Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Has it been a thousand years since Donald Trump became President? Sure feels like it has. So much has happened (and continues to happen at a fairly rapid pace—especially over the past two weeks) since November of 2016 that it's hard to keep up with everything, but I've still been trying. I'm sure (some of, if not most of) you have, too.

And guess what? It's time to do it all over again!

But first, listen up. If you're already in the bag for Trump and/or fully support what the GOP is doing, just leave now. We already strongly disagree, and there's no point in you reading any further. Head back to your safe space in the Fox News comment section, and we'll all be happier.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on. I know you're tired of hearing about politics, but this shit is real. There is so much at stake these days that it's really important to vote—especially in your local elections. These mid-terms have enormous consequences for literally everyone.

I understand why you think voting in a presidential election in Utah is a waste of time. I don't disagree with you, given the make-up of Utah's population, but I would still never miss a chance to vote for someone or something that inspires me (or against someone that I find truly reprehensible). I would encourage you approach it the same way, even if the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion.

The mid-terms are different though. They're largely about what happens in your neighborhood, in your life, and specifically how things will go in Utah over the next few years. That's why this is almost more important on a slightly smaller scale.

On a larger scale, sure if Republicans lose control of either (or both!) the House or the Senate, DJT might actually be held accountable for some of his garbage decisions, and someone will be able to take power away from genuinely terrible people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan (who's retiring, but will just be replaced in the House by a different cowardly—and possibly worse—white guy who only cares about cutting taxes for the rich—which doesn't help me—and taking away healthcare for millions of people—which does affect me).

So let's get to it!

Last time, I went through all the local elections and did my best to present each candidate without bias. It did not work. I will always lean—scratch that, I will always stand firmly on the Democratic side of the bill. After the last two years of watching every elected Republican official just shrug and go along with, or firmly embrace groups like the Proud Boys, or treat women and minorities like second-class citizens, I will never be able to support any of them in good conscience.

So rather than try to pretend that I have an impartial opinion on some of these candidates, I'll just tell you what I think quickly, then we'll move on to the Judges and Ballot Measures.

First of all, check Vote.org to make sure that you're registered and find your polling place if you don't have time for a mail-in ballot.  Second of all, make a plan. Polling locations in Utah are open from 7am to 8pm on November 6. As long as you are in line by 8pm you can vote.

October 30 is the last day to register online, but you CAN register to vote at the polls on election day. All you have to bring is a valid ID and proof of residence (i.e. a utility bill), and you'll be able to register and then vote. It will take a little time to do, so be patient, but if you missed your chance to register online, this is the way to go.

There are a couple of great resources out there for you to look through and make decisions, and they're the ones I've used a lot over the past few weeks.

Also, in Utah you're totally allowed to take selfies with your ballot, which means you're able to use your phone the whole time you're voting. If you don't have a mail-in ballot (which needs to be postmarked by November 5! As an added bonus, you don't even need a stamp! If you miss that, you can drop it off at the County Clerk's Office), a polling location, or a ballot drop box) and end up at a polling location, you can check all of these things while you're there. Take your time and do it right.

Utah Voter Information - This is put together by the state of Utah, and the Lieutenant Governor's office.

Vote Save America - Created by the Crooked Media team (Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeiffer, and a few others), it's a step-by-step guide for what's going on in your local election. It's a great resource, though I'm sure a lot of people dismiss it outright because it was created by a bunch of former Obama staffers. Look past that, because it's really well done.

Ballotpedia - A digital encyclopedia committed to neutrality. I got a lot of information about the ballot initiatives from this site.

Here we go...

U.S. Senate
I'm voting for Jenny Wilson because Mitt Romney has become a walking punchline who will be no different than Orrin Hatch. He stood in front of television cameras and called Trump a con man and a fake, then tried to get a job in his administration. That meeting resulted in this picture. The only way I can describe that photo is like in GAME OF THRONES when Theon Greyjoy finally succumbs, and starts calling himself "Reek" much to the delight of Ramsay Bolton. Romney says he'll stand up to Trump, but until that actually happens (spoiler: it won't), I have no faith in this guy whatsoever. Also, I would vote for an inanimate carbon rod before Romney. His spinelessness and "47 percent" comments alone cemented my opinion of him long ago.

U.S. House of Representatives
I'm with Shireen Ghorbani all the way because I like what she's about, what she stands for, and because Chris Stewart is her opponent. Chris Stewart is awful, and used to sneak under the radar because he was outshined by much bigger local idiots like Jason Chaffetz. Now that Chaffetz is safely in his Fox News bubble and out of local politics (for a minute, anyway. He's probably running for Governor in 2020, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it), Stewart is getting a bit more attention. The site Politics that Work summarizes Stewart's voting record this way: Representative Stewart opposes taxing businesses, consumer protection, funding education, environmental protection, financial sector regulation, gun control, public health, humane immigration policy, labor rights and wages, lgbt rights, avoiding default, poverty amelioration, racial equality, increasing revenues, taxing the wealthy, countering Russian interference, a robust safety net, women's rights. He supports big business, hawkish foreign policy, taxing the middle class, military spending, domestic surveillance.
The italics are my own emphasis, by the way. If you need more persuasion, here's the Salt Lake Tribune listing more of Stewart's political history. Again, he's just awful.

District Attorney
I don't have a great case for or against either Sim Gill (D), who is seeking a third term, or Nathan Evershed (R). This is one where you're going to have to do a little research and come to your own conclusions (which you should be doing anyway, I'm just here to nudge you towards that).

There are other localized races, but I'm not really going to go through all of them because depending on what part of SLC you live in, they'll all be different. Do your research and, go from there.

You're kind of on your own here. There are a lot of judges and a lot of research to do. I have a friend who votes against every judge all the time because he feels like they get too comfortable and need to be changed as often as possible. I don't subscribe to that completely, but I can't say I disagree with it outright. Luckily, there is a resource for you to use. Again, it's totally okay to check these judges from the voting booth if you can't remember all of it.


Constandino Himonas
Mark Kate A. Toomey
Heather Brereton
Laura S. Scott
Richard D. McKelvie
L. Douglas Hogan
Royal I. Hanson
James D. Gardner
William K. Kendall
Kara L. Pettit
Elizabeth A. Lindsley
Tupakk AG Renteria
Elizabeth M. Knight

Now the big ones—ballot measures.

You can find good info on all of them at Ballotpedia. Read through them and make sure you understand what you're voting for or against.

Nonbinding Opinion Question #1 - I'm for it. Ten cents is annoying, but whatever.

Constitutional Amendment A - Yes - If someone is going to volunteer to join the military and be away from their family for 200 days a year, give them a break. It's fine.

Constitutional Amendment B - Nah - The theory here is that landlords will give other people a break if they get one. If you believe that's true, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell you.

Constitutional Amendment C - NOPE! - Right now, the Governor is only one who can call a special session and determine what's on the docket. This amendment would give a bunch of politicians that power, which they could use to pass laws before anyone actually finds out what they're doing or what any of it means. No thank you.

Proposition 2 - YES! - Marijuana is fine. It's not a gateway drug, and it helps a lot of people. Don't let idiots like these, who have no comprehension beyond "ALL DRUGS ARE EVIL" sway you. Medical marijuana will be fine. You'll be fine.

Proposition 3 - YES! - A 0.15 percent sales tax increase to help more people with expenses and spare everyone from feeling bad about scrolling past all those GoFundMe links for medical bills? Let's do it.

Proposition 4 - YES! - Utah's electoral is gerrymandering at its worst. Literally anything that can be done to change that is a good thing. This is a good thing.

There you go! I hope you had fun, and we'll do this again in 2020. Probably.

Go vote. Please.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


When Tommy moved to California, one of the last things he said to me was "Keep an eye on my little brother for me."

Tommy and I had been friends since we were 15, and he's the one who taught me about veganism and straight edge. He introduced me to Coalesce and Earth Crisis. He invited me to join Cherem even though all I had was a knock-off Stratocaster and had never played anything heavier than Blink 182 covers. I felt like owed it to him. It also felt like a pretty simple task.

It was not.

Conor didn't do anything unless he could fully commit to it. He was always up for anything—whether it was a great idea or a terrible one. And he had a lot of terrible ideas.

At one point in the mid-2000's, almost all of my friends lived in an apartment building downtown with a vegan coffee shop and a tattoo shop on the bottom floor, and music venue just down the street. It was across from the Gateway Mall, and right next to the homeless shelter. We called it "The Block" and hung out there all the time. If you were ever bored, you just showed up at The Block, and you'd find someone to have lunch with, a game of 31 to kill time with, or a game of Cee-lo to lose real money on. Every week, we did Sunday movie night at the theater across the street, and everyone went. As long as there was something playing, we saw a movie.

One Sunday night, Conor and I walked over to the mall to check what movies were playing, and what time they started (pre-smart phones was a weird time). There was something playing that he really wanted to see, lobbied hard for it, and convinced me. We checked the time, and started walking back to round up everyone else. I don't remember what we chose, but that wasn't the important part. As we crossed the street, a guy walked past us going the opposite direction. He made eye contact with Conor, said "Nice jacket, man." and kept walking.

I looked over, and Conor had this look like someone had just spit right in his face. We got to the other side of the street, and he stopped walking, looked at me, and pointed back across the street to the guy we'd passed. He was a ways away from us by then, cutting through the vacant lot, on his way to wherever he was going.

"What did that guy say?" asked Conor. I was a few steps ahead, and Conor was standing on the corner, staring back at him. He was at least 500 feet away, still walking, not looking back, and just continuing on with his life. I was so confused.

"The guy we passed crossing the street?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Conor. "He said something."
"He liked your jacket," I said. "I think 'Nice jacket, man' were his exact words. Even I heard that."
"Yeah, but what did he mean?" he asked.
"Probably meant that he likes the jacket you're wearing," I said. "It's a nice jacket."
There was a long pause.
"I think he was talking shit," said Conor.
"He absolutely was not," I replied.
"No he was," said Conor. "I don't like the way he said it, dude."
"Conor, he just said he liked your jacket. That's it. That's all it was."
"He was talking shit."
"I promise you that he was not."
There was another long, silent pause, like we were in the dumbest standoff of all time. Suddenly, Conor took his hands out of his (what truly was a nice jacket) pockets, pulled up his pants, threw his hood up over his head, and started to cross the street.
"Fuck that," he said. "He was talking shit."
I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Even then he was taller and bigger than I was. If he really wanted to, he could have kept going, but he turned back around.
"Nope!" I said. "We're not doing this."
"Oh I'm doing it!"
"Conor, I'm not going to let you fight a guy for telling you he likes your jacket."
"He was—"
"No. He wasn't. He just wasn't. Let's go inside."

Conor took a few deep breaths, and stormed off towards the back door of The Block that was always broken. We walked inside, and headed up the stairs. I opened the door to the second floor, where most of our friend's apartments were, but Conor kept going. "I'm going up to Sias's," he said. He started skipping steps to get up to the fourth floor. I yelled the movie time after him, so he wouldn't forget. He didn't respond, and I went to find everyone else.

An hour later, we were in the lobby of the movie theater, and Sias walked in. Alone. Conor wasn't with him, so I asked where he was.

"Oh he went home," said Sias.
"Went home?" I said. "He chose the movie."
"Said he didn't feel like seeing it anymore and left."
"Was he still mad that I wouldn't let him fight that guy?"
Sias chuckled a little bit, "He mentioned something about that. He said the guy was talking shit."
I opened my mouth to say something, but just took a deep breath and went into the theater, Sias laughing behind me.

I didn't see Conor for almost a week. When I finally ran into him later that weekend, he walked straight up to me, with his huge goofy smile that you could always see from across the room. He shook my hand and led off with his signature, "Oh hey."
"You missed the movie," I said.
"Yeah..." he said. "Hey, I'm really glad you didn't let me fight that guy."
"Just trying to keep you out of trouble," I said, sort of laughing.
"I was so mad at you though. For like three days. I didn't even go to The Block. I was just at home being like, 'man, fuck Trevor.' I was so mad."
"I know."
"Then someone else said they liked my jacket. And I was like 'wait maybe that guy really did just like my jacket!' And then I felt way bad."
"God damn it, Conor."
Then we both started laughing.

That wasn't an isolated incident. It happened more times than I can count, and I don't think it was an experience unique to me (everyone was really good at getting into trouble back then) because everyone else treated him like a little brother, too. Every one of us was almost more invested in Conor's well being than our own, so we all tried to keep him close.

Conor was always passionate about anything and everything. He made up his mind in a split second, and there was almost no way to get him to change it. Sometimes it got him into trouble, but other times—especially when he got older—it turned into a story that made everyone laugh because of how ridiculous it was. That was one of the things I loved about him. If he wanted to, he could turn any situation into a positive one, and he often did. It was one of his best qualities, and one that made everyone become his best friend in an instant.


The last few years, I never saw you on purpose, but I always saw you. I never knew where you were or what you were doing, but I always knew I might see you at any given moment. It was kind of a running joke that if we just started talking about you, your ears would start burning, and you'd show up. It was always about fifteen minutes after everything had ended and we were all trying to go home, but you would always just show up, two-stepping across the street trying to make us laugh, and extend the party for a little bit longer.

Every single time I saw you it made me happy. Even if it had been six months, we picked up right where we left off. Sometimes you'd just appear, crouched next to me on the side of the stage at a show, waiting for the perfect opportunity for a stage dive, promising me that you wouldn't hit any pedals, but always hitting at least one of them. Other times, I'd see you at a random restaurant, or walking through the streets on a summer night. You were always traveling, always saving money for the next thing. I was always a little jealous of your adventures, but I loved hearing about them, and always told you that I was coming along on the next one. I knew I was always in for a good story whenever we crossed paths, and I looked forward to seeing you every time.

I still look forward to seeing you again. Rest in power, Conor. Every adventure I go on from here on out is in your honor, and I promise to go on a lot of them. Just for you.