Midday Commentary on Last Weekend’s News — Aug. 3, 2015

Art, Art, Art. Mayor Becker spokesman Art “Whiskey Pete” Raymond was tagged by the Tribune as using their until-now anonymous forums to bad-mouth Becker’s campaign opponents.

Normally, who freaking cares? But the Trib claims Art used a city computer on city time. Art contends it was during his break time. Computer

Now, I know Art. He and I go back to our journalism days. Art’s a good guy who works hard, found his guy, and is fighting for him. But if he did what the Trib thinks he did, he made a stupid move. Whatever happens next, I suppose, is for the mayor or his cabinet, aka, the Tribune’s editorial board, to decide.

But I wanted to focus on the decision making process at the Trib for just a moment. Their policy is that their forums are anonymous. So why did they did they dig into their own IP logs and out Whiskey Pete? Here’s Terry Orme’s own words:

“Some may assume, however, that there’s an implied protection of commenters’ identities in that we allow anonymity in the first place.

“So, we had to weigh that assumption of implied protection against the possibility that the spokesman — a public figure who often is the voice of the city — had engaged in unethical, perhaps illegal, campaigning.

“His explanation is that, while he made his comments from his desk in City Hall, he was on breaks, his own time, and that he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights as a citizen. Becker has placed him on administrative leave as his staff sorts it out.”

This should be an online lesson to us all. Anonymous doesn’t mean anonymous. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a pseudonym or logging in from a computer that isn’t your own. It doesn’t matter if the media you’re using promises anonymity. If the entity feels it is in their best interests, they will find a way around it. The second you give any sort of information to someone else, you’re not getting it back and it will be used to the fullest extent by the people you gave it to. Genie out of the bottle, pandora out of the box (you know what I mean), toothpaste out of the tube.

The Trib is well within its rights as the forum owner to decide as they did, even with the inferred promise of anonymity. The impetus, then, is on users to decide if it’s worth it to them to continue to use their system. My guess is that most still will, feeling that they would never be the target of a newspaper article. To that, let me leave you with some sound advice I once received from an editor friend: News is whatever happens to the editor on the way to work in the morning.

It could be anything. About anyone. At any time. Be warned.

• I have no clue how to tackle the next one, so this may be a bit rambling. Not at all like the last item. I SAID NOT AT ALL LIKE THE LAST ITEM.

Forty-two gang members in the Utah Prison are on a hunger strike for better conditions. (Fox 13) Now, it’s easy for me to think “You guys worked hard to get in there, you get what you deserve.” But I’m not sure that’s how I should be thinking. The ACLU and advocacy groups feel differently than that, of course. Inhumane is inhumane, and our job as the humane part of society is to humanely rehabilitate if possible, and secure in all cases, those who break the law seriously enough to land in prison. To dehumanize them would make us hardly better than those who broke the law. And in that case, we are simply living in a society in which the rule of law no longer applies.

I went through the prison six years ago on a fairly detailed tour and it was a mess then. The Prison Relocation Commission isn’t fooling around when they say a new one is needed. Until then, you have to do the best you can. Prison authorities, of course, say they’re doing their best, and addressing complaints as they get them.

And the 42 gang members aren’t puppy dogs. They’re in the Special Threat Group housing. But, again, they shouldn’t be in less than human conditions, and if they want to improve themselves, an honest effort should be made to help.

Also, it should be noted that in 2012 the Legislature passed a bill allowing the force feeding of inmates. So keep an eye on that to see how it plays out.

• In related news, state fiscal analysts point out what we’re all thinking: The SLC proposed site for the new prison is the most expensive to build, and cheapest to run in the long haul. Because we all know that’s where it’s going, at least we know what’s coming. (Trib)

• Isn’t there something a little sunnier to talk about? Ah, here we go: Utah is hitting its alternative (for now) energy stride, especially in the solar energy space. (You shut your dirty whore mouth, if I want to make a dad joke, I will.) Anecdotally, Vivant is building that massive thing at the Point of the Mountain. I know because I get to stare at it all the time as I’m stuck in traffic no matter what time of the day it is #thankyouverymuchUDOT.

That means new jobs, and new tax breaks to the tune of $37 million from GOED to bring the businesses in. (KUER)

• And finally, in the I-can’t-believe-I’m-writing-about-this news, homelessness is an issue in SLC. I know because a poll told me so. Yeah, that’s why. Not because I can look out my office window and actually see it. Anyway, something something task force, something something “no magic wand.” (Trib)

And if none of that interests you, perhaps it’s because you’re staring at this asteroid go round and round and round. (io9)


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