Friday, December 31, 2010

Predictions for 2011

New Year's predictions for 2011:

January: While the Republicans are reading the Constitution on the floor of the House, Nancy Pelosi will surreptitiously insert the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into their document and they will read through it without noticing.

February: The House will pass a bill to repeal health care reform. Except of course for theirs. To make sure that 'Tea Party' freshman Andy "I'm in it for Meeee!" Harris (R-MD) is happy an amendment will be included to guarantee that members of Congress never even have to go a day without their government paid health care plan.

March: Congress will take a vote on raising the debt ceiling. They will agree only when it is pointed out how much of the debt is due to corporate welfare being paid to banks, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, defense contractors and other big campaign contributors. We'll learn that the fastest way to quiet down a 'Tea Party Republican' is when the corporate fat cats that gave hundreds of millions to American Crossroads to get them elected this year give them a call to remind them, 'you're working for us. We bought you, remember?' As a concession to those who actually thought they would vote against raising the ceiling, John Boehner will agree to cry for five minutes.

April: Russell Pearce will get the legislature to pass a bill requiring that schools and other public buildings include a loaded handgun in an emergency case next to every fire extinguisher. Needless to say, no funds will be provided to pay for this ('us pay for it after making you do it? You've got to be joking!!')

May: Sarah Palin will say she still hasn't decided about whether to run for President and the press will write about nothing else for a month. Later on she will announce she is running, but then once all her supporters have sent her money she will abruptly quit.

June: LeBron James and the Heat will fall flat in the NBA playoffs and set up another Celtics-Lakers NBA final. Sorry folks. In the NBA, the Celtics are the kings, the Lakers are the dukes and everybody else is just another basketball team. If LeBron wanted to beat Kobe for a title he should have signed with Boston.

July: Democrats will prevail in the Congressional softball game after 'tea party' Republicans force three 'establishment' players, including the first baseman, off the team for being left-handed. They will replace them with true righties.

August: Hundreds of birthers will fly to Kenya to celebrate President Obama's fiftieth birthday. Local residents will take their passports and supply them with Kenyan credentials, and when they come back Joe Arpaio will accidentally arrest them for being 'illegal' and send them to Durango Prison. After several days of inhuman conditions they will be put on a bus for Nogales, where they will immediately be kidnapped by the zetas and held for ransom. The mistake will eventually be discovered and the U.S. state department will send Bill Richardson on a mission to the zetas to negotiate their release but it will be educational for them to find out what life is like for immigrants in Arizona without proper documentation.

September: A major hurricane will hit New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie will ask the White House to delay issuing a disaster declaration until he finishes his Caribbean Cruise vacation. Newark will be the only city in the state where people get debris cleared out of the roadway because Mayor Booker will be out there operating a backhoe himself.

October: By this point in the year, the Tea Party will have tried to push through so much bad legislation that three cornered hats with powdered wigs and buckle shoes will be big for Halloween.

November: Russell Pearce will announce that he wants all turkeys being shipped into the state opened and inspected to make sure nobody is smuggling an anchor baby inside.

December: State workers will be called into emergency duty at the state capitol on Christmas Day, after it is discovered that Santa stopped directly over the building and dumped several tons of coal on it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why I support Rodney Glassman as Arizona Democratic Party Chair

Last week, Rodney Glassman, who some of you may know ran for the U.S. Senate against John McCain earlier this year, contacted me to ask if I would support him for chair of the state party. I called back and asked him some questions that I had, and I am convinced that he is the right man for the job.

The first reason I and many others are supporting him is that he has promised (once the redistricting commission has done their work) to develop a 30 district strategy that will aim to 1) put Democrats on the ballot for all ninety legislative seats, and 2) run a competitive race for each of them. I believe this can be done. It is certainly true that we should get a better legislative map than the 2000 map (it would be hard to get one that was worse than what was, let's face it, a Republican gerrymander even though drawn by an ostensibly non-partisan commission.) However, even in Republican districts, Democrats can win if we can match winning candidates with a winning message. As proof consider that former Governor Janet Napolitano, besides winning very heavily among Democratic and Independent voters, in 2006 also got a third of the votes of registered Republicans. So if we assume from this that a third of registered Republicans are at least willing to consider voting for a Democrat, Glassman's 30-district strategy seems very reasonable. In 2012, especially after two years of Pearce-Brewer budgets it's hard to imagine that voters won't be at least willing to listen to what we have to say.

That's the second reason I support Rodney Glassman. He wants to craft a message that matches the main concerns that people here have: the economy, education and jobs. Many people are feeling economically insecure and see their bills rising higher and higher while their economic prospects diminish and they worry about layoffs and unemployment. Republicans have always diverted attention from this by finding a convenient scapegoat, be it Washington or Latino immigrants or unions or any number of other distractions. The failure of Arizona Democrats to answer with a cogent, consistent economic message has often meant that these distractions are successful by default.

Rodney Glassman not only believes that we can do this, but he is willing to approach it with the same optimism that spurred him to run against the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States and still get more votes and raise more money against John McCain in Arizona than any Democrat ever has.

The third reason why I support Rodney Glassman is that he is committed to the whole state, especially rural counties. He told me that the success we in Navajo County had on the reservation through the help of the state party hiring a Native American Outreach coordinator based in Navajo County while we provided the infrastructure is a model for what we should do on all reservations and he's willing to commit to making it happen through his leadership of the state party. Turnout is always poor on the reservations (for example it was ony about 10% on the White Mountain Apache reservation) but the Navajo reservation was one of the few reservations where turnout numbers were reasonable. When Arizona native Americans vote they vote 90% for Democrats so building and expanding this outreach is crucial for reaching Native American voters. Further, as a party vice chair from a rural county I have been impressed with his outreach to every part of the state. Rodney Glassman made sure, even though by state law he only had to collect sufficient signatures in three counties to qualify for the ballot in his Senate race, that he collected them from all fifteen counties. And in stark contrast to his likely opponent who famously visited every county in the state during a 48 hour blitz on Sunday and Monday right before the election, Rodney Glassman visited around the state during the actual campaign and made it clear that winning votes in outstate Arizona is a priority for him.

Finally, Rodney told me when I talked to him that he plans to serve as state party chair full time if he is elected. In the past our state chairs have not done that, splitting their time with their job. For example, Don Bivens still practices law and recently served as a member of the board of the American Bar Association. Certainly a worthy thing to do, but it meant that he was unable to serve as party chair full time. Rodney is able to do so, between the fact that he does have the personal resources and his wife is working full time. In so doing, I believe he will supply the energy and organization that can only be provided by a full time chair. It also means that he will be available 100% of the time. If you call or contact Rodney he will take your call or listen to your message and get back to you. A party chair must be accessible and he will do that.

The Arizona Democratic party certainly has a wide range of intelligent, capable people. We have a unique opportunity ot make gains in 2012 when many incumbent legislators will be running in new districts. I believe that Rodney Glassman is the man who can turn these opportunities into reality.

Or, as James Carville once put it in a book that laid out a Democratic strategy for winning the country back during the Bush years, "I'm sick of losing." So is Rodney.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jon Kyl defends earmark after voting against earmarks by pointing out administration supports the earmark

You know I've been spending way too much time on Facebook when it's been TWO MONTHS since I wrote a blog post. Granted, I was working on the election for the first part of that time (even though no candidate I worked for above the level of Justice of the Peace won-- but looking at the 'glass half full' side at least in Navajo County Democrats did win two of the three JP races that were contested, and the one we lost was in a 3-to-1 Republican area but Elaine Curiel still made a race of that one.) I'm glad that Evelyn Marez won handily here for Justice of the Peace. Races above that, well I'm looking forward to 2012.

However, I do want to get back to blogging (even if I still post all kinds of stuff on FB that would be great blog material) so I'll srart by again, calling Senator Kyl a hypocrite. Most of you (if anyone still looks at this blog after two months) know that he is the Senator who joined his GOP colleagues in voting to ban earmarks, and then only 72 hours later added an earmark to a bill. You may not know that the earmark is for a water project on the Whiteriver Apache reservation here in Navajo County. So, I support the earmark, but I don't pretend to be against earmarks. I called Senator Kyl's office today about it and the young guy who answered the phone read verbatim from a statement he was supposed to read to people who called about the earmark essentially saying the earmark was not an earmark. I expressed some skepticism about that and his next response floored me:

"It has the support of the administration."

Uh,...yeah. It does. And like I just wrote, it has my support. But it appears that Jon Kyl is playing both sides of the fence here. He is publically claiming he is against earmarks and is openly doing everything he can to defeat the Obama agenda (witness START) but is then defending his 'first-over-the-line' earmark by saying, "it has the support of the administration."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't be afraid to tell people bad news

What the report out the past day or so about the BP Oil spill makes it clear is how much the administration has been caught up in the whole Washington trap of trying to candy coat everything.

Start with the economy. Even today, most people don't blame Obama for it.

But the reports of 'greenshoots' last year and continuously trying to talk it up have had an effect-- not on the economy, but on the administration's credibility.

Then there is Afghanistan. Remember that the Bush administration's repeated assertions that things were going well in Iraq when they were not destroyed their credibility over time. But it seems as if the Obama administration is repeating the same mistakes. We still have no clear mission, no definition of what a 'victory' even is, and we are losing American soldiers and dumping money into it, for WHAT? Who knows anymore? But whatever it is, is still getting sugar coated by the administration.

So now the oil spill report comes out. The oil spill was another situation that Obama did not create-- it was BP's fault. But now we learn that the administration was continually trying to minimize the apparent scope of the disaster, sticking to numbers that were only 1/60th the actual size of the spill.

My question is, WHY!!?? Why carry BP's water on this and get slicked yourself as a result? I don't understand that. Is it a reflexive reaction in Washington that when you are in control all news must be spun to the positive side?

Americans are adults and would like to be treated accordingly. If the news is bad, then tell us the bad news.

In 1940, Winston Churchill took over from Neville Chamberlin during the most discouraging days of World War II. He made a speech in which he promised the British people, "I have nothing to offer you but blood, tears, sweat and toil." Then a couple of weeks later as German forces closed in on Paris he began a speech with, "The news from France is very, very bad" before going into details. Whatever one might think of Churchill, he set a mold with those two speeches that it would do well for our politicians to follow.

When you only spin all news as good, you close the trap upon yourself. You now own it, any failure to live up to what you've said (i.e. reality) becomes a disappointment, and after enough times of crying "no wolf!" people start to not believe you and all you can do is scream "Happy, happy news, all is well!" all the louder to compensate. Eventually you blow out the amplifier.

This is something it would behoove President Obama to learn as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Of armed mice and blasting mountains apart in God's name

Which of the following quotes is fake?

. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment.

-- Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, in an interview with the Bill O'Reilly show in 2007.

"I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there

-- Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul

I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

—Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle, floating the possibility of armed insurrection in a radio interview, Jan. 2010

"We would be much better off with a closer relationship between church and state."

-- Colorado GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck, in an interview on the Jim Pfaff show, May 21, 2010

Sadly, none of these quotes are false. If Republicans take over the Senate, these are the people who will be running the show.

The Tea-Party driven GOP is rapidly deteriorating into the party of complete wackos. No wonder so many of them are birthers.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Does Paul Gosar trust the voters? Doesn't look that way to me.

It's been two weeks since the Arizona primary it's still true that nobody knows who Paul Gosar is.

And I think he wants to keep it that way. The Republican challenging Ann Kirkpatrick for Congress still hasn't put much of anything on his website beyond that he was named 'Dentist of the Year.' OK, well Doc Holliday was a dentist too. I want to know more than that. But I've been to his website several times and have learned practically nothing about his views on complex subjects like Social Security, education and HOW to balance the budget (since he says he supports a balanced budget amendment) while also cutting taxes (since he also says he wants to do that.) IF he really thinks he can balance the budget while cutting taxes, I'd like to have some hint of exactly where he will cut trillions out of the budget because that is what it would take.

Why not answer this? Don't the voters have a right to an answer? Well, apparently not, I guess.

I have found video of him on the internet, but he's always speaking to the same tea party base. In some places that might be enough, but Arizona district one is a huge district with a very diverse group of voters. But apparently he doesn't trust the rest of us enough to actually talk to us.

Even his web ads are nothing but a sign with his name on it interspersed with a stream of standard GOP rhetoric (this could have been any Republican campaign ad for the past quarter century.)

Last week, Rep. Kirkpatrick sent Gosar a letter challenging him to a series of five debates. He has not responded yet. As a guy with low name recognition, don't you think he'd welcome the opportunity to have not just one, but five debates against the incumbent he hopes to replace? Heck, Terry Goddard can't even get Jan Brewer to agree to ONE debate, and here Ann Kirkpatrick, who wants to let people have the opportunity to see, hear and decide based on what they have seen and heard, offers Gosar FIVE debates and he can't even decide whether he wants to debate her?

WHY NOT? It seems clear that he doesn't trust the voters to actually watch him in a debate.

Maybe he's playing 'stealth' now because some of what he has said, is certainly open to question. For starters, last week he said he's "not a fan" of the seventeenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution and it seems he wants to repeal it.

That's the amendment that allows us to vote for our own U.S. Senators. He would prefer the legislature do it. Is he serious about that? Think about the Arizona legislature for a moment, and ask whether you'd want Russell Pearce and Ron Gould naming a U.S. Senator, rather than you having the right to vote for one.

Apparently once again, Paul Gosar doesn't trust the voters and wants to take away our right to vote for our representation in the United States Senate.

I for one value my right to vote. And while I've sometimes not agreed with Representative Kirkpatrick (such as when she voted against the Energy Bill last year) I can see that she's considered the needs of a very large and very diverse district-- and it reflects in her voting record.

Let's remember that it was only two years ago that the last Republican to be elected in this district, who had earlier been named three years in a row to the list of 'Washington's dirtiest members of Congress,' a list where he joined luminaries like Duke Cunningham and William Jefferson-- declined to run again after being indicted on multiple counts of bribery, embezzlement and extortion. Ann Kirkpatrick has restored honor and personal integrity to the office of our district's member of the House of Representatives of the United States. For that alone, she would deserve re-election.

If Paul Gosar wants to aspire to such an office then he needs to come out and say who he is and be specific about what his plans are and how he plans to accomplish them. He's so far not done that.

Friday, August 20, 2010

John McCluskey caught; Report shows private prison was unacceptable

Thank God that last night, three weeks after it began, the private prison break ended. As much as she doesn't want to talk about it, it was Jan Brewer's call to shift some public prisons to private control. Her chief of staff and a top campaign aide both are lobbyists for the private prison industry, and it was her decision in January to allow the transfer of over 100 dangerous maximum security inmates, including murderers, rapists and other violent felons, to a medium security private prison that was built for DUI offenders.

We should salute the professionalism of law enforcement officers from several states and the Federal U.S. Marshal's Service, and a U.S. forest ranger that finally ended the private prison break yesterday after three weeks, two murders, a kidnapping, a shootout, auto theft and millions of dollars worth of man-hours. In contrast, this is how private prisons work:

Shortened hours that led to no patrols of the perimeter fences during shift changes, alarm systems that often did not work or resulted in false alarms, guards who took over an hour to respond when the alarm did go off, a prison door propped open with a rock...

Let's also not forget underpaid and poorly trained guards resulting in high turnover.

State prisons director Charles Ryan almost grudgingly had to admit that it was time to move almost 150 especially dangerous inmates, including all the convicted murderers, out of the 'medium-security' facility and back to a maximum security facility run by the state. No word on why it took them three weeks to even recognize it was time to do that.

The most telling paragraph:

Washington [spokesman for the private prison company] offered up this explanation for the blatant security failures: "We have a lot of new and young staff that have not yet integrated into our security practices, so we're going to go back to basics with that staff."

OF COURSE THEY DO!! I used to live near a private prison in New Mexico and they had people getting hired and moving on out of there almost like they do at a truck stop or a carnival. If you pay people just what you need to pay them to keep warm bodies present (which private prison companies do, after all they are mainly interested in maximizing profits) then an inexperienced workforce will be the usual situation, not something that is rare or remarkable. If anything, they probably have a more experienced than usual workforce now, because at least they have the recession to hold people in their jobs a little bit longer.

Once the economy picks up, they will leave even faster. If anyone remains there it will be the misfits and incompetents who can't get a job that pays any better. Anyone who is actually competent enough to be worth more will find a better paying job elsewhere, very likely with a state or federal prison or law enforcement agency.

Here's the absolute kicker: It took them SEVERAL HOURS to find this hole:

Private prisons are NOT the way to go. In a public prison with professional, career prison guards, there is nothing the inmates know that the guards don't know. Any other model is not as secure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Debate on Arizona prop 203

One of the more interesting moments in this week's state Democratic Party meeting came at the end. Rather than taking a stand either in favor of or against Arizona ballot proposition 203, a voter-initiated ballot initiative to allow and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, the party allowed one proponent and one opponent to each make their case.

As is so often the case in these types of debates, both sides had a point but then both also did not have a point.

Let me first clarify where I stand on the issue of marijuana. Like most Americans, I do not use marijuana. But also like many Americans (and at least one poll suggests a majority though most other polls disagree) I support making it legal for adults (no prescription required.)

That said, let me address the arguments on both sides of the question, beginning with those made by the speaker in favor of prop 203. The speaker pointed out that we have several times in the past voted in favor of marijuana for medical use with a prescription (a position that agrees with the views of an overwhelming majority of voters) but that without dispensaries this is a meaningless 'right' because there is no legal way to get it. Certainly that is a legitimate argument. All marijuana, before being used, must be produced. Then, unless the grower is also the sole user, it must be transported, and then sold to the eventual user. Of course all of these things, growing, transporting and selling marijuana are felony crimes. The idea of a dispensary is it gives a regulated but legal (at least according to the state) venue where transactions that would be illegal anyplace else can be conducted freely and without fear of the police (though there are still federal agents who technically could-- but very unlikely actually would-- show up and make arrests.) One immediate problem that has come up (and this is something the anti- guy said,) is that in many states a whole bunch of dispensaries are popping up and very few of the people who get marijuana are actually sick.

The question I have, then, is instead of dispensaries why not push for pharmacies to distribute marijuana? I know why they don't-- fear of a federal raid, but that is not a fear that can't be argued against given the low number of such raids.

However, if you really believe in legal access to medical marijuana (as I do) then why not push for such a prescription to be filled in a Pharmacy? Not only are pharmacists trained professionals who may even know about drug interactions and other side effects, but in fact it is reasonable to expect that you will be able to get any prescription filled at your pharmacy. For example, I use an inhaler for my asthma, but it would be ridiculous to get that prescription someplace that only sold inhalers. So why is medical marijuana any different? SELL IT AT THE PHARMACY!!!:

The second guy suggested not passing the bill for essentially two reasons. The first was that, as a physician, he's seen children and teens who have used marijuana and argues that their mental congition skills are lacking. As a result they do poorly in school. This is a good point, except that by making it he's acknowleging that the kids get it anyway. And it's true-- you can walk into any junior high school in America and probably learn who to talk to if you wanted to buy some pot. In fact, one could argue that legalizing it for adults would make marijuana more difficult for children to get (I will make that case further down.)

His second argument is that the system of dispensaries is being abused everywhere it is being tried (he had some statistics showing that only 2-3% of the people who use them have cancer, glaucoma or other conditions that are commonly cited as being treated by marijuana.) He talked about corruptible doctors who write prescriptions for 'pain' and make virtually their entire business off of writing prescriptions for marijuana. He then went on to say that this is a 'back-door path' to legalization. And you know what? He's right about that.

And that's why I may end up voting against this (haven't decided yet.) As a supporter of legalization I think those of us who believe that it should be legal shouldn't try to sneak in through the back door but should instead walk in through the front door. Clearly this is a debate that needs to be had, but let's as a society have a candid and forthright discussion about marijuana legalization, and not try to 'trick' anyone into voting for de-facto legalization. There are some very good arguments to be made for legalizing it. Let me lay a few of them out:

1. Marijuana is not any more hazardous to our health than is tobacco or alcohol. They are all bad for us, but we have as a society decided that in the absence of an imminent danger just by the fact of use, that people have the right to be stupid and use tobacco and alcohol, and it is hard to suggest that marijuana is any worse for you. In fact in some ways it is better (for example, it is possible to die from an overdose of alcohol or nicotine, and some people have, but you can't O.D. on marijuana.)

2. We now spend tens of millions of dollars in Arizona (and billions nationally) catching and prosecuting growers, shippers and venders of marijuana, and our prisons and courts are stuffed to capacity. In this time of strained state budgets around the country (certainly including Arizona) can we really afford to keep millions of people in prison for selling pot?

3. Legalizing it would be a body blow to the drug cartels, as they now make most of their money from growing, smuggling and selling hemp. True that they also smuggle other, more expensive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines but their bread and butter has always been marijuana.

4. It is true that local police departments make a lot of money under the RICO statutes from drug busts and their ability to keep a proportion of it. However, this money could easily be replaced by money collected in taxes from legalized marijuana, and let's be honest-- the RICO statutes have distorted law enforcement. I noticed a couple of years ago that there were far more police radar traps on the eastbound lanes of I-40 near where I live than in the westbound lanes. I asked a friend of mine who is a police officer why this is, and he told me that they are much more likely to make a drug bust from eastbound traffic, as it has become a major drug smuggling route, and of course with the statute that allows them to keep money from such busts there is a major financial incentive to watch the eastbound lanes more closely. The problem is that local (and clearly some out of state) drivers have noticed this too-- I drive on that highway every day and I see more speeders and reckless drivers going west than going east. So the drug war distorts the priorities of law enforcement, and this distortion is making life more dangerous for you and I even though I (and possibly you) don't use any drugs.

5. About that contention that legalizing it would make it harder for kids to get that I made at the end of the second paragraph:

I believe this is true, partly because kids have such an easy time getting it now but mainly because drug dealers don't care if you are 50 or 15 as long as you can pay, whereas circle K will check your ID if you try to buy tobacco or alcohol (they pay a substantial fine if they don't.) Drug dealers generally don't carry boxes of booze around with them, because adults would have no reason to buy it and it's still true that the majority of the drug dealer's clientele (especially those who can afford the more expensive or larger amounts of drugs) are adults. It's just not profitable for a drug dealer to charge a high price for something that most of the customers can get for less. The only ones who might have a difficult time with this are kids, but isn't our goal to discourage them from drinking (or smoking marijuana) anyway? A real eye opener was a study (and I wish I could find a link to it) that appeared in the Flagstaff Daily Sun about five years ago in which they found that more students in the Flagstaff school district reported having smoked marijuana in the past month than reported smoking tobacco. The reason why is pretty clear-- it's become easier for kids to get marijuana than cigarettes. So, if we made marijuana legal for adults then we could license it, regulate it and monitor sales in a way we can't do now.

Overall, prop 203 is far from a good law, and it's tempting to take a 'do no harm' kind position and vote against it in hope of getting a better law, but it's also still possible that I will vote for it because nothing is perfect and to vote to do nothing would be interpreted as a mandate to do nothing, and I do want to see reform get done.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Something else Russell Pearce finds to be 'unconstitutional.' THE CONSTITUTION

Russell Pearce, the Arizona legislator who brought us Senate Bill 1070, tonight on Larry King said that the fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is 'unconsitutional.'

Yes, you heard that right.

Of course the fourteenth amendment is PART of the Constitution, and got there only by going through the same mechanism set out in the Constitution to amend it; that is by passing both houses of Congress and then being ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states.

So now the far right is claiming that the Constitution is 'unconstitutional.'

He's wandered off into the really deep grass on this one. What a moron!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Most of Arizona SB 1070 blocked by Federal Judge

Judge Susan Bolton has issued a temporary injunction against key parts of Arizona Senate Bill SB 1070. Among the provisions that she blocked include requiring all immigrants (including legal immigrants) to carry papers with them at all times and the provision that would require police to consider the immigration status during routine police contacts.

This is good news but of course Governor Jan Brewer immediately announced plans to waste more of the state's money by appealing the decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco. Governor Brewer apparently has little confidence in that body, making clear she plans to continue to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And of course the Sheriff of Nottingham, Joe Arpaio, said that he will be running another immigrant sweep tomorrow whether the new law is in force or not.

One provision that was left intact allows any local bigot to challenge the police in court with a lawsuit if said local bigot believes that the police are not enforcing the provisions of SB 1070. Right now that doesn't mean much since there are few of the really odious provisions left intact, but not tossing this out could be a problem in the long run if some of the provisions are ever ruled back in play or if similar laws are passed with this provision.

Concerns for the future, but for today, this is a happy day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tea Party claims to not be racist by writing a racist letter and listening to a racist speaker

Suppose that someone accused you of doing something and you didn't think the accusation was fair. How would you respond?

Well, we know how the Tea Party responds. This past week the NAACP passed a resolution aimed at the Tea Party, specifically for not confronting racist comments, signs and other displays from within its ranks (for example, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul suggesting that we go back to segregated lunch counters.)

So how does the Tea Party handle this? By the official spokesman of the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams, proving the NAACP's point by writing a hypothetical letter from the NAACP President to Abraham Lincoln, not only full of racist language but even telling him that he should not have ended slavery.

And then they follow that up by listening to a video from David Duke, the former Klan Imperial Wizard who a few years ago ran for Governor of Louisiana and then later for President.

This isn't how you prove you aren't racist!

I think, having listened to all the Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity I could stomach, that this is the result of the 'alternative media' coming to full fruition. They keep preaching about how the First Amendment guarantees the right to use 'politically incorrect speech' and they make a big deal out of doing it on air. So this kind of comes natural to them and their followers by now.

The issue of politically incorrect speech of course is NOT a first amendment issue. Nobody disputes that the first amendment gives you the legal right to call anyone any name you want to. You won't be prosecuted in a criminal court for it.

But that's not to say that you won't be held accountable for the consequences of your speech. Just as someone whose Constitutional right to free speech can be sued in civil court for slander or libel if they say or write falsehoods about people, so too if you insult someone using racist language you have to accept the consequence, which is that you will be judged a racist and an ignoramus for using it. You can't have it both ways. Go on all the racist rants you want, and listen to speeches by all the bigots you can find, but don't then be upset when someone calls you a racist. Because by your words and the associations you keep, so will you be judged.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Reverse paternity? This is the kind of thing that gives lawyers a bad name

Lebron James is in the news tonight, after announcing that he will join re-signed star Dwyane Wade and free agent star Chris Bosch playing for the Miami Heat. James could have made more money staying in Cleveland, or playing in New York, New Jersey or Chicago but it seems as though the lure of having some teammates who can help him win a championship was just too good to pass up.

There is another story about Lebron in the news today too, and it's too bizarre to believe. A Washington D.C. lawyer is suing LeBron, claiming to be his father. No, I'm not making that up. The lawyer, Leicester Stovell, is claiming to have had sex one time with LeBron's mother, Gloria James, after meeting her in a bar in 1984 and that somehow that entitles him to $4 million.

Washington (CNN) -- A Washington lawyer has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming he is the father of basketball star LeBron James.

Leicester Stovell alleges that the athlete and his family have been involved in a cover-up to deny paternity by committing fraud and misrepresentation. He told HLN's "Prime News" on Thursday that he wants "a carefully structured and secure DNA test" to prove he's the NBA all-star's father.

Stovell says he has been trying for three years to establish paternity and is seeking $4 million in damages. An earlier test ruled out the possibility, but he said the test could have been tampered with -- "and there are indications that there was a motivation."

Oh, and just in case you figured the suit itself wasn't already a record for having an unmitigated case of chutzpah, consider he also, after allegedly learning that Gloria James was pregnant added this touching reminder:

Stovell said his only request was that the child, if a boy, play basketball.

Awww, how much this is pulling at the heartstrings....

Stovell then goes on:

He said his memory of the encounter resurfaced more than 20 years later, "after being asked whether I had a son, and I then systematically explored all of my past for that possibility."

I guess he'd have to say that to explain how come he never thought about it during the intervening twenty years. You know, the twenty years during which a kid growing up without a father might have found one worth having around. In fact, it appears that Mr. Stovell only thought about this once it became obvious that LeBron was going to be earning tens of millions of dollars.

Luckily, like any huckster, Stovell eventually gets crossed up by his own mouth:

He says he was informed by Gloria James months later that she was pregnant. He claims she told him the child would be named LeBron, similar to Leicester Bryce, Stovell's first and middle names.

What was that he had said earlier in the interview about him not thinking about whether he had a son for twenty years? He claims a woman he met at a bar and had sex with once, wanted to name her son after him, but then he went 20 years without thinking about whether he HAD a son?

Not only do I believe that the first DNA test was true and that Mr. Stovell is a first class huckster and charlatan, but even if he IS LeBron's dad, the HECK he deserves $4 million! He deserves exactly what he ever gave to his 'son.'


Monday, July 05, 2010

Five year blog anniversary

Five years of writing this blog.

And looking back at the first day of this blog I can see that five years ago, much has changed, but much has not. I put up three posts that day:

Welcome to the Institute of Deep Thinking

On Nuclear Proliferation and Iran

I'm proud of my country and I want to restore the image that I'm proud of

It was a different world then. George Bush was still pretty high in the polls, having won re-election the year before, and this was before Katrina exposed the ineffective cronies he'd put in charge of key agencies. The Iraq war was only two years old and the White House was still expressing optimism that victory was almost won. Afghanistan was on the backburner, an afterthought. There were almost daily threats of a new war against Iran. The economy wasn't great, but it wasn't bad and housing prices were going up at a dizzying rate.

Some of what I wrote then turned out to be too optimistic, but then I did make a statement then that turned out to be very accurate. From the second post five years ago:

In Iran today, over 60% of the population is under 30—people with no memory of the Shah and who took no part in the revolution but have instead come to resent the strictures of an Islamic society. As the years pass, this number will grow. The revolutionary rhetoric of Ayatollah Khomeini is as dead to them as the rhetoric of Lenin is to Russians. And like the Russians, Iran’s internationalist revolutionary fervor (where they actively tried to incite Islamic revolution in neighboring countries) seems to have passed with the aging of that generation, bled dry by the Iran-Iraq war. The mullahs have their hands full just maintaining internal control, and it is hard to see why they would start a nuclear war which would devastate their country and destroy what hold they still have....

Going back to the Soviet Union, it fell because of a policy of ‘constructive engagement.’ People saw our freedom, and wanted it for themselves. If anything, the survival of Cuba and North Korea, almost alone among old line anti-capitalist Marxist states (recall that China and Vietnam have had the foresight to develop private enterprise) is indicative that failure to engage the people of these nations strengthens the regime instead of undermining it. I pointed out in I-2 that Iran has a similar internal structure, where young people want change and the old line revolutionaries want to preserve the status quo. Engage the people who will be the future, and a future of freedom will arrive one day, and the people will earn it themselves, and treasure it all the more.

Obviously as we've seen in the past year that younger generation in Iran did want something else. Only our foreign policy wonks didn't expect that. Maybe I should have sent that post to the CIA.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Borne aloft by words and dreams. Words to die for, that a dream might come true.

234 years ago this very day, modern hyperspectral imaging technology has verified that Thomas Jefferson crossed out a word in an early draft of the Declaration of Independence and replaced it with a different word. The word he crossed out was, 'subjects' and he replaced it with 'citizens.'

And so a revolution was born. Americans were not merely British subjects of the Crown who wanted King George to pay attention to a list of grievances, but instead were ready to leave that union, for better or worse, and strike out into the world on our own.

And the first challenge was to defeat King George's army. After nine long, bloody years (measured from the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 18-19, 1774) to the final treaty ending the war in 1783, freedom was won and independence was assured.

As Americans we often disagree about many things. I welcome conservatives to challenge me on this blog, not because I will often agree with them, but rather because I love living in a country where I can write this blog, they can comment on it, and we are both protected by the same Constitution. We can go back to the partisan battles tomorrow, but for today I am glad to be part of a great nation along with more than 300 other people.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is BP allowing the leak to continue to protect profits?

What do former President Bill Clinton and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) have in common?

Both Clinton and Gingrey are now on record as suggesting that the navy should take over the operation from BP and blow up the well.

The basic idea seems to be that they could drill one or more shafts parallel to the well shaft and about ten feet away and then fill them with high explosive which when detonated would collapse the actual well shaft inward, sealing itself. These parallel shafts would be only about ten feet deep (in contrast to the 10,000 feet that the relief well is being drilled into the rock as we speak.)

I HOPE the reason this was not done is because whatever Clinton and Gingrey may have said, there are technical problems that make it as daunting or as risky as the methods that have been tried (which is possible, because politicians sometimes have been known to make suggestions about things they really don't understand very well.)

However, a disturbing couple of lines pops up if you read today's article (the one on Clinton endorsing the plan.)

There has been some pressure for BP to simply blow up the well, with critics suggesting the company is forgoing that option out of a desire to get as much oil as possible from the rig.

"If we demolish the well using explosives, the investment's gone," former nuclear submarine officer and a visiting scholar on nuclear policy at Columbia University Christopher Brownfield said in a Fox News interview in May. "They lose hundreds of millions of dollars from the drilling of the well, plus no lawmaker in his right mind would allow BP to drill again in that same spot. So basically, it's an all-or-nothing thing with BP: They either keep the well alive, or they lose their whole investment and all the oil that they could potentially get from that well."

IF that is the reason why this has not been done but in fact explosives could have sealed this well much earlier then we should all be disturbed. Disturbed and outraged. I've assumed that the reason BP hasn't yet stopped the leak is because they tried and failed. But if they could have stopped it and instead failed to do so intentionally purely for the purpose of protecting their 'investment' (at whatever cost to those onshore) then that decision would qualify as a crime and they should be made to pay for it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Right wing waits until the decision has been made to decide which side they are on.

Before President Obama tipped his hand about whether he would retain or fire General McChrystal over comments he and staff working for him made in a Rolling Stones article, very few pundits or media on the right tipped theirs either. Among those who did, there was no clear consensus, and there were plenty of articles that said Obama should fire McChrystal (such as this editorial by conservative icon William Kristol which not only advises Obama to fire McChrystal, but that he should call on David Petraeus to replace him.) I doubt if Kristol will write a follow up editorial praising Obama for doing exactly the way he suggested though.

It is true that the most offensive remarks disparaging both the commander-in-chief and the Vice President) were made by McChrystal's staff, not McChrystal. But a commander is responsible for the attention to duty and following the law of all those under their command. McChrystal understands that.

At least Kristol was willing to say what he thought. Not so many other pundits on the right, including not only a lot of conservative journalists but the mavens of talk radio. Of course the decision was made before most of them were on the air today, but it was amazing how in unison they suddenly all sounded off immediately after the decision was made. It was as if keeping McChrystal was the obvious choice all along and their stated bewilderment at Obama for firing him was chalked up to everything from ego to a secret desire on Obama's part that America lose in Afghanistan to help foment discontent at home.

Now, you can be sure that if the decision had come down to retain McChrystal, then all of the very same right wing reporters, bloggers and talk show hosts would have said that was a terrible decision and showed that Obama was weak and indecisive. They would have still brought up the charge that Obama had an agenda to not win in Afghanistan, just in that case it would have been 'by making sure the soldiers see him as an ineffective C-in-C.'

If you listened to anyone's monologue bashing this decision then you can imagine how they would have sounded bashing the opposite decision.

Because they had that speech already written as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jan Brewer's phony outrage

The local news is full of Jan Brewer's faux outrage at the Obama administration for daring to challenge the new immigration law, especially the part about Hillary Clinton apparently first spilling the beans during a trip to Ecuador.

This may play well with the Republican base that Brewer is trying to hang onto as she heads into a competitive primary contest but hardly anyone who knows politics is fooled by this. As evidence, just last week Brewer got into a fight with Terry Goddard, who would have to defend the law in his capacity as Attorney General over precisely this matter. So for her to now claim that she is surprised is the height of hypocrisy. Goddard for his part (and keeping in mind that if Brewer survives her primary she would be running against Goddard in the fall) did voluntarily step aside today (giving Brewer what she demanded from him last week) and wisely isn't going to be defending this law.

The immigration bill was certain to be challenged in court from the moment it was signed, not only because it places the state in the position of the Federal Government, but also because one can seriously question the constitutionality of requiring that all citizens (because it is not only non-citizens who will be questioned) carry identification with them in order to avoid possibly being detained as a 'suspected undocumented' immigrant. This seems contrary to the fourth amendment protection against unreasonable searches.

True that if you are driving a vehicle you need a drivers license with you but that is only while you are driving. If you are not driving a vehicle (such as if you are walking down the street, standing on the corner or only a passenger in a vehicle) there is no current requirement for I.D. but the Arizona law in fact if not in letter does now require I.D. (certainly for anyone-- read that Hispanics or people who may be mistaken for Hispanics such as American Indians-- who may be 'suspected' of being an undocumented immigrant.)

Brewer knew very well that this law would certainly be challenged in court, and virtually certainly by the Justice Department, so her expressions of shock are purely contrived. As to the matter of Secretary Clinton first disclosing this in Ecuador, it may have been a slip of the tongue, or it may have been intentional. Either way, official notification will follow when the Justice Department is ready to file their suit. Likely as not they are carefully wording their official court briefs in order to comply with all necessary legal requirements, whereas the Secretary of State, as she is not the one who will be filing the suit, is under no obligation to wait for them to file the official suit.

If she wanted to avoid a lawsuit there was an easy way to do that-- veto the law last month. But Governor Brewer made it clear which side she is on. Fine, but then don't turn around and claim to be shocked and surprised when the inevitable consequences roll around.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Prescott mural blow-up just the latest in string of racist embarrassments for Arizona

A month ago Arizona and the nation were in a furor about SB 1070, the new immigration bill which is written in a way that pretty much forces the police to question anyone Hispanic because of section 2, paragraph H which gives any local bigot the right to sue them in a court of law if they are not enforcing the law to the satisfaction of said local bigot.

So is our image getting better in the past month? Well, no.

The latest controversy involves a mural that was painted by a group of local artists known as the 'mural mice' under the direction of artist R.E. Wall at a school in Prescott. The kids in the mural were based on actual photos of kids in the school, and depicted two white kids, a black kid and the largest picture, in the center of the mural was of an Hispanic youngster. After the mural was completed, school principal Jeff Lane apparently caved to local pressure exerted by a local talk show host and city council President Steve Blair and ordered Wall to whiten the skin tone of the both the African-American kid and the Hispanic kid in the middle of the mural.

Subsequently it came out that even as the artists were painting the mural they were peppered with racial insults including the 'n' word and 's' word from passing motorists. Welcome to Arizona, 2010.

What's worse is that these stories are now coming out of Arizona with depressing regularity. There has been a new one every week it seems, courtesy mainly of our elected leaders, who apparently have figured out that by turning two thirds of the population against the other third they have a way to win an election.

Not long after signing the immigration bill, Governor Brewer also signed a bill abolishing ethnic studies programs in Arizona (that was originally written to kill Hispanic studies programs in Tucson but it will also impact the Native American studies programs at some of our northern Arizona colleges.)

Not to be outdone, School Superintendent Tom Horne (who is running for A.G.) ordered that state schools either fire or reassign any English teacher who has a foreign accent. There is no count yet on how many teachers have lost their jobs because of Horne's new rule, though in order to be teaching in an Arizona public school they already must prove they are legally authorized to work so there is no way that Horne's pronouncement can be couched as having anything to do with undocumented workers. It's that he's picking on even legal immigrants, plain and simple.

Not long after that there was the murder of Juan Daniel Varela, an hispanic man from Phoenix whose white neighbor came over to his house and shouted racial insults in Varela's face until Varela had had enough and allegedly tried to kick the man. The neighbor, Gary Thomas Kelley, was waiting for that moment and pulled out a 44 magnum and shot the unarmed Varela to death at close range. Kelley is claiming he fired in 'self-defense.'

On top of all of this, as I wrote exactly one month ago, Sheriff Arpaio is openly consorting and on a first name basis with neo-nazis. Well, what can you say about Joe? He says it's an 'honor' to be compared to the KKK and still gets re-elected. So what if he is on a first name basis with blackshirts who openly threaten Mexicans, Jews and other people and give Hitler salutes at rallies? In the words of M.C. Hammer, I think Arpaio believes that he's so electorally invincible that he can do anything and anyone who doesn't like it 'can't touch this.'

Are we TRYING to win the 'most bigoted state in the nation' award? It sure does feel like it.

UPDATE: 1) After taking heat on this the school board rehired the artist back to restore the mural to its original state, and 2) the Republican corporations commissioners have gotten into the act. Commissioner Steve Pierce suggested that because of boycotts, Arizona cut off the flow of electricity to California (apparently unaware that California legally already owns that part of the electricity they are paying for, and also that we get most of our natural gas from CA) and then commissioner Barry Wong said he plans to prevent the provision of utilities to undocumented aliens. Never mind that this would require landlords to not only turn away some of their most reliable customers, but would impose a great deal of extra paperwork on landlords; I guess the GOP is only for 'small, non-intrusive government' when it comes to things THEY want

Monday, May 31, 2010

As we move away from oil, let's return to land-based production as far as we still need any oil

The fifth or sixth (I've lost count) attempt to stop or control the oil gusher a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico has officially been abandoned today.

With the trend towards renewable energy continuing (people may debate about the rate, but nobody is suggesting that we stop moving in that direction) it becomes a legitimate question to ask how much oil we will still need and where to get it from. The assumption that people were operating under even as recently as five years ago (before we had $4 a gallon oil and foreign policy setbacks made it clear that international oil consumption was enabling dictators like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) that mankind would sooner or later drain all the oil on the planet before switching to something that was supposed to cost more is no longer even a remotely valid point of view.

Germany (hardly the land of sunshine) already derives as much as 20% of its electricity from solar power. And anyone who lives here in Navajo County can attest to the fact that wind energy would be a plentiful resource here (there is already a wind farm near Snowflake and more are being proposed.)

Certainly even if we plunged full bore into the development and replacement of the fleet of cars now clogging our fuel pumps with hybrid and electric vehicles we would still need oil in the short term. But a finite amount.

And if a finite amount then it becomes fair to ask what the best source is. And the answer is pretty plain:

Oil taken from dry land on the North American continent. While there are certainly issues around, for example, the development of oil sands in Alberta, the fact is that oil that is produced and can be pumped over dry land is far less hazardous to the environment than anything in the water (forget the current spill, just remember past episodes like the 1979 Mexican spill or the Exxon Valdez, where oil in the water just could not be cleaned up or contained until it slimed and smeared miles of beaches.)

Bet you didn't know that just last week there was a major oil spill from the Alaska pipeline, did you? But there was. And certainly it did cause some local damage to the environment. But that's the key-- local damage. It was contained and the pipeline will be restarted precisely because the damage is local. There is no current to carry it hundreds of miles away like there is in the sea. And British Petroleum-- which ironically also is the main owner of the pipeline right now, is waiting for the green light to reopen it.

Here is a key paragraph from the linked article:

The pipeline is technically ready to begin pumping oil again, but is awaiting a review of the repair process by the Department of Transportation, Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan said. Alyeska had hoped to begin operations at noon local time (4 p.m. EDT). Egan said she didn't know how long it would take for regulators to finish their review.

Egan said the amount of time before Alyeska would have to ask producers to cut their pumping rate further below 8% is "measured in hours, not days," and that the company is hopeful it will get regulatory approval to restart operations before then.

In other words it's under far better control than the Gulf oil spill. Even if you have a worst-case scenario-- a blowout-- on land, you call Red Adair and he comes and caps it off quickly.

Oil shipped between continents may be drilled on land but there is always the possibility of a tanker spill like the Exxon Valdez. That is why I believe that we may need to build pipelines on land-- just keep it away from the water.

The first step is indeed to commit to moving away from oil. Once we do that, we have the luxury of deciding which oil we will continue to use during the transition, and it is clear that it should be land-based oil

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul calls criticism of BP "un-American."

Rand Paul, the new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky is a hero of the Tea Party.

Some hero. For starters, he said that he believes businesses should have the right to refuse seating to minority customers. Welcome to the Kentucky of 1955.

And now he's out there saying that President Obama and his administration are anti-business and "un-American" for criticizing oil giant BP (officially British Petroleum) over their handling of the oil spill.

I guess "American values" now includes having no clue how to stop the gusher, and it's perfectly OK (pro-business) if you kill off miles of coastline for at least a generation. Hey, it's 'business,' right?

One almost has to feel for minority leader Mitch McConnell. He and Senate political architect John Cornyn (R-TX) pushed his state's other Republican Senator, the gaffe-prone Jim Bunning, into retirement so he could put his hand-picked candidate, Trey Grayson up against the Democrats in the general. But then Paul beat Grayson Tuesday, and by a large margin. And then the past reached out and grabbed him. Don't blame Democrats for that either. Paul's past statements are public record; if Grayson was too dumb to look them up, well maybe he should have. Paul said it, didn't he? And it was Paul, and Paul alone, who contended that not only is it wrong to criticize an oil company for an oil spill, but in fact that to do so is 'un-American.' Presumably that's his favorite adjective, one we can expect to hear pop out of Paul's mouth frequently if he ever gets to the U.S. Senate. Joe McCarthy, anyone?

This has all backfired so exquisitely on McConnell, that Bunning, who was known to resent McConnell for pushing him out of the Senate, can hardly be blamed if he is having a secret but hearty laugh about this somewhere.

Kentucky Republicans have made their choice. Now they have to live with him, at least until November.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jan Gump

In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest, as a man of limited mental capacity but strong convictions and played ably by Tom Hanks, always was just in the right place at the right time to gain fame and fortune and to be there during important moments in history.

It seems that in real life, we have something of a parallel here in Arizona. Good things keep happening to Jan Brewer, but in fact many of them come to her despite her own actions in the past.

Fifteen years ago, as the majority whip of the Arizona Senate, Jan Brewer was instrumental in pushing through the massive Symington-Brewer tax cuts. When combined with a 1992 referendum which made it virtually impossible for the legislature to raise taxes, these cuts undermined the fiscal stability of our state by plunging recklessly down a road which assumed that growth would continue forever and provide an increasing stream of revenue to fund state services. Accordingly, under the legislature that Brewer was one of the leaders of spending levels were cut to the point where many schools and state agencies were on a shoestring budget in good times, with no thought apparently given to what this would mean for bad times.

Common sense dictates that if you can't back up, then you would proceed forward with caution. But I guess not according to then State Senator Jan Brewer.

In 2001 and 2002 we got a taste of what bad times meant. Due to the incompetence of former Governor Jane Hull and the outright deception of former House Speaker Jeff Groscost, the legislature passed the 'alt-fuels' bill that essentially bought cars for a lot of Groscost's neighbors in Mesa at state expense and when combined with the recession of that year meant that incoming Governor Janet Napolitano entered staring down a $1 billion hole. She went to work and fixed the hole, but because of when Napolitano took office (at the beginning of 2003) Jan Brewer was given a ready made 'excuse' that she could use to claim years later that Napolitano had 'overspent'-- conveniently overlooking the fact that much of the spending 'increase' under Napolitano was simply climbing back up out of the hole the budget was in when she took office.

But the excuse was there for Brewer and she has been taking it liberally, blaming her predecessor for the problems that in fact Jan Brewer helped create years earlier by weakening the state's tax structure! Nobody remembers her role now. Wow, talk about catching a lucky break!

She caught another one in 2002. Because of the very tight gubernatorial race between Napolitano and Matt Salmon, nobody paid much attention to the race for Secretary of State, despite the fact that (now counting Brewer) the past six Governors of Arizona have all either left office without completing their terms or been the Secretaries of State who succeeded them. It would be like not bothering to ask who the Vice President is. But that's what happen so she escaped scrutiny of her far right record.

In January of 2009 Brewer acceded to become an unelected Governor the day after Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States in, demanding an expensive and exhorbitant ceremony much more like the swearing in of an elected Governor, rather than the very plain and unremarkable swearing in that the previous two Secretaries of State to become Governor (Rose Mofford and Jane Hull) had done. This despite the fact that the state was in fairly good fiscal shape for those two but already gripped by the collapse of the housing market for Jan 'Money is no object' Brewer.

But luck shined her way again. The legislature became ensnared in a months long fight between very conservative Republicans and extremely conservative Republicans. The unecessary expenses of Brewer's elaborate swearing in ceremony were soon forgotten. So, she was free to propose a 1 cent sales tax increase to help balance the budget without anyone asking why she had spent so much tax money on her own vanity, and as such she did propose the tax.

And she got even luckier. The House and Senate agreed to pass a budget with only Republican votes. But that put them at the mercy of the most extreme members of their own caucus, so that Jack Harper, Ron Gould and Pamela Gorman blocked all progress towards a budget that included Brewer's proposed tax. Things got so bad between Brewer and the legislative leadership from her own party that she even took them to court to make them try and send her the semblance of a budget they did pass just so she could veto it and throw it back to them. Because the GOP budget they finally did pass was so extreme, Brewer got to look like the more responsible party.

Of course vetoing a Republican budget made Brewer unpopular in her own party ranks. As a weak Governor who was never elected, if she faced a single challenger she would probably be a goner. But she has drawn at least three credible challengers, which means she could easily win nomination with 30% of the GOP primary vote. Yet another stroke of luck.

She was still in the midst of a heated primary with today's vote on the sales tax-- unpopular with key elements of the Republican base looming-- when she caught, yes, another stroke of luck. The legislature sent her SB 1070. This was a tough decision: sign a bill that will repel Hispanics-- now 30% of the population of Arizona but 40% of the under 20 population of Arizona and growing rapidly, or veto it to further alienate the GOP base. She cast her lot with the nativists. As the bill became national news, Republican activists both in Arizona and around the nation praised Brewer. So, today the sales tax vote is an afterthought.

The timing couldn't be better. But remember this: Forrest Gump was a movie. Jan Brewer's string of good luck is bound to end sooner or later, and when it does Arizona will likely be on the receiving end.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GOP Claims that Kagan is Inexperienced are Absolutely Dripping with Irony.

On June 17, 1999, Bill Clinton nominated Elena Kagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Then Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch never put her nomination on the agenda for his committee, and it expired when Clinton left office a year and a half later.

It is true that as the majority party Republicans had the right under the rules of the Senate to bottle up Kagan and dozens of other Clinton nominees in committee (though they may have been short sighted in not realizing that by poisoning the water on judicial nominations they were giving Democrats the incentive to similarly thwart Bush so that by now it is almost impossible to find any level of Federal court that doesn't have at least a couple of vacancies on it and some federal bodies like the Federal Elections Commission and National Labor Relations Board have actually been rendered unable to function for extended periods of time as the numbers of people on those boards have fallen below the numbers needed for a quorum.)

The irony though is that now all of a sudden Republicans are upset that she has no judicial record. Well, DUH!

It's almost like the kid who kills his parents and then pleads to the court for mercy because he's an orphan.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Iraqi girls sold into sexual slavery, then subject to being stoned to death for having been raped

Imagine you are a young adolescent girl, 11, 12, 13 or 14 years old. Your father, whether out of desperate hunger of simply out of greed (does it really matter which?) sells you to a human sex trafficker to be turned into a sex slave.

Whether by eventually escaping, or by being caught by the police, or simply by using up your body and no longer commanding a profitable price and being dumped onto the street, you find yourself away from the trafficker and all alone in the middle of the big city.

And that's when the nightmare grows more intense: the authorities try you and throw you into prison for prostitution, or for other 'crimes' associated with your escape such as falsifying documents needed to escape the clutches of the traffickers.

That is the reality in present-day Iraq.

Fifteen-year-old Zeina's sad journey to prison began two years ago when she says was sold into sex slavery. "My father came and took me to go visit my grandfather in Syria," says Zeina, "and I went with him."

The family trip turned out to be a cover story, and Zeina found herself faced with the most horrific possible reality. She says she was then forcefully taken from Syria to the United Arab Emirates and sold into sexual slavery.

But Zeina refused to surrender to such a horrendous fate. And when the opportunity presented itself, she ran away. "I'm proud of myself," explains Zeina. "I turned myself into the police and decided not to stay in that situation."

Authorities in Dubai helped her return to Iraq, but more cruelty awaited her in Baghdad. The only way Zeina could make it home was to travel on a forged passport -- a very serious crime in Iraq.

After escaping her ordeal, Zeina found herself being prosecuted, rather than being comforted. As punishment, she's now serving two years in jail. A prison official confirmed her story.

Iraqi women's rights activists are outraged. "She refused to accept that her body had been sold. So this is how they reward her?" said Dalal Rubaie with the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, "To put her in jail for two years? Where's the justice?"

I guess they figure she should have stayed put in the bordello in the U.A.E.

Things get worse if she does make it all the way home:

"In some ways, their fate is worse than death," explained Samer Muscati from Human Rights Watch. "Once they've been trafficked, there's a stigma even though they're the victims in this horrific situation. They've been exploited and they've been trafficked to another country with no real recourse."

According to Muscati, even if the girls do manage to escape the cruelty of their circumstances, it will be very difficult for them to escape the judgment of their families.

"When they do come back to Iraq, if the family does accept them it's very difficult because they've brought great shame to the family, they're subjected to honor crimes. And we've come across cases where young women have preferred to stay in prison or custody than to be released and to face tribal justice," Muscati said....

"I'm sure the girl's family won't take care of her," said Rubaie. "I'm sure that neighbors and relatives and society will judge her, they'll know that the girl had been a prisoner and the family will be ashamed of her.

"I'm sure they won't let her travel. I'm sure she won't be able to complete her education, if she had been studying. Or they will force her to marry a cousin so they can exert control over her. Any cousin. They'll end her life."

In case you don't know what 'honor killing' means, recall this post on a young Iraqi Kurdish girl who was stoned to death after spending a night with a young man of another faith.

Only what we are looking at now is rape victims who may have been sold into sexual slavery by their own family members, who if they return home will be stoned to death by those very same family members.

I guess this is the 'civilization' we have brought to Iraq.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sponsor and Enforcer of AZ SB 1070 both have ties to neo-Nazis.

The first image is of neo-Nazis J.T. Ready (left) and Thomas Coletto giving Hitler salutes while confronting marchers opposed to SB 1070 last week. The second is a photo that Coletto had taken posing next to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and posted on the white supremecist website after he, Ready and other neo-nazis had had a brief and friendly conversation with the Sheriff (beginning at the 4:53 mark of this You tube video shot by a nativist if you can stomach the racist commentary, beginning with the line, "too bad we can't just start shooting.")

The above photos are taken from this article on last week's demonstrations from the Phoenix New Times.

We've all heard the news here about neo-nazis in Arizona even as people on the national scene can't imagine that in 2010 they could ever be out in the sunlight and get people to take them seriously.

But let's take them seriously, because these dogs bite. We can make the case that some of the loudest voices behind immigration reform are actually neo-nazis because in fact some of them are. And more disturbingly our politicians like the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Sheriff of Maricopa County actually have no problem smoozing up to them.

And let's document. Start with FAIR, the group that wrote the law that Russell Pearce sponsored. The Southern Poverty Law center has declared that they are a hate group for virulent anti-Semitism and racism. Russell Pearce, though he sponsored SB 1070, was not the actual author. It was written by lawyer Chris Koback of FAIR and then handed off to Pearce.

So what about Russell Pearce anyway? Well, start with the fact that he was always close to former Republican precinct committeeman J.T. Ready (a proud member of the American Nazi Party, which he kept quiet about until he was 'outed' in 2007.) Ready was forced to resign his position as a precinct committeeman, but being freed of the need to keep his status as a neo-nazi secret he's been on a roll, showing up at various political events with his friends doing Hitler salutes and yelling 'Sieg Heil' to his heart's content. From the New Times article linked above, it is evident that Ready is willing to speak to all comers about his favorite topics:

"Obama's not my president," Ready told New Times as he flitted from topic to topic, waiting with Vandal (the 'name' of another neo nazi) for the arrival of the marchers. "He's ZOG's president."

ZOG is neo-Nazi shorthand for Zionist Occupation Government, the fictitious Jewish conspiracy that some neo-Nazis believe controls the United States. Ready continued his wide-ranging diatribe, segueing not very subtly into why he believes pogroms against Jews in Europe's past were a good thing.

"They [had] to expel an alien that's preying upon them. [They were] parasites," said Ready, a former Marine who was twice court-martialed and expelled from the military with a bad-conduct discharge. "C'mon, that's healthy. It's only when you're unhealthy that you've got parasites on you."

When New Times asked Ready whether he hated all Mexicans, he offered another dehumanizing metaphor: "I don't hate all of anything. I don't hate all scorpions, but I wouldn't want them crawling around in my house."

Not that the connection between Ready and Pearce is news, of course, consider the following Republican primary mailer that was sent out during the 2008 campaign and featuring a photo of Pearce and Ready at a campaign event:



Apparently the answer is that among Pearce's Mesa constituents what would be a disqualifier for office anyplace else is met with a yawn of indifference, or perhaps even tacit support. He won his primary election that year with almost 2/3 of the vote and in Pearce's heavily Republican east Mesa district winning the primary means winning the seat.

The article then goes on:

Ready then bragged about how Sheriff Arpaio had stopped by earlier in the day, said hello, and even called him by name. Another neo-Nazi, using the handle "Vito Lombardi," (in fact, Coletto) excitedly related how a photo was taken of him and his hero, Arpaio.

If you remember a couple of years ago about a plot by a small group of students to bomb Desert Mountain High School in what was described as a 'Columbine type attack,' Coletto (then 17) was one of the five students implicated in the plot. He was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of criminal damage (in connection with his burglarly of bomb-making supplies and chemicals) and the rest of the charges were dropped. Just in case you've ever taken a moment to ponder what eventually becomes of those Columbine wannabees that get caught somewhere in the country every spring before they can blow up their high school, here's your answer.

It was also clear, based on the article why they were stomping on Mexican flags and trying to provoke a confrontation. Making extensive use of Arizona's open carry laws, many of the demonstrators were armed. Presumably so they could 'defend' themselves.

There is one thing that will distract a Nazi from trying to provoke a confrontation with pro-immigration marchers. That is when someone who they believe to be Jewish shows up, as in the case of this musician:

Luckily the man did not allow himself to be provoked. After all, given that the counter-demonstrators were bristling with weapons that was probably a good idea.

You'd think that with that kind of behavior Ready and Coletto would have marginalized themselves and nobody with any kind of political ambition (or even a grain of common sense) would want to get within a couple of furlongs of them, and in 49 states you'd be correct. But in Arizona apparently a Nazi is considered less of a threat than a Mexican gardener.

Pearce at least had the good sense to stay away from Saturday's rallies and marches. Not so the good Sheriff of Nottingham, Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio of course is no stranger to controversy on the subject, having said in a Lou Dobbs interview in 2007 that he was 'honored' to be compared to the KKK. Sort of speaks for itself.

From the linked article there is also this:

This May 2 dalliance with Coletto and J.T. Ready wasn't the first time Arpaio has associated with the neo-Nazis. In March 2008, the sheriff spoke before a United for a Sovereign America meeting at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Sunnyslope, where U.S.A. affiliate Elton Hall was in attendance. Hall, 75, is a legend in Arizona neo-Nazi circles, venerated by racist skinheads for his work as an organizer for George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party in the 1960s.

And in fact, there is the matter that the U.S.A. not only is willing to welcome Arpaio, but in fact that their links go much deeper:

Yet the sheriff's involvement with extreme hate groups is not incidental. The relationship has been prolonged and intentional, arguably helping him get re-elected last year in a county where much of the electorate is hostile toward Mexican immigrants.

Since 2007, Arpaio has appeared at nativist events, accepted awards from groups such as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, welcomed U.S.A. leader Rusty Childress into his immigration sweep headquarters, spoken at nativist meetings frequented by neo-Nazis, and used petitions circulated by extremists to justify his immigration dragnets.

Also troubling are indications that the MCSO, in some cases, instructs U.S.A. through member Barb Heller, who has bragged about her contacts with the Sheriff's Office to anyone who will listen, and who apparently receives instruction and advice on how U.S.A. should handle itself.

In other words, they will behave themselves as long as Joe Arpaio tells them to.

So under the circumstances it's hardly surprising that Arpaio knows Ready by name and is happy to talk to Coletto and the rest of the neo-nazis among the counter-demonstrators. I guess if the sheriff's department ever is prevented by a court order or some other means of conducting raids on day labor sites, churches and other places looking for people with a brown skin and no papers, it's convenient for him that he has some blackshirts ready to carry out his orders whenever he unleashes them.

A hat tip to a recently added facebook friend, Robert Czaplicki.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Won't listen to me about immigration? Listen to Ronald Reagan then.

Supporters of the new Arizona immigration law (which gives state sanction to what the Sheriff of Nottingham has already been doing with no legal justification at all) have been jumping all over the shooting of a Sheriff's deputy in Pinal County as 'proof' that we need the law.

This of course is absurd. The shooting was carried out by suspected drug smugglers and smuggling drugs is a felony and local law enforcement already have the full authority to take action against suspected drug smugglers. So the people in more danger from the new law (and the past six years or so of increasing anti-immigrant and anti-Latino legislation and ballot initiatives pushed by Russell Pearce) are 1) migrants who are NOT otherwise committing a felony that the police already have license to go after them for-- in other words those who are here working at a job and not committing any crimes, and 2) people (like one of my close personal friends) who are Hispanic American citizens who have been detained, questioned and humiliated by police for apparently no other reasons than their skin color or surname.

In fact, if they really want to catch the drug smugglers, human traffickers and others who are causing violence along the border, then destroying any remaining trust that members of the Latino community might have towards local law enforcement seems a curious way to do it. As unscrupulous employers, drug kingpins, prostitution ringleaders and others who often exploit migrants know well, someone who is afraid to go to the police is someone who can very easily be intimidated into doing anything. Any law that makes them even more afraid of the police strengthens the hand of the real criminals, not weakens it.

Maybe GOP members might want to consider and contrast the view of migrants that this law puts forward with that espoused by their biggest icon:

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still. -- Ronald Reagan, Farewell Address, 1989

Because in this law and others I don't see the optimistic and forward looking spirit of conservatism of the type embraced by Reagan, but instead a reactionary, angry and misguided spirit that is as far as possible from anything that Reagan ever stood for.

Hat tip: To Pres Winslow, who first pointed this out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Americans are going to countries with socialized medicine for treatment

Remember all those arguments about Canadians crossing the border to escape Canadian single payer health care and coming to the United States for medical procedures?

I debunked that in a post a couple of years ago called, The 'flood' is a trickle' in which we saw that statistics where available actually showed that the number of Canadians coming to the U.S. for voluntary medical prcedures was a vanishingly small number-- far fewer than the number who were forced to seek medical care in the U.S. because of accidents or other medical emergencies they experienced while visiting. The reason people who make that argument typically name names and tell individual stories is that this is the only way they can make the argument, because there are so few that you actually could name them.

What we see now though is that there is another foot for that shoe to be on. An article about an uninsured American man who was forced to go to Wales for medical care due to cost concerns and gets the same treatment at a far cheaper price there gives some statistics further down:

An estimated 878,000 Americans will travel internationally for a medical procedure this year, according to a report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. That number is expected to nearly double by 2012.

The majority of medical tourists are uninsured; however, the cost of health care in this country has become so expensive that even some U.S. health insurance companies are coordinating with hospitals overseas.

Luckily it probably won't rise anymore after 2012 because then the full force of the recently passed health bill will kick into effect.

But at least for now, it appears that far more Americans are seeking medical care in other countries than the reverse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Brewer to sign SB 1070

It appears that Jan Brewer has decided that it is more important to her to look good to the Republican primary electorate than to show the kind of leadership that fellow Republican Governor Charlie Crist showed last week when he vetoed a bill that was popular with his partisans because it was a bad bill.

The word is that Brewer will sign SB 1070, which makes it a crime to be an undocumented alien in Arizona and will force all local law enforcement agencies to profile and round up potential undocumented immigrants and force them to prove their citizenship.

This has of course already been going on for several years in Maricopa County (and in fact one of Brewer's opponents in the GOP primary is our good friend the Sheriff of Nottingham himself) and if what has happened there is any indication a lot of people in Arizona who happen to be Hispanic are in for a lot of trouble. Numerous Americans who happen to be Hispanic have been detained and in some cases taken to jail by Sheriff Joe's minions even though they are American citizens-- a clear case of racial profiling.

Arizona already has a reputation (well-deserved, I'm embarrassed to say) for being intolerant. One has to wonder what kind of long term damage this is likely to do to our state-- especially since tourism is supposed to be one of the few 'growth' industries in the state.

South Park insults Muhammad and gets death threats

I've never been a fan of the TV show South Park. In fact, even if I watched much television it would generally be a show I'd tune out.

Nevertheless I am now compelled to post the above South Park cartoon of the prophet Muhammad because the show's producers have been threatened with death for putting the cartoon on air.

Apparently the group called, "Revolution Muslim" is based in New York and made the threat to murder producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone and posted on its website the work addresses of both men in New York and California. The threat also included graphic pictures of the body of Dutch film artist Theo van Gogh, who was murdered after making a movie that Muslim leaders didn't like.

Apparently these Islamicists don't understand the American psyche. There have been very few who have been quicker to condemn violence or threats against muslims than I have. But that condemnation is just as much valid in condemning muslims who make these kinds of threats against others. Americans may fight like cats and dogs on everything else but if you issue a death threat (against anyone,) especially over an issue of free speech then as Americans we all stand together.

Monday, April 19, 2010

We can't afford any more GOP control in Arizona

Sometimes when I tell people what a weird, wicked place Arizona has become courtesy of our GOP legislative leadership they have trouble believing it.

Sure everyone in the country knows about Sheriff Joe and his pink underwear, but that's about the extent of what is common knowlege.

But with the new bill that has now been passed it's likely to put more of a focus on undocumented workers. The bill will require local law enforcement to begin investigating, arresting and locking up people who have no proof of citizenship. Of course there is no money forthcoming from the legislature to pay for it (of course local law enforcement has been cut to the bone and beyond just like every other state agency or department,) just the unfunded mandate coming down from Phoenix.

Only in the Arizona GOP is a guy like Buzz Mills, a developer who is spending millions of dollars on the race and promising to revoke all state taxes (That's right, he is pledging 'no tax' and to put the state government, including schools and other agencies effectively out of business) a serious candidate for Governor.

This is a state where the birther bill stands a decent chance of passing the legislature. This bill would not allow a Presidential candidate onto the ballot in Arizona unless (s)he has produced a valid birth certificate showing that (s)he is eligible to serve in that office.

In fact, only a minority of Arizona voters agree with this kind of stuff. But they form a majority bloc in the Republican party, and the Republican party has controlled the legislature for four decades. So not surprisingly we have the results of dogmatic governance, including the biggest by percentage hole in the state government in the country despite ranking below most other states in both per capita spending and taxation rates (courtesy of the Symington-Brewer tax cuts of the mid 1990's combined with a law pushed by the right and passed by the voters in 1992 that makes it virtually impossible to ever raise taxes back again if you find you've cut them too far.

There is an easy solution to that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Health reform is a BFD.

Unless they call me back to be a courier my work with the census is now done.

So let's make up for some lost time.


Republicans are still trying to score political points courtesy of their scare tactics and lies (which I alluded to in my previous post, actually written when I shouldn't have, but it was hard to not make the point.) But as the plan starts to kick in, Americans will see for themselves that the dire changes that were predicted don't happen. Then those who claim there will be death panels and socialized medicine will pay at the ballot box.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The party that cried 'wolf.'

The right had an opportunity to oppose healthcare from a position of principle, and to give their best argument about the morality of the bill, the ideals of individualism vs. a collective modality, or about why the free market could solve the vexing problem of insuring the uninsured if Government were not involved. Though they still might have lost such an argument, they might not have, and would certainly have made their ideals and principles well known through that effort.

But instead, they threw bombast about Marxism and Death Panels. Instead of principled defenders of their faith, we got shrill talk show hosts coming across as the angry, bitter old men that most of them are. Up until the last (and even after that) the 'tea partiers' have come across as a bunch of whiny juveniles. And in having lost that debate they have set themselves up for more problems in the future.

Had opponents of health care reform won, they would in fact have been able to back up every word and prediction they said about it by saying, 'Look what we saved you from.'

But they did not prevail. And the harsh rhetoric they used has probably painted them into a corner. People will be looking for the government takeover of hospitals, insurance companies and the rest of the health care system. They will be looking for a Stalinist police state. They will be waiting for their ration cards before they can see a doctor. They will be waiting with terror for the Death Panel to come knock on their door in the middle of the night.

Of course none of this will happen, and when it doesn't then you will have to wonder how many people will listen the next time the GOP cries 'wolf.'
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