Flying the flag

Patriotism is not one of my virtues.  Anti-patriotism is.

The American flag flies outside our house at this moment, on Independence Day, only because of Nebra. She feels right-wingers are not the only ones who should claim the patriotic high ground. That ground is not high to me.  It is Dead-Sea low.

I see very little in America of which to be proud these days. And not much to be hopeful for.

Racism is now shouted where once it was muted. Congress is divided and useless.  We move through life via a politicized Supreme Court, presidential executive orders and Dark Money.  Refugees are not welcome. U.S.  foreign policy and fanatical right-wingers lead to terrorism.  Religious fundamentalists want to stomp on individual rights. George W. Bush’s war in Iraq has opened Pandora’s Box in the Mideast. Equality is a joke. Democracy is a myth.  It does not exist.  An oligarchy of corporations and the wealthy pay off lawmakers to do their bidding.  Violence is everywhere. Gun laws bow to the whims of the NRA and weapons manufacturers, leading to a hideous interpretation of the Second Amendment. We want to build an expensive wall across “the border,” although our own appetite for illegal drugs is a big part of the perceived immigration problem. The voting process is rigged by two out-of-touch political parties.  Our two presidential candidates are widely unpopular. Just what the Founding Fathers foresaw.

Why would “God bless America”? Our wounds are self-inflicted. If you recognize these failings, any of them, how can flag-raising patriotism remedy the problems?

Fly the flag if you will.  But it makes no sense to me.  Waving an S.O.S.would be more appropriate.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scalia ‘Assassinated’

Scalia in EnquirerEven if there had been an autopsy on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wild speculation would have arisen.  Was the autopsy rigged?  What part did President Obama play in the death of this right-wing jurist on February 13?

It was unbelievable, at least to some, that no autopsy took place.  Here was the death of a famous and controversial Justice, a lightning rod for division whose conservative judgments have helped shape the United States for many years.  His demise left the court’s previous hard-right stance at bay, reducing it to eight justices, or a 4-4 split, liberal and conservative.  And to boot, Scalia died alone in a room (with a pillow over his face, according to the Engquirer) at an isolated West Texas resort, and a judge who never saw the body ruled cause of death as “natural causes.”  Scalia was 79, yes, and in not in the best of health, but still . . . . You never know.

Scalia’s family for some reason waived an autopsy and the door swung wide open for conspiracy theorists.

Never a publication to shun a sensational story, the tabloid National Enquirer jumped in with a highly speculative story under the headline, “Scalia Murdered by A Hooker! ”

In summary the story alleges Scalia’s death was “political assassination orchestrated by the CIA and carried out by a $2,000-a-night hooker.”

The proof?

  1. An anonymous Washington, D.C., source’s comment that Scalia’s “murder” can be traced back to the White House.
  2. That Scalia was injected with poison in the buttocks by a hooker apparently from Ojinaga, Mexico, just across the border, according to “an insider.”
  3. A former Secret Service agent, John A. Carman, was quoted as saying, “This death has all the markings of a political assassination.”
  4. A “mystery woman” was caught on the resort’s surveillance camera (the killer-prostitute or someone’s wife?), “The Enquirer was told.”
  5. The motive was “to keep (Scalia) from ruling on key upcoming court cases and to stop him from revealing explosive secrets that could rip apart Obama’s legacy.”  Notice the word “could.”

All plausible if not for one thing.

This is such a flimsy story, pure speculation.  The “sources” offer nothing definitive, but the Enquirer fills in the missing facts.  A photo showing Scalia’s flag-draped casket says, “Scalia’s body was embalmed (true) to prevent further analysis (no proof).”

The problem is this,  America is a country with a growing segment of uneducated, angry, irrational people known widely as “the Republican (Party’s) base.”  They will and do believe anything they are told that fits their personal belief system.

For that reason alone, this story, and others, will stay on life-support for years to come. To read the tabloids for entertainment is one thing.  To read them minus a skeptical eye is quite another.

So Scalia’s death will sadly go down in history books as mysterious, if nothing worse.

 

Politics back at Giffords shooting site

Politics again at shooting site.
Politics again at shooting site.

In the 3 years since the Gabrielle Giffords shooting,  a small memorial garden has been built near the spot and political activity has returned once again to this tragic place outside a Safeway grocery in the northern part of Tucson.

Giffords, a former Congresswoman, suffered a head wound and six others attending her “Congress on Your Corner” meeting were killed.

The Safeway is still there at the southeast corner of busy Ina and Oracle Roads, 8 miles north of the city center.  And by all signs on Easter Sunday the store was doing a good business despite the dismal history.

As you walk toward the store from the parking lot, you can not miss a small plot of bright flowers and a large stone on the north side of the Safeway’s entrance.   Two white lilies sprout from a pot in front of the stone.  There is no garish sign to inform you what this is all about.  It is only when you walk around to the stone by the sidewalk that you get a hint of what happened here, but only a hint.  A plaque attached to the stone says:

Honoring the victims of the event of January 8, 2011 / The Tucson Tragedy . . . / we shall never forget.

Beneath the message is a line of 13 stars then “Safeway” and the company’s logo.

That is it.

The memorial near the Safeway store.
The memorial near the Safeway store.

No mention of Giffords or the dead — Christina Green, age 9, Dorothy “Dot” Morris, 76, John Roll, 63, Phyllis Schneck, 79, Dorwan Stoddard, 76, Gabrielle “Gabe” Zimmerman, 30.  No mention of the 12 others wounded.  No mention of the deranged shooter, Jared Loughner, who is in a Springfield, MO, prison serving seven consecutive life sentences.

One could argue the memorial is tasteful and horribly incomplete.

About 10 yards to the south of the memorial, on the other side of the Safeway entrance, stands Robin Auld.  He appears to be a man in his 60s, tanned and dressed smartly in a striped tie and long-sleeve purple shirt, a color that some connote with Easter.  He is gathering signatures to run in the primary elections later this year as a Democratic candidate for Justice of the Peace in Precinct #1.  So says the fold-out sign on the sidewalk.  His “signing desk” is one of the store’s brown wastebaskets.  Some Safeway customers seem eager to sign only to discover they are ineligible because they live outside Auld’s district.

Auld is amenable to a photo.

“Are you a reporter?” he asks.  When I say, no, he looks disappointed.  He lets me shoot my photo anyway.  On reflection, I suppose the camera could have held a handgun.  Maybe a Glock like Loughner used.  I could have been an assassin.  But Auld doesn’t appear concerned.  Instead, he looks for his next signature coming in from the parking lot.

Auld said he was aware of the memorial so close to where he stands and, as I mention it, he sees the significance immediately.

“I’m probably the first politician to campaign here in three years,” he said.

Life goes on.  Memories flee.  And now things are back to normal in front of the Safeway.  For now, anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking with forked tongue

The description “forked tongue” comes from the highest of authentic sources.  The western movie, aka the oater.  It is a saying attributed to the American Indian when speaking of the White man.  In White man’s talk it means “speaking out of both sides of your mouth.”  It is all gibberish for saying one thing and meaning another.

We out here in the “independent” Wild West of Arizona don’t need the federal government for anything.  We’re pioneer stock.  That’s the talk from one side of the mouth anyway from our super-conservative legislature.

But just the other day wasn’t it our Republican governor, Jan Brewer, begging for federal dollars to alleviate damages caused by the Yarnell Hill Fire last June?  She’s instructed state officials to build up evidence, make a case, for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the much-reviled FEMA, which has already turned Brewer down once.

Even worse, Republicans state-wide voiced outrage of FEMA’s rejection.

This is why the Indians got it right.  White men, particularly Republicans in the West speakth with forked tongues.  These right-wingers want their Tea-Party base to think they hate the feds.  But they want the fed dollars even more.

Michelle and the Oscars

While I have twice voted in the presidential elections for Barack Obama, I’m not blind to his faults or his Democratic Party’s over-stepping after November.  That’s why I’m able to say The First Lady, Michelle Obama, had no place in the Oscar program a few nights ago.

As she announced from the White House the winner of the Best Picture of 2012, “Argo,” I felt embarrassed she and Democrats stooped to such a low level of blatant politics.

The New York Times reported this morning how Mrs. Obama’s appearance came about.  It was largely orchestrated by a the Hollywood producer and big financier of the Democratic Party, Harvey Weinstein.

Perhaps Weinstein was attempting to endear himself to the President and his gun-control agenda.  He has produced some of the most gun-violent movies imaginable, including “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill.”

It makes you wonder too about the legitimacy of “Argo” winning Best Picture.   This patriotic film was an American “feel good story” with two Hollywood figures as heroes behind the escape of “hostages” in Iran.  One might suspect some tinkering with the voting results to bring off this grand spectacle of self-promotion by the film industry and to promote the Democratic party’s goals as we near sequestration.

While it’s true Mrs. Obama was invited to do the spot and apparently did not seek the role, the appearance did more harm than good to the Obamas and Democrats.

Another landfill search ends in failure

There is probably no bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than searching landfills for missing bodies.  While these endeavors may seem a humane response to tragic situations, the success of these searches has proven an extreme longshot.  The only beneficiaries in many cases are the politicians who pander to the wishes of  grieved relatives and pressure groups trying to promote their cause.

Take the case of Jhessye Shockley, a 5-year-old black girl reported missing from her Phoenix-area home on October 11.

Police, using “reliable” information, began a search on February 6 of the Butterfield Station Landfill south of the city for Shockley’s body.  That search ended yesterday, June 27.  After combing through 9,500 tons of highly compressed trash over a 4 1/2 month period at a cost of more than $750,000, the result was failure.  No body found.

Cost by no means should be the determinant in a landfill search.  But police must have accurate information before beginning the search.  Was the body truly put in a particular trash container?  What day of the week was it placed there?  From there you must count on trash collectors to keep accurate records.    What truck hauled the trash to what landfill on what date?  In what cell in the landfill’s mountain of garbage would that container of trash have been dumped?   That’s a lot of good luck to ask for.  Two other body searches in Butterfield Station likewise turned out fruitless.

As for little Jhessye Shockley, we will not know for some time, if ever, what information police officials had that led them to charge out to Butterfield on what seems a wild-goose chase.  Was it politics, officials wanting to posture to the black community that they are not bigots?  Or was there “reasonable” grounds to make the search effort?

A trial of a suspected guilty party might go a long way to answer those questions.  No charges have been brought although the mother seems to be the prime suspect in Jhessye’s disappearance.