Wednesday, December 15, 2010

So David Duke walks into an NAACP meeting...

I have it on good word (I did not attend this year) that Russell Pearce showed up at Al Korwin's annual Bill of Rights Day event.

This is the legislator who, in his quest to institutionalize bigotry (that's fair to say because he sure isn't supporting visa reform and amnesty), introduces bill after bill that disregards the Fourth Amendment.

The DSM uses the term "lack of insight" for a necessary criterion for the diagnosis of many psychopathologies: the patient must be unaware that certain cognitions or perceptions are not normal. I think the term "lack of insight" applies here, too. That is, unless he came to beg forgiveness, and there's no rumor of that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

David F. Nolan, RIP

I just received word from two mutual friends that David F. Nolan (known to many as either "Dave" or "The Nolan") passed away suddenly last night, two days shy of his 67th birthday.

An Arizonan since 2005, most recently Nolan was the at the top of the Arizona Libertarian Party's ticket, running a respectable and visible 3rd-party candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He was the principal founder of the Libertarian Party and also known for proposing what came to be known as the "Nolan Chart", one of several two-dimensional descriptors of political belief or tendency.

My sincerest condolences go to his wife Elizabeth.

I will follow up with information about the memorial service and where to send donations in lieu of flowers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trash and tradeoffs: or the feral Tea Partier of Fountain Hills

Once again a post certain to annoy or offend some of the readers. But if you wanted someone to stroke your prejudices, you'd be reading Blog for Arizona, Sonoran Alliance, or whatever Ernie Hancock is promoting these days.

Arizona policy has once again caught national attention, and not because Russell Pearce--the man more responsible for getting Arizona thought of as the new capitol of bigotry than any other-- was elected to preside over the state Senate. No, it is because the "Tea Party", formerly reserving its vaguely paleoconservative populism for Federal and State concerns, has taken a stand on a local matter.

As reported in the Arizona Republic, on Thursday 4 November the Fountain Hills town council voted to amend the town code to allow selection of a single trash hauler. Previously, individual residents contracted individually with one of several haulers. Now all will receive weekly trash pickup services plus curbside recycling for $11.44 per month.

The local Tea Party group announced a 16 November "town hall meeting"--despite nearly 5 hours of public comment at the meeting at which the vote--announcing it as follows on their(amusingly Geocities-esque) website:
"Talkin' Trash"

On Thursday, November 4 the Fountain Hills Town Council decided, by a 4-3 vote, to take away your ability to choose your own trash hauler.

Councilmembers Brown, Dickey, and Leger, along with Mayor Schlum, voted for this action. Councilmembers Contino, Elkie, and Hansen voted to preserve your freedom.

Once more, government is trying to interfere with free market economics.

Our goal: let the people decide!

What the Tea Partiers are not discussing is price. I made a few phone calls to get a sense of what the private haulers charge. Waste Management service costs $19.50 per month plus a few dollars extra for fuel and environmental (dump) fees. Allied Waste (formerly Red Mountain) charges $55 every three months, which works out to $18.34. Due likely to economies of scale, Fountain Hills's new service will save residents $7 per month.

And those savings do not take into account the externalities. The Arizona Republic reports claims of a savings of nearly $100,000/year in street maintenance. In addition to that, there'll be less air pollution--start-and-stop driving of high-torque diesel engines like those in garbage trucks is very dirty--and less early morning vibration and noise.

The loss to the individual? Nothing. As long as it's equally clean and equally quiet trash pickup is trash pickup. Unless we somehow price into things the mental anguish a right-winger or right-wing "libertarian" must feel, given the reaction, when forced to re-evaluate very simple heuristics, everybody benefits and nobody loses. This looks like a clear example of one of those win-win transactions of which--pace Richard Epstein--coercion is an ethical and practical no-brainer. Worries about a "monopoly" are misplaced, as the area's various waste haulers can still compete when the contract is up for renewal.

Waste hauling is not health care, nor is it health insurance. There's no third-party payments problem, no moral hazard problem (except in clever hypothetical scenaria) and no price:utility tradeoffs with extreme implication for quality of life or even life-and-death. One's life, livelihood, and liberty are at stake when a "single-payer" or "single-payer"-like plan (such as the one passed by the Democrats early this year, which forbids insurance companies from competing on product) drives up costs and then reins them in with rationing. They at best only trivially at stake when trash-hauling contracts are made at the municipal level, bringing savings, reduced externalities, and extra benefits such as recycling. "But I want pickup on Wednesday." "But I want the company with the pretty purple trucks." "But I want a more expensive service without recycling because recycling is only for non-jerks and I am a jerk."

If I were a Tea Partier, and I'm not, I'd be wary of calling this "socialism" as people interviewed in the Republic--and commenting in the 'blogosphere--are doing. Socialism (euphemistically called "progressivism") and leftism more generally involves win-lose transactions, sacrificing some for the short-term benefit of others and the long-term detriment of all. Remember that poll that had 33% of Americans--who are these people--having a positive impression of "socialism"? Don't start associating "socialism" with common-sense, and still free-market, changes for the better.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

On Propositions 301 and 302: No recommendation.

Like previously covered Proposition 302, Proposition 301 sweeps voter-allocated funds into the general fund for the purpose of balancing the budget. In this case, it is monies from the Land Conservation Fund, set aside as 11 years of $20MM appropriations (plus private donations) following 1998 approval of the "Growing Smarter Act" by the electorate. The remaining balance of the fund is to be swept into the General Fund.

I know how I am going to vote on this one, and I'm less wishy-washy about it than I am about Prop. 302. Those of you who are in favor probably think I am against it and those of you against it probably think I am in favor. Like Proposition 302, deciding how to vote on this proposition involves balancing competing values. I do not think I can help the reader through that. I give no recommendation.

For decency's sake, vote "yes" on Prop. 203

I've been more often than not surprised by just who I meet who would benefit from legalization of use and distribution of marijuana (cannabis, pot) for medicinal purposes. None have been hippies, slackers, or never-do-wells. I will not say that all patients everywhere are categorically model citizens, but the patients or would-be patients that I have met are moral and productive members of society.

The most recent: a coworker, an elderly office clerk with a very conservative manner and the work habits to match, very cautiously sought my opinion on Proposition 203 and on learning that I have long been a supporter of legalization (for any use) shared that (from her experience) medical marijuana would be the best medicine for her PTSD, that she would take would even a petty conviction not imperil her husband's business. Legal marijuana would enable a good night's sleep without the side-effects of prescription pills.

I didn't even know at the time that marijuana was therapeutic in PTSD. Surely enough, there is plenty of research to corroborate one patient's anecdotal evidence.

I find that many of the opponents of legalization of medical marijuana are simply ignorant and arrogant. A case that will forever stand out in my mind is that of an MD I knew as a teenager who called cancer patients' claims that medical marijuana would benefit them "nonsense". It turns out that this MD didn't bother to learn why the claims were being made and merely assumed that it was being argued that marijuana cures cancer. I do not know how I knew that marijuana was a potent anti-emetic, allowing chemotherapy patients to eat healthily instead of vomit uncontrollably, and an MD did not. But yes, a little hit of cheap, common marijuana smoke goes far in easing cancer patients' suffering and contributing to their health and recovery--and to suggest a THC pill would be stupid. Not only is THC not the only active constituent of marijuana, but people who are puking nonstop cannot take a pill!

Add PTSD to the list of conditions for which marijuana is therapeutic, which isn't limited to uncontrolled emesis due to cancer therapy. Marijuana reduces retinal blood pressure in glaucoma patients (helping to save their sight), controls spasticity caused by primary progressive or late-stage relapsing-remitting MS (there's one that hits close to home for this 'blogger...) and many other conditions, and reduces tremors caused by Parkinson's and other neurogenic movement disorders. And we can laugh all we want at the "munchies" in healthy people, but in patients with HIV-related wasting disease and other wasting conditions it is a lifesaver.

Opponents of medical marijuana legalization think it will send the wrong message to youths. What message is that? That our forbears who banned the stuff in a moral panic having something to do with miscegenation, Reefer Madness, and the Hearst family's interest in the pulp paper business made a mistake? That their DARE-participating schoolteachers and policemen lied to them? That for generations we've not only incarcerated people for eating or smoking something more mild than beer but locked up the ill for treating themselves? To not send this message is arrogance. We owe the young this message and a sincere apology.

They gripe that teenagers smoke more marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal and that marijuana will be more widely available? So what! If keeping kids and adults from getting a mild buzz that generations of experience has shown us is at its worst a very mild social problem--more mild than alcohol overindulgence or tobacco smoking--really outweighs treating (and not arresting, fining, or incarcerating) the ill, perhaps one has had too many bong hits lately. They need to get out of the house more and go to places where medical marijuana is legal (e.g. New Mexico). Far from being populated with stoners and slackers, I'd call e.g. similarly-sized Albuquerque classier than Tucson. The bill is full of safeguards against recreational use--for example, plants must be grown in locked areas--to an extent that looks ridiculous to a legalization proponent, meaning that concern over recreational use is unjustified on yet another level.

And they ask if we want people "just running around smoking marijuana" as though "running around" is what marijuana smokers do--and as though the ill, who are in question here, do much running around. MS patients don't run. Huntington's and Parkinson's patients don't run. Cancer patients puking their guts out thanks to chemo don't run. We'd love for them to run.

If you would like the ill to suffer needlessly, either to oppress them or to facilitate the oppression of nearly 100% harmless others, and to continue to arrest, try, and fine or incarcerate them when they do get effective treatment, then vote "no" on Proposition 203. If on the other hand you support inexpensive and relatively safe treatment of a number of conditions, if you believe that the ill should not be punished for seeking treatment and that marginal increase in recreational use is far outweighed by this, then vote "yes".

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ballot question summaries and recommendations part 1: Propositions 106-113, the Constitutional amendments.

Unlike in years past, I have not had time to cover each ballot question in detail. (Interested in joining this project? Send me an e-mail.)

However, I've had time to read them and to think them over and have received enough requests to do so that I'll provide recommendations for each:

  • Proposition 106, health care freedom redux

    Recommendation: Yes.

    A stand by the people of any state in the union against strong Federal restrictions of individual choice in purchase of health insurance and health care would have been more useful in 2008 than it is this year. Defeat of 2008's Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, an initiative that this 'blogger strongly supported, may have impaired the Democrat-controlled Congress in its effort to simultaneously ban actuarially fair (risk-based) insurance and mandate purchase of what are essentially privately-run socialized medicine schemes. (Up to small details such as the sneaky new taxes and $600 transaction reporting mandate, that seems like a fair summary of what they gave us.)

    The fight against "Obamacare" in the courts is not over (see Coons v. Geithner, and that "Coons" is none other than Nick Coons) and the passage of Proposition 106 will open up yet another front. It will also protect Arizonans from further destructive government tampering with health insurance and health care.

    Moreover, it does not forbid constructive health care reform. As was the case for 2008's Proposition 101, Prop. 106 protects against two specific governmental actions. One is the compulsory purchase of health insurance or health-insurance-like schemes, mandated by the Democrats' bill, and the other is governmental interference in the ability to directly purchase medical services, the "next step" in socialization of medicine and something that, far from an imaginary evil, has been done to Canadians and others. Decoupling of insurance from employment, changing the tax structure to disfavor "comprehensive care" price insulation packages and favor actuarially fair insurance, allowing purchase of insurance across state lines, and other real health care reform measures are not forbid by the text of this ballot measure. All it forbids is the advance, under the disguise of reform, of socialist restrictions on what products and services you can purchase or choose not to purchase to take care of yourself and your family.

    2008's similar but less well-worded measure lost by under 10,000 votes. Dishonest, bizarre, and potentially illegal electioneering communications by AHCCS head Anthony Rodgers (not prosecuted or so much as investigated by partisan Attorney General Terry Goddard), reported "straight" in the press in a classic case of false balance, may have made the difference. The events of 2010 show 2008's "no" to have been a grave mistake; let's correct it this year, score a propaganda coup for, and open a legal front for health care freedom. Vote "yes" on Prop. 106.

  • Proposition 107: an end to racial preferences in state hiring, education, and contracting.

    Recommendation: Yes

    "Affirmative Action" programs served a necessary purpose, but shall they be now-and-forever set-asides, a sort of pillarization, three generations and almost five decades following their passage? They corrected an injustice at one point but now, carried on too long, they are an injustice themselves--and their supporters are blind or senile enough to think we have made no social progress since the 1960s and there will be an instant reversion to bigotry if Prop. 107 passes. Nonsense. Support racial and ethnic equality by voting "yes" on Prop. 107.

    Read more: I dedicated a full post to this one.

  • Proposition 109: Ensuring conservation remains compatible with hunting and fishing.

    Recommendation: Yes, with reservations.

    This measure's opponents make it out to be the sportsman's SB 1070, a means to filing on lawsuit after lawsuit to harass state government into abandoning all regulations on hunting. And that's the intelligent ones. The stupid ones, for example this year's Daily Wildcat editorial board, make arguments like "First of all, hunting and fishing are not constitutional rights. In no way can it be inferred that human beings have a right to kill animals without severely twisting the intent of the Constitution." How stupid can you get: the measure adds rights to the Constitution, it does not change the way such rights are "inferred"--and what is this "intent" thing?

    What Prop. 109 does is make what is good about the status quo part of the highest law of the State. Authority to regulate hunting and fishing rests in the legislature which may delegate it (as it does) to a Game and Fish Commission. Restrictions on hunting must be "reasonable", which a reasonable person would take to mean that bag limits, seasons, and restrictions on means must be set with regard to scientific and not political concerns.

    I plan on voting "yes" and I recommend that others do so. Despite this I have two reservations about the "yes" vote. First, the bill is a response to a non-existent problem. There's no reason for Constitutional amendments to be reactionary instead of forward-looking, but still, the reason this was introduced (beyond "get out the vote") is not evident. Besides extremist groups like PETA, is there anyone who politically opposes what this bill protects? The second and more serious reservation is my lack of faith in judges to determine what is reasonable. I've met dozens of scientifically illiterate lawyers in my life--I have to say that a supermajority of the lawyers I've known are both undereducated about scientific fact and inept at thinking in a scientist's fashion--and there is no special qualification, requiring scientific literacy, for a lawyer to become a judge. If a lawsuit is filed defending the "traditional means" of hunting birds with lead shot, will a judge really understand arguments made in favor of tungsten-only policies, especially if a shill "scientist" is found to defend lead? Non-scientists are poor judges of science and when science determines what is reasonable non-scientists will more often than is desirable favor the unreasonable. Passage of Prop. 109 will make non-scientists the "judges" of science more often, but I cannot say to what degree.

  • Proposition 110: land swaps to "protect" military bases

    Recommendation: No!

    Every so often we hear from people willing to bend over backwards to ensure that the military presence in this state is pampered like a baby. Rick Renzi, for example, tacked a rider onto a 2007 Congressional bill to sabotage San Pedro River conservation, ostensibly to "protect" Fort Huachuca. (To be fair, consistent with the man's history of sleaze, this was also to "protect" his father's Fort Huachuca concession business. And to be fair, he is now under indictment as a result of the ensuing investigation.) Many approved, because the military is Such A Benefit To The Community--forget that there are costs associated with the influx of federal $$$ and forget that the Army wasn't exactly straining under the San Pedro water table commitments to which it voluntarily agreed.

    At issue in Prop. 110 is not riparian conservation but rather "encroachment" by development. They make it sound so sneaky: "encroachment." "Encroachment" is what happens when developers build on land near military bases not owned by the military; the gripe is that residents may later complain if the military changes use in a way that diminishes their use of their property. Proposition 110 would allow the exchange of state trust land for developers' land near military bases to prevent "encroachment" without advertisement or auction.

    This is a giveaway to the military, which should act in a manner appropriate to its surroundings or plan ahead and buy more land (this is part of what Federal "eminent domain takings" are for--has the Legislature heard of those?) if it intends to change base operations to be incompatible with surroundings. And it is at the expense of Arizona taxpayers and schoolchildren and the Arizona natural environment. Sale and lease of state trust land helps to fund the public schools; every parcel just given away to developers in an exchange shortchanges education in the future. The amendment does require that the parcel exchanged be appraised so that the State receives equal or greater value, but this is a mirage: the value of the parcels that cause "encroachment" to be a concern stems from their suitability for development. With use restricted to open-space preservation or ranching and development out of question for what amounts to "forever", the State trust receives little value in return.

    Furthermore, such compulsory giveaways may rush matters to the point where the State gives away from sensitive parcels key to long-term conservation--parcels better suited, taking a long-term view of things, to ranching than to blading and building--either out of right-wing anti-scientific spite or as a favor to a George Johnson type or both.

    Passage of Proposition 110 is a giveaway to developers, the military, and those who make money off the military's presence at the expense of everyone else. Vote No!

  • Proposition 111: The Lieutenant Governor Amendment

    Recommendation: No.

    Passage of Proposition 111 changes the Secretary of State's title to that of "Lieutenant Governor" while maintaining most of the duties of that position, and changes the manner of election such that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run and are elected together as two-person tickets.

    The measure's best proponents argue that this will prevent Jan Brewer's situation--a governor without mandate from either the electorate or a party--from recurring. Fair enough, but this is more than offset by the harm done to potential independent candidacies and by increasing the amount of package-dealing in politics and government. Preferring more independent voices at the Capitol even if it does from time to time make the governor's social legitimacy "interesting", I recommend a weak "no".

    Moreover, candidates for these positions will still run separately before party primaries, which will likely result in incompatible candidates' elections being tied to each other.

    Curiously enough, Jan Brewer supports this measure, favoring a "smooth transition" in the event that the governor's office is vacated. Again, fair enough, but that concern should be left to the voters.

  • Proposition 112: pushing back the initiative petition deadline.

    Recommendation: Yes.

    This measure does two things. It bizarrely changes "centum" to "cent" in a portion of the State constitution (the former is sensible usage, the latter is not), and, more substantially, requires that signatures in support of initiatives or referenda be submitted to the Secretary of State at least six months before the general election.

    At first glance this seems like a mere restriction on the citizens' initiative power. However, the four-month deadline has proved to be unworkable, not allowing time for court hearings if signature counts are in question. I am not confident that the State will not use the extra time frivolously and still bungle the process, but given what took place in 2008--with some initiatives (e.g. the home warranties measure) making the ballot despite questionable signatures because there was no time for a count, while others missed it because the count was done with no time for hearings--it is clear that improvements are needed.

  • Proposition 113: Secret ballots for union representation elections

    Recommendation: Yes

    This amendment establishes a constitutional right to a secret ballot when union representation elections are mandated by law, forbidding the "card check" procedures that would be established by the Federal "Employee Free Choice Act".

    What an Orwellian name for a bill! The "free choice" available without secret ballots is to sign the card to be free of harassment or intimidation by union "organizers". We haven't had much problem with union thuggery in Arizona, but coming from back east I can tell you that stories of assaults, threats, and battery are no tall tales, nor do is retribution by the union, following an election, against workers who opposed unionization something made-up by free marketeers. Union abuse of workers is very real, and the page that link points to is but a small sampling of incidents.

    Employees receive much statutory protection from employer harassment concerning unions and retribution against stances taken in union elections--employers are even forbid from making promises to workers of increased benefits if unionization fails! But unions are exempt from RICO laws and getting union harassment (or worse) prosecuted is very difficult. Eliminating secrecy in voting extends the group exposed to union coercion from those who raise their voices to all workers who aren't explicitly pro-union card-signers.

    Employees and Arizona businesspeople alike will be protected by Prop. 113's passage. It is only union management and leftist ideologues who stand to lose. Vote "yes".

Monday, October 25, 2010

Penny Kotterman: Ideologue, Union Boss, Extremist, and wrong for Arizona

Makers of the "Airborne" patent medicine, before it was (even more thoroughly) discredited in a class-action lawsuit, promoted it by emphasizing that it was created by a schoolteacher. Apparently--and I do not understand the mentality--our memories of kindly old Miss So-and-So who taught us in 3rd grade were to cause us to trust it more than something created by scientists and put through clinical trials and for which we actually had some evidence of efficacy.

The Penny Kotterman campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction has attempted a similar marketing strategy. The reason we are given to support Kotterman: she was a schoolteacher. That's it. Not her policy positions, not her values, simply her occupational history. Conveniently omitted before all audiences except those composed of committed anti-private-education ideologues are some inconvenient details: Penny Kotterman is not just any schoolteacher. She was and is one of the most committed opponents to education reform in Arizona.

If the name "Kotterman" sounds familiar it is because she was the lead plaintiff in Kotterman v. Killian, the Left's challenge to the then-new tuition tax credit program. In no uncertain terms, several years before the Supreme Court's decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the ultimate decision in Kotterman established the legality of the tuition tax credit program under Arizona law.

For those who may not have been paying attention, the tuition tax credit program gives a small dollar-for-dollar tax credit to people making donations to "school tuition organizations" which in turn must contribute all but a minuscule portion of what they take in to pay the private-school tuition fees for children. Compared to a direct parent tax credit the program is a kludge that only indirectly addresses the market failure caused by double-payments, but that's not the point here. The tax credit program allowed children at the margin to benefit from real school choice.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (then AzCLU) claimed that this tax credit program violated the Arizona Constitution and brought on Kotterman as lead plaintiff. It's worth noting that they did not, and still do not in their follow-up Winn v. Garriott, claim that civil liberties are being violated. (A digression: The only difference between Winn and Zelman is between tax credits and vouchers; by continuing this case post-Zelman ACLU-AZ's board of directors is verging on a breach of its fiducial duty to its membership.) When I served on the ACLU-AZ board of directors whose civil liberties were being violated--who was less free because of tax credits--I'd get dodgy answers ("those who don't want people who give to private schools to get a tax break" or "I don't want 'my money' going to religious schools") combined with shamed aversion of eyes. The Kotterman case itself was based on the anachronistic claim that the Arizona Constitution contained a Blaine Amendment. Even more shameful: those familiar with Blaine Amendments know that they were supported and in some states passed as a means for Protestants to officially oppress Catholics: nothing that the ACLU should support! The AZ Constitution does contain Blaine Amendment-like language but even a genuine Blaine Amendment wouldn't rule out the tuition tax credit program. The AzCLU had to go one step further, in claiming that a tax credit for people saving the state an expense is the same thing as a state expenditure, therefore when donations end up paying for religious education because parents send their kids to religious schools, it is the same as the legislature making an expenditure on religious education.

The whole thing strained credulity--it was clearly a post-hoc dressing up of vulgar leftism in civil libertarian language--as does the 9th Circuit's ruling in still-pending Winn that tax credits violate the Establishment Clause because parents choose more often than not to send their kids to religious schools and STO donors choose to support these institutions. (This line of argument was knocked out of the park in Zelman in, as I recall, O'Connor's concurrence: a program cannot be constitutional in one state but unconstitutional in another because the citizens have different religious preferences.)

But what does this have to do with Penny Kotterman? She was no Schecter-like ingenue with no ideological commitments who had been personally wronged by a government policy. Indeed given that she had not been harmed it is difficult to determine why she had standing at all. She was at the time the head of the state's largest schoolteachers' union, the Arizona Education Association and was plaintiff--as is often the case in these sorts of challenges--because she was a True Believer that the policy passed by the legislature was wrong. There are no two ways about it: In the late 1990s, teachers' union boss Penny Kotterman attempted to smother school choice, the state's most significant education reform, in its crib. Far from backing away from this today, she stands by her position on her campaign website. (The dippy justification given: 90% of Arizona kids are still in the old public schools. In other words: change has not happened therefore change should not happen.)

The usually good East Valley Tribune and many other press outlets, perhaps forgetting what kind of anti-reform extremist Penny Kotterman is, have been suckered like an Airborne purchaser into believing that Kotterman must be good for the state because she was a schoolteacher.

To quote the Trib:
Penny Kotterman is a former school teacher who has spent 33 years in education, including six years as the president of the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Arizona Education Association.

We like Kotterman for two reasons. First, she will be a stronger advocate for public schools, whose performance has declined sharply in the last decade. Beyond that, we think that — after 16 years of having politicians in the superintendent’s office — it’s time to turn that position over to a teacher who has been there and done that in Arizona’s school system.

As with electing an African-American President of the United States, in principle putting an educator in the Superintendent seat would be a welcome change. However, continuing the analogy with the Presidency: not this teacher. Penny Kotterman has too strong an ideological commitment to be counted on to serve the public interest. While I cannot give him the ringing all-out endorsement I gave Scott Stewart, there is no doubting that, when it comes to education, as a legislator John Huppenthal has been part of the solution. As the East Valley Tribune noted before denying him their endorsement, he's taken the issue quite seriously, researching the alternatives and only then backing the best. He can be counted on to support what is best for Arizona's schoolchildren, no matter what institution is educating them. He can be counted among the co-authors and co-sponsors of important education bills reducing from 18 months to 3 months the amount of time needed to dismiss poorly performing instructors from their jobs, eliminating the cap on charter school enrollment, and eliminating schoolteacher tenure in Arizona. Looking forward, he has been and remains a proponent of merit pay. Kotterman, on the other hand, we can expect to perform an inappropriate balancing of the interests of schoolchildren against the interests of unionized teachers and the public school establishment, and declares on her website that she remains 100% opposed to vouchers and tuition tax credits, which help make school choice a reality for many middle-class families.

I thus recommend that readers vote for John Huppenthal on 2 November 2010.

Arizona Blue Meanie outed.

And while I was busy kicking Dan Heller for his descent into smug and antisocial glibertarianism (or, more likely, while I was sleeping with the post queued up) Josh Brodesky of the Arizona Daily Star gave an infinitely nastier character what he had coming.

The Arizona Blue Meanie has been outed as Tucson lawyer Roger White, no doubt keeping his identity secret to avoid both loss of clients and libel suits. The Blue Meanie's modus operandi was to be wild and Make Things Up. Sometimes this was just insinuation--for example, he didn't accuse Jeff Flake of embezzlement but attempted to connect it with the non-increase in Social Security checks, and sometimes it was outright defamation. Logic rarely played a role in his remarks--in stark contrast to his co-'bloggers. Perhaps this was also a reason for anonymity: who would hire a lawyer who doesn't seem like he thinks his way through things?

I'd prepare a shame list, but I recommend just clicking the "Blog for Arizona" link and seeing for yourself. It's hard to find a "Blue Meanie" post that is both reasonable and within the bounds of gentlemanly decency.

The State Bar lists White as inactive, but Justia says he practices family law and estate planning. To those disgusted by his politics and personal conduct, I recommend giving your business to Peter Schmerl, a good (modern classical-)liberal and despite his shyness a real stand-up man both privately and in his community.

Call me old-fashioned, or an out-of-touch Midwesterner, but this 'blogger believes in wagering one's reputation on one's remarks, on correcting one's self if incorrect, saying "sorry" and meaning it, and in making amends if one wrongs somebody. Where I come from that went simply with being a man (or grown woman). It makes one wonder, what kind of men are anony-'bloggers like White or the contributors to Sonoran Alliance? Anyone who knows these characters personally care to comment?

Another endorsement from Ben K: Rick Fowlkes for Corporation Commission

I was told at my wedding that Rick Fowlkes didn't make the ballot, and should have checked up on that before stating it as truth here: to readers, I offer a sincere "sorry!"--and a thanks to Thane for setting me straight in the comments of that last over-the-top hockey-fight post.

Let's put an engineer and a free-marketeer on the Corporation Commission: vote Rick Fowlkes. Instead of writing at length about the man and his platform, I refer readers to earlier posts. Nothing has changed but his party: Fowlkes remains a man of ideas, the lone candidate who seeks truly to empower consumers and make the markets work.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

R.I.P. Daniel Heller

It appears that Phoenix Libertarian Examiner Dan Heller, or at least the Heller who was an intelligent commentator and a joy to read, died recently of circle-jerk related injuries.

The strongest evidence to date: an article entitled "Don’t be a jerk: Vote Libertarian or Don’t Vote at All"

I'll let it speak for itself first:
If you vote for increased taxes (or for the existence of taxes at all), you’re voting for strong, scary-looking men with badges and guns (who take their jobs way too seriously) to collect private property—through violent means—from your neighbor. That’s not cool, even if it’s for a “good cause” (i.e.; for whatever righteous redistributionist cause—probably involving children— you support).

If you vote to ban or prohibit a substance you don’t like (such as tobacco or alcohol or any other narcotic), you’re supporting the use of violence against other people because you think you know what’s best for them. Come on. Don’t be an jerk. Don’t use or endorse the use of violence because you think you know what’s best for other people. Instead, if you’re going to take a risk by voting, without being a jerk, vote with the Golden Rule in mind—vote unto others as you would have them vote unto you.

Would you walk to your next door neighbor’s house, point a gun at him and demand that he gives you some money because you don’t like his “immoral” habits, like smoking? Would you point a gun at your neighbor and demand that he pays you money so you can give it to some homeless children you think deserve it more than he does? Would you say, “Pay up, buddy! I need to buy your health insurance and create a retirement savings account for you. Do it now, or I pull the trigger!”

More than likely, no, you wouldn’t, because that’s sociopathic behavior. But why vote like a sociopath then? There’s no reason to. Just stay home. Open a bottle of wine. Relax.

Taxation is or sometimes can be similar to a shakedown. And a sink is or sometimes can be similar to a toilet. Nevertheless, if you really cannot tell the difference you are not welcome in most homes, including mine. And similarly the popularity of Heller's viewpoint--none of the ideas are new, and they were indeed quite old by the time I believed them as an 18-year-old punk--among the soi-disant "hard core" of the Libertarian Party explains why libertarians are in general unwelcome. It isn't quite shitting in the sink, but the sort of false moral clarity that has one telling people not to vote their conscience, and condemning all candidates and by extension the people who vote for them as engaging in sociopathic behavior is rude and antisocial--if not a signal of some kind of sociopathy!

Rather than tackle this ab initio I turn to one of the best respected libertarian philosophers of our time, Loren Lomasky, best known as the author of Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community. In "Libertarianism as if (the other 99% of) people mattered", an essay appearing in Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (e-mail me if you cannot find a copy--an essay containing the phrase "Libertarians ought not be required by their principles to lead geyserless lives" is almost certain to be fun):
If I have adopted the cooperationist rather than the rejectionist attitude toward the society in which I live, then I am thereby committed to acknowledging that although my fellow citizens' views concerning the ethics of taxation are, as I see it, mistaken, the perspective from which they adopt those views is not so unreasonable or so uncivil as to disqualify them from moral respect. ... It is, therefore, not only misleading but also an exercise in borderline incivility to equate taxation with theft, for if it is taken in its straightforward sense, that pronouncement denies the legitimacy of the social order and announces that I regard myself as authorized unilaterally to override its dictates as I would the depredations of the thief. It says to my neighbors that I regard them as, if not themselves thieves, then confederates or willing accomplices in thievery.

One is left to wonder why Heller neither drops out of society nor engages in war on his neighbors and colleagues. Moreover the equation of taxation with theft is a circular argument and a patently obvious one at that.

This isn't to say that there is no ethical component to voting. One is probably compelled by common decency to vote out of office recidivist violators of guaranteed liberties, such as Joe Arpaio, and we shun from polite company at least outright Sheriff Joe supporters. It is likewise for global warming denialists--all other things being equal, candidates who support policies that prevent us from fouling our shared nest receive the vote of moral people, and those who deliberately or negligently spread falsehoods--especially scientists who make silly arguments for ideological reasons--to enhance the short-term profits of the Koch brothers or merely because they think they are spiting Al Gore are shunned. "Not our kind, dear." It isn't war, but we don't simultaneously accuse people of being thieves and sociopaths or in league with thieves and sociopaths yet treat them as friends or welcome neighbors.

What makes this all the more amusing is the total falsehood of Heller's newfound moral clarity. Every serious libertarian thinker recognized far more subtlety to these questions--to choose two "accessible" examples, Friedman and Hayek both supported guaranteed minimum incomes for very solidly classical-liberal reasons. If it wasn't done before, Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia made the equation of liberty with a lack of coercion intellectually off-limits: the arguments against it substitute for true rebuttal a merely more strident repetition of the old Spooner/Rand/Rothbard position.

By now I'm boring my readers. Let me just finish up by saying that to date I have been able to find force (Oh no, force!!!!!!) in the positions held by every "libertarian" who like Heller categorically condemns force and condemns all who do not vote as he would like for being supporters of force. So yes, your moral clarity is fake. And yours too. And, when I'm guilty of it, mine.

For reasons I might get to, at least a few third-party candidates receive my personal endorsement this season, at the very least: Libertarians Joe Cobb and Thane Eichenauer, independent Ted Downing, and, with reservations, Libertarians Nick Coons and Steve Stoltz. Rick Fowlkes would get my endorsement, too, but he's not on the ballot. And for now the link to Heller will remain. His back-catalog--before what must have been a blow to the head (perhaps from a Rothbard book?) had him repeating 1970s cliches in his columns and, we see, unable to distinguish the sink and the toilet--is interesting and his recent output cannot detract from it. Moreover we can expect false moral clarity to be a mere phase he's going through. It happens to most self-identifying "libertarians" and the more intelligent ones get over it eventually.

Vote "Yes" on Proposition 107: 3 generations of discrimination has been at least enough.

This year's Proposition 107, the "Arizona Civil Rights Initiative", is simple, almost self-explanatory. To quote:
36. Preferential treatment or discrimination prohibited; exceptions; definition










Opponents of this proposition tend to make two claims. One is that quotas do not exist in Arizona. True, but it isn't the whole truth. While there are no quotas per se, there are plenty of preference programs, as documented in a Goldwater Institute whitepaper

The other is that preference programs exist as a matter of justice or are necessary to prevent discrimination. That's outright nonsense: the way to not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity into account is to consciously stop discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, which is not the same thing as giving preferences.

As we were reminded by Richard Epstein and others in the wake of Rand Paul's bout with foot-in-mouth syndrome earlier this year, there is a reasonably compelling argument to be made for government affirmative action programs as a sort of remedy for negative discrimination in the immediate past, so as not to "lock in" for a generation or longer the results of such discrimination. If the government for a time deliberately did not hire Martians, it would make sense to give preference to Martians in its next few hires so as not to keep Martians more or less locked out until all the Earthlings retire, and to avoid the effects such a policy would have on the next generation of Martians (and Earthhlings!)

But Arizona's preference programs are not time-limited remedies to past discrimination and not narrowly tailored in intent or effect even if they avoid quotas. At best they are responses to discrimination of decades ago. Some of their supporters seem to think we are living decades ago. Take the League of Women Voters, which stated in the measure's publicity pamphlet that "The LWVAZ believes that all qualified candidates should get a fair chance to compete for jobs or obtain an education based on individual merit, not special connections. Proposition 107 would turn back the clock to a society of "good old boy" networks where women and people of color routinely face discrimination. "

Were preference programs repealed immediately after their institution, yes, this would be true. The same people would be in charge, making the hires they would make without it. But we've made decades of social progress since then and while bigots can still be found in trailer parks and retirement homes they are no longer in charge of the university or government. Indeed those university, county, municipal, and state bureaucrats who the League of Women Voters implicitly claims would not allow others to obtain an education or compete for jobs based on merit unless prohibited from making decisions based on what a reasonable person would think to be merit (a hint for LWVAZ members: "merit" is not race, gender, or ethnicity) should be outraged.

I repeat: The moral authority of preference programs expired decades ago. The bigots of old are retired or dead. Thanks in part to past preference programs, a new generation has not taken their place. Proponents of continued ethnic discrimination have a difficult question to answer, and you should ask them it whenever you get the chance: "How long should discrimination persist, and under what conditions would you support its end?" The answer "as long as there is inequality between ethnic groups" is inadequate. If imbalances still exist, it is likely that they are not the direct result of past discrimination. It is evident that further "positive" or "reactionary" discrimination to remedy such imbalances will be ineffective, in addition to being unjust.

That injustice, acknowledged in both the majority opinion and dissent in Grutter v Bollinger (the U.S. Supreme Court case upholding discriminatory programs if narrowly tailored and limited in duration), is now holding back race relations and may be the cause of much residual ethnic prejudice. We're at the point where many a person of European or South or East Asian ancestry, on seeing someone whose ancestors came from the "global south" be admitted to a selective program at a state university, receive a state contract, or be hired as a state employee, suspects that that admittee, that contractor, that employee may have gotten there through an unfair and discriminatory process. That is not a situation we'd like the suspected "affirmative action" admittees, contractors, or hires to be put in.

To quote native Arizonan and retired Supreme Court Justice O'Connor's majority opinion in Grutter v Bollinger:

[Accordingly,] race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. This requirement reflects that racial classifications, however compelling their goals, are potentially so dangerous that they may be employed no more broadly than the interest demands. Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle.

A policy limited in time must be subject to either sunset or periodic review. The Arizona legislature has established no sunset or periodic review for its discriminatory programs. By initiative, we have forced a review. Let's sunset the policy ourselves this November 2nd. Vote for progress on race and ethnicity. Vote "yes" on Proposition 107.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The little differences.

I've spent 7 years in Tucson, will be 8 before I leave, and I'm still learning some of the cultural differences between here and "back east"

Case in point: Nobody, except me, wears evening clothes (aka a tuxedo) to the symphony's opening night.

Neither way is clearly better, but one sure is strange to me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A bit on Scott Stewart's challenger Kevin Mattocks

It's no secret that Scott Stewart is the only member of the PCC governing board who works in the private sector or even has a strong private-sector background.

Kevin Mattocks, his opponent, also has a bit of a private sector background, but for the most part has worked as a policeman, first in Mesa, then in Oro Valley. Recently he has been head of the FOP, one of the police unions. Stewart (see below) believes him to be the government employee union candidate, and knowing Stewart (and knowing Stewart to be honest to the point where one would mistake him for a Quaker) I'd be very surprised were this were an exaggeration. Indeed, Mattocks confirms the narrative, perhaps inadvertently, on his own website:
I had many discussions with my twin brother who works as a police officer with Pima Community College. The employees of the college learned of my enthusiasm and eligibility to run for this position in district 4. They met with me and talked me into running.
(emphasis mine). Not requests from community leaders, not even faculty and students, and certainly not any intrinsic interest in the position motivated Mattocks: college employees, perhaps perturbed that Stewart backed a 40-hour work week, asked him.

Government employee union candidate or not, what has struck be about Mattocks is his vacuity. Why is he running? He doesn't say. What does he want to do differently? The best we find on his website:
I believe in personal responsibility, family first, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American and Christian values and a strong national defense. I believe the role of government should provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. I ask for your support and your financial support as I continue my election. I have never planned or run an election nor do I consider myself a politician. I appreciate your interest in my success.

How any of this translates to PCC Governing Board policy is anybody's guess. He goes on a bit:


Accountability with our Tax Dollars

Affordable and Accessible Community College Education

Public Safety

Improvement of Adult Education Programs

Community Development

And the second version of the website, although more polished, also lacks concrete statements about PCC or county policy.

I do not attend PCC governing board meetings so I cannot speak to how much interest Mattocks has shown in the month-to-month concerns of that body. But his website and his non-existent statements to the press appear to indicate either that he is uninterested (i.e. he was put up to this), that he hasn't researched the issues at all, or that he hasn't a clue about the PCC governing board's concerns and the compromises they must make with each other and with reality and thus has no policy ideas at all.

It would be small of me to argue that Stewart is a better choice because he is a highly educated engineer and his opponent is a police officer whose regard for intellect may or may not be signaled by his writing on that first website. Surely an "everyman" can also act to advance higher education; in the American tradition millions of "everyman" parents, for several generations, have done so by encouraging and pushing their children to hit the books and go to college. But whereas Stewart has much to say about the value of education to the individual and the public and specifically about the role of the community college, conspicuously missing from Mattocks's (few) statements concerning his run for office are any discussion of education. Not even the vapid Congressional "I support education and the children..." Nothing.

I ask again, and will be far nastier about it than the ever-polite Stewart: Why is Mattocks running? He appears to have no interest in the position, to bring nothing to the race, and if elected it does not appear that he will bring anything to the seat except his rear end. It is not up to us to give him the benefit of the doubt. It's up to him to convince us, to share with us his ideas and the way he thinks about policy. He's not even trying to do so.

From Stewart's website:
A short statement about my opponent

For twelve years now I've worked to take care of the Pima College staff in both good times and bad. In fact, I've almost always been the board member to publicly defend our employees’ compensation package. This year, however, I have opposition from the government employee union sector. Personally, I believe my opponent was recruited by Pima's union leadership because of the manner in which we have dealt with recent funding cuts. Let me explain why I think this.

Like everyone else, we have to do more with less. However, instead of instituting layoffs and furloughs we've expanded our workweek from 37.5 hours to 40 and cut pay 2.7% per hour (resulting in 4% more pay per week). Unfortunately, the union leadership sees only more hours for less money per hour. They have even publicly complained about the hardships of the 40-hour workweek – this at a time when many folks in the community have lost their jobs!

I have met my opponent and he's an intelligent and positive man. Nonetheless, I believe his background as a government employee and a government employee union representative could very well change the board from one that looks out for the community first to one that first looks out for college employees first. Naturally, I believe we have to take care of the employees but our primary mission is to serve this community FIRST and foremost.

No recommendation on Proposition 302

A first for this 'blog: on one ballot question, I provide no recommendation. Perhaps (Treasurer candidate) Thane will be able to offer more perspective.

The legislature's (constitutionally-mandated) balancing of the budget depended in part on the sweeping of tobacco surtax revenue into the general fund. In 2006, voters approved Proposition 203, the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative, sometimes called "First Things First" after the bill's supporters' name for themselves, which added an eighty-cents-per-pack surtax to the cost of cigarettes and established a far-left, Great Society style board to promote government-run pre-K schooling and well-baby care, which since its establishment is estimated by its supporters to have provided services of some sort or another to half of the children age five and under in the State.

Since the funds were set aside by voters, they can only be re-allocated by voters. This year's Proposition 302 does that. It defunds the activities of the Early Childhood Development and Health Board and sweeps the eighty cent surtax into the General Fund.

On the one hand, this is a good thing. It balances the budget and removes a California-style pre-allocation from our system of government, putting budgeting back in the hands of the legislature, which is better equipped than the single-issue ballot question voter to make cost-benefit decisions in context. And it defunds a program that not only makes Arizona children government dependents from birth, but also one that does so unsustainably, by taxing an unhealthy and ordinarily extremely rude activity that by rights we'd like to see diminished by orders of magnitude and that has over time went from socially acceptable to acceptable in all but the politest of circles to generally unacceptable, at least among educated folk.

On the other hand, it means that the budget, more so than it is already, is funded by many petty taxes that are difficult to reduce and easy for some to impose on others. Structurally, taxes--except those that amount to user fees like road taxes or obvious corrections of externalities (Pigouvian taxes) like carbon taxes--should be few in number and of the sort that affect most or all people in a fairly direct manner.

I don't see either of "yes" or "no" on Proposition 302 having a clear advantage here and will not share how I plan to vote on this. Perhaps commenters have insight or perhaps Thane will clarify, but for now: you're on your own.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ben's endorsement: Re-elect Scott Stewart to the Pima Community College governing board

The beginning of my (late) remarks on the upcoming election, this one is more a personal endorsement than any. For as long as I have known Scott Stewart--almost as long as I have been in Tucson--I have known him to be a man of integrity and not only a capable intellect but someone with enough concern for propriety and realities of the day to be said to exhibit wisdom.

He has his detractors (*cough* glibertarians... *cough*) but the worst they say about him is that he is not a reactionary or ideologue, that he takes this "public servant" stuff seriously and is acting to better Pima College and the community rather than to further some outside agenda. So self-absorbed and overcertain of their small beliefs are his detractors that they do not realize that to normal people what they are saying would be a serious compliment!

Beyond that, just consider what Scott Stewart himself has wrote of his service on the PCC Governing Board:
My Record (Scott Stewart)

When I was first elected my primary intention was to keep the college effective and affordable for both students and taxpayers. I also was interested in exporting Pima's strengths to other institutions. The reason this was a priority was (and it still is!) Pima's fastest growing market share was remedial education for recent high school graduates.

I have never governed as a partisan. Instead, I work hard and study the College and the choices before it. Some of our main choices relate to where our students come from and where they go next, either transferring to a 4-year university or going directly to work. I believe my study has allowed me to make the best judgments possible regarding such choices.

In my time on the Board, I've personally worked to attract students from alternative venues such as charter and private schools and home-schooling. I have ensured Pima remains friendly to such students. We have reached out as well to these institutions and associations to help them solve their student challenges. I've also successfully pushed partnerships so our graduates can afford further education beyond Pima. The College now offers several of these.

During my years on the Board, I've helped Pima make the following improvements:

· More transparency - our “metrics” are now posted on the PCC website

· Moved our Aviation Technology Program to a site on the airport grounds to qualify for FAA Certification in more areas

· Increased the staff workweek from 37.5 to 40 hours

· Moved staff closer to a “Pay for Performance” plan, rather than simply basing their pay on time employed

· Improved pay dramatically for the high-demand nursing faculty

· Ensured that Pima listens to local employers so we can learn what is needed and wanted from our graduates

· Ensured the College works with local high schools, charter schools, private schools, and home school associations to know how their students do on our placement exams.

· Reduced opportunities for identity theft by insisting that Pima not use Social Security Numbers as a student ID

Obviously, I'm proud to have successfully worked on all of the above. I would appreciate your support to continue my work.

There's nothing in there not to like, and to the best of my knowledge no serious omission of any reason to not support the man, either. I give the re-election of Scott Stewart my wholehearted endorsement.

To read more, visit

Phoenix sticking its neck out over billboard censorship.

Update, from Korwin's press release:

Assistant Phoenix city attorney Ted Mariscal claimed in a conference call with Mr. Korwin and CBS Outdoor that the billboards weren't commercial enough, the message was too vague, and then demanded the message be changed to his satisfaction. When pressed for a definition of what is either sufficiently commercial or what defines a public service ad he declined to respond, referring instead to a 12-year-old 9th Circuit court case concerning a religious group (Children of the Rosary) and abortion ads. CBS is designing new art to please the city, but without guidelines of what's acceptable, there's no way to predict the result, and the TrainMeAZ campaign isn't exactly keen on this approach.

Arizona Republic 'blogger Laurie Roberts reports on a developing story: the City of Phoenix has pulled's advertisements from bus shelters, supposedly following receipt of a complaint. (Whether or not the complaint was truly external--and just what kind of person would complain about a run-of-the-mill add--is currently unknown.)

TrainMeAZ is a website advertising firearms training and other firearms-related services. The billboards are rather simple: the stock "Guns Save Lives"-in-a-heart thing followed by "Arizona says: Educate your kids", followed by the URL. In short: buy a firearm, keep your kids safe by training them, and oh, here's our URL where you will be directed to services to help do both. A commercial ad for a website if there ever was one.

Phoenix's argument: It's a public service announcement, not an ad for commercial service, and the city's (court-upheld) ad policy prohibits purchase of PSAs. But PSAs do not direct people to commercial websites.

The distinction--and what test will be applied--isn't immediately clear, but what I do know is that the City of Phoenix must be up for a fight. We "civilized" folk often think of bigots as idiots and slobs (because most of them are): the man behind the ads, Alan Korwin, is a bit of a homophobic and anti-immigrant bigot (very recently giving space in his newsletter for a typical Russell Pearce bigot rant) but he's no idiot. What he's good at--getting the word out about firearms liberalization--he's extremely good at, and something has me thinking Phoenix could be outmatched.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jon Justice: sicker than I thought.

Tucson radio personality Jon Justice is one sick, idiotic motherfucker.

But his latest stunt--making veiled sexual threats against Isabel Garcia in an online video--takes "sick" to a new level.

"The Unapologetic Mexican" has more.

The million-peso question: Will the right-wingers circle the wagons to protect him, or denounce this?

Monday, August 23, 2010

A couple of familiar names in the third party primary.

Those voting in the Libertarian Party primary should be sure to check the list of official write-in candidates at their polling place. Write-ins go on to be listed on the ballot in the general election.

Among them are:
  • Rick Fowlkes, apparently returned from a few years in the Republican Party. Rick is running again for the Corporation Commission, and with his experience in public utilities engineering and appreciation for "real-world" free-market solutions, I believe him more than qualified. Unless he's become one of those anti-science global warming denialists, he gets my endorsement as usual.
  • Thane Eichenauer, running for State Treasurer. Where have I seen that name before? I have no idea of his platform, but I do imagine he supports balancing the budget without any shell-game gimmicks.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why Sun Tran management and Tucson need to stand firm in negotiations with the Teamsters.

By now, readers have likely read or heard of the ongoing Sun Tran strike that has bus service in Tucson cut back to extremely limited service leaving many who cannot afford autos nearly stranded in a city designed and built for autos.

It's a severe inconvenience, and it lays bare the often forgotten "distributional" implications of transportation policy decisions. To many of the working poor, it's more than an inconvenience; it's like a kneecapping of their livelihood.

But the Teamsters are asking far, far too much for Sun Tran management. If necessary, strikebreakers should be hired to get the buses moving and the poor to their jobs ASAP. Caving in is not an option.

This is no mere dispute over wages and benefits: the union is demanding that there be no route cutbacks, no layoffs, and that Sun Tran be transferred to the sales-tax subsidized RTA. More than retirees and xenophobia have crossed the Colorado River in recent years. The Teamsters in this dispute are, like California government-employees' unions, attempting to arrogate to themselves the ability to set policy. Not in this state, not even in left-leaning Tucson, should they be allowed to do so.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

SB 1070 opponents one-up supporters: actual terrorism!

Thursday evening I linked and briefly commented on reports of terroristic threats made against Judge Bolton by SB 1070 supporters.

There's no game of one-upmanship going on that I can discern, but there might as well be; the Arizona Daily Star reports that on Thursday afternoon a group of 8-10 SB 1070 opponents engaged in an (almost) unsuccessful act of terrorism on I-19.

Tires bound together by rope were dumped onto I-19 during rush-hour, followed by tar, paint, broken glass, and a banner. This could have caused a multi-car pileup. Fortunately, it merely caused severe traffic delays. If the faux-"civil disobedience" of downtown protesters amounted to bullying (and it did), I'm out of words, left to say that instead of death on the highway, the I-19 wackos merely achieved super-bullying.

It sounds like like the group at fault is good old-fashioned socialist or other leftist nutcases, the sort that were supposed to have died out in the 1980s. From the Daily Star's report:
Neither SB 1070 nor the deployment of National Guard troops to the border do anything to address the root causes as to why people migrate.

"U.S. economic policies and wars have displaced and impoverished millions of people all over the world. Capital-driven policies, such as NAFTA, create poverty. These policies and laws not only consume and exploit land and people, but they also displace us from our homes, forcing us to migrate in order to survive.

In linking NAFTA to migration, they're half right. And the creation of free trade in goods without also establishing free movement of people not only makes zero sense from a Ricardan point of view, it also has had the effect of class legislation. But one would have to be insane enough to be a socialist to see free trade as "exploitation".

And what any of this has to do with the I-19 commuters they could have and possibly intended to kill is anyone's guess. Then again, the left has always hated the "bourgeois" middle class, so perhaps they didn't feel a link was necessary.

A little more digging shows that the group, which calls itself "Freedom For Arizona", posted its press release to Indymedia. The name makes them sound like Ron Paullistas or teabaggers. They're clearly not, and they're as stupid (and grammatically challenged) as they are crazy. To wit:
*Partial justice is no justice at all! Despite Judge ruling to block parts of SB 1070, racial-profiling, raids, deportations and the militarization of the border will continue unchallenged. This is why today we shut down Interstate 19 (I-19)*
It appears our new left-wing terrorists don't understand what a preliminary injunction is. What they call "unchallenged" is being challenged in at least two current lawsuits.

And it gets dippier. Here's how they end:
We want an end to the militarization of indigenous land, I.C.E. raids, deportations, the attacks on ethnic studies, violence against women and queer people, the expansion of prisons and immigration detention centers, empire, the border wall and the genocide at the Arizona-Sonora border that has claimed the lives of over 153 people during the first 8 months of this fiscal year alone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

John Dougherty is a spoiler!

John Dougherty is the only candidate for US Senator willing to call a spade a spade on the twin scourges of immigration prohibition and drug prohibition. If John McCain manages to beat his Republican opponents in the primary which Democrat is equipped to put the screws to the only remaining member of the Keating Five to hold elected office (two have died)? Further John Dougherty is willing to advocate for an end to the tremendously wasteful overseas occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Dougherty must as yet prevail over his three opponents but given that most of the voters in Maricopa county hadn't heard of any of his opponents come a year ago one can only hope that exposure will earn him enough votes to prevail over his Democratic primary opponents.

I hope John Dougherty will spoil John McCain's post-election day plans.

Speaking of doing it wrong: xenophobes and bigots now resorting to terroristic threats.

The Associated Press delivers a credible report of threats against Susan Bolton, the judge who issued yesterday's preliminary injunction against most of the truly onerous sections of SB 1070.

Yeah, that'll show her that the Federal government isn't likely to win its case on its merits!

The Arizona Republic also reports that someone shot at Raul Grijalva's office. Congressman Borracho should be "boycott" himself for calling for a boycott of his constituents. Perhaps those who believe it can also explain why he should be shot? It doesn't make sense.

"Civil Disobedience": You're doing it wrong.

Michael Bryan's "Blog for Arizona"--a quality source of leftist commentary, thanks to contributor David Safier--also employs an anonymous character called "AZ Blue Meanie" who's partisan in a trite way and often simply a slob who discredits the others by association. Today, he hit a new low. Regarding arrests of protesters chaining themselves to rails and blocking the streets he had this to say:
The First Amendment is under assault in Arizona today...

Blocking the street, lying down in the street, chaining one's self to a rail, none of these are First Amendment protected activities. The First Amendment is not understood as protecting any and all acts so long as one can spin a tale claiming that they are a mode of expression.

"Civil disobedience" in particular is not usually protected by the First Amendment--unless it is disobedience of an official who is infringing First Amendment-protected activity. Civil disobedience is by definition the defiance of legal authority and inherently involves breaking statutory or common law.

What we are seeing from protesters today barely qualifies as civil disobedience. It's more a bully tactic than anything else. Incapable of expressing themselves in a responsible fashion (e.g. in writing) or of legitimately attracting the attention of the press, and perhaps ideologically opposed to (horror of horrors) buying advertising time or space they instead attract attention to themselves through disruption. Some are likely doing it as a "macho" thing. Next to mixing passable Lemon Drops and Cosmopolitans, few things make college-age panties drop faster than "Gee, aren't I the stud. I got arrested 'protesting against injustice'".

This bullying/posturing activity is, from a semiotic point of view, quite far from the civil disobedience of Thoreau, of Ghandi, and of SNCC and other 'Civil Rights' groups. Thoreau quite nearly defined the practice as forcing the authorities to shame themselves enforcing an unjust law. Lunch-counter sit-ins perhaps epitomized this: forcing the authorities to brutalize peaceful people to enforce the trespassing laws that made segregation possible. And the marches and blockades of Ghandi and King were no mere disruption, no mere bullying, and not in any way tantrums: they were demonstrations of the humanity of people treated as an underclass.

Every illegal immigrant engages in an act of civil disobedience when he crosses the border, when he goes to work without a visa, and when he fights to stay here. Ask "Why is that man (or woman) being taken away from his livelihood and community?" and the State is left to answer "He doesn't have the required permission slip. We don't issue those."

The "civil disobedience" we saw today, that has become a ritual on the far left, a rite of passage and perhaps one way young would-be radicals get laid, is a shameful mockery of the semiotically meaningful civil disobedience of the past and of the everyday civil disobedience of the illegal immigrant. And to assert that it is protected by the First Amendment when the point of civil disobedience is to demonstrate the injustice of a law is simply a sick joke.

Respect rule of law. Prosecute Sheriff Joe.

18 U.S.C. § 242:
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

(from Cornell's Legal Information Institute.)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his goons deputies are supposedly going to conduct yet another sweep today. These inevitably end in civil rights violations, of which the case of Julian and Julio Mora is about the best-known. They inevitably depend on civil rights violations--arrests without probable cause--to operate.

This from this morning's ACLU-AZ e-mail:
In mid-June, a teenaged Latina girl was driving home. Near the entrance to her gated community, she was pulled over by a police officer for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. When asked to produce identification, she showed the officer her valid Arizona driver's license. The officer said the driver's license was not enough and stated "he was required by law to ask for further documentation as proof of citizenship." The girl, a high school senior, is a US citizen and speaks perfect English without an accent. Although the girl knew that SB 1070 hadn't yet gone into effect, she was so frightened and confused by his request that she agreed to have the officer follow her to her home (around the corner), where she went in and got her US Passport for him to review. The officer left without issuing a warning or ticket. Because she was extremely nervous, the girl was unable to write down his name or badge number. The student was (and still is) shaken by the incident. It's the example of someone being humiliated and treated like a criminal solely because of the color of her skin.

There we have it again: No probable cause, not even reasonable suspicion.

It needs to stop, and (successful) civil suit after (successful) civil suit has not stopped it. Joe Arpaio and any deputy who so much as violates one person's protected civil liberties and any of these sweeps must be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 242.

Sheriff Joe "fans" might recall that last year former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias remarked that if it were up to him, he'd seek an indictment of Joe Arpaio over civil liberties violations committed in the course of harassing his enemies, including the ACLU-AZ's Dan Pochoda, Maricopa County Manager David Smith, and Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon. U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke still hasn't developed the guts or the integrity to do what needs to be done. Now that Arizona immigration policy has the White House's attention, it's time for Eric Holder to put his foot down. I'm not expecting it to happen, but it's the sensible thing to do.

For what it's worth, my "pop sociology" conjecture--no, I can't cite any literature!--has Sheriff Joe's popularity dropping after he makes the perp walk on camera. The sort of people who support him are the sort who'd support Putin or Mussolini and perhaps the sort who support Barack Obama in his giving of extralegal orders to BP or his wiping out of GM shareholders. They're the Authoritarian Personality Disorder types who'd support any strongman just because he is a strongman. A bit of humiliation of the strongman will fix that. U.S. Marshalls at his Fountain Hills home will be best.

Clarification: I am not advocating 18 U.S.C. § 242 prosecution due to the actions in the specific incident mentioned in the ACLU morning e-mail; it would appear to be a very weak case. I am advocating prosecution for any "winning" incident of deprivation of rights under color of law and most certainly for any documented violations today or in the future.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Most of SB 1070 blocked: victory and a minor disappointment.

As readers are already aware, Judge Susan Bolton of the Arizona District Court issued an order on preliminary injunction, enjoining most of SB 1070, which was to take effect tomorrow. Few others are linking the official order, but as has been the practice since this 'blog was started, of course I do so here.

Left standing are the law's provisions
  • Prohibiting political subdivisions of the state from limiting enforcement of Federal immigration law,
  • requiring that State officials work with Federal officers to determine immigration status,
  • allowing Arizonans to sue political subdivisions which restrict immigration enforcement to less than the full extent allowed by Federal law,
  • making "harboring" or "transporting" undocumented aliens a misdemeanor
  • criminalizing the inhibition of traffic by solicitation of day labor,
  • establishing as a state offense the knowing or intentional employment of undocumented aliens,
  • increasing requirements for verification of employment eligibility,
  • and establishing the "Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission Fund"
Most of these provisions are bad law. That there was no injunction does not mean that there is no longer a reasonable Federal pre-emption case against SB 1070's the requirements and penalties SB 1070 established for employers. Probably the worst bit left standing was the authorization of lawsuits. "Full extent" is a very dangerous idea: if Federal law allows a police department to spend every last dime and every man-hour on immigration enforcement, someone can sue if police do other things, like respond to calls or attempt to bring in suspects in crimes, especially the real sort that have identifiable victims. But there was never much of a Federal case against that and certainly none that merited an injunction.

It is a significant victory: most of the provisions of SB 1070 that would have led to violations of protected civil rights were enjoined from taking effect until the cases are decided. That these provisions were enjoined signifies (by legal standards) that the US DOJ can expect to succeed against them with high likelihood. I would have preferred that the order was based more on the ACLU and Co's 4th Amendment complaint than on the DOJ's concerns about preemption, but the effect is the same, at least in the near future.

The disappointment comes at Ms Bolton's introductory phrase:
Against a backdrop of rampant illegal immigration, escalating drug and human trafficking crimes, and serious public safety concerns...

A better version would have referred to this as perception, and not reality; the court should not perpetuate folktales. This is the bigots' narrative, the history that they Just Made Up to whip up support for oppression of outsiders. This session, it became the legislature's cause of action. It is false.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Daily Star gets self-defense wrong

From the Daily Star's editorial lamenting the legalization of CCW without a permit:
Some supporters even argue that the more people who carry firearms, the safer we will all be from robberies, assaults and lunatic shooting sprees.

We think not. We suspect a bunch of armed citizens trying to intervene in such incidents will be more likely to endanger innocent, unarmed citizens than to prevail over the bad guys.

From a certain perspective--that of someone who understands this argument in favor of liberalized carry--the Star just characterized my defense of myself as an "intervention" that will endanger third parties.

Of course, the Star isn't writing from that perspective. Perhaps nobody made it clear to the editors that the reason safety is expected to increase is that that rapist, muggers, and the like will feel more at risk of being shot by their prospective victims, with little open indication of who the "safe" targets are. Perhaps it would take the Ludovico treatment to really get this across. Whether or not concealed carry does make third parties significantly safer is still an open question, but we know at least that it does not make people less safe.

This isn't to say that more people coming to the aid of others is a bad thing. The Star seems to think so, and to think it is dangerous. Reality has never been a strong influence on people with beliefs like that: we are over 20 years into America's successful experiment with CCW, and evidence that aiding others is a dangerous activity has not emerged.

Speaking of reality not being a deterrent, why is the Star still calling the borderline non-entity known as the Brady Campaign?

On the topic of concealed carry: The one concern I've had about this measure is that it takes away the "carrot" that induced a significant minority of Arizona firearms owners to undergo some sort of formal training. I do not doubt that most can shoot adequately at a reasonable distance and that even more can safely "handle" firearms. I would like to think that they familiarize themselves with the law, as well, but (although it has not manifested itself as a major problem) my "anecdotal" experience says that isn't the case. I get worried even more because libertarians and right-wingers are probably more likely to carry than moderates or lefties, and the capacity a certain large "paleo" subculture of both libertarians and right-wingers has for simply Making Things Up and assuming that they are the law is on par with lefties' capacity for pretending their class-warfare prejudices are "economics". Every so often some idiot makes up, that one can legally shoot trespassers (more accurately: "I Have A Right to shoot trespassers"). Usually this ends in simple assault. Sometimes people get hurt.

For a more concrete example (not related to trespass) of what can go wrong, read up on the murder of Grant Kuenzli by Harold Fish. Harold Fish, apparently afraid of dogs, escalated a tense situation by firing a "warning shot." There is not (and there ought not be) any such thing as a "warning shot" in this state, nor anyplace else in the U.S., to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps influenced by silly TV shows, Fish applied made-up use-of-force law to his situation.

I also want readers of this 'blog to stay out of trouble. Heed Charles Heller's advice (as communicated by the Daily Star) and learn the use-of-force law. It's short and given in plain language in Chapter 4 of ARS Title 13.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tim B. Lee, Honorary Tucsonist

Judging from his observations concerning the effects of freeway construction on St. Louis, Tim B. Lee would probably get along well in Tucson.

There used to be plans here, from 1958 into the 1970s, to to build an "I-710" freeway following the route of Campbell Avenue. Earlier versions of this scheme followed this by construction of a freeway over the bed of the Rillito.

Nowadays putting concrete and exhaust fumes over our greenbelts seems ridiculous, the stuff of self-discrediting old curmudgeons who've lost the part of their brain that makes it clear why such things are valuable. Tucsonans know in their gut that our resistance to building superhighways is what made and makes our city coherent, bikeable, walkable, and keeps our air free of smog despite our being caught between four mountain ranges. It may frustrate the newcomers, but we have no inclination to destroy neighborhoods for suburbanites' convenience in the way New Orleans, St. Louis, or Philadelphia did. If they wanted that, on their way in from Orange County they should have gotten off the I-10 about 120 miles earlier!

Friday, July 23, 2010

SB 1070 hearings: injunction likely.

No transcripts of today's two District Court hearings concerning motions for preliminary injunction of SB 1070 are yet available, nor was a video or audio recording made. Preliminary reports are up on the websites of the Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Republic.

It's pleasing to see a hard-hitting judge assigned to the case, and from the nature and tone of questions, it appears that at least portions of the law will be enjoined, although "when" and "how much" is still up in the air.

From the Republic:
The other part of this section of the law that was addressed was the portion that states that any person arrested must have his or her immigration status determined before he or she can be released.

Bolton asked Bouma whether lawmakers really intended that anyone arrested, regardless of his or her legal status or whether the arrest involved citing and releasing someone on the spot or booking him or her into jail, had to have immigration status determined before being released from jail.

Bouma gave her several different answers at different points in the day.

He first said that U.S. citizens don't have an "immigration status" and therefore SB 1070 wouldn't apply to them. He also said that part of the law was intended to follow the part allowing officers to ask someone about their legal status, which means it would apply only to individuals suspected of being in the country illegally.

"But (police) training materials specifically acknowledge that they don't know what it means and that it will be left up to each agency to decide what that sentence means," Bolton replied, adding that she had heard from some law-enforcement authorities that this portion of the law could lead to the arrest of tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have just been cited and released.
and from the Daily Star:
One section of the law that appeared to trouble the judge says people who get arrested, for any reason, must have their immigration status checked with federal officials before they are released.

She pointed out police "arrest" people all the time for minor crimes, issue them a citation and let them go about their business. Bolton said this provision of SB 1070 would appear to require police to hold people for some extra period of time beyond what is necessary to cite and release.

Bouma said lawmakers meant to apply that only to people who actually are booked into jail.

"That's what they should have said then," Bolton responded.
Classic. "What we meant to say is...". Ordinarily that doesn't even pass the laugh test, but Arizona legislators' sloppiness with language and general ignorance are notorious. (Anyone remember the wording of the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative, written by a few legislative heavyweights?)

It looks as though Dave Euchner's amicus brief, which pointed out the prospect for extension of detentions without probable cause, had a bit of impact there, and that the Judge Bolton is a bit hostile to that portion of the law. Also, from the Republic,
Section 3: Documentation

Section 3 of SB 1070 as amended creates the state crime of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document."

Attorney Nina Perales with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the civil-rights groups that filed the lawsuit along with the ACLU, said this portion of the law creates new classes of non-citizens because it doesn't offer exceptions for individuals who may be in the midst of citizenship or asylum proceedings and have permission to be in the country but don't yet have documents.

Bouma responded that that argument gets into a hypothetical "chamber of horrors" that people would be hauled off and thrown into jail to wait until someone could determine whether they belonged there.

Bolton agreed that all this portion of the law does is create a state punishment for violating federal statute. But she added that state punishment may create a pre-emption problem.

Bouma argued otherwise but then seemed to concede that he may lose on this part of the law.

"I didn't have the feeling I convinced you last week, either," Bouma said, referring to an earlier hearing.

Section 6: Removal

Section 6 of SB 1070 as amended allows law-enforcement officers to, without a warrant, arrest people suspected of committing offenses that make them "removable from the United States."

Bolton seemed to have serious concerns about this portion of the law. She said there is no list of crimes deemed to be removable offenses and questioned who would make that determination and at what point during the arrest it would be made.

"How can a police officer make a determination that a person has committed a removable offense when that decision can only be made by a federal judge?" she asked.

Plaintiffs appeared to be taking a "shotgun" approach concerning preemption, and Bolton was skeptical or even dismissive of many such claims, but as seen above, some of the pellets appear to have hit their target. Right now I'm expecting portions of the law, including prolonged detention following arrests, to be enjoined pending the cases' outcomes.