At the end of a long line

The goal: Reaching the voting room.

The goal: Reaching the voting room.

Arizona’s disastrous primary election of a week ago has again stirred up thoughts about America as a democracy.  Voters waited in long lines for up to 5 1/2 hours to cast ballots.  In addition there were ballot shortages and computer glitches.  Even for Arizona, this was a horrible example of a practice that has swept the nation, particularly in areas controlled by Republican legislatures.  It’s called voter suppression.

I was lucky.  I stood in line for only two hours and 53 minutes at the Church of the Beatitudes voting place in Phoenix.

Two of the last-known people to vote in other voting venues:  A state senator, Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix at 12: 20 a.m. on Wednesday and a native of Guatemala, Aracely Calderon at 12:12.

I had arrived at the back of a line at the corner of 7th Avenue and Glendale, the time was 2:08 p.m.  By the time I had walked along the serpentine line (see my hand-drawn map) and voted for the Democrat, Bernie Sanders, it was 5:01.

As I walked back to the street where Nebra was to pick me up in her car, the line was another 200 yards longer than when I had started out.  The polling places closed at 7, but under the law everyone standing in line at that time is allowed to vote.

My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.

My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.

Curious, I drove back to the polling place at 8:15 — and the line was now longer by maybe 50 yards.  I calculated the people at the end of the long line would not reach the ballot box until after midnight!

Not only that, but under Arizona law, voting results are made public by 8 p.m.  In no time, the media had projected the election winners.  I read the Associated Press made its projection at 8: 15. So many of those people in line knew four hours prior to their vote that Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) had won Arizona by substantial margins.

That they stood in line knowing their votes would make little or no difference is testimony to their determination and perhaps errant thoughts of living in a democratic society.

Some came prepared for a long wait.

Some came prepared for a long wait.

This unacceptable situation occurred only in one Arizona county, the county for Phoenix. Maricopa County, for practical purposes, is Arizona when it comes to voting.  Maricopa carries 56.7 percent of the state’s population.  And it was there in Maricopa that the abuses mostly occurred.

The county Recorder’s Office and the elected County Recorder, Helen Purcell, a Republican, is in charge of County Elections which plans the Primary.   This year, for a reason that is unclear, the number of polling places was cut from 200 to 60 — for the Primary only —  not only leading to the gargantuan lines but jamming poll workers with an enormous amount of labor for a pittance of money.

The budget for the Primary was cut drastically by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and the Republic governor, Doug Ducey, signed off on it.

Karen Osborne, who heads up County Elections, was quoted as vowing to “. . . keep the presidential preference election as cheap as humans can do it.”

Besides the money issue, election officials said they planned on most of the voting to be done by mail.  If true, a major miscalculation.

Waiting and reading.

Waiting and reading.

Poll workers receive $100 to $125 for the day, and in the case of the Primary, some were at their stations for 18 hours.  That comes to $5.56 an hour for most poll workers and $6.94 an hour for premium workers with advanced training. That is far below minimum wage.  And it is the poll worker there on the front-line that takes the abuse while the real culprits lay low in distant buildings doing the “brain” work that so fouled the process.

Of all Primaries over the years, how could you sensibly cut polling places this year?  County Elections had plenty of fore-warning in a contentious presidential campaign.  Voter turnouts were up in other states with similar primaries.  Caucus states like Iowa are different.

Line grows as nightfall looms.

Line grows as nightfall looms.

Arizona’s Republic governor, Doug Ducey, has a typical right-wing Proposition, 123, scheduled for a special election on May 17. It is a controversial prop that Republicans claim is a boon to the education budget and also to reform pension programs in the public-safety sector.   It is not a wild dream to believe Ducey and his staff are behind the Primary debacle if only to exasperate voters so they will not participate in May.  It is a long-standing conclusion that Republicans and Propositions like 123 do best when there are low turnouts.

A hearing yesterday at the state House of Representative drew an impassioned and angry group.  They complained to the Elections Committee, run of course by Republicans.  The GOP has ruled the legislature for many years.  Whether these complaints will be addressed is up in the air.  My guess is that elections will continue as usual — unless the miracle of a Democratic wave takes over the Legislautre after the general election in November.

Anyway, I am glad I waited it out almost three hours and voted.  If it means nothing in the world of politics at least it mean a lot to me personally.  I say that even thinking that their is really no democracy in America, that in the case of the Primary, Party elites both Republican and Democrat have left us with much the same drab choices.

Change in Arizona is a long way off.  I suspect it is a long way off for America too.








‘Palo Alto,’ or surviving adolesence in paradise

If there is any hopeful message to be gotten from the depressing new teen-age film, “Palo Alto,” it is this.  Good kids can somehow emerge safely from even the worst environments.  A few of them anyway.

Teddy and April are sensitive and intelligent high schoolers who are swept up in the crazy world of their peers.  Sex, drugs, alcohol, despair and disrespect for everything including themselves, they reluctantly join this orgy of affluent white kids out of control.

Palo Alto, the California city by the Bay, symbolizes the best of opportunity for our children.  A land of sudden high-tech millionaires in Silicon Valley,  Good schools and facilities.  Home to Stanford University, the so-called Harvard of the West.  And yet what a wasteland we see in this cynical film.

Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of the noted actor Val) is a budding artist, loved by his single-parent mother and increasingly in trouble with the law.  Drunk, Teddy rams into another car and leaves the scene only to be arrested later and sentenced to long hours of community service.  April (Emma Robbers) is a different story.  Hers is less than an ideal homelife.  Her mother is a distracted moron and her step-father (Val Kilmer) an addled marijuana abuser.  April seeks respite in having sex with her high school soccer coach (James Franco).

If there is a devil among this tribe of heathens, it is Fred (Nat Wolff), a charismatic but emotionally disturbed friend of the low-key Teddy.  The film’s climax concerns which way Teddy will turn:  Toward Fred and self-destruction?  Or toward April and love?

While “Palo Alto” is a nicely done film directed by Gia Coppola, it will take a great amount of patience for adults to endure.  Most adults have been there or at least observed such misbehavior as teens and parents.  Hopefully, some will even see themselves as the root of the problem.  Absentee and self-obsessed parents, physically and emotionally unable to engage their young.

The scary part of the film is envisioning America’s future.  If  “Palo Alto” truly depicts this country’s next wave of well-heeled parents and leaders, even bleaker times lie ahead.

Sgt. Bergdahl

President Obama can do nothing right, according to conservatives.  Scandal at every turn.  Benghazi, the IRS, you name it.  Obama can not so much as twitch a finger without complaint from Republicans who scream at times for his impeachment.  This is a well-thought out strategy by the GOP to, among other things, make sure that no other person of color ever becomes President again.

The latest “scandal” drummed up by the right is the return of the POW, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.

It was Republican strategists, according to the New York Times and Huffington Post, who arranged a media interview yesterday with one of Bergdahl’s critics, former medic Joshua Cornelison, who branded the sergeant as a deserter and responsible for the deaths of as many as eight soldiers who searched for him.

“Yes, I’m angry,” Cornelison was quoted as saying.  “Everything we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl.  If we were doing some mission and there was a reliable report that Bergdahl was somewhere, our orders were that we were to quit that mission and follow the report.”

The Pentagon says Cornelison’s accusation of deaths attributed to search missions is not supported by facts after a review of its casualty database.

In another arranged interview, Cody Full, also a member of the platoon, accused Bergdahl of being a loner.  “He wouldn’t drink beer or eat barbecue and hang out with the 20-year-olds,” Full said.   “He was always in his bunk. He ordered Rosetta Stone for all the languages there, learning Dari and Arabic and Pashto.”  Accused of being a loner!

Even if these nebulous statements are true, what difference does it make even in the case of the “related” deaths?  Soldiers take orders.  They do not get to choose their missions.  They can not act as judge and jury or whether it was right to search for Sgt. Bergdahl.  American soldiers bring their own back home, no matter what.  Soldiers take orders.  That’s what they do.  War zone or not.

The bottom line is this.  No matter how we feel about President Obama, we should wait for the facts on Sgt. Bergdahl’s release before forming concrete opinions.  So far we have nothing substantial to work with.






Jodi Arias verdict: No winners here

I had not watched the Jodi Arias murder trial but I knew enough from a few news accounts to know that it involved a grisly act.  And today I watched TV coverage with the cynic’s eye as the verdict came in.  Guilty in the first degree.

While I assume the jury’s verdict was a just one, I was appalled at the world attention the trial had brought to Arias and this desert island called Phoenix, Arizona.   A CNN reporter said it was a combination of an attractive defendant, “an extremely attractive” victim in Travis Alexander and intimate details about their sexual affairs.

I was appalled why normally intelligent and sensitive people would get so wrapped up in the misery of others.  It is hard to figure any other answer but that these Arias trial devotees have little going on in their own lives and live, not only in this trial but in most things, vicariously.

I was appalled why, for instance, that a bureau of the local newspaper had created a lottery on the trial’s outcome.  First-degree murder, second-degree, manslaughter or acquittal.  The tie-breaker was the closest time the verdict would come in.   That is about as cold and distant as you come.  This was not a game here.   Not like a Final Four pool.

And then after the verdict was announced you see all those people in the street acting as simpletons, cheering and celebrating as if the local NBA team had won a big playoff game.   Our “team” had won, yours had lost.  And the reporters chasing down the smallest shred of info from those who packed the courtroom.  Helicopters circling above.  If you didn’t know the meaning of “media circus,” you knew it now.

There were no winners here today.  Just sadness.  A young man murdered and his girlfriend, a seemingly intelligent young woman with huge emotional issues, is going up the river for a long time and perhaps, though I hope not, be put to death.

You have to wonder, is there any hope in the long run for the human species?  Is Jodi Arias really any colder and less sensitive that the celebrants?   You have to wonder, don’t you?

Catching up with Noam

I do not like the idea of privatizing what is in the public domain.

I am for instance against privatizing our schools and Social Security.  I think that is a rip-off.  One leads to teaching for profits and even more brainwashing of American students.  The other would lead to the greatest transference of wealth in the history of man, from regulation by the U.S. government to manipulation by Wall Street bankers.

It was not until I watched today the documentary, “Noam Chomsky:  Rebel Without A Pause,” that I considered another black star against privatization.   According to Chomsky, sometimes referred to as the rock star of intellectuals even now at age 84, it is a way our government and particularly the right-wing of America tries to control us, its citizens.

“It is,” Chomsky says, “part of an effort to break down human solidarity and sympathy.”

Divide and conquer, promote selfishness is the idea here.

Take schools.  Chomsky says privatization encourages us to focus on our children, not someone else’s child from, say, across the street or in another part of town.  Why, then, should we pay taxes to educate someone we don’t care about?

Privatizing Social Security is much the same.  Worry only about our nest egg.  Why should we pay into a system that helps others, even those who are destitute and ill?

If we the millions care nothing about others, we are at the mercy of the few, the controllers.

I am many long years behind on Chomsky.  But I figure it is better to catch up with his ideas now than never.

The elusive truth about 9/11

It no doubt seems incredulous to many Americans that here we are, going on 11 years after 9/11, and some of us still question how that “perfect storm” of U.S. security lapses could happen without some form of our own government’s participation.   It is the era of the computer.  Our focus is short.  We’re on to the next great thing before the last one is clear in our minds.

I was reminded of this again while reading this morning’s New York Times.  Two former Democratic senators, Bob Graham, of Florida, and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, signed revealing affidavits recently in a lawsuit brought against Saudi Arabia by 9/11 victims.

“I am convinced,” Graham said in his deposition, “that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists . . . and the government of Saudi Arabia.”  Kerrey said “significant questions remain unanswered” regarding Saudi involvement.  Both senators, the Times said, were privy to top-secret information.

Graham and Kerry said the “Saudi connection”  was never fully examined because the investigating panels were not given the time or the resources.

So why would Congress fail to comprehensively investigate one of the darkest days in American history?  To not search for the last shred of proof about the Saudis and everything else?

The reason, I think, was a fear of what investigators might turn up.  Like a “Saudi-U.S. connection.”

Who can forget Bush’s kiss and holding hands with the Saudi leader, King Abdullah, on the latter’s visit to the Bush ranch in Crawford not long after 9/11?  Our leaders did not want a possible insurrection if the “truth” became known.

Was there a coverup by Bush, Congress and other U.S. officials to protect American oil interests in Saudi Arabia?  And to assure Saudi Arabia’s approval of the Bush presidency’s signature event, the war in Iraq?

9/11, whether contrived by the U.S., certainly proved ideal for the Bush administration.  It gave a lame president credibility with the American people as a popular “war-time president,” led to the attack on Iraq playing to the neocons’ ideal of an American empire and paved the way to further right-wing aims at home including tax cuts for the wealthy and appointments of ultra-right Supreme Court justices.  An unpopular peacetime president could not have accomplished those goals.

We in America are still a long way from truth about 9/11.  We with our click-click computer urgency have only time to gather “information.”  We have no time to process it, to reflect.  My bet is that the truth will never be known.

Arizona’s Centennial: Putting the worst foot forward

The capitol's back there somewhere. Isn't it?

It is now three days after Arizona’s centennial “celebration” or whatever it was.  It has taken this long for me to come out from the shock of witnessing such a sorry spectacle.  I expected more, even from the dusty minds of Arizona legislators and officials or whoever the madman that designed this supposedly momentous occasion.

Arizona’s founding fathers would bow their heads in shame.

Of the many blunders made by organizers, I can’t think of a more stupendous one than hiding what should have been the main attraction.  The old capitol building.   Yes, it is small.  But it’s a handsome small with that a pretty and symbolic copper dome and Lady Liberty rotating above it.  And what’s more, it actually has historic value unlike what appeared on the huge platform stage in front of it.   As it was, you wouldn’t have given a thought about the capitol until they shot off fireworks from the roof.

Current events, little history.

Imagine the Gin Blossoms on Saturday night and Wayne Newton on Centennial Day, the 14th!  And the aging Newton singing of all things, “Vive Las Vegas” to open his act.  Vegas was nothing 100 years ago.  It’s probably no big deal either that the Blossoms’ lead singer said “shit” for all to hear.  Again no historical value.  The vulgarism wasn’t in use at the time of Arizona’s birth in 1912 and didn’t become popularized until World War II.  So there.

The history tent along “Centennial Way” on Saturday night was far out of the limelight.  It held many interesting snippets on the state’s past but few visitors.  There was Father Kino to Cochise and the late great Jack Swilling,  the first governor George W. P. Hunt and to Barry Goldwater.  Of course, as I wrote earlier, it was a farce in a way, not mentioning, much less praising, the federal government for providing the state with its ultimate need, water.  It was fed dollars that built the dams and Central Arizona Project, that long straw siphoning off river water from the Colorado to quench the thirst of Tucson and Phoenix and farmers in between.  Without that money you wonder where Arizona would be today, if at anywhere

The one thing done right was hiding the Bomb Squad truck in semi-darkness at the side of the capitol.  No need to remind us on such a festive occasion that life has changed for the worse in the last decade.  We live in fear now, waiting for the next terrorist act, the “pioneer spirit” of the old Arizonan long gone.

Carl Hayden Memorial

What would Carl Hayden have thought?

And farther back in darkness, behind the Bomb truck, the shadowy statue of Carl Hayden, the former U.S. Senator and, really, the “father of modern Arizona.”  It was Hayden, the one most responsible for the Central Arizona Project, who would tell then governor Paul Fannin to let federal dollars build the CAP and hold tight to Arizona’s money.  That of course is one good reason to keep the Hayden memorial in the dark zone.  This is a time when “federal government” is a dirty word to most Arizonans.  We continue to take fed money, then slap it in the face.

1912 Ford should've been front and center.

Had I organized the Centennial I would have put the makeshift stage and its less than electric entertainment across the street in Wesley Bolin Plaza.  I would have lit up the capitol building like never before, even though the ugly highrise tower behind it is now the functioning capitol.  The old capitol would’ve been ground zero, the star.  I would have had a fireworks show to end all shows, not the thrifty one that unfolded —  and put that across the street too.  In front of the capitol I would have had skits about Arizona’s past, using the best of the state’s actors.  I would have taken some of those antique cars, like the 1912 Ford, and displayed them in the street right in front of the capitol.  I would have had people dressed in the styles of a century ago walking through the crowd.  I could go on for a while.

But of course no one asked me.

This, I believe, was the guiding light of the organizers:  “Let’s get this over as quickly as we can, and move on to important issues like building the border wall with Mexico and making sure every college student has a gun in his holster when he attends class — and do it all as cheaply as possible.”

Happy Birthday, Arizona.