Saturday, January 15, 2011

An incomplete roundup, one week later.

David Fitzsimmons (Arizona Daily Star cartoonist "Fitz") apologized for his slanderous on-air rant. Clarence Dupnik remains strident. The Republic hit him hard in its Monday editorial, calling for him to remember his duty as a peace officer. The Washington Times's Robert Knight recommends a recall election, which, despite Dupnik's sensible stand on SB 1070, would be a great idea for many reasons of which his recent unprofessional conduct is but one.

Dave Hardy fondly remembers Judge Roll as fair-minded and respectful of the law.

Most of Gabrielle Giffords's political opponents from recent years have released statements of good will. Steve Stoltz's civic-minded reflection is the standout in that number--I could never get in to his politics, but what a class act! Randy Graf is conspicuously absent from this group. Although I consider bigots an infinitesimal epsilon away from human trash, I'm not going to read any meaning in to his silence. Perhaps it's better that we don't hear from him.

At about the same level: writers are straining to claim that Joseph Zamudio--one of the men who subdued Jared Loughner--carrying a firearm presented a danger to others. I'm not going to even link such nonsense here, and will just note that it's contradictory to write of Zamudio's finger being on the trigger in one sentence and then in another that he kept it holstered. The Wall Street Journal's features story on Zamudio gets it right.

In addition to the misguided calls to lock up the insane, we're starting to see more discussion of civil outpatient commitment. Google "Kendra's Law". It is working in New York and similar policies have been effective in a handful of other states, with civil liberties infringement approaching zero. (The ACLU's gripe is ethnic disparity, reflecting that group's recent deviation away from its core mission.) We should consider enacting such a policy here in Arizona.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A practical difference between George Bush and Barack Obama

President Obama was (rightly) criticized in the first two years of his term for a dictatorial tone, for example claiming to phone BP and tell them what to do instead of letting that be handled through normal legal processes.

But in at least one respect he is less dictatorial than his predecessor. When George Bush came to Tucson for a 2008 fundraiser for Tim Bee, police--working overtime on the taxpayer dime--closed the entire length of Swan for at least four hours, from Davis Monthan AFB all the way to Sunrise. Without warning Tucson was split into two halves; people had to take detours of 15 miles or more to get from the west side to the east side, just to give George Bush a grand entrance. Hundreds were late to work or to get home to their children. Private driveways and business road cuts were also blocked along the entire route.

It's unclear to this day which of Bee or Bush was responsible for such waste and such gross inconveniencing of the common man. No President before or since has, to my knowledge, engaged in such a practice; clearing a path and restricting the movement of the plebs is better suited to a banana-republic caudillo. However banana-republican he has been at times, Barack Obama didn't have any roads shut down today yesterday. [BSK: post rescheduled.]

And Bee never did reimburse the public treasury or the many he inconvenience. He did, however, end up the victim of some great real-life trolling.

President Obama rose above his party tonight.

Barack Obama is now on the same list as Steve Stoltz and Rodney Glassman: those whose responses to Saturday's spree shooting epitomizes republican civility.

"What we cannot do is use this tragedy as another occasion to turn on each other...[as we discuss this] let each of us do so with a good dose of humility."

And now a direct rejection of the thesis that rhetoric caused the spree shooting, without subsequently backhandedly insinuating that it did: a civil case for civility.

Addendum (BSK re: Obama): If we want our "democracy" to live up to childrens' expectations, then consensual governance is in order. Governing with the consent of the governed. Not "scoring touchdowns" with extreme and ill-wrought bills of large scope, not "elections have consequences", not democracy, not majoritarianism, and certainly not the blood-and-soil nationalism we have seen in Arizona.

Addendum 2 (BSK re: the UA choir): There is no more American song than the Shaker Hymn. When I hear just the melody in Appalachian Spring it makes the hair on my neck stand up and sometimes brings a tear to my eye. A most appropriate choice for today for a number of reasons.

Live video feed link: Obama's address

The link to live coverage of tonight's memorial address is buried on the Arizona Public Media website. For those who are having trouble finding it, it is: All you have missed so far (at the time of posting) is half of a performance of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

A half-mile queue for President Obama's speech

At 3:50 PM the queue to see President Obama's 6 PM address (honoring those wounded or killed in Saturday's spree shooting) in the McCale Center at the University of Arizona extended past the Physics and Gould-Simpson buildings, nearly half a mile away.

The McCale Center is said to hold 14,000; overflow will be directed to Arizona Stadium where the speech will be played on the giant scoreboard televisions. (Do they still call them JumboTrons?) UA News says that all attendees will go through "airport-like" security. If that includes taking off shoes or copping a feel, they won't even fill McCale between 4 PM and the start of the address.

As for me, I'll either watch the address on Arizona Public Media's live feed or read a transcript afterwards. Many reports claim that President Obama will avoid politics tonight and some claim that he will speak about tolerance. Given the extent to which David Fitzsimmons, the Huffington Post, Clarence Dupnik, and numerous others have poisoned the discourse it will be difficult to talk about tolerance tonight without being political and without appearing that he is joining in or approves of the slanderous fantasies we heard too much of on Saturday and Sunday. The question would almost ask itself: If rhetoric or "vitriol" or whatever you want to call it did not motivate the spree shooting, then why are you bringing it up?

David Harsanyi notes the chilling implications of a dialogue about 'civility', especially one in which it is claimed that "anti-government" classical-liberal rhetoric is dangerous. That should hit home with many of the readers of this 'blog.

And on an only tangentially-related note, if you're at the speech and looking for a bite to eat either before or after the event, most of the places I recommended for lunch should be open. Mr. Antojo's makes some of the best carne asade tacos in town, as long as you have them hold the guacamole. Among places not on that list, try Wilko or Vila Thai (all near Park and University) for slightly upscale dining, Zachary's (6th and Fremont) for reliable if not great deep-dish pizzas, Rosati's (6th and Campbell) for a Chicago-style square-cut thin crust pizza as good as any from Chicago, and 1702 (1702 E. Speedway, about a block and a half west of Campbell and Speedway) for high-quality out-sized thin slices and one of the best beer selections west of the Mississippi.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

There is no room for politicizing today's spree shooting.

Before any information whatsoever was available about Jared Loughner, the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords, Judge John Roll, and 17 other people today in front of the Safeway supermarket near Ina and Oracle in Tucson, many were attempting to blame Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Jesse Kelly. Apparently, Kelly held a campaign event at a shooting range (horror of horrors). Palin's PAC put Giffords in crosshairs as part of what appears to have been a hunting-themed direct mailing.

It doesn't seem likely that a hypothetical Loughner has been plotting, plotting, plotting since receiving Palin's mailing months ago. Indeed the idea sounds laughable. And that's without knowing anything about Loughner.

Loughner's Myspace page and Youtube videos show many signs of mental illness, including a bizarre writing style, paranoia about mind control, inventing one's own currency and own language to escape mind control, and talk of "conscience dreaming" (whatever that means) and sleepwalking to escape mind control. In short, he appears to be a regular nut not an angry political assassin deciding it's time to "go to the cartridge box" all by himself.

FM 104.1 here in Tucson was relaying KGUN 9's coverage of (Sheriff) Clarence Dupnik's press conference. Repeatedly, Sheriff Dupnik, instead of focusing on the matter at hand, blamed "vitriol" in the popular press. This despite him acknowledging, without naming Loughner's name, seeing "all 7 minutes" of Loughner's Youtube videos. Near the end of the conference a reporter I could not identify pinned him down on this: was there any evidence that Loughner was inspired by such "vitriol" or had any political motive. The answer, none at all. Maybe Dupnik means "liar" or "crass jackass" in some language. Our Congresswoman--who he called a friend--was shot, and he was in spite of the facts using that in an attempt to score political points against the Right.

We all know that the staff of the Huffington Post, which appears to have been the first to attempt to politicize today's spree shooting by blaming Republican talking heads and Sara Palin, have no shame. I found out today that some of my friends--one of whom (a foreigner, so perhaps she has an excuse) even suggested the abridgement of Beck and Palin's right to free speech--don't have much either, or that they do not understand the limits of decency. (Shall we blame Noam Chomsky and other market abolitionists on the Left for every home invasion, mugging, or property crime?) To blame the political right for today's spree shooting was bad enough. To do so before any information about the killer was available was simply shameful. It's a form of lying, to claim something about motives when he could just as easily been a leftist or have done it "to impress Jodie Foster". I would be ashamed and those who participated in such wild speculation, such lying to score political points owe everyone an apology.

Kudos, by the way, to Rodney Glassman for telling Democrats to stop pointing fingers until they have the facts.

On the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

UPDATE: The latest news has Giffords alive and responsive. No word on the extent of her incapacitation.

Conflicting reports have (8th district Congresswoman) Gabrielle Giffords either dead or undergoing surgery, after being shot in the head at close range at a constituent outreach event at the Safeway near Ina and Oracle this morning. Twelve others were shot. The shooter is in police custody following a citizen's arrest made as he was attempting to escape.

Right now the news is too patchy to say much. Presumably Giffords is permanently incapacitated; just the shock wave produced by a 9mm or 0.38 caliber round at close range can cause severe brain injury. There are more questions than answers right now: why was the shooter able to fire so many rounds before he was stopped? Why was Giffords's staff not carrying? And who was the shooter?

Already the Left is attempting to blame Sarah Palin for this, as though using a hunting metaphor months ago on a PAC campaign graphic is incitement to murder today. That's ridiculous. We do not know who the shooter is at the moment--a man in his '20s is all the press is telling us--or what his motives were. It could just as easily be a left-wing extremist--Tucson has plenty--as it could be a right-wing extremist; Giffords against the Democrats about 40% of the time, and was one of only a small handful to vote against reelecting Nancy Pelosi to the position of Speaker of the House. The more extreme are calling for abridgement of freedom of the press and freedom of speech--"lock up Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin." Such talk is beyond the bounds of decency in our republic. With two narrow and well-thought exceptions--incitement and libel--we hold communication to be the remedy for communication and do not hold the authors of whatever assassins and other criminals are reading as somehow co-responsible for their crimes.

Surely today's events will give illiberal nutcases like Paul Helmke an undeserved boost of attention, if only because the rights they attempting to abridge were more recently won than those protected by the 1st Amendment. It's going to be a hard fight but the facts are on the side of liberty, unless the balancing of values very heavily favors the safety of public figures against rare events over the quotidian safety of ordinary people. Even then we must remember that John Hinkley, Sirhan Sirhan, and so many others acted before concealed carry was made legal. Readers may consider it heresy for me to say so, but now that we've won--now that (except in IL, NY, WI, and CA...) the existential threat to the right to self-defense is over--it is time, if not past time, for advocates of RKBA to contribute constructively to the discussion of how to better keep firearms out of the hands of lunatics and mental defectives. Agreeing to mandatory legal training and more thorough screening--with due process, of course--in exchange for the opponents to our right to self defense permanently standing down is a win-win bargain. And perhaps better screening would have prevented today's assassination. We do not know. As for who is to blame for lax screening, that is shared. The "anti-"s created a climate of fear that made what would otherwise be reasonable rules look like preludes to all-out abridgement of rights, and the "pro-"s for very long took an "in whatever manner pleases me" position that makes sense for law-abiding folk but doesn't make sense in an imperfect world.

The news is not clear but what is clear is the past. We were all disappointed in her vote on the "health care reform" bill that banned actuarially fair insurance and imposed a heavy transaction reporting burden on small business. But looking beyond that Giffords was no party-line voter and no ideologue. A supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, a believer in the "no exceptions" position on freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and also someone who understood, as a small businesswoman, that civil society, not government, gives prosperity, in the good sense of the word she had a liberal streak sadly lacking in today's Democratic Party. And in an era when too many Congressmen govern from Washington--which often is to Arizona what Rome must have been to Pontius Pilate's Judea--Giffords frequently met with her constituents without pre-screening their opinions or otherwise making the meeting "just for show". Altogether she was a fine match for Jim Kolbe's old 8th District and far closer to her predecessor in position and temperament than Jesse Kelly or Randy Graf, something most Republicans around here never did come to understand.

The worst criticism to be leveled at her: failure to show any leadership in a Democratic Party that made a knight's move, hard to the Left and backwards 25 years, between 2001 and 2005. Following a Friday interview The Sierra Vista Herald's Bill Hess reported what amount to signs of Gabby Giffords starting to take the lead as an advocate of fiscal restraint.

Then some jackass shot her. What was that supposed to accomplish?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A few comments on the Democratic party and Andrei Cherny's pursuit of its chairmanship

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that Cherny is pursuing the position of chairman of the Arizona Democratic party. He apparently thinks that he has a secret supply of mojo that he can add to the water supply in Arizona that will counteract the bitterness that many Arizona voters taste when presented with the option of voting for Democratic party candidates.

His 2010 campaign for state treasurer pivoted on the idea that voters should vote for the "New" Democrat who is not the same as the old Democrat. That proposition was an electoral loser when the rubber hit the road.

Doug Ducey won after a season full of polished and aggressive attacks by Cherny because he used the shield of "prudent banker" over and over again. Cherny lost because he said he was going to expand the duties and responsibilities of the Treasurer and add an extra variable to Arizona government investing.  The voters he needed to persuade weren't buying what Cherny had to sell.

Many Democrats currently believe that they can sell voters another iteration of the "New" Democrat paint job on their old Democrat jalopy. That isn't going to work in 2012. Some will try but one need only look at the bones of the Coffee party or election day 2010 to see how well that idea took off.

Cherny (or Rodney Glassman or Don Bivens) needs to recognize the necessity of adding some new ideas to the Democratic party's inbred and increasingly infirm ideological gene pool.  I'll offer a suggestion to Cherny and any other Democrats who wants to win in 2012. Call the Goldwater Institute and make an appointment with their staff to discuss how many of the 100 ideas in 100 days (from Goldwater Institute) they can embrace. 

On the federal level there are a few positions out there that would motivate voters to vote in favor of team Blue. So far in Arizona's congressional delegation only Raúl Grijalva has adopted the twin winner ideas of get the US out of Iraq/Afghanistan and audit the Fed. I am not sure that Ed Pastor and Gabriel Giffords are willing to endorse the idea of ending these overseas occupations but it is indeed possible that the next wave of challenger candidates will.

It is going to take some game changing positions to lure voters into considering voting Democratic in 2012.

[I posted another version of this article on another blog but the owner there apparently thinks that sticking one's fingers in his ears while yelling "No Labels will redeem our rejected ideas!" is going to do the trick when it comes to winning elections in 2012.]


Photo credit: EspressoPundit