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.

It Is Past Time To Look Beyond Tax Cuts As An Economic Development Strategy

It is actually an old story, but it has gained some currency due to the highly visible StartUpNY campaign out of the State of New York’s economic development office. We have all seen the ads. One of them features an outfit called Valutek, who recently  left Arizona for Upstate New York.

Valutek, a firm that manufactures products for the cleanrooms used in research and high-technology manufacturing, in moved their corporate headquarters from Phoenix to Albany three years ago, just as the current economic development initiative was starting in the Empire State. It was also a year after Arizona passed a budget that included the largest cuts to higher education in American history. The timing is not mere coincidence, as reported by the Albany Business Review:

Valutek, which has operations in China and Malaysia, decided to move to New York after Arizona State University, which it has worked with for several years, lost microelectronics funding, [Valutek CEO Greg] Heiland said.

The television spots tout tax breaks as a feature of New York’s aggressive economic development initiative, however, a look on StartUpNY’s web site makes it clear that this is just a part of a far more comprehensive strategy:

START-UP NY (SUNY Tax-free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate NY) is Governor Cuomo’s initiative to transform SUNY campuses and other university communities across the state into tax-free communities for new and expanding businesses.

1. Business will be able to locate in these zones and operate 100% tax-free for 10 years.
2. Businesses will have access to resources of world-class higher education institutions, including industry experts and advanced research laboratories.
3. Universities and colleges will become tax-free communities that provide their students and teachers access to real-world, cutting edge business experiences.

Of course, legislative leaders in Arizona would look at this and say “See? Even in New York they are cutting taxes to attract business!” without bothering to see what they are actually doing. New York’s tax breaks are carefully targeted toward new businesses locating in “underutilized areas.” Functionally, this is the same as a landlord offering a prospective tenant a break on the rent in exchange for a promise to fix up a blighted storefront. In either case, it is an investment in improving the community. In Arizona, we cut taxes for the sake of cutting taxes because taxes are bad. Any pittance of economic development that results is a happy coincidence.

More than this, New York’s strategy recognizes the importance of partnering with higher education institutions, something that is only possible if those institutions are adequately funded. The trouble is, in Arizona they are not. The University of Arizona received a fraction of what was asked for in the budget that was passed this week, making it difficult for them to work effectively toward the state’s economic development.

We could call this penny-wise but pound-foolish, but this would imply that the reluctance to fund the Universities is simply a matter of frugality rather than the fact that the legislature generally has little appreciation for the mission of the University system and is sometimes ideologically opposed to the concept of higher education. This writer remembers a legislator, many years ago, getting up on the floor of the House of Representatives to oppose a biotech initiative for the Universities, saying that this industry would bring to our state “people who are opposed to the capitalist system,” That man is now our Superintendent of Public Instruction.

It would be unwise to exaggerate the impact of Valutek’s departure, or to assume that it is part of a larger trend. It is more a sign of lost opportunity. Arizona’s only economic development idea is cutting taxes. This has yielded some negligible results, but the net growth of new jobs here has lagged behind New York and most other states. At the very least, Valutek’s move shows that we could do much better.

“Hey, Conservative Trolls, Its More Complicated Than That!”

Michael Nowakowski and Cesar ChavezWe have been hearing about a forthcoming Cesar Chavez biopic since at least the 1990s, when an El Vez lyric plugged a rumored project by Moctezuma Esparza which never materialized. Today, a mainstream feature film about the legendary Arizonan finally opens nationwide.

Predictably, this has brought out the trolls, the same trolls who tell us that Martin Luther King Jr. would support the TEA Party if he were alive today and that Ronald Reagan was the real hero of the civil rights movement. This time, the claim is that Chavez was a registered Republican and a vocal and dedicated opponent of immigration.

First, his one-time voter registration is irrelevant. The Republican party of the 1950s and 60s was a very different animal than the one which is familiar to us today, and his political loyalties have to be considered in the context of his contentious relationship with some prominent Democrats like California Governor Pat Brown. His well-recorded support of Democrats like Bobby Kennedy and lifelong work for causes like civil rights and organized labor, however, would seem to imply that his Republican registration was nominal at best.

As for his immigration stand, I first heard this one from some of my Republican colleagues as a member of the legislature. As strange as it seems, despite the fact that many people at and around the capitol had actually worked with Chavez, not one of the folks telling me these things bothered to ask around before repeating the talking points.

In keeping with my biblical namesake, I would not take their word for it. I called up my former colleague, Representative John Loredo, who had worked with Chavez as a young man, and he helped me get in touch with some folks familiar with the issue. It was no surprise that Chavez’ position on immigration was more nuanced and complicated than my anti-immigrant colleagues would have been willing to concede.

Chavez was first and foremost a labor organizer, and anyone familiar with history knows that organized labor in the West has a problematic history with regard to immigration. In Arizona, for example, in the name of protecting unionized workers, nativist elements within organized labor successfully pushed legislation during the early days of statehood that effectively disenfranchised the state’s Mexican-American population for decades. Chavez, at one point in his career, campaigned against illegal immigration, even as his union welcomed the undocumented in its hiring halls. This needs to be considered in context.

Chavez’ own organizing efforts, both with the Community Service Organization (CSO) during the 1950s and the United Farm Workers (UFW) from the 1960s onward, included undocumented immigrants, so he clearly did not take issue with immigration in and of itself. His issue was with undocumented immigrants being brought over the border in an effort to break strikes, and with the fact that federal law enforcement turned a blind eye to this even as they targeted other folks who crossed the border illegally. His grievance was with the inconsistency of immigration enforcement, particularly because this hypocrisy conveniently tended to favor the growers who opposed him, and undermined his fight for the dignity of the farmworkers his union represented, including those who were here without papers.

Chavez’ stand, and the UFW’s tactics and rhetoric in this regard were, as eloquently reported by former Arizona State Senate Majority Leader Alfredo Gutierrez, controversial among Mexican-American political leaders at the time. Chavez eventually moved on from this crusade, and by the 1980s, his organization, which had already long advocated for the inclusion of the undocumented in the labor movement well before other unions did so, actively supported progressive immigration reforms. The amnesty provision of the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 was passed due in large part to the UFW’s efforts.

The film has also been attacked by conservatives for failing to portray Chavez’ activities against illegal immigration. This is about as silly as attacking Moctezuma Esparza’s Gettysburg for failing to show General Hancock’s mediocre performance during Reconstruction. It is beyond the scope of the movie, which takes place before this issue emerged.

I guess we can concede one thing to the trolls: the life, work and legacy of Cesar Chavez are much bigger than can be portrayed in any one movie. On the other hand, the dismissive conservative talking points in this regard fail in a much bigger way. The historical facts, as usual, tell a far more complicated story.

Three Sonorans Might Actually Have A Point Here

So, anyway, last week, David “Three Sonorans” Morales posted this on his Facebook page:


At first, I saw this and wanted to respond by pointing out that David’s memory seems to be too short for him to recall the Democratic opposition to SB1070 and HB2281. But then, I realized that, though his comments about Democrats are unfair and not based in historical fact, he may have stumbled upon an ugly truth regarding the outrage over SB1062, the latest manifestation of ugly bigotry from the legislature.

First, we have to realize that, though bigotry is inherently evil, the way that this evil manifests itself against any given community is unique and rooted in a particular history. The bigotry against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that drove SB1070 has its roots in, among other things, economic anxiety, misconceptions about this region’s history, a fear of the loss of political power and concerns about crime. The “facts” upon which these are based are often spurious, exaggerated or out of context, but at least there is some sort of negligible substance there to argue.

Bigotry against homosexuals, which is what is behind SB1062, is different. It is largely about squeamishness over what other people might be doing. There can be no pretense that this is about anything as important as preserving jobs for good Americans or combating brutal gangs because it clearly is not.

Anti-gay rhetoric is obsessed with sex. Though we certainly hear this less often than we did in the 1980s and 90s, conservatives still have a habit of making graphic, sometimes scatological references to what they imagine gays might be doing in the privacy of their bedrooms. During my time in the legislature, one Mesa Republican notoriously kept a stash of gay porn in her desk, ready to deploy as props during floor debate as an illustration of what she viewed as the depravity of homosexuality. Notwithstanding the number of ostensibly tough, macho dudes who live in fear of being buggered, its called homophobia for a reason, after all, even the most eloquent anti-gay activist is basically arguing, in the words of political philosopher Joe Bob Briggs, “we heard what you gays are doing, and we don’t like it.”

In other words, while the bigotry behind SB1070 was ignorant, the bigotry behind SB1062 is irrational. It can be argued that this is a distinction without a difference, and that it is not simply coincidental that movement conservatives embrace both, but it does begin to explain why the reaction to the two bills has been different.

Anti-gay bigotry is largely about what other people are doing, so it is easy to argue against legislation like SB1062 from a live and let live perspective, particularly in an age when gay culture is being mainstreamed and the case for legalized discrimination starts looking a little silly. In contrast, the case against sB1070 is in some ways harder to make. Anglo suburban anxiety about immigration is reenforced by largely stereotypical and negative portrayals of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the media, and cross-border crime is a very real problem, so the hate behind legislation like SB1070 becomes all too easy to rationalize.

Of course, this does not fully explain the differences between the reactions to the two bills. In 2010, the organized business community expressed misgivings about the substance of SB1070 and the bill’s possible negative effects on the political debate and Arizona’s image as a state, but were unwilling to press the issue any further. In contrast, most business organizations (with the notable exception, as of this writing, of The Tucson Metro Chamber) as well as many prominent Republicans, are calling for a veto of SB1062, and this seems an active possibility. Four years ago, Governor Brewer was facing what seemed to be a tough re-election fight, and the possibility that the Executive Tower would again be occupied by a Democrat seemed too much for the chambers and the Republican establishment to stomach, and dabbling in apartheid was seen as an acceptable price to keep her in office. Now, Brewer is not up for re-election, and everybody, still smarting from the bad press that SB1070 brought us, is concerned about the damage to Arizona’s image and the Republican “brand” that such clearly bigoted legislation will bring. Or perhaps, they have finally decided that this has all gone too far, in which case, this seems too little, too late.

But then again, if this were truly driven by a desire to turn the corner and shake our image as a haven for bigotry, one would suspect that they would be willing to do something to reverse the damage that SB1070 did to our state, but we have no such luck. An effort by Senator Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) to repeal SB1070 has received no support from Republicans or the business community, and has been met with the same dismissive ridicule from the press that the law’s opponents were subjected to four years ago, when the state’s major newspapers were more willing to rail against 1070’s critics than the bill itself. By the same token, the silence from these quarters regarding efforts to require taxpayers to pay the legal bills of SB1070’s sponsors seems to imply that they are still okay with the law.

There are welcome signs that SB1062 will vetoed. The widespread public outrage over this evil bill is heartening, and gives great hope to those of us who have been fighting for change for years. Unfortunately, there remain troublesome signs that some bigotry remains acceptable.

If I was in the legislature…

I know it’s already been passed by both houses, but here is my suggested amendment to SB 1062. I think all right thinking people will find it an improvement:

A. A person exercising rights under this section must post a sign that clearly prohibits certain persons on their premises. The sign shall conform to the following requirements:
1. Be posted in a conspicuous location accessible to the general public.
2. Contain a pictogram that details what persons are not allowed within a red circle and a diagonal red line across a representation of such persons.
3. Contain the words, “no (description of persons not allowed) allowed pursuant to state law”.
B. A so-described person shall not be on the premises of a retailer if the owner has posted the notice prescribed in subsection A of this section.
C. It is an affirmative defense to a violation of subsection B of this section if:
1. The person was not informed of the notice prescribed in subsection A of this section before the violation.
2. Any one or more of the following apply:
(a) At the time of the violation the notice prescribed in subsection A of this section had fallen down.
(b) At the time of the violation the person was not a resident of this state.
(c) The retailer had posted the notice prescribed in subsection A of this section not more than thirty days before the violation.
D. An appropriate state agency shall prepare signs at no cost to retailers.
E. The signs required by this section shall be composed of block, capital letters printed in black on white laminated paper at a minimum weight of one hundred ten pound index. The lettering and pictogram shall consume a space at least six inches by nine inches. The letters comprising the words “no (description of persons not) allowed” shall be at least three-fourths of a vertical inch and all other letters shall be at least one-half of a vertical inch. Nothing shall prohibit a retailer from posting additional signs at one or more locations on the premises.


Rule #1 of satire is that you never rip off the mask. You let your readers poke around and figure things out for themselves. Jonathan Swift didn’t have an an epilogue to A Modest Proposal saying “Hey, I was kidding about that…” Still, I want to explain a bit of what I did here. What I have above is ARS 4-229, the law that says that bar owners who don’t want guns in their establishments must post a sign. When the law was debated, there was a suggestion for even a larger sign. Then-Senator Randy Graf suggested a sign that would have been about half the size of the front door of most bars. Firearms are so protected and important that everyone has to know what place won’t welcome them.

No such provision is in SB 1062. Our guns are important to us; our gay neighbors aren’t.

Senator Melvin Courageously Stands Up For Ignorance

There is actually a pretty vigorous debate over Common Core Standards and many legitimate questions over to what extent, or even if, they should be implemented. It is a debate that needs to happen, and one that should be conducted with rigor, integrity, and an eye toward our future needs as a community, state, and nation.

Cotton HillOf course, this is not the sort of debate that is happening in the Arizona Legislature, thanks largely to Senator Al Melvin (R-Segregated Gated Retirement Community North of Town). Melvin’s SB 1310, which passed a Senate Committee yesterday, bans the implementation of Common Core in Arizona. The Senator’s stated reason for his opposition cited no specifics, merely that the standards were a good idea from “the private sector and the governors” that got “hijacked by Washington.” In other words, the merits of the standards are less of an issue than the fact that they are being championed by The Big Bad Black Man.

He also, as usual, said something about Ronald Reagan, which made even less sense.

In fairness, conservatives who supported the legislation did have some substantial complaints, though these were largely about boogiemen. Howie Fischer’s story in the Star quoted a woman who testified in front of the committee about her concern that the use of computers would lead to indoctrination into “the concepts of global warming, evolution, defaming the founders.” The connection is unclear, but it is certain she does not want her world view challenged by study of science or history. Likely this is a minority view, but, unfortunately, this pride in ignorance is what is guiding our educational policy around here.

Senator David Bradley (D-Tucson), did what he does best by calling out Melvin on his bullshit. Here is Fischer’s account:

Melvin’s opposition led Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, to question him as to whether he’s actually read the Common Core standards that have been adopted by 45 states.

“I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded.

Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands that “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.

Melvin actually should be familiar with “fuzzy math” that substitutes letters for numbers. It has been a well established part of mathematics curricula for hundreds of years, including, no doubt, his own academic program at the Merchant Marine Academy. It is called algebra.

On the other hand, Melvin may be on to something.

Modern algebra has its roots in the work of Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, a Persian scholar working in Baghdad in the 9th century. In fact, much of modern mathematics, even our number system itself, owes a substantial debt to scholars who spoke Arabic and prayed toward Mecca five times a day. Even the word “algebra” is Arabic in origin.

That’s right. Common Core is just a back door way of imposing Sharia Law.

The Annual Statehood Day Post: Ten Great Arizonans You Have Never Heard Of

It is statehood day, so I wanted to write something special. This was written a few years ago and posted in a few different places. I was going to re-visit this list, but I decided that I still like my choices, since you still have not heard of most of these. My call to the reader to feel free to take issue with this list still stands.

February 14th is, among other things, Statehood Day in Arizona. This means that someone, somewhere, will publish the inevitable “greatest Arizonans who ever lived” or “people/events that changed Arizona” lists in newspapers or blogs. The results of these lists are predictable. They nearly always, for instance, include Barry Goldwater. I have nothing against Goldwater’s inclusion, but the late Senator is a little like the Beatles; yeah they were great; yes, things are different because of what they did, but that does not mean that they are not over-rated.

So I am making my own list. This list will not include easy choices like Goldwater, Kino and Poston, names which should already be familiar to most readers. Instead, I take this opportunity to highlight some of the individuals whose names should be familiar, but have instead slipped into relative obscurity despite their role in shaping the Arizona we all know and love.

My standards in making this list are fairly simple. First, the named individual must no longer be alive and must have no institutions, streets, towns, parks, or substantial monuments named for them. Naturally, the individual must have made a lasting, positive contribution to Arizona during their lifetime regardless of the length of their residency in the state. This last one is, of course, highly subjective, and I will have to admit not only to my geographic bias as a Tucsonan but also my political bias as a Democrat. Anyone who has an issue with one of my choices, or someone I did not choose, should feel free to make these views known.

flag_of_the_yaqui_tribe1. Antonio Siraumea (~1686-?): A Yaqui Indian who worked as a laborer in the mines of Sonora, in 1736, Siraumea stumbled upon a remarkably rich silver vein while prospecting in a remote canyon near what is now the international border west of Nogales. The subsequent rush of miners to the site, and Siraumea’s ultimately successful fight to retain his rights to his discovery, led to a long and complex legal battle, assuring the region’s lasting reputation for mineral wealth which would forever be associated with the name of an otherwise obscure ranch at the mouth of the canyon, a place called Arizona.

General Urrea2. General José Cosme Urrea (1797-1849): Born in Tucson to a prominent military family, Urrea rose to fame in the Mexican Army. Commanding a brigade during the war against rebelling Tejanos and Texan colonists, Urrea scored a string of impressive victories and emerged as the most respected Mexican general in the war. An advocate of democracy and reform, Urrea became a leader in the opposition to the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. During his service as Governor of Sonora (which included a substantial portion of what is now Arizona), Urrea negotiated a peaceful settlement to an unnecessary war with the Tohono O’odham, ushering in an era of friendly relations that continues in Southern Arizona today.

great_western3. The Great Western (1812-1866): A “camp follower” who attached herself to General Zachary Taylor’s army during the war with Mexico, the woman named Sarah was dubbed The Great Western after a famous steamship for her six foot tall “Amazon” frame. A shrewd businesswoman, she made successful investments in real estate, livestock, and other ventures, as she continued to follow the Army. Now named Sarah Bowman, she arrived at Fort Yuma in 1852, where she worked as a laundress and hospital matron at the post even as she ran businesses that catered to the soldiers. In 1854, she acquired land on the opposite bank of the Colorado River where she established a restaurant, boarding-house, bar, and brothel. The civilian settlement that rose up around these businesses eventually became the city of Yuma. When she died, she was buried at Fort Yuma with full military honors in recognition of her long and dedicated service to the Army.

Manuelito4. Manuelito (1818-1893): Manuelito had already risen to a position of leadership among the Navajo by the time New Mexico (which then included Arizona) was conquered by the United States in 1846. He relentlessly defended Navajo lands from incursions by these newcomers even as he had from the Mexicans, Pueblos, and Utes before them, through war and, when possible, negotiation. In 1865, his band was among the last to be deported to Bosque Redondo after General Carleton’s extensive and brutal campaign. When the reservation there proved a failure, Manuelito was among the Navajo leaders to successfully argue with General Sherman for a return of their former homeland. The Navajo emerged from their captivity with an unprecedented sense of solidarity as a people, and Manuelito stood prepared to argue for their sovereignty and their rights. In 1876, he travelled with a delegation to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington D.C. and got an expansion to the Reservation, his first of four successful efforts to secure more land for the Navajo, creating what would become the largest Reservation in the United States.

Edward Cross5. Colonel Edward Ephraim Cross (1832-1863): Cross already had extensive experience as a journalist before he arrived in Tubac, in what was to become Arizona, in 1857. He invested in area mines, and reported on the region as a correspondent to newspapers Back East. In 1859, he and other local investors had a printing press, the first one in what would become Arizona, shipped from Ohio via Cape Horn and Cross became editor of The Weekly Arizonian, the area’s first newspaper. Cross’ strident editorial policy made a few powerful enemies and he sold his interest within a few months. In 1860, he went to Sonora to take a commission in the insurgent forces of Benito Juarez until returning to the States with the outbreak of the Civil War. Commissioned a Colonel in the New Hampshire Volunteers, he received a reputation as a colorful and fearless officer before being killed at Gettysburg. His press remained in Arizona and was used for some of the earliest government printing after Arizona became a territory in 1864, as well as, at various times, newspapers like the Tucson Citizen and Tombstone Epitaph. The press remained in operation intermittently at various locations in Arizona until well into the 20th Century.

Josephine Hughes6. Elizabeth Josephine Brawley Hughes (1839-1926): Josephine Hughes came to Arizona to join her husband (see #7) in 1871. She became a crusader for numerous causes for social improvement, helping to organize the first protestant Church in Arizona (1876) and advocating for public schools. At various times, she assumed many editorial and management duties at the Arizona Star, particularly during her husband’s absences as he pursued politics. In 1880, she organized the Arizona chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and became involved both locally and nationally in the women’s movement, particularly in promoting the cause of suffrage. Her son, State Senator John T. Hughes, worked for suffrage in the First State Legislature, but, after he was stifled, the two organized a successful initiative effort to secure the vote for women in Arizona in 1912, eight years before the passage of the 19th Amendment. For her lifelong work, Governor George W.P. Hunt dubbed her “The Mother of Arizona.”

L. C. Hughes7. Governor Louis Cameron Hughes (1842-1915): A Union Army veteran who worked his way through college as a machinist, Hughes arrived in Arizona in 1871. A Democrat, he quickly entered politics, serving on the Tucson City Council and as Pima County Attorney. After serving a brief and stormy tenure as Territorial Attorney General under Republican Governor A.P.K. Safford (1873-1874), Hughes founded the Arizona Star as a platform to promote his political views. He was an early leader in the progressive movement, promoting radical ideas such as women’s suffrage, organized labor, and election reform. Appointed Territorial Governor by President Grover Cleveland in 1893, he was able to restore reason and fiscal restraint to Arizona’s government, but his term was cut short by the machinations of the numerous enemies he had earned due to his liberal views. He retained a substantial following, however, and the progressivism that he promoted eventually came to dominate the Democratic Party and guided the drafting of the Arizona State Constitution.

Morenci Strike8. Wenceslao “Three-Fingered Jack” Loustaunau (1869-1906): A humble blacksmith who worked for the Arizona Copper Company at Metcalf, Loustanau rallied fellow mine workers to protest a cut in wages for Mexican-American employees instituted as a cynical reaction to new labor laws passed by the Territorial Legislature in 1903. With stirring rhetoric, Loustanau inspired a strike that quickly spread to nearby Clifton and Morenci and involved as many as 5000 people. The Arizona Rangers and the National Guard were sent in to break the strike and Loustanau was arrested and eventually sent to Yuma Territorial Prison where he died a few years later. Though the strike was ultimately a failure, Loustanau, with no help from established labor unions or anyone else, was successful at drawing nationwide attention to labor conditions in western mines. He also succeeded, even if briefly, at organizing working people, and Mexican-Americans in particular, around a common cause to an extent that had never before been seen in Arizona.

Bonaventura Oblasser9. Father Bonaventure Oblasser, O.F.M. (1885-1967): Father Bonaventure was sent to Arizona in 1910 as a part of renewed Franciscan missionary efforts among the Tohono O’odham. During his three decades in the region, he built over a dozen churches in the remote villages of the Papagueria. Believing that the boarding school system was harmful to the culture, Oblasser created a system of day schools so that children could be educated in or near their own communities. He came to be an advocate for the Tohono O’odham, organizing the successful lobbying effort that created the Reservation in 1915 and helping the Tribe fight an old lawsuit that sought to take title to their lands. With the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, Oblasser participated in the drafting of the Tribe’s first constitution, striving to make a document that codified the O’odham’s traditions.

sam_goddard10. Governor Samuel Pearson “Sam” Goddard Jr. (1919-2006): Goddard came to Arizona after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II to attend the University of Arizona Law School. Establishing himself as a lawyer in Tucson, his civic involvement led him to pursue politics and he was elected Governor of Arizona as a Democrat in 1964. Recognizing that Arizona was changing rapidly, he pursued a bold agenda as Governor, which did not endear him to a legislature dominated by a coalition of Republicans and conservative rural “Pinto” Democrats. Nevertheless, he accomplished much in his single term, including the establishment of a state budget office, an Arts Commission, and, most importantly, the passage of a sweeping civil rights law. He was actively involved in the fight for Arizona’s share of Colorado River water at a critical time in the development of the Central Arizona Project, and strengthened ties with his counterpart in Sonora. After his term, he remained active as Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party and as a member of the Central Arizona Project board.

The NFL Sanitizes The Declaration of Independence

I suppose that I could go on and on about how high-handed, pretentious, manipulative and ultimately hollow the annoying Super Bowl tribute to the troops was (someone else already did that here). Instead, I will point out a glaring omission in their reading of the Declaration of Independence.

As every schoolboy knows, the Declaration features a list of grievances against the Crown, among which is this one, condemning His Majesty for being insufficiently committed to exterminating the natives:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The item referred to the alliances that the British and the Loyalists had entered into with many of the tribes on the frontier. Leery of the intentions of the Patriots, many native leaders had thrown in their lot with the Crown. Their weariness was understandable. Britain’s agreements with tribes had long been controversial among colonists eager to expand into the frontier, so joining the effort against the rebellion was a matter of survival.

When war came, tribal allies joined British forces in the brutal irregular fighting on the fringes of the wilderness, and the reports of atrocities by Indians, some exaggerated, some wholly fictional, rallied support for the Patriot’s cause. Of course, the Patriots were hardly blameless in this violence. After all, it was not without cause that the Iroquois called George Washington “Town Destroyer.”

In fairness, the reading omitted the entire list of grievances from the  Declaration, including this one, which attacked the Quebec Act of 1774, which was considered offensive by the colonists for, among other things, recognizing the rights of Catholics:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

I know that it is absurd to expect a history lesson at the Super Bowl, and that we as a country have largely gotten past the worst of the bigotry exemplified by these passages. However, it does not seem that our understanding of our past, or, for that matter, our present, is well served by ignoring the complexity of American history, even the parts that make us a bit uncomfortable.

It should be pointed out that this sort of thing has been done right. About 10 years ago, Norman Lear and Rob Reiner put together this short film with famous actors reading the unabridged Declaration of Independence. Graham Greene’s reading of the passage about “savages” at 10:58 is particularly powerful in its irony.

What Stephen Lemons Missed About the 17th Amendment

Henry Fountain AshurstFor Arizonans, the rise of the TEA Party nationally has only meant that we now have a convenient name for a strain of Republicans who have always menaced the political scene and been, to at least some extent, an obstacle to our progress as a state. Back in the 80s and early 90s, we called them Mechamites, after our not-so-esteemed Governor Evan Mecham. This particular breed was already decades old by this time, as even Arizona’s first Governor, George W.P. Hunt referred to the “standpat reactionary furies” in what we now call The East Valley as the chief obstacle to his progressive agenda.

These days, there is little question that this crowd is driving the Republican agenda, and they made a spectacularly successful effort to embarrass us as a state this week. The thing that got most of the attention was a resolution by the Arizona Republican Party condemning Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) for attempting to be an effective legislator. The author of the resolution, a failed candidate for legislature and noticeably less than telegenic fellow, stumbled through an interview with Chris Matthews, refusing to admit that the President was lawfully elected and lecturing the former chief of staff to House Speaker Tip O’Neill about Ronald Reagan. Apparently he was unaware that Matthews worked with and personally knew President Reagan, and if you wait long enough, he will even tell you about the book he wrote about him.

All of this begs the question: given that the Republican Party runs the state, shouldn’t they be able to find a more effective spokesman than this guy?

What got a little less attention was a resolution calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, the 1913 revision to the United States Constitution that calls for the direct election of Senators rather than having them elected by the state legislatures. Stephen Lemons at the New Times was one of the few reporters who gave this more than passing mention, but he failed to give it the proper context.

Lemons jokes that this resolution was being pushed by disgraced former State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) as a means to get himself back in politics. While such a thing would certainly be in character for the former Senator, the truth is that this has been a cause celebre for Pearce and the right wing for quite a long time. Supporters of repeal argue that the 17th Amendment, a progressive era reform intended to address the cesspool of bribery and corruption that the appointment process had become and to generally make government more responsible to the people, was what began the precipitous slide away from “states rights,” though the failure of General John Bell Hood to take a hill in Pennsylvania some 50 years before might have had something to do with it as well. A cursory Google search will yield a catalog of alleged ills that activists blame on the fact that the United States Senate is a popularly elected body.

Marcus_A_SmithWhat largely has not been discussed (except on this blog) is that there is potentially some question about what repeal of the 17th Amendment would do in Arizona. The State Constitution calls for an “advisory vote” for the United States Senate. In December, 1911, candidates for Senate appeared on the primary and general election ballots along with candidates for U.S. House, Governor and legislature. After a spirited and hard-fought campaign, Democrats Henry Fountain Ashurst and Marcus Aurelius Smith came out on top. The following March, the legislature ratified the results unanimously and without debate. It is clear that the framers of the Arizona Constitution intended that Senators be elected and that legislative action was to be merely a formality.

The strange obsession with this issue shows a certain contempt for popular sovereignty among movement conservatives. This also manifested itself this week in the legislature with regard to voting rights. It is also shown in their passion for a wonky issue that has almost no popular support, despite the fact that these folks consistently claim that they are speaking for the majority of Americans, an arrogant assertion that can only be made by an insular group of like-minded obsessives who talk to no one but each other.

Moreover, it shows that folks who claim to be committed to the original intent of the framers of the United States Constitution are largely ignorant and unconcerned about their own state’s constitution and the intent of its framers. Perhaps none of this is really about constitutional principles at all, but merely about the oddball obsessions of some truly strange and narrow-minded people.

Abuse of Language: SOTU Edition

In the wake of Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, two reactions stand out, not so much for the degree which they contributed to or failed to contribute to public debate, but for their complete and hollow meaninglessness.

The first has to be Representative Michael Grimm’s (R-New York) by-now-notorious tirade against a reporter. By now this has been analyzed to death, either as an example of racial double standards in the light of the criticism endured by Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman over his rant, or as a manifestation of an unfortunate macho swagger particular to East Coast Republicans, one in which one plays tough by abusing the weak and powerless, whether they be ethnic minorities, the poor, underpaid women, or nebbish journalists who are smaller than oneself. But more than this, what he said was silly.

Specifically, he threatened to “break” the reporter “like a little boy.” Whatever the hell does this even mean? The simile implies that breaking little boys is somehow familiar to him, so maybe he has done this before, or he knows people who do it. More likely, he’s just a preening jackass who said whatever he thought would make him sound like a big man by employing the rhetoric of his (allegedly) mobbed up Staten Island constituents.

The other comes from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who we keep hearing is a thoughtful guy, even though so much of what he says is predictable. Graham declared that “the world is literally about to blow up.” As comedian David Cross once put it so eloquently, “when you misuse the word ‘literally’ you are using it in the exact opposite way it was intended.”

Obviously, Grimm did not mean that he was going to break anybody, and Graham did not mean that he believed that the planet was going to explode like something from a JJ Abrams flick. The problem is that the substance of their words was not nearly as important to them as sounding tough, defiant, or contrary. If they themselves put so little thought into what they are saying, then why should we take them seriously?