Don’t Forget Your Sam’s Card And Your Pistol

Last post from PHOENIX, AZ:  While most of the attention lately has been on the reactionary immigration law passed by the legislature, another unfortunate and reactionary Arizona law went into effect yesterday.

From the Arizona Republic:

Arizona is now the third state, behind Alaska and Vermont, to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without having to get a permit.

And not needing permits means no background checks or gun-safety classes.

Get that? In Phoenix, a massive metropolitan area, folks with varying degrees of mental stability and spotty obeisance to the law can hide weapons in their pockets and purses and head to Sam’s Club for a 30-pack of very expensive Keystone Light, and you, a connoisseur of that fine, if pedestrian, brew, would never know they were packing.

Unless, of course, you grabbed the last available copy of Glenn Beck’s latest book (I think it’s called, “How I Made Millions Peddling Paranoia,” or something like that.) and pissed off a pistol-packing paranoiac.

Or maybe while rushing for the sample cart, featuring the latest incarnation of chicken-on-a-stick, you accidentally brushed up against Arizona’s version of Sarah Palin, knocking her loaded-but-not-locked piece onto the floor, discharging it in the direction of that 50-inch flat screen you had your eye on.

In any case, there is a serious lesson to be learned here.  Politics—more specifically, political philosophy—can very quickly change the landscape of any city, state, or nation.  When President Obama selected Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano for his cabinet, a Republican took over, and with her came a certain political philosophy.

From yesterday’s concealed-weapon story in the Arizona Republic:

During her time as governor, Janet Napolitano vetoed at least a dozen different weapons bills – several similar to the law going into effect today – that would have eased restrictions on gun owners.

But Napolitano’s departure and the appointment of Gov. Jan Brewer in January 2009 gave the Legislature and gun-rights groups an ally in the executive office. Brewer signed the law April 16.

Like the governor switch in Arizona, the election this November and in 2012 could have major consequences for America. The worst of those consequences could be the restoration of a failed political and economic philosophy, still advocated by right-wing zealots hell-bent on crystallizing the economic inequities exacerbated by the Bush years.

Such a philosophy, like that which led to unfettered gun-toting in Arizona, will eventually move us back to the 19th century, a time in which guns were necessary for survival, and a time in which there wasn’t much of a middle in the middle class. 

This Is America, I Keep Thinking

SAN DIEGO, CA:  Traveling here by SUV from Phoenix gave me a chance to see the Border Patrol hard at work.  Well, let me explain. 

On the six-hour trip to San Diego, we encountered three checkpoints set up along the highway so the Border Patrol could “search” the cars for illegal immigrants. 

I say “search” but I wouldn’t exactly call it a search.  Here’s pretty much the way two of the encounters went: 

Border Patrol: Is everyone in your car an American citizen? 

Us: Yes. 

Border Patrol: Have a nice day

In the other encounter, the officer didn’t even ask us a question.  He just looked at us and waved us on.

Now, it must have been obvious that we were all pale-faced tourists; otherwise I can’t explain the short encounter and lack of interest in our cargo.  For all the officer knew, we could have been smuggling in half a dozen Mexicans in our rented Chevy Tahoe, using clever Midwest redneck disguises. 

We saw only one car pulled over, presumably so the Border Patrol could get a closer look.  And guess what the folks in that car looked like?

Yep. You got it on the first guess. 

There was something disturbing about the whole thing.  This is America, I kept thinking.  What the hell is going on? 

At each checkpoint, there appeared to be between eight and twelve officers, a couple of tents, several official looking SUVs, and lots of hot sun. In one case, traffic was backed up about a mile.  It’s not clear to me what they expect to accomplish by these checkpoints, accept to make the public believe something important is going on.  

In advance of each checkpoint were signs indicating it was coming up, and any illegal smarter than Sarah Palin could figure out that Uncle Sam was mad as hell and not going to take in any more escapees from the economic prison that is Mexico, at least those dumb enough to travel on the nation’s interstate highways with all that checkpointin’ goin’ on.

Two things became crystal clear to me after our encounters with the Border Patrol in the middle of the desert on the way to San Diego: Such stuff is a big waste of money.  And it clearly involved the use of racial profiling. 

This is America, I keep thinking.  What the hell is going on?

Phoenix Heats Up On Immigration Law

PHOENIX, AZ:  Naturally, much of the news down here is beginning once again to focus on the immigration issue, particularly the controversial state law that is due to go into effect this coming week.

Yesterday, I talked about the law with a Hispanic man who is close to retirement from his job with the city of Scottsdale.  I think what he told me probably reflects the opinion of those who are not part of either extreme on this issue.

Both sides aren’t telling the whole story,” he said.  “There are lies on each side.”

Although he admits he doesn’t have an answer to the problem, he believes that part of any solution has to involve making it less difficult to become a citizen of this country.

“I know a guy who took eight years to become legal,” he told me. “That’s way too long.”

In any case, not all folks down here have such moderate opinions. Saturday’s Arizona Republic published this letter to the editor:

Arizona Inherited White bigots

Yes, we have an immigrant problem that did not exist when I was growing up in the 1920s and 1930s.

We went to school with “Mexicans” and lived and worked with them. Our current immigrant problem is with all the White bigots we inherited from the rest of the United States. We have all the hateful talk and racial profiling by our “tough” sheriff and his supporters and a mediocre clerk for a governor who embarrasses us every time she has to make an ad hoc comment. No wonder we are viewed as such racists by many other people. Yes, I long for the good old days.

—William Johnson,  Phoenix


Birthday Number One

The Globe Gets It Right, And Both Candidates Are Wrong For Joplin

The Joplin Globe has done the right thing and corrected an earlier story on the issue involving Shelly Dreyer and the lawsuit brought by her former partner, Charlie James:

A story in Saturday’s editions incorrectly reported that a deposition in the lawsuit showed that the firm’s majority partner, Charles James, knew about the case referral.

James said that Dreyer while a partner referred a personal injury case to a Chicago attorney and did not keep appropriate records. After she left that firm, Dreyer accepted the direct payment of a fee of more than $35,500 that James contends should have gone to the firm to be reconciled with the division of property due all the lawyers as a result of Dreyer’s departure.

So, now we await both the voters’ decision in the August primary between Dreyer and Bill White and the decision of a court (or negotiated settlement) in the dispute over attorney’s fees.

Which leads me to what I intend as my final word on both Shelly Dreyer and Bill White.

As I have acknowledged, I do not and cannot support either candidate for obvious reasons.  When you put an “R” beside your name, especially these days, you are making a statement about your political philosophy that I cannot accept as my representative in the Missouri legislature.

Bill White built a new 7,500-square-foot house outside of the 129th District (in the Wildwood Ranch Estates) that he intends to live in—unless voters elect him.  And even if it’s true, as Mr. White says, that the house, contrary to rumors, is not a multi-million dollar house, or “not even a million dollar house,” it is more than a little troubling that a man who wants to be our representative built a house outside our district that is many times more expensive than most of us, who will likely live here long after Mr. White moves on, could possibly afford.

But, to me, that’s not as troubling as his politics, which besides the standard pro-life, pro-gun rights stuff, includes the following statement, which I found on a flyer his campaign left on my door not long ago. It said:

Bill opposes tax increases.

Since Mr. White has already decided that no matter what, and despite the fact that Missouri’s budget is being cut dramatically and the tax burden in Missouri is near the bottom in the country, he is opposed to raising the money to pay for the services Missouri offers, that statement alone should disqualify him from becoming ours or anyone’s state representative.

As for Shelly Dreyer, that fateful day she dropped by my neighborhood campaigning, she left a printout of what looked like a page from her campaign website, “My Pledge To You.”

I happened to compare the page she had prepared to hand out to my neighbors with the one on her website and I noticed the following website “pledge” missing from the one left on my door:

Require random drug testing for anyone receiving Welfare benefits and stop benefits for those found using illegal drugs.

At least three things disgust me—besides the obvious assumption regarding people on welfare—about this pledge to require “anyone” receiving welfare benefits to be tested for illegal drugs. 

One is that “anyone” usually means women with children, and Ms. Dreyer doesn’t explain what happens to those children when she callously cuts off the mothers’ benefits. 

The second disgusting thing is that Ms. Dreyer doesn’t have a similar pledge to test randomly for illegal drugs the management of businesses who receive tax breaks, farmers who receive subsidies, and other examples of corporate welfare.  Or how about politicians who take taxpayer money in the form of salaries?

The third disgusting thing about Ms. Dreyer’s disgustingly disgusting pledge is that she didn’t have the courage to put it on the flyer she distributed to my neighbors, some of whom just might be on welfare, given the times we’re in.  Despite the fact that the flyer was almost an identical reprint of her campaign webpage, she, for obvious reasons, left her nasty appeal to class politics out.

I don’t know, but maybe the campaign has a flyer designed for Snob Hill, which does include the missing pledge to test those drug-doing welfare moms.  In any case, I hope I’ve made it clear that such a policy—apparently designed to appeal to at least some residents of the 129th District—is as disgusting as it can be.

And that’s why, despite all the other associated issues, I could not support either of these Republican candidates.

Here is a screenshot of the offensive pledge:

Obama Needs To Apologize To Shirley Sherrod

It seemed like a perfect storm.  A black Obama official discriminating against a poor white Georgia farmer.

Nothing illustrates more the power of god-awful right-wing media than what Andrew Breitbart, Fox “News” Channel, and talk radio did to Shirley Sherrod, President Obama’s now former USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development.

Nothing, that is, except how the NAACP and then the White House reacted to the smears generated by those god-awful right-wing media.

Shame on both of them, but particular shame goes out to the White House, who without knowing the facts, reportedly forced Sherrod to resign, for fear that she would be an item on a disturbed conspiracist’s Fox program, Glenn Beck’s daily presentation of his many delusions.

Breitbart used a short clip of a 24-year old speech Shirley Sherrod gave to “what appears to be an all-black audience,” the clip being used to expose “Sherrod’s racist tale” of her reluctance to help a white farmer.  Breitbart also presented the clip as “conveying a present tense of racism” from an Obama official.

The only problem is that the white farmer and his wife consider Sherrod a friend to this day for helping them keep their farm, and that a look at the full video Breitbart’s “source” clipped reveals that Sherrod was really making the point that despite the fact that the farmer was white and she was black, working with him made her realize that the real problems she needed to work on were a result of “those that have versus those that don’t” and had nothing to do with race.

In other words, the entire video makes the opposite point that Breitbart was trying to make.

President Obama himself should—today—ask Shirley Sherrod to come to the White House for a personal apology and to ask her to come back to work.  And the President should find and fire whoever it was that rushed to judgment and forced her to resign, all on the basis of the right-wing smear machine. 

What this episode shows about Breitbart and the race-baiting tendencies of the extreme right-wing media we already knew, but what it shows about the fear of right-wing media in the Obama administration is disturbing.

Now that the White House is scrambling to make amends, Sherrod is naturally a little reluctant to get back on board.  I don’t blame her one bit. Which is why Obama should intervene and apologize on behalf of his administration.

Here is a clip from the Today show this morning:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Real 100 Words Project

Since it appears the Joplin Globe has seen fit to reject my original question suggestions for its 100 Words Project, “How old is the earth?” or “Were Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?”  I have suggested an alternative to fellow blogger Jim Wheeler: “Is evolution a fact?” 

Now, Jim wasn’t too keen on it, believing it would be considered “impertinent,” so that tells me that once again my question suggestion likely will not be presented to our gallant field of congressional candidates.

But nevertheless, based on the candidates’ previous answers to other more pertinent questions, I was able to determine how the top three Republican candidates would answer my question, and I also included Joplin’s own entertaining Steve Hunter as a bonus.  Miraculously, each answer is exactly 100 words long:

JOPLIN GLOBE:  The Erstwhile Conservative wants to know what you all think about our origins, how we came to be or how long we’ve been around.  He asked, “Do you believe evolution is a fact?”

BILLY LONG: The people I talk to are fed up with career politicians who answer dumb questions like that. I mean, who the heck knows how old the earth is or how we got here? God put us here to make money, through the private sector I might add, and that’s all that matters.  Those kinds of questions are just the kind of questions that elitists who love big government would ask.  Do you know we have over 2 million federal employees?  And I bet every single one of them sit around on taxpayers’ money and think of stupid questions like that.

JACK GOODMAN: I am running for Congress for one reason: To fight with everything in me to save the greatness of America for future generations. Our generation must fight for what our Founders created, so our kids and grandkids will have the freedoms and opportunities we have enjoyed. I doubt very much that our Founders believed in evolution, and since they didn’t, neither should we. I will work to reduce the federal government’s intrusive role in understanding our origins.  Whether evolution is a fact is a matter for the states to decide.  When I abolish the Department of Education, goodbye to Darwin.

GARY NODLER:  My experience in my many years in government did not prepare me to answer authoritatively such an important question for many of my constituents.  If you would have asked me a budget question, like should the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy be made permanent, I could give you a positive yes on that one. But as to whether evolution is a fact or simply a theory I would say it is a little of both.  It’s kind of like the trouble I had trying to figure out whether the old 80s rocker, Boy George, was a boy or girl.

STEVE HUNTER: First, I would cut every government program by 10 percent, then grow the economy through various tax cuts. I would eliminate the federal system where money is created out of thin air. Which leads me to my evolution position. If the feds can create money out of thin air, what makes you think God couldn’t create Adam and Eve out of thin air? Just like I said I would do if you elect me, God cut out early after reaching his goal of creating Adam and Eve.  I have pledged to leave Congress early should I accomplish my 10 goals.

JOPLIN GLOBE: Thank you everyone. And may the best Republican win.

[Hunter image from a video on The Turner Report]

Bill White Campaign Responds

I requested a comment from the Bill White campaign on the issues raised about Shelly Dreyer’s campaign on my blog.  Since I requested it, I thought it only fair to present the entire statement from White’s campaign manager, Jimmy Morris:

If the allegations made by Charles and Lynne James are true, it is a sad day in Missouri politics. Unfortunately, instances like this only serve to reinforce the cynicism many voters have about candidates for elected office. The good news is that voters in the 129th legislative district do have a proven conservative candidate in William “Bill” White, who has lived, worked, and volunteered alongside many in this community over the past 18 years, and whose high standard of honesty and integrity qualify him as an excellent choice in the Republican primary.

Now, obviously, regular readers of this blog know that I cannot support either Shelly Dreyer or Bill White, both of them way too conservative for my tastes.  But, I do agree that all this stuff does “reinforce the cynicism” of voters.

As for me, what I find dismaying is that there is no viable Democratic alternative to the Republican candidate who emerges with a win in the upcoming primary.

Roy Blunt Links Carnahan To Obama In New Ad

Chuck Todd, NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent and political director, pointed out this morning that the following ad, newly released by the Roy Blunt campaign, is a “significant development in the national electoral landscape.”  Here’s why, he says:

It’s the most direct anti-Obama message we’ve seen made by a Republican running in a general election in a swing state. Now, that said, Blunt is trying to appeal to primary voters a tad right now. But if this ad against Carnahan, using Obama, does raise the Democrat’s negatives, don’t be surprised if it gets copied by GOP candidates across the country. This is an interesting test to keep an eye on.

The ad is very good, in terms of its potential effectiveness, and it shows that Carnahan will need to get better organized and employ some gifted media folks to combat the attacks coming her way.

Rare Praise For The Tea Party

Since I have been more than a little critical of the Tea Party folks for tolerating and in some cases promoting racist elements associated with their rush to take us back to the 18th century, it’s only fair to praise them when they at least attempt to act like they live in the 21st.

Something called the National Tea Party Federation, which is trying to exert some leadership over the disparate groups of disgruntled people who have raised the temperature of our national politics, has kicked out one of the worst among them:  Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express.

Mr. Williams was the head of Tea Party Express, which as Politico pointed out, “has organized some of the movement’s biggest events, including rallies with former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin.” 

The Tea Party Express has also been closely tied to Sharron Angle’s campaign in Nevada, which, fortunately, has given Sen. Harry Reid new life out there.  In other words, the Tea Party Express is (was?) a big bleeping deal.

The NAACP had earlier urged Tea Party “leaders” to purge their ranks of those “who use racist language in their signs and speeches,” to which Williams replied with what he called a “satirical” letter that began:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

He continued with this:

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide-screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Believe it or not, that is just a sampling of the worst of Mr. Williams’ performances.  Check here for a rundown of the dumb stuff he has said, including calling the President of the United States an, “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.”

But despite the fact that it is a little tardy, the booting of Mark Williams and Tea Party Express is welcome news.  Someday, it may be possible to focus only on the misguided political philosophy animating the movement and not on the white angst that fuels so much of the anger behind it.

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