Saturday, October 22, 2011

Out of Iraq-- a war we never should have gotten into

I had the following comment on a website I visit sometimes that caters mainly to conservative Christians. In particular, a poster back in 2007 (during the 'surge') had posted that Iraq was still a 'war we could win.') But the comment is appropriate as well as a blog post so I'll put it up here too.

The President announced yesterday that all troops will be home by the end of the year.

Hard to see how this is a 'win.' At best, a Pyrrhic victory.

We are leaving Iraq with a government friendly to Iran, in fact one in which Moqtada al-Sadr holds more power than anyone except the Prime Minister (who is dependent on al-Sadr for his ability to govern at all.) Iran has essentially a free hand in Iraq, and its former Badr militia are now the core of the Iraqi army.

If there is any democracy at all, it is very disfunctional (look at what came out of the last election, when it took months to form a government and the winner became the loser because al-Sadr decided to make it so.) Half the population (the female half) actually have less rights in matters like divorce, inheritance and custody than they had even under Saddam, and the Constitution begins with the phrase "Sharia shall be a source of law" which the parliament has acted on it with enthusiasm, writing Islamist laws to replace the secular ones. Not surprisingly in such an environment tens of thousands of Christians, a community that dates to the very early church, have had to flee the country and nobody has done anything to prevent it.

In exchange for this rather dubious outcome, we fought for eight years (longer than we fought in World War II and Korea put together,) paid a trillion dollars of borrowed money (which is now part of the debt that everyone is wringing their hands about) and lost more than 4,000 Americans (with tens of thousands crippled or suffering from chronic conditions.)

How does that in any way, shape or form, qualify as a 'win?'

If anybody 'won' the Iraq war, it's Iran, and they did it without firing a shot.

I'm just glad we are out of there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Russell Pearce recall election

I was at a professional conference last Friday and a conversation with a colleague turned to the Russell Pearce recall. Pearce, as some who don't live in Arizona may not know, is the President of the State Senate and the second most powerful politician in the state (and some would argue the first, because the Governor reacts to what he does, rather than the other way around.) This individual, who does not reside in district 18 (Pearce's district) wanted to know why so many people in the state care. My answer was, because what Pearce has done affects the whole state, and well beyond for that matter.

Pearce was the lead sponsor of SB 1070 and has over the past few years been the chief proponent of a whole raft of anti-immigration legislation which has made Arizona synonymous with 'anti-immigrant' and some would argue 'anti-Hispanic' (I have Hispanic friends here in Arizona who are natural born U.S. citizens but since this has passed they have experienced racial profiling, unwarranted detention and harrassment of a type that as a white person I have never had to face.)

Besides Pearce's personal quirkiness which leans towards the extreme (for example in 2006 he 'accidentally' forwarded a virulently anti-Semitic email from the National Alliance, a white supremecist group to dozens of his supporters; and he carries a loaded firearm onto the floor of the state Senate and has encouraged others to do so as well) he has pushed towards the far, far right on virtually every issue. As President of the Senate he has pushed for cuts far more devastating to education and other state services than even Governor Brewer or House Speaker Kirk Adams (who is himself very conservative) have asked. Pearce promised that this state Senate would be a 'Tea Party Senate' and he has delivered, pushing or passing bills asserting the right of Arizona to nullify Federal laws, seize Federal land to train a state militia and kick thousands of people off of medicaid, including many who would be eligible in any other state in the nation.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric of Pearce and his supporters almost seethes with hostility, and it is for this reason, and for his role in crafting such a bad budget that earlier this year Pearce opponents (from both inside and outside of district 18) have come together to support his ouster. More signatures were collected on recall petitions than people who actually voted for Pearce last year, and despite several desperation lawuits by Pearce the recall is moving forward.

Pearce's supporters have even gone to the point of using despicable and unacceptable tactics, like throwing a padlock that struck Pearce's recall oppnent (more on that in a moment) in the nuts to try and deter him from announcing a run, and putting a sham candidate with an Hispanic surname on the ballot for the express purpose of diverting Hispanic votes. The candidate, Olivia Cortes, withdrew once it became clear that recall supporters had 'smoking gun' evidence tying her candidacy to Pearce supporters and she was about to be confonted with it in court.

Pearce's opponent is Jerry Lewis, also a conservative Republican from Mesa. Like Pearce, Lewis is a Latter Day Saint (Mormon)-- full disclosure: so am I-- and like Pearce, if he gets into the Senate expect him to cast mainly conservative votes. In their debates, the only place where Lewis clearly differed from Pearce was on immigration, decrying the mean-spiritedness behind a lot of Pearce immigration legislation and pushing for a comprehensive solution that is focused on keeping families together rather than deporting family members. Pearce has also gotten into some hot water with the Church for claiming that his position on immigration was supported by the Church and implying that he was some kind of church spokesman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Pearce has never held any such calling, and in fact recently the Church has stated bluntly their position on immigration and it is in favor of the kind of comprehensive plan that Lewis is proposing-- in other words NOT what Pearce wants.

So why are so many Democrats and Independents, as well as Republicans supporting Jerry Lewis? If this is an election between two conservative Republicans then shouldn't we claim that we don't have a dog in this fight?

No, we should not. I don't care if Jerry Lewis is a conservative Republican. I don't care if he votes 95% with the Republicans. I don't care, because no matter what his positions are, he's not Russell Pearce. The substance may not change, but if Pearce is removed as leader of the Senate you can be sure that the tone will change.

As well it should.

Monday, October 10, 2011

State Legislative interactive map up

Specifically, it is up here.

KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS MAP IS NOT FINAL. Some adjustments can and likely will be made during the constitutionally mandated public comment period, but more or less these are the lines we will be using for the next ten years.

Again, I can't tell from the maps much about the rest of the state (because I don't know the partisan leanings on a block by block basis as much as someone who lives here) but it looks like we will be having an interesting time here in northern Arizona.

Roughly speaking, it appears as though the previously existing LD-5 and LD-2 have been largely replaced new districts 6 and 7. This is said approximately, because for example district 7 extends all the way to Nevada and portions of what used to be the southern end of district 5 including Globe and Safford have been put into other districts.

Flagstaff has been lobbying vigorously for years to get out of being put into the same district as the reservations and this in fact is the case; Flagstaff is in district 6 and the Navajo, Hopi, Hualapi and now also the Apache reservations are in district 7. All of Apache county is also in district 7.

The boundary line between the two districts is likely to be a matter of some controversy in Navajo County. Winslow and Pinetop-Lakeside (yes, you read that right) both join the reservations in district 7. Distict 6 includes Holbrook, Snowflake/Taylor, Show Low, Payson (which is actually in Gila county) and Heber/Overgaard. Probably in an attempt to make me zoom all the way in, Joseph City is in the most bizarre position of all. Joseph City is in district 6, but areas immediately to the north, west and south of town are in district 7. Jackrabbit is in district 7, and while it appears that all houses presently in Joseph City itself are in district 6, if people build very far outside of town in any direction except east they will be in district 7.

Politically, district 7 appears to be dominated by Native Americans and probably pretty close to safe for Democrats, especially with Democratic-leaning Winslow in the district (this won't make the 'Tea Party' crowd in the Springerville area or in Pinetop/Lakeside happy but then it would be difficult to make other adjustments in the boundaries without moving someone else into district 7 (and given the precarious position that Joseph City is in with regard to remaining in district 6 if someone from one of these areas convinces the commission to include them in district 6 rather than district 7 then I suspect we will be the first ones to be added to district 7 in order to rebalance the population.) Jack Jackson will likely represent this area in the Senate. One of the members of the legislature will likely continue to be Albert Hale, and the other legislative seat will likely be up for grabs but probably decided in the Democratic primary.

Distict 6 is clearly a competitive district. Flagstaff leans strongly Democratic and is its main population center, and is supplemented by Sedona (the rest of Yavapai county is mostly in another district.) Central Navajo County is heavily Republican, and this is likely to set up a head to head battle between two current legislators, present LD-5 Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Heber) and Rep. Tom Chabin (D-Flagstaff) who has made it clear that he plans to run for the Senate. LD-5 representatives Brenda Barton of (R-Payson) and Chester Crandall (R-Heber) will also likely run again but it is hard to see Barton's brand of conservatism (even farther to the right than Allen) appealing to people in Flagstaff or Sedona. Crandall would have slightly more credibility in areas like that but his failure to move away from the far right party line during his two years in the legislature will come back to bite him if he claims to be a 'different kind' of Republican. Democrats will have two openings for house candidates. All other things being equal, you could make a case that this district marginally favors Democrats because the population of Flagstaff/Sedona outweighs central Navajo County, but on the other hand Flagsaff is only fairly strongly Democratic while some of the areas in central Navajo like Snowflake and Heber are extremely Republican (80-90% GOP.) There is no question that this will be one of the most competitive districts on election day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Interactive map lets you see the proposed new redistricting lines.

Here is a fully interactive map of the proposed new Arizona Congressional districts:

click here to see them

These lines are not completely set yet because the public will still have time to weigh in and try to persuade the redistricting commission to change them, but in all likelihood the final district lines will look very similar to this.

It appears that congressional districts 1, 2 and 9 will be competitive districts, districts 3 and 7 will strongly favor Democrats and districts 4,5,6 and 8 will strongly favor Republicans.

Locally, it is worth noting that Paul Gosar's winning margin over Ann Kirkpatrick last year was provided almost entirely by Yavapai county, which is now in district 4 (except for a sliver around Sedona and Camp Verde.) Payson is also now in district 4. New territory in district 1 includes the Hopi reservation, a much larger slice of Pinal county and a Phoenix area reservation, a mainly Republican slice of Pima county, and most of Cochise county, including a sliver of the border with Mexico. Overall the new territory looks to be quite a bit more Democratic than what has been removed from CD-1. Overall, CD-1 is classified as 'competitive' and it is certainly true that a Republican could win it, but the new district does have a 9 point Democratic registration edge and it is hard to see a weak incumbent like Paul Gosar holding on.

So even though as a Democrat I was hoping for at least four competive districts in the state (as it is, only a third of the voters in the state will typically have a race in November where both candidates can realistically win) I am happy to see that Mr. Gosar may be a one term congressman (it appears that David Schweikert will most likely be representing district 4 so the idea that Mr. Gosar could move to Prescott and run is probably even more of a stretch than that he could win a second term in a district where he really hasn't distinguished himself this term.) In order to return to Congress, Gosar will now have to win what is left of the district, when last election he barely broke even outside of Yavapai county, and if you take out Payson he actually lost the areas that under this map still remain in CD-1. It's hard to see him picking up many votes from the new areas either, particularly given that the Hopi (who are, like the Navajo, 90% Democratic voters) have agreed for the first time to share a congressional district with the larger tribe.

Former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is running again (and has outraised Gosar) but she will first have to win a primary against Wenona Benally Baldenegro, a newcomer but also a native American (in a district which is over 20% native American.)

Definitely though, Gosar (who has voted about 100% of the time with John Boehner-- ironically after running campaign commercials critical of Kirkpatrick for voting about 80% of the time with Nancy Pelosi) can't be pleased with the new district.

UPDATE: It looks like Schweikert may NOT run in district 4, even though that is where his residence is. He said in an email to his supporters he intends to run in district 6. That starts a game of musical chairs among Republicans in which either Gosar or Ben Quayle will be odd man out, with neither of them strong enough to defeat either Scweikert or Franks. Right now, Franks would be running in district 8, in which case Quayle would have a tough time against either Schweikert or Franks; in this case, Gosar could sprobably ave himself if he ran in district 4. On the other hand, if Franks decides to do Quayle a favor, he could run in district 4 and open up district 8 for Quayle. Either way there are four Republicans trying to fit into four GOP districts, but in such a way that it is almost certain that somewhere in Phoenix or points northwest there will be primary between two of them.
Flag Counter