Year In Review 

Highlights & Lowlifes of ’05

nnFirst Quarter: January, February & Marchnn

After Richard Nixon’s 1994 death, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson eulogized his still-warm nemesis as a “cheap crook and a merciless war criminal.” In a change of heart 10 years later, Thompson wrote that he’d happily vote for Nixon, “if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang.nn

Thompson wrongly figured Bush was done for after tragicomic showings in three presidential debates. A month after the third-base kid swore in, the moribund doctor blew his brains out. So the mood was set for 2005, a year that screamed for a do-over.

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Of the ill-conceived war, at least it can be said that the occupied Iraqis are coming around. In January, they elected a constitutional assembly, the latest corner turned of many declared since “mission accomplished” all those improvised-explosive-devices ago.

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Questions we never thought to ask rung answers we thought we’d never hear. “At this time,” Central Intelligence Director Porter Goss mumbled to Congress in March, “there are no ‘techniques’ … that … would be considered torture.” Someone asked if Goss’ assurance held for earlier techniques. “I am not able to tell you that.”

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In 2005, credulity itself had the fingernails wrenched out. The architect of the un-iterated torture policy of the United States, Bush counsel Alberto Gonzales, was sworn in as attorney general in February. Bush’s earlier vow to fire anyone (Karl Rove?) involved in leaking the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame was clarified in a new pledge to fire anyone who “committed a crime.nn

Also in January, CBS News institution Dan Rather stepped aside after smearing Bush’s inglorious military service (the White House put on indignant airs but never disputed Rather’s findings). And we learned that the administration prefers propaganda to bad press, paying pundits and producing faux news spots to puff up stalled policy initiatives. Former White House reporter Jeff Gannon was outed as a male prostitute and a GOP fluffer after two years of lobbing sycophantic softballs from the White House press gallery, where he fit right in.

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Terri Schiavo did little for her 15 minutes of fame, except prove that only an inanimate object could capture this nation’s conscience. One rabid right-to-lifer used a box-cutter to rob a Seminole, Fla., gun shop in a bid to “rescue Terri,” but was thwarted. So was Gov. Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully ordered the woman seized despite a court order, and she starved to death.

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Wal-Mart sucked as ever. But don’t tell the Department of Labor, which fined the retailer $135,000 for violating child labor laws, then promised to give the company a two-week head start'to destroy documents and off witnesses?'before investigating future complaints.

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For Utahns, the year got off to an electric start with University of Utah gridders decimating the Pittsburgh Panthers 35-7 in the Tostitos, er, Fiesta Bowl. Before Ute fans could rush the field, Arizona State University police whipped out tasers and zapped the unruly chattel.

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Belatedly, The Salt Lake Tribune’s editorial board made amends for a halfhearted 2004 Bush endorsement by using the better part of a Sunday paper to explain what the hell they’re thinking. Nobody knows what the hell Mayor Rocky Anderson was thinking when, in his State of the City address, he welcomed Davis County visitors, “our friends from the north,” as long as their transportation choices don’t “further foul our air” and “make us sick.” When City Council members suggested Rocky take a chill pill, or risk backlash from state lawmakers, he chided the cowards.

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As warned, state lawmakers then bitch-slapped the city’s legislative priorities. Chiefly, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, sailed a bill barring redevelopment agency monies from subsidizing sports stadiums, killing the capital city’s shot at hosting Major League Soccer franchise Real Salt Lake.

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Beyond that, the legislative session was predictably asinine'hate crimes legislation failed again, but a bill ratcheting up penalties for animal cruelty passed; illegal immigrants will be easier to spot with crosshairs tattooed on their foreheads, and the body recognized McGruff the crime dog.

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On a bittersweet note, Amendment 3 opponent and openly gay attorney Scott McCoy was tapped midsession to take over the seat of ailing state Sen. Paula Julander. Backers promised that the anti gay-marriage amendment, which took effect Jan. 1, would not jeopardize future benefits for gay couples. Bit of a fib, that was. In rejecting measures to extend comparable employment benefits to nonmarried co-habitants, the Legislature, Salt Lake County and Utah State University trumpeted the new law’s prohibitions.

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Nancy Workman was acquitted on felony charges of misusing $17,000 of taxpayers’ money. Not just acquitted, but “vindicated.” Her lawyers convinced a jury that the former Salt Lake County mayor was too dim to conceive of the allegedly elaborate scheme. Makes sense.

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Dead ringer for Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank, Jon Huntsman Jr. swept into office riding a wave of popularity only second to that of outgoing Gov. Olene Walker. After a few folksy gestures, though, the ardent businessman herded together the respective heads of Utah’s minority affairs departments and executed every last one of them. And longtime utilities watchdog Roger Ball'who looks strikingly like a turtle'was unceremoniously sacked from his post as director of the Committee of Consumer Services to make way for his replacement, a former utility lobbyist.

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Furthermore, Whorin’ Orrin Hatch charged fat cats $10,000 each for play dates in Washington, D.C. City Weekly founder and Private Eye columnist John Saltas brain farted and became a conservative. Austerity measures at the Trib nudged veteran columnist JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells into early retirement. The scandal-mongering Deseret Morning News reported that nude pictures of an anonymous yet prominent Utah couple, posted on an Internet file server, were compromised and leaked to the media. (My money’s on Olene and Myron Walker.) And the Provo Library reinstated this rapscallion rag after booting the paper months earlier. Alas, we didn’t notice the ouster, or much blink when the paper returned, which must be a metaphor. For what, though?

nnSecond Quarter: April, May & Junenn

Was it 2005, or 2004? In the spring of this year, it was sometimes hard to tell the difference.

nn

We thought county financial and hiring scandals were a thing of the year just passed, but the second quarter of 2005 seemingly brought a nonstop cavalcade of stories related to Salt Lake County’s jumbled finances. April brought news that whistle-blowers had exposed alleged violations in the use of timecards and tuition reimbursements by county employees. In May, Salt Lake County fleet manager Nick Morgan was put on administrative leave, while it was discovered that employees were still getting tuition advances for summer school despite the alleged violations. Former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman billed the county for $196,000 in legal fees from its unsuccessful prosecution of her on felony charges of misusing public funds. And also in May, the county discovered that it somehow had managed to collect a $150 million surplus, though returning the funds to taxpayers in the form of cuts was never discussed. It was recommended, however, that anyone who wanted a piece of the pie should perhaps consider being hired or elected by the county.

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Other stories from times gone by also somehow continued to make news. In April, Mark Hacking agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the national newsworthy death of his wife Lori, avoiding a trial and thus making it slightly less attractive as movie-of-the-week fodder. That same week, the Deseret Morning NewsTom Smart published yet another book about the investigation into the 2002 kidnapping of his niece, Elizabeth. The book created some tension within the family, inspiring Elizabeth’s father Ed to call a press conference on the deck of a battleship to reassure the world that the family no longer wants to draw attention to itself.

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That old standby, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell, made the news once again in May by overturning the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on all ephedra-based supplements, claiming that there was not sufficient scientific study to prove that low doses were dangerous. The FDA responded by stating that as far as it was concerned, ephedra was still illegal, and oh, by the way, wasn’t it coincidental that noted friend-of-the-supplements-industry Sen. Orrin Hatch is also from Utah? This pissing match may be ongoing at press time.

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Even 2004’s favorite local pop-culture story, BYU alum Jared Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite, continued to make news in 2005 when the film won Best Picture at the MTV Movie Awards. And they say the kids these days won’t watch movies with no sex, violence or cussin’.

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But there was some fresh news from fresh places as well. In May, investor Warren Buffett’s Iowa-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. agreed to pay $5.1 billion for PacifiCorp, the parent company of Utah Power. A representative commented that it was fitting that Utah Power continued to be owned by interests outside the state, since most of the power generated in Utah is used outside the state.

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There was also a new resident in Salt Lake City, as Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake debuted in April. The team struggled in its inaugural season, but officials simply claimed it was part of a larger plan to make it easier on fans when the team becomes Real Sandy. Relocation fever also struck at The Salt Lake Tribune, which vacated its long-time Main Street offices in May to take up swank new digs at The Gateway. No word at press time whether Sandy is offering a better deal.

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The lighter side of the news also hit Utah in the spring. In late April, BYU post-doctoral fellow Kelly Miller was one of two entomologists who named new species of slime mold beetles after the president (Agadathium bushi), vice-president (Agadathium cheneyi) and secretary of defense (Agadathium rumsfeldi). The two men argued that the naming was in no way meant as an insult, since they also named species after their wives and after Darth Vader. “Now if we’d named dung beetles after them,” said Miller, “that would have been a total burn.”

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Apparently, however, the lighter side of the news might be lost on many residents of Salt Lake City. According to a study published in the April issue of Men’s Health magazine, Salt Lake City is the 12th most depressed city in the United States, based on factors including sales of antidepressants and suicide rates. No mention was made of how strong a factor “being a Democrat in Utah” played in the rankings.

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Finally, there was sadness in the spring as newspapers prominently mourned the passing of a much-beloved figure. Yes, Wankie the elephant was euthanized after arriving in Utah from Chicago suffering from lung lesions. Pope John Paul II also died, though from the local coverage you’d never know which one was spiritual leader to millions and which one was named “Wankie.” The investigation into the pachyderm’s passing continues'and undoubtedly will be making news well into 2006.

nnThird Quarter: July, August & Septembernn

Seventy-four thousand Utahns woke in July to find their driver licenses replaced with new driving privilege cards that mark the bearers, mostly undocumented immigrants, as second-class citizens. Provo’s annual Stadium of Fire celebration went off without Sean Hannity who, complaining the show’s new producers had a “Hollywood connection,” backed out.

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On the national front, the country held its breath, and nose, as Sen. Orrin Hatch was rumored to be in the running for a Supreme Court vacancy. Outside Magazine tapped Salt Lake City one of the nation’s top 10 “new American dream towns.” Apparently not for Utah’s Hispanic youth who, a study showed, lagged behind white peers in math and English. The Salt Lake Tribune announced Utah’s Mormon population was shrinking and Utah launched an online porn registry.

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Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and buddy Robert Redford hosted 45 mayors at a Sundance climate conference to rave reviews. That is, until revelations that Salt Lake City’s mayor was buying his climate pals drinks (and food) on the city credit card. In state scandal news, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. hired the manager of an auto parts store'the father of the governor’s executive assistant'to be Utah’s director of international diplomacy and trade but assured the public the job was really just a fancy name for party planner with a $60,000 salary. In Washington, D.C., Utah-boy-made-good Karl Rove was linked to a White House effort to smear a CIA agent.

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Patti Harrington, who as state superintendent of public instruction heads up Utah’s public-school system, told the world there was no evidence for human evolution. The statement was good enough for Sen. Chris Buttars to drop a plan to introduce “divine design” to Utah’s classrooms, but two months later, the Utah Board of Education gave divine design the opposable thumbs down.

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In August, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declared war on Sen. Orrin “digital Joe McCarthy” Hatch. Three Utahns contracted West Nile virus. Four Utah County residents died in a tunnel on Provo’s Y Mountain. The South Salt Lake City Council voted down a ban on home-brewed beer. All falcons born on a downtown Salt Lake City building were presumed dead in flying accidents. Utah learned the state exceeded the national average for rape. Provo was outed as the most conservative place in the nation. Who’d have guessed?

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The NCAA banned the “Runnin’ Utes” nickname as “hostile and abusive.” Utahns began thinking up new monikers'the Brine Shrimp? the Downwinders?'but were ultimately saved when the NCAA granted the University of Utah’s appeal. In athletic news of greater staying power, Texas Christian University joined the Mountain West Conference to dominate both the U and BYU in football and give ammunition to naysayers who always knew the Mountain West sucked.

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Not wanting to be a prisoner in the White House, President Bush scheduled a speech where he could be sure of applause: a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the Salt Palace. He didn’t count on Rocky Anderson, who called for the “the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen.” The protest garnered national media coverage for Anderson'Sen. Orrin Hatch called the protestors “nutcakes”'but ended up costing Anderson’s communications director, Deeda Seed, her job.

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Through Seed, Anderson tried to get local papers to write stories the mayor wanted in exchange for access to his e-mails about the Bush protest. The attempted story bartering was reported in a series of embarrassing headlines, and, in a classic “I quit!” “You’re fired!” scene, Seed left the mayor, saying, “If you go against orders, he’ll chop you into little bits.” Rocky’s assistant also quit in sympathy, citing the mayor’s temper tantrums.

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September began with an unprecedented public apology from Mayor Anderson: “If I said or did anything that hurt or caused anxiety to anyone, I’m sorry.”

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Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina begin arriving at Utah’s Camp Williams, but not everyone was pleased. To get evacuees on planes to the Beehive State, the destination was not disclosed. Federal officials worried evacuees would balk if they knew they would end up in Utah. A rabbi added to the controversy, claiming bigotry was the reason a Utah talk-radio station canceled his program one day after he announced a plan to bring evacuees together with Utahns to discuss racism.

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A Provo jury acquitted two former BYU football players on all charges in a gang-rape trial. The U.S. Energy Department formally approved moving 11.9 million tons of Atlas radioactive uranium tailings from the banks of the Colorado River. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff lobbied to remove low-alcohol malt beverages from grocery store shelves because the drinks appealed to young women, then joined a protest of Avalanche Software trying to shame the company into pulling its “25 to Life” videogame.

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Gov. Huntsman and lawmakers put their collective tails between their legs, postponing a proposed flat-tax after an attorney for the LDS church objected to any plan without a deduction for giving to churches and charities. Huntsman had more success negotiating a settlement with environmentalists to end a lawsuit brought against the proposed Legacy Parkway that provided for a scaled-down road with no heavy truck traffic and preserved wetlands.

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As September closed, Mayor Anderson was again looking for a communications director. The man announced to replace Seed and become Anderson’s seventh communications director was, it turned out, just volunteering until a full-time replacement could be found.

nnFourth Quarter: October, November & Decembernn

In the month’s first issue, City Weekly grand poobah John Saltas cracked his first Cherry NyQuil of the season, resulting in many Private Eye columns centered around the non-DABC-controlled elixir and letters from readers in response throughout October and into November. City Weekly also unveiled a sleek new logo. No one noticed that.

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Since he’s had no luck getting print strokes locally, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson had to go abroad: In the first week of October, London’s Guardian published a glowing article about Anderson and his Red State adventures of being “more liberal than most you will find in New York or California.” Quoth the Rockster, “I truly feel like we’re in the middle of a Kafka novel sometimes … with a little bit of Taliban thrown in.” Chill with some NyQuil, Rocky.

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Indie-rock darlings Death Cab for Cutie returned to Salt Lake City more famous-er than previous visits, and seemingly with a new sense of Rock Star Entitlement. Death Cab were scheduled to perform acoustically on X96 prior to their Oct. 7 In the Venue concert, but balked at having a live audience watch ’em (as many an alt-rock band has in the past at X96) and eventually canceled'but then went across town and played on another radio station. After much vitriol and a brief ban on Death Cab for Cutie tunes (if anyone knows how to get Bush banned, please let us know), the group and X96 later kissed and made up in a phone interview'out of the studio, of course.

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After a year or so of speculation, Sandy was annointed as the home of Real Salt Lake’s new soccer stadium'but the team will retain their name, since Real Sandy sounds like a Telemundo talk show. Analysts speculated the decision was driven by Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan’s eagerness to stick it to fellow suitor Salt Lake City and Mayor Rocky Anderson, but everyone else knows the real reason: sweet Mayan specials!

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Meanwhile, South Salt Lakers were mightily pissed over a strange ordinance that banned Sunday sales of 3.2 beer in taverns and private clubs'far stronger hard liquor and NyQuil, however, would still be readily available. The accidental ordinance was eventually sidelined after outcry from beer-loving locals and several spooky late-night visits from the ghost of Samuel Adams.

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In other local brew news, Wasatch Beers introduced Evolution Amber Ale in November, though it’s really just the Park City brewers’ Unofficial 2002 relabeled with apes, a naked guy and the genius punch-line “In the life of any beer, there comes a time for change … It has, through very intelligent design, become Evolution Amber Ale.nn

And status-quo hatas would need it more than ever ’round November election time: Utahns voted almost all the usual suspects back in, demanded a Wal-Mart on every corner and said, “More taxes!” and “Keep the devil’s fluoride outta the water!” Keeping with Political Business as Usual, St. George Republican Steve Urquhart dropped his bid to challenge Phantom of the Senate Orrin Hatch in 2006, and news came that legislators will be reigniting the ol’ smoking ban in January’s session'in bars, clubs, everywhere.

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Also in the first week of November, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that KCPW 88.3 general manager and Midday Utah host Blair Feulner rakes in over $150,000 a year at a nonprofit National Public Radio station. Feulner defended his salary in the Tribune and on his own station, subjecting himself to grilling from callers'none of whom sounded suspiciously like KUER 90.1’s Doug Fabrizio … we think.

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Despite “the birds will have their revenge” warnings from vegetarian-activist groups, no one caught the deadly H5N1 bird-flu virus from turkeys over Thanksgiving. But hey, there’s always next year.

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Unless the Liberal Media and the Secular Terrorists win the War on Christmas, which officially got underway on Dec. 1, following Black Friday and City Weekly’s Holiday Gift Guide (see how it begins?). According to Resistance General and Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly, “It’s all part of the secular progressive agenda to get Christianity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square. Because if you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada, if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage.” Take heart, Bill: Christmastime in Utah, of course, remained proudly regressive.

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A Texas woman “stormed” the annual LDS Christmas Devotional and almost disrupted President Gordon B. Hinckley mid-speech'but only almost, because GBH is a pro … and probably didn’t hear her. Carolyn Smith claims she was just trying to deliver some paperwork to Hinckley, whom she called a “false prophet” before claiming Joseph Smith as a relative. Reports that she failed a breathalyzer test by blowing a .15 Cherry NyQuil were unconfirmed.

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During a packed Dec. 15 concert, Austin singer-songwriter Bob Schneider happily told the free-smoking Port O’ Call audience that Utah is one of the few places left in the US of A where you can light up a cigarette indoors'“can’t do that in New York or L.A.” Well, maybe we’ll be just that cosmopolitan by the next time you come to town, Bob nn

As 2005 wound down, Utah and America (still attached at press time) were facing the multiple threats of a renewed Patriot Act (to be titled Patriot 2: Electoral Bugaloo), President Dubya’s spying ears (“It’s fer national security'why were you calling Dr. John’s?”), the possibility of a presidential run by former Utahn Mitt Romney in 2008 (a Mormon candidate vs. Hillary Clinton = End Times), a flu semi-epidemic (and Saltas was hording the NyQuil) and gay cowboys (Brokeback Mountain: Not likely to be the talk of the next Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko … or will it?). Courage.

nnYear In Quotes 2005nn

“While the remark is gone, its publication shows that Utah’s oft-stated desire for diversity is about as thin as cheap vinyl siding.” 'Ted McDonough, Hits & Misses, regarding racial demographics on the Website of a home developer in Eagle Mountain, Dec. 8

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“What’s with those people? We build them a nice system to bring them downtown and they treat it like an amusement park choo-choo ride where they just look out the windows and gawk at the animals”'John Saltas, Private Eye, about Sandy commuters who ride TRAX but neverpatronize Main Street businesses, Dec. 1

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“Getting the approval of City Weekly is the reason I play music.”'Miles Buddulph, of local band The Happies, Nov. 10

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“If you ever want to lose your faith in humanity, get a job in food service.”'Jordan Scrivner on what wait staff does while you’re dining out, Oct. 13

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“If someone wants to be whipped, why is that cruel?”'Camilla Taylor, owner of Vegan Erotica, the world’s only manufacturer and retailer of vegan-friendly bondage gear, Sept. 15

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“Note to South Salt Lake: Home brewers aren’t meth cooks.”'Ted McDonough, on South Salt Lake Mayor Wes Losser’s suggested law against home brewing, Sept. 1

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“You’d be hard-pressed to call me a loser while I’m sitting at the Piper Down drinking $6 pitchers of beer in my NASCAR Rusty Wallace Miller Lite T-Shirt.”'Phil Jacobsen, Temporary Membership, Sept. 1

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All newspeople are scumbag rat bastards.”'Totally Awesome Computers owner Dell Schanze, Aug. 4

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“They want to bring the power of America to its knees. … They sent all of our good jobs overseas. They brought people in to take whatever jobs that are left.”'Wally McCormick, member of the Utah Minutemen, July 21

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“That’s when he butchers charm on razor-sharp teeth, coughing up sounds smothered in wet kisses and bloody, bloody fists.”'Jamie Gadette, on the local band Horns, July 7

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“No one has looked more uncomfortable marching in Sunday’s Pride Parade than Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.”'Ted McDonough, Hits & Misses, June 16

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“Who knew that Shauna Lake’s and Nicole Hunter’s favorite author is Ayn Rand? Or that Mark Koebel’s is Hunter S. Thompson?”'Bill Frost, Frost Bytes, June 9

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“Depending on whether you’re DeNiro or Hoffman, the Tribune is either the second best daily paper in SLC or the worst.”'John Saltas, Private Eye, May 26

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“How stupid are these people? Do they not know that they can close the door?”'Salt Lake City police Detective Dwayne Baird regarding alleged victims of knock-and-talk searches, May 5

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“The Utah Symphony & Opera is in financial trouble, and though no one is pointing fingers, the fact is, it’s your fault.”'Eric D. Snider, April 21

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“If Sundance 2005 will be remembered for anything, it will likely be remembered as The Year of the Penis.”'Scott Renshaw, Feb. 3

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“I don’t think there’s another city in the country that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, or any other day'especially with a parade'entirely within the confines of a mall.”'John Saltas, Private Eye, March 17

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“I’d like to be funded by corporations. It would make life so much easier for me.”'Actor and director Crispin Glover, Feb 24

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“After I dodged getting my skull crushed, she went to the kitchen and grabbed my chef’s knife and started swinging it around, cutting me up and ripping my shirt, all the while screaming at me in that Spanish-Cuban accent. She was like a hot little Scarface.”'Anonymous,”Big Dumb Love,” Feb. 10nn

“Ask whether the woman depicted is getting off on power, or just getting screwed by a male-dominated fantasy.”'Jamie Gadette, “Porn & Prejudice,” March 17

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“They want me to stay home and smoke on my porch? Fuck them. Fuck them until they have gills.”'Clark Stacey, a smoker, obviously, Jan. 27

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“I sat down 25 students and asked if they’d ever heard of the Holocaust and they said ‘No.’ Hitler? ‘No.’”'Seth Quackenbush, on North Star Elementary School students, April 28

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“At press time, the people of Murray could still shop for a vibrator.”'Ted McDonough, on The French Lady’s bid to avoid a Sexually Oriented Business license (SOB), Nov. 17

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“We asked him to cover it'not because it’s a swastika, just because it’s a tattoo.”'Nephi Burger King manager regarding a former employee who had the symbol plastered across his forehead, Oct. 27

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“Nobody tests the limits of free expression more than idiots.”'Brandon Burt, Voices, Aug. 18

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“Mayor Rocky Anderson may be the mayor we love to hate, but there are those of us who would have a lot more to protest if he weren’t in office.”'Ben Fulton, Note From the Editor, Sept. 15

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“Someone might care to ask why Bush appointed an estates attorney and former Arab horse association commissioner as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director.”'Ben Fulton, Note From the Editor, Sept. 8

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“So far, the Iraq War is like a stray dog on America’s porch'the American public has yet to embrace the puppy nor is it willing to kick it into the streets.”'John Saltas, Private Eye, Feb. 24

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