Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dispatch From The Inferno State: The Boys Are Back In Town


-by Doug Kahn

In news of fresh disasters, the Arizona Legislature is back in session, and State Senate Republican leader Russell Pearce is in charge. But we have good news too: Citizens for a Better Arizona is gathering signatures for Pearce’s recall.

Randy Parraz, a labor organizer who ran in the Democratic Senatorial primary to choose a McCain opponent last year, told me shortly after last November’s election that he was convinced we needed to go directly at Russell Pearce, the author of SB1070. (SB1070 is the new Arizona law that purports to legalize racial profiling.) I wanted to know if he’d run for the U.S. House in 2012, thinking that the essential task in Arizona is to replace racist representatives (state and national) with progressive Latin@s. (Please pardon the designation; many of the Dream organizers I’ve been working with use it in text as a non-gendered adjective for people of Hispanic origin.)

I’m always thinking about getting progressives into Congress. But Randy knows Arizona and Arizonans better than I, and thinks that people here, especially Latin@s, desperately want to let the rest of Americans know that Arizonans can take care of business, if given a chance. And that he should take responsibility for doing what he knows best: organizing people to demonstrate they have the power to change their own circumstances. He wants to get results long before November 2012. So he’s helping people on a petition drive to put State Senator Russell Pearce on a recall ballot.

Citizens for a Better Arizona kicked off in January, and will certainly get the required signatures. (There’s another recall committee, run by some perennial gadfly Republicans, but Citizens for a Better Arizona is the progressive one.)

Randy told me yesterday that
“We need to gather 7,756 signatures by May 31st, a goal we’ll meet easily, based on the progress so far. Go to if you want to see what we’ve accomplished. Just 22 days into the campaign, over 100 volunteers have joined us, we’ve hired staff, and we’re are out in District 18 right now gathering signatures.”

He believes we need to show how pumped up Arizonans are to show they’re not like Russell Pearce, and we can do that by getting the signatures by the end of March, so we’ve hired a petition contractor to work on areas and during hours the volunteers need help. Randy reported cash-on-hand of $8300 at our meeting on Friday, and just told me it’s gone over $10,000. Getting to 7,756 signatures by March 31st will take another $10,000 in the next two weeks, he said.

If you want to go beyond boycotting Arizona (still essential) and do something positive, please give something at I figure (if you discount about $20,000 in pledges properly) we still need to raise ~$14,000, for a goal of $34,000. This is based on paying professional petition circulators a generous $3 per signature, letting us reserve all volunteer-gathered signatures for a cushion to make up for possible rejected signatures.

We not only want to remove the man from the leadership of state government, but also damage his chances of winning a Republican primary for Congress, where it’s rumored he’d like to head next. Arizona will have 9 seats in the House next session, and redistricting has made electoral politics here a game of musical chairs. One of the reasons is that nearly every sitting Congressperson here has expressed interest in running for the U.S. Senate.

Because Senator John Kyl has announced his retirement. Every local news outlet is scratching around for prospective candidates. This kind of story is perfect filler material, and will make the lives of countless news editors less stressful for the next year, no actual fact or interview required, just file photos or video. Of course what they find is people who like to get their names in the paper.

Basically, any semi-literate Mongo-like unit (think former radio-ranter and US Representative J.D. Hayworth, who primaried John McCain last year) can get a mention if he’s willing to invent a new threat from Mexico. I notice the former State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne, who just got elected State Attorney General, was heard recently blapping about an imminent conflagration involving Mexicans (of course), machine guns, drugs, enslavement of the innocents, etc. I haven’t seen his name mentioned for the Kyl seat, but it should have been. He’s just won his second state-wide election, so would be the immediate front-runner in the Republican primary. And he has the requisite big mouth. Being a person of very little brain, his speech at the Border Security Expo and Conference (a wingnut affair last week in Phoenix) should be sampled sparingly:

It does not appear to be widely understood that continued consumption of Mexico-sourced drugs is the direct root cause of the erosion of the free democracy in Mexico and ultimately of the economy of North America.  Young people forego tuna that has not been harvested with adequate care for dolphins. They are acutely aware of the indirect consequences of their consumer decisions.  Yet they continue to buy Mexico-sourced drugs as if there were no consequences for these decisions.

Goddamned hippies are going to be responsible for the erosion of the ‘free democracy’ of Mexico! (We civilized people north of the border have more refined values, so democracy is for sale here.) And who in hell is he calling “young people,” anyhow?

He continued:

Some have proposed legalizing drugs as a panacea by which the violence could be stopped and the strength of Mexico’s representative government restored, deflecting the threat to the economy.  This is not possible.  Consider the economics of, say, a hypothetical “National Cocaine Corp.”

Please, make it stop! I prefer to look on the sunny side. He’s not the Superintendent of Schools any more.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio gets mentioned again, as he always does when there’s a statewide election looming. He won last week’s polling of Republican wannabes, but with only 21%. Of course the lead in all the media coverage was that “America’s Toughest Sheriff” is the frontrunner. The real story is that 4 other candidates got 51%, and “none of the above” won with 28%. Representative Jeff Flake got 17%, as did former Representative J.D. Blowhard. I think this has to do with all the federal investigations, the suspension of Arpaio’s top deputies, and the fact that in his public appearances over the past year, he seems, well, not with it. We* all have to get old, and Joe is 78.

(*Does not include me.)

Example: Joe and a posse of deputies and volunteer gun nuts went out in the desert to round up Brown People on July 16 2010, in the run-up to the July 29th effective date of SB1070. To show the press just how tough they were, they carted along a 50-caliber belt-fed machine gun that Joe bought 7 years ago. Joe told reporters the gun could shoot accurately up to one mile. I suppose you have to pardon the media dimwits for not questioning this, since the temperature that day reached 113º degrees, and they were probably baked. Of course I mean, you know, not ‘baked’, but very hot. The cunning Mexican desperados displayed just how devious they were by staying indoors, out of the heat. Our Gang, 100 strong (which includes the volunteer gun-toters), didn’t make any arrests, but according to the Sheriff, miles away from the war zone his deputies did arrest two freeway drivers on traffic violations, probably reckless driving. In a tragic accident, one deputy was rushed to a hospital after inhaling powdered sugar emanating from a crate of doughnuts the boys took along.

“I am trying to send a message to Mexico,” he said. “We will not take anyone hurting our deputies. We will fight back.”

The 7-year-old gun has not yet been used, Arpaio said. “It is more for defense.” Nor have any of his deputies yet been harmed in a border scuffle. “We have been very lucky,” he said.

We’ll be luckier once we get rid of Joe Arpaio and Russell Pearce and their nativist allies. See if you can’t help out.

I have to run off to the Capitol Building to figure out SB1611, which we heard yesterday was an omnibus Racist/Nativist/Secessionist Bill that Russell Pearce put together in secret, and is planning on ramming through the Senate Appropriations Committee at 2pm. He’s been trying to get some of this stuff through the Judiciary Committee, where it belongs, but a brave soul, Republican Senator Adam Driggs, opined that he thought it might be a good idea to remain one of the United States a bit longer, just for laughs. A report on Legislative Follies tomorrow.

Dreamers confront Russell Pearce last fall:

UPDATE: And Arizona Republicans Are Still Busy Making Their State The Most Extremist Of All

Right Wing Watch reports this morning that the racial profiling law was only the beginning of Arizona's descent into unconstitutional disrgard for human rights.
Republicans in the State Senate Appropriations Committee just approved a flagrantly unconstitutional bill that would eliminate citizenship by birthright, a right protected by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

As recently as 1982 in Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants are protected by the 14th Amendment, which guarantees birthright citizenship. The debate over the citizenship bill may even show signs of splintering inside the Republican Party, with one leading anti-immigrant State Senator accusing the state’s Chamber of Commerce of supporting “‘open borders’ because you like cheap labor.”

In addition to the legislation that would directly challenge the 14th Amendment, the committee also passed a bill that would force public schools to report to law enforcement officials on children’s parents if they’re undocumented, make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to drive in the state, and ban undocumented immigrants from attending state colleges and universities.

“If we’re going to stop this invasion-- and it is an invasion-– you’re going to have to stop rewarding people for breaking those laws,” said State Senate President Russell Pearce, a champion of the two bills and the architect of SB 1070.

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