Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best of the 'blogs, week of 24-30 October

In Arizona:

Farther afield:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tucson Prop. 200 is so bad that there's near unanimity.

It's very rare that there's as broad, across-the-political-spectrum agreement on an issue as there is on Tucson's Proposition 200, the sole initiative Tucsonans will see on next Tuesday's ballots. The Goldwater Institute, the 'Blog for Arizona guys, and everyone in between seem to agree: it's fiscally irresponsible, it's a growth subsidy, the policing mandates do not makes sense given that crime is plummeting, and its passage will necessitate major tax increases in the near future. The main opposition group's website, Don't Handcuff Tucson, has links to newspaper editorials and guest opinions in aggregate giving more than enough reason to vote "no".

This has been the most talked-about ballot question of the season, despite there being nearly nobody, except the three Republican candidates for City Council and the initial financial backers of the question, in favor. I've remained silent on it because I haven't had anything unique to say, until now. I'll add the following:

Police in Tucson are, relative to those of both the Pima County and Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, the ICE, and the Border Patrol, well-disciplined and courteous. They're not the best in the state--if you've even been pulled over in Graham County you'll understand what tough competition there is--but for an urban police department, they're doing fairly well. Incidents of brutality are few and things I'd expect to provoke misconduct in many other places--even killings of police officers--are handled here with professionalism.

Policing is a psychologically demanding job in two ways. First, it involves confrontation, including the prospect of physical confrontation. Second, as the famous Stanford Prison experiment and many more serious studies since then demonstrate, power can bring out very bad things in people. Tucson has done a good job of hiring people who can handle the stress and who can use the privileges granted police officers responsibly. Mandating that Tucson hire more police officers may mean a lowering of standards and the hiring of people who would otherwise have to be projected, especially if the city needs to grow its police force "on the cheap." Tucsonans, for safety's and dignity's sake, keep bad cops off the force by voting "no" on Prop. 200.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's only a 1% difference, but: Vote "No" on Tucson Proposition 400

To avoid imposing on Tucson a drastic all-at-once budget cut, I was going to recommend a "Yes" vote on Proposition 400, the extension of "home rule" budgeting for Tucson, until I read the city's own numbers. The expected difference that would be made by failure of Proposition 400 is 1% or less of the city budget!

Turn to page 3 of the City's information packet on the ballot question. In each year 2011-2014 the difference between the projected city expenditure and the state-imposed limit is 1%. For example, in 2011, the state-imposed limit is projected to be $1,337,883,920, and expected revenues are $1,345,876,320. The difference between the two is 0.5%; repeating the calculation for the 2014 figures, the difference is 0.8%.

Endorsers of the proposition, such as the Arizona Daily Star, are being a bit disingenuous or naïve about the tax implications of passage. Yes, passage of the proposition would not directly raise taxes, and failure of the proposition directly lower them. But with the city required to bank excess revenues, there would be no rationale for taxes to be any higher than necessary to meet the state-imposed limit; we can expect lower taxes in the long run were Proposition 400 to fail.

Article 9 Section 20 of the Arizona Constitution sets forth a recipe for fiscal restraint, adjusting 1979-1980 expenditure for population growth and inflation of the currency. Subsection 9 permits cities to avoid this restriction by holding special elections, hence Proposition 400.

Remember that earlier this year the City Council was contemplating imposing a double tax on renters to balance its budget. Nicety after nicety was added during the housing boom, and when revenues decreased the Council couldn't find the integrity or the moxie to cut back the scope of government spending to pre-boom levels. Article 9 Section 20 limits, which tie spending growth to population growth, would prevent such irresponsibility in the future; by re-imposing these limits on Tucson, defeat of Proposition 400 would put the city back on the fiscal straight-and-narrow path in the long run.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Best of the 'blogs, week of 17-23 October 2009

As this is being posted, I'm in an airplane, probably over California's Central Valley. I have an alibi!

In Arizona,

Farther afield,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pima County election integrity update: Dems drop fight for cynical reasons; Libs soldier on.

Two weeks ago--I'm more behind than I thought, but nobody else is following this story!--David Euchner delivered a report at the Pima County Libertarian Party's monthly meeting on recent developments in the possibly "flipped" 2006 Regional Transportation Plan election.

The Democratic and Libertarian Parties both desired a hand-count to be performed; Pima County Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington ruled that challenges to election results are not allowed beginning five days from the announcement of the results.

As a result of the Osmolski Affadavit, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard conducted his own investigation. It was less than thorough and the best election integrity watchdogs were not allowed to observe. The AG's office permitted the county's political parties to name several observers, and one of its choosing would observe. The Pima County Libertarian Party, for example, nominated election integrity guru Jim March, and the request was denied. Goddard could have settled the question once and for all, but by keeping the experts out of the room and failing to do obvious things like inspect the poll tapes, Goddard's affirmation of the election's results only called them further into question.

Destruction of the ballots has been stayed pending the outcome of the Libertarian Party's appeal. Ralph Ellinwood, working on the case pro bono, was said by Euchner to contend that Harrington had equitable jurisdiction and his hands were not tied by statute as he claimed. Bill Risner, the Democrats' counsel, is said to like to continue working on the case, and has sources of funding, but needs a client. The Democrats backed out.

Pima Association of Taxpayers vice-president Dick Bayse, a longtime Democrat, was in the room during Euchner's presentation. His explanation for the Democrats' sudden loss of interest: the matter became an embarrassment to Terry Goddard, a possible gubernatorial candidate. Willingness to pursue the matter was always less than unanimous, and when it became a question of supporting Goddard, it tipped the balance.

I can't speak to Goddard's chances or whether or not the Dems' support is rational behavior. I find him tremendously crass--not only for flaunting economic ignorance but also for his perpetual campaigning. For example, as the featured speaker at the ACLU-AZ Southern Chapter's Independence Day event a few years ago, Goddard had the nerve to spend his whole speaking time talking up populist efforts to sue tobacco companies or protect senior citizens from deceptive (and non-deceptive) business practices, devoting not a single minute to civil liberties. But I also find Sheriff Joe crass, and he's a perennial winner.

Let's hope the Pima County Democrats are right and this matter could hurt Goddard's chances. A man who conducts such a banana-republican "investigation" shouldn't be Governor or dogcatcher.

But enough with that digression. There was unanimous support in the room for the Pima County Libertarian Party to become Risner's client and continue the fight for fair and properly conducted elections. Former Pima LP chairman David Euchner deserves much of the credit for this; the LP's continued involvement in the case has been largely due to his efforts. I could write pages about how the Pima LP and the Arizona LP more generally acts like the sectarian, self-defeating third party that it is, but Euchner's involvement in the election integrity matter has been nothing short of professional.

The Libertarian Party is standing up for election integrity; the Democrats chose cynical loyalty to a born-privileged elected official over fighting for the right of the people to lawful, open government and fair procedures. If you had to consider sending a contribution to one of these groups, or registering as a member of one or the other, which would you choose?

"No legitimate penological purpose": The Sheriff Joe bill keeps adding up.

Maricopa County taxpayers: Your elected Sheriff Joe Arpaio becomes more expensive by the month. How much is enough--how long will you be willing to fund his private crusades?

Back in 2005, the Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that the Maricopa County Jail could not require women inmates to have to obtain a court order before receiving an abortion. Both the Arizona and United States Supreme Courts declined to hear appeals.

Sheriff Joe, never one to take "no" seriously, simply refused to change the policy; last year the ACLU-AZ asked that he and the MCSO be held in contempt of court. Sheriff Joe responded with a change in policy; instead of requiring a court order, he'd require that inmates prepay security and transportation costs.

Back to court, then, and according to Tuesday's ACLU-AZ press release, Arpaio loses again. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig granted ACLU-AZ's motion for summary judgement. I'd provide a link to the arguments, but Oberbillig's order indicates that no court recorder was present and, instead, the matter was recorded electronically. ACLU-AZ's motion is probably indicitave.

Oberbillig cites the 1987 Turner v. Safley precedent, in which the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion (in a case concerning marriage) stipulated that restrictions of inmates' 14th Amendment-protected rights must serve a legitimate penological purpose. The ruling was unanimous and the opinion, nearly so. This is settled law, in other words--that the motion for summary judgement was granted also reflects this--and supposing one wished to overturn abortion's legally protected status, given the Turner precedent, restricting inmate access to the service is an unintelligent way to go about it.

No word yet on whether or not the ACLU-AZ will seek attorney fees; I don't know them not to do so. There's no casual way to estimate how much Maricopa County spent on the case, either, but I can confidently say that once again Sheriff Joe spent taxpayer money on a sure loser.

HT: Alessandra Soler Meetze

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall color report: Pinaleños/Mount Graham

The Pinaleños are especially colorful at this time of year. Starting at the altitude corresponding with the Wet Canyon Bridge (location of the cell-phone camera photo), the few walnut trees hiding in creeks are turning yellow, sycamores, a bright festive orange, and oaks, red. Up a bit higher the bright yellow aspens are almost glowing back at the sun

It was 68 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend, ideal conditions for a hike along Ash Creek. If I didn't spend so much time taking pictures I might have made it to the bottom of the falls. Lizards and snakes must like the weather, too, as they're still very active. Ferns are turning brown and dying back at high altitudes, but flowering plants are still hanging on, and some odd Sky Island refugees--including a geranium-like plant I don't recall ever seeing--are in full bloom. More photos to follow when my Kodachromes return from Dwayne's and I finish the roll of Ektar 120 in the Yashica-Mat.

Word to the wise: If you leave a nice lens on top of your car, be sure that it's inside your car before you drive off. And if a Canon f/1.4 50mm prime is spotted 3/4 of the way up the Swift Trail, it's probably mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vote "No" on Proposition 401 and all other school overrides

Tom Jenney of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers has been a nearly lone voice recommending the defeat of school-district budget overrides. For what it's worth, I'll lend my voice to that effort and recommend the same, especially to those who, like me, reside in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), which is not operating under an override.

There's plenty of money available per classroom full of students. Jenney puts the figure at $194,000 per 25-student classroom. That's not using the "fishy" figure whereby total spending is divided by total number of students (see David Safier's explanation; inclusion of construction costs is a bad idea); Jenney instead computed the average using Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's annual report, excluding construction and land purchase costs.

Averages in the abstract might not reflect the condition in any particular district, but the $7,730 per pupil figure used by Jenney is a few hundred dollars less than spending in TUSD and almost a thousand more than Catalina Foothills. (I did not write that backwards, and you did not read it backwards.) Regardless, there's a lot of money in the districts. Spend $100,000 compensating a classroom teacher (salary plus lavish health insurance plus "employer contribution" to pensions, Social Security, and Medicare, and nearly that amount is left over to keep the lights on, purchase supplies, have art and music classes, pay administrators, etc. A lot is being spent on the public school system--Jenney says that the figure has doubled, in inflation-adjusted dollars, relative to 1970--and there is little to show for it. It's clear that the taxpayer's money is not being spent intelligently, that there is waste and systematic failure; it makes no sense to give more.

A "no" vote is not drastic. Override amounts vary by district, but 5-10% of the district budget is a usual amount. Moreover--and all of the publicity pamphlets mailed explain this--ARS 15-481 establishes a "phase-down" procedure. If an override election fails, a district's funding will not be cut all at once. If the cut was too drastic, the districts can ask for another override. (This could establish perverse incentives for administrators.)

Call them "public schools", "government schools", or whatever you like; it's also quite clear that they're violating the social contract, and not just by failing to educate students to an eighth-grade level before sending them to high-school and to produce high-school graduates before handing out diplomas. (Geriatric libertarians: "social contract" is a well-understood metaphor; please Google it before ranting in the comments section.) When government agencies tell us how it's going to be, insist on doing things on their own terms, and insist that we pay no matter what, we don't ordinarily tolerate it. With schools, it's different. It's "for the kids", if not ours, then someone else's, possibly some disadvantaged household's. If that's the case, we should be even more intolerant--and we shouldn't let anyone try to cast us as immoral for our position. Failing us is one thing--we can vote, throw the bums out, and "shoot the bastards" if we need to. Failing children, who have no recourse at all is less tolerable, much less still if we consider that the product of an urban public school will often lack the literacy, the communication skills, or the understanding of government needed to ever have recourse. Not wanting to hand over more money to poorly-performing and wasteful government institutions does not reflect an antisocial tendency. Sometimes the opposite is true.

If the schools want more money, they should start doing things differently, demonstrating need first, by becoming more efficient and adopting internal reforms. We should also demand an end to the following:
  1. Teachers are not paid according to merit. Schoolteachers should probably be paid more, to attract people to teaching who would instead go into other professions. Effective teachers should be paid more than ineffective teachers. Teaching is a highly individualized profession. It is not ditch-digging. It is not house-framing. Teachers are not fungible. The manner in which they are compensated should reflect that. Looking at this from the other side, taxpayers should be outraged that their involuntary contributions are being given as much to poor teachers as to good ones.

  2. Public schools don't ask. They either demand, or they are silent. I am a graduate of a public/government K-8 system and a private high school, the former in the Chicago sububs and the latter in the city itself. The private school sends mailers, solicits me for funds, maintains personal ties, and seeks my help in other ways. The public school stopped keeping track virtually the day after graduation. It started again when I applied for a small college scholarship but stopped immediately after I graduated college, and even then the communication was limited to my receipt of their check. They didn't even ask me to come in to tell the kids that yes, someone from our neighborhood can go on to be a scientist or whatever else he'd like to be.

    I thought that perhaps this was a Cook County, IL problem, but I've asked around, and Arizona public schools are no better. There is no continued contact with alumni, no routine active solicitation of contributions from area businesses, no Mother's Clubs, Father's Clubs or associated boosterism, no real effort to create a learners' community. If the public schools and their supporters can't be bothered with establishing of foundations or asking those with close ties to the institutions--alumni, parents and families of current students--for voluntary contributions, they have no business demanding involuntary contributions from the taxpayer.

  3. Nonparticipants are not treated equitably. A vote for an override is a vote to raise taxes not just on public school parents and families but also those homeschooling, sending their children to private schools, or sending their children to charter schools. None of these groups will benefit from the override.

    Charter school families receive a government subsidy just like public schoolers do. The other two groups do not receive so much as a tax credit. Homeschooling and private-schooling parents save the taxpayers the expense of educating their children. They've taken responsibility for their children. We shouldn't just admire them for it, we should treat them fairly. The least we can do is to not bill them for support of the public schools while their children are being privately educated. A tax credit for homeschoolers and tuition fee payers, up to the amount the district spends per pupil, would not only make private education in reach of more families; it would also constitute simple justice. Homeschoolers, private school parents, and those of us who support them should vote "no" on overrides until they are treated fairly and not made to pay double for education, at least while their children are of school age.

  4. Student promotion is haphazard in the early grades. Arizona's high schoolers must pass the very basic "AIMS" test to graduate. Too little, too late. I'm no advocate of pervasive testing; the temptations to teach to the test and to treat the test as a target are both too great. But to require that students be reading with basic comprehension by the end of First Grade and read fluently (no more "sounding it out") and comprehend more advanced passages by the end of Third Grade would seem reasonable. Reading comfortably and with comprehension is the key to further education and good citizenship, too. What good is the high-school AIMS test if a student enters high school a functional illiterate?

    For those who fail, aggressive remediation is in order--and I'd happily support an override to fund it.

  5. Curriculum decisions are politicized. Ideally, the schools would be independent and any subsidy would follow the student. That's too great a paradigm shift for "this year" but we should insist that the schools act as though they are independent and allow teachers to choose textbooks. This is intimately related to the "merit pay" issue. Effective teachers don't do the same thing as lousy ones, but better. They do things differently, and as anyone who has ever taught understands, classroom materials are part of this. Arizona has a limited system of choice, enough to start de-politicizing the classroom.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Best of the 'blogs, week of 5-16 October 2009

Switching back to a Friday schedule. Last week was a slow one for the 'blogosphere and a fast one for me, hence no update then.

In Arizona:

Farther afield,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another brush with the Nobel in Arizona.

Elinor Ostrom, an Indiana University social scientist who also has a "research professor" appointment at ASU, is one of the joint winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Economics. (It's awarded by the Nobel Foundation; it's a Nobel Prize.)

Arizona's previous brushes with the Nobel include:

  • IPCC, Peace, 2007 (Jon Overpeck of the U of A was a co-lead-author.)
  • Roy Glauber, Physics, 2005
  • Vernon Smith, Economics, 2002

Willis Lamb and Nico Bloembergen were both hired by the Optical Sciences Center (now the College of Optical Sciences) years after their awards. Glauber serves the OSC in what I understand to be an advisory capacity and his Adjunct Professor title is largely symbolic. As I understand it, Ostrom is much more a part of ASU than Glauber is of U of A. Smith was at George Mason by the time he won his award, but the bulk of his work was done at Purdue and the U of A. Overpeck was one of a few dozen co-lead authors on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Interesting that Ostrom's was the first Nobel for someone affiliated with the party school in Tempe--the rest were all connected to the U of A. Smith's was probably the closest to a Nobel for work done at one of the state's megauniversities. Neither institution can claim a Fields Medal, John Bates Clark Award, or similar high honor, either. It should in no way disparage the research being conducted to note that Arizona's universities are in this respect always bridesmaids and never brides.

Alex Tabarrok nicely summarizes Ostrom's contributions, and it looks like Evan Lisull beat me to this post.

Like the work of maybe-UA prof Glauber, maybe-ASU prof Ostrom's work is very accessible at a high level. A review in the December 19, 2006 issue of PNAS of her work on effective and ineffective institutions for forest stewardship is relatively light reading which will give a "feel" for her institutional economics research program and findings regarding commons problems. Google Scholar turns up loads more and much of it is more interesting than my usual readings during sample incubations.

Note that modern conservation and environmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy are taking this work very seriously. Note that the takeaway message is minimally "there are people studying what does and does not work in commons problems" and perhaps "neither government micromanagement nor assignment of property rights are always or even usually effective, and not all spontaneous or autochthonous rules work, either". (Place your bets on when the first glibertarian says "Ostrom says that law is unnecessary and bad and she got the Nobel Prize--Ha!") And note also that this is yet another Nobel for someone putting Hayekian ideas on sound, mainstream footing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A speedy reversal of firearms policy

Chipotle's University Boulevard location was the first alcohol-serving restaurant to post a "No Firearms" sign pursuant to Arizona's new law allowing concealed carry in alcohol-serving establishments.

It's also, as far as I can tell, one of the first to reverse such a policy, much to its credit. Eating a burrito doesn't make a responsible gun-owner turn in to a murderous lunatic--and the claim that concealed-carry permit holders are dangerous is simply not supported by Arizona's fifteen years of experience with concealed carry.

Among alcohol-serving Tucson restaurants without the "we don't want your business" (or "we're hoplophobic weenies") signs include Zachary's Pizza, The Fat Greek, Pho 88, and Bob Dobbs. Post others in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Congressmen Franks and Smith: doubleplusgood doublespeakers about Sheriff Joe

"Hugh Nuze", 'blogging on Sonoran Alliance, reports a joint statement by Congressmen Trent Franks (AZ-2) and Lamar Smith (TX-21) on ICE/Homeland Security's nonrenewal of their enforcement agreement with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Despite the odd formatting (it seems like everyone who covered this forgot what the <blockquote> tag is for) what you are seeing on the Alliance page is the full text of the announcement. Let's examine it more closely:

This unbelievable move by the Obama Administration represents a politicized attempt to hinder one of our most effective illegal immigration enforcement mechanisms, the 287(g) program.

"Unbelievable?" "Politicized?" I suppose everything is politicized these days, But I'd hesitate to call established 4th/14th Amendment constitutional law "politicized". If DHS/ICE's decision is beyond the pale (what people usually mean when they say "unbelievable") we can conclude that Franks and Smith really don't care about Fourth Amendment protections. Perhaps it'd be better to take them literally and infer that they are having difficulty believing what happened. In that case, they should avail themselves of psychiatric services in D.C.

The key to combating illegal immigration is federal, state, and local cooperation.
Right-wingers are like old-fashioned libertarians. When abstractions start being tossed about, they're up to no good.
This is why we believe it is crucial for the federal government to continue to support individuals like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the implementation of agreements under section 287(g), which provides for the Department of Homeland Security to delegate authority to enforce federal immigration laws to state and local officials. To date, hundreds of local officers have been trained in enforcing U.S. immigration laws, and nowhere in the country is this more critical than in Maricopa County. Currently, over 33% of inmates in Maricopa County Sheriff facilities are illegal, and more than 53% of violent crimes in Maricopa County are committed by illegal immigrants.

53% According to whom? According to what study? That would contradict the experience of the rest of the U.S.A.--since Franks doesn't even allude to a source we can consider this as one of those 43.7% of statistics that are simply made up.

The fact is, the 287(g) program works. Thousands of illegal immigrants apprehended for other crimes are being identified and deported.
The fact is, only jackasses trying to pull the wool over someone's eyes actually write "the fact is". In speech, it's an obnoxious, arrogant, insulting tic in speech, as though that isn't bad enough. And more to the point, under the new agreement, the MCSO can still check the immigration status of those apprehended for other crimes.
Claims that the program was supposed to focus only on serious crimes are false. In fact, the program was created to let state and local law enforcement officials help enforce all immigration laws, not a select few. We must not forget that we live in a post-9/11 world and have a profound responsibility to secure the borders of this nation to prevent another terrorist attack.

The race to the bottom! The rest of us are concerned about being able to go about our daily lives without being herded into a Third World scene like Julian and Julio Mora, and Franks is appealing to the September 2001 terrorist attacks and trying to stir up irrational fear. And think about it: if you're a foreigner intent on some sort of kamikaze act of terror, wouldn't you rather have a visa, like the 11 Sept 2001 goons?
Terrorists are looking for our weakest link and will exploit such weaknesses at any cost. Border security and national security are inextricably linked.
Divert immigration back to the roads, where it belongs, and you wouldn't have this problem. Moreover: A shall-issue policy for visas would make it safe to presume that anyone without one is up to no good. Contrast this with the current situation, where the presumption is that the individual without the right visas--an illegal immigrant--is a victim of a broken system.

“Local law enforcement agencies deserve the thanks, and not punishment, of the federal government for helping to address the problem of rampant illegal immigration, especially in area like Maricopa County that see an increase in crime, drug trafficking, and other issues because of it.

This talk of an increase in crime is, again, suspicious, and the proper counterfactual to consider is not "immigrants obey the law" but rather "illegal immigrants are made legal."

"Punishment" would be making every single MCSO officer who violated 4th Amendment protections in the course of 287(g) street level enforcement pay up. To take an abused power away from local law enforcement, that's not punishment. Government agencies are not objects of moral consideration. To speak of their dignity is absurd--it is to make people subordinate to institutions.
Instead of launching a politicized attack against a local law official who has yielded great success with the 287(g) program
By "success", according to the Arizona Republic's numbers, they mean fewer than 300 suspected illegal immigrants caught by the enforcement actions that will soon be prohibited. Contast that to the 30,000 caught by screening of those arrested for other offenses.
the Obama Administration should replicate the success we have experienced in Maricopa County in other areas that are desperately in need of similar solutions. It is reprehensible for DHS to bull
Again, a regulatory change is "bullying", as though government agencies are entitled to their current powers due to some moral considerations, as though they are ends in themselves.
law enforcement officials who have honorably served this nation and the state of Arizona by enforcing federal and state laws and who are continuing to work to protect the American people.”

If what Sheriff Joe and his goons did to Julian and Julio Mora is honorable, if workplace raids are honorable, if willfully violating the U.S. Constitution is honorable, then Franks's and Smith's ideas of honor is very different than mine, and, I suspect, yours.

Given their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, we can conclude that Franks's and Smith's sense of "honor" renders them dishonorable.

A practical tip for readers in the Phoenix area.

Until Sheriff Joe and his fellows are reined in, try not to look Mexican while driving. As can be inferred from the immediate previous post, it could make for a long and interesting day. Take off the tejana hat (or trade it for a sporty Vietnamese model), turn off the Morrissey, apply blackface makeup, learn a good Indian or Pakistani accent--do what you can. If detained, ask which way is east so you can pray facing Mecca.

The obligatory Sherrif Joe post

Via the Arizona Republic and the Wall Street Journal (HT: Justyn Dillingham), word that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office agreement with (federal) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorizing street-level immigration enforcement by the department has ended. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has signed a new agreement with ICE allowing only screening of arrestees and jail inmates.

Arpaio is already blustering about there being no change--"I am free of the Federal Government". According to a second Republic article, Arpaio intends to continue charging undocumented immigrants as conspirators in their own smuggling--this despite Arpaio's deputies having no reason to believe any particular individual without the correct visas has been smuggled. Andrew Thomas's extremely creative interpretation of the state's human smuggling law has been upheld in appeals court but has yet to be tested at the Arizona Supreme Court.

The newspapers have avoided giving details as to why ICE might want Arpaio & Co.'s powers rolled back. (It wouldn't be editorializing, but who cares?--Republic reporters editorialize all the time!) Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputies routinely violate Fourth Amendment guarantees in their immigration enforcement operations. They're not in the "grey area" like the officers in the Evan Lisull chalking case. They're so clearly in the wrong that they could be said to disregard the law.

Consider, for example, the case of Julian and Julio Mora. Julian, a legal resident, and Julio, a U.S. citizen, were driving to Julian's place of work by their usual route. An MCSO car cut out abruptly in front of them; they were arrested and transported to the site of a workplace raid (itself of dubious legality), where they were detained for hours without contact with the outside world. The entire complaint is worth reading. The lack of reasonable suspicion for the preliminary search or probable cause for detention obvious, and the manner of detention will give you chills:
Upon arrival at H.M.I., Plaintiffs observed a scene that resembled a heavily guarded armed camp, with nearly as many uniformed MCSO personnel as detainees. It appeared that all of the employees [emphasis mine] who showed up to work at H.M.I. that morning were being detained. Some of the MCSO deputies were wearing masks over their faces and carrying semiautomatic rifles. Others surrounded H.M.I. employees who had been herded into two long lines for interrogation. Detainees were not provided with any food or water at any point while detained. They were ordered not to use their cell phones to speak with anyone on the outside, nor were they permitted to talk with other employees.

ACLU-AZ counsel Dan Pochoda seems to agree in spirit with the line of thought I presented yesterday:
Exemplary damages are required as punishment and to deter Defendants from repeating these abusive and illegal actions in the future.
The calculus in Sheriff Joe's head--and that of MCSO supervisor Joe Sousa and the other participating officers--should be a weighing of political grandstanding against the prospect of being left indigent (and probably unemployable as peace officers) due to the awarding of damages to those whose rights they violated under color of law.

For a long time I have favored a shall-issue policy for visas, letting the market decide who comes to the U.S. and who stays, and finding the "welfare state" cop-out to be overstated if one actually cares about quantitative information.

But suppose I didn't. Suppose I was a nativist, or someone who preferred that the people I encountered each day were of strictly European descent. Suppose I was someone who held it against undocumented immigrants that they didn't wait in a queue that didn't exist, who recognized that there was no means for them to simply fill out paperwork, wait for processing, and get a visa, and then cited this as a reason for them to never receive visas. Suppose, à la George Squyres's infamous August 2004 LP News article, which seems no longer to be on the Internet, that I considered being an illegal immigrant "prima facie evidence" for rejection of rule of law and was bigoted enough to not look beyond the prima facie and consider whether or not this was corroborated by the pattern of conduct in total.

Suppose that, like Russell Pearce, I thought that "illegal aliens have no rights", in either sense of the term. Suppose, to give the position its most charitable description, I out of peculiar aversion to "outsiders" or peculiar need for homogeneity just didn't like having Mexicans or Mexican-Americans around, wished they'd disappear, and didn't give a damn about their maltreatment.

I still wouldn't support Joe Arpaio's workplace raids and profiling, for no other reason than that his policies are patently unconstitutional and will cost the taxpayer's millions. There must be cheaper ways of actualizing one's bigotry. Regardless of one's position on immigration, to support grandstanding politicians who invite sure-win Fourth Amemdment civil liberties lawsuits is, independently, fiscally irresponsible lunacy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"I got your back...We clear?"

Those who watch a lot of television--and I'm inclined to think of the glowing box as Russell Kirk thought of cars--might get the idea that the police more than rarely "save the day", entering at the nick of time to stop some wrongdoer from harming someone. Many Americans speak about policing and the need to "just let 'em do their jobs" as though policing is like The Commish, out-of-shape middle-aged men managing to stop the next crime just before it happens.

Try convincing the Arambula family of Phoenix of that. Responding on 17 September 2008 to a home invasion at the Arambula residence, Phoenix PD officer Brian Lilly back-shot Anthony Arambula six times--twice while he was on the ground! Arambula was simultaneously on the phone with 911 and holding the home-invader at gunpoint while wife Lesley was with outside with the kids, on the phone with Sgt. Sean Coutts, also via 911.

Not only is policing not ordinarily like television, police are poorly trained to charge in and save the day. (Consider how often the cowards shoot the family pet!) Lilly and partner Dzenan Ahmetovic responded after being flagged down by Lesley Arambula; Lilly didn't get the particulars of the situation--despite both husband and wife having informed the police of it via 911--before charging in and shooting, and he shot a man in the back!

That's a bit of an old story, but Courthouse News Service, a new development. While the officers were (poorly) tending to Arambula's needs, already Lilly and Coutts were discussing a cover-up:
The complaint states: "Sgt. Coutts knew that officers has just shot up and likely killed an innocent homeowner and the husband of Lesley, with whom he had spoken before entering the home, instead of the armed intruder. Sgt. Coutts was quick to commence the cover-up of their terrible mistake. Sgt. Coutts asked Office Lilly where Tony's gun was at the time Officer Lilly had opened fire on Tony. Officer Lilly admitted that he did not know where Tony's gun was: 'I don't know. I heard screaming and I fired.'"
Lilly later told a police internal affairs investigator that Anthony had pointed his gun in his direction, "in the 'ready' position," the complaint states. But Anthony Arambula says he was facing away from the officers, who could not have even seen his gun.
The complaint continues: "Still not knowing that he is being recorded on the 911 tape, Sgt. Coutts interrupted Officer Lilly's admission and apology with his assurance that the cover-up would commence: 'That's all right. Don't worry about it. I got your back. ... We clear?'"

ABC News has the 911 recording.

The Arambulas are suing for criminal damages for quite a variety of torts--see the notice of claim.

Here we have not only an instance of poorly-trained police, but police caught red-handed changing their stories and covering up each other's mistakes. Policing errors I can understand being lenient about, but such police misconduct should not be tolerated.

On David Hardy's 'blog (which I owe for bringing this story back to my attention), anonymous coward commenter "Wrangler5" writes:
Maybe there are mitigating factors not disclosed in the article, but the actions of the responding officers as reported strike me as absolutely beyond the pale. My initial gut reaction is that appropriate consequences would be criminal conviction and 5 years in the general population for the cop/shooter, if possible a conviction and time in the general pop for the partner for covering up, 7 figure civil judgments against both cops personally to bankrupt their families (as a personal message that other cops will get and understand) and 8 or 9 figure judgment against the city to get their attention focused on better officer training and on crushing any personnel involved in covering up violations of law and department policy.

I'm usually unsold on punishment. Too often it is merely revenge or catharsis, hurting the culprit because it feels good. This has no place in civilized laws. But in many a policeman's mind, thanks to the "blue line" culture, there's a bit of an informal economic calculus which is approximately the following: Multiply the loss if I get caught in a cover-up by the probability of being caught. Compare this to the loss if I do not cover this up. If it pays to cover it up, cover it up. We must tip this result back in our favor.

Evan Lisull in the clear.

Not only were the criminal damage charges against (Desert Lamp 'blogger) Evan Lisull dropped, he no longer faces the possibility of University penalties.

No word yet on whether or not he will pursue a code of conduct violation civil rights lawsuit against the arresting detaining officers.

Skimming the police report, there appear to be a few potential problems:
  1. Hearsay can certainly be probable cause, but flights of fancy cannot. The (unnamed) witness states that he saw Lisull marking the ground with chalk and decided for himself without any real reason that Lisull must have been the person marking up buildings. The police must take care to distinguish between facts and opinions reported by witnesses.
  2. Faced with an obvious multi-party chalking campaign--an explanation for chalk on buildings and other raised surfaces that rules out need for a "lone gunman"--police could only have reasonably believed that Lisull was marking the ground. From "Lisull was spotted chalking the sidewalk, Lisull had chalk in his pocket." it does not follow that "It is likely that Lisull made some of these many large chalk drawings on buildings and statue pediments." Moreover, Lisull's observed conduct is specifically exempted in the statute the violation of which Lisull was charged by Cpl. Leon. Can specifically exempted conduct be probable cause for conduct in violation of a statute?

Not airtight in the least--perhaps one of the few lawyer types who read this can correct me where I'm wrong. But it's worth considering. Given the privileges afforded to on-duty police, their unique ability to ruin one's day without penalty or with a mere slap on the wrist, it's very important to maintain a "broken windows" approach to keeping their conduct within its legal bounds.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ballot measure coverage to begin shortly.

Ballot measure time is here. I haven't paid as much attention as usual to the players--the questions are simply that dull--but will, as usual, provide summaries, commentary, recommendations, and links to full text, at least for Pima County/City of Tucson ballot questions. Perhaps Kim or Thane will cover part of what's happening in Maricopa.

You're going to see the word "No" quite a bit. Why I recommend saying "no" to the schoolkids and Officer Friendly, that might be interesting. You'll get my reasoning soon enough, then you can decide.

Comments, as usual, are appreciated. But if any of you call me a shill again based on the content of my Google Ads (just google how those work) I will call on my New Orleans connections and bring some bad juju down on you. Consider it due warning. Ogun and I, we're homies.

"Yes on Propositions 401 and 402" running afoul of telemarketing law?

Not more than five minutes ago, I received a (blocked number) call from Yes on Propositions 401 and 402 (the TUSD budget overrides) on my cellular phone.

I was already planning on recommending that readers vote "No", and this might have made that certain. Like Tim Bee's splitting of Tucson in half for a private fundraiser, telemarketing calls to mobile phones is something simply should not be done.

Almost an addition to 'blogroll

As was the case for Dan Heller's column, I can't get the feed from Robert Robb's 'blog to work properly; it redirects to general Arizona Republic news updates.

The 'blog has been added to the link list; it's worth checking every now and again, especially, of late, for his coverage and commentary on the CityNorth affair.

Bolick on "conservatism" in the AZ Republic

The word-game is silly--and since Bolick is not "standing athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'" he is not a conservative--but he does raise a good point in his opinion piece: there are two very different sorts of progress, one building on the best American traditions and the other casting them aside.

Best of the 'blogs, week of 26 Sept to 4 October

A busy week for me in real life, so a slow week in the blogosphere, and I'm a little late on this one, too. But here's what I found:

In Arizona:

Farther afield,

Thursday, October 01, 2009

One for the Warden File

Good old Roy Warden:

TPD's MO has traditionally been to arrest him a couple days later. I can't believe the city court can't find a way to get these cases over. I can't believe Ron Zack can't find a way off the case.

> Reply-To:
> From: "ROY WARDEN"
> Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 15:58:07 -0700
> From: ROY WARDEN []
> Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 3:40 PM
> To: ''
> I just re-read my commentary to you.
> Please don’t take it as a reflection on your services performed to date. Simply speaking; every time they have to provide me with an attorney for some alleged violation the story gets bigger. Now, I have three court appointed attorneys working on Roy Warden Cases. Maybe when they employ ½ the lawyers in town to provide for my defense their resources will be stretched too thin and they’ll stop arresting and prosecuting me.
> Sort of a scorched earth war of attrition, a common enough strategy don’t you think?
> From: ROY WARDEN []
> Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 12:31 PM
> To: 'Robert Gaffney'
> Thanks Mr. Gaffney:
> Within the last two hours I re-violated the 1,000 feet order and burned two Mexican Flags in front of the Pima County Courthouse, the Brown Berets, 100 assorted protestors/counter protestors, 50 or more sheriff deputies and TPD officers, etc.
> If they arrest me, please make them get another lawyer, unless you REALLY, REALLY want to spend significant time litigating the constitutional issues.
> From: Robert Gaffney [REDACTED--BSK]
> Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 12:15 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: GAFFNEY RE TRO ORDER.doc
> Attached, please find the court's orders re: not going within 1000 feet of 33 N. Stone or going to the Library, etc. If you need anything else, let me know.
> Bob Gaffney
> -----Original Message-----
> From: "ROY WARDEN"
> Sent 9/22/2009 5:25:20 PM
> To: "'Robert Gaffney'"
> Scan and email it. It can be an attached file. Thanks!!
> From: Robert Gaffney [REDACTED--BSK]
> Sent: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 5:23 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: GAFFNEY RE TRO ORDER.doc
> I am now able to send you the court order prohibiting you from going within 1000 feet of 33 N. Stone. Do you want me to fax it to you or scan and email. Let me know. If you want a fax, give me your fax number.
> Bob Gaffney
> -----Original Message-----
> From: "ROY WARDEN"
> Sent 9/16/2009 5:04:22 PM
> To: "'Robert Gaffney'"
> Thanks Robert. Unfortunately the City Court has a 1 week delay in getting the file. So, we’ll just have to do the best we can…
> From: Robert Gaffney [REDACTED--BSK]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 3:46 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: GAFFNEY RE TRO ORDER.doc
> I am out of the State right now and won't return until next week. I'll get it to you as soon as possible. If you need it sooner, you can get copies from your file in Tucson City Court.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: "ROY WARDEN"
> Sent 9/16/2009 10:20:49 AM
> []
> September 16, 2009
> Robert Gaffney
> Attorney at Law
> Re: Arizona v Warden
> Dear Mr. Gaffney:
> I am about to undertake a course of action which will impact our case(s) and your representation, I hope in a positive way.
> In spite of the various orders against me, over the past several months I’ve participated in and spoken at a series of political rallies associated with Smart Girl Politics, the Tucson Tea Party, Anti OmamaCare, etc., all without response from the Tucson Police Department.
> I am now organizing a Counter Protest rally for 9 am Friday September 25, 2009 in front of the Pima County Superior Courthouse, where various groups will gather in opposition to the Brown Berets, a militant, “Pro Raza” activist group promulgating, among other things, a racist, open border viewpoint.
> At this point I intend to speak out against Pima County Open Border Policy, the Tucson City and Pima County Superior Court judges who have protected such policy, and to Burn a Mexican Flag. Of course this activity will (1) piss off the local judges and (2) directly put me in violation of several Municipal Court orders prohibiting my political speech, which I contend, are beyond the jurisdiction of the Court to issue.
> Prior to the event I plan to move the federal court for a TRO enjoining the Tucson Police Department from interfering with my activity. Since I’ve never done one before I presume I will have significant research to do, etc.
> As an exhibit I need a copy of whatever paperwork you now have which proves there is currently an Order of the Court which prohibits me from coming within 1,000 feet of the corner of Pennington and Stone, or whatever it says, and the fact that I am now being prosecuted for being in violation of such order.
> Would you be so kind as to scan in whatever material you now have and email it to me? You shouldn’t need any more than a page or two.
> Thank you for your help!
> Roy Warden
> CC Ronald Zack

A few remarks:
  1. No, I did not receive this from Bob Gaffney.
  2. Warden's actually relatively well-behaved. He's known for turning on his counsel (and sabotaging his own case) at the slightest provocation.
  3. An indigent with no visible means of support, Warden actually, briefly, had ACLU as counsel a few years ago, and has since then made use of services of the public defender's office.
  4. He's back on Nutzero Netzero. Back in 2005, he was banned. I wonder if he slipped under the radar. I'm terribly busy but should send them an e-mail.
  5. Warden may have a legitimate civil liberties complaint--centered on what to my non-lawyerly eyes is a very interesting question--but the chances of him doing what needs to be done for relief are slim.
  6. Characters like this are very common in Southern Arizona politics and public life. Two of them--Joe Sweeney and Russ Dove--have run for Congress, Sweeney as a major party nominee. Lumping Dove in with those two is probably not fair, either, as he reputedly earns a living.
  7. The Left and the libertarians both have their share of nuts down here, too, but none whose antics are this protracted, or who are this loud.