Monday, January 31, 2011

Arizona Strives to be Number One in yet Another Mind-boggling but Somehow Unsurprising Way

Well, the final fatality in the January 8 shootings was buried at the end of last week, so the time was ripe for some Lake Havasu mope in the state legislature to bust out with SB1201. Heavens to Betsy, the circulation must have gone plumb out of his hands after sitting on them for three whole weeks before giving Arizona yet another gift that will keep on giving, the Firearms Omnibus Bill.

Senate Bill 1201, sponsored by Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, would do a number of things, including:

- Allow people to carry firearms into all government-run facilities and many public events. The only places or events that could ban firearms would be those that post the correct sign, provide firearm lockers and have armed security and a metal detector. The law would apply to university classrooms, city buses and community festivals that get government permits. It would not apply to K-12 schools.

- Change the wording of last year's concealed-weapons law to require an individual to answer "truthfully" when a law-enforcement officer asks whether the person is carrying a concealed weapon. The current wording requires the person to answer "accurately." Law-enforcement officials say the change could give leeway to a person who, for example, forgets a gun in a bag and inaccurately tells an officer he or she isn't carrying one.

- Change the wording of Shannon's Law to make it a crime to "knowingly" discharge a firearm within city limits. It's currently a crime for someone to discharge a firearm with "criminal negligence." Bill opponents said the change would mean people could be convicted of violating this law only if the prosecution could prove they knew that shooting the gun could result in someone's death or injury.

- Allow people to sue if they feel they were illegally stopped from carrying a firearm into a government facility or event. If a person wins the lawsuit and the government agency doesn't pay within 72 hours, the person has the right to seize as payment "any municipal vehicles used or operated for the benefit of any elected office holder" in the relevant government agency.

Hoo-eee! That last provision is pure gold. I am sorely tempted to mosey over to Black Weapons Armory for an AR-15 that I will then carry on to city buses, into MVD offices, and through county-sponsored Oktoberfests until I've won enough lawsuits from sluggish agencies to have seized so many cars that I will need to build my own personal parking deck. If I play this right, Jan Brewer's Escalade will be mine within the year. I got yer return on a $1,499.99 investment right here! Boom!

But seriously? Seriously, Jesus Christ. We're looking to let untrained and barely vetted people carry guns just about everywhere, make it easier to avoid consequences for lying to cops about having a gun, make it easier to avoid consequences for being an idiot with a gun, and make public agencies skittish about appealing punitive awards against them for saying is it too much to ask that you not bring your goddamn Glock and pocketsful of extended-capacity magazines into the D.A.R.E. Family Fun Fair? Too soon? It's Arizona. Apparently here it's never too soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's the Limit on Saying Here We Go Again?

Perhaps you've heard that Arizona is in somewhat dire straits. The state is wrestling with--and losing to, badly--an epic budget crisis that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of low-income people (we have more than any state in the nation) being kicked off of state-provided healthcare (including a few people who have died after being removed from the organ transplant list), mental health services being slashed, aid to developmentally disabled people being gutted, public schools closing, state universities eliminating departments and not hiring new staff to fill positions left vacant (250 university professors were just offered a year's pay to retire early and go away), and state parks being shuttered (leaving priceless Native American sites vulnerable to looting). The private sector economy is just as bad, with high unemployment (in fact, we just added to our worst-in-the-nation trophy case on Monday, when we found out that we have the highest rate of teenage unemployment in the country, a whopping 31%).

So, naturally, the Republicans and tea partiers who were freshly elected or reliably re-elected on the strength of campaigns touting them as fiscal saviors have gotten right down to business. With a slew of bills restricting abortion even more than it already is.

First up is Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park), offering a pair of nifty bills intended to crack down on the rampant practice of sex-selection abortions. Well, both bills ban sex selection. One also tacks on a race-selection ban.

HB 2443, crafted by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would require a woman to sign an affidavit she is not seeking an abortion because of the child's sex or race. Montenegro has a separate measure, HB 2442, dealing only with abortions based on sex selection.

Any doctor who performed an abortion knowing race or sex selection was the reason would face felony charges. And the legislation would permit the father of the unborn child, if married to the woman having the abortion, to sue the doctor for damages.

This must be a significant problem in Arizona for Rep. Montenegro to have taken the time to write two separate bills addressing it, no? Oh.

Neither Montenegro nor independent searches of state records and the Internet provided any information indicating a significant number of women are seeking abortions for those reasons.

Montenegro promised supporting data when interviewed initially last week, but as of late Wednesday had provided none. He said he will have more specifics to back those claims today.

I will, of course, stay glued to the Daily Star today so that I can bring you those specifics just as soon as they hit the wire. He at least had the courtesy to give us a little tease.

But Montenegro said he has information "that there are targeted communities that the abortion industry targets." He said for the purposes of his ban, an abortion based on race would include situations where the parents are the same race as the fetus.
OMG TARGETED COMMUNITY IS TARGETED. And no more aborting because you're white and were really hoping to save on the plane fare by popping out an Asian baby. Or because you're Mexican and were hoping to change things up a little with a Norwegian. Or a puppy. Or something.

It becomes slightly more ominous, though, when Montenegro explains his "targeting" claim by pointing out that abortion rates are higher for nonwhites than for whites. Which makes it hard to read his proposed ban on situations where parents are the same race as the fetus as a particular ban on nonwhite women having abortions.

Our other entry comes courtesy of Rep. Kimberly Yee (R-Phoenix), co-sponsored by only 34 other Republicans, which brings Oklahoma-style mandated ultrasounds to our fair shores. Doctors would be required to (a) explain what the ultrasound shows, (b) show the woman a picture of the ultrasound, and (c) play audio of the heartbeat if one is audible before the woman can give her final consent for the procedure. No word on if the woman will also be required to sit in a rocking chair with an appropriately flesh-toned plush fetus-doll and read it Goodnight Moon before the abortion can take place. All of this is completely necessary, of course, for a very simple reason.

Yee, who said she opposes abortion, believes some women do not have a full understanding of what they are doing.
But the girls who want to keep the baby because then the guy will finally love them and the baby will love them and sit quietly all day and not bring any undue disruption or hardship to their lives? They totally fully understand what they're doing.

It's morning in Arizona. And it sucks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

And.... Scene.

So much for the good feelings that briefly enveloped our little desert burg. Well, really, the vitriol only hiccuped for a second or two there while it stayed near the surface. People started grousing about Sheriff Dupnik right away, as well about the order in which victims' names were listed in news stories and about who went to what funeral and about people cheering at the memorial service instead of weeping.

In the past few days, the reliably unhinged crew of regular commenters on the Arizona Daily Star's website have even begun sniffing dismissively and derisively at Rep. Giffords' impending transfer to a rehab hospital in Houston. Why doesn't she stay in Arizona for rehab, they whine. Why do people feel the need to turn out to line the streets to watch her ambulance go by on the way to the airport, they grouse. Why does she even say she's from Arizona if her husband lives in Texas, they howl.

Distasteful, stupid, and not worth the energy. As long as nobody stands out there with a sign demanding that Giffords apologize to Sarah Palin, I don't much mind their going on and on and on. Better to let all that bile out than keep it bottled up until someone has a coronary, I suppose.

Some of these folks, however, aren't content to just plaster their stupidity across the discussion boards of a mid-major newspaper that doesn't get a whole lot of pageviews outside Arizona. The Pima County tea party people have decided to plaster their stupidity all over the public right-of-way and inevitable TV cameras outside Sheriff Dupnik's headquarters next Friday, in response to Dupnik having had the temerity to point out that Arizona has become the epicenter of stupid in this country a "mecca of prejudice and bigotry."
Pima County Tea Party Patriots say they plan to "indict" Dupnik for politicizing the shootings, blaming free speech for the crime without evidence, failing to protect Giffords, failing to recuse himself from the investigation, and embarrassing the community in front of the nation.
Oh, honey child. Arizona has already done plenty on its own to embarrass itself in front of the nation, despite Tucson's best efforts to mitigate some of the state's crap act. We would be remiss, of course, if we failed to point out that the founder of the Tucson Tea Party (no relation, apparently, to the county-level patriots) has already let Dupnik off the hook for one of those charges, having placed the blame for the failure to protect Giffords squarely on Giffords herself (she should have known better than to go out in public without security, because there are lots of people running around in public in Arizona with concealed weapons, which the tea party has campaigned for vigorously because having lots of people running around in public with concealed weapons = safety!).

And so the curtain comes down on Act I with a resounding oh, for fuck's sake. I do not know how Act II will unfold.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Maybe I Should Just Give Up and Be Comforted by Consistency

So much for thinking charitable thoughts. Yesterday, Brewer and Pearce went back to not failing to disappoint.
Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce said they see no reason for Arizona to limit the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

I can think of nineteen reasons. Here, and here, and here, and here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Morning, Again

A week after the shootings, I walked the few blocks over to University Medical Center--where Rep. Giffords and three other victims are still hospitalized--and spent some time looking at the ever-growing and morphing shrine that is now taking up most of the hospital's front lawn. Many people were there, wandering among the offerings and quietly chatting. I was pleased to see that someone had left small stacks of supplies for posting signs, lighting candles, and propping up flowers, and equally pleased to see that people were using them and then carefully returning the lighters and markers to their original places and keeping them neatly piled up for the next person to use.

I took pictures with my not-great cellphone camera.

The candles, flowers, pictures, and everything else under the sun covers the grass.

You know that "COEXIST" bumper sticker? That is Tucson right now.

Buddha nestles amongst the veladoras.

There is something for everyone.

Including solar power.

This is why I love Tucson.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Did you watch the memorial/pep rally tonight? With the exceptions of Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder--hey, the recovering Catholic in me felt completely at home in the familiar Old Testament-New Testament structure of the Mass, but then I remembered this wasn't church, so it felt more than a little off--everyone who spoke knocked it outta the park. Even Jan Brewer managed a coherent, appropriate, moving speech. Daniel Hernandez was simply stunning. And President Obama absolutely exceeded my very very high expectations for this event. Forty minutes! And I hung on every word.

When he said that Giffords had opened her eyes, I cried.

On we go.


Sarah Palin, shut. the. fuck. up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The weirdness continues.

I live close by University Medical Center and drive past it every day at least once. The access roads bristle with satellite trucks, dishes, and antennas, techs with headphones milling among the cops and correspondents, cables snaking the sidewalks. Clutches of people still surround the makeshift shrine on the lawn, day and night, harshly illuminated after the sun goes down in the strange cold light of the TV cameras.

Tucson still leads the newscast on NPR. Still the banner on all the major news sites. Maybe even still on the BBC, although I haven't checked in a while.

Saturday had dawned cold but clear, and by the time I had walked to the university for coffee and back, the sun was warm enough for me to take off my hat and gloves. It was a perfect day for a stroll, so I dawdled and sipped my coffee, and then spent a happy hour or so puttering around in the yard and half-assedly dusting and sweeping inside. It was a perfectly mellow morning.

Then my girlfriend called and said to turn on the news. My jaw does not often hit the ground. But I sat there for the next ten minutes, my mouth hanging open and my hands on my head, watching and listening, stunned at what had happened and taken aback by how much of my brain was insisting that this simply could not be real. I thought to call my ex, who lives in the vicinity of the Safeway where the shootings happened, to make sure he hadn't stopped for milk at a bad time. His wife answered his cell. He had been hit by a car while riding his bike that morning, and was in the UMC trauma unit, having arrived about twenty minutes before the shooting victims.

And the world slipped one more cog and reeled even more off center.

My girlfriend came home and we sat and watched and listened, all afternoon. I finally set out for the store late in the afternoon when we realized a leftover bag of Wheat Thins wouldn't do it for the evening, to Safeway--not that Safeway--and it was like going out at seven on a Sunday morning rather than late Saturday afternoon. The streets and the store were fairly empty, the few people out subdued and quiet, sad, wary. I went home. We huddled.

One million people live in the Tucson metropolitan area, but this is still a small town in many ways. I don't know any of the victims personally, but two of my friends do. It seems everyone knows someone who knows someone, or who lives nearby, or was having coffee across the street when it happened, who heard the helicopters coming closer and closer and suddenly realized in rapidly succeeding waves of comprehension that something terrible had happened.

The vitriol has been flying. Sheriff Dupnik pissed people off by speaking frankly about the ugliness in the nation finding a Mecca in Arizona. Sarah Palin's people yapped about surveyor's symbols. The gunman turned out to be a nutter and one of the heroes of the day admitted he almost mistakenly shot one of the other heroes in the heat of the moment, but the legislature responds by trying to figure out how to get more people carrying guns and forgets the part about Arizona gutting funding for mental health care. The president is coming tomorrow and will be speaking mere blocks from my house. I almost don't want to think about the possible outcomes, verbal, legislative, or otherwise.

And the candles continue flickering on the UMC lawn, under the sun and under the lights.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Giving Credit Where Due

When John McCain says something I completely agree with, I am happy to put it right here. I hope you enjoyed your foray back into lucidity, Senator. Why not stick around a while?
“I am horrified by the violent attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion. I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families. I beg our loving Creator to spare the lives of those who are still alive, heal them in body and spirit, and return them to their loved ones.

“Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law.”

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Jesus Fucking Christ

Rep. Gaby Giffords (D-AZ8) was shot in the head this morning at a Tucson Safeway while holding a regularly scheduled meet 'n' greet with the public. If you were anywhere near a TV or computer today, you've heard and seen. Giffords managed to survive a through-and-through to the head with a 9mm slug at close range; among the dead are federal judge John Roll and a nine year old girl. The shooter is a 22-year-old dipshit who has yammered on YouTube about mind control, an amazingly poor grasp of the Constitution, and the gold standard (!). He is in custody.

There are no words.

It has been a surreal, sickening day.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Oh No She... Did.

The plus side? Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appears to be aware of the literary device called "metaphor." The downside? Picking apt ones is still a leeeeeeetle bit out of her reach. She was sworn in yesterday and, while she did manage to get through her speech without any agonizing dead air or giggles, the actual words she put together into sentences included these:

"When I took the oath of office two years ago, I took the helm of a marvelous state that had been poorly commanded, badly navigated and was dead in the water," Brewer said. "Worse, it was leaking, and sinking fast."

"You and I, will be forever guided and sustained by God's grace in a calling that draws us together on this mighty ship - Arizona - now fit for any peril on the sea," Brewer said.

Um. Yes, Arizona was indeed a mighty ship. Unfortunately, it's also sitting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor and is full of corpses.

Pick your scenario, and, as always, death is not an option: (1) she has no idea what image "Arizona" + "ship" automatically brings to mind for Americans, even ones educated in Arizona, or (2) she knows exactly what image "Arizona" + "ship" automatically brings to mind and still thinks it was the best way to characterize the state.

New New Year's Resolution: drink far, far more.

Tom Horne Rides Again

You can't help but... well, since "admire" doesn't quite ring true here, let's go with "notice," so *ahem* You can't help but notice former Superintendent of Education and brand-new Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne for his ability to stick to his guns.

Exhibit 1: The Combover.

While he was still the head of the worst educational system in the US, Horne went Don Quixote (English-language translation only, por favor) on the windmill of the Tucson Unified School District's ethnic studies program, in particular its Mexican American Studies program. Now that he's the state's top lawyer, Horne has vowed to make it his top priority to enforce Arizona's new anti-ethnic studies law (really) by jabbing the windmill with his lance, blowing it up, stomping on the rubble, and bonking dissenters in the head with any bricks that are left over.

The law, which went into effect Friday, prohibits courses that:

• Promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.

• Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

• Are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.

• Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of students as individuals.

Horne was the author of the first draft of the statute, which was amended in the Legislature.

Never mind that TUSD is largely Hispanic, or that Tucson sits smack-dab in the middle of a hunk of the landscape that actually was Mexico until the US bought it in 1854, or that quite a few of the families whose kids might like to take a Mexican American studies class have been living in Tucson for a couple hundred years longer than Tom Horne has been living in America. You know, since he was born in Canada to Polish parents who--in a strangely familiar story--immigrated in search of security and a better life for their children.

No word on whether proficiency in White Privilege Studies will now be required in order to graduate from Arizona high schools, or if it will simply continue to be assumed.