A Nail in the Coffin | Hits & Misses | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

A Nail in the Coffin 

Another bad sign for our dirty air. What is it with Utahns and conspiracy theories? Plus, sometimes, we just need a dose of the truth.

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A Nail in the Coffin
This is a lesson in how to make you feel hopeless. The Salt Lake Tribune's front-page story on homes adding to bad air is one more nail in the coffin. Earlier, Brian Moench, the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the world that he, too, has become a victim of pollution and is now facing a choice of moving from the Wasatch Front or possibly nailing his own coffin. The Trib found that homes are a big contributor. OK, how many people can move into a net-zero home? Yes, new homes can make a difference, but government inaction will likely make changes to building codes negligible. Studies, including one from The New England Journal of Medicine, make it clear: There's "a consistent increase in daily mortality with increasing PM [particulate matter] concentration." Sadly, governments—Utah and Brazil—seem to care only about making a buck.

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Something in the Air
If it weren't so weird and emblematic of our conservative country today, the storybook tale of Patrick Byrne would be funny. Byrne, if you don't know, was the CEO of Midvale-based Overstock.com, and was a Utahn with deeply held libertarian and conspiratorial beliefs that ultimately caused him to resign. Oh, and there was the purported affair with Russian operative Maria Butina, whom he thinks should take Vladimir Putin's job, according to The New York Times. The Deep State was one of his favorite targets. But then, it still is a favorite of former U.S. Rep. "Little" Jason Chaffetz. Byrne made his fortune hawking stuff like rugs and furniture until he got behind cryptocurrencies. It looks like interim Overstock chief Jonathan Johnson, a failed GOP candidate for governor, likes Bitcoin, too, and perhaps conspiracy theories. It's the way we roll in Utah.

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Tell it Like it Is
Utah has to be thankful for columnists like Robert Gehrke of the Trib. Gehrke tends to focus on the immoralities that underpin government. On a recent KCPW 88.3 FM show and in a less-than-presidential tweet, he said, "Utah's ethics rules are a joke." He was talking about a Trib story on retiring Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, the darling of wilderness privateers, and how he'll be benefitting from a $700,000 state contract he helped make happen. But that's the least of it. He created the American Lands Council and paid himself a handsome salary, mostly from taxpayer dollars. On the Inland Port, Gehrke tweeted, "If I was running the inland port, I'd rebrand it as the largest dirty soda shop in the West. Then every Utahn would support it." So, even if he makes no headway on government change, he gives the public a hard look at their choices in elected officials.

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