrong side of the arc of history, the side that bends toward inequality and discrimination rather than justice. One senator said that, while the policy needs to be changed in the future, “In the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it.”

The problem with this statement is that it is a misnomer. The U.S. has troops around the world all the time and there will be troops or “residual forces” in Afghanistan and Iraq for decades. What this means is that the senator was basically saying it should never happen.


The Daily Universe and Prop 8

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Brigham Young University’s official newspaper The Daily Universe has been well known for its right-leaning reporting over the years. That makes sense since the newspaper is put out by writers, editors and photographers who are all students from the mostly conservative campus. Take a look at the letters to the editor section on any given day and this ideology will be clear, sometimes absurdly so. Naturally, letters to the editor will reflect the student body’s general ideology.

A recent article about the overturn of California’s Proposition 8 lacked the objectivity necessary to do this important story justice. The story had a title and a lead paragraph that made it clear where they as a newspaper stood and assumed that their audience agreed. The article tried to hide its true feelings using an old journalism tactic — using the word  “some” to avoid appearing biased.

For example, the article states that “some BYU students from California are struggling to understand how a single federal judge could invalidate the collective voice of voters who passed Proposition 8 nearly two years ago.” The author reiterates this feeling later with “some BYU students said they felt the decision was difficult to understand.”

I’m sure most BYU students are, in fact, upset about the judge’s overruling of Proposition 8 — but The Daily Universe has a responsibility to report the news without the subjectivity that leaves its readers with only a partial examination of the issue.


Another Prop 8?

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Not quite.

Argentina is the latest country in the process of legalizing gay marriage. The lesser branch of congress in Argentina, known as the Chamber of Deputies (comparable to the U.S. House of Representatives), approved a bill on May 5th that would legalize gay marriage, as well as make adoption legal for gay couples. The Senate was due to vote on the bill today.

The LDS Church took notice of this momentum and issued a statement to be read to its members in the country this past Sunday, July 11th. There were some stark differences between what was read to members of the LDS Church in Argentina and what was read to Mormons in California in 2008. The letter read to Mormons in Argentina on Sunday was not nearly as explicit and determined as was the California letter. The California letter was a call to action while the Argentinean letter was more of a statement of belief with a reference to the church’s “Proclamation on the Family,” a document highlighting the LDS belief that the family is a fundamental and important part of society.


SPORTS: How Soccer Haters Will Convert

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Just a couple days into the 2010 World Cup, soccer fans around the world are now enjoying for the biggest sporting event in the world. The United States is probably somewhere in the middle as far as popularity of the sport is concerned. “The beautiful game” is subject to much criticism here, typically for a few of the same claims.

One of the most-heard complaints is that soccer is low-scoring and that there is not enough action. There are, of course, arguments to refute that since you could say the same about baseball and hockey, except baseball is much longer and (in my opinion) much slower. An argument could be made that even American football is a slow-paced game considering all the breaks, play-calling, and television timeouts. So the notion about not liking soccer because it is low-scoring and slow is pretty weak.

Since the other arguments hardly have a foot to stand on, there is one remaining argument that explains some of the distaste for the sport: Americans want to be the best. It is part of the culture and it is embedded in our DNA. Looking at the history of the sport in this country, the U.S. has had a few bright moments but it has yet to prove it is one of the elite countries at soccer.

I have heard more than a few times from fans and haters alike that soccer here is just not as good as it is in Europe, and for that reason they cannot or do not support it. Their thought is that if you are not the best at something, then what is the point? And not being as good at something as Europe leaves an especially bad taste in some people’s mouths. Europe attracts some of the best players in the world with much higher salaries than the players are paid here because of how well established the game is there and how much the game is embedded in the culture. Soccer is life for a lot of them and, until the U.S. can compete salary-wise, Europe will continue to be a very attractive alternative.

Nonetheless, soccer is growing quickly in the United States. Take a look at the Seattle Sounders and their passionate fans, which were recently named the “2010 Best Sports Team of the Year” by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. They are selling an amazing amount of season tickets and games are bringing enormous crowds, over 36,000 for every home game. That is nearly double the attendance that Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers draw. (Of course, venue capacity should be taken into account.)

Locally, Real Salt Lake is averaging well over 15,000 per game, which is a huge amount for their market. They pull about the same amount as teams in larger markets like New York or Columbus. Overall MLS attendance is already up 11 percent on average from last year.

The league is also following the mold of the other international leagues by implementing developmental academies under each club, allowing for the identification and development of homegrown talent for the MLS. Take, for example, that of the four MLS players that made the US Men’s National Team, one of them is from Real Salt Lake in Robbie Findley. That is quite an accomplishment. Not only that, but 13 of the 23 players on the World Cup roster have previously played in the MLS.

Another measuring stick for the popularity of soccer is the broadcasting of games. Not only is there an MLS “match of the week” on ESPN2, but for the first time in the United States, all of the 2010 World Cup matches will be broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. You will also be able to watch most games live online at That type of exposure will definitely draw more attention to the games and soccer will progress.

The bottom line is that Americans do not like being second best at anything, and in order for soccer to gain real respect and attention both at home and around the world, the U.S. has to have a very successful run on the world’s biggest stage.

Glenn Beck 2

Glenn Beck the Prophet

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Glenn Beck is at it again. Actually, he has been at it for a while now, but his crazy scale sometimes goes so far off the charts that you can only go so long before he says something so absurd it begs to be addressed.

On August 28th, Glenn Beck will unveil his plan to “save our country.” Mr. Beck has been getting his followers prepared for what he calls “The Plan” over the past few months, much the same way his rants led to The 9/12 Project and the Tea Party. Take, for example, the talking points used by both Beck and his Tea Party followers. Just the other day, both were on the verge of tears ranting about how they need to “take our country back.” How could they accomplish such a valiant effort? That is where The Plan comes in.

Los Suns

Los Suns and the Heated Immigration Debate

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Fans of the NBA have probably noticed that certain teams with large Latino populations in their state have what is called a “noche latina” every so often.

Teams from Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Phoenix have all participated in such nights dedicated to their Latino community, sporting jerseys saying “El Heat,” “Los Spurs,” “Los Lakers,” and “Los Suns.” Let’s be honest, it is largely a marketing scheme. Most recently, the Phoenix Suns were united in a decision to sport the jerseys, not on the “noche latina” but in the midst of a fierce debate about a bill that the Arizona Legislature recently passed which gives police an unprecedented amount of power to crack down on those suspected of being in the state illegally.

This story underlies a larger discussion in the midst of all the turmoil. The Suns decided to wear the jerseys not for marketing, but to show support for the Latino community. This comes in the face of some possibly very serious repercussions to a business that is already in financial distress. A recent poll shows that 70 percent of likely voters in Arizona favor the bill while, interestingly enough, 53 percent are concerned that its enforcement will lead to violation of many citizens’ civil rights. From those poll numbers it is apparent that people want the immigration problem to be dealt with, but they do not agree with how the bill allows for law enforcement to question anyone under “reasonable suspicion” to prove they are in the country legally.

Chris Wingert

SPORTS: Interview with Real Salt Lake's Chris Wingert

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Real Salt Lake won their first Major League Soccer championship in November 2009. Their first home game of the new is Saturday, April 10th at 6:30 p.m. Come see the unveiling of the championship banner and support RSL in their defense of the title! Following is an interview Rhombus correspondent (and resident soccer fan) Randal Serr recently conducted with RSL defender Chris Wingert:

Randal Serr: Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it. I’m a big fan. Describe what it feels like to win a championship and make a clutch penalty kick in the championship game.

Chris Wingert: Winning an MLS Cup has been one of my main goals since I entered the league in 2004. Accomplishing that goal was one of the best feelings I have ever had as a soccer player. Hopefully we will have another good season this year, and have a chance to repeat.

Taking a penalty kick with a chance to lose the championship was definitely nerve-racking, but I tried to put that out of my mind and just concentrate on the shot. I told Coach Kreis after the overtime period that I wanted to shoot. I had taken important penalties throughout high school and college, and although I was nervous, I was confident that I could bury one for our team when it counted most.

RS: Do you see a difference in Real Salt Lake now that you have won a championship?

CW: At times I have seen us play with supreme confidence, and I think some of that comes from last year’s success. We need to continue to work at becoming more consistent though. If we can manage that, I think 2010 will be a great year for u.

RS: What do you say to people who criticize soccer?

CW: I don’t really understand why some people think it’s cool to criticize soccer. Certain people in the media (i.e., Jim Rome, Tony Kornheiser) try to undermine our sport and our athletes at times, but there is only so much we can do. Hopefully we can win them over and show them how great our sport is, but we don’t need the critics to become fans in order for soccer to succeed in this country. Fortunately there are already tons of people in the US who love the game for what it is, and it’s obvious that soccer is constantly growing here.

RS: How much do you hear or pay attention to fans when you are playing?

CW: It’s hard to really hear what most fans are saying while you are on the field, but occasionally you catch a comment or two. When fans are getting rowdy and trying to get in my head, I kind of enjoy it. I am happy that fans in the US have enough passion to try and influence the match.

RS: What do you think needs to happen for the MLS to continue to gain popularity?

CW: I think the MLS has made a lot of good decisions on where to continue its growth as a league. Franchises like Toronto and Seattle have been awesome so far. I think that Philly, Portland and Vancouver will also be good additions, and will help the MLS continue to gain popularity.

RS: Do you have any goal celebrations ready for this year?

CW: Unfortunately my three career goals in MLS (besides my P.K. in the final) have come in exhibitions, so there haven’t been any excessive celebrations so far. If I score a good goal this year I will be sure to come up with something good, but until then we’ll keep it a surprise.

RS: What kind of team chemistry exists for Real Salt Lake? Is language ever a barrier to chemistry because of international players?

CW: We have great team chemistry at RSL. All of our guys get along really well and have a lot of respect for each other. The language barrier hasn’t really seemed to cause any problems. I think our international players have all made a great effort to fit in with the team.

RS: What are your favorite international clubs/players?

When I was young, [Manchester United] was always on TV, so I grew up rooting for them, and I still do today. Mostly, I just enjoy watching the best teams and players compete against each other. Any time you get a chance to watch a player like Leo Messi or [Christiano] Ronaldo, it’s a treat. I always loved watching [Zinedine] Zidane, because he was such a magician with the ball. When Zidane was playing it was as if the game was being played in his head in slow motion, while it was in fast forward for everyone else.

RS: What are your favorite teams/players from other sports?

CW: I love so many different sports. Tennis, basketball, and mixed martial arts are prob my three favorite outside of soccer. Most of my favorite teams are from New York — Giants and Mets in particular. Some of my favorite athletes include Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (I love how they are extemely competitive and still so humble), Matt Serra, Jon Jones, and Dwyane Wade. I am also a huge fan of Andre Agassi’s — not only as a tennis player, but for what he has done as a philanthropist.

RS: What are your favorite restaurants in Utah?

CW: Some of my favorite restaurants in Utah include Canella’s, Aristos, Taifoon, and Takashi.

RS: Thanks for doing the interview. We’ll see you at the MLS Cup again.


The Saga of Jim Matheson

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Anybody who attended the Utah Democratic Party’s caucuses this week is well aware of the anger that currently exists towards Jim Matheson, Democratic representative for Utah’s 2nd congressional district. He is the only Democrat representing Utah in Washington D.C., which is precisely why he has evoked this anger.

The primary reason for the fury is that many Democrats feel betrayed by Matheson, arguing that he ignores his base and votes like a Republican on many key issues. Most recently, he voted no on President Obama’s monumental health care reform bill. It was a close vote and represented, for many, a core principle the Democratic Party has been working to accomplish for decades. Needless to say, it was a controversial vote being that the bill passed by a slim margin of 219 to 212.