Tedski’s convention memories – Part 2, Balloon Drop

J Ross BrowneI was going to wait to do a second post until my brother posted. He’s been negligent and I won’t pay him for the week.

One of the examples of some of the silliness that goes on at conventions is the traditional balloon drop. In 1996, the drop became more interesting for one Arizona delegate.

Michael Crawford, who would later serve on the Tucson City Council, was a delegate that year. Crawford has a degenerative muscle disease that has confined him to a wheelchair as long as I’ve known him. The Arizona delegation that year was up in the upper rows of the United Center, which were not very accessible for him. An arrangement was made for Crawford to be able to watch the convention with the Ohio delegation, who had a place on the floor.

The balloon drop came. I don’t know if it was unusually big or not, but Crawford, lower to the ground and not very mobile, got buried in balloons. As he disappeared under the balloons, panicky Ohio delegates struggled to pop them to free him.

In the mean time, Crawford told me later, he thought the whole thing was funny. He didn’t know that the delegates were trying to free him.

Side note: that year, the venue that the Republicans had their convention in had too short a ceiling for a drop. They arranged for a way to release them from various locations on the floor.

Tedski’s Convention Memories, Part 1

J Ross BrowneWhat, you think that I’m going to let my brother take this place over? I’m still paying for the web space here, goldurnit. Plus, it’s my lunch break.

Tonight will be a speech by Arizona’s own Raúl Grijalva, who had a prominent role this year as one of the few congressional endorsers of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. This prominence has induced an epidemic of dyslexia among our national media, which manifests itself in some rather confounding pronunciations of his name.

(Memo to Rachel Maddow: It’s Ra-OOL Gree-HAL-Vah. Not that hard.)

Raúl’s first appearance before a national convention was back in 2004. That year, he was extensively courted by the John Edwards campaign, but he chose to go with Howard Dean owing to his strong identification with opposition to the war in Iraq. Despite Raúl’s work on behalf of Dean, Edwards had Raúl give his nomination speech for Vice President.

We in the Arizona delegation were all holding up Grijalva signs, even though I think a couple of delegates from Phoenix didn’t know who he was since he was still relatively new. Grijalva gets up there to speak, and as he got out his first words, he stumbled and seemed a bit confused.

I felt bad for him, even though he gave a pretty rousing speech after that, echoing Edwards’s “two Americas” theme and asking “where’s the compassion?” It was only weeks later that I found out a bit of the back story on the speech’s opening.

Raúl had a hard hitting speech written, but it was kiboshed by the Kerry campaign. After all the edits, he ended up with a rather dull recitation of pre-approved talking points. He went up to the podium to give the speech, he started reciting the first line and looked up to realize that his original speech was the one in the TelePrompTer. He was a bit startled at first, but happily read the speech he wanted to give in the first place.

The way I got this story is a reminder to me of sometimes how little you know about the back stories while you are in the convention hall. Sometimes the big stories are hard to find out about too while you are in the delegate bubble. My brother wrote about the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. In this age of ready social media, that stuff can get out to delegates quickly. But it wasn’t long ago that it was actually harder to get news in the hall than outside.

In 1992, I was an usher at the convention. My job was to stand at the entrance to a large hospitality suite and only let congressman, senators, governors, big city mayors in with one, yes sir we said one, guest in. I got to find out two things at that time: how many governors and mayors think they needed a phalanx of their own armed security with them in a hospitality suite surrounded by Secret Service, DC Capital Police and NYPD, and that DNC staff, at that time anyway, didn’t count Phoenix as a “Big City.” I still remember a couple of people turning away a confused Paul Johnson.

I chatted with Secret Service and other volunteers, usually about bad encounters with politicians. But, I didn’t hear much news. On Thursday, Ross Perot dropped out of the Presidential race. It was the biggest political news of the day. It would have been the talk of everyone, right? Especially in a gathering of half of the most addicted of political junkies in the country.

Me? I only found out about because they gave two of us a break and told us we could go into the suite and watch Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech. In the speech, Clinton dropped a quickie line about welcoming Perot’s supporters. I turned to the other volunteer.

“Did he drop out?”

He shrugged. I didn’t know for sure until I picked up one of the free “convention special” editions of National Journal on the way out.

Flooding the Sistine Chapel

Once in a while, I come out of hiding to post here at my old haunt. It has to be something big, however.

There are plenty of policy outrages that have happened in this legislature so far, the evisceration of our education system being the undisputed number one on the list. It is something else, though, that is the best illustration that the crew running the place care more about ideological wins and short term profits than Arizona as a place.

Darin Mitchell has introduced HB 2570, which would limit the ability of local government to regulate landscaping. It may seem a minor point, but these are the rules that protect our iconic saguaros.

The Arizona Republic cites a variety of rules in the Phoenix area that protect native plants, but we in Tucson have the native plant ordinance as well. It mandates that developers (including the city itself) have to replace plants that are taken out for development. The city also partners with Tucson Electric Power for the Trees for Tucson program, which puts up native trees to increase our natural canopy. The growth in our natural canopy (planting non-native palm trees has only a negligible effect on it) has can lower power bills, mitigate flooding and even make it more pleasant to walk to the store on a July day.

Still, most of the attention of this bill has focused on protections for a non-shade plant: the saguaro. Yes, having to pull them out and move them, or having to “mitigate” them is a pain in the nalgas for builders. But, think for a second why people move to Arizona. Let me give you an example. Here is the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau web page:

Scottsdale Screenshot

See that? Saguaros, saguaros, saguaros. You notice what you don’t see? Tract homes, strip malls and parking lots. Funny that.

By the way, that’s from a city that’s on the edge of the saguaro’s range. Still, the saguaro is so identified with our Southwestern deserts that they feature them. For years, we had a problem with Las Vegas cactus-napping saguaros because they wanted in on the action too. They are what makes us look different than suburbs in Orange County, Dallas or Denver.

These rules aren’t just there to protect the saguaro, but also exist to protect the broader environment and save water. Non-native plants tend to be higher water use, thus harder to maintain. I’d bet that the property managers that have to keep up landscapes for all those subdivisions that Mitchell is building would appreciate not having to maintain a conifer forest out in some tract of desert. Non-native plants can also cause other problems. The amount of money and labor both governments and property owners have had to spend on controlling buffel grass is a testament to that.

Most importantly, we live in a desert with sparse water resources. It’s taken decades, but we are finally getting both a local government and business culture that understand the challenges we face. We are in a unique place, and our policy needs to reflect that.

If you think that saguaros and the laws that protect them are a nuisance, I gotta wonder if you understand what it means to live in Arizona and whether you really give a damn about this place.

It’s GOTV weekend, so things get stupid

2014-10-31 17.05.12The stupidity has reached such a crescendo that I am violating my self-imposed blogging moratorium, or “quarantine,” as Chris Christie might call it.

I got a last minute hit piece on Ron Barber yesterday decrying his vote for the Ryan Budget.

Ah, where to begin on this.

First off, Ron Barber didn’t vote for the Paul Ryan budget. What he voted for was a budget deal negotiated by Patty Murray and Paul Ryan referred to as some as a “mini-budget deal.” It was not the Paul Ryan budget touted in his “Path to Prosperity” plan which is referenced every time a Republican candidate wants to feign seriousness about the budget. Most of the elements of Ryan’s budget were not in the deal, which led to a lot of grousing from conservatives at the time.

Even the people that sent out the mailer acknowledge that they don’t mean the actual Paul Ryan budget, but only in the fine print.

2014-10-31 17.05.33

Since it was not the Ryan Budget, many of the cuts decried in the piece (Medicare, Food Stamps) were not actually cut in the plan.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a fan of this deal when it was made (although, predictably, my troubles are from the left). I also know it is far better than the Ryan Budget. As a matter of fact, the criticisms in the piece are spot on about the Ryan Budget. Say, what kind of “scary” candidate supports the Ryan Budget?

Oh yeah, Martha McSally.

Maybe this group that wanted to call out candidates for supporting the Ryan Budget will come on out and run a piece decrying her for being so scary. Say, who sent out this piece anyhow?

2014-10-31 17.37.23

I would welcome their opposition to Paul Ryan, but something tells me they aren’t very sincere about it.

POST SCRIPTS: I’ve got a couple of extra observations to throw in here.

  • Have you noticed how Republican candidates are quick to align themselves with the Ryan Budget, but cry foul when they get called out for supporting the details of the plan? It’s like they haven’t read the thing.
  • The mailer apparently went to Democratic voters. Independent voters are on a different mail program. This is a last ditch effort to peel liberal voters away from Barber. Given how poorly Matt Heinz did as the lefty challenger to Barber last time, I think more liberal voters have already resigned themselves to Barber’s pragmatism.
  • Oh, by the way: Ron Barber is a Trotskyite overspending Obama coddler and he supports this horrible, granny murdering, poor bashing budget? Could you guys pick a knock against the guy and stick with it?
  • I received this along with two mailers from my local Republican legislative candidate after I’ve already voted. Keep spending that money, boys.

About That

Bloggers are, to some extent, a higher class of the trolls we so despise. We want to provoke a reaction. We’d like to be regarded as a thorn in the side of those in power.

This is why the biggest disappointment of the current John Huppenthal controversy is that I seem to have only caught his attention once. I had a state senator who posted anonymously on here for years, and the son of a now-disgraced former state treasurer used to come on here too. Still, the biggest blogging controversy in this state, and I have only a tangential relationship to it.

Bummer.

Three of Huppenthal’s internet aliases have been printed in numerous places. I went through the comments and didn’t find any from Thucky or Thucydides. I found a grand total of one from Falcon9.

Back in 2010, I did a short report about the post-election Arizona State Democratic Party Meeting. The report included Felecia Rotellini’s promise to keep being a watchdog on just-elected Attorney General Tom Horne. This prompted several very long comments from a fella named Jochas defending Horne’s record as Superintendent of Public Instruction. What the guy is saying these days, I’m not sure.

Anyhow, this prompted a comment from Falcon9 that seemed to be somewhat skeptical of Horne’s record:

Arizona’s graduation rate for 2002/2003, the year Horne was elected, was 75.9.

Arizona’s most recent graduation rate, as mentioned above, was 70.7%.

If you are going to make conclusions about Horne’s tenure using this data set, the best that can be said is that he held things steady, no statistically significant change.

However, we need the most recent data, for school year 2010, to make any conclusion.

Yep. That’s it. Not exactly provocative, but interesting that he was less than a cheerleader for Horne.

Three Sonorans published a list of comments made by Huppenthal under the name Falcon9. That one included several IP addresses. Those didn’t lead to anything new from Huppenthal, but I did find a guy at one of those IP addresses calling himself Doug. Doug seems to be a Republican, but he also had good words for Ted Kennedy. I doubt that Doug is Huppenthal, but if it was him, that post alone would probably lead to impeachment proceedings.

By the way, after talking to a few legislators, it seems that Huppenthal wasn’t exactly chummy with his fellow solons back when he was in the lege. This is probably the bigger reason for the lack of the usual wagon circling by the Phoenix civic establishment than the racism and general unhinged nature of his commentary.

Obviously, I didn’t catch the guy’s attention. That means I missed out on gems like this one posted in response to a bit on employer sanctions over at Espresso Pundit:

We have a whole lot fewer caucasians working now that the hispanics have left. But, crime is much lower. No money and no one is stealing it.

Jackass.

Yes, It’s Me

Not Leonardo SquadroneA while back, we had some trouble necessitating I wipe out a bunch of files that had been corrupted. Among the files I deleted were those for Akismet, a “plug-in” for WordPress blogs such as this one to catch spam comments.

I deleted them thinking I could just reinstall Akismet. Unfortunately, I could not after weeks of trying different things. I finally broke down and contacted technical support and they did their alchemy and bam…I have reinstalled Akismet.

Hopefully, the thousands (yes, thousands) of spam messages advertising knock off purses and Viagra will stop and we can all go back to calling Tom names.

By Way of Explanation

I got an e-mail from DreamHost (the folks that host this blog) saying that several files had been “exploited.” I went through and deleted them, but the site was down for a couple of days. There may be some extras that won’t be working until I can poke around and reinstall them, but Tom should be able to post without a problem.

The Bear Essential News regrets the error.

Signing Off

Well, I start my new job a week early…sorry for the lack of warning. I’ll be starting today, so this will be my last post for a while.

But, parting shots are always necessary:

  • The “Rosemont Referendum” never materialized, but we still see the ads telling us how pulverizing a mountain is good for the environment. I suggest that Rosemont change the closing titles on their ads to better show what their improvements will do:

    It’s just a rough draft, but I’m sure they have pros who can work on that.

  • Samuel L. Jackson’s um…creative…GOTV video got some buzz last week. Not among it’s fans is Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash, who had this level headed response on his Facebook page:

    THIS IS THE FACE OF THE ENEMY…..

    THIS WILL SHOCK YOU BUT SHOULD NOT SURPRISE YOU.

    Yep.

  • Yeah, Pima Bunch…clever. But the knocks about cronyism would probably be better delivered if not financed by a shadowy group led by a guy who desperately wants his own stop on the local government gravy train.

    By the way, how did they get permission to use the Brady Bunch theme? Or, is there some obscure part of the BMI licensing agreement that allows fair use if you sing the song in a really irritating falsetto?

Okay, enough of that.

Thank you all for the support and yes, even opposition, over the last seven years.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Sam Steiger


[It is] an irrefutable fact of life that the elected official is regarded by those who elect him as capable of the most flagrant dishonor. – Rep. Sam Steiger

Sam Steiger died this week. Steiger served in Congress from 1967-1977, and also did time in the legislature as well as a term as Prescott mayor later in his life.

His career in federal office ended with a race for the United States Senate. As gawdawful ugly as Arizona politics is these days, it would be hard to equal the naked anti-semitism thrown Steiger’s way by John Conlan’s campaign in that primary.

Steiger was considered pretty far right when he was in office, even getting called a bomb thrower by Stewart Udall. He earned a zero from Americans for Democratic Action, but his support for reproductive rights and the ERA would likely earn him the RINO designation these days.

It would be silly to button hole the guy as anything though, except if “curmudgeonly” is considered an ideology. His trip through Arizona politics led him to a run for governor as a Libertarian, a tumultuous time as Evan Mecham’s chief of staff and a surprisingly conservationist term as mayor of Prescott.

Go figure.

Oh, don’t forget those burros he shot. It was self defense. Can’t let anyone forget that.

An Arizona Politico Makes Us Proud Again

Arizona based consultant Nate Sproul has gotten caught committing voter registration fraud again. I mean allegedly, of course.

The Republican National Committee has sacked his firm, but this sort of thing seems to be Sproul’s raison d’être. At some point people have to stop giving organizations that hire Sproul the benefit of the doubt. He gets hired precisely because of shenanigans like this.